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L’Epee

It’s rare that a debut comes through with such a clear vision, but the first full offering from L’Epee is hardly a green band tentatively offering up their first works out of the studio. The band is built from strong players, each with a history that both informs and in no way eclipses the music on Diabolique. The core of the band is Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown fame and Lionel and Marie Limiñana of The Limiñanas. The three have been working together on the past few Limiñanas releases and its clear that they’ve established a repoire, and understanding of where their strengths lie. They add in the smoke-strewn vocals of Emmanuelle Seigner, the French model/actress and singer for Ultra Orange. The combined forces of the four bring forth an almost immaculate incarnation of Velvets / Nico cool cross-bred with Ye-Ye pop impulses and it’s hard not to be immediately drawn into the pop web they weave.

The songs bounce from dark, leathered brooders, to scarf-wrapped Vespa soundtracks in an instant and both seem equally at home with one another. Seigner evokes a detached cool that’s hard not to palpably feel throughout the speakers and the backing band bends through her pop whims with ease and precision. There’s not a misplaced note on the album — all drawn from a studied history of ’60 pop provocateurs, but put together with a ‘from the hip’ looseness that belies the studied approach. The songs might feel almost like a perfect compilation, were it not for Seigner’s vocals tying them all together with a velvet sting of seduction and aloofness. It’s hard not to grapple with the term supergroup, though that’s a cumbersome label here and elsewhere, but the talent on deck here is pretty top tier and the resulting album gives credence to the term. Should this be a one-off, it should wind up a collector’s essential, but here’s hoping this is the start of something with legs.



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Kendra Amalie

The Beyond Beyond is Beyond debut from Kendra Amalia is a multi-headed monster of guitar, shifting styles as needed from pointilliste string runs with a metallic bite to soft-hearted country ramble. She dabbles with indie-psych, but more often than not, Amalie lays back into the bed of fingerpicked folk. The guitarist has created several offerings in her own name, though this remains the most polished. She’s worked with Wisconsin outfits Eleven Eleven, Names Divine, and Guitar Hell over the years and remains a fixture of the state’s scene. Intuition, however, is the sound of Amalie breaking forward into her own form. The patchwork approach works in her favor as a nuanced spread of her talent, and while sometimes the seams show, she makes it all fit together into a fairly ornate tapestry.

At its core Intuition sounds like an artist finding her brightest beams while still leaving room to experiment, always rolling away from being pinned down. That said, there are a couple of songs that seem to embody the light more than others. Corralling her fingerpicked prowess alongside a slow simmer vocal that’s just shy of Espers territory on “Stay Low,” Amalie adds in the pained cry of slide guitar and the song becomes a vital pivot point for the album. Likewise, the airy, haunted ripple of “Become the Light” fashions her heavier psych into a stunning explosion of folk put through the fire. With songs like these in her roster it seems only certain that she’ll work alchemical magic to craft an album that rides powerful winds of anguish and awe. Intuition will quite likely wind up the spark that lights the fuse.



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The Silence

Just a few months after his solid solo LP, Masaki Batoh is back on a progressive bent with his band The Silence. Metaphysical Feedback is the first record since the band’s 2016 LP Nine Suns, One Morning, an album that expanded their already dense prog/psych palette from their two albums previous. A frantic pace seemed to be the norm for The Silence in the past, with their first three albums all falling less than a year from each other’s release. A longer time to germinate gives Metaphysical Feedback a bit of distance from its predecessors. The cindered folk stance of Nowhere seeps into the corners of the album, perhaps playing to a bit of crossbred songwriting between the two, but as usual The Silence remains Batoh’s avenue to bite into the wires of ‘70s prog, free-jazz, psychedelia, and the further reaches of space while smashing the boundaries between all of them.

The bulk of Metaphysical Feedback does just that, where opener “Sarabande” filters in slow and serene before igniting the pool of gasoline that’s been collecting over its 8+ minutes on the way out, “Tautology” is a bop-fried scorcher on the constant edge of freakout territory, lacerated by sax and ozone crackle. They employ groove that pushes further toward funk and further from their German Progressive touches on “Okoku” and it fits perfectly into their mindset. A dark current of flute pushes from jazz to psych odyssey on several tracks, and the band often uses them a herald for sweeping sea change within a track – the darkly decadent “Yokushurui” being the prime example.

Post-Ghost, Batoh has proven that he can’t be penned in by expectations, and while his solo record might have returned to a few markers in his past, The Silence proves that he’s still pushing further towards the edges for his future. The band has quickly amassed a catalog of remarkable releases, but it quickly becomes clear that the extra time to develop their latest makes Metaphysical Feedback their fist truly essential release.



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Skull Practitioners – Death Buy EP

In The Red unleashes the vinyl debut from NYC psych trio Skull Practitioners and it’s as scathing an introduction to the band as you could hope for. Though its not the band’s official first release, they issued a limited cassette in 2014, this is the fist wide-scale release for the trio fronted by Jason Victor. Victor’s currently been serving as the current lead guitarist for a reformed Dream Syndicate (2012-pres), but this is a decidedly more fang-toothed animal than his releases with the Syndicate. Eschewing any love for knotted wordplay, jangles, or sunny melodies. Victor, along with Kenneth Levine and Alex Baker spike the adrenaline, push the tempos, and drive their vision of punk through the hull-heated, psycho-twang swagger that set Flesh Eaters loose on the public and gave Gun Club heroic status among collectors for decades.

The four songs here give the band a lot to chew on, especially the echo-flailed “The Beacon,” a direct descendant of the Flesh Eaters / Kid Congo Powers school of leathered punk flash if there ever was one. The EP serves as an appetizer for a full-length on In The Red to come soon, but its pretty satisfying on its own. Bookended by instrumentals, the EP creates a nice little arc of attack. The title track frizzles some ozone and leaves an acrid atmosphere rattling around the room that’s picked up by the chewed tin and grease-skeeved vocal tracks “Grey No More” and the aforementioned hip-crusher “The Beacon.” The EP slides out on the surf froth of “Miami” leaving the listener wanting more, which is pretty much the point. Keep an ear out for that long player. I’ll be interested to see how they keep the pace up for a full battery of tracks.



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Ash & Herb

Flower Room, the resident home of Matt LaJoie and Ash Brooks’ musical musings, often boasts a treasure trove of small press releases that are of the blink and you’ll miss ‘em variety. In between larger statements the pair populate the label’s Bandcamp with live documents and offshoots in every direction under the Ash & Herb, Starbirthed, ML Wah monikers, among many. One of the latest gems arrives via live recordings from Ash & Herb’s Spring 2018 tour, and makes up the third installment of their live “In Now Time” series. While it’s not a full-on psych-folk boogie breaker in the mold of their outstanding “Salt Lick” single from February, it does capture the band’s narcotic float quite nicely. The set was recorded in a living room in Columbus, OH, but the sounds feel like they could have filled up a void twice that size.

Apparently, their set for the tour was using a cassette backing track that they tossed for the night and untethering from the percussive yoke lets the band wander all over the inky night, swirling like smoke signals into the wanting sky above. Ash’s vocals zone out into wounded, wooded rites of passage, giving the set a heavier, darker turn for a spell, before they bloom into a two-part psilocybin sojourn. “Fruiting Bodies” sparkles to the point of shimmer and closer “Cap & Stem” settles the whole set into a steamed calm as it pits a bit of twang against the dominant drones. Ash & Herb have a huge catalog to contend with but its been great to keep track of the current modes with this live series and it’s highly recommended digging through vols. 1 and 2 as well. Pair this one up with a recent Starbirthed tape and the night’s set to transcend expectations.



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Weeping Bong Band

A second slab tumbles out for the ever-elusive Weeping Bong Band. The NY/Mass collective culls together the talents of Beverley Ketch, PG Six, Anthony Pasquarosa, Clark Griffin and Wednesday Knudsen, who play in varying forms under the umbrella of WBB. For a night in New Salem, Mass all members were on hand at the 1794 Meeting House and the tape was running as they seeped a sonic spell out into the room. The set is hazy, doused in curls of smoke and painted in plant dyes and ash. The tone shifts between the densely wooded hills of the Northeast — haunted and hallowed, suffused with the secrets of generations of spirits bonded to the wood — and the dry desert nights nestled among the barren hills.

There’s a constant sense of moan that winds its way through II giving the set the set a sense of creeping menace and gaunt despair. The guitars cry, not in outright anguish, but in a more personal pain — a quiet devastation that’s born out of secrets too dark to share. Something about the set being recorded in New Salem, gives it a particularly harrowing shamanic vibe, ferreting out old wounds scarred deep from occult rituals buried deep in the wounds of the earth. Appropriately, when vocals do arise, they’re incantations, screeds to the vibrating ethers, rather than tuneful musings. With this second set the band has cemented their status as one of the best nocturne collectives currently goin’. This one’s an essential trip.

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Jonas Munk & Niklas Sørensen

Another sparkling gem out of the El Paraiso pocket here, this time from label co-head Jonas Munk along with Niklas Sørensen (Papir). Always Already Here locks into a Kosmiche wave and threads synth ripples through the swell. The pair head into the project with minimalism on the brain and they come out of it nicely unencumbered, building hypnotic patterns that play in the analog fizz. With a palette of synth and syncopated guitars, the duo submerge the listener into the light, dripping sounds from the surface and rendering any surrounding noise canceled with their startling calm.

There’s a deep dedication to the Göttsching school here, and the album brings to mind Inventions For Electric Guitar‘s lagurous beauty on more than one occasion, among some later nods towards Ashra’s more synth heavy trips. The album is a sonic cavern, a protective layer that spreads like gel around the brain as it unfolds. More than just hanging the listener into suspended animation, though, the pair strip away the weight of worry with each round of repetition and each opalescent splash of guitar. The record is a sonic scrub for the soul, allowing a disconnect from reality to recalibrate the brain and take a breath. If the world’s been getting to be too much and you’re in need of an aural vacation, then Munk and Sørensen have just the deep dive you’ve been looking for.




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Dylan Moon

LA via Boston songwriter Dylan Moon draws a line directly to the private press gems that haunt forgotten dollar bins. Picking at some of the same sores that fellow folk shut-in Dylan Shearer wore clean on his two quiet gems, Moon is likewise a bastion of bittersweet sighs. More than just Shearer, though, there’s also a good dose of the boarded bedroom hush that haunts the likes of Bobb Trimble, Carl Simmons, or Danny Graham. The slight mustiness of claustrophobia that hangs on certain tracks is more comforting than suffocating, but where Moon differs most from these peers is that while his recording itself feels sequestered, it’s clear that he spends his off time (and likely some of the songwriting time) out in the air, soaking in the pale afternoon sun or drying in the salted sea air.

There’s an undeniable lonesome quality to the album, but that lonesomeness brushes against humanity rather than hides from it. Moon is a parkbench observer, a coffee shop lingerer. His junkshop drum machines shuffle with a worn mockasin slipper softness, but his guitars sparkle like the sun off the sea. Perhaps that’s what makes Only The Blues so affecting, it’s full of yearning from the edges, a feeling that most find themselves projecting at one time or another. It’s a folk-pop album at heart but the dust and scuffed veneer that Moon applies make the songs solidify into a sepia-toned sizzle.

At times the record feels like tossing faded poloroids out the window of a borrowed car, letting them fall where they may to inspire the finders to craft their own story from the baked-on vingettes. This is a great LP for the last gasp of summer since it’s ingrained with just the right amount of lament, a pang that speaks to the soul. It’s a Sunday depression that’s eased with each passing minute by the Tecate and lime used to mark the passage of afternoon hours, and Moon is right there with the listener at the other end of the bar, watching the patrons work through their own small sadnesses — islands adrift in the same sea.



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Blueboy – If Wishes Were Horses

The past few years have seen an uptick in the renewal of the Sarah Records catalog, but there still remain a few great outliers that are in need of a vinyl refresh. Now, I’ve been lax on the Necessary Repress feature, but rest assured that the debut from Reading’s Blueboy would have made the cut. It’s a raw, gentle, bruised sort of record that’s built for swooning emotions and grey-skied walks. The band recorded the first demo for the song “Clearer” and sent it with hopes of a deal to Sarah. The label would issue it as a single in 1991. That single, along with the follow-up, “Popkiss” would both be included later CD reissues on Quattro and Cherry Red. Now Australian label A Colorful Storm has issued their long beloved debut album If Wishes Were Horses for the first time since 1992.

The record is brief, far more compact than anything else they’d release, but thre’s not a stumble in the bunch. Over eight tracks, the band would build off of the sounds that “Clearer” and “Popkiss” cemented, finding their way into a niche of pastoral indie-pop that fit nicely between releases by Brighter and The Orchids that year on Sarah. The band would follow the album up with the lengthier Unisex before losing members Mark Andes and Lloyd Armstrong in the wake of its release. While the follow-up is more complex, I’d have to lobby a preference for their debut. It’s a short, perfect shot of pop that captures the magic that Sarah were peddling.

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Parsnip

With their move from short-form EPs to a debut full-length, Melbourne’s Parsnip flesh out their indie-pop pedigree while still keeping an off-kilter sense of freewheeling fun. The foursome throwback to an era of pop that was built on the no-frills post-punk model, but leaned heavily towards the whimsical end of the spectrum rather than bristle with the self-serious slingers. With digs into Athens’ long-loved Oh Ok along with touches of indie notables like Confetti and Tiger Trap and just a dash of Mo-dettes, the band revels in strums and sunshine harmonies that bounce around the room in giddy glee. They’re just as apt to twist fuzz bass and nauseous organ into a fit as they are to bounce plaintive picnic guitars off the treetops. Their voices fit together with worn edges — puzzle pieces punched out on a budget, forming gorgeously uneven pictures that win listeners over with their charms despite themselves.

Even though there’s a touch of melancholy that seeps into When The Tree Bears Fruit, its hard not to leave with a smile as this one clicks to a close. Its a quiet saunter of an album, never in a hurry to get to its conclusions, never rushing its ramble. The band seem to be enjoying each and every wobbly note as much a child spinning around in until the dizziness overcomes their ability to stand. Not that these aren’t’ accomplished tunes, the band has a proclivity for hooks and they know how to pack each song with as much crystalized creativity as possible, but theirs no denying that worries drain away while this one’s playing. The record remains on their longtime home at Anti-Fade in their home country — a label worth keeping tabs on if there ever was one, but they split ownership Stateside with Trouble in Mind, who’ve been having a particularly banner year picking up Aussie exports.

While the summer skies are clear and cloudless, it’s recommended that you pop this one on the headphones and take a stroll around. There’s hardly another soundtrack as fitting to keep your spirits up and and take the edge of the week than this album right here.



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