Durham, North Carolina banjo player and songwriter Curtis Eller has been crafting a recognizable brand of ramshackle punk americana for a number of years, blending edgy rock and roll vocals with vintage subject matter and instrumentation to create an alternate reality populated by steampunk versions of actual history. After being involved with a lot of other terribly creative endeavors, Curtis returns to his ‘American Circus’ for the first time since 2014’s How to Make it in Hollywood.
Nearly Oratorio - “A Comforting Fact”
Melbourne, Australia’s Simon Lam, performing as Nearly Oratorio, brings us A Comforting Fact, a six track EP of minimally acoustic meanderings with light folk flavor. This EP creates a wonderfully strange sensation of gentle cognitive dissonance washing over each track in an oddly tangy solution of glossy, smooth overproduction and trace imperfections - gently laid across like synthetic cobwebs on a halloween candy display.
These purposefully bare tracks thrive on walking a thin tightrope between mechanically precise and emotionally present, often relying on generic indie music tropes, only to twist them in an almost playful way. The standout track here is Down to the Minute, which is downright scientific in its execution, yet delicate in its presentation, with the cool and collected voice of Simon Lam never overplaying. I’d expect to see this entire EP absorbed into some streaming playlist with a title like “Songs To Chill Out To While You Weep Uncontrollably”
Overall, I’d advise not to overlook this uncanny work. These sinister concoctions of melancholy are not as easily dismissed as you may think, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you wound up humming some of these tunes to yourself at the most inopportune times.
The young phenom Ryne Clarke harnessed the creative talents of 20-plus fellow west Michiganders in order to create The Ryne Experience’s debut Hokey — a gem of indie-rock/folk-rock perfection.
Spartan Jet-Plex - "Godless Goddess"
Richmond, Virginia-based Grimalkin Records' label boss, Nancy Kells, has a lot of irons in the fire. When she isn't dealing with label-running, performing in numerous other musical projects, or helping vulnerable & marginalized people in RVA and around the world, she creates her own personal music under the moniker of Spartan Jet-Plex. Her latest release, Godless Goddess is a varied collection of experimental, avant-garde neo folk, drone-tinged noise explorations, and intimately expressed acoustic offerings.
The album opener, Stop, builds on a strong beat, and a looped set of horns and echoed vocalizations, across which Kells weaves an infectious melody with her clear and distinctive voice. Melted and disintegrated samples bookend the track and lead into Chronostasis Interlude, which features circling vocals from another member of the Grimalkin family, Berko Lover.
Fear is a beautifully minimal piece featuring a strummed acoustic guitar and a distant organ, lending a sacred air to this ballad. A short interlude, Baubo, blends some spacey synth with distorted laughter.
Everything, like Fear, is a stripped down acoustic track, blessed with haunting and tender vocals. Entrance brings a blending of songwriting with experimental synth vibes, ending with a thick braid of twisting voices.
Throughout the release Spartan Jet-Plex weilds the power of raw, unbridled self-expression augmented with electronic & ambient synth interludes, making Godless Goddess an album that walks the line between musical worlds, benefitting from each zone it passes through.
Crosby Morgan - “Rain Games for the Natural Born Pariah”
Los Angeles singer songwriter Crosby Morgan brings her adept arrangements and powerful voice together in this exceptional experimental folk EP. Rain Games for the Natural Born Pariah blends folksy acoustic guitar textures, soaring vocals and artistically woven ambient components to create hauntingly beautiful audio works that defy time and space.
In No Pain, a simple, picked-out guitar and carefully placed aural elements provide an earthly background which Crosby Morgan paints her smooth vocals across. She then records repetitions and harmonies that call, respond, and reflect with each other. In Rain, reversed guitar and looped vocals pull the listener into the track, which opens up into a grand, reverberated verse. Teacher is a guitar waltz with a soulful, harmonized vocal. On each selection of the album she exerts a control over every note, intonation, and echo - creating a stunning sound that invites leaning forward to absorb it fully.
Though short, Rain Games for the Natural Born Pariah takes the beautiful work Crosby Morgan did in her previous release Patrons of Silence, and pushes her music to another artistic level, leaving us with a startlingly beautiful musical experience.
Recluse Raccoon - "Recluse Racoon"
(Citrus City Records)
Richmond, VA band Recluse Raccoon brings together classic styling, modern sensibilities, and jazzy outsider art rock to create deeply satisfying Americana folk pop in their self-titled debut release.
Catchy bass lines underscore clever writing on tracks like On a Wire, where a swelling bridge gives way to the picked out guitar, piano and tight harmonies of What You Are - a song that is so beautiful that it betrays the bring-you-down lyrics hidden in soaring harmonized bliss and orchestrated asides.
"You've got me bored/
No matter what you are/
I'm gonna let you down/
You're gonna let me down/
Lay on the ground"
Each track is a quick vignette of life delicately rendered with vocalist Timmy Peele's iconic voice, tight rhythms from percussionist Austin Tekamp and memorable lines from bassist Andrew Murray. Auxillary musicians on this recording help to flesh out the sound adding occasional horn sections and bits of orchestration.
The real strength of this record is the beautiful sense of continuity the artists have built into the release. While each song is powerful on its own, Recluse Raccoon makes an ardent strive here to create a release that begs to be listened to in its entirety. Tracks flow into each other and play against each other to create a larger composition.
Go ahead and add this one to your list of must haves. Recluse Raccoon certainly leaves an indelible impression, earning it a spot in the 'best of' category.
We've got a whole lot of Hoodoo goodness for you today!
First off, here's the link for the podcast episode with the incredible singer-songwriter Loyd Van Horn who has a message of hope and unity for this time of division and strife. Check it out below!
Secondly, we have another awesome performance video of Loyd in action! Also, if you missed the first video, we've got you covered right here.