Able Tasmans – A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down

In contrast to some of their louder peers on Flying Nun, Able Tasmans boast a more acoustic jangle-pop focused sound that’s fleshed out nicely with keys. That doesn’t leave them by any means delicate, as opener “What Was That Thing” will attest. The band is more just as likely to indulge in a gorgeous strum as they are to incorporate wild and cathartic yelps and they push and pull between ecstatic and contemplative over the course of the album. They jumped onto the Flying Nun roster with The Tired Sun EP, which is included in Cap Tracks’ expanded reissue, followed up by the “Buffaloes” single, whose A-side is also incorporated into the expanded package here. This stands as their magnum opus, a gem of a sprawling album that pushes all over the map of Dunedin jangle at the time (though they were in fact from Whangarei), pulling in catchy charms, spastic angst, and even more experimental bits of spoken word collage. It stands as a true highlight in the Flying Nun catalog.

The band would follow it three years later with the more compact Hey Spinner! and push on into the nineties before disbanding. The later works don’t have the same impact as this debut, which pulled the Dunedin sound out of its guitar rut and into something of an update with their focus on keys as an integral part of their sound. A nice package from Captured Tracks’ diligent efforts to reissue key parts of the Nun catalog for sure and the extras make a nice bonus to the original album, giving it a bit of context as to where the band were leading up to its creation.



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Kane Ikin

Kane Ikin’s Modern Pressure fits in nicely with the darker tones of Type’s roster. He’s got a touch of the soundtrack menace that Pye Corner Audio is channeling and plenty of the suffocating darkness of labelmate Vatican Shadow. Built on a minimal base of beats, synths and field recordings, the simple setup is actually less self imposed than socially imposed, due to the everyday pressures that Ikin refers to in the album’s title. Having to sell off pieces of gear to pay rent, the artist stripped back to the basics and the record is a bit better off for it. Not that I envy the artist his belt tightening, but it has wrought an excellent album with a taut and nervy sound, feeling like the walls might cave in at any moment. Though its hard to sit back and relax to Modern Pressure that’s not to say that these track aren’t infinitely enjoyable, as long as you like thrillers vs comedies.

There’s anxiety as the bedrock here, but more than that, many of the tracks have a creeping dread that’s sewn into the seams of Kane Ikin’s sound. The bass shudders through you solar plexus, the synths pool in glowing dread in the background and the beats click by slow and steady, as if waiting to strike. Its the kind of album that Type has become known for; calculated, precise and devastating all at once.




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White Mystery – “Best Friend”

You know, I fell off the White Mystery train for a while. The eponymous debut burned, on Blood & Venom knew what they had going, but then it kinda slid for me. No hate, just sometimes you fall outta love. But I’m digging on their new track and its like old times. “Best Friend” has got a groove, and that groove is infectious as hell. Alex White’s still got the yelp and this has moved away from their typical garage power groove towards something looser; pounding keys, shuffling drums and White’s vocals just riding out the funk like it was an everyday affair. Hell, brother Jack knows that sometimes you gotta put down the guitars and pick up a piano to keep things interesting. I’ve always been a devoted lover of Get Behind Me Satan, maybe White Mystery are following suit, picking up the yoke and pushing to the barroom rollick that soothes the garage woes like a salve. I hope that the rest of this puppy simmers like this, that’s for sure.


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Loose Tooth

Melbourne’s Loose Tooth pack a lot of power into a shaggy but shiny first EP. The songs on Saturn Returns pass the mic back and forth between male and female vox, with both sides of the coin finding easy footing in their Aussie pop charms. The band peppers the tracks with a good glut of guitar jangle and the occasional fret workout or caffeinated crunch, but the key is locking it all down with the driving force of Luc Dawson’s bass. They pull from a good amount of 80’s janglers who came before them on both sides of the ocean, taking bits of American, Brit and Aussie indie stalwarts alike (Some Sea Urchins here, some Heavenly and Beat Happening there, dashes of Able Tasmans) but they’ve mashed them into a mixed bag of pop snacks and shaken the whole thing nicely, finding little bits of each rearing their heads within one track.

The band’s recording setup was locked down by what’s becoming one of my favorite two punch package of Paul Maybury behind the boards and Mikey Young on mastering. They’ve both reared up as a litmus of quality Aussie youth and Loose Tooth is another nod in the right direction from both. Its a fun first foray from the band and one I hope leads to more for sure.




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Wooden Indian Burial Ground – “Sad Mutations”

Portand’s Wooden Indian Burial Ground unleash a sophomore album via the Belgian label Exag and it makes good on a lot of promises that their 2012 LP spit forth. The new platter pushes bounds of psychedelic excess coming in at fourteen tracks of froth, spit and burnout fizz. The standout here is “Sad Mutations” a track that’s burning on the same psychotic jet fuel that Thee Oh Sees and King Gizzard have gotten into at their most frantic. The song’s full of high powered fuzz, dizzy organ and those yelps that that crack the sky and make you remember just why garage psych has the power it does. As much fun as the rest of the LP is, it would be great if it could all live up to the tease that this track lays down. The breathless beating of “Sad Mutations” is more than enough though to put them in good graces for years to come. Word is there’s a US pressing of the album in the works too. So that keeps more change in your pocket.




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Quiet Down – Last Match

A less overtly pop approach than Diehard, the previous band of songwriter Ezra Selove, Quiet Down lives in contrast to their name. The songs on their second EP are draped in a swell of noise that fumes up in the opening moments of the title track opener and battles back and forth with the clean lined sensibilities that beat at the heart of these three tracks. “Last Match” pushes and pulls between the rising tension that threatens to overtake it and Selove’s palpable feeling of wanting to tamp it back down, until the break that loosens the emotional dam somewhere around the five minute mark; unleashing a feeling of finally losing control and feeling pretty good about it. The standout though is “Sterling,” a taut ‘n tumble rocker that balances dreamy vocals with a blistered thread of American indie that traces lines from Mac McCaughan’s edgier crunch to the tensions of Bubble and Scrape era Sebadoh. They close the single with “Mr. Boddy’s Body,” which amps up the rhythmic shake and turns the gaze and thunder up in equal measures. The single pays its debt to American guitar rock; its not wholly beholden to the past, but aware of which parts worked.




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Library of Babel

From the esteemed, if often overlooked Blue Tapes label, Library of Babel have released a collection of pieces for guitar, cello and double bass that eschews the more overtly dissonant elements that sometimes get pinned to the label’s catalog. The release isn’t by any means easily digestible, far from it, but it is structured and that makes it unique among some of its peers. Shane Parish leads the Asheville unit through an album that bumps against neo-classical, jazz and fingerpicked folk alike, drop-zoning into a kind of pastoral thrum that flickers like dusty film over the course of their eponymous album. The record takes on an anthropological quality, as if these are forgotten folk songs from a people who value the clash of strings to pristine pluck and crisp melody, letting the din reflect their own turmoil.

Parish’s guitar rattles and hisses, clatters like loose bones against strings, then winds itself back into a melodic whirlpool of notes while the cello and bass beneath him hum their own tempests, mostly melancholy though oftentimes breaking into death rattles of their own. There’s cinematic vein in Library of Babel and its narrative seems to rise from parched fields, patchy forests and mud flats flecked with dead fish and too little rain. There’s something that evokes the foothills of the American South in Parish’s work, but in a very modern sense, the fates of the rusted hulls of communities forgotten, plastered in stark black and white photos full of hard looks. Whether this is intentional or not remains to be seen, but its a hardscrabble feeling of want that comes seeping from the speakers over these thirty minutes. This is a standout release on a label that already has some gems from Katie Gately, Mats Gustafsson and Tashi Dorji in their stable.


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The Flesh Eaters – Forever Came Today

The Flesh Eaters were the brainchild of Chris Desjardins, often known as much for his fanzine Slash as he is for his musical contributions. Though the zine gave him the cred and the connections to the L.A. punk scene, what he did with those tools speaks for itself. After the cracked skin flay of the band’s ’81 album, A Minute To Pray A Second To Die, he whittled down his lineup of heavy hitters and perfected the burn on the album’s follow-up, Forever Came Today. Its often a toss between which album is considered the band’s masterstroke, but they’re really two halves of the same fevered vision. Desjardins’ acetone handshake vocals are in full effect, blistering and sliding between dark fury and full on psychotic howl. The guitars are slightly less barbed than they are on AMTPASTD, but hit with a focused attack, rather than just rip at the mind. Personally it seems like this record only refines the brew that was cooking up to this point and tightens up the wild rabbit punch attack of the band’s potent punk pummel.

This album came right dab in the middle of a solid run of Flesh Eaters records that would end with 1983’s A Hard Road To Follow before Desjardins would take a tangent into the more acoustic oriented Divine Horsemen and their run of early albums for SST. He’d then get the band back together in the ’90s with a new crew and some swings in genre that circled the punk drain but never quite measured up to these early exploits. After nabbing a copy of Superior Viaduct’s reissue of the previous platter, I’m excited for this one to follow. The label’s remastered the album and the sound does the record justice, showcasing this ragged classic in a new light for a new generation who most likely missed out on its bite the first time around.

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Wireheads – “Arrive Alive”

I’ve had a soft spot for Adelaide’s Wireheads for a while now and after last year’s excellent, Big Issues, they’re back already with a new track from an upcoming Tenth Court LP. The track is more refined and reserved than the Wireheads of old. There is hardly a sign of disonant violin or screeching din, instead they’ve built a song around the steady roll of bass that builds like a distant menace and hazy, grey tinted guitars. Of course the charred copper delivery of Dom Trimboli remains in the forefrong, never letting things get too comfortable, but as far as Wireheads go, this one is positively restrained. I’ll be interested to see how it fits in with the rest of the album (also titled Arrive Alive) which arrives soon from the Aussie imprint.

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Imaginary Softwoods

Emeralds’ John Elliott has a few aliases of note (Outer Space, Mist, Lilypad) but its been a while since he took up the mantle as Imaginary Softwoods, having left the project fairly dormant since his 2011 album, The Path Of Spectrolite. Now he’s gotten together a collection of tracks recorded in the past few years that span a few different tributary directions from the Softwoods canon, and while he dabbles in synth, Kosmiche, tape collage, spoken word and drone it all seems to meld together into a pretty cohesive and tranquil listen, despite not having been planned as an album proper. No matter the form he takes, Elliott keeps a thread of calm, out of body experience as the touchstone for all these tracks, floating in suspended animation throughout. That thread keeps Annual Flowers In Color from feeling too much like an afterthought.

Its nice to see a few more sides to the Imaginary Softwoods model here, though Elliott is still at his best with the hypnotic Kosmiche that brought this project to fruition. Centerpieces “Aura Show” and “Another First/Sea Machine” bubble with a gloriously serene glow, pushing their 10+ minute timings into the ether without ever feeling weighed down. This is a nice collection and reminder of why Elliott and Emeralds were such a key piece of synth revival of the past decade. Hopefully this collection isn’t the last of Imaginary Softwoods, but a door to new works with a tighter focus.





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