Browsing Category New Albums

Skyminds

Skyminds slipped a small eponymous tape run (100 copies) out on Auasca earlier this year and its sorely deserving of more attention. The set, from members of Channelers, Ashan, and Selaroda, is ladled with the same syrupy serenity that their other outfits offer, slotting definitively into the mind melt zones one would expect. However, they also expand amiably on the synth duo dynamic with forays into desert dub, radiant high plains guitar shimmer, and meditative acoustic strum. Henning and Conrad melt their psychedelic float into a record that ripples like mountains out the window, calming as a sine wave but also rather breathtaking as the full horizon unfolds.

With a drone underpinning most tracks, the pair place delicate stacks of flutes, strings, plucks and even the occasional beat into the mix but they always return to the ether to unwind with pillowy synths as the bedrock of their sound. The album’s first half mix n’ picks some of their strengths, but the band stretches out completely as they ease into the latter tracks, “Morning Way” and “Illuminated and Warming.” The sounds become a bucolic haze washing over the listener. Each listen on the album picks out new combinations of sound that give the album shading and shape. Recommended picking this one up before the run sells through as its a nice little gem.

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Dommengang

On their third album Dommengang still navigate the causeway between psychedelic blues and the frayed edges of harder rock, but this time they’ve added a looseness to their sound that breaks the lash that held them to a more regimented past. While they used to bump into the bluster of metal, this time around they’re cooling their sound into something more cosmic, and it feels like the piece of the puzzle they’d long been missing. Tim Green, again at the boards, gives the album a spaciousness that floats on the air like steam n’ sweat in the crisp morning air. The album is perched in permanent golden hour hues, with the songs coming on like a third beer swagger that melts the weight of week away.

That cosmic crash doesn’t crest too early. The band opens with “Sunny Day Flooding,” which ties the knot between last year’s Love Jail and the new album’s woollier ways. Then they ease into the tangerine drip of guitars on the back end of “Earth Blues.” Just towards the last solo you can feel the band loosen. It’s a respite before they kick the crunch back on but there’s a collective sigh between the notes. Sig Wilson’s playing on this one is his best yet, burning ether and ozone, getting lost in the smoke curls for more than a moment. The last album evoked the West, and the band’s move towards L.A., but this one embraces the desert as well as the lusher confines of the coast. There’s a touch of Big Sur in the gnarled drags on “Kudzu.” It’s a relief that tumbles down in a gush of guitar, quenching the soul of the parched sounds of their past.

This, along with the Crazy Horse burn that permeates and pounds through the heart of “Jerusalem Cricket,” gives the band a wild-eyed, crooked grin gravitas that they embody with ease. As Dommengang crunch into the loose gravel groove of the latter half of No Keys they position themselves to embrace the crux between David Nance, Chris Forsyth, and Endless Boogie. It’s a welcomed shift and one I hope they continue to mine for more material. That said, even with No Keys acting as an album in transition, the moments that burn bright tend to light up the horizon with a most inviting glow.



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Djinn

Formed by members of Hills and Goat, and adopting the latter’s proclivity for obscuring identities, Djinn inhabits a style that’s no less psychedelic than its member’s usual haunts, but winds up more experimental than either. Djinn’s debut embraces the free jazz pyrotechnics of Albert Ayler and Don Cherry while also finding solace in the more meditative and serene end of the freeform universe – echoing the haunted ashram of Alice Coltrane and the metaphysical forces of Sun Ra. The band is named after mythical beings – not quite angels, not quite devils – but rather forces of mystery that confuse the senses and play upon the mystical nature of reality. This gives the spirits a bit more agency than their one-dimensional counterparts with qualities that can work towards evil or good. Its as apt a moniker as any for a band that’s cloaked in mystery and seeking to work through noise and nature alike.

The pair weaves through this blend of abrasion and bliss without finding the poles at odds with one another. They achieve a groove that approaches infectious on “My Bankaccount,” then burn down the buoyancy with the following five minutes of improv float and free-associated mumbling of “Rertrand Bussels.” If anything, that track name might be indicative of the only real downside here, the cheeky nature of the titles is sometimes distracting from the disquieting din. Then again, taking oneself too seriously has just the same off-putting effect, so why not slap “Djinn and Djuice” on the title of a song built on sax skronk, a menacing piano totter, and skittering percussion? The record works well in the abstract styles the band seeks to emulate, and while not necessarily coming close to the masters themselves, it serves as more than just mere distraction from the players’ full-time tenures. I’m hoping this isn’t just a passion piece one-off, because it feels like there’s more to grow on here. For now, fans of the freer end of the psychedelic spectra have something to dig into all the same.



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Olden Yolk

On their sophomore album Olden Yolk solidify their folk-pop sound, edging in a touch more of the soft-focus psychedelia that graced their first while embracing the rhythmic pulse pounding under their gauzy glow. The band shares a great deal in common with Shane Butler’s former haunt in Quilt, but they’re drawing deeper into the damp depths of ‘60s psych than Quilt’s sunny veneer ever let on. With this new album they’re picking up similarities to Sunforest, Euhoria, and Sapphire Thinkers giving their sound a lushness that’s even more present than the last outing. Like bygone autumnal strummers Ultimate Painting, they’re burrowing into melancholy with a wholeheartedness that reverberates throughout Living Theater. This doesn’t land them in the bell jar, but perhaps perches them just adjacent, making charcoal sketches of said jar to send to pen pals who sigh like they sigh.

In fact, autumnal is the wrong word, if anything Olden Yolk are vernal and all the better for the May release of their latest record. They oscillate between streaks of rain and scattered beams of sun in mercurial moments between the album’s ten tracks. The best songs here (and its hard to choose) embrace both halves of their split souls. “Grand Palais” is a particular stunner, edging into the light on tip-toes but heading into its skid spinning ‘round and ‘round until the air becomes dizzy. “Cotton and Cane” is the band at their most pop, pinning poetry on loss to a careening crackle and a perfect vocal dance between the leads.

The songs take on their heaviest cloak when Caity Shaffer steps up to the microphone, though. Soft flutes and a gentle nudge of bass huddle behind her while she croons contemplatively on “Distant Episode,” the song palpably drizzling with tenderness. She’s equally heartbreaking on “Castor and Pollux,” a haunting tale of indecision and loss. The air of duality remains a glorious constant on Living Theater the singers’ intertwined voices and the bittersweet vibes following the tides between joy and sadness like the soft quiver of a diaphragm before weeping. The debut was an excellent introduction, but with album number two, Olden Yolk plead to be on your list of 2019 essentials.



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Clinic

Has it really been seven years since Clinic was last seen creeping around the turntable? It appears so. After the band’s last outing, which saw them collaborating with Oneohtrix’ Daniel Lopatin, they return to a more familiar form, riding the raw snap of their familiar spooked psych-blues once more. The title of Wheeltappers and Shunters is likely lost on most US audiences, as it references a mid-70s British Variety series that hasn’t aged particularly well. The jocular program represents a time that, while often reminisced as the golden age of culture, actually rounds out to a cringing normalization of racial stereotype caught on tape and misogyny run rampant. The show is essentially the UK version of Hee-Haw (minus the country music) as far as I can tell, and as much as that’s likely a fond familial memory for some here, it’s as much a cultural black mark for everyone else.

The band works the album into a kind of inverse Village Green Preservation Society, holding up the sunny charms of the past to the magnifying lens of 2019 and looking for the dirt in the cracks. As much as both the UK and US have found sweeping waves of nostalgic nationalism in the wake of MAGA/Brexit culture, this is a necessary knock to the heads of the rally crowds looking to hearken back to some sort of perceived greatest generations. They pin their body politic to some progressive visions of the Clinic sound as well – stretching out to the ethereal embers on “Flying Fish,” and mining menacing prog on the fizzing closer “New Equations (at the Copacabana)”. The band’s bubbling through lava and lye on “Ferryboat of the Mind,” while they return to the classic pendulum swing swagger of their old days on “Congratulations.”

The record is indeed a dark depiction of nostalgia – panicked, preserved, and packaged for a future generation to find and ponder. They don’t look back on the transgressions of their predecessors lightly, just as our own heirs should not. While (somewhat ironically) fans nostalgic for classic Clinic will find something to love here, the band’s fusing much of the drive from their more experimental later years with the propulsive pop that locked ‘em on your college dial. It’s a new chapter in the history of the psych swamp and a rather welcomed return.



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Kukangendai

Kyoto trio Kukangendai push minimalist guitar jams to their logical conclusion – crafting terse, clipped songs that are rooted in repetition and cut clean of any excess. The band works like a biological organism, laying down a heartbeat of guitar that hammers steady, removing almost any flash from the instrument’s aspirations. Guitar and bass work like left and right ventricles, on songs like “Mure” pumping a hypnotic hum that’s almost meditative in its consistency. They lace in the occasional sighs of a non-metronomic chord or a vocal moan through the nervous network, tracing stimuli ever so gently across the consciousness of Kukangendai’s beat, but for the most part this album is an exercise in control.

That leaves the drums to wind up the free will warrior in the equation. The drumming rolls and twists within the framework, still lock-stopping along with the rest of the band but also tasting the energy in the room with something less mechanical than the other players. While this likely sounds like a tightly regimented panic attack, the results are as engrossing as any of the flashiest forays into guitar histrionics. The trio’s pushing the needle through the soft tissue of math rock, jazz and post-rock to create something grand in its appreciation of austerity. Looking to realign the senses? This is the baseline yer looking for to calibrate to the eternal thrum.




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Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation

On their third album Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation embrace wider scope of psychedelia, pushing their lush sound into swirls of hypnotic repetition, languid guitar bliss, silken slow jams, lock-top blues grooves, and a psych-pop shimmer. Having relocated from Stockholm to London, Öhrn and her writing partner in the band Fredrik have teamed up with a cadre of locals to fill out the sound and the new direction is even more polished than their previous incarnation. There’s still a haze hanging over them, but now they’ve added a certain color-saturated oblivion that occasionally feels more comfortable on a towering club sound system than it would from the stage. While this tangent starts out with a pocket full of of Moon Duo, Spacemen 3 galactic dust, they push much further into festival fodder than occasionally benefits their sound. This shift is most readily apparent on “I Can Feel It” and “Desire,” which might have worked better as a 12” pairing, chafing slightly, but still manage to hang on without completely pushing the record off the rails.

Thankfully they pull back the throttle and suck a little serotonin out of the room for cuts that are more about floating in the ether than about transcendence through dance. The sustained tones and spiritual lilt to “Only Lovers” is right out of the Spiritualized playbook and Öhrn pulls off the J Spaceman gravitas with grace. They follow that with another groover that’s a touch more lysergic than your average big budget blues workout, finding room to choogle through the cosmos on “Baby Come On.” Öhrn’s ability to hang her voice on the air like cloud cover is one of her greatest assets and she drapes the dew over much of the second half of the album. She slides out of the euphoric mania of the beginning of the LP for an extended comedown that’s gorgeous, lush, and radiating a shimmer that’s become their signature sound.

All in, the record’s a nice progression from their early echoplex embryo, and it doesn’t let itself stagnate on a sound too long. While a bit of the pop impulses are interesting, too much looses her sense of bliss. When the band’s carving out decadent dreams made of sound, they’re unmatched as far as most of their psych-pop contemporaries are concerned. This feels like a watershed moment for the band before they carve over into the territory earmarked for the Tame Impala, Hookworms, or Temples. Feel free to get to know ‘em now.



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Psychedelic Speed Freaks

After resurrecting High Rise’s sonic assault II from the cataloged caverns of PSF, Black Editions gives fans of guitarist/ear drum antagonist Munehiro Narita another treat with the issue of his revamped trio Psychedelic Speed Freaks’ eponymous LP. When the band first rolled out, High Rise dubbed themselves Psychedelic Speed Freaks, originally counting Narita with Masashi Mitani, Asahito Nanjo, and Ikuro Takahashi among the ranks. Presumably the name was an homage to the record label they’d eventually claim as a home, but the label thought the name was a little too on the nose once they were signed on board, hence the swap to High Rise. The switch back to their old handle doesn’t change much about the direction of the band’s sound. Still anchored by Narita’s “motorcycle fuzztone” guitar, the record is perched in the red and not looking to relent. David Jasso steps up on bass this time around and also adds in a dose of Lemmy-indebted vocals that scrape and strain to push themselves over the top of the cyclone assault of guitar and drums.

Straddling the lay lines between psych, metal, trash, and doom, the band creates a punishing document for 2019 that expands on the dynamic that Narita and Asahito Nanjo crafted and damn near perfected over their initial run. It’s easy to imagine that there are plenty of newer volume feeders out there who never got the chance to experience High Rise in their paint-melting prime, so Psychedelic Speed Freaks seek to right a wrong and bring more joyous noise to the universe both (barely) between the grooves here and in the live setting. From all accounts they tore the doors off of Black Editions’ Festival last month and hopes are on that they keep it up with more dates. The kind of heat that this thing is putting out hasn’t been much matched of late, with perhaps the exception of Feral Ohms, who’ve always seemed to be heirs apparent to High Rise.

Goes without saying that if you’re a High Rise fan, this one’s essential. Honestly, if the term Japanese psych gives you any goosebumps this one should already be on your shelf. It’s a total crusher in every sense of the term.




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POW!

SF’s POW! pick up the yolk from a generation of sci-fi scanners and jitter-blasted synth punks crawling out of the debris of ’79. The band’s been bubbling under the surface like a boil for years now, but this is the most crystalized and cracked version of their Vaseline-vibed visions yet, conjuring up some real Howard Devoto/ Magazine heat this time around. There’s an uneasiness to Sift, the band’s fourth record for Castle Face, and the band uses that to their advantage, pushing listeners away from any notion of bliss with their infected slink. Aside from the veneer of menace though, the band gives some substance to their doom with sketches of cybernetic chaos and a future ravaged by reliance on mechanical artifice.

Sure, they’re not the first band to slide under the vinyl veil and deify the vile image of dystopian drama via mangled metal riffs and well-oiled synths, but for fans of the aforementioned Magazine, Simply Saucer, Tubeway Army, The Units, or Chrome the band is providing a wormhole from their weirdness to the present day. Byron Blum’s blast furnace of guitar and pitch-perfect vocal warble has this feeling like more than just mere homage. The band’s vomiting oil slick bile and wires all over the turntable like they’ve lived in the muck for years. In the past there was a scrappier sense of, low-fi fizz, but by whittling it away the band has finally arrived at the perfect balance of crisp angles, crushed glass and rampant nihilism that this genre requires to thrive.



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Nots

Memphis’ Nots slim from a quartet to a three piece for their third album, appropriately titled, 3 – the magic number this time around. Without the extra, added synth snarls of Alexandra Eastburn, the band digs into the gaunt, wiry workings of post-punk with a leaner attitude. The record is fraut and fighting for air in a field that’s already bloodied and battered. The guitars cut into the wrists with an abrasive ache, the drums hammer at the backs of the eyelids like ball peen bullets and singer/synther Natalie Hoffmann uses the single keys setup to disorient the listener with a laser load of wobbly sonics. Where once they’d build in pillowy pads behind their clipped catastrophics, now they’re pulling away any comfort that the listener might lean into to catch balance. The record is Nots at their most feral, vicious, and vital.

The band was always ripped to the razors, but this time there’s a particularly jagged edge to their sound, bolstered by the compact lineup and perhaps reflecting the collective raised hackles of a country on constant edge. Synth-punk can often jut in two different directions – towards the jocular, with a wink and a sneer or taking a darker drift towards panic-struck fever fuel, twitching through the hours with the kind of crumpled soul that’s never quite at rest. With 3 the band takes a decided turn towards the latter, gnawing their set to the marrow, sucking the air from their wounds, and locking themselves tight in a bunker of bone-dry riffs, and strychnine synths. The departure of their former bandmate may have left them reassessing their direction, but by pulling back the curtain on complexity they’ve managed to make their most affecting record yet. This is Nots without pity and I’m all in.



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