ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun

Rating8shadow-lpMaking use of a limited palette of instruments and ideas is an approach that has tripped up many a musician as they’ve endeavoured to get to the core of their creativity and cut out any frills and fireworks. Both Moon Duo and singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson’s other band Wooden Shjips have always attempted to do just that and almost without fail they’ve succeeded.

Moon Duo’s fourth album takes the repetitive melodic hooks of Circles (2012) and takes them to a darker and more cocooned place. There is an increased sonic density and sometimes claustrophobia on Shadow Of The Sun even though they still sound like a band trying to create the aural equivalent of interstellar travel. Sanae Yamada’s keyboards take the lead in most cases, conjuring up the gothic garage rock of Zero, Free The Skulls’ droning psychedelic organ and the billowy dream pop of In A Cloud. Johnson knows that vocals are just another part of the compositional puzzle and provides them in the form of textural tones rather than a lyrical lead instrument.

Through the haze and drone there is a pop sensibility at the heart of Moon Duo’s music. Slow Down Low could easily be early rock n roll if it wasn’t for the Suicide and Krautrock filter the pair apply to the song. Shadow Of The Sun is ghostly, parallel-world music that hypnotically and economically rephrases the past. This is a mind-altering, chemical-free trip of the highest order and their strongest album to date.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

ALBUM REVIEW: Wooden Shjips | Back To Land

wooden-shjips-back-to-landRating8Wooden Shjips have been mining the same rich vein of droning, psychedelic space rock over three albums and a couple of compilations yet here, on their fourth, they show no signs of going stale as they slyly inject subtle variations into their tried and true style.

If Back To Land has anything to differentiate itself from previous releases it is in the looser and lighter feel to many of the songs. The quartet still find those grooves and riffs, lock them in and bleed them dry but now they don’t sound as leaden and dense as much of their previous work. These Shadows is a prime example with its breezy swing while Ruins is positively upbeat and frisky with a skip in its stride.

Wooden Shjips are a band still built on the success of their instrumental chemistry. Ripley Johnson’s vocals are by no means superfluous but they continue to act as another melodic layer. His words are incidental and for the most part their meaning and what he is actually saying is clouded and hazy in the mix and his delivery. The clever yet simple effect of his voice is that it distracts or leads the listener away from those spiraling, interstellar guitar lines and the insistent, repetitive rhythmic mantras making those instrumental features all the more rewarding when the spotlight returns to them.

The absolute highlight of Back To Land and possibly the best song the band have recorded is Everybody Knows. It’s a song that recreates the slacker fuzz of Dinosaur Jr and marries it to a gorgeous repeating keyboard line. It’s one of those songs that feels like it could and should go on forever with a melancholic vibe that sounds both sunny and sad at the same time. There is a dreamy quality to ‘Everybody Knows’ and it is that feel that permeates the whole album and makes it such an absorbing and hypnotic treat.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on FasterLouder

 

 

FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2013

DS 2013 faves

2013 was a pretty strong year for music. From the established artists hitting their late-period straps to newcomers breathing new life into old forms, it felt like a year where a whole range of styles rose to the top.

There were plenty of surprises with new albums appearing out of the blue from Bowie and MBV and also irritating marketing campaigns that felt like they were bleeding their albums dry before they were even released. I’m looking at you Daft Punk and Arcade Fire.

As usual here at DS we kept our ears closely tuned into what was going on in Australia and New Zealand with both countries producing a wealth of great albums. Records from this part of the world make up 40% of our favourite records in 2013. Let us know what seduced and moved you this year and let’s do it all again in 2014.

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1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

A record that perfectly blends rich narrative and darkly cinematic sonic backdrops. One of Cave’s finest works and the moment where his and Warren Ellis’ musical collaboration becomes fully realised.

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2. Bill Callahan – Dream River

On his exceptional new album, Bill Callahan (formerly Smog) has recorded his most peaceful and meditative set of songs. There is a bucolic, contemplative feel to the eight songs on offer as they weave across percussive landscapes, led by flutes and hypnotic guitars. Sonically the album is rooted in pastoral folk, much of it soaked in dub-heavy reverb and delay. The focus though is firmly on Callahan’s voice, high and focused in the mix as he delivers typically brilliant lines like “All I want to do is make love to you in the fertile dirt with a careless mind”.

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3. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Vile has gone from strength to strength with each album and this is his finest yet. Finely tuned hazily motorik songs that sit in the pocket and keep drawing you in deeper and deeper with each listen.

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4. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Isbell’s coming of age as a songwriter, though not that he was in any way a slouch in that department prior to Southeastern. He doesn’t waste a word, he builds phrases with economy and poetic grace while encasing them in that rich southern drawl.

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5. Houndmouth – From The Hills Below The City

This was a real surprise record that came out of nowhere for me. It was recommended by a fellow Americana fan and reminded me of the best of what the Felice Brothers do when they blend irresistible melodies with sharp yet not overly polished harmonies and an instrumental mix of country and folk.

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6. Bryan Estepa – Heart vs Mind

A relatively unsung hero amongst Australian songwriters and possessing an angelic voice, Estepa embraced his inner pop and rock obsessions to craft this record that pulls influences from The Jayhawks to Hall & Oates. This is a superb album that excels in effortless, meticulous and timeless songwriting.

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7. Bad/Dreems – Badlands EP

Mix small town pessimism, youthful optimism, suburban nihilism and a lo-fi aesthetic and you have some of the ingredients that make the essential sound of Bad//Dreems. Badlands is another crucial addition to the canon of classic and quintessentially Australian releases.

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8. Wooden Shjips – Back To Land

This is the Shjips doing mainly what they always do, locking into psych drone grooves and riding them into the sunset and/or sunrise. Repetition is the key. They’ve let more light into this one and it opens up their sound into some new areas, rewardingly so.

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9. Ducktails – The Flower Lane

The solo project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, this is an album built on 80s dream pop with sax solos and warm glowing melodies. Easily the best in show for this kind of music.

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10. Kirin J Callinan – Embracism

The agent provocateur of Australian art rock realises his ambition with this wide-ranging album that blends dissonance and a healthy pop heart. Victoria M is one of Embracism’s high points, tempering the intensity with gorgeous, swelling piano and bittersweet baroque pop in the vein of Suede. Elsewhere we get Callinan channeling David Sylvian on Scraps, Bowie on the schizophrenic Chardonnay Sean and Suicide on Way II War. Debut album of the year.

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11. Popstrangers – Antipodes

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12. Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

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13. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Ready For Boredom

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14. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas

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15. The Drones – I See Seaweed

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16. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

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17. Vista Chino – Peace

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18. Civil Civic – Rules

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19. Basko Believes- Melancholic Melodies

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20. Sharpie Crows – 12 Omeros

21. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In 

22. Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost

23. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

25. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

26. Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – Mark Kozelek & Desertshore

27. Daughn Gibson – Me Moan

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango

29. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas

30. Mark Moldre – An Ear To The Earth

31. Anna Calvi – One Breath

32 .Matthew E. White – Big Inner

33. Califone – Stitches

34. The Haxan Cloak – Extinction

35. DJ Koze – Amygdala

36. Zomby – With Love 

37. Jen Cloher – In Blood Memory

38. Savages – Silence Yourself 

39. Forest Swords – Engravings

40. The Necks – Open

DS Favourite Songs of 2013

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It’s always a mighty challenge to narrow down all the songs you’ve heard in one year and slot them into order on a nice tidy list of 20. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful of gems but these are all songs that have either captured my imagination, feet, ears or all of the above and made me think “damn that is a great song”.

1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

3. Houndmouth – Penitentiary

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

5. Bad//Dreems – Caroline

6. Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

7. Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

8. Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

9. Ducktails – Under Cover

10. TV Colours – Beverly

11. Popstrangers – Heaven

12. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

13. Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

14. Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

15. Bill Callahan – Small Plane

16. Neko Case – Night Still Comes

17. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

18. Arcade Fire – We Exist

19. Suede – Barriers

20. Depeche Mode – Heaven

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

Houndmouth – Penitentiary

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

Bad//Dreems – Caroline

Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

Ducktails – Under Cover

TV Colours – Beverly

Popstrangers – Heaven

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

Suede – Barriers

Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

Bill Callahan – Small Plane

Neko Case – Night Still Comes

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Arcade Fire – We Exist

Depeche Mode – Heaven

ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Duo | Circles

by Chris Familton

It was only last year that Moon Duo gave us their debut album Mazes, a record which showed that though guitarist Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) was still operating in similar terrain to his aquatic pals, the addition of Sanae Yamada’s synth textures provided plenty of new angles to discover and bliss out to. Circles takes that template and stretches and tightens it even further by maintaining the essential ingredients of drone and psych but this time injecting more swagger and melody to the sound.

I Can See is a prime example of Moon Duo making subtle sonic adjustments. It has a playful hiccuping beat with a ghost-house organ swirling around it like a phantom menace. As it digs a hole in your head it casts a positively uplifting shadow over the early part of the record, making for a sense of euphoric trance rather than a drugged-out, sleepy head nod. The interstellar country haze of Sparks and the hypnotic sway of Trails finds them slowing things down and heading into Brian Jonestown Massacre territory while Free Action ramps up the boogie quotient and returns them to their Suicide comfort zone. The influence of the New York no wavers borders on worship but Johnson has found ways to filter it through his effects pedals and garage psych rock headspace to breath new life into the sound.

In a musical space bound by drone and repetition Circles continues the impeccable quality control and songwriting of Ripley Johnson. It adheres to the principal of finding a groove and digging in deep and for those who love the cerebral and physical immersion that comes from that, this will be an essential addition to their music collections.

this review was first published in Drum Media

 

LIVE REVIEW: WOODEN SHJIPS @ OAF, SYDNEY (24/03/12)

written by Chris Familton

Newcomers DCM (Wolfmother’s Chris Ross and Daniel Stricker of the Midnight Juggernauts) set up their keyboards and effect units on the dancefloor in front of the stage and opened the evening with some glorious kraut-tinged electronica that was the perfect sonic calm before the storm to come. They showed a nice balance between pseudo ambient washes of sounds and some harder edged rhythms and synth tones that hinted at electronic/industrial influences like Cabaret Voltaire and other early 80s acts. The duo clearly know their boundaries and worked well within them, never letting a track outstay its welcome or lose its edge.

The Laurels only know one way forward and that is with volume and washes of heavenly guitars. They’ve been around a while yet they never disappoint. Tonight the mix softened their harsher edges but they still built up a head of shoegaze steam with their dual vocals weaving melodies amid the guitar carnage and Kate Wilson’s defiantly buoyant drumming. Black Cathedral was aired early, as were other tracks from last year’s EP and they yet again reminded the crowd why they are the best exponents of psych guitar rock in Sydney at the moment.

Wooden Shjips are a band that are in no rush to get anywhere in particular. From the moment they stepped on stage to their departure an hour later, they dragged the willing audience into their swirling vortex of heavy-lidded repetition, spiraling skyward guitar and that omnipresent motorik rhythm section.

Almost every song they played felt like it stretched on forever, burning a hole in your brain, deeper and deeper. Their magic lies in the simple form of that rock solid rhythm section that laid the foundation for Ripley Johnson to explore the sonic wilderness of his guitar and pedals. Between those two pillars stood keyboardist Nash Whalen, churning out endless organ chords that sound like The Clean and Spaceman 3 covering The Doors while on mushrooms. It almost seems redundant to mention the songs they played as it felt like one continuous piece of music in multiple parts. An early standout though was the frantic chug of Lazy Bones where the band changed gears from 33 to 45rpm and hit the open road. It was a momentary blip though as they settled back into their default tempo range and pulled the crowd back down with them.

As well as a hefty chunk of songs from last years West LP they also dove back further with tracks like Aquarian Time from Dos and left us at the end of their main set with a cover of Buddy by New Zealand’s Snapper, a perfect fit with the snarling, wired and droning psych rock of the original. Sounding much more muscular and defined than they do on their albums, Wooden Shjips were a brilliantly hypnotic experience that many of the audience were probably still re-living in their ears the following morning.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

NEWS: Wooden Shjips release limited edition remix EP…

Following their brilliant album West, Wooden Shjips have used the talents of Andrew Weatherall, Sonic Boom and kandodo to remix three tracks for the vinyl/digital only EP Remixes.

The Remixes 12″ is limited to 2500 copies, with 500 of them on special color vinyl. All pre-order customers will receive a free instant MP3 download of all the 12″ tracks.  All pre-orders will also ship on the limited color (crystal clear with black streaks for a smokey effect) vinyl while supplies last. Remixes will also be available digitally in Feb.

Head over to Thrill Jockey to pre-order Remixes which will be out Feb 21st.

Tracklisting

01. Crossing Remix [Andrew Weatherall]

02. Wiking Stew (aka Red Krayola-ing) [Sonic Boom]

03. Ursus Maritimus (Last Bear’s Lament) [kandodo w/Ripley]

DS Top 50 LPs of 2011

2011 has been another massive year for music, at least it feels that way. Invariably the availability and access to recorded music is easier and greater than ever with streaming and file sharing available at the click of a button. Each year I seem to increase the size of my list, purely as a result of the volume of stuff I get to hear. The more I hear, the more I like which is a good thing but it makes year end lists a real brow furrowing exercise – painful but fun for a music obsessive such as some of us are.

This year threw up some new albums from favourites of recent years like Girls, Wild Beasts and Wooden Shjips  – all groups that seem to be refining and improving their music with each album they release. I’ve also been listening to a lot more electronic music reflected by appearances from The Field, Robag Wruhme, Gui Boratto and Zomby. Check out our list over at Komputer Music for more great electronic releases. I’ll also be publishing a list in the coming days of some of my favourite songs from 2011. To the list…

Pure X – Pleasure [Review]

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Wild Beasts – Smother

Kurt Vile – Smoke Rings for My Halo

Destroyer – Kaputt [Review]

Wooden Shjips – West [Review]

Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest [Review]

The Felice Brothers – Celebration, Florida [Review]
Wilco – The Whole Love

Royal Headache – Royal Headache [Review]

Leader Cheetah – Lotus Skies [Review]

J. Mascis – Several Shades Of Why [Review]

Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Zomby – Dedication

The Field – Looping State of Mind

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The Field – Looping State of Mind

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Melodie Nelson – Meditations on the Sun [Review]

Zola Jesus – Conatus [Review]

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

The Black Keys – Camino

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Gui Boratto – III

Dick Diver – New Start Again [Review]

Nils Frahm – Felt

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Real Estate – Days

The Horrors – Skying

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

Neil Young – A Treasure

Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

Jack Ladder – Hurtsville [Review]

Step-Panther – Step-Panther [Review]

James Blake – James Blake

Twerps – Twerps [Review]

Austra – Feel It Break [Review]

Eleanor Friedberger- Last Summer

The Bats – Free All The Monsters

Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose [Review]

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall [Review]

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea [Review]

Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Review]

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

The Necks – Mindset