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The World

Gonna keep things centered in Oakland today with the new mini-LP from The World. The band hit hard with their debut, First World Record in 2017 and this more compact version of their sound doesn’t sway too wildly from the formula that brought them my way initially. Seven tracks dot the EP, ranging from the elastic dance contortions of “White Raddish” and “You’re Going Down” to the slow-down simmer of “Punctuate” and the buzzsaw beat of “Last Rhodesian.” As in the past the band is at its best when they let the sax slice through the crushed tin timbres, shredding the reserve of icy cool that they build up in the more mellow moments.

Despite it being an icy chiller about finding common ground, the band’s probably not loving the cultural timing of a song titled “Jackson 5” on the EP, but they work it into a bubbling lock groove that works all the same, despite the headline connotations that spring to mind. They round the EP out with a bit of bleary dub on “Kill Your Landlord” and the sample slapped strangeness of “Slow Rho,” which seems like a fun experiment but doesn’t do much other than tie the EP together at the stiches. Still, a couple of killer tracks in the mix here and likely they hit hard from the stage. As I mentioned with Preening, there’s definitely something at work in the bowels of Oakland and their new wave of post-punk is much appreciated around here.



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Preening

Plenty of acerbic vibes wafting out of Oakland these days. Alongside equally ravaged post-punk releases from The World, Andy Human & The Reptoids, Rays, and No Babies, comes the debut from Preening. Just as sax slashed (if not more so) than their contemporaries in The World, Preening is chewing up post-punk and spitting it back on the dancefloor for the crowd to slip in. Their vision, while angular and infectious, is also confrontational in a way that many of their peers don’t come close to. While there’s a woolen irritation that gets under the skin with a band like Lithics, Preening are a whole other hairshirt to contend with. Think The Contortions backing Beefheart and we’re getting closer to the kernel that wrought ‘em. This is a record that’s built to batter and be battered by.

Gang Laughter pitches and fidgets in its seat, wads riffs into balls of wire and then, unprovoked, lobs them at the listener in the form of sax squalls and sandpapered epithets from vocalist Max Nordile. If a record could be described as sounding like a lack of sleep, then this is it. The record spins on its impulses – swinging wildly without planning but connecting with the razored wit of someone used to operating out of control and keenly in their element with hackles raised. Like most bursts of manic energy, the record doesn’t stick around long. No songs here bust the 2:30 barrier. Preening slash in, slide out and leave onlookers befuddled, bemused and bandaged, but changed all the same. My suggestion is to succumb to Gang Laughter. Let it wash over and poke at your liver for a heckled half-hour, there’s something freeing in letting go of the societal thread for a while.



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Caetano Veloso – S/T (Tropicália)

Not that the folks at Third Man don’t have wide ranging taste, but its not the enclave I expected to birth the first official version of Caetano Veloso’s eponymous solo debut. The man, responsible for the name of, and in large part the direction of, the Tropicália movement, moved from former child prodigy to art impulses with this 1968 album. Along with Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze and Os Mutantes, Veloso was integral to the shift away from indigenous folk music and towards a larger psychedelic consciousness within Musica Popular Brasileira. Though Costa and Veloso recorded a duet album, Domingo, together in ’67, it wasn’t until the release of a pair of self-titled albums by Veloso and Gilberto Gil the following year that the movement would begin to take shape musically. The reaction wasn’t necessarily always to the welcome reception of fans, who objected to the shift away from folk. Moreso, given his and other Tropicalists’ critique of their military-led government, it was even less popular with the powers that be.

The album was aimed at becoming a cultural hinge-point, inspired by the open pop format of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s. The record embraces traditional bossa rhythms, spoken word passages, heavy electrics, and a newfound interest in effects. The resultant album, though attempting to veil its political leanings in cheeky implications, drew ire as it grew in popularity. For as much ground as it broke in shifting traditions, it broke twice as much in emboldening and codifying youth culture against their own broken systems and American institutionalism. Eventually this would result in the exile of Veloso and his compatriot Gil.

The two performed on TV in 1968 and the ensuing uproar sent both artists overseas to London until 1972 when they were finally allowed return. There Veloso would work write and record the somber and superb follow-ups (also self-titled, but typically referred to by their first tracks “Irene” and “A Little More Blue”). As he returned Veloso would become the center of Brazilian pop for more than twenty years. This is, essentially where it began, and in many ways still some of his best. The record has been reissued several times over the years, but this is the first sanctioned US-pressed copy. As with any version, it is utterly essential.


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Sacred Lamp

Familiarity with Canada’s psychedelic noise conduit Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn may have come to you in quite a few ways over the last year or so. Despite having been the eye of the storm when it comes to Canada’s more experimental core, Dunn also proved that he’s got a tender tear in him as well with his solo album, Lightbourn, last year. The album saw Dunn slinking towards more traditional songforms, finding solace in Northern Lights country and flaying open his heart. While he did occasionally break out the burn on a few of this songs, the album a fairly different animal from the CD-r stock pile of an artist who’s spent time in the trenches with MV & EE, Woods and the more outre end of the psych-folk spectrum. Even more unlikely, Dunn was integral to coalescing the band that would back up Meg Remy on U.S. Girls’ In A Poem Unlimited last year, straying even further from his comfortable soil with a blend of ‘70s pop twists and jazz-scratched disco that led to one of her most invigorating albums.

He’s proved a versatile artists who can’t be underestimated, or pinned down. So naturally, his collaboration with longtime cohort Ayal Senior as Sacred Lamp is akin to none of these things. If these are your entry points to Dunn, then the duo’s eponymous LP is something more ephemeral. Built on an interplay of guitars that run between the blues ballasted acoustic and twilight divining electric runs that feel haunted by the memories of something just beyond the folds of the horizon. The record is forever chasing the feeling of peace. The LP luxuriates in the guitar, touching on moments that recall Bishop and Chasney, Basho and the collaborative combos of Steve Gunn.

Its a rose-hued gem of a record that should appeal to any fans of those respective camps or the long tendrils that tie them to several schools of fingerpicked and potent psych-folk. This one feels like it has the capacity to slip through the the most slender of cracks. I’d advise grabbing hold before it does.



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The Uranium Club

Minneapolis’ cracked punk purveyors Uranium Club are back with another LP that draws from the miscreant/art axis of ‘70s derangement that exists between the loosened strands of punk and the buttoned-up prescription of post-punk. The band swings through manic guitar runs, folding riffs into origami shapes that seem ill-advised, yet wind up absurdly catchy if the circadian rhythms of your psyche are knocked properly askew. The band is breaking the catalogs of Dow Jones & the Industrials, Pere Ubu, Devo, MX-80, and Wire over their knee and shuffling the pieces into an order that reads like a buried Burroughs if only you could find the cipher.

They jumped off of the counter and onto the decks with their last EP, proved the madness can’t be contained to 33 revolutions per minute on a live follow-up, and now they’re rubbing oven cleaner in the wounds left raw and reeling with a brand-new slab for hire. The Cosmo Cleaners is stretching your consciousness out through the left nostril and jamming the nozzle of an aerosol air freshener up the other, 9V batter firmly planted on the tongue for full effect. Seemingly stumbling from chord to chord, Uranium Club has actually got the chaos mapped meticulously and printed on line ruled circuit boards for the taking. They punctuate the perilous peaks and crumpled valleys of their songs with car horns attenuated to specific frequencies that’ll induce involuntary full-body jerking. They keep the rolled aluminum din swinging while simultaneously laying out a full spoken word screed over the top. They won’t be taking questions after the session.

With The Cosmo Cleaners the band is proving that their lauded early releases were no fluke of human condition, and more to the point, should have served as a warning rather than a welcome. They’ve set out a statement of ill invective with their latest for Static Shock, built of motor oil and bacteria and given life like a viral golem doomed to wander the streets in search of blood. There’s a heavy sense that the members of Uranium Club find themselves to be more intelligent than you, and perhaps they’re right, but they’ve been left bored and bruised and no job sates the backlog of bile in their system quite like issuing ire through reel to reel. So, they’ll take your twenty dollars and stuff it their socks, saving up for another aural attack, another manifestation of manifesto made metal down the line. Enjoy it… or don’t. I’m not sure that it makes a difference, but it definitely leaves a mark.



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Alien Nosejob – Buffet of Love 12″

Following up on his LP from last year, Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, School Damage) serves four tracks of minimalist dance delirium. Shifted away from the squirm pop of his previous LP, Robertson keeps the emphasis on endless pining and extraterrestrial love but sets the scene amid a backdrop of stripped-down beats and cold-call synths. While he claims a bedridden bout with Italo-disco deep dives on YouTube is at work here, there’s also more than a few shades of German beat mongers in the bones of this EP as well. Echoing the insistent pop predicaments of Monopol and Rheingold, the EP’s four tracks are shorn of the goofy warmth that pervaded his album and zipped up in the icy folds of Nosejob’s new phase.

Whether this is a permanent shift or Alien Nosejob remains a pop chameleon destined to forever shed its skin remains to be seen. The four tracks here serve a potent dose of no-frills dance, but perhaps there are already new shores to be littered with tales of love lost and missed abductions. For now, this acts as a nice document of dance built for isolation – bedroom pop gems that don’t need a room full of gyrating sympathizers to make their Teutonic twists last.

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Lucille Furs

Chicago’s beat/psych revivalists Lucille Furs send their ’60-dripped pop on export for their latest album, getting a release from French Magazine and boutique label Requiem Pour Un Twister. The pairing seems like a perfect fit. While Chicago’s got a thriving garage scene, there’s something about their lush, starry-eyed pop that seems like it must come from somewhere other than the heartland. The exact mix here shifts like a kaleidoscope and remains a bit hard to pin, but it seems like they might have tripped through London on their way to meet up label heads in Paris. Other than the strong twinge of British Invasion kicking through, the band rifles through a half-stack of your favorite psych-pop touchpoints – swooning over Blossom Toes, Billy Nicholls, and The Pretty Things with some more high-minded harmonies that dip into Nuggets fodder like The World of Oz, Mortimer, and anything connected to Curt Boettcher.

Yet the strongest wafts seem to come from their penchant for dragging all these bits through the silken brambles of Jacques Dutronc and Serge Gainsbourg. These overtones make the Francophile connection all the more understandable. They share both artists’ love for the deeper blades of grass, wrapping their pop in swirls of sound that envelop in verdant tones. That doesn’t leave them swimming in symphonics though, like Dutronc, they know when to swing and when to swoon and they tend towards the former over the bulk of Another Land. The band’s definitely grinding up the past to mix their paint, but rather than recontextualizing it like Temples or Morgan Delt, they’re often painting masters in shifted hues. That’s not to say that their referential tendencies haven’t produced an album that’s a fun ride all the way through. There’s a lot of tip-of-the-tongue, back-of-the-mind moments but the band’s accomplished enough to make their pastiche play perfectly.




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Michael Rother – Solo

Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.

In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.

Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.

This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.



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Pye Corner Audio

Nine years in, Martin Jenkins is still chasing the slick synth dystopia under the guise of Pye Corner Audio. For his latest, Hollow Earth, he jumps just left of Stasis, his 2016 LP for Ghost Box. Still steeped in the disembodied bio-mechanics of a future rendered sterile, cut off from contact through the invisible walls of technology and anxiety, but less blunt than its predecessor. The album practically glides off the glossy curves of plastic fixtures. It recycles air in dry batches to keep the home sterile – livable, but not lived-in. The plants are all poised to give the air some much needed oxygen, but like the rest of the environment, they seem curated rather than organic.

PCA’s work has drawn as ever from the kind of sci-fi soundtracks that have been finding homes on Death Waltz, Mondo, and Waxworks. There’s definitely the feeling that there’s a flicker of film somewhere missing its soundtrack. There’s also nods to the pulse of ‘90s Berlin as the album slides into its midsection. The creepy calm of “Descent” and the title track are replaced by heart-quickening adherence to beat – though Jenkins doesn’t shift gears hard and hairy, the anxious pulse creeps up the spine of the album weaving through the New Age warbles like a germ before it breaks like a fever sweat – almost imagined, almost unreal.

Any fans of Pye Corner Audio should feel right at home here, but nonetheless this is more refined than Jenkins has sounded since Sleep Games. There’s an icy confidence that pins this to the pineal gland, lulling the listener into a somnambulant waking dream state that’s surreal and uncomfortable. Ghost Box rarely dissipation, and Pye Corner Audio delivers another slice of surreal synth that stands up to anything in his catalog.



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The Spacious Mind

Long running Swedish psych unit The Spacious Mind are still mining the edges of lysergic consciousness after fifteen releases and counting. The band’s been scratching at the surface of the sun since 1993, and their latest on Essence Music sees the band working through longform pieces of aching dread. They rise out of the mists with “The Cinnamon Tree,” a haunted dirge of psych-folk that pairs mournful guitars with the scrape and scuttle of bells and percussion – feeling like Loren Connors rinsing his licks in Ash Ra Temple’s altar. The 13+ min opener builds to a peak of mossy graveyard aura, threatening to burst open with riffs that melt the stones and burn runes along the entry, but the band keeps their restraint, giving the song a tension of dread that lumps in your throat the whole way through.

They throw out form altogether for a mid-point track that amps the clatter up to a din – smacking sticks into a hectic racket – before flipping on the throb of guitar growl to push their pallor of daunting dread even darker than the opener. They resolve into gaunt, bitten guitar works with shades of Evan Caminiti strung throughout the skeletal second offering, before finally lighting that aforementioned torch on the album’s closer “Creekin’ At The Goose.” The band hurtles into the piece, amp-scratched and clawing at the cords. There’s a whiff of ozone and a metallic taste to the formless riffs that squelch from the speakers, before the band settles back into their haunted desert caravan, crawling towards death or transcendence or both. Clock this one alongside that Ulaan Passerine album from earlier in the month for album’s that weave guitar scorch with apocalyptic dread. If this is your first taste of The Spacious Mind, don’t make it the last. Dig deep, but start here.






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