NEW VIDEO FROM LEJONSLÄKTET – “SKOGSVANDRINGAR”

31 Mar

As charming and colorful as their music, a beautiful new animated video from Lejonsläktet has emerged, for the song “Skogsvandringar,” and we’re happy to share it with you here.

In some ways, it’s difficult to believe it’s been nearly a year since we tagged Lejonsläktet with our difficult-to-shake “Band of the Week” designation (a curse as much as a blessing, it would seem). Certainly, we feel like Lejonsläktet are still a “new” band, and one whose debut five-song EP from this past year – “In Och Ut” – still has many, many more ears to reach.

Yet there’s something so utterly timeless about the music of Lejonsläktet – not for nothing did we declare “In Och Ut” to be “perfect” – that it’s hard to track their movements in the traditional, linear manner, and the video for “Skogsvandringar” is as pleasing to the eyes as the band’s forest-born, foreboding folk is to our ears. Make no mistake about it – Lejonsläktet make magic sounds. Little wonder then that the always excellent Trouble In Mind Records will release the Swedes’ first vinyl release later this month, with the seven-inch of “Väderkvarn” b/w “Trygghetens Rus.” We highly recommend taking a hike with Lejonsläktet, anytime you can.

BAND OF THE WEEK: WORTHLESS

12 Mar

There are perhaps few bands in existence with a moniker that carries as much of a misnomer as does Worthless, a band whose every release chips away at the validity of their name. With the appearance of their full-length album entitled “All My Friends Are Stone,” the band again proves themselves to be indescribably valuable to ears that appreciate high-weirdness, of the often highly-amplified variety – and by extension, sounding more Worthless than ever before.

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“All My Friends Are Stone” is a one hundred percent certified freak-show of an album, a merry-go-round of sonic bemusement and candy-cane confusion, both uninterested in and unwilling to allow its sound to linger in one place for very long. And yet, despite its homegrown Gypsy wanderings, the songs on “All My Friends Are Stone” taken together offer an undeniable and undeniably cohesive chain of charm.

That Worthless charm is present from the first song, the warped wake-and-bake wallow of “Pizza Break.” It’s immediately clear that on “All My Friends Are Stone,” Worthless have declared themselves to be constrained by nothing, save for their own imagination – tempos drift, vocals shoot from heavenward to hell-bound and back again, and the picture emerges of a sonic landscape that Syd Barrett might declare super fucking strange. “Dee Minnor” follows, flute and clean-guitar leading the procession towards an impossibly catchy refrain, answering the unasked musical question of what it might sound like for Spacemen 3 to have jammed with The Association – with a result certain to be cherished by all freaky friends, stone and non-stone alike.

The seventeen-minute-plus B-side of the album, “Yellowfingers,” is unquestionably the album’s centerpiece, the far-out fruition of the Worthless sound writ large. Simply put, it’s one of the best-sounding, memorable and simply very, very good “bad trips” that any listener is ever likely to take.

“All My Friends Are Stone” is certain to gain Worthless an expanding universe of friendships, connections sturdily built upon the band’s post-planetary psychic-bliss. Welcome to their world, where love is also hate, where pain morphs into pleasure at the click of a fuzz pedal, and where being Worthless is absolutely priceless.

All My Friends Are Stone” by Worthless will be released on April 14, 2015.

“Making friends with our fear—tasting it, chewing it, becoming intimately familiar with it—opens a doorway. We can develop an inner strength and confidence not based on the ups and downs of our contemporary world with its 24/7 rhythm of getting and spending. In the midst of outer and inner famine, violence, intolerance, and cowardice, the Natural Bravery approach invites you to walk the path of courage along with our spiritual ancestors, the brave women and men throughout history who have manifested fearlessness in everyday life.” – Gaylon Ferguson

BAND OF THE WEEK: QUEEN CRESCENT

5 Mar

“Are you ready for the Queen of the Crescent Moon? Are you ready for the Queen?”

So sing Queen Crescent on “In the Court of the Crimson Queen,” an awful inviting way for the Oakland-based band to open their self-titled debut – especially considering that said album’s stunning, stomping, majestically striding thirty-four minutes culminate in a different, somewhat more impolite (but completely familiar) sentiment, by way of the song “I Wish A Muthafucka Would.” Clearly, this Queen is mercurial and judging by her sound, she is massive – she contains multitudes.

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From “In the Court of the Crescent Queen” through “I Wish A Muthafucka Would,” Queen Crescent employ a million manners of royally wrecked rock references, not all crimson in color, but all delivered sharply enough to draw blood.

For despite the lunar glow of the album’s cover (and despite this album being undeniably, unquestionably and un-self-consciously flute rock to its core), the Queen’s yellow in this case it not so mellow – in fact, we’re trying to say, it’s fucking awesome. There’s a bit of blue, some of that space-conquering black – even a splash of what we identify as black-magick green.

Whatever the colors you identify as shining from the Queen Crescent throne, what’s clear to our ears is that the colors are all naturally occurring. That is to say, this is a band that sounds completely in-synch with their sound; their wah-wah pedal operates with the grace and heavy simplicity of a human heart, involuntary, life-giving and natural.

It’s a sound self-described by the band of being “born of the psychedelic womb” – and here’s to their thousand-year reign of sonic aristocracy.

Boogie and blood and moons and machines and flutes and freakery and gallop and GOD! Are you ready for the Queen of the Crescent Moon?

We were born ready. Highest possible recommendation.

Queen Crescent’s self-titled debut album is available here.

“Leaving, where to go? Staying, where?

Which to choose? I stand aloof.

To whom speak my parting words? The galaxy,

White, immense, A crescent moon.”

- Shoten, 11th Century

(from “Zen Poems of China and Japan“)

BAND OF THE WEEK: Zs + EARTHEATER

26 Feb

We get it: we don’t get it.

Our true understanding and knowledge of music, composition, art – any subject you can name, really – rises to the level of sub-dilettante, and only just. We are the offspring of resignation, our personal formats forged not in the fires of creative liberation but in the dense logic of escape, manifested in a youth spent drinking warm swill from twelve-ounce cans, slumped and slack-jawed in the back seats of Japanese cars hidden in American suburban parking lots, “Show No Mercy” offering persistent background ambient noise (while still occasionally hearing the chorus to “More Than A Feeling” and thinking, “That’s kinda fucking cool.”).

So, we get it – we don’t get it.

Luciano Berio got it. He said the following in 1993:

“The increasing diversity of the forms of musical consumption, the evolution of techniques and audiences, and the consequent instability of possible points of reference are the product, to a certain extent, of the available means of recording, reproducing, and conserving music. Such is the quantity of noise – actual and virtual – around us, that it cannot be made the object of methodological analysis. It is not so much a musical phenomenon but a phenomenon of musical amnesia that has nothing to do with any musically valuable territory we are interested in exploring.

“Through new technologies, one can enter new acoustic and musical directions. Already in the 1950s, Karlheinz Stockhausen, with Zietmasse, Gruppen, Kontakte, and the related theoretical apparatus (wie die Zeit vergeht, ‘how time passes’), was looking for an extreme, and often paradoxical, conceptual homogeneity among qualitative and quantitative sound dimensions, among time proportions, frequency, and timbre, among micro- and macrophenomena and forms, in the attempt to reach a quasi-natural, quasi-divine, total fusion of all possible qualitative and quantitative parameters. We know, however, that in nature every morphogenesis has a molecular basis, while in music – vocal and instrumental – the integration of large and small-scale phenomena is never innocent because the phenomena have no absolute values. Through the new computer-assisted technologies the composer deals with, so to speak, ‘molecular’ digitized sound dimensions where everything can be formed and transformed, where anything can become anything else. However, this fascinating field of possibilities is also very risky, when the computer loses contact with the specificity of the musical matter.”

We don’t get it, but we do have a desire to get it, and we do tend to know what we like. What we really, really like (and on occasion, trick ourselves into believing we get) are the two Guardian Alien albums that we own and worship, which makes other music made by the two principal aliens of Guardian Alien of tremendous interest to us.

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Xe” (from Northern Spy Records) is the most recent and perhaps most bewildering album yet released by Zs, and the first to include the drumming skills of Greg Fox. Calling Greg Fox a “drummer” feels a little like calling Count Dracula a “goth dude with a funny accent,” so we’ll defer to simply calling him an alien. And alien sounds abound throughout “Xe,” perhaps none more compelling than the album’s centerpiece, the brilliant, twelve-and-a-half minute “Corps.”

As solid an example as you’re every likely to find of Berio’s afore-mentioned reference to the quantity of noise that “cannot be made the object of methodological analysis,” “Xe” brings the noise that makes us reject any and all analysis, and instead merely wish we could take a long walk across the rings of Saturn with Albert Ayler.

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Meanwhile, Fox’s fellow Guardian Alien, Alexandra Drewchin, has just released her debut full-length solo album under the Eartheater moniker on Hausu Mountain Records, entitled “Metalepsis” and rightly pegged by the label as “an intensifying murk of cyborg psychedelia.” Listen to “Homonyms” one hundred times and call us in the morning.

Could there be a better representation of “the attempt to reach a quasi-natural, quasi-divine, total fusion of all possible qualitative and quantitative parameters”? Simply put, “Metalepsis” is an astonishing, strange and blindingly creative album, both intensely personal and undeniably universal, even (or especially) when capturing the sound of universes collapsing, universes unhinged and unburdened by the bondage of the ten-thousand things, universes getting born together. Highest possible recommendation.

“Xe” by Zs is available now from Northern Spy Records.

“Metalepsis” by Eartheater is available now through Hausu Mountain Records.

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BAND OF THE WEEK: THE MYRRORS

13 Feb

There’s more than a hint of mystery surrounding The Myrrors, the impossible-to-define sonic-shaman hailing from the Tucson, Arizona. The mystery, however, feels far from manufactured – it would appear to exist naturally within the band’s collective DNA, a double-helix of third-eye vision that informs their every note.

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Certainly, there’s something mysterious about the band’s first album, “Burning Circles in the Sky,” given that it was recorded “sometime in 2008” (as stated by The Myrrors themselves), but only saw release late in 2013. And there’s something mysterious about the constant hum of activity that has defined the band in the months since “Burning Circles” was released – a hum that includes adding two more releases to their fast-growing catalog, along with an invitation to appear at “Levitation,” the 2015 incarnation of Austin Psych Fest.

Yet with the release of “Arena Negra” – the band’s first release for Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records – there are signs that the mystery has been solved. Put another way, there may have never been a mystery to solve in the first place. As the forty-two minute journey unfolds, it becomes abundantly clear that The Myrrors are simply one of the most compelling bands on the planet at the moment, whether their records are arriving three times a year, or only every three years.

The Myrrors sound is one of urgency, but urgency not beholden to velocity. From the twelve-minute “Arena Negra” title track that opens the album (by slowly slithering out of the ground and into the air), to the twenty-minute inhumanly heavy album closer, “The Forward Path,” it’s immediately apparent that the band has captured completely the sound of shackles being shed. “Arena Negra” comes on strong, as clearly, evenly and undeniably as the very light that enters your eyes, fueled by a heroic dose of Bardo Pond-esque levels of elevation and amplification.

Arena Negra” is – both by turns and, miraculously, all at once – dramatic, reflective, ecstatic and otherworldly. It’s the work of craftsmen and the cosmos, equally, dialed-in to accurately reflect immensity and awe.

Arena Negra” by The Myrrors is released March 25 by Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records. It’s stunning.

 “This moment is very important—whether the world is empty or not, whether it exists or not, doesn’t matter. Take away your opinion, then what? What is left? That is the point. Take away your opinion—your condition, situation—then your mind is clear like space. Clear like space means clear like a mirror. A mirror reflects everything: the sky is blue, tree is green, sugar is sweet.” – Seung Sahn

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: SMOKING WHITE

5 Feb

We don’t know much about Smoking White, which can lead to the tricky task of making some assumptions. And we don’t like making assumptions. But we do like Smoking White.

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We’ll try to skip the assumptions and, on the singular strength of “Soft Chains,” recommend that you consider doing the same. “Soft Chains” is the name of the full-length debut from Smoking White, a band from Texas, and one that mentions My Bloody Valentine and The Stooges as key performance indicators. It’s a good start to winning our love, and while we’d say the band’s sound often falls closer to the “Loveless” side of the sonic spectrum than it does to the “Rock Action” side, that’s assuming that there’s any agreement about a spectrum at all. And we’re trying to skip the assumptions – rather, we recommend just slipping into the surprisingly comfortable confines of “Soft Chains,” beginning as it does with a monstrous title track that sets the stage for the album as a whole.

Momentarily panned all the way to the left-hand side of your speakers or headphones, “Soft Chains” announces itself with a guitar riff three-to-five times more complex than our memory can give it credit for being, before the entire landscape is filled with the type of universe-destroying, highly-amplified, highly-hummable chaos that we’re always happy to hear come our way. “Soft chains/slow fury,” goes the moan that lays not quite on top, but somewhere in the massive middle of the song lead by an absolutely unassailable bass line (we’re holding out for a 14-minute dub remix), extending what is essentially a single idea and expanding it to the point of maximum buoyancy and felony-level fuzz-pedal abuse.

Pick any two songs from “Soft Chains” and create your own bullet-proof seven-inch of seventh-level shoegaze heaven. “Psychic Anything Blows” offers an amplified death-blow to psychic anything, the guitars seemingly shape-shifting into a languid harmonica accompaniment and back again in the blink of an eye. “Blood/Breath” strikes sharply enough to pierce the skin, oscillating effects pouring salt in the wounds all the while, and the Quaalude-calm of “Holy Joke” delivers a sound collage as its punchline, the aggressive and aggressively weird heart that beats beneath the band’s narcotic, distorted exo-skeleten.

And so it goes with Smoking White, a leisurely draw on whatever you prefer to inhale, consequences and tinnitus be damned. Who’s got a light?

Soft Chains” by Smoking White is available as a free download at their Bandcamp page. You’d be silly not to take it for a spin.

“If we are bound to a repetitive cycle of work that deprives us of our freedom to inquire and understand things for ourselves, we soon stagnate, crippled by the chains of routine. If we are spurred to action by elevating ideals but lack the discipline to implement them, we may eventually find ourselves wallowing in idle dreams or exhausting our energies on frivolous pursuits. It is only when accustomed routines are infused by vision that they become springboards to discovery rather than deadening ruts. And it is only when inspired vision gives birth to a course of repeatable actions that we can bring our ideals down from the ethereal sphere of imagination to the somber realm of fact. It took a flash of genius for Michelangelo to behold the figure of David invisible in a shapeless block of stone, but it required years of training, and countless blows with hammer and chisel, to work the miracle that would leave us a masterpiece of art.” – Bhikkhu Bodhi

BAND OF THE WEEK: NOEL BRASS, JR.

28 Jan

Our introduction to the music of Seattle-based keyboardist and composer Noel Brass, Jr,. came in the form of his release from this past year, entitled “Another Solo Mission.” The album title itself turns out to be a near-total misnomer; if Brass continues to release such inspired music, music that runs concurrently, seamlessly on the twin engines of exploration and excitement, there’s no way that Brass can keep interested parties and discerning from insisting on hitching a ride.

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Fortunately, Brass seems more than willing to let us ride shotgun as he travels his spaceways, his spaceways, from planet to planet, and the songs he describes as “composed works from improvisational recording sessions” seem to our ears to be nothing less than map-points on an ever-expanding sonic universe, one crafted entirely and entirely admirably from Brass’s active imagination.

To attempt to describe “Another Solo Mission” is to make effort in vain – to paraphrase another solo mission visionary, this is an album whose landscape must be heard to be believed, and more important, must be believed to be heard.

For his part, Brass does a more than adequate job of putting an umbrella description over his essential sonic beliefs: “Part ambient, part psychedelic, all soul – influenced by early sci-fi soundtracks, film noir, and improvisation.”

All of these things are there in spirit, if not sound (but frequently sound), throughout “Another Solo Mission.” Your context clues come in the color provided by the song titles: “Cortex Joyride,“ “Bebop Stargate,” “Stranded Lover Movement” and “Bodegas to Starfields” among them, each one an infinity of sounds found by Mr. Brass. To drop yourself anywhere within the limitless scope of these sixteen songs, these seventy-seven staggering minutes, is to believe you’ve gained entry to a new world – a new world with endless spools of raw tape, capturing the sound of Klaus Schulze spreading out on an unreleased Chamber Brothers score to “Fantastic Planet,” while Philip K. Dick bobs his head in silent, cyborg-approval, all too happy to have Herbie Hancock thrusting his wacky spacecraft through an extraordinary expressway to our skull. Or something.

If it sounds like we’re gushing, make no mistake – we are. The journeys taken by Brass on “Another Solo Mission” are continually surprising, and not infrequently breathtaking. Get on board Brass’s great space-synth coaster, roarin’ to the other side. Highest possible recommendation.

 “Another Solo Mission” by Noel Brass, Jr., as available now as a name-your-price download at his Bandcamp page. You’d be silly not to investigate further.

“Yes, the simple answer to that is I have expressed the idea, my conviction, that there is only one story in the world. There are many stories in the one, but we all take part in that one story. We have our part to play, and so it seems perfectly natural to me that we retell stories and they work in different contexts and they shed light upon different situations, but they are all part of the same thing.” – N. Scott Momaday

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