The Secret History
“Sergio (Plastic Flowers Remix)”
It could be argued that the art of the remix has never been more culturally ascendant. Every album release seems to be followed closely by a disc of remixes, and the sheer proliferation of amateur bloghouse remixers has occasioned the creation of hugely popular cloud services and blog aggregators devoted to the things. And yet it still seems rare that a remix is actually memorable, that it actually elevates the source material and alters one’s conception of the original song. That’s why this remix stands out.
The Secret History formed from the ashes of beloved cult indie-pop band My Favorite, and their forthcoming album is called Americans Singing In The Dark. “Sergio” is the first single from the album, a plaintive slice of pop with shades of The Magnetic Fields. It’s nice enough. Maybe a bit slight. But someone had the good sense to hand the stems over to Plastic Flowers, the Brooklyn-based synth-pop project of Sean Earl Beard, who released his debut single last year on Wierd Records, home of minimal wave revivalists Xeno & Oaklander. A full-length album is due out at the end of the summer.
The result is something else entirely, a gloomy, reverb-drenched dance tune that expands the best parts of The Secret History’s original track, creating a desolate mood that matches the existential meander of the lyrical refrain: “I don’t know what we are.” Steal the future below, before it rots.
Last Remaining Pinnacle
“7 Dollar Room”
It’s almost summer, and you know what that means: it’s time for the fuzz-rock! Virginia Beach duo Last Remaining Pinnacle has made available for free download their new single “7 Dollar Room,” from their upcoming full-length Visitors, out May 21 on Custom Made Music. The industrial drum sample lends a certain danceability to the robotic fury of the guitars, while Dave Allison’s deadpan vocals make the haze all the more mesmerizing. The beats are so distorted they practically ooze from the speakers (or perhaps, that’s just because this sounds best played at a volume that melts your listening device of choice). Be sure to snag this free track, and remember: always wear sunscreen when you play loud rock this sweltering.
Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer
Day of the Demons [album preview mix]
The incomparable Charlemagne Palestine: a man whose image is wild and eccentric, but whose music is achingly soft-spoken and minimal. A man who sincerely loves his stuffed animals and cognac. But really, this guy has made so much music in his life it’s incredible. His ability to completely skew everything we understand about rhythm and musical structure is remarkable, and is an undeniable forefather to so much of the minimal and experimental worlds we know now. He has paved the way for totally-bonkers minimal artists since 1974 with the mindfucking Four Manifestations On Six Elements, and he’s still going.
His latest achievement is a collaboration with the equally creative-as-fuck sound artist Janek Schaefer. (If you don’t know about his Recorded Delivery piece, then click here). They have come together to produce a haunting and uneasy LP with Desire Path Recordings. The record is called Day Of The Demons and has a flame face on the cover, so you can see what they’re getting at without me trying to explain it. You really should just hear the album teaser and see what Desire Path says about it on the SoundCloud page; then you’ll really get freaked out.
Coming down off they’s 2011 Spectrum Spools release, Elegy for Beach Friday, Bee Mask getting a little vocal freak with Autre Ne Veut. Oh, wait, does this excerpt even got vocals in it? Where do you think they is? Maybe, imagine yourself listening to this track saturated in smooth post-New Jack Swing-style R&B, super jarring hooks dressed in echo, and set ablaze with digital harmony. Maybe. Maybe he just submits to Bonnie Bear-style hummings. OH SHIT! News is, the vocals are right there in the track, completely washed of “diva” enlightenment. Yo, but I’m into that; whatever gets me wet. Slip off your chair this July when Bee Mask Vaporware/Scanops 12-inch is shit out by Room40. Okay, I’m done. YAY, BEE MASK!
“Fabric of Life”
Dewey Mahood is all over the place. Not only is he a member of Eternal Tapestry, Gärden Söund (with Barn Owl), Edibles (who released a cassette on Not Not Fun a couple years back), Bloodbiker, and Jackie-O Motherfucker, but since 2008, he’s also released a steady stream of solo music under the name Plankton Wat via labels like Digitalis, Stunned, Sloow Tapes, and DNT. He’s probably outside his Portland home right now, thinking up ways to reconcile what he sees with the psychedelic, cosmic drone improv that constitutes his music. Which is in fact the approach he took for Spirits, his second full-length album set for release May 15 on Thrill Jockey. As he said in a recent interview, “The music is inspired by the Pacific Northwest environment, the mountains and coastline, the weather, sky and clouds, and my closest friends.” With track titles like “Vista,” “Evening Sky,” “Orange Cloud,” and “Islands,” it’s clear that Mahood is looking out rather than in for inspiration.
While the video for “Spirits” showcased the album’s darker moments of electric-guitar weaving and rhythmic meditations, “Fabric of Life” offers respite from the heaviness with an uplifting, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, its melodies flirting with a persistent, warm drone that acts more to bend the harmony than anchor it to any center. The result is mildly uncomfortable yet completely accessible, a harmonic embrace that continually threatens to fold into the darkness. And thankfully, it eventually does, when a more dissonant, sinister drone arises from the shadows and devours it, slower and gentler than you’d expect.
Plankton Wat’s Spirits is out May 15 on Thrill Jockey.
“Lay It Down”
If you’ve been wondering what Gang Wizard have been up to, then you’re super cool. And I also have a treat for you: after a three-year hiatus, Gang Wizard have just self-released a six-song, hand-cut lathe 10-inch called Spirit vs. Soul! The group, which now features its original, late-90s lineup, has released music on labels like LOAD, Ecstatic Peace!, Arbor, and Deathbomb Arc, and the latter has kindly provided space on its website for you to purchase the release. Better act quick, though, as Spirit vs. Soul — their first “overtly Christian album”? — is limited to 20 copies, and I’m thinking about buying 19 of them and selling them for $5 extra each. I mean, why not?
Check out intro track “Lay It Down” here: