Deep Waters [12-inch; Diamond Wave Press]
This Deep Waters 12-inch comes with a couple of little extras. Hand-pasted cover art on a converted recycled LP sleeve (mine is an old Alabama record, by the way), blue vinyl… I also got a really nice hand-written note with accompanying artwork on some fancy parchment. But the kicker: A bag of Salada brand Green Tea came nestled safely within the package. I’m drinking it right now, actually, and it goes down pretty smooth with these “synth explorations,” although I must admit, it only makes me realize that Deep Waters is deep winter music. These are songs for warming, for healing. Essentially, a series of piano ballads swirled out of your hi-fi amplifier, sounds twisting through the air like fine calligraphy even though the lines might appear a little wonky at times. It’s delicate and nice, but also very much done by hand - pieced together with an innocent sort of grace, a brief twinkle in this record’s watery eye. “Fragile” is probably the best word I can come up with, the voice of David Spalvieri-Kruse shivering in the coldness of the mix’s barren, open field of audio. There are synths and pianos, a guitar occasionally, even other voices all up in Deep Waters’ business, surrounding, but they don’t feel like support as much as they do sympathizers, watching a lonely figure from the outside looking in. Luckily the vocal melodies carry their weight to give each song its own deserved heft. The voice… honestly, the voice will throw you at first, wobbling in and out of intonation as it does, but hey, I know you thought the same thing about Dean Wearham’s, too. It’ll grow on you, and grow inside of you, and in a good way. August seems like exactly the wrong time for me to be submitting this review, but just think of me come November when you’re snuggling up to these pretty tunes. I’ll accept thank you presents through Hanukkah.Links: Deep Waters - Diamond Wave Press
Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach [LP; Sophomore Lounge]
We usually avoid albums like Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach but the creepy cover art intimidated me even though I knew what I was getting into. This isn’t dark arts hoodoo voodoo, just straight-laced rock and roll. Which is to say sexy, dirty, and dingy. The hex threatened is not a curse but a blessing of garage noir. I want to rub R&RR all over myself and run free from the shackles of corporate rock (does that even exist anymore? let’s pretend that it does and it looms heavy and large and conglomerates with billboards will hunt me down for refusing their enchantments).
Is that enough nostalgic rebellion to fulfill a typical Lantern review? Good, because it’s crap. What you need to know is this is VU type shit, not in approach but as motivation for you to get off your indented, lumpy couch and to play rock and roll yourself. Emily and Zachary are giving you the knock of opportunity, so don’t waste it on your sorry ass. Though, pass me that roach before you go. I’m gonna sit here and write about your new band, and if you don’t give Lantern and R&RR the praise and credit it deserves for inspiring your Lou Reed cool, then the band WILL come calling in black robes and Satanic verses to take back what is rightfully theirs.Links: Lantern - Sophomore Lounge
Yesterday’s Chimes (Unreleased S.E.L. 97-99) [CS; Discrepant]
Cédric Stevens was making the synth music being made in the present way back in Yesterday’s Chimes (Unreleased S.E.L. 97-99). That’s the only conclusion one can come to after hearing the modular motives of just about every synthetic track on this compilation. Most surprising is the pounding, quasi-DJ Shadow drums of “The Eerie,” which sound-date the material just a bit yet offer a less obtrusive take on solo-electronic composition, one with fewer self-imposed boundaries and the potential to break through the coldwave/drone coma so many are in (though I admit it feels great to be sedated in that way, too). The synth sweeps become huge waves of current and sweep over the drums before the number is through, shining through brightly even on the oft-unreliable cassette format. Even more rewarding are the slow-drip, icy climes that follow, held together by nothing but a spare bass-throb pattern and stained-glass synth tinkles. If you’ve been following Stevens or his Discrepant label, you know to expect a certain diligence from the material. You won’t be let down here. See also: Syncopated Elevators Legacy.Links: Discrepant
Carpet Burns [12-inch; Adagio830]
This one cramped my style a bit upon first spin but bore new fruit as fresh plays cleared out the cobwebs. I just haven’t heard anything like Carpet Burns in a long time; I’m weak, dammit, WEAK! I know not what to do with this energetic mix of Hot Water Music (the band not the book), early Fugazi, and Rocket From The Crypt. Man I haven’t listened to Titus Andronicus in so long but it seems they’d figure in here too. I’ve always enjoyed material like this most in a live setting; you see the show, you dig the show, you maybe even sing along a bit, and then you buy the record based on that interaction. It’s fairly aggressive, even compared to the above-mentioned influences, and, to me, they don’t make their most effective arguments until Side B, wherein they seem more relaxed and willing to let much-appreciated instrumental sections bear some of the burden. “Soapbox Canvas” is the best cut here, catchier than the rest and replete with bulldozing sidesteps. A solid, if unspectacular, listen, Carpet Burns will hit hard with some of you and fall flat with others, even more so than usual in these fragmented times. It also is a grower, however, so don’t count it out until you’ve dedicated some time to it. Say ‘emo’ you lose a testicle.Links: Deadverse
Summons of Shining Ruins
The Sky Sings to Us [3-inch CDR; Kimberly Dawn]
Sweeping shots of the overgrown city; bright lights flicker across a palette of manicured skyscrapers and side streets. A gentle downpour, enough for an umbrella but tolerable for those in need of a cooling shower in the midst of a muggy summer evening. With this rain, the sky is clearing. The warmth of the pavement yielding to no sun and flowing waters. It’s quiet, strange for a Friday night. The hooligans are in bed, the kids are in clubs, the adults at boring cocktail parties speaking of dividends and vacation destinations. Here I sit, huddled betwixt a solitary window and the dull shine of a dim bulb. I could read a book. Watch a movie. Play a video game. Crawl into bed. But none of it seems possible with this effervescent soundtrack capturing the stillness of constant movement. It is the wings of a hummingbird and I am the slow motion stills to prove the erratic flapping. This is the sound, I am the action. This is happening, I am frozen.Links: Kimberly Dawn
BEACH ++ [LP; Dismantle]
MT Coast’s Beach ++ sounds like a lot of recent records, but the good ones, so who am I to argue with its elemental, tractor-beam pull? What begins as a drone drizzle a la Earn’s A Following Shadow and William Cody Watson’s Bill Murray LP morphs into an electronic hive of activity, synths buzzing in and out. (I’m not just saying that because the first cut is called “Bee Wonder,” by the way.) A cut-and-paste section yields to more drone, this of the filmic, fuzzy, distant variety, revolving like a planet and with just as much patient power. Smoky static crackles and walkie-talkie chatter close out the first side, and leave you wondering where they’re going to take this fuckin’ thing. Are we playin’ ball or what here, feller? MT Coast answer back with a minimalist torrent of bass, topped with crispy electric current that slices into the action like video-game lightning. “|3uRowZ” is a hot piece, then “\openup" brings on more of the comatose drift, call it spiritual drone, that makes you just want to melt into the floor (and the one time I tried salvia I thought I was doing just that; not pleasant). Well done, old chap. Victorious, swinging church bells and (possibly) kettle drums soon point the way to a soapy sound wave, coupled with sultry guitar, that will soak up your brain matter as it lulls you to sleep. How strange/strangely apt/aptly strange. Two-hundred copies stand between you and getting kicked out of the bungalow…Links: Dismantle
Chemical Mysticism [CS; Black Horizons]
The execution of Crooked Columns’ Chemical Mysticism is flawless, from the multi-fold cover to the full-sounding production to the ambitious, wreathed-in-flame, dark-electronic, film-music mission of the band. Very incisive stuff that uses repetition to its advantage rather than to the listener’s eternal boredom. Not an easy thing to do. There’s a shamanic trance-out on Side 1 that might be one peyote trip to the desert short of being technically illegal in this country. It storms over the soundscape like a group of bandits overtaking a small village, dark and demanding, yet with a laser edge that continues to evoke that soundtrack-y feel, fireworks and all. And there’s a lot more where that came from; Chemical Mysticism is relentlessly, almost horrifyingly evil at times, and you’ll appreciate the extra hint of spite. Never an iota of drone complacency despite the long run-time of the tape, and yet another stellar cassette that will be plucked up and re-released on vinyl at some point, even if it means future civilizations will have to mine it from a molten core of corn syrup underneath the earth’s crust. Easily one of my favorites of the year, on any format, and still available from the label.Links: Crooked Columns - Black Horizons
Best of the Hightone Years [CS; Pilgrim Talk]
Instantly impressive is the post-Sebadoh, no-fi, NZ-influenced Double Morris project. They’re transmitting Best of the Hightone Years through a toilet-paper tube, so you have to listen like a motherfucker before you even realize the lyrics are still, in fact, unintelligible. Doesn’t matter. A lot of drama baked into these indie brownie bites/bread bowls, and a lot of indifference, too. Why is that so goddamn attractive to the ear? This fuckin’ simp sounds totally emasculated and even emaciated, yet it makes perfect sense to the warped mind. Probably drools on the mic, too. Tracey Trance should check this out if he hasn’t already. The riffs are piledriver-simple, save a few delightful examples, the noisy sections scrape by satisfactorily, and the songs jerk to a halt like the snap of a turkey neck before you effin’ know what hit you. It’s like listening to The Germs, Pumice, and good ol’ D.J. wrapped into one, though obviously Double Morris still have a ton of work to do. There’s a few instrumentals on here that veer away from that premise entirely, however, so don’t expect a quick walk-through. Not what you’d expect from Pilgrim Talk, and thus is an even more impressive find for this busy imprint.Links: Pilgrim Talk
Serving Two Masters [3-inch CD-R; Intangible Cat]
Summer is finally grinding itself to a halt as clouds roll in and it gets harder to remember what a day without rain looks like. Memories of sunshine remain warm but regrets always seem to lurk just out of sight: concerts unattended, pictures not taken, diary entries that are far too short to give weight to the events they describe, gas burned to make a lunch date only to find the diner has been closed for renovations. What was the name of that girl you met in June?
All this thinking needs a soundtrack. What about that CDr, the one with the dyed cloth and pressed sage leaves in a folded paper package printed with a big question mark? Several torn apart drawers and upturned piles of laundry later it’s in the CD case salvaged from that questionably purchased black metal album. Pop it in the top-loader and hit play. Three minutes into low-mixed radio hiss, thoughtful guitar plucking and gentle, looping chords and the rightness of this choice is verified. Distinctly earthy and organic rhythm is the guide back towards the beginning of summer, before things got too hot, before your brain took a leave of absence, before your knees and hands had new scars torn into them. Does one ever plan to be sitting, watching the failing afternoon light, listening to quietly thrumming ambience whilst trying to make the past fit cleanly with the present?
It’s probably still warm enough to take a walk this evening. Better make time to enjoy it while it lasts.Links: Intangible Cat
Recorded in Heaven [CS; Lillerne]
I didn’t realize how UN-jaded I could be until I realized I had a Zach Phillips tape in the hopper I’d been neglecting. BINGO, HEE HEE!!! YEE-FUCKIN’ HAW MY NINJAZ!!! And it’s the best one yet, the songs more fully developed, instincts honed, melodies refined, Michael Cera-style coke problems sorted out (or not), fantasies and reality safely nestled in the same pocket of Phillips’ headspace. Recorded in Heaven to me serves as the richest endeavor of all of this busy bee’s bands because he just does what he wants to do: Post-Ariel Pink synth-pop compositions with heart placed firmly in cheek. And he’s not scared of anything. He veers into extremely surreal territory that evokes Scarface synths, yes, but also a lot of recycled melodies from the 1970s soft-rock scrapyard, not UN-including fucking Chicago and maybe even Christopher Cross. He also thinks he’s John Lennon for a song. And that’s fine. I could see how a regular person might dismiss this but the same doubter would never claim the ride isn’t interesting. Don’t miss Recorded in Heaven or any of the Phillips franchise (Blanche Blanche Blanche, Big French, et al) locations around the country if you value colorful wave crests and/or magical keyz.Links: Lillerne