Rank / Xerox

Circling the complete opposite side of the spectrum from David West’s latest Rat Columns LP, which appeared here earlier in the month, Rank/Xerox dives into the claustrophobic chest pains of post-punk. This EP is a scant four songs but each of them are packed with a sense of paranoia and pain that paints a bleak picture of an artist running from some form of truth, be it internal or external. Rank/Xerox have, in the past, facilitated some of the darkest moments in West’s catalog, barring maybe his work with Total Control. After a rather long hiatus since the band’s 2011 LP, it’s good to see them storming back without any thoughts on softening their approach.

From the title-track opener to the lingering grind of “Deletion” the trio bends bone bitten anxiety into a nervy dance with plenty of threats hidden behind it’s teeth. Jangles to popped veins, West is one of the masters of what makes the underground of the ’80s still vital and worthwhile today. M.Y.T.H. is proof that small packages with no room for error can level just as hard as any full length out there.




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Kikagaku Moyo – “In A Coil”

Coming off tremendous acclaim for their pastoral psych masterpiece House In The Tall Grass Kikagaku Moyo don’t rest easy on recreating that album’s languid vibes. Instead they holed up in Prague and went deep into their improvisational side, as embraced on their earlier records. The first offering from the EP anchors their effusive psych cloud to a motorik pulse, hammering home the rhythm as a nice offset to the squelch of guitars and lilting sitar melody. It’s comforting to know that at their heart Kikagaku Moyo are looking to find the nerve of psychedelia, song based or not, and they’re leading you on their trip. They’re not looking for any nods of approval, just getting back to the nuts and bolts of lifting consciousness.




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Taiwan Housing Project – “Authentic Alien Perfume”

Taiwan Housing Project popped up with a great 7″ on M’Lady’s in 2015, a shot of promise from two artists that bubble up on the RSTB faves list, Kilynn Lunsford (LITTLE CLAW) and Mark Feehan (HARRY PUSSY). I was always particularly saddened by the loss of Little Claw. Their brand of chaotic, aggressive post-punk was few and far between in this century. So with that in mind, it’s great to have Lunsford back at the helm of Taiwan Housing Project. The first cut from the upcoming album on Kill Rock Stars shows THP embracing that ethos and going a few steps further, upping the ante with frantic squalls of noise married to an insistent dance beat. The song winds up like a B-52’s single run through the wood chipper with with copies of The Contortions, Maximum Joy and This Heat. Easily one of the most vital songs released this year. Put this one high up on your anticipation index.




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The Wild Poppies – Heroine

Wellington New Zealand’s The Wild Poppies grew up out of the country’s verdant jangle-pop leagues, though they broke for greener pastures in England not long after their formation. The band’s legacy is ensconced in their sole album, Heroine, the preceding single and a follow-up EP that was aptly titled Out of Time. Their move to the UK toughened their sound and added in a bit of shoegaze to their sunnier Kiwi stylings, aided in no small measure by their housemates at the time from Swervedriver. The reissue of their album contains their entire output with a few unreleased tracks thrown in for good measure, following them through each phase of the band’s life.

As is all too often the case timing turned out to be the band’s enemy and as they wound their way out of their swan song EP, they sensed tastes changing in the UK, swinging away from their ’80s jangles and into the arms of dance culture. It’s too bad as their tougher edge showed great promise. They disbanded shortly after and the band members went on to leave music behind. Still this remained a long respected item in jangle-pop collector’s circles and it’s good to have the whole collection back on vinyl.




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Jawbones

Berlin’s Jawbones carry on a tradition of high stacked space rock that skates through the pounding corridors of Krautrock and fuels itself on psychedelic fumes. Though they admittedly take inspiration from their ’60s forbears, they are much more aligned with the school of psychedelics that came up in the late ’90s and early ’00s. High and Low and Low and High brings to mind shades of The Warlocks, Spiritualized, Darker My Love, Brian Jonestown Massacre or The Black Angels. Drenched in a thick shade of smoke and anchored by feedback, the album thrives on textures as much as it does on hooks, vacillating between thunderous hammer headed Goliaths and vapor-cooled slow burners.

The Brian Jonestown connection goes deeper than sound here though. The record is being released as as joint venture between 8mm and Anton Newcome’s own A Records and driving force Leonard Kaage has played with BJM in the past. Kaage doesn’t quite have Newcome’s voracious capacity for hooks, but it’s clear that the two have been operating somewhere along the same wavelength, tapping into high levels of stratospheric froth. Overall a pretty solid entry into the canon of spaced travelers, though I’d have perhaps rethought the oddly out of place “Music For A Car Chase.” The rest will feel pretty familiar to those who’ve enjoyed the aughts’ psych waves, looking to add a little elevation to their day.




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Meat Candy – Pursuit of Sounds

London’s Meat Candy don’t exactly exude Englishness. In fact their debut 12″ feels every bit like it should be coming out of L.A. at this particular moment in time. They’ve adopted the fuzzed delivery; psych nuances and classic touchstones that Wand, Mind Meld, Ty Segall, Meatbodies and the like have been digging their nails into over the past few years and they’ve done their homework well. They trend towards the spacier end of the spectrum, embracing a good keyboard breakdown amidst the rumble and froth, setting them floating into the sunstreaked ether. The two shot of a 12″ that they volley out on Dirty Melody is as polished a gem of psych smeared vision as you’re likely to hear this week, though part of me feels a good producer on their side could push their sound into an even higher plateau. However, this is entirely promising and poised to make me think a full album could elevate their game. I could easily see them embracing concept and drive like a young Secret Machines. They earn themselves a spot on the radar if nothing else.



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John Andrews & The Yawns

The parameters of Woodsist seem to be about escaping the city, heading to the country and letting the sun-soaked vibes permeate the music. Woods bolted for upstate New York, Herbcraft hold it down in Maine, MV & EE have always held court in Vermont. Their roster is a veritable embodiment of shacking the shackles of civil life and embracing rural enclaves. I get this, it’s a freeing principle and altogether not a bad tie to bind a a roster together. John Andrews has emanated nothing if not pastoral energy in his work with Quilt and in his sideman gigging with Widowspeak and Kevin Morby. He began his solo journey two years back on Bit By The Fang but he crystallizes the laid back strums and porch rockin’ vibes on Bad Posture.

Relocating up to New Hampshire, Andrews distills warm breeze vocals and ripple rock guitars into the kind of songs that seem to hang in the air like slight humidity; affecting and strangely comfortable. He lets tape hiss seep into the mix, humming like a fourth harmonic in the mix and adding to the general Laissez-faire policy of songwriting. Bad Posture is streaked in sunset hues and an atmosphere of country ease, which from all indications is just what Andrews is shooting for. He succeeds handily in summing up the warm wistfulness of just beginning to settle into a new life before the itch of isolation starts to set in. There’s literally a song titled “Relax” in the mix, so you know that things are serious here. Lay back and vacate worries, at least for the next half hour or so, the rest can wait until tomorrow.




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Feral Ohms – “Teenage God Born To Die”

Been excited for this one since the live LP dropped onto the Castle Face roster last year. Though Ethan Miller has been involved in a cadre of psychedelic endeavors over the years (Heron Oblivion, Howlin’ Rain) his legacy has always been the wild spark of Comets On Fire. Early Howlin’ Rain had flashes of scorched riffs, but they mellowed over the years into something that had less of Comets’ DNA and more debt to ’70s radio rock. Heron Oblivion lit up psych-folk last year with a set of acetylene tracks that smelled of the same brimstone fueling Miller’s amps of yore, but it’s Feral Ohms that have truly brought his catastrophic nature hurtling back. “Teenage God Born To Die” is a wild, feral lob into the chaotic soul of heavy rock. The song threatens to tear itself, any set of speakers lucky enough to shuttle it’s fury and every waking body within earshot to pieces. Miller has woken the beast that lurks in the psychedelic heart and it’s clearly hungry. This one’s going to be hard to beat in 2017. Sweatin’ with anticipation.


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Damaged Bug

Though he’s spent the better part of his career fostering the yelp-rattled garage of Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer is a man of many professional tributaries. Damaged Bug arose as a more psychedelic outlet for the songwriter back in 2014 and he’s steadily used to exorcise his late night, creeping dread impulses. Bunker Funk hews close to it’s predecessor, 2015’s Cold Hot Plumbs, roiling in insistent rhythms and a whispered ominousness that hangs over the album in icy stalactites. Where it differs is in taking a literal pull out of the “Funk” half of it’s title. Dwyer augments his teeth-grit lullabies with a splash of flutes and throb bass that does feel indebted to some portion of ’70s library funk. The combination is at once future leaning and in debt to the past.

But as this is Damaged Bug, the funk isn’t the kind that’s going to soundtrack your classic Impala romp, rather Dwyer drops the listener into a psych-funk wonderland of oblique funhouse mirrors and polished brass. It’s funk as twisted through the minds of Finder’s Keepers libraries and whatever wavelength Chrome have been picking out of the cosmos for the last forty odd years. Dwyer is exacting in his need to unsettle. The record is splashed in acid blots and radiant colors, but underneath he’s bending a Cheshire smile that bears an ill will, or a mischievous one at the very least. Dwyer’s universe is an echoplexed underground and Bunker Funk drags us deeper than he’s led before. He’s leading this search party into the unknown and it’s unclear which of us is coming back.




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The Dogs – “Slash Your Face”

Not to be confused with French punks Dogs, this Motor City three piece conjured up hard-nailed proto-punk of the MC5/Stooges variety. The title track is a burner, wrestling with tempos and fueled by the energy of the room. The tracks were all recorded live at Mabuahy Gardens in San Francisco and it’s easy to see that the band felt at home on stage. This is one of those pieces of punk lore that’s been run in illegitimate circles more often than legitimate, but it’s nice to have a solid, official version circulating again. It’s full of sludge and shot from the hip, the way the best bits that crested into punk’s true age often were. NYC, London and San Francisco always get their due in punk circles but Detroit had its own brand of leather-burnt fury and it’s on full display in these three tracks.




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