Moon Panda, “Gun”; “On the Attack” (self-released)
Moon Panda is a quartet based in London and Brighton, UK. Led by vocalist/bassist Maddy Myers and guitarist Gustav Moltke (George Godwin and Alfie Webber round out the set), the band features members from the US, Denmark and the UK. They’ve self-released a trio of singles over the past year plus, including the two latest – “Gun” and “On the Attack”.
The group describe themselves as making ‘dreamy space pop for dreamy space people”, and you can’t accuse them of false advertising. The gauzy feel of “Gun” pushes the band towards a sound reminiscent of trip hop bands like Morcheeba or Zero 7, as well as Parachute-era Coldplay. Myers’ fragile, whispery vocals complement the mood, a pleasingly dark undertone provided by lyrical musings on the non-greeting card aspects of love (‘even the sweetest thoughts/get twisted’). The slightly more in focus “On the Attack” comes off a bit like a velvet-gloved PJ Harvey, a psych nibble on quietly lush chords invoking Bête Noire-era Bryan Ferry.
Both tracks illustrate Moon Panda’s aptitude for building engrossing tunes on serpentine grooves and echo-laden melodies. The band’s website mentions that these tracks, together with others, will be released as the Pastel Pools EP later in 2019. Looking forward to it.
In the latest installment of thegrindinghalt.com‘s ongoing series, “oh crap, we’re behind on a lot of writing”, please enjoy our musings on several of the tracks we’ve been loving these past few weeks (or so…stop judging!). F
Sink Ya Teeth, “Substitutes” (Hey Buffalo)
We love, love, love Sink Ya Teeth, the dynamic duo of Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford. “Substitutes”, their latest dancefloor megablast, is a cowbell- propulsed tour d’angleterre. Hypnotic vocals soar above Detroit techno ‘dugga dugga’ synths and a rough and rugged bass line that reminds a bit of Timezone. The 80s electrofunk influence paired with the insouciant cool of peak Ladytron. Taken from Sink Ya Teeth’s debut album on Hey Buffalo. Divine. De-lovely. Diva voce.
Taken from Sun on the Square, the most recent long-player from long-running dreamy folk-pop group the innocence mission, “Green Bus” is a beguiling new track.Karen Peris’ vocals play like dappled sunlight through an intricate canopy woven by heavily arpeggio’d guitars and lush strings; the overall effect spiritual. Absolutely lovely. Sun On the Square is out now on the veritable Bella Union, Badman Recording (US) and P-Vine Records (JP).
Free Love, “Synchronicity” (Full Ashram)
Free Love – the band formerly known as Happy Meals (we loved their 2014 debut, Apero, via 2016’s glorious Fruit Juice EP) – graced us with “Synchronicity”. Following a detour into trance-like meditiative music, the track – happily, not a The Police cover –sees the duo of Rodden and Cook return to the wellspring of divine, club-friendly new wave/late disco/electric r&b.Rubber bass, squelched keys and breathy vox.Out now on the band’s Full Ashram label.
Totally Mild, “Take Today” (Chapter Music)
“Take Today” features on Her, the latest release from Melbourne’s Totally Mild. Opening with the strummy charm of early Ocean Blue dreampop, vocalist Elizabeth Mitchell’s halcyon lilt incorporates a bit of a Gallic touch, bringing in hints of St. Etienne or the poppier side of Stereolab.A warm embrace of a song, blooming into a veritable endorphin rush of a chorus. “Why wait for a slow decay/take today”. Her is out now on Chapter Music.
Oh Sees, “Overthrown” (Castle Face)
My youngest enjoys the components of a burrito, but not wrapped up together.In a bougie/“we watch a lot of Cooking Channel so I can” reaction to this, we’ve come to refer to this dish as ‘deconstructed’. Queue hard segue to the latest track from John Dwyer’s mighty Oh Sees (f/k/a Thee Oh Sees), “Overthrown”. The track’s raucous, main portion slashes and burns like a deconstructed thrash opus – the parts are there (jigga-jigga guitar, intense vox pitched up to a scream), but freed from a traditional thrash metal tortilla, er, song structure by virtue of a swinging beat and shards of hazy psych. New album, Smote Reverser, was released last week, courtesy of Castle Face.
The Sueves, “Stare” (Goodbye Boozy)
The lastest from Chicago’s The Sueves, who never fail to disappoint. “Stare”, the a-side to new 7” on the Goodbye Boozy label, is another storming slice of razor-sharp, earworm-worthy garage/punk/rock ’n roll. Vocalist Joe Schorgl sounds a particularly incensed Bon Scott, strangled shouts over brutally downstrummed guitars and a watertight rhythm charge. It’s a fantastic follow on to the band’s spring ’18 full-length, R.I.P. Clearance Event.
Fröst, “Record Still Spinning” (Lost Room)
Fröst is the duo of vocalist Johanna Bramli (who also sang with Stereolab offshoot, Imitation Electric Piano) and Fujiya & Miyagi’s Steve Lewis. Taken from their debut long-player, Matters, “Record Still Spinning” is the first taste, and the influence of the principals’ other projects is evident. The heady mix of a steady, motorik beat augmented by urgent driving bass, minimal synths and breathy vocals call to mind the aforementioned bands, as well as Broadcast and Hooverphonic. Matters releases September 28, courtesy of Lost Room.
Exploded View, “Raven Raven” (Sacred Bones)
Exploded View is an intercontinental project comprising Annika Henderson, Hugo Quezada, and Martin Thulin. “Raven Raven”, taken from the group’s forthcoming sophomore release, Obey, is a vertiginous slab of shuddering, danceable (read: swaying) psych. The lyrical flow reminds a bit of Suicide’s “Cheree”, though here the watcher has become the watched, the titular bird sitting on Henderson’s shoulder, eyeing her ‘every move’. Obey is due for release September 28, courtesy of Sacred Bones.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.