Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oh K - Yes, Naked Empire (2015)

Long have I been a fan of bedroom pop, weird folk and other manner of eccentric songwriters. They send in music from all over the place, all different and strange in their own ways. It can't help but have a personal imprint, not requiring more than an inspired individual with a guitar, computer and whatever other instruments one has around to begin recording.

Yet nothing exists in a void and the human mind is programmed to seek patterns. Other than the clear debt to prior singer-songwriters and the internet being able to spread music that would likely have been limited to homemade cassettes passed out to friends, there's a changing aesthetic all this access to technology and music sharing has created.  The ease of adding effects and layering techniques has made psychedelic and spacey sounds near ubiquitous. However, it's not deployed with universal skill, but luckily the selections I'm sent tend to show exceptional well.

Enter Oh K, a Perth resident whose own description of his music is "Screwed up folk laptop tape machine lo-fi acoustic-y echo-y bottle top buzzsaw magpie dreams." I couldn't improve upon that if I wanted to. Yes, Naked Empire is a short album but Oh K manages to fit a lot in without overcomplicating the songs. At there core the tracks are acoustic guitar and soft singing, going to show the additional life a bedroom engineer is capable breathing into songs. The briefness of the album is something of an asset, it makes re-listening easy and prevents any of the many small lovely things tucked into the songs from being overlooked.

To be had here:
Oh K - Yes, Naked Empire

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Garbanotas Bosistas - Above Us (2015)

I'm a geography nerd if you can imagine such a thing exists. Anyone who spends an inordinate time studying any map placed before them would know what I mean. There is an allure to filling in all the unknown parts with increasing detail. Imagining the explorers and cartographers that lead the way for what would become the extremely mixed 'blessing' of European hegemony across Earth. Just like shooting an enemy in video game to access the next level, you know it mightn't have been any good to explore that area for all the casualties, but it's a thrilling proposition in the abstract nonetheless. Though my ancestors doubtless engaged in this actual geographic expansion, the closest thing I get is it is filling in my knowledge of a far flung musical scene I had little opportunity to be exposed to.

The Baltic States are largely a musical mystery to me.  While we've written up Lithuanian bands before, it's far from a common occurrence. My recollection can only summon memories of the metal band Spirale and Amazing Larry's second Scenes of a City post on the capital city, Vilnius. This left me very curious and eager when I saw that the Lithuanian band, Garbanotas Bosistas, had sent us an album to hear.

Now that I've made such a deal in my meandering typing above about this band being from the Baltic States, there's little reason anyone listening to it would necessarily assume this. Excepting, of course, a familiarity with the Lithuanian language, which some of the songs are sung in. Better yet, they switch between languages in the same song, creating a profoundly worldly strangeness. At they're core Garbanotas Bosistas are a neo-psychedelic outfit with the noticeable influence of prog and krautrock. The songs are unique and very different from what I'd expected going in, even different from what I'd thought I'd hear from psychedelic rock in general but still befitting the term.

To be had here:
Garbanotas Bosistas - Above Us

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Killwave - Death By Distortion (2015)

It is neat to hear how genres pile upon one another as time becomes compressed with the benefit (or disadvantage depending to one's desires and philosophies) of retrospection. This chronometric warping does allow for redevelopment of ideas to take place in interesting ways. A nice example is the aptly named Death by Distortion by Killwave.

The dudes in Killwave are familiar with a great deal of 80s British new wave. It's evident in throughout Death By Distortion, down to the vocals that seem to have taken on a mild accent, albeit not clearly a British one, but surely not what I know most Chicagoans to sound like either. Furthermore, Killwave isn't strictly a new wave band, they're a good deal heavier. They've woven in industrial rawness, metal guitar progressions and the vocals smack of what I've always thought of as horror punk. The lyrics vary from bizarre to comedic to mildly creepy, mostly encompassing all three at once in some degree. Basically, there's a whole lot going on here and whole lot of it is excellent. A very well-produced album, the effort the put in their irreverence is apparent and laudable. 

To be had here:
Killwave - Death By Distortion

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Acessórios Essenciais - Sinais de Ocupação Humana (2015)

I love Brazilian music and if I had more time and energy I'd devote much more of this blog to writing up all the great music coming out of the Latin American powerhouse. That said, I wish I had a more expansive knowledge of Brazilian bands to reference whenever I want to share one. I can't imagine it means much to group from Rio De Janeiro to be compared to Os Mutantes or Gal Costa. That'd be like saying an English band is like the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. So I'm gonna resist the easy out, and when you're telling all your friends about this great album try to do the same. And you just might wanna do that.

Acessórios Essenciais are indeed from Rio De Janeiro. They music is acoustically based and relies heavily on dual singing from a singer of each gender. The songs are kinda strange, of the sort that if it was an North American band I'd call it freak folk or new weird america, for while the acoustic guitar and vocals are the core there's plenty of uncommon and sporadic instrumentation to be heard on Sinais de Ocupação Humana. They've sprinkled in sounds of cymbal crashing, horns murmuring, maracas and tambourines rattling along with any manner of whistling. While it can appear as a cacophonous arrangement at first, the inconsistency really makes the album more memorable and enjoyable than it'd otherwise be. Maybe my favorite song at the moment is bit more conventional "Bike da Babi" but he seems to say "welcome to Mississippi" toward the end and I found that adorable.

Thanks again to my friend Barbara for sending me this great Brazilian album, which if we're all lucky won't be the last.

To be had here:
Acessórios Essenciais - Sinais de Ocupação Humana

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mondrian Loop - LAP​[​WW] (2015)

I really wouldn't know a damned thing about hip hop at all if it wasn't for my brother. He doesn't know about much of it to be honest either, but he does love instrumental hip hops, beats and the more experimental side the whole business. Over the years it's become something we know we can both handle hearing without driving one of us up the wall. Much preferable to him needling me with Fleetwood Mac songs. Therefore, I was very willing to throw on some rose-tinted glasses as I hear Mondrian Loop, but I don't think I needed them.

I was sent literally nothing more than a hyperlink to this bandcamp page, so everything else is pieced together from there. Seems this producer(s) is from Florida and makes stripped down instrumental hip hop. By stripped down I mean that the tracks are not very complex nor long, but rather have a rawness to them that's appealing. It really reminds me of much of the newer forms of lo-fi electronic music usually eager to write-up such glo-fi, vaporwave and so on. One could even throw it one of those 'genres' if you so fancied. Regardless of what you call it, LAP​[​WW] is a spacey, looping affair that makes for excellent late night listening.

To be had here:
Mondrian Loop - LAP​[​WW]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Modern Folk: American Sewer - Leather Jacket - Surround Me (2015)

So that dude over at The Modern Folk has been busy lately. He dropped three albums at the same time, which being a fellow blogger you'd think he'd have some sympathy of my chronic plight of backlogged material to which I constantly feel a need to hear. A nagging obsession, one could say, I'm not. I'm in denial. cool as a cucumber as I ignore all my faults. Anyhow, here are what I'd been able to scribble down about these three lo-fi album our friend released and how much I liked them. All three have gems and when you get the chance, do hear them all.

To be had here:

Now there's the general sense of lo-fi, as in fuzzy rock music, but there is the reality of very lo-fi recording techniques. This is very much a hybrid offspring of both of these, doubtlessly purposefully fuzzed out, yet it couldn't help but to be any other way from what I know of J. Moss's recording methods. Therefore, the vocals are distant and the guitar heavily forward, which are features I've got a large affinity for. Of the three albums this is the most blues rock overall. Full of blues guitar patterns that'll be familiar to listeners of the blues or much garage rock.

More of a folksy/noise pop feeling to the songs on this album. The song feature a lovely and mildly lovely organ sound and the vocals are more prominent, in fact he's joined in his singing by a female vocalist. Makes for an excellent boy-girl duet style that suits the tracks nobly. "Don't Move In" and "My Wife Honey (Words)" will show how the Modern Folk makes dreamy noise pop. Then with "Gingham Dress (Brown Cow)" you'll hear what could be mistaken for a 1920s folkways recording. Pops back with the jaunty "It Hasn't Killed Me Yet." Leather Jacket possess many of my favorite songs from all three releases and shows perhaps the most songwriting bones.

Now, the third of these albums I got to hear. First thing that should catch a keen fan of lo-fi is that there's a cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillin'" among the tracks. Not as good as the Gories version, but little on this Earth is. Fine nonetheless and part of a well-varied album. The songs feel more experimental on Surround Me, meandering musical sections that touch up with prog-rock, some of the lightest pop guitar, and a vocal affect that I'm not sure what to make of on a few of the tracks. And then there's another version of a tune we've heard earlier with "Gingham Dress (Plank Road)" that's fuller and richer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RQ laji-2 - Bad Future Bullshit (2014)

I remember when I was younger, putting my shitty Radio Shack (r.i.p.) microphones up to computer speakers and recording music from Commodore 64/128 games. There was something in those tunes that blew my prepubescent mind.. to the point where I'd load the games just to hear the music. That crunchy, 8-bit sound... that others of my generation first heard in Atari and some earlier Nintendo games, has been seeing a bit of a renaissance lately, specifically in a slew of retro games coming out for smart phones (check out The Incident).

It's a sound that may escape most generations pre- or post-ceding my own. I imagine the home video-gaming console craze didn't exactly sweep the attention of those born in the 1960s... and as technology progressed with those systems, so did the music quality... and the 8-bit crunch was lost to, eventually, actual orchestral scores... so kids born in the 1990s might not have the same connection to it either.

Ren Queenston, the Canadian composer/songwriter behind this and buttloads of other releases, I would guess is, of or around, my generation. The music here could easily be outtakes from a strange Atari game that never saw the light of day. As robotic voices sing to you about piñatas and about how they want to drink your juice, visions of pixelated venus fly traps and knife wielding Speak and Spell machines may spring to mind. Yes, it's a little menacing. But the marriage between glitchy '80s video game music and creepiness speaks volumes to my mind which, these days, seems to be impulsively grasping at those melancholic days of youth (where I played a lot of video games and watched a lot of horror movies).

I suppose that happens when one is in the midst of a midlife crisis. Life expectancy is only early 70s people! At 35, I'm feeling it. Time to buy a DeLorian, or whatever car it popular with the balding class these days.

RQ laji-2 - Bad Future Bullshit

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Citradels - A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music (2015)

I've made reference to my now living in the city of Hamtramck, MI. It's a unique town and really only for bizarre historical reasons not part of Detroit, which completely surrounds it. It's status as separate city isn't the most bizarre part about it. It's dense, more so than any of the city's suburbs and even much of the city proper, packed with immigrants, cheap hipsters and a lingering breed of poor blue collar folks who worked in the automotive factories. All stacked up in these duplexes with children playing in the streets, Arabic radio blasting through windows, calls to prayer, and bars loaded with rock and roll. The drive bars deserve special mention, they're seemingly unstuck in time, still hosting the Polish speaking old men that used to be common here, selling small drafts for $1.75 and a television mounted to the wall in 1985. I spend my evening yesterday wandering around this town full of ethnic grocery stores, holes-in-wall, and fashion retailers it is hard to imagine still existing while hearing the retro-styled psychedelia of Melbourne's The Citradels. It was pleasantly surreal to say the least.

Hopefully some of you are familiar with this group, as I've written up three of their albums before, most recently last year's Nepenthe. Everything I have heard from them bears the same seed of retro-rock, heavily focused in late 1960s psychedelic and incorporating elements of drone, shoegaze and psych-pop that came in later years. A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music is not exception, in fact that explicitly cite 1968 in the introduction track. Without having gotten a chance to dip back into their whole catalog, I do feel this new album has created a fresh sound despite how the seem to keep in similar genesis of atmospheric throw-back in the others. Moreover, the second half has tracks like "Dear Ivy" and "Pretty Smooth, Ey " that're excellent fuzzy pop songs. Then there's the non-Western instruments such as the Armenian Duduk, Balalaika, Pungi, Djembe and most noticeably the Sitar providing the experimental and mystic sound that made early psychedelia so distinctive. Finally, when you download this check out the nicknames they've given themselves, they're all great but hats off to coining "Coolerbreeze Cloverstream."

To be had here:
The Citradels -  A Night Of Contemporary Feedback Music

Friday, May 15, 2015

EP Grab Bag vol. 96

A truly varied assortment of low fidelity in this batch. Geographically ranging from the Western and Central United States to Northeastern Brazil, Sweden and the far off islands of Indonesia.

To be had here:
Napolleon - Napolleon EP (2015)

The Hong Kong indie label, Metal Postcard, has a new EP out by an Indonesian psych-rock outfit. Full of lo-fi, echoey rock this is the debut EP of the group Napolleon. The songs are trippy, fuzzy and quite simply pretty awesome. Warms my heart to know their are folks all the way around to the other side of the world in Indonesia making great lo-fi tunes. Helps me cope with the McDonald's and Tim Horton's that are all over the fucking place. Hopefully they'll produce more music and perhaps we'll get to hear more out of southeast Asia over all.

Amandinho - Coisas Novas São Assim (2015)

A new EP released via the Brazilian label Transtorninho Records. Hailing from Maceió, Alagoas the band Amandinho seemed remarkably familiar singing to my ear, and I had a suspicion that it's the same fella as 151515, another great lo-fi release from the same record label. I was confirmed by my sources in Brazil that this is indeed the case, and that this a band he's a member of. Wonderful lo-fi rock and roll, not very complex but no less lovely to behold.

San Kazakgascar - First Nation Spy 7" (2015)

From Sacramento, California comes the Mid-Eastern influenced San Kazakgascar. These two songs make use of the interesting and complex rhythmic patterns common in other parts of the world, and do a brilliant job at showing how Western bands can successfully incorporate styles into their songwriting. There mostly instrumental, and the clarinet steals the show, which is maybe the first time I've ever written that but I sure hope it won't be the last. Do recall to check out their prior work I've written up like Swimming in Begnal.

This Heel - This Heel II (2015)

The second EP from Malmö, Sweden's Martin Månsson Sjöstrand. A fine accomplishment of lo-fi indie pop. The songs are short, cheeky and lovely. He knows how to craft a nice pop tune without a doubt, even if they are strange and nonsensical at moments. Never heard to be strange in pop music though. He's also a member of the band Dog, Paper, Submarine and I've already featured his first self-tiled EP.

Husbands - GETTY // PHOENIX & GOAT // SOME SURF (2015)

A band from Oklahoma City that is putting out a series of singles and double-singles of dreamy bedroom pop tunes. They're primarily incredibly catchy pop songs, with board sound filling them up, lending some degree of shoegaze sort of wall-of-sound. Between these two double-singles was the solo track "Smoke" and if you look into all their releases on bandcamp you'll find that they're very prolific in producing songs but only release them in small batches, at most an five track EP. Maybe they'll cobble together an LP, seems they've the material and talent.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Attic Fowler - City Hall (2015)

It seems it won't ever warm up in the in the Midwestern United States this year. It lightly snowed in late April, a phenomenon I've seen all my life yet everyone seems shocked and appalled at it's occurrence. However, I am starting to get on board with this outspoken disbelief as I'm sitting my barely 50°F apartment in mid-May. The Milwaukee musician known as Attic Fowler will most likely be able to relate to this unseasonably brisk spring experience from across Lake Michigan.

Despite the colder temperatures here, I'm unwilling to yield in my attempts to adopt summertime activities, in which sitting on my modest balcony and having a drink while I try to winnow down the backlog of submitted albums. And while the sun still saw fit to shine some warming rays on me I got to throughly enjoy the shimmering dream pop of Attic Fowler's City Hall. Fitting neatly between fuzzy psych-pop, jangle pop and abstract folk, he's hit upon a well-engineering sound for porch musing. There's even wind chimes introducing the tracks "My Mountain House" and "My Mtn House," and yes those are two different versions of a song curiously back to back in the middle of the album. Can't get more spot on than a strangely echoing version of what you just heard speaking of blissful notion such as mountain home in Tennessee (I think that is that word he's saying at least). It's very much the sort of album to hear from start to finish, allowing the varying sound to carry you through most pleasant journey. Nevertheless, look out for how awesome he songs "Shadowing," "Day Dreamer" and most especially "Tieppertien." Boy howdy, I love that "Tieppertien." The real gem that song is I have a feeling this is the sort of album that repeated listening will yield new favorites.

City Hall has been released via Fall Break Records, based in Athens, GA like the just previously posted Arnold Fish album from G.O.D. Records. Naturally we cannot be surprised that the ever-musically active Athens is issuing so many excellent records so be sure to check out the other Fall Break releases I've gotten a chance to write up.

To be had here:
Attic Fowler - City Hall

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Arnold Fish - In The Land Of The Elephant Blues (2015)

Hearing In The Land Of The Elephant Blues is a rather unique and interesting experience. As with all music, any of the particular moving parts bear similarities and influences from other artists, yet the key is in the reconstitution of these elements into a fresh and invoking manner. Arnold Fish has drawn from all over the realms of psychedelia, garage rock, pop music and even progressive rock. It is rather purposefully and delightfully bombastic in incorporating these influences, as you'll hear in the dreamily effected vocals, buzzing guitar riffs and most excellent organ playing. It is all trippy and a bit over the top, pulling from some of the weirder aspects of 60s rock and not afraid to play it up further. That said the songs are not alienating nor mere novelties, but rather they're remarkably catchy in their own way. There are some outstanding tracks such as "A Colorful Festival," "The Boogeymen" and "Lady Harrington," however I imagine a fan of garage/psychedelia will be hard pressed to find a song that isn't entertaining.

I believe the best comparison for Arnold Fish from anything posted recently is Max Mayall Fine, though replacing Fine's liberal horn flourishes and jazzy world music vibe for a decidedly more psychedelic and progressive style. What the share is the energy and a skillful adaptation of genres into an idiosyncratic fusion. Finally, this album was released by the Athens, GA label, Garden of Dreams Records (aka G.O.D. Records). Seems they've got a few interesting things out, including a compilation which looks worthwhile.

To be had here:
Arnold Fish - In The Land Of The Elephant Blues

Friday, May 8, 2015

Max Gowan - Big People (2015)

There's a great many of submitted albums incoming to me lately. This is normally the case yet it never ceases to amaze me. Moreover, the timing of it all. How do they all know to send it in the same week? Enter my life as a Sisyphean completist. Yet this guy gets a pass on this particular issue as he's new to SRM, though no less worthy of mentioning.

Max Gowan is a singer-songwriter from Raleigh, North Carolina with a charming album. His music doesn't fall neatly into an category, as is the case for many good singer-songwriters. It rides close to folk-pop most often, though at other times the production levels pick up, especially in the vocals, creating a morose pop feeling not unlike Elliott Smith. The man knows how to make an emotional appeal without being overly sappy, something that is all too uncommon for songwriters. He plays around with the guitar as well, showing off his skills, even in a few instrumental bits that I am fully enthused by (listen to "The Stumble"). But he really shows his shit off in tunes like "Here, (Part 1)," "Snow" and "Open Letter to Heaven ." Naturally this is all subjective and in the moment, yet the album should considered as a whole. Undoubtedly, Gowan is very capable and these songs are incredibly enjoyable to hear. I do believe he's the possibility to produce something really epic and I want to be the first to hear it. 

To be had here:
Max Gowan - Big People

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Baby Jesus - Baby Jesus (2015)

Glorious low fidelity, how I cherish thee. Organs wailing and droning, crashing cymbals, guitars fuzzed to perfection and a singer you couldn't dream of understanding without having hear the tracks nearly a dozen times. The building blocks of a wonderful garage rock album, here executed by the cleverly named Baby Jesus. 

Baby Jesus hail from Sweden and are a newer release from the blog-turned-label, Ongakubaka Records. And that's right, back to back Swedish write-ups (might be time for an examination of a scene). The music of this self-titled album is raw garage, though clearly not amateur, rather it bears a groomed level of dissonance and psychedelia. Heavy hitting too, the band doesn't let up on the intensity anywhere in these songs. Moreover, the organ most especially, added by same wild guitar licks, creates a retro feeling that is very easy to get behind. As if a band from a Nuggets of 4-Wheels 1960s compilations really cut fucking loose and made something powerfully lo-fi. There's nods to 60s surf rock as well, such as the Dick Dale-esque "Nice Walk." Not an album to be ignored by a fans of garage, new or old, or anyone seeking to hear an excitedly washed out sound.

To be had here:
Baby Jesus - Baby Jesus

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eating Cake with Friends - Fork Your Tongue, Hold Your Breath (2015)

I like that despite the fact that I've got more music sitting on a hard drive on my office desk and even without it I have more music than I can ever get to hear merely from submitted albums that I can still lament that a beautiful album is finished all too quickly. Fork Your Tongue, Hold Your Breath provoked this convivially delirious affect in me.

These are songs of a Swedish man opening himself up quite admirably. His submission email was very brief, giving only the details that he recorded to on one track, the microphone was stolen, and that he's had some troubles in life. Haven't we all got troubles? However, he's got some talent to balance it out with, apparent through these murkily recorded songs. Simple in structure, the tracks haven't much more than his voice, an acoustic guitar, and some occasional keys and percussion. Naturally, the lo-fi recording technique adds a warm, cozy buzz. The songs, and especially his vocal delivery, are exceedingly lovely and without need of embellishment. It also sent me back to listen to the music of his fellow Swede, Horrible Houses. They're very much of the same gloomy folk vein. And one could cast back for references to the lauded Nick Drake or the Canadian outfit Timber Timbre, keeping in mind that Eating Cake with Friends is far more stripped down and lo-fi than either.

To be had here:
Eating Cake with Friends - Fork Your Tongue, Hold Your Breath

Monday, May 4, 2015

EP Grab Bag vol. 95

A heavy, lo-fi and strange Grab Bag today. Mixture of American and European bands, a few of them previously featured and others are new outfits to keep on eye on. Just the beginning of an absolute deluge of submitted material I came back to after taking even a few days off from writing this blog. Man can't work on labor day after all, not a good socialist like me, nor the couple of days after seemingly.

To be had here:
Cavedweller - Small Wonder EP (2015)

The return of the Texan who records as Cavedwelller. Last I wrote this guy up was when they had a couple of EPs out in 2012, but I am glad he thought to send me this latest effort. The main tone, that of a laid-back psychedelic sound, is consitent with what I was familiar with from him. However, this time I get a much more punchy, indie pop feeling, something like Apples in Stereo with much more garage rock influence. Beautiful EP anyway you wanna describe it.

The Beardy Durfs - Poppy (2015)

First band I've written up from Copenhagen in many years (I should look into rectifying this). The Beardy Duffs are a fine band to break this terrible streak with however. Their songs are eclectic, but all veering toward the unconventional. The first track "Get Back in Line" is a real gem, selling me on the band straightaway. The rest of Poppy does a fair enough job at maintaining the weird noise rock thereafter, especially with the bizarre and charming "Fat Cat." There'll be more to come, as this is purported to be the first of a three EP series.

Monster Surprise - Joie EP (2015)

The freaky French outfit Monster Surprise has a new two track EP, again from the Parisian label/blog, With A Messy Head. Keeps the weird psychedelic tone that's been the theme of this Grab Bag so far as well as what I was prepared for from Monster Surprise. Yet I wasn't expecting to be so enamored with these two short songs. Both of these tracks are out there and in markedly different ways. "Manège"is very brief and jaunty, while "Le Sens Contraire Des Aiguilles Du Monstre" is rather ethereal and experimental. Fine work all the way around.

Salem Wolves - Black Books (2015)

Unadulterated garage rock from Salem, Massachusetts. The album art and lyrics are referential of their town's puritanical/occult history but musically they remind me a great deal of Midwestern garage rock bands. This is no slight, for Midwestern lo-fi rock is by bread and butter music and what I spent much my adolescence and adulthood listening to. The outright catchiest songs are probably "Rumblr" and "There Be Wytches," though my ears always perk when I hear a lyric about a 'Southern Michigan town' in "Black Books."

Vespa Woman - Never Louder Than Lovely (2015)

Speaking of Midwestern garage rock, here is some of the genuine product. Wisconsin-based Vespa Woman makes some righteous guitar-driven rock ('alternative' as some may say, but that term means nothing to me). As it leans toward the punk end of the garage spectrum as far my ears go, and does a good job a laying everything on delightfully heavy. A compelling debut EP, and I hope I get to hear more of them as they hone their sound further.