Matthew E. White: Big Inner
Like all of us, Matthew E. White was born into a constructed world. His unfolded out of the mingled sands of Virginia Beach and Manila, the youngest son in a family that raised him barefoot between the blurred racket of the Far Eastern jungle city and the backyard lightning-bug-hum of a trimmed Southern lawn.
On that day in August, when the earth shifted into the shape of Matthew E. White, there was so much to feel, already. The dusts of the Delta had swirled into Rock and Roll. King Tubby was dubbing. Terry Riley was overdubbing. Caetano Veloso had just turned 40. Muddy Waters was just about gone. Jimmy Cliff had had sung "Many Rivers to Cross". So had Harry Nilsson. White shared this common inheritance. He stitched his own flag out of it.
And so Big Inner begins, looking in, up, and over in its declarations of love. It's waking up next to someone. It's feeling the wood of the church pew on your back. You give me joy like a fountain deep down in my soul. You can hear him breathe in. The first time around, White only hums the chorus. Hums it. Plants it in your head as it blooms in his. You can call it soul music if you want. It's his soul and it's his music.
Ape School: Junior Violence
Junior Violence begins with a death rattle of the most optimistic sort. Half-synthesized and half-howled, the first song on Ape School's new album sums up birth, death, and the guilt you face as you drop the needle on side A:
Did you know you fucked yourself?
Everything is on the other side of that question. Answer it and you'll wonder why you're just now fessing up. Tell your truth and the Oberheim OB-8 will cascade like a waterfall. The bass line will try to feel you up. It's all foreplay for the anthemic "Marijuana's on the Phone" and the nine tracks that follow, adding up to the second album from Ape School, the flaming sigil for a man named Michael Johnson (see Holopaw, Lilys, Kurt Vile, and War on Drugs). Junior Violence is part confession, part blitz, part hangover, and part ascension.
Anna-Lynne Williams and Robert Gomez, nearly strangers, left Seattle and Denton and went to Marfa to make a record. As old loves bled out pink, the color of that month of February, the color of a long-setting sun, they platonically arranged their instruments in a tiny adobe house in the most dreamlike town in Texas. They made ten songs. They called it Machine.
The machine only works if all our parts give in. So goes the title track, nestled into side A, one of a dozen page-turning clues to what it was like for a man and a woman to live side-by-side, to finish each other's lines, to speak in chords, to read the paper in the morning, to write a song about it in the evening, and to build a world out of an experiment. "I'd never written lyrics with someone before," writes Williams, "we were writing the words to "Hold the Water" together and were actually passing slips of paper back and forth to each other. We were too shy to say them out loud."
Machine is as intimate as waking up to someone singing alone and as grand in composition, performance, and capture as the unfading records you might find yourself comparing it to: Emmit Rhodes' Emmitt Rhodes, Blonde Redhead's Misery is a Butterfly, and The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight.
Matthew E. White: One of These Days
A languid, snaking beat. A glowing trail of strings. Rising horns. Mournful get-it-on vocals. "One of These Days" is your calling card for Matthew E. White and your first taste of Big Inner, White's debut album out this August. Backed with "Ain't That What Love Is" (an exclusive gem featuring Phil Cook of Megafaun on keys), this 7" single is also your introduction to Spacebomb, a brand-new-big-little record label in Richmond, VA and a new branch on the Hometapes family tree.
A gentle, musical polymath, Matthew E. White radiates a passion for the history of harmony. He's a vibrant, prodigious arranger. A hypnotizing performer. A guitar wizard. As a singer, White travels in the same pathways as Allen Toussaint and Randy Newman: modest, soulful, personal, and utterly confident. In these two magic tracks, you'll begin to hear his wide orbit through sonic history and the clues to Big Inner: New Orleans R&B, Curtis Mayfield, Terry Riley, Reggae, Sly Stone, Tropicalia, The Band, Harry Nilsson...Matthew E. White is his own timeline. Summer is coming.
Matthew E. White also walks the earth as the leader of lauded avant-garde jazz band Fight the Big Bull and has released albums on Clean Feed & Fat Cat, performed around the country and collaborated with artists like Ken Vandermark, Steven Bernstein, Karl Blau, Megafaun, Sharon Van Etten and Justin Vernon.
Ape School: Marijuana's on the Phone
'Marijuana called me on the phone a long time ago. I hung up. It left a message."
Began as a drunken strum into a tape recorder, 'Marijuana's on the Phone' is your forged hall pass for Ape School, the moniker for Michael Johnson and his prodigious musical output. Spawned five years ago in the wake of former bands Lilys and Holopaw (and while Johnson was playing alongside fellow Philadelphians Kurt Vile and War on Drugs), Ape School is on the cusp of sonic apocalypse with Junior Violence, the new album coming this August from Hometapes. 'Marijuana's on the Phone' is your first drag.
"I went to the studio with Eric Slick [Dr. Dog] and just ripped through a loose concept. Ended up using his first take drums. Went and found a couple of kids in the building to play sax and vibes. Ended up layering tons of Eventide guitars over it and jotted down a quick bit of lyrics. First take vocals all the way across. Beefheart/Barrett bastardization gone mudslide." - Michael Johnson on 'Marijuana's on the Phone'
Backed with "Blame Mark Griffey," the 7" features a full-color cover in a heavy PVC sleeve, plus two transparency masks by Freegums. The record was created in partnership with Needless Records, the Florida-based label home to Jacuzzi Boys and Woven Bones.
AU: Both Lights
Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka, the Portland, Oregon-based duo known as AU, embody remarkable, frantic energy. It permeates everything they touch. AU brings into question the moment and where you are in it.
Both Lights is their third album and the long-anticipated followup to 2008's acclaimed LP Verbs and still-memorable tours with Why? and Deerhoof. Wyland's soaring vocals and multi-tentacled performance on keys and guitar are fortified by Valatka's adrenalized percussion. Contributions by saxophonist Colin Stetson (most recently seen on stage with Bon Iver) and vocalist Holland Andrews take Both Lights into the stratosphere, where it shines as AU's finest work yet.
Wyland and Valatka reflect that light. The first single -- "Solid Gold" -- is a sweeping aural experience that captures not only the journey through the past three years of love, loss, and levity, but the voyage music can take us all on if we click play and just listen. "The back and forth, the tug of war for love," writes Wyland, getting at the root of "Solid Gold", in essence a love song, "exhausting, exhilarating, and so totally not sustainable." Like the best songs, in some way or another, we can all sing along to that.
"What's the band's name?""Megafaun.""What's the album called?""Megafaun."The trail discovered by 2008's Bury The Square, blazed by 2009's Gather, Form & Fly, and tended by 2010's Heretofore has run into a wide and rushing river. The band we know as Megafaun, born alongside Bon Iver in the ashes that rose from DeYarmond Edison (Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, and Phil Cook's former band with Justin Vernon), has woven years of writing, touring, and living into a new sonic language. Critically-praised and publicly-loved for their ability to speak in the many tongues of American musical history -- all while blending it with their own energetic and personal form of Rock -- Megafaun has staked a claim. But the lay of that land they call theirs -- the hills, valleys, and caves beneath -- is just revealing itself in the sunrise. This is the band we know, but in a new light. This is Megafaun.
Collections of Colonies of Bees: GIVING
The pulse is set less than a minute into GIVING, Collections of Colonies of Bees first album in three years. There's no foreplay, no smalltalk -- just endless altitude. Their sixth full-length, the bona fide descendent of Customer and Birds (and even Volcano Choir's Unmap), is a 4-song, 28-minute eruption: Lawn, Vorm, Lawns, Vorms. It's the crashing waves of Rosenau's guitar, the pelting rain of Mueller's percussion, the vaporous breaths of Thomas Wincek's piano, and the rhythmic fabric woven by Jim Schoenecker (electronics), Daniel Spack (guitar), and Matthew Skemp (bass).
Brad Laner / Joensuu 1685: Split 12"
A collaborative 12" between noise pop legend Brad Laner and Finnish experimental trio Joensuu 1685, this limited edition vinyl-only project is relased by Oslo-based label Splendour and distributed in North America exclusively by Hometapes.
Brad Laner, who broke ground as founder/leader of Medicine, contributes three tracks -- all comparable to the type of lucid, eccentric noise pop that made his last two solo LPs so striking and masterful. Brad?s take on Chicago?s "Feelin? Stronger Every Day" is a must hare for anyone with "Chicago VI" and "Loveless" in their record collection.
During a break from touring their first album and supporting Wolf Parade, Joensuu 1685 recorded hours of new material in a cabin in Northern Finland. The eerie and nearly 17-minute-long noise rock piece "Lost Highway" is the first track to surface from those sessions."
All Tiny Creatures: Harbors
Multi-instrumentalist Thomas Wincek has released music with several groups in the past 10 years, including the experimental electronic collaborative mainframe Emotional Joystick, the meticulous instrumental quintet Collections of Colonies of Bees, and the ethereal, playful supergroup Volcano Choir, a collaboration between the Bees and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
All Tiny Creatures is Wincek's newest endeavor. The building blocks of the Wisconsin quartet's debut full-length, Harbors, were whittled from looped and freestanding sounds democratically created by synthesis, guitars, and percussion. But as the needle glides into "Holography", the swift and playful start of side A, there's a new kind of compositional poise. Harbors is an album of transformative repetition, of music that travels freely between the left and right brain. It pulls from the same well (with a new bucket) as their Krautrock and Minimalist forebears (guys like Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Manuel Göttsching) and even the greater history of rhythmic percussion found the world over. And then there's one entirely new instrument for All Tiny Creatures: the human voice. Joining All Tiny Creatures vocalists Thomas Wincek and Andrew Fitzpatrick are Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro & Epstein), Phil Cook, Brad Cook, and Joe Westerlund (Megafaun) and more.
All Tiny Creatures Harbors features visual art by world-renown designer Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. in Portland. The LP and CD are both packaged in old-style tip on gatefold jackets. The 2xLP comes in two color sets, randomly selected and jawdroppingly beautiful.
The Caribbean: Discontinued Perfume
Who are The Caribbean? Search Pitchfork and find reviews (good ones) of every one of their records. Time travel back three years and read about their day jobs on Stereogum; a civil litigationattorney, an English teacher, and a US Dept. of Transportation librarian have been writing, recording, and performing music together for over a decade in Washington, DC.The Caribbean have always hidden behind something. Lyrics, unorthodox chord progressions, iconic-but-abstract visual art, humor and satire, and even their own normal-guy appearance. But ifindie rock is a high school, The Caribbean - Michael Kentoff, Matt Byars, and Dave Jones - sit at the lunch table with Daniel Higgs, Wayne Coyne, and John Darnielle."Discontinued Perfume seems to be about living a strong, practical, grown up life and being comfortable with leaving that world and accepting the unknowable," said frontman Michael Kentoff.And their first album in three years is nearly an autobiography, set to the best music they've ever made: "The houses are real / and the garden is real / and everything looks nice enough tosteal / So meanwhile in the basement, secret tapes roll seven IPS / Artists in exile on your street / Yeah, they're living alright."The Caribbean are a secret hiding in plain sight.
Shedding: Tear In The Sun
"What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?" - Henry David Thoreau
Shedding is Connor Bell of Louisville, Kentucky, and Tear In The Sun is a story. In six movements, with the track list as your key, a human timeline unfolds. Set to harmonium and Connor's voice -- for the first time in Shedding's recording history -- this vinyl only release walks the line between drone and campfire story. Limited to 500 copies, the red vinyl LP is wrapped in an original screen print by Sonnenzimmer Studio within a heavy PVC jacket. Download included.
Breathe Owl Breathe: Magic Central
In a Lincoln Log cabin in deep rural Michigan live and work Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs, and Andréa Moreno-Beals. This is Breathe Owl Breathe. A printmaker, a geomorphologist, and a native of Colombia, respectively, the trio transformed their ancient home into a four-season sonic and visual workshop. Through the snow and the sun (and the bugs), Breathe Owl Breathe created Magic Central (the name they also gave their cabin). It's a pop album like no other, a timeless aural cartogram of feeling, soul, skill, and story. You could have found it in the attic. It could have dropped from outer space.
Across its first two LPs--2008's Bury the Square on Table of the Elements and Gather, Form and Fly, the band's Hometapes debut--Megafaun did nothing if not test the boundaries of its comforts. Joe Westerlund and brothers Brad and Phil Cook (singers, songwriters, composers, arrangers and improvisers all) found rarified intersections between bedrock folk and howling drone, between primal blues and cascading feedback, between canyon rock and warped field recordings. Heretofore, a mini-album and Megafaun's third release in as many years, is yet another articulation of the band's evolved Americana vernacular. Rather than push the boundaries with sonic plundering or structural pillaging, however, Heretofore finds Megafaun pairing five of its most concise, communicative songs to date with its most challenging, compelling experiment ever, a radiant and redemptive 13-minute instrumental called "Comprovisation for Connor Pass."
Brad Laner: Natural Selections
The sun's still shining in Brad Laner's California. A founding father of shoegaze and the man behind Medicine, Savage Republic, Electric Company, and The Internal Tulips, Brad Laner returns with the follow-up to his 2007 psychedelic pop wonder Neighbor Singing. His constructed sonic world, built on an irresistible set of guitar and vocal layers, captures a whole new view into the sun ? this time with a few more clouds.