Chloe Alison Escott – “Stranger Than Death”

Been a fan over here of Tasmania’s Native Cats for a bit, so anything out of that camp is always highly anticipated. News came down earlier this month about Chapter Music’s upcoming compilation Midnight Meditations, designed to help listeners through long dark nights of the soul. The comp focuses on the downbeat visions of artists with a goal of providing some comfort during troubled days and nights, and this latest addition cinches its necessity. Typically Native Cats have found their niche in abrasive post-punk, so its interesting to hear another side of Chloe’s output here. Gone are the insistent rhythms and thickly muscled bass of the Cats and in place is a rainy afternoon course of quiet contemplation. Just Chloe and a piano, the track leaves little room to hide. Its a spare, open, and raw track that never hides its hurt. This song falls more in line with Chloe’s solo work and is in fact a nice precursor to an upcoming solo LP, Stars Under Contract due on Chapter later in the year.

Giving some context to the song, Escott explains, “I started writing this song when I saw heavy rain evaporating instantly on halogen lights along the Hobart Rivulet, and the rest of the lyric rolled out from there. Most of all it’s about gender transition – there’s even a quick reference to an infamous, long-discredited online test for transsexuality – but if you want to interpret it as a prediction of pandemic isolation life I won’t stand in your way.” The comp is due out this Friday, July 3rd, and features several Chapter alum/adjacent offerings from The Green Child (feat Mikey Young from Total Control and Raven Mahon from Grass Widow), Sarah Mary Chadwick, Dick Diver’s Rupert Edwards, Alex Macfarlane of Twerps/The Stevens, and Chapter’s own Guy Blackman.



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Le Ren – “If I Had Wings”

Been easing into the upcoming EP from Montreal’s Lauren Spear under the name Le Ren. The EP is draped in a bittersweet soul, informed by loss and the lingering regrets that lead on the road to resolution. “If I Had Wings” is a slow saunter into the summer air, flecked with a mournful slide, laconic strums and Spear’s heartbreaking delivery. The song ebbs into the strands of downcast country that have been working their way into constant rotation around here. While the release is only four songs strong, each is a universe of quiet despair and newfound hope. The EP lands on Secretly Canadian July 31st.



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Ezra Feinberg

I’ve shared a bit of this new LP from Ezra Feinberg, but the album’s really not something that can be parsed out into bits and pieces. Feinberg made his mark in the sorely undersung band Citay, fusing guitar flash and virtoistic playing with a sun-baked good nature that was way ahead of the Cosmic Americana curve that’s reared its head the last few years. He’s since taken to more Kosmiche waters, with a stunning LP in 2018, Pentimento and others, which he’s ably expanded upon with the rippling Recumbent Speech. Now navigating territory smoothed by Terry Riley and canonized by the German synth set — think Harmonia, Cluster, or Rother’s solo works – the new territory suits him. Naturally there’s the stamp of Eno as well, but with Tim Green, Chuck Johnson, Robbie Lee, and Jonas Reinhardt in tow, Feinberg is building soundworlds of his own that recall the light spirit of Citay, but embrace the new age with wide-open eyes.

While the mood is serene, Feinberg has plenty of rhythm at play on the album. As with his previous outings his string work often creates a loping underbelly to tracks, but he’s meshing the repeated phrases with the soft skitter of drums that range from whispered shapes of a pulse to prog and jazz touches that feel at home with their ‘70s precursors. Most welcome here is the pedal steel of Johnson, who uses it to shade in the songs with a darkness that cools off the abundant ease of the album. Feinberg’s compositions use their players as subtle, yet essential layers. Even the vocals of Mandy Green and April Haley are woven between the cataclysmic crumble of “Ovation,” one of the album’s true highlights. With his previous outing, Feinberg set the stage for this new chapter in his output, but with Recumbent Speech he’s crafted a cosmic high water mark that should be touchstone for anyone looking to elevate minimal records for years to come.




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Jeffrey Silverstein

Played a bit of this on the last RSTB radio show, but as the excellent mass of great albums this year has outweighed my free time, I’m just now getting this one up on the site. Silverstein has created a meditative oasis of gently loping guitars and cool waters of pedal-steel. Inspired by the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, long distance running, and the sunbaked brevity of lost icon Ted Lucas, the record has an innate laid-back quality to it that tends to pass by with a touch of highway hypnosis. Among the marbled greenery of Silverstein’s playing the listener is invited to look inward. Time passes inside tis bubble while the rest of the world slinks by in time-lapse. I’m not going to use the reviled term of 2020 here, this isn’t a balm of sorts, but instead a reset, a meshing with the earth and sky to achieve balance.

There’s a feeling of photosynthesis to the album, as if the vibrations between the light refracted off of You Become The Mountain can energize the listener. The slow pacing never lags, but lingers in just the right manner. Silverstein, along with Barry Walker Jr. (Mouth Painter, Roselit Bone) and Alex Chapman (Parson Redheads, Evan Thomas Way) help to slow down the frantic pace of the year, an asset to an album if there ever was one. While moored in folk, the record takes many of its cues from the amniotic float of Kosmiche while keeping a bit of Neu in the rearview. The latter crops up in the subliminal click of programmed drums that are ever obscured by the heat lines rolling off of the pavement. The elements come together nicely to form an album that suffused with the natural world – the fresh green smell of cut plants, the warmth of wooden surfaces in the sun, the gentle sound of cotton curtains in the breeze. While it seems simple, Silverstein makes the ordinary feel essential for just a few moments.



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Trummors – “Late Arriver”

If, after the last slip out of the Trummors camp, you still needed some inspiration to get this on your watchlist, the band cinches the necessity with “Late Arriver.” The second single off of the album is combed back further in a honeyed twang, playing up the country comfort of the duo’s latest album. Harmonies entwine from Anne and David, giving this a nod to Richard and Linda Thompson if they’d been collaborating heavily with New Riders at any point in their career. The strums are wide and winding on this one and the pedal steel is tinged with sunset colors that paint the desert surroundings in which they find themselves ensconced. The record is out August 21st from Ernest Jenning Record Co.


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Hypnolovewheel – “Parallel Universe”

Growing up through the ‘90s it seemed that those of us in more remote areas had to scrap a bit harder to find music outside of limited shelf space in the few stores that existed in the area and the FM dial. I’m still coming upon pockets of bands that seem like they should have had prominence that were just completely lost on the wider net of listeners. Long Island band Hypnolovewheel definitely falls in this category. The band suffers from the ‘90s phenomenon of “horrible cover art overshadows the music inside.”. There was plenty of this trend at the time, but maybe see their collection of covers for yourself. It’s too bad, though, because the band embraced a wide swath of sounds prevalent at the time and made them all work.

From their alt-jangled beginnings on Turn! Turn! Burn! that recall The Embarrassment, to the smudged shoegaze blare of Angel Food and their final stop at power pop swagger on Altered States, the band had an enviable aural trajectory but never seemed to grip too long. Even with a bit of push through ‘90s Marvel (Hypnolovewheel would feature in at least one Spiderman comic at the time) and with opening slots for plenty of large-scale NY headliners, they seemed pretty contained to the East Coast. There wasn’t a huge push behind them. Their first two albums appeared on Fabian Aural Products and they moved to Alias for the rest of their output, but would dissolve after Altered States in ’93. The band’s Dave Ramirez would play with King Missle for a bit while they were still active and following their demise he’d work with James McNew in Dump.

Aptly this collection from Cara Records really ties together their catalog, with selections across their spectrum of sound plus some exclusive demo cuts that haven’t appeared elsewhere. Its a good primer and tends to wrap up some of the band’s most interesting singles and cuts, but their whole catalog is worth perusing at length as they do have plenty of deep cuts that don’t appear here. This is a nice spotlight on a band that seemed to get lost in the cracks like so many swallowed by the ‘90s.



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Best of 2020 (so far)

2020’s been a hell of a year, and one that doesn’t feel like definitive statements do it justice. Still, no matter how many seismic changes have occurred during the year, the music has been a source of solace and inspiration. The fact that so many artists have had their livelihoods upended gives it a slightly sour note, especially for some that may have been working years to let these statements out into the world. Keep hitting the Bandcamp revenue shares to support artists and labels directly. If you need some suggestions there’s quite a few below. Keep in mind that ‘best’ is by no means definitive, but these are some of my favorites. We all know that Run The Jewels hits hard, but someone else is gonna tell you about it better than I ever could. Still lots to look forward to musically in the second half, but the first part of the year has been a bounty to be sure.

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Naked Roommate – “Mad Love”

The exciting news of the new single from Naked Roommate is balanced by the equally sad news that it’s officially over for The World. The beloved Oakland post-punk outfit only had a handful of records, but they lit a disjointed fire on each one. The band’s Amber Sermeńo & Andy Jordan carry on the torch, but strip things back further than the sax-scratched sounds of The World. Alongside mems of Bad Bad, Preening, and Blues Lawyer, the pair embrace a skeletal beat that recalls ESG, C.O.C.O., or the disjointed funk of Lizzy Mercier Descloux. “Mad Love” bubbles in on beats inflated with recycled air, a loping bass and rubberized ripples of guitar. Ringlets of synth dart across the room with laser-guided glee and the whole song is held fast by the icy delivery of Sermeńo, who’s giving this a delightfully more lived-in approach than on The World’s output. The record’s a joint venture between Trouble in Mind in the US and Upset The Rhythm in the UK. The record is out September 4th and notably, the band & the labels will be donating any proceeds from the sale of the digital single for “Mad Love” thru the end of July to the Anti-Police Terror Project.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE (US) or HERE (UK).

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Bananagun

Like Goat before them, Bananagun are fusing the past to create a hybrid sound for the future. Inspired by the beats that drove him as an instrumental producer, Nick van Bakel makes the next logical step in reproducing the sounds he was always searching for. The True Story of Bananagun takes the portal back to the ‘60s but lets Cumbia and Trorpicalia bleed into Highlife and psychedelic funk. Polyrhythms flare while the guitars tie knots around fuzz-freaked passages. Vibrant colors are the only palette the band seems to trade in — augmenting tracks with horns alongside the saccharine harmonies of ’60s beat groups and buried garage throwaways. Van Bakel has assembled a mutable squad of players that chop and chew their influences into a stew that’s as catchy as it is colorful.

Playing on the tip-of-the-tongue familiarity, the songs feel like they may have filtered through your life at one time or another – Fela’s bounce, Os Mutantes’ skittered humor, Sergio Mendes’ breeziness, The Funkees heaviness, and the kaleidoscopic appeal of The Deviants and Ultimate Spinach all seem to raise their heads. Time and YouTube have removed much of the compartmentalization of the past, melting together eras and influences into stained glass curios with heroes sharing the picture with unknowns. Seems like Bananagun have a bookshelf full of these mix n’ match tchotchkes and they’re bringing the stories to life through the speakers. This one has an outdoor air to it, and even with a separated summer, this feels like the the best accompaniment to verdant scenery seen from the car window with this one turned up a bit too loud.




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Mixtape: Night Sweats

This one’s been bubbling under for a little while. Inspired by humid nights — whether the cold, clammy airs of spring or the stifling swelter of summer, this is for the insomniacs in the crowd. It’s one part flute psych wormhole to oblivion and another part 3 AM anxiety dream – equally indebted to magical realism, the hallucinogenic fabric between episodes of Lodge 49, pandemic isolation depression, the elusive ache of alchemy, and the healing lure of meditative headspace. Time has shifted and this mix attempts to help adjust the listener to the motion sickness that ensues.

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