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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.

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

 

BAST - "Nanoångström"

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Bast - "Nanoångström"

UK trio Bast slaughters ears and conjures fears with Nanoångström, a concept-driven, megolithic ode to brooding metal forged in the cores of distant planets long since darkened from the view of our own galaxy. A smoky slow burning intro, Distant Suns, leads into an array of five lengthy movements made of adrenaline and fire. While each successive track has its own unique sound, their dynamic structure and scope are always complimentary to the broader picture, and thus move as one.

The power of narrative composition is what sets Nanoångström apart from other metal records. There is a degree of patience and control here, amid the crispy doom metal guitars and pounding rhythms. Long passages of music go by without any vocal commentary. Patterns ebb and flow, grow and change. Amid the dramatically-timed voice work are the aggressive growls and snarls we crave, but also there are surprising moments of harmonized singing that produce some nice chills.

Exploring themes of loneliness, rage, and anguish against a backdrop of science fiction fantasy, Bast elevates the art of metalmaking with longform compositions that blend raw energy with ancient, galactic lore and legend. Overall, the churning rock apocalypse of Nanoångström is outstripped by its own artistry of arrangement, making it an easy repeat listen for the thinking metalhead, with just as many sorrowful asides as chunky doom metal riffs. 

Gray Lee

https://bastmusic.bandcamp.com/album/nano-ngstr-m

FROG - "Whatever, We Probably Already Had It"

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Frog - “Whatever, We Probably Already Had It”

(Audio Antihero)

Solid rock and roll with pop inflection, melodic infection, and sing-along perfection greets us in this stellar release from Queens, New York duo, Frog. Whatever… is a precision delivery of high-energy alternative garage rock with sweeping, anthemic choruses, and snarky intimate lyrics full of sarcasm and promise.

After the fun intro track, Frog dons a thick southern accent for the track entitled American, which takes a raucous jab at the stereotypical USA creature. Something to HIde begins as a sardonic breakup song with a soaring chorus with a killer climb, while God Once Loved a Woman is an artistic ballad that slowly builds an enormous power underneath its tender surface.

The immediate driving jam of Journey to the Restroom makes a great contrast for a campfire song, Bones which gives us that great chorus that begins with:

Do you know that you are/

The guardian of a part of my life/

That I had forgotten?

Don’t Tell Me Where You’re Going hits hard with a strong rhythm and a harmonized chorus and closes out the album nicely.

A word that gets overused in the music industry and in music reviewing is “essential”, but in this case, the word applies. Whatever, We Probably Already Had it is a short, but detailed look at life with all the joy, sorrow, and wry humor that comes with it. Each track has its own way of being both familiar and memorable, and the release overall feels like something you should have known about before.

Gray Lee

https://heyitsfrog.bandcamp.com/album/whatever-we-probably-already-had-it

DIAMONDSTEIN & SANGAM - "The Ocean Between Us"

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Diamondstein & Sangam - “The Ocean Between Us”

(Doom Trip Records)

Thus arrives the much anticipated second team-up between Diamondstein and Sangam - a jazzy, rain-soaked night drive in an imagined 80’s film. The Ocean Between Us is a high-dollar injection of absolute mood. Mood drenches every inch of this record, from the swirling synths of the opening track, April 1987, to the hazy patch of fog that briefly wafts by in the closing track, Here is Where I Sit, this release delivers everything which it promises, neatly topping the duo’s previous Doom Trip release, Lullabies for Broken Spirits.

For reference on what to expect in this release - see the track Finding Peace Where There Isn’t. Built from an ambient backer, with a driving synth loop, and a electronic drum sounds that merge together to evoke distant stretches of lonesome highway and long, thoughtful gazing at the starry horizon as desert, city, and mountain pass by the windows of an ever-moving automobile, traveling from one emotion to another, always maintaining that elevated sense of tone, imbued with draught of heightened feeling.

Feeling is the main instrument used in this work, an instrument that both artists wield with proficiency and tightly focused intent. If you’re looking to go on a journey without leaving, or you are leaving on a journey and need a true accompaniment, this one is for you. The Ocean Between Us, a stylish record deserving of presentation in LP format, (a first for the label,) is now available.

Gray Lee

https://doomtrip.bandcamp.com/album/the-ocean-between-us

FICTIONAL GIRLFRIEND - "Perfume Garden"

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Fictional Girlfriend - "Perfume Garden"

(Junk Maker Sounds) 

A good bit of the vaporwave genre tries to capture a hyper-technological retro future filled with neon-lit Tokyo alleyways and Greek statues listening to boomboxes with anime schoolgirls, but Fictional Girlfriend has something else in mind entirely - a dark, brooding dronefest in the confined service corridors of an oppressive, rusted factory.

There are certainly strong vaporwave tendencies here, such as in the intro to the opening track Double Ought Gardens, but for a larger part of the release, the focus is on well-constructed ambient drone pieces that invoke a close, anxious, boiler-room-at-night kind of feeling.  Phobes Breath would be a perfect example of this. It is a brilliantly dark piece that conjures flickering ghosts in shadowy corners. 

Despite the spooky, unsettling vibe - or perhaps because of it - Perfume Gardens is a densely packed audio experience that one finds themselves returning to, perhaps trying to unravel the mystery again., earning the Houdini Mansions stamp of: [Highly Recommend]

Gray Lee

 https://junkmakersounds.bandcamp.com/album/perfume-garden