Sunday 29 December 2013

Brendan Masala's Top 7s/10s/EPs of 2013

I'm racing for a train that is taking me into Shropshire for the New Year - village eating, drinking and debauchery awaits. So here is a list of the short form releases that floated my boat this year...


Bad Vision - 112/Favours

Harmony - Do Me A Favour

Occults - Occults

Ex Con - Ex Con

White Reaper - Conspirator/The Cut

Ttotals - Spectrums Of Light

Neon Windbreaker - New Sky


Pale Earth - Prelude To Debut

Big Richard Insect - Big Richard Insect

Charles Buddy Daaboul - Three Colours Green


Multiple Man - Multiple Man
(one of my favourite releases, regardless of format)

Andrew Tuttle - 4064

Death Cassettes - Ghost Party

Young Adults - Born in '91 EP

WTCHS - Wet Weapons

Parquet Courts - Tally All The Things You Broke

Deep Heat - New Design

A Savage God - A Savage God

Barbiturates - Shades

Angry Seas - Angry Seas

What do you think?

Saturday 28 December 2013

Brendan's Favourite Songs of 2013

Whilst my other two top 10s will be a bit more definitive, here are TWENTY songs that stuck in my head a lot this year - whether they are the BEST twenty is of contention, even with me. Ah well, let's have at it then...

20. Mogwai - Remurdered

As if a list of songs from me wouldn't feature Mogwai. This song has taken a lot of people by surprise - but this is Mogwai now. And I can deal with it. Very much. This track is just as dark as their transcendent white pulse nightmares of Young Team, just from a different sonic universe.

19. FIDLAR - Cocaine

This isn't the best song from these guys, but they were excellent fun at the dire Splendour In The Grass this year, and Ron Swanson pisses on people. Fin.

18. Crying - Bodega Run

Chiptune guitar pop whimsy? That mosquito buzz at the beginning is painful...but give it a few seconds, and for the live instrumentation to crash on in, and everything makes sense. I'm stuck in a 90s 8bit skateboarding RPG!

17. Violent Soho - Covered In Chrome

I am so proud of these boys and their new album Hungry Ghost. I would have this at the top of every list if I was ten years younger - effervescent, virile grunge rock played at maximum velocity. The fact I still think it's a great album even when I rarely visit these realms anymore is a testament to its success. I've seen them play live four times this year alone and I felt the years melt away every time. And they are the best dudes on the planet. Keep killing it guys!

16. Porches. - Headsgiving

Porches.'s album Slow Dance In The Cosmos makes me wish that the Wolf Parades of the world hadn't gone so quietly into the dark dark night. This isn't slacker territory; just classic cracked intellect guitar rock. I love it.

15. Pale Earth - Coral Skulls

This foray for Benjamin Thompson to step way from the introspections of The Rational Academy continues to sprout myriad legs, and this track of the decidedly left-field Coral Corral release is the culmination of his propensity to push himself to the outer limits of his abilities, and then some. A track that may not be brilliant, but to me is a true testament to a work in progress; a stepping stone into the stratosphere.

14. Batpiss - Loose Screws

Not my favourite track from the trio's debut album Nuclear Winter, but it's a live staple, and this insane clip that accompanies it elevates it to cult status. If you don't feel a rush of blood to the head when listening to Batpiss, you are probably dead. Or at least about to be.

13. Dead - Scratching My Arts

A split with No Anchor is never an easy ask to stand out on, such is their brutal brilliance, but the underdogs of the Australian noise rock scene easily usurp their brethren here. Why isn't everyone championing these guys? With the amount of dark and twisted rock coming out of the bowels of our country, surely it's about time that people sat up and took notice?

12. Girls Names - The New Life

The longest track on the Irish band's new album, and for me the best by far. I really enjoyed the album, but it didn't stick with me as much as this song did.

11. Plant Parenthood - Transit Town

A small band from Knoxville who delivered what was the most listened to song on my playlists this year. Bizarre but true. See if you can ignored the sleepy, deceptive hooks. I can't. Shit, I'm listening to it on repeat again...

10. TEEN - Ambient

A cut from the Brooklyn band's In Limbo recordings. That was a great album of 2012, yet it baffles me how this didn't make the cut, even as a longwinded outro. All cyclical psych, all killer.

9. Per Purpose - Eureka

Probably not the best song Per Purpose put out this year - 'Warburton' was amazing, as is most off their new (and missed out of my year review yesterday) LP Circle The Stains - but every incarnation of the band is present and accounted for in this nine-minute dirge. Caustic brilliance.

8. Double Dagger - Heretic Hymn

The excellent Baltimore punks called it a day last year, then surprised us with a posthumous album, 333, in time for Record Store Day. This is a fitting farewell if I've ever heard one - Nolen's vocals say it all.

7. Pissed Jeans - You're Different In Person

The irascible howlers slayed it once more with new album Honeys, and this is the track that buried its sordid hooks furthest into my soul this year. It's typically dirty, raucous, serrated and blackly funny. You just can't fuck with this.

6. Ides - Prisms

Alanna McArdle might be more recognisable as part of Joanna Gruesome, who brought out a great LP this year. But it's her solo endeavour Ides that moved me most this year, and 'Prisms' really slays me. Every time. I cannot listen to this without getting whispers of the maudlin shakes and the longing that love and the loss of it can bury within you. Hauntingly beautiful.

5. Totem - See Saw Girl

I'm sure most of you won't agree with this one, but this track was played ad nauseum for weeks on Planet Masala. It's like a voodoo mantra, maniacal in its bubblegum hooks disguised as dark motorik. I'm not sure if Totem will ever match the heady heights of this one song, and I'm not sure if I care. This is enough.

4. Lake Mary & Nathan Wheeler - Agrimony (Porch Music)

A lot of great experimental and drone music crossed my desk this year, and there are so many tracks that I return to in my dark den of iniquity that its unfair to focus on one. Yet 'Agrimony (Porch Music)' is one that took me completely by surprise, and I find new pieces of beauty in it with each listen. A great improvisational track, and one I never want to end.

3. Gooch Palms - We Get By

I could have this here for the video alone. I interviewed Leroy from the band earlier in the year for a national magazine and it was a lot of fun. The fact that their LP NOVOs isn't a complete shambles but a combustible ball of playful energy and soulful intent is a further surprise. This track, though - quintessential party music. Well, a party in a grimed-out Queenslander with holes in the shirts and bottomless cans of beer. So, my kind of party then.

2. Pontiak - Innocence

This is a fresh one, but the Carney brothers are in my opinion one of the greatest psych rock bands going round. Why? Because the emphasis is on rock. Every album they have put together is strong, and 'Innocence' intimates that the next one will be a killer as well. All together now...'WAAAAAAAAASTED!'

1. Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener

This is the only song that is solidly in place as numero uno. I have loved this song ever since I first heard it. A woozy guitar track that feels country and slacker at the same time; Barnett's hilarious lyrics about a panic attack are prescient, acerbic and, whilst delivered in a flippant way, are defiant in the way they shape who Barnett is. No pretentions here, just a meteoric talent on the rise.

Tomorrow - my top 7"/10"/EPs...

Friday 27 December 2013

Brendan Masala's Review of 2013

What a year, huh? Not a great one in many ways, but thank the sonic overlords that musically it was a heavy hitter - one of the strongest in years. So how did we view 2013?


A slow month due to my being out of the country then in hospital, thus not really need a computer and on a lot of meds. Still managed to catch some tail-of-2012 brilliance from the likes of Blank Realm (the excellent Go Easy), Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing (Eeling)and The Spinning Rooms (self-titled), all albums of which would have lined my top five of 2012, as well as a surprise EP from Death Cassettes. Whilst I was unable to attend due to being in hospital, the first Sonic Masala live show went ahead also, with Secret Birds, Naked Maja, Brainbeau and Kids Cryptic killing it.


Planet Masala got back on an even keel, and the fine releases started to rear their heads. Favourite albums included Girls Names' The New Life, Ensemble Economique's The Vastness Is Bearable Only Through Love, Woken Trees' NONN, Lower Plenty's Hard Rubbish, Rational Academy's Winter Haunts, Black Pus' All My Relations, Plankton Wat's Mirror Lake, Ex-Cult's Ex-Cult, Psy Ants' Bit Tongue Prik and Games' Games. The standout album of the month though was Bed Wettin' Bad Boys' Ready For Boredom, one of the best slices of Australian ramshackle drunken rock put to tape in a long, long time. There were some shorter form triumphs from Harmony and Ex-Con, some surprises from Mogwai (the TV soundtrack to French horror The Returned/Les Revenents), some great reissues for Mission of Burma and Bardo Pond, and a slight disappointment with the sophomore record from Iceage. What with the flurry of shows from the likes of The Wedding Present, My Bloody Valentine, Swans and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as killer shows from The Drones, The Stickmen, Civil Civic, The Dead C and Thee Oh Sees, and an 8-bit Sonic Masala Presents featuring the awesome Boss Fight, February didn't know how to quit.


This month was just as tumultuous, in no small part to the tragic death of personal hero Jason Molina. Also one of my most anticipated records of the year, The Men's New Moon, didn't really live up to their already-sliding reputation. That said, Australia had some amazing releases from the likes of Exhaustion, Cobwebbs, Bad Dreems, Lower Spectrum and Primitive Motion, whilst further afield efforts from Young Adults, School Knights and Psychic Ills appealed. However the best releases came in the form of the self-titled records from Ooga Boogas and Spray Paint. Sonic Masala's show with Black Vacation, Gazar Strips, Roku Music and Barbiturates was one of the best of the year, and I got to see Neil Young play with Crazy Horse. Another life goal ticked.


More changes afoot, with Nathan (AKA Fred Savage Beasts) joining me in the engine room at Sonic Masala. Sonic Masala also got involved in Ladyfest, with a show featuring avant-garde turns from Shooga, Ultra Material and X In O, and good friends Dreamtime fulfilled their dream of playing Austin Psych Fest. We had some great albums hit us in the face too - Goat, Stalin Gardens, Die On Planes, Andre, Angel Eyes, Super Wild Horses, Double Dagger, Beach Fossils, Eat Skull... April saw the biggest glut of stellar releases though - Wonderfuls' Salty Town, Running's Vaguely Ethnic, Yes I'm Leaving's Mission Bulb, the split LP between Ensemble Economique and Heroin In Tahiti, Thee Oh Sees' Floating Coffin, James X Boyd and the Boydoids' self-titled debut, Barn Owl's V. I also got to interview Damon & Naomi, bought the reissue of Mountains' Centralia, and fell hard in love with Marnie Stern...say what you will, but I think The Chronicles of Marnia killed it.


May saw our lowest-performing live show (featuring No-Way Sweden, Feet Teeth and Blank Realm side-project Financiers - it was incredible by the way) bookend the month with our best selling live show (No Anchor, O, Vassals). We also interviewed Melbourne noise-dwellers White Walls, saw some great shows that weren't our own (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Om and Dollar Bar's shows in particular), and won a pub quiz. Releases were thick and fast from Australian shores - TV Colours, Lace Curtain, Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Stress Waves, Cuntz and Gravel Samwidge all gave their all. Personal favourites were the Multiple Man cassette that came out on Major Crimes, Deep Heat's 10" (although it came out a few months previously), and Stress Waves. Across the pond, and the likes of Creative Adult, Mincer Ray, WTCHS, Surf City and Robedoor were pushing all the right buttons...but the best three releases for the month for me were Batpiss' Nuclear Winter, Kwaidan's Make All The Hell Of Dark Metal Bright and Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo from Hey Colossus.


We moved the live show out of the living room and into a pub with fantastic results - Dreamtime, Multiple Man and Gazar slayed, and pints were relatively cheap. Messiness ensued. Back at the Waiting Room, Sadglint, You and St Augustus were magisterial; whilst the first Campfire Tales kicked off at The End with the newly minted Andrew Tuttle (having cast off his decade-long Anonymeye moniker) and Cedie Jansen. I travelled to Europe to see Pissed Jeans, whose Honeys album from a couple months ago continues to rise in stature, and float around Amsterdam. I also saw the Black Angels - again - and fell in love with Stephanie Bailey all over again. Albums of the month - Lantern's Rock n Roll Rorschach, Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus, Scout Niblett's It's Up To Emma, Lee Noble's Ruiner, Milk Music's Cruise Your Illusion


Another pub show at Trainspotters with Black Vacation, Cobwebbs, Brainbeau and Dag was excellent. So many artists blindsided me this month - Adam Cadell, Kal Marks, Matthew Collings, Cough Cool, Lurve, Barge With An Antenna On It... Favourite albums for July were Bone's For Want Of Feeling, Merchandise's Totale Nite, Shocked Minds' self-titled release, and Ovlov's AM. Special mention to the release of songs by Ides, Porches, Per Purpose, and Violent Soho - some real brain burrs there.


We went a bit silly in August, putting on FOUR separate shows. It was the start of an overload of live music from us in the bottom end of the year. Our second Campfire Tales featured three stellar solo acts - Kitchens Floor's Matt Kennedy, Primitive Motion's Leighton Craig, and an all-too-rare performance from Small World Experience frontman Pat Ridgewell! We also had a duo night with Kellie Lloyd (backed by Tape/Off's Branko Cosic) Tiny Spiders and Brainbeau; Silver Screens launched their album with the help of Charles Buddy Daaboul, Multiple Man and Kigo; and one of the most fun shows of the year with The Stress of Leisure, Sleepwalks and Barge With An Antenna On It. Not Not Fun continued to pour out great releases from the likes of Russian Tsarlag, Xander Harris and Octa Octo; Sacred Bones with Pop 1280 and Destruction Unit; and Slumberland brought forth Weekend and The Mantles. Favourite releases - Ensemble Economique (again!) with Fever Logic; Ghost Notes' Hidden Horizons; Sewers with Hoisted; Thee Hugs' Drug Use & Alcohol Abuse and Soda Eaves' Like Drapes Either Side. Special mention to a brace of smaller releases from Pale Earth, White Reaper, Barbiturates, Eagulls, Charles Buddy Daaboul and Parquet Courts - 7-10 splits.


Another heady month what with BigSound and all - plus we had three more shows to eat through! We took over Greenslopes Bowls Club so that Velcro could rip the place politely apart, with able support from an in-darkness Hot Palms, the Creases, Dag, Thigh Master and Fred Savage Beasts; Pale Earth took on our third Campfire Tales, with Kahl Monticone and Marisa Allen rounding out the triptych; and the brilliant Yes I'm Leaving finally came to Brisbane, with an incendiary support from Roku Music and a somewhat bemusing one from Thomas Covenant. I published the excellent interview I did with Heinz Riegler too, one of the highlights of my year by far. Favourite LPs of the month came from Yuppies, Joanna Gruesome, Courtney Barnett, Warm Soda (belated, I know), Michael Beach, Wild Moth and Holograms. Notable month for short releases too - EPs from Dolfinz, Expo 70, Cannon, Courtney Barnett and Turnip King were great, as were 7"s from Zig Zags and a split between No Anchor and Dead.


The witching month. Two years' worth of live shows, and to celebrate we put on my favourite gig of the year - The Spinning Rooms, Big Richard Insect and Turnpike completely ruled, whilst "new" band Landing In The Presence Of Enemy Jaguars Advanced were a motorik hiccup that threatened to become the best thing I had ever seen. The Spinning Rooms also released my favourite album of the month in terms of Complicating Things, alongside albums from Primitive Motion (Worlds Floating By), White Poppy (White Poppy), Cuntz (Solid Mates), Amateur Childbirth (Pripyat) and Angie (Turning). I got to see Lightning Bolt, standing directly in front of Brian Chippendale, without earplugs - it's the third time, and I can still hear, so it's a 2013 miracle. I also got to interview him - bliss. I also interviewed Batpiss - bloody hilarious. Neon Windbreaker threatened Pissed Jeans' mantle with their New Sky 7", whilst other 7"s from Angry Seas and Big Richard Insect were in high rotation. Then the month ended with the tragic passing away of Lou Reed, another of music's - nay, life's - true icons. RIP.


Ah, November. Four more live shows - Perfume Garden and These Guy dominated Campfire Tales; Michael Beach killed the Beetle Bar amidst some torrential Brisbane rain, alongside Tape/Off, Tiny Migrants and Soda Eaves; The Ocean Party launched their Split LP alongside Nathan Roche (whose own album was pretty rad), Thigh Master, Dag and Blonde Tongues; and NZ deviants Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing tore the roof off The Waiting Room, with the rascal Orlando Furious, the blipping Blank Realm side Huge Nudes, and the squalling eloquence of Adam Cadell & Tony Irving closing out a mind-melter of a show. Also closing out the year - interviews with Keep On Dancins and Angie (AKA Angie Bermuda of Circle Pit/Straight Arrows/et al), and excellent records from Narrow Lands, Unity Floors, Dollar Bar, Nonagon, Astro Children, Greenhouse and David Evans. 


The year ends as it began - sporadically, with me in the Northern Hemisphere once more. This month has been impressive still - an incendiary show from Cave, a solid performance from Wooden Shjips, and the announcement that Sonic Masala is now also a record label, releasing Gazar Strips' second EP and Roku Music's debut LP on vinyl in the New Year. Favourite albums - Primitive Calculators' The World Is Fucked and James X Boyd's second LP in the year, Super Low. Plus listening to albums I missed, such as the excellent Wolf Eyes and Oneohtrix Point Never releases.

What a year, huh? So what are my favourite things, in a list? Check it out over the next few days as we count down to the death of 2013, bringing in a new year and all it promises...

Friday 20 December 2013

Eleven from Thirteen

It's pretty hot in Brisbane today. I have no memory of who my secret Santa is anymore. But there's some things I'll never be able to forget about this year (in no particular order and with some of them actually released last year):

Violent Soho - 'In the Aisle'

Violent Soho have killed it this year. There is something behind this that I still can't quite put my finger on. That's a good thing. Plus, I can find no better contender for a nude bike riding anthem.

Parquet Courts - 'Stoned and Starving'

This is the first Parquet Courts track I ever heard. I went straight home and ordered the album on the strength of it. The best feedback of the year. The best solo of the year.

White Walls - 'Transmission'

The White Walls album spent the most time out of any on my player this year. There is a dirge that runs through these gems. The tone at 0:40 here is un-fucking-believably good.

Mogwai - 'Re-murdered'

From most played last year to an early contender for next year already. Brendan told me he listened to this 16 times in a row. I didn't believe him. Then I listened to it. Then I believed him. The I listened to it  fifteen more times. The bass tone at 3:17 could surely be used in place of a defibrillator.

Pop. 1280 - 'Nailhouse'

This Pop. 1280 record is also full of all things good for the soul - especially 'Nailhouse'. I was listening to this on headphones in my lounge room so that my housemates could hear the telly. Too bad for them when the "in a nailhouse" part came along. If I could do this on Karaoke, I would go to Karaoke every night.

Yes I'm Leaving - 'Creepy Man'

The Yes I'm Leaving we put on at the Waiting Room this year was really up there for me. And this song live is a revelation. If you haven't got Mission Bulb, don't worry. Tenzenmen have got your copy (and the Yes I'm Leaving back catalogue) waiting for you.

Cloud Nothings - 'Wasted Days'

Though technically released in 2012 - same with the Whitewalls album, actually... - I only got 'round to listening to this this year. I love bands who aren't afraid to hold a groove for as long as needs to be held.  I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate the 'Wasted days' sentiment either.

Dollar Bar - 'Everyone's Everyone'

Oh, man, talk about feeling good about music in Brisbane this year. These guys are bloody legends who write bloody great pop songs. The album launch at the Beetle Bar was a damn love-in. And rightly so! When do Dollarbar get there plaque on Brunswick street?

Courtney Barnett - 'Avant Gardener'

Another singer who writes bloody good, bloody clever, pop songs. Never have I smiled so much after hearing a song. I fucking hate gardening and now have a legitimate excuse in the medium of song. Hedging on genius.

Batpiss - 'Loose Screws'

Genius again here. Evil Genius. A Bat Pisses on a dude. This band is formed. If there is a necessary connection between animal urine and insanely rad music, here's hoping for further such incidents.

The Spinning Rooms - 'Julia'

The Spinning Rooms at the Waiting Room (and then at Tym's the next day) was the best gig of the year for me. Hands down. Frenetic, pacing, torpid they are really something to behold.

If I've forgotten anything (which I have), I blame the weather. And budget cuts to my brain.

Saturday 14 December 2013

These Nightmares Provide Bad Patterns, Boyzzz...

Slovenly Records have gladly released the fuzz-drenched pustule that is Nightmare BoyzzzBad Patterns LP onto the world – and thank fuck they have. The Alabama (?) fourpiece are punk heathens sacrificing virgin hippies at the altar of the Buzzcocks and the Queers (EARLY Queers, mind – don’t whisper "Everything's OK" three times into the mirror, these scumbots will flay you right there in your shoebox-sized bathroom). They are either out of their heads, stomping on yours, being sarcastic about your life situation or getting real with your mum. Slovenly reckons that Bad Patterns is “supersonic beer drenched grime (with) more hooks than a barbed wire love affair.” Straight outta the Sonic Masala guidebook for lurid, stupid yet oh-so-good analogies there guys – I’m with ya all the way. Whilst the title track is pretty hard to beat (seeing as it’s the openenig track and all), the likes of the adversely popping ‘Valium’, the brilliant ‘Baby’s All Right” and the swinging ‘My Body Breaks Down’ amongst a myriad of others, there’s no room to breathe and no time to waste. Get this, NOW.

Friday 13 December 2013

Stalking An Androgynous Mind Throughout the Night

Avid readers of Sonic Masala (I think there are four of you?) might remember that we started out as a duo, myself and the enigmatic Paul M. We were (and still are) mates that revelled in scouring for and discovering new music, basking in the glories of old classics, emerging from the fiery waters of noise newly cleansed. That first year, 2010, was an exciting one. Albums like Liars' Sisterworld, Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here? and Rangda's False Flag fuelled furious, likeminded debate, amorous adoration, and weekly excuses to go to shows and get wasted.

One band we both fixated on was Canadian killers Women. I still get a catch in my throat when I listen to 'Eyesore' off their second album (and our favourite of the year) Public Strain. Unfortunately I never got to see them play live before they went on hiatus, and even sadder was the news that guitarist Christopher Reimer passed away in 2012 due to complications from a heart condition. So it’s with great pleasure (and more than a little soft lense nostalgia) that I have welcomed Androgynous Mind, the new project for Women frontman Patrick Flegel (joined by Morgan Cook).

Nightstalker (out on the rad Faux Discx label) has had some pared back comparisons to Harry Pussy - wow indeed. The first two tracks are certainly indicative of such maniacal nihilism. But 'Knock On My Door' is something else, a languid, dead-eyed pop confectionery, a replicated artefact from Manson's Laurel Canyon, all sworling sepia, brown-tainted shadows, echoing eloquence and that iconic Flegel sharp jangle, a knife's-edge piercing of the dark. Fucking exciting.

You can buy Nightstalker here.

It's Live! - Hammered Cuntz in Brisbane 2012 @ Tribal Theatre

I was talking about Melbourne miscreants Cuntz to a couple of Aussie mates here in London on Tuesday night. They had never heard of them. I played them this. They lost their collective shits. It's a live version of 'Hammer' played at Tribal Theatre in Brisbane back in 2012. Mental disintegration write bloody large - you're welcome.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Soft Power Deliver A Rosy Crucifixion On The Wharves

Another day, another split. This one comes from the heady halls of the UK’s Soft Power Records, bringing the nations together since Andy Murray (what do you mean, he’s Scottish? He’s bloody British I’ll have you know!) This awesome album sees London 60s power pop psych acolytes The Wharves with Glasgow’s own beguiling scuzz lizards The Rosy Crucifixion, with electric results.

The Wharves’ side undulates from the Warpaint-swirl of ‘Thick Syrup’, the sunny bounce of ‘Unhand Me’, the seductive blues swirl of ‘Motif’, the Kim Deal-meets-Led Zeppelin dirge ‘Woodchip’, the beautiful pastoral effort ‘Past Life 1887’ – all strengthened by the double-helix soar of twin vocalists Gemma Fleet (bass) and Dearbhla Minogue (guitar) and pounding metronome of Marion Andreau’s drumming propels everything down the rabbithole. It’s exhilarating stuff, especially the haunting grind of closer ‘Deepwater Horizon’, and this is greatly tempered by the rusted coil sensual tension inherent with The Rosy Crucifixion’s efforts.

Emily MacLaren’s guitar lines are sinful as hell, and that voice has been gilded by the Devil himself to ruin many a good man, myself included. ‘Do You Right’, ‘Lose Yourself’, ‘Sinners’, ‘Hot In Your Head’ – this shit should be illegal for the virile masses (I’m glad it isn’t though – any more illicit and I’d perish). Stuart Evans’ bass follows the cues, making the debasement unavoidable, before Conal Blake pummels you into submission, the trio stealing your wallet and dignity but not your smile and eternal thanks.

You can get the split 12” here – great stuff. The Wharves are playing in London tonight to launch the split at The Macbeth, alongside Warm Brains, Blood Of The Bull and Gold Bars. See you there.

James and his Boydoids Get Super Low, And Awesome

That crazy Brissy miscreant James Boyd hasn’t been gracing our sleazy streets for some time – he was left behind in Europe after the Velociraptor summer tour (some say deliberately). He left us with the absolutely incredible self-titled cassette, showing he is a man that truly knows how to write a jaw-dropping lyric, and surreptitiously blending them with seemingly simple pop compositions and seemingly blase, tone-deaf vocal delivery, to create a plethora of deceptive raucous gems.

The shift to the other side of the world hasn’t shifted these innate elements, or Boyd’s burgeoning blitzkrieg of creative activity, as here is a new album, Super Low. And guess what? It’s fucking amazing too. 'Lizzy Killers' gives it away that Boyd is sequestered away in the UK, a crawling downbeat stream-of-consciousness ramble. Then along comes the darker ‘Side Street Blues’, and goddamn if this isn’t one of the best tracks I’ve ingested this month. 'Frustrated With You' is a ruse, seemingly lifting the gloom but settling for weary chagrin in brighter clothes. There is the slightest increase in fidelity, but don’t fear, the tracks on Super Low are super ramshackle, warming the ears, the tongue and the cockles all at the same time. Can someone please shine a light on this guy? Maybe get him to ghost write Paul McCartney’s next record – God knows he has lost his way?

I've just landed in ol’ Blighty, and I see that Boyd and his androgynous Boydoids are haunting Edinburgh. Come on you Tall Thin Duke of deadpan malaise, come at me. Play 'Brisbane' so I can get nostalgic after being here just for a week – I dare you.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Bringing The Wooden Shjips Back To Land (PREMIERE VIDEO)

My pink vinyl copy of San Francisco psych wizards Wooden Shjips’ new record Back To Land (out through Thrill Jockey) sits at home. It came in the day I left Brisbane for my English break. So here I am, in a Crystal Palace café, writing about the digital copy, imagining it spin in fairy floss revelry on my Aldi-sponsored turntable – it’s a great thought, because (unsurprisingly) this is a great album.

That said, not everyone will agree. There seems to be a trend of recent years that the lords of this particular rock domain – The Black Angels, Dead Meadow – have softened their droning edge, imbuing more pop and folk to their hardline regiment to the detriment of the foundations to the genre that they had forged out of relentlessness and marijuana smoke. In some ways I agree – Black Angels’ later albums haven’t had that immediate heft that the likes of Passover and Directions To See A Ghost held. Yet Back To Land has copped some criticism for being repetitive. Umm…hello? Isn’t that largely the point of these types of bands? They build an atmosphere, a ruthless rhythm with which to be taken away, never to return? It seems ridiculous that such an assertion be made about Wooden Shjips. Back To Land is an album of constants. You know that Ripley Johnson is going to drone on with his reverbed vocals; he will wail away on the guitar; Nash Whelan's sonorous organ (most likely wrapped in Alfoil); the metronomic drum/bass combo of Omar Ahsanuddin and Dusty Jermier... But the beauty of Wooden Shjips for me is their innate mastery of the groove - their incessant insistence that the groove stay well and truly in place, without much variation, but enough to evoke a shift in tedium, in motion, in space, so that the mood and atmosphere transforms without knowledge of such a change taking place. The languorous psych rock with pastoral imaginings 'These Shadows', the motorik urgency of 'In The Roses', the distorted whimsy of the excellent 'Everybody Knows' (the video of which is Premiere below!), the sunny warble of the title track - it's an album of tonal increments, of shimmering beauty, of transient glory, all with infinite replay value. Absolutely nothing to disagree with here.

Wooden Shjips played ongside labelmates Kandodo last night at SCALA in London. It was as spaced out, audio-visual and excellent as you can imagine. My musical sojourn into the haunted halls that was my time here 08-11 has begun.

Back To Land is out now - get it here.

EXCLUSIVE - Sonic Masala Becomes A Record Label (GAZAR STRIPS SINGLE)

Hey guys. Yep, you read/saw right. Being a blog/promoter/practitioner of black magic/ambassador of goodwill/noise enthusiast/Luddite isn't enough for us. We are a record label now too. Sonic Masala Records is launching in 2014, with the idea of distributing quality vinyl releases and digital oddities that showcase the best music possible, with a particular focus on little ol Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

The first taste comes from Goth-psych bastards Gazar Strips. 'Oversight' comes from their upcoming 2nd EP, Sparkling. I don't want to say more, because bias and all that. I think it's good is all Ill say. Have a listen, see what you're thinkin'.

Monday 9 December 2013

Raising Umberto's Prophecy

This is an old album, but seeing as Prophecy Of The Black Widow has reared its ugly/beautiful head some few years after its black-rainbow birth on Sonic Meditations, all the better. LA based synth seducer Umberto has crafted a true midnight opus here, filled to the hilt with Giallo garishness, latex love, tantric trance, ethereal ebullience – it’s a glorious ride into a forbidden unknown, made for lurid 80s video obscurities and arthouse extravagance. The acrid smell of hard gloss made aural flesh. I am not giving the right amount of noise for how awesome this record is – to me this is a bona-fide classic. And thanks to Not Not Fun, you can now grab Prophecy Of The Black Widow on vinyl from here. The perfect perverted present for your illicit loved one.

Friday 6 December 2013

Party like it's 1949

Can you remember the first time you saw the filmclip for 'Gold Soundz'. You know, the one with the marauding Santas? For some reason this is the first thing I though of listening to War Party. They somehow - via some juke joint -  capture that same attitude. But if it's throwback, then it's with a wonky frisbee. This is pathos and pop, don't wop (as they call it). It's like some sort of nod to the tired and decrepit, those on their final bet, about to roll snake eyes and shake it out into the night sky.

War Party scratch at the stars. If that makes sense? Maybe they tilt at it then? Whatever they do, they realise its kinda hopeless in the long run, but that's okay, you gotta try to do something alright or you'll never do anything at all. I am digging this vein running through all the Lo-life recordings releases at the moment. If they keep it up I may have to invest in a Santa suit, a lance and ticket to Fort Worth.
You can invest in Tomorrow's a Drag here.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Hozac Takes Me To First Base On An Epicycle

Back in July I was sitting in a governmental café, waiting for the outcome of a court case and a lift to Byron Bay. That’s the start for a good story right there. Instead, I spent two hours listening to Hozac-sanctioned garage rock gems, specifically the new album from Shocked Minds.

Today I sit on a train weaving its way from Maryborough West to Brisbane, where I will drop off assessment pieces to a local university, pack a bag, have one final meeting about a special, exciting event that I am about to embark upon, then see mates in Ghost Notes and Cobwebbs support Chicago legends Cave (you can still gettickets here) before I wing my way to the UK. We have reached Nambour, where we have sat for an hour after a truck somehow ran into a bridge. I don’t know how to soundtrack the amount of emotions that are bolting around in my heart, my chest, my ever overactive brain. So now, much like that surprisingly balmy winter’s morning, rather than attempt to sum it up, it’s time to counter the apprehension and anticipation with some bludgeoning Hozac heaven.

First Base! No, I haven’t had a pepped-up virile lady sit next to me on the train – she’s four rows down, chugging mini red wines at 12.45pm – it’s the power-punk buzz of an album from the same-named Toronto sugarpunks. Its effervescent crack, hard to stay angry (or any other emotion other than giddy deliriousness) when this stuff is coursing through your brain like mainlined sugar. It has elements of a Superchunk/Thermals hybrid that loved Del Shannon and 80s made, 60s set high school romantic comedies a little too much and couldn’t make it out of their own basement, yet had more than enough money to build a good studio-slash-bunker so that they never had to leave. Song titles include ‘I’m All Alone Again’, ‘Get A Taste Of Your Love Again’, ‘She’s Boy Crazy’ and ‘That’s My Girlfriend’, seemingly attesting to such notions – but then tracks like ‘I Broke My Mind’ give a clearer notion to these crackpots’ machinations. Crazy yet gloriously infectious. The organ is what really sells this – a wailing call of the warm and fuzzies.

Then we have the excellent Epicycle, a late 70s punk act that Hozac are thankfully shining a light on once more. These clean cut snots from Chicago were healthily instilled in the brotherhood of punk's true pioneers, but their relative obscurity is a goddamn shame. This retrospective, You’re Not Gonna Get It, beautifully exemplifies the juxtaposition of Epicycle’s raw-edged pop with their propensity for scabrous wit and sweaty abandon. So it swings from Ramones aping, Kinks aping, The Who aping… Yet rather than remain an adept and chameleonic tribute band, Epicycle transcend due to their excellent songwriting chops and their insistent mining of insidious hooks. Seriously, I wish these guys could play at my wedding, if I ever get married of course. Perfect soundtrack to what I see as a tumultuous, scary yet life-affirming event. Or the soundtrack to a train ride with a bunch of tweakers. Plus they have the song ‘Radical Attitude’ with the line “I’m the guy that you shot down/I’m the guy with the long hair and a radical attitude/I'm the nigger white honky Jew all wrapped up in one.”

So we have the pop fizz with the sardonic fuzz. My day is infinitely better. How about yours?


I have a couple other interviews coming up this month, but here is an unexpected one. I did a little Q+A for The Music with Angie Bermuda from the likes of Sydney's Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune, Southern Comfort...and now Angie. Angie has gone it alone to release Turning (out now on Rice Is Nice and Easter Bilby), and the album is a classic of down-turn malaise, dour riffs and her excellent warbled, drained vocals. The full article only uses a fraction of the interview though, so here is the full transcript (Angie was doing a residency in Brazil at the time)...

SONIC MASALA - What's brought on the change to a solo guise?

ANGIE BERMUDA - I usually write songs with others, composing at least some of the music, or lyrics with a collaborator. Jack (Circle Pit) had moved to Melbourne and the new songs I had made didn't quite seem to fit my more heavier new project, Ruined Fortune, that I had created in the interim with my friend Nic (Warnock, Rip Society). What I see for Ruined Fortune is that it is inherently collaborative, and its a heavy, weird rock band. There songs just had a different vibe - they were more girly, sublime almost, and therefore didn't seem to fit the project. Over a long period of time, the songs evolved to a point where they were 'finished' with me alone. In that sense, I thought it was suited to also record them alone. I wasn't sure what the future would hold for these songs, or whether there was a live impetus, but I decided to record them with my friend Owen (from Straight Arrows) at his home studio.

The songs that ended up on the LP stretched back years, always around in the back of my head while everything else was going on. All of the songs were written whilst travelling or walking, without any instruments at hand or force to consciously write a song. They all just came to me, in a dream, on a boat, whilst staring at a strange statue or object, along an either strange or familiar skyline whilst reflecting on my life. I remember Parallels melody coming to me first while out at sea, on the 5th day the song came. I had no way to record it, so I sang it over and over to myself till I could make it back to land. Wandering was whilst walking around the city at night, along the expresslink, feeling lost and estranged from people close to me. Others were newer, like Missing Out and Do Yourself Right, and the songs just came together and fit in this strange sense that I knew they belonged together on one document. I guess it was mostly an instinctual feeling that I had to do it myself, that came from somewhere I don't quite understand even now.

SM - In what ways did making Turning push you out of your comfort zone?

AB - Making a solo recording is always an intense statement, no matter the form, as it is an artistic reflection of you alone, and in that sense I had harness a whole new set of confidence I had never used before. The recording process came at the end of I guess a year period where I was kinda all over the place and confused by life in general so it was also kinda cathartic, something I had to rid myself of. I can be very shy and anxious, so I had to force myself to be more extroverted in order to get the ideas out there and communicate them to other people which was definitely the most difficult, even now i'm not entirely comfortable with this concept. I played every instrument apart from drums, which meant basically no breaks in the studio, always on which was at times very hard, as although I am proficient at lead guitar, playing organ, bass and rhythm guitar was at times very difficult and frustrating as I have very little rhythmic capabilities.

It was also the best kind of challenge, and having Owen to record was perfect for me in a lot of ways as we are very close and have a long detailed history. He gave me a lot of time, space and patience to create the songs at their most fulfilled, exploratory, that I guess I wouldn't have had the ability or confidence to do with another producer. Lincoln Brown from Housewives helped a lot with details like my guitar tones and amp settings, so it gave me more time to focus on getting everything down as close to what I had in my head. I also had lots of feedback on my initial demo tracks from close friends so I never felt truly alone in the project which was really nice.

ANGIE - STARS AND DUST from Angela Garrick on Vimeo.

SM - The strong focus on guitars is steeped in a droning cyclical aesthetic - is this an experiment or something longer-form?

AB - I have been working on a new record since Turning, and the sound is different, it is more simplified in terms of instrumentation and the only FX used were my Moogerfooger Phaser and Wah. For Turning, there was a lot more FX to generate the guitar styles present. I made demo tracks of each song at home, and they were all very bass-heavy, with lots of reverb, and I tried to convert these feelings onto the sessions with Owen as best I could. The drums I had made with my hands but effected them so they sounded almost like programmed drums, or drumming that was barely there. We had a long discussion before starting where I communicated the aesthetic styles through listening to the demos I had made and comparing sounds with other records I liked, such as the dark guitar styles and tones in bands such as The Index, Witch, or Chrome. Lincoln had a good handle on my guitar style and really worked on the aesthetics with his large range of pedals that he brought to the sessions. I can't even recall now what exactly they were. I think because I did dual-lead tracks on almost the whole record, I really had time to regulate the sense of guitar solos 'swimming' around each other, or the sense they were related to each other, returning to the base note but also floating around with a loose sense of unpredictability and danger. All of the solos were basically improvised. I would have a rough idea of what was going on, but it was mostly unplanned. The first solo would be laid down, and especially on tracks like Shadow Twin and Wandering, the second solo would kinda comment and move around the other solo, complimenting it in a sense. Wandering I feel could go on for 10 minutes the way it did, its just a sample of an idea that live definitely will be more free and long-winding. I feel that as all of the songs started out without any kind of instrumentation, they started out as vocal melodies, the solos and instrumentation had the ability to be a lot freer, as they were add-ons that came later, as opposed to the other way around.

SM - The darker tone of the album is what really got me; this sense of claustrophobia. any particular focus that has brought this on?

AB - I would definitely say that it is a dark record. Listening back to it now, it elicits a very strong emotional response. What is strange is that it is the instrumental parts that really get me rather than the lyrics - the solos more specifically - the end of Wandering, the early solo in Shared Futures. It sure reflects some dark parts of my life, senses of betrayal and heartbreak, but also that of desire and longing, the complicated and changing nature of love and friendship. The period creating the songs was one for me of extreme solitude, and although perhaps it didn't feel so good at the time, I feel it was a very important part of my life, kind of my graduation into adulthood, as cheesy as that sounds. I guess learning to deal with the fact that nothing is sedentary, everything is changing, turning, and I guess the record is a comment on these things that we can't control despite all the wanting. Its both a blessing and a curse, but I guess sometimes we wish we could slow things down a bit. Sometimes I feel that I'm too sensitive, I constantly worry about upsetting other people and disappointing others - I guess Turning is the point of me letting go, or just accepting that you can never be perfect, and to embrace your imperfections.

SM - There are still chugging moments of your "past" musical endeavours such as single 'Parallels' and 'Shadow Twin' - how does such a juxtaposition with that and something like the dour drawl of 'Do Yourself Right' sit with you? Is such a juxtaposition somewhat the point, or incidental?

AB - I'm not sure quite how to answer this, as I can't listen to the songs objectively. The record is just something thats more 'me' than anything else I've done, because it lacks the collaboration with other parties. I guess the difference between these songs is just that DYR is more of an aggressive song that the other two, which are more reflective and listful. DYR I feel is more alike my past work, especially Circle Pit than perhaps anything else on the record.

SM - What about the lyrical context for the album?

AB - The first lyrics came through in perhaps about 2009 when I was in Europe. My notebooks from this time were a big resource for my lyrics. I write a lot, and go back and reflect upon the writings often. I know that Parallels came from around this time, being completely consumed by a feeling for someone you can't see, and thinking about them through everything, no matter how grand or banal, in my case travelling through Eastern Europe. In the end its not even about them, its about an energy that they give you, that colours your experiences. Its a romantic idea, but not necessarily about a person. Shared Futures came about regarding a found photograph of a young boy I bought at a market. The photo struck something in me, and then I had a dream about him, where we were related. When I woke I felt this incredible sadness that it was just a dream, that I would never know him, and the confusion over my irrational curiosity over his image. This got me thinking about how we are all related, and the sadness and nature of friends moving together and apart, and losing touch, and the collective history that shapes over time, that becomes your 'backup memory', and how everything always changes and nothing is ever the same. Missing Out and A Certain Friend are definitely quite personal and I guess the most 'upfront' songs I've written, as my lyrics are usually fairly oblique. DYR relates a supreme cool anger. I like the way it channeled itself, its intense, but kind of a relaxed anger, haha…. There is definitely a mixed bag of things going on.

SM - Playing this stuff live, is there much to learn/change outside what you've done with other bands?

AB - I've played live solo a few times now, but usually with a backing band which is the way I like it the best as I can solo as much as possible. I'm still fairly shy about playing live, I need to constantly tell myself to face the audience, haha. The live sets in Australia I have done with a band (Sam Chiplin, Liam Kenny and Nathan Roche) have been really jammy, longer, free and really exciting.. They are all great musicians and there is a buzz between us that seems to always make for a good show. We have played the songs in longer versions with room for improvisation which is the most exciting for me. I feel that this set up has the first potential I have to really use guitar at its fullest. There have been some other memorable moments playing solo, in Athens I played along a backing track with Marco from Acid Baby Jesus on drums to a stunned audience haha.. The drums and backing track kept going out of time so I had to slow down and speed up, directing both around each other haha… In Paris I played live in an abandoned movie theatre and I got mugged outside just before I arrived, they stole my stuff so I had to basically improvise the whole thing along to nothing. I played a show acoustic in Rio last week to a group of local people on a coffee farm, that was definitely the most memorable! … So I guess so far its been very different to anything else I've done as those opportunities would not have arisen as a band touring together requires heaps of organisation, money, planning, etc.

I wish I could be more of a 'performer' or be more expressive but its just not me, I dunno maybe I'll change but I'm still just a weirdo about playing live, nervous, freaking out, not making eye contact, etc. I guess the music is the main thing, right?


I'm bummed that I won't be in the country to catch Angie as she tours Turning. Especially as she is supported by SM fave Nathan Roche, who played a blistering set at the Ocean Party album launch we threw a few weeks back. But keep Saturday December 21 open Brisbane people - "new" venue The Globe will house them both.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Dis Is Miniatures

What a lovely little EP DIS is. Four short tracks of glistening, orchestral noise, Melbourne act Miniatures have proven on DIS that brevity does not need to dampen the all-encompassing wash of shoegaze guitars and ethereal vocals. If you had or are still having a rough day, this is the perfect antidote (obvious pun resisted...just). Gorgeous, mesmerising stuff.