Monthly Archives: April 2016

Album Review: Higher Authorities, Neptune

Higher Authorities, Neptune (Domino, 4/20/2016)

Higher Authorities is a side project of Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley, founders of Liverpool paranoid psych-rockers, Clinic.  Joined by ace dub producer Adrian Sherwood, the three have created a fantastic dub/psych meltdown in Neptune.

To put the paraphernalia on the table, then:  yes, the use of “higher” in the moniker is likely not a coincidence and, yes, the album was purposely released on 4/20.  Waiting to exhale, apparently, was rejected as an album title.

The link up with Sherwood as a production partner is inspired, with him raiding the Black Ark and adding his trademark foreboding atmospherics to every track, from skittery echo chaymbah vocal samples, squelchy keys, and burbling bong water (er, “found sounds”).  While dub and psych, while both constant reference points (see “Colours”, with it’s killer dub drum and bass rhythm), are not the only influences on show here.  Cheesy, lo-tech synth tones abound, with shuffling rhythms and typically mumbled vocalizations from Blackburn.  Tracks like “…and why not” are hazily dreamlike and pastoral, recalling not so much “Black Gun” as a tripped out take on gloriously cheesy 70s AM gold staple, “Loving You” – and it absolutely works.  “Monocle Man” strides along like some kind of demented cabaret number; “Abracadabra”, a lascivious, lost disco deep cut.  “Neptune” oozes, at around the 2:15 mark, into a middle tiptoe through the elysian fields; lovely stuff.

Overall, the album seems a bit less structured than the recent output of Blackburn’s and Harley’s main gig.  Highlights abound here, the overall sense being of musicians having a really freaking good time making music together.

Neptune is available now, on Domino.   While their internet presence is elusive, you can check out the band on fbook and their website.

Highlights include: “and why not”, “Colours”, “Neptune”, “Twilight (In the Luminous Lodge)”, “If”.

New Track(s) Review(s): Amber Arcades

Amber Arcades, “Fading Lines”, “Right Now”, “Turning Light” (Heavenly Recordings)

Amber Arcades is the nom de la musique (is that a thing?) of Dutch artist Annelotte de Graaf, who is set to release her new album, Fading Lines, in June.  Lucky for us, three of the album’s tracks – “Turning Light”, “Right Now” and, most recently, the title track – have been released into the ether for your listening pleasure, each showing a slightly different variation on psych-tinged dream pop.

There’s a languid, partly sunny/mostly cloudy (eye of the beholder), gossamer-wrapped melodic quality to both “Right Now” and “Fading Lines”, with hints of C-86 jangle, and bands like Lush, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Trespassers William.  de Graaf possesses a light, somnolent voice that fits the mood perfectly, sitting dead center of the mix, accompanied by a loosely strummed, reverb-heavy Rickenbacker (de Graaf penned the tracks, and the album was recorded with musicians from Real Estate and Quilt, as well as Kevin Morby of The Babies).  The soundtrack to a wordless car trip through the countryside, shot on over-exposed Super 8 film.

“Turning Light”, while still light on its feet, gains traction through the use of a chugging, kraut rock drum and bass rhythm.  The vocal melody reminds me of Broadcast (in particular, “America’s Boy”) and comes off less dream pop and more something from label mate, Gwenno (who we are, admittedly, slightly obsessed with).  Train trip this time, then?  It’s an interesting twist and bodes well for sound variety on the full length.

Fading Lines is due June 3, on the always Heavenly.  Check out Amber Arcades on her website, fbook and SoundCloud.

New Music: Trust Punks

Trust Punks, “Mother’s Veil”, “Leaving Room for the Lord”

Two new(ish) tracks from Auckland, New Zealand’s Trust Punks, each showcasing a different side of the band’s sound.

“Mother’s Veil”, released in November, shows a softer, wistful touch.  Narcotic, dreamy jangle psych-pop, reminiscent of the band’s Flying Nun countrymen, up through the quieter moments of Brian Jonestown Massacre and maybe even first album Shins.  Strummed guitars, an airy bassline and what sounds like tape hiss weave a lucid dream, sadly interrupted by the feedback alarm clock ending.  Heavenly.

Newer track, “Leaving Room for the Lord”, exudes a brasher, more dissonant and, er, “punker” sound.  Shades of early Killing Joke and PiL, plus some Jesus Lizard noise finds the band in a similar lane to Ireland’s Girl Band on this one.  Jagged, clamoring guitars, roiling drums and shouty vocals stagger and crash into each other drunkenly, setting a combative tone.  Satisfyingly brutish.

According to a post on the band’s fbook page, “Leaving Room” will feature on the band’s upcoming album, entitled “Double Blind”.  No further details at this time but, in the meantime, explore their earlier releases, including great 2014 release “Discipline”, on bandcamp.  Sadly, we missed that one first time ‘round, but are having fun playing catch up.

New Music: Andy Stott, Butterflies

Andy Stott, “Butterflies” (3/30/16, Modern Love)

Like fellow traveller Burial, much of Andy Stott’s earlier work is characterized by a palpable sense of decay and loss – paranoiac dub echoes, muted sounds, imploding beats, signs of brightness struggling to be heard from under dense layers.  Both artists, since, have taken their music out from behind these gauzy curtains, allowing more and more light to penetrate.  For Stott, this process began with 2014’s wonderful Faith In Strangers (check out our write up, here) and continues apace with his latest single, “Butterflies”.

Taken from forthcoming new album, Too Many Voices, “Butterflies” features bent, glassy synths over an insistent, almost playful beat – the whipsnap snare even threatens to go “full banger”, but holds its fire; breathy, hushed vocals in the Sampha mode more prominent in the mix.  Sounds a bit closer to the kind of outré r&b offerings of artists like Jessy Lanza, and sounds positively, er, luxurious compared to tracks from Stott’s 2012 opus, Luxury Problems…and it’s fantastic.  Another notch in the belt, then, for M. Stott; bring on the new album.

Upcoming tour dates:

April 13, @Patterns, Brighton, UK
April 15, @Church of St. John-at-Hackney, London, UK
April 29, @Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA, US
April 30-May 1, @Further Future Festival, Las Vegas, NV, US
May 7, @Pappy & Harriet’s, Pioneerstown, CA, US
May 8, @Music Box, San Diego, CA, US
June 11, @Funkhaus, Berlin, GER
July 15, @Ferropolis, Leipzig, GER
August 27, @FYFest, Los Angeles, CA

Too Many Voices is released April 22, on Modern Love.

New Music: Innerspace Orchestra, One Way Glass

Innerspace Orchestra, “One Way Glass” (Different Recordings, 3/4/2016)

Innerspace Orchestra is a group comprised of Rose Elinor Dougall (formerly of The Pipettes, as well as an established solo artist), Tom Furse of The Horrors, and Cathy Lucas of Fanfarlo.

“One Way Glass”, a Manfred Mann rework, is their debut single as a group, combining the cinemascopic, prog/wave lushness favored of late by Furse’s main group, with Dougall’s dreamy, psych-inflected, halcyon pop and Fanfarlo’s rhythmic sensibility.  The single swirls and sways through 3 minutes and change of pure bliss – from the shuffling, baggy drum intro, on through the raga sitar breakdown towards its completion.  A song with so many elements that it runs the risk of coming off bloated, instead feels effortless.

Dougall’s voice is as enchanting as ever, inhabiting the groove and melody from within – she’s an artist whose post-Pipettes body of work deserves a wider audience; here’s hoping she gets it.

“One Way Glass” is out now on [PIAS] electronic imprint, Different Recordings (under license from Smile Recordings).  Enjoy the trippy video, below, and follow the band’s musings on fbook and the twit.