Rats On Rafts / De Kift

The best collaborations bring something new out of each participant in the experiment and in the case of Dutch Punks Rats on Rafts, they may have found their soulmates in experimental collective De Kift. Both bands have attacked the nugget of punk from different directions in the past. Rats have often gnawed at the central fury of the form, while injecting a strain of hypnotic tension to their songs. De Kift, on the other hand, have taken the spirit and recklessness of punk and run it through the gaze of post-punk, the kind that had a soft spot for dub and destruction. They share a lot in common with The Ex (who they’ve collaborated with) and Public Image Ltd. So, in bringing together the spark and the abandon, the two groups’ eponymous collaborative debut sets fire to the whole notion of punk and the walls that are constantly built up around it.

The record takes both bands’ catalogs and re-imagines them with the full ensemble, giving Rats’ taught burners a new life as brass-flecked battering rams that float in a strange foam of dub echoes. De Kift turn Rats’ tortured screams into battle cries. Though, that’s not to say that Rats On Rafts don’t have the same altering effect on De Kift’s dense catalog, pulling them further towards the punk center that they’ve previously danced around and dressed up with ornaments. The best of the set finds new ground entirely, as with dark centerpiece of “Dit Schip” that dives straight into “Powder Monkey”. The former smolders and laments with a funereal country-tinged countenance before exploding into the bite of “Powder Monkey’s” blind stabs into the darkness. Its a feint and fight move that sucks the listener in and then knocks ’em totally off balance.

Often collaborations can find songs going to excesses that feel like they may have had heat in the studio, but are lost to those who weren’t present in the moment, but here both bands are pushing each other and its readily apparent on the final recordings. Even for those who haven’t waded into Dutch punk’s waters, the songs have an instant vitality that’s infectious. No need to sing along, just throw yourself into the street and watch the parade tear itself apart, that’s the central feeling of the record. Its a birthday party with exploding cake and grandma getting somber about mortality, right before she drinks you under the table. Its a record that’s odd on paper and fire on the speakers. That’s just my kind of duality there.



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Wolf People on T.S. McPhee, Iron Claw, Charlies and Rev. Charlie Jackson

The latest edition of Hidden Gems is an epic one, each member of UK psych faves Wolf People picked a record they thought hadn’t gotten the attention it’s deserved over the years. As always, the idea of Hidden Gems is to highlight those albums and bits of music, that while not necessarily obscure, haven’t gotten their full due in the course of music history and the band digs deep to find some examples of music that’s been left off the ledger. Each member of the band picks a record that’s hit home for them in a meaningful way.

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Lower Plenty – “Bondi’s Dead”

Al Montfort may well be in every good band in Australia these days. The man behind Terry, Dick Diver, Total Control and UV Race is back with Lower Plenty for another round of jangled, bittersweet bliss that comes on slow and leaves with a sigh. The track’s the first taste of their upcoming album Sister Sister on the always consistent Bedroom Suck. It breezes in with a wisp of autumnal hues in it’s bones and lasts just long enough to ache when its over. Though they share members with a cadre of top tier Aussie talent, the band’s sound shares more sonic DNA with the sorely missed Bedroom Suck alumni Boomgates, than most of the bands its members spend their off days running with. So, to salve the wounds of no new Boomgates LP on the horizon, its doubly good to hear Lower Plenty hitting similar highs on this one.


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Axis: Sova

Everything about Brett Sova’s second album for Drag City imprint God? is more confident. He’s raised himself out of the murk of tape hiss and brought forth an album that, much like fellow Drag City stabler Purling Hiss, embraces guitar as a saving grace for the psychic stomp of 2016. Unlike the Hiss, though, Axis: Sova isn’t chasing the demons of grunge, but rather the boogie blues and psychedelic sweat of a ’70s vision that holds up Guru Guru and Hawkwind as the reigning class. Hell, you’ve got to have stones to open up your sophomore album with an almost nine-minute acid fuzz assault on the senses that seems like it should be the kind of song that collapses an album to the floor. Instead Sova chooses to blast the listener with a defining statement of Axis’ aesthetic. Its the kind of opening salvo that says, “this is what you’re in for so either strap in or get out of the way.”

The rest of the album doesn’t hold back any fury either. Following that scorcher of an opening shot, the rest of Motor Earth cranks its way through exhaust fume choked psych swagger and low and gritty fuzz rumblers leveled at ya with the kind of steady gaze that proves that Sova can back up the chatter with more than a few dirty riffs. Sova brings along fellow guitarist Tim Kaiser for the ride and the two staple their riffs to a chassis of stomp n’ clatter beats that, though workmanlike, fill in the space between the two amplifier clouds amiably. Its clear that the folks over at DC could see through the swamp of his debut to this cleaner burning version of Axis’ power. Though, in the same capacity as Mike Polizze’s Purling Hiss transformation, it would be interesting to see the band evolve into a three-piece with a proper pound rounding out the storm. Still, the record holds its own with just the two players making one hell of a ruckus. Trailing out their love for the ghosts of ’70s space rock and gravel pelted grinders alike, they prop themselves up as a two-man Leaf Hound on an Afflicted Man budget, and to tell you the truth, its workin’.

Listen to the album in full below!





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Alceu Valença – Molhado De Suor

A counterpoint to the popular rise of Tropicália, Valença was a native of the Northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. He mixed several styles of Northeastern traditional music, like baião, coco, toada, maracatu, frevo, caboclinhos, embolada and repentes with newer pop influences and effects that often blew through the winds of psychedelia. He was raised to practice law but chose another route, finding solace in music, his first true love. Just as with Tropicália there’s a melding of flavors and styles in Valença music, finding a distinct modern upgrade for the traditional styles, creating something that is distinctly Brazilian and yet still on par with some of the best fuzzed out, pulsing rock of the ’60s and ’70s. His first solo album, after leaving group Ave Sangria, Molhado De Duor, is often considered a high water mark and its been generally out of print on vinyl since its release, finding a new home this year on Sol Re Sol Records.

The record has often found its way into high critical praise, listed as one of the best Brazilian records of the (or any) period and stacked up against the likes of Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben or Gal Costa, that’s a high achievement indeed. Valença continued a long career that was championed by large audiences, eventually recording more than twenty albums and traveling largely outside of Brazil. The artist has never really retired, releasing works up through 2014 and continuing to capture the imagination of the populace, even including his works in popular soap operas of the day (a fairly common Brazilian practice). Molhado De Suor, however, still stands as a high achievement for the artist, a soaring album that feels strangely timeless, even with its use of effects that might damn it to datedness. Its a vibrant and loose album, bustling with rhythm and showcasing Valença’s powerful vocals. Glad to have this one back on the wax, where it belongs.

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Danny & the Darleans

So without every recording another note, Daniel Kroha is already in the pantheon of rock heroes for his membership in The Gories. The long running Detroit scrappers have gold status in pretty much any garage lover’s book. But Kroha’s never leaned on that membership as a way to coast, he’s cut ragged acoustic blues under his own name, teaming up with Third Man for an album, explored glam pop with the Demolition Doll Rods and gotten scuzzy in his own right time and again with the Darleans. The last Darleans album came down the pike in 2013 and Bug Out follows pretty much in its shoes. Its ruffled and ragged party rock that’s dirty, sweaty and flecked with the right kind of smirk to keep people moving and having a good damn time. Add in Kroha’s natural soul that funnels the ethos of The Troggs, early Shadows of Knight, Motown’s rockers and that other garage demon with a smile, Mr. King Khan, and its shaping up to be a damn fine party in here.

Kroha stacks the Darleans with talent that can’t help but swing, drummer Richie Wohlfeil was in The Detroit Cobras, probably one of the finest garage bands to ever hit the stage. Bassist Colleen Burke cut her teeth in We Ragazzi, and though they may have had a more serious bent, they gave her the chops to wail on Bug Out. There’s little room to really make garage rock new, or to break the mold. What’s left these days is the way to perfect the form you’re fighting in and in that regard, Danny & the Darleans are knocking out most who step to them. They’re tight as hell, and to prove it this sucker was recorded pretty much live to tape, giving very little mystery as to what these songs might sound like up on the stage, you’re living it every time the needle hits the wax. Its a hard trick to pull, but when it goes right, this is what it sounds like.

When it comes down to it, The Darleans know that a great garage band can tackle covers as handily as they can simmer an original, and both should mix seamlessly, giving the listener little pause when a cover hits the speakers. If they make ’em their own, then who cares who wrote it, its theirs now. The Darleans pack heat into songs by The Night Crawlers, bluesman Jim Jackson and Eddie Holland while making them seem as much a part of their DNA as any of their own cuts. The album shapes up to as solid a garage album as you can hope for. It never flags, never begs forgiveness and never seems to care – and that’s what any garage band should aspire to. Kroha’s a human jukebox, serving up singles that cook the whole record through. Bug Out is the kind of record that lights up any room it hits.




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Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – “Distracted”

I’ve covered the latest LP from Scott & Charlene’s Wedding quite a bit this year, but since its one of my favorites of the year and “Distracted” is one of the best cuts on there, there’s probably room for one more shout on it. The album sums up the frustrations of youth (and their subsequent slide into arrested development middle age) in a way that’s completely honest and unpolished. The band’s pop hides a wealth of insight to the kind of restless energy that crops up in a generation lost to debt, dead-end jobs and armed only with guitars and some jangles to dig them out. The video isn’t exactly breaking any mold, but its got a juxtaposed Brady Bunch style that feels like it pairs well with the ADD lyrics of “Distracted.” If, for some reason, you have not picked up Mid Thirties Singles Scene by now, its about damn time.
HERE.

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Purling Hiss

On the last couple of Purling Hiss records, they cleaned up their sound, dusted off the fuzz of any lo-fi shackles and made for the studio. In the process they may have walked a bit far from the grit that kicked the band into the world all those many years ago. Weirdon brought some jangle and kept true to its namesake of injecting an oddness into their world. Water On Mars was a studio pop juggernaut sanded of its rough edges. Now they seek to walk it all back a bit, finding a thread of grunge in their matured sound and striking a nice balance between the slicked back rock of Water On Mars and the amplifier overload of their early works.

There’s been a lot of fluffed up think pieces that float the notion that guitar rock has no place in 2016, that the guitar solo is dead, that this sound has come and gone and its not moving forward; but that talk seems to miss the point of great guitar rock, perhaps especially in 2016. Its about burning clean the weight of the world and letting the feedback singe away the top layer of bullshit on any given moment. Mike Polizze has always known the power of fried and fraught rock, the kind of scorching, fuzz soaked platters that can test the limits of a stereo system from the first four chords and lay waste to weaker contenders with ease. He’s still got that spirit in his heart and High Bias brings the growl back to Purling Hiss to help digest an American sense of unrest that’s permeated daily life.

Polizze’s finally found his balance, its probably his most outright catchy record, but it never comes off as pop in the truest sense, its rock, towering and infernal, lighting that fire and feeding on the oxygen of unrest. Its not a protest record, but its not a lighthearted affair. It culminates in the highwater mark “Everybody In The USA,” a song that seems to sum up the rest of the record and let it all crumble beneath a seismic crunch of guitars and ragged fury. If the band needed to wipe away the rest of their catalog and leave only this behind as a statement of purpose, then it would still leave a pretty outstanding legacy for them. Its the kind of record that feels like like Polizze finished it, sat back and just said to himself, “yeah, that’s the sound… that’s what I’ve been looking for all these years.”



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Wet Lips / Cable Ties – Split

One of the most exciting discoveries of the year for me has to be Melbourne’s Cable Ties. The band pits the taught energy of post-punk diggers like Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Toy Love against the boiling light banshee buoyancy of riot grrrl original front-women like Poly Styrene and Corin Tucker. They band hasn’t hit with a full-length yet (fingers crossed that’s coming soon) but they’ve got a proper split with fellow Melbourne trio Wet Lips. The AA single has both bands in fine form, not in any small part because both bands feature secret weapon Jenny McKechnie, whose vocals in Cable Ties are unmatched by most anyone stepping to the mic these days. Wet Lips hit hard on the first side, barreling and tumbling with the energy and bounce of a lost Undertones single rendered less carefree and a touch more urgent. The flip sees Cable Ties step to the plate yet again with a perfect snap of bass, rubbery and driving paired with the sneer and swagger of guitar lines that seem instantly familiar, yet undeniably vicious and beg for the volume knob to be red-lined every time. As mentioned, though, it’s McKechnie who topples the song over into a territory with more bite, belting each line like her very life depended on reaching the quiet kid in the corner of the club.

Both tracks are recorded by Paul Maybury, who has his hands behind the decks of the upcoming album from Cable Ties as well. Sounding good so far. This is only a taste to tide over, but its a good one.

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Eternal Tapestry – “Where The Trees Touch The Ground”

In the face of an overwhelming 2016, sometimes the only answer is to fight chaos with the groove of cacophony. In that respect, I offer up this new track from Portland’s Eternal Tapestry. The Tap has always been an ever evolving unit of like-minded psych warriors, ready to step in and expand or detract their sound as necessary. They’ve had tons of studio cuts that file away at the jail doors of restraint, but I think that to truly see them knock the hinges and run, they need to be in the live setting. Skylantern Records has come to the call and released a double cut live recording of the band playing at Mississippi Studios in Portland with an expanded lineup that ropes in sax and additional players to their sound, bringing a storm of furious psych and an all encompassing din that threatens to pull the scalp away from the skull and burn every layer of worry or concern away in one sonic swipe. The cut here is some of the most intense bits of Eternal Tapestry I’ve heard, wielding hand in the flame style torrents of guitar and Jed Binderman’s drums just pounding ’til there’s no skin left. Its as vital a sound as you’re bound to hear this year, and one that’s aimed to set you at ease through flash fry intensity.



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