ARTIST: Ultra Material
RELEASE: Cosmic Anti Stuff
RELEASE DATE: 29th August 2019
RECORD COMPANY: Black Wire Records
Brisbane-based quartet 'Ultra Material' first tweaked our attention back in 2016 when we reviewed their debut album 'Double Date' and swooned at their beautifully entrancing soundscapes. Permeating different layers of shoegaze, passages of haunting dream-pop, bouncing post-punk and subtle undercurrents of psychedelia, 'Ultra Material' create a modern sound that skirts the outer echelons of quaint experimentation whilst doffing a curt nod to the originators of the shoegaze genre. Their sublime sophomore full length entitled 'Cosmic Anti Stuff' was officially released back on August 29th 2018 via 'Black Wire Records', instantly catapulting it into one of favourite releases of this year. It's available to buy/download right now on various formats from ultramaterial.bandcamp.com
Cosmic Anti Stuff by Ultra Material
With a twang of repetitive guitar and the luscious pull of reverb the opening bars of ‘Belong’ usher in a steadying air of optimism. It’s not long before we’re catapulted headlong into a wall of charging noise as throbbing bass frequencies meld with aggravated guitars and senses pummelling percussion that's more akin to a cumulative krautrock/modern psych gem than a shoegaze odyssey. The arrival of subtle swells of synth only add to the giddying onslaught before those haunting vocalisations float into audible range and my night is complete! ‘Belong’ is absolutely stunning, a monstrous track and a magnificent opening salvo. Up next, ‘Rhodamine’ rocks on a steady metronomic beat as swirling layers of guitar and synth hover above the throb of cascading bass. Sublime vocals arrive in a cloud of atmospherics as catchy chord structures rise and fall through twinkling runs of keyboard and that hypnotic ‘Ultra Material’ vibe takes hold. There’s something altogether magical tumbling through this track that keeps your attention fixed as you follow the individual instrumental layers, listening as they spiral and flow with ease. ‘Rolodex’ is filled with jangling melody that bounces on top of a humming bass signature and those gliding layers of synth with just enough room for another impressive vocal performance whilst ‘Ivory Curl’ has subtle post-punk connotations hidden in amongst it’s beautifully entrancing clouds of dreaminess.
‘Discorporate’ arrives strapped to a fizzing guitar progression before layers of glistening synth dipped in reverb pull steadying percussive patterns and catchy instrumental hooks into earshot, wrapping brilliantly around an impressive vocal take and the continuous sting of lead guitar. This track tumbles effortlessly, melding shoegaze with dream-pop and an undercurrent of psychedelia just for kicks. It’s absolutely beautiful and an album highlight for me. ‘Torpor’ is mesmerisingly beautiful. Swirling lines of guitar rise with the swoosh of cymbal noise and slow pull of bass frequencies and that shimmering vocal meanders alongside allowing the hypnotic pull of reverb to carry the entire track. The arrival of a busy percussive pattern shatters the momentary lull before swells of synth bubble up from below the mix to lift the track skywards, carrying this listener along into the tracks final throws. ‘Transfer’ deploys a heavier atmospheric edge as dark frequencies merge with layers of synth and ‘Ultra Material’ dig deep to unfurl their impressive post-punk side. Busy percussion and a big brooding bass lines lay a deep furrow into the mix as reverb drenched guitars jangle and the haunting refrain of the vocals take flight. It’s another impressive track and a definite album highlight.
The albums penultimate piece arrives in a heavy shoegaze drenched cloud as ‘Reduction’ unfurls it’s fuzzy tendrils and charges into the sonic ether on a throbbing bass line and a repetitive flurry of synth. A steady bedrock of percussion keeps things grounded as we jangle through the verse parts before absolutely exploding into those immense chorus progressions, it's immense vocal and that wall of blissful noise. The album close out with something magical. ‘Parachute’ swirls into action on dreamy waves of synth, the throb of bass and the haunting call of vocal. Slow moving and sporadic percussive hits emerge through the glistening haze as duel lines of vocal ricochet of one another and the fizz of sonic frequencies meld with refractions of reverb to create a multitude of hypnotic melodies all funnelled into one magnificent sonic assault. It’s a wonderful ending to what could be my favourite album of 2018 so far.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, postpunk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting genres of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
ARTIST: The Daysleepers
RELEASE DATE: 7th September 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
After a ten year hiatus away from the underground shoegaze scene, Buffalo natives 'The Daysleepers' released their highly anticipated long player entitled 'Creation' to worldwide applause, ironing out all of the stateside shoegaze arrogance and righting the previous underlying wrongs that the scene had previously created in the process. Well .... not quite! With a wave of appreciation from some of the self-proclaimed modern day shoegaze commentators, 'Creation' has been mentioned as one of the best albums of 2018 and we have to concur with our learned peers and their aforementioned findings. Not only have this band unleashed a solid, non pretentious album filled with standalone anthems; they've also managed to use all of their previously attained sonic knowhow to meld shoegaze, dream-pop, space-rock and a subtle little layer of modern psych into their collective sound to launch them firmly into the underground ether with rapturous applause. The band are made up of Jeff Kandefer - vocals/guitars/bass VI/programming/keyboards, Mario Gimbrone - drums, Scott Beckstein - bass & Elizabeth Kandefer - vocal and 'Creation' is available to buy/download right now via thedaysleepers.bandcamp.com
Creation by The Daysleepers
With swirling waves of blissful guitar drenched in oodles of reverb 'This Dark Universe' unfurls its woozy tendrils and reaches out with open arms. Slow moving percussion riding deep booming bass frequencies skirts undulating layers of haunting synth as those impressive vocals arrive, lifting the track just enough to make room for those massive pools of reverb. As opening salvos go this is very very impressive . Up next, 'Creation' arrives with it's big bruising percussive hits and that massive wall of resonating noise. Cascading bass progressions slide in and out of soaring lines of lead guitar as those catchy hooks fall into minuscule breaks and we rise headlong into the stars on waves of dreamy instrumentation. The vocals are pulled back into the mix here, exaggerating the size and scope of the track and heightening the overall sensory experience. 'Creation' is a magnificent triumph, a monster of a track and a definite album highlight for me. There's a hint of post-punk emanating from 'Arclights' that is very refreshing indeed. Swirling synths hold the entire backbone of this track together as pounding drums and that charging wall of bass glide effortlessly along allowing the guitars to inject melodious refractions into the mix. The vocals here ooze a kind of dream-pop hue and and those catchy lines of lead guitar are reminiscent of 'The Cure' in their late 80's pomp. 'Arclights' for me is possibly the best track on this entire release.
'Foreverpeople' rises on waves of reverb laden synth and jangling guitars before those catchy drums and another fantastic bass line unveils a beautifully entrancing slice of modern dream-pop. Vocally brilliant, this track conjures up sunny summer melancholic vibes whilst up next, 'The Memory Maker' ambles into audible range tumbling on shimmering lines of repetitive guitar and swells of delicious synth before the duel vocal prowess of Jeff and Elizabeth Kandefer merge to form a haunting wall of heavenly noise that melds with slow moving percussion, twinkling lines of lead and layers of solidifying reverb. Stunning instrumental breaks add wise scoped atmosphere here as the vocals grow in intensity, spinning wildly through layers of brilliant instrumentation right up until the tracks finale. 'Sundiver' is absolutely huge. It explodes into the ether on a driving wall of instrumentation used primarily to ferry another mesmerising vocal performance courtesy of Jeff Kandefer. Humming lines of bass stay close to that edifying percussive assault as soaring lines of guitar spin golden sonic webs, tying everything together nicely. It's a fantastically structured track and another album highlight. Up next, 'Tropics' begins with a thunderous drum track before eventually dragging shimmering lines of guitar and another charging bass progression into the mix and we dive headlong into a massive pool of blistering melody. Beautifully structured, this track rises and falls in just the right places, is filled with catchy hooks and has a subtle psychedelic aura.
'Flood In Heaven', the albums penultimate piece, stutters on arrival before slow moving percussion, layers of simmering synth and entrancing guitars catch hold and we push off through a sea of shining reverb. Cascading lines of lead guitar flood the senses as the vocals arrive and that pounding kick drum carries a fantastic bass salvo. It moves receptively through its verse parts before soaring skywards through the chorus, injecting intense melody with each individual chord sequence until eventually we fall away into clouds of reverb. Huge in scope, 'Flood In Heaven' is absolutely mesmerising and a definite album highlight for me. 'Creation' closes out with 'The Monolith', an atmospheric beast sharpened with a kind of post-punk edge. Repetitive percussion layered in lo-fi splendour carries the track as twinkling guitars pitter patter through out the mix and the bounce of the bass line keeps things very interesting. Vocally, it floats majestically keeping a steady course through those layers of reverb and gliding synth keeping it fairly simple until we reach the soaring chorus break and on into the track finale. It's a brilliant ending to an absolutely wonderful album and my hope is that 'Creation' appears on a multitude of end of year lists as it deserves all of the plaudits.
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to supporting the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, postpunk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting genres of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
ARTIST: The Oscillation
RELEASE: Wasted Space
RELEASE DATE: 21st September 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club Records
Lets get straight too it: The Oscillation's latest release, 'Wasted Space' is the definition of bonkers genius. I first heard that term, ‘bonkers genius’ in regards to a film script that had been written as a proposed sequel to a very popular and big budget movie. The script had essentially taken the originals core story (a medieval epic) and introduced a complete crossfire of madness. Absurd subplots involving time travel, resurrection based suicide and gigantic, million men armies going to war for 400 years could all be found in the proposed sequels script. It was, indeed, bonkers. But underneath it all there was something amazing. Perhaps that ‘something’ was the very composition of the script, maybe it was that, when stepping back, the plot actually made coherent (and considerate) sense. Maybe it was because everything locked together in a way that many people wouldn’t even consider when approaching it. All these questions can be applied to 'Wasted Space' . Tracks here are scattered underneath piles of bizarrely twisted loops, sound FX, off kilter guitars, and just general madness. Underneath it somewhere, is a warped and absurdist dance album. Preface: this is one of those releases that even the greatest writers cannot accurately describe. Demian Castellanos has created a swirling hedonistic thrill ride in the guise of 'Wasted Space'. It's the bands sixth album to date and it leads the listener on a blistering journey into the darker side of the experimental psych spectrum, a side that balances tentatively on a fizzing tight rope of sonic emotions. The album had it's official release back on the 21st of September 2018 via those good folks over at Fuzz Club Records and is available to buy/download right now on various formats via fuzzclub.com & fuzzclub.bandcamp.com respectively.
Wasted Space by The Oscillation
I’ll try and be as legitimate as possible, but you must understand that many of the sounds on this exploratory adventure are extremely difficult to describe… Some are actually so confusing I don’t think I could describe them even if I tried. The album opens with ‘Entity’, a beat orientated dance track that begins with a wall of shaky noises and bass and drums orientated backing. The guitars are all over the show. The vocals sound filtered through a robotic voice… and then reversed? Occasionally a riff comes along with a pretty ‘normal’ sound only to be then swept away by obtuse but brilliantly inventive guitar playing. As mentioned above, the track is essentially a dance track gone crazy. The title track follows with a dense-layering of feedback and noise where vocals can be heard, deeply layered in noise, screaming in the background. It then jumps between patches of sound collages and dark, almost post-punk rhythmic interludes. All the way through (much like the previous track) the song sounds as danceable as ever, albeit at times layered in the depths of oddity. Being a fan of noise music, I very much enjoyed the occasionally passages (and background sounds) of feedback and distortion-based vocals that appeared throughout the song. The band leaves space for a bit of keyboard play on the following track ‘Visions of Emptiness’ which is a fantsastic and much more (mostly) linear song. Guitars interlock with the steady yet rhythmic beat of the drums. The whole song builds in fulfilling manner toward leftover ambience and a passage of wavy feedback.
‘Drop’ brings forth the previously explored dance-based industrial sounds and proves to be one of the albums most accessibly dance-based tracks. Again, the song is strengthened by the efforts and skill of its bass/synthesizer lines, backed up by its steadily club-orientated dance beat and the bizarre swells of sequencers and noises in the background. ‘The Human Shell’ is a different beast altogether; strangely hypnotic and slow, its collection of sweeping synthesizers and glacial guitars make it sound (almost) like a dream pop/shoegaze song. Slowly rolling along for almost 8 minutes, the song highlights the bands talent to produce something straight forward, reliant on the strength and skill of the song writing and playing rather than abstraction and layering (although there is nothing wrong with that). Rolling at almost 14 minutes, the colossal ‘Luminous Being’ offers much of what the rest of the album has to offer: sweeping ambience coupled with bizarre soundscapes and backings, somehow beautiful but never boring. The bands mixture of sequencers and synthesizers makes for interestingly sketched out feelings of confusion and comfort, simultaneously.
It goes without saying that this album cannot be recommended to everybody… but here I am, strongly recommending it to you. I’m mostly bored of generic ‘psych’ bands and I’m extremely glad that The Oscillation have appeared here to ensure there are still those out there doing something fantastic and original. You know an album is good when you’re tempted to describe it as: ‘it sounds crazily like if Alice in Wonderland was performed at an ice rink with all the lights dimmed and everybody there was on a cocktail of drugs, listening to a psych band in reverse’. The performances are tight, the production, while sometimes politely lo-fi, holds the whole picture together… but ultimately it is the bonkers genius put together that makes this album a piece of brilliant original sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian-based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Parrot Dream
RELEASE: Light Goes
RELEASE DATE: August 24th 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Good Eye Records
'Light Goes' is the debut LP from Brooklyn-based dream-pop/psych-pop outfit Parrot Dream. It’s a neat combination of old school alternative bands (such as the Cocteau Twins) and newer, sleeker sounding dream-pop bands like Beach House and Memory House. Everything is sort of here: the breathy female vocals, the wizzingly bright synths, the reverb guitar, the drum machine-esque beats and, finally, that weird place between nostalgia and retrospective abandonment that only dream-pop can capture. With this in mind however, Parrot Dream don't really ride the genre in a new and wholly original direction. They use what’s already lying around to create their collective sound; albeit with a nifty talent for song writing and production. The band on this release is made up of Christina Hansen Appel (Kiki) - vocals/keys, Gonzalo Guerrero - guitar, Matt Sklar - bass & Agustin Faundez Rojas - drums/ percussion. 'Light Goes' had it's official release back on the 24th August 2018 via Good Eye Records and is available to buy/download right now on various formats from parrotdream.bandcamp.com
The opener and titular track starts things off brilliantly; guitar and keyboards weave over a simplistic drum beat that rolls tiredly along. The vocals add to this already catchy and soft texture. Here the band are accurately playing upon the ‘pop’ side of dream-pop; the song provides an enjoyably laidback introduction into the album. ‘Follow Me’ takes a more ballad-like approach, the vocals are breathy and whispered and the tempo has been laid back even more. However, this song lacks the catchiness of opener ‘Light Goes’ and seems to pale in comparison somewhat. Unfortunately, this type of slow-burn songwriting continues on ‘1740’, which doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the point of a collection of instruments playing an unconnected tune. Thankfully, the following track pulls the show back together; ‘Paradise and Prey’ features a calming backing synth and the occasional guitar plucking to forge a calming image in the listeners mind. The sound captures a band in unison, with the vocals sounding more connected to the rest of the instrumentation as a whole. ‘Julio’ is an album highlight: the intricate drum beats, weaving throughout a slow synth line and the usual guitar plucking create a different approach to the type of textures previously explored throughout the album. The vocals shine (perhaps the most interesting vocal performance on the album) in a manner similar to the aforementioned melding of Memory House.
‘By Your Side’ continues this, its opening showcasing the power of a dream pop-based soundscape. Following this, the contemplative side of dream-pop happily follows as the band perform with a deeper and more concentrated sound. ‘Fall Forward’ is a neat, post-punk hued tune which envelops into a more beautiful, whimsical place as the song rolls on. The instrumentation here, mixed with the high vocals, makes for a beautifully rich and engaging sound. ‘Cloudchaser’ seems to be the pinnacle of the previous group of songs: it collects the best elements of Parrot Dream into one song, projecting something both enjoyable and well written. Here the performances finally connect perfectly with the production and mixing, creating a credible album highlight. The darker and challenging ‘Ode to Octavia’ is just as interesting, collecting up all the previously mentioned elements of dream-pop and twisting them to sound more like a question than a thought. ‘Helium’ proves to be one of the best songs on the album, lasting longer than other tracks and combining thoughts and sketches into long winded instrumental passages. The second half especially sounds like somewhat of a homage to shoegaze; guitars climb, drums smash and vocals soar.
'Light Goes', as previously mentioned, is not exactly a wholly new, original take on the dream-pop genre. Its cards are placed with a historical retrospective and a familiarity that the band actually plays to its strength throughout. And often Parrot Dream and their use of dream-pop practices is actually quite refreshing because it relies on nothing more than quality song writing and performance rather than explorative elements. At times, of course, this is a hinderance. Most predominantly on the first half of the album, songs seem like album fillers or slight re-hashes of other music you’ve heard before. Thankfully the second half of 'Light Goes' seems to recover and realise the correct direction that songs and tracks should be taken in. Interestingly enough, I often find myself weighing up the amount of songs on albums by particular bands, seen here in a sort of contemplative footnote in the second half of the review. Without going too deeply into critical points, I believe that 'Light Goes' may have too many songs on it. Much like many of the releases I’ve heard lately through this blog, the extent of track listings are stretched to ten or more tracks, with no hugely variant elements found from track to track, making the album seem like more of a forced odyssey than an interesting adventure. Parrot Dream are almost an exception though, as the second half seems to pick up the pace and set things a little more ‘on course’. Compliments to the performances and production, the album cover (a fantastic picture that truly captures the songs on the album) and the overall sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ARTIST: Alien Mustangs
RELEASE DATE: May 15th 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Sound Effects Records
Thessaloniki natives 'Alien Mustangs' are something of a modern day enigma. Through their highly energetic and psychedelically infectious live shows coupled with a DIY release ethos and their anti-social media stance they have managed to thrive exponentially and create a debut album worth shouting about without the need for massive PR campaigns or an online presence. Their collective sound is the result of an inherent need to not follow the sonic norms and instead focus on breaking boundaries or pushing new sonic frontiers. Their brand of modern psych/space rock is deeply rooted in sixties garage whist pulling into the mix some modern influences such as Spacemen 3, Loop and The 13th Floor Elevators. 'Alien Mustangs' back catalogue consists of the 'Pause/Red Tambourine' 7 inch released in March 2013, the 'River' 10 inch EP released in May 2014 and 'The Tape Sessions' two-track, released exclusively on cassette in November 2015. This long overdue full length release brilliantly titled 'Alienation' was officially unleashed back on the 15th May 2018 via Sound Effect Records and is available to buy/download right now from alienmustangs.bandcamp.com
Alien Mustangs - Alienation by Alien Mustangs
The album opens up swirling inside an undulating drone as 'Holy Motors' unboxes it's malevolent side, pulling slow moving percussion, fuzzed out guitars and cascading bass into the mix collectively suffocated in glorious reverberations. Haunting vocalisations float into view tumbling through luscious lines of lead guitar, twisting and intertwining with that hypnotic psychedelic swing. 'Holy Motors' is totally infectious and a mesmerising opening salvo. Up next, 'Going Nowhere' slides into the sonic ether swirling around a calming neo-psych vibe. Acoustic frequencies meld with a simple percussive assault and deep booming lines of bass as subtle swells of addictive organ vie for space just below the mix. The vocals arrive riding undulating waves of reverb as they sit perfectively on top the collective instrumentation instantly catapulting this listener into a world of colourful transcendental hypnotics. The blissful opening bars of 'Forest' are sublime. Acoustic guitars merge with woozy lines of organ catch your ear as those 60's tinged vocalisations ebb and flow in unison. Theres a definite 60's psych vibe swirling around this track reminiscent of 13th Floor Elevators, Ogden's era 'Faces' or early 'Pink Floyd'. It's a beautiful track filled with passages of lysergic abandonment and definite album highlight for me.
'Follow Me' has a subtle garage feel to it's opening bars as it's guitars keep that repetitive chord structure buzzing just below the mix and the swirl of organ catches the ear. Slow moving percussion again keeps a metronomic tempo as backing vocals rise and fall and the pull of bass is overpowering. Melodically brilliant, 'Follow Me' builds and builds with each sonic revolution, bringing sporadic squalls of feedback in and out of the mix until eventually the overdrive arrives, the tempo quickens and it explodes into a righteous colour of reverberating frequencies. It's another triumph on an album that continues to amaze me. Up next, the albums penultimate piece arrives drenched in a kind of 'Velvet Underground' hued cloud. 'Sleep' crawls ever so slowly, tumbling around a beautiful guitar progression, twinkling tambourine shakes and those punchy tom tom hits as it's immense vocalisations ride the repetitive sonic wave. The album closes out with 'Lsd', an angry 60's garage banger that rocks magnificently on lines of tumbling bass, charging percussion and wailing lines of lead guitar. Swirling vocalisations intertwine with reverb, delay and production theatrics to bring this album to a thunderous finale. It's a fitting end to a marvellous debut long player.
RELEASE: Silent Animals
RELEASE DATE: 29th June 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club
Rome-based psych/kraut trio 'Crimen' have been delicately enticing their fanbase with their long-overdue debut full length release for well over a decade. Steeped in modern psych with an infusion of hyperactive krautrock, 'Crimen' have developed a sound that at times dips it's sonic tendrils into subtle shoegaze and lurching post-punk creating a fizzing lysergic brew that they have self-titled 'Kraut-Punk'. Formed in the Centocelle district of Rome back in 2007 by Simone Greco - bass/vocals/sound engineering and Patrizio Strippoli - guitars/voice, it took another six years before the band enlisted Giuseppe Trezza - drums/electronics. After a collection of successful EP's and two years hibernating to record 'Silent Animals', Crimen officially unleashed the album to the masses back on June 29th 2018, joining forces with the good folks over at 'Fuzz Club Records'. 'Silent Animals' is available to buy/download right now on various formats via fuzzclub.bandcamp.com & fuzzclub.com respectively.
Silent Animals by Crimen
The dizzying throb of bass frequencies accompany the metronomic thud of kick drum as the opening track ‘Above The Trees (Rockets)’ manoeuvres itself into audible range. It builds maliciously before exploding into a raging sonic tempest filled with punishing percussion, cyclonic guitars and fascinating electronics all swirling angrily around that beacon like vocalisation. This track moves brilliantly, has deep permeating breaks that lead the listener into a false sense of security before soaring into the ether with relative ease. Up next, 'Batida' begins twisting inside a raging feedback storm before slow moving percussion and bouncing bass frequencies pull angry guitars and tormenting vocalisations into the mix and we're dumped headlong into a sonic storm whilst 'Flahzz' arrives wobbling woozily on a chittering bass line as sparse percussion and oodles of reverb hover and dance brilliantly allowing mellow lines of vocal to cling to effortless layers of reverb at those jangling lines of guitar add intense atmosphere. We're pulled into psychedelically entrancing breaks where we levitate above swirling layers of reverberation and dragged into bass heavy passages of sonic brilliance where tumbling drum patterns merge with angry guitars. 'Flahzz' is simply sublime and a definite album highlight for me.
The opening bars of 'From My Bed' are deeply atmospheric. Repetitive bass signatures merge with singular notes of guitar and the ever present pitter patter of sequenced percussion as the vocalisations arrive managing to stay just below the mix as different percussive changes twist and turn and sporadic electronic samples loop and arc at will. The track erupts, albeit slowly at first, as those heavy bass notes and jangling guitar progressions pull explosive drum patterns into audible range and injections of melody catch this listeners ear. The instrumentation pulses through layers of reverb, spiralling through different sonic refractions as we tumble into a magnificent feedback laden finale. 'Six Weeks' unfurls its's fuzzy sonic tendrils strapped to a repetitive synth as those fuzzy electronics and the charging percussion take hold allowing a teeth shattering bass progression to drive headlong into the sonic ether. There's a touch of garage psych coursing through this tracks veins but it melds brilliantly with neo-psych and subtle post-punk to create something altogether wonderful sounding. It's a triumph and definitely my favourite track on the album. 'Left Behind' is a modern psych gem. Fizzing guitars and sullen electronics open proceedings as almost anthemic like stylings elevate the overall sound into something heavenly. Again, the bass progressions are immense and the pull everything together brilliantly as rolling percussion bubbles underfoot and distorted frequencies swirl around hard hitting vocalisations. Explosive cymbal's crash, instilling an alternative kind of swagger in amongst those psychedelically attuned atmospherics but watch out for the ear shattering lead break that pierces the mind and shakes the life out of you and also that magnificent pause that comes at just the right time to instil a brilliant kind of sonic calmness.
The breathy beginnings of 'Supermarket', the albums penultimate piece, lead the listener in to a false sense of security as we're led into something altogether different. There are essence's of experimental funk, jazz, dub, kraut, psych and alternative soundings swirling around this track that are both infectious and addictive. Explosive percussion, melodically intricate lines of guitar and cascading bass progressions lead the listener through magnificent progressions of music until we're eventually funnelled into that absolutely immense finale. The album closes out with 'Hit Mania Death', a charging repetitively led, dance floor filler. Sequenced lines of percussion lead the merry dance as it's repetitive lines of bass and malicious synths carry angry vocalisations through massive walls of reverb-laden electronic theatrics. It's a hard hitting finale to a wonderful debut album.
ARTIST: Magic Wands
RELEASE DATE: 13th July 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Etxe Records
Los Angeles-based duo 'Magic Wands' unleashed a dazzling new eleven track entitled 'Abrakadabra' via the good folks over at Los Angeles and Washington DC based independent record label 'Etxe Records' back on July 13th 2018. What’s it like? It's like… a time machine whizzing back to a time when shoegaze and dream-pop was more than just about writing a shitty melody or riff and layering as many FX on it as you can. A time when, if you stripped away the studio tricks and FX manipulation, you were still left with a catchy and/or well written pop or rock song. 'Magic Wands' seem to spend as much time writing the music as they do manipulating it into the ethers of distortion, layering and reverb… which makes 'Abrakadabra' well worth the time and the listen. The album was recorded at Voltiv Studios in Los Angeles, produced by Phil Galloni and the band themselves and mastered by Tim Young (The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine). 'Abrakadabra' available to buy/download right now via magic-wands.bandcamp.com (Digitally) & etxerecords.com (Vinyl) respectively.
Abrakadabra [Etxe Records, 2018] by Magic Wands
Following on from the humble but slight opener ‘Bashmuuu’, Abrakadabra opens with the slow pop tones of ‘Nocturnal’, which features layers of feedback guitar and the slow rumble of beats/drums. On top lies the hazy, reverbed vocals which vary from hush and whisper all the way to fully and beautifully spoken. The song screams dream-pop, but the slower and deeper FX and song writing structure allow the song to come off as an intelligent and enjoyable listen. Things turn somewhat more standard with the following song ‘Houdini’, which features that recognizable dream-pop styled guitar tone and a more upbeat feel. Showcasing the bands post-punk influence, ‘Houdini’ compliments the previous tracks more darker sound and is notable for its neat FX laced-sequencer noises. ‘DNA’ is an album highlight and delves deeper into the crossroads between dream-pop and post-punk music (exercised neatly through the drum beat). The aforementioned dream-pop elements shine through in several facets, the vocal performance is dazzling and the general pop-ness shines through to make the song worth the effort. The following track ‘Realms’ seems somewhat more of a step back into cruise control. Beyond the almost darkwave production and synth sounds, the lyrics seem somewhat awkward and almost throw away. The melding of darker elements with the softness of the singer’s voice seems to show off an enjoyable side of the band, but beyond that, ‘Realms’ feels like more of an album filler.
Things thankfully turn back to the more interesting dance/dream-pop of the albums opener. ‘Loveline’ is an enjoyable dance track, laced with neat keyboard production and a danceable beat that highlights the bands strong points. The chorus in particular shows how simplicity can do so much for a song…. There’s some great bass playing as well. ‘New Device’ follows the form of ‘Bashmuuu’, a slower style beat that allows the FX heavy instrumentation to mix in beautifully together. And then things return to the dance floor. ‘Chains and Fur’ features a slick rhythm section with the undertones of a dream-pop guitar and vocals that sound as though they have been dunked in neon; another album highlight for me! ‘Diamond Road’ slows things right back and offers up a hazier, almost psychedelic tempo equipped with soft and more helmed back production. With all the stripped back instrumentation, the vocals shine through, which leads me to the songs main criticism: the lyrics. While at times the lyrics adequately capture the feel of the music, a large portion of them come off awkwardly and, more importantly, cliched. The following track ‘Julie Ann Gray’ is a fantastic post-punk thriller, filtered through Magic Wands dream-pop sensibilities; thankfully, here the vocals and lyrics are in fact one of the songs highlights. ‘Julie Ann Gray’ summarises much of what the band has been projecting over the course of Abrakadabra: the danceable passages, the post-punk underlays and the dream-pop tones that all beautifully meld together sonically and instrumental. ‘Big Life’ features a slow melding beat that sounds like a slower version of trap music: the hi-hats hit rumble slowly, followed by a heavy snare. The vocals float softly and enjoyably over the instrumentation. Bonus track ‘Puzzle of Love’ is also worth noting; especially if you enjoyed the danceable, retro sound of the some of the aforementioned dance-y songs on the album.
All in all Abrakadabra is well-worth the time: refreshingly well written song structures make way for sonic exploration through FX… but not too much FX. The only criticisms I have of the album are, quite admittedly, the same I have for many albums of a similar genre. Firstly, the sheer quantity of music on Abrakadabra is at times difficult to engage with. Song after song that thematically maintain similar ‘feels’ to each other mean that, after over ten tracks worth of music, the album can seem a little strained. The other criticism is the lyrics. While generally fitting of the both the music and instrumentation, sometimes the lyrics seem as though they were thrown in purely because they had to be thrown in… At times generic, at times cliched, and at times quite awkward and only semi-written. Beyond these two elements, Magic Wands have created a thoroughly enjoyable listen. The instrumentation fits very well, and the dynamic range between dance track and softer, slower almost balladery stylings makes things all the more interesting. The band comfortably put their foot down, showcasing their talent in the realms of performance, production and sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
ARTIST: Prana Crafter
RELEASE: Enter The Stream
RELEASE DATE: 31st July 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Sunrise Ocean Bender
William Sol aka 'Prana Crafter' has released some mesmerising experimental psych & acid folk through a plethora of underground labels throughout the years from his home base on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Through labels like Beyond Beyond is Beyond, Eiderdown, Deep Water Acres, and Reverb Worship his soundscapes have permeated the sonic ether, flowing down through various levels of consciousness to paint a sonic tapestry so rich in colour that listening to his work is genuinely more akin to a intensely spiritual journey of sonic discovery. Now Sol has returned with what could be the best album of 2018 so far? A blistering new long player entitled 'Enter The Stream', a collection of eight tracks that skip effortlessly through ambient tinged psych folk, acid folk and kosmische styled psych rock all steeped in a kind of esoteric brilliance. 'Enter The Stream' is officially released on July 31st 2018 jointly via the good folks over at Sunrise Ocean Bender Records and Cardinal Fuzz Records and is also available to pre-order right now through pranacrafterabode.bandcamp.com
Enter the Stream by Prana Crafter
'Enter The Stream' begins meditatively, oozing an eerie kind of calmness that completely envelopes this listener in blissful sonic tones as those swirling acoustics tumble through layers of reverberation, carefully cushioning refrained vocalisations and the lulling tap of guitar strings. It's a beautiful opening salvo steeped in highly personal themes but wonderfully refreshing in the way it settles the listener from the off with its hypnotic almost metronomic swing that gently leads us into the ambient strewn wilderness that is 'Moon Through Fern Lattice'. This track opens up shimmering on layers of cyclonic drones and effervescent instrumentation accompanied by the addictive pull of lead guitar as we buffer on ambient themed waves of psychedelically attuned instrumentation. Up next, 'Mycorhizzal Brainstrom' floats into the sonic ether on waves of beautiful frequencies accompanied by progressions of guitar and the fizz of electronics. Melodic lines of lead guitar dance and swing with ease, dipping in and out of translucent waves of reverb and the constant pitter patter of ambient synth. 'Mycorhizzal Brainstrom' is a triumph, a lysergic sonic adventure and an album highlight for me. 'The Spell' jangles into existence strapped to an acoustic progression whipped by the occasional line of distorted lead guitar overlaid with a kind of spaghetti western brilliance. Sol's vocalisations control the tempo here and they sit brilliantly inside the groove, eventually leading us into a lead break that momentarily shatters the air of serenity surrounding this track before we're back inside that swinging groove and pulled into it's final death throws.
'Old North Wind' bellows into life, moving on melodic tentacles of acoustic guitar draped in reverb and an instant hit of melancholy. Beautiful lines of vocal swirl around entrancing instrumental progressions joined sporadically by subtle highlights of lead guitar and slow moving percussion. A magical lead break unfurls it's sonic tendrils and intertwines with the melee of sounds adding blissful atmosphere as we flutter along in it's wake, pondering life and love and everything else in between whist up next, 'Kosmic Eko' does exactly as it says on the tin. Ambient stylings coalesce alongside angry pulses of distortion as tumbling lines of lead guitar plunge into pools of reverb allowing those swirling atmospherics to hold court as the track tries to build momentum from far below the mix. There's a hesitancy here, this listener wants the track to take flight and soar skywards but Sol has other ideas and allows it to tantalisingly hang in a cloud of frequencies until eventually it teeters out into marvellous oblivion. This is absolutely sublime songwriting craftsmanship and only goes to showcase just how good this album really is. The albums penultimate piece entitled 'Pillow Moss Absorption' begins with an acoustic progression that eventually leads into something altogether eclectic. Beautifully entrancing lines of guitar drenched in wah wah theatrics and underpinned with swells of organ and fizzing synths take centre stage as we're whisked off into an esoteric world filled with sonic wonderment. The instrumentation erupts again as progressions of acoustic guitar return and meld with waves of reverb, changing tempo with each sweep, tumbling and splashing through waves of brilliant production until we're swept headlong into the albums closing piece. 'At The Dawn' caps off a truly stunning collection of songs. This track feels like a bookend of sorts and whereas 'Pillow Moss Absorption' was loose and more free form in its approach, 'At The Dawn' is more structured and settled in its own skin. It's a beautiful ending to a truly marvellous album.
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, postpunk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He also was a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting genres of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
RELEASE DATE: 28th March 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Spirit Goth Records
'Castlebeat' is that weird moment between nostalgia, unnerving contemplation and the dizziness that comes with hazy afternoons, setting suns and retrospection. This reviewer was impressed with their 2016 self-titled album, which arrived at a time before Mac Demarco had entered what could be scholastically deemed ‘post-celebrity’. A time when chorus pedals and slower tempos were beginning to be umbrellaed and confused with terms like ‘copycat’ and ‘influential’. I speak of this time only in reference to the fact that when the debut album 'Castlebeat' was released, a certain demographic, a certain underground and a certain discussion base were carrying them around on pedestals in the same way Demarco and other dream pop/jangle pop/synth bands were being. A similar thing happened around that time with the NY-based Porches and their debut album 'Pool'. Everything was about the aesthetic, the nostalgia… The internet was recovering and re-convening from vapourwave and all the associated facets of it. The moral of the story is, if Castlebeat arrived at a time it made sense in, (while simultaneously being a great album, musically) what happens when times move on? And what does the next album (the aptly named VHS) sound like? Brilliant apparently… And its all a great trick of the light, because not so much has altered for Castlebeat and their music, even if the times have.
VHS by CASTLEBEAT
'VHS' opens with the instrumental ‘Research’, which showcases plucked, bright guitars and a programmed post-punk drum beat. Behind the music, sequencers swirl and pulse with samples and the occasional soundscape that floats back: a welcome introduction to the album. The much more retrospective ‘Tennis’ follows with a darker sound. The vocals, which ooze in after a short guitar introduction, appear in a considered reverb way. On ‘Tennis’ the band do what they do best: combine that kind of goth nostalgia feeling with danceable rhythm sections and extremely catchy guitar riffs, and you have a terrific album highlight. Returning to the sound of album opener, ‘Here’ continues the similar, colour-distorted beach feeling of ‘Tennis’. Of note is the extremely catchy chorus, that finds the vocals dancing in the background of a great texturing of guitar, bass and drums. Easily the greatest intro to any song on the album, ‘Wasting Time’ features a memorable post-punk riff put through several reverb, echo and chorus pedals into the context of the band. The track seems somewhat more darker and distorted than other songs on 'VHS', which gives it a brilliant edge that makes it a true stand out on the release.
‘Town’ turns the tempo up but retains a similar feel to previous song. The lyrics seem somewhat lazy compared to others but these are made up for with a brilliantly sounding chorus and refrain and the instruments meld together in a beautifully harmonious way. ‘I Follow’ has one of the catchiest sounds on the album and lives up to Castlebeats self-classification of ‘goth pop’. Another album highlight is the minimal ‘Zephyr’ which relies on the fantastic bass player. The chorus passages reveal a kind of meditative smoothness that makes images conjure to mind even more swiftly. On the Bandcamp page, many listeners who have brought the album speak highly of the second half of 'VHS' and in particular ‘These Days’. I can understand why this would be considered by some to be the best track on the album; it captures (especially through the lyrics) a particular thoughtfulness of regret, retrospect and dreaminess that I think most can in some sort of equivocally way emotionally relate to. Its anthemic, slow and just the right length to support its memorable qualities. ‘Heart Still Beats’ takes 'VHS' full circle, bringing the music back to a danceable and brighter quality of beauty and approachability. Of particular note is the songs fantastic second half, which captures something playful yet emotionally challenging and bring it forth through the music. An additional song, ‘Video Tape’ wraps things up accordingly, in Castlebeat and aesthetically drenched stylings.
'VHS' takes the impetus of 'Castlebeat' and pushes it towards something more post-punk and guitar driven. This push certainly gives the album a faster paced, more danceable feel, and I can understand if fans of Castlebeat find something more approachable and fuller with the sounds found on VHS. The album can be comfortably played as a listening experience, background music, or something you can throw on at a party to get people on the dancefloor. The real intelligence though (and the reason for the rating below) is that underneath each of the ‘goth pop’ sounds and effects of the songs, underneath the beach sounding, aesthetic driven riffs, is a real sense of nostalgia and retrospect. When vapourwave was done well it achieved a similar result, but even that tended toward sounding artificial and distant… VHS maintains the authenticity and reminds the listener that this was handcrafted with love. Many will comfortably ride VHS off as a lesson in how simplicity can critically triumph over intentionally and presentably complex and intellectual music… Little do they know that the band has coated the latter in the former… Do you follow? Before I continuously acclaim VHS, I think it is worth noting that the album wont be without its critics. Many of the songs maintain a similar feeling (which is why it makes for great background music) and you have to pay attention to notice the differences and techniques used from song to song. This goes hand in hand for any similar sounding ‘aesthetic’ laced music. The moral of the story is, however, that Castlebeat have backed a great album up with an even better one… a release that captures so much while presenting something so simple, achieved through textured and mellow sound.
RELEASE: Call Of The Void
RELEASE DATE: 22nd June 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club Records
Oakland-based psychonauts 'Lumerians' create a mind-bending hypnotic brew filled to the brim with parts procured from various music genres such as experimental psychedelia, space rock, krautrock, noise rock, drone rock, electronica & dub. The resulting concoction is a thrilling excursion into the mystical & futuristic realms of contemporary psychedelia. Formed in San Francisco back in 2006 by Chris Musgrave - drums/percussion, Jason Miller - vocals/synth/organ/guitar, Marc Melzer - vocals/bass/synth and Tyler Green - guitar/synth/keys, the band relocated to Oakland just before the release of their debut album 'Transmalinnia', building their own recording studio called New Telos Sound in a former church. They released their sophomore LP 'The High Frontier' back in 2013 and two collections of improvised compositions called 'Transmission from Tellos III & IV'. They have also shared the stage with bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Killing Joke and Black Moth Super Rainbow. Now after a four year hiatus the band have returned with their third 'official' studio album entitled 'Call Of The Void'. The album is released on June 22nd 2018 via Fuzz Club Records and is dedicated to the memory of Barrett Clark, 'Lumerians' long-time friend, sound engineer and collaborator who passed away in the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland 2016. 'Call of the Void' is available to pre-order right now on various formats via both fuzzclub.com & fuzzclub.bandcamp.com respectively.
Call Of The Void by Lumerians
The fizz of melodic electronics merge brilliantly with those swirling instrumental drones as ‘Fuck All Y’all’ arrives to permeate the ether accompanied by the slow pull of percussion and the deep throb of bass frequencies. Repetitive organ notes hover and glide just above the sonic melee whipped by tightly wound lines of lead guitar as we’re led into a magnificent break and momentarily guided out it’s back end by the lull of squally guitars and that hypnotically a-tuned metronomic tempo. ‘Fuck All Y’all’ serves up a sonic tonic to cure all ills and is a blistering opening salvo indeed. Up next, ‘Silver Trash’ pounds into existence on repetitive threads of motorik percussion as swirling synths meander through cascading lines of bass. Woozy guitars cling closely to that explosive drum track allowing the surge of electronic instrumentation, drenched in effects, to bring lines of vocal into audible range, all balancing precariously on top of tumbling swells of organ and whirring lines of lead guitar. ‘Silver Trash’ is a triumph, it’s absolutely phenomenal and a definite stand out piece on this album.
‘Space Curse’ bounces into the ether in a 70’s krautrock haze. Filled with intermittent bleeps and whirrs this track rocks steadily on a bedrock of rolling percussion as various analogue synths pulse lines of catchy chord sequences across booming bass frequencies deftly accompanied by fascinating lines of vocal whilst ‘Signal’ starts small but builds incrementally into a droning sonic behemoth filled with intense melody, ambient strewn breaks and lines upon lines of sequenced electronics. ‘Fictional’ rattles into the ether on a pounding drum track accompanied by hypnotically addictive bass progressions and soaring lines of synth. Duel vocal’s glide brilliantly here all enveloped by the swirling sonic maelstrom, adding squealing guitars and layers of stylish reverberation as fizzing electronica meets metronomic krautrock and collectively dives headlong into a broiling melee of lysergic tinged modern psychedelia.
‘Masters Call’ glides into audible range swirling on an instrumental drone as layers of reverb reach out to slow it’s momentum. Tumbling percussion accompanies booming pulls of bass as sequenced synths arrive to accompany those edgy lines of vocal merging brilliantly into one surging wave of psych induced electronica whilst the albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Ghost Notes’ is deeply atmospheric. Huge swells of reverberation embraces menacing lines of synth, rolling percussion and heady waves of bass frequencies as it’s entrancing vocal’s arrive meandering in and out of angry guitars and overpowering instrumental progressions eventually crescendoing into a magnificent bass led break that builds and builds all over again. ‘Ghost Notes’ is fascinating and another album highlight for me. ‘Call Of The Void’ closes out with ‘Clock Spell’ and instantly arrives strapped to a droning analogue signal and a slow moving line of structured percussion. Catchy electronic bleeps and whirrs accompany layers of reverb that seem to rise and fall brilliantly alongside those hypnotic vocalisations. It’s a blistering ending to a wonderful album.