Pretty eclectic selection this month I guess, but 2012 has finally kicked off properly and there’s a bunch of great stuff out there right now that you wouldn’t wanna miss, promise.
Let’s start with Land Lines, the new LP by Starving Weirdos that virtually came out of nothing a couple of weeks ago. Starving is the Californian experimental duo consisting of Brian Pyle and Merrick McKinlay, and while the former has been better known for his solo musings as Ensemble Economique as of late, this project is actually long-standing and could still be considered his main venture. Land Lines is an excellent affair, adopting quite a few of EE’s dark vibes while standing solidly on its own, the 60-minute album comprises seven expansive avant-psych reveries that lay out dense and sprawling soundscapes, widescreen drone and noise incursions, to a great extent relying on sheer, sweeping improvisations. The LP is already available via Amish Records.
Stream: Starving Weirdos – A Change In The Lexicon
I’m pretty sure that NYC via LA artist Zak Mering is one of the busiest figures in the contemporary North American underground – whenever something exciting happened there in the last two years, Mering most likely was not very far away, most prominently with Greatest Hits, the deranged disco project he pursues together with Tyler Thacker, but also under a bunch of other recording guises. His main venture however, if there is one, would be Raw Thrills, where Mering acts out his love for shamelessly weird yet honest outré lo-fi pop. If this description faintly reminds you of artists such as Ariel Pink, John Maus, or Sam Mehran, then you’re actually not on the wrong track at all, as Mering is an offspring of the same LA scene that bred this very distinct style that we all associate with these names nowadays. Sometime this spring, Tokyo-based label Sixteen Tambourines is gonna drop the next Raw Thrills LP Sick Steez, a name that, as the blog Relentless Noisemaker pointed out, probably not accidentally resembles “Sixties”: the golden era of psych pop is dripping out of every song on the new record, which consists of quite a few cover versions of lost songs from that decade. But it’s crucial to point out that Mering manages to pay tribute while turning the tracks into his own by means of his very own, unique recording style. The best songs on Sick Steez are those that have been accomplished with a little help from friends and family, like “Run Spot Run”, recorded together with his sister Natalie aka Weyes Blood, or “Daddy Don’t Go”, that features the above mentioned hero Ariel Pink, who’s responsible for the track’s instrumentation. On “Easy For Me (It’s Not That)”, below, Ryan Howe of Punks On Mars, just another incredible lo-fi pop outfit, has played guitar.
Video: Raw Thrills – Easy For Me (It’s Not That)
More outsider pop but of a completely different kind is offered this month by stellar Vermont imprint NNA Tapes. Ryan Power’s music is, well, beautiful and totally awesome, yet beautiful in a way that might be too much for many readers of columns like this one. In fact, it seems like some decent publications somehow believe that I Don’t Want to Die, the crooner’s forthcoming record, amounts to something like an insider joke for disturbed hipsters. Granted, the sheer bliss of the title track might not be accessible for everyone, and if someone started screaming “kitsch!”, I probably wouldn’t even blame him – but seriously, listen! If this is not the most baffling and entrancing piece of avant-pop you’ve come across in ages, I don’t know what could be. Just admit it, there’s a romanticist deep inside you, too. I Don’t Want to Die is out April 3.
Stream: Ryan Power – I Don’t Want to Die
So anyway, just in case nice melodies or for that matter tonality are really not your thing, NNA Tapes have scheduled something for you as well, a split LP between sonic experimentalists Eli Keszler and Keith Fullerton Whitman, also out April 3. It’s not overly obvious upon first, superficial listen, at least if you’re unfamiliar with the artists, that Keszler and Fullerton Whitman take vastly different approaches, the former relying entirely on live acoustics, while Fullerton Whitman (who’s also just released the stellar LP Generators via Editions Mego) works exclusively with an electronic setup. Considering this, it’s actually surprising how close the two get sonically, and it definitely makes a lot of sense to think of the piece as a creative dialogue between the two outstanding artists – musically, the sets may seem utterly harsh at first, but both quickly develop a mesmerizing character that is rather irresistible. Split LPs rarely add up so perfectly.
Stream: Eli Keszler – Drums, Crotales, Installed Motors, Micro-Controller Metal Plates
Stream: Keith Fullerton Whitman – Occlusion (Excerpt)
Staying in the realm of demanding yet intriguing sonic experimentations, still newish London imprint Public Information continues to surpass all expectations with its fourth release, the five-track 12” EP Dromilly Vale by Bristol’s Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz. Though I’ve been digging everything Edwards has dropped so far, in particular last year’s Memowrekz on Mordant Music and the thrilling Westerleigh Works EP from last December, in my view Dromilly Vale is his most compelling and in a way also most accessible effort to date, a riveting trip from a BBC Radiophonic Workshop reverence (“Dick Mills Blues”) via a delicious nod to dub on the title track to a final implosion of white noise meanderings on the EP closer. Out February 27, the vinyl is strictly limited to 300 copies, with no repress whatsoever. Be quick, this stuff is highly recommended.
Stream: Ekoplekz – Dromilly Vale EP Preview:
Also one you shouldn’t miss is Canto Arquipelago by Antwerp-based Lieven Martens aka Dolphins Into The Future, who has dedicated this latest full-length of his to the Azores, and really, who wouldn’t wanna be there right now. The hypnagogic mainstay has produced a lush collage of slowly meandering ambient sounds made up of minimalist percussion, flutes, xylophones and other percussion, generally more traditional instruments. Still, the main feature of all tracks are the delicately inwrought field recordings of sea water, pouring tropical rain, and singing birds, or, later on and in particular on the eleven-minute album closer “Levante”, crickets, a crowing rooster, and distantly mooing cows, all recorded by Martens while spending several weeks on the remote volcanic archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic. A very unique and special work. Canto Arquipelago is out March 6 via the great Underwater Peoples.
Stream: Dolphins Into The Future – Noite
Finally, a very exciting release to top it all off, another legend of the lo-fi or if you wish hypnagogic underground in the US has just dropped his latest effort. Spencer Clark, formerly known as one half of noise duo The Skaters with James Ferraro and this time operating under his Charles Berlitz guise, recorded Inner Tube together with Mark McGuire, guitarist of experimental/drone outfit Emeralds. The album is a 45-minute exercise in finest deranged surf pop extravaganza, according to Clark “devoted to sick beaches like Mermaids and Swami’s or Sunset Cliffs and Bondi”, with himself providing the instrumental basis for McGuire’s intricate, delicious guitar play that is here more outreaching and effortlessly skilful than ever. Supreme headphone summer vibes that even let Berlin’s Alexanderplatz in grey February feel like a splendid sandy shore. One of the finest LPs of 2012, no doubt.
Stream: Mark McGuire & Charles Berlitz – MR