Browsing Category New Albums

One Eleven Heavy

No time was lost between One Eleven Heavy’s debut, which landed about a year ago and their latest platter this month. That debut found the band winding their way through deep seated loves and musical roots that were etched in their formative years only to be embraced in the face of critical naysayers as the new dawn rose over 2018. They came together to exhume something cosmic buried in the delta soil and let it fly once again, finding themselves lost in the segue symbols on setlists until they emerged infused with Little Feat, late ‘70s Neil Young, New Riders, The Dead, The Burritos and other choogle-chapped visions of Southern and Western rock that refused not to ramble. Jam might be a barbed word in some mouths, but not these. They pick those handles right back up and expand on the depth of the dive into that push-pull between the cosmic and the concrete.

The dark furrows are more ingrained on Desire Path. “Hot Potato Soup,” seethes, never turning sour, but boiling to the point that the riffs scald the soul. “Chickenshit” has some bite, and a defensiveness thats rubs against the chill, but that’s just their Trux ties showing through. Not all the skies are blue, but that doesn’t dim the party here. Not all trips are serene either, and that’s reflected in the new album as much as their continued sense of the sublime. The Heavies find a home in harmony this time around as well, citing some Allman’s inspiration, and that’s on the mark. Maiato/Toth/Chew form a backbone that melds three distinct voices into a wave of twang that rolls off the guitar gnarls with a touch of ash and bourbon burn. The twined croons add a new dimension to their ‘70s streak, pulling them out of the Stars and Bars they’d been haunting and into a more verdant valley.

Hans Chew makes his first writing contributions (“House of Cards,” “Fickle Wind”) and as a whole the record embraces his keys with fuller-bodied enthusiasm than before. He’s layering down Nicky Hopkins sparkle that glints off of the songs, adding a few stepping stones into the clouds they perch on once the stringed solos get going. The peak of that cosmic float winds up the closer. On “Three Poisions” the band lifts off into the kind of glow that they perennially seek to embody. The ‘in the room and on the tape’ sound that’s always been at their core finds it’s lift into the atmosphere as the album comes to a close and Maiato’s guitar is playing somewhere between the notes here. They’re still playing against the grain of what’s cool, but they’re making it sound like a fight already won. This isn’t an album for revivalists (but I’m sure they’ll find a foothold if need be.) This is an album for those seeking to extend the groove forever into the horizon and melt right back into the wet soil, wood and concrete that vibrates under us all.






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Cool Sounds

Melbourne’s Cool Sounds have endured more than most groups have between albums. Following the tragic loss of their friend and bandmate Zac Denton, a fixture in the close knit Aussie indie scene who was also in notable bands Ciggie Witch, Pregnancy, and The Ocean Party, the band like many of those others had to find a way to move on from the loss. They’ve always had a way of intertwining bittersweet swoons inside imperturbable hooks that seem to saunter through the sun breathing a rarer air, but that veneer of melancholy is a bit more palpable on More To Enjoy. Amid the slow simmering pop boilers like “Around and Around” and the standout title track, there’s the cool smoke curl of “Hume and Gloom” which seems to tackle loss head on. The balance of catharsis, comfort, and a sense of finding joy in small spaces seems to glue the album together with a detached cool that’s instantly alluring.

Denton and his brother Lachlan both had a knack for songwriting that found the pang of life and melted it into pop that felt both transformative enough to hit home and ephemeral enough to just soundtrack the whistle of breeze past the car windows. They bring together an edge of pristine pop slink with country slides and sparkling jangles for songs that fuse into something with a bit more impact than the sum of those parts might suggest. Its hard to say that loss could ever be anything other than tragic, but the band turns the moment that life pulls the rug out from under you into an album that’s honest, infectious, and despite its scars, deeper than anything in their catalog. It’s quite honestly the band at their best and it should grace your shelf of necessities for 2019.



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Vision 3D

New ripper out of the great French enclave Six Tonnes de Chair this week. Franco-Belgian band Vision 3D pound through the heart of the punk meets post-punk axis, at times sounding like a French version of the sorely underrated XYX and picking up pieces of X-Ray Spex, and The Adverts along the way. The band careens towards the brutal end of the spectrum, starting off with the sole-English language pleaser “Party” before shaving off the perfunctory pop impulses for the rest of the album. They bang their chords into the concrete looking for maximum crumble on the cranium as they crush joyous punk strums into balls of brittle tin. The effect works best when the two impulses are in direct odds with one another, like the infectious strains of “Fan.” The track finds the band harmonizing in post-Ye-Ye pogo but the guitars saw the strums into shards, sending debris all around the romper room dance party set-up.

The band contains members of short-lived, but fondly remembered garage grippers Thee Marvin Gayes and there’s a similar sense of urgency shared with their predecessors. The record embodies some of the best impulses of punk – namely energy over polish. Far from the cushy rubber snap of punk’s marquee set, the band fuses the caffeinated crash of early Wire with the gutter-gyrations of Delta 5, gleefully smashing through the fixtures in any house show hookup. Lotta charms here if you’re into the kind of albums that feel like they might just be a pale specter of the live show, trying to mop up the sweat and sickness of the body heat explosion that they set off from the stage. While it definitely feels like Visions 3D are meant to be experienced amid the chaos of the crowd, their eponymous LP, given enough volume is a window rattler to be reckoned with. Wrapped up in some choice art by NY maze-master Sean C. Jackson, this one’s worth the import ticket.



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Ulaan Khol

Stephen R. Smith checks in with his third LP of 2019 under a third alias. This time up he’s landing blows under the Ulaan Khol name, following March’s release under his own Steven R. Smith banner and February’s Ulaan Passerine release. Much like the latter, the Khol arm of his Ulaan empire is fraught with tension, anxiety, and charcoal scraped doom. His collected works have taken on an extraordinarily cinematic quality lately, soundtracking the imagined panoramic sounds of squalid earth and desperate civilizations sifting through the remains of our indulgences gone sour. Perhaps more than any other artist, Smith seems like the one to truly soundtrack the dire crumble of our natural environments. His soundscapes scar the skies and dampen hope, but as fraught as they are with the grit-toothed moments of overwhelming darkness, there’s a strident beauty to Smith’s world.

The driving crescendo that breaks through the smoke on “Above the Arbor” is triumphant, even in the face of such tension. The bilious clouds of smoke that rise from his sonic ruins form ashen monoliths against the reddened skies. The songs are harrowing, but the imprint they leave finds beauty in atrocity. As each arm of the Ulaan (Markhor, Passerine, Khol) universe seems interconnected, its hard not to see this as a continuation of the ravages laid down since at least 2012 within the scope of Smith’s works. Seven years later, the stakes seem just as high as they always were and the consequences are documented on Collapsing Hymns with little room for relent. Naturally, this one comes highly recommended. Smith’s done up the packaging nice as well, the limited cassettes come housed in a stamped wooden box, making this a nice curio of the collapse for you collecting needs.



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Sunburned Hand of the Man

Trying to keep up with the output if Massachusetts psych collective Sunburned Hand of the Man is almost a futile gesture. I’m willing to bet there might be releases they don’t own. However, especially now that the band’s Bandcamp is a thriving archive of all things Burned in and their orbit its worth paying attention as older releases filter in and newer one’s quietly slip alongside them. Case in point, the band just lobbed up a real gem in their latter output this week, Intentions a micro-release that was recorded in 2017 at Black Dirt with Jason Meagher and intended for a larger release. It wound up instead as an edition of 20 cassettes in Meagher’s microdose series from the studio. Odds are, then, that this one has eluded your grasp.

The vibes here are decidedly less noisy than some of the practice space / small run issues that have been bleeding out of the Burn lately. Possibly closest in scope to their Burnieleaks 3 CD-r from a while back, the band is screwed down into some tighter woven webs of psych-folk and German Progressive psych. They’re picking up plenty of Duul nods and picking at the more capital P – Prog leanings of the great Swedish Silence label. What’s nice is the restraint here. The band doesn’t go as far out as they can and it gives this one a layer of polish that can sometimes get lost in the onslaught of releases. That’s not to say that this is a buttoned-down skimmer – It is still a Sunburned Hand of the Man release, after all.

They open the beast up with a smooth shot of sunset psych-folk, acoustic strums pulling at the ennui centers of the heart. On standout, “The Great Hope,” the band trades a grooverider rhythm with space-slicked synth spears and burnt-ends guitar scorch. They follow it with a “Coffee & Cheese” which sounds like an instrumental breakdown in a ’70-71 Groundhogs live set, on the edge of breaking into “Rich Man, Poor Man” at any moment. They blow further into spaced synths territory elsewhere, hanging some cosmic clouds on the set that pair nicely with the downed-sun guitar runs. “Agitation Cycle” might be as far out as the band swing here, but there’s still a kite-string pulling the band away from the paper shredder noise brigade they can get mixed up with on a typical moment’s notice. The set slides away on the loping grooves of the disorienting “Framework” and it clocks in as one of their best in a quite a while. Highly recommended!



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L’Epee

It’s rare that a debut comes through with such a clear vision, but the first full offering from L’Epee is hardly a green band tentatively offering up their first works out of the studio. The band is built from strong players, each with a history that both informs and in no way eclipses the music on Diabolique. The core of the band is Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown fame and Lionel and Marie Limiñana of The Limiñanas. The three have been working together on the past few Limiñanas releases and its clear that they’ve established a repoire, and understanding of where their strengths lie. They add in the smoke-strewn vocals of Emmanuelle Seigner, the French model/actress and singer for Ultra Orange. The combined forces of the four bring forth an almost immaculate incarnation of Velvets / Nico cool cross-bred with Ye-Ye pop impulses and it’s hard not to be immediately drawn into the pop web they weave.

The songs bounce from dark, leathered brooders, to scarf-wrapped Vespa soundtracks in an instant and both seem equally at home with one another. Seigner evokes a detached cool that’s hard not to palpably feel throughout the speakers and the backing band bends through her pop whims with ease and precision. There’s not a misplaced note on the album — all drawn from a studied history of ’60 pop provocateurs, but put together with a ‘from the hip’ looseness that belies the studied approach. The songs might feel almost like a perfect compilation, were it not for Seigner’s vocals tying them all together with a velvet sting of seduction and aloofness. It’s hard not to grapple with the term supergroup, though that’s a cumbersome label here and elsewhere, but the talent on deck here is pretty top tier and the resulting album gives credence to the term. Should this be a one-off, it should wind up a collector’s essential, but here’s hoping this is the start of something with legs.



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Kendra Amalie

The Beyond Beyond is Beyond debut from Kendra Amalia is a multi-headed monster of guitar, shifting styles as needed from pointilliste string runs with a metallic bite to soft-hearted country ramble. She dabbles with indie-psych, but more often than not, Amalie lays back into the bed of fingerpicked folk. The guitarist has created several offerings in her own name, though this remains the most polished. She’s worked with Wisconsin outfits Eleven Eleven, Names Divine, and Guitar Hell over the years and remains a fixture of the state’s scene. Intuition, however, is the sound of Amalie breaking forward into her own form. The patchwork approach works in her favor as a nuanced spread of her talent, and while sometimes the seams show, she makes it all fit together into a fairly ornate tapestry.

At its core Intuition sounds like an artist finding her brightest beams while still leaving room to experiment, always rolling away from being pinned down. That said, there are a couple of songs that seem to embody the light more than others. Corralling her fingerpicked prowess alongside a slow simmer vocal that’s just shy of Espers territory on “Stay Low,” Amalie adds in the pained cry of slide guitar and the song becomes a vital pivot point for the album. Likewise, the airy, haunted ripple of “Become the Light” fashions her heavier psych into a stunning explosion of folk put through the fire. With songs like these in her roster it seems only certain that she’ll work alchemical magic to craft an album that rides powerful winds of anguish and awe. Intuition will quite likely wind up the spark that lights the fuse.



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The Silence

Just a few months after his solid solo LP, Masaki Batoh is back on a progressive bent with his band The Silence. Metaphysical Feedback is the first record since the band’s 2016 LP Nine Suns, One Morning, an album that expanded their already dense prog/psych palette from their two albums previous. A frantic pace seemed to be the norm for The Silence in the past, with their first three albums all falling less than a year from each other’s release. A longer time to germinate gives Metaphysical Feedback a bit of distance from its predecessors. The cindered folk stance of Nowhere seeps into the corners of the album, perhaps playing to a bit of crossbred songwriting between the two, but as usual The Silence remains Batoh’s avenue to bite into the wires of ‘70s prog, free-jazz, psychedelia, and the further reaches of space while smashing the boundaries between all of them.

The bulk of Metaphysical Feedback does just that, where opener “Sarabande” filters in slow and serene before igniting the pool of gasoline that’s been collecting over its 8+ minutes on the way out, “Tautology” is a bop-fried scorcher on the constant edge of freakout territory, lacerated by sax and ozone crackle. They employ groove that pushes further toward funk and further from their German Progressive touches on “Okoku” and it fits perfectly into their mindset. A dark current of flute pushes from jazz to psych odyssey on several tracks, and the band often uses them a herald for sweeping sea change within a track – the darkly decadent “Yokushurui” being the prime example.

Post-Ghost, Batoh has proven that he can’t be penned in by expectations, and while his solo record might have returned to a few markers in his past, The Silence proves that he’s still pushing further towards the edges for his future. The band has quickly amassed a catalog of remarkable releases, but it quickly becomes clear that the extra time to develop their latest makes Metaphysical Feedback their fist truly essential release.



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Ash & Herb

Flower Room, the resident home of Matt LaJoie and Ash Brooks’ musical musings, often boasts a treasure trove of small press releases that are of the blink and you’ll miss ‘em variety. In between larger statements the pair populate the label’s Bandcamp with live documents and offshoots in every direction under the Ash & Herb, Starbirthed, ML Wah monikers, among many. One of the latest gems arrives via live recordings from Ash & Herb’s Spring 2018 tour, and makes up the third installment of their live “In Now Time” series. While it’s not a full-on psych-folk boogie breaker in the mold of their outstanding “Salt Lick” single from February, it does capture the band’s narcotic float quite nicely. The set was recorded in a living room in Columbus, OH, but the sounds feel like they could have filled up a void twice that size.

Apparently, their set for the tour was using a cassette backing track that they tossed for the night and untethering from the percussive yoke lets the band wander all over the inky night, swirling like smoke signals into the wanting sky above. Ash’s vocals zone out into wounded, wooded rites of passage, giving the set a heavier, darker turn for a spell, before they bloom into a two-part psilocybin sojourn. “Fruiting Bodies” sparkles to the point of shimmer and closer “Cap & Stem” settles the whole set into a steamed calm as it pits a bit of twang against the dominant drones. Ash & Herb have a huge catalog to contend with but its been great to keep track of the current modes with this live series and it’s highly recommended digging through vols. 1 and 2 as well. Pair this one up with a recent Starbirthed tape and the night’s set to transcend expectations.



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Weeping Bong Band

A second slab tumbles out for the ever-elusive Weeping Bong Band. The NY/Mass collective culls together the talents of Beverley Ketch, PG Six, Anthony Pasquarosa, Clark Griffin and Wednesday Knudsen, who play in varying forms under the umbrella of WBB. For a night in New Salem, Mass all members were on hand at the 1794 Meeting House and the tape was running as they seeped a sonic spell out into the room. The set is hazy, doused in curls of smoke and painted in plant dyes and ash. The tone shifts between the densely wooded hills of the Northeast — haunted and hallowed, suffused with the secrets of generations of spirits bonded to the wood — and the dry desert nights nestled among the barren hills.

There’s a constant sense of moan that winds its way through II giving the set the set a sense of creeping menace and gaunt despair. The guitars cry, not in outright anguish, but in a more personal pain — a quiet devastation that’s born out of secrets too dark to share. Something about the set being recorded in New Salem, gives it a particularly harrowing shamanic vibe, ferreting out old wounds scarred deep from occult rituals buried deep in the wounds of the earth. Appropriately, when vocals do arise, they’re incantations, screeds to the vibrating ethers, rather than tuneful musings. With this second set the band has cemented their status as one of the best nocturne collectives currently goin’. This one’s an essential trip.

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