The New Life
Belfast’s Girls Names put out a solid debut of shoegaze guitar-fueled jangle pop back in 2011, which also hinted at an appreciation of the darker side of post-punk, as was especially evident on the video for their song “Bury Me.” Two years later, on their sophomore return effort titled The New Life, the band can be heard having made a somewhat unexpected departure from past material towards a minimally-inspired dream pop and early goth rock sound; rest assured, though, as judging by the album stream made available by Slumberland, it could turn out to be more than a welcome departure. Their new sound exhibits a more disciplined confidence and maturity, even as they stake out and explore new musical territories.
Much in the way debut Dead To Me demonstrated a thorough grasp of the indie pop and shoegaze genres, The New Life effectively elicits the darker sounds of the early to mid-80s coming out of the UK. The opening pedal echoes of album highlight “Hypnotic Regression” themselves echo those which characterized the proto-shoegaze duo of Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding of The Chameleons, before morphing into the driving post-post punk of The Comsat Angels or The Mission. Elsewhere, “Pitura Infamante” mines the more dance-pop stylings commonly found in the mid-80s, when even bands like The Lords of the New Church and March Violets displayed a potent New Wave influence, and the title track recalls the minimalist restraint, yet evocative power of Adrian Borland’s The Sound.
Listen to the entire album over at Slumberland’s SoundCloud.
Ryan Garbes might just be the longest running member of the Night People roster. On top of that, the guy has been making noise with the Night People label’s owner, Shawn Reed, in Wet Hair for years. With every release exploring new realms of sonic noise, the only thing I’ve come to expect from Garbes is quality. “Easiness,” from his newest Night People tape Young Mona Lisa, dives right into that early-90s wall of distortion stuff while maintaining a certain footing in some of the earlier, more drone-based Wet Hair material. And his typically more prominent vocals melt away on this track into waves of pulsing, sonic amplification.
Chalk up another one for Mr. Garbes.
• Night People: http://raccoo-oo-oon.org/np
…on a new LP from Kevin Doria, who is one half of Growing.
• Debacle Records: http://debaclerecords.bandcamp.com
SOHLA’s wheezing synths have the rhythmic propulsion of a knackered marathon runner.
He breathes deeply, dreaming of long baths and silver foil heat blankets.
Here he turns an apparent Christina Aguilera sample into something even Julianna Barwickmight call “a bit too eerie.”
It is glorious.
But who invited a whispering Russell Crowe?
This is the first release by All-Time Archipelago, a new multidisciplinary arts venture from Edinburgh’s Ursa Major graphic design studio and music outfit ZZZAP. And while the emptiness of phrasing such as “new multidisciplinary arts venture” usually conveys little more than a rented projector and some subordinated film-studies students, the initial diversity of A-TA’s aesthetic collage seems to suggest they might be the real deal.
Keep those orifices peeled, as my science teacher used to say.
New History Warfare Vol.3 [preview]
On New History Warfare Vol. 2, Colin Stetson perfected a style that took the otherworldly sounds of extended saxophone technique and used them to create largely tonal slices of minimalism that structurally and harmonically had more in common with the language of Philip Glass than Stetson’s extended saxophone forefathers Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. The album’s ability to take rigorous academic technique and render it accessible by imbuing it with strong melodic sensibilities and driving rhythms made it a pretty complete artistic statement, and as a result, Stetson was faced with two options in the album’s wake: (1) push the alteration of his saxophone sound even further by incorporating more electronics and even more unconventional playing styles, or (2) perfect his initial sounds and find a way to make them even more musical.
While I’d love to hear Stetson choose option number one and go even more bat-shit crazy on his instrument than he already has, the composer/performer has instead chosen option two, and it seems pretty alright too! Belgium station Radio Scorpio recently previewed four tracks off of Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 3, and while the new material follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, there’s a much clearer sense of harmonic and melodic movement in these tunes that outshines even the most accessible numbers on Vol. 2.
Of the tracks Radio Scorpio premiered, two feature Stetson’s bandmate bro Bon Iver on vocals and two feature solo Stetson shred. Of the Bon Iver tracks, “Who the Waves are Roaring For” is the real jam, with Stetson’s fuzzy through-the-saxophone singing mixing with Justin Vernon’s trademark falsetto in beautiful counterpoint. The solo Stetson tunes are familiar-sounding barn-burners that find the trademark sounds of Stetson’s previous recordings sounding beefier and catchier than ever before. Stream the audio courtesy of Belgium’s Radio Scorpio here:
New History Warfare Vol. 3 is out via Constellation Records on April 30.
“Hold Your Form”
“Andante” describes tempos between 73 and 77 beats per minute, or “at a walking pace.” Whoever set up that naming system was one slow-ass walker. I clock “Hold Your Form” at a taught 120 BPM, and to my feet, that’s just what I need to get off my lazy ass, put away all that beautiful ambient/drone for a minute, and pound the pavement along to a crisp four-on-the-floor like the one Test House laid out for this extremely satisfying little number. Too bad they never made a portable 7-inch player… I had my little weights and sweatband all ready to go. But hey, dance clubs have turntables right?
This banger comes from Georgia imprint Geographic North, the ninth of their “You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever” singles series (which also includes previous entries from A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Landing, and Windy & Carl). Although the frame of the song is built with solid bricks of melody and rhythm, the strobing and streaking synths break things up, almost chemically. The result is an enveloping, evaporating swirl of a pop tune that is to be inhaled, that will infect, that will alter. And I guess that’s what the video Elizabeth Skadden directed is all about too: pitting the group as vessels of the smokey stuff that is the very song they created.
By the way, Test House is one James Elliott (ex-Bear In Heaven, ex-School of Seven Bells) and one other Peter Schuette (ex-Silk Flowers, ex-Psychobuildings). Also by the way, dammit if that isn’t the catchiest chorus of 2013 yet.