Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Strange Lords - Strange Lords (2014)

Strange Lords is a two-piece outfit operating mainly out of Gainsville, Florida. The bands is comprised of Waylon Thornton, who usually releases music under as Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands, and Andrew Seward, who was formerly the bassist for Against Me! (a band I best recall as achieving considerable fame among classmates). It has been a minute since I've heard releases that either of these musicians would have been involved in, but I don't think you'll really need to be familiar with their histories to get what's going on with this album. It is intensely lo-fi rock and roll that prizes fuzzy guitar and thunderous drums above all else. Sure there are surf flourishes, stoner rock and vaguely psychedelic cord progressions or keyboard playing in the mix to give the albums texture, but the main this is some fast, short, almost entirely instrumental tracks that's rather bare bones rock. While not all the tracks are surf-esque the ones that are caught my ear the most including "Carroneros" and "Amano-Iwato." Although the final track is worth waiting for as it is has a very neat western sort of thing going on. A good start, and it will be interesting to hear what they produce with another release, especially if they push themselves something even more strange. I suppose there's another monster themed contender for the Drunken Draculas to have to worry about.

To be had here:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Space Rock Mountain Podcast 22 - On the Lash with Prince

With music discussion related to:

Amerigo Gazaway - Stakes is High
Pain Dimension - Brainwash
Ralph Soul Jackson - Matchbox
Bedroom - Drift Away
Prince - The Beautiful Ones

Magnus Dewi - Earth Plates (2014)

I get grumpy about writing up music at times. At these times I'll become detached from this blog, or at best write some reviews that are less reviews than me musing about myself. Check out the Leggy and Menschliche Energie posts to see that for yourself. And I liked those albums, liked them very much, mind you. Just didn't get my fucking kicks, looking like I can write or whatever by just describing the music. Well, this time I don't think I have enough words to tell you what the music is about. Magnus Dewi is the moniker used by a Frenchman play a music style that is of a decidedly American origin. So here is my attempt to explain that statement and turn a few people onto a genre of music I hold especially dear and this new French practitioner of it.

Earth Plates is tagged "american primitive" on the bandcamp page, which immediately caught my eye as this is the name given the style of playing done by a personal favorite musician of mine and something of a cultural hero in my life, John Fahey. This man was many things, but perhaps most centrally to this story is that he was a musician that came into adulthood in the period of the 1960s where in folk and blues revivals were gaining tremendous popularity in the United States. Fahey possessed a vast knowledge of American music of all sorts as a record collector, musicologist and songwriter and he didn't want to pigeonhole his music as "folk" like many of his contemporaries. He incorporated much more than the American folk tradition, pulling from the blues, gospel, bluegrass in the era that provided us with our modern conception of psychedelia to make a raw, essential American music. This has been called American Primitivism and has a listen of adherents to the form, but I still find Fahey's the supreme example. It isn't simple by any means, most of the best songs are long numbers that have a droning element in how this use repetition and variation to a degree that parallels the best of avant-garde psychedelic music.

For this to have traveled to Europe and been taken up by a skilled French musician is perhaps one of the more amazing and delightful features of this over globalizing world the internet is pushing us toward. Magnus Dewi has a stripped down, pure sort of interoperation of the style on this album. So skillfully are the songs played if given the album without context I could have mistook for an established player in the American Primitive pantheon like James Blackshaw or Leo Kottke. Earth Plates is an absolute delight to hear and I have already been lost of hours in repeated listening of this magnificence effort.

In case any of you wondered how I found this, it was a submitted album just like the dozens of others that come in every month. Good on Magnus Dewi for finding me, as I don't know if he heard me go off about John Fahey for several minutes on one of the earlier episodes of the podcast and how I find so much in his personal story, connection to entho-musicology and the sublimeness of his playing to be inspired by. Anything that invokes that strong attachment is wonderful, but to have a musician that can live up to that remarkably high standard is the truly exceptional aspect of this experience for me. So don't hesitate any longer and give a listen to Earth Plates by Magnus Dewi, put out by the Vilaine Mouche label.

To be had here:
Magnus Dewi - Earth Plates

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Basic Printer - Moon Gear (2012)

Here we have a submission from Jesse Gillenwalters of Binghamton, NY, who makes creative electronic pop songs under the moniker of Basic Printer. "Moon Gear" is one of an impressive 9 releases, and is a concept record where the music serves as soundtrack to a fictional game about the planet of Platonia. It's easy to imagine, at least if the game is a video game, as this is synth-heavy music lending immediately lush, warm and colorful tones to these 10 songs.

While "Moon Gear" is a very accessible listen, it's not a straight-up pop record by most stretches of the imagination. There are stringed instruments throughout steering this toward the realm of chamber pop but the warped synth tones, of which there are many, keep that tag at a long arm's length. The record overall also stretches into the progressive and weird, especially on "Flora Aetus" and my favorite track "Knockout Mouse". But Gillenwalters' voice maintains a pop timbre when not heavily effected, giving some songs a Max Tundra meets Har Mar Superstar sort of vibe.

This is the second record I've heard out of Binghamton, NY that I've really dug (the first being Underground River). I'll have to put Binghamton on the short list for a possible Scenes Of A City post (check out previous posts for Guayaquil, Ecuador and Vilnius, Lithuania).

Get it here:

Basic Printer - Moon Gear 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blaire Alise & The Bombshells - FOR MY DARLIN' (2014)

So as anyone that has ever paid the fuck attention to this blog or the podcast knows, I live in Detroit and I am not entirely jazzed about it. At least I am far more skeptical of it than most other people I know in this city, and I don't subscribe to the idea that the city is on some sort of trajectory for a rebound. In fact, I think I've been proven correct in my pessimism on the metropolis's prospects with all this bullshit on the bankruptcy that seems utterly nonsensical to me, but I guess necessity isn't always reasonable. However, I am not gloating that I was right to be doubtful about Detroit, I mean the odds were on this if you were to place bet at these shitty casinos we've now got here. Moreover, I fucking live here, it would only benefit me to see the city revive more. I get to grin and bear the ugly aspects of this city whether I am hopeful or not.

I say all this as a preface to the fact that Detroit is truly a mixed bag. In some ways good things come from bad things and vice versa, certainly not in a healthy balance but like a horribly out of whack scale might measure allotments of delightful features into the cityscape. For example, the place is cheap overall: low rent, drinks are reasonable, food prices aren't too high unless you want something from the new high-end grocers or restaurants that are popping up (even then nothing compared to the coasts), and gasoline is cheaper than places like Chicago or New England in my experience. This means what is poverty according to the government can still be livable for young adults without offspring like myself; not comfortable or luxurious but not nearly homeless either. No plane tickets to France in budget, but a steak to cook at home and a pack of decent smokes are achievable. Of course you gotta lie about not living to your car insurer or your premiums will double or triple automatically and I never learned how paranoid I could be until I got mugged, or how angry I could be until after the second time. But then again, the police can't be fucking bothered to stop you from having a beer in a park most of the time, nobody is gonna stop you from having chickens despite it technically being illegal, and riding a bike through this city can be remarkably fun because of how there's only one rule: don't let anything get too close.

Yet in all these pros and cons I've saved what might be the only trump card I really think the Detroit has, it's fucking amazing music. Getting into the Detroit garage rock bands of the 90s and early aughts are what initially hooked me on going back everyday to the Port Huron public library to check out CDs by the dozen. The Hentchmen, the Dirtbombs, Outrageous Cherry, the Come Ons, and naturally those wonderful early albums by the White Stripes and the legendary Gories. Now, I wasn't in a position monetarily, transit or otherwise to really see any of these bands until I was... 24, I think. But there was a dreamy, young and more naive version of me that listened to these groups rabidly, and was astounded to find very few people listened to these bands, at least until the White Stripes blew the fuck up like an atom bomb. It was like, for a hot minute the world looked at Detroit and recognized that we were doing something cool again, like some kind of a renewed Motown imagined for just a flash of instant. Then the world noticed everything else going on basically everywhere and we slipped back to where we were at before: a few really popular acts and a pyramid of other acts of less notoriety beneath. 

Yet, this is not a sad ending to Detroit's illustrious musical past. What sort of shit would that be? This city, if nothing fucking else, knows how to make some damned righteous rock and roll (and hip hop, techno and so on). I'd put this above the automobiles and the fact that we used to make Stroh's. And perhaps it is a nostalgia-based favoritism, but I think one of the new prime examples of this is Blaire Alise & The Bombshells. Nostalgic insomuch that her singing reminds me so damned much of Detroit acts I remember so fondly like the Fondas, the Detroit Cobras and the Come Ons with a healthy dose of Motown girl group and 50s rockabilly feel thrown in. She's playing to her crowd, that much is for sure, and I am eating it right up. And just to make me feel a bit older than perhaps I should, she's just a kid, as far as I know she's not even able to buy herself a beer yet. Basically, at this point the fans of Detroit garage rock should be on board, and those of you unfamiliar with this shit have a lot of homework to get done...

To be had here:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Menschliche Energie - Billy EP (2014)

While I normally throw a group of EPs together into a longer post, for whatever reason I want to say a bit more about Menschliche Energie. Perhaps it'll be clearer to both you and I by the time I finish this write-up. Now I'd never heard of Menschliche Energie before I discovered Billy EP after rolling around on bandcamp pages for a few hours. That's not terribly unusual for any of us at Spacerockmountain to do, but I've always felt a strange need to assume the role of a champion for the music I find in this method. Sure I talk up and will recommend the shit out of submitted material, even follow the band myself and make sure I am not missing out on new releases, but I always envision myself as a loud fanboy in this scenario. I am cool with all this, in fact I enjoy the fantasy, or slight reality, that I'm your buddy giving you a heads up on some cool tunes. It changes, however so subtly, when I pull out of the infinite depths of the internet a particular EP, whether or not these fellas are actively seeking promotion or not, and tell you, "This is some real tight shit."

It is that infiniteness that is the issue. It isn't just infinite to me, but to everyone using the internet, and I am just making more infinity every time I feel the need to write something up and publish it here. Truth is I want you guys to be like "yeah, that's cool" but most of the time I am just staring at a void full of endless more music to hear, books to read and movies to watch that can make one feel uncultured despite a lifetime of consuming memes and media.

Yet in a desperate hope that this does fall down some endless void, I'm telling you that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Menschliche Energie's Billy EP. It is unsurprising at how well-crafted their songs are once I knocked around their bandcamp page. They've got releases from as far back as 2003. These guys are veterans at what they do. And what they do is snyth-heavy post-punk rock. It's absurdly able to blend a James Dean, leather jacket rocker style with the ultra-Mod and flamboyant 80s music that succeeded that notion. The songs are brief and don't jerk themselves off in anyway for having been a longstanding band from Nürtingen, Germany, but rather show a seasoned musicianship that knows excellently how to cut off the excess fat, leaving just enough to make it tasteful but not chewy.

To be had here (NYP):
Menschliche Energie - Billy EP

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Space Rock Mountain Podcast 21 - Lost Audio, Spite, and Ghost Capital

Interview with Ghost Capital.

Conversation related to the following tunes.

Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath - Into the Void
Buttering Trio - Mean to Me
XTR Human - Dysfunction

Six Organs of Admittance - The Lost Electric Six Organs (2013)

I have been a huge fan of Six Organs of Admittance and Comets on Fire since my Santa Cruz days in the early 2000s. They were sage patriarchs of the psychedelic music scene in the city, and would go on to being internationally recognized powerhouses by the middle of said decade. Craig and I talked at length in the second episode of our podcast about the Comets on Fire house show we witnessed and the effect it had on our relationship with music.

Thankfully, someone is keeping the Comets on Fire flame alive, and it just so happens to be their frontman, Ethan Miller. Miller has been busy with Howlin' Rain, but managed to find time to start up a proper label (Silver Currents) to release rare live and studio recordings he has been involved with over the years. Rather than simply plopping down a few mp3s, Ethan is doing things right by releasing physical, handmade CDs and cassettes.

One of the standout releases thus far is The Lost Electric Six Organs record. I remember speaking with Ben Chasny briefly after a show in 2003, and he mentioned that he had recorded a whole set of tunes for his Six Organs project while working with his new band, Comets on Fire. Sadly, these recordings were never released/completed. Miller writes that "Chasny even designed a record cover for the LP release of this album but at some point it fell from his grace or just fell to the back of the burner and then off the stove completely, I'm not sure which."

Thankfully, these three tracks have been unearthed and given the proper release thanks to Miller. I have the cassette version myself, and you can see how these recordings offer a different perspective on psychedelia than Chasny was employing in his Six Organs project at the time. He would reunite with his Comets brethren to record Ascent, but this tape is the only recorded version of these songs, and an excellent window into two band's at the height of their creativity.

Get it here:
Six Organs of Admittance  - The Lost Electric Six Organs (2013)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scenes Of A City, Vol 2: Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is the largest city and capital of the eastern European country of Lithuania. Situated on the east side of the Baltic Sea, the city used to draw comparisons to Jerusalem for it's once strong Jewish population, since obliterated during WW2. Actually, it's suffered a near constant barrage of invasions for hundreds of years, from the Nazis to the Swedes. Despite this, many beautiful and historic buildings still exist there, making this a city I would love to visit some day. Plus, beet soup is a major staple there. And I fucking love beets.

In 1995, four years after finally securing independence, Vilnius raised the world's first bronze statue of Frank Zappa.

So this must be a crazy city full of crazy music, right?

The Sold Outs - Basement For Me
The Sold Outs are a recently defunct punk band out of Vilnius. Crazy good is the only kind of "crazy" this band delivers. They keep it old school, eschewing the Manic Panic-induced pop sentiment that just about killed punk dead in the mid '90s. Which isn't to say that The Sold Outs aren't melodic. I don't know the tiny sub-genres that the umbrella of punk covers: maybe this is "oi" or maybe this is "hardcore". I'm not so concerned with knowing these slight discrepancies. Instead, I'm concerned with getting "Basement For Me" onto my iPod pronto so I can blast my eardrums with this full throttle punk rock loudly and frequently.

Zageron - S/T
I'm not too familiar with the genre of death metal either. But I think the reason I find Zageron so appealing, is that they're almost a perfect combination of the two death metal bands I liked 20 years ago: Entombed and Obituary. I'm reminded of the former in the background band's delivery, and the latter in the vocals. But whereas the lead singer of Obituary sounded like a pissed-off jaguar, this guy sounds more like an evil Cookie Monster with a bad case of indigestion (too many cookies). The drummer is an absolute juggernaut, veering from full on assault to triplets and waltzes. That's right: death metal waltz.

Banda Dzeta - Short and Loudly

This band is pretty much exactly what I hope to find when searching for music from different countries: traditionalism fused with modern elements. Banda Dzeta do just that by layering Lithuanian folk music with beautiful and schizophrenic horn arrangements, over an incredibly heavy bass guitar. To my ears, it sounds a bit like Les Claypool playing with a John Zorn klezmer/polka group. Mostly instrumental, entirely crazy. Tuba solos!

Bruzgynai - Visur Visada Visaip
Here we have a most bizarre record, comprised entirely of strange digital noises. Track one, for example, sounds like R2D2 having pillow talk with an Atari. I'm happy to share the work of Bruzgynai because it's unique in it's noise-scape experimentalism. At times harsh, at other times quiet and eerie, you might put on "Visur Visada Visaip" while watching Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" and the craziness of both might temper each other, offering an almost pleasant viewing experience. Or you might just have found the ultimate fuel for countless nightmares.

Monday, July 21, 2014

IL CULO DI MARIO - Italian Cucadores (2014)

Lately as a result of the reoccurring segment of our podcast I've been revisiting the odder and more alluring tracks of my music collection for good "lost and found" fodder. In addition, I've been exploring more and more nooks and crannies of music I've not ever heard before, and it has done wonders in invigorating my love seeking out musical oddities and forgotten gems (look forward to Peruvian garage rock of the 1960s at some point). However, this is a more refined task as you keep up the habit, much like acquiring a taste for beer, wine, cigars, bad movies or any other manner of things that are construed as a waste of times my those that don't find the appeal of indulging in them.

Well, one of my pleasures, beyond likely all those mentioned above, is the bizarre, lo-fi, DIY album that mingles in that murky zone between folk, punk and art rock. I've got friends that do this wonderfully, I bet many of you do. The guy that knows philosophy, has read a few novels by Hermann Hesse and some "metaphysical" books, engages in spiritual practices you've not heard of before, and tries often to craft remarks that display wisdom but come of as strange. I love that guy, he is refreshing in his unabashedness and one of the few people you can count on being wholly genuine despite how much they confuse and baffle you.

Now I'm not sure this describes any of the members of IL CULO DI MARIO. How could I, right? It is a submission from Italy after all, but the feeling I got when listening to their album was dead on. The songs are undoubted trying to be weird, to push the listener outside of a comfort zone just to allow them to feel there way back into the songs. This is a similar sensation to watching a surrealist comedy show. There's a uncanniness to it that is unsettling, but at the same time piques your curiosity. You just gotta see where they're going with this, and by the time it is done it is like you've been on board the whole fucking time. It is like it took your head in its hands and uttered, "This is your thing now, dog, best get used to it."

As I was saying, Italian Cucadores is a collection of songs that invoked this feeling perfectly for me. From the slow, somber folk to the vaguely 80s snyth-heavy post-punk and very nostalgic guitar rhythms with fucking insanely sung Italian lyrics on top. They alternate between English and Italian, which I found only makes all the more fantastical to hear, the electronic instruments appear to vanish in the next track, and so many other absurdly pleasing elements. Finally, it was put out by the delightfully named Black Vagina Records. Among their merch you can find a great hat.

To be had here:
IL CULO DI MARIO - Italian Cucadores