Friday, March 27, 2015

Positive No on Negative Fun Records 2014 singles club

It's almost too perfect that Negative Fun Records would have asked a band called Positive No for material for their singles series. I thought there might have been a direct connection to the label but the four piece from Richmond, VA are one of those familiar veteran band stories. Kenny Close and Tracy Wilson got together with no intention of doing anything with a few ideas they had kicking around and four years later they've released a 12" EP on Little Black Clouds Records and are in the process of a proper full length. Everyone here has been honing their skills in all sorts of projects and it shows.

A-Side's "Automatic Cars" opens with an ominous bass line and high two note response from a guitar poised to launch. The vocals from Tracy are all over the place in a punk Bjork emphasis on weird phrasing from timid whispers to breathy hoarse breakdowns in the same verse making for a real schizophrenic internal sound that matches this mathy Don Cab style instrumentation. The jittery strum bursts and or shifting time signatures are the external equivalent to this stream of emotional consciousness. It's punk and precise, recorded extremely clean drawing from post punk rhythms and then vocally pushing that formula over the edge. It takes extreme style to remain the centerpiece in the middle of these harsh equations and Tracy is pushing her delivery into it's own completely unique instrument.
B-Side's "Slumber Sequence" uses that bass again to set a concrete foundation with calculating guitars bursting with layers of jangle, interlocking melodies and high harmonies like The Swirlies. A cut up zine version with barrages of tom and cymbal fills between the dueling bass and guitar. They seem to have that same lean towards experimentation of pushing odd rhythms and smashing melodies together making the puzzle pieces fit. Like Dog Day or Love of Diagrams the melodies appear between complex phrases in these unexpected pop ways. I'm trying to sound as smart as this is. Duh, get it already.

Get the entire box set on sale from Negative Fun Records.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Saffron Sect on 13 O'Clock Records

You know what makes classic psych so hard to recreate? It's having an ear for the original techniques and gear and then also possessing the skill to use those tools to pull off a single like this one from The Saffron Sect. They don't stick too closely to that classic stuff either, grabbing at piece that fit and refining contemporary production in the autoharps and sitars. Then again they've been at this or the past twelve years so they might just have a slight advantage over anyone attempting this kind of homage.

A-Side's "All Lead Back to You" is actually a cover of The '60s track from The First Impressions. The Saffron Sect feel like they're slowing the original track down and add a heavy flute arrangement from Kristina Koskinen and pushing this into even further reaches of psych. They don't stop at the flute either, an impressive list of baroque layers sound more like the harder long trip stuff instead of a kaleidoscope pop sounds of the original. The liner notes on the back of this are extensive, each member plays a number of esoteric instruments and they've all been layered in floating smoke trails of incense. Not to mention the recording itself has been heavily worked over in post, pans and different vocals come in on separate channels but nothing is overplayed or really pushing that bad trip. It's a smooth transition between tempos and instruments passing you from oversized harem pillow to pillow. By the end of this it flirts with a heavy almost Sabbath sounding devils intervals.
B-Side's "A Pinch of Chalk" opens on street noise taking a big riff turn into more Sabbath inspired chords sliding further into a progressive '70s Yes sound with the pile of instrumentation swirl. Fantastic vocal that steps over itself picking up right before the last verse is finished and that's the kind of thing that brings this into the 21st century. The way they work in that mindset with new tools in ways that era wished it could have. Starts to make perfect sense that this sound would make itself more prevalent in the era of garageband etc. But then again you have to be really really technically skilled to get tot his place and then start experimenting. A shimmery dreamscape flashback collage of bells and effects fades this one out. Impressive modern psych that would fool most '60s historians - aka parents.

Pick this up from 13 O'Clock Records

sample below (not from this single) -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DD Owen from the Windian Records Subscription Series

I could always respect that Jay Reatard went and collaborated with all kinds of people and projects. Lost Sounds or Terror Visions reminded me that it doesn't matter what you're using, punk is punk and it's good to get out of your comfort zone and experiment with whatever someone has lying around. Drew Owen from Sick Thoughts has gone and found an ancient drum machine to lay out more of his layers and layers of blown out guitar tones bedroom punk.

A-Side's "Violent Pacifier" has some psych phasered mechanical drums with layers of scuzzy guitar sweeping across the channels. This has all the best kind of noise smothering this track like the classic punk synth of Digital Leather, it's got just enough melting electronics to lean away from traditional punk. But that's what this is all about; twisting knobs and making a great pounding mess of delay and buried guitars, screaming that title lyric in some kind of chorus. Cut wide for maximum volume, it's a quick track of power sludge that plays with metal solos and feedback over that metronome casio beat. Cuts off just like the cassette it was recorded on.
The B-Side is a cover of Gary Wrong's "Setting Fire to Your Loft" where DD keeps the creepiness of the original and ramps up the tempo with this shifting in and out of focus boombox beat. He cuts right to the heart of what made this original track so crazy and gets damaged like the vocal from Blank Dogs. The guitars are a dense muddy sludge of bass heavy frequencies but he layers in some high cranky static guitar just turning the instrument into every possible tool for this horror psych production. I like that Drew is single minded and going for it with whatever he's got, fidelity be damned. It can still work when it's not about a label.

Get this freaking box set already - from Windian Records.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Radioactivity on Secret Mission Records

Every once in a while you miss a band like Radioactivity AND their previous project, The Marked Men out of Denton, TX. For whatever reason this is your first time hearing these guys and you can't get over how good it is. It's so good you feel stupid like you can't possibly even think you're keeping up with music in any meaningful way. How did I get so fucking out of touch? The only thing keeping me going now is looking up Radioactivity's previous releases on Dirtnap and Alien Snatch Records.

On A-Side's "Danger" a click of sticks counts into a heavy jittery jangle strum and muted cymbal bursts that pop up during verses of this vibrating tune. Great slightly blown out vocals run alongside this race but are dragged along reclined not straining themselves as the rest of the tracks flies down low, the high hat in double time over the snare. The single note melody that floats in, panning across channels over this unrelenting rhythm, is the only thing that seems to take a contemplative pause. How this ends up being catchy is anyone's guess being overwhelmed with this tempo in the way tracks from Blood Visions did, there's no time to examine or pick apart. Go with this these guys know what they're doing and it's the kind of thing that continues picking up speed with layers piling up that could go on forever.
B-Side's "Why" comes on equally as strong with a springy single note and kick at first reminding me of that frantic pop of Adam Widener. They have one speed; beserk. Even the vocal here has that same urgency and the strum is enough to shake every surface, the bass and drum never getting a moments rest. Bendy psych guitar works it's way in over the stomp that comes back harder, swapping the downbeat, more committed than before to the blown out doubled up vocals. This is two sides of perfection. I've got to get that full length and join the rest of society. Forgive me.

Get it from Secret Mission Records.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Morons on Maraca Records

Just like The Reatards or The Vomit Pigs when naming your band it's best to set low/hilarious expectations. When I went to an art summer camp and started a band (of course) called Conehead Move it was because that's what the adult floor monitor, Bill used to tell us not to do all time. The Morons, a three piece out of Chicago have set the bar equally high for themselves. This way when Brendan is too fucked up to count in or Jake's bass is broken again who really gives a shit. That's the pushing 40 dad's dream; to hit the road with two other friends in a van with no idea what you're about to get into and having the best/worst three months ever. The name is perfect.

A-Side's "Crackin' Up" - You know that first track on the 13th floor elevators first record "You're Gonna Miss Me"? To this day it's fucking completely wild and out of control bluesy, blown out sounding and these guys are capturing that controlled cathartic mess. They have it way more together than I imagined in that intro too. They get right to the very heart of the sloppy garage sound with skill and even more attitude of course. Throw in a real serious solo that shouldn't even be called that actually, it's an expression of this mental breakdown they're describing. Plus when this thing ends you hear that reverb echo just bouncing off the walls.
"Disco Diablo" god damn perfect song about living above a disco. Who even knows if that's a thing anymore but it must be - I'm completely on these guys side now. Coming home late after work, he's going to understandably lose his mind. They blast into this hyper Jeff the Brotherhood sound with flying V chords, voice cracking, all the guys blasting out this chorus. Just messy sounding to balance out their obvious talent, that name is more of a smokescreen or they are just fucking modest.
B-Side's "Madelyn" slows things down for more bluesy Natural Child sound, lots of soul, waking up busted, a lady is involved. Old rusty classic cars. These chords sound like the strings have all been tuned down so they rattle across the fretboard as they lean into these versus about this dangerous impossible to hold onto lady. They have that same wounded snarl as the boys from Nashville, letting those chords just ring out, settling into this rock country groove that's all about these three yelling at the top of their lungs about not being alone. "I can't wait" has a faster chorus punk sound with the mic just blown out, and the rest of the gang backing up every word. Bendy feeling solo and this guy is a total mess trying to date this girl but in a loveable Nodzzz goof way that's endearing. Not only are they just being modest but now you're going to introduce them to your sister. I'm going to give her their number.

Get this from the band direct, only 100 pressed. Hop to it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Seeers on the Windian Records subscription series

I missed Rob Ulsh's latest project The Seeers when they passed through Brooklyn maybe a year ago now and just realized now that this single in the Windian subscription series is their first release. I knew Rob from his last project, The Super Vacations and before I even made that connection (because I'm slow - and sort of deaf apparently) I had thought about the connections between the two.

A-Side's "Without Lites" has a lot in common with The Vacations stuff, and for my money this is a change in name only, Rob and Ross are still nailing that smooth layered psych vocal delivery the only way they know how. I recognize the chorus phrasing right away and that's a testament to their unique songwriting in this garage psych sound. They hit on this hyper dense seasoned sound with the vocals just floating by themselves above the rough chords just like they used to. Maybe a little bit more emphasis on the distortion tones and tempo that's flying in contrast to the somewhat laid back vocal delivery. Unlike psych this one has only a couple of minutes to bang it out.
B-Side's "In Jail, In my Mind, on a Prison Planet" comes on heavier than that A-Side and Rob is still up there in that tower in the clouds barely straining over these rougher power chords. It's like they take all of that meandering jam sound and jangle and compact it down into a frantic minute and a half. The guitars even twist into springy reverb for a measure of outer space solo only to be crushed back down by a punk blast of that chorus. I love what these guys have been up to whatever they're called.

This is the only thing The Seeers have out as of right now and you can even pick this up if alone if you can't spring for the whole set, with sleeve or not, Windian will give it to you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stacian / Gel Set split 12" EP "Voorhees" on Moniker Records

Voorhees is the title of a split 12" from Chicago based bands Gel Set and Stacian on Moniker Records. Both are essentially solo artists working in a minimal, electronic style both finding unique end results in this perfect pairing of artists by the outsider label.

Gel Set’s “Love On Video” has a lone live sounding tom joined by a high timpani snare but from here on in it’s anything but human. Ethereal longing vocals from Laura Callier float somewhere above repeating the title of the track over and over. Like Charlie Hilton of Blouse on “Videotapes” it’s about that nostalgic version of the future. Familiar but didn’t exactly happen, it’s an odd sounding dance track. The rhythm replaces at random the various percussion hits ending up with a random looped rhythm made out of an array of sounds that would only be playable in this virtual space. More layers of synths cooly work their way over the top of this. As much as she builds up this foot tapping rhythm that’s almost tearing it apart. It’s dense and minimal with room for so much more but the thin strands of raw sine waves are strung all over the place. It’s the perfect balance creating within the parameters of technology and then trying to subvert them to your own internal logic. “Hong Kong Long Con” is the catchiest track of the side, it revs up immediately running from the first track into this with no breaks with a frantic Ashrae Fax sounding boundless synth that’s been run through endless delay and bouncing across a neon grid. Handclaps and cowbells piled up into an undeniable groove with hovering vocals on another plane possibly redefining what dance could be, as if there was still a floor somewhere playing underground artists to audiences purely there to move. There’s a long pause before the manic sounding “Never Never Dance” winds up. Out of tune sounding wooden notes fell off the shelf and landed on the busted midi controller. It’s a feat in and of itself, to deliberately be able to warp mechanical sounds to an off the grid place or where they were never intended to go at least. Laura’s vocal is barely present, no layers this time, just a single voice slowly talking, pushed under the oppression of this rhythm sounding like all those black keys. 808 clicks and whirs add up to a regulated chaos. Push the button, hit ‘run’ and wait as this soundtrack plays. The broken machines just won’t shut up. They don’t have any idea of how long to keep this undanceable track going but the record had to run out sooner or later.

Stacian’s Side starts out with “Ice Hole” and her sound works against the softer, rounded tones of Gel Set’s side. Stacian is drawn to those extremes of detachment and this loop is harsh. She manipulates the sounds here almost immediately bringing a sense of DIY and humanity when the dials starts to get twisted in real time. The vocals are a place holder bouncing around through the background, blaring away in the under a thousand delay’s pinging off themselves unrecognizable - only an abstract version of a vocal leaving things open for interpretation in all of this hypnotising detail. “Airlock” includes Billy Dimmit playing a string synth and I’m imagining massive upright boards of ¼ inch holes for fistfulls of crossing cables. A lot of these sounds change and shift with each other but they aren’t meant to harmonize or sync up in any way. Her vocal feels like it has more of a breathy sound here along with religious samples that always reference industrial era bands like Meat Beat Manifesto for me. She manages to coax out the harshest analog sounds normally known for their warmth but these synthesized tones are anything but natural or organic. It’s oscillating squares and triangles buzzing and whining into each other. The track gives Stacian an extremely large space to roam and showcase her skill at teasing switches and dials into a singular magnetic vision.

Pick this up from Moniker Records.

Great packaging with a half sleeve of thick screened card stock, hand numbered an edition of 500.

Stacian’s previous release is long sold out from Moniker but they’ll be releasing a full length from Gel Set later this year.