Wet Tuna – “Walk On”

Another Bandcamp Friday swings into view and that means that there’s plum opportunities to support artists directly. One of the best releases to peek out from behind the glut of Bandcamp emails every month is the Eau’d To A Fake Bookie series from Wet Tuna. The first two volumes offered some deep-set Tuna vibes and covers, giving a taste of the band’s exploratory live sets from the comfort of the couch. The band returns with yet another volume today and it’s just as humid and thick with vibrations as the last couple. The band pounds through three sweltering cuts before closing the release out with a massive, nearly 16-minute version of perennial Neil Young favorite, “Walk On.” It’s a cosmic careen into the upper headspace and I couldn’t be more excited that this one is blowing out today. Nab that sucker over at the Tuna Bandcamp.




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Ryan Garbes

Still a steady stream of great albums tumbling out of 2020, so don’t expect a wrap from me while there are still corners to uncover. There’s more to scrape from this year yet. This one comes from a longtime favorite from the site, Ryan Garbes, who has been kicking around RSTB for years as part of Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair. Both were constants on the site back in the ol’ Blogspot days and Ryan’s kept up the exploratory spirit in his solo releases since. Tabbed View explodes the notion of pop — burrowing incessant hooks under a layer of crust, a careen of noise-chewed psychedelics, and a deluge of disjointed rhythms. This release feels like it would sit right at home with the broken Teac days of Raven, burrowing through noise-pop fodder from Sic Alps, Times New Viking, and Psychedelic Horseshit. Though Garbes isn’t exactly miring himself in the past. That would be selling the record short. There’s a surreal crispness to this album that plucks it out of the lo-fi froth that constantly surrounded the class of ’08, letting this one creep into the room in 3-dimentional crystalized crumple.

Garbes’ sound has pushed into a sort of skin-slipped acid-sluiced funk as well and it’s a sound that’s hard to shake. The urge to dance is inherent in Tabbed View but the mechanics constantly elude the listener as the drums lag and lap and the guitars blot out proper motor skills under a wash of corroded fuzz. Garbes is inhabiting some sort of bomb shelter disco, keeping the captive audience fluid until the sickness seeps through the walls. There have been a lot of sounds that have come to define the year, but few albums hit like this one in 2020. Garbes proves he’s still a pop innovator, chewing on the wires and turning the taste of voltage into freaked funk for the rest of us.



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Pranacrafter, Erik Davis & Aubrey Nehring – Sounds from the Bardo Vol. I

Got some exciting news today of a project from spiritual-arts programming collective Psychedelic Sangha. The NYC based group has been offering meditative psychedelic experiences, sound bath transmissions, and gatherings dedicated to sharing encounters with other states of consciousness. Notably a few of their Happenings from last year featured RSTB favorites Wet Tuna, M. Geddes Gengras, Sarah Louise, and Garcia Peoples, a series I was sad to miss being too far upstate. One of the group’s key experiences in addition to the Happenings is the Bardo Bath — a guided meditation paired with live music set to vibrate the mind beyond the edges of reality. The sound baths are inspired by the 1966 recording The Psychedelic Experience, an album designed to be used as an audio guide for navigating the inner space of the bardo. The recording was created by Drs. Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary, and Ralph Metzner and has served as a talisman for many who wish to break tethers with the body and enter a pure hypnogogic state.

With in-person experiences shut down due to safety concerns, Psychedelic Sangha has devised a way to bring the Bardo to you, at home. The first in a series, Sounds from the Bardo entitled “Born in the Kali Yuga” is being released today via the group’s Bandcamp. The first Bardo features longtime RSTB favorite Prana Crafter providing the musical component, lending his own unique strain of otherworldly float create a cocoon for the listener to enter via synth drones and a languid drip of guitar, eventually bursting forth into distorted pools of ozone-fried amp fry. The guided meditation here is provided by esteemed psychedelic scholar Erik Davis, author of High Weirdness, Techgnosis, and The Visionary State among other works.

As the project has attempted to subvert the traditional approach to the concept of sound baths in their residency so far, the home version continues that tradition, providing more than one way for the artist to experience the piece. Each piece in the series will also come along with a visual companion that allows the listener an alternative to the traditional eyed-closed Bardo experience, a nod to the group’s immersive light shows in their Happenings series. This first installment comes with hypnotic visuals by Aubrey Nehring that can alter the Bardo experience. Having listened through “Born in the Kali Yuga,” the series lives up to the high expectations placed on such amazing collaborators. As the group profess themselves — “Enter the psychedelic realm of the Misfit Seeker — welcome, friends.”


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Peel Dream Magazine – “Clean Water (live)”

Just catching this one today and its a real nice live treat from Peel Dream Magazine. The band was pretty busy over the last year, with an album on Slumberland and an digital EP, Moral Panics, that’s just now seeing light on vinyl. That EP closes with a demo of a track called “Clean Water,” which is fuzzy in a lovely sort of way but this nice acoustic version really does the track justice from a performance on Baby TV. While the band is usually mining some shoegaze territory, here the song casts them in a bit of a jangle pop territory, bringing down the lights and letting a little tender sigh out to close sets. The physical version of the EP boasts a couple of bonus cuts that didn’t make it out earlier, so only more reason to pick that one up where you can.

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SUSS

Since December warrants looking back at the year, I have to say in trawling through my personal listening and buying habits of the year, no genre dominated my headspace more than that of ambient country. The space carved out for the sound has been fringe for the last couple of years, but in tandem with a recent rise in Cosmic Americana, the sister sounds of pedal steel and synth float have become more and more prevalent. Or maybe my compass just got permanently shifted, who knows? Still, in a year spent searching out serenity that doesn’t become background mush, the genre is as good as it gets and it’s lucky for us all that one of the genre’s greats, SUSS have yet another offering as 2020 clambers to a close.

The band’s High Line hit me hard last year, and Promise doesn’t disappoint as a similarly-minded follow up. The band builds sprawling sonic landscapes that set the contrast high but fill in subtle details in their twilight meditations with curls of synth smoke and the palpable creek of wildlife settling within the hushed valleys of their songs. Under the blinking high tension wire lights, the band finds a patient pace that’s colored in nicely with buzzing guitars and a pedal steel shimmer that supplants the instruments usual amber glow with a silvered hue of moonlight. The whole record feels like finally being able to exhale after a day of holding it tight in the chest. In a crop of country outliers that excel in shivers (see: Barry Walker Jr, Bobby Lee, Luke Schneider, John Jeffrey) SUSS prove that they’re still innovators of a sound that’s been their engine all along. Absolutely an essential 2020 release.




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Cory Hanson – “Paper Fog”

Looks like Wand frontman Cory Hanson is taking another trek down the solo troubadour route and while the first taste of the album, “Paper Fog,” sounds a bit sunnier than his last outing, its still a more delicate side of Hanson. This one slides a bit closer to what Wand were laying down on their last album proper, though Cory has shaded in the edges with a nice dose of country-psych trappings bolstering a melancholy strummer with some amber slide work, fuzz breakdowns, and yearning synths. The new album Pale Hose Rider arrives in hand March 12th, though I’m sure we’ll hear a bit more from this one before then. Check out the desert delirium video for the track above.

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Frank & The Hurricanes

It’s only been a year since Frank & The Hurricanes released the languid charm of Life Is Spiritual into the air and they’re already back and not one ounce of palatable positivity has ebbed away. Frank exudes a burly ease and familiarity that barrels into the room but never takes up more space than is needed. Its welcome affable and oddly tender under the skin. Frank is hugging and joking before its jacket is off and while you’re offering it a beer he’s pulling one from his pocket and beating your hospitality before you even catch yourself. Coming from small town life myself, the skinned knees and feedback familiarity of The Hurricane’s tales feel like they ring particularly hard, but Frank delivers them with a denim-dragged country quality that gives the record a Meat Puppets / Giant Sand saunter to them and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make it sound easy.

Spiritually the album is a companion piece to its predecessor, but musically it seems like the trio that’s coalesced on Love Ya Love Ya has blossomed in the interim, it is as tight as Frank’s vision has ever sounded. With Jake Merrick on bass, vocals, and keys and John Spiegel on drums, the trio cook out a Crazy Horse on SST vibe that stops just short of Always August (who most definitely did that first). It’s hard not to be drawn into Frank’s light. We all have a friend like that — at once disarming and rough-edged, yet uplifting. He takes that likability and pins it to a particularly potent rollick of Cosmic Americana, which only makes the smiles grow broader. Frank’s been building his sound for years now, and its undergone a lot of changes, to say the least, but this is the first true Hurricanes album and quite certainly Frank at his best.

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Beautify Junkyards enter Cosmorama

Another entrancing addition to the Ghost Box catalog lands next month. Lisbon’s Beautify Junkyards have been tumbling down a vortex of Portuguese and Brazilian folk laced with ‘60s psychedelics for the last few years and this taste of their upcoming Cosmorama finds them lost even further in the music box dreampop fever dream that they’ve carved out throughout their catalog. In the past the band has brought on guests like Espers’ Helena Espvall and this time around they add Nina Miranda (Smoke City), Alison Bryce (Lake Ruth) and harpist Eduardo Raon to the mix. Fans of Broadcast, Badge Époque Ensemble, or other similarly minded Ghost Box vibrations from Soundcarriers and Hintemass should be right at home on this one. The new LP is out January 15th, wrapped in a choice Julian House sleeve and preceded by a fitting promo reel in the same style, also by House. Check it out above.



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Beachwood Sparks – S/T

While the sounds that filter through on Beachwood Sparks’ debut take their roots some 25-30 years prior, the band stands among a new wave of Cosmic Americana artists from the early aughts who would set the swell going long into our current era. There aren’t really any tarnished spots in their winding run, which fell around ’00-’02 and then picked up a decade later with a second wind pushing the same cosmic sails. The Sub Pop years in particular hold a special place in my heart and it seems that the bulk of the praise from the period often falls on their sophomore LP, Once We Were Trees, as the band really begins to leave the confines of the Earth and exist among the gauzy amber glow of the clouds. A year earlier the band laid the groundwork for that album with an equally sublime ache. The record bears the marks of time well, sounding as much a lost country-psych classic as any dug up from the ‘70s.

As their run on Sub Pop ended, the catalog was left to languish without the proper attention it deserves. Now with Brent Rademaker’s Curation Records picking up some Cosmic American slack with a slew of new releases, the rights have come back home and Beachwood is getting a long overdue reissue of the debut album on double LP along with a second disc of bonus material that rounds up a few rarities along with the band’s contributions to the Sub Pop Singles Club. With a current wave of newfound Cosmic Americana voices taking shape, its nice to have one of the Aughts’ best back on the racks reminding us why they were such a key voice in the first place. That gorgeous double gatefold doesn’t hurt either.



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Mac Blackout

A slightly unexpected shift from Chicago’s Mac Blackout on his latest solo release, his first for hometown label Trouble in Mind. When Blackout last left the sphere seven years ago, he was caked in the crust of lo-fi punk, glam runoff, and twitching post-punk tremors. After a few years off to focus on visual art he’s come back with a shifted sensibility, throwing himself into the arms of free jazz and creeping synth. Love Profess bears no hallmarks of his time deluged in garage sweat — a calmer, yet still oddly fraught record that throws out the rock impulses completely. Out of the gate Blackout is squalling and tossed into the digital froth, splitting his time between the new wave of Out players over at Astral Spirits and the fragile synth landscapes at Ghost Box. The record toes those lines well, injecting a sense of wounded wonder into the mix that reverberates through to the last moments.

Wide and wandering one moment and lost and swirling the next, Blackout reacts to a current sense of frustration and bewilderment. His sax does its best to tie up the neurons without burning the ends. There’s a creeping mania to the runs but nothing that truly melts the plastic coating. That’s not to say that this album is playing safe. There’s hope and fear in Blackout’s compositions, and the uncertainty about which pole should dominate resonates quite rightly with any listener having spent the better part of 2020 conscious and crumbling. It’s not the record I was expecting from Mac Blackout anytime soon, but it works as a new chapter of aural sweat from the artist.



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