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White Mystery

Outta Control sees White Mystery step away from a lot of their comfort zones and some excursions work and others don’t but in either case there’s a joyous ripple that runs through the record that kinda makes it ok even when things truly get outta control. The band is still at their best when hewing a bit close to the garage rock that bore them through, though here they bring in the jubilant pound of pianos, acoustic strums and noisy squalls to augment the raucous rip of fried amplifier fume that’s been their steadfast companion. In truth, at its heart, there’s a great explosion of bubblegum that’s rearing its head on the album and in that respect there’s a lot of crossover with one of my latter day garage faves, The Dirtbombs’ Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey album from 2013. It gives the album a sense of elastic fun that pushes towards a more pop sound, that’s big and brimming and worthy of its own cartoon band (albeit one that might land on Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network’s daytime rotation).

The downside to pushing the boundaries is that it doesn’t always work, but any collector of bubblegum pop knows that any gum compendium is never 100% and in that respect the auto-tune laden, modern day pop satirizing “Pacci” is the bum sticker in the bunch, but hey life gives you skip buttons. Its not nearly enough to sour the absolute fun that gushes out of Outta Control. The rest of the album bounds by on spring loaded legs, bopping and swaying and generally sticking in your head like a pop-rocks coated aneurysm of fun. Been a long time coming seeing this band fully embrace their truly outsized personalities and run with it, on Outta Control they feel like they’re having as much fun as anyone listening.




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Tongues of Light

Brought to you by Andy Votel and Demdike Stare’s ephemeral label Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Channelled Messages At The End Of History began as a gift between friends, something not for mass production, but its too good to keep to a corralled audience. The concept brings together samples of new age meditation, higher consciousness seekers and occult dwellers, all sourced from the bowels of YouTube’s endless mind suck. On their own as an afternoon watch, experienced in full, they’d be grating or possibly just amusing; but when cut and assembled, padded with synth washes and ominous drone beds, they become something other. They achieve a psychedelic mantra, a through the television glass world of spectral freakishness.

Its new age sage for the ASMR generation, but instead of truly relaxing the listener with the subtle raindrop clop of fingernails and assured phrasing, the record winds up like a slow motion face-peel reveal of something glowing and gossamer beneath the surface. It never feels like a collage, the sampling here is so seamless that it just feels like the kind of lucid dream float that could only make sense in altered states, be your weapon of choice meditation or psychoactive toad. Pre-Cert is home to the types of records too weird and fractured for Modern Love or Finders Keepers, and this is definitely a kind of mission statement or high water mark for the label. For those with the right kind of ears, its a welcome ride into the sweat-lodge nirvana of the mind.



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Ricardo Dias Gomes

This one came out late last year, but to such little rumble that it seems fitting to kick some dust up about it now. Gomes is a member of Brazilian bands Do Amor and, Cê (Caetano Veloso’s band), but he’s crowdfunded his own release with -11 and stepped into his own light, even if for just a little bit. The record lays the fingerpicked intimacy inherit in much of his collaborative works into a warbled pool of hazy electronics which Gomes augments with devotional organ drones, field recordings and tape hiss. The voices are up close, dryly recorded and almost inside the listener’s head, which gives the feeling of drifting into sleep with nagging thoughts pushing and pulling at rest and wakefulness. Gomes has a talent for evoking dream states, even ones that aren’t always particularly settling. There are moments on -11 that thrum with uneasiness, but they seem to balance nicely with the more languid tracks. The one outlier is middle-piece “Some Ludicrous Self-Indulgence To Develop” which lives up to its name, feeling a bit out of place among the rest of the pieces with its sprightly exuberance. Gomes is at his peak, though, when he’s got that lilt of melancholy in his voice that feels like a faraway look. Those are the tracks that push this record into the cool blue light of day and the reason that I hope Gomes doesn’t just leave this as a one off experiment. There’s a vein to be tapped here and this feels like just breaking the skin.



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Sitting Bull – Trip Away

That this record ever nabs a Krautrock tab is solely because the band is German and came up during the
70s timeframe that produced many of those bands. It bears none of the hallmarks of the genre. What’s more interesting is that its a German band that seems to wholly and heavily in-debt themselves to West Coast American rock. They pull much more from Quicksiler Messenger Service, heavier Moby Grape, Kak or West Coast imitators like The Wizards From Kansas than any of their own country’s heavy hitters. The band is often most notable for being founded by Bernd Zamulo, who joined The Lords around 1965 and would remain in their lineup throughout their most successful years. Stateside The Lords are a bit of an blip, garnering some acclaim on compilations like Nuggets that focus on some of their more accessible garage fare. In their home country though, they were highly successful, albeit erratic and prone to lean into drinking songs. They’d release five albums and at least a dozen singles in the span of just four years.

Zamulo sought to break out of The Lords shadow to something more progressive and formed Sitting Bull, named after his fascination with Native American iconography, a trait that’s a bit cringe-worthy in hindsight but not so surprising in 1971. The band secured a deal with CBS and was allowed to record at their whims mostly on the good will of Zamulo’s ties to The Lords and his former success. The recording sessions proved lengthy and after the record was finished the company promoted two singles and setup a continental tour for the band, who immediately soured their reputation with the company by proving unreliable in getting to gigs. They’d break up two years later and by ’75 Zamulo would be back with a reformed Lords. The record, however stands up as a solid run of ’70s early progressive, with the band’s strength leaning on heavy jams that extend into solos and breakdowns that pushed the length of pop tracks at the time. Surprisingly the album itself actually did well in Germany despite the band’s efforts to self-sabotage. The reissue on Long Hair draws in two bonus singles that the band cut for Philips just before they broke up. Its probably not going to be the most essential piece in a collection but for completists and West Coast-style enthusiasts its a fun listen.



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Belbury Poly

Ah hell, has it really been four years already since the last Belbury Poly album? Feels like just yesterday. Since the music is crystallized in an amber gloss of ’60s Chyron clean, ’70s motorik burble and the vacuum glow of library music in any era before 1985, its always irrelevant what year it actually came out. Jim Jupp knows his playbook and he’s updating it a bit here with a skew that’s pushing further into the ’70s than he has on past records. There’s still plenty about Belbury that feels like its soundtracking ads for Danish Modern furniture and walks along the PanAm concourse, but now its starting to let in a few 70’s wide lapels in the foreground. There’s a hint of California palm fronds and rum in the air. The cars are more muscular and the love a little less free. Belbury has definitely crested its way out of the ’60s but its still got a lot of hangover from the influences that Jupp holds near and dear.

Still, it doesn’t matter quite which decades he straddles, the crux of Belbury is that intangible nostalgia. The tip-of-the-tongue feeling that you’ve been here before but never in quite this capacity. In that respect New Ways Out is hitting its mark squarely. It still feels like a wave of calming familiarity that echoes times when life wasn’t better, it was all just portrayed that way on TV. Things definitely click around a stylistic corner with the opening kick of “Hey Now Here He Comes” stapling a bit of glam to the swirling keys, sounding like bed music from an era intoxicated by The Bay City Rollers if Ennio Morricone was behind their decks. Its not a permanent shift though, and in no time Jupp’s back to finding the softer side of your memories and flooding them with a candied candle of children’s television interstitials and the saccharine glue of guided meditation seminars. In short, its everything that could ever be wanted from a Belbury Poly record, swirling in faded colors and star-wiping its way into your heart.


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Steve Gunn

First time I heard Steve Gunn was back in 2007 on a small label called Onomoto, known for acts like Taiga Remains and Ghosting. Gunn was pulling down ragged fingerpicked odes that hung in the air like frost. The sound quality was scratchy but the talent was clear under the hiss. Its been years since those days and ever since the second phase of Gunn’s life rolled down with 2013’s Time Off he’s been marked for greatness, steadily straightening the rumpled blazer sound that he’s stepped into. Eyes On The Lines is Gunn fully formed, running at peak but still never feeling flashy about it. The man can play. If you need any proof, plunk down a copy of Seasonal Hire, his collaboration with The Black Twig Pickers. That ought to set you straight. But even with the talent in tow, it’s the way he wields that makes him unique. Most of his songs tend to capture the feeling of the highway stretching endlessly on the horizon; sauntering in a way that clips by like the steady pace of pines out the rolled window. In this respect his solos never blister, they feel like the pent up relief of a good stretch when the car stops. They’re air in the lungs and feet on the ground.

Eyes On The Lines deploys those moments of clarity in ample doses but the surrounding build and fade is hardly shabby either. Sure its a more accessible and, dare say, mature record from Steve, but he’s finding a way to show age in style. The country touches whisper in at the edges, a bend of twang here and a dusted dose of strum running its way under the chorus. He’s still got some of his ragged roots showing though, there’s certainly a warble of psych that curls in with the rest of the smoke filling up the rooms of this record. In the end though, its all those touches coming together to make a perfect montage of diner coffees, halogen lights flickering over gas pumps, center lines and steel girders; the air peppered with throat dust and the cold freshness of leaves on the air. That’s the heart of Eyes On The Lines, that and the itch of needing to get moving, even when it feels good to stretch.

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Psychic Ills

Psychic Ills have spent a career playing to their particular whims and tacking them to the same name so kudos to not necessarily feeling that a new direction warrants a new band outright. People evolve and change and the band’s let the Ills name tag along through their phases. True there’s a part of me that has a hard time believing that the sunburnt country on display on Inner Journey Out – dappled with the buttery slide of steel pedal and fuzzed ever so slightly with strums – is the same band I saw sweltering in the July heat at the old McCarren pool in BK with a handful of faithful stragglers. But though the noise of those days is gone, baked off and smoothed into an excellently world-weary sigh, they’re still the same psychic troubadours at heart. The songs are ringed with smoke that languidly curls in effortless rings. The album has the feeling of having seen the world and finding yourself older, but not mellowed, just more accepting of the fact that the din (or Dins as it may be) isn’t the only way to kick up dust.

One Track Mind hinted at the shift in tone, but even then there weren’t the orange and cream tones that seem to color the bulk of Inner Journey Out. This is an album steeped in motel balcony nights, when the air is warm and thick… desert nights. There’s little about the album that feels tied to the city, or the East Coast for that matter. Its dusted with the squint of sun through dried palms and the heat warbled tilt of orange as it dips below the horizon. The band’s spent a long time getting to this point but, to be honest, wearied experience looks good on them. This is the sounds of a band playing with texture and writing what feels honest, even if its not tied to what’s expected. The album is psychedelic without putting your face in it. Like a trick of the light, its got more than one side that shows at any given time. Blink and it changes in a blur.



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Sand – Golem

Sand’s 1974 debut album Golem is an excellent oddity in the Krautrock canon. The album eschews the normal reliance on chugging rhythms to provide the backbone of their sound. Instead they use space and more importantly headspace to create their psychedelic platform. The album was recorded by Klaus Schulze in a format described as “Artificial Head Stereo Sound” (which sounds like a psych band in its own right). Immediately plunging into opener “Helicopter,” the band creates a cavern of sound that was made for headphones. It was an attempt at surround sound before there was a market, improving on Quadrophonic and dunking the listener head first into the band’s creeping psychedlics.

Golem is as uncharacteristic of Krautrock as it is of the rest of Sand’s catalog, which would largely become more proto-industrial, roping in factory field recordings and ambient noise to their sound. Here they incorporate picked acoustics that roll into menacing cradles of tone, enveloping the listener in anxious waves, curling and uncurling their grip on the throat. Then they completely break out for a wistful romp on “On The Corner.” Its atypical of its peers but it stands as an important rung on the ladder connecting the audio tissue between Ash Ra Temple, Pink Floyd, Träd, Gräs och Stenar, and naturally their mentor Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. There have been several reissues but Rotorelief’s 2013 version (still available) is probably the most deluxe and well presented. If you have a soft spot for 70’s excess and German Progressive rock, then this one is a must have.



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Laraaji & Sun Araw

Before some of the fragmented free jazz seeped into Cameron Stallones’ work, Sun Araw was an odds on guarantee to be the perfect pairing with summer. He’d nailed a certain element of humid listlessness that felt oppressive and glittering and like the air around you was vibrating at a frequency just a few decimal points off from your own. After taking to the road with experimental zither master Laaraji, he’s back in the zone; dripping sound from the stalagmite imagination of pudding melted landscapes and feeling every bit the time shifted master of slow motion psych drift. The record is comprised of four pieces that are part pre-written and part improvisation and the artists play off of one another in a way that feels sublimely intertwined.

The tracks float and quiver, find rhythm at the river and then seep out in disjointed dance with Laaraji calling spirituals over the top. In the hands of lesser folks it could be a total mess, but they bounce ideas back and forth with liquid ease. The record marks the first installment of Superior Viaducts new imprint W.25TH, their first offerings that aren’t reissues. Seems that, much like RVNG’s FRKWYS series, its focused on collaborations and this is a great tip off to what’s to come.



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Hintermass

As with all things Ghost Box, this one is worth its price for Julian House’s artwork alone. His signature style is always lush and dreamy, a perfect compliment to the brand of soft focus nostalgia that the label trades in. Every record that comes out of that house seems to be a bit like nodding off on the hottest day in early June while a junior high film strip slowly melts in front of your flickering eyelids. The latest project to grace those halls is definitely falling into form, though its a bit breezier than some in the stable. This may well have to do with Jon Brooks’s involvement. Brooks is better known around most parts as The Advisory Circle, a project with its own special brand of pastoral dreamwave. Brooks’s last album under the moniker, From Out Here was one of RSTB’s favorites of 2014 and he steps up to similar expectations as Hintermass.

The project graduates from a short form release for the label’s 7″ Study Series and makes good on the full length expansion, taking full advantage of the room to stretch out. Aside from the discernible talents of Brooks the other half of Hintermass is comprised of Seeland and Ex-Broadcast member Tim Felton, who adds his dream-stung vocals to the mix and gives the album much of its autumnal shading. The record winds its way unhurriedly, interspersing vocal tracks with the gentle burble of Kosmiche interludes, bringing the record into a realm that splits the divide between the most emotionally bare moments of Super Furry Animals, the psych folk patter of Roy Harper and the progressive whims of Popul Vuh or Witthüser + Westrupp. Its hard to go wrong with anything stamped with the Ghost Box insignia and this is another example of just how true that is.


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