Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

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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Honey Radar

Wafting like wasp spray on the summer’s breeze, Honey Radar’s Ruby Puff of Dust comes oozing into the pop pool with ill intent. Jason Henn’s Philly outpost has long sum in the wake of Athens’ psych-pop resurgence and they’re presenting one of their most refined visions with this round of twelve crusted twisters. Like a lower-fi Olivia Tremor shorn and shucked of Green Typewriters and write-in dreamscapes, the band reassembles the psych-pop pit of the universe with frayed wires and wood glue. The album’s got a bedrock beat that’s built on The Byrds, The Troggs, and Them, but its all been corroded like wet Kodachrome in the basement. Jangles ring out ,straining to swing wild before a wave of fuzz comes crashing onto their shores obliterating the crystal clear shake n’ shimmy they pine for. The twin-tone twang rattles out of the transistor tubes like a half-formed memory, memorexed and microwaved like shrinky-dink ditties that are always floating just out of reach in the recesses of memory.

That’s not to say the album doesn’t make a hell of an impact, though. The caustic crunch of guitars leaves a fair amount of scars on the ol’ cerebral cortex, jamming in hooks that are barbed and bouncy among the fuzz-bomb flotsam. Henn’s got Pollard’s proficiency with boiling a song down to the elemental necessities and he’s shot this record through to the bone with enough catchy crusters that we’re gonna all need a quarantine before the record is over. It’s been three years since Honey Radar hit the long play market and its damn good to have this melter on the deck, spinning round and round until the night consumes us all.



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Taiwan Housing Project

From its very first beat, the latest LP from Philly’s Taiwan Housing Project is brutal in its sonic assault. Shredding the crumpled remains of No Wave and noise and kicking them wildly around the room, Sub-Language Trust is every bit the equal of the band’s ferocious debut from 2017. Front and center, and impossible to ignore are the air-raid riot vocals from Kilynn Lunsford. She bends phrases until they break, growls from the very sinews of her form, and generally becomes the human embodiment of catharsis. Shit, that’s just track one. She, along with ex-Harry Pussy string-wringer Mark Feehan also manage to sledgehammer their acerbic noise into some rather memorable hooks over the course of the next thirty minutes. Mind you, Taiwan Housing Project don’t mold and press their hooks in forms that gently nod the head and leave you with a vacant smile. No, THP’s brand of hooks siphon the screws from your home, knock down the walls and leave a smoking wreckage of barbed noise-pop smoldering in your lap.

All the better, though, as the band purports on “Buy Buy Buy,” the beige existence you so secretly covet needs a good kick in the clavicle. So, the band extols a new brand of mall pop, one that might incite a little loose looting, one that might turn the screws on the saps in the second floor salon until they exfoliate more than the first or second layer of deadened nerves. The band uses any edge at their disposal to draw blood — bent scraps of guitar meant to lacerate and leave ‘em wanting a second slice, sax-scratch that boils the veneer off your precious ear drums, and a wild tangle of percussion that inspires all manner of disjointed dance. It’s a damn good year for music in 2019, but not a damn soul so far has managed wield the maniacal force that Taiwan Housing Project channels straight to the dopamine depths of your broken mind. The record is an absolute killer and an easy contender for one of 2019’s best slabs to hit the turntable.



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Honey Radar – “Kite Balloons”

Honey Radar is back at it again and things are sounding shaggier and shakier than ever. The first cut off the Philly band’s upcoming Ruby Puff of Dust is a fuzz-soaked swinger, hiding a jangled gem underneath a mountain of corrugated guitar shavings and echoplexed sweat. Though clearly pulling from the Nuggets bench, the band also gives this one a nice late-nineties psych-pop punch, feeling like this might have been a more forceful vision of an Olivia Tremor Control b-side. The record is out June 28th from the Radar’s usual home at What’s Your Rupture. Check out those fuzz licks below.



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Sparrow Steeple

Philly’s Sparrow Steeple cloak themselves in an aura of psychedelic mysticism that plucks from the psych-folk and prog rock camps equally. Much like the worldbuilding bluster of Wolf People or Black Mountain, the band makes it seem perfectly plausible to run guitars through a melted fuzz wormhole, tack on blooze blasted harmonica and sing about Leprechauns, Wizards, Wolfmen and Whispering Woods. While most modern psychedelia has left behind the Seventies’ penchant for injecting their works with a fascination with fantasy, the band tumbles through their fanciful references with the renewed confidence of lit nerds who’ve updated from heavy stacks of Tolkien to the painted panels of Gaiman, Remender, and Marjorie Liu.

The band holds roots in Strapping Fieldhands, who’d dug through similar territory albeit with a bit fuller lineup, and the skillset of that band lends itself nicely to the Steeple’s jaunty, pub-swum anthems. The album feints for harder hills on opener “Roll Baby” – probably the closest they really get to the rail-rocked classic chargers of Steven McBean – then they begin to seep into wandering troubadour folk as the album draws on. Adding layers of clanging bells, stomps, and claps, the album sounds like it was caught live on tape outside of a tavern about 4 in the morning. Seems like the only thing missing is a holler to “keep it down ya bastards, we’re sleepin in here” as the album wafts to a close on smells of hay and horse fields.

The band is keeping the idea of the drinking song alive, opting for jovial more often than not but, they do go in for the occasional cracked-sky warnings (“Leprechaun Gold”) and potion potent head-swimmers (“Stabbing Wizards”) too. There’s something of a mischievous Syd Barrett Mad Hatter winkiness to a lot of their lyrical content, but they sweep listeners up in the moment so that it hardly seems out of place and before long, you find yourself singing along. While probably not for every head out there, the album’s got a growing appeal that lets an indulgence in the fantastical seem like it might be ready for normalization. Everyday’s begging for a cloak and some Moondog horns in Sparrow Steeple’s world, might as well grab a pair yourself.



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Sparrow Steeple – “Roll Baby”

Philadelphia’s Sparrow Steeple tap into an imagined lineage in which the grimoire obsessions of 70’s occult psychedelia never shook its hold on the world. Like Wolf People and Black Mountain before them they’ve sliced through the acid blotter and come out the other side dodging wizards and wolfmen with only the aid of blistering psych and folk rock to protect them. The band, which is comprised of ex-members of Strapping Fieldhands, continues the traditions of their former front, picking up a penchant for drinking songs and sea shanties wrangled into psychedelic alchemy. Album opener “Roll Baby” sees the band at their most raucous – cohering the electric shakedown with a dose of barroom harmonica (courtesy of Philly’s own “Harmonica” Dan Balcer) and some biting background vocals that give the song a dizzying off-the-rails quality. While it threatens to burn down the stage at any moment, the song holds on until the smoke dies down to smolder and ash. The band’s sophomore album is out on Trouble in Mind April 5th.



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Writhing Squares

The second slab from Philly’s Writhing Squares brings no disappointment, slump or stumble. The band is as restless and as ragged as ever on the new LP. Built from the embers of space rock and punk while chasing the same fevered hallucinations that haunted the ‘70s German Progressive set, Out Of The Ether imagines a less meditative method than the rhythmic wranglers that came before them. Storming through the halls of Hawkwind’s leather n’ lather vibes with whiffs of Amon Düül II piped in one speaker and The Contortions piped in the other, Writhing Squares aren’t here to get Kosmiche. Far from it in fact – they’re here to demand the cosmos pay up in sweat equity and they’re willing to rough up some rhythms to get their psychedelic due.

That the two halves of Writhing Squares come from a couple of Raven’s favored noiseniks is no surprise – the common ground between early Purling Hiss and Taiwan Housing Project is abundantly clear and goes a long way to explain the impulses at work on Out of the Ether. There’s an overt sinister quality to the record, rotted and raw. Writhing Squares conjure the sounds of nightclub sweat at the end of humanity’s rope. Post-societal collapse there’s no hedonistic joy, only the night terror taps of the band’s inhuman drums, the barbed wire gnash of vocal invective and the rusted saw of a salvaged sax beat into the shape of a call to arms. Provenzano and Nickles thread their wounds with bailing twine through the first half of the record, then smash the fourth wall to ecstasy with the side-long crusher “A Whole New Jupiter.”

While 2019 makes its play as a year that could use a record or two to salve our collective wounds, Writhing Squares make a damn fine argument to cut a few fresh ones first. There’s still work to be done. Stay agitated. Philly’s finest have your back.



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Honey Radar – Psychic Cruise

Chunklet and Honey Radar are always a winning combination and the release of yet another single by the lo-fi Philly pop unit is cause for celebration. Five tracks of shambolic Syd Barrett burial rites that exhume the shaggy spirit of clang-clobbered pop, echoplexed to perfection and smeared with enough hooks to keep ya diggin’ for the long haul. The lights are low, the smoke is high and the room is choked with sweat and stink and life when these songs are on. Jason Henn has a penchant for pop songs that feel like they jumped out of his guitar two minutes before the listener sat down, but they stick with the permanence of Guided by Voices deep cuts. Of course, the fidelity means that most Honey Radar songs sound like a scratch take, but I suppose overworking them might just take away the magic. It makes each one of their singles and EPs feel like a secret release slipped amongs friends at a house show. Recommended as usual.




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The Night Crawlers – The Biophonic Boombox Recordings

Entrance into The Nightcrawlers’ world is foreboding at best and the currency at the gate is time. Considering the Philadelphia collective recorded over thirty-five cassettes of home recorded material between 1980 and 1991, the true barrier to figuring out their Kosmiche wonderland is finding the time and patience to sift through their extensive improvisational float. Thankfully, Anthology have cut out a lot of the work for you, boiling down their boombox experiments to a hefty collection that weighs in at over two hours, but tackles some of their best psychedelic fodder.

The band released a handful of LPs along the same arc but would become consumed by their studio improvisations that they recorded down to simple boombox room recordings. This gives the works here a rough quality, pocked with hiss and dotted with coughs and clicks, but it doesn’t detract from the band’s commitment to the German Progressive lineage. They churned out some high quality special float that spurned their contemporaries’ dive down dance paths, opting instead for the hypnotic comfort of Tangerine Dream, Goblin and Klauz Schulze LPs as their talismans. As such they also bridge the gap between those early German synth weavers and more contemporary resurgence that have arisen through Emeralds, Oneotrix Point Never and The Belbury Circle. A definite recommendation for the heads out there and the Kosmiche surfers looking to expand their library.




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Yuzo Iwata

It’s 2018 and Siltbreeze is still knocking out jams, somehow that’s a comforting sentiment in these trying times. Philadelphia’s Yuzo Iwata has done time in Japanese outsider conduit Maher Shalal Hash Baz, and while this is a far cry from that nest of bees, the association does bump up his pedigree somewhat. The record is loose and low slung, riding a groove that’s shaggy at best and stalwart in its insistence on tying on no style too tightly. As the label so kindly points out, Daylight Moon finds itself akin to PSF sides and flips through the Japanese psych blues bible creasing pages in the Michio Kurihara and Tetuzi Akiyama sections liberally. Iwata can stretch a groove into the void, but he’s not just ambling aimlessly through guitar knots, his compositions carve out craggy valleys of deep set woe and he sets himself up alongside the forerunners of Japanese psych as a new vessel of spectral feedback foam looking to burrow into your ennui centers.

Early on the record seems like it might slip into some sunny territory, “Gigolo” is downright sprightly in its swing, but Iwata quickly sheds the jangle ‘n chug for a more meditative dropout that lacerates the eardrums with a sea of squelch and fire-bellied rumble. He shows his range though, and the sprightly take fits with his rifle through psych-out burndowns, Bardo Pond-esque chuggers and plaintive touch torch blues tracks that look for purchase in soft-feel psychedelia fuzzed slightly at the edges. Iwata’s done well to grab listeners’ attention here and with Daylight Moon he sets up a nice bar for himself to scramble over as he looks to the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s flawed beautifully.




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