March 5, 2015

Today's Hotness: Nic Hessler, Swervedriver, Shores



>> Brooklyn label Captured Tracks is known for a stable of artists that methodically appropriate the sounds of a certain era and imbue them with modern sensibilities. Until this point, the analogue in question has predominately been late-'80s British alternative rock, a proclivity apparent in the watery shimmer of notable CT bands including Wild Nothing, Blouse, Beach Fossils and DIIV. We're now five years on from those acts' first releases, and it seems that Captured Tracks' aesthetic center has moved commensurately forward in time as well. Enter recent signatory Nic Hessler, a solo artist whose upcoming album Soft Connections streets March 17. Mr. Hessler actually first signed with the label as a teenager in 2009 under the name Catwalk, but he was apparently waylaid by illness not long after and was less active until more recently. Nevertheless, the spirit of mid-'90s power-pop looms large in Hessler’s bright and light preview single "Hearts, Repeating." The tune opens with crisp acoustic guitar chased by a meandering 12-string lead, conjuring a sound the echoes backdated major label pop perfectionists such as Del Amitri and Matthew Sweet. A second preview track, "I Feel Again," boasts an even bigger, '90s modern rock radio sound. The dry, up-front presentation even recalls production work of the period, Butch Vig-inspired studio practices that many of the aforementioned acts gravitated toward. Hessler applies a wistfulness and dreamy style to both tunes that makes them of a piece with the work of his Captured Tracks peers, so the label's stamp of quality persists. It is interesting to observe that the indie world now includes a generation of artists as removed from -- yet inspired by -- the early to mid-'90s as the groups that ushered in the post-punk revival roughly a decade ago were removed from the sounds that turned them on. We eagerly await the "post-punk revival revival" if it means we'll hear more songs as considered and well-constructed as "Hearts, Repeating" and "I Feel Again." Pre-order Soft Connections on CD, LP and cassette right here. -- Edward Charlton





>> Man, remember a month ago? February 4, 2015 will go down as the day that this reviewer finally decided to appreciate at least certain aspects of rock band reunions. Maybe it's the history degree on the wall, or maybe it's just having seen too many legacy-blighting cash-ins (*cough*Pixies*cough*) to think such enterprises ever do justice to the original, youthful identity of the project. But, back to Feb. 4th. Diehard shoegaze enthusiasts and readers of this blog might remember that day as when Swervedriver's "Autodidact," the second single from the resuscitated act's comeback effort I Wasn't Born To Lose You, first hit the Interwebs. The ultimate take-away from that fateful Wednesday was this: we may age, but Swervedriver do not. Or at least they seem to have not -- changing hairstyles aside. The song (along with previous single "Setting Sun") sounds as if it could be from the Mezcal Head sessions of 1993, which were overseen by legendary producer Alan Moulder. And that, dear reader, is a very good thing. Opening with a nifty, two-chord riff that switches from a major to minor key, "Autodidact" is strong evidence the band has lost not one iota of its expertise with layering guitars and initiating dazzling guitar interplay. The tune launches a couple of serene verses before shifting into a separate instrumental groove, coupling a steady beat with synthetic feedback squalling effects that build and build before the opening riff returns and births the song anew. Structurally, it is not far removed from "Duel," arguably the band's biggest hit from the first run. But rather than reiterating any previous glory, "Autodidact" feels like a natural addition to the Swervedriver's laudable canon, despite the band's 17-year pause. And that's the best part of "Autodidact" -- it's what fans wanted. There is no watered-down, over-polished production, they haven’t lost the excitement with their youthful noise, and Adam Franklin's vocals still sound as assured, crisp and American-drag-racer cool as they did in those earlier, dreadlocked days. They simply don't mess with the formula, perhaps mindful of exactly what earned them their fans and wise enough to be unafraid to stare it head on. I Wasn’t Born To Lose You was released this week via Cobraside Distribution, and you should purchase a copy right here. The band is out on tour in the U.S. of A. now and we've pasted all the remaining dates below; Swervedriver launch an 11-date tour of the UK in May, if it ever comes. Stream "Autodidact" and "Setting Sun" via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton





03.06 -- San Francisco, CA -- Great American Music Hall
03.08 -- Seattle, WA -- Neumo's Crystal Ball
03.09 -- Portland, OR -- Doug Fir Lounge
03.12 -- St. Paul, MN -- Turf Club
03.13 -- Madison, WI -- High Noon Saloon
03.14 -- Chicago, IL -- TBA
03.15 -- Grand Rapids, MI -- Pyramid Scheme
03.16 -- Cincinnati, OH -- The Woodward Theater
03.17 -- St. Louis, MO -- The Duck Room @ Blueberry
03.19 -- Dallas, TX -- Club Dada
03.20-21 -- Austin, TX -- SXSW
03.23 -- Atlanta, GA -- Terminal West
03.24 -- Durham, NC -- Motorco
03.25 -- Washington, DC -- Rock & Roll Hotel
03.27 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Music Hall of Williamsburg
03.28 -- Cambridge, MA -- The Sinclair
03.29 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Union Transfer

>> We last caught up with Michigan-based slowcore stalwarts Shores (a what is now shocking to us five years ago) in 2010, when the prolific act's debut Coup De Grace surprised us by coming out on the punk-inclined and entirely legendary Florida label No Idea. It was a captivating thought at the time, as it suggested a universe where Shores' Red House Painters-styled introspection and sparse post-rock moves might coexist with hardcore. Fast-forward five years and multiple albums, EPs and singles, and we now hear Precedents, the slowcore shredders' sorta-new (it was recorded in 2012) self-released set. Featuring seven songs, with the majority over the six minute mark, the album recalls the best moments from bands like Codeine and the aforementioned Painters, but with a little more of a masculine element at times in the steadier, slow-burning squalls. The collection is highlighted by the steadily simmering "Angola," which crests wave upon wave of crash cymbal as a steady undertow of feedback grips at fronter Brian Przybylski's icy, subdued vocals. A video was created for the opening track "Litany," which features some beautiful scenery intercut with a bunch of shots of bearded dudes smokin'. You can look at the video right here. "Litany" works as a fine representation of what Shores does best. After commencing with delicately strummed electric guitars, Przybylski's steady, mournful vocals join in, entering in tandem with an open, solid drum march. After some quick words, the drummer switches to warmly recorded cymbals that parallel a towering bass distortion. The second time around during this B-section bassist Billy Bartholomew achieves the perfect sustain on the pedal to create some interesting oscillation with certain notes -- just one of the little sonic details revealed throughout Precedents, making the release a great comedown piece after listening to something aggressive. And with that observation, No Idea's logic five years ago begins to make perfect sense, although sadly the label doesn't have its stamp on this new collection. Precedents was released on Valentine's Day, and you can stream the entire thing via the Bandcamp embed below. Buy the album for any price right here. Shores are set to wrap recording sessions for a planned fifth full-length, which the band aims to press to vinyl and release later in 2015. -- Edward Charlton

March 3, 2015

Review: Pile | You're Better Than This

There is an eternal unease, a sort of yearning discomfort (or is it a discomfited yearning?), that permeates the music of Boston post-punk titans Pile. Among the foursome's greatest strengths has been the ability to sew that rankled unease into the lining of each of its songs, imbuing each one with a nakedly human dimension that would seem pretty un-rock 'n' roll were it not for the fact that Pile (higher power-of-your-own-choosing bless Pile) hits the sweet spot where power meets smarts as hard as any act since, say, Jane's Addiction released Nothing's Shocking. The throbbing vitality of Pile's music elevates and even celebrates its unease, and never more perfectly than on its agile and potent new full-length You're Better Than This.

What makes You're Better Than This distinct from the band's previous releases (including 2012's towering Dripping, which we reviewed for another publication here) is an adventurous, elastic production and mix. Fronter and guitarist Rick Maguire's opaque, often inscrutable lyrics are levied in palpable Jon Spencer-esque slap-back, the guitars are firmly panned to the edges of the stereo field, and a big, boisterous ambient room sound is pushed up into the mix, amplifying the dynamics of a band already well known for its crushing shock and awe. The more fluid production and a relative dialing back of viscous sludge and distortion lets the music feel lighter on its feet, at fighting weight. You can feel it in the beautiful, 94-second acoustic guitar ballad "Fuck The Police," in the playful opening of the whirling, deconstructed waltzer "Waking Up In The Morning," and straight through to the giddy rush of the album's hidden final tune "Rock 'N' Roll Forever With the Customer in Mind," perhaps a curt nod to Mr. Maguire's day job.

The set opens with the uneven gallop of "The World Is Your Motel," whose immediate, tilting kineticism gives the feeling that one has caught You're Better Than This in medias res -- in the midst of an airing of acute grievances -- or even in flagrante delicto; the tune's cataclysmic final 50 seconds are ignited by one of many soul-searing howls emitted by Maguire over the course of the record. That stentorian yowl, Kris Kuss' explosive drumming, the massive but impressively controlled riffage: indeed, all the hallmarks of a Pile record are present here.

It would be enough for us if You're Better Than This was comprised solely by its (credited) devastating closing number "Appendicitis." The long tune offers a perfect balance of the grace and, ahem, balls that Pile musters with impressive regularity (we'd say ease, but recent interviews confirm our feeling that Maguire would tell us there's nothing easy about it, were we to ask). As the relatively gentle tune crosses the four-minute mark it seems to swallow Maguire whole, as his vocals sink deep into the skeins of guitar lines just ahead of the song's terminus under some final, chunky chords. You're Better Than This was recorded in Omaha and produced by Ben Brodin, whose production credits do not include work with JSBX or Shellac, but do include Conor Oberst, Seahaven and, weirdly, Jazon Mraz.

Exploding In Sound released You're Better Than This on vinyl, CD, cassette and as a digital download today, and you can purchase the record in any of those formats right here. Stream the entire record via the embed below. Pile is now officially on tour forever; click here to see when they stop by to bring its moveable feast to your mom's house. Dinner is served.

Pile: Facebook | Internerds



February 27, 2015

Bent Shapes, Charly Bliss, Chandos, Fucko | O'Brien's Pub, Allston Rock City | 28 February

Bent Shapes, Charly Bliss, Chandos, Fucko | O'Brien's Pub, Allston Rock City | 28 February

This goddamn bill being put on by the quality dudes over at Eye Design on Saturday night. Just gaze upon it.

We've spilled a formidable pile of digital ink championing Boston indie luminaries Chandos and Bent Shapes, so these are known quantities both. But just so we are all up to speed: Clicky Clicky fave anxiety-pop heroes Chandos just last month released its hotly anticipated and just plain hot full-length debut Rats In Your Bed via Carpark (tap the embed below), and scene stalwarts Bent Shapes are in the process of mixing its planned sophomore full-length (here they is in the studio), and if this snippet is any indication, the record is going to smoke. These acts are at the peak of their powers, so there is no need for us to resort to exhortation, you know you should step out Saturday and see them. Hash tag step out and see them Saturday.

On the other hand, its been a long-time coming that we formally introduce readers to New York indie pop quartet Charly Bliss. Fronted by Eva Hendricks and lauded far and wide by many including Clicky Clicky faves Johnny Foreigner, the band wields an unshakable tunefulness built up from a foundation of classic pop chops. Ms. Hendricks' bratty, earworm-inducing vocal melodies run full bounce alongside Spencer Fox's inventive and often fuzz-addled guitars, a pairing that evokes pleasant thoughts of Blue Album-Weezer, and to a lesser extent the Slumberland sound, without crossing over into mimicry. According to evidence on the Interwebs, Charly Bliss recently logged time in Western Mass. tracking its debut LP with hitmaker Justin Pizzoferrato. In the meantime, the band already has a couple EPs out, including its most recent three-song helping Soft Serve, which the quartet pressed to vinyl disks and self-released last summer for the public's enjoyment. We've embedded Soft Serve below; click through to get a copy of the vinyl now, as we don't expect they will last long, especially once the new record is out and goes Vesuvius. Be sure to give the EP's middle jam "Urge To Purge" some extra attention, as it made one of our Top Songs of 2014 lists, meaning it is top quality.

Opening the evening and not to be missed are Boston fuzz-rock newcomers Fucko, an act firmly lodged on our watch list. In addition to having one of the all-time great monikers in rock history, and legendary merch, the quartet shows considerable promise on its rockin' three-song demo, which was released to the wilds of the Internerds a year ago. It's all killer and no filler, touts a nice big bass sound, and we would particularly direct your attention to the closing track "Kind Of Mean It." Fucko, too, has a full length in the can, and for some time now, so we expect it is just a matter of time before college radio DJs are struggling to come up with acceptable ways to refer to the band on the air. A word of caution: a bill as hot as Saturday's might require some thinking ahead, so for folks who'd like guaranteed entry, we suggest snagging tickets right over here. -- Dillon Riley and Jay Breitling







February 26, 2015

Today's Hotness: Spectres, Soft Fangs, Wet Trident

Spectres -- Dying (detail)

>> As a publication we try not to let ourselves get blown away by much, so our sensibilities can stay finely attuned and able to identify the truly special stuff when it comes along. With that said, we are blown away each and every time we listen to the new, debut full-length from Spectres, a gloriously noisy and astonishingly ambitious set of hard psych and noise-'gaze called Dying. Spectres is a Bristol, England-based quartet and their record is among the strongest debut sets we have ever heard. Dying is populated with tunes that echo the West coast-styled blues undertones of The Warlocks as well as the ecstatic noise of Sister-era Sonic Youth and JAMC. So often we talk about texture as an aspect of a thing, but it is exceedingly rare when a record is so dominated by texture in such an enjoyable fashion: herein feedback and discord regularly stretch across minutes and up against the stereo field as a steady rhythm section reliably propels the compositions. Dying situates the listener neck deep in a cacaphonous, bluesy doom so attractive and entrancing that you won't want it to end. The foursome is at its best when it stretches out into the LP's longer songs, including the ominous "This Purgatory" and "Blood In The Cups," where Spectres establish persistent grooves and adorn them with beautifully, provocatively splayed noise. Closer "Sea Of Trees," which clocks in at more than nine minutes, is epic in every sense of the word. The tune touts a relatively placid, meditative opening, layers in lead guitars and panned noise and dreamy, buried vocals, and then unfurls stunning curtains of blissful blammo beginning at the three-and-a-half-minute mark. A few minutes into that assault one just might start seeing the fabric of the universe, the meaning of everything, dolphins. It's complete madness. It's a joy to behold. Hide your children and your pets. London-based Sonic Cathedral issued Dying earlier this week on 12" gatefold vinyl, CD and as a digital download, and it is worth pointing out that a deluxe edition of the LP comes with a ouija board. Or it did -- according to the Sonic Cathedral digital storefront the LP, which was pressed to translucent gray vinyl, is already sold out, after only being officially on offer for two days. It looks like one can still acquire it on black vinyl (probably without the ouija board) at the moment via the Rough Trade shoppe, but you had better act fast. Spectres are presently engaged in a tour of the UK that persists through the weekend, takes few days off, and then runs until 7 March; take a look at all the tour dates right here. Buy Dying from Sonic Cathedral on LP or CD here; the digital download can be snatched via the Bandcamp embed below. We give this set, which was mastered by Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom, doncha know, our very highest recommendation.



>> Mid-fi bedroom pop is having a moment... although we suppose it is always having a moment. But what with the popularity of pensive millennial balladry from operators like Alex G, RL Kelly and Cloud's Tyler Taormina, it feels like there is a new and contemporary shape to things. Brooklyn, of course, is well-represented in what we'll haphazardly call a movement, and notably so by Massachusetts native John Lutkevich, who operates under the nomme de guerre Soft Fangs. It's more accurate to term Mr. Lutkevich's work attic pop, as he recorded the bulk of his self-titled, five-song debut EP -- which recently sold out of its initial run on cassettes issued by Seagreen Records -- under the eaves of his parents' residence. Subdued guitars, pensive lyrics and persistent ride cymbal rule the collection, which thrives on strong melodies and a palpable late-night vibe. "Dog Park" is led through a light bounce by acoustic guitar chords; the arrangement is appointed with quirky analog-sounding synth and nostalgia-inducing twelve-string (or emulated twelve-string) leads. The highlight of the collection is the 'gazey strummer "You're The Best," which boasts the EPs most sturdy rhythm tracks and explodes into thundering choruses splashed with buzzing and vibratoed guitar chords. "You're The Best" is perhaps the loudest and most dynamic tune because it is the only one from the collection not recorded in the aforementioned attic. Instead, the song was tracked at Norwood, Mass.'s Hanging Horse Studios. Attentive readers may recall that this is the same studio where rising Boston indie-punk threesome Julius Earthling recorded its debut EP For. Additionally, Soft Fangs was mastered by Bradford Krieger, who also mixed, mastered and took a production credit on For, for those of you keeping score at home. Soft Fangs' debut EP was reissued by Disposable America Feb. 21 as a limited edition 7" vinyl record, limited edition cassette, and digital download. The 7" is pressed to black media in an edition of 200 pieces, and 100 cassettes are on offer, with those miraculous little reels of magnetic tape encased in red plastic. Buyer beware: the 7" does not contain the very solid track "Believers," so completists may want to opt for the cassette or, we suppose, both the cassette and vinyl. Lutkevich recently recorded a shoe-brand sponsored session, so we suppose those recordings may see the light of day sometime; here is a video of him performing "Point Of View" during the session. Stream all of Soft Fangs via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the set from Disposable America.



>> Depending on which publications you read in certain early days of the '90s, the prevailing wisdom was that the primary front in the indie rock revolution was strung out along the I-40 in North Carolina. There labels like Mammoth and Jettison turned out big-guitar sounds from luminaries and shoulda-been luminaries like The Ashley Stove and Finger and Pipe. A new act out of Portland, OR called Wet Trident sounds as if it were put in cold storage in '92 down North Carolina-way and is only now emerging to learn what hell the Internet and reality television has wrought. Wet Trident is fronted by Matt Dressen, who Clicky Clicky readers likely know better as the drummer for Portland dream-pop goliaths Lubec; indeed, Mr. Dressen is ably abetted by certain of his Lubec cohort here. But the slacker anthem sound Wet Trident nails on its new tune "Stove Prairie Road" is scruffier, more direct and dare we say more Bachmann-esque, driving the rising riff from Los Campesinos!' "Romance Is Boring" straight down to the bottom of the bottle for that last warm sip of beer. For whatever it is worth, Google tells us that "Stove Prairie Road" is apparently a popular biking route in Colorado, which is not terribly near either Portland or North Carolina. But more importantly for our purposes, "Stove Prairie Road" is a very promising preview track from a planned EP from Wet Trident called Power Fails And Other Foreign Delights. There's no word on when the full EP will be available, but if you keep pressing play on "Stove Prairie Road" via the embed below, we are fairly certain it will turn up eventually. Power Fails And Other Foreign Delights was recorded with Portland's go-to engineer and producer Robert Komitz at the Frawg Pound.

February 21, 2015

Review: Krill | A Distant Fist Unclenching

"The end is the beginning and then you go on." -- S.B.

Last year, in pretending to fail at reviewing its titanic EP Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears, we posited that every Krill record will fail because of the insurmountable distance between the ideal version of a thing and the actual rendering of the thing itself, and how that echoes the difference between the band's and audience's perceptions of its music. While we didn't wrap them up very neatly, and while that distance wasn't really the point of Steve, the ideas we posited were intended to synthesize in such a way that the concept of failure ceased to exist... well, at least for Boston bugcore heroes Krill, because, let's face it, shitty records get made every day.

But not by Krill. For the three-headed post-punk unit there is no failure, there is only, as last year's guiding Beckett quote suggested, trying and doing and trying and doing again. And now, with its third full-length, Krill try and do again (spectacularly). What choice does the True Artist (def. TK -- Ed.) have but to obey the imperative to create that itself makes her an artist, that self-same imperative that drives the artist to imprint thoughts and aspirations for others' sensual pleasure? Each successive imprint presents an increment, we can conveniently plot these on a Western-styled line, and think about change, and this past week this (straining) metaphorical train finally arrived at Krill's triumphant A Distant Fist Unclenching. Please let the other passengers off before boarding.

The nine-song set is not only the best the trio has made, but it is also the most conceptually transparent, to the point that it presents pilgrims a number of possibilities. Some may be tempted to view the song "Tiger" and its musings on the capriciousness of life as the germ of the record, particularly as the song is the source for Fist's title. Or maybe the capital-T, capital-B Truth and Beauty is revealed most clearly via the absurd, Duchamp-esque elevation of the mundane in album opener "Phantom." But, in fact, the core of the record sits right out in the open, in a little clearing at the end of "Mom," where fronter and bassist Jonah Furman sings the mission statement of the record, and his present way of thinking about a way forward in his restless examination of himself: "unclench your jaw and open your mouth to me, no more brutal songs, I wanna make something sweet, nothing to hide, you've seen every part of me."

In black and white that may read as an endorsement of a kind of hedonism, but we must not ignore the context of the entire Krill oeuvre. At bottom it's about an individual consciousness (which Mr. Furman explores here in the aforementioned "Phantom:" "what's the proper orientation of my self to my non-self?"). But not an undirected consciousness, and that distinction may be the finer point that Fist puts on the evolving Krillosophy; instead, "Mom," and by extension A Distant Fist Unclenching, espouses what we'd call a hedonic consciousness. So is the message of A Distant Fist Unclenching simply to lighten up? That is probably too reductive. Either way, the message may be ephemeral, or at least mutable: after all Fist is but an increment (assuming Krill is, indeed, forever, please god don't take this away from me), the imperative makes more increments inevitable, which for Krill means mapping better ways forward toward a comfortable detente with the self. Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away. We're all alright. We're all alright. Right?

Helpfully, Furman has already done the heavy lifting of decoding the new collection in recent press rounds. Here is Furman spoon-feeding the lamestream via Rolling Stone: "The fist unclenching is what happens after a tortured moment. It's how to move from that anxiety without being too naive or too cynical -– without being happy-go-lucky or saying, 'Fuck it, nothing matters.'" And here he is talking to Impose: "it's about stopping the anxiety of worrying about life. Relaxing, in a way. After a really intense time, what comes next? ...The idea that there is something that comes after that time [of sadness], if you just stick it out... [t]hat means something. You don’t reach happiness and that other stuff doesn’t go away. But there is something after."

While decoding Krill is An Important Thing To Do, we are loathe to lose sight of the fact that what we have here is an excellent rock record. A Distant Fist Unclenching is rife with exuberant, thoughtful performances like the incredible final quarter of "Phantom," which is all syncopated flares of guitar and bass and drum kit (not to diminish in any way the buzz-sawing sturm und drang that directly precedes it). The sturdy martial cadence of "Squirrels" is accented by percussive thuds on the downbeat in its first verse and again before Furman's crookedly walking bass line guides the song toward its spooky dissolution. "Torturer" bashes brightly in its chorus, while its verse pairs a mechanical beat with chugging bass and guitarist Aaron Ratoff hangs spare notes like fire overhead. Mr. Ratoff's finest sleight-of-hand on the record may be the quick elliptical melody he conjures in the verses of the aforementioned "Tiger," a tune the explodes in its final minute into a throbbing curtain of feedback-spangled, glorious, technicolor fuzz that we would honestly listen to for 20 minutes if Krill would only let us.

Indeed, one of the more electrifying aspects of A Distant Fist Unclenching is the dynamic shifts from airy, wandering passages into heavy, dense sections -- such as the heads-down, head-banging boogie of "Brain Problem" -- that put the band's full power on display. A Distant Fist Unclenching closes on a huge but quiet high, with the potent and poignant ballad "It Ends." It's quiet opening echoes the vibe of the final track of Steve. Ending an album that concerns itself with what happens after the end, with a song called "It Ends," neatly encapsulates the boundless appeal of Krill's collective smarts and wit. Furman sings "it ends the same way it begins," and it is A Distant Fist Unclenching's final reminder that there is always another train coming. Mind the gap.

A Distant Fist Unclenching was recorded by hitmaker Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab and was jointly released in the US by Exploding In Sound and Double Double Whammy Feb. 17 on vinyl and as a digital download. A limited edition of 150 LPs was pressed to clear vinyl, but those are long, long gone. Steak Club released A Distant Fist Unclenching as a co-release with Blood And Biscuits in the UK, and UK readers should click here to get with that. For its part, Krill leaves for the UK in mere hours, and fans on the left side of the Atlantic should be very careful not to miss the band. Stream A Distant Fist Unclenching via the Bandcamp embed below, and inspect the tour dates we grabbed at some point below that.



Krill: Bandcamp | Facebook

02/23 -- Manchester, UK -- Gulliver's
02/24 -- Leeds, UK -- Brudenell Social Club
02/25 -- London, UK -- Old Blue Last
02/27 -- Glasgow, UK -- Broadcast
02/28 -- Bristol, UK -- Start the Bus
03/01 -- Brighton, UK -- Green Door Store (w/ Alex G)
03/03 -- Paris, France -- Espace B
03/04 -- Antwerp, Belgium -- Trix Bar
03/05 -- Haarlem, Netherlands -- Patronaat
03/06 -- Zeewolde, Netherlands -- Where The Wild Things Are Festival
03/07 -- Berlin, Germany -- Bang Bang Club
03/13 -- Boston, MA -- Great Scott LP release (w/ Palehound, Lair & Cloud Becomes Your Hand)
03/14 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn LP release (w/ LVL UP, & Cloud Becomes Your Hand)
03/15 -- Harrisonburg, VA -- Crayola House (w/ Ava Luna)
03/16 -- Raleigh, NC -- Neptune's (w/ Ava Luna)
03/17 -- Atlanta, GA -- The Cleaners (w/ Ava Luna & Warehouse)
03/18 -- New Orleans, LA -- Siberia (w/ Ava Luna & Native America)
03/19, etc. -- Austin, TX -- SXSW

February 15, 2015

Today's Hotness: The Prefab Messiahs, Red Sea, R.M. Hendrix



>> Editor's Note: We're not dead, we're just extremely sleepy, as the coroner once said of Alan Stanwyck.

>> We first encountered Massachusetts’ superb psych-rock concern The Prefab Messiahs when they played The Lilypad with (who else?) Lilys back in 2013. While new to the publication then, the group's origins lie in the early 1980s, an era that for regional indie rock fans is synonymous with the truncated initial reign of legends Mission Of Burma. However, post-punk was only a slice of what the Bay State was cooking back then. The gentlemen behind The Prefab Messiahs reinvigorated their mojo in the past decade via a wealth of “DIY garage-pop-psych provocation.” This work, and the rubbing of shoulders with other garage-revival figureheads at the time of the quartet's 30th anniversary, has precipitated the imminent release of a new maxi-EP titled, awesomely, Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive. Coming out as a co-release on KLYAM and Burger on virtually every format but DataPlay (so 10" vinyl via KLYAM, cassette via Burger, and CDs and digital downloads, too), the whole eight-song shebang is the band's first new release in 32 years, and it hits racks on March 10. Burger makes a lot of sense for The Prefab Messiahs, as many of the respected label's lo-fi, neon, classicist power-pop acts indeed sound like the grandchildren of psych-pop’s first revival that occurred around the time that the ‘Fabs four-med.

Your first look at and listen to Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive comes via the overloaded, animated dose of a video for "Weirdoz Everywhere" posted above (longtime fans will also remember it was part of that aforementioned live set at The Lilypad). The EP kicks off with the tune "Ssydarthurr" which not only (re-)introduces the act’s freakbeat influences and straightforward tones, but also its low-key sense of humor, something that separates these gentlemen from many of their stone-faced peers. And that element, ultimately, is what so many adherents miss about the spirit of '67 at the acid gallery. Take Syd Barrett: for all of his pioneering sounds, he was not above the silly, sidelong lyric. The Prefabs' "College Radio" commences with some menacing staccato guitar work and slapdash backing vocals and echo effects, all the while cheekily celebrating left-of-the-dial culture with a supernatural twist. The title track (and EP highlight) rides a steady, mid-period Rolling Stones rhythm and a simple, soaring harmony throughout a delightfully wistful and catchy chorus. The stark march of "Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive" builds in the bridge to a chaotic ending, marking the tune as both an economical and flippant piece of pop gold. Keep an eye on the KLYAM digital storefront and the Burger web dojo for pre-order info for Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, which incidentally was engineered by sometimes-Lilys Doug Tuttle and Jesse Gallagher. -- Edward Charlton

>> We were excited to see another publication spill some ink for Atlanta art-rock quartet Red Sea and its terrific release In The Salon, which we wrote about here last year. The mini-album is seeing its first physical release in the form of a cassette from Bayonet Records, a new label co-run by Beach Fossils' Dustin Payseur and Katie Garcia (Ms. Garcia, if you don't know, was previously the label manager for Captured Tracks). And, boy, are we equally excited for Bayonet. Not only do the couple have the good sense and taste to release Salon, but they have introduced this reviewer to Red Sea scene mates Warehouse, as well. Presenting a scrappier, exuberant take on Red Sea's weirdo jazzy grooves, the latter band are now also firmly on our radar after just one listen to sophisti-punk lead single "Promethean Gaze." There, brilliant chord patterns, and Elaine Edenfield's Kim Gordon-esque vocals (which hit sarcastic low notes in a singular style that also recalls Red Sea) completely overwhelm. Both In The Salon and Warehouse's Tesseract are out later in March. Keep an eye on the Bayonet site for the launch of the online store and grab these fast, they'll likely move fast once the progressive indie movement takes over the country by storm [That's gonna happen, right? -- Ed.]. -- Edward Charlton



>> Boston DIY shoegazer R.M. Hendrix appears to be gearing up for a new record, and the proof is two wonderful demos he posted to Soundcloud recently. The first, a dark, hazy strummer titled "Half-Mast In Golden Light," takes you into its confidence via bending guitar chords, which drift between hard-panned drums as Mr. Hendrix looses a dreamy verse over top. Shortly after the song crosses the minute mark, spectral synth spreads over top the persistent strumming, pauses for a delightful, crumbling lead guitar interlude, and then returns. The tune is so strong in its demo form that we can't imagine it being improved upon, but we are always pleased when we're wrong about that sort of thing. The second demo, "Wolf On The Edges," is similarly arranged; it pursues a pulsing rhythm and gradually builds upwards from Axel Wilner-esque minimalism, employing soft, inevitable chord changes to achieve a tense, buzzing crescendo once Hendrix's subdued vocals give way. Any new collection would be Hendrix's first since Urban Turks Country Jerks, which was issued by Dallas-based Moon Sounds Records in April 2014; we wrote about that right here. Senior Writer Edward Charlton initiated our coverage of R.M. Hendrix right here in 2012, around the time of the release of Hendrix's Pink Skin EP. Stream "Half-Mast In Golden Light" and "Wolf On The Edges" via the Soundcloud embeds below.



February 3, 2015

Show Us Yours #24: Kindling



Attentive readers with fairly decent memories know that Clicky Clicky fell pretty hard for Western Mass.-based shoegaze duo Kindling early on, back when it was intent on building an open-ended catalogue of demos called Spare Room [link] in an apartment. Well, it turns out the little shoegaze pair that could -- comprised of bike shop guy and Ampere fronter Stephen Pierce and Gretchen Williams, whose proverbial bag is global health and human rights -- had a big 2014: releasing its beautifully blurred debut single "Spike & Wave" via Dallas-based Moon Sound Records; moving into a proper practice space; expanding its lineup to include dudes named Andy, Andy and Jonathan; and performing its first live gigs. And 2015 looks to be even bigger, as the now-quintet plans to record a couple times this month, including a shoe brand-sponsored session at Q Division Studios in Somerville, before starting to track a Kindling full-length later in the year. We decided to check in with guitarist and co-founder Stephen Pierce for an interview before things got too hairy, to learn more about Kindling's new rehearsal digs at Easthampton, Mass.' Sonelab and general goings-on. We thank Mr. Pierce for his time and attentiveness, and invite you to read our exchange below.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space? What makes it the best space for Kindling right now?

Stephen Pierce: Sonelab is great. It's a three-minute bike ride or drive from most of our houses, which is huge and makes it feel worth it for me to go down there even if just for an hour or so to work on ideas. It's a 24-hour space, too, which is nice when you can't start practice sometimes until 9pm. Because it's in a warehouse that otherwise hasn't been too developed (beyond the studio, the practice spaces, and two (!!) breweries), we don't have to really worry too much about disturbing anyone. A luxury, to be sure, for a loud band.

CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall Kindling sound? I imagine that might have been more of an issue before you moved into Sonelab, yeah?

SP: I think having the green light to get every amp going at once has had an impact on what full-band Kindling sounds like, sure. Like, when I'd plug in at home, or even when recording Gretchen's vocals for the 7", we'd be hyper-aware that we were right above the downstairs neighbor's living room. They're friends of ours, but that made us even more conscious of volume than we would've been had they been strangers. Like, it's easier to just say "fuck 'em, they can deal with it" if you don't know who you're inconveniencing. I guess I'd still feel pretty guilty about that, too. In any case, sound changes when it gets louder, and the songs that we had quietly written and recorded at home get a chance to open up now that we're A) a full band, and B) at Sonelab.

CC: You walk into your space. What's the first thing that you smell?

SP: Any sort of mix of old warehouse smells, like old wood, and lately solder if I've been working on wiring pedals. We never let it get so bad that it smells like old beer, but a world could exist where that may happen someday.

CC: I assume with the recording studio as part of the complex -- that's right, yeah? -- the spaces must be pretty well sound-proofed? Or can you only play when there are no sessions on? Does Mr. Pizzoferrato ever wander in?

SP: Well, the studio is definitely a part of it, but they have a good buffer between the studio and the rooms. I've never heard anything coming from the studio when I'm in our room, and they're super soundproofed, so I've got to imagine that they don't hear whatever's going on in the spaces. We can play whenever. The rooms themselves, though, will definitely experience bleed from neighboring rooms, but I don't think it would really ever be audible while playing except for, like, the quietest bands. No one's drowning anyone else out, I don't think.

With Justin, usually it's the other way around, where I'll go pop into the studio and hang out in his control room with him when buddies are recording, but that's not super often. I try to be conscious about how an outsider's presence may alter a band's studio experience or productivity or whatever. As ya do, I make sure that I'm not coming at the worst possible time before going in. You know.

CC: I didn't realize that Ampere was still a going concern until I saw some notices about recent shows.

SP: Ha, yeah! We're still at it. As long as people want us to do the occasional cool thing in a part of the world that we've never visited, we're down. Like, we're going to Sweden in April to play a single show. Ampere usually practices at Will's studio, Dead Air, in Leverett, which is about 30 minutes from Easthampton, but [we] recently practiced at the Kindling space for the first time. It was fun, but it just sounded and felt weirdly different. I'm sure it was mostly just the context of one band practicing where another band lives.

CC: Kindling has expanded since we first started writing about the band. Has that changed the songwriting process at all? Would you say Kindling is now more "bandy?"

SP: I mean, we're definitely a BAND and we definitely develop by interacting with each other's parts, but the writing process is still something I do at home or on my own at the space rather than at practice. I tend to get the song fully worked out and recorded before we try to start learning it together. The recordings streamline things, make it easier to communicate ideas, especially when you're a guy that isn't super comfortable with the idea of telling people what to do. I've been in bands with Andy, our drummer, since I was a teenager, though - so, really, the drums that I hear in my head when working on the songs at home end up syncing up perfectly with the sort of stuff he'd do. From exposure, Andy's become the drummer in my head, which definitely makes things easy and fast on that end.

CC: So you are the sole songwriter then? Does Gretchen contribute lyrics, or is that all you as well?

SP: No, I'd hesitate to say that I'm the sole songwriter. When you bring other people into a creative thing, whatever you start with becomes a lot more fluid. There's an ebb and a flow. Gretchen brings a lot to shaping the songs, and often the recordings that I begin with will be edited to, like, change a lead or something based on her feedback. It's really important to the band, I think, to have her as a creative partner. It forces me to think outside of myself, which can be hard for me to do after spending, you know, a full day playing the same riff over and over, then listening back to that riff. New ideas that I wouldn't necessarily land on by myself come from that. And lyrically, it's a split responsibility. We started the band together, and I'd never ever want to downplay how important a role she plays in what the end-product is.

CC: All that aside, what do the next six months look like for Kindling?

SP: We're recording a few times [this month] -- two days with Justin, and one day at Q Division in Somerville for a Converse Rubber Tracks session. They have a few pieces of cool gear there that I've never used before, like an Echoplex EP-3 and a Roland Space Echo, so we wrote a song kind of designed to make the most of that stuff. Not too far after that, we'll be going back to Sonelab to record a full-length, which we're just about done working on. The hope is to spend a few weekends playing shows - like New York/Brooklyn, Boston, Philly or wherever makes sense - with friends' bands, but I guess with the recordings coming up so soon, we'll think harder about firming that sort of thing up after we're done. I think it's best for me to only be super-focused on one thing at a time. There's a good deal of insanity, by the way, that goes into our process. All of which [is] on my end.
Moon Sounds Records plans to issue "Spike & Wave" on cassette, according to this Facebook status, so for those of you who feel the vinyl 7" isn't quite anachronistic enough for you, take heart! Apparently, the 300-piece initial pressing of the single to vinyl is dwindling, so if you want one of those, you'd best get on that now. We premiered the single right here in July, and we are very much looking forward to hearing the planned new recordings.

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls | Earthquake Party! | Hallelujah The Hills | Seeds Of Doubt | The Cherry Wave | Coaches | Night Mechanic