Aidan Baker, multi-instrumentalist and half of duo Nadja, takes a dive into a different pool with his new outing, Already Drowning. Overflowing with his atmospheric calling card, Already Drowning builds on more straight-ahead song structures, employing the talents of guest vocalists on each track. Using myths and folktales centered on ‘female water spirits’ as his springboard, Baker weaves a hypnotizing and enigmatic song-cycle that quickly elevates itself beyond his inspiration becoming a rich tapestry that not only invites the listener’s participation, but encourages it. It’s not surprising that there’s a cut with ‘common tongue’ in the title: with some vocalists opting to sing in their native language, they all get across their messages and intent in the tongue everyone knows. Already Drowning is impeccably crafted, rich and dense. Already Drowning exudes a metropolitan, and melancholy, sexiness that is packed with the isolation and seeming desire to lessen the disconnect that can come with being buried in the crush of humanity, or lack of. That said, those things—and feelings—are everywhere, and what Already Drowning is about in many ways, with the locale of your choosing, is the human condition. And that’s equal whether you’re bathed in the high-rise neon glow or the blue of the TV eye that stands watch. The fact that it crosses that line, to become inclusive rather than insular speaks volumes to the humanness of Already Drowning. Something we’re all doing, have done, or will be at some point.
South London’s Audio Anithero have decided to ‘fess up and document their under achievement with their Commercial Suicide Sampler. What better way to kick it off than with a band that dissolved in ’07 and released their debut 2 years later? Nosferatu D2 take the kick off with Springsteen, a down right catchy slab of ‘unsinkable indie rock’ that has more smarts going on than might seem apparent. There’s some angular turns that make it sit pretty next to Audio Antihero stalwarts Fighting Kites and self-proclaimed ‘ugly sister,’ Broken Shoulder, who make an appearance here as well. Resident ‘misery guts’ Benjamin Shaw makes a showing from his stellar There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet, this time sharing the sensitive singer-songwriter burden and guilt with Jack Hayter’s odd-ball folk stylings on I Stole The Cutty Sark. Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences lend their altish-country chops to the uplifting tale of Gomorrah, a sweetly deceptive slab of left-field pop. Wartgore Hellsnicker sound like you think they would with that moniker. Soundtracking the ongoing battle of Groucho vs. Karl, Wartgore Hellsnicker kick up some cacophonous, and righteous, horn-soaked noise-pop that doesn’t shy away from kicking you, and probably themselves, in the teeth when needed. The sounds and stylings are eclectic, but that’s right where Commercial Suicide Samplershows Audio Antiheros’ knack for sussing out the intangibles that may not make them brothers in arms, but shows that misery does love company. Good company.
“Welcome to the birth of Backward Music, a heavily-curated label based in Atlantic Canada. An off-shoot of the successful Forward Music Group, Backward will focus on giving a voice to the highest calibre creative and innovative music outside of the mainstream and doing so with a careful focus on presentation and aesthetic. The label will also direct a strong focus on how the ever-evolving field of technology changes possibilities for delivering music to audiences and is working with cutting edge web-developers, videographers and artists to deliver both music & visual content in engaging and innovative ways.
The first release package, coming October 30th, will be a compilation of three different artists; New York composer David Moore’s Bing & Ruth project, Toronto percussionist Joshua Van Tassel, and British expat Tim Crabtree. The music is a cohesive batch of cinematic and ambient music with subtle textures of both organic and electronic instruments, sequenced to provide a calm listening experience.”
A great label debut both as a compilation and a full-length on its own. Rather than lump these three outfits in clusters, Vol. 1 spreads them out to mingle, interact and sequence. With all bringing their own unique dish to the table, Vol. 1 benefits from a surprising range of dynamics for an album so patient, and in the right ways, methodical. The work may come over that way, but it’s not rigid or unbending. There’s plenty of soft as well as curved edges, many rippling out into each other. The press rings true when they say Vol. 1 is “sequenced to provide a calm listening experience.” It’s easy to get lulled in only to find there’s much more going on than lazing in the experience. From rhythmic electronic tinged progressions to an uplifting wordless elegy, there’s activity. With no need to shout and moving at its own pace.
You can read more about Backward Music and this roster here, and acquire goods at this outpost.
Holy War :: Joshua Van Tassel :: Vol. 1 (2012, Backward Music)
Dublin based Hugh Doolan fleshes out his earlier single Maiden Speech for his new full-length, Soundtrack To Your Imagination. Taking the lead from the first part of the title, about any of the cuts could be dropped into a variety of film genres and styles and be effective, whether as rich background or taking a bigger role in tandem. Compare the moody and starry Persephone’s Guitar to the tense and Krautrock-tinged Invisible Man for contrast andyou can hear the multiple use/rfactor. One of the biggest roles is saved for the listener though, spelled out on the marquee. Doolan’s compositions have their own character, but he uses their atmospheric and shifting nature to welcome the outsider imagination into the scene, to be an active participant in the flicker. Standing alone, and working as a soundtrack to…well, your call eventually…there is a feeling of narrative, a progression. Coaxed by Doolan, the details are up to us. That said, Doolan isn’t shirking his responsibility and leaving all the work to us. Many of the cuts push a warm emotional vibe that can easily cross between something wrapped in melancholy to feeling uplifting and hopeful. You wouldn’t be off in thinking that this exercise could lead to a formless, and uncommitted, gray card, but Soundtrack To Your Imagination has more than enough ground and framework to hold itself up as well as the weight of our own embellishments, and exaggeration if you want to go that far. If you don’t, and take Soundtrack To Your Imagination only on the surface, you still have an intriguing and ethereal whisper-narrative in your ear that has much more of a pay-off than the usual background static that screams at you no matter how much you adjust your volume knob. If you want to engage with it, then the result is what you, and your imagination, make of it.
(…a bit of bleed over into the day job: you can see more of the album illustrator Mario Sughi’s work at nerosunero.)
“A misguided combination of Spaghetti Western soundtracks, 1960s surf guitar and minimalist post-rock.”
Based out of the Spaghetti Western HQ of London, Plantagenet 3 deliver what they promise in no misguided terms. The duo of Richard Lanyon and Tasha V (aided by a ‘pair of 1980s drum machines’) build an intriguing atmosphere full of space, and spaces in-between, that betray their admitted minimalist bag of tools. And it’s not about a bag of tricks either. No one could be faulted for thinking the surf component might be the first element to get misguided, or exploited. Plantagenet 3 find the sweet and sinewy spot where surf/spy-isms cross paths with the tremulous aura of some post rock, and have the good sense to simply let it go widescreen naturally.
There is a vinyl release set to roll in, but you can sample and hold some forthcoming goods as well as see what rode in earlier at their Bandcamp outpost.
The Darkening Green :: Plantagenet 3 :: The Darkening Green (2012, Plantagenet 3)
Hailing from Dublin, Hugh Doolan is a songwriter, singer, guitarist and composer whose styles vary as much as his job skills. Moving easily from soundtracks (Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey, Gloves & Glory) to more ambient work to a range of collaborations and folk-tinged pieces, Doolan’s mark is made clear through his compositions and his atmospheric and understated guitar. Lilting, flowing and smooth in about everything, Doolan also traffics just as easily in straightforward acoustic heavy pop songs on his ’10 release Slopey, fleshing out an already wide resumé. His newest single, Maiden Speech is a short, ethereal outing dedicated to Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi. Both appealingly mournful and oozing a wispy lushness, Maiden Speech passes quickly by leaving an evocative vapor trail of promise and possibility. It leaves you waiting for another cloud to pass and fade in, but it has a completeness that marks it as a statement, rather than a quick excerpt.
Maiden Speech :: Hugh Doolan :: Maiden Speech (2012, Hugh Doolan)
Hailing from Bryansk, Russia, Jet Plane play an interesting take on post rock, taking the usual structures and frameworks and rebuilding up some self-described low-key drama. It’s a (here it comes) tasteful approach, stripping away some bombast they don’t need to get their point across without diminishing impact or emotion. Jet Plane incorporate some cello work from guest Alexey Kovtun that heightens the theatrical and melancholy haze while remaining understated. Coupled with a languid flow they work into All The Static Stars, Jet Plane lift themselves a touch off the ground, gliding over any overly methodical trappings.
Air Threads :: Jet Plane :: All The Static Stars (2012, Jet Plane)
U.K. trio Stubb bring home a mash of bone-crunching and nut-busting stoner and acid blues rock with a heavy-duty fuzz-laden 70s vibe. Dead set and driven to ‘continue the journey of the power trio through the 21st Century,’ Stubb has a big enough set of stones to fill your bell-bottoms to the brim. On the surface, it may not seem very… English…butStubb don’t lower themselves to aping anything ‘American’ and they certainly aren’t above kicking some of it square in the teeth. The mix from T. Dallas Reed is thick, heavy and despite all the hair growing on it, crystal clear in getting the point across. Guitarist Jack Dickinson not only delivers the licks, but has a great set of pipes perfectly married to the crunch laid down by him and cohorts Pete Holland and Chris West. Stubb is also available in some CD/LP bundles if you’re so inclined. Get some…and paint some flames on it.
Certainly seems that’s more than enough. 2016 pt II & III wallows in a druggy lo-fi pool of smoke that’s not necessarily a case of less is more, but rather doing more with less. Coming from various locales over time in Texas, Cavedweller may seem like a small operation, but Michener and his rotating assists put everything about right where it needs to be to inflate his reverbery space in size to the point where you’re looking at his home-state from the other end of the microscope. Cavedweller isn’t about how big they can be. It’s about creating a feeling of echoing ambling space no matter what the size of the room, or garage, you’re working in.
Smoking 3-song EP from Santa Ana-based Plant Tribe. This one, this one is American. No mistaking it. That’s not to say Plant Tribe don’t mix in some grooves beyond our shore, and skies. Plant Tribe take a classic 60s/70s groove and bend the frame psychically and psychedelically. Why wouldn’t they? They’ve got their feet firmly entrenched in some road tested, and no matter what they tell you, still abundantly fertile soil. With eyes and cortex pointing high, the tendrils lift up giving Saturation the flexibility to take in the wind and bend with it, from then to now and back again. A bit back Plant Tribe was a Revolt of the Apes Band of the Weekfor damn good reason, and since my simian brother speaks the language like no other, I’m going to lift two of his laser-beamed terms and butt them up together; off-kilter boogie-woogie. Dig in and take root.
4-cut outing that’s perfect for finding some dubby respite from the Summer furnace, courtesy of Adelaide’s Major Crimes (Ben McLaren, Callan Visser). I’ve never been in a monsoon, so I’m not sure how much they can break the heat or induce some chill, but this one does. A fairly simple concoction, each ingredient is added just right for your cocktail; dashes of electronica flavors, wah guitar, funky percussion, keyboards…all in the right measure. Far from being slight in any way, MONSOON is an interesting concoction; refreshing and slightly menacing in a slippery way. Lesser hands would have gone for pure atmosphere over any substance, or gotten betrayed by its allure. Major Crimes don’t and part of the appeal of MONSOON, and it’s strength, is that you can enjoy as a blast of cool air, or the subtle gusts of something stronger.
Russia’s Reserve de Marche take some post rock cadence, progressive twists, and sludgy/metal punch, and offer up their full length, The Last Twenty Years. That sounds like a recipe for excess, but there are some atmospheric whiffs and side tracks that keep things nimble when they need to be. It’s an interesting hybrid of styles and purpose, that works more often than not. The punchier, metal tinged side of things are distracting when not assimilated into the brew, like on opener Calorie, where they sound like an afterthought. To these ears, it’s cargo that could be jettisoned in most places without taking anything away from the instrumental runs, in power or interest. Where it does work is on the standout Stephan’s Dream, where the drive is tightly woven into the song, adding some backbone without being showy. Song for Hedgehog and Frozen Time are more elusive, veering into some minor shoegaze pop touches and drama that make them both jump out, and higher.
Stephan’s Dream :: Reserve de Marche :: The Last Twenty Years (2012, Reserve de Marche)
"This show is 110% … one of the most consistently awesome programs we have come across."
The Sunrise Ocean Bender sets sail every Monday morning, 1 – 3 a.m. on WRIR lp 97.3 FM, to find something for your ears, and something for your head … From psych to prog to pop and whatever tributary we can find on the way … and right back around again. There might be a map, but the destination is up for grabs. If it all goes right, we may just get lost. Meet me at the muster station … it might be a long week.