It Is What It Is [LP; SDZ]
It Is What It Is? Really, Oldmate? You do realize that’s what the ad director at The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., said to me as he was laying me off in 2008 right (the idea being: layoffs are what they… are?)? No? OK then, you get a pass for drudging up that memory because your smoky post-blues messenger service is quite effective at delivering the sort of rock you just don’t hear much in the underground nowadays. But consider this a warning wrapped in a query, the latter being: Is there a market for Oldmate in this day and age? I say maybe not, and that’s just about the highest praise I can give a young artist in a world of sound-a-likes. Creating music so far outside the periphery of what’s purportedly ‘happening’ is one of the best ways to organically make things ‘happen.’ The main problem is, most bands simply don’t have the guts to attempt the forbidden; it’s so much easier to settle for a solo synth album or an electronic mash-up of the indie-dance telephone book. FUCK THAT, play guitar, bass, and drums and GET YOUR GODDAMN ROCKS OFF, like Oldmate. The only problem on my end is coming up with apt comparisons for y’all to hitch your ‘should I buy this?’ wagons to. As I said before, it’s been so long since I sat back and let such a restrained, hearty blues-rock album roll over me I’ve got zippo for ya, save this entirely ridiculous stretch: Stephen Merritt fronting a slow Fresh & Onlys tune? The label that also brought you El-G’s La Chimie had absolutely no right to drop this anomaly off at my door, and I’m glad they did.Links: SDZ
Arrival [CS; Phinery]
Music is art. Art is circumstance. Circumstance is personal.
Who knows what such gibberish means, and it represents even less when listening to Arrival. It comes from a very personal experience as described by Dobbin, when a bout of temporary hearing loss found its way to transform her dreams and create a different palate of voices and sounds to discover as her hearing returned. Though easy to follow such a guide when listening to Arrival, I do think the above idea can be followed backwards to arrive at such a beautifully crafted cassette of drone reflections. Dobbin’s personal loss led to a new circumstance, that which begot art that formed as music. Simple enough. But there is much more to the narrative following such a scripted thesis. What she experienced can only be shared with others who have endured it. My recent bout with an ear infection does not qualify me. The circumstance it put her in, no matter how it is transcribed and translated in Arrival, will always be hers alone. I want to know that moment but am I willing to sacrifice a sense to understand it? That’s the key to the art form; I am able to get a sense of the isolation and beauty of those moments mixed with the fear and unknown. It will never be mine, but that Dobbins allows this shared moment is more powerful than initially expected. Arrival gives me goosebumps. And makes me talk in circles.Links: Lindsay Dobbin - Phinery
Ballerine Nadiya [CS; Singapore Sling]
The mysterious ones are the best, of course. Who is this Ballerine Nadiya, exactly, where is she from, and is she, like, 12 years old? Is she even a she? All I have to go on here is the cutesy Lisa Frank- meets -Salvador Dali cover art, an e-mail address, and 12 wistful Casiotone keyboard songs. It’s par for the recent course Singapore Sling’s been golfing its hole-in-one tapes on if you’re familiar (and if you’ve been reading Strauss-posts as religiously as I foolhardily wish you were, you might remember folks like Mother Ganga, Piper Spray, Sam Gas Can, Erasurehead. etc.) — vaguely nostalgic pop music with minimal arrangements, keyboard drum machine programming, wavy and warbly synth tones, and a mix that feels like it’s being suffocated by a wool sock. It’s… you know, weird, but it’s not really all that weird when you peek through the curtains of tape hiss and taste the sweet sweetness of pure melody in a shy and delicate voice that drives these songs like Pow-Pow-Power Wheels through the chalk-riddled blacktops of your childhood. Music that’s built to be gritty, grimy, fuzzy and rough around the edges that’s nonetheless crystal clear, clean and crisp. Pure purity. A fountain of youth. And damned beautiful too.Links: Singapore Sling
Retention [7-inch; Torn Light]
Bothered by flying gnats and assailing pests? Try Retention by Shredded Nerve. Yes, Retention’s steady dose of metallic smacks and competitive wings-in-air repetition will be guaranteed to make you embrace the natural noises of your hovel. The water leaks, the mattress springs creak, and the boiler has a steely rattle that keeps you up at all hours. But with the patent pending technology of Shredded Nerve, those irritants will be exultations to the world’s quick demise. First it’s your home, then your city, and then finally the world! It will all become a bubbling crude in the cauldron of Shredded Nerve’s Retention. Learn to speak a new, as-yet founded language. Wield a jagged weapon and protect yourself from yourself. It’s all in available in this handy dandy 7-inch guide to losing touch with reality and embracing the madness.Links: Torn Light
B L A C K I E
Imagine Yourself in a Free and Natural World [CS/LP; Self-Released]
Seemingly lost in the couch cushions of noise-rap for almost a decade, Houston-bred B L A C K I E (technically pronounced ‘Blackie All Caps With Spaces’) does it well and may very well have technically done it first. But the question on my mind at this point is, Where is the rapping? Not that I’m complaining; Imagine Yourself in a Free and Natural World is sicker than sick, rippin’ gutz (and Blackie’s poor throat) when it has to yet spending a lot of its time in a reflective lull, gathering the strength to propel the self outward once again. Several precedents stand out, none of which genre-wise have anything to do with one another, from free-jazz kitchen-sinkers like Rafael Toral to post-noise outfits like Black Neck Band Of The Common Loon to – and this is somewhat embarrassing – Clutch’s “Space Grass” (at least where sections of “Forest of Ex-Lovers” is concerned). I’m not sure how easy it will be for the masses to love B L A C K I E, but for me it was as easy as meeting one of those people you instantly become best friends with: It was effortless and life-affirming. Get on board, as P4K has already started sniffing this fella out like sharks near a boat crash.Links: B L A C K I E
Pleistocene Moon [2xLP; Tofu Carnage]
I have a working theory that everyone exists as some formalized version of an archetype. In high school, we used our friend Blair to work this point. He was the baseline by which this theory was tested. In the same high school, he had a muckier, less attractive doppelganger we lovingly titled Dirty Blair. Then we saw Mesut Özil on television for the first time, which led us to dub him Athletic Blair. As you can see, it was a shoddy and yet wholly realized identification of shared characteristics that had everything and nothing in common.
Which is where I stand as I continuously dissect Pleistocene Moon from Dallas carnies, Unconscious Collective. While I hesitate to stick to an outdated mode of thinking, I can’t help but think of them as Jamming Gwar. The photos of each member in their makeup that accompanies the album sets the mood for the jazz-rock three-ring that unfolds over the course of long-winded jams that have enough of a punk edge to keep them interesting and enough soulful, skillful playing that requires a rethink about books and covers and other shit. Ritualistic idealism in the vein of King Tears Bat Trip and spastic like Wally Shoup or Paul Flaherty, it’s an unexpected trip of the senses just by touching the heavy duty record. My turntable was not prepared for its heft nor is the world truly ready for a misleading trope about mis-identity. So let’s make this simple: if you long for the days of explorer spirit with a clear destination (none of that hippy meandering shit), you have your record. It’s loud, chaotic, but never lost. Maybe there’s a bit of Gwar showmanship (without appearances in Empire Records and gobs of inferred violence) but it’s all just emperor’s clothing. I never took the time to see what made Dirty Blair or Athletic Blair different from the person I knew, but Unconscious Collective will force an open perspective.
Links: Tofu Carnage
Pictures of Lindsey [CS; Galtta Media]
Synths glitter like lights off a disco ball on this, the single weirdest fucking tape of 2014, written by a guy named Adrian Knight. He’s a hep jazz cat, a part of that hep jazz cat scene David Lackner’s been hovering around for his Galtta label’s tape releases in New York. So as you might expect, the performances here are just fabulous, really tasty Rhodes and Wurlitzer work atop some clever but simply constructed electronic drums that set the vivacious vibe you get throughout this album. A lot of the tunes are just plain nice, like in a James Taylor sort of way (that’s good James Taylor, mind you), or reminiscent of Arthur Russell’s stuff with the Flying Hearts, where his love of country, disco, and rock ‘n’ roll all comfortably colluded in the 70s for pop song perfection. But Knight’s compositions are also cut with creepy interludes and often have pitch-shifted vocal hooks which gives this album a surreal, sometimes nauseating quality that plug it nicely into the modern tape weirdo scene as well. Lackner guests with some nice sax arrangements here, and there’s also a cameo from EVI champion John Swana to give some songs a flavor that’s pinker than Pepto. And for as smooth a number Knight most certainly seems to be, his lyrics sure paint the picture of someone who’s anything but: “Scaring All the Girls Away,” which closes the album, is a hilarious and humble spate of self-deprecation set to a flat-out sex-jam that also has me thinking this aligns with what folks like Scammers’ Phil Diamond are doing. The nerds have never been sexier than in 2014, ladies (and gentlemen), scoop these bachelors up while you can.Links: Adrian Knight - Galtta Media
Reflections of a Pink Laser [12-inch; Bookmaker]
I find myself staring into both abysses of Odawas’ Reflections of a Pink Laser. The first image, of Earth rising over a martian horizon, is the spatial universe often seen through the telescopic Cerberus lens. Ever-expanding, futuristic, and haunting. The back cover, a more idyllic beach view is serene and still. Just the never-ending waves and a cool breeze moving us toward another minute passing by. But both settings offer contemplative moments of where we are and where we’re going. ROAPL isn’t so noble as to think itself as a new-age bridge between the modern and the future, but it is positioned as a think piece about the duality of pop music. Intertwined to the noises and oddities of outsiders, ROAPL is also indebted to the simplicity of recognizable melodies. Though it feels a little flat on “Paul Klee in Damascus/The Octagon,” much of Michael Tapscott’s ruminations are flattering to the opposing views of pop. “What If Our World is Their Heaven?” is a lofty ideal but somehow 20 minutes can create an engaging and unique piece of pop. “Anamnesia/Home is a Concept,” is the long gaze out at the stars after night has fallen on the beach. Though ROAPL may not trouble itself with being the bridge between here and there, it is positioned –at the very least – as the first beam in an incomplete interstellar pathway.Links: Odawas - Bookmaker
Opening Band [12-inch; Hockey Dad]
I reviewed a B-Lines 7-inch a few months back (on Kingfisher Bluez) and whenever I dive into an LP following the short punch of a single there’s a cautious edge to it because I’ve been burned so many times (as in, the 7-inch rules, then the full-length practically betrays the 7-inch with its shittiness). Obviously it’s easier to put one’s qualities across in the former because it’s a brief burst of yr personality rather than a long-ass slog through yr psyche (which may or may not be interesting enough to fill 10-15 trax). Don’t assume the curse affects Opening Band, however. They simply don’t give a flying flipper-fuck about your droopy hipster-dolphin blues, much in the manner Fatal Flying Guilloteens didn’t, and their ambivalence renders them more powerful than the naked eye could ever ascertain. Remember the anger and power jocks at your high school used to have? B-Lines harness that kind of energy and PLUG it into PUNK, and this time it’s not the dude with glasses and a Descendents shirt who’s getting his ass kicked! It’s like old Makers recordings (before they were on Sub Pop; true nit/grit) fronted by a singer who doesn’t realize his mic is on. Oh, it’s on buddy, it’s definitely fucking ON! I want you to hear this record, if you don’t mind.Links: Hockey Dad
Coyote Gospels [CS + Book; Arachnidiscs]
This here deluxe package from Reverend Moon has made me a convert. To what religion or god, who knows? There are so many to choose from and besides, they all look alike. But Reverend Moon offer something different. Not quite the Cave Singers or Nick Cave, but certainly the sound of the cavernous. Coyote Gospels is full of religious allusions from the book of Big George and Sally. Who plays the role of the soft haired Philistine victim is anyone’s guest. I’m not sure I want to stick around to find out but yet the (good?) word abides. So I eat the possum and beans, and am transformed. I have visions of Wooden Wand and fall into a fever, saved by Exaybachay. In the end I see that many talk loud but say nothing….but Reverend Moon may have more than meets the eye. Thankfully he sends me off with a hymnal and a button to wear upon my lapel as I shake the babies and kiss the girls. I am saved and now my mission is conversion. First step: political office!Links: Arachnidiscs