Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lightning Bolt - Living Legacy In Fantasy Empire Of Their Own Making

I've had about a hundred attempts at writing this over the past few months. All I can say is, Lightning Bolt's new album Fantasy Empire is fucking brilliant. Yes it's more accessible than previous albums (which I'm sure the diehard noise hipsters hate, for they see it as a watering down of the caterwaul); yes it is predominantly "song" based. It is still batshit crazy, frenetic as fuck and probably the best album you will hear this year. I should say more, but I'm sick in bed, watching 70s Bava/Argento horrors and listening to Lightning Bolt. I may not make it through the night. But at least let my dying breath be pushing this amazing album. BEST BAND EVER. You can get it (out on Thrill Jockey) here.

Hits From The Box #103 - Mother Of Election

Seriously Britain, what the actual fuck? I'm still gutted in almost every perceivable way with out the general election turned out, almost one month on. Five years of pain, that people seem to have willingly asked for. It's like getting the chance to eat in a three Michellin star restaurant and opting to eat the dead homeless guy in the alleyway next door. Too highbrow for you? Try like getting the power to resurrect any musical icon, and choosing Courtney Love.

Trust me, she is dead.

I need to cleanse the pallet pronto, so here are seven fairly different but nonetheless excellent bands to fill out this week's Hits From The Box.

To start us off on a sonically esoteric and not overly new, but quite grovelling bent, we have Great Waitress, a Sydney/Berlin duo that I intended to write about over a year ago. A YEAR AGO. I'm so sorry that I have been so tardy on this one - some subtle experimental jazz meanderings that are pregnant with fragility, tension and dis-associative atmosphere. It's a project that doesn't get much airplay which is a shame because it is a magisterial release. Grab Flock here.

I wanted to write an individual post about Hutt River Province, a release out through Ruined Smile Records, but seeing as this is their only real release (almost out of print) and they aren't in a position to play that often, here it is. The collective is from a gamut of bands scattered around Australia (Port Augusta, Canberra, Adelaide, Darwin; No Action, Nebraska, Jerkstore, Celador...) and have crafted a release that swings from Codeine/Unwound indie to a massive B-side track 'West of Warradale', a thirty-minute miasma of field recordings and missives. The nebulous, spidery construction reminds me of the guitarwork of Paul Dempsey on his little-known Scared Of Houses "solo" project of 1998. It's a great little release; grab one of the last four cassettes here.

I haven't written about any Inner Islands Records releases for a while, yet I am still enamoured with the percolating, naturalistic sound collages that these artists hold in common. Channelers is another act that highlights this proclivity (Hear Hums, Peace Arrow and Braeyden Jae are the best examples of this), and the subtle, somnambulist rush that flows through me as 'Moving with the Great Motion' hits its stride is a stark reminder of how great this sound can be when done right. Light, sparse, with floating percussion and submerged guitar lines. Grab the cassette here.

Another interesting label bringing together like minds is Figbox out of Florida. Aside from the likes of Suede Dudes and Prison Warder (of which you will hear more of soon), there is Unholy Clone who have just released album Hypnotic Farm. It feels decidedly 80s England shoegaze era - The Jesus & Mary Chain dripfed on Ride in the darkest hours of the morning. 'Bankruptcy' has a slight Lee Ranaldo strain, and the pastoral psych of 'Phase My Mind' is warm and authentic. Keep an eye out for these guys.

Hannahband are a two piece hailing from Sydney. Their album Retirement is a ragged pendulum swing between moodist emotive punk, Mere Women-esque wistful post-punk and cantankerous hardcore explosions. It is a predominantly upbeat affair, glowing with hope of wider horizons, without letting down the angst and wailing maelstroms. Solid stuff.

NY duo The Glazzies have just released their EP Satin Stain, a grungy affair that reminds me of things like the first Blood Red Shoes offering. They have been incredibly lucky in acquiring Murph (drummer for Dinosaur Jr) to drum on some of the tracks, including 'So Strange' below. They have an album coming out later this year too - it was meant to be out before now, but they pushed it back when this seminal moment came to pass for them (both are through Old Flame Records). Expect to hear more from these boys in 2015.

Finally let's head to Paris to swim in the shoegaze waters of Venera 4, whose Eidolon record is rife with slick production, swathes of ephemeral distortion, and silken vocals. 'Red Blooms' has slight 'How Soon Is Now' undercurrents, 'Black Paws' is indebted to MBV, 'Colored Fields' flitters in the shadows of Jesus & Mary Chain... The opening is even named after Slowdive's Pygmalion! So the influences are well and truly prevalent. But it is a wonderfully constructed album, that is beautifully produced, having the cavernous echo and electronic simplicities around the edges that evokes the 80s and all its garish glories.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Car Crushes Cause Aliments

It took me a while to understand what was going on here - I had typed in Ailment and Car Crash and kept bizarrely getting things about Joni Mitchell on Google. That should have been the new track 'Car Crush' by Spanish band Aliment, a two-minute punk anthem that rallies up the troops like no other. I was on the cusp of buying The Replacements' Let It Be AND The Marked Men's Fix My Brain last week - and now I feel even stupider for keeping my mitts firmly jammed in my pockets, as this tasty morsel forever reminds me how much this shade of punk makes me happy. Their second album Silverback will be out through La Castanya in September - let's hope the Barcelona trio finds their way to London soon.

Pulsing Primitive Motions Through Time's Fibre

It's well known that I am a big Primitive Motion fan. Since catching them at a show supporting New War in 2011, and picking up a Two Ellipsis cassette at one of the duo Leighton Craig's solo shows in early 2012, I tried to catch every Pri Mo show that found themselves playing out in the nooks and niches of Brisbane. Their Worlds Floating By LP of 2013 is still an understated minor masterpiece, which saw them elevated to the support slot of Godspeed! You Black Emperor's maiden Brisbane show. Their set last year supporting Ela Stiles was fantastic (even if the venue wasn't), and it culminated in them playing the Sonic Masala Fest.

So obviously I was going to be excited about the duo's new release on Bedroom Suck, Pulsating Time Fibre. With similar artwork to Worlds Floating By, it would seem that this is a genuine extension from what came before. And the entire back catalogue of Primitive Motion shows a continual adherence to and exploration of space and time. But take some time to immerse yourself in the album and you will see its uniqueness, even within the band's ubiquitous style. Firstly there is a stronger application of reverb apparent (to these ears at least) - but rather it being a lazy affectation, it augments the weightlessness, the edifying strictures in providing a repetitive motorik undercurrent to artful whims and languorous passages.

Primitive Motion have always been about creating something current, something of an essence that befits Craig and Sandra Selig's place in time - in fact most of their sets are never mapped out, never repeated - and repetition has always held a strong magnetic presence in their work, as is the case here. But with opener 'Bodies of the Placid Furnace', there is a darker sombreness that adds a layer of gravitas, promising something new. In fact this is the longest track on the A side by almost half - the glut of "tracks" here are mostly held to sub two minute lengths of time - reading more like shards of ideas, glimmering in the underbrush in the early dawn, gone before there is time to linger, ensuring that their cerebral nature remains intact but also wraithlike, a waking dream. 'Audible Darkness' is buoyed by more ebullient synth lines, Selig's singsong voice almost at Playschool levels of saccharine, yet the tactile melody here lives up to the song title. The ethereal dreamwave of 'Golden Light Clinic' is certainly back in the PriMo world of construction - the drum machine insistent yet unobtrusive, Selig's voice floating away - the 21st century Julee Cruise moment (and with Twin Peaks around the corner, not a moment too soon).  Songs like 'Nebula Lagoon' and 'Same Is The Same' are nursery rhymes in a gossamer prism, light refracted and rebuilt til frameworks coalesce, meld and melt; 'Slow Motion Time Release' has a more insistent beat that is obvious to previous fare, but is gone again before that rhythm is laid down and etched in stone. I particularly love the effervescence in tracks like 'Du Hattest Gerne', a track that is under a minute but feels radiated from within, and somehow the perfect length.

Things change for the last four songs. 'To Shape A Single Leaf', at 9 and a half minutes' length, is the longest song by five minutes. It is allowed the time and space to unfurl naturally, a muted sonorous piercing of the chrysalis before shimmering, searching synth lines emerge and cloak this transformation in atmospheric mystery. The overt Gothic turns in this song seem incongruous to everything that came before or since. It's a wonderful song, but its place here is as jarring as if they had laid a crust punk track down. But it does ease in the final triptych - 'Plant Me Deep', 'Coronet' and closer 'Spring Sky Window' - all exploratory songs of wondrous whimsy. 'Plant Me Deep' is Craig's moment to stand out front, his vocals a mystical mist that floats over an equally elliptical and elegant saxophone. It's a glorious song that transcends, well, everything. 'Coronet' manages that oft-tried but seldom-held tightrope walk of distorted drone and elegant instrumentation - there is a glistening purity maintained throughout that makes this just as a transcendental moment as the previous one. Then 'Spring Sky Window' hits and it is the one song that marries these two (in)distinct musical worlds of Pulsating Time Fibre together - the drum beat more insistent, the sax shining off shards of light.

It says a lot of Pulsating Time Fibre that I can find the tonal shifts noticeable, and even believe them out of place, yet still feel that this is a perfect album. As conflicting an idea that may be, I cannot fault these songs on their own; I fail to skip a single one; there is no restlessness or sense of listlessness here. Everything is as it should be, even if I feel I am not where I should be. That's my problem, not theirs. Immerse yourselves here.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Good Famine/Bad Gentlemen

Before Melbourne leather-clad degenerates Gentlemen bring out their new album, I thought I would delve back into their last two short-form releases, and carefully peel back the diseased canvas to show you what writhes and pulses beneath. The first 7" is 終焉 on Tokyo label Episode Sounds, which delves much deeper into their hardcore roots with 'Good Omen/Bad Husband' before hitting a spewing, mewling punk squall on 'Dead Hand' and 'WD2F' melts it into one insoluble mess.

Then there is Pro Famine, out through Ken Rock. 'Gaunt Boys' is the Gentlemen I know and love - sub three minutes of hateful vitriol, staring into the abyss with dead eyes - the Bird Blobs connection is well and clear. Australia knows how to mewl and gnash teeth in the dark, covered in shit and piss, and love it. No objections from me.

The Eclectic Collection Of Currawongs

I can't suppose to know much about Brisbane band The Currawongs, other than Chris from Dollar Bar knows them. Their album Cracticidae came out late last year, and it's a shame I hadn't heard about this before setting the lineup for this year's Sonic Masala Fest - because I really really like this. The soft sepulchral instrumental 'The Return' is a wondrous opener, that bleeds into the atmospheric 'Lessons In Avoidance' with the crashing cymbals an exercise in foreboding. 'Having Fun Harms No One' is a thrashy bit of in-the-red noise, before the contemplative title track bleeds in, a lo(wer) fi Gaslight Radio with added debilitating distortion drowning out the subtleties - it's these deliberate acts of sabotage that bizarrely lends an further layer of intimacy. The accordion is broken out for the quirky Teutonic melancholia of ten-minute 'The Ghosts of Menin Gate' while the found-sound juxtaposition of a kookaburra and an aeroplane gives the right amount of bucolic apprehension to 'Off The Grid.' The dirge rock returns for 'The Elephant In The Room'; the shuffling gait of 'Hold You Back' is surreptitious in its atmospheric beauty and precarious balancing act, teetering magnificently in the last moments; a nihilistic drone fills out 'Department of Human Resources'; and then stumps are pulled with 'Duck Egg Blue', a rustic folksy outro that is as haunted by half-truths as the rest of the album. The drums are incidentally provided on the album by Cam Smith (Ghost Notes, Tape/Off, Spirit Bunny, Tiny Spiders, et al) who also recorded, mixed and mastered the album at Incremental Studios, while Adam Cadell (The Scrapes) lends his violin to 'Off The Grid'. It's eclectic, to be sure, but Cracticidae is a wonderful album that is in places quite stunning. The imperfections make it all the more endearing. Apparently The Currawongs have a second album in the wings - I cannot wait to hear it. Buy Cracticidae here.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Double Dogged

It feels like ages, but warped London trio Wetdog have finally followed up their Frauhaus! album of 2009 with new LP Divine Times (out through Upset The Rhythm)...and its as eclectic, frenetic and kinetic as you could possibly expect. Fourteen tracks of sudden scuzz, tetchy tension, garish gurning and arrhythmic rhythms - they wear their Raincoats more snugly this time around. There are delicious detours - the erred esoterics of 'Ridgway Crash', the ska-lite swing and ebullient nature of 'Jym Fingers' or the hushed choral contemplation of 'Twilite' - but they are at their best when they ratchet up the tension with post-punk stop-start atmospherics, before bursting the bubble with kaleidoscopic abandon. I've always seen Wetdog as the warped half-sister of Trash Kit, and Divine Times accentuates that outlook.

And I thought I would double up on the dog motif with Holiday, an EP out through Soft Power from Brighton duo Dog Legs. A thrashy punk bliss bomb, the title track blast open the doors; 'Ugly' takes on the 50s cutesier guitar pop staples and roughs them up a bit; 'I Trusted You' is a scuzzed-out mantra; 'Ice Cream Cone' is thirty-six seconds of the same idea. My favourite track is the ominous Cramps-lite crunch in the 'Xmas Cookie', before the weirdness rears its head on 'Messy Cloud' and the excellent 'Things I'll Never Be' rounds the whole thing out. It's a fun release that reminds me of when I heard Slowcoaches the first time back in 2012. Hurry up there is only one cassette left! GET IT.

Teaser Pony

From the artwork alone you can guess that Melbourne band Teaser Pony might be affiliated with the excellent Dick Diver. That is Steph Hughes' silkscreen artwork - and as soon as you hear the strains of 'Champion Fullback' you will note it's DD's Al McKay on the drums. Out on Cinnamon Records next month, the four track EP is a laidback jokey affair, yet it's still a rich sonic tapestry that evokes sepia-sun-soaked Australiana from the 80s and some excellently acerbic lyrics. And again we hear the sax rearing its not so ugly head - Australian bands really are grasping the proper usages of those strangled tones. The jumped up 'Headed For The Door' meanwhile could easily be a stripped to the chassis Royal Headache or a garage version of Blank Realm covering Split Enz. Overflowing with charm - you can pre-order the 7" here.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Nothing Cult Of Death

Deafcult is a new band out of Brisbane who I hadn't even heard of before the other day - but considering it's a new project from Innez (Roku Music, Tiny Spiders, Feathers) and Matt Bach (The Quickening, El Motel, The Gifthorse), it shouldn't surprise me how bloody great it is. Taking the shoegaze shine of Roku and adhering it to the Nothing mould of post-hardcore ferocity, the tracks on the Deafcult EP (recorded at Incremental Studios) are incredible intense, sonorous, intricate and cathartic in their sonic expulsions. I'm blown away by how complete this six-piece already sounds - expect massive things from these guys this year.

Deafcult have a few good gigs coming up - they are supporting Pale Heads (alongside Deadshred and a rare show from the excellent Tiny Migrants!) June 20 at Trainspotters, as well as an earlier show at the Sewers fundraiser as that band prepares to assault the US with their excellent second album on the cusp of hitting the shelves (it's bloody killer) June 6 at The Underdog.

Sweet Spirits

The kaleidoscopic confectionery that is Brisbane's Spirit Bunny continues to swirl out into the cosmos, like a multi-coloured fairy floss, all sticky, sugary, and pulsating with synthetic energy. Their new single 'Marshmallows' sees Joel Saunders' vocal delivery veer closer to the tortured pop of Architecture in Helsinki, yet these handmade synth demons (Saunders and Kate Thomas, with whirling dervish Cam Smith on the drums) imbue the track with decidedly darker hues. The squelches and howls of sonic squall towards the end, like scratching a key along an acrylic artwork, somehow heightens the colourful maelstrom that comes before it. There isn't much like this out there - get behind this!

The trio launch their EP Marshmellow Friday June 12 at The Bearded Lady. This is especially exciting for Sonic Masala as it will serve as the first official launch show for our split release of Danyl Jesu and Barge With An Antenna On It's new EPs - so it'll be a triple EP launch! Neither Nathan or I will be there - we are both ensconced in Europe then - but there will be SM goodies at the show too. And the most excellent Brainbeau will also be playing - how can you NOT go to this???

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Art Leads Me Stressing Into The Grave

It makes sense that I am spending my “week off” listening to a band called So Stressed. Instead of kicking back I am spending my week off, at work, doing work. Don’t ask. So some throat-shattering guttural punk is the best way to vent while pushing papers around a virtual box. The Sacramento trio are the first signing on Perfect Pussy leader Meredith Graves’ new label Honor Press, and their debut LP The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art does not disappoint. The rather esoteric album title belies one of the loudest, most brutal, most exhilarating albums I've heard this year. 'Cupcake Sister' opens things up and is a nihilistic buzzsaw torture machine of wailing precision and piercing punishment. There is a dark, meticulous undercurrent here that keeps the songs on a magnetic, kinetic pulse, which somehow heightens Morgan Fox's shouts and larynx-shredding screams into a white-eyed fever of such pertinence that the adrenalin spikes through your ears - instant headache/headrush. The violence to tension ratio sits precariously at 1:1, so brutal and anxiety-ridden The Unlawful Trade... is - and yet there is a frenetic energy that makes this exciting, relevant...dare I say even important? Grab the album here!

Hits From The Box #102 - Taking It To The Bank

Another long weekend, another indifferent show of weather from London. I can't complain - a break is a break - spent Sunday in Blackheath cruising around, which was still nice despite the ominousness (see above). So here are six bands that blasted out the cobwebs these few days...

Let’s start utterly unhinged, then, shall we? Belgian act The Experimental Tropic Blues Band is off the wall frenetic punk that swings between gutter noise ('Weird'), rockabilly on a knife edge ('Belgian State of Frustration') and garage pop ('Belgian Shake' - which reminds me of The Mint Chicks if they covered Supergrass). These tracks are all off latest album The Belgians with its Soviet artwork - excellently gnarled and skewed fun.

Hailing from Canada (Hamilton to be exact), Pet Sun have just brought down this great track, ‘Never Quit’ and the resulting film clip brings together slacker ennui, pastels and zombies in a decidedly grungy amalgam. It’s a great song – I like to head back to simple riffs that evoke that dirge, the sense of angst shed, that rock music is wont to do. I have listened to this track about fifteen times, and the headbanging and half-smile is still in place.

Sticking to Canada, we head to Toronto and slacker psych dreamer Galkin, who has just released Thawed Out, a four song EP that woozily floats along an alternate-reality yacht rock slipstream, a soft-light psych stroll, feet scraping the sidewalk, head in the clouds. 'Out To Lunch''s vocals are warped yet slacker-centric - who does care when you are out to lunch? Elevator music for narcolepts - love it.

Que Pasa is a trio from Austin Texas. I knew I would be interested in their Big Mistake cassette as soon as I found out that it features Liz Burrito, who used to be in cool-as-fuck Austin band Dikes of Holland. This outfit is more stripped back and pop savvy, with doo-wop and borderline country elements creeping around the edges but no less punked out (especially as opener ‘Blow Yr Heart Out’ attests). To add more gravity to the situation is the presence of Ryan Sambol (of the Strange boys) on ‘Fadeaway’, whipping out the harmonica, and you have an exciting new offering on your hands. Favourite tracks of the moment – the aforementioned ‘Fadeaway’ and the galloping insanity of ‘Infeliz.’

We don’t tend to hear much about bands hailing from Winsford in Cheshire, but that has changed with Yellow Streak, the second EP from Simmer (out through Dog Knights Productions). Their comparisons to Nothing are warranted, especially as the 4-piece bonded over a shared love of Sunny Day Real Estate and Fugazi, two seemingly disparate bands whose sonic proclivities nestle easily in the warm fuzz that Simmer creates. The pendulum between distorting feedback and sonorous wash continues to swing.

Let’s finish off in Melbourne with Love Migrate, a woozy dream pop act that is incongruous with the majority of their Flightless Records stablemates (which includes King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and The Murlocs). They have just released new EP Shimmer Through The Night and it is an apt title, as the lush percolating tones and undulating melodies cocoons you, submerged in melancholy, reflection and emancipated renewal. It’s great. They launch the EP next Thursday May 28 at the Gasometer in Melbourne with Crepes and Sunbeam Sound Machine in support – not a bad one to head to I reckon.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Rhythmically Creaming Nathan In America

Nathan is actually an older album, having come out a couple years ago, but I have only had the immense pleasure of swimming in American Cream's Krautrock waters this week. Although they have been around for a decade, Nathan is their debut record (out through Old Blackberry Way), a double LP that is stunning in its brazen experiments, elongated mindbending jams and especially adherence to finding the notches in a droned-out rhythm and staying lodged there for as long as hypnotically possible. A carousel of musicians are involved in this kaleidoscopic revelry – upwards to 24 I am led to believe, from such disparate groups as Marijuana Deathsquads, Polica, Flavor Crystals, Chambermaids, Gospel Gossip and a bunch of bands not mentioned on Sonic Masala before – and holds true to the general aesthetic of an American Cream live show – that is, Nate Nelson is the centrifugal force that various musicians revolve around, at random, and with little warning as to what will be played on the night – a truly intuitive motorik confluence. The hushed murmur/chanted mantras of the vocals and the unhinged sax that wavers in and out of tracks like ‘Don’t Buy It’ just adds to the heart-pounding intensity.

Nathan is a really good album in its own right. What makes Nathan a brilliant album is that this is a somehow structured ensemble improvisational album – with cohesion, a hive-mind mentality and an overarching adherence to a heaving, breathing, rhythmic euphoria, never plateauing, never dying away.

Busting Up The Ballroom

I was not expecting this. As always I am procrastinating from doing any actual ‘work’ by listening to music – and NY band Ballroom’s debut 12” EP dropped into my email. For whatever reason I downloaded the album without listening to a sample of the music (with the amount of music that I get a day, and the limit my work has on downloads, you have to be extremely picky – although the fact it’s on Ever/Never Records, who put out Degreaser and Wilful Boys (who shares band members, along with connections to Home Blitz), might have been a persuading factor) – but it is clear that this was meant to be, as Ballroom has blown me away (and successfully wasted a good hour of the day, so double win). The visceral burst of chaos and barely-bridled gritty aggression launches out at you and grips your by the throat. For whatever reason, I felt ‘I’ll Be Coming Back’ could have fit into the Australian noise rock tradition, and whilst not as unhinged as say Bird Blobs or Deaf Wish, there is a pub rock nihilism that lurks beneath the serrated exterior. Like a seething mass of heaving paranoid psyches in one sweat-stained room, Ballroom cannonballs through from start to finish, invoking violence with a sense of desperate, orgiastic gratification. I’m sold.


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Why Would You Be A Blood Sister, Man?

The Ganglians/Night Manager (RIP *sigh*) conglomeration Blood Sister has brought forth a lovely lil 7” through Unpiano Books (in only their second vinyl release) which is a pretty exciting listen. The giddy cantankerousness of the guitars buzzing through ‘Why Would You’ is offset by a sugar-rush of synthesised fallacy that is then pulverised by the omnipresent bassline. All is deep fried in a fuzz-laden crunch, with the gnarled vocal barbs sprayed over the top like Srirachi sauce (which I am fully addicted to incidentally – I go through a bottle a month. ANYway…) Then there is ‘Bart Simpson’ which comes with the same energetic propulsion underscored with a darker angular bent. Vocals are more soothing here, like putting clove oil on an angry tooth nerve ending, but like troopers the smile stays intact, if a little skewed. Get it here.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Fawning From A Safer Spot

I only heard of York trio Fawn Spots when I heard their side of the split release they did with Scott & Charlene's Wedding last year - and I really liked what I saw. I'm also a massive fan of comedian Stewart Lee, so when I heard him compare them to Husker Du and Guided By Voices, I was in. From Safer Place is their debut record (out through Critical Heights earlier in the year). It’s a funny one. Not funny haha; not even funny peculiar. It’s just that I have had this album since February, and have listened to it a fair bit on and off since that time. It isn’t as melodic as I was anticipating – there is more angular attack and vitriolic caterwauling here that at times comes to be overbearing (even if the album only scraps over the thirty minute mark). It’s that mixture of …Trail of Dead freneticism and Thrice post-hardcore earnestness that walks a fine line for me. In fact it is the latter that From Safe Place most reminds me of – its highs and its lows. But it’s in the melody of the title track, the high-octane energy of ‘I’m Not A Man – I Never Will Be’ that grinds down then marchs forward, all in just over sixty seconds; the atmospheric ‘In Front Of The Chestnut’. The spit-flecked angst here is something I would have gravitated towards ten years ago; and yet here I am, drawn once more to their cathartic flame. I am yet to see these guys live – I think I would become one of the converted masses then.

Going Full Tramp On Dirty Fences

I do love me a bit of Marc Bolan glam rock. Mix that with some Ramones deadpan passion and I'm sold. That’s where Full Tramp comes in, the new LP from Brooklyn’s Dirty Fences (out now through Slovenly Records, get it here). I love the way how on a song like ‘Give Me A Kiss’ you can have swagger, melody, rockin’ riffs and sweetness underneath the sleaze. ‘Deep In Your Heart’ is still probably my favourite track here for its unadulterated 70s rock drive, but the quality on show (the sing-a-long of ‘Judy (Don’t Go)’, the American rock spasms of ‘These Freaks’, the punch-drunk ballad ‘Rain’) means that going full tramp is an attractive proposition indeed. This is what JEFF The Brotherhood wished they could be – influences brazenly stitched into their sleeves, but with the guttural grit and ballsy braggadocio to pull it off. Bring on the weekend – not that I’ll remember much of it…

Friday, 22 May 2015

FRIDAY COVER UP - Sketched Tempos

Oakland duo Tempo House have released this downer cassette, Sketches, that embraces the goth crawl of SM stablemates Gazar Strips, yet is pitched from the bowels of a well. Featuring a member of Bicycle Day (who we wrote about here), Tempo House offer monochromatic sound, faint static washed over acrid white smoke, dealing out bruised discomfort and brooding disquiet. There is even a whiff of Merchandise in their earliest days, crafting no-fi droning ballads on the roughest of equipment. It breaks into the slightest of downer garage with ‘Regression’, the plodding repetition a narcolept’s swamped-out fever dream. Then there is 'Burning Airlines Give You So Much More', a more unashamed pop offering that shuffles to its own tempered elliptical beat – no surprise seeing as it’s a Brian Eno cover. ‘Underground’ takes us back into some more familiar Joy Division territory, but the different throughlines that have come to pass earlier in the EP makes the song feel less derivative as pleasantly recognizable. Sketches seems to be exactly that – sketches from a duo just tentatively pushing out the feelers, getting a taste of the dark. A lot of promise here.

You can buy Sketches on incredibly limited supply (50 cassettes in total) through Digital Regress here.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Old Mate's Under Pressure

It's so great to have a new Old Mate track. It Is What It Is was such a surprising gem from last year, its schizophrenic laconicism and downer aesthetics somehow combining to create something wholly inexplicably wondrous. They are slipping this first taste of new album Maraby (to be brought out through Format Records) right under the radar - as they are wont to do - and the maudlin gospel western 'Atomspheric Pressure' plays like the vocals (featuring Joel Carey) has been mastered at the wrong speed - or if Jack Ladder took a handful of Diazepam and covered Charlie Pride. That sax though - Australia has been killing it with effective solos in their tracks over the last few months. Its abnormally addictive - my girlfriend heard me playing in the kitchen and asked why I was playing "shit in slow motion" but after a few plays said "what the hell is with this song? This shit is getting stuck in my head." I think that says it all - no more reviews necessary.

EVA Zones

EVA (Extravehicular Activity) is the new sonic cloak for Brisbane artist Amelia Paxman. I know Amelia; I didn't know about EVA. Which makes me sad, because EVA is just as beguiling, as five-track EP Zeroes attests. Everything throws you off balance, from the cover art (the cartoonish lost astronaut design from Amelia's sister Eleanor) to the synthesised mantras into the middle space of altruistic daydreams. But the connections are there - each track floats, spindrift, no tether, loss of control. But it isn't dire drone - this is aural cryogenics, a sleepless dream in stasis that leaves you in another world, another state, recharged, rezoned, reconfigured, refreshed.  Then at the end of the journey you hit 'Deja Vu', a cold anthem that is oddly euphoric, and the journey starts anew. Grab Zeroes here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Julia Wheel

I’ve written about Sydney trio JuliaWhy? before, and have even reviewed their album Wheel a few months ago (you can read that over on The Music website here), but thought I would give it a little lip service today seeing as the band are really getting some strong footholds this year, what with their Canadian Music Week shows and supporting hyped degenerates Fat White Family.

Anyway, Wheel is pretty solid. Maybe it’s the main riff throughout opener ‘Turntable’, but I am reminded of Joy Division, although the sound is more akin to fellow Sydneysiders Mere Women (with a few extra streaks of sunlight and a few extra tears of gutter punk). The gritty riffs that kick off ‘Bride To Be’ are certainly at the forefront of Aussie rock circles thanks to Courtney Barnett’s garage conflagrations, yet this is more aggro in the rolling drums and shouted vocals, which slides into the pastel abrasion of ‘Painkiller’. To flail from post-punk machinations to garage chugging to raucous punk implosions over three songs and five minutes may seem schizophrenic on paper, but the sonic throughlines are held firmly together by Julia's energetic vocal delivery and a tight engine room. ‘La La Love’ fucks with the formula some, highlighting a proclivity for doo-woop garage that explodes into more serrated fare without a second glance, whilst ‘Just One Night’ is the closest the band comes to a straight-up mainstream hit, a power-pop trip that keeps it strong and simple, stupid. ‘Flowers’ is the kind of song Frente would have thrown out if they were more hedonistic; ‘Im Not Gay But Your Boyfriend Is’ grunges things up and brings the tone down even further. Yet for me the propulsive closer ‘What You Want’ is the clincher, a Sleater-Kinney echo down the line, showing serious chops amidst the gurning. A lot of fun indeed.

Get Wheel now through Exxe Records.

40 15

Its been 15 years since Lawrence English started his now global iconic label Room40, which now encompasses a cassette offshoot (A Guide To Saints) and Someone Good. Over the course of a decade and a half the institution has highlighted the gamut of aural exploration and sonic viscera, from Tenniscoats and Tim Hecker to Ben Frost and Bee Mask. The celebrations are resonating far and wide this year, with global gigs and tours underway (I was lucky to catch the end of English’s set at Café Oto in January, which also showcased John Chantler and Rafael Anton Irisarri, while he also just finished up playing Adelaide’s Unsound festival in March). The Open Frame shows have been massive - the Robin Fox lightshow looked goddamn amazing, while the Sydney Carriageworks show in July is huge (Jim O'Rourke, William Basinski, Grouper, Chris Abrahams, Austin Buckett...the list goes on)). But as always, the releases keep a coming. Here are a few from the year thus far.

Sydneysiders Marcus Whale (Scissor Lock, Collarbones, Black Vanilla) and Tom Smith (AKA Thomas William, fixture of Sydney’s experimental music scene) come together to Localities, one of a few excellent cassettes to come out recently on A Guide To Saints. The four track tribalistic alternamarch is their interpretation of journeying through neighbourhoods that are seemingly familiar yet remain unseen, the slight overlapping of parallel worlds that only the chosen few may experience. Rather than this be a Clive Barker urban S&M nightmare, however, Localities becomes a sinuous, propulsive heartbeat, palpitating synthetic jungle rhythms that are both sinister and jubilant, a neon necropolis of dead loves and living loathes. All abrasion and anxieties, and indeed tremulous triumphs, are washed away in the warm hum of closer ‘Kynemagh’.

Daniel Rejmer produces his own brand of frigid magnetic hell in the noise vibrations of his release Smedje. The cover art of the cassette is black with a fuzzy Xerox of a tooth – and that is pretty much all you need to know before submerging yourself in the electrified black seas of white static and wavering obliterations that exist within this 40 minute downward spiral. Yet it is fidgety, tetchy, forever restless – a constant battle for supremacy between myriad sinewaves of exacting strength and scrape. I listened to this tape for the first time some months ago after listening to Melbourne aural marauders Exhaustion’s experimental mind warp with Kris Wanders, and they melded into an hour of noise that was at once hypnotic, enervating and ecstatic in nature. Probably not for the faint of heart, but there is sonorous method beneath the abrasive madness.

Mirko Vogel is one of many Brisbanites who have found themselves tethered to the darker, colder climes of Europe. Going as Mirko, he has a rather colourful musical history, starting out as one third of Sekiden and having spent the past few years as an unofficial member of Cut Copy - but it is these brooding textural imaginings that are cobbled together in the niche moments of life (planes, trains, backs of touring buses) that signposts his real sonic bearings. There is a stillness inherent in Mirko's work that holds one in thrall, a frozen second forever caught in crystalline amber. He has a full album due out this month too - very excited about this one.

Opening Lawrence's show at Cafe Oto back in January was sound artist and producer Rafael Anton Irisarri. His method of oscillating drone majesty is probably better known under his The Sight Below moniker, but here he goes under his own name. Will Her Heart Burn Anymore is a burnished reflection of that. The EP was recorded in its entirety on New Years Eve of 2014, a sonic cleansing of what had been a turbulent year for the artist. It is the aural equivalent of being caught in a tractor beam in slow motion, the wind whipping clothes and hair, all noise - screams, sighs, moans - drowned out, with only white noise remaining, a choral epiphany of ambiguous temerity. Is this the Ascension, or the Apocalypse? Neither  matters - all is burnt to ash in the end.

The Spaces Contained In Each is the exploratory collaboration between sound artists Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello. Roden brings a rounded aestheticism to Vitiello's atmospheric sound sculpting, giving an organic, breathing environment that is both febrile and moribund, with a dormant danger lying between the two. It's both lulling and tense - the truest feeling yet to being on the cusp of undiscovered territory, where the breathtaking beauty kicks the endorphins into action, but also cuts the leash of control to the quick. Let go.

Stephen Vitiello and Steve Roden: The Spaces Contained in Each from BOMB Magazine on Vimeo.

And finally (for today at any rate) there is Variations Of Weeds, a eclectic work from Tenniscoats affiliate Ueno Takashi. The suite of ephemeral guitar platitudes is almost childlike in its tentativeness, innocence and curiosity - an ambient sojourn through the fast-forward of childhood discovery in a rainforest stillness.

You can pick up all of these, and many many more, right here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Blankets Of The Yung

Danish punks Yung are playing the Stag’s Head in London in a few hours – you should make your way down there (if you aren’t off to the Twerps show down in Brixton, that is…). They are following up ‘Nobody Cares’ with new single ‘Blanket’ (which is going to be on a 7” release through Tough Love Records, although it won’t be out until the tail end of July – pre-order it here to get a white vinyl version, there are only 100 available). They are young, having formed as teenagers and now only climbing into their twenties – which of course is perfect blasting grounds for mauled aggression and flayed tensions. However ‘Blanket’ also underlies the strength of this four-piece, as the melodies and songwriting are tempered and measured, the crystalline production perfectly molded to contain the fire until the glass is broken and all hell can break loose.

Nothing Gruesome About Peanut Butter

English twee noiseniks Joanna Gruesome are becoming a stronger band every time I hear them. Their gig at the Dome with Perfect Pussy was quite frankly one of the most fun, exuberant and loud experiences I’ve had in the past eighteen months – and I still feel they haven’t hit top speed yet. They are on the cusp of launching second LP Peanut Butter onto the world (through Fortuna Pop!, Slumberland and Turnstile worldwide). The band somehow manages to imbue their innocent pop hooks with angular aggression and possessive punk trashiness, a concoction that I would have thought impossible had these guys not been in existence. Peanut Butter is a curt, abrasive, yet sunny bolter, out of the gates and over the horizon after twenty-five minutes. The ten songs here are stuffed so full of hooks, hilarity and hellion yells that they each feel like individualised muffins that pulsate from within, ready to detonate in sugary destruction at any moment. ‘Honestly Do Yr Worst’ is the best example of this – the ambling amiability of the majority of this hook-laden is cut with some abbreviated screaming scuzziness, which just further underscores the warmth inherent within. The sweetness of ‘Jamie (Luvver)’ takes one by surprise, being one of the most straightforward pop songs you can expect to hear from these guys. But the acerbic nature of the gang hasn’t dried up – the sardonic serration of ‘Crayon’, the thumping intro to ‘I Don’t Wanna Relax’ and the explosive ‘Psykick Espionage’ kick arse.

Pick up Peanut Butter here. Joanna Gruesome are belatedly launching the album around the place in September - more on that closer to the dates.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Metallic Acronyms

Everyone loves an acronym. Well, most people do. I think. Melbourne idiosyncratic bruisers TTTDC are one living enigmatic acronym. Id like to think that not even they know what T, T, T, D and C stands for – or that they change its inherent meaning from set to set. This is probably not the case – but the band knows how to latch onto the confusion the moniker brings, naming their new record Acronym.

Describing the trio’s band is a tough one – and it is a sound that I struggle with at times also (although seeing that band members are also in Wicked City, there is some signifiers already laid in place here). It’s a prog-heavy sunblasted sojourn through the desert during the day, and the psychotropic devil drive through the night. Songs like 'Biblio Magistrate' reminded me of Alice In Chains if Jerry Cantrell was more interested in Hawkwind tangents and warped licks. The two downtuned guitars give a heavy blast that is always a focal point for the band, transforming these tentacular songs of sinuous psych and pomp into heavy hitting riff beasts (they have supported a few Tee Pee Records roster including The Atomic Bitchwax – that pretty much lays it out for you). The brilliance of Acronym is the pure energy exuding from this gargantuan exercise in rocking out – there is no audience greater than the three in the control seat. The album has been recorded live too, so the brutality of a track like ‘La Chubacapra’ is the real deal.

Acronym is out through We Empty Rooms now – go order this with its gold sparkle ink on the knuckle-duster, looking both gauche and devastating – TTTDC in a nutshell. They launch the album at The Tote this Saturday with excellent support from Zeahorse and Spermaids.

A Perfect Uniform

We here at Sonic Masala have always been massive fans of everything Ben Greenberg has put his hand to. Obviously we are Men acolytes (my cousin Greg and I are huge fans of this latter-stage Springsteen fixation too, although for fluctuating reasons – there’s a post in there somewhere, but that’s for another day). I also really like Greenberg’s solo stuff, a wild guitar exploration as Hubble. And of course there is the excellence of Pygmy Shrews… So when I heard he was in a new outfit called Uniform (no pun intended – geez, two in one day!) I was very excited. But not as excited as I became when I heard who the other dude was – Michael Berdan. The dude from Drunkdriver. An incredible band blighted by the heady fog of controversy, and I have had Berdan withdrawals ever since. Suffice to say I am glad that we have something new coming to the fore – and their album, Perfect World, is all I wanted and more.

It’s decidedly no-frills, rough as guts, sneering, diseased proto/primitive/industrial punk spitting forth from the maw of Time's beginning, somehow both dangerously regressive and deliriously futurist. Berdan’s vitriolic snarl echoes out from the ether, a discombobulated voice without a source, the Id of a nihilistic civilisation destined to thrive in the grave. All the anger, anguish and torment, both real and perceived, doesn’t bubble over rather than ejaculates that pent-up emotion, an expulsion of base forces at once purifying and scarring. Greenberg’s guitar hasn’t been this scabrous since early Men, and the bass synth and drum machine adheres to a militaristic deathmarch that refuses to halt, a constant funereal dirge into a dystopian Nirvana. The basic streamlined gear used vibrates from the strain, but therein lies the allegory – the primal emotions can threaten to tear us apart, but channelled just so and you are acidly cleansed. Long live the Perfect World.

Perfect World is out soon through Alter/12XU – grab this great record here.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Surfing Still

Tonight NZ band Surf City hit The Stillery in Camden Town as a precursor to their shows as part of The Great Escape festival down in Brighton. They have just released their new record Jekyll Island (out through Fire Records), which alongside Melbourne band Chook Race’ s About Time has been the first “summer” record to spin incessantly at my house. The album seems more indebted to reverb wash and psych inflected tangents than their last sojourn We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This (at least in my opinion), it is clear that the four-piece is solidifying this approach and becoming a stronger unit because of it. What I like the most though is that there is unashamed attraction to the traditional pop structure aesthetic, as it is with a country of talent that are consistently indebted to the Dunedin years, and of which I am eternally grateful. When looking for gnarled and diseased subversion of such an approach to an electric guitar led son, it’s easy to forget why guitar pop is popular in the first place. Putting out Dollar Bar’s third album Hot Ones this year (with their avid love of all things Robert Pollard) alongside living with one of the world’s greatest fans of Stephen Malkmus last year has really hammered that home to me – and I warmly embrace Surf City with open arms (plus their penchant for Krautrock aspersions is truly present and accounted for on the album, which everyone knows is one of my many vices). You should too.

Useless Children Stay Single

A quick post about the collation of out-of-print Useless Eaters singles that has come out through Slovenly Records. Singles: 2011-2014 is everything you might expect from this garage punk miscreants. There are initial versions of tracks that made it onto other longer formats (I actually like the slightly more muted ‘American Cars’ here, for example). Personal favourites is the leather-strapped slap in the face that is ‘The Moves’; the sandpaper blast of ‘I Hate The Kids’ (which also features the inimitable Ty Segall); the muted sneer of ‘Bloody Ripper’; and the dark electroglam smash-and-grab that is ‘Starvation Blues Number Two’. The fidelity is all over the shop, which at first irked me, but it is emblematic of where Seth Sutton and crew were at with each recording process (and the cover art of the wavy nails seems to hammer that home – sorry about that pun, but it’s true nevertheless). And the tinny fuzz of the New Wave futurist punk of ‘Integrated Circuit’ seems custom-made for such a shitty production. There are a few vinyls left in yellow and red splatter here - get on it!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cold Crepes Work In Summer

The sun is getting long in the tooth around this time in Melbourne, but over here in London the light hangs around later and later, so that even taking a late-night leak feels festive. Summer is knocking on the door, so it's not a bad idea to crack out Cold Summers, the new EP from Crepes. The title track that opens up proceedings has that ebullient eloquence that Statesiders Real Estate hold in thrall, while 'Ain't Horrible' goes into its shell a little - which turns out to be a cavernous pop chamber, floating easy on synthetic smoke and bleary grins. The slight chug to 'Stages Of Fear' is underpinned by a cheeky garage pop malaise with enough of the 60s pastoral psych embellishments to throw a Mac DeMarco level of knowing devilishness into the mix. My current favourite here is the aptly titled 'Moon Dancer', the dappled drift seemingly perfect for drifting off into a kaleidoscopic netherworld of garish dreams (which also befits the album cover). The Beatles comparisons need to be sized up on closer, 'Size Of Your Town' - a piano-led number that saunters unhurried down the nostalgic twilight of memories. For a five-piece that look like they would be up to no good (and they probably still are), there is a great degree of tempered nuance to Cold Summers that surprises and delights. I expect Ill be sparked up, chilled out, and cranking this one a bit over the next few months...

Revelling In Lehmann's Body

I was just saying to a friend of mine the other day that I missed Lehmann B Smith. The Melbourne multi-instrumentalist is a criminally underrated composer of pop ingenuity - his Girlfriends and Roominations records are stunning (and his contribution to the still-dormant Sonic Masala compilation is breathtaking - I hope to get it out into your ears soon...) Plus Lehmann is one of the loveliest, and funniest, guys I have ever met - and I've only met him a handful of times. He hasn't been quiet either - his work doing cameos with the likes of The Ocean Party and especially Totally Mild has seen him around the traps. But it's the fact that his solo stuff is finally about to hit the spotlight (hopefully, probably not, but it bloody well should) through new record Thank God For My Body out through Special Award next month. "Time' has a honky hoariness to it, like Lennon channelled through other Smiths who also are no longer with us; while 'No Such Thing As A View' is so heartrendingly beautiful that the eyes mist even without the family visuals of the film clip below. Pre-order the album here. I cannot wait to hear this - a truly talented treasure.