Browsing Category New Albums

Steve Gunn

First time I heard Steve Gunn was back in 2007 on a small label called Onomoto, known for acts like Taiga Remains and Ghosting. Gunn was pulling down ragged fingerpicked odes that hung in the air like frost. The sound quality was scratchy but the talent was clear under the hiss. Its been years since those days and ever since the second phase of Gunn’s life rolled down with 2013’s Time Off he’s been marked for greatness, steadily straightening the rumpled blazer sound that he’s stepped into. Eyes On The Lines is Gunn fully formed, running at peak but still never feeling flashy about it. The man can play. If you need any proof, plunk down a copy of Seasonal Hire, his collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers. That ought to set you straight. But even with the talent in tow, it’s the way he wields that makes him unique. Most of his songs tend to capture the feeling of the highway stretching endlessly on the horizon; sauntering in a way that clips by like the steady pace of pines out the rolled window. In this respect his solos never blister, they feel like the pent up relief of a good stretch when the car stops. They’re air in the lungs and feet on the ground.

Eyes On The Lines deploys those moments of clarity in ample doses but the surrounding build and fade is hardly shabby either. Sure its a more accessible and, dare say, mature record from Steve, but he’s finding a way to show age in style. The country touches whisper in at the edges, a bend of twang here and a dusted dose of strum running its way under the chorus. He’s still got some of his ragged roots showing though, there’s certainly a warble of psych that curls in with the rest of the smoke filling up the rooms of this record. In the end though, its all those touches coming together to make a perfect montage of diner coffees, halogen lights flickering over gas pumps, center lines and steel girders; the air peppered with throat dust and the cold freshness of leaves on the air. That’s the heart of Eyes On The Lines, that and the itch of needing to get moving, even when it feels good to stretch.

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Psychic Ills

Psychic Ills have spent a career playing to their particular whims and tacking them to the same name so kudos to not necessarily feeling that a new direction warrants a new band outright. People evolve and change and the band’s let the Ills name tag along through their phases. True there’s a part of me that has a hard time believing that the sunburnt country on display on Inner Journey Out – dappled with the buttery slide of steel pedal and fuzzed ever so slightly with strums – is the same band I saw sweltering in the July heat at the old McCarren pool in BK with a handful of faithful stragglers. But though the noise of those days is gone, baked off and smoothed into an excellently world-weary sigh, they’re still the same psychic troubadours at heart. The songs are ringed with smoke that languidly curls in effortless rings. The album has the feeling of having seen the world and finding yourself older, but not mellowed, just more accepting of the fact that the din (or Dins as it may be) isn’t the only way to kick up dust.

One Track Mind hinted at the shift in tone, but even then there weren’t the orange and cream tones that seem to color the bulk of Inner Journey Out. This is an album steeped in motel balcony nights, when the air is warm and thick… desert nights. There’s little about the album that feels tied to the city, or the East Coast for that matter. Its dusted with the squint of sun through dried palms and the heat warbled tilt of orange as it dips below the horizon. The band’s spent a long time getting to this point but, to be honest, wearied experience looks good on them. This is the sounds of a band playing with texture and writing what feels honest, even if its not tied to what’s expected. The album is psychedelic without putting your face in it. Like a trick of the light, its got more than one side that shows at any given time. Blink and it changes in a blur.



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Laraaji & Sun Araw

Before some of the fragmented free jazz seeped into Cameron Stallones’ work, Sun Araw was an odds on guarantee to be the perfect pairing with summer. He’d nailed a certain element of humid listlessness that felt oppressive and glittering and like the air around you was vibrating at a frequency just a few decimal points off from your own. After taking to the road with experimental zither master Laaraji, he’s back in the zone; dripping sound from the stalagmite imagination of pudding melted landscapes and feeling every bit the time shifted master of slow motion psych drift. The record is comprised of four pieces that are part pre-written and part improvisation and the artists play off of one another in a way that feels sublimely intertwined.

The tracks float and quiver, find rhythm at the river and then seep out in disjointed dance with Laaraji calling spirituals over the top. In the hands of lesser folks it could be a total mess, but they bounce ideas back and forth with liquid ease. The record marks the first installment of Superior Viaducts new imprint W.25TH, their first offerings that aren’t reissues. Seems that, much like RVNG’s FRKWYS series, its focused on collaborations and this is a great tip off to what’s to come.



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Hintermass

As with all things Ghost Box, this one is worth its price for Julian House’s artwork alone. His signature style is always lush and dreamy, a perfect compliment to the brand of soft focus nostalgia that the label trades in. Every record that comes out of that house seems to be a bit like nodding off on the hottest day in early June while a junior high film strip slowly melts in front of your flickering eyelids. The latest project to grace those halls is definitely falling into form, though its a bit breezier than some in the stable. This may well have to do with Jon Brooks’s involvement. Brooks is better known around most parts as The Advisory Circle, a project with its own special brand of pastoral dreamwave. Brooks’s last album under the moniker, From Out Here was one of RSTB’s favorites of 2014 and he steps up to similar expectations as Hintermass.

The project graduates from a short form release for the label’s 7″ Study Series and makes good on the full length expansion, taking full advantage of the room to stretch out. Aside from the discernible talents of Brooks the other half of Hintermass is comprised of Seeland and Ex-Broadcast member Tim Felton, who adds his dream-stung vocals to the mix and gives the album much of its autumnal shading. The record winds its way unhurriedly, interspersing vocal tracks with the gentle burble of Kosmiche interludes, bringing the record into a realm that splits the divide between the most emotionally bare moments of Super Furry Animals, the psych folk patter of Roy Harper and the progressive whims of Popul Vuh or Witthüser + Westrupp. Its hard to go wrong with anything stamped with the Ghost Box insignia and this is another example of just how true that is.


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Clever

Brisbane’s Clever aren’t pulling any punches on their debut for Homeless. Kewdi Udi is a brutal and battered serving of noise rock that knocks itself all over the back lot in the dead of night. The riffs come quick and crusted, double time and barely stopping to wonder if you’re keeping up. There might be some hooks buried in there, but something tells me that Clever aren’t interested if your head is bobbing so much as they’re hoping that its slamming directly into an object with equal and opposite force. The din grows thicker as the tracks go on, building up concrete dust and bile in the back of the throat. Eight tracks – in, out, bleed, done. Its as simple as that. The band doesn’t go for any fancy aesthetics or play up trends. The guitars cut like a garrote, the drums pound like a panic attack and the vocals tear at the mind. There’s nothing soothing, no respite and no reason for either. Kewdi Udi is a pummel that beats the listener into the shape they need. Its a fight to the end.



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Elon Katz

Its been a while since Katz rolled around these parts, and he’s made huge strides since 2010’s Pylori Program cassette. Front and center on The Human Pet are vocals, which had not graced the washes of kosmiche synth that marked his earlier works. He moves away from the serene textures of the past and into a much more frantic, neon, fractured world. Futuristic to its core, the album flashes IDM teeth and bites them deep into a dark strain of synth-pop, though underneath it all is the pulse and poison of 90’s industrial and its bleak heat visions. On the album Katz blends those signifiers better than most hands these days, pushing him into a new echelon.

Katz first came to most people’s attention as part of White Car, and this record actually hews a little closer to that project than his previous solo incursions. He’s called it “critic pop” and I suppose that’s not too far off base here, its a deep record that’s beating a pop heart, swathed in clipped and fragmented beats that pump like glass shards through your veins. So, you know, catnip for nerds of all stripes. There’s plenty of noise slashing its way across every hook, and for that its certainly going to fall outside of the average person’s pop wheelhouse; unless you’re the type that’s packing playlists full of Minimal Wave cuts and the heatsick dance breaks of Fielded next to your early Prince funk, AFX instrumentals and NIN singles. And, why not, that sounds like a damn good time, and on The Humant Pet, it is. This is a big step forward for Katz and everytime I put it on, the well just gets deeper.



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Black Rainbows

I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for Stoner Metal when done right. Too much sludge and it gets bogged down, too many blistering riffs and it hews too close to 80’s cheese, but when its that right mix of pounding drums and smoke thick guitar, fuzzed to hell and riding tempos like sand dunes into oblivion, then its perfect for blasting through the speakers on any given afternoon. Italy’s Black Rainbows are five albums deep at this point and offshoot band Killer Boogie throws down some serious riffs as well, so its clear that by now propulsive force Gabriele Fiori knows his way around the dank corners of 70’s metal worship. On his latest, Stellar Prophecy, there’s plenty of mile high guitars, stacked and smoking with the mix of Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer stomp that’s expected, but he’s gone the mile roping in the mystical qualities and prog instincts that charmed bands like Wolfmother into the hearts and minds of public consciousness back in the early aughts. For sheer the volume blasted swirling psychedelic bedroom warriors out there this is a perfect fit. This one’s for the blacklight poster set, hiding out and letting volume eradicate any of the day’s wrinkles and worries.




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Messa

This Italian foursome is picking up the yoke of doom and pulling the cart into the half light of a blood moon. The band’s debut Belfry on Aural Music is a crushing blast of apocalypse scented metal that’s given a bit of a reprieve from becoming leaden by the coven croon of their singer, who goes by the singular Sara. The band uses the term Scarlet Doom and that’s not off base, the guitars grind with the sulfurous heat of High On Fire and the opener “Alba” is straight out of the Sunn o))) tome of seismic ramble but there’s light in the mix and the vocals keep Belfry from sliding into the cavern of sludge that can sometimes earmark the genre. They have a crossover appeal to psych folk’s harvest rituals, though pushed into much darker territory. The band also seem to feel this kinship, citing a love for Pentagram and letting the closer, “Confess,” strip back the cinder smoke of of the rest of the album to just pair vocals and guitar for a quiet slide into the mire.

Messa kneel at the altar of doom metal but they don’t always stay, there’s plenty of heavy thrash on “Hour of the Wolf” that pushes tempos and knocks a few of the thunderheads out of the sky. “Blood” dabbles with woodwind and brass buzzes that dip even further into the psych-folk connection and tip into psychedelics as well. The band really is pulling from all edges and painting them black with doom’s influence, and that willingness to experiment makes this feel like a refreshing update on riff worship and self-serious hooded doom bands, not that the band don’t feel deadly serious in their incantations, they just feel like they have a richer well to tap.


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Honey Radar

Jason Henn’s Chain Smoking On Easter was pretty limited in its release but it planted a seed that spread and left a trail of singles in its wake, finally letting on to a bigger stage for Blank Cartoon. The new album is a smudge of pop-sike, gnarled garage pop and short sketches of songs that bring to mind Guided by Voices as produced by Tim Presley from White Fence. There’s plenty of catchy fodder here, with earworms for days in tracks like “Caterpiller” and “Fort Wayne Mermaid” and its the kind of album that snags the hearts of plenty of paisley pop fiends waiting for someone to jumpstart the smoke hazed memories of the movement.

The singles have popped up primarily on Third Uncle but also on venerable litmus Chunklet and Brooklyn indie magnet What’s Your Rupture? who’ve put out the full length as well. The album bounces its themes and styles with a flicker of whimsy, like flipping late night TV dials through psych addled ad jingles and Top of the Pops re-runs squeezed through the UHF static. There are definitely more moments that stick to the wall than fall through the hiss and its easy to see that Henn’s got a knack for melody and an equal impulse for experimentation that comes to a head nicely over the course of Blank Cartoon. This one seems to be flying a bit under the radar lately but its the kind of record that fills collector’s crates and bubbles up in lost gem lore.


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The Myrrors

The Myrrors have crept up slowly into the ranks of high desert warriors of psych and on their third album they’ve solidified their position as ones to watch in the lysergic pantheon for 2016. Entranced Earth comes on with less force than their previous endeavor, but builds strong, breaking into a heavy percussive toil for “Liberty Is In The Streets” and stretching out in endless expanses on the title track. The band mixes a bit of Eastern roil with the open skied, laid back ramble of luminaries like Brightblack Morning Light, whose desert aura they emulate here. They lace tracks with a meditative, shamanistic thrum, bubbling calm in some places that that’s balanced by an uneasy, disorienting tide on the namesake centerpiece and closer “Surem Dervish.”

The clash of flutes and churn of dissonance breaking into peaceful pools brings to mind another high pillar of modern psychedelia, and there’s more than one instance where this album reminds me of Ghost’s catalog, in particular the expansive Lama Rabi Rabi. In a year built solidly on great psychedelic records, this one has a slow growing capability that’s pushing it steadily to the front. Its not as burn-it-to-the-ground as King Gizzard or as lush as Kikagaku Moyo, but instead its built on a platform of creeping calm and slow menace that’s played out in precised measures over the folds of its two sides. This seems to be the tipping point for The Myrrors, from here on our eyes should be on them to keep up the momentum.




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