November 12, 2012

Today's Hotness: Pacific Strings, Cold Pumas

Pacific Strings -- Woodgate Valley

>> UPDATED: For a while there Berlin-based Pacific Strings seemed willfully obscure, as there was barely any information about the act beyond its Bandcamp page. But Clicky Clicky doggedly pursued the truth on the Internerds, and we are now able to penetrate the entrancing haze surrounding the band largely thanks to the small indie Cass Flick Records. Belfast-based Cass Flick is selling a "super limited" edition cassette version (as well as digital download) of Pacific Strings' brilliant full-length debut Woodgate Valley; the release date is Nov. 19. A cached Last.FM page -- the live page has since been edited -- reports Woodgate Valley is "a concept record about love and god. In addition, soda and tommy wright III." We can't begin to tell you what that means. What we can tell you is that we now know the names of the people behind this beautiful, mysterious record: Daniel John Boyle, Florian Zeisig and Maggie Buck Armstrong, of the UK, Germany and USA respectively. We don't know a thing about the latter two, but we've got an inkling that Mr. Boyle may be the same fellow who was a founding member of Clicky Clicky faves Johnny Foreigner, and apparently our belief about "Mr. Boyle" (we are told this is a pseudonym) is incorrect, so let's make it three for three: we don't know these folks. According to the Cass Flick Big Cartel page for Woodgate Valley, the trio formed "in early 2012 after a chance meeting on a bus, recording the eight song mini-album in a summer house on the Polish border after only a few months together. The three [members] share vocals and instruments to create a sinuous, multi-layered yet accessible sound, a combination in their own words of 'pop obsession and new world atmospherics.'"

The effortlessly gorgeous record -- one of the best of the year -- is rife with soft focus reverbs that envelope the tunes like so many blankets in an unheated apartment, yet never disrupt the head bobbing grooves. While much of Woodgate Valley aims for the female-led sensuality of Mazzy Star, opener "Ithaca, NY" emphasizes a different strength. The male lead on the tune has a great voice that brings to mind that of The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt and provides the perfect foil for the song's pillowy guitar loops and vocal blips. Album highlight "Do You Love Me?" touts a simple, beautiful melody, is relatively uptempo and features a fetching vocal from Ms. Armstrong; it is all delivered in such an understated manner that it is one of the best songs of the year. Sleepy, but insistent, Pacific Strings nonchalantly exhibit such a complete mastery of songcraft and mood that we're particularly excited to hear what they do next. Pre-order Woodgate Valley right here. -- Edward Charlton and Jay Breitling

>> That a post-punk renaissance is in progress overseas right now is self-evident and undeniable, with bands like Iceage, Male Bonding, as well as the previously Clicky'd Eagulls and Bos Angeles all channeling the genre's tense, violent passions. It's unsurprising, as this new generation of bands comes of age in a global economic slump not unlike that of the Thatcher-era Britain that informed key progenitor Joy Division's digitally-smeared masterworks. Come now Brighton, England's Cold Pumas, who heretofore have been responsible for a steady trickle of singles and comp appearances. The trio's newly minted debut full-length, Persistent Malaise, is a brilliant collection of tense rhythms and disciplined guitar and bass work. Lead single "Sherry Island" storms out of the gate with a tight, hypnotic groove that trades on the sort of kraut-beat that is so much the rage these days in psychedelic circles. The tune's simple two-note guitar motif in the intro hops in and out around the thudding bass-line until the steadily slowing tempo grinds the affecting clang and drone down to a halt. Cold Pumas singer Patrick Fisher's vocals are pleasantly reverberated and wistful, contrasting pointedly with the mechanical gyrations of the guitar, bass and drums. Album cut "The Modernist Crown" is denser and more melodic, with vertiginous guitar chords bending in the chorus, but the motorik rhythm continues to anchor the proceedings. Persistent Malaise was issued by Faux Discx, Gringo Records and Italian Beach Babes Nov. 5 in a limited edition of 500 LPs -- of which apparently only 46 remain -- as well as CD and digital download; here's a link to where you can buy, buy, buy. Cold Pumas are presently only gigging in the UK, but we're hopeful this wonderful full-length might put enough wind in their collective sail to get them to the States before too long. -- Edward Charlton

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