Minneapolis-based Flavor Crystals released a whopper of a record, triple wax set, last year aptly titled Three. That’s about the only linear thing about it. A veritable definition of the word haze, Three imbibes space rock, psych, shoegaze and krautrock and deliciously spits out a nebulous euphoric blanket than swirls around your head and into your ears. It’s a lot to take in, and certainly can’t be done in one dose (ok, it can) even though prolonged exposure is the way to go for a ricocheting experience. Three is one of those records that insidiously corkscrews into your brain, leaving you looking around wondering how you got to Point B, not caring where Point A was and hungry for the thousands points beyond your reach. Flavor Crystals have nailed a wavering and shimmering vibe that on the surface may seem almost phlegmatic and detached, but Three deceptively burrows in deep, layering on fuzzy waves that ripple into themselves and expand into the outer reaches at the same time. Something that oozes towards ‘epic’ can often get cold, but Three exudes a warmth that is inescapable as it snakily warps around your ears and tunnels into your cortex setting off a whole new set of sensual synaptic sparks. It may wobble and swerve, but Flavor Crystals know how to pilot the ship, and more importantly when to let it steer itself to horizons that never, thankfully, completely materialize.
Wafting from Greece, My Drunken Haze ride a dreamy slipstream with their 3 song EP, Pleasing Illusions. Traces of 60s’s pop, shoegaze, and even surf and some big sky sounds pass through their soft-edged sonics with no residue of smoke and mirrors on their first outing. Though they favor a sound that lifts off the surface more than a few inches, there’s plenty of warmth and fuzz in founder Spir Frelini’s songwriting as well as guitar, shared with Harry Eugene Kane. Nick Zouras tethers on percussion giving My Drunken Haze a deceptive grounding and earthiness for all the shimmer and atmosphere. Their secret weapon might very well be vocalist Matina Sous Peau’s ghostly and evocative stylings that not only feed the vapors, but add a dose of sensuality that stirs the pot in an understated manner that serves the big—and widescreen— picture well; a familiar feeling, though not concrete, evocative without a need to shout about it. Though their name might hint at stumbling and even some pratfalls, let alone confusion, My Drunken Haze ease through with a sure foot that’s fully confident in the enigma and vapor. Interested parties in their sounds can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Auras, transmitting from Toronto, join with countrymen Optical Sounds for their s/t EP, filling the hole they left with the fiery Spiritual Weapon on OS’s Psych Pop From Toronto to the brim. Setting their glow apart from others lighting similar lava lamps, The Auras put some chunks in their psychedelic stew keeping it meaty rather than the all too often thin over-boiled reverb stew (check guitarist Pete da Silva’s other manifestation, Deep Space Cowboys for another hefty spoonful). That’s not to say they can’t offer something that goes down easy, like the The Peacock, or the rolling dream haze of Desert Dream (Nothing is Real). In addition to a self-professed affinity for love beads and sunglasses, The Auras weave in some keys to pump up the groovy, especially on the outstanding Top Notch Surfer Girl. You’ll also find it working the center of the room with red-eyed swagger on the snotty and crunchy rocker Hot Shot. True to their name, The Auras stoke plenty of atmosphere and shimmer, practiced by six cats burning one in day-glo unison.
Since it is the season to run out of time, we’ll keep it brief on some sonics in the ether that are long on return…stuff your stocking or put it in your pipe and smoke it.
Celestial Bums/Celestial Bums
Barcelona’s Celestial Bums were a recent valisPick of the Week for The Starry Night, a cut off their new s/t EP. The other cuts expand on their drone tinged psych rock, working up a big sound that is straight-ahead, without walking the straight and narrow. Celestial Bums don’t shy away from some basic core pop, marrying it with their hazy drone for a a sound that is as inviting and open as that starry night.
Deep Space Cowboys/Your Mind Is Your Sound EP
Deep tasty psychedelic shoegaze from Toronto’s Deep Space Cowboys, spearheaded by Pete da Silva of The Auras. Packed full of hooks and swirl, Your Mind Is Your Mind has the space and stride to accommodate the cowboy swagger.
The Same Old Band/III
The Same Old Band, transmitting sounds from Loreint, France, apparently skip I and II and begin with III. Everything else is in order on their outing…their name suggests a rehash, but The Same Old Band seem more interested in distilling their influences into their own brew. They keep it subtle and tempered, but you can pick up snippets of straight rock swagger, some VU pop-hum as well their spacey and shoehazy sheen that coats their EP. Once opener Faith in the Sun kicks in with bubbling bass and a rolling vibe that would serve the Beta Band, you’ll forget about the MIA I and II.
Athen’s Circassian drop some Anatolian psych and surf-flavored rock (check Old Man Hollow’s shorts for some space sand) on their Procrastinational outing. Chugging scuzz burnished with some space chrome, Procrastinational covers a good chunk of land and sea in only 3 songs without forgetting where the home port is.
Toronto’s The Auras who have a great showing on the Optical Sounds compilation Toronto Psych-Pop Compilation & Fest, are working on a new EP due this month. In the meantime, they have a couple tasty nuggets of their shoegaze hazed psych available free to hold you over.
Sinister, viscous, and plain dirty, Head Honchoamply shores up The Janitors claim of trafficking in ‘stökpsych or evil shoegaze boogie woogie.’ If you’re going to let your boys boogie woogie on something called Head Honcho, then they better have some conviction, and swagger. The Janitors have both, and they have the goods and delivery to back up the threatening gas cloud of droning psych they’ve stoked in their Stockholm boiler room. Effortlessly taking their professed love of monotony and pop, The Janitors contort and twist the two together for bracing blasts like MSSG, as well as longer taffy-pulls like the lengthy and blissed-out‘ slow death’ of A-Bow. Full of grit and fuzz, sweeping up more as it goes without dragging its feet, Head Honcho cleans up in a darkly groovy way.
MSSG :: The Janitors :: Head Honcho EP (2012, Your Ears Have Been Bad And Need To Be Punished Records)
Summer’s over…but some of us have to do some clean up. If you’re doing time with the maintenance crew, a few things to make the wrap up go down a touch easier…
Dirty Blonde Asylum/Dirty Blonde Asylum EP
Debut EP from Shrewsbury’s Jack Chamberlain under the guise of Dirty Blonde Asylum was recently another fine valis Pick of the Week.A strong shoegaze pulse beats in Dirty Blonde Asylum, with thicker and meatier cuts like The Fall and Screaming Jesus, picking up some space rock chug. Other cuts mine a mellower drugged out haze that shoot for more bliss without losing any weight. A full production gives DBA plenty of space to move and ricochet around in. (Your Ignorance is) My Bliss uses that to full effect, easing out and layering up into an extended vibrating workout.
Montgomery’s Jeff McLeod goes in a different direction after Under Dim Selfwith Forthinking, Vol. 1, an ‘experimental electronic series using a minimal setup of an iOS MIDI control application, a Moog Voyager and an Ensoniq Fizmo. All takes were recorded live in one performance pass, after initial setup & testing of the entire rig as a playable instrument.’ Far more electronic obviously than Under Dim Self, Forthinking, Vol. 1 still has McLeod’s off-kilter aura, with many of the cuts sounding like the result of a sonic spasm. There are song bones under the skin, but Forthinking, Vol. 1 works best as a loose collage of sounds, compressed and decompressed through McLeod’s inner and outer filters. Though constructed through the self-described ‘minimal setup,’ Forthinking, Vol. 1 actually moves through a wide range of sounds and vibes. Shawtninhorn is a frenetic hummer that feels like a circus march gone awry, while Circulus bounces around more spacey chambers. McLeod also has Scalps of Godsavailable, which falls more in line with Under Dim Self, incorporating vocals and a thicker, more menacing sound.
Shawtninhorn :: Jeff McLeod :: Forthinking, Vol. 1 (2012, Jeff McLeod)
Turgidity :: :: Jeff McLeod :: Scalps of Gods (2012, Jeff McLeod)
Another valis Pick of the Weekvet, Cleveland’s The Volta Sound are putting their wares out under the umbrella of The Davenport Collective. With a pretty stripped down approach, Like Entropy is packed full of psych pop, moving from the dreamy (Meditation Station, Nobody Knew) to the driving (Don’t Bring Me Down) and a few detours along the way. With a bright, open production that keeps the record feeling up, Like Entropy uses the open circulating air to keep it crisp and elevated without losing any of the hooks.
An outstanding ‘electronic post-rock’ album from Cardiff’s Dementio13. El Lissitzky may fall under electronica, but Demetio13 works in many more textures and flourishes than one might expect when going down that pigeon-hole. There’s drone spaceways on cuts like Summerisle, hopped up frantic throb-runs like the fantastic Sameness and dreamy pop influenced gems like Collision Courses. Standout cuts Fatty Pork and Phallanx effortlesslywork in a bit more rock structure, adding another side to Dementio13 and rounding out their self-described tag of electronic post-rock in stellar form. Like its namesake, El Lissitzky seems to be at its best when threading and weaving in and out of more than one discipline. Wonderfully constructed, El Lissitzky provesDementio13 knows a few sides to discipline. An eclectic record at the very least, it never goes into the ditch of schizophrenic overreaching. Dementio13 keeps a certain level of moderation throughout that never stifles and by the end that emerges more as tastefulness than any kind of restriction.
Fatty Pork :: Demention 13 :: El Lissitzky(2012, Dementio13)
Kingdom of the Holy Sun/Jesus in India; Pharmacokinetics
The sun never sets apparently; two follow-ups to their self-titled in the coffers from Seattle’s Kingdom of the Holy Sun. Jesus in India and Pharmacokinetics take the druggy haze and seesaw bliss of their s/t’s foundation and build on it without forgetting what made it a great first step to begin with. KOTHS still have that teetering edge to their walk, but there’s something in how these play out that expands their mission while exerting more control at the same time. There’s still the shoegaze patina and the Brian Jonestown-esque narcotics of cuts like Dazed and Phased, while others dip into an interstellar Doors vibe taking more direct cues from 60s psychedelia.
Boston’s Magic Shoppe open for new business with their Triangulum Australe E.P., by way of Optical Sounds. Leading off with their stellar contribution to valis‘ Summer Solstice Vol. IV, Magic Shoppework half their namesake on 4 cuts of slippery and hazy psych that wriggle by way too quickly. Rather than building up the songs’ heft with hollow overdrive, Josiah Webb and Co. lay down blankets of haze and atmosphere until you’re wrapped up snug…and they do it in their own time. Triangulum Australe E.P moves at its own pace, in no hurry to get to the non-existent finish line, rolling and swirling out around your ears like the mystery wind. Midnight in the Garden of Evil may move at the quickest clip, but is determined not to blow all the fog out of the head or wipe all the sleep from the eyes, third one included. Each cut has a lure and promise of some kind of releasing, swirling narcolepsy without getting bogged down and unable—or unwilling—to make a move forward through the fog. The songs waft by effortlessly, using the enigmatic eddies under the surface for direction, conjuring up smooth sailing without trying to outrun the storm clouds.
Midnight in the Garden of Evil :: Magic Shoppe :: Triangulum Australe E.P. (2012, Optical Sounds)
"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.