Saturday, June 6, 2015

The end

I love tiny records, I always will. From buying Palace singles at Tramps after their show or another Sebadoh seven inch at Adult Crash on Avenue A they are inherently the format of the underground. Little did I know that history stretched back through the beginning of punk as the cheapest entry point for a band just getting started or destined to make one insane single before breaking up.

I believe if you put out a seven inch single you care about the music on it enough to go to the trouble of carving a wavy spiral into metal and smashing it into a hot blob of plastic a few hundred times.

After ten years with a new member of my family I'm stretched too thin. I never thought this was going to end up making money or being more than fun. Just like those tiny records it was done out of love for all these artists and labels getting a couple of bucks together and launching singles into the abyss of contemporary music. I made a lot of friends and I hope I called attention to unappreciated releases while selfishly keeping up with the never ending search for new music.

There's a lot of people listed in the friends section still writing about these tiny records and they will never stop being incredibly important to me.

To everyone who ever sent in a record; thanks. I hope I did it a tiny bit of justice and sent a few readers your way who spent a couple of bucks to pick it up.

The writing is over for now but I'm still going to be slowly but surely releasing records at sweater & pearls records including a new one from Part Time that I'm really excited about.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Lady God presents the Pebbles - self released

Lady God came up with a genius idea for their record release party. Rent a bus and take everyone (with an opening band playing during the ride while the passengers got started on a case of PBR) to where it all started for the band, at Virginia Moonwalker studios. Set up a stage next to an old bus and play in the middle of the woods long into the night for the folks who made the trek. I love the idea of creating an intimate experience for a tiny group of people instead of a terrible three day long festival with reunited bands and going to the bathroom next to the port-a-poddy. That's what a seven inch single feels like next to itunes.

A-Side's "Nervous Talk" opens with a laid back reverb surf line and shuffle high hat over a tight snare. Chrissie Griffith's sultry sneer is describing that awkward social situation some people find themselves in; talking with nothing to say, all in a swampy '50s greaser dark sound. It's part Cramps and part pop style and natural vocal of Shannon from the Clams. Polka dots and patent leather, white t-shirts and jeans transported into a future that isn't blinded from the middle of the most prosperous period in american history. They've already been there and subvert things with rising feedback wails and snappy tics, like the Shangri-La's just out of prison.
B-Side's "Roll Tennessee" has a harder '70s hard rock riff on a cranky guitar with Skye on distorted vocals with an attitude matched by the bending blues notes through a busted stack. Harder into partying on this side the layers are stacking up from the garage. Joined by Chrissie they're improvising vocal parts, layering the chorus like a duet, the tambourine rattling underneath. The harsh fuzz is those horns on top of the virgin mary's head. A little bit sweet and A LOT BAD.

Get this from the band direct on their bandcamp page.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Room 101 "Vox Humana" on X-Mist / Beau Travail Records

DIY is the one man band. There is nothing more punk rock, more hardcore than one guy out there like Room 101, saying his peace without the help from anyone - well that's not true of course he's got help from a lot of people as the liner notes will attest. I think it's about having that drive to work on this project, playing shows, traveling, putting songs's all motivated by that one person. If you don't feel like doing something than it's not going to get done. To be working in this hardcore punk style can't come easy either, conjuring up this energy when the rest of the world is asleep but you are fucking pissed about these god damn drones. It's the most boring job in the air force which is inevitably going to lead to a bunch of fuck ups, but it's just a video screen in a far away country - who cares. Room 101 gets me fired up about this stuff again and takes me right back to Bedtime For Democracy which was designed by Winston Smith, who put this sleeve together. Things never change, you just get older.

A-Side's "Drone War" drops the mechanical hardcore right on the first beat with regular bursts of kicks and tambourine hits, screaming that title lyric 'DRONE WAR!'. Room 101 has always been political from the beginning and I get too complacent listening to nice reverb songs about getting fucked up and the beach. There's real shit going on and maybe I don't want to deal with it, but it's not getting any better. The only way I can imagine Roburt doing this himself is with the help of a shitty drum machine track but it's not sounding like the usual crazy electronic punk like Sick Thoughts, DD Owen, there's more of a pop punk sound here with layers of handclaps and those guitars leaning towards a little garage. It's got all the jagged starts and stops of tirelessly going after these gated guitar bursts. Roburt's clearly just messing with us coming up with a catchy pop handclap chorus about dying and celebrating. Reminds me of another punk band that I used to skate to in the garage.
"Exterminate Adult Thinking (featuring XVC)" a slow ride cymbal leads to a relentless 4/4 at spastic speed but the guitar is cranking this even faster forcing that machine part to give up, this hardcore John Henry isn't going to be led by this tempo. More of that jagged punk that fires in machine gun bursts. Also the track isn't about just exterminating the thinking but literally get rid of those jerks who can't think outside that adult box, like say for example that maybe people who want to get married can? Damn this is getting me all riled up like Fox News.
The B-Side's "Boiys" has a smirking waltz rhythm of laid back organ and muted chords talking about this plague of boys at brunch and being sassy. I like this more subtle and twisted look at contemporary culture, you don't go after the obvious targets, it's about that weirder bigger picture while you poke fun at your own instrumentation at the same time. At the risk of not being cool you write the weirdest goofy carnival song sneering alongside your subject? It's not an obvious direction and what makes it that much better in the end, a direct result of a singular twisted vision just doing whatever the hell he wants.

Lots of inserts; fake money and a sticker to 'support the war machine', lyric sheet, liner notes and a picture of Roburt about to wipeout on the floor from singing like a maniac and thrashing all over the place.
Contact Roburt (room10101 at hotmail) for this one unless you live in europe and lucky you, it's down the street at X-Mist and Beau Travail Records.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ar-Kaics on Market Square Records

How did The Ar-Kaics happen to hit on that same tone as the Fresh and Onlys did a few years back not only in number of releases and buzz but in tapping a similar fuzzy soul psych that Tim Cohen did. I've always been a fan of this sound that has parts of a beachy reverb mixed in with a distant, cood post-psych sound. You're filling in a lot of those mysterious gaps while the melody just rises out of this satisfying fog. Another great single from this Richmond, VA four piece who also just put out that full length with Windian not long ago - take your pick.

A-Side's "Always the same" bashes in a heavy 4/4 beat, the snare echoing that kick because the god damn air is just MOVING. Shrill reverb taking it's place right alongside that downbeat, proof they don't have to speed things up to gain that snarling energy and momentum. Layer in a tambourine and busted static cymbal into that snare and you can barely make out these vocals. It's become a real primitive Mummies sounding garage with an everything is simple and new sound of Troggs demos. There's no denying a rhythm like this but still not an easy thing to pull off, it takes a skilled hand to get anything new out of it. A bent, uneasy solo piped in from the HVAC duct next door makes this sound even more dirty and dangerous. Guess what's 'always the same'? The hurt and pain.
B-Side's "Let Me In" starts with haunting high angled reverb with big distance, the notes settling into a foggy night marsh. It's cold until the drums shuffle in and another set of guitar tones start hardening this into place. It's all about this mood they create as much as the actual placement and tempo of the notes. The layers of space have as much to do with this sound as the struck notes drawn out by those cycles of circuits. Kevin Longendyke's vocal is floating in that midpoint of the mix not worried about keeping his head up above this thick blanket, you couldn't get to this place fighting. It's not the demand of 'Let me in' as much as it's the despair of getting shut out. Feedback upon feedback grows interrupting this analog sound in their interpretation of the lonesome solo, leaning that guitar up against the cabinets and letting nature take it's course.

As usual the Ar-Kaics let the music speak for itself and all you get is a brown paper sleeve. All they need is that name on the center label.

Sold out from Market Square direct but Goner has copies still.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Other on the Negative Fun singles club 2014

There are some serious overlooked gems in this Negative Fun subscription series. First the Midnight Plus One single opened up a dark psych direction and that Positive No single introduced me to one of my recent favorite EP's. I think I'm saying that not only do I like a label blindly sending new music every couple of months but I NEED the curation. If Negative Fun has taken the time to schedule out a years worth of singles to deliver to subscribers it's because these are the singles they feel strongest about. No Other is a philly based trio with one of those naturally gifted lead singers in Maria Sciarrino that can pull off the demanding range of hardcore or go completely breathy and atmospheric alongside their equally eclectic mix of post punk and experimental shoegaze.

A-Side's "Option C" opens with a severe no frills punk bass line setting the tone for scratchy jagged guitar distortions and heavy foot stomp. Maria on vocals has a full sounding trained vocal like Corin Tucker that can all of a sudden fly into an upper register maintaining serious control of her quiver. The tone is all the way at the extreme end of post punk, modern and stark like those massive concrete eastern european housing projects. Rigid and sticking to a prescribed plan, the solo if you can call it that, is all stutter off kilter notes that work in those minor key ways over the repeating assembly line riffs, sliding or patched in from another track entirely they seem to be saying it doesn't have to fit. Just realizing that 'option C' refers to the other choice that wasn't even brought up. I don't like either of the choices and I'm going with the third one I just made up.
B-Side's "Opaque" slides in with a heavy watery chorus guitar flirting with reverb and Maria has a "Back on the Chain Gang" Chrissie Hynde sound on this one over the slow moving chords. It expands into a dense crashing distortions that get swallowed by delay and this tropical pop sound goes noisy shoegaze. This one breaks for an experimental effects filled solo also, the whole track a big 180 from where you'd expect this to go based on that A-Side. This seems to combine more obscure references into something more unclassifiable. If they can get that surprise on a seven inch imagine where they could go with two sides of a full length.

The only way to pick this up is getting that whole set direct from Negative Fun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tiger High on Trashy Creatures / Volar Records

After checking out Tiger High's latest single, a split release between Trashy Creatures and Volar Records, I think I'm getting their surrealist psych cover art on this single and full length Inside the Acid Coven. If ever there was a case for the direct link between T Rex glam pop and punk power psych than this may very well be the textbook example. These four guys from Memphis with ties to Rich Reatard and Jack Oblivian have a few well received full length releases out already and have honed this special combination to a unique point. They included a couple of non-LP tracks on the B-Side which is always appreciated by those looking for MORE on these tiny records. The sole reason I started writing about the seven inch was those unreleased songs from Sebadoh or The Palace Brothers that only showed up on the B-Side's of these things. They should be a place for a band to experiment, or in this case, take their brand of glam psych to an epic place.

A-Side's "Christine" shakes in with shrill riffs and an electronic throbbing bassline that dives into a thick garage psych with swirling muted clicks and chords, delayed and bouncing across this cloud ring. There's layers of high static guitars in a choir of glam theatrics with lines about 'purple women and purple haze' teetering between a low baritone delivery and out of control yelling into the mic. This mix can't handle the way they've pushed this right into the red giving it a clear coat of static that only enhances this contact high. Going for the most bizarre solo of the year so far not giving away how they've managed to strike these strings. Meticulous attention to those guitar details creating appropriately dense and mysterious textures and this literally blows up outside the grooves with it's big ass sound.
B-Side's "More" comes out with a jagged burst of chords from warbling guitars in such a gleaming racket without a second to take any of this in, only time to get swept up in this massive sound. It's a shock and awe approach to that sweaty glitter punk sound. Like anybody else, they "want more" in that almost religious, gospel yeh-yeh sound. The vocals play with various sonic distances in the spirit of messing with their own special party psych that aims to have pounding garage come at you from all angles. Glitchy squeals and feedback fade into "Shakey Legs" with a seriously blown out organ grind in that We Will Rock You primal stomp. Harmonies layered up each step, countless vocals before the warped circuits take over the guitar signals and the digital haze clears. Clearly taking the altered consciousness sounds of the '60s and injecting spit and gravel from the punk prophets.

Get it from Trashy Creatures or Volar Records direct.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pillars and Tongues "End Dances" on Empty Cellar Records

A friend of mine from Ireland always used to swear by The Blue Nile. They rarely recorded, releasing albums every six or seven years. He made them sound mythical and different from the bands I knew who went after commercial success or pushed the underground envelope. They seemed to be able to redefine what intelligent and hugely produced sound could be. A band with the skill and resources to pull off something really unusual within a traditional pop structure. The resources required for production today may not be as taxing but that skill and direction is still a rare thing. The Blue Nile is the first thing that came to mind when listening to End Dances from Pillars and Tongues on Empty Cellar Records. Vocally Mark Trecka has a similar cavernous crooning delivery. It's a naturally gifted vocal that softly works over loops and weird atmospheric samples in perfect contrast to the mysterious dreamlike soundscape they create over both sides of this record.

A-Side's "Knifelike" begins the epic journey the way that a bleak landscape can convey the huge distances between people and places. The way those vast stretches of the planet aren't inhabited by much life at all like this understated rhythm consisting of an electronic sounding woodblock and rim shot. They favor these cool, minimal structures with just enough of a skeleton to be somewhat recognizable with haunting loops of scratching metal becoming an ancient kettle drum. Mark's vocal is an emotional chant, witness to a ritual, a primal, ancient rite reenacted by a trained classical vocalist who's aware of the space and the way a body can project. "Dogs" takes on a middle eastern quality with melodies that scatter everything at random managing to sculpt a form with enough structure intact to enforce melodic pop. Beth emerges from the background an essential ghostly element mirroring his emotional delivery. They can feel like the southwest, a purple, flat mesa style landscape mixed with Moroccan architecture. There's nothing specific being hinted at but something even harder; an attempt to understand the much larger picture. Over and over this record gives you the space to attempt to go to that place and the time with it to spend on the subject. "Bell + Rein" begins with the sound of a natural orchestra tuning up with the rattling of guitar strings, decaying loops and infinite feedback. Sounds that create themselves without any intervention if you're willing to let that chaos work itself out like the Dirty Beaches soundtrack to Water Park. You have to be willing to leave things to chance but you're never going to get tired of creating the work live. Any of these tracks are going to take new shape every night and always be surprising like The Disintegration Loops ending up in a completely new place from where it started. Set up the parameters and let it twist into a new shape. Heavily meditative and underneath a violin willing it's melody into a very specific direction after all and I'm hoping it happened in the same room, live while these sounds were rising and fading into something new. "Points of Light" is positively optimistic with Beth harmonizing to the point of pure religion of a layered choir of voices, the primary instrument of the band. It's the thing that honestly can't be duplicated. The one instrument that can't be replaced by any sort of technology - you can shape it with autotune, but the foundation has to be there. They create a slow moving, half height wall of sound that's exponentially growing, not in a threatening way, but coming in for a closer look. If the human voice is the centerpiece in their exploration of these huge themes then Mark's vocal is the the core of that search.

On B-Side's "Medora" they introduce more subtle rhythms and as much of this feels free and open, there are times it gets a little ominous or dark. I think those opposites are at work here. It can be a serious affair with no room for lightness. After all they're tackling huge existential questions, from the place of a spiritual echo chamber their voices expanding out into a supernova of harmonies. It's impressive the organic, natural sound they get out of clearly manipulated samples. They don't immediately give up their source and provide a foundation for Mark's vocal to squarely place this in a real place. The repetition and loops encourage a meditative trance like some kind of new age psych, mentally changing the way you approach hearing these sounds. This violin demands a thought process with a sort of math inherent in the melodies or maybe because it's such a frail temporary sound that seems to float by like some kind of balloon string just out of reach. "Ends" is one of the most memorable tracks giving in to the most random acts of chaos, the fading layers of loops come crashing in heavy waves with a skeletal tiny violin the only sign of humanity in this endless sea of bubbling static. "Ships" picks things back up and is the dawn breaking, harmonies flying, a clearing of the storm. This is Pillars at the height of their powers, the culmination of all the previos tracks, all the ways they've been building to this point with a real sign of hope. We might not have come up with any answers but they might be suggesting that we don't have to either.

Deluxe package here with heavy tip on sleeve and newsprint fold out insert with lyrics and liner notes. Really honors the material inside. Pick it up from Empty Cellar Records.