Tarquin Manek

Coming late to F ingers release, but thoroughly enjoying it, makes one think I’d be more on the ball with tangential offshoots as well but this solo release by Tarquin Manek slipped a listen until recently. Its a tightly wound ball of tension and an amicable mash of dub overtones laid through valleys of broken bone techno, noise experiments and a hauntological hall of mirrors. The tone on most of Tarquin Magnet is of menace lost beneath the floorboards and pounding like something from a Poe tome scratching at your temples to get out. Sounds bubble up from under six tons of murk and sea water, beaming alien beacons hoping to reach home but pinging endlessly into the blackness. Hauling out whatever instrumentation, or simply sound source, could fit – clarinet, keyboard, Dictaphone, mobile phone – Manek succeeds in crafting an album that is wholly not of this world, and barely a blip on the idea of music as means of seeking out joy. If there was ever an artist that embodied the ideal of Blackest Ever Black, this is the one. Pulling the needle is like breaking through the surface for some much needed air, leaving the rest of the album to feel like swimming for the light while the heft of water drags you down and the burning in your lungs only grows.

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Uther Pendragon – San Francisco Earthquake

No matter how many years separate the 60’s from the present, it seems that the mines run deep for finding more fallout from the explosion of bands that permeated the time. Its getting rarer though to find one that’s had virtually no exposure or reissues to date, but Guerssen has unearthed a band from the outer rim of the San Francisco sound. Existing under the names Blue Fever, Timne, Hodological Mandala, Mandala, Kodiac, Justus, Pendragon and then finally Uther Pendragon, the band lived as a family for years; making music from ’66 until ’78 and growing with the sweeping change of sounds from that time. Guerssen’s reissue follows the band from their teen years, just discovering teen centers and fuzz pedals, to a more sweeping and much heavier territory; you know, the kind of band that could prop up a name like Uther Pendragon. This one seems to be a pure discovery of the internet age, the band wasn’t out that much in the the pages of SF rock lore and the label found them floating around in fan posts. They’re not totally without status, they opened once for Country Joe and the Fish, recorded at Pacific Sounds before building their own studio and had some ties to management that overlapped a few other outer rim psych acts, but in general they were off most radars, probably because they had no released material. Some of the songs are rough, kids finding their way, but for the most part they make good examples of the West Coast psych and proto metal sounds, feeling their way through the era on the fringes of cool.

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Mammatus

Long an RSTB favorite, Mammatus returns with an album that showcases their ability to swerve from tranquil space-outs to crushing guitar heft in the course of a song. Though in this case, those songs have plenty of space to work with, with all of Sparkling Waters edging past the fifteen minute mark per track, the band aren’t exactly churning out pop ditties. But what they are doing is stretching towards the horizon line with gentle cosmic thrust on the opener. Yawning like the seascape that adorns the cover, it opens into a mix of syths, flute and the far off rumble of percussion that whips into a tempest by the time the track closes. As the track builds they bend the formless eddies into craggy bits of Krautrock fed metal squall still underpinned with windswept keys but now churning like waterspout off the Bermuda coast. The take another turn through Kosmiche and crunch on Part 2 before they turn up the heat. The second LP brings more bite than the first, re-centering the band’s roots in heaviness and giving the guitar gluttons something to chew on, but they never give in to riff fully, bending and shaping both sides into movement based epics with an appreciation for Prog’s footprint. The album is an ambitious step forward for the band but it never turns into a sprawling excuse to just jam over four sides of wax, rather it winds up just the kind of album that gatefolds were made to hold, a space opera that glows and growls through four sides with a pure sense of ebb and flow.

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Woolen Men

Portland’s Woolen Men have already stung 2015 with a great LP released on Woodsist, but it seems they had more to give. Self-released as a cassette, Options gathers up six more cuts that lean on the band’s love of smashing 90’s grunge into propulsive post-punk. The tape is brief but from the outset the collection hits hard with the band finding a way to roll their sound in some gravel via opener, “Curtain,” then wiping down the speakers for a run through taut guitar territory. They cool for a bit on “Scarlet” before closing out the EP with a trio of muscular indie romps. The band is at home in the live setting, running through the Northwest’s DIY show scene in a regular rotation but with releases like this and the previous Temporary Monument they’re proving that their recorded output is just as enticing as the live experience.

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The Silence – “Ancient Wind Pt. 3”

Masaki Batoh’s The Silence sneaks in another album before the end of the year and its a fuller and more raucous outing than their self-titled debut earlier in 2015. The album is anchored by the massive three part piece “Ancient Wind” and they’ve just shared a video for the song that pretty much paints the visual they were going for on the psych-folk cycle. Swirling kaleidoscopic visuals that flash in epileptic warning to the song’s frantic mix of percussive thump and flute solos that will probably give your dad full on Tull flashbacks. Its a pretty decent way to spend six minutes.



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Cornered Yet Climbing feat. Kelly Jayne Jones

Whew, now comes that time of year when its time to scrabble through the missed connections on the review list and this one comes out pretty high near the top. A re-invigoration of Pascal Nichols and David McLean’s Cornered Yet Climbing collaboration, this time with the help of Nichols’ partner in Part Wild Horses Man on Both Sides. The output here is a broken daydream of free jazz, wandering from mournful howl to full bite in the space of mere minutes. Adding to the flashing fangs of McLean’s sax are Jones’ ephemeral field recordings and flute, which weave through the clattering sonic tapestry set down by her two collaborators expertly. Her flute especially treads between ceremonial tribalism and folk serenity without ever making either style feel worn. The expanded trio finds its footing easily and though the length of these pieces is pretty heavy, bordering on intensely lengthy, the whole record plays as such an engrossing backdrop that its hard not to get sucked into the players’ world rather than see it as a necessarily surmountable listen. The record is expertly anchored by Nichols’ craggy, fluid drumming and his skill at finding the inroads in these pieces to drive pace and add texture is fairly unmatched this year. This is one to beat in the noise/free category and along with that Heroin in Tahiti release, this is a good year for the edges.

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Sad Horse

Ah Mississippi, the avid archaeologists of our time, though they’re usually knee deep in gospel cassettes, African guitar debris or Dead Moon discographies, sometimes they’re also knocking a flashlight on the overlooked records of this current time as well. Swinging their gaze on their hometown’s own Sad Horse, they cobble together a collection of tracks from the band’s first couple of tapes and CD-rs for tiny labels like Eggy, Supermegacorporation and Water Wing. The retrospective bounces through a ton of material, but the relative length of a Sad Horse tune, combined with their intensity, makes it fly by pretty quick. The duo are no frills. As in none whatsoever. The songs are banged out in dry recorded spats that feel thick with the dust of warehouse floors and screamed from the Id. Complexity this ain’t and that’s a damn good thing, sometimes you need to bang the shit out of a kit, strangle the strings and lose control. The band have been a Portland secret for way to long and its a welcomed relief that Mississippi have chronicled their output.

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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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Juventud Juché – “En Tu Casa”

Inspired by our discovery of some of Portugal’s great new punk bands, we’ve been digging in on their neighbors from Spain. This new video for Madrid’s Juventud Juché provides a glitchy, dark backdrop to the band’s bracing brand of post-punk. Gnarled and pulsing, the track is the b-side to a single the band put out earlier in the year for Spanish indie Sonido Muchacho and both are just one more reason to keep your eyes on the Spanish/Portugese underground.


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Odd Hope

Bay Area musician Tim Tinderholt serves up a debut single for Fruits & Flowers, currently one of our favorite destinations for band’s you should be checking into. The a-side is a chilled piece of folk, all grey skies and winter reserve. Then the flip takes a step out into the sunshine. The label’s assessment that this could have popped up on Creation is well deserved (though Sarah Records is an equal contender). Banging around through Razorcuts b-sides or Sneetches EPs, it seems likely that you might run aground on a copy of Odd Hope’s “I’ll Follow You Soon”. This is definitely a gem in an already stellar catalog for the SF label.

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