Saturday 27 February 2016

Erasing Tossed Guerillas Forever

Jesus - Guerilla Toss know how to fry minds. On their new album Eraser Shoegazer, the Boston noise nihilists aren't as brazenly abrasive as previous releases - instead embracing the groove, jazz inflections, disco rhythms and r'n'b textures just to set them in a paint-mixer and leaving the door open, the contents a manic kaleidoscope of frenetic abandon. It's all in that bass - thick, sinuous, suggestive - what are we getting here? Then we have Kassie Carlson - an unhinged vocalist somewhere caught between Screaming Females' Marissa Paternoster, Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki and Lydia Lunch. You have the funk desiccation in a Soviet-era arcade game that is 'Grass Shack'; the contorted cowbell mania of 'Diamond Girls', like Tortoise trying their hand at calypso on ketamine; the minimal maximalism in tribal percussive repetition, scratched and ratcheted guitar, chants and yelps (underlaid by an insidious synth hook) on the excellent 'Perfume'... Guerilla Toss are a band both artful and anti-art; performance, mantra, idiocy, id. I have always loved the insanity that the band has brought to their music - but with Eraser Stargazer, they have made it addictive, a dance bomb. Bring it on. Pre-order the album in clear green through DFA Records here.

Lucky Dip #2 - Silverfish's Cockeye

On to the next bargain bin blind purchase (and a pretty poor photo on my behalf). I picked up English outfit Silverfish's debut LP Cockeye (well it's a "mini" album - their first two EPs brought together) from the same charity shop in Streatham as I got Big Dipper's album (I'm not telling you which one, it's proving to be a goldmine!) and chose it solely because it was a Touch & Go release. It's a stamp of a certain kind of quality, and it turned out a fine one. Cockeye opens (the A-Side is called the Snapper Side) with a couple of seconds of muffled 'Jolene' before a screeched "motherfuckers" from Les Rankine kickstarts 'Dolly Parton'. A hardcore track with Dead Kennedys wailing, the song is pinned further into the bowels of hell from guttural rhythms and rusted-saw guitarwork. Bodes well...

The slowed-groove and growl of 'On The Motorway' is both ridiculous and rancid, the bass almost LCD synthetic (you can imagine it being done on a touch pad in parts, which somehow makes this even better), Rankine pretty much just ranting the title over and over. 'Weird Shit' is even sourer - the guitar squall is diseased, the floor drum harsh and tapping the cones of the speakers, the "ah-ha" screams both funny and feral. The down-tuned drawl that develops into a rolling maul bleeds into 'Don't Fuck', and that is when things really kick into my kind of gear. A pummelling, buzzsawing, feedback drone drenched diatribe, this could be explosive White Hills white noise psych if it wasn't for the gangrenous intensity and Rankine's retched vocals. The bent strings madness from Andrew 'Fuzz' Duprey  and the guttural out-of-the-shadows howls that punctuate the track drives everything deliciously off the rails - a stretched-out noise caterwaul that I fucking love.

The Mullet Side blasts forth on 'One Silver Dollar'. The fidelity has improved here, and Rankine's vocals are a little more seasoned - like one of the Deals, but after eating a glass cigarette tray, spilt beer, butts and all. It's a more straightforward punk roll in my opinion, which segues nicely into 'T.F.A.' (Total Fuckin' Asshole), another dirty rock wail that rolls forth with grit and venom, cock rock riffs interspersed with white-noise fret strangling. I was waiting for the weird swamp rock motorik destruction to strike... 'Die' almost got me there. Chris Mowforth's bass is Jesus Lizard dirty; Rankine's basement jibbers, mutters and howls are gurning Mike Patton madness; Duprey lets loose with bent-string mayhem. Then we close out with 'Driller', a dirge that shows no mercy...

I feel like I should know this band - clearly influenced by and influencing many of the bands that now litter my record collection. Silverfish went on to record two more albums - 1991's Fat Axl (produced by Steve Albini) and Organ Fan in 1993, before disintegrating. No wonder, really... Great stuff worth revisiting wholesale.

Friday 26 February 2016

Don't Miss This Passing Of Magnetic Seasons Ya Mug(star)

Tonight Liverpool psychers Mugstar launch their Rock Action lauded album Magnetic Seasons at London's Electrowerkz (with excellent support from Henge and SM favourites Cavalier Song - check it out here). This is something to get excited about - it is a proggish noise fest, not afraid to stretch out and run (all bar one track is over five minutes long, with two exceeding the fifteen minute mark). The 70s space drawl and Sabbath sprawl of 'Unearth', the reverb subterfuge underline a psych drive on 'Flemish Weave' (with a harmonised nod to the likes of Clinic), the kosmiche cowboy groove of 'Time Machine', the patient, subdued flutter and float that looks to the cool blue of an endless rustic horizon of 'Sky West & Crooked' - these instrumental soundscapes feel both restless and timeless, improvised and envisioned, embryonic and set in stone. Those two monoliths I mentioned? 'Remember The Breathing' is a classic Krautrock spiral - not downward, but through time and space, a kosmiche mantra that breathes new life into the staid term "classic; while closer 'Ascension Island' plays at once like a static-drenched grey post-apocalypse bit of aural residue, and a titanic uprising, the elemental Gods of yore rising up, the colossi casting us in their hypnotic shadow without ever going close to toppling us into the sea. It's a magisterial exercise in undulating restraint. Mugstar are masters of their domain - pre-order this excellent double LP here. Grab tickets for the show on the door for a tenner.

Countdown To Heart Beach A Blissful Relief

Tassie heartthrobs Heart Beach are sharing the love around. They are handing out this 7", Counting/Relief, through Rough Skies Records on Tuesday (pre-order it here). It is quintessential HB - an ebullient amble underscored ('Counting') by a shadow of restraint (Relief'). The clarity of this production though - there is so much echo on the drums on the latter track, the vocals feel like they are ensconced in a velvet cavern, the bass is succulent, the guitar tremors seductively - seriously, everything is in its right place. The second release to have the Neil Thomason touch (he also recorded the half/cut record Ecco Locale coming out soon), and with Mikey Young's Midas touch (possibly more in tune with his Lace Curtain productions), this two-track wonder is one of the best-sounding releases to hit my ears for some time. The trio may say they "don't want to be here anymore" in 'Relief' (sung with a wonderful round-vowel Aussie accent - how I miss thee) - but I want to stay on Heart Beach forever.

Thursday 25 February 2016

PREMIERE - half/cut's New Single 'Martin Was A Diver'

We have a few premieres coming up over the next few weeks, and first cab off the rank is this incredible number from Melbourne dream pop outfit, half/cut. From their forthcoming debut album Ecco Locale, 'Martin Was A Diver' is a silky, sinuous movement, with Jessie's exquisite vocals stretching and overshadowing, a delicate Siren of confidence. The description of the band's sound as "Cocteau Twins meets American Football" is perfectly balanced here. Their sound shimmers, a mixture of the moddish New Wave pop of The The with more earnest, cinematic mores - pretty incredible seeing the band have barely stepped out into the live arena since their inception a couple years ago. The production may help - the album was recorded by Neil Thomason (Augie March, My Disco) and mastered by Harris Newman (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arcade Fire) - but half/cut arrive fully-formed. Listen to 'Martin Was A Diver' below, as well as other cuts 'Coming Of Age' and 'Your Shadow Builds A City I Can Never Visit'.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Jump Into New Adventures With Shonen Knife

Japanese legends Shonen Knife are back! Well they never really went away - and have been doing their thing for almost four decades, can you believe it? The bouncy three-piece are ready to release new album (number 19?!) Adventure next month before coming over here for an extensive UK tour in April (including Stewart Lee's ATP). The first taste of the record comes in the typically spiky 'Jump Into The New World'.

14 - Manchester – Ruby Lounge
15 - Prestatyn Pontin’s Holiday Centre – ATP 2.0 Stewart Lee Curates
16 - Birmingham – Oobleck 
17 - London – Dingwalls 
19 - Falmouth – Princess Pavilion 
20 - Southampton – Joiners 
21 - Brighton – The Haunt Resident Brighton 
22 - Guildford – Boileroom 
23 - Norwich – Arts Centre 
24 - Colchester – Arts Centre 
26 - Leeds – Brudenell 
27 - Newcastle – Gateshead Sage 2 
28 - Edinburgh – Summerhall 
29 - Glasgow – CCA 
30 - Dublin – Whelan’s 

2 - Cork – Crane Lane 
4 - Liverpool – Arts Club 
5 - Nottingham – Maze  
6 - Leicester – Musician 
7 - Bedford – Esquires 
8 - Bristol – Fleece

Monday 22 February 2016

That Fucking Tank Ride Again

I'm not sure you can get many of these, if any, any more, but getting anything from Leeds spazz maestros That Fucking Tank is an absolute necessity. Their 7" China tour record features two songs and one remix. It's a little tempered from other frenetic out-there fare, but no less muscular and breathtaking. Glad to see the silly monikers stand in good stead - 'Chumbawumbabanger' is a killer starter, a song that creates its own sonic slipstream to focus on and barely moves away from it - something almost unheard of in previous TFT unhinged and frenetic output. 'Pigeon Club' is a little more broken-down and battered, with some of that finger-tapping madness filtering through, but there is a warmth here that has only flitted at the edges in past recorded releases. The remix is by Game Program (member of Hookworms) and is bloody great, actually - an all-round stellar package. Grab it here.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Hits From The Box #124 - Midlands Running

It's good to get outta town for a while. The past week I have been cooped up at home, watching Wallander and The League episodes and Timothy Olyphant and Gaspar Noe films (gotta love disparate viewing), listening to a lot of records, playing Papers, Please on my new phone, reading The Walking Dead again. I'm doing this because - you guessed it - I am broke, like the rest of you. So this weekend I ducked into the Midlands. It's been nice, clean(ish - beer, curry, steaks bought, cracked, cooked and consumed) living. And I finished it with a half-marathon. I didn't run of course - I just watched. In Sleaford of all places. Why not? You only live once. Safely home now, and prepping for heading back to work, what's a guy to do? Launch into another Hits From The Box, that's what.

I think a great place to start is with Bambara, a Brooklyn band whose Ben Greenberg (The Men, Dream Police)-produced record Swarm is out next month. From the first two songs to be heard off it (listen below), it promises to be dark sworl of monochrome reverb, eviscerated psyches, cavernous Morricone swathes, Birthday Party nihilism and implosive squalls. I haven't heard much about this band before, but these two tracks alone have me mighty excited for Swarm to spread across this fetid land. It comes out on Nighthawk Records, pre-order it here.

Leeds brooding psychniks Chaika played with The Telescopes in Leeds on Friday (sorry about the late notice - only found out about it myself today) - and after listening to this two track release such a pairing makes a hell of a lot of sense. Pregnant with feverish paranoia, the swirling menace of 'The Mirror' and 'Untied' are two tracks that linger in the membrane well after the cacophony dies away. Noir psych? Yes please.

Deleter love their shades of purple.  They also love their angular, shapeshifting post-punk. From the spiked venom of 'Dysphoria (Dictionary Definition)', the opening track to their album Oblique Seasons, to the Wire-meets-Television-meets-latter Die! Die! Die of 'Seclusion', the noir Waits-esque bulk of 'A Ridiculous Man' and the 'Echo Beach' echo on 'Militant Idiot', there is a lot to sink your teeth into - and a lot to disappear in. Favourite cuts is the opening track, (surprisingly for me at least) the anthemic punk stylings of the title track, and the RFTC blast of 'Lab Rats Revolt'. See, told you it was a shapeshifter of a record...You can grab Oblique Seasons on multi-coloured vinyl here.

Lafayette outfit Brass Bed bring out their new album In The Yellow Leaf in April, and 'I Am Just A Whisper' has a heady pace about it that I really love. It has something of the faster-paced early Antics Interpol about it (which I maintain is a very good thing), alongside an Akron/Family weird-worldliness and a rippling motorik intensity throughout, it is an excellent start. I have listened to this song over and over the past week. It's a good'un.

We can hop over to New Orleans now and to Val Hollie, a dude who loves his gifs (head to his FB page to see what I mean - picked up some goods there ma man) and has in 'Siberian Summer' ripped out a languorous psych drawl that will keep me high and dry forever. It bleeds out in relentless dronal waves, an inexorable sonorous delight that submerges ad infinitum. I would gladly hit this on repeat and forget about the world for a couple months/years. I'm a damn Val Hollie addict now.

And finally to disappear down the rabbit hole with Stockholm freestyle spazz-jazz killers Eye Make The Horizon. The Walls Do The Talking is a three-song sacrificial offering to the improv gods, what the trio like to call "horizontal free rock". The saxophone is bloodshot eyes and sweatstains feverish, the drums a trashcan symphony that never loses sight of the middle distance, while the guitar roils and rolls almost in another plane, barely anchored to the noise being propagated here. It's mayhem; it's

Happy Sunday everyone!

St Augustus Never Ends...

Good friend Cam Smith has many guises - recording maestro with his Incremental Records studio, his stint as owner of the brilliant (and sadly defunct) The Waiting Room in Brisbane, and playing in a million bands, such as Ghost Notes, Tape/Off, Tiny Spiders and Spirit Bunny. He has his own stuff of course in the form of St Augustus - he is FINALLY releasing an album. First up is 'Always Ends', an uncharacteristically loud and boisterous, scuzzed guitar pop tune that is easy to get sucked up into. That crusty feedback at the end too - you can tell that Cam is loving strangling the shit out of that. A new album means some live performances - and St Augustus has some lined up for next month. Stay tuned...

Saturday 20 February 2016

VIDEO VACUUM - Black Mountain, Birth Of Joy, Simmer, All Them Witches

After introducing a new "segment" in the Lucky Dips (next week: a hardcore Touch & Go band from the early 90s...) it's time to give another much needed life. We are back with a long-gestating Video Vacuum, and the first one of 2016 has a decidedly psychedelic flavour...

Black Mountain are back! That's right, the Canadian psych rock monoliths are prepping album #_ in the form of IV (obviously), and 'Mothers Of The Sun' is more in tune with their earlier, more drawn out, atmospheric fare - which in my mind is brilliant. I really wanted to like their 3rd album Wilderness Heart (and the great shark cover art gave me hope), but it didn't stick that much with me. But looking at the decidedly pagan/spaced/ritualistic imagery invoked by the film clip (with Stephen McBean looking decidedly haggard, with hoods and necklaces and sharp hooked knives; puppets/masks that look melted; Amber Webber a high priestess of beguiling allure...skulls! mountains! rolling clouds!), they are harking back to the lore of yore.

But if I must be honest (and I probably should), while I love the Black Mountain video, I am finding myself drawn more to the music of Dutch marauders Birth Of Joy on 'Hands Down' - nothing new here, but the urgency and energy is connecting more with me. The film clip - a ballet dancer letting her hair down and losing control, has pagan overtones too alongside the obligatory Black Swan psychodrama. The masks! The campfire! The endlessly spinning camera. It's fun though - the most unabashedly "rock" track in this collection.

The most unabashedly raucous track though goes to 'Sinewy', the 3rd single from Cheshire cats Simmer in the lead-up to releasing their debut LP Paper Prisms (which on the strength of this promises to be bloody good). A simple film clip - a pale guy clutches a attache case to his chest and wonders along the bleak beach, followed closely by another equally intense guy with long hair, who calls the first guy, appeals to him to stop, but with a moment's contemplation he makes a run for it, they wrestle in the sand, and Longhair chokes him out and gets the case...just as another figure looms behind him! The chase continues! Or does it?

Finally we have Nashville brooders All Them Witches and 'Open Passageways'. A classic lyric video for this atmospheric slow-burner, which is further heightened by the animation (by Jason Staebler) that swirls and merges, line drawings of sages and bald oracles, an everlasting connection. I dig it. They have an album coming out soon too (no surprise there) and will be playing in the UK over Feb/March - with two shows at The Lexington, both of which are SOLD OUT (Feb 28 and March 2). You can try to catch them at Manchester or Glasgow in between those dates though...


Lucky Dip #1 - Big Dipper's Craps

It was six years ago that I started this blog. Six years! Bloody hell. I have gotten a lot out of it for sure - not money mind, but satisfaction, connection, commitment, friends, family, love. There have been collaborators (co-founder Paul, Ani, Sonic Masala Records alum Nathan), but it has been mostly me on my lonesome, draining hours and days, sound hearing and good posture from my life. It has caused strain on my work, my finances, my relationships. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sonic Masala hasn't changed much in the way of its structure and output though, and if I find the time (and probably money would help) things might step up a notch in the second half of 2016. And so with that in mind, yes, there are going to be changes this year. Most of them will most likely remain small - like this one. I am going to buy random records in charity shops and bargain bins around the world, and see how I fare.

The illustrious first cab off the rank for my Lucky Dip? Craps, the 1988 second album from Boston band Big Dipper. Three pounds at a charity store in Streatham, south London. I picked this one because I felt like I had seen the cover art before (see below) and how on the gatefold the band members all looked like they should be in different bands - Bill Goffrier in Talking Heads, Hot Chimp or a sideman to 80s Paul Simon; Steve Michener in The Housemartins; Gary Waleik (who also is the only member seemingly fully comfortable with full frontal camera eye contact) in Pavement; and Jeff Oliphant (despite his Saucony trainers) having come off the ranch to play drums in a pub rock covers band. This is 1988. I love all of these looks. And, I have to say, Craps is a winner.

'Meet The Witch' is a power pop whimsy that would have been a bigger hit had it been around a few years later - it's the kind of ebullience that I am normally derisive about, but after listening to the album as a whole a few times I found myself getting into it (hookworm that it is). 'Ron Klaus Wrecked His House', a song about Goffrier's former bandmate, is a mainstream Pixies tune - more mid-tempo but enough crunch and clout to give it heated kick. 'The Insane Girl' is sparked by double-guitar attack and a darker swell that I think lifts the album even further (well, almost - I'm not sure if it's my stereo, the record or the production, but Michener's bass has a pop that really irks and should have been dampened). 'Semjase', meanwhile, shows great lyrics from Goffrier in a track that The Shins sound like they cribbed wholesale (the recording below is Goffrier in another band, 626).

 'Stardom Because' starts the B-side, a punchier number that is more (to me at least) poppier Depeche Mode with a Smiths guitar break and propulsive drumming, and almost like a precursor to where the band would end up on the major label scrapheap only a couple years later. It's a great little song. For me the rest of the bottom end flags - 'Bonnie' and 'Hey! Mr Lincoln' are MOR tracks that don't stick for me - an acoustic ballad in the former, a buoyant yet lightweight number in the latter. 'The Bells Of 'Love' again takes a Shins sheen (could be more Goffrier's vocal proximity to James Mercer) but for me is dated and doesn't linger long. But the album closes on a real high with 'A Song To Be Beautiful'. Sometimes song titles give away the atmosphere and tone of a song - not so here. A brash, raucous blast that could be cantankerous Neil Young, even moreso brushes of Mission Of Burma. And even more prescient for the band is the lyrics here - "For a song to be beautiful/The artist must be free..." It's letting the freak rock flag fly, and I really wish there was more of this here.

So what happened to Big Dipper? Like a lot of bands back then, they were snapped up by label execs who wanted the next REM, plastered the next release, 1990's Slam, with bullshit production and effects, burying their obvious charm and hooks in pap. Once it didn't fly, they were kicked to the curb - because there were plenty of other bands on their roster that could fill the space. The band have somewhat reformed in a slightly different format and are playing shows around Boston I think. I will have to dip into their earlier stuff, the album Heavens and EP Boo-Boo, which are apparently even better. 

Lucky Dip is likely to be a monthly concern, but I have two more saved up to come in the next week or two. The next edition is a band that featured on Touch & Go in 1989 - can you guess what it will be???

Friday 19 February 2016

A Friday Night Cover Up - Butcheretting Depeche Morricone

I love it when bands take compositions and really screw with them. Today's track is a Depeche Mode song, one of their later ones - 'I Feel You' from 1993. Get a load of this...

It's a song that has been much covered by the likes of Placebo, Johnny Marr and Apollo 440 giving it a once-over. Now there has been a three-way collab between Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (busy with that At The Drive In re-reformation) and Terri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes) and Baltimore's With Lions, who have just released their own record Fast Luck - and it has taken on a decidedly Chelsea Wolfe meets Ennio Morricone vibe, which I am hardwired to love. I won't be able to listen to another version of this, even the original, ever again.

Faux Seattle Has Fallen

After taking in the jagged exorcism that is Brisbane band Clever's new track, it feels a jump to be launching into Fall Seattle, the eponymous debut record from the North Virginian quartet. Out through the excellent Faux Discx label (Sauna Youth, Monotony, Hookworms, Tense Men), it is a lucky dip of  the past, reappropriated in bedrooms, kitchens and basements, crystallising into a sonorous sojourn sparkling with jangle and noise, introversion and extroverted emulsions. There is a Deerhunter-meets-The Raincoats-meets-Grandaddy esoteric clarity to opener 'Carol'; a sundrenched meander through Lotus Plaza's back garden on 'Wanda Jackson'; a Yo La Tengo hopped-up malaise to 'Time'. 'New York' could be Ratcat trying their hand at Dinosaur Jr, a suitably fractious racket with cavernous space that still feels intimate amid the throat-tearing catharsis. The twang and meandering space of 'Boyhood' has me entranced - it is the central song, and the centrifugal force of the album, somehow slowing everything down but bringing it all into focus. The opening drums for 'Blau' is ominous before the onslaught, a shimmering menace not unlike the inimitable Women (which is why it is probably my favourite track here); 'Suburban Stain' is a guitar dream, off the books via the Books; the jumped up yet broody pop of 'Nothing You Can Hold On To' meanwhile sets it all free. 'Demon Son' takes us into black-spark shoegaze territory, albeit with bottom-of-the-well reverb sparseness in fits and bursts (another great song). Fall Seattle close up shop with 'Separation Anxiety', a mild, contemplative that burbles and percolates, a sepia-burnt daydream rumination on all that has come before. This is an incredibly strong record - there have been some Real Estate comparisons (which I can see in part), but despite my constant attraction to band signifiers above, the bowerbird genre splicing here makes the album a unique and highly rewardable listen. I really like this one - you should all grab Fall Seattle here.

Clever Kewdi Nightmares

Brisbane noisy nihilists Clever burst out of the gutter a couple years ago, wiping the floor with blood-and-sweat-stained alacrity. They started littering stages in 2014, after I had left, and I quickly lined them up to last year's Sonic Masala Fest - an amazing set, one of my favourites across the two festivals thus far. Their visceral gurning and flailing felt brutal and new, at least in these parts - aside from the dour disintegration of Kitchens Floor and gnashed madness of Sewers, this is the kind of sound more accustomed to the diseased denizens of Melbourne mainstays like Cuntz, Mutton and others that spill from the feedtime wellspring. But it shouldn't be a surprise that such arced anarchy was born out of the melding of dark-matter minds from members Per Purpose, Psy Ants and The Wrong Man. And now they have locked horns with Homeless Records (Cuntz, Spray Paint, Yes I'm Leaving) for their first LP Kewdi Udi. First cut 'Your Eyesore's Sweat' may not be the deepest, but it is infected with acrid angularity and fevered spit. Pre-order this denigrated gem here - first 100 LPs are piss-yellow, of course they are.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Nisennenmondai Are Coming x #3

Japanese motorik maestros Nisennenmondai are back! i will never forget the way they melted my face off at Tufnell Park Dome back in 2010 - I think they supported The Ex? Either way, that first intense euphoric take has had me hooked ever since, and I loved their last album N. A new album is also incredibly exciting, although I am sure that '#3' might take some by surprise, what with its insistent, incessant rhythms more indebted to the dancefloor than ever before. They have collaborated with Shackleton in the past (at Unsound, where all manner of weird noises merge), and '#3' sees them teaming up with Adrian Sherwood, a dub producer du jour. This isn't really dub though - instead, imagine a skeletal techno meltdown matched to the looped sound of a card flicking through the spokes of a spinning wheel for three minutes. Who knows what will come next - but expect it to be intensely hypnotic, regardless of what realm it muscles in on.

Audacity For Dirty Vessels

Californian blasted rockers are letting rip on new record Hyper Vessels (out through Suicide Squeeze). The guitar wail in the middle of the track 'Dirty Boy' reminds me of Ty Segall over the past year or two - which makes sense, seeing as he recorded the album. The track is breakneck and bustling, and absolute blast, the best rock song I have heard so far this year. It isn't always hell for leather rock though, as other cut 'Umbrellas' shows - a anthemic blast about trying to find your footing, your place in this mixed up world. Either end of the spectrum shows the four-piece ready to let rip, which bodes well for the album when it arrives on April 1. They will be touring the States extensively over that time too (playing with the likes of Dirty Fences, Har Mar Superstar and Thee MVPs), so you will have plenty of chances to catch them blowing up.

Coming Down In Sacred Bones' Church

I picked up This World Is Not Enough, the "solo" album from Iceage's Elias Bender R√łnnenfelt under the moniker Marching Church, last month. It is a strange brooding beast - with slight echoes of R√łnnenfelt's "day" band, but with far more contemplative, cantankerous and quietly chaotic measures floating through its veins. Sacred Bones has released something that is even further out in the fringes in the form of Coming Down: Sessions in April 12 (out through Sacred Bones), a haunting improv lurch from eye-scratching purification and soul fires to a coalescing caterwaul of cathartic free jazz emulsions (which featured members of Lower and Puce Mary among others). The slow drag-the-lake in harrowing monochrome flaying of the emotional mind. I absolutely love this. News that they are recording a new album is fantastic news. Dive into these immensely murky waters now - they play at London's Birthdays on Monday.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Aussie Attack - Hoodlum Shouts, Bad Vision, Us The Band, Le Villejuif Underground, Loose Tooth, Velcro, Weak Boys, California Girls

I am always struggling to keep up! So much good stuff to look out for and look forward to. none moreso from my native Southern Land. So here are eight acts that you should keep your ears peeled for over the next few months...

Canberra's always been an interesting place for music, mainly because of how isolated and idiosyncratic the place is in all senses of the word. So when great bands come out of there it is a pleasant surprise. There have been quite a few recently to be fair (Wives, Primary Colours, TV Colours) and today I bookend this post with two more. The first guys are one of the most underrated bands in the country - Hoodlum Shouts. Their gig alongside Tape/Off, Freak Wave and Bad Vision in 2014 at Public Bar really rocked my world, fully confirming their brilliance that is showcased on 2012's stellar LP Young Man Old Man and every other release they have smashed out. 'Heat Island' is the title track, and it is emblematic of the shuddering, heat-soaked post-punk these Australian battlers embody. in fact it makes sense that such a bruised band with a weary-yet-defiant eye on the state of the nation would be born in the nation's capital. Take it down from within, boys. VERY excited for Heat Island.

Bad Vision seem to have toned down the sloppy grime-flecked punk for new track 'Goon'. It is still undeniably BV though - despite the piercing sun rays sparking off the jangly guitars, playing like a rollicking indie-folk stomper, Jerome's laconic vocals and that howled chorus about staring out and about at the detritus of the population floating like flotsam on the shit-creek of life tells us definitively otherwise. It is the first cut from their sophomore record, Turn Out Your Socket, due out in May (pre-order through Adagio 830 Records here).

Us The Band have upped the ante with 'Ghoul' - while they played loose and fast with their DZ Deathrays associations early on, the new track feels more in line with that other killer two-piece, Japandroids. The EP But Where Do They Go looks to be a lung-tearing, ear-bludgeoning calling card - if you are in Sydney pop down to Petersham Bowls Club on Friday for the launch.

Nathan Roche is a true global troubadour - on the lam from landlords, ladies, beer barons and every government linked debt agency he has had the pleasure/pain of crossing, he has crafted out some great records with both Camperdown and Out and under his own name. Back incognito in the Sydney swelter, he has brought some of that Gallic saunter and swagger with him in the form of Le Villejuif Underground. His laconic drawl is the same louche observations, living in a hazy cloud, a unreliable holiday parallel to the real world, never breaking a sweat, even when the wall is racing towards the windscreen. 'On The Seine' is the kind of wonky lounge pop whimsy that only someone as careless, carousing and carefree as Roche can get away with, let alone do well. Just go with it - it might fleece you, but you will be happy for the experience... Watch for a release to come out of Rice Is Nice later in the year.

Out of all the acts on this Antipodean breakdown, Loose Tooth is the only "new band" to me, having only heard 'Bites Will Bleed' yesterday. It's impressive - a scuzz-blasted call to arms, both maudlin and steadfast, brutal and brittle, not reticent, unrepentant. They have been picked up by Milk Records (Courtney Barnett, The Finks) and their debut EP Saturn Returns will be out in April. (And how amazing is that band photo? Bloody amazing, that's what).

Curt from The Ocean Party has his own outlet as Velcro - he played a Sonic Masala show in Brisbane back in 2013 (to all of 30 people, on a $5, 6-band bill - but I sunk $300+ on the bar to make up for the disappointment so I think everyone had a good time. That image above is from the show). He has released a self-titled LP that was recorded around that time, and is finally out in the ether - you can see how his songwriting leads into The Ocean Party meringue. It's about the same laconic worldviews that his band mates' side projects Ciggie Witch and Hobby Farm - being bedridden ('Bed Ridden'), loving Victoria ('Victoria'), visiting Sydney ('Sydney')... Yeah, the name is definitely the game. Especially like 'Whine', but they are all good tracks. Bout bloody time, Curt.

Sydney upstarts Weak Boys continue to rattle the cage. These carefree slacker poptarts don't know how to take things seriously - except when they do. I was going to apologies about not writing about their fun as hell album Weekdays/Weekends, or their new single 'Life Rules'n (death drools). But then they got angry at the shitty situation of their home town and spat it out for all to see - 'Good One Sydney'. Fucking good one. Kings Cross living. Here is a link to their record anyway so you can see how good these goofballs are - and maybe you will see them in Brisbane in August for something or other...

And we sign off with California Girls AKA Gus McGrath (Wives, Primary Colours, Beach Slut). he has been a heavily prolific dude in the past, and you can see why - his latest, Desire, has already sold out in cassette form, with an LP version to be out sometime this month. It's New Wave gothic post-punk caught between a black hole and a vase of rotting roses, not wanting or knowing anything other than to sway to the sounds of anguish and desire. It lives in Australia, but could emanated out of the cold terrain of the European dour, a constant search for passion and longing through a prism of dancefloor disappointment and narcotic necrotism. In short, it is insidiously sensuous in its abject, knowing despair... See California Girls play this Saturday with Hobart legends Naked and locals Wives at the Phoenix, before he hits Melbourne to play at Howler alongside Bent, Hierophants and Waterfall Person.

The Return Of Twin Peaks From Heaven

We are all looking forward to the return of Twin Peaks, aren't we? The David Lynch show opened up so many televisual worlds - without it (and its iconic, idiosyncratic imagery and score) we wouldn't have the plethora of outre, lovely shows we have today. But then there is Chicago band Twin Peaks (not to be confused with SM faves from Adelaide, Peak Twins), whose third album Down In Heaven is due to drop in May (through Communion Records). Tenuously like the titular TV show, each album has seen an insidious shift of tone. 2013's Sunken was more of a fuzz-drenched punchbowl of raggedy rock, while Wild Onion the following year seemed to reach for the bleachers with its meticulous mix of party blasts and pleasant platitudes. With the 60s Kinks/T-Rex/Easybeats twang of 'Walk To The One You Love', it sounds as if the guys are spiralling further into the past to claw into the future. Twin Peaks is a band unsure of what they are, but will continue to play music that flows naturally forth from the springs. 

Twin Peaks will be in the UK in April - playing Camden Barfly on April 19.

Calling Out For Gun Outfit Tonight

Tonight LA trio Gun Outfit hit The Lexington (supported by Amps For Christ in yet another Upset The Rhythm gig) to launch their excellent Dream All Over record. But they also have two other offerings in play (not that it should surprise us, they have been notably prolific since their inception some ten or so years ago). Two Way Player came out last week and it is even more open and enigmatic than the album. Featuring members of Milk Music and Growing, the EP shows the band spiralling further into the hazy American West guitar psych that fellow explorers The War On Drugs can be seen to inhabit. It is an atmospheric journey that will inhabit your daily travails and your nightly dreams.

The band also have a tour-only cassette available - race you to it!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Hello Summer Flake

2016 sees another great Aussie release to anticipate in Hello Friends, Summer Flake's follow up to the excellent You Can Have It All. 'Shoot And Score' is more brooding than what we saw on her Time Rolls By interim EP last year - it reminds me of the darker yet no less melodious moments of True Widow (without the calamitous down-tuned explosions) or early Lower Dens. Stephanie Crase's hypnotic hushed vocals coax and cajole, contemplative, knowledgeable, possibly menacing, with the guitar and relentless plod of the drums precipitating the electrical storm on the horizon. It's the kind of lurking track that is insidious, climbs inside you and haunts for days. Hello again Summer Flake, it's great to have you back. Hello Friends is out soon through Rice Is Nice.

Monday 15 February 2016

Suckled In By Bedroom Eyes

It's getting on in the evening here - I've been trying unsuccessfully to complete some article edits. Or maybe it's because I have my headphones on and Honeysuckle is filling my every pore. It is the new album from Boston's Bedroom Eyes, and it is a heady, heaving mixture of shoegaze noise without the histrionics, offering transcendental vocals over a cacophany of fuzz and sludge. Elements of songs such as 'Wild Sins' and 'Restless' remain distant, a contemplative insular journey, yet interspersed with serrated distortion, stop/start pedal crunch, black-hole noise sculpted into a cleansing purge that is undeniably beautiful in audacity, expansiveness and scope. Cathartic euphoria through sonorous noise, Honeysuckle is fantastic. You can pick it up through Midnight Werewolf Records here.

September Girls Love No One

Irish brooders September Girls are back with a new album, Age of Indignation, coming out in April through Fortuna Pop. The first cut from it is 'Love No One', which is expectantly propulsive and gothic, with some nice Morricone undertones, and the film clip evokes Jodorowsky, Argento, Warhol, Polanski's (namely his Playboy-backed Macbeth cut), Strickland, and the pagan rituals of Summerisle, all within the confines of a luxurious art deco building. It's beguiling, darkly beautiful - so great to have the Girls back from the dark, even if they are thrive in the shadows

There Are No Limits In The Future Of The Left

Can't complain about a Monday morning when you get to start it with a new Falco special. Welsh legends Future Of The Left are back with a new album on the horizon, called The Peace & Truce Of Future Of The Left. The first taste is 'The Limits Of Battleships', a decidedly barbed satirical song, a jerky punch driven primarily by thick, spiked bass and skittish drums. Falco's spits barbed lines dipped in vitriol and sardonic hilarity that slash and serrate ('Two drinks for the limits of cool'. 'Two drinks for accountant's, 'Have you know anyone who can wear a hat indoors/Without guns or bodyguards to impress on the bare-headed hordes', 'Everybody has a prick in the game...There's no girls in this team', 'No drinks for the enemy combatants, no drinks for the door staff', 'It burns like writer's block'...). It is acerbic and harsh, sure, but there is a lot of space in this track; it isn't designed to rock in the most traditional sense. It is made to unnerve, to entice you in before denying you a proper release. The joke, as always, is on you.

The album comes out in April, when FotL head out on tour on the following dates:

Wed 20th April LIVERPOOL Arts Club
Thurs 21st April LONDON Electric Ballroom

Thurs 12th May CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
Fri 13th May MANCHESTER Night and Day
Sat 14th May GLASGOW Venue TBA

Sunday 14 February 2016

Hits From The Box #123 - Birthday Valentine

I cannot remember celebrating Valentine's Day in my life. I know that I have - but I cannot really remember what I did. My high school girlfriend I probably bought flowers and a teddy bear or some shit. My university relationship, probably dinner and a lot of booze. All other relationships haven't gone on long enough to reach this commercial dive of a day. And now I am engaged to a wonderful woman whose birthday is on Valentine's Day - which she hates because her friends never want to do anything because Valentines, and everywhere is expensive because Valentines. So, blanket ban on Valentines. Sometimes, things just pan out... Here are some bands that we both agree on this week - a much, MUCH harder proposition than it sounds - so happy birthday Valentine's...or not.

It might seem an incongruous choice to start a Valentine's post, and a girlfriend's birthday post, with a song called 'You're Not Gonna Love Me Anymore' - but stick with me. Beat Awfuls is a Kentucky-based band who seem loathe to craft anything that is plus 3 minutes long (only the last two tracks, 'Shitty City' and 'The One They Love', from their recently released record Nothing Happens, out now on Jurassic Pop, steps over this invisible limit). Their brand of jangly, distant lo-fi pop is incredibly potent, a combination of ramshackle rambunctiousness infused with a loquacious charm. But it's the wistful beauty of 'You're Not Gonna Love Me Anymore' slays me. Such a great song, album, band.

Blue Movies is a slowly percolating ambient somnambulist dreamscape conjured by out of East London. Not really the kind of music you associate with this self-perpetuation touchstone of the London zeitgeist (AKA hipster haven). Kuroi Karasu is a serene sojourn through the gloaming, clear star-flecked skies above, campfires in the wilderness with sparks living trails across the retina, sunrise/sunset over environments that can never be tamed, the human condition internalized then spat out, a contemplation of all this infinitesimal and infinite.

Here is a song that has blown me away on a couple levels. First of all, these guys are all school aged. Secondly, they are from Toowoomba - a Queensland, Australia town that has had a few bands break out of its volcanic bowl, but not many. And thirdly, Tinted Sun's 'Only One' is an incredibly mature, ultimately ebullient track that screams mid 2000s indie rock. The kind of rousing, gently coalescing track that is heartfelt, overcoming angst with a wash of cacophonous euphoria. In short, very impressive - let's see where these kids take this.

Down and across the Great Dividing Range into Brisbane to say Cheers G'Day, which is also the name of this new dreampop outfit. 'Dream Girl' is a pretty apt title - it floats along and away with hardly any weight to it at all - making some of The Ocean Party's more ruminative numbers feel positively bulked up. Mixing tremolo with yacht rock, louche pop and a delicate chime, the song seems like a precursor to further sun-drenched dreamscapes.

Still in Australia, we have a new label in the form of Our Golden Friend. The first release is a 7" from 808s & Greatest Hits, a pseudonym for Skube Burnell. It's wonky, surreal pop, the kind of lounged easy listening you would hear when submerged under the ocean, approaching a case of the bends, life flashing before the eyes, the pain of bursting lungs superseded by ethereal glimpses of shimmering mermaids, and velvet-curtained gin clubs frequented by comatose bachelors and dapper dwarves. OK so this isn't about a on-death's-door purgatory in Twin Peaks territory, just some of the images I think of when I hear it. Don't trust me - just dive in, the water's fine.

All small acts, but now we head to Indianapolis for a bigger concern. Lily & Madeleine are a sisterly duo who are releasing Keep It Together later this month. Their film clips for 'For The Weak' and 'Hotel Pool' are infatuated with the wash of water superimposed over the girls - again, the music flows over your, disappearing inside their sonorous world. It's the kind of psych-tinged alt folk territory that bands like The Besnard Lakes or The Cave Singers inhabit (both of which also have new albums on the way) - albeit more lilting and upbeat. Looking forward to seeing how this album pans out.

Alison always gets angry when she thinks I think she only likes light whimsical stuff. Now I am not saying that anything we have listened to already this morning is that, but there is a propensity for me to find things that aren't guitar-heavy when sitting down on a Sunday morning with her. Plus she is an 80s fanatic - our joined fanaticism of Roxy Music speaks volumes. But there are notable exceptions - we have been digging The War On Drugs, The Go, Courtney Barnett and Triptides in the past months, and Mikal Cronin of late. Worn-Tin, the thinly-veiled moniker for slacker extraordinaire Warner Hiatt, has taken over this mantle. Thanatophobia is an album filled with ragged charm, a rusted garage recording that touches on everything from psych-pop rock, pastoral rock breakdowns, haunted ballads, honky-tonk reveries and Midwest instrumental meanderings. All on his own, Worn-Tin has crafted a rough yet sparkling gem to be bloody proud of.

Let's finish with The Multiple Cat, a musical outlet for Daytrotter co-founder Patrick Stolley. 'Maps' is a solid laidback sun-drunk blast, but I have chosen to finish off on this track because of the Outrun film clip. Alison and I spent some of the day in a bar in Peckham feeding quarters into arcade games of Asteroids, Sega Rally, Pac Man and Street Fighter 2 (mostly Street Fighter 2) - yet I would have killed to have played this. Well played, Multiple Cat - well played.

Happy Sunday Valentine's everyone!