May 27, 2016

Today's Hotness: Fennesz/O'Rourke, Cold Pumas, Sneeze, Flout

Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke -- It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry (crop)

>> This reviewer is an expert on neither the vast, sprawling output of Tokyo-based Jim O'Rourke (long a mainstay of both Chicago and New York's experimental and avante garde scenes) nor the stirring oeuvre of Vienna's electronic sound sculptor Christian Fennesz, but he is certain of one thing: these artists deservedly command massive respect from a devoted global following. But even novitiates will find appealing the melodic warp and textured weft of the duo's forthcoming Editions Mego set, It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry. The two-track collection, due June 24, spans an LP and captures the familiar signatures of each composers as the sides unfold. Based on the preview excerpt -- a generous six minutes extracted from the amorous "I Just Want You To Stay" -- the unfolding occurs at a slow, Steve Reich-ian pace. The tune's soft churning reveals endlessly delayed melody lines, otherworldly, convulsing synthesizers and a guitar sound that resembles industrial sawing. The sum of the parts calls to mind peers in the contemporary ambient electronic artists such as Tim Hecker, particularly his Virgins album, as well as the gifted stable of artists that annually populates Kompakt's compelling Pop Ambient series. "I Just Want You To Stay" largely floats throughout the excerpt, a whorl of melodies cinematic and futuristic. At least for O'Rourke, the song could signal exciting new territory for the endlessly restless and creative compositional mind to explore. Editions Mego is offering It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry as a vinyl LP, CD or digital download; pre-orders are already available right here. Stream the excerpt of "I Just Want You To Stay" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Despite having been released four years ago, love for Brighton, England quartet Cold Pumas' debut long-player Persistent Malaise endures, and quite strongly in certain strata of the American undercosm. This reviewer has noted the continued inclusion of Malaise shoulda-been hits "Fog Cutter" and "Sherry Island" on late-night Portland house party playlists, alongside related efforts of Cold Pumas fronter Dan Reeves and his label Faux Discx. It was heartening to learn earlier this spring that the band are still at it, apparently further tweaking its mechanized noise-pop for a pending Faux Discx and Gringo Records release The Hanging Valley. Due July 1, the set includes nine new tracks; based on two fetching preview tunes, the group remains faithful to its favored motorik rhythms and wistful bummer-pop. Leading preview single "A Change of Course" is strikingly more dense and melodic than what we've come to expect from the band; it takes the two-chord pull formula of earlier tunes such as "Sherry Island" and compacts it to fit a sub-three-minute pop framework that echoes the more shoegazey side of early Deerhunter. It may very well be the best thing the Brighton combo has released (to date). Second single "Fugue States" stretches into a longer runtime, and employs open, ringing chords alongside a rambling, Ian Curtis-styled deadpan that reminds listeners that Cold Pumas know their classic gloomy post-punk inside and out. Based on these two rich samples, Clicky Clicky can only expect that the forthcoming The Hanging Valley will be as timeless and tasteful as its predecessor. Faux Discx is offering the record in a limited edition of 1,000 vinyl LPs (half of them black, half of them an undisclosed color), as well on CDs and as a digital download. Pre-order the set right here, and stream both preview tracks via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Sneeze effectively predicted the au courant grunge-rock house-show wave currently gripping swathes of the American underground with its releases dating back to 2011, and now the celebrated Boston power trio stands at the ready to cement its O.G. status with a forthcoming new EP, Rot. The short set arrives this fall -- yes, way off in the distance on September 23 -- via Glory Kid Records, which also released the three's excoriating slay-fest Wilt in 2014. Rot's lead single "Food" doesn't deviate far from the act's established, thrashy punk-pop template, but its more lively feel and chunky, bristling distortion and feedback connects its efforts at least spiritually with those of some of the genre's current DIY stars, including Oakland's mighty Happy Diving. Indeed, the humid, overdriven guitar production and ever-crashing cymbals that are the hallmark of Happy Diving producer Jack Shirley and his Atomic Garden studio are prominent here, although for Sneeze the sound was realized by Western Mass.-based, hit-making engineer Justin Pizzoferrato -- known for his work with everyone from Dinosaur Jr. to Parquet Courts to Kindling. So the vim, hooks and production of "Food" makes it a pit-ready bomb of a tune that packs enough smarts and chugging melodrama in its brief minutes to drive the crowd to the merch table, where they'll hopefully be lucky enough to get their hands on one of the only 300 LPs being pressed (200 to traditional black media and another 100 to transparent black; the set will also be available as a digital download). Pre-order Rot from Glory Kid right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> When we last wrote of Warwick, New York home recorder Flout last year, we noted mastermind John DeRosso's skillful embrace of atypical production techniques and the way they enhanced the lo-fi project's charm. That same charm marks his recently released collection Norman Doors, a terrific and understated set that surreptitiously slipped onto Bandcamp with eleven more tracks of beautiful, and beautifully intimate, indie pop. Amazingly, Norman Doors was recorded throughout DeRosso's parent's house on an iPhone 6, yet the songs sound as great as ever, and feature as many overdubs and coincidental quirks as Flout's fantastic 2014 debut, Gims. Early track "Safelight" opens with present and confident vocal lines -- the first intriguing line is "I want a broken windshield" -- before masterful harmony lines shepherd a brief, electric sunshine-pop section replete with a toy synth line that soon collapses under its own communion. Like many of DeRosso's compositions, the success of the piece often rests in its ability to hold back, never outstaying its welcome. "Seven*Five" charts an opposite course, allowing itself time to open up with warm electric palm muting, drums and the laments of an unfolding relationship. "17M" further limns what DeRosso does so well. Beginning with fragile acoustic guitar and soft vocals and with the hiss of the room in the background, the song inevitably erupts into a Guided By Voices-inspired rocker that marries thick and chunky power chords with a simple, flute-like synth and dueling leads. Vibrant closer and set highlight "R.E.A." further illuminates DeRosso's range -- the blazing tambourine, ringing acoustics and smooth, watery vocals prove that Flout needs nothing more than a $100 device and an affordable carrier to capture his minimal pop world in the magic of his bedroom. Norman Doors is available to download for any price right here, and we highly recommend it. -- Edward Charlton

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