Review

SOMESURPRISES & SUPERCANDY - "Some Candy"

Somesurprises / Supercandy - “Some Candy”

(Crash Symbols)

The overly casual title Some Candy may fool you into dismissing this release, and that would be unfortunate. Although it appears to simply be a split release between two artists, it is truly a perfect meld of two incredible psych rock projects out of the pacific northwest.

SB THE MOOR - "Spirit Realm.Final"

SB the Moor - “Spirit Realm.Final”

(Deathbomb Arc)

From the energetic opening notes of this powerful new release, SB the Moor let’s us know that there is no category that can hold them prisoner. Drawing from pop, rap, R&B, metal and a myriad of other styles, Spirit Realm.final is both timeless and ephemeral. It carefully balances edgy, emotive performances by rapper and vocalist Signor Benedick with off center, hard hitting production that embraces contemporary styles, only to crush them.

[Slept On Alert] BIG DEBBIE - "AB RA CA DEB RA"

Big Debbie - “AB RA CA DEB RA”

(Ratskin Records)

Confession: I got this album a few months ago, listened to the first couple of tracks, said “Woah this is gonna be good.” to myself, and then promptly got involved in a bunch of other things and NEVER listened to the rest of it until just now.

This was a mistake.

Sure, we’re only human - and there is no way I can give every album the attention it deserves - but now that I’ve given this release several listens, I must say I am completely at fault for sleeping on this record.

WILLIAM LYON OF ROSYCROSS - "Alter in der Fülle"

Alter in der Fülle is a new release from self-described “demi-crossdressing Christian goth synthpop artist,” William Lyon of Rosycross - and the album description alone is worth the visit to the page for the release. IN summary, William describes a musical work recorded over a long period of time under the duress of being an absolutely pathetic individual. After the over-the-top self deprecation from this artist, you may be suprised to learn that this release is an absolute banger. An essential listen from an unlikely place.

R∞ - "000"

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R∞ - "000"

It seems like a lot of difficult-to-categorize music falls under the vaporwave banner these days. Unique electronic artist R∞ brings us 000, which is just the sort of music I was referring to. In this work, R∞ is giving us everything and nothing all at once. Tantalizing us with intricately detailed cover art, but using the most minimal, numeric track titles as possible, R∞ is loading the release with expectations, realities, and the mystery in between.

000 is a rhythmic journey through a lush, untamed world with hypnotic synth loops, ambient fills, and perhaps an occasional referential audio sample. All of these things blend together to create a cocktail of heady, psychotropic entertainment, both compelling and peaceful, like lucid dream. What’s it all about? I have no idea. I’m not sure I care. Each movement of the work brings a new interest, while maintaining focus with repeated sounds and motifs that punctuate the forward motion of the experience.

Churning with natural sounds, swirling lines of electronica, and overgrown with mystique, 000 delivers a satisfying ride through the tangled, shadowy jungles of imagination - full of enigmatic ancient ruins and untold dangers.

Gray Lee

https://rrrxrrrxrrr.bandcamp.com/album/ooo

LUDWIG BERGER - "Cargo"

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Ludwig Berger - “Cargo”

(Canti Magnetici)

Poetic, detailed, and filled with intimate solitude, Cargo, the latest release from musique concrete magician, Ludwig Berger, bristles with satisfying hum and resonant air energy. Using the aural brushes of field recording, ambient drone work, and thoughtfully artistic editing, Berger paints portraits of everyday occurrences with vivid detail.

Water is not made of waves, but droplets. Children play in stereo around the listener. Jovial workers labor in bright sunlight. Birds call from trees. Occasionally a dramatic sweep of ambient power pushes the narrative forward, but often the listener drifts through each vignette, pausing for an undetermined time to discover the intricate secrets of each new scene.

At the close, Cargo could mean many things. Perhaps the ocean waves convey cargo in unseen ships, or the workers are loading cargo. Or maybe the sounds we are hearing are the cargo. Records of another place and time, preserved on a thin strip of magnetized tape.

Gray Lee

https://cantimagnetici.bandcamp.com/album/cargo

[Album of the Month] Sharkula & Mukqs - "Prune City"

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Sharkula & Mukqs - “Prune City”

(Hausu Mountain)

Most large urban landscapes share similarities - tall buildings, traffic, mass transit, and, of course - street characters - people whose very presence embody the cities that they inhabit. For Chicago, Illinois, Sharkula is that legendary figure - an underground hip hop artist who promotes his craft distributing flyers, selling his CDs on the street, participating heavily in the local scene, and meeting the public face to face.

Musical chaos technician Max Allison, who performs under the moniker of Mukqs, came across Sharkula in a local Chicago eatery and decided to approach him about a possible collaboration. "The real start of the collab happened at Burger King when I walked in and found him a booth, " Max explains, - "I told him i was gonna make him beats, and he was like 'cool.' We ate chicken sandwiches together"

The process of capturing the essence of the shark man on a Hausu Mountain tape began with a mad science session where Mukqs recorded some top-notch electronic pasta, all recorded live. "I wanted to make beats that have 16 bar intros, verses, choruses. So that was my goal. All of these beats were made using only my synths, drum machines, looper, and sampler. Like all my music as Mukqs, the beats were recorded live with no overdubs and without the use of software. This means that in the final takes that ended up being the beats, I'm triggering samples from my Roland 404 sampler as the means of performance. in this case, it was very much not an "improvised" process at all, but deliberately triggering beats after certain periods of time to sketch out the structures of the tracks" What Mukqs was able to accomplish in that session is a selection of some of the finest rhythmic synth, with a perfect blend of bouncing beats, floating clouds of ethereal energies, and spiraling tunnels of mad audio.

The instrumental portion of the album completed, it was time for Sharkula to sink his teeth into the project. During a three hour recording session, the mythical street flaneur spoke his free form raps into being over the thumping alien landscape of the new Mukqs recording. Thus was born Prune City, a bizarre concoction of electronic wizardry and organic urban poetry that strikes a strange balance between wildly original sounds and rap.

Sharkula's live recordings are completely unpredictable. At times bursting with bombastic bravado and street level toilet humor, Sharkula alternates between scattered blocks of free form raps, laughing his scratchy, good-natured laugh, tenderly apologizing for missing lines and complimenting the beats. He is an entirely unconventional performer who cannot be contained, bursting with pure energy and an infectious love of the moment, characterized by a cascading style where he leaps from one concept to another, sometimes only semantically tied, or appearing to utterly disjoint. It's a stream of consciousness from a larger-than-life character, spilled out over the pumping electronic psychopath jazz that hammers around in Mukqs' haunted machines.

Overall, Prune City is a highly listenable release that grows on the listener with each listen. It’s an artistic success that springs forth from originality, creative power, and mutual reverence - delivering a perfect blend of experimental audio spaghetti, squeezed into chunks of swirling hip hop, topped with the disconnected hyper-genius meanderings of the legendary bearded bard of Chicago streets.

Gray Lee

https://hausumountain.bandcamp.com/album/prune-city

PICKLE DARLING - "Bigness"

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Pickle Darling - “Bigness”

(Z Tapes)

Musician and producer Lukas Mayo returns with another release under his Pickle Darling moniker. Each of these ten tracks is a unique and tightly produced blend of electronic pop, and intimate singer-songwriter musings. These songs sound like they were written on guitar first and elevated with all the electronic goodness. There’s an earthiness and down-to-earth feel behind all the bright rhythms and beats.

A good example is the track Rinse Spin Cycle / Nicolas Cage. This six-minute track exudes the warm, buzzing energy, clean lines, and personal writing that exemplifies everything we love about Pickle Darling. “What if no one likes my music?” sings Pickle Darling. Not a problem, Lukas. We really dig this.

Standout tracks include: Soft Cars, an intimate ballad that begins with good guitar textures, and slowly introduces bass and drums to fill out the track, as the lyrics meander through a story in a string very casual, conversational lines, and Greta, which is built on a warm synth line and some curiously tune bent vocals.

Bigness represents to me a movement from the lo-fi beginnings of bedroom pop to a much more polished sound that still retains the innocence and personal connection that made bedroom pop so popular to begin with, and is a logical successor to the previous Pickle Darling album, which hit a lot of the same marks. This album is a realization of more, further, and higher.

https://pickledarling.bandcamp.com/album/bigness

Gray Lee

TRUE BLOSSOM - "Heater"

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True Blossom - “Heater”

(Citrus City Records)

Atlanta pop band True Blossom brings us this striking ode to traditional studio sounds, with lovely throwbacks to 70s grooves & rhythms, with warm, shimmering vocals that would melt the most frozen of hearts. This is Heater, the ten-track debut for the band, and a compelling listen throughout.

The opening track Baby, kicks off this release with a thumping, funky bassline, vibrant synths, and enough wiki wiki guitar licks to get your bell bottoms moving. Singer Sophie Cox smoothly tops the groovy concoction with soft, inviting lyrics and harmonies. The band’s fascination with studio technique shows in the cleverly layered mixing of this album, with a rich selection of finely tuned sounds - but underneath is a real nuts-and-bolts framework of songwriting and arrangement that really brings up the temperature.

The lyrics and content here are not out of place - Heater is proudly pop music. You’ll hear of heartbreak, love, sadness, and bliss. Mostly, it all turns to bliss. In the track We’ve All Been Here Before, there are themes of breakup and failed reunion, but with the hot synth hook, driving bass, and perky drums - you can’t help but feel good. The beautiful harmonies of Grave Robbers, and the tight groove of I Still Hate You bring depth to the album. The title track, Heater, really bumps with locked in bass and drums, thrilling vocal embellishments, and fun synths. You may hear a small sound inside yourself - that’s your icy heart melting with Heater.

https://citruscityrecords.bandcamp.com/album/heater

Gray Lee

TMBOY - "Steam"

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TMBOY - “Steam”

Normally, music categorized somewhere between “dance” and “pop” will have certain common elements, such as a driving 4/4 beat, and computerized voices singing empty platitudes about imaginary, idealistic infatuations. Such is not the case with this album. Electronic duo TMBOY releases Steam, a full length record that blends the high energy of electro-pop dance music with the subtlety, nuance, and vulnerability of singer-songwriting.

This music is charged with kinetic energy, surging with hard hitting EDM beats and buzzing with smooth lines of delicious synth - it's music that emerges from, speaks to, and urges movement. Each track draws the listener in from the opening notes, and holds that attention through to the end. Listening to the instrumentation on these tracks, produced by electronic composer Will Shore, would be enjoyable enough - but add the phenomenal vocal work by Sarah Aument, and this record skyrockets to new heights. Her effortless, charming, and powerful delivery leaps from each arrangement from smoky, intimate passages to full-voiced splendor that soars skyward. The brightness of her voice, and the raw beauty of the streamlined lyrics she sings, cast across the shadowy, atmospheric backdrop of synth bliss, makes Steam an emotional and urgent listen. Channeling beloved voices from the 90s,  Aument’s style brings to mind powerhouse voices such as Eddi Reader, Björk, Tracey Thorn, or Cocteau Twins - but never gets hung up on emulating the styles of others. She has a strong, confident presentation that is distinctly her own.

The combination of this duo’s powers is evident in tracks such as No One, where crucial timing and contrast between tender, reflective verses and bold, vibrant choruses create a dynamic feel. The title track, Steam, pairs a textured, exotic beat with singsong lyrics, precise harmonies, and a wide open chorus that hits hard with sweeping, anthemic power and resonant waves of synth energy.

Another highlight track, Zephyr, begins with a looping synth arpeggio with some exquisite falsettos, a supercharged pre-chorus that buzzes with tension, and a beautiful chorus backed by distant orchestral synths. “What if I am so small, I am nothing now?”  is the beautifully self-reflective line from the chorus - one of many such lines in the uniquely minimal and poetic lyrics found here. Each of these tracks is blessed with stylish, relatable, and intimate writing.

Overall, Steam is what we would classify as an essential release. There isn’t a note out of place. Every selection has its own identity, yet the release is a solid listen. Just like its namesake, Steam is full of rushing heat, immediate kinetic power, and the simplicity of combined elemental forces. The album is available in compact disc, LP, or digital. We highly recommend that you put this in your ears.

Gray Lee

https://tmboymusic.bandcamp.com/album/steam

 

Whettman Chelmets - Infant Eyes and Baby Steps

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Whettman Chelmets - “Infant Eyes and Baby Steps”

(Girly Girl Musik)

The indefatigable Whettman Chelmets drops his first release for 2019 in the form of a tight, little EP that communicates the travails and triumphs of raising a newborn but in a style that only Whettman can deliver.

The droning, ambient post-rock of the tracks certainly convey the surreal, sleep-deprived state that all parents have experienced. Indeed, track titles such as TFW it’s 400 am and you’ve been up 3 times already and MRW I Drop the Passie in the Dark express a verisimilitude of lived experience, and the field recordings of life in the Chelmetts’ household further amplify the authenticity.

Fans of Whettman’s previous work such as Annihilate your Masters and Alas The Sun is Shining and You are Still Alive will recognize the expansive soundscapes he can create with with reverb-drenched shoe-gaze guitar work and ambient synth. However, where Annihilate Your Masters stayed gritty and nihilistic, this latest EP goes to uplifting and hopeful places. Likewise, where Alas The Sun is Shining and You are Still Alive could be overly giddy, Infant Eyes and Baby Steps is touchingly heartfelt.

All in all, another solid release for the Whettman discography and the soundtrack for sleep-deprived new parents everywhere.

Theron Willis

https://girlygirlmusik.bandcamp.com/album/giant-eyes-infant-steps

IMP OF PERVERSE - "Imp In Reverse"

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Imp of Perverse - “Imp in Reverse”

(Under the Counter Tapes)

I make it a point not to read press releases that come packaged with music until after listening to said music. When it came to listening to Imp in Reverse, I had no idea what I was dealing with. I really dig this cover art. but I must admit the hypnotic background and slimeball cartoon splatters had me imagining some pretty damn weird music to go along with it.  My mind immediately went with odd instrumentation, maybe some creepy whispers, perhaps an uncomfortably chorused and phased tuneless voice belting out nonsensical lyrics - All of which would have been perfectly fine, because that’s exactly what I was expecting.

Instead, my ears were greeted with 83 minutes of psychedelic pop, with catchy, melodic guitar hooks, expertly managed percussion, and smooth, 90s styled rock and roll lyrics.

Imp of Perverse is the solo project of Sean Lochridge, drummer for the Austin, TX pysch pop band, Sherry.  This career-spanning release explores the evolution of The Imp, as a writer, creator and all around mad genius of off-the-wall rock musings. The catch here is that this litany of creative output is presented in reverse chronological order - allowing the listener the unique experience of starting at present day, and traveling backwards in one song increments as The Imp slowly grows younger, and wilder. 

Interested yet? You should be. The entire release is a solid musical odyssey full of hook-laden rock melodies, killer rhythms, and a quirky atmosphere of irreverent fun that keeps each new track fresh and engaging.  Imp in Reverse is divided neatly into four musical zones for the time-traveling listener to meander through:

Act 1 - Not Getting What You Want, One Step at a Time

The first four tracks of Imp in Reverse comprise this act. This music represents a seasoned Imp, using all the art rock skills he has developed to craft dream-like arrangements and catchy, melodic wordplay. Whether it’s the laid back acoustic vibe of misunderstanding, or the clean electric line, background organs, and breathy Lou Reed styled whispered lyrics of decisions, this chapter of the story could be considered the most ‘commercial,’ although that is a dangerous word to use in this context.

Act 2 - There's Everything

Tracks five through nine allow us to see the experimental side of The Imp, with selections that employ complex structures, off-the-wall writing and unpredictable, yet satisfying results. What we see here is a strong, confident Imp who is ready to challenge us. The thesis of this segment of the Imp’s progression can be found in the existential buzzing curves of the track, Pixelated Mindfuck in the Infinite Reality Corner, which blends tightly controlled psychedelic rock recording with chaotic-leaning dream passages. This act is also home to Gulliver’s Tail which is an objectively great track, built on a solid lead guitar riff, and a great bridge with punchy bass and the repeated motto of “Some people never change/ but over time they don’t seem the same.” Afterwards, a lengthy guitar amp buzz leads the track back into the main drag for some echoed final vocalizations.

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Act 3 - Togethercoloured Instant

This section of Imp in Reverse could be considered the calm before the storm. It is a beautiful three-track presentation featuring jangly guitar scrollwork, warmly looping synth arpeggios and gauzy arrangements of floating fuzz.

Act 4 - Who Knows

The end of this backwards story is the beginning. This nine-track entry in the Imp of Peverse saga is the debut of Sean Lochridge's solo efforts - and it is a mighty tome of psychedelic rock goodness, full of heavy, grunge-slinging guitars and gobs of furious percussion. The opening harsh drums and wailing guitar leads of steponthisflowerpedal lead the way for avant-garde art rock madness to spill over the track in broken chunks of pop rock laden with young lad lyrics and curling electric embellishment for punctuation. Each track in this act is a careening container of rhythms, hooks, thumping bass, and assorted psych elements - all pleasingly jumbled messes of young rock swagger.

Overall, Imp in Reverse may seem like a daunting release for an uninitiated listener to sink their teeth into, but don't be discouraged by the amount of material here. Finally, you get bang for your buck. Every track of this release is high-quality, and we found it perfectly suitable to experience this release in its entirety.  

Gray Lee

 


https://underthecountertapes.bandcamp.com/album/imp-in-reverse

[Album of the Month] VINYL DIAL - "Space Wizard"

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Vinyl Dial - “Space Wizard”

(Flamingo Vapor)

Space Wizard is a wide-angle, prog-synth explosion of complex compositions, bursts of anthemic power, and energetic futuristic fun. Built from layers of tightly managed electronic instrumentation, UK artisan,Vinyl Dial, wields a uniquely honed power to spin an upbeat, concept-driven architecture of driving rhythms, soaring melodic themes, and dense world-building atmospheres.

The album is engineered to continuously flow from one varied musical idea to the next, which can be felt right away as album opener, Into the Oversky, leads from cloudgazing wonderment, to ramping forward momentum that transitions into the tense technological interplay of Areonausea. The story hook is here - presenting the first set of problems for the protagonists. Spectral Universe is a spaced-out break in the action to admire the grandeur of it all. Sparse, computerized vocals add storyline to the action.

Fast-paced thriller, Solar Sands, gives us the first furious space battle, with plenty of intricate, sweeping note runs that are almost vaguely Celtic, while Anunnaki is a cooler, jazzier number, with flirty synth embellishments and fuzzy guitar fills.

The closing track, Bad Trip is a sidelong arrangement that defies comprehension. The compositional movements in this grand final chapter of the Space Wizard story are worth repeat explorations.

Space Wizard is an entertaining and engrossing oddysey of electronic prog rock that we highly recommend. It is an energetic exploration of theme with enough artfully managed intricacy to become a favorite repeat listening experience.

Gray Lee

 https://flamingovapor.bandcamp.com/album/space-wizard