Posts Tagged ‘Drag City’

Xylouris White

Jim White and George Xylouris have made a potent pair in the past, churning traditional Greek songwriting into something more mercurial for the past five or so years. In that time, they’ve put together three albums of dizzying sun salutations that seem rooted in the hills, wound tight with roots and rocks. Each song dug from the fresh cut earth like a bulb waiting to burst is treated with care by the veteran musicians. It’s clear that these two have been forging their respective talents for years in the fires of improvisation and their fourth album cements their bond as fluid players completely in tune with one another. White’s drums tumble and shudder, sending an unusual amount of emotion quivering between sticks and skins. Likewise, Xylouris seems to divine something elemental in his songs. His playing brings to mind the trance of exhumations of Native American folk song and the meditative float of ragas, but contained in something that is wholly and intrinsically linked to his Greek homeland.

After completing their trilogy – Goats, Black Peak, Mother – the duo focuses their gaze this time on the myth of Sisyphus and his duty to drag that boulder up the hill for all eternity. It seems a parable of rut, the idea that one is condemned to forever complete the same task thanklessly over the course of life. It’s the ultimate parallel to the cubical bound cruisers. Xylouris didn’t see it that way, though, instead preferring to think of Sisyphus as completing the same task but finding different tessellations to complete it. He may have the same start and the same end but that’s not to say the points between have to remain static. They saw a bit of themselves in Sisyphus, which makes sense for musicians. While not condemned, they are set to play the same songs live night after night.

No one said they have to be the same versions, though. Each new approach warrants a new take on something familiar. Each new set births a new journey and that in itself is beautiful. While that setup would lead me to expect the record might work on a series of motifs, its not that rigid. The pair fleshes out another record that takes the listener on a journey, bringing life to the rock and elevating Sisyphus from warning to artist. Odds are if you were on board with the last three, this is going to hit the spot. If this is your first dip into Xylouris White, it’s a good place to start as well.




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The Silence

Just a few months after his solid solo LP, Masaki Batoh is back on a progressive bent with his band The Silence. Metaphysical Feedback is the first record since the band’s 2016 LP Nine Suns, One Morning, an album that expanded their already dense prog/psych palette from their two albums previous. A frantic pace seemed to be the norm for The Silence in the past, with their first three albums all falling less than a year from each other’s release. A longer time to germinate gives Metaphysical Feedback a bit of distance from its predecessors. The cindered folk stance of Nowhere seeps into the corners of the album, perhaps playing to a bit of crossbred songwriting between the two, but as usual The Silence remains Batoh’s avenue to bite into the wires of ‘70s prog, free-jazz, psychedelia, and the further reaches of space while smashing the boundaries between all of them.

The bulk of Metaphysical Feedback does just that, where opener “Sarabande” filters in slow and serene before igniting the pool of gasoline that’s been collecting over its 8+ minutes on the way out, “Tautology” is a bop-fried scorcher on the constant edge of freakout territory, lacerated by sax and ozone crackle. They employ groove that pushes further toward funk and further from their German Progressive touches on “Okoku” and it fits perfectly into their mindset. A dark current of flute pushes from jazz to psych odyssey on several tracks, and the band often uses them a herald for sweeping sea change within a track – the darkly decadent “Yokushurui” being the prime example.

Post-Ghost, Batoh has proven that he can’t be penned in by expectations, and while his solo record might have returned to a few markers in his past, The Silence proves that he’s still pushing further towards the edges for his future. The band has quickly amassed a catalog of remarkable releases, but it quickly becomes clear that the extra time to develop their latest makes Metaphysical Feedback their fist truly essential release.



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Bill MacKay + Katinka Kleijn – “Hermine”

Its been a rather banner year for Bill MacKay. The guitarist’s last album landed in February and its one of his most affecting statements to date, which in a catalog of his caliber isn’t any small feat. Now he’s got another LP on the way, this time with Dutch Cellist Katinka Kleijn. The first taste of their upcoming Drag City album is scarred and scratched. McKay’s guitar work is far more fanged than on Fountain Fire but no less vital. The first cut “Hermine” is feral, burnt, hollowed — it’s a much more ferricious side of MacKay than his simmering folk and Kleijn adds a shading and dimension that brings his playing forward in stark relief. Check the video for the first cut above and look out for this one on October 11th.

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Major Stars

There’s no great exploration of East Coast psychedelia without inclusion of Major Stars. Grown out of a connection formed when Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar shared time in the short-lived, but critically loved, Magic Hour, the band sprung to life with a ferocity that can be felt through to the marrow. The band incubated in famed record store Twisted Village (owned by the pair) and they have been a fixture for going on twenty years. Their latest in a run of great LPs for Drag City, Roots of Confusion, Seeds of Joy, shows no signs of the band turning away from their heavy shred prowess tempered with elegiac vocals. Rogers and Biggar burn through runs that would put a blush in the cheek of Munehiro Nirita and the fact that they’ve shared many stages with Acid Mothers Temple ought to be some indication of what’s at play here.

The sound that simmers in the veins of Roots… seeps right out of their last hard charger, Motion Set, though they swap out vocal duties from Hayley Thompson-King to Noell Dorsey this time around. Her delivery soars above the fray, turning the tumult into alchemy in waveform — a guiding light above the three-guitar attack the band metes out over the course of seven songs. Dorsey’s vocals tense and roll away from the dexterous guitar army thrashing behind her. Her style moves seamlessly from the kind of coiled, but coy ‘90s indie to soaring psych-folk forays. Though, admittedly, the band never quite meets the folk half of that equation, playing calm occasionally, but never quite taking the intensity below a simmer. But that’s not why we’re all here, is it? Major Stars have always had their teeth in an artery delivering both adrenaline and feedback in equal gushes. On Roots of Confusion, Seeds of Joy they continue to do what they do best — burn down the walls and collect the ash for next year’s rites and riffs.



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Wayne Rogers on The Plastic Cloud – S/T

It’s been a year of greats in Hidden Gems lately and rolling down the list of psych luminaries for contributors, the latest sees Wayne Rogers (Major Stars, Crystalized Movements, Magic Hour) take a turn looking inward for inspiration. This year has already seen Rogers add to his legacy with a solo LP on his own Twisted Village imprint and a new Major Stars on the way from Drag City next week. The guitar work of Rogers can be seen making an impact all over recent accolytes, from the cinder n’ smoke of Feral Ohms to the ragged grace of Wet Tuna. Wayne turns back to his earlier years with Crystalized Movements for a psych nugget that pushed his own boundaries. Check Wayne’s dive into the one-off wonders of The Plastic Cloud.

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Bill MacKay – “Birds of May”

Bill MacKay has been a singular voice in folk for the better part of two decades and a staple of Chicago’s vibrant traditions, though he’s often sounded like he’s been dropped from the UK fresh off a Bert Jansch session. His latest LP, Fountain Fire is one of his strongest to date, a grey-skied folk journey into the heart of humanity. As he embarks on a run of dates, which include some key Hudson Valley hits for those of you’re in my area (Huichicha, Tubby’s, The Half Moon), he’s released a video for the standout track “Birds of May.” The visuals are understated but that lets the music shine through, humble and stately. If you get a chance hop on over to a show – he’s touring with fellow Drag City stabler Mike Donovan, so there’s just that much more incentive.

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Ty Segall

There’s always a fresh hit of Segall on the horizon and 2019 is no gap year. Skidding out of the last two heavy hitters – the acerbic ball of anxiety, Emotional Mugger, and the grandiose vision of Freedom’s Goblin – Ty’s turning inward for an album that’s got less boogie in its butt, less angst in its eyes, but no less experimental spirit than his last couple of outings. Musically Segall is plucking from several camps. There’s a freshly pumped in Eastern air, some sax teeth – not skronking quite as vicious as on Goblin – but still toasting the edges, and he’s littering the album with plenty of prog-minded excursions that twist sound into ragged towers. Lyrically, he’s looking for inspiration at home, in a more settled life, but that’s not always apparent when the guitars flare and the mutant cicadas set the pace.

It’s a bit telling that, in a recent Hidden Gems for the site, Ty cited Greek prog album 666 by Aphrodite’s Child as a recent favorite, admitting its shade had fallen on his more recent sessions. That album is nothing if not eclectic, finding its tone more in cumulative excess than cohesion and First Taste operates much in the same way. Every sonic scrap is at his disposal as long as it pushes the final result further from the bounds of this Earth. That’s not to say this is just a collection of chaotic experiments, there’s always that refreshing thread of pop running through Ty’s albums and its here in fine form.

The folk cool-down “I Sing Them” is up there with Segall’s great acoustic material, but twisted with a dissonance that doesn’t always creep into his sweeter songs. “Whatever” sounds like it could have met with the Emotional Muggers in a darkened alley, a slight vicious smile between its lips. “Radio” is a pop heater that won’t quit and “Ice Plant” plays with space and patience more than most of Segall’s fare, haunting in a way he rarely does. First Taste is the sound of Segall enjoying his freedom. Ascending to the heights of the indie scaffold is no easy task, but this doesn’t feel like an album for the masses, more for Segall himself. That his own winking indulgences also happen to be endlessly entertaining is just a bonus for the rest of us.

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Purling Hiss – “Interstellar Blue”

Over the last couple of years Mike Polizze has favored the short format over the album and its been a good run of chasing his respective pop demons in different directions. Out Tonight tumbled down a JAMC / Suicide spiral, but it beat with a fuzzy pop heart, hungover from his previous albums. The flip covered Spacemen 3 in earnest, letting the influences affix themselves firmly to his sleeves. But Interstellar Blue is a different animal. Its as far out as Polizze’s let himself get in quite a while, chomping the fuzz and fray like a man happy to be back in the plume of amplifier fallout once again. He eases in with “Useful Information,” still toggling on a strum, though it revels in a bigger guitar bite. Its on the next track that he returns to the days of Hiss yore, while pushing the formula forward with vision and clarity. Back when they were slaying for the altar of Hissteria, there was a din that surrounded them, dirty, dirgey, and spectacularly loud. But that loudness came with a price in fidelity. The din threatened to subsume them.

Here they’re back at the altar, laying a six-stringed sacrifice down on the lacquer for the world once more, but this time they’re bringing their dedication to higher-fi along with them. “Ostinato Jam” is pure Hiss, damaged and deranged just the way you like it. The wire-tightened “Naut” is frantic and fuzz-caked and the title track is a dropout boogie of the highest order, sniffing at the cosmos with redline abandon. The band hasn’t sounded this good in a long time and its, admittedly, great to have them back.

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Ty Segall on Aphrodite’s Child – 666

As long as Hidden Gems has been a series, I’ve had a few folks on the shortlist for contributions. Pretty close to the top has always hovered Ty Segall, long a fixture here at RSTB, but also an understandably busy acquisition for the feature. As Ty’s latest, First Taste, approaches next month he’s found some time to think on a rare gem of psychedelic proportions while also giving a bit of insight into how it may have helped shape his new album’s sound. While First Taste might not reach double-fold prog lengths like Freedom’s Goblin its still mining an off-kilter pop sensibility, rooted in psych touches and prog embellishments. This time around the entire record is boiled down to sharp, punchy track lengths, a quality that also informs the third LP from Aphrodite’s Child. The band, and its harrowing, biblical epic 666, served as one of the first outlets for synth master Vangelis, but it’s equally a showcase for sharp-toothed soothsayer Demis Roussos. Though the band’s album spanned four sides of vinyl, they shook prog conventions by keeping the tracks rather tight, spurning the instinct towards improvisation, but not the instinct towards delightful excess. Check out how this album came into Ty’s life and the impact it’s had on his work.

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Ty Segall – “Radio”

So, while I was away last week the music world didn’t stop turning, which leaves a few good bits by the wayside. I’m going to use today to catch up on the best of the bunch. Wouldn’t be a year on the books if Ty didn’t have at least one or two irons in the fire. He’s back with a new solo LP with the usual cast of garage gremlins behind him — “Radio” features Mikal Cronin weirding a bout of buzzing sax, Emmet Kelley and Charles Mootheart holding down the rhythm, and relative newcomer to the Segall Circus, Shannon Lay, chipping in some backup vox. This time around Ty’s cutting down the grandeur of last year’s Freedom’s Goblin, but that by no means equals austerity. The track’s got a bit of an Eastern buzz to it, hammering the guitars like sitars in the sun. Cronin’s sax lights a fire from the outset and the whole thing’s dipped in a layer of reflective paint that shines like some extra-dimensional sun. Sounding like another good one on our hands when First Taste lands August 2nd.



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