October 30, 2015

Review: Beach Slang | The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us

With the skyrocketing success of his latest project and its debut album, James Alex, a/k/a James Alex Snyder, defies the expectations that so often get pegged to age. The 41-year-old punk-rock lifer passed the '90s with the beloved Bethlehem, PA troupe Weston, and along the way Mr. Snyder somehow evaded Neil Young's generally accepted ends for the "experienced" rocker. Last year Snyder quietly (at first) charted a new course, writing songs under the Beach Slang moniker. The project's profile rapidly ballooned in the wake of two legend-making 7" records and a strand of key live dates opening for The Hotelier, Cursive, and even Tommy (Fuckin') Stinson. And while Beach Slang has now delivered a towering debut LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us released Oct. 30, the combo still comes off a very likeable underdog.

All that rocking in decades past has done nothing to dull the passion Snyder packs into his immediate, affecting guitar anthems, which are finding increasingly larger audiences these days. Fans can't help but root for the drunk guy on stage in his best blue blazer bashing and popping night after night as his band builds momentum and acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Snyder's songwriting boasts a strong narrative flair, and, not unlike those of his heroes Paul Westerberg and Blake Schwarzenbach, his songs scan like stories, each one poured out from the perspective of a lovable fuck-up, albeit minus the more marked defeatist streaks shading The 'Mats and Jawbreaker oeuvres. Beach Slang songs routinely fumble toward ecstasy and feel larger-than-life, and come wrapped up in Snyder's devout belief that rock 'n' roll can save (a message he presents again and again in jazzed social media postings and emails titled, not a little dramatically, A Very Short Book). The songs don't just have their sights trained on outcasts and disenchanted punks; they're also aspirational, uplifting guides on overcoming, escaping. Although the songs surely spring from specific, lived-in moments, their universal call-to-live is pointedly inclusive. Snyder wants to let the listener in, he wants the listener in on the proverbial party. Hell, it's in the damn title of the record. And it's also all over it, as in the final lyrics of the preview track "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas," where Snyder insists "we are not alone, we aren't our mistakes."

Many of the LP's best moments are couched within posi platitudes, while others render bleary-eyed recollections of the previous night’s debauched revelry. Whether it’s drugs ("Ride The Wild Haze") or booze ("Noisy Heaven"), escape and the means of escape always underscore Snyder's mission to spark transcendence through inclusion, to get us all together to get us out of what we're stuck in. On "Young & Alive," Snyder exhorts "go punch the air with things you write." Songs as big and weighty as these need a hardened backing band to ground them. While they're just as game as on the early singles to turn most of the LP's figurative front nine into an all-out sprint, the more nuanced rhythmic shifts of the more varied B-side provide some respite. The tom-heavy swing of "Porno Love" drags out the song's drug-addled, long-drive ambiance where their traditional straight-ahead chug would smash right through, while the stop-and-start dynamics of the aforementioned "Young & Alive" should trip up drunk crowds in dank rock halls all year. Despite its soft touch, the highlight of the set may very well be the heart-felt "Too Late To Die Young," composed memorably but slightly of sighing strings and a few barely there piano plucks that accompany Snyder's plaintive voice.

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us succeeds brilliantly without straying too far from a winning formula. Every part of the record drills messages of redemption into listeners' heads, and dare we say hearts. These are loud rock songs about finding solace in loud rock songs, and they will move a certain stripe of independent music fan in ways few other songs will this year -- or the next. And so the record more than delivers on the promise of Beach Slang's early singles by virtue of being even hookier, louder, and faster. After all, who needs pretense or metaphor when you can drink cheap beer and bare your soul with your friends in a basement somewhere? The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us is available now in various formats via Polyvinyl, and you can grab it right here. Beach Slang is also on tour right now, winding through the South and finishing off with a gig at Great Scott in Allston Nov. 24, before heading to the UK and Europe after the turn of the new year. All live dates can be found here. Stream "Young & Alive" and "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas" via the Soundcloud embeds below. -- Dillon Riley

Beach Slang: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles

October 26, 2015

Premiere: Night Powers' Sensual, Ominous "We Will Always Be Together"

The dinner party. Sounds tame enough. Safe even. Good times, right? Well, it's also a reliable concept for both awesome movie and music video. In terms of the latter, on the one hand you've got INXS' hedonistic "The One Thing," and on the other you've got Spectres' contemporary and edgy psychodrama "Mirror." But for something a little more subtle and sensual -- and, we might add, in the spirit of the season -- may we direct your attention to the clip above, which we are pleased to premiere for you today? As the headline suggests, embedded up there is the debut video for co-ed Brooklyn goth triumvirate Night Powers' "We Will Always Be Together."

The foreboding but forthrightly rocking tune is built up from a syncopated, thudding beat that sounds like a body hitting a table top (or a re-envisioning of the classic stomp from "Doctorin' The Tardis"), over which vibratoed guitars, corporeal keys and guitarist Rob Viola and vocalist Natalya Krimgold's tiered voices commingle. "We Will Always Be Together" is taken from the two-year-old trio's debut release The Hand Of The Thief, a concept record that highlights the band's old world-flavored, cinematic noir across nine songs rich with intrigue and passion. The video for "We Will Always Be Together" was directed by Pavel Ezrohi, and yes, there is a dinner party. And a corpse on the table, a vivacious, Satyr-like visitor that elevates the revelry to a frenzy, and keen performances all around from the vintage-garb bedecked players young and old.

Incidentally, Night Powers currently seeks a (female) live drummer. As the aforementioned Mr. Viola happens to be a Clicky Clicky Top 5 All Time Drummer in addition to a guitarist, that's a proverbial big seat to fill, but, c'mon, you can do it. Viola, of course, once drummed for Haywood [so many words] and The Red And The Black, among others, and more recently worked on electronic projects including Faculties, which we wrote about here in 2011. Night Powers co-founder Inbar Kishoni's bona fides include playing keyboard with Denver act Mannequin Makeout, while vocalist Ms. Krimgold is also an accomplished film and theater actress. Speaking of, it's not an accident that Night Powers shows carry an air of theatricality. The act's next performance is at a house show in Brooklyn on Halloween night, with support from Courtship Ritual, and we will venture to say that if you attend this event it will be a fine time (and not just because Night Powers' live show looks epic). The Hand Of The Thief was released as a digital download and in a limited edition of 100 cassettes by Mirror Universe Tapes June 25; order your copy right here, and stream the one-third of the ball of wax via the Bandcamp embed below, or all of the wax via Spotify.

Night Powers: Facebook | Internerds

October 24, 2015

Today's Hotness: Nosferatu D2, Mooncreatures, Myrrias

Nosferatu D2 -- Older, Sadder, Wiser (detail)

>> We've got mixed feelings about the latest Audio Antihero release, as the collection -- an EP titled Older, Sadder, Wiser featuring the final uncollected rarities from the legendary and short-lived Croydon, England duo Nosferatu D2 -- seems too fitting a bookend to the-little-label-that-could's six-year run, and we'd prefer that this not be the end. Not that it has announced it is closing up shop, but proprietor Jamie Volcano recently quipped in a promo email that he doesn't know how many more birthdays Audio Antihero has left, and we know that he's got a lot happening in his non-label life. No matter what it may or may not portend, Nosferatu D2's Older, Sadder, Wiser is a treat. The short set contains six non-album cuts -- numbers that appeared on comps, a demo version of the terrifically affecting "Springsteen" and the previously unreleased and never-performed "Don't Try To Wake Me" -- and is surely a must for completists as well as Parker-ophiles (and honestly, anyone who counts herself a Parker-ophile is almost certainly a completist, yeah?).

The collection opens with the blistering salvo that heralds "The Kids From 'Fame'," a tune that jarringly downshifts, Adam Parker's explosive drumming adopting a martial cadence to underpin brother and fronter Ben Parker's incisive ruminations on the early '80s. The ND2 catalog is packed with Clicky Clicky favorites, but perhaps our favorite rarity, "A Man At War With Himself," is also included here. In a 2008 interview with Clicky Clicky, Ben discounted the idea that certain of his songs are autobiographical, but given the powerful angst that characterizes his music, listeners can be excused for thinking the song is particularly personal. "A Man At War With Himself" also features one of the duo's most melodic choruses -- or is it a bridge? a coda? -- and concerns itself with listening to Prince's Purple Rain ("...tonight he's got Purple Rain on the stereo again, this is how it sounds when doves cry..."). It's golden. The EP ends where our love affair with the outfit began, with the sublime, poignant rocker "A Footnote." The paean to obsessive music fandom is an all-time favorite, and having the demo version of the track be what is likely the final word from the band wraps up Nosferatu D2's career in a classic, almost literary way. Audio Antihero released Older, Sadder, Wiser as digital download Oct. 16, and you can stream or download the entire thing via the Bandcamp embed below. The label also reissued last week on aesthetically pleasing tangerine cassette tape Nosferatu D2's sole, legendary and posthumous LP We're Gonna Walk Around This Town With Headphones On To Block Out The Noise [buy!], which of course we originally reviewed right here way back in 2009. Finally, Audio Antihero has also brought to the Interzizzles in association with these releases a quality video artifact, a rarely-if-ever and likely never-before-seen-by-you-in-the-passive-voice video of Nosferatu D2 performing a heroic live set at something called MalcFest in Croydon circa 2006 or 2007. While the entire video is crucial, this link will take you to the beginning of the aforementioned, incendiary "Springsteen," which we think you will find quite bracing.

>> The great Kurt Heasley, something of a spirit guide for Clicky Clicky, said in an interview with us last year that "you get into the game of expectations, then you get into the game of disappointment." Even so, it *can* be quite enjoyable when our expectations get bonked on the nose just a bit. Take the recently issued first long-player from London "reverb-pop" concern Mooncreatures. We've tracked the act here in our electronic pages since June 2012, and over the intervening span Mooncreatures has worked within the gauzy, moody realm of atmospheric dream-pop. However, with its latest release Night Guides the act injects garage-rock and gentle '60s psych sounds into its aesthetic. Mixing in these recognizable tropes dilutes somewhat the aura of mystery the act established on three earlier EPs, but it's possible these elements are meant to serve the record's understated but nifty thematic concept, which concerns a doomed 20th century expedition ("...the band perished that winter under circumstances that are unclear"). Whether or not that's the case, the cool '60s vibe of the rock-steady nodder "Guilt Chills" works well, and the song is a winner, with one gently rippling reverb shrouding the even vocal while another magnifies clear, clean and linear guitar leads. Other styles also crop up across the record: "Disaster" elevates Mooncreatures' historically more sedate sound nearer to the realm of an aggressive shoegaze strummer, while nodding toward the "classic" Mooncreatures sound by incorporating apparent field recordings. The set closes with the upbeat "Circumstances Are Unclear," a 92-second anthem that layers electric and acoustic guitars but eschews rhythm tracks; the tune would sit nicely under a closing montage as the credits start to scroll up the screen, and, again, given the album's concept, that may be its aural intent. Beko Disques released Night Guides in a limited edition of 200 CDs and as a digital download Oct. 15. Purchase and stream the entire collection via the Bandcamp embed below. According to a brief -- and hopefully entirely fictional -- narrative at the foot of the Bandcamp page, this is the band's final album. We expect that's just part of the artificial myth of the album, as now is certainly not the time for Mooncreatures to call it quits. Night Guides is the band's -- now expanded to a five-piece -- most ambitious and accomplished work to date.

>> It's been a year-and-a-half since we last wrote about Philadelphia's standout darkwave quartet Myrrias, an act featuring former members of notable combos Arc In Round and Break It Up, among others. This isn't to say we've completely fallen down on the job of covering them. Indeed, the foursome would seem to favor quality when it comes to the age-old quality vs. quantity binary; only recently did Myrrias issue a second digital single, which contains three tunes, "All Alone," the Nico cover "60/40" and "On Your Own." The ominous lead track -- marked by bumping bass playing and angelic vocal harmonies -- is a new version of the final cut from Myrrias' first digital offering, Endless Winter Session, which we wrote about here in the spring of 2014. The most stirring track on the new single may in fact be the icy, pensive closing instrumental "On Your Own," a reverie of synths that echoes faintly the New Order classic "Elegia," but delivers with richer, denser tones while teetering between tense and placid moods. Myrrias self-released the "All Alone" single via Bandcamp Sept. 29, and the set was recorded and co-produced by scenemaker and go-to guy Jeff Zeigler (who still hasn't found time to finish that solo record...). Sadly the short set may be the last featuring the band's original lineup, as drummer Casey Bell has relocated out of state and indeed basically all the way across the country (according to this solid piece), leaving the remaining trio to soldier on backed by a drum machine, at least for the time being. Stream and purchase the three songs via the Bandcamp embed below. Two of the tunes from the single, "All Alone" and "60/40," were recently performed as part of a radio session for WXPN's The Key, and that session was released to the wilds of the Internerds here earlier this week and is also recommended listening. Myrrias completed a short strand of tour dates with Clicky Clicky faves White Laces earlier this fall; its next live date is in Philadelphia tomorro afternoon as part of Dilworth Park's OctoberFest.

October 16, 2015

Premiere: Space Mountain's Slack-tastic "Gargantua"

Space Mountain -- (detail)

Space Mountain, the mid-fi slack-rock project of Boston denizen Cole Kinsler, has been quietly making music for a couple years, but its profile can only rise on the strength of its forthcoming sophomore collection Gargantua. The eight-song set, slated for self-release Oct. 23, distinctly echoes the fully baked sounds of the remote but ever-relevant '90s underground, records like Silver Jews' classic Starlite Walker or Beck's unfairly forgotten goldmine One Foot In The Grave. But Space Mountain is actually most strongly influenced by its contemporaries. In a post for Heartbreaking Bravery last year, Mr. Kinsler discussed finding an open and accepting community in the Boston music underground, particularly among Exploding In Sound bands and their affiliates. The influence of this community, especially that of LVL UP and its affiliated projects, shines brightly on Gargantua, but Kinsler's songwriting is not content to simply stand in the collective shadow of his favorite bands. Indeed, Gargantua showcases winning songcraft, layering gritty guitar chords over sturdy, un-fussy rhythm playing while Kinsler dispenses observations via terrifically understated vocals.

We are pleased to premiere the title track to Gargantua in these electronic pages today. As with his best work to date (we're thinking late 2014's heartfelt head-nodder "Love Song" and the beery, easy-vibing Gargantua track "Andromeda"), "Gargantua" waxes profoundly with a cloudy wisdom seemingly beyond Kinsler's years, although not without a wink informing us not to take this all so seriously. Kinsler introduces the tune -- which below he refers to as the record's "thesis statement" -- with a minute of pastoral acoustic guitar and chimes, but thereafter it proceeds to an early, crunchy apotheosis, before piloting a subdued verse expounding on the old adage about journeys and destinations (you know the one). The song, and thus the record, ends with the lyric "Ain't that the cheesiest phrase I know." It's a grand summation for a composition that doesn't shy away from poking holes at put-on introspection. You can stream the track below; below that we invite you to read a brief exchange about Kinsler's songwriting, roots and future plans for Space Mountain. Earlier today he also unveiled via Facebook the opening cut to Gargantua, the up-tempo strummer "Big Brains," so we've included that embed below as well. Pick up a digital copy or order a limited edition white cassette tape of Gargantua direct from Space Mountain right here. -- Dillon Riley

Space Mountain: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

Clicky Clicky: When did you start the Space Mountain project? Has it always been a solo venture?

Cole Kinsler: I started Space Mountain in 2013 during my last year at school. I would record stuff in my dorm room when my roommate wasn't there. I didn't want to annoy him. On the first album, I had a few friends help with extra vocals and stuff like that. Jordan from High Pop did the drums on that one. For the last few recordings though, yeah, it’s just me.

CC: What drove you to start recording? How long have you been making music?

CK: Towards the end of my time at college I was getting pretty into some local DIY bands. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die went to my school, and they were really great to see at house shows. It was around the same time I discovered Spook Houses, Alex G, and other stuff that ended up being pretty big touchstones for me. I realized people my age were making great music, which was exciting. At that point I became more interested in songwriting and recording. The earliest I started making music was probably 2012. My friend and I would fool around with Garageband, and we started writing a few songs here and there.

CC: Since you play all the instruments, how does a Space Mountain song come together? Where and how are they recorded?

CK: Songwriting basically happens by playing guitar a lot, and thinking about what I want to say. I usually just like to start with a feeling or thought and go from there. Some songs take longer than others. The first song on the album has probably been kicking around in different forms for a couple years now, while the others happened much faster than that. I find that whatever I'm reading at the time will have subtle influences on my writing, too. I record everything in my room. I use one mic and just do one instrument at a time. Usually I'll start with guitars and bass and just keep building from there. It was a lot of trial and error when I first started, but I think I'm improving my process.

CC: Anything revelatory about the Space Mountain moniker? What does it mean to you? Why not record under your own name?

CK: It doesn't carry any real meaning. There's a rollercoaster at Disney World called Space Mountain that's pretty neat. I'm partial to mountains and astronomy. I just like how the words sound. I considered using my name, but it just felt lame.

CC: Tell us a bit about the piece you wrote for Heartbreaking Bravery last year. How does it fit into the Space Mountain timeline, and how have the Boston scene and the experiences you've had influence your own recordings?

CK: I moved to Boston after school to look for work. I saw Krill's Lucky Leaves release gig and kinda just fell down the rabbit hole from there. I discovered a ton of albums that year that would end up being super inspiring to me. I was hearing Pile, Fat History Month, and a ton of other stuff for the first time and kinda freaking out. During a year of uncertainty in a new place, it was huge to be able to stumble upon such a rich music scene. That show I mentioned in Heartbreaking Bravery in particular was just kinda the pinnacle. I had already become a pretty big Pile fan, and it was very special to see Rick play acoustic for the first time. But really, there have been so many shows where I feel like I'm seeing something really special. Kal Marks shows, Ovlov shows... too many to name. I don't know if all this directly influenced my recordings in any way, but it made me even more certain that I was going to keep making music.

CC: How did this new record come together? How does it compare to your previous offerings to you, and how is it being released?

CK: I tried to take my time a bit more with this one. I think it's better than my last stuff, but who knows. As long as I feel an improvement or progression with my music then I'm happy. I've always felt self-conscious about my music, and it has been hard for me to actually believe people when they tell me they like it... but I'm getting there. This one was mastered by Carl Saff, and I'm putting out a short run of cassette tapes.

CC: You've said the title track is your favorite off the record, why is that?

CK: I recorded that one last, and it just came together really quickly. I had some lyrics floating around for a while that I wanted to use, and it ended up working in a really nice way. I think it's kind of a thesis statement or something for the album... a good way to close.

CC: Will there be Space Mountain gigs once the record comes out? What would the ideal configuration be?

CK: I think so! Ideally, Space Mountain is a rock band. For the time being I'm still solo, but I've been trying to put a *real* band together. We'll see.

October 13, 2015

Premiere: Hoax Hunters' Evocative "Transparency"

Hoax Hunters -- Clickbait EP (detail)

Richmond post-punk trio Hoax Hunters returns this week with a seven-song set of potent guitar music titled Clickbait, a collection stocked with lean arrangements, muscular rhythm playing and sumptuous guitar tone. The set was recorded in late July and early August at Richmond's Scott's Addition Sound, and six of the tracks were penned by fronter and guitarist (and noted photog) PJ Sykes. The centerpiece is the raging and breathless title track, a fiery and uptempo indictment -- thick with guitar distortion and marked by Mr. Sykes' incensed declamations -- that arrives at a spine-tingling, hard stop like a freight train plowing straight into the side of a mountain. While the EP is uniformly strong, it isn't all as ferocious. "Breakthrough" moderates the tempo, and Sykes reigns in his tenor for a more ruminative presentation, and the relatively -- relatively -- delicate "Transparency" ups both the restraint and the melodicism to deliver a tune fairly reminiscent of classic Versus. Clickbait cleverly closes with a recitation of the album credits during a song called "What Everybody Ought To Know About Clickbait," which, really, is an idea whose time has come, at least in the decontextualized digital music age.

We are pleased to be able to premiere for you today the aforementioned "Transparency," which you can stream via the Soundcloud embed at the foot of this item. The song is the closest thing to a ballad on the record, and the appealing high bend in the verse's guitar riff picks at the scab of a formidable nostalgia for things as sweet and timeless as Bettie Serveert's triumph Palomine or the aforementioned Versus' The Stars Are Insane. Cherub Records releases Clickbait as a digital download Friday via its Bandcamp page, where pre-orders are already being taken for five American dollars. 25 fans are able to purchase Clickbait bundled with a bumper sticker supporting an apparent 2016 presidential run by the EP and/or its title track, which, depending on your chosen political party, either is or describes your strongest candidate; those that pre-order Clickbait will also receive an unspecified bonus track. An online performance celebrating the short set is being planned, but in the meantime Sykes fêtes the EP with a solo set Thursday night at the fifth installment of Richmond venue Strange Matters' Locals Only series. Also on the bill are Among The Rocks & Roots, Lou Breeders and Antelope King, and full deets for the night are right here. We last wrote about Hoax Hunters here almost a year ago, on the occasion of the release of the band's terrific cover of The Dambuilders' "Smooth Control." Hoax Hunters' debut LP Comfort & Safety was released in August 2014 [review].

Hoax Hunters: Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblaaaaaaah

October 10, 2015

Today's Hotness: Nuno Canavarro, Ringo Deathstarr, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam

Nuno Canavarro -- Plux Quba (detail)

>> We've got a surprising number of items for you today that point back to the year 2007, which is odd, but there you have it (and, well, we dropped one from the lineup for tonight, but still...). We were very excited by Drag City's relatively low-key announcement via email 11 days ago of its pending reissue of Nuno Canavarro's mysterious and transcendent 1988 collection Plux Quba, which we last wrote about here eight years ago. The record was originally pressed on a small Portuguese label and reverently passed around among cognoscenti for years, which is how it was brought to the attention of experimental musician/producer Jim O'Rourke in the early '90s, who eventually reissued the dazzling, inscrutable collection on his own ("now limbo-ized") Moikai imprint in 1998. This, in turn, was how we first made the record's acquaintance, and every listen to the otherworldly collection has been a revelation. The Moikai pressing went out of print in 2005, according to Drag City (although Forced Exposure's web site indicates there was at least one re-press... in 2007), and so the label will reissue the set on vinyl and as a digital download on Nov. 20. Plux Quba is the sort of record where if we told you what it was like, it would make no sense, or you wouldn't believe that it was in the least appealing. In 2007, The Sea And Cake's Sam Prekop told Pitchfork he considers Mr. Canavarro's record "the high-water mark, in my opinion, of electronic music...It's a really delicate, beautiful, and really weird record." What's amazing is that this high-water mark in electronic music was largely created in a pre-digital world. It's really quite something. Set aside 27 minutes and click on the YouTube playlist below, as some hero has uploaded the record for everyone's enjoyment. Highly, highly recommended listening. And buying.

>> When we first became a fan of Texas shoegaze behemoths Ringo Deathstarr more than eight years ago, the wait for any new music seemed interminable. In retrospect, things weren't really that slow, but in recent years The Deathstarr has reliably turned out rock albums at regular intervals, with no drop-off in quality. We were jazzed to learn over the summer that the Austin-based trio led by Elliot Frazer is preparing the release of its fifth LP, a 12-song collection titled Pure Mood that is due next month. The album is being heralded by the dynamite preview track "Guilt," a three-minute tour de force that showcases the band's bludgeoning psych power and appreciation for rich ambient backdrops. The lead vocal is handled by bassist Alex Gehring, whose voice is deftly layered over itself, making it nearly as formidable a sonic force as Mr. Frazer's saturated guitars. While there is presently no domestic label announced, the venerable, London-based Club AC30 will release Pure Mood Nov. 20 as a 12" pressed to minty green- or lemonade yellow-speckled vinyl media or CD, and the set is available for pre-order right here. However, a trip over to the Club AC30 digital storefront just now indicates that the entire run of 500 LPs -- 250 in each color variety -- may already be sold out; they are listed as "out of stock," which we suppose leaves open the possibility that the threesome has some LPs on its collective person to sell at upcoming live dates. Ringo Deathstarr plays the Middle East Upstairs Oct. 18 on a terrific bill with Magic Shoppe and English luminaries The Membranes. Stream the aforementioned "Guilt" via the embed below. Club AC30 previously released Ringo Deathstarr's Mauve, Colour Trip and Sparkler LPs as well as certain EPs and singles; check out their entire offering right here.

>> Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam and its associated acts are startlingly prolific, so we suppose it was only a matter of time before the band got around to release what it is calling an "acoustic record." But willowy, folksy balladry this is not. Instead, the quartet's recently issued Video Dreams, Vol. 1 rocks about as hard as fans would expect, if a little more weirdly. The nine-song set opens with the swinging "Cool Like A Haircut," which hews most closely to the classic SFL sound of any of the songs here. The tune's choppy guitar playing, treated with a crisp slap-back reverb, provides a jaunty counterpoint to the straight-forward drum beat. In its final minute, "Cool Like A Haircut" morphs, rising up off its tight groove and entering into an engaging ambient swirl that hints at the weird music that follows. Check out a video for the aforementioned "Cool Like A Haircut" right here. Additional highlights includes the title track, whose deconstructed, lo-fi reverie hangs its toes over the edge of a persistent haze of abused ride cymbal, murmured vocals and guitar drone, and the wacky instrumental "Ralph Visits A French Bakery," which sounds like the soundtrack to a hot interlude during an episode of "Ren & Stimpy." Video Dreams. Vol. 1 was self-released by the band Sept. 13; stream the entire set via the embed below, and click through to download the entire thing for any price. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's prior full length was a self-titled collecton issued in 2013; in the interim it released a number of digital singles and EPs, all of which are available via Bandcamp right here. One band principal stated on his personal Facebook page in August that the act has a number of releases slated to come out, and it appears there may be something coming for Halloween, so fans should remain vigilant.

October 7, 2015

It's All I Know: Cameron Keiber On Eldridge Rodriguez's New Noise-Pop Monument, The Castrati Menace

It's All I Know: Cameron Keiber on Eldridge Rodriguez's Noise-Pop Monument, The Castrati Menace

Seasoned Boston rock fans need no introduction to the work of Cameron Keiber, indie label tycoon, the principal songwriter of rock act Eldridge Rodriguez, and co-fronter of the city's legendary The Beatings. In a way his own musical history mirrors that of the modern Commonwealth: he was playing shows while studying at UMass during Western Mass.'s early '90s heyday, he toured the U.S. with the aforementioned Beatings in the aughts, and he has haunted rock clubs on both sides of the Charles River for the better part of two decades. The Beatings' extended hiatus continues unabated, making Eldridge Rodriguez Mr. Keiber's de facto primary vehicle for secular rockulidge. Since its last LP was released in 2011, that band has reformulated its lineup and its sonics, and its forthcoming long-player The Castrati Menace -- to released by Midriff Records Friday -- sees the band fully shedding its early, gritty and more menacing sound and achieving a stylistic pinnacle. This is in no small part due to an adventurous pursuit of a noisy melodicism the band began exploring in the studio a few years ago, recording a cover of a shoegaze classic for this very blog. Indeed, The Castrati Menace is characterized by a colorful cacophony that feels reverent to a classic style but also contemporary. And the blogosphere outside the Boston bubble is (finally) taking note (Exh. A; Exh. B). With the album release just days away (and a successful New York release show already under his belt), we thought it was high time to check in with Keiber about the band's new sound, his drive to create and the album title's pointed meaning. Read our full exchange below, and stick around for the details about Friday night's Boston release show at the foot of the piece.
Clicky Clicky: This will be way inside baseball for all but our hardcore Boston readers, but is The Castrati Menace a concept record about your "personal manager?" The title echoes that of what is now considered to be the first "Star Wars" movie, and one of the record's best songs is called "Social Graces Vigilante," so maybe you can see why we're wondering? Given the epicly funny shit-talking between you and said manager during your old podcast days, maybe this record is just an incredibly next-level shot at him?

Cameron Keiber: That's a total coincidence. I was reading an article about castrato and the parallels to what was happening then and how pop stars are groomed and positioned now, and it struck me how nothing changes. I wanted to name the album The Menace in reference to that, but then remembered there was an Elastica album with that name. So adding on the Castrati part was an easy fix and made my point more [precisely]. I never made the Lucas connection until a few weeks ago. I like "Star Wars," sure, but not enough to directly reference it, but I can see where you'd get that. But its not. "Social Graces..." was a song I've had kicking around through several projects, but it never really worked until this line up of the band. But its not without precedent that we've gone with a manager reference, namely [with] The Beatings' Italiano! album. But its not consciously in this case, certainly could be subconscious but what do I know? But I like where you are going with this, and if it makes Bouchard's day, then let's just say, between you and me, that [the record] is about him.

CC: Sticking with the inside baseball angle a bit, we recall that when you were recording your covers of "Vapour Trail" (this, that) a few years back for our compilation that you remarked on the social media that you were exhilarated by the fact that it was the noisiest thing you'd done to date. We feel like that vibe really carried through to the new record. Was there something about how you approached recording "Vapour Trail" that sort of unlocked how you went about the tracking of The Castrati Menace?

CK: That cover was the first thing we did with this line up and production team. It was kind of an experiment in what has become our regular recording process. Mike Quinn (Moontower Studios), who mixed both the Ride cover and the new album, killed it. He just nailed the noise ebbs and flows and so when we heard it we knew that this was the way the next album would go. The band will record the track and then tack on 10 or so noise and idea tracks and Mike and Dave (Grabowski) kind of have to sit down and figure out where its gonna all sit in the mix with my only notes being "I want to hear everything at some point." Its not easy. And they both get what we are all going for. But yeah, that Ride cover fleshed out how we'd approach this album.

CC: What was it about the noise that appealed to you at this stage of the game? The sound of the record is dense, not quite claustrophobic, but dense, and it reminds us of an extreme take on Psychedelic Furs and its efforts at a wall of sound.

CK: I'm a huge fan of noise and experimental stuff. I don't think you get anywhere creatively without experimenting. That said, I write the way I write, usually in a basic song structure that can be played on guitar, piano, whatever. But I've always tried to shoehorn a noise element into my work. But I'm not a big jam guy. I don't particularly enjoy improvising an idea and getting there in the way some noise bands do. I like writing a song beginning to end, and then pig-piling noise and experimental ideas on top, throughout and in between those parts. But this isn't a new idea. Bands like The Fall, Magnetic Fields, Pavement... they all do a similar thing, I imagine. I'm also a huge Psychedelic Furs fan. They are one of those great rock bands that got that idea of seamlessly stitching darkness and discord with pop. I love that. Also having Den(nis Grabowski, drummer for E.R. and brother of the aforementioned Dave) on this project adds a lot to it, because its a lot of similar stuff to what we were doing in The Beatings. So that's a nice security blanket to have.

CC: Is "Giving Myself Over To Boston" kind of the bizarro world version of, or maybe the inverse of your old cut "Stillborn In New Jersey?" We feel like they set up an interesting contrast, something about the home you are given or born into, versus the home that you make for yourself.

CK: "Stillborn in New Jersey" was about a very specific person and time in my life long after I had left home, and me working out my feelings about it all, albeit unfairly. "Giving Myself Over to Boston" is a much more general, playful take. I've always felt like an outsider in this city, and there was a very fleeting time when I felt like the city was opening itself up to me and then just as quickly it shut the door and I really wanted to lash out at it in a tongue-in-cheek way. But I realize none of that probably happened and it's a matter of flawed perception on my part. I also realize I have my own problems socially, mentally, not keeping my mouth shut and that I'm sure that many of the problems that may actually exist were created by me and that I do it to myself. Regardless, I wrote [the song] at a time of pettiness and spitefulness, but with a healthy sense of humor. In all fairness the snark in that song doesn't come close to what others have written about this town, so I'm not too precious about it.

CC: At the same time, those two songs represent opposite ends of a spectrum, we think, with snark on one end and sincerity on the other. Could a younger E.R. have written "Giving Myself Over To Boston?" It feels to us like not only a great songwriting achievement, but dare we say, an achievement of maturity.

CK: I don't think I could have written it when I was younger. I was so angry for so long that the playful teasing, snark and misdirection in the lyrics would have just come out as venom and piss. It's a clever song and maybe my least favorite on the album, because it reminds me that regardless of any strides made that that petty little directionless shitty punk kid is still fighting to lash out when shown a modicum of inclusion or when hurt, and no one wants to be reminded of their failures.

CC: The final lyric of "Big Dead Heart" is a real spine-tingler -- we listen to the song again and again just to feel that final crashing wave again and again. We can see you coming up with that first and then writing the whole song around it. Did you?

CK: Yeah, thanks. That last verse certainly wraps up everything that happens before it. How the mistakes and embarrassments made in youth mean nothing because we eventually all die, and how quickly life moves the older you get. I think I had the title first. I liked it because it reminded me of a Raymond Chandler title. That last verse kind of came out of something a friend who is much older than me said. It was late and we were tired and he said something like "Life just moves like a stream down a continuously narrowing chute and the more it narrows the faster the stream moves until it leaves the chute and death," or something like that. The idea of dignity in aging always felt fake to me. There is no dignity in getting old. There may be knowledge and experience and know-how but there is no inherent dignity in it. You can have dignity in dealing with your death, sure. There is dignity in the bravery of facing the unknown. You can hold yourself in a dignified fashion, but then it's just a prop. Old people are the same people they were when they were 16, and should behave as such. Some do, and I think it's great. There are many dumb, stupid, boring, misguided old people and they don't get a pass because they are old. Getting old is scary and should be handled according to whatever policy you used that got you to that point, with compassion for others and with grace. But there is no inherent dignity is getting old.

CC: We think this record is the first you've made since your brother Clayton signed on. So the question: is that experience a necessary evil, or terrific filial bonding that you relish every second?

CK: Clayton is great and a much better guitarist than I'll ever be. He and I work on label stuff daily, so him coming on board was natural. We get along well and bicker and fight sometimes, but its a very good, stable relationship. We've always gotten along, and he's always supported me, so there really wasn't any big emotional transition when he came on. In many ways, I couldn't do any of this without him.

CC: Music is so aggravating now. Not the music itself, but everything that surrounds music. We know you've got other shit to do -- why do you still put so much of your heart into this after close to two decades of this nonsense?

CK: I don't even want to dignify this question with a response, but I'm compelled to say this. Its really a compulsion that I can't trace to anything. What else would I do? It's all I know how to do well. I still enjoy the process. I consider recording and playing and writing an art form, and not solely as a process that produces a product for commercial consumption. And we've always done things DIY and on our own terms, so all that nonsense doesn't really effect me creatively. I enjoy the art of it, from the beginning idea to end. I've been doing this since I was 15 or 16. Its not something that I'm ever without. What else would I do? Get into sports? Distract myself from these ideas and feelings and thoughts that consume and influence my emotions and thought every second of every day with a fantasy football league. Give me a fucking break.

CC: So, ultimately, what is the titular Castrati Menace? Can it be eradicated in our time?

CK: Its an unhealthy and unseemly cultural obsession with the awful aspects of youth culture and pop, and time eradicates everything.

CC: Thanks Cam.
Eldridge Rodriguez fête the release of The Castrati Menace Friday night in Boston at Allston Rock City's Wonderbar. The bill includes support from notable experimentalist/s Skyjelly and an act called Party Bois, and more fullsome details can be scrutinized at this Facebook event page. Midriff releases The Castrati Menace Friday, but it is already available for pre-order via ITunes right here. Eldridge Rodriguez's previous full-length, You Are Released, was issued by Midriff Records in early 2011.

Prior Eldridge Rodriguez Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Eldridge Rodriguez
Clicky Clicky Music Presents... N O F U C K I N G W H E R E : 11 Boston Bands Perform Ride's Classic 1990 Album
Midriff Records Night with Eldridge Rodriguez
Out Now: Eldridge Rodriguez | Christmas On The Allston-Brighton Line EP
That Was The Show That Was: Get Help with E.R. and Soccer Mom
Eldridge Rodriguez Record Release Show | O'Brien's Pub | 1 April
Be Prepared: Eldridge Rodriguez | You Are Released | 22 March
Behold! The Eldridge Rodriguez Residency!
That Was The Show That Was: E.R., The Mitchells | PA's Lounge
Review: E.R. | This Conspiracy Against Us

October 5, 2015

That Was The Show That Was: Ought, LVL UP, Diet Cig | Great Scott, Boston | 30 Sept.

That Was The Show That Was: Ought, LVL UP, Diet Cig | Great Scott, Boston | 30 Sept.

[PHOTO: Diet Cig by Dillon Riley, from the band's June 1 show] Despite its relative infancy, New Paltz, NY indie pair Diet Cig has rapidly established a singular and appealing voice across two short releases. Most importantly though, the band fronted by singer/guitarist Alex Luciano is a formidable, can't-miss live act. And so we were again pleased to catch Diet Cig -- fresh off playing on a totes sick bill in Philly the night before -- open a similarly loaded bill last week at Great Scott in Allston Rock City. While the quick-hit narratives of the duo's debut Over Easy EP still shine brightly, its recent 7" Sleep Talk seems to bring the best out of the group on stage. Indeed, with its hefty and insistent backbeat, "Dinner Date" is becoming the group's sonic calling card, and Luciano clearly takes great pride in belting its cleverly frank opening salvo. For now, however, the duo closes their Boston gigs with "Harvard," a funny kiss-off that brilliantly skewers Ivy League pretension. During its noisy, crashing outro, Ms. Luciano jumped into the crowd and ran the song’s strummy cadence into the ground before collapsing on stage in a huff. Indeed, throughout the evening Luciano was the consummate fronter, broadly roaming the stage, gleefully perching atop monitors and amps, and letting rip with sharp bursts of shrill feedback. It was quite a show, which is ultimately what is going to net Diet Cig new fans, although weird, incidental TV exposure can't hurt, either.

Hotly tipped Candian post-punk quartet Ought headlined Wednesday, and unleashed a shit-hot passel of tunes from its three Constellation Records releases, including its recent winning long-player Sun Coming Down. The Talking Heads comparisons that chase the Montréal-based band feel even more apt based on the quartet's bracing live show, wherein fronter Tim Darcy's slow-fizzing, nervy energy is especially appealing. The near-psychotic water cooler talk of the mesmerizing recent single "Beautiful Blue Sky" achieves surreal effect on stage; here Darcy's controlled and repeated cadence first complements, then stands in stark relief against, the band's noisy swell. For its encore, Ought were joined by a guest guitarist, a presumed band affiliate, to run through the anxious epic "New Calm Pt. 2," a highlight from the band's 2014 EP Once More With Feeling. The extra manpower freed Darcy for important activities such as running in place and gliding around the stage like a carnival barker declaiming the song's manic lyrics as crowd instruction. It was a great performance from a band that -- in spite of massive acclaim -- succeeds brilliantly by continuing to run with its weirdest impulses.

New York indie rock heroes LVL UP were sandwiched second on the bill and teased some exciting new material during a set that also featured tunes from the New York foursome's still-great second LP Hoodwink'd. Color us intrigued. LVL UP and Ought are rocking Philadelphia tonight, and then play two additional shows together before their time together elapses; LVL UP then tour back east, rounding out it remaining strand of dates with a show in New Haven at BAR Oct. 14. -- Dillon Riley

Ought: Facebook | Internerdz
LVL UP: Bandcamp | Facebook
Diet Cig: Bandcamp | Facebook

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Basement, Adventures, LVL UP, Palehound | Royale, Boston | 16 Aug.
That Was The Show That Was: Diet Cig and PWR BTTM | Red Room at Cafe 939 | 1st June
Today's Hotness: Diet Cig
Today's Hotness: LVL UP

October 4, 2015

Today's Hotness: Lilys, Frog, Happy You

Lilys -- Eccsame The Photon Band (1994)

>> Frontier Records announced late Friday that it will release on Halloween (!) the long- and hotly anticipated reissue of Lilys' mid-'90s classic Eccsame The Photon Band (!). Pre-orders for the record, whose original 1994 pressing is extraordinarily rare and has been out of print for 20 years, will begin Tuesday, according to a post on the Frontier Facebook page. Devoted Clicky Clicky readers are quite familiar with the import of Eccsame The Photon Band, in no small part because of Senior Writer Edward Charlton's incredible oral history piece published last December. According to the label, the new pressing of the record features an expanded dynamic range and will be available on "a ghostly shade of pale" vinyl; a "super-limited mail order version" will be pressed to "seafoam splatter" media. We expect we'll have a better idea of the number of pieces of each pressing Tuesday. The track sequence has also been altered in order to better balance the program on each side of the disc, which allowed for a more optimal cut of the master that resulted in the improved dynamic range. Eccsame The Photon Band is Lilys' second LP and last recorded for Spin-Art Records; it was preceded by the equally estimable debut In The Presence Of Nothing and EP A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns, as well as some singles. We reported here in March 2014 that Lilys mastermind Kurt Heasley intended to reissue those first three recordings; at the time Heasley said he was negotiating with Slumberland Records to release certain records, so the deal with Frontier is a bit of a surprise (although Slumberland *not* reissuing something is not without recent precedent: a very welcome planned reissue of Rocketship's sublime A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness, originally issued by Slumberland, was at one point said to be coming out via another prominent label, but Rocketship told Exclaim! in August that it will self-release via a Kickstarter campaign the reissue in late 2015 or early 2016). Lilys, in case you don't know, are slated to play selections from its earlier recordings at three amazing east coast shows this week, two at Brooklyn's Baby's All Right and one at Philly's Lithuanian Music Hall. The first two shows are already sold out, and we hope that show of support from fans convinces Heasley to plot additional shows. Los Angeles-based Frontier is a storied punk and indie rock label founded 35 years ago; its catalog includes releases by American Music Club, Circle Jerks and Young Fresh Fellows. Stream all of the original version of Eccsame The Photon Band via the squished YouTube embed below.

>> It's quite satisfying when challenging and worthy music gets rediscovered and reissued. Better still are the times when something is so good that its rise from the deep underground transpires in a matter of months or a few short years. It reinforces a music fan's belief in meritocracy, that something can be so special that no amount of bad luck or insufficient networking can keep it down. All of which calls to mind Audio Antihero's reissue last week of the eponymous debut EP by New York City-based duo Frog. Originally released in January 2013 by the Monkfish label, the EP is gaining exposure to new audiences via London-based (for a little while longer, anyway) Audio Antihero; the label previously released the group's terrific, sepia-toned Kind Of Blah LP in May [boing!]. Appraising the adventurous EP in the context of that long-player limns why the imprint signed them in the first place. Frog's raw and emotional music in places and spaces between seems to have no clear precedent. Indeed, Frog is singular in its presentation and production, having arrived seemingly fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. The ringing guitar strings of second track "Arkansas" are like a siren's call, and the song glows with hissy reverb. Later, the tune's pounding stop-start dynamics hit so viscerally that one can nearly see the sound waves bouncing off of the concrete walls in the negative space. Dan Bateman's vocals hit at a base level, his croaks, yelps and shrieks echoing those of folk and blues musicians of a bygone era. Frog's music seems to draw from a shared universal subconsciousness, but touts a modern sense of humor and irony. Further, the looping, detuned acoustic guitar and Tom White's percussion place an avant-garde frame around the songs, suggesting a more manic, deranged millennial John Fahey. Taken all together, the appeal is perhaps hard to define, but that makes it perhaps even more appealing. And that, ultimately, is what makes Frog so important. The epic "Nancy Kerrigan" goes one step further in hammering straight to the heart. "Choked down a Claritin / thought back to Oregon / where she wore her cardigan / just like Nancy Kerrigan / when they broke her legs / over your frosted flakes," sings Bateman as sweetly as he can muster. Such observations, as devastating as they are surreal, provide a great glimpse into the shifting, magical world of Frog. There everything is blurry, and the range of human experiences accretes to some sum of elated confusion. Order the EP on cassette (a limited edition of 50 green cassettes) or as a digital download from the band right here, and stream the entire short set via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> We last covered New York-based dream-pop septet Happy You about a year ago, noting that its debut Giggle delivered key tracks whose pitch-perfect melodies were "mainlined via breathy vocals, ample fuzz and ethereal feedback." The crafty, upbeat exuberance of the self-released collection was a welcome surprise, and we're pleased to see the band return so quickly with similarly appealing music on EP1; the short set was issued as a digital download early last month and is now available for any price via the act's Bandcamp. The three-song collection evidences Happy You readily embracing the more downbeat, melancholy aspects of its sound. On each track, the band establishes a singular melodic environment that plays host well-timed earworms that strike during the choruses. Middle track "Unlucky" commences with a nifty, jaunty Brit-pop chord progression chased by simple, string-bent falsettos that tug at listeners' heartstrings. "We Could Be Friends" lurches with distorted, chugging palm mutes and spare snare hits but is lifted up by the titular plea in the chorus; textured fuzz effects course through the stereo channels. Subtle standout "Not Worried" leads the EP and succeeds via soft whispers and spiraling, clean guitar arpeggios that find Happy You ably setting off mood and atmosphere in a manner consistent with slowcore masters Low (whose own new record is stirring) and Bedhead. Here, Happy You's quiet verses -- with vocals that recall Elliot Smith at his most starry-eyed -– precipitate a chorus so lilting and quick one can almost miss it. The ironic ache during the last word of the line "It's okay I'm not worried anymore," not only illuminates another dimension of the act's promising songwriting, but suggests a satisfying variety of output continues to be a calling card for the rock combo. Download EP1 for any price here, and stream the entire EP via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton