July 23, 2014

Review: Dikembe | Mediumship

First impressions can be tricky. Dikembe's debut EP Chicago Bowls, our introduction to the Florida-based emo foursome, memorably rechristened certain stars of the fabled mid-'90s Chicago Bulls championship squads with weed-related surnames, and -- to our knowledge -- the songs had little to do the EP's quasi-theme. That thematic dissonance detracted hardly at all from the music's inherent quality, and so the short stack helped establish the act as one to watch in the underground. The ensuing first full-length Broad Shoulders [review] followed a similar sonic template but eschewed the goofball song-naming scheme, to thrilling results, although Dikembe now bemoans what it calls a lack of cohesiveness to the set. And so, with its titanic second full-length Mediumship, the band aimed to craft a front-to-back, real-deal album, one that felt of a piece all the way through. The record is a resounding success.

The LP's book-ending tracks provide a tidy framework for the triumphant collection. "Even Bother" and its counterpart, the towering album highlight and closer "Throw Lips," each commence solemnly, respirated by sparsely strummed guitar and fronter Steven Gray's world-weary vocals. By midsong Gray and Co. are reeling, firing in all directions while propounding a propulsive beat amid the din. While the two songs rely on similar dynamics and structural elements, the latter is hardly a retread of the former, as the amazing chorus of "Throw Lips" touts brilliantly overlapping vocal lines. But both songs are among the heaviest hitters on an album replete with bangers. Sure, dynamic songwriting is hardly a new development for Dikembe -- indeed, they routinely cover loudQUIETloud standard bearers Pixies in their live sets, as they did again this past Sunday at Great Scott in Boston -- but the Floridians have never before wielded their guitar attack with such devastating focus.

A re-recorded version of early Dikembe track "Donuts In A Six Speed," which sits in the final third of Mediumship, provides an interesting benchmark for analyzing how far the band has come. The original recording, from a four-way split released by Count Your Lucky Stars, feels two-dimensional when contrasted with the new version. On Mediumship, and especially live, Dikembe's explosive performance creates space in which the guitars feel especially cutting, the fill-heavy drumwork from David Bell particularly vital.

Indeed, in a live setting the band's sharp shifts in volume and tone transpire with twice the intensity. The band opened its show Sunday with Mediumship's gritty lead single "Hood Rat Messiah;" the tune's steady build to its shout-along chorus neatly distills the sound that characterizes the entire new record. The show ended with the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?", but not before graciously dipping into the aforementioned back catalog, all of which elicited appreciative cheers from the assembled throng. The performances were terrific, but hearing cuts from Mediumship within the context of favorites from Chicago Bowls and Broad Shoulders made plain just how much the band has elevated its game with the new collection. Mediumship was released by Tiny Engines earlier this week on 12" vinyl and as a digital download, both of which can be purchased right here. The entire record can be streamed via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Dillon Riley

Dikembe: Bandcamp | Facebook



Previous Dikembe Coverage:
Introducing Clicky Clicky Live / Here's Episode 1 Featuring Dikembe's Steven Gray Today's Hotness: Dikembe
Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2012: Jay Edition
Review: Dikembe | Broad Shoulders

July 22, 2014

Review: Fire Island Pines | True Grit

We all have some idea of what it means to be subversive. And in an era when indie rock's prevailing influences are loud, gritty, angular and so-called "'90s acts" like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana (all of which, we should point out, first released music in the '80s), is it not just a touch subversive to embrace the New Romantic-descended pop propounded in the quieter, more refined corners of the '90s? We're talking about the first few The Sea And Cake records (not to mention the subsequent transcendent solo sets from principals Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt) or the work of Unrest, Eggs or even mid-period Haywood. We can't say whether Cornwall, England sextet Fire Island Pines has ever heard any of these latter American acts, and it is probably overstating things to say the band is bent on subverting the dominant paradigm, but the British six-piece's keen and anachronistic devotion to genteel indie pop on its sparkling debut True Grit makes the record as refreshing as its hooks are potent and breezy. The set is a very confident and competent collection from a five-year-old act ready for a substantially higher profile.

True Grit opens strongly with new, shinier versions of "You Didn't Mean To Hurt Me" and "Nineteen Fifteen," the lead tracks on 2011's Bratislava EP and last year's "1915" digital single, respectively. "You Didn't Mean To Hurt Me" unfurls over a self-assured beat and slightly funky bass playing, and bursts into bloom during the chorus as layered synth chords and horns stretch toward a distant horizon. "Nineteen Fifteen" positively soars, which belies somewhat fronter Anton Rothschild's wonderfully unsure equivocation "it's up to you, if you wanna stick around." Indeed, there is a delicious unease creeping within Fire Island Pines' ostensibly easy-going pop, a dimension that comes to the fore in the brilliantly realized album highlight "Bo Dep," which materializes from and decomposes into cinematic ambience, and alternates verses of palm-muted guitar and quavering vocals with bold, tastefully reverbed choruses appointed by majestic piano and horn. True Grit is back-weighted with ballads, but spreads its wings one final time with the thrilling closer "Sister Ruth." The tune teases with an intermittent, piano-anchored introduction, but accelerates quickly with layered guitars and vocals echoing one another over a bounding beat.

True Grit will be released Friday as a vinyl 12", CD, cassette and as a digital download. The vinyl 12" is being issued in a limited edition of 300 pieces by German label Firestation Records, who have pressed the collection to black vinyl. Firestation is also doing the honors for the CD version, which comes packaged with a four-page fold-out booklet. The band is handling the cassette release itself, and has a hyper-limited amount of same in an attractive package containing mint green media. All formats can be ordered via the Fire Island Pines Bandcamp page right here, and all of True Grit is streaming via the Soundcloud embed below. That the lads from Cornwall are putting out a record via a German label seems somewhat unusual, we suppose, but not when considered in context: the aforementioned "1915" single was issued by Minnesota's Manic Pop! label, and the digital download of the Bratislava EP was issued via the San Francisco-based collective Vulpiano (which also issued Mr. Rothschild's 2010 solo EP The Year Of The Kitten). That its label partners are relatively widely scattered underscores Fire Island Pines' broad appeal, and hopefully portends big things for the understated sextet.

Fire Island Pines: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud



Related Coverage:
YouTube Rodeo: Fire Island Pines' Transformative "1915"
Today's Hotness: Fire Island Pines
Today's Hotness: Fire Island Pines

July 21, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Kestrels with Adult Dude, Fake Boys, Soft Pyramids | TT The Bear's Place | 16 July



[PHOTOS: Dylan Stein] The notion of influence is particularly relevant when engaging with the music of Halifax-based shoegazers Kestrels. The act traffics in bountiful Creation Records-inspired swirling guitars, but Kestrels' brand of navel-gazery scans as far more self-realized than that of your average hip millennial nostalgists. Its songcraft and attention to detail pushes the Canadians' music beyond the realm of mere skillful homage; the songs buried underneath all the distortion and digital delay boast serious hooks, as their stripped-down, immediate live performance made plain when we saw the band last week. As fronter and guitarist Chad Peck puts it, these dudes live in the middle of the Canadian woods, not exactly a hotbed for progressive art, and yet the trio's approach to noise-pop -- and Mr. Peck's collection of Jazzmaster guitars -- speaks to a distinctive devotion to genre. We are fans of their most recent EP The Moon Is Shining Our Way, and were eager to see how the threesome reconstructed their wall-of-sound live when the act performed at TT The Bear's Place Wednesday.

Slotted third on the bill, Kestrels took to the TT's stage to a regrettable lack of fanfare. A sizeable crowd amassed front-of-house for Brooklyn-based fuzzstompers Adult Dude's preceding set, but significantly fewer stuck around for their Canadian tourmates. Poor decision-making, Boston, because Kestrels delivered a masterful set on the historic stage (one they expressed gratitude to be able to play upon). Opening with the title track of the aforementioned EP, the band punctuated its concise set with laudable instrumental interplay. While their music certainly favors texture over technicality, both Peck brothers (Devin handles bass duties for Kestrels) impressed in their own right, with Chad in particular laying down some impressive soloing amid stacked layers of squalling guitar. Drummer Paul Brown was no slouch either, applying thick Bonham-weight beats to a slow-churning rendition of Shining closer "The Double." Elsewhere, the band proferred some unreleased material, which evidenced more pronounced rhythmic variation without forsaking the thick guitars that characterize Kestrels' catalog to date. The earworm chorus of set closer "Eternal and Debased" days later continues to perambulate in our consciousness, rattling around along to the incessant ringing in our ears.

Local jangle-pop standouts Soft Pyramids, who we regrettably haven't heard from of late, opened with a pleasant set, while Lowell punks The Fake Boys batted cleanup. You can grab The Moon Is Shining Our Way on a 12" circular disc along with the accompanying digital files from Sonic Unyon right here. Care to try before you buy? Stream the entire EP via the embed below. -- Dillon Riley

Kestrels: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles



Related Coverage:
New Highway Hymnal, Speedy Ortiz, Kestrels, Soccer Mom | Radio | 8 March
Today's Hotness: White Laces, Soccer Mom, Airiel, Kestrels

July 17, 2014

Today's Hotness: Noveller, Thisquietarmy, Ultimate Painting

Noveller and Thisquietarmy -- Reveries (detail)

>> Just as we were in danger of wearing out our Auburn Lull Hiber cassette with an umpteenth zoned-out play, we were pleased to discover the similarly zone-worthy Reveries. The four-song set is the latest release from the international and experimentally inclined duo comprised by experimental guitar musicians Noveller (a/k/a Brooklyn's Sarah Lipstate) and Thisquietarmy (a Montrealer whose given name is Eric Quach). The pair's collaborative effort presents masterful exercises in guitar pedal drone, as evidenced by two sublime preview tracks. "Reverie 1" commences with a sustained sullenness before incrementally building steam via the application of layer upon layer of guitar signal treatments. Like some moments on the aforementioned Hiber, which we wrote about here in June, Reveries captures textures and sounds that simply do not sound like guitars, and in very compelling ways. Subtle and long-form melodies fill the first three minutes of "Reverie 1," and then -- at 3:22 -- something quite special transpires. Here a snappy, chiming melody manifests and dances atop the piece. Whatever the source instrument is, its tone is rich and soothing, leading one to wonder just how Noveller and Thisquietarmy -- whose press materials claim that they are a guitar duo -- are able to conjure such a sound. We may never know, but the effect is entrancing and psychedelic and comforts this reviewer with the knowledge that there are still artists out there driving the traditional six-string to new heights and into exciting sonic terrain. And like Hiber again, Reveries comes in a gorgeous package -- all stark white architecture against a PVC sleeve which houses a thick slab of 160g white vinyl. Shelter Press released Reveries July 1. Buy the vinyl, which is pressed in a limited edition of 500 pieces, right here, or snatch the digital download from Noveller's Bandcamp page right here. Then turn the lights out, will ya? -- Edward Charlton





>> Chicago label Trouble In Mind made news last month that we didn't want to let slip by, namely that it will issue in August a single from Ultimate Painting. The relatively new act, if you don't know, features James Hoare of the stellar London indie pop outfit Veronica Falls alongside Jack Cooper of Mazes. An eponymous preview track is as good a mission statement as the pair could hope for, and evidences that Ultimate Painting is in part a vehicle for Mssrs. Hoare and Cooper's classic rock leanings. Indeed, "Ultimate Painting" grooves in a rare and tasteful way, capturing the spirit of New York circa 1969. The tune touts a chin-out strut that evokes the Velvet Underground around the time of its self-titled third record, when clean electric guitars and a Mo Tucker beat were all that was required to spark youthful transcendence. A simple bass line chugs along to a steady snare cadence, keeping the pace but making room for dual guitars that trade in spare, bent licks. Plaintive, unadorned vocals enter, all quick lines and wordless repeats. A brief chorus separates the verses, but otherwise the vocals get over with the typical pop structure quickly, knowing full well that the real hero of "Ultimate Painting" is the warm, natural production and feel-good chord progression. The seeming ease with which Ultimate Painting evokes a breezy, classic spirit calls to mind New Zealand greats The Clean or even Stereolab. We can't wait to hear the b-side, and for that matter the duo's inevitable full-length, which is said to contain five songs each from Hoare and Cooper and is slated for release by Trouble In Mind this fall. Keep an eye out for pre-order information regarding the single and album right here, and in the meantime you can stream "Ultimate Painting" via the embed below. Bostonians and psych-pop aficionadoes will recall Trouble In Mind previously released Doug Tuttle's solo set. -- Edward Charlton

July 16, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Viet Cong with TV Ghost, Alosi Den | Great Scott, Boston | 13 July

Viet Cong, Great Scott, Boston, July 13, 2014 (transform / detail)

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] We were among those still smarting from the dissolution of Calgary-based post-punk troupe Women in the wake of the untimely passing of guitarist Christopher Reimer when affiliated project Viet Cong first began breaking like a weird, jagged wave. While perhaps lacking some of the inherent experimentalism that initially drew us to Women, the early racket the new quartet cooked up certainly intrigued. Word that Brooklyn-based label Mexican Summer was re-pressing its self-released debut, a tour cassette, as a full-fledged EP titled Cassette spurred us to delve more deeply, albeit somewhat guardedly. Any apprehension was quickly dispelled, however: what we heard from Viet Cong was an impressive and confident collection of post-punk tunes that belied the band's relative infancy. The foursome has been out on the road supporting said re-release, and that road brought Viet Cong to America's Living Room, a/k/a Boston's Great Scott rock club, this past Sunday night.

After resolving a minor kick-pedal emergency, the band mounted the stage one by one and began playing purposely out of synch. Before long, however, the unit locked on to a heavy, motorik groove and jammed on it relentlessly. This formidable, pounding intro segued into two additional, lethally heavy tunes before bassist/vocalist Matt Flegel addressed the crowd. Mr. Flegel, surprisingly cheery given the inherent darkness of the preceding music, proclaimed Viet Cong would deliver its usual set, but backwards. With that, the act launched into a slate of newer songs that conceivably no one in the room outside of the band had yet heard. This was a bold move, considering that Viet Cong's slim catalogue consists of a mere seven fully mastered tracks. Even so, these new tunes were not without their own charms. Indeed, with heavy rhythm playing and reverberating, pencil-thin guitar lines -- which struggled to gain sonic purchase against Flegel's taut bass lines and barked vocals -- Viet Cong proved several times over that its best songs seem to lay ahead of them.

The band finally charged into its more recognizable tunes with a renewed vitality, seemingly inspired by an approving vibe from the audience. Cassette opener "Throw It Away" incited plenty of head-bobbing, and its thrilling synth-y outro -- a conceit the band reiterates on some of its newer tunes -- elicited the night's loudest cheers. The latter half of the set also included "Static Wall" and "Unconscious Melody," and not long after the band regrettably retired from the stage to the sounds of, no kidding, My Bloody Valentine's titanic shoegaze anthem "Only Shallow." A surprisingly poignant end to a quick, hot set from a band that will hopefully not keep the public waiting nearly as long as Shields and Co. did for what will surely be a cracking new set of rock songs.

Indiana psych-rock crew TV Ghost earned kudos for its supporting set, which paired moody post-punk tones with frontman Tim Gick's impassioned, hyperactive stage presence. The act's best tunes remained persistently melodious despite Gick's best attempts at derailing them with bursts of amp-scraping feedback and mic-stand abuse. Local psychedelics Alosi Den opened. Viet Cong's Cassette EP was reissued July 8 and is available now on vinyl or as a digital download from Mexican Summer right here. Listen in to the "Throw It Away" single and a rough mix of the spiky, non-EP track "Bunker Buster" via the embeds below. -- Dillon Riley

Viet Cong: Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Wikipedia



July 15, 2014

Today's Hotness: Parakeet, The Shalfonts

Parakeet -- Pink Noise EP (detail)

>> Yuck's 2013 sophomore album Glow And Behold signaled the '90s revivalists would be fine, thank you very much, in the wake of the shock departure of founding fronter Daniel Blumberg. But well before that release Yuck bassist Mariko Doi was busy staking out her own place in the proverbial indie rock sun with her sparkling dream-pop project Parakeet, which we first wrote about here in April 2012. The band, a collaboration with The History Of Apple Pie drummer James Llewellyn Thomas, debuted with a single that month, and then issued the very enjoyable Shonen Hearts EP at the end of 2012, which we wrote about right here. After apparently devoting her time to Glow And Behold during 2013, Ms. Doi has returned in a big way with Parakeet's best slate of songs to date on a new EP titled Pink Noise. The short set, which was released June 26 via Marshall Teller Records, never lets up, offering quick, lush and snappy dreamers that accentuate Doi's clear pipes and guitarist Jon Jackson's compelling, delay-heavy moves. The expansive, colorful opener "Paper Town" echoes the reverberated heartache of the first Best Coast album, while also carrying in its chording and composition elements of Best Coast's second, more country-inflected set. Doi's singing is strong throughout, such that one might be tempted to argue that her voice has been sorely under-used in Yuck; she typically enters a verse more subtly and then goes for a full-throated falsetto in the chorus. This is best employed on "Running and Running," which contrasts brightly strummed acoustic guitars with thick drumming. The highlight of the four-song collection is "Pink Noise," a commanding title track offering fluorescent, neon flourishes and power-pop guitar leads, along with even more great acoustic strum. Buy the Pink Noise EP here. A full-length Parakeet release is contemplated for release in 2015, and we are expecting great things given the increasingly compelling music coming from the band. -- Edward Charlton



>> We were surprised to learn earlier this month that the dizzying constellation of Distophia-associated bands is slightly larger than we had previously thought. As it happens, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam drummer Ralph Morton is also party to a long-running but heretofore-unknown-to-us act called The Shalfonts (you'll recall from our overlong explanation here that Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam includes former Distophia guy Pete Dixon). The Shalfonts are primarily a virtual band/recording project centered around the songwriting duo of Mr. Morton and Bryn Bowen, with as many as seven contributors based in either Birmingham, England or Bergen, Norway collaborating on tracks shared through the Internet. The group has crafted a steady stream of digital releases, including a couple full-lengths and various EPs and singles, and its most recent set Grant Mansions was released to the wilds of the Internerds earlier this month. The shambling new collection touts a number of solid, acoustic-led rockers that echo a particular early '90s, Sebadoh-adjacent freak-folk sound. Indeed, there is a strange vintage Western Mass. flavor across the entire set, despite the decades and thousands of miles betwixt. The highlight of Grant Mansions may well be the relatively up-tempo strummer "A Long Straight Cue," which materializes at the tail-end of the set. The song rises up over a clattering rhythm with a light, ascending melody sprung from layered acoustic guitars, and a burbling stream of lyrics bouys the song to its odd, but not-quite-jarring final exclamation: "my curls all fall out." Other notable tunes include the relatively tense and swirling preview single "Netman + Bird" and the patient, pastoral rumination "MudHeart." Grant Mansions was released as a compact disc or digital download by the awesomely monikered label Giant Manilow July 7; the CD is available in a limited edition of 100 with packaging designed by The Shalfonts' own Lloyd Bowen. Listen to the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the CD or download.



July 14, 2014

Premiere: Kindling's Spike & Wave 7"

Kindling -- Spike And Wave 7

One of our best tipsters had us focused on Western Mass.-based shoegaze duo Kindling pretty much from the jump, and -- as we wrote here in March -- we enjoyed the steady parade of demos the pair placed at its Bandcamp through the spring. When that parade faltered, however, other folks in the know might have wondered whither Kindling? Fear not! Principals Gretchen Williams and Stephen Pierce had simply begun concentrating on writing for a planned self-release. As that plan was being executed, however, Kindling was picked up by Dallas-based Moon Sounds Records. Clicky Clicky readers may recognize the label, as it recently issued R.M. Hendrix's Urban Turks Country Jerks, which we wrote about here in early May.

And so it comes to pass that later this week Moon Sounds will release Kindling's proper debut release, the beautifully blurred Spike & Wave 7" EP. The short set proffers four tunes saturated with trenchant melodies and monolithic guitars; it will be available in a limited edition of 300 lavender vinyl singles with sleeve art that evokes the cover of Bauhaus' classic third LP The Sky's Gone Out. Two of Kindling's new tunes have been streaming online for a few weeks, but we are very pleased to be able to premiere the whole kit and caboodle for Clicky Clicky readers today. Like those lollipops with gum in the center, there's a delicious tension in Kindling's music, namely the play between cacaphonous, towering guitars and Gretchen and Stephen's dreamy and serene vocals. The tension is there in the opener "Other Times," and reliably appears in "Sunspots", "Given" and "A Return" as well. We've stated previously that the sound reminds us of Velocity Girl's mammoth first LP Copacetic, and we stand by that assessment. We think Spike & Wave is just the sort of thing Clicky Clicky readers are looking for, so stream the entire EP via the embed below, and then click right here to order it from Moon Sounds ahead of the proper July 17 release date. We eagerly await word that Kindling has begun playing shows, and will certainly alert readers to that fact and particularly to when the band makes it to Boston to rock face. In the meantime, permit Spike & Wave to rock your ears.

Kindling: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles | Soundcloud