Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Bones’

Event Rundown: Basilica Soundscape 2017

I’m not usually one for live coverage. There are those that do it well and photographers with a better eye and I’ll usually leave it to them. This, however, being my fourth year in attendance at Soundscape in a town I’ve called home for as long, it feels fitting to at least weigh in. This might be even more true given that the mass that descends on Hudson is so often swept up in telling you to check out this “cute” hamlet nestled by the river that they forget to stop and reflect on who and what Hudson really is. So, while I’ve always appreciated Soundscape for giving an easily accessible glut of great artists (both literary and musical) it’s often hard not to grit at the parade of weekend goths gawkin’ up real estate prices during Fall Musical Recess 2017 sponsored by Warby Parker clear frames.

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Zola Jesus

If, at this point, you’re on the fence about the greatness of the new Zola Jesus record, then you’ve clearly not heard any or all of Okovi. Nika Rosa Danilova’s codifying moment comes in the form of 40-minutes of pleasure and pain that wrench the very soul from the listener. She then douses said soul in a harrowing darkness that explores loss and mortality, while showering it in the light of one of this decade’s most powerful and uplifting voices.

The record shows a marked return to Danilova’s darker instincts, she blends her exploration of personal tragedies with a shift from Taiga’s pop aspirations and back towards the body flattening atmospheres of the Stridulum EP. However, she incorporates lessons gleaned along the way, injecting the darkness with a stadium sized feeling that’s full of a hope that peeks from the walls of despair. She’s also taken the soaring orchestral swells of her re-interpretive album Versions and applied them liberally to an album proper, giving Okovi a grandness that’s angelic in its exploration of life’s consistent lean towards heartbreak and loss.

Again, I’m by no means going to be the first to tell you this is a monumental achievement by an artist who has spent a career consistently crafting high water marks. If the top 40 was too blind to see what they had in her turn towards accessibility, then they’ll likely miss out here as well, but they’d be remiss. Taiga was accessible in its move towards the light, but Okovi is universally touching in its dive into the dark. We’re all besieged by the despair of familial loss, the hairpin turns of life at any chaotic moment, the overwhelming face of the cosmic inevitable. However, Danilova has distilled those feelings into a glowing beacon of an album that we should all be able to relate to, and deep down, that we all need.




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Zola Jesus on Magdalith – S/T

There have been a lot of artists that have popped up repeatedly on RSTB over the many years, but few with the consistency of Zola Jesus. Nika Danilova’s first appearance was in 2008 on a year end list of 7″s, marking her “Souer Sewer” cut as one to watch in the coming years. Seems like she’s not only been one to watch, but one to anticipate with great hopes as each release nears. Her work has set a high bar not only for those enamored with the dark strains of industrial and goth but for any electronic or pop record in a given year. Her latest, Okovi is one of her most personal albums and a stunning reminder of her power as a vocalist – confronting tragedy with a strident battalion of sound. For her entry to Hidden Gems, Danilova has picked a record far from the beaten track, the 1973 eponymous work of French Gregorian singer Magdalith, whose works echo Zola Jesus’ own balance of desolation and heart-stopping vocals.

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Zola Jesus – “Exhumed”

With a new Zola Jesus release on the way this fall, the horizon’s grown invitingly dark. In the clip for “Exhumed” from the upcoming Okovi Nika Danilova channels The Ring with a shallow wooded grave escape and a multitude of VHS glitch effects provided by Corey Johnson. The song itself hits as hard as any of Danilova’s best – pounding, leaden beats push against the soaring cello work of Shannon Kennedy and over the it all Danilova’s voice beckons, an angel of destruction and redemption in one. It’s a powerful track and given the sense of loss that she’s exploring throughout this album, it winds up one of her most overtly powerful statements.

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Moon Duo

As the sequel, or rather, better half to their Occult Architecture Vol.1 from earlier this year, Vol. 2 acts as the softer side of the band’s motorik psych-punk universe. Where the first volume was steeped in anxiety, tension and darkness; the second volume is by turns blissful, celebratory even. Its still chugging along with a chainsaw grind and lysergic stabs of guitar via Ripley Johnson, but now the tone is relaxed and surprisingly languid. The albums form a duality or a complete picture, but taken on its own merits, Vol. 2 is still pushing into Moon Duo’s best work.

There are strums, I think perhaps a first for Moon Duo, or even Wooden Shjips’ catalog. There are genuine moments of resplendence, flipping the band’s Kosmiche switch from throb to fizz. The pair submerge into a milky bath of sound that’s pulsating with light and love and all the Springtime green feelings that may have eluded their grasp in the pursuit of Krautrock edge in the past. Instead, this is pure dreampop, a silken submergence into ionic bliss that can’t hold back its own giddiness. Sanae Yamada’s synths emerge as a key component here, floating in waves of magenta majesty primed to induce shudders in the listener. As part of the band’s Yin and Yang concept, this fills the bill nicely, but even left to its own devices, it’ll sate your hunger for higher consciousness grind for months to come.




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Moon Duo – “Lost In Light”

Just off the release of the first volume of their Occult Architecture series, Moon Duo announces pt. 2, leading off with a lighter side of their sound. As promised, the second volume strips back the night terrors and dives into the lush, ethereal arm of their recordings, winding up pillowing down into dreampop territory where the first went for nervy Krautrock. The song is a total bliss-out and given the video treatment again by Micah Buzan, who picks up with similar themes from the “Cold Fear” clip and coats Moon Duo’s world in a dizzying array of animation. The first volume was a total killer, so it goes without saying that I’ve got volume 2 high on the anticipation index for the year. Sounding great from the gate.

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Moon Duo

As Moon Duo continues to refine and coalesce their sound, they find themselves achieving a shimmering balance of malice and sweetness. Burrowing deep into an uneasy cocoon of Kosmiche and synth (provided by the band’s master texturist Sanae Yamada); the album buzzes, twitches and festers at times with an uncomfortable darkness that gets its hooks in you. It’s a quality that rears its head most prominently on standout single “Cold Fear” and the sinister “Will Of The Devil.” There’s a feeling of cold sweat, clammy palms and permanently bloodshot anxiety at work here and perhaps these are the feelings that serve this album as the dark-toned Yin in the two part album cycle that the band has embarked on. But if it were that simple, that cut and dry, then it would just grind the listener down under a boot heel of panic.

The album does play with fear and fever, but it breaks the sweat-soaked chaos into a neon lit blitz of speed and freedom. As much as any album of synth lapping Vangelis freaks want so badly to become the soundtrack to your dystopian thrill ride, I feel that Moon Duo might be hitting the vibe more accurately than any of those Korg temple acolytes ever could. The band is splitting the dark corners of Blade Runner with the dazzling imagery onslaught of The 5th Element here. It’s future pop as divined by stark realists with a smirking penchant for leaking optimism and excitement into their formula.

While Yamada is the world builder here, the extravagant paint splashes belong clearly to Ripley Johnson’s guitar work. His playing has always added the psychedelic spring in their motorik grind, but here he’s finding a fluidity that’s like liquid mercury turned to sound waves. Every time Johnson’s guitar surfaces from the frothing deep, it cuts in heated, glowing flashes that turn the world to steam in their wake. The combination of the two forces spins like tumblers in a lock, unleashing the band at an undoubtable peak. Now, one can only hope and wait for what the second piece of this puzzle holds.




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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

Too good not to post on this one. Moon Duo have a new video out for their song “Cold Fear,” which appears on the upcoming Occult Architecture Vol. 1. The clip, animated by Micah Buzan, premiered on Adult Swim last night, which seems rather fitting given the video’s hyper-saturated animation. Buzan captures the paranoid vibes of “Cold Fear” in a short that melts your face off like an Akira sweat lodge, pulsating with darkness and paranoia. The video also has echoes of recent blurred nightmare nighttime favorites like Ugly Americans and Rick and Morty, doubling back on their own EC Comics debts. The upcoming album is one of the band’s best, so its great to see them going all in on this one – from the visuals to the high-end packaging for the proposed two albums they’re releasing this year. If, for some reason, you’ve missed out on the band to date, start here.

Also be sure to check out RSTB’s Hidden Gems interview with the band’s Ripley Johnson.

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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

It’s a good day when there’s news of a Moon Duo album on the horizon. The pair have relocated from San Francisco to Portland and they’re turning seasonally affected mood swings into cold-hearted psych with a motorik heart and plenty of icy atmospheres. The track comes as the first taste of a projected two part album that spins Yin and Yang into counterpart albums of light and dark. “Cold Fear” is, naturally, from the darker half, Occult Architecture, Vol. 1. It’s an itching vein of synth fuzz heavily medicated with the Absinthe cocktail of Ripley’s guitar lines. Hushed and secretive, the vocals add a layer of mystery to this cold-wave killer while the lock-step pulse pushes the blood to a tight boil. The band has always lent itself well to this darker current and they’re at the top of their form with this one. Curious though to see how they temper the lighter side in Vol. 2. Lots to come from Moon Duo in 2017!




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