The Tyde – “It’s Not Gossip If It’s True”

So I mentioned the other day that, yes indeed, The Tyde have resurfaced after years off the grid. On his fourth album, Darren 4, Darren Rademaker is sounding like he’s recaptured the spirit that inhabited the sunny strains of Once and Twice, summoning up the ghosts of The Byrds, The softer side of Creation (The Sneetches, Suede, Felt) and the summer sun that beamed from within The Beach Boys. He’s also adding his dose of wearied and weathered vibes, as if the sun only leads to sunstroke and a hangover that puts the good times in bas relief. Lyrics about trysts with twenty-two year-olds aside, the album has a wonderful feel to it and “Gossip” is a highlight for me. Its practically swooning with the addition of some honeyed background vocals and a touch of slide guitar. Rademaker captures the song’s hassled sighs amiably in the Alex Knost directed clip. Its nice to have The Tyde back and summing up middle age in weathered psych-country comfort.

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Suzuki Junzo

What’s been lacking from my 2016 is in fact a healthy dose of Japanese psych. And maybe that’s my fault, take your eye off the ball and it’ll slip right through your fingers. So to help heal the wounds Wisconsin’s Utech records comes to save the day with a vinyl issue of an overlooked tape cut last year by Japanese psych-blues savant Suzuki Junzo. The album stretches out from Junzo’s more typical space-boogie bag and hits hard into the outre realms with plenty of noise and clatter and guitar meltdown. Its Junzo transported to another plane of existence and madly tying to translate what he sees into a form of communication that can be digested by us terrestrials. Junzo’s not alone in this journey either, this time he’s taken along fellow psychic traveler and legend in his own right Kuro Takahashi of LSD March, Fushitsusha and High Rise.

The pair bashes in with little regard for self-preservation on the opener, which bears the winner for psychedelic song title of the year, “Crossing the Valley of the Cosmic Death Demons,” then tumbles further off the plane for a battle royale of strings and percussion against an unseen enemy on “Les Visiteurs Du Soir.” The new issue of If I Die Before I Wake adds in some slashing new material that wasn’t on the original tape, in the form of a bonus new track and a second with a double shot of live material. The record’s not for the faint of heart or sensitive of ear, but its just what the year needed, placing it up in the ranks of noise with the great overlooked RSD gem AcidGuruPond from earlier this year.



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The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Of Time

News from The Caretaker camp brings sad word that Leyland Kirby has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. In a rather bold move Kirby has decided to embark on a documentation of the stages of his disease, releasing six works between now and March of 2019. The works are set to follow his own progression through the stages of deterioration and mirror his own dissociation with others’ sense of reality. In his own words, “The series aims to enlighten our understanding of dementia by breaking it down into a series of stages that provide a haunting guide to its progression, deterioration and disintegration and the way that people experience it according to a range of impending factors.”

Kirby has explored this subject matter before on The Caretaker’s releases, but I had no idea it was so close to home. The first installment is built similarly to many of his previous works on looped pieces of 78s and since it documents the first stage following diagnosis, the music here is fairly clear with bits of distortion and distention peeking in. The rest of the stages are sure to let Kirby’s trademarked erosion process work on the tracks. As its impossible to review something like this until its complete, we can all only listen along as Kirby works his way through this. Having seen the effects of dementia firsthand, its pretty incredible that he’s undertaken such a public project and personally I wish him well in his journey. It must be frightening, I’m sure.

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Pleasers “Such A Fool” / Whirlwind”

Another short form release from Matthew Melton’s latest outfit, Pleasers and its as filled with bubblegum grit as the last two. Shifted further towards the garage than his recent works as Warm Soda, the double shot has that tough bar fight bravado and a ton of ’70s smog raining down on its amplifier stacks. Though, no matter how how many pairs of fingerless leather gloves Melton buys, he can’t shake the soft edge on his voice (try as he might here) that works so well with his power pop jammers. Pleasers surely beg some wistful remembrance for Bare Wires though, or perhaps a more refined version of his band Snake Flower II. Its tough, but with heart.

As for these two tracks themselves, the A-side is the definite winner here, its got more of a brass knuckle beat down on the guitars and Melton’s really going for the roundhouse kick theatrics on the vocals. The flip is serviceable, but nowhere near the kind of jukebox gem that the A-side volleys up. This one needs to be hip-checked onto the box right before Melton smashes a bottle and goes for the slash. Though to be fair in this analogy I kinda picture him working it up like Steve Gutenberg in Police Academy 2 (yeah I’m making Police Academy references now), you know the one where Mahoney goes undercover as a thug but lays it on way too thick. In the same way that Gutenberg can’t play a street tough, somehow I’m not buying Melton’s full commitment to the life of crime/dirtbag aesthetic either… but who am I to judge. The jam is juicy and somewhere a TransAm is begging for this on the tape deck.

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Natural Child

There’s plenty of mining the classic rock quary’s these days. Everyone with enough bandwidth and time can adopt an expertise in most bands’ catalogs in a matter of days, but it takes a true love of form to really shine. For the past several years Natural Child have found their personal nexus in a mix of country strung rock and ’70s smooth players. Think the crossroads of The Dead, The Allman’s and JJ Cale and you’re getting into the right territory, pop some Byrds in their Graham Parsons phase into the mix, but subtract a touch of twang and you’re getting there. They explode out of that box though with their own additions of psych melt and some real groove-ridin’ swagger that feels wholly their own. They’ve come far with Okey Dokey, and despite what might be one of their worst cover images to date (this is in light of the fact that they have an album that’s simply an ass by the way) this stands as their most mature and serious feeling album to date.

The band always mixed the smooth delivery with a bit of winky humor, calling to mind late ’90s stalwarts The Tyde (who are back this year, hey Tyde) but now they seem to stow a few of the winks for a dichotomy that blends their tequila sunrise sounds with lyrics that feel paranoid, anxious and well, okay still a little flecked with levity to be honest, but that levity seems to be masking their unease. Its as if they’ve written music to act as the salve to their own jitters – a salve built on the soothing sounds of lightly marbled guitar and a shuffle of drum n’ groove. They do stray from their smoothe palette from time to time. On the title track and “It’s A Shame My Store Isn’t Open” the psychedelics seem to get the better of them and that “ease on down the road feeling” goes a bit sour, with the paranoia winning out handily. For the most part though, Natural Child will help you get through with a cracked smile and a drink in hand. They know that life’s blues are bearable, but not always wearable.

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MV & EE – “Feel Alright”

Word comes down that Matt Valentine and Erika Elder are back in business (they never really stop though right? 60 cd-rs and counting?) and there lies imminent a proper release for Woodsist. The first cut is amiably low key and decidedly running down the gauzier lines of their output. No Golden or Bummer Road in sight here, just the duo relishing in the soft glow of afternoon sun and strumming without worry. The band’s dreamy glow is captured perfectly in a similarly loose clip of the couple wandering the woods around their house with their daughter, directed by Galaxie 500’s Naiomi Yang. Though the band floated in on raft of psych-folk fodder but they’ve tested the time and proven themselves to be an insular unit of good vibes, eking out albums that come packed with the smell of rotting logs, moss and leaves. They’re living the woodland folklore to its core and this one proves it.



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Oneida & Rhys Chatham – “You Get Brighter”

They’ve played together in the past, including a stint at ATP in 2013 but this matchup had yet to put hte magic to tape until now. The union seems like a natural fit, though Chatham expressed doubt prior to their collaboration, but one listen to some of Oneida’s less rock driven material of late (the dub-inflected work on their split with Teeth of the Sea, the extended drone workouts of A List of the Burning Mountains) speaks to a like-minded meeting of innovators. The first track from the collaboration is bracing and brittle, but not so divorced from rock that it doesn’t have a feeling being comfortable on stage in front of a noise-rock crowd. As the track evolves it gathers a more experimental direction, and the notion of having to stay in the rock lane never seems like a given. The song growls and then breaks into a buzzing sea of feedback, chewed glass and wire. Its just the sort of track that I’m looking for with those two names up on the marquee.



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The Cannanes – A Love Affair With Nature

The Cannanes were one of those oddities of musical history that produced legends in a bubble. The band were often more popular outside of their own country than in their own backyard and they created the kind of low-key, spare and emotional, yet witty records that brought smiles to the faces of plenty of jangle-pop devotees. Thing is someone would likely have to have passed you the key to The Cannanes in a time of less information dissemination (at least here in the States), but for those that found themselves inside the subtly thrumming sounds of of the band in the early ’90s, they found a kindred spirit in their aloof but shaggy arms. The band finds some distinct stylistic lines drawn from The Vaselines and Young Marble Giants, but they push into their own personality in good time and no place is this more apparent than their standout album, 1995’s A Love Affair With Nature.

The band begins to temper their erratic lineup shifts at the time of Love Affair and that stability gives the album its consistency. The band coalesces Fran Gibson’s voacals, with their style of winking on the surface but sweetly and secretly pretty sincere. The band released the album themselves originally at home, with Chicago indies Feel Good All Over and Ajax picking up US issues. Their lack of popularity in Australia proved a sticking point and one that would eventually cause them to quit touring and throw their efforts into recording. They’ve existed in some form over the years, never truly dissolving, though sometimes working down to the skeleton crew of just Gibson and guitarist/vocalist Stephen O’Neal. This one finds its way back to a world that’s more accepting than ever, and its the kind of record that I’d think would be a welcomed treat for those tracing the lines of indie and jangle through the years. With so many bands holding on to the blueprint that The Cannanes helped cement, its time for the original to stand up once again and be counted among the essentials of the ’90s.




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Miss Destiny

Garage-punk and the leather-throated revial seem to have come and gone in the favor of the musical press junkies lately. Guitars being yesterdays toys, there’s marginal interest for sweat-wrung rock that evokes, while not necessarily photocopying, the mile-high heroes of a ’70s heyday. However, booming out of Melbourne, Miss Destiny have built up a reputation for tough-knuckled proto-punk that finds them lodged in a time when metal got thicker skin and faster tempos. They’re rocking like they couldn’t give a damn about tomorrow and finding a welcomed place on the shelf next to female-fronted pummelers from Heavy Cream and Vexx. The band, lead by ex-Circle Pit member Harriett Hudson, hold up Kiss and Danzig as their touchstones but their sound ends up falling right in the middle of that axis; harder hitting than the former and less self-serious than the latter.

They sound like they’re having fun with rock’s swagger. They evoke the kind of performances that might require learning how to lasso twirl a microphone and catch it fast before the next verse. They seep vibes of leather and whiskey, finding good company in Motörhead, Budgie and Girlschool as well. They even pull from a bit younger well of punk followers and forefathers. I’d swear there’s a touch of Bad Religion popping up on “Lucky Ones.” But enough name dropping, the band hold their own with amps on fire and strings ringing in your ears. Its easy to write off a band playing up the “rock band” aesthetics in maximalist fashion, but to be able to pull off such well-worn territory and make it not only feel like a lost totem of the past but fresh and vital in 2016 is a feat in its own right. The band make you want to buy a guitar and light the world on fire.



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Forma

On Forma’s third album they’ve expanded their scope to embrace a looser approach through improvisation, though they don’t dive into the idea lightly. Physicalist is constructed in two halves, the first follows their setup of vintage synths and Terry Riley/Faust vibes with occasional flecks of Cluster strewn about the synthscape. The second, plunges the band into a broader vision populated with flute, acoustic instrumentation (a first for the band) and elements of free jazz. Since the LP version is setup as a double LP, essentially they act as companion records with each focusing on a different scope, tied together by the idea of repetition and improvisation with an emotional arc fusing the halves through what feels like a cycle of self-discovery.

The first side is bound by their usual setup, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken a few steps forward. Barring the more techno oriented Cool Haptics EP, the band worked in groove oriented Kosmiche on both their eponymous LP and its follow-up Off/On and both of those releases feel much more tightly wound than anything on this side of Physicalist. From the cover art by influential psych designer Robert Beatty, to the double LP sprawl, everything here seems oriented to be more expansive, more attuned to the informative qualities of electronic float. The band works through tension and turbulence on this first portion, slowly unhinging its hold on reality.

The second side takes the notion of the infinite and lets it free. There’s a distinct progression along the first half towards looser and looser ends and they continue the unraveling on the second half to great effect, each track seems less and less tied to the idea of rhythm. They work this system right up until the title track, which bursts out of the second half in a vibrant and celebratory blast. Its still built into their well of synth, but adds a layer of pop that the band hasn’t really embraced. Its as if the tension and serenity of the preceding tracks melt into the background for the band to break free into a hedonist dance, leaving the academia of the album behind. Then, as a sobering up of sorts, the final improvisation rises like the sun over the tresses of the bridge line along the river, a knowing sign that tomorrow’s here and that a sobering reality awaits. Though, for the moment, that track hits like the halting bliss of a night well lived, the calm before the comedown. Its a great step forward for the band and one that knocks them out of any danger of being accused of stasis. They’ve built an well-oiled arc that uses the album format in a way that fewer and fewer seem to relish these days.




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