Six Organs Of Admittance – “Taken By Ascent”

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Taking a break from two albums of Hexadic improvisations (Chasney’s own system of complex chaos), Six Organs is back to its smoke and smolder roots with a new album, Burning The Threshold, due out next year. The first taste comes in the form of the ominous album centerpiece “Taken By Ascent,” a rolling bit of murderous blues that seems to hearken back to Chasney’s best guitar work, while adding a whiff of prog’s smoke rings via the synths provided by Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave). The support staff on this one seems to be cherry picking from some great complimentary sources, alongside Crain, Haley Fohr (Circuit Des Yeux) joins for some backup vocals and longtime collaborator Chris Corsano is back on drums. While I loved the Hexadic experiments, its awesome to hear Chasney storming down his own brand of psychedelic stringwork on this one. Any year that’s got a Six Organs release on the way is looking up.



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Ashtray Navigations

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The last Ash Nav album, A Shimmering Replica, dove into the kind of shimmering waves and whirlpool psychedelia that fills out their latest, but never to these depths. To Make A Fool Ask, And You Are The First stands at the edge of the wormhole and contemplates the inevitable plunge. Phil Todd, here with his oftentime collaborator Mel O’Dubhshlaine, boils Kosmiche in a manner that suggests he’s got a direct line to the cosmic source, foaming and frothing his way through synth nodes hard pressed to contain the oddly pulsing gamma waves that radiate from within. The two tip the scales into churning absolution well before they make it to a twenty minute closer that evaporates everything it touches into the cold ether of night.

Its been a banner year for some deep space synth tinkering, but even heavies like Hauschildt are having a hard time keeping up with the sonic salve that Phil Todd lays down in excess over two thick sides of aural quiver. That side-long closer on side two is no small feat, by the way, “Spray Two” starts out on the same sonic flood plane that the rest of the album visits, before sprinkling in doses of piano improvisation to the mix, taking the cold isolation of space to a more contemplative place and melding jazz to cosmic synth skillfully. The album is certainly a highlight for Ashtray Navigations, and in a catalog that’s admirably ambitious, it stands to push Todd’s vision further than ever before.




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Dreamtime

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After some great reissues of Dreamtime’s early records on Cardinal Fuzz / Captcha. The former label teams up with the ever growing catalog at Skylantern for the band’s latest release. The Brisbane psych purveyors dig deeper than ever into the abyss for their latest LP, pushing their murky, scorched-sky sound into a much wider arena. The band have had an itch for expansiveness before, but with this record they tend to stretch for epic in every direction. The sheer size of Strange Pleasures makes it a bit daunting, to be honest. The band have the chops, as one would hope, but to sit down and digest the album is a feat of strength. The average track is around six to seven minutes, often pushing past eight and upwards of eleven.

That’s not to say that the band uses their time frivolously, or that the length ever becomes a slog. Its indulgent, but they’re indulging for many of the right reasons. They weave in loads of heatsick guitar, traversing the aird terrain that haunts psych stalwarts like Barn Owl or Eternal Tapestry. They veer into some of the psych-wah fringe that filled out earlier visions of Sun Araw as well, though they aim for a bigger sound than any of those (which in Barn Owl’s case is saying something). They tackle many of the longer tracks on Strange Pleasures as if each might be the album closer, building to a storm of heat and rumble and hedonistic fury. They stray into the abstract on the distinctly liquid “Gamma Globulin” before ending things with a hip-slung amp blast that tumbles the tower to the ground. Its the band reaching for their most ambitious stabs, and way more often than not, landing them handily.




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Sundays & Cybele – “Butterfly’s Dream”

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Tokyo’s Sundays & Cybele have amassed a catalog of grand psych that feeds on the expressive and expansive psych their forefathers wrought before them. They tore down the house on Heaven and are rebuilding it out of scorched timbers with the first cut of their latest, Chaos & Systems. As always, a commendable move to just launch out with a 9+ minute track as the peek into a new release. It seems natural for S&C though, working out acid flecked guitar solos over most of the track and burning it down like they’re submitting a resume for an Acid Mother’s Temple opening slot with each successive lick. The track isn’t untethered though, its parsing through the cosmos and driven by a half ton of amp fry, but the ship their driving is sleek and silver and cut like a bullet. If the rest of Chaos & Systems is half as explosive as this, then its still going to melt a few minds when it hits.

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Typhonian Highlife

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Despite being a cornerstone of experimental synth and psychedelia, Spencer Clark is often overshadowed by his other half in seminal noise duo The Skaters. While James Ferraro’s rapid output often puts him the constant view of many hypnogogic collectors, Clark has quietly carved out a niche for himself that blends immersive synth, cult theories and several exotic locals, culminating in one of his best albums yet. Under the name Typhonian Highlife he’s built out three albums, with The World of Shells acting as a kind of completion and culmination of exploration that brought him to Sicilian Caves, Hanging Rock in Australia, H.R. Geiger’s castle and a massive aquatic environment to find inspiration.

The band name itself derives from The Typhonian Order, a late nineteenth / early twentieth century group obsessed with The Occult that included Aleister Crowley as a leader in its final phases. Clark marries this fascination with yet another pulled from stories of the Chitauri, an alien reptile race that controls humanity from the shadows (the kind that inspired lizard people, Illuminati types of conspiracy theories). But Clark doesn’t just dive into the tin foil hat theories of sub-Reddit’s backwaters; he jumps off of the stories of Credo Mutwa, Crowley and oddly the ’90s TV show Alien Nation to create his own pulsating world centered around demonic faces from his own dreams that he’s given the name Chitahoori.

Now all that backstory is all well and good, but how does it translate to sound? Quite incredibly, actually. With all the cult imagery in place, Clark then winds his way through a synthetic world that feels damp, cold and glowing of its own volition. While he may be focusing on the auras of demonic masks in its construction, on the receiving end it comes across as a soundtrack to the kinds of natural oddities that populate The Mariana Trench. The World of Shells is full of shadows darkened by deep set drone, fluttering syths set a alight by perfectly curated sampling and Clark’s own sense of wonder that’s transmitted in each and every note. Utilizing an E-Max II, a vintage ’90s sampling keyboard, he stacks sound on sound until there’s no room for the listener to escape. He scampers through his vast wasteland of damp damage until it culminates in the fifteen plus minute epic, “Oracle Of Egret” which bursts from the cold darkness into an arid environment, ostensibly cowering at the foot of massive gold alien idols that are given life through the echoing vocals of Nour Mobarak. Clark may not always inhabit the same casual conversations as Ferraro, but this album is a strong argument to correct that injustice.





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Tony Molina on Judee Sill – S/T

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Racking up some great installments of the Hidden Gems series as we come into the end of the year. This time Tony Molina picks out a record that he feels has been overlooked and reveals how its impacted him personally. Tony’s pick, Judee Sill’s nuanced, 1971 eponymous debut. The record has been a longtime collector’s favorite and only recently come back into the popular canon through some much needed reissues. Those who’ve heard Molina’s latest EP for Slumberland would note the shift in tone from his earlier songwriting and it seems that Sill’s masterpiece would have quite a bit of impact on his migration to a softer sound. Tony explains how the record came into his sphere of influences and just how much it’s made an impression on how he approaches songwriting.

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The Apples in Stereo – Science Faire

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This one is too good not to mention. Basically the impetus, the spark of life of the Elephant 6 rests in this release. E6-001 is The Apples’ (as they were known then) first EP, Tidal Wave (though really its just an eponymous EP). This is the seed that built an empire without walls. E6, for those that couldn’t get enough resurgent psychedelia in the ’90s, brought back a homegrown and humming version of the chiming, fuzzed, chatchy-as-hell and slightly freaked out version of the ’60s that we never got to experience. Robert Schneider’s adhoc collective, that would become a label/not label began here and would eventually sprout the Olivia Tremor Controls, Neutral Milk Hotels and Circulatory Systems that would burn just as bright as that first EP, if not brighter. But his is where it started. I grabbed this, now sorely out of print CD in the late ’90s and it was one of the introductions to the family of Elephants, that begat a longtime obsession.

Science Faire culled together the eponymous Apples EP, The Hypnotic Suggestion EP on Bus Stop Records, a split with OTC on Small-Fi, a split with Sportsguitar, and a split with The Heartworms. All of these are restored into a 7″ box that replicates the original art and tactile feel of the originals on their intended short form format. There are a ton of other inserts reproduced from the original runs here, as would befit any product produced by Chunklet. The label has been instrumental in getting some of the early and seminal E6 material back into print and its clear that the original members trust Owings with their legacy. This box is full of Apples gems that speak to the long run that Schneider and co. had, perfecting the jangly, fuzzed nugget for all it was worth. There are a lot of reissues in any given year, but few have this kind of attention to detail and connection to the source material. This one’s on the essential list, for sure.




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Paperhead – “Dama De Lavanda”

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Nashville’s Paperhead are one of those band’s I’ve been waiting on to take the bump up to a full-on widescreen approach. They’ve been seeding some great psych-pop over the years, embracing the lo-fi trappings of the times on their 2010 debut for Infinity Cat and the eponymous follow-up LP on Trouble in Mind a year later. They’d hinted at a bigger scope on Africa Avenue, but its this wide-open slice of psych-pomp, which embraces huge atmospheres, lounge jazz, blue-eyed soul and a ’70s hangover of indulgent (yet glorious) major label epics, that feels like they’ve finally found themselves. The bi-lingual romp from their upcoming album, Chew, drops in flutes and sumptuous horns to the mix of fuzzed out guitars before breaking down to a psych-soul outro. Can’t wait to see how this fits into the scope of the whole album. It feels like a great first step towards the band embracing their full psych-pop potential.


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ADR

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Aaron David Ross is a hard man to pin down. Ross first popped into a lot of people’s attention as one half of Gatekeeper, the electronic psych duo that released bits on Hippos In Tanks and Fright. Ross nabbed a bit of my attention with his, still intriguing, solo debut Solitary Pursuits that dove into the hypnogogic deep end with the best of them. He’s mutated his sound several times since then, working through an acid Jazz/electronic tryst and creating an immersive electronic ecosystem via SD card on his last release for PAN. He returns to the pioneering label’s ranks for an album that focuses on the human voice as his subject. Ross straddles the pop and academic electronic worlds and its clear that this is a moment where he chooses to bridge the divide with a bit of a smile on his lips.

The backbone of the album is pure pop, feeling like it has every bit of potential to break through as a modern radio backdrop, and this speaks openly to his work as a composer for fashion and advertising. He’s completely enmeshed in the sounds of the present day distraction prone world of aural accompaniment, but being classically trained, here those sounds serve as the pixels of something much larger in scope. He takes the pop impulses and chops them into thrumming, truncated, ADD snippets of sound. It winds up feeling like a modern-day update of Prefuse 73’s Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives if it was created after a half-remembered night spent at any topline EDM festival, 3 strip clubs and a gyro cart, based out of your skull and trying to match game those memories into an order that makes a small bit of sense.

The effect pulls pop apart into a sound that’s catchy but fractured, serving as a perfect method of digesting the detritus of the autotuned dystopia that often permeates the FM band like a slick coating of grease. Ross channels chaos into a blurring whirl though over-stimulation, leaving an album of crackling energy and the faint whiff of dry ice in the air as it clicks to a close.



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Dungen

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The scope of Häxan is as ambitious as it is intriguing. The members of Dungen were asked to soundtrack the 1926 film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed by artist Lotte Reiniger. The film is the oldest, in tact animated feature film in existence and Dungen’s score sees the band branch out of their ’70s widescreen psych on several admirable levels. They immerse the all instrumental album in lush soundtrack swells embracing strings like never before. They roll out many of the psychsploitation tropes evident in the Finder Keepers ranks, leaning especially clost to the scores of Jean-Bernard Raiteux and Jean Rollin. The rest of the score patterns itself after ’60’s and ’70s Library Music motifs that prove the band has more than done the homework to meet the challenge of this project. Of course they can’t resist just a bit of their own signature stamp, and the score’s culmination in the thundering “Andarnas Krig” has many of the hallmarks that would befit a regular album release for the band, though it’s inclusion blends quite well with their psychedelic Papier Mâché world.

The score provides a sweeping counterpoint to Reiniger’s animation, built around her rich color palette and painstakingly blocked animations. The album is presented non-sequentially with regard to the film’s narrative, but they’ve drawn their inspiration and tone from her story, while fitting their pieces into an arc of their own. They imbue the whole album with a rich nuance, but as the title might suggest (Häxan means “Witch”) the scenes of The Witch give them the most to work with and they find in the character the kind of explosive, crackling energy that fuels their most psychedelic urges. Though, if it were just some limp interludes in between amp fry, Häxan would fail out of the gate. It never feels like they’re waiting for the next explosion, dripping the rest of the pieces in as much shading and texture as those dealing with their favored subject, just with the intensity rolled back.

Dungen have long been a band working with a level of skill that’s set them apart from your standard psych shredders, but with the academic approach and immersive scope of Häxan they knock themselves into a more serious tier of composition. They truly give Reiniger’s work a new life and create a standalone statement that’s worthy of collectors who trade in psych cinema’s aural ephemera. Check out a clips of Reiniger’s film Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5 to see how the score adds to her style.


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