Unassuming little 7″ on Goner by a new band from Memphis made up of members of Magic Kids, Coasting, and The Barbaras. “Newgate” starts off as a straightforward rough-guitar indie-pop song with understated female vocals, but then some new wave synths swell up for the chorus (“and in the middle of the night, I call your name”), which attacks you with catchiness, then you get hit with “ooooohhhh”s in the background, spoken vocals (“we’re all waiting to die”), another verse, another chorus, and then it’s over and you’re frantically pressing replay a bunch of times. I think we have a hit. B-side “Ties” has a similar tight sound, with a bit more detail (cool left-right panning guitar, good dynamic control, some slightly surfy sounds), and a bit more of a laid-back grunge feel, but definitely not too loose. Not really garage-y at all. My ears are perked up.
Bionulor describes his music as “100% sound recycling”, and bases all of his works on a single short sample of a previously recorded work, with no additional instrumentation. This album consists of takes on Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies”, which is such a well-known composition that it begs the question of what could possibly be added to it, why would anyone mess with such a classic? Didn’t people get tired of “old stuff remixed” albums years ago anyway? Well, fortunately, this is a lot more interesting than that. It’s all recognizable as the same source material; the first track sounds like the familiar piano melody played backwards, with static and some delay effects. It gets more twisted from that point, though. He applies some Fennesz-like filtering sounds, some stereo separation, makes abstract rhythms out of skipping static, and at one point almost approximates steel guitar out of the sound of backwards piano. The last track seems to reveal more of the melody, but deliberately chops it up and stitches it back together (seams very audible), and adds a few discordant plunks approximating prepared pianos. “Gymnopédies” is the type of piece that never gets tiring no matter how many times you hear it, so hearing 48 minutes of slight, glitchy variations on it is nothing less than a pleasure.
For whatever reason, I thought I had associated C V L T S with witch house, probably because of the name and the AMDISCS association. This tape (which is actually an expanded edition of an LP that came out earlier last year on Aguirre) is so far beyond that, though. It’s hazy and lo-fi, alright, but without any goth pretensions. Instead of being otherworldly, conjuring up images of witches and spirits and ghosts, it comparatively sounds, well, worldly. It sounds closer to something created by imaginative humans. Some of it is heavy on effects and atmosphere, but some of it sounds like honest-to-god Indie Rock. And it works perfectly fine that way. “Brahma Weapons” has swirling guitars, driving drums and bass, and low-mixed whispered vocals, and “Sandstone Retreat” is a 2-minute slice of bedroom slowcore. Other songs have hypnotic loops and blurry guitars, and seem to stick to a grubby 4-track aesthetic instead of going for more hi-tech trickery. The final track, “Suki”, seems to have a bit more digital-sounding tones, but it develops into a rich pool of fuzz and stays sufficiently warped, and retains its lo-fi-ness. And it ends with applause, which is looped and repeated, causing you to wonder if it’s actually a live performance or if it was just a trick added onto the end of the song. So basically, this tape doesn’t convince me of any sort of supernatural forces or anything, but it does sound like a well-done, enjoyable tape of lo-fi guitar and effects.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Slumberland’s brand of twee-pop. The label keeps unearthing new bands offering their variation on C86-style indie-pop, shoegaze and noise-pop, and even if most of them don’t hit it out of the park, or even to outfield, the label usually puts out a few albums per year that I can’t help but enjoy. This is one of them. I was prepared to hate it because of the band name, and the first couple tracks are kind of “this could go either way”. But the group’s three-part harmonies (one male, two female) are unique, and they manage a few catchy songs, especially during the second half of the album. The album sounds a little rough, though; there’s some songs (such as “Paul Simon”) where the guitars sound just a little too high in the mix, and a few other songs seem to start too suddenly, like half of the first note of the song sounds chopped off, and that doesn’t sound correct. Actually, upon further listening, the imperfections are a little distracting, which is a shame because some of the songs are pretty good and the harmonies are quite interesting. This album could be better, but I do give this band credit because I like their sound.
Saturday Looks Good To Me: Sunglasses 7″ (Polyvinyl, 2012) and split 7″ with Traffic Light (Violet and Claire, 2012)February 24, 2013 at 4:12 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment
4 years after SLGTM ended and Fred Thomas started focusing on City Center, the band has resurfaced with a new lineup (of course) and new songs, with plans to release an album this year. Life Like released a tour tape last year, which was excellent and full of promise for the new album. Before the end of the year, 2 7″s were also released, giving us a clearer taste of the band’s new sound. “Sunglasses” is their latest earworm, and the album’s first single. While it still has their classic pop sound, it’s a little bit alarming to hear modern, almost crunk-sounding drum machine beats come in when the vocals first hit, and again towards the end. The rest of the song has their usual full pop-band sound, with baritone sax by Dan Bennett (also of NOMO), some surfy guitar, and lyrics about wanting to have a good time in spite of life’s pressures and frustrations. Fred’s been saying that the new album is musically more subtle and intricate than their older stuff, and this is an intriguing taste of that. Also, the vocals are by new singer Carol Catherine, who fits in with the band’s sound, although I do have to say that my favorite SLGTM songs tended to be the ones with Erika Hoffman singing, mostly because her voice just sounded so awesome and I really miss Godzuki and the songs she did with His Name Is Alive. So we’ll see how Carol continues the band’s legacy. The B-side is a minute-long duet by Fred and Amber, singing slightly creepy lyrics over nervous, warbling organ. The other new SLGTM single is a split 7″ on Japanese label Violet and Claire. The song’s called “Ride To The Party”, and it also appeared on their tour tape last year. It’s a little bit similar to one of their other new songs, “Invisible Friend”, which was also on that tape, although I think this song’s maybe a little lass catchy. But it’s still a breezy, sunny pop song, with an insistent drumbeat and some cool synth sounds towards the end. Not as intricate as “Sunglasses”, and maybe it goes down a little easier too. The B-side is by Japanese band Traffic Light, who do a decent take on straightforward power-pop.
Samantha Glass: Rising Movements tape (Constellation Tatsu, 2012) and Mysteries From The Palomino Skyliner LP (Not Not Fun, 2012)February 24, 2013 at 3:40 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment
2 new releases from Beau Devereaux’s excellent Samantha Glass project. The tape on Constellation Tatsu sort of reminds me of a more kosmische version of Black Moth Super Rainbow, combining their sort of hazy, playfully evil take on psychedelia with more Cluster-like textures. The first movement is the most upbeat and poppy, with the others being a bit more contemplative. The fourth movement has some crunchy bass guitar riffs anchoring a serene synth/drum machine journey, and the 9-minute final movement has quickly ticking drum machine beats, bright synths, and cloudy vocals. A really interesting balance between poppy psychedelic elements and more cosmic, exploratory synth-based ones. The LP on Not Not Fun is his first vinyl release, and it actually sounds more hazy and lo-fi than the tape. Even the packaging is really DIY, it doesn’t come in a full sleeve, just a silk-screened fold-over cover with a photocopied insert featuring a melting skeleton face, a cosmic triangle, an eye in the sky, and a message from the palomino skyliner telling you to imagine and explore a world within in order to experience a gripping ride home. Musically, it’s definitely a lot closer to the psychedelic rock side than the cosmic Krautrock side, although it still has thin drum machine beats, which tend to be more slow, trippy groove-based patterns than fast skittery ones. “Seasonal Seduction 1” uses dub chords to add an extra layer of trippiness. The second site has another multi-movement suite, “Return To The Sky”, although like Rising Movements, it also works well as individual pieces. Overall, if I had to chose between the two, I’d say I might prefer the tape to the LP, it seems like more of a unified statement and I think I like its particular style a little bit more, but they’re both great, unique takes on lo-fi electronic psychedelic rock.
First vinyl release on Constellation Tatsu, and it is astonishing. Seriously gorgeous outerspace planetarium music to ponder the cosmos to. Last.fm describes a seabat as something that would shoot up out of the water, harassing sailors, shooting hypnotizing beams of light from its eyes, and making siren-like sounds that would drive sailors insane and cause them to dive into the ocean. While I wouldn’t describe this music as deadly or menacing as that description, it definitely is otherworldly. Lots of arpeggiating rhythms and swooping synths, some playfully mangled vocal samples and just a general sense of curious strangeness. Lots of swooping and gliding involved, and the artwork definitely fits, as it feels very sunny and beach-like, yet staring towards the open sky. Last track is a two-parter called “South Asian Real Estate” which gets kind of sinister with chant-like sounds, and ends the album on a dark vibe, but not really a depressing one.
I’m going to be reviewing a lot of Constellation Tatsu releases because they send me download promos of everything they release and I have a lot of them stored up and they’re all really good. This one’s a split between two artists who released albums I really liked, En’s album being Already Gone on Students Of Decay, and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s being the unbelievably great Love Is A Stream on Type in 2010. On this tape, En take up an entire side of the tape with a nearly half-hour composition called “Blood”. It’s a slowly evolving work, beginning quietly, and slowly fading in soft static along with ethereal guitar. Some beautiful chiming digital tones occur, and the piece shifts to swelling string drones. Eventually a gently throbbing bass pulse emerges, not really guiding a rhythm but just sort of gently bobbing along with the harmonium-sounding drone and a few washes of guitar or synth (can’t really tell which). The second side is Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s “Blood Variations”, and if En’s “Blood” is like blood softly running through a body and keeping it alive, Jefre’s interpretation is closer to bloody violence. The first variation is a minute and a half long and takes En’s drones and mixes in waves of hissing static, but the second variation is 18 minutes, and starts out like a darker, minimal variation on the first half of En’s “Blood”, but for the last 5 minutes adds the type of searing yet stunningly gorgeous noise that Jefre is so skilled at. Not quite as scorched-earth as Love Is A Stream, but it works in waves of brittle static and distortion to the crystalline tones of En’s piece, not smothering them in distortion but enhancing them.
3:01 AM brunch ~ druthers ~ 7″ ~ fedora corpse
3:04 AM long distance poison ~ signal ii (steve moore rmx) ~ gliese translations ~ fin
3:17 AM umberto ~ initial revelation ~ confrontations ~ not not fun
3:22 AM cyrnai ~ waydom ~ charred blossoms ~ mind matter records
3:26 AM surplus stock ~ do you like my haircut? ~ dance ersatz ~ outatune
3:29 AM der plan ~ 4 stapfen im schnee ~ normalette surprise ~ optional
3:29 AM der plan ~ zuruck in die atmosphare ~ normalette surprise ~ optional
3:31 AM smersh ~ blue shorts ~ cassette pets ~ dark entries
3:36 AM drexciya ~ dr blowfin’s watercruiser ~ the quest ~ submerge
3:39 AM container ~ refract ~ lp  ~ spectrum spools
3:46 AM charlatan ~ anti-crash device ~ isolatarium ~ type
3:53 AM charity blackstock ~ train ~ 3″ cdr ~ fedora corpse
3:57 AM father murphy ~ in the flood with the flood (black dice rmx) ~ anyway your children will deny it: 8 heretical views ~ aagoo
4:10 AM mueran humanos ~ el circulo ~ el circulo/la langosta ~ vanity case
4:18 AM net shaker ~ hail ~ i’m so cold ~ kill shaman
4:21 AM smalts ~ el greco ~ bronze age nursery rhyme ~ kill shaman
4:23 AM german army ~ translate person ~ extract character flaw ~ family time records
4:26 AM lust for youth ~ neon lights appear ~ growing seeds ~ sacred bones
4:34 AM dan friel ~ velocipede ~ total folklore ~ thrill jockey
4:37 AM holy balm ~ losing control ~ it’s you ~ not not fun
4:41 AM modeselektor ~ art & cash (sbtrkt rmx) ~ 50 weapons of choice #2-9 ~ 50 weapons
4:45 AM lusine ~ another tomorrow ~ the waiting room ~ ghostly international
4:49 AM ian pooley ~ tale of the big city ~ what i do ~ pooled
4:55 AM dobie ~ on the corner of ridley road ~ we will not harm you ~ big dada
5:02 AM the boats ~ a party at break-neck speed ~ our small ideas (2012 edition) ~ flau
5:05 AM ulrich schnauss ~ the weight of darkening skies ~ a long way to fall ~ domino
5:11 AM matmos ~ mental radio ~ the marriage of true minds ~ thrill jockey
5:14 AM voigt & voigt ~ tja mama, sandra maischberger ~ die zauberhafte welt der anderen ~ kompakt
5:19 AM masayoshi fujita ~ river ~ stories ~ flau
5:24 AM lucrecia dalt w/ julia holter ~ silencio ~ commotus ~ human ear music
5:27 AM ergo phizmiz ~ absolution ~ eleven songs ~ care in the community
5:36 AM eat skull ~ space academy ~ iii ~ woodsist
5:41 AM ducktails ~ planet phrom ~ the flower lane ~ domino
5:44 AM rakehell ~ love is confusion ~ pure pop poison ~ three peas records
5:46 AM obnox ~ magnetix attract ~ smoke woody haze ~ 12xu
5:48 AM useless eaters ~ life on a grid ~ hypertension ~ frenchkiss
5:51 AM bad indians ~ ride on ~ are on the other side ~ cq records
5:55 AM karantamba ~ dimba nyima ~ ndigal ~ teranga beat
Skronky, art-damaged freak-rock from a band that sounds like they wear weird costumes on stage, even before you look at the drawing of them doing so in the liner notes, or look up pictures of them online. Brings to mind a darker, more death-rock version of a quirky ’90s indie rock group along the lines of Thinking Fellers (but maybe not quite as out there as Caroliner, speaking of costume bands). Plenty of sax, spooky organ and synth/organ, and howling vocals. The instrumentation and musicianship is kind of sloppy, especially on the more out-there jammy tracks (lookin’ at you, track 3), but the more straightforward songs (such as “Space Time Resonators”) shred pretty hard. The title track is 6-minute epic with quasi-operatic vocals, which breaks into a melodic indie-pop gem for a minute or so (indie-popera?). “Telepathos” sort of sounds like Le Tigre’s younger goth cousin; riot grrrl new-wave alternating between girly and operatic vocals. “Transblister” is another lazer-assisted garage-punk tune with wailing, dramatic vocals. The album ends with “Tarantula Tangoid”, a dark and circus-freaky instrumental with dueling organs and horns. Definitely at home on the same label as Fat Worm Of Error and Ritualistic School Of Errors.