Browsing Category New Albums

The Cosmic Range

Its such a packed year, that as we enter the mid-point its time to go back and sweep out some of the great releases that got lost in the cavalcade. That includes the sorely under-appreciated sophomore LP from Canada’s Cosmic Range. The band, much like their close contemporaries in Badge Epoque Ensemble, is comprised largely of players who found themselves in and around the backing band from last year’s U.S. Girls release. Featuring the likes of Matthew ‘Doc” Dunn and Maximillian (Slim Twig) Turnbull, the record scratches a familiar itch that claws at the crux of jazz, psych, and funk. The band is dipped and doused in the hash den Ashram of ‘70s Miles Davis on his run between the Brew and the Corner. They’re beset with the same shakes that lit up the nerves on Nation Time and they’re weeding out the same calm collective gardens that Alice Coltrane tended.

There’s more than a little hazed quasar space rock floating in the froth as well and the band pulls the throttle way back for the disquieting loneliness of “Eyes for Rivers” before they spark back up for the double barrel burn of “The Observer.” Rhythm is a constant throughout the album, whether tapping out a tender cosmic sendoff or bringing the punishing pound of a polyrhythmic puzzle. The band’s clearly comprised of seasoned vets bouncing their highest beta wave wobble among the collective consciousness. The record is a heady hit, blown through with psychedelic sax n’ wah fried guitar grooves that’ll sate the most ardent heads out there. If you’ve heard the tangential works that the players have cropped up on, then it should come as little surprise that the alchemy is strong among this bunch. Highly recommended that you lock in and let this one wash over you.




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ML WAH

There are many sides of Matt Lajoie (solo, Cursillistas, Herbcraft, Ash & Herb, Starbirthed) but the ML WAH name is dedicated to a more devotional direction. Following 2011’s Ashram To The Stars, Herbcraft took a heavier tack, pulling more from Krautrock and the space spectrum, but Deep Roots is here as a spiritual successor to that album’s higher consciousness. There’s a deep body vibration to the album, shaking the chakras until the soul lights up like an ember. LaJoie’s hymns are covered in ash, ambling through the streets in search of solace, euphoria, or enlightenment. A clatter of percussion wakes the wound and LaJoie singes it shut with the slow melt of his guitar on “Santal.” Things take another turn towards disjointed stomp on “Wallah Sound,” where keys plunk like a kalimba over the heavy hop of percussion worked up to confront the spirit’s misgivings.

Though certainly rooted in psychedelics, with shades of Ash Ra Temple or International Harvester this record also owes a debt to the permeating pulse of Don Cherry. While the Wah doesn’t rock the horns like Cherry might, there’s certainly more than a touch of the mysticism that informed Organic Music Society clattering through its bones. This is one for the late-night meditations, with the cool breeze blowing against the baked-in glow of warm firelight. If you’ve found purchase in LaJoie’s past works (no matter the output) then you’ll already be on board for this, but for the free jazz congregation and the psych temple travelers, here lies an album that brings together the fold for a blissful bout of devotional thrum. Recommended for some deep listening.



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Doug Tuttle

Not a bad little title for Doug Tuttle’s latest, Dream Road wraps up the gauzy take on folk that the songwriter spins on the new LP. Born out of a buttery brick of folk-rock that’s not entirely removed from the itch of Americana going ‘round these days, Tuttle’s vision is given an airiness, as if the better part of the record evaporated and filled the listener’s lungs with a sunny vitality. As for the remainder, Tuttle’s dream isn’t without clouds either. There’s a bittersweet bite to tracks like “Twilight,” and “In This World Alone,” and they drag their fingers in a watery weariness that’s ultimately as comforting as the sun.

Tuttle keeps things deceptively simple, with the sound remarkably full, despite relying mostly on layers of guitar, a scratch of drums, and vocals that bounce around the room attempting to coat the corners in a melancholy miasma. A touch of country slide here, a web of jangle n’ strum, a shock of effects now and then- but at heart this is folk-rock inherited from Fairport, Gary Higgins, and Roger Rodier. What sets him apart is coating those folk bones with the pop polish of Jeff Lynn or Gene Clark. Peace Potato hinted at bigger things in store for Tuttle, and with Dream Road he’s making good on those promises.

I’ve long held Tuttle in regard as a fine songwriter who’s been destined to make a bigger splash. This seems to be the moment for him, or perhaps the beginning of a bigger journey. He’s toeing the line between pushing his sound to new widths, heights, and lengths without spilling over into excesses, as can sometimes happen. Its an album that’s grown without pains, stretching to fill the room with a blissful sigh. There are a lot of sunny days on the way and Tuttle’s crafted a companion piece to each and every hazed beam that breaks through the trees.



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Hierophants

Aussie squirm-pop savants Hieorphants landed a propulsive chunk of post-punk on the chin of 2015 with their album Parralax Error. While the band issued a few singles before and after, its largely the last we’ve heard from the band until a surprise resurfacing this month on Anti-Fade. Spitting Out Moonlight is as twisted and taut as their previous effort, squeezing strains of synth-pop, jumbled jangle, and post-punk pounce into thirteen packed tracks that squeegee the soul. The band, which contains members of ORB, School Damage, The Frowning Clouds, and Ausmuteants revels in knocking the listener off their axis, while at the same time, providing just enough of a blistered beat to shake a dose of dance out as well.

The record benefits from a cache of strong songwriters, and while the needle vacillates through genres pretty freely, it all comes together like a lovingly curated mixtape adorned with shades of crushed velvet, plastic, and chrome. Peeking through the haze, the synth wobble of tracks like “Thoughts of Speech,” and “Carbon Copy” give the album a glue-huffed giddiness that’s immediately wiped to the waste bin by bent tin tangles guitar on “Memory Card,” and there are even a few prog-pegged whiffs that come seeping through the floor boards on opener “Shoemaker Levy” and closer “Everything in Order” with the latter taking the winked patter of Daevid Allen to heart. Its good to have the band back as they solidify their catalog with a sophomore platter as vital as the first. Who knows how long it’ll be before the stars align and a third hits, so enjoy this one while it lasts.



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Mike Donovan

Mike Donovan’s post-Sic Alps trajectory has swerved through as many mangled twists as the Alps themselves. At heart, he’s a man that can’t be pinned, placarded, and cataloged like so many, instead preferring to douse his pop, psych, and noise with a deluge of bleach and sulphuric acid. Following the crunch n’ crumble attack of Sic Alps he fluffed his pop chops on his first solo LP, opting for a folk shuffle that bordered on simple sincerity. Likewise the first stretch as Peacers landed as a garage gem shot through with a reverence for the Velvets and Syd Barrett resting in the palm of each hand. The further he gets from inception, though, the more murky the visions become. Peacers’ second act was tied in knots and dosed to the collar in plastic foam and feedback flecks. His last solo LP was a view of the sky from the drain, a shut-in shimmy that left the fray of its housecoat in plain view.

So that brings us to Exubrian Quonset just a year later, sounding more like Sic Alps than Donovan has in a long time. The fuzz is at the forefront, and there’s that hot-footed sway that always gave the band their charms. Yet, going into a Donovan penned record, I’m always looking for that transcendent pop moment and that seems to be absent this time around. He’s usually got a damnable earworm packed in there somewhere, one that comes bursting from the buzz to knock the wind out of the listener. He’s pushing towards the light with the fluorescent flicker of “B.O.C. Rate Applied,” and its probably the most pop moment on the album, but even with a late night glow, it’s a different side of his pop canon. I’ll always be holding out for another WOT (the whole thing is nothing but these brilliant moments), another “L Mansion,” another “God Bless Her I Miss Her,” another “She’s On Top,” and that’s on me. Donovan seems to be swimming in the fray much more often these days, embracing his hackles more than his come-hithers.

I’m not gonna fault him. The fray has always been a portion of the equation, part and parcel with listening to any band he’s helming, but it was finding the surprise inside that always made me smile. For the fuzz farmers and wobble poppers, there’s still a lot of material to chew on here. It’s not circling the storm drain as hard as the last time around, but it does still seem to be looking up at the stars from the curb. Something in the record feels like Donovan is closing a chapter, like he’s tying up loose ends. This is, in fact, his leaving San Francisco record, so perhaps there’s just a weight on the record’s shoulders that’s too heavy for the buoyant bounce of his pop past.



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Frank Hurricane and the Hurricanes of Love

Nestled in among the oddities, noise freaks, and psychedelic travelers on the Feeding Tube Roster rests a few releases from Frank Hurricane. The persona once held sway over Frank’s duffle-bag beats and scattershot flow, but he’s long since embraced his soulful side, melding rambling folk with a strain of small town Southern spiritual blues. The swap in sound’s done Frank good over the years, but nowhere more so than on his latest LP (splitting release between Feeding Tube and Crash Symbols). Along with a band dubbed The Hurricanes of Love, Frank fleshes out his sound adding in a few more voices to the mix, the occasional parade of horns, and the slow swing of drums behind his marmalade croons. Of course, bare-bones Frank tracks still abound, with Hurricane testifying his own brand of mud-caked gospel over the sunny tangle of strings.

Now at first blush, I might’ve balked on an album that goes so far as to include a Juggalo logo on the front cover. While I’m nestled in the Catskills these days, growing up in Michigan, on the backporch of Juggalo country in the ’90s, that was a totem that could often conjure trouble. However, Frank’s a seer and a singer, a poet laureate of the rusted underbelly of America, rust I often found myself scratched on growing up. He finds transcendence in the asphalt of Tennessee’s most scorched country – giving a reverent Americana profundity to PCP warnings, haunted devil towns, pimpin’, Shrympin (sic), and yeah lonely Juggalos at the local Burger King. Its all spiritual to Frank and he lets it flow through him and sow him like the soil piled behind a local gas station.

With a countenance that recalls Wooden Wand (albeit with a heavier howl) brushing up against Robbie Basho and boiled down in Charlie Patton’s American Gothic updated for 2019, the record is warm and inviting. Frank’s stories are peppered with characters and its clear each one has rubbed off on him and in turn, they likely took a bit of Frank’s hubris with them. This is a record for the porch, the tape deck on the tailgate, or anywhere that the sun can crack in and the mountain air fills the lungs. Damn fine summer songs, and just in time too.



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Amyl and the Sniffers

Following a cache of explosive EPs, Melbourne’s Amyl and the Sniffers roll into their debut proper with an air of expectation. Their sound’s rooted in the ballistic punch of punk that rolled out of ’77, dragging the ghosts of pub rock with it. The LP, despite bringing in name brand production (Ross Orton) the band doesn’t really mess with the formula they scratched in dirt of their early days. Out of the gate the eponymous LP is as focused and damaging as a bat to the ribcage. Amy Taylor continues to be one of the most engaging vocalists to flock to the punk mantle in years. Her rapid fire snarl levels any listener who might underestimate her. She’s just as apt to wrestle double entendres as tell you to go fuck yourself and she does it with exuberance, not anger. Taylor’s screaming, scratching, and slashing, but she’s smiling the whole time, laughing and throwing a beer at anyone who dares step on her stage.

The band locks their horns into a particular vintage of punk that began melting into the plastic pool that would mold ‘80s metal a few years later – powerful, precise, but not afraid to bust out a solo or two as well. Thrashing through a petulant preen that begs comparisons to The Damned, U.K. Subs, The Saints, and even early Guns ’n Roses, the band’s lineage is built on degenerate delight. Amyl and the Sniffers embrace their dirtbag status, they flaunt it and if you can’t handle it, or look down on them they’ve got a more than a few ways to tell you where you can stuff it.

The Sniffers always seems like their ready to incite action. There’s not a violence to their sound, rather the band just seem like they want to embody the chaos, the inertia, and the catharsis that plagues youth. In every chord a restless tension reverberates. In every vocal that Taylor spits theres’ a poke in the eye to see where the provocation will land her. This might make them sound like bratty kids, but the spirt of ’76/’77 was full of the kind of twitchy fuckers who’d just tumbled past voting age and were ready to get a visceral reaction. As debuts go this one’s got pretty much all it needs, and it cements Amyl and The Sniffers as the latest bearers of the ol’ Punk’s Not Dead jolt up the bucket that music needs now and again.


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Rose City Band

I premiered the first cut off of this killer a while back, but the week has finally come for the whole platter to land in our collective laps. The record, a slight sideline from Ripley Johnson’s duties at the helm of more than a few psych stalwarts, takes the mellow mantras of Moon Duo, strips away the motorik keys and beds down in a lush dusting of Cosmic Americana. Its that lushness that sets this record apart from the new crop of cosmic country crawlers these days. There’s a creamy brush of twang and a slow motion choogle ripplin’ through the ramble, but over the top Ripley’s keeping his croons echoing around a humid hothouse and it lays the album way way back into the pocket of blissed sunset sounds. Likewise the guitars more often that not achieve a particularly wet swelter that’s sweats from the strings, quenching dry country rollick.

It’s a bit of a detour from the Little Feat / Dead dichotomy that’s cropped up of late, but don’t you fret, Rose City Band are as locked into the endless euphoria of the eternal jam as any of their contempos. Once the record rolls ‘round to the mind melt of “Fear Song,” you know you’re home. The album’s at its most serene when it locks into a melted swoon, with the kind of liquid lysergic guitar that’s always been Rip’s specialty bouncing off the country strut in perfect balance. There’s a genuine feeling that this record has been lost in the stacks just waiting to be found by the right set of ears, a nod to the harder to pick up country-psych melters like Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, KAK, or Curt Newbury. Where Rose City swerves expectations, though, is by boiling those belters down with an ear towards heavier progression, recalling the latter half of Can’s “Spray” if those guys came up in Laurel Canyon.

Its an almost overwhelming year for music, with necessary releases popping up faster than any sane listener can grab them, but this is highly recommended for pickup. The record’s a psychedelic crossroads that’s not being traversed as much these days, and as usual Johnson’s created a record that’s absorbing as its own little world. Once this hits the turntable you’re set to repeat endlessly until the leaves give out and the skies are parched once again of that pristine pearl blue. Rose City Band is the calm center of your summer.




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Black Mountain

Black Mountain’s latest record thickens up its mustache and heads to puberty for an ode to newly minted freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a set of keys (rabbit’s foot not included). The album is named after the ’85 Dodge Destroyer that songwriter Stephen McBean’s been fixing up in the wake of his late life adoption of driving following a lifetime spent away from the wheel. It’s a paean to the open road, to the sort of symbiosis between man and machine that apparently forms when the engine’s revved and the paint is lacquered on the right shade of performance orange. Coupled with a lineup change that folds in new and returning members and an adoption of the crux between prog’s dirt weed swan song and the rise of metal’s caveman party pound, the album gives Black Mountain a good shake around the foundations.

Now I’m probably not the one to go pining for automobile anthems. Despite living among the scenic views of NY’s weekend escape route of choice, I still see cars as somewhat of a necessary evil. This is heresy as someone born in the shadow of Ford’s stomping grounds as well, but I’d just as soon hop a subway if it were always a choice. I drive a Civic, and it the motor rumbles the way that McBean’s pining for, I’d damn well get it checked. But I certainly understand the notion of needing cars to escape, to get freedom. Small town roots always leave the scar of tire tracks on your back as the only way to get some air of your own. Even if the smell of exhaust doesn’t boil your blood, there’s a sense of anticipation in getting a moment to oneself without anything but gas money holding you back.

Lyrical theme aside, the band is nailing the new direction that coincides with the troubled teen trappings they’ve employed here. There’s dirt under their nails from scratching Deep Purple into the back row of desks. There’s just the right amount of tatter on the cuffs of their denim jacket and this thing hasn’t washed its hair for a good four days. As much as the album evokes the love of the car, its also a love letter to the car as listening experience, which is actually something I can get behind. They’ve stuffed Destroyer full of the kind of anthems that rattle the windows while hotboxed teens park in the back lot. They find the sweet spot between volume and spaced synths that pair well with lying on the hood staring at the stars and wishing away the last year of high school so that you can finally be free of this damn town. They’ve created an album that sums up the center line metronome that taps along to the tempo. As much as the album is about that rumble beneath the pedal, its about giving a finger to authority, and that’s something we can all get behind.




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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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