Tomutonttu

Following on last year’s Trarat, Finnish experimental luminary Jan Anderzén returns with a more ambitious take for the Alter imprint. The record blends his past and future to great effect, nabbing some of the roughed-up plucks from his days with Kemialliset Ystävät and working them into the fabric of his slinking, mechanized dreamscapes. Kevätjuhla is certainly one of the most realized works that Anderzén has put together and while it may sound slightly rickety on the surface, walking a few steps back to appreciate the album as a whole pulls it together like a gorgeous patchwork quilt of sounds.

The dreamlike quality to the album can’t be overstated. It’s disorienting in the best way – Willy Wonka fever dreams letterpressed in full color. Sounds materialize, fade and flutter before being supplanted by new aural delights. Beats jerk along with Rube Goldberg rhythms, knocking one sound into another with strangely whimsical precision. There’s a pop aspect to the album, despite its experimental bent, but it’s less playlist fodder and more hummable commercial snippets fed through a fax machine on the blink. Anderzén knows how to entertain and bemuse in equal measure and here he’s letting his visual art background lead the way in Kevätjuhla’s creation.

In fact the album was meant to accompany the artist’s installation work. The meaning behind the piece was “inspired by the multitudes of mold and the microbial life, and served as a listening station that sought a bond between sound, the earth and organic matter. Sound was sent to speakers through cables sprouting like stems from a pile of dirt with a single coleus growing on top.” While the first thoughts that come to mind might not be microbial life, it’s easy to imagine how a backdrop so alien and yet so common could have led to the record’s pulsating core. If you’ve nodded off from the Finnish scene since psychedelic folk faded to the horizon, this should be the release to bring you back to the fold.





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Peacers – “Jurgen’s Layout”

Can’t help but love Mike Donovan around here, whether it was with Sic Alps, solo, or with Peacers. This time Ty steps out of view of the project, but Donovan tripled down on the ranks in his stead (math seems right). Adding to the fray is longtime RSTB favorite pop-in Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Skyhigh Band, Skygreen Leopards) who always adds a bit of crackle to any band. The first taste of the oddly tittled Introducing the Crimsmen gives off a whiff of old Sic Alps for the lonely hearted. It’s typically sparse but coated in a layer of pop that’s entrancing and also just a touch menacing. There’s a hint of Skip Spence to Donovan’s songwriting, bolstered with an ozone riff and stormcloud sway. Put this one on the wishlist for sure. It’s a keeper.




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Manikins – From Broadway To Blazes

While Australia’s premiere punk darlings The Scientists have enjoyed some much deserved reissue treatment from Numero in the last couple of years, another of the country’s punk forefathers has remained criminally undersung. Manufactured Recordings attempts to right this with an anthology of all known tracks from Manikins. The band, like The Scientists, was built from a former member of Aussie punk germinators The Cheap Nasties. Neil Fernandes built up his own orbit of tough-edged power pop, though the band would spawn considerably less material than their more well-known compatriots.

The anthology includes their first three 7″s, which have become power pop collector’s items in their own right, stretching into high dollar brackets on the secondary market. For those with shallower pockets, it’s nice to have these tracks included here and all dusted off for digital. Fernandes’ songs hit just right in the crux of punk and garage, though they certainly get a bit more polished on later cuts. He’s ably found a foil in vocalist Robert Porritt, who gives Manikins a boyish sneer that’s prerequisite for the best power pop. All in all, this is for the diggers, the nerd set. It’s the kind of deep cut release that appeals to genre completists, but that’s not to say that the average ’70s mixtape couldn’t stand a bump from any of these gems. Any fan of Aussie punk history or power pop in general would do well to tuck into this one.




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Bardo Pond

It’s almost hard to believe that Bardo Pond are approaching 30 years as a band, but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine the psychedelic landscape without them. I personally got hooked into the Pond, as I imagine quite a few folks did with Dilate, coming slightly late to the party but grateful to find them as hosts. They’ve spent the intervening years carving out their own place between the creased consciousness of space rock, dreampop, psych and noise. They come to their latest, Under The Pines, after an epic collaboration with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru last year. The album cuts back on the sheer heft and volume that the preceding project fostered, placing vocalist Isobel Sollenberger floating high above a pounding cascade of feedback and atmospheric billow. This cloaks Under The Pines ably in the band’s dreampop guise.

They wear the style well, but as could be expected of a band that’s spent three decades chasing the tail of the psychedelic snake, they aren’t exactly hewing to a one note sound here. Even when the tracks are similarly built on caged squall, they’re constantly adding nuance to the sonic struggle between the overwhelming wall of noise and Sollenberger’s gorgeous purr. Sollenberger also adds a mystic touch of flute to the proceedings, giving the record a mournful air and another fleck of beauty battling the churning froth. Then, as if to prove their mettle tenfold, they ease out into a dustbowl of psych country for the album standout “Moment To Moment.” It’s this kind of song that stamps them as masterful elder statesmen in a crowded field of newcomers jockeying for time on the psychedelic speakers. In a career full of high caliber records, they’ve never sounded so at ease with their prowess than right now.




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Mixtape: Shame About The Rain

Heading into the third installment of the RSTB Mixtape series here and this one speaks to a crucial influence on the site. There’s been no shortage of jangle pop in the last couple of years, particularly because a current crop of Aussie and US bands seem enamored with the sounds of Creation, Sarah, September and Flying Nun. This mix is a tribute to the sound of English rain. It’s full of faraway looks, pining hearts and more than a few hooks. By no means a definitive overview but I have to say, not a shabby collection of janglers here. Check out the stream and tracklist below.

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The Cairo Gang

Emmet Kelly puts on a half-cocked smile for his latest, Untouchable. The album’s a sunnier side of The Cairo Gang, but not without a heart melted by melancholy. While the melancholy isn’t unusual in his work, the shiny veneer certainly is. The closest he’s come to some of the breezy moments heard here was back in the days of Tiny Rebel‘s ’60s pop inflections. Though on that one he found the dark heart of the 12-string jangle, balancing any sweet moments with the deep darkness inherit in a cover of Boys Next Door’s “Shivers.” On the contrary here, he’s embracing a ’90s borne indie sound that pays it’s debt to James, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and The Lemonheads. In fact the Matthew Sweet sip runs twofold, because while Kelly certainly finds himself indebted to Sweet’s songwriting, he’s taking a bite out of the great Robert Quine’s guitar flash. The latter is almost certainly one of the key ingredients in Sweet’s most enduring catalog.

What’s also glaringly apparent about Untouchable is that it’s embraced album oriented rock full tilt, and partially that’s why I’ve been hard pressed to combat this record on a singles basis. Untouchable is not just a collection of tracks, it’s a balance of emotions with the kind of ebb and flow that’s meant to be digested as a whole, not in mere bites. If 2017 has proven anything, it’s that while the majority of listeners have embraced compartmental music and the infinite playlist, a large portion of smaller label releases have striven to create albums that can’t be broken down.

Kelly is an indispensable part of the indie rock pantheon, adding his guitar to more albums than you probably know in your collection (Ty Segall, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Joan of Arc, Magic Trick, The Double) but he shines as a frontman. The Cairo Gang have long been that band bubbling in the background, crafting solidly built albums that trade in ennui like spiritual currency. It’s hardly surprising to get another winner from Kelly, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less deserving of praise. Though the covers change, the fractured heart that beats beneath Kelly’s songs remains ever the same.


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Feral Ohms

Not one second of Feral Ohms’ debut lets up. The trio doesn’t give the listener a minute to catch a breath, and thank the Norse gods of thunderous destruction for that. It’s an acid bath for the soul of the universe, stripping away layer after layer of tar long since calcified and crusted into the shape of society. It appears that Ethan Miller has returned to the his position as frenetic lightning rod for amp fired chaos and it’s damn good to have him back slinging scorch. The world needs this eponymous long player more than we could ever know. As mentioned here previously, Miller found solace away from the white ball of fury that burned bright in Comets On Fire, but began a creep back with Heron Oblivion last year. Feral Ohms asserts his permanence in the pantheon of psych.

The band’s been building a clutch of singles since around 2013, but it wasn’t until Castle Face prefaced the album with a live shot that they sprang into wider consciousness. All of the live cuts find their way onto the album as well as the majority of their singles, albeit re-recorded with a technical lineup that speaks to a top tier of heavy psych sound work (Eric Bauer, Phil Manley, Chris Woodhouse and JJ Golden). It’s very possible that repeated spins of the album could melt speakers into a twitching puddle of gelatinous matter. That’s not even hyperbole, I’m worried about your system. Baton shit down and buckle up. 2017 has proven that despite long lingering reports to the contrary, the guitar still has a place of vitality in music. Few other albums assert this as definitively as Feral Ohms.





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Mt. Mountain – “Dust”

I dug in on last year’s Cosmos Terros a bit, but Perth’s Mt. Mountain seem to have topped themselves with the stratospheric Dust coming out on Cardinal Fuzz in April. The title track is an epic knock into the drone/psych trenches. Building out of an insistent thrum married to high plains guitars, not too far off from Barn Owl territory, the band adds in some desolate flute that only enhances the apocalyptic feel of the track. This one ends up in scorched earth territory, as soon as the ominous clouds part, the chaos reigns. Mt. Mountain let loose with a six ton blast of sonic carnage that levels any qualms that the Aussies might not be stepping up to the task with enough firepower. The track doesn’t sustain gale force throughout, but teeters on the precipice of doom, making for an uneasy brilliance. Aside from the obvious hometown heroes in King Gizz, Mt. Mountain slot themselves in alongside Dreamtime in holding the psych banner high in the South Hemi. Having been ones to watch out for last year, the band graduates to necessary listening with this one.




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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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Milk Music

Rolling into their third album, Olympia’s Milk Music continues mining the wealth of ’90s indie ethos and smelting it into gritty gold. Mystic 100s isn’t a seismic shift from their palette, but they’re not the kind of band that need worry about evolution, as they more in the game of curating fuzz encrusted skronk and letting their amps pay their tab. Maybe the biggest shift here is that on Cruise Your Illusion they sounded as if they were a band that always just existed, comfortably rolling out the kind of fare other bands needed to sharpen their teeth to even be capable of pulling off. On Mystic they’re out to prove that they still have twice the chops of every upstart with a deep bench of Dino Jr. on the record shelf, but they’re pushing themselves past comfortable and into smoke rolled royalty.

I’ll be honest, when it came out Cruise Your Illusion didn’t shake my foundations. I liked it, it was solid, and you’d have been a damn liar to contend that the Washington band wasn’t capable. It’s the loss of that comfortability that’s striking here. They’re not just content to have people laud them with plaudits of being torchbearers of guitar rock in 2017; they’re looking to burn things down, break some skin on their fingers and bleed into the mix a bit. You can feel the band sweating out the songs on Mystic 100s and that sweat stains their music with a greater gravity than aloof capability ever could. Though the band are wading deeper into their catalog at this point, this seems like the exact moment where they truly begin.




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