Centrum

Hooked into the drone consciousness of decades of Swedish psychedelia, avant-rock rumblings from across the Atlantic, and progressive nodes from the cosmic German gardens of the ‘70s, Centrum delivers their debut in thrall of the thrum. With members of Hills and Weary Nous in their ranks the duo starts with a solid pedigree. The pair turns För Meditation into an album of deep tissue drop-out that slots alongside contemporaries Myrrors as much as it hooks into the free-psych pastoral history of International Harvester or Träd, Gras och Stenar. Winky umlaut aside, the title’s not just for show here, this is some serious altered state psychedelia, built on a bedrock of harmonic rumble that the band uses to explore molten fuzz guitar runs, mystic organ rituals, and strings that run through Eastern waters.

There’s certainly a meditative state at work here, but the band doesn’t shy away from burning down their temples as well. Tracks saw into the psyche with an insistent OM, but blossom into doom-draped visions of slow-motion destruction by album’s end. The record is fittingly nestled among the lysergic legions of Rocket Recordings, contending nicely with their lineup of higher burning trip makers of late. För Meditation winds up more than its advertised price of inner peace and metronomic pulse, the album is a proper heir to the Swedish sects of psilocybin truth seekers and sweat lodge assassins.



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Dire Wolves – “I Control The Weather”

Despite the band’s massive output over the last few years, you’d be forgiven for having missed out on releases from the mercurial Dire Wolves (sometimes appended to “Absolutely Perfect Brothers Band” or “Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band”). The band’s been running the psychedelic small format mill ragged with tapes on Eiderdown, Sloow, Sky Lantern, Baked, etc and have been bouncing LPs between serious scene tentpoles Beyond Beyond is Beyond and Feeding Tube for a small stretch. Yet, this seems like the year and more to the point, the release, that splashes their heady maelstrom of psych-folk across your speakers.

Returning again to BBiB, the band have released the first cut from upcoming full-length Grow Towards The Light today. The track finds the band locked into sonic struggle with the eternal vortex – guitars lashing at the wind one minute, melting in thick candle wax runs the next. Fiddle slices through in a nimble dance with the percussive roil and atop the whole churning froth, Georgia Carbone incants a vocal spell with words that seem utterly not of this earth. This is the band’s first turn without original vocalist Lau Nau, and Carbone steps ably up to the task at hand, giving the song a mystical push towards oblivion. The track is just the beginning of the band’s descent into the fray, but it’s enough to captivate with repeat listens until you get your hands on the full cosmic journey.



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Drugdealer

The second LP from Michael Collins under the Drugdealer moniker refines, redecorates, and relaxes in the studio-rat 70’s foxhole he’d dug for himself on his debut. After his psych soft launches in Run DMT and Salvia Plath, Drugdealer has become Collins’ haven for outsized ‘70s pop and he’s attracted similar-minded slick travelers and psychedelic savants to come and lay their lacquered licks, honeyed vocals, and perfectly coifed contributions onto his pop vision. So, naturally, frequent collaborator and fellow master of ‘70s AOR brilliance Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood) drops in for a vocal contribution on “Honey.” Harley Hill-Richmond (Harley and the Hummingbird) adds a Laurel Canyon sunset to “Lonely” and country crooner Dougie Poole shifts “Wild Motion” into a down gear that freezes the album’s honey into an amber-hued heirloom that almost pops it into a permanent soft-focus time delay.

Collins’ dedication to a more opulent time in pop music is admirable if also indulgently nostalgic. Songs like “Lost In My Dream,” with their horn stabs and hammock sway could easily hang with contemporary(ish) travelers like Sloan or Jenny Lewis. Those artists have found their footing in lush productions that tend to feel timeless, but despite protestations Drugdealer almost always conjures up the past. There’s a feeling that you’ve heard Collins’ songs somewhere before, but the exact names seem lost in a wood-paneled labyrinth of memories that keep the references from pushing just past the tip of your tongue. Still, if Collins and his crew weren’t so good at what they do, they wouldn’t be able to pull it off at all.

Aside from his kindred spirit Mering, Collins has been in the orbit of Ariel Pink (who doesn’t show up his time around) and Mac Demarco, who finds his way behind the boards to give the album its late-night luster. The spirit of all of those artists has long been to whittle their own images out of vintage wood and with Raw Honey Drugdealer is proving to be a contender among any of them. But for an album that’s dressed up as the kind of studio campout that Brian Wilson once shepherded, the record could use just a little tightening at the seams. It often feels like a soundtrack with some truly golden cuts sprinkled in, but it also chafes in the same way. Collins is becoming more confident as the focus of his albums, but he still hands over the reigns a bit too often to guest vocalists. It would be great to keep the momentum built through the run of songs 2-6, or even go all-in on a full collaboration between Drugdealer and Weyes Blood. The future will tell what’s next, but for now Raw Honey offers up some future lost classics drifting on a sea of AM static.



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Matt Surfin’ & Friends – “Waiting On You”

New slice of shimmer pop out today from Matt Surfin’ and Friends, the collaborative project of Matt Serferian (Donovan Wolfington, POPE). “Waitin’ On You” on you slides in on Summer winds, catching some of the downdraft from The Cars as well as more contemporary pop diggers Sam Flax and Wyatt Blair. The band was conceived as a collective of friends and this track features Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli from Video Age. Ross provides the vocal treatment that gives the band its seabreeze air to match Serferian’s musical pleather punch. Matt recalls the song’s incubation – “Waiting On You” is a collaborative work between Ross, Ray, and myself. I felt like I couldn’t do some of the ideas I had justice so I asked Ross if he would be interested in singing the song and maybe helping me rework some parts. We met up months later, rewrote the verses and changed the feel to something more like a dance version of the cleaners from Venus. We wrote and recorded it all in about 8 hours. It was a blast working with such talented musicians and song writers as Ross and Ray as they solidified and expanded my ideas.”

The Records is out May 3rd on Community Records, limited to 300.




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Curved Entrances – “Inscribe In Night”

Phoenix’ transcendental psych collective The Myrrors have birthed a new offshoot this year (two actually, but just gonna focus on the one for now). Guitarist Nik Rayne and drummer Grant Beyschau have drawn in The Night Collectors’ Connor Gallaher to form a trio that boasts similar vibes to their own brand of sweat lodge psychedelics. Gone is the sawed violin, though and instead the band locks into the séance slithers of deep-set drone – meditative, monolithic, and ultimately boiled into a guitar maelstrom that’s slipped out of time and into a zone beyond what they’re laying down in their flagship band. The first release as Curved Entrances offers up two side-long runs of improv insanity in extremely limited runs from Carinal Fuzz. Check the five-ton freakout “Inscribe In Night” below and snag one of the remaining LPs while you can.



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Constant Mongrel – “Experts in Skin”

Melbourne’s post-punk pounders Constant Mongrel follow up their excellent LP from 2018 with a double shot single in advance of their European tour. A-side “Experts in Skin” is a brittle, blistered cut that rolls in on Plasticine guitar needles before kicking over to a full-on hive of buzzing synths, sax and rhythmic rancor. The vocal bile from Tom Ridgewell captures their usual sneering, aloof attack, cutting through consumerism without an ounce of affection. The band’s long been one of the Aussie underground’s secret weapons, wrangling up players from Terry, Woolen Kits, and Nun and this 7” slab for Upset The Rhythm keeps their reputation solid. Nab a listen to the A-side below and look for the single in June or on the road in the EU.



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Wand

Wand’s alchemical change from fuzz punks into purveyors of mercurial indie prog is complete as they slide into their fifth album, Laughing Matter. Opening with the icy, Radiohead-esque pulse of “Scarecrow,” they seem to tip their hand, giving listeners a feeling of what to expect. However, they prove harder to pin down as the album progresses. The record hooks its claws into shades of shoegaze one minute, turning the fog-machine blur to a tumultuous ten, with Corey Hanson’s vocals climbing out of the mix in high, lonesome wails. The next, they’re picking out a loping folk intro, creaking the porch slabs in the background and thrumming on soft, purple twilight glows. They continue to weave through style swaps over the album’s hefty tracklist – sinewy here, angular there, riding a rollercoaster of thick muscular riffs buried in redline fuzz with ease on more than one occasion. Yet, where that might sound like a band struggling with identity, Laughing Matter proves that the band’s only just found their way between the cracks of genre to embrace a more ambitious persona.

Hearkening back to late ‘90s / early aughts budget bumps on alternative types, the record allows itself to embrace a bigness and grandiosity that’s been whittled down a bit in the wake indie’s genre drilldown tendencies. Sure, there are still a few who cast a wide net without totally sliding into the banal end of the pop pool (say: Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Temples), but Laughing Matter is the band’s swipe at something that might fit in with outsized psych at the centennial click-over that reverberated through records by Serena Maneesh, Secret Machines, Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Earlies, and yes, Radiohead.

It’s a record that makes space for silence and coiled anticipation. While it could have perhaps been whittled some, there’s a certain respect in becoming the biggest version of yourself possible. Fans of any of the touchstones mentioned should find something to savor on Wand’s new direction, and holdover Wand fans won’t find themselves disappointed. This feels like a natural progression from where they were on Plum. Last year’s stop-gap Perfume felt like, just that, a distraction rather than a move forward. This is that big leap the band promised, as long as you’ve got a good hour ten to strap in, the band’s ready to unleash their magnum opus.



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Jeanines – “Either Way”

Brooklyn do Jeanines have announced their debut LP for Slumberland today and the first cut wafts in on memories of classic Slumberland, Sarah, and Cloudberry singles gone by. Lead by Alicia Jeanine and aided and abetted by My Teeanage Sride’s Jed Smith on drums and bass, the band picks at a whole host of favorites from Marine Girls, The Pastels and Talulah Gosh to further outliers like Tiger Trap and Cub. Its sweet and simple and decidedly breezy, just the kind of jangle pop that brightens a day. There have been a lot of heirs to the jangle-pop throne, but the true secret is not to overthink it. So many of the originals shone brightly because they weren’t trying to overcomplicate the sound, and instead just got together with friends to knock out sparkling singles dipped in simple syrup and sunshine. Jeanines seem to capture the haphazard brilliance of the original set. Get this one on your list for 2019.



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Buck Curran – “War Behind The Sun”

Guitarist Buck Curran last landed here with his shadowy Morning Haikus, Afternoon Ragas LP in 2018 and he’s back with a renewed darkness on “War Behind The Sun.” With a parched approach the track spreads like the doom sprawl of war across the horizon, an all-consuming ache that can neither be reckoned with or ignored. The track takes its influence from Raag Marva, a Hindustani raag that represents sunset and ushers in a feeling of anxiety and solemn expectation. Those feelings are translated well by Curran, turning the raag into a high-plains exorcism of light and goodness as it sweeps through the speakers. The track is released in advance of Curran’s upcoming album Delights & Dangers of Ambiguity coming in June on Obsolete Recordings.

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The UV Race

Aussie unease squad The UV Race made the label rounds in the mid ‘00s and now they roll right back to the imprint that birthed them, pulling no punches a decade later on their newest racket for Aarght. Honestly this one’s a bit of a homecoming for me, as The UV Race’s eponymous debut was one of the records that pulled me into the Aussie underground way back in ’09. Truth be told, it’s been an enjoyable ride ever since. Montfort and crew are still acerbic as ever, wrapping their squelch-punk package in the brittle bristle of noise, repetition, and discomfort. They’ve never been a band bred to make the listener settle into any sort of groove and so it seems there’s a crawling itch that spreads out yet again from under the punk pocked veneer of Made In China.

Jangles are buried in pockets of synth, scratched with the woolen wonders of technology. Sax bleats buzz alongside harmonica and tangled twangs. Michael Reichsteiner continues to use his voice as a blunt instrument second only to maybe Dom Trimboli of Wireheads. Still beholden to the Mark E. Smith school of punk and despair the band continue spewing their atonal attack with the force and farce of an Electric Eels inspired Halloween costume. In the wake of their original run the continent has spawned a legion of post-punk pugilists, jilted janglers and pop invertebrates, but The UV Race taught them all how to spew. Eddy Current may have made the kids sweat. Total Control may have made critical darlings out of the underground, but UV Race still poke at the ear drums with a confidence and irreverence that make them true legends.



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