Gnod

Gnod have been increasingly harder to pin down over the years, wandering from rhythmic psych to desolate dub excursions and landing on the minimal electronic scrawl of last year’s Infinity Machines. So where does that leave them next? The clearest through line in all their work is an ever encroaching darkness and on Mirror that darkness is front and center. Packing in a lot more instrumentation than Infinity Machines this album finds solace in the strung wire post-punk drawn in black and grey shades that made Swans and PiL and Throbbing Gristle household names (depending on your household I guess). The album deals with mental illness and the increasing impact the presence of social media has in fostering schisms in personality and ego. Its a claustrophobic, anxious barrage that creeps as close as it can to the cliff without plummeting.

The album packs its oil caked pummel into just three tracks but each of those three build to an increasingly desperate plateau. By the closing track’s 18+ minute mind scratch, its hard not to spend the rest of the day wrestling with anxiety, feeling the walls close in and praying for rain. This is certainly about the bleakest set I’ve heard from Gnod, but there’s something comforting in its clangorous gnash. It feels like fighting, like pushing against the walls that have been imposed by unseen hands and in that regard Gnod have created a bit of a hopeful album as well.




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Cable Ties – Cable Ties 7″

There are a lot of sounds emanating from the South Hemi these days from throwback Flying Nun jangle, psych to garage and even a smattering of goth post-punk here an there. So far though Riot Grrrl hasn’t’t really been a term I’d have properly affixed to anything coming out of those parts, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t the vein that Cable Ties is tapping into. Maybe its more proto-Riot Grrrl If anything. Cable ties are tearing into an X-Ray Spex brand of post-punk that’s packed with gnashed teeth and crushed gravel. The searing voice of Jenny McKechnie is pretty much the only weapon they need in their arsenal, but the band backing her up isn’t slacking on her ferocity alone. Lead cut “Same for Me” is a total burner, pushing the taught punk song into a longer groove without ever feeling like any less of a kick to the temples. The flip, “Walking Out” shortens the reins and keeps that fevered feeling burning under the skin, amping up the intensity, if anything. If this is just the first taste from the band then I gotta say, I’m hooked and very ready for more.




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Black Mountain

The thing I love about Black Mountain is that they go all in. They aren’t doing prog by half measures, name checking King Crimson or Can because it ticks some boxes off of their diverse influences card. No they’re full on Tarkus-ing. They’re pulling Pink Floyd synths out of their teenage memories and updating the notion of grandiose for a new age. They’re finding the Lost Chord, breaking through Wakeman’s Fragile territory and going for it like they couldn’t give a shit if you notice their Tull shirts showing. If punk was the buck reaction to prog, then what’s more punk than going full prog in 2016? Thing is this isn’t just a rehash. Its not a nostalgia album proper. Black Mountain have all these influences searing through their veins and they come pouring out through every inch of IV but the take feels fresh. They make prog mammoth again, crushing and awe-inducing in a way that should make you feel a fool for ever passing up all those Hammond-laden brothers in arms in the first place.

Its hard to believe that its been well over a decade since they dropped their eponymous debut, and even harder to realize its been six years since they had a proper full length. But just hearing the McBean / Webber combo back on the speakers makes me realize how long its really been and how big a hole there’s been in rock since they left. The album boasts production from Randall Dunn (Sunn o)), Wolves In The Throne Room) and has the balls to open with a eight plus minute epic that’s only the first taste of how towering this album gets. Six years is a long time but build up expectations, but IV smashes through them with ease.




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Guru Guru – Hinten

Not as celebrated as many of their Krautrock brethren, Guru Guru is just as hard hitting, though they wander a bit further into prog’s waters than probably a few self-serious collectors might be comfortable with. Screw that nerdism though. The band boasted Cluster members Mani Neumeier and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in various lineups and ran in the same circles as Amon Düül and Can so they certainly have their credentials in order. Their debut UFO is usually the record that pops into conversation, if any mention at all is made, but their sophomore LP, Hinten, is an equal monster. Two tracks per side doused in feedback screeches, ghostly murmurs and punctured with the Neumeier’s precision drumming, the album is worth more than a few spins on the table for the heads out there. And don’t let the b-side stomper “Bo Diddley fool ya, there’s not really a glut of the Diddly beat to be found but it’s an exercise in psych weirdness on par with the excess of the rest of the album’s psychedelic storm. This one hadn’t been back on vinyl since its ’71 release but was reissued in 2014 in a small run and now, thankfully, has a repress to refill the shelves.




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Mind Spiders

Mark Ryan’s made plenty a name for himself with his work in Marked Man but as the years wear on he’s building an equal reputation for Mind Spiders. Running on an engine of sneering and searing new wave, propulsive with an evil glint in its eyes, Mind Spiders sit well in company with the twitchy latter day hijinks of Hierophants and Andy Human. Its nice to see the garage boys grabbing keys and chewing tinfoil until the riffs bleed and in the case of Mind Spiders they tend to bleed a disturbing blue-green that hints at something plenty sinister below the surface. The sci-fi vibes run rampant and that’s the way some of the best new wave and post-punk should work, I love a band that gets nerdy for nerdy’s sake while keeping it catchy. There are only eight tracks here but the band leaves you breathless by the time the last track clicks to a close. Its been a good run indeed up to where they stand today but Prosthesis is the strongest set yet from the Spiders.




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The Murlocs

So a few tastes of The Murlocs rolled in prior to Young Blindness’ release as videos over the last couple of months and now the record has finally arrived. Naturally the band draw comparisons to singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s slightly (maybe just a little) more famous band, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but aside from having a love for garage as a base and the sound of Kenny-Smith’s blistering harp, its not entirely fair to always loop them in together. The Murlocs push away from the heavy psychedelics of their seven-headed cousins, instead focusing on a garage glazed R&B hybrid that’s more attuned to the stomping riffs of The Animals and The Remains than they are to lysergic breakdowns.

The album has plenty of propulsive tricks of its own but a face-melting barrage isn’t really the band’s forte, instead they opt for a kind of laid back swagger that plays it casual and hip-slung from the moment the record opens. The best tracks aren’t entirely reclined to the point of feeling lax, but they definitely have an air of stoned reverence for keeping it cool. At the core of that cool, though, is a hard pop nugget that’s tying the record to the rails, crawling like a demon for your dance starved soul and howling the herald of The Murlocs’ arrival is Kenny-Smith with lungs like fire. Its hard to pull off the balance of feeling leather locked composed and still inspiring listeners to jump up on their feet in joy, but Young Blindness pulls it off like it was nothing to sweat over.





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Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – “Sunny Afternoon”

Good psych doesn’t have to peel your face every time and Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation are proof that the dark chug of drums and a building cloud of menace can be just as effective as amplifier screech. “Sunny Afternoon” appeared on The Liberation’s album from last winter and gets a new life as a single released this month with a proper b-side, “Lucid Sapphire.” For those that missed out on their album, Horse Dance, as it was slinking out last November this is a good intro. Josefin Öhrn culls a bit from the Bat For Lashes and Jane Weaver camps in equal measure, finding a motorik groove to fit her bewitching vocal delivery on this stomper of a single. The video knocks things up a level with some simple, but great psych effects coming off like a Marcus Keef album cover come alive. Its highly recommended you take a listen.


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Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon have been a longtime staple of RSTB and over the years they’ve changed and mutated into a few different versions; drone, krautrock, ethereal Kosmiche. Through it all the one constant has been Kip Ulhorn steering the ship through these new waters. He’s solo but not alone here, taking the band further into propulsive pop than ever before but with ample help from a cast of ringers from his surroundings in Memphis. It’s Cloudland at heart and by name, but this seems like a whole new band filling in their shoes. Partly this is because those filling the shoes have a diverse well to dip from and they pepper the album perfectly. Ross Johnson (Panther Burns, Alex Chilton), Lesa Alridge (Big Star) and Jody Stephens (Big Star) all play on the album while Ezra Buchla, M. Geddes Gengras, Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips) and David Scott Stone (ex-LCD Soundsystem) add their own touches and contributions as well. And if you’re assembling a team with that kind of clout why not pull in some psych rock royalty for the production as well? Ulhorn enlisted Sonic Boom to co-produce the album and his signature space and weight are felt for sure.

The tracks themselves burst with a lightness that’s reared its head in sparkles on prior albums but now beams from the inside out like a beacon on An Arabesque. There’s that skitter and grind of Krautrock beats pushing the pedals but the top is soaring harmonies and crystalline synths that give everything a glow of sunset around the edges. A club element rears its head from time to time but its balanced out by the noise element that peeks in just as often. On the whole, this is Ulhorn’s strongest set yet and it puts Cloudland Canyon into a higher echelon of psych-pop that feels like a new beginning.




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Kikagaku Moyo – “Kogarashi”

These guys caught my attention last year with a batch of reissues through Captcha and after a split single with Moon Duo they’re ramping up for a new Spring record, House In The Tall Grass for Tokyo psych label Guruguru Brain. The track, which translated means The Autumn Wind, is aptly named, with a kind of pastoral psych that recalls touches of The Zombies, The Apryl Fool and Pretty Things circa SF Sorrow. Shrouded in a veil of canyon echo the track burns with the last dying embers of firelight before sleep. The band have always had a knack for balancing a bit of fuzz burn with the lusher side of ’60s psychedelics adding up to songs that might not shred the skin but make for a slow burn in the long run, lending themselves to hidden gems with each new listen. It remains to be seen if the rest of House In The Tall Grass goes in for the fire or keeps it all as breezy as this but if they are keeping things mellow, this hints at a pretty phenomenal start.




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Outtacontroller

Halifax’s Outtacontroller have a lock on buzz saw fuzz with a heavy dose of pop thrown on top to keep you constantly coming back for more; knocking out aural Adderall for the ADD generation. Their sophomore LP, a three-way tag team from Southpaw, P-Trash and Young Modern, is full of scuzzed out riffs, the loose, swagger bounce of drums and the cavestomp echo of vocals n’ handclaps pushing tempos towards the red. They’re not rewriting the book but they’ve studied well and there’s more than enough room in this world for a few more pogo rounds about girls, pizza and R. Stevie Moore? Eh, why not, I’ve got more than enough love for Nashville’s ringleader of weird, so why shouldn’t he deserve an anthem of his own? The boys keep things down and dirty and hewn close to the Ramones-rooted school of faster, louder, done. Though they seem to add more fizz than bands with lesser marrow in their bones. This one’s been stuck on my headphones for more than a few go ’rounds and it doesn’t look to be leaving anytime soon. Not much here breaks the three minute mark, but that’d be way too long to stretch these buoyant blasts anyhow. If you can’t pick up and run with it 90 second caffeinated bursts then the hell with you, Outtacontroller probably don’t have time for you anyhow.




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