September 9, 2013

Today's Hotness: Joanna Gruesome, Bailterspace

Joanna Gruesome -- Weird Sister (crop)

>> A wise man once said, "All great records remain misunderstood." Take for instance the debut from recent Slumberland Records signatories Joanna Gruesome. The Cardiff, Wales-based quintet's Weird Sister hit finer retail outlets this morning in the wake of substantial buzz. Despite that fanfare this reviewer didn't love Joanna Gruesome at the outset, when the early preview track popped up on Soundcloud. This is admittedly surprising, something we attribute to the fact that lead single "Sugarcrush" at first blush seemed too pale an imitation of the band's influences. Evoking plenty of buzzing C86 groups like The Shop Assistants or The Flatmates, with a pinch of split octave melodies and a notable absonous chord a la MBV's "You Made Me Realise," "Sugarcrush" seemed too calculated an appeal to this hipster's most sacred devices. However, after a listen to the even more aggressive call-to-arms "Secret Surprise," I was convincingly won over and made a point to revisit and reassess "Sugarcrush." Upon further inspection, the song can be seen as an exercise in the group's worthy fascination with coordinated strumming. Guitarists Owen and George achieve such an amazing conglomerated rhythm with their lacerating dual attack that the choppy sounds merge into something like a punky crest. Of course, what becomes very apparent is that Slumberland was right all along: Joanna Gruesome are no amanuensis, but rather the spiritual heirs to at least one bygone SLR standard-bearer, the legendary Henry's Dress. In context, then, the Gruesome's grinding noise-pop represents another mile marker along the road toward Slumberland's inevitable domination of the underground. Weird Sister is available now from the Slumberland store right here. The record is presently streaming here in its entirety for the next week at Pitchfork. Fans may be interested in hearing an earlier version of the aforementioned "Sugarcrush," which is on offer (for free!) from Joanna Grueseome's Bandcamp right here. The vocals of the old iteration are louder, there is some creative stereo panning and overdriven cymbals splash to the fore. However, the older version lacks the great chaotic ending. Why not listen for yourself and judge? Both versions can be streamed via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Lazy journos will surely tie the reunion of New Zealand's mighty indie-space-rock trio Bailterspace to the growing list of original ultimate alternative wavers that have famously reunited. It's easy to imagine a statement about how the trio is "following in the footsteps of Pixies and Dinosaur Jr" into a festival-lined sunset. Well, that's baloney. Bailterspace have followed few, if any, since it first formed in the mid '80s. And with their latest album, called trinine and due Sept. 30 via Fire Records, that's still the case. Indeed, like the recently reunited Swervedriver and Lorelei, Bailterspace's return sounds like much more than a victory lap for an aging fan base. Instead, they pick up where they left off and clearly have more to say. The band's progressive, dreamy and dour distortion couldn't be more relevant at this moment in rock and roll music, and the preview single "Films of You" from the forthcoming set is a stark reminder to listeners of the threesome's rarified position within noise-pop. After shaking off the dust with a loose, jammy opening, the tune locks into a mid-range-filling bass and snare groove akin to those that defined Bailterspace's 1995 masterwork Wammo. Not long after, a pleasing tremoloed synth maps out a melodic cadence that is slowly overwhelmed by pings and scrapes across a guitar bridge. Bubbling to the top is Alister Parker's mysterious, accented vocals, which recall the Anglo everyman stylings of fronters from acts such as Mclusky, The Clean or Dead C. At less than two-and-a-half minutes, the number quickly dissipates into its own heavy psychedelic storm, but even so it makes an indelible impression as a potent, sunglasses-at-night fuzz mover. "Films Of You" makes plain that Bailterspace's plan hasn't changed during its thirteen-year caesura. Listen to the tune via the embed below, and click right here to pre-order the collection from Fire on LP or CD. -- Edward Charlton

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