Saturday, 15 August 2015

Hits From The (Mail)Box #3 - Vacant Valley, Astral Skulls, Sonic Jesus, 10 000 Russos, Klozapin, Braeyden Jae, Triptides, The Kumari

Over the past three to four months a quite a few physical releases have come through my letterbox that have been quite brilliant. I have been able to write about most of it; but here are the other awesome bits that have been languishing on half-written posts that deserve to be heard...

First of all we have Living In A Shadow, the new(ish) compilation out of Aussie underground label Vacant Valley that shines a dirty light on a disparate bunch of Antipodean acts (while also marking the fifth year of the label's inception). Some you might recognise from Sonic Masala posts (Orlando Furious, Useless Children, All The Weathers, Treehouse, Bi-Hour, Per Purpose Psy Ants, Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing), but there are a lot of other great discoveries to be made. The bottom of the barrel cyclical jazzed immolation of Bitchratch; the banshee tear of Whitney Houston's Crypt;
the atonal growl of Bridal Gnome and The Bunyip Moon; the drone roar of Hex On The Beach; the dismantled squall of WASP; the propulsive growling rock of The New Season; the cathartic fuzz punk of Shiny Coin and King Tears Mortuary... It's yet another great snapshot of bands in Australia and New Zealand that are tearing things apart and showing how excellent and diverse the scene really is as it ferments in the cracks.

Astral Skulls has released 7" Sexism Sux/Bite My Tongue in lieu of a full length album Contact:Light (hopefully out at year's end). It continues the synth punk mantra that Kurt Eckhardt continues to toy with, intent to blur all lines as possible. The A-Side is a feminist bite, offering both a rock riff and an infectious 8-bit synth cycle in what transpires to become a dark yet poignant dance post-punk hybrid. 'Bite My Tongue' is more straight up in its approach, taking a Strokes riff and a basic, skittish drum beat that slowly builds in synthetic intensity. This is good - and you feel that Astral Skulls is only getting better.

I have actually referenced Neither Virtue Or Anger, Italian psychers Sonic Jesus' new album, before. The band played The Waiting Room herein London and I was publicising the event - unfortunately I got caught at work and was unable to make the show. However I have kept on coming back to this unrelenting album - holding onto those earlier darker excesses that The Black Angels constructed, the album opens with 'Locomotive', a song that delves in its cavernous expanse and contemplative insularity before breaking the levee in a cacophonous blast that is cathartic and euphoric without losing any tension or intensity built up over the six minutes. The double-LP spills into krautrock, darkwave, post-punk, Gothic rock - but all blackened by a monochrome outlook. It's bloody great.

10 000 Russos are stablemates to Sonic Jesus on Fuzz Club Records, and the Portugal based trio also released an album this year. Their self-titled LP is a definite product of its construction, being recorded in an abandoned shopping mall (no working escalators, plastic bulbs the only light sources), evoking apocalyptic mantras from the lost souls both living and dead. Downtune, devolve, rinse and repeat. Everything is manipulated and calibrated to tick over into the abyss at its own mantric pace, and like a Pied Piper cipher we are destined to follow suit, at sway with their insidious beats and motorik measurements. These scorched, shadow-dwelling jams will invade and infect you, pulsing in your veins, until the end of the world. Thank fuck.

Brisbane label Conquest Of Noise has been smashing it out of the park with their Dreamtime reissues and the huge success of latest Hits album Hikikimori, but they do delve further afield. Klozapin is a NY band that hard to pinpoint - they have a warbling overtone that pushes their guitar rock/pop into a sunburnt parallel world, a narcotic afterburn that is difficult to grasp or define, with instrumental moments that swing surreptitiously across genres without any regard for the implications and trembling consequences. They aren't careless - these are carefully constructed pop songs - but Klozapin have a very singular defined view on how to create music so that it feels out of sync (think of the first Unknown Mortal Orchestra album, perhaps, for some semblance of what I'm getting at - although even UMO is easier to categorise). But who cares about this square beg/round hole conundrum when there is much more 'Perception' to be had? Grab it here.

I've actually had Turnings, the new Inner Islands output from Braeyden Jae, for a few months now. It's been stuck in the cassette player (AKA my girlfriend's awesome old-school Dictaphone behemoth) for all of that time - as soon as I have listened and reviewed something, out it comes and back goes this pink number. It deserves its own elongated post (and I have tried a couple of times). I could talk about the roughness of the mix, how the fuzz and hiss of the recordings meld with the guitar strumming to create a disintegrating white world of euphoric ascension (actually that is pretty good haha) - but in the main I struggle to say anything other than how fucking great this album is. The tape manipulation and guitar undulations come together as a miasmic whole that I cannot ever really remember aligning in such a serendipitous fashion before. In short, this is an ambient drone masterpiece.

Now we turn to Austria and Lehnen. We head into post-rock territory here - a la Russian Circles, Red Sparrowes, Thrice, Oceansize etc, complete with spoken word soundbite and all. Reaching Over Ice And Waves is their fourth album and focuses on how geographic isolation and travel can affect the individual (two of the band members are actually from the US but now live in Austria). This exploration of the constant homesickness no matter where you are, and the affinity you end up having for the plane, the airport, the train, the station, is clearly something that I connect with. I am the only one I know who travels to Australia once a year and looks forward to the flight irrespective of the time. The journey has become as much a part of me as the destination is. I just have never thought to put it into sonic noise. Touche.

Triptides are a band outta Indiana (now based in LA) who have just released their fourth record Azur through French label Requiem Pour Un Twister. And wow - this is a pretty accomplished record, managing to straddle the sun-drenched jangle and overcast dapple of guitar pop from either side of the Atlantic. 'Wake' feels like Deerhunter and Real Estate fighting for pop ascendancy (for a band I never actively listen to, I do reference Real Estate a lot, don't I???), while the brilliant 'Dark Side' feels like it's thawing out of the amber of the lovelorn 60s (there were plenty of lovelorn troubadours in the Love generation, trust me). It just gets better from there. Upstart strummer for a burgeoning summer.

And let's finish with The Kumari, an English garage-psych-rock band named after a revered Nepalese goddess (of course!). Walking is a 7" brimming with confidence, class and psychedelic swirl, evoking the Paisley pride of the Byrds in their take on ye olde rock and roll. It isn't something that is overtly new, but there is something about the languid 'Beam' that has me coming back for more. They are touring OS at the moment, but expect to see them shoring up shows as the summer disappears.

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