Posts Tagged ‘Surf’

VA – Self Discovery For Social Survival

When word of this comp first came down, I mentioned that this was an ambitious undertaking, to say the least. That’s a bit of an understatement. In an age of shrinking profits its rare for a major to take on something this lofty, let alone a (rather largish) indie. Mexican Summer paired with Pilgrim Surf + Supply to send three groups of professional surfers, film crews, and a band to score each of the sessions as they were shot. The idea was for the bands to pick up the vibes of the day and translate them into accompaniment that completely absorbed the mood of the film. As far as an overarching goal, the soundtrack succeeds on all fronts, but better than that, it holds up on its own merits even if the listener isn’t also immersed in the film.

The first portion of the film sees US and Australian surfers travel to Mexico and with them in tow are the Allah-las. This trip is marked by amber-hued sun streaks. Everything seems a bit faded and worn-in. The Allah-las capture the ease of the session, laying back into a lounged vision of surf that’s classic and propulsive. They’re the kind of songs that could waft into the background and instantly ease a mood. There’s a feeling of communal living, irregular schedules, and a quiet cool that rumples itself into the notes. The scenes in the film are aided even further with the addition of titling and animation by Robert Beatty and Bailey Elder, who give this section a ’69-’72 timestamp that soaks into the seams along with the music.

From there the film transitions to The Maldives, with the majority of the segment taking place aboard a houseboat. The tones turn from sepia to crystal blue and with it the mood is given a lift out of the melt of Mexico. Peaking Lights add a dub shimmer to the section, half party, half hallucination. There’s an opulence to this portion, but not to the point of indulgence. It feels like a vacation – fleeting in truth, but forever in the moment. Peaking lights have moved away from their xeroxed dub roots and here they’re headed for more Arthur Russell territory. They give this portion its sense of detachment from reality, helping to freeze each pane into a picture of unattainable bliss.

While on the topic of otherworldly, the last section of the film takes the viewer to Iceland, a venue I’d never thought of as surf destination. Here Conan Mockasin and Andrew Vanwyngarden (MGMT) accompany a group that traverses the grey-streaked, mountain-strewn landscape. All the warmth of the previous sections is stripped away and, accordingly, Mockasin and Vanwyngarden give their songs an icy edge – lonesome, melancholic, half-remembered. Here the vistas almost outpace the surfing for attention, with scenes among the northern lights soundtracked by the pair’s psylocibin disco and light-touch folk feeling like a dream that couldn’t possibly have happened. There’s none of Mockasin’s usual twisted bravado. Instead the music is almost fragile – haunted and hollow at times. This trip and its tunes feel like a journey inward, not the communal experience of the other groups.

The three main bands aren’t the only ones to hold sway over the soundtrack and film, though. Dungen give an especially inspired take for the title sequence that’s born out of their wistful psychedelia. It laps just slightly at the roots of surf, while essentially embracing its own genre. Transitions between sections are given an ambient fizz by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, who evokes a submerged sound under lush animations, which are again provided by Elder and Beatty. Sadly, missing from the soundtrack is the offbeat wisdom and roadworn poeticism of Jonas Mekas, whose narration ties the film together with a non-sequitur sageness. It’s likely that you might not encounter the film, though I’d recommend it for surf aficionados or unfamiliar friends alike.

Even without its visual partner, the soundtrack exhales ease, hope, sadness, solace. As a counterpoint to the film its pretty perfect, but it’s a great mood lifter on its own merits. As I mentioned, they don’t make projects like this anymore, might as well enjoy when someone goes all in for you. It’s somewhat telling that the label has reissued the score to Andrew Kidman’s Litmus, Self Discovery for Social Survival acts as a spiritual successor to that film and its unique accompaniment. Often hailed as the best surf film of its generation, the label has seemingly done the same for the the 21st Century. In this, they’ve created their own Litmus.


Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Allah Lahs – “Raspberry Jam”

I’ve previously mentioned the ambitious and excellently zen project from Mexican Summer, Self Discovery for Social Survival, which pairs bands like Dungen, Conan Mockasin, Peaking Lights, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Allah Las with pro surfers in three different, distinct environments around the globe. The bands traveled with the surfers to experience the trip and feel the energy alongside them and then wrote their accompaniment to the live footage. Some of the most compelling and sun-soaked cuts on the comp come courtesy of Allah Las and now the label’s let one of their fruit-themed tracks out into the air. Check out “Raspberry Jam” below and you can catch the film and full soundtrack in June.

The premiere of the film will be at the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles on June 15 with a live score by Allah Las, Connan Mockasin and Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT

Ticket HERE.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Self Discovery for Social Survival:
Surf Film + Soundtrack

Quite and interesting one coming down the pike (so to speaK) today in the form of a super ambitious film and soundtrack from the folks over at Mexican Summer. Now Sum’s reissue arm Anthology has been digging into surf culture for a while, issuing vinyl versions of Tully and Tamam Shud LPs that tied into Aussie surf culture while also reissuing soundtracks to Andrew Kidman’s Litmus and Glass Love surf films and packing them into a high-end box. Seems only natural then that someone over there was going to push it one step further. That step included getting top surfers from the US and Australia to travel with three groups of musicians and films crews to three top surf spots. The completed film follows Allah-Las and their surf group to Mexico, Peaking Lights and theirs to the Maldive Islands and Conan Mockasin & MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden with a group to Iceland. Each group then composed songs as reactions to the days surfing footage which is cut together with narration by filmmaker Jonas Mekas and art and animation from Robert Beatty and Bailey Elder (who also provide the packaging for this artifact).

Add to that extra pieces from Dugen and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and this is a fairly unique package. I’m no surfer, never stepped on a board in my life, but the scope of this and the breadth of talent involved is frankly pretty intriguing. Plus, the psychedelic shimmer of the soundtrack stands on its own, even if you never witness the fully combined efforts. Check the trailer above and keep a lookout for this sucker when it comes out June 14th.

Continue Reading
0 Comments

Shana Cleveland – “Face of the Sun”

The La Luz frontwoman already had a formidable catalog behind her when she struck out solo as Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles back in 2015, but the stripped-down record showed a more lonesome side of her songwriting than ever before. Now, with LL’s best album to date in the rearview of last year, she aims for a solo stab once again, dropping the Sandcastles crutch and embracing a more fully formed solo persona. Her solo works tend to be calmer and more pastoral than the dark current of surf that pervades La Luz, but on “Face of the Sun” she combines both forces into a noir ballad tinged with seaside air and regret. The moonlight slide of guitar that winds its way through the track shifts seamlessly between tropical and country, honing in on a lost ‘60s charm that she only ramps up with her Laurel Canyon delivery. As an added bonus (for me at least) the track comes with an animated version of the cover done by Indonesian psychedicist Ardneks.

The album is out April 5th from Hardly Art.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Khana Bierbood

For their latest, Guru Guru Brain reaches outside of their bubble in the belly of Japanese psych to pick up newcomers from Thailand, Khana Bierbood. Their debut album, produced by Kikagaku Moyo’s Go Kurosawa, takes its cues from the faded aesthetics of scavenged record finds from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The band mixes lite splashes of psychedelia with traditional Thai nods and packs them up with a healthy dose of surf – spreading barrel roll twang all over this record in liberal helpings. They’re able to wield the beach vibes at speeds of simmer and sweat. On “Starshine” the twang just delicately licks at the feet of the song, giving a bit of motion to soft ocean breezes and the baked in comfort of the sun. As the needle clicks to the next track, though, they’re bending the strings for maximum surf mania, feeling like the song dives into the heart of the curl and leaves the listener to soak in the adrenaline of human vs. nature.

Like the rest of the Guru Guru roster, the band’s amping up Western psych pastiche, adding a new layer of interest via an injection of traditional rhythms and textures from their own past. Though, the band (and producer) seem to embrace the past wholesale here, giving not only the cover a touch of the ‘60s aesthetic, but running the whole thing through a layer of adhesive and dirt to give put that faraway sound on top of the band’s psych. Occasionally the grist filter can distract from the band’s crispy surf splatter. The effect could maybe be used on an intro and outro base to give the platter the same time-shifted sense. Still, Khana Bierbood prove to be consummate purveyors of fuzz-toasted twang regardless of how crisp it lands. The record is a worthy addition to GGB’s spotless roster.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Baby Grandmothers’ Kenny Håkansson on The Shadows – “Apache”

Before there was the current wave of Swedish psychedelia, there was Baby Grandmothers. The trio helped shape the sound that would trickle down to Dungen, Skogen Brinner, The Works and Life on Earth. Much of that was due to the guiding hand of guitarist Kenny Håkansson, who would shift the band’s sound from a more basic rock approach into shades of psychedelia that pushed farther than their peers. A few years back the band’s early recordings were resurrected by Dungen’s Reine Fisk, a collection which surely seemed like the definitive archive of their works. However, the band, not content to be consigned to merely Swedish history, is back with a new album for Subliminal Sounds this year. Before diving into the new sounds, Håkansson takes us back to where he began, with one of the key surf singles of all time from The Shadows.

Continue Reading
0 Comments

Dentist

Well its pretty hard to give leeway to anyone trying to cop the term “Night Swimming” as an album and /or song title at this stage of the game. R.E.M. enshrined the term in their take on adolescent nerves and few could help to dissociate it from their heart wrenching weeper. That said, NJ trio Dentist kickshift the term in the opposite direction of that ‘90s classic. On Night Swimming the band spit-polish garage pop then muddy their footprints on the way out of hanger with a good dose of grunge crunch. The album’s blessed with a fizzy disposition and most of the songs drive hard through caffeinated bounce tempos that are only exacerbated by Emily Bornemann’s helium and heat vocals.

The band is primarily the work of Emily and partner Justin Bornemann and perhaps it’s a couple’s mind-meld gives the band their locked-in immediacy – though shouts to the drummer holding down a good bash while likely pulling the short straw power dynamic in this scenario. While, the album courses along on cotton candy hooks, there’s a hardened heart beating underneath all that sugared froth. There are moments that wink with knowing looks, but the band has a penchant for messy interpersonal tangles that more often than not end in heartache. Lets hope that the tales of betrayal that burrow under the bubblegum are buried in the past, at least for the Bornemanns’ sake.

The band is admittedly at their best when careening around the room in a power pop ping pong that’s infectious, if not laden with a certain nostalgia for the indomitable spirit of youth. Though the band is just as adept at peeling back the curtain on the inevitable hangover that spirit often leaves in its wake. The band proves they can bring down the lights for the hushed “All Is Well (In Hell)” and ominously titled “Owl Doom Pt.2,” each reveling in the murkier side of that coin. It’s a solid effort, that while not necessarily shaking the world’s tree, goes a long way to wrap up love’s bite in a sprightly package of garage glitter that’s pulls plenty of smiles along the way.





Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Guantanamo Baywatch

Guantanamo Baywatch charmed with with their 2015 album, Darling… It’s Too Late, and they continue on a similar stint with their latest. The new album is still pairing a ’50’s/’60’s rock ‘n roll hop scotch approach with surf interludes learned right out of The Astronauts / Challengers playbook. Desert Center tends to dial back the John Waters Twister party taste that was slicked all over their last, though. Instead they’ve toughened up their twang a bit, and rightly so, Suicide Squeeze is dropping allusions to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. The Canadians best known for for their association with The Kids In The Hall share the same – surf rock as channeled by Morricone – feeling that winds up inhabiting much of DC’s riffs, or at least the majority of its instrumental passages.

The vocal numbers kick the dust off slightly, going for more of a lonely hearts prom set in a wayback desert diner feeling. The band’s nothing if not lodged in the pomade dreams of a more innocent time, but they manage to carry it well without sounding too much like a college cast of Grease looking to keep the gang together with a new endeavor. They channel some universal pain and heartbreak into their choked-up ballads like, “Blame Myself” and “Neglect.” The rest winds up skittering through sidewinder spy riffs and spaghetti western rip tides. It’s another fun romp, even if much of the water’s already been tread.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Tamam Shud

As part of Anthology Recordings Surf Archives series, the label has reissued the first album / soundtrack from Tamam Shud. The band evolved from a previous incarnation as The Sunsets, who had also worked with director Paul Witzig on a few of his prior surf films. For Evolution, the band’s debut as Tamam Shud, they began a very new and different approach to soundtracking the film. Usually the films of the day would feature a combination of narration and music, but for Evolution the band had the film screened in the studio while they wrote the soundtrack live to film, creating free-form jams that matched the pace and pulse of the surf runs. In response, Witzig jettisoned any idea of narrating the film, letting the band’s music stand as the only comment needed to accompany his shots.

This combination of surf and art worked out to the advantage of both the filmmaker and the band. It catapulted Tamam Shud to a decent amount of recognition in Australia, beyond just the surf and hippy crowds, while bringing acclaim on the film as well. The band would go on to record a follow-up, also well-regarded in progressive circles, that featured newcomer Tim Gaze a young Aussie guitarist who’d become subsequently known for his work with fellow collector’s psych legends Kahvas Jute. The band would only last the two albums though, disbanding shortly after their second album. Anthology’s series focused on surf culture has brought to light some real psych essentials, reaching far beyond just the twang of Dick Dale and the American vision of what defines surf. They’re shining a nice light on a pocket of culture that influenced ’60s forms as much as skate would in the near future. If you haven’t delved in yet, Tamam Shud is a nice place to dip your toes in the water.


Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments