Posts Tagged ‘Cosmic Americana’

Garcia Peoples – “One At A Time”

I’m not sure if it’s the most pressing issue of lockdown lifestyle, but the absence of Garcia Peoples’ shows has been felt fairly hard around here. The band’s built for the stage. It’s where they thrive, where they evolve, where they commune with the room sweat to create the next symbiotic stretch of cosmic comedown. That said, the band has become, increasingly, creatures of the studio in the past few years. With the release of One Step Behind they’ve crossed over into creating epics of tape transference that extend the alchemy on stage to the studio setting. They keep the momentum in motion with Night Cap At Wit’s End. The new record was recorded over nine months with Jeff Ziegler (Chris Forsyth, The War on Drugs) and the first whiff of the album, “One At A Time” finds the band shutting out some of their sunnier impulses in exchange for the reclusive, edgy, drug-induced lockjaw of the mid ‘70s.

The song sees the band begin to leave the obvious touchstones of their sound behind and merge their natural ability to find groove and explode it onstage with with the living organism of the studio environment. Acoustics play a bigger part here, injecting a bit of JJ Cale sweat, but that’s not where this one ends up, not by a long shot. Gubler’s keys are beginning to play a bigger part as well, so the fertile stench of prog rears its head, but that’s not where this leaves us either. Instead, “One At A Time” is as constantly shifting as anything the band has done, while feeling more surefooted than they’ve ever been. Its we, the listener, who rotate around them in flux, in thrall to the sound and where it goes. The band’s stirring the cloud cover and we’re just dodging the drops. If, somehow, Garcia Peoples escaped your view before now, this is the time to lock in. The record lands October 9th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Check out the excellent video created by labelmate Kendra Amalie above.



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The Sunset Canyoneers

The California coast is always fertile ground when it comes to Cosmic American Music and Cosmic Country in particular. Adding to a scene that’s already packed with faves like Pacific Range, GospelbeacH, and Mapache, Sunset Canyoneers pick up on the twang-simmered ease that lends itself so well to the salt-scented airs of their surrounding environs. As befits their inclusion on Spainish label You Are The Cosmos’ roster, the band focuses on breezy pop harmonies but tinge them with a low-swung sweetness, jangle and slide-dipped sound that’s heir to an amalgam of Big Star, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Though, at their most pure, the band seems to be distilling those same influences through the lens of aughts faves like The Tyde or The Stands.

The band’s pop penchant, sky-high, three-part harmonies and tight format set them apart bit from their contemporaries, who often dig into the folk, or extended jam sides of the spectrum. While Sunset Canyoneers feel like they might be able to stretch the boundaries of a few of these live, their sound is built on crisp pop tracks that are dressed up in Western shirts. It’s a shift from quite a few of the members’ previous projects, but that’s not to say that they don’t pull off their new sound amiably. When they slip off the twang and lean into the warm breeze of pop on “As Far As I Can Tell,” there’s a hint at where the players are coming from, yet it sits alongside the Cosmic Country without too much of a change in temperature. The marriage of indie pop and psych-draped country comes through most prominently, making their enthusiasm for the sound an infectious part of the process. You can feel that Powers and the band are having a good time and in the end that’s the feeling that permeates and the vibe that radiates.




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Trummors – “Late Arriver”

If, after the last slip out of the Trummors camp, you still needed some inspiration to get this on your watchlist, the band cinches the necessity with “Late Arriver.” The second single off of the album is combed back further in a honeyed twang, playing up the country comfort of the duo’s latest album. Harmonies entwine from Anne and David, giving this a nod to Richard and Linda Thompson if they’d been collaborating heavily with New Riders at any point in their career. The strums are wide and winding on this one and the pedal steel is tinged with sunset colors that paint the desert surroundings in which they find themselves ensconced. The record is out August 21st from Ernest Jenning Record Co.


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Best of 2020 (so far)

2020’s been a hell of a year, and one that doesn’t feel like definitive statements do it justice. Still, no matter how many seismic changes have occurred during the year, the music has been a source of solace and inspiration. The fact that so many artists have had their livelihoods upended gives it a slightly sour note, especially for some that may have been working years to let these statements out into the world. Keep hitting the Bandcamp revenue shares to support artists and labels directly. If you need some suggestions there’s quite a few below. Keep in mind that ‘best’ is by no means definitive, but these are some of my favorites. We all know that Run The Jewels hits hard, but someone else is gonna tell you about it better than I ever could. Still lots to look forward to musically in the second half, but the first part of the year has been a bounty to be sure.

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Trummors – “Silver City Blues”

A sun-streaked new track slips out today in advance of the new Trummors LP, Dropout City on Ernest Jenning Record Co. The song is a faded-denim dose of cosmic country that ambles in on auburn strums and swooning harmonies. David Lerner and Ann Cunningham left the city steel for New Mexico’s grand expanses a few years back and the desert dust makes its presence felt on the low-light simmer of “Silver City Blues.” The song slides in on buttery leads, breezy harmonies, and a sense of ease that’s hard to resist. The band’s been building up to a release that sounds this effortless and lived-in over the past few years, but it’s hard to deny that this is a high-water mark for their brand of alt-country saunter. Keep an ear out for more from Dropout City as this is only a taste of what the band’s put together for 2020. Move it to the top of the watchlist.




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Rose City Band

Its been no secret around here that the sophomore LP from Rose City Band has hit hard. Expanding on the debut’s humble roots in private press psych, country, and Americana, the second offering from Ripley Johnson’s solo outfit refines his vision and takes a light dusting to the dollar-bin veneer. The scrub up doesn’t degrade the charms though, and the more refined RCB doesn’t lose a single ounce of the endearing value of Rip’s sound. Largely, RCB leans further into the streaked skies of Cosmic Country this time around, with a good dose of twang and ramble seeping into the strings underneath a blanket of heat-wave warble that seals in the saunter. Johnson forgoes a long psychedelic excursion like the debut’s “Fear Song,” this time around, instead focussing on set of songs that build to a simmer with just enough time to froth without foaming over. I

ts a tighter record, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in letting those liquid silver guitar lines shine. The hallmark sound of lysergic licks still graces the record, leaving Johnson’s unique stamp on it. While still paying homage to his original crop of past masters — Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, KAK, and Curt Newbury, — the vibes on Summerlong seem to be swinging full well into Western nodes of The First National Band, Timbercreek, or Country Funk. The shift is subtle but fits Ripley well. His honey n’ dust croon lays low like a fog over the horizons of these songs, which amble slow and choogle slightly less than he has in the past, but what they give up in rollick they make up in melt. Though, as the album wafts into its second half, the temperature heats up just a bit and the breeze dies down.

“Morning Light” picks up the pace, but not the urgency, still laying back into sunshine ease, but “Reno Shuffle” lets the night in and a bit of heat lightning, hinting at a bit of danger in the distance. For the most part it lounges in languid moments and spot-on shimmer. The album is a perfect companion to hazy summer days as they turn into warm summer nights. There’s been a wealth of entries to the Cosmic Americana canon over the last few years and this one’s standing near the top. While it was on constant rotation here, its possible that the debut from Rose City Band got lost among the releases last year. Hoping that same fate doesn’t befall this, because its definitely edging its way towards the top of the list of albums for 2020. Don’t sleep on this one.



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Rose City Band – “Real Long Gone”

Another shaker from the upcoming sophomore LP by Rose City Band. While the band’s debut slipped out quietly under the shadow of anonymity, leaving a few aural clues as to who was behind it, now Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips) has taken his rightful place in the sun for the follow-up. The band’s been blending down the private press folk loner linger with the faded country swagger of deep bench ‘70s presses and nowhere does it coalesce better than on “Real Long Gone.” The song’s got a sunburnt soul, beaten by road dust and winding down the same turns that Turnquist Remedy, Country Funk, and Mighty Baby tracked before them. In the past the heat-curl of psych has obscured the twang-tipped wrangle, but here the country careen is on full display and feeling like just the thing to ease into summer. Warmer days have a good companion in the grooves of Summerlong.


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Half Stack – “Wings of Love”

Adding to the Autumn shivers of the country-rock groundswell of late, Oakland’s Half Stack have been building steam for the past few years, with an EP release last year and their sorely underusing 2018 LP, Quitting Time in the rearview. They announce a proper follow-up this week and release the title track “Wings of Love” out onto the breeze — unfurling an easy sway, a tangle of guitar twang, and three-part harmonies that melt like butter in the pan. The song’s got a wandering heart and travel in its bones, but its also got a melancholy soul that’s not ready to leave easy. The band employs a looseness that never sounds over-fussed, letting a little rumple work its way into the sound despite an obvious aptitude for songcraft. The record’s on the way from Forged Artifacts, and as with many soon to be platters, the digital will land mid-summer with physical dates stretching into the fall. Get this one on your wishlist now, though. Its gonna be a good one.



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Pacific Range

It’s hard to know what type of tone to strike these days — whether a bath of anger is what’s called for or the cleansing spirit of solace is in order. Maybe the answer is that there are days for both. I’d like to think that the angst of 2020 was far, far from the minds that made High Up On The Mountain, when it was written and recorded. The debut LP from West Coast Cosmic comrades Pacific Range captures a certain strain of calm that’s been sorely missing from my life of late. The album is awash in the salt-scrubbed tones of California and ingrained with the unblemished invigoration of mountain air. While it might not be a West Coast concept, the band captures the aural equivalent of that perfect pitch of blue that comes through in Spring sky — the kind that chases away the clouds of winter, hung with the first tinge of warmth and the the promise of a break from the crushing despair of winter months. The current wave of Cosmic Americana that’s rolled through has oddly favored the East Coast (aside from Howlin’ Rain I suppose) and the bands inclusion in the sunshine sway of the sound feels like it fills a particular gap.

While many of the others are heavily dependent on the Crazy Horse and Little Feat axis, Pacific Range seem to be falling into a more Allman descendent strain, and in many occasions the works of Dicky solo. Sure, they pick up quite a few of the tangential vibes as well — the lesser knowns that found their way in the wake of the Dead, The Allmans and post-Caravanserai Santana. There’s shades of Help Yourself, Mountain Bus, and Turnquist Remedy all threaded through the album. The band trickles down the same tributaries that cut through the canyons and make them their own. There’s a boogie that drives High Up, but there’s something more at play here.

While there’s the familiar deep-seated sway that offers itself up to extended jams in the live setting, there is a tenderness that’s not as present in some of their contemporaries. “Boulevard Indigo,” has a mournful country-folk strain that hangs on the air like dew. “Guiding the Mast” sounds like its was sliced off of either of the last couple of Mapache albums, and its not surprising that the band’s Clay Finch does indeed show up as a guest player among the tracks offered up here. Pacific Range complicate the cosmic winds with their own dusting of bittersweet heartache. There’s plenty here that gives in to the groove but just as much that lets it linger down to a halt, letting the soft breeze suffice as just the right amount of movement. This one seems to have been lost in terms of deserving fanfare, especially out East, but its a necessary pickup in times needing a respite for sure.





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Arbouretum

While Arbouretum has undoubtedly been on the RSTB radar over the years, I have to admit that attention to them has wavered here and there. The band knocked down a couple of heavy catalog necessities with 2007’s Rites of Uncovering and 2009’s Song of the Pearl. The former bears the scars of songwriter Dave Heumann’s time with the brothers Oldham, and dips into the well of road-worn Americana with the best of ‘em. The latter grips a bit harder and finds its way towards the spirt of Crazy Horse. That’s not to say that the rest of the catalog isn’t worth your time (it certainly is) but these were the times I remember them grabbing me. They return with seat another instance of excellence on this year’s Let It All In, an album that arrives perhaps almost serendipitously in a wave of Cosmic Americana that the band’s Heumann has long been riding.

That others’ are just now catching up to his cracked leather vision of road-beaten folk rock proves that it wasn’t that the band was out of step, they were just waiting for the world to come back around to their senses again. With a double drummer setup, seasoned session players like Hans Chew popping in for some keys, and some of the most adventurous arrangements in their discography, this is the band bringing to a head a lot of the qualities that have made Arbouretum such stalwart travelers. The touching, spiritual melancholy remains in Heumann’s vocals. The slight singe of jam in the arrangements pushes through to breaking, which it finally does within the sprawling grandeur of the title track. In a solid catalog it stands out as a peak, garnering attention that was long overdue. If, perhaps like myself, Arbouretum has existed on the periphery of your ‘to play’ pile, let this one push it to the top. This is a welcome highlight among 2020’s Americana interests.



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