Wednesday 31 August 2011

A Spectral Family

Britain does still hold the bar incredibly high when it comes to shoegaze, seeing as they invented the bloody thing. They are also storming the market with their made-up genres - trop pop? Check. Garage spazz pop? Uhuh. (Actually Im not sure if that even exists, but Male Bonding are great spazzes that make rad poppy songs in their garage, or something).

Yet that said, there is far more to boast about than genre-checking. Many people forget, thinking that it is mainly America's turf, that Brits also know how to make a hell of a lot of noise. Bristol's Spectres is no exception, borrowing liberally from the Sonic Youth/Glenn Branca playbook (hell, they even have a track called 'Sister'! Well, so do a lot of bands, but you pick up what Im putting down, right?) Their second EP, Family, comes out September 26 via Howling Owl Records (in what is only the boutique label's second release), and its a visceral gobstopper of continual delight. They dont turn their back on their elder statesmen either, for their is enough Thurston Moore and Kevin Shields-aping on opening one-two salvo 'Surrogate Mother' and 'Elephant Skin' for a lifetime of emulators to drool over. Recorded with Rory Attwell (Male Bonding/ Warm Brains), Family is an incredibly strong calling card of a band with intent.

You can grab this great EP here. They are playing London, September 24 at the Cavendish Arms (Stockwell).

Spectres - Family EP by Spectres

Malkmus Is Caught In That Mirror Traffic

The Pavement reunion in 2010 was one of those times when it felt good to lose your shit. For me, iconic, euphoric musical events such as these don't come by as often as they used to. 2009 saw The Pixies play Doolittle in its entirety at Brixton Academy, with B-sides, and they stuck unerringly to that - no best of/greatest hits segue here - and it blew my fucking mind. So Pavement, who were just as God-like in my eyes, should have been the same, no?

Unfortunately, no was right. Same venue, different vibe. With unruly yet laconic frontman Stephen Malkmus off to the side, singing, shimmying and noodling all on his lonesome whilst Spiral Stairs et al partied on the opposite side of the stage, it made for a strange, exciting yet slightly deflating experience. I took solace three days later when my sister went to the Pavement-curated ATP and stated that their set there pissed all over the Brixton show, but iconic moment for me became marred.

Still, I have had me some good Malkmus moments, all courtesy of his current band of operations, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. There was the time in 2001 where they played the inaugural Splendour In The Grass (back in the days it was only one day, where you could drink full strength anything and it was still affordable) and they did an amazing cover of Blondie's 'Heart Of Glass'. There was the time I saw them play '1% Of 1' in London and the instrumental wigout melted my face. Then there was the time I listened to Real Emotional Trash, whilst really trashed (and not just emotionally)...let's just say that fluids were consumed, tears were shed, and a tiger came out of the moon.

So we come to Mirror Traffic, the Jicks' fourth sojourn with Mr Malkmus. Some of my friends feel that his Jicks stuff is much more scattershot than Pavement - really? Have you listened to Pavement? They are the epitome of scattershot! - but for me it more than just a natural progression. Malkmus will never reach the heady heights that the godfathers of slackerdom inadvertently achieved. Yet Mirror Traffic is further testament that Malkmus is one of the best indie songwriters we have ever witnessed, and his guitar wizardry is still that bizarre double standard of razor-sharp yet fluidly languid - he makes it all look so easy. There are some killer tracks on here - ably aided in production duties by fellow 90s quirkster Beck - that swerve all over the 90s rock music palette, but he saves the best - such as Forever 28 or Share The Red - for that quintessential Pavement sound. And through it all you get the sense that Malkmus is really enjoying himself. That is what I missed on that Brixton show, that I know may have warmed up over the course of their reunions. That's the curse of getting them first, at their rustiest, their most nervous.

So we don't, and probably never will, have new Pavement material. This is the next best thing - and it's pretty damn fine by me. Mirror Traffic is out now through Domino Records.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Senator
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Forever 28
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Gorgeous Georgie

VIDEO VACUUM - Mickey Mickey Rourke, Cerebral Ballzy, Vitamins, Apparat

Time for some visual shenanigans, and this Video Vacuum is all about Back To The Future - four bands that we have championed extensively in the past, showing clips of where they are headed in the future. Exciting times...

First up is Miller Rodriguez, or as we know him, Mickey Mickey Rourke. Its been a bit quiet on this front, but he now has a rather slick video for his track 'Satanic Youth Brigade' off his Magic User EP. Its an arresting video, also augmenting the warped production of the song, thus making it more accessible and Im appreciative of this. Its a solid track, for sure.

New York reprobates Cerebral Ballzy have been going gangbusters this year, pushing their self-titled LP to all and sundry. Their connection to Adult Swim has certainly done wonders for their exposure, and here is another visual treat that showcases a track from Cerebral Ballzy. Featuring 'Junky For Her', it's all pretty straightforward, albeit reminiscent of the grimy horror of the 80s - much like the band itself.


Denver act Vitamins impressed the hell out of me with their No Notion Of Anything Just Whatever Is What/The Disappearance of David Lee Powell 7" earlier in the year, and we showed both film clips for those tracks here and here. Now is their new clip, a nicely warped video for 'Vimanas', which precedes the exciting news that there is a full length release in the works!

VITAMINS-VIMANAS from Matthew Daniels on Vimeo

Lastly we have Apparat. The amazing sound LP The Devil's Walk is almost upon us, and here is the video for the great track 'Black Water'. The video is typically arty, slick and slightly dark, just like the German himself...

Apparat - Black Water from Liberty Wilson on Vimeo.


Brisbane Is Big With The Sound

Next week over three days (September 7-9) Brisbane becomes a convergence point for all important Australian musical media. When I say important, Im not referring to The X Factor either. The biggest music conference in the Southern Hemisphere, BIGSOUND draws top national and international industry talent, forming a vibrant collection of musicians, buyers and industry experts to create an environment of new music discovery.

The three-day BIGSOUND conference program is already gaining a substantial reputation around the world for its cutting edge topics and down to earth approach in tackling issues in what is one of the world’s most rapidly changing industries. This year's speakers include Creation Records creator Alan McGee, Pavement guitarist Spiral Stairs, Aussie music entrepreneurial wunderkind Michael Chugg, Lachlan Goold (AKA uberproducer Magoo), triplej stalwart Richard Kingsmill, plus a gamut of the industry's movers and shakers from home and abroad, all with varying degrees of valid things to say about everything. Yep, everything. You name it, they are mumbling about it. Timetable of events here...

2011 marks the third year since BIGSOUND launched its expanded showcase program concept, BIGSOUND Live, to the public. The new look BIGSOUND Live program allows the public access to live and original music in a huge variety of Fortitude Valley clubs and venues across two nights (September 7-8), with 80 of the "best" emerging acts appear for one of the most exciting industry festivals and showcases in the Southern Hemisphere. TO be fair, its got some amazing acts - alongside bands already mentioned here at SM (The Laurels, DZ Deathrays, Bleeding Knees Club, Guineafowl, The Mercy Beat) there are the likes of Ben Salter, Belles Will Ring, Eagle & the Worm, Velociraptor, Intercooler (making a much-anticipated comeback!), Jonathan Boulet (of excellent Sydney act Parades), Mike Noga, Little Scout, Mosman Alder, SEALS, Stonefield, The Vasco Era...pant...and that's just the tip of this sonic iceberg!

You can get tickets here for either the Wednesday or Thursday night, or a two night pass.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Don't Ban Those Books

Philadelphia's Banned Books are continuing their journey through the jagged countryside that is cracked, experimental noise-pop. Sharing a warped sonic worldview not dissimilar to buddy Delicate Steve, the uphold the histrionic values of generic song structure with the express purpose to lay it out on the train tracks and watch the calamity unfold. Crazy percussive elements echo Aa or a more LSD-stricken Lightning Bolt, Banned Books wear their eclecticism on their sleeve. Their latest output, a 10" split with Philly friends Arches, is out now through Magic Death Sounds (get it here), and these tracks perfectly showcases this eclectic group in the throes of creative abandon. Listen to their contributions to the release below, as well as a new track 'Malio', that You can also catch them on their tour this September which is scheduled to end with a bang when the band opens for Deerhoof at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Sept 21st.

malio by banned books

lake of memory by banned books

dream castle by banned books

Pure X Pleasure

Texas' Pure X (seriously, Texas is better than New York at the moment, surely?!?) have expertly built up anticipation for Pleasure, their LP through Acephale that has just hit the shelves. Their You're In It Now EP was killer, their reverb-heavy meanderings has ramped up their penchant for tempered expulsions of noise. And now that Pleasure is here, it's great to see that it more than lives up to the heightened expectations.

Not that its an easy listen - these ten songs are languid psychedelia to the point of catatonia, sometimes so adrift as to barely remember to become fully formed. Yet this is the strength of the band, and one that is hard to define, as so many bands attempt to harness this floating dream state with varying degrees of failure. Nate Grace's guitar is the true hero, stabbing through the soupy sonics to create ethereal, distorted shapes in the dim moonlight, but it is a true album of cogs that keep this machine ticking over. This is true hazy dreampop personified.

What's more, the Austin trio are hitting London in November (alongside buds SLEEP ∞ OVER, who did a great split together last year that we championed here), taking over the Shacklewell Arms on the 1st. Get tix here.

Pure X - Heavy Air

Pure X - Easy

Male Bonding, Endlessly Giving...Via YouTube

Just a quick post, for you have close of forty minutes of listening to do...and then to repeat! Male Bonding's Endless Now is out very soon on Sub Pop, but they have kindly put the album up in its entirety on YouTube! There it is below. This footage was put together from the series of live videos that were shot and edited by Conan Roberts from their Buffalo Bar performance a couple months ago. So good! Don't say we never give you anything...

Nikko Make A Spiritual Tour

Brisbane Gothic Western rockers Nikko are embarking on their About the Spirit/Smoke Alarms 7" Single Launch Tour this week. About the Spirit/Smoke Alarms is their first vinyl release (you can get it here, along with various packages that can or cannot include a shirt - totally up to you...) and is the perfect follow-up to last year's album The Warm Side. Below is a list of the dates, where you can pick up tix, and that stellar A-Side. Nikko are really stamping their name on the local scene - it won't be long before they wrap you into their sepia-toned atmospheric world too.

Thursday, September 1st - The Zoo, The Valley, Brisbane
w/ Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (PERTH, Album Launch), sleepmakeswaves (SYDNEY, Album Launch) and The Rational Academy

Friday, September 2nd - The Bald Faced Stag, Leichardt, Sydney
w/ sleepmakeswaves, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, Solkyri, Dumbsaint and Adam Cole’s Trappist Afterland (all SYDNEY)

Saturday, September 3rd - The Old Bar, Fitzroy, Melbourne
w/ On Sierra, Roller One and The Television Sky

Sunday, September 4th - The Brunswick Hotel, Brunswick, Melbourne
w/ Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, Lunaire and Solkyri

Mesozoic Laurels

Photo courtesy of Sangye Christianson

A few months ago, Texan psych legends The Black Angels toured Australia. I went to the Brisbane show at the Hi Fi Bar. It was the third time I had seen them, and the show was notable for three reasons - The Angels' killer set (as per usual), Brian Jonestown Massacre's Joel Gion's abysmal DJ "set", and the incredibly loud shoegaze proffered by Sydney act The Laurels.

The quartet have a six-track EP out called Mesozoic that isn't overly new in terms of its shoegaze aesthetics, but what it does it does bloody well. Jesus & Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine, even newer exponents such as Beaches and A Place To Bury Strangers (both of which they have toured with) - it's all there in spades. Shit, Swervedriver's architect Adam Franklin is a devotee! But not only is it good, it such an awesome punch, a miasma of visceral noise that permeates the tracks that excites. This is how shoegaze ought to be played.

The Laurels were just in Brisbane, supporting Seekae, but you won't have to wait long for a return tour de force. They will be here as part of next week's live music and conference extravaganza Big Sound (Sept 7-9).

The Laurels - Black Cathedral

Monday 29 August 2011

Will Hanson

Seems to be the week to reference Mogwai...

Ive been intending to spruik liberally about this young guy for quite a while. Will Hanson just released his album Moving A Body, a weird and wonderful LP that showcases Hanson's penchant for sharp lyrics, evocative instrumentation and arrangements, and unexpected aggression and noise. Its eclectic but very approachable - touchstones to Reed ('The Bats) and Waits ('Deathbed Conversion') are suitably huge boots to emulate, yet the comparisons are uniformly apt. But it is one track in particular that I haven't been able to escape, and that's 'The Ungodly Hour.' 'The Ungodly Hour' is the only real reference I would label with a Mogwai similarity, if you state that the first half is a contemporary of Fugazi's 'I'm So Tired'. And I do state this. Which is what makes this song fucking awesome - FACT.

The UnGodly Hour by Will Hanson

Bill Ryder Jones

I love me some sweeping orchestral soundscapes, and dang nab it if Bill Ryder-Jones hasn't come along to offer me some! The former Coral guitarist has presented his beautiful debut EP, A Leave Taking Soundtrack, is now available as a free download here. Its a truly emotive suite of songs that, whilst only lasting under a quarter hour, takes you on a journey of hopeful sadness, abject joy, and overarching beauty.

Bill Ryder-Jones: ‘When I left the band I wasn't playing much music at all but in 2009 a friend got in touch asking if I would write something for this short he was making, which I did. It's pretty much the only thing I wrote that year but the process opened another world up to me. We thought it'd be nice to give it away to the people who have been interested in what I've been doing on my own and also to hint at the future a little bit. My album, which is a soundtrack inspired by a novel, is pretty much a progression from the things learnt when writing for Leave Taking.’

He's almost finished an LP, If..., so hopefully we will hear more of this aural sculpturing soon...

Bill Ryder-Jones - Nothing Ever Changes

Mogwai Divide And Conquer

Any news from Glasgow rock gods Mogwai is likely to rile up the Sonic Masala squadron into a rabid-fever frenzy. For me personally, the fact that a new album and three chances to see them in the year - in Australia - just about boiled my brain. Yet, the quintet are ready to turn up the heat even more, with the imminent release of Earth Division, a four track EP that showcases a more orchestral, almost regular strong structure template from the band (there is even a proper vocal track on 'Hound Of Winter'!). It is fantastic to see them experimenting, stepping over the line in the sand that they themselves carved all those years ago - and from their Splendour In The Grass set a few months ago, it is clear that they are as revitalised, and VITAL, as ever.

You can listen to Earth Division here - then grab a physical copy on September 12 (via Rock Action Records). And if you are sitting around in the land Down Under twiddling your thumbs due to missing their only show back in July, ease your mind - expect to see some very exciting news regarding November...

Sunday 28 August 2011

Hits From The Box #30 - Breaking The Hoodoo

Today I havent done near enough work. When there are 36 items on your to do list, and only four of them are crossed off at 2.30pm, you know you are up against it. But Im nonplussed - for the Wallabies beat the All Black in the Bledisloe Cup to claim the Tri-Nations trophy. For the vast majority of the Sonic Masala collective (AKA you), that will either mean nothing to you, or you will give less than a gnat's shit. But to me, the win by the Aussie rugby team over their New Zealand counterparts is a momentous occasion, and one that needs to be basked in. The six pack of acts below aren't pump up songs, or sport related, but they will either salve the wounds I just inflicted upon you by delving to bring up sport, or will prove to be a beautiful sonic backdrop whilst you bask in the glow of the Green & Gold. Enjoy my children...

Antiques kick us in amazingly tasteful style. You may not get that impression when you hear the first strains of opening track 'Turn Me Loose' off their album JWNS, but when it pushes through the whispery AM radio soup into a raucous rollick, you know these Texans are bringing the jam and laying it on thick, just the way you like it. JWNS pays its dues with increasing fervour the more you listen to it, which should be often. Incredibly this is Antiques' fourth album. I say incredibly, as I should have heard of these guys well before now. Jump on this bandwagon and weigh it down - we want them hanging around for a long time yet...

Antiques - Turn Me Loose
Antiques - Everybody! Do The Twist!

Native Slacker is from San Diego. This 2 track, self-titled release is murky, and true to their name it oozes slackerdom like a sponge overflowing with nicotine tar. The malaise will threaten to swallow you whole - promise.

Native Slacker - Native Slacker
Native Slacker - 90s TV

Whilst Im not even sure that Cymbal Rush will continue to be this band's name in the foreseeable future, it's what this Nebraska outfit called itself at the time of writing this. Their single, 'Don't Trust Me', is an infectious bit of indie rock candy, something to chew on and mull over with its urgent rhythms and slightly dark mannerisms, a darkening in the sky. Its like the electric smell in the air before a lightning storm. Whatever happens with the name, make sure you give us more of this.

Cymbal Rush - Don't Trust Me

I'm not sure I love the name Sleeping Bags, but the track this Californian band offered me certainly helped to allay any judge-band-by-moniker allusions. The summery "vibe" of California pervades the duo's music, yet infused with a heady slathering of shoegaze in case you found yourself falling asleep on the sand without putting any sunscreen on. You are so burnt that any position hurts, so you can't sleep. You pull out yr headphones and drift off, half-dreaming. This is the kind of pop-shoegaze - a bit of melancholy and honey - that you might need for such occasions. They also have a 12" coming out soon on LA's Easter Everywhere Records.

Sleeping Bags - Park

Steffaloo aka Stephanie Thompson, a Los Angeles native, has lent her haunting vocals to collaborative projects with Blackbird Blackbird, Germany Germany, Sun Glitters, and Billy Comfort. So it's amazing to hear the ethereal chanteuse on her first ever release on vinyl - an all new single featuring "On Fire" - a stripped-down haunting ballad with b-side "The Red Runs Free" that offers a beautiful wash of surreal guitar for the release.

Steffaloo - The Red Runs Free

Finally, here's a Gaslight Anthem-esque outlet for a couple of Anti-Flag members...wait, what? Yeah, expect some random punk/hardcore references this week... White Wives are about to release new album Happeners (on Adeline Records), which showcases unexpected and strong pop sensibilities with big, anthemic choruses. Ive had a couple of listens to the album, and it ain't half bad - this isnt one of the stronger songs on it, but it still serves it's purpose, and rounds us out nicely...

White Wives - Spinning Wheels

Happy Sunday!

Kuato's Summer

Photo courtesy of Ashley Theriault

Ah Kuato, you crazy kids! If you don't remember, these Halifax-based, Total Recall-monikered post rockers put out an EP earlier this year called Winter - and the songs, whilst brooding numbers, held titles as deliriously stupid as 'Schindler's Lisp'. The brilliance of this is that, as genre compatriots (and veritable gods) Mogwai can attest to, the titles are superfluous, so why not make them weird and funny? To follow the trend and the seasons, the new EP is called Summer and features equally awesomely retarded song titles, as can be seen with the track on offer below. The others? 'Frances The Mutant' and 'Iraqnophobia' (my personal fave). It continues the progressive meanderings these guys are constructing within the instrumental rock realm, and the juxtaposition between posturing aural ruminations and cathartic swathes of electric storm is effective as always. You can check this EP out over at Acadian Embassy. Get into this Kuato before the TC remake butchers it for all and sundry...

Kuato - Afghanistandard

Saturday 27 August 2011

Girls Lay Down Some Easy Fungal Magic

Fungi Girls is a band that indirectly ties Sonic Masala together. Paul burnt a copy of their Seafaring Pyramids LP for me, but he gave it to me when out on the piss. Luckily Ani had a bag (aren't girls the best?), and it floated around in said bag for about a month before I finally got it back. Then I listened to it only a month before the fabled ATP Nightmare Before Christmas that was Ground Zero. So, whenever I listen to Fungi Girls, it takes me back to that place - awww...

Fungi Girls are taking me back more and more this past week, as the ace HoZaC Records releases their Some Easy Magic record. And a little like the new Times New Viking record, the maturity is plainly obvious from the first strains of opening song, the warbled surf instrumental 'Sabana Breeze'. The Texan trio's penchant for 60s influenced psych garage pop is intact, yet the playfulness is augmented by a stronger sense of melody that elevates songs like the title track and 'Lucie' from good songs to memorable ones. They are all still just leaving their teens, so growth is inevitable, but the shambolic frivolity that underpinned their previous efforts still stands here, just with a stronger sense of self (and 'Doldrums' stands as one of the best tracks of the year). Next album could be a killer...

Some Easy Magic is out now - grab it here.

Fungi Girls - Some Easy Magic
Fungi Girls - Lucie
Fungi Girls - Velvet Days

Male Bonding Tame The Sun

I know this has been floating around the traps for a fortnight or so now, but as if Im not going to talk briefly about Dalston trio Male Bonding's new track, 'Tame The Sun'. More in keeping with their first album Nothing Hurts (first taste of new album Endless Now, 'Bones', was a longer, more dissonant affair), the track is a blast of garage pop punk in all its blase-riddled glory.

Endless Now is out via Sub Pop on August 30 (next Tuesday!). If you're in the States, Male Bonding are travelling around with Love Inks - check out the band's site for details.

VIDEO VACUUM - Flaming Lips ft Lightning Bolt, The Wilberforces, Alexander, Girls

First time we have had a Video Vacuum on a Saturday, so you are probably all wrapped up under the covers, but its the perfect time to chillax and watch/listen to some sweet tracks, I reckon!

This first one blew me the fuck away. The song itself - indeed the video - isn't game-changing, but the fact that The Flaming Lips recorded with one of the craziest bands of all time, Lightning Bolt, beggars belief. The fact that the song is good is divine - a sonic cacophony sanctioned by God.

Next up is Girls' new video for their latest song 'Vomit'. Now I have been a fair to middling fan of Girls in the past, but this track (and video) has helped their stocks to rise exponentially in my books. If you manage to resist listening to this track more than once, you are stronger than me.

We only spoke about this album yesterday, and here is Alexander's best Jesus Christ pose in the weird clip for 'Truth'. Its a luscious video, and makes me love this track all the more. Still contending that this will be in my favourite songs list for 2011...

Alexander - Truth from Alexander on Vimeo.

Finally, a very DIY effort when held up to the rest in this group - but oddly charming, as Kiwi pop bands are wont to do. The Wilberforces are cute, aren't they? And this track does more than it ought to, so Im sold.

And seeing as it's Saturday...GET BACK TO BED!

Friday 26 August 2011

Hits From The Box #29 - Missing Loved Ones

Its been a while since we have had a warm fuzzy Hit From The Box, hasn't it? And it's not on the traditional Sunday - and that isnt because Ive gone all Puritan on your arses (although the thought did cross me mind...) Well a lot has happened in the past fortnight (or is it month?), not least a lot of catching up. This has been made infinitely easier by the fact that I have finished my Masters degree and have a full time job! Money is goddamned sweet when you have been eating dirt and turds for the best part of the year. Plus I have had some good friends around that I haven't seen for ages - Dubby from London, wee Luke the Jockey from Melbourne, Duncan from Freo via Ol Blighty, Ricky from Roma, Danny from Brisbane via Berlin, Steve from...well, from here - its been an eclectic few gatherings, all of them varying shades of loose. And the six bands that constitute this week's first lot of Hits From The Box fit such lurid, and abstract, experiences...

Glory Glory is the debut album from NZ act Wet Wings, and its a weirdly beautiful trip through a gossamer underworld. The band, led by Lucy Botting, create naturalistic soundscapes from a parallel universe, one that feels like a futuristic Ferngully. I know that makes next to no sense, but this album is quite unique and well worth the $7 (+ shipping fee Im guessing - Im just across the ditch so it cost me zip) it's worth to snavvle one up. You can do so through Infinity Tapes, Lil' Chief Records, Last Station Radar or Atelier Ciseaux, whichever is still pushing this delectable contraband!

Wet Wings - Feeel It
Wet Wings - Witching Hour

Seattle trashcore band The Trashies hit out earlier this year with their third LP Space Jam. Now I hadnt had much to do with the band before, other than one of their side projects Unnatural Helpers, but I liked this. It was kinda hard to love - the lead's voice is a mix between Gene Ween and Towellie from South Park in many respects, and their sound is shittier than the worst Psychedelic Horseshit recordings - but there is a lot of sleazy charm to be cracked from within this warped shell. Below are two of my favoured tracks - see what you think, if you likee, grab Space Jam here.

The Trashies - White Mold
The Trashies - Bug Smoker

Exeter based band Count To Fire are country folk in the Wilco vein. The track below promises much more than ticking influential boxes however...

I'm The Man You Need by Count To Fire

During this time I read Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives & Refugees, a memoir of sorts about Portland, Oregon. I really want to spend some time there - I love weird. Rare Monk are from Portland, hence their link to the weird past month is through that book, for their EP Astral Travel Battles isn't really that weird. Its more straightforward psych rock with a smattering of jazz inflection, and I don't mind that at all. They are touring America this month in support of it - get out there and support them!

Rare Monk - Shoot Me Down
Rare Monk - Astral Travel Battles

I've only heard the one track by Danish band Sleep Party People, but it's pretty tasty. Technically a bedroom project for one Brian Batz, Sleep Party People is a dreamy, woozy slide through the slipstream of unreality. And everything needs a soundtrack nowadays, so this song fits the bill. He is taking the show on the road through Europe in the next couple months too, along with an orchestra of friends wearing bunny masks. Not too far from Donnie Darko territory then - except that Donnie IS Frank the rabbit... This tour includes three stops in London at three of their best venues - 11 September at the Lexington; 12 September at the Windmill; and 13 September at Hoxton Bar & Grill, where they will be supporting Handsome Furs. Well worth catching up.

Sleep Party People - I'm Not Human At All

To finish off this eclectic six pack, we have Orlando's Southern Lights. The track here promises to feature on their upcoming album. It lulls you into a false sense of security before entering your headspace with a static-heavy tidal wave. A drone number that offers that little bit extra.

Southern Lights - Grass Or Gasoline

Expect another one of these before the week is out, then ANOTHER one on Sunday - yeah, a lot of rad stuff to get into, and you have been deprived after all - don't want to have you music depleted folk freezing in the foetal position and choking on your own sonic vomit now, do we? So, until then...

Happy Monday!!!

The Darkest Castle Looks Sexy In Brown

A death doom duo for your thoughts? Florida's Dark Castle have just released their Surrender To All Life Beyond Form LP recently (through Brutal Panda), and it's a pretty arresting listen. But nowhere near as amazeballs as the vinyl layout! Coming in either yellow or brown wax, the foldout has crazy-ass illustrations and a booklet - like Conrad Keely of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's artwork, except more likely to rip your nipple hairs off. As you can imagine, these lit many people's fires, so the 500 album pressing fled the building quick smart. There are rumours of new pressings, so stay tuned...

Until then, get a blast of the below track - it's gooooood.

Dark Castle - Seeing Through Time

Alexander Leaves The Zeroes, Finds Truth (And RZA)

I wasn't sure about this record. I mean, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes have their choral freak folk charms all lined up in a row, one-upping the Polyphonic Spree and all that, but where does one go from there? Its a heavily niche, yet strangely marketable, hole to have dug. So when Alexander Ebert, frontman of said act, crawled out to go it along, I was wary. Dubious even.

Until I heard that RZA was remixing a song. And that said song, 'Truth', is one of the best tracks of the year. AND said song featured on the new series opener of Breaking Bad.

That's a pantload of boxes ticked right there.

Alexander is actually a pretty damn cool album, all round. Ebert's songwriting is on song, the intricacies are all accounted for, and there is a better focus here than on his travelling band's efforts. It's an album I expected to do very well this year, yet has seemed to struggled getting its head above water. There has been a lot said about eclecticism, and Devendra Banhart-esque freak flights of fancy, but that's all rubbish. Alexander is a worthy album, all round.

RZA says so.

Alexander - Let's Win!
Alexander - Truth

Thursday 25 August 2011

Robedoor Spirals Ever Downward...

Doom psychedelia has never sounded so sinister as it does in the hands of LA drone merchant Robedoor. Always the productive megalo-alchemist, Robedoor has released a couple of items in the past couple of months. First up there was Rock Bottom, a cassette put put by the inimitable Night People label (buy here), and the hiss and gurgle of the tape adds the resonance that such discordant, somnambulist dirge craves and desires. Then along came Too Down To Die (he's a cheery chap, isn't he?) on Not Not Fun Records, and its a step up in production but relatively more of the same. But to be fair, who does anything like this, with the same longevity and intensity, with this much productivity and creativity? No one, that's who. I thought his Pacific Drift was killer - seems like that was just another stepping stone...

Robedoor - Back On The Ground (from Rock Bottom)
Robedoor - (In The) Cybershade-Universal Migration (from Too Down To Die)

Sink Claws Into Baby Hawk

Eli Reyes is a busy chap...

I mentioned the fact that he played in two Fresno bands, Fay Wrays and The Quiet Americans, a fortnight ago (here and here respectively), and here is the album from his third band, Rademacher. Baby Hawk is actually the first installment in a three part record (hence the subheading Part I of III, I guess...), and is a concept album about a band (also called Baby Hawk) that strives to reach Foo Fighters heights, yet look into the abyss and feel themselves fall... Yet for all of that, its an engaging indie listen, and deserving of your time. You can grab it from their Bandcamp here. And sing along as they caw,

"made a record and a t-shirt and in a minute I was famous, I was lucky to be where I was when I was me I was totally free I was totally raaaaaaadddd!"

Rademacher - Exes For Eyes
Rademacher - Baby Hawk

Times New Viking Grammatically Plunder The Brisbane Woodlands

Brisbane, the excitement is at fever pitch! The upcoming few months closing out 2011 will see you awash with amazing overseas acts. You will see the plethora of local ace acts slowly littering these pages in due course (we've already heard from the likes of Nova Scotia, Tiny Migrants, Blank Realm and No Anchor), and yet its a trashy trio from Ohio that will kickstart this in earnest! Tomorrow at Woodland Times New Viking hit the stage, alongside local acts Cobwebbs and Meat Thump (the name has me salivating already!). Their latest album Dancer Equired cleans up the scuzz but does nothing to dampen the rampant energy these garage noise pop fusionists dish out.

Times New Viking were one of the first stellar acts that blew me away when I arrived in England back in the heady days of 2008 - they supported Los Campesinos! alongside No Age. What was Los Campesinos! thinking? These bands wipe the floor with their twee shit! AND it was the second gig after Offset Festival where I caught up with Paul, and a year later Sonic Masala was born - collective awwww...

Seriously though, this show is gonna be amazeballs. Tix are still available at $25/bf, and is not to be missed!

Times New Viking - Downtown Eastern Bloc
Times New Viking - Fuck Her Tears

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Ringo Sparkles on the Deathstar(r)

Just when you thought Ringo Deathstarr couldn't get any more MBV, they get all Sparkler on your arse. But this is actually a step back in time in more ways than one - Sparkler (out on Club AC30) is a collection of RD tracks from back in 2009, before their "breakthrough" debut of earlier in the year, Colour Trip. It's not brilliant - it is clear that there isn't much in the way of ideas in these tracks, it is all pretty embryonic - yet they are good tracks in their own right, and a nice prologue to the band. Plus, I like me some MBV, but I also like a good MBV imitation - Im sure Shields doesn't mind either.

Grab Sparkler here. Its well worth it if you like your shoegaze predictable yet loud and luscious to boot - which, to be honest, I do!

Ringo Deathstarr - Swirly
Ringo Deathstarr - Some Kind Of Sad

Your Youth Smarts

In the early gestating period of Sonic Masala before it was the behemoth that it is today (*cough*), we mentioned a little Brooklyn band called Your Youth. Their 4 track demo EP was fucking ace - although we did have to take their music down due to contractual shazzbutt (they signed to Gigantic Records, who then re-released the EP and thought us douchebags for discovering their brilliance before them. It was no fault of the band's, I must add! These things happen.) They loved that post though (which is tiny and fairly perfunctory by my now bloated standards, but you can still read it sans tracks here), and so have sent us their new 7" single, What Smarts. Things have changed a tad in the world of YY, namely the paring down from a trio to a duo, but they still like mixing their sojourns into youthful malaise with a heady sense of wanton abandon and fuzz. There are some Wipers references in there, if a snottier version, which is goddamned sweet to these tinnitus-inflamed ears. The band draws on all things pop, but goes by a simple credo: keep it simple and turn up the hooks. Well-schooled and certain, they have no fear of big production, which they try to fake as much as possible. It’s lo-fi gone DIY hi-fi. (Let's hope I don't get busted by the copyright police this time around - I really want these guys to like me...)

Your Youth - What Smarts

Go Wjest

One of the greatest things about San Francisco's Wooden Shjips is that you are guaranteed one hell of a psychedelic trip. Not much changes from one WS release to the next, but when it is as intrinsically fused to the cerebral vortex as it apparently is for these four dudes, this is no misgiving. And so we have West, Wooden Shjip's latest opus, and it is instantly recognisable. Many people will notice this with a pang of chagrin, but it is the exception of the rule here - Wooden Shjips can stay the same for eternity, it will always be their trip. With the Suicide-heavy heady komische Velvet Underground Spacemen 3 melange present and accounted for, there is nothing much else to do other than put it on and drop out. It's great stuff - and we wouldn't expect anything less, would we?

West is out through Thrill Jockey September 13 (although it can be hunted down in Europe right now!). I just bought the vinyl package for less than $40, and that's with a 7" and tote bag thrown in for good measure! You should get on that, stat! And whilst they aren't making a Australian jaunt any time soon, they are visiting the UK, touching down in a hazy splendour at London's Scala on September 4. Ripley Johnson's other project, Moon Duo, will be in Brisbane in October though, so that is the next best thing! More details on that in future posts...

Wooden Shjips - Black Smoke Rise
Wooden Shjips - Lazy Bones

Raw Moans In Da Hood

Ah, Raw Moans. Alongside Mickey Mickey Rourke, these guys were sonic rapscallions that invaded the airwaves last year, then seemed to go a bit quiet... Now both are about to explode back on the scene. First up is 'Boyz In Da Hood', a Raw Moans track that espouses to the witch house tag they have been lumbered with (as is the stupid spelling of their title tracks), yet this song is rather engaging - well, after a few strong coffees at 1am it hit all the right chords... It's eerie trash pop, played at the bottom of a shiny well, produced at its finest - and that is a compliment.

Raw Moans - Boyz In Da Hood

Sunday 21 August 2011

Have Extra Modern Mercy For A Happy Ghost (Dont Forget The !!!)

I spoke recently of the band Extra Happy Ghost!!! (who is basically the brainchild of Matthew Swann) from Calgary. Well their album Modern Horses is out, and it is pretty damn killer. There are punchy numbers like I have intimated in the past, but its the sparser numbers that seem to be sticking in my brain like persistent burrs lately. This album is a bit of a treasure trove for me, a really schizophrenic gem that will titillate at different times on different listens, a shifting sands approach to musical love, and along with the Wombs album has been my background soundtrack for the period we have been unofficially "offline". - which was only a week or so, but whatever Trevor! Just listen to this album, get it, morph with it. (And yes, I spoke about the same stuff a few weeks ago - but the band deserves more exposure. And there are two new(ish) songs below for you to immerse yourselves in. So do IT! ....and buy the album).

Extra Happy Ghost - Mercy, Mercy
Extra Happy Ghost - Pitiful

Vale The Middle East

Incredibly sad news a few weeks ago when Townsville, Queensland collective The Middle East called it a day in the middle of what would be their last performance together on the stage at Splendour In The Grass. I happened to be at that show, and the performance had more vigour in it than their usual efforts, like it was a funereal dirge, or a purging. The band never intended to be this big - they had broken up before in 2008, reforming for a couple of performances only for their EP The Recordings Of The Middle East - in particular the track 'Blood' - to explode, pushing them on major bills both here and abroad. They had the world at their feet after releasing their debut LP I Want That You Are Always Happy only a handful of months ago (that title could have been quite deliberate to the circumstances...). Maybe we will see some of these guys in a different guise in the near future. On a posthumous note, the album won best album at last week's 2011 Queensland Music Awards (pipping SM fave Nova Scotia, I might add), and 'Blood' is in the new Steve Carrell film Crazy Stupid Love, so kudos to them. Still...sad to see you go.

Grab I Want That You Are Always Happy here.

The Middle East - Jesus Came To My Birthday Party
The Middle East - As I Go To See Janey

Saturday 20 August 2011

A Ceremony To Bury Strangers

Virginian duo Ceremony are Paul Baker and John Fedowitz. This name isn't the most helpful, as there already exists a band called Ceremony who are amazing hardcore denizens (you should do yourself a favour and hunt down their 2010 album Rohnert Park - fucking rad). But these guys are also worthy. Both share duties on every noisy instrument they can get their grubby fingers on, and then infuse it all with a skewed sense of pop. Paul and John were also two thirds of the highly revered band Skywave along with Oliver Ackermann, now the lead man for A Place To Bury Strangers. The similarities are certainly there - Im not kidding about the noise factor! - but as is evidenced on their latest EP Not Tonight, it fits a little more inherently to the shoegaze modus operandi. Its five tracks of dissonant gorgeousness, likely to blast the earwax out and let love into your heart - intravenously of course...

Not Tonight is out now on Custom Made Music.

Ceremony - Not Tonight

Missing The Wrestling In The London Nursing Home

Its weird how you can ignore what's in your backyard until you move away. Let's Wrestle were always playing London shows in the three years I was floating about, yet I systematically ignored any press that surrounded them - in fact, I had never listened to a song. Then a month ago a friend handed me their latest LP, Nursing Home - and while it doesn't set the world on fire, it certainly has fun trying, and makes me yearn for just a little bit of time back so that I could fit one of their live shows into the plethora I managed to catch. They straddle the line between silly and sincere, raw and ridiculous, yet the tightrope act is a worthy one for the most part. Its certainly great for a silly, drunken Saturday afternoon...

Nursing Home, is out now via Merge Records.

Let's Wrestle - In The Suburbs
Let's Wrestle - Dear John

Friday 19 August 2011

Video Vacuum - Lil Daggers, Punches, Tunnels, No Anchor

With the flurry of activity announcing the resurgence of Sonic Masala, and much more to come, I thought that instead of the good ol Friday Cover Up (which will be back next week, no fear!), Id end with some left of centre vids to get you through to the weekend.

First up are those rascaly Floridians Lil Daggers. I really enjoyed their debut LP brought out this year, and here is a vid for 'Dada Brown', one of the tastier cuts from it...

Lil Daggers-Dada Brown [Official Video] from Michael J. Ruiz-Unger on Vimeo.

Punches are a New Zealand duo whose album Etheria has just come out last week on Arch Hill Records. This vid for 'Give It Up' really grabbed me - see what you think...

Also from the ever bulging Thrill Jockey stable, Tunnels (otherwise known as Nicholas Bindeman) are looking to destroy you consciousness with 'Crystal Arms'. Let's see if they succeed...

Tunnels - Crystal Arms from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

And finally, those supposed harbingers of decrepit desecration (and all round nice guys), Brisbane's own No Anchor, have a vid out for their track 'Dead Pony' from the stellar double LP Real Pain Supernova. Its filmed in their rehearsal room. That room is tiny - Ive been there - so kudos for making it look about 5000 times larger than it actually is. And it still looks small...


Finding The Artery After All These Years

I cant say I knew much about Artery before I was sent some stuff a few weeks ago - yet they are pretty worthy of your time.

A post punk band from Sheffield, Artery followed in the footsteps of likeminded souls Gang Of Four and Wire in destroying the world with their angular angst and political lambaste. The band released three studio albums and several singles / EPs, were championed by John Peel, recorded two sessions for the show and featured in the 1982 'Festive 50' at number 9 with the classic 'Into The Garden' - yet never really rose to the heights of their brethren, and whilst the other band kicked on, Artery eventually broke up in 1985, posthumously releasing a live album of their final gig in Amsterdam. Yet their absence was felt by some, with Jarvis Cocker evoking a reformation in 2007. After a few nostalgia-tinged concerts, the band sat down and wrote a new album - Civilisation, which will be out later this year. Here is that title track. See what you think...

Artery - Civilisation by Bright Lights PR