Browsing Category Reviews

Program

These days the most potent indie emanating from Australia is coming from the ranks of Anti-Fade, no question about it. The label continues their winning streak in 2019 with the debut from Melbourne four-piece Program. The band’s sound is rooted in the tangled punk ends of Pavement, the twang-tipped offerings of Toy Love and even a touch of Go-Betweens’ pop romanticism, but the band stews it all together without letting one flavor favor the top end. There’s even a beefed up whiff of what The Verlaines were aching about, though to be fair Program pair their strums and lyrical pining with a more gnarled and snarled sensibility that gives these songs a rib-sticking quality. They seem so versed in the cross-hairs of Aussie / Kiwi lore that the result is an instantly classic album that feels like its been kicking around the racks for years, just waiting to be plucked from cracked-case obscurity in dollar bin hell and put into regular rotation on the speakers.

The album’s got a breezy effortlessness that doesn’t come off cocky, just surefooted. The players have been knocking around a few other hook-knackered bands in their tenure (mems belong to The Stroppies, The Blinds, Meter Men, DARTS, The Faculty) and their collective consciousness channels the best qualities of their tangential projects into a potent sonic slap. They shuttle between wounded janglers and cock-eyed Aussie self-deprecation with ease and slip on into something harder, licking at the boots of power-pop without ever quite completing the jump. There’s a ‘90s nuance to what they’re doing, but it doesn’t come off as overtly backward tumbling or nostalgic, just reverent about sorting through their influences and making ‘em stick. There aren’t too many stateside that are finding this same uncanny valley and making it their own, though Omni, Uranium Club, and The Hecks come to mind, and Program can hang right next to any one of those bands. I’ve said it before, can’t lose with an Anti-Fade record, so don’t fight it. Get it on the table as soon as you can.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Bill MacKay & Katinka Kleijn

After already gracing 2019 with a hushed and humble folk opus, Bill MacKay changes tack and delivers a stunner of an instrumental collaboration with Chicago cellist Katinka Kleijn. Equally inviting and engrossing as Fountain Fire, STIR winds down another woolen path, though one fraught with slightly more experimental inclinations. The pair play off each other’s strengths – MacKay’s guitar bristles and flows here, threading a more technical side of his playing that’s come forward in his work with Ryley Walker in the past. Kleijn, for her part, gives the songs a less soft-focus approach than his previous album, adding layers of unease and prickled anguish through her discordant passages and plucked delivery. The record is reportedly inspired by the Hesse novel Steppenwolf, though that seems to be more of a guide than a milemarker as this one winds by. The story isn’t the focus, but the emotions weigh just the same.

The album is heavy with hope and sadness, emotionally bare and ready to get hurt again. MacKay’s playing is inquisitive one moment and heartbroken the next. Kleijn balances his runs as a well-worn foil. They fade into one another as the dominant voice of the pieces so easily that the focus blurs and bends, giving neither a true supporting role. They are a duo in the truest sense, weaving their sounds like sonic textiles, knotted but never tangled. Perhaps this isn’t for the fans who are looking for MacKay to lull them down the river, but for fans of guitar prowess and instrumental acumen, this is a gem to be sure.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Peter Ivers – Becoming Peter Ivers

There’s every chance that, even if you’re a fan of New Wave and punk, the name Peter Ivers has never crossed your lips. Even if you’re a David Lynch fan, Ivers’ involvement in Eraserhead may have escaped your attention. Ivers was more often known as a proponent of music than a writer of music. He had, in fact, recorded several albums – 1976’s Knight of the Blue Communion, 1974’s Terminal Love and 1976’s eponymous affair. Despite this, he was best known as a TV host, presenting the utterly essential cult classic New Wave Theater until his tragic death in 1983. The first album bears little resemblance to the songs on Becoming Peter Ivers. His first outing was threaded with jazz and blues, building to something more idiosyncratic in the future. Those other two albums were headed toward the New Wave he championed through a valley of singer-songwriterdom that was rumpled in the vein of Moon Martin or Warren Zevon.

Many of the songs here would wind up on those latter two albums, but here they’re stripped of any gloss. Demos seems a crude label, because it gives the impression that they weren’t up to snuff, but if anything the version of the songs on Becoming prove that even in private and without the intention of these versions finding their way to the audience, Ivers was still an undeniable charmer. Given his predilection for more outre visions on his show, its always been a bit at odds that Ivers’ own records were more in a lounge singer vibe, but he gives that genre a proper Lynchian feeling – the singer wrapped in plastic, alone at the piano, while a cadre of regulars ignore the emotional exfoliation going on upon the stage. The moments here feel private, like we’ve wandered into a closed session with Ivers. Its almost conceivable that we’re all intruding, until Ivers whirls around and gives a wink, letting us all in on the voyeurism for hire that he’s peddling.

Ivers was a singular entity, part Lou Reed, part Max Headroom. This era of music has been scoured and repackaged, but somehow there’s still a hole where Ivers once stood. His musical voice is a worthwhile addition to the strange bedfellows made of punk, pop, post-punk and ultimately new wave boiling under Los Angeles’ sanded soul. I’m eternally grateful that RVNG has made this available. Now someone issue New Wave Theater in its entirety for a viewing audience in need of a licorice strip search.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Ned Collette, James Rushford, Joe Talia

If you’re familiar with Ned Collette via his previous outing for Feeding Tube, last year’s Old Chestnut, then the new collaboration from Collette, James Rushford and Joe Talia might throw you off a bit. HIs last record was defined by its storyteller soul, treading a crossroads between Roy Harper, Lee Hazelwood, and Leonard Cohen. So, to walk into Afternoon-Dusk and hear not a word is spoken, seems like a complete about face for the artist. That line of thinking, however, discounts the playing on Old Chestnut which, divorced from his lyrics simmers and bows with its own beautiful intensity. Here Collette pairs his guitar with the idiosyncratic drumming of Talia (Jim O’Rourke’s band) and the viola experimentents of Rushford. While “Afternoon” dips into the water with the same grey-skied intentions as the instrumentals on Old Chestnut, where it goes from there is anywhere but languid.

The trio coats the first track in clatter and anxiety. As that sun dips, the the shadows loom and the creeping dread of night grows closer. There may be three of them, but the solitude here is palpable. Guilt gnaws at the bones of “Afternoon” turning the sun’s beams cold and giving every passing stranger a sinister hue. On the next side, “Dusk” does little to dispel this sense of dread and dire circumstances. Rushford’s viola doesn’t swoon or weep, but instead cries out in panic stabbing at the senses and inspiring a bit of fight or flight. The drums skitter like wild animals and Collette brings all manner of anxious energy to the track. The tones in dusk reach a peak that feels as if the listener is cornered and consumed, or at least in danger of becoming consumed at any moment. The record is another side of Collette and the ensemble he’s put together is playing at a peak. If you’ve come for round 2 on Old Chestnut, then this isn’t the right place, but it’s a great place to be nonetheless.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Hussy

Wisconsin’s finest, The Hussy, have been holding down the garage gamut in the Midwest for years now and they’ve consistently churned out a string of albums that synthesize sweat into fuzz-crusted hooks. Their latest, Looming, is more fodder for the fans who’ve already made them staples of the listen list, though it should entice any diehard of dinged and damaged garage in 2019. Bobby and Heather expanded their sound a bit on Galore and Looming finds itself a natural sequel to that hook-slinger. The guitars still grind, the drums pop n’ punish, and the vocals whip back and forth between the pair, with Bobby giving his tracks a nasal hammer that’s heavy and hurtin’ while Heather softens the blow (just a touch) with some smolder and soul. Though, she can bring just as much invective to a track as her counterpart to be sure.

The record culls in some new sounds, with flutes tickling the underbelly of “Sorry” but they make their biscuit from the overwhelming abundance of fuzz n’ rumble that they kick up over the course of 27-minutes. The band recently spent a tour opening and acting as backing band for Nobunny, and the experience doesn’t seem to have been lost on them. They channel a good dose of the feelgood recklessness that the Bunny has always captured into their new set, proving that they were perfect choices for the job all along. There’s been a slight shift away from the snotty punk vein with a heart of gold that was long being flayed by Jay Reatard prior to his tragic death and has been constantly caved at by Ty Segall, but The Hussy place themselves in the same school as both of these artists, finding the axis between pop and pummel and making it sound good. If you’re not down with The Hussy, you reconsider some life choices. Looming is a Midwest ripper to the core, and endlessly entertaining on each new listen.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Garcia Peoples

I’ve already broken down both halves of this LP as track posts, but this one’s a true 2019 crusher so it deserves proper credit in the long rundown. To echo the label, two tracks doesn’t make this release an EP, so don’t do it the disservice of calling it one. One Step Behind embraces the Garcias’ prowess for improvisation (as best observed in the live setting ) and amplifies it with ventures into psychedelic jazz and slow-burn downer epics alike. The title track gets most of the focus, which seems warranted given it’s the most ambitious recording the band has ventured in the studio to date. Recorded with Jason Meagher at Black Dirt, the track times in over the half-hour mark and the band doesn’t waste a minute of it, taking the listener on a multi-part journey and employing guitarist Tom Malach’s father Bob on Saxophone to drive this one through the Cherry/Sun Ra cosmic curtain.

The band builds the beginning into a circular riff, sliding off of the jam/psych axis for a while and into a minimalist float that locks somewhere between Terry Riley and Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick. When Mallach Sr. hits the speakers he brings the full force and nuance of his years locked in sessions with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Arto Lindsay and his sax proves dexterous and devastating in equal measures. The band exits the psych-jazz rumble with a powerslide into their expected, but always welcome vision of Cosmic Americana and it’s just as drenched in sunshine curls and verdant strums as any of their works. The track tears into its second half with a twin guitar attack but the band makes it feel like they’ve hardly broken a sweat. The song is a proper showcase of all that makes the Peoples tick – technical skill, boundless enthusiasm for elevating guitar rock, and grooves that can’t and won’t be denied. The band’s played extended and abridged versions of the track live lately and both work incredibly well, a further flex of their arranging skills.

After all that, they still have the energy for an eight-minute closer that channels the broken and beautiful excess of Gene Clark’s No Other, albeit with a good deal less cocaine dusting the edges. With a swap in songwriting duties, the band shifts bassist Derek Spaldo to the piano and new permanent keys player (and man of many instruments) Pat Gubler to flute for a late night, whiskey-soaked comedown dedicated to lost love. It’s one of the more tender moments in the Garcia Peoples songbook, and it’s good to see them shading in their edges beyond expectations. The whole record leaves the listener twisted and torn, lifted and lowered. I can’t predict where the band goes from here, but standing on the precipice of this release I can only imagine they’re going to completely tear down what it means to be a jam/psych/choogle/rock band in 2019 and rebuild it in their own image.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Ivytree – A Pillar of Clouds

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year from the Ivytree camp. Following the excellent, if not to say essential, collection that Glenn put together for Recital earlier in the year covering unreleased recordings from 2001-2004, Tall Texan has a new collection going even further back into the archives. The extremely limited offering covers Donaldson’s works as Ivytree from 1999-2004, picking up some overlooked covers like “Blind River,” which appeared on a Tom Rapp tribute compilation put together by Jeff Alexander of Dire Wolves. The cover appears there under the name shift The Olivetree, though it’s unmistakably an Ivytree treatment at heart. It slots alongside nicely with a (sadly) timely Ivytree cover of the Hunter/Garcia track “Rosemary” from Aoxomoxoa.

There’s an alternate cut from the split with Chris Smith, but the rest of this material remains pretty much unheard and, as with the last collection, it’s nice to tumble down the rabbit hole of Glenn’s long simmering minidisc archives to slip back into the early aughts fog of psychedelic folk that enveloped The Ivytree. Repeated listens endear these tracks as deeply as early gems from Glenn, and if you’re looking to paint the full picture of The Ivytree/birdtree songbook then this one should already feel essential. As mentioned before, this one is even more limited than the previous collection (ltd. 100 on blue vinyl) so probably best not to mull the pickup too long on this. The cool temps are coming, and despite its West Coast birth, this is perfect for the smoke-curled hours that lie ahead.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE (DIG) or HERE (LP).

0 Comments

Uranium Club – “Two Things At Once”

A new entry from the Sup Pop singles club sees RSTB faves Uranium Club getting a shout with a new double shot of gnarled punk madness. The single gives birth to “Two Things at Once (pts 1&2)” and the songs display UC’s knack for tightly wound guitars, narrative insanity, and post-punk the way it was meant to be – experimental as hell, rhythmic and ripped. The first part takes more than a few time shifts before settling into a hypnotic slide-out with their spoken-word cadence dripping off the guitars. The b-side is an instrumental wander through the most serene waters I’ve heard from Uranium Club yet. The song acts as a bit of a coda to the half that precedes it, threading in a bit of the same theme, and easing down into the horizon. I’ve always loved the Sub Pop singles for their willingness to take chances on bands that might not be a hit with their huge audience, though here’s hoping that like Omni, this is one band that might stick around. Then again, both Blues Control and Tyvek are in the ranks of Singles alums, so I won’t hold my breath.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Comet Gain

It’s been a long time since the last Comet Gain LP graced the turntable, and in that time the world’s sought to smash itself head-first into the walls as often as possible. The woven comfort of their last album, while perhaps providing shelter from the storm, wouldn’t be quite what’s called for in this year of eroding centers, our own personal hell of 2019. So it’s only fitting that Fireraisers Forever! is here to save us from ourselves. David Feck is back with his knuckles bared, a la Réalistes, a companion piece in discomfort and disillusionment to their new slab. The record raises its teeth against politicians and the body politic, idiots and ignorance in all it’s greasy splendor. There’s a relentless restlessness to the album – turning their jangle n’ strum into a shield against the everyday dig of the doledrum foxhole.

Feck doesn’t feint as the record bursts open with a declaration that “We’re All Fucking Morons” and the rhetoric only gets more sizzle from there on out taking down the scumbags and scroungers on “The Institute Debased” and knocking the very core of nostalgia from its pedestal on “Mid 8Ts”. That said, it’s not all invective and gnash, there are moments that soften in the sun (“The Godfrey Brothers,” “Her 33rd Goodbye”) but they only balance the stiffened resolve of the rest of the album. This is a classic clash of Comet Gain impulses — melodic, melancholic, misanthropic, and mad and mellow. What’s clear is that Feck and co. have never lost a step over the years and every new Comet Gain just adds to the legacy.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Bill Orcutt

After years of disassembling the notions of song through the divinations of his guitar, Bill Orcutt is putting them back together, albeit with his own slant on what folk and blues are meant to be. Orcutt’s always had a knack for taking songforms into less comfortable territory, letting his runs ruffle rather than soothe the soul, all while shaking the American Songbook by its ankles. He’s found a cache of secret notes between the pages of that songbook and he’s pulled a few of them into his own compositions for a ride that’s both familiar and transformative. The record roots itself in the same fingerpicked folk that might rear its head on a Richard Bishop or Fahey album and the same syncopated blues that informed players from the porches to the stage, but like Tetuzi Akiyama, Loren Connors, or 75 Dollar Bill alongside him, he’s taken the riff and ramble and given them teeth.

His runs aren’t pure, and we should all be thankful for that. When Orcutt runs the boogie down he’s bound to bend bones to the point of breaking if the listener is inspired to movement. Don’t nod along too hard lest you strain a ligament, y’know. His acoustic runs still bring forth the image of natural splendor, but there’s a taste of man-made disaster in there as well. In his vision trees are uprooted and twisted with power lines and smells of charred wood mingle with verdant moss. Orcutt goes to the well and brings back the elements of life, but not before letting a bit of blood loose in the water. We are nourished and slightly poisoned at the same time. As usual he’s proven a master of his forms, but just as usual he’s taken expectation and kicked it into the dirt. There are others that have tried, but few that can find that same singular light that Orcutt brings to an album.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments