Phylums

A nice stab of garage goop out of Milwaukee, dubya eye. Phylums tackle the garage rock canon, launching through three chord wonders and doubling down on the Nuggets psych touches, swirling organs and some dark clashing guitars find their way into the mix n mire. They tend to brush aside the usual carefree fare of relationships and big dumb fun that often act as fodder for their respective genre, instead delving deeper into an alienation and desperation lyrical cycle that adds a measure of depth to their initially foamy churn. Though it doesn’t get dire by any means, no no, the band turn their dismay at monotony into fun for the whole family and Phylum Phyloid sits well among their Dirtnap peers as a bit of candy pop that crests well out of the speakers of the dodge on summer days. Hell there’s even a ditty about speech therapy. How can you say no to that? More down and dirty punk for the denim set.

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The Woolen Men

Woolen Men hew close to the DIY roots of the American Northwest. They wear a badge of unofficially zoned venue house band on their sleeve, and so it comes as no surprise that their latest rails against the homogenization and white washing of the scrappiness of their hometown of Portland. Though the themes are more than applicable to any number of great American cities these days, as the jagged edges that made them unique are sanded in favor of convenience for the flush class. The band pairs their battle cry with a brittle brand of post-punk dipped in a brew of Wipers’ bluntness and some Chris Knox circa Toy Love grit. They know how to punch urgency into a shape that sticks in your mind, clasped in with hooks that sneak their bleakness in under the radar. They’ve upped the fidelity for Temporary Monument as much as the former looseness fit their style, some clarity is a welcome addition to their canon. The more this one spins, the deeper ingrained it gets. Frankly you should probably be paying attention.



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The Barreracudas

If anyone’s taken up the true mantle of power pop these days, other than perhaps Warm Soda, its Barreracudas. Their debut hit like a wave of nostalgia for warm summer evenings, drive-ins, fast cars and aimless nights with nothing to do but get in trouble with a soundtrack that’s equally unrestrained. They pick up pretty much exactly where they left off on Nocturnal Missions, still bouncing along on taut springs and firing hooks into your life like swift kicks in the ass. Probably no surprise that there’s crossover membership from fellow Atlantans Gentleman Jesse & His Men among the ranks. They’ve got an equally ardent love of the candied pop of the crest of the ’80s but whereas Jesse usually rolls into buttery smooth territory, Barreracudas tend to reach for the outsized glam influences that took hold on the hangover of the ’70s. They were made for the bright lights glinting off of denim rivets and some platform booted stomping on your heart. This one comes via NYC bastion of punk’s bad impulses, OOPS Baby. Which seems like a perfect home for their brand of delinquent punk shenanigans.



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Dismal Light

Ryan Rousseau is probably better known for his fret work (Destruction Unit, The Reatards) than synthcapes, but as with his work in Gila Man, solo project Dismal Light explores the boundaries of electronics as medium, though Dismal Light pushes those boundaries well past his previous endeavor’s techno trappings. On Mindswap, Rousseau shifts from a feint of a melted blues sample into drone-droped synth, winding further into chugging soundtrack territory that belies his love of science fiction, perhaps picking up a touch of Carpenter in his crossings. He ramps in urgency by the mid-section, feeling like chase scene sweat and catatonic dance rolled into one. Truthfully its when there’s space and time to breathe deep cold fumes that Dismal Light really shines. Rousseau knows how to build suspense and when it holds steady it captures the listener. A fine first entry to new tape label Auasca out of NY. Limited like hell.

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The Cakekitchen – Time Flowing Backwards

Driving home a different side to the Flying Nun sound, Graeme Jefferies’ The Cakekitchen blends a bit of that telltale FN jangle with buzzing leads and a clouded moodiness that sits well with some of their American post-punk/college rock counterparts. The band was a move towards a more traditional rock-oriented sound, following the dissolution of Jefferies’ former band with brother Peter, This Kind of Punishment. Graeme would always remain the center of The Cakekitchen as they lost and gained members, but here on their first album, the trio with Rachael King (bass) and Robert Key (drums) gives the album a full sound that totters towards the experimental but always stays just this side of pop (well with maybe the exception of “One + One = One.”) Jefferies has a warm purr to his voice that’s not unlike Calvin Johnson but not quite so jarring within the context of songs. The band would go on to several iterations, eventually releasing albums on Merge in the US, and collaborating with Hamish Kilgour. While Jefferies has kept the band up in some form through the late 2000’s and its never really lapsed, its these early pieces that feel like a vital bridge between New Zealand’s scrappy past and American Indie’s fractured present.


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Terror Of The Deep

I’ve long had a soft spot for Wellington, NZ’s Terror of the Deep and the news of a new release is met with pretty high expectations over here. Night People Tapes issued US versions of their first two albums, both prime distillations of jangle-pop joy, but each of those fell on far too many deaf ears. They’ve squeezed in an EP between those and their latest, Space Epic, but that’s not to say its been a crowded release schedule, this one’s been in the works since 2013. The album is a bit of a departure from the breezy Flying Nun indebted pop that the band has often traded in. They set out to make a 70’s style concept record, the subject matter here being, well, space, as the title might infer, but also humanity in relationship to our place in the scheme. The album still has a looseness to it, slight jangles bumping against a rolling rhythm section that churns like the cosmos they’re soundtracking. They stretch out, tacking and weaving through the album, feeling like one big piece of pastoral psych that reaches as epic as they’ve intended with horns, strings and I’m pretty sure I heard a gong in “Asteroid Belt”. It’s another great step forward for Terror of the Deep, and frankly, I hope a few people get tuned in to realize what they’re missing.


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Wireheads

One of the great records I came to late last year was Wireheads’ underrated creeper The Late Great Wireheads. The band followed on with a tape for Brisbane label Tenth Court, who also stand to release the band’s sophomore album, Big Issues, next month. Traveling to the US to record with Dub Narcotic / Beat Happening guru Calvin Johnson, the record isn’t so much a shift from their last as an extension of it. Still shaggy and barely holding its erratic gyrations in tact, but with just a touch of focused energy that puts a bit of pop thrust on their post-punk assault. There’s a touch less of Tom Spall’s violin to saw at your brain pan but thankfully they left plenty of raggy harmonica, blender churned guitar and Dom Trimboli’s urgent vocal lamentations to sate ya. The energy spins the dial from the frantic energy of “Punk Song” and “Charlie Darwin” to the loping, squalled “Good Grief.” As fates have it, its likely that people stateside will sleep on this yet again but here’s hoping that a few good souls have the right sense to get one of these in their hands now. Its not often you get to feel the live wire crackle before others get wise. Here’s your best chance.

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Blank Realm

Blank Realm are a study in developing a sound. Its a damn good thing that chances were taken on the band’s scrawled psych musings because who would have ever believed that the band filtering noise through Not Not Fun and Siltbreeze would have emerged to lay Illegals In Heaven on us. The record is a far cry from those early days, channeling the hooks present on their run from Go Easy through Grassed Inn and polishing the hell out of them, even venturing into a studio this time with producer Lawrence English. The record that’s developed from this chain reaction is full of gnawing new wave hooks that possess the band’s near constant glow around the edges, chiming with a sound that’s rooted in the Aussie/NZ pop but feels like a true step forward. Blank Realm have typically had a looseness to their songs that seeps into the listener, melting away agitation and while they tap deep into that here, they’re also mixing those jangles with a whiff of neon and a punch of gnarled punk that sticks in the throat. Roundly, this is Blank Realm at their very best. It seems its all been leading here and if this is a first entry for you, then its a damn good place to start.

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Besombes-Rizet – Pôle

Long a collector’s trophy in its original press, Pôle is the work of two synth carvers who have more known credits apart than together. Philippe Besombes was an academic, trained in organic chemistry, but fled the profession for a life in music contributing several instruments here but he’s most well known for works in Moog along his career. He’s teamed up with Jean-Louis Rizet another talented multi-instrumentalist who brings keyboards, synths, flute, trumpet and guitar to the table on this collaboration. The duo’s work in soundtracks makes a sizable impression (Rizet most notably contributed to the soundtrack for Besson’s Subway) and the pair have a way with space and mystery that turns the whole record into a faded-edge composition of shots that evoke emotion without letting words get in the way. There’s an appreciation of Krautrock / Kosmiche that they borrow from and blur that into the French avant-garde in a way that feels like those two genres should never part. Gonzai record return this to vinyl, where, frankly it belongs.



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Ashtray Navigations

Phil Todd’s never been one to rein things in. With a discography that leans towards daunting and is just on this side of exhaustive, it’s hard to wade into his world lightly. A Shimmering Replica wouldn’t necessarily fit the lightly portion of that equation (clocking in at an hour, forty) but its not a bad place to jump in anyhow. Joined here by Melanie O’Dubshlaine, the record burbles with a seismic shake, doused with a hot ash rub that burns the nostrils. Zonked electronics quiver above saw-toothed guitars that cut jagged and gnarled and with an insistence that owes its roots to a long line of German Progressive forbears. Then, without too much warning, the record drops into subspace, subsisting on drones and tectonic vibrations before snapping back through a patch of polyrhythmic seances to no particular god. This record isn’t for the flirtatious traveler, it’s made by and for heads ready to zip the cocoon and let the sonics kick your consciousness into shape.


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