Blank Realm

Blank Realm are a study in developing a sound. Its a damn good thing that chances were taken on the band’s scrawled psych musings because who would have ever believed that the band filtering noise through Not Not Fun and Siltbreeze would have emerged to lay Illegals In Heaven on us. The record is a far cry from those early days, channeling the hooks present on their run from Go Easy through Grassed Inn and polishing the hell out of them, even venturing into a studio this time with producer Lawrence English. The record that’s developed from this chain reaction is full of gnawing new wave hooks that possess the band’s near constant glow around the edges, chiming with a sound that’s rooted in the Aussie/NZ pop but feels like a true step forward. Blank Realm have typically had a looseness to their songs that seeps into the listener, melting away agitation and while they tap deep into that here, they’re also mixing those jangles with a whiff of neon and a punch of gnarled punk that sticks in the throat. Roundly, this is Blank Realm at their very best. It seems its all been leading here and if this is a first entry for you, then its a damn good place to start.

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Besombes-Rizet – Pôle

Long a collector’s trophy in its original press, Pôle is the work of two synth carvers who have more known credits apart than together. Philippe Besombes was an academic, trained in organic chemistry, but fled the profession for a life in music contributing several instruments here but he’s most well known for works in Moog along his career. He’s teamed up with Jean-Louis Rizet another talented multi-instrumentalist who brings keyboards, synths, flute, trumpet and guitar to the table on this collaboration. The duo’s work in soundtracks makes a sizable impression (Rizet most notably contributed to the soundtrack for Besson’s Subway) and the pair have a way with space and mystery that turns the whole record into a faded-edge composition of shots that evoke emotion without letting words get in the way. There’s an appreciation of Krautrock / Kosmiche that they borrow from and blur that into the French avant-garde in a way that feels like those two genres should never part. Gonzai record return this to vinyl, where, frankly it belongs.



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Ashtray Navigations

Phil Todd’s never been one to rein things in. With a discography that leans towards daunting and is just on this side of exhaustive, it’s hard to wade into his world lightly. A Shimmering Replica wouldn’t necessarily fit the lightly portion of that equation (clocking in at an hour, forty) but its not a bad place to jump in anyhow. Joined here by Melanie O’Dubshlaine, the record burbles with a seismic shake, doused with a hot ash rub that burns the nostrils. Zonked electronics quiver above saw-toothed guitars that cut jagged and gnarled and with an insistence that owes its roots to a long line of German Progressive forbears. Then, without too much warning, the record drops into subspace, subsisting on drones and tectonic vibrations before snapping back through a patch of polyrhythmic seances to no particular god. This record isn’t for the flirtatious traveler, it’s made by and for heads ready to zip the cocoon and let the sonics kick your consciousness into shape.


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Hills

Sweden’s got a handle on psych, from the early releases of International Harvester and Träd Gräs och Stenar to Bo Hansson and Dungen there’s plenty of lysergic energy coursing through those valleys. Hills have been divining that psychedelic rift for almost a decade and yet, unlike the torrent of releases that come from so many, this is just their third album to date. But proclivity fades and each of Hills’ three albums is just as strong as the next, proving that quality is worth the wait. Frid hangs well with their Rocket labelmates Goat and Gnod, finding a middle ground between the two; sanding off a bit of the former’s excess with the doom-laden sense of space of the latter. The album is swirling with dry ice eddies of creeping dread that explode into the kind of clearcut guitar solos I’ve come to expect from Rocket Recordings. Heavy sounds with a lean on eastern mysticism and an expansive array of instrumentation; those looking to drop out into the meditative and heady expanses need look no further than this in 2015.



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Jacuzzi Boys – “Happy Damage”

Man I never realize how much I miss Jacuzzi Boys until they make a return. Breaking away to form their own label, Mag Mag, the band has an EP on the way and from the sounds of “Happy Damage” great things can be expected. The track crackles with a huge energy, bouncing with the cherry Pez vibes and low hip swagger that have been trademarks of the band. The video captured the band in their live glory, looking like they’ve never been more at home anywhere else than under the lights in your town for just a night.

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Jane Weaver – “Mission Desire”

An excellently pulpy video stocked with space pirates and hazy animated overtones to accompany one of the standout tracks from on Jane Weaver’s stellar kraut-pop masterpiece. The track picks up the reins left empty in the tragic wake of Broadcast and Stereolab and if it wasn’t already in the lush arms of Finders Keepers, it would have been right at home in the backwards gaze of Ghost Box. The video captures the psychedelic intrigue dripping form every inch of this song and the tone of Weaver’s longform odyssey.


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The Cairo Gang

Emmett Kelly’s run as The Cairo Gang has seen him inhabit mostly noir shades, culminating in the brooding ominousness of 2012’s The Corner Man. He broke stride and found his inner Byrds fan on the excellent Tiny Rebels EP from last year, embracing jangle like a second skin. As Goes Missing, opens it seems that perhaps he’s retreated back into the shadows, “An Angel, A Wizard” has those old clouds gathering around its edges, but they part soon enough as the album throws itself headlong into a spiral of bittersweet strums and autumnal overtones. Its a true extension of Tiny Rebels’ air of sighed relief, and the further the album unfolds the more it shows that Kelly can’t be pinned or painted into the genre conventions we’re likely to try put on him. He’s a songwriter at heart and the ebullient grace of his comfortability with emotion comes beaming through this album. Repeated spins show Goes Missing to be a love letter to 60’s folk and the haunted troubadour, but its core is Kelly’s voice, a bittersweet knife right to the heart every time. Among an already stellar catalog, this may rank as one of his best.



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Peacers

Ah Mike Donovan, you glorious bastard, back again and all is right. That Sic Alps suffered on the periphery of the public consciousness is one of the true musical travesties of our times. Drag City did its best to up the awareness but the band couldn’t hold together and alas Donovan’s recent solo endeavor of country-fried jams spent not enough time on your turntable as well. Well hell, now’s your time to right the wrongs of these many years, as good king Segall is involved and mayhaps this time people will turn their ears the right way. Peacers is built on the same hip-slung acousta-fry that’s permeated all Sic Alps’ releases and as such, the songs in this set writhe uncomfortably against the itch of their stitches until they pull a thread loose. Leaden with a kind of smoke haze that seemingly has no origin, the record tumbles, albeit with a surprising grace, through fifteen bay-area lost radio transmissions, surfing the ionosphere and catching the bent antennas of those with the right kind of short-wave mind to handle the payload of this eponymous affair. If you’re sleeping on this, then all I can say is that I’m sorry for you. Get right with your fuzz gods.


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Rat Columns – “Fooling Around (Long Version)”

Rat Columns’ album Leaf charmed us when it was released back in 2014 but its been pretty quiet on their front until recently, probably because like so many Aussies and Aussie exports members are splitting time between so many bands its probably hard to handle. But David West is back in the songwriting chair and releasing an EP on the unlikely outlet of Blackest Ever Black. The EP showcases an extended version of Leaf standout “Fooling Around” and the extra breathing room looks good on the track. The EP backs the track up with three new tunes recorded by West’s San Francisco lineup of the band. The video compliments the track’s tempered tension with some homespun wanderer vibes. 12″ is limited and knowing BEB its gonna look nice.

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Sauna Youth

Often the barrage of UK DIY can be overwhelming. There are plenty kicking out fodder and it ranges from brilliant to retread but its always nice when a sparkle of genuine fun comes along. All the more worthwhile if that album has a bite to it, and Distractions has some to spare. The album’s built on taught, gnashing guitars and a set of dark hooks that dig deep but bounce with more of a wild-eyed menace than joy. The anxious sweat fairly coats each and every bit of the band’s spring loaded set. The nervy pummel is broken a few times by spoken word pieces that fit tonally with the record’s raw vibe, but they come off just a touch pretentious. When the band sticks to kinetic bursts of fury and sandpaper riffs they keep this one jumping back onto the table every time. Easy to see why they were chosen by Wire to play the band’s DRILL festival. No surprise that this one hits via UK DIY enclave Upset The Rhythm. Well worth more than a few rotations of your time.



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