Review: “Candle Power”, by Rat Columns

Rat Columns, Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)

Rat Columns is the project of NYC-by way of Western Australia’s David West, whose previous work with bands such as Total Control, Rank/Xerox and Lace Curtain, as well as his solo material (most recently, last year’s great Peace or Love), explored different musical territory, from noirish post-punk, new wave imbued rhythmic explorations and dazed and confused psych.

Candle Power, his latest release with Rat Columns, finds West stitching together these various elements into a seamless and truly wondrous indie pop gem.  “Blinded by the Shadow” expands on the Hot Chip (and their 80s antecedents) stomp of Lace Curtain, burnished with the addition of backing vocals from bassist Amber Gempton (featured throughout) and the inspired use of violin to add texture.  “Northern Soul” weds the jittery, gothic post-punk of West’s work with Total Control and Rank/Xerox (I also kept hearing Lords of the New Church) with hazy psych.  The album is shot through with moments of sublime, pop bliss.  Opening one-two, “Someone Else’s Dream” and “She Loves the Rain”, jangled perfection in the spirit of classic Flying Nun on through to The Byrds. Closer, “Dream Tonight” a dancefloor ready mashup of New Order and Prefab Sprout (“Time’s No Vessel” also reminds of a less blissed-out Sprout with a shot of Orange Juice).

A dreamy, sepia-tinted melancholy hangs over the album, showcasing West’s ability to coalesce wide-eyed melodies with urbane, sometimes caustic lyrical takes on love and relationships, which are at variously “like driving a motorbike straight into a wall” (“Is This Really What You’re Like?”), an ephemeral, ‘did that really happen?’ experience (“Someone Else’s Dream”), and portentous “dark cloud that rains down from above” (“Time’s No Vessel”). It’s brilliant.

Candle Power is out now, on Upset the Rhythm.  You can follow along with all things David West on his bandcamp and fbook page.

Highlights include: “Someone Else’s Dream”, “Time’s No Vessel”, “Blinded by the Shadow”, “Dream Tonight”.

 

Makthaverskan Announce Return with III, Share Lead Single “In My Dreams”

“In My Dreams” cover art.


Makthaverskan haven’t released any new material since 2015’s “Witness” 7”, but that all changes now.  The group has shared a new track, “In My Dreams”, and announced that a new album – the numerically appropriate, III – will be released in October.

“Dreams” finds the group continuing to mine the kind of swirling, cathartic melodies found on their previous work, but with a fuller sound.  Reverbed guitar jangle, an increasingly active bassline and propulsive drumming engulf and elevate vocalist Maja Milner‘s plaintive upper register, now rounded out with more lower tones and a wordless purr at the 2:27 mark recalling Siouxsie. Headphones revel tubular synth notes, which add to the overall depth.  The track positively shimmers, and we can’t wait for the album.

According to the band’s fbook page, III was recorded at Svenska Graommofonsutdion with the help of Hans Olsson-Brookes, and is due October 20, courtesy of Swedish label Luxury Records and US-based Run for Cover Records.

Check Out the Phenomenal Debut from Brooklyn’s Rips

Rips, Rips (Faux Discx; Wharf Cat)

Rips is a four-piece based in Brooklyn.  According to their bio, they’ve developed quite the following through “virtuous melodies and sheer ferocity amidst an endless flurry of shows” (crikey!).

Not situated in the Tri-State area, I had not run across the band until hearing their self-titled debut, and was hooked from the off.  It’s fantastic, start to finish, showcasing a host of styles and incluences – the ‘artier’ end of the early CBGB days, post-punk, 70s power pop and rock, 60s via 80s jangle, 90s psych-slack – blended in such a way as to make them new again.  “Break” is like REM covering Tom Petty; “Malibu Entropy” a woozy elegy to a relationship; “Save Room” as instantly familiar as the proverbial open road.  The arrangements are sharp and taught, vocals recalling, to these ears, Love Battery’s underrated Ron Nine or Pete Doherty in their ability to seem both plaintive and beyond caring.

While much seems to have been made of the NYC/‘downtown’ feel of the band’s compositions, using as exhibit ‘a’ the involvement of Parquet Courts’ guitarist Austin Brown as producer, it rings too limiting.  For me, the funneling of disparate eras and sounds into something so cohesive and, frankly, catchy gives Rips the feel of one of those ‘lost classic’ platters missed by many and later held up as a landmark.  Let’s not wait.

Rips is out now, courtesy of Faux Discx (Wharf Cat handling distribution in the US).  Follow along with the band Rips on fbook and their site, where you can find their current slate of upcoming gigs.

Highlights include: “Malibu Entropy”, “Save Room”, “Vs”, “Psychics”.

Check Out “Soul Mender”, the New EP from Zerodent.

Zerodent, Soul Mender (Almost Ready)

“Soul Mender” cover. Photo credit: Igor Coko.


Zerodent is a four-piece band out of Perth, Australia.  Formed way back in 2015, their excellent self-titled debut came out last year on German label, Alien Snatch! and, lo and forsooth, a new three-track EP, Soul Mender, is upon us…and it is good.

There’s a righteousness inherent in a lot of the best punk, and it’s on full show here.  Mixing classic ℅ ’77 sounds of bands like The Saints and Buzzcocks (the opening riff of the title track reminds of “Harmony In My Head”) with garage, SoCal h/c gnarl and a bit of maximum r&b, the EP is an absolute rush from start to finish.  Vocalist Lee Jenkins spits, snarls and wails, driving the service to completion with the rollicking “This Time” (personal fave, though it’s hard to choose).  Pass the fucking plate.  The only gripe is it’s too short.

Soul Member is out now, via Almost Ready.  You can catch up with all things Zerodent on their fbook, and peruse their catalogue on bandcamp.  Don’t see any tour dates up yet, but hopefully that will change soon.

The Sum of Molly Nilsson’s “Imaginations” are a Revelation

Molly Nilsson, Imaginations (Night School/Dark Skies Association)


“On and on/some things are stopping us from proving them wrong/when they tell you the skies are grey/but looking through a glass of rosé/the skies are clearly pink”

Molly Nilsson is a musician/vocalist/producer originally hailing from Stockholm but now based in Berlin.  Imaginations is her seventh full-length release (to go with a few EPs and singles).

Throwback 80s signifiers abound on Imaginations, but it doesn’t feel derivative.  Rather, it’s an absolutely mesmerizing collection of pop music that’s only ‘indie’ in the sense that it’s likely far too interesting to be played on commercial radio.

Much of 80s popular culture – music, film, video – depicted the accumulation, loss and/or showing off of stuff – status as a means of seduction.  Having lived through it, I know there was depth there for those who sought it out, but such is the collective remembrance that much of what is retained is the Rolex, the Armani suit, the several car garage as the means to whatever end.  Much of what makes Imagination’s use of many of the musical signposts of this indulgence is their contrast when applied to a modern reality derived, in part, from their consequences.  Songs like “Inner Cities”, “Money Never Dreams” and “Think Pink” feel Springsteenian in their uplifting portraiture of the realities of everyday life, but without teetering into mawkish platitude (pay attention, Killers).  Elsewhere, tracks like opener, “Tender Surrender”, “Memory Foam” and “American Express” exude enough Avalon worthy swank and sultriness to make a pro blush.  But where the suavity of the saxy sax and the glassy chords can often ring hollow, marrying it to Nilsson’s at times raw, often wry, lyricism makes it genuine.  Here, the personal is political, either by encouraging a change of perspective on the grey “inner cities of our lives” by “looking through a glass of rosé” (“Think Pink”), or eschewing ‘champagne, caviar and bubble baths’ for “McDonald’s in bed” (“American Express”).

This is what makes Imaginations so enticing – it’s icy, cool-as-fuck pop veneer belying a warmth, a humanity (Book of Love, a personal fave from back when, was brought to mind).  It’s pop music that likely won’t be anywhere near as popular as it should be.  Borrowing from the title of a track from Nilsson’s 2010’s album, Follow the Light, these are songs they won’t be playing on the radio.  But they should, damn it, they should.

Imaginations is out now, courtesy of the fantastic Night School label and Nilsson’s own Dark Skies Association.  Tour dates are up on Nilsson’s fbook page.

Highlights include: “Memory Foam”; “Tender Surrender”; “Think Pink”; “Modern World”.

Obnox Return with a Niggative Approach

Obnox, Niggative Approach (5/30/2017, 12XU)


Obnox is the musical alter ego of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lamont ‘Bim’ Thomas (pictured).  Having released five long-players under this moniker in the last 3 years, the word ‘prolific’ seems apt.  I must admit that new release, Niggative Approach, is the first one I’ve fully sat down with – and now I’m both damn glad I did and in a hurry to dig deeper into the earlier material.

The title might be a wink and a bow to Detroit hardcore godheads Negative Approach (whose singer, John Brannon, makes an appearance on the album’s intro and outro), but the album is far too diverse, dense and interesting to damn with the faint praise of a hyphenated ‘punk’ or other descriptor.  Frankly, there’s so much going on in this record, it can be giddily overwhelming.  Jazz, psych, garage, soul, blues, punk, funk, r&b, hip hop, Beastie Boys, Funkadelic, Rudy Ray Moore, Kid Congo, D’Angelo, Shabazz Palaces, Sun Ra, War, Curtis Mayfield, MF Doom, sky high riffs, heavy funk bass, kick drum grooves, eye of newt and a partridge in a motherfuckin’ pear tree – all this and more await across the album’s 14 tracks (excluding intro-/outro).

I found it best to just strap in, give in, and let it all wash over me, repeated listens bearing ever sweeter fruit.  The spy theme raga of “You”.  The hot, humid synth feel of “Hardcore Matinee”.  The wide lapel groove of “”Beauty Like the Night”.  The diamond amidst the rough of the beautiful “Carmen, I Love You”.  Exhale.

Niggative Approach is out now, on 12XU.  Monitor M. Thomas’ (social media) movements on fbook and the twitt.  No tour dates as yet, but here’s hoping.

Highlights include: “Audio Rot”; “Afro Muffin”; “Carmen, I Love You”; “You”; “Niggative Approach”; “Beauty Like the Night”.

“Typical Girls, Volume 2” is the Comp That Keeps On Giving

Various, Typical Girls, Volume 2 (Emotional Response)

Compilations. “Comps”.  They come with a higher risk/reward factor than your average long-player.  Like soundtracks or anything filed under “V/A”, they can be a veritable goldmine:  a place to unearth new aural treasure; discover heretofore uncharted styles and territories; find a new band worth obsessing over.  For all they promise, though, comps are often fickle beasts.  Lured in by the inclusion of new or unreleased tracks from old favorites, you often find more coal than diamond in the rest.  Disillusioned, you create a playlist of the 3 or 4 good cuts and ignore the rest, cursing the heavens that you’ve been duped …again.  [Ok, that was a bit melodramatic, but it’s the first day following a long weekend]

All of which makes Typical Girls, Volume 2 – named for The Slits’ song and presented by the Emotional Response label as a “global celebration of female fronted bands” – such a satisfying listen.  Where the presence of tracks from bands including Flesh World, The World, Sex Stains and Cold Beat (this last a recent discovery) drew me in, what kept me hooked throughout was an impressively curated group of tracks showing a breadth of styles loosely grouped as ‘indie’, including post-punk, surf, punk, hardcore and straight up rock/roll.  New discoveries that had me running to the interwebs for a back catalogue listening party include:  the dizzying “Space is Bent” by Bent; the punk “La Bamba” of Midnight Snaxxx’s (yes, three exes) “No Time to Spend”; “Vallecas” by Juanita y los Feos, the now defunct – argh! – goth wave precursor to Rata Negra; the Wire-infused “Machine” from Naked Lights; the slinky mud-boogie of Soft Tug’s “Toys are Not for Children”; and the off the leash, old school hardcore of “Eat It“, by Patsy.  While I can’t say that every track here is my new favorite, and should be yours, as well (and, gentle reader, you wouldn’t believe me even if I did), what I can say is that each of these 16 tracks has something great to discover.  Explore.

Typical Girls, Volume 2, is available now from Emotional Response.  Once you’re done purchasing that, take a look through the label’s impressive catalogue (new and back) on bandcamp.  As for the bands, let your fingers do the walking.

Get Lost in “Forgiveness”, by Angel Food

Angel Food, “Forgiveness” (Perennial)


Angel Food is Lillian Marling of Ruby Pins and Ange Duval (aka Angelo Spencer of Angelo Spencer et Les Hauts Sommets).  “Forgiveness”, released in February, is taken from their Vacances Cool EP.  It feels like a killer lost boho disco 12”, the kind you find in a second-hand (record) store – sorry – and wonder how you missed it the first time around.  Opening along a hypnotic, skiffling beat, Marling’s whispery, syncopated vocals join together with a percussive, afrobeat feeling guitar line.  As words turn to pants, the track becomes engulfed in a rush of white noise, until the 4:30 mark, and what had been relatively stark reveals a startling beauty.

Vacances Cool is released on Perennial (home, as well, to the brill CC Dust).  The Angel Food bandcamp page has a few upcoming shows listed (on the West Coast of the USofA), so check ‘em out if you can and follow along on fbook and join Ms. Marling on the twitt.  “Forgiveness” also has a video – regardez:

Settle in and Submit to the Debut from Taiwan Housing Project, “Veblen Death Mask”

Taiwan Housing Project, Veblen Death Mask (Kill Rock Stars)

Thorstein Veblen was a late-nineteenth, early-twentieth century economist known for coining the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ (not, sadly, ‘priming the pump’) and lending a name to a “Veblen good”, one whose demand corresponds with its high price – a status symbol.  So, basically, Veblen was an early identifier and critic of the douchebag economy.  Which brings us – hard segue – to Veblen Death Mask, the debut long-player from Philly’s own disrupters, Taiwan Housing Project.  We’ve previously extolled the virtues of this particular project following release of their fantastic self-titled EP in 2015, and Veblen does nothing to mute this adulation.

As a statement of intent/table-setter, you’d be hard pressed to do better than “Salt Sugar Fire”, as Kilynn Lunsford’s multi-tracked, warbled and distorted voice projects the album’s overarching feel of an image deconstructed and rearranged in a room of fun house mirrors.  Threads of punk, no wave, glam, industrial, jazz; Wire, PJ Harvey, Diamanda Galás, Girl Band – core duo Lunsford and guitarist/feedback shaman/dial-up modem impersonator (“Authentic Alien Perfume”) Mark Feehan fleshed out the group with new members and new instruments, including violin, synth and everyone’s new/old fave, spazzy tenor sax grunts.  “Authentic Alien Perfume” is a heady brew of Cramps-y strut over a Peter Gunn rhythm, “Ideal Body Alignment” a fuzzed-up take on Pink Flag-era Wire, dissolving into a cacophonous rush of a chorus.  It’s a stunner from beginning to end, a series of disorientating soundscapes seizing control of the transmission to your TVs, smartphones, tablets, etc., that, despite flirting with the oft-derisively used “arty”, never succumb to self-indulgent wankery.  In fact, a less cruelly bland musical universe, the ‘rip her to shreds’ glam-stomp belter, “Multidimensional Spectrum” would be your go-to summer hit.  Request lines are open.

Veblen Death Mask is available now from Kill Rock Stars.  According to the press release accompanying the album, THP will be on tour in the US in July/August and in Europe in October/November.  In the meantime, you can stalk the band on fbook and the twitt and check the video for the title track, above.

Highlights include:  “Authentic Alien Perfume”, “Multidimensional Spectrum”, “Ideal Body Alignment”, “Eat or Be Eat”.

Revel in the Indie Pop Bliss of “Dream About You”, the New Single from London’s The Fireworks

The Fireworks, “Dream About You” (Shelflife/Opposite Number)

London-based trio The Fireworks recently shared a new 7”, “Dream About You”, the first to feature the vocal stylings of new member Beth Arzy (formerly of Trembling Blue Stars and Aberdeen, amongst others).

The single’s three tracks breeze by in a bit more than 8 minutes but, like real pyrotechnics, need but a moment to make a lasting impression.  Close your eyes and you can still hear the brilliant bass countermelody underpinning the title track’s delirious jangle; feel the drum wallop in the candy-colored psycho closer (see what we did there?), “We’ve Been Wasting Time”.  For my money, middle child “Better Without You Now” is the gem, a droll kiss-off backlit by a shimmering, Murmur-era guitar hook.  Fans of JAMC, early REM, Kinks, Shop Assistants, C86, Manhattan Love Suicides and/or well-constructed melodies, look no further.

The “Dream of You” 7” is available now courtesy of two fantastic labels – namely, Opposite Number (in the UK/EU) and Shelflife (everywhere else). Surveil The Fireworks on fbook the twitt and their site, and peruse their back catalogue on bandcamp.  While you’re at it, have a look at the video for “Dream About You”, which premiered over at The Big Takeover.