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

TACHICHI - "Top Ten"

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Tachichi - “Top Ten”

(Hand’Solo Records)

Halifax rapper Tachichi returns in a big way in the suggestively titled Top Ten. Should it be in your top ten? That depends. Do you dig expertly locked-in hip hop producing topped with sly rhymes? Do you like to hear a tight-knit crew flex on the mic? If you do - it might be time to investigate.

Tachichi has been round the Halifax scene since his debut in the mid 90’s making clever Canadian rap characterized by rapid fire insults and one-liners A staple of skilled producers each take a turn at providing the bumping soundtrack to this swagger through the streets of Halifax, while Tachichi and guests style wordsmithing around classic rap attack formations as well as subject-based compositions. While certainly forged in the fires of battle, Top Ten is not all just wordplay, comebacks, and takedowns - Tachichi isn’t afraid to tackle high-minded concepts, or material that addresses the many ills of our society.

On Q Word, Tachichi turns from rapper to motivational force by encouraging the listener to overcome adversity and not to give up as the pert, infectious chorus sung by Kim D'Ambrosia reminds us to 'never use the q word.' On the track, Everyday, a distorted Buddy Holly sample is used, in a socially conscious piece about institutionalized cultural appropriation of black culture by the white baby-boomer generation.

On Tachichi’s previous album Chico’s 90s Project, he introduced his multi-talented squad of fellow Canadian hip hop hard-hitters, The Sipset Crew and they return on Top Ten with tracks like, Air Raid, where many members Sipset crew step up and makes their presence known.

Overall, Top Ten is a tightly produced rap album that checks all the boxes, and yet another Hand’Solo jam that is essential listening for rap fans seeking quality material from north of the border.

Here’s a lush video of Everything, a track that has all the good stuff - 90’s throwback sounds, killer rhymes, and vignettes of life on the streets of Halifax:

Gray Lee

[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

 

KATE CAN WAIT - "Howl Youth"

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Kate Can Wait - "Howl Youth"

(Grimalkin Records) 

Perfectly capturing the lo-fi feel of heartfelt singer-songwriter self-recordings of the early 2000s, Puerto Rico's Kate Can Wait utilizes jangly acoustic guitars, layered harmonies, and charming bilingual lyrics to craft a solid release.

This recording reminded me so much of the Tascam rich days of the 00s when indie musicians flooded a burgeoning social media scene with home recorded music. The acoustic stylings of Kate Can Wait are a refreshing listen, full of soulful harmonized vocals and natural guitar sounds submerged in living tracks filled with warm room reflections and distant night noises. Howl Youth invokes the feeling of an all night campfire with friends, contemplating life's mysteries and making wild plans for the future. Musician and singer Molly Kate Rodriguez fills each recording with multi-tracked guitars and vocal work that creates a strong sense of togetherness. Using multiple takes to build up the sound, Rodriguez is able to cancel solitude and loneliness by sounding like a group of close-knit individuals.

Highlights include Licantropia, a song sung in spanish with a beautiful, twisting melody and tangible guitar work. Below The Sea, brings us beautiful harmony, strummed rhythms, and Stormbreakerz is full of urgent texture and a memorable chorus. Overall, Howl Youth is a flavorful presentation of lo-fi, acoustic recordings that showcase Kate Can Wait's ability to write and sing heartfelt, engaging music.

Howl Youth is available on digital & cassette. A six track 7" lathe cut is also available. Proceeds from all digital only sales and cassette sales of the full length version of howl youth go to the True Self Foundation, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a non-profit supporting the LGBTQIA+ community with various services and programs:  www.trueselffoundation.org

Gray Lee

https://grimalkinrecords.bandcamp.com/album/howl-youth  

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