Posts Tagged ‘Trouble in Mind’

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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Sunwatchers – “Greeneyed Pigmen (Get The Blade)”

There’s no better moment in time than for a band like Sunwatchers to exist than at the apex of culture and confusion that is 2019. The band’s sociopolitical leanings and egalitarian ethics welded to a psych-punk soul are only more confounded by the band’s dual love for free jazz tumult. Without an ounce of reservation they rain down fire on an audience that needs a good shot in the ribs every now and then to stay on task, because if Sunwatchers are anything, it’s hard to ignore. The second offering from their upcoming Illegal Moves barrels out of the gate with a getaway gusto, scattering scraps of Hawkwind LPs along the roadside and fueling the tank on the fumes of Mnehiro Narita and Kawabata Mokoto guitar solos. “Greeneyed Pigmen (Get The Blade)” is as cutting as anything the band have rattling around their catalog, and as usual the lightning strike of Jeff Tobias’ sax finishes the listener with precision panache. Gonna want to pick this one up in all its furious glory when it drops on Feb. 22nd.



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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Rays

On their previous album Oakland’s Rays merged wiry post-punk with the current wave of Aussie indie that’s been riffling through Flying Nun singles and Go-Betweens B-sides as inspiration. There were bright spots of jangle that jutted through the din last time around, but on You Can Get There From Here the band has embraced their more melodic impulses upfront, giving the album an accessibility they’d sometimes rebuffed in the past. Like fellow West Coasters Massage, they’re clearly dog paddling through the best Aussie upstarts – cherry picking bits of Boomgates, Blank Realm and Terry – while leaning on a double-dose of detergent-core from The Clean and Cleaners From Venus.

The slight scrub-up feels good on them, though they’re not wiping away their grit completely. The record leaves plenty of un-sanded edges that give their sound the same kind of unfussed and genuine weight that their South Hemi counterparts have been cultivating in kitchens and practice spaces over the last few years. So many of those bands have embraced a laconic style that gives the impression each humble hummer has sprung fully formed from idle strums and stream of consciousness divining of the universe’s whims. Likewise, Rays, too, have perfected the art of sounding effortless. There are moments on You Can Get There From Here, that were no doubt fussed over in the writing room, but feel like they dropped out of the sky shaggy, shaky and catchy enough to crush your resistance on first listen.

While the particular strain of pop that burrows out of OZ on a regular basis, peddling curdled sunshine and tarnished hooks is still appealing to a niche base with a hunger for a less pristine pop present, its good to see more US bands adopting the model. Rays are proving to be ones to keep a constant eye on and with You Can Get There From Here, they’ve jumped up in the ranks on the list of 2018’s jangle pop essentials.



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Mountain Movers

Still the headiest thing rolling out of New Haven, if not the rest of the Northeast, Mountain Movers new album sees the Connecticut four-piece perfect their brand of heatwave psychedelia. Pink Skies works swimmingly as a companion to last year’s eponymous LP, extending their reach towards the heart of the sun and exemplifying the unrestrained heat of their live sets. Though the band doesn’t revel in nearly enough fanfare for their cathartic cache of six previous mind-flayers, their scorched n’ singed delivery should have this climbing to the top of psych heads’ most anticipated releases. Guitarist Kryssi Battalene is funneling an overdose of ozone-toasted radiation through the speakers, distorting reality with a sonic sweep across every section of a listener’s brain. She’s quite easily one of the most ferocious guitarists working and it’s about high time she got some accolades to that effect.

The band rides the knife edge between psychedelic euphoria and an acid bath of noise with the noise often blotting out the sun to gain the edge in the tussle. Though, the record isn’t constantly set to singe, the Mountain Movers’ ability to work between back-alley menace, haunted forest anxiety and blast furnace freakout is enviable to say the least. The record is vibrating with enough sinister swamp energy to levitate any listener a good three inches from the floor, which is some feat for a band from the concrete caverns dotting the Northeastern nape of eternal sprawl. When Battalene lays into a riff, which is more often than not, the record explodes into an aural oblivion, both terrifying and ecstatic. These are the moments when the band sparks to an electric life.

The album taps into a classic vein of ‘90s psych – tough outer shell housing a blissful core – and Mountain Movers should dredge up sense memories for fans of Bardo Pond, Major Stars or early Sonic Youth. Like those acts, the Connecticut crew build a towering sound that feels impenetrable until you stop fighting and let the record envelop the brain. At this point, seven albums in, there should be little doubt that the band knows how to wield riff and ravage, but just in case you needed a reminder, Pink Skies topples pretty much all 2018 contenders to prove the point.



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David Nance Group

Takes a lotta balls to rock a song called “Ham Sandwich” and totally nail it, but that kinda sums up the spirit of The David Nance Group. Nance, the Omaha harbinger who’s been issuing under the radar platters for Grapefruit and BaDaBing, has now walked on over to perennial powerhouse Trouble In Mind to issue his best slab yet. Peaced and Slightly Pulverized is straddling two visions of the ’70 like a man stuck between realities. In one, Nance is the hard-touring divination of Crazy Horse crashing through covers of Keiji Haino’s smolder strewn catalog. Slip through the mirror, though, and Nance could easily have been sweating pre-dawn unease with the erratic art punks of Pere Ubu and MX-80. What works well about him is how he reconciles the two poles of his personality. His sound is born of the dirt, with Rust Belt angst built in its bones, but he never gets so far from the concrete that the open air lets down his hackles.

The album glows like coals building heat at the bottom of a fire and there’s no telling when its about to throw sparks hard in your direction. Nance’s delivery is haunted, hounded, and hungry. He howls like a man stricken and wronged, he growls like an animal wounded by life and lashing out at those who’d foolishly try to corner him. In equal measure his guitar shapes sonic fury into rusted tangles of heavy heat that scream out in their own perfect anguish. While he’s channeling the ozone huffing delivery of the art punks pinned down in the city, he alchemizes their zeal into lyrics that reflect the broken edges of town rather than the college centers. He’s a destroyer come to reconcile with the gods of blight and heaven help those caught in the crossfire.

While he’s had an erratic past, slinging between Omaha and the West Coast, scratching out full album covers of past classics and then finding himself battling legal notices to let them live online, this is Nance at his core. This is the most focused and ferocious he’s been to date and gods willing it’ll be the beginning of a scorched-earth run of albums that light up heads across the land.




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The Shifters

Melbourne’s Shifters embody the shaky, shaggy core of the current crop of Aussie indie. Over short format offerings they’ve been cranking out scrappy, striped-down songs that dip into the same wells as Terry, School Damage, The Stroppies, and Boomgates. Not to stay content with merely snagging influence from Terry and the ‘Gates though, when it came time to lay down a debut the band connected with the hardest working man in OZ, Al Montfort, to record the LP. They convened at his home studio to bang Have A Cunning Plan into its ragtag shape. Seems they picked up a few tricks from Al beyond just sticking this to tape. There’s a loose twang, hung on the same squeamish nail of post-punk that holds up Terry’s tattered charms and they’re proving to be just as efficient at working out maximum impact from an economical setup.

That’s not to say they wind up b-team turnouts or boy wonders to Al’s considerable talents, though. The band’s taking that shaggy, low-key sound and sneaking digs on corporate standards, mundanity, colonialism and toxic politics. Singer/lyricist Miles Jansen’s got the nasal nuance to duck down in the pit with the best of the new class rising up the ranks in Melbourne. Songs like “Straight Lines” work anxiety into tumultuous earworms- jittered by unpredictable jangles and stumbling through keyboard lines intoxicated with irreverent glee. While surface appearances leave the album looking off the cuff and trading in casual clamor, the truth is it takes some planning to feel this effortless.

By layering their loose-knit clatter, the band weaves songs that reveal great overlapping details when run through the speakers multiple times. They’re all about the little details, just not about buffing them to shine for the listener. Pick through the grit the band reveals a bright talent for knotty melodies like fellow 2018 standouts The Goon Sax. They’re proving that they’ve got a great handle on the aimlessness, restlessness, and anxiousness of youth and can pin it to a memorable jangle better than most. Have a Cunning Plan leaves the band in a great position to hook ‘em in for the long haul with a debut that’s rewarding listen after listen.



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Rays – “Yesterday’s Faces”

More excellent news from the Bay Area today, as Rays return with a news of an album this winter. The band’s previous album knocked down a lovable corridor of post-punk that was particularly jangle jostled, bringing to mind the curdled pop of The Soft Boys and the brash honesty of Television Personalities. They show no signs of dropping those jangles from their arsenal on the upcoming, You Can Get There From Here, employing the very same tactics that have thrown their South Hemi counterparts in Australia and New Zealand head over heels for the sonics of past, with a laconic lyrical view on the present. On the excellent first single, “Yesterday’s Faces” the band even touches down in OZ to pick at the shaggy licks of The Clean, then welds them to the urgency of Wake in the ’90s.

Allusions to other bands aside, it’s a crackling track that’s balancing the upbeat tangle of strings with a sighed sadness that sticks like a lump in the throat for days gone past. The keys buzz like bar-light neon and Stanley Martinez’ vocals are flecked with a detached disillusionment that gives the track its bite. The band’s debut showed promise and with this track they’re definitely making good on it. Gonna want to keep an ear out for this one when it lands in November.

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Mountain Movers – “This City”

Connecticut’s Mountain Movers are plowing back into the calamitous cloud of doom-psych that’s driven their feedbacker souls for the past few years. The first cut from the upcoming Pink Skies is a scorched-Earth flayer that proves yet again that few guitarists are touching the nebula of psych as feverishly as Kryssi Battalene. The song wades in hooded and hollowed but by the end Battalene brings a torrent of guitar evil down from on high, obliterating anything in her path with an apocalypse shred. Be warned, this is just a 3 ½ minute dose of what’s lurking on their upcoming LP. Hopefully the world’s ready to receive this psych reckoning with open arms.



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The Shifters – “Straight Lines”

Aussie scrappers The Shifters caught my ear with their first single, the rat race takedown “Work, Life, Gym, etc” and they don’t disappoint with another sneak peak into the workings of the upcoming Have A Cunning Plan. “Straight Lines” digs into the current OZ trend of shaggy indies that feel like kitchen sing-a-longs – true embracers of the slacker-pop ethos, the recline into the comfort of this track and can’t help but make the listener feel included in the camaraderie. The song is stuffed to the stitches with jangles and woozy keys and a low-key day in the life tale of taking the edge off and avoiding responsibility. The track’s a charmer, which could easily be said about the whole of their upcoming LP for Trouble in Mind. Don’t snooze on this one.




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