You may have heard Alexander Brettin’s 12-string chime away on Ariel Pink’s pom pom last year, likely not realising who was playing. At any rate, the LA via-Chicago songwriter’s involvement in that record gives a whiff of an idea as to what general world of cross-cultural references he inhabits. To be specific, it’s that peculiar interjection of music-school attention to harmonic detail, ‘60s-rooted psychedelia, dad-rock takes on jazz and funk, and a bit of “no-holds-barred” LA cool. “Undeniable,” the third single streaming ahead of Brettin’s debut LP as Mild High Club, is a drugged-out, plodding jam that, while packed with a world of emotions, plays out like listening to a catchy Olivia Tremor Control song very drunk and very tired: you might doze off any minute now. Or maybe you already have.
Crawling out of the slimy sewer punk of their last LP, Austin-based Ghetto Ghouls ready their sophomore release for Monofonus, Collisions. This time around the grit and grime is replaced by a more mid-tempo stomp; the band kicks up copious amounts of dust in the prison yard, while still feeding into the original manic energy that made this act so captivating in the first place. In “Right Hand,” rigid guitars riff and rumble throughout with playful abandon, leaving behind what was once pure chaos for a more calculated attack. Aggression never sounded more fun.
Radwan Ghazi Moumneh is Constellation Records' open secret. Essentially an in-house producer for the label's most adventurous acts including the masterful Matana Roberts, Moumneh has been pushing up against the boundary where experimental electronic music meets traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation with his Jerusalem In My Heart project since 2005. Joined by Charles-André Coderre as an equal partner in the visual presentation of Jerusalem In My Heart for their second full-length, If He Dies, If If If If If If is a stunning, of-the-moment record that speaks to the intersection of the personal and political with supreme confidence. The album's second track "A Granular Buzuk" is a pulsing, electric cut whose seven minutes rush by in a moment, a swirling melange of prepared guitar by guest Sharif Sehnaoui set against Moumneh's aggressive electronics.
Crate digging in a Chicago record store, songwriter and guitarist Ryley Walker dusted off Opus III, a forgotten 1972 private-press solo guitar LP by fellow Illinoisan John Hulburt. Walker loved what he heard, so he teamed up with Tompkins Square to give the LP a proper reissue. Like Walker (who played in the noise group Heatdeath), Hulburt came to the acoustic guitar by way of noisier, amplified music: he was a founding member of mid-'60s Chicago garage-rock band The Knaves, whose anti-establishment anthems were just reissued by Sundazed last year. Hulburt's '72 LP is one of only a few solo acoustic guitar records to ever come from Chicago; Walker aruges in his liner notes that the region's "harsh winters and land-locked prison of cornfields" suggested most the "amplified assualt of electric blues and the controlled chaos of dance music." On "The Freak On The Black Harley," Hulburt rivals Leo Kotke in sheer technical dexterity, but he ultimately showcases a melodic, laid-back irreverence all his own.
A mysterious first-person presence dons a police badge, hat, and handgun amid a mess of glowsticks before New York rhythm and noise band The Sediment Club’s nauseating, cacophonous gyre stirs to life and Lazar Bozic’s tortured yowl takes over. In the video for "Apprehension Complex," the newborn gunperson/police officer/narrator searches for clues-- a bloody wall, a baby, an arrogant shadow. As the camera’s gaze tracks across the scene, so does the weapon in hand. At one level, this storyline is absurd and surreal, but then again, so is nationwide police violence. As the narrator aims its pistol toward the unknown, it’s hard not to ask when the hammer will eventually fall. The scene changes and the viewer is spared the outcome by the doubled vision of a masked figure in a plume of smoke. For now, the possibility of further violence has passed.
Drone musician Motion Sickness of Time Travel recently released a beautiful composition entitled “Weeks.” This is Rachel Evans's first offering of 2015, after a prolific 2014 culminating in AdHoc favorite Ballades. The compilation featured all twelve self-released, nearly hour-long odes to the full moon of each month from September 2013 to August 2014. Evans takes a similar drawn-out approach with “Weeks,” this time with the original intention of creating a soundtrack to aid in self-hypnosis. Celestial in sound, Evans's piece expertly layers sustained notes in a way that’s more soothing than sleepy. With lush, gently repeating reverberating melodies, “Weeks” is an ideal accompaniment for meditation-- or if you’re more attuned to dimensions beyond the third: astral projection and time travel.
Weeks is out now via the Motion Sickness of Time Travel Bandcamp page.
Both Natural Information Society and Bitchin Bajas historically exude a palpable sense of primordial urgency-- a dedicated palette of pulsing futurism and meditative organic instrumentation. Their first collaborative single, “Anemometer,” dwells in some long forgotten spiritual realm, an immortal knight still protecting the Holy Grail. This music does not so much exist in the outside world as much as it does our deeply conditioned hope for an afterlife. An effortless jazz-drone becomes a full body apparition at Heaven’s Gate with a swelling mantra of cymbals, synths, autoharp and flute, leaving one to wonder if there was ever any reason to not believe in the first place.
Automaginary is out August 28 on Drag City. You pre-order the LP now.
Boston-based Steep Leans, the project of one Gray Somers, doesn't let having a bad time keep him from writing songs with bright guitar licks and big hooks. On "Navigator in the Night," from his upcoming Grips on Heat, he accomplishes both aforementioned tasks with aplomb while reciting lyrics that generally veer toward the negative. The tenuous balancing of murkiness and exuberance is reflected in the music's pacing too; "Navigator" switches from upbeat-yet-foggy rocker to swampy, spaced-out cool-down and then back again, kind of like one of Deerhunter's more pulsing numbers. All the while, though, a persistent snare drum keeps the thing moving, bringing the song closer and closer to its eventual second-half slacker-fist-raising climax.
Grips on Heat is out September 21 on Nathan Williams of Wavves' Ghost Ramp. Steep Leans is also heading out on tour with Wavves and Twin Peaks; check the details here.
Jared Blum's Vision Heat project emits a distinctive glow of pure, distilled 80's VHS movie soundtrack nostalgia inspired by the whole slew of cinematic and musical visionaries spearheaded by a double genius John Carpenter in the 1980's. His new album, The Chosen Themes, projects an image of imagined, visionary movie and TV series themes collected into a sort of visionary compilation (just to check some of the track names: "Vision Heat Logo Tone #4", "City Skyline Montage", "City Nites Themes 1 & 2"), accompanied by wonderfully oldschool videos by Jennifer Juniper Straford, who mangles the VHS memories for a psychedelic, delirious effect. The sounds on the LP are sure to be a wet dream for every fan of classic 80's synth tunes and all the TV pieces that catch the zeitgeist of the bygone age.
The Chosen Themes - Program I is out now on Root Strata.
Dieter Moebius, co-founder of the legendary German groups Cluster and Harmonia, passed away earlier today. Born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, Moebius formed Kluster with fellow geniuses Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler in Berlin in 1969. The band changed the "K" to a "C" after Schnitzler's subsequent departure, and they went on to release a series of albums throughout the 1970s (and beyond) that defined the kosmische sound of the era and continue to influence forward-thinking electronic musicians today. As if Cluster's run of albums weren't enough, Moebius and Roedelius also joined forces with Neu!'s Michael Rother (and later, Brian Eno) as Harmonia in the mid-'70s, releasing a few similarly excellent and epoch-defining records. Michael Rother issued a statement on Facebook this afternoon about Moebius's passing; Cluster's Facebook page contains a moving eulogy as well, which reflects upon their stunning track "In Ewigkeit (In Eternity)," from the 1976 album Sowiesoso.