Saturday, February 28, 2015

New noise: The Dying Elk Herd For Real This Time & Tenterhooks - Meanwhile in Another Part of Town ep - a brief overview

"One way or another we're all mixed up, it's ok my brother," opines The Dying Elk Herd's Dave Benner on "Another Restless Night," in a slightly deaf-tone drawl I might add.  It's this reassuring panache that seems to enhance the proceedings on that song, likewise on the deft opening foray, "Progress Has a Price," and a little further in, "Times of Peril."  At best, when the indie rock gods spread a ray of light or two on this Lancaster, PA trio, I get a similar rush to absorbing '90s era Figgs, and perhaps even Sloan.  Elsewhere, the going on For Real This Time gets considerably more hokey (e.g. "Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You), but bear in mind this is a through-and-through DIY endeavor, and the Herd are wont to do things on their own terms.  Fleeting as For Real's... most notable numbers are they're worth holding onto.  Feel free to draw your on conclusions over at the band's online merch page, iTunes, Amazon, or the venerable CD Baby.

Here's a refreshing concept - a Brooklyn band that doesn't sound an inkling like the trend-hopping hopefuls that typically emanate from that fussed over borough.  Featuring alumni from '90s indie scenesters Jennifer Convertible, the four-piece Tenterhooks pursue a linear meat-and-potatoes power pop muse.  Reminiscent of many Not Lame/Big Deal Records signees circa the turn of the millennium, Tenterhooks neither deviate or advance upon this all-too-traditional, albeit satisfying formula. "Unseen" is Meanwhile in Another Part of Town's most riveting moment, with the remaining tunes paling not much further behind.  Dare I say aficionados of Cheap Trick, The Well Wishers and Splitsville will be delighted with this?  Meanwhile... will be available in the near future from Sugarblast Records, but for now, preview some songs on Bandcamp

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hypnolovewheel, The Spliffs and Square Root of Now available in FLAC.

You've asked for it, and we've delivered - lossless versions of three popular Wilfully Obscure chestnuts.  The MP3 versions are still available.  Click the band name to be taken to the original entry, or it's corresponding title for a direct download (i.e. instant gratification).  Enjoy.

Hypnolovewheel - Wow 7" and Sybil ep
The Spliffs - House of Seven
Square Root of Now - Bent Around Corners

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Yo - Once in a Blue Moon (1986, Deadbeat/Restless)

Another year, another Yo album.  Last year I introduced this offbeat quartet to you via their second long-player Charm World, and as of tonight I've digitized their third and final outing Once in a Blue Moon for the world at large to consume at their collective (or individual) leisure.  Mutant Sounds blog regards Charm World as having a slight edge over Moon, but I might argue to the contrary.  Very much the same formula for both records, particularly lead shouter Bruce Rayburn whose timbre is a solid approximation of what a fusion of Stan Ridgeway and Guadalcanal Diary's Murray Attaway would culminate in.  Yo's acerbic moxie works best in tandem with Rayburn's flurry of vigorous power chords, coloring such insurgent rockers as "I Meant to Tell You," "Sun and Moon," and oddly enough a blistering reinterpretation of Cat Steven's "Hard Headed Woman." 

01. Head Headed Woman
02. House With No One
03. Sun and Moon
04. Wish Away
05. Castle By the Sea
06. On the Road
07. The Happy Song
08. I Meant to Tell You
09. Black Rose
10. Blue Moon
11. In Another World
12. One Outta Nine
13. Broken Mirror
14. The Hunt


Sunday, February 22, 2015

No nightmares anymore, I keep them all at bay.

From 1990.  If you can get past the band name (and for that matter the album jacket) you’ve got a pretty grand pop record on your hands, albeit one that’s a tad left-of-center.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ultra Vivid Scene - Staring at the Sun ep & Special One ep (1990) Rev bonus CD.

I remember it as if it were only 25 years ago... seeing the video for Ultra Vivid Scene's "Staring at the Sun" for the first time on 120 Minutes.  I was endeared almost instantly to it's mildly hazy, bittersweet template - an artful, chilled-out pop song accessible enough for the mainstream but smart enough for more discriminating tastes.  For better or worse, only the latter really latched onto the S.S. UVS, commandeered by the soft spoken Kurt Ralske, a UK transplant who took up residence in New York.

"Staring..." was a single culled from an even greater body of work, UVS's sophomore full length Joy 1967-1990, the title of which is a considerable misnomer.  It's not a decades spanning compilation by any stretch, rather a dozen songs that were recorded contemporary to it's release, with vague nuances and glints evoking the flower power era.  At any rate, Ralske and Co. could do no wrong on Joy..., so much so that I probed a couple of that's album attendant "maxi singles" (i.e. eps).  "Special One" also appearing on Joy... boasted a hook as stirring as "Staring," and featured Kim Deal on backing vocals to boot.  The Special One ep boasts three non-LP cuts including the percussion-heavy, synth manipulated "Kind of a Drag," and the sparse and fragmentary "A Smile and a Death Wish."  It's easy to discern why these were left as b-sides.

The tracks padding out Staring at the Sun fare a bit better.  Here we get a remix of Joy's... buzzing "Three Stars," a re-recording of "Crash," which originally saw the light of day on UVS' 1988 debut, and a cover of Marianne Faithfull's "Something Better."

Since I'm such a nice guy, I'm padding this set with a four-track bonus disk that accompanied certain copies of the third and final Ultra Vivid Scene long-player, 1992's Rev.  Despite it's streamlined modus operadi Rev's often jammy and heady inclinations never fully sank in with this set of ears. Typically, I got more out of the ep I'm presenting here than the album itself.  It contains among other selections a remix of one of Rev's more stimulating excerpts, "Blood and Thunder," and a reinterpretation of "Winter Song," originally penned by John Cale for Nico's Chelsea Girl album.

All three Ultra Vivid Scene albums are available from iTunes and Amazon, and are worthy of your perusal, especially if you enjoy what I've provided.   Support the man!  Also, prior to UVS, Kurt Ralske was involved in Crash, a combo you can check out here.  

Staring at the Sun ep
01. Staring at the Sun
02. Crash
03. Three Stars (*** version)
04. Something Better

Special One ep
01. Special One
02. Lightning (72 b.p.m./4 a.m.)
03. Kind of a Drag
04. A Smile and a Death Wish

Rev bonus CD (1993)
01. Blood and Thunder (Remix Edit)
02. Candida (Theme from "Red Pressure Mounting")
03. Don't Look Now (Now!)
04. Winter Song


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Plan B: - tape (19??)

I got this one in a lot of cassettes a couple years ago.  Talk about a cold case.  Not only did these synthy fellows fail to list a copyright date or their location on the sleeve, they refused to identify themselves (though the guest musicians are noted).  By my estimate, these tracks were likely laid down in the late '80s or so. Fairly lo-fi activity here, with the lead-off number "The World in Here" mixing electronics with guitars, a la Achtung Baby-lite.  "Over and Over" is Plan B:'s taught, crunchy rocker, and clearly the winner of the seven contestants on this rather clandestine offering.  Plan B: were fond of instrumentals.  There's a good three or four of them here.  I appreciate the mild yet alluring post-punk undercurrents emanating through much of this tape, but when all is said and done I'd prefer more substance than subtlety.  If anyone has any specs on these guys, comment as you see fit.

01. The World in Here
02. Over and Over
03. A 1920s Ghost
04. They Came
05. The Washing
06. Somewhere Else
07. The Panic!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Radio Alarm Clocks - Wake Me When It's Over (1983, After Hours)

Another "whim" purchase of mine.  Guess you can't love everything, but this one has a few merits that some of you are likely to appreciate.  Genre-wise it's hard to slot Radio Alarm Clocks, a Cleveland five-piece who open Wake Me... with an appealing, Paisley-esque garage number "Slave Planet."  Appealing, that is, until the chorus kicks in and they employ some sort of weird robotic vocal effect to gum up an otherwise swell tune.  They redeem themselves on the decidedly more linear "Kill Talk," which employs organ, and ups the ante with a punky tempo.  I might also mention
RAC are unabashed goofballs, therefore rarely is anything straightforward in their skewed, DIY realm.  Amidst all the Tom foolery there are a couple of passable, tongue-in-cheek covers - the Stones "Time is on My Side," and a run through Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour."  If Wake Me... strikes you as something of a random mishmash of tunes, that's probably because it is.  The back sleeve (provided in the file) offers a brief track-by-track synopsis, in an attempt to satiate any burning questions you may have about the music contained within.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Slave Planet
02. Synthetic Weekend
03. Kill Talk
04. Confidentially Renee
05. Alone in Flat B
06. In the Midnight Hour
07. Tock Tock Man
08. You (Bust Out)
09. Sex Dimension
10. Skurds
11. Time is on My Side
12. Funky Titch and Bustuh
13. Psycho


Sunday, February 15, 2015

All the dads are shaking down their daughters...

From 1991.  A smashingly smart, deft and satisfying platter from a trio who copped a page or two from Soul Asylum, and tossed in a dash of southern rock while they were at it.  Immense stuff.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lush - 10/10/91, North London Polytechnic

What better way to cap off a week of dream-gazer tidings than with a Lush concert?  I don't think I've posted anything by them prior to tonight.  If your experience was anything like mine, Lush summoned your rapt attention via the video for "Sweetness and Light."  One sighting on 120 Minutes back in 1991 or thereabouts and I was hooked.  Gala, their collection of early eps and such quickly became a staple, and I even got to see their opening slot on the '92 Lollapalooza outing (made for an odd segue into Pearl Jam, that's for sure).   At any rate, this gig is from my favorite era of the band.  A decent enough audience recording.  Will consider posting this in FLAC at some point, but for now 320 kbps it is. Dig in.

01. Stray
02. Thoughtforms
03. Bitter
04. Breeze
05. Laura
06. God's Gift
07. Etheriel
08. Nothing Natural
09. For Love
10. Covert
11. De-Luxe
12. Second Sight
13. Downer
14. Leaves Me Cold
15. Monochrome
16. Sweetness and Light


Friday, February 13, 2015

Catching up with Saint Marie Records: Blind Mr. Jones, Lightfoils, The Cherry Wave, and We Need Secrets.

As was the case last year I thought I'd offer my thoughts on a few of Saint Marie Records most recent offerings.  Shoegaze, dream-pop, ambient or whatever term of art you wish to throw at it is alive and well, and Saint Marie has it covered like nobodies business, boasting a roster of acts that often parallel the genre's most esteemed antecedents. 

I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  The halcyon era of '90s indie rock proved to be so fertile, and teaming with quality bands, one is completely forgiven if they happened to overlook an unheralded hopeful or two...or even a dozen.  Blind Mr. Jones was one such scenario for me, but better two decades late than never is what I say.  A five piece who called Marlow, England home, BMJ were ingratiated into their nation's exponentially populating dream-pop scene, yet there's more to the equation than that.  1994's Tatooine, the quintet's second and final full length, has shades of Ride and Stone Roses happening all over it, but simply put this bunch wasn't nearly as top-heavy as their more renown 'gazer spotlight hogs of the day (MBV, Swervedriver, etc).  In fact, I suspect these guys were diggin' on American imports from the likes of Drop Nineteens, For Against, and even Yo La Tengo.  Either that or Blind Mr. Jones had adopted a keen sense of clairvoyance to compensate for said poor eyesight.  Though not an album chockablock with wall-to-wall revelations, the casually downcast Tatooine thrills in small doses, ranging from the pulsating "Disneyworld," to the tranquil comedown finale, "Mesa."  For the first time Tatooine is available on wax (multi-colored at that) in a gatefold sleeve, and more humbly in digital.

Now it's time for the nugazer contingent.  Leading off this triple threat is Lightfoils, a co-ed troupe from the Windy City, and much like wind itself, they have a tendency to conceive a dizzying maelstrom of their own.  The third track in, "Addict," is a mind-warping melange of heightened melody and sonic hysteria, that roughly picks up where Lush's Spooky left off all those years ago. Wafting in a few minutes later, "Mock Sun" showcases mildly more lucid and ambient hues, albeit in the same dense, sonically layered context.  In fact, had Lightfoils been in operation say twenty years ago they just might have compelled Slowdive to quit out of sheer frustration.  Lofty and immaculate to a fault, Hierarchy's glittering latticework is the stuff of painstaking perfection...maybe a little too painstaking and perfect.  Hmmm.

If Lightfoils are a sparkling beauty, contrarily The Cherry Wave are a steaming, frenetic beast, sporting no shortage of teeth and nails on the snowballing Avalancher.  Dispensing an unremitting and often deafeningly wondrous haze of distortion and drone this quartet doesn't so much adhere to dream-pop fundamentals as they do ravaging sensory overload.  I know not from where they hail, nor am I aware of what drugs they're imbibing, but the Waves' cavernous, echoing muck owes more than a wink and a nod to the feral aesthetics of SST-era Dino Jr, early Swervedriver, and more recently the likes of Surfer Blood.  Avalancher is irrefutably unkempt and in some regards imposing, yet despite their decidedly noisenik approach, C/W eke out something approaching genuine hooks on "Harvest Summer" and "Blissbomb."  A pair of earplugs will be your best friend here if you opt to crank this beyond "2" people.

For all intents and purposes, We Need Secrets is a one man operation, specifically Nova Scotia denizen Chad Peck.  Perhaps by mere coincidence, Peck has managed to bridge together three decades worth of 'gazing on Melancholy and the Archive.  The album is a veritable pastiche of My Bloody Valentine (think Isn't Anything over Loveless), the woozy weirdness of '90s surrealists the Swirlies, and loud and proud, present day revivalists Ringo Deathstarr.  If that doesn't get you through the door WNS's quality control is just as impressive.  Whether presented in a more tuneful context ("Months Like Years" and ""Melancholy") or slightly more dissonant ("Auster") everything Peck touches on Melancholy... is conveyed through a mid-fi delivery system, exuding a warm lived-in tenor that's nearly as sublime and timeless as anything from his aforementioned inspirations.  This is great.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that late last year Saint Marie released it's third in a series of compilations, Static Waves 3.  This one is three packed CDs in length, two parts label sampler (mostly exclusive tracks I might add) and one part Slowdive tribute album.  That's right, a full disk of Slowdive covers involving the likes of Spotlight Kid, The High Violets, Scarlet Youth, and ten more.  The price is more that alright.  

If you care to sample the four acts if written up here, I've made a taster with one track apiece available here.  All albums are out now and available directly from Saint Marie, Amazon, iTunes.  Bandcamp links, wherever applicable are provided above.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Colfax Abbey - Drop (1996)

Here's a few ditties about Jack and Diane.   Um...ok, not quite, however Colfax Abbey did consist of four American guys who lived in the heartland, Minneapolis to be exact.  By the time Drop quite fittingly dropped, dream-pop, even of the domestic variety, was past it's nadir.  Nonetheless, these dedicated souls refused to relent their bear-hug embrace of the genre.  Drop is unabashedly the stuff of shoegazy reveries - billowy surges of tremolo soaked guitars, tranquilizing vocals, and artfully manicured swells of howling feedback and distortion.  Truly a celebration of itself if there was ever such a thing.  CA's collective influences will be evident upon your perusal, my only complaint is that the band doesn't formulate anything beyond them.  Then again, painting by numbers is actually a sign of proficiency when it comes to sculpting music this intense and labyrinthine.   Presumably, this album was Colfax's final transmission, but the songs go on long after the thrill of living is gone.

01. Feel
02. Shy Away
03. Chameleon
04. Once in a While
05. Silver
06. Snowshine
07. On the Edge of a Heathery Moor
08. Shanesong


Sunday, February 8, 2015

You can change my name and still I’d smile.

A should-have-been shoegazer classic from 1992.  Ten tracks of dense and heavy gorgeousness.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Westmorelands - For Life's History ep (1988, Wigwam)

Seems to me that throughout the '80 straight up thru the mid-90s, you could throw a dart at any given day on the calendar and you'd damn near bet that a vital and inspired band from Boston had their first practice session.  By mere coincidence, just the other night I introduced you to a Beantown bunch dubbed Smackmelon, and to close the week out I present yet another group from the proverbial Cradle of Liberty, The Westmorelands.  The only comparison (and an informal one at that) I've seen tagged to this quartet is Morrissey.  In reality, it's more like period R.E.M., albeit these guys weren't anywhere near as cryptic or innovative.  Nonetheless they were a talented lot, and prime mover Michael Crittenden whips up an array of jangly, Peter Buck-informed salvos on "Low Tide" and "Forever."  Really nice record, but I should mention that for the concluding "Oscar Killed the Possum" the Westmorelands turn a complete 180, and exchange their aforementioned formula for rollicking pub rock a la Rockpile.  Not what I was expecting, but they pull it off.

01. Cutting Against the Grain
02. Low Tide
03. Waiting for Echoes
04. Hopeless Beach
05. Forever
06. Oscar Killed the Possum


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Smackmelon 7" (1992, Mag Wheel)

This curiously named Boston three-piece suit wielded guitar-imbued musculature, not dissimilar to more than one of Bob Mould's lauded power trios, but Smackmelon embraced a contemplative ethos as well.  You won't find a better example of said propensity than the A-side of this wax, "Space Shot," a tune which ponders the Moon landing and such.  Coincidentally or not, frontman Duke Roth bears a likeness to another Beantown contemporary, Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom, and his sinewy fretwork rips a page straight from J. Mascis to boot.  The more uptempo flip, "I'm Not Cool" discernibly seizes the Husker/Sugar reins, without throwing anything too far into overdrive.  Fans of Overwhelming Colorfast will find a lot to love here too I might add.  In addition to this single (copies of which are potentially savailable straight from the source) Smackmelon were survived by an ep and a 1995 full length, Blue Hour.

A. Space Shot
B. I'm Not Cool


Sunday, February 1, 2015

I guess you’re over it, ‘cause you’re all over me…

Presenting the first full length (1993) and second ep (1994) from a North Carolina indie rock crew who never quiet got their due.  That rhymes, doesn't it?

Hypnolovewheel - "Wow" 7" (1991, Alias) & Sybil 2x7" ep (1992, 18 Wheeler)

Back in the day, Hypnolovewheel were never one my go-to bands, but after re-investigating their music many years after the fact, I'm finding there was more there for me than I realized.  The Long Island quartet exuded no shortage of typical indie rock appeal, yet they brought to the table a psych undercurrent not to mention sonically dense song structures that most of their contemporaries couldn't be bothered with.  With it's swervy, flanged guitar splay and just enough sass to keep things interesting, "Wow" from a 1991 7," crystallizes Hypno's prevailing modus operandi in the span of two and a half minutes.  The tune would later materialize on their Angel Food album, with the more adventurous song-thing on the flip, "KMG-365" remaining exclusive to this wax.

And speaking of wax, the guys would delve into considerably more ambitious terrain a year later on the four-sided 7" ep, Sybil.  The premise is simple, one side to showcase songs from each individual band member, but the material itself is anything but.   

Stephen Hunking kicks things off via the buzzing "Beside Inside Me," a sublime slice of hypnotic haziness and mid-fi persuasion, bejeweled with a great hook.  Very reminiscent of what Edsel was doing at the time I might add.  It's fittingly followed-up by a noisome rendition of George Harrison's "Wah Wah."  Guitarist Dave Ramirez's side of the story is by far the most abstract and oblique - five very brief and predominantly instrumental, avant sketches, roughly in the same wheelhouse as early Sonic Youth, and more vaguely Wire.  Next up is Hypnolovehwheel frontman himself Dan Cuddy spewing all kinds of weirdness and eccentricities, employing cello, violin and whatnot.  Interesting, but nothing in his three song suite really does the job for me.  Drummer Peter Walsh rounds Sybil out with two jangly, melodic nuggets "Easy Journey to Other Planets" and "The Thin Ice," both of which are modest but engaging.  In fact, Walsh's songs are my favorites on here and I could easily for an album's worth of where these came from. 

I should note that last year I posted a single by a Hypnolovewheel/Yo La Tengo offshoot called a Very Special Pillow which you can read about and download here

Wow 7"
A. Wow
B. KMG-365

Sybil ep

Side Stephen
Beside Inside Me, Wah Wah

Side Dave
KMG-366, Down With People, Giant Marble, Sanatarium, Planetarium

Side Dan
Jean Grey, Operation Brainwave, Guarantee

Side Peter
Easy Journey to Other Planets, The Thin Ice

MP3  or  FLAC