Tornado Wallace

Native Australian turned Berlin fixture Tornado Wallace has created an album that’s splicing the dancefloor’s allure with sleepy shades of dub and experimental disco flashbacks. The album has a distinctly refined slink that comes on like a narcotic cloak, melting his sounds together into a pool of heightened reality half-memories. The short, but effective, Lonely Planet, has the feeling of dipping the listener into a soundtrack wishing well of ’80s nights and smudged streetlight hues, alternating feelings of lucid calm and an overwhelming depersonalization that feels as if you’ve slipped off of the tracks of existence.

Maybe Lonely Planet is just your way of dealing with the current events spiral, a step back out of the anxiety climax of the swirling loop of information, conjured up by your mind from the detritus of too many late nights asleep in front of the TV. Its entirely possible that the music just began playing on its own. No cause for alarm. Just lay back into it and watch this horrible year of our lord, 2017, unfold its widescreen horror from the safety of neon lit car windows thrumming from the full body high of distance. But alas, that’s not so, is it? When Lonely Planet simmers to a stop, you’ll still be you and the world will still be waiting, but at least it felt right for the moment.



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Ben Chasny on Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu

Chalkin’ up another great installment of Hidden Gems, RSTB’s series in which one of my favorite artists picks out an album that hasn’t gotten proper due in the scheme of things and shines a bit of light on it. I’ve found that the picks can often illuminate not only a deserving overlooked album, but also give insight as to where the chooser’s own sound developed from, and this entry from Ben Chasny is a prime example. Ben’s picked a PSF classic, the very seldom sung Live In The First Year Of The Heisei (Volume’s I and II), by collaborative trio Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu. Technically its two albums, but who’s to get picky around here. Ben gives his take on what makes this such a slept on piece of culture and how it’s played an important role in his own music.

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The Bats

Nine albums in, New Zealand legends The Bats are still finding solace in strums and employing jangle in an abundance that’s just plain admirable. But, as began on 2011’s Free All Monsters, they’ve let the darkness in. It was never all bright spots and roguish charms, but now that age has seasoned the performers, the tones are shearing away some of their brightness to let the seriousness and gravity sink in. Robert Scott’s songs, like his fellow countrymen in The Chills, seem to have always found a fond friend in the ’80s work of R.E.M., and they take the some pleasure in picking through the rubble of Reckoning and Fables-era vibes. But the spirit of kiwi-pop lives on so strong in Scott’s work that even rounding up the outside influences can’t dim the looming specter of New Zealand jangle-pop.

The Deep Set is an apt description, and certainly not a toss away title. It’s the band digging into their own insecurities and letting the wrinkles show. They have a deep catalog at this point, but songs like “Antlers”, “Diamonds” and “No Trace” feel like they stand up easily in a set pulled from Daddy’s Highway or The Law of Things. They prove to be a band that’s without prime, or at least one that constantly exists in it. In an era of endless reformation for sale and reinvention without pity, it’s nice to find a band that ages with such grace that it feels natural, unforced and welcome.




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No Joy – “Califone”

Ah man No Joy is one of those bands that I’m always glad to see pop up in any release year. Ever since their debut LP of gauzy shoegaze baubles, they’ve been constantly reconfiguring the genre into crystallized clouds of sound. They’ve continued to move away from the outright obfuscation, and as begun on 2015’s More Faithful, this newest song is letting vocalist Jasamine White-Gluz’s voice stand front and center, proving that the wall of guitar texture is intriguing but she’s definitely the most formidable weapon in their arsenal. Though they stepped back from the ledge a bit with the Drool Sucker EP last year, exploring more of their noise side, they push in even further than More Faithful on the new cut. The song winds up hitting some aching dream pop notes while dropping much of the din far, far below them. Its not a seismic shift, but it reframes the band yet again, letting them feel familiar but never static.

The accompanying video, directed by Ben Clarkson, is a perfect barrage of pop-political imagery that feels like a Facebook timeline come alive to devour itself. Its a surrealist soak that’s disorienting as the swirling pop surrounding it. Seems like a great peak into yet another short form release from the band this year and a reminder that they’re still finding ways to surprise. “Califone” will appear on the EP Creep out in February.


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Ty Segall

Just like last year started with a blast from Ty, so starts 2017 with a new album from the hardest working man in garage-psych. For his second eponymous venture, he’s departed from The Muggers, shaken the deliciously diseased vibes that flooded Emotional Mugger and returned to finding peace somewhere between the Bolan bound twinges of psych-folk come down with a beautiful case of the shakes and proto-metal’s thick, earthen hammer of fuzz. Segall’s made no over arching claims on this one, just that its the best batch of songs he’s had in him and that’s what he’s putting forward. No small proposal in a catalog that stretches longer than most artists could ever hope to muster, but the man makes good on his promises to lay down some true new gems, glittering among a career full of amp-toasted earworm nuggets.

He’s both at his heaviest, besting even the electrified armor heft of Slaughterhouse, and his most pastoral, taking Sleeper‘s mellow mind to task. The heavy standout here is the 10+ minute opus, “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” which goes ques up the guitar god clip for our judges in the audience. If you came for the heavy psych vibes and wallpaper peel, please proceed directly to track three and let your brain melt like butter in the sun. For me though, as much as I appreciate a good, hard mind flay, its the softer side that finds me coming back again and again. Pristine plums like “Take Care (To Comb Your Hair),” “Talkin'” and “Orange Color Queen” beg for quietude, calm air and an appreciation of the artist’s presumably ample collection of ’70s country, folk and psych slabs for their inspiration.

The album employs a new (and yet not so new – welcome back Emmet Kelly, Mikal Cronin and Charles Moothart) backing band that calls up old friends, cuts the crew down to a core that can’t miss and records one of the first true big studio albums in the artist’s career. Cut with minimal overdubs, just a band in a room working as a unit to bring an album beating to life, its an record that won’t let itself slip from view in a year that threatens to be choked with big banner releases. I think, for me at least, that’s why I’ll always be waiting to hear what Segall does next. Every new album will make good on promises to, if not outdo the last one, always be an essential and vital voice kicking holes in rock’s altar.



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Gnod – “Bodies For Money”

I have no doubt that 2017 will be the year that as many voices as possible stand up with a political anthem to lob into the ring. From preachy to poignant, I’ve got a feeling we’ll hear them all and that each of them will find their right pair of ears. For now, I’m feeling UK psych/krautrock unit Gnod’s take on the anger. The band’s lead single from the quietly titled, JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE, is the scathing “Bodies For Money.” The band strips away much of their Krautrock grind and noise obfuscation to go in hard for the heavy edge of psych, torn open with a touch of metal. It’s a track that is practically tearing itself apart at its own veins. There’s that terrible adage being thrown around that political upheaval breeds good music, and yeah that’s not untrue, but personally I’d shed that silver lining over and again to live every day under better rule. Since the fight is here though, its good to have some anthems to light up the speakers and spark a little righteous indignation. Gnod have, in truth, never sounded so focused and brutal and this feels like a good one.



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Stef Chura

As a Michigan native, I gotta love Stef Chura, just for stickin’ it out and never pulling roots on the rust belt. There’s a certain kind of malaise and self-flagellation I inherit to living in the mitten and it comes through on her debut record, Messes. She’s landed in Detroit and made the city headquarters to the recording of the album, enlisting fellow Midwest holdout Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me) on production and bass here. The record leans into certain ’90s touchstones that anyone coming of age during the era might let warm their nostalgic heart; the distortion pedal punch of noise rising out of the calm chorus, feminist punk prose, and a starkness that feels like Albini might be creeping ’round the cables (alas, he’s not). The sum of the parts, though, doesn’t sound like it’s lost in the past, just keeping the best parts aloft.

Chura packs the album full of doubts, anxieties, stresses and breakthroughs. Its an album about all the shit that life throws as you and coming out, at least somewhat, better on the other side. It’s not about erasing that emotional heap from your slate, just not letting it overwhelm. Perhaps that vulnerability is what really brings the album swimming to the surface out. Chura’s ability to be self-effacing and pack it on top of thick, fuzzed, slightly knotty, and certainly catchy songwriting lets her stand as not just another artist flipping surf, jangle, or girl-group swoon into faded memories and faint touchstones. She’s cheekily mentioned that she decided she’d had to write at least album before she dies, but now that she has, I’m hoping its by no means a solitary creation.



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Hair – Hair

More fuzzed goodness from Chicago. Heavy vibes and psych fallout are wafting our way from the windy city trio Hair, coming forth via 7″ on Tall Pat records. The single wraps up three tracks that bash deep into territory that should be familiar to fans of Ty Segall, Wand, Mind Meld, Orb and others finding solace between the proto metal double kick, grunge-punk hammer headlock and psychedelic ripple riot that we all love so well. Sure, its territory that’s been carved out and covered, but as I’ll always be the first to admit, if you’re doing it right, then I’m not going to bust any balls nagging that someone laid the road first. Hair are slowly but steadily melting the paint in any room playing this single. In fact its hard to pick out a standout here, its a triple-A rocker that’s perking plenty of interest as to where they’re headed next (they have but one other, lone Bowie tribute up on their Bandcamp). Hopefully they’ll stretch things out to a proper long player and let the pavement crack under its weight. For now, these three are more than enough to tide me over.




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Rat Columns – “Someone Else’s Dream”

David West’s Rat Columns have bounced around a slew of notable labels, from R.I.P. Society to Blackest Ever Black. Though the latter seemed odd for a jangle pop band, its just another testament to their quality output (and perhaps his time spent in Total Control). The band now finds a home at UK DIY label Upset The Rhythm and it seems like a pretty perfect fit. The first single from the band’s upcoming LP, Candle Power, is a sparkling piece of jangle pop bliss that sounds like it was ripped out of the catalogs of Razorcuts, Sea Urchins or early Go-Betweens. It’s completely swathed in a rosy glow that’s hard to shake long after the last chords come clanging to an end. A swooning organ adds just the right touch of fullness to the song’s strum laden lope, clipping along atop a drumbeat that urges listeners to dance uninhibitedly at every turn. Rat Columns have been bubbling at the edges of breaking out for a few years now, but with this album on the rise, it seems like 2017 might be the year they become a household name.

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Centralstödet / The Myrrors

One of Sky Lantern’s early bits of intrigue came via a tape culled from the home recordings of Swedish psych harbingers Centralstödet. Those begat a live recording and now a split with scorched Earth wizards The Myrrors. The material marks the first new studio offerings from Centralstödet in years and hints at a shift away from simply steamrolled riffs into a bit of a Can/Krautrock bent, albeit one that’s flayed open like hot skin and roiling with the band’s addiction to fuzz. The three tracks on offer show a band knelt at the alter of instrumental prog and finding their footing nicely while paying respects to a long line that preceded them. It is the final submission, “Vega’s Bodega” that really shines here, letting the band really hit into the stuttered angles and let the psychedelic blood spill hot and wild.

On the flip, Arizona’s own Myrrors bring home a suite of high plains drone incantations that live up to anything on their recently released Entranced Earth. The two tracks act as halves of a larger piece and feed into one another seamlessly, skimming the horizon low and lanky on “Rayuela” before opening the full shamanic experience on “Night Flower Codex.” The band has been long lingering at the edges of acclaim, a name whispered among heads who know what’s good for them and now with this split on top of last year’s already convincing statement, they should be primed for plenty more to get on board. The release is nothing if not a showcase for two names that are topping lists of band’s to watch like hawks, as they’re laying down the shattered Earth soundtracks for our own end days to come.




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