Posts Tagged ‘Drag City’

Wand – “Thin Air”

A second slip behind the curtain of Wand’s upcoming opus Laughing Matter lands today. “Thin Air” is a bit burlier than first single, “Scarecrow,” but it too is toeing into the skeletal indie prog left scattered by Radiohead, Mogwai and Godspeed around the turn of the millennium. Starting with the last album the band turned a corner from their garage moorings to push towards more ambitious rock pursuits with an eye towards stadium-sized epochs. However, the band is working decidedly in terms of alchemy rather than retread, picking sense memories from each of those sources and working them into something sinewy and barbed all at once. The track trickles in, only to roll into a ball of feedback by the second half – drawing the needle of their sound through shoegaze shimmers and psych bluster. Both of these pieces point to a bigger, leaner, and headier album from the band than before. I’m eager to see how these lock together and whether they can make the new album’s double length work in their favor or pose a challenge.





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Wand – “Scarecrow”

Wand continue their reinvention from fuzz-chomping psych freaks to art rock acolytes with the announcement of their latest Drag City LP. In the austere, Between Two Ferns lookin’ video for the song, the band channels the brittle, air-conditioned unease of Mogwai, Muse, and, more specifically, Radiohead. They pushed towards reflections of ’90s guitar heroes on their previous album and they appear to be making their transition into the early aughts this time around. They’ve stripped away the ’90s grunge signifiers, trading their old STP CDS in for an angular agenda that tills Wire, Magazine and The Comsat Angels into stadium-sized sizzle. It’ll be interesting to see how the massive looking new LP works out as they’ve already got their sights set on a bigger profile with this offering. Laughing Matter is out April 19th.

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Masaki Batoh on Pearls Before Swine – Balaklava

As I mentioned in the review a few days ago, the work of Masaki Batoh has a pretty strong foothold in the roots of RSTB. Ghost in particular is a personal favorite, but the guitarists’ work has touched on higher burning psychedelic forms with The Silence and Cosmic Invention, twisted through experimental norms in his solo work and resonated deeply in his works with collaborator Helena Espvall of Espers. The latest solo outing, though, has felt like a coming home to the psychedelic folk and blues that first gripped me. As such its great to have Batoh contribute to the ongoing Hidden Gems series and tackle a release that he feels might not always get the proper due it deserves. Check below as Masaki discusses finding Pearls Before Swine’s underground classic Balaklava and the impact its had on his own writing.

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Masaki Batoh

On his first solo album since 2012’s largely experimental Brain Pulse, Japanese legend Masaki Batoh returns to the roots of psych-folk that wrought Ghost all those years ago. Winding through the same serene mists that haunted Lama Rabi Rabi and the band’s eponymous debut, Nowhere is a picture of Batoh leaning into his strengths while embracing both Japanese and, for the first time, English lyrics. While this is his first solo record proper in a while, its hardly the first we’ve heard from Batoh’s camp in the last couple of years. Following three albums working the psychedelic edge with his outfit The Silence, Nowhere is also a return to the meditative pacing reverent calm for the songwriter, relying on circular fingerpicks and the humid creep of echo to replace anything as outwardly explosive as he’s been fond of recently.

Having been drawn to the work of Masaki Batoh through Ghost and later working back through Sweet and Honey and Cosmic Invention, this mode feels like a welcome homecoming for me. The songwriter’s long arched over into the mystic touches, feeling every bit as otherworldly as the Tolkien-referencing plucks of Bo Hansson or the ritualistic runs of Ash Ra Temple. On Nowhere, Batoh dips back into those modes, while also proving that he’s picked up new habits along the way. He picks at American blues on “Devil Got Me,” and skews towards a a tougher, almost ‘90s blooze approach on “Sundown,” but he manages to keep the album from feeling like a hodgepode. Its more like a journal of psychedelic damnation – a sketchbook of psych-folk-blues embattlement as divined by someone at his own crossroads. Maybe Batoh’s isn’t as famous as Robert Johnson, but it still feels elemental.



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Ty Segall & Freedom Band- Live Album

Anyone who’s been in the audience for Ty and co. know that its well worth the price of admission and the live entry to Castle Face’s series proved just that. Now the road-worn Freedom Band is getting a live document as well, recorded over the course of their latest tour for Freedom’s Goblin. The record was laid to tape by Steve Albini himself, which knocks this up from the usual soundboard dumpout fare. Producing a good live record is a hard target, and for every Live at Budokon there’s a throwaway cash grab on the burner for a mid-’70s major. This, however, does not appear to be a stop-gap, but a true dedication to the live record as perfect curio. The album takes a good swipe at some of Ty’s core catalog (though not necessarily the most obvious choices) and sprinkles in one of my personal favorite covers for an amp wrestle as well. At only eight tracks, though, this is a tight turnout for a band that just offered up a nineteen track studio burner. Check out the band’s take on Twins-era standout “Love Fuzz” and get prepped for the rest to hit on March 29th.


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Tim Presley’s White Fence

The most striking thing about the new White Fence is that its now come packaged as Tim Presley’s White Fence. Its an odd move for a band that’s essentially one guy. While the multi-bandmember marketing move of branding a band with a “presents” banner brings to mind infighting and egos, a la Eric Burdon and The Animals or Rod Torfulson’s Armada, here it seems to strike a connective tissue between Tim’s recent solo records, numerous collabs and his old standby White Fence. Tim’s on again, off again relationship with the name is, to say the least, confusing. Where does the Fence end and Presley begin? Is White Fence an affectation, or is it just a familiar branded beanie that allows him to bloom outside of the singer-songwriter context?

The answers are not necessarily forthcoming here, but a bigger picture does take shape. The beginning of the record dips into the piano-man ballads that Tim’s been slinging on the side. Then he douses it with a bit of the warble-wonk weirdness that he’s found with Drinks (his collab with Cate Le Bon). Before long though, its back to the ’60s strummers of yore. “Lorelei” wrestles with Presley’s inner Kevin Ayers, but its “Neighborhood Light” that’s the standout here. It’s the most proper answer to what White Fence really is – loose, jaunty, swingers that pick at the bones of John Cale, Arthur Brown, Ayers, Skip Spence and yeah the ol’ specter of Syd. More than just emulating though, Tim’s finding the webbing between the outsiders, and that makes White Fence an enduring prospect. Most of the names on that list, bar Cale, would burn out well before any sense of longevity would set in. Tim gives reason to believe that there was far more gas in any of their tanks that we, as a listening public, got to explore.

I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk is a further tumble down Tim’s costume box, breathing in the essence of the guitar freak grasping to translate fractals into fingerpicks without dropping down the acid-casualty escape hatch. Perhaps the best example here is “Until You Walk,” a crumpled tin tango that’s breezy and beatific – if the breeze was pulling downwind from a massive gas leak. Its hard not to find something refreshing in Tim’s insistence on not only coloring outside of the singer-songwriter lines, but adding several layers of touch-up to the coloring book in fanciful curlicue while he’s at it. Everything in White Fence’s world is applied n colors that can’t be ignored and refuse to blend in, and Larry’s is one of the most fully realized examples of that ethos yet.



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Masaki Batoh – “Tower of The Silence”

Though he’s long popped up on contemporaries’ records, and issued a clutch of essentials along with The Silence, Masaki Batoh’s solo records have often leaned into a more experimental approach rather than bring to mind his days in Ghost (the one and only, imo), which, makes his upcoming LP, Nowhere so exciting. The album digs into the same haunted well that wrought so many lonesome, ominous essentials from his former band. “Tower of The Silence” is built on a tangle of fingerpicked guitar that buoys alternating moments of reverential silence and impending doom. Even counting in The Silence’s catalog, its one of the best pieces to emerge from Batoh’s catalog in quite some time, feeling like it must already exist within the harbinger hollows of Ghost’s psychedelic dioramas. If the piece is any inkling as to how the rest of Nowhere will play out, then fans are in for something of an essential. Check out the bone-dry video above and look out for the new album in February.



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RSTB Best of 2018: Reissues, Etc.

A large part of the site is not only focusing on new releases, but also the great reissues that are unearthed during the course of a year. Below are my picks for the best editions dug up by the hardworking folks on the reissue circuit. Every year there are less options to work from and every year labels continue to surprise me with what they bring out. I’m also going to take a moment to give tribute to an album that could have been this year but due to unfortunate circumstances didn’t make it to fruition.

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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Tim Presley’s White Fence – “I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk”

Tim Presley’s been busy recently, but its actually been a few years since a solo White Fence track has trickled into these parts. Following a joint album with Ty Segall, a solo record under his given name and a Drinks LP with cohort Cate Le Bon, he return to the fertile ground of ’60s psych burble, this time advertised as Tim Preley’s White Fence. That addendum begs the question, what’s the difference now between Presley solo and Presley as White Fence? It seems to be a measure of cohesiveness, as I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk (both the album and the track) are steeped in the uneasy sway of his omnipresent Syd Barret / Kevin Ayers specter. The solo record lifted the lid on that for just a bit, but with White Fence back in play, Presley is back mining the acid-dipped end of the outsider pop spectrum for noxious gems. The seasick n’ static video for the track from Ashley Goodall gives the cut a proper hallucinatory quality. Full album arrives packed and peaking on Jan. 25th via his constant stomping grounds at Drag City.

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