ALBUM REVIEW: Beaches – Second Of Spring

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Beaches go into overdrive on their new seventeen track album. It’s their magnum opus of sorts, taking everything they’ve explored on the first two albums and synthesising it into one kaleidoscopic take on all things psychedelic.

The album opens with two relentlessly churning tracks that set the stage for what is to follow. It signals their intent to push further out into the sonic aether, bridging the gap between melodic noisy pop hooks and hypnotic guitar-drenched head trips. Void is a brighter, headlong take on Wooden Shjips, psych-Kraut interstellar explorations while on track four they ease up on the gas and introduce chiming guitars, a post-punk interlude and a back half that sounds like The Primitives jamming with Look Blue Go Purple. Calendar sounds like a lost Pixies outtake with its mix of raw grind and dreamy vocals while Wine dives and shimmers like Crazy Horse doing shoegaze.

Arrow is the headiest pop rush the quintet have conjured up, the perfect nugget for the approaching warmer months and it feels like the apex of Second Of Spring. In the back third Bronze Age Babies adds a surprise with a recorder voicing the main melody before Grey Colours takes a gloriously melancholic wander that Robert Smith would be proud of. There’s a lot to take in but it’s an endlessly rewarding and freewheeling album for a band who are the equal sum of their parts and eager to explore all musical possibilities.

Chris Familton

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Karl Blau – Out Her Space

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Karl Blau experienced a taste of wider critical acclaim on the back of his last album Introducing Karl Blau. The title and the fact that it was a collection of country covers was somewhat misleading, given that he’s has already released something more than 20 albums. With Out Her Space, Blau has shape-shifted into the world of avant rock, funk and soul, eschewing his lo-fi origins and retaining the lush production quality of his last album.

There are clear comparisons that can be made with another inquisitive songwriter such as Bill Callahan and Will Oldham. Callahan and Blau also share a love of dub music, the latter reconfiguring the Paul Simon/bong-inhaling sound of Poor The War Away into Dub The War Away, a tripped-out bass-heavy excursion that would make Bill Laswell proud. Valley Of Sadness is an attempt at pastoral psychedelia but it ends up sounding frivolous and unnecessary. Blue As My Name finds a nice brisk strum into Love territory, I Got The Sounds Like You Got The Blues draws jazz horns into Blau’s pulsing rhythmic orbit before the eight minute Where You Goin’ Papa goes on a poly-genre journey akin to Harry Nilsson singing the hits of every section in the record store. This is a fine exercise in fearless and inventive songwriting.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: The Weather Station – The Weather Station

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Music that is precise and austere is often tagged as being overly clinical and lacking soul – and by association, substance. It can be a fine line to tread and The Weather Station perform a balancing act on their fourth album.

The self-titled affair takes a dash of Joni Mitchell, adds a splash of Beth Orton and paints it in the kind of melancholic indie with string arrangements that bands like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear do so well. The album starts in a low-key manner before Kept It To Myself quickens the pace with a hooky chorus and some brisk and light-fingered guitar playing. From there the intimacy becomes increasingly welcoming, revealing the pleasures in the subtle nuances of this quietly rewarding album.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent

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Protomartyr immediately stood out from the rest of the anguished post-punk pack when they first emerged four years ago with their debut album All Passion No Technique. They went from strength to strength over their next two albums, twisting Joe Casey’s mantra rants over caustic punk, dark indie guitars and tumbling drums before arriving at their most realised set of recordings to date.

Relatives In Descent stands as their most exploratory and wide-ranging album in that they’ve pulled apart their sound, and reconstructed it with the same elements but a new and revitalised sound. Greg Ahee’s guitar is less all-encompassing. Now it slashes with intent on ‘Here Is The Thing’, spirals in woozy circles on ‘My Children’ and sparkles with chiming funk stabs in ‘Corpses in Regalia’. That diversity allows the rhythm section to conjure all manner of grooves; from the rapid fire jerkiness of opener ‘A Private Understanding’ to the catchy melodic swagger of ‘Caitriona’ and the taut post-punk propulsion of ‘Don’t Go To Anacita’. Elsewhere there’s the introduction of subtle strings and synths that take the songs to endlessly intriguing places.

Joe Casey is often the focal point of Protomartyr with his nihilistic blue collar vibe and barking vocal delivery akin to a transatlantic Mark E. Smith. Here he maintains the speak/sing/howl approach but lyrically he’s followed the lead of the rest of the band and upped his game. Thematically the album takes a look at contemporary America under the mismanagement of Trump and the state of society that Casey’s witnessed from tour van windows and coast to coast trips. It paints a dystopian vision of gluttony, excess and despair but you can still hear the glimmer of hope and humanity in the songs, framed and enhanced by the life-affirming creative intellectualism of Protomartyr.

Chris Familton

Read our recent interview with Joe Casey of Protomartyr

ALBUM REVIEW: Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

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This is album number four for Jen Cloher and in keeping with the title and stark artwork, featuring her naked and with guitar, it is her most honest, clear-cut and autobiographical release to date.

So many songwriters cloud their ideas and experiences in metaphors and diversionary tactics but Cloher goes straight for the literal and personal, detailing the trials and tribulations of extended periods apart from her partner (and guitarist) Courtney Barnett, suburban malaise, gay marriage, Dirty Three and the shallowness and strain of the music industry. It amounts to an internal and external state of the nation address, delivered with poetic poise and intellectual observation.

Musically, Cloher and her band frame her songs with a loose indie rock sound that can be locked and direct, with a gentle toughness (Shoegazers), drifting and dreamy (Regional Echo) or noisy and surging like Sleater-Kinney (Strong Woman). That stylistic range creates a flow and dynamism to the album and complements the songs perfectly, ensuring the focus remains on Cloher and her lyrics. That intimacy takes the listener right to that place side-of-stage at a Dirty Three show or a kitchen table with your loved one 17,000 km away.

It’s hard to distil one’s thoughts and emotions into song with such self-awareness, artistic confidence and lack of pretence but Cloher has, quite wonderfully, done just that.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Tropical Fuck Storm – Chameleon Paint

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Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin (The Drones), Lauren Hammel (High Tension) on drums and Erica Dunn (Harmony, Palm Springs) have unveiled the sound of their new band Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a jerky, catchy post-punk song that swaggers and slithers along, sounding like it could collapse at any moment. It’s a glorious collision of chaos and euphoric rock.

The debut TFS 7″ single, “Chameleon Paint” b/w “Mansion Family”, will be released on September 22 as a label collab between TFS Records and Mistletone Records. This limited edition 7” is the first of a series; each 7” featuring an original Liddiard A-side and a B-side cover of “songs we love and wish we had written”. The “Mansion Family” B-side is lifted from Melbourne band The Nation Blue, who released the original less than a year ago. Each 7” will feature phantasmagoric cover art by Montréal artist Joe Becker.

PREORDER

ALBUM REVIEW: Boris – Dear

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Boris are now 25 years into a career that has stretched from the barren expanse of doom to hazy dream pop renderings and onto avant garde soundscapes and blistering, psychedelic punk rock. They hone in on a style and explore it to its logical extreme. On Dear they again hit the heavy button but this time they go deep into the detail, exploring both heaviosity and spaciousness.

There is usually a reactionary element to the way Boris approach a new album and given that their last release, Noise (2014), blended space rock, grunge and prog it was to be expected they’d retreat into the shadows again and dispense with traditional rock song structures. Dear is post-metal deconstructed and amplified. The drums sound like they were recorded in a cavernous tomb, the guitars are distorted to the point where they sound like sonic locusts and the bass rumbles with tectonic gravitas.

Boris haven’t abandoned their rockets tendencies altogether though. ‘Absolutego’ lumbers and crashes with both punk and metal ferocity, ‘Biotope’ is weighty shoegaze not dissimilar to Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Dystopia (Vanishing Point)’ sounds like J Mascis shredding over Pink Floyd and ‘Beyond’ pushes the limits of quiet/loud dynamics. Boris are at their best in these kinds of songs, where they find that sweet spot between noise and melody and where those contrasting elements blend and overlap, combining to produce emotional and physical music.

The rest of the album is much more introspective and indulgent, albeit in a fascinating way from the perspective of sonic architecture and sound design. Thunderous and screaming chords hang in the air, crashing drums enter and exit at seemingly random moments and Wata’s lead guitar is gloriously alien in the way it is played and processed. The ideal way to experience these songs would be standing directly in front of the band’s amplifiers, all on 11, feeling the sound as much as hearing it. ‘Karego’ threatens to melt speaker cones with the density and drone of the guitars while ‘The Power’ sounds like an attempt at inter-dimensional communication with everything in the red, bristling and pushing at its digital fabric.

The human voices in closer ‘Dear’ are guttural and exultant. A primitive greeting card and the most organic moment on the record. It sounds like Boris laid bare, a monumental encapsulation of their music and given that initially Dear was intended as a possible farewell record, it’s an open-ended way to finish the album and leaves both Boris and their fans asking where the trio will go next.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Hollow Everdaze – Cartoons

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Artistically speaking, pop art is an apt description of the style and approach that Hollow Everdaze have near-perfected on Cartoons.

A decade into their career they’re still uncovering lush, sun-kissed pop nuggets that swoon, sway and deftly swagger through 60s eccentricity, 80s/90s British indie and right up to the modernism of a band such as Spoon. There’s a wistful quality to the songs yet they invest just the right amount of grit and depth to keep them grounded.

The distorted guitar on the title track and Flat Battery, the bass and reverb on Running Away, and the violin on Same Old Story and the warped psychedelia of Still Ticking all add fascinating tangents and layers to their sound.

This is sophisticated pop music par excellence, endlessly inventive, devoid of schtick and all class.

Chris Familton

Cartoons is out now via Deaf Ambitions.