Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A Final Rush Of Cheer Before The End Of The Year...#1

Looking at the amount of unread emails in the inbox and the piles of records/cassettes/CDs cluttering my room and desk, there is a LOT of good music I haven't gotten around to talking about this year on Sonic Masala. So in a last ditch effort to right at least some of these wrongs, here is the first in a short series of posts that gives a few choice words about releases that deserve so much more...

Three great friends as two great acts, forging to form one cataclysmic collaboration in All Wet. The manipulated tape black noise and drums of Danyl Jesu melds with the more subdued sonic explorations of Pale Earth - and creates something of a minor masterpiece. The dronal pummelling hypnosis of opener 'Abdelazer' alone is shocking in its muscularity, yet maintaining an immersive tractor-beam rhythm that actually gets stuck in the brain. The creepy twilight subversiveness and sub-Berlin monochrome sleaze of '8 Seconds' (it's much longer than that), the staccato vocals over the buzz and malfunction of 'Young Withcott', the chaotic euphoric inherent in 'Cheyenne', the industrial Giallo of 'The Rugged Old Cross' - these are new worlds, my friends.

Quetzal Snakes is a heavy psych outfit out of Marseilles in France. II is the brutal blast you have all been waiting for - as they growl on 'Brutal Beach', "I want your soul/I want your DNA". Based on the blasted brilliance of this song alone, I am hooked. There is a feral intensity here that is missing from most psych rock bands, so Quetzal Snakes have my vote, all the way.

The Altered Hours was slammed into my inbox in excess of ten times over the course of a couple weeks. That is usually the time I ban the sender and slag them off. But it wasn't the band's problem, just a ridiculously overzealous promoter. The RIYL included Sonic Youth, which I will always check out. The latest taste off their incoming debut LP In Heat Not Sorry, Silver Leather', is much more indebted to the likes of My Bloody Valentine in its sonorous noise and Brian Jonestown Massacre in its plodding yet intoxicating psych squalls. 'Way Of Sorrow' has a darker, more insistent post-punk bent, more feverish and desperate. I am looking forward to the album - and the live shows, as they have a massive tour of Europe lined up for March.

I've been trying to corner Eugene Quell to headline a Sonic Masala: London show for a few months now. It's been tough, seeing as their latest EP I Will Work The Land has just been released on Exploding In Sound Records... It is excellent - a lopsided, scruffy affair - the opener 'London Pollen' is a woozy, maudlin masterclass in slacker ennui infused with gritty enthusiasm, while the next two tracks show a distortion-heavy wash over cracked pop melody that we haven't heard since the late 90s. 'RRW' ends things on an acoustic lo-fi meander. Keeping an eye on this.

The rise and rise of Russian shoegazers Pinkshinyultrablast continues on 'The Cherry Pit', a cathartic shoegaze bliss bomb and first taste from their upcoming sophomore album Grandfeathered (coming out again through Club AC30). It showcases exactly why the quintet are blowing away fans everywhere - they take the hallmarks of the hallowed genre and through euphoric vocals, showering-sparks instrumentation that lights up the darkness so that when the wall of noise invariably comes it becomes a transcendental experience, something emotional and connective.

Birmingham garage pop tarts The Castillians are prepping a PNKSLM release in their second LP, You And Me. 'Piggy In The Middle' is the second single from it, and it's the kind of brazen, braggart garage rock that both label and band are synonymous with. There is a throwback haze over the swagger, with added horns from Sweden band Pinemen (another act I will be speaking about in time).

I have mentioned the somnambulist musings of London's Lake Michigan in the past - his releases through Brisbane-based Ruined Smile Records have impressed. He reminds me of the pastoral, poetic simplicity of Soda Eaves, with the deep drawl spoken vocal delivery that reminds me of James X Boyd & the Boydoids. He has another release on its way in Further (another split label release that'll include Ruined Smile), and 'Boxes' is the perfect encapsulation of what he does best - a dark ruminative presence in the early hours, contemplating life, love and loss, desperately clutching the guitar as a mystic piece of flotsam, while trying to sort out the banal minutiae of the everyday before disappearing into the ether.

Atlantans Mtn Isl have just released their self-titled album on cassette. I have often mentioned my guarded trepidation with cassette releases - I know their value as a cost-effective physical release, but I often think when something impressive has been achieved, that there must be a better way of distribution. (Who know - Sonic Masala Records might end up doing CS releases come 2016, totally eschewing such thoughts...) This is a great album, a mixture of rugged math rock, blasted stoner drudge and cathartic post-hardcore - a sandpaper cleansing with gravel-throated epiphanies. It reminds me to a degree of a flannel-warped and bourbon-drenched Chavez. All in.

Another Exploding In Sound release here (I don't think I pass any of these up). Kal Marks have passed around 'Dorothy' to precede their new album Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies. Carl Shane's garbled, gurgled drawl isn't everyone's cup of tea, and their subject matter is often downhearted, almost dystopian (or maybe Shane is the ultimate pragmatist), but their shuddering instrumentation evokes the best of the EiS stable (thinking of Pile and Porches., among others). 'Dorothy' shows a degree of empathy towards the downtrodden rather than a sense of defeatist nihilism, and reminds me of early-doors Something For Kate when they were post-punk and Fugazi centred before becoming enamoured with the middle of the road. Love it.

Finishing off this initial flourish with Murals, a Kentucky-based trio from the Fire Talk stable (with bands like Erasers, Dreamcrusher and Media Jeweler releasing excellent albums this year, this label has been on point in 2015). Violet City Lantern is an album imbued with a cavernous rabbit-hole production, as if these folk machinations were emanating from a jewelry box crackling through a broken radio from a parallel universe version of the 1970s. It's beautiful - not something I would normal imagine entrancing me as much as it has. It isn't out until February, but listen to 'Long Bridge' and prepare to be transported...

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