David Lerner of Trummors on Cowboy – Reach For The Sky

I’ve been particularly excited for the upcoming Trummors LP, Dropout City. The LP sees David Lerner and Anne Cunningham perfecting their wide-skied country-folk approach with an album that’s sunburned and bittersweet. The album slides in on buttery leads, breezy harmonies, and a sense of ease that’s hard to resist. The band’s been building up to a record that sounds this effortless and lived-in over the past few years, but it’s hard to deny that this is a high-water mark for their brand of alt-country saunter. I asked David to lock in a pick for the Hidden Gems series and it sidles in nicely alongside their new LP. I love it when artists pick an album I’m unfamiliar with, but his one’s gonna be an album to get acquainted with pretty quick. Check out Lerner’s take on Cowboy’s 1970 debut below.

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Ellis/Munk Ensemble

The folks at El Paraiso rarely miss, and this week another great LP rolls out of the gate. This time label co-head Jonas Munk (Causa Sui) heads Stateside for a collaboration with Brian Ellis (Astra, Silver Sunshine). The duo met up in Brian’s environ of San Diego along with a rotating cast of SD musicians from local psych and jazz circles. Members of Astra, Psicomagia, Monarch, Radio Moscow and Sacri Monti all chip into the sessions and the result is prime ‘70s psychedelic jazz with a touch of cosmic chaos from within German borders. Munk’s leads waver from supple and intricate to beset with a bombast of fuzz that burns down any slink he may have left behind. Ellis pushes the keys towards the prog axis, giving the record that grandiose sense of ‘70s self-aggrandizement that let ELP make gatefold albums about mythological creatures in extended suites. The pair singe the ends of that vibe, letting this filter through electric Miles territory (if only the backing band, eschewing any otherworldly horn transcendence).

Their songs ride a tempest of drums and percolating heat through wormholes that radiate in double vision. The El Paraiso set, and Causa Sui themselves, tend toward the outer edges of psychedelic fusion, but this one’s pacing recent works from Mythic Sunship in terms of letting improvisation take hold and push them through uncharted cosmic territory. Personally, when I was first lapping up jazz in younger years the crossover into psychedelic excess came as a flood of new possibilities and this record brings the feelings swimming back. The sense that the edge is visible but never obtainable ripples through this record. It’s hard to pin down and that’s exactly the point. Drop into this and wander around a while.



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BALL

The bounty of 2020 is only getting fuller by the day. While the rest of the world slides into chaos, the music of the moment is as potent as ever. To that whit, the sophomore LP from Ball is just the pelvic thrust of power that August has been waiting for. The Swedish group has long been posing as lascivious fuzz freaks pulled straight from the primordial ooze and this album does little to dissuade the audience from that impression. Built on the power trio tumult of the ‘70s, not to mention the sex, drugs, and damnation ethos, the band is a leather codpiece come to life. Like You Are…I Once Was…Like I Am – You Will Never Be finds the band lusting after a Satanic priestess that leads them down corridors of corroded bass rumble, through hovels heated with brimstone guitar and into fields filled with a war drum pound that’s as funk-bridled as it is refreshingly frenetic.

While on a larger world stage Ball is not anywhere near approaching the accolades they deserve, there seem to be plenty of bands looking to light a spark this bright. Fuzz in particular is sniffing up this same ‘70s power pummel and, while they’re packing a force to be reckoned with, Ball often edges them, pairing a looseness with a certain chaos that feels like they might just break apart at the seams at any moment. Hard rock has unfortunately been taking itself too seriously of late and the hormonal wink at the heart of Ball, paired with a proficiency that careens without collapsing is a formula that I hope to see more of in the future. Lock it up in an album cover that’s straight out of the Heavy Metal film scraps and this is hard to resist. Its a bit sparser in the states, but worth nabbing when you find it.




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Savoy Motel – “Crossword Puzzle”

Been waiting on news of a new Savoy Motel and the first single from the upcoming Love Your Face is upon us and feelin’ fine. There’s less freak-funk this time around, but the band’s still picking at the prime of the ’70s this go-round — injecting a touch of bubbleglam, and it works with the band’s brand of hip-slung swagger. The beat’s made for dancing up a sweat in the pre-disco peak of ’74, rollin’ around the Bay City and soaking up a bit of foot-stomp shimmy from The Sweet while they’re at it. The guitars trade between bounce and crunch and the song is aided nicely by the VHS-vein animation from songwriter Jeffrey Novak. Look out for the new LP soon and let this one get under you skin in the meantime.



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Prana Crafter – “Rebirth In The Mosslands”

I’ve got a brand new one from Northwest psychedelic soaker Prana Crafter today and it’s just a small scrape of his upcoming release. Fresh off of two lengthy side-long splits with ragenap and Tarotplane, Will’s next release is essentially an album-long composition broken up into movements. The first section, “Rebirth In The Mosslands” walks in slow, with a touch of dread in its blood. Steady, progressive plucks give way to a Kosmiche grind that puts this squarely in the pocket of Popul Vuh fans. It’s the opening salvo to an album that tumbles through cosmic impulses — heady and nebulous — and acts as a proper continuation of what Sol was working on with his Symbiose split. There’s tension and trepidation at play here, and Sol wields both with a fine edge that never cuts too deep for discomfort. It’s been great to see him weave between psych folk and more atmospheric ephemera, as he lends a scholar’s ear to both genres. The record lands September 18th as a split release between Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube and you’re gonna want to get a hold of this one.



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Frankie and the Witch Fingers – “Sweet Freak”

Another mind bender vid from Frankie and the Witch Fingers is out today and the accompanying Spaghetti Jesus video is taking your childhood memories of claymation and running them through a Dario Argento filter. Aduction, dissection and uncertainty all build to a fear that I haven’t felt since Clay Fighter hit the Sega Genesis back when I was a kid.Themes of altered states and dimensional slip find good company as the band also lets on that the single accompanies announcement of their reality shattering cycle of psychedelia, Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters… (repeated infinitely). Having taken the trip I can assert that the LP flings open the folds of reality, and this here is just the beginning. The new LP is out October 2nd from Greenway and Reverberation Appreciation Society.


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Randy Holden – Population II

Riding Easy went all in on the reissue of this solo LP from Randy Holden — a heavy hitter to be sure, though more beholden to the riff than the hook. With no less than five versions of the LP, they seek to assert its classic status. In this light, Holden is held up as being from Blue Cheer, and to be sure he was in Blue Cheer for about an album, playing on their ’69 LP New! Improved! Blue Cheer, in the expanded lineup that attempted to improve upon the perfection of the band’s Vincebus Eruptum from the previous year. While this BC album is well produced, it fails to capitalize on the lighting strike that tore through VE, melding garage to a sludge that would become metal in years to come. Though I might more accurately give Holden the edge for helming guitar duties in The Other Half rather than Blue Cheer, if pressed on his legacy. In that outfit he cut blues with a rusty hacksaw, aiming for psychedelia, but coming up just short of a full trip. Population II splits the difference between his previous endeavors, thickening the stew with the classic sludge of Blue Cheer, but adding in a good dose of the ragged soul of The Other Half.

What’s been said here is that Holden hit on Doom before Doom existed, and sure there’s a certain sense of foreboding dread in some of the passages here, but in the same year Sabbath would scare the shit out of anyone holding this up as Doom’s genesis. That’s not to say that Population II doesn’t have a heavy whollop… it does. Holden claims this was never officially released, but Hobbit, who also released Saphire Thinkers alongside a few other collector’s fodder like Rockin’ Foo and Plain Jane around the same two year span seems to have obtained a tape to press. The label reeks of tax shelter ethics, so its certainly possible that they scooped this one up without too much official insight. The record’s been bootlegged endlessly in the interim but Riding Easy give it the royal treatment, returning Holden’s debut to a platform that might warrant his live legacy. The metal merchants and the sludge huffers gonna love this if they don’t already have it, so dig in.




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Ezra Feinberg & John Kolodij – “Castle & Sand” / “Beyond The Fragile”

It’s already been a great year for Ezra Feinberg, with the release of his LP Recumbent Speech, but it seems he’s not done yet. Today Feinberg announces the release of a new split with John Kolodij (High Aura’d). Ezra offers up a rain-soaked vision on “Castle & Sand” which finds them trading isolated, patient riffs with a rippling piano part that doesn’t sound too far away from the environments on Ezra’s last LP. The song stings the air with a quiet desperation that’s a not an unwelcome accompaniment to life lived in solitude. Drones thread the entire LP, and elsewhere the guitars slide away completely. Shimmering tones float under woodwinds that dodge around the listening space while on the flip Kolodij pushes the drones past subliminal and into rising water panic. Feinberg and Kolodij have tended towards headphone records in the past, but this one is primed for listening in a personal bubble. They balance darkness with light in equal measures, creating a record that’s part new beginning, part tidal breath. The LP is out August 28th on Whited Sepulchre.





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Grace Cummings on Buffy Sainte-Marie – It’s My Way!

Hands down one of the most engrossing records that I came across last year was the Flightless debut from Australian songwriter Grace Cummings. Her scarred and furrowed songs were only rendered more so by her sonorous voice. She has the kind of stop you in your tracks delivery that would leave most listeners agape until the last note left the air. She’s followed the album up with an entry to the Looking Glass series for Mexican Summer that’s serves as a proper epilogue to the record and naturally that had me thinking that Grace might have a gem in her collection that she looks to. Shoulda thought of this when I was writing up the album, but of course Cummings is a natural fit for the storyteller power of Buffy Sainte-Marie. She recounts the impact of the songwriter’s essential ’64 debut on her own works.

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Garcia Peoples – “One At A Time”

I’m not sure if it’s the most pressing issue of lockdown lifestyle, but the absence of Garcia Peoples’ shows has been felt fairly hard around here. The band’s built for the stage. It’s where they thrive, where they evolve, where they commune with the room sweat to create the next symbiotic stretch of cosmic comedown. That said, the band has become, increasingly, creatures of the studio in the past few years. With the release of One Step Behind they’ve crossed over into creating epics of tape transference that extend the alchemy on stage to the studio setting. They keep the momentum in motion with Night Cap At Wit’s End. The new record was recorded over nine months with Jeff Ziegler (Chris Forsyth, The War on Drugs) and the first whiff of the album, “One At A Time” finds the band shutting out some of their sunnier impulses in exchange for the reclusive, edgy, drug-induced lockjaw of the mid ‘70s.

The song sees the band begin to leave the obvious touchstones of their sound behind and merge their natural ability to find groove and explode it onstage with with the living organism of the studio environment. Acoustics play a bigger part here, injecting a bit of JJ Cale sweat, but that’s not where this one ends up, not by a long shot. Gubler’s keys are beginning to play a bigger part as well, so the fertile stench of prog rears its head, but that’s not where this leaves us either. Instead, “One At A Time” is as constantly shifting as anything the band has done, while feeling more surefooted than they’ve ever been. Its we, the listener, who rotate around them in flux, in thrall to the sound and where it goes. The band’s stirring the cloud cover and we’re just dodging the drops. If, somehow, Garcia Peoples escaped your view before now, this is the time to lock in. The record lands October 9th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Check out the excellent video created by labelmate Kendra Amalie above.



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