Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Ostraaly

Still making a valiant attempt to round back on some of the great albums that got lost in the shuffle for me over the last year before I tie up 2020 and this album from Melbourne’s Ostraaly is definitely deserving of another look. The album came out on Cassette way back in January, but if you missed out like I did on the band’s slightly askew avant-pop, then now’s the time to at least grab it digitally. Like many of their fellow country-mates, this record shirks the frills for a spare sound, tinged with post-punk in places, but just as often wobbling woozily into genre’s that feel right in the moment. “Struggling” has a country lilt to it that’s only further amplified by the barroom piano pound. They stay loose as they toss the listener the following rumpled romp, “My Baby,” though the twang here starts to curdle in all the right ways.

The band manages to work in caustic folk pop that cribs from Josephine Foster alongside VU violin shivers that tangle with speak-sung incantations. By the time they swing into the last half of the LP, the light touch starts to fade and the band careens into what surely must be the highlight of their live show the back to back hits of “Kants” and “Daddyswims.” A crunch of fuzz barrels out of the start of “Kants,” which froths like a Fugs tune in the sun. Then they cap this one with a perfect pop strummer that gets stuck in your head for days. Over a galloping beat and knock down strum, Ostraaly tears out the quivering notions of their earlier folk and bent pop offerings to prove that when pressed they can and will knock you to the floor with a pop song, they just don’t feel the need to pack ‘em in edge to edge. Love this album and I’m longing for more from the band, or at the very least a US distributed vinyl version in the new year. A guy can hope, eh?




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Nightshift – “Make Kin”

Got a new wafer of post-punk goodness out of the Trouble in Mind camp today and as usual the label is scouring all the best scenes for ya. Nabbing Nightshift out of the always fertile Glasgow pool, the band offers up a new track that’s navigating the brittle and damaged end of the genre’s spectrum. I’m always a sucker for a track that’s coiled and cool, and Nightshift doesn’t disappoint. While they’ve got some similarities with post-punk forebears like The Raincoats, Marine Girls, or Young Marble Giants, there’s an uneasiness to “Make Kin” that has me reaching for a few Aussie exports like Ostraaly or J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest, especially with the lacing of woodwinds over the top. The track’s more bracing than anything out of those camps, though, and it bodes well for what’s to come from the band. Guitars rumble over a loping beat, but the whole thing’s about vocals — measured and driving, Eothen Stern takes the temperature down in the room about 20 degrees with every passage she unfurls. Really looking forward to this one. Zoe is out February 26th.



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Chronophage

Austin’s Chronophage hooked more than a few savvy listeners last year with and out-of-nowhere gem of an album. Their LP, Prolog For Tomorrow funneled a heavy dose of ‘80s and ‘90s scuffed rock brilliance though a wet flannel, doubled-dubbed tape filter. With shades of Sebadoh compiling a mixtape of Swell Maps, Television Personalities and Pere Ubu covers, this one resonated with a good cross-section of alternate-current castoffs already scraping the underbellies of Columbus and Detroit for just such a rumble. With the follow-up hitting the shelfs this week they seek to cement their sweaty clutch on the punctured and pummeled pulpit, delivering another round of jagged-tin punk just in time for the end of the year. Just as strains of the sound tumbled out of windows of unfinished basements and into the pit at large a few decades back, they’re standing at a crossroads of cacophony, injecting clarity into the mangled missives, finding balance between the clamor and the catchy.

As they skid into Th’PIg’Kiss’d the band kicks the muffled cocoon from their sound and lets their mangled mass of post-punk rattle around the brain in brilliant mid-def glory. With the bump out of the wet breath of tape hiss, the band begins to parse out the layers of their chewed-wire wonderland. They wrangle in a bit of the heat-stroke twang of Meat Puppets, let their guitars twist their metal girder grind even further and even find a moment of tenderness on “Animated Rose.” The wider spectrum speaks to the growth between albums, though they’re still at their best when the manic edge of danger is present — their mild-mannered moments only a catch of breath before they let loose with broken knife guitar attacks and frayed wire organ lines. As an added bonus the band has sent over a new video for standout track “Any Junkyard Dreams,” pairing the track’s rusted guitar garrote and cool water choruses with an amusing attack by puppet crows with a lust for blood and robbery. The clip was made by Perry Hohlstein and is a lot of fun. If you missed out on the band’s last burner, Th’Pig’Kiss’d is a good point to jump into Chronophage’s particular punk burn.



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Chronophage – “Any Junkyard Dreams”

A nice surprise out of Austin’s Chronophage springs up today. The band’s last LP Prolog For Tomorrow checked a lot of boxes in the scuffed indie bin a couple of years back and news of a follow-up LP heading out on November 23 reared its head today. The new LP sees the band scrub a bit of the crust off of their sound, but the fidelity bump doesn’t dimmish their acerbic bite. First cut, “Any Junkyard Dreams” is brittle with shards of post-punk guitar butting heads with quite a cushy chorus. The tension between the guitars that seem about ready to break and Sarah Beames’ vocals drive the song deep into the listener’s skull. If you missed out on the band last time around, this is a perfect time to jump onto the wagon before The Pig Kiss’d hits in a few weeks.





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Latitude

San Francisco never ceases to throw the pop gauntlet. Whether its jangle-pop, garage sneer, or something less brittle, the town’s weathering their seismic changes, at least in the music sector. The sophomore LP from Latitude works its way into the bloodstream more easily than some of their adjacent compatriots. With a release on Emotional Response, the LP wraps a waft of jangle around ‘80s synth-pop and ‘70s disco hangover. Amy Fowler’s vocals have drawn some larger than life comparisons — with her deep, imploring delivery falling between Stevie and Debbie, though for me it lands in even company with indie mainstay Meredith Metcalf (Music Go Music, Bodies of Water). The songs on Mystic Hotline explore some similar territory with MGM, mopping up the post-disco hangover that the band found so verdant and marrying it with a bit of a post-punk vibrancy that’s rubbery, but rife with the thick, neon glint of keys.

There’s a bucolic restlessness to the album, lounged, yet dreaming of a more conflicted life. The album’s perch between post-punk’s urgency and new wave’s radiant smear gives the album a light tension. The band clearly wants to push towards the rhythmic pulse and angular angst, but they’re not quite as lean and hungry as the genre requires and as such they bleed over into the smudged romanticism of the New Wave queens quite often. The urge to dance is always bubbling below the surface, if not overtly taking the reigns and the thrum snaps Latitude out of complacency. While the band would love to languish in the shadows it’s hard to resist the pull of a propulsive beat and the heat of bodies near one another in thrall to the pulse. The band’s at their best, though, when the slightly nerdy needs of ‘80s pop take over and the synths skew towards arpeggiation and the neon glow squiggles into a discordant shimmy. There’s a gloss here that’s hard to shake, but when the band lets their makeup fade, they’re found out for the endearing pop academics they are.




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Love Tractor – S/T

My first introduction to Love Tractor — one of the pillars of Athens’ ascent as an indie capital — came via their 1989 album Themes From Venus. I imagine this may have been the case for quite a few others as well. With Mitch Easter pushing them towards radio’s embrace, while also being notable for its several instrumental tracks that seemed to jolt the band away from that goal entirely, this was probably their highest profile moment. The record would prove to be their final, at least in their early stages, but that focus on an instrumental mash of jangled angles, post-punk rhythm, and a lounged fluidity had long been an anchor of their sound. The band had set themselves apart from many of the Athens peers with the exclusion of vocals, but no one can deny that their sound doesn’t bear the town’s rhythmic stamp. The band was quickly scooped up by Danny Beard’s DB records, home of their friends in Pylon and the eponymous LP followed shortly.

The LP that emerged out of their two day session came quickly, but feels like it landed fully formed. There’s something of a soundtrack quality to the record, but it’s equally at home pushing the listener to dance. They let sweat-stained grooves give way to cross-legged nodding while good natured strums succumb to caffeinated fits of guitar. Its a record that’s singular in vision — there are few others of the time that feel as loose, yet completely driven as this record. The band would mutate as they established themselves and wove vocal pop into the mix, but the debut is a moment in time that warrants returning to now and again. This reissue from Happy Happy Birthday To Me presents the record, remixed and referbished by David Barbe and Bill Berry. Plus there’s a wealth of liner notes by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, The B-52’s Kate Pierson among others.



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Sleeper & Snake

Upset the Rhythm brings another stellar Aussie duo to the forefront of 2020 with the release of Sleeper & Snake’s sophomore LP Fresco Shed. Comprised of Amy Hill (Terry, Primo!) and Al Montfort (Terry, Dick Diver, UV Race) the band gives post-punk a rinse in disjointed folk brambles and flanneled jazz touches. What the band does best is capture an unhurried view, almost ambling at times, but without coddling the record in niceties. While they jangle through the folk breeze of “Rokeby” the saw of fiddle and a muffled bleat of sax keep things from ever becoming comfortable. In similar fashion, the band never let their hooks swim too close to the surface. Every time they feel like they might get brisk and wistful, a curdled tone sets us straight. The record is most certainly not meant to fade into the background. Hill and Montfort create warped pop for those already peeking over the edge and it’s a lovely din that demands your attention.

Keys stumble with harpsichord pomp, horns hide in cotton enclaves, and jangles float by in a static haze. There’s something almost inherently cable-access about the album, as if we’re all party to an uninterrupted transmission from an alternate pop universe, framed in yellowed linoleum and second hand shag. The fluorescent flicker inside the Fresco Shed takes a bit of adjustment but soon it hits like a heartbeat pulse. The pair pick out a homespun, earnest batch of songs that refused to be corralled into any contemptible genre. Even when they start to get close to a breezy jangle on “Lock Up The Loose” an amble of harmonica leads us all astray. Any look over their collective resumes assures you that they have the chops to make things easy, but Sleeper & Snake aren’t interested in easy. Somewhere within the labyrinth of the Fresco Shed we’re all lost in the melted sun sway of the band’s subtle charms. Once your internal temperature is reset to their fevered heat ripple, it all starts to make sense.



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R. AGGS – “Exuberance”

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Aggs’ work in quite a few capacities over the years. Her songwriting with Shopping, Sacred Paws, and Trash Kit has injected a unique sensibility into UK post-punk and DIY of late, so it’s nice to see her stepping out on her own for a low-key tape release under the name R.AGGS. Mixing some of the same instincts that drive her other projects while leaving plenty of room to play around with new influences, the songs here pick at a more subdued vision of post-punk and pop. Often roping in less brittle atmospheres, with nods to Soweto guitar lines and slow creeping synths, this isn’t the breathless pogo that I’ve come to expect from her.

Sure, her infectious, rubbery licks still occasionally creep in, but it’s the space she gives these songs that really shines. While there are a dozen moments that could easily warrant picking out, she makes a refreshing shift on “Exuberance.” Docking in with a soft pad of drum kick and hooked on alternating spirals of synth and guitar with a lope of bass pushing us all along, the song is a hazy sunrise peeking out of the dimness. Aggs is grasping quiet contemplation that stands in contrast to some of her more forceful moments and she proves just as adept with restraint as she is with brittle bite. The self-released /TAPE 1// is out now along with a digital version as well.


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R.E. Seraphin on Empire – Expensive Sound

Ray Seraphin’s released a pair of great EPs over the past year and both have embraced a line between power pop and indie pop toggling the line of the ‘80s underground with a delicate grace. Over the years Ray has joined up with bands on the more punk half of the divide — Talkies, Apache, Buzzer — but as he’s moved further into the year Seraphin has been pushing into Sarah Records territory with ease and it looks good on him. I asked Ray to chip in a pick for the Hidden Gems series and he’s nabbed an underground favorite that’s a bit far from either end of his spectrum in terms of its source, but not so far from the tender impact that Seraphin’s music has on the listener. Check out his take on Empire’s Expensive Sound and hear how it came into his life.

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Naked Roommate

I was always a fan of Oakland post-punks The World, and was ultimately saddened that along with the announcement of the debut from Naked Roommate came the news that they’d ceased to exist. Amber Sermeńo & Andy Jordan of the band continue their exploration of past impulses, however, with their new endeavor. Still teetering on the edge of post-punk and the void, still tethered to the Earth by a rubber-bound ballast of bass, the new band isn’t worlds away from what they’d set to explore in their previous pursuits. Yet, where The World burned hot and insistent, Naked Roommate exists their reclined and refined sibling. It’s easy to see the slide from one to the other. The World triggered their tension via blasts of sax and shards of guitar that were set to slice, let slip a few years further down the post-punk pike and like the punks before them they pick up dub, gutter-spliced dance, and the hangover of pre-public acceptability disco.

With members of Bad Bad, Preening, and Blues Lawyer in tow, the duo create a record that feels reckless in its pursuit of repose. With their credentials it would have been easy to pick at the scabs of punk once again, but the band shows a fascination with ESG’s bare bones debt to dance, Northwest slow-simmer unit C.O.C.O. and the tape-hiss pile-up from the early aughts that was packed with bands like Vibes, Psychic Reality, and LA Vampires. It works together into a record that feels reverent to the past, but not precious enough not to get caught up in recreating anything with any air of accuracy. More than anything, Do The Duvet feels like a few friends having fun and working out a kind of crash-house soundtrack that’s fun and frivolous. It’s not aspiring to knock the moorings out of the world, but sometimes just bringing people together and vibing is a political act.




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