Browsing Category Reviews

Six Organs Of Admittance

6Organs-Under-Review

Following on the heels of Ben Chasny’s experimental Rubik, Hexadic, he returns to the smokey, raw emotion of records like like School of the Flower or The Sun Awakens. The album, for the most part, steers its way shy of the guitar explosions that collided Six Organs with elements of Comets on Fire and instead focuses on the soft touch and texture of Chasny’s songcraft. On those two particular records, he honed the beauty in his work, sanded the raw edges and focused the froth of emotion through the tangle of strings and his own cedar smoke drawl. The next phase would bring fire, and while the fire was satisfying, there’s something inherently interesting about calm laced with the haunt of pain. That element has returned with eperience on Burning The Threshold.

Chasny’s voice is high and present in the mix, putting the focus on the man, rather than any hint of din rising around him. The only noise seeping through on many songs is the light flutter of tape hiss that wraps the songs in a Kodachrome weather of age. Largely, it’s just Ben and his guitar, recorded cavernous and enveloping, as if the listener is observing from inside the instrument itself. As the record builds to a peak, he strides outside of the lone troubadour mode for the standout, “Taken By Ascent,” which acts as a single focal point for the full release of the tensions bubbling throughout the album. Where every other track is building and aching, “Ascent” is the moment when there’s a flash of menace in the eyes, a wounded bristling that turns dangerous but rides the rise into a tense bout of prog-laced psych without exploding into noise.

After the track simmers to a close the album returns to the lonesome and even wistful modes of the closing numbers, picking up some of the same solemnity of that preceded the row on “Ascent.” There are no other glimmers of that tension on the album, but collected as an arc, it plays well as an argument for albums in a renewed age of singles. The songs are all inherently interesting apart, but when stacked into the tableau that Chasny has assembled, they create something bigger than any of the pieces. Six Organs has a deep catalog, but this easily stands out as a high water mark in a lifetime littered with gems.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Vietnam

Vietnam-Re-released

Not to be confused with the constantly entertaining Social Registry stalwarts from the early aughts, this incarnation under the heading Vietnam reared its head in ’85 on New Zealand’s Jayrem records. The short release falls center square into the hearts of Joy Division and Cure fans. It’s got the moody makeup of the best kind of dark, yet oddly poppy post-punk (see: The Sound, The Names, The Comsat Angels) and knows its way around a smudged eyeliner hook. Pairing a set of damp, reedy vocals with the kind of pessimism that plays well with the goth table, these would have killed had they had wide distribution at the time. Alas, Jayrem was more of a localized label that filled out the needs of the NZ scene at the time, without expanding the way that, say, something like Flying Nun did.

The reissue culls the existing and previously released studio recordings along with a couple of unreleased cuts that round out the picture but pale a bit in comparison with the heavier hitters on the LP. The details are scant on what happened to the band post release of the original, but it’s a nice piece of Kiwi-pop history and a decent addition to any post-punk playlists that might need a bit of an outlier to liven things up. The reissue comes courtesy of the diggers over at Spain’s B.F.E. records, who for their part, are always scrounging the fringes of the ’70s and ’80s for oddities. The only real problem is that the release sounds a bit like a needle drop in terms of quality, but beggars can’t always be choosers. Perhaps the original tapes were long gone. The music remains though, and it’s a worthwhile dig to be sure.





Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

kinggizz-Mircrotone-Under-Review

King Gizzard have never been accused of slacking, but 2017 might just be pushing the limits for the band. Flying Microtonal Banana is the first of five proposed albums to be relesed by the end of the year and it booms out with a concept no less. The album is built around member Stu McKenzie’s acquisition of a microtonal guitar. The decision was then made to challenge the rest of the band to acquire instruments operating in microtonal tuning. The band then set out to lay down the workings of Banana. The result is an album that’s still fed on the band’s relentless rhythm, but with the addition of the insturmentation limitations, gives the album a middle-eastern psych quality that’s a nice shift.

Basically the album winds up sounding like King Gizzard as fed through bent psych of Turkish guitar slinger Erkin Koray, the heavy otherworldlinesss of Flower Traveling Band and the North African shuffle of Tinariwen. But its not all just cribbing notes and rolling them in rumble, the band adds plenty of their signature atmosphere to spacey bits on “Melting” and “Sleep Drifter.” They stretch out into a slower slink on “Billabong Valley” which really ups the Middle Eastern aura, adding in Zurna to float the track into a sea of psych vibes. While not quite as overly ambitious as their loop of fury on Nonagon Infinity, this is nonetheless another more academic approach from a band that never ceases to challenge themselves under the guise of limitations. If this is just the tip of the iceberg in 2017, then I’m plenty excited to see what else lies in the coming months.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Mind Meld

MindMeld-Under-Review

L.A.’s Mind Meld follow up their tease of single, “The Viper,” with a full length that makes good on all the promises locked into that rock candy double-shot. The album shares a a few obsessions with the current crop of metal-dipped, space-rock altar worshipers, and they’re making a very worthy bid to be running in the same pack that Ty, Meatbodies and Aussie heavies like King Gizzard and Orb are heading up. The band knows their way around the yoke of heaviness, but for every Winnebago flattening riff they add a dose of catchy crunch topping and an air of spaciness that speaks to their love of ’70s wizards like Hawkwind or The Edgar Broughton Band. The latter, they even pay double down respects to here with a cover of the band’s Why Can’t Somebody Love Me”.

The eponymous album is pure hedonistic fury, amps on fire and tumbling down with pumice and ash. Though that almost tips a cap into doom territory, and while its obvious that the record shelves of Mind Meld members are not without a few Sabbath records, they actually keep the tone celebratory. Its heavy, but not evil. There’s more Blue Cheer in their growl than anything, frying out the West Coast vibes and feeling like they’re having a pretty good time doing it. Check out the band’s album in full below, dressed up in all is garage-psych glory. Recommended you tip the volume knob rightward here. Shake the windows.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE

0 Comments

Paperhead

Paperhead-Under-Review

A distinctly polished upgrade of Paperhead’s nostalgia-centric rock trip, their latest Chew is an ambitious reach that pays off for the most part. The Paperhead is one of those band’s that has been clanging around in RSTB’s reach for a few years now. They came up as underage wunderkinds with a taste that spoke to hours dosed in YouTube fodder that knocked through Nuggets-era material like Kaleidoscope, Gandalf, Tomorrow, July and Rainbow Ffolly. They emulated the off-kilter, day-glo pastiche so well that it was charming, but not didn’t necessarily speak to carving out their own space. They’d excelled at winking at collectors who couldn’t help but feel that “the kids were all right.” But on Chew they begin to move away from that and into their own space, finally coming to terms with the influences that have bubbled up in their formative years, blending that ’60s sweet tooth with a more complex pop that speaks to their familiarity with the Elephant 6 catalog as that stable developed out of their own adolescence.

Tracks like “Emotion (Pheromones)” speak to the kind of lush pop made by Beachwood Sparks and middle marks of Beulah. “Little Lou” is a hazy dose of Olivia Tremor Control’s outer reaches. Elsewhere they fully embrace a ’70s eclecticism that found a home for country’s mellow glow within psych-pop’s walls. They dabble in dual languages on standout “Dama De Lavanda” and they seem to fully swell into a sense of who they want to be. Yes, they are still quite smitten with the seeds of the past, but now they appear to have let more of themselves into the mix. As an added plus those skin deep and sleeve worn influences have all seeped deep into the system and germinated in delightful ways. This is a band still having fun with the kind of music they enjoy, indulging but also adding to the conversation. It’s psych-pop with a human heart.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Easy Love

EasyLove-Under-Review

Easy Love is the solo project of Summer Twins’ Justine Brown. She’s crafted an ode to lost love and smeary-eyed breakups, channeling her remorse and longing into her best material yet. Like her work in Twins, Easy Love’s eponymous album flutters into shades of ’60s pop (via the late ’90s obsession with the decade) for its inspiration. However, Easy Love seems to synthesize those influences rather than keeping them sleeve deep as her previous outlet often tend to. She’s solo, but not necessarily on her own here, with sister Chelsea (also of Summer Twins), Natalie Burris, and Dave Jauregui rounding out the lineup for a full sound that’s working towards the aloof maturity of Jenny Lewis’ country-tinged crooning or a more actualized version of La Sera.

There’s been an outpouring of crunchy pop with streaks of sun in its hair over the last decade or so, but Brown doesn’t lean on any of her culture crutches too hard, making for a hazily sweet mixture. Oh sure odes to love and loss are a literal dime a dozen, but heartbreak’s the universal binder and being able to let listeners into your heart with a hook is still commendable. Its a lovely record that’s distinctly Californian, but without printing up t-shirts to shout about it like Best Coast. Its an indie pop record in every sense, but without donning the twee accoutrements of She & Him. Easy Love is Brown’s heart wrapped and ready to be put back together by anyone with a half hour to spare and a shoulder to lean on.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Harmonium –
Si on Avait Besoin d’une Cinquième Saison

Harmonium-Re-released

In deference to most overlooked acts from the past, Harmonium doesn’t even have the sob story of poor distribution and in fighting to topple them from their horse. In fact, if you’re from Canada the band may even be a household name. Elsewhere though, its not necessarily on your parents’ shelf, due in large part to the Quebecois band’s delivery in their native French. The band had three very worthwhile albums to their name, the most intriguing of which is their sophomore LP, Si on Avait Besoin D’une Cinquième Saison, translating to “If We Needed A Fifth Season.” The album wraps a suite of songs around the transition of the seasons and adds a fifth, epic closer for their imaginary “fifth” season.

The band began as a small guitar trio and hit early on with their song “Por Un Instant” in Canada. They migrate towards a much more progressive sound on this second LP, adding in swells of strings and stretching the lengths of songs to ambitious lengths over the course of the album’s five tracks. They’d go on to record a follow-up which fully embraced the prog aesthetic, growing into a true rock band and finally adding in drums. The absence of drums makes this one all the more interesting, though. It’s steeped in acoustic guitar, mellotron and flute; a true pastoral prog album if there ever was one.

After their third album, L’Heptad, with even core member Michel Normandeau bowing out during its recording, they decided that they’d said all they needed to say and went their separate ways, with minimal animosity. They even played on each others’ solo albums in the coming years. This one though, stands as a gorgeous bit of soft psych and prog for those who want to indulge in the hazy Canadian sunshine. Sadly its not been reissued on vinyl proper, but its pretty easy to find a second hand copy, so maybe its for the best. There are, however CD and digital versions that capture the band’s romp through the mellow meadow.


Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Mac Blackout Band

MacBlackout-Under-Review

Mac Blackout (aka Marc McKenzie) has been a fixture here for a while, running a vein through Chicago’s garage rock underground for a good solid clip at this point. As leader of RSTB faves Mickey, McKenzie will always have a soft spot in my heart for creating one of the last ten years’ most fun power pop records. As the Mac Blackout Band though, the pop side has melted away a bit and the full on garage-punk assault is in total swing with just a whiff of metal floating on the air. Burning Alive is a raw nerve of pent up aggression and full bore rock shot out of the barrel wild and loose. The album is practically shaking with beads of sweat, tumbling and scuffing its way through the speakers looking to get into a fight as soon as possible.

The record blasts out of the start with the fiery anthem “Rise Up” and that pretty much sets the tone for the record to come. Once Blackout has you on your feet and ready for a rumble he just stokes the blaze of fight burning in your core and lets the furious riffs and tornado of toms do the rest. The album isn’t remapping the garage rock landscape, but as I’ve said countless times, that’s not always the point. It’s a fun record that’s unhinged at its best, bringing to mind fellow Midwestern legends Timmy’s Organism. At its worst, its still a damn fun ride, that begs for volume, lowered windows and blank stares from the passersby.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Okey Dokey

Okeydokey-Under-Review

Nashville duo Okey Dokey struck a chord around here with their single last year, “Wavy Gravy”. Now they’ve snuck out a full length that expands on their exploration of blue-eyed soul through an updated filter of psych-pop and indie charms. They capture just a touch of the full swell hopefullness that drove fellow Tennessee-pop troupe Magic Kids. Like that outfit they employ large scale arangement, taking full advantage of the nostalgic twinge of stings and brass. Likewise they meld in doo-wop and soul vocal takes that give their songs a flashback flutter around the edges.

Guitarist Johny Fisher’s also made time in The Weeks, and while he doesn’t bring a huge influence of the band’s southern rock into the room, his chops remain here with some sprightly guitar work that shades the pair’s songs nicely. That said, its really the vocal treatments that stand out here, from the swooning church picnic swing of “Congenial Man” to the wide-eyed wonder of “Wavy Gravy,” the album floats along on the pair’s upfront approach to the voice on Love You, Mean It. Rounding out the sound, they bring along a wealth of talent in the form of friends from Wild Child, The Weeks, Rayland Baxter, Morning Teleportation and Bully. It winds up as a nice bit of sunshine, hazed with just a touch of stained glass light, brightening up any afternoon.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Business of Dreams

BOD-Under-Review

Taking a sidestep from the crunch-pop of his day gig in Terry Malts, Corry Cunningham dives longingly into synthpop with convincing conviction. The eponymous album, released on his own imprint, Parked In Hell, captures an aesthetic that mines the early aughts’ love for the mid-80s. He’s got all the right hints of smeared window pane synth, 2 A.M. headspace-wandering jangles and lightly lapping beats that nudge the feet forward but don’t inspire any dance breakouts. Now on their own, those are hallmarks that dog-eared many acts in the wake of Ben Gibbard’s sudden affection for crying over keys vs. strings, and the shift has clotheslined many well-intentioned songwriters over the years. But getting it right, without feeling overly sappy or bogged down in influences takes a hard case.

Cunningham brushes off the flys of doubt, divining the core melancholy that makes this sort of synthpop work and he combines it with an approach that goes for subtlety over flash. He’s not necessarily reaching for hits territory, but he’s found a home between texture and temperance. The record winds up as aural comfort food, a smirking nod to those that always return to certain corners of the Factory, Creation and Sarah Records shelf when things look dour. In that regard I think the only true praise here is just a wordless nod in the night as we pass Cunningham walking around, hat pulled tight and breath rising cold into the street lamps. He might be right, “the world wasn’t made for us.”



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments