September 11, 2013

Today's Hotness: Lady Jane, Natural Velvet

Lady Jane -- Things We Forgot On Vacation (crop)

>> As a somewhat solid editor, Clicky Clicky honcho Jay has developed substantial expertise identifying which artists will be most pleasing for this reviewer to consider. Case in point: The assignment of a track from Things We Forgot on Vacation, the upcoming full-length from the Rennes, France-based psych-rock foursome Lady Jane. As far as we're concerned, the record's alluring preview single "Death of a Dandy" is just what the doctor ordered to accompany the shuffling in of autumn. As evidenced by their already extensive back catalog, Lady Jane are no strangers to mid-'60s psychedelic and classic rock, so "Death of a Dandy" is in keeping with the band's vibe. Here they perfectly capture the mood, structure and insanity of original Floyd fronter Syd Barrett's songwriting circa 1968, without delivering just a carbon copy. The acoustic strums, lazy stream-of-consciousness vocal delivery, and gutbucket slide guitars all recall the promise and innovation propounded by Mr. Barrett before his decline and withdrawal from public life. Lady Jane's song is more structured and straight than Barrett's later solo work, which is often what music fans are most familiar with. Instead, it's like an additional transmission from the lost, hallowed period surrounding the creation of Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, and specifically its lone, Syd-penned capstone, the beautifully scrambled "Jugband Blues." The Frenchmen carefully transport that delicate era to our own in crafting a composition that would be perfect for a disorienting evening at a hip, smoky bistro. And so Lady Jane not only make us curious about what other talent may be lurking about France awaiting our ears, but also shows that there's still a lot of great new things that can come of a careful study of less-copied composers. Stream "Death of a Dandy" via the Bandcamp embed below. Things We Forgot On Vacation is available here for pre-order now via the Les Disques Normal imprint; both the CD and vinyl versions are slated to for release Oct. 7. -- Edward Charlton

>> Baltimore noise-pop concern Natural Velvet released a debut EP to the wilds of the Interzizzles over the summer that has kept our attention for some time. Called Salome With The Head of John the Baptist, the relatively new act's five-song collection is notable both for being affecting and for not fitting tidily into one of a contemporary music writer's many little descriptive boxes. It's rare that this reviewer can't connect some dots and peg influences to any band that describes itself as shoegaze, post-punk or noise rock, but Natural Velvet certainly presents a delightful challenge. Natural Velvet pull together strains of metal and gothic post-punk and pair it -- like a well-traveled noise sommelier -- with the dry, brittle production of the '80s underground. Indeed, at first it seems as if Salome With The Head of John the Baptist is a nostalgic release, but that then begs the question: nostalgic for what? It's hard to put a finger on. The collection's standout song "Salome" opens with a spindly chimes 'n' drums intro that imbues the tune with a cool and creepy mysteriousness evocative of Rodan's epic "Tooth-Fairy Retribution Manifesto." The tune then lurches into a steady, but jagged groove. Perhaps it's the dry, hi-hat-heavy drum style, upfront vocals, or that grinding distortion, but the instrumentation has the same sort of concentrated, performance-focused, DIY conviction present on many mid-period SST releases. Singer Corynne Osterman's speak-sing vocals are a pleasant surprise, as well. With so many contemporary female singers either emphasizing their serene ethereality, diva-like bravado, or pixie cuteness, it's refreshing to hear a woman mutter, groan, and sigh forth. Admittedly, there are moments on Salome With The Head of John the Baptist that feel stiff, but even so this is a promising young group, one that presents a singular approach we've not heard elsewhere in the thriving Baltimore scene. Could Natural Velvet be a new recruit to the army of Grass Widow's dark and sensual take on female-fronted rock? Let's hope so. Grab its entire EP as a pay-whutcha-like download via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

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