Eric LaGrange has done time in The Cave Weddings and Romance Novels, the latter of which opened up a tour for Nobunny and its easy to see how the experience rubbed off on him. The Happy Thoughts have a similar loose bounce to them but instead of rolling Chuck Berry through The Ramones, The Happy Thoughts capture the spirit of 70's power pop perfectly. Their self-titled album melds the carefree bounce of The Shoes with a current take on the medium that fits in nicely alongside gems like Gentleman Jesse and His Men or Bad Sports. It seems that HoZac's been sitting on this release, waiting for the Summertime to unleash it on the world and honestly that's a damn fine idea as this one was made for cloudless days and Summer breezes.
Though they don't quite hit the same level of fiery abandon as their easily-mistaken-for American brethren White Hills, these Swedish psych rangers do share quite a few things in common with the NYC noisemakers. Germinating from the same love of the Space Rock-Krautrock axis that brought forth Wooden Shjips, Expo '70 and forefathers like Hawkwind and German Oak; the band inhabits a low gravity, groove-oriented plateau of guitar heavy psych that at times also ropes the band into some eastern territories that would bond nicely with the terrain covered by UK guitar-slinger Rick Tomlinson's Voice of the Seven Thunders. The band's S/T debut sold out in a quick run of 300 and was a worthy piece to get your hands on; this will surely go just as quickly and is just as much fun as its predecessor.
Dave Bixby - Ode To Quetzalcoatl There are few in the loner folk canon that can come close to the desperation and loneliness that permeates every note of Dave Bixby's 1969 private press masterpiece Ode to Quetzalcoatl. The artist spent time in Michigan
bands The Shillelaghs and Peter and the Prophets before embarking on a year of LSD experimentation and stabs at acoustic songwriting. Oddly enough, it was cleaning himself up from this deluge that led to his breakthrough in songwriting. After experiencing a spiritual awakening, Bixby wrote both Quetzalcoatl and it's follow-up over the course of a couple of months on a four-track in his living room. The resulting albums, though meant to lead listeners to Christianity, oftentimes feel more of an exercise in desperation than faith. Bixby's voice is haunted by his past, and buoyed by the gentle passion of his strums the album seems perfect for disconnecting with the world rather than opening oneself up to it. Guerssen has rescued Bixby's work from utter obscurity with a fitting reissue a couple of years ago on LP and CD.
Louisiana's Kindest Lines wrap dream pop in an industrial haze that seems perfectly suited to life in 2011; a potent mixture of bright spots amongst ambiguous, hazy production with just the right touch of gloom. Brittany Terry's voice captures malaise with a glossy aptitude and it spars deftly with the chiming guitars and stark beats that permeate the majority of Covered in Dust. The year's seen no shortage of contenders for the current, dark post-punk crown and with newcomer labels like Blackest Ever Black and Fan Death unleashing great releases this year its good to see that Wierd Records hasn't lost its foothold on the genre. This one's a grower, but once it's latched hold all you need is to spend a cloudy day with this on repeat, looking for patches of blue sky.
It seems the halfway point of the year is just about upon us so here's a rundown of the albums that have been on the RSTB turntable the most this year. I'll be out of town for vacation until the 24th so hold tight until then and if you get a chance, pick these up to listen to in the interim.
Two of RSTB's favorites team up to bring out the best in dark, balmy psych. The crews hooked up for an improv session at Texas radio station KVRX and the results appear here on Night Gallery with minimal editing, just a few breaks for flow. And damn does this thing flow. It's easy to see how both parties could find solace in one another's work and the collaboration brings out a heaviness not always found in Stallones' solo work, bringing this closer to the feeling of a scorched Magic Lantern release; though that's no discredit to Mahood and Bindeman's ability to put a bit of the Tap's space-fuzz guitar stamp on there as well. In short, it comes out like a dream collaboration that seemed nothing if not inevitably brilliant from the conception.
It seems that Smith Westerns aren't the only HoZac alums that can properly mine the Bolan/glam axis lately. Mickey laid out some expectations with their previous 7" releases, but the album more than blows those away. A crip return to the brattiness that informed the best power pop and the swagger that rolled glam in glitter; Rock n' Roll Dreamer often comes off as the kind of longhaired El Caminio rattler that filled every liquor store parking lot with noise from '78 to '82, though it's not without its soft side too. The band seems to take as much from the shy instincts of The Quick and Milk n' Cookies as they do from the kind of from-the-hip hair rockers of the 80's and Bolan disciples of the 70's, making this a perfect kind of past mashing rewrite of history. Summer's upon us and it seems like it's about time to pop those speakers on top of your hood and rock a few Mickey jams at your next barbecue.
Clap - Have You Reached Yet? A definite lost gem amongst the pebbles of the 70's garage rock scene, Clap blends a gritty Exile-era stones flair with the sneer that so many of their garage-punk contemporaries brought to the table. Originally released in '73, Sing Sing
Records has dug up this classic proto-punk record and pressed it back to its native format. There are hints of NYC pre-punk moves here but since the band was based in Southern California, the sea and sunshine mellow things out with a heavy dose of smoke and an easy strum. It makes for a unique balance of calm rebellion that should have gotten the band much more attention than they received at the time. Plus, with that mix of pop and sneer the album should appeal to fans of current RSTB faves like King Tuff and The People's Temple. Highly recommended that you pick one up!
Just because the barren days of winter have long since retreated behind us, that doesn't mean we've lost our interest in bleak, frigid soundscapes. Though The Haxan Cloak might be better suited to grey skies and harvest rituals, its a welcome record no matter what season. Melding the ominous overtones and looming low frequencies of KTL and Sunn o))) with prepared strings and sound forged scrapings that could inhabit Svarte Greiner's kingdom; the record plays out nightmarish ambience that could suck the heat out of any room. The moniker is the alias of Bobby Krillic who's able to imbue a lifetime of dread into every minute of his self-titled debut (proper) album. CD's are out now but a vinyl pressing is in the works but its highly recommended listening on either format.
White Hills' new record H-p1 has been on repeat around here since Thrill Jockey sent it over and its as massive a piece of psych as you're likely to hear in 2011. Bassist Ego Sensation has worked up a great video for an edited version of the title track from the album. The full length hits stores on the 21st.
We've talked about Lantern before on the Raven, and before that Zachary's first project Omon Ra II, and each new release that falls this way seems better than the last. Deliver Me From Nowhere hit the psych boogie nail squarely on the head, sounding like a good marriage of Tetuzi Akiyama and Hasil Adkins but this time Fairbrother has headed back towards the familiar waters of Omon Ra II with gritty guitars and a bit of amplifier scorch. The new tape, Stranger I Come. Stranger I Leave (out now on Night People), starts out with a slow dub burner but quickly jumps the garage fence. In fact quite a few of the gems on this one sound like they could have been dug right out of The Sonics' lost songbook. The middle section of the tape writhes like the first vestiges of garage punk, uleashing the kind of sonic fury that informed the snottiest of guitar tribes in the late 60's and left its mark on punks to come. I don't know about the rest of you but it's hot as hell here in NYC and a little fried guitar rock is acting as a perfect soundtrack today.
Raster Norton has a long tradition of picking out the best in minimalist electronics. Most of their catalog files largely into the headphone meditation category and swims through binary to a palette of grey, black and white, so its always with some surprise that R-N producer David Letellier peppers so much color amongst the massive bass valleys that inhabit his Kangding Ray project. Vocals and guitars find their way through the blips, twisted by a minimalist mind and dilated by the cavernous force of bass usually reserved for dubstep. The album attempts to come to terms with disillusionment in a post global economy meltdown. Through its title, OR deals with the malleable concept of choice (English translation) and the value placed on currency (French translation: gold). Whether or not such lofty goals will reach all listeners is left to be seen but even if you can only appreciate the skittering, quaking surface of Kangding Ray, you'll still feel it hit you square in the chest.
Stack - Above All Stack a staple on the mid 60's scene in L.A., opening for everyone from Buffalo Springfield to Frank Zappa and with a fair amount of success. The band was, however, undone by poor management and label intentions, like so many of their
60's compatriots. They signed an 8-year deal with little benefits to Sidewalk Productions who helped them to record Above All. Then the label shelved the album and the band was contractually unable to release their music to the public at the time. In recent years the album has been resurrected from the source tapes and put out to the public, allowing their murky psychedelic blues to stand alongside those bands they originally opened for.
Both halves of Barn Owl have proven rather busy this year and Porras adds yet another release to the duo's expanding canon. Undercurrent, released under Porras' given name rather than the Elm moniker that he sometimes invokes, is a self proclaimed "love letter to the mist." The album is dark guitar drone that floats heavy in the ether. Slower and more deliberate than most of his work in Barn Owl, this release builds mountains of drone that move like the ghosts of tectonic plates; ethereal but with such crushing force it takes a minute to recover from the album's pull. Both Porras and Caminiti have proven that whether united or solo, they are both undisputed masters of their genre.
Christmas Island / Meth Teeth – Split 7" Christmas Island seems to float in and out of vision, coming back into consciousness just when we forget how good they are. The crew are back with their sunshine spiked take on the Flying Nun catalog and its still
just as infectious as ever. Two cuts that walk the line between off kilter and scrappy indie pop. This one's actually been in the works for as long as we can remember, chocked up on Sacred Bones' release calendar before their 2009 album even hit the streets. On the second disc of this double 7" split, Meth Teeth turn in their swansong, having now disbanded, with songwriter Mattey Hunter moving on to work with the simply named NO. Both cuts here ride their usual lo-fi bummer wave through a detour in jangled pop territory and it’s a nice way to leave the field. The release is limited to 400 hand silkscreened copies and makes a nice little package for fans of either band or just the Sacred Bones stable in general.
Dewey Mahood temporarily steps outside his role in Eternal Tapestry to pick up his dub reigns in Edibles. Following two tapes on Not Not Fun and Stunned, Mahood uleashes a humid slice of psych-dub, Other Minds Meet Inner Space for DNT. There are hints of his Tap-era guitar excursions but the record mostly sits in the same swampy waters that have made Peaking Lights' 936 such a staple this summer. The record feeds hungrily on groove, elastic bass and rhythm with Dusty Dybvig and Ben Bogard picking up live drum and 70's drum machine duties respectively. If the gooves are wearing thin on 936 and you're anxiously waiting for that next Sun Araw fix, it's highly recommended that you get Edibles on the turntable as soon as possible.
On their own Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson both craft stirring works, but when Richardson's voice combines with the solemn tones of Skelton's strings and electronics, things really begin to crystallize. Fans of Skelton's previous works may be surprised at how prevalent the voice is in these pieces, since he's mainly worked in the instrumental realm, but the collaboration still sits nicely in the otherworldly ambient niche he's been carving for years. Wolf Notes is broken into five tracks, but really its all a continuation of one sweeping movement, which is indicated by the motion sensitive track names - "Inception," "Rise," "Decline," "Rest," "Return". The pair proves that true collaboration accentuates the greatest strengths of its members and moves both beyond their singular capabilities. Definitely one of the more lovely ambient pieces you're likely to encounter this year.