Monday, 28 February 2011

20 Years On, We're Still Riding To Nowhere

Im not gonna beat around the bush on this one - only a couple facts need to be stated here. Ride are having their seminal debut LP Nowhere re-released as a 20th anniversary reissue complete with a thick booklet of old photos, liner notes, and a Jim DeRogatis-penned look back on the Oxford shoegazers' near-perfect debut. Nowhere is beautiful - a conterpoint to that other shoegaze band, My Bloody Valentine, almost a yin to their yang, a great hook-laden pop record with insane levels of noise. These songs were built to last - and last they have.

The first great reissue of 2011 is here. If you do not own it, then now's the time - the reissue by Rhino Records is expansive, a must have. Thank you , Rhino - my new favourite album of 2011 was written in 1991...

Ride - Seagull

Pale Sketcher

There was a period in the latter stages of 2010 that it seemed like every second post here on Sonic Masala was about some musical project tied up with Justin K Broadrick, whether he was releasing stuff as Jesu (including a brilliant Christmas track), playing with Godflesh, touring, re-releasing past glories, producing and/or playing with smaller, up-and-coming acts...

Well, look that comfortable, reliable glove, Broadrick is back and it feels fantastic. This time it is as Pale Sketcher, which is essentially Jesu, but more electronically rendered. After Opiate Sun saw Jesu fusing guitar fury with digital glitches, Broadrick felt that he was steering away from what Jesu was essentially about. Pale Sketcher then feeds into the study of sound but with a different medium, with the first forays into the recorded form being remixes (most notably of Jesu' Pale Sketches album).

But now we have something that is exclusively a Pale Sketcher release. Seventh Heaven is an EP that mines both the sounds of the digital age and the ambient nuances that he explores in his current 'day job', creating something that is akin to UK fusionists Seefeel (who also brought a great album out this year, well worth checking out.) There is a real sense here that Broadrick is still in his infancy when working out a noise palette for this sonic collages, yet as he grows as a producer, the structures he will mold in this mode just may beggar belief.

Pale Sketcher - Seventh Heaven

These Men Fear Disgusting Sex (ewww...)

Those reprobates over at Sex Is Disgusting Records have pumped out 50 copies of this, a little tape from the guys in Fear Of Men (You can grab it here). Its their debut release - and a solid one at that. The Brighton four-piece waver between the sunny shimmy of Best Coast and the darker psychedelic groove of Warpaint, and manage to hold that balance without falling into the pit of inanity, mediocrity or pretension. In fact, its still steeped in reverb and echo, the basics of the guitar lines harking back to simpler times - yet there is a heightened sense of amiable pop knowledge coupled with a distinct lack of Self in these tracks that denotes the distinct possibility that these guys will break free of any name tags (which I have inadvertently done here, haven't I?) to be able to stand on their own. Definitely ones to watch.

You can travel down to Brighton to see Fear Of Men support Former Ghosts this Friday at The Green Door Store. Expect them to sneak into London on occasion as the year progresses, picking up some sweet support slots on their way...

Fear Of Men - Phantom Limb

Flinging Horse Shoes

Love him or loathe him, Wavves is everywhere at the moment. With incessant touring, mucking about with stoner 'bestie' Best Coast, marketing drug paraphernalia, developing his own strain of marijuana - for a slacker, Master Nathan Williams is awfully entrepreneurial. But there is still music to be made, and he is pouring into a lot of that too. He's been releasing songs on his own for free, the latest being 'Horse Shoes' - and Im loving it. It harks back to Wavves-era dissonance and malaise, which is what I loved about him in the first place. This track has been kicking around for a while, as it was written some time ago with a Mister Zach Hill helping out on the skins - nice.

I mentioned tours - Wavves is on one in Australia from next week. Next Tuesday (March 8) sees Wavves touch down in Brisbane, dominating The Zoo - this will (hopefully) be an ace show.

Wavves - Horse Shoes

Hits From The Box #9 - In The Name Of The Eco

Shyza! Another late entry into our Hits From The Box. I guess it was due to the battering my body took after seeing Brisbane's finest Nova Scotia absolutely score with their debut LP launch, coupled with the re-emergence of another Queensland rock staple, Arbuckle (more on that this week). Plus, Im reading Umberto Eco at the moment - the guy is an absolute genius, and writes surprisingly accessible popular fiction - but really? Im basically reading the dictionary and an encyclopaedia at the same time. In fact, Im writing this now because I couldnt get through ten pages without my brain pressing against my skull, threatening to dribble out my left ear. Maybe Im a dim bulb. Hmmm...

First up is Salamander, out of Perth, Australia, which is a nice segue really. His brand of industrial noise is about to find its first long player release in the form of Jaws Of The Vise, a journey into the subterranean otherness - and my current reading soundtrack. It is best listened to on headphones, to allow the music to seep into the marrow of your being. Its sinewy, synthetic stuff, and well worth your time (as is the Overslugs EP, which you can download for free here).

Salamander - The Vise

Evacuee carve out two minute distorted pop songs with a lovely degree of fun and consistency. The Californians have just produced Property Type: Horse Ranch, eleven songs that mirror the boys' love of the Pixies more than anything else (or for Aussies, a lo-fi cousin to Ratcat?), despite proclaiming their love for Boz Scaggs... They adhere to the double standard of being sonically abrasive and yet endearing at the same time. The album is currently available for free download on the band's website, whilst a 12" vinyl release (through Murray Records and the excellent 20 Sided Records) will happen later this year.

Evacuee - Real Winners

Its not often we feature bands out of Austria here - actually I think this is a first. Our Ceasing Voice is a four piece post-rock act whose debut LP When The Headline Hits Home (Revolvermann Records) landed last week. Like Evacuee, Our Ceasing Voice is also putting up their album for free download here. Unlike Evacuee, they etch winding instrumental pieces that are as orchestral as they are brutal - they have been honing their craft for some time now, and it really shows - this is a damned fine release! Please, if you like what you hear, purchase When The Headline Hits Home here and here, amongst other OCV merch. The band are prowling around Europe in April - check for dates - this will prove to be an impressive show.

Our Ceasing Voice - Without Even Breathing

Kytes, based in the Midlands of England, are preparing to unleash their second EP Ursa Major - The Great Bear in a couple of weeks, and it promises to offer a colourful brand of angular math rock that is as jocular as it is raucous. They have eked out a musical living somewhere between the cracks left by Maps & Atlases and early-era Minus The Bear, yet namechecking Primus as a touchstone shows that there is a lot of tongue overtly ensconced in thy cheek. Im a fan of their early, demo-ish stuff - even a song that samples the now globally infamous World of Warcraft gamer Leeroy - and with the time they have had to gel since then, their songwriting is only going to improve. Definitely an EP to be excited about.

Kytes - God Damnit Leeroy

Hold Your Horse Is have been plying their trade around the UK for a little while now, playing just about every tiny sinkhole in this dreary land. Whilst they may have pilfered their name from the stellar Hella, dont come expecting the same frenetic cyclonic sonics. Nevertheless, HYHI deliver a tight post-hardcore that gets the smallest venues heaving with tsunami levels of sweat and fevered writhing, whilst fitting very well on early afternoon festival stages. Their debut album will be coming out some time this year, and they are touring this March on the back of their single 'Forgive And Forget', landing in London in March 18 (@ The Purple Heart in Camden), then venturing back early in April to rock the Old Blue Last. You have been warned.

Hold Your Horse Is - Forgive And Forget

That Ghost are a late addition to the Box, but are much appreciated (especially as the other stuff I had was fair to middling at best). That Ghost is the project of 21-year-old Ryan Thomas Schmale. Songs Out Here, his fifth album (out on Tuesday through Two Syllable Records), was written partially on the grounds of author Jack London's Bay Area estate and all the instruments on the recording were played by Schmale himself (That Ghost is a full band live). Its beautiful, introspective fare somewhat removed from the more shuffling bluster of his previous releases, but the rustic ambience reflects Schmale's evocative troubadour spirit - I really hope this pushes him into the spotlight in 2011.

That Ghost - To Like You
That Ghost - Calls

Hope you had a happy Sunday. This week promises more of the same - enjoy!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Men Contest The Pet Scene

Rounding out the Panic Attract-isms today is the band that both Greg (Vad Vacker) and Tom (A Sofa Made Of Dust) are in now - Pet Scenes. I was very impressed with their demos, and now we have their first track with video - 'Man Contest'. Its pretty balls to the wall - I love it.

John Barry's Final, Dusty Farewell

Middle post of the post-Panic Attract triptych...

Its time for the third album for A Sofa Made Of Dust, titled, Thoughts Of John Barry, and it finds the boys in a contemplative mood following the death of brilliant composer John Barry, thus creating a darker sound than heard previously. It is still decidedly skewed in its approach to song aesthetics, but that is the charm. As always, the surroundings for the genesis of the album are different - this was recorded in a 5 hour stint next to a transvestite club. Barry would be proud.

Pick up Thoughts Of John Barry, plus their first two albums, here.

A Sofa Made Of Dust - All You Saints

A Sofa Made Of Dust - Balloon Animal

Vad Says It Now

In the first of three posts today focusing on projects that have risen out of the ashes of London indie act Panic Attract, Vad Vacker has offered us here at Sonic Masala a taste of his dark electronica in the form of 'Say It Now'. A brilliantly atmospheric number, I expect to hear much more from Greg and his Vad Vacker creation in 2011...

Vad Vacker - Say It Now

Friday, 25 February 2011

Friday Cover Up - Woven Bones Ride Sister Ray In Silence

This is a good one. I am a very big fan of everything Austin's Woven Bones do (which is amazing considering my first listen was met with contempt - see here), so when I heard this brilliant instrumental cover version of Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray' yesterday I veritably shat my pants in ecstacy. It is exactly what WB sound live, distilled into 3 minutes of a sleazy, scuzzy elixir that may not hold the secret to the fountain of youth, but will make you fiendishly happy as you get closer to the End. Thanks Raven Sings The Blues for this!!

Enjoy the weekend buck-o's!

Woven Bones - Sister Ry (Velvet Underground cover)

Telling It Like It Is Isnt For Everyone...

Chain and the Gang have filled a hole in my musical heart I didnt know was there, providing in Music's Not For Everyone a great little garage album that is very, very funny. No surprise, really - it is the twisted brainchild of on Ian Svenonius, somewhat of an icon in the post-D.C. punk, indie-garage funk/punk/soul scene. We have debilitating call and response honesty in 'Not Good Enough' ("If you feel that you're not good enough, then you're probably not/And you know what?/You'll never ever will be"), the sloppy rawness of 'Livin Rough' with its riproaring organ, the trials of trying to keep everyone high, the ode to Detroit music in, err, 'Detroit Music'... Svenonius really gets some laughs, with a track like 'Bill For The Use Of My Body' or the snot-nosed childlike stroppiness of 'Why Not'. Then you cannot forget the diatribe that is the title, track - a spoken word number about the fact that most people don't know what music is if it kicks them in the balls - its an eerie, woozy idea that is inexorably works. In fact, every song on here works. Music may not be for everyone - but Music's Not For Everyone certainly deserves to be.

Lucky London - Chain and the Gang will bring The Dome to the ground in May (the 24th to be exact) - this will be an amazing show, brought to you by - who else? - Upset The Rhythm.

Chain And The Gang - Not Good Enough
Chain And The Gang - Detroit Music
Chain And The Gang - Music's Not For Everyone

Harden Up For The Dolphins

One of Paul's favourite albums of last year was San Fran via NYC outfit Mi Ami's Steal Your Face, a record of intense viscerating craziness. They also played an insane set at the now defunct Barden's Boudoir which was one of the highlights of the year. Well, a bit has changed since then - bassist Jacob Long has left the band, thus Mi Ami becoming primarily a two piece. That was how it was all run in the first place - Damon Palermo and Daniel Martin-McCormick pretty much ARE Mi Ami - so no great loss there. The second piece of news is that their next EP is coming out soon, and is to be called Dolphins. The first track of it, 'Hard Up', is a bit of a tangential jump for the band, with the electro vibe much less accelerated and fevered than usual, and seems to mark in interesting new chapter - but it still holds the intrinsic core that the band is known for. If you wanna check the other tracks on the EP, head here - Martin-McCormick's voice is still as manga-crazy as always...

Dolphins will be out March 15 on Thrill Jockey (they just keep churning out the good stuff, dont they?) Mi Ami will be blasting Europe away in April, with a date at Corsica Studio under the Upset The Rhythm banner, so keep your eyes peeled for those dates...

Mi Ami - Hard Up

Nice vid for 'Hard Up' too...

Mi Ami - Hard Up from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Greenspon Trudges Through A Bathetic Ballet

Its been a while since we have heard from our Bridgetown Records pal Kevin Greenspon. And whilst its not a Bridgetown release, Bathetic Records has just put out a split cassette with Greenspon and Californian Trudgers sharing the spoils. Greenspon is on his sound collage form here, evoking sonic malaise in his three short tracks that begs for longer playing time. No surprise there - however, I am taken aback by my introduction to Trudgers, who manage to offer some solid echoed, ethereal slack guitar pop through their two tracks, 'Dryer' and 'Achilles'. Their sound is perfectly primed for the sound of a cassette tape and all its tinny warbles too! Its a sweet little release, priming us for bigger things from the two outfits as the year progresses.

Kevin Greenspon - A Simpler Time/Passing By Quickly
Trudgers - Dryer

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Kurt Vile Vies For Elegaic Angeldom

I have to say, Im very happy to see the continual ascendence of Kurt Vile. It took me a little while to get around to listen to the Philly native - blanket blogosphere fawning does that - but its always good to hear the universal praise being warranted, with Vile's lyrical voice a shadow of the laconic J Mascis. He is in constant demand for collaborations and remixes (most recently on the Dinosaur Jr frontman's sublime solo effort Several Shades Of Why), and tours pretty heavily, yet remains prolific with his musical output.

And on Smoke Ring For My Halo, we have a fleshed out affair much different from the lo-fi fuzz of 2008's Constant Hitmaker, and on the most part this is a good thing. The added focus of a backing band (Vile's on/off The Violators) creates some serious depth on the languid cruise through 'Ghost Town' and the Crazy Horse stomp of 'Puppet To The Man', whilst the clarity in production brings Vile's flok guitar proficiency to the forefront. Its decidedly shambolic in scope and nature, with Vile's dispassionate vocal delivery offering at times a poignant drawl, at others a laconic sneer. Sometimes it works admirably - 'Jesus Fever' is a sunny gem that infuses Vile's wily lyrics with some verve, and 'On Tour' mirrors the world-weary view of a long time out on the road; at other times it comes across as almost disinterested. But the songs are well structured, applying a welcome skewed view on alt-folk tropes that the high production values buff to a beautiful sheen rather than bury it in needless pop and fizz. Vile has a bit to go before he creates an entire album of hits, but his rise is one that I will ride all the way.

Smoke Ring For My Halo is out on March 8th through Matador. He is touring Stateside with J Mascis for the majority of March and April - what a double bill!

Kurt Vile - Jesus Fever

Black Angels @ Heaven

Hey London, its about time you got out from under the rocks you're under and head down to Heaven tonight! Austin psych gods The Black Angels are playing as part of an ATP showcase, afnd will be ripping through their back catalogue, especially the delicious offerings from last year's Phosphene Dream - tix available here. Not to be missed at any cost!!!

The Black Angels - Haunting At 1300 McKinley

Gig - Black Mountain/The Night Terrors, The Zoo, Brisbane, 17.02.11

This week’s unusual run of stellar international gigs at the Zoo continues, with Black Mountain the drawcards tonight. To lead us in are The Night Terrors - an unusual beast, wielding keyboards, synthesisers, effects pedals, bass, drums and an elaborate Theremin that is the crucial “member” of the musical aesthetic. And it’s an interesting proposition to watch Miles Brown play it – with flourishes reminiscent of a renowned cellist – and to also hear how effective it can be. Like a Syren, the sounds emitted evoke otherworldly beauty and brutality, depending on the song, much like Barry Burns’ efforts for Mogwai. There are elements of “one trick pony” at times, but it’s when everything meshes together – such as on understated beauty Righteous or apocalyptic number Saturnalia - that the importance of such an unusual band in the Australian music scene can be truly appreciated.

Stephen McBean leads his Black Mountain cohorts onto the stage, looking shaggier and more stereotypically psychedelic than usual. The stage members take their now defined positions – McBean to the right, almost from view; co-leader Amanda Webber out front, armed only with her tambourine and her disarminginly soaring voice; Matt Camarind hunkers over his bass; Jeremey Schmidt, penned off by his instruments of interstellar destruction; and Josh Wells, dressed more like an Aussie punk band sticksman with his si
nglet and green and white football socks.

Without any cues, the band takes us on a journey into the heart of the hazy wilderness. New tracks like The Hair Song and Radiant Hearts get early air time, and how – their shifts into ebullient Americana and evocative politico-folk never puncture the atmospherics. Queens Will Play is a woozy serpentine groover, whilst Evil Ways is Black Mountain at their most devilish – incessant tribal drumming (Wells is possessed tonight), sultry guitar lines, sexy and beguiling keyboard bolts before the meat is flayed off the bone in style.

The centrepiece is the rolling gargantuan of a track that is old favourite Druganaut, with its extended running time devoted to creating a maelstrom of tightly wound stoner mania that gave me gravel rash to the jaw. It is to both the band’s and the venue’s credit that such a giant sound can be created, harnessed and contained consistently, although Webber’s normally beguiling vocals are occasionally lost in the mix. The set steamrolls through the crests and valleys of the dark side of the moon (as perfectly highlighted by sinuous beauty Roller Coaster), hardened by coiled precision and an innate ability to take us to the brink of cliché before throwing us into the abyss of the unknown – two factors remiss from most psychedelic rock bands.

When the dust settles after a particularly barnstorming encore (featuring Sabbath-aping Let Spirits Ride), Schmidt continues a droning synth line for some minutes before signing off. The stage darkens once more. Black Mountain had come in the night and stolen our souls.

Black Mountain - No Satisfaction

Trent's Tenants Ain't Foxin...

Label Kind Turkey Records are bringing out some sweet releases this month, none more so than the new 7" by Milwaukee's Trent Fox and the Tenants. It's five tracks of garage/pop/rock n roll with swagger. They have played with the likes of Nobunny, Jaill and Thomas Function, so their brand of sloppy garage rock is assured. I still cant get into the Smith Westerns - and believe me, Ive tried - and I feel that Trent Fox and the Tenants are what those upstarts should be, with a healthy devotion to the altar of Black Lips to boot.

The first 100 copies have a green and gold color scheme in honour of the NFC title (the Green Bay Packers hadn't yet won the Superbowl when the records went to the plant!) - yellow vinyl with green labels.

Trent Fox And The Tenants - Mess Around

Toro Y Moi @ Woodland Tonight

Got nothing to do tonight in Brisbaneland? South Carolina devotee and chillwave progenitor Toro Y Moi is playing at Woodland, and he brings US experimental minimalists High Places in tow. It promises to be a great night - you can buy advance tix here, or its $30 on the door.

Toro Y Moi - New Beat
High Places - On Giving Up

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Elusive Lushness Of Banjo Or Freakout

Im not sure what made me ignore Banjo Or Freakout for as long as I have. It certainly wasnt a conscious decision - there was even a couple gigs where I spotted the name and thought "I should really check that guy out" - but never did. But then I inadvertently heard '105', the opening track off the Italian-born Londoner's self-titled debut (his real name is Alessio Natalizia). I think it was on Stereogum? Anyway, I heard it, and was sucked in by the warmth and sweetness to it. Sparse beats give the song a lilting feel, with guitars filling out the rest of the rhythm pattern and soft, faraway vocals. The album follows in a similar vein - an ambient pop album. There are influences smattered throughout - Deerhunter, Electric Light Parade, Radiohead, doo wop - and some of the tracks could do with some tightening. But I dunno - this really resonates with me, especially after several concerted listenings. I know in the past month Ive spoken about drone and psych albums being a full album experience - well, Banjo Or Freakout is a full album experience. But this is much more accessible - beautiful atmospherics, textured melodies, and Natalizia's gushy vocals, an understudy to Bradford Cox. This is a lushly created album, with some classic songs. Just don the headphones and drift away, the slimmest of smiles on your face, and you will find yourself considerably indulged.

Banjo Or Freakout is out now. You may have missed him in London earlier this month - but dont worry he lives here, he'll be back! In the meantime the US will be graced with his understated presence - touring the country with Papercuts in March/April.

Banjo Or Freakout - 105
Banjo Or Freakout - Dear Me

Gig - Swervedriver/Giants Of Science/Loomer, The Zoo 17.02.11

It’s a small crowd gathered at the Zoo at eight o’clock. This is my first time back to the Zoo since coming back to Brisbane, and the rush of nostalgia is a welcome rush. I love the fact that in a city that loves to refurbish the fuck out of anything minutely good until it looks like a futuristic bedpan, the dinginess, gallon drum tables and work-healthplace-and-safety-defying ceiling fans of the Zoo is a true testament to owners and supporters that relish the right things about music, and intend it keep that way...

A few people turn up early to catch Loomer, Brisbane’s progeny to the shoegaze, no-wave gods (I mean, look at the name - come on!), and they don’t muck around, launching into tracks from their recent LP Ceiling. They have some difficulty reining in their sound – much of the reverb-heavy effects bleed into each other – but there is some brute strength behind these songs. The cyclical verve that infuses their penultimate track is probably the true indication of what Loomer are capable of. This is further highlighted by the drummer’s frenetic skin bashing, unwittingly forced centre stage by the small confines. ‘Shit, they’re good aren’t they?’ is uttered behind me – a sentiment that Im sure will grow throughout 2011.

Loomer - Enchanted by The Big Beat

If the crowd – mid 20s to late 40s – isn’t enough to remind everyone of the main act’s genesis, then the next support does the trick. Giants Of Science have lain dormant for years – hell, the last time I saw them, the Healer still existed! – yet this unabashedly Swervedriver-loving hard rock band show no wear or tear, ripping into their back catalogue like they have just finished headlining a festival tour. Drawing mainly from last album Here Is The Punishment, the boys prove that they are still lean, hungry, and know this rock business inside out. They rock, laugh, drink, and give a shout out to another much-missed Brisbane band, the KT26s. Now, if they could only get some more beers into them…

Yet despite this lead up, the excitement is palpable. Its been a long time coming - 13 years in fact – but when they do emerge, Swervedriver don’t waste any time asserting their authority, sound as relevant now as they ever have. Sci-Flyer swirls, double helixing guitars ricocheting around the room, Adam Franklin’s croon the stuff of legends. Meshing the slack sonics of Dinosaur Jr with the wall of sound of stable mates My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver’s sound tonight is crisp and electrifying – Jim Hartridge handles his myriad pedals with laconic grace, Steve George providing the backbone and Graham Bonnar back behind the drums, fusing the band together into an organic beast. They move through much of their entire back catalogue – songs from Mezcal Head and Raise dominate, yet Juggernaut Rides takes us to their early EPs; Scrawl & Scream and the excellent Neon Lights Glow showing even their B-sides aren’t off limits tonight. There is little interaction or banter from the Oxford four-piece, but that just adds to the atmosphere – every person is in thrall to the sonic brilliance on display. Personal favourites Girl On A Motorbike and She Weaves A Tender Trap are highlights, but you could take your pick really - there is not a dud song here tonight. Its been 13 long years, and 90 minutes of glorious guitar abandon and meticulously executed pop songs is not enough to fill that void. Nevertheless, Swervedriver assert the notion that they don’t build 'em like they used to – and the music world is all the poorer because of it.

Swervedriver - Girl On A Motorbike

Several Shades Of Brilliance

J Mascis’ efforts in Dinosaur Jr over the past twenty-five years have been monumental. Yet whilst the slacker shaman busied himself shredding the minds and perforating the ears of grateful fanatics worldwide, it is his band mate and Sebadoh ringmaster Low Barlow who is renowned for writing the eloquent ballads. What with the thunderous rollercoaster of Dinosaur Jr’s two reunion albums and quaking live shows, it seemed likely to remain that way. But Mascis has always been full of surprises, and with Several Shades Of Why, he delivers an album that takes the plug out, instead ramping up the pathos, fragility and elegance, in doing so creating an achingly beautiful gem.

Listen To Me immediately throws you – Mascis standing on his own, his questioning vocals laid bare without the rambunctious rhythms of his day band. In fact it’s the notable absence of drums that is most prevalent here, placing all the emphasis on Mascis, his iconic vocals, and that acoustic guitar, which he wields with the same level of proficiency, bravado and nuance as his electric counterpart. The beautiful title track is all melancholy, heightened by some elegant picking and the haunting violin of Sophie Trudeau (of A Silver Mt Zion fame), whilst the rambling Not Enough has some jovial tambourine and there is a long list of guest backing vocalists such as Ben Bridwell, Kevin Drew, and Kurt Vile. It is savvy vocal interplay that elevates the toe-tapping sweetness of Not Enough, or the haunting catch-in-your-throat Very Nervous And Love. However these collaborations never take away the focus of Mascis’ innate brilliance at curling words, carving pop hooks, and even a beautifully iconic electric solo explosion in back porch crooner Is It Done? The influences of other troubadours such as Nick Drake or Springsteen lurk in the shadows, but this is decidedly Mascis’ show, one which we can only dream he will continue to bring to us for another 25 years to come.

Several Shades Of Why is out through Sub Pop in March.

J Mascis - Is It Done

J Mascis - Several Shades Of Why

And also check out this absolutely amazing video interview with Mascis!

Can You Tell Me How To Get, How To Get To Degeneration Street?

I have to tell you, I was relieved to like what I heard on Degeneration Street.

Canada's The Dears holds a place in my heart for a few reasons. Firstly, I bought No Cities Left randomly off eBay (I think it was going for $5?) even though then I didnt like 'Lost In The Plot', the only track I had ever heard of theirs - and it turned out to be one of my top ten albums of the 2000s. Then I head their track 'There Is No Such Thing As Love' - one of my favourite epic drawn out wigouts of the 2000s. Then, one a week journey into Brisbane to research for my Masters degree in 2007 (which I am yet to finish...), I saw The Dears perform at a place that was then called The Columbian - Im pretty sure it was a short-lived music venue, and nothing of redeemable value stands in its stead today. It was pretty much a boozy pool hall - a small one at that. And The Dears played there - sweat dripping from them as they poured their hearts and souls into their set - and it goes down as one of my top ten live performances ever.

Since then though, the love in the world of The Dears has faltered. Almost the entire band walked out after the recording of last album Missiles. Said album was, in my opinion at least, a very weak rehashing of Gang Of Losers. The Dears was the first concert I saw in London on my own, over at Porchester Hall, a beautiful venue, and whilst it was pretty good, the new band backing the band's mainstay Murray Lightburn were a bit green, there wasnt that really click you expect when watching a happy band.

I actually thought that was it.

But then Degeneration Street is here, and its...kinda good. The funny thing is, the band that mutinied all the way back in 2008 have pretty much returned to the fold. And Lightburn claims they never really left. The band has a long history of "revolving doors". Whatever - the music sounds revitalised. Its oft-times vivacious and bubbling like Gang Of Losers; at others its reminiscent of the theatrical gloss that buoyed No Cities Left. Opener 'Omega Dog' has that brooding charm that we know and love; 'Galactic Tides' the best indicator that there is still some No Cities Left in the tank. 'Yesteryear' goes down a Motown route, and '1854' provides some fist pumping bravado and pomp. But as always, it is Lightburn's brilliant voice that is the focal point. It is not a brilliant album - some say its terrible - but dont be swayed by the jerks. This is a reminder of why The Dears holds that little place in my heart.

The Dears are touring the US leading into SXSW in March, then wing over to Europe, settling down at The Borderline on for a double billing on April 18 and 19. Worth checking out.

The Dears - Omega Dog
The Dears - Galactic Tides

Grandpa Was A Lion...

I have just been speaking to a young guy by the name of Justin D'Onofrio, who had sent me some music under the nom de plume Grandpa Was A Lion. An amazing set of tracks that evokes the lyricism of Elliott Smith and the candid heartache of Conor Oberst, D'Onofrio wrote and recorded the album on Garageband on a second hand iBook in his basement, then had them mastered. The entore album can be heard on his myspace, although it is currently unavailable for purchase - these are undeniably great tracks, especially the opening couplet ('Hello From The Farm', 'Mobile Alabama Blues') and the brilliant 'The Light'. He had originally had these songs done with a producer in New York (not naming names - smart), but the result was too slick, too unreal - it took away the immediacy of the songs. So the results can be seen as a rebuttal to the producer's take on what Grandpa Was A Lion was - which is a great thing to be able to say. D'Onofrio said that the guy was a nice guy, and he learnt a lot from the experience, but in the end it told him how he wanted to sound. I think we can all say that is a very good thing - snap this guy up, someone!

Grandpa Was A Lion - Hello From The Farm
Grandpa Was A Lion - Mobile Alabama Blues
Grandpa Was A Lion - The Light

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Let The Rats Talk

I havent heard much from Flingco Sound System in the past six months, after being introduced to the great San Fran band Dead Meat, although I mentioned a few other delectable acts on their roster (read and listen here). One dude that got a bit of notice from us was A Story Of Rats, who comes from the 'northwest plateau of the United States'. Otherwise known as Garek Druss, A Story Of Rats' M.O. is crawling atmospherics, investigating polyphonic tones, repetition, and distorted field recordings. He has a few releases out, most notably the Sea Of Sand split LP he did with Pussygut (they have since renamed themselves Wolvserpent) out on Olde English Spelling Bee.

Relinquishment is a cassette tape manufactured by FSS in a limited edition of 100 copies. The two tracks on Relinquishment are extended, cavernous and gritty. "Composition ii" is heavy organ drone while the slurried tones of "Composition iii" features a contribution on guitar from Matthew Merris. Its a dark, disturbing ride into the belly of the vermin gods.

You can pre-order a copy of Relinquishment here.

A Story Of Rats - Composition ii (Excerpt)

And as a little aside - Dead Meat are playing a few US shows with Cheap Time and Idle Times in March. Well worth checking out!

Wonderful! Steve's Had Delicate Visions!

David Byrne's Luaka Bop record label usually delves into the weirder, somewhat world-music beat-infused side of guitar pop, having pushed along the fledgling careers of Geggy Tah and Cornershop, whilst currently housing Os Mutantes, Javelin and Tom Ze. Still, when I heard the first track off Delicate Steve's instrumental whizz-bang whimsy that is Wondervisions, I wasnt sure that Byrne had it right. "Welcome-Begin" has more incoming with Pavement than Cornershop's "Brimful Of Asha". But then the album spins some more, and the revelations become clearer. 'The Ballad Of Speck And Pebble' (which I featured here) is a rambunctious funbucket of a track, and the only track to share the slightest resemblance of a vocal track. From here in there is so much surreal trickery going on, with Steve (AKA Steve Marion, 23-year-old New Jersey multi-instrumentalist) flicking in sonic electronics, Afro-tribal drumming, ecstatic distorted riffs... Nothing is straightforward here, but yet it feels so utterly effortless - listen to the way in which the guitar veritably sings on standout track 'Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)' whilst soaring synths and basic bass drum and percussive taps all meld in the background... Or the incessant beats on 'Butterfly' coalescing with the insanely sweet twanging guitar lines before the eruption of heavy distortion that rather than intimidate, heightens the lucidity of the colours emanating from without.

This is experimentation of pop and guitar conventions at its most infectious.How could Byrne NOT resist this? Its as if Fang Island and Dirty Projectors got together one night after taking some Quaaludes and threw as many musical outbursts as they could into the path of Brian Eno's touring bus, just as James Murphy enters an ice-cream shop nearby, and Byrne smiles maniacally from the shadows. For an instrumental record, Wondervisions is incredibly lyrical (and in a similar vein to Fang Island's self titled debut last year in terms of contagious instrumental melody). Its also a hell of a lot of fun - and deserved of a hell of a lot of recognition. Akron/Family are doing their bit, pinning him down to do their entire Stateside tour. Damned fine - and so infectious that I am getting Wondervisions of my own.

Delicate Steve - The Ballad Of Speck And Pebble
Delicate Steve - Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)

The White Heat Cult(s)

Is it any coincidence that Guards took over Madame JoJo's Tuesday night White Heat extravaganza last week, and tonight we see that the headliner is sister act Cults? I dont think so...

This is a massive gig, as with the pull out of earlier in the year, the arrival of Cults is much anticipated, so much so that tix are all but sold out! However there are 50 or so on the door - open at 8pm - so Id suggest getting yourself down there at around quarter to - you will not wanna miss this one! White Heat's sister outfit White Light is also playing host to Cults (alongside Two Wounded Lions and Prizes) on Friday at the Lexington, but this one is locked down - so tonight is your best chance. You wont be disappointed...

Forever Beyond The Fourth Door

2011 has been a decidedly delectable year thus far in terms of psychedelic rock. And if Thrill Jockey has anything to do with it (and they most certainly do), the hits will keep on a-comin. March sees the arrival of Beyond The 4th Door, Eternal Tapestry's debut album on the label (we loved guitarist Dewey's album under the moniker Plankton Wat, In Magical Light - check what the fuss is about here). THe first thing you'll notice is the truncated track lengths - still long ('Time Winds Through A Glass, Clearly' is over 12 minutes long), but a departure from previous opuses. Yet dont be fooled - these songs havent been cut so much as condensed, distilling the swirling essence of what makes the Portland band great - long stretches of melodic guitar improvisations, dark brooding songs that slowly build and expand to allow in layers of light - into a tighter focus. Hence the five tracks meld into an orgiastic phalanx of surreal fluidity, culminating in an album that, at 43 minutes long, feels too short and yet eternal all the same.

Beyond The 4th Door is out on March 15 - you can pre-order it here. Eternal Tapestry are playing a few shows this week in the US along the East Coast with label-mates Arbouretum and the brilliant Endless Boogie, whilst also scoring the hometown support slot for Moon Duo on April 9. No news as to any global touring as yet - but we can surely hope...

Eternal Tapestry - Galactic Derelict

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sonic Masala's 1000th post - a secret revealed...

I was just about to click post on this admittedly very short post, when I noticed something - this will be our 1, 000th post! Holy shit! But instead of changing it to be something profound, amusing or self-serving, I thought Id stick with this one.

Raised By Tigers are out of Denton, Texas. Their album Reunion Parts is equal parts dissonance, swooping guitars and recalcitrant pop. Lots of 90s indie rock. Its out next Monday. Get it? Got it? Good.

Raised By Tigers -Song For Bob
Raised By Tigers - Sunspots

Oh yeah. I was abandoned as a child. Paul raised me as his own. He is a tiger...who channels Thom Yorke. Oh, the profound, amusing, self-serving humanity!

Quarantining The Old Blue Last

Illness brought out the manic Some Vegetable Waste earlier this month (see what we thought of it here). Now get your hazmat suits ready, as the Brighton noisemongers are about to launch into a Europe-wide viral campaign of mass destruction. This Monday (Feb 21st) they descend on an unsuspecting Old Blue Last, with P For Persia in tow. What's more, its free! This promises to be a stellar show, and as it equals no clams, there is no excuse for missing this! There's never been a better time to get infected...

Illness - You The User

There's A Homo In My Head

Melbourne's UV Race brought out Homo last year in cassette form, as has been the craze for some time. The problem with that is only a few people got to hear how fucking awesome this band is, and unless you got to to see em live last year chances are you havent heard much of them. Their self-titled release on Aarght! Records and other bits and bobs aside, there is nothing to really get your grubby mitts on...until March 29th, when In The Red will be releasing Homo on vinyl. You can hear the influences of likeminded Aussie reprobates Eddy Current Suppression Ring in tracks like 'Girl In My Head' or 'Down Your Street' (ECSR guitarist Mikey Young is behind them in the recording and mixing process), whilst their sloppy proto-punk gives way to slow faux-folkster 'Always Late' and explodes into psychedelic malaise in the titular track. With the rise of scuzzy, dirty, weird rock in Australia at the moment (Blank Realm, Circle Pit, Naked On The Vague, Slug Guts), its an exciting vanguard to be a part of - but to be honest, UV Race dont give a shit where they are.

UV Race - Inner North

Hits From The Box #8 - Later Than A Lobster

Sorry that the eighth installment of Hits From The Box is coming at you on a Monday rather than a Sunday. I try to do it on the Saturday, ready to drop on the Sunday, as, like God, I like to rest on the 7th day. But I pretty much rested on Saturday too - watched The Wire, worked on the novel and such - before hitting the beach on Sunday. Its the first time Ive been in the ocean for 18 months, and the first time in Australia in over 3 years. And Im all for slipping, slopping and slapping - very sun conscious, that's me - but I had one fundamental flaw in my reasoning - I have developed an impressive English tan. For a regularly pale guy as it is, this posed certain problems. So I may have used the sunscreen, but at the same rate as my weathered companions - hence getting back home unable to move in case my skin split. Still, I cant leave you hangin - so instead of the regular six pack, Ill give you a seventh band for free! Now, how to type this thing without touching any kind of surface...

1st cab off the ranks is UK based bedroom pop architect Rob Jones and his musical project The Voluntary Butler Scheme. He has had some considerable success since the release of his album last year, most notable touring the UK with Adam Green and having tracks featured on the likes of Grey's Anatomy (boo!), a Dell ad (hmmm....) and Countryfile (hell yeah!). He has also signed to US indie label Park The Van (home of Dr. Dog and The Pharmacy amongst others). He is prepping this little EP, The Chevreul, four tracks of songs as disparate as anything Jones has ever done - and damned addictive. He has also had opening track 'Do The Hand Jive' remixed by The Go! Team, which is always nice! The Chevreul EP is out March 18th.

To The Height Of A Frisbee by Voluntary Butler Scheme

Softlight Kid are a Nottingham six-piece born out of the ashes of bands Six By Seven and Bent, that specialise in shoegaze explosions within a pop format. All the likely influences are there - Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, Rush, Spacemen 3 - and this is in full evidence in 'Haunting Me', the first track to be heard off their upcoming, as-yet-unnamed 2nd album. The Midlands must have this genre distilled, to be bought in every corner store. Its a great little track, and may just be enough to sate the appetite til the album is released. They will then be touring, and you can see them support The Joy Formidable at KOKO on 10th May. But to be honest, any band named after a brilliant Captain Beefheart album is worth checking out.

New album track teaser 'Haunting Me' by Spotlight Kid by Type PR

Little Blak Dress, a band out of Newcastle, Australia, have just released their debut EP, Hello Lady, for free - check out their website. You will also see they wear their influences on their sleeve (and all over their blog) - Rolling Stones (God I love 'Under My Thumb' - thanks for pushing me back to it guys!), The Cure, The Strokes, Phoenix... The new EP, produced by Ian Pritchett (The Beautiful Girls, Angus and Julia Stone, Cog), accentuates their mixture of nostalgic late 60s/early 70s rock with more modern, youthful pop rock, and the amalgam creates some hook-laden moments. Buy a physical copy of Hello Lady here.

Little Blak Dress - Little Devil Man

I havent heard their Cassette EP (you can pick it up at their Bandcamp site), but if Morphine Makes You Comfortable, Oklahoma's Brother Gruesome's current 7", is any indication, these guys are a hell of a find. Describing themselves as The Cars meets Sebadoh, these two tracks emphasise the band's penchant for intense melodies and dark themes, whilst opting for an electrified sound that steeps their sound into a degenerative squalor. A-side 'Tubes' focus on the notion of hearing a loved one's final words echoing down a telephone line, whilst 'Needles' is a squalling meditation on the chemical side of dying, whilst also reflecting on an "interesting" stick-and-poke tattooing session, all capped by the great artwork depicting the complex balance between musical ambition and deteriorating health... Purchase Morphine Makes You Comfortable from We Are Nice People Records, and if you are in Austin for SXSW this March, dont miss Brother Gruesome.

Brother Gruesome - Tubes

Now for a forward-thinking throwback to new-old school rawk - meet Occult Detective Club. These young Texan upstarts revel in the spirit of 70s garage punk, and you cant deny the hefty shadow of The Ramones over the tracks on 2nd LP Crimes, all of which are great things. They are touring relentless all over the States in the upcoming months - check out the dates here - but if you cant catch em, you can pick up the album on Alive Naturalsound Records here.

Occult Detective Club - C'Mon Levi

Now we have Wreathes from the Bathetic Record stable, a Wisconsin duo who have carved out two slabs of haunted folk music. I have really fallen for the tribal psychedelic arcana sound of late (Sun City Girls, The Skull Defekts, Joan Of Arc), and Wreathes follow in this vein, albeit with a noticeably more acoustic approach with smatterings of electronic manipulations. It is the commanding presence of Nathaniel Ritter and Troy Schafer, their voices ever-locked in the soaring harmonies of the underworld, that make these two tracks truly captivating. You can pick up The Reigns/Full Turn, out on March 15th, here.

Wreathes - The Reigns

And finally, south-east England's Art Is Hard Records have their 3rd release prepped and ready to go, and its from Cardiff/Yeovil eccentric My Name Is Ian, equal parts Daniel Johnston, 90s college rock, and Casiotone. The folks over at Art Is Hard work hard at creating unique releases, and this one is no different - a three part cassette club, each cassette coming out on the 1st of each month, starting on March 1st. The releases are Computers Make Noise (for fans of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Lonely Ghosts, Former Ghosts, maybe other ghostly named bands?) with a bonus extra in the form of A Day In The Life, a handwritten and illustrated day in the life extract from Ian; Big Foot Where Have you Gone? (for fans of - Beach Fossils) - the bonus here being a signed ‘sexy people’ style photo; and finally the 3rd, as yet untitled EP (for fans of Yuck and The Wave Pictures). The bonus here is extra special - Ian has rescued 20 charity shop cassettes and as well as bringing the artwork up to date has also covered the song on the cassette exclusively for each Man Club member.
To get these releases, you need to sign up
, with the aim to put the fun of anticipation back into being a music fan at the bargain price of £12.79 including everything, even postage!
Go here if you are interested - there are only 20 spots on the membership - its a very rad concept!!!

My Name Is Ian - If I Found Out I Was Terminally Ill

Happy Sunday/Monday! Now where is that aloe Vera...