Nervous // Nervous
I was super late to Loma Prieta’s most excellent album I.V. last year. It would have easily made my favorite album’s if only I had heard it several months earlier. I won’t be making that mistake with Nervous. The three-piece rock outfit is the new project of Loma Prieta bassist Jake Spek. And while it maintains some of the noisier elements of his other band, Nervous is undoubtedly much easier on the ears. Fitting more into the vein of outright rock, the band hammers their way through their tracks with punching, pounding, and yelling.
Earlier this month the band uploaded three tracks to their Bandcamp page that are apparently a taste of a forthcoming release. I’m not sure when that release wil drop so these tracks should be enough to tide you over until then. In the meantime make sure to catch the band on tour with Loma Prieta as they make their way to SXSW.
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Botanist // IV: Mandragora
People who say that there’s nothing new under the sun clearly haven’t heard of the Botanist. The one-man black metal project not only turns the genre on its head, but also sounds like nothing else I’ve heard before. Sure he acknowledges the confines of the black metal genre, but his approach is fascinating. First and foremost he foregoes the use of guitars and instead uses a hammered dulcimer. This gives the music an otherworldly quality, like it’s chiming from another dimension or something. The percussion admittedly lays a bit flat, but that only give the dulcimer all the more room to be on display. Finally the vocals sound downright inhuman. Imagine something in between the typical tortured black metal screaming and (for any Doctor Who fans who might be reading) the Daleks, which also fits in with the Botanist’s similar disdain for the human race. The album also carries the themes of the mythology surrounding both the Mandragora and the Mandrake root (as pictured on the album’s beautiful cover). There is a lot to take in with this project and it’s not all laying right on the surface, so dig in.
PS - I love being on The Flenser’s email list because the San Francisco label is releasing some of the most interesting and truly unique metal out there. IV: Mandragora is available now from their online store.
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Black Polygons // Accalmie
Cyril Rampal, better known as Black Polygons, just released his proper debut album Accalmie. The shy and secretive French native specializes in minimal ambient output that is light on composition yet intense when it comes to atmosphere.
I’ve featured Black Polygons a couple times here before because I think that he is very effective at what he does. Cyril specializes in perfect little moments. His tracks are typical short (less than 3 minutes), but he captures and capitalizes on the tracks’ strengths before abruptly releasing them. Wringing thick atmosphere out of a few basic elements, Cyril also manages to give the music and intensely cinematic quality. It’s the sort of music that inspires imagination in me similar to the way that artists like The Caretaker or Smokey Emery have. There is not a ton of variety on the album so if you are looking for something super dynamic this isn’t going to be your thing. But if you like your music to feel like a soothing audio massage, then check Accalmie out. It knows the sweet spots.
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Ash Borer // “Oblivion’s Spring”
Last month American Black Metal outfit Ash Borer announced an upcoming 12” entitled Bloodlands. They didn’t give a release date, which might be a little frustrating for those who like to plot that sort of thing on a calendar, but today they did give a taste of the release in the form of the 15-minute track “Oblivion’s Spring.” You might wanna strap yourselves in for this one. It’s a punisher.
Ushering the track with some light yet creepy guitar work, the band establishes a sinister mood right off the bat. It’s a compelling musical theme that bookends the track and is more or less carried throughout its entirety. The band then drops the hammer down with a whirlwind of doom-encrusted guitars, pummeling blast beats, and gut-wrenching vocals. Switching things up with tempo shifts, theme repetition, and intense intermediate brutality, Ash Borer has proven once again with “Oblivion’s Spring” that they are one of America’s premier black metal bands. Highly recommended.
(via Invisible Oranges)
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Gabriel White // “What v2.0 Do”
Today Amdiscs dropped a new compilation of 71 fresh and exclusive tracks from new and upcoming artists. Among those artists are a few Cactus-Mouth regulars like Honeydrum, NUDITY, DannielRadall, and Horse Head. There is also a new solo track from Gabriel White, who also happens to be the lead vocalist for Yung Life.
The track titled “What v2.0 Do” is a bit of change of pace for Gabriel’s solo work. His 2011 album Relay was based largely around guitars, minimal synth work, and Gabriel’s voice. This new track feels much more like a restrained dissection of something Yung Life might put out. It’s a 1980’s-leaning pop song with soothing synth tones and handclaps-a-plenty. It’s a bit close to home base, but that’s in no way a bad thing. Here’s to hoping he’s got more up his sleeve for 2013.
(PS - The compilation overall is a lot to digest and honestly much of it doesn’t really seem to be the kind of stuff I typically go for, but then again there are so gems worth digging for.)
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Native America // Get Well Soon
There is a lot to be said when talking about Kickstarter and it seems like everyone has an opinion. The site has its champions and its detractors and depending on who you’re talking to, it seems that each side raises some equally good points. Personally I feel like there is something inky about flat-out asking people for money, but if there is one use of the site that I can see being perfectly legitimate it is funding physical album releases. Releasing digital music is easy. Getting various physical media copies into your listeners hands is a different story, especially if you don’t have a label fronting the money. That’s the spot that New Orleans band Native America found themselves in. Asking for a modest $1,500.00, the band barely squeaked by and met their goal and the result is their debut album Get Well Soon which is now free to run wild.
I’m a fairly new listener of theirs, so their Kickstarter project never even registered on my radar. But with a reference from a friend and free download of the album, who am I to refuse? As it turns out Get Well Soon is surprisingly good. The production is excellent and it gives the guys the perfect platform on which to display their songwriting chops of which they have a variety. The album is in a constant state of flux with the guys adopting and an endless amount of influences and weaving them seamlessly into the music. It’s first a foremost a pop album, but they incorporate elements of powerpop, alt-country, surf, and shoegaze with a skillful touch and a gracious helping of happiness. Frankly I’m surprised that more people have caught onto these guys. If you’re fan of anything from The Shins to the poppier moments of Grizzly Bear then you’ll no doubt find something to sink your teeth into here.
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Whatever™ // NO AU!
Portuguese mysterioso cassette tape label Exo Tapes have just released their latest in a string of experimental, drone, and ambient works. Label head “J” (Sofa Pits, Mediafired, JCCG) sent it to me last week and I’m just getting around to sharing it today because that’s how long it took me to sort of wrap my head around it. The label has always dealt in music that could loosely even be labeled as such, but their latest tape from Whatever™ pushes that notion to its farthest reaches.
The individual behind Whatever™ has always had a presence in Exo Tapes workings, but it’s always been as an art designer. His work is always a sort of a minimal collage take on found art (have a look). It’s a sort of repurposing of images from various places and making something new out of them. That notion sort of speaks to NO AU!, his first official release for the label. It’s not to much ambient noodlings as it is a compiling of field recordings from a tannery layered over top of each other. There’s more to it than that, but I’ll let you do the digging. It’s a interesting conceptual release that’s soothing as it is interesting.
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Cat Meat // CAT MEAT
I love good Americana. I specify “good” because one need look no further than the Grammy Awards last night to see that the genre has become a farce in recent years. Bands I won’t even bother naming have given the genre a bad name with generic, formulaic songwriting and a cheesy image. It seems like all you need these days is a banjo and some old-timey clothing for instant popularity; craft is secondary. It’s a joke.
That being said, I still love Americana. I don’t think I’ve ever really covered it here, but make no mistake I adore Neko Case. I’m a long time Calexico and My Morning Jacket fan. I worship at the church of Ryan Adams. So I suppose it’s a good thing that I get those same vibes from London band Cat Meat. Strange name/art choice for a band that specializes in homespun alt-country, but really the only thing that matters here is the music. The twang abounds, harmonicas wail, and the vocalist sounds like he probably gargles with whiskey in the morning. And yet it is all delivered with the most honest of intentions. There is a warmth to the music that cannot be fabricated and a maturity that usually only comes with age. It’s rocking chair/coffee music if ever there was any and is perfectly suited to those listeners who maybe like to take things a bit slower.
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Artist: Jackson Scott
Jackson Scott // Melbourne
Thanks to my good friend Tyler of Flashlight Tag for introducing me (and many others I’m sure) to this little homespun curiosity. There is not a ton of information to be had on this guy, so all I know at the moment is that his name is Jackson Scott, he hails from Asheville, NC, and he’s onto to something pretty good here. Like Bradford Cox, to whom he has oft been compared, Jackson seems to value 1960’s melodies and pop experimentation in equal measure. His debut album Melbourne, which can be downloaded for free, seems to waver between convention and experimentation; often slowing on its pass between the two. The result is a relatively sluggish, almost stream-of-consciousness type musical experience that often feels like a dream state.
And much like the lack of available personal information on Jackson, the album also strives to keep the listener more or less at an arm’s length. There are moments of seeming clarity with Jackson’s somewhat childlike vocals crooning over dreamy guitar pop lines. Moments that linger for a moment only to be shrouded in the next by ambient guitar noodlings and obscured vocals. So many artists play up the mystery gimmick these days and it does little more than annoy me. In Jackson Scott’s case it suits him just fine and has me deeply interested in where he goes next.
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Title: What do I want to be when I grow up
fthrsn // Middle School Swag
I was late to the fthrsn game, but I like to think that I made up for lost time. I latched onto his minimal pop jams like a leech on a veiny leg and squeezed hundreds of listens out of them in a very short time. I also got to be pals with mastermind Macklin Underdown in the meantime with both of being contributors to PORTALS. Because of that friendship Macklin let me in on his new EP/album/whatever Middle School Swag a good several months early. I never said too much about it because I didn’t want to be one of those “blogger perks” people, but since it’s officially seeing the light of day today I have no longer have reservations in telling anyone who will listen how good I think it is.
For me my love of fthrsn boils down to a the way he assembles a few seemingly basic elements. First off his pop melodies are so insanely catchy that it seems like he’s discovered some sort of underground pop music spring running in his brain. It’s liquid and it’s always flowing. Secondly his instrumentals seem like simple synth/beat combos, but the more you listen the more these compositions reveal their unassuming brilliance. There are hints of 1980’s pop, tribal music, hip-hop, and numerous other influences melded into a series of instrumental ear worms. And finally the third element that cements Macklin’s genius is his heart. Only he could build an album around a sentiment like middle school swag and have it come off as anything but corny. His personality bleeds through these tracks and makes you feel instantly welcome in his world. There’s no pretense, no effort required, all you need to do is dig deep and enjoy yourself.
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LVL UP // “Graveyard”
Where do I even begin when talking about LVL UP? They were the band that initiated my love affair with the SUNY Purchase music scene. They share members with Spook Houses, whose recent album Trying was released on cassette through my label Chill Mega Chill. Their debut album SPACE BROTHERS has a number of plays in my iTunes that I might be embarrassed to show others if it weren’t already on display on my Last.fm account. So yeah, suffice it to say I love these guys.
Today the guys released their latest single “Graveyard” from their upcoming Extra Worlds 7” for Double Double Whammy. Cue my excitement. The new track boasts improvements basically on every front. The production is cleaner, the instrumentation is tighter, and the energy of the track is more palpable than anything else they’ve released before. I’m so incredibly pleased with these guys. I feel like I just watched my child graduate and I’m grinning from ear to ear. I might be laying more claim to these guys than I have any right to, but they’ve soundtracked enough of my life that our relationship isn’t just amicable, it’s personal.
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Title: Airborne Kawasaki
Artist: HEAVY HAWAII
Heavy Hawaii // “Airborne Kawasaki”
I guess I spoke too soon when I said that I would love a proper album from Heavy Hawaii but have learned to not count on one. I posted their demo “For people who like to smoke…” last week and not long after that post the band announced the coming of their debut album. Funny how that worked out. Apparently the album is called Goosebumps and will be out on March 19th through Art Fag Records.
A couple of days ago the band released what is now the first single off of that album. It’s called “Airborne Kawasaki” and it’s got all of the Heavy Hawaii staples in spades. The warbled production, the shamelessly-jangly beach pop guitars, and all of those familar “A-WOO-OOH’s” that the guys very obviously love. There’s not much change up in style, but seeing as I’ve been waiting a couple years for a whole album of these guys tape-warped beach pop I’m not complaining. Crazy stoked for this one.
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Sports Bar // Tyler Perry’s Sports Bar
Last summer I shared the infectious debut album from Richmond/Brooklyn pop punk band Life Coach. Well that band was sort of an offshoot of and shares some members with another Richmond band called Sports Bar. The two bands definitely share a flair for the energetic, but where Life Coach played straight up pop punk, Sports Bar play a more punk-infused garage rock.
As you can tell from their artwork, track names and an album title like Tyler Perry’s Sports Bar, Sports Bar is a band that makes fun its #1 priority. They slather on the bouncing bass lines with poppy guitar licks and a generous helping of gang vocals. It’s the kind of music that elicits a strong urge to sing along even if you don’t know the words. The kind of music that can only truly be experienced in a crowded bar full of sweaty kids and maybe with some beer being slung around in the air.
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Title: Drag Blood
Comadre // Comadre
Hardcore is not for everyone. I get it. But in 2013 with so much musical innovation going on and the whole of the music universe at one’s fingertips I’m always surprised at how many people (read: bloggers) still largely turn their noses up to the genre. Sure there are the welcome exceptions like Trash Talk or Fucked Up or even harder-edged bands like METZ, but for the most part many people seem to wait for the bigger music sites to tell them what bands are OK to listen to before pressing play. I think this is a damn shame. There are numerous bands out there who are just as good (if not better) that could easily court a larger appeal but they’ll never see a tenth of the popularity. Now I’m sure you could make this argument for a number of genres, but in my opinion it’s hardcore that routinely gets the shaft.
Take San Francisco band Comadre for example. I first heard about these guys from Chris over at Lewis and His Blog. Chris always has great taste in hardcore and punk so I didn’t take his recommendation lightly, and basically he wasn’t wrong about these guys. Straddling the line between melody and ferocity Comadre hit a sweet spot that could easily garner them some crossover success without forfeiting any of their edge in the process. It’s still aggressive music in a sense with its snappy pace and omnipresent raspy screaming, but if you strip that away and listen just to the instrumentation I think you’d be surprised. Incorporating some curious instrument choices like synth, organ, and horns the band has established what seems to be a classic indie rock foundation and elevated it onto the hardcore stage. It appears to be a simple combination when you think about it, but listening to it you realize what a perfect marriage of sound it is and the band pulls it off effortlessly. It’s catchy, bouncy stuff that would sooner see you snapping your fingers or tapping your toes than shoving people around in a sweaty basement somewhere. So yes, like I said, hardcore is not for everyone, but I think if you give Comadre a chance — an honest chance — I think you’ll be surprised.
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Sleep ∞ Over // “Rooftop”
I’m always on board for new Sleep ∞ Over music. Stefanie Franciotti’s metamorphosis over the last few years has been a peculiar one, but it’s always yielded an interesting soundtrack. Her proper debut Forever was a solo venture that was recorded after the departure of her two bandmates, and while I loved that album I still feel that it was a snapshot of an artist who was in mid-evolution. The album had distinct two faces that never quite merged in the way I wanted them two and yet it was a fascinating listen in spite of that.
“Rooftop” is Stefanie’s first proper track since that album. It’s a ghostly track with strange bits and pieces that altogether feels completely at home in her musical canon. With her signature ethereal vocals and some watery synth work, she slowly massages the individual minimal elements together into a larger whole (even going as far as to incorporate saxophone and background noise into the mix). It’s a skeletal track no doubt, but it’s gorgeous and it’s got me excited to hear whatever it is that she’ll release next.
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