Garcia Peoples

I’ve already broken down both halves of this LP as track posts, but this one’s a true 2019 crusher so it deserves proper credit in the long rundown. To echo the label, two tracks doesn’t make this release an EP, so don’t do it the disservice of calling it one. One Step Behind embraces the Garcias’ prowess for improvisation (as best observed in the live setting ) and amplifies it with ventures into psychedelic jazz and slow-burn downer epics alike. The title track gets most of the focus, which seems warranted given it’s the most ambitious recording the band has ventured in the studio to date. Recorded with Jason Meagher at Black Dirt, the track times in over the half-hour mark and the band doesn’t waste a minute of it, taking the listener on a multi-part journey and employing guitarist Tom Malach’s father Bob on Saxophone to drive this one through the Cherry/Sun Ra cosmic curtain.

The band builds the beginning into a circular riff, sliding off of the jam/psych axis for a while and into a minimalist float that locks somewhere between Terry Riley and Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick. When Mallach Sr. hits the speakers he brings the full force and nuance of his years locked in sessions with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Arto Lindsay and his sax proves dexterous and devastating in equal measures. The band exits the psych-jazz rumble with a powerslide into their expected, but always welcome vision of Cosmic Americana and it’s just as drenched in sunshine curls and verdant strums as any of their works. The track tears into its second half with a twin guitar attack but the band makes it feel like they’ve hardly broken a sweat. The song is a proper showcase of all that makes the Peoples tick – technical skill, boundless enthusiasm for elevating guitar rock, and grooves that can’t and won’t be denied. The band’s played extended and abridged versions of the track live lately and both work incredibly well, a further flex of their arranging skills.

After all that, they still have the energy for an eight-minute closer that channels the broken and beautiful excess of Gene Clark’s No Other, albeit with a good deal less cocaine dusting the edges. With a swap in songwriting duties, the band shifts bassist Derek Spaldo to the piano and new permanent keys player (and man of many instruments) Pat Gubler to flute for a late night, whiskey-soaked comedown dedicated to lost love. It’s one of the more tender moments in the Garcia Peoples songbook, and it’s good to see them shading in their edges beyond expectations. The whole record leaves the listener twisted and torn, lifted and lowered. I can’t predict where the band goes from here, but standing on the precipice of this release I can only imagine they’re going to completely tear down what it means to be a jam/psych/choogle/rock band in 2019 and rebuild it in their own image.




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Alex McFarlane – “Event Y”

Always top quality out of Hobbies Galore and this time the latest down the chute is from label boss / ex-Twerp Alex McFarlane. With another limited release that blends his pop and experimental selves, McFarlane taps into cosmic pop and synth float over the course of ten new tracks. Standout “Event Y” pits his gnarled guitar against a fizzin’ set of keys. It’s a perfectly bent piece of pop that finds the niche between catchiness and cultured cool. The song swaggers then stumbles into melancholy. It’s a beautifully sighed and singed gem that proves McFarlane doesn’t just have an ear for some of the best Aussie artists, he happens to be one himself. The tape is out now and limited to 100.




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The Ivytree – A Pillar of Clouds

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year from the Ivytree camp. Following the excellent, if not to say essential, collection that Glenn put together for Recital earlier in the year covering unreleased recordings from 2001-2004, Tall Texan has a new collection going even further back into the archives. The extremely limited offering covers Donaldson’s works as Ivytree from 1999-2004, picking up some overlooked covers like “Blind River,” which appeared on a Tom Rapp tribute compilation put together by Jeff Alexander of Dire Wolves. The cover appears there under the name shift The Olivetree, though it’s unmistakably an Ivytree treatment at heart. It slots alongside nicely with a (sadly) timely Ivytree cover of the Hunter/Garcia track “Rosemary” from Aoxomoxoa.

There’s an alternate cut from the split with Chris Smith, but the rest of this material remains pretty much unheard and, as with the last collection, it’s nice to tumble down the rabbit hole of Glenn’s long simmering minidisc archives to slip back into the early aughts fog of psychedelic folk that enveloped The Ivytree. Repeated listens endear these tracks as deeply as early gems from Glenn, and if you’re looking to paint the full picture of The Ivytree/birdtree songbook then this one should already feel essential. As mentioned before, this one is even more limited than the previous collection (ltd. 100 on blue vinyl) so probably best not to mull the pickup too long on this. The cool temps are coming, and despite its West Coast birth, this is perfect for the smoke-curled hours that lie ahead.




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Uranium Club – “Two Things At Once”

A new entry from the Sup Pop singles club sees RSTB faves Uranium Club getting a shout with a new double shot of gnarled punk madness. The single gives birth to “Two Things at Once (pts 1&2)” and the songs display UC’s knack for tightly wound guitars, narrative insanity, and post-punk the way it was meant to be – experimental as hell, rhythmic and ripped. The first part takes more than a few time shifts before settling into a hypnotic slide-out with their spoken-word cadence dripping off the guitars. The b-side is an instrumental wander through the most serene waters I’ve heard from Uranium Club yet. The song acts as a bit of a coda to the half that precedes it, threading in a bit of the same theme, and easing down into the horizon. I’ve always loved the Sub Pop singles for their willingness to take chances on bands that might not be a hit with their huge audience, though here’s hoping that like Omni, this is one band that might stick around. Then again, both Blues Control and Tyvek are in the ranks of Singles alums, so I won’t hold my breath.




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Comet Gain

It’s been a long time since the last Comet Gain LP graced the turntable, and in that time the world’s sought to smash itself head-first into the walls as often as possible. The woven comfort of their last album, while perhaps providing shelter from the storm, wouldn’t be quite what’s called for in this year of eroding centers, our own personal hell of 2019. So it’s only fitting that Fireraisers Forever! is here to save us from ourselves. David Feck is back with his knuckles bared, a la Réalistes, a companion piece in discomfort and disillusionment to their new slab. The record raises its teeth against politicians and the body politic, idiots and ignorance in all it’s greasy splendor. There’s a relentless restlessness to the album – turning their jangle n’ strum into a shield against the everyday dig of the doledrum foxhole.

Feck doesn’t feint as the record bursts open with a declaration that “We’re All Fucking Morons” and the rhetoric only gets more sizzle from there on out taking down the scumbags and scroungers on “The Institute Debased” and knocking the very core of nostalgia from its pedestal on “Mid 8Ts”. That said, it’s not all invective and gnash, there are moments that soften in the sun (“The Godfrey Brothers,” “Her 33rd Goodbye”) but they only balance the stiffened resolve of the rest of the album. This is a classic clash of Comet Gain impulses — melodic, melancholic, misanthropic, and mad and mellow. What’s clear is that Feck and co. have never lost a step over the years and every new Comet Gain just adds to the legacy.



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Bill Orcutt

After years of disassembling the notions of song through the divinations of his guitar, Bill Orcutt is putting them back together, albeit with his own slant on what folk and blues are meant to be. Orcutt’s always had a knack for taking songforms into less comfortable territory, letting his runs ruffle rather than soothe the soul, all while shaking the American Songbook by its ankles. He’s found a cache of secret notes between the pages of that songbook and he’s pulled a few of them into his own compositions for a ride that’s both familiar and transformative. The record roots itself in the same fingerpicked folk that might rear its head on a Richard Bishop or Fahey album and the same syncopated blues that informed players from the porches to the stage, but like Tetuzi Akiyama, Loren Connors, or 75 Dollar Bill alongside him, he’s taken the riff and ramble and given them teeth.

His runs aren’t pure, and we should all be thankful for that. When Orcutt runs the boogie down he’s bound to bend bones to the point of breaking if the listener is inspired to movement. Don’t nod along too hard lest you strain a ligament, y’know. His acoustic runs still bring forth the image of natural splendor, but there’s a taste of man-made disaster in there as well. In his vision trees are uprooted and twisted with power lines and smells of charred wood mingle with verdant moss. Orcutt goes to the well and brings back the elements of life, but not before letting a bit of blood loose in the water. We are nourished and slightly poisoned at the same time. As usual he’s proven a master of his forms, but just as usual he’s taken expectation and kicked it into the dirt. There are others that have tried, but few that can find that same singular light that Orcutt brings to an album.




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J.R. Bohannan – “Reflections of an American Dream”

The first cut from the upcoming solo debut LP by J.R. Bohannon is a sparkling, dewy song that rambles down the countryside with sun in its soul. After years playing with Torres and Gold Dime, Bohannon follows his EP Recôncavo from April with a record that stretches through solo sunshine and jazz explorations, bringing experimental drummer in demand Greg Fox on board along and Luke Stewart on bass. For now, though, this one is all Bohannon – bare, but not dry, finding the beauty in running its fingers along the ridges of fallen trees and letting the mountain air fill every inch of it with a good humor. The record is out later this month and I’d recommend getting a bit excited about that.



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The Hecks

Chicago art-punk experience The Hecks have been laying down a solid revue since 2012, stepping up to the long player party with their 2016 eponymous record for Trouble in Mind. While that was a solid shot at shoving pop on its ass, the band finds their full groove on this month’s My Star. Wedding the pocket pop reactions of new wave and post-punk to the prog that preceded it, the band invigorates the past by folding fractured glass sounds onto themselves – letting their torqued hooks repeat like Krautrock gone glycerin and snap steadily in plastic precision. They capture that moment when the collection of sounds seeping into post-punk felt fresh. The Hecks bend the freakishness and experimentation of the early ‘80s into a whirlwind of light and sound and we all come out better off for it.

Standouts like “Flash” stretch and contort their sound through cracked mirror caverns, taking the normal pop song into a headier direction. They’re quick to compact it back into a plush and prim box when needed, though. They run a Prince flexidisc through the hot n’ warbled presses on “So 4 Real,” going for full sweat cycle and making it sound easy. Like fellow Trouble albums Omni they know how powerful tone can be, and the band nails the core of their sound to guitars that oscillate from metallic to plasticine, keys that shimmer and shine like mall lights off of plexi displays and drums so crisp they threaten to shatter if pushed any further. The record walks the line of nostalgia forward – there’s so much familiar about what The Hecks are doing but it’s all been jumbled and shuffled to obscure their source material. It’s disorienting and thrilling, making for one of the year’s more compelling pop pieces.



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RSTB Radio WGXC: October

Last night marked the third month of radio over at WGCX and I’d have to say it was another good one (I’m biased). Another mix of classics and soon to be classics with inclusions from the new United Waters, the new stunner from Tobacco City, a recently repressed Mapache, Happy End and Kebnekaise bringing up the ’70s psych standards and the b-side to Garcia Peoples’ upcoming LP bringing down the house. Check out the tracklist below and listen/download the show HERE.

::Playlist::

SUSS – Wetlands /// Mosses – Fever Dream Vacation /// United Waters – Arrowheads /// Pugh Rogefeldt – Små Lätta Moln /// Opal- She’s A Diamond /// Tobacco City – Blue Raspberry /// Garcia Peoples – Heart and Soul /// Allah Las – Prazer Em Te Conhecer /// Country Funk – Really My Friend /// Mapache – Chico River /// Triptides – See Her Light /// Happy End – Haikara Beautiful /// Kebnekaise – Jag Älskar Sommaren, Solen Och Varma Vindar /// Neal Francis – She’s A Winner /// Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn – The Beast /// Gong Gong Gong – Ride Your Horse /// Wet Tuna – Cowpath 40 /// Weak Signal – Lying /// Velveteen Rabbit – Guitar /// The Hecks – Flash /// The Taxidermists – Flying Forever /// Kelley Stoltz – My Regime /// Squid – Houseplants /// The Springfields – Reachin’ For The Stars /// The Wake – Firestone Tyres /// Program – Motorbike /// Blades of Joy – Finally High

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Allah Las

Been a few years since Allah Las issued that last foray into the surf-splashed waters of their sunshine soul and their latest, LAHS, arrives not a moment too soon. The band has long been buttered by a carefree approach to garage, folk and psychedelia, but the new LP seems even more soaked in the languid love of the West Coast sounds than ever before. The songs here don’t fuss or grumble. The Las long ago threw their watches into the surf and let them float away. When the sun dips low they know it’s time to head to the covered patio perch that drives the night. Skin tightened by the sun, but never burned, this is the soundtrack to communal Mezcal flights – melding the salt air with the salt rim as the fingerpicked guitars burble in the background.

While the vibe is wholly Californian in nature, there’s also a sense of travel and wanderlust in the bones of LAHS. They take their relaxed attitude with them while they ramble on to the next locale. The band sparked the match on this particular sound with the soundtrack to the surf doc Self Discovery For Social Survival – turning the oceanic churn into musical motion – and they continue to fan the flames here. There’s a natty, ‘60s sense of properly buttoned, yet relaxed style to the album. The smells of linen and leather waft on the breeze. The yurt they hunkered down in is communal and the days are without itinerary. Even if you can’t get away, LAHS can act as a 45-minute microcosm of vacation and leisure.

Allah Las are the guides, shifting off the path and immersing the listener in a sea of unfamiliar voices – utilizing Spanish and Portuguese to add a new dimension to their songwriting. The veil of anonymity slips over the traveler in a new land and it is as comforting as the menagerie of spices that fill the air, balanced with damp wood and that familiar snap of salt on the wind. It’s the tie that binds. No matter where they roam, the sea is always lapping at the lashes of an Allah Las record. The band slips the ties between George Harrison, José Mauro, Curt Newbury, Curt Boettcher and UK folk group Heron, weaving together an album that exudes ease from every pore.



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