May 27, 2010

Noseflutes. Zib Zob and His Kib Kob.

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It’s been a busy week, and I haven’t been able to pay attention to the blog as much as I’d have liked, so here’s some more divine weirdness from the Noseflutes.

I keep asking “why aren’t these bands better remembered?”, but obviously this was never going to be top 40 music. Still, even by the standards of the weird and wooly British underground, the Noseflutes were wildly inventive and really managed to make their purposefully awkward, herky-jerky rhythms and Dada-soapbox vocals gel into compellingly hard rocking songs. They have the same deconstructivist aspirations as A Witness (but less sing-alongable) and the punk spirit of the Membranes (but less bludgeoning).

Eminent could almost (almost) be a Camper Van Beethoven song. Charms has some delightful steel drums. Spitball on My Kisser veers wildly between extremes with exciting, crazed, shrieking choruses. No Plans peeks over the wasteland at country-blues with a punk slide-guitar.

I was going to say they were an art-house version of the Ron Johnson bands, but that makes me think of something refined and winking, like Roxy Music. They’re really more art-studio, and this is kind of a masterpiece.

Zib Zob

May 26, 2010

Washed Out. Tour CD-R.

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We saw Washed Out with Small Black a while back, and I snagged this little tour-only CD of demos and samples and experiments at the merch table. Having only heard Washed Out’s split 45 remix of a Small Black song (which is excellent, btw), I was a bit surprised that his solo portion of the show was mostly a techno/rave type thing. It sounded nothing like the sun-bleached, Balearic “chill-wave” that I’ve since encountered by him on record. His portion of the set with Small Black was amazing, though. I loved the self-titled EP they put out, but (like Le Loup, who we saw a couple of nights later) they’re so much better live. Their endlessly yelping, pogoing, joyous, upwardly spiraling indie-tribal dance jams reminded me a lot of Animal Collective’s energy back around Sung Tongs. Anyway, I wish this little album were longer and more fleshed out, but only because what’s there is so sunny and good natured. It’s dance music for people in hammocks.

Washed Out

May 22, 2010

The Orchids. Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink.

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Sarah 011
Released: 1988
01: Defy The Law
02: Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink
03: Tiny Words
04: Walter


May 21, 2010

Vaselines & Beat Happening. Live in London. 06/16/88.

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Even with Kurt Cobain’s imprimatur (Nirvana covered three of their songs), the Vaselines remained primarily a cult phenomenon. Which is too bad because, they were the perfect noise-pop band, and recorded possibly the best records by any group from their decade. Short, catchy, cute and psycho, the Vaselines were classic indie-pop tweeness leavened with punk’s raw edge. They had a naïve, nearly desperate enthusiasm for their songs—all played with pure, guileless abandon and wads of humor. Like a Hello Kitty cut out of ragged sheet metal. Or being shot at with volleys of sweet tarts. If your favorite Velvet Underground songs were the Moe Tucker ones…that fragile sweetness backed up by a band that could explode into vicious feedback at any moment, then you need the Vaselines. You can sing along with them even on the first spin, and you’ll never get the songs out of your head again.

Their friends in Beat Happening had nearly sub-levels of technical skill, were completely ambivalent about tuning, melody and key, and sang casually obsessive songs about teenage love and lust (We tip over apple carts / With the pounding of our hearts, runs a typical lyric). Calvin sounded like an indie-geek version of Barry White and Heather’s voice was achingly sweet in a way that made you think of cardigan sweaters and kittens (without also making you want to throw up). Somehow or another, they ended up playing a lot of hardcore shows with bands like Black Flag or Fugazi, and during their sets handed out candy to the bewildered audiences. They elevated naiveté to an art form.

They also wrote some of the most indelible and influential music of the last twenty years—from twee, acapella laments of unrequited love, thumping, two-chord rockers (also about crushing on a guy or gal who is currently going out with someone who isn’t you), sweet catchy pop about the timelessness of an Indian Summer, and aggressively noisy musical scribbles (again, with lyrics that were probably scrawled on a torn scrap of paper and pushed through the holes of your girlfriend’s locker).

This adorable tape finds them both playing together in London, with some hilarious between song asides.

Live in London

May 19, 2010

Secret Shine. After Years.

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Secret Shine devoured When You Sleep like an overripe orange, and now its viscous juice and glistening pulp sweetens their lips and sticks to their fingers. It’s gone viral in their DNA, and they’re pushing it back out through their pores. Loveblind (sample it below) is simply unfuckwithable. It doesn’t matter if they’re simply MBV devotes. All the shoegaze bands were (to the point where a MBV comparison is meaningless in telling you what they sound like. To expand, Secret Shine sound a bit like a warmer Lush with elements of the Cure’s Disintegration and a bit of the Pixies or the Jesus & Mary Chain’s spikiness). All that matters is how universally awesome they were at it.

After Years collects the Ephemeral and Loveblind singles, the Untouched album, and the Greater Than God EP, and places them all in chronological order so you can hear them progress with each song. Born as indie popsters in the classic Sarah Records mold, Secret Shine always wrote the songs first before worrying about the atmospherics. That they ended up being quite good at it didn’t overshadow the fact that you could have loved them in any genre.

After Years

May 17, 2010

Pigbros. Peel Sessions.

1 Blurt

1. Cheap Life
2. Hedonist Hat
3. Lick Bones
4. War Food

5. Bad Attitude
6. In Doubt
7. Immensity Home
8. What Counts

Peel Sessions

May 12, 2010

My Bloody Valentine. Loom. Vancouver. 7/1/92.

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Amazing facts about My Bloody Valentine:
  • Since its release in 1991, Loveless has been played on a continuous loop through underwater speakers, inspiring certain erotic feelings in cetaceans, and is single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of the Humpback Whale population
  • Before being mastered, the original tracks were beamed into space, bounced off the rings of Saturn, and then filtered through a device that mimics the sound of dragonflies on absinthe.
  • Loveless sounds the same in every known alternate universe.
  • Early copies of the album came with packets of Dramamine to counteract wooziness.
  • Not that I would know, but under certain influences you can actually listen to the album just by looking at the cover.
  • The band was named after an unsuccessful Bing Crosby Christmas special.
  • At least one track was created by dropping magnetic recording tape through the Aurora Borealis.
  • Vinyl copies of Loveless actually contain minute trace amounts of love, Pixie Stix, and Kevin Shields’ pocket lint.

May 10, 2010

The Birthday Party. Peel Sessions.

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The only hits the Birthday Party ever landed were to their audience’s guts. “Dangerously unhinged” barely begins to describe their mutant hybrid of punk, goth, funk, improvisational jazz and psychotic-sleaze-blues.

The band seemed locked in a death-battle with melody, thrashing and throttling the life out of it, often sounding like each member was playing a different song to the others. Meanwhile, Nick Cave strutted and preened like a demonic carnival barker daring you to buy a ticket to the most depraved freak-show around.

Their bared-teeth wit and gleeful nihilism sound like nothing else ever attempted. “Wherefore art thou, babyface?”, Cave screeches, summoning the haints and voodoo-dollies that haunt the roots of rock and outlaw country—spavined vinyl gods out for a final, delirious spin.


May 8, 2010

The Springfields. Sunflower.

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Sarah 10
Released: July, 1988
01: Sunflower
02: Clown
03: Are We Gonna Be Alright?


May 6, 2010

Sway. The Millia Pink and Green.

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Information on the band is almost nonexistent. The website listed on the album has disappeared, and the band itself abruptly and inexplicably changed names a number of times. As far as anyone knows, they’ve broken up, which is too bad as this seems to be regarded by those who like their pop dreamy as one of the best shoegaze albums of the decade (admittedly, there probably aren’t a lot of bands still working in this category).

Instead of following MBV’s swarming, electron-honeybee buzz, Sway tend more towards the blissful, liquid pigmentation of Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and Lush. Their waterfall guitars are blurred and melted like those super-saturated polaroids of flowers that used to show up all the time on fffound.

Short and sweet.

Pink and Green

May 5, 2010

All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors. Turning Into Small.

1 Blurt

Although it’s fair to say that All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors sound like an exquisitely realized cross between My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab, they’re actually more interested in shaping and manipulating those waves of feedback and distortion into a kind of frazzled, cubist space-rock rather than solid sheets of blissed-out headspace. Eschewing classic shoegaze’s supposed avoidance of straightforward melodies, they compose their swells of woozy, stomach-ache synths and guitars as “actual” songs, slipping in subtle instrumentation, psychedelic washes, and shuffling funk beats amidst the syrupy speaker-drippings. Your Imagination could be the blueprint for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and Lattershed totally makes out with New Order. The whole album feels like being swept under in a threatening but majestic riptide.


May 4, 2010

The Ecstasy of St Theresa. Susurrate.

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Inspired by the divinely orgasmic states (in which she was bodily pierced by a flaming spear) described by the 16th century mystic nun, The Ecstasy of St Theresa take their namesake to heart, attempting either to replicate that holy delirium or inspire it through clouds of angelic vocals dissolving in a volcanic barrage of tremoloed guitars.

Apparently, they’ve long since switched to an ambient/techno sound, but in early 1992, they were reinterpreting Isn’t Anything era MBV as a Dvorakian noise symphony. As possibly the only shoegaze band in Czechoslovakia, The Ecstasy of St Theresa received what little attention they did after recording a session for the omnipresent John Peel. Even that didn’t translate into much success, and this album sank without a trace only to be rescued from obscurity nearly a decade later by the indispensable Clairecords.

Aside from the obligatory MBV references, The Ecstasy of St Theresa share plenty of DNA with Dinosaur Jr. and Catherine Wheel—pitching their blurred, thundering songs down a wind-tunnel of melodic, emotional shifts. They’re drowning you in sound, but they always keep their ear on the “big moment”, finally climaxing with the reckless, free-form maelstrom of Absinth. It may not be the most innovative or original recording of the shoegaze era, but it’s definitely a classic example of everything that so often made the genre so transcendently great.