"Feels" (Fat Cat), this new Animal Collective album is doin' it for me. Like a warm tongue lashing the bung--billowy and light as air, but still bubbling over with enough frothy effervescence to catapult me way up into the crystal palace in the sky. No one else rips-off--or builds on, for that matter--ideas first pioneered by the Beach Boys ("feels" are what Brian Wilson calls isolated symphonic scores) and Eno as inventively.
A bittersweet old style songwriter's paradise gets mined in Franklin's Mint. "Gold" (Sunburned) is comprised of heart-tugging rootsy folk pop that harkens back to early 70s Dylan, the Band, Neil Young, Emmylou and more inspirational folk-rocker types with a warm analog glow. It's a Sunburned Hand of the Man sanctioned roadtrip, with rough and tumble contributions from a bundle of folks who usually play a sloppier, more avant groove, all backing singer/guitarist Phil Franklin. His dusted, stream of conscious lyrics are branded with a sense of weariness and humanism that would be the only logical outcome for any civilized creature living in America in the year 2005. Beautiful handmade silkscreen package folds into a 3D pyramid. Might be hard to find, but so is peace of mind. Limited to 1000; got mine from Fusetron.
Further down the rabbit hole we fall with The Iron Kite, spiraling and divebombing out of control through a red tinted underworld (and I don't mean hell, but it's close, baby!). This Austin "free noise" groop cranks a mighty rusted carousel round and round on "No Eyebrows" (Twilight Flight Sound), writhing in the clattery free metallic rush that builds in friction to a throbbing industrial/ krautrock surge and more lumbering heavy jams. Nothing prepares the listener for the sheer power and forward momentum of this single track live recording. Lots of acid fuzz and clattery percussion give way to metronomic thumping and back again with tribal howls and whoops resounding over top. Spontaneous, beautiful ROCK that sort of answers the question, "what if the Red Krayola's "Free Form Freakout" actually went somewhere?" No-Neckers and Sunburned Handies, rejoice!
Another loud ass Fuck Yeah! comes along with the reissue of Kemialliset Ystävät's "Kellari Juniversumi," (Fonal CD/ Beta-Lactam LP). Hailed upon its release in 2002 as a masterpiece, I'm prone to fall into line with this one; possibly the most perfectly realized trip through Chemical Land I've come across. KY (gotta love those initials) is without question one of the most fascinating and unique bands around today, and this seems to capture them in an ideal state. Possibly a transition album based on what I've heard till now, splitting things roughly between the kind of haunted free spirit blues they've conjured of late and a clanking (almost) art pop/folk. If Yahaweh was an early industrial band from Finland, they might have come up with something this dementedly beautiful, but then that's not even fair. This is a dense, ethereal trek through the warped sonic hinterlands that sounds basically like nothing else, save maybe for a few other KY albums and spinoff ensembles.
Speaking of some spiked punchbowl action, props to the mystical sound magi of Louisville, Kentucky's Eyes and Arms of Smoke, who conjur a rare magic indeed on their "A Religion of Broken Bones" LP, via the always reliable Cenotaph organization. This record easily exhibits a similar sort of scattered, what-the-hell(?) aura as the above, materialized in an unclassifiable instrumental sound that brings together chamber music, jazz, folk, crude electronics and more into a smoothly kinetic sound tunnel to the outer realms. Only two bands I can think of currently who even come close to this sort of downbeat dream: Comus (EaAoS occasionally features warbling high pitched vocals over rushing acoustic guitars, channeling the demented forest gnome spirits) and...
...Portland’s Rollerball specializes in a cryptic chamber/ nowave/ lounge jazz/ trip hop(?) on "Catholic Paws / Catholic Pause" (Silber) which I can't help but be completely transfixed by. These folks have almost no discernable style, yet maintain a constant musicality that's amorphous and engaging all the way through. Boy and girl vox occasionally appear in strange art pop songs that continuously ride the surrealist/ absurdist roads of the subconscious, passing through some genuinely disturbed back alleys along the way, and probably losing most who’d dare follow. Robert Wyatt and the Art Bears come to mind across the span of these rough and tumble, occasionally lo-fi, lounge/no wave excursions. This is definitely an acquired taste (pretty much all Rollerball is), but worth investigation if you like the weirdo art rock/lounge lizard thing.
Mmmmm August Born. This self titled album (Drag City) is a transcontinental dream meeting if ever there was one. Ben Chasny (Mr. Six Organs) and Hiroyuki Usui (Mr. L) come together (via post) to brilliantly combine their etheareal takes on blues and folk musics, and the results are really just about what you'd expect. Essential and haunted lo-fi tone poems for the impending cold months, and whatever else may loom on the horizon.
Hush Arbors/ Terracid/ The North Sea issued this untitled CD-R on newish upstart Barl Fire recently; all three of the contributors are bright new hopes in this avant folk whatever thing that's happening all across the globe as I type. Hush Arbors conjurs meditative electro dream swells before strapping on the acoustic and introducing beautiful tremelous vocals. I love to hear this guy sing. Terracid offers hushed winds and spacious ragas over quiet clatter that sounds as if the gods themselves decided to sing, and then drops a drifting vocal over a bed of percussive patter and desolate acoustic guitar to seal the deal. Fucking incredible. The North Sea offers three more direct paths to divinity, my favorite being the opening acoustic instrumental which combines a sweet melody with spectral raga tones in a blissful excusion to the soul center. The rest offers sparse melodies, shakers, rainsticks and distant vocals with a slight pop base.
George Brigman's "Jungle Rot" comes via the cult rock diggers at Anopheles Records; they definitely got a nack for recommitting weird limited pressings from the psych underground back into the wild. Couldn't think of a more deserving album than Brigman's mongrel blues psych punk tribute to the Groundhogs and other scuzz blues merchants (namely the Stooges and Blue Cheer). Low-fi before lo-fi was a marketing term, this is some seriously demented garage boogie with Brigman's volatile guitar skills at center stage. Absolutely devastating stuff that fans of Comets on Fire, Monoshock and Major Stars should especially dig. FUCKIN' SWEET!
Pumice's "Worldwide Skull" (Audiobot) features various live recordings by Stefan Neville. Think Xpressway, early Chris Knox, solo and slightly pissed (read as drunk) and maybe, Alastair Galbraith. There's a chilling quality in Stefan's songs, often times just him and guitar with some primitive effect on the vocals or whatnot, and the intimacy and ramshackle arrangements are all painfully necessary in conveying a sense of crude wonder and naked honesty. Worth the hunt for any damaged soul.
And finally comes a fantastic split CD between Breathe Stone (should sound almost familiar to some) and The Does via Hand/Eye. This one's been out a while now, but it's still available. Breathe Stone is a Stone Breath alter ego (think plugged in), and The Does (as in female deer!) are a smoking blues/ garage/ noise punk trio that probably has a few Birthday Party and Swans albums on their shelves, but that's not to say the three songs on "Sleep Deprivation Blues" are copycat material. They churn and rock with some tasteful slide guitar, lacerating rhythms, kicked up beats and a heart-throbbing fem vocals pushing everything over the top of the mountain. Breathe Stone's more likely to hang out up there with "Crow Omens," offering a slightly expanded version of their trad folk delirium, including some pretty burly fuzz guitars. Considering the typically more acoustic (but no less psychedelic) approach they're known for, this makes for a swell detour.