Posts Tagged ‘Wand’

RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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Wand

Wand has been a fixture here for some time, and while quite a few other sources have noted that the band’s sound has dramatically changed on this record, they seem to be forgetting that Wand’s sound is constantly changing. While the most apparent reason for the shift would be the shuffling of members and a slide to a more democratic writing policy, Hanson alone wasn’t one to sit idle in his riffage cranking out the same tune time and again. With that in mind, Plum is a move towards a broader audience, but one that’s bridging their psychedelic past with an ever more malleable future.

1000 Days and Golem sat at opposite ends of the see-saw, with the overt heaviness of Golem pulling equal weight with the surprising shift to psych-folk that found its way wriggling into the DNA of the follow-up. Now the band shows an open love of the ’90s vision of psych as a component of large-scale alt-rock. When grunge was king, the weirdos often snuck in under the wire. As long as a chunky enough riff went crackling through the airwaves, the rest of an album could indulge with impunity. It’s in that tradition that Plum finds itself looking to Trojan Horse their own twisted wires among the references to Radiohead, STP, The Beta Band and Afghan Whigs.

They work this though in the fizzing guitar work on “White Cat” and the country pine of “The Trap”, but even the more apparent pop ballyhoos have their Easter eggs of the Wand of old – fuzz breakdowns, the singed-edge dream vocals of Hanson, a debt to ’70s prog rock time changes and a preponderance of found sound interjections that break up the band’s gravy-coated offerings to a more hesitant listener. In that way the album is much more subversive in bringing a new generation into the fold. It’s their most polished, but also often their most potent work. In opening the band up to communal collaboration they’ve cut ties with their L.A. fuzz-pummeling past while doing that which all reviews are claiming to look for in a band: they’ve grown.




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Wand’s Cory Hanson on Miles Davis – Get Up With It

There have been many bands that I’ve seen evolve here at RSTB, and with varying results, for sure. Wand’s evolution from fuzzbomb psych stewards to their current incarnation as archivists of alternative’s more ambitious corners is a journey that’s been exciting to experience from a listener’s vantage. I’d had a missed connection with the band’s Cory Hanson when he ventured into psych-folk for a solo endeavor last year on Drag City, but this time around the fates have aligned to get in a Gems feature on the verge of the release of their fourth album, Plum. For the uninitiated, Hidden Gems explores an album that the artist finds underrepresented in the canon of popular culture – the kind that falls through the cracks and deserves a shining light. Here Cory Hanson explores Miles Davis’ 1974 double album Get Up With It, explaining how it came into his life and how it’s had an effect on his own songwriting.

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Wand – “Bee Karma”

Second cut off of Wand’s upcoming LP pulls them even further from their fuzzbomb psych roots, diving hard into the ’90s end of the pool. With a stadium-shaker riff opening up “Bee Karma,” the band alternates between guitar crush and soft-alt, bordering on psych, but never toeing into the kind of haze they’ve enjoyed in the past. This, more than anything feels like a mark of Wand looking to widen their audience and shake the shackles of their Ty-indebted past. It’s working, though. While there’s a lot of ’90s grunge nostalgia bandying about these days, something about their unabashed melting of tentpole faves – the tender delivery of Thom Yorke, the gnarled STP licks, the larger than life bombast of Afghan Whigs – makes this all the more ballsy for the heart on it’s sleeve. The clip, goes in for a weird, sad clown car ride and another glitching bird makes a corner cameo.

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Wand – “Plum”

Wand’s last album, 1000 Days opened up their fuzz-psych to broader territory, digging themselves out of the shadow of the roster of bands they’d been opening for (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Moon Duo) and letting them carve out their own path through psychedelia. That album trended towards a ’70s psych-folk that was continued, refined and shot through with a dose of melancholy on Cory Hanson’s solo album last year. Now the band adds two new members, Robbie Cody (guitar) and Sofia Arreguin (keyboards, vocals), giving their sound a wider screen than ever and tacking into a new wind on their latest album. The title track from the upcoming Plum culls from a later brand of psych-pop, streaking their psych stylings with nods to ’90s heroes, while keeping their experimental core solid.

The song crushes cacophony under the boot of melody in a way that hasn’t worked so well since The Beta Band were running wild. Hanson and his expanded outfit tumble over one another to each get their instrumental line to the top of the heap and the result is dizzying and shambolic with his vocals adding a nice touch of bittersweet bite to the track. With so many bands going back to the well that feeds them time and again, its nice to see Wand continue to grow and explore new directions on each new album. Can’t wait for the rest of Plum to seal the deal.



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Meatbodies

So just to get it out of the way, yeah it’s obvious that Chad Ubovich, Charles Mootheart, Ty Segall and Cory Hanson have at one time or another borrowed from each other’s record collections. There are a lot of the same influences at work here, and while the lazy review could write Meatbodies off as just a carbon copy of any of the others, Ubovich has built an impressive tower of psychedelic pop in his own right on Alice. What he’s really excelled at is finding a way to seamlessly intertwine the best hallmarks of any ’70s guitar freak’s record shelf. There’s the Bolan warble bumping into Syd Barrett’s own tremolo madness, neither affectation overtaking the other completely in a dance of madness. The band builds matchstick temples to Sabbath and burn them down with the glee of bubblegum glam. They know that Bowie and The Sweet both wanted to make you bop and treat them on equal footing, no hero hierarchy here, egalitarian aesthetics copped to the core.

In an age when it’s possible to completely saturate yourself in an almost overwhelming amount of musical output, it’s impressive to see someone take his obsessions and lacquer them together into a monster of an album that doesn’t whiplash between styles like a giddy kid in a candy store. Stacking LEGO® pulled from your best bins can muddle more than it can shine, but the band builds a solid psych foundation that keeps me coming back time and again for another dose of cotton thick clouds of fuzz. Ubovich, along with West Coast studio backbone Eric Bauer shellac this sucker into its shiny fanged form. They indulge (heavily) in the effects of their forefathers, but let them color strategically out of the lines in hypnotic shapes rather than make a splotchy mess.

There’s an overarching theme here of “war, sex, politics and religion,” but to be fair that covers a lot of ground and while the lyrics stick Alice together some, it’s more of an album about feel and tone, time and space. It’s the past skinned, sliced, packaged and shuffled into an order that feels natural. It’s the countless hours of a music junkie made material and fed through a Big Muff for good measure. If that’s not enough for you, then door’s on the right, be sure to hit the black light your way out and let the rest of us fuzz out grinnin.’



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Cory Hanson

Wand showed a portion of their soft underbelly on their last LP, 1000 Days. They still employed the growl of explosive guitar but sketched out more texture, filling the sound space with plenty of new shades and shadows. Swooning strings and buzzing keys smashed into walls of echo. They flirted with psych-folk but still sat pretty solidly in the fuzz-psych camp they’d been born out of. Its clear, though, that the band’s Cory Hanson had a big part in that textural shift, and that he had more in him. Taking a solo departure from his bandmates, Hanson strips the sound all the way back and sets the incense aglow for a wander into psych-folk proper, though a strain that leans in on the orchestral cues he’d seem to favor previously. Those strings are brought to life by Heather Lockie, who has previously played with Spiritualized, Eels, Sparkelhorse and Love. Her arrangements take what could be just a folk diversion and push it into a lovely bit of bittersweet pop.

The tone on The Unborn Capitalist In Limbo is wistful at its lightest and downright mournful for the majority of the record. Hanson draws from a wealth of folk artists that found their muse in the rain splashed territory between heartbreak and utter depression. There are touches of Roy Harper, Bill Fay, Nick Drake, Donovan (at his most wistful) and even Al Stewart in the batch of songs that Hanson has put together and he’s working towards the kind of gutwrench with a shiny wrapper that those artists excelled at putting together. Whether this side of Hanson remains dominant, ekes its way further into Wand or stands as a single album impulse remains to be seen. But in embracing the sweep of sadness, he’s left a document of heartfelt ennui that shakes off saccharine for a lasting impression of sighed resolve that helps to lessen the lump in your throat.



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Cory Hanson – “Ordinary People”

Wand is pretty damn prolific as it is, so the news that the band’s Cory Hanson is embarking on a solo record seems like he’s pushing his limits. Though the sound of “Ordinary People” is worlds away from Wand’s powder keg of psych stomp and garage explosion so maybe this Hanson letting his guard down and searching the other side of the coin. Starting with a swell of strings and building to a gorgeous bit of chamber folk that comes on with fragile, yet orchestrated appeal of 60’s nuggets like Gandalf (there’s a bit of a “Hang On To A Dream” quality), bits of The Zombies or even Susan Christie; “Ordinary People” is a psych-folk gem that’s light on the psych but heavy on the emotional impact. Its a new take on Hanson’s songwriting and to tell the truth, the lighter side looks good on him. Not that I’m going to shrug at any fire and flash from the Wand camp, but this kind of lush folk is always a welcome ticket around here. Can’t wait to see how this song stacks up with the whole album. The world needs more weird folk nuggets out there.

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Ty Segall

So Segall ropes in a huge crew of ringers on his latest collection, Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), Mikal Cronin, Emmett Kelley (The Cairo Gang), Charles Moothart (Meatbodies), Cory Hanson & Evan Burrows of Wand and Melvins Drummer Dale Crover, each one a holding a record nerd’s pedigree in their own right; and together they make exactly the kind of case study in explosive, yet powerful rock that you might think that they’d unearth. What’s maybe missing, is perhaps any of that polish that found its way to the forefront of Ty’s last record. Here he’s going for a barbed wire aura that puts listeners on their haunches from the get go, grinding through the dirt rather than working to nod heads and let the teens bop. The cast of characters on display are torn from some similar territory from past releases, all matter of loners and speckled creepers, but now it seems that the disconnection they inspire is intentional and perhaps crucial, as the core of his “emotional mugging” stems from the electronic barriers of social feeds and the constant filter of glowing screens.

The first half of the record cuts the flesh and licks a few wounds, barreling through Television, Beefheart and Voidoids machinations if they were blown through the filter of Chrome and throttled a few turns in the vice of MX-80. The second half opens up its scope, though its still got an evil hangover of guitar gnash that keeps it at arm’s length from the glittered pop of Manipulator. This is one for the true grit, those who’ve come as much for the hooks as for the blown cone ethos. In a way, this whole album reminds me of one of Segall’s greatest tracks, “My Sunshine,” a shot over two minutes of melted wire fury with a caramel center of melody that makes it uncomfortable in its own skin while still making you smile every time. Who knows if this mask will stay on long, but for now this is an enjoyable bit of squirm from one of the modern masters of string wrangled fury.

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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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