NEW MUSIC: Velvet Starlings – Kids In Droves

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Here’s a great slice of authentic garage psych rock from Los Angeles band Velvet Starlings, fronted by Christian Gisborne. ‘Kids In Droves’ cuts a fine balance between 60s UK mods sounds, a tough Britpop angle and US garage rock circa Nuggets. The single follows their self-titled EP of last year which has seen them generate some major radio attention and a US and UK tour dates.

ALBUM REVIEW: Lambchop – This (is what I wanted to tell you)

Lambchop

Lambchop
This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You)
Merge Records

The band Lambchop is a very different beast these days, compared to a decade ago when they numbered up to 12 members with more of a conventional country soul sound. Now Lambchop is essentially Kurt Wagner with a small coterie of collaborators – a much more intimate proposition yet still possessing the gorgeous and hypnotic Lambchop qualities that have always been at the heart of their deeply soulful, emotive and intellectual music.

With compadres Matt Swanson (bass), Tony Crow (bass) and Matthew McCaughan (of Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger) who co-wrote and produced the album, the band further refine the sound that first took shape on Mr. M (2016) and then blossomed into new eclectic pastures on the synth and auto-tune affected FLOTUS in 2016. Those new explorations are still embedded in the music on this record but there’s a leanness and a barer framework to these songs. You can hear the trademark melancholy via Wagner’s voice and the generally downbeat tone of the music but the songs are filtered through jazz, hip hop, future soul and the kind of avant-pop sounds that people like Scritti Politti, David Sylvian and Mark Hollis of Talk Talk developed.

Wagner’s way with words still shines through these lush textures, his devastating way of making seemingly simple phrases carry additional weight. It’s in his somnambulant delivery, the heavy use of effects on his voice but most importantly it’s the words themselves that carry the greatest weight and air of curiosity. “I’m in a Mexican restaurant bar, watching surfing and it’s amazing” he sings on ‘The Air Is Heavy And I Should Be listening To You’ and on ‘The You Isn’t So New Anymore’ he simply states “Michael Jackson just informed me that Santa Claus is coming to town”.

Wagner is firmly in his post-country phase, maybe he’s really always been there. Regardless, he’s a relentlessly inventive songwriter who is as devoted to sound, texture and atmosphere as he is to the lyrical possibilities of his poetry.

Chris Familton

 

NEW MUSIC: David Ellis – Eyes To The Sky

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T-Rex, Devendra Banhart, freewheeling melodies soaring over folk and acoustic psych boogie sounds – those the are the elements at play on this delightful track from English songwriter David Ellis. ‘Eyes To The Sky’ breezes along on a warm, spring current of air with a bucolic and organic vibe that perfectly balances wide-eyed innocence and some serious songwriting craft.

‘Eyes To The Sky’ comes from his new LP Misty Heights album, due out on August 15th.

NEW MUSIC: PCM – Ma

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Some hypnotic ambient composition to round out the week on Doubtful Sounds. PCM is an Italian ambient trio comprised of musicians Francesco Perra (P), Matteo Cantaluppi (C), Matteo Milea (M). They’ve come together to record this non-album single ‘Ma’, ahead of a full-length release. It shimmers and drifts, it’s aqueous and cloud-like in the way it moves and transitions gently across nearly eight hypnotic minutes.

Matteo Cantaluppi probably most known for his independent pop production duties has released, as a musician, a symphonic-ambient album with Baffo Banfi (“Biglietto per l’Inferno” founding member and Klaus Schulze’s collaborator) called “Frontera.” Francesco Perra is an ambient musician who often utilizes the guitar for his rich soundscapes. He’s published 3 albums, Music to Disappear (Idealmusik), The Neptune Sessions (Clubland Records), and Soundscape Box 1 (Tranquillo Records) under the name of Perry Frank. Matteo Milea is a sound engineer and sound designer who is also responsible for the trio’s art direction, giving visual representation to PCM’s liquid sounds.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Beastwars – IV

Beastwars

Beastwars
IV
Destroy Records

Sometimes it takes monumental life events to galvanise a band, or any creative endeavour for that matter. In the case of New Zealand band Beastwars it was the diagnosis singer Matt Hyde received, confirming Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the weeks following his chemotherapy treatment the band hit the studio and recorded their fourth album – a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record.

“You can never get away from your mortal decay,” Hyde howls on ‘Mortal Decay’. This is an album that addresses mortality and the brutal reality of our time on this earth and the fragility of life. Out of that there is a sense of immense strength and resolution from both singer and band. There are winding, ruminative passages in some songs that add a reflective quality to the heavier, more visceral sound that dominates the album, but don’t start thinking this is a metal band going soft, their essence of heavy swinging and paint-peeling riffage is still firmly intact, made even more powerful with the quality of the songwriting and ideas on IV. 

As musicians, the band sound freer and more inventive than they ever have before. There is colour and shade on a song such as ‘Omens’ which combines the moodiness of Tool with lumbering doom metal density, while on ‘Mortal Decay’ the song straightens into pure metal chug and gallop at the three quarter mark to brilliant effect. On ‘The Traveller’, Hyde stands exposed, delivering an affecting primal scream  before the band join him and carry the song forward on a comforting melodic bed of heavy bass and avant garde guitar squalls. ‘Wolves And Prey’ tumbles and churns like a spinning vortex and ‘Like Dried Blood’ combines a piano and Hyde’s ghoulish vocal to great effect as the thunder grows and the riffs thicken and fill the air like heavy smoke.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity” said Benjamin Franklin and Beastwars have taken that mantra and bled a visceral, life-affirming album into existence. You’d be hard pressed to find many better metal albums than this in 2019. 

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Japanese Television – Crocodile Dentist

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A couple of months back we shared the Japanese Television track ‘Bloodworm’. Now their back with the new single ‘Crocodile Dentist’, a swirling, disorientating headlong plunge down the psychedelic rabbit hole. Like a lost 60s relic of a bad trip, the song has a wild and fevered feeling to it. Urgent and spiralling, a kaleidoscopic heady mix of garage rock and b-grade horror that buries itself oh so deep in your synapses. Dig it.

The song was recorded in one take in a village hall in Yaxley by Kristian Bell of The Wytches and the band say of the record; ‘’Crocodile Dentist is probably the most garage rock thing we’ve recorded, somewhere between the Monks and the Munsters. Recorded at Yaxley Village hall, no overdubs, one take, to 8 track tape. Tim claims never to have performed dentistry on a crocodile but he has had a fingertip sewn back on.’’

The track is taken from the band’s new EP Japanese Television 2 which is out on Tip Top Recordings.

NEW MUSIC: Champ Major – Enjoy

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Madison Major of Brooklyn, New York is Champ Major, an experimental folk artist who’s aesthetic is one of creating a sonic environment to match her songs and stories. In the case of ‘Enjoy’ from her EP Receipe For Baking Two Humans Together, it’s a thick and foggy sound, akin to a radio transmission from a distant time and place. Acoustic guitar and a yearning voice is all Champ Major needs to convey her imagery and emotions.

NEW MUSIC: Obstacle – Unknown Number

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Obstacle are a USA trio comprised of Annie Murnighan (Found Object), Elias Jarzombek, and Amos Damroth (AJE). They’ve only been around for a year and a half but they already have three digital releases under their belt, including this latest one ‘Unknown Number’. It’s a track that runs its sounds through murky ominous filters with heavily treated and unrecognisable vocals and really interesting rhythms and hyperactive percussive programming. It’s electronic music for the headphones and the feet, conveying a sense of playfulness while still lurking in the shadows of the dance floor.