Tag Archives: psych rock

Reviews: Salad Boys, C.A.R., Ravyn Lenae, Zed Penguin, Ten High, Smokescreens

Part the second of our ‘apology tour’, in which we continue to dig through the list of records that touched us last year and make sure that we spread the good word. 

Salad Boys, This is Glue (Trouble in Mind)

Christchurch, New Zealand’s Salad Boys returned last February with their latest album, This is Glue, and it’s a thrilling listen. Opener, “Blown Off” lifts off with a thrum like a motorik “Kids in America”, before dissolving into a blissful Buzzcocks charged guitar run, and the remaining tracks employ shades of indie disco, the purest power-pop, pearlescent strum-pop (“Exaltation”), orphic psych and early REM jangle (“Psych Slasher”). It’s lush, without being cloying; polished, but still retaining scuff and patina. Highlights include: “Psych Slasher”; “Right Time”; “Going Down Slow”.

Web: label bcamp site

C.A.R., Pinned(Ransom Note)

Also released last February, Pinned, the latest from C.A.R. (the recording project of London-based Franco-Canadian Chloé Raunet) features elements of icy, Yaz(oo)-like new wave sensuality, post-punk empty spaces, and dubby trip-hop – all blended into transportive art-pop. There’s a Nina Hagen art-bounce meets Grace Jones cool on tracks like “Heat”, “Growing Pains” gradually adding gorgeous layers of glacial synths and ethereal background vocals to a stark bass/drum combo. C.A.R. has since released several remixes (I particularly enjoyed Peaking Lights’ remix of ‘Daughters’), one of which included a new song, “All But…”, as a b-side. Highlights include: “Growing Pains”; “Heat”; “Cholera”.

Web: label bcamp fbook insta site

Ravyn Lenae, Crush EP (Atlantic/Three Twenty Three Music)

Ravyn Lenae hails from Chicago, and released a smoke bomb of an EP last February called Crush. Lifting off even higher than her dizzying 2016 debut, Moon Shoes, the EP provides an intoxicating cache of silky smooth, new-old school r&b tracks. Lenae’s effortless voice balances featherweight highs and funky gnarl, moving stealthily through hazy grooves that evoke everything from Funkadelic, the Isleys, Erykah Badu, and Prince. Steve Lacey’s head-swimming production provides highlights as well (see the introduction of the bass in “Computer Luv”, on which he also provides vocal accompaniment). More of this, soon, please and thank you. Highlights include: “Closer (Ode 2U)”; “Computer Luv”.

Web: site twitt insta youtube fbook 

Zed Penguin, A Ghost, A Beast (Song, by Toad)

Sometimes, an album comes along whose constituent parts may seem familiar, but taking a step back to view the entire picture reveals something new and difficult to describe. A Ghost, A Beast, the debut full-length from Zed Penguin – the musical project of Edinburgh-based Australian, Matthew Winter – is such an album. The shapeshifting arrangements meld psych, chamber-pop, the wry, arty-rock of Zevon, and tensile post-punk, Winter’s tremulous tone recalling a mix of Joe Jackson and Ian McCullough. Some moments transcend – to wit, the glorious ‘End of Time’, with it’s shimmery jangle. Highlights include: “End of Time”; “Wandering”; “Violent Night”.

Web: label bcamp fbook twitt

Ten High, Autobondage EP (Hexbeat) 

Our Arkansas pals in Ten High released the Autobondage EP this past October, and it slays. Five fuzzed-out, gonzo tracks held together by a steady, powerful bass/drum battery. The roiling opener, ‘Dr. Choice’ (featuring vocals by drummer Devan Theos) couldn’t possibly be a more apt, ‘in the red’ introduction to the splendor on show here. Trading in the same gloriously trashy garage/blues/punk sleaze as debut, Self-Entitled, these tracks manage to tighten things up a notch, without losing any of their edge. Highlights include: “Dr. Choice”; “You Want It”.

Web: fbook bcamp

Smokescreens, Used to Yesterday (Slumberland)

L.A.-based quartet Smokescreens released their latest, Used to Yesterday, last summer. Appropriate to that season, the album is jam-packed with absolutely gorgeous power-(psych)pop and Paisley Underground-style hooks. The band’s online bio mentions a mutual admiration for Dunedin sound between founders Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham, and you can hear it loud and clear on tracks like ‘Buddy’. But there’s also a US spin on things, with ‘Steel Blue Skies’ adding a slacker-y take, and the band channeling the Velvets on ‘Fool Me’. Highlights include: “Steel Blue Skies”; “Jolly Jane”; “Used to Yesterday”.

Web: label bcamp fbook twitt

Review: Rakta, Intenção

Rakta, “Intenção”

We were first introduced to São Paolo’s Rakta via their excellent self-titled album from 2013, and we’ve been following them ever since.  “Intenção” is the a-side of their latest 7” single, and carries on where they left off with 2014’s “Tudo que é sólido” 7” and their 2015 Rakta em Transe project with fellow Brazilians Cadaver em Transe.

Where earlier cuts layered garage and psych elements over a punk bedrock, “Intenção” continues to push the psych and the goth to the fore, even adding touches of early industrial – you get a sense of the Banshees in their trippier days (think Join Hands or Juju), the “in your faceness” of bands like Birthday Party and Crass, as well as moody psych rock bands like 13th Floor Elevators.  The track opens with a heavy, foreboding bass line and chaotic peals of guitar over a steady, tribal beat.  The feeling is primal, the song lurching forward like some sort of colossus.  A war dance around the firelight, or in the cellar beneath a single, bare bulb.  Not meaning to give short shrift, b-side “A Busco do Circulo” sounds like Roky Erickson jamming with Lords of the New Church – so, also great.

Scary?  Exhilarating?  Why not both?  “Intenção” is out now on Dama da Noite Discos/Nada Nada Discos (BR) and Dê o Fora (ESP), and is also available for download through Rakta’s Bandcamp page.

You can also check the band on fbook where, amongst other exciting discoveries, comes news of a forthcoming LP on Iron Lung (US), Dama da Noite Discos/Nada Nada Discos (BR) and Dê o Fora (ESP).  As if that weren’t enough, there’s also tour dates in North America and Japan to look forward to this summer!

Album Review: Cathode Ray Eyes, Eyes In the Melancholy Palm

Cathode Ray Eyes, Eyes In the Melancholy Palm (Cardinal Fuzz (UK); Captcha Records (US))

Dread.  The itchy, claustrophobic feeling of something terrible imminent; close; around the next corner.  It can be as universal as the looming spectre of time or as specific as a stalker.

Dread hangs heavy over Eyes In the Melancholy Palm by Cathode Ray Eyes, the one-man side project of Ryan Delgaudio from The Cult of Dom Keller (a Nottingham-based band I was not familiar with but, having listened to this album, am anxious to listen to).  Within, we have tales of grim reapers, dead whores, “drowning rats”, worlds on fire and places with “no beginning, middle or end”. Much like the dread in stories like Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, it is palpable but never quite comes into full focus – a slow-burn stressor, without resolution.  Is the evil real, or are we witness to the waking, post-traumatic nightmares of the protagonist?

Despite the Celtic Frost-summoning title, Eyes In the Melancholy Palm is psych rock par excellance.  Heavily distorted vocals leer from behind a gauzy curtain of drone-laden, looped guitars; narcotic splinters of gothic, ambient waves underneath:  Joy Division scoring 28 Days Later.  Expected reference points like Brian Jonestown Massacre and the darker side of Thirteenth Floor Elevators share time with The Cramps, Clinic, Spacemen 3, The Cure (I kept hearing shades of songs like “The Snakepit” and “Like Cocaktoos”), even Fad Gadget’s death disco.

While heavy (both metaphorically and literally), there are moments of bliss throughout – the resolution around the 2:40 mark of “Goodbye to Wonder”, the surf-reverb on “Drowning Rats” – finding another (friendly?) human face amidst the ruins.  It is also a rare record that actually get better, more fulfilling, as it slides along – the second half trilogy of “Goodbye To Wonder”, “1,000 Suns” and Wire-laden closer “Where There Is No Beginning, Middle or End” the most affecting on the record.  “Get me out of here/before I lose control” a most fitting lyrical coda to this collection.

Eyes In the Melancholy Palm is out June 1 on Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Captcha Records (US).  Check out the band on their (his) Facebook page.  [Update:  the good folks at Cardinal Fuzz tell me the album is available starting tomorrow (May 20).]

Highlights include:  “1,000 Suns”, “Goodbye to Wonder”, “I Woke Up This Morning and the World Was on Fire”, “The Unsuccessful Resurrection of James Dean”.

Album Review: Viet Cong, Viet Cong

Viet Cong, S/T (1/20/15, Jagjaguwar)

Fantastic, debut long-player from Calgary, Alberta’s own Viet Cong, a group featuring former members of Women.

Having previously made some noise with the Cassette ep in 2014, the full length feels a much different beast, altogether.  Where Cassette sounded a bit like Television if they recorded on Stiff Records, Viet Cong – having been saddled in many places with the now de rigueur ‘post-punk’ tag, which (while at least partially accurate) seems reductive – sees the band running through a whole host of influences and sounds:  here Joy Division or (if you prefer) early New Order, there shards of (um) Television, Wire, The Fall, Killing Joke, kraut rock, new wave and danceable industrial, totally not danceable No Wave, here and there pastoral psychedelia and Syd Barrett vibes; hell, the breakdown around the 7:00 mark of epic closer “Death” sounds almost metal.  Singer/bassist Matt Flegel’s vocals are placed in the middle of the mix, themselves a melange of Berlin-era Bowie, Fad Gadget, a less croony Ian McCulloch or Peter Murphy, even the singer from Longwave.

If this sounds like the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock splash and drip painting well, maybe it is; however, just like Pollock, Viet Cong have a purpose and a design behind what might otherwise be a total shitshow car crash of styles and tastes.  The band’s ability to slither in and around their collected influences throughout (indeed, through the course of each track) is truly impressive – this is a tight sounding unit and, for all the sonic touchstones on display here, they manage to carve out something unique.  Highly recommended.

Visit the band here and catch them on tour if you are fortunate enough to reside in a city on the itinerary (I, sadly, am not).

Highlights include: Bunker Buster, Continental Shelf, Death.

Spotlight Dance: Kult Country

Kult Country are a six piece hailing from Manchester, England. To date, they have released two singles, “Slowburn” and “Trembling Moon”.  The first came out last year; I just heard the new single last week, and so am making up for lost time a bit with this write up.

“Slowburn” (5/13/2013, Sways Records) is truth in advertising: a slowed-down, “No Quarter”ish groove unfurls into swirls of distortion pedal goodness.  Vocalist Yousif Al Kharagouli sounds a bit like the Richard Ashcroft of earlier, druggier Verve records fronting Chapterhouse or Slowdive.  B-side “Amongst the Dead Forever” is a different beast altogether, bursting forth with a choppy, motorik beat underlying a repetitive melody line and vocals recalling 80s industrial or darkwave.

New single, “Trembling Moon” (6/30/2014, No Self Records) shimmers.  Jingle jangle guitars float above a Ride-worthy, propulsive drum/bass combination running pell mell, tumble bumble into and through a baggyesque breakdown in the middle.  A cavalcade of influences, to be sure:  one hears Mighty Lemon Drops, Ride, Bluetones, Stone Roses…others…all blended together into a heady cocktail.  B-side ‘Atlas Haze’ harkens back to “Slowburn”, a musical swirl cone (can you tell it’s a hot, muggy day as I type this?):  one side chiming along like a lost cut from the first Smiths album, the other early period Verve (again) or perhaps Evergreen-era Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Spacey with scattered bits of droned melody throughout, “Atlas” feels like “Trembling”s end of the rave come down.

In a clash of senses, these songs feel textural, almost tactile.  From what I’ve read online, the band’s debut full length is set for release later this year.  On this evidence, it is one I’m looking forward to very much.  Check them out at www.facebook.com/KULTCOUNTRY.

Single Review: The Wytches, Robe for Juda

The Wytches, Robe For Juda/Wide At Midnight (Hate Hate Hate Records, 11/17/2013)

A compelling slice of stoner/surf/grunge/psych/whateverit’sgood rock from this Brighton, UK based trio, released on the great Hate Hate Hate label, also home to The Fat White Family (the group are now on the just as great Heavenly Recordings – well done!).  On the a-side, vocalist/guitarist Kristian Bell’s nasal croon floats disembodied over the track, which lurches spastically from jangly, psychedelic guitar and “Come As You Are”-inspired bassline to an angst-ridden piledriver of a chorus.  B-side “Wide at Midnight” might be even better, following a similar dynamic with lovely 60s sounding melody, de- or evolving (I don’t judge) into a catharsis of imploding guitars, drums and bass.  The quiet/loud/quiet dynamic in full effect.  Similar in tone and dynamic to contemporaries like METZ (who they are touring with in July), this and other releases like the Gravedweller ep have me looking forward to their debut full length, due in August.  The soundtrack to a really lost weekend – or maybe for that wraith chick in The Ring’s ascent from the well.