Thursday, 31 October 2013

Making Dead Wrestlers Your Life Partner = Short Yet Depraved Life Span...

Dead Wrestlers, the third LP from Chicago sad punks Life Partner, came out aaaaaaaages ago (at least six months at least) through Sophomore Lounge. There is nothing wrong with that of course. I really want to write a 4, 500 word elegy to Marquee Moon, and I still might (probably won't though). We do try to stay as on the pulse here on Planet Masala as we can though. Nevertheless, I threw this on last night after a baseless cyclical rage-listen to Pissed Jeans's Honeys and Neon Windcheater's New Sky, and it was the right adrenal burst to the glands to lull me out into a more sedate form of aggression. At 2 in the morning, this was mightily appreciated. Bearing some semblances to the likes of Ovlov, Pile and Spook Houses in the opener 'Stupid Kids' (with the beginning lyrics about not taking their shit my new anthem for my educational "day job" professions), but settles into a more acerbic, yet no less enthralling, dirge into the slights and sneers of middle class malcontents and their fervent love for wrestling. I'm a massive fan of the way Life Partner insists on disguising their humour (sometimes black, sometimes puerile) in the darker corridors of rock  - it was evident in 2012's offering Dogs, and has clearly fermented into something worthwhile here.

You can buy Dead Wrestlers here.

Interview - Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt) - Aggression Rooted In Positivity

Tonight one of my favourite bands on the planet, Lightning Bolt, are playing at the Zoo. Here is an interview I did with maniacal drummer and all round rad dude Brian Chippendale a couple months ago...

BRIAN CHIPPENDALEHey man how are you?

SONIC MASALA – excellent! How’s your day been?

BCHmm, how’s my day been? Well it’s been a beautiful day here, in the 70s or so, sunny (laughs). I went and saw a bit of a band from Providence which is where I live called Human Beast who just put an album out on Load Records which is actually Lightning Bolt’s normal label. They were doing this four hour performance at a local museum, so I went and took in an hour and a half of that. That was one of the things I did today…

SM – (laughs)

BCI wanted to do the full four hours but I want to come home, relax, have a lil snack before talking on the phone…

SM – Sorry to take you away from that man!

BCHey, no problems, I'm pretty sure I got the gist of it anyway (laughs) It’s really interesting to me though; I don’t know how after an hour or three, three and a half hours what they were doing originally (laughs) Something spaced out, I’d assume.

SM – For sure. I was going to say, that wouldn’t be something Lightning Bolt would likely tackle anytime soon – the four hour show would be impossible to maintain?

BCOh no! (laughs) We couldn’t do that. Well, not at our normal clip…I was actually thinking about that when I was over there, thinking “God this would be so cool to do, you know, and record it.” You know, you would inevitably get really weird. Obviously your energy would go down, your physical energy anyway, but then your mental energy might spike at different times. But then I thought “We can just go into our room and record for four hours whenever we want.” (laughs) But the performance would be pretty special. I don’t know, we could do something – not four hours though. I reckon we could do three; that extra hour, it makes it an even number, we’d need an odd number.

SM – Are you superstitious?

BCNo, just because it’s an odd thing to do! (laughs)

SM – (Laughs) Plus you might lose your mind even more, beyond what is retrievable, into the fourth hour…

BCYeah, that is the concern (laughs). I was talking to the guy who put this on, he put on this little festival, this local thing, a couple years ago called Bummerslam, and it started at 8am and ended at 8pm. The concept was there were going to be 12 bands and they’d each play for an hour, and everyone who wanted to go had to be there by 8am and just stay in that room for the whole 12 hours. You couldn’t leave. I played first, and I screwed the whole thing up by not starting til 9, and people started coming and going, so it didn’t work out quite to the plan. But the idea of turning these musical performances into this sort of physical happenings is conceptually interesting to me. (Laughs) It could make for the most boring of days, who knows?

SM – (Laughs) Well, Lightning Bolt itself started as an art project between yourself and Brian Gibson almost two decades ago, so you have been toying with performance and the art of performance for quite a while now. That kind of extrapolation isn’t all that far-fetched really.

BCYeah, we’ve always had that interest in the physicality of the performance, the weird inclusiveness of performance and all of that. For me on the drumming side pushing myself physically in some ridiculous way would make sense. Most of our shows are compacted, so it’s as if four hours went by because its 110 degrees in the room and there’s zero air, so everything’s compressed.

SM – Every Lightning Bolt show then, if we’re not talking lateral time, if we’re just talking about expenditure of energies, you pretty much meet the quota, four hours into one!

BCThat’s funny. Maybe that’s why people like music shows. We’re getting into deep stuff real fast here (laughs). But maybe that’s why people like music shows, because you’re judging it on energy expulsion, you’re dealing with three hours of time in a forty-five minute set or something. Everything is heightened by the energy levels. Maybe that’s obvious, but I’ve never thought of it like compressed time before.

SM – You learn something new every day, and there’s something new to chew over! (laughs)

BC – (Laughs) Yeah, you learn from your bullshit every day.

SM – (Laughs) Well those staples that you have developed as the duo, ensuring that live shows are in amongst the people, in amongst the crowd, which again builds that heated atmosphere; you’ve got the mask which in a practical sense it’s there to hold the microphone, but has become the symbolic element of the band, and then there are the vocals which by necessity as much as practice has to become this staccato rant, due to the way you play as much as the way you sing – these things that have developed over time as staples of the Lightning Bolt experience, they aren’t particularly lateral things either, they have developed in a weirdly organic fashion…

BCThe process has made them, or reinforced the themes and steered the ship in that direction, for sure. That is one thing that I am grateful for from playing on the floor (as opposed to a raised stage) for so long is that it’s made me become a much more physical drummer than I was. I mean I have always been fairly physical about it, I’ve put everything into it, but it’s stopped me from getting lazy. There are many shortcuts for a drummer, but if you are on the floor, not willing to use a PA and really need to go for it to properly fill out a room, there’s not a lot of shortcuts left.

SM – What about drumming itself as something that is something… (trails off)…fuck, I should learn to use my words…

BCNo one knows whether I've been using mine for decades! (laughs)

SM – Let me try again (laughs). The art of drumming for you – how does it signify you as a person, not just as Lightning Bolt, because you’ve got other avenues through which to express and connect, your artwork and your comics, so as a drummer – the art and action of drumming – how does that signify who you are?

BCI’ve been noticing this week actually, I played a solo show on Saturday night (Saturday 10th August @ AS220 as Black Pus). For the last two years the elevator in the building where Brian and I practice has been broken, so after I play, say, a solo show, I’ve got 700 pounds of really awkward equipment to carry up these three really long flight of stairs. When I take it down it takes a day, it’s like twenty-three trips or something up and down these stairs (laughs). But then that night after the show I’ll get a few things upstairs, because it’ll have been a long day, then the next day I’ll take the rest up. But this week I was lazy, so it took me two days to get it all upstairs, then set the shit up on the third day, and I felt kind of depressed for those couple of days. Then as soon as I got it all and set it up and sat down to drum, I felt good again. As the years have gone by, for better or worse, I've become addicted to the act of drumming. I mean, I could probably switch over to running or something; it’s a form of exercise. It moderates my brain and moderates my energy levels, it’s great for that sort of thing. It’s a great exercise routine for me, and it’s important – it’s survival, like my daily dose of mental stability. Not that I go crazy otherwise, but it’s a healthy way to get through a lot of stuff.

SM – It’s funny how that becomes a part of you. I’ve seen you play a few times now, especially when living in Europe in 2008 to 2011, and there’s nothing to me that is like a Lightning Bolt show, seeing you and Brian going at it, and it’s sort of funny because I guess whether it’s also the fact that the artworks you create are these garish, quite cartoonish ways of drawing – the way you play is quite violent and visceral, but it is all rather cartoonish to me also. That isn’t some sort of backhanded compliment either, something flippant, it’s just that you do get put into the noise rock pigeonhole because people feel they want or need to pigeonhole what you do, a place they can then identify with, and the abrasive rock element allows that comparison, and there is a cathartic element to the live experience, but there is a great deal of humour and cartoon violence in the delivery. I never get the sense that you guys are particularly serious, dark people you know? (laughs)

BCAt the very beginning I think we were very much that way, and I think over time we lost a little of that. OK (laughs), it is not that exactly, definitely not as people, but for some reason the music has lost a little of that sense of humour, I sometimes think.  Maybe even my vocal stylings have gotten a little more serious whereas before it was a little more chirpy? When we started though I felt really cartoonish, and when I listen back to the first couple of albums we did, especially our second album Ride The Skies, it’s all super jerky and quick changes and loads of starts and stops, and it feel hyper, like kids. It was a really long time ago, well it feels a long time ago now. There is this element of cartoonish energy, cartoonish aesthetic, I mean I put on a freaking mask! (laughs) It’s this strange balance; some of our shows can be quite aggressive, which then turns the set into something pretty dark. But at the same time it feels weird, I mean, c’mon! This is Lightning Bolt! We’re not Slayer or anything. For the most part people are there to have a good time, and whilst the music can go to a dark place – we both really dig dystopian science fiction, but we’re not dark people, you know? So the cartoonish aspect comes from aggression rooted in positivity. (laughs)

SM – (laughs) Well, the ‘Barbarian Boy’ single that you have just brought out on Adult Swim. That group marries well with the positive aggression, cartoonish mayhem vibe that you guys embody. The song itself is one of the most direct that you have delivered in some time, Was that a deliberate factor, seeing what you were releasing this on, or was the track written before they approached you?

BCWe actually just went into the studio and made that up. It was a one day wonder, that one; we went in, jammed, came up with this idea and ran with it. I think the studio atmosphere helped. I had used the studio for the last Black Pus record (All My Relations) but it’s not something that Lightning Bolt has used. So that song came from being in a studio and recognising what was possible in the studio. Most of our music is written through jamming at home, which I then record on a cassette four-track, and that process probably emphasises totally different things. Yet in the studio, they are super good at capturing drums, so I could identify this beat and it sounded cool, straight away. We have taken a lot of time off this year too, I've been doing a lot of Black Pus stuff, so that song was us getting back together again after that break and it was a lot of fun.

SM – Is that gonna bleed into a new album?

BCMan, we have so much stuff recorded for the next album that we just haven’t sat down and organised or finished yet. We’ve been talking about it forever, and I think what’s going to happen is we’re gonna come back from Australia and clean out the winter so there’s nothing going on, and just get it done. There is so much stuff in different states of disrepair; it’s coming, it’s just down to whether we’re gonna be idiots or not, get our brains together or just keep jamming in the house and not think about anything else.

Come to The Zoo @ 8 - life changer, right here.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hits From The Box #75 - Jumping For Victory (The Recovered Version)

We finally have a winner! Didier Goudeseune managed to find the mysteriously missing Hits From The Box segment from yesterday! Thank you so much! And without further adieu...

So I do a lot of things. My parents constantly complain about my burning the candle at both ends. And true, sometimes things get a bit over the top crazy, the jobs and deadlines and expectations teeter like a Tower of Babel made out of Jenga blocks. But it's 99% worth the stress and hassle. Like on the weekend. I coach a teenage basketball team. I know that white men can't jump - Wesley Snipes told me so - but an undefeated season is nothing to sneeze at. I am pretty proud of the boys, even though most of them listen to Drake or Pusha T. They put up with my jokes and train hard, and it pays off. So today's Hits From The Box is all about killing it - victory. And rest assured, there will be no Drake/Pusha T bizniz up in here.

Melbourne bruisers White Summer are taking the blues grind and crush it into the ground with aggression, making The Black Keys cower in their customized Converses. 'Head In The Sand' has a insidious bass line that hooks you through the verses, even as we can feel the tension ratchet up - then the brutal crunch of the chorus takes the song into heavier territory. It's headily impressive, and a welcome introduction to a promising act.

Neon Windbreaker are ugly, garish things, which is why this Toronto five-piece have picked the right name then. They dish out Pissed Jeans/Bronx-style vitriolic hardcore punk that melts your face off whilst making you laugh, cry and spit blood. They are releasing a new EP in the form of New Sky (which clocks after after SEVEN MINUTES), and are playing in London tonight at Birthdays - it's definitely something that you need to get to if you are in town (and seeing as I know people that basically live ACROSS THE ROAD from this joint, they better get down there and thank me later...)

Now we're going to more barroom rock with Liquor Store. The New Jersey band throw everything at the wall, all flailing hair and smashed whiskey bottles, feedback outros and screaming fist-pumping anthems. Imagine Japandroids and Titus Andronicus formed a band together dedicated to covering The Hold Steady covering The Boss covering MC5, and that's Liquor Store for ya. Sweaty, boozy, jump-out-of-your-skin fun times behind the barbed wire fence. In The Garden is their second record, and if these tracks are any indication it's absolutely killer. Get behind these reprobates and rediscover rock and/or roll.

Ramps are a new Sydney band that feature members of the likes of Further, Sounds Like Sunset, Massappeal and Downtime - and yes, their debut EP Joe is as raucous as you'd expect. 'City Hands' plays like a sludgier Black Level Embassy; '70s Moustache' offers a 70s riff and jams it into the bowl of Fu Manchu; 'Full Hot Orator' tempers the two. Its angry, dark, angular, riff-heavy, and as delectable as that cup o joe first thing in the hungover morning. They are launching the EP November 8 at the Town Hall Hotel with Yes I'm Leaving - so you know how that's gonna turn out...

The Ar-Kaics are from Richmond, Virginia. They play garage rock with a heady dose of The Animals injected into their soul. Their 'She Does Those Things To Me' single is one of the most basic songs ever written, and yet it makes me want to down beer, jump around and lick someone on the face. Doesn't matter what time it is, I want to do all these things. Then when the last chord fades out, I forget myself, and feel ashamed...until I hit play and it happens all over again. This band is an illicit drug. Give me more. You can grab this on their 7" that is out through Speakertree - apparently they have an album out too from earlier in the year, might have to hunt that sucker down.

Now, Faux Fauna certainly stands out of the crowd today, especially seeing as it has nothing to do with heavy riffs and garage tiffs. But I have been a big fan of Noah Berman's solo stuff for the best part of twelve months now, and thought I needed to pay it lip service because it seriously kicks arse, so I see it as the perfect closer - the victory lap. Started as an attempt to emulate the simplistic-yet-intricate stylings of Why Oak, Faux Fauna produced Krittre, an EP of fuzz, allure, dreamy attraction, and sandpaper malaise - you drift along, rudely drawn back to earth with abrasive noise, before being set free once more. These four songs came out of a potential 170 demos (!?!), so there is plenty more where this comes from it seems. This tempering of the senses keeps Krittre centred, and keeps me coming back for more.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Black Tambourine-ing Is Hard

Falmouth, UK band The Black Tambourines have been on my radar since they released a split with New Years Evil on Art Is Hard Records back in 2010. Earlier this year they finally released their eponymous debut record, also through the boutique label from South West England, and the result is pretty much what you would expect - breathless, chugging surf-tinged garage rock that swirls around with a pinch of psych rock. The shorter the song, the better they are - 'Lemon' doesn't break 80 seconds, and could be an off-cut from Ty Segall's earliest scuzzy endeavours. There's nary a shift in momentum - it is all tethered to the railroad tracks, albeit travelling at the speed of light. The foursome love to dish out a trashed out party vibe, and The Black Tambourines certainly distills that into an easily digestible aural pill. Drop it and spazz out. You can pick up the LP (and other Black Tambourines-related guff) here.

Re-murdering A Raving Mogwai

It would be remiss of me to pass the day without passing comment on the new Mogwai track, 'Remurdered', which will be coming out on their forthcoming LP Rave Tapes (their eighth, for those playing at home). It's proving to be a divisive little number amongst the rabid fanbase, so I won't say too much here for those yet to dip their toes in. I will say this though - it is typically excellent, especially when the synth breakdown hits around the halfway mark - yes, synth. I also listened to it 15 times in a row. That's over 90 minutes of listening time devoted to one song. Then again, I am a rabid Mogwai fan myself. Murky waters I swim in then. Anyway, make up your own mind and tell us what you think. Rave Tapes will be out through Sub Pop/Rock Action in January 2014 - pre-order here.

There's Nobody There At Veronica Falls To Need You Around

A quick post about London guitar noirish popsters Veronica Falls. They are making a mad dash for Australian shores to play two exclusive shows - tonight in Sydney at GoodGod, then tomorrow at Melbourne's Northcote Social Club. No Brisbane show is a true slap in the face. Nevertheless, they do have a new single that is almost appropriately titled 'Nobody There', out in time for the tour. It will be available on 7" in December through Wichita (pre-order it here), so this is the best way to hear it for now.

If you happen to be in Asia over the next fortnight, you will have ample opportunity to catch them in full flight. See the dates below.

2 - Camp Symmetry Festival, Singapore
6 - Voice Space, Bangkok
7 - Freeman’s Sporting Club, Tokyo
8 - Cay, Tokyo
9 - Est, Tokyo
10 - Noon, Osaka
12 - Backstage, Hong Kong

NB - Veronica Falls just released this song, 'Need You Around' a few hours ago. This will have to suffice missing the shows, then...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Kamikaze Danya Loses It Over Teenage Burritos

Here's an enamouring 7" that came out a few weeks ago through Volar records from San Diego band Teenage Burritos. The band is a bit of a "supergroup" (as in there are members of Christmas Island and Plateaus in the mix, with Andreas from Swedish killers Holograms appearing on the B-side track 'Kamikaze'), and this debut single 'Danya' is a lot of sunny yet grimy take on upper echelon punk. The tracks were recorded on an 8-track where the tape caught jammed, so the warble throughout the two tracks is accidental yet sublime - offering an off-kilter immediacy. 'Kamikaze' in particular slays, and the band have intimated that their upcoming LP (that will be out through Volar and Burger Records any day now - we'll be back on that when it hits our clammy hands) will follow in this vein. They do remind me of a more urgent younger sibling of Veronica Falls, which is a great thing indeed. I don't care how young or old the burritos are, just give me a lifetime supply.

Buy Danya/Kamikaze from Volar Records here.

Primitive Motion Makes The World Float By

Brisbane duo Primitive Motion have always been a beguiling prospect for me. The first time I can clearly remember seeing them (although it was about the third time I had ACTUALLY seen them) as Primitive Motion was at the New War show at the Bridge Club in 2011 (what happened to that place? Another venue bites the dust before even getting started...). Leighton Craig and Sandra Selig have always been busy with their constant manipulations of synth, electronics and the style and conventions of the pop aesthetic, whether it be in the various incarnations of The Deadnotes, on solo duties and in other genre-defying acts like Fig. The simplistic keys, the effects, the saxophone, the basic, monotonal vocal delivery, all presented in a cyclical miasma of narcotic wash - it was entrancing, and quite unlike anything I had witnessed before. I still feel that way now, even after having seen them on many occasions since. Their support slot for the Brisbane leg of Godspeed You! Black Emperor caught a lot of people off guard, but it is a testament to the band's unique take on pop conventions (even if their sounds at times struggled to fill the cavernous venue).

Worlds Floating By is Primitive Motion's third LP but their first on vinyl, and it is Bedroom Suck that steps in to help this come to fruition. Not that strange, really - Joe's support of the likes of Angel Eyes and Superstar of recent months shows his savvy ears are pricked for much more than base garage nihilism and apathetic jangle. This album though will hopefully be the jewel that finally enamours the masses, for it is an unqualified gem. The kosmiche repetition, the interplay between Craig's atonal and Selig's soaring vocals, the seemingly simplistic beats and organ tones that nevertheless fuse together to provide an amorphous skeleton for elegant, eloquent drifts into the ether. Songs like 'The Hill' feel maudlin yet exotically beautiful, the music oozing forth like a opaque mist that emanates pastel pulses from within; whilst stronger rock allusions on tracks like 'Skyline' belie the intrinsic machinations of pop convention being manipulated and toyed with, a playful attraction to inverting the norm. Above all else, there is a mirthfulness that permeates this album that supersedes the melancholia, underscores the jubilance, subverts the angularity, tempers the anguish. It's impossible not to get lost in the gauzy miasma of sound that Primitive Motion painstakingly constructs, with every sound a textural marvel that slides into the cyclical whirlpool and adds yet another shade of eclectic hypnosis to the mix. Worlds Floating By is not completely apt an album description - it is you that does the floating, and you will be inexorably stuck in the duo's world forever, hooked on the haze, warmed by their energy, and refusing to ever leave.

Worlds Floating By is out now. Primitive Motion are playing at Sydney's Red Rattler on November 7 as part of this year's Sound Summit (that has made the move from Newcastle this year). They will be joined by Heinz Riegler and Sky Needle amongst a plethora of other likeminded acts. Then it's back to Brisbane for the album launch at Cooparoo Bowls Club, with delectable supports from Cured Pink, Scraps, Screaming Match, Bitter Defeat, Pink Mouse and more.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Marihiko And The Black Bear

Tonight Black Bear Lodge harbours a special night of percolating sound explorations from across the globe. The show highlight will be Japanese sound artist and composer Marihiko Hara, whose sojourns into ethereal, white-fog ephemera are majestic slices of sonic interaction and discoveries. His album Flora (out through Nightcruising and Drone Sweet Drone) is a mesmeric interweaving of spacious, hesitant piano with field recordings and electronic melding - a deliberate calibration of a gossamer-thin rebirth, opening the eyes for the first time on a new world superimposed over the old, all lit from within. Support is coming from Sydney-based Portuguese artist Matupo (who is releasing his Communication EP on the newly minted Memoirs label on Friday - you can grab it here), jazz improvateurs Mooshim and local debonair manipulator Andrew Tuttle. It's a free show too, so come down, sit on the floor, lie down if you want to, and escape the world for a few hours - you will not be disappointed.

Widowspeak Head Back To The Swamps

The great new EP from Brooklyn's psych folk wanderers Widowspeak is really working me over tonight. The Swamps is six tracks of coalescing, haunting beauty. It isn't often that an EP offers a complete listening experience, offering instead bite-sized portions of ideas, kernels of genius, nuggets of experimentation - so fun, yet not always fulfilling. The Swamps is something else - a perfectly calibrated and distilled adventure into the Gothic unknown, a rustic ghost story filled with vintage gloss and eeriness. There are moments of lilting strength and positivity, like on the country smoker 'Brass Bed', but the undulating majesty that permeates The Swamps is never out of sight (and with 'Smoke & Mirrors', the prog kosmiche elements heighten the song and the album into another territory altogether...)

Captured Tracks are putting The Swamps EP out tomorrow - you can buy it in pastel yellow vinyl here.

A Bearhug Is Easy

Sydney slacker rock aficionados Bearhug brought a killer record last year with Bill, Dance, Shiner. Their mixture of Pavement hooks and Archers Of Loaf melodies (with more than a dash of Wilco whimsy) has seen them take SXSW by storm, and the US fanbase continues to swell. Yet they still find it difficult to gain leeway in their own country - it's ridiculous how this world works sometimes...

Bearhug brought out the four track Over Easy EP earlier this year, so this isn't a new thing, but they look set to make a sojourn up north soon, and have murmurings of new materials in the works - so it's a good time to get reacquainted. Seriously these guys should be the biggest thing coming out of Sydney right now. Its about time you need to get on board. Grab their albums here through Spunk Records here.

Video Vacuum - Beach Fossils, The Ocean Party, Keep On Dancins, Pop 1280

I like a story with a good twist in the tale, don't you? Well today's Video Vacuum is a bit like that - three music videos with energy and light, before finishing up with a bucketful of viscous tar. And trust me, you will love it all...

Beach Fossils' latest record Clash The Truth is the strongest statement Dustin Payseur and co. have made yet, and 'Generational Synthetic' is one of the strongest statements off it. The video is VHS sworling fuzziness, the band mucking about in the middle of the night. So 80s MTV. I wish I was there right now, shopping trolley, love doll, strobe lights and all...

More fun times with Melbourne's funtime dudes, The Ocean Party. This video for second single 'Quarter Life Crisis' shows the band and their friends from the Osborne Street stable, getting progressively loose as the night spirals out of control. Cue the hats, wigs, and makeup...

Keep On Dancins take the B-side from their upcoming Grey Ghost single and put it to a day-trip to the Brisbane Ekka. It looks a lot more fun than I envision the Ekka to be, but it's always about who you're with I guess. Filming done by Tiny Migrant Julien James, and effectively put together by KOD drummer Alex Dunlop, it's actually a sleepy yet endearing clip to another smoky noir ballad.

Ah, leave it to degenerates Pop 1280 to darken the mood. Admittedly 'Do The Anglerfish' isn't their most demonic and debased track, but the bilious wrath makes for strangely compelling listening/viewing. Blue Monday for the deliciously diseased.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Locked In Pleasurable Radioactivity

This is my track of the weekend, and I think it should be yours too. Texan bright (as in shining AND clever clogs) punks Radioactivity will be launching a self titled LP through Dirtnap Records on Tuesday, which is awesome, but seriously, I only need 'Locked In My Head', played back to back 12 times. Timeless, incessant, bubbly, full steam ahead punk rock. And they feature dudes from The Marked Men and Mind Spiders. Fuck yes.

And here is the stream of Radioactivity, including first single 'World Of Pleasure.' You can pre-order the record here.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Karl Flies Kites

The Melbourne-via-Perth duo Sodastream holds a special place in my heart. I was introduced to them by my then flatmate Niall (he also incessantly played Tracy Chapman and Bob Marley to the point of aural cringe, followed quickly by red-mist rage, but that's another story...). The album - 2000's Looks Like A Russian. The combination of Karl Smith's plaintive acoustic guitar and deadpan, oft beauteous lyrics with Pete Cohen's double bass and baritone backing vocals formed a beguiling worldview, one which still sends shivers down my spine. Songs like 'Wedding Day' and 'Done With Everything' still resonate with me over a decade on, and I truly believe that their show at the Troubadour a couple years later (in support of sophomore album The Hill For Company) rivals the Mark Kozelek show there last year (the venue now known as Black Bear Lodge), or even the Magnolia Electric Co show I saw in London in 2009, for reverence and magisterial beauty.

The band split up in 2007, after four great albums, but have since gravitated towards each other - Cohen joined Smith in the band Lee Memorial in 2011, and this year they reformed as Sodastream for some shows. That said, Karl Smith is releasing some material on his own in the form of the album Kites (out now through Fortuna Pop) - and man, the memories came flooding back. Smith's voice was the first hook - that elegant, fragile timbre. Then there are the songs themselves - the gentle, undulating plucking of acoustic strings, the fragile delicate nature of their construction... The songs reverberate with the conflicting emotions Smith was feeling as he prepared for the imminent state of fatherhood, a daunting yet exhilarating process, and songs like the excellent 'Little Lucy' and opener 'After Mr Morrison' perfectly capture such swirling emotions.

For a man who was born in New Zealand, raised in Bangladesh, schooled in India and kickstarted his musical career in earnest in Perth, Smith is not only worldly, but steeped in the intimate knowledge of isolation in its many forms. This echoes through his acute observations, always a pleasure to behold. Welcome back into my life, Mr Smith.

You can (and really should) buy Kites here, now.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Playing Plateaus, Wasting Time

San Diego's purveyors of playful perversions Plateaus have brought out a one-sided 10" EP through Mt St Mtn Records. I've had this debate before (IE Why press ten-inch records?). Yes, it sounds amazing. Yes, it's that annoying length. Yes, it's the least likely normal format to make your money back on. Actually you can disagree with any/all of these points. The thing is, if it's as good as Wasting Time, who cares what form it takes? Four tracks of lackadaisical squall, a tempered trawl through the backalleys of grimy garage before dusting off the remnants of the era, buffing it up and dragging it front and centre into the warm sunlight. Boys doin their thang how they want to, when they want to. They don't sit still - they have short attention spans - but the aesthetic is the same - streamlined ploys for slacker noise. If you aren't on board - that's a shame. More for us then.

You can purchase Wasting Time in excellent clear with rainbow spatter vinyl here.

Pencil Pushers

Yet another Melbourne act branching out of the Osborne Street crew that's spawned the likes of The Ocean Party, Velcro, Hot Palms, Zone Out and Andre, Pencil is the wonky pop brainchild of TOC bassist Liam Halliwell (AKA Snowy Nasdaq, who amongst moonlighting with Mining Boom and doing his own things like Menstrual Cycle, as well as recording and mixing stuff, is a busy boy indeed). Halliwell is joined in Pencil by Ashley Bundang (Hot Palms, Zone Out), Jordan Thompson (The Ocean Party), Andre Vanderwert (Andre, Hot Palms), and Zahra Khamissa (Hot Palms, Zone Out) - a petri dish of the Osborne Again/Why Don't You Believe Me? rota. It's more blissfully laid back than The Ocean Party (if you can believe that possible), and deserved of their own spot on the shelf of an already overloaded Melbourne soundscape.

Pencil have a few little releases to their name, most recently their Good Excuse EP. It's sold out, but you can pick up the digitals (and a limited number of their earlier self-titled and Sydney Weekender EPs) at their Bandcamp.  What will these guys come up with next...

VIDEO VACUUM - Courtney Barnett, Peak Twins, Forest, Girls Names

It's a breakneck kinda day, one thing piling up on the next. So these excellent music vids should help alleviate the tension, baby...

Sonic Masala's current fave song of the year has just been equipped with its own rad visual, with Courtney Barnett and co clowning around on the clay tennis courts for 'Avant Gardener'. Everything Barnett does at the moment turns to gold - even if there was backlash for her cover of a Yeezus track. Cmon! She appropriated Coon cheese into the lyrics! That's sleight of hand comic genius of the Aussie laconic sort! Anyway, we have the whites, the wooden racquets, the good natured rivalry, the durries at drinks breaks. Golden. Barnett is playing in London, the Notting Hill Arts Club to be exact, tonight. If you're around, check her out - she's on at 8.30pm and will be the best act of the night by far.

Peak Twins - So Long from BSR on Vimeo.

Adelaide's Peak Twins have developed the perfect Blue Velvet-esque slow-dance karaoke tune in a decrepit photo studio film clip committed to celluloid. They are warming up for the eponymous album release through Bedroom Suck, and it promises to exceed expectations as the band subvert genres to their own cursed whims with uniquely salacious results. Great stuff.

Two Aussie bands juxtaposed with two UK acts. Cambridge kids Forest are infusing their jangle slackerdom with ample amounts of scuzzy, blase abandon. Their 'Coaster' vid has the requisite shimmering, slightly out of focus images, the clowning around in a field, and...blase abandon. Just abandon the blase and embrace the fuzz, because Forest dish out in generous helpings. Their freshly-minted EP Caramel Arms should be a good'un. If you value Brit bands because you have NME grafted to your inner thigh, disregard others and give these guys a try - they are genuinely fun.

Finally we have Belfast buddies Girls Names, who have released the almost-nine minute title track of their album The New Life as a single. Good on them, eschewing convention. Truth is, this is my favourite song on the album, perfectly encapsulating the band's emancipation from twee noise pop to a moodier expanse - a similar chrysalis moment that the Horrors encountered a few years ago. This B&W clip is epileptic performance art at its most cloying yet entrancing. Seriously though, the combo of sight and sound is a hypnotic masterstroke.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Bardo Pond Bring Peace Upon Venus

I finally got to see Philadelphian psych lords Bardo Pond a couple of months ago, and it was as mindblowing as I had always expected - Isobel Sollenberger was spellbinding; the Gibbons brothers were killer, undulating and weaving in and out of each other's guitar strokes; and watching Clint Takeda on bass was the closest I've been to zen without extensive narcotic use.

I thought that, combined with their Record Store Day EP Rise Above It All, would be enough to sate my Bardo Pong thirst for the year; but upon finding out about the imminent release of a new BP record, I realised that such a thirst can never be quenched. What's even better is Peace On Venus is just as killer as you'd expect, and is the best thing they have created since Ticket Crystals. The album is stripped back and crystallises into the most base of riffs, grooves and psychedelic jams. The true key is the musicality of the band as a whole; whilst Sollenberger is a bewitching presence at the front, her voice and flute otherworldly, the rest of the band are measured in finding space amongst the coalescing noise; providing a cacophony in the gaps and silences. Each listen gets better than the last, and with the songs recorded live as a full band, it truly captures the Bardo Pond experience.  And finally I know what that is.

You can pre-order Peace On Venus here.

Let Straight Arrows Make Up Your Mind For You

Its hard to believe that Sydney reprobates Straight Arrows haven't put out a record in three years. Well, they haven't, so deal with it. They have released a lot of smaller stuff, toured around the world, played with pretty much all the cool kids on the planet. They even came up to Brisbane a couple times.

2014 will see the record set...straight...when the four-piece will bring out their next LP through Rice Is Nice. Lead burger Owen Penglis has been sharpening his fangs on producing a lot of records around town of late (Royal Headache, Gooch Palms, Frowning Clouds, Thee Nugs etc), so we can expect this to be something special. Don't believe me? You jackpot noodle. Then here is some aural evidence that debunks your negativity, bucko. It's very Ty Segall, which is awesome. That's pretty much all you need to know.

Catch Straight Arrows as they tour the country in support of other local rad dudes Violent Soho:


Thursday Oct 24 - The Great Northern, Byron Bay
Friday Oct 25 - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday Oct 26 - The Zoo, Brisbane - SOLD OUT
Sunday Oct 27 - The Zoo, Brisbane
Thursday Oct 31 - Mojo's, Fremantle
Friday Nov 1 - Amplifier, Perth
Saturday Nov 2 - Uni Bar, Adelaide
Monday Nov 4 - The Corner, Melbourne

Hits From The Box #74 - Taking Eight Below The Belt

2013, you sonofabitch.

Emergency operations, missing organs, lost jobs, licences and money, frayed friendships, plans scuppered, altercations and scuffles, ideas ruined, dreams set back. It's been a wild and woolly ride. I'm staring down the barrel of despair. Plus there is no more Breaking Bad to look forward to. Goddamn, not even the show Luther can finish on a satisfying note! Piss poor effort, Stringer Bell... But one constant that always lifts me up are my friends. I got to see two of my nearest and dearest this weekend, and amidst the frantic spirit drinking and DJing, I saw the light. Keep at it, young padawan. Nothing will beat you down if you don't let it. I woke up with an insufferable headache and the vigour and verve to keep on keeping on. So bring it, 2013. Fucking bring it.

Here's eight acts that fight the good fight.

Jeffrey Wentworth Stevens deserves to be at the top of this list - because he should have had a post all his own at the beginning of this year, except for the fact that when his release The Holy Dogs Of Other Days arrived in the post I was coming out of hospital after an emergency operation, then a wholesale moving job, then a long, long time in the wilderness... I was kicking some papers out from under my desk last week and came across the Playbutton. Yes, the man behind Wentworth Kersey, Long E Short E and MORRICONEZ brought his latest release out on a Playbutton, and to be fair it's worth it. Playbuttons need to be full album albums, whereby you fall in love and play it to death, or they need to be immersive experiences to while away commuter/exercise times. This burbling expansiveness does it for me. It's become the go-to when I have to walk to the bus, to the laundry, to a gig - basically anywhere where the real world is an omniscient bore. Sorry about the delay man - but thanks for the new world.

Ancient Babes hails from Vancouver and revels in all things spatial and spaced out - as long as it's steeped in the era of the Commodore 64 and Blade Runner. There is a distinct slide into the ephemeral unknown on these tracks that he pumps out, stuck in the symbiotic synthetics of 16-pixel colour schemes and leather full-length jackets, yet with a garish undertone to it all - as if the game Deus Ex were to inexplicably fuse with Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive. And an at-the-height-of-his-powers John Carpenter did the remake. you can see the roots of shoegaze in these lysergic jams, but above all else these are killer alternate realities made flesh. Plus, the dude has a PhD in particle physics, for real. I expect that he is soundtracking his own time-space continuum tear that floats at the bottom of his basement as we speak.

It wouldn't be a Hits From The Box without some garage punk rock, why not let it be unabashedly rawk and ridiculous? The Mad Doctors (as you can see from the above pic) are into novelty and incessant fun, not innovation. Their release Fuzz Tonic is all a bit of C-grade garage nonsense, but what loose and ramshackle nonsense it is. Something makes me think that Friday movie night at this trio's digs would be debased, debauched, fried freakouts indeed - and we'd be fast friends.

Sticking to New York but shifting to a different side of the spaced-out spectrum, Sideasideb have released a scuffed up, experimental pop amalgam called Old Adventures In Lo-Fi. It's an eclectic melange of ideas and sounds to be sure, but there are moments on here, like 'VX Tweak' or 'Ten Speed' just to name two, where the cracked musings burbling at the core of this band shines through. Then there is the 16 minute closer 'City Kitty' - wow. These guys supported Tenacious D? Weird. Any lovin's good lovin, I believe. Check it out, it's good for you.

The UK have always loved their elastic, enigmatic, spastic instrumental acts, and Edinburgh's Gastric Band are getting in on the act with their math-mental jams on Party Feel. The EP borrows from the That Fucking Tank rulebook of writing song titles (see: 'Brad Shitt'; 'Dustin Binman';) and are running the same eclectic gauntlet, all flailing notes and angular tones, a fierce hilarity held aloft above the acerbic rhythms. Then there's the closer, 'Under A Glass Table' which is a technical marvel and manages to be more subtle, intricate, raucous and sublime than all other efforts here, all at once.

Another release that slipped through my fingers first time around was Italian psych machines In Zaire's debut LP White Sun Black Sun, out through the inimitable Sound of Cobra Records. This endeavour reaches above and beyond mere cyclical rambles and iconic tips of the hat, however; the seven songs on display offer more melted fare, fusing the motorik sensates of drum lords past with Japanese's take on the frenetic guitar caterwauls, intercut with some intricate time signatures and backflips too. Its a burnt rocket through the solar system of the mind, and will leave you wasted and sated. Bloody impressive stuff indeed.

To Austria now - Vienna to be precise - and to Bruch, a solo act that somehow manages to warp pop into a dimensionless amorphous entity, enveloping a dirge-like rock, broken synth, post-punk, and 80s goth pop obscurity, then has the sense to call the pivotal track 'The Freaks'. Think Dirty Beaches, the most obvious comparison. Bruch is in the same ballpark. Quick fact - the time I was in Vienna in 2009, I stumbled into an underground bar that was playing 80s goth rock a la Birthday Party, Tom Waits, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Q Lazzarus - it was manned by an incredibly intoxicated Irish bartender, who gave me a tab and was so drunk she forgot to tally it up, so I drank for four hours for free. I have no idea where that place is in the city - I was lucky enough not to open my skull up on the icy pavement at 4am on a February morning - but I'm pretty sure someone does - and they will find Bruch manning the jukebox.

To finish off we'll add some letters and wing our way back to Australia with Golden Blonde. Forming in Canberra, the now Sydney based quartet have already shared stages with the likes of My Disco, Carsick Cars, Mere Women and Assassins 88, yet have a sound that both alienates and encompasses their musical brethren's creative output. On their debut LP Gwen it becomes even more obvious - this is like grabbing an experimental hip-hop instrumentalist, telling him to listen to the Snowman back catalogue, grabbing a bunch of Liars enthusiasts and locking them all together in a pitch-dark tunnel that is lit sporadically by spotlights shining on opaque prisms, then they are to write compositions based on hitting rusted silverware against the corrugated iron walls. Its truly mesmeric - I can see why Tenzenmen Records are involved. I want to bring these guys to Brisbane, post haste.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Something Less To Zone Out About

Another great little release is Something Less, the debut EP from Melbourne's Zone Out, and it's the perfect way to see out the night. The quartet features members of the bands Hot Palms, Pencil, Totally Mild, Scotdracula and is the bedroom daydreams of one Ashley Bundang, and each release gets decidedly more wistful and sepia-toned - a cloud of nostalgia, heavy burdens, metaphysical fatigue and the light touch of hope. It saunters along absentmindedly, a dancehall slowdance for those about to drop out, but the tracks here never feel listless. There is a majesty here that hints at a lot more substance just around the corner. That shimmering guitar on 'Greeves Street' also imbues a wasted elegance - being opulent and sundrunk on a VHS rerun.

Something Less is out now in cassette (through Osborne Again) and CD (Why Don't You Believe Me?) forms.

Blissing Out On The White Poppy

Cristal Dorval has been exploring the heady terrain of the aural narcotic drift for some time now, first as part of My Friend Wallis and now under the nom de plume of White Poppy. Her self-titled record, out now on Not Not Fun, is the closest yet she has reached to distilling the ephemeral gauzy dreamstates of her mind into a mesmeric worldview. Equal parts New Age-aping guitar-as-spaced-synth circling loops (something akin to Mark McGuire), early Deerhunter youthful stargaze, fallen angel anguish and exhausted elegies - White Poppy is a blissful slide into a kaleidoscopic realm that doesn't shimmer so much as explode, a sonorous opiate mainlined through the mind. Dorval threatens to drown in her own dazzling vortex, yet it is all a ploy - she is the master of her domain, a Machiavellian Syren drawing unassuming listeners into the abyss. White Poppy is darkness disguised as light, and vice versa - a cunningly ambiguous yet seductive wraith of an album.

Enough with the amorphous euphemisms. White Poppy is the real deal, a lysergic fever dream stuck between heaven and hell, and you need to get it now.

Terry Malts Is Everywhere

San Francisco's Terry Malts ripped out an unexpected highlight of 2012 with their debut record Killing Time. The trio set up a tightrope sound that wavered over the territories of ebullient guitar rock, nascent gutter punk and narcotic pop hooks and clung desperately to the wire. Sophomore effort Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere is a darker and yet more gleeful rendition of this dynamic. Skewing the title of Neil Young's excellent 1969 album, Terry Malts play their cards flagrantly from the outset. The band call themselves chainsaw pop, and the way the fuzzed-out guitars serrate the sweetest of harmonies, the most wholesome of melodies, so that the sweet and the sour intermingle like salt in an open wound suffered in a fair floss eating contest, makes true on that image of the lighter edges of devilishness. Its reckless, fast paced nihilism, but done with maniacal grins and hearts pinned garishly on their sleeves.

Buy Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere here, out through Slumberland Records.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Everybody's Droning On The Weekend

That headline (and indeed lead picture - but that's nothing unusual here...) is a slight misnomer - some of these acts aren't really drone, just are producing instrumental pieces that offer differing styles of repetition - but I thought that seeing as most weekend mornings are spent in varying stages of a fugue state, why not try to provide a soundtrack for it? Let's see if any of these five acts fit the bill...

One band that does fit into the drone zone is English act Dwellings, whose Don't Say Nothing LP has just started shipping out of Trensmat Records. Originally out on Tesla Tapes, it's a heady leap forward from the split release they did with Druss that was "presented" by Britain's progenitors of black drone alchemy GNOD (seeing as Dwellings is the mask behind which GNOD bassist Chris Haslam resides, and Tesla Tapes was started by the band), encompassing as it does the double-helix concoction of trance-inducing percussion and heaving swarms of industrial ambiance. Say what? Trust me, when these elements meld into each other, a metallic sheet of white ephemera that beguilingly lingers in the air like burnt ozone. Buy Don't Say Nothing here.

Bathetic Records are privy to some good dronal material, and the latest act they have gotten behind with such a proclivity is Matthew Sullivan's LA ephemeral crawl experiment, Earn. On the new LP Hell On Earth, Sullivan strikes out on weightless travails through unfocused streets and neon lights - pastels and fluorescence out of sync, floating towards the precipice of unconsciousness and unconscionable acts, yet never allowing you to slip under the covers of darkness - a constant bucolic wrestle for the soul. A fair tangent from the harsh noise loops of the past, Hell On Earth  nevertheless upholds the uneasiness, the fleeting moments of clarity hidden amidst a miasma of half-images and clouded ideas - and is all the more entrancing because of its obtuseness. I definitely recommend picking this up here.

Over to New Zealand now and Wellington post-rockers Sunken Seas. They visited Australia a few months ago but didn't make it as far north as Queensland; let's not hold that against them, especially when we see how on-song they are on their Cataclysm EP. Ryan Harte's vocals are making more of a presence amidst the shuddering, shimmering walls of noise that cloister around them, threatening to topple at any moment in a cataclysmic torrent of fury. Again mired in emotions as dark as the political despair Sunken Seas engenders to unearth, Cataclysm turns the mirror onto the souls of the band, in a room of mirrors shining out on the world. As in its cyclical, and emblematic of a rising emotion, here etched in noise. Despite the squall it all sounds crystalline and precise - these guys know exactly what they're doing. Cataclysm is out now through Muzai Records.

A blog that is no strange to the world of drone is Colorado-based alum Tome To The Weather Machine. One of its creators Ryan Hall has branched out and started his own digital-only singles label, Heligator Records, and the first piece to come from the newly-minted stable is a beauty. 'Agrimony (Porch Music)' is a collaboration between Lake Mary and Nathan Wheeler, an 11 minute pastoral glory that is anchored on the delicate, plaintive pluckings of a six-string acoustic guitar and Wheeler's pump organ. (Imagine Black Eagle Child territory) Its the kind of floating gem that can fill you head with all kinds of Malick-esque ruminative natural montages - then the postscript is a pretty hilarious bursting of the bubble. More please.

And let's finish with a prodigy, shall we? Henry Plotnick is but a babe in the woods - ELEVEN years young to be exact - yet with Fields he has crafted nine sonorous suites of cyclical, coalescing soundbites of light. The experimental complexities and professional acumen present in these looping, kaleidoscopic classics defies explanation - it's good enough to be the lighthearted musings of William Basinski, or the nightmarish daydreams of David Lynch if 'Field 4' is anything to go by, let alone the machinations echoing forth from the mind of a child not ready to leave primary school yet. Holy Mountain have snatched Plotnick up (figuratively speaking, of course), and it's a coup of sorts - if this is what he is capable of now, give him five, ten, fifteen years. Seriously blown away by this. You can, and bloody well should, buy Fields here (how many people IN GENERAL can claim to have a double LP out which is winning global critical acclaim? Jesus.)