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: 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: Christopher Willits – Sunset

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Christopher Willits is an acclaimed ambient composer and musician who has opened for the late Jóhann Jóhannsson and released two albums with Ryuichi Sakamoto and productions with Tycho as part of his impressive back catalogue.

The five compositions on his new album Sunset move from warm to cool designed as a soundtrack to embrace the day’s end. ‘Coast’ rises and falls like the ocean currents, a tidal blend of synth and field recording that conjures up a sense of immense space and the calming zen-like hypnotic nature of the sea.

Written by Christopher Willits 
Recorded at SnowGhost in Whitefish, Montana
Produced by Christopher Willits
Mixed at The Dojo in San Francisco, California and Overlap Studio in Oakland, California

 

 

NEW MUSIC: Wine Flies – Business

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Some wonderfully weird-pop here courtesy of Wine Flies, the solo project of Swedish musician Henrik Lennartsson. It hits that same spaced-out, fever dream vibe of John Maus and Ariel Pink with a warped, lo-fi production aesthetic that accentuates the haunted feel of the music.

“Business was the result of me, merely improvising keys over a beat. I never know what I’m gonna get, since I don’t write the songs beforehand. I’m not at all classically trained in any form, I always just play whatever chords or notes I know until I get something that sounds alright (at least to me). My biggest inspiration is all the bad/boring music I’ve ever heard, because it makes me feel absolutely no pressure what so ever. I simply aim to create something listenable, preferably a hit, but mostly just barely okay. I’m basically just trying to have fun with it, because why not? 

I’d say that my fuel/drive in all of this comes down to the concept of irony. It completely destroyed me as a person, when it first hit me as a younger man, but it is also now the thing that makes me sane and keeps me going, because life is ridiculous, and so am I.“

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed

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The Horizon Just Laughed comes on the back of the loosely thematic trilogy of albums he recorded with producer and musician Andrew Swift. They were psychedelic in nature though still rooted in the folk form. In contrast, this feels like a retreat from the density and experimentation, to a place of reflection and solitude.

Jurado is often lumped in with songwriters like Phosphorescent, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and on Over Rainbows And Rainier he certainly shares a rustic minimalism with the latter. There’s a plaintive mood across most of these songs, a gentle grandeur and a tender sway. The lyrics are introspective, dealing in character observations (six of the eleven song titles are names) and vignettes that reference fires and ghosts, dreams and Charles Schulz – skilfully shifting from literal to impressionistic storytelling and back.

Allocate is the album’s scene-setter, a dreamy, string-enhanced soulful meander that recalls Jurado’s starker early work. It’s followed by Dear Thomas Wolfe which highlights his seemingly endless ability to effortlessly weave beautiful, understated melodies. Marvin Kaplan introduces a sweet Tropicália via Laurel Canyon shuffle that lifts the album’s heart rate and recalls some of the work of Devendra Banhart, while Florence-Jean is catchy Sixties pop and closer Random Fearless adds some of CSN’s looser moments to the mix. Another gem from this consistent and inventive songwriter. 

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare

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This is Kyle Craft’s second album; his first set a high bar with its songs of underground heroes and misfits and now he’s taken that momentum and set one dizzying and rambunctious musical snowball in motion.

Craft is still mining the same stories he relishes and excels at, singing of junkies and angels, late night bars, existential crises and the overwhelming worlds of love and lust. He packs a plethora of words into his songs like a pop-up jack-in-the-box, rhyming couplets and lyrics tumbling out with unabashed emotion and enthusiasm as he swings from sweet crooning to bluesy howls. The deal breaker is his voice which serves as the perfect delivery method for his voluminous tales. There’s more than a touch of Dylan-esque fantastical imagery, stream of consciousness and kaleidoscopic word association that allows his rock ’n’ roll songs to embrace psych-pop and country soul – like Syd Barrett dancing with The Band.

Heartbreak Junky finds the best balance between frantic musical rush and measured poeticism while Belmont (One Trick Pony) comes off as a cross between Jack White and Jet. “Stranded down on Silver St, just throwing bottles at the Delta Queen” is one of many fine lines on Slick & Delta Queen as Craft paints his compelling vignettes. It sums up the wild streak of creativity that Craft is riding for all its worth on Full Circle Nightmare.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Mere Women – Big Skies

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Album number three for this Sydney quartet (previously a trio). The addition of bass guitar adds another layer of rhythm and movement to their sound as they tackle the experiences of women over different generations via their dark and swirling post punk.

It can be a claustrophobic listen at times, the guitar acting like mesh and gauze with its washes of distortion and clanging reverb, while Amy Wilson sings in a stentorian manner, the obvious comparison being a tougher Siouxsie Sioux shapeshifting with the fluidity of Warpaint. Drive and Numb are two highpoint on a very strong album that manages to simultaneously sound sweeping and intimate.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vol. 1

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Moon Duo return with the first of two albums they plan to release in 2017, with both volumes rooted in balanced and oppositional ideas and textures. The conceptual approach of the double album is, in their words “an intricately woven hymn to the invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.” That Yin Yang format won’t of course make complete sense until Vol. 2 is released later in the year but for now you can be assured that Moon Duo are still doing what they do best – laying down dense, surging and grinding psych rock rhythms.

Their music is always one of perpetual motion and since their first releases, which were dominated by a colder and more mechanical mood, they’ve slowly evolved to find a unique common ground between machine-like repetition, Sanae Yamada’s kosmiche synth washes and melodies and the free-spirited guitar explorations courtesy of Ripley Johnson.

On Occult Architecture Vol. 1, the term primitive futurism keeps coming to mind. The pair conjure up images of mysterious shadowy figures, druids, shamanistic rituals and pagan mysticism with their obfuscated lyrics and general dark tones and textures. They also invoke the spirit of astral travel and space travel, their songs often resembling a object hurtling through space and free of any earthly restraint. There’s a certain cyber quality to the shape and relentless drive of Moon Duo, albeit infused with human emotions – both good and bad.

‘Cold Fear’ induces just that – a queasy feeling of unease which makes it a less aggressive descendent of Suicide’s experiments at putting their audiences in a state of discomfort. ”Cross Town Fade’ is a curious blend of a tranced-out Sigue Sigue Sputnik stuck in a glam boogie vortex while ‘Will Of The Devil’ spins on an axis of insistent drumming with a yearning, melancholic synth melody sounding like a lost transmission from the point where Joy Division became New Order.

The album closer ‘White Rose’ emerges from the dark mist into a more optimistic world, one built on a perfect Krautrock rhythm and Johnson’s guitar sounding like a demonstrative insect buzzing and demanding to be heard. The glorious drone rolls on for ten minutes, onward and upward toward the light and presumably its spring/summer-centric sibling album.

It’s a fascinating journey, with or without the overarching concept, and reinforces the ability of Moon Duo to create music that is both sonically straightjacketed, endlessly immersive and without visible horizons.

Chris Familton