Forma

On Forma’s third album they’ve expanded their scope to embrace a looser approach through improvisation, though they don’t dive into the idea lightly. Physicalist is constructed in two halves, the first follows their setup of vintage synths and Terry Riley/Faust vibes with occasional flecks of Cluster strewn about the synthscape. The second, plunges the band into a broader vision populated with flute, acoustic instrumentation (a first for the band) and elements of free jazz. Since the LP version is setup as a double LP, essentially they act as companion records with each focusing on a different scope, tied together by the idea of repetition and improvisation with an emotional arc fusing the halves through what feels like a cycle of self-discovery.

The first side is bound by their usual setup, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken a few steps forward. Barring the more techno oriented Cool Haptics EP, the band worked in groove oriented Kosmiche on both their eponymous LP and its follow-up Off/On and both of those releases feel much more tightly wound than anything on this side of Physicalist. From the cover art by influential psych designer Robert Beatty, to the double LP sprawl, everything here seems oriented to be more expansive, more attuned to the informative qualities of electronic float. The band works through tension and turbulence on this first portion, slowly unhinging its hold on reality.

The second side takes the notion of the infinite and lets it free. There’s a distinct progression along the first half towards looser and looser ends and they continue the unraveling on the second half to great effect, each track seems less and less tied to the idea of rhythm. They work this system right up until the title track, which bursts out of the second half in a vibrant and celebratory blast. Its still built into their well of synth, but adds a layer of pop that the band hasn’t really embraced. Its as if the tension and serenity of the preceding tracks melt into the background for the band to break free into a hedonist dance, leaving the academia of the album behind. Then, as a sobering up of sorts, the final improvisation rises like the sun over the tresses of the bridge line along the river, a knowing sign that tomorrow’s here and that a sobering reality awaits. Though, for the moment, that track hits like the halting bliss of a night well lived, the calm before the comedown. Its a great step forward for the band and one that knocks them out of any danger of being accused of stasis. They’ve built an well-oiled arc that uses the album format in a way that fewer and fewer seem to relish these days.




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Tony Molina – “See Me Fall”

Tony’s back and its short and sweet and this time the plug’s knocked out for an acoustic bite into his jingle-sized universe of pop hits. Heading more for the Lennon-McCartney or Davies-Davies axis than the Black-Deal or Cuomo-Sharp axis this time around, Molina still proves that he’s able to pack more emotional heft into a scant minute than most songwriters are able to punch into a whole album. There’s a sad lilt to “See Me Fall” and its only compounded by the fact that the song leaves you hanging on the edge waiting for more. Molina’s become the master of building tiny pop dioramas that whisper into your brain and take root, not only because they’re quick to the hook, but because like so many great offerings in life they just seem to dissolve before you can get enough of them. Great to have him back, even if it is in the short format. It’s telling though that Molina can pack eight songs onto a 7″ to be sure.


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Grumbling Fur

On their fourth album the duo of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan reach for their most accessible works yet, though true to their style, they do it by utilizing abstract means and experimental textures that come together catchy on the whole. Blending circular rhythms, bowed strings, eastern instruments, and dense atmospheres, they take an ostensibly drone driven palette and work together songs that seem simple but unfold into loose and winding synth pop gems that could easily double as Eastern psych-pop if you strip away the vocals. Those vocal are an integral part of their aesthetic though. Both Tucker and O’Sullivan deliver in somber tones that convey a sadness that oftentimes mask the songs’ more uplifting lyrics.

The duo rope in some good company to bring the assist on Furfour, This Heat’s Charles Bullen and Isobel Sollenberger from Bardo Pond both join the band on a few tracks, adding their shading to the mix, which shares much in common with Arthur Russell or Depeche Mode gone far more experimental in their instrumental efforts. The textures, layers and rainy day demeanor seem perfect for those who’ve sought to hide away behind heavy curtains and in darkened corners of the house. For every lighthearted moment like “Acid Ali Khan,” there’s two more that up the tension. Most notably this peaks on album standout “Suneaters,” a pounding track with ominous vibes that closes out the album on an air of dread. They find similar moments of menace on “Silent Plans/Black Egg” and weave spoken word bits that lean to the sci-fi and spiritual, adding a bent of countercultural occult to the album. Furfour elevates itself above mere synthpop and into an album of balanced light and dark, heavy and frothy, catchy and abstract. Its the band doing what they do best, polishing it to a high gloss sheen that’s bittersweet and comforting in its embrace.




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Ashtray Navigations – “Spray Two”

Last year Ashtray Navagations hit hard with their sprawling drone-psych record A Shimmering Replica. Now they’re back to hammer the psych nail even harder with To Make A Fool Ask, And You Are The First for the ever excellent Blackest Ever Black. The first taste from the record is a big one, the sprawling, side-long epic “Spray Two.” The track builds almost twenty minutes of pulsing, hazy dronescape flecked with piano improvisations. Screw releasing singles, Ashtray Nav knows when its time to drop a Tangerine Dream epoch on the public and let them sort out their headspace through glycerine tones and creeping dread. If the rest of this album stacks up (and I’m betting it might) this is definitely a force to be reckoned with in 2016.


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Morgan Delt on The Pretty Things – Philippe DeBarge

The third installment of Hidden Gems is upon us. Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that got away. For this installment in the series, I asked Morgan Delt to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked The Pretty Things’ lost album with French singer and socialite Philippe DeBarge. I asked Morgan how this psychedelic odyssey and true lost classic came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Premiere: Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – “Balance”

As mentioned earlier this week, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete have reached a new peak with upcoming album Balance, maintaining a delicate ballet between noise and sweeping beauty. The title track from the album is built on a driving rhythm set and explosions of guitar. The band highlights the track’s dynamics with a color blocked video that, likewise, explodes into bursts of static and saturated hues when the chaos ramps up. The song itself is a pretty perfect encapsulation of the album’s dynamic tension, riding the line nicely between gauzy goodness and a fuzz pummeled cliff of feedback and froth. Highly recommended that you check out the band’s latest on Captcha and Sonic Cathedral.


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Witthüser & Westrupp – Trips Und Traume

Mentioning Krautrock usually dredges up chugging rhythms, heavy guitar and a particular bag of overtly psychedelic elements that tend to go hand in hand with many of the genre’s luminaries. Judging on the cover of Witthüser & Westrupp’s ’71 classic Trips Und Traume, it would be easy to imagine that what lies inside the melted faces on the gatefold are within that wheelhouse. However, what Bernd Witthüser and Walter Westrupp created was ostensibly one of the most gentle and folk-oriented entries into the canon of Krautrock. The album is pastoral, relying on rhythm sparingly and rarely with the kind of intensity that would mark their contemporaries. The magic came into play with the combination of Westrupp’s multi-instrumentalist talents, roping in flute, trombone, harmonium, ukulele and percussive elements, and Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser’s production that gave the record a spaciousness that rattled around the listeners’ headspace – an effect that’s especially prominent in headphones.

Unlike so many tales of ’60s albums relegated to collector’s lists, the group had a certain amount of popularity, at least in their native Germany. They produced two other studio albums and a live album by 1973 and would collaborate with renowned intellectual and counter-cultural confidant Sergius Golowin as well as fellow Krautrock auteur Walter Wegmüller. Though their pairing was brief, this debut still stands out as a testament to German Progressive being more than just a few trademark moves. Its both an important Krautrock link and a psychedelic folk touchstone that should appeal to fans of either camp. In a time when almost anything can find its way back to production, this has found its way back onto vinyl via Ohr/Pilz and its well worth the shelf space.




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Wolf People – “Ninth Night”

I’ve actually been nostalgic for some Wolf People lately. The band’s debut and strong sophomore offerings were both on constant rotation following their respective releases and somehow a hot, stagnant summer seems rife for their particular brand of English psychedelic rabbit hole. On “Ninth Night” they tone down some of the flute (sorely missed on my part actually) but go in for a heavy dose of fuzz that builds to a chaotic din before being broken through at the end by their folk plucked guitar. The band have a pretty great handle on finding that knife edge between imitation and homage and while they’ve certainly versed themselves in their vintage collection of Jethro Tull, Yes and King Crimson platters, they know how to grab bits of each to find the connective tissue that bound the best prog together. The video gives the band’s live shots a fitting faded album art feeling that seems like a few of these shots could have rolled right out of that Träd, Gräs Och Stenar box from earlier in the year. Excited to see how the rest of Ruins shapes up.



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Lorelle Meets The Obsolete

Long due for greater acclaim, it seems that Mexican duo Lorelle Meets The Obsolete are finally finding a few more heads to dive into their shadow pop universe. On Balance they achieve just that, a more even keel between their love of heavy atmospherics mixed with gauzy blasts of noise and the dream pop core that finds singer Lorena Quintanilla soaring above the din with a clarity she’s rarely found on previous albums. Where in the past they’ve taken the My Bloody Valentine approach to noise first and transparency second, now the duo have pursued a way to let the listener into their world, and find a bit more to chew on lyrically than they had previously. The effect doesn’t loosen their hold on noise-pop as a weapon of bracing tension. They still know how to blow the hair back off the skull when needed, but now its nice to trace the finer details of some of their songs and listen to Quintanilla shine in her role as an essential draw to the band’s sound.

The record brings on a handful of technical assistance that’s no slouch these days, Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin’ Bajas) mixed the record and his drone driven touch isn’t lost on the outcome. Everybody’s go-to mastering engineer, Mikey Young, put his touch on the finer points and I’ve never let Mikey steer me wrong, though any reader of RSTB should be far more than familiar with my love of LMTO by now. The album’s real strong point comes in embracing the musicianship and craft under the bombast of amp scorched shoegaze, Krautrock locked rhythm burn or psychedelic melt. They rope in newer elements; post-punk keys, delicate atmospheres, hell even strums seem to poke their way through the haze on “Waves Over Shadows”. The band still doesn’t embrace what I’d call a hook, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. Its not their place to work an earworm into your head, its their place to infect your very being and radiate from the inside out like a third-degree sunburn. They’ve softened the focus for those who can’t fully delve into the dosed and diced side of the spectrum, but they’re secretly softening those listeners up for full on soul-melt down the line. It’s truly the band finding a balance and showing that they’ve got more to offer than just sonic assault.




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Shy Mirrors – “Cements”

Swedish export Mike Downey has found a similar muse in the short form pop-punk that drives Tony Molina to bash out jingle-sized nuggets of fuzz pop that are steeped in their love of Guided by Voices and, well, slightly less Weezer than Mr. Molina seems to favor. However, the same power pop elements and ’90s overtones are in place, just slimmed down to the hook and fed bite-sized to the listener. “Cements” doesn’t last long but it gets its claws in quick and feeds on a cocktail of nostalgia and a hunger for the hook.

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