Browsing Category Reviews

Flasher

While they cherry pick from several eras (‘70s power pop, 80’s New Wave, 90’s indie pop) the way that Flasher assembles the pieces of their musical landscape feels swaddled in the arms of the early ‘00s. That time period in the band’s native DC was rife with bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, and Black Eyes who were knocking down genre walls like a pit-dizzy Kool Aid Man. Flasher, it appears, absorbed this era’s open source structure as the core of their being, creating a guitar record that’s blown through with sugar high hooks without clutching to the tatters of any genre too tightly. The album is punk in its beating heart, but dancing on the outside, much like guitarist Taylor Mulitz’ other band Priests, without the political posturing.

The record is an elastic shock of color erupting out of the speakers, bursting with a joy that’s sometimes lacking in modern guitar bands that have studied every nuance of a particular sound, only to inflict albums that read like carefully constructed dioramas – meticulous but missing that spark of life. Flasher’s sonic quilting approach by turns feels refreshing, with the band never loitering in any sonic nook long enough to grow mold. They’ll splash a track with keys shiny and bright, take a hazy stumble through shoegaze to block the sun, disjoint the rhythms until your feet can’t help but twitch and still the record feels as cohesive and complex as any of their contemporaries.

Its nice to step back to a time when indie pop found joy in riffling the whole toy box. Flasher have made a strong statement with Constant Image and the fact that it’s a debut only sweetens the pot. While they’ve had a few singles, the band has essentially come out of the box fully formed without second guessing their melting pot pop for one second. Gotta think if they start here, where they go can only solidify their enthusiastic blend.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Simply Saucer – “Lo-Fi Garage Symphonette”

As reissues begin to mount interest in bands the next stage brings the inevitable rumblings of reformation. For fans that missed out on the live shows of ‘blink and you miss ‘em’ bands this is sometimes a godsend, though it also holds the possibility of besmirching a tight catalog with an experience that can’t hope to live up to the originals’ weight. Its with such weight that bands also embark on the endeavor to extend the catalog. It’s a hard rope to cross without leaning too far into imitating one’s prime or updating it into something that’s well out of the scope of what fans came to hear. Canadian psych obscurities Simply Saucer have been having a year full of reissues and they now come to the precipice of adding to the conversation with new works.

Their first single in 40 years ropes in two original members along with studio friends and Jesse Locke (Century Palm, Tough Age) who has been instrumental in getting the band’s work back out to the public. The songs are sown from their same well of weirdness, though it’s clear in their present state they’re working with much better equipment than the machines that wrought Cyborgs Revisited. With the technical upgrade comes some wish fulfillment in fleshing out their sound with a battery of keys and backup vocals. They don’t push too hard into making it a recording “of its current time,” so it sits well with their back catalog, but it loses a bit of the immediacy and electricity of something like “Bullet Proof Nothing” and neither captures the off the rails quality inherit in “Instant Pleasure.”

That said the single’s not without its charms and indeed its not an addition that falls into the besmirch category. 40 years is a lifetime and that the band still have some of the same tinfoil wobble that blew through their amplifiers when they stood on the edges of punk is a testament to their core. “Alien Cornfield,” taken without expectations and stripped of associations is a prime slice of sci-fi garage, though “Lo-Fi Garage Symphonette” gets a bit grandiose for my taste. Regardless, its good to have the band back in the public eye. As I mentioned with the reissue, they’re an essential piece of the psych-punk lineage.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Ulaan Markhor

Anytime I see the Ulaan prefix and Steven R. Smith’s name flagging up in a given year I’m excited. Its guaranteed that whatever’s coming down the tubes is an instrumental crusher. So, after having capped off last year with a new Ulan Passerine album – the doom folk member of the family – Smith is circling back with a new tape from Ulaan Markhor, kicking through scuffed dessert psych with equal aptitude. Within his universe this iteration of himself winds up the most scathing, the most brutal and the most outwardly psychedelic. Picking up ques from Amon Düül and Guru Guru as well as post-punk bands like 13th Chime, the record is stark and discordant but oddly beholden to rhythm’s sway. Smith saws at the songs with John Cale scratches of violin while the dust-choked atmosphere projects menace and lonesome desperation.

The album revels in an almost hallucinatory loneliness in fact, like trying to find the way out from the folds of one’s own mind. The edges keep shifting though, and the exits flicker and disappear without pattern. All the while Ulaan Markhor underscores the frustration and deepening delusion with a hungry, voyeuristic eye. Smith has crafted a cinematic score here and the titles tell as much, but he’s pushing beyond the normal bounds of post-rock groundswell or Morricone-lite Western cloud gathering. Smith works the mechanics of build and simmer better than most and when he reaches a break in the damn on “Flowering” it rips the tension to shreds, never quite easing it, just turning up the volume to a roar and pounding imagined footsteps on the base of the listener’s neck. With Helm he’s created something heavy and lasting, an album that’s gets its claws in you, the kind where you’re sweating through the good passages and only notice once the storm has cleared.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Dave Evans – The Words In Between

Earth Records pick up a folk classic from the often-overlooked Dave Evans. While the British songwriter came to prominence on his status as a fingerpicked impresario, on his debut album he employs mournful vocals that strike a chord not unlike Bert Jansch or Roy Harper. Its in that same lonesome, man at the end of a long night weariness that he settles, but he stands apart from both of his contemporaries and more technical players like Renbourn or Basho with his hugely harmonic style of playing. Evans constructed his own instrument and those modifications emphasized his prowess on the strings.

The record was a humble affair, recorded in the home studio of fellow folk singer Ian Anderson and the warmth and intimacy of the setting seeps through the speakers, unfettered and embracing the listener with Evans’ tangles of strings and amber-hued delivery. He adds further charms to the homespun album with the yearning background vocals from Adrienne Weber whose presence in a song is always welcome. The Words In Between has long been cited as a lost classic and inspiration for many who tumble over the strings rather than see fit to strum. Earth does the record well with their reissue that reimagines the cover art slightly and gives this LP another shot for the uninitiated. If you count among those ranks, get familiar.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Al Doum & The Faryds

During a magical hangover of the ‘70s jazz found funk and psychedelia then wrapped their tendrils into its own serpentine form. This period birthed the best electric of Miles, Sun Ra dabbling with soul and Don Cherry ripping at the shreds of the universe to push rhythm through a black hole and pull it out the other side. The long tail in the movement saw plenty of bands utilize what they’d heard in the freest of moments and fold it back onto their own sounds. The German Progressives from Can to Vuh to Düül all found that same wormhole that their jazz-psych contemporaries were sailing through and they traversed the light bridge it provided to the center of the Earth to pound out the sound of the beating heart at the center of the beast. Meanwhile Hawkwind and Heldon took the sound to the quasars and etched out the framework of Spacerock as it was handed down by the gods.

On the backs of this era rises Spirit Rejoin from Al Doum & The Faryds. The band’s latest is snatching cosmic jazz back from the heart of the sun – pushing past those Spacerock quasars only to slingshot back with frightening velocity for a trip to the center of the mind through psychedelic shred. The Milanese band taps into the holy altars of their neighbors to the East, divining Kosmiche moments with the same reverence and quest for the edges of perception that drove Krautrock’s core like a mad engine. Unfit to be simply labeled a modern jazz album, like Brooklyn’s Sunwatchers the Faryds are a pure psychedelic experience devouring skronk, lashing out with guitar drenched in the ozone puff of amplifier fallout and tumbling over polyrhythms like the current crop of psychedelic Swedes. The record is the distillation of an age of discovery, looking back with perfect hindsight at what each pocket of progress was accomplishing and brewing it all together into an enticing potion. This one’s not for the lighthearted.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

BOYTOY

On their sophomore LP, Brooklyn’s BOYTOY evoke the West Coast far more often than they reference the streets of their current home. Part of that left coast feeling may lie in the album’s Topanga Canyon conception and its construction at the hands of producer Kyle Mullarky (The Allah-Las, The Growlers). The record is soaked in eternal sun and imbued with a laid-back attitude that’s picking at the bones of surf and garage, with plenty of affection saved on the side for sunshine pop and doo wop swoons. The band borrows bass talents from Lena Simon of La Luz and, like her mainstay, the band has a habit of straddling those genre lines with an effortless cool.

Much of that effortlessness must be credited to vocalist / guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner, however, who wraps her delivery in a permanently cocked smile that lets on just how much fun she’s having with these songs. The best garage pop can’t be taken too seriously (a lesson the aforementioned Growlers seemed to have unlearned on their last LP) and for the genre to stay afloat it’s necessary to impart some manner of carefree cool or irreverent recklessness. While BOYTOY aren’t going to blow down the doors of your surfshack or ruffle the sensibilities of your elders, they’re certainly helping the sun shine brighter and the beers go down easier. Night Leaf is tried and true to the formula of latter day garage – dipping its toes in girl group charms and lacing them with a touch of bite. Be that as it may, if you’re looking to soundtrack a day or two spent ditching summer school, then the band has your back.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Lay Llamas

Heading into Nicola Giunta’s second outing for Rocket there’s a sense that the Italian artist has reached further and deeper than he has previously under the Lay Llamas moniker. Where his previous outing saw fit to ruminate in the Krautrock kiddie pool, Thuban embraces an immersive psychedelic experience, roping in African polyrhythms, snaking Thai funk, German Progressive sweat and late ‘90s UK psych-pop. The tapestry he weaves out of those pieces makes it clear that Giunta’s record shelf runs deep, and while emulating (and to some extent, yes, appropriating) these sounds can often place an artist on a precarious perch, Giunta layers his influences like samples, finding the common threads in his preferred sounds and tightening the seams until they fit snug.

Given his curatorial bent and label affiliation it should come as little surprise that there is a crossover kinship between Giunta and Goat. The bands met while playing shows together and hit it off well enough for Giunta to snag a vocal contribution from band members on “Altair,” a tack that can’t help but sound like Goat as a result. Though the album is largely Giunta’s own, having parted ways with Lay Llamas previous steady vocalist Gioele Valenti, there’s a collaborative air to the record that accentuates its patchwork quality. Aside from the aforementioned Goat drop in, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and members of Clinic also find their way to the grooves of Thuban and Giunta makes the most of the input of his influences.

Unlike his Swedish counterparts who might take it a step too far in the cosplay department, trying on their inspirations in full regalia, Lay Llamas have created an album that’s obsessed with the cornucopia of sounds blooming from the subcontinent but crafting that interest into a collage rather than an homage. The record winds up dark and danceable, brooding, apocalyptic and shambolic. With Thuban the band has succeeded in marrying the deep crates of Andy Votel’s Finder’s Keepers label with the sound-sculpture progressive pop of The Beta Band. More than just a sum of its parts though, the record works these into a flow that’s cinematic in its approach, never sticking too hard on one particular facet of the sounds he’s clipping and arcing from pop sunrise to a danger-imbued sunset by the album’s close. Thuban elevates Lay Llamas beyond the ones to watch pile and into endless repeat bin for all time.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Action Painting! – Trial Cuts 1989-1995

Emotional Response is stepping up and doing the universe a solid by rounding up the corners of the Sarah Records catalog and issuing them as much-needed archival compilations. There are full plans to get works by Secret Shine, Even As We Speak, Boyracer and Action Painting! together. For now, though, they’ve got the latter two pressed and dressed for your consumption. Action Painting! found their way to the seminal label late in the game. The Gosport band still operated within Sarah’s system of jangles and sighs, but they updated the sound with a harder edge than many of their labelmates, roping in a love for The Jam and The Go-Betweens then mashing them into an apparent swooning for The Buzzcocks.

Sadly, the band would only issue four singles in their tenure, three for Sarah and one for Damaged Goods, all of which rear their head on Trial Cuts 1980-1995, as do a fair number of demos that speak to what could have been had the band gotten ‘round to getting that LP together proper. This collection will have to stand in the stead of a real album, and while it’s a bit sprawling given that the band likely hat a taught ten or twelve piece they could have hacked out, it does cull together all the material collectors could ever whimper about in one convenient package. For jangle fans, new wave nuts, punk hangers-on and the like this is a pretty solid set that puts straight the history on a band lost to the fringes. Recommended you get into this one as soon as possible.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

New Parents

Out of the verdant and bountiful Pioneer Valley scene, recently a bastion of psych, comes the debut from New Parents. The band, largely the undertaking of Adam Langelloti (formerly of Sore Eros) takes its approach to psych lightly. Rather he keeps a light touch on the gas, not that he doesn’t take his work seriously, I’m sure his songs are his children, etc, etc, but the record proves that restraint fares just as well as dayglo effects and scorched guitars. Langelloti’s psych is ensconced in a peach haze of guitars, ghosts of brass and mournful strings trickle in through the background, and he’s warping everything just slightly at the edges in a way that brings to mind Gary War if he embraced pop in a much more ardent fashion. It seems that’s not such a stretch for comparison, as War himself is a collaborator and shows up on the standout track, “Well,” giving it a soft tweak of backwards vocals.

On tape New Parents are a vastly different beast than live. The stage sees them pull these songs out into a much looser territory, but while that’s fine in the room, its often hard to replicate on the record. To that effect Langelloti’s sun-baked pop does just fine in its compact form. There’s a hazy afternoon light haloing the entire record and over the course of eleven tracks he’s creating a summer sundown effect that’s initially carefree but lets its heart weigh heavy as the album weighs on. It’s a solid debut pulling from the worlds of folk and psych in equal measures with nods to Vetiver and Espers’ takes on the the same straddle. There’s also a shadow of Sore Eros in Langelloti’s work, but since that was largely Robert Robinson at the helm, its mostly a textural holdover.

As the days wax longer Transient Response feels like it might become a constant companion, a balm on the heat that’s as welcome as a cool rag on the back of the neck. In his debut Langelloti’s nailed the hammock swung feeling of idleness without guilt. The least we can do is indulge.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Baby Blue – Do What You Like

Melbourne’s Baby Blue tap into a mournful ‘60s pop that swings between grey-skied girl group melancholy and a tough-kneed brand of garage pop. The band’s Rhea Caldwell packs a sharper punch on their sophomore outing, a five-song EP that employs some nice gloss touches that distance them from the bulk of their Aussie indie compatriots. Do What You Like finds more in common with West Coast US stompers like Bleached, though they share a great deal of crossover with fellow Aussie RSTB faves Bloods as well, putting them in good company.

While the breezy pop of opener “I Like You” feels pleasant, but overly familiar, the EP works its into darker dens as it wears on – adding a dark, caustic bite to “Dream Life” and a touch of progressive propulsion to closer “Fire and Ice.” Caldwell’s got her head ‘round the hooks but its when she adds power and darkness to her bag of tricks that the songs begin to stand out. If the standouts here are an indication of where the band is headed, then we should all keep an ear perked for Baby Blue’s next move.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments