Elli and Bev
Might Not Look Like It To You [12-inch; Quemada/Albert's Basement]
I believe the term you’ll be looking for is earnest. The imperfection of Australia’s exports often lean toward the obscenely off-tune. Not out of it, because frankly there is no such thing to the music consuming public. There are a range of “talent” shows and underground oddballs to prove as much. So it becomes a chase for finding what’s real versus what musicians have been told is marketable. Music is not a commodity despite being just that; so it takes patience to find something genuine. Or a knock at the door from Natalie and Karl of Elli and Bev. The doomed, affected vocals over gloomy melodies is the rain and the clouds and the dusk. Tangible emotions tied up in musical reaction. I can dig it. Maybe that was the root of punk. Perhaps it was why Buddy Holly had to take one for the team. Pretty sure it’s why Seattle wrapped up its environment into a vision quest. Auto-tune and a handful of repetitious producing teams with the golden ratio of 3 minute pop hits has stripped that FEELING right out. Don’t give me your shit about Taylor Swift and her teenage break-ups. Thankfully I can be left bare by the end of Might Not Look Like It To You. Not depressed. Not unaffected. Just as I was meant to be. At the very least, it’s earnest and that matters. Maybe not to you – not right now – but you’ll remember how it was to FEEL all the FEELS and be fine with it. There’s no shaking it off.Links: Quemada/Albert's Basement
What Is Going in the Country [Lathe-Cut LP; PseudoArcana]
If you thought Jandek too commercial, you might want to delve into the surreal world of Keijo. The wisdom of decades of experimental blues noodling (the guy is, apparently, of many moon) comes through clear as day on What is Going in the Country, as do the idiosyncratic impulses of a guy that has probably never played a song the same way twice; a band mate’s worst nightmare but a closet collector’s dream. He was into drone and throat-singing earlier in his decades-and-counting career (weren’t we all?), so it comes as a surprise to hear this restrained acoustic-electric performance. Then again, there IS a drone-like quality to these eccentric little music boxes, a sense that the continuity of the spiritual raga will conquer all notions of ‘should we move on?’ I’m not sure it always does, and to be honest I’m listening to, and becoming annoyed by, Keijo even as I write this, circa “Lonesome Whistle,” which seems to go on two forevers too long. And that’s sort of what What is Going in the Country is about, maybe. It’s not pretty, it’s not tactful, it’s not prone to changes in mood or pitch, and it doesn’t owe the listener any of that, either. And if you give them half a chance, tracks like “Come and Gone” and “Maybe Someday” will woo you cunningly, the former with a Tonstartssbandt-in-live-jam-mode strut and the latter with a post-Pearls Before Swine folk feel. That’s all beside the point, though: Accept Keijo on his own artistic terms or walk out and go to another gallery or plop down cash for another great-sounding, limited-to-80 lathe-cut from the sweet shores of New Zealand; do what you want, because Keijo will still be doing his thing, just like he always has, echoing into the underground void.Links: PseudoArcana
There is a flaw in my iris [CS; A Giant Fern]
Ask longtime friends and they’ll tell you it’s a rare situation when I have nothing to say. I’ve toned down my loud, continuous speech as I’ve gotten older but I still can’t make myself not be apart of any conversation among friends. I am an attentive listener, however, which may explain how I came to this profession. A love of words I would never say in real life, tied to the observations I hear and the ones I speak. øjeRum is most definitely a listener. Very attuned to the feelings underneath what we say and project. When he does speak, its gently but he’s better with a j-card canvas and a beautifully tuned guitar that captures both the sparkle and fade. It is no coincidence There is a flaw in my iris captures the flawlessness in noted flaws. Those unique blemishes that we show only with those we are closest. It’s why we need øjeRum; the ugly into the romantic. My booming need of voice given a depth and solitude.Links: øjeRum - A Giant Fern
Garrincha & The Stolen Elk
Life is Wasted On the Living [LP; Weird Forest]
Garrincha, sweet Garrincha, I had no idea you were so much fun. Haven’t heard from Weird Forest from so long and here they come, a knock-knock-y knock-y at the door with Life is Wasted On the Living, and I’m overjoyed to be in on this rich little firecracker. Rarely does indie-rock bat its synths and programmables around with such playfulness, like a baby kitten tossing yarn about without regard to time or temperament. It’s almost a Mudboy fantasy smeared with actual mud, or a continuation of Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished in a weird, warped way, two dudes workin’ it out while no one’s watching (but they will). Even when a track first draws a (?) you’ll come around if you give them the benefit of the doubt; OK, not ALWAYS, because “Sex and Stars” is bad drum-machine nonsense and MicroKorg tomfoolery. Setting that aside, the fireworks I mentioned before are real, and there’s a sequence in particular I want to draw attention to because it elevates to levels rarely recorded by humans. It starts with “Friends of Enemies” on Side A, which takes a noise tornado straight out of Oz and whirls a stunning cyclopean noise monster for only a few minutes before the plaintive guitars of “Brokedick Dog” (yep) take shit down a notch. I love this cut because it’s so casual and like, “Well shit we weren’t even going to jam but I sat down and played something I’d never play if I were in my right mind so we’d better get this down” on that ass. They’re almost going US Maple on this one folks, putting experimentalism over its back and burping it till it belches. YAAAAAAAK!@@! As long as this piece has gotten, that’s only Side A, and the material I had been pining to cover all along rests among the purple-pink laser kingdom of the flip. It’s a majestic place, shinier than heaven and twice as mythical. You’d step over your own mother to get there, yet you’d also sacrifice your own left arm to make sure she makes it, too. Lush, green synths as far as the eye can see. However, what that-… yep, a dark troll cloud is straight stalkin’ your ass. It’s crazy, yo, and we’re out of time. You’ll just have to go on without me; don’t tell anyone who sent you.Links: Weird Forest
Shifts [CS; Unit Structure Sound Recordings]
Apparently we live in a world where such a thing as “post-ambient” exists, according to one citizen’s review of Shifts via his Bandcamp profile. And you know, I don’t know if I really want to live in a world where such a thing exists. Or, at least I don’t want to recognize that it does. Too much thinking, too much trying to figure it all out. Even sitting here right now, deciding what words to use to describe Shifts — what adjectives are there, what genres or styles do we hear… I don’t want to fuck with any of that. What I want to do is listen to Shifts and just not worry about it. And I don’t think that Shifts really wants me to worry about it either. All Shifts cares about is taking you through its contours. Hoisting you up its peaks. Dropping you into the center of a cloud from the heavens. Washing you clean. It wants to show you its detail, and it wants you to feel its texture. Explore its color thoroughly and bask in the hot glow of an ambiguous mood. And Shifts is just grand enough to do it. You’ll hear Krzysztof Sujata plunk some melodies out of a piano in a minor key, only to leave trails of sustained note clusters behind, and a guitar (or a few of them, more than likely) swoop and swell up in a thunderous drone. On a track by track basis, it’s all enough to prick the hairs on your arms to life, and when it’s all said and done, that’s just about all there is that matters. Valiska is post-ambient? Sure. It’s also post-this review. So over me writing about it, and so into you getting lost in it. So go do that and leave me alone, please.
Links: Valiska - Unit Structure Sound Recordings
The Frightening Lights
The Frightening Lights [LP; Bruit Direct]
It’s of little coincidence that French label Bruit Direct would end up releasing a Melbourne-based chanteuse’s brilliant interpretation of chanson. Though I doubt it was Elizabeth Downey’s intent or even the direction of partner Dan Hawkins’ noir-ish accompaniment, the winsome darkness can’t be ignored. The band’s self-titled is richly textured with Downey’s milky croon bolstered by Hawkins’ powerful restraint. This is likely to be compared favorably to any Russian Roulette pairing you would like but there’s a particular namedrop that comes to mind: Sandoval and Roback. Not far removed from Wilhelm and McGee. Both twosomes quite familiar with lyrically driven Still Lifes. At this point, it’s unfair to continue pouring words onto a perfect canvas. I fear of scaring away too many suitors. I worry that covering this with fervid rapture will spoil some of the humor and sweetness. Let’s all practice the restraint of Frightening Lights because it will serve us all well. Needless to say, highly recommended and well worth the tariffs and taxes.Links: Bruit Direct
Asleep in the Shattered Mirror [CS; Skrot Up]
You’ve heard a lot of the tools Xunholm use to furnish Asleep in the Shattered Mirror, but odds are you haven’t heard them delivered in quite as thoughtful a manner. Skrot Up’s latest find emerge from the Not Not Fun/NNA/Spectrum Spools hemisphere of the underground sound globe and outdo a lot of their peers by hewing to a very cold, clinical, dare I say German, path. It’s wondrous to behold the first couple of cuts on Side A; it almost seems as if they’re incapable of making a mistake. Synths swirl, lasers blaze, comets glide across the blackness of eternity and… I think there’s a drum beat in there somewhere, tangled up in digital bile. These mystical beginnings I speak of serve as a mere introduction to a future-world wherein the only constant is change. There’s a soundtrack-y quality to it all that transcends the cheaper Goblin-style hallmarks of the art form and zoom right in on the good stuff. “Wind in Her Hair” has an Interstellar feel to its all-out gallop, while “Betrayer” lulls you to euphoria even as it portends future-dread. I don’t want to give away any more; cough up the price of a ticket (come to think of it at $5 or so these tapes are a much better value than a $13 movie-theater stub) and take the ride yourself.Links: Skrot Up
Mind Over Mirrors
The Voice Calling [CS; Immune]
The Voice Calling lives up to its title: though it’s far more duplicitous than at first listen. Otherwordly Jaime Fennelly has found his musical kin with the addition of Haley Fohr. The dual specters haunt their strongest instrument throughout: harmonium (Fennelly) and voice (Fohr). Most striking is the restraint from both. Fennelly creates winding, repetitious melodies that wrap around those chosen moments when Fohr bellows from the pit of her stomach. The results are a fantastic howl bridging the spiritual twang of previous Mind Over Mirrors without betraying the stark realism of Fohr’s solo work as Circuit des Yeux. What is different with the new configuration of Mind Over Mirrors (however long it lasts) is Fennelly’s harmonium is often the lead vocal, as Fohr’s voice becomes the base of the melodies. The album isn’t so much a shift in the Mind Over Mirrors aesthetic as it is the first real experimentation of Fohr’s voice uncut from her jagged guitar playing (which does make an appearance on the album’s closer, “Calling Your Name.”). Likewise, Fennelly fleshes out ideas using the deep vibrato of Fohr. The furthest out vibes (“Whose Turn is Next,” “Motioning”) are where the configuration becomes one; where this is not just a tossed off collaboration. Though The Voice Calling may be built on each’s ability to define their instrument, it also proves they are not bound to it. A toast to the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and hopefully not the quick rise and fall of a singular idea.Links: Immune
Young Flower [CS; Self Released]
I find it hard to buy physical versions of music that aren’t somehow “special” these days; there is too much shit in my already cramped living space to rationalize paying twenty dollars for something that, after the initial month of listening, goes on the shelf.
This being said, the Power Mystery cassette currently in my deck is something I am quite glad was introduced into my increasingly claustrophobic bedsit. It’s the full package; a j-card printed on picture-paper (is that what it’s called?) with the Kodak watermark visible on the backside, wrapped around a home-dubbed Maxwell C60 that’s only identified by a white sticker with “Aug 2014 *this side only” carefully written on it. As for the music, picture this: discovering a cassette in your parent’s attic of the long-thought-lost recordings made by your uncle (who never publicly performed but was often heard, through the walls, softly strumming his guitar in the early hours of the morning) shortly before his death. Okay, that’s a bit much, but the music here is soft, warm and has the strange quality of being familiar without being dull or ordinary; like something you find rather than something you buy. Which, happens to be exactly what I mean by “special”.Links: Power Mystery
Hyrrokkin / Doug Scharin’s Activities Of Dust
Sephfus [7-inch; New Atlantis]
Hyrrokkin = Don Caballero, aggression, loosely splayed high-hat height, Hella, avantist jams for the commercially foolhardy, wrath, By The End Of Tonight, devastation, shifting time signatures, cartoonish demons that drop a wicked axe, Race Car Riot, paper cuts on your brain (SLICE!), bluppa-dupe dupe dupe-duppa-duppa CRASH CYMBAL SMASHED-THEN-DAMPENED, freneticism (my word), instrumental elitism(?), global psych-mulch schism, Dilute, precise yet scattered, smooth yet hops-y, time in a bottle shaken HARD; rejoice.
Activities Of Dust (Doug Scharin) = Oxes, take the long way home, twisted, mangled mini-chunks of riff, chaos, Colour Bük, that part of the guitar that no one ever plays, air-traffic control frequencies, rattle/humMmm/cocaine-bump, NZ-import silt-sludge, that instrumental album Jennifer Gentle put out, that album you and your buddies didn’t put out, tight bass underneath the sway of blurry drums, sirens, a pair of ruby-red earrings she wears when she wants to feel confident — in a song, spare pair of scissors to run down the hall with, clinking bells, Guardian Alien, blasted bottle caps and firecracker’d G.I. Joes.
Sephfus 7-inch = blue vinyl, limited copies, \^^/Links: New Atlantis