Swami John Reis and The Blind Shake - "Modern Surf Classics"

Video: Swami John Reis and The Blind Shake – “Brown Room”

Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake “Brown Room” from Bryan Johnson on Vimeo.

Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake have teamed up to make “Modern Surf Classics” that pays tribute to classic surf rock albums by offering up modern takes in the form of 13 original tracks.

I don’t think I had ever really thought about it before, but placing the Blind Shake into the realm of surf-rock actually makes a whole lot of sense. Their brand of hyper-energetic, stomping, stuttering garage-rock isn’t that far removed. Their liberal use of reverb and scordatura places them, at the very least, in the same timbral category.

“Brown Room” starts off acoustically, but it isn’t long before the reverbed lead line comes in, moving through a few short riffs that cruise along at a relaxed pace. If you are familiar with Real Estate’s first album you’ll appreciate the sound that they’re going for here. The video complements the track nicely with that haze of nostalgia on the surface of every frame, dulled colors and slight blur accenting footage of surfers taking to the waves.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the great Picardy Third that closes out the track. It’s a nice touch.

“Modern Surf Classics” is set for release on January 27, 2015. The album can be pre-ordered right now, and will be made available on CD/LP/MP3 and FLAC formats.

Espectrostatic - "Escape from Witchtropolis"

Stream: Espectrostatic – “Escape from Witchtropolis”

As soon as the drums come in on the song “Escape from Witchtropolis” you can tell exactly what is going to happen. It’s just got that perfect krautrock sound: the motorik beat, barely audible syncopated hi-hat and completely lacking in the drum-fill department. Some of the retro synth sounds remind of RJD2′s work to a certain extent. On top of all that I think that the track is perfectly named, with it’s winding, demented sounding lead line adding a whole new element to the mix.

There’s a lot going on across “Escape…” from the aforementioned brooding synths, to the bombastic percussion of “The Feral Kids,” which makes good use of the piano as a percussion instrument; those loud low end attacks really give you the force of the low fundamental with just a hint of the brightness from the upper partials. Colder synths prevail on “This is a War Universe,” working in all dimensions by adding a spaciousness to the recording. Though the synths are going direct, the piano has been recorded with a lot of room noise this time, opening up the recording dramatically. Still, though, “This is a War Universe” is largely a synth affair, continuing to capture the brooding atmosphere presented on previous tracks.

Espectrostatic also finds the time to play with form, shuttling from the more familiar structures of the beautifully contrapuntal, “The Obelisk” and the title track, to tracks that express an environment in their one-part form such as “Sinking into the Microverse.”

“Espectrostatic” is the solo project of Alex Cuervo of the Hex Dispensers. “Escape from Witchtropolis” is out now on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind records. You can purchase the album as a download from his bandcamp. The album is also available as a CD that comes in a gatefold miniature LP-style cardboard sleeve, or as an LP from the Trouble in Mind site.

Bam Spacey - "1998"

Stream – Bam Spacey – “1998”

Released last month, Bam Spacey’s “1998” is an album of layered synths and minimal textures. One moment we’re left floating in a hazy realm emerging from warm extended tones, for example in the opening introduction. Other moments are much more clearly built around pop structures with clear harmonies sung over top of those layers of ambience. A track like “Markbildning (II)” floats lazily between these two worlds; it’s ambient and minimal, while the vocal melody holds to its own regular phrasing, tracing strophes, spaced out with ambient interludes.

Echoes of Tim Hecker, from a timbral standpoint, pop up through the texture from time to time, such as on “Markbildning (II).” That dark ambience is, however, mostly left behind on “Upplyst,” a track featuring prominent drums and a pulsation that approaches traditional electronic dance music. This is also the case with “Ropar Från En Avgrund;” it actually breaches the line straight into more dance oriented territory.

Most of the album drifts across slowly, enveloping the listener in pure sound that languishes for extensive periods nearly undisturbed. The layers of synths are ripples on the water and Bam Spacey uses a delicate hand to slowly add more to those ripples while making sure that they don’t turn into overbearing waves. The ethereal quality of the atmospherics is maintained throughout the album, forming a cohesive whole that manages to straddle the boundaries of synth-driven ambience and dance music.

“1998” is available now as a download from the Ceremony Recordings bandcamp page, and is also available as a limited vinyl release. There will only be 300 copies in the first pressing, so head over to the Ceremony Recordings website to pick up a copy.

Black Pus - "Pus Mortem"

Stream: Black Pus – “Pus Mortem”

Brian Chippendale is at it again. Well, not again, because that would possibly imply that he stopped for a second. Either way, his latest release “Pus Mortem” is another solid 8 tracks of overdriven and explosive drums, synth and warped to beyond the point of intelligibility vocals.

At this point I just assume that most people are pretty familiar with Chippendale’s style. I’ve been listening so long that I just assume it’s common knowledge. In case it’s not, it breaks down like this: a non-stop swirl of drums, filling up every single microsecond, with pitch shifted, distorted vocals buried deep in the back of the mix. Actually his music is exactly like his visual art; every available bit of space is taken up, and nothing is wasted. There is very little in the way of negative space in either his music or his paintings and drawings.

“Pus Mortem” does, however, manage to balance the bombast with moments of relatively thinner textures. Take for example “Neuronic Knife” where a constant, rapidly pulsing kick drum is periodically overshadowed by rapid fire snare rolls and vocals. The foot-pedal controlled synth lays down thick, fuzzed out low frequencies that dive-bomb in and out of the track.

The constant pulsation that exists on “Neuronic Knife” is pretty prevalent throughout the rest of the album as well, strengthening the underlying primal element that are at least partly implied on any album that is drum-centric. Additionally, the album opening adds to the primal element with a snarling exhale that serves to kickstart “Heebee Geebees.” Also, just because a track focuses around an idea on a rhythm, doesn’t mean that the music is completely devoid of melodic elements. This album opening is not short on melody one bit.

Synth and vocals play a bit more of a central role on “Supergenius.” The delayed vocals rise and fall, building dramatic tension over the low ebbing synth creating an overall foreboding vibe. “Off With His Head” ramps up the spastic drumming with layered and looped vocals over top, finding time to carve out a more complex and fluid structure that opts for something that resembles a more improvisatory approach than a one-part minimalist rumination on a single pattern.

“Pus Mortem” is available right now through the Black Pus bandcamp page for any price you choose. I would highly encourage supporting Chippendale in all his efforts. It’s important to help sustain someone that is sustaining themselves completely through creating art. Throw down at least $5 I would say. Even that doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s a start. Better yet, grab it on vinyl here.

And, like it says on the Bandcamp page: “PS. I PLAYED THIS LOUD SO YOU SHOULD TOO.” Follow his orders.

Mono - "The Last Dawn"

Stream: Mono – “The Last Dawn”

The most difficult part about writing anything about a post-rock band is that each song is such a journey, and the albums seem to be massive offerings. It’s more about the journey than it is about the little pieces that make them up. Mono, throughout “The Last Dawn” manages to weave together extended sections of tranquility with blasts of euphoric noise. The slow unfolding of each track (as is usually the case) relies on short repetitive melodies that are built up in every way possible. This, of course, is not exactly out of the ordinary. Post-rock tends toward the slow-burn, slowly blending in element after element until the full fabric is complete. It’s a lot easier said than done.

There are many moments on “The Last Dawn” that sound close to Explosions in the Sky’s treatment of guitar, with open string voiced chord extensions are carefully articulated. Mono makes extensive use of a piano as a complement to the quieter guitar parts.

What it all really boils down to is a series of beautiful moments. Specifically, the moments of martial drumbeats and roaring guitars strummed wildly. After so much waiting and placidity, once the album really opens up, and it does so at only a few key moments (which isn’t to say that it should happen more often. On the contrary, the pacing is maybe the most important thing to listen to here), it’s something that gives the listener pause. Those moments are made all the more explosive and awe inspiring in that Mono has made you wait for them. As much as “The Last Dawn” is a collection of songs, it really is more about the journey across the entire album.

And the journey doesn’t end with “The Last Dawn,” the album was recorded simultaneously with their other new release “Rays of Darkness.” The albums are counterparts, but aren’t to be thought of as the same entity. “Rays of Darkness” stands in near opposition to the hopeful, sometimes joyous nature of “The Last Dawn.” Both of these albums are currently available on LP and CD through Temporary Residence Ltd.

Buffalo Tooth - "Gardeners of the Devil's Lettuce"

Stream: Buffalo Tooth – “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce”

Can one put together stoner rock, hyperactive punk, thrash and metal and still make it make sense? According to Buffalo Tooth, yes. Their debut full-length, “Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce,” hits us with one guitar assault after another. This band is not kidding around, with thirteen tracks of stoney thrash, there is hardly a moment’s rest. From the hard driving blues based riffage of “Little Girl,” to the fingerboard tapping dual guitar freak-out of “Sex Priest,” Buffalo Tooth has all the bases covered.

One minute the vocals can sound like Danzig, the next they might have just a shade of Jello Biafra in them; the same can be said of the transformation of the guitar styles emerging across the album – one minute slow and heavy, the next fast and clean. Also, let me just state for the record how nice it is to listen to an album that isn’t afraid to just throw in some guitar solos. The influence of Black Sabbath does factor in here, but in perhaps equal measure with some harder edged punk and metal. More than a hint of Bad Brains can be detected without question, but listening close I’m also picking up on some early Metallica, for example a little taste of “Master of Puppets” toward the close of “Street Poo.” Then there is some East Bay Ray style guitar tone and technique on the punk-rock boogie of “Laced Up.” Appropriately, the vocals reach maximum Jello Biafra delivery here. Finally, on the closing track “Greenbacks” we get some riffs that sound like early Nirvana that get thrown into a blender, sending the entire song into a speed metal tailspin before closing out the entire album with riotous noise and incessant aggressive drumming. If you love everything that Ty Segall has done, especially with his band Fuzz, then you are going to love this album.

Lyrically things don’t tend to get too serious here, as if you couldn’t tell from the song titles “Sex Priest,” “Street Poo,” “Smells Like Jello,” and “Street Polygamy.” Speaking specifically to this end are the lyrics to “Snacktology,” wherein we hear how much the singer loves snacks: “I love, I love snacks. I’ve got the munchies man, all I wanna do is eat some snacks.” What could be more stoney than that? Not much.

“Gardeners of the Devil’s Lettuce” is out now on Captcha Records on 160g black and white splatter vinyl, and you can choose to add a 24″×36″ “How to Tour Tijuana” poster to that. You can check out all that stuff on Buffalo Tooth’s bandcamp page.

Drinking Flowers - "Shadow Show"

Stream: Drinking Flowers – “Shadow Show”

Sometimes I don’t know how, and there is no need, to go on for more than a few words about how much I like an album and why. This is the case with Drinking Flowers. I could just say that it’s got tons of hooks with some great, psychedelic production. I could say that they have a sound that successfully melds the swirling, droning hypnotics of Brian Jonestown Massacre with some of the post-modern grit of White Fence, and even the noise of My Bloody Valentine at times. I think if I just said those things that it would be enough for any reasonable person to understand that “Shadow Show” is something that they should be listening to.

The motorik foundation of “Melt Your Mind” is a noisy one-parter with vocals intoned in a mod-like sneer and contrasts greatly from the opening track that revels in excited melodies and backing harmonies. “Pop Underground” comes closest to giving us an anthem, with the repeated monotone of “the international pop underground.” The way that song flips from krautrock repetitiveness to true pop hook chorus shows the range of Drinking Flowers, and their ability to weave in and out of garage-rock, shoegaze, post-punk, krautrock and psychedelia at will, and make it all make sense. Just listen for yourself.

The album is available now through Lolipop Records, and on Drinking Flowers’ Bandcamp page. They are finishing up the last few dates on the West Coast with Corners so check their Facebook page for more info on where they’ll be and what they are up to next.