Browsing Category New Albums

SØS Gunver Ryberg

SØS Gunver Ryberg’s latest EP for Contort is an extension of her sound design centering on layered field recordings and persistent rhythms as a means to create tranformative musical experience. The release is made up of three tracks and an alternate cut that strips away some of the layers and goes for the brain stem immediately with the punch and throb of repeated rhythms. Ryberg’s work skirts the borders between dance, composition and noise and in many places its more of a barrage to be endured than to be moved by or to, but she finds a certain grace in brutality and in a lot of ways the record is the sum of its parts rather than just the kick of its end product.

The origins of some of her brutal bricks might seem surprising. The field recordings for AFTRYK were made in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, where she recorded the sound of the mountains groaning and crumbling beneath the stress of active coal mining. While serene mountain vantages aren’t the first image that comes to my mind, the violence of the mining tearing apart a serene environment can be felt for sure in the subtext of Ryberg’s work. There’s certainly a feeling of digital violence eroding the soul of the source material here. Pair it all with the spot on collage work of Anthony Gerace and this is a pretty complete package.



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Milk Teeth

Though they’ve been making a dent overseas in their native UK, I’ve heard paltry little about Bristol’s Milk Teeth here. For all the Dilly Dally fans losing their shit last year and the roll of 90’s nostalgia that’s swept through in the past couple of years, it would seem this release is tailor made for these times. The record is, as mentioned, rooted deep in its love of the Pixies/Nirvana/Quicksand axis of 90’s heavies, though there are certainly a few moments when they get near the velvet crush of Veruca Salt as well. The record’s got an explosive hold on punk and grunge and they wield hooks like bats in a street brawl, swinging wild for the fences and socking you hard in the chest with each beat.

Now admittedly my punk past comes more from the pop half than the hardcore half (hey we weren’t all that angry) so in the push pull girl/guy vocal dynamic I’m much more partial to Becky Blomfield’s Cobain/Kim Deal delivery than her counterpart Joshua Bannister’s sandpaper growl but put together the pair head up this record with a ferocity and range that feels like a snapshot of hazy high school nights and 90’s Sunday slumps. There are plenty of kids picking up their flannel and Converse combo second hand these days but not all of them are wearing it so well as Milk Teeth do.





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Heron Oblivion

The cumulative members of Heron Oblivion have spent their fair share of time among Raven’s pages and praises. Meg Baird’s solo work and tenure with Espers tracked a fair amount of the early ’00s around here and I feel like it should go without saying that Comets On Fire and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound are made for Raven. So bringing the members of both teams on board for a full album not only seems like a trip down nostalgia alley (maybe you have a memory lane, our psych journey is a bit seedier) but also a bit of a welcomed return to the brain-fried fields of psych-folk. The genre’s been somewhat drained of its stature of late, since that booming revival that hit in ’04-’05, but that’s not to say that the dark tinges of Pentagle, Fresh Maggots and Susan Christie don’t still make for good cannon fodder.

Now its a bit of a feint to suggest that this is as wispy as many of the connotations of the word folk or even psych-folk at its truest might drum up, the strummy plucks of Espers this ain’t, and though Baird is riding the forefront with her songwriting and taking cues from her folk past, the band lays in its own upbringing to loose the storm over a few epics that sate the hunger left for Comets On Fire’s, well, fire to be honest. Tracks like “Rama” and “Your Hollows” might start out with a raincloud drizzle of dark folk inclinations but they wind up with a tsunami’s worth of fury by the time the tracks close. And that balance is what the band’s eponymous LP is all about. The band rides the dynamics from calm to storm and keeps the listener holding on for safety. The end result is a completely heady record that feels at home with any of its member’s legacies. So far 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for psychedelic travelers and this one is definitely leading the pack.



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The Goon Sax

Chapter Music pull in the youth vote with a trio of younguns from Brisbane’s The Goon Sax. The band’s ages average around 17-18 and though they seem to have absorbed en masse the jangle-pop paradigm, they still know how to keep things juvenile, in the best ways, of course. The songs on Up To Anything capture the raw nerve and jittery emotions of teenage life like a quickly snapped cell phone photo that’s candid and revelatory at the same time. The kinds of pictures that find one person staring at another longingly and a second person persistently distracted by the distance or dissonance. They pin the modern onto the universal, passing tales of anxiety, shame, annoyance and home haircuts off with a style that’s eyeing the past but nevertheless a fairly easily digestible pop for the new class. Given that they’re capturing the emotions of the day through the perpetually doomed lens of teenage life, they know how to parlay to moping when the need arises, but the jangles keep those sentiments from grinding the listener down. This one’s got legs for sure and each new spin cracks a new grin or two from their humble but honest take. Chalk up another win for Chapter music and the South Hemi pop sound.





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Flowers

There are plenty who have embraced 80’s jangle as if it were the dominant paradigm of popular rock, with a zest that’s bordered on mission statement in some corners of Brooklyn and London. Flying Nun is held high. C86 is a bible. But to do it well, it can’t all just sound like a retread of greatest hits, and London’s Flowers have found that sweet spot between sounding like they could have lived alongside their influences and pushing the sounds of those legends a bit further. The band’s certainly versed, setup with the prerequisite totems of their 80’s education, but they’ve taken swooning pop, light ‘n sweet jangles and the fuzz-bitten layers of guitar and stacked them into the shape of a future classic.

I wrote about a Flowers lathe way back in 2012 and its hard to believe this could be the same band. They hit all the right marks to make a record that feels like its been sitting, just waiting to be found all along. Everybody’s Dying To Meet You sounds like its soundtracked a thousand heartaches before it ever reached my ears and now its here to wrap a comforting arm around the speakers and nod comfortingly. There’s an art to making a timeless record, and after finding myself playing this almost unconsciously day after day, it really feels like its got the hallmarks. Something about Rachel Kennedy’s vocals just hit home like a pang of nostalgia cramped into the pit of the stomach that aches sweetly, like having a crush on the past. They put the extra scoop of authenticity on the record by enlisting Brian O’Shaughnessey (The Clientele, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine) on production duties. He’s pushed the band into the mold they seemed destined to inhabit all these years. This one is topping out my list of 2016 obsessions.





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Chicos de Nazca

Chilean Psych is becoming a real genre these days, not quite on par with their Japanese or Swedish counterparts, but coming on pretty strong indeed with bands like Holydrug Couple, Föllakzoid and La Hell Gang acting as chief exports for their country’s psychedelic set. Chicos de Nazca have spun off from members’ previous outfit Cindy Sisters to form a heavier, headier brand of clouded and shrouded psych warfare. The record lays down a huge offering at the altar of Spacemen 3 and perhaps a few tithings at the table of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but they seem to find space to take that sound and make it their own. It doesn’t hurt that the riffs are as thick as truck exhaust and almost as poisonous, powering through with a storming wall of sound that buries most everything in its path. The record comes on quick and flashes its blade pretty much from the outset, tumbling into a fight to fit as much sound as possible into the bounds of its fat black plastic cage. Definitely a record that’s seemed to get lost in the last couple of months of releases but one worth taking some time to head back in for a few more listens.

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Burnt Palms

San Francisco’s Burnt Palms power through fuzz blasted bits of summer fun and surf-freckled fizz on their third album. Embracing the full scope of indie pop via the C86 meets Elephant 6 model, the band take it one step further by enlisting actual Elephant 6 member Gary Olson of Ladybug Transistor on mastering duties. That’s what I call commitment to concept and a pretty good endorsement of the band’s breakneck fuzzpop prowess. They’re not wrong to call out All Girl Summer Fun Band as a touchstone for where they were aiming. They hit pretty square on that target. The record is a candied blast of energy in every minute, bouncing with the vigor of a hopped up 10-year old through sunny songs that often have a sour heart, crafting that sweet n’ sad brew that’s never an unwelcome formula. In general this is just a top down bit of fun that’s easy on the ears and meant to be loud on the speakers; girl group veneer over a flame of punk coals.




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Jozef Van Wissem

For a lutenist, Van Wissem has made a pretty sizeable dent into experimental and indie circles. Maybe its because he pals around with Jim Jarmusch and Zola Jesus. The former he’s collaborated with plenty in the past, even winning a Cannes film award for his work on the score to Only Lovers Left Alive. The latter appears here, fleshing out his sparse compositions with her own spectral haunt. But maybe its because Van Wissem’s work holds a lonesome power that draws collaborators like these in. His past works have painted with solemn, yet slightly intricate strokes, classical in feeling but not stuffy. He’s felt like the art history buff trying to open up his classmates to the wonders of 15th century without getting overly condescending about it.

On When Shall This Bright Day Begin he definitely clips a few notes from his work with Jarmusch. The pair’s collaborative albums draw in a lot of noise elements and drink from a well of experimentation. For this outing thoug, Van Wissem keeps the noise at bay but dips into some borrowed cinematic scope; Zola Jesus opening the album with a disembodied, ambient float over his plucks, vocal samples crackling against sepia toned stringwork and his own vocal arrangements pounding like mantras. Its when he lets the lute sing alone though that the album’s at its strongest. The recording is unencumbered, each note smacking into that pang of regret in your stomach like a steadied blow. Though to be fair, the second collaboration here with Zola Jesus is as hair raising as anything either have done, finding both parties reaching towards their inner goth hearts to make a track that’s infinitely absorbing. This album sounds like Van Wissem has finally found his stride and is so comfortable with his instrument that he makes his pangs our pangs and its easy to thank him for it.





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Pete Astor

The concept of this record is kind of an inter-generational mindblow. Pete Astor’s already lived a dozen lives and for his work in The Loft alone, I’ll remain forever grateful; seriously, “Up The Hill and Down The Slope” should be on every 80’s playlist. Also a member of fellow Creation stablers The Weather Prophets, the man’s got credentials to spare, so on name alone you should be hooked. Somehow though, he’s connected with one of our generation’s own jangle-pop savants, James Hoare (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting) and together they’ve mashed their minds to create an album that sounds reverently ripped out of time. The songs on Spilt Milk are cut from the cloth of the best of the class of ’86, but given modern twist of the knife.

For the most part the two are just keeping everything reclined and refined until the very last notes skip to the runout. By the time you get around to standout “Perfect Life” you’re absolutely hooked on this album, its the kind of song that feels like its always just been. Those songs that feel like they’re bound to end up in a Wes Anderson movie at some point. Hoare and Astor make perfect foils, and this album doesn’t feel like a hero worship so much as two janglers just recognizing the badges on their jackets across a crowded room and finding common ground once the tape starts rolling. Its just a slow breaking smile the whole way through.




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Rangda

Three albums in and Rangda is still a dream trio of players, so wholly versed in their instruments that it seems hard to believe that they coalesce so rightfully. For fans of Sir Richard Bishop, his fingers are all over this one, quite literally, and a lot of the melodies on The Heretic’s Bargain play like Bishop solo tracks on steroids. The fluidity and frantic pace of strings is there, but electrified and given chase by Chasney’s guitar and Corsano’s expert beat. Songs are built on the rapid heart-skip of fingerpicks, but as proven on “The Sin Eaters” and the epic closer “Mondays Are Free At The Hermetic Museum” the group is built for the psychedelic breakdown, devolving those sprightly melodies into a blur of sticks and picks and squalls of feedback that threaten to consume time itself. There’s always been a quality to Bishop’s melodies that I think would lend itself to soundtrack work, as if he’s always composing scenes in his head, with the the guitar quickening footsteps down a hallway or poking its head around the corner trepedatiously. Here he invokes that same cinematic quality, only to add a more urgent sense of catastrophe in the corrosive breakdowns. The characters here might quicken their steps, but its likely in a chase away from unseen demons that win out in the end. Rangda is and has always been a behemoth and on their latest they prove that they’ll keep banging ’til they bring it all down around them.

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