King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

So, three albums down, two to go if we’re keeping score in 2017. I’d opted out of the running commentary surrounding Murder of the Universe, ostensibly a real turning point for the band from a press saturation point. Now, its not that I had deep fundamental issues with the album, but if you’ve been taking the full tour as I have all these years, MOTU had all the hallmarks their best work, but that was as much to its credit as it was the problem. If you’ve heard the canon, you’ve got the idea. They saturated that one with the time change whiplash of their previous heavy psych monsters Mindfuzz, Microtonal Banana, and Nonagon. They even brought in a narrative voice-over in the spirit of Eyes Like The Sky. For a band that usually doesn’t cease to amaze, they seemed to have locked into some safe harbors on that one.

Now that makes their latest, Sketches of Brunswick East, all the more satisfying. The album, conceived collaboration with Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin, sees the band back off their breakneck psych mode, providing a similar respite on par with Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. Where that album went acoustic, this one delves into a lush jazz fusion that winks with the title’s play on Sketches of Spain but winds up lodged much further into the ’70s models of jazz-psych. The luxurious setting here lets the band sink into a completely new direction, embracing their slower jams and letting the groove drive them more than the mania.

I’ve always had a love for the band’s softer, silkier work, and after a low key show upstate NY a few years back that leaned heavily on that material (think “Stressin,” “Sleepwalker,” “Hot Water,” “Slow Jam 1”), its felt clear that they were also itching to embrace that direction. The album is all about vibe, playing up bass, hooking in Brettin’s beats to tone down their usual tornado of double drums, and letting Ambrose lay the flute on thick. This is the kind of album I look forward to from the band. It’s the kind that indulges and I’m all about their indulgence – want to keep things burning the psych core, make it microtonal, make it acoustic, learn the oboe, go jazz funk. With five in a year, they can’t all lean on the psychedelic warlord principles that shaped Nonagon Infinity. That’s a high water mark for sure, but Sketches proves that they can’t be backed into a corner.



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Maston – “Swans”

After a solid LP a few years back on Trouble In Mind and an EP/Rarities collection Frank Maston is back under his surname as a psych-pop provocateur on his own imprint Phonoscope. In the interim he’s been busy as a touring member of Jacco Gardner’s band and working with several members of The Allah-Las on side projects.

The first cut from his upcoming LP Tulips sees the songwriter again working in a vein of whimsical soft psych that pulls from Brian Wilson to The Focus Group in its approach to childlike wonder. The accompanying video and graphics play up the ’60s connection nicely with a faded filmstrip feel and some BBC echoing design. This track feels entirely like its part of a larger whole, and while nice on its own, it will be intriguing to know how this fits into Maston’s larger picture.



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Milk Teddy

Been a few years since Milk Teddy laid their blissful gem, Zingers, on us, but the wait seems to have been well worth it. The band breezes in with their sophomore LP, Time Catches Up With Milk Teddy, which is equally shambolic in its scope. The band has an innate knack for bridging contemporary Aussie jangles with a windswept approach that scatters any of the natty, prim plucks into the surrounding sunshine. A lot of the credit for this can be hung squarely on the neck of vocalist Thomas Mendelovits, whose blissfully faded delivery folds in an out of the band’s swells with a natural ease.

Mendelovits’ anchoring croon remains a constant, but those underlying swells have taken on considerably more texture from their first outing. Zingers was awash in an echoplex haze, rendering the album gorgeous but gauzy and at times harder to sink your teeth into. Milk Teddy come down to the Earth’s crust to bump elbows with the rest of us on Time Catches Up. They’ve injected the occasional brush with post-punk in a few of their basslines and a couple of space-cake instrumentals but they’re essentially still working through their own brand of gossamer jangle, just on a more tactile level this pass.

The band’s relative obscurity in the US has always struck me as a tragedy, but perhaps it’s time to right a years-long wrong. Time Catches Up is a bold move by the band, stuck together with off-kilter interview snippets and woven like a patchwork quilt made of denim in varying quality and hues. It’s pock-marked and imperfect and that’s exactly what makes it so desirable. Get your perfect glossy pop elsewhere. The LP is worn in all the right places and comfortable as an old t-shirt. Each listen just makes this one more and more endearing as an album that’s gonna test time and come out winning.




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Tuusanuuskat

More great work out of the universe of Jan Anderzén, following on a great new Tomutonttu record earlier this year. Tuusanuuskat is a collaboration between Anderzén and Es member/Fonal honcho Sami Sänpäkkilä and the two artists’ worlds meld together into a skittering, experimental electronic wonderland. The name, Tuusanuuskat is a play on words in Finnish, meaning essentially “total shambles” and if that’s not a phrase that hits home these days, I’m not entirely sure what is. The duo picks apart melodies into a kind of glitching, thrumming sanctuary from the world at large – a respite for reflection and preparation. Not coincidentally the album name Toiminnan aattona means “On The Eve of Action”.

Then consider this album a loading zone for a week of shit that’s too complex and saddening to comprehend. Let the gentle lap of delicate cacophony wash over you before emerging into the hot sun of reality. Who can be blamed for wanting to hide in headphones while the world rots? And while that certainly can’t be a constant state of being, Tuusanuuskat have created an oddly meditative space that’s found a way to organize chaos into readiness. They muster noise into a centering force that leaves the listener ready for, if not action, at least a semblance of organization and calm. This is the album that we all need now, and probably in the months to come.



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Gen Pop – “Dear Jackie”

Rising out of the ashes of the short-lived, but ferocious Vexx, Gen Pop spits out petulant noise-pop that’s chaotic and catchy. “Dear Jackie,” from the band’s debut 7″ on Upset The Rhythm, is a quick burst of shout-along punk with vocals that tumble over one another for dominance and a rumble in the rhythm that’s not without a certain ominous tension. I was sad when Vexx folded, but it’s good to know that with members MaryJane Dunphe and Ian Corrigan living on in Gen Pop, there’s hope for some more frantic tunes to come.




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Astral TV

Formed by Causa Sui synth player Rasmus Rasmussen alongside Keith Canisius, Astral TV picks up the Kosmiche baton from so many other tape trade analog wizards operating in the wake of Onehotrix and Emeralds. While the heyday of instrumental synth’s resurgence may be in flux, there’s still room at the table for those that are doing it with a deft hand on the knobs. Astral TV eschews the Goblin and Morricone tropes of the genre, going in for true German progressive float that comes straight out of the Göttsching school of meditative psychedelics.

The album has a tender arc, reigning in light-soaked burbles of sound that push the sensory deprivation vibes with euphoric results. On tracks like the sublime “Sun Flares” the duo rides the open consciousness fader to the top, rippling with a soft ecstasy that’s buoyed by arepgiated synths and glowing lines of honey-dipped guitar. They cross into some pastoral-psych / ’70s synth hybrids that skirt towards territory that Belbury Poly or The Advisory Circle might rightly feel comfortable in and it’s not a stretch to imagine Astral TV sharing a stage with either.

For minimal synth there’s always the danger to get sucked too hard into the New Age filter at the end of the pool, at least for me. There’s a huge audience for that and if you’re vibing on Vaporwave and loving it, more power to you. For my money though, the brand of Kosmiche that Astral TV has inhabited winds up with more meat on its bones and a longer lasting effect on the blissful comedown they’re searching for.

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Wand’s Cory Hanson on Miles Davis – Get Up With It

There have been many bands that I’ve seen evolve here at RSTB, and with varying results, for sure. Wand’s evolution from fuzzbomb psych stewards to their current incarnation as archivists of alternative’s more ambitious corners is a journey that’s been exciting to experience from a listener’s vantage. I’d had a missed connection with the band’s Cory Hanson when he ventured into psych-folk for a solo endeavor last year on Drag City, but this time around the fates have aligned to get in a Gems feature on the verge of the release of their fourth album, Plum. For the uninitiated, Hidden Gems explores an album that the artist finds underrepresented in the canon of popular culture – the kind that falls through the cracks and deserves a shining light. Here Cory Hanson explores Miles Davis’ 1974 double album Get Up With It, explaining how it came into his life and how it’s had an effect on his own songwriting.

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Marvelous Mark

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for power pop that echoes the ’90s variety, sloshing through the lurid puddles of sound left behind by Matthew Sweet, Weezer and Teenage Fanclub. There are quite a few that are picking at this point in the power pop food chain, choosing to ignore the roots of the sound that tied heavily to ’60s nostalgia or ’70s sinew. Toronto’s Mark Fosco definitely has his roots in this varietal, and every heartsick note comes ringing through with a love for the big stage bittersweet riffs that permeated the sunnier side of grunge’s heyday.

The LP has rough moments, it’s chewed through with fuzz like an asbestos coating over a great deal of these tracks, but underneath the cracked woofer tone is a syrupy sweet bit of pop that definitely makes better use of the aforementioned Fanclub, Superdrag or Ash’s approach than the majority of the pop punk followers of the sound. Fosco has a knack for finding big hooks and running them through a sticky sweet bummer echo chammber that’s welling up some nostalgia for cracked case mixtapes of days past. Yes, by nature this is leaning on the crutch built from others‘ accomplishments, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t making it sound fun to cherry pick the past.




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Premiere: Joseph Childress – “Footsteps”

Joseph Childress’ debut has been a long time coming, building out of the bones of his sorely overlooked demo collection, The Rebirths, and inspired by a move to ranching in Wyoming. He embeds plenty of the wide-skied country charm on his eponymous debut, moving from Townes Van Zandt weary-eyed yarns to fingerpicked folk that showcases his technical side. However, there are few songs like “Footsteps” on this album. Building from a slow, plaintive pluck, the song is hushed and practically bumping against the quiet calm of summer cicadas when Childress lets us in. One minute on, a powerful piano chord transitions the tone from wistful to mournful.

Each consecutive moment takes Childress closer to the edge of breaking. The song works through emotions that have no boxes built to contain them. The end of the track sees Childress pleading with the listener, howling to the wind while it overtakes him – a storm of sound that’s on the precipice and teetering. As I mentioned, there are big skies on this album, but none bigger than here. Cracked with lightning, it is proof that Childress can sling songs with the best of them. The entirety of his self-titled album is engrossing, but this is a true high water mark.



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Wireheads – “Indian Pacific Express’

Getting to be a regular occurance around here, Wireheads have an album on the way via Tenth Court. The first cut is even more refined than I’ve heard them in the past – janglin’, plunking piano and a smooth keel running through Dom Trimboli’s vocals. This sounds like a natural progression from the material they’d cut into on Arrive, Alive, clean burning Aussie jangle with just the right touch of vulnerability and visceral punch. Definitely got eyes out for the new album.


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