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Omni

Omni’s sophomore album is upon us and it’s a perfect update of the influences they chewed on their 2016 debut. They’re still chomping wire nervously in the corners of the room, and I can’t help but love it – with an overture of itchy guitar lines emanating from Broyles’ fingers like broken clockwork puzzles. This is agit-pop proper, full of the introverted excitement that bands like The Embarrassment or Girls (the ’86 version) embraced in their horn-rimmed glory. Multi-task is a record for the deep divers that dance alone to a pincushion pop that matches their disjointed sensibilities. Broyles and Frobos understand why The Voidoids felt the need to run a trickle of sulfuric acid over their love songs – pure pop is far too sincere for a cracked consciousness run rampant with insomnia and idle time.

They don’t just shackle themselves to bent metal licks alone though, the band has a self-professed love for the Postcard records sound and the jittery pop preen of those esteemed ’70s agitators comes through atop the band’s serrated songcraft. Though they pair again with Nathaniel Higgins on recording duties, this time they sound a bit more present than on Deluxe. Where that album felt like a faded demo found and re-salvaged from the discard pile of some asshole A&R with too little scope, this sounds like a true workup – one ready for mass production, post-punk infamy, and modern rediscovery.

There are a whole host of bands that want to pull on post-punk like a $5.00 last minute Halloween costume and the baggy seams show easily on their accomplishments. Omni are a different sort of band, one that’s clearly spent their spare time riffling the same racks a lot of us inhabit, creeping YouTube in the wee hours looking for one more step beyond the normal essentials lists. Multi-task feels like a band making the album members have been reaching for in their other bands. It feels like finding that elusive sound that’s been nagging at the back of your brain, nailing it and sharing it with all the other freaks looking for a salve to the same itch.



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Belief Defect

Sometimes you gotta embrace the dark. That’s the beauty in Belief Defect’s debut LP, Decadent Yet Depraved – its a bottom scraping, fear-chomping ride through the bowels of industrial darkness that embraces, not deflects the most horrific impulses of human existence. The album is purportedly backed by two larger names in electronic music, though they choose to remain redacted with regards to Belief Defect’s origin story. However, anonymity doesn’t mar or mangle the effect that the resulting ten tracks have on the human psyche. This is a listen with the lights on LP that’s cinematic in a vein that some of the best synth slingers are still striving for. Put it this way, if Belief Defect were soundtracking Stranger Things rather than S U R V I V E, those kids would have all been eaten a long time ago.

Still, for all its bracing tendencies, Decadent… is a hypnotic listen, embracing dub caverns like a second home and skittering beats like ball bearings along the eardrums. Whoever is behind this is, in fact, well trained and up to the task at hand. The beats crunch with a bone snap that’s been scant since Ol’ Trenty Rez went high ground and started soundtracking Burns docs and Oscar flicks. The core scent of Belief Defect is wounded blood on the horizon with dawn breaking hours away. There’s panic and a icy grip that’s not far off from tidal breath catching up to overrun your fight or flight mechanisms. Be warned, this on is not for those whose teeth are not sharpened.

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Wand

Wand has been a fixture here for some time, and while quite a few other sources have noted that the band’s sound has dramatically changed on this record, they seem to be forgetting that Wand’s sound is constantly changing. While the most apparent reason for the shift would be the shuffling of members and a slide to a more democratic writing policy, Hanson alone wasn’t one to sit idle in his riffage cranking out the same tune time and again. With that in mind, Plum is a move towards a broader audience, but one that’s bridging their psychedelic past with an ever more malleable future.

1000 Days and Golem sat at opposite ends of the see-saw, with the overt heaviness of Golem pulling equal weight with the surprising shift to psych-folk that found its way wriggling into the DNA of the follow-up. Now the band shows an open love of the ’90s vision of psych as a component of large-scale alt-rock. When grunge was king, the weirdos often snuck in under the wire. As long as a chunky enough riff went crackling through the airwaves, the rest of an album could indulge with impunity. It’s in that tradition that Plum finds itself looking to Trojan Horse their own twisted wires among the references to Radiohead, STP, The Beta Band and Afghan Whigs.

They work this though in the fizzing guitar work on “White Cat” and the country pine of “The Trap”, but even the more apparent pop ballyhoos have their Easter eggs of the Wand of old – fuzz breakdowns, the singed-edge dream vocals of Hanson, a debt to ’70s prog rock time changes and a preponderance of found sound interjections that break up the band’s gravy-coated offerings to a more hesitant listener. In that way the album is much more subversive in bringing a new generation into the fold. It’s their most polished, but also often their most potent work. In opening the band up to communal collaboration they’ve cut ties with their L.A. fuzz-pummeling past while doing that which all reviews are claiming to look for in a band: they’ve grown.




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Timmy’s Organism

The garage demons are runnin’ amok this fall as renown gutter necromancer with a telecaster Timmy Vulgar lays down a new slab of dust choked bile on hometown label Lo & Behold. Vulgar has never steered me wrong and, as he digs deeper into his Organism moniker, this band only becomes further entrenched as the brutal defensive pincer of his personal universe (see also: Human Eye, Clone Defects). Eating Colors culls together a few singles that seeped out of the swamp following the band’s brush with infamy as part of Third Man’s expanded roster, but it all careens together seamlessly into a prime slice of Detroit fuzz as the Organism’s fourth album proper.

Vulgar channels the specter of Don Van Vliet as he gargles acidic syllables over the Motor City’s true export – raw, unrefined, diesel-burning rock ‘n roll. He hoists his guitar like a sonic halberd, cutting down swaths of listeners swarming to the mecca of diseased fuzz that spews from the band’s aural wellspring. The Organism is best looked at indirectly, so as not to turn to stone on sight of the beast, but its best listened to at top volume, careening out of car windows and down cracked city blocks like an air raid siren of doom for all to hear. If ever there was a band that embodied, embraced and emboldened the idea that rock might open a mental portal to another plane, Timmy’s Organism is that band. The very blood of the band runs green with a radioactive pulse that’s melting minds with guitar vomit and on this latest slab, they’re bound to induce a nervous breakdown or two. This might be just what you need to sandblast the barnacles of 2017 from your system.





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Frankie & The Witch Fingers

Rolling like heat lightning across the plains, the caravan of Frankie & the Witch Fingers approaches. The mood is calm but practically fizzing with the electricity of anticipation and the promise of a connection to the cosmic crack in the sky that’s always layin’ just out of reach. The band, Shaman and Sidemen alike, is in touch with the soul-soaked vein of psychedelic rock that took lesser men in her arms and bent them past breaking. They don’t look shaken though – far from it, in fact. They’re steel eyed and poised for when the amps tap into the fragrant heat of divine rock n’ roll. Moreover, they’re ready to act as conduits for those willing to submit to the vibrations and open their brain to the next plateau.

The Witch Fingers’ latest is about connection, vibration, ephemeral truths. They’ve tapped into something primal and concrete that’s found its way foaming into the edges of psychedelic communities from Kesey’s barrel of Owsley augmented truth to the very last convulsion of the ayahuasca shakes. Brain Telephone is the key to the fifth dimension, an acid bath for the soul delivered in pulsating waves via fuzz guitar. It’s the band’s own I Ching for those who’d rather find their way through the keyhole via organ-laced sweat revival than in the spines of traditional text. Think of Frankie as your psilocybin Sherpas, your six-string snake healers, your sonic Ouija to the other side. They’ve peered around the corner and just want you to take their hand. You could do worse than to leap without looking. Rock n’ Roll is a cheap thrill born over a hundred times, but at least in this iteration its working to break free.


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Alder & Ash

Cellist Adrian Copeland follows up his equally harrowing album, Psalms For The Sunder with a new small press for Lost Tribe Sound. Clutched In The Maw continues his bleak, Cormac McCarthy world-building through classical composition. Though rooted in the cello like his previous venture, this album delves into processed sound on a much deeper level. However, while the processing adds to his landscape of decay and solemn isolation, it’s Copeland’s playing that’s at the core of the album’s stunning set.

He runs the full range of the instrument in a way that only those who are deeply classically trained can muster, but with the freedom of one who is not beholden to any notion of acceptable norms within the classical or neo-classical context. Copeland’s compositions scrape and gnaw, gasp and moan through the body of an instrument that shouldn’t seem like it has this much anguish inside of it. Each crushing drop of bile, blood and tears comes seeping through the speakers. There are those that choose to use their gifts to lift the listener up to see the sun through the fog. Copleand chooses to send us deeper into a hopelessness that’s flirting with the essence of Doom.

He digs us out of the hole by the end, though, proving he’s not as scarred by the darkness as the first half would lead a listener to believe. There’s an elegance and relief to “The Merciful Dawn” (as one might expect) and by the closer “The Glisten, The Glow” we’re back in some sort of daybreak, albeit one that’s streaked with greys. The album is a visceral run at anguish and acceptance, and ultimately a joy to behold.




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El Goodo

There are some names that swim into view and expect never to really resurface. I’d been a fan of El Goodo’s 2005 eponymous LP, which vaulted itself out of a post-Elephant 6 comedown of psych reverence around that time and waxed the sounds with a shine of power pop that was fitting for a band named for a Big Star tune. The Welsh band played to the Nuggets set with bigger aspirations than some of their US counterparts, but despite a verdant valley for garage-pop at the time, they never took root here and thus faded from view. A 2010 follow-up didn’t even wash on these shores and a discernible silence for the better part of the next decade makes their new album on Cian Ciaran’s (Super Furry Animals) label a swift surprise.

The album is still locked into a fixation on ’60s psychedelia, though cut now with a bit of temperament and an apparent implementation of the ramblin’ twang that sunk in towards the early ’70s. They’re no longer so overt as to saddle song with the title, “Stuck in the ’60s,” but they’re still clearly pining for simpler pop times. They’ve slunk into territory once occupied by Beachwood Sparks – finding equal obsessions with The Beach Boys and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Though, they certainly hew closer to the former, finding more use for multi-track pop than for country proper. They thread that high plains tone nicely throughout the entirety of By The Order Of The Moose, though and it suits them. As with all revival acts, they’re jumping into shoes that have been worn by another owner, but they make them look awfully good in a modern setting.




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Ariel Pink

It’s been kinda a while since an Ariel Pink album graced RSTB, and it’s definitely been a bit since one found its way onto my shelf. Following the cemented syrup-psych-in-boat-shoes classic that was Before Today Pink never quite hit the bar I was hoping for. Mature Themes was to many a defiant slap in the face to those who thought he’d go full-scale pop. For every “Only In My Dreams” he penned a “Schnitzel Boogie,” and hey, the man’s never promised anything other than personal indulgence, so why would we expect any less? It was, for all intents and purposes, an Ariel Pink album through and through, but the promise that it left hanging still stung.

2014’s Pom Pom didn’t deliver the stone cold shiver-shod studio deep dive either. Rather it explored more lo-fi freakouts with a Beefheart crust and left plenty of elbow room to wander stylistically. So here we arrive at Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, a cheeky reference to this very quandary of promises supposedly left unfulfilled. For those unfamiliar, Jameson himself was poised for accessible fame in the ’60s but found it always just out of reach – getting mixed in a twist of bad management, questionable decisions and drugs. So, in case there was ever a line of thinking that Pink wasn’t self-aware, quash that notion right here and now.

With that in mind, one would expect this to be Pink’s own further ‘fuck you’ to anyone looking for transcendence. Not so, it would seem. There’s still a trademark style dial-shift to the album that’s pure Pink, but in every aspect this comes off as an record planned and planed to its core to be a pop artifact. The psychedelic swaddling feels like it only accentuates the smoother moments. There are very few instances when he seems to need an external editor to whittle the album to its core (see again: Pom Pom). Instead this winds up being one of Pink’s most enigmatic albums yet. The pop is as chewy as ever – exemplified by the trio of “Feels Like Heaven,” “Another Weekend,” and the title track. The concept ties it down and the Robert Beatty artwork can’t be beat. This might be as close to closure as I could ever hope for. It might also be the album he’s always hinted was lurking in the heart of the beast. Or maybe that’s still yet to come. Either way, this is a definite step in the right direction.




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Flesh World

Seems to be a week for goth stomp around here and Flesh World know how to streak the drawn curtain dynamics with enough jangle and dreampop to give Into The Shroud is own space at the table. Their sophomore album only cements their foray into the sound, proving that Jess Scott’s melange of influences can all sit perfectly alongside one another in a nostalgia daydream. They dip into the jangle-pop that informed here former band, Brilliant Colors, but don’t hang on the genre as a defining trait. Instead, with a new rhythm section in tow, the band takes swooning romanticism and muddies it with hollow-eyed synths and a breathless pound that sweeps away the streaks of sun that try to find their way into the mix.

Though, that’s not to say that Into The Shroud isn’t without its hooks. The title track alone steps out of the haze for a fawning chorus that would almost crack a grin if it weren’t white-knuckling its way through a post-punk deluge. The spring-tight aesthetics pair well with Scott’s exploration of the Bay Area’s gender politics, literary history and musical history each flung into a whirlwind rotoscope and sketched out in shades of black and white.

With their pairing it becomes clear that Scott Moore has proven to be the muse Scott always needed, thickening her sound with a wave of perfectly smeared synth and exploring the darker reaches of her songwriting. With their Dark Entries debut, the band steps up to take a swing at the upper reaches of the ’80s cult pop pantheon and they come out feeling like they’ve connected nicely.



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Zola Jesus

If, at this point, you’re on the fence about the greatness of the new Zola Jesus record, then you’ve clearly not heard any or all of Okovi. Nika Rosa Danilova’s codifying moment comes in the form of 40-minutes of pleasure and pain that wrench the very soul from the listener. She then douses said soul in a harrowing darkness that explores loss and mortality, while showering it in the light of one of this decade’s most powerful and uplifting voices.

The record shows a marked return to Danilova’s darker instincts, she blends her exploration of personal tragedies with a shift from Taiga’s pop aspirations and back towards the body flattening atmospheres of the Stridulum EP. However, she incorporates lessons gleaned along the way, injecting the darkness with a stadium sized feeling that’s full of a hope that peeks from the walls of despair. She’s also taken the soaring orchestral swells of her re-interpretive album Versions and applied them liberally to an album proper, giving Okovi a grandness that’s angelic in its exploration of life’s consistent lean towards heartbreak and loss.

Again, I’m by no means going to be the first to tell you this is a monumental achievement by an artist who has spent a career consistently crafting high water marks. If the top 40 was too blind to see what they had in her turn towards accessibility, then they’ll likely miss out here as well, but they’d be remiss. Taiga was accessible in its move towards the light, but Okovi is universally touching in its dive into the dark. We’re all besieged by the despair of familial loss, the hairpin turns of life at any chaotic moment, the overwhelming face of the cosmic inevitable. However, Danilova has distilled those feelings into a glowing beacon of an album that we should all be able to relate to, and deep down, that we all need.




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