Browsing Category New Albums

Black Mountain

The thing I love about Black Mountain is that they go all in. They aren’t doing prog by half measures, name checking King Crimson or Can because it ticks some boxes off of their diverse influences card. No they’re full on Tarkus-ing. They’re pulling Pink Floyd synths out of their teenage memories and updating the notion of grandiose for a new age. They’re finding the Lost Chord, breaking through Wakeman’s Fragile territory and going for it like they couldn’t give a shit if you notice their Tull shirts showing. If punk was the buck reaction to prog, then what’s more punk than going full prog in 2016? Thing is this isn’t just a rehash. Its not a nostalgia album proper. Black Mountain have all these influences searing through their veins and they come pouring out through every inch of IV but the take feels fresh. They make prog mammoth again, crushing and awe-inducing in a way that should make you feel a fool for ever passing up all those Hammond-laden brothers in arms in the first place.

Its hard to believe that its been well over a decade since they dropped their eponymous debut, and even harder to realize its been six years since they had a proper full length. But just hearing the McBean / Webber combo back on the speakers makes me realize how long its really been and how big a hole there’s been in rock since they left. The album boasts production from Randall Dunn (Sunn o)), Wolves In The Throne Room) and has the balls to open with a eight plus minute epic that’s only the first taste of how towering this album gets. Six years is a long time but build up expectations, but IV smashes through them with ease.




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Mind Spiders

Mark Ryan’s made plenty a name for himself with his work in Marked Man but as the years wear on he’s building an equal reputation for Mind Spiders. Running on an engine of sneering and searing new wave, propulsive with an evil glint in its eyes, Mind Spiders sit well in company with the twitchy latter day hijinks of Hierophants and Andy Human. Its nice to see the garage boys grabbing keys and chewing tinfoil until the riffs bleed and in the case of Mind Spiders they tend to bleed a disturbing blue-green that hints at something plenty sinister below the surface. The sci-fi vibes run rampant and that’s the way some of the best new wave and post-punk should work, I love a band that gets nerdy for nerdy’s sake while keeping it catchy. There are only eight tracks here but the band leaves you breathless by the time the last track clicks to a close. Its been a good run indeed up to where they stand today but Prosthesis is the strongest set yet from the Spiders.




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The Murlocs

So a few tastes of The Murlocs rolled in prior to Young Blindness’ release as videos over the last couple of months and now the record has finally arrived. Naturally the band draw comparisons to singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s slightly (maybe just a little) more famous band, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but aside from having a love for garage as a base and the sound of Kenny-Smith’s blistering harp, its not entirely fair to always loop them in together. The Murlocs push away from the heavy psychedelics of their seven-headed cousins, instead focusing on a garage glazed R&B hybrid that’s more attuned to the stomping riffs of The Animals and The Remains than they are to lysergic breakdowns.

The album has plenty of propulsive tricks of its own but a face-melting barrage isn’t really the band’s forte, instead they opt for a kind of laid back swagger that plays it casual and hip-slung from the moment the record opens. The best tracks aren’t entirely reclined to the point of feeling lax, but they definitely have an air of stoned reverence for keeping it cool. At the core of that cool, though, is a hard pop nugget that’s tying the record to the rails, crawling like a demon for your dance starved soul and howling the herald of The Murlocs’ arrival is Kenny-Smith with lungs like fire. Its hard to pull off the balance of feeling leather locked composed and still inspiring listeners to jump up on their feet in joy, but Young Blindness pulls it off like it was nothing to sweat over.





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Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon have been a longtime staple of RSTB and over the years they’ve changed and mutated into a few different versions; drone, krautrock, ethereal Kosmiche. Through it all the one constant has been Kip Ulhorn steering the ship through these new waters. He’s solo but not alone here, taking the band further into propulsive pop than ever before but with ample help from a cast of ringers from his surroundings in Memphis. It’s Cloudland at heart and by name, but this seems like a whole new band filling in their shoes. Partly this is because those filling the shoes have a diverse well to dip from and they pepper the album perfectly. Ross Johnson (Panther Burns, Alex Chilton), Lesa Alridge (Big Star) and Jody Stephens (Big Star) all play on the album while Ezra Buchla, M. Geddes Gengras, Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips) and David Scott Stone (ex-LCD Soundsystem) add their own touches and contributions as well. And if you’re assembling a team with that kind of clout why not pull in some psych rock royalty for the production as well? Ulhorn enlisted Sonic Boom to co-produce the album and his signature space and weight are felt for sure.

The tracks themselves burst with a lightness that’s reared its head in sparkles on prior albums but now beams from the inside out like a beacon on An Arabesque. There’s that skitter and grind of Krautrock beats pushing the pedals but the top is soaring harmonies and crystalline synths that give everything a glow of sunset around the edges. A club element rears its head from time to time but its balanced out by the noise element that peeks in just as often. On the whole, this is Ulhorn’s strongest set yet and it puts Cloudland Canyon into a higher echelon of psych-pop that feels like a new beginning.




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Outtacontroller

Halifax’s Outtacontroller have a lock on buzz saw fuzz with a heavy dose of pop thrown on top to keep you constantly coming back for more; knocking out aural Adderall for the ADD generation. Their sophomore LP, a three-way tag team from Southpaw, P-Trash and Young Modern, is full of scuzzed out riffs, the loose, swagger bounce of drums and the cavestomp echo of vocals n’ handclaps pushing tempos towards the red. They’re not rewriting the book but they’ve studied well and there’s more than enough room in this world for a few more pogo rounds about girls, pizza and R. Stevie Moore? Eh, why not, I’ve got more than enough love for Nashville’s ringleader of weird, so why shouldn’t he deserve an anthem of his own? The boys keep things down and dirty and hewn close to the Ramones-rooted school of faster, louder, done. Though they seem to add more fizz than bands with lesser marrow in their bones. This one’s been stuck on my headphones for more than a few go ’rounds and it doesn’t look to be leaving anytime soon. Not much here breaks the three minute mark, but that’d be way too long to stretch these buoyant blasts anyhow. If you can’t pick up and run with it 90 second caffeinated bursts then the hell with you, Outtacontroller probably don’t have time for you anyhow.




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Mugstar

Long running Liverpool psych unit Mugstar has never been accused of pulling punches when it comes to epic space/Krautrock excursions, but on their latest they push the boundaries of their craft further than ever. Pushing outward in terms of length (the album pushes past the 1 1/4 hour mark) and in terms of elements that the band incorporate into their sound, the album is both their heaviest and one that draws in some of the most delicate elements. The ideas for Magnetic Seasons came about from the band’s open-ended sessions at Whitewood Studios, allowing time for improvisation and experimentation to color the compositions until they found their groove. The resulting album is propulsive and crushing, but flecked with nimble fingerwork and touches like mournful melodica, recalling a heavy Krautrock version of Clinic at times and ambling further into the spaced mindset of Acid Mother’s temple in others. Though, as the band has noted the presence of Fender Rhodes plays a huge part as a central sound and inspiration on the record, often acting as a starting point for their improvisations. That element gives them a touch of Bitches’ Brew if the brew were thick as glue and shot through with clouds of exhaust.

That this album follows a solid collaboration with Can’s Damo Suzuki both gives them the status of legendary approval and a personal bar that’s a tall order to overcome, but the band manage to clear it easily and slot this in among their most essential releases. Finding its way out on Mogwai’s own Rock Action records, there are more than a few fine folks in their corner and its easy to see why. By the time this thing grinds to a halt, the listener is elevated, torn and battered. A damn fine piece of work.




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Ulrika Spacek

This London band scoops in enough buzzing Krautrock groove to qualify for their fully licensed psych credentials, but they don’t lean on it as their only weapon. Alternating between bouts of sandpaper hooks and chiming, punctuated guitar, the band knows how to wield atmosphere and pop sheen as easily as the barbs. Packed into the album’s ten tracks are washes and swells that on longer tracks stretch their arms out into winding fuzz breakdowns. These sometimes seem at odds with the shorter, crisp collared pop-psych that makes up the album’s other face. The band sounds as if they’re honing down how to put the influences at hand in just the right order, but they’re at their best when they shy away from some of the more subdued moments that recall Deerhunter’s finer brushes and instead steer headlong into spacier territory fraught with fuzz. Finer details aside though, there are plenty more hits than misses for them on The Album Paranoia and I’d say that a debut this strong merits keeping more than one eye on them for the future.




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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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