Here’s another band that I’ve covered before, Roladex, coming at us once again from a label that I’ve come to know and love, Medical Records. The label is celebrating their 5th birthday with a pretty substantial double LP retrospective called “Synesthesia: The First Five Years.”
What Medical Records has put together is basically 3 sides that serve as a collection of re-issues of what they consider to be their best tracks, with a 4th side comprised of several new Medical Records artists covering some of their favorite reissue tracks. The 5 year anniversary release also happens to be the label’s 50th release in total. So to celebrate we’re premiering a track from the 4th side of the LP by Roladex with their cover of the Charisma Track “We R.”
Roladex’s sound lends itself perfectly to the track–at once picking up where Kraftwerk left off while adding elements of later proponents of the analog/new wavey synth sound The Human League. It’s that mixture of catchiness and emotion with the somewhat unaffecting, staid synth sound.
You can check out the album in its entirety below from Medical Records’ bandcamp page. You can also order the album, due out on June 11th, on limited edition gatefold 160g colored vinyl. Lots of great stuff on here so check it out below.
I’m going to stick with the theme of electronic music this week I guess. Though for the first time in a bit I’m going to be looking at some music from another country: the far away foreign land of Canada.
Castle If sculpts some beautiful Kraftwerk-esque songs with some other strange tidbits thrown in. On “Neuwellen” from their 2012 releas “Zwei Hände [Part 1]” the mandatory kraut-rock ostinato is firmly in place, but as it spins out there are some vocals and wandering synths lines introduced. Psychedelic analog synth kraut rock with, sure, a slight tinge of new wave as the title suggests. It’s new wave through the lens of experimental krautrock.
Searching through a bit more of their discography “CUT” opens up with the minimal, but significantly more dancey track “Discussion.” That new wave influence shines through pretty clearly on this track, but the atmosphere one would normally expect from new wave is turned on its head with the addition of distant shrouded vocals.
You can hear tons more over at their bandcamp page. There’s enough dark and moody new-wave inflected kraut-rock to keep you busy for a long time. And if you are in Toronto then you are in luck because Castle If is playing tomorrow night at Double Double Land (209 Augusta, and if you can, then go to Sneaky Dee’s on your way, or afterward. It’s less than a km away and I’ve been craving a King’s Crown lately and it’s a bit out of the way for me) opening for Julianna Barwick. It’s an all ages show, so there’s no reason for you to not be there.
It’s rough out there, trying to find an audience and undoubtedly getting lost in the shuffle with the approximately 10,000 other bands that release music at a steady pace every day. The internet is jammed full of mediocrity parading as proficiency via PR savvy, and giant bands that manage to focus all eyes on them whenever they so much as hint at the possibility that they are going to be doing something in the future (ie Arcade Fire’s incredibly redundant advertising campaign for their latest overhyped album).
So sometimes things that are really worthwhile are released quietly, buried under the aforementioned pile of mediocrity and lost. Thankfully some of those releases get an extra push after a while, allowing them a chance to resurface, gaining back some of the attention that they deserve.
FIM’s “Alien Beach Party” is one such release. The 12″ EP initially came out back in early June of 2013, but is available now for purchase on limited editioin vinyl (yes, it’s still available), or download (name your own price).
Even though everything that I’ve read about the band makes use of the “psychedelic” designation, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with such labeling. To me, as far as the lead track “Fast Cars” goes, there is definitely more of a pronounced new wave/dancey vibe to it. Dark synths that sound more like old Casios than analog synths, drum machine, and off-kilter vocals really make that track sound like something straight out of the early 80s.
When the bass picks up on “Shit God Dam,” throwing down some aggressive, minimalist proto-punk bass in combination with the drum machine now taking a turn toward Big Black territory we can hear the band moving away from that new wave sound a bit. Maybe it’s a little less catchy than “Fast Cars,” but it features a bit heavier on the harmonic and melodic dissonance, which is a good thing.
The remainder of the EP features similar branching out, from the bedroom production of “Believe,” that may be trippy, but “psychedelic” still does not come to mind. And closing the album, the “Flaming Lips” ala “Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon”-esque 6 minute synth jam just takes everything in a whole wonderful new , and somewhat unsuspected direction.
So, they have already proven themselves worthy by rising up through all the noise of the oversaturation running rampant in indie-music today. The good news is that you don’t have to wait, or pre-order the EP, it’s out now. Check it out in full above and then head to the bandcamp page.
FIM has a show coming up at the end of the month, if you are in or around their hometown area of L.A. then get down to The Satellite on February 24th to check them out. Many links below:
A few weeks ago I wrote about one of the bands that formed after the dissolution of Women aka the band that released Public Strain, arguably the best album released so far this side of the new millennium.
In that post I linked to their song “Quality Arrangement,” a live recording that was for all intents and purposes instrumental. I also wrote that I suspected that before long there would be a more substantial recording, something in the album range. Well, “Quality Arrangement” is no longer up on their bandcamp and has been replaced with a full album’s worth of songs, just shy of 30 minutes.
The 6 songs show a diverse bit of songwriting chops effortlessly flowing from sections of odd time signatures with intricate guitar parts to a bass driven, synthy, new-wave reminiscent of The Jam. I would hate to taint anything by using the word “prog” in a negative light, but the use of the synth in opening track “Throw it Away” sounds as though it was lifted straight out of an early Yes album.
I’m not entirely sure if the album is called “Cassette” or if this is simply a collection of songs that they are labeling as such, or maybe it’s both? The artwork invites this to be recorded to tape and thrown in a walkman for sure. And the sound of the songs, the production, fits this sound perfectly. The overall warmth and clarity in each of the songs is front and center. There’s a nice thick low end, but everything has its place in the mix, it’s not like the high end of the guitar is lost in a wash of bass.
Now I feel like I have to work back my “prog” comment from earlier. Yes, there are elements of complexity at work with overt shifts in texture and time signature, but only on occasion. The vast majority of the tracks are straight forward, catchy pop tunes that work perfectly. “Oxygen Feed” sounds epic and grand with it’s soaring vocal and guitar counterpoint that takes over the chorus, while the track that follows is a bit more psychedelic and subdued featuring prominent use of acoustic guitar.
Something about the album in general reminds me of Buffalo Springfield. I think that the same mood is captured. But, then they have a song like “Structureless Design” that warps ahead to the 80’s with the full on new-wave sound coming back again (and takes a few twists and turns of its own). So there you have it, it’s equal parts Buffalo Springfield and New Wave. This isn’t to say that they can’t bring some noise to the party, because they certainly can, and do. For that, check out the final song “Select Your Drones.”
You can listen to the entire album on their bandcamp page (and at the top of this post) and purchase it (download only it looks like, but maybe something forthcoming in a physical format?) for the tiny price of $5.
They also have a surprisingly extensive tour underway that stops tonight in Bloomington, IN before heading all over the eastern seaboard. Get out and see them live. Tour dates posted below.