Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Bar Is Already Low - So Love Your Pissed Jeans

It's that time of night where there is nothing for it but to piss your jeans. But Pissed Jeans have been doing it for you for years now, and are about to do it again in the form of fifth record Why Love Now (with cover art of frontman Matt Korvette going full Ricky Martin). Why indeed? These irascible, irrepressible reprobates are one of THE best live bands on the planet - they dont give a fuck, but they do so in a pitch tar sardonic way, making you laugh at your shortcomings, your foibles, your hangups, knowing their serrated magnifying glass is abrasively incisive. They are just funny bastards too (see the photo above - it's a Russian doll of flipped birds, redundant meaning within redundant meaning - priceless). And the first taste off it? Appropriately titled 'The Bar Is Low', it is three minutes of throwback rock - at first it feels wrong - where are the more eviscerating pace and grind? It comes - of course it does! - with Korvette growling in the middle of the maelstrom, eyes rolling, disdain sweating from every pore. Is it taking the piss? Maybe. Probably. I don't know. It's about how every man on the face of the earth is a shithead - so yeah, this is the real deal. All I do know is, this is already a frontrunner for album of 2017 - yep, interest piqued that much. Preorder Why Love Now through Sub Pop here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Aural Australia #7 - Black Out Drunk Friday

Bypass consumerism deathtraps and just get drunk tonight. And listen to these classic new tracks. Best money you don't really need to spend (although you should head out and buy the records, at full price, support your local scene!)

Sydney's Weak Boys is probably the louchest of the louche knockabout guitar pop bands in the country at the moment. 'European Holiday' is about the simple things in life - six pack of beer, Tally-Ho's, maxed out cards and the TAB. And how pot dealers take your hard earned on European holidays, obviously. No one wants to work, and this song sounds like the Boys barely have the energy for it anyway. It's so laidback it's almost asleep, dreaming of holidays in such a staid, banal way that it drips of delusion and surrender. Weak Boys II will be out soon - cannot wait.

I saw a flyer pop up in Facebook recently for a Brisbane show for some stellar outlier acts (Men With Chips, Deck In The Pit and Piss Pain are all on the bill) that also features X Wave, a band I have only caught twice over their 5+ years' existence but both times melted my brain. It is the kind of no wave noise that claws itself out of the La Brea Tar Pits, designed to trudge on relentlessly, one hacked, stilted step after another, a malevolent force against which there is no protection. I thought they had broken up - but they are the cockroaches of abject derision. Not only do they play tomorrow, they released a split 7" not too long ago with another underground Brisbane mainstay, xNOBBQx - if you want to lift the pavers of the Queensland capital's sewers and see what slithering denizens lie beneath, there isn't a better place to start than here. Out through AG Picks, you can get the vinyl here. (NOTE - the song below is not on the release, but I need to put something here, and I want everyone to go out and buy this bloody record).

The staccato drum machine, the Theremin-like whine, the bottomed out bass - it's a post-punk Heat Wave! Kurt Eckhardt (Astral Skulls) and photographer Kallindy Williams join forces to shine a sordid glow on the shadows of Australian inertia and hardwired desperation. Their album is called Dead Beats, so yeah, outlook is pretty grim. But with tracks like 'Dead End Town' at least the Apocalypse can be danced to.

Back to Brisbane now and Leavings, a three piece that focus on rapid, rapacious noise pop. Their 7" on Tenzenmen Records, Sell & Shark, kicks off with a Japandroids-esque fuzzball racket in 'Sell', while 'Shark' trades in the freneticism for a more kinetic tension, yet no less rambunctious, each instrument feeding off each other until they are exhausted, implode, die. It's a small taste of what this new band is capable of - and I have heard the masters for the upcoming album, and they are killer.

It's weird that a band existed in Brisbane for so many years and released a couple albums, and I have never heard of them. That's Thirteen Seventy for you. Their 3rd album Cover Up The Signs starts off with 'Shadow Of A Doubt', a chamber piece akin to ...Trail Of Dead esoterics, the emotive piano slowly being met by orchestral sighs, melancholy feedback hums, vibrating strings. It's a lovely start, and while the entire album doesn't always gel with me, there are some great highlights, with some touchstones whispering at the edges and making strange bedfellows, such as the aforementioned AYWKUBTTOD, Giants Of Science ('All Horizons End'), Alice In Chains ('Laconic'), and My Bloody Valentine ('Blind') - all in the first four songs. The recordings are rich and dense - it's an ambitious record worth a visit.

You mightn't recognise the name Alex MacFarlane, but you would surely recognise his work - mainly with The Stevens, but also performing with Twerps and Tyrannamen. Here, as the first (and thus far only) release on Melbourne DIY "label" Hobbies Galore, he has brought out a solo album of recordings, a languid scuzzy exploration of pop and rock permutations that evokes the hedonistic explorative charms of Robert Pollard, Bradford Cox, Julian Cope and Michael Rother. The 23 track release has so many left turns and surprises - krautrock, reverb wonk bedtime murmurs, Eastern tape hiss contemplations, Ariel Pink meltdowns, Beatles fried jams - it is like a sonic diary burrowing deep into MacFarlane's psyche, watching the cream and the crock fall out of his head, littered with nuggets of aural gold. The fact that it is constantly on here in the wee hours as I am up writing, reading, burning the midnight oil, ready to absorb something new, and it's a cassette (I currently only have an old dictaphone as big as a loaf of bread that can play the bloody thing) means there is something very special here.

O.K. Permanent Wave, the new release from Melbournite Sweet Whirl, is a dark chasm of brooding Gothic croon, a late night ode to haunted Americana embedded within the Australian consciousness. Rumbling bass and vocals are all that spikes the speakers, and yet each track is imbued with static, slow-motion ramblings along the shadow-stained crossroads and backstreets, the streetlights strobing overhead, the humidity oppressive, inhibition lifted, innocence lost. Caught somewhere in between PJ Harvey,  Angel Olsen, and Liz Harris (all preferably in their early days) , O.K. Permanent Wave is a hypnotic gem of an album.

Let's finish off with the sultry dream pop sounds of Pure Moods, a Melbourne threesome that have released a deceptively excellent album. It's deceptive in that it feels kinda lightweight, yet is riddled with hooks and warmth that you cannot help but be buoyed along by its myriad charms. There is the breezy blast of 'Blurb', the maudlin jangle of 'Elisa Lam', the pep and perk of 'Meadow Heights', most of which come with a cathartic crunch that alleviates the languid jams. But the key is in the poignancy of the lyrics - whether it's worrying about never patching things up with your father before one shuffles off the mortal coil, mystifying disappearances, mawkishness approaching manic depression, the stories are eloquent and vibrant. The Ocean Party observations are warranted but a little too obvious - Pure Moods is very much its own creation. Very impressed with this record.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Tempel Of Joy

We here at Sonic Masala have been huge fans of Australian malcontents The Peep Tempel for some time - their last album Tales was a true highlight of 2014. They are back with Joy - a simple truism. The way this band manage to growl, gurn and glower with equal measure of intellect and idiocy - telling tales of gritty Australian Gothic in all its Dead Heart, Wake In Fright garish glory.

The grinding noise winds around Blake Scott's abrasive vocals like barbed wire, the ticker-tack patter of drums an egg-timer counting down into the depths of the broken, blasted soil of 'Kalgoorlie', tales barked and mewled of losers, fighters, bruisers, nightmares one and all. 'Totality' is a more obvious propulsive affair, yet with a desolate space emanating from the quieter moments - a scum-film sweat skin forming over all it touches. 'We You Forget' is a barbed anthem to the frazzled and frayed disenfranchised, revelling in the rabble of suburban offcuts; 'Rayguns' a manic screed against the insidious machinations of a political landscape gone mad, the rich taking the last lifeboats and nonchalantly cutting the life buoys in half, those left the detritus of the outlying land, born to lose and racing each other to the bottom. They even have some Krautrock and seductive barroom blues to burn on 'Neuroplasticity' and 'Go Slow' respectively, which is always a lot of fun. 'Constable' though is the grizzled highlight, an anecdote told through rolled cigarette smoke, cracked lips, salt-stained singlets, a sea of stubbies and dismantled furniture surrounding our laconic bruiser of a narrator, the king of his damaged domain.

The trio have been playing around the great southern land over the past month, playing alongside the likes of The Spinning Rooms (they are back out there, yes!!!) and Eyes Ninety, and have a couple more up their sleeve in Sydney and Melbourne - make sure you catch them, they are incredible. And while you're at it, grab the Record from their Wing Sing store here.

Dark, Silent, Radiant Radian

Austrian instrumental trio Radian play Cafe OTO tomorrow I thought I would let you know why this is going to be a stellar show. Their latest record On Dark Silent Off (through Thrill Jockey) plays with the machinations of minimal rock, somewhere between the dark brutalism of My Disco, the lurking groove state of Holy Fuck (when bled of their hypercolour exuberance, that is), the static sheet electronics of Fennesz - hell, the hypnotic fried circularity of Loop. It's a bit of a remove from the static nature of previous records, and while I have always loved the discombobulated, rigid textures that held this band at a distant remove, there is something more electric, organic, alive on On Dark Silent Off - it grows on you, in you, around you. Grab the LP here, grab tickets for tomorrow's show here, and prepare to enter a breathing chrysalis of urgent, euphoric tension.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Briggs Breaks The Heaters

Last year Jackson Briggs travelled through Europe and played a handful of solo shows, including a couple Sonic Masala: London joints. They were ragged, rugged jams, at once broken, flayed, drunken and emancipating affairs. But it is when he gets back with his Heaters that the muscle knits together and the bruised ferocity reaches fever pitch. Listen to their self-titled EP, brought out earlier this year. While opener 'A Will' absolutely slays, especially the brutal heft lent by the band and a killer sax solo from Cayn Borthwick, it doesn't stop there. There is a bit of The Men when they channelled their inner Bruce Springsteen about 'Nothing', albeit played at dusk in a piss-streaked dirt road in the broken outback; 'Not The Man' is a buster, a brawling mess of masculinity on the rack, ruined, teeth chipped and nicotine smeared and still maniacally grinning; the mournful, maudlin 'Belgrave'; before crashing to a halting in the rollicking breakdown aptly called 'I'm Done'. The boys head into the studio with Max Ducker (Mutton) to record their first album this weekend - looking forward to the rugged shit is cooked up. In the meantime, catch the EP here.

Coolin' On The Carpet, Listenin' To Shrapnel Radio

Brand new Brisbane label Coolin' By Sound aren't content on releasing, as their first foray, the much awaited debut from louche punks Thigh Master (see what I said about Early Times here), but have another hot off the presses to slam into your solar plexus. Tranceplanetsugarmouth comes from Shrapnel, a Sydney collective fronted by Sam Wilkinson (Day Ravies, Mope City, King Tears Mortuary). Once a solo venture, Wilkinson has roped in members of Miners, Dollar Bar, Julia Why? and Weak Boys (who also have an album on the way) to flesh out some rough, raw, yet sugarcane sweet guitar pop classics. Too many adjectives there, but bear with me. The album is a languid opus of wry, sun-drunk catharsis rabidly in love with classical pop convention from the cracked underground gods. There's the Kinks in simple cyclical ditty 'Fraction Man'; Superchunk via Guided By Voices hum/squall/warmth of 'Leap Year'; the early 00s indie rock nous of Gaslight Radio in the brilliant soaring wind-out of 'Another Year' (one of my favourite songs of the year). Almost every song is a drunk harmony, Wilkinson slinging his arms around the shoulders of his cohorts as he sings about the fraying infrastructure of a beaten-down scene and the stubborn weeds that continue to sprout through the cracks, mid quarter mid life crises, finding a dinghy to waste away on in a sea of roiling insecurities and inanities. Each song has odd flubs, cheap-pedal effect warbles, production doodles - constant reminders that these guys love crafting perfect pop nuggets before cracking the beers and digging deep into the art supplies in a flurry of cutting, pasting and naive abstraction. Yet there is sinew flexing beneath the seams; gossamer coating the rust and rattle. Shrapnel is at odds with the beautifully formed pastiches on display here - a burnt orange decoupage of damaged delights.

I may have put out Liminal Zones, Day Ravies' second and final album, a release that I am eternally in love with - but I don't mind saying that Tranceplanetsugarmouth supersedes it through ragged, crooked grin ambition.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Trust Me Deerhoof, We Are More Than Friends

Not content to put out another ace album in the form of The Magic earlier in the year, the inimitable Deerhoof are gifting us this new 7", I Thought We Were Friends, just before Christmas! A Side 'Risk Free' is breezy, blase pop, Satomi joined by Greg in a languid ballad that still fits in a tetchy Tortoise bassline, spiky Deerhoof vocalisation patterns and terse organ downplay in the final third, while the crunch and groove of 'Delight' kicks in like a proto glam basement dweller, bastardised garage rock recorded on a broken tape deck. They are truly one of a kind, continue to put out intricate, zany, out there, insanely addictive noise pop, are supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers (really!) and are playing a one off London show at Village Underground next year (Monday Feb 6).

Ruined By Wolf People

Hi all. This is the first post from a new member of Sonic Masala, Graham - enjoy!

A few years ago Wolf People were ascending the folk psych ladder with 70s inspired blues-infused psych prog. They were the type of band that openly nodded to their influences; but with Ruins they have stamped their own mark with an assured and heady album. Opening track 'Ninth Night' is a scribe writing about the coming storm, with acoustic guitar swelling into a fuzz-laden groove based on the legend of the ‘Hand of Glory’ – the severed hand used to render all in its presence motionless. It is like an omen of what is to come. With the stand-out tracks of serious jammed-out wah with smatterings of fluttering flute on 'Rhine Sagas', the Sabbathy 'Night Witch', the Cream-infused 'Thistles', and 'Crumbling Dias', with its beautiful flute leading into a groove laden stomp, and like the lyric states there definitely should be no reason to leave. It is on track 'Kingfisher' where there is a moment of clarity amongst the dirge and feedback, reflecting that there is beauty all around and yet are our eyes are rarely open to see it in its truest form? That’s how you could sum up Ruins; for all the comparisons to bands of past and present they have found the balance, the beauty in their sound, and have created an album that deserves to be heard.

Ruins is out now through Jagjaguwar Records. They play Oslo tonight with Dean McPhee - get tickets here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

PREMIERE - Dreamtime Space Out On "River Sprites" Video

Only a couple weeks out now until Brisbane megapsychs Dreamtime release their third album, the gargantuan double LP Strange Pleasures, out on Tym Records (Aus), Cardinal Fuzz (UK/Euro) and Sky Lantern (US). A couple of weeks ago I laid down the molten mess that is 'The Sentient', and today we have an exclusive peek at another song from it, 'River Sprites'. It opens slowly, a narcoleptic time lapse, aided by desert drunk guitar and crystalline chimes. The footage (put together by the band's drummer Tara Wardrop) is Dreamtime in all their glory - looking both ethereal and earthed, dragging drugged dreams into reality, the clip is slowed down and fuzzed out, like a lost footage VHS from 1992, found in a phosphorescent cavern in Chile. The slow-burn high permeates sight and sound, a spinning room of lazily adjusting third eyes - the breathy soaring sighs accompanying Zac Anderson's drawl steering the track into sepulchral pagan heavy folk territory. It certainly plays out at the other end of the psych spectrum that 'The Sentient' (and indeed much of Dreamtime's back catalogue), a heady slice of hedonism that further stokes the fires of anticipation.

Dreamtime - River Sprites from Tara Wardrop on Vimeo.

Pre-order Strange Pleasures here.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

VIDEO VACUUM - King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, True Widow, Greg Charles, Big Business, LVL UP, Holy Wave, Brunch, Giant Burger

This weekend I thought I would pull some of the old staples back out of the bag. So let's get into some videos, with a pumped up version of Video Vacuum!

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are bloody unstoppable, aren't they? You blink and they have put out an album and have played three festivals. They are about to tour their own festival Gizzfest around the Australian nation, and have just gone on the record saying they plan to release FIVE albums in 2017. No wonder the likes of Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall love their moxy. I had planned to show some of their stuff that they released during the months' sabbatical I had - 'Gamma Blade' from this year's Nonagon Infinity is exceptional - but they already have this up. 'Rattlesnake' is the first taste off new album Flying Microtonal Banana (see? After John Dwyer's heart!). The tonal change is a deliberate experimentation - they have put limitations on themselves to play modified instruments that play in 24-TET tuning - this includes keyboards, harmonicas, and a Turkish horn called a zurna. The boys get their trance on, and it's bloody great.

In my opinion Texan titans True Widow are one of the most underrated bands doing the rounds the past few years. Their latest album, double LP Avvolgere, has their "stonegaze" aesthetic particularly claustrophobic and euphoric, perpetually toying with these supposed oppositional forces. The single 'F.W.T.S:L.T.M." perfectly encapsulates this dichotomy - a slow gloom and doom dappled by the occasional cold shard of light. The brooding, slowburn film clip is stark, beautiful, and a perfect complement to this great song.

Greg Charles launches Rough Music December 2 and it promises to be a rollicking yet bruising rock album of personal wrack, ruin and redemption. Charles has recorded his own video for opening track 'Doin' It Clean', and its a lo fi winner. Anything that glorifies a Gold Coast Timezone  amidst more stock footage of passenger window landscapes and spinning lights is going to be a hit with me - but the frivolity yet frayed freneticism to the work mirrors the strength taken to rediscover the muse when the narcotics that fuelled the fire are gone. The demons have been hunted - this is only the beginning.

LA doom duo Big Business are back with Command Your Weather, a more "palatable" slab of gurning dirge metal. The film clip has suited businessmen laying down the law to punk rock women, before the women turn the table in a The Craft via Troma way. The pink polo shirt wearing dude who gets turned into a butternut squash is a particularly nice touch. The tribal cymbal run will get me every time too. Welcome back boys.

New Yorkers LVL UP are finishing up their very extensive US tour tonight in Ann Arbor in support of Alex G, dragging their excellent Return To Love, their first on Sub Pop, and will be plaguing the UK and Europe in the spring next year. The album veers wildly across the spectrum of the new label's oeuvre, with 'The Closing Door' caught between retrospective whimsy and 90s guitar rock meltdown. The indie movie vibe of the clip, as nature documentary as it is slo-mo The Kings Of Summer rites-of-passage fantasy, is slick and very impressive.

El Paso psychers Holy Wave are halfway through their North American tour too, in support of their new LP Freaks Of Nurture. 'Magic Landing' is a short lysergic surge, a fisheye animation of the band playing amidst spinning pastel colours and fishes. A quirky trip, highlighting the brevity and the brashness of this underrated band.

Let's finish off with two lo-fi efforts from London acts. First up is 'Taxi Feelings' from Brunch, a taster off upcoming album Big Water. Its a bit of scuzzy guitar pop that if you are familiar with the bands we have championed and put out on our label would know it really strikes a call. The super slow motion of a terrible attempt to scull a third of a pint glass and the painful (although no vomit flies on camera) consequences. Silly boys do silly things - at least it can be thrashed out with a good tune before the obligatory taxi home and cleaning up fee.

Then there is 'Tono Tono', Giant Burger's offer from their Giant Burger Forever record. The agit-pop flavour common with lovers of the band is present and accounted for, a louche and loose post-punk wind down, and the film clip has the humour front and centre. Lots of running around parks and side streets, shouting into the camera lens, pictures of ceiling fans, Persian rugs and toads amongst plenty of other weird shit, and a light at the end of the tunnel that leads to a tabby cat. Fair play. Their next show is a corker too, alongside Goldblooms, Dog Chocolate and The Jelas, at DIY Space - see you there.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Australians Of The Year, Beaten Black & Blue - The Nation Blue (World Keeps Turnin' #3)

I had to step away for a bit after the Trump implosion/possession, and breathe. But there is one more post that I wanted to put up that best outlays the hope that rugged tenacity and no-fucks honesty will prevail. It is reconciled by another band that does things in their own inimitable way, that despite the same familiar life decisions and obstacles that face us all (and the focus of my last post, Brisbane's Turnpike) and other creative outliers, they ensure the same aggrandising grievances are railed against, the fights for their compatriots and the disenfranchised fought and, if not won, left to fight another embattled day. The older, more battle scarred and weary the trio get, their anguish and anger remains unbridled.

The Nation Blue, starting their rugged working class throttled punk rock in Tasmania before anchoring down in Melbourne, are another of those blood-sweat-and-beer-tainted-tears bands that rally and toil, roaring until the cords in their necks thicken with blood, like knotted nooses of discontent, whose politicised passion and rabid vigour precede them and echo around the world. The more they lessen their workload and presence, the bigger the reputation and murmured myth. It doesn't matter how often Tom throws his guitar around his neck, into the wall or speaker, bludgeoned against his own crosstitched forehead; it doesn't matter how much Matt and Dan lay down brutal, pummelling rhythms, coalescing into cacophonous calamity and catharsis - it always feels like an exorcism not wholly won over, the well of anger and disappointment seemingly endless.

And what with Wednesday's US election results and Australia's own political cesspool, it does seem like retribution or revolution or even the subtlest forms of appeasement are at the end of a very long, winding, poorly constructed and claustrophobic tunnel.

The trio have returned with the eternal fire in their bellies at the right time, kicking against the myriad pricks on not one but two albums, both out through Poison City Records. I'll start with Blue, which features a black and white photograph of a forest filtered with a dense fog - both foreboding and starkly beautiful. The album follows suit, a melancholy yet charged exploration of disquiet and anguish whose personal gnashing of the teeth owes as much to Lyngcoln's other major project, Harmony. Focusing on depression and death of loved ones; the natural and unnatural fears of being a new parent; fatigue, desperation brought on by a deluge of media-spewed exaggerations and lies; the ever-widening chasm between class groupings, aspirations and outlooks; the degradation and idiocracy of a humanity that you at once love and loathe... Ending with the broken howls of 'Black Light' possibly encapsulating the insular fears expelled into teeth-rattling emotion that the boys do better than anyone else I know. Fucking wonderful, soul-destroying, purifying stuff.

Black is more overtly aggressive yet no less edifying. The cover art says all here - a black and white painting of Australia's House of Parliament warped and melting, a mixture of naive art and magnifying skewed vision. It's stepped up, outside the singular man and into the populace, politicised, brutalised, purging. 'I Have No Representatives' is Lyngcoln screaming in reverb for almost a minute, nothing mirroring back at him bar his own tar-black vitriol at the state of affairs the world has fallen into. The perfect rant for an album that exposes the contradictory nature of abject patriotism, using the flag as a foundation for base racial vilification, detention centre hypocrisy and gross negligence, the turning of blind eyes from very clear genocidal warfare that is funded by the 1st World "heroes", the evisceration of gender politics, the continual misuse of foreign policy weight and (ir)responsibility. Every song, regardless of subject matter, revolves around violence - physical, mental, emotional, social - and its redundancy. Closer 'Beat That Man' says it explicitly, but it's 
'Wild' that presents it perfectly - take for the wilderness before it disappears or becomes commodified. And any band that has a song referencing one of the nation's unsung bands Venom P Stinger and has it reviewed by Gocsy has raised things to an all new level.

If that isn't enough, lap your laughing gear around these demos from where it all began. The fruit never fell far from the tree, and thank fuck for that. Thank fuck for men like The Nation Blue.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

"In You I See The Future" - Turnpike (World Keeps Turnin' #2)

Everyone keeps yelling about 2016 that it needs to get in the bin. A lot of awful, disgusting, despicable things happened, sure - but hey, a lot of beautiful babies were born, friends and loved ones to embrace, people banding together as a community against the seemingly ever growing mindless hordes of misogynistic/racist/bigoted/violent drones. We have to hold on to these, nurture these communities, tirelessly fight for them to grow and exist for our and future generations.

To go to a micro rather than macro situation, you can look at your local music scene, pretty much anywhere in the world, at any time in history. It is always a matter of kicking against the pricks, trying to express yourself and others, to keep open avenues of thought and inclusion, safe spaces for creativity and productive, exciting dialogue, to harbour communities of diversity and positivity. As places shift, as democracy and consumerism predicts that every market become a one-sided fight for the haves (money) and the have-nots, we see loved and occupied establishments devalued, sold out, closed up, vilified, abandoned. We see the landscape moulded into the faceless oases of monied tastemakers, corporate mouth breathers and dollar-sign-eyed smash-and-grabbers, trying to ride the wave of lucrative feasting before the carcass is stripped of flesh, energy, ingenuity, til all that's left is a vapid wasteland. We see it generation to generation. And as bad as all this sounds, there will always be those that refuse to change, that resist the mutation of their imaginations, that adapt to wading through the broiling tides without compromising their ideals. It has always happened, and I hopelessly, positively believe it will happen again.

Which leads me, vicariously or no, to Turnpike.

(excerpt from performance at this year's Sonic Masala Fest)

Context: this is the band that I always attribute to being the reason Sonic Masala exists. There were a multitude of events, moments, conversations and hallucinations on that feted weekend in Minehead in 09, the My Bloody Valentine curated ATP Nightmare Before Christmas (live - MBV x 3, Sonic Youth, Dirty Three, Lightning Bolt, Fucked Up, Swervedriver, A Place To Bury Strangers, Th' Faith Healers, De La Soul, Lilys, Witch, Robin Guthrie, etc etc; then all the shenanigans in and around all of this sonic beauty and brutality), but the clearest thing for me was staggering through the door to my chalet at 3am, a party of friends and strangers in full swing, and putting on 'Do The Broken' from the Brisbane trio's Humans Find Patterns album, now a decade old. Everyone stopped. Everything stopped. The drink and drug fuelled euphoria was spiked with adrenaline. What was this? What was this? I talked about the band to everyone, I made a beer curry with my mate Paul, and SM was born.

I even remember when I saw them for the first time - 2002 4ZZZ Market day. There to see 6 Ft Hick The Celibate Rifles and Ed Kuepper, amongst other things I have forgotten now, I stumbled across two bands that blew all bar 6ftH away - The Mess Hall (my love for this two piece would be hard, fast, short-lived) and Turnpike. Adam with his skewed cap, writhing guitar strangling, aggressive yet sinuous fretwork, his head waving to and fro across the mic so that every third throttled word was almost made out; Tim's bobbing body, bassline gargantuan and intense; Chris' brutal pummelling, seeming both lulling and punishing, but always propulsive. In the heat of the early October sun, I was forever marked.

Their wiry, wired, sometimes head-scratchingly insane live sets and song compositions became whispered legends that people around Brisbane and indeed the rest of Australia heard about, yet found hard to witness in person. It wasn't so much because they were hidden - it was because they were such a unique, one-of-a-kind band that did things their own way, which in this case was randomly, expressed exactly when the mood arose, with little to no fanfare, no fuss, no push for adulation, drive for commodity or care for continuity. Every set was unique, the band shapeshifting, playing with form, type and patience, but always, indomitably, Turnpike. The fanbase was small yet Juggernauts, punishers, acolytes, the marked ones. Blistering releases - an EP, an album, some tracks and CD-rs here and there...and then...

Fifteen years go by, and so does life. Marriages, families, home lives, occupations, financial boons and woes. Time dwindles, is stretched in infinite directions. The bulldozers of "progress" flying the flagship of chrome-and-steel-and-multiple-J-letterage desecrate the holy grounds that Turnpike and many bands of that era made holy. The old guards stand aside for the new. Shows become less frequent, much feted, barely attended. The fanbase remained core. But the new generation kept hearing the whispers. Catching glimpses. Not comprehending the abject idolatry, but not leaving unscathed either. What was witnessed, glimpsed, das not compute. Such fury, ferocity, abandon, intellect, generosity, tenacity. Yet the fires were lit.

2016 and finally a second album is here. Where There Is Nothing seems like a dire outlook yet totally suitable moniker for these clutch of songs. Seven years and many different recording periods in the making. People behind the scenes (namely Cam Smith of Incremental Studios and Tim Brennan of Tyms Guitars, plus the supporters and friends too numerous to mention) kept the fires burning. The ruminations on the world and its infinite wondrous and horrifying possibilities proliferate the ideas fuelling these nine long-gestating songs - and they sound pulled out and spewed forth, soul-bearing through angular aggression/transgression. The dichotomy of beauty and insight coming from a brute idiot; the beginning and end of all things, and the simulation/repetition of such things; ghost maps; the possible death of the universe as we know it in a scientific setting as opposed to a finger-on-the-red-button scenario. It is all there. 

As you can see, this isn't really a review. I don't feel equipped to review this album any more than what is dribbled here - the history of this band, its importance to me and to the music scene of Brisbane, the fact that there are bands of this ilk growing and encouraging every major underground music scene - and others growing to take their place - I'm too close to the heat of the furnace. Recently Violent Soho were given their own "plaque of fame" in Brisbane - and they used the opportunity to shout out Turnpike (alongside the likes of The Quickening, Eat Laser Scumbag and Dick Nasty) to have helped pave the way. It's already happening. There is hope. There is truth. There is Turnpike. 

"Have You Seen The Way Flies Congregate Around A Corpse?" - Christian Fitness (World Keeps Turnin' #1)

Well I can't even anymore, the world is doomed etcetera. But you have to keep trying right? So today's three posts are about three acts that always hit the spot, never give up their integrity and spirit regardless of what's in front of them.

I'm going to start with Andy Falkous - Falco, from (current) Future of the Left and (past) Mclusky. He has written some of the most bruising, eviscerating, hilarious guitar rock songs in living memory in either of the above forms. His seemingly inexhaustible cynicism and derision of the world has meant that his songs a relevant, prevalent and prescient ("You Need Satan More Than He Needs You" is ringing perversely true right about now). But he can't stop there - the geyser of angular snark knows no bounds, so he has become a one man band in Christian Fitness. This Taco Is Not Correct is the third in the CF series, and fits somewhere between his two musical guises. More of the playful guile and groove of Future Of The Left, with enough space for buzzsaw fire and brimstone that made Mclusky so energising and bracing. Everything about this album points to the crumbling present - the cover art of an angel taking a shit in shame; the opening song 'Donald Takes A Train' opens with the line "Have you seen the way flies congregate around a corpse?"; song titles such as 'Date Celebrities Or Die' and 'More Skin For The Skineaters'; lyrics that are ripped from the horrors of real life bigotry and hatred, as can be witnessed on 'Happiness Is For Amateurs', where standing up for a Chinese family being racially abused on a train ends poorly for all involved. The sound is massive for this kind of project (helped in no small part by best man and Mclusky/FOTL mainstay Jack Egglestone on drums), and goes from dirges to jaunts to spikes to sludgy punk busters ('Direct Debit With Ray Winstone's Disembodied Head', 71 seconds of madness and broken down guitar solos) and weirder outliers (is Falco trying to go all Robyn or Die Antwoord with his childlike vocals over Gothic haunt organ on 'I Swear I'll Get Married In Those Earrings'?). It's a carnivalesque gallery of grotesquery, a punk freakshow of hawked diatribes and maniacal eye rolls and brow twitches, spoken word of the kitchen sink idiot savant, scuzz pop to colour the fringes of a world gone to shit. When a line like  "if your best friend handed you his dick and asked you to fillet and cook it…. would you comply, without a second thought, without a lot of money on it?" can become part of an anthemic screed about the end of the world as we know it, you know you are on to a winner.

Falco, please never change. We don't have Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks - but we have you. 

NOTE: FOTL are touring at the end of the year with the likes of USA Nails, Idles and Death Pedals - their show at The Garage (apparently their London home) December 1 promises to be massive - get tickets here).

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Psych Surge - E, Dreamtime, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, The Oscillation/10 000 Russos, All Them Witches, XAM Duo

The day creeps on, and our future hangs in the balance. Scary times. I think I will close my eyes, turn these guys up, and float away, hopefully come back to a world that has a glimmer of hope left in it...

Thalia Zedek keeps herself busy travelling under her own head of steam, but that doesn't mean there aren't other, more explosive avenues to explore. Cue E, a trio featuring members of Neptune and Karate alongside Zedek, construct an intense ride, something akin to Pontiak cutting up and reworking Wrekmeister Harmonies offcuts. There is a hardened veneer here, spouting from the veteran musicians' sonic back catalogue, that puts aural calluses on each riff, roll and growl, a wizened, weary creature whose fire nevertheless refuses to burn out. Plus they can't help themselves, spewing forth the most barbed political cry in 'Candidate' that isn't Steve Albini or Ian Mackaye's doing. It's a brilliant record.  Pre-order this excellent album from Thrill Jockey here stat - it is likely to be one of the loudest, most arresting albums of the year.

Dreamtime are back! Brisbane's premiere psych rock band are about to release their third album proper, double LP Strange Pleasures, through Cardinal Fuzz, Sky Lantern and Tym Records. The cover art suggests the now four-piece (Fergus Smith firmly entrenched in the band now) are taking a more cosmic journey into prog Yes territory. First taste 'The Sentient' is something else. The first minute and a half is the lurking debris from a haunted castle Bava film - then it ignites, a guttural psych wail that is heavy beyond words - it really hits you in the solar plexus. The sci-fi effects continue to lick the edges. Six minutes in and you think you are about to get a reprieve - and your senses are shattered like shards of glass. The brutality of the sonic assault notwithstanding, this song kills due to the nuances here too - the willingness to play with form and idea. This is going to be a huge one.

Newcastle (upon Tyne) behemoths Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (that;s 7 pigs for those playing at home) have been blowing speakers and minds all over the UK the past few years - my only gig seeing them was the last time I was at the Brixton Windmill, and I had tinnitus for days (not Part Chimp level, but enough to have to lip read for a bit afterwards). The guys are back with album Feed The Rats, and 'Sweet Relief' is anything but - brutal yet brief (for them), it's a Sabbathical slaughterhouse. It's out in the new year (preorder here), and will be launched at the Lexington January 21 - definitely one to mark down in the diaries.

(10000 Russos)

Those psych demons over at Fuzz Club Records keep gathering the biggest and best psych rock acts in the world to do something together. The latest "collaboration" is between London veteran space dwellers The Oscillation and Portuguese punishers 10 000 Russos. And they do complement each other here, trading off industrial cosmic menace with metronomic growl and bite. 'Almost See' is a lurker, a shadow dweller that wouldn't be out of place in a post apocalyptic Berlin, while 'Ashkenasi' is more motorik guitar squall, a mystic maelstrom to get lost in. Both amazing tracks, worth getting the 10" for.

Nashville's All Them Witches have had latest album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker out for a while, but it has been soundtracking my late night work shifts when I am in the hole of marking. Particularly the cyclical dirge that is 'El Centro' - desert psych done RIGHT. There are plenty of softer planes that they travel on, but it's when the quartet hit these levels of groove that I lose my shit. They have played some great gigs over in Europe - let's hope they come back in the new year.

Let's finish off with XAM Duo, who are Matthew Benn of Hookworms and Deadwall's Chris Duffin. They have an album out on Sonic Cathedral. The duo delve in improvised and inexorable electronic and saxophone euphoria. First track from it 'I Extend My Arms' builds percolating ambiance that bubbles inside insistent Krautrock rhythms, a la Harmonia or the more laidback Dan Deacon fare. I'm sure that the album will be full of continual surprises - can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

Anal Trump Terror or Triumph? Only Mincer Ray Can Tell...

It is the day of reckoning folks - The potential beginning of the apocalypse. Sure, it's a pity Bernie ain't standing, Hillary has her faults, but Jesus wept, get Trump the fuck out of this universe. Otherwise my building a bunker in the middle of the Australian desert will be my new goal in life.

There are a lot of musicians offering their own political screeds on this most shit of elections (seriously, how the fuck have we let this happen???) but let's grind the shit into the floor with Anal Trump's offering, That Makes Me Smart! Featuring members of Cattle Decapitation and Pinback and serving as both a skewering of the orange monster and a homage to Anal Cunt, the "album" is 30 tracks, all under 10 seconds, of annihilating screams and noise, with titles such as 'Harriet Tubman Is, Like, A 3', 'Ted Nugent Is Cool', 'Breastfeeding Is Gay' and the obligatory 'Grab Em By The Pussy.' All Trump's soundbites (well I don't know about the breastfeeding one, but the amount of heinous shit dribbling down his putty chin per second it would surprise me if he DIDN'T say it). So it's all done in under 3 minutes. Hopefully longer than Trump's presidency, which will clock in at zero point zero.

Then there is continental rabble rousers Mincer Ray (Americans, Brazilians and Swedes hulking down in the streets of Berlin), who we have featured on SM before. They have a four track release out now, and amidst the quirky electronic 180 that is 'Dental Surgery' and their more familiar Pavement-via-Modest Mouse guitar rock idiosyncrasies, there's the less than three minute (a theme evolving here?) droner 'Grab Them By The Pussy'. The vocals are distorted and screeching, a little deranged, led into the mouth of madness by the Antichrist himself. The rest of the piece is somewhat lighter in tone - even the rolling, wailing, threatening to disintegrate 'Dabs', the best track here - so let's hope common sense wins out worldwide...

Monday, 7 November 2016

Aural Australia #6 - Cybercilious

One of my favourite things about Australia is just how dumb most of our top paid sportsmen are. Having the Hayne Plane Train Brain Drain show porn to school students = while teaming up with Norton to talk about cyber safety, no less - is nothing short of cringeworthy brilliance. Classic Larry David stuff - except real, and creepy, and dumb, and not played for laughs, and will get off scott free.

Luckily we have far better offerings in the musical department...

I really dig/dug Ex Tropical, Jarrod Quannell's first outlay as Lost Animal. I hadn't heard much from the man, but now he has a new album out in the form of You Yang (through Captured Tracks and Dot Dash). His partner in crime is Shags Chamberlain, who you might remember from the excellent Pets With Pets and is now a part of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. What a world, huh? Anyway, first taste off it is 'Too Late To Die Young', which features Quannell's particularly louche vocals as the film depicts staring off in the middle distance in both urban and rural settings, smoking and scaring kids at a birthday party, and bathtub ruminations before shirking the midlife crisis shackles for some solitary dancing amidst golden balloons in an abandoned town hall. My life, really.

Ela Stiles follows up her acappella drone loop opus Ela Stiles (which she launched at a SM show at The Brightside which was easily the weirdest shows I have put on - poor venue and venue owners, a complete shambles in my mind, nothing to do with the acts though, sorry Ela (and Dollar Bar, and J Francis, and especially Primitive Motion!)) with the warped chamber noise of Molten Metal (through her own great Paradise Daily label). Nowhere near as bare, but certainly still stark and affronting, Molten Metal loops around an industrial, well, melt, implosions of loops and staccato drum machines with Stiles' vocals either puncturing or enveloping the claustrophobic sonic substrata she has laid down. She continues to play with vocal interpretation ('I Don't Think So' reminds me of Tuneyards if she was raised on subterranean trip hop and Einsturzende Neubaten), while dislocated woozy RnB inflections litter the electronic landscape. The title track (featured on a Black Metal tape released earlier in the year) is a drone set that is split by shards of chimes, robotic discombobulated choirs, vocals fighting to overcome the metallic sonic tsunami. It's decidedly weird, and wholly entrancing. I love it.

Deck In The Pit is loose anarcho punk meltdown outta Brisbane courtesy of Glen Schenau (Per Purpose, Bent), Steve Rose (Sydney2000) and Phil Hunter. It's the kind of free multilimbed skronk noise that no-wavers and acolytes of Capt Beefheart can embrace - on the verge of imploding, collapsing, incinerating - sometimes tipping over into the abyss - with Schenau's bent and tortured vocals and strings off-kilter, key, rhyme or reason. You either get it or you don't. I haven't been in Brisbane since this concoction crept out of the bottle, but I can't wait to hear more. Also, Glen has a solo record coming out on the aforementioned Paradise Daily label tomorrow, so expect to hear more about that soon.

Lower Plenty have this broken-down malaise approach to songwriting that is often hard to explain - it just needs to be experienced and lived in. Their new album follows in the same fashion and is likely to pip Hard Rubbish as my favourite of theirs too. There is a tiredness to the stories stretched over 'Bondi's Dead' and 'All The Young Men' that is pregnant with lyrical kitchen sink epiphany, wistful hindsight, rustic inertia and isolated existentialism that sound like campfire chatter and alcohol-sodden self-actualisations. It was recorded in a kitchen in Collingwood too, so authentic as well. Compelling.  Sister Sister comes out next week through Bedroom Suck, preorder here.

Melbourne-via-Glen-Innes act Redspencer have really struck a chord with me on their upcoming album Perks. I enjoyed their 'Ride It Out' single of last year, but the languid jams on their debut record are so rich, lush and groovy = it's a big step up. Is that pan pipes and a gong on 'Spare Me'? This is Li-Lo music, just in time for the Aussie summer (or to pretend in the North hemisphere winter...) Get your Kenny Loggins on with these guys at the wheel.

Lets finish with Brisbane punks Cold Cuts (email tag is infinitehangover - tells us a lot...). I mentioned their stuff in the past, but 'Stay' is a bit more unbridled, leaving the lurking post-punk vibes in the boot while they unleash with more propulsive wares. This is from a recording session with Incremental Studios, so I am always interested what will come of this. Hopefully a lot more.

Tyvek's Origin In The Red

There is a moment every six months or so that I remember how much I fucking love Tyvek. It's a weird one - Ill hear a chord, a droned deadpan drawl, some cathartic clatter, and the lightning bolt hits - "Shit, Tyvek do this so much better. Now, where are my records?" And I am not the only one - both Parquet Courts and Protomartyr have recently stated the Detroit trio as being one of the most unheralded bands in the US (calling them "the Michigan Talking Heads", no less). Hell Ill meet you and raise - in the world. Brisbane was incredibly lucky to have Tyvek play at Greenslopes Bowls Club a few years back, after they had brought out last LP On Triple Beams - a true live highlight.

Now after four years, and Kevin Boyer having moved to Philly and formed The Intended (who have also recently released an album), you might think Tyvek have hung up their spurs. But no - they are prepping to release Origin of What through In The Red Records, and the songs off it so far have been great. 'Girl On A Bicycle' is a 90 second blast of about as close to pop as these guys are likely to get that isn't breakneck, despite its brevity. The title track is a lurking in the gutter dirge, something darker and desultory, Boyer's lyrics both a fear of the changing of the world and his beloved Detroit for the betterment of the 1%ers, and a clarion call to identify where we come from, if from anywhere at all - the more recognisable Tyvek then. Grab Origin of What here.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Straight Arrows Turn Me On

Sydney garage rock reprobates Straight Arrows are at it again. They are winging their way to the US of A, hopefully in Trump-dumping celebration mode, to play some shows with legends Thee Oh Sees - and have a glistening 7" to proffer as well. Typically fast paced and party baiting first taste 'Turn Me Off' is a such a King Khan and the BBQ Show jam, via the roots of punk pop genius, The Ramones, that you can't help but lose your shit (and let a little bit of wee out). It really bothers me that these guys aren't at the top echelon of rock acts in Australia when generic wastoids like Dune Rats keep getting kudos. Who cares how wasted you are, as long as you do it with pinpoint precision and authenticity without forgetting that it's all about everyone having a good time.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Special Static Shocks

London purveyor of punk and hardcore Static Shock are kicking off their fourth Weekender tonight, and it reaches all over the English capital for four days of manic mayhem. I thought I would put up a few bands/songs from the weekend that I am most looking forward to...

I picked up Sievehead's Into The Blue album back in July when passing through their hometown (at the excellent Rare & Racy), and was not disappointed. As the Quietus put it, the band "combine post-punk and proto-goth, serrated indie jangle and late '80s DC hardcore with such scrappy perfection." Pretty much on the head there. The played a few random hardcore shows in the US last month and survived, so are full up with shit and vinegar to fling at everyone. They are kickstarting tomorrow night's show at The Dome.

I haven't caught Nottingham punks TV Crime yet, but loved this 7" Static Shock put out this year. Reminds me of the loose drunken Ramones acolytes that Australia used to (and still do) pump out (I noticed SS have taken up the UK arm of issuing Tyrannamen's new album, so Tom seems to think the same thing). They play tonight at DIY Space, alongside the excellent Anxiety and new bruisers Body Butter (but unfortunately we won't see Belgrado, they couldn't make the trip) before heading off on a European tour.

Uranium Club could be the main act I am looking forward this weekend. The Minneapolis maniacs have released an amazing track 'Who Made The Man?', that flits from the sunny mania of Parquet Courts to wired Wire mechanics, jerky Devo delivery, David Yow meets GW Sok vocals and toy-box explosion finale. They hit the middle stretch of Saturday's show, also at the Dome.

Furious New Yorkers Warthog have been thrashing out the hard questions for a few years now, and seemingly none the wiser. 'Culture?' is a one word rhetorical question, a blast from the furnace of the underworld, an obliteration of the coiffed and cultivated masses. Their unbridled fury is likely to blow the Dome open as they close out Saturday's show.

French skinheads Rixe I haven't had much time to delve into, but they are likely to be a lot of fun judging by this rad 7".

And Ill finish off with SM stalwarts Sauna Youth and an old cover from them of Pissed Jeans' classic track 'False Jesii Pt II'.

Special mention to Diat and Iron Lung. See you all this weekend!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Double Aussie Trouble = Chook Jerks

A double dose of Aussie acts killing it on American label Trouble In Mind this afternoon. First up we have Tragic, the debut record from Sydney's Beef Jerk. They played a Sonic Masala show at Trainspotters a few years ago - I was hooked on their narcoleptic slacker pop, all about schooners and Sriracha sauce amongst other things. Their new record is misleading in so many ways - especially their cover art, a white Scandi kitchen bereft of life, a yuppie hellhole dressed in white, a sci fi dystopia of now. Then the needle hits the vinyl, and the slack-jawed fun begins. I love the use of saxophone coming more and more into these types of bands, and 'French Dish' doesn't disappoint. But what sets these boys apart from many of their Antipodean brethren is a louche looseness underscored by a gritty angularity - these are languid tunes, these are raucous drunken singalongs laughing at the futility of scrabbling out from under the stampede of the rat race. With other Sydney acts like Weak Boys and Shrapnel airing their wares, it looks like the unofficial Aussie capital is finally showing another side of its feral face - one of laidback larrikin abandon. With added Chiko Rolls. They are currently touring the US as we speak, gearing up to play Pittsburgh tonight. See here for further shows.

Something more streamlined if not accomplished is Chook Race's second record Around The House (also out through Australia on the excellent Brisbane label Tenth Court). It's a fantastic record, fast and loose, sunny and familiar. There is an element of Dick Diver and The Clean to 'Lost The Ghost' and 'At Your Door', but there is a loquaciousness to their delivery that makes them all their own - currently they're my favourites on the record. Carolyn's songs are always a little more down tempo but carry a maudlin heft that I always am drawn to, especially closer 'Start Anew', and then 'Sorry' takes on a Tenniscoats-y vibe. TIM are also pushing the trio's first record About Time, so you can dive headlong into the glories of Chook Race!

Chook Race finished their US tour a couple weeks ago and are touring their album around their home country right now, playing in Brisbane at The Empire Hotel on Friday with SM mainstays Thigh Master, Scraps and The Mosaics, followed by shows all around the place with Shrapnel (them again? You will hear even more shortly...) and plenty more.