Friday 30 August 2013

Friday Cover Up - Shearing Off A Xiu Xiu

One of the first gigs I went to when I landed in London back in 2008 was at the beautiful Bush Hall in Shepherds Bush. I had been in the UK for about a month, and yet I was landed with the task of showing a friend around to see the sights. I had just started work out in Essex and was commuting in and out every day, and it was knocking me around - so we saw a bit of Trafalgar Square and Soho, ate some crumbed mushrooms (?!) then sunk some pints, before I convinced him to come see the double billing of Shearwater and the Constantines for five quid. Both bands played for over an hour, and I came away adamant that this was going to be the start of my love affair with the place. And so it was.

I have to say that I've had a crush on Texans Shearwater since that day too. So the fact that their latest endeavour is Fellow Travelers, a series of covers of bands that they admire and have toured with over the years, pretty much means that this segment is locked up til the end of the year. The first taste of the record is a cover of Xiu Xiu's 'I Luv The Valley (OH!!)', and it's a raucous release that energises. This has some resonance for me too - the only time I saw Xiu Xiu was the last show I reviewed for the first magazine I ever reviewed for, Low Rise, back in 2010. They were supported by a burgeoning Zola Jesus, who stormed around the stage like a trapped animal, howling and soaring over a backing track only - and she blew them out of the water. At least here Jamie Stewart gets a little ground back - but only because Shearwater are at the helm. And it's just in time for new ZJ material as well, hmmm... Fellow Travelers can be pre-ordered here - it sounds like the kind of covers album to savour with the likes of St Vincent, Clinic and Smog being reimagined. Have a great weekend everyone!

Going The Gap Dream

In the space of a fortnight I have had two Burger Records releases come in the mail, yum yum.

First up I stumbled across Fiesta, the double album from Detroit garage devotees The Go, when heading into the local record store to pick up the reissue of The Living Eyes - and before I knew it I had two classics in my sweaty palms. How these guys haven't climbed to the higher echelon of the garage rock movement of the past decade truly escapes me; Fiesta is like listening to the authentic playlist of the greatest progenitors of the sound from the 60s and early 70s, an intricate patchwork of touchstones that the band have finally unequivocally embraced, and instead of sounding like a tired fade-out into aperisms, this is a retro slice of lime in the most refreshing of beachside beverages. All angst and grit has been shorn away, and left we have twenty capsules of easygoing fun times. Seriously, this has become my pick-me-up rock record for the ages. You can grab Fiesta here - so much fun to be had, you gotta share it around.

Then yesterday Shine Your Love, the latest LP from Ohio's Gap Dream flew through my bathroom window (or into my inbox), and once more I was hit for six. Expecting a downbeat dream pop netherscape, I instead discovered euphoric synth pop that was much more indebted to the Beatles and Euro-futurist consumerbabble than it was to Balearic pop. I was entranced by its tractor beam intensity, hypnotized by its faux-80s cheese yet enamoured by its inherent charm. Whilst the single is out through Fat Possum, the album proper won't be out until November, so I delved further back and tonight have been hooked on his self-titled Burger Records released record, a bit more rock oriented but still languid garage melodies. It's been like listening to the PG Irreversible of the garage rock world - no Monica Belluci, but no rape and a hell of a lot more sunlight. It's no wonder that fellow garage glam conquistador King Tuff is a kindred spirit - although Gap Dream certain goes into more transcendental realms. Thanks, Gap Dream!

Thursday 29 August 2013

I'd Sleepwalk Into A Dry Gulch For A Kingdom (WORLD EXCLUSIVE)

(sorry about the cut-off, Kev)

Tomorrow night we have yet another Sonic Masala showcase at the Waiting Room happening, with pop quirk masters The Stress Of Leisure, doom soothsayers Barge With An Antenna On It and spoken word impresario Mr Ocean making it an eclectrifying night. Smack in the middle of the melee will be the instigators of the mayhem, local agitated rockers Sleepwalks, whose debut LP The Milk Has Gone Sour (recorded by Steve Albini in his Chicago studio) was the epitome of angst-ridden maladies. They have been pretty reclusive thus far this year, so it's been a bit of a coup to get the trio on board for Friday's show. That alone should have you camping in the carpark with a goon bladder for this show...

But wait, there's more! The boys have finished recording what will end up as Kingdom, their sophomore record and first under their own label Breev Records (an excellent and possibly illegal rip on the excellently warped comedy series Delocated). Recorded under guitarist/vocalist Kev's house, the nine tracks promise more variety (yet still a lot of brevity - Sleepwalks aren't about to noodle off into the sunset with a Godspeed cover - yet...) yet the same lackadaisical drive. And today we have a world exclusive taster of what is to come in 'Dry Gulch'. Wonky yet more melodic, its a little pared back from what we are used to - and it promises to be one of a few curveballs. But where they have bled out the flayed aggression, we have the sense that this is a watershed moment here - the discovery that there is unparallelled horizons opened up at the shift of speed, the altering of perceptions.

It (and Kingdom) aren't likely to be out until next year though, so come down and check this shit out live.

Hoisted Out Of The Sewers

(photo by Glen Schenau)

Nihilistic nightdwellers Sewers have been slaving away in the darkness for some time now. They fit into some of the seamier, leerier cracks of the Brisbane scene, but regardless of whether they are flaying the locals at Chardons Corner, spitting venom at Crowbar or bleeding into the cement underneath a dilapidated house, they always managed to be cut from much coarser stuff than those around them. It's been captured to some degree of success on a couple of cassettes, but leave it to Homeless Records to pour some acetone on the festering wound and produce their first LP, Hoisted. Things are still as diseased as you'd expect - Shan is growling through decimated chords and depraved drums, dead eyes and hateful lullabies all present and accounted for. But there is just the right amount of cleanliness applied to the recordings that wipes away the grime and gives off enough light to peer through into the belly of the beast - which makes these songs that more terrifying. Sewers often feels displaced - they should be in the bowels of Brooklyn, or even the back alleys of 1980s Sydney - but Hoisted more than effectively smashes such notions (and seven shades of shit) out of all naysayers. Drive the nail.

You can buy Hoisted here - I can hear your palms sweating already.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Gagged In The Russian Boonies

We've gone angry; let's get lysergic. Russian Tsarlag offers the kind of cough syrup melancholy that oozes all over the floor, congeals into a gelatinous mass that creeps its way towards you, rippling up over your bootlaces, up under your jeans and seeps into your pores, rendering you blissfully catatonic. Gagged In Boonsville has a Medusa on the cover, and it's that sort of insidious alchemy that plays between the bars in each of these tracks. Echoing from the abyss, the beats and samples slowed down to melting point, almost monotone lyrics begging, imploring, resisting, relenting. It may feed into the seedy underbelly of many of the avant artistes that reside on LA label Not Not Fun, but there is also something undeniably soothing and real about the album that makes it a far more immersible endeavour. The samples too - slowed down vocals, ghostly piano plinks, TV stubble, maniacal laughter - it's a blender of unreality that could only be steeped in the now.

You can buy Gagged In Boonsville here.

Leaving Is Ignorants

One of the best releases of 2013 is undoubtedly Mission Bulb, the second album from Sydney's Yes I'm Leaving (see what we thought of it in more depth here). One of the most unrelenting acts in the country right now, Sonic Masala is blessed to have them gracing a Sonic Masala showcase in September. And to celebrate here is a slice of angular nihilism (who'da thunk it?) from those same sessions, 'Ignorants'. If you aren't excited about the prospect of these guys wiping the walls of the Waiting Room with their spit-flecked fury, you have been lobotomised.

Purest Evil Instilled In The TTTDC

Here are a couple of take-no-prisoners releases from balltearing Melbourne labels We Empty Rooms (DEAD/Fire Witch) and Bro Fidelity (Hotel Wrecking City Traders/Fire Witch) that have been slaying eardrums by the thousands...

Melbourne's TTTDC (what does it all mean? I have no idea. Best guesses in the comments section!) is a voodoo doll spiked incessantly with downtuned guitars, stream-of-consciousness drumming and surprisingly melodic vocals that don't sound like fucking Birds of Tokyo or some other such toe scum. They are so big they already have a Greatest Hits record. Well that's what this LP is called anyway. Greatest Hits is both indulgent (wailing metal guitar solos!) and degraded (deafening feedback!), all recorded at the Tote one rainy Monday. No better way to start the week, recording your soon-to-be Best Of. A manifesto of festering ideas, these doom trippers are as happy scorching your soul as they are crooning your hole. Brutally sexy. (Seriously, tell me what TTTDC is, mindfuckers!)

Then there is the speed-fuelled bile vat from the aptly titled acidic giants Pure Evil Trio. Cognitive Dissonance is also an apt title for this EP, a screeching maelstrom of intellectual gnashing of teeth, all done with the kind of gum-bleeding ferocity that thrashes all competitors into an early grave.  All so abrasively unlovable, right? And yet there are moments of enjoyment here too - mutated punk anthems lurk under the blood-drenched howls of mindless discontent. Hold it up to the light and watch this opaque disease glow. Wollongong's answer to The Locust?  Listen and forever wonder where your mind went.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Peaceful Gnashing Under Spectral Shelter

From noise-infused pop to - well - just noise. The debut album for Terence Hannum (from heavy metallic outsiders Locrian) is available on vinyl through Shelter Press, and it offers something that can't always be maintained by avatars of noise-isms - Spectral Life is a meditation, a sonic mantra that somehow disappears inside its own abrasive exterior, becoming a tinnitus-bearing lullaby. The shearing sparks-off-metal cyclical is actually beautiful in its tantric endurance - a maintenance of that finely tuned balance between pain and pleasure. Proof that it's possible to find eternal peace in the seventh level of hell, Spectral Life is a soothing yet searing masterclass in how drone music can enter the blackest realms yet still remain alluringly hypnotic. Great stuff.

You can pick up Spectral Life here- seriously, a precious find.

Swept Away In Swift Armour

With a name like The Sweeps, I was in danger of immediately writing off this Chicago trio. I have made a habit of poring over every possibly decent release that comes my way though, so I dipped my toe into the waters that is their debut LP Swift Armour - and whilst it may be winter still here (albeit an Aussie winter, particularly a Queensland winter, doesn't often call for layers of clothing), rather than being frozen out, the temperature was just fine. This is raucous, edgy, yet edifying guitar rock - think the more rambunctious fringes of Built To Spill, the dingy breakdowns of Desaparecidos, the sonic sleekness of (dare I say it) early era Arcade Fire, with a lashing of the cantankerous scourings that likeminded bands Pile and Spook Houses to fill out the boisterous recipe. But Swift Armour is emblematic of the trio, staunch Chicago kids, who although not always hitting their mark, spray the speakers with gusto that most of their efforts indelibly stick. When everything explodes is when the band finds traction - a growl and expulsion of emotion that feels visceral and real. I still find it difficult to warm to the name - but dive into this album. It's fine, once you get in...

You can pick up Swift Armour from here.

Hearing Voices, Giving Testimony

What is the most intensely human of noises? Is it a shout of ebullient joy? Maybe intermittently. More likely, though, it's a dry cough; a drained klaxon amongst all the other noise; the whole volume of time and space and material.

But pick a moment in time, coughing or otherwise, and forget how simple you have been told things are. Picture a glistening piece of spittle careening in slow-motion through mid-morning sun rays, or look - really look -  at a stained glass window. Who cares whether god or Alfred North Whitehead invented refraction or sand, that shit is amazing. "Joan of Arc" Testimonium Songs is like this: small moments of beauty; intensely human. It's the kind of beauty that can only be momentary. Brush your hair out of your eyes. We can cough together. And shout in joy together too (sometimes). And shudder and wonder at each other.

Cough up for a copy from Polyvinyl Records here.

Sliding Down The Honey Flowers

Once again stupid life has gotten in the way of a good time - doubly so, seeing as I haven't been able to write about good shit for about three days (believe me, that is a looooooong time). Back in June I was offered tickets to go to London trio Honeyslide's 10" launch (put on by Critical Heights) at Stoke Newington's The Waiting Room. This sounded serendipitous seeing as the vast majority of Sonic Masala shows have been held at Brisbane's own Waiting Room. Yet I declined, and although I didn't waste my evening - I went and saw William Basinski and Fennesz play in a Hackney church - I felt I was letting the SM side down a little. It was a little more painful when I found out that the supports included personal fave Scott & Charlene's Wedding, pencilled in as a "special Guest". Seeing as I missed their own album launch the following week because I was flying back to Oz, it smarted. Nevertheless, I can't complain - at least I have Drippin/Deep Architecture to listen to. The 10" offers a seven minute sloping squall in the form of 'Drippin'' which bleeds into an untitled miasma of swirling ephemera. It reminds me of Gaslight Radio, one of the most underrated Aussie bands of the late 1990s/early 2000s, albeit without the tongue-in-cheek lyricism. The back side offers more bite-sized versions of the same - 'Deep Architecture' holds sway, whilst 'Sugar Routine' saunters along jauntily, a bouncy, languid ride into the sunset. You can grab the EP here.

The reason I came back to Honeyslide was because of the minimalist yet showy fuzz of another London trio, Flowers. Their Until You're Dead 7" (out on Fortuna Pop - you can grab it here) has been the one link I have had to the world of sanity in the past few days, which bled into the things I found most enjoyable about the Honeyslide release. Admittedly Flowers are a little more saccharine and overtly shoegaze (which makes sense seeing the label they are aligned with), but there is an effervescent yet gritty sheen to their sonorous noise pop that sees them drift markedly further from the twee vortex than others that court this terrain. The titular track is the perfect example of this - a crunching guitar, high, breathy vocals, and a steely mesh of noise underneath that propels everything forward at a bracing pace. 'Clover' follows a similar mode, then 'Stuck' offers a stripped, stark, bare counterpoint. It is all done with flair and aplomb - and with the presser boasting that many Flowers tracks are written within an hour, fully formed, we should hear a hell of a lot more soon.

Monday 26 August 2013

Let's Hear It For Earl Boykins

Let's start the day and the week with some loud, fuzzy punk with a moniker named after an NBA player...

Earl Boykins are from Purchase, NY, and features members of Battle Avenue. That should tell you enough, really. Their latest self-titled EP (out now on Chick Records) is five tracks of infectious, slightly grizzly, always partying tracks about girls, boys, holidays and not having girls/boys/holidays. The songs are melodic, slight reverb on the vocals, made to be thrashed out - a hell of a lot of fun, in other words. Guttural garage party.

You can grab Earl Boykins here.

UPDATE - the band are prepping a split 7" with the likeminded Cutters, and their unmastered contribution, 'Friends', is a balltearer!

Sunday 25 August 2013

The Eagulls Killed My Nerve Endings

I never got a chance to wax lyrical about Leeds reprobates Eagulls' EP from last year, although we did speak about the awesomeness that was the track 'Moulting'. We are still a while off seeing an album in the offing, but they aren't short of new tunes, as 'Nerve Endings' attests - and it could be their best song to date. A post punk grind that swings closer to the band members' hardcore beginnings, the song flows into the slipstream that Holograms have razed into the musical wilderness, with more squalling guitar, military drumming and George Mitchell's impassioned howl to shake a rattled stick at. A hedonistic journey into a perennial twilight, with lashings of sex, violence, excess, isolation and anguish (mostly in that order, but sometimes all at once), rinse and repeat.

'Nerve Endings' can be found on a 7" coming out on Partisan Records next month (the b-side is a cover of Killing Joke's 'Requiem') - pre-order it here.

Caught Up In The Jacuzzi, Boys

Miami garage bastards Jacuzzi Boys are preparing their third album (self-titled, it'll be out next month on Hardly Art). There have been glimpses of what to expect on this album - things have been glossed up, sanded out, refined, retooled. The two tracks on offer are two sides of the same adrenaline-fuelled coin - 'Domino Moon' is crystalline in sound and urgent in purpose, a gritty heartbeat hidden beneath shimmering production, whilst 'Be My Prism' is 60s bubblegum pop-psych re-appropriated for 21st century fringe-dwellers (with a Sgt Pepper's horn section bizarrely coming out of the woodwork), both of which are consumed far too quickly. Can you get an earache from listening too quickly? Jacuzzi Boys know the answer.

You can preorder the album here - look at the package! Golden.

Friday 23 August 2013

Gettin' Me Some Free Time

Our current predilection with jangly slacker rock that is slowed to an amble, tin in one hand and Centrelink rejection letter in the other, has been striking a chord globally - the success of the likes of Twerps, Dick Diver and Scott & Charlene's Wedding in particular are testament to this. These bands are going on European and US jaunts, plus getting picked up and taken home by Pitchfork and the likes - dirty stop-outs. But it makes sense that by throwing your love around willy-nilly, you will eventually mete out praise to something that deserves it, so kudos to them.

Before this post disappears into waffle mumblecore, I'm stating all this because the trend doesn't look to be abating, and ex-pats are now taking it to the international man as well. Free Time is a Melbourne four-pieces featuring Dion Nania (of Panel Of Judges fame, who also has played with S&CW and Twerps in the past), and their relocation to the Big Apple hasn't blunted their influences at all. Their debut LP (out through Underwater Peoples) has been doing the rounds for the past couple of months, I feel it warrants another mention. Why? Because it's a cracker - not content to move at its own pace, the album goes slower than even it seems wont to do, then speeding  up and slowing down like awkward lovers. I love it. You can understand why the Kurt Vile comparisons have been made too - although Free Time remains decidedly Antipodean. The song 'Nothin But Nice' rolls along like a merry narcoleptic on a beach-bound road trip, with an able and willing accomplice steering from the passenger seat when things become too much. Deliberately ramshackle yet always in control - it's a difficult thing to harness and maintain, yet Free Time have all the time in the world to get it right and make it their own.

Free Time can be gleaned here - well worth it.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Riding The High Wolf

French sonic shaman High Wolf has cast another excellent record with Kairos:Chronos (out through Not Not Fun). It was pretty special getting to see him play here in Brisbane last year - I had already been a fan, and to bathe in the crystalline waters of his discombobulations was a high watermark of the year. And I have always maintained that his aural experiments have worked well on record. Yet this latest excursion raises the bar exponentially - a spiritual tapestry that entwines his pagan sensibilities with insistent drones and incessant repetition that it is impossible to not become enmeshed in the machinations of the work. Because High Wolf works in mysterious yet ultimately holistic ways - his music needs to be an experience, a mood, an atmosphere, a universe; kaleidoscopic, foreign of this or any land, an aurora borealis of the third eye. These synth-laden concentric numbers aren't made to bind us, though - we are not enslaved, but emancipated.

You can buy Kairos: Chronos here.

The Eve of Giving Best Friends' Nosebleeds

The thing about close friendships is that they go through many phases - often terrible ones - yet come through the other side, the unsinkable dinghy in the face of the perfect storm. A best friend takes your shit and gives it back, but also knows when to drop the charade and bring it in for the real thing. You can be every facet of your true self in front of your best friend, and you won't be judged. You hold onto memories of events that others have long forgot; you reminisce over actions, sayings and relationships that have long since faded into obscurity. Fuck the rest, here is the best.

Art Is Hard Records champion this age-old mantra - they work hard to be your friend in all the right ways, providing releases that are unique and mean something, and are always giving. They even have a band in their roster called Best Friends, whose Throwing Up album from last year was a cracker. Now the two are embracing once more - the Sheffield lads have delivered a fantastic lil AA 7" in the form of Happy Anniversary/Nosebleeds, and AIH have come to the party, bundling up the record with a t-shirt and specialised comic. See - Best Friends just keep on giving...

Purchase the record or bundle here - it's the perfect gift for a mate.

Transistors Are Everything

When NZ band Transistors slung me their Flux Pentaphile EP back in 2010, I was suitably impressed. I kept an eye on the trio's progress, and told a few people about this excellent ball of energy. When they arrived in Brisbane this time last year for the 2012 Bigsound Live, I told all who would listen to go check them out - and whether you caught them at the Kiwi showcase on Bakery Lane or their sweaty Rics performance, it was safe to say that Transistors had turned a lot more people onto their frenetic punk sound.

But this has all been preamble (literally and figuratively) for the release of their second album, Is It Anything? - and it slays. There isn't much variation, nor need there be - these tracks swirl and gestate, spreading out then coagulating, blasting forth and ripping back - a violent ebb and flow. It's nowhere near as self-reflexive or nervous as the title suggests - in effect there is an exuberant amount of energy infused within these fourteen tracks. Its still raw and unadulterated too - made before the band started making waves and garnering support slots with the likes of Buzzcocks and Guitar Wolf - and hopefully this doesn't mark the end of this particular era, rather than a strengthening of the cause. A truly addictive listen, Is This Anything? (out on Arch Hill) can be picked up here.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Tuning Your Cousin Ain't For Regular People...

Totally accidental, but Wednesday is all about the instrumental Brit bands. It was a no-brainer that I would talk about That Fucking Tank's new offering, but I stumbled over Alternate Tunings For Regular People last night and was enthralled. The band in question - Brighton trio Cousin - put out an EP last year And Other Relations that I really liked, so I'm not sure how I missed this. Alternate Tunings... is an EP that ticks most of my mandatory boxes - tight, intricate guitarwork, incessant grooves, a rhythm that doesn't know how to quit so beats the shit out of you instead, a melodicism that is infused with equal parts sunshine, narcotics and playful disdain - you can tell there is some major Polvo punishing going on behind closed doors here. Their penchant for intriguing, often amusing titles still stands too, with 'Post Relationship Feedback Form' my particular pick. Its a great little release from a great little band - worth breaking some taboos over...

You can get the EP on 12" vinyl through Fcking The Night here.

Ten Years Of Documenting Tank Fucking

I will never forget the first That Fucking Tank show I ever witnessed. It was at the Lexington; they were supported by Friendship; it was fucking mental. And Andy Abbott's O face as he wailed on that metallic baritone guitar - it was all so ridiculous. But that's the point - this may be incredible hi-octane instrumental rock, but with song titles such as 'Keanu Reef' and 'Making A Meal For Beethoven', there is nothing serious to be taken on board here. This is a sweat inducing aural technicolour yawn of a sound, one where you are afraid you'll choke to death because you are laughing so much.

It is with great heady pleasure that we find the duo are putting out A Document Of The Last Set (out on Gringo Records), an album that celebrates ten years of these crazy bastards being in existence. It's a set list, but as they often play it - each song bleeding into the next so that you are a quivering mess after one song. There are no breaks; there is no reprieve; it is two young punks gleefully fucking things up. It's easy to see why these boys have played with the likes of Lightning Bolt, Melt Banana and Hella (even making the wider stages of Leeds and Reading in 2008). It's because these guys are relentless, yet inherent dorks, upholding a punk aesthetic with a  goofy grin. Fuck earnestness or aggression when you making noise is so much fun. Here's to ten more years - if you're up for it...

Hits From The Box #70 - Ekka Spew

This particular Hits From The Box was actually written last week, but extenuating circumstances has left it on the shelf until today. So it's a little outdated reference wise (oh how the world turns...), but I can't be bothered changing it. Enjoy.

Another year, another Brisbane Ekka show. The streets filled with family bumpkins, drunken wankers and a higher percentage of vomit; the air filled with shrieks of delight from the rides, shrieks of disgust from the spew, and clouds of disease. And then there is the spew. Seriously, I saw enough on Wickham Terrace this morning that could feed a 3rd world country. Yep, I love it. At least I get a holiday. So I sit at my desk, my stereo blaring, a beer popped, and I let the Hits keep on comin...

Elvis Christ isn't as obscure or unknown as some of the acts I tend to corral here in the Hits section - EC being the touring guitarist in fellow garage rock heathen Nobunny's touring band. And So It Shall Be, a five track cassette release, sits pretty on a local label that I champion too (that'd be Long Gone Records). Still, it's unlikely a lot of you are familiar with this loose cannon, and it's about time you acquainted yourself. This is ragged, rancid, reckless rock and roll that only the basest of beings could produce - or possibly the Second Coming. And so it shall be.

Melbourne act The Ancients are about to launch new LP Night Bus on esteemed label Chapter Music, and 'Molokai' is the first cut from it. Such a breezy, nondescript song is completely deceptive - it feels as if The Ancients are aimless and meek, yet the electronic lilts gives way to sonorous riffs and an understated elegance that implies that this release will be full of pleasant surprises. What is old is made new once more.

Sex Jams is a provocative name for a band in any world, but the fact that this five-piece walk the streets of Vienna, Austria (hallowed haunting ground of the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Strauss, along with the fragmented genius of Sigmund Freud) offers its own perverse pleasures. Their album Trouble, Honey flits from languid guitar pop sojourns to more raucous, nihilistic rants, all of which play coyly with you before playing you outright. A swindler's kiss, these tracks continually leave you wrong-footed, yet like the best con artists have you in the palm of their hand regardless of how you get burnt. You will come back for more, because for as long as you are in the presence of Sex Jams, you feel whole once more. Pop with a brutal edge - if you like to be used and abused, you'll love getting into Trouble, Honey.

Scandinavia is rife with artists who explore isolation and euphorics in their sonic aesthetic, and Swedish post-rock duo U137 is no exception. Named after the Soviet submarine which ran aground in Swedish waters during the Cold War, U137 uses sweeping aural generalisations in a minimalist thread, the ten tracks making up debut LP Dreamer On The Run (released yesterday on Deep Elm Records) feeling equally desolate and youthful; desperate yet hopeful. There is a constant sense of darkness inverted, as if rising from the floor of the ocean towards the sparkling surface, the sun meeting the face as quenching as the most pristine of waters.

It is fitting that Nature's Son hail from California - the debut LP reeks of 60s pysch-pop persuasions and permutations, a miasma of swirling dirges and deviations that belie a strong sense of steely determination. The organ tones and riffs on 60s rhythm & blues pervade this album, but what draws you back is the band's innate knowledge of their subject matter - they are able to spiral out into a seemingly unhinged instrumental bridge yet are never lost, easily sliding back into the strictures of their songs at a moment's notice. They sound like the perfect stoner band to watch - wig outs at right angles, aligning at the last inconceivable moment. Bring it on.

The Mantis Opera is an experimental collage project from the UK, and I have to say I've been enamoured with the resultant album Curtsie. It reminds me of the faux-sample noodlings of Melbourne band No-Way Sweden - cuts that play with the formula, offering surprisingly fey vocals despite the skewed instrumentation and composition. At first it feels piecemeal, but as you reach the end of second track 'Rant' you are held in sway in this carefully constructed world.

And as an added bonus, seeing as this came in two days late, I have Hamlovers, this split release between Manchester double act Fruit Tones and Pink Teens. These two Brit bands aren't chasing the Oasis at the end of the rainbow, instead understanding that pop lies all over the countryside if you are will to dredge it out of the moors. Fruit Tones' side is scuzzier, brattier, with more flippant behaviour (their instrumental elements are particularly beguiling), whilst Pink Teens are posing as a boy band du jour when in actuality they are planning world annihilation through innate friendliness and likability. Its catchy as all hell - like that first slap of ham to the lips after abstaining from the stuff for far too long. Feel the hunger rise...


Tuesday 20 August 2013

Lots of Yucks On The Middle Sea

I was unsure what would happen to Yuck after frontman Daniel Blumberg left. His new project Hebronix isn't really doing anything for my right now, and Yuck's first cut sans Blumberg, 'Rebirth', kinda stank. But I'm a lot happier - a LOT happier - with their next effort, 'Middle Sea' (although I reckon it goes about 45 seconds too long...). Check it out below. Yuck's second LP, Glow & Repair, has just become one to look forward to once more.

I'm going to bed - so should you.

Zoned Out In This Place

Oops - I somehow posted this as the email I received from Lachlan at Osborne Again Music - MY BAD. So here is the actual post...

Enough people have mentioned to me in the past month the "fact" that too many people play in too many bands in this day and age that their efforts are wasted IE they should focus on making one thing the best it possibly can, rather than hedging bets with a plethora of acts that are variants on the same theme. I see their point - there are bands that are filled with half-formed ideas, merely because friends wanted to play together and it's so easy to record stuff rather than work and work on it until you have the money to go into a studio and make it right. Osborne Again Music is the kind of label that will fall into this category for some, seeing as every band on the "label" have a member or members from the same Osborne Street house in Melbourne. Beef Jerk, Velcro, Feline Fine, Shark Alarm...they all have that jangly, slacker, wasted suburban debasement vibe. 

Then there is Zone Out. Featuring members of Hot Palms (who are playing our September 6 gig extravaganza alongside the aforementioned Velcro crew' and hence the co-release of the EP through Hot Palms' Why Don't You Believe Me? record label), Pencil, Totally Mild (who I got to see the last time I was in Melbourne, they were pretty rad) and Scotdrakula, Zone Out has more of a considered, cosmopolitan touch (IE this doesn't feel burped out after a half carton and box of pizza has been consumed on a Tuesday morning). Their upcoming EP Something Less is one of spatial awareness - the band know their limits but are willing to surpass them, travel out into the glacial wilderness, their noise exacerbated by their willingness to drift and dream. 

Something Less is out on Friday. I'm quietly confident that this one will be a slowburner that will light your fire.

Rippled Ensemble Fever Dreams

I'm writing this with mixed emotions. I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Brian Pyle’s newest release under his nom de plume Ensemble Economique (Fever Logic, out through Not Not Fun), and it arrived in the mail yesterday. I opened the parcel…to find the vinyl had warped in transit! So saddened by this… At least the Robedoor Pacific Drift 7" I had also bought was in mint condition, or I would have been inconsolable. But despite its inferiority, you can’t warp a digital soundbyte (can you?), so I have still managed to spend the day listening to the album – and it’s an absolute killer.

Pyle surprises from the onset with Fever Logic with the overbearing presence of vocals throughout these six tracks. Not that Pyle hasn't sung before - but the vocals are rather claustrophobic, complementing with the swirling synth and rhythms to present a mode of pregnant foreboding in monochrome - vignettes of  barely bridled anguish drenched in gloss and buried in the corridors of Anton Corbijn photolens photography. Each song benefits from the way they bleed into view, as if walking into a smoke-filled, mirror-walled theatre mid-act, the ritualistic events depicted out of context yet fully-formed nonetheless. Its a nightmarish malaise, garish thoughts caught in amber, where nothing and everything makes sense - thus the title couldn't be more apt.

Fever Logic is out now. The first 210 copies are in maroon vinyl (as is mine, despite the warped state), then 240 in virgin black. It is a truly mesmerising work, and well worth the time. Probably worth trying in its rippled state, to be honest...

Ensemble Economique - We Come Spinning Out Of Control

Monday 19 August 2013

Lil Daggers Leave Peace For Pizza

Florida surprises many with the type of sordid swamp rats that come out of in utero clutching an instrument and energy to burn, and Lil Daggers continues to make the incisions. One of the first bands that Sonic Masala like to say we "discovered", the band had fallen off the radar release-wise for a while - but have been far from idle, supporting Swans, The Growlers, Merchandise and Royal Baths in recent months. Now they are filled with devilish intent, having cooked up a new EP to force-feed us. No Pizza No Peace (soooooooo true...) is an EP that promises to continue the expansions that Lil Daggers have taken since starting out as scrappy fighters back in the back end of first decade of the 21st century - my, how quick they grow up...*sniff* 'After The Flood' broods, morosely seethes, echoes and languidly flails - a creepy gem.

No Pizza No Peace will be out on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records - you can pre-order it here.

Spectral Slumbers Left Up On The Mantle

It's funny how people's taste can be so similar yet so different. A good friend James is into the Fortuna Pop!/Slumberland Records camp 4 lyf, loving the twee ambling pop that comes from these stables. I tend to find that I have to tread carefully in this realm, as for every Veronica Falls there is a mortally twee release that just rubs me up the wrong way. So we often find ourselves at odds when discussing records of this ilk, and nothing has polarised more than Yorkshire bro's Spectrals. Whilst I didn't think much of their debut Bad Penny (here's what I put here), James raved about it being one of the better releases of 2011. Sob Story is their sophomore release, and the tide has turned. Whilst James laments the Jones' turns at countrified twang, I find these slower rambles disarming, especially the title track (probably James' most hated song, so there you go). Louis Jones' voice is incredibly stronger, the confidence dripping off every phrase, whilst the jangly guitars are pristine (thanks to ex-Girl(s) JR White's pretty fantastic production work). I was not expecting much from this album, but from the jumpy washes that echo through 'Milky Way' to the college-radio ramble of 'Karaoke', Sob Story barely puts a foot wrong here. If I still had a car, this would be jammed in the player ad nauseum. Great stuff.

Spectrals - Karaoke 
Spectrals - Milky Way

Yet James and I kissed and made up over Long Enough To Leave, the second LP from San Franciscans The Mantles. I was quietly confident about this one - their Raspberry Thighs 7" from 2011 was a fave of mine - and whilst it mainly avoids the scuzzy garage leanings of prior releases, The Mantles are becoming masters of their minimal garage pop realm. It's still ramshackle, it's filled with more hooks than Moby Dick, it still feels like it's been recorded in the rickety shed at the farthest reach of the backyard, fuelled with cheap wine and Beatles regalia - and it still enamours endlessly. Again, confidence plays a part here - there is no cacophonous outburst because bluster and subterfuge isn't needed to distract from what are essentially warm, relatable pop tunes. 'Reason's Run' is currently my favourite track on here, with it's more ragged, dangerous preamble ('When you saw me ahead, you should’ve crossed the street… you must be more careful about who you meet"), but it's hard to sit still on this. Think early Paul Kelly, the Feelies, the Clean - think whatever you like. The Mantles are holding the whole room together, and it's about time you noticed this.

The Mantles - Raspberry Thighs
The Mantles - Reason's Run

Both albums are available through Slumberland Records - you can get them here.