Sunday 28 June 2015

Hits From The Box #105 - The Thick Of Summer

Not a bad weekend London. Spent Saturday wandering around the joint, drinking in Spitalfields/Shoreditch/on the Thames; spent Sunday lapping up the intermittent sun and vintage sparkle in Crystal Palace. Now at home enjoying copious Doom Bars and fajitas while watching The Iannucci programs, listening to music and revelling in wearing shorts without climate recriminations. Work may be shit, and I still may not get enough time (or definitely money) in the day to focus on Sonic Masala, but when London embraces you it's a mighty fine thing.

Let's get into some new music - and because I have the buzz on, let's look at eight acts out of the inbox!

Kicking off with Boston's Vundabar, yet another amazing off-kilter guitar rock band from Massachusetts (how aren't these guys on Exploding In Sound?). Their record Gawk is something to get excited about - a bubbling, fidgeting, spasming gem, playing like Menomena with a Pile complex (don't we all these days?). Math rock twitches, tropical vocals that belie inherent personal anxieties and anachronisms, melodies destined to burrow into your brain - Gawk has it all. Pick it up here.

With bands like Gazar Strips, Nite Fields and Bat Nouveau, Brisbane has had its fair share of great Gothic post-punk acts over the last few years. Now add Nature Trails. The four-piece manage to traverse time, space, geography - a Matt Beringer croon here, a Simon Gallup bassline there, cold yet entrancing 80s Berlin monochrome wasteland everywhere. Their six EP In Glass is glistening with ethereal yet pervasive promise, and their current strong work ethic will see the four-piece continue to rise.

Staying Down Under we check out the demos of Sydney trio Draining Pool. Barking Out casts a three-sided die of alternate possibility - 'I'm So Low' starts off like a narcoleptic Stephen Malkmus murmur before hiccoughing into a washed out fuzz dream; 'Intelligence' tingles with urgency, an off-key radio transmission that bleeds into the mainstream like a emaciated Antipodean Gaslight Radio relic; and 'Barking Out' takes its time in building its wonky indie patois, taking in a Krautrock hue and hemming it all in with the effect of a broken foyer speaker dribbling forth muzak from another world. These are early days, but Draining Pool really evoke something special. The band play with SM faves Spirit Bunny and Matt Banham this Saturday in Sydney before venturing to the Queensland capital for fellow Sydneysiders Beast & Flood's album launch at the Bearded Lady (alongside SM cronies Ghost Notes and great upstarts Low Season).

Excellent French distro label Beko Disques have been promoting a lot of Aussie stuff recently (expect to hear more news about these releases soon...and maybe a few SM related things too...). The main release that I have been listening to the past week though has been from Ukrainian band Blagodat, whose two-track taster is incredible. Taking sinuous post-punk lurkers into a lustrous yet brooding soundscape, Blagodat rattle the cages with gravity and grandeur. As you can see I am loving this kind of sound right now...

The Rauch-Sasseen sisters (Anna, Erin and Katie) make up the centrifugal force of Brooklyn's Hey Anna, whose soon-to-drop album Run Koko is a golden miasma of indie whimsy that manages to offer effervescence through prisms of light melodies and bombastic instrumental bluster. From the propulsive drive and 'Spirit In The Sky' echoes of 'Don't Talk Stop' to the cascading shimmer and shadow of 'Island and the smart punchiness of 'Move Your Body', Hey Anna manage to marry melody with muscle and in the process are crafting some of the most infectious pop of 2015 while maintaining a high degree of integrity. Heavyweight lightness maybe?

Back to Australia now with Kit Convict & Thee Terrible Two, a rough and ready, ramshackle garage rock band that revel as much in adulation of idols The Easybeats as they do with modern garage contemporaries and injecting it all with a strong serum of The Cramps' rusted ridiculousness, the trio's album Watch Your Skull is a breakneck blast of seventeen songs, all delivered with a railyard punch and spat with vim and vigour, 70s Brit punk laid over rattle-and-chains primitivism. It's roughshod, raw, nascent and nihilistic - and a hell of a lot of fun.

Synth punk nihilists Ho99o9 are following in the scum-lined footstops of GG Allin and Death Grips on their EP Horrors of 1999. MC Ride and Zach Hill have blown a hole in the fabric of what to expect of punk and these grotbags stutter out of the same diseased amniotic fluid. These guys are about to be huge. Their VHS horror video below is also incredibly brilliant. I'm in awe of this scabrous descent - the Death Grips comparisons may be inevitable, but Ho99o9 are carving their own nightmare, one inch of flesh at a time.

And to glide into the Sunday summer sunset we have Florida's Sea Cycles who have presented a suite of subterranean dreams in the form of debut album Ground & Air. The band revels in creating intricately unspooling and intense instrumentals interspersed with Lindsey Slante's undulating, soaring-on-the-airstreams vocals. Imagine Explosions In The Sky and The Album Leaf jamming in a secluded woodland clearing - Sea Cycles is the heady, hypnotic result.


Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday 27 June 2015

Cleaning Rifles With Your Cousin

Brighton trio Cousin really impressed us with their intricate wiry debut EP Alternate Tunings For Regular People, filled as it was with “tight, intricate guitarwork, incessant grooves, a rhythm that doesn't know how to quit so beats the shit out of you instead, a melodicism that is infused with equal parts sunshine, narcotics and playful disdain.” (that’s me quoting our review. I don’t think I have ever done it in this way before. Weird.)

Back in March the band released their follow-up EP Music To Polish Your Rifle To (out through Fcking The Night and Barely Regal Records), maintaining their faux-instructional pretences while playing with the wordsmithery, the titles of the 6 songs evoking backwoods sweat-stained inertia and anxieties. Don’t worry, the music has stayed the same – Cousin are clearly infatuated with the Polvo school of atmospheric intricacies. In my opinion the new songs are a little muted – a sense of gravity pervading the compositions, a subtlety that belies the playful nature of the song titles. So the languid nature of ‘Oversized Haulage’ or the freneticism of ‘Dry Steering On A Wet Road’ feels undercut by a rich seam of control, of tempered temperatures, of zen abrasion. I was expecting something more frenetic, more sinuous, yet Music To Polish Your Rifle To instead enthrals through intricate mechanisms designed to entrance, to control. Pick it up here.

Wringing Out The Broken Water

Olympia's Broken Water have always been a pretty exciting band for me - one of the first entries into the Night People label for me, their mix of atonal distorted quicksand and opaque melodic pop evoking Sonic Youth or early days Blonde Redhead with a bit of Widowspeak colouring the edges. New record Wrought certainly upholds this sounds - listen to the sonorous squall of '1984' or the spoken word and no wave guitar squall histrionics of 'Choice' for example - but there is a cleanliness and effortlessness to some of these tracks that suggests the trio may not have waded out of the deep dark waters of distortion, but have at least found cause to don their Raincoats. Opening gambit 'Hi-Lo' is the clearest indicator that sunshine permeates the darkness, even if opaque ('Am I right or am I wrong/All I know is I do not know'). 'Love & Poverty' is a song in the same world - imagine a Fortuna Pop alum covered by Electrelane at their most pop esoteric. 'Close' floats in on a percolating wave of shoegaze fuzz, before Kanako Pooknyw's vocals takes a downturn, things grind to a low rumble, before we amble along to a wistful close. Elsewhere we see Jon Hanna take vocal duties on the likes of 'Wasted' (whose gravel-ripped round-voweled vocals feels like other 90s progenitors of alternative rock (when that was a positive term) Screaming Trees and Social Distortion) and 'Psycho Static' which feels more akin to Thurston Moore having a narcoleptic dream, eyes at half mast, slight left jaw paralysis, simple strumming, late sun dreaming, before the requisite distortion kicks the needle into another direction but still feels like an amble at its feverish height. Hanna's vocals find another sideways slide on 'Set Free', carved out of a Mascis drawl and a Vedder howl. 'Stone' has more in tune with the lo-fi machinations of Veronica Falls coupled with a high, ragged tempo that Vivian Girls often conjured up. These somewhat obvious touchstones may read as lazy observations, but they help assuage the idea that Wrought and Broken Water themselves are steeped in recognition while upholding their subversions - railing against the surveillance police state of '1984', the soul-crushing monotony of low-level jobs on 'Close'.  The elongated closer 'Beach' though gives us the truest sense of where the band has ended up - on the waterline as day starts its transformation into night, at first ethereal, before the cold whips at the edges of your bones, the stars prick holes in the darkness and start to swirl, convex lines of light, before they shatter and fall to the earth in cacophonous glory. A dreamscape? A nightmare? Reality and fantasy, originality and familiarity, fuse together into one main constant - that Broken Water lapping at your feet. Pick up Wrought here.

Friday 26 June 2015

In Heptagon Heaven

Here's to the weekend, let's get lost in the world government...

I sometimes get sent things in the inbox that I get blindsided by - last week it was Tearjerker that took me by surprise. But occasionally there is something that I listen to and really enjoy - and I don't know how we came to this point. It can come down to a day of listening to submissions that have not done much for me, so the expectations become lower or more desperate - but sometimes it's by total accident. Fate, if you believe in things. There is nothing remarkable about the release that grabs the attention - indeed it might have artwork, listed references or the written press release copy that turns me off the aural content before I have even hit play. However even then somehow the sonics hit the airwaves and my resolve dissolves.

This is what happened with Heptagon Heaven, David Owens' new project (he of AMDISCS band Vial of Sound). The press release stated that HH was for fans of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Daft Punk and Air. Now I have enjoyed some Black Moth Super Rainbow in the past, as I have Daft Punk and Air, but I wouldn't say any of that sound interests me in 2015, and certainly doesn't pique my interest to see what tangential shift such an artist might bring to these ideas. Yet I still hit play on 'World Government'...and the insistent earworm burrowed into my soul. The beats are simple but its the oscillating synthesised roll that plays like a ADHD 8 bit insect, all primary colours and blocked binaries, buzzing in the brain.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Philadelphia Collins Is The Sofa Queen

Man, talk about excited. One of the best labels of the last few years has been Boston's Exploding In Sound - mining the rich depths of discordant guitar rock squalls, quirks and tics, they have brought to the world amazing records from the likes of Pile, Ovlov, Palehound, Disco Doom, Krill, LVL UP, Bad History Month, Grass Is Green, Washer,'s a mighty impressive roll call. So you can understand my unbridled excitement at the unveiling of Philadelphia Collins. You always have to be wary with pun-based bands - although this one isn't as mawkish or obvious as some, and is preceded by the above Trailer Park Boys character - but when the members come from this pedigree (Speedy Ortiz, Ovlov, Grass Is Green) all aspersions are duly cast aside. And when first taster 'Sofa Queen' features the vocals of Palehound's Ellen Kempner - well it's a nobrainer. 'Sofa Queen' is a noisy clusterbomb, imploding on itself in lazy spooling white noise, but it takes its time to unwind, mirroring Kempner's drawled breathy voice nicely before the gnarled edge creeps in...  The track comes off Derp Swervin', where the band employs vocals from other EIS bands such as Two Inch Astronaut and Dirty Dishes. Pre-order it here.

James X Boyd & The Boydoids Ride Again

It was so great to see James X Boyd out on the tiles with his Boydoids at the last Sonic Masala show at Power Lunches - they were truly great, and will have some more shows in the future I guarantee. I even named his first two albums, the first self-titled, the second Super Low, as some of my favourites of the year back in 2013. And here are a few tracks they recorded from that set - including personal favourite 'Brunswick St Junkies'. It's iPhone "special" recordings, but gives you a hint of the rusty charms that this wry mastermind has up his sleeves, whilst the last song 'Real Madrid' eases the pain with an altogether different salve, letting out new flesh, a warm, almost cute minimalist Krautrock dream. My love affair, rekindled.

Shoegaze FOREVR

The falling away of Brisbane shoegaze giants Roku Music after only one album (last year's stellar Collider, and Sonic Masala Records' first release) has left a hole in the fabric of the Australian music scene, as their take on the gargantuan sonic wash lifted aloft by sonorous angelic vocals was mesmerising. But despite rumours that the band rumbles on, there are other outlets to embrace. A few weeks ago we were in thrall of the punkgaze esoterics of Deafcult (featuring Roku's Innez Tulloch); and now we have FOREVR, the new project for Donnie Miller. Aiding him in these further expeditions in fuzz-soaked abandon is Sam George-Allen, and their four-track taster Demonstration is incredible. Her vocals on the woozy submerged-sun-trip 'Yucatan' for example lends an air of ethereal distance, a Syren held aloft, out of touch, much desired. FOREVR takes a stronger electronic/metallic harshness to 'Heart Of Ice', yet the kinetic energy that bounces refracted off the synthetic/organic hybrid adds a luminous halo to the deeper acrid tones on display. The decadent imagery continues on sinuous creeper 'Midas At Night', while Miller's guitar bends and dips in his inimitable style, both an affront and an embrace. They finish off with the cascading cacophony 'Forgive', which despite its name holds an aura of aggression under the seam of white sparks that shower down from the heavens. Demonstration is a cheeky title, as FOREVR launch forth fully formed, their powers for all to see.

Demonstration is out now on shiny garish gold cassette. FOREVR launch it with an instore at Tyms Guitars in Brisbane on Friday July 10.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Sleep In Richter

Back in 2013 Heinz Riegler made a tape for A Guide To Saints, the cassette offshoot of Room40, called Sleep Health. It was designed conceptually as a sleep mechanism – Riegler was hoping that the rhythms would act as a therapeutic salve for his own insomnia and for a family member who was also struggling to find respite in the blissful arms of slumber. It isn’t the first time someone has composed music in order to aid or be heard during our sleep cycles - Cage, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young - even bloody Jeff Bridges has done an ambient spoken word recording designed to lull people into hibernation.

Now we can add to this rather obtuse sub-genre another work – SLEEP by British composer Max Richter – and it might be the big daddy of them all. SLEEP is thought to be the longest single piece of music ever to be recorded, at eight hours in length. Sound boring? That is kinda the point – Richter has designed the piece to render people unconscious – that is, to send listeners to sleep, “an eight-hour lullaby”. Richter describes it as a “manifesto for a slower pace of existence.” How it works is is an exploration of music, consciousness and human connectivity...

Now I can tell you I REALLY WANT TO GO TO THIS PREMIERE (anyone out there listening???). SLEEP will receive its world premiere this September in Berlin, in a concert performance lasting from 12 midnight to 8am at which the audience will be given beds instead of seats and programmes. For real. This is actually happening.

Now the full version will be released as a digital piece, with a one-hour rendition to be released through Deutsche Grammophon (pre-order here). And I'm sure the truncated piece will be great too – but who gives a shit? I want to go to this exhibition/performance piece and see if I can fall asleep to music and wake up a different person. Hang on – I DO THIS EVERY DAY. I think this is an incredibly interesting idea – but how do you gauge its success? If it bores you to sleep? What if you are genuinely tired? Will the music really have an effect? Will everyone have the same dream, or fall asleep at the same time? Will there be people placed in the crowd on meth, to see if it is a universal aural sedative? So many variables. At any rate, I want to see the result – but I can imagine tickets/beds to this thing will fly out the freaking door, so you better be quick.

Can't Take It When It's Sextile

Really digging this track from LA synthetic doomsayers Sextile. 'Can't Take It' plays a few cards - squalling, screeching monochrome guitars; menacing gothic synth; a brooding yet barely controlled vocal delivery; a simple metronomic rhythm to hold you hogtied in the velvet darkness. Even the imagery plays on multiple levels. This is the kind of goth punk that embraces the power of pain, rather than succumbs morosely to it, and projects it back tenfold. A force to be reckoned with, Sextile bring out their debut album A Thousand Hands in August through Felte Records - pre-order it here - and have a few dates around the States later this month with Au.Ra.

No Clouds Over This Zen Summer

Cloud is Tyler Taormina of Long Island and is fresh behind the ears - not that you would guess it’s the one young dude with how huge and fun his second album Zen Summer (out now through Paper Trail Records) comes across. ‘Sunshine Psych’ has the summer psych euphoria that Woods espouses. There is an easy inherent groove in the likes of ‘Mantra One’ that evokes early Broken Social Scene -  in fact there are a number of moments on Zen Summer that remind me of that band’s second album You See It In People. There is a bucolic bubbling that underpins the album too, something that infuses naturalistic freak-folk shamans like Devendra Banhart or pastel-freak-popsters Animal Collective (‘Luana’). It is this constant sense of colourful inventiveness and verve that makes Zen Summer such an appetising prospect. The album supposedly comes from a dark place, a deliberate attempt to suppress anxieties and trepidations about the outside world and Taormina’s place in it, and songs like the atmospheric ‘Melting Cassatt’ and chaotic cascading ‘Sleepy Giant Speak’ certainly hint at these internal misgivings. Whether the creation of Zen Summer works for him is unsure, but he easily succeeds at setting the listener at ease at the very least, which is a great effort.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Sometimes, But Not Always Caged

Just like Trupa Trupa’s Headache coming out on Blue Tapes, I was not expecting an album like Sometimes Always Never to come out on experimental label Pan y Rosas. It’s not a complete surprise – Cagey House has put two albums out through them in the past, and the staccato drums and breezy interplay evokes someone well versed in free jazz improvisation. But it is the plaintive space and dare I say dainty compositions here, with so much space within a soft soundscape, that threw me. It is the contemplative score of infanthood; of discovering how to crawl, to walk, to run; to laugh at something of your own creation, not just weird sounds and faces; to recognise the warmth of the sun on your face as a positive force for the first time. For me, the title Sometimes Always Never is the notion that these moments, these first, are sometimes (always) never truly experienced again. Even the freedom and adrenal rush of running, laughing, enjoying life, feels like a construct, a shadow of the pure form of enjoyment and happiness. The child’s voice on ‘Mother Life’ almost accentuates this – the words, like life, light, share, today, fish, enough, all evoke the first realisation of what these words encapsulate – and the mystery of the words become lost through knowledge. It’s a slight sound collage, in eight vaguely song-based pieces, but as a celebration of life and the melancholy of its passing, it’s a striking work.

Blue Trupa's Double Headache

This one blindsided me. I had never heard of Polish band Trupa Trupa before, true; but more for the fact that it came from Blue Tapes, a label that is admittedly eclectic in sonic output but is generally more to the abstract noise/ambient outliers of the musical spectrum (Tashi Dorji, Henry Plotnick, Father Murphy). Headache, Trupa Trupa’s third album, is not like this – more akin to noisy indie rock meltdowns than overtly electronic  or jazz-inflected experimental fare. Their listed reference points include Swans, Sonic Youth and Slint. But then it isn’t as brazenly atonal as you may think based on these signifiers. 

‘Snow’ is a rambling unruly maudlin pop song with blown-out guitars, reminding me of 90s guitar bands like Australia’s Gaslight Radio. ‘The Sky Is Falling’ feels like a later-era Beatles track with a Soundtrack Of Our Lives vintage/homage aftertaste that explodes in the mouth with a cathartic rally of arms. ‘Wasteland’ has a chaotic musical middle third not far removed from the orgiastic, sumptuous noise tapestries that Blonde Redhead have become experts at weaving. In fact, Headache is simply a great record, regardless of the perceived influences – the minimal brooding and hushed vocals of ‘Halleyesonme’, the twisted shuffle leading into an inexorable organ-led miasmic meltdown on ‘Getting Older’; the liberating rise and fall of ‘Rise And Fall’; the motorik tension of the title track. Most of the songs dish out crescendos, but not in the cheap cop-out mould – every build up and release is poles apart, plumbing a different emotional depth and offering a respite, sonic acupuncture. 

By the time we get to the post-punk sworl of closer ‘Picture Yourself’, you will be begging to get to Gdansk and see these guys in person, rope them into being your theme music band, and have them follow you around every day in real time, scoring your failures, triumphs and ennui. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Headache here.

Pained Murray On A Ciggie Break

Zac Denton and his not-so-merry men (and wo-man) Ciggie Witch are back with 'Look of Pain' (out through Lost & Lonesome and Osborne Again - although no longer on Osborne St RIP *sigh*), a sonorous yet maudlin jaunt, the juxtaposition between sunny composition and wryly morose exposition, continuing to make the same mistakes, only at the expense of himself. The last lines, "Don't even worry yourself/It's my groundhog day" are bittersweet - a hangdog expression, woe-is-me, right? But we all know that Bill Murray came out of it smelling of roses, stopped being shit and became a better man with a film that still gets good Nielsen hits even though Channel 10 play it once a quarter. Who knows - maybe Denton will finally get his Andie MacDowall? We can dream and hope. Fave CW song yet.

Ciggie Witch are cruisin around being ciggie witches with Cool Sounds - catch them here and there:

June 25 — Canberra @ Phoenix w/ Cool Sounds + California Girls
June 26 — Sydney @ The Union w/ Cool Sounds + Staunch Nation
June 27 — Ballarat @ The Eastern w/ Cool Sounds + Crepes + Bleach Boys

July 24 — Castlemaine @ The Bridge w/ Cool Sounds
July 25 — Melbourne @ The Shadow Electric — Lost And Lonesome Leaps & Bounds Festival Party w/ The Zebras + Milk Teddy + Footy + Tim Richmond + Monnone Alone

Monday 22 June 2015

Cosmic Comet Ritual

Here is some late night light psych from stalwarts Comet Gain. Their four-track EP Fingerprint Ritual opens with a twelve minute ‘Breaking Open The Head Pt 2’ (a continuation and tangent from the part 1 found on their seventh LP Paperback Ghosts), using a slow, soft oscillation and backwards guitars to build a mist-like mantra that envelops and engrosses. ‘That Lucifer Summer’ feels more garage-lite, taking the psych into the basement, draped with velvet curtains and amber lights, lounging around and jamming. Something that continues into ‘To The City’s Core’, which purportedly features the abnd’s first funky break and a farfisa organ played through a mangled fuzz pedal. Its insidious insinuation of the city as a virus belies a late 60s Blue jam vibe. ‘The Insignificant Dignified’ ends it all, a hushed protest that plays along with the Animals/Troggs rousing template, getting properly fuzzed out and jammed to the edges and beyond. Feeling vintage and straight from the source, Fingerprint Ritual sees the veterans remaining on course for the sun. 
Get it (in red vinyl) here.

Holding On To The Briggs

Jackson Briggs used to tear up the guitar in Brisbane's unique Outback Gothics Nikko. He is now out on his own, chucking his middle name in there and has an equally ramshackle band behind him as Jackson Reid Briggs & the Heaters, and is preparing to release 7" Holding On. It's loose, rambunctious, rough around the edges rock and roll, tired yet desperate to dispel the demons, or drown in amber trying. It's the kind of singalong that has a whiff of hope come from the cracked lips of a broken man that refuses to lie down. Holding On is coming out through Kasumuen Records (home to SM faves Fraudband) - get it here. Jackson is a bit of a restless shaggy soul, traipsing all over Australia and Japan in the past, and he is coming to Europe in July. He will be playing the next Sonic Masala showcase here in London alongside Hygiene, Primetime and Tense Men. Splash some amber sods and let him know that he's holding on - he will get there.

Night Duty Down In The Sewers

Things have changed a bit since gutter gnashers Sewers hoisted themselves out of the muck and mire to bring us Hoisted. There have been band member additions and changeovers (Per Purpose's Harry Byrne tears the guitar from Shan Corrigan so he can spit vitriol without inhibition, while Thigh Master's Matt Ford takes over the drums from a travelling Dan Decsi). Incoming LP Weight (also coming out on the excellent Homeless Records) shows very little has changed however. Lead track 'Night Duty' starts out with an acoustic twang before Corrigan's drawled round-vowelled sneer steers the ship towards the rocks. I've been lucky to have the album for over a month and it's a bit cleaner, a bit easier to discern purpose, but no less decrepit and depraved. A review is in the offing - but for now, start your Night Duty by drooling bile in anticipation. Stop dozing and step in for the kill - still stinging. Pre-order Weight here. Sewers head to the US later this month - here are the dates:

June 29 - NYC at Clockwork
June 30 - NYC at Alphaville 
July 2 - Cleveland at Now That’s Class
July 3 - Columbus at Ace of Cups
July 4 - Detroit at Nancy Whiskey 
July 5 - Chicago at The Burlington + Permanent in-store @ 5 pm
July 7 - Lafayette at Spot Tavern
July 8 - Louisville or Bloomington?
July 9 - Memphis at TBA
July 11 - Austin at Beerland 
July 14 - Tucson at Sky Bar
July 15 - LA at 4th St. Vine
July 16 - San Pedro at Harold’s Place (+Perm in-store)
July 18 - San Francisco at Hemlock 

Sunday 21 June 2015

#1 Sauna Dive In Montague TONIGHT

Just a final post for Sunday. If you are in South London - or in London - or in England - or have a teleporter - you should pop along to the Montague Arms in Peckham tonight to see a gig. Static Shock are host The #1's from Ireland (over to support the excellent Reigning Sound who play 100 Club tomorrow night) for their own headline show. It's an excellent night for supports too - with a new album Distractions under their arm, Sauna Youth are rip-raring to go. And opening up proceedings is newly settled Londoner (and still very much a Dick Diver) Alistair McKay. Details here.

Hits From The Box #104 - Nottingham Nocturnal Nectar

I've spent the weekend at Nottingham. Cheap food, cheap booze, the National Video Game Association nerdout, record store scouring - it's been fun. A much needed escape from the 'big smoke' of London. And with a fresh spring in the step and music in the ears, let's see what the inbox has for us this week...

I thought I would kick off by throwing back. Brooklyn trio Dead Stars have in new track 'Calm Punk' gotten their Dinosaur Jr/Weezer/Local H/insert 90s guitar punk-pop band here on. Simple fuzzed out riffs, slightly reedy vocals with simple understandable lyrics and chorus, glorious rumbling bass, a Pixies-indebted solo towards the end - its a canvas that is easy to see, to replicate, to enjoy. I'm saying this in complete reverence too - 'Calm Punk' is exactly what it states it is.

Phoenix trio Strange Lot aren't that much of a strange lot. They are a blasted reverb-drenched garage rock band though, gloriously adrift from sense and reason. Their album Another Night is wonderfully warped, akin to early Growlers or Crystal Stilts fare, drenched in whisky, buried in the dirt, lost in the shadows. Loose, ragged, rad.

Negative Scanner hail from Chicago and inhale trouble. Strange Lot could belong on the Trouble In Mind roster - these guys already are. Their self-titled album is a clusterbomb, seesawing from post-punk precision and atonal abandon, pockets full of power punches and grit flung into your eyes. Playing straight but fighting dirty. They name check Total Control, Sioux & the Banshees, The Fall and Wire, taking the leanest pinches, taking no bullshit. The dull-eyed, broken-mouthed girl on the cover is Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, whose vocal tenacity entrances and lacerates. Nuff said. Pre-order it here.

Could anyone have expected us to end up at Bandung, Indonesia today? Me neither. But the excellent 60s blasted psych swirl of Napolleon is far too amazing to pass up. Their eponymous four-song EP is a real killer, blasting the cobwebs off, injecting some proto punk riffs, getting the sweat dripping off the walls. They are a fidgety bunch too - all bar last track 'Erasable Eraser' finds several sonic slipstreams to slide and slither around in. They are infused with the psych rock gods and aren't afraid to use those powers as much as they can. Get excited.

There are a number of things to love about Melbourne-based band Redspencer. Firstly (and some would say most importantly) they have spun gold out of plaintive, slight, melancholic tunes, nestled in between the hubris of the country and the hustle of the outer suburbs, all under the cover of dusk. The kind of vibes you ride out the day to. The perfect first spliff and cold one after a rough day music. But secondly (and what I would say is most importantly) the trio originally come from the central NSW town of Glen Innes. I drove through there once in 2012 and had one of the best meat pies and a cheeky cold one of my own as the sun set. I wanted to book into the local pub and drink the night away, but my girlfriend wanted to push on back to Brisbane - and this was the last high point until we reached the lights of that city. Maybe this is rose-tinted, maybe not; but their connection to the place adds a sense of rustic mystery to Redspencer that I intend to indulge in for some time.

Let's finish off with a breezy, woozy, psych-tinged blissout, shall we? Sydney brothers Plastic Birds offer a lysergic counterpoint to the bucolic expansivism of the Tame Impalas of the world, a warped, off-kilter vocal like a melted cassette played under shallow water, before a show-offy guitar solo comes along and manages to sound tinny, massive, faux-serious and kick-arse all at the same time. Its a strange trip these guys are intent to take us on - but we will get time...

Happy Sunday everyone!

Martyrdom Over Festival Blues A Big Deal

One of my favourite albums and shows of 2014 was by Detroit post-punk evangelists Protomartyr. The album – Under Colour Of Official Right. The show – their August gig at The Lexington here in London, supported by Feature and Sauna Youth. The heady combination of seemingly disparate physical presences, a hyperliterate cynical worldview, militaristic guitar tension and a tight-as-fuck rhythm section coalesces into a performance that is both amusing, deafening and electrifying in its droll tautness.

The four-piece have a newish song off the leash as part of a 7” split, aptly titled A Half Of Seven, with Kelley Deal’s new outfit R.Ring called ‘Blues Festival’ (which also features Deal on backing vocals). It has been out in the ether since mid-April so I’m slow on the uptake, but seeing as this only came out through Hardly Art on Tuesday I don’t feel so slow. It’s either a dour diatribe against young upstarts or a brittle how-to for those floundering in the shallow end of the rock music pool; either uttering to heed these grizzled journeymen’s advice or smash against the shaggy crags of your own head/cloud devising; keeping feet firmly entrenched on the earth, or else get anchored there by weary cynicism or derisive disdain. The thing is of course that there is ambiguity here, just as there always is in lead man Joe Casey’s delivery and demeanour – is he serious? Does he even care? Is he compassionate, or are hopes and dreams just more things that grind his gears? The ambiguity and slight smile that lingers after Protomartyr have exited alludes to the humour in it all, but the presence of Deal, someone who has seen each side of the industry sword, and come out the other side, colours this song with even further depth. At the end of the day though, ‘Blues Festival’ is just a killer rollicking song, regardless of social context and subterfuge, and that’s what ultimately matters.

Grab A Half Of Seven here.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Kinski Go For 7 (Or 8)

Kinski are back! After the cathartic menace that permeated 2013's Cosy Moments (remember the Repo Man homage jacket photo?) and their split earlier this year with fellow Seattle stoned droners Sandrider, the four-piece are prepped to release 7 (Or 8) (a play on whether the band has actually put out seven or eight albums - the jury's out, even for the band) through Kill Rock Stars. They continue to actively confound categorisation: 'Detroit Trickle Down' highlights their propensity for instrumental doom and destruction; 'Drink Up and Be Somebody' indicating their love of Raw Power continues to fuel the fires, along with their fused fuzz pedals; 'I Fell --' is heaver and faster still; while closer 'Bulletin Of The International String Figure Association' is a twelve minute gravity-crushing comedown. There is a cohesion here suggesting that after a decade Kinski have found their punk drone sonic slipstream too - very exciting indeed.

Grab 7 (Or 8) here.

Triple Bardo Pond Record Store Re-Treat

Record Store Day Trilogy is the new offering from Bardo Pond, an amalgam of their last three RSD EPs (2013's Rise Above It All, 2014's Looking For Another Place, and this year's Is There A Heaven?) that Fire Records is collating for us all. Rise Above It All was a two-hander, featuring covers of Funkadelic's 'Maggot Brain' and Pharaoh Sanders' 'The Creator Has A Master Plan.' Apart from loving Bardo Pond for years, and their set a couple years ago in Brisbane blowing my psych-addled mind, this EP is monumental for me for finally making me indulge in Sanders' work. An article in The Wire on him not long after this had me delving into the free jazz genius' back catalogue, and I've been lost ever since. And the version of 'Maggot Brain' sees the band drift off into the stratosphere for 22 glorious minutes. Looking For Another Place saw the Philly five-piece turn their attention to Eno (a harsh squall rendition of 'Here Come The Warm Jets' that with Isobel Sollenberger's vocals plays out like a dream pop song stretched to sixteen minutes) and Velvet Underground ('Ride Into The Sun', which is wonderfully messed up). And then the triptych was completed back in April when Is There A Heaven? - and for me their best cover yet, Bryan Ferry's 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache'. I am a closet Roxy Music fan already, but the devastating 14-and-a-half version here slays me with its slowburn menace - it's almost unhinged but not quite (one thing about this band - they let go but are always in control). The other offering is Albert Ayler's 'Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe' which is even further in the bottom end of the psych doom spectrum.

If you haven't heard these songs, you must. Check out 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache' below, and pre-order Record Store Day Trilogy here.

Friday 19 June 2015

Bio Bat Piss Mass

The miscreants are back! Batpiss provided one of the best records in ages in 2013 with Nuclear Winter, and are now following it up with Biomass (out through the ever-excellent Poison City Records). It is a little more brutal - not as playful as Nuclear Winter, instead delving into more punishing dirges and ditches. Opener 'The Store' is a bruising slowburner, grinding down the gears and tearing at your psyche from the get go, Thomy's howls already stripping your inner ear. Then we have 'Death Will...', a faster track that pummels you around the solar plexus, striking you paralysed as you are drowning in sweat and spit, mindlessly pondering death and fighting for breath. Its ADD speed is almost a welcome respite, and is continued with ramped punisher 'Daredevil' then 'The Idiot' takes us into pigfuck territory, like a Pissed Jeans who are addicted to Wake In Fright and meth. The feverish motor that drives forth 'Orchard' had me thinking of the chugging rhythms of Motorhead or Turbonegro, where speed is equalled by muscle and heft, while 'Spiritually Challenged' is a track that is stuck in a gear, unrelenting in its pace and paucity of morals. We spiral back into the filth with 'Heavy Smoke' a sub three minute funeral pyre of malcontent, before 'Pulling Out' arrives - a sludge drone torture device, grinding out a feral deathmarch unlike anything the band has put to tape. 'Waking Up At The Wheel' closes things out, a pub rock song with the chassis ripped to shreds and replaced with something much more top-heavy and dangerous to all in its path. 

I'll level with you - Biomass is a much harder slog than Nuclear Winter. Batpiss have dived headlong into the backwaters of self-hatred, loathing and nihilism, tonally and lyrically - the garish cartoonishness that lay on the outer edges have all but been eradicated. What you get in its place is a band that have disappeared into their hellhole and come back fused together, a force of reckoning and destruction, maniacs on the curve, ready to take you (willingly) to the abyss and beyond.

Grab Biomass here.

Microsoft Police Force Meltdown

While I still liked the idea when they were originally going to be called Police Force 5 and would give each other five high-fives after each song (stupid, I know, but still pretty great), the mischievous madman otherwise known as Police Force continue to confound, perplex and amuse. Their set from a while ago (can't remember when or where) when they sampled banter for in between songs so they didn't have to actually talk on stage was another example of their loose genius. New slab of warbled weird is POWER POINT (out through those heathens at Tenth Court), eight tracks of burnt-barrel slink, drunk hip-shakes, woozy winks and bitten lower lips.

'Fantasy' is ridiculous in its buried sax, swirling vocal discombobulation and cavernous noise - and it's killer, storming onto a Ministry Of Sound CD outside your local laundromat soon. 'Space Drop' takes us into more familiar territory, a synapse-drained drawl on the asteroid belt of a fried freakout. 'Lowdown' is louche lounge, played from dust-coated blown speakers in the toilets of a ultraviolet-violating public toilet in the Surfers Paradise bus station of your mind. 'Love' is a torn romance, straight out of the pages of a waterlogged William Gibson novel, loose-limbed and crooked grin, drool spilling from lazily upturned lips. If you can imagine MC Ride taking horse tranks and letting his heartrate to drop below forty beats a minute, while Zach Hill abandons the kit and kicks over a Roland TR-505 drum machine and throws guitars into a cryogenic wasteland towards the end stages of Hotline Miami, you get 'Drug Zone Pt II'. 'Brakes' is Primal Scream eighty years in the future, still playing the "hits" in an abandoned nuclear reactor to piled up cadavers from past aural atrocities, and the aftershow reviews are promising. All bookended by elevator music leading us to our desired doom, dressed to the nines in our doomed desirables.

None of this makes sense.

Get POWER POINT at your peril.

INTERVIEW - Pale Heads' Rui Perreira

One of my favourite albums of the year, even though it's fresh outta the blocks, is Headless, the debut belter from Melbourne drongos Pale Heads. Featuring guys that spread all four corners of the Melbourne music scene (current and ex members of The Nation Blue, Harmony, Batpiss, The Drones and Bang!Bang!Aids!), these dudes have cobbled together an album that is relentless, throwaway, acerbic, abrasive and a hell of a lot of fun, all done off a handful of practices. The cobbled together nature of the record is what gives it its heft, and with this calibre of clientele this nuclear fusion is only going to get deadlier (whether they get tighter or looser though remains to be seen...) 

I spoke to Rui Pereira briefly as he stumbled around Sydney before Pale Heads' Blackwire Records show alongside Burlap, Dispolar and Roland Major.

SONIC MASALA - Headless was recorded in a series of blitzkrieg recordings at The Tote. Before these took place, how did Pale Heads come to pass?

RUI PEREIRA - Xiao Zhong, whose identity shall remain secret, lived in China for a good part of the 2000's. There he found a life for himself learning the ancient ways of making origami drum kits for the locals. A few years ago he came back to the Melbourne world, looking for excitement in the form of some boom boom, while in the midst of furnishing his abode. Tom Lyngcoln asked him to play percussion and Thomy Sloane, who straps the bass, joined soon after. I have been friends with both Thomy and Tom for yonks. They asked. I was thrilled to join.

SM - What has been the purpose of the band? Five or so practices and then recording and releasing an entire album is pretty solid going after all!

RP - I find there is this urgent sound to the album, raw as fuck, thousand miles an hour beats. Perhaps the main purpose was to keep the juices flowing. We were all taking breaks from our primary bands at the time so we thought it was a good idea to form another. 


SM - How much of the songwriting was/is shared around?

RP - Tom and Thomy pretty much wrote all the lyrics. They bring structure to the songs. We all put in musically.

SM - How do the different personalities glue together as a band? You have some loose units there... 

RP - Alright, alright... who have you been talking to? I've done my share of stupid shit while touring. Even lost my mental health one time looking at ginger bread houses in Switzerland. But as a band we all thrive on humour so that keeps us unified.  At the end of the day our similar tastes in music is the Araldite.

SM - Where does the name Pale Heads come from? Or the infatuation with heads (and the cutting off of them) for that matter? Especially with Tom's constant negative comments about his own mug, bringing it more attention seems counter-productive...

RP - It's interesting what other people's interpretation of someone else's lyrics are. For instance, I thought most of the content on the album was about peace, love and scoring lots of weed... with the occasional head chop. The beheading element is perhaps a metaphor for most humans. They are either in a day dream daze with their heads in another state or trying to chop one off to get ahead.

SM - How have the live components of the show gone so far? I heard that your first show was a bit of a balls-up...

RP - Yep. First show was at the Old Bar in Melbourne. Was a fairly noisy affair. By the end Thomy's pedals didn't work as they got drenched in beer, accidentally poured by someone who shall remain nameless. Since then we've naturally progressed live. The ins and outs of what works on stage can only be refined on the road.  Like Paul Kelly once said, 'venues are my universities'.

SM - You have lined yourselves up with Poison City to release Headless - what was the attraction to joining up with Andrew and co?

RP - Andrew was attracted to us. He and Tom had dealings in the past with Harmony and pretty soon the second Batpiss record will also be under their wing. Keeping it in the family I guess.

SM - Any particular gigs lined up that you are pumped for?

RP - Yes. 16th July 2015 @ The Convent in Abbotsford Melbourne. Playing with Flour, The Meanies and Screamfeeder. See you there.

SM - What does the future hold for Pale Heads? Will there be other releases? Will it follow the same rushed MO?

RP - We already started writing/recording the second LP. It will take a little longer to put together mainly due to Thomy touring with his other group and Tom about to be a Dad! So from this August on, till next year there will be no Pale Heads shows. Just lots of nappies.

SM - What have you been up to in particular Rui? Is Pale Heads a major ongoing concern, or are there other irons in the fire/fingers in pies?

RP - I'll be concentrating with Pale Heads in the next few months. I also work at Bakehouse studios in Richmond, 12 rehearsal spaces with one zen courtyard. That's kept me fairly fit the last five years. I dig working there. A real productive environment. My band other band 'RIGHT!' is in the process of mixing and mastering our first record. I also draw and paint in my spare time, often with my head buried in paper and ink. That will keep me busy for life.

Headless is out now - buy it here - it's an imperative.