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”.
“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.
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”.
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.
Blau Blau, S/T EP (self-released); “Glassy Eyes” (from Ladyfest Boston 2017 mixtape)
Blau Blau – a new four piece hailing from Boston, MA whose members have featured in bands such as Mini Dresses and New Highway Hymnal – released their hugely confident debut in January.
Short and sweet, it’s four tracks coming in with a runtime of ten minutes (give or take), it packs quite the ear punch. Dream pop, indie jangle, psych, swirly shoegaze – deceptively simple melodies that will be jammed in your brain. Opener, “No Heaven”, veritably gallops out of the gate – a rollicking jangly track that shows off both the band’s cohesion and the vocal range of singer Lira Mondal, who goes from whisper to wail and everywhere in between. It’s hard to pick a favorite but, if forced, I’d have to go with the last two: “Harm”, which has a bit of a kaleidoscopic, Banshees feel to it, and closer, “Kiss Kiss”, which comes off like a harder punching Sundays, all quiet rainy afternoon until the chorus crashes your reverie. “Glassy Eyes”, the band’s contribution to a mixtape celebrating the Boston edition of Ladyfest, picks up where “Kiss” leaves off and is a wonderfully atmospheric track worth checking out.
The EP is available now, via Blau Blau’s bandcamp site. The fantastic Ladyfest Boston 2017 mixtape can be purchased here – proceeds go to benefit Boston-area charities, so it’s good and good for you (read more about it here).
Follow the band on fbook for tour dates and to see how many times they can copy/paste the words “blau blau” ad infinitum, Jack Torrance stylee.
The Orielles, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ (Heavenly)
Photo by Neelam Khan Vela
Halifax, England (not Nova Scotia). Fun facts about Halifax (from ultimate lazy bastard encyclopedia, wikipedia): (1) it’s been a textile manufacturing hub since the 15th century – which is kinda cool; and (2) it’s the home of Rolo candy – which is extremely awesome.
What’s also extremely awesome, has six thumbs and currently hails from Halifax (and Liverpool)? The Orielles, a trio comprising sisters Esme Dee (bass, vocals) and Sidonie Hand-Halford (drums) and Henry Carlyle Wade (guitars). After self-releasing a few singles, and putting out last year’s fantastic Jobim EP via Art Is Hard, “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” (from a line in the movie Death Proof, per this great write up on the band in The Guardian) is the band’s first single for the mighty Heavenly Recordings. Starting, innocently enough, with a ride down the neck of a swirling, arpeggiated psych melody, it turns out to be a trip down the rabbit hole. The track bobs and weaves its way through a smorgasbord of styles (jittering rock steady, Blondie or Factory Records’ style post-punk disco, a sprawling Floyd-like interlude, straight-up Troggs’ garage, some space truckin’) without coming off overcooked. And despite a modern day attention span straining length of 8 minutes and change, “Sugar” fixes your attention throughout, like some kind of goddamn Medusa. Brilliant.
“Sugar Tastes Like Salt” is out now, on Heavenly. You can follow The Orielles’ adventures on fbook, the twitt and instagram. They’re also on tour in the UK – dates here.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged disco, heavenly recordings, indie, post-punk, psych, punk, review, rock steady, ska, sugar tastes like salt, the orielles
[Ed. Note: this was meant to have posted back in November…oops. Quoth Homer Simpson: “It’s still good! It’s still good!”]
Death Stuff, “Surprise Ex” (Monofonus Press)
“Surprise Ex” is a new track from Atlanta three-piece, Death Stuff. Opening on a riff that threatens to go all ‘Earth AD” the song, instead, roils into propulsive, whirling dervish post-punk before a full-on art-thrash spasm is abruptly euthanized after 2:30 or so. It’s noisy. It’s a bit exhausting. It reminds us of Girl Band, Running and early Butthole Surfers. It’s great. Get on it.
“Surprise Ex” is up now on the Death Stuff Bandcamp page – as is a fantastic set of demos from February – and looks to be set for inclusion on a self-titled release due later this fall on auto-correct darlings, Monofonus Press. I don’t know much more about Death Stuff, except that their first fbook post looks to be from last December and they like to repeat the words ‘death stuff’ on their page – a lot. Looking forward to more, more, more.
Mr. Twin Sister, “Poor Relations”
New York quintet Mr. Twin Sister returns with “Poor Relations”. Eschewing the smoothed out, continental r&b and squelchy indie electronica of 2014’s self-titled album (which, btw, is fantastic) “Poor Relations” fires up a downtown, post-punk dub party. The band’s rhythmic sensibility, so strong through all of the prior releases I’ve heard, is more aggressive – more ESG than Sweetback. The lyrics, also, are more forceful, seeming to rail against the dangers of the acceptance of an abusive relationship. In the band’s own words: “[T]his song meant something else when we first wrote it years ago; recent events have made us hear it differently. We believe in compassion, empathy, and tolerance, and hope that you will join us in speaking out against the erosion of their importance in our world”.
In that spirit, Mr. Twin Sister will donate all proceeds from the download of “Poor Relations” to standingrock.org – do it at their Bandcamp page (linger, and browse through their catalogue). You know what to do…and, while you’re at it, keep up with all things Mr. Twin Sister on fbook and the twit.
“Fire Dance” 7” (Wharf Cat)
Sam York, Austin Brown and Carson Cox (of WALL, Parquet Courts and Merchandise, respectively) have joined under a groove to bring us “Fire Dance”. York’s dead-eyed vocals ride a churning rhythm that calls to mind the downtown, honky punk-funk of Liquid Liquid (the break during the second half reminded me, at least, of the sample from “Sing Sing Sing” used in Mantronix’s “Big Band B Boy”, but that’s prolly just me), while layer upon layer of squelching synth leads worthy of early Cabaret Voltaire and Art of Noise launch the track into overdrive. Described as Cox’s “ode to downtown New York”, it seems both an ode to the city as it was – searching for “lost memories” of things that “came before”, even though you’d “hoped for more” – and a call to break free of such nostalgia and “search for more”. Fantastic.
What might, back in the day, have come out on a label like Celluloid now sees the light courtesy of the reliably great Wharf Cat Records, who will release it January 6. You can pre-order the vinyl here, and/or a digital copy here and on iTunes.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged fire dance, funk, indie dance, merchandise, new wave, no wave, parquet courts, post-punk, review, wall, wharf cat