The Garbage & The Flowers – The Deep Niche

Prior to the current wave of scrambling, digging and tape dusting to find unreleased material, the ’90s embraced a wave of accessibility with the CD boom, allowing plenty of unheard gems to grasp some light at last. In ’97 Bo’Weavil Records released Eyes Rind as if Beggars, a compilation of mostly lost to time recordings by New Zealand group The Garbage & The Flowers. For many, it was a release that sparked a deeper interest in the island’s fertile scene and gave influence to many who would embrace a folk sound that found equal footing in gentle strokes and noisy outbursts. The original compilation culled together home recordings, 7″s and live tracks that summed up their time after Torben Tilly’s addition. The Deep Niche captures a time even earlier than Eyes Rind, and surprisingly still finds plenty of quality moments that the “definitive” comp missed.

The core trio here is Helen Johnstone, Yuri Frusin, and Paul Yates with Tilly adding some drums and eventually keys on some tracks. It captures as raw and as vital a sound as its predecessor, swinging from the John Cale touches of Johnstone’s viola scratch, to a tender twee that would feel right at home with some Sarah Records releases, and the breakdown clatter of centerpiece “29 years.” The album finds the band in their infancy, but still lets Frusin’s songwriting shine through. There’s a nerve that’s touched throughout these tracks, and even with their meager means and scratchy quality, they’re full of enough power to uphold the legend that the band has built over the last couple of decades. Grapefruit gratefully presents this album for those looking to delve even deeper into the band’s history.





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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

It’s a good day when there’s news of a Moon Duo album on the horizon. The pair have relocated from San Francisco to Portland and they’re turning seasonally affected mood swings into cold-hearted psych with a motorik heart and plenty of icy atmospheres. The track comes as the first taste of a projected two part album that spins Yin and Yang into counterpart albums of light and dark. “Cold Fear” is, naturally, from the darker half, Occult Architecture, Vol. 1. It’s an itching vein of synth fuzz heavily medicated with the Absinthe cocktail of Ripley’s guitar lines. Hushed and secretive, the vocals add a layer of mystery to this cold-wave killer while the lock-step pulse pushes the blood to a tight boil. The band has always lent itself well to this darker current and they’re at the top of their form with this one. Curious though to see how they temper the lighter side in Vol. 2. Lots to come from Moon Duo in 2017!




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Steve Hauschildt

Former Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt hasn’t been as prolific as his counterpart in Mark McGuire, but taking his time has given Strands a conceptual hopefulness that’s immersive and gorgeous. The record is built around the concept of strands of rope, none as taught or as slack as the other, and the way they braid into a whole piece as the eye backs away. The pieces on Strands bubble and swim through a Kosmiche palette of watercolored tones, underlit with a touch of hope and a good dose of wonder. While synth has enjoyed a rather healthy spike in interest this year, most seem entirely beholden to the horror soundtrack, white-knuckle tension model that’s been brimming to a full cup for at least six or seven years now.

What separates Hauschildt from those who would seek to stretch their Italo-horror muscles is the sense of wonder over fear. There are certainly parts of Strands that hit tense notes, as would be expected from a project that ebbs and flows into a living organism, but he never hammers the fear home. Others just tighten the grip on the throat continually but there’s more power in a quick, tense knot than in a stranglehold. Those moments of tension are more gripping because they emerge from moments of beauty. Hauschildt’s added another layer as well to his tone painting, degrading the normally clean tones with a bit of dirt mixed in with the colors. The effect gives texture and cracks at the oftentimes pristine world of synth quite nicely. In this respect Hauschildt has found common ground with another of synth’s craftsmen not afraid to muddy the channels, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.

A long time coming but completely worth the wait, Hauschildt’s vision pulls into focus with each repeated dive into his aquatic wonderland. We may be hitting peak synth this year, but its great to see someone pushing harder to elevate the sound.


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Dag – “Staying Up At Night”

From the always reliable Bedroom Suck roster, Dag is a new Brisbane band that employs a fair share of jangle, mottled with a bit of wistful indie pop, that brings in swooning violins and the kind of shuffled and shaggy delivery that wouldn’t be out of place sandwiched between Hamish Kilgour and Silver Jews on a mixtape found cleaning up your teenage bedroom. There’s something grander about singer Dusty Anastassiou’s voice though. It’s flecked with a deeper sigh and the right kind of lilt that makes this song hit home just a bit more than the average jangler. The video, by Helena Papageorgiou pairs Anastassiou’s drawings with the band hanging in a drab practices space, showing a world of wonder flying by outside. The album’s out in February and with this first taste, I’m definitely listening.

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Skyjelly

The disjointed psych of Skyjelly has been percolating in my system for a few weeks now and I’m just getting a chance to sort it all out. Doomtrip Records pulled together a double album drop that culls some of the band’s previously self-released recordings along with a cadre of new tracks in tow. With regards to nailing an aesthetic, Skyjelly won’t let themselves sit still for too long; weaving a sound that pulls at strings of psychedelic pop, clattering blues and the shantytown shakedown that gives Goat a sense of displaced appeal. They have the heart of the old guard beating somewhere at their core (there’s a distinct, but faded “Sympathy For The Devil” simmer on the balk half of “Acosta”) but they digest most of them completely and work things into a sort of hybrid hairball of psych explosion that has the modern sense of being inundated with as many inputs and influences as a day spent on YouTube could offer.

Skyjelly Jones and his crew of strange travelers don’t spend the whole of the record(s?) kicking up dust though, there are plenty of moments when the sound comes down to a hushed, yet pulsing, thrum. On the simmering “Subway Rider” the band evokes the rootsy loose ends of Gomez’ softer side. Elsewhere, “Catherine’s Rabbi” also takes on a ’90s sense of rhythmic yet tender pop. Each of the pieces acts as an interesting bit of the puzzle that’s forming over the course of Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert, or Wizard, and even without the caveat that its two distinct albums, there’s a lot of spice hitting the stew here. But, on the whole, the band makes it work. They juxtapose and jam their plate full of what works and offer it up under the umbrella banner of psych. This may not be their definitive statement, but its making some nice promises.

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The Terminals – Uncoffined

Flying Nun’s recent resurgence and subsequent repressings have required a keen eye to follow where they pop up, HoZac enters the ring as the latest to offer up one of the catalog’s sorely overlooked artists. The Terminals featured members of The more acerbic Pin Group alongside members of the lesser known Victor Dimisich Band and The McGoohans. They too would eventually go down the same noisy, post-punk route as The Pin Group, but on their first two albums they maintained a sound that fell down the same jangle-pop hallways as fellow NZ stalwarts The Clean, The Chills, Able Tasmans or The Verlaines. The shift in sound seemed to stem from the departure of guitarist Ross Humphries, also of Bailter Space and The Great Unwashed, but his inclusion here marks some of the band’s more buoyant offerings.

No mention of The Terminals would be complete, though, without placing a fair amount of credit for the band’s allure to vocalist Stephen Cogle, whose rich tenor/baritone fluctuation and tender quaver adds a welcoming extension of kinship and understanding to the band’s jangle-pop offerings. Despite all the band had going for them, they remain one of the more overlooked bits of the Flying Nun and Xpressway catalogs despite best attempts of a few worthwhile CD reissues and comps compiled through the aughts. Beginning with this debut finding its way back to the vinyl format, though, its starting to look up for the band’s legacy. The record’s been remastered from its original tapes and the sound gets a proper scrub-up in quality, bringing out the subtle brilliance of this antipodean classic. Twenty-five years later, maybe this is the time for The Terminals.

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Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation

Upping the motorik attack from their first record with Rocket Recorings, Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation plummet into a vortex of swirling drums and swarms of buzzing keys on Mirage. From the opening strains of “The State (I’m In),” the record breathes heavy and damp like a vaporizer filling the mind with gauzy strains of psychedelic fog. Everything is dark and creeping in The Liberation’s world, a thundering bass reverberation pounds through the mind, darting between guitar lines like so many trees in a spectral forest. Those guitars burn, when they emerge, with an intense and alarming temperature that makes their presence felt. Ohrn pushes her psych journey almost to the edge of the dance floor though, finding that fine line between trance and drone, especially on lead single “In Madrid.” Here, she works repeated phrases and circular playing into a kind of semi-conscious drug haze that folds colors over on themselves in prismatic, shimmering sheets.

The band comes on like a psychic split between the heady dance impulses of ’90s-era Primal Scream and Broadcast’s haunted pop hallucinations. Throw in an agitated My Bloody Valentine vein that pulses throughout and its hard to shift your attention from the band’s entrancing chug. It works well, much better than I could ever hope to capture through comparison, and Mirage is a focused leap over their previous record, 2015’s Horse Dance. There’s a tidal flow to the album, rising into a euphoric pitch and sustaining it well for the bulk of the album before easing into the comedown. The group pulls back the feverish intensity as the album wanes, sliding into the (mostly) cool waters of “Rushing Through My Mind,” the abstract notions of “Circular Motion,” and the crisp-collared pop of “Where I’m Going.” There aren’t any real low points on Mirage, its a crafted tapestry of pop, psych, and swirl that feels as hypnotic on repeated listens as it does the first go-round. Josefin and her Liberation aren’t breaking the bounds of pop-sike’s hold but they are making a captivating argument for its continued existence.



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Tony Molina – Confront The Truth

Tony Molina is the master of brevity. He’s got a jingle wringer’s knack for finding the pearl at the center of a song and leaving you with a nagging urge to repeat it over and over in your head like the chorus that never materializes. In that regard, he’s perfectly suited to the short format of the 7″, a medium that leaves only enough room for most to squeeze on a song or three, but for Molina provides an EP’s worth of space to spare. He uses that space wisely on Confront The Truth shaking off most of his power pop pedigree and going deep into the bittersweet soul inhabited by Elliott Smith and ’60s rainmakers like The Pretty Things or The Zombies. He dives into the EP with a scant introduction before letting the Autumnal vibes wash over the listener in hues of deep gold and crimson.

He adopts the tearful eyes and ennui laden soul with an almost astounding ease, considering his more elastic rock roots. These songs get in quick and burrow under the skin, digging at the sighing heart of pretty much any listener. Its hard, as usual with Tony, not to wish there were more of each track, but alas, that’s not his way. Molina knows just when to resolve a song and fade out of view, leaving a whiff of sadness and smeared eyeliner on the air. The hope with any great EP is that there’s perhaps more to come, but knowing Molina, it’ll either be another seismic shift or, as usual just end up leaving us wanting even more the second its done.


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People Skills – “89¢ Public Render”

It’s hard to pin down Jesse Dewlow’s sound under the name People Skills. He squirms from rock shadows to acoustic dirge over the course of his new album for Blackest Ever Black, all rendered half intelligible under a broken VHS veneer of faded sound glory that seems recorded in an oil barrel under the sea. He’s at his best, though, on the chaotic clatter of “89¢ Public Render,” a junkyard hymn of electronic thrum and buzzing guitar beamed through a b-movie asteroid belt that picks up some odd bits of chatter. He’s been honing a sound that’s desolate and dark for years and its coming to a head on the intriguing Gunshots at Crestridge.


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Jacuzzi Boys

Jacuzzi Boys have spent their fair share of time in the pages of RSTB and its good to see them survive as one of the longest runners out of the lo-fi garage boom of the early aughts ‘n teens. They’ve kicked the gloss up several times over from the early days, putting a coat of wax on with each new album, and the latest is quite possibly the slickest version of the JBs yet. They’ve pretty much jettisoned any notions of garage at this point, and on Ping Pong they dive headlong into a pool of ’90s inflections that fit them well. Flagship single “Boys Like Blood” is the band at their catchiest and most polished, but its dirtied up with a nod from the ’90s production school that new how to turn grunge into radio ready summer nuggets. Its blows up like it was gassed on L7’s Bricks Are Heavy and tweaked with The Breeders’ sense of spacing and earworm dynamics.

The rest of the album explodes like a pound of Mentos in Diet Coke, fizzing and foaming and generally making a delightful, sticky-sweet mess of scuzzed-up power pop and grunge. The album picks up steam like a lost radio transmission bounced off the Azores and right into the dish in the back of our collective pop consciousnesses. Its got that tip-of-the-toungue feeling that cements some instant classic nudges among the twelve tracks in the grooves. There have been a few lately who are hearkening back to a time of full-stack pop rock that feels like its waiting to reach the masses and I’m personally open to a resurgence of full sounding alt-rockers that nick their cues from Fountains of Wayne, Super Furry Animals and Supergrass. The latter two definitely rear their head here on “Easy Motion, which takes more than a few tricks out of the Britpop songbook, featuring janglin’ juxtaposed with beats like Top Of The Pops flashback.

The band have always had their laughs injecting an element of oddball glee into their tracks, with crocodile wrestlin’ odes bumping lounged bellbottomed swagger in their catalog, but they’ve rarely sounded as confident and fun as they do here. That glint in the eye is sparking solid and they’ve filled the album with a new host of toothpaste stealin’ neighbors and blade wielding menaces. In their wanderlust through glam, garage, power pop and grunge, they’ve now found the impulses that suit them best, amplified accordingly, letting loose one of their most infectious records. Every time a long standing site fave readies a new long player there’s that moment of trepidation, but the JBs lay it all to waste. Gonna have to squirrel away some more space in the ‘J’ section this month.

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