Apache Dropout: Heavy Windows
After three LPs and a clutch of 45s, Southern Indiana's Apache Dropout have loosened an adherence to the divine mono sound and forged a scaly stereo technique for Heavy Window. This is a deeper, blown out swagger of peer-less rock 'n' roll filtered through a lush three-dimensional spectrum. Just as their self-titled debut snapped heads back, Apache Dropout has proven again they can rescore the garage rock aesthetic and remain undisputed purveyors of true lysergic North American boogie.
Bishop Allen: Lights Out
The new Bishop Allen record, Lights Out, is here at last. Here's what went into it: ten years, three full-lengths, twelve EPs, thousands of shows, a move out of Brooklyn, a new home in the wooly wilds of Kingston, NY, time off to score the films Bully and Mutual Friends, as well as an Anderson Cooper 360 special, months of demos, drum tracking in a sweat-lodge attic studio during a July heat wave, a wet Fall arranging guitars, bass, and synths in a now-chilly attic studio, the coldest December on record spent mixing, a close call with a frozen pipe and flooded hard drives, and a photo found on a friend's refrigerator.
Bob Carpenter: Silent Passage (Reissue)
Bob Carpenter came close to being a major star. He received a glowing mention in Rolling Stone in 1970, recorded an album for Warner Brothers and had his songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Billy Joe Shaver and others. But Silent Passage, his lone solo album recorded in 1974, was pressed and ready to ship when contract negotiations shelved the record indefinitely. By the time things were resolved it was the end of the 70's singer-songwriter boom and Warner had moved on. The album saw release by the Canadian label Stony Plain in 1984 but has been out of print until now.
Castanets: Decimation Blues
The world is loud. The wind blows hard. We need songs for shelter, and Raymond Raposa can build a shelter from almost anything: the sun-bleached bones of a drum track and a couple spare organ chords; a carpet of creeping synth arpeggios, a scaffolding of multi-tracked harmonies, a few scraps of alto sax to prop up the whole structure. Decimation Blues, Raposa's sixth release as Castanets, marks a decade of scavenger architecture.
Decimation Blues sees Raposa stepping out in front of the hermetic persona he's crafted over ten years. There have always been shards of pop songs glinting in the dark corners of Castanets records. Here we get whole gleaming edifices. Decimation Blues is the music of a man who's learned to live and build among the wreckage - twelve seemingly offhand, secretly meticulous tracks that we can hunker down in. "Still always good to be alone in someone else's home," Raposa sings. He'll lend us his place, or teach us how to fix up our own. Come in out of the rain, put your shoes by the fire. The walls might shake, the wind might howl, but you'll be safe here a while.
Com Truise: In Decay
In Decay provides a fascinating alternative roadmap for the idiosyncratic journeys of New Jersey producer Seth Haley - aka Com Truise - through the history of electronic music. A compilation of unreleased, early recordings, In Decay encompasses 13 tracks that have previously been either only available as demos online or are entirely unheard tracks dating from before Haley's official releases - his debut Cyanide Sisters EP, its follow-up full-length Galactic Melt, and last year's Fairlight EP.
While the '80s-influenced synth sounds, rubbery basslines and sci-fi flavors that inform Haley's later work are in full effect here, they're assembled in manners different enough to make this both a fine record in its own right, and also a fascinating insight into the development of the distinctive Com Truise sound. It also finds the producer exploring a number of facets of that sound, from 8-bit influenced experimentalism to distinctly danceable beats - often within the confines of the same track.
"Controlpop", for instance, announces itself with an intro that sounds like a Commodore 64 being hit with a hammer, but resolves into slow liquid synthfunk that recalls Galactic Melt highlights like "VHS Sex" and "Flightwave." Its slow-burning dance vibe is shared by several other tracks - "Colorvision" and "Yxes", amongst others - while elsewhere, Haley drops the tempo and channels the psychedelic cosmic meanderings of forebears like Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh. "Dreambender" sounds like it should be soundtracking a voyage into uncharted digital innerspace, while "Video Arkade" cruises along on a woozy rising-and-falling synthline that's like drifting on some sort of virtual reality rollercoaster. Like all Haley's work, it's like stepping into a strange, digital parallel world - a place constructed out of sounds both immediately familiar and yet somehow rendered thoroughly fresh, and a place that's worth staying for quite some time.
Free Time: Esoteric Tizz
Free Time’s new 7” for Underwater Peoples pairs the saturnine “Guess Work” with the uptempo flip “Esoteric Tizz”. The double A-side presents a unique juxtaposition of form, a spaced-out pastoral take on the nature of love contrasted with a hectic pop exploration of what it can mean to live a double life.
Free Time is Melbourne expat Dion Nania on guitar and vocals, Jonah Maurer on guitar, Mike Mimoun on drums, and Eric Harm on bass - though the 7” features original bassist Adrienne Humblet.
The emergence of Swedish duo JJ in March 2009 was both meaningful and mysterious. A debut single, jj no.1, enchanted the music press, simultaneously existing across indie-pop and hip-hop spectrums, excitingly new and yet frustratingly vague in its presentation. This was a taste, a scent, something intangible, an impression made without force. The music was here, but little else - its makers remained anonymous. Pitchfork's Best New Music review for the band's debut album, summer 2009's jj no.2, spoke first of their enigmatic qualities, rather than precisely what this music was: another sumptuous menagerie of styles, blended by an expert hand, intoxicating and otherworldly. Both Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon appeared in the Marcus Söderlund-directed video to "Let Go". Cover, broken.
"We didn't mean to be anonymous, to begin with," says Kastlander. "We just knew we needed to put our music out."
"I'd say we've been working on this album our whole lives," says Benon of V, the band's third long-player. "It's the thing I've always wanted to do. I feel that we've been working on this album ever since we began to record music. We have never really had any other plan than to make this V shit happen and at the same time we never knew what it was - the story presented itself to us - and it's a story that's always been clear. It's only grown in its own way. And now we're finished, we look at it and back at it, and can begin to realize what it really is, what we have done, because it's something you don't necessarily decide for yourself, even though you've made it. And the songs... we don't write them, we just do our best to catch them forever, for real." JJ have, with new album V, realised the definitive expression of their experiences to date, and are finally comfortable with being a press-welcoming, tour-ready outfit.
As Benon explains, everything the pair has produced in the past has been part of this journey, to a zenith that they always sought to reach. But just as "My Boyz" exists exclusively in and of itself, so too does the new album's material, always envisioned as a whole, separate from other projects despite carrying over select DNA from its pop progenitors.
Tracks like the gorgeously understated "Be Here Now" and subtle strings of "When I Need You" float into clarity, coming together from vaporous beginnings. The latter number is one of several on V that showcase how Kastlander has grown as a vocalist. Hers is no indiscernible mumble, no vulnerable presence set to music that fizzes like a beachside cocktail on "Fågelsången" and soars on digital wings on "All White Everything"; rather, it's a mix-spearing confirmation that, whatever the bruised heart or open sexuality behind the lyrics, she's intent on connecting without compromise. Words are crisp, intonation perfect. There's still a hard thud on occasion, too: "Hold Me" opens with lean-flavoured raps, before twisting into a stained-glass confessional of absolute gravity, and "All Ways, Always" packs substantial swagger beside its rock riffs.
"We do it now," sings Kastlander on "I". And now really is the time for JJ, as acknowledged by Benon. "At last I have music that I really want to listen to, that I want to hear from a stage. In a way, we've made this music quite selfishly, to appeal primarily to ourselves and I really haven't felt this way about our material before. This is the moment. It's for real now."
And why do anything to restrict the sharing of that joy? Evidently at the top of their game in 2014, JJ are ready to, in Benon's words, "communicate with the world", quite unlike they've ever done so before. They're embracing, not retreating. Besides, mysteries are more frustrating than fascinating without resolution.
Moon Duo: Live in Ravenna
Moon Duo's Live in Ravenna was recorded in the summer of 2013 and is available as a limited, one-time vinyl pressing. "Ravenna was memorable for a number of reasons, the most prominent being the really very intense heat, and the setting - Hanabi has an outdoor stage on the beach, the Adriatic Sea only meters away," the band's Sanae Yamada explains. "The show that night, and the recording of it, sort of encapsulates everything that was happening at the time - the heat wave, the journey, and the shift in the energy and composition of the band."
Music Go Music: Impressions
The Los Angeles trio Music Go Music began humbly, recording songs in their spare time and playing them for friends. A few songs posted online caught the ears of a surprising number of strangers, who implored the band to make a go of it. They eventually, and reluctantly, agreed to this, and before long the show had been officially taken on the road; MGM was being "buzzed" about, flying back and forth across the the Atlantic, touring around with Glasgow rockers Franz Ferdinand, and performing for the most discerning of music lovers in Moscow, London, LA, and points in between. Their debut album "Expressions" was a warmly received dance-pop-prog excursion that drew apt comparisons to Abba, Kate Bush, Bonnie Tyler, and Giorgio Moroder. After things settled down and they got back to their workaday lives, they began chipping away at a new record. In the course of several years, one or two songs at a time, 'Impressions' took shape.
By now, the world has swayed in ways that seemed unlikely back at the band's dawning. When their first EPs began coming out in 2007, MGM was an anomaly; a real band capable of crafting a steady stream of hook-dense A-sides, who played honest-to-goodness live dance music. This time around, of course, they're sending a record out into a world that has turned just enough to embrace the kind of analog disco that MGM has been making for years.
While remaining unambiguously pop, "Impressions" sees the group's aural sheen and careworn elegance joined to deeper grooves and oblique sonic turns. Never before, though, has an unhinged recounting of love won and lost been so blatantly entertaining. It's an assured, kinetic journey through light and dark, calm and chaos, with nothing less than pop transcendence waiting on the other side.
"... [it] plays like the greatest hits of dance saviors that never existed... and indeed, they probably should only be performed from inside an aqua-dome at the bottom of the Caspian Sea, or at least during a summer-long residency in Ibiza." - Fader
"One thing is for sure: the ambition for a long-lasting dynasty of overblown, slightly crackpot pop excess is there. " - Stool Pigeon
"Superhero pop music that will soundtrack all of your weddings" - NME