Browsing Category Reviews

Ty Segall & Cory Hanson – “She’s A Beam b/w Milk Bird Flyer”

An excellent collab up this week from Ty Segall and Wand’s Cory Hanson. The pair have had intertwined paths in the past with Segall releasing Wand’s first LP on his own God? Imprint and the pair kicking around the same L.A. psychedelic headspace. The songs were recorded five years back but they’ve held them close to the vest for some time. This week all sales of the single go to the L.A. Black Lives Matter efforts, so pick it up asap for maximum impact. The songs tackle the turbulent and soft-psych sides of the both artists’ endeavors. “She’s a Beam” has a sloow build before exploding into psychedelic sci-fi light. I’m partial to the flip, myself though. While the a-side is full of blinding flash, “Milk Bird Flyer” has a verdant, psych-folk feel to it, with Segall’s rather documented love of T. Rex coming through nicely. Soft guitar rambles are accented with refracted beams of guitar glitter that feels familiar, yet still thrilling each time they sprint into that sunburst sound. Fans of either artist will find plenty to love here.



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Lithics

Post-punk in the new age has a pretty wide berth. While many feel free to ascribe the tag, their brand of the brew certainly feels welcoming, eschewing some of the raised hackles tendencies that made uncomfortable seem so appealing. Lithics have spent their tenure embracing the itch of post-punk — the brittle guitar gasp, the rubber-legged rhythms, and the leaden vocals that aim to knock you off your perch. The band’s been building steam through an ace run of labels, hopping from Water Wing to Kill Rock Stars, with a stop at Thrilling Living before they land their barbed attacks at Trouble in Mind for Tower of Age.

The qualities that endeared the band to the curdled masses the first (and second) time around remain in tact. The band still wields a hook with intent to maim and the rhythm is infectious in a clinical sense. While they often conjure up the bare-bulb flicker of minimalist austerity they employ a subversive strain like the best of their forbears. Where Au Pairs and Pere Ubu let discomfort crack the glass on the comfortable life, Lithics pick up the shattered shards and twist them into the wounds their influences left behind. The album festers but somehow you’re drawn in closer. The woolen weight of Lithics cannot be ignored and eventually it gets under the skin to stay.

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Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network

It feels like this album from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network has been sorely overlooked in the lead-up to its release. Its a damn shame because the ex-Oh See has put together an album that pushes her range far beyond the garage and psych roots attached to her. Within Oh Sees Dawson always provided the light to the rest of the band’s brooding dark — washing in areas of harmony and humility to the band’s rhythmic furor or blood-spattered psychedelics. On Ballet of Apes she’s filtering through the frames of folk and jazz, lounge and a hopeful strain of soul. Her songs crouch and coo, then open wide and soar. The album is bruised but resilient and its some of her best work in any context.

As for those lumped into her Mothers Network, Dawson has assembled a rather enviable crew. The backing musicians range far and wide, picking up friends from New York, San Francisco, and Melbourne. The Mothers Network are at any time Mikey Young (Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Flying Canyon), Mike Shoun (Oh Sees, Peacers). Then as the album slides into its latter half Dawson pairs with RSTB faves Sunwatchers for a bout of jazz smolder that slips beyond the veil of light and into a space that’s inhabited by smoke and smudged by hot coal chemical interactions. The band and Dawson make a particularly potent pair and here’s hoping that they might make it more of a regular occurrence. Highly recommend digging further into this one again and again.




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Zachary Cale

The latest album from Zachary Cale, while awash in a sort of sunset dulcet feeling is also soaked in a good dose of uncertainty that feels rather relatable. While the album’s been in the works for the last five years, that uncertainty captures the feeling of a year that seems unable to let up. Cale’s pace quavers between rambling fingerpicked rivulets and the kind of buttered comfort that’s made Kurt Vile, Mike Polizze and the Philly set simmer. He peppers in instrumentals that let his understated prowess shine — skewing pensive at some times, and propulsive at others — tying the album together like a faded tapestry. It’s in his equally worn and weathered lyrics, though, that Cale glows the warmest.

False Spring, as the title suggests, deals with a glimmer of hope snuffed by chance and change. Time is beast on this record, leaving the protagonist stranded, stifled, and generally set adrift. Cale’s songs gnaw at uncertainty and are in turn gnawed right back. Occasionally he revels in the looseness of it all, but more often than not Cale is leaning into the bitter winds with an eye in both directions. He’s looking for the lamplight on the horizon and it’s never quite clear if he’s bound to find it. He brings along a pretty good crew on the voyage, though. His tight backing band including Brent Cordero and Charles Burst of The Occasion is amplified by particularly languid pedal steel from Dan Lead, whose lent his tone to Jess Williamson, Kevin Morby and Cass McCombs. The record is a raft in waters that aren’t so forgiving and its worth holding on tight.




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Stonegrass

I let loose a track from this monster earlier in the month, but now the full album is upon us and it’s even more expansive than the fuzz chomper, “Tea” lets on. Brainstormed out of sessions between Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn (The Cosmic Range, The Golden Road) and Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble) following the end of their previous endeavor, The Spiritual Sky Blues Band— the two find a cosmic nirvana that mixes hazed strums with wind-bitten fuzz. The album employs haunted psych textures beset with flute fumigations and deep-set zones that ripple through a particularly nocturnal temperament. The pair link up with Tony Price (US Girls/Young Guv) on production, making for a potent triumvirate of psychedelic resonance. There’s a deeply grooved library music mantra about the album, rolling together elements of The Feed-Back and Alessandroni while slicing through prog puddles filled with the likes of Xhol Caravan, Kraan, and Paternoster.

Anderson’s involvement injects a slight tinge of funk to the project, as can be heard in the predawn dabbling of “The Highway (To All Known Places),” but the default setting is one of scorched mind-flay with the amps set at fuzz-rumble and the ambience creeping in with a full dose of menace. Dunn and Anderson are certainly no newcomers to the psychedelic sense, but what’s most affecting here is their want to delve deep into their archives of personal pedigree to emulate the far-gone burnt ends of instrumental indulgence. There’s something to love here for the heads who just want to hole up in groove and fuzz, something for those who love the instrumental crust belt, and something for fans of Dunn and Anderson in general. Stonegrass is every bit the dropout dose that the signifiers suggest and more. I suggest strapping in for a turbulent ride.




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2nd Grade

This one’s a huge undertaking. While the power pop universe of Peter Gill (Friendship, Free Cake For Every Creature) rarely lasts more than two minutes, he’s packed 24 songs onto this LP from Double Double Whammy. Gill’s approach pushes aside the dedication to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that so many of the latter day saints of power pop have adopted, almost to a dogged fault. Instead it’s clear that Gill’s heart belongs to the ‘90s school as it bled into the early aughts and he’s not afraid to wear that badge proudly on his sleeve. Snagging both ends of the decade, there are the huge hooks and that touch of sunshine with a melancholy soul that marked the works of the Velvet Crush/Mathew Sweet/Choo Choo Trains axis. Yet its clear that Gill may have had a Ben Kweller or Radish CD in his Case Logic clutch as well. Moments that recall the sorely overlooked 2nd offering from Superdrag crop up as well as an aftertaste of Fountains of Wayne.

Gill’s ability to pluck from so many different nooks of the ‘90s and still make the album feel cohesive and natural speaks to his songwriting. Shifts from winsome and sweet, to a more gnarled feel come without the jostling they might cause in lesser hands. Inside jokes that would make the Apples in Stereo blush abound. Strums that are simple and saccharine litter his work, but they land every time. The album’s a treasure trove of hooks and a ‘choose your own adventure’ volume of heartbreak and joy if the shuffle feature is employed. There’s something about the sheer volume of tracks mixed with the bite-size approach that feels like there’s no wrong way to listen to Hit To Hit. With the temps climbing this month, it feels like letting a little sun shine in is a good idea and 2nd Grade have got ya covered for any moment.





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The Reds, Pinks and Purples – “I Should Have Helped You”

Some subtle news slips out over the long weekend that there’s a new 7” from The Reds, Pinks and Purples coming on EU label Discreet Music. The official follow-up to the band’s last LP, Anxiety Art culls four tracks from Glenn and co.’s prolific Bandcamp run over the last few months. In addition to the title track, “I Should Have Helped You,” the record picks up official version of “Unrequited,” “Keep Your Secrets Close,” and “They Only Wanted Your Soul.” As with the last album the band excels at mining the Sarah Records heyday with songs that tip both jangled and jilted – catchy but with a true melancholy heat. There’s not a cut on here worth missing but check out the autumn sighs that abound on the EP closer below. The song’s got Glenn’s earnest delivery humming and close enough to feel breath in the speakers, but its heard to push down the lump in the throat that forms over these two and a half minutes. Seems there should be some copies stateside soon, but there’s a link below for the import as well. Along with his Telephone Numbers output, these are some of Donaldson’s most intimate, but aching songs and its worth keeping an ear on them to see what’s popping up next.




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Prana Crafter

While there may be a lot going on (even while there’s nowhere to go) that’s no reason not to focus in on the head zone these days. In the midst of global pandemic, there’s been a wealth of new music from RSTB fave Prana Crafter — from tapes to streams, and it begs lower light and a deep dive into the embryonic abyss. First, as a part of an excellent drop of albums from Null Zone Tapes, which also included one from Rootless, Curanderos, and Khoutek, Will Sol inhabits the cosmic cloud on two sidelong tracks. The first cut nudges into Terry Riley territory – amorphous and numbing in a wonderful way before it begins to take shape from the dust with ripples and riffs that let the mind wander interdimensionally for at least a few minutes. As the listener is lead out of the stasis haze, Sol filters in a touch of organ and acoustic playing that brings us all back to our senses. The visions that floated to the surface during the sensory depravation of the first 10-12 minutes fade away, but footing is still a bit spongey at best. Things turn much darker on the second side, and a whole lot less serene.

With a riff that sounds like Sabbath, or Amon Düül II filtering over the hills (its hard to pin down through the tempest winds that seem to blow up), Sol begins a more scorched approach on “Eye Closed Inner Thunder.” The song quivers in an unseen gale, but it seems defiant in the face of nature — screaming into the void and lashing itself to the mast. The two pieces, while nothing alike in tone give the impression of two halves of a whole. The first is bliss, ignorant or otherwise, and overwhelming calm. The second is the voice inside that told you to panic and the rage that bubbles beneath the surface come calling for a visit. Though neither of those feeling overwhelm the second piece by the end. Sol tame the tempest with a flurry of acoustic strums that match up with some of his best.

If this hits you right and you’re in the mood for more Crafter then I’d recommend heading over to Youtube to check out a set Will did from home that lays out some new material — comprised of the bulk of a new album he’s working on for Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube later in the year along with few embellishments. Definitely an engrossing 30-min set for any night you need to hit the zone. Side note on the Null Zone releases as well — all proceeds from digital sales for this album will be donated to the Garrie Vereen Memorial Emergency Relief Fund organized by Nuçi’s Space in Athens, GA. The set is pay as you wish, but keep that in mind as you checkout.





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Ash & Herb

Maine duo Ash & Herb (Ash Brooks and Matt Lajoie) have been incubating a haven of psyco-delic bliss in the Northeast for sometime. Under their Flower Room imprint they’ve housed releases by both Matt and Ash solo, combined, meditating as Starbirthed and interspersed into different tessellations of the two — with focuses ranging from Kosmiche to folk. When combined, and flying under the Ash & Herb banner, the results can vary stylistically. Their last single hit on a Cosmic Americana choogle that was well received around here. Perhaps someday they’ll return to the grooved graces of that particular valley, but for “Roughin’ It” they travel outward, into the gaseous ether that clings loosely to this Terra Firma.

The pair recorded the bulk of the album live in spaces around New England and it showcases them pushing their improvisational itch into the furthest reaches of headspace harmony. The album kicks in with two tracks that buzz with a writhing energy — insistent hum n’ thrum that resolves into cosmic glances. They soften the approach as the record works its way in, not quite finding breezy but settling on a swayed hiss for “Mudra of Creation.” The song, and really the record on the whole, has a raw quality to it. There’s a vulnerability that feels like it hovers between bootleg live lightning and homegrown private press goodness. The playing is untethered, yet fluid. The band’s not wrong to label some of the nodes here Frippian in their approach and we’re all at the benefit of the mutable magic that takes place over the extent of this tape.

Highlight “Ascension Tea” rides the invisible airwaves through the small bones of the skull, reverberating the senses and looking to lock down the lysergic energy that we all need to get us through the day/week/month at hand. The sounds slip through the soil of our consciousness feeding the soul with a refreshing dose of damp psychedelics and free zone simmer that’s vital when the air fogs with spring’s sop. While this would all be a bounty on any day, Matt and Ash don’t let the spring run on just this release alone. Alongside this they offer up a new EP from Ash that’s every bit the equal to the zones traversed here and a bevy of outtakes too. Plus a stash of Herbcraft sketches that give context to Wot Oz while standing up well on their own. Check the label’s site and get digging into all that they have to offer. Stream the whole album below before it’s out tomorrow.



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Woods

Following 2017’s healing hand that was Love Is Love, Woods return changed, as we all are, but still mining the same mercurial magic that’s always surrounded them. While the last album dealt with finding optimism in the face of crushing disappointment (2016 in a nutshell), Strange To Explain has the benefit, or rather the burden, of having lived in the world a few more years since the bottom fell out. The band spent time growing— nurturing family and the label — and now they return with an album that’s tender, but also bruised. That yearning optimism that surrounded Love Is Love has tempered into a wistful reservation. They’re still looking to spread that love, but Woods seem to understand that it can feel hard to find a foothold on the ladder out of our low points these days. Likewise, despite the inclination there might to lash out, the record lacks the rhythmic turbulence that drove City Sun Eater In The River of Light. In its place there’s a contentedness underlying the album, the feeling that while the outer universe might spin out of control, our own nuclear worlds can still be a center of peace.

There’s some worry too, how could there not be? It melts for the most part, though, under Earl and co’s radiant glow. The band’s been refining their sound for years, and each new album adds a layer of lush comfort that solidifies them as leading their folk peers while constantly existing outside of any established models. Woods and Woodist are inseparable and the community that they’ve built around themselves shimmers through on Strange To Explain. The communal vibes of the label’s namesake festival are threaded through the album. The harmonies hug close. The instruments blend in watercolor coolness.

Don’t let the smooth taste take away the band’s bite, though. The headiness that positions them high atop the list of bands who can knock the hell out of a live set pokes out from under the lacquered veneer. Album closer Weekend Wind, pushes the album out of its sun-in serenity and into a few gnarled grooves that catch the Cosmic Americana wind. “Fell So Hard,” feels like it might lend itself to ten-minute extension once the amps are warm and humming. There are probably few who need an introduction to what Woods are about at this point, but if you need a reminder of why they’ve remained vital this past decade or so, Strange to Explain is more than up to the challenge.




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