I wrote this whole Big Thing about the entire current state of Music, all its evils and its greatnesses and indie culture and bullshit, and now I’ve just decided to leave it in my notebook and off of Blog Stratosphere. Why? Because nothing’s changed. Major labels still suck, whether they’re scrambling to stay alive or not, people will always rip off the music they love instead of buying it, and there will always be steady streams of completely amazing and shitty, shitty music coming out to be discovered, now or later.
So I took a note from Badfinger and decided to go “Straight Up.” (No Rundgren reference intended.)
These are a bunch of new-ish albums (and one EP) I’ve been feeling a lot these days, and the feelings that go with them:
Emeralds “What Happened” (No Fun)
This U.S. trio lay it on super thick with the cosmic blankets, tucking in evocations of early solo Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream’s “Atem” and “Zeit” to deepest sleep beneath your subconscious activity. Here, what you live is what you dream worth living. The inherent heights compiled on this CD-only-and-fucking-worth-it album effortlessly obliterate the robotic coldness of the crystalline synthesizer and achingly ambient guitar get-up into more gaseous and much warmer realms of sub-space than most can pull off with all the Daddy-money their basement lifestyles can afford.
Balls deep under almost-ambient psychedelia’s clitoris, motions unravel a little more lucidly, but these “free” session heads stay focused and leveled enough to gel well all the fucking time. Magic music for mystic swimmers, oceans wide in scope... Stoned, but not too alone.
Total Abuse “s/t” (Deranged)
A debut that makes sure you’re not getting back up after it ferociously knocks you down. These guys rushed out of some desolate sewer somewhere in the U.S. and suddenly make punk rock, noise rock, hell—ALL aggressive music, new and old—Total Abuse make it DANGEROUS and EXCITING again. Would you invite this band into your living room to play a show to your friends? If you said Yes, you’re probably masochistic, or wasted as fuck, or you’ve just never heard this record. This record will destroy you. It could’ve come out in 1981 and already been cherished as your favourite album since you were a teenager, but hearing it a few months after it came out, it somehow feels REFRESHING. If only just to know it all hasn’t been done to death. So fucking real, so fucking raw, and so fucking bursting with it.
May punk rock never die... This is a real next-leveler of a debut LP, coming hard after 7-song 7” tore hardcore’s bones out of the throats of its dead heroes. Fucking scary shit, man, I’m telling you… Just dig that limited edition screen-printed “breast milk” cover. These guys are here to fucking play, and they mean bad business, because life isn’t all fucking cherries, brunches and frappucinos, you spoiled western world bitches. Taste the dirt of reality and RESPECT it.
Shepherds “Loco Hills” (Not Not Fun)
Way motorik, slightly lo-fi off-shoot of psych-folkies Woods, Shepherds slide into krautrock’s full-band psych-side so gracefully, tunefully and timelessly, you can’t help but wanna fall under their steady, evolving, fluid trance. Far out but in focus… All around ballin’. Hope the hiatus these cats are on isn’t a permanent one, because their side of the Ignatz split 7” for Not Not Fun is as “good times” as this delightful, unpretentious album, and the more magic music there is out there, the more wonderful go the days and nights.
Dead C “Secret Earth” (Ba Da Bing)
What the good God fuck is going on here?! The Dead C went and slipped out their most straight up and accessible LP of unraveling rock since “Eusa Kills”—quite possibly the most accessible LP of their entire careers—and nary a soul gave more than a hearty chuff of enthusiasm. I can’t hardly relate what a golden boner I have for this magnificent, flowing touchstone of a refined rock album. It’s suspended in a zone reserved for the times when Crazy Horse staggers fucked thru desert fields, honey sliding outward into unknown landscapes, strange and driven, circa ’75, ’76… “Zuma” into “Stars n’ Bars” territory… Turned to noise… and bronzed.
No group has aged and refined so well as this in the post-noise climate. Their limited-edition tour-only live 12” (which plays from the middle outward!) is well worth seeking out, too, as is the more damaged and instrumental “Future Artists” 2xLP from ‘07, the song-less, exploratory nature of which perfectly compliments the more focused and tuneful state of “Secret Earth.” Another unheralded, poorly selling plate of musical wisdom from the finest noise-rock band this side of Hades. Feed your brain some real nourishment and wrap it around this album, please.
Sic Alps “U.S.EZ” (Siltbreeze)
Some great little off-the-cuff garage-pop fuzz tunes buried deep amid the ruinous feud waste of this dived-out, drug-addled, riff-raff jam-pack of an album. Sounds like these cats set out to stow away like it was “Exile on Main St.” or “Twin Infinitives” all over again, because they sure cooked out a spontaneous stove-top vein-melter of a record on some lost long weekend. Ex-Coachwhips dude leads this project, and apparently previous Sic Alps albums are a lot different than this shambles of nearly burnt-out, slagged-off genius, having featured the bassist from Erase Errata and the Hospitals main dude. I’ll hear that stuff eventually, but I’d rather keep my original daydream that Sic Alps is some band that appeared out of nowhere and is related to no one. “U.S.EZ” outshines a lot of other buzz plates dropping these days and comes off so fucking effortless. Abandon at its best. Feel the damage enfold you and marvel at its catchy, memorable head-fuck.
Blues Control “s/t” (Holy Mountain)
Amazing little unisex duo of a dude on guitar, wailing or riffing it out, and a chick on keys and machines holding it down with beats and synth swaths. Almost simply another lo-fi and drone unit, Blues Control instead opens up to more accessible manna of textures and broken melodies to escape drone’s monotonous, depressing trappings and venture into areas more akin with krautrock, ‘70s Eno, Bowie’s Berlin era, and other playful and wonderful worlds of music. Fun, interesting stuff that doesn’t take itself so seriously as to stifle creative flow into formulaic sterility, but takes itself seriously enough to not come off goofy or half-assed. My only complaint is that suburban doorbell that reoccurs throughout “Frankie’s Problem”—such an unpleasant sound, but I’m sure these young artists have their reasons. And we’re all Frankies anyway…
I like this self-titled sophomore for Holy Mountain even more than their epic and minimal debut “Puff,” and I don’t usually go that way in my taste. These two put on a great live show, too. And dig that fucking psych cover art! I got so tripped out about it, I had it for months before my girlfriend informed me it actually spells out “Blues Control” in its psych line-art… It’s music like this—and awesome girlfriends—that help you stay young at heart (and art).
XO4 “Cataracts” (Ecstatic Peace!)
This is such an ultimately creepy and psyched out record. Imagine if Pelt got downright eerie and even subtly malicious during their plugged-in phase, and you’re somewhere near the vicinity of this western Massachusetts trio between avant percussion cats Jake Meginsky and John Truscinski, and Vampire Belt / Shackamaxon guitar treater extraordinaire Bill Nace. Truly frightening improvs chock full of movement, expansion and willful intent—not your average aimless or overly intellectualized avant fair. Way out alien sounds, captured in the raw for a standout Ecstatic Peace! release. This album came out back in 2007, but I only picked it up a while ago and it’s one of the finest new-ish things occupying my turntable, so Blog sticklers save your verbal attacks and factoid checks, please.
U.S. Girls “Introducing…” (Siltbreeze)
Megan seems to have found the way to bleed pop music down to its very core, so that there’s only a distant, thudding beat, a wall of cacophonous sonic tape spill-over or ghostly guitar melodies, and a powerful, enchanting voice left to bare witness to the rubble that’s lying around. U.S. Girls is the real deal. There’s such attention to detail and structure and a concise sensibility at play beneath its rough and tumble immediate impressions—hers are the barest foundational ideas of pop and rock, and noise. Future music for heads of all making, this is challenging, stripped down primitivist prayer programs for those who’ve kept their wit, and their edge, intact.
Blank Dogs “The Fields” (Woodsist)
Yeah, everyone’s loving on Mike Sniper these days. What’s one more blog entry asserting this really worth? His one-man New Order on vodka and anti-depressants passion-pop jams sure caught the bug, and they’re spreading like crabs across the big balls of the internet, record labels, and ear buds.
The young dude’s double LP sophomore “Under and Under” drops this May on In The Red, but until then we’ve got this recent EP for the Woods crew, the “On Two Sides” LP and all those great 7”s to soak up. “The Fields” certainly shows Sniper venturing out of his insular creative shell to explore more band-oriented arrangements, most apparently on “Red World” and “Passing the Light,” where it sounds like a full band playing away and not altering the Blank Dogs sound one iota. One of the lovely Vivian Girls lent some help to this EP… Sniper’s deep into a gold sound, so let’s hope it ages well, because when he hits a killer chorus or bridge, it really hits you in the chest. Not all these songs are great—“The Other Way,” for instance, is a little lackluster and uninspired—but there’s no mistaking good sound and wicked sensibility—first side closer “Spinning” is my favourite track, reminding me why I like OMD and Cabaret Voltaire so much.
OTHER NEWISH STUFF I’M FEELING:
Black Dice “Repo” (Paw Tracks)
DOOM “Born Like This” (Lex)
Madlib “Beat Konducta Vol. 5 – 6” (Stones Throw)
various artists “XXperiments” (Die Stasi)