Browsing Category New Albums

Bardo Pond – AcidGuruPond

I’m not always one for RSD releases. For every amazing collaboration or clutch reissue, there are usually a hundred releases that are thrown in bins for the sake of pressing up needless nostalgia. Personally, I don’t ever need a reason to be coaxed into a record store, either, let alone wait in line for one. However, Bardo Pond’s release this year warrants some true praise. The long beloved drone/psych unit teamed up with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru, both of which collaborated themselves on a solid string of records, including the spark that set it all off, 2007’s Psychedelic Navigator. Adding the Pond to the mix only makes this psychic stew even heavier, swampier and more psyionically gelatinous.

The album opens with a bit of pastoral psych before it moves into heavier tones and the ozone burn of AMT and Guru Guru can both be felt. Its not as slung with rhythmic chug as one might expect given that Guru Guru is involved, rather the combo seems to be coasting on melted vibes that roll through floor puddled zone out to the clash of free jazz ramble (specifically “Orange”). By the time “Red” rolls around the record drops into noisier territory, smoldering in full on cinder-psych territory, uncomfortable in any position and twisting to break free of its constraints. A damn fine outburst from all involved and Fire has put it together in a gorgeous package as well (RSD, gotta have colors). If your local store is out, you should buy something else from them and then head to Discogs. There are still some moral souls there selling it for around retail.

Some copies available HERE.

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Jackie McDowell

Jackie McDowell’s been around a stretch, either under her own name or as Inez Lightfoot, but her latest is a psychedelic sweat lodge that pores deep into psych folk territory and refreshes my interest like it was the first time. There’s something in the timbre of McKenzie’s voice that reminds me of Kilynn Lunsford from Little Claw, especially on “Thirteen Mothers Rose,” but rather than clashing with the amp frizzle fry she’s swathed in the echoed psychedelics of harmonium, dulcimer and banjo. The album definitely has a late night cracking into morning vibe, rich with incantations and skittering percussion that’s shuffled spatially around the album’s field of focus. McKenzie leads the spell sessions with a dark rapture and its pretty hard to divert attention from her mournful and haunting howl; but just as amiably, the tidepool of psychedelic folk puddling beneath her captures the imagination, bringing the heydays of Badgerlore, Charlambides, Tower Recordings and Fursaxa flooding back.

I believe I’ve said it already this year, but its good to get back to a solid run of psych folk, as the well seems to be getting, not dry, but certainly low as of late. McKenzie is a welcome reminder that there are still those souls haunting the forests, channeling the the moss flecked flats of the American wilderness and fog odes that roll in among the trees. This is one of those albums that feels like it flickers only by candle or firelight and it makes me anxious for the sun to set so that the proper respects can be paid as the first track clicks to start.


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Kane Ikin

Kane Ikin’s Modern Pressure fits in nicely with the darker tones of Type’s roster. He’s got a touch of the soundtrack menace that Pye Corner Audio is channeling and plenty of the suffocating darkness of labelmate Vatican Shadow. Built on a minimal base of beats, synths and field recordings, the simple setup is actually less self imposed than socially imposed, due to the everyday pressures that Ikin refers to in the album’s title. Having to sell off pieces of gear to pay rent, the artist stripped back to the basics and the record is a bit better off for it. Not that I envy the artist his belt tightening, but it has wrought an excellent album with a taut and nervy sound, feeling like the walls might cave in at any moment. Though its hard to sit back and relax to Modern Pressure that’s not to say that these track aren’t infinitely enjoyable, as long as you like thrillers vs comedies.

There’s anxiety as the bedrock here, but more than that, many of the tracks have a creeping dread that’s sewn into the seams of Kane Ikin’s sound. The bass shudders through you solar plexus, the synths pool in glowing dread in the background and the beats click by slow and steady, as if waiting to strike. Its the kind of album that Type has become known for; calculated, precise and devastating all at once.




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Loose Tooth

Melbourne’s Loose Tooth pack a lot of power into a shaggy but shiny first EP. The songs on Saturn Returns pass the mic back and forth between male and female vox, with both sides of the coin finding easy footing in their Aussie pop charms. The band peppers the tracks with a good glut of guitar jangle and the occasional fret workout or caffeinated crunch, but the key is locking it all down with the driving force of Luc Dawson’s bass. They pull from a good amount of 80’s janglers who came before them on both sides of the ocean, taking bits of American, Brit and Aussie indie stalwarts alike (Some Sea Urchins here, some Heavenly and Beat Happening there, dashes of Able Tasmans) but they’ve mashed them into a mixed bag of pop snacks and shaken the whole thing nicely, finding little bits of each rearing their heads within one track.

The band’s recording setup was locked down by what’s becoming one of my favorite two punch package of Paul Maybury behind the boards and Mikey Young on mastering. They’ve both reared up as a litmus of quality Aussie youth and Loose Tooth is another nod in the right direction from both. Its a fun first foray from the band and one I hope leads to more for sure.




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Library of Babel

From the esteemed, if often overlooked Blue Tapes label, Library of Babel have released a collection of pieces for guitar, cello and double bass that eschews the more overtly dissonant elements that sometimes get pinned to the label’s catalog. The release isn’t by any means easily digestible, far from it, but it is structured and that makes it unique among some of its peers. Shane Parish leads the Asheville unit through an album that bumps against neo-classical, jazz and fingerpicked folk alike, drop-zoning into a kind of pastoral thrum that flickers like dusty film over the course of their eponymous album. The record takes on an anthropological quality, as if these are forgotten folk songs from a people who value the clash of strings to pristine pluck and crisp melody, letting the din reflect their own turmoil.

Parish’s guitar rattles and hisses, clatters like loose bones against strings, then winds itself back into a melodic whirlpool of notes while the cello and bass beneath him hum their own tempests, mostly melancholy though oftentimes breaking into death rattles of their own. There’s cinematic vein in Library of Babel and its narrative seems to rise from parched fields, patchy forests and mud flats flecked with dead fish and too little rain. There’s something that evokes the foothills of the American South in Parish’s work, but in a very modern sense, the fates of the rusted hulls of communities forgotten, plastered in stark black and white photos full of hard looks. Whether this is intentional or not remains to be seen, but its a hardscrabble feeling of want that comes seeping from the speakers over these thirty minutes. This is a standout release on a label that already has some gems from Katie Gately, Mats Gustafsson and Tashi Dorji in their stable.


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Imaginary Softwoods

Emeralds’ John Elliott has a few aliases of note (Outer Space, Mist, Lilypad) but its been a while since he took up the mantle as Imaginary Softwoods, having left the project fairly dormant since his 2011 album, The Path Of Spectrolite. Now he’s gotten together a collection of tracks recorded in the past few years that span a few different tributary directions from the Softwoods canon, and while he dabbles in synth, Kosmiche, tape collage, spoken word and drone it all seems to meld together into a pretty cohesive and tranquil listen, despite not having been planned as an album proper. No matter the form he takes, Elliott keeps a thread of calm, out of body experience as the touchstone for all these tracks, floating in suspended animation throughout. That thread keeps Annual Flowers In Color from feeling too much like an afterthought.

Its nice to see a few more sides to the Imaginary Softwoods model here, though Elliott is still at his best with the hypnotic Kosmiche that brought this project to fruition. Centerpieces “Aura Show” and “Another First/Sea Machine” bubble with a gloriously serene glow, pushing their 10+ minute timings into the ether without ever feeling weighed down. This is a nice collection and reminder of why Elliott and Emeralds were such a key piece of synth revival of the past decade. Hopefully this collection isn’t the last of Imaginary Softwoods, but a door to new works with a tighter focus.





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Dan Melchior

Melchior is hard man to pin down, he’s moved from garage to noise and back again so often its hard to know what the newest release holds in store. Plays ‘The Greys’ falls pretty squarly into the noise camp and despite the kind of worn notion of “I don’t play the blues, I play the greys,” its a nice deconstruction of the blues and boogie forms in the same vein as Tetuzi Akiyama’s Don’t Forget To Boogie, albeit without the malfunctioning amp aspect. Instead, Melchior takes the repetitive notion of boogie and lets it fall into the blender blades of fuzz, feedback and blatant jump cut juxtaposition. His guitar ties tracks together but it fades in and out of view like a a radio station pushing past the broadcast limits.

And at its heart this record seems to be about pushing past limits, past pain, past life and past pop. Melchior himself has had a bad run of it in the last few years, personally and the some of that understandable frustration and sadness seems to be coming through in these bleak exorcisms. Melchior knows how to wield his noise and here he’s found a good balance between the drop out zone of boogie and the moments when the surrounding hum takes us over.



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Kevin Morby

It wasn’t a huge surprise when Kevin Morby made the move to Dead Oceans. He was due for a wider stage. His last album, Still Life was a leap forward from his debut both in musical depth and lyrical intensity and he doubles down on those qualities for Singing Saw. The album explores an even darker vein from Still Life, delving through explorations of life’s brief tenure. The biggest change, musically, comes from a new reliance on piano as a centerpiece. Before, Morby’s ballads were charged by his guitar and lonesome troubadour delivery, but the influence of Sam Cohen’s production brings the instrument into the forefront while also filling out Morby’s world with a gorgeous array of strings and brass, keys and percussion.

The album has a gravitas that places it on a shelf above Morby’s past work, solo or with The Babies. Its restless and strangely world weary for a person so young, but maybe that’s just an old soul peeking out through Morby’s songs. It feels like a soundtrack to a movie with little dialog and long pensive shots that carry menace in their bones; eyes in the rearview, deserted gas stations and looming mountains that never seem to get closer. The lyrical arcs evolve like the light coming over that stretched horizon. “Cut Me Down” is calm and even, but lyrically it seems like such a foreboding entry point, steeped in sadness and resolution, all qualities that continues on through “I Have Been To The Mountain” and “Singing Saw,” right up until “Drunk On A Star” sighs and lets some of the edge falter. By the closing strains of “Water,” somehow the dawn’s crept in and everything feels like it will be all right, even if deep down those feelings of bleak doubt remain. A gorgeous statement by Morby and a true 2016 highlight.



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Pony Time

Pony Time are creating a pretty danceable racket with just bass and drums, knocking the garage-pop formula askew and finding their solace in a quick wit that’s underscored by chunky as hell hooks. The Seattle duo has kicked out four releases since 2011 and they’re only now finding a true stride with Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True. The band called out Wounded Lion, which caught my eye and its a damn fine point of reference for the their half cocked smile and thick low-end celebrating fare. There’s a toasted ember element in the grumble and rumble of Rumours that comes off as duct tape biker glam, feeling like a band reaching for the bright lights with what they have on hand. I’ve always loved a non-trad lineup and though the bass n’ drums combo has been around plenty (DFA 1979, COCO, Lightning Bolt) that fat bass sound combined with Luke Beetham’s yelp lets Pony Time keep the tradition alive without immediately pegging them into a hole dug by others traveling down similar aesthetic paths. The band brings the party and not a whiff of self-seriousness and that’s the charm of Rumours 2 they’re just hanging out like the Spuds McKenzie of garage you were always looking for.




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Woods

Phew, are Woods already on their ninth album? Did I read that right? Its a little hard to believe, but back when this site began a few downloaded tracks and a CD from the old Fusetron Sound distro opened up the world of Woods to me and it hardly seemed like those sketches of guitar would wind up as the contender that the band is today. On City Sun Eater Eater In The River of Light the band take their second trip to a studio that’s not a portion of their house and in turn their sound expands in both scope and execution. They’ve shaved down the ecstatic freakout portion of their attack, perhaps relegating it to the stage versions of these songs, but they’ve embraced a whole cadre of elements not seen creeping up before.

There are shades of African funk and jazz, but not to worry they don’t take any sanctimonious mid-aughts or Graceland approaches to it, the sounds just fold in adding ominous layers to the band’s psychedelic folk. There are also stabs of horns that whisper of cantina nights, hazy and menacing and filling out their sound nicely. That menace is an element that seems to color this record differently than any of Woods’ albums past. There are still plenty of moments that yoke in the sun, but there are an equal if not greater number that let in the dark, feeling a chilly pessimism resonate in Jeremy Earl’s lyrics and adding a gravitas and grounding that feels like an omen of these strange times. As these elements coalesce, what surfaces is Woods’ heaviest and most resonant album yet. Its an album that digests anxiety, uncertainty and acceptance in ways we’ll all need to learn to get through tomorrow.




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