August 1, 2013

Today's Hotness: Whirr, Honey Radar, Lurve

Whirr -- Around (detail)

>> Bay Area shoegaze goliath Whirr accomplished more than its name suggests with the 2012 debut full-length Pipe Dreams. Rather than embrace a controlled spin, the sextet charted a course for sweet oblivion, aided by metallic riffing, barely whispered vocals and destructive, tom-heavy drumming. The result was one of the best shoegaze albums of the year and, likely, the decade. Consequently, Pipe Dreams set the bar high for future efforts from Whirr, and everyone else for that matter, but with the recently issued Around EP that challenge has been roundly met. Released July 9 on Graveface Records -- a label that issued certain of the group's work pre-Pipe Dreams -- the EP presents four songs including the single "Swoon." The song's epic scope encompasses pummeling chords, serene, nearly-ambient drop outs and everything in between. After a cymbal-heavy crash of over-reverberated drums and what sounds like thirteen individual guitars playing one note, a rhythm guitar sets off a marvelous cycle of dripping-wet, almost water-colored structures. While still decidedly Whirr, the more sprawling, glassy and gothic tones of Around emphasize that Whirr is not interested in simply recreating Pipe Dreams; much credit should be parceled off for Whirr's drummer, whose dynamic performances often are what makes these four songs particularly dramatic. By hammering a harder edge on styles made prominent by legends such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive, Whirr have established a singularly beautiful sound with Around, one that thrives on pillowed delay, exploratory tempos and profoundly affecting chord changes. The EP is available for purchase from Graveface as an LP, CD, cassette or download right here. Stream "Swoon" via the Soundcloud embed below. Whirr plays Great Scott in Boston Aug. 15, with support from hotly-tipped Philadelphians Nothing and local noise-pop heroes Soccer Mom. The date is part of a tour that commenced Tuesday; full details on the Boston appearance are right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Strolling through the world of underground DIY cassette releases seems similar to what this reviewer imagines an indie record store must have been like before the Internet [Oh, you young people smh -- Ed.]: crates of bands, tapes and labels, linked mostly by scene and bubbling up based on word of mouth. Many tapes of the contemporary era can only be obtained through stock sheets collected from bedroom imprints, and often only 100 copies are made before the work dissolves into the ether and collective memory of friends and devotees. And so the current cassette culture requires buy-in from both ends, of course, and perhaps that is why discovering a really stellar tape is such a uniquely rewarding experience nowadays. Which explains why we were stoked to receive in the mail Western Plum Musket by Honey Radar, a tape out now on Philadelphia's Tree Top Sorbet label. Honey Radar, a shadowy lo-fi concern from Indiana that appears to have been in operation for several years, trades in the sort "sudden epiphany rock" of contemporaries like Guided By Voices and Times New Viking. While the dashed-off production values and singer Jason Henn's strange word associations do evoke Bob Pollard or Syd Barrett, the breezier songwriting and softer singing come across as contemplative and wistful. Western Plum Musket, an EP of sorts, offers several very strong songs. The opening one-two-punch of "Roughing Up The Painter" [video] and "Mason Neck," highlight Honey Radar's quirky strengths. The former tune offers a prickly warble and wins over the listener with a charmingly out of tune bass pattern and automated frequency adjustments. It is "Mason Neck," however, that is the real treasure. A pretty, yet shambling, psychedelic strummer, the song sounds like a lost garage-folk 7" from the mid-'60s. The warm and crispy production gives the number a hint of a modern, updated sense, and the tumbling rhythms and wispy voice recall the twelve-string stunners of mid-period Lilys. The band works through a couple of short noise numbers on the cassette as well, which capture the spontaneity seemingly intrinsic to the format. The contrast between these experiments and Mary Plum Musket's more serene moments limns both with a flash of gratifying unpredictability, just the sort of magic one hopes to find on a cassette. Get your copy of the limited-edition Mary Plum Musket right here while you can, and stream the entire deal via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> In our online pseudoworld of limitless (and increasingly meaningless) genre fusions, vertiginous taste-making and purportedly new approaches to making the heart of rock and roll beat, sometimes you just want the straight stuff with a capital R. Brooklyn's Lurve are happy to oblige with "Wires," one of two numbers the band posted to its Bandcamp earlier this year. "Wires" is a driving, tightly realized and deftly disguised power-pop song that erupts with a basement-show exuberance, one that makes the song seem significantly shorter than its four-minute-ish runtime. After some distorted opening guitar chords, "Wires" presents its best side –- a thirty-second breakdown of punky guitar figures that interrupt each softly sung verse. Eventually the song latches onto a fixed-note groove that delivers it to a squalling end. The smeared noise, sudden minor chords, and rough-hewn production try, but fail, to mask somne keen pop songcraft. And speaking of "smeared," this song is remarkably evocative of Canadian power-pop juggernaut Sloan's overlooked 1992 grunge-noise statement Smeared, and songs like "I Am The Cancer," or even contemporaries Superdrag, and their crushing early tune "Senorita." Sure, the underground remains subject to Eric Bachmann's prescient mid-'90s lament, but Lurve hit upon a memorable pop formulation that they can hopefully continue to shape into their own. "Wires" and "Simple Syrup" show much promise, and we are optimistic that Lurve's planned full-length -- recorded by Roomrunner's Dan Frome and slated for release this month on Cincinnati's Broken Circles Records -- will follow suit in offering up something fresh via that which is already tried and true. Stream both tunes via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

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