Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blood Sister on Grabbing Clouds Records


I hadn't heard about Ezana Edwards' previous project, Night Manager before he moved back to San Francisco and started this latest project Blood Sister, leaving subzero Brooklyn behind. Obviously he is a genius. The still life painting on the sleeve could have suggested nearly anything (I want to have a show where you give a band another bands cover art and they have to record a track from their idea of the album). This dark, damaged pop was the last thing I expected and especially from that part of the world. Of course they can be melancholy in San Francisco too, but we really get to feel sorry for ourselves on the East Coast these days.

A-Side's "Dysphoria" opens into feeding back echo and the clanging of strings accidentally brushed under heaps of sustain and distortion. It's not long before this smashes right up against miles away electronic snare of The Jesus and Mary Chain variety. I don't know where the rest of the percussion is from, the layers of guitars or synths (they're interchangeable here) are providing too much cover. The rhythm is like a cheap metronome, the pop structure they casually fuse together reminds me of Crystal Stilts or The Soft Moon. It has no business being so attractive and dark. The lengths they go exploring depths of electronics versus processed vibrating strings is where this gets really interesting. The guy girl vocals are heavily buried - overwhelmed by this future post punk sound with pieces of ringtoned melodies like the frantic ghost punk of These are Powers. It's a great sounding mystery of synth and guitar - when you can get those two worlds to cooperate in this sinister way that pretty much has me wanting to keep an eye on these guys.
B-Side's "Nothing" No sound before the crash of thick waves of bending upward guitar tones and bursts of power chords over that distanced electro-snare. The vocals seem to be adopting this dark style more on this one as it takes a mathy turn in Fucking Champs style technical fingerwork that appears out of the haze. It's almost an electro prog rock with all sorts of intricately crafted pieces suddenly going in for heavy calculations between the synth psych sections. I think they could benefit from smoke machines and playing in really ornate black basements with victorian couches. That could just be me figuring out how that sleeve plays into all of this underground synth punk.

Pick this one up from Grabbing Clouds Records.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Dangermen on Swashbuckling Hobo Records


The Dangermen are four loose dudes with Rock and roll names from Brisbane, Australia throwing together rowdy, unhinged greasy punk when they are sober enough. It's a universal piss in your face sound that could emerge from anywhere on the planet with the right amount of illegal substances and activities. It's what bands were meant for; be loud dicks and make an ass out of yourself as long as you don't end up like that dickhead on the cover.

A-Side's "Everybody" opens on a hum feedback in progress just the right kind of silence before the distortion bomb starts and Zoltane The Maniac on vocals starts right in snarling at the jerks walking down the street. The best part is of course the chorus "fuck you / fuck everybody", on constant repeat. I'm not for sucker punching traders coming out of the Nasdaq but it doesn't hurt to claim a little bit of art back for the underground, I sympathize with the sentiment. It doesn't get more primal then this nihilism. Can we all live together like that? No but I still think that Puck was the most interesting character on the Real World - probably of all time. We might need these guys to be fucking themselves up because we can't anymore. Hey Dangermen, tell me about that time you puked on the guy driving the tour van just when you ran out of gas somewhere in the outback again.
B-Side's "Executive" has an intro of perpetual feedback and their shit-ton of crunchy layered distortion squeezing through the speaker cones like the A-Side. Their new target is the executive which they approach with their lyrical mastery: "I hope you die". Zoltane sounds like he's about to throw up in his gravelly just barely able to follow this regular tempo. I think the backup vocal is just a repeated tempo of "cunt / cunt / cunt" in that classy way that doesn't have quite the same connotation it does in the states. Almost a term of endearment. They're all in.

Get this from Swashbuckling Hobo Records.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Zillanova (feat Cisco Tavares & Jess Harlen) on Hope Street Records


Sometimes I think the two genre's keeping seven inches relevant are the punk/garage stuff and funk & soul releases. The punk singles out of necessity because those bands hardly stick around long enough sometimes for more than a couple of tracks, an EP or two if you're lucky. The soul / funk singles out there are being pressed out of a reverence for the medium and to tempt the DJ's actually spinning black discs or the it's tendency for these acts to release these one off collaborations with other artists or vocalists like this single on Australian Hope Street records. Zillanova is a studio based project from bassist and producer Bob Knob consisting of members with massive resumes and I just saw on their facebook they're playing with Lee Fields. End of story.

A-Side's "Suicide (feat. Cisco Tavares)" opens on warm sounding electric vibrations, the strings on that guitar working things out with each other from the back of the stage. A conga back and forth works it's way over the muted picking and Cisco comes in with a perfect balance of belting the lyric and taming it with a controlled vibrato to cool things down. Handclaps and rim shots keep this moving along between the big horn sections in that chorus of "This is suicide" as if this desire is so hopeless, there's no way there's any chance of reciprocation. Cisco sets a laidback tone working alongside the huge sound of this ensemble, keeping things classy allowing for some improvisation as this starts to fade out.
B-Side's "The Time it Takes" builds in with stabs of organ tension casually stumbling with a far off heavy wah guitar. Jess Harlen delivers a low register breathy vocal on the verse building to an emotive plea as she works her way to a chorus and the desperation starts to set in. There's no use in playing it cool anymore, as much as this starts out in a measured, collected place emotion takes over and the track reflects that shift in stuttering wakka wah and the hand swipe down the scale of wobbly organ. A massive purple haze distortion solo finally drives this home into a big finish.

I am frankly amazed this kind of thing is presently being recorded by a studio and label devoted to this sound and this is the perfect format to present it on.

Get this from the source, Hope Street or ask your local distro or discogs.

Friday, February 27, 2015

MAMMOTH CAVE RIP?!!!


Hi everyone, thanks for coming.

I only knew Mammoth Cave through Paul Lawton of The Ketamines. Ever since I've been online Paul has been thinking and writing about music at 7,10,12 or Weird Canada. I have to be honest I didn't even know he was from Canada or I probably would have liked him even sooner.

It wasn't long before he launched Mammoth Cave as a way to document overlooked local bands that indirectly became the great "Bloodstains across..." series. That's the story of countless important record labels that aren't about pushing units. I personally can't thank them enough for introducing me to the Famines. Mammoth Cave kept it as pure as that which is probably why we're now looking back on one of the greats. I want to believe that if you care about what you're putting out in the world like this you will find an audience to support you and that the boring business side will figure itself out. They did for 7 years and 44 releases. I guess things can't go on forever and there must be a point when that thing you loved starts to become that financial drag or just a pain in the ass.

At the risk of sounding too serious I guess what I'm saying is that you really can't take anything for granted. It's a sad day. Mammoth Cave, you will be missed. You are still an inspiration to go big, to press as many records as you think you possibly can - and to hell with the consequences.

You may leave your condolences on their facebook page.

After a solid run, we are shutting down Mammoth Cave Recording Co. All of our records are teeply discounted except for BA Johnston's records ("Shit Sucks" isn't even out yet!). Everything must go, and we are gonna be shutting the site down shortly. It's been fun. This is hard.

Many reasons for pulling the plug. We are bankrupt - financially and spiritually. We had some highlights, and are proud of the Canadian music we've been a part of sharing, but the well is dry.

We screwed up a lot. We lost a lot of money. We made a mill All in the misguided attempt to find something that worked. To get people as excited about the amazing Canadian bands that were more or less being undocumented.

But the world of creating and selling physical music artifacts was just getting harder every year. So the truth is that we tried, but we cannot stand in the face of the massive cultural shifts taking place that are completely out of our control.

The reality of being a truly independent Canadian label in 2015:

1) Pressing records: records take 120% longer to press than when we started. The "vinyl comeback" and "record store day" disproportionately favour Beatles reissues. SAMO Media were a life saver for us (if you are pressing records in Canada, it's SAMO or nothing), but vinyl production industry can be almost impossible for labels of our size.

2) Weak dollar: the weak Canadian dollar adds even more strain we have to import our records into Canada, and it costs Mammoth Cave 26% more to press a run of records due to the exchange rate, and we were already selling records at close to cost due to extra importing and shipping fees.

3) Canada Post: It now costs more to ship a record than it does to buy a record. And since we started charging the actual amount to ship an LP, we saw customers flat rejecting the REAL price. Postage rates gone up 44% in Canada since 2010. Also, Canada Post fails to deliver records sometimes, so we get to send things twice for twice the cost, but that's a whole other mess.

4) Music consumption patterns have changed: Since we started, music fans went from "collecting" to "downloading" to "streaming." We are a record company, not a digital music servicing company. We love records, we don't love playlists. And the nonsense about the "return of vinyl" has come at the cost of the people who have been keeping it alive all these years.

5) Granting: This whole letter could (and maybe should?) be about the uncompetitive nature of the Canadian music industry. The impenetrability of the Canadian grant system that should be primed to help Canadian music is in fact inhibiting competition. When some labels that sell just as many records as we do are able to subsidize all the issues above with millions of dollars in grant money, something is not right.

The result of this?
We are not alone. Many labels our size are barely holding on. We heard more than once already "we looked to Mammoth Cave as the label doing it right." We weren't.

This email may be preaching to the choir, but take chances on bands not delivered to you via mainstream channels. We had enough support to keep us going for 7 years and 44 releases, but ultimately it is completely unsustainable.

Lots of thanks for the love and support over the last 7 years, especially Arif Ansari, Jeff King and Tony Zucco. We couldn't have done this without true music fans like Dave Shiroky, Jordyn Marcellus and Chris Zuk whose constant enthusiasm kept us alive from day one. Thanks to all the bands who took this trip to the bottom with us. All the people we would love to single out and can't, don't think you were not appreciated. We could not have made this mess alone.

If you are still waiting for an order, it is coming. We won't disappear with your money. We will make everything that is wrong, right in the way that we always have.

In the meantime, fill the holes in your Mammoth Cave collection, and celebrate the amazing music we've been apart of over the years.

Lots of love,
Paul + Evan

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Young Sinclairs on 13 O'Clock Records


I guess the era of glowing, garage pop harmony never really went away. I was going to go on about how many bands it seems are popping up lately like Paul Messis, The Ar-Kaics, Jacco Gardner - hell most of the Trouble in Mind catalog but then I go further back to the Fresh and Onlys, White Fence or even Woods and realize it isn't anything new. The Young Sinclairs have seen that same light in Roanoke, Virginia and their latest from 13 O'Clock Records is just one in a long list of singles that keep getting better.

A-Side's "Change Your Mind" opens on light hand plucked guitar notes with Samuel Lunsford landing like a feather into his slow harmony. Even the snare is muted from up there in the clouds while the strums fall in regular quilted patterns. Samuel plays everything on this side and I don't know where I got the impression there were more people involved except that this arrangement has that massive hazy pop psych quality of a much larger scene. Especially in the range of harmony layered over this slow afternoon jam. I admire the restraint here that seems to hold that hit just a little bit lighter when it sounds like it's on the verge of expanding into something more epic but if you want to change her mind you have to take it easy. Don't be pushy.
B-Side's "Once or Twice" has a high metallic twang of the multiple twelve string guitars from Samuel who's joined by John Thompson. His natural breathy harmonies are back, not that he hides in the layers, it becomes an opportunity to add odd timings in a two step rush right before this breezy chorus. Something inherently sad about both of these tracks, they're deceptively laid back pop but lyrically looking back full of regret. One summer I painted vacation houses on lake ontario and listened endlessly to The Posies Dear 23, and this track is bringing that back. A couple of friends, hanging out all day, quitting early to bbq again at the park, the afternoon fields swarming with insects and getting drunk for the first time. It's the stuff I'll be listening to forever. It doesn't get old or age, it's not just stuck in that '60s sound, in it's own way punk, the K records dfinition of punk - doing what makes sense.

Check out the mailorder section of 13 O'Clock to pick this one up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boys Order on Secret Mission Records


I think the Secret Mission of the label is to release contemporary japanese punk singles like The Raydios or Dials releases they sent over recently not to mention the singles from German bands The Kidnappers and Modern Pets. A real international label you never know from what part of the world these bands originate but they are all playing their own take on modern punk. Boys Order is a four piece from Osaka, Japan with a hyper technical punk style that winds in and out of time signatures and styles before you can even place the reference.

A-Side's "Tomorrow Dancing" rips into high powered guitar bursts gleaming in ultra polished production. Chihiro has her own kind of jagged high register delivery in an almost Devo cutting style that slides into sections with multiple harmonies and layers. It quickly becomes a choir of Chihiro's delivering lyrics in japanese at an ever increasing pace. Separated chunky muted guitar riffs coming out of both channels with a seriously bent wah solo cranking between verses. This thing works a half step up to take things even higher and their frantic energy keeps ramping up, vibrating faster and faster, taking all sorts of epic punk turns, a half speed breakdown of booming percussion and backup yelling harmonies, squeezing every last drop from this sweat filled headband.
B-Side's "Danger! Danger!" opens on Ele's explosive tom drums opposite a tight high hat. Chihiro has a real squeaky punk style on this one that turns epic again, playing with both of those worlds; the epic synth nu-wave and speed punk. Highly technical they make sure to include as many catchy changes as could possibly fit into three minutes somehow adding pieces of both of those sounds to the various pieces that seem to work together in another weird future where speed isn't enough, you have this highly fluent world audience who can catch all those references and just wants more.

Pick this up from Secret Mission Records. Not such a secret anymore guys.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BCBG on Glenlivet A Gogh Records


French duo, BCBG had to travel all the way to Brazil to finally get together. Mariette Auvray (Pussy Patrol, Eyes Behind, Water Sark) and Samuel Trifot (Kikiilimikilii, Feu Machin, Dorcelsiushe) knew of each other from separately playing in the Paris underground experimental scene and at first probably never intended on releasing this seven inch. I could see how they probably got together to throw some ideas around having heard of each other and before they knew it things got serious and a tour and full length and this single came along.

A-Side's "Jaune de Naples" opens with a wooden xylophone melody plinking along before the track quietly explodes into synth lines and ancient percussion emulators. I don't think it's just because the vocals are delivered in french but it's the lullabye, sing song delivery that Mariette Auvray has that reminds me heavily of Stereolab. It has a similar bubbly repetition of odd synth voices with a million layers of programmed drums of all kinds; metal hammering, clicks of glitchy rimshots and the static sharp snare of old 808's. It eventually peaks into lush simmering dance with more layers of Auvray's vocals and high timpani synth sounds feeling like The Knife's sound of classic electronics under a modern aesthetic. It's just as hard to pin down how it's contemporary when these elements are anything but.
The B-Side's "Desert Narquios" opens on a heavy repetition of raw sine waves, the sort of primal Kraftwerk stuff endlessly cycling around. Mariette seems to take her melody here from Turkish or Middle Eastern sources soaring above this Tron inspired grid. I think if there were a logical recombination of influences in some sci-fi future it would sound a lot like this. Not because they are the most impossible to imagine coming together but because that style will most likely eventually integrate into all popular music like hip hop. It's a pounding, trance-like future psych that wouldn't even need more than a laptop and a PA to reproduce so these two could vagabond between asteroid dive bars, trying to make enough credits to get to the next rock. It's currently in production for Amazon Prime.

Available at the source, Glenlivet A Gogh Records or for those of us in the US, at good olde Easter Bilby Distro.