Moon Duo

As the sequel, or rather, better half to their Occult Architecture Vol.1 from earlier this year, Vol. 2 acts as the softer side of the band’s motorik psych-punk universe. Where the first volume was steeped in anxiety, tension and darkness; the second volume is by turns blissful, celebratory even. Its still chugging along with a chainsaw grind and lysergic stabs of guitar via Ripley Johnson, but now the tone is relaxed and surprisingly languid. The albums form a duality or a complete picture, but taken on its own merits, Vol. 2 is still pushing into Moon Duo’s best work.

There are strums, I think perhaps a first for Moon Duo, or even Wooden Shjips’ catalog. There are genuine moments of resplendence, flipping the band’s Kosmiche switch from throb to fizz. The pair submerge into a milky bath of sound that’s pulsating with light and love and all the Springtime green feelings that may have eluded their grasp in the pursuit of Krautrock edge in the past. Instead, this is pure dreampop, a silken submergence into ionic bliss that can’t hold back its own giddiness. Sanae Yamada’s synths emerge as a key component here, floating in waves of magenta majesty primed to induce shudders in the listener. As part of the band’s Yin and Yang concept, this fills the bill nicely, but even left to its own devices, it’ll sate your hunger for higher consciousness grind for months to come.




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RVG

RVG is the overarching name for the Romy Vager Group. The short, but impressive A Quality of Mercy swims with visions of ’70s and’80s heroes, wandering through touches of The Go-Betweens, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure and Patti Smith. The album indulges heavily in the lush, dark-rimmed tones of The Bunnymen the hardest and Vager’s voice is a dead ringer for the smeared stylings of Ian McCulloch. She’s enmeshed in the extravagant gravity and widescreen approach that made the goth darlings such longstanding obsessions year over year.

The record borrows a silk-screen of style, to be sure, but that style is nothing without substance. That’s where the band pounds the anvil harder than most adopters of minor key moroseness and ringing guitars. They aren’t just wistful for the aesthetics, Vager digs into disenfranchisement, pleas for some scrap of understanding and does it with a stately dignity that can’t help but round back on her similarities to Patti Smith. As she sings it feels like the gravity in the room reorients itself to the speakers, and reportedly the effect is visited tenfold in the live setting, where the band have kept audiences in rapt attention.

Increasingly we’re in a return to long incubation periods, brought about by bands regaining the means to self-release and experiment over time before finding their footing. In that respect it’s rare to find one so firmly and forcefully formed. RVG are a band that knows exactly who they want to be and then simply pulls it off in a manner that feels effortless; crafting songs that hang on the rain like old favorites. If this is the beginning for RVG, then I, for one, can’t wait to see where they’re headed.




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Mountain Movers

New Haven’s Mountain Movers have been building out a homegrown psych scene since 2006, with releases swerving between hometown label Safety Meeting and their own Car Crash Avoiders imprint. Unless you’re digging into the New England psych pantheon rather heavily, this debut for Trouble In Mind might be their first blip into your world. The band has their psych credentials in order though, stretching out for a fourteen minute opener that flexes with tension and rains down a fair amount of feedback fallout.

The record doesn’t flag after the epic opener either, they flip the switch from walls of squall to echoplexed strums that hang on the air in icy tendrils. They pick up cues from the Nuggets set, but find a more languid purchase on “Everyone Cares,” a subdued standout that still finds time to chew a little fuzz. In fact, as the album progresses, their true strength seems to be balancing their ’60s jangle love with front row seats at Pompeii level burndown amp-friers. They’re always building to an entropy of noise release, but they spend some quality time getting to the punch in each of the tracks that adorn their eponymous LP. The band may have spent the past few years filling out local hangs, but this one might just raise their profile among heads looking for two sides of the of the psych coin packed into one platter.




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Sun Araw – “Orthrus”

It’s good to hear Cameron Stallones back in the sweaty arms of mutant dub. The latest Sun Araw opus landed in March and in a glut year of releases kinda snuck out quietly. The video for “Orthrus” thrusts some light back on the release with a spare treatment that features dance sensation Mr. Shapes riding the groove. The song is a standout on the album, marrying a chugging dub shuffle to future funk keys and mournful slides along the strings. As abstract as Sun Araw has been in the past few years, this just hits right in the heart of what always endeared the band to me in the first place. It’s psych, drenched in balmy beat and dug out of the tape hiss trenches that sprung the band all those years ago. If you missed out, check in now.


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Taiwan Housing Project

As I may have mentioned when the first single hit, I’m thoroughly excited for the full bore return of Kilynn Lunsford, she of the sorely overlooked caustic rockers Little Claw. The singer returns with the first full length from Tawian Housing Projet, a sprawling post-punk noise collective she started with ex-Harry Pussy mainstay Mark Feehan. The band also pulls in members of Tyvek, Writhing Squares, Tickley Feather and Dan Melchior’s gang of garage punks. That lineup reads like an RSTB who’s who and as expected the band chews noise-spun frantic panic into a vital stew that dips the listener in a cauldron cradled acid bath of sound and squelch.

Taiwan Housing Project, like Little Claw before them, pulls the same slight of hand shuffle; brutalizing at first blush with dented and demented guitars, clattering percussion and a free jazz hazing ritual of horns, but dig further and the sonic debris disguises some of the most solid pop hooks to find their way crawling out of the post-punk puddle in 2017. Lunsford and Feehan plug straight into a high-functioning wavelength that channels the B-52s if they’d relocated to New England and stapled their house-party punk to Sonic Youth’s tornado of feedback. Atop this ragged and glorious din, Lunsford howls, swoons, gnaws and accuses as if she’s the heir apparent to Poly Styrene’s crown of thorns.

The LP follows on a promising EP from M’lady’s last year, but after hearing Velben Death Mask those tracks seem like preamble to the main event. The record is as bracing, breathless and acerbic as anything you’re likely to hear this year and it’s jockeying heartily for the top spot as one of the best of 2017. In an age that’s more likely than ever to see labels softening their signings to fit into a narrowed view of consumer acceptance and exposure through licensing, it’s reassuring to know that Kill Rock Stars is still out there ignoring commercial appeal in exchange for immortality. This is the kind of record that grows in legend with years to come – a miss it now and kick yourself kind of noise gem that winds up collector’s fodder and fan lore. This is the real thing.




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Look Blue Go Purple – Still Bewitched

In putting together a comp of great jangle-pop last month I was sad to see that female voices, as with many genres, often went underrepresented. One of the brightest stars, and subsequently most often overlooked came in the form of Dunedin group Look Blue Go Purple. The band arrived as part of the Flying Nun stable’s second wave, beginning a run of great EPs from 1985 through 1987. The EPs – Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This – all make their way onto this compilation along with a cache of live tracks spanning from their formation in 1983 to their dissolution in ’87.

The band perfected that distinctive New Zealand jangle, but augmented it superbly with woven vocals, melancholy keys and spectral flute. They worked their way into the canon of culture in their homeland, but unlike contemporaries in The Chills and The Bats, they didn’t find a foothold outside of the country at the time, making them more of a secret handshake between Flying Nun and jangle lovers. The band sprang out of a desire to create music with other women, and though they took inspiration from The Raincoats and The Slits, they were adamant in not presenting themselves as a purely feminist well-spring. Sadly, their status as one of the singular female bands rising in Dunedin lead them to endless questions about gender in regard to their music.

The focus away from the music is criminal, as Look Blue Go Purple remains one of the more nuanced jangle-pop bands to come out of the area. They, like The Beach Boys before them, knew the power of layering vocals in valleys of harmony. Adding to this is the power trio at the core of their songwriting – Denise Roughan, Kathy Bull, and Norma O’Malley. The latter provided the distinctive key swells and enchanted flute parts that truly separate the group from the pack, while Roughan and Bull kept the jangles knotted and the bounce elastic. Flying Nun has done a service getting these EPs bound up on 2xLP, and though the historical inclusion of the live tracks gives this a strong perspective, the fact that it creates a whole new release from their 1991 compilation means that they forgo putting this amazing cover on the gatefold. All in all, this falls heavily in the essential pile.




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Dream Machine – “All For A Chance”

Matthew Melton’s shift to fog machine ’70s prog is perfected on Dream Machine’s upcoming LP The Illusion. Second video out of the gate follows the simple live band floating in color aesthetic, but it’s a perfect fit for the band’s brand of flashback psych. Feeling good about him retiring Warm Soda for this slice of family band FM groove. You can now nab the LP from Castle Face on Boysenberry Swirl, which sounds more like an ice cream flavor than a vinyl pressing, but looks just as sweet.



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Wooden Wand

Perhaps there has been no more steady hand guiding Raven Sings the Blues than the presence of James Toth’s Wooden Wand. Since the site began in 2006, there have been myriad releases from Toth and as I’ve changed, so has the music of Wooden Wand blossomed from noise experiments with The Vanishing Voice, to psych-folk’s crowning glory and on into a pure distillation of Americana that rings far from the hollow brand of weekend alt-country that so many Brooklyn pickers would adopt fecklessly over the years. No, Toth has always been independent music’s poet laureate, whether he’s got the onion skin to prove it or not, we all know its true.

On Clipper Ship, his first album in three years (a relative dearth in terms of Toth’s output), he crafts an album that puts the musical heft ahead of the lyrical focus. A groundswell of his fellow craftsmen have found their way to the studio for this dragging the net from Glenn Kotche (On Fillmore, Wilco) and Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine) to Zak Riles (Watter, Grails) and sought after sidemen Luke Schneider (Margo Price, JEFF The Brotherhood, Natural Child) and Jim Elkington (Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn). The songs jut out from the piers of Fahey and Basho and then tumble into endless buzzing drones and blissful hums. Stripped of the words this would rival any Scissor Tail release for acoustic dominance.

Though that’s not to discount the lyrics on Clipper, they’re as literate and as personal as ever, lending the album Toth’s own brand of rural mesquite, a woodsiness that flecks each song with a mouthful of smoke. In his aim to construct an album that stands alone on it’s instrumentation, he’s succeeded and then some. Combined, however, the instrumental acumen and lyrical quality push this towards one of Toth’s finest releases. The lyrics suggest a haunted America; full of murder ballads and codeine comedowns for a generation adrift and reaching, grasping and grappling with truths that seem to grow less plausible every day. Toth has said that in the wake of 2016’s political heft, he may slow down output, not wanting to add to a glut of musical content out there. But if the spigot slows and each new release is of this caliber, then I’m on board for the wait.




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Robedoor

Somehow it feels prescient that Robedoor have returned with a load of anxiety crusted psychic fallout in the midst of 2017. What could convey the looming cloud of dread and disgust better than L.A.’s preeminent purveyors of noise rattled knuckle biters? Britt and Alex Brown took a devil’s sojourn of four years between their last noise nugget and New Age Sewage, ostensibly so that Britt could focus on his noise/dance empire of Not Not Fun and 100% Fun, but it seems like old times on the new album.

The record is, well let’s not say cleaned up, but somehow there’s a clarity to their vision of hi-bias distortion paranoia. It’s booming through louder than ever, but while the tape hiss may have tempered, the fountain of filth keeps flowing as steadily as ever. Sickly swaying through a wasteland of rusted metal beats and radiation vibe synths, the record is slightly less evil than they’ve felt in the past, but no less apocalyptic. This time around they seem to be less the purveyors of ritual blood lust and more the reflecting pool of what they see around them. In any year, Robedoor feel like a scream into the abyss, but this year, we’re screaming with them.




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Premiere: In Zaire

Italian space-rock quartet In Zaire step up for their second record on Sound of Cobra and expand their horizons further into the upper reaches of the ionosphere. The record is floating on a Hawkwind high stitched to an intense tribal rhythm section that snatches the ever expanding tones back down to the dirt ridden Earth. The band’s fortitude stems from dipping buzzing drones in a bath of Kosmiche roil then lighting it up with a Molotov cocktail explosion of guitar spreading psychedelic wildfire scattering to the winds.

The band paints in heavy strokes of cosmic fury, running the guitars through enough hardware to find a sound that befits the universe collapsing in on itself. Largely left to the instrumental realm, Visions of Age To Come taps the fear and wonder that have bled into the works of Ash Ra Temple and Acid Mothers endless iterations before them. Check out the album in full below and experience the vortex of sonic slurry that’s taken shape thanks to the good folks over at Sounds of Cobra. The album is out May 2nd.


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