Browsing Category New Albums

Steve Hauschildt

Former Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt hasn’t been as prolific as his counterpart in Mark McGuire, but taking his time has given Strands a conceptual hopefulness that’s immersive and gorgeous. The record is built around the concept of strands of rope, none as taught or as slack as the other, and the way they braid into a whole piece as the eye backs away. The pieces on Strands bubble and swim through a Kosmiche palette of watercolored tones, underlit with a touch of hope and a good dose of wonder. While synth has enjoyed a rather healthy spike in interest this year, most seem entirely beholden to the horror soundtrack, white-knuckle tension model that’s been brimming to a full cup for at least six or seven years now.

What separates Hauschildt from those who would seek to stretch their Italo-horror muscles is the sense of wonder over fear. There are certainly parts of Strands that hit tense notes, as would be expected from a project that ebbs and flows into a living organism, but he never hammers the fear home. Others just tighten the grip on the throat continually but there’s more power in a quick, tense knot than in a stranglehold. Those moments of tension are more gripping because they emerge from moments of beauty. Hauschildt’s added another layer as well to his tone painting, degrading the normally clean tones with a bit of dirt mixed in with the colors. The effect gives texture and cracks at the oftentimes pristine world of synth quite nicely. In this respect Hauschildt has found common ground with another of synth’s craftsmen not afraid to muddy the channels, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.

A long time coming but completely worth the wait, Hauschildt’s vision pulls into focus with each repeated dive into his aquatic wonderland. We may be hitting peak synth this year, but its great to see someone pushing harder to elevate the sound.


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Skyjelly

The disjointed psych of Skyjelly has been percolating in my system for a few weeks now and I’m just getting a chance to sort it all out. Doomtrip Records pulled together a double album drop that culls some of the band’s previously self-released recordings along with a cadre of new tracks in tow. With regards to nailing an aesthetic, Skyjelly won’t let themselves sit still for too long; weaving a sound that pulls at strings of psychedelic pop, clattering blues and the shantytown shakedown that gives Goat a sense of displaced appeal. They have the heart of the old guard beating somewhere at their core (there’s a distinct, but faded “Sympathy For The Devil” simmer on the balk half of “Acosta”) but they digest most of them completely and work things into a sort of hybrid hairball of psych explosion that has the modern sense of being inundated with as many inputs and influences as a day spent on YouTube could offer.

Skyjelly Jones and his crew of strange travelers don’t spend the whole of the record(s?) kicking up dust though, there are plenty of moments when the sound comes down to a hushed, yet pulsing, thrum. On the simmering “Subway Rider” the band evokes the rootsy loose ends of Gomez’ softer side. Elsewhere, “Catherine’s Rabbi” also takes on a ’90s sense of rhythmic yet tender pop. Each of the pieces acts as an interesting bit of the puzzle that’s forming over the course of Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert, or Wizard, and even without the caveat that its two distinct albums, there’s a lot of spice hitting the stew here. But, on the whole, the band makes it work. They juxtapose and jam their plate full of what works and offer it up under the umbrella banner of psych. This may not be their definitive statement, but its making some nice promises.

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Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation

Upping the motorik attack from their first record with Rocket Recorings, Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation plummet into a vortex of swirling drums and swarms of buzzing keys on Mirage. From the opening strains of “The State (I’m In),” the record breathes heavy and damp like a vaporizer filling the mind with gauzy strains of psychedelic fog. Everything is dark and creeping in The Liberation’s world, a thundering bass reverberation pounds through the mind, darting between guitar lines like so many trees in a spectral forest. Those guitars burn, when they emerge, with an intense and alarming temperature that makes their presence felt. Ohrn pushes her psych journey almost to the edge of the dance floor though, finding that fine line between trance and drone, especially on lead single “In Madrid.” Here, she works repeated phrases and circular playing into a kind of semi-conscious drug haze that folds colors over on themselves in prismatic, shimmering sheets.

The band comes on like a psychic split between the heady dance impulses of ’90s-era Primal Scream and Broadcast’s haunted pop hallucinations. Throw in an agitated My Bloody Valentine vein that pulses throughout and its hard to shift your attention from the band’s entrancing chug. It works well, much better than I could ever hope to capture through comparison, and Mirage is a focused leap over their previous record, 2015’s Horse Dance. There’s a tidal flow to the album, rising into a euphoric pitch and sustaining it well for the bulk of the album before easing into the comedown. The group pulls back the feverish intensity as the album wanes, sliding into the (mostly) cool waters of “Rushing Through My Mind,” the abstract notions of “Circular Motion,” and the crisp-collared pop of “Where I’m Going.” There aren’t any real low points on Mirage, its a crafted tapestry of pop, psych, and swirl that feels as hypnotic on repeated listens as it does the first go-round. Josefin and her Liberation aren’t breaking the bounds of pop-sike’s hold but they are making a captivating argument for its continued existence.



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Jacuzzi Boys

Jacuzzi Boys have spent their fair share of time in the pages of RSTB and its good to see them survive as one of the longest runners out of the lo-fi garage boom of the early aughts ‘n teens. They’ve kicked the gloss up several times over from the early days, putting a coat of wax on with each new album, and the latest is quite possibly the slickest version of the JBs yet. They’ve pretty much jettisoned any notions of garage at this point, and on Ping Pong they dive headlong into a pool of ’90s inflections that fit them well. Flagship single “Boys Like Blood” is the band at their catchiest and most polished, but its dirtied up with a nod from the ’90s production school that new how to turn grunge into radio ready summer nuggets. Its blows up like it was gassed on L7’s Bricks Are Heavy and tweaked with The Breeders’ sense of spacing and earworm dynamics.

The rest of the album explodes like a pound of Mentos in Diet Coke, fizzing and foaming and generally making a delightful, sticky-sweet mess of scuzzed-up power pop and grunge. The album picks up steam like a lost radio transmission bounced off the Azores and right into the dish in the back of our collective pop consciousnesses. Its got that tip-of-the-toungue feeling that cements some instant classic nudges among the twelve tracks in the grooves. There have been a few lately who are hearkening back to a time of full-stack pop rock that feels like its waiting to reach the masses and I’m personally open to a resurgence of full sounding alt-rockers that nick their cues from Fountains of Wayne, Super Furry Animals and Supergrass. The latter two definitely rear their head here on “Easy Motion, which takes more than a few tricks out of the Britpop songbook, featuring janglin’ juxtaposed with beats like Top Of The Pops flashback.

The band have always had their laughs injecting an element of oddball glee into their tracks, with crocodile wrestlin’ odes bumping lounged bellbottomed swagger in their catalog, but they’ve rarely sounded as confident and fun as they do here. That glint in the eye is sparking solid and they’ve filled the album with a new host of toothpaste stealin’ neighbors and blade wielding menaces. In their wanderlust through glam, garage, power pop and grunge, they’ve now found the impulses that suit them best, amplified accordingly, letting loose one of their most infectious records. Every time a long standing site fave readies a new long player there’s that moment of trepidation, but the JBs lay it all to waste. Gonna have to squirrel away some more space in the ‘J’ section this month.

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Savoy Motel

The hardest thing about digesting distinct styles is making them sound fresh. In the interim between the close of the ’70s and the precipice of 2017, funk, glam and disco had their wave, subsequent revivals and to most they’ve been strip-mined for all they’re worth. But Savoy Motel just don’t know how to take “no” for an answer, and its a damn blessing that they won’t. They take that triplet of genre cues as a jumping off point and dive through an alternate universe where the punks and the disco kids worked hand in hand, sawed off the barrel and found a way to make boogie raw and unrepentant. They pull on the outsized attitude of glam and wield it like a battering ram against any who refuse to get down. They find the simmering and squirming groove at the heart of their eponymous debut and they jack it full of amyl nitrate and High Karate. It’s a record that, while built on familiar forms, converges like a lost artifact of dirty funk freakanetics. It’s a prototype of glam glory and electronic infancy thrown in the blender, blades out and stomping in platformed perfection.

The real clincher is that they dig in deep on the greasy weirdness of any and all of the forms that they inhabit. They stroll through Eno’s queasiest catalogs, tracing his exit from Roxy’s feather boa n’ leatherette S&M boogie and into a his ascent through lyrical pop that picked at the freak impulses of the insomniac soul. The band scotch tapes those aesthetics to an 72-hour binge of Arthur Russel’s swaggering disco divergences and Gary Numan’s panting portent for artificial intelligence with a libido, picking up their rhythmic beats and committing them to memory. As evidenced by the band’s own fashion flare they’re raiding the closets of Slade, Geordie, Bolan and Sweet; but they’re not sticking around pumping quarters into the jukebox for a night of nostalgic waxing. They’re just stealing the clothes off the passed out members of their entourage, nicking an amp and pedal or two to get that fat sound, and making off into the alleys like good degenerate youth.

They’re stomping those hard-heeled boots into the fuzzed-wah floorboards and letting the vibe seep out into the room. It’s a record that feeds on the past, while ignoring the reality. They even make prog a strange bedfellow on the epic centerpiece, “International Language.” It’s the best ‘what if?’ riff that’s never got its shot. As a fan of the fringes and half-failures of the past, this reimagining of styles hits like a warm liquor burn in August. It’s uncomfortable and soothing all at the same time. Savoy Motel have found a way to raise the dead and make ’em dance. Still not what I’d ever have expected from the core members of this band, and I’m delighted to have my expectations dashed in this case.


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Rats On Rafts / De Kift

The best collaborations bring something new out of each participant in the experiment and in the case of Dutch Punks Rats on Rafts, they may have found their soulmates in experimental collective De Kift. Both bands have attacked the nugget of punk from different directions in the past. Rats have often gnawed at the central fury of the form, while injecting a strain of hypnotic tension to their songs. De Kift, on the other hand, have taken the spirit and recklessness of punk and run it through the gaze of post-punk, the kind that had a soft spot for dub and destruction. They share a lot in common with The Ex (who they’ve collaborated with) and Public Image Ltd. So, in bringing together the spark and the abandon, the two groups’ eponymous collaborative debut sets fire to the whole notion of punk and the walls that are constantly built up around it.

The record takes both bands’ catalogs and re-imagines them with the full ensemble, giving Rats’ taught burners a new life as brass-flecked battering rams that float in a strange foam of dub echoes. De Kift turn Rats’ tortured screams into battle cries. Though, that’s not to say that Rats On Rafts don’t have the same altering effect on De Kift’s dense catalog, pulling them further towards the punk center that they’ve previously danced around and dressed up with ornaments. The best of the set finds new ground entirely, as with dark centerpiece of “Dit Schip” that dives straight into “Powder Monkey”. The former smolders and laments with a funereal country-tinged countenance before exploding into the bite of “Powder Monkey’s” blind stabs into the darkness. Its a feint and fight move that sucks the listener in and then knocks ’em totally off balance.

Often collaborations can find songs going to excesses that feel like they may have had heat in the studio, but are lost to those who weren’t present in the moment, but here both bands are pushing each other and its readily apparent on the final recordings. Even for those who haven’t waded into Dutch punk’s waters, the songs have an instant vitality that’s infectious. No need to sing along, just throw yourself into the street and watch the parade tear itself apart, that’s the central feeling of the record. Its a birthday party with exploding cake and grandma getting somber about mortality, right before she drinks you under the table. Its a record that’s odd on paper and fire on the speakers. That’s just my kind of duality there.



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Axis: Sova

Everything about Brett Sova’s second album for Drag City imprint God? is more confident. He’s raised himself out of the murk of tape hiss and brought forth an album that, much like fellow Drag City stabler Purling Hiss, embraces guitar as a saving grace for the psychic stomp of 2016. Unlike the Hiss, though, Axis: Sova isn’t chasing the demons of grunge, but rather the boogie blues and psychedelic sweat of a ’70s vision that holds up Guru Guru and Hawkwind as the reigning class. Hell, you’ve got to have stones to open up your sophomore album with an almost nine-minute acid fuzz assault on the senses that seems like it should be the kind of song that collapses an album to the floor. Instead Sova chooses to blast the listener with a defining statement of Axis’ aesthetic. Its the kind of opening salvo that says, “this is what you’re in for so either strap in or get out of the way.”

The rest of the album doesn’t hold back any fury either. Following that scorcher of an opening shot, the rest of Motor Earth cranks its way through exhaust fume choked psych swagger and low and gritty fuzz rumblers leveled at ya with the kind of steady gaze that proves that Sova can back up the chatter with more than a few dirty riffs. Sova brings along fellow guitarist Tim Kaiser for the ride and the two staple their riffs to a chassis of stomp n’ clatter beats that, though workmanlike, fill in the space between the two amplifier clouds amiably. Its clear that the folks over at DC could see through the swamp of his debut to this cleaner burning version of Axis’ power. Though, in the same capacity as Mike Polizze’s Purling Hiss transformation, it would be interesting to see the band evolve into a three-piece with a proper pound rounding out the storm. Still, the record holds its own with just the two players making one hell of a ruckus. Trailing out their love for the ghosts of ’70s space rock and gravel pelted grinders alike, they prop themselves up as a two-man Leaf Hound on an Afflicted Man budget, and to tell you the truth, its workin’.

Listen to the album in full below!





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Danny & the Darleans

So without every recording another note, Daniel Kroha is already in the pantheon of rock heroes for his membership in The Gories. The long running Detroit scrappers have gold status in pretty much any garage lover’s book. But Kroha’s never leaned on that membership as a way to coast, he’s cut ragged acoustic blues under his own name, teaming up with Third Man for an album, explored glam pop with the Demolition Doll Rods and gotten scuzzy in his own right time and again with the Darleans. The last Darleans album came down the pike in 2013 and Bug Out follows pretty much in its shoes. Its ruffled and ragged party rock that’s dirty, sweaty and flecked with the right kind of smirk to keep people moving and having a good damn time. Add in Kroha’s natural soul that funnels the ethos of The Troggs, early Shadows of Knight, Motown’s rockers and that other garage demon with a smile, Mr. King Khan, and its shaping up to be a damn fine party in here.

Kroha stacks the Darleans with talent that can’t help but swing, drummer Richie Wohlfeil was in The Detroit Cobras, probably one of the finest garage bands to ever hit the stage. Bassist Colleen Burke cut her teeth in We Ragazzi, and though they may have had a more serious bent, they gave her the chops to wail on Bug Out. There’s little room to really make garage rock new, or to break the mold. What’s left these days is the way to perfect the form you’re fighting in and in that regard, Danny & the Darleans are knocking out most who step to them. They’re tight as hell, and to prove it this sucker was recorded pretty much live to tape, giving very little mystery as to what these songs might sound like up on the stage, you’re living it every time the needle hits the wax. Its a hard trick to pull, but when it goes right, this is what it sounds like.

When it comes down to it, The Darleans know that a great garage band can tackle covers as handily as they can simmer an original, and both should mix seamlessly, giving the listener little pause when a cover hits the speakers. If they make ’em their own, then who cares who wrote it, its theirs now. The Darleans pack heat into songs by The Night Crawlers, bluesman Jim Jackson and Eddie Holland while making them seem as much a part of their DNA as any of their own cuts. The album shapes up to as solid a garage album as you can hope for. It never flags, never begs forgiveness and never seems to care – and that’s what any garage band should aspire to. Kroha’s a human jukebox, serving up singles that cook the whole record through. Bug Out is the kind of record that lights up any room it hits.




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Purling Hiss

On the last couple of Purling Hiss records, they cleaned up their sound, dusted off the fuzz of any lo-fi shackles and made for the studio. In the process they may have walked a bit far from the grit that kicked the band into the world all those many years ago. Weirdon brought some jangle and kept true to its namesake of injecting an oddness into their world. Water On Mars was a studio pop juggernaut sanded of its rough edges. Now they seek to walk it all back a bit, finding a thread of grunge in their matured sound and striking a nice balance between the slicked back rock of Water On Mars and the amplifier overload of their early works.

There’s been a lot of fluffed up think pieces that float the notion that guitar rock has no place in 2016, that the guitar solo is dead, that this sound has come and gone and its not moving forward; but that talk seems to miss the point of great guitar rock, perhaps especially in 2016. Its about burning clean the weight of the world and letting the feedback singe away the top layer of bullshit on any given moment. Mike Polizze has always known the power of fried and fraught rock, the kind of scorching, fuzz soaked platters that can test the limits of a stereo system from the first four chords and lay waste to weaker contenders with ease. He’s still got that spirit in his heart and High Bias brings the growl back to Purling Hiss to help digest an American sense of unrest that’s permeated daily life.

Polizze’s finally found his balance, its probably his most outright catchy record, but it never comes off as pop in the truest sense, its rock, towering and infernal, lighting that fire and feeding on the oxygen of unrest. Its not a protest record, but its not a lighthearted affair. It culminates in the highwater mark “Everybody In The USA,” a song that seems to sum up the rest of the record and let it all crumble beneath a seismic crunch of guitars and ragged fury. If the band needed to wipe away the rest of their catalog and leave only this behind as a statement of purpose, then it would still leave a pretty outstanding legacy for them. Its the kind of record that feels like like Polizze finished it, sat back and just said to himself, “yeah, that’s the sound… that’s what I’ve been looking for all these years.”



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Xylouris White

Prior to the release of Black Peak I had caught the duo of Jim White and George Xylouris a couple of times and each time they had the same effect of sucking the air out of the room; stone silent crowds pretty much in awe of the power and presentation of their works. The difference the second time was that the duo were playing pieces of Peak and in place of the mostly instrumental set, Xylouris let loose with his torrent of vocals, matching the intensity of his lute work, a feat that’s easier said than done. Though the secret, or not so secret weapon in the band still remains Jim White’s tumbling, craggy and entrancing percussive work. In the face of Xylouris’ booming voice and snaking strings, for the drums to steal away some of the awe, seems like a feat in its own right.

This album sees the band stepping further into their comfort as players together, having had a longstanding relationship that hearkens back to collaborations during White’s time in Dirty Three and even longer than that as friends. Dirty Three never seemed penned in by boundaries of style, and aside from those who might balk at the World Music inclinations that arise from the Greek language vocals, neither does Xylouris White. Those vocals do present a new focal point for the album but even stripped of the droning, swooping phrasing, the songs themselves seem more akin to Robbie Basho or Bert Jansch if they had spent time exploring their free jazz sides with someone like Chris Corsano or Paal Nilsson-Love on the sticks. Black Peak feels like it touches the intense lamplight intensity of Middle Eastern psych or raga, especially on the burning “Hey, Musicians.”

White’s been known to collaborate his whole career, spending time with PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Smog and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The Bonnie Prince even finds his way into the mix here as well, returning the favor with lonesome harmonies on the dark-skied “Erotokritos.” Though he’s often been a seamless piece of his collaborators’ albums, here White has found himself as out front and free as in his days with Dirty Three, pushing and pulling at Xylouris’ aesthetic like a motor that’s primed and humming. The pair bring out the best in each other and its clear that while they’re having a good time making the album, they’re also pushing to find a plateau that neither have reached previously, which considering the resumes of the players involved, is a tall, tall order. Ultimately, they do seem to have found their peak this time around.





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