Monthly Archives: June 2015

Spotlight Dance: Girl Band

I’ve been onto this band since last summer.  No excuse why it’s taken me so long to get ‘round to writing something about them, but my recent good fortune seeing them absolutely destroy the stage opening for Viet Cong had me at least attempt to get some thoughts on (virtual) paper.  These guys are a breath of wonderfully sweet, stale, fetid air drifting forth from a newly opened basement, and should be experienced.

Girl Band are a four-piece hailing from Dublin (Ireland, not Ohio) who make an insanely appealing racket.  The music is tightly wound, claustrophobic, often without a cathartic chorus or change of key to relax the mood – you sit there, fidgety yet transfixed, until it stops.  Noise built around chaotic rhythms tripping over words that start out mostly stream of consciousness and then dissolve into yelps, howls and shrieks; guttoral discharges often signifying much about the emotional impact of the songs themselves.

The Wonderful and Frightning World of…-era The Fall, Ideal Copy-era Wire, the Throbbing Gristle of “Discipline (Manchester)”, elements of techno, drone, no wave; newer bands like Prinzhorn Dance School or Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster (RIP) – a swirling eddy melting through a cacophonous gloryhole of sound into your waiting brain.

Their earlier, self-released singles have been collected and released (cheekily, given the band was “founded” in 2011) as The Early Years on the fabled Rough Trade, which will also release their debut full length later this year (September, possibly).  Highlights include the churning, chugging “De Bom Bom”, “Lawman”, and their cover of Blawan’s techno slice “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”.  If you can still find a download of the singles, the b-sides (particularly “Heckle the Frames”, from “Lawman”) are also splendiferous, as are earlier songs like “Busy At Maths” from France 98.  Gotta catch ’em all!

Challenging, rewarding.  Not often you can say something is overly “unique” these days – this is one of those times.  If they’re playing out anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and go see them – footage (courtesy of Youtube) of them playing in-studio for KEXP below for your aural and visual pleasure.

Go like them on Facebook and support them on Bandcamp – now!  Website here.

Review: Domenique Dumont, Comme Ça

Domenique Dumont, Comme Ça (Antinote, 6/22/2015)

Long ago, there existed a world in which people shared “mix tapes” (look it up on the interwebs, children).  A collection of songs, some grouped by a theme, some not.  Many would trade these tapes – demos, random mixes, live bootlegs – as a way to both discover and pass on new sounds to others.  The production was often somewhat murky – what’s euphemistically called “lo-fi” in current parlance – but there were gems to be mined if one took the time to listen.

Comme Ça, from Domenique Dumont, has the feel of something buried deep on one of these tapes – maybe towards the end of the first side, or the middle of the second, probably uncredited on the cover – that bears repeated rewinding and listening.  Furthering this sense, the artist appears a bit of a mystery even to Antinote, the Paris-based label that released these six tracks (though this could certainly be part of the plan), who admit they “don’t know much” about the artist.  The sole ‘tweet’ says merely “hi”; the soundcloud page provides little in the way of background, though seems to indicate Latvian origins by reference to a “Riga-Paris express” .  It’s fun to have something with a little intrigue, n’est pas?

Whatever the case, the songs themselves are fantastic; wistful, precocious, charming bedroom pop.  Spun-sugar light, yet containing so many parts that it begs repeated listens to extract the nectar.

Afro-caribbean influences take center stage, employed in ways similar to everyone from Serge Gainsbourg in his work with Sly and Robbie, on to Damon Albarn both with Blur, Gorillaz, & etc.:  the cuíca drum sound in “La Basse et Les Shakers”, the calliope dub rock of “La Bataille de Neige”, the samba rhythm of the title track.  Often, these rhythmic impulses are aligned with a nod and wink to 60s lounge vibe, particularly on the title track and dream lounge cut “Le Chateau Corail”, which carries a Dmitri from Paris vibe.  Adding to this cheekiness, many of the beats and synthesized sounds appear to be played on a Casio keyboard from the 80s.

Comme Ça is available for download from the Antinote Bancamp page.

Woman?  Man?  One of each?  Yeti?  Decide for yourself by checking Soundcloud and Twitter; or, visit the “official story” (tinfoil hat not included) on the Antinote website or Facebook page.

Highlights:  “Comme Ça”, “L’Esprit de L’Escalier”, “Le Chateau Corail”.

New Track: Thundercat, Them Changes

Thundercat, “Them Changes” (Brainfeeder)

The insanely talented Thundercat returns, with an assist from FlyLo, on this bittersweet-flavored funk/soul/space/jazz ear candy.

Coils of rubber banded bass try to tell you something good over a beat that tiptoes in the dark.  A smooth piano overlay matches wits with Thundercat’s sweet tenor and falsetto musings; a true detective arriving at the scene of his own love crime (“nobody move, there’s blood on the floor/and i can’t find my heart”… “it must have fell/when I lost my mind”).  At the 1:20 mark, a transcendent, spacey free jazz odyssey that would be unexpected for anyone but TC.  Love never hurt so good.

This jam…is…

“Them Changes” is taken from a new mini-album, The Beyond/Where Giants Roam, due out Monday on Brainfeeder.  Check out the track on the Brainfeeder Soundcloud page and, if you haven’t already, do yourself and favor and check out Thundercat’s earlier releases.

Review: White Manna, PAN

White Manna, PAN (Cardinal Fuzz (UK); Captcha (US))

A dose of riff-heavy psych candy from White Manna, a five-piece band hailing from Arcata, California.

Arcata is a city in Humboldt County, an area of Northern California known for (based on my own, incomplete understanding – and Wikipedia):  dense, lush forests; long, beautiful stretches of coastline; earthquakes; and, um, weed.  These natural elements and wide-open vistas (and, um, weed) are all in evidence throughout PAN, the band’s new offering.

PAN’s six tracks soundtrack a space truckin’ joyride through time, veering off the road and over the “Land of the Lost” waterfall into a primordial world filled with the roar of ten-story riffs, looming above a dense fog, while underneath tectonic rumblings roll and buckle.  Tracks such as “Evil” and the relentless “Dunes I” churn with the stomp and kick of bands like The Stooges, Hawkwind and Machine Head-era Deep Purple, with a bit of a garage and punk slant and a Sabbath-worthy buzz.  Swirling cascades of reverb bump and grind with organ lines that sing praises to the (Jon) Lord; out front, the Danzigian croon of singer David “J” Johnson.  Several songs linger past the seven-minute mark, but maintain the same, tensely coiled punch of shorter, faster tracks.

PAN is out now on Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Captcha Records (US).  The digital version on iTunes includes two bonus tracks, a live reworking of Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” and “Slow Dust”.

Go, like the band on Facebook and, if you’re fortunate to live close by, check them out June 19 at The Peg House in Leggett, CA or June 20 at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francsico.

Highlights include:  “Evil”, “Dunes I”, “Pan”.

Review: Nao, February 15 ep

Nao, February 15 ep (Little Tokyo Recordings, 05/01/2015)

Sophomore release from the London-based singer/writer/producer, released on her own Little Tokyo Recordings label.

Nao is another in a line of new artists putting modern production touches over largely 80s-indebted r&b workouts.  Her voice, much like AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis, inhabits a perky, helium-fueled upper register – yes, there will be pitch shifting, but it doesn’t get too distracting.  While not a thundering, break the glass diva á la Mary J. or a soft, come hither crooner like Sade, her voice slinks in, around, and through a groove, still commanding attention through weight of charisma.

The arrangements here walk a fine line between the poppier, hook-laden dance music of AG and Disclosure and the more esoteric, narcotic r&b of artists like Kelela, SZA and Jessy Lanza.  There’s lots going on in these tracks including, notable to these two ears, the use of “natural” instrumentation in the mix (check the Sade-meets-Rick James bass line in “Golden”); more recently, the province of neo-soul revivalists. Each song clocks in at a very radio friendly run time, but there are open spaces throughout which leave room for interpretation – whether live or via remix – that make them more than merely ear candy.

Highlights include the transmogrified Zapp/Roger electrofunk (complete with what sounds like electric cowbell!) of “Inside/Outside” and the psychedelic soul of Prince-infused “Apple Cherry” (the name alone…).  For my money, though, the gold to mine from this particular vein is found in lighter tracks, including lovely ballad “It’s You” and, er, “Golden”.

The February 15 ep is available now on iTunes, and gets a vinyl release July 6, courtesy of Dummy Records.

Check out Nao on Facebook, her site and Soundcloud.