Glenn Donaldson on The Television Personalities – The Painted Word

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. 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 got away. In the first installment I tapped Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Jewelled Antler Collective) to have his pick at a record that fits the bill. Glenn’s Twitter feed alone is full of enough overlooked classics to fill this feature ten times over, so needless to say I was intrigued. He’s picked Television Personalities’ fourth album, the darkly shaded, The Painted Word. I asked him how the record came into his life and how its affected him and his music.

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Spray Paint

Austin’s Spray Paint embrace the phrase, “no rest for the wicked.” On their sixth album in half as many years they’re hitting more than their stride, they’re pummeling listeners with the most tightly wound, cleanest cut version of their post-punk snarl yet. The record is, as usual, dark and biting, a hallmark of their steel wool grind. It would seem that any band that pushes as hard to release on the schedule that they do, would diminish their well of inspiration; but the trio have a seemingly endless supply of deranged deadbeats, human bile vials and damaged grey matter to chronicle with each impending release. Given their subject matter and no-wave lacerations, there’s little sunshine that finds its way into Spray Paint’s universe. Hell, the refrain on the title track is “seems like everyone’s getting cancer”. So, if you’re looking for that Summer funtime, breeze in the hair album, then maybe search elsewhere.

However, if you’re looking to take the back alley walk to a third shift job in the dead end days of August’s most stagnant heat. If you’re pushing head down through the kind of industrial, throat parched, food desert setting that’s rife with castoffs from the Repo Man casting couch, then by all means Feel The Clamps is perhaps your record of the summer. Its not just a soundtrack to disaffected youth, its a teeth grit grumble of a generation that got the short stick and the frustration that’s keeping them on their feet day to day – clock punching to Spray Paint as the house band of their slide into day’s end. The itching, squirming, pulsating nerve is in here and Clamps is a salve to shelter the soul.



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White Mystery

Outta Control sees White Mystery step away from a lot of their comfort zones and some excursions work and others don’t but in either case there’s a joyous ripple that runs through the record that kinda makes it ok even when things truly get outta control. The band is still at their best when hewing a bit close to the garage rock that bore them through, though here they bring in the jubilant pound of pianos, acoustic strums and noisy squalls to augment the raucous rip of fried amplifier fume that’s been their steadfast companion. In truth, at its heart, there’s a great explosion of bubblegum that’s rearing its head on the album and in that respect there’s a lot of crossover with one of my latter day garage faves, The Dirtbombs’ Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey album from 2013. It gives the album a sense of elastic fun that pushes towards a more pop sound, that’s big and brimming and worthy of its own cartoon band (albeit one that might land on Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network’s daytime rotation).

The downside to pushing the boundaries is that it doesn’t always work, but any collector of bubblegum pop knows that any gum compendium is never 100% and in that respect the auto-tune laden, modern day pop satirizing “Pacci” is the bum sticker in the bunch, but hey life gives you skip buttons. Its not nearly enough to sour the absolute fun that gushes out of Outta Control. The rest of the album bounds by on spring loaded legs, bopping and swaying and generally sticking in your head like a pop-rocks coated aneurysm of fun. Been a long time coming seeing this band fully embrace their truly outsized personalities and run with it, on Outta Control they feel like they’re having as much fun as anyone listening.




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Tongues of Light

Brought to you by Andy Votel and Demdike Stare’s ephemeral label Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Channelled Messages At The End Of History began as a gift between friends, something not for mass production, but its too good to keep to a corralled audience. The concept brings together samples of new age meditation, higher consciousness seekers and occult dwellers, all sourced from the bowels of YouTube’s endless mind suck. On their own as an afternoon watch, experienced in full, they’d be grating or possibly just amusing; but when cut and assembled, padded with synth washes and ominous drone beds, they become something other. They achieve a psychedelic mantra, a through the television glass world of spectral freakishness.

Its new age sage for the ASMR generation, but instead of truly relaxing the listener with the subtle raindrop clop of fingernails and assured phrasing, the record winds up like a slow motion face-peel reveal of something glowing and gossamer beneath the surface. It never feels like a collage, the sampling here is so seamless that it just feels like the kind of lucid dream float that could only make sense in altered states, be your weapon of choice meditation or psychoactive toad. Pre-Cert is home to the types of records too weird and fractured for Modern Love or Finders Keepers, and this is definitely a kind of mission statement or high water mark for the label. For those with the right kind of ears, its a welcome ride into the sweat-lodge nirvana of the mind.



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Ricardo Dias Gomes

This one came out late last year, but to such little rumble that it seems fitting to kick some dust up about it now. Gomes is a member of Brazilian bands Do Amor and, Cê (Caetano Veloso’s band), but he’s crowdfunded his own release with -11 and stepped into his own light, even if for just a little bit. The record lays the fingerpicked intimacy inherit in much of his collaborative works into a warbled pool of hazy electronics which Gomes augments with devotional organ drones, field recordings and tape hiss. The voices are up close, dryly recorded and almost inside the listener’s head, which gives the feeling of drifting into sleep with nagging thoughts pushing and pulling at rest and wakefulness. Gomes has a talent for evoking dream states, even ones that aren’t always particularly settling. There are moments on -11 that thrum with uneasiness, but they seem to balance nicely with the more languid tracks. The one outlier is middle-piece “Some Ludicrous Self-Indulgence To Develop” which lives up to its name, feeling a bit out of place among the rest of the pieces with its sprightly exuberance. Gomes is at his peak, though, when he’s got that lilt of melancholy in his voice that feels like a faraway look. Those are the tracks that push this record into the cool blue light of day and the reason that I hope Gomes doesn’t just leave this as a one off experiment. There’s a vein to be tapped here and this feels like just breaking the skin.



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Mozes & The Firstborn – “Great Pile of Nothing”

So it would seem that the EP that Mozes & The Firstborn released earlier in the year was a tease and taste of a new album on the way. The first eke out of that long player arrives with “Great Pile of Nothing,” as clean and sincere a slice of power pop that ever graced these shores. Somewhere out in the world a shudder just ran down Matthew Sweet’s spine because he knows there’s a challenger on the horizon. The track hearkens back to the best of the mid 90’s and early aughts indie pop w/ a budget and I for one, couldn’t be happier to return to the big, crisp sound of guitars blowing stacks over sugar sweet odes to love and loss and creeping inadequacy. Bring back well-funded slacker pop. Do it already! The album, also titled Great Pile of Nothing, hits in September so mark your calendars, and in the mean time this nugget should be duly dubbed to cassette and popped into the deck of your beat to gears Tercel to blast at stoplights all summer long.



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Walter – “Poetics Of Space”

A harder look for Walter, the L.A. band that’s made of members of Meatbodies and Ducktails. They’ve definitely absorbed a few of their fellow L.A. brethren, leaning into a storm-wrung psych cloud that dredges up Wand comparisons for sure. The song is the A-side to a new single out for garage well-spring Famous Class and hits in full in July along with a new b-side, “Like The Fly”. Ominous and doom laden, this is a good look for Walter and a step up in my opinion from their eponymous album from last year. The best change is that Chad Ubovich’s recording bumps up the fidelity and gives the band a bit more punch. The ozone fried volume paired with a headspun space rock bent lets the song fully embraces its title. Great to see this band developing along with some of the best bits of the L.A. underground. File it next to your Mind Meld, CFM and Meatbodies 7″s for maximum impact.



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Sitting Bull – Trip Away

That this record ever nabs a Krautrock tab is solely because the band is German and came up during the
70s timeframe that produced many of those bands. It bears none of the hallmarks of the genre. What’s more interesting is that its a German band that seems to wholly and heavily in-debt themselves to West Coast American rock. They pull much more from Quicksiler Messenger Service, heavier Moby Grape, Kak or West Coast imitators like The Wizards From Kansas than any of their own country’s heavy hitters. The band is often most notable for being founded by Bernd Zamulo, who joined The Lords around 1965 and would remain in their lineup throughout their most successful years. Stateside The Lords are a bit of an blip, garnering some acclaim on compilations like Nuggets that focus on some of their more accessible garage fare. In their home country though, they were highly successful, albeit erratic and prone to lean into drinking songs. They’d release five albums and at least a dozen singles in the span of just four years.

Zamulo sought to break out of The Lords shadow to something more progressive and formed Sitting Bull, named after his fascination with Native American iconography, a trait that’s a bit cringe-worthy in hindsight but not so surprising in 1971. The band secured a deal with CBS and was allowed to record at their whims mostly on the good will of Zamulo’s ties to The Lords and his former success. The recording sessions proved lengthy and after the record was finished the company promoted two singles and setup a continental tour for the band, who immediately soured their reputation with the company by proving unreliable in getting to gigs. They’d break up two years later and by ’75 Zamulo would be back with a reformed Lords. The record, however stands up as a solid run of ’70s early progressive, with the band’s strength leaning on heavy jams that extend into solos and breakdowns that pushed the length of pop tracks at the time. Surprisingly the album itself actually did well in Germany despite the band’s efforts to self-sabotage. The reissue on Long Hair draws in two bonus singles that the band cut for Philips just before they broke up. Its probably not going to be the most essential piece in a collection but for completists and West Coast-style enthusiasts its a fun listen.



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Belbury Poly

Ah hell, has it really been four years already since the last Belbury Poly album? Feels like just yesterday. Since the music is crystallized in an amber gloss of ’60s Chyron clean, ’70s motorik burble and the vacuum glow of library music in any era before 1985, its always irrelevant what year it actually came out. Jim Jupp knows his playbook and he’s updating it a bit here with a skew that’s pushing further into the ’70s than he has on past records. There’s still plenty about Belbury that feels like its soundtracking ads for Danish Modern furniture and walks along the PanAm concourse, but now its starting to let in a few 70’s wide lapels in the foreground. There’s a hint of California palm fronds and rum in the air. The cars are more muscular and the love a little less free. Belbury has definitely crested its way out of the ’60s but its still got a lot of hangover from the influences that Jupp holds near and dear.

Still, it doesn’t matter quite which decades he straddles, the crux of Belbury is that intangible nostalgia. The tip-of-the-tongue feeling that you’ve been here before but never in quite this capacity. In that respect New Ways Out is hitting its mark squarely. It still feels like a wave of calming familiarity that echoes times when life wasn’t better, it was all just portrayed that way on TV. Things definitely click around a stylistic corner with the opening kick of “Hey Now Here He Comes” stapling a bit of glam to the swirling keys, sounding like bed music from an era intoxicated by The Bay City Rollers if Ennio Morricone was behind their decks. Its not a permanent shift though, and in no time Jupp’s back to finding the softer side of your memories and flooding them with a candied candle of children’s television interstitials and the saccharine glue of guided meditation seminars. In short, its everything that could ever be wanted from a Belbury Poly record, swirling in faded colors and star-wiping its way into your heart.


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Ben Chatwin – “Inflexion”

Ben Chatwin’s last record, The Sleeper Awakes was a grey-skied masterstroke of noise-flecked neo-classical. His solo works find the deep ravine of sadness and rub cold dirt into the wounds, feeling somehow achingly painful and coolly soothing at the same time. The first bit of his new record for Ba Da Bing is just a quick flicker of the match but it hints at another album of cloistered and creaky compositions. Sounding every bit like the slow creep up the stairs to a dark childhood secret, the track pads in on soft dulcitone feet and that creeping music box feel runs up the listener’s spine with icy expectation. It appears most of the album centers around Chatwin’s use of pianos and, like the dulcitone, piano-like hybrids. This is just a tiny morsel of the album, but few bites have ever left me so hungry for more.



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