April 9, 2014

Today's Hotness: Moonbell, What Moon Things, White Reaper

Moonbell -- Afterlives (detail)

>> San Francisco quartet Moonbell make faraway and trippy shoegaze with a very distinctive sound, one that makes the act's long-player Afterlives among the most singular dream-pop albums of 2014 to date. Its 11 songs carry copious reverb on nearly every instrument, and the unexpected wandering bass lines and schizophrenic patterns of this record add to its otherworldly nature. Opener "Never Seems" establishes a mood with loping snare work, and the drifting vocals and strings simultaneously disorient and engage. In an especially cool touch at 1:22, the tune transforms from electric to acoustic -- a solid example of the unexpected elements that Moonbell regularly employ. The title track, an album highlight, goes for a more monolithic approach, with punchy, slightly dissonant bass work reminding this reviewer of the colossal "Periscope" from Lilys' masterpiece In The Presence Of Nothing (which, as we wrote last month, may finally be getting the reissue it so dearly deserves). The vocals, while airy, bear the charmingly innocent and slightly out-of-tune feel of shoegaze greats like The Telescopes and early The Brian Jonestown Massacre -- a welcome revival of the style. Afterlives was released April 1 on the band's own Hypnogram imprint in a limited edition of 100 cassettes and as a digital download; purchase it right here. The entire set may be streamed via the embed below, and a new EP comprised of music recorded during the same sessions as Afterlives is slated for release this summer, according to this interview. Moonbell, which formed in 2010, previously released a digital single "The Golden Hour" and two EPs, Figurine and Parallel, all of which are available as free downloads via Moonbell's Bandcamp yert right here. The two EPs were packaged together for a CD release in 2012. But particularly based on the strength of its newest material, Moonbell's unusual blend of styles and sounds makes it a band to watch. Watch we will. -- Edward Charlton

>> The news was a long time coming, but New Paltz-based noise rockers What Moon Things revealed at last today that it has signed to the new imprint Hot Grits, which will release the trio's self-titled debut LP June 3. It's a record about the making of other records, a record populated by vampires (and which at one point was to have been titled The Vampire), populated by data lint scraped from and used to stuff the taxidermied remains of failed relationships. What Moon Things carries its own specific and murky atmosphere, marked by prickly but patient guitars, wide-hipped reverbs and fronter Jake Harms' existentially uneasy tenor. The eight-song set fluidly slides from moody groove to desperate thrash, making it not only just a little sexy, but also a gripping listen. The spooky preview track "The Astronaut" conveys via giant but spare drumming, percolating guitars and Mr. Harms' emotional, drawling vocals a deep isolation, an outsiderness whose introversion fuels an arresting gravity that draws listeners in. It's a promising single from among a strong set of songs. There is as yet no pre-order information available for What Moon Things, which will be on offer as a 12" flat vinyl disc, compact disc, and, we imagine, digital download. Despite a pretty gnarly injury to Harms' thumb recently, the band embarks on a short strand of tour dates tomorrow, including a stop at Boston's Great Scott next week. We've posted all the dates below, and below that you can stream and download "The Astronaut" via a Soundcloud embed. We first wrote about What Moon Things, "The Astronaut" and the swerving anti-anthem "Squirrel Girl" right here last July.

04/10 -- The Batcave -- Montclaire, NY
04/11 -- Suburbia -- Brooklyn, NY
04/12 -- Upstate Artists Guild -- Albany, NY
04/15 -- Great Scott -- Boston, MA
04/18 -- 158 Salon -- New Paltz, NY
04/19 -- Cameo Gallery -- Brooklyn, NY
04/25 -- Bard College -- Red Hook, NY
05/06 -- Oasis Cafe -- New Paltz, NY

>> Last time we wrote about garage punks White Reaper last August, the Louisville duo was prepping a full-length for a German label. It appears that plan never came to fruition, based on a scan of the label's web site, but there is new music from White Reaper -- now a trio -- in the offing, and on a label much closer to home. The venerable Polyvinyl revealed today that it will release in June a self-titled EP from the threesome. A blazing preview track from the EP, titled "Half Bad," bashes and pops with abandon, and touts a ridiculously keen, burbling organ lead whose space-age vibrato threatens to separate the tones from the speakers of your hi-fi, particularly during the rave-up of the cymbal-soaked final chorus. The six-song EP also features a version of the 2013 A-side "Conspirator," and is available for pre-order now as a 180-gram, clear pink 12" vinyl disc, CD, cassette or digital download. White Reaper will be released June 24; pre-orders will ship June 13, according to Polyvinyl. Stream the blaster "Half Bad" via the Soundcloud embed below.

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