House and Land

Sarah Louise, fresh from the opalescent vision of her solo LP earlier in the year, is back in league with her folk foil Sally Anne Morgan for a new album under the House and Land banner. As with their last album, the duo makes a sizeable impression with a palette of sparse folk on Across The Field. They exhume traditional folk songs from another time, but much like fellow traveler Jake Xerxes Fussell, their delivery doesn’t feel antiquated. There’s a timelessness inherit in their work, blending their more experimental sensibilities with the weathered and worn material to soothe the heartache of the modern music listener. They’re running Elizabeth Cotton through a Loren Connors filter – finding the starkest kernel of folk and blues and baking it in the sun.

The album leans directly into sorrow, choosing songs that are steeped in a sadness that resonates across eras. Morgan’s fiddle is strident, holding court without showing a shred of lost love, but the pair’s voices can’t help but hang with a delicate dourness. The weight of years pulls heavy on these songs and House and Land etch them straight into the skin, turning the soul to scrimshaw and laying out the burden of decades in intricate detail. The songs on Across The Field seep into every pore on first listen, but they don’t suffocate. They may be achingly sad, but they never seem to wallow. Instead, as the album comes to a close the listener is purged, washed clean of longing and lowness – each rinsed away in the stream of strings and song that the pair have poured out through the album. Their sophomore release proves the pair are brilliant interpreters of song, and you’d do well to get acquainted with them.



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Sachet – “Nets”

A nice cut outta South Hemi enclave Tenth Court works as a great introduction to Melbourne’s Sachet. The foursome makes springy indie pop that’s tethered to a muscular strum, male/female harmonies swirl above a flex of bass and head nodding snap of drums. The band has emerged from the hollowed hull of Day Ravies and they share an affinity soft angles and gentle harmonies. “Nets” starts in sweet and swaddled, seemingly a doe-eyed indie-pop strummer before it turns the tension up in the second half, crashing through the speakers with steely sincerity. The song precedes their sophomore album of the same name set to be released in September. I’d advise keeping an ear out for that one.



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David Nance Group – “Meanwhile / Credit Line”

Last year the David Nance Group brought the Omaha native’s sound to a wider audience with their LP Peaced and Slightly Pulverized on Trouble in Mind. While he’d long been bashing out cover versions of Lou Reed, The Beatles, and Doug Sahm, with the crystallization of the ‘Group’ he’d channel his disparate influences into a fried pickle porridge of a record that sweats boogie blues a la Crazy Horse interpreted by a pack of holed up Pere Ubu fanatics. Come 2019 and Nance is back and broadcasting his disjointed choogle on a bigger bullhorn, with a two-track twister out this month on Third Man. “Meanwhile” and “Credit Line” feel right at home as spillover sides from last year’s long player, both finely toasted, ragged, raw and looking to taste the barroom floor. It’s recommended that you pick this one up and give the windows a rumble this week. This won’t be the last we hear of the DNG, but it’s a good quencher ‘til the next LP gets handed down from above.

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VA – Self Discovery For Social Survival

When word of this comp first came down, I mentioned that this was an ambitious undertaking, to say the least. That’s a bit of an understatement. In an age of shrinking profits its rare for a major to take on something this lofty, let alone a (rather largish) indie. Mexican Summer paired with Pilgrim Surf + Supply to send three groups of professional surfers, film crews, and a band to score each of the sessions as they were shot. The idea was for the bands to pick up the vibes of the day and translate them into accompaniment that completely absorbed the mood of the film. As far as an overarching goal, the soundtrack succeeds on all fronts, but better than that, it holds up on its own merits even if the listener isn’t also immersed in the film.

The first portion of the film sees US and Australian surfers travel to Mexico and with them in tow are the Allah-las. This trip is marked by amber-hued sun streaks. Everything seems a bit faded and worn-in. The Allah-las capture the ease of the session, laying back into a lounged vision of surf that’s classic and propulsive. They’re the kind of songs that could waft into the background and instantly ease a mood. There’s a feeling of communal living, irregular schedules, and a quiet cool that rumples itself into the notes. The scenes in the film are aided even further with the addition of titling and animation by Robert Beatty and Bailey Elder, who give this section a ’69-’72 timestamp that soaks into the seams along with the music.

From there the film transitions to The Maldives, with the majority of the segment taking place aboard a houseboat. The tones turn from sepia to crystal blue and with it the mood is given a lift out of the melt of Mexico. Peaking Lights add a dub shimmer to the section, half party, half hallucination. There’s an opulence to this portion, but not to the point of indulgence. It feels like a vacation – fleeting in truth, but forever in the moment. Peaking lights have moved away from their xeroxed dub roots and here they’re headed for more Arthur Russell territory. They give this portion its sense of detachment from reality, helping to freeze each pane into a picture of unattainable bliss.

While on the topic of otherworldly, the last section of the film takes the viewer to Iceland, a venue I’d never thought of as surf destination. Here Conan Mockasin and Andrew Vanwyngarden (MGMT) accompany a group that traverses the grey-streaked, mountain-strewn landscape. All the warmth of the previous sections is stripped away and, accordingly, Mockasin and Vanwyngarden give their songs an icy edge – lonesome, melancholic, half-remembered. Here the vistas almost outpace the surfing for attention, with scenes among the northern lights soundtracked by the pair’s psylocibin disco and light-touch folk feeling like a dream that couldn’t possibly have happened. There’s none of Mockasin’s usual twisted bravado. Instead the music is almost fragile – haunted and hollow at times. This trip and its tunes feel like a journey inward, not the communal experience of the other groups.

The three main bands aren’t the only ones to hold sway over the soundtrack and film, though. Dungen give an especially inspired take for the title sequence that’s born out of their wistful psychedelia. It laps just slightly at the roots of surf, while essentially embracing its own genre. Transitions between sections are given an ambient fizz by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, who evokes a submerged sound under lush animations, which are again provided by Elder and Beatty. Sadly, missing from the soundtrack is the offbeat wisdom and roadworn poeticism of Jonas Mekas, whose narration ties the film together with a non-sequitur sageness. It’s likely that you might not encounter the film, though I’d recommend it for surf aficionados or unfamiliar friends alike.

Even without its visual partner, the soundtrack exhales ease, hope, sadness, solace. As a counterpoint to the film its pretty perfect, but it’s a great mood lifter on its own merits. As I mentioned, they don’t make projects like this anymore, might as well enjoy when someone goes all in for you. It’s somewhat telling that the label has reissued the score to Andrew Kidman’s Litmus, Self Discovery for Social Survival acts as a spiritual successor to that film and its unique accompaniment. Often hailed as the best surf film of its generation, the label has seemingly done the same for the the 21st Century. In this, they’ve created their own Litmus.


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Major Stars – “Out In The Light”

Oh man, the fount of Wayne Rogers is overflowing this year. After a finely formed solo LP on Twisted Village earlier in the year, Rogers is back with Major Stars for their tenth full length. The first sounds seeping out of Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy are as potent as ever. Towering riffs, a rumble of fuzz, and an elegiac croon from new vocalist Noell Dorsey (Avoidance, Ricochet) give the new material some serious heft. “Out in the Light” embodies as much of the classic burn of the Stars as one could hope for with a newfound melodicism from Dorsey that elevates her from the usual haze the band employs. Check the cover art from RSTB fave Robert Beatty as well, giving the record a complete package. LP lands August 16th.



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J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – “Your Torturer”

Earlier this year Julia McFarlane (Twerps) slipped out her delightfully dented pop gem TA DA under the name J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest. Like many platters issued on Hobbies Galore, it came and went quickly with a small pressing. Like some of her other labelmates though (Possible Humans) another label is coming to the rescue with a wide release. London’s Night School Records brings a 500 press to her debut and in anticipation they’ve got a disjointed new vid for her track “Your Torturer” that echoes the song’s pop wobble. Check the video above, and if you slept on this earlier in the year, now’s your chance to catch up.



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Seablite

If, perhaps the blurred photo and serif font on the cover didn’t send your shoegaze-sense a-tingling, it’s fair to say San Francisco’s Seablite are doused in the fuzzy familiars of the genre, though they’re splicing it with just the right amount of jangle to make yer heart flutter. Occasionally they attempt to balance the poles of their sound but, more often than not, they get tangled up. They send the buoyant bounce of sunshine strum crashing headlong into the seafoam crush of fuzz that creeps through the wires with a giddying rush. They pick at the faded memory of schoolbook stickers – tracing hearts over the sighs of The Softies and the headrush haze of Pale Saints. They frame their soft-focus stories in shade of bittersweet swoon that’s half infatuation, half gut-punch heartwrench.

While I’m probably a touch biased, I find the band succeeds most when they’re leaning towards the janglier material. I’m all for Shoegaze’s wallow, but drop a song too far into the fuzzcut k-hole and I start to drift off. When they kick a just a twinge of Talulah Gosh into the mix I feel like they hit the sweet spot – chasing the shimmer on tracks “Lollipop Crush,” “Pillbox,” and “House of Papercuts.” Its always nice to see that there are a few bands still raised and rendered on Creation and early 4AD. The DNA of these songs certainly hangs in the air like a specter, but the band pulls off the moves like more than just an homage blown to full size. They imbue Grass Stains & Novocaine with an airy ache that lingers long after the last note dissipates into the atmosphere.



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Kendra Amalie – “Breathe Underwater”

After a year spent summoning the psychedelic spirts with an enviable roster of regulars (Prana Crafter, Dire Wolves, L’éclair, Garcia Peoples) Beyond Beyond is Beyond add to their stable of new blood with the addition of Kendra Amalie. The first cut from her upcoming Intuition is dense and methodical, looping round and around a mantra of “May I breathe underwater? It wouldn’t take much more than a heart.” Amalie’s guitars scratch at the listener, snarling and prodding them out of the murky echo that lies beneath “Breathe Underwater”s.” core. The song’s a study in contradictions – gauzy to the point that it becomes slick with condensation, yet tactile, tense, and ready to burst out of the drowning pull at any moment. Amalie plays with contradictions all over her upcoming LP, but this acts as a nice intro to her formidable skill set.

She’s given a little insight into what makes “Breathe Underwater” tick, noting that, “Making a song like this was a shift from what I’d been doing. In 2016 I started playing with Sam Cook (bass), influenced by punk and funk. Until we met, I’d been more focused on space and texture. Over the last few years he’s encouraged the exploration of speed and structural variation. Other prevailing influences are concepts in consciousness, human potential, and spiritual empowerment personified as stories of human relationships, and how those relationships are a macrocosm of systems in the body, and a microcosm of the systems of earth and the universe. Breathe Underwater is kind of a return home, a connection to close the loop. Plus, a dash of polyrhythmic synth playing to the beat ala prog art rock.”

Check out the video above and look for the LP out September 5th.



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Jeanines

There are a few variations, but the true Slumberland sound is instantly evident when it comes floating in on the breeze. It marks a release like a stain (in the best ways). The debut from Brooklyn’s Jeanines is so stuffed full of Slumberland hallmarks and it’s hard to envision it any other place, unless Sarah Records is planning a revival I don’t know about. With production cut to the bone, the album bounces jangles off of every surface in the room, filling the listener’s ears with a delightfully sprightly sound. Alicia Jeanine has a voice that tugs at the memory, bringing visions of Marine Girls, Black Tambourine, Veronica Falls, and Dolly Mixture swimming to the surface. Along with Jed Smith, she’s built a debut that’s unassuming but completely consuming. Soaked in bittersweet bliss, the album is a DIY gem that seamlessly slots itself into the famed roster.

There are songs that pine for lost love and likewise rebuff unsuitable suitors. There are rough cut diamonds, buffed to a sheen through sheer force of janglin’ strings. Jeanine layers her voice, giving her three-part harmonies with a spectral band of selves and it works like a four-track Carter Family supplanting their country roots with DIY DNA – pinning a few new badges on their bittersweet swoon. Smith fills out each track amiably with just the barest amount of backing that packs on the basement practice space charms. They emulate the limited options of ‘80s and ‘90s stalwarts, despite the home recorded revolution. Fans of anything Slumberland, Postcard, Sarah, Cloudberry should be right at home here. The band is studied and serious about keeping their influences tattooed on for all to see. You could be a grump and call ‘em derivative, If it weren’t all so delightfully spot-on, so sincere, and so damnably catchy.



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Badge Époque Ensemble

Like fellow Canadian jazz-bent psych troupe The Cosmic Range, Badge Époque Ensemble also dovetails into the Venn diagram sweet-spot that snags members from the backup band for U.S. Girls — the engine that drove her electric last tour. Instead of delving into the quaalude-jazz quadrant that the Range does, however, Badge Époque Ensemble are seeking higher ground with respect to the psychedelic fringe of funk and the lysergic lilt of soul. The band’s stacked with talent, and taking the lead here from Maximillian “Slim Twig” Turnbull. He and the ensemble attempt to embrace the acid-funk backbeat that blew through Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, meld that with the detritus Stevie left littered through the ‘70s, and melt it down in a mold made in the image of Alain Goraguer.

In fact the last one hits especially hard, while there are grooves — tons of grooves, in fact — the album swims through an abstract narrative that feels right at home with Goraguer’s masterpiece La Planete Sauvage. Their eponymous platter is swung through with flutes, hollowed-tree organ ambience, and the stomach-punch crunch of fuzz hungry guitars. When they light into the almost eleven-minute centerpiece “Undressed in Solitude,” everything within earshot melts to sweet creamery coolness — even the molecules in the air seem to move just a touch slower until the song finally evaporates on a cloud of steam.

As a genre exercise this would make a great anonymous entry to the library music archives of the ‘70s slotting alongside admitted influences like Daniela Casa, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Piero Umiliani. For the casual traveler, this might be a bit too heady, but for the funk freak already scratching through the psychedelic tributaries jutting out of the Library canon’s core, this is a perfect fit. Late nite vibes abound here. Dim the lights, light a candle, and let the polyester polyrhythms pour over you.

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