Release Date Buff: August 2019

August 2nd 

Ami Dang – Parted Plains
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Leaving Records
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia

It was a Thursday night out with friends, grabbing a bite at a deli/bistro in Southeast Portland where I laid it out: I don’t listen to singles. Not my thing. It’s not that I don’t listen to some songs on repeat (sometimes grievously so, over days), I just consider any single a b-side because if’s not on the long-player, then it’s not the A-material. See, now that’s what I prefer: long-players. Any schmuck can make a good song. Only an artist can make a good body of work. And most musicians are schmucks. Shit, I’m a schmuck—we all got suckered into this music industry thing! Talk about lowballing yourself. Well, at least we get to do something creative. I’ll pay the landlord on that. Anyways, Ami had me surprised; I did not expect all the synthesizers and the computers to incorporate the classic Sikh sitar nor did I expect the inverse, that sitar melts right into the technological mist, ferrying the midnight fog, carrying passengers to its destination. The absolute sublimity of each piece falling into the next is what I live for in music. Even if these pieces don’t actually jam into each other, the hint that they move together is a plus in my book.

Black Milk – DiVE
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Mass Appeal/Computer Ugly
Genre: Jazz Rap, Conscious Hip Hop

Read through Black Milk’s biography and you’ll be hit with one phrase: “trusted virtuoso” that is enough to make any first impressionist such as myself pause to figure out if this is true. Unfortunately, the veracity of this career claim will have to be left for later, as from all points of his extended-player-but-not, DiVE, hits the bases of modern social conscious hip hop evolved from the likes of Jurassic 5, Tribe and the Soulquarian collective. Mixed together with eighties synthfunk flourish, downtempo beat considerations, a souljazz guitar-and-bass duo, and what should be acclaimed here is an album which stands unabashedly on its creator’s own strengths. There’s rarely a feature and most skip over; I’m just here for the Black Milk, I suppose, and the penmanship did not disappoint: “Watchin’ America’s dream sit right there/ That path to money put Blacks with money Seem like it’s America’s nightmare/ You die if you fight fair” alone is a better bar than anything Chance has released in the intervening three years.

Cory Wong – Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Funk

This record is all about buttering you up; there’s a moment when I think Cory Wong’s about to break free from his metropolitan Eighties Police Procedural instrumentalisms and deliver something a little more concrete. For roughly 21 minutes, Wong submits us to a guitar-induced, saxophone heavy, Cagney & Lacey-type vanilla funk and then has the gall to take us through the emotional hassle of “Today I’m Going to Get Myself a Real Job.” And to some extent he got me, the motherfucker got me, because today I’m having a panic attack over working retail as a college graduate while I clean the house, clean the mind, review records and apply for jobs I actually want to do. No time for the anxious, I suppose. But it reeled me in for the rest of this record, maybe Wong’s ready to drop some knowledge on me. Enter “Companion Pass,” which also manages to tug on the ol’ heart string with some powerful motivational speaker lines before devolving into a 1-800-SALES-PITCH. Goddamnit. I just want to be motivated, Cory, not pandered to with the latest self-help book about my Defining Decade. And frankly, that’s all this long-player is.

Cross Record – Cross Record
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Ba Da Bing!
Genre: Dreampop, Slowcore

Emily Cross’ latest eponymous work is an effort to comb through. Which means it succeeded: it is effectively slowcore, which is essentially dreampop for goths. Tape delay and looping abound in an indie vocalist long-player, a sort of dry snow ambiance of being in the middle of a north Texas prairie after snow. I don’t know if that actually happens anymore due to global warming, but hey, this is my memoir of things that may not have actually happened ™. As for Cross Record I would have been happy had this thing not happened between my ears. I love Emily Cross for her apocalypto-folk triphop records from Loma but Cross Record has always been more hit-or-miss, Wabi-Sabi being the most interesting project of the lot due to a passing flirtation with that music thing. No melodies though, this isn’t that kind of grilled cheese shack. Which makes Cross Record all the more bare: there’s not even much of a cart, just a girl with premade grilled cheeses singing songs of misery for a dollar. And I suppose by now you expect me to write that actually, Emily Cross can shut up and take all of my money, before opening up to sing again, but honestly, I’m just going to avoid further eye contact and act like this interaction never happened. It’s the only way to save face for a vocalist I enjoy very much.

floral print – floral print (EP)
Label: Tiny Engines
Genre: Jazz Rock

floral print’s second EP is a self-described deconstructionist record; taking airy jazz and droning garage to swirl it together in a most discomforting jazz rock formula; pieces which both want to engage in bebop whistle changes and shoegaze phase outs. One eye twitches, one eye glazes over. I let it play over a bit, repeat so I didn’t miss anything, but often I found myself checking out mentally by “alice arm” because of the warbling effects on this record, dizzying me into comatose. In this essence, I’m reminded of the more savage Jean Dubuffet pieces, regarding his wilder “art brut” work, it’s something you have to sit down for and even then, you’re going to miss a lot of the why. There’s also no need to simplify it further because, like this record and like Dubuffet’s art, much of the methodology is a matter of adulterated child’s play.

Mechanical Museum – Three Simple Steps
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: //bloompunch
Genre: Downtempo, Indietronica

I go through spurts of Overwatch, playing like a madman for a few weeks before hibernating for a few months. In that short period time, I’m listening to as much video game music as possible without thinking. And indeed, I don’t much care for video game tunes. I have my favourites, sure, Age of Empires and a great deal of World Warcraft coloured my childhood palette and artists Darren Korb, Ben Prunty, Austin Wintory, FlybyNo, nervous_testpilot all rank highly in my personal library, but this isn’t music I come back to unless I’m replaying the game. Of that list, only FlybyNo and Ben Prunty are picked to soundtrack my sleep schedule. Otherwise, I’m looking elsewhere and thus my search for whatever video game Three Simple Steps could possibly soundtrack. And after thinking on it, I’m pretty settled: this is chillstep video game music for the disquieted soul, not bad, but also not very interesting. It’s the electronic equivalent of D.Va’s spa music.

RF Shannon – Rain On Dust
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Keeled Scales
Genre: Americana, Psychedelic Folk

Not much ado about anything, Psychedelic folksters often fight themselves over how much ambiance is too much ambiance, how few notes is too few notes, thus reducing their efforts to pulpits of silence and eerie shoegaze drool psychedelia. Trickster Blues edged on that line between silence and sound to a fine, fine, fine degree. Fractions of an inch between the toe and the threshold. Much obliged RF Shannon finally decided to play melodies for their third effort in as many years; their muse being the open road in his odyssey for America and penning thoughts about vultures hanging in the air and the lonely passes of panhandle Texas. Shane Renfro doesn’t sound like someone weathered by a dust bowl, but he’s trying. And I suppose that’s as much as one can do when your muse is found in the great plains, in a place where only grass reaches for the sky, but for Rain On Dust, Renfro is still on the move, still searching for where the grass turns to gold. In a sick way, I hope he doesn’t find it—the journey is just getting interesting.

String Machine – Death of the Neon
Producer: David
Label: String Machine
Genre: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Folk, Twee

In a recent conversation with the manager of Music Millennium here in Portland, I learned something very important: choosing a record based on the cover art is not uncommon. And yes, as an impressionist I do select the works I review for this thread based on three things in descending order: artist>artwork>genre. If I know the artist, of course I’ll be listening; if like the artwork, I’m probably going to listen; and if I’m versed enough in the genre, I possibly might listen to it. Psychedelic twee to put it lightly, is one of those things that interests me. So, was String Machine’s second record a worthy endeavour? Yes and no, precisely because it is dilly-dallying around its own tweeness for most of Death of the Neon, I mean how many times can one use transmigrate on a long-player before we wonder how many pages were in the lead singer’s thesaurus? Because this language is nothing compared to the feeling of the young and the restless caught in social paralysis and presented by String Machine’s folksy storytelling. If anything, I’m more irritated at how the orchestral musicality attempts to drown out these raw poetics rather than the non-ironic appreciation for twee music. Because for all the jibes of naivete in the music, none punches harder than the realization that it’s all a mask for a serious observer in lyricist David Beck’s mind.

Tearjerker – Faded
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Almost Communist
Genre: Indie Rock, Hypnagogia

Tearjerker wants me to cry about something. I’m sure of it. They really do. There’s a fair share of piano for a hypnagogia record and a fair share of simulated eight-track taping for an indie rock record. It’s good stuff, but I’m not much one to cry over music when it’s the music attempting to force the issue. The only record which has gotten me in that vein is the xx’s Coexist, which is a fucking brutale record if you’ll excuse the French. Faded, meanwhile, is all very grand for bedroom indie rock, akin a lo-fi rendering of Florence & the Machine’s Ceremonials. And while I was blasted away by Florence Welche’s vocal performances on that record, I still didn’t cry over it. So Tearjerker is determined instead to pull a tear from my eyes by consistently prodding me and I’m not having it. I’ll turn the record off before it finally replays enough for me to postulate some moisture in these ol’ tear glands.

Ty Segall – First Taste
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Drag City
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelia

I don’t much like Ty Segall; I know it’s wrong, but for some reason his image is linked to Mac DeMarco more than it is to John Dwyer. And one could say this is a dislike tied distinctly Mac DeMarco, but I dislike anyone I’m told I would like—which is ironic considering my subject matter—the first taste becomes tainted and it never seems to live up to expectations. I’ve been told Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is supposed to be Tarantino’s best and now, I’m worried it won’t hit me as well if I went in with no appraisals in mind. So let’s turn a phrase, “life: emergency evacuation of opinions required,” and listen to First Taste. All in all, a more listenable Ty Segall record (Deforming Lobes notwithstanding) in recent years. Fudge Sandwich being a smattering of semi-interesting covers, Joy managing to be too-dry-a-cider and Freedom’s Goblin going… oh shit, looks like I missed one. Well, my point still stands, Ty Rex is the only Ty Segall record I give a damn about, a mix of Lou Reed Metal Machine Music assholery with Electric Warrior lofi blues-balling. I don’t know if this is Ty Segall’s stab at “going pop” (du calme, my beating heart) or just a refresher for all of his nutty Laguna Beach fans looking for a bit of Fuzz, but the new record sounds more like stream of consciousness reads rather than curated artist’s statements and, well, First Taste must mean something, right?

New Music Friday thread

August 9th

Bon Iver – i,i
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Chris Messina and Brad Cook
Label: Jagjaguwar
Genre: Folktronica

To date, Justin Vernon is the only indie artist I have ever felt truly pressured to listen to and thus have. I can say no to Radiohead. I can say no to Mitski. I can say no to Elliot Smith. I can say no to Sleater-Kinney. I can say no to Stephen Malkmus. Hell, I have said no to Jack White, Interpol, the Kings of Leon and Franz Ferdinand among others. And I could even say no to David Berman, though the winds might have a-changed on that one—morbid curiosity is a powerful motivator. But I quite literally have sat in front of my computer screen for hours and just repeated to myself: “you should listen to Bon Iver.” And today I did. I broke. I didn’t just listen to i,i but 22, A Million, Bon Iver and For Emma, Forever Ago all in that order. And I liked it. I’ve already seen him live too, a curio to my Pitchfork Paris escapades. But I want to make it clear, I didn’t like listening to most of Bon Iver. I liked the vanity of saying “I’ve listened to Bon Iver.” Because, aside from the always tried and true diehard fans (which seems to be 99% of /r/indieheads), I assume most people listen to Bon Iver to say they did. Once. And then proceeded to find other artsy folktronica bands to listen to once before moving on again. But I will admit to this: I did like listening to i,i and thus 22, A Million. I found i,i to pick up everything 22, A Million had put down. And if there was ever a reverse diptych for listeners to get into Bon Iver, these last two records are it.

Bule – Wild Wild West Island
Producer: Frank Marino
Label: Stale Stew
Genre: Alt-Country, Country Rock

Bule being the brainchild of—well, considering they don’t have much info on the press release for this record, I have no idea, so I’m just going to assume—vocalist Benjamin Vallée, I’m trying to figure out what exactly what makes this outfit “alt-country.” Vallée is dressed smart, like a suited-up Sam Smith-Dan Auerbach lovechild with love for steel and bluegrass topped in a Stetson hat. And his record is smart, efficient country. I don’t hear a hint of alternative influences—just the classic bluegrass. In fact, I would say the only alternative thing about this record is the fact that Vallée sings like an Auerbach clone. Which isn’t really alternative at all. Just derivative.

Electric Youth – Memory Emotion
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Last Gang
Genre: Synthwave, Dreampop

*synthwave warble starts* *foreboding Hammond* *airy vocals* *warbling intensifies* *instrumental breakdown* *telekinesis* *Mind Flayer meat monster* *Battle of StarCourt* *dramatic sacrifice* *bittersweet victory* *end song*

Yeah, I think that’s how this record happened. All I know is, I really liked the Battle of StarCourt.

Josh Garrels – Chrysaline
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Isaac Wardell
Label: Small Voice
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Folktronica

Who said you had to be Mr. Chet Faker to use that high pitch falsetto with folktronica muzak? Apparently, no one passed Josh Garrels the note for Chrysaline, or, to heap praise, he saw a market opportunity with the shedding of Nick Murphy’s alter ego and so took a chance. And now he shall be king of the Coachella ladies looking for some heartfelt folk-adjacent tunes for somesuch exploration of serendipitous being. If nothing else, these tunes will show up on the Apple Music playlists of the next Joel Barish or Walter Mitty, ripe for some fruiting emotion in those candid profile shots captured in ultra-high definition focus of a 60 frame-per-second spirit quest, once again on the serendipitous nature of being. And if that doesn’t sell you on this record, just know that it doesn’t matter what your or I or anybody thinks because it’s live and let live until we all die from letting live the innocuous treats and sugars of life as testament to the absence of clairvoyance and ad hoc philosophy of seeing and doing rather than premeditated reading and writing. Of course, it could just be a little bit of both, as Mr. Gump would say, a fistful of fatalism and a wad of free will, as I would wax. But then again, so does Josh Garrels, who could do with cutting 20 minutes off this record to keep the effort taut. As it is, the point’s been protracted—alas, serendipity is a daisy chain.

Lea Porcelain – Love Is Not an Empire (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk

There’s not much ado about space rock, is there? But as far a stylism goes, I didn’t expect a space rocking post-punk record with languished singer-songwriter lyrics. Yes, yes, what a bleating heart Markus Nikolaus has I will say while all my other clever turn of phrases can cram it. I must concur with the slogan, however, Love Is Not an Empire is just the euro-hippie tautology I need in life, though I’m pretty sure that phrase has been kicking it for a while now. Either way, producer Julien Bracht and Nikolaus use their skills to make an extended player for people in need of validation. They might not get much of the lyrics without headphones and they may not feel much different between “I Am Ok” until “Till The End,” but hey, this is just mint musical ice cream. There’s no judgement here, I’m feeling pretty validated.

Loudness War – Mystifier Deluxe
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Melt House
Genre: Garage Punk, Psychedelic Rock

Another day, another crop of bands, another krautrock group. If nothing else, I consider myself a specialist of the psychedelic rock scenes. Still in need of more exploration but getting there. And I’m not mad, I’m just spoiled for choice. Shit, Loudness War made a better record than my dear Psychedelic Porn Crumpets this year, I’m ecstatic. Recently I was at a barbecue for Music Millennium to celebrate the joint. A local band called the Reverberations was playing and was staffed by the lovechild of Jack Black and every member of the Byrds on vocals, Geddy Lee ca ‘67 on the keyboards, Your Dad on the bass and Who Really Knew? on the drums. They weren’t too bad, but everything they could do Mystifier Deluxe does better. The biggest asset and drawback to living in the Sixties is there is no bite. There is no willingness to break the song somewhat. Loudness War may not entirely break their songs but will split your eardrums before Steve Spring croons like Roger McGuinn. Now that’s a crossover.

Pete Yorn – Caretakers
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Jackson Phillips
Label: Shelly Music
Genre: Folk Rock, Singer-Songwriter

I don’t think he should, but for some reason or another Pete Yorn reminds me of Rory Gallagher. Must be the way he holds his guitar. Or the earnestness in his voice about what ills him. Pete Yorn is also approaching the same age as Rory Gallagher at the time of the latter’s death. But really, it’s just a legacy thing—Pete Yorn made folk-rock rock again (Musicforthemorningafter) and Rory Gallagher made blue-eyed blues blue again (Deuce). Well, anyways, Yorn’s latest record dabbles in synthesizers and a peppier sonic for some cuts and I’m wondering if he’s inclining towards a John Mayer approach, the skill being undeniable. But the skills is undeniable, and there’s a hint of that sad bastard music about him that makes you wanna drown in champagne and Prozac while listening all the way through Caretakers. But he’s just hopeful enough where you couldn’t bring yourself to destroy yourself after “Idols.” See, I like to believe I’m crazy enough to “lose my life out on a limb,” like CeeLo sings, but when Yorn purrs “Won’t you try,” he knows too well, I won’t.

New Music Friday thread

August 16th

Channel Tres – Black Moses (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Godmode
Genre: Deep House, West Coast Hip Hop

Deep house aficionado, Channel Tres, has released unto his fans an EP, and being jaded as the moment of this writing, fucking finally. No help—I’ve been blueballed too hard by Peggy Gou’s albummixtapethingermajig which I really just wanted to be either an album or a mixtape, but not some softcore tease of both. Anyways Channel Tres doesn’t disappoint, and he doesn’t put your ass to sleep here. The Black Moses himself delivers the tablets with “Brilliant Nigga” (“Fuck with me, you’re toast, you know/ Nigga’s trippin’, I get cynical/ The drugs is in the groove, you know/ I’m the shit that got you comatose”) and “Sexy Black Timberblake” (“She know I knock the pussy out”). Oh yes, he’s catty and he’s a baddy. But don’t buy too hard what’s in his baggy, Channel Tres is still just putting on another face until he gets real with a mixtape.

Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: IT’S OK
Genre: Post-Punk

Dry Cleaning’s debut extended-player is as the band’s name: dry. The guitars are a lo-fi rendition of what we heard earlier this year from Priests. The drums are live room recorded. The lyrics aren’t so much observational as they are field recordings of party conversations had while sipping on a lukewarm can, or a mock phone conversation with onomatopoeic “brrt-brrt’s”. Forget sampling this shit, the only ambiance at the joint is the pure post-punk Americana being delivered in East Side Londoner lite candor. Yet, even when lead singer Florence Shaw cusses out every which way on “Good Night,” I can’t help but feel he’s really just laying a lullaby to our ears, sweet nothings to make the mill effect of work, party, sleep, repeat seem worth it even when the effort is absolutely Sisyphean. Moreover, this little six-piece portfolio is mastered to taste: there is no social gathering ambiance. No clinking of bottles or overt fuzz of blown out speakers—the instruments, the voices, the rhythm are all the ambiance you need. This is when that mill finally produces flour; when for once the band in the living room/basement/garage is good.

Firefriend – Avalanche
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Little Cloud
Genre:  Psychedelic Rock, Shoegaze, Darkwave

I actually love when a band isn’t on Spotify (or 100% on it, at least), I love when you have to plumb Bandcamp to find a good cut or simply stream from their website before deciding if, then and there, they are worth whatever you’re willing to pay. The only thing Spotify can half-promise is exposure, and even then it’s a tenth of a promise. A fraction of a cent. And this fact separates the weak from the chaff. If you really love a band, buy a ticket, buy a shirt or buy the record. That’s the statement most groups make when they put themselves on BandCamp. Stream me once, buy me forever. And so, after streaming Sao Paolo darkwave group Firefriend’s fifth record, Avalanche and enjoying the pitch black noise of tropicalismo waves beaching on Robert Smith vocals and wry Nick-Cave-by-the-beach lyrics, (if any at all, the majority of these tracks are instrumental and skirt on the edge of an oppressive post-rock drone canyon) accompanied by all the tape delay and reverb that any Os Mutantes fanatics or Anton Newcombe nuts will enjoy. Loveless fans line up here. Myself, I’ve come to a realization: This might be one of the better records I’ve heard all year. And I’ve gotta have it.

Friendly Fires – Inflorescent
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polydor
Genre: Dance, Nu-Disco

Ah, nu-disco, I always look at you with hope glistening in my eye. I listen to you with my heart swelling to your horn sections. I indulge in you like a Five Guys cheeseburger with fries and a large Sprite. Yeah, you’re not McDonalds, you don’t have to get me drunk to love you, but you sure as shit aren’t good for me. No more when you fake me out and become a dance record before the first side’s even done. This is like finding ketchup on my burger two bites in–yeah, I hate tomatoes—I’m disgusted. Not because you can’t mix the two well, just look at pizza or sauce bolognaise, but goddamn if Inflorescent didn’t just crush mushy dance music and lathered it all over what I wanted to be a seminal funky multicolored disco ball experience. Zesty and topped with mustard. Fuck, I might be just out of touch, but y’know what? The kids are wrong, too.

Ikebe Shakedown – Kings Left Behind
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Colemine
Genre: Afrobeat, Jazzfunk

I recently read Chuck Klosterman’s book Killing Yourself to Live, completely unawares he would be releasing one this month, Raised in Captivity. While the jury’s still out on that one (I’ll read it myself, as you should do in regards to any art, before passing a judgement, if at all), I can unequivocally say I’ve never been so engrossed in a book of music travelogues as Killing Yourself to Live. In it, he mentions the Greil Marcus concept of “shock of recognition,” of feeling sudden utter simpatico with an otherwise foreign agent, case in point Robert Johnson, the blues flashpoint guitarist (aka Mr. Sold My Soul For a Few Good Hooks) and inspirator for thousands of bluesman on both sides of the Atlantic. I don’t really care for Robert Johnson, but what I do care for is Mr. Fela Kuti, the African President. Which is fucking hilarious. I, like the members of Ikebe Shakedown, am a skinny white kid from Portland, Oregon—if being white were a sport, Portland would be churning out Okie-doke Olympians by the thousands—but the moment I heard “Beasts of No Nation” it was like Zeus launched a lightningbolt from Nigeria right to my very fucking soul. And I imagine for the Ikebe Shakedown, the Afrika 70 were something to emulate. So much so we’re spoiled for choice in the muzak section, shocker, Kings Left Behind is technically sound, plentiful in integrity, holds a better beat than I ever could and features funk guitar solos for DJ’s to drool over. I’m still hesitant, I recognize it, but I’m not shocked by it.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Flightless
Genre: Trash Metal, Stoner Metal

I have listened to this record exactly once: at the Roseland in Portland, August 16th. King Gizzard played this record in its entirety for a crowd of garage rockers, punk teenagers, psych-rock aficionados, prog devotees and the hippiest of hipsters—a truer cross section than any Stumptown Coffee roast. And it was dangerous. I counted two whole seconds before the mosh pit began in earnest. The first bar hadn’t even finished and people were climbing upon each other as if ravenous mind-parasite cannibals leapt from the pages of Max Brooks, ready to eat flesh and mosh. This was a three dimensional pit of apocalypto ascendant, people were fucking airborne at times. And this still wasn’t the better of the two King Gizzard shows I’ve ever been to (it’s hard to beat the first when it features your first time crowdsurfing as well), but even I can say—there might be no better record than Infest the Rats’ Nest. I like to say if we ever finally kill ourselves as a species, at least we’ll make some good tunes while doing so, because this is everything Murder of the Universe promised and less (you know the adage). This is pure unbridled climate driven apocalypse put to Mad Maxian fury after sailing right off the goddamn cliff presented in Flying Microtonal Banana. This is dystopia distilled, “Planet B,” “Mars For the Rich,” “Organ Farmer” and “Superbug” all leading us right to “Venusian” living and by extension “Hell.” On Earth? Hell yeah.

Oh Sees – Face Stabber
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Castle Face
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Krautrock, Progressive Rock

Finally, I sat down and listened to this record. Thee Oh Sees, or whatever name they go by these days, have been riding this Punkin’ n’ Dragons wave for a while now, Orc being the big stylistic header. Oh sure, Dwyer has always appeared like a fan, seemed like a nerd, but in 2017 he wiped his hands clean of any judgement and went full hog in progressive rock roleplay. But both Orc and Smote Reverser didn’t quite do it for me, the former being a little too coy and tight, the latter being too loose and scatterbrained. Music for any encounter, as it were. But “Henchlock,” now here’s where it all cooks, the jazz fusion klaxon-sax, the krautrock wherewithal, John Dwyer conjuring nonsensical. “Where is that cup of… TEA?!” might be the most meta question for sessions spent in the tavern doing investigative footwork, but really, it’s all references to Can here. Add in the electric kool-aid blues rhapsody “Scutum & Scorpius,” the manic imperiousness of “Fu Xi,” the straight acidic “Snickersnee,” the sped-up War-Pigs-on-Parade cut “Psy-Ops Dispatch” and we have a pork stew going on. This record finds the best balance between the jam and the mania that Thee Oh Sees have quested for since Orc.

Ross from Friends – Epiphany (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Brainfeeder
Genre: Techno, Deep House

Ross from Friends’ first record was a bit of a sleeper hit, edging dangerously on the precipice between deep house (a la Mr. Fingers) and sleep house (a la SBTRKT), despite a benign sonic. Family Portrait was naturally dedicated to Felix Clary Weatherall’s parents, explaining the insulated nature of the record—it didn’t take much risks. Listening to it didn’t quite make it clear why Ross from Friends’ was such a hot commodity, a big commotion, in clubs. His new extended-player, Epiphany, fixes that. Dedicated to Weatherall’s sister, this is three tracks and two reedits of pure techno hailing from the finest traditions of UK Bass, deep house and techno. No crushed tomatoes here, this is the whole bolognaise al forno.

Surfer Blood – Hourly Haunts (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Persona Non Grata
Genre: Indie Rock

I find Surfer Blood to be one of the blandest rock and roll bands in the independent arena. I categorize them adjacent to Real Estate, Wild Nothing and Dirty Projectors, there is something so devoid of personality in this music which kills me, even my dear Beach Fossils commits this crime: they make music devoid of emotion, perhaps bludgeoned by their own to the point that expressing any somesuch feelings is taboo. Even being excited is a dare. Of course, Hourly Haunts changes nothing of this, it’s just my type of bland: Morriseyesque vocals and Johnny Marr-style hooks galore, what here hasn’t been already done by the Smiths? Is John Paul Pitts really an idol for the closeted homosexual? I assume nothing. And I suppose it’s similar to Cake, this band would do better with a record of covers than an EP of originals; they’re competent, somewhat able to display a pang or pain or joy, they tease musicality like Zach Condon and in there somewhere lurks a mean riff waiting to be unleashed. But I’m not sure it’s their own.

New Music Friday thread

August 23rd

Ceremony – In The Spirit World Now

Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Relapse Records
Genre: Post-Punk, New Wave

Ceremony’s latest, In The Spirit World Now, is cashing on all this blatant Eighties new wave synth nostalgia in line with multitoned windbreakers, frizzy perms and neon decals. The album art frames a hallway quartered in Hot Space vibrancy and leads to a world designed to a lithographic cross of dark children’s book illustrations and minimalist abstraction. But what does this tell us about the music? Nothing that isn’t already on the record: vibrancy, Duran Duran; dark children’s book, Eurythmics; minimalist abstraction, Joy Division. Drum loops, synthesizers and wolfish lyricism complete the job for Ceremony in a terse, tight 32 minutes. This really is new wave: soundbitten and precise to the tune of a machine. An automated affair that reads like a digital display on your microwave: ENJOY YOUR MEAL. But could I recall to you a single song after listening, a single spice after tasting? Hell no.

Ghost Funk Orchestra – A Song For Paul
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Colemine/Karma Chief
Genre: lo-fi Funk, Psychedelic Soul

Colemine has done as well as any recording company in the biz to keep old school soul a somewhat fresh commodity, pushing out Black Pumas, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Barbara Howard and Ikebe Shakedown products as of late in addition to uncovering unto us Lee Moses rarities. And I might have been a bit down on those Afrobeat boys, but no one can deny their coherence with the Colemine brand, nothing in their catalogue sounds out of place. And neither does A Song For Paul have to fight to prove its place. This is firm Colemine-type Ohio soul, proclaimed a fitting soundtrack for a Quentino Tarantino flick. Well, maybe. It’s been a while since Jackie Browne hit theatres and calling something as a score can either strike as a slur or a stunt and to say that 35 minutes of instrumental soul can grace an ex-indie director’s next big film imaginé denies the eclectic nature of Tarantino’s creativity while shackling expectations of their record to his image. All I’m saying is, let me blow the smoke. Because this is a blaxploitation instrumental, this plays into what we imagine every club in American Gangster plays for their morning patrons. Do I think that’s good enough to buy it? For the inquisitive DJ or the avid Culture fan, sure. Otherwise, those who need watch some more Seventies pulp cinema might find this record a nonplus.

Jay Som – Anak Ko
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polyvinyl
Genre: Dreampop, Indie Rock

I remember being stunned by Melina Mae Duterte’s dit Jay Som’s first album Turn Into to the point that I bought a limited magenta copy and a long-sleeve band tee, and if I’m honest, my opinion on the tee shirt has aged considerably well, while the debut has been forgotten. Not that her brand of music is bad, just that my dreampop phase had hit a high point while perusing Jay Som’s material au milieu of a craving for anything remotely DIIV-esque, even if it was softer, less jagged. Perhaps imbued with a little less speed too. But both Turn Into and Everybody Works reflected an auteur still unfocused or nuanced. Intimate, sure, but still unwilling to stick her neck out on any stylistic gambit. And that is where Anak Ko is different. The whispering vocals are still there, but there’s a focused lo-fi fuzz in place of the ambient dreampop weariness. It’s still bedroom rock, but not as fatigued by the struggles of juggling music with life. Anak Ko is no tautology though, it’s just taut while plumbing through shoegaze, downtempo and chillwave for all the parts that’ll stand your hair on end and roll your skin on a whisper. It’s also the first album where I can conclusively commend Duterte on using her voice as the melodic tool it is. No untamed air about it, she fans tight breezes on us all long player long. While Everybody Works was a work of prodigal daughter searching for footing, Anak Ko is her finding it.

Modern Nature – How to Live
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Will Young (Moong Gangs)
Label: Bella Union
Genre: Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

I’m uncertain How to Live is indie rock. I’m more inclined to believe Modern Nature had this been sold as folktronica or even indie folk with neo-psychedelic tendencies. But every once in a while there happens to be a guitar riff snazzily nineties enough to convert this nonbeliever. This is where indie rock and neo-psychedelia come to a head, the balance between the synthesizers and the guitars sees both mastered with sophistication to a point of ever-too-much slightness. There’s nothing here to pull you in on first listen; which is perhaps the weakness of this very format—records like How to Live will be overlooked, while records like Fishing For Fishies will see plenty. Bah, it all comes down to taste, and neo-psychedelia techno musings do not pique my buds, all so often. So consider that a good thing—because when a neo-psychedelic record actually does have me salivating, you’ll know about it.

Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Columbia
Genre: Neo-Soul, Rhythm & Blues

Raphael Saadiq’s first record in eight years is not a triumphant return. It’s not even a return to form. It’s a form of reconciliation. In the interval between Stone Rollin’ and Jimmy Lee, Saadiq’s brother and title inspiration died of drug addiction. This is the new normal for Americans regardless of race. But in the mind of a creative, the quotidian is lens and license for creation; Jimmy Lee sees the death of a brother and imagines its significance as a symptom to society. Saadiq expands it to what ills the modern black community, Americans who have gone unhealed since the first whip hit the first back. Serendipitous then, that Saadiq’s brother’s name pairs with civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, my first thought for the conceit of this record. Intentional or not, this record travels time, taking classic R&B, fusing it with guitar riffs Princeian  and collaborating with reverends and rappers alike. There’s more than just righteous fury à la DAMN. or social irritation à la Black Messiah, Saadiq is questing for probable cause and possibly a cure, which makes this record more profoundly American than anything I’ve heard all year.

Shannon Lay – August
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Contemporary Folk

Lay has always been a noted finger-picking guitarist and the press release to August pays notice to it, stating her practice regimen of deliberate picking and tuning to find intricate melodies. Look no further than her debut, Living Water, which takes through her folksier impulses. The sophomore record decides to move into more avant-garde spaces, introducing the ever-exotic Eastern progressions and Mikal Cronin saxophones for extra sauciness. She also hasn’t given up on the metaphors aquatic, most notably “Sea Came to Shore.” And August really does flow from Living Water in tone, there’s a solid one-two—well punch might not best describe it, let’s go with a one-two pattern. Both as guitarist for FEELS and for herself, the past year has been one of ascendance and naturally, it should crest; Lay herself has admitted to her writing impulses to come in waves. Try as I might to keep these first impressions as just that, sometimes the sentiment simpatico powers past any official statement and lives right in the music. Less August is contemporary folk and more this is the millennial truth: life lives in cycles and the first step to creating something from ourselves is to recognize how we are ourselves. In other news, I think the chicken came first.

Surfer Blood – Covers
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Joyful Noise
Genre: Indie Rock

Your honor, what I wrote of last week and what spins before me today can hardly be fathomed. I didn’t actually think Surfer Blood would do as much. That they could go from Cream to Outkast to Pavement to Liz Phair and on, is testament to their influences, to what makes them tick. That deserves some respect, and in that way, I enjoy this long-player as Surfer Blood’s own B-Sides and Rarities. There is much here to dissect and then research. And after you’re done doing so, you’ll be listening to those bands, perhaps as a new convert to one or two of ‘em. But you won’t be listening to this interpreter’s record. You’ll just remember it fondly as the X that got you into Y.

Toro y Moi – smartbeats (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: IDM, Ambient

I only have two questions:

When did SBTRKT kidnap Chaz Bundick and how much is he ransoming him for? Wait, he’s doing this thing on his own merits? Thank fuck it’s only an EP. I hope didn’t jinx anything. Shit, I probably did.

Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Mike Deslandes
Label: Flightless
Genre: Art Punk, Punk Blues, Noise Rock

Braindrops strikes a balance contemporary to Blur and Parquet Courts while referencing psychedelic rock icons Syd Barret and Pink Floyd. Manic bordering on schizophrenic, Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin tag team vocal duties of joy and fear while guitars ratchet down the hatchet of this long-player’s grooves. It’s not so much that the noise rock is that riotous Soyuz rocket launch sonic, but the sound of racket. Many artists try their hand at the kitchen-cookware rock band but get too literal about it; they decide that the pots and pans really can replace a drumset or that jerry-rigged string simulacrum serves as guitar. That’s not the point: you’re supposed to imitate deconstructionism, not construct it. The mindset needs to change, not the instruments. And Braindrops does this quite superbly, actually. I lean quite heavily on Barrett-tinged “Who’s My Eugene?” or the chantry-anthem “Braindrops.” Only one cut, “Maria 62,” drops below 4-minutes and yet it drags on the longest. No that’s a lie, “Maria 63” drags longer (almost four minutes so), but it’s an album closer and I’m a big proponent of the downer closer, the sunset over the cuckoo’s nest, a Rhapsody in Punk Blue. What better an image to dye the light to?

New Music Friday thread

August 30th

Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party with My Brown Friends
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Saddle Creek
Genre: Indie Rock, Dreampop

Katherine Paul is the millennial artist: self-producing, self-playing and I assume willing to self-release had Saddle Creek not foot the bill, she’s self-agency all around. But similar to Jay Som’s first two records, At the Party with My Brown Friends has moments where the dreampop aesthetic is put over all else, and the melodies in the middle of this second long-player can be hard to find; this is all fine and good and a rather solid continuation from her shoegaze-grunge combo of Mother of My Children, but it means I’m looking at the edges of this LP fondly,  particularly the last two “Half Colored Hair” and “You’re Me and I’m You,” that remind me of Mother of My Children. As whole, her sophomore effort features solid percussion, mastered to  slice through the mess of ambiance and melody that swallows stereo speakers whole for a solid amount of cuts. Her talent is still apparent, slowly refining itself, and her productivity is worth noting: two records in two years, does she go three for three next?

Common – Let Love
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Loma Vista
Genre: Conscious Hip Hop, Neo-Soul

Lonnie Rashid Lynn switches between three phases: most skilled rapper, most spiritual rapper and most appearances on Ellen rapper, which is technically untrue because Jamie Foxx wins the Ellen Degeneres belt. So I suppose we should state he desires to be all three at different times; for Like Water for Chocolate, he was the most skilled wordsmith in the room; for Be he was the most ponderous person in the booth and for the last 15 years he’s been slowly accumulating the Ellen appearances and watering down his lyrics to inspirational mass appeal. He’s alternatively K. Dot, Marvin Gaye and Malcom X in rap sermon, forget about verse. Common certainly poses hard at the pulpit for “HER Love,” the third piece in his triptych on a love for rhymes and beats. At times I wonder if he’s not Marvin Gaye because he superimposes his own godhead for a love divine with almost every consequent cut. He’s no poseur, but he’s definitely a performer re entertainer. The release of his twelfth record came the release of his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, an inspirational therapy memoir I imagine Cory Booker caresses to sleep each night while the last seconds of “God is Love” peter out under his stylus which now has dreams of being a rocket ship. Poor bastard, if only he knew he wasn’t recyclable. Common’s last record was a listenable experience, but you have to stretch all the way back to Be for the last enjoyable long-player. Anyways, I suppose what Mr. Lynn really has achieved is status as a renaissance man. Highly credited as an actor, a writer and a rapper espousing unity and kindness through thoughts on paper. He certainly still has the same vocabulary and topics, but he should probably book for another Ellen appearance soon, he’ll find more language and tone fans there.

Four Tet – Anna Painting (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Text Records
Genre: IDM, Downtempo

I’ve always been a fan of Kieren Hebden dit Four Tet. His double album, Live at Alexandra Palace providing a master class listen of what a modern live record would do well to emulate. It’s not a raucous rock record, but EDM fans have a heightened importance for communion and interconnectivity than most other genres I’ve seen live. (It’s certainly more than can be said for shoegaze, which is a bunch of standing and gawking.) Live at Alexandra Palace provides an aural recording to that sensibility. But to capitalize on that not-for-Spotify effort, Four Tet released Anna Painting, an extended-player laying down the Four Tet formula for this past decade: hypnagogic intro, solid deep house beat (no more than 140 bpm), shimmering trancelike climaxes, reintroduced beat, outro. But by EP’s end, he dips into my greatest fear for most of Four Tet’s career, he dips into the sleep house ambiance. Not that he doesn’t already play with this electronic subgenre on his long-players, just that his best records don’t overextend the plot and segue it into meaningful sound. The first two cuts on the project use this philosophy to provide collaborating artist and childhood friend Anna Liber Lewis some beats for colouring the canvas. Then it’s just a dreamy, four minute piece as simulacrum and as witness to Lewis’ final product powered by Hebden’s own. Talk about interconnection.

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!!
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Jack Antonoff
Label: Polydor
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Chamber Music, Neo-Psychedelia

There’s much to be said about Norman Fucking Rockwell!! and as always not enough time to say it. (Proverb problems, what can ya do?) The absolute first image in mind’s eyes from this record was it’s similarity to Missy Higgins’ On a Clear Night based on what but superficial musicality—the stark echoing warble of Lizzy Grant’s voice as Lana Del Rey showcasing the difference between the person and the performer, Missy Higgins’ record never captured this difference, nor did I think this was her goal. But when your sound becomes bigger so too does the performer have to swallow the person. If anything On a Clear Night was a fight between person and the performer with the opposite eventually occurring—her person swallowed the performer. Norman Fucking Rockwell!!, consistent with the rest of Grant’s recording history, doesn’t let this come to pass despite its big-but-earnest intent to showcase sadness as defiance, but this time without the ostentatious electronics of her earlier efforts. It’s the first time I’ve felt her America Noir, Lynchian aesthetic has matched her musical sensibilities—Jack Antonoff wisely says no to beefing up her voice with technology, it can stand on its own thank you very much. If nothing else, this is the LP LOVE + FEAR wanted to be, but Diamandis never made. And I’m glad it was Lana Del Rey who made the record; if nothing else because it’s knocking the legs out from under the detractors of her supposed reality or irreality. America is as unreal a country out there, why wouldn’t her popular artists reflect this image of ironic exceptionalism? Norman Rockwell, the title inspiration, was an artist who juxtaposed America as the jingoists wanted to see it with the America as the everyman experienced it. Between the 27 Club, suicide rates and drug addictions, this country is one which eats its young, its poor, its immigrants, its natives and its rich. There is a certain mortification to its immortality as an image, in the same way that Peter Pan is the boy that refused to grow up, America is country that kills to retain her youth, bathes in her attention to remain secure. The disturbing undercurrents of the Stateside society are not be shied away from or mocked for their merits of artistry (which boils down to a matter of taste, really). Norman Fucking Rockwell!! is Lana Del Rey singing “[America,] I love you, but you’re killing me” in as many shades as possible until we get it.

Matthew Squires – Visions of America
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Contemporary Folk

I’mma be honest with you: if we can’t talk about music with each other, then we’re not going to be close friends. We’ll be friends, we might even be what some consider “close friends,” but we won’t be tight. Thus some, my favourite moments in college were spent with my mass communications faculty adviser and better friends in life, over an hour of talking it was about 15 minutes of business and 45 minutes of music. One day, we were discussing the Grateful Dead (and, yes, you better believe I’m a Deadhead just as much as I’m a Zephead, a Floyd fan, a Black Sabbath acolyte and an Allman Brothers Band enthusiast, although it would be fair to say I prefer the Allmans to the Dead). But it was during these conversations that he notified me of something horrific—“have you ever noticed how they can’t sing?” my professor told me, a grapevine commentary from his own friend and one that launched him into a five year exodus from Deadheadery. And while it didn’t push me to stop listening—they were indeed vocalists ranging from poor (Phil Lesh) to serviceable (Bob Weir), but they could harmonize out the rough spots—it did serve to help me scrutinize singing ability. Even your favourite vocalist can dirge like a jagged knife and lo, I absolutely cannot stand Matthew Squire’s voice on this record. His melodies are great, he’s working his Americana angle just fine. But goddamn do I wish he would terminate that unconscionable bleat. That’s the litmus taste test for this record, and I bid thee well.

The S.L.P. – THE S.L.P.
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sony Music
Genre: Alternative Dance, Neo-Psychedelia

Ostensibly The Sergio Lorenzo Project, but also deriving from Sergio Pizzorno’s initials, the self-titled debut record is a bid for solo credibility outside of his projects with Kasabian and Loose Tapestries, as well as recording music for Noel Fielding, this is perhaps the first long-player of Pizzorno’s which recalls the Chris Karloff efforts in Kasabian without being a rote recreation. Neither is it a positive vision, the long-player languishes in a dystopic cyberpunk soundtrack, a Blade Runner sonic of sorts. By “((trance))” it hits a stride consisting of an electropunkish “The Wu,” a throbbing “Soldiers 00018,” and a X-File theme knock off crossed by an ode to Major Tom called “Meanwhile… at the Welcome Break” all vibing on a similar Tron-in-real-life simulacrum. To cap it off is the cross between West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum and Kasabian that we’ve all been waiting for: “Favourites.” Mercy, mercy me, I’m 12 all over again, the cut even curves into a Gorillaz-esque effort featuring Little Simz as guest vocalist. What relieves me most however is that after the first cut, this felt like it was doomed to big studio, little results status; that Pizzorno’s musicality would dry up outside of the ecodome it helps sustain. But by the interluding “Welcome Break,” it crystal clearly has not. The S.L.P. is easily the best thing that any member of Kasabian has put out since Velociraptor!

New Music Friday thread

Fishing for Fishies: This Lizard Wizard is a-chooglin’ in the bayou, beamin’ in the UFO

Jack of all trades, master of none, oftentimes better than a master of one.”

r-13539769-1556382991-6700.jpegIt was her favourite King Gizzard record, Kelly told me.

But I hadn’t listened yet; I hadn’t really been catching up on missed records at all while riding the inter-cities train and ruing a cold just caught on the way back. Having spent the late April day roaming the battlements, greeneries and streets, spinning flow staff in the park, writing sloppy verses in the gardens, remarking tiny insects exploring the ridged roll of bloodshot knuckle hills and the inherent nihilism creeping (it’s always either washing or creeping, I’ve yet to hear an in-between) on them, as all crap poetry is written: rich in theme, poor in language. I was unhappy to say the least—the teaching assistant program ended, my creative well posted with signs all over (“come back tomorrow,” for a baker’s dozen of days in a row) and nothing but immense loneliness to drink from—Billy Joel, you sonuvabitch!—I was finally homesick, at the exact moment I was leaving home, to write and fail my ass back Stateside. Where did I want to be? Just about anywhere goddamn else. Probably fishing for fishies.

Barring that, I put on King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s latest, Fishing for Fishies, sat back and thought about it, drifting off, fishing for fishies. Result: not a lick but a couple of nonsense sentences and charivari crosses of word and sounds, a hubba-baloo of bullshit about billabongs and rig-a-ma-rols, how their music is as country as some raftin’ buddies chooglin’ down the Delta and how the Lizard Wizard portends to it, I mean damn to hell, King Gizzard sound like they is! Is a ridin’ down in a done danged-up dingy, crusin’ in crew shirts and lookin’ and hookin’ for them little wrigglin’ aquaticals, searchin’ for the catch, that is, rootsy catfish n’ crawdads, mud slicking muck suckers speckled and squirmy, cleaned (just a lil bit) and served on horns, keyboards and guitars for the crowds all ready and a-steamwhistlin’ like the Prides o’ the Mississippi. But from raft to riverboat, no Tom Sawyer ain’t got nothin’ on our cultured Huckleberry Finns, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. But spend much longer thinkin’ like this and your brain’ll turn to fucking Gollumite mush.

Yet, I’d been pretty dead-set on the merits of King Gizzard’s Fishing for Fishies as a prime example of Zeppelin’s and T.Rex’s influence in rock, since my late-April train ride from Pau back to Lannemezan, debating why no one was quite brave enough to broach playing a brand of blues-rock as titanic as Led Zeppelin or T.Rex put-together while also sounding so fresh; perhaps the freshness is because King Gizzard do it well, but they don’t deny their influence, aren’t stupid enough to claim it as wholly original work with no outside tastes coming to play (Greta Van Fleet will forever be marked for death for this very reason). Having spoken with quasi-band-leader Stu MacKenzie after a Crystal Ballroom gig in Portland last summer, he made it quite clear interviews opportunities are rare for a band that likes to speak through their music; and the long-player paints it in picket-fence clarity: Bolan, Zoso, Jonesie, Bonzo and Percy Plant were here. But I didn’t like how simplistic this sounded—it was too neat—throw in some turn-of-the-decade Rush/Who commentary and I could tie this off nicely with a cute little bow and a happy wrapper.

Fuck that noise; Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore have one more artist up their sleeve, not exactly a sonic influence, but a kindred influence, something that you can only hear or feel when you’re bugging out listenin’ and thinkin’ and listenin’ and thinkin’ some more on the subject. King Gizzard’s uncanny sense for the Delta that their river raft record skims right across haunting me—there’s a reason this piece’s first thoughts were the similarities between backwoods and bushman dialects—perhaps an insight into how billabongs and marshwoods produce similar colloquial jowlsome jargon. Well, I searched and searched and searched my worried mind of sixties blues-rock in the name of comparative merits tossing out names like the Animals, the Box Tops, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Holding Company, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter or Rory Gallagher but found nothing, coming up short on a manic swamp blues sound with which I could compare the King Gizzard of Fishing for Fishies, because, to be honest, this is all covering the fact that these bluesmen are just recyclers of T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, BB King and Chuck Berry riffs. So it was on a rainy Memorial Day that I decided to enjoy one last session soundtracked to Fleetwood Mac live in Boston, 1970 and whether it was the colitas in the air or the fact that Peter Green is a downright spooky frontman, I came out with the beliefs that:

  1. Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac fully imbibed in and embrace such sagacity for the sticks, what with Peter Green taking enough acid to qualify as a government experiment, what with Danny Kirwan breathing beer and other fermented products, what with Jeremy Spencer basically joining a cult, what with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie both trying to keep it all patched together with a rock solid boogie (hence Fleetwood Mac) represents the fundamental core of delta blues: not knowing what tomorrow will bring when yesterday was some serious pain. That may drive every stinging blues riff in existence, but how does that not drive a person insane?
  2. This acumen, having suffered decades-upon-decades of mutation muzakal, twisted and warped towards ends eclectic, if not downright defrauded as cypress for swamp ash or whatever-metaphor-have-you, has been sufficiently preserved and spoken for in Fishing for Fishies as to make you believe that the dinosaurs truly can be resurrected from the blood of a amber-trapped mosquito. That is to say, the crazy bastards of King Gizzard did it, they actually did it. They roar like Zeppelin, stomp like a T.Rex and boogie like a Fleetwood Mac-o-saurus.

But the truth of the matter is that the kings of prog-garage are the ultimate shapeshifters; go through their discography and you will find at least one insanely enjoyable record.

Psychedelic garage? Float Along – Fill Your Lungs; Progressive garage? I’m In Your Mind Fuzz; Heavy metal? Murder of the Universe; Jazz metal? Nonagon Infinity; Psychedelic jazz? Quarters!; Spaghetti western? Eyes Like the Sky; Worldbeat? Flying Microtonal Banana; Surf rock? 12 Bar Bruise; Jazz rock? Sketches of Brunswick East; Folk Rock? Paper Mâché Dream Balloon; Acid rock? Polygondwanaland; Psychedelic rock? Oddments;  Progressive rock? Gumboot Soup;  Roots rock? Fishing for Fishies.

This is a list of 14 records which have been made in roughly seven years. Essentially two records per year, a classic record release rate of the classic rock band, that has produced a body of work edging past any somesuch classic lifespan. Most groups either fade or flame out—the toll of rock n’ roll, our mythologizing, as it were—instead of bathing at the summit of their powers at seven years. King Gizzard than, have passed over the limit, the line, the demarcation barring the Traffics from the Jethro Tulls, the Faces from the Rolling Stones, the Bands from the Grateful Deads, Jeff Beck’s Groups from the Led Zeppelins, the Bluesbreakers from the Fleetwood Macs. That’s not to say these former groups were right to disappear because of a lack of longevity, but there is a point where a group moves from a feature to a standard, when we start institutionalizing their contributions, mythologizing their characters as Ellen Willis and Lester Bangs rolls in their graves at the thought that we might actually be searching for the next Jerry Garcia, the next John Lennon, the next Lou Reed. The Death Dwarves should be out in force by now, rendering unto us another hero which we, the mob, can pull, push, shove and tip over like a fallen despot’s statue. Will we do that with the rapidly rising edifice of the King? Have we learned any better? I don’t know and my misanthropy hesitates blinking even once for the fact that rock is forever a tenuous balance between the awesome and the improvised; the practiced and the imprudent; a game of chicken jousted by the skilled and the fraudulent (until the latter, too, becomes a clockwork machine in the gears behind the ears of his listeners or a fireball finally flaming out re the Stooges or the Replacements, respectively). There is also no mark against that most of these bands had one particular sound; that Credence Clearwater Revival died once their bayou boogie roots began to lose its moonshine isn’t a condemnation but a confirmation of the nomadic nature of inspiration. Music may never die, but muses will move on. Hence my unquantifiable obsession for that crossover period from the Sixties into the Seventies on to the (early, early) Eighties. Bands died, but artists continued to live, the 27 Club not withstanding. The skilled artists found new styles, new subject matter to mull over and write with, the unskilled did not and were not heard from again1.

1For all the thrashing glam and beauty of the New York Dolls, their post-proto-punk careers go unheralded because it struggled against the mixed glass ceiling of their commitment and their commercial viability; who really was ready to listen to the aging punk-of-the-party in 1976? Everyone was very much still trying to hold on to their vestiges of youth (or did disco and punk lie to me?) not be reminded of their aging. Perhaps, the old rock writers were right: rock and roll is about the nonscript, the stranger picking up a guitar and just doing something with it, lunatic fiddling rather than expertly playing with it. I can’t help but be reminded of that Sweet chorus: “And the man at the back said/ Everyone attack and it turned into a ballroom  ablitz/ And the girl in the corner said/ Boy, I wanna warn ya, it’ll turn into a ballroom blitz.” Once that blitz is over however, what’s left? I may be a self-destructive person, but after a while, I want to know what my corpse will fertilize, what the remains of my music will inspire. This might be the underlying point to my obsession with transforming my mind to a wholly cybernetic feature in order to answer the proverbial question: “what’s next?”

As for our subject seven-piece ultracollective, their status as skilled was postmarked in 2017, whence they released a grand total of six records (five as sole album artists and one as a collaboration with the mild High Club) all dabbling in polyrhythmic, exotic instrumentation and nonstandard time signatures for substance in the same way that a mad scientist dabbles liberally to find solutions to problems no one is particularly asking for. Alchemists with an Electronics degree; musicians who specialize in maths. It would be wrong to label this band an institution when their label, Flightless, would deserve such a surname as the first independent Australian imprint of international recognition akin to the Elephant Six, an Umbrella Academy of producer-musicians for which King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are the deans: Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Cook Craig, Michael Cavanagh, Eric Moore, Lucas Skinner and Joe Walker. Their chameleon style mixed with an unfathomable work effort has earned my respect as (probably) the best damn modern rock outfit this side of the millennium if not the most productive, most active and best likened to a certifiable release-date force of nature, only taking 2018 off in order to recuperate on a whirlwind world tour, selling out theatre after theatre, running from crowd to crowd, blowing out performance after performance. My own experience of the King live at the Crystal Ballroom in 2018 was capped off by crowd surfing, an interminable mosh pit and beers galore all pared to a setlist that dragged the nerves from your flesh and set them alight with a rhythmic timbre pyre doused in bass-o-line, or the “Cruel Milennial” isn’t my favourite tune on Fishing for Fishies.

Can’t relate face to face with modern day youth
Outdated, the post-millennial will get you
I was born in the echo boom
Yet I rust as the cruel millennial

– “The Cruel Millenial”

Which it probably isn’t, because the tracklist on Fishing for Fishies is chockfull of rootsy guitars, loose-strung strings and Bolanite vocals turned suddenly to mathematics, synthesizers and unidentified melodic objects from planet Aphex Twin rerendered into lo-fi funkadelia. Yes, in microcosmic fashion, Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Cook Craig, Michael Cavanagh, Eric Moore, Lucas Skinner and Joe Walker demonstrate what makes a good band great: an ability for metamorphosis. And they do it before our very ears within a record. It may not be a long-player of my desire despite my adamant admiration for the groups and time periods it pulls from (I love Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Funkadelic et al more than bands influenced by Zeppelin, Mac and Clapton et al) but it’s a damn testament to the skill of the premier prog-garage band; so Fishing for Fishies may remind me of all sorts of connections between Zeppelin or Rush or Fleetwood Mac, but in truth King Gizzard are the Genesis or Flaming Lips of their day, simultaneously indulging on the drug of workoholism and weaving together the eclectic world music interests of an art rock collective with the grit and mania of a garagepunk group angry with modernia that allows me to skip over a lukewarm reaction to the casual throwback “Bird Song” and the groovy “Real’s Not Real” as a pair of Sketches at Brunswick East b-side if there ever were one. They’re probably as close to “calm” cuts this long-player could get; the rest of this record is a rocket-strapped raft, a mission on the Mississippi travelling through the Delta (“Fishing for Fishies”) to the bayou (“This Thing”) before beaming up (“Acarine” and “Cyboogie”). For every bit that this record may sound a casual perusal of jazzrock turned gumbo garage, the moment this album shifts unto the electrorock odyssey of “Acarine” is what elevates it to an experience-of-the-year level.

And while we can all agree that King Gizzard, our industrious, psychonautic Fëanor, have yet to craft their Silmarils, we can also agree that the royal jewel collection is vast and only growing vaster. It’s easy to bet against a fourth or fifth record’s shot at excellency, but the Kings are fast approaching their fifteenth effort, Infest the Rat’s Nest, and the closest they came to stumbling might have been Murder of the Universe, but on balance, they used the dizzying off-kilter Black Sabbath-by-Flaming Lips lunacy to catapult into Sketches at Brunswick East, Polygondwanaland and Gumboot Soup. And any jewel before or since had a glint to it, something soliciting someone and their undivided interest. It’s almost an impossibility for me to identify my favourite record of theirs; to be trite, it depends on my mood, but what I can say is that, increasingly, there is a King Gizzard record for any kind of mood and now there is one for all my Zeppelinite, T. Rexian, Fleetwood Macker needs.

When was the last time you could say that about a band?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Fishing For Fishies

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Flightless

Genre: Progressive Rock, Blues Rock


  1. “Fishing for Fishies”
  2. “Boogieman Sam”
  3. “The Bird Song”
  4. “Plastic Boogie”
  5. “The Cruel Millennial”
  6. “Real’s Not Real”
  7. “This Thing”
  8. “Acarine”
  9. “Cyboogie”

And Now For the Whatchamacallit: Sound of the Gizz


I think the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets made a resume of the best of King Gizz.

That is to say, if you need a catchup on why alla us weirdo John Dwyerites, acolytes to la psychedelie à la frenesie, are listening to, then this is it: the sound of our own garage-bound mania; the absolute bonkers timber-timbre shake of an otherworld derived from the concrete-and-car-covered asphalt pour of ours. Like the sonic maximalist garage-opera renditions of German Expressionism; a genre of aural accompaniments for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Metropolis replete with distortion and delay, portraying both the twisted horror in the shining city, opulent in their exploitation of visual metaphors as much as the modern prog-garage sound’s travail in timbre and dronework. The film music in employ of Nonagon Infinity paling in comparison to the horror soundtrack of Murder of the Universe, music made to determine the internal device via the sonic observations or whatever other mumbo-jumbo I would bullshit for my 11th grade English professor. Simply put the Australian and Garage-Psych scenes have been seeing an apogee these past three years that the words “See now: a facet of purely psychotropic warehouse music crafted from drone, garage, math and krautrock” hardly surprise us anymore.

So here I am with a bowl and a laptop, jotting down thoughts on the lastest offering of 2019 in a year still teasing the return of Kevin Parker, the next chapter of Ty Segall and the Freedom Band and a thrash metal record by King Gizz all while touting new Avey Tare, Pond, Wand, Stonefield, Murlocs and the rest of the flock of the Flightless and pondering why the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have tried to resume other bands’ trajectories. Oh sure; it’s not exactly as I describe it—there’s still the same spacerock fundamentals which King Gizzard records have thus far avoided and still link the Crumpets’ And Now For the Whatchamacallit back to both volumes of Highly Visceral. But those horns, swooning and jazzing and lowkey bopping your head along do naught but recall Sketches of Brunswick East while the synthesizers, when not blowing fuses in your brain, keep petting those hairs on the back of your neck like words of encouragement, except that they’re not words—they’re beyond words—just sounds, the unconscious sighs and coos, hmms and mmms that come with body language, all translated into Rolandspeak to give us the chansons that confide in us feelings of safety and home before abusing this space to kick out the jams with a 12 Bar Bruise.

I’m not even mad these Perthans open And Now For the Whatchamacallit with a brand of music one level-up from Post Animal’s brodown surf-party interpretation—the sound is just too within my tastes for me to absolutely hate it unless I was working from an absolute distaste of muzak, which I have thus far built up a tolerance to in the same vein one would for the tinnital ring in your ears from repeated years of heavy earbud listening, despite all warnings by teachers, coworkers, friends, whoever, you just learn to appreciate it behind a new set of earplugs; you might not be listening at full force, but should it come on it will neither disturb your day nor cause you to violently rip the radio out of your car and throw it on the street yodeling “FUCKING DANIEL POWTERRRRR” because you consider different standards for different banners, you modern emotional mute, you. Well, I do, and you do too!

Or maybe you don’t—I dunno who the hell you are reading this, I don’t know if you want to be as curved as my creature listening to music almost nonstop until a Gollumite wretch mumbling incoherencies re the jazz guitars forms comparate of “The Spider and Me” brimming into the portcullis “Sketches of Brunswick East II”and “Digital Hunger” caressing the back-six soft of your neck into “Dezi’s Adventure.” Because this is exactly what psychedelia should be doing—accompanying high people into their own seven hells of highness, a DnD sesh with no dice, just as my mother is accompanied unto her state of semi-serious Margaritaville bliss by a glass of red wine and some Jack Johnson in the garbs of Charon. Music makes scenes makes music.

And now for the twist: what I’m hearing is not just a King Gizzard record; it’s a Mild High Club record and a Portugal. The Man record, too. Because this Australian Psychedelic Rock conglomerate goes beyond Flightless, forming not a monopoly but a cartel of bands loosely colluding their talent; King Gizzard has made friends with every Neo-Psychedelic band bordering the Pacific—they have to!—They’re record moguls too, after all, and even if you don’t sign a band, tours are always on the table. Well, not this tour, Stonefield and ORB are primed and ready to banner for the King and His Label, so maybe next time, lads. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, colluding talent. Should we really be surprised that bands of similar genres and countries are beginning to sound so alike? Should we criticize it? I hesitate: some of the best, most thought-provoking rap was produced at the turn of millennium by a collective called the Soulquarians, comprised of Common, Mos Def, Tqlib Kweli, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, D’Angelo, Bilal, Q-Tip et al powered, and in some cases directed, by Questlove and the Roots and Pino Palladino, formed into a afrobeatnik boho jazzrap hive of creativity that buzzed out a set of records that ranged in influences from Funkadelic to Fela Kuti to to John Coltrane to James Brown; there isn’t a point they don’t hit in celebrating the history of and removing the whiteface over black music. The Porn Crumpets may not be a part of the movement as much as the Soulquarians were a movement; but there is a scene and it is producing conspicuously similar music within and without itself—Cook Craig and the Mild High Club are due to converge on a neo-psychedelic Jetsonian long-player, Orb’s work to add a healthy dose of Sabbath to the tried-true timbre attacks of Castle Face cousins Oh Sees progresses and the Murlocs continue to add potent sixties garage forms to neo-psychdelic melodies. As for the wave of Ty Segallites? Every year brings a fresh batch of pasty strawberry-platinum blonde lookalikes; for the some of them, it’s a phase, for others, it’s a shtick, for the vast majority, it’s a dead record.

But the Porn Crumpets’ And Now For the Whatchamacallit variegates from punk-of-the-party to moodsetter DJ, hence the moments where the record distends upon uncompromising territories of thrashmobbery and delay-heavy chockblockery whips and lashes heads in orgies of rhythmic violence and the moments which harness the power of said forces to catapult you through space in your concrete vault you once called a garage and the moments it consequently repeats and renders old hat while also poking fun at themselves (“When In Rome”). It’s much more than the word heady could ever describe yet not as tasteful as their previous records. It’s not a dead record, just a record playing dead like a cheesy joke, as the bulk of this long-player is fine form, with only the “Fields, Woods, Time>Native Tongues>Social Candy” section wearing patience thin with so-so Portugal. The Manism’s from Censored Colours—a shame, really, as I find both records to observe a certain distance from their listeners in a trite, manufactured sense, but not an uncommon one in my experience with any Psychedelic Porn Crumpets record—there’s always a point where their sound begins to obscure any chance at widening their scope. After a while all this maximalism gets tiring and the brain just needs a rest, making the last triptych of this record all the sweeter, despite their Black Moth Super Rainbow pretensions.

The difference is, while I end up at the same place at the end of And Now For the Whatchamacallit, as I do Highly Visceral Vol. 2 I find myself lacking in wonder after listening to the former because of its transitional, myriad tastes—there is no concrete vision, just a bunch of tidbits and style quirks incorporated into the vision. Some albums do this well (Houses of the Holy, Aladdin Sane), the Porn Crumpets have only attained a level of “ok.” They’re fine artists, but I’m not yet sold on their importance to any somesuch scene when their music reminds me so much of their contemporaries anymore than after the first two iterative records.

There’s a wall holding stopping this band; I hope they can break it one day.

Album Artist: The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Michael Jellinek
Label: Marathon
Genre: Neo-Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock


  1. Keen For Kick Ons?”

  2. Bill’s Mandolin”

  3. Hymn For a Droid”

  4. Fields, Woods, Time”

  5. Native Tongue”

  6. Social Candy”

  7. My Friend’s a Liquid”

  8. When in Rome”

  9. Digital Hunger”

  10. Dezi’s Adventure”