Ignatz

Bram Devens slides back home on Kraak for his fourth full length at the label while partnering up with the always venerable Feeding Tube for the US release. He’s come a long way over the years. Gone are the crusted electronics that marked his early works. Gone too are the tin can Americana blues of his 2013 work Can I Go Home Now?. There’s a bump in Devens’ fidelity, but that simply means that its a smoother ride, its by no means a crisp studio setting on The Drain, but then it wouldn’t really be Ignatz if it wasn’t wrapped some manner of midnight hiss. With the clarity comes a directness from Bevens that’s been lacking in his previous works. He’s always felt a bit confessional, but The Drain is a new depth for his songwriting. His guitar work comes through with the weight and gravitas of troubled folk bluesmen. There’s an unmistakable sadness to the record, haunted and hushed; given forth in his mumbled but pained delivery and the tangled fingerpicks that adorn the album.

Devens is indeed circling the drain, or so it would seem from the sounds of The Drain. Its almost impossible to really get into this album in the light of day. Its barely even a twilight record. Its a 1:30 AM, lawn chair in the backyard, single porchlight sporting a halo of fog type of record. If ever there was a record to soundtrack the reassessment of your life choices, this is that record. Its the most bare and honest record of the man’s career and though it sounds like terrible pain went into its creation, its output is beautiful and spare. Its the kind of record from an artist that you can say, “forget the rest of the catalog, for now just start here and sink in.”




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Frankie & The Witch Fingers – “Get Down”

I’ve already heaped praise on Frankie & The Witch Fingers’ sophomore LP, but anything worth saying is worth saying again. The clip for album standout “Get Down” mixes creepy laundromat antics, psychedelic substances and 80’s graffix for a mindblow video that’s fitted to melt your brain into goo. “Get Down” is probably one of the choicest cuts from the LP, drivin’ and sweatin’ and shot solid with a bass riff that’s primed to dance. If you haven’t picked it up, its gettin’ to be time. Its out today.

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The Writhing Squares

Philly duo The Writhing Squares is the brainchild of Kevin Nickles (Ecstatic Vision, Taiwan Housing Project) and Daniel Provenzano (Purling Hiss, Spacin’). The connection to Purling Hiss and Spacin’ feels on the money, though The Writhing Squares have a cleaner vision of the psychedelic expanse than Spacin’ and a much more motorik take than Purling Hiss usually indulge in. They muster creeping ambience and snowball it into a torn vortex of psychedelic stomp. At their best they’re conjuring up a Hawkwind obsessed Suicide tapping into the cosmic (or is that Kosmiche) well, while keeping the beats locked and pulsing. They beg the question, did Suicide always need more flute? Maybe so if it wound up floating into the sweet strains of lysergic lockstep “Astral Trane.”

They aren’t totally clipped into the Krautrock tag with any dogged devotion, though, opener “Unknown Drone” finds its way through the darkness in dirgey drones with space rock pockets popping up all over. They push into a no wave flutter that pairs easily with psychedelic grind on “Lava Suit” throwing their guitar growl to the wolves of a James Chance sax skronk that gives the track plenty of bite. The rest of the album doesn’t falter. There are no real weak spots. Provenzano and Nickles are the rare pair that know exactly the sounds they’re looking for and know just how to grind it into sonic sausage. Deeper listens bring more and more pockets of joy from In The Void Above and its been a while since someone took space rock on a worthwhile tour of complimentary vices in the last few years. Keeping this one locked on the stereo and the knob twisted up. Its a burner.




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Beautify Junkyards – Other Voices 08

Lisbon’s Beautify Junkyards follow up last year’s psych-pop odyssey The Beast Shouted Love with a single for Ghost Box’s increasingly intriguing “Other Voices” series. The eighth installment sees the Portuguese band trading in their familiar brand of pastoral psych – burbling beats, whispery vocals, music box ambience – and its a perfect fit for Ghost Box’s layered roster. The single is strong on both sides, the A-side is a gorgeous sunset melt of plucks and swirling synths made for sliding off the remains of the day. The flip is by turns more nocturnal, a secret world of forest folk adorned with ornaments of subtle psychedelic nuance and a loping beat. Its easy to see how Ghost Box could pull this one close, and I’d be unsurprised to see a full length from the band arrive on the label sometime in the future. Its the kind of release that feels like it might already be in their ranks. Solid as ever, the label is still leading the pack in consistency of psychedelic oddities these days.




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Opposite Sex – “Oh Ivy”

Opposite Sex’s last album tapped into the jangle-pop past of their Dunedin roots, but they take things deeper on their sophomore release, Hamlet. “Oh Ivy” starts with the same basic ingredients that the band dipped from on their eponymous debut; post punk clatter and the lilting vocals of Lucy Hunter, but it quickly turns much darker than they’ve gone before. The tension is thick and the guitar slinks with a wild almost inebriated stumble. The song is up on its hackles within the first minute. Hunter’s vocals turn desperate, ravaged, pleading and accusing at the same time. The song slashes and crumples on itself and by the time the end draws near Hunter seems practically beside herself with longing and despair. Its the kind of post-punk that most who use the tag are not making. It wields noise, sheds any sense of self-consciousness and just lets the music embody ragged emotions, raw and nervy. The album is out in the band’s native New Zealand through the ever intriguing Melted Ice Cream Collective and here in The States from Dull Tools. From the sounds of this, its going to wipe any expectations that Opposite Sex set up completely off the table.



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Psychic Ills – “Baby”

I’ve sung plenty of praises on both Psychic Ills’ new album, Inner Journey Out and standout country psych jammer “Baby,” but pairing a perfectly hazy song with a faded, ’70s Urban Cowboy treatment warrants repeating how worth your time this one is. Jason Evans sums up the sweaty summer vibes and pent up “Gimme Shelter” simmer that the band have created on the song. He’s created characters that feel sympathetic and real, balancing their hope against the songs deep burn. Apparently this is only the first half as the video’s credits tease a part two to come. If you are still standing there, not owning this Ills record then I don’t know what else I can do to sway ya.

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Totally You – “One Step At A Time”

Izak Arida’s (of The Memories) new EP Smog City is full of scuzzy odes to L.A.’s grime and lo-fi rumples on hangovers, but underneath a bit of that scruffy exterior lies a solid strain of psych-pop that holds a lot of DNA in common with The Dandy Warhols, Primal Scream and Love and Rockets. Nowhere is this strain more evident than on standout track “One Step At A Time.” It breaks open with that kind of heard-it-before laid back riff that you can’t quite place, but can’t quite ignore either. Rather than feel like simply another plow through the ruts of drug laden pop froth, Arida gives the song a spark of life that catches hard, careening the riff like a teenage joyride through the speakers. Its bigger than most of the other tracks on Smog City, stacking vocals and harmonies into a creamy goodness that brings the West Coast sun and slacker pop saunter with just a dash of Brit-pop pomp. This track alone feels like the match that might touch off Totally You, given the right fuel.



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Wyatt Blair

Ok so the other day, getting pizza with some friends, I was wrapping up out front of the shop. The place’s delivery guy bumped out of the door, cigarette dangling, pies aloft, mullett on point and jumped into a bruised white convertible. He threw the pizza in the backseat, cranked Billy Idol on the stereo and pulled a U-ie into traffic. Clearly he was living his best life and that is probably the truest analogy I can provide for how Wyatt Blair’s album feels. Blair, an unabashed devotee to the ’80s some would like to forget, your gym teacher is still living and Kenny Loggins is still tying to remember has crafted the best love letter to a generation and its excesses than probably anyone has ever taken the time to perfect.

There’s a power pop soul to Blair’s writing, but its been massively perverted by the hair metal overload of an era of MTV. Its been melted into shape by Yacht Rock’s smoothness. It’s harnessed the lightning strike of crisp ’80s overload that most laughingly write off as a trite and forgettable soundtrack to Michael J. Fox films and Tom Cruise volleyball montages. These elements usually slip way back into the subconscious only to be tickled every so often by the flip of an oldies dial, but that’s where the brilliance of someone like Wyatt Blair fully coalesces. He not only embraces the schlock and sheen, he perfects it. Yeah fists are raised, gloves are fingerless and I’m pretty sure all of the drums are triggered but that’s where knowing you’re embracing a bygone image of cool transcends time and space and better judgment to just let that surge of fun light the way. Blair knows that everyone secretly just wants to embody their own montage, that we’re all riding the bus in elementary, junior high, high school and thinking back on that super compressed version of heightened reality with a feeling that’s equal parts ennui and pain.

The funny thing is Blair himself is a bit too young to have been on the buses at the time but he knows how to wrap up nostalgia in a way that bites just right. Every aesthetic bit of Point of No Return is full of the right amount of neon, and the right snap of spandex. The soft focus is racked just right and the ghosts of Eddie Money, Pat Benetar, Lita Ford and Wyatt’s own admitted crush, Kenny Loggins are streaming through the veins of the record without even feeling like an homage. His tracks just feel like they were the jukebox detritus of bands that got passed over. Its a record that could so seamlessly find its way into the soundtracks of teen films from the VHS graveyard that it would make Craig Wedren (aka Wet Hot American Summer‘s secret weapon) blush. So sit back and clip in for a ride that’s big and bold and lit and full of the life that may have left the radio these days, but its not forgotten. Clearly there’s still a little room for excess in 2016.




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Nancy – “I Want One”

Everything about this track is dumb fun, and like Nobunny before them Nancy is completely unconcerned with fidelity, decorum or whether or not you give a shit about them or their knockaround riffs. “I Want One’ is a hundred foot wave of candied amplification crashing down on you from all directions. Its pop. Its punk. Its bubblegum sweet and sticky as hell but its also a perfect blast to beat back the world. Whatever’s bringing the blues can’t withstand “I Want One.” There are plenty of amped up peelers on Nancy’s upcoming LP for Germany’s Erste Theke Tontraeger label, but this one burns a hole like summer incarnate. Technically the first half of this puppy’s already been an EP for Eat The Life Records, but who cares if its old. Its getting a full length treatment with a whole new stack of tracks on the flip and if its new to you then its just as shiny as ever. Go ahead and crank it.



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Jean Bernard Raiteux – Les Demons

Finders Keepers has no shortage of exotica, erotica and psychsploitation among its ranks. Hell, its pretty much the reason to keep running to its embrace, and they up the ante with a reissue of French composer Jean-Bernard Raiteux aka Jean-Michel Lorgere’s score to the very b-movie Les Demons. The movie comes from a treasure trove that Finders and B-Music have touched on before, the film catalog of Jess Franco, here working under the Anglicized alias of Clifford Brown. The film follows much of the same themes that he’s found before, horror, witchcraft, demonic possession and naturally, nunsploitation. Can’t make that up, that’s a man’s motus operandi right there. He literally has more than one film that might fit the term nunsploitation.

As if this weren’t reason enough to investigate, Franco had a habit of hiring groundbreaking composers to work out scores to his films and Raiteux is working his lush psych ass off on this one. Titles like “Kathleen Writhing,” The Weakness of Rosalinda,” and “Three Serpents to Karen’s Dwelling” feel like they should have schlocky porn connotations, but they’re actually top tier psych that far outstrip any of the scenes they underscore. This is a psych odyssey, completely instrumental but no less lysergic. Raiteux ropes in psych-folk, burning acid guitar and a creeping ambience that’s not always present in the the garage-psych indebted debris of the ’60s. Its a higher minded psych and full on fun because of it. Finders won’t ever really steer you wrong. Andy Votel is digging more crates than most of us will ever have time to find, but no reason not to embrace it when it comes your way.




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