Steve Gunn – “Conditions Wild”

Its always nice to see longtime RSTB faves grow to the kind of widespread attention they deserve. Steve Gunn has been a fixture on the site for quite a while and his classic Golden Gunn album remains on constant rotation on my turntable. Way Out Weather broke him to a wide audience and signing to Matador probably won’t hurt either, huh? The first taste of his new album for the venerable label, Eyes On The Lines, takes a more accessible direction than ever, delving into the lushest bit of singer-songwriter territory Gunn’s ever explored. But with that unmistakable Gunn guitar snaking its way through the track and a crack team of players assembled for the album – Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, organ), Hans Chew (wurlitzer), James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro), Mary Lattimore (harp), Jason Meagher (bass, guitar, flute), Paul Sukeena (guitar), Justin Tripp (bass, keyboards), and John Truscinski (drums) – it would be hard to keep this one under wraps for long.

The video takes Steve on a stop-motion diorama trip through the woods that ends with Steve charming his would be threats with his guitar. Seems like a solid plan to me. This is looking to be an album worth keeping tabs on until its June release.

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CFM

Its a little hard to divorce Charles Mootheart’s work from that of his longtime collaborator and often bandmate Ty Segall. There are a lot of the same influences, styles and obsessions at work in both men’s work and such close collaboration naturally brings up a few comparisons. CFM’s sound seems to be springing from a well of garage, psych and thick billows of 70’s glam stomped classic rock fodder. So yeah, check boxes all around as far as crossover appeal, but if the guitar strap fits, fuck it. The sound’s thick cut and meaty and it’s sometimes hard to believe that this was laid down on 1/4 inch tape, it feels like a much bigger studio record and it’s impressive what Mootheart’s done left to his own devices.

Though he’s been a member of Epsilons, Fuzz, The Moonhearts and Ty’s band for some years, there hasn’t really been a front and center avenue for Mootheart’s work until this solo LP. He’s definitely playing in the same leagues as Chad Ubovich, Kyle Thomas and the rest of the crew of pop miscreants that orbit the L.A. hub of creation that’s now making up the bulk of weirdo garage-psych these days. Its not a broken mold that’s at play here but Mootheart knows what to do with the form he’s working in and the record’s got some pretty shiny moments amongst its crust of amplifier fuzz.




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Spectres – “Strange Weather”

Moving into a lusher headpsace than on previous LPs, Vancouver’s Spectres are nailing a classic post-punk sound that seems slotted nicely between The Sound’s “Heyday” and early Cure singles. “Strange Weather” is built around on the urgent beat set down by drummer Mitch Allen and carves its way from there. Cavern echoed vocals bounce like hazy dreams and the band nails the crunch of guitar that’s pulled from the tail end of glam and crushed like glass until it gets that panic and pomp that defined the early ’80s post-punk elite. Spectres are definitely echoing a time long gone, but as hordes of bands have proven, never forgotten; and while it seems that at times they’re parading in another era’s eyeliner, they’re making it look damn good and sound even better. Seems this LP has been in the works for a while and hit a few snags but its finally making its way to the world in May.



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Träd, Gräs och Stenar – Box Set

Springing from the remains of International Harvester and Persson Sound, both groups worth peeking into in their own right, Träd, Gräs och Stenar (Trees, Grass & Stones) was at the forefront of the psychedelic movement in Sweden in the late ’60s. The band was built around the live experience, setting up shows on their own that heavily pulled in audience interaction. At the core of the group was Bo Anders Persson, who’d already done time with his earlier band Persson Sound. Persson began leaning into rock after a career that started off working with Terry Reilly, but finding rock to be much more inclusive he found his home marrying experimental impulses to rock’s medium. His emphasis on exploratory forms and DIY setup with Persson only grew stronger as he added musicians and went on to transition to what would become Träd, Gräs och Stenar.

The band recorded two studio albums, Rock För Kropp Och Själ and an eponymous LP, but the studio is not the focus here. As the band was rightfully a live band first and foremost, they recorded several live albums including their two most well known, Djungelns Lag and Mors, Mors. Anthology have rounded up a set that includes these two albums from ’71 and ’72 respectively along with a new set, culled from recordings the label sourced from member Jakob Sjöholm. The new set, Kom Tillsammans, features recordings that have never seen light to this point.

That’s a hell of a lot of backstory, as for the music, TGoS don’t lean too heavily any crazy psychedelic effects, but instead delve into a territory that blends Swedish folk with The Dead’s style of longform jams as an exploratory conduit, feeding off of the audience and pushing their songs well past their originally written bounds. Though, don’t let the folk tag fool ya, the band definitely get heavy and its easy to see that they had a love of groove and the blues germ that fed into many of their British and American counterparts. There’s a proto-Krautrock kick here and they share some of the same impulses, if not necessarily the precision that their German peers would latch onto in the same period of time.

Its a hefty set, but for those with the right kind of ears, highlights like the 26+ minute jam “Sommarlåten” and 23+ minute “Ofullständiga rättigheter” provide a glimpse into their prowess. This one is a gem, as is pretty standard for Anthology’s in depth releases and at 6xLPs, its a bit of an investment as well, but a worthwhile one. This is a key piece of history that deserves this new light.




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Bleached

By now you should need very little reason to queue up to listen to Bleached, but Welcome the Worms is certainly another strong argument in their favor. Doubling down on the pop aspects of Ride The Heart, the band teamed up with producer/engineer Joe Chiccarelli to take their sound from big to huge. The songs on WtW are stung with post-relationship crumble, the beautiful chaos of youth and a welcome kind of self-assured bravado that knows that sometimes everything can be solved with the ozone crunch of guitars and a hook that snags hard and twists deep. In a way there’s a part of me that laments the state of modern radio here, because its a damn shame that “Sour Candy” will never get to be the kind of ubiquitous pop hit it deserves to be. Its one of the strongest moments on an album full of strong moments and has that feeling of endless summer in its veins mixed with a pang of ennui for every night that passes.

The tone of WtW is shifted to a heavier place, not only emotionally but musically. There was still an element that could be construed as girl group or surf in Ride The Heart, but here they’ve embraced the heart of punk-pop and deepened their roots in a 70’s and 80’s radio ready sheen that explodes these songs across the panorama of your speakers. A love letter to their city of Los Angeles, the album is crammed with photo booth vignettes that wiz by in a blur but leave their mark on you much longer than the needle runs the groove. They’ve wiped clear any doubts that Bleached aren’t sitting at the adult table, even if they’re still telling a few YA tales.



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The Myrrors – “Entranced Earth”

The Myrrors upcoming album on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond has a couple of tracks out there now but the epic sprawl of the album’s title track is by far the most intriguing. Laden with overlapping waves of squall, a motorik chug and a haze of saxophone and flute; the track descends into the swamp of psychedelic miasma in a disorienting plunge. The song finds its groove quickly and locks in for a complete and total nod out. The band aren’t looking for a hook, far from it, the hook is that they reach further for the edges of space and stir up the dust clouds that echo the quarks in the back of your mind. But every time that pummel of drums hits the groove is grounded back to an organic rhythmic chug that keeps things from getting completely untethered.



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Like Rats

So normally my tastes in metal run more to those that have a bit of love for the complex; space rock flecks, doom breakdowns or proggish undertones, but there’s something to be said for sure for an all out brutal assault on the senses. Like Rats pulls from hardcore and black metal in equal cupfuls and while the vocals gargle gravel with the angriest of tormented souls, the aural barrage underneath is a taut and unrelenting in its attack. Its absolutely impossible not to feel beaten and bruised after one listen through II and from that beating springs catharsis. I’m a sucker for an album with cover art that perfectly encapsulates the feelings of the album it drapes and, here, the creeping mountain fog of II is an all too ominous nod to the overwhelming doom and despair that underpins tracks like “Gates” and “Grief Incarnate.” That sense of dread hits right at home here and elevates this album from the amassed pack of black metal growlers. By the closing strains of II there’s a physical toll on the body and mind and if that isn’t the sign of a great album, I can’t think of what is.




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Gnod

Gnod have been increasingly harder to pin down over the years, wandering from rhythmic psych to desolate dub excursions and landing on the minimal electronic scrawl of last year’s Infinity Machines. So where does that leave them next? The clearest through line in all their work is an ever encroaching darkness and on Mirror that darkness is front and center. Packing in a lot more instrumentation than Infinity Machines this album finds solace in the strung wire post-punk drawn in black and grey shades that made Swans and PiL and Throbbing Gristle household names (depending on your household I guess). The album deals with mental illness and the increasing impact the presence of social media has in fostering schisms in personality and ego. Its a claustrophobic, anxious barrage that creeps as close as it can to the cliff without plummeting.

The album packs its oil caked pummel into just three tracks but each of those three build to an increasingly desperate plateau. By the closing track’s 18+ minute mind scratch, its hard not to spend the rest of the day wrestling with anxiety, feeling the walls close in and praying for rain. This is certainly about the bleakest set I’ve heard from Gnod, but there’s something comforting in its clangorous gnash. It feels like fighting, like pushing against the walls that have been imposed by unseen hands and in that regard Gnod have created a bit of a hopeful album as well.




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Cable Ties – Cable Ties 7″

There are a lot of sounds emanating from the South Hemi these days from throwback Flying Nun jangle, psych to garage and even a smattering of goth post-punk here an there. So far though Riot Grrrl hasn’t’t really been a term I’d have properly affixed to anything coming out of those parts, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t the vein that Cable Ties is tapping into. Maybe its more proto-Riot Grrrl If anything. Cable ties are tearing into an X-Ray Spex brand of post-punk that’s packed with gnashed teeth and crushed gravel. The searing voice of Jenny McKechnie is pretty much the only weapon they need in their arsenal, but the band backing her up isn’t slacking on her ferocity alone. Lead cut “Same for Me” is a total burner, pushing the taught punk song into a longer groove without ever feeling like any less of a kick to the temples. The flip, “Walking Out” shortens the reins and keeps that fevered feeling burning under the skin, amping up the intensity, if anything. If this is just the first taste from the band then I gotta say, I’m hooked and very ready for more.




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Black Mountain

The thing I love about Black Mountain is that they go all in. They aren’t doing prog by half measures, name checking King Crimson or Can because it ticks some boxes off of their diverse influences card. No they’re full on Tarkus-ing. They’re pulling Pink Floyd synths out of their teenage memories and updating the notion of grandiose for a new age. They’re finding the Lost Chord, breaking through Wakeman’s Fragile territory and going for it like they couldn’t give a shit if you notice their Tull shirts showing. If punk was the buck reaction to prog, then what’s more punk than going full prog in 2016? Thing is this isn’t just a rehash. Its not a nostalgia album proper. Black Mountain have all these influences searing through their veins and they come pouring out through every inch of IV but the take feels fresh. They make prog mammoth again, crushing and awe-inducing in a way that should make you feel a fool for ever passing up all those Hammond-laden brothers in arms in the first place.

Its hard to believe that its been well over a decade since they dropped their eponymous debut, and even harder to realize its been six years since they had a proper full length. But just hearing the McBean / Webber combo back on the speakers makes me realize how long its really been and how big a hole there’s been in rock since they left. The album boasts production from Randall Dunn (Sunn o)), Wolves In The Throne Room) and has the balls to open with a eight plus minute epic that’s only the first taste of how towering this album gets. Six years is a long time but build up expectations, but IV smashes through them with ease.




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