Browsing Category Reviews

Guru Guru – Hinten

Not as celebrated as many of their Krautrock brethren, Guru Guru is just as hard hitting, though they wander a bit further into prog’s waters than probably a few self-serious collectors might be comfortable with. Screw that nerdism though. The band boasted Cluster members Mani Neumeier and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in various lineups and ran in the same circles as Amon Düül and Can so they certainly have their credentials in order. Their debut UFO is usually the record that pops into conversation, if any mention at all is made, but their sophomore LP, Hinten, is an equal monster. Two tracks per side doused in feedback screeches, ghostly murmurs and punctured with the Neumeier’s precision drumming, the album is worth more than a few spins on the table for the heads out there. And don’t let the b-side stomper “Bo Diddley fool ya, there’s not really a glut of the Diddly beat to be found but it’s an exercise in psych weirdness on par with the excess of the rest of the album’s psychedelic storm. This one hadn’t been back on vinyl since its ’71 release but was reissued in 2014 in a small run and now, thankfully, has a repress to refill the shelves.




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Mind Spiders

Mark Ryan’s made plenty a name for himself with his work in Marked Man but as the years wear on he’s building an equal reputation for Mind Spiders. Running on an engine of sneering and searing new wave, propulsive with an evil glint in its eyes, Mind Spiders sit well in company with the twitchy latter day hijinks of Hierophants and Andy Human. Its nice to see the garage boys grabbing keys and chewing tinfoil until the riffs bleed and in the case of Mind Spiders they tend to bleed a disturbing blue-green that hints at something plenty sinister below the surface. The sci-fi vibes run rampant and that’s the way some of the best new wave and post-punk should work, I love a band that gets nerdy for nerdy’s sake while keeping it catchy. There are only eight tracks here but the band leaves you breathless by the time the last track clicks to a close. Its been a good run indeed up to where they stand today but Prosthesis is the strongest set yet from the Spiders.




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The Murlocs

So a few tastes of The Murlocs rolled in prior to Young Blindness’ release as videos over the last couple of months and now the record has finally arrived. Naturally the band draw comparisons to singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s slightly (maybe just a little) more famous band, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but aside from having a love for garage as a base and the sound of Kenny-Smith’s blistering harp, its not entirely fair to always loop them in together. The Murlocs push away from the heavy psychedelics of their seven-headed cousins, instead focusing on a garage glazed R&B hybrid that’s more attuned to the stomping riffs of The Animals and The Remains than they are to lysergic breakdowns.

The album has plenty of propulsive tricks of its own but a face-melting barrage isn’t really the band’s forte, instead they opt for a kind of laid back swagger that plays it casual and hip-slung from the moment the record opens. The best tracks aren’t entirely reclined to the point of feeling lax, but they definitely have an air of stoned reverence for keeping it cool. At the core of that cool, though, is a hard pop nugget that’s tying the record to the rails, crawling like a demon for your dance starved soul and howling the herald of The Murlocs’ arrival is Kenny-Smith with lungs like fire. Its hard to pull off the balance of feeling leather locked composed and still inspiring listeners to jump up on their feet in joy, but Young Blindness pulls it off like it was nothing to sweat over.





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Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon have been a longtime staple of RSTB and over the years they’ve changed and mutated into a few different versions; drone, krautrock, ethereal Kosmiche. Through it all the one constant has been Kip Ulhorn steering the ship through these new waters. He’s solo but not alone here, taking the band further into propulsive pop than ever before but with ample help from a cast of ringers from his surroundings in Memphis. It’s Cloudland at heart and by name, but this seems like a whole new band filling in their shoes. Partly this is because those filling the shoes have a diverse well to dip from and they pepper the album perfectly. Ross Johnson (Panther Burns, Alex Chilton), Lesa Alridge (Big Star) and Jody Stephens (Big Star) all play on the album while Ezra Buchla, M. Geddes Gengras, Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips) and David Scott Stone (ex-LCD Soundsystem) add their own touches and contributions as well. And if you’re assembling a team with that kind of clout why not pull in some psych rock royalty for the production as well? Ulhorn enlisted Sonic Boom to co-produce the album and his signature space and weight are felt for sure.

The tracks themselves burst with a lightness that’s reared its head in sparkles on prior albums but now beams from the inside out like a beacon on An Arabesque. There’s that skitter and grind of Krautrock beats pushing the pedals but the top is soaring harmonies and crystalline synths that give everything a glow of sunset around the edges. A club element rears its head from time to time but its balanced out by the noise element that peeks in just as often. On the whole, this is Ulhorn’s strongest set yet and it puts Cloudland Canyon into a higher echelon of psych-pop that feels like a new beginning.




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Outtacontroller

Halifax’s Outtacontroller have a lock on buzz saw fuzz with a heavy dose of pop thrown on top to keep you constantly coming back for more; knocking out aural Adderall for the ADD generation. Their sophomore LP, a three-way tag team from Southpaw, P-Trash and Young Modern, is full of scuzzed out riffs, the loose, swagger bounce of drums and the cavestomp echo of vocals n’ handclaps pushing tempos towards the red. They’re not rewriting the book but they’ve studied well and there’s more than enough room in this world for a few more pogo rounds about girls, pizza and R. Stevie Moore? Eh, why not, I’ve got more than enough love for Nashville’s ringleader of weird, so why shouldn’t he deserve an anthem of his own? The boys keep things down and dirty and hewn close to the Ramones-rooted school of faster, louder, done. Though they seem to add more fizz than bands with lesser marrow in their bones. This one’s been stuck on my headphones for more than a few go ’rounds and it doesn’t look to be leaving anytime soon. Not much here breaks the three minute mark, but that’d be way too long to stretch these buoyant blasts anyhow. If you can’t pick up and run with it 90 second caffeinated bursts then the hell with you, Outtacontroller probably don’t have time for you anyhow.




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John Bender – I Don’t Remember Now / I Don’t Want To Talk About It

Not to be confused with the Breakfast Club character of similar name, John Bender recorded scores of tracks in his Cincinnati home in the late ’70s and early ’80s, putting the results out in minuscule runs on his own Record Sluts label. The tracks are never denoted by name, but rather position on the tapes that he amassed as he recorded this stockpile of material. Hence, “35B1” would be on tape #35, side B, track 1. He then rounded them up into collections and hand stamped the covers, each one unique.

But what’s more beguiling than the process or the packaging is the music contained inside, a kind of shut in electronic DIY. Minimalist to its core, the tracks are stripped to their core, all chewed wire and buzzing synths with close-miced vocals, each track feels like a bomb shelter blast of paranoid wrath. Included in the set is a duct-taped deconstruction of Faust’s “It’s A Rainy Day” that seems to slot itself in just perfect with the rest of Bender’s minimalist creations. Superior Viaduct is wrapping this lost gem up in a limited red vinyl package and hand-stamping the covers in a nod to Bender’s originals. For the fans of less is more, this one’s a necessary find given new life.




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Mugstar

Long running Liverpool psych unit Mugstar has never been accused of pulling punches when it comes to epic space/Krautrock excursions, but on their latest they push the boundaries of their craft further than ever. Pushing outward in terms of length (the album pushes past the 1 1/4 hour mark) and in terms of elements that the band incorporate into their sound, the album is both their heaviest and one that draws in some of the most delicate elements. The ideas for Magnetic Seasons came about from the band’s open-ended sessions at Whitewood Studios, allowing time for improvisation and experimentation to color the compositions until they found their groove. The resulting album is propulsive and crushing, but flecked with nimble fingerwork and touches like mournful melodica, recalling a heavy Krautrock version of Clinic at times and ambling further into the spaced mindset of Acid Mother’s temple in others. Though, as the band has noted the presence of Fender Rhodes plays a huge part as a central sound and inspiration on the record, often acting as a starting point for their improvisations. That element gives them a touch of Bitches’ Brew if the brew were thick as glue and shot through with clouds of exhaust.

That this album follows a solid collaboration with Can’s Damo Suzuki both gives them the status of legendary approval and a personal bar that’s a tall order to overcome, but the band manage to clear it easily and slot this in among their most essential releases. Finding its way out on Mogwai’s own Rock Action records, there are more than a few fine folks in their corner and its easy to see why. By the time this thing grinds to a halt, the listener is elevated, torn and battered. A damn fine piece of work.




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Ulrika Spacek

This London band scoops in enough buzzing Krautrock groove to qualify for their fully licensed psych credentials, but they don’t lean on it as their only weapon. Alternating between bouts of sandpaper hooks and chiming, punctuated guitar, the band knows how to wield atmosphere and pop sheen as easily as the barbs. Packed into the album’s ten tracks are washes and swells that on longer tracks stretch their arms out into winding fuzz breakdowns. These sometimes seem at odds with the shorter, crisp collared pop-psych that makes up the album’s other face. The band sounds as if they’re honing down how to put the influences at hand in just the right order, but they’re at their best when they shy away from some of the more subdued moments that recall Deerhunter’s finer brushes and instead steer headlong into spacier territory fraught with fuzz. Finer details aside though, there are plenty more hits than misses for them on The Album Paranoia and I’d say that a debut this strong merits keeping more than one eye on them for the future.




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Sheer Mag – III

Over the course of three EPs Sheer Mag have built a solid reputation, largely on their ability to squeeze 70’s arena rock and sweaty 60’s soul into the same busted bucket while heaping on the politics in a way that makes them go down easy, despite their songs’ dark centers. The recordings have a tinny quality, but that’s a part of the charm. Christina Halladay sounds like she’s being broadcast over an AM wavelength right into your best memories. There’s a bit of Shannon & The Clams, a bit of Ariel Pink and they split the seams between Royal Headache and Thin Lizzy nicely. But underneath the aesthetics beats a passionate howl and lyrics that deal with the grim realities of working class women in Ciudad Juarez, the machinations of hate and the implications of emotional manipulation. There’s a lot at play here, but at their heart the songs have enough catchy bits to make that combination work swimmingly. Sure lo-fi has had its day and its probably time to crawl back to clarity but the core of Sheer Mag is stacked like Tootsie-pop perfection in its sweetness and jawcracking fun and if you listen close enough, you just might learn something.





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SØS Gunver Ryberg

SØS Gunver Ryberg’s latest EP for Contort is an extension of her sound design centering on layered field recordings and persistent rhythms as a means to create tranformative musical experience. The release is made up of three tracks and an alternate cut that strips away some of the layers and goes for the brain stem immediately with the punch and throb of repeated rhythms. Ryberg’s work skirts the borders between dance, composition and noise and in many places its more of a barrage to be endured than to be moved by or to, but she finds a certain grace in brutality and in a lot of ways the record is the sum of its parts rather than just the kick of its end product.

The origins of some of her brutal bricks might seem surprising. The field recordings for AFTRYK were made in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, where she recorded the sound of the mountains groaning and crumbling beneath the stress of active coal mining. While serene mountain vantages aren’t the first image that comes to my mind, the violence of the mining tearing apart a serene environment can be felt for sure in the subtext of Ryberg’s work. There’s certainly a feeling of digital violence eroding the soul of the source material here. Pair it all with the spot on collage work of Anthony Gerace and this is a pretty complete package.



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