Thursday, 7 January 2016

Hits From The (Mail)Box #4 - Last Year Clean Out

I tend to do these about once or twice a year - a catch-up of all the stuff that has come through the letterbox that I haven't been able to post about before now. So, what have we here?

We have been massive fans of the elusive and strange Texans demigods Quttinirpaaq. Yet somehow I missed commenting on their 3rd record, Dead September - although I think I might have been in Australia at the time when it arrived, and on return played it within hearing distance of my girlfriend who promptly stated she wanted to "chop her own  hands off and beat herself to death with them" rather than listen anymore. I'm not sure how you could do that - but I think for Quttinirpaaq, that is a compliment. The album itself is white noise ephemera, either bleeding out of the speakers or blasting forth like a sledgehammer - but then static tsunami sometimes shifts to give you a troglodyte psych rock gem like 'Dead Birds'. A lot of people will be indifferent to violently retching - I think it is ominously brilliant.

Sydney's Scattered Order have been around for eons, sampling experimental electronic noise seemingly before anyone knew what it was or could be. Listening to so many weird Australian outlier artists over the past five years, it is clear that 99.9% of them are indebted to these cracked pioneers. So it is great to see them releasing a new record, Some Men Remember Music, later this month. Hypnotic, surreal, mind melting yet also oddly euphoric in an organic sense - Scattered Order have done it again. The outfit launch the record at Bar Open next month with help from SM faves Fraudband and Halt Ever (+ Italianz).

Oakland trio Love Moon brandish a sludged up version of rock and roll that's almost at odds with the majority of their brethren from the Bay Area. Clouded Bliss is like listening to Kyuss, Bleach-era Nirvana, Melvins...and ZZ Top on a mixtape that has melted on the dashboard of a discarded car shell. It's different in many ways, but there is an innate hardened familiarity here (the members have played together in bands before, so are tight despite the sliding distortion on display) that allows it to get its hooks in (still don't know where the name Love Moon fits in though...)

Liverpudlians Cavalier Song are releasing their new LP Blezard through God Unknown Records later this month, in preparation of a support slot with the excellent veterans of psych-stretched sonics Mugstar. I got a copy in the mail not too long ago - and WOW. The way that everything fits together, like a dystopian jigsaw, ratcheted up with piano-wire precision. Motorik suites for the paranoid - there is something almost Ballardian about the sweaty pulse that permeates some of these tracks, like a shadowed imprint of the base desires of man hiding just beneath the brittle, brutal surface. I am making Blezard sound like a punishing listen - it isn't. I have been blindsided to be honest - how such a prescient live-wire of a rock act, both effortlessly eloquent and chaotically kinetic, has escaped my attention until now. Pre-order it here.

Now we get to a couple Fuzz Club releases that have been languishing on the kitchen table for a few months... First up is Singapore Sling from Iceland. Their new album is called Psych Fuck - it is emblazoned on their cover art, thick black lettering on a blood-red background - and it says so much. 'Dive In' opens, a slithering dirge that pulls downwards into infinite despair - there is no fall, it's an inexorable march. 'Let It Roll, Let It Rise' is more psychedelic swamp through a grease-smeared monochrome-and-static lens. 'ÆJL' mines the White Hills, with a primordial Stooges whisper. 'Na Na Now' and 'The Underground' give some levity, taking a pastoral Spiritualised tangent into the ether, and it's needed - 'Try' lurks in the darkness, gnashing its acrid teeth amongst the desiccated bodies; 'Dying Alive' an industrialised cacophony uttered in a cavernous tomb, breaking forth into subterranean weirdness on the other side of the album. There are pauses and spaces here, it isn't as brutal, but it seems much more defeated ('Shithole Town' feels broken and resigned - like early Raveonettes with the gloss torn away). Psych Fuck is a wonderfully dark journey.

Swedish trio The Orange Revival brought out their 2nd LP on Fuzz Club, Futurecent. It is much more recognisably "psych rock" than the Singapore Sling release (that isn't a derogatory comment, for either side), caterwauling across narrow gaps in time and space, always pushing the distortion and sun-blasted wails. Again White Hills comes to mind, as does a more ramshackle, more hard-edged Spacemen 3. For some reason I am digging the more immediate offerings - such as 'Saturation' and 'Speed' - than the drawn-out jams that are usually my draw. But the ponderous yet spiky 'Carolyn' is great - so the long and the short of it is Futurecent is worth the pennies.

In keeping with the heavy guitars, Austria's Doomina released their self-titled album last year, a post-rock behemoth that treads the fine line between gossamer beauty and grinding brutality with finesse and grace. I have always been a fan of post-rock, despite the label offering diminishing returns and heated hate over the years - and this is why I keep faith. I have been putting this on while I get back into my writing - it is neither contemplative nor debilitating, yet shudders with a veracity all its own.  Head over to Noise Appeal Records to get a copy, in either orange-black or grey-black marble vinyl (you can get plain purple too, but why would you?)

Peacock Affect is a young dude from Exeter in England who is pretty down about things. At least that is what his new EP, Image 27, seems to suggest. Literate hangdog navel-gazing has been the bread and butter of the UK troubadour for decades now, but this isn't Smiths-lite - these are slow-motion, mist-covered vision, ruminations, a self-made chrysalis of sonic isolation. This is the kind of lo-fi folk for the heavy-hearted that isn't designed to callously sell - it's designed to inspire. Image 27 certainly succeeds there.

I don't know much about Nude Tayne, other than they come from Florida, they are a five-piece, and they have crafted a bizarro math/psych/experimental rock self-titled album. Their songs are all really long too, especially for this type of act. It's like listening to At The Drive In channelling Deerhoof channelling Miles Davis spewing forth Primus (or if you lived in London and ever saw Mayors of Miyazaki - kinda like them, but longer, much longer!). There isn't really any reason to explain it other than that - it is spiked, brazen, offputting, outrageous and energising. Try it - an acquired taste, but one that I enjoyed (and would love to see performed live).

If you get high on GBV supply, then you will dig Graham Repulski. The Philly resident has pumped out a plethora of lo-to-no-fi releases over the years, and his latest LP is Success Racist (he has an EP, High On Mt. Misery, out later this year). Seeing as we released Hot Ones by Brisbane's own Pollardytes Dollar Bar last year, it goes without saying that this kind of barbed basement guitar pop would be right up my alley. Seventeen tracks, imperfectly fractured yet perfectly formed, all in under half an hour. Try 'I Shot An Arrow In The Air' for example - everything sounds out of sync, dissolving, disintegrating - yet a harmonised closure sees the song soar, a barbed pop gem hiding in plain sight. The varying fidelity helps to further augment the likability of these tracks too, rather than detracting from them - these are true crystallised songs, their production an indelible part of the charm. Each listen to Success Racist has me liking it more and more.

Time to whip out the Paris punk with Cheap Riot. Ballroom Portraits is a good album because it delivers louche garage rock with the right amount of swagger and anger - the latter something a lot of bands forget about in this day and age when image is paramount to impact. That said, my favourite track so far has to be 'Night Bus' - mainly because I catch a lot of them so it holds a degree of prescience - and the slower 'The Next Election'.

Bruit Direct Disques have distributed some great records over the past twelve or so months, including one of our favourites of 2015, Kitchens Floor's Battle Of Brisbane. The Frightening Lights are a Melbourne-based two-piece, with Elizabeth Downey's breathy vocals floating over Dan Hawkins' at times obtuse instrumentation. Downey's fascination with confessions and European folktales combine to create a slightly disturbing, almost post-apocalyptic literate fairytale. Sparse yet cluttered with eccentricities, it seems discombobulated yet it's anchored by the gauzy, smoky tendrils of the sonic world they have created. The Frightening Lights is a strange one, but incredibly beguiling.

Also from Bruit Direct and from Brisbane is SM faves Wonderfuls. No one I know does damaged despair and nascent self-flagellation like Bobby Vag, and on Only Shadows Now his downer confessionals float across the abyss in an almost ethereal manner - making this both a spiritual journey and a testament to tragedy and its tyranny on the soul. You cannot help but feel yourself drowning in the desolation, but in awe at the flayed emotions laid bare. Haunting, devastating, utterly brilliant.

The last two releases are cassettes from Inner Islands, the label that actively encourages aural euphoria and ecstasy through manipulated noise - an organic, natural synthesis. The first is Clouding Indefinitely by Portland's Ant'lrd. Rushing water, soaring sonorous synth, a distinct earthen feeling, being caught in the wilderness, enveloped by it, losing yourself in wild epiphany. 'Slow Hood' grinds away at you though - it's a drone, yet an approachable one, a distortion clearly guitar oriented (hence part of the warmth) but also somehow both aggressive and inviting. I don't know how to explain it, other than I wish it went forever, literally forever.

Selaroda is from Oakland. His release, Viaje a través de sonidos transportative (Spanish for 'Transportative Journey Through Sounds') is more of an experimental piece - starting with a more direct dronal piece before a simple drum commands 'mgeni ngoma safari mduara chama', with layered voices filling the background; plaintive acoustic guitar flourishes, oscillating sonic whirrs, piano, a dulcimer... Different tones, pace, drawn out notes to open up new worlds. An intriguing listen to end off on. The mailbox is empty - let the year begin.


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