Saturday, July 25, 2015

EP Grab Bag vol. 100

Took a bit but I got myself to sit down and listen to some of the now outrageously large pile of submitted material. There's no way I can really post it all, but these caught my eye and I feel they're very strong EPs that I would be remiss not to share with everyone I can. These span a pretty large geographic swath of the English-speaking world but mostly fall into the rough category of psychedelic lo-fi. Gotta love that lo-fi. Oh, and looks like we did this 100 times now...

To be had here:

A London outfit that makes lo-fi experimental tunes that span a remarkable range of styles simultaneously. While all are rough and psychedelic, they sort of have one foot in the electronic sphere and another in the analog. It is like a chillwave band got some guitars and a drum kit before they set to it. I mean it is trippy, electronically manipulated and oddly nostalgic but still retains much of the trappings of shoegazing, psychedelic noodling and droning bliss that we all know and love. It hears tingly, if you get my drift.

Shredded Sun is a new formation of three members of the now defunct Fake Fictions. Sadly I'm not familiar with Fake Fictions, but I can say I'm already a fan of Shredded Sun. Lo-fi garage pop that has oddly poignant lyrics and experimental stretches. The shorter songs on this EP have already gotten solid locked into my head and I find myself thinking of them without realizing, however it'll be the two longer tracks "Change My Mind" and "Swing Philadelphia" make this EP most worthy of sharing.

There yet more lo-fi rock, this time coming from the Manitoban capital, Winnipeg. They've got the EP all tagged up with cute labels like 'disaster rock' and 'sexy music' but at it's core it is some fuzzy psych-rock. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely stuff. The very sort of washed out rock that I can't ever get tired of. It is somewhere between droning and jangling, certainly heavily influenced by shoegazing. I liked it enough to put checking out their full-length, Heart of Love, from last year on my agenda.

Several times I have written up the music of the Manx musician known as Nanaki. I've always praised his epic, beautiful post-rock and still find it moving and wonderful to hear. He's still making astounding instrumental music in this EP, yet it shifts into a more post-punk/art rock mode. It is more showy and aggressive at times while other moments are surprisingly cheerful. Undoubtedly one of the more talented guitarist and composers I get submitted to this blog, can't recommend hear Nanaki enough.

Finally stirring away from the psychedelic, here's an example of charming contemporary folk. If this was from the U.S. I would call it New Weird America, but as it happens Dusty Boots is a man from Australia who wrote these songs with his girlfriend while sleeping in a van. It is happy and a bit hippie-like as you might imagine from that background, however this should not take away from how lovely these songs really are. I recommend it if you liked Rented Rooms by C. M. Slenko, Slight Birching or even the Nashville sound of Caleb Groh

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blood Stone - Friend Group (2015)

So tonight I am suppose to see a live show here by Jura, the post-rock wizards of metro Detroit. Here in my own adopted hometown, Hamtramck, where I have previously missed many a quality live show, not least among which was the record release by band known as Blood Stone.

Now it is no accident I heard of Blood Stone, the drummer is a lady I know back from my days of slinging caffeine in the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. She told me of and kindly shared her band's tunes with me and then as it usually goes I sat on it for over a month and finally got around to hearing. Also as usual I feel great shame in not listening to it early as it's a fucking awesome series of songs I beheld once I finally acknowledged Friend Group.

Blood Stone makes what my friend called 'living room pop.' A related notion to more frequently mentioned notion of bedroom pop, but implicitly involves a gathering of people. Thus conforming to the practical realities of an indie band without a proper recording space and that it is also where such music would be written, rehearsed and sometimes preformed for a small audience. This isn't any reason to underestimate Blood Stone at all. In fact it sounds among the more well-executed lo-fi pop albums I've heard in years. Furthermore, the combination of female vocals, warmly fuzzy instruments, and a jaunty pop sound make me think of several fairly recently posted bands like the Pretty Greens, Daddy Issues, and Leggy. If that doesn't sell it I imagine you're a heartless monster or someone that doesn't read this blog often (a.k.a. a heartless monster).

To be had here:
Blood Stone - Friend Group

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chapa Mamba - Banda Forra (2015)

I'm acutely aware that the pace of writing has dwindled. Shit happens, people have families grow and others move around and get new jobs. What can you do about it? Nothing really. I am gonna write when I get time, maybe we'll hear from the other guys sometime, perhaps not. We ain't getting paid for this after all. Thus it's always been an as the mood strikes me affair until I figure out the next step in where to take this blog. This means submissions may languish for considerable lengths, I just haven't the hours in the week to keep up. To further gum up the works, I am super curious as to what's happening in Latin American music. It seems to be preoccupying me even since the Scenes of a City series began, so on top of trying to do some submitted material I am likely to be writing up South American music more regularly. Hence today's offering....

Don't really know much background on Chapa Mamba outside of their being a Brazilian band on the Rio De Janeiro based indie label known as Transfusão Noise Records, which was recommended for listening to me by my friend Babi. All that truly matters is how absolutely endeared I am by the music they've created for Banda Forra. It's a perfect blend of jangley indie pop reminding by of my stalwart favorites of the Elephant 6 collective, hazy Californian beach rock and, unavoidably to my American ears, the few Brazilian artists that have penetrated into the hipper crowds of these United States like Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil and the lot. Chapa Mamba's songs embrace the tropical nature of Brazil in their experimentation, utilizing ambient sounds of wildlife in the background of the psych-pop songs, while at other times they are utterly and completely a pop outfit executing at the highest level of catchiness. Every little thing they do works seamlessly together. You won't be disappointed, I am sure of it.

To be had here:
Chapa Mamba - Banda Forra

P.S. As long as we're on the topic of Brazilian music I must recommend another album I learnt of by way of Babi, the 1973 self-titled release of Secos e Molhados. A band heavily influential and famous in Brazil that's hardly recognized in North America. They played a style mixed MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), glam and the progressive rock that was all the rage at the time. However, it powerfully transcends language, time and place. Good fucking music is good anywhere and anytime.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

EP Grab Bag vol. 99

Here for this 99th Grab Bag I have band from just two countries, Greece and Canada. A combination that came to be just from me noticing I had a supply of EPs from each of these nations at the ready in the pile of submissions. With one exception, they're all from two cities, Athens and Toronto. Odd how that all works out like that. Anyhow, enjoy this Graeco-Canadian display.

To be had here:
Lazy Aftershow - The Legacy Of Automobiles (2015)

The awaited return of one of my favorite Greek bands. Lazy Aftershow are from Thessaloniki and have been on the blog a couple of times already. Here we have their latest EP, with a title the strikes close to home living here in the Motor City. The music is kraut-inspired post-rock yet there is a jazzy sound to be heard in these tunes as well. It is the most excellent use of horns. Reminds me of a sci-fi noir show, maybe something like Cowboy Bebop. I've been playing first thing in the morning for a few days and I like more each time.

Meeko Cheech - Miss Bolivia (2015)

Toronto's Meeko Cheech makes noisy dark pop songs. They don't conform too much to a style, but there is a noticable influence of gothic rock and post-punk in Miss Bolivia. The vocals are nicely understated, overwhelmed by the multiple layers of sound happening around them. The structure of the songs simultaneously erratic and perfectly transitional. It all flows together magnificently, but not in the way one might expect the rhythm to go. If you are won over by Miss Bolivia I don't know how to help you.

Violent Cartoons - Violent Cartoons EP (2015)

Jumping back to Greece, this time to the capital city of Athens, we've an EP of experimental psychedelia. While a being a psych-rock album undoubtedly, it undeniably a progressive rock EP at heart. The songs also feel like they could belong to a Zach Hill sort of noise outfit as the drums seem to be the first thing you notice, then the quick, often angular, guitar playing. Also, when picking anthropomorphic cartoons for the albums art, it seems the guitarist got the short stick with a bunny rabbit compared to a bear and alligator....

The Flying Museum Band - Smoke & Variety (2015)

Time for a Canadian band again, and one that stands out considerably among what's been posted as of late. The Flying Museum Band is an Americana, or Canadania they they've charmingly tagged it, band. Country style twang and soulful singing but this didn't stop them from throwing in rock guitar riffs, abundant horns squealing as if in a jazz concert and lacks nothing in pop hooks. You'll see, it all falls together most admirably, perhaps most beautifully in "Wishin' on a Wild Heart," at least to my ear.

And finally, back to Greece with a band that carries on he fusions of genres that seems to be a under-riding theme of this Grab Bag. Holy Limbo claims to make indie rock with downtempo soundscapes behind. As they're too jaunty to be post-rock, I can see why they'd go the circuitous route of describing it as they have. Whatever you wanna call it, this EP is beautiful and has no small dose of epic-ness from the soundscape backgrounds. Far from a lesson in contrast, it is an example of how to seamlessly blend styles.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kill West - Smoke Beach (2015)

To the attentive follower of this blog a few things about this album will be quickly familiar. Beyond it being a lo-fi psychedelic rock album, which is such a normal thing for me to write these days it is competing with my signature for top motion memory, it should be that they've been featured in an EP Grab Bag previously, but also that this album is released via the indie label/music blog Ongakubaka. And if you were really paying attention you'll recall that Ongakubaka doesn't put out shitty albums. Like never. Just don't know how to, I suppose.

The lo-fi outfit known as Kill West are from Buenos Aires. They seem honed their sound from what I recall hearing on their self-titled EP, shedding some of the more garage and surf sounds for a more dreamy style. That said, Smoke Beach is exactly what I hope for out of a hazy psychedelic rock album. It has enough droning/shoegazing elements to provide a fine trace-like quality for the listener while maintaining enough energy and bursts of excitement to not be able to fade from the forefront of one's thoughts. The nailed it, plain and simple. I'm not afraid even at this early date to call this one of the best psychedelic albums of the summer.

Finally, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the United State's Independence Day than by continuing to read Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernández, drink Spanish and German wines and listen to Argentine rock and roll. Really making the most of globalization and modern American imperialism. So get drunk, shut your mouths and open your ears up.

To be had here:
Kill West - Smoke Beach

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nigel & The Dropout - Folderal (2015)

When I wrote of Nigel & The Dropout's previous album, Tumultuous, I mentioned how I only came to know of them from one of them firmly giving me a card with the band's name and the link to their bandcamp on it. It seems it worked so throughly they turned me into a devoted enough fan that I looked into if they had a new album out. Guess how pleasantly surprised I was to see that indeed they've got one out and furthermore that it is pretty damn sweet.

So in case you didn't hear their previous album, which I still highly recommend you check out, Nigel & The Dropout are a duo from Detroit that make electronic dance rock. So while I am the first to admit I truly prefer never to dance ever, not my preferred form expression (not shocking for a man who finds time to write a music blog), but I can tell this shit would be something to move around to. However, this isn't the case for every song. You see, the album has a considerable range. Tracks like "Gestalt" and "I am a Trampoline" are dance rock for sure, but the songs "Blood Brain Barrier" and "Pulled Over, Pulled Under" are far more ethereal to the point of becoming space rock-like. Still others fall outside this binary, being more droning and experimental. I can't decide which of them I enjoy the most, and regardless of which you fancy best I am sure you'll like Folderal.

To be had here:
Nigel & The Dropout -  Folderal

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Selfish Cales - Throw Your Watch To The Water (2015)

I'll skip the apology for not posting for a bit. I just burnt out, and that is gonna happen from time to time. Was feeling burnt out all around for a bit there, even in my attempts to have a conversation seemed like I'd just revive the same few jokes my mind could summon before I could manage to scurry off. Feeling better now, and I am wondering what made me think of those particular jokes and conversation pieces when I was run down, why would I go back and revive those ones of everything I recall? That got me thinking of why we revive any notions from the past when we do? Why do we keep going back to certain styles? I am still not sure why, but I have a prime example to share with you today.

Revivalism is still going strong in Italy. Here again we've got an Italian band that'd pass easily for a British or American psychedelic-garage band from late 60s. This might seem vaguely familiar, perhaps because of other fairly recently posted Italian outfits like the Plastic Man, Big Mountain County, and most similarly the Vickers. However, the Selfish Cales aren't mimicking a British accent to the degree the Vickers are. In many ways the sound like a indie pop band from Athens, GA bearing a heavy 60s psych influence, noticeable in the groovy guitar hooks, the most excellent deployment of the organ and use of Eastern sounds not unlike the Beatles. At moments the album features some proto-disco beats, like one of my favorite Beach Boy's albums, Wild Honey. In fact, the whole affair bears some likeness to that fine album, admittedly more fuzzy and bombastic. The Selfish Cales are retro to be sure but it doesn't seem to prevent them from being engaging.

To be had here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scenes of a City, Vol. 10: Montevideo, Uruguay

Once again I found myself curious about the music by way of literature. I've been enjoying the short stories of Felisberto Hernández, who was not only a writer but an accomplished and self-taught pianist. Some of his songs can be heard online, and this experimental sort of literature prefigured many notable authors including the illustrious Italo Calvino, who I've mentioned several times before.

As for Montevideo as a city, it seems the sort of place I'd like to live. There's no secret that Detroit kinda sucks, even its most ardent boosters know it does even if they won't say it. Montevideo is most beautiful, has a higher level of development and cultural activity. It's way nicer, but whenever I bring it up here, people don't even know where it is. To see Montevideo in person in a wish of mine, but until I make better wages it's gonna be a dream I can only grasp in the form of ephemeral songs, the written words of dead authors and photographs taken by others. But there's no shortage of those, in fact there's so much music I found coming out of this city I'll have to spill some of it over into Grab Bags and consider an second part of this post at some point.

Also, I'd like to note that I have been compiling together releases for Scenes of a City posts and EP Grab Bags for years, done dozens and dozen of them, but this batch has the fucking best designed album art over all. Way to go Uruguayan graphic designers.

To be had here:
Oso Polar - Arktur (2015)

This is the first of the albums I listened to from Montevideo to strike a chord with me. Must have listened to it a dozen times the day I found it. A relatively minimal album for the most part, being folk-pop containing slow guitar and lovely Spanish singing. However, in the middle Arktur gets bolder, adding some indie pop flare with keyboards and vocal effects. While it bears [unintentional pun] a more subdued tone, I would liken it to my favorite Brazilian musician, Bonifrate. This is meant as high praise, pilgrims.

Franny Glass - Planes (2014)

Not straying too far from the folk-pop of the last album, here we have another indie pop release, though one that is decidedly more highly produced pop music. Another singer-songwriter I found absolutely delightful and quite cheerful in addition. Planes is packed full of earworms you'll find yourself humming along to without even needing to understand a word of it. Catchy tunes are catchy tunes across culture and language boundaries as well all know, and this dude really knows how to craft them. I sincerely recommend "En Libertad y Obligado" as a simple introduction.

The Blueberries - The West (2012)

I knew if I poked around I would find garage rock in Montevideo. I didn't know what sort of garage rock I might find though. The Blueberries are a very well put together, polished sounding outfit. Now, I know I really go off about distorted, loose sounding lo-fi garage rock, but I also have a great fondness for a finely produced guitar-driven rock band. And while most of the tracks are sung in English, I truly believe the few in Spanish really demonstrate the abilities of this band excellently, thinking of "Newby" in particular here.

Los Prolijos - Pasto Azul (2014)

This album is something I was amazed to find. It is a series of covers of popular Uruguayan songs reimagined as bluegrass and country music. A brilliant plan, right? Yes. The songs are light and upbeat, very good summertime jaunts. The musicians sound impeccable, showing off twangy guitar and banjo-picking skills Moreover, the album art on this is so incredibly cool I have already suggested it as a possible new tattoo from my friend, so don't crib his style.

Ataque Chino - Archivo 1 (2014)

An experimental ambient album in which poetry is recited. He doesn't sing his poems, definitely recites it, but much decent poetry will seem lyrical even with a language barrier. Beautiful to my ears, though I haven't the foggiest notion what he's on about. The music itself is astoundingly interesting, making use of a great multitude of instruments, effects and ambient sounds in a way I found to be quite novel. In someways it reminds of Felisberto Hernández's music, but I might be imagining that in a desire to connect some dots in my mind.

Pez Electrico - Gaza (2015)

An album that roughly could be called experimental psychedelia, yet that doesn't explain at the scope it undertakes. The tone and tempo of the songs range widely throughout, being slow and somber at moments and then launching into swirling guitar parts with abundant percussion. The album is chaotic but beautiful. I can see why they'd chose to associate it with the Palestinian city of Gaza, where chaos, resilience and beauty often intermingle.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Debris Slide - Araido (2015)

Not getting enough sleep lately. It's hot and humid here. For all I dislike about wintertime, it is easy to get to sleep in a cold, dry room on a December evening when the sunset at 5:30 in the afternoon. Basically, I hate this temperate climate altogether and I'm blaming it for why my mind feels so off lately. Muggy weather makes for a fuzzy mind. So in a kinda 'like cures like' method of self-healing my solution to fuzzy thinking is fuzzy music.

Debris Slide are a group from Nottingham, England who've embraced a very fuzzed out way of making songs indeed. They're shoegazers, taking hints from many previous wall-of-sound deploying outfits we're all familiar with. Moreover, they've kept it minimalistic, as far as shoegaze goes in that direction. What I mean is that nothing in these songs aren't capable of feeling complex in the board, constant fuzzy sound. I can't understand the singing (which remember is often fine by me) and the most outstanding instrumentation is some shimmery guitar and drum beats rhythmically emerging and fading quickly back into the noise. All it adds up to a drone-like effect that caused the blissful state of mind good noise/drone music should. Though they'll wake you up with some loud, crazy reverb in there as well. A well composed album, but you'll really have to have a fondness for very lo-fi music to get the most out of it. Thankful I am quite fond of that stuff.

To be had here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jura - None of This Was Ever Real (2015)

So I am a bit of a shitty friend. My pal Frank (aka Frankomyalgia) gave me this album to hear as soon as him and the other lads in Jura finished their years long mastering process. Then I put in the queue without special treatment. No reason why other than absentmindedness. However, I'll say that my personal fondness of Frank 'n' Beans aside, this album deserves to have been kicked up up in the line. Shit's fucking tight, professional-ass-tight. So with my apologies, Frankadoodle-do, I final am delivering my write-up.

None of This Was Ever Real is a largely instrumental and entirely enthralling album. The songs have a shimmery quality to them, along with a mild shoegaze droning in the background that lays an excellent bed of sound to build on. At the few moments when vocals appear, they are subtle, echoey and don't step on the music in any way. Rather the blend seamlessly into the tapestry. Moreover, there are no spoken word audio sample interludes, which can be used well but are often over-employed as the expense of good songcraft. It not only sounds Jura like the took their time meticulously picking over the audio of these tracks, I know they took their sweet time putting it out. A labor of love in every note and it is audible. Most impressive, Frankincense.

Finally, until most bands I write-up, I have gotten to see Jura play live. I haven't a clue if they're going anywhere to play any shows, once again I am not a great friend and should have asked Sprained Frankle about this.

To be had here:
Jura - None of This Was Ever Real