Cool Ghouls – “Sundial”

Its always good to have Cool Ghouls back in my life, and on the verge of Summer no less. The first peek at their upcoming album, Animal Races is steeped in the same ’60s jangle that has long defined them, bringing up thoughts of a more swooning Byrds or Flaming Groovies during their Cyril Jordan years. Kelley Stoltz continues to be the secret weapon in any band’s back pocket. He imbues the track with a sparkling view of the pop paradigm they’ve been itching at for the past two albums. The track practically pools with cool water harmonies and warm breezes and every note is ready to tug at a the heart with just a subtle twinge of nostalgia for lazy days with nothing to do but watch the waves. No doubt this is just the first thread to pull before the rest of the album unravels in cascades of sunny West Coast pop goodness.



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Psychic Ills

Psychic Ills have spent a career playing to their particular whims and tacking them to the same name so kudos to not necessarily feeling that a new direction warrants a new band outright. People evolve and change and the band’s let the Ills name tag along through their phases. True there’s a part of me that has a hard time believing that the sunburnt country on display on Inner Journey Out – dappled with the buttery slide of steel pedal and fuzzed ever so slightly with strums – is the same band I saw sweltering in the July heat at the old McCarren pool in BK with a handful of faithful stragglers. But though the noise of those days is gone, baked off and smoothed into an excellently world-weary sigh, they’re still the same psychic troubadours at heart. The songs are ringed with smoke that languidly curls in effortless rings. The album has the feeling of having seen the world and finding yourself older, but not mellowed, just more accepting of the fact that the din (or Dins as it may be) isn’t the only way to kick up dust.

One Track Mind hinted at the shift in tone, but even then there weren’t the orange and cream tones that seem to color the bulk of Inner Journey Out. This is an album steeped in motel balcony nights, when the air is warm and thick… desert nights. There’s little about the album that feels tied to the city, or the East Coast for that matter. Its dusted with the squint of sun through dried palms and the heat warbled tilt of orange as it dips below the horizon. The band’s spent a long time getting to this point but, to be honest, wearied experience looks good on them. This is the sounds of a band playing with texture and writing what feels honest, even if its not tied to what’s expected. The album is psychedelic without putting your face in it. Like a trick of the light, its got more than one side that shows at any given time. Blink and it changes in a blur.



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Throws – “Punch Drunk Sober”

Thrill Jockey signees Throws have been mining a similar pop vein to Yeasayer back in their more rhythmic days, full of world inflections and lush atmospherics. New single “Punch Drunk Sober” gets a heartstung video treatment from Joe Martinez, Jr. who has directed clips for Tortoise, Oozing Wound and The Body. The song features vocals from múm’s Sigurlaug Gísladóttir and, in fact, the whole album takes full advantage of its Reykjavik recording location, roping in Gísladóttir and string quartet Amiina for collaborations. Both Mike and Sam from the duo spent time in Tunng, another fave around here and there’s a bit of a hangover from Tunng’s psych-folk inclinations. The record ducks expectations at the fragile history of Icelandic pop and goes full in for an update on 80’s touches with a more well rounded production than many mainstays of the neon pop era.

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Sand – Golem

Sand’s 1974 debut album Golem is an excellent oddity in the Krautrock canon. The album eschews the normal reliance on chugging rhythms to provide the backbone of their sound. Instead they use space and more importantly headspace to create their psychedelic platform. The album was recorded by Klaus Schulze in a format described as “Artificial Head Stereo Sound” (which sounds like a psych band in its own right). Immediately plunging into opener “Helicopter,” the band creates a cavern of sound that was made for headphones. It was an attempt at surround sound before there was a market, improving on Quadrophonic and dunking the listener head first into the band’s creeping psychedlics.

Golem is as uncharacteristic of Krautrock as it is of the rest of Sand’s catalog, which would largely become more proto-industrial, roping in factory field recordings and ambient noise to their sound. Here they incorporate picked acoustics that roll into menacing cradles of tone, enveloping the listener in anxious waves, curling and uncurling their grip on the throat. Then they completely break out for a wistful romp on “On The Corner.” Its atypical of its peers but it stands as an important rung on the ladder connecting the audio tissue between Ash Ra Temple, Pink Floyd, Träd, Gräs och Stenar, and naturally their mentor Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. There have been several reissues but Rotorelief’s 2013 version (still available) is probably the most deluxe and well presented. If you have a soft spot for 70’s excess and German Progressive rock, then this one is a must have.



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Laraaji & Sun Araw

Before some of the fragmented free jazz seeped into Cameron Stallones’ work, Sun Araw was an odds on guarantee to be the perfect pairing with summer. He’d nailed a certain element of humid listlessness that felt oppressive and glittering and like the air around you was vibrating at a frequency just a few decimal points off from your own. After taking to the road with experimental zither master Laaraji, he’s back in the zone; dripping sound from the stalagmite imagination of pudding melted landscapes and feeling every bit the time shifted master of slow motion psych drift. The record is comprised of four pieces that are part pre-written and part improvisation and the artists play off of one another in a way that feels sublimely intertwined.

The tracks float and quiver, find rhythm at the river and then seep out in disjointed dance with Laaraji calling spirituals over the top. In the hands of lesser folks it could be a total mess, but they bounce ideas back and forth with liquid ease. The record marks the first installment of Superior Viaducts new imprint W.25TH, their first offerings that aren’t reissues. Seems that, much like RVNG’s FRKWYS series, its focused on collaborations and this is a great tip off to what’s to come.



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Hintermass

As with all things Ghost Box, this one is worth its price for Julian House’s artwork alone. His signature style is always lush and dreamy, a perfect compliment to the brand of soft focus nostalgia that the label trades in. Every record that comes out of that house seems to be a bit like nodding off on the hottest day in early June while a junior high film strip slowly melts in front of your flickering eyelids. The latest project to grace those halls is definitely falling into form, though its a bit breezier than some in the stable. This may well have to do with Jon Brooks’s involvement. Brooks is better known around most parts as The Advisory Circle, a project with its own special brand of pastoral dreamwave. Brooks’s last album under the moniker, From Out Here was one of RSTB’s favorites of 2014 and he steps up to similar expectations as Hintermass.

The project graduates from a short form release for the label’s 7″ Study Series and makes good on the full length expansion, taking full advantage of the room to stretch out. Aside from the discernible talents of Brooks the other half of Hintermass is comprised of Seeland and Ex-Broadcast member Tim Felton, who adds his dream-stung vocals to the mix and gives the album much of its autumnal shading. The record winds its way unhurriedly, interspersing vocal tracks with the gentle burble of Kosmiche interludes, bringing the record into a realm that splits the divide between the most emotionally bare moments of Super Furry Animals, the psych folk patter of Roy Harper and the progressive whims of Popul Vuh or Witthüser + Westrupp. Its hard to go wrong with anything stamped with the Ghost Box insignia and this is another example of just how true that is.


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Acid Mothers Temple & Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – “Nebulous Hyper Meditation”

Why is it I’m somehow both surprised and not surprised that there’s never any clatter about a new AMT on the horizon? The long running (21 years!) Japanese psych lords are reaching a new chapter with the exit of longtime rhythm unit Shimura Koji and Tsuyama Atsushi, and with the addition of some youngblood players, Makoto Kawabata seems to be invigorated on this latest cut. It creeps in on sweeping synths, swirling and illusory as quasars, while Kawabata locks in his guitar to euphoric bliss. It seems that we’re never too far from one Acid Mother’s release or another, but that’s no reason to go taking ozone burners like this for granted. Someday there won’t be any more Acid Mother’s Temple, and on that day I assume there will be a collective funeral from the heads of the world, the band lifted off in a Sky Burial/Viking Funeral type situation that turns supernova overhead. But for now, cherish the gifts that come down the mountain.



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Clever

Brisbane’s Clever aren’t pulling any punches on their debut for Homeless. Kewdi Udi is a brutal and battered serving of noise rock that knocks itself all over the back lot in the dead of night. The riffs come quick and crusted, double time and barely stopping to wonder if you’re keeping up. There might be some hooks buried in there, but something tells me that Clever aren’t interested if your head is bobbing so much as they’re hoping that its slamming directly into an object with equal and opposite force. The din grows thicker as the tracks go on, building up concrete dust and bile in the back of the throat. Eight tracks – in, out, bleed, done. Its as simple as that. The band doesn’t go for any fancy aesthetics or play up trends. The guitars cut like a garrote, the drums pound like a panic attack and the vocals tear at the mind. There’s nothing soothing, no respite and no reason for either. Kewdi Udi is a pummel that beats the listener into the shape they need. Its a fight to the end.



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Frankie and The Witch Fingers – “6,000 Horns”

L.A. via Bloomington garage-psych slingers Frankie and The Witch Fingers are back and touting a fuller sound that’s buoyed by sun-streaked harmonies and a driving guitar wail that shows their 60’s allegiances but nods a head to their current garage trappings. The chorus is huge and swaying, the organ is wobblin’ and swellin’, the rhythm section makes it apparent that they have no intention of stopping for breath. It’s practically euphoric in its crest of the hill and by the time it all breaks down for a finish, everyone’s sweaty and ready for more. Lookin’ out for their longplayer, Heavy Roller, landing in July from Permanent.



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Elon Katz

Its been a while since Katz rolled around these parts, and he’s made huge strides since 2010’s Pylori Program cassette. Front and center on The Human Pet are vocals, which had not graced the washes of kosmiche synth that marked his earlier works. He moves away from the serene textures of the past and into a much more frantic, neon, fractured world. Futuristic to its core, the album flashes IDM teeth and bites them deep into a dark strain of synth-pop, though underneath it all is the pulse and poison of 90’s industrial and its bleak heat visions. On the album Katz blends those signifiers better than most hands these days, pushing him into a new echelon.

Katz first came to most people’s attention as part of White Car, and this record actually hews a little closer to that project than his previous solo incursions. He’s called it “critic pop” and I suppose that’s not too far off base here, its a deep record that’s beating a pop heart, swathed in clipped and fragmented beats that pump like glass shards through your veins. So, you know, catnip for nerds of all stripes. There’s plenty of noise slashing its way across every hook, and for that its certainly going to fall outside of the average person’s pop wheelhouse; unless you’re the type that’s packing playlists full of Minimal Wave cuts and the heatsick dance breaks of Fielded next to your early Prince funk, AFX instrumentals and NIN singles. And, why not, that sounds like a damn good time, and on The Humant Pet, it is. This is a big step forward for Katz and everytime I put it on, the well just gets deeper.



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