The Snowfields’ first release in 7 years comes out on Field Hymns today. That’s right, today. That should be all you need to know, because I find that there really is no way of going wrong with a Field Hymns release. But if you do need some more convincing, after listening to the track “Inner Peace has Jass Hands” above, then please read on.
I think the element that really sets this album apart from most of the analog synth stuff that I have heard recently is the guitar on this one. That is the element that really pulls me in. The Snowfields have really captured that “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” vibe, especially on tracks like “Inner Peace Has Jass Hands.” It’s kind of haunting, but also deeply affecting. Imagine “Wish You Were Here”-era Pink Floyd mixed with more recent Boards of Canada.
“Diet Rainbow,” however is probably my favorite track on the album. The guitar adds a particularly emotional edge on this one, with a guitar tone that is perfect for cutting right through the synths to take center stage. It really just creeps in there in the background, shimmering through the haze. That little guitar riff immediately brings to mind the opening motive of the song “Shame” from The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Adore” (their best album). The tone of a gently plucked guitar ringing through the distance under a few layers of synth. That one little detail really makes the track.
There are plenty of gems on here from the catchiness of the songs described above, to those that border on ambient like “Two Tone Emergency” and the slow, dramatic growth of “Golden Twilight.” All around, another really solid release from the good folks at Field Hymns.
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:
WOAH! This was a good find, and a complete accident to boot. I think this marks the first time that a site has said “you may also like…” and gotten it right.
Last night, as I was writing while listening to a track on soundcloud, after which the site decided to start playing things it thought were similar. Though this isn’t similar really at all to what I was listening to, it sure is a damn good find. And it gets better too, as the band, Sun Angle, is from Portland. Close enough.
I only wish that I could have somehow come to know about this band earlier, as their debut album was released back in November. Better late than never.
Somehow the mix of jammy tendencies with psychedelia and a surf-rock vibe makes complete sense. It makes more than sense, it works incredibly well. I’m picking up a distinctly Akron/Family influenced sound. Title track, “Diamond Junk,” could fit on Akron’s “Meek Warrior” for sure. The sound is perpetually in danger of going into the red, and everything is just ringing and feeding back, creating a beautiful, energetic sound that is exploding with ideas. And that one note in the opening ascending guitar line that becomes somewhat of a motive; that note just sounds so shockingly wrong upon first listen. Listen for about 5 more seconds, though, and it sounds so very right.
“Raspberry” places the jam band-type sound up front at the very beginning with it’s bass groove and sharply echoed guitar. Though, it isn’t very long before the distortion comes blasting to the surface, obliterating everything in its path. “Time Snakes” similarly starts out with the understated bass, a complete fake out before the surf-rock/Bow-Wow-Wow guitar comes in, drums rumbling behind at breakneck speed. It’s got that ramshackle quality, where it sounds as though the entire thing might fall apart at any second, that I wish more bands would embrace. These guys are really putting themselves out there on a tight-rope and taking chances.
I know that there are only 3 songs here, but I am still just sitting here listening to them over and over trying to figure out which one is my favorite. I think that the only answer for me is going to be to buy the album. It’s out now on vinyl, CD and cassette at New Moss Records. Come to find out, their lineup is pretty great. But, more on that later. And, on a side note, I’m wondering if this album is a response to that one Supergrass album…
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.
Wooden Shjips’ drone of ultra fuzzed out guitars aligns them with the trend of retro sounding new-music that seems to have exploded in the past couple of years. They are taking the psychedelic/early hard-rock sound and very much running with it. The band seems to be more than happy to sit on one chord for minutes at a time in the minimalist style, rhythmically chugging through a cloud of distortion a la Queens of the Stone Age. Wooden Shjips actually shows up Queens in their dark heavy sound being that much more darker and heavier.
The vocals, though certainly not the focus of any of the tracks, remain downplayed and monotonous. They definitely do their part to make the songs sound all the more sinister. It’s like the singer is speaking of bad omens, or summoning spirits and the like. When you get down to it, his singing style is downright eerie.
Extended instrumental sections, like in opening track “Black Smoke Rise”, do their best to mimic the wandering, seemingly one-take guitar solos of the first wave of psychedelic music of the late-60s. These sections seem to serve the songs in capturing a certain vibe, and places that as a higher priority than “saying something”. That shouldn’t be taken in the pejorative sense, but in the sense that a guitar solo, or keyboard solo, that is flashy and driven by technique with flourishes of 32nd notes and technical melodic bravado would truly just not work against the backdrop they are laying down. They seem to be sticking to a very strict stylistic theme and mood here and something showy would stick out far too much. They do a great job throughout the album of establishing and maintaining a consistent sound.
After the mid-tempo minimalism of the first two tracks there is a burst of energy in the form of a catchy vocal melody in an upbeat tune that is (perhaps ironically) titled “Lazy Bones”. This tune, along with the heavy riffage displayed in “Home”, create a nice dynamic across the album. Wooden Shjips remains true to their sound but show that there is always room to move and create something new, and possibly contrary, without abandoning the aesthetic they have been developing.
The album forms and arc with droning tunes “Black Smoke Rise” and “Rising” as bookends. The latter of those tunes is a backwards track that casts a knowing wink to their already “evil” sound. But the more upbeat riff-based tunes happen towards the middle of the record with “Looking Out” creating a connection by being both upbeat and still droning it its persistent rhythm and complete unwillingness to change chords. Meanwhile “Flight” takes a page out of the Tony Iommi book of devilish sounding riffs, replete with a delay ridden keyboard solo straight out of “Inna Gadda Da Vida”. In a way a lot of these songs ride the line right between those two worlds.
With “West” Wooden Shjips creates droning minimalist music in the context of the heavy, psychedelic rock genre. The attention to consistency of sound most certainly pays off in the end.
Priestbird is the new moniker of former instrumental indie-prog outfit Tarantula A.D. It seems that tensions within the band came to a breaking point such that they didn’t feel they would be able to continue making music together. They split and went their separate ways, only to ultimately end up creating music together again.
It seems as though they can’t avoid their creative tendencies and perhaps the time away allowed each of them to re-evaluate the music that they wanted to make. This change of gears seems to be exactly what each of the trio wanted; reconvening to see if anything would click. The result, “Beachcombers”, shows that things did, in fact, click. The album is thoughtful and, on the surface, laid back. Looking deeper one will discover that Priestbird have not completely let go of their prog leanings. Much less pronounced, for sure, but they most certainly have far from completely disappeared.
Priestbirds musicianship stands at the forefront throughout the album, such as with the complex and tight vocal harmonies that appear on the Souther front porch vibe of “Gone”, with its touch of bouncy acoustic fingerstyle technique. Interesting harmonic shifts exist throughout the album for those that are paying close enough attention. There are some subtle metric shifts as well. But Priestbird is more heart than head, eschewing the truly prog tendency to prove to the audience how much tricky stuff they can squeeze into a song. (see: Tool).
The tracks on “Beachcombers” still only run in the 3 to 4 minute range and focus more on gentle melodies and lilting vocals with a very laid back groove. There aren’t any songs that seem to be trying too hard to do something that the music doesn’t want to do. Songs, in my opinion, when done right have a way of naturally evolving into what they need to become. Prog sometimes pushes back against this idea a little bit too much and that tension can take a lot away form a song.
“Who Will Lead Us” is definitely a stand out track, with a defining sound. Its lush chorus of “Who will lead us from here?” brings to mind the sound and production values of maybe Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” or some of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s earlier, slightly less pretentious (and portentous) material. The little guitar break that appears just before each chorus is perfectly placed. I can imagine it as easily having a million places to go. Instead Priestbird practices restraint and only later develops this seemingly little aberration into a bridge section, bringing it back to the chorus. They never go too far astray.
The string arrangements I’m sure will have some reviewers using the word “orchestrated” to describe the tunes, but I think that the words “lush” and “expansive” are much more apt. These descriptors also do not come with any additional classical music concert hall connotations. Priestbird uses the strings so well as part of the ensemble. It never seems like they are just “something extra” that needs to be used. They really become a part of the songs and help to lift everything to a higher level during the blissful choruses.
“All That’s Lost” delves into Bossa Nova territory adding another layer to their sound that is already difficult to pin down. I really can’t think of another band that is able to use world music influences as seamlessly intertwined with their own psychedelic sound as Priestbird has in this track.
Album closer “Yellow Noon” sums up the ideas of “Beachcombers” pretty well; a delicate and subtly complex verse is plucked out on the guitar with gentle vocals followed by an expansive chorus that revels in more dense atmospherics. Some lead guitar work comes to the fore, but just as they have showcased their tasteful restraint elsewhere on the album, it never gets too invasive.
This seems to be a great new beginning for a band that already has the experience of being a touring band. They are using their more cerebral creative side not as the basis for their songs but instead holding it at arms length and casting sidelong glances at their former musical direction while letting their hearts lead them, not their head.
The album is available for download from Priestbird’s site, here. Name your own price.
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/06-Who-Will-Lead-Us.mp3|titles=Priestbird – “Who Will Lead Us”]