Friday 21 November 2014

Sincerely Giving Both Halves, Grizzly or Otherwise

Sincerity is on trial. The Prime Ministers getting away with saying that they never actually meant what they said. The blinking mass appeal of shops already cramming their aisles with cheap plastic tinsel made in factories by people who have zero idea who Saint Nick even is. Music that has had every ounce of substance sucked from its crevices and replace with costume makeup. There are still people everywhere, but this place is a ghost town. Turn the telly on, bugeyes - you’ve got your very own window seat to hell.

And you can let that get to you until there’s nothing left of you to get.


You can make a sincere, heartfelt record that gnaws back at all the bullshit. And you can play it loudly around the country to see if anyone has a heart anymore. I don’t know what the thought process behind the naming Halves was but it strikes me as oceanically ironic. From the outlet this record sets out, not so much to traverse the seas, as swallow it. To take everything that’s outside and turn it inside; to jump around while it’s all in there just to shake the goddamn thing up a bit.

This record is as beautiful as it is aggressive. It’s harsh and mild and fucking Franz Kafka gets name-checked. And it’s an album, from start to finish. An actual, sit down and listen to this album. Forget the costume makeup and the clowns in parliament forget the tinsel waving from every orifice trying to sell you something useless, sit down and listen to this.

Australia is giving way to some kind of guitar band Renaissance and Sincerely, Grizzly just brought the cavalry. Halves is thoughtful, interesting, and sincere. A record worth listening to, one half after the other.

Out now through brothers Black Night Crash Records. Available with what may also be the greatest band shirt of all recent time.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Melbourne Fashion Cut from Cool Sounds

I saw Cool Sounds down in Melbourne a good few months ago now; pre-sax. I loved them. I love sax. And from what I can gather, it’s Snowy from Ocean Party playing it. This record, therefore, is awesome. White Wings cake cooked all moist right, awesome. It’s like a lullaby for drifting through the Melbourne streets while Katie Holmes inextricably follows you with a projector playing Endless Summer II and Stand by Me. Laze away to this, it’s a pretty damn good way to work up to your ten thousand hours.
Drift over and get a copy from Whalesmouth here.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

It's Desperately Useless Eating A Bleeding Moon

When getting right into the new Acid Baby Jesus release, I went through the Slovenly Records collection to see what else had been floating through their fetid waters recently (as I tend to miss a few the first time around). I stumbled across Desperate Living, the three track 7" that Memphis/San Fran garage gargantuans Useless Eaters put out in June (you can still get copies of it here). This kind of spat punk has remained fresh since Buzzcocks were just babes in the gutter, and the title track is a mainline-hit (the riff is a simple addiction, whilst the keys are especially 50s sci-fi glory). The other two tracks continue to lose the plot and steal minds - 'Dungeon' is a rusted spike through the brain, and 'I Think She Wants To Find Out' goes deep into the garage, neck on the mouldy couch with the stuffing leaking out onto the floor.

It's great but just a precursor to their new album (out through usual suspect Castle Face) Bleeding Moon. 'Dungeon' makes another appearance here, two seconds shorter and with a few flakes of rust chiseled off the edges - yet despite this, the album is both a mud map of new horizons for the band and an altogether different beast (as should be expected to be honest - the 7" is the perfect medium to be experimental, slapdash and loopy). A much more concerted effort has been taken on groove (think of better word...) whilst spicing the brew with an angular anxiety and aggression that has been largely missing in previous UE releases. 'American Cars' takes us straight away towards more elongated, heavy jams (at three-and-a-half minutes it's already three times the size of half their output), the constant snarl added a flinty rigidity that feels like Fu Manchu covering Wire through an MC5-and-mud-caked prism. 'Aftershock' is a sci-punk bubble blast recorded inside a Styrofoam shell, half-eaten burgers dripping down the walls; 'Retro Hoax' is throwing brass-knuckle punches out of the gate. 'Whip' eats a heavier load but could be an Eddy Current attempt at a dirge. The current profligeration of glam rock a la T-Rex to permeate garage inflections continues here on 'Out In The Night', yet there is still a sneering antipathy here, as if Seth Sutton and co. could either serenade you or glass you - most likely both simultaneously. It's a hedonistic miasma of all scuzz no fucks - 'Sitting On The Fault Lines', 'Walking In Circles' and 'Hidden Fees' (my favourite tracks) have that low rider bent to them, but also are spun out psych rock grunts that could just as well follow you home in the middle of the night... The thing is, and it's a Sutton trademark, Bleeding Moon never feels fatally dangerous - more deliriously so. Therefore you can justify losing your shit without wondering if someone was going to take your face off. Everyone wants to smash shit up then drink the bar dry, go home and do it again. No anarchy, just a good ol fashioned fuckaround. What more can a punk ask for?

Bleeding Moon is out now -  get it here - and in true manic Castle Face spirit, you can own it in their "Glass Half Full vinyl" (half white, half clear) - it looks amazing.

Selecting Acid For The Baby Jesus‏

Greek astral explorers Acid Baby Jesus are only interested in traversing the weirdest trances, the wildest expanses, all in their languid hallucinogenic way. Their languorous take on psych rock is what the band deem as the ONLY way to experience the psychedelic dream - that all other attempts are mere imitations. You can't help listen to Selected Recordings and hear the minds being altered here, a gauzy slipstream of eye rolling, head lolling expansivism. It does get heavy in parts - 'Row By Row' is a buzzsaw trudge that Ty Segall would be proud of - yet it is all measured, a slowed deliberation. Whether there is a rabid lurch like 'Who's First' or a lysergic dream spiral like 'Ayahuasuca Blues (Unmanned Drone)', Selected Recordings is all about a hedonistic collective getting high on their own supply and rocking out over it, on their own steam, at their own time. Plus you are likely to get some residual smoke just from hearing it, so can't complain really.

Selected Recordings (out through Slovenly Records) is out now - get it here.

PREMIERE - Beast & Flood's New Cassette Wellsonwell

Sydney trio Beast & Flood are on the cusp of releasing Wellsonwell, a two-track cassette showcasing the trio's burgeoning wellspring of angular muscularity, sinewy time signature shifts, shouty aggrandized epiphanies and thrashed-out zeal. A self-funded and constructed concern, the two tracks forgo the punchier immediacy of previous outings to underscore the band's propensity for off-kilter sonic exploration, taking well-worn post-punk paths before straying well off the beaten track. 'Flowers' somehow manages to be both sparse and high-strung, while the epic 'Cottonmouth' wraps up the intricacies of the band in one unfurling and overlapping sprawl (complete with mouse-pitch backing vocals).

Beast & Flood hit the road in December to flaunt Wellsonwell before knuckling down to record their debut album in 2015. Catch them:

Sat Dec 6 - Melbourne, Public Bar - with Worm Crown, Tangrams, Shaking Hell 

Monday Dec 8 - Canberra, The Phoenix - with Primary Colours 

Thursday Dec 11 - Sydney, The Lansdowne - with Yes I'm Leaving, Wives (ACT), Draining Pool 

Saturday Dec 13 - Brisbane, Trainspotters - with Woolpit, Blonde Tongues, Danyl Jesu 

Sunday Dec 14 - Newcastle, The Croat - with Litter Runt, Roland Major, King Single

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Glued To The Opportunist‏

Wow. This four-track 7" from Texans Glue is brutal - and weird. There is no doubt that this is a hardcore band with their feet stomping skulls as only they know how - caught up in their own maelstrom, you have a feeling that this crew don't care who or what is around them, as long as they are breakable and combustible. Get it here.

Monday 17 November 2014

Exocomet Kill It

Exocomet are incredible. The self-titled album opens with 'Mercy Tongue' and that guitar reminds me so much of Clinic that it gives me goosebumps. That's a good thing by the way - Winchester Cathedral is one of my favourite albums from the past decade. The spikiness and incessant rhythms (aided and abetted by some excellent feverish drumming) is infectious - and to think this is all from a two-piece is phenomenal. The Bosnian ex-pats now call Brooklyn home - and if people don't start going rabid about these guys soon, there is something sore and sorry about this hollowed-out husk of a world. I'm sorry I haven't come to the party sooner - but now that I'm here, I'm never leaving.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Hits From The Box #91 - Ghosting

This weekend I have been holed up, either doing coursework, writing reviews or sending out hundreds of emails about the fifth release from the Sonic Masala Records label, Ghost Notes' Moonlight State. To be honest, while it hasn't been active, it has been positive. But I need a break. I COULD go fly a kite or something equally as enthralling - OR I could write this week's Hits From The Box. Guess what I'm gonna do???

Delaware denizen Grace Vonderkuhn takes down the Colleen Green route, getting her garage rock kicks off her own bat, scuffing them up and blasting them out. There is more of a snarl in the delivery of 'Nowhere to Go' though which leans closer to the harder edges that Vivian Girls sometimes flirted with. It's an awesome track, at odds of the dreamy comedown of her other 'single' 'God Bless Your Soul', and it's this weighted juxtaposition of tone that makes it easy to see why she has taken the floor before Titus Andronicus and Cheap Time amongst others.

I'll readily admit that I wasn't expecting much from a band called Vampires, but this Winnipeg duo certainly knows how to discard the foul taste in the mouth that such a name may bring, instead ramping up the noise. The shifts from straight up rock altruisms to contemplative shoegazing are what sets their Every Kind Of Light EP up, and whilst the production here needs a bit more depth and grit, there is more than enough here to intimate a powerful live set.

Reading in England just got its narcoleptic opium dream in 'Beach Party Yesterday', the opening track off Songs For Jealous Lovers, the new EP from one-man skewed popster Viscous Liquid. Well not new - it came out in March digitally, with cassettes coming out in September for Cassette Store Day - but new to these virginal ears (who am I kidding...) Things are decidedly more upbeat with 'When I See You', taking a jump up from Spectrals' whimsical ruminations, 'If I Go' follows in the same vein with a slightly louder (yet no less sonically ebullient) outro, before 'Fun & Games' finds the middle ground, a percolated daydream. Nice stuff (if anyone knows more about this guy, please let me know!).

The dirt-caked garage blues that Bicycle Day dish out on their I Had A Place To Be LP definitely does not suck (despite what the Oakland trio might try to tell you). The ten tracks detail the trashy thrash that these guys do day-in day-out, a sandblasted jam from three dudes who love to play, get sweaty, get others sweaty, and drown in the mayhem that ensues. Sure it's been done before, but its this kind of slack-jawed and loose-limbed shambolism without pretension that I eat up. Buy the album on cassette here.

San Francisco quartet Phosphene have released a pretty great little album, also called Phosphene. This isn't a Black Angels spin-out though - the band delve into a warm indie fuzz that, like their name suggests, shines a light where often there is none. The melancholic Americana echo that permeates the likes of 'Crime' or 'Metric' is mesmerising, while they are also capable of picking up the pulse ('Go To Sleep'). There is a bucolic warmth that spreads throughout Phosphene that makes this an album, and band, worth savouring.

Leeds' Black Surf is where we will finish tonight. The four-piece have just started out, and are intent on creating the soaring indie fare that 90s college rock was steeped in. Especially the once-championed Weezer ('Army of Sheep' is something I'm sure Rivers wish he had written these past few years).

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday 14 November 2014

Fair Maiden

Ellen Carey has crafted a strongly unique voice under the Fair Maiden pseudonym by taking familiar genre grafts and draping over them a gossamer sense of sparseness, tempered eloquence and eccentricity. The eight tracks are distilled through Carey's voice, ensuring there is a continual sense of the game shifting under your feet without your knowing. 'India' ebbs and flows like Bedroom Suck alum Ela Stiles with a Warpaint bent. This is thrown by the faux Christian folk battlecry of 'Lord' - this irks me a bit if I'm honest. There is an uneasy undertone that adds to the anguish. Then the country bounce of 'Wait For You' flounces in, and the disorientation continues. While the song is warm, amusing, and spot-on genre wise, it stands at odds with what's come before. And so it continues: the melancholic shuffle and groove of 'Poison'; the excellently stark, elegiac mantra of 'Sad Song'; the bluesy attitude (kept to a hush) of 'Blue Moon'; the Bobby Darin rush of 'Darlin'... Fair Maiden often feels like a patchwork, the disparate niches lacking a common through-line. But if you take 'Lord' out of the equation, there is a strange otherworldly dawn AM station vibe here, a curio of night-time driving through more innocent times. The threads - the brooding grooves of 'India', 'Sad Song' and closer 'Lady Of Fortune' juxtaposed by the nostalgic twitches of 'Wait For You', 'Poison' and 'Darlin'. The sound is fleshed out by some creative collaborators (Steph Crase, Liam Kenny, Joel Carey), but it is Ellen’s mesmeric presence that captivates and ensures such eclecticism remains anchored. An intriguing yet rewarding listen.

Grab Fair Maiden here. It's a little belated, but the album launches in Melbourne next Friday November 21 at Dane Certificate's Magic Theatre, supported by Sarah Chadwick, Totally Mild and Moon Dice.

Thursday 13 November 2014


Today is a special day, as we unearth Moonlight State, the sublime new album from Brisbane instrumental ensemble Ghost Notes.

Oppression takes many forms. Drudgery and alienation seem an ever-present. Sometimes overt, but mostly subtle; we bury ourselves under our daily practices.

Moonlight State is Brisbane instrumentalists Ghost Notes’ third album. Largely written and recorded during the same period as the band’s previous release, Hidden Horizons, the new album occupies an altogether different space to its twin. Where that record wandered through bright and distant open lands, Moonlight State is firmly set amidst the dim claustrophobia of our own backyard, while still reaching for an inherent beauty.

Littered with references to the humid, hazy shadows of their hometown’s recent past - none more deliberate than the title track - Moonlight State is an album for present history; for the return of ‘Pig City’, the soundtrack to the G20 and VLAD and unchecked political power. The single ‘Freedom Scouts’ furthers the theme, taking its name from a local survivalist militia, while ‘Split Solitary’ harkens back to the darkness behind youth spent in idyllic rural areas. Here are the murmurs from sun-beaten sheds looking out through rust spots in corrugated iron.

Moonlight State represents a musical end point for Ghost Notes. Designed from inception to be a long-term project, the band have reached their most dynamic and bombastic with this album. The music demands to explode and destroy, and yet even at its most unhinged Ghost Notes repeatedly turn inward. The band’s signature musical spaciousness remains, but their Morricone-meets-Bitches Brew instrumental rock moves in darker territories on this album, from melancholy folk eulogies to noise-rock freak-outs. Nowhere is this breadth of sound more evident than on the album opening ‘Vanishing Point’, a 13-minute epic that travels through starkness, Steve Reich-esque polyrhythms, Kraut-rock freakouts and Sabbath grooves before finding itself back where it began only with a newfound sense of triumph.

You can buy it now!!! Ghost Notes will launch the album in Brisbane on Friday December 5 at The Bearded Lady, with support from other excellent acts Danyl Jesu and Pleasure Symbols.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Searching For Black Blooms

I thought I had written about Black Floral, the album from Middlesborough UK native Detective Instinct. I was listening to this non stop when I was smoking and packing up the house in July before coming to the UK (it came out through Sickroom Records around then). I then stupidly left it amongst the vast record collection of my flatmates' (as well as Harmony's second album Carpetbombing - so bummed...)

Anyway, today I was looking for something to get me through the grind of marking some work, and I stumbled across some Trumans Water. Great band. But it also reminded me of the songs that Kevin Branstetter sung on Black Floral, 'Merchant Vessel Elision' and 'Tortillas'. You see, the album is a tale of two sections, interlaid into one - the artist created the warped aural groundswell of kraut/paisley psych/synthesised warp and then threw the hellgates open for esteemed lyricists of the underground to sing/speak/murmur/hum over the top. So whilst you have the erstwhile and politically witty (and whittled) lyrics of GW Sok over 'ABC & She' and 'Crack Attack', you have the suitably weird Jad Fair shuffling around in his pastel-blazed bathrobe in 'Black Floral I' & 'Black Floral II'; the spoken word ruminations of Mike Watt ('The Sum Of A Son', 'From Calais To Dover'); the ethereal-as-microfiche wanderings of Karen Schoemer (especially the discombobulated echo/head-on-a-megascreen imagery that come to me during 'The Architect of Negative Space')... My favourite tracks though are the ones that include Branstetter and Country Teasers' Leighton Cook, because they are as unhinged as you would expect - like Ian Dury, but reimagined by Harmony Korine where he lives in a council flat with Shaun Ryder and the Sleaford Mods scungebuckets. Seriously, 'We'd All Love Wheels' is one of my favourite songs of the year, hands down. It has no right to, really, but there it is.

It's a weird record for sure, but it doesn't feel like a slapdash effort, a patchwork of past glories, a harried compilation of similar nut not necessarily likeminded souls. Black Floral works because it creates its own world and wholeheartedly drags you into it. Like the floating abyss that the unsuspecting Glaswegian men fall into when pursuing Scarlett Johanssen in Under The Skin (still unsure I agree its the brilliant work people say it is, but it is an arresting experience - but that is by the by), Black Floral has you ensconced in its world, a living organism within a viscous organism, melding together, fusing as one, an eternal nightmare and dreamscape. In short, it's weird, beguiling, stupid, funny, thought-provoking, and brilliant.

Grab Black Floral here.

Novels In The Dunes

I have somehow missed the myriad delights that solo guitarist Sarah Lipstate has put into the ether under her Noveller moniker, but with Fantastic Planet due out on Fire Records next year, there is no excuse. She has been around since 2005 though, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Plus she has collaborated with the likes of Lee Ranaldo, Cold Cave and Parts & Labor, so her explorations of the electric guitar form is well versed and admired. And my first taste of it rose the hairs on the back of my everything. The haunting ethereal grind on album opener 'Into The Dunes' is spacious, dark, gritty - it's as if Lipstate has taken some of the contemplative latter-day musings of Dylan Carlson, run it through a crystallised synthesiser, distilled it in a modular vacuum, headed back to 1968 and handed the results to Stanley Kubrick. It could go for seven times the size and still be as astrally hypnotic. Fantastic indeed.

You can pre-order Fantastic Planet (on delectable aqua vinyl) here.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A Quiet Rumination On Blunt Black Metal

I wrote the below review on Dean Blunt's Black Metal for The Quietus, but due to a mix-up it couldn't be run. I thought it should get out there anyway. So, enjoy.

Dean Blunt’s Black Metal follows in the manipulated lo-fi footsteps of The Redeemer - that is, it’s a dedicated construct designed to obfuscate. Yet this journey is higher, longer, and somehow both more lucid and opaque. Opener ‘Lush’ sounds like a melancholic Dev Hynes song played through a Walkman with slowly frying AA batteries. The strings here toy with indie pop treacle, while the weedy production strips away any ebullient satisfaction one might glean from the exchange. This approach lends Black Metal that sun-warped cassette aesthetic, which then bleeds into the other conscious decision to load the tracklist into two overt types, The first half focuses on lysergic dream folk meanderings, all languid and hypnagogic in a VHS-tape-lost-in-the-back-of-the-closet way. A steel-wool scoured lushness pervades these tracks, permeated with lethargic guitar and a dulled echo, like the melancholic ruminations of flagging and failing relationships from a man who is spiritually punch-drunk, mentally broken and suffers from tinnitus. The despondent ’50 Cent’ uses a simple drum machine beat as the most pristine element, the fulcrum that a percolating guitar line and Blunt’s roughly echoed vocals, interlaid with Joanne Robertson’s ghostly delivery from the depths, hovers around. Each of the first five songs is short, playing like excerpts, compositions where the gist of the idea is achieved so the remainder is faded out. “Molly & Aquafina” is the closest interpretation of a “song” in this context, a discombobulated folk duet between Blunt and Robertson, played from the passenger seat of a car gliding through twilit streets of East London, the weight of primordial dissolution weighing on the shoulders.

The thirteen-minute ‘Forever’ changes everything. From its elongated running time to the gradual bleed of glitch, Robertson’s lyricless vocals soaring prophetically over this bioengineered landscape, and the subtlety of piano and organ relegated to backdrop tempo, ‘Forever’ fuses the lovelorn sojourns before now with the synthetic stuttering of electronica, creating a collage of alienated emotion further augmented by a sinuous saxophone solo. The tracks hereafter are more “familiar” (if such a word works in Blunt’s world) – ‘X’ offers an ambient guitarscape before permutating into a skewed New Wave meditation; ‘Punk’ is a dub-lite mantra (another prescient line is delivered here – “I’m not who I'm meant to be”); ‘Country’ is a metallic scree of relentless sinuous noise; ‘Hush’ brings back Blunt’s monotone rap. ‘Grade’ melds it all together (including sax interlude).

The black, blank cover art speaks volumes. In Black Metal Blunt has crafted some beautiful, heartfelt songs before scrubbing them of publicly-perceived purpose, preferring to blanche everything in indistinctness before submerging the result in macabre left-turns of unease and nightmare-quality ambiguity. The result is a testament of an artist who isn’t deliberately subversive as much as intrinsically so. Blunt imbues universal themes with beguilement and disquiet: the artist taking the essence of Goya and Bosch and melting them onto acetate, letting the remains flow over the cookie-cutter boundaries of well-established and easily-digestible genres. Consider Blunt’s oeuvre as muzak for Purgatory.

Nevertheless, by corralling all of his idiosyncrasies and approaches into one record, the eclecticism and perversity of previous releases are ironed out. Warped cohesion somehow dilutes the broth. The beautiful thing about Blunt though is that no matter how uneven, dichotomous or flat people may find Black Metal, the anticipation for what comes next will always remain high – and nothing can be taken for granted. While out of context, when Blunt croons on the excellent ‘Blow’ “when I run away/ain’t nobody gonna find me”, the truth of such an idea of Blunt rings loud and clear. We never know the “real” Dean Blunt; we will never know him; we will never need to.

Black Metal is out now on Rough Trade.

Narrow Lands

Guten morgen kinder! Just thought I would throw this up here. It's the full set of Sydney noisehounds Narrow Lands from our festival back in June. Drunk In Brisbane - indeed. More news to come, but...let's do this again, yeah?

Monday 10 November 2014

Giving A Shandy Toast To The Stranger Nallo (PREMIERE TRACKS)

It's a matter of hours now before Minneapolis four-piece Nallo releases Breather, their follow up LP to 2012's Mechano & The Trees (that I took a shine to). Breather comes out tomorrow, and it is a gold nugget of an album for those lucky enough to discover it - and now that I've blabbed, I hope the stocks rise by one or two people (I think that readership still exists???)

We are pretty stoked to be giving you an exclusive taste of the album with the one-two gullet punch of 'Shandy' and 'Stranger', a diptych that are entwined in their country twang, slow burning elegance and rugged expulsions of noise. The last two minutes of 'Stranger' has me thinking of the Spook Houses and Piles of the world - bloody good company to be keeping I reckon. Pre-order Breather (and listen to a few more choice cuts off the album) here.

Pontiak Revolves Underneath Us Like A Snake

The Carney brothers are back! Well they never went away - in fact Pontiak is as busy as ever. With the release of Innocence earlier this year, and their heady involvement in Heat Leisure (more on that later), the trio are dropping this 7" Revolve through Portuguese label Revolve Records. It's a true slowburner, the opposite to the frenetic garage psych of their album and the more spaced jams of previous releases - a languid, lethargic lounge crawler. It reminds me of a red velvet couch in a candlelit tavern, the flames flickering, the whisky entombing the soul, the tumbler clasped in the hand, alone with one's ragged regrets and salted chagrin. In short, it's giving me chills. Pre-order the white vinyl release here.

Seeing The Ocean In Soft Focus

There are many reasons I love The Ocean Party's fourth album, Soft Focus. I have been a fan since 2012's Social Clubs; I put on their Brisbane leg of their launch of 3rd album Split (and first on Spunk Records) Split. I have even had the enviable pleasure of sleeping on the floor of their Osborne Street premises in Melbourne (alas, no more - the boys have flown the coop). The five piece are a great group of guys, who love their beer, their taylors, their VHS collection and their Snood. In fact, back in May when I was in Melbourne for the Gazar Strips Sparkling EP launch, I heard a couple of tracks that eventually made the album, and the lusher, "lounge" sounds, the pastel notes, it all seemed like a confident step in the right direction - a new dawn. It was The Ocean Party in soft focus (yes, the album title works incredibly well here). But from the warm opening moments of 'Went Out', the first song on Soft Focus, I knew without doubt that they were onto a winner. The trumpet is warm, sonorous, enveloping. The jangle doesn't feel lazy or commonplace (not saying that this has ever been an Ocean Party aesthetic), but an effortless extension to Lachlan Denton's warm, laconic vocals - a Go-Betweens sojourn down Brunswick lane. It's a warranted and welcome comparison. Not many songs - on this album, or in 2014 - reach this height of wide-eyed, creaseless gaiety and relaxed, free abandon. All worries wash away. It's an incredible thing. There is more to Soft Focus than this 3:16 minute corker though. Single 'Wading In' comes next and it's following in the laconic slipstream of its predecessor, with added synth and lazy calyspo New Wave drum machine... Yes, I could see the boys decked out in white suits and loafers. But that countrified swagger that imbues 'Taylors & Sharps' and the genre tinged shift is welcoming. 'Head Down' has that watery guitar warble but keeps up a more energetic gait; 'Bed As A Grave' takes a melancholic dive (even with Ashley Bundang's golden backing vocals). Nothing truly develops into anything other than an amble though, and remains inoffensive. But here's the thing - I have stated in the past that there is nothing more offensive than inoffensive music (and I maintain this wholeheartedly). But Soft Focus somehow becomes the exception that proves the rule. The word of the day here, as drab and lazy as it may be, is "warm" - the production is sublime and glows, lending these eleven songs with elegance and wondrously humble gravitas; and the shifting vocals (all boys are heavily involved) remains a effortless yet horizon-broadening masterstroke. But the sombre outro 'Still Stuck Out Here' probably sums it up best. Soft Focus shows that despite the myriad musical outlets these guys have, it's as a collective unit that they truly grow - they are pushing themselves further from shore, they are getting wiser, and it's a matter of time before everyone notices what a treasure they have on their doorstep. And as Denton murmurs to that brooding Cars-esque score (complete with lush sunset synth and sax solo), 'Ill be still out here in ten years or so, just wait and see.' I bloody hope so.

Soft Focus is out now through Spunk and Jigsaw Records.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Tinkerbelles Have Fine Asses

Chicago bastards Tinkerbelles have put together a belter of a 7" in Fine Asses. The bass on 'When Puppies Cry' alone is incredibly - reminds me of a parallel universe where The Austerity Program actually became Japandroids, with some of the members of Parquet Courts filling in the gaps. The duo produce a maelstrom of heavy noise-pop madness that doesn't take itself seriously at all - tearing down the walls while talking politely to the neighbours, promising them that the mayhem won't happen again. And they are so good that the neighbours lap it up, knowing they are full of shit but how can you stay mad at these guys? They chant while eating tacos - and it makes it onto the vinyl. It's far too short, yet it will fuel a night of degradation that will last the ages, chanting "I gotta go" into oblivion. That's it - these guys are my new best friends.

Fine Asses is out now through Teepeespeak Records - get it here.

Turn Down The Radio Hiss And Get Your Weird On

Philly acid-drained psychos Purling Hiss released a great little record last month in Weirdon (out through Drag City). I always wanted the trio to forgo the no-fi detritus that, whilst producing an excellent release in 2009's Purling Hiss, also stuck in my craw like sand. But we saw what could happen when the rust was brushed away on Mike Polizze's and co's last album Water On Mars - and now it seems like the right amount of noise and melody, murk and sunshine. Listen to 'Forcefield of Solitude' - it's sunny, squalling, lazy, diligent, funny and serious. It reminds me of a turbo-charged version of Brisbane band Nova Scotia - and seeing as they are one of my favourite bands of the last five years, that's saying something.

Grab Weirdon here.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Hits From The Box #90 - Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Me!

The title says it all really - instead of seeing Trans Am tonight, I am babysitting my friends' little boy tonight. I never really did the kidsit thing as a teenager - so the temptation to get the kid to bed so I can have a makeout session with the prom queen or whatever is high. But I am a long way from those years and cliches - so I aim to drink a bottle or two of wine, order some pizza and watch It's Always Sunny In Philadephia. On my Saturday night too. Life is wild, eh? Check out Dave Duchovny and Christina Applegate up there. That is me, RIGHT NOW.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned Atlanta punks Dasher before, although I discovered them through this here blog a year or so ago. The trio, led by drummer/vocalist Kylee Kimbrough, meld the 90s grunge wail with a punk march punch, and 'Soviet' is a solid track that indicates that these guys don't take prisoners. But I am more of a fan of the sludge trawl and gnashing of teeth that is 7" Bside 'Teeth'. Make up your own mind - the release is out now through the excellent Suicide Squeeze stable.

Manchester native A'Lune has put out a beautiful EP on Echolalia Records that will soundtrack many an early morning epiphany. Tidings is made up of two main contemplative tracks, 'Somewhere, 20:22' and 'An Ending Of Sorts', with the navel-gazing 'Interlude' bridging the two. It's the kind of post-rock that Explosions In The Sky fans will lap up - meaning this will fuel my creative-writing-&-gin sessions for a while...

Londoner Syd Kemp released a pretty great EP earlier this year in The Horror, and I am only getting into it now. Now that I am a "Londoner" (*shudder*), hopefully Ill get along to one of his shows. 'As I Don't Get It' is a woozy, distorted-vocal pop ooze that is dark and light, layered as it is with trumpets and sax and a juxtaposed undertone of humility and hubris - it's an enigmatic home-run. This lovely sense of discombobulated disorientation continues throughout the EP - it's like stumbling in from the blistering cold to a tavern out of time, out of whack, yet a hazy cocoon from the harshness of the outside world. Curl up and bask in its warmth.

Another otherworldly delight is Surplus Behaviour, the new cassette from Melbourne's Mark Barrage. It's a journey that starts out with ruminative organ and sharp drum beats ('Sez Batter'), swinging via subterranean starlight ('Split Organs') to more epileptic computer glitch and snap ('Slow Epilepsy', 'Dead Badger', 'Barrage V'). The title track is an 8-bit funereal orgasm in a grimy apocalypse; 'He's My Dad' takes the innocuous, even humorous name into slightly unnerving terrain; 'Hestisol' plays out like having tinnitus and a heart murmur (somehow a good thing here); 'Pitcher' stutters along in an ambient shuffle down a wall of mirrors; 'Doom Sore' bleeds into a rampant side-scroll epiphany; then closes out full-circle with the surreptitious 'Hit My Face'. It's an excellent release - get it here (out through Endless Melt).

I think this is our first time in Peru - a country that has held my imagination in thrall since I was a child, obsessed with the Incas - and Plug Plug has insured that this won't be the last. The trio play the kind of frenetic math-punk annihilation that I have always admired in Brisbane's unsung heroes Turnpike (not as feverish and knife's edge anarchic though). This lil EP is a pretty good calling card - lets hope we hear more from these guys soon. Plug Plug is out now through Sweet Tiger Records (home to fellow HFTBers The Face - fingers on pulse here).

I'll finish with this enigmatic NY band, Palmetto Chain. I know next to nothing about them. I only have this song (and another on their Bandcamp, 'Amarillo') to go by. So what 'Hostage' tells me is that its a bottom-of-the-barrel blues dirge, spiralling inexorably into the abyss, a Meth Teeth cut that is clad in leather and better production values although without the skewed humour - yet you can't help but think that Palmetto Chain is laughing at us too. If you know more, let me know.

Happy Saturday everyone!

A Blast Of Volage To Heal The Heart

French garage psychers Volage have whipped up a heady brew for their album Heart Healing (out now through Howling Banana Records - get it here). What I really enjoy about the four-piece is the indebtedness to the janglier moments of 60s garage, yet with an underlying modern sheen and a wonky quirk thrown into the mix Heart Healing is a rollicking, joyous ride. You can rifle through your comparisons bag and pull out many a fitting parallel/crib. 'Loner', however, is a glam-tinged behemoth that nevertheless roars forth for seven minutes, refusing to space out and glide, instead letting the glitter-stained sweat fly. 'This Ain't A Walk' follows in the same vein. Heart Healing has that woozy theatricality of Led Zep/Ty Segall, the pop eccentricity and warmth of the Kinks, the pastoral whimsy of the Byrds... But it is none of these things either. Just get in.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Never Mourn The Silver For The Gold

I haven't heard much of Spanish four-piece Mourn - but that is definitely about to change. Captured Tracks are putting out their debut record. These teens (none have hit that mythical age of 18) bristle with dark, spiked energy - the Polly Jean croon on 'Silver Gold' is electric and seductive; the pause and the blast in just a little early throwing you off guard; the siren howl of "Deliver me from heaven" juxtaposed by the banshee yelps - it's incredibly well orchestrated. These guys are white hot here - there isn't any posing or teetering lack of surety. The free track when you pre-order Mourn is called 'Boys Are Cunts'. I cannot wait to hear this record!

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Video Vacuum Post Halloween Special - Nobunny, GHXST, Sweet Apple, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Flying Lotus...and Dizzee Rascal?

One last Halloween nasty. Some great specials here. Gory Nobunny, VHS nasty GHXST, silly Silver Apple (with added GBV goodness), some viral V/H/S manipulation from Roadkill Ghost Choir, a love of Salad Fingers emanating from Flying Lotus...and Dizzee Rascal? Really? Yep, I love this video. I don't think I have to tell you though - this is all VERY NSFW. Enjoy, gorehounds.

White Sands Are Worth The Wait

I always give a release from great little label Art Is Hard a go, regardless of whether I think I will like it or not - as it invariably strikes a chord. And they had a pay-what-you-want physical release flash sale the other day - I can't believe I missed it! Because I would have picked up London trio White Sands' blasted 7" flexidisc The Wait. You can hear the influences from the individual members' "day jobs" (Mazes, Male Bonding, Novella) - and it is obviously, incessantly, indelibly tight. Title track is scuzzy yet warm; 'Expect Nothing' ratchets things up considerably with the faint motorik beats and hovering harmonies. Favourite track by far though is closer 'Years' - the fuzz, the repetition that feels like a Groundhog Day downward spiral that is menacing yet intoxicating...I could seriously listen to the outro for hours. But I like stupid shit like that.

The Wait comes with a specially made zine - and won't be around for long. Get in.

Monday 3 November 2014

Eat Chakra Fandangos!

One of the earliest memories I have of immersing myself in the Brisbane music scene was heading along to The Orient Hotel to watch bands. It was 2004-2005. Before then I went to gigs every month, but very rarely to anything that wasn't being played on the radio. When I say the radio, I mean Triple J, and as any old curmudgeon will tell you, "it was much better back then". So gigs were Magic Dirt, Custard, Rocket Science, Not From There, Pollyanna, Youth Group, Bluebottle Kiss, Even, Gota Cola...and so on. Anyway between Rics, the Orient and the beginnings of 610 a little while later, I moved into a different realm.

The first clear memory I have of the Orient included bands like Turnpike, HO2, Shuriken - and Eat Laser Scumbag! They had me at the name straight off the bat; they had me with the colour coordination (think The Wiggles for dropkicks); they had me with their raw, raucous rock that dealt in speed as much as melody. Over the decade I have gotten to know Ash, Nathan, Adam and Xavier fairly well - the guys have spread to be in bands as diverse as Undead Apes, Nova Scotia, Chinese Burns, Eyes Ninety and more, as well as having kids and spreading across the Australasian lands - but the helter skelter, fever-pitched radness of the band has always remained. They always play when the four of them are in the country together, so they haven't really officially gone anywhere - and here is a 10" to remind us what their brand of spontaneous combustion was all about. Chakras Aligned is a bit more considered then their EP Eat Laser Scumbag 1 Earth 0, but it still packs a punch. 'Vampires' and 'Fandango' in particular show a different side to the band that intimate what might have been and could still be. I believe the 10" is sold out, but you can grab it digitally below. Let's petition to get them back in orbit and smashing pubs, thus reminding us all that you aren't ever too old to get loose.

Sunday 2 November 2014

A Gruesome Mantles Slumber Party

(Mantles pic by David Armstrong)

A tenuous connection to Halloween, I know, but what the hell. Two new releases coming out of the Slumberland stable I am pretty happy with.

The first is Brit snotty punks Joanna Gruesome, whose 'Psykick Espionage' is part of a split 7" with Perfect Pussy. It's equal parts angular, aggressive, bubbly and innocent - what these guys do so well. The two bands play together at London's Tufnell Park Dome this Thursday (Nov 6) - don't miss it.

Then there is 'Memory', the new single from SF guitar-pop gurus The Mantles. It's bouncy with a countrified twang, but what I like most about it is the hip-jagging groove. Lose yourself then go pre-order the 7" here.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Everybody's Droning On The Weekend #4 (Halloween Special, 6 Months In The Making...)

I started writing this post in April. APRIL! I remember writing up my thoughts on the first five releases on this list in June (my Blackhoods feature for my unofficial Not Not Fun Week was also written in this period), on the train to my parents' place, and the file inexplicably vanished. It may seem arbitrary or reactionary, but I did start this blog to talk about great music irrespective of timelines and trends; therefore what lies here is fragmented memories, further exacerbated from a debaucherous Halloween (I didn't dress up or go to a party or anything - just played records, watched horror movies and drank gin til 4am, because I could). I hope you enjoy this - it's good to be back droning.

This has been a regular go to release since it came out in April. Enigma German Army brought out Millerite Masai through Yerevan Tapes and has produced heaps more cassette releases since then - to the point where I shall do a German Army post every day from now to cover them all (and it shall be known as German Army Week...) Millerite Masai is a haunted prism of sounds, samples, industrial shadows, electronic phantasms, strong pulses, stronger rhythms - a voodoo tantric dance into the television horror of our times. It's incredible. I honestly don't give enough lip service to this kind of music - Ill always be a guitar noise tragic at heart - but German Army is close to my favourite artist right now. I hunker down in the dark, meditating on the slipstreams of another world, and German Army keeps mining the depths of the cerebral oceans at a frenetic pace, ready for your submersion. Listen, and see why.

Anne Guthrie is one of a few artists that is releasing material through the Students of Decay label. Guthrie’s Codiaeum variegatum is her first full-length release, a symposium of eccentric instrumentation (including French horn, contrabass and violoncello) and field recordings that knits together that dichotomy of interior and exterior sound, natural and manmade, deliberate and unplanned. It all unfurls at a slow yet deliberate pace, with slight manipulations warping the senses, so that the various divides between opposites become indistinguishable. The constant buzz of wind, water and natural ephemera underscores the seemingly halting, hiccupping compositions, as if the human element feels awkward and out of place in this world, yet the middle third (‘Unlike More Slender and Graceful’ and ‘Pendulous’) becomes a metallic trawl through undulating noise, alarms that score the night sky. By the end of the album these juxtapositions melt into one and becomes a frozen, cocooned embrace, intimating that this is a cyclical experience, eating its own tail, never to end. Tenebrous.

Toronto artist Babel's record Rillingen is a four-part suite of outer-wave surrealist swirl, a drone harvest harbouring deep-seated feelings of loss, lust and laboured ambitions. Soaring to the furthest regions of cerebral antipathy, Rillingen is at once an awesome amalgam of space and sound, and a vessel that houses the harbinger of the End of All Things. It’s the kind of meditative composition that invokes elation and dread at the same time. Anne Guthrie may have played with opposing factions of the same febrile coin, but Babel’s transgressions are apocryphal in nature – this is the ominous calm before the storm. I think this is a great record that says so much with seemingly so little – what the best drone albums should do – and the final 37 minute opus that closes out the experience is one of gentle waves of catharsis, both transmogrifying and rendering all other thoughts meaningless.

King of the Grove is another Yerevan release, this time from Bird People. Bird People is a Viennese collective that have been knitting together foreign sounds into sonorous collages since 2011. King Of The Grove is forty minutes of glistening glissando-esque mirages, in and out of focus, sliding surreptitiously in and out of consciousness. The album is made up of two pieces – the first, ‘To Peer Into The Huntress’ Mirror’, begins with the tones of chimes in a cavernous enclave, lanterns flickering, before a rumble of beckoned wind flows through the passageways, evoking the long-dead and the never born, culminating in a squall that eventually peters out with pipes and strings in the distance, a ritualistic cleansing; whilst the second, ‘A Harvest of Birdsong And Bones’, is at once more primal and celestial, a coalescing melange of undulating tones that lulls into security before tumbling down into an amorphous ritualistic abyss in the final few minutes. The word ritualistic appears twice there for good reason, as King Of The Grove has been called forth. Only 70 copies of this was made, so harangue Yerevan to rerelease this excellent beauty.

Now bouncing back to the Students of Decay and Californian John Davis' tech-eschewing (and almost a year old) Ask The Dust. Starting with the stuttering synthetic hum of computer talk, Davis spreads his influences far and wide, weaving all oscillations, synth plateaus and sine waves into a breathing paean to humanity - lived, loved, lost - and its arresting to technological mores. It's subtle in many ways, with various passages of composition designed to touch, to awe, yet the electronic intrusions never fully disperse. The samples used are prescient in the least - the final distressed voice crackling out of closing track 'Julian Wind', answering a question of whether she liked being on another planet more than on Earth, says it best though - "I couldn't do all the things; I couldn't accomplish anything; I couldn't talk to anyone I know...I couldn't stay very long."

And to Students of Decay again. Mark Banning's Journey To The Light. Originally recorded in 1984, the album displays a sense of New Age muzak romanticism that is of its time, yet overshadows all cheesy permutations that came thereafter (and boy, are there some off ones...) Performed with processed electric guitar, zither, voice and field recordings, Journey To The Night is one of the truest transformative pieces, transferring fears and anxieties to the dark side of the moon, placing in its stead a cocooning calm. The neo-Zen floating notes is pure 80s - for some reason I see the pixellated sunsets of Sega driving classic Outrun merging with an eternal opium haze dream in Blade Runner-era Los Angeles. There is nothing kitsch about these two pieces - they are earnest, and therefore more honest than anything of its ilk before or since.

The Isle of Man's Isvisible utilises modular synthesisers to crawl into the wormhole, exploring myriad tangents of how drone and beats co-exist (usually with an emphasis on hypnotic, narcoleptic time signatures). He has a huge amount of material floating about the cosmos, but retrospective 0413-0714 serves as a great introduction to his world. This is drone that contorts emotion and tempo, while still interested in highlighting and contrasting both. I could listen to this all night - and do. How there are only 76 followers on Facebook I have no idea. This is great.

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Cestine are an instrumental duo who craft elongated slipstreams of lightweight elegance. The two-track cassette Other Half/Bright Encounter (out through Rok Lok Records), with each song sitting pretty at fifteen minutes each, float along in their own spaces - the former above the stratosphere, the sky devoid of colour, the world devoid of any meaning other than the thought passing through the mind at that very instant; the latter a cassette-coiled crashing of waves, samples and field recordings all corralled into a cavernous isolation before breaking through the other side, eternally cleansed.

These last two entries in this behemoth entry are SM familiars. London-based Hanetration has kept the run of EPs going, with latest Murmurist playing out like a outer-realms stand-alone score to the excellent TV show Utopia, especially opener 'Morning'. The set up too is interesting - the flow of a day (of what I take to be London), with the pinnacle - 'Fly' - lasting less than forty seconds before the sun withers away. 'Sundown' is the most intricate song Hanetration has done yet in my opinion, eschewing the tonal subterfuge that is his MO for textural percussive clashes, a pastoral closing of the day.

And finally we have fydhws from Macedonia. The Sound (four movements in the key of D) is part of his continued exploration of chord structure, stricture, adherence and expansion. This is more in the vein of dark psych drone than the no wave and ambient blasts of his oeuvre. Think White Hills crossed with Earth. So not overtly drone. But it blazes in the darkness, like Earth reimagining giallo scores.