Thursday 30 April 2015

Lazy Tit

An easy title I must say - but here are two releases from Volar Records that I have only recently picked up that need to be heard. Kansas jumped-up punks Lazy have gone and dirtied up the 'Soft Sheets', a sub-two minute blast to the solar plexus, a fistful of glass-encrusted candy and a maniacal grin. 'Don't Die' marches forth like the punk horsemen of the apocalypse, flayed by phlegm and feral pheromones. Bring it on.

Then of course there is the Shawn Foree (Digital Leather)/Bobby Hussy (The Hussy) collaboration TIT. And it plays out like the amalgam of their names - the digital hussy of your dreams. Its lo-to-no-fi synth punk sworls of nefarious nuggets of quasi-futurist nihilism. It's like Numan doing Trans with The Cramps and Thee Oh Sees. Fully warped, fully fucked, fully brilliant. Digging the dystopian cyber march of '8m50s' - especially as it's seven seconds longer than that. You can still get it in coloured 12" vinyl here.

Tangrams In Love

Have to say I've been looking forward to this release for almost a year. I got to see Melbourne goth demons Tangrams play a Minimum Wage show in support of Gazar Strips' EP launch May last year, and their meticulously maintained brooding created an electrifying sine-wave of tension. This is evident on their 7". Even when the guitars boil over into a wail on 'In Love', it is all with gritted teeth and hooded eyes. 'Ephemeral' heads away from the noise and lurks even further in the shadows - which proves to be a ruse, as the caterwaul that finally erupts is an expulsion of torturous tremors. Grab the record here - the band is on a brief hiatus while Sarah ventures overseas, but expect to see more of them in short time.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

By The Grace Of A Golden Tongue

I got Blonde Tongues to open up for The Ocean Party back in November 2013 when the boys were launching their third album Split. It was a bit of a strange night, in that only 30 odd people showed to watch what was a superb lineup (also playing was Nathan Roche, Thigh Master and Dag). Blonde Tongues had only played a handful of shows, but they really impressed me that night with their slightly loose, glossy pop noise.

The four-piece are bringing out their self-recorded, self-titled debut, extending from their singles 'SEILU' and 'Hey Good Lookin'. From the shimmering yet cantankerous opener 'Wedding Bells' to the wonky chagrin of 'Beer', the contained maelstrom of 'Glass Cigar' and the brooding 'When You Come Down Blue', Blonde Tongues is a real feat of shoegazing ingenuity. These guys deserve to be playing more shows - they killed it on the Love Junkies show on Saturday (alongside our own Tape/Off).

European Dreeming

Adelaide bruiser boys Bad//Dreems are on the cusp of their European onslaught, kicking off this Friday May 1 in Leicester. They are playing Thursday May 14 at The Macbeth in London. It’s a quickfire routing of the continent before they start their Cuffed & Collared Australian tour in June. So now is the best time to look at their single 'Cuffed & Collared', their most raucous outing yet. The mix has the vocals out front, which makes the process all the more a sweat-stained, boozed-out good time.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Flagging Down Exploding Washers

I first came across Brooklyn's Washer last year when they put out a fine split with excellent four-piece Big Ups. Now here they are again, this time on a split alongside Flagland (whose 3rd album Love Hard I wrote about here) who have also featured on a split with Big Ups - the triangle is complete. The 7" starts with Flagland's unhinged pop - playing out like the serrated moments of early Modest Mouse, fronted by a young Tim Rogers of You Am I fame. But there was something about the frenetic guitar pop abandon of Washer's 'Joe' that truly grabbed me. It is less than two minutes of seemingly innocuous pop-flecked punk abandon, but the precision stop/start gaps and yowls in the final third, the growl of the guitars - it all points to something much more rabid. Preorder the split here.

Darting Below Empty & Westward Bound

I mentioned Melbourne quintet Darts back in 2012 with their Habitual Slack EP - you can read and listen here. Well they are back, brandishing the sharp-edged debut album Below Empty & Westward Bound (out May 15 through Rice Is Nice). It's twelve tracks of undulating  rock angularity and ambiguity - wavering levels of arresting shouting, wailing and punching through stringent rhythms and an unhinged vocal performance from Angus Ayres. His Frank Black-meets-Isaac Brock whites-of-the-eyes delivery is pretty great. From the punching Iggy Pop swagger of 'Commanche', the swirling pseudo-surf-punk of 'Geek', the Pixies-cheek (with angelic keys in the quieter moments) of 'Push Me Thru' right down to the mariachi drumroll opening 'Dead' and the latter-day Modest Mouse narcissism of 'Solitary Refinement' (currently my favourite track). There are more generational connections of course, with the breathy brood of single 'Aeroplane' found me thinking of theredsunband and the Kelly sisters, albeit in a less shadowy realm. There are other 90s staples licking at the edges here - I even felt a Shudder To Think shiver in the bottom end (that could divide the crowd...). The album is ushered out with 'My Darling Bendingo', a tremulous yet emotive fadeout that was a curiously downbeat yet uplifting end... Such a juxtaposition sounds ridiculous, but its that off-kilter ramble and frission in friction that makes Below Empty & Westward Bound such an enticing prospect.

Darts are supporting Alpine on an Australian tour in June which sees them sweep through the southern end of the country alongside another great lil band Pearls. They will be launching Below Empty & Westward Bound just before that in Melbourne at The Shadow Electric, Saturday June 20. Hopefully heading north thereafter.

Monday 27 April 2015

Donning A Doctor's Anorak

From warped little things, warped big things grow. Bristol dudes Something Anorak had a solid release on their hands last year with their debut Tiny Island (out through Howling Owl Records), and it seems that others took notice - as this week they announced their signing to Lefse Records. To celebrate they brought to life this video for 'I Am A Doctor', perfectly illustrating their parallel universe as they laviscously live out a country estate lifestyle at a narcoleptic pace, at once hedonistic and...warped. It's a great comedown track - cannot wait to see what these dudes bring on next.

Get Lamped With The Strange Day Ravies

This post is two-fold. First of all Sydney gauzy four-piece Day Ravies brought out a cassette EP Under The Lamp on their own Strange Pursuits label. It is four tracks of extrapolated expansion, a divergence from the shimmering excellence of debut album Tussle while remaining true to the DR aesthetic they have effortlessly built over the years. 'Sleepwalk' has a laconic bent due to Sam Wilkinson's vocals, more deadpan and front of the mix than ever before, with a sudden drop into Slowdive fuzz that is exhilarating as it is bombastic. The crunchy distortion on the title track lends a heaving gravity to proceedings, while the whistling synth lines feel like the undercurrent of crossing radio stations, from another song from another era that eerily fits in the proceedings. The drum machine and oscillating effects that opens 'Perennial' is the biggest sidestep here, and again the stomach flip of new horizons being searched comes to the fore - culminating in what is a genre implosion that comes from no discernible decade, yet exists just the the hell of it. I imagine all four members of the band playing this from start to finish with goofy grins plastered on their dials. 'Prior Hour' is a sunny fadeout, a bustling yet bucolic saunter arm in arm into the sunset, quaffing red and feelin' fine.

The second piece of info is a little more cryptic. Day Ravies will be bringing out their second record in a few months time. A lot more detail to come out about that soon. Suffice to say we here at Sonic Masala HQ are VERY excited...

Sunday 26 April 2015

Hits From The Box #100 - Notching The Century

This year is reaching some heady milestones for Sonic Masala. Five years as a blog; one year as a label; the festival has become an annual concern; a new monthly live showcase in London. And here we are, reaching 100 Hits From The Box posts. Who'da thunk it, eh? But before the tears start to fall, crack the beers and crank the volume - let's get on with it!

I can't believe I haven't written about Oli Heffernan of Year of Birds' solo outfit Ivan the Intolerable before, but Splatter Bible is the best time to start. A cassette of bottom-barrel rock that weaves its way through the sewers of garage pop, somehow shimmering amongst the slime (the green cassette is perfect). This is a great release that is almost sold out (through Endless Records) - you have to get on this stat.

Gerda is an Italian noise outfit who have been killing eardrums for almost twenty years. They have only been killing mine for a week or so, ever since I stumbled on their latest album Your Sister, out on 5ive Roses Records. The seven track monster is chaotic, rusted-razor sharp, and explosive - I felt like I was listening to Every Time I Die reappropriating Jawbox songs. I've always teetered on the precipice when it has come to screamo output - there is either a numbness in the similarity between acts, or a dumbness that the expulsion of suppressed, abject rage often brings. But there is a vitality within the ferocity of Gerda's efforts that is energising rather than enervating...or maybe it's the Italian lyrics. Either way, get into this now.

Skeppet's Phase 3 is almost a year old, but I cannot get enough of it. Its a Swedish kosmiche petri dish, floating on a sea of gossamer guitar, surreptitious synth and subtly penetrating percussion. It's a heady ride that percolates languorously yet remains a potent brew, a spaced odyssey of exploration and obsolescence. The duo/trio are able to maintain a percolating intensity through, the kind of bubbling euphoria that the Inner Islands label specialises in. I haven't dipped my toes in these waters for so long - and I surely have missed such hazed and hypnotic escapism. Grab Phase 3 here.

Then we have LA shoegaze mavens Froth, who are about to crack it with their second record Bleak, out next month on the fantastic Burger Records. It looks to be a heady mixture of Wavves-early Cloud Nothings garage pop ephemera, Vaadat Charigim shoegaze euphoria, and Real Estate laidback charm. The frenetic and fun clip for 'Postcard Radio' pretty much nails it to be honest. I missed these guys when they played in London back in March, but I'm sure they will be back again soon.

It wouldn't be right to reach this milestone without bringing some Aussie mates to the party, so to represent Down Under is Sydney cads Black Springs with their latest 7" Time To Go. The dudes have been playing shows alongside contemporaries The Ocean Party, Chook Race and the Ancients - and the two tracks here rumbles along in a similar vein. Just as laconic as the former, with a slightly harder undercurrent a la the middle, and with a psych pop afterglow like the latter. I'm probably a bigger fan of 'Friends' rather than the titular A-side, but both tracks are great. Perfect for summer afternoon blazes, comedowns, fadeouts and resurrections. Their is a debut album, Japanese Hair, in the wings - can't wait for that one.

I'm still a little fidgety though, so let's round off with Round Eye, the anarchic roiling machine from Shanghai. These guys have released their first self titled LP, and I don't even know where to begin explaining this one hey. With guests appearances by Steve Mackay (The Stooges/Violent Femmes) on sax and the inimitable R Stevie Moore, the album feels like Mike Patton's nightmare - that is, all of his efforts rolled into one twitching, seething beast. 'City Livin' may play like a punk explosion, but the myriad other directions this album goes defies categorisation, description, and belief. Safe to say though that these guys are goddamn insane, and all the better for it.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday 25 April 2015

Wilfully Flat Out

Is there anybody out there this Saturday morning? The Wilful Boys are. The Brooklyn via Oz degenerates are releasing the 7" Anybody There? through Ever/Never Records, and here we have the B-side, 'Flat Out'. It's great to hear this kind of Australian gutter rock riled up and ready on the streets of NYC: loose, unhinged, base, living the only way they can - flat out. Great stuff. The boys are getting some good support shows too, nothing better than the WFMU run Obnox show alongside the excellent Uniform (more about these bastards later). If you are around these traps May 16, you know where you should be. Grab Anybody There? here.

Friday 24 April 2015

What's Mine Is Yaws

One of the highlights of the first Sonic Masala London show the other weekend was witnessing the first set by noisetronic wunderkind Yaws. His sense of incremental coalescence, whether it be in sinuous percolating undercurrents or more garish buoyancy, manifests into a trancelike euphoria, combining with a vintage television flickering with white noise in that dark room of mirrors that is Power Lunches, provided a magnetic performance that had the crowd in full thrall. Having heard his EP-in-progress, its clear that Yaws (AKA Dom Stephens) is beguiled by synthetic repetition that walks in the shadows as much as the light. The noise and static is measured yet always pregnant with acidic purpose, whether menacing or acerbic. The Coil reference has been coined, but its the word itself is the clearest connection yet, especially in relation to 'Seventh Continent', the infinitesimal additions of hiss and hum that takes you further down the rabbit hole. I can't wait to see what Yaws brings forth next.

Featuring Feature

Another excellent release from Ruined Smile Records is this lil EP from London trio Feature. I got to catch these girls when they opened for Protomartyr in London back in August, and they really held their own. Featuring members of Sauna Youth and Slowcoaches, the band have put together this five-track number to combine their Tie Dye Records cassette Culture Of The Copy from last year, while the last two tracks are about to feature on a split EP with the aforementioned Slowcoaches called Tourists (out soon on Unwork Records). The first three tracks are rawer due to the initial two piece configuration, so there are spaces in the songs that are well and truly blown out in the live arena here. Set staple 'Psalms' is a particular track that has ramped up since this recording, yet there is an undeniable growl and bluster that underpins it all. 'Wisdom Teeth' (which we see the new film clip for below) and 'Tourism Fiction' show the rambunctious new dynamic, but still holds dear the insidious pop melodies that have always been the band's strength. And we are only likely to have more evidence of this burgeoning power with two new releases in the wind (including one through SM fave Soft Power Records) as well as a full length targeted for 2016.

Pre-order Tourists here. The band just played a free gig with Leeds noiseniks Super Luxury last Friday, but there is more fun to be had with these ladies:

Saturday 2nd May - Odd Box Records Weekender, The Shacklewell Arms, London w/ Slowcoaches, Joey Fourr, The Fish Police and more 

Friday 8th May - Gullivers, Manchester w/ Gorgeous Bully 

Monday 11th May - Oslo, Hackney w/ Cheatahs & No Joy 

Friday 29th May - Berlin, Germany w/ DI√ĄT Saturday 

3rd October - The 9th Annual Nottingham Pop All-dayer, The Maze, Nottingham w/ Witching Waves and more 

Thursday 23 April 2015

Riding High On The Lowtide

This album came out last year, but there is always something that takes a while to take hold. However, Melbourne band Lowtide’s debut album (out through Lost & Lonesome Records) was one that I was really looking forward to, yet in the move to the UK it fell through the cracks. Well since being back in Australia these past three weeks it has copped a hammering, as there is rarely a mood that these 9 songs don’t augment. A beautiful shoegaze chimera, shimmering under the gauze walls of intent and regret, the boy/girl harmonies entwining around your soul. The warm rush of ‘Held’ bleeding into the temporal haze of ‘Autumn’; the melancholy of ‘Blue Movie’ that ebbs and flows with the tide of volume; the 70s swing and slide of ‘Wedding Ring’ that marries into C86 emotions and shoegaze euphoria; the haunting slow-crawl and inevitable swell of ‘Yesterday’; the subtle beauty of ‘Missing History’… Everything is choreographed meticulously – everything is in its right place. Nothing is groundbreaking, because everything is as it should be here – a wash, a cleanse, a reminder, a prop, an anchor, a climax.

Buy Lowtide now - there aren't many copies left, and with good reason. Get on this!

Some Fraudulent Things

Melbourne instrumental jammers Fraudband are back in the saddle with new 10” record Some Things (out through Kasumuen), and it is just as tightroping juxtapositions of tight and loose kinetics as last year's First Songs. The five track offering charges into rollicking territory from the get-go, the guitar-and-drums duo taking a bare-bones approach to roiling repetition. ‘Find Something’ starts off incrementally, silence giving way to shuffles giving way to rumbles, culminating in a one-note riff and rolling it through the wringer, the loose-wristed drumming stuttering and propelling to a feedback finish line. It’s a track like this that echoes back to the embryonic days of the Dirty Three, when they were less magisterial and more cantankerous and wild. The blues growl that permeates Fraudband’s DNA risibly rears its head in behemoth ‘Starting Over’ (albeit with a two minute feedback missive) and the cleverness in its apparent simplicity – repetition and familiarity is key to much of what’s on offer here, yet delivered with a raw crunch and intelligent sense of adventure and discovery in the miscues and drones. I have always loved Fraudband, but on Some Things it is finally apparent just how fun this all is – instrumental rock is not about dour pretension and hallowed intention (and was never meant to be) but about finding the rhythm and fucking it over and over again. And believe me, you will enjoy it.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Multiple Persuasions

(Photo by Grace Stevenson)

While I have spoken about ‘Persuasion’ briefly last year (that squeezed mechanical fart synth line at the beginning? The bombastic nature of the instrumentation? I felt like Gary Numan was channelling early ABC through a Eurythmics filter…which meant I thought it was great), Brisbane’s Siamese twins of soldered synapses Multiple Man have a whole 12” of cyber-synth punk nihilism to extol (out now through Nopatience Records/Burka For Everybody). ‘Labour In Vain’ is closer to the feverish, smoke-filled synthetic detritus we are used to from the duo, while ‘Slave For Love’ is the obvious middle ground. Seeing Sean Campion in a more maniacally camp mode with hardcore rock meltdown Unpeople of recent times had me forgetting about his deep, robotic vocals, and it’s good to get reacquainted with his and brother Chris’ demented wares. Grab it here.

Loving Being Grey

Great instrumental duo The Sea Shall Not Have Them played a wonderfully measured and stately set at this year’s Sonic Masala Fest a couple of weeks back. Since releasing great debut album Mouth a few years ago (I put on their Brisbane launch), they have supported the likes of Om and Russian Circles, while also releasing download-only two-song epic Walking Through Walls. But this post isn’t really about these lovely chaps, but about a band that guitarist Curt Emerton turned me onto – fellow Gold Coast duo Greys. Now there are a number of bands out there that have taken that name on as their own – in fact we have spoken about the Canadian version in the past – but with the release of this Greys’ album Lyre, I now have a new favourite.

The first track to really grab me (and it still slays) was ‘Holy War’ – an incredible maelstrom of emotion, squalling guitar and vocal integrity, reminding me of fellow GC band from the 90s and early 00s, Gaslight Radio – it’s stunning, a homage that didn’t have me clutching for those older classics but rather keen to hear what else Greys had to offer. And procure the goods they do – the slow oscillating melancholy of ‘Data Meta Theta’; the melted pastoral psych drift of ‘SS’ (somewhere in the slipstream of a dreamier Unknown Mortal Orchestra and The Beta Band – and Emerton pops up on guitar); the slow burn ephemera that coalesces into lo-fi solar flare that is the impressive ‘The Golden Years’; the fractured articulate rock of ‘El Eternauta’ that cascades in sparks and cymbal fire; the hushed fadeout of ‘Apollo 8’ with its hushed instrumentation and sampled vocals… Lyre is the kind of album that would have been taking the dark horse route on Triple J back when I used to listen to it (says the old curmudgeon…) – loud, emotive, a little experimental, a little weird, filled with epic swells and euphoric catharsis. Let’s hope we hear a lot more from these talented guys this year and beyond.

Lyre is out through Strange Yonder later this year – get on this.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Brighter Gods Carve Out A Mathematical Future

One of the most intimate and exciting venues to rise up in Brisbane over the last decade, The Waiting Room, sadly closed its doors last year. In a city renowned for closing venues before they really get a chance to flourish, the three years it had been open is something of a miracle – a glorified house party a few nights a week in West End, albeit with a good sound system and PA, a caring and passionate management and staff, BYO sensibilities and communal goodwill permeated every show. And there were some stellar shows – from Mt. Eerie making a pleasantly unexpected visit to many great local and interstate acts getting in on the love. Two of my favourite shows ever that took place in that 80-person venue involved Auckland three-piece God Bows To Math, one of the most underrated bands in the Southern Hemisphere. Their serrated buzzsaw of a self-titled album blew the membranes out of the inner linings of my mind back in 2011 - the engine room of Thomas Morrison (drums) and Sam Cussen (bass) pounding incessantly and Martin Phillips’ barked, acerbic lyrics and dessicated guitar melts.

I have been extremely lucky to have a penultimate master of their follow up Brighter Futures on my laptop for the past few months, and FINALLY I have the final version and the album is hitting the world with a sledgehammer subtlety and cathartic charm. The thing is, it is when there is a measured stasis, a crawl, a breath taken, that the atmosphere and intensity is ratcheted up tenfold – the sample and two minute intro to ‘1999 Doomsday’ and the tempered vocals and skeletal instrumentation that eats its own tail in ‘Moral Prophylaxis’ are anxiety eaters, so that when the impending doom and destruction finally hit it is gargantuan in scope and precision. Even the brutally succinct ‘Munchausen’, which barely cracks a minute in length, opens with a quarter minute of near silence. The Sonic Youth and Shellac comparison I initially held with the trio still holds some weight, but Brighter Futures showcases a rougher hewn angularity, emotional expulsion and exorcism. ‘High Strings’ for some reason reminded me of My Disco, Jakob and a more unwound Unwound simultaneously – the insidious bass, the gravelly vocals that bleed into something more ephemeral, the instrumental groove, pummelling drums… All of which comes to an end on ‘Oil of Vitriol’, a strange track that brings back all these through lines and balls them up into a compacted whole.

Grab Brighter Futures (out through Muzai Records) here. Support these guys, stat.

Steady As She Covers

Tal Wallace, one man Man In Black as pastoral soothsayer of doom The Steady As She Goes, released a great album last year in the form of Dead & Dangerous, meticulously crafting a plodding, mellotron-heavy march through the seven levels of Lovecraftian hell, as scored by a Machiavellian Ennio Morricone. This year he has produced another album in the form of Folklord, a free download on his Bandcamp. It is a idiosyncratic rendition of a bunch of 16 Horsepower songs, and plays out how you might expect – dark and desolate, with Wallace’s baritone front and centre. The forays into, and unabashed embrace of, doo-wop (haha) and country tropes on the likes of ‘Sinnerman’, ‘Beyond The Pale’ and especially ‘Single Girl’ are a delight – imagine Johnny Cash if he played his classics with Neil Young’s Ol’ Black distorted guitar – but its where the songs naturally roll into TSASG staples that are the most impressive. The one two Western Armageddon of ‘Hutterite Mile’ and ‘Outlaw Song’, and the spectral crawl and Ennio haunt of ‘Horse Head Fiddle’, are excellent. My favourite track though is the closer ‘La Rope A Parasol’ – it’s haunting as you would expect, but there is a euphoria imbued within that hints that Wallace might actually be having…fun? God forbid.

It is a download only release, and even so in this squirrelled away corner of the world - have at it. Their second album is on its way...

Monday 20 April 2015

Flying Blind

Minneapolis bone rattlers The Blind Shake melted my face off with their new album Fly Right (available mid-April through Slovenly Records). The thugabilly in a metal barrel smash-n-grab opener ‘Tar Paper’ is almost a misnomer, as the rest of the album takes some of that vitriol and skewed energy and throws it in a myriad different directions. There is the Spaghetti surf squall of ‘A Clock, A Window, A Pyramid’; the trudge punk assault of ‘Holy Road’; the rollicking phaser march of ‘Ape Lives A Life’; the psych narcolept drawl of ‘Diamond Days’; the JSBX epileptic spiral of ‘More Land’… The titular track takes more deliberate time in flaying your nerves wide open – a desert nightmare dressed in dirt-caked leather and sordid sneers, before ‘Salt’ lifts the mask enough to bring back the silliness. It’s a great blast of a record that is pretty short in duration but long in attitude and weird. I'm a big fan – I'm sure you will be too. 

Pre-order Fly Right here. The Blind Shake are playing here in London on May 9 at Shacklewell Arms - should be a corker.

Wandering Exhaustion

Last year Exhaustion released their second LP Biker, and it was easily one of my favourite releases of the year. So when I saw this drop into my inbox (on my birthday no less) I was immediately excited. But as you may have noticed, Sonic Masala has been fairly quiet the last month and a half, so I haven’t been able to describe the calamity that unfolded once I started playing the damn thing. You see, these psych rock marauders aren’t just whipping out an extension to their work – this is a blown out, visceral collaboration with Dutch-born tenor saxophonist Kris Wanders, strongly versed in the heady days of early free improv in Europe, having smashed holes through convention alongside the likes of Peter Brotzmann (seriously what isn’t this guy doing these days? Must be one of the busiest men on the planet right about now…) However there is a sense of dynamism on this one-sided LP that eschews each participant’s previous outpourings. There are swells of cathartic metal clang and wind, a caterwaul of desperate release; and there are troughs of tetchy silence, interspersed with false starts and tics that underscores the nervous energy each player brings to the proceedings. It wouldn’t surprise me if Endless Melt had infused sweat and blood into the wax as each record was pressed, so evident is the fever that this collaboration captures. Duncan Blatchford doesn’t allow for his guitar to do all the hissing and spewing though – his vocal interjections are guttural, impulsive, primal breaths, grunts and pants, a rebirth borne of exertion, viscera and saliva. Wanders’ punctuations are speed-of-light ripostes through the defences, at once wondrous and debilitating. It all makes for a heady melange of impulses and expulsions, sewn together by sinew and devilish determination. Grab it here.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Hits From The Box #99 - RSD Redaction

Record Store Day was yesterday. I didn't go. I was even a block from Flashback Records on Essex Road. I don't disagree with the day - I'm hoping that stores like Flashback had an amazing day - it's more what major labels have done to the day, and how that negatively influences bands and small independent labels. But I'm not here to give you the breakdown of RSD - I'm gaffer-taping my proverbial mouth before this post gets politicised. Instead I want to revel in the fact it's a Sunday - and time for another Hits From The Box.

I was talking to a mate Graham about Metz yesterday, so it seems fitting to kick things off with London band Crows, who will be supporting the band on their return here in June. The four-piece released the smoky grey 7" Crawling/Pray last month, and it's a goddamn punch to the gut. 'Crawling' plays out firstly like a loud and fairly decent rock track, until things start winding down, the dirge filters through, the riffs bend, the vocals waver - and you feel like you are indeed crawling, over a sea of bleached bones. 'Pray' cranks it up, a dirty blues racket that has been covered in chrome and dropped into a pit of cement, only for the siren wail guitar to call forth the fever in the final third of the track. Great way to get the grit stuck in your teeth.

Let's head to Perth, Australia. There has always been an interesting scene over here - its so isolated from the rest of the continent, let alone the world, that the musicians there just do what they do, without link or lineage, trend or trajectory. So it is always a seething, self-sufficient scene. Lately there seems to be a heavy dose of psych emanating from the West Australian capital, but more importantly, hidden by the Ponds and Tame Impalas, is the return of the riff. Puck are a trio whose grunge-laced rock is all about mood and aggression, and their four-track EP perfectly encapsulates this. The doom riffs on 'Eye Of The Day' are killer. There are moments, like 'Knowing Better', that I'm even reminded of Alice In Chains? That's a good thing.

Continuing down the distorted path we have California X, whose Nights In The Dark LP is a corker. The Massachusetts band deal in melodic raucous punk that has moments of darkness, of blown out noise, but above all else is a glorious series of vignettes about existing in a pre-determined geography, and dreams of breaking out. There are elements of Weezer, Dinosaur Jr (listen to the 'Hadley, MA' solo!) but above all their languid rock efforts are in a driving in the desert in the dark kinda space, a slacker take on prog, a moody yet ear-tearing rumination on place and space.

Coming from all over the shop - Australia, England, Sweden - we have the dreamy soundscapes of Kid Wave whose Gloom EP is a graceful wash of breathy vocals, shimmering instrumentation that bursts forth in a cascading roar of sunny emotion. There is some momentum behind the band - they played a sellout show at the Sebright Arms recently, and are supporting Palma Violets on their norther England tour. Keep an eye on these guys.

Nashville isn't known for its effervescent dreamscapes (is it?), but Devan Kochersperger, the frontman of dream pop outfit Grave Pool, has crafted something special in second LP Mnemonics, somehow straddling the New Romantic past and the neo-glow future. The cover art is incongruous to the music contained within - a watercolour of a cabin at the foot of a snowswept mountain - and therein is the wonder - it's a kaleidoscope of shimmering whimsy in a hyperreal twilight. The video for 'Neon Summers' features clips from The Lost Boys - and suits it. College and Electric Youth worked wonders on their Drive collaboration, and you feel that Grave Pool is next in line to find that new/old visual connection to strike major gold.

And we will finish Death & Vanilla and their new record, To Where The Wild Things Are (out next month on Fire Records). The Swedish trio encapsulate luxuriant velvety psych, as 'California Owls' attests to. This isn't as simple as that though - each song is an intricate tapestry, a latticework of sonic exploration that wavers from garage noir to atmospheric pop that meshes into a wave of euphoria. They launch the album in London at Birthdays Friday May 15 - grab tickets here.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday 17 April 2015

PREMIERE - Sonic Explorer Andrew Tuttle Constructs The Evening With Matmos


It's been six weeks, but Sonic Masala (the blog) is back! We have plenty to speak about, shit on about, brag about and listen to. We haven't been idle - the sixth entry into the Sonic Masala Records stable, Dollar Bar's third LP Hot Ones, is now out and smokin' hot; the second annual (that's right - watch out 2016!) Sonic Masala Fest kicked arse in Brisbane, Australia; and just last Saturday we had our first live showcase right here in London, featuring Giant Swan, Yaws, mnttab and TOOMS - officially an international concern!

So I thought the best way to come back into the written form is with a bang - so here is the premiere of 'Post Meridiem Construction', the new track of Andrew Tuttle's second proper release Slowcation, out on Room40 cassette imprint A Guide To Saints. Featuring Matmos' MC Schmidt, it is a soft melt, the drip filter of whiteout afternoons, where the sun is out but colour drains from the canvas. A netherland of overt emotion, it provides the perfect platform for reflection, rumination and regrowth.

The album itself perfectly encapsulates the fervent yet awestruck fever one gets when in the presence of a positive energy that Tuttle embeds in all of his work. The A side was created while Tuttle toured the States, taking in such diverse outsider fare as the Goldrush Festival in Denver and hanging out with Matmos and Dan Deacon; while the B side was created back on home soil, with the vacation turbines still winding down. Starting with that familiar warm cut up tone of Tuttle's trusty banjo, 'Vernon City Limits' glistens with an eternal shimmer, like solar flares on a slowed-down Super 8 video of a car journey through an innocent past (with the aid of Christopher Fleeger). There is always a percolating sense of innocence and hope in Tuttle's work (dating back to the early days of his Anonymeye guise), yet on Slowcation there is a innate confidence in his efforts to splice and reorder sonic structures entwined with a subversive joy in overlaying bucolic whimsy and happenstance over synthetic currents that sets this above and beyond what he has put to tape in the past. Even the pinging fray that opens 'Wave Triplet' explodes into cascading colour, aural sparks of kaleidoscopic wonder. Tuttle has become an artist in displaying the computer as a expansive palette, a conduit to further realms for more organic instrumentation, and Slowcation is further proof, if any was needed, that programming and hard edits can provide transcendental epiphany.

Slowcation comes out at the end of the month - pre-order it here. Tuttle has a series of shows coming up to showcase the release, so make sure you get along to one of the below and say g'day - he will definitely say g'day back and have a beer and talk cricket if you are into that sort of thing:

• 23.04.2015: The Bearded Lady, Brisbane. with No Magic + Feeding Fauna + Blank Realm x Monopoly Child Star Searchers DJs. 138 Boundary St, West End. $10, 8pm.

• 03.05.2015: Pretty Gritty @ 107 Projects, Sydney. with AFXJIM + Monica Brooks + CORIN + Samuel James. 5:30pm-9pm, $10/8. 107 Redfern Street, Redfern.

• 04.05.2015: Mundane Mondays @ The Old Bar, Melbourne. with Carolyn Connors + Brite Fight. 8pm, $5. 74 Johnston St, Fitzroy.