2013, you sonofabitch.
Emergency operations, missing organs, lost jobs, licences and money, frayed friendships, plans scuppered, altercations and scuffles, ideas ruined, dreams set back. It's been a wild and woolly ride. I'm staring down the barrel of despair. Plus there is no more Breaking Bad to look forward to. Goddamn, not even the show Luther can finish on a satisfying note! Piss poor effort, Stringer Bell... But one constant that always lifts me up are my friends. I got to see two of my nearest and dearest this weekend, and amidst the frantic spirit drinking and DJing, I saw the light. Keep at it, young padawan. Nothing will beat you down if you don't let it. I woke up with an insufferable headache and the vigour and verve to keep on keeping on. So bring it, 2013. Fucking bring it.
Here's eight acts that fight the good fight.
Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens deserves to be at the top of this list - because he should have had a post all his own at the beginning of this year, except for the fact that when his release The Holy Dogs Of Other Days arrived in the post I was coming out of hospital after an emergency operation, then a wholesale moving job, then a long, long time in the wilderness... I was kicking some papers out from under my desk last week and came across the Playbutton. Yes, the man behind Wentworth Kersey, Long E Short E and MORRICONEZ brought his latest release out on a Playbutton, and to be fair it's worth it. Playbuttons need to be full album albums, whereby you fall in love and play it to death, or they need to be immersive experiences to while away commuter/exercise times. This burbling expansiveness does it for me. It's become the go-to when I have to walk to the bus, to the laundry, to a gig - basically anywhere where the real world is an omniscient bore. Sorry about the delay man - but thanks for the new world.
Ancient Babes hails from Vancouver and revels in all things spatial and spaced out - as long as it's steeped in the era of the Commodore 64 and Blade Runner. There is a distinct slide into the ephemeral unknown on these tracks that he pumps out, stuck in the symbiotic synthetics of 16-pixel colour schemes and leather full-length jackets, yet with a garish undertone to it all - as if the game Deus Ex were to inexplicably fuse with Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive. And an at-the-height-of-his-powers John Carpenter did the remake. you can see the roots of shoegaze in these lysergic jams, but above all else these are killer alternate realities made flesh. Plus, the dude has a PhD in particle physics, for real. I expect that he is soundtracking his own time-space continuum tear that floats at the bottom of his basement as we speak.
It wouldn't be a Hits From The Box without some garage punk rock, why not let it be unabashedly rawk and ridiculous? The Mad Doctors (as you can see from the above pic) are into novelty and incessant fun, not innovation. Their release Fuzz Tonic is all a bit of C-grade garage nonsense, but what loose and ramshackle nonsense it is. Something makes me think that Friday movie night at this trio's digs would be debased, debauched, fried freakouts indeed - and we'd be fast friends.
Sticking to New York but shifting to a different side of the spaced-out spectrum, Sideasideb have released a scuffed up, experimental pop amalgam called Old Adventures In Lo-Fi. It's an eclectic melange of ideas and sounds to be sure, but there are moments on here, like 'VX Tweak' or 'Ten Speed' just to name two, where the cracked musings burbling at the core of this band shines through. Then there is the 16 minute closer 'City Kitty' - wow. These guys supported Tenacious D? Weird. Any lovin's good lovin, I believe. Check it out, it's good for you.
The UK have always loved their elastic, enigmatic, spastic instrumental acts, and Edinburgh's Gastric Band are getting in on the act with their math-mental jams on Party Feel. The EP borrows from the That Fucking Tank rulebook of writing song titles (see: 'Brad Shitt'; 'Dustin Binman';) and are running the same eclectic gauntlet, all flailing notes and angular tones, a fierce hilarity held aloft above the acerbic rhythms. Then there's the closer, 'Under A Glass Table' which is a technical marvel and manages to be more subtle, intricate, raucous and sublime than all other efforts here, all at once.
Another release that slipped through my fingers first time around was Italian psych machines In Zaire's debut LP White Sun Black Sun, out through the inimitable Sound of Cobra Records. This endeavour reaches above and beyond mere cyclical rambles and iconic tips of the hat, however; the seven songs on display offer more melted fare, fusing the motorik sensates of drum lords past with Japanese's take on the frenetic guitar caterwauls, intercut with some intricate time signatures and backflips too. Its a burnt rocket through the solar system of the mind, and will leave you wasted and sated. Bloody impressive stuff indeed.
To Austria now - Vienna to be precise - and to Bruch, a solo act that somehow manages to warp pop into a dimensionless amorphous entity, enveloping a dirge-like rock, broken synth, post-punk, and 80s goth pop obscurity, then has the sense to call the pivotal track 'The Freaks'. Think Dirty Beaches, the most obvious comparison. Bruch is in the same ballpark. Quick fact - the time I was in Vienna in 2009, I stumbled into an underground bar that was playing 80s goth rock a la Birthday Party, Tom Waits, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Q Lazzarus - it was manned by an incredibly intoxicated Irish bartender, who gave me a tab and was so drunk she forgot to tally it up, so I drank for four hours for free. I have no idea where that place is in the city - I was lucky enough not to open my skull up on the icy pavement at 4am on a February morning - but I'm pretty sure someone does - and they will find Bruch manning the jukebox.
To finish off we'll add some letters and wing our way back to Australia with Golden Blonde. Forming in Canberra, the now Sydney based quartet have already shared stages with the likes of My Disco, Carsick Cars, Mere Women and Assassins 88, yet have a sound that both alienates and encompasses their musical brethren's creative output. On their debut LP Gwen it becomes even more obvious - this is like grabbing an experimental hip-hop instrumentalist, telling him to listen to the Snowman back catalogue, grabbing a bunch of Liars enthusiasts and locking them all together in a pitch-dark tunnel that is lit sporadically by spotlights shining on opaque prisms, then they are to write compositions based on hitting rusted silverware against the corrugated iron walls. Its truly mesmeric - I can see why Tenzenmen Records are involved. I want to bring these guys to Brisbane, post haste.
Happy Tuesday everyone!