Bryan Counter & Satchel Forrester

Twice Stopped

[CS; Small Scale Music]

A little less wild than contemporary percussion and sax outfits, there’s still a heavy pulse of excitement when listening to the free form wails and wallops of Counter and Forrester. There’s a bit more guidance in the structures at work here, deviating slightly from the zaniness of Flahtery or Colbourne – but the showmanship of Forrester’s alto saxophone is on par with those blow-hards (and that’s a compliment). I miss walking into shadowy holes in the wall in my old Ballard home to hear jazz this ripe with energy and enthusiasm. People playing for the love of a neglected sound, but it’s captured on tape here without missing that adrenaline rush or the coolness one feels in the moment. Small Scale is quickly amassing a catalog of new kids that can help bring jazz and underground culture together. It doesn’t have to be all synths and drones my friends.

Links: Small Scale Music

Shredderghost

I Guess

[CS; Self-released]

Ian Franklin of Delaware sent in this modest cassette, full of modest music, modest artwork, and one modest-as-fuck title. “I Guess” shrugs at me as I click play, the spools turning and into my eardrums strums the electric guitar of Shredderghost. You guess? I guess this is goddamn gorgeous, mister. The strings all strands of skeletal and spindly sound, shivering in the cold of a wintery universe where they, an amplifier, some pedals, and a tape machine all find themselves huddled in close for warmth. And a warmness, a glow emanates from it, one that beckons you closer, into its zone of psychedelic safety. I want very much to call this a new generation of folk musician, like Franklin, These Wonderful Evils, Insect Factory, Last Eyes, are all re-figuring the guitar and those powerfully pleasing melodies into twisting and turning new models by way of technology and amplification, electricity shocking the very core of genre, and the sounds thus unspooling over the course of a side of a tape. Few of these folks have refined the style into something I’m ready to call a masterpiece, but I Guess is nonetheless another Eureka!-piece of an assembling puzzle I’m putting together in my head, which warrants it repeated listens, if not just for the beautiful ambient buzzy bliss the album produces in its own right. Carry on Shredderghost… you guess… shit.

Links: Shredderghost

Cool Ghouls

A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye

[LP; Empty Cellar]

What I loved about the last Coo-Ghou LP was the complete lack of cynicism for the jangly psych that influenced it. It seemed like they were the type of band that, regardless of what was happening around them, would go their own way and forge their own sound. That trend is in full flux on Cool Ghouls’ latest, A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye, an effort replete with more twists than the last outing (including a scary ode to Fleet Foxes and a sideways nod to BJM) and a dose of melodic stoner enthusiasm you’ll find oddly familiar. “What A Dream I Had” is another example of the all-ambition, zero-pretension zeitgeist of the Ghouls, psych’d up to the nines, serving up snappy melodies, and segueing into a Byrds-y breakdown that forms a chain from the last record to the present. Perhaps the sequel to “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”? Perhaps not, and “Orange Light” is even better, with bass lines straight out of a Plates Of Cake cut and full of that sun-kissed swagger these dudes wager their livelihoods on. I will admit there’s a bit of a lull: After burning up Side A A Swirling Fire tanks out just a bit on B. Less cohesion, not as many joyous vibes/mellow melodies. Still a solid effort, still a luscious (and limited) red-orange, splatter-wax piece of splendor you’ll want revolving in a pie case in your record room. Do what it takes.

Links: Empty Cellar

Halasan Bazar & Tara King th.

8

[LP; Moon Glyph]

I don’t know how Moon Glyph find these psych bands that avoid all ironic detachment from said genre, not to mention the traditional pitfalls associated with it, but here we are with another pair of unknown artists that perhaps we should have been aware of: Halasan Bazar and Tara King th. (the ‘th.’ included for ultimate press awkwardness) of Copenhagen, Denmark (among other places). 8 makes a strong case for the legitimacy of its aims right away, settling into an upper-psych groove that tiptoes around a lot of tall trees but never nests long. You could go insane trying to pinpoint all the minor blushes; that said, I think it’s safe to say ?-wave psych groups like Religious Knives (RIP, I presume?) and People’s Temple fit in there somewhere, along with Stereolab (perhaps even Broadcast if “Ventolin” is any indication), and… damn, like I said, this band is tough. “Below Your Deepest Expectations” is so powerful I almost suspect it had to come from somewhere else, but alas, it just happened to wash up on the creative doorstep of Halasan Bazar & Tara King th. and end up on my turntable. There are less graceful moments, such as “Door Wrap,” a track so clunky it had to be titled so, and when you first hear the mix of the sultry, feminine voice and the deep, forbidding call of the dude, it might throw you off. Don’t let it get you down, as there are far worse duos out there. Stay with 8 and it will stay with you…

Links: Moon Glyph

555

Nine Gates

[CS; Moon Glyph]

New Orleans’ “techno-spiritual” producer Chris Farstad (aka Food Pyramid, for our purposes here, 555) takes us on a nebulous journey through some uncharted nebulae with his sophomore record under the moniker. It’s called Nine Gates, which I guess must be some kind of a reference to the religious Nine Gates I learned about from such films as Polanski’s disastrous (yet somehow addicting… seriously I must have seen this movie, what… nine times?) “The Ninth Gate.” So then, Farstad, intrepid pilot of our wormhole-warped vessel, are we headed straight into the bowels of Hell here or what? Sounds quite the opposite I’d say, synths streaking across the stars, propelled by a pounding heartbeat of rhythmic holograms, the perfect harmonic medium between digital and analog sounds, synchronized to achieve those withering heights of heavenly bliss and those humbling, lows, all deep and introspective like the best of ambivalent ambience. For sure there are terrestrial touchstones we can reference here, namely Mouse on Mars’ bubbly, glitchy dub-inflections circa Iaora Tahiti. And like those titans before him, Farstad’s topographic trajectory through textures and dynamics are certainly what keeps this electronic jungle of sound so consistently engaging throughout its impressive girth. But the best parts are those straight and planar grooves like you’ll hear secondly with “Som Hassel,” a track that grabs you by the hand and just don’t let go, packed with syncopations and sounds, claustrophobic by intelligent design, but also entirely open, free and flowing. Ah, the wonders or warp factor nine. Deep breath, inhaled and held, don’t look down. In fact, close your eyes. Clench them tight, bite your cheek, feel the wind whip through your hair follicles, and you’ll make it out all right.

Links: 555 - Moon Glyph

Poi

Teenage Dolomites

[CS; Dismal Niche]

I never thought of kraut as the music of meditation but here I am, sitting straight and completely affixed to the computer screen in an effort to talk about Poi. Though the heart of motorik beats strongly on Teenage Dolomites, truth is it’s far more laid back – even contemplative – about its roots. It doesn’t lack for spirit but it’s more for a night time cruise than a mid-day rocket. I like to think of the highway giving way to country roads and deeper conversations. The radio’s turned down but it’s not tuned out. As if Poi is directing the topics like a fine moderator, leading me and my passengers toward a needed destination for peace of mind. At this point, I just slip into zen and surrender. See you when Poi allows.

Links: Dismal Niche

Transfix

Transfix

[LP; Dutch Tilt]

I remember the 80s, vaguely, and it was never this cool-yet-hot-pink, ever, but I truly enjoy remembering it this way every time I throw on this somewhat-aggravating record. You see, Transfix, through a coldwave/Liars lens, warp just about everyone our favorite decade had to offer, from The Chameleons to Echo to Depeche Mode to Joy Division, yet don’t sound distinctly like any of these bands. And they WEIRD things up enough to preclude any serious aspirations for commercial growth, so I know they’re on the level, yet… Why do they do the things that they do? The heart of the decade that introduced me to the worthless culture of Pepsi and Domino’s beats in every one of these goddamn tracks, and if that isn’t a Casio at the beginning of “Living” I’m Stevie Vai in tight pants… Maybe I am after all though, because I feel sexy. And when those misty swabs of effects form a mist over a track on Side B I feel like I’m ready to quit my job and see if Transfix need a manager. Then I hear one of the other cuts on the flip and wonder if T-fix have joined German Army. And also, a song like “Slip Away” turns the game around on us all. It’s catchy like M. Piazza and rides like a dream. It’s the sort of cut I could imagine playing at a roller rink, and only a few of us are ever going to hear it! Ash your tears out in the nearest tray, dog-dicks, and don’t forget to tip your local micro label.

Links: Dutch Tilt

Clemens Denk

Clemens Band Denk

[LP; Totally Wired]

I was always the sort to latch onto those creepy in-between songs that were originally only supposed to be mood-creators or, more specifically, concept-contextualizers. For example, my favorite song on The Melvins’ Stag was “Soup,” two minutes of Metroid-style experimentation that most people, if you ask them, won’t even remember was on Stag. Or, to go back even further to my junior-high days, my favorite song on that first STP album wasn’t “Plush,” it was “No Memory,” that minute-long guitar dirge no one, coincidentally (NOT ironically; learn the difference folks), remembers now. Point being, my cult-classic-never-bestseller attitude hasn’t won me many fans… anywhere, and it’s also left me alone in the dark because the moments I cherish are so often the ones the rest of you discard. And with Clemens Band Denk it’s happening again because my favorite sections of their self-titled LP are the brief instances wherein they get not only weird but contagiously, clinically ‘gone,’ such as “Nebürd ad tsi ettim eid.” This track is but a minute-and-a-half long, with no vocals, and consists of, essentially, a lonely trumpet hovering over an unidentifiable mix of drum-machine churn and warped samples. Yet this is the song, in all its Idea Fire Company glory, that I connect with. And it’s not to say the rest of Clemens Band Denk is lacking. There’s a shitload of gloriously elusive idiosyncrasy to be devoured, akin to Can Can Heads, from the oppressively produced trainride of “Der Zusammenstoß mit der Wirklichkeit” to the No Nos-ish indie-rock/-punk of “Deine Zahnbürste” to the detached, inspirational strumming of “Deine Zahnbürste”… To put it another way, this is a wonderful record, whether you experience it from the inside-out like I do or through traditional, Side-A-to-Side-B means. No matter what language you speak (and I’m pretty sure all these lyrics are belted out in the Austrian mother-tongue), Clemens Band Denk will find a way to communicate with you.

Links: Totally Wired

Lubec

The Thrall

[CS; Like Young]

From how I’ve been spending my recent free time, thralls have a more negative and frenzied reputation. So imagine my surprise of not being attacked by a horde of alien zombies when putting on The Thrall. From Portland’s Lubec, this classic pop-rock actually put me at ease. It has also made me reassess how I wallowed in front of a television rather than my tape deck (and record player and….). That’s rarely how I operate, so I have Lubec to thank for shaking me out of my brain rot funk. I’d rather it decompose due to honeyed melodies and bombastic harmonies. I mean, it’s all going to turn to mush someday and I don’t mind hurrying the process along when the opportunity presents itself. So now when I pry my eyes open to play a bit of a mindless video game, I will also duct tape the headphones to my ears, glue the volume control on the highest setting with Lubec in the player, and just let it all go into blissful meltdown.

Links: Like Young

Yankee Yankee

Segments

[CS; Unit Structure Sound Recordings]

Yankee Yankee is the solo project of Whitney Ota, who’s a hard-workin’ dude living in Calgary while running an excellent label/distribution center called USSR (Unit Structure Sound Recordings). This album follows a previous effort from a couple of years ago that had more of a traditional kraut-rock band type of setup to it, complete with live drums, electric guitars, and the whole shebang. Ota definitely was hitting an intrepid space cadet-glide vibe with that combo, but in all honesty the band-iteration of Yankee Yankee felt a little limited, great ideas and intentions left unrealized due to technical deficiencies. So this time around Ota’s only using electronics. This new direction is kicking his shit straight into warp drive, a hyper-space jump in quality, we’re talking. I think a big part of this album’s success is that this turn in technology takes his music into an entirely new terrain of tempo, using a lot of synth-oscillating loops and delay effects to speed things up to explore the wonders of melodies scrunched way in tightly on themselves, like they’re being sucked in with centripetal force while spinning in a centrifuge. Arpeggios climbing into the stratosphere and zapping rhythmic hooks delivered with such clockwork precision, such an unwavering gusto, that those swirling, nob-twisted effects and electrically-tenderized swooping of sounds hovering past your ears are given vibrant new life — mind-exploding, tangibly psychedelic new life — all while keeping centered, focused, and completely under control. By far the best work I’ve heard from him, and definitely a highlight in a catalog of really strong (and usually quite noisy) releases over at USSR, Segments is a tempered-but-sprawling leap for Ota and also one of the best synthesizer recordings of the year.

Links: Unit Structure Sound Recordings
  

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