Tag Archives: pink floyd

onYou – “Ultimum Photon A Sole”

Going with the theme of nearly instrumental albums, today we have onYou’s “Ultimum Photon A Sole,” full of slowly emerging, ever-growing structures full of hypnotic repetition. The first track, “A Grift,” definitely takes its time getting started, with the vocals not making their entrance until about 3 minutes in. After laying down a very clearly kraut-rock influenced foundation it comes as a pleasant surprise that some new wave tendencies are brought out with the vocals. About three-quarters of the way through things start to veer sharply off into the land of psychedelia. The pulsating rhythm is stripped away, the keyboards fade, and the guitar and cymbals work together in creating a wash of sound. All of a sudden there’s an ocean where just a moment ago there was a factory.

And there are so many moments like that throughout this album. onYou has an uncanny ability to maneuver some pretty drastic leaps of style, working from the almost overbearing tightness of their precise, lock-step rhythm section to an amorphous cloud of eerie sound effects. Essentially, the band is taking a one-part form with a simple and fairly static harmonic pulse, and creating sections within that.

“Finding the Wronskian” flowers out of the ending of the album opener. The guitar lays down a sparse harmonic idea, and before long the bass and drums are back in the game, gathering up all the loose ends and pulling the whole thing along again. An incredibly slow crescendo continually promises a huge eventually payoff. As the guitar builds itself up from the background, alternately fighting against the noise while helping to build it, we reach the moment we have been made to wait for. No sooner than the song reached its goal everything collapses again. The actual payoff comes about 4 minutes into the next track, “The Wronskian.”

The constant back and forth from these repetitive, motorik sections to those with a considerable amount of noise that are nearly arrhythmic, is what this album is all about. Of course, the extreme degree to which onYou is able to string us along as listeners, really growing that sense of anticipation to incredible levels, is also a factor. Throw into the mix some psychedelia and a tiny bit of that New Wave color and you’re pretty much there. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the intense Pink Floyd vibe that album closer “Adrift on the Wind” lays down. The album closes on a really strong note, with a catchy and fairly straight ahead psych-rock tune.

“Ultimum Photon A Sole” is out now on Captcha records on 160g cyan vinyl, which is pretty sick looking. Of course you should check out the bandcamp page to order the vinyl, or get a digital copy.

Stream: Baby Guru – “Marginalia”

Continuing on the psych realm from where we were yesterday, today we have Baby Guru taking the prog-psych route. Just listening to the first track, “Especially When,” there’s a lot of ground covered from dance beats and new wave guitar sounds to Pink Floyd-esque delayed synths and a exploratory section toward the end that allows the guitar and synth to branch out. Square-waves on analog synths calling up some early Genesis is a nice touch toward the very end. Truly psych/prog in the best way possible.

“Baby You’re so Weird” takes things in a completely different, poppy, catchy direction. But after that we’re right back into prog land. The title track brings out the analog synths again, stomping through the verses with a clear distinctive pulse. When the chorus enters the ascending chord progression and introduction of the bass guitar completely turns everything around. By about the 3 minute mark we’re in Gentle Giant territory.

I just can’t get enough of the buzzing analog synths all over the place, so much so that I forget to pay attention to the vocals at all. When I turn my attention to all of the other things going on in the tracks I’m surprised at just how good everything fits together. Baby Guru has a knack for creating some really uplifting choruses with verses that really build up into them, not making them sound like separate parts that can be exchanged for others.

Every track has these great little moments that spin out into seemingly ever expanding space, but they are all contained within a song of about 5 minutes or less. Truly a prog band that is aware of the importance of song structure, familiarity and pop sensibilities. A rare thing, to be sure.

If you aren’t already then you should definitely be checking this album out from top to bottom and on repeat. It’s available right now as a download, limited edition cassette, limited LP and as a CD. Head over to bandcamp to pick out which one you want. You’ll thank me, I’m sure of it.

Album Review: Smith Westerns – “Soft Will”

Smith Westerns - "Soft Will"
Smith Westerns – “Soft Will”

Smith Westerns have traveled an interesting course across their 3 album output. Their first release was noisy, awash in reverb and tape noise. The songs themselves were rough around the edges, energetic and brash. That’s a great place to start. After the follow up, “Dye It Blonde,” it became apparent that the band was not happy with letting things stagnate, or letting their sound grow tired.

And it definitely isn’t as if they scrapped everything and started over. The sound of “Soft Will” was buried under all of the noisy elements of their debut. This most recent release is calmer, more confident, moving away from the glam- and punk- influences and trading those for the sounds of something somewhere in between dream-pop and chill-wave. I know, I know, I hate those labels too. To be more specific, comparing them to other bands one would have to place Smith Westerns in the company of Real Estate, or MGMT at their loftiest.

Or maybe they are letting some other influences shine through. There seems to be a clear Pink Floyd influence on the song “XXIII,” that piano line sounds very similar to Dark Side of the Moon era Floyd, specifically “The Great Gig in the Sky.” The classic rock vibe doesn’t end there either. The guitar line (and the tone for that matter) in “Best Friend” is taken right out of that era, think Badfinger.

The laid back vibe of Pink Floyd, or Real Estate permeates the entirety of “Soft Will.” Even when tracks like “Only Natural” pick up the pace a little bit beyond mid-tempo, it still manages to emit the chilled out aura that matches Cullen Omori’s vocals. His near falsetto doesn’t quite hide behind the instruments, but his breathy delivery certainly exudes the kind of shyness that isn’t really shyness at all, but more like someone that is more mercurial, reflective and lost in thought.

“Cheer Up” is maybe the song on “Soft Will” that is least like any of the others on the album. The minor turn that the song takes when Omori sings the lyric “cheer up” presents an interesting juxtaposition that is only righted in the bridge of the song, an exciting and lofty section that carries through to the end of the song. My one critique would be that they need to write more songs like “Cheer Up,” and “Only Natural.” I think that the band is at their best when they move away from their comfort zone. As their sound is solidifying along these lines I think that they need to learn to rely less on melodic lines, changes and chord progressions that they have already explored. This album could be a step away from something truly great.

Smith Westerns know how to write a single, that is for sure. Any of the songs that appear on “Soft Will” could easily find a large audience. They’re are all catchy, very well written and interesting. Hopefully the band will continue to release albums on a regular basis. As it is now we are getting a new Smith Westerns album every 2 years, and not a bad song on any of them.

The band is currently on tour through the end of November, where they will conclude with a show in their hometown of Chicago.

Oct 11 Austin City Limits Music Festival – Austin, TX
Oct 12 Emo’s – Austin, TX Tickets RSVP
Oct 26 Life Is Beautiful Festival – Las Vegas, NV
Nov 11 Webster Hall – New York, NY
Nov 13 Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA
Nov 14 Wescott Theatre – Syracuse, NY
Nov 15 First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, PA
Nov 18 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Nov 20 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
Nov 21 The A&R Music Bar – Columbus, OH
Nov 22 High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI
Nov 23 Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL

“Soft Will” is currently available in the iTunes store, or on vinyl (comes with a CD).