Posts Tagged ‘Flightless’

Leah Senior – “Evergreen”

Aussie enclave Flightless Records has long been an enclave of explosive psychedelia, but the less raucous nooks of their catalog also hold some excellent folk and soft-psych releases that are no less affecting. Grace Cummings, The Babe Rainbow, pre-2020 Traffik Island, and Leah Senior occupy this space well and nod to a lost-era of folk that’s faded around the edges. The latter has just announced her upcoming third LP The Passing Scene, out June 12th and the first single from the album seems to be hitting the same Kodachrome crush feelings as Weyes Blood, Drugdealer, or Bedouine. An airy ‘70s Laurel Canyon quality inhabits “Evergreen,” making it nostalgic, but also familiar, like it might have always been creeping around the stereo. “Evergreen” is indeed a perfect title for the song. Check out the Renaissance-draped video above. No purchase info is lurking about yet, but as with the limited editions of Flightless releases, probably better to snap this one up quick when it does post.

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Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen on Public Nuisance – Gotta Survive

Keeping the wheels turning on Hidden Gems and pulling more and more psychic diggers into the fold. This week the honors fall to Zak Olsen, the Aussie indie utilitarian who crops up in quite a few RSTB faves, to be honest. From the fractured pop ooze of Hierophants to the crushing grooves of ORB, Zak has done time in The Bonniwells, The Frowning Clouds, and keeps time in his own solo work as Traffik Island. The latter’s work caught my ear a few years back with a spot-on deep-dive into loner folk, but of late the band has embraced an aesthetic of psychedelic beat driven on an engine of Library Music funk. Zak gives some background on California garage band Public Nuisance and how their Nuggets-era works came into his life. Check out Zak’s take on the band’s works below and head to Flightless for the latest Traffik Island thumper.

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Traffik Island

Even when the first couple of tracks from Sweat Kollecta’s Peanut Butter Traffik Jam came filtering out, it seemed like a fever dream timeshift, not to mention a headscratcher for fans of the band’s past output. Zak Olsen’s (ORB, Hierophants, The Frowning Clouds) solo psych dugout always took a different tack than his collaborative endeavors, which ranged from Sabbath fuzz to post-punk. Under the Traffik Island signature he’d largely stuck to the psych-pop formula – laconic strums, wisps of folk, and tape-hiss veneers gave most of his works the feeling of a lost private press reel stuffed in storage and found by rabid collectors on a lucky afternoon. From his split with Sleepyhead through last year’s Flightless debut proper, Nature Strip, the formula seemed set… or at least locked within the same cloud of strange smoke. So, when the follow-up arrived and shucked the whole framework, I was intrigued to say the least.

Zak keeps the psych, and maybe a bit of the pop, but puts the folk away for the moment. At least in any conventional sense he has. The record adopts an electronic haze and a crate digger’s ear for dusty grooves, propulsive beats, and lush atmospheres. Much in the mode of something out of the Peanut Butter Wolf, DJ Shadow, or Egon bag, the record repurposes the ideals of Library recordings from the ‘60s and ‘70s and knocks funk, Krautrock, and lounge into a candy-colored vision that swirls with light and sound. While the format might feel like a throwback in more than one way – to both the ‘70s inspirations and the late ‘90s methods of hot-gluing them together – the record is a complete journey that works so well that it, again seems like a private press found in a dorm room dig, just update the time frame about 30 years or so. The best part is that the record works together like a soundtrack to an unseen film – I’d imagine somewhere there’s an animator that needs to get on this. Bright colors only need apply.



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Traffik Island – “Ulla Dulla”

The new Traffik Island LP is rolling out shortly and this time around Zak Olsen (ORB, Hierophants, The Frowning Clouds) has moved away from the private press folk that caressed his Flightless debut and into an arena of beat-laden psych-pop. Under the title Sweat Kollecta’s Peanut Butter Traffik Jam, it seems almost a given that the album would process Library, folk, and psych nibblets into plastic pop for beat collectors and oddball hoarders alike. The first offerings from the record have a feeling of being children of the big beat era, but without as much bombast – a quieter cool looking towards Shadow and Peanut Butter Wolf doing their crate digging darndest. Despite Flightless’ partnerships in the US (with ATO), this one, much like that indispensable Grace Cummings LP, doesn’t seem to be making its way Stateside. So, for the understandably fraught, you’ll have to head over to the Aussie store and pony up some cash for an import.



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Traffik Island – “Charlie Is My Darling”

One of last year’s great surprises was the solo debut from Zak Olsen as Traffik Island. Zak’s been a fixture in Aussie indie for a while popping up in ORB, Frowning Clouds, Thibault and Hierophants before going down the road of psych-pop with a folk heart, dredging up come Syd Barrett, Simon Finn, and Kevin Ayers comparisons with his off-kilter warble. The last album was produced by Library recordings savant Frank Maston, though its Olsen’s new cut that sounds like its got more of Frank’s influence all over it. “Charlie Is My Darling” pulls away from the vocal folk and into an instrumental groove thats’ bright and soaked in sun and breeze. This time around Traffik Island is hinged on Mark Mothersbaugh synth quirk and looping samples, but its still got a timeless quality to it. There’s still a filter of the ‘60s laid over an aughts mentality. Apparently this ties together the past and the future, but that only makes me wonder what the future might bring. The new LP, Peanut Butter Traffik Jam is out February 21st from Flightless.



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The Babe Rainbow

There’s something about Aussie band The Babe Rainbow that exudes a particular ease. From their countenance on down the band look and sound like they’ve never really had a bad day, or at least a day that they couldn’t turn around with a little surfing and barbecue. Those vibes permeate every inch of Today the band’s third, and most solid album. In the past they’ve embodied much of the same spirit, but the results have been hit or miss. They’ve wandered over the psych-pop map looking to pick at ‘60s sparkle, forest folk and lounge but the mixture was always just a touch wobbly. They came pretty close on last year’s Supermoon, an album that captured their wave of gauzy love but also took a few detours into spacey instrumentals that could meander the course of the record off track. The Babes hit on the head trip they were looking to spark but we sometimes got lost in the clouds along the way.

This time they tighten up the seams, still locked into the pocket of faded folk and grooved lounge psych, but playing up the pop half of their dynamic and fleshing it out with a West Coast downtempo spirit that belies their Aussie roots. The album seems like it might have taken a page out of the music direction for recent sleeper series Lodge 49 capturing it’s “melancholy on the bright side” ideals of aimless surf culture that the show distilled into something a bit more meaningful. Today embodies some of the same feelings — unscarred skies that stretch for miles, wonder and weirdness — given life through a constant roil of ‘60s strums and thickly plumed flutes. The band has been working to nail their niche and it seems that with this one they’ve finally begun to harden their grip on the board and ride right into the heart of the curl. The summer might be winding down for those of us up here, but this one still has a bit of solar bake to lay on the listener.






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The Babe Rainbow – “Many Moons of Love”

The third album from Aussie surf-folk combo The Babe Rainbow is shaping up to be a sun streaked summer comfort album. The band has a knack for pairing joyful harmonies with just the right pang of bittersweet shade, rolling in touches of jazz and lounge to their folk backbone. They’ve come up downstream in the Flightless crew and have begun taking a larger foothold here in the States over the past couple of albums. “Many Moons of Love” sees the band wistful strummin’ with the best of them atop some home footage that feels like a vacation reel pitch for an endless summer in the hills. Check the video above and look out for the LP in September.



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Amyl and the Sniffers

Following a cache of explosive EPs, Melbourne’s Amyl and the Sniffers roll into their debut proper with an air of expectation. Their sound’s rooted in the ballistic punch of punk that rolled out of ’77, dragging the ghosts of pub rock with it. The LP, despite bringing in name brand production (Ross Orton) the band doesn’t really mess with the formula they scratched in dirt of their early days. Out of the gate the eponymous LP is as focused and damaging as a bat to the ribcage. Amy Taylor continues to be one of the most engaging vocalists to flock to the punk mantle in years. Her rapid fire snarl levels any listener who might underestimate her. She’s just as apt to wrestle double entendres as tell you to go fuck yourself and she does it with exuberance, not anger. Taylor’s screaming, scratching, and slashing, but she’s smiling the whole time, laughing and throwing a beer at anyone who dares step on her stage.

The band locks their horns into a particular vintage of punk that began melting into the plastic pool that would mold ‘80s metal a few years later – powerful, precise, but not afraid to bust out a solo or two as well. Thrashing through a petulant preen that begs comparisons to The Damned, U.K. Subs, The Saints, and even early Guns ’n Roses, the band’s lineage is built on degenerate delight. Amyl and the Sniffers embrace their dirtbag status, they flaunt it and if you can’t handle it, or look down on them they’ve got a more than a few ways to tell you where you can stuff it.

The Sniffers always seems like their ready to incite action. There’s not a violence to their sound, rather the band just seem like they want to embody the chaos, the inertia, and the catharsis that plagues youth. In every chord a restless tension reverberates. In every vocal that Taylor spits theres’ a poke in the eye to see where the provocation will land her. This might make them sound like bratty kids, but the spirt of ’76/’77 was full of the kind of twitchy fuckers who’d just tumbled past voting age and were ready to get a visceral reaction. As debuts go this one’s got pretty much all it needs, and it cements Amyl and The Sniffers as the latest bearers of the ol’ Punk’s Not Dead jolt up the bucket that music needs now and again.


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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

After a year of constantly reviewing King Gizz and crew it was nice to have a breather last year, probably as much for the band as for the public. That lets the band land back on the turntable without a hint of fatigue on their fourteenth album. Ever shifting in the stylistic sands, the band seeks to embrace various corners of downhome choogle and plasticine boogie with this run ‘round the turntable. The runup to this record gives good argument for digesting an album in its entirety, though. Thrown at the listener piecemeal, the disparate parts of Fishing For Fishies felt out of joint with each other, but once sequenced into a slide from countrified funk to future stomp the ties tighten and the band’s vision begins to make a bit more sense.

They kick the disc open with a kitschy callback to the vibes of “Vegemite” and both the breezy quirk and visual in-joke video feel like the days when the band had zero expectations heaped upon them, creating talking sandwiches covered in their national litmus condiment with a wicked smirk. Then album begins its slide into a history of funk n’ roll over the next eight songs, stopping off at ‘70s backporch grit, Stevie Wonder wiggle, and seven-foot-tall whoopin’ garage party platters. Ambrose sneaks in a hip-shaker that sounds like a Murlocs outtake, but fits the vibe nicely, giving the open-door hotbox hoedown another tweak.

They cool for just a moment, letting the sweat steam off their backs before taking the plunge once more. As they hockey stop into “This Thing” the band begins their slide towards the doxed, cold futurisms, though not without still a knowing wink in their eyes. King Gizz are kings of psych paranoia, but they’re forever having fun with it. The track snags a few trilling orchestral touches, but at heart it’s a stadium-sized rocker tipping towards excess and ecstasy. Then they strip the skeleton of funk down to back alley ambience with a touch of creeping menace before they lay open the portal to “Cyboogie.” The lock-stopped ‘80s psych-funk phenom has got boogie in its veins but murder in its eyes. It’s a pulsating finish to the band’s Frankenstein of retro-futurism and should probably slay the crowds in the live setting.

The album’s sleeve (and to that point the title) seems like a misstep to me, but those are purely aesthetic questions and shouldn’t tinge your enjoyment of the album. It’s just that the band’s visual direction, led by Jason Galea has been so consistently vivid that this seems like a first draft on the way to something more solid. No harm, though. It’s what’s inside that counts and this is one of the more fun releases in the band’s vast and ever-growing catalog.


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The Murlocs

While the Gizz might be gearing up for another rinse around the tub in April, you don’t have to wait that long for some harp-heckled weirdness outta OZ. Top flight Gizzard offshoot The Murlocs are back with their fourth LP and a more toughened and toned sound than they’ve displayed to date. Led by the sinewy swagger of Ambrose Kenny-Smith and the nimble bass of Cook Craig, they’ve always represented a more soul-drenched side of the equation, turning down the psychedelic splatter that hangs over their ludicrously monikered day job and doing the dirty work of making bodies move to the blues. That soul-glo is even more present on Manic Candid Episode as the band grinds out white-boy hip shakers that stick to the floor with sweat and tears. They’d always been able to hit that manic high, though, what’s interesting here is how tender Kenny-Smith lets himself get and how vulnerability really lends itself a new dimensions to the band’s equation.

The standout single “Comfort Zone” takes a lone-spotlight piano approach to ‘70s songwriting, jumping off from an Elton show-closer and giving it a twist through the band’s own rose gold filter. They continue the buttered slide through more tender territory on “Catch 22” and “Samsara Maya,” but much as they might want to temper, the twinkle in Amrose’s eye can’t help but lead them back to the fire eventually. Those harmonica hijinks return for “What If?,” “Withstand” and the title track to, admittedly, great effect. Its good to see them take the temperature down a few degrees, but its hard to argue that when they aim to singe, they leave an impression. This is the most varied and versed the band has sounded in a long time, feeling like this is the moment when they go from being a sidetrack diversion to headliners in their own right.



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