December 18, 2014
I WILL WRITE A MYSTERY FOR YOU TO SOLVE: An Oral History of Lilys' Astonishing Eccsame The Photon Band
|| by EDWARD CHARLTON || This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Lilys' powerful and mysterious Eccsame The Photon Band, a unique collection even among the oeuvre of Kurt Heasley, the band's notably restless songwriter and only constant member. For our money, it is certainly one of the most engaging -- if underheard -- indie rock albums of the '90s. Like a lot of great music, the album's creation owes a debt to that rare and singular cocktail of youth: chance, environment and a positive open-mindedness shared among the four men who created it. "Behold and open to the light," translates the title -- a sentiment that seems to have guided the principals behind it from the foursome's very first minute together.
As we listened to Mr. Heasley, drummer Harry Evans and producer Rich Costey tell the story of the album, we found that Eccsame The Photon Band was a roughly month-long flash of exhaustive inspiration -- a gnawing, melodic, experimental expression that sprang into being so suddenly it felt as if it were over nearly as soon as it had begun. Despite that, the music and production contained therein has continued to resonate with those involved, as well as with a fanatical cult following attracted to its atypical dream-pop charms. Among those, cryptic lyrics, crestfallen textures, occasional moments of loud guitar and a spiritual and devastating silence all continue to stun. To mark the aforementioned anniversary, Clicky Clicky spoke with Mssrs. Heasley, Evans and Costey about the summer of 1994, discussing a wide-range of topics including the philosophies, drum sounds and even the studio weeping that birthed a rare and unique aural document.
"I can't deviate out of the moment -- you get into the game of expectations, then you get into the game of disappointment," Heasley tells Clicky Clicky from his present home in Los Angeles. The sentiment arrives early in our conversation about the album, and it quickly becomes apparent that Eccsame was (and is) something of a mission statement for just that mentality.
The genesis of that notion came two years prior to the creation of Eccsame, spurred by some of the negative reception to Lilys' magnificent and now-legendary 1992 shoegaze debut full-length, In The Presence of Nothing. "I had no idea people would listen to this," he says of that collection, "Much less feel so strongly [about it]. It was ultimately just a group of friends making something in a basement for a few hours. I took it as the most extreme feelings [from some in the scene] of being left out of their own party."
Disappointed, but confident in the power of his on-the-fly approach, Heasley began to see how the band's process might function in the face of more standard and predictable musical norms.
In the wake of the flawless, power-pop injected A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns EP that was released the next year, Heasley made some life changes that would further create the conditions for an experiment like Eccsame. "I had new urban experiences because I had moved from Lancaster [Pennsylvania] into Philadelphia proper, living with some incredible people," he said, "Joey Sweeney let me sleep on his girlfriend's couch for weeks. It was just this ongoing live/work/play space and the amount of literature, cinema and old records that I was being turned on to for the first time was great. There, I had the feeling of going from 22 to 23, and the prevailing wisdom that 23 is the best worst year of your life. Slowly, there were responsibilities creeping in and the realization that 'this is not a dress rehearsal.'"
At the same time, the alternative/grunge zeitgeist of the prior several years was beginning to breed bad vibes. Not only did Kurt Cobain's death in the spring of '94 mark a dramatic shift in the mood of rock culture, but recent records by Talk Talk's Mark Hollis and Pale Saint's Ian Masters alerted Heasley to the loss of fidelity and subtlety in those buzzing times. "Those gated drums in '92," he exclaimed with a sigh. A trip to a Broadway production later that year would also make an impression on him. "Listening to what a five-piece pit orchestra could do literally blew me apart. Working from that level where everyone plays their part and has mastered themselves revealed a new world."
In the winter following the release of A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns, Heasley began sketching out some ideas with friend Art DiFuria on shaker and drums. Those recordings would ultimately be released on 2000's Tigerstyle Records split with Aspera Ad Astra. As a historical document, the four songs reveal a remarkably clear vision of the minimal, dreamy sound that would ultimately define Eccsame -- what Stylus Magazine writer Andrew Unterberger described as "Not influenced by shoegazing as a genre, but rather as a principle."
It was time to enter the studio.
a converted turn-of-the-century Colt firearms factory in Hartford, Connecticut. It was also at that point that Harry Evans of power-pop standouts Poole and producer Rich Costey entered the picture.
Evans had known Heasley for a few years by '94, and had played on every Lilys release beginning with Presence. The two first met due to being physically larger guys in the scene who looked similar and both showed up at the same music store. "I was shopping there and somebody called me (Kurt's nickname) 'Wally' and I was like, 'no, I'm Harry!'" Evan says, laughing, "We happened to be at the store at the same time eventually and recognized each other due to that mix up. We started hanging out and eventually he asked me if I wanted to play drums for him. He played me "February Fourteenth" and I was like 'What the hell! Of course!'"
Following the release of A Brief History and the subsequent shows for that record, Heasley approached him with an idea. "Kurt was like, 'I want to make a record, and I want it to just be you and me.' He booked a lot of time. I hadn't heard any of the material, but he said we could learn it in the studio. Having faith in anything Kurt does, I agreed immediately," Evans reflects. That summer, the two loaded up a van with gear and made the trek to Hartford. There, they met producer Costey and engineer Mike Deming. Costey had been chosen based on work he had done with scene compatriots The Swirlies.
"I was doing a few records for spinART around that time, and at some point I ended up on a phone call with Kurt," Costey remembers, “He was an interesting character on the phone, and I still remember my first phone call with him -- rambling on and on whilst puffing on cigarettes the whole time. We must have connected somewhat. I liked the psychedelic aspect to [Lilys'] music a lot, based only on the album they had out the year before, and given the general monochromatic, conservative landscape of American grunge at that time, Kurt's music struck me as being a total technicolor garden. I had worked with The Swirlies, whom I think he begrudgingly respected, but those two bands were actually quite different in approach. The Swirlies were fighting their own limitations whereas Kurt never saw or felt any limitations at all... [He] was inventing his own landscape."
Setting up on the first day, Heasley and Evans filled out Studio .45's large, single-room with their instruments. Beginning at dusk, the duo at first had a hard time connecting. "On the first day we set everything up, Kurt was going to guide me through the songs," said Evans, "We started recording really late, but it was just not clicking. The first song we were working on was "FBI And Their Toronto Transmitters." Eventually I got super frustrated. While I had told myself initially that I was going to be really sober and work as hard as possible during the session, we ultimately took a break and I got REALLY high. We went back in and nailed it in the first take. I was like, "Aw, this is really disappointing (chuckles)."
"For the first 10 days Costey probably didn't think they were songs!," Heasley added.
After these initial hurdles, the duo settled into a groove, with Evans adapting to Heasley's ideas and advice regarding drumming. "There was a methodical thought to the way that the fills were put together. He really helped me to curb my ego, and I was willing to say 'I will listen to your ideas.' Ultimately, they proved to be great ideas. I had to be open," Evans remembered.
The songs gradually came together over the ensuing weeks, and many of the album's iconic textures began to take focus -- specifically, the massive, roomy drum sound that many Eccsame cultists rave about.
Costey recited the technical details for accomplishing this with aplomb. "The drum sound was a combination of several things: the hard, open space that the live room at Studio .45 presented; a precisely placed AKG 414 placed in between the kick and snare drums, aimed at the floor... heavily compressed with a Spectrasonics 610 compressor; and also the minimal and incredibly powerful, tasteful playing of Harry Evans. Listening to it today, it seems a study in how a drummer should play to the sound presented to him or her, as opposed to the other way around."
Mike Deming is also credited by the other three as being instrumental to the presentation. "I’ve got to credit him for that drum sound. He was a twisted, evil audio genius. He was crazy and so into what he did on a micro level," said Evans, referencing at least obliquely the album's often overwhelming negative space, best heard in the long, faraway intro and subsequent eruption of focus on "The Turtle Which Died Before Knowing."
Other subtle, genius moments were entirely due to chance. On some songs, different takes were mixed together and the resulting edits created things that thrilled everyone in the control room. "A couple of those moments where the vibrato on the guitar shifts patterns -- we couldn't have planned that, but that's the thing! We were open not necessarily to it being correct, but to it being right for what it was," Heasley said.
"The Hermit Crab," "Kodiak (Reprise)" and "Radiotricity" all rock in places, despite being composed mostly with clean, bass string strums. Costey explains that the amping of the guitars went a long way in lending huge power to a quiet source, "One simple thing Kurt was doing with his guitar sounds at the time was to run two different tremolo pedals into two different amps," he said, "It's really simple, of course, but it made for an off-kilter, drunken, gurgling guitar sound that completely shaped the feel of the record."
Elsewhere, such as on the down-tempo lullaby-pop of "Day Of The Monkey," Costey sampled Evans' drums to create a hypnotic loop, later adding room recordings of him playing along to himself to add to the overall sonic fantasia.
The collaborative aspect between the four also played a key role in the shape of the album. "He had done Swirlies records," said Heasley of Costey, "So I was like 'throw me whatever note you think should be in this melody.' I think you can only do so many records where that special and fun ability exists."
As the sessions wrapped up, it was also clear that the process of achieving the album's menthol-cool psychedelia had thoroughly exhausted Heasley. Much of the tracking came down to the wire, and many of his vocal parts had to be recorded at the end in a prolonged series of takes.
"I spent the final 18 hours of tracking in the vocal booth," Heasley recalled, "By the time we were working on "Hubble" I was completely drained by the process, from all these different drives that went into the album. You can hear me crying at one point. I couldn't even stand, I was propped in a chair." Costey, aware of the strain and the reality of the moment, let the tape run. What followed was personal, uncomfortable and brilliant.
It's apparent when Heasley talks about "Hubble" that the song is special to him, referring to it as the closing sequence of the booster of the space shuttle falling to Earth. More importantly, it's a fitting end to the hyper-productive sessions that produced a collection of songs that were not only spacey-sounding, but physically so. Costey took the tapes to Water Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey and Philip Glass' The Looking Glass studio in New York for the rest of the post-production. There, he added many of the synth textures and final mixing details. SpinART had the album out by the end of the year.
And then... it was over.
"Kurt moved to California, I believe, shortly after we made the record," said Evan. "I feel like nobody really got it, understood it or appreciated it when it came out." No shows were played to support the release, which somehow makes the recording all the more mythical.
"Nanny In Manhattan" (a version of which was recorded during the Eccsame sessions but lost with the master tapes) broadening the exposure of the band and leading to a record deal with Sire. Evans would continue a successful run as the frontman of indie pop savants Poole, an act that also recorded for spinART. Lastly, Costey would use his resume with bands from the East Coast dream-pop and 'gaze scene to begin work in Los Angeles, eventually engineering and producing a seemingly endless list of big-name musical personalities including Sigur Ros, Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, Foo Fighters and self-professed Swirlies fans Mew, among many others.
Despite the very abrupt end to the Eccsame phase of Lilys, and the scattering of its participants, it is apparent that the three remember the time in the studio fondly, and all have an unshakable faith in the final product.
"I felt pretty good about the album when we had finished it," Costey adds, "It seemed fresh, inventive, and colorful. Kurt's writing isn't miles away from Syd Barrett territory, but as opposed to Syd, Kurt's lyrics were open and personal. I had hoped that it would be recognized a bit more for what I felt was something pretty unique at that time: Psychedelic indie with heavy fuzz, samplers, and 808s -- but it seemed to never really get the attention it deserved. Kurt went straight to The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies [as the template] for his next album and finally had his talent recognized, but in the process it had always felt to me that Eccsame was just overlooked."
Most importantly though, the sense of trust between the album's principals appears to be the most defining and memorable part of the era. Listening to Evans and Heasley, in particular, speak of their relationship during that time illuminates a connection between kindred souls, a pair determined to create and build as a unit.
"I could never have that kind of naive trust again. You basically get [it] once." Heasley added somberly.
At times during this reflection, it shows that both might harbor some desire to work together again. In the age of '90s dream-pop band reunions, with acts including Slowdive, Medicine, Ride and My Bloody Valentine thrilling audiences once more, it wouldn't be seem that unusual for an influential lineup of Lilys to get back together, hopefully even for new music.
"He knows that I'm willing to work with him anywhere, anytime. At the drop of a hat, I'm in," Evans proclaimed, ever the dedicated bandmate, ignoring the thousands of miles between them.
That possibility is a dream for this blog, at least, and it is dreaming big that brought together those men in 1994 -- hedging their bets on chance and understanding. But big dreams can live on in unusual ways, and funny enough, it is because of the Lilys that this scribe first spoke to this editor at Clicky Clicky some five years ago. And, because of all of that, it has ultimately brought you, dear reader, to what may not yet be the final chapter in the story of a very special and evolving piece of art.
"Behold and open to the light."
Currently, Eccsame The Photon Band is out of print (spinART folded in 2007), and both CD and vinyl copies command steep prices in the collectors' market. Heasley has been negotiating the reissue of In The Presence Of Nothing and two other unspecified titles, and also the release of new music, according to news we reported here in March. Through the murky magic of the Internet, you can listen to selections from Eccsame via the YouTube playlist posted below. -- Edward Charlton
SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
In Bloom: Lilys Poised For Massive Resurgence; New Music, Reissues And Live Performances Planned
That Was The Show That Was: Lilys with Prefab Messiahs | Lilypad | 15 June
That Was The Show That Was: Lilys | Lilypad | 25 May
A N D I F O R G O T A L O N G T I M E A G O H O W Y O U F E E L : ten now acts perform selections from the early recordings of Lilys, 1991-1995
20: Lilys | In The Presence Of Nothing
Today's Hotness: Lilys
YouTube Rodeo: Lilys' Amazing "YCJCYAQFTD," "A Nanny In Manhattan," "Baby's A Dealer"
Footage: Lorelei Cover Lilys' "February 14th" | Slumberland 20th Anniversary
Today's Hotness: Lilys
Today's Hotness: Lilys
750 Times The Same Song: It's All About The Lilys
December 17, 2014
Another year. And one in which, frankly, we didn't get to spend nearly as much time enjoying music, experiencing it live and interacting with the cool people who make it, as we would have liked. There was a lot of life lived in 2014, a fair amount of crap to deal with. But all of it made the music we did listen to all the more precious to us. Listed below are the songs we carried in our head through long hours of work and all-too-fleeting hours of leisure, sometimes just during a dark 6AM walk or a, well, dark 5PM trot to the parking garage from the office. Oh sure, there were other massive tunes and tunes of note: who can forget Johnny Foreigner's insanely great cover of The Wannadies' legendary single "Hit?" Playlounge's fuzz-ball anthem "Zero?" The War On Drugs' entrancing "Under The Pressure?" Or basically all of She Sir's phenomenal Go Guitars? But, as we said introducing last year's list, the 10 songs listed below were the songs we sang to ourselves most throughout the year, and the songs we consumed most often according to a messy pastiche of ITunes playcounts and Last.FM scrobbles or whatever. Sure, there was no shortage of incredible songs this year, and our aim here is to make sure you hear at least these 10. But before you dive in, we'd like to acknowledge the crucial contributions to Clicky Clicky of Senior Writer Edward Charlton and Staff Writer Dillon Riley. When we are in our busy spells such as the one we're swirling in presently, these guys ARE the blog, they ARE the brand, and we sleep soundly at HQ knowing they are out there in the trenches of indie rock when we can't be. So thanks to them, and thanks to you for reading the blog this year. Expect to see a year-end list or two from Mr. Riley, as well as our own year-end albums list, before Christmas rolls around. We leave you with a quote from the immortal Homer J: "No, no, no, don't stop a'rockin'."
1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Le Schwing" -- You Can Do Better [buy]
This is a classic Johnny Foreigner ripper, sort of in the vein of "The End Is The Beginning" from way back in the demo days, but better, because somehow this band keeps getting better even 10 years on into its existence. It's also sort of a throwback to the sort of tunes that the band was writing for Grace And The Bigger Picture, songs about touring the world and messing up relationships at home. It certainly doesn't hurt that the band released a tremendous video to go along with the tune to coincide its recent South African tour. All of the Birmingham, England noise-pop titans' 2014 long-player You Can Do Better [review] is terrific, and we suppose we could just have easily have chosen "Shipping" or "Stop Talking About Ghosts" -- whose defenestrating chorus "the hardest part is letting go" may be the biggest chorus on the album. But there is something so comforting about this one. Cross those fingers that somehow -- with all of the personal stuff going on in the lives of the bandmates next year -- we get Johnny Foreigner back on U.S. soil for a tour in 2015 to support Lame-O's domestic release of the set. Devestator....
"...flew into America looking for a revelation, ended up in Washington, got our shit stolen..."
2. Krill -- "Turd" -- Steven Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears [buy]
Honestly, sometimes we think "Fresh Pond" is the better song. Hell, even the title track from Krill's 2014 EP Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears is incredible. But there is something perfect about the central metaphor of "Turd," and how its coarseness plays against the bright but tangled intellectual exercises fronter Jonah Furman is working through with his lyrics. Over and above that, it is the stirringly honest sentiment -- so uncommon among the set-piece artifices of rock music -- that makes the tune so special. As we said in our non-review [non-review] of the EP, if you'll permit us to quote ourselves: "The more we listen to Steve the more the narrative recedes, and the more we just hear the line from "Turd" over and over: "If I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier?" Real talk. What a song. What a record. We can't wait to hear Krill's next LP, which will be issued in February.
"...if I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier..."
3. Lubec -- "Sunburn!" -- The Thrall [buy]
Spoiler alert: Lubec's The Thrall is in our year-end album's list, too, and that's because all of the record is as strong as this incredible song. But let's just focus on this one for now. The production is beautifully dreamy, the vocal lines breathy and somnolent and referencing the classic Heasley/Sorrentino sounds from the earliest Lilys recordings. But there's also tremendous guitar playing here, vocals that reference Classical mythology, superlative melodies that cascade around the listener as every element in the arrangement seems to dance gracefully around where the song leads us, like birds coaxing the listener to follow. So much is happening on "Sunburn!" Why the exclamation point? We don't know. But "Sunburn!" teaches us to not question the process, because the results are so amazing. We reviewed The Thrall here in September.
"...what comes next when nothing is enough..."
4. Beach Slang -- "American Girls And French Kisses" -- Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP [buy]
At first we actually thought this number was a bit corny. But it is just so outrageously catchy, the pace and energy so invigorating, the stutter at the chorus, and the forthright emotion driving it all so wildly engaging. Dare we say it recalls the great Jawbreaker, as does the rest of the terrific Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP. Simple hooks, straightforward emo punk: even here there can be magic. It's exceptional songs like "American Girls And French Kisses" that reward the optimism of the serious music fan. The real headscratcher is why Beach Slang tucked this tune away as track three on this EP. But one listen will certainly lead to 30, maybe even 50, and then an hour or so trolling YouTube for live clips (there are some good ones, too). More songs like the four on this EP and we fear Beach Slang will become so successful that we'll get sick of them. But sick of this song? Probably never.
"...I hope when I die I feel this alive..."
5. Benjamin Shaw -- "You & Me" -- Goodbye, Cagoule World [buy]
Here's another tune sort of hidden away -- track six on Benjamin Shaw's wonderful seven-song set Goodbye, Cagoule World. But Clicky Clicky, as we've trumpeted many times before, will not be thwarted when it comes to finding the best jams, no matter where bands try to hide them. Label Audio Antihero made an uncharacteristically brilliant move in October, re-releasing the tune as the lead track on an EP alongside some truly stunning covers of same from other acts in the AAH stable, and we highly recommend that release to your attention. And each cover version underscores what a terrific song Mr. Shaw has here in "You & Me," from the charmingly comedic and sardonic lyrics to the affecting melody. Not content to just make a remarkable pop confection, of course, Mr. Shaw also richly appoints the tune with fine touches, like the tremeloed organ tucked into the right channel. Shaw is a treasure, and we hope he takes half as much satisfaction from his work as we get from it, and that he continues for a long, long time to come.
"...save a decade for a new leaf, and a hostile reception, for you and me..."
6. Pile -- "Special Snowflakes" -- "Special Snowflake" b/w "Mama's Lipstick" [buy, only three left]
Oh God the weight, the endlessly cool heaviness, the crooked and explosive mega-blues of Pile's "Special Snowflakes." Seeing Pile play this one live at the completely INSANE Mean Creek record release show last spring might be our live highlight of the entire year. The songcraft of Rick Maguire is stunning, and perhaps never more so than on this single, an almost-suite filled with metal parts, whipsmart dynamic, wildly inventive drumming, and Mr. Maguire's limber, stentorian vocals, whose contortions illuminate his dark lyrical imagery. But, oh God the weight. Pile. PILE.
"...now it's too tough to tell if ever he was real..."
7. Speedy Ortiz -- "American Horror" -- Real Hair EP [buy]
It continues to be Speedy Ortiz's world, and we're all just living in it, and the band's towering 2014 EP Real Hair certainly made us feel fortunate about it. The lead track from the short set, "American Horror," offers generous helpings of scraping guitar greatness, with textures and melodies reminiscent of the big rock sounds of Pavement's Brighten The Corners or a heavier reading from the book of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Fronter Sadie DuPuis' narrative of dealing with a loved one's struggles is gripping, and how she modulates her voice from the song's final chorus to its final moment is one of our favorite things about 2014, period. We've been singing this one in our head all year, and we don't really see that stopping any time soon.
"...baby ya feel so crazy, you keep me up for a whole week..."
8. Soccer Mom -- "It's Probably Not Your Fault" -- Soccer Mom [buy]
"Probably." Leave's some room, doesn't it? Soccer Mom and its self-titled LP should have been the biggest story in the Boston scene in 2014; unfortunately the act has already called it a day. If it's any consolation, we've still got their amazing record. Ironically, "It's Probably Not Your Fault" deals a bit with consoling, seemingly with coping with powerful loss. Co-fronter Dan Parlin's singing is gripping, and the melodies in the song are very engaging. But it is the bludgeoning, excoriating ending that provides the tune's most exciting and dangerous moments.
"...hopefully can replay what's left on my mind, it takes all day..."
9. The Weaks -- "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" -- The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die EP [buy]
The best thing about this song is that it is actually more than two minutes long. Well, OK, that's not the best thing, but it makes us laugh every time we listen. The Weaks, emo's little band that could, decisively delivers on this kinetic belter. Massive choruses, pick slides, crushing drumming and clobbering bass playing render "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" undeniable. Co-fronter Evan Bernard's lyrics ring so true, his singing is so unassailably so heartfelt, that it's hard to believe The Weaks haven't made a mint on just this song alone.
"...Dreams ending in white picket fences, dreams ending, the world isn't quite so big..."
10. White Laces -- "Skate Or Die" -- Trance [buy]
On an album that captures the sound of a band almost literally growing, this track in particular presents Richmond futurepop goliaths White Laces just totally going for it. Powerful rhythm tracks propel the song, furnishing a foundation for the tune's ricocheting, chiming melodies. Fronter Landis Wine's vocal become increasingly desperate and exercised as "Skate Or Die" rockets to its thrilling conclusion. Then, quietly, the song's final moments quietly shudder, reiterating its opening seconds, a twitching, winking film of oil shifting on a membrane that provides a subtle indication that the tune is a Jeff Zeigler production. "Skate Or Die" is ripe with huge moments, the kinds of moments that make it among the best songs of 2014.
"...you say it's fine, you won't come down, you want the lights, but hate the sound..."
December 11, 2014
[PHOTO: Big Ups by Dillon Riley] Even in a year brimming with killer split single releases, the Big Ups/Washer 7" from last month looms very large. Big Ups' side of said media is particularly hot, the sound of an act embossing an exclamation point on a breakout year. The New York band's debut LP Eighteen Hours Of Static, issued by Dead Labor/Tough Love at the beginning of 2014, was a howling mass of seething post-hardcore rage that drew wide-eyed attention from Clicky Clicky HQ. But for whatever reason the act doesn't frequent these parts often, so last week we dropped our pencils and vintage X-Puck 'zines to take in Big Ups' outsized rock sounds at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City.
As a frontman, Big Ups' Joe Galarraga cuts a particularly compelling figure. He preens and struts in the manner of Jagger, and is prone to wrapping the mic cord around his neck during instrumental bits like Iggy. He wields a remarkably emotive voice, one as likely to deliver low, gravelly tones as it is lacerating screams; Big Ups' best tunes utilize both. Its side of the aforementioned 7" was aired during the act's set that Friday night, as well as a particularly brutal take on "Justice" from Eighteen Hours Of Static [link], and a few tunes teasing a likely forthcoming record were especially engaging. One of these newer jams illuminated a looser end of the band's sound, unwinding its focused attack a touch while incorporating nifty slide guitar.
Big Ups' strong set was but one highlight of the evening's absurdly stacked bill. Boston downercore heavyweights Kal Marks opened the night, proffering a few numbers from its own recently released Just A Lonely Fart EP, along with a steady helping of of songs from their still-stirring Life Is Murder long-player. Kal Marks have graced these electronic pages many times, and deservedly so. The act's sludge-y channeling of America indie when experienced in the figurative flesh makes for a particularly visceral experience, felt in the body via the sympathetic nervous system as much as it is down in the ear canals. Last week's set -- and the subsequent release show that transpired at a Lower Allston house over the weekend -- were among the best we've witnessed from the trio. It's new songs hit hard, and the band clearly is cresting a big wave as artists at the moment.
Boston bugcore titans Krill headlined. As is now public information, the act's new record A Distant Fist Unclenching [boing] will be released in February on Exploding In Sound. We've seen at least half the record performed live over the last six months or so, and, of course, the act purportedly played the thing front-to-back in August on Boston's fabled Pipeline live, local radio show -- but even so, we are totally stoked to hear the recorded realization of these tunes. The release of a new Krill record is an event the likes of which our (sub-)culture seems to not celebrate as much as in years past. In the meantime and here and now, Krill the live band is just as potent as ever, with regular moments of transcendence. Fronter Jonah Furman sheepishly copped to last week's show being their first in a month, a long gap for a band as active as Krill, but there were no figurative cobwebs to perceive. Dipping into more than a few numbers from Lucky Leaves [review] -- a relatively rare treat in light of the band's more recent setlists -- as well as some previews from the forthcoming Fist, Krill continues to prove to be the jewel of Boston's exceeding excellent music scene.
New York post-punkers Washer performed second, and the set featured an iteration of the previously mentioned split's tune "Rot," which is the duo's finest work to date. As a live entity, Washer present a convincing tossed-off charm, with occasional notes flubbed and between-song banter brief and often bitingly funny. They are indeed an excellent addition to the ever-growing Exploding In Sound family, to whom we wish, in the spirit of the season, much continued health and success. -- Dillon Riley
November 27, 2014
>> We've been listening again and again to a full-length issued earlier this month from a fellow named Robert Robinson called Connecticut River. It's a ridiculously engaging melange of bedroom pop, free-k folk and ambient exploration that somehow becomes more mysterious even as it reveals more and more of itself over the course of repeat listens. Clicky Clicky gets particularly jazzed about acts that create, furnish and inhabit singular sonic worlds, and Mr. Robinson and his Connecticut River Band (we are assuming the band exists, but would also not be surprised were it mirage) beautifully express a certain insularity or reverie with their loose, expansive compositions. Sometimes, as on the meandering instrumental album highlight "Chill Buds" or opener "Hocus Pocus," the songs stretch toward a distant horizon. While "Song for Popop" is a folksy and minimal bit of slow-core that recalls contemporary work by New Dog, the bulk of the proceedings has a free and psychedelic bent that makes the set as unpredictable as it is enjoyable. Indeed, the dazzling "Slice Raga" faintly echoes the finer moments of the Deerhunter oeuvre, and "Birds Majesty" sounds like an outtake from Pink Floyd's The Man + The Journey. Some light Googling tells us the prolific Mr. Robinson is the primary songwriter from long-running Western Mass. psych folk foursome Sore Eros, which is perhaps best known for its 2013 split 9" -- yeah, you read that right -- with notable Philadelphian Kurt Vile. But Connecticut River is so very impressive, it doesn't seem like it is simply tunes that are Sore Eros seconds or cast-offs. The set was released by Northampton, Mass.'s Feeding Tube records as a digital download Nov. 6, and we highly recommend it to your attention. Stream all of Connecticut River via the embed below and click through to purchase.
>> One can never be sure with the Johnny Foreigner folks -- especially as it wouldn't be terribly unusual for the legendary and Birmingham, England-based fight-pop survivors to issue a song for Christmas -- but at least presently it appears that the final release of 2014 from a member of its cohort is Fridge Poetry's slightly delayed but altogether excellent recent EP, Omstart Sessions. Fridge Poetry, as devoted readers know, is helmed by Johnny Foreigner drummer Junior Elvis Washington Laidley, and is a vehicle for Mr. Laidley's visceral and moving electropop compositions, which rely on guest vocalists to write and sing vocal parts. This latest, five-song set is actually a bit more rock- and guitar-oriented on the front end, but settles into a more blissed and electronic vibe on the final two numbers. The EP is highlighted by the bracing and twinkly emo anthem "Like Poetry," which features dynamite vocals from The Weaks' Evan Bernard, and the burbling closer "Waste Time (CrashDown Redux)." An entrancing video for that latter cut was premiered at Punktastic yesterday, and we humbly suggest that after you've wrapped up your business with Clicky Clicky this day you click this hyperlink and take a gander at said video. Other featured vocalists on the Omstart Sessions EP include Clicky Clicky fave Pete Dixon of Calories and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Saam Watkins of London emo giants Playlounge, Emmalee Lovelace of Lint, Rob Slater from The Spills and Elos Arma. The EP is available as a standalone digital download, and also in a bundle with a t-shirt or three posters; the shirt art and posters were all designed by South African artist Anja Venter. You can peruse all of your purchase options by clicking through the Bandcamp embed below after you've streamed the EP, which is awesome, and what are you waiting for, and et cetera. Omstart Sessions was self-released Nov. 6. Johnny Foreigner released its titanic fourth LP You Can Do Better in March [review].
November 20, 2014
They come from the land down under, but their name is lifted straight from a track on The Sundays' legendary debut Reading, Writing & Arithmetic, which is the reason why Melbourne foursome Hideous Towns first caught our eye. The quartet's stirring shoegazey ballad "Undone" is set to feature on a forthcoming Beko Records comp titled Oz Do It Better Vol. 2, which is slated for release in 2015. But a little Googling tells us that the swaying noise-pop gem was included on a self-titled, debut EP Hideous Towns self-released just last month, and you can stream the entire short set via the Bandcamp embed below. We recommend you do, as the Aussie act -- which has apparently only been playing shows about a year -- certainly channels a Sundays vibe, although the dense guitar work and pretty vocals on "Undone" and elsewhere on Hideous Towns aren't as uniformly intricate or fluid as those of Sundays' David Gavurin and Harriet Wheeler, respectively. We admit the comparison is an unfair one, and we should be clear that the merits of Hideous Town's EP are many and should be celebrated separate and apart from the work of the UK legends (who are apparently a functioning operation again, we learned in recent days). Where The Sundays are more literal and dour, the Aussie act is more abstract and aggressive. "Undone" and its shuddering, gigantic chorus is undeniably the highlight of Hideous Towns, but the song's beauty and majesty are recreated on the succeeding track "Devolution," and the vocal harmonies in the relatively spare and placid closer "Pets" are riveting and affecting. Hideous Towns fête their self-titled EP with a release show Saturday night at Boney in Melbourne; the bill also includes Bad Family, Zig Zag and Basic Spirit. We imagine most readers aren't going to be hopping a plane to make the show, so take comfort in the fact that the favorable exchange rate means you can get the EP for less than a buck a song in USD. We think you will find that to be money well spent.
>> Who remembers 2010? Anyone? Maybe a few of you? No... OK. Well. Way back when we devoted some of our attention to the Parisian dream-pop project Her Magic Wand, which had just self-released a notable EP titled Catch A Rainbow. We were surprised to get an email from mastermind Charles Braud earlier this month, reporting that a new single from Her Magic Wand was in the offing, and directing our attention to the understated, perhaps Dntel-inspired electro anthem "Everything At Once." Mr. Braud tells us that "Everything At Once" concerns itself with the phenomenon of synesthesia, which he ably defines as "a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway and where letters or music can be perceived as inherently colored." The lyrics do much of the heavy lifting in driving this point home, but really it is Braud's dreamy delivery amid stormy, electric crescendoes that provides the most exciting moments of "Everything At Once." The song chases a desperate electro pulse, the rhythm tracks drawing out cool synth chords that deeply layer as the canned beats pile up and white out in the tune's smouldering choruses. The tune is a taster for a forthcoming full-length set recorded over the course of 10 months and mixed last summer by Stephane "Alf" Briat, who has worked with basically every French rock act you could name if given 30 seconds. We certainly recommend the single to your attention, and you can stream it via the Soundcloud embed below; click through a link there to purchase that jawn from Apple's ITunes digital music store.
We feel compelled to mention here that at this point Apple = "The Man;" the company presently touts a market capitalization of $676 billion dollars and recorded a net profit of $8.5 billon dollars for its 2014 fiscal fourth quarter closed Sept. 27. Read about the alleged human rights abuses attributed to the company right here. If we choose to, we can make the world a better place. How's all of that for a tangent?
>> Nervy and spikey post-punk has been the Brighton, England-based Faux Discx label's stock-in-trade, and it is backing a winner in a forthcoming single from the sorta supergroop Primitive Parts. The trio is comprised of a who's who from label affiliates Cold Pumas, Sauna Youth and Male Bonding, and its new offering is the single "TV Wheels" b/w "The Bench," which you can stream in all of its glory via the Bandcamp embed below. B-side "The Bench" in particular is a strummy and cool hip-shaker, just a little bit of attack on the guitars, tambourine and hand-claps driving an inevitable groove toward a gloriously rudimentary guitar solo that emphasizes the band's garagey bona fides. "TV Wheels" would sell tens of thousands of singles if it were a new Dandy Warhols song, but we don't imagine that Faux Discx will be able to keep the single in stock no matter who recorded it, as the two-minute tune is air-tight (indeed, some pre-orders have already shipped). Primitive Parts previously issued in February its debut single "Open Heads" b/w "Signal" on Sexbeat, and also had its cover of The Yummy Furs' "Chinese Bookie" featured on Faux Discx's 2013 comp Collective Hiss. Faux Discx releases "TV Wheels" b/w "The Bench" Monday as a 7" single in a humble paper sleeve with insert, pressed in a limited edition of 300 pieces. Primitive Parts are planning a UK tour for 2015. We previously wrote about Cold Pumas here two years ago; the act disclosed in September it had recently wrapped recording on its own sophomore effort.
November 17, 2014
We turned on to Portland quartet Night Mechanic early this fall, after seeing the act was sharing a record release show with Clicky Clicky faves Lubec. It took us a while to get back to and plug into the record, Night Mechanic's third, but we're glad we did. Day Surgery touts an engaging, jittery and melodic sound reminiscent of Keep It Like A Secret-vintage Built To Spill, Wolf Parade and even Michigan-based, MySpace-era also-rans Rain Is Wet. We suppose the band is unusual in the sense that its primary singer and lyricist is its drummer, Andre Coberly, who delivers emotionally charged sentiments over top of persistent new wave beats. The angular guitar melody of the verse and totally-going-for-it chorus of opener "Plywood Association of Nuts & Bolts" was enough to sell us on the whole package, which stretches out into territory both epic and majestic by the time the moving closer "Petite Bronze" winds down. All of the above prompted us to check in with Night Mechanic for our periodic Show Us Yours feature. Guitarist and keys wrangler Patrick Bayliss was kind enough to show us around the band's practice space, give us a feel for its particular environment, and to entertain our questions about what the street-level scene is like in the band's heavily touted hometown. We thank Mr. Bayliss for his time, and encourage you to click play on Day Surgery and listen along as you read about where Night Mechanic makes the rock. The band is already hard at work on a planned fourth set, so we expect this is not the last you'll hear from these guys.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space?Night Mechanic: Interzizzles | Facebook | Soundcloud
Patrick Bayliss: It's a 24/7 access space. Due to our schedules, we normally aren't able to get together until 9 at night, so being able to play until midnight or 1 a.m. on a Tuesday is really important. We used to take turns practicing in each other's basements but we didn't get as much time as we wanted to keep playing. We also wore our poor roommates' patience thin. My old house getting burgled didn't help with keeping it in the basement (luckily no gear was stolen). We needed to move into a space and they're tough to come by out here -- it was actually a pain in the ass trying to nail one down. Luckily, we found this one, [and] we've been here for a few years now.
CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall Night Mechanic sound?
PB: It's a fucked-up old warehouse (a weird Frankensteined/Lego kind of building) in an industrial part of Northwest Portland -- really weird structure. That alone jives with Andre's crazy lyrics. It's a pretty gritty building, which isn't a bad thing for a rock and roll band, so I think that atmosphere contributes to us banging it out and not being distracted, so we focus on the music -- playing loud and hard. Those elements kind of fit with our "working late" rock vibe. Our actual space in the building sounds pretty good, which is our favorite aspect about it. It must be something about the weird cork-board walls and the old carpet that absorbs the sound nicely... but it also gets hot as balls in there when we get going. We kinda like that, though. That sweaty environment helps make for a basement show vibe while we practice, which is great since our shows are about energy and feel (and for better or worse, volume).
CC: You walk into your space. What's the first thing you smell?
PB: Man musk, stale beer, old wood, amp tolex. One time there was some fruit in there that no one claimed, so it stuck around for a while. Glad we finally got rid of that shit. Some buddies of ours practice in a spot a couple doors down -- sometimes it smells like them... [LOL -- Ed.]
CC: Portland was heavily hyped at the tail-end of the last decade as having a very vibrant creative community and being very band-friendly. As with everything, public interest waxes and wanes and moves on to the next thing. Is it just the interest that has waned, though, or do you all perceive a difference between Portland today and the Portland of, say, 2010, in terms of being a place that nurtures bands? Feel free to lie if you are tired of bands moving to town...
PB: A bit of both. Maybe people got tired of hearing about it. It's a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's really great having so many creative people and so many great bands -- who doesn't like having a lot of awesome shit to go check out? On the other hand, it can be tough to rise above the noise because there's so much of it. There's always some hot new thing that can grab anyone's attention that seems like it just started last month and now it's huge.
Without trying to sound like an asshole, the quantity grew so the quality may not seem as rich as it did before -- but that's just because it isn't as obvious, since it's grown exponentially. Sometimes you have to look harder for the really sweet stuff, and the hype you mentioned doesn't have time for that. There are so many great fucking bands in this town, but on the other side of that coin, sometimes I feel like "the scene" lapped itself or can't keep up with itself all the time. Since there are so many goddamn bands out here, perhaps the sheer volume of it diluted or kind of cannibalized that special vibe/feeling you mentioned and described as waning. That's no one's fault, since everyone is contributing, but since it continued and grew for so long the feeling is bound to change or kind of blend in together a bit. Who knows. At least here in town I feel like maybe people are just getting tired of hearing their friends talk about one of the six bands they're in ("man, i saw you play on Wednesday and Saturday this week -- and you really want me to go see you on Monday, too?").
It's possible that people came out chasing/trying to have that "Portland" sound, and perhaps focused on that too much rather than just trying to do something they think is cool for it's own sake, you know? Whatever that produces would be easy to move away from. But due to the volume of bands and cool contributions, there are a lot more different kinds of sounds now than there used to be, so maybe that consciousness (or that "Portland sound") changed because it can't be recognized as the same thing since it changed -- and since it changed, the attention moved away because it wasn't as easily distinguishable. The city itself doesn't physically grow or expand enough to keep up with the influx of people who move here so that probably is the same for the music -- so perhaps the mother's milk ran a little dry... she just had too many pups and couldn't keep up with them all. But, despite that long tangent, there still is a ton of awesome music happening out here right now, and probably always will be.
CC: What do the next six months look like for Night Mechanic? Are there plans for getting out of town and touring to support Day Surgery?
PB: Right now we're having fun writing and practicing. We have a handful of new [songs] that we're tweaking and are currently throwing more on the pile. We're just having a good time and trying to write as much as possible between Blazer games. We did have to cancel some Seattle stuff in September when the record came out, so hopefully we'll be able to make that up and get back up there to play some shows -- maybe play around the Northwest some -- but no serious touring. We're looking forward to coming up with new songs and doing the next record.
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
November 13, 2014
[PHOTOS: Quinn Banford, special to Clicky Clicky] Fact: it's really hard to stay objective in regards to one of your heroes. New Order was, and in all honesty continues to be, a crucial band for the associates of Clicky Clicky Music Blog, and the sheer ridiculousness of seeing Peter Hook play Brotherhood, one of our favorite records of all time, was not lost on us Saturday night. What's more, Mr. Hook and co. did us one better: he and his outfit The Light (which includes Hooky's son, Jack Bates, on bass) opened for themselves with a handful of tunes from that other world-conquering band he was in, Joy Division. And so we descended upon Boston's Royale early Saturday evening to soak in sounds that in many ways make us what we are.
Opening with "No Love Lost," a selection from Joy Division's astonishing debut EP An Ideal For Living, the seven-song taster set spanned the Mancunian act's tragically short walk across the proverbial stage. One could deem it a primer for the budding Joy Division fan were it not for the fact that everyone in the full house already knew every last word. The band also offered "Transmission," "Shadowplay" and "Decades" in succession, a weighty run of tracks that stand among the truly essential post-punk documents.
Following an absurd pre-recorded stage announcement, the New Order section of the program took over. As noted above -- and on the ticket, mind you -- the band ran threw Brotherhood first and in its exact order, although all the advance warning didn't stop a few fans from crying out for "Ceremony" just two songs into the main event. We're particularly partial to the record's opening brace of tunes, but were just as willing to jump around to "Bizarre Love Triangle" as any other member of the decidedly mature crowd. Indeed, it should be noted our royal we that evening (including shadowy CC mercenary Quinn Banford) were among the few millennials taking in the show. Hooky and his cohort paused briefly following the final reverberating tones of "Every Little Counts" before reclaiming the stage to perform New Order's absolutely essential LP Lowlife front to back. The ping-ponging synths that herald the opening of "The Perfect Kiss” were precisely recreated to great applause, and the song was a notable high point of a performance filled with highs. Hooky and the boys returned yet one more time to run through a jaw-dropping encore featuring a gleeful rendition of "Blue Monday," a selection that elicited some truly inspired dancing from the crowd.
By 9:30 p.m. we were shuffled out the door so the club could change over and cater to a younger nightclub crowd that, were this 30 years ago, likely would have had a few New Order tunes waiting for them among the DJ's cache of 12 inches. The cycle of life... The full set list from Saturday night's show -- to the extent the running orders of the albums aren't internalized as part of your DNA at this point -- are viewable right here. Peter Hook & The Light's tour continues west until they land in Hawaii at the end of the month; thereafter the act heads back to the UK in December, and on to Australia in February. Dates can be found right here. -- Dillon Riley
Peter Hook & The Light: Internerds | Facebook