Thursday, May 23, 2013
I remember when John Spencer Blues Explosion seemed to lead the way into something I didn’t know existed: the blown out, garage-soul, joke blues. Up until that point the blues was very serious, sad business from Robert Johnson and to combine it with wrestling ring ostentatiousness, distorted grooves and James Brown soul felt completely new. Hollywood, out of Baltimore, MD feel like an extension of that moment when you realize you don’t have to be in a band that’s trying so hard to be cool or serious or political…if you like to get drunk and listen to loud music while being a jackass, then you should do that. Just be your god damn self, that’s what’s going to work in the end. Hollywood are a bunch of jokers, blasting scuzzy distortion all over the stage and if you stop for half a second to listen to their lyrics then they’ll have you pissing your pants.
A-Side "Sixteen?” - I just flipped this sleeve over to check out a cut and pasted nude hunks playing guitars around a suburban model home from the ‘50s. They were probably the inspiration for this track about underage girls. Just like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, he keeps getting older and they stay the same age. The foursome deliver a gutsy, scuzz groove that ends up smeared all over the single. Successfully trying to creep you out lyrically while going right for glass shattering heavy distortion and bass line crunch. Sweaty snot vocals float on top of the heavy distortion groove and they’re getting off on their own attitude. The backup vocal is the best turning this into perverted bubblegum Dictators pop. "Momma" layers on more scuzz, drawing out extra feedback for warble phasered vocals. Low-end grit is the key here, laying into a Butthole Surfers sound in a song to his mother. “It's too dirty, there’s too much echo, too much distortion!” But mom, it's the thought that counts. Does it count if the pancakes are burnt and you set the kitchen on fire? Then keep your breakfast in bed you bunch of sweaty creeps. Only a mom could love that mess and this racket. Plus you brought all those naked boys home to lounge around my living room! Wait until your father gets home.
B-Side’s "Girl?" is where I think got me started on that JSBX memory lane. This is more blues and production than the off road mud from the A-side’s layered vocals of distortion tin can telephone vocal. Really thinking like Nobunny with loose almost garage jangle with bent and sleazy sounding chords. It’s a frantic Natural Child sort of mess, just perpetually messing around, the kind of guys that never get serious, maybe even driving you a little crazy when your trying to actually get shit done. But they always seem to pull it off and that makes you even crazier. How are they even a tiny bit put together and coming up with catchy, southern style, west coast reverb crunch like this? The only question is do THEY even know great this is or are they going to get too drunk to even play next time. Or remember they wanted to press this record.
On clearish purple vinyl, let's say….. Lavender?
Pick this up on Big Neck Records.
The tracks below are from their full length...also sounds like a good time.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Is it so crazy that someone paid two million for a painting of Bea Arthur topless or a shark in formaldehyde, or Campbell's soup cans for that matter? It’s not so much about the object itself, you’re buying into the story behind the work, the artist’s personality, and aligning yourself with all the other people who think it matters. The same goes for a good seven inch (thankfully with a different price point), like this one from Seattle’s Gabriel Mintz who on the reverse side of this sleeve described recording each track in a basement in Maryland one winter. In this brief liner note you really get a sense of where he’s coming from and his general approach to music. Along with Fin’s attention to detail and historically finding interesting artists I was already getting a sense of this record and ready for wherever Gabriel was going.
A-Side’s “Western Days” - There’s something about Gabriel’s fragile, high register vocal that walks a fine line between genders….he isn’t even singing in falsetto, but more of a freak folk Devendra Banhart style that even reminds me of Jimmy Scott’s androgynous sound. It's incredibly unique and stands out immediately, driving the track’s personal intimacy. He recorded it as close as possible, right against the mic and is accompanied by an acoustic and a subtle mix of percussion. Lots of delicate experimentation takes this otherwise solo acoustic song into a new place especially when backed up against that inherent silence. The hushed confined space eventually blows up with more layers of subtlety, phasered synth warbled wash rising and fading in the distance and separated shakers defining a massive sense of space, all in service of that compelling vocal.
"Smunk” on the B-Side side has the feel of hitting on that perfect weird loop or guitar sound and expanding on it over a number of days. I end up respecting him even more after this venture into bizarre, shiny super-pop. It’s the sound of an artist playing with the entire palette of ideas and sounds at his disposal. Circling eclectic melodies with a strange slight distortion and an ELO chorus piled up vocal with underused percussion elements. A bright future jazz that has a lot to do with psych and progressive rock maybe the basement version of ork pop, a Pet Sounds arrangement for a Maryland winter. Waves of grit build up on the straightforward slow rhythms with a haze and laid back feel that shows it’s choppy cut and paste cards at the end of this. It's human but transcended somehow.
Pick this up on Fin Records. **Insider info, Gabriel has a full length coming out later this summer on Versicolor Records.
Video for Western Days, shot on 8mm film because that imperfect record is better than anything else.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
It’s good to feel like you’re doing something more than just the selfish purchase of another record to put on the shelf. If a band like The Razor Blazers can combine their latest single with a good cause like education for children in Peru then you put another record on the shelf AND give to a part of the world whose concerns are a little bit more directly related to their immediate needs. I’m just saying it doesn’t hurt once in a while to remember how good we’ve got it talking about records all day long.
A-side’s "I'm sick" opens with a thudding kick beat and rim shot, a completely minimal arrangement with slightly distorted vocals from Frederica sounding a lot like Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes. In fact they share a lot of qualities with the Pacific Northwest duo, their heavy use of rhythm, and open spaces. When the chorus hits, it’s a similar expansive, almost shoegaze version of a controlled explosion. It’s a lush, pop sound about some kind of unrequited love of course. They plod away in a Velvet Underground repetition in an effort to hypnotize, reminding me of Nico’s cool detachment. Far off handclaps backing the clicky rim shot in a stripped down, tough arrangement but when they hit that chorus and it's a celebration of that early '80s breezy, shimmering aesthetic if Young Marble Giants scored soundtracks with OMD.
"Linear Rerun" on the B-Side has the guitar and bass working in a more serious, deliberate Interpol sound. Her vocal has switched to a chorus-y echo with this bare rhythm and dynamic on the tenuous edge of noise. Linear Rerun describes the hypnotic state of this Blonde Redhead sound. All of a sudden that façade cracks and a thousand distortions charge in a moment of panic. The stampede peters out with almost brass tones and that slow, melodic rhythm wanders back. The chaos is over so fast, considering they like to extend arrangements like XX ending with Frederica’s endless breathy ‘oh’s’. It’s a little surprising this would end up on the small format with how much they favor winding roads of melody.
A limited pressing of 500 with all proceeds to benefit Kusi Kawsay, an elementary school in the Peruvian Andes which offers children from economically challenged backgrounds an affirming and holistic education.
Get it from their bandcamp page and do something for someone other than yourself. Relax you're still getting a record.
Video describing some of the education project here.
Monday, May 20, 2013
I appreciate a band that can really paint a picture of what to expect with a name alone. On this split with White Slave and Meat Mist I thought I would have a pretty good idea going in but nothing quite prepares you for this assault. There’s nothing like power noise-core to jumpstart a Monday morning.
For the Meat Mist side I had to find their bandcamp to track down the titles to these tracks. It’s appropriately pressed up on black vinyl with hand stamped center labels and not much info on the double-sided sleeve. They make sure to seal this up in those sticky cellophane crackly 7” sleeves that you have to throw away if you ever want to open this thing up again. The first track “What's That Thing You Do?” immediately drives the whole side up into a hissy, static pummeling, I hate to use that word when it comes to super hardcore like this, but it really applies here. The bass and guitar combine into a thick sludge, which doesn’t let the drums through, somehow they've managed to bury the rhythm section under head bashing thunder. The handmade quality of this is winning me over and this deliberate choice to record with as few mics as possible. The third track (I can't even name here it keep messing with the html) goes ultra dark with bent, creaking horror chords and the slowness of Sunn O))). Impenetrable noise with serious bashing and a terrifying screamy vocal making me look differently at the corners of the room. I think that sounds like this exist to remind you that evil exists, don’t get too comfortable ...and not because these guys are the source… if the inverse law of hardcore/punk/metal applies Meat Mist may be the nicest guys ever. There’s always exceptions though and I worry there's going to come a day I go out to see something like this and the band will prove you wrong, no one would blame them, it would be my fault. I'm scaring myself but this soundtrack isn't helping.
White Slave also forced me on a search for track names, and there was no way I’m coming up with any links I want to click on. On “Wet Grave” the drums here are impossibly complex in a hardcore math way, switching up rhythms and even methods of recording in the song. A heavy morbid vocal comes in rough with a plate echo, sounding absolutely like hell to nice effect. They conjure up plastic sounding bashy drums with a trapped in a tiny metal cave vocal.
“Two Way Mirror” pushes the boundaries of rhythm with insane speed past the point where normal people can distinguish a BPM. In the same way that The Velvet Undergrounds hypnotic repetition turns into something else after a while, this dense pile morphs through various forms of chaos, slipping in and out of a distinguishable pattern. The melodic heavy section finally slows down and this dude is yelling like hell. I’m beginning to question that inverse niceness law because those guys in serial killer documentaries aren’t in folk bands. Their huge range of sludge dynamics are an absolute trademark; they employ it across these three tracks, find a drone groove only to bash their way out again with lots of moshing in front of the stage is inevitable.
The inside sleeve has disturbing collages and combines the two names into “Meat Slave"
Both of these guys played in the best named venue of 2013, The Asshole Castle. Got a nice ring to it.
Friday, May 17, 2013
I've learned that no matter how much I try to keep up with seven-inch labels there's just no sense in beating yourself up. Things are going to slip through the cracks. Talking about one single every day simply isn't enough. It's great that there are so many singles being released these days but it's sad when you miss out on gems like this Jacco Gardener single from Trouble in Mind. The 24-year Old Dutch multi-instrumentalist is working on some incredible contemporary psych that reminds me of fellow TIM artist The Resonars who blew me away not long ago with his “Long Long Thoughts” single. Jacco has a similar dense incredibly crafted hazy psych that feels uncannily close to the apex of ‘70s psych.
A-Side’s "Where Will You Go?" has an acoustic strum fading into glorious sun rising psych, beams of lens flaring psych…he’s also literally singing about the sun with reverse sampled drums. It’s like I’ve never heard a string section and vocal match so perfectly in tone that they almost combine into one new thing entirely. A twinkly synth and odd melodies take over with a Middle East inspired chord progression and dreamy piles of shakers and separated channels… if there’s one thing that psych does really well its to create a crazy sense of space. Some of those early tracks from Revolver or Pet Sounds must have been benchmarks to test stereo systems in hi-fi shops. You blow that record out in one of those sound controlled rooms in the back of the store and you’re almost lightheaded right there on your lunch break. This is a dizzying warbly haze of xylophone, swirling distortions, and reverb dial twisting, from plate to spring and back again. Piled on percussion sounds with outlandish arrangements, like the sleeve of his full length Cabinet of Curiosities, you’ve stumbled into an unbelievable place. Who cares about anything but putting this on again.
"Summer's Game" highlights another aspect to psych I almost forgot about, you have to be gifted with a great vocal that can rise up in this high register without any problems and work well in layers. This is perfectly done, and the mastery of every instrument… of piano … harpsichord. Like that story of Keith Richards learning the sitar just for Paint It Black just to say “yea, that’s it I’m done with that mate”. It’s searching for that perfect sound and if it’s this harpsichord well get on with it. Plus with this massive overwhelming sound you have to be able to arrange a string section, if not play it yourself over 24 tracks. It’s an expression of freedom in huge, manifest destiny sound. Here are all the ideas of making music piled into one track. To do that well is impressive if not a miracle… everything is perfectly placed. I haven’t described one single bit of the actual sound here, but rest assured it's perfect brain bending psych. A dictionary perfect example of how far the genre has come and surpasses the original stuff by miles!!!!
Sold out at the source, no surprise, but still available from Insound and Midheaven. Trouble in Mind has just released his full length with both of these tracks as well.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I'm always amazed when I happen to look up the addresses of labels in Brooklyn only to find they're down the street. It really makes this whole record label thing feel like a cozy, local endeavor like visiting the farmers market - only for music. The new Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk started in that window right over there. I could do walking tours and visit the kitchen tables and living rooms where the sleeves were designed, where the records you know and love were packed up. Put bronze plaques on those buildings, print “Maps to the Record Labels”, sell them on the side of the road.
I only say this because I’ve been following Fire Talk Records as they slowly have been building up an impressive catalog with a couple bands I've been hearing more and more about: Tjutjuna and Woodsman and now this limited single that started to ship yesterday from Flower Orgy.
"Our Song" off the A-Side is mic’d close, immediately intimate, its heart pulled out and set on the table in front of you. It’s all emotion with layered harmonies falling in and out of precise waves over this plodding reverb electric with a fuzzy, laid back feel. The vocals take center stage, stripped bare like Hayden, in a storytelling songwriter style crossed with a lot of the imperfections of something familiar like Sebadoh or Dump. It’s focused on the shifting harmonies with an almost psych attention to haze. A comfortable tune you get the hang of right away and sit back, eyes closed in the brushed percussion, because he wouldn't want to wake you. Instantly catchy with all too human details to make sure it won’t be confused with a produced hit and all the feeling to blast out rolled down windows as the sun goes down, turn on the headlights and splatter bugs all over the windshield driving to the desert.*
01. Our Song
02. You Don't Need Me
*I've been checking out Nate Luce and Anna Fusco's travelogue as well which casts new light on this mellow piece of psych.
Get this from Firetalk Records, only 150 pressed.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
When it comes to mathy post hardcore, I don’t even hear the melody on the first couple of passes. Maybe having a very limited experience with playing instruments I have an appreciation for the sheer skill and practice it must take to get to this level of technical playing, and I just get caught up in the virtuosity of the tracks. Add another technically incredible band to the list Regret, The Informer out of Kansas City who just sent in their latest single “Less than three” on Stink Cat Records.
On A-Side’s “Tour De Franzia" it feels like the ghost of At The Drive In is thankfully still rattling around in impressionable skulls. The influence is heavy with dual guitar histrionics and an equally screamy vocal tracked with impossible call and response vocals between members. Choppy alternate tuned guitars split back and forth channel complex constructed melodies and speed hardcore bursts. "LOSING MY MIND!" The yell delivery in every direction, from growly black metal to emo but consistently keeping it reigned into well-constructed off-kilter post hardcore. Haven’t heard anything like this in a long time, with good reason, it takes undeniable devotion to the genre to remotely pull this off "Sleeveless in Seattle" - proof that anyone who can come up with Don Cab names like this has to be ok. They’re fingering crazy melodies in off time signatures, screaming back and forth hinting at a bigger melody but more in love with The Dismemberment Plan sound. It’s an attempt to baffle the listener every measure with their intense attention to detail. This is never going to be background music - this sort of thing takes hold immediately in the front of consciousness. At least with the 7” single there’s some breathing room after these bursts to let it really sink in. They aren’t against experimental tangents either; playing around with a reverse cymbal they have to examine every aspect in an attention to detail anyone can appreciate. Real freaking craftsmen. Like checking out some kind of side of the road chainsaw sculpture only to find it's been inlayed with all kinds of different wood and hand polished. Why would anyone do this except they don’t want to anything else?
B-Side’s "Good Morning Drug" has a pounding pop beat, I’m questioning if this is even the same band. I knew this pop foundation was lurking all along and the yelling starts in with a change back into fragmented post core, the bombs dropping alongside Gatling gun bursts. Extremely complex with an odd feel like its constantly teetering on the edge of a cliff combined with this frantic angst its a nervous gut wrenching trip with a lot of emotion to take in. Abstract as shit vocals, you’ll have to find your own way through this minefield of verse but they mean business. I also like this great sleeve that’s weirdly wax coated paper with lyrics and a hidden track of subtle backwards-static collage. They keep pulling out tricks like these, swapping genres. Magic.
Get this from Stink Cat Records.