Sunday, 23 September 2012

Slowcore Greats: Half Film

I missed Half Film by just a hair when I arrived in the greater Bay Area in 2000, but they had left a lasting effect on countless moody guitar acts that could be described as the “SlowCore” scene. I picked up their final 7 inch released on AIP Records in 2000, but was never able to acquire their earlier material in a physical format. Thanks to Hidden Shoal Records, now a whole new generation of depressed-sounding bands can see what Half Film was all about.

While not music for a party (or at least any I have attended lately), this reissue is perfect for a rainy afternoon or the wee morning hours, returning from the aforementioned night’s drinking.

Both albums will be released as a double CD on the 31st of October with CD pre-orders on the 18th of October. This is highly recommended stuff for anyone who has a Red House Painters or Low record sitting on their shelf. The fact that these guys don’t have the same fan base as those bands shocks me to no end.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Psychedelic Garage Rock with the Hedgehogs

The Hedgehogs are a psychedelic act from Denmark that have a keen sense of song structure and the joy of the hook. Their newest record, Our Minds Dyed Yesterday, was submitted to me by the folks at Levitation Records, and will be released in October. They must have been following this blog and my twitter feed, and recognized that I loved bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and 13th Floor Elevators, as these guys fit well right next to them.

The record was a joy to receive. Not only is the group strong in putting together tight, little numbers that fit well within the psychedelic garage genera, but they also know how to let their likely-drinking fans space out to mellower out-there material.

T.D. Reisert - Conneaut

I wrote this review for an online magazine some time ago. Having played the record in question lately, I decided to reprint it.

In a day and age where even the most vehement anti-capitalist punk bands sell shirts/stickers/pins/underwear/used soda cans, it’s good to know that there are still some folks out there just giving their work away. I have no idea if the folks at 80H Records intend their label to be an anti-capitalist institution. They could all be interns for Rush Limbaugh; making his coffee and securing him illegal drugs and child pornography. They might run a Republican support group on College Campuses in New England. Truth be told, I have no clue. All I know is that they have a slew of bands that release “records” via mp3 format on their website. They put up covers for them and everything, so I regard them as ‘official releases’. Hell, and after swimming through hundreds of used copies of Yellowcard cds at my local record shop that folks rightfully sold back, I would say the world would be a better place if some bands restricted their output to the mp3 variety.

T.D. Reisert may be a band, but I don’t think so. From what I discern, “Conneaut” is a one man project from a very lonely guy. A lonely guy that does not like to tune his guitar, or play recognizable chords either. His voice is way out of tune as well, not that you could sing in a proper tone to the songs anyhow. You are probably thinking, “What the F*ck! This guy gave the record a rather good score, and this review sounds like some emo boy who doesn’t know how to sing or play!” Well, in an odd way, that’s why the record is noticeably interesting.

The songs are so distant and sad, and presented in a way that gives the silence and surrounding ambiance a staring role. I say they are sad, but I can’t really pick up that many words the guy is singing. It just sounds depressing. Like I said, his voice is way out of tune, but it never seems to be in disagreement with the general sound of the track. In a day and age where many bands, even punk ones, strive to remove all forms of imperfection form their sound, it is especially interesting to hear someone put all those imperfections so clearly in the front of the record. You can hear the physical strumming of the electric guitar over the amplification, and it just seems to work for the songs.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this record is for everyone. In fact, it is suited for a very small percentage of the music community. Since you won’t hear it outside of the 80h records website, I would say T.D. Reisert will remain completely unknown. That’s too bad however, since I think the honesty of the record could be enjoyed by a number of people, even those who don’t think they would listen to this type of “rock and roll.”

With bands like Wolf Eyes selling out venues and noise acts getting signed left and right, maybe independent music audiences are starting to warm up to “difficult compositions.” Regrettably, the chances that this whole noise ‘popularity’ thing is just a fad are rather great. Not that it matters, there will always be something different out there if you really want to find it. You could start with “Conneaut”, since its freakin free and worth every cent! If you happened to read all the way through this review, you should at least check it out for yourself and give it your own assessment.

Download the EP from 80H Records

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Yah Mos - Off Your Parents!

When I was in high school, I picked up the first Nation of Ulysses record (13 Point Program to Destroy America) on a whim based on the title. It did not immediately grab my attention; it was more disjointed than the music I was accustomed to at the time. I picked it up again when I was 18, and with my slightly more mature ears, it quickly turned into a favorite of mine. A few years back, I reflected on the politics of Ian Svenonius and found little in the way of real political substance, but as far as a bit goes, he has one of the best.

The Yah Mos clearly owe a great deal to the NoU, and while they didn’t recreate the wheel, they did make some incredibly catchy songs in their day. Better yet, they were from Sacramento, and thus much closer to me than the NoU. I’m not entirely sure when I picked this 7-inch up or where I bought it, but it feels like it has been in my collection for ages, so I’m inclined to say I bought it around 2000. Ive been told that members of this band went on to form !!!.

 The Static Fanatic had this to say about the release:

All these tracks are bashing away with brainy, wreckless abandon, yet they are held together by a sinewy rhythm section that never allows the songs to fall apart into jerkoff/spazz/mess/hardcore. Channeling and controlling this seething energy (in other words, making it accessible) without sounding tight-assed or self-conscious or devolving into a prog-punk-core band (with its nice, safe, mathematically derived lego-piece song construction aesthetic) is very tuff I says.

Since putting it on the turntable an hour ago, I’ve played it 5 times. It still sounds great after all these years, and is worth a listen for anyone interested in angsty, tight hardcore.  

Fair Inspector Pig - 1994


Euros Childs - Summer Special

I have long loved Euros Childs' work ever since I first came across Gorky's Zygotic Mynci in 2000. At the time, I was into a number of 90s Britpop bands, and had someone recommend their Spanish Dance Troupe album. They were definitely more playful and psychedelic than the other Brit acts I was listening too, and that immediately grabbed my interest. I was thankful to see the band live, in their full splendor, when they toured behind their How I Long to Feel That Summer in my Heart release.

Last summer, I completed a few posts here related to the bands career, celebrating their influence. 

Since the group broke up, Euros Childs has been a very busy man, releasing nearly 10 solo releases, a collaboration with Meilyr Jones called Cousins, and the excellent team-up with Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub titled Jonny. Nearly all of his solo releases have been made available on Euros' National Elf Library label as free downloads.

His most recent work,Summer Special, is his best solo material to date. Within the first 5 minutes of the record, I felt like I was thrown into an unreleased Gorky's record. There were lush arrangements, well crafted vocal harmonies, and a real sense of joy and wonderment. Anyone who felt Euros' recent solo releases were a bit too "out-there" for their tastes will be thrilled to see him return to form here.

You can download the record for free here, and buy a CD from his website.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Downtempo from the Dollar Bin

Another fine 12 inch record I picked up in the dollar bins of Amoeba Records in San Francisco last year. While I know a bit about dance music culture, the sheer number of unknown releases put out by international labels I have never heard of, can be daunting when rummaging through releases. Most of the records in the bins don't have printed labels, let alone covers. So when I grabbed this Snooze's "Quiet Alone," it was solely based on the fact that it had a cover that grabbed my attention. I learned later that Snooze is a well known French electronic musician, but this was my first introduction to his music. This single was released on Crammed Discs in Belgium.

When I returned home and put it on the turntable, I was happily surprised by what came out of the stereo. A very smooth downtempo track with soaring female vocals (provided by Jazz singer Deborah Brown) and sparingly accompanied strings traced the deep bass line throughout the track.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hip Hop from the Dollar Bin

I have spent the last 12 years looking through every single discount dollar bin I run across when traveling, and I have picked up some choice finds in the process. It is surprising what is considered musical junk in the specific local I end up at, and I have learned a great deal about various forms of music in the process. I have a pretty open-ended approach to music, and thus the dollar bin is not always the bottom dregs of our culture in my eyes. There is plenty of throw-aways in those bins, but I have rarely walked away without some type of winner.

One of those finds was a 12" from the great Ubiquity Records. I noticed that it had a b-side that featured Cut-Chemist, and realized this was a record worth having. The A-side was by Nobody, and featured 2Mex and ESP, and was a real surprise to hear. Funk and Jazz infused Hip-Hop, with the kind of flow that was popular in the early 90s and has been well copied since.

Click the share button to embed the track or download it.

If you want a free collection of Ubiquity tunes, grab their recent compilation here,  which includes this scorching track by Charles Bradley.

Hot Freak Nation isn't that freaky, but they are pretty good

Another Burger Records pickup, Hot Freak Nation hail from the sweaty southern city of Memphis led by Greg Roberson. The perfect tunes for an evening BBQing while tossing back a few beers or glasses of wine.

Psychedelic Garage Rock with The Sufis

Burger Records had a pretty awesome cassette sale this summer with any of their tapes going for just over a 3 dollars, and thus I picked up some of their back catalog that I had been meaning to get.

One of the strongest in the bunch was a band named The Sufis, a garage act from Nashville that borrows heavily from 60s garage psychedelia and Syd Barret's Pink Floyd era. Some really great meditative jams that know just when to focus in on the riff and bring the whole thing home. If the Elephant 6 label was still around, these guys would have been on it.

Pick up the tape here.