Pearl Charles – “What I Need”

There was an inkling of change that snuck into the subtle EP that slipped out from Pearl Charles earlier this summer. The reworking of “Night Tides” from a disco romp into a country cool down was an unexpected treat this year. Charles’ new LP for Kanine follows suit in the best ways, trading off the ‘70s sweat of a dancefloor hangover for a quiet twilight in the bungalow alone, spinning the euphoria of the night into a melancholy melt that tugs at the suede center of the soul. Hung on a slouched organ line and sundown slides, the first single “What I Need” sums up the album nicely — a lone saunter down the strip with a chill in the air, smoke and sweat escaping into the atmosphere. The buzz of the night is coursing through the veins right up until the moment when a bittersweet lump forms in the throat. While it’s quite naturally about how this feeling might arise in the end of a relationship, the analogy works the same as any whirlwind night. There’s a knowing feeling that washes over you, an ache that enters, knowing that its over before you hit the sheets, stuck between bliss and the emptiness of a lonesome morning. Her last album waded into several pop waters, but this one dives into the deep end with a confidence that’s hard to shake. The record arrives January 15th on Kanine.



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Lavender Flu – “Rake The Face”

One Lavender Flu LP has already hit the shelves this year but it seems there’s another on the way from the Chris Gunn lead group. This time the fidelity’s crumbling like an accurate reflection of society in 2020, but the gutpunch grit of The Flu remains. Gunn’s songwriting has always straddled psych and the noisier end of the indie spectrum and this LP seems bound to let the lines blur even further. Lead single “Rake The Face” churns a bright buzz within its tape hiss hovel of sound. Pushing against the walls of redline in all direction the song has a clammy sweat groove that’s more cold turkey desperation than turbulent dance. There was some tenderness in the last Lav Flu, but this one seems to be packed with panic, pain, and a wash of noise. Tomorrow Cleaners lands in late October from MEDS.



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Barry Walker Jr. – “Up the Fan, Into the Keyhole”

Already populating one of 2020’s highly anticipated releases, the just announced North Americans record for Third Man, pedal steel player Barry Walker Jr. is helming his own follow-up to 2018’s excellent Diaspora Urkontinent as well. Like his compatriot McDermott, Walker is expanding the boundaries of his genre in all directions, trading the American Primitive of North Americans for a brand of psychedelic country that’s more indebted to Göttsching and Fripp than it its to the traditional straits of Cosmic Country or even the pedal steel virtuosity of Herb Remington. While his last album might have sat nicely alongside Luke Schneider’s latest (also for Third Man), this is no solo saunter. Walker bends the lonesome tears of his instrument through the black rainbow, but he brings along a shuffling back section as well, tumbling the first inklings of the record through a brokedown valley that’s littered with rusted arcticture that’s either junkyard or sculpture garden. Its up to the listener to parse it out against the squint of the low-hung sun. This marks a welcome return to the game for Holy Mountain Records, who’ve long been a favorite of RSTB. Glad to have ‘em back. The record is out October 30th.





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Klyfta

A rather intriguing proposition here in the form of a fake band anchored by Psychic Temple’s Chris Schlarb. Buffeted with plenty of billowy backstory, this one can sit alongside the Jeremiah Sand release on Sacred Bones as one of the best deep fake bands of the year. Now as Chris would tell it this represents an unearthed treasure from the early ‘70s, picking up where the works of Swedish songwriter Casper Sundberg and crew left off. However a little more digging pegs this as one of the artificial artists that soundtrack the 2019 alternate history adventure game Hypnospace Outlaw. While the game tracks through a divergent 1999 and presents puzzles via content policing an Angelfire-rife vision of the internet, it’s nice to think of Klyfta as not just a perfectly realized and stylized nugget in the game, but as a band that lives and breathes its own lounge-prog reality.

That seems to be what Schlarb is getting at with this low-profile standalone release. Taken way out of context the band doesn’t flag in its ability to convey a sense of ‘70s excess and indulgent psych-jazz odyssey. Ostensibly permeated by Schlarb’s guitar and fleshed out with a tumult of drums and organ, the works assembled here are supposed to be disparate sessions cobbled together by session musicians finishing Sundberg’s abandoned work, but its clear that Schlarb’s dedication to opulent prog-jazz touches won’t let him make this feel like anything less than a cohesive document. While I’d love to live within the skewed timeline that lets “Sport Anthem” actually anchor tennis matches and support a struggling ‘70s lost cause, I’m equally happy to let Schlarb fill in the shading of his fantasy with pulsing rhythms and looping instrumentals that could easily fill out the landscapes of an airbrushed van, or at the very least, the man who left it all behind to do the airbrushing. The LP is limited to 500, so this curio probably won’t stick around too long.




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Elkhorn – “Acoustic Storm Sessions (exerpt)”

Earlier in the year Elkhorn released an album of pent-up psychedelic darkness and desperation that was forged in an unintentional lock-in during a snowstorm that caused them to miss a pivotal Brooklyn gig last year. The album, made with friend and collaborator Turner Williams, showed the band at their improvisational peak, exploring their psych-folk prowess by turning an environment of disappointment into something extraordinary. Seems that the album, which found them in a configuration with Jesse on acoustic, Drew on Electric, and Turner shifting between electric bouzouki on one side, shahi baaja on the next, spawned a sister album that’s just now seeing the light of day.

This time Elkhorn eschew the plugs to release their first completely acoustic album, letting three guitars entwine in the ice-ensconced studio to create something that’s both meditative and mercurial. Not quite born of the Basho/Fahey axis, not quite beholden to the kind of ambient plains dusters that spawned Barn Owl, this is is a more tempered vision of Elkhorn’s apocalyptic folk. On the sample below, you can feel just a small fraction of the scope of these acoustic sessions, stripped bare of the ozone-crackle of their psychedelic fry, but no less devastating in their barren burn. If anything, the austerity only enhances the permafrost isolation of the band’s stranded situation during the recording. The LP is out October 2nd on Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz.




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Smarts – “Cling Wrap”

A defibrillator to the soul from a new Aussie unit (with some familiar names) out of Geelong. Smarts nail nervy, synth-jolted punk to the wall and the first cut off of their upcoming LP Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is an absolute bumper car wreck of sprinting guitars, gulping at serotonin and slamming into whatever’s in their way. The band brings Anti-Fade helmer Billy Gardner (Cereal Killer, Ausmuteants) back together with his Living Eyes bandmate Mitch Campleman. They round out the crew with Sally Buckley keeping the synths greasy, Anti-Fade regular Jake Robertson (School Damage, Hierophants), and Stella Rennex (Bananagun, Parsnip) on sax. Like Devo knocked up half a speed and bent through wonky wiring, the band is chomping at the squirm-punk pedigree of the loner class of the ‘70s. They’re picking through the garbage of Suburban Laws and Black Randy & The Metrosquad while finding some purchase with the Midwestern glue brigade from Ubu to Dow Jones and on through the anti-social teardowns of The Uranium Club. Somehow the players in this crew are constantly exhuming Geza X, but I think that’s a more of a pet project than a selling point. If they connect it to enough bands one of you listeners is bound to check that lost classic. The LP is split between Anti-Fade in Aus and Feel It for US, and I’d recommend getting it locked on your speakers soon.




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Prana Crafter

If it wasn’t readily apparent from the sidelong strechout that populated his half of a split with Tarotplane last year, Will Sol’s music is made for grander statements than a compact runtime can accommodate. His latest LP pushes that boundary even further, nudging the scope from one side to two. Though it’s split into six parts, the tracks on MorphoMystic are essentially all part of one long piece. Still strolling the verdant gardens of ‘70s kosmiche and bending the will psych to the whims of prog, the new album truly enjoys the spectral build and release of his German predecessors.

Even when the tempo is slowed to a Cluster-crawl, the new Prana is percolating with a heart-flutter rhythm that’s humid and hungry, yet hunted and wounded — siphoning the cosmic impulses into a dark heart. This is a more furrowed and fraught side of Sol than I’ve heard before. He’s usually threading the gauze, letting his folk strings pull gently at his prog side, but here synths and ambience assert their dominance over the guitar for the most part.

He can still wring wrath from the six, but for the most part he’s embodying the Göttsching persona well while dipping into the works of fellow Ra member Schulze’s works for good measure. Creeping into view with a tempered step, he arcs MorphoMystic into a dizzying psychological thriller by the time “Chalice of the Fungal Sage” hits the speakers. Though if things end with blood and bone, they also end with a somber relief by the time we lie into the weary homecoming of “Starlight, Sing us A Lullaby.” Sol’s been working at body high hits for the last few years, but he’s besting himself yet again with this cohesive platter.




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RSTB Radio WGXC: September

Though I’m on vacation for most of the week here, the advantage of remote radio means that the monthly show goes on. Lots of new stuff in the September edition including new songs from Wet Tuna, William Tyler, Prana Crafter, North Americans, Bobby Lee and more. Plus, as usual, a whole bunch of classic cuts as well. Check out the full tracklist below and listen over at WGXC for the archive if you missed it live.

::Tracklist::

Bobby Lee – Palomino /// North Americans – Rivers That You Cannot See /// Color Green – Night /// Ethan Daniel Davidson – Leaving Cheyenne /// Akron/Family – There’s So Many Colors (radio edit) /// The Cairo Gang – Find You With A Song /// Yo La Tengo – Wasn’t Born To Follow /// Honeybus – How Long (single version) /// The Flatmates – Trust Me /// Smokescreens – I Love Only You /// The Reds, Pinks and Purples – Last Summer in a Rented Room /// Tracy Bryant – Between Us /// David Nance – When The Covers Come Off /// Jack Rose w/ D. Charles Speer & The Helix – The Longer You Wait /// Hans Chew – Carry Me, Bury Me /// Silver Synthetic – Out Of The Darkness /// Wet Tuna – Deal > Dealin’ /// William Tyler – She Swims in Hidden Water /// Sunfruits – Mushroom Kingdom /// Tim Heidecker – Fear of Death /// Danial Romano – Green Eye Shade /// Badge Époque Ensemble – Sing A Silent Gospel /// Garcia Peoples – Crown of Thought /// ZEEL – Revolution /// GÅS – Epitaph /// Death Valley Girls – Hold My Hand /// Savoy Motel – Crossword Puzzle /// The Green Child – Low Desk:High Shelf /// Headroom – House of Flowers /// Prana Crafter – Starlight, Sing Us a Lullaby

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Special Moves – “Our Summer”

One more blast of good vibes today, on this Bandcamp No Fee Friday. The good folks over at Jigsaw are a beacon for indie pop, both on their label and in their well-curated shop. This short shot of fuzz comes from Special Moves, and while it’s over before you know it, the song buzzes with an indie pop aura that’s perfect for the waning days of summer. The cut opens up the band’s proper debut for the label and the Olympia group operates more like a collection of friends than a hard-nosed band, per se. Fans of Boyracer and the progeny of Sarah gone pop will find quite a bit to love on the band’s LP Little Help which is out as of last week on Jigsaw.


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William Tyler

While there are dozens of new releases, one off tracks, and compilations to dig through for the No Fee days, sometimes a truly amazing release wafts through the buzz of emails and twitter notifications. I’m prone to checking out anything by William Tyler, especially after last year’s stunner on Merge and the haunting First Cow soundtrack, but I wasn’t expecting another tender offering from him so soon. Recorded in isolation and partly with Scott Hirsch, the EP is based on loss, death, and impermanence. The songs here aren’t precious, but rather unflinching in their somber reflection of bearing witness to death, holding a mirror to grim reality and marking out the measure of it all. Tyler was inspired by the medieval concept of vanitias — juxtaposing death with the impermanence of eartly things, a theme that resonated through a culture threaded with death as a daily reality. It lands as prescient today as it might have then.

The EP sets itself apart from his recent works, turning away from the lighthearted, yet bittersweet ramble of Goes West but falling just shy of the stark landscapes of First Cow. Drones seem to play a bigger part, and the midsection numbness of “Slow Night’s Static,” in particular marks a haunted departure from his usual sound. The works here show Tyler’s prowess, but more so his restraint and it’s a lovely work to bear witness with us all.





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