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Records of the Week
SEATON, MILES COOPER Functional Music Vols 1 & 2 (Jackknife Records) 2cd 14.98
We often get requests from Yoga Instructors and Massage Therapists for music suggestions for their practices that are ambient and relaxing, but not super cheesy as the stuff that is directly marketed to them. It's really not that easy. Sure someone like Anton Batagov, Lubomyr Melnyk, Pulse Emitter, Oneohtrix Point Never or the folks featured in the Kompakt Pop Ambient series might have some sounds that fit the bill, but there is often a certain level of distraction, emotive changes in tone, that take the listener out of their passive involvement and into active engagement and that doesn't always work in a bodywork kind of environment.Recently, local musician and Psychic Arts label head Matt Baldwin dropped by these cds for a friend of his who runs Jacknife records in LA, who released this double cd of ambient works by Miles Cooper Seaton, known to many folks as a founding member of experimental rock collective Akron/Family. Seaton has been working for the past few years on exploring an idea of music made for a specific function, whether it be Satie's concept of Furniture Music, or the ritual music of religious sects and cults, basically music that is free of individualized emotive narrative instead leaning towards a concept of pure universality and purpose. Functional Music.When we put on the first disc, or we should say first track, as each disc is just one long 35-40 minute track, we didn't know this was music designed with yoga in mind, though we could see it being used for that purpose, it didn't necessarily have the same kind of new age trappings that most yoga music always seems to have. But in fact, Seaton has been performing his solo music for large outdoor group yoga and visualization performances in various locations in Southern California and the Southwest for the past couple of years. "Echo" begins with a deep bassy meditative drone later met after some time with spacey synth high tones that cluster in loose buoyant formations and clanging resonant bells. Over time, the tones build and recede in subtle layers of sound much like the stratified layers of the geode that grace the cover of the album, moving ever farther outward. "Void" takes a deeper turn inward. Organ and synth drones combine in resonant overtones, eventually delving into an oceanic expanse that ebbs and flows in intensity as what sounds like bowed guitars begin to hover like approaching spacecraft ready to transport us to a higher plane. Incredibly cosmic, meditative and beautiful!
MPEG Stream: "Echo"
MPEG Stream: "Void"
WEED Running Back (Lefse) cd 13.98
Stoners and loners Weed are back with another full-length of dopey noise-pop sad jams, and once again, we're fully on board. You remember that episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer goes to Lollapalooza in an effort to be cool, and is met with a crowd of swaying Gen-X'ers mumbling to Sonic Youth? Yeah, this record kinda sounds like that, in the best way possible. Right off the bat, we get a quick modulating buzz before it kicks right in, and wouldn't you know it? The first line is a monotone "I don't wanna feel like this anymore". Running Back is that perfect nineties blend of mopey, noisey nihilism and sugary, perfect pop. "Thousand Pounds," for example, captures this blend perfectly; pounding rhythm, almost shoegaze-esque fuzzed-out guitars, and buried but melodic-as-hell vocals that brings to mind the last Nothing record, super bombastic and poppy, but also melancholic and despondent. "Meet Me With Ease" is the other side of the Weed coin, the faster, more punked up, more "rock" jam that will have every stoned twenty-something swaying with it.There's a kind of no-nonsense, punkish approach on Running Back that distinguishes it from the wave of new shoegaze (is that called Nu-Gaze?) bands - everything's a little faster, a little more to-the-point, and it works so well on this record. If you still have a soft spot in your heart for the grungy, noisey, poppy sound of bands like Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh (and why wouldn't you?), you'll be pumped on this record.
MPEG Stream: "Stay In The Summer"
MPEG Stream: "Thousand Pounds"
BIOSPHERE / DEATHPROD Stator (Touch) cd 16.98
These two heavyweights of Norwegian electronics have in fact been paired together on disc once before. That album found both Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) and Deathprod (aka Helge Sten) remixing various compositions of Arne Nordheim - the pioneering electronic composer of Norway from the '60s. Stator, like the Nordheim remix project, is NOT a collaboration, but a split release that alternates between the two. We definitely get the sense that Jenssen is hedging his sound towards that of Sten, as this album harbors a considerable bleakness within the radiant black drones that's far more fitting of the Deathprod catalogue than that of Biosphere. Deathprod's recorded work is very much a rare commodity, with his four albums that were released collectively on a boxset through Rune Grammofon for his epic black ambience and elegantly dark moodscaping. Outside of the boxset and that remix project (both of which are long out of print), there's very little else, making any new Deathprod material very welcome, indeed. As we mentioned, the album alternates between the Biosphere and the Deathprod material, with the Deathprod tracks sprawled as expanses of cold drone and Morton Feldman-like electronic compositions of tone, color, and pace. The Biosphere tracks are equally as impressive, as shivering, radiophonic works of tremolo'd ambient glimmering upon deep dark rumbles and the occasional step-sequenced ruminations that act as ghostly distillations of his once and former techno past. So so good!
MPEG Stream: BIOSPHERE "Muses-C"
MPEG Stream: DEATHPROD "Shimmer / Flicker"
BLACKSHAW, JAMES Summoning Suns (Important) cd 15.98
Albion's esteemed lord of achingly gorgeous acoustic 12-string instrumentalism returns to sun-dapple your fragile speakers, minds & lives once more with his painstakingly crystalline brand of tender fingerpicked loveliness. Aglow with guitar melodies that sparkle & xylophones that twinkle like campsite stars, throbbing church organs, fluttering flutes that dance around your head like little forest sprites, and the kind of mood that only seems to exist in dreams that you wake up wishing you could remember, Summoning Suns (which features a number of talented sidepersons, including Simon Scott of Slowdive) is James Blackshaw's twelfth (!) studio album by our reckoning, but only the first to feature his voice (with the exception of the occasional background breathing that could be picked up on some of his more sparse early acoustic tracks - seriously, listen for 'em!). What took so long?? The hushed patient sigh of Blackshaw's voice is a perfect accompaniment to his summery yet somber, bright yet bittersweet, lush yet longing compositions, at times recalling the pastoral Renaissance meadowland folk of Amazing Blondel and elsewhere the haunted bedroom whisper of Elliott Smith. Like much of Blackshaw's best work, Summoning Suns sublimely balances stately timeless beauty with faraway unnamable yearning, a faint sadness drifting beneath even the most glorious of melodies - a reminder that even the sunniest days only last until sundown - beautiful and fleeting, just like this record.
MPEG Stream: "Averoigne"
MPEG Stream: "Confetti"
MPEG Stream: "Failure's Flame"
BLOOD SISTER Dysphoria (Grabbing Clouds) 7" 8.98
Debut 7" from this SF outfit (featuring members of aQ faves Ganglians), and goddamn if this band doesn't sound like they made this record just for us (and a lot of you presumably). A weird mix of fuzzy old school synth-pop and gloomy garage, weary, echo drenched vox, over programmed rhythms, and buzzing synths the A side almost sounds like some early Nirvana jam transcribed for synth-pop hooky as hell, with some wild squalls of distorted guitar and woozy synth freakout, totally drug addled, and while not heavy, super driving and hypnotic, and one of the best jams we've heard in ages. In fact, we listened to the A side about ten times before we could even bring ourselves to flip it over. But goddamn if the flipside isn't just as good, another robotic rhythm wrapped in crumbling distortion and zoner synth blur, the vocals almost entirely buried, and again, a sort of grunge-y punk lurking underneath all the electro-weirdness, the result, like the A side, some seriously ruling, heady, hooky, distorto synth punk that we can't get enough of. Counting the minutes til the full length...LIMITED TO 300 COPIES!!
BROADCAST Work And Non-Work (Warp) lp 25.00
Yes! The Broadcast vinyl reissues are finally here and it can't be overstated how much we love this band and everything they ever released, especially since sadly as a band they are no longer with us due to singer Trish Keegan's untimely death in 2011. Work and Non-Work was the first introduction of the group to a larger audience, collecting their first two singles and an ep previously released on the labels Wurlitzer Jukebox and Stereolab's Duophonic imprint between 1995 and 1996. Their songcraft, which would be honed and evolve over their next four albums, arrived nearly fully formed, though they do wear their influences most outwardly on this collection than any other release. Staking a firm spot between Stereolab's retrofuturism and Portishead's emotively sonic trip-hop formalism, while also mining altered-consciousness music from the margins of sixties psychedelia, like United States of America, White Noise and Elephants Memory. In fact, "The World Backwards" is nearly a remake of Elephants Memory's "Old Man Willow", a song most famously heard in the druggy party scene in the movie Midnight Cowboy. But Broadcast never tried to hide their influences always exposing a narrow-trodden path for listeners to find little known treasures from the past. Leading the way for bands like Death and Vanilla, The Sound Carriers and Jane Weaver to carry the torch into the future. A perfect place to start for the uninitiated.
MPEG Stream: "Message From Home"
MPEG Stream: "The World Backwards"
MPEG Stream: "Lights Out"
BULL TONGUE REVIEW No. 2 (self-released) magazine 7.98
Everyone's a critic. Or at least, everyone who's anyone is a critic, and it seems appears in the pages of this new 2nd issue of Byron Coley's Bull Tongue Review! This quarterly fanzine takes off from the Bull Tongue column of record reviews that Coley and Thurston Moore did in Arthur Magazine, bringing in a ton of obscurely hip peeps to share their opinions about underground music, and a whole lot more, truly getting into oddly unlikely realms of "Post-Rock Cultural Pluralism". Contributors this issue include: Todd Abramson, Steve Albini (w/ part two of his entertainingly discursive 'restaurant review' from last time, yeah!), Alan Bishop, Bree, Rej T. Broth, Joe Carducci, Benoit Chaput, Sharon Cheslow, Byron Coley, Karen Constance, Nigel Cross, Chris D, Georganne Deen, Lili Dwight, Erika Elizabeth, Ray Farrell, Andrea Feldman, Eddie Flowers, Tom Givan, Tom Greenwood, Mats Gustafsson, Lisa Marie Jarlborn, Ira Kaplan, Maria Kozic, Matt Krefting, Tom Lax, Ted Lee, Heather Leigh, Donna Lethal, Owen Maercks, Marc Masters, Hisham Mayet, Phil McMullen, Richard Meltzer, Thurston Moore, Dylan Nyoukis, Gary Panter, Brigid Pearson, Charles Plymell, Tony Rettman, Joanne Robertson, Bruce Russell, Suzy Rust, Savage Pencil, John Sinclair, Chris Stigliano, Brian Turner, Tesco Vee, and Naomi Yang. Whew! To fit 'em all in, this new ish boasts almost twice as many pages (80) as the first one did, and correspondingly is priced a little higher (Kinko's ain't free!). Still a deal, if you want to keep up with these cool 'kids'.
CRYPT SERMON Out Of The Garden (Dark Descent) cd 14.98
We mostly know the Dark Descent label for the weirdass death and black metal artistry they've put out, like Swallowed, Thantifaxath, and Horrendous. From the name, Philadelphia's Crypt Sermon sound like they too could be some strange death metal band too - but instead, they are more of a classic, epic doom metal outfit, that's heavy on the METAL. And they're really good, making for one of the stronger doom debuts in recent memory. It follows a demo tape that got a good deal of underground buzz, and deservedly so, these guys sound like ancient doom pros from the get-go, mighty and majestic and suitably sorrowful. Maybe not quite so sorrowful as current doom darlings Pallbearer, who are sadder than anybody, but imagine them with more balls. In large part due to Crypt Sermon's singer, who has a powerful, melodic, storm-the-castle voice a la Dio or Armored Saint's John Bush, meant to belt out the rock, not just weep about how miserable he is, though he can do that too. By the way, there is a castle on the cover, and the singer painted it! To come up with some other comparisons, hmmm, well not Pilgrim, 'cause these guys get the point a lot faster than the likes of them, but Magic Circle, yeah, that'd be a good one, fans of those aQ faves will probably totally dig this, though Crypt Sermon could be considered the Candlemass to Magic Circle's Sabbath. Also, something about this definitely makes of think Trouble, possibly the dual guitar riffs, but certainly the religious/Christian/Biblical/crusader aspect to the lyrics. Which as Trouble proved is perfect doom metal subject matter! Commanding, classy, quite a debut.
MPEG Stream: "Temple Doors"
MPEG Stream: "Heavy Riders"
MPEG Stream: "Into The Holy Of Holies"
DICK DIVER Melbourne, Florida (Trouble Mind) lp 21.00
Apparently, the dudes and lady in Dick Diver once facetiously referred to their band as "Dolewave," (a reference to the Clean track "The Doledrums") and unknowingly and probably unwantedly put a genre fence around a whole group of musicians in the modern New Zealand/Australia scene. The term, at least among forum posters and Aussie and Kiwi music journalists, stuck, and many bands, Dick Diver included, have tried to distance themselves from the constant comparisons to the Clean. Here at aQ, we refuse to make the lazy, easy comparison to the geographically close but stylistically different jangle-pop masters. No, the only comparison that is worth making is that both the Clean and Dick Diver write clever and fun pop tunes. But in that case, you might as well compare them to David Bowie or something (the Bowie comparison is actually a little bit apt on the track "Percentage Points"). On "Beat Me Up (Talk To A Counsellor)" Al Montfort (also of aQ favs Total Control) sings over a piano-driven, funky, and sassy track that's as much goofy as it is catchy. "Private Number," too has a similar laid back, loungy feel, complete with a sultry sax solo. "Boomer Class" and "Blue Time" have beautiful vocal duets, horns, and synth all thrown about, all elements that distinguish them from the simplistic pop of the old Flying Nun scene.These are smart, well-crafted, and forward-thinking pop tracks - perfect for dipping your toes into the Dunedin pop scene (if you haven't dove in yet). A must listen! And this vinyl version includes a download, fyi.
MPEG Stream: "Waste The Alphabet"
MPEG Stream: "Beat Me Up (Talk To A Counsellor)"
MPEG Stream: "Percentage Points"
ELFMILK Relocation (Independent Recordings) cd 9.98
NOW ALSO ON CD!!!Record number two from aQ pal and longtime mailorder customer Eddie Harari, aka Elfmilk. The first Elfmilk Extragalactic Distance was a strange mix of decaying atmospheres, distorted dirgery and electronic flecked kraut-psych, all of which are present here, but the sound is more brooding and moody, the opener downright jazzy, adding horns to a swagger twang, and a distorted recording that swaddles everything in gristly crumble. And that jazziness seems to bleed into much of the rest of the record, distant horns drifting over dizzying collaged loops and mysterious sonic squelches, lumbering downtempo grooves again recorded super hot, and transformed into slo-mo, in-the-red minimalism. Elsewhere female vocals soar, sounding like some lost sixties psych jam, or some alien exotic unfurls like the score to some alternate reality James Bond movie, and in this version the funky, groovy theme is pelted by burst of static and shards of white noise crunch, while the drums sound like they were recorded in a different time zone. The last 'movement' fully embraces Elfmilk's jazzier direction, getting all washed out and smoldery, at one point sounding like a band playing after last call in some shadowy dive bar, at another blossoming into a slow building, languorously lush post rock/out-jazz trip out, and on the final track, getting a bit Portishead-y, the song in constant flux as the speed seems to change constantly, turning the buzzing synths into a woozy melody, that undulates beneath a wasted rhythmic skitter, and more of those melancholic horns. Killer stuff for sure, and way recommended for fans of dark jazz, and moody, instrumental mystery. Which we're assuming is a whole lot of you...
MPEG Stream: "Obsidian Light Rays Melt The Ocean"
MPEG Stream: "Oblique As One Thousand Candles"
MPEG Stream: "Sound As Destructed Light"
ENGLISH, LAWRENCE The Peregrine ( Room40) cd 17.98
NOW ON CD, after a vinyl release in 2011 via Experimedia that's been out of print for some time. Here's what we said about this excellent album then:Peregrine falcons are impressive birds of prey that can be found in almost every ecosystem, known for their extreme speeds in flight sometimes reaching over 200 miles per hour. Being quite adaptable, they are often found in urban areas where the pigeons are plentiful; and it can be quite spectacular to see these birds streaking through the skyscrapers of San Francisco reducing the pigeon population one at time with a precision that's the envy of any military campaign. The Australian ambient-laced sound artist Lawrence English came to his appreciation of the Peregrine by way of a book of the same title by J.A. Baker who obsessively mapped the daily activities of a pair of peregrines in England with a purported magical lyricism in his writings. English's ornithological portrait is all about flight and soaring - it's unclear whether English took after Baker by seeking out these birds on his own or if English's work is solely articulated through the lens of Baker's prose. But, English has long been able to express a poetic simplicity through the fog of sound; and he's proved once again how deft he can be. Smeared synth drones and grey-tone ambience streams through each of English's tracks, with subtle melodic interludes of low-end bass tones girding the compositions, coming across as something between Popul Vuh and Tim Hecker. A beautiful record for sure, and one that captures a sublime element of the majesty of the nimble falcon. Limited to 500 copies and comes with a download card.
MPEG Stream: "October 1 Ð The Hunting Life"
MPEG Stream: "December 24 Ð Frost's Bitter Grip"
MPEG Stream: "April 4 Ð And He Sleeps"
FOLLAKZOID III (Sacred Bones) lp 15.98
Sacred Bones brings us another captivating transmission from Chilean trippers Follakzoid, their third album (duh), this one consisting of 4 lengthy tracks of hazy, minimalist, mesmerizing grooves. This is the sound of super spacing out, over and over and over, in the dankest of South American garages.Opener "Electric" sets the stage, if you dig it, you'll dig Follakzoid, it's typically repetitive and echoing, blissed out but with a hint of menace, ending in a curious episode of distortion/glitch fuckery. That distortion is ramped up on track 2, "Earth", which gets a bit heavier and is also more insistently melodic, adding some effects-laden vocals as well, reverberating with cosmic/karmic meaning and mystery. The thump-throb of the third track, "Piure", with bells and gongs, takes on even more of an ancient, ceremonial air, and once again cycles forth slowly, the sound coming in waves, subtly building up the volume and drone. Need we even mention the last track, "Feuerzeug"? You can guess, even more hypnotic krautdronedrug action there, Follakzoid leaving the listener well and truly hooked, and lost in space (inner or outer, same dif). Gently motorik, laced with shoegaze guitar squall and strange synthesizer noise, naturally this reminds us of some Circle output, and even more so of Salvatore, these tracks suffused with a twilight darkness, nicotine stained and narcotic. Other reference points of course would be Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, Psychic Ills, Carlton Melton, and also some of the 'krautier' electronic/techno artists around. By the way, we noticed Atom(tm) in credits to this, dunno if he's always been adding his "analog and digital synthesis" to the Follakzoid sound or not?
MPEG Stream: "Earth"
MPEG Stream: "Feurzeug"
GODSPEED! YOU BLACK EMPEROR Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress (Constellation) lp 21.00
Woah! The first album of new material from Godspeed! You Black Emperor since 2002, as 2012's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! was actually a collection of unfinished / unreleased recordings from back in their heyday at the turn of the millennium. The re-awakening of Godspeed seemed almost inevitable given the politics of grassroots collectivism which emerged out of the Occupy Movement. Their grandiose orchestrations for bombast and pathos through their dramatic surges of strings, guitars, and militant rhythms is tailor made for the current strain of scrappy, emotionally charged politics from the left. At the same time, Godspeed's productions of huge post-rock explosions strafed with maudlin melodies has launched thousands of indie bands with much less scruples than Godspeed's anarcho-politicking. So, with Godspeed's return, we get exactly what we expect and crave from a Godspeed! You Black Emperor album - atonal clashes of guitar and strings that are all resolved at the height of a climactic build of turgid backbeats turned to triumphantalist marches. The album erupts from that onset with a symphonic crash of urgency that the ensemble deftly dials back to reveal a larger framework for the album through a slow ascent from the solemn drone-rock and meditative ambient pools which are located at the first half of the album. But with the album's two lengthy final tracks (both of which together clock close to 25 minutes of exhausting drama), these Canadians hit that majestic, dynamic explosiveness that has become their signature sound.
MPEG Stream: "Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!'"
MPEG Stream: "Piss Crowns Are Trebled"
IRR. APP. (EXT.) CTIoU&PREITMoGDoVC (Errata In Excelsis) cd-r 14.98
Jeez, Waldron. Could you make it a little harder to pronounce? The title to the eerie, sublime piece of audio surrealism is an an abbreviation for the following phrase: "concerning the incidence of unexpected & prodigious radial expansion in the matter of generative diversity of varied character." A phrase both esoteric and non-placed, it fits the giddily absurdist nature to M.S. Waldron and his longstanding project irr. app. (ext.), itself an abbreviation for irrational appendage extended, or something to that effect. There are many divergent chapters in the encyclopaedic catalogue for irr. app. (ext.), sometimes incorporated oblique psych-rock explorations, sometimes quasi-mystical musique concrete, sometimes bellowing aktionist drone. CTIoU&PREITMoGDoVC slants towards those latter aesthetic detours with the album's opening construction obscuring a bowed drone raga with rollicking acoustic calamity and puncturing found sound injunctions that includes recordings of some drunk trying to verbalize thought in Russian. Clouds of hissing aspirations and more of those metallic cluttered sounds stumble upon a malformed, detuned, and deranged gamelan ensemble with a brilliantly short sharp Nurse With Wound sample thrown in for good measure. Given that Waldron has been part of the NWW touring and recording ensemble off and on for the past decade, we're pretty sure that sample is wholly endorsed. Can you find it?
MPEG Stream: "Incident I + Incident II"
MPEG Stream: "Incident III + Incident IV + Incident V"
LIGHTNING BOLT Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey) lp 22.00
When Lightning Bolt first emerged from a warehouse in Providence, it seemed like the initial impression was that the Brian's were some kind of snooty art-school rockers and that we just didn't "get it". Here's the thing, though: there's nothing highbrow about this shit. Fantasy Empire straight up rocks. There was a time when Lightning Bolt may have preferred the Ruins/Boredoms approach of chaos, noise, and silliness, and don't get us wrong, we love those albums, but now Brian (G, not C) is writing some of the chunkiest, heaviest RIFFS he ever has, and Brian (C, not G) is playing his most straightforward drums he ever has. That's not to say the Brian's have fully distanced themselves from their early sound - you'll still hear the absolutely one-of-kind, balls-to-the-wall drumming, wall-of-amp bass sound, and tripped out chanting/Boredoms-esque vocal work. It's just that now, these songs are stuff you can headband to, and we dare you to try not to. There was something about the last Lightning Bolt album that fell a little flat - the production, especially, didn't give those songs the justice they deserved. That problem is long gone on Fantasy Empire. The sound is crystal clear; (or, as crystal clear as you can given what they are actually playing) in fact, this record almost has a live vibe to it (By the way, we all know at this point you HAVE to see this band live, right?). "Horsepower," especially, has this almost sped-up stoner rock jam quality to it, kinda like if you played a Sleep record at 45 RPM, right down to the wah-wah bass sound. "King Of My World" and "Mythmaster" both have a building, krautrock vibe to them that sounds like totally new ground for the 'Bolt, but totally works in a weird, fucked up way. The closing track is as straightforward as these guys will probably get, almost a punkish 4-chord vibe that builds and twists into a huge bombastic conclusion. If you were like us and thought the last couple 'Bolt albums kinda missed the mark of earlier albums like Hypermagic Mountain or Wonderful Rainbow, don't sleep on Fantasy Empire. The Brians are back and in top form.
MPEG Stream: "The Metal East"
MPEG Stream: "Over The River And Through The Woods"
MPEG Stream: "Runaway Train"
MALE GAZE Gale Maze (Castle Face) lp 15.98
The latest addition to the Castle Face roster comes in the form of SF's goofily monikered Male Gaze, who's echo drenched, garage punk is pretty much a perfect fit. From the first few seconds you're definitely in familiar territory, fuzzed out guitars, loose drumming, crashing chords and laid back reverby vox, the sound falling right between CF flagship groop Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall's power trio Fuzz. But unlike those bands, the Male Gaze (d)evolves into more sort of tranced out territory, at times kicking out a hypnorock like a revved up Circle, at others, slipping into a woozy stoned lope, blissed out and almost shoegazey. The sounds are most obviously connected by some seriously blown out guitar tone, even at its most melodic, it still seems to come crumbling through the speakers. The vocals too are pretty distinctive, a deep wasted croon, that's perfectly pairs with MG's lysergic garage rock, a dizzying concoction that constantly zigs and zags, flitting deftly from hyper-kinetic hookiness, to broody almost bloozy swagger, to near metallic crunch. Fans of the usual suspects will most definitely dig!
MPEG Stream: "Smog Dawn"
MPEG Stream: "The Shining Path"
MPEG Stream: "Gale Maze"
OLDER SUN Bad Man b/w What You Need (Valley King) 7" 9.98
Valley King does it again, digging up another retro rock treasure from right here in our own backyard, two tracks of heavy psychedelic blues from Older Sun, who lay down a seriously sweet blast of classic hard rock, a la Mountain, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Montrose, Kiss, you get the drift, bit riffs, big hooks, actual vocals, soulful and pretty fucking bad ass, rad shredding leads. The A side "Bad Man" is all seventies anthem, and sounds like it could have been your go-to jam for getting baked in the parking lot of the local 7-11, or for blasting in your parents' car, after sneaking out, picking up your girlfriend and driving around all night. The B-side adds some Van Halen to the mix, starting out all bass heavy swagger and chugging riffage, but when the vox kick in, we get into some almost ZZ Top territory, and another impossibly catchy chorus. Older Sun are band out of time for sure, they may be 'retro rock' now, but if it was 1975, these guys would be ruling the arenas, and playing and partying with with the best of them. Awesome.LIMITED TO 500 COPIES!!! Eye popping, laser-eyed idol cover art by psychedelic rock art master Alan Forbes.
SHLOHMO Dark Red (True Panther) 2lp 24.00
Idiosyncratic electronic producer Shlohmo returns at last with the follow up to 2011's Bad Vibes, and if anything, the vibes on Dark Red are even badder, the witch-housed RnB basis of some of his earlier work somewhat subsumed by an even darker, deeper, drums 'n' bass 'n' drone style. The eerie bombination and boom bap of Sholomo's shadowy, slo-mo sound here is quite satisfying, dreamy and drifty. It gets into almost epic, post rock territory at times; really you could imagine some of these spaced out, slow build sounds emanating from a Mogwai or Trans Am record, even though this is in fact coming from the electronica/hiphop/breakbeat realm. Anticon's D33J guests with vocals on one track, "Apathy", but otherwise Shlohmo (aka Henry Laufer) goes it utterly alone and instrumental, other track titles like "Fading", "Ditch", and "Remains", and "Slow Descent" telling the story, kind of a downer one, but Shlohmo always still has soul. You kind of get the idea, right? We hope so, 'cause we only just got this in, and are really digging it, but right in the middle of writing this review, I actually had to stop 'cause a bunch of us here decided to go see the latest Fast & Furious movie at the IMAX - a movie with so many brilliantly STUPID moments in it that it was almost worth watching, though, like, it erased half my brain I feel like. So that's it for this Shlohmo review. Recommended, though, with a lot more real feeling than Furious Seven could ever muster.
MPEG Stream: "Buried"
MPEG Stream: "Apathy"
MPEG Stream: "Fading"
SOFT MOON, THE Deeper (Captured Tracks) cd 13.98
Album number three by one of our favorite contemporary post-punk projects,The Soft Moon, and we'll just start by saying this one is a fucking corker! Oakland native Luis Vasquez has been the central figure in The Soft Moon for five years now, occasionally fleshing out the band for touring purposes; but in the studio, he works entirely alone. There, he's carved out his suprisingly unique agenda with a trenchant menace, as well as some damn fine goth-pop songwriting chops. Deeper is much more of an electronic record, with many of the songs thrusting forward with gritty, monochromatic synth-noise chords that lift, soar, and collapse upon drum machined spines. The heaving, flanged basslines pilfered from Killing Joke and Siouxsie punctuate most every song with his eerily droned out guitar work used sparingly throughout the album; and then there's his voice, which retains an affected cross between an urgent whisper and a hyperventilated aspiration. The few instances where Vasquez slips into the more classic goth crooner mode, as on the arrestingly gloomy ballad "Wasting" where he bellows with all of emotional portent of Dave Gahan on Depeche Mode's Violator. The pogo-punk bounce from the spry rhythm section that drives tracks like "Far" and "Feel" are almost crushed under the incremental weight of all that nihilist energy Vasquez imbues in these tracks. Akin to that claustrophobic intensity found on The Cure's Pornography, if repurposed for a goth-pop project produced by Silent Servant or Andy Stott. So great is The Soft Moon!
MPEG Stream: "Black"
MPEG Stream: "Far"
MPEG Stream: "Wasting"
MPEG Stream: "Try"
SPECTRE Ruff Kutz (Pan) 2lp 30.00
Way back when we were totally obsessed with the Wordsound label, and their various purveyors of a sound they called illbient, broken beats, dubbed out grooves, twisted rapping, the sound a murky midnight melange of damaged outsider hip hop and bleary eared dub. Some of us never stopped digging that stuff, including it seems the fine folks at Pan, who've reissued this rarity, from Wordsound mainman Skiz Fernando (now a chef!) aka Spectre. It was originally released as a super limited mixtape in 1998, and is overflowing with unreleased jams and super rare tracks, featuring pretty much the whole Wordsound crew at the time, Sensational, Kevin Martin, Mr. Dead, Sensational, Scotty Hard, the Jungle Brothers, Bill Laswell, Doc Israel, Slotek and more. And goddamn if this stuff doesn't sound just as good as back in the day. A sprawling collection of zoned out beats, heavily laced with all sorts of samples, news clips, orchestral fanfares, old school P-Funk jams, all wreathed in the particle bongsmoke production Spectre pretty much perfected. The Spectre joints are fucked up even for someone who pretty much traffics in fucked up exclusively, and he's pretty much surrounded on all sides by like minded outsider dope-dub weirdos, the whole thing a head spinning collection of lo-fi, experimental, avant garde, drugged out, dub heavy, hip hop illbient genius. Mastered from the original DAT tapes, mastered and cut at D&M, and pressed on heavyweight 140 gram vinyl. And yeah, we're guessing it's pretty goddamn limited too.
MPEG Stream: "Side A (Extract)"
SUPERCONNECTION La Mer (M=minimal) cd 22.00
La Mer, or the sea, is the title, suggesting waves - beaches - bliss. Fluid, flowing. Yeah that's the vibe Superconnection achieve here on this lovely disc of moodily relaxed live electronic music, all gently burbling rhythms and melody, brought to us via Germany's discerning M=minimal label (Conrad Schnitzler, Borngraber & Struver). Superconnection is a trio of Berlin/Vienna electronica scene vets, including one of the guys from downtempo duo Tosca, Rupert Huber, who plays electronic piano here (he's also credited with "voice structures", whatever that means, we don't hear much in the way of singing on this), alongside Hanno Leichtmann, who handles drum programming, and Hannes Stobl on bass. This is Superconnection's debut, though these three guys made a disc under the name Dawn back in 1998.La Mer was performed and recorded live in the studio, so even though it's in the electronic/techno realm it has an organic feel, quietly mesmeric and minimal, spacious and precise. It grooves, but softly and sweetly. Very recommended for anyone wanting to float away for an afternoon. Imagine, maybe, Cluster and Radian together on a Mediterranean vacation, under mostly sunny skies.
MPEG Stream: "Wasserfall"
MPEG Stream: "Mediterranes Klima"
MPEG Stream: "Trucker Belize"
TAYLOR, LILY The Ride (Pour Le Corps) lp 14.98
The Texan experimental pop chanteuse Lily Taylor crafts a supple, liminal album of abstract song matched with twinkingly electronics and rosy dronescaping. These songs are the candy colored variations on much of the narcotized lullabies that Liz Harris and Rachel Evans have been conjuring in recent years. Taylor keeps the wash and the slumbering blur, but arranges her songs with the soft electronic patter of twinkled, simple melodies that could easily be mistaken for something off of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol II. Her fullbodied voice extends well beyond this bed of electronics, getting looped, layered, and treated through various effects, often becoming a miasma of self-harmonizing repetitions and chorales, all lush and ethereal.
MPEG Stream: "Miss It"
MPEG Stream: "The Ride"
UFOMAMMUT Ecate (Neurot) cd 14.98
Prepare for takeoff! As longtime fans, nay, FANATICS about heavy Italian space psych masters UFOmammut, we're super stoked that they have a new album out. It's been 3 years since the one-two punch of Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, so we're ready for more. With an intro that sounds like they're calling worshippers (like us) to prayer, then launches into sheer lumbering spacey synth-laden heavosity, yeah, Ecate's opener "Sominum" is the UFOmammut we know and love all right! For the somehow still uninitiated we'll fall back on the old "Electric Wizard meets Hawkwind, with a side helping of Neurosis" shorthand description, but really at this point (15 years, nine albums - including a couple we made Records Of The Week) UFOmammut should be name to check on its own, descriptive of their own special sound, one we might reference with regard to other bands (like, for instance, fellow Italians Nibiru).Usually either throbbing away mightily, a massive wall of guitar laced with sci-fi synth, chanted screams, percussive pummel, and lysergic FX, or breaking down somewhat softly into a roiling miasma of buried, effected sound samples/vocals and more quietly ominous riff-riff-riffing, this new album provides a fresh new swirling set of single-minded, spaced out, head banging, trance inducing rituals for all acolytes to enjoy - and followers of such bands as Yob, Om, and the various others aforementioned should probably succumb to this as well. Nice tripped out art on the cover and in the booklet, as well, with an illustration for each song, courtesy of Malleus, the psychedelic art collective to which these guys belong.
MPEG Stream: "Plouton"
MPEG Stream: "Chaosecret"
MPEG Stream: "Daemons"
V/A (D.M. RITZLIN, EDITOR) Swords Of Steel (DMR Books) book 10.98
You know every true heavy metal lyricist has an epic fantasy adventure novel in him - or at least, some strange pulpy short stories a la Weird Tales. This book is built on that concept, being a collection of horror and fantasy fiction (and a couple poems too) written by members of a bunch of underground epic heavy metal bands. Inspired by the likes of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and H.P. Lovecraft, these are stories by guys who normally try to bring that sort of stuff to life via their music. Contributors come from bands such as Bal-Sagoth, Funeral Circle, Graven Rites, Manilla Road/Hellwell, Solstice, Briton Rites, and others. We've only just begun to delve in, but the first story we read, which featured Edgar Allen Poe as the protagonist (!) wasn't bad, and epic metal fans will be interested to learn it was the inspiration for Manilla Road's song "The Riddle Master" from their classic Crystal Logic album.254 pages, with an introduction by professional swords & sorcery author David C. Smith, and a full color cover by Martin Hanford (who has done art for Bal-Sagoth, Slough Feg, and many others), it's a pretty decent DIY production, meant to look and feel like a paperback in the old pocket book tradition, like an anthology from the '70s.
WHITE HILLS Walks For Motorists (Thrill Jockey) cd 15.98
AQ fave psychedelic space rockers, the duo known as White Hills, are back, and taking some cool new chances with their sound. Busting out of their usual NYC haunts, this new album was recorded in rural Wales by a guy best known for working with poppier, electronic acts like Caribou and FKA Twigs. We're not sure anyone would call THIS album pop-oriented, exactly, though it's a fact that on a couple tracks here White Hills swap out guitar entirely for synthesizers - "I, Nomad" is bleeping, shimmering blissfulness. But for the most part, the usual White Hills krauty hypnorock loaded with squalls of fuzzy guitar distortion is in full effect, as expected, just somehow sleeker and provided with more precise targeting. Yes, Hawkwind is still a definite inspiration/influence/unavoidable comparison, especially on tracks like "We Are What You Are", while some other cuts here are a lot more 'new wavy' or post punk or something, equally propulsive and rhythmic but stripped down, giving more weight to the grooves, and sometimes also to the vocals (reminding anyone who'd forgotten, that White Hills are a boy-girl duo after all). The album-closing title track, laden with effects and electronics and samples, is practically funky and danceable, despite the droning guitar parts. We don't know if Dave W. and Ego Sensation were listening to a lot of Talking Heads, or, like, Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", or what exactly, but we're mesmerized by the results on that one. And if there are Moon Duo fans out there who for some reason haven't yet checked out White Hills, this disc would be a good place to start - "Automated City" sorta sounds like MD channelling the Rolling Stones in fact. While we always love White Hills, we're extra stoked on the different strokes they've surprised us with here.Note: the vinyl version of this has been delayed for another couple weeks or so, but when we do get it, Thrill Jockey is going let us have a very special limited edition version that only a handful of record stores are gonna get - not only is it on indie-exclusive translucent red vinyl, but also our copies will come with a bonus 12", a half-hour of unreleased material called Drives For Pedestrians!! Just FYI for you vinyl types, you might wanna preorder one.
MPEG Stream: "LSD or USB"
MPEG Stream: "We Are What You Are"
MPEG Stream: "Walks For Motorists"
YANG FAN What Happened After 1001 Nights (Genjing) lp 17.98
A sonic reimagining of a follow up to the Arabian Nights, this is perhaps one of the most out there, druggy and experimental of the Chinese independent records we have carried as of late. Yang Fan, who produced the Chui Wan record we made record of the week a few lists ago and is the guitarist and songwriter for other Chinese groups like Ourselves Beside Me and Hang On The Box, has produced a solo record of elegant bedroom-psych miniatures that spins a nocturnal fairy tale of wonder and dread. Largely instrumental with a few key moments of witchy ethereal commune folk singing, this reminds us of some far out combination of Gong, Woo, Magical Power Mako, and Alastair Galbraith, with a uniquely dreamy Chinese folk-classical bent. Kotos, melodicas, guitars and glockinspiels weave into various field recordings of crows and rivers and hushed female voices drawing a narrative of princesses and witches, emperors and snowmen. Getting weirder, dreamier and more sublime with each track culminating in a whirling torrent of chaotic sound where the distinction between dreams and reality remain forever blurred.Fantastic!
MPEG Stream: "Arabian Princess"
MPEG Stream: "The Fly Flies"
MPEG Stream: "Song For Some One"
MPEG Stream: "See! (Here Comes) The Witch!"
MPEG Stream: "Awake (or Not?)..."