Cameron Knowler & Eli Winter – “Strawberry Milk”

One of the LPs that snuck into the Raven rotation at the end of the year was from Eli Winter. His patient, paintely playing was a welcome source of solace in rough times and it comes as excellent news that he already has a new LP on the way. This time Winter pairs up with bluegrass player Cameron Knowler. Though to set the scene with Knowles bluegrass credentials is a bit of a false promise. The two find a middle ground, between brush-beat ramble of bluegrass and Winter’s dawnlight passages that owe a bit of their heart to Daniel Bachman and Jack Rose. Having played together along quiet stretches of the Texas borderlands, the pair created a bond that comes through on the record, with opener “Strawberry Milk” lulling the listener like highway lines stretching through the baked mountain vistas. The record arrives March 12th from American Dreams. Check out the video for “Strawberry Milk” above.



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Sir Richard Bishop & Ed Yazijian

There are always currents quietly bubbling under the collective consciousness – tributaries of sound that go largely unnoticed by a buying public, but for those who are tapped to the right frequencies they are as vital as any. One such current happens to be Unrock’s collaborative 12”s with the brothers Bishop. Dubbed the Saraswati Series, the collection is one that should not be overlooked, despite its low media profile. The ex-Sun City Girls have been working with a plethora of talented musicians, splitting sides and collaborating to create new worlds of acoustic and experimental stringwork. Alan has appeared under his Dwarfs of East Agouza banner, hooking up with Maurice Louca (Karkhana)  & Sam Shalabi (Land of Kush, Karkhana). Richard, meanwhile has collaborated with W. David Oliphant (Maybe Mental) and the series has split sides with Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt and Karkhana with Nadah El Shazly. No entry has been less than a whirlwind of stings and sound that dazzles with a technical prowess that’s only supplanted by entrancing melodies and thrumming harmonics.

All of this preamble brings us to the latest entry in the series which sees Richard connecting with Cul De Sac’s Ed Yazijian for collaborative pieces laced with guitar, lapsteel, tenor guitar, piano and traditional Indian instrumentation. The three untitled pieces buzz and ramble, scrape through the ceiling of nighttime temperament and bed down in a glow of ethereal beauty. The two play off of one another as a seamless soul, insistent in their approach to touching the nocturne node and setting off a thick fog of permanent midnight doused in cold humidity. The air around this record seems so still that it might shatter like thin frost on tree branches (cold despite its Indian bent). The record revels in intricate arcana that seems forever out of reach. The whole series is beguiling, but this remains the pinnacle of Saraswati so far. Fans of SRB know what to do. Get into this as soon as possible and let it wash over you regularly.



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Weeping Bong Band – “Pattern of a Platitude”

Pioneer Valley’s cosmic nub Weeping Bong Band don’t throw a lot of confetti as they approach releases. They tend to slip out under the cover of night, content to creep through the mists, solitary and serene. The band’s last LP for Feeding Tube was a shamanistic wander along the outer edge of folk’s reaches and they offer up more of the same for the upcoming, and rather appropriately titled, II. The first track to see the light, via a quietly slipped MP3 on Feeding Tube’s page, is “Pattern of A Platitude.” Again riding the pre-dawn vibes, the track lopes through strings and sonorous drones with a patient pace. The song’s spectral tendrils drag out over fields parched of green, dry and itching for a frost. If you missed out on the previous LP, the label’s done you a solid and repressed that gem. Otherwise, get ready for round two.



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Craig Leon – “The Gates Made Plain”

Craig Leon continues his exploration of imagined extraterrestrial information left behind in early African civilizations and spread across the globe. Volume 2 of “The Canon” expands on his 2014 collection of interplanetary folk tales that coupled his groundbreaking work Nommos with its follow-up Visiting. The new collection is vibrating on the same brainwaves of resplendent bliss and shimmering meditative psych and new cut “The Gates Made Plain” captures the essence of what Leon’s been building over the years. The track is draped in drones, pulsating with a ripple of percussion, and hung high with a sense of inching anticipation. The new volume is out May 24th from RVNG, Intl. Check out the video for the track below, which features visuals from Leon’s touring show directd by Milton Melvin Croissant III.



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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.

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Michael Hurley

For a listener of any age, dipping into the waters of Michael Hurley can seem daunting. Like a pimple-faced kid on the precipice of Dylan and Townes, Cash or Hazlewood – there are so many eras to cover, so many iterations to contend with and, in Hurley’s specific case, so many inside winks to be lost among that it’s easy to feel like you’re on the outside listening in. In that regard Feeding Tube’s latest collection is an excellently inviting, though by no means definitive entry point. The record documents Hurley’s first European jaunt, embarked upon in 1995 between his albums Wolfways and Parsnip Snips. The tour would take Hurley through Germany and on into Slovenia, where Living Ljubljana would be laid to tape at KLUB K4.

Its not an imposing set – its tight, short, and in deference to some of the other greats up there (Van Zandt and Cash) its spartan in its approach to dialogue and banter. The band that Hurley brings with him is spare, but effective. His records were never overly fussy or showy and often found their grace in the kind of warm, “in the room” feeling that makes them seem less like set pieces for songwriting and more like postcards from a friend. The live set captures the same feeling, with Robert Michener and Mickey Bones pushing Hurley along a track of amiable warmth and inclusive vibes.

The tracklist centers on his mid-nineties period primarily, culling from some merchtable specific cassette releases that don’t pop up that often and the just released Wolfways. Though, for the Hurley traveler and neophyte alike, the set reaches a few years earlier into Watertower and even back to classics from his ‘70s days on Raccoon and Rounder. They round the set of hearthwarmers out with a couple of cover tunes that fit snug into the seams of a carefully curated bunch. If this is the twentieth or so Hurley platter to grace your collection, if you’ve got those merchtable cassettes dusted and dangling on the shelf then Ljubljana will hit you right with a feeling of coming home. If, however, you’re not all that familiar. If you’re scratching your head at what praytell a Snock is and scanning through color blasted cover art with a quizzical grin, then this is just as nice a perch to land on. Its that rare live record that doesn’t feel so much like a souvenir, more like an invitation in. Probably no better place to enter the maze than right here.

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Maston – “Swans”

After a solid LP a few years back on Trouble In Mind and an EP/Rarities collection Frank Maston is back under his surname as a psych-pop provocateur on his own imprint Phonoscope. In the interim he’s been busy as a touring member of Jacco Gardner’s band and working with several members of The Allah-Las on side projects.

The first cut from his upcoming LP Tulips sees the songwriter again working in a vein of whimsical soft psych that pulls from Brian Wilson to The Focus Group in its approach to childlike wonder. The accompanying video and graphics play up the ’60s connection nicely with a faded filmstrip feel and some BBC echoing design. This track feels entirely like its part of a larger whole, and while nice on its own, it will be intriguing to know how this fits into Maston’s larger picture.



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