Posts Tagged ‘Drag City’

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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CAVE – “Beaux”

CAVE’s latest has been a constant on the turntable here and its definitely headed towards the year-end list. With that in mind, there’s always room for another peek at the album. The band are embarking on a tour to support the album and have a new video out for standout track “Beaux.” Full of the slinky psych-funk that makes Allways so vital, the track is given a fittingly psychedelic video from director Krzys Piotrowski with VFX from Nick Ciontea. If you’ve missed out on the album up until now, then use this as a reminder to tap into CAVE’s breezy freak wonderland.

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Axis: Sova

On round three from Brett Sova’s Axis: Sova, the band is as whistle clean as they’ve ever been – all shined and shaved and in their Sunday best bolo ties for a dive bar date that’s greased with a half-gallon of snake oil charm. Like Purling Hiss before them, they embrace a classic rock deck shuffle and dip their freak card cadavers in swagger with a renewed gusto. The band has crawled steadily out of the Cretaceous with each new installment, blossoming from Brett and a cracked Casio spitting popcorn under his fuzztone freakouts to a two-piece batter-dipped in half-stack blowback, like an acid bath for the ol’ grey matter. This time, though, they’ve bumped to a trio, with Tim Kaiser returning and Jeremy Freise of Cave filling out the full band backup and its definitely given the band a renewed license to play havoc with the style guide.

There’s less focus on the fuzz n’ freak this time around, instead digging into a kind of new wave lacquered psych boogie that’s hard to place a finger on. On tracks like “Crystal Predictor” Sova’s balancing radio ready hooks with the sleaze-squeezed warble that fought its way through DEVO and The Units. Quick-cut to “Stale Green” and they’re cranking fog machines with the Deep Purple road crew. By the closer, Brett’s crooning to the girl in the front row and looking to transcend his bad boy image with a tender touch of ennui and a dash of road wear. It’s a nice look on them and an interesting juxtaposition of genres that fits well together. The AV antics of New Wave’s tin hat art freaks share a lot in common with the psych burnouts carving pot leaves into the back row of the class and this might just be the definitive dissertation on the hypothesis. The fuzzbomb jitters of Shampoo You ferret out a meet-cute of ostracized longhairs from all sides of the spectrum.

I’ll always stand on the side of dirtbag psych, and the album ticks a lot of boxes around here, though I’d wager that the band could push this aesthetic even further. Maybe they do in the live setting. It’s got room to get greasier, twitchier and more over the top. When invoking the spirit of spandex hip flex and/or jumpsuit mind flay its best to forget all sense of decorum. Be that as it may, Shampoo You has a lot to offer and its great to see a band not rutting into the sound they found a few years back. The record feels like a step forward, as if to say “this is not my final form,” but the mutation’s interesting all the same.



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DMBQ – “Blue Bird”

Its been a good clip since DMBQ graced us with their presence around these (or any) parts and their first rumblings sings 2005’s The Essential Sounds From The Far East find the band just as enmeshed in guitar pyrotechnics and acid bath aesthetics as they’ve ever been. One of Japan’s fiercest exports, the trio has been flaying minds since the early nineties and now they find themselves popping up on Ty Segall’s DC imprint God?. Seems like a perfect fit to me, to be honest. “Blue Bird,” the first single from the album, is a low-slung psych freakout, tumbling over a barrage of drums and gnashing its teeth on the psyonic forces of feedback and flesh stripping riffs. The 12-ton drop of the song is a great reminder that breathless release cybcles are all well and good, but sometimes the best things are worth the wait – even if you dindn’t know you’ve been waiting for it. I’d never have expected a DMBQ album this year, but it ranks high on the list of great surprises for 2018.



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CAVE

Though they’ve often ebbed and flowed over the years, parceling out their revered releases to a fanbase happy to put some rhythmic ripple in their daily dose of psychedelia, Allways feels like a true high point for CAVE. Cooper Crain has been infinitely busy, splitting time between production credits and the cosmic float of Bitchin’ Bajas, but CAVE’s hold proves too strong and he’s obviously loath to let the band lose their yoke on the pounding pulse that beats beneath the psych heart eternal. With this album they perfect the bio-mechanical motion that’s worked the wheels of CAVE’s core for years, keeping just enough of the motorik menace that’s marked their everlasting Krautrock itch and synthesizing it into a much looser slink. The album fishhooks a South American psych groove alongside ‘70s jazz-funk flutes, toasting them ever so gently in the mountain sun before dropping the hot rock down onto double tape deck speakers for a lap around the park.

Crain and his cohorts prove they know how to splice quasar-crusted ambience with the cosmic slop of funk, barreling out of the bunker like a 300 lb hippie who’s surprisingly light on his feet. This is what the whole hep world would be listening to if Santana and Azimuth replaced every pimpled teen’s Zeppelin obsession. There’s something to be said for an album that could easily fuel the soundtrack of ‘70s Scorsese and at the same time tune up the geodesic domes of the best hippy commune. CAVE has found their formula with this record. Whatever deep dives into the bins Crain and co. have been doing over the last couple of years is paying off nicely. The band had exhausted their search for a new take on the German Progressive niche they’d been exploring since their formation and with the gamble to dose the psych with a heaping helping of wah and wobble they’ve created their best album to date.

Something tells me that CAVE purists might split opinions on the new direction. While the band still has a hand on the cosmic tiller – tunneling through space echo wormholes on “Dusty” and stomping the “flame on” guitar gusto for “Beaux,” the record almost feels like its made by a different band. To me, that’s admirable. That’s the essence of evolution. To some, that might be heresy, but screw the psych luddites, this album was made to burn and if there’s anything you need to have stuck in your car stereo for the next few months, its Allways.

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Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind

There are long simmering reissues that have been achingly in need of a new day, obvious and picked over – the kind that require a contract negotiation to will into existence. Then, there are those that were just bubbling below the surface, ones which should have been obvious, but for some reason or another eluded the mind. The news that Cosmic Invention’s sole album was getting the vinyl treatment fell squarely in this second camp. While Ghost’s early catalog still remains elusively and tantalizingly out of print, this Masaki Batoh side project is given a well-deserved second life through Drag City. The band featured a stunning lineup of musicians, one which would be enviable in any Japanese Psych band before or after. The ranks included Michio Kurihara (White Heaven, The Stars), Chiyo Kamekawa (Fushitsusha, Yura Yura Teikoku), and Okano Futoshi (Acid Mothers Temple, The Silence) among others who have orbited Batoh’s works since.

Landing just a year after Ghost’s haunting psych-folk opus Lama Rabi Rabi, the record stands in stark contrast to that album’s dark restraint. It’s the beginning of a heavier sound for Ghost, played out as a standalone record hinged on molten solos and spectral noise. The band moves from AMT-styled barn burners to electric Miles freeforms with ease, proving that the assembled players were all hitting a seasoned prime during their time in Cosmic Invention. The record found its way out on the experimental label The Now Sound which issued previous records from Batoh and White Heaven along with the similarly Batoh affiliated Sweet & Honey.

While all the members here add to the psychedelic fortitude of the album, the record is really the outcome of opposing forces in Bathoh and Kurihara’s style. Batoh brings his well of haunted tenderness and Kurihara sets it all on fire with a heavy hand on the strings. What springs between those poles, however, is an album of darkness and light that’s rarely been matched. For fans of ‘90s Japanese Psych, this is a pickup on par with anything from the PSF archives and Drag City has done a nice job of it, even adding in a bonus cut. Though, for the life of me I can’t imagine why they redesigned the cover to look like a live bootleg but let’s not pick at small details. It’s a completely essential and utterly devastating record and it should find a place on your shelf as soon as possible.



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