Browsing Category New Albums

Adam Hattaway and the Haunters

New Zealand’s Melted Ice Cream collective binds up a loose collection of jangle-prone, indie scrapers and post-punk purveyors with just the right mix of off-kilter sensibilities to keep the mind spinning. The label adds the solo debut from Christchurch’s Adam Hattaway (of Wurld Series) to the stable and it’s a delirious mishmash of crimped-tinfoil punk, fuzzgut indie and wistful power pop that laminates the Memphis school into a hot glued gauze. Hattaway might not be pulling down Big Star soul, but he’s getting runner up vibes a la The Hot Dogs on “Turn Around” and “Too Tired” and making it sound sweet. The dial twisting approach poaches well from his country’s past just as often though, finding a wobbly kinship with Chris Knox in various forms (his scattershot solo shamblin’ and Toy Love come to mind) not to mention indie lancers The 3Ds or Able Tasmans. Hell, maybe even a touch of Tall Dwarfs creeps in around he crimped edges.

There’s a sense that Hattaway coulda played it all straight – he’s got the hook chops to whip it ‘til smooth – but the record works because he refuses to do any such thing. Tape hiss creeps in to remind the listener that decorum isn’t at stake here. Whenever things threaten to get too close to the kernel of pop, Hattaway stomps down on the squelch to twist the feedback knife a little closer to chaos. As much as Australia has a knack for loose-knit indie wranglin’, their Eastern counterparts seem to push just a touch further towards the fringe, which is what makes them such a wellspring of great pop. Add Hattaway to that legacy. This collection is rough under the chin, but that’s what made some of the best Flying Nun platters so desirable in hindsight. All Dat Love is proving to be a late entry favorite around here, and I’m keeping an ear to where Hattaway’s headed in the future.



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The Other Years

2018 has been a pretty good year for folk of all varieties, but most especially the kind of lonesome, wooded, solace-laden folk that speaks to shirking the trappings of modernity to let the forest become your next of kin. Alongside great records from Nathan Salsburg, Sarah Louise, and Daniel Bachman you can add the quiet magic of the eponymous debut from The Other Years. The duo has been playing together for almost a decade, but this collection marks their first album proper, though you’d never catch a whiff of debut over these forty minutes. Anna Krippenstapel and Heather Summers (Freakwater, Joan Shelley) feel like they’ve been a well-kept tradition from the moment the record starts. Its raw and somehow refined because of its rawness. The pair can’t help but evoke Appalachian sisters or cousins playing for family, not posterity, as the sun goes down and the hearth burns bright. There’s something evergreen that aches in the bones of The Other Years – a vision of what could have been, rather than what has become of us.

While there’s, naturally, a blush of NPR think piece woven into a record this rooted in homespun wistfulness and coal country familial forms, The Other Years doesn’t feel like a curio or Cohen Brothers set piece. Rather, the sparse backporch renditions seem to flow from the women’s respective traditions in earnest, aching solemnity. Their songs keep up the oral tradition because the technological one seems too prickly to last. From the moment that Krippenstapel’s banjo starts to pick, there’s a sense that simplicity isn’t a four-letter word, and that maybe letting the grass consume the concrete isn’t such a bad idea. It’s a gorgeous reminder to notice the small moments and breathe the sweet air while it lasts.



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Scott Hirsch

A couple of years back Scott Hirsch moved out of the studio pool, producing Hiss Golden Messenger records and holding down time in The Court and Spark to release a solo record. The record touched on plenty of the same ground he’d explored with those outfits – mellow, smoke and sunset country-folk that was nuanced and peppered with seasoned vets in the studio. On his follow-up, Hirsch has refined that sound, but added a low-slung groove to his tanned leather soul. Among those other plaudits, Hirsch was instrumental in mobilizing the one-off brilliance that was Golden Gunn and he brings the same reverence for the catalog of JJ Cale’s cocaine country to the fore here.

Lost Time Behind The Moon weaves between the roadhouse wrangle of Cale’s legacy and something of a transcendental peace, picking up the scattered pieces of Fred Neil alongside the respective ’72 vibes of Little Feat and Tim Buckley. Hirsch outstrips his previous effort time and again as each new song on his sophomore stint cues up – each one full of deeper humility, more vibrant hues, and rougher cut features. In a way the album sidles alongside the wave of Cosmic American that’s blossomed in 2018, though its nowhere near the heady sweat of most of the core chooglers operating in that sphere. While “No No” could easily slip in to bridge the divide between One Eleven Heavy and Howlin’ Rain, the scope of Hirsch’s album aims for more than just a nostalgic niche. Lost Time bristles and broods and in the end is a salve and solace to lost souls.

There’s something ephemeral that ties 1972 and 2018 – a tangle of turmoil, terror, desperation and delusion. The corruption wormhole of Watergate shot through to whatever ham-sliced timeline we’re currently operating in is palpable and by turns the same battered blue-collar brilliance on the stereo seems to hit home. Hirsch’s vision of country elegance and barbiturate boogie hangs heavy on he diaphragm, groovin’ and singin’ in the same breath. It’s both a damn shame and a blessing that this is coming out in December. The release schedule rush means a lot of people are going to gloss right over this, head stuck in the wet sand of year-end wraps ups. On the other hand, that makes this a brilliant gem for those still paying attention to the right channels. This one’s feels like it’s already got future collectors itchin’ to find a first press. If there’s one last record you add to the stack before the year tumbles down, this should be it.



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Palm Springs

After already laying down a scathing record of post-punk with her band Mod Con and giving some heft to the guitar chaos in Tropical Fuck Storm, Melbourne’s Erica Dunn cuts the volume and sweeps out the quiet corners of the home recorded hearth for this low-key EP. Her cassette Palm Springs & Friends is calm and crackling, evoking the kind of private issue and margin-walking folk that birthed albums from Elyse, Dave Bixby, Susan Christie, or Chuck and Mary Perrin. Dunn nails the wet wool sound of intimacy that made those obscurities into the sort of records that were sought out with blood, sweat and black lung as collectors rifled through basements and boot sales. The record takes a high contrast approach to the bulk of what I’ve heard from Dunn and proves that she’s got equal options for careers on both sides of the volume knob.

Not only is the record tender in its trappings, but lyrically this is a far cry from Mod Con’s fang-toothed tumult. Dunn is wistful and warm, opening the record to an autumnal ennui that’s surprising but infinitely listenable. While the faint fluff of tape hum might frame this collection perfectly, there’s also a feeling that Dunn could take this to a larger life with ease. Much like this year’s jump by Anna St. Louis to a full spectrum sound, its easy to see how the songs on & Friends could find purchase in lush production. Then again, if this is just meant to be a hand-crafted curio of folk, far be it from me to make any assumptions. Whatever her ambitions under the Palm Springs header, Dunn’s captured some sort of magic that’s hard to shake.





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Michael Hurley

For a listener of any age, dipping into the waters of Michael Hurley can seem daunting. Like a pimple-faced kid on the precipice of Dylan and Townes, Cash or Hazlewood – there are so many eras to cover, so many iterations to contend with and, in Hurley’s specific case, so many inside winks to be lost among that it’s easy to feel like you’re on the outside listening in. In that regard Feeding Tube’s latest collection is an excellently inviting, though by no means definitive entry point. The record documents Hurley’s first European jaunt, embarked upon in 1995 between his albums Wolfways and Parsnip Snips. The tour would take Hurley through Germany and on into Slovenia, where Living Ljubljana would be laid to tape at KLUB K4.

Its not an imposing set – its tight, short, and in deference to some of the other greats up there (Van Zandt and Cash) its spartan in its approach to dialogue and banter. The band that Hurley brings with him is spare, but effective. His records were never overly fussy or showy and often found their grace in the kind of warm, “in the room” feeling that makes them seem less like set pieces for songwriting and more like postcards from a friend. The live set captures the same feeling, with Robert Michener and Mickey Bones pushing Hurley along a track of amiable warmth and inclusive vibes.

The tracklist centers on his mid-nineties period primarily, culling from some merchtable specific cassette releases that don’t pop up that often and the just released Wolfways. Though, for the Hurley traveler and neophyte alike, the set reaches a few years earlier into Watertower and even back to classics from his ‘70s days on Raccoon and Rounder. They round the set of hearthwarmers out with a couple of cover tunes that fit snug into the seams of a carefully curated bunch. If this is the twentieth or so Hurley platter to grace your collection, if you’ve got those merchtable cassettes dusted and dangling on the shelf then Ljubljana will hit you right with a feeling of coming home. If, however, you’re not all that familiar. If you’re scratching your head at what praytell a Snock is and scanning through color blasted cover art with a quizzical grin, then this is just as nice a perch to land on. Its that rare live record that doesn’t feel so much like a souvenir, more like an invitation in. Probably no better place to enter the maze than right here.

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Tomorrow’s Tulips

Hate to say it, because it’s a bit of a lazy critical lob at this point, but the Tulips have sure been boiling down their late-period Velvet Underground to a bouillabaisse while recording their latest cassette. The band has always tipped the scales towards low-strung strummers with narcotic vocals, but Harnessed To Flesh strips away any previous guitar flash for an album that’s more appropriately harnessed to the carpet and shaking off the spins through two sides of spooled haze. There’s an even keel of hungover hum that drives the record with Alex Knost croaking through each song with the indifferent sigh of an art rock solo stint written off by the label as a break-even place holder. That he pulls it off with an air of ineffable grace is to his credit in committing fully to the rough-night sound.

The band are now four albums deep, and while they’ve mutated a bit since that first LP hit back in 2011, for the most part the band has hung close to the lo-fi linger, the post-grunge saunter and the nth wave no-frills strum of garage-pop swagger. They’re not busting their molds here, but there are some moments that beg more than one go-round on the headphones. “Overnight Obsession” is full of morning fog and aimless bliss. “Certain Frantic Quality” – despite having no frantic qualities whatsoever – hangs on a leathered shimmy that’s hard to ignore. Sadly, they tend to get a bit lost in the number ends of their songwriting spectrum more often than not, but when the band hits the right mix of sunglass slumped aloof burnin’ grist its hard not to perk up an ear. At four albums in I’m not betting they’re going to self-edit too much, but good times are notable here for those building out some shaggy playlists of late.






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Mt. Mountain

The good folks at Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud are sneaking a few more releases in here at the end of the year before 2018 collapses to a close. In the spirit of good things coming to those who wait, Perth’s Mt. Mountain offer up another drone-psych crusher with their third LP, Golden Rise. While their debut LP, Cosmos Terros was solid, the band truly came into their own on last year’s Dust, a record that paired their sparse menace with some impressive track lengths to great effect. While they don’t embrace the sidelong crusher as readily this time around, they bring the same sense of lysergic lilt and barren isolation, amping up the desert psych desperation and diving once more into the tectonic build of patient sonic destruction.

The patience is, perhaps, what sets Mt Mountain apart. They’re equipped with the tools to level a levee or two with gargantuan guitar fury, but they wisely let their unease simmer here instead. Many can light the wick and let the fuzz do all the work, but Mt. Mountain are working well with the texture of anticipation. On the previous effort that patience took place over the course of the titanic title track, but here the band are content to let the interplay between the ten tracks ebb, flow, and ease the listener into a meditative smolder.

On tracks, “Acceleration” and “Open Door” the band glows with an internal heat, steaming from every pore like a distance runner knelt down in the snow. They never let the heat hatch, though, keeping it coddled close to the heart and perennially pulsing. While the record never truly blossoms into the kind of maelstrom that listeners might be expecting, Golden Rise is far from boring. In fact, as that title might suggest, the record mirrors the slow euphoric slip into amber daylight that comes after a long night awake. Like fellow psych travelers Wooden Shjips have this year, they embrace the chaotic antidote and let the mellower side rule the day. I, for one, could use a good melt now and again.



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DMBQ

For their 13th record, Japan’s heavy hitters, DMBQ have headed back to basics – capturing their own particular maelstrom with an array of vintage equipment and analog aesthetics. They’re harnessing the squall, tapping into the eye of psychedelic fury and heading straight to the heart of creeping dread. The record bursts open with the fire-wielding stomp of “Blue Bird,” a song that belies its natural zen title, instead rumbling across the barren outback on tank treads, guzzling the last gasoline available in a wasteland war zone out of hedonistic spite. As the record wears further on, they don’t overwhelm with a constant barrage of amplifier scorch, though they don’t skimp on it either.

There’s a general burnt apocalypse feel to the Keeenly and as the record unfolds the band evokes more than just the warbringer battlements. They unleash dust storm devastation – torrents of guitar sweeping headlong through the headphones in a disorienting haze. They soak the listener to the bone with monsoon drones, and heat-warped textures. When vocals find their way through the chaos, they scratch at the listener with a wild-eyed fury. DMBQ are well over a decade deep into their career of noise excavation and they show no signs of dulling their edge. Keeenly may not be as frantic as they’ve ever been, but it jackhammers as hard as anything in their catalog.

The band even finds a bit of clarity by the time it collapses to a close. The record builds worlds only to destroy them, but by the time “The Cave and The Light” rises over the horizon, the band is ready to rest. The final track sparkles like the remains of a a great cosmic storm, a fitting peace to end an album of malevolent destruction. A definite hole has been felt with the absence of DMBQ in the last decade, and the band wastes no time reasserting their place back atop the mountain of Japanese psych masters.


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Jacco Gardner

Over the last five years or so, Jacco Gardner has created a world dedicated to spreading the seeds of swirling psychedelia. His debut for Trouble in Mind leaped out of almost nowhere, preceded by a few singles that hinted at what was to come, though nothing could prepare for how dense and complete the vision of his debut album would be. With his follow-up and jump to Polyvinyl, he’d only deepen the hues and expand his Papier-mâché psychedelic wonderland. Both albums were anchored by Gardner’s grey-streaked vocals that carried with them a sense of melancholic weight, so its most surprising that his third LP takes the bold leap to strip them away entirely.

Inspired by a couple of key pieces of equipment, a Dynachord Echochord mini – a cheap echo unit – and an MS20 mini synthesizer, the album began to take shape in the wake of the release of Hypnophobia. Both of the pieces have a distinct quality and a dreamy voice, but more importantly they can both be overdriven to create a distortion that adds a lot of the prominent character to Somnium. Rooted in the burbling Kosmiche psychedelia of Cluster and Tangerine Dream and the often whimsical works of Bo Hansson, the record picks up a cue or two from the kind of episodic, story-heavy progressives of the ‘70s. At its heart, Gardner seems to be cutting this album from the same cloth that Alain Goraguer wrought La Planète Sauvage. While Somnium doesn’t play as an outright concept record, its definitely building its own sci-fi landscape that leaves the story up to the listener. Its an endlessly absorbing soundtrack that twists itself in slow knots for the listeners’ amusement.

Much like the recent work of Frank Maston, the album also owes a debt to the ‘70s library collections that dotted the television and film landscape, though Gardner is creating a far more cohesive statement here. He trips quite a few of the same triggers as Matson, but dives a bit further down the luminescent rabbit hole. The record is whimsical, without becoming too precious, poking at the telltale hallmarks of ‘60s psychedelia, without becoming a cartoon litany of blacklight mushroom posters in the process. While the album might lop off a good chunk of fans who’d come in the past for the psych-pop but would ruffle at the lack of vocals, it should also open up Gardner to the avid army of synth worshipers out there. As much as any lost Waxworks or Death Waltz soundtrack, Somnium is a heady trip carved out of dedication to the authenticity of synth as a terraforming tool to create psychedelic landscapes. In that regard, its well worth going back time an again to find new corners of Somnium to inhabit.

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Rattle

Nottingham duo Rattle throw out the pop formulas in favor of a percussive ping pong between members. The pair, Katharine Brown and Theresa Wrigley, weave a tapestry of hypnotic dance and percussive patter, both picking up the sticks to spar rhythmically with each other with only occasional forays into vocal volley. Sequence drops the listener into a trance, playing off of subtle shifts in ever evolving patterns, with each of the four songs on the record stretching towards the ten-minute mark. The songs have the effect of stripping away the surroundings of the listener, like a sonic suspension in sensory isolation, or in this case suspension in the rarefied air of rhythmic thrum. The record is best listened to in dim surroundings or with eyes closed altogether. Let the rhythms play over the mind, pushing accompanying brainwave patterns to the beat that the two women pluck out of thin air. In that environment Sequence begins to toggle the tumblers of the mind into new positions.

When vocals do arise in the mix, they’re often wordless – cooing, humming and moaning entwined with the insistent, ecstatic beats. They finally break into discernible phrasing on “Signal” but even then, the pair are all about repetition, turning their words into mantras that eventually push meanings to the background in favor higher states of consciousness. While the record is propulsive and even at times frantic, the overall effect is absolutely soothing. There’s a sense of natural evolution to each song, each player anticipating the other completely, and that ingrained trust is passed through the speakers to the listener. Brown and Wrigley are spirit guides, sonic Sherpas, clatter-packed chiropractors come to align your vibrations to their natural thump.

It’s a shift from the usual dose of post-punk and that drops from the bucket at Upset The Rhythm, but the DIY spirit is just as punk as anything else on the roster. Brown and Wrigley are working the crease between jazz, post-punk and drone and it works as a feast for the ears. Highly recommended as a background beat to get your own weird Birdman-esque mania working for you, or just to drop out in the negative zone for forty-odd minutes of float. Either way Sequence is a damn delight.


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