Tag Archives: castleface

Stream: Dylan Shearer – “garragearray”

Sometimes it’s good to just clear away all the distorted guitars, strip off the distortion, the tape hiss and reverb; just keep everything really clear and really simple. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep things interesting after stripping away all these things. Truth be told, it makes things even more interesting in some ways.

Acoustic guitars, piano, subdued vocals and drums lay down the foundation for Dylan Shearer’s “garragearray” LP, out last month on John Dwyer’s Castle Face records. Each track situates itself a little closer to the listener in a few different ways, not the least of which is this stripping away of extraneous effects and distortion; there’s also an element of rhythmic elasticity within many of the tracks. Phrases stretch out, slow down, add a few beats to a bar here and there, maybe just warp time a little bit to where it’s difficult to even tell what the meter is really supposed to be in the first place. And to have these elements of aleatory inserted into the songs without them coming off sounding like mistakes, having them grow in an organic way, that’s really interesting.

There are also some really unique harmonic choices going on throughout some of the songs. Chords slip in and out of the key, leaning more towards another tonality for measures at a time before comfortably slipping back the very same way that they entered. Every element of the songs throughout “garragearray,” because of these elements, and because of Shearer’s voice – itself shades of Nick Drake with it’s relaxed, though possibly agonized near mumble – that the album just feels more like a living breathing organism than some sterile studio effort. It’s a great take on the singer/songwriter tradition. And the delicate, carefully crafted melodies within the choruses shouldn’t be overlooked. A tune like the one found in “meadow mines (fort poilio)” is something that will stay with you for a while after listening.

“garragearray” is available on CD and limited vinyl as well as download from the Empty Cellar Records bandcamp site. It might also be worth mentioning that Petey Dammit from Thee Oh Sees plays bass on this album.

Best albums of 2013: White Fence – “Cyclops Reap”

White Fence - "Cyclops Reap"
White Fence – “Cyclops Reap”

I find it hard to believe that I haven’t written about this album already. I’ve had it for so long that I couldn’t even remember if it came out this year or last, but how could I have forgotten that 2012 was the year of “Family Perfume Vols. 1 and 2”?

Never before has consistency felt so good. On “Cyclops Reap” we’re given 11 more tracks of maximum grit and garage-folk. Probably the best work that we’ve heard from Tim Presley to date. Every song on here would be at home on a year end mix.

I’m going to be talking about the Foxygen album that came out this year as well, soon, but for those of you that have heard that album you’d know that they share a post-modern take on indie rock. It’s definitely been mentioned on many blogs other than mine that White Fence takes its cues from The Left Banke, which is a route that I don’t think many other people have been taking lately. The fact that Presley is attached to the San Francisco scene that also includes the likes of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees provides connections between those diverse acts in ways that are improbable, though when White Fence and Ty Segall worked together on “Hair” a few years ago, Ty injected some serious noise and energy into White Fence’s sometime lulling, folk sound.

Live On Genevieve

Songs like “Beat” shamble through the speakers in an endless verse with no real beginning and no real ending. “Cyclops Reap,” like all previous material from White Fence comes off sounding like a mixtape that a friend has handed you of stuff that they have been working on at home on their 4-track tape-recorder. The only difference here being that this is worth listening to. The fragmented nature of some of the songs lends a lot to the sound. One simple idea per song, and sometimes that idea is developed a little further in the next. It’s a stream of consciousness of sorts that carries the listener through the album.

There is a lot more lead guitar action on this album than previous. Whenever there are no lyrics, there is a guitar soloing around in the background, lending an added layer that I don’t think has been explored too much on “Family Perfume” or “…Is Growing Faith.” Take “Trouble is Trouble Never Seen.” The wildly strummed acoustic guitar is doubled by a static distorted electric, and a simple 2-part melody, until the lead line comes in and the song immediately begins to fall apart. Twice. Beautifully.

To the Boy I Jumped in the Hemlock Alley

Following “Trouble is Trouble Never Seen,” “Live On Genevieve” begins with several of the aforementioned fragments cutting in and out. But I think that my favorite track off of “Cyclops Reap” has to be “To the Boy I Jumped in the Hemlock Alley.” The slide guitar melody that comes in and out of play, the incessant interruptions from the overly reverb drenched organ. The whole thing ends up sounding like 60’s psych folk one second and then demented country music the next.

If you haven’t gotten on board with White Fence then start here. Or, alternatively, you could wait maybe another month or two, as I’m sure that Presley won’t be able to not release anything for very long.

Speaking of which, he has recently put out a live album on John Dwyer’s (Thee Oh Sees) Castleface Records. “White Fence Live in San Francisco” was released earlier this month (November 5, 2013) and you can pick up a copy from Midheaven mailorder here. Though I haven’t caught him/them live yet, I’m sure that when I do it is going to be one to remember.

New Release: The Fresh and Onlys – “Soothsayer” EP

The Fresh and Onlys - "Soothsayer"
The Fresh and Onlys – “Soothsayer”

After taking somewhat of a different path for the past couple of albums, moving away from the reverbed, garagey jangle of the first few albums, that sound made a return on the latest EP, “Soothsayer,” from The Fresh and Onlys.

The 6 song release covers a lot of ground, from the surf rock of “God of Suez” to laid back catchiness of “Drugs,” with a bombastic chorus following a more subdued verse. “Violence, violence, is that all that we are?” It isn’t so much a verse as it is a pre-chorus of comparatively sombre material that is made to sound all the more subdued after the chorus comes crashing in. The chorus’ bluesy burst of fist-pump inspiring energy is reminiscent of “Peacock and Wing” from the bands debut release.

The final two tracks on the EP sound like they came out of the same basic idea. It’s as if “The Deluge of War” picks up exactly where “Drugs” left off. It’s a great way to end an EP.  It works really well after some of the

Though it’s always unfair to continue comparing a band to their first release, and I know that I am constantly guilty of making such comparisons, but “Soothsayer” is a completely different animal. The psychedelia has been toned down in spots (“Forest Down Annie” and “Glass Bottom Boat”), and the poppier, upbeat hooks have been dialed up, which I think is a good compromise. Those more subdued tracks are placed well at the center of the EP. And those two tracks, “Forest Down Annie” and “Glass Bottom Boat,” are not to be forgotten about either; they both have a relaxed sentimental quality to them. The fade-out of “Forest Down Annie” is a particular highlight.

Though they have just wrapped up a West Coast tour, there is still good news: a new full-length is forthcoming. Keep an eye out for that one. I’m sure that I’ll be writing about it when it is released. Check out the “Soothsayer” at the Spotify link below, and order a copy from Mexican Summer, it’s out now.

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Album review: Thee Oh Sees – “Floating Coffin”

Thee Oh Sees - "Floating Coffin"
Thee Oh Sees – “Floating Coffin”

This album is old news by now. It’s been out for several months and every music blog on the internet has already reviewed it. But I’ve been away for a while and this album is deserving of all the praise that can be heaped onto it.

Yes, we all know that the San Francisco music scene (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, White Fence) tends to churn out several albums a year each, sometimes even collaborating on albums like Ty and White Fence’s “Hair,” a record that I adore.

Like I’ve probably mentioned before, after seeing Thee Oh Sees once I was absolutely hooked. They’ve released two albums since then, “Putrifiers II” and before the amps had even cooled down from recording that John Dwyer gives us “Floating Coffin.”

An absolute assault. Nobody does the gentle-verse-juxtaposed-with-thrashing-chorus better than JPD and Co. To me, this is one of the main reasons why all their albums have such a high replay value. The songs are always, without fail, both catchy and bristling with energy. This makes for a pretty intense live experience, and at a show a few months back in San Francisco I learned the hard way that a hometown show for Thee Oh Sees is nothing to be messed with. Easily the 2nd most insane pit since I caught a Lightning Bolt show in 2007.

From the initial buildup of “I Come From the Mountain” straight through to “Tunnel Time,” the album is a non-stop force. It’s notable that the tempo of many of these songs rates a bit higher than usual on their records. My hypothesis is that touring non-stop after the release of “Putrifiers II” and then immediately rushing back into the studio to record this helped them to keep their energy up. I remember after seeing them for the first time and bringing home “Carrion Crawler/The Dream” and wondering why all the songs on the record were so slow. “Floating Coffin” truly captures the band’s live energy. I don’t know how they do it night after night, going crazy up there, and playing brilliantly at the same time for two hours at a go.

Highlights include “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” with a squeal of feedback to start and a brutal instrumental chorus that is matched by an equally brutal, not to mention visually stunning, video. This is perhaps in a close tie with “No Spell” for favorite tracks on the album, which has a fairly exaggerated instance of their soft-loud-soft Pixies on crack aesthetic. Again, this song features an instrumental chorus that, to me, is pretty blissful. Sometimes you just get that perfect combination of 4 chords and that is all you need. There isn’t a reason why you have to constantly have multiple layers of guitars all over the place. Simple is better. Stripped down is better. Thee Oh Sees know this all too well and exploit it to great affect.

The album is available on the traditional black vinyl, as well as “Space Lego Green” that comes with a bonus flexi that you can purchase here.

And if that doesn’t convince you that you need to buy this album, I don’t know what will.

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And now, as an extra added bonus, is a video of John Dwyer beating a guy to pulp with his guitar in 2004 in Toronto while playing as a two piece called Hospitals (0:40 second mark if you are that impatient) :