Monday, 30 June 2014

Get Your Paws Off Youth Culture, Live Forever

When Cokefloat, the debut album by Scottish band PAWS came out, I was transfixed. Not since perhaps Male Bonding broke out with Nothing Hurts did I feel that young male malaise married so well with rock that was self-referential, "hip", fun and yet really self-deprecating too - and blowing speakers and smashing pints all the while. So to say that I've been looking forward to the trio's follow up LP Youth Culture Forever is a less-than-mild understatement. And thankfully, unlike Male Bonding's undercooked (but still OK) sophomore effort, Endless Now, this twelve track effort stays the course. Sure, it doesn't stray far from the preconceived path, and that connection with MB and another thrashy band, Japandroids (especially on a track like 'Owls Talons Clenching My Heart'), is still wholly evident. But you cannot deny a band whose album has you smiling and turning up the dial from opener, the tempered yet cathartic 'Erreur Humaine' to the acoustic lo-fi gem 'YCF' and the excellently crushing closer 'War Cry'. It's a document of the boys' fumbling growth spurts through being a band and being young males, all with some tongue-in-cheek turns of phrase - and whilst it doesn't hit me as immediately as its predecessor, in short, it's still bloody great.

Youth Culture Forever (out on Fat Cat) can be got here - it's a good'un.

Caught Tracing The Lower Spectrum

I brought to your attention the dark burbling undercurrents that Melbourne producer Lower Spectrum delves in last year. It looked like it would be an experiment that remained fixed in the shadows of the bedroom, something we would get a taste of unexpectedly before retreating into the recesses of the Internet ether once more. But a year is a long time, and it seems that Lower Spectrum (AKA Ned Beckley) is taking this project further afield. Case in point - despite moving from the creative hub that is Melbourne into the comparative wilderness that is Fremantle, Western Australia, he is releasing a 12" EP on clear vinyl called Traces through Zero Through Nine Records. His ambition - to provide a through line from the inexorable complexities of cinematic meanderings to the inherent mantras of the dancefloor - to perplex and move in equal measure. His work continues to beguile, the juxtaposition of movement and introspective intricacies somehow existing side-by-side. I'm glad we are getting a physical release from Beckley, and I hope that his explorations find more ears, as he is only growing in confidence.

Grab Traces here.

Video Vacuum - A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Strange Forces, Quilt, Tritha

I've sequestered myself in the heart of Queensland, where everything is slow, rugged, and bigger than it needs to be. I've already seen a fly that is bigger than my eyeball and a "pie" that could feed a Third-world village for a week sold at a comfortable $3.50 (the pie that is - the fly is free, roaming the streets and invading my dreams). So I can get back into the swing of things. There will be an announcement on the social mediaz later today about the next Sonic Masala Records release, but until then, let's bask in the glory of moving images connected to awesome muzak. Take a load off and disappear...

For some reason, whenever I used to put my iPod into the digital jack of my parents' stereo in 2010 and hit shuffle, it would always start with either HEALTH's Get Color or A Sunny Day In Glasgow's Ashes Grammar. Weird, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Now the latter Philly/Sydney/Brooklyn/wherever band have a new album in the mix, Sea When Absent. It promises to be a great blast of sonorous shoegaze-inflected infections, of which 'In Love With Useless' is but a delectable taste. There is something nostalgic about the song, and the clip - POV fun with the camera lens being bumped, pushed, smeared and splattered - is pretty great.

I don't know what to think about the news that Berlin-via-Brisbane psychers Strange Forces are calling it a day (unless I'm wrong, which I hope I am). I mean, it's obviously sad - but there is at least a second LP, Trance Food, that we get to bathe in. The bassline in the title track reminds me of the motorik leanings of TEEN before they decided to jump all over the shop (and theoretically jump the shark) with their latest album. It's a blasted weirdnik trip into the LSD devolution, film clip and all (how CD-ROM is this video? I feel like I'm playing that bootleg Russian Pac-Man game I stole off a kid on my school bus in 1993). AKA brilliant.

Let's get a bit more pastoral now with Quilt. 'Eye Of The Pearl' is off their new album Held In Splendor (out through Mexican Summer). It's a subdued affair, showing the band in sunlit mores amidst vintage rooms, playing instruments, travelling around the world (mainly Russia I think but that is because of one shot, so I don't know). It's as beautiful and therapeutic as the song itself.

And let's finish with some grungy Indian garage rock, shall we? Tritha sing about a fish market as political allegory. It's just a bit weird with a great film clip (and perfectly pitched 'oo's). This more than most other foreign-language songs has me shouting in a different tongue. Plus you get a recipe out of the proceedings. Win Win.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Moles/Blank Realm

Before we post the chat I had with the Spencer siblings from Brisbane musical excellence du jour Blank Realm in a couple days' time (after they are hopefully basking in the spotlight granted them after their stints at Glastonbury this weekend), I thought I would shine a light on the London show they will be playing this Wednesday. They play an instore at Flashback Records which you would be stupid to miss, then they trundle up the road to smash up The Lexington. They will be joined by The Moles.


The Moles is an Aussie band that were around in the early 90s, obviously indebted to The Clean, The Bats and other Flying Nun alumni, with more than a leaning towards contemporaries The Go-Betweens and Underground Lovers. This is the project of Richard Davies who has gone on to other things. But with Fire Records reissuing the two records they put out in their own right, the wider world can finally revel in the beauty of this undervalued songsmith's penmanship. Listen below, head over and buy the record here, and get along to Wednesday's show - you won't regret it.

Driven Mad By The Male Gaze

Get a load of the abrasive catharsis of the male gaze when held in thrall by the band Male Gaze, the pastiche golem plied together out of clay, piss and shit by past members of Mayyors and Blasted Canyons (these guys are still a band though, right? RIGHT?) Standing astride the summit of Mt St Mtn, glaring into the abyss that lies beyond the 'Cliffs Of Madness' whilst slurring/bellowing from behind rusted instruments that squall and splutter. It's a auspicious 7" opening stand AKA loud, scuzzy and bristling with blood-drenched hooks - grab it here. The band will stretch things out into a full length, fittingly on SF nutbags Castle Face Records in the upcoming months.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Total System Shutdown Is Typically Out Of Control

Bosses in the ‘80s had it easy; powder blue suits, cigars, Huey Lewis, helicopters and shit. Total fucking self-obsessed bliss: lines, all highs, no looking down, lines, synthesisers, lines, keeping track of how much of the world they just wrote off for cash, lines. None of them would have had a chance on the Voight-Kampff machine.

It’s not so easy now. But that’s made things worse in a way – it’s harder to spot the string they pull you along with. The nooses aren’t as obvious. The ties are neutral colours. They’ll make you think it was your decision. Yeah, you really wanted to go in on Saturday, didn’t you?

I sat through an hour of it yesterday. Words, words, words, graphs, words… Pale faces in PowerPoint headlights, worrying about their superannuation like there’s no other way. I should really go in on Saturday, shouldn’t I? ‘Yeah, you should,’ your boss says without saying it. “Mate” he says, clammy hand on your shoulder, ‘how’re the kids and the home loan?’ The threat slides right past the Voight-Kampff.

Remember that they’re always the same. Don’t buy into it. Buy into Total Control because they know and they use all of it against them. Here is your realisation. Don’t go in on Saturday. Listen to Total Control instead.

Buy the excellent Typical System here (it's still pre-order due to a shutdown at the pressing plant - which has waylaid the fourth Sonic Masala Records release, Cobwebbs' WORLDWIDEWEBBS) - it's out now through Iron Lung Records.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Boss Fight

Having been standout acts on a couple of Sonic Masala showcases now (their first, alongside Seaplane, Tape/Off and El Motel, was my first ever sell-out show), it goes without saying that Boss Fight were going to find a way onto the bill. For the uninitiated they are a five piece that cover video game soundtracks. But this ain't no 8-bit homage - these guys are all gifted, trained musicians, and have gone to the ridiculous trouble of composing these songs by ear, then relearning them through live instrumentation. So whilst everything remains relatively electronic, it doesn't rely on similarities - it goes for the jugular to sound EXACTLY LIKE THE GAMES. It's like childhood being reborn and rammed into your inner ear! I am pretty sure I saw someone verging on tears when they played the F-Zero soundtrack...

Bossfight will be on early, so make sure you come early. First band is now on at midday. $10 for all of this and more! Here is Bossfight going all Skyrim on you. I've never played this one, but, you know, dragons.

Video Vacuum - Step-Panther, Spoon, Bo Ningen, Gum Takes Tooth

It's been a while since we dived headlong into the moving image here, so let's go for it! First cab off the rank is Sydney's snots Step-Panther and their great new track 'Nowhere'. Animation at its most simplistic, devilish and stupid - my kind of fun.

Spoon are back! I must admit that I have a soft spot for these guys - Kill The Moonlight is still one of my favourite albums of the last decade. The band have rushed this little clip up of new song 'Rent I Pay' on the interwebz - not sure why it's "unofficial", it's a pretty straightforward affair, all shadows of Britt Daniel performing, but I don't care - it's just good to have the boys back.

London-via-Japan psych acid rockers Bo Ningen have a third place to call home - namely Australia, what with good friends Black Night Crash Records signing the guys up for their distro over here. And it's great to see things haven't gotten any saner with the band - the time they melted my face off at 100 Club in London in 2009 will not remain a distant memory. The film clip by Marie Schuller is incredible, let's go lose our minds.

And whilst still in the land of the United Kingdom, the land I started this fine blog in and (spoiler alert!) the land I will be returning to shortly, I thought we would look in at another band I remember fondly - Gum Takes Tooth. Here is an experimental live recording they did with Jaxson Payne - not as straight up deconstructed punk, but aberrant noise philandering nonsense nonetheless - so of course I think it is great. I'm off to see some bands in a Bearded Lady - enjoy...

This Austerity Program Is Calculated Brilliance

I don't remember exactly the moment I "discovered" New York noisy duo The Austerity Program - but it was probably around the time I was heavily into listening to Hydra Head records and in particular Helms Alee's Night Terror. if you haven't listened to TAP's seminal 2010 EP Backsliders & Apostates Must Burn, do yourself a favour and DO IT RIGHT NOW. Don't even read the rest of this post. Just do that - NOW (and if you live in Brisbane, there is definitely a copy of it in Tym Guitars - I put it on the shelf especially yesterday).

It's taken a bunch of years for these warped brothers in nascent narcissism and devilish grins to bring us a new release. They scurried from the embers of Hydra Head Records and formed their own label, Controlled Burn (along with fellow brothers Nonagon, whose own The Last Hydronaut LP was their first release - and we fucking loved it). But we FINALLY have Beyond Calculation - and it's everything I hoped for and more. With one guitar, one bass, one vocal and one pissed off drum machine (how else can it cope with such brutality? The machines seethe too...), this band flays the outliers of society, laying their situations bare and brandishes the remains with maniacal glee, jamming it down the throats of sympathisers and non-believers both.

Steve Albini's abrasive outfits will come to mind here, but there is something more inherently comical, garish and nightmarish about Beyond Calculation that he and his hoary brethren could never broach. Yes, each song is calibrated and refined to such a brutal dexterous distillation that they cut through the thickest of red tape and indifferent hides; yes, the impassioned cynical howl of Justin Foley turns from playful to destructive in a heartbeat (or heart attack). They can be tightly coiled mechanical beasts of burden; lumbering colossi of brutal metal dirge; intricate triangulations of technique, wit and excess. Overall, though, The Austerity Program is shining the magnifying glass on the 21st century with furious intent - and in most cases, the insects under scrutiny is us.

Pick up Beyond Calculation here - it's a must.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Fist City Say 'DIE!'

Canadian punkers Fist City impressed me last year with their 'Boring Kids' and 'Endless Bummer' clip trips. All prepping their album It's 1983, Grow Up (out on Transgressive Records). I think the album took a lot of people by surprise, because here it is getting a reissue and a more global push. So why not get behind it? Especially when they are releasing as a new slice from the album 'Losers Say Die', which is the perfect encapsulation of what this band is all about? Get in or say die.

You can buy It's 1983, Grow Up here on white vinyl - it's an ace little release.

Two Pieces Of Carsick Cars

I never thought I would see Carsick Cars. The idea of a Chinese no-wave inflicted guitar rock band even existing seemed unfathomable – but to see them hit the stage at Woodland back in 2012 felt like a heady hallucination. A true caterwaul, but one that felt imbued with real, honest and earned anguish. I hope to see them play again.

And if they continue to produce albums the calibre of 3, I reckon there's a hot chance that I will. It's been five years in the making, and the shift in sonic aesthetics is palpable. There is a stronger jamming vibe to these songs, and whilst the Western musical appropriation has always been evident in their abject love of Sonic Youth, 3 is littered with much further-reaching touchstones. I felt like 'Wei Cheng' was a mix of The Kinks and The Clean, all sunny, ebullient and crisp in execution (unbeknownst to me, The Clean's Hamish Kilgour actually produces this record alongside Peter Kember - yep, Sonic Boom). 'Fifteen Minutes Older' sounds crafted for Doug Martsch's inner ear only, so effortless is the tightly wound yet effervescent guitar pop carved out here. 'The Best VPN So Far' was pummelling in the engine room, the drums rolling forth like a harbinger of giants of yore, whilst the anguished growl of the guitars were of the netherworld - yet all was evocative of something positive in nature, regardless if experienced through headphones, stereo speakers or in a stadium. It's the pop strains that are stronger; the motorik seam richer; the psych permutations more striking. This album deserves to be heard by EVERYONE.

But that isn't enough - Carsick Cars just finished a Stateside tour with Minneapolis' psych-drone outfit Flavor Crystals (whose own newly released album is eerily called Three), and have a split blood-red 7" to stand as a marker of their time together. It was crafted for Record Store Day, but is now available to all (both releases are available here in Australia thanks to the inimitable Tenzenmen and Geijing Records). The Chinese trios contribution is 'Yoko' and is a perfect slice of rollicking guitar pop, the drums and organ effects driving the song at a frantic pace - Guided By Voices in hi fi. Flavor Crystals' effort is 'Mirror In My Mind', a much more wound-down, stargazed effort - the band has also recently toured with Brian Jonestown Massacre, so that gives you an idea into what psych realm we are drifting into. It's a great piece of Krautrock-inflicted glide, but the effervescent strength of 'Yoko' undercuts it somewhat (although if you dig Spacemen 3 - which I do a lot - you could take the split from the other side of the fence too...) Its still a must have though - both tracks a perfect exemplar of their oeuvre.

You can buy both releases here and here.

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Seaplane

Here is a band that should be well known in Brisbane circles but is nowhere near as well known in wider circles. In fact you might be hard pressed to meet someone who is an avid fan, or even the band itself... Seaplane kicked out the jams back in 2001, then comprising of Dale Peachey (Dollar Bar), Stirling Bartlam and Conwae Burrell (Extrafoxx). They put out a couple EPs and the excellent Technical Difficulties LP in 2004. Burrell made way for Scotty Brique (Nova Scotia amongst many others) and the melody and fury remained in tandem, culminating in one of the unsung Brisbane albums, We Didn't Know Anything Was Wrong in 2009 (Burrell's drumming emanates from within).

Then the band all but vanished.

Seaplane sporadically play shows - they headlined Sonic Masala's first sell-out show back in 2012 alongside Tape/Off, Bossfight and El Motel - but they tend to be rarer than hens' teeth. There is also a third album out there. I've heard it. It's great. It was meant to be a Lofly release, but with their closing down only last week (RIP) it leaves us in a quandary as to what will happen there. Below is a sample track from those recordings, a softer harmony-hugger that endears the trio to you all over again. Come see them play these songs and more Saturday around 8pm.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Half Man, Half Cop - All Slovenly HOBOCOP

I am late to the party on this album (as I am with lots of things, due to being a slacker, but better late than never *insert cliche here*). But then again I'm not sure that anyone gives a shit about Oakland duo Hobocop (despite the myriad memes out there about this fictional take on the fictitious character), their Facebook page only has 70 likes (71 now after I discovered this fact) and no one is buying their Half Man Half Cop 10". Which is goddamned dumb, because this is one of those scuzzball releases that benefits from its serrated griminess, its puerile slackjawed affability, its lazy and barely contained feedback. There are tracks like 'Ponzi Scheme' that feels like a 70s Detroit blues punk discovery; other tracks like 'I Was A Beautiful Hippy (Now My Furniture Is Moldy)' have this motorik happenstance simmering as the skeleton of what occasionally erupts into a shouted lung hack, like a tired, cranky, Doors-binging Puffy Areolas. I love the hell out of it. It's something that grows on you like a fungus, and is just as difficult to get rid of. Probably just as unsightly too, but unlike a fungal outbreak, you are more likely to have sex with Half Man Half Cop on. Get it now through the ever excellent fuzz raconteurs Slovenly Records.

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Nana Vigilante

It isn't every day that we have hip-hop oriented music here on Sonic Masala. In fact it is so rare that I doubt it goes into double digits the amount of posts we have devoted to the musical genre. Yet on Saturday we are opening up Sonic Masala Fest with one, albeit a beautifully warped one. Nana Vigilante is a female hip-hop spitter backed by distorted beats, samples and manipulations, creating a crooked swagger that is indelibly entrenched in the dimly-lit twilight zones of Brisbane. They have been slamming out songs lately, and here is a live "acoustic" one they did for 4ZZZ about three weeks ago.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Spartak

One of the few interstate acts gracing the Greenslopes Bowls Club stage is Canberra's own purveyors of minimalist electronica, Spartak. The glitchy mantras on latest EP Five Points throw out miasmic tractor beams to hypnotise and hold sway, before the vocals creep out from behind, seeping in synapses... The band are the perfect example of the type of innovation that percolates under the surface of Australian music, a rich seam that the likes of HelloSquare and New Weird Australia have spent their efforts unearthing. Its a pretty big deal getting these guys on board. They play a show the night before at The Waiting Room (Friday June 20) with excellent support from Spirit Bunny and Naked Maja (whose own newly minted EP The Vagrant is all kinds of great also).

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Barge With An Antenna On It

BARGE with an antenna on it are genuine Sonic Masala favourites. These two dudes have such a straight up respect for the noise that they make and the way that they make it. It's loud and pushed and repetitive, and it's subtle and restrained and surprising. It's also clear that they do it because they just want to. They don't really care who's watching. Thankfully, we have dragged them away from their jam room for long enough so that we can. Here are a few scratchy demos, although they do the boys nowhere near enough justice.

The demos above and below, as well as a few others, have been reworked in Incremental Studios with Cam Smith a day after their electric set they played at another Sonic Masala show, this time supporting Gazar Strips on their EP launch (I wasn't the only one who thought so). The tracks will appear on an unyet-named 12" split on Sonic Masala Records - more as that comes to light. As it stands, you must catch these guys at the Festival - they promise to be one of the highlights.

Laura's First Love Song

Now here is a local release to get excited about (and not just because it is appearing on perennial good-taste label Chapter Music). Laura Jean is a studied, elegant performer, a waif amidst the mist, and 'First Love Song' perfectly encapsulates this. Recorded with the illustrious John Parish, the track is a off-hand and banal look at love, played with studious yet hooded eyes, as if almost embarrassed at how easy love can be between two people - and how nonplussed the participants can be from the outside looking in. A measured song from a measured artist, Laura Jean's album promises much more when it arrives in August.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Counting on Doom at the Disco

Some times are long and languid, others are stuttered and short. You fit everything in here, it feels like surrender to let yourself have a decent night's sleep there. Things and times always pile up on each other - sometimes they explode, sometimes they wash away.

Disco Doom run the gamut of paces, noises, voices and otherwise. There is a pop heart underneath all of it, but it's weary here and jumpy there. It is the perfect tonic to a lonely, rainy day - one that rides the warm folds out of bed to a good spot and good book. You'll get things done but sometimes you need to do "nothing" too.

Get your hands on Numerals from their website or bandcamp.

Sonic Masala Festival Artist Spotlight - Andrew Tuttle

From today onwards I aim to shine a light on a different artist that will be playing at Sonic Masala's first festival. I went all out  and called it Sonic Masala Fest. Because I'm an ideas man...

First cab off the rack is Andrew Tuttle. He is a much loved and proactive member of the Brisbane music scene for over the last half decade (and a bloody good mate). He has performed in a bunch of acts, most notably his solo pseudonym Anonymeye. Turning a new leaf, he has stripped the moniker and embraced his namesake. To open the salvo he brought out the wonderful little EP 4064, named after the postcode of Paddington, the suburb he lives and has lived around for some time.

Tuttle is in the process of writing new material, the first taste being BickLack, a twenty-eight minute sound collage that sews together a bunch of audio samples, improv runs and unreleased edits recorded last year in a mesmeric yet ebullient whole. One of the important facets of Tuttle's solo oeuvre is his ability to carve out light whispers, tendrils of sonic space that evokes open spaces, lonely streets, the quiet within the urban. BickLack continues in this vein and is a stunning pastiche of where this eccentric banjo-slinger is heading next.

Brittle Concrete, Bony Water

Sydney electronic artist Setec has been on my radar since his Wood & Wire release, the EP I'll Be Good. There is a subtle percolating beauty that lies embedded in his work, something akin to the more subdued cut-and-paste elements of Cornelius' work. Its the fluidity of the music that really stands out - when most artists say they are blurring the lines between organic and synthetic, they aren't cutting close to what Setec is tapping into here. And his upcoming LP Brittle As Bones seems destined to show this once and for all. You only need to be lulled by track 'Water Or Concrete' to understand where Setec (AKA Joshua Gibb) is heading. It's an amazing track that precedes what is likely to be a very exciting release, seguing from found-sound percussion to nebulous loops, hushed samples, and Gibbs' own voice, all melding together to become a breathing, naturalistic wonder.

Brittle As Bones comes out soon - keep your eye and ears peeled, because this promises to be an important 2014 release.