Browsing Category New Albums

The Intended

Still mopping up the great untouched leftovers from 2016. It was a crowded field, but that’s no excuse for leaving a good one on the table. The Intended was born out of members from Tyvek and fellow Detroiters Odd Clouds, simmering over years of practice space knockarounds and well-intentioned promises. Captured to four track in a basement space, the record is raw, like a nerve exposed and picked at til its sore. Long past lo-fi’s swan song the band aren’t looking to create an aesthetic, merely finding a means to an end and the end is a record that’s wielding noise cradled garage like perfectly muddied sketchbook rendering. The songs aren’t polished, but they’d be neutered if they were.

The power in The Intended’s arsenal is their dirty, sweat stained charm. The band are pulling this record off like a recovered demo session from the best of the Nuggets generation. Like a Remains session, a Nazz demo or John’s Children practice room cut, they’re finding the nerve of garage as it’s rarely still presented. Sure, there’s a scuzzed up sensibility to many garage bands, but they still don’t feel like you were maybe a fly on the wall for the best take. That’s where Time Will Tell finds its strenth. Each one feels like the band let the listener in on their unguarded moments and everyone won in the process.

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Quicksails

Ben Billington’s Quicksails has hovered on the periphery of my consciousness for a while, but he’s never hit home quite like he has on Mortal. In albums spread across labels like NNA, Captcha, Spectrum Spools and Digitalis, he crafted well-natured electronic burble that seemed like an outlet for ideas outside his work in ADT, ONO and Tiger Hatchery. With his latest, though, he’s packing a lot more emotional fallout into the skittering squelch than he’s let on in most of his past releases. He returns to Chicago’s Hausu Mountain for Mortal, an album wrung heavy with the hangover of Bililngton’s personal conflicts and upheavals.

The album straddles, blurs and stretches the lines between Kosmiche, IDM and free jazz; finding comfort in buzzing synths, conflict in stuttering beats and a means of outburst through the sax and trumpet wails of ADT members Carlos Chavarria and Jake Acosta. The album’s tones shift like mood ring phases, guarded and sullen one moment, tense and manic the next. Like its creator, the record can’t be pinned into a corner, it is flux and fluid and all the better for its temperament. There was an era of electronic meets jazz records that became somewhat of a cliche, especially in the late ’90s, but Quicksails manages to easily sidestep falling into a NuJazz pothole. Billington doles out a fizzing emotional balm that’s met with welcome arms.




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Rata Negra

The amount of quality albums streaming out of Madrid these days has been impressive, from Biznaga’s pop thrash to the ramshackle indie of The Parrots and Hinds, the city seems to have a nerve of indie and punk thriving within its walls. Add to that roster, Rata Negra, who fall closer to Biznaga’s frantic energy than the slop-pop of the other two. Oído Absoluto, out on London’s La Vida Es Un Mus Discos, is a Spanish language, full throttle affair that reminds me rather fondly of Monterrey punks XYX. In the same vein, the band straddles a line between chunky punk power chords and a bit more nimble brand of post-punk that hints at something more than straight bashers in the band’s veins. Though, admittedly they lean much heavier on the former and they seem to have a damn good time doing so.

It’s hard to fault them, the sneers can practically be felt seeping through the speakers on this one, flashed with abandon and backed up perfectly by the eight-cylinder chug of the music pushing below. Singer Violeta has her pipes wrapped in an urgency that soaks the entire record, making each track seem more vital than the last. Behind her, the rest of the band knocks around the kind of early ’90s skate punk that feels like they’ve got the California wind at their backs. Surely the band grew up with a stack of heroes that stretched along the Cali Coast, but despite the shirtsleeve deep influences, the band makes the most of the sound and digs deep with their own stamp, sounding like the heirs to the skate punk crown in their own right.

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The Cowboys

January always ends up a nice little filter for those releases that dove a bit deeper and missed the net in the previous year. Sadly I’m just getting to write up this killer tape from Bloomington’s garage chargers The Cowboys. The band has had several EPs out over the past few years, culminating in an album released on Lumpy records that cherry picked some of their best tracks from the first three. The album and earlier material showed the promise of a band finding their footing and digging through some proto-punk piles to find their sound. On the band’s latest tape for hometown label Turd World, they seem to have finally found it. The fidelity is bounced up a notch and they smooth out their clangin’ into a swagger that digests the nerviness of ’70s punks like The Flys, The Quick or The Wasps with a low-slung purr that reminds me of The Growlers in a very nice way. They still have just a touch of the Billy Childish froth hanging on from their early EPs as well, and it all comes together to a rather essential, yet brief release.

Vol. 4 is packed with moments that feel less like a band with a crush on those halcyon days, than one that’s so accurately recreating the vibe they could very easily slip a few of these into lost punk and power pop comps and pass rather convincingly as long lost sneer merchants. Its just a solid sender from top to bottom. Now for the crushing blow, the tape is sold out (though apparently promised to repress very shortly) and Turd World has not gotten it up digitally as of yet. Fingers crossed on both counts as this one is casting a long shadow as one of 2016’s most overlooked. I’d settle for that tape back in circ, but if some label wants to step up to the vinyl plate, all the better. It deserves it.

For now you can stream the entire tape below.



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Swimming In Bengal

Sacramento psych outfit Swimming in Bengal conjure up some heavy Sun City Girls vibes, while delving into the heart of Eastern psych on their latest album for Lugubrious Audio / Baggage Claim. The record wraps carpets of drone around improvisations built for sax, flute, harmonium, gourd guitar, and scattered shards of percussive debris. Its easy to play at creating psych that wanders into the exotic, try on a few fancy hats and pretend that non-Western music carries the only chords that “speak to you,” but SIB seem to have spent a bit more time laying into the meat that supports carrying the mantle here.

Multi-instrumentalist Tony Passarell worked with Danish-Congolese saxophonist and composer John Tchicai, and has gone on to build a unit of players that admirably blend the drive of European free-jazz, South Asian traditional tones, drone and good ole flame roasted psych. Garden of Idle Hands builds as an album, first and foremost, each track a cracked cobble stone in its craggy and crusted structure. The band has a way of imparting a worn feeling of age, timeless and turbulent to their work and as such there are few moments in the record that feel like the were laid to tape in 2016. They dart through worn street tapes picked up at adhoc Indian markets, ’60s jazz flare ups and subsequent ’70s jazz infatuations with stronger connections to non-American sounds. While it may sound on paper that the band is reaching to too many corners simultaneously, in the headphones is sounds like they may have struck just the right balance.


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J. William Parker

Japan’s Guruguru Brain have steadily built themselves up as a well of great new psychedelia from the Pacific Rim. Their latest pickup is Hanoi’s J. William Parker, a man with no reputation and little press to his name. They found him from a fully formed demo that’s been forged pretty much unchanged into Shadowmen. What he lacks in fanfare though, Parker makes up for in home-recorded psych-folk spirit. The record is flecked with the hallmarks of loner folk’s high halls, shades of Jansch, Drake, Spence, Ted Lucas and Masaki Batoh; but he moves further into the dark halls of shut-in territory on his spectral instrumentals that bounce around like faded memories throughout the album.

When he eases back the cardboard boom mic reverberations though he gets some crisp sounds, that if not necessarily on par with his ’70s influences as far as clarity, have a great deal of the same mournful romanticism that’s endeared the loner soul to audiences for years. When he truly goes for the psych-out, Parker finds himself on comfortable footing, as on “The Stranger,” a highlight that pushes his frantic energy well past the limits of his modest setup. On Shadowmen Parker may just be getting started and the studio may find him some welcome comfort and new experimental fortitude as he progresses. Or, this may be one of those one-off gems that endures because it acts as encapsulation of a time and place, rescued from the bins like white label pressings plucked from obscurity in the past couple of years. Either way, its an oddly comforting find that lends its credence to the kind of ears that run the game over at Guruguru Brain for sure.


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Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement

Dominick Fernow (Prurient/Vatican Shadow) lives in a world that’s ostensibly clouded by darkness and thatched with shades of bleak hopelessness. In his most coiled character, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavelment, he’s also perhaps at his minimalist best. Under this moniker he works completely instrumental, opening Green Graves with a set piece of jungle rain that creeps into the animalistic slink of the album’s mindset. Further into the shadowed underbrush, Fernow keeps things calm and collected on the surface, but winds its springs tight with a sense of unease bubbling just under the veneer of each of the album’s lengthy tracks. A sense of dampness pervades the album, with rain filtering throughout several of the tracks and its easy to see that the Rainforest banner isn’t purely coincidental or ornamental.

This seems to be Fernow at his most cinematic, the jungle themes bringing to mind taught Vietnam war films and the knife edge tensions of Predator. He’s crafted a fight or flight world that, while it never escalates the fight, keeps it within expectations at all time. It would almost be too easy to just let this pot boil over and explode into the kind of chaos that’s certainly lurking in Fernow’s darkness, but he shows his masterful restraint by snaking the listener through danger and threatening to let blood at any moment. Fans of Fernow’s other work will certainly be pleased but there’s plenty to love here for fans of some more recent horror soundtracks. Its less flashy, but by no means less effective.



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Expo Seventy

There’s never really a bad time to have a new Expo ’70 album on deck (two actually as of this posting) but somehow Fall/Winter seem to lend themselves entirely to the thunderous creep of Justin Wright’s doom psych. America Here & Now Sessions captures the band as a rare four piece, adding an additional drummer whose presence amps up the churning sea of rhythm that ushers along both of these sidelong epics. Wright has long had a habit of improvising heady studio jams and these pieces, recorded as a part of a cross-country traveling dialogue about America through the arts, find the band lashing out into the howling void with the best of their releases. In turn they wind up summing up the ominous vibes of current Americana in fine fashion.

The first movement rolls over the land like a tornado on treads, spreading a seed of fear that’s mirrored in the stark and spectral second movement’s more Kosmiche approach. Where the first is chaos shot through a keyhole and smashing everything under its eighty tons of terror, the second movement is desolation, and stunned shock ramping up to a meltdown moment that’s packed with 50 megatons of amp toned torque. Every Expo release seems to find a new storm within Wright’s soul and America Here & Now is as ferocious and bracing as his best work. Essence has gone above and beyond in the packaging dept as well, aside from the normal color spectrum, there’s a super deluxe edition that comes in a woven silkscreened bag with prints feeling like super ‘luxe has been taken to a new level.




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The Staches

Building up a presence in their hometown of Geneva, Switzerland while also picking up quite a bit of steam on jaunts through the EU and US, The Staches have followed on a steady run of singles with a twitchy new album. Recorded in San Francisco by madman auteur Kelley Stoltz, the LP belts together a chugging, writhing brand of post-punk that puts them in nice company with recent releases from Hierophants, Mind Spiders or Ausmuteants. The band excels when they lean on the synths, taking their garage hybrid more towards the sci-fi synth-punk of the late ’70s and early ’80s and elevating them out of any connections to mere fuzz punks. I’ve long had a lean towards the queasy wash of unease played out through this strain of punk and The Staches are finding themselves thrown clean into the churning, slashing, crumpled heart of an anxious fury they battle with to the very end.

The record ropes in standout single “Total Commitment,” a song that jumped out of the crowd earlier in the year on Six Tonnes De Chair Records, and it remains a highlight on the full length as well. Along with “I Don’t Bother” and “Plastic,” the track anchors the second half of the record in a psych drenched echo that, unlike many of their peers, eschews Oh Sees territory to find its own sweaty groove. Placid Faces tumbled out to little fanfare, and late in the year, which is always a tough climb. It is proving to be a tightly wound gem though, and well worth the time on the turntable.

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E

The year’s not over yet, and there are still plenty of captivating releases slipping in around the edges well worth your time. E is the trio of Thalia Zedek (Come, Uzi, Live Skull), Jason Sanford (Neptune), and Gavin McCarthy (Karate), creating a cacophonous blast of dark shadowed sound that leans into industrial and post-rock for equal measures of inspiration. The band’s debut is littered with craggy outcroppings of guitar, punctured with the lock n’ pummel drumming and an driven by an overt sense of rhythm on their eponymous record. Zedek has long been a force for experimentation within her career and she brings the same willingness to obscure genre boundaries as the basis of E’s backbone.

Though, as expressed by the band themselves, this isn’t just Zedek’s project. McCarthy provides just as much vocal heft as she does here, taking on a frantic tone giving some explosive performances of his own. There isn’t a track that doesn’t speak to the band’s collaborative appraoach, feeding off of one another over the course of E‘s two sides. Still, its hard to ignore Zedek’s guitar work, equal parts crunched aluminum and fluid mercury, mechanical but never without a beating heart. Post-rock may be a dirty term these days to some, but there’s plenty of life to be found outside of the swaying choruses, verses and strums. E is proving that a cerebral approach still knows how to crush.




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