Mar 11, 2014
>> If the allegedly impending spring has you in the mood for some Syd Barrett-inspired psych pop, well, you are not alone. Enter Walrus, a sextet based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, led by brothers Justin and Jordan Murphy. The act's dazzling and impressively realized new EP Glam Returns highlights the band's modern, compact and sunny take on the style. Across four songs simple chords, richly delayed vocals and burbling organ unravel to reveal bright, quirky songwriting. Standout track "Bulash" is buttressed by whooshing synths and circularly applied tremolo guitars that imbue the verses with a bouncy, almost tropical feel. The hazy vocals recall those of popular beat group Tame Impala. The most thrilling section of the song arrives at the tail end of its first minute, when a shouted, echoing blast of vocals and guitar announces the chorus. The choppy guitars here elevate the energy from that of a lysergic psychedelic fever dream to more mod-leaning aggression; it jolts the listener from the cozy bed of effects defining each instrument. Walrus draws heavily on powerful strains of our collective psych past, and on all four cuts on Glam Returns the band's enthusiasm and love for the style is both evident and contagious. Glam Returns was issued digitally via Bandcamp last month, and it will apparently be released on cassette via Out of Sound and Poncho Records March 27, in time for Walrus' planned jaunt out of town to destinations including Fredericton, Ottawa and Montreal. The EP, according to a recent interview, contains older material that the band doesn't perform live much these days, and Walrus hopes to have a full length out later this year. In the meantime, dig in to Glam Returns via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton
>> "We love to sound as one would love to food." That's the opening line of the Bandcamp bio for Atlanta's Red Sea; theirs is some of the best music (food?) this reviewer has encountered so far in 2014. The quartet's brilliant recent EP, Yardsticks For Human Intelligence, is presently available as a free download, and it is an art rock tour de force. Brainy, knotty, and alluringly catchy, this is the kind of stuff one would play for someone who claims they are "bored with music" (though really, why would you hang out with an asshole like that? -- Ed.). It's that good. This four-song selection follows up on a similarly sequenced EP from 2010, and, interestingly, these tunes appear to have been recorded in 2012. While that may make one wonder about the present state of Red Sea (keep your blouse on, they just played a hometown show last week), it also adds to the mystery from these compositional mavericks. The band just has so much on offer. Opener "Tandem Style" menaces with almost taunting vocal work and jumbled rhythms, which are interrupted by high-pitched slashes across the bridge of the guitar. Very quickly one senses that these guys are operating within their own, singular sound world, one in which it's normal for a singer to fluctuate from evoking Nico to Kermit the Frog to an opera singer within the span of a verse, one in which any of the more aggro-avant fret work of Thurston Moore is fair game for the plundering. Highlight "Grapes" cascades through mysterious section after mysterious section over the course of six minutes. Despite hard stops, one-offs and dramatic arpeggios, the piece never loses inertia; one particularly memorable bridge drops in at the two-minute mark. A generously textured noise section closes the tune out with exotic pedal work. The balance of the EP, comprised of the numbers "Down With The Crown" and "Vacant Ring," features more shifting, schizophrenic earworms. The steady, cool strum of the guitar work, despite the erratic changes, calls to mind Women and their prickly, post-punk masterpiece Public Strain. Indeed, at times, Yardsticks For Human Intelligence even feels like a possible extension of that band's legacy in an instrumental sense. Red Seas' EP offers an arresting look at a very compelling young band, and we recommend you listen very closely to what it has to offer. Stream Yardsticks For Human Intelligence via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download the tunes. -- Edward Charlton
>> We've been hearing about Wildhoney through the dream-pop grapevine over the last year, and the band's hotly anticipated 7" EP, Seventeen Forever, proves the hype is warranted. The Baltimore, MD-based shoegaze concern are now previewing the quasi-title track from that upcoming slab of vinyl, which arrives on D.C.-based Photobooth Records April 20, and, man, is this purist heaven. As on the act's previous disc -- recorded by Roomrunner bassist Dan Frome -- Wildhoney channels the best late-80's shoegaze and post-punk and synthesizes it into a fresh, professional 2014 model. "Seventeen" opens with some reverb-saturated surf guitar before a hip-hop drum break erupts, a smooth move straight from the Chapterhouse playbook. Soon after, Lauren Shusterich's lead vocals fly in on a sheet of harmonies that exude a contemporary pop confidence rarely exhibited so early on by such a young band. The crystal clear recording and myriad guitar tracks that surround her recall the same sort of carefully laid out, yet spirited indie rock of Maryland-based forebearers Velocity Girl. The most compelling part of the tune comes during the chorus, when both singers chant "over and over" while the guitars switch over from the chunky chording in the verses to melodic, single-note leads that one could almost mistake for bright keyboards. This grade-A East Coast dream pop not only feels very now and dreamy, but also so purposeful that one can hardly imagine anything but a bright future for Wildhoney. Our recommendation? Snatch up the band's dynamite previous self-titled 45, from 2013, in time to be prepared for this great piece of springtime wonderment here. Stream "Seventeen" via the Bandcamp embed below, and click here periodically for the next few weeks to see when pre-orders the 7" EP will begin. Massachussets and/or New England fans can catch Wildhoney performing at The Flywheel in Easthampton, Mass. March 23 with mighty Boston shoegazers Soccer Mom. Wildhoney plans to record a full-length set in June, according to its tumblaaaaaahhhh. -- Edward Charlton
Mar 9, 2014
Hello, indie rock fans. We are just about halfway through our first installment of our new Regolith feature, wherein we are challenging a favorite songwriter to write and record as much great music as she or he can in just 30 days. In the middle of February we launched the inaugural episode with Boston scene mainstay Reuben Bettsek of Guillermo Sexo, Future Carnivores and Emerald Comets. If you need to get up to speed on Mr. Bettsak or Regolith, we direct your attention back to A1E1 (that is, in Regolith parlance, "Artist 1, Episode 1") right here. If you know what's going on, well then, it's time to check in with Reuben to learn how things are progressing. There's a lot of interesting stuff in his responses below, in terms of how the tight timeline has actually enabled him to forge a pretty strong bond to the material. There's also some insight into setting priorities and gear choices. Fans should note that Reuben is playing an Emerald Comets show at O'Brien's in Boston at the end of the month [details]; Guillermo Sexo's next show is April 6, the opening night of the 35th Annual Rock 'N' Roll Rumble at TT The Bear's Place [ditto]. With that said, we invite you to read on, and remind you that later this month we will wrap up Reuben's 30-day experiment and premiere the resulting music. We're excited, and we hope you are excited, too. -- L. Tiburon Pacifico
Clicky Clicky Music Blog: How has the project been going up to this point? Are you finding it easier or harder than you anticipated? Have there been any particularly big challenges?
Reuben Bettsak: I'm really enjoying this project. It's refreshing because I've tried to create a little sonic world in a bedroom... Even though the 30-day limitation has forced me to write and record faster than ever before, it has also given me the opportunity to zone in and focus on an overall sound for this "album." Both the music and the lyrics definitely work with each other. They tie together the strings of this shoe that you could call an album.
The biggest challenge for me has been the actual recording process. With the 30-day time limit you have to do a bit of sacrificing between the recording quality of the material and focusing on writing the songs. I'm recording with Pro Tools so it sounds better than the quick demos I usually do on GarageBand, but things like weird microphone noises, imperfect vocal levels [and] messy mixes have been a challenge. It's hard for me to focus and clean up that stuff when I'd rather focus on the music and the content. However, for the most part, I've decided to say "fuck it," and embrace the weird microphone noises, imperfect vocal levels, etc. I think some of this stuff might sound like it was recorded on an old 4-track instead of Pro Tools… but I'm loving the imperfections. I feel like, as the project moves on, I'm getting better at getting better sounds....
CC: Can you describe for us your recording setup (feel free to get as "techie" as you like, or not)? Are there specific reasons you are using the equipment or software that you do?
RB: My setup for this project has been:Pro-Tools express with an MboxCC: Describe techniques you employ (mic placement, mixing, effects, etc.). Would you use these same techniques if time were not a limiting factor? How did you learn to record this way?
My guitar pedal board with various pedals like the Memory Man, Digi Delay, Big Muff, etc.
Boss Drum Machine
All vocals done via a (horribly broken) Optimus dynamic microphone
Nord lead keyboard
RB: Seeing the words "mic placement" makes me laugh because there is no mic placement in my current setup. I've used the microphone for vocals through my pedal board, and for the maraca (shaker). Everything went guitar/drum machine/keyboard via my pedal board to Mbox/Pro Tools. I'd say my techniques have more to do with years of layering [and the] ability to kind of create the sound my mind wants to create, and lots of fun delay/Memory Man/distortion pedal manipulation to achieve interesting results.
I'm happy with the songs that are coming out... so the time limit is actually helping me create some really cool songs. If I didn't have a time limit, I'd try to hone in a bit more into the recording process and try to clean things up more, and get a better microphone.
I learned Pro-tools on my own a few years ago. I owned a setup like 8 years ago or something. This is actually the first time I'm using it to record my stuff at home. I think watching great Pro Tools wizards like Justin Pizzoferatto and Bo Barringer has helped.
CC: Do you have any unusual tricks or rooms/spaces you record in that are exclusive to your home studio?
RB: I've just been recording in one room. No fun room tricks, but my dog does hop on my pedals when I record sometimes, so I hope his unplanned collaboration doesn't get me in trouble with you guys at Clicky.
CC: What instruments have you been using to this point? Do you foresee introducing other instruments?
RB: I'm minimizing the amount of instruments I use partly for continuity within these songs, and also for the sake of convenience. I've only been using the acoustic guitar with a pickup going through the effects pedals, the Nord lead (when Noell doesn't steal it away), drum machine and maraca. I think that's about it. I've been thinking about grabbing some more percussion stuff from the Guillermo Sexo practice space, and have even contemplated recording live drums for a song or something, but we'll see if that happens.
CC: Do you find that the time limitations change your approach to writing and/or recording?
RB: The limitations have fully forced me to record as a write. Instead of sorting everything out before recording, I just go for it. One of the powerful things about this limitation is that I don't have time to think about the "type" of song I want to write, like I kind of do for Guillermo, because the band has a history. I also have little-to-no idea what the song will sound like by the end. I'm often writing melodies line by line.
The interesting thing that kind of blows my mind about this project is that I feel like I'm inside a little world. It's hard to explain. But the connection to these songs is immense even if they are in a more raw stage of development. It's like I'm in this room constantly creating songs, and the lyric themes connect with each other, and the music starts working together. At times I feel such happiness creating this little world in a room, but at times I feel isolated, and I think these emotions show through in the songs and in the lyrics. It's weird because I often have that internal struggle in regards to how polished and produced songs should sound. I guess production and polish help the end listener enjoy the product more, but for me, I love raw unpolished songs. I love The Kinks. I feel such a connection to the "way I was feeling" when I sang a line that it makes it difficult to polish the line later when I realize it could be more on pitch, for example. And this is why I work with a producer/recording engineer like Justin when making a record.
CC: Do you feel that the songs are turning out differently than they otherwise would if you weren't restricted to 30 days? If so, what do you think would be different about them?
RB: It's possible my writing approach would have been a bit different, but if I approached the writing the same day, the only difference would be polishing things up on the recording end a bit.
CC: At this point, do you find the time restrictions to be a hinderance your process? Or do you find them to be liberating in some way?
RB: I find the restrictions to be very liberating for me. I think these are great songs that sound different than stuff I've done previously. And, as I mentioned before, I feel a deep connection to these songs because they feel like a little book written in 30 days.
Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring
Today's Hotness: Future Carnivores
Clicky Clicky Music Presents... N O F U C K I N G W H E R E : 11 Boston Bands Perform Ride's Classic 1990 Album
Review: Future Carnivores | Future Carnivores
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild
Mar 7, 2014
Ava Luna takes cues from classic soul and R&B, as well as the smart-guy tropes of turn-of-the-'80s bands including Talking Heads and Gang Of Four, and synthesizes them within its own skewed but wholly modern aesthetic. This is not to suggest that Ava Luna's music is overtly clinical: opener "Daydream" or the totally tweaked "Sears Roebuck M&Ms" provide ample evidence to the contrary, expressed in terms of devastating, Parliament-channeling groove. Indeed, Electric Balloon smoothly splits the difference between real-deal soul and the nervy indie rock that Ava Luna principals Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez have become known for crafting as producers. Call it a late-night jazz club jam remade for the basement shows set, arrived at as much by significant deconstruction and reduction as by appropriation.
Chatter regarding Electric Balloon deems it the more accessible of Ava Luna's two long players. While that may be true, the music is still far from a conventional. Stylistically, the band is all over the place. Bits of jagged, angular post-punk, loose funk, and slow-jam R&B all coexist within the space of these 11 tracks, sometimes skillfully blended, sometimes swapped in an out for one another in rapid succession. What makes the record so compelling (as well as the band on the whole, really), is how fluent and capable the players are in wielding these varied musical vernaculars. It all flows from the rhythm section. Mr. Fader is an especially tight drummer, and locks the band into formidable grooves on songs such as the aforementioned "Sears Roebuck"; he routinely dishes out thrilling and compact fills, even when the song arrangements are at their most stark. He also ably applies nuanced syncopation, like on the stop-start dynamics of late-album highlight "Genesee," where his light touch on the hi-hat is often the only thing holding the sparse arrangement together.
The vocal work from all three singers is impeccable throughout, with Mr. Hernandez, Rebecca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass each taking show-stopping turns at the mic. The band's greatest moment may well be the classic-rock baiting, massive song suite "Plain Speech." Commencing with a brilliant staccato riff from Hernandez, the song deftly shifts to half-time for the chorus while lush vocal harmonies bloom brightly from the pocket like they have something urgent to deliver. They probably don't, and Ava Luna doesn't seem push any particular message. Which is fine by us; we don't need to know the lyrics to groove, baby, and the weight of preachy didactics is probably best left, for present purposes anyway, in the past with the aforementioned Gang Of Four. Blunt politics would only drag down Electric Balloon, and that would be a cardinal sin, as Ava Luna's fluid grace and resolutely cerebral hymns for the hips clearly thrive in their unfettered state. Electric Balloon is out now via Western Vinyl, you can grab it on vinyl or CD right here. Stream the album's two opening cuts as well as the space-ghostly soul ballad "PRPL" via the Bandcamp embed below. The band is currently on tour with bugcore heroes Krill; the remaining tour dates are listed below. -- Dillon Riley
03.08 -- Albuquerque, NM -- The Sister
03.12 -- Austin, TX -- EIS/Impose Showcase
03.13 -- Austin, TX -- Western Vinyl Showcase
03.13 -- Austin, TX -- Father Daughter Showcase
03.14 -- New Orleans, LA -- Tulane
03.14 -- New Orleans, LA -- Siberia
03.17 -- Atlanta, GA -- Mammal Gallery
03.18 -- Charlotte, NC -- Snug Harbor
03.19 -- Durham, NC -- Pinhook
03.20 -- Richmond, VA -- Gallery 5
03.21 -- Washington, DC -- The Dunes
03.22 -- Baltimore, MD -- The Crown
03.23 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Golden Tea House
03.25 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn
Mar 6, 2014
While we ended up having enough restraint to edit the final version of yesterday's album review down from well over 1,200 words, there is still more we need to say concerning Johnny Foreigner's recent goings-on. Namely, that the Birmingham, England-based quartet issued Monday a digital single for the tune "Stop Talking About Ghosts," which includes some epic b-sides. The song is a central cut on the foursome's magnificent new collection You Can Do Better, which we unreservedly recommend. Chief among the b-sides -- in case you didn't see us raving on Facebook -- is Johnny Foreigner's scorching rendition of Swedish legends The Wannadies' rager "Hit." We've told this backstory here many times, we're sure, but it bears repeating. In early 1997, we were minding our business in Amsterdam when we were overtaken by a rainy day, and we spent that day inside doing whatever while watching MTV Europe. MTV Europe had in rotation at the time the video for The Wannadies' "Hit," and it blew us away (and, goddamnit, the clip is now region blocked for America -- THANKS OBAMA). Once we saw the video, we felt like we had little choice but to sit right in the basement bar we'd taken refuge in to see how many more times we could see the video again before passing out. It was that good. And the process, sitting and watching MTV, waiting for video to cycle around again, was a replay of a cherished experience from our youth, when we'd sit and sit and wait for a certain classic Van Halen clip, or maybe Rainbow's "All Night Long," to come back around.
So it was a brilliant day, that day in Amsterdam, and one made all the more brilliant by "Hit." The Wannadies never really cracked America, despite making some inroads with their "You And Me Song," which was prominently featured on the "Romeo + Juliette" soundtrack. And because the band never gained a footing here, they have always sort of just been "our" band, in a way not dissimilar to how Johnny Foreigner is sort of (OK, totally is) "our band." The fact that the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop giants chose to cover "Hit" is the very definition of serendipity, and one that makes us very happy. And it certainly makes the value proposition of the "Stop Talking About Ghosts" single that much greater. As if the music itself wasn't inducement enough, however, all money raised from the sale of the single goes to the Cavell Nurses Trust, which offers emergency financial support to nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the UK. So, while you could be a deadbeat and just grab these three awesome songs -- oh, right, there's also a ridiculously heavy reimagining of the Vs. Everything track "Vs. You" -- for free, well, don't do that. Instead, help Johnny Foreigner and its label Alcopop! support this very worthy cause. Stream all three tracks via the embed below, and click through to purchase and support Cavell. You can do it. For more information about "Stop Talking About Ghosts," read fronter Alexei Berrow's song-for-song breakdown of You Can Do Better right here. And in the event you are in need of some light reading, Johnny Foreigner has just published all the words to the new record right here.
Mar 5, 2014
The blunder many may make when it comes to Johnny Foreigner's brilliant new long-player You Can Do Better is to consider it only in terms of what it is not, instead of the glorious what that it is. The Birmingham, England-based noise pop legends' prior record, the titanic, immersive third LP Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything, casts a gigantic shadow, to be sure, and birthing that one, according to a recent interview, substantially sapped chief songwriter Alexei Berrow's creative energies for months ("Tbh I spent a good 6 months not wanting to admit I didn't want another record," Mr. Berrow told GoldFlakePaint). And just as Vs. Everything became an obstacle for Berrow, something similar could conceivably befall fans, whose brows perhaps furrowed with the announcement of the new collection as they pondered just how Johnny Foreigner could possibly top itself. It's wrong-headed thinking. The fact is that the band's fourth record You Can Do Better is a powerful, diabolically catchy set, a compact firecracker of a record that ably and convincingly delivers the band's intelligent brand of bash and pop. The music is as dramatic and as emotionally vital as ever. The Brummies have stared down the challenge of its own album title.
You Can Do Better is packed with bracing guitar anthems. Opener "Shipping" bursts into being with careening guitar and thunder from the rhythm section, smoothly interpolates quiet reflection, and then surrenders to a boisterous pre-chorus. "Le Sigh," which leads a parade of tunes that each could be standout singles, touts blissful feedback, engaging vocal harmonies, and no small amount of shouting. A fully realized version of the crushing, meditative ballad "Riff Glitchard," which appeared in a more skeletal form on last year's Manhattan Projects EP, breaks the pace of the new collection. Its helpless lyric "I might as well be an organ in your body, the damage I do, when I do nothing," is even more beautifully rendered here by bassist Kelly Southern, whose voice takes center stage more often on You Can Do Better than ever before. The last half of the record breathlessly blows by, from the blinding "Stop Talking About Ghosts" and its desperate revelation ("the hardest part is letting go"), to the lethal hooks of "Wifi Beach," upon whose lyric the album's fixation with an imaginary, dream-like metropolis turns, and through to the thrumming, majestic and self-aware closer "Devastator."
Rather than casting a shadow, one aspect of Vs. Everything actually illuminates You Can Do Better: the alternate universe / timeline / reality. The subject drove a substantial portion of the narrative to the former LP, and particularly its transcendent ballad "Alternate Timelines Piling Up." And, in a way, Berrow manifested just such an alternate reality in retooling his songwriting post-Everything for the band's new four-piece configuration (second guitarist/master propagandist Lewes Herriot officially joined the band after the recording of the third LP). Something about that change fired his imagination, and allowed it to escape the insatiable gravity of Vs. Everything. The result is a loud, clever and entirely thrilling noise-pop album, one that ironically echoes not the oft-cited prior record, but the band's aggressive and ambitious first LP, Waited Up Til It Was Light. In essence, and via a not small amount of mental jiu jitsu on the part of Berrow (again, to GoldFlakePaint: "I guess the simple answer is that I lied. In as much as an actor or author lies. I created like, an alternate universe me, that could make decisions and do whatever I told him to in order to reveal greater truths."), Johnny Foreigner has been reborn as a better version of a younger collective self.
You Can Do Better will be released by Johnny Foreigner's longtime label, Oxford, England's Alcopop! Records, Monday in the UK. There is as yet no public plan to release the collection in the U.S., but what Alcopop! is offering is, as always, very hard to beat: You Can Do Better is available as a 12" LP, CD or digital download, and depending on how fast one acts additional premiums include sparkle vinyl and a poster-size map of an imaginary metropolis that is apparently central to the record. There's probably even other stuff that we forgot; click through to the Alcopop! store to apprise yourself of your full slate of commerce options. Johnny Foreigner's You Can Do Better tour of the UK begins March 13. The quartet will perform all-dates with South African fifth man/keytar assassin Ben Rausch, and primary support for the tour are labelmates Radstewart. Full tour dates are posted right here; European dates are being finalized and please God Please GOD PLEASE let's have the band back to the U.S., yeah?
Johnny Foreigner: Internets | Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud | Tumblr
Prior Johnny Foreigner Coverage:
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Names EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything
Cut The Rope And Jump Off: Johnny Foreigner On Alternate Timelines, Optimism And Everything
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Certain Songs Are Cursed EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving...
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Grace And The Bigger Picture
Review: Johnny Foreigner | WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Arcs Across The City EP
That Was The Show That Was: Johnny Foreigner | Bowery Ballroom
Mar 2, 2014
>> To a remote observer it may appear as if Boston indie pop heroes Bent Shapes are going through a sort-of wilderness phase, figuratively wandering the desert with one arm thrown over the shoulder of Jesus and the other over the shoulder of Jim Morrison, and, since we're just making shit up now, a superfluous third arm thrown over the shoulder of the equally superfluous Val Kilmer. Anyway, longtime Bent Shapes bassist Supriya Gunda recently (and amicably) left the band to focus on other projects including the whipsmart quartet Lost Twin, and now we have before us a new solo EP from Bent Shapes drummer Andy Sadoway. The good news is that the state of the Bent Shapes union is strong, they continue to play shows (like last week's hotly tipped Bleeding Rainbow gig), and we're told there is new music coming, so everyone just keep your shirts on -- everything is cool. In the meantime, this EP from Mr. Sadoway isn't going to write about itself. The short set certainly sounds like a winner, if its title track is any indication. "Str8 Sh00ter" is built up like a house of cards from flappy acoustic guitar and minimal, tom-centric drumming, with lots of nifty, tremeloed electric guitar sprouting across the stereo field. Its resolutely breezy and somewhat innocent sounding surf-pop reminds Clicky Clicky of both the terrific (but, sadly, perhaps defunct?) Chicago act Distractions and zero-year left coast pop duo Jan And Dean. The Str8 Sh00ter EP also includes the Sadoway-penned and performed "You Kept Things In Tact," "Don't Mind," and "Leave Some Space." The four songs were recorded at Mystic Steamship just outside of Boston. The EP will be released by Father/Daughter Records March 25 as a cassette and digital download, and you can pre-order your very own right here right now. Father/Daughter also released Bent Shapes' full-length debut, which we reviewed right here last August. Stream the tune "Str8 Sh00ter" via the Soundcloud embed below.
>> The music of Boston-based experimental concern Skyjelly rarely, if ever, seems to tread the same ground twice: indeed, unpredictability may be its most distinguishing characteristic. Our unsubstantiated speculation points to this unpredictability being a symptom of the sort of restless pursuit of T+B our college professors advocated in the '90s (that's "Truth and Beauty," to you youngsters not fortunate enough to have been educated by academics who themselves were educated in the 1970s). Or it may be that founding member Skyjelly Jones just gets bored easily (the musical project that carries the Skyjelly brand now also includes Eric Hudson). Whatever the reason, the peripatetic yen of Mr. Jones' songwriting has heretofore come to rest on beautiful, more ambient sounds like "Providence," which we wrote about here in early 2013, and on a new, debut EP, well, it's decidedly weirder. The music on the Skyjelly & Sun EP retains a wide-eyed psychedelia, to be sure, but aspects of the proceedings are surprisingly formalized. Opener "Tea, The Drink" cuts through a funk sample to stride along a solid groove accented by maracas(or some sort of backwards masking that approximates the slanting kiss-kiss of maracas). It's a firm anchor for cooed falsetto vocals and tremeloed rhythm guitar, which dodge gestural, scrawled guitar leads. "Catherine's Rabbi" ups the tempo and the pop ciphering, consolidating a barely there guitar sketch, a canned beat and more weightless falsetto in the four-song set's most conventional composition. "Krilltastic" tantalizes with its Clicky Clicky-friendly title, but the dense rhythm track in the first half of the tune -- which recalls moments of The Cure's Pornography record -- provides an equally strong focal point. Skyjelly & Sun will be self-released March 20, and if you are lucky enough to get a physical copy, it may (or may not) come packaged in a pocket cut from a pair of trousers. The EP will be feted at a release party scheduled for March 15 at the UnchARTed Gallery [boing] in Lowell, Mass. In the meantime, stream the sitar- and WTF-tastic EP closer "Peshawar (Astral)" via the Soundcloud embed below.
>> Pink Floyd never grooved as steadfastly as this, likely because Roger Waters is a rigid bass player. Nonetheless, there is a touch of classic, singles-era Pink Floyd to Pastel Colours' blazing psych-pop nugget "She Can't Decide." Something in the vocals, bass flange, blues foundation, and of course the massive descending chorus echoes Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive." Pastel Colours' smoking psych-rock number is apparently only their second recording; the Falmouth, England-based quintet debuted with the somewhat more restrained but somehow even more psychedelic track "Hands Like Silk" late last year. "She Can't Decide" is the third installment in Art Is Hard Records' 2014 Pizza Club series, with which readers will surely be familiar, because we write about it, and Art Is Hard's knack for finding brilliant music, often. Coincidentally, another Falmouth act, Goddamn Nobody, was featured as the first single in the 2014 Pizza Club series, and we wrote about that right here. Despite having but a brace of tunes released, Pastel Colours has already garnered a not insignificant amount of radio support, and we are eager to hear what else the fivesome can do. Can they stay true to the psych-pop idiom while keeping its music fresh? Time will tell. For now, stream "She Can't Decide" via the Soundcloud embed below, and click through to grab a download of the track for the friendly price of zero anythings. And, of course, music fans would be wise to keep their ears on Art Is Hard.
Feb 27, 2014
That Was The Show That Was: The Inter-Galactic Sun Ra Astro-Infinity Myth Equation Commemorative Arkestra | Berklee Performance Center | 20 Feb.
[It is a great pleasure to welcome back to this blog's electronic pages the incisive writing of Jeff Breeze. Mr. Breeze previously wrote pieces about Small Factory and Cave, among others, for Clicky Clicky. -- Ed.]
[PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Breeze] I've spent too much of this winter fretting over how I'm supposed to pay for the oil to keep my apartment warm. Last year, I was on my own most of the time and was able to ride on the power of a space heater by keeping myself confined, but this year there are two more people who are actually present. The best times have come when I go to my parents' house and am able to combat the vortex with a more simple solution: the wood stove. If you know how to build a fire and keep it stoked, things warm up better than any other means. But the thing is that you can't just throw all of the wood in there and light a match. First you need to start with some newspaper, and then set up a network of kindling for it to ignite, and then maybe a branch or more porous log that will get that fire to really catch. Only after all of that is done can you start putting the real logs in and getting warmth to emanate.
Someone at Berklee seems to understand the principle of the wood stove. When they invited the public to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Herman Blount's arrival on planet Earth, they were comfortable with letting things simmer for a spell. And so Blount, who died in 1993 and is more commonly know by the name he gave himself, Sun Ra, was feted last week by a gaggle of Berklee professors operating under the moniker The Inter-Galactic Sun Ra Astro-Infinity Myth Equation Commemorative Arkestra during a show auspiciously titled the Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary. Bedecked in audacious costumes that approximated the look of astronaut pharaohs at a rave, the band spent much of the set focusing on the earliest music from Sun Ra's career.
While many are quick to dismiss Sun Ra as being mere free jazz, this Berklee-based Arkestra worked hard to honor the notes on the score. When they reached the tune "Future" at the midpoint of their set, it was striking not for the freedom of the sound, but how much the tune just sounded like a fun riff on Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts." It was these be-bop and big band elements of Sun Ra's compositions that came to the fore, with only occasional interludes filled with wild African percussion that made nods toward later music that Sun Ra had influenced like Pharoah Sanders' more open explorations on "Thembi."
After the faculty played a solid, devotional set of Sun Ra material, it finally got around to tossing the real logs on the fire, bringing out three saxophonists who had each spent decades working with the real Arkestra. Charles Davis, Danny Ray Thompson, and the 89-year-old Marshall Allen took the stage in sparkling rhinestone capes, and their playing threatened to torch the Berklee Performance Center to the ground. With the band providing a sturdy harmonic foundation, the front row of the assembled throng of musicians became a phalanx of saxes allowing from which each member of the trio stepped up and ventured into wild solos.
The most unlikely wrench in the works came as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his sister joined the band on stage between tracks. Their father, Pat Patrick, had been the original saxophone player when Sun Ra first set out on his own in Chicago in the 1950s, and on this night Thompson bestowed the title of honorary Arkestra member for life on the two of them. Rhonda Patrick-Sigh joked that while getting to witness this was quite spectacular, it was a far smaller band than the one that Sun Ra played with when she had toured with the Arkestra in 1978. The Berklee band then broke into an unprogrammed performance of a song that Davis had co-written with Patrick.
With the Governor back among the crowd, this Arkestra closed the evening with Sun Ra's magnum opus "Space is the Place." This intergalactic spectacular gave everyone involved a chance to spark a musical inferno. Thompson stepped out front and ignited the band, blaring the 9-note passage that underlies the song on his baritone sax. While the Berklee folks each had fun with their place in the track, it was when Allen arose and broke into an unhinged tenor solo that something magical transpired. Thompson recognized the gauntlet had been laid down and stepped up, heck, even stepped forward parading back and forth across the front of the stage with a commanding presence that was only matched by his playing. Not to be outdone, Allen stepped back up, this time using a EVI (Elecric Valve Instrument – imagine if a clarinet were a Moog) that seemed to set the whole stage ablaze. By the time he sat back down, everyone knew there was nothing left, and the night wrapped up with the lights coming up on the crowd, extinguishing the performance as people recessed out into the cold of the night. -- Jeff Breeze