Friday, October 24, 2014

Nate Henricks - Apple Juice (2014)

The return of the much lauded Lawrence, Kansas-based experimental musician Nate Henricks. Followers of Spacerockmountain should recall the several previous posts on releases from Mr. Henricks and the interview with him on an earlier episode of our podcast. So I don't think it'll be a stretch to imagine my excitement at seeing that he's gone a released another album, I believe this to be his fifthteenth. Apple Juice carries on and simultaneously deviates from the themes of the recently preceding albums like NEON FOR NO ONE and HORSERADISH, that is as much as a theme can be applied to experimental pop. 

Overall, the songs are still very much in the camp of bedroom psych-pop that I've used to describe Henricks' music before, but the songs that begin the album have a harsher and cheerful tone, with more dissonance and erratic features that caused be some jostling upon the first listen, yet no means did I dislike it. In fact, the listener shall notice he circles back to this style with the track, "Tazareth," where some post-hardcore seems to have seemed in. Now, there are songs that'll fit the E6 sort of fuzzy psych that Henricks is a master at if he so chooses, and the two 'live' tracks "Vegetarian Dog" and "Your Arcade Prize" are instant earworms in this vein. I found myself humming each of these at work all week long. However, what makes Apple Juice as an album a truly awesome listen in the variation in throughout the short batch of songs. Being only 21 minutes it begs repeated listenings, and has I did so I found myself looking forward to all the weird, noisy and uncharacteristic parts as much as anything that could be considered a single out these tracks. The chiptune boops and beeps he throws in, the howling singing for a minute, the dark guitar riff and sound effects all add up into a wild display, which is more coherent than sound collage for sure but bears some relationship. The final number, "What is Not the Answer," is even a country tune, and a beautifully done one at that.

To be had here:
Nate Henricks - Apple Juice

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Angel Kaplan - Pictures From The Past (2012)

This album is something of a Scenes of a City: Gijón, Spain part 1.5. You see, in the course of finding the EPs I already shared from Gijón, I found various other albums I liked and I imagined it might bear doing a second part to the post. Little did I suspect that there lay much more to Gijón's musical history than I imagined and it may very well take a short series or a much longer post to discuss. This was made apparent to me after an email exchange with Angel Kaplan. He began giving me details of how there was a well-established music scene in the industrial and port city of Gijón and, like some Midwestern cities of the U.S., had disproportionate musical output from the blue collar populace. He gave me numerous examples of what was called the Xixón Sound (which is from the Asturian name for the city and was the name of a record label associated with some of the more famous acts), which he grew up listening to as a young man in the city (also a special thanks to Astor, who gave me Gijón bands to check out as well). However, I will get to more of Gijón/Xixón in the future. Today I'll focus on Angel Kaplan's solo album, Pictures From The Past

Just a touch of background on Angel Kaplan; he is a native of Gijón, Spain obviously, but does live in the United States these days, at least part of the time. He's played in various bands such as Bubblegum, Doctor Explosion, Peralta and currently is in the influential and longstanding garage rock band, the Cynics. Nonetheless, Pictures From The Past is not a garage album. Rather, it is a fine example of pop music with elements of psychedelic, country and folk. I'll admit, these don't seem like the sort of songs I normally holler about, with the fuzz and low-mixed vocals, but should one do something right I'd hate to deny it proper praise. From the first beachy notes of "Like a Ragged Old Puppet" I was eager to hear more of these tracks. Kaplan's voice is fantastic and he delivers emotional and charming lyrics with impeccable talent. While it's clear he's tremendously influenced by 60s pop music, the songs avoid blatant mimicry. The folksy guitar playing and the sensibly utilized background singers really show how well produced this is. The whole album is a breeze to listen to, ending sooner than I'd like it to each time, and has some particularly sweet highlights in "Hunting Dog" and "Ridiculous Love Song." Goddamn does he ever nail that latter song. This is exactly what I wish pop music sounded like more often, and if it did I might even consider listen to the radio again.

When I found this album I immediately enjoyed it and wanted to share it, yet it wasn't downloadable, free or otherwise, and I couldn't find a way to buy it physically despite it being fully streamable. This is why I wrote the musician, to see if he had a suggestion, and while it seems that Get Hip (the U.S. label for the release) has a few vinyl on hand, it isn't shown on their website, but you can email them. While there were plans to put it out on CD that idea seems to have dematerialized. However, we can only hope that someone will change their mind and put it out somehow: cassette, CD or vinyl re-issue. I'll be the first in line to snag a copy. However, in a boon for us all, he's made the album downloadable at a name your own price basis on bandcamp, so show him some support or at least some enthusiasm and get the album.

To be had here:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

EP Grab Bag vol. 77

I won't lie. I have been burning the candle at a dozen ends lately. Working two jobs, trying to hustle up money on my only day off, writing this thing nearly daily. It is beaten my down, but I still had these gems ready in waiting to share with the pilgrims. Anyhow, posting might slow a bit, but I can't sustain this pace, never really have been, hence a history of blackouts. I won't leave the site unattended, just no more 6 or 7 posts a week, more like 3 or 4, as a human being can handle.

To be had here:
J Moss - Weak Off (2014)

Another psychedelic folk effort from our pal, J Moss, the fella behind the Modern Folk musical project and website, where a great interview with Charlie Slenko of Sioux Trial Records can be read right now. Four songs of earnest and surreal folk with a heavy buzz and lo-fi vocals that create an eerie ambiance of a lonesome setting that all too many of us know very well. So not just a good promoter, someone I am pleased to think of as a colleague, but a fine musician as well, which makes me more than a little envious.

JIBÓIA - Badlav (2014)

Remember these guys from last week? You should, was they were fucking great. Anyhow, seems there's a fresh EP just out so I get to share them twice in a row in the Grab Bag. The way their describing the EP like the Prince of Persia on acid, and that's a rather apt way of explaining they mixture of Mid-Eastern/Indian and psychedelic sounds form Badlav. The singing is absolutely hypnotically fantastical, with the far out guitar and electronic effects the songs have a power to transport the listener to somewhere wild and exotic, modern and ancient. Once again, released by that top-notch Portuguese label, Lovers & Lollypops

This is a Detroit band I ran across in my post-work, exhausted internet browsing. While I try not to post something merely because it is a Detroit area outfit, and that's where I live, I do get some small swelling of joy from hearing a good garage rock band from here. Mostly because the likelihood of me getting a chance to see them is highly increased and it will probably be affordable or free, which works with my budget of near destitution. The songs are fucking sweet, totally worth giving a whirl.

When I was casting around for a Scenes of a City location before the writing up either Lyon or Gijón I considered Turin, Italy. I still most talk myself into that place as a post, but I am spent on energy like you would not believe lately so I am not sitting on this goddamn awesome EP any longer. Lust for Breakfast has made four lo-fi garage rock songs I keep coming back to and continue to give me enjoyment. More on the pop side of garage, but very tastefully done and not all shitty like when a pop band fuzzes a guitar, like a garage rock back that got a bit more like a Mod rockers and wore a tie for once. Though as you can see in the album art, no shirt is actually wore.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Swimming in Bengal - Vol. 1 (2014)

The name of Swimming in Bengal and the album art adorning an elephant seemingly floating should be enough to suggest what sort of music is on this release. The band already summed it up nicely on their bandcamp and what I hope doesn't mark me as lazier than I am, I'll relate that: "Improvised out-jazz/art rock with a focus on Middle Eastern/South Asian melody, rhythms, and drones." 

That would have been more than enough to have gotten me to give this album a listen, but I didn't get this album sent in, not in a straightforward fashion at least. However, a couple of years ago I was sent in an EP called Drought Times by a group called San Kazakgascar, which proved to be an incredible listen and well-received by those few readers that give me feedback. In an unfocused review of past posts and I have curious to see what that group had released since only to find a new name but on the same bandcamp page, on the same tiny label, Lather Records. It seems San Kazakgascar took a break and the gourd guitarist (yeah, gourd guitar, people) formed a new group to make music inspired by the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East. Swimming in Bengal is this renewed effort's results, and if the naming Vol. 1 is a hint, hopefully just the beginning in a series of releases.

Now, this is improvisational music, a sort of free jazz with Eastern instruments. Therefore, it is something to be heard while chilling out and having something at least a touch mind altering, even if that's just a nice pipe of tobacco or a bottle of cheap wine. Or it could be Larry's weekly allowance for robotripping, however you manage it, the album is fucking great when you get into the right headspace. You'll know it when you get there. Or hear it sober, it is still great.

To be had here:
Swimming in Bengal - Vol. 1

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Small Teeth - Small Teeth Tape (2014)

I was going to include this band in an upcoming Scenes of A City for Montreal, but it's just too damn good that it needs to stand on it's own.

Small Teeth churn out psychedelic noise pop. There's a slight Spencer Krug sound present, who is also from Montreal... perhaps it's the singing style or maybe it's the quirky chord progressions. But let's get something straight, Spencer Krug is only as good as his "Oh Oh OHs", and those get tiresome when you inject them into every single music project you touch, from Wolf Parade to ....everything else.

Small Teeth kick ass. There's a good variety in their songwriting... each of these five songs has a distinct color that, added together, make this one sparkly little gem of an EP. The first track stomps down a path through a sonic headfuck forest, while track two is a panicked grimace of a waltz(love the vocal delivery on this one, especially). Things speed up on track 3 and then slow down by track four, which is a beautifully crafted glam pop ballad.

Come to think of it there's a bit of glam in these songs. Sparks occasionally comes to mind.

Lyrically there seem to be themes of the mind and one's own psychology... common motifs for psychedelic bands in general because when one dabbles in altering one's own brain chemistry, well... brain chemistry becomes pretty fascinating. Don't do drugs, kids. Well... alright, go ahead and do them. But make sure your dealer isn't a shitheal. And don't touch the Robitussin (more than once per weekend).

But seriously, download the shit out of these 5 songs before. They rock. This is what I want more bands to sound like.

Small Teeth - Small Teeth Tape

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opposites - Poorly Captured Practice Vol. 3 (2014)

Chicago's Opposites have a loose sound and structure, as they name of this album would imply, as if they were practicing. This doesn't mean it isn't interesting, more that there's a certain lack of urgency that makes the songs relaxing, even when they're relatively fast. Once again I am gonna have to rely on my love of Elephant 6 for a comparison, as the singing reminds me of Andy Gonzalez of Marshmallow Coast, and the vibe of the album reminds me of his Marta Tennae side project. Strange, psychedelic but never overwhelming or intense, a subtle but effective sort of meandering in sounds. Although, Opposites seem to have a more rock and roll sound that those projects, the feeling is there. All that said, I felt very comfortable listening to this and found myself endearing to the tracks and looking forward to the same little bits and flourishes with each play.

This album is being put out by Grandpa Bay Recordings of Chicago, which some of the more attentive readers may recall from the Mao Tzu albums they've releases in the past, including the split with This is Lorelei earlier this year.

To be had here:
Opposites - Poorly Captured Practice Vol. 3

Monday, October 13, 2014

Scenes of a City, Vol. 5: Gijón, Spain

Now I work primarily as a used bookseller, which I like to think of as a job that requires me to know a little about everything, but be adept in very few. Yet there are things you entering into the trade with a mild curiosity for and as you get to see the volume of books, or lack thereof, on the topic you'll cultivation it accordingly. My main two fascinations I've nurtured since becoming a bookman is depressing, existentialist foreign literature and the maybe even a more depressing subject of the Spanish Civil War. As I imagine is common for English-speakers, I was exposed to the war via George Orwell's account of the conflict in Homage to Catalonia. Ever since I've wanted to know more but I won't bore you with the details of the volumes I've collected and spent my spare time pouring over. Rather this is a way to explain why I have begun to know the names of many Spanish cities, the various linguistic differences of the country and the political structure of Spain with its autonomous communities. This is how I know of Asturiason, the northern, mountainous and coastal area of Spain and the region in which Gijón, or Xixón as it is known in Asturian, is located. What I only recently discovered is how much music is being produced in this city, and how much of it is readily available on bandcamp. So forget my depressing pre-occupations as you hear these marvelous tunes.

To be had here:
No Fucks - No Fucks (2014)

The most recent release by a band that's got several enjoyable and free releases on bandcamp from the past two years. They make a retro pop-rock that has some touches of surf rock, and this 7" is sung in Spanish (maybe Austrian, I'm not versed enough to know) and is quite alluring and catchy. The last track, "Vegetar," slows it down some and really show off how lovely of a song they can compose. I recommend hitting up their back catalogue too, those EPs are great shit.

HUIAS -  ! (2011)

An electronic pop EP with chillwave and dream pop tones. It is quirky but not overbearing, a sort of subtle and refined approach is apparent in the music of HUIAS. It is really the instrumentation that makes these songs so damned beautiful and how they play off the fantastic vocals, and like all thing with music and this whole blog I can only struggle to convey that is is pleasant to hear. It is easy to get sucked in and wanna hear these songs again. Additionally, they've got a new single out called "Movimiento Este" that is totally worth hearing.
agora que somos muertos - Aquelarre (2012)

If you haven't noticed by now I am a huge fan of folk and American primitive music, as recently shown by the Steve Palmer and C. M. Slenko posts and my everlasting love of John Fahey. So I imagine my joy at finding a Spanish band that was playing folk that came reasonable close to Fahey's style. Aquelarre is full of the wonderful experimentation and psychedelic-by-way-traditonal (this is a concept I am pondering) that I've come to respect and covet so deeply.

The Starkwells - Take The Money And Run (2014)

There seems to be a continuous thread through my posts on cities that there is one band that can pass as a British band while decidedly not being from Britain. This band perhaps doesn't have the accent as well done as prior bands, but it does sing it some fine English and have some very good power pop songs to go with that very British seeming name. It is lighthearted and sweet to the ear, but the issue is that while it is streamable I can't seem to see how one can download or purchase it. Perhaps that band will come through with some details....

Los Guajes - Mujeres y Centollos (2012)

This is what we've all been waiting for, a Spanish garage rock revival act. I mean, we're bopping all around and far from displeased at what I've found in any of these cities, but I had a theory that garage rock was this universal presence at one time and I hoped it survived in abundance. Thanks for Spain and Los Guajes might retain some of this blissful illusion. Here is the freshest, even at two years tardy, of albums from this band, and it goes for seven Euros but the previous album, La vida es como un CARRUSEL, is a free download. I really don't know what else to tell you beyond these simple words... GARAGE ROCK, ORGANS, SPANISH, MOUSTACHE, SUITS, FUZZZZ.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


TOO MANY ZOOZ are a trio of musicians who've been playing together in the subways of New York City for a couple years. The group features a trumpet player, a baritone(or bass?) saxophonist, and a percussionist who plays what looks like a handmade, stripped down, bass drum/woodblock set up.

They play some crazy new genre I haven't heard before. It's got an EDM vibe to it but it's all acoustic instruments, so ADM? Their Facebook page calls their style "brass house", which is pretty apt. The brass in the band gives the group a overarching jazz sound. But, like New York City itself, TOO MANY ZOOZ is a melting pot of jazz styles, going from New Orleans to Afro-Cuban to Ethiopian in the span of 5 minutes. The unique percussion gives the music a strong, drum machine-like backbeat, providing the EDM-ish vibe. But the sax player also does this crazy skronk noise that's more of a Skrillex-type of noise than a Coltrane-type of noise. 

The sound is simultaneously fresh, unique, and familiar, a good combo for mass appeal. It probably also helps having a bunch of youtube videos of their subterranean performances, and a sax player who knows how to ham it up for New York's subway commuters. 

If you live in the PNW, be sure to check them out this week:

Monday, October 13th Portland @ Mississippi Studios
Tuesday, October 14th Seattle @ The Nectar Lounge
Friday, October 17th Vancouver, BC @ The Future Sound Club

Friday, October 10, 2014

EP Grab Bag vol. 76

The latest batch of EPs from the inbox, all of them top-notch, some of them will inevitably become beloved if you give them a chance. Listen and relax, it is a recreational activity after all, pilgrims.

To be had here:
Jibóia - Jibóia EP (2013)

I lost track of exactly how I ended up with this EP, but I know why someone sent it in, as it is, I believe, a Portuguese band that is connected to my love affair with the city of Porto that I expressed in one of the Scenes of a City posts, again from Lovers & Lollypops. The EP itself is an instrumental electronic effect and guitar laden swirling of various rock and world music styles into a stunningly loud and mesmerizing amalgamation. Nears prog at moments only to come back with Mid-Eastern tunes and then to thumping bass. Really something rather unique and worth checking out.

C. M. Slenko - Moonlight Veneration (2014)

Hopefully you still remember who this is from the post last week of his new full-length, Rented Rooms. While it seems he had more in him than that one album could handle, so here is the EP that was released at the same time. Upon listening to Moonlight Veneration it is easy to see why it was issued separately, as it is not the more traditional folk of the other, but noisy and lo-fi experimental anti-folk. They're not even comparable, in fact there's no vocals even on this until the final track. I found my first listen to be mind-blowing and I'm getting addicted to replaying it. Released for free via Sioux Trails.

The Ha-RAng!# - SHE WANTS PRETTY (2014)

Something that's been missing on the blog since the last Grab Bag, some fucking garage rock. Here's a band from Charlottesville, VA that makes playful garage that conjures memories of the King Khan and BBQ Show. The songs are catchy, loud and fast but not too sloppy to enjoy. Plus they threw in some audio from Back to the Future for jollies I suppose. Certainly worth the three smackers they're asking for this EP.
Two Skies - STAY / OCEAN (2014)

An English psychedelic band with a double single, but they run over 10 minutes so I think it is qualifies for the EPs. Loud, fuzzed guitars and very 70s psych sound, including the higher pitched vocals the seared over the top of the druggy soundscapes of those days. The seven minute plus opus that is "Ocean" is pretty wild and worth spending the time to hear all of its meandering varieties of trippy-ness.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Steve Palmer - Unblinking Sun (2014)

Steve Palmer is from Minneapolis, MN and plays psychedelic folk that bears heavy influence from both krautrock and the American Primitive of John Fahey. Unblinking Sun is a hard-to-predict album because eccentric influences, and that unpredictably is truly an asset. Parts of it are undoubtedly pulled straight from the guitar picking tradition that Fahey inspired, of which I can never get my fill, and like Fahey himself Palmer wasn't afraid to get experimental with it. It has the trappings sound collage with touch ambient noises and spoken word that provide the far out psychedelic folk with a theatricality. Nonetheless, it really is Palmer's amazing skill with the guitar the makes this album anything at all, and boy howdy can he play.

Normally I would not share a link to an incompletely streamable album, but it is my bad that I failed to share this in the window where it was fully listenable and also(I got a link for the full streaming for those of you interested in hearing it all before purchase), these are our buddies over at Dying For Bad Music putting the album out. I defer to their wisdom and will tell you that you'll have to believe me that the second half of this album is as good as the first.

To be had here:
Steve Palmer - Unblinking Sun