Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Kelley Stoltz

Just a quick jump after his last offering from Banana & Louie, SF one-man supergroup Kelley Stoltz returns with the even more enticing My Regime. The record is one of Stoltz’ most packed platters in a long time, absolutely awash in bittersweet New Wave touches and moments of pop perfection. He’s long since jettisoned the garage gears from his persona, but there were still some inklings on last years’ Natural Causes and 2015’s In Triangle Time. This one falls closer in spirit to the prismed perspective of 2017’s quiet gem Que Aura, his last for Castle Face. Crammed with strums, multi-part harmonies, and an ingrained melancholy that imprints these songs on the high registers of the listeners’ soul, this is exactly where Stoltz excels.

He’s been found cropping up behind the boards more often these days, with his name swirling about the inserts for Spiral Stairs, RAYS, The Love-Birds, and The Staches, but unless he’s in front of the mic, I always feel like he’s a bit underused. There’s been shades of his work as a sideman for Echo & The Bunnyman on the last album, but as his tenure ended with the band it seems he’s processed even more of the imprint the band had on his formative songwriting years. There’s a warmer aura about Stoltz than Ian McCulloch would often employ, but the insistent, and emotionally complex pop hallmarks line up quite nicely here – think more along the lines of Crocodiles rather than Porcupine. Speaking of ‘80s impressions, and (sadly) timely reminders, there’s also a pretty heavy Cars shadow on this one and, if anyone can make it work, Stoltz is up to the task. There’s a dense catalog of works when approaching Kelley’s work, but after a few spins through My Regime, I’d say this is as good a place to start as any. Among his very best, to be sure.



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KAK – KAK

Almost too perfect that alongside the new cosmic collectives releasing sunshine and shade this week there’s a classic back on the table thanks to Mad about Guerssen. I first picked up a copy of KAK at the WFMU record fair years back. That cover just draws you in, a Kodachromed vision of California utopian psychedelia. The record makes good on the visual with room to spare. The record owes a great deal to Moby Grape, but they work to make their own way. The band, formed by Gary Lee Yoder and Dehner Patten, grew out of the pair’s former roots in the short-lived Oxford Circle. They recorded their sole album, released in 1969, but as usual with very little push from their record label, which sent it into obscurity for years. The record is built on a split between bluesy West Coast rockers and some more faded folk touches that dip into the waves with the sun.

While the record is often derided as being derivative of larger names, since the band came up alongside many of them its likely they were just swimming in the same stew. The hinge the record on the huge triple medley “Trieulogy” but the rest of the record easily stands up to the might of that one. After the record’s dismal reception, the band would part ways with Yoder going on to join Blue Cheer and recording a few solo singles. Guersson does this one good with a remaster, heavy sleeve, OBI and new liner notes by writer Alec Palao and members of the band.



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April Magazine – “Parade”

You have to listen a little harder to hear the pop buried under the haze in which April Magazine shroud their works. Under sweater-soft hiss there’s a jangle that’s lovely and unassuming. The band isn’t so much shoegaze, as that almost feels too confident for this sound. This is huddle-core, tented under blankets and letting their sound seep out through the fibers into the waiting spools of a four-track. That’s not to say that the sound that seeps out through the muffled barrier isn’t enticing, just borderline private. Its as if we the listener might be intruding on April Magazine’s works and the moment they turn around and see us listening we’ll both blush a bit from the awkward encounter. While they’re playing, though, the three songs here are comforting nooks to get lost in for a few moments.



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Kelley Stoltz – “Turning Into You”

New burner on the line today from Kelley Stoltz. The San Francisco institution (20 years going with this release) continues his run of great solo LPs, while also serving as a go to engineer (Rays, The Mantles, Rat Columns) and sideman (Echo & The Bunnymen). His touring with the latter has definitely rubbed off a bit on his songwriting, but he’s spun the influence into some excellent New Wave-refracted pop tunes that crib the jangle and crunch of his early garage days and land his hooks with a softer blow. He’s back on Spanish outpost Banana & Louie, who also issued his 2018 record Natural Causes. Stoltz has a pretty heavy catalog to wade through, but this sounds like its shaping up to be one of his great ones. Check the first taste of My Regime below and look for it out next month.



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POW!

SF’s POW! pick up the yolk from a generation of sci-fi scanners and jitter-blasted synth punks crawling out of the debris of ’79. The band’s been bubbling under the surface like a boil for years now, but this is the most crystalized and cracked version of their Vaseline-vibed visions yet, conjuring up some real Howard Devoto/ Magazine heat this time around. There’s an uneasiness to Sift, the band’s fourth record for Castle Face, and the band uses that to their advantage, pushing listeners away from any notion of bliss with their infected slink. Aside from the veneer of menace though, the band gives some substance to their doom with sketches of cybernetic chaos and a future ravaged by reliance on mechanical artifice.

Sure, they’re not the first band to slide under the vinyl veil and deify the vile image of dystopian drama via mangled metal riffs and well-oiled synths, but for fans of the aforementioned Magazine, Simply Saucer, Tubeway Army, The Units, or Chrome the band is providing a wormhole from their weirdness to the present day. Byron Blum’s blast furnace of guitar and pitch-perfect vocal warble has this feeling like more than just mere homage. The band’s vomiting oil slick bile and wires all over the turntable like they’ve lived in the muck for years. In the past there was a scrappier sense of, low-fi fizz, but by whittling it away the band has finally arrived at the perfect balance of crisp angles, crushed glass and rampant nihilism that this genre requires to thrive.



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Wooden Shjips – “Flight (live in San Francisco)”

While the Shjips are crushers in the studio, its always been true that they conjure a very specific spell live in the room. Its a heady, sweaty, thick as potato soup frozen in amber type of feeling that comes at you in waves. Up until now the true solution to landing in this particular haze has been to seek out the asylum of a Shjips show as release schedules dictate and get lost in the fuzz-drenched deluge of sound. However, this month Silver Current and the band have paired to bring the first official live LP to the band’s catalog. Shjips in the Night: Live in San Francisco: June 8, 2018 captures the band in their element – divining the cosmic thrum and channeling it through the speakers in cascading waves of pure aural bliss.

The set is, as the label states, “the capture of a single live performance, multi-tracked at Slim’s in San Francisco by Eric Bauer and Damien Rasmussen and in a unique creative twist, was mixed by the band’s friends and colleagues in underground psych rock; Heron Oblivion, who hand out the Nitrous balloons and bring their own subtle (and not so subtle) enhancement of the show’s dark but kaleidoscopic color palette to the Shjips’ universe through performance mixing and post-production effects worm-holes, all the while keeping the Shjips’ long time band chemistry and natural sonic power at the forefront of the listener’s experience.”

The set’s available in limited press blue and purple and standard black and will be available in a special RSD version on red and yellow (ltd to 650) as well as cassettes. If you were super early there was a handmade edition as well, but those are long gone. Check out first listen to a live version of West’s “Flight” below, expanding on the track’s natural reverberation and setting the venue on fire with some firelight guitar work. The LP is out on April 12th.

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POW! – “Here It Comes”

“Here It Come” is another infected vessel from POW!. The SF synth-punks dredge the shadows for a slinking dirge that crawls from the crevices of the nihilistic neververse. Byron Blum’s guitars vomit twisted coils of wire and chromium tape. The drums are bounced through hammered cardboard and tin and the synths skitter across the headspace like feral androids, crouched and hissing. Fans of Simply Saucer, Chrome and Starter have a new touchstone to scratch at when the band’s upcoming Shift is released, but for now this scrap of hot plastic will have to suffice.

Filling in the origins of “Here It Comes, Blume notes, ”I had the drumbeat in my head and punched it into a sequencer before i would forget it. When we were in the studio, I wanted to do something with it and Tommy gave me the idea for lyrics. He would say ‘ready? Here it comes’ probably every time before he would press the record button. I loved that so much and we made a ditty out of it. It’s about relaxing in space and feeling strength running through my body, ready to face the unknown and whatever is arising in the moment”

You too can face the unknown when the LP seeps out from Castle Face on May 10th.

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POW! – “Disobey”

SF synth-punks POW! are back with a new LP for hometown powerhouse Castle Face and they’re leading into the album with new single “Disobey.” The track’s shredded and shambolic – dredging up shades of The Twinkeyz, Tubeway and The Units. They pair an insistent pummel with headspins of effects, guitars that unspool like discarded wire and the manic yelps of Byron Blum shaking listener’s out of their somnambulant safety. The cut’s got a paranoid core and like Timmy’s Organism or Mind Spiders, they’re not afraid to unnerve. Its just the tip of the future-fogged freakout, but good enough for now. Get jittery with the new track below.


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Flat Worms – “Shouting At The Wall”

Another gas huffer out of L.A’s Flat Worms today. The band’s announced a bump from Castleface to Ty Segall’s imprint God? over at Drag City, and with it the band gets some recording help from the label honcho himself. Like the band’s previously breathless LP for the ‘Face, new track “Shouting At The Wall” is grinding out garage punk riffs that are scraped to the bone by sandpaper guitars and running itself ragged with a widowmaker pace that does their former SF hometown proud. The band’s long been one of the best acts bubbling under the surface of notoriety and its great to see them get a bit of a bump to the big(ger) leagues here with the DC backing. The band is built of members from a rogues gallery of good talent (Thee Oh Sees, Night Shop, Dream Boys) but they’re not holding onto any of their allegianes under the Flat Worms guise. Punk – unfussed, uncluttered and unrestrained – that’s it. With this EP the band stands to knock a few jaws loose from their moorings, and rightly so.



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Michael O – “Haunted”

More good news arrives from The Mantles’ camp this week as songwriter Michael Olivares has a new single on the way for Fruits & Flowers. The first song from the single, “Haunted,” is a dreamy, delicate bit of jangle-pop, bolstered by a pillowy touch of keys and a hum of violin. Like much of his work for the small SF label, the song picks at the past with a reverent comb. There’s a looming shadow of The Jacobites here, as well as flashes of The Go-Betweens and The Pastels. Along with producer Edmund Xavier, Olivares has woven another stunner. Fruits & Flowers is quietly building themselves as the new Sarah Records (for those just now getting interested in the veteran label’s Bandcamp revitalization) and I hope that it gets recognition as such in its own time. The fear always remains that something this delicately niche could suffer in silence, only to gain the following they should have had two generations down the line. Prevent that cruel curse by jumping into their catalog with both feet now.



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