Nevada Greene / Scott Tuma – Ragged Hollow

As the year grinds into its final chapter, and the forces of nature finally let us free of 2016, its time to start sifting through the bits that may have gotten lost in a year packed to several brims. This split between established experimental folker Scott Tuma and the more unknown Columbia, MS group Nevada Greene comes off a tour the two did together and gives each a sidelong stab at their craft. For their part, Nevada Greene show up with something that puts them on the radar of those who may have come for Tuma’s name on the banner. “Earthquake Hollow” is a cosmic shudder of radiant folk. The track pulls from a well of calmness, blending field recordings that evoke a mild summer wind with the band’s plaintive plucks. Tuma, for his part, finds his muse of drone in the spaces between folk’s decay. The track creeps along with the haunted hum of a funeral choir set to eulogize the slow death of a forest. Its a beautiful addition to Tuma’s fairly bursting catalog and the double shot makes this a worthwhile pickup over all. If you missed out, there’s still time to grab one.

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Lower Plenty

The fourth album from Lower Plenty sees the band still locked into a grab bag of styles tied together with the nervy swagger of Al Montfort’s songwriting. Lacking a bit of the bite and snap of Montfort’s release with Terry earlier in the year or the emotional punch and pop sheen of Dick Diver, his work with Lower Plenty still finds a way to burrow under the skin. Sister Sister‘s mixtape appeal is probably its greatest strength rather than a knock on its lack of cohesiveness. Shifting on and off between vocal duties, Montfort and Sarah Heyward both have a penchant for leaning back into a song, delivering their takes from an apparent reclining position and captured to a fortuitously rolling tape. Perhaps the band’s notion as kind of a respite between other projects, recording takes in a kitchen studio when they chance to meet up, gives light to some of its true appeal. The songs don’t sound like a vacation from anything in particular, but freeing themselves from projects with more expectations allows ideas and styles to flow freely from breezy jangle to avant squawks of strings and horns.

As such the album winds through calm eddies and tense moments. The easy jangle of “Bondi’s Dead” and “So It Goes” crumble under the tinfoil toothache of “Ravesh,” one of the record’s definite highlights. Elsewhere they embrace their home recording ethos completely with some hum flecked moments that feel so close mic-ed that they practically sing from your ear canal on “Cursed By Numbers”. The atmosphere of the surrounding house is felt on most tracks though, as if the band might halt and discuss takes at any moment, and it gives the record an intimate electricity that’s more purposely confessional than (the now dreaded) lo-fi. Lower Plenty isn’t as polished as many other Montfort projects, but in lifting the veil of the studio and inviting the listener in, it still hits hard enough to leave a mark on the skin when it claps to a close.

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The Bats – “Antlers”

Five years on from their last foray back into jangle-pop’s halls, The Bats return with a new cut from their upcoming ninth LP, The Deep Set. The song’s got all the hallmarks of a classic Bats tune; low-swung rhythm, the scratch-sway jangle melting with chiming chords, and Robert Scott crooning over the whole affair, demanding your rapt attention. For most bands this far out into their career its hard to make your sound relevant, without seeming dated or gimmicky. In The Bats’ case the fact that the world finally turned its head to the right angle to hear New Zealand’s sound as a widespread influence helps this cut feel like it may well have come from any number of worthy followers. though the magic is that none of them could quite find the timelessness that Scott and The Bats conjure. “Antlers” feels like its always existed, waiting in a pile of classic tunes to hit you right in the ennui center of the soul. Quite like their contemporaries The Chills, they pick right up where they left off and prove that perhaps people should have been paying more attention all along.

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Daniel Bachman

Bachman’s been a fixture among the acoustic fingerpicked set that courts both experimental interest and highbrow acclaim. Littering labels like Tompkins Square, Feeding Tube, Bathetic and Three Lobed, the young guitarist rose to acclaim pretty quickly, settling him in as an NPR pick and slotting him alongside names like Jack Rose and Richard Bishop in conversations on American Folk prosperity. All that baggage comes along nicely in tow with his latest, eponymous album, but Bachman lets none of it define him or his music. He’s not a wunderkind, Terry Gross talking point or cassette fetishist secret, Bachman’s got the soul of American folk and Southern slide blues stamped under his skin. Like Rose, he plays with a touch that’s both intense and surprisingly nuanced, and that touch is front and center on the songs that occupy this self-titled LP.

Though Rose may only be a more modern comparison, Bachman has certainly spent his time in the halls of the Fahey school and picked up his penchant for pacing and his bone dry ambience, which lends a definite heft to the album. Elsewhere he’s picked up certain amounts of Robbie Basho’s flourish and Peter Walker’s delicacy. Though unlike either of those, Bachman never strays into straight raga. He’s certainly digested plenty of it, but what sets Bachman apart is that he nips complimentary bits from drone, folk, blues and raga and lets them all hang together into a heatwave baked concoction of low plains blues that finds itself reveling in solitude. He taps into the desolate desperation of Appalachia and the edgy intensity of Southern folk-blues and he crafts an album that fully supports his wave of early plaudits. On Daniel Bachman, he’s established himself as a master of his instrument and as a name that’s welcome to sit solidly alongside those touchstones that likely gave him inspiration.



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Ty Segall – New Album / Single

I’d be remiss not to mention that the ever prolific Segall is embarking on yet another album, this one slated for early 2017. The album brings along many, though not all of the players who acted as The Muggers. Sadly missed are King Tuff and Cory Hanson, but he keeps the core of Emmett Kelley, Mikal Cronin and Charles Moothart in tact. There’s mention of some riffs that rival Slaughterhouse, but none are on display in the album’s first taste, “Orange Color Queen.” The track pulls its inspiration from a more languid side of pop folk that swims in plenty of sunset hues, driving to a stately close that’s pushing the sound much closer to Manipulator’s composed and collected odes than Emotional Mugger’s jittery fray. I’d expect any year to have no less than three albums related to Segall, John Dwyer and King Gizzard. Already got two of those boxes ticked and counting so 2017 is off running right (at least musically).


Elsewhere, Segall also slipped out a sly split single with Loch Lomond on the Dutch label Wet Bridge. The two artists each tackle a Harry Nilsson cover and Segall adds some itching weirdness to Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up.” The man’s always had a knack for finding himself in covers and this is no different. Its a very fizzy take on the classic Schmilsson opener and works nicely as a pairing with the new track. The split single was available as a tour item but there’s still some left for lucky discoger’s out there.


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Outer Space

Its been since 2014 that John Elliot and Drew Veres last released a record under the Outer Space name and its quite nice to have them back. The last year is proving to be a good one for the former members of Emeralds and perhaps in its own way the band is releasing a Voltron-like assemblege of works that form a vortex of calm, radiant vibes. Perhaps that’s too hopeful, but Gemini Suite is Elliot and Veres in top form, embracing more of the ambient waves of their output and letting the Kosmiche impulses temper a bit. It sits nicely alongside his former bandmates’ output, Steve Hauschildt’s synth tangle Strands and Mark McGuire’s Cool Cloudscapes of The Four Directions vol. I .

The record is one long piece, split onto two sides, building slow and steady as an Eno arc and just as languid. The suite embraces the nature sounds stock footage of the ’70s meditation boom and pins the lap of waves and chirp of birds to some choice synth tones that never jostle, jolt or jiggle the listener. The best ambient albums attempt to remove the listener from their own environment and build a new one. Gemini Suite builds a world and then soundtracks it with a bit of retro-futurist bubble, feeling like the sanitized but tranquil worlds built by Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry, calm and full of wonder. Its an album that soothes whatever pain, hurt or fear may be lurking, temporarily at least, but then again who couldn’t use a thirty minute vacation from the last year or so. It may not be close to a cure, but its a salve and that’s a place to start.


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Whores.

I was sorely missing out on Whores. until a friend tipped me to their last EP, Clean., which was an acerbic, taut blast of metal that tore through the AmRep soundbook, picking up cues cinched down to the block cut design of the sleeves. The band has an obvious affinity for Jesus Lizard, Melvins and Helmet style riffs with little room for flourish and an intent to pummel the listener within an inch of their life. They continue the legacy laid out on their EPs with, Gold, their debut LP proper. The record was, in fact, produced by Ryan Boesch who has helmed releases for both Helmet and The Melvins, so they’re not missing a beat on the completeness of their heart-on-sleeve influences. But the band is more than just a welcome trip back to ’90s glory days of heat-fused amp rippers and sensible black check flannel. They’re pulling from a wave that knew how to fold the non-metalhead into a show and let them loose. Back when grunge and metal bedded down in the same venues, there was room for both Nirvana and Metallica fans in the Corrosion of Conformity pits. Gold feels like a page out of this egalitarian mosh meeting.

Just like the aforementioned touchstones (Helmet, Jesus Liz, etc), the band’s strength lies in the ability to craft light and heat into catchy bits that knock you flat on your ass, then won’t let your brain shank the riffs for the next 24 hours. There’s something about the grunge grind of catchy but crunchy metal that’s got a timeless feel to it, like it always just existed to run an engine of thrash on a tall boy of King Cobra, primed, pumped and dumped into a Kelly green Camaro on an endless stretch of highway. Gold pulls not a single punch and there’s no note wasted in its tight set of ten songs. They’re economical but efficient, that’s for certain. The band kicks hard to the sternum with each new song, and thankfully, along with their crisp delivery, they eschew many of metal’s trappings of angst, excess or self-importance. Anger they’ve got, intensity, you bet, and they dole it out with the skill of a welder fusing iron beams to support a massive weight. Gold delivers on the promise the band’s been making with live shows and short form releases for the past few years and if you’ve been missing out on the heavier side of things until now or need a reason to scream it out this week, this might be a perfect point to dive back in.


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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Rattlesnake”

Ah man King Gizz, you’re killing me – not just in the wallet, but with shelf space as well. Soon, I imagine there may well be a shelf in my house that contains only the works of King Gizz, Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, each of their catalogs expanding at a rate that seems untenable by any human measuremnts. As for the Gizz, they’re announcing their ninth album, Flying Microtonal Banana to be released in February. The album, which is an excercise in using only instruments tuned to a non-western microtonal scale, is set to be the first of five(!) albums out in 2017 from the band. Like I said, its getting hard to harness all this psych on one solid shelf. The video for Rattlesnake, and album cover, naturally arrives via band designer Jason Galea, subject of a recent Design Inspiration feature here on the site. Expect the usual computer doused wonderlands and neon-torched imagery backed up by the band’s motorik chugging, now with an Eastern bent and a dose of Turkish Zurna for good measure.

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Cory Hanson

Wand showed a portion of their soft underbelly on their last LP, 1000 Days. They still employed the growl of explosive guitar but sketched out more texture, filling the sound space with plenty of new shades and shadows. Swooning strings and buzzing keys smashed into walls of echo. They flirted with psych-folk but still sat pretty solidly in the fuzz-psych camp they’d been born out of. Its clear, though, that the band’s Cory Hanson had a big part in that textural shift, and that he had more in him. Taking a solo departure from his bandmates, Hanson strips the sound all the way back and sets the incense aglow for a wander into psych-folk proper, though a strain that leans in on the orchestral cues he’d seem to favor previously. Those strings are brought to life by Heather Lockie, who has previously played with Spiritualized, Eels, Sparkelhorse and Love. Her arrangements take what could be just a folk diversion and push it into a lovely bit of bittersweet pop.

The tone on The Unborn Capitalist In Limbo is wistful at its lightest and downright mournful for the majority of the record. Hanson draws from a wealth of folk artists that found their muse in the rain splashed territory between heartbreak and utter depression. There are touches of Roy Harper, Bill Fay, Nick Drake, Donovan (at his most wistful) and even Al Stewart in the batch of songs that Hanson has put together and he’s working towards the kind of gutwrench with a shiny wrapper that those artists excelled at putting together. Whether this side of Hanson remains dominant, ekes its way further into Wand or stands as a single album impulse remains to be seen. But in embracing the sweep of sadness, he’s left a document of heartfelt ennui that shakes off saccharine for a lasting impression of sighed resolve that helps to lessen the lump in your throat.



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James Hoare on East Village – Drop Out

For the latest installment of Hidden Gems I asked James Hoare (of Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls, Permanent Ornaments) to pick a lost piece of his personal music landscape. As always, Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that truly got away. For this installment in the series James picked overlooked UK jangle gem Drop Out from East Village. I asked James how this lovely record came into his life and what the record means to him.

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