Friday, March 29, 2013

SXSW 2013: Friday (Part 3)

Ducktails @ The Mohawk Indoors

I did not intend to see any bands after the Flaming Lips. I did not want to see any bands after see The Flaming Lips. Any band I saw after them would just dull in comparison to the massive, mind blowing spectical I just saw. However, the one magical thing about SXSW is its ability to make even the smallest bands to appear just as great in contrast to the biggest one. So I soldiered on to The Mohawk with that mindset and caught part of Ducktails set. There was no problem with them sonically, Matt Mondanile’s solo project with Big Troubles as his backing band were tight and bouncy as hell. The problem was that Mondanile’s songs, which use to sound like a reduced form of Real Estate, acquired a ‘80s, cheeseball production that saps all the potency from the songs. It everything felt very on the nose about the set, and I just couldn’t enjoy it.

Merchandise @ The Mohawk

I got to see Merchandise on Thursday, but that three song set was nothing compared to the ear bursting, emotional swelling, noise drenched sprawl of a show that I saw Friday night. The band, now a fully fledged one with their new drummer, brought insane amounts of passion and intensity to their songs. From frontman Carson Cox's truly pained emotions to go along with the lyrics he was crooning out to Dave Vassalotti twisting around his guitar so much he collapsed to the ground from exhaustion by the end of the set. It was sounded like Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth covering the Cure for an entire set, with an added level of catharsis from the band that was beyond palatable. So much so that people were dancing/writhing up front, and and people momentarily started moshing two-thirds into their set. Whether trigger by the music or drunkenness, it was still more emotion then I had seen at most places during SXSW.

Chelsea Light Moving @ The Mohawk

Thurston Moore has been making music for over thirty years. His new band mates were younger, but more than looked like they had years of experience in the same field. So how do people like that screw up and take forever to soundcheck? Moore played it off with humor, giving away free drinks if you could name Spice Girls and joking about firing the band. But Chelsea Light Moving did finally play, and any intact ears from Merchandise were instantly obliterated. I don't know for how long, or how fair it is, but for now at least Chelsea Light Moving will have to endure Sonic Youth comparisons. Which is OK because Sonic Youth are still awesome. Moore and co. ripped through what sounded like straight ahead off-kilter noisy rocker, picking up right where Sonic Youth left off from The Eternal. There was no flash, no gimmick, no posturing. Just some noise makers making new noise and having a blast while doing it. It was that simple, and it was simply awesome.

DIIV @ The Mohawk Indoors

Yes, DIIV said "Fuck SXSW". And while his points may sort of been valid (a thought piece for another day), he did continue to play a bunch of shows at SXSW. And I am forever grateful for that because DIIV were aboslutly incredible live. The absolutely stunning set I saw them pull off before they released Oshin while opening for Frankie Rose was easily topped here in five minutes of the band playing. Their songs sound so much more powerful live, capturing emotions that are only barely scratched on record. Frontman Cole Smith was a mixture of exhaustion, adrenaline, and weird happiness that seemed to amplify the music further, especially the new songs that the band played sounded more dynamic and emotional next to the band's older material. Much like the Beach Fossils set I saw the year before, a pit erupted early into the set and stayed there for the whole set. However, there was no irony attached to it, just a bunch of people going crazy for a band that was playing some incredibly energetic and excellent indie rock.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pharmakon-Crawling on Bruised Knees

For nearly five years, Pharmakon AKA Margret Chardiet has been making evilly intense and abrasive industrial music in her own self-made Red Light District scene in New York. And for just as long, it's been nearly impossible to talk about Pharmakon's music properly due to her releasing nothing outside of a few hard to find CDrs and tapes. All that changes now though, with Sacred Bones releasing her first proper LP Abandon in May. And if the title or cover art don't give you a hint at the damage or darkness lurking in Pharmakon's music, then one listen to "Crawling on Bruised Knees" will. It opens with a drum pounding so massive it sounds like bombs going off. Then the jagged synths kick in, creating pure horror movie tension for the rest of the song. The song picks up slowly, but ever so steadily before Chardiet's vocals kick in and shift the song away from its horror sensation, to its real emotions of apocolyptic anger and darkness. Chardiet's sends her vocals through a modilator that twists them in the just the right way so that you know they are actual words, but warpped so they sound monstrous as well. At same time, the song's no wave style industrial march chugs in the background, it's pressence an almost inescapable force. "Crawling on Bruised Knees" might be one of the most visceral/evil things I've heard in a while, and god if it isn't just mind-twistingly perfect because of that.


Pre-order Abandon here, from Sacred Bones Records

SXSW 2013: Friday (Part 2)

Jim James

Wanting to describe Jim James’ set as weird seems inappropriate, especially after who performed after him, but his solo performance wasn’t anything close to what I was expecting. I hadn’t heard a bit of the My Morning Jacket frontman’s new solo album, so when the beats and electronic hum started pouring out of the speakers, it caught me off guard. Then James himself strolled on stage, and started singing electronic choir songs to the crowd. Everything about the set just felt surreal, from the Sunday church atmosphere the James and his bandmates were trying to create to the Flying V guitar was that placed in the center of the stage for James to unleash a crazy solo on at opportune moments. The unfortunate part being that as tight as the band was on stage (very), and however interesting the performance (captivating to say the least), nothing stuck. It was such a hodpodge of different elements, like a ‘70s rock band layered over a jam band with trip-hop beats going off that it just sounded like a giant mess. As interesting as Jim James was trying to be, it was also self-indulgence at its worst.

The Flaming Lips

I got to Auditorium Shores at 3 to make sure I got the best spot possible to see The Flaming Lips. Gates didn't open until 3:45, dust filled the air & ground, and the sun had decided on that day alone to flip from the start of spring to feeling like mid summer. And it was so, so worth it. I don't care what anyone says, The Flaming Lips put on possibly the best show of SXSW.

The set consisted mostly of the band playing the entirety of their new album The Terror. The tone was set early, as weird circular mirrors were placed all around the stage, along with white tubing layered all around. All of which was nothing compared to Wayne Coyne himself, who had mounds of florescent tubes placed everywhere on his body, while cradling a plastic but eerie looking baby. Then the music began, and it was incredible. The Terror is everything I wanted Embryonic to be; it's a dark but eventually triumphant epic that captures so many bleaker and more powerful emotions that the Lips rarely touch on in this way. The live show matched this exactly; they stripped away many of the customs, there were no confetti cannons, and there were no random dancers on stage. Instead, dark lighting and distorted, epileptic inducing images were projected during the songs, which sounded incredibly noisy, twisted, at times like Gang of Four playing psych music on the most intense acid imaginable. Yet, by the third song "Try To Explain", when the halo like light circle lowered around Coyne, and the lights and song itself just exploded, the potency of the music was undeniable. The Terror will blow minds, I guarantee it. Then, as the best encore imaginable, the band played a solid chunk of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. It was a sort of perfect pallet cleanser, and the pop like emotions of "Fight Test" and the title track finally induced the sing-alongs the crowd had been containing during the entire set. When the closed with "Do You Realize??", bring Jim James onstage to sing it together, it was just pure euphoria. There was nothing quite like it during the entire festival.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SXSW 2013: Friday (Part 1)

Colleen Green @ The North Door

Colleen Green's set was a case of a good artist playing at the wrong time at the wrong venue. The North Door stage was just big enough to make a solo artist like Green look small with just her guitar and drum machine. Not to mention the semi-indifference and chatter of the crowd, along with the pizza the venue kept bringing out for everyone didn't help with the atmosphere at all. Still, Green powered through as much as she could, playing her garage-pop to view people, which in fact was catchy as hell. Beachy, sleepy, and stoner vibes all persisted through the songs, with just enough of a nostalgic bubblegum-punk flair to them to make them stick in your head. Green is probably what would have happened if Dum Dum Girls had stayed a solo project and moved to California. I just wish I had seen it on better terms.

Nü Sensae @ The North Door

There is no other way to say it other than Nü Sensae's set at The North Door was nothing short of absolutely ferocious. They were an 18 minute blast of catchy but crushing post-hardcore fury that never let up and got better with each passing song. They were smart with their ruckus, knowing just the right moments to let up before proceeding to burst ear drums again. Frontwomen Andrea Lukić jumped between an icy monotone and nails on chalkboard screeches within the same songs, with both styles silenced anyone in the crowd and made them stare at the stage, if her thick as mud bass riffs weren't doing that already. Despite the noise they were creating Nü Sensae's six years as a band shined throughout the set, with them playing tight as hell, despite Lukić saying she had caught the SXSW bug (not that you could possibly tell). And it was that combination, fury matched with focus, that made them so great.

Jacuzzi Boys @ The North Door

Hearing Jacuzzi Boys play on Friday, it struck me that they hadn't changed at all since I caught them a little more than a year ago when they opened for King Khan and the Shrines. And that isn't really a bad thing. They still play a very awesome brand of garage rock, touched with bits of sunshine and surf from their native Florida. They debuted a bunch of new songs, which sounded just as good and catchy as their older catalog. And they still rocked on stage, just like they did a year ago. Jacuzzi Boys were just a nice, fun, non-life changing set at SXSW. Sometimes, amid all the chaos of the event, that's OK.

Divine Fits @ Auditorium Shores

I don't know if it was because of all the touring, or the five shows they had played before this one, but the Divine Fits did one of the impossibles and sounded better then when I saw them live at Stubb's. Britt Daniel's and Dan Boeckner's interplay has been updated from tight as hell to flat out impeccable. Sam Brown's drumming, and the band's secret weapon, was just bombast, crashing and ringing through out the dusty fields of Auditorium Shores. The band didn't show an ounce of exhaustion, instead beaming and practically jumping around the stage during every song. As unindie as it is to say, Divine Fits were meant to play gigantic stages like this, and they owned this one. The one possible slight against the set was it being too short due to time constrictions, but that didn't stop closer "Shivers" from still sounding as goosebump inducing as ever.

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Joy-Lunar Phobia

No Joy have been one of the most under appreciated modern shoegaze bands, along with one being one my favorite current bands. The quality of ethereal noise and catharsis the band created on debut Ghost Blonde & Negaverse EP from last year are still hard to come by these days. Which is why their new song "Lunar Phobia" caught me completely off guard. It sounds nothing like any of their previous material; all distortion has been removed from the guitars which now ring and chime. The percussion is abstract and airy, and contains a distinct dance influence that wasn't there before. Jasamine White-Gluz & Laura Lloyd vocals have been placed way higher in the mix, along with sounding much more angelic to the blurry monotone that existed before. Basically, No Joy decided they wanted to be Cocteau Twins, and they so lucked out that "Lunar Phobia" sounds so good. It's a spacy, dance track that's informed by the band's apparent shoegaze past; think My Bloody Valentine's "Soon" if the guitar had been surgically removed. It's still an absolutely gorgeous track, and it will be very interesting to see what No Joy do and sound like on their upcoming Wait to Pleasure.


No Joy's Facebook
Pre-order Wait to Pleasure here, from Mexican Summer

Sunday, March 24, 2013

SXSW 2013: Thursday (Part 2)

Delorean @ 1100 Warehouse

It's always weird to remember that Delorean are an actual band rather than one lone guy manipulating sample tracks and beats on his laptop. Weirder still is seeing those same producer influenced club jams being reproduced live, by the same band member, without a laptop or computer in sight. Delorean haven't released any music since 2010, so it's nice to see they could get a placid of South By Southwest concert goes (at a Pitchfork showcase no less) to dance a little. Delorean's songs tended to blur together after a while, but that's OK because it was a nice soundtrack for the afternoon, and an even better change of pace from the magnitude of guitar bands I had been drenching my ears in for the past day and a half.     

Youth Lagoon @ 1100 Warehouse

Two songs; that's all the outside crowd got of Youth Lagoon for the final performance at the Pitchfork day show. Due to the entire showcase running 20 minutes behind, and a far too long sound check that caused the whole crowd to grow angsty, Youth Lagoon stated 30 minutes later then they should have. To be fair, the songs the band did perform sounded incredible; frontman Trevor Power voice sounded impeccable and had a new confidence that wasn't there when I saw him last year. His bandmates were stellar, and together they managed to reproduce point by point every tone and weird sound that is embedded into Wondrous Bughouse. However, only getting two songs was still horrible, and needless to say the entire crowd almost immediately started booing and begging for just one more song once Powers's announced that their just finished "Attic Doctor" was it. However, the cries feel on deaf ears and the 6:00 P.M. outdoors curfew. The Youth Lagoon set was probably my most disappointing set of SXSW; if just because of circumstance alone.

Night Beds @ Red 7

Night Beds caught me completely by surprise, mainly because I came into their set with one of the worst mindsets imaginable during a SXSW; knowing in advance how a band would sound and what they would be like live. Night Beds are cut from the same cloth as much of their indie folk contemporaries: twangy-falsetto from the frontman, slow-burning and tons of passion in every song, a hints of some sort of a country influence, here courtesy of the lap-steel playing band member onstage. However, Night Beds raised so much higher than those similarities while performing; every track had a soaring quality to it, so even when it just began with Winston Yellen's hushed vocals and quiet strumming, by the end the song closed with crashing drums and all three guitarist ringing thunderously. Even with the five members and all their equipment looking claustrophobic on stage, their energy was never contained, so much so that by the end of the set Yellen smashed his guitar into his mic stand, sending it flying. And it wound up being the most appropriate ending to a set that was just bursting with energy.  

Bleached @ Red 7

I wanted this to be the set that converted me into a Bleached fan. Their sunny garage-pop has been the talk of the blogosphere for nearly a year and a half, and for the life of me I can't get into them like everyone else. And unfortunately, their just cemented the fact for me. There was nothing wrong with the set per se; the Clavin sisters and co. were tight and lively, the band's harmonies never faltering, and the songs were all less than three minutes bursts of pop hooks and pure energy. And I think that was the problem. Nothing about their sound grabs me like it should, as if their music was filling out the "new garage rock band" Madlib, even if this set was filled with brand new material. Their is a soul lacking in their music that stops me from connecting to it like I want to. Although "Searching Through the Past" was awesome live, so maybe there is hope.

Friday, March 22, 2013

SXSW 2013: Thursday (Part 1)

California X @ 1100 Warehouse

California X-I caught the stoner four piece by accident, arriving early to the Pitchfork showcase and braving the 30 minute delay and 300+ person line to get into the 1100 Warehouse. The band looked like they were the metal kids from a ‘80s high school movie, and sounded liked they were pulled out of the alternative rock scene circa exactly 1990. Their guitar fury was less Dinosaur Jr. (though they are definitely there in the mix) than people have been saying, and closer to a more masculine taken on what peers Milk Music are making. Whatever their idols, the band was all crunchy guitar riff glory and battered cymbal crashes during their all too brief set (a trend set for the day for any band playing outside during Pitchfork’s showcase). It was a good 18 minutes of old school indie rock bliss that got the ears ringing properly for the rest of the day.

Waxahatchee @ 1100 Warehouse

Of course, Waxahachee, who performed next, would be the polar, but perfect, opposite to what was just on stage. Katie Crutchfield demonstrated her power over her stage and audience; despite it being 1:30 P.M. with noises bustling all around, anyone within a 40 foot radius was pulled into her world. Even someone like me, who is unfamiliar with Waxahachee's songs themselves, could feel their emotional center (filled with knotty sadness and longing) become present and understood instantly. Whether it was just Crutchfield strumming on her guitar, or backed up by her bassist and drummer, all five songs felt equally sparse, and no less potent.

Shugo Tokumaru @ Kenny Dorham's Back Yard

During every South by Southwest, because of how it is structured, and music pouring out of every orifice around you, you will stumble onto a band you have never heard of before seeing them right then and there, and fall absolutely in love. That is what it was like when I saw Shugo Tokumaru. Getting to the We Listen to You day party (Hi Zack!) early to catch Nerves Junior, and wound up catching most of Tokumaru's set too. And it was marvelous! Not only was the band tight as hell with Tokumaru being a master guitar player, a drummer who played the most irregular patterns yet never missed a beat, and a multi-instrument who jumped between accordion, glockenspiel, and kazoo within the same song, but good god the songs. Some of thee most creative, original, joyous indie-pop songs I have heard in a long time. And the band was crafting them onstage so precisely, they might as well have been playing the record itself on stage. One of my absolute favorite and best discoveries of SXSW.

Nerves Junior @ Kenny Dorham's Back Yard

Nerves Junior were the band I saw bring the most things on stage during SXSW; just heaps of cords, pedals, instruments, and machines that you couldn't quite discern what they were exactly other than to make some sort of sound. It was all worth it though because Nerves Junior sounded great during their 25 minutes on stage. The tension of their songs was an ever present, and everything being precious and mechanical (in the best way possible) in their reconstruction pf their electronica shaded experimental rock. They band fell into their music, just losing themselves while playing, especially evident by their frontman who was trying to contain his body from flailing around while playing. I would have preferred to seem them in a darkened club rather the sunny knoll I was on, but it's a testament to Nerves Junior that they over came any diminish from "atmosphere", and pulled off such a powerful set.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Beaches came to my attention all the way back in 2010, when they released an absolutely scorching 12" on Mexican Summer, four tracks of burnt out, noise-psych rock sprawl, with a wondrous shoegaze vocals and ascetic layered on top. Basically, pure heaven for me. Then, just as I was enjoying the blistering bliss that this band was creating, they disappeared and haven't been heard from since. Until now, with the news of their second album She Beats coming out so soon in May. And as "Distance" indicates, the girls of Beaches have not lost a single step in their music. In fact, the time off seems to have allowed to truly hone in what they are trying to create with the band.

Over the tracks five minutes, it continues to swell like a slow burning fire with more and more being added to it. The stretched guitar plucking that opens the track gives way to a stunningly jagged and spiraling guitar riff that are distorted in just a way to be more enveloping than jarring. The vocals come in, much stronger then they did previously, giving the track an even more gauzy feel than before, and cementing how the band has managed to bond together the duality of their sound. The subtly electronic swirls that play through out it, the way "Distance" blossoms even further after the middle section; it all melds together seamlessly. Beaches have crafted an incredibly dense piece of indie rock glory that lays at the perfect intersection of psych, drone, and shoegaze, and it is buzzed out glory.


Beaches' Facebook
Pre-order She Beats here, from Chapter Music

SXSW 2013: Wednesday (Part 2)

Summer Twins @ Trailer Space Records

Summer Twins were the perfect decompression for a midday show. The quartet created perfectly breezy beach pop, even lighter than Best Coast, plucked directly from the early '60s, off the California coast. The twins' harmonies were tight and lovely, and the jangle floated off the instruments, making the stuffy quarters of Trailer Space Records feel even warmer than it already did. It was music that doesn't hit hard or truly stick, but occasionally a simple pop song is the best, and Summer Twins were just that.

Fletcher C. Johnson @ Trailer Space Records

Fletcher C. Johnson, on the other hand, was a roaring blast out of nowhere. For the 20 minutes Johnson was on stage (or what tiny component existed in Trailer Space), he banged out hook filled after hook filled blast of old school garage rock that was of the highest quality. Akin to the high tuned, power-pop infused bliss that his buddy King Tuff makes (right down to the falsetto in the vocals), Johnson & co. were just on fire during their performance, with Johnson literally bouncing up and down during his songs from excitement. They were off course sloppy to a certain degree like any garage band worth their strips, but they played with such conviction that it didn't matter; it was pure, catchy-as-hell, garage bliss, and I loved every minute of it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Savages-She Will

It has finally happened. Savages will be releasing their debut (and amazingly titled) album Silence Yourself on May 7 here in the States. Even better, the first single from it, "She Will", was released with the news. Which is wonderful because "She Will" is utterly, absolutely, fucking incredible. Possibly even more piercing and intense than the first blow that was "Husbands", "She Will" opens with what sounds like a slowed down version of the opening of Iceage's "In Haze", instantly setting and settling into the tension that lays at every part of the song. Frontwoman Jehnny Beth then begins to utter the song's lyrics in a beat poet like fashion, capturing a modern women in control of herself, love life, and world in the most minimal way possible. Then all tension come barreling out during out during the chorus, Beth's repeated shriek of the title over the crashing cymbals containing such a darkened fury to them, an equally memorizing and soul-crushing energy. By the time it happens again in the song's finale, the intensity has doubled, matching and I think even toppling the release METZ pulled off at the end of "Wet Blanket" last year. But Savages' fury is so much more personal, that it feels like the band is performing "She Will" mere inches from your face. Which makes it just that powerful.


Savages' Website
Pre-order Silence Yourself here, from Matador Records

SXSW 2013: Wednesday (Part 1)

If I was cynical, I would categorize South By Southwest 2013 as my year of misses. I flew in late Tuesday night, missing what has effectively become the new first day of SXSW. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Savages, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Thee Oh Sees, every event at the Hype Hotel, and a plethora of other wonderful, outstanding bands and showcases were unattainable to me, either due to scheduling or the madness of yet another overcrowd and poorly organized SXSW. Not to mention the amount of sponsorship and advertising, not something in short supply at all during SXSW, felt more pervasive than ever with that stupid, Doritos sponsored monstrosity of a "stage" being as much an eyesore ever and as far removed from the purpose of SXSW as ever.

But I'm not cynical, and these are the same complaints everyone throws at SXSW in some capacity every year. The truth is SXSW was just as crazy, intense, manic, and mind-bendingly fun as it always is. I got to see 33 different bands (35 if you can the two bands twice) within the time span of four days, most of who were stellar or captiviating in some capacity during their poorly soundchecked 30 minutes on stage. Let's see if I can deconstruct everything I went through.

Alex Bleeker & The Freaks @ Red 7

Alex Bleeker and his back-up band The Freaks were an nice ease into the whirlwind of SXSW. He stepped on stage, said a kind and awkward thanks to the crowd for being their so early (it was 12:45 P.M.) and proceeded to play some noodled out indie rock for his set. The light, Real Estate meets Grateful Dead guitar pop of his early work has given way to a Neil Young style of soloing, letting the songs sprawl, like they've spent too much time in the sun. And despite their hippie demeanor, Bleeker and the Freaks were tight as they bended their guitars and jammed out. The set definitely made me more interested in his upcoming new material, even if the set was a bit lackluster in general in the band's ability to grab your attention. 

PAWS @ Red 7

PAWS on the other had no problem grabbing a hold of everyone's attention. Three punky snots from Scotland, they managed the usually impossible feat of bringing a SXSW audience closer to the stage, and proceeded to blast the audience with the scuzzy indie rock that they magically yack off '90s radio and imprinted into their record. Despite the 14 hour airplane ride they were bantering about (and how hot Austin was to their currently freezing Scotland), they were still a sonic blast of energy, blasting through their songs like an even more high strung Yuck. People filtered in from outside when they heard the distorted guitars, people pogoed momentarily ,and PAWS made 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon much more enjoyable.

Parenthetical Girls @ Red 7

This is a slight cheat to the SXSW rules considering I had seen them twice before, but there was no way I could pass seeing them again. Parenthetical Girls know how to put on a live show, with frontman Zac Pennington emoting the lyrics with such dramatics, then proceeding to jump on the stage's speakers, running into the crowd, and making such a specticual of himself to go along with the songs. Songs which, sounded pitch perfect as they were crafted by the rest of the band, from the drum boom of "The Privilege", or the blaring, siren like synths of "Young Throats", everything echoed with a professional crispness that is usually lost at SXSW. If there was any complaint to be found, it was how short Parenthetical Girls set was, something remarked on by even Pennington himself. But they just shrugged it off, and closed in their own tiny grandiose way

Wax Idols @ Red 7

Like I mentioned above, I did not get to catch the current post-punk goddess that are Savages when they played SXSW. However, I got to experience the closest possible equivalent when I caught Wax Idols. Heather Fortune and co. were an utter force of nature, four impossibly tight musicians that managed to cram a 10 song set into 30 minutes. The intensity of the band was matched by their songs, a dark and lethal combination of '80s post-punk and goth that pulled almost entirely from their upcoming Discipline & Desire, sounding at times like the byproduct of Bush Tetras if they had listened to the entire of Echo and the Bunnymen discography, in the best way possible. No smiles, almost no words to audience, just song after song of excellent post-punk fury. It was only later that I discovered that Fortune had been suffering from a severe cold during her entire performance, not only rising how impressive their set was, but making what a Wax Idols show at 100% would be like.

Monday, March 18, 2013

RIP Jason Molina

Jason Molina, the man behind Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., along with his own solo work, died today at 39. I feel very ill-suited to be writing these words, due to how short Molina's music has been in my life. I discovered him through his final release, a wonderful 10" titled Autumn Bird Songs that was a part of the William Schaff art book that Graveface Records helped put out last year. Spinning that green marbled 10" was a joy, not only paring it with Schaff's surreal and beautiful art, but getting the chance to discover an artist with such an amazing catalog that I could dive in to. Molina made insanely intense, personal songs that should not just be compared to others. His music was distinctly his own, and that's what made it so good. You can donate to his memorial fund through Paypal here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Album Review: Beach Fossils-Clash the Truth

One of the biggest complaints lobbed at the recent crop of jangle/guitar-pop bands that have risen over the years (and to a certain degree, formulated the Captured Tracks sound) is they all blur together, that what the likes of DIIV or Real Estate create is just a minor variation on the other, with nothing new or creative coming from the bands. Despite how wrong this opinion is, instead of delivering a intense & profanity laden speech at these people, from now on I'm just going to give them a copy of Beach Fossil's Clash the Truth and watch all their criticisms melt away.

The jump between Beach Fossil's debut and what they've accomplished with Clash the Truth is sort of staggering. Much like how label mates Wild Nothing were able to expand the scope of their sound with Nocturne while it still feeling perfectly like a Wild Nothing's release, so to have Beach Fossils. While we got hints of this back when the band released their "Shallow" 7" last year, the effect is much more present in album form. The hazy production has been sharpened immensely, and front man/band mastermind Dustin Payseur's vocals, while still smeared in healthy doses of reverb, are much cleaner and prominent through the record. The guitar playing, along with the rest of the instrumentation, has improved as well, becoming tighter, more confident, allowing the other genres that creep into Clash the Truth (shoegaze, dream pop, folk), to be pulled off just as well as the band's jangle pop.

All this helps to reinforce Beach Fossil's shift from swooning over a nostalgic past to concentrating on the present. While their debut was filled with sentimental reflections on their past and their lost carefree life ("Youth", "Lazy Day", "Golden Age"), Clash the Truth is just the opposite of all that. Opening with the title track that blares with a riff ripped right from the Sex Pistol's "Pretty Vacant", the last half of the song is sprawl seemingly abstract words that are in reality the various emotions that Payseur is trying to manage. "Generational Synthetic" is condemnation of the apathetic & fake world/generation Payseur feels he is a part of, contained within a song with such bounce that it will probably be picked up by the same people as just another indie tune. The revamped version of "Shallow" that appears here is even more urgent than it's predecessor, the volatility and desire for escape much more present in the shoegaze echos and speed that now form its core. Even "Caustic Cross" with its the simple, wonderful bobbing guitar line and math-rock drum beat, contains the sharper message of taking a stand and not throwing out your views when it is convenient.

Not that Clash the Truth is just one long examination of modern life; it also happens to be a nicely loud and bursting indie rock record. With Clash the Truth, Beach Fossils have fully understood the power of the instruments they are using, rather than the almost one-dimensional approach they used on their debut. This fact is clear from the brief instrumental/ambient tracks the band use to break up the album, to the krautrock outro that perfectly closes the album on "Crashed Out". The quiet roar of distorted and echo blasted guitars on "Careless" is as soaring as it is absolutely gorgeous. The miniature, Whirr-like build ups of "Burn You Down" as the drums crash more and more over the track's perfect bass line will bounce around my brain for days. Or the the utter twisted beauty of "In Vertigo", which as the band get as close to shoegaze as they have ever gotten before, pulling of the hybrid sound that emerges perfectly. Clash the Truth is pure, guitar-pop excellence; dream-pop at it's smartest and finest, with Beach Fossils adding so much to a genre that people underwrite. If every jangle pop band can make this evolutionary step, the genre is going to see some classics forming very soon.


Beach Fossil's Facebook
Buy Clash the Truth here, from Captured Tracks

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Premiere: M. Sage-Rain Scanner

It truly is not hyperbole to say that Matthew Sage is one of thee most consistently great, and prolific artists working in the experimental field. He is incredibly hard to pin down, jumping from ambiance, to abstract beat music, to burnt-out indie rock, to straight noise collages, going through just as many monikers (RxRy, Kick Majestic) to do it, and all the while running the cassette/art label Patient Sounds to put it all out in the world. The man mustn't sleep. However, it is (semi) under his own name that M. Sage makes some of his best music.

M. Sage has this talent of stretching and ripping apart audio samples and making them something more. "Rain Scanner", his contribution to Mirror Universe Tapes' outstanding Whatever it is You're Doing Now compilation is no different; while a simple field recording of rain serves as the song's backbone, another sample of a man and women talking is layered on top, but distorted and distant, enhanced by the few words one can actually make out between them. Add to that the perfectly placed drone that echos throughout "Rain Scanner", simmering below the surface, sound tracking the real world sounds of the track. The result is a no less than haunting track that only abstractly makes you aware of the emotions it contains within it, but still makes them feel no less there and heavy than they actually are.


M. Sage's Soundcloud
Patient Sounds' Website
Pre-order Whatever it is You're Doing Now here, from Mirror Universe Tapes