First things first: I count myself a massive Cocteau Twins fan. So much so that when I read/hear bands compared sonically or otherwise with them, it’s met with a healthy skepticism. Few, either during the contemporaneous rise of dream pop and shoegaze or during their more recent revivals, seem to match the visceral thrill, the desolate euphoria, gleaned from the original. While I grew to like many of these bands over time it was in spite of, rather than due to, their supposed level of “Cocteausiness”.
Which leads me to Britain, the duo of Joey Cobb and Katie Drew that I recently stumbled across (thanks to an email blast from the good folks over at Heavenly). They come bearing Cocteau comparisons – and it’s easy enough to see why on first listen to the demo for track, “Day by Day”: the glistening guitar cascades, crisp drum machine patter, even an ending that sounds as though the song’s been suddenly unplugged – it’s all there. Yet, in spite of my decidedly caveat emptor approach to such things, I was immediately swept up and carried off by “Day by Day”.
Much of this is down to Drew’s vocal performance, which matches not only the wispy end of Elizabeth Fraser’s delivery but, more importantly, its soulfulness. So, yes, it does sound like the Cocteaus – but “Day by Day” is no mere pastiche. The light and dark in the track’s woozy melody gives a feel like the reveal of sun through a slowly lifting fog. It’s also incredibly fully-formed for a ‘demo’ – so hopefully, if included on their forthcoming debut, it won’t be messed with. A second track, “Tried to Call”, can be heard by watching their “Stay Fresh” session over at theskinny. Building from a similar 4AD building block, “Tried to Call” ratchets up the psych in a way that reminds of Lost Souls-era Doves (a band Britain name check as an influence in the corresponding interview).
Per the bio on fbook and the twitt, Britain are currently working on their debut, which will be released on Heavenly. Stay tuned, and catch them out on tour with Jane Weaver this autumn in the UK (dates here).
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”.
Lush Purr, Cuckoo Waltz (Song, by Toad)
Lush Purr are a ‘new to me’ band hailing from Glasgow, and Cuckoo Waltz their debut long-player. Having described their sound as “[l]ike having a party under the sea”. and quoting Spinal Tap in a recent interview with The List, the band clearly enjoys playing up the goof (song titles such as “(I admit it) I’m a Gardener”, “Jamiroquai at the Karaoke” and “Stuck in a Bog” bear this out).
But, where much similarly “jokey” content often leaves me wanting to run screaming, all I seem to do when listening to Cuckoo Waltz is smile – and I’m not what you’d normally refer to as an “up person” (queue this). The overarching reason for this is down to a feeling conveyed across the record’s 13 tracks, each of which carry many styles – kitschy pscyh, C86-style indie sha-la-la, early 90s emotive lo-fi (shades of The Pastels, Flatmates, The Wedding Present, on through to newer bands like halfsour or Snail Mail) – but one constant: beautiful, dreamy melodies. Seriously, try to get through the floating harmonies of “Suits” without bobbing your head to and fro, a wistful grin smeared across your face – you won’t even know you’re doing it, you dour shit.
As for the submarine soiree, while there is a certain beach-like or surf quality to some songs (see, “Gardener” and, predictably, short intro, “Wave”), this would be beach music for those of us familiar with the shores of more northern climes. Walking along a strand strewn with rocks, sea glass and driftwood, feet sinking into sand more the texture of dark clay than white powder; sea spray and the embracing damp of a rolling fog, nestled in a worn sweater or anorak. Grab your tipple of choice and settle in.
Originally released on cassette last August on Fuzzkill Records, Cuckoo Waltz now available, digitally and on vinyl, via Song, by Toad. Stalk Lush Purr on fbook and the twitt, and catch them on their upcoming tour dates.
Glitter Veils, “Gossamer Folds”; “Soft Touch” (Flexible)
Photo credit: Savvy Creative.
Australian duo Luke Zahnleiter and Michael Whitney make music as Glitter Veils. Their album, Figures in Sight, is due this Friday (2/10) from Flexible Records (an imprint of Terrible), who have been kind enough to provide teasers in the form of “Gossamer Folds” and “Soft Touch”.
A pleasantly disorienting, almost vertiginous, feel wafts from these tracks. Like a liquid motion toy’s suspended, colored drops fusing, detaching, and reforming in slightly different ways, familiar threads – the Guthrie-esque guitar wash in ‘Gossamer Folds’; the early industrial heft to the programmed beats underpinning the peyote-fueled western glitter ball of ‘Soft Touch’; a dream pop feel here, a bit of JAMC menace there; whispered, droning vocals reminiscent of Spacemen 3 or Massive Attack – blend, separate and reconvene in novel ways. “Gossamer” is my personal favorite, its bent guitar lines, slightly ooky fun house-style synths and lurching beat tracing lazy arcs in the sky. Definitely looking forward to hearing the rest.
You can find (a bit) more things Glitter Veils on soundcloud and fbook. Figures in Sight can be pre-ordered now on Flexible’s bandcamp page. Tune in, drop &etc.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged australia, brisbane, dream pop, electro, figures in sight, flexible records, glitter veils, gossamer folds, indie, noir, psych, review, shoegaze, soft touch, terrible records
Penelope Isles, “Cut Your Hair” (Art Is Hard)
Art Is Hard records’ 2017 singles club aims to provide listeners with a “monthly postcard” from the label’s artists. The first such missive comes from “Brighton via Cornwall”’s Penelope Isles, who share the beguiling “Cut Your Hair”. The track sets off on a confrontational tone – short/sharp/stabs of guitar, drum and bass strut, bob and weave, as lyrics describe a decision to settle into a corporate life (after, natch, the titular clip) – before slowly lifting the veil on a crushingly beautiful chorus of arpeggioed upper register and swelling vocals asking, “did you laugh?”.
“Cut Your Hair” is available now, from Art Is Hard. Discover more of Penelope Isles by queuing up (calmly) and following, on: fbook, the twitt, soundcloud and/or bandcamp. The band also have a few shows upcoming in the UK (dates below).
2/2 Woodlane Social Club, Falmouth
2/3 Unit 23, Totnes
2/4 The Green Door Store, Brighton
2/7 The Olde Blue Last, London
2/20 The Prince Albert, Brighton
LA’s Froth announce new album, Outside (briefly). (Image taken from Froth’s Facebook page).
LA-based Froth (whose 2015 release, Bleak, we drooled over at length) is back! The ink drying on their new deal with esteemed Wichita Recordings, the band have announced a new album, Outside (briefly) (check the Saville-esque artwork, above), and shared the video (courtesy of the good folks over at The Line of Best Fit) for new track, “Contact”.
“Contact” is, at first, a bit of a departure from the more raucous swirl and burn found throughout much of Bleak. It’s more downtempo – low-end synth burbles loom over a steady, robotic drum beat, creating a heady, detached psych feel. After that ominous beginning, though, the fog gradually lifts at around the 3:45 mark, revealing an absolute rapture.
Wichita Records will release Outside (briefly) on February 17 – it’s available for preorder here. Froth can be found on the fbook, and you can make contact (sorry) with their earlier work on Bandcamp. The band also have some tour dates coming up (more are listed in their page feed) – here’s hoping for more when the album drops.
Winter, “Wherever You Are” (self-released 8/18/16)
LA’s Winter is a musical project of vocalist/guitarist Samira Winter, with recording and live work from David Yorr, Garren Orr and Matt Hogan. “Wherever You Are” is a new release from the band – with it, they’ve crafted a woozy, sinuous track fit snugly at the intersection of psych- and dream pop.
Opening with a kaleidoscopic, Vangelis-like keyboard intro, “Wherever” features Winter’s feather light, whispered vocals amid arpeggioed, thrumming guitar lines and layered effects, all building towards an absolute skyscraper of a chorus. Musical sign posts abound, from ones you might expect (Pale Saints, Cocteau Twins (the phaser/delay effect at the 3:45 is particularly Guthrie-esque), MBV, the airier edge of trip hop), to some you might not (there’s hints of the more wide open, arena ready psych of Spiritualized, as well as a something that reminded me of “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd).
The notes on the group’s Bandcamp page indicate the song was initially recorded in the singer’s bedroom. This makes sense, as there’s a feeling here akin to staring out of the window into the night sky, searching for answers or a new way. Goodnight, (dark side of the) moon.
“Wherever You Are” is available to download (for $1!) via Bandcamp. From some of the posts on Winter’s fbook page (you can also check them on the twitt), it would appear the band is at work on a new full length. Here’s hoping.
Cassettes on Tape, Anywhere (self-released, 7/14/16)
We love a band that wears their influences proudly. Cassettes on Tape is a four-piece hailing from Chicago, with a declared fondness for “shoegazy guitars and new wavey hooks”. On their new long-player, Anywhere, the band stays true to their school(s).
Anywhere finds the band taking a musical journey through mid-80s to mid-90s indie music, recalling everything from 80s ‘college radio’, new wave, shoegaze, early 90s indie pop and even britpop. It’s a wide range of (admittedly intertwined) sounds, and the band pulls it off by writing hook-filled tunes played with a super-charged emotion. Jangling, resonant guitars courtesy of lead guitarist Shyam Telikicherla build epic sound scapes to match the dramatic vocals of singer Joe Kozak, who comes off like a cross between Suede’s Brett Anderson (minus the falsetto) and a less raspy Richard Butler of the Psych Furs. Songs like album highlight “Shattered” manage to marry 80s indie restraint to Britpop rafter rattling, while “Modern Love” carries an “I Am the Resurrection” shuffle. While the hi nrg tracks are great, the lovely slow burn of “Diamonds” and “Liquid Television” (above) are equally satisfying. Great stuff.
Anywhere is out now, and available through the Cassettes on Tape Bandcamp page. You can also check them out on the fbook, the twit and Instagram (don’t have a ‘witty’ shortcut reference for that one…yet). The band also have a show coming up on August 5 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago – check it out if you’re local.
Lowtide, “Held” (Opposite Number)
We loved “Wedding Ring”, the first taster of the forthcoming debut album from Melbourne’s Lowtide. Now, we’re hearing “Held” for the first time (the band shared the track back in 2014), and we’ve fallen in love all over again. [Our thanks to the always great The Line of Best Fit blog for the initial introduction.]
Since we never got off our duff long enough to write about “Wedding Ring” when we first heard it a few months ago, let’s rectify that first. The track is truly massive, channeling the epic end of the shoegaze/dreampop spectrum – think later period Cocteau Twins (the phased guitars are charmingly Guthrie-esque) and bands like Pale Saints and Slowdive – with an uptempo groove and a bridge at the 1:40 mark that, if it doesn’t make you smile and/or tear up, you should seek immediate medical attention.
“Held” is no less grand, even while seemingly a bit less epic. Wtf?, you may say. Our explanation lies in the layers underneath the skyscraping boy/girl vocal tradeoffs. Where “Wedding Ring” started from a lush, shogazed underpinning, “Held” feels like the kind of anthemic, later period post-punk that wasn’t afraid to pin its heart to its denim jacketed sleeve – we’re thinking here of past greats like the brilliant Chameleons, Pink Turns Blue, and Brighter Than a Thousand Suns-era Killing Joke, on through to new bands like another thegrindinghalt fave, Communions. The upper register is no less blissful, but the slow burning guitar and absolutely churning rhythms here provide a bit of cloud cover to an otherwise purely sun-dappled experience.
Opposite Number Records will release the band’s debut full length on August 5. In the meantime, you can check out the band’s fbook, Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages for news and other music.
Posse, “Voices/Perfect H” 7” (Wharf Cat Records)
Been sitting with this single for a while now, trying to come up with something profound to say. Dreamy, lush. hypnotic, narcotic – all fit, yet somehow disappoint, in describing the two tracks on this new 7” from Seattle three-piece, Posse.
“Perfect H” – with its hushed call and response between Paul Wittman-Todd and Sacha Maxim, lightly reverbed guitar and hushed rhythm – is a great reminder of what made the group’s fusion of dream pop and psych with Sonic Youth downtown cool and Flying Nun down under jangle so compelling on their last outing, 2014’s Soft Opening.
It’s on “Voices”, though, that the band starts to toy with new sounds and textures. Where “Perfect H” sounds like a conversation in a closed room, “Voices” cracks the window and lets a hazy atmosphere swirl through, giving the track a weightlessness where other tracks feel more Earthbound. Wittman-Todd sing/talks, in an urban drawl reminiscent of Lou Reed via Thurston Moore, enigmatic lines (“who are these voices/I hear…from a century ago”), and snippets of remembered conversations with an ex (“and if i gave up my hobbies/and you gave yours up, too/would we/be ok/doin’ nothin’?”). The subtlety of the band’s approach fails to blunt the song’s overall impact as it unwinds around the 5:30 mark into an absolutely lovely guitar solo and slow fade out.
The single is available now, on Wharf Cat Records – a limited edition 7” or digital copy can be purchased on the label’s bandcamp site. Posse can be found fbook, and tmblr.