Drugdealer – “Easy To Forget”

I gotta admit, this one crept up on me slow. I wasn’t bowled over by the Weyes Blood lead single that preceded the album, but sitting down with it listening to Michael Collins’ tapestry of ’70s smoothness in full, along with contributions from Ariel Pink and Sheer Agony, the bigger picture starts to come into shape. As as single, the Pink featuring track “Easy To Forget” is a definite standout, and the video captures the song’s strange instant classic feeling paired with its almost overbaked, out-of-time vibe. Its the kind of track that would be blaring out of the windows of a beaten to death Cutlass Supreme at four in the afternoon. Its hard not to smile at the imagery and its harder still to deny the smooth swagger that Collins and Pink pull over on this one.

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Goat

Goat-Under-Review

Goat’s third album sees the band step away from some of the chaotic fury that’s marked their past two releases, embracing the acoustic, softer side of their psychedelic obsessions. Where 2012’s World Music came out of nowhere, grinding influences from African funk and Krautrock to Brazilian and Swedish psychedelia, their follow-up, Communion seemed like a lateral move. It was a higher profile burn down the same corridors, still impressively raucous and slightly unhinged, but not a big leap in sound from their debut. In the face of this, the band have chosen to focus more on their acoustic side amping up their reliance on Middle Eastern psych, the Bo Hansson class of homegrown musicians in their native Sweden and, as usual, African Highlife, but toning down the volume and pummel.

The band’s actually taken some criticism for their heavy borrowing from others’ traditions to craft a tapestry of their own, which is fair. There are absolutely some great originals that the band borrows from that should be lifted up, not replaced with Goat’s amalgam, but hopefully their digestion of influences causes more digging on the part of others as a result of their elevated status. If Goat act as the doorway to kids stocking their collections with Sublime Frequencies and Awesome Tapes From Africa reissues, then that’s a start for me. As for the record itself, Requiem smolders more than they have in the past, holding back some of their rhythmic outbursts in favor of strums augmented by a slow twisting kaleidoscope of smoke that finds them entering a more nighttime shamanic feeling, than “folk” per se. The best moments still have a touch of that rhythm kick, but get lost in the churning haze, like “Goatband” or the wind chime twinkle of “Psychedelic Lover”

These feel like wandering songs, shared songs that purport an oral tradition. They pull in the tribal elements that Goat has made their bread and butter, but they have a more transient quality to them. Its as if they’ve shifted their eyes from the stage to the roadside, playing with the people, rather than to the people. The record’s tone becomes hushed as it draws to a close on the spare, “Ubuntu,” easily the quietest and calming Goat track to date. This is finally a different side of Goat and one that, as usual, reveals more of what’s on the band’s record shelves than anything. The volume may be lower, but the echo still remains.


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Design Inspiration: Robert Beatty

DesignInspiration-beatty

Another new feature at RSTB begins today, this one taking a look at designers that have proven above and beyond the average sleeve jockey. Sleeve art has always proven to be more than just decorative dressing for an album, oftentimes it can be as integral and inseparable from an album as any song gracing the sides. And while they say you can’t judge a book (or album) by its cover, we often do just that, so designers can act as the gatekeepers of taste. Of recent designers, I can think of few that have been proving more of an inspiration to psychedelic savants than Robert Beatty. His style evokes classic silkscreen techniques and custom painted vans from the ’70s. He’s got an eye for the surreal and a feel for color that’s made him a favorite of everyone from Real Estate and Thee Oh Sees to Oneohtrix Point Never, culminating in his most famous run last year on Tame Impala’s Currents and its surrounding singles. In this new series, I’ve asked designers to go pick the works that inspire them, choosing five of their favorite album covers and explaining how they’ve influenced their style. Robert’s picks are below, spanning from Tropicalia to a collab between Stereolab and The High Llamas, each one peeling back a layer of Beatty’s iconic style.

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Kandodo / McBain

Kandodo-Under-Review

As previously mentioned here, three members of The Heads have teamed up with John McBain, original member of Monster Magnet, who has also done some time in Queens of The Stone Age, The Desert Sessions and The Wellwater Conspiracy. Needless to say, the resulting sessions air on the heavy, druggy and especially droned out. The album, Lost Chants – Last Chance creeps out of the gate with high plains dread, finding solace in older Kandodo work, but also the atmospheres of Barn Owl, the sonic growl of Hills or the chest rattling work of Earth. The band doesn’t shy away from length, letting the dust cloud they will to life traverse every inch of these five tracks, inching their way up to the fifteen minute mark in some places.

The combination of players creates a kind of psychedelic vortex that sucks listeners in, making the album feel expansive, looming, and brimming with a storm that threatens to tear down the walls before the needle clicks to a close. To compound things further, the album is setup to play at both 33 and 45, allowing the aforementioned heaviness stretch to longer and slower grinding depths, with the CD/Dig versions including the 33 rpm slowed down cuts for those without a speed selector in their life. At either speed the Kandodo/McBain collision is a formidable foe, fraught with doom and dread which feels perfect for the onset of the end of 2016. Keep this one close at hand, there’s no telling when the apocalypse needs a good soundtrack, thick with oil smoke and charging hard at the edge of the stormfront. This one’s vibing hard towards what might be called global collapse rock. Feelin’ it.



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Major Stars – “For Today”

MajorStars-BitsandPieces

Its a great day when Major Stars are back in action. The veteran psych band has been pushing their volume dipped heavy psych for nine albums now and the first taste of their latest for Drag City is a reminder that while there are plenty of new band’s crawling for the mantle, some lone warriors earned it long ago and might be hard to topple. The band has cycled through a few vocalist in the past few years but newcomer Hayley Thompson-King seems fit for the fury that the axis of Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar are pushing behind her. The track is as heavy as anything The Dead Weather have been kicking out these past few years, but without the truly glossy topcoat. Major Stars have always known how to get a bit gritty and dirty, without ever losing volume and impact. This is a good omen of things to come on Motion Set.

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EZTV

EZ-2-Under-Review

EZTV’s debut was one of those slow burn stunners that crept in quiet and once it took hold, it was hard to shake. The band’s versed in their power pop history, choosing to err towards the softer and subtler end of the genre’s spectrum. They have plenty of pop in their veins but they know that the right kind of jangle sweeps a track along like a cool breeze, rustling the soul with an effortless shudder. They’ve nailed down their grasp on this brand of pop, moving from their Shake Some Action leanings into full on Chris Bell solo territory here. They’ve elevated themselves beyond just the jangled masses and weekend imitators to find that niche that’s running pure and clean. All power pop is, in a sense, looking for that ripple of purity and earnestness, mixed with just the right amount of bittersweet blush, but few are able to touch the nerve without coming off maudlin and cheap. That’s where EZTV succeed where others crumble.

Personally the band’s lyrical battle – longing for space, while struggling to stay in the city – hits home pretty hard, and I’m well versed in the push/pull on a person’s priorities that can evolve into. I lost the battle and bolted for trees but its good to know that EZTV are out there fighting the good fight against rent, cultural erosion and the strip-malling of NYC. Their home turf afforded a few drop-ins from compatriots in Real Estate and Quilt, plus labelmates Nic Hessler and Chris Cohen and even indie queen/tour partner Jenny Lewis herself on the tracks of High In Place. In telling form, though, no song ever sounds like a platform for their guests, EZTV just add the others’ brush strokes into their canvas of honeyed harmonies, sunset strums and weary words. The album feels like a classic before its even hit the runnout, which is a feat these days. Album-oriented rock may be on the decline but there are still a few who know how to knock a collection together. My advice is to settle in for the long haul and let EZTV act as a salve for the day, week, or month that’s got you down.

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Kraan – Kraan

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There’s always time to fit a few more Krautrock classics in your life, right? Kraan were a high capacity bill across the seas following the release of their eponymous debut and its follow-up Wintrup. The debut speaks highly to their success, following a tougher edge on the genre that’s more technical and a bit less bound to swirling keys than some of their counterparts. The German lyrics may have held them back in The States but they could have easily appealed to fans of King Crimson, Yes or other lost classics like Greek band Pan with their infusion of Jazz elements. The band would develop these elements more and more over the years, eventually protruding heavily into the Jazz-fusion genre, but here, they hold them in the right amount of check. There are flecks of jazz in the soloing and feel of the album, especially on the sidelong, “Head,” but they augment with plenty of zest for the psychedelic hangover and rock dynamics.

The band continued to make albums, peaking with a live album in 1975 that predictably showed off their aptitude for improvisation. Following that album they’d begin to tip the scales towards jazz and away from prog, essentially losing a bit of their core sound, working in that vein through the ’90s. Then they’d break for a ten year hiatus before reforming in the 2000’s for shows. This debut stands as a unique spirit in Krautrock’s stables, progressive and heavy, spacey but with knotty bits of percussion and improvisation that make it feel distinct in its vision. Perhaps the whole catalog isn’t essential for the dive, but for the prog highlight reel, Kraan’s debut is a must listen.

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Ultimate Painting

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Three albums in Ultimate Painting have proved that they are not a band who burnt their wick in the short term. Refining their melted horizon vibes over the last two albums, they come fully into their own on Dusk. James Hoare has always been a secret weapon in Veronica Falls’ roster, with a beyond-his-years aesthetic that’s given pathos to his own songs and seen him pair up recently with luminaries like Pete Astor (The Loft, Weather Prophets). Now, along with Jack Cooper, he’s creating a bummer vibe that’s picking up pieces of The La’s, Dios (tell me that “Song For Brian Jones” doesn’t have a bit of “You Got Me All Wrong” in its bones and I’ll call you a liar), The Free Design and Heatmiser. Where they earned their VU fan club card on the first album and traded it in for a Teenage Fanclub badge on the second, they’ve come fully into their own on the third, synthesizing their love of pop both contemporary and on the dour side of the ’60s cannon this time ’round.

They’ve found a bittersweet comfort in pop’s arms, never showy, never overplaying their hand. There are scads of indie bands that will fill you full of bright strum, jangled choruses and twee notions but what’s great about Ultimate Painting’s realization of character is that they know they’re not a bolt of sunshine and they couldn’t care less about your reaction to their vibe. James and Jack have created a constant comedown, a space of perfect sighed bliss and reticence. I’ve been waiting for the band to find this balance, this refinement, and on Dusk they become the band they’ve always threatened to be. They’ve longed to be your resigned exhale into the cold air, the musical equivalent of frosted breath on a November morning, curling ever into the ether. They’ve left in the imperfection of tape hiss, giving the album a feeling of confessional beauty, frayed, but at the same time obviously pored over with a meticulous comb and ordered by two songwriters who have spent years finding their voice. This is the best that Ultimate Painting have presented and its one of the most autumnal records to slide out this year, fully formed and hugging the listener like a friendly shoulder.

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The Tyde – “It’s Not Gossip If It’s True”

So I mentioned the other day that, yes indeed, The Tyde have resurfaced after years off the grid. On his fourth album, Darren 4, Darren Rademaker is sounding like he’s recaptured the spirit that inhabited the sunny strains of Once and Twice, summoning up the ghosts of The Byrds, The softer side of Creation (The Sneetches, Suede, Felt) and the summer sun that beamed from within The Beach Boys. He’s also adding his dose of wearied and weathered vibes, as if the sun only leads to sunstroke and a hangover that puts the good times in bas relief. Lyrics about trysts with twenty-two year-olds aside, the album has a wonderful feel to it and “Gossip” is a highlight for me. Its practically swooning with the addition of some honeyed background vocals and a touch of slide guitar. Rademaker captures the song’s hassled sighs amiably in the Alex Knost directed clip. Its nice to have The Tyde back and summing up middle age in weathered psych-country comfort.

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Suzuki Junzo

Suzuki-Under-Review

What’s been lacking from my 2016 is in fact a healthy dose of Japanese psych. And maybe that’s my fault, take your eye off the ball and it’ll slip right through your fingers. So to help heal the wounds Wisconsin’s Utech records comes to save the day with a vinyl issue of an overlooked tape cut last year by Japanese psych-blues savant Suzuki Junzo. The album stretches out from Junzo’s more typical space-boogie bag and hits hard into the outre realms with plenty of noise and clatter and guitar meltdown. Its Junzo transported to another plane of existence and madly tying to translate what he sees into a form of communication that can be digested by us terrestrials. Junzo’s not alone in this journey either, this time he’s taken along fellow psychic traveler and legend in his own right Kuro Takahashi of LSD March, Fushitsusha and High Rise.

The pair bashes in with little regard for self-preservation on the opener, which bears the winner for psychedelic song title of the year, “Crossing the Valley of the Cosmic Death Demons,” then tumbles further off the plane for a battle royale of strings and percussion against an unseen enemy on “Les Visiteurs Du Soir.” The new issue of If I Die Before I Wake adds in some slashing new material that wasn’t on the original tape, in the form of a bonus new track and a second with a double shot of live material. The record’s not for the faint of heart or sensitive of ear, but its just what the year needed, placing it up in the ranks of noise with the great overlooked RSD gem AcidGuruPond from earlier this year.



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