Browsing Category Bits & Pieces

Jeffrey Alexander on Keith Jarrett’s – Restoration Ruin

Among the artists that dominated RSTB last year, Jeffrey Alexander was one of the most prolific, showing up with Dire Wolves (in one of their best yet), on a solo jaunt for Feeding Tube, and playing the RSTB anniversary show with a new group dubbed The Heavy Lidders. The latter featured members of Elkhorn and Bardo Pond laying waste to the blues in fine fashion. In anticipatetion for Dire Wolves’ latest album, on the way next month from Centripetal Force, Jeffrey’s contributed a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Picking out an oddity in the typically jazz-centric catalog of Keith Jarrett, he sheds some new light on an often maligned piece of the artist’s repertoire. Check out how this record came into Alexander’s life and what makes it such a treasure.

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Arbor Labor Union – Crushed By Fear Destroyer

Got another heater from the upcoming Arbor Labor Union LP today and it swerves slightly away from the light hearted ramble of “Flowerhead” and into thicker clouds of smoke. The song’s still stretching for the horizon though, putting a rhythm stomp on their sound, tumbling “Crushed By Fear Destroyer” into a Crazy Horse careen that begs to be let loose in the live arena. The band’s chewing on a lot of the same fodder that’s been fueling the Forsyth/Garcia People/One Eleven Heavy axis and it becomes clear by a few bars in that these guys need to hop on a set with any of the three. Arbor Labor Union have crouched in the chrysalis and come out the other side fully immersed in the new dawn of Cosmic Americana, shedding their past for a sound that’s vibrating in the tailwinds of Mighty Baby, New Riders, and Country Funk while updating the gnarl with the debris of players that came up with post-rock heroes like Tortoise humming through the wires of their discmen. Catch the new LP from Arrowhawk on 2/7.


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Stephen Malkmus – Xian Man

Not that this track needs my input (if you escaped it yesterday, you probably weren’t paying attention), but this wasn’t what I’d been expecting from a new Malkmus LP and it’s certainly a pleasant surprise. The last record seemed like exactly what someone of Stephen’s stature has (and should have) the freedom to make. It was a left turn that didn’t always lead down clear streets but the journey was scenic nonetheless. The first cut from the upcoming Traditional Techniques seems like another left, albeit this time right into my wheelhouse. Along with Matt Sweeney in tow and Chris Funk arranging, Malkmus burns through a set of dessert blues that feel like Matt and Steve have been spending some time picking through the Subliminal Frequencies catalog and attending a Tinariwen set or two. There’s a feeling of blues, but its smoke-smeared and winding down the paths that usually have Ben Chasny and Sir Richard Bishop lurking in the shadows at the end. Feels like a good mood on Malkmus, as there’s no need to perfect the untucked aleternatives he’s already helped foster. This too feels like a whim. They might not all stick, but take the chances, bring along a few ringers on guitar and I’ll be there waiting, that’s for sure.




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Ben Seretan – “Power Zone”

There’s a soft lilt to “Power Zone,” the fist peek into Ben Seretan’s upcoming LP, Youth Pastoral. The song is baked by the sun – a yielding Autumn sun, not an unforgiving mid-summer swelter – and the aura around the track grows tight with a bittersweet comfort. There is breeze in the song too, and it washes away the ache of the sun with a chill that soothes. There’s almost a feeling of rolling waves crashing through the courses, not surf, but the lament of proximal water that’s too cold to enter. That ache and yearning is wrapped in a a touch of tender country swoon – slide guitar and ombré harmonies that slip into one another. Dusky sax leads the way out of the song like the aforementioned afternoon sun trailing into the horizon, holding onto every inch of sky before letting go. Rambled plucks saunter through the song with an unhurried grace and it all frames Seretan’s voice with a humble charm. It’s a wonderfully shaded song that begs to hear the rest of the record, which arrives February 28th on Ben’s own Whatever’s Clever Records. As an added bonus, the record was recorded at Black Dirt with Jason Meagher so you know it sounds crisp.




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Endless Boogie – “Jerome”

There’s a lot of music hitting the ears today, but its always time to stop and clear the schedule when a cut from Endless Boogie comes rolling down the wires. The band’s been sifting through some archival cuts over the past year, with the excellent and essential Volume I, II getting a reissue last year. This time the band embark on a split between fellow RSTB faves Weak Signal and they unearth an outtake from their 2010 sessions for Full House Head. Featuring a packed lineup with Eklow, Sweeney, and Malkmus all hitting their full guitar glory here, the song bites hard on the frayed wires of glam, garage, and nascent punk without a shred of concern for self-safety. Admittedly shooting for a hybrid clambake of Hawkwind’s tail pipe huffer “Urban Guerilla” and the dirtbag glory days of Flaming Groovies., the grove kicks in like Slade gone gonzo and the whole track is short through with Paul Major’s inimitable growl. Don’t miss, don’t delay. This slab’s so thick and sinister they probably had a hard time getting the petroleum to petrify into a solid state. It bubbles and oozes with a glorious mung.




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The Native Cats – “Run With The Roses”

One of my absolute favorites back in action again. The Tasmanian duo strips post-punk down to its barest elements – rumbling bass that jostles the bones with a dogged glee, menacing drums, and sloshing synths pregnant with noise. Still, their most viable weapon remains Singer Chloe Alison Escott, who aims her vocal dress-downs with the pointed conviction and unnerving intensity of Mark E. Smith at his most chilling. “Run With The Roses” thrums with energy to the point of parching the body. It’s full of frustration and disappointment, and a demand for the world around it to do better. There’s a self-consciousness to the track and the overwhelming feeling leeches through the speakers and into the listener’s nerves. “I felt my body happening to people on the street. I had a hero for a couple of weeks,” she sings with the scowl of a fed up parent. The song is as barbed and baited as anything on their LP from last year, only begging for more from them as soon as possible. The single is out February 10th from Rough Skies.




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Cool Ghouls – Live ’19

Its been a little while since I’ve heard a peep from one of San Francisco’s finest, Cool Ghouls and while news of a new album would be amazing, a live document recorded at the city’s great psychedelic epicenter, The Chapel isn’t a bad gift either. The band runs through a good portion of their best, fleshing them out in ways that thicken up their jangle with a good dose of guitar flash. There have been some pretty essential live albums coming down in the past year with Howlin’ Rain, Wooden Ships, and Mythic Sunship all turning in live wire workouts and this one stands poised to stand alongside of them .Check out a burning version of “Animal Races” from the upcoming set below.




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Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard on Bruce Palmer’s – The Cycle Is Complete

One of my top picks from last year was, without hesitation, the double LP darkness and light journey of Elkhorn. The double dose of lysergically locked guitars on Elk Jam and Sun Cycle pushed the band beyond anything in their catalog and sets up some pretty high expectations for their upcoming shut-in brainstorm The Storm Sessions. I’ve gotten to run a few shows over the past year with the band’s Jesse Sheppard on the bill and know that he’s not only a consummate musican but also a devoted collector. Naturally I figured he’d be a great fit for the Hidden Gems series and, as such, he has shed some much-needed light on a Buffalo Springfield-adjacent obscurity that sent a bit of a middle finger to the record industry on its release. Check out Jesse discussing Bruce Palmer’s The Cycle is Complete below.

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Traffik Island – “Charlie Is My Darling”

One of last year’s great surprises was the solo debut from Zak Olsen as Traffik Island. Zak’s been a fixture in Aussie indie for a while popping up in ORB, Frowning Clouds, Thibault and Hierophants before going down the road of psych-pop with a folk heart, dredging up come Syd Barrett, Simon Finn, and Kevin Ayers comparisons with his off-kilter warble. The last album was produced by Library recordings savant Frank Maston, though its Olsen’s new cut that sounds like its got more of Frank’s influence all over it. “Charlie Is My Darling” pulls away from the vocal folk and into an instrumental groove thats’ bright and soaked in sun and breeze. This time around Traffik Island is hinged on Mark Mothersbaugh synth quirk and looping samples, but its still got a timeless quality to it. There’s still a filter of the ‘60s laid over an aughts mentality. Apparently this ties together the past and the future, but that only makes me wonder what the future might bring. The new LP, Peanut Butter Traffik Jam is out February 21st from Flightless.



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Kyle Forester – “Know What You’re Doing”

On his sophomore LP Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistor, Woods) finds himself enmeshed in worn-in comfort and cracked bittersweet soul. It’s easy to feel the warmth of the record from the glow of “Know What You’re Doing,” but there’s more at work here than just a hummable melody. The song bends in the breeze, soaks in the late autumn sun, but it also sighs with an aged soul that’s quietly restless. The song has an ache to it that’s hard to shake. For all the auburn shimmers, the song has a lonesome shadow that trails long behind it – tied up with age and doubt.

Despite the melancholy mood, Kyle found the song came naturally, slipping out of his fingers quickly. He muses, “I read this thing one time about how John Lennon’s favorite songs of his own were the ones he wrote in one sitting, like “Across the Universe”. I’m no John Lennon, but I also wrote this song really quickly and it’s probably one of the reasons I feel a lot of fondness for it. I suppose it’s about being surprised by the expectation one feels as a adult to “know what you’re doing”, like just in general. That’s never felt particularly natural to me. Michael O’Neill (Crickets, High Time, MEN) plays what is in my opinion a killer guitar solo in the middle and I’m really proud of the fact that this one has a real “outro”, I really like outros.” His new LP, Hearts In Gardens is out February 21st.


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