26 May 2017


antiquated future / inanambulance 2017, edition of ?

"Led by songwriter and sound-experimenter Tucker Theodore, Buffalo Voice's Pilgrim Takes His Spill is a series of ten perfectly destroyed anthems. Psych-sludge garage-punk from another universe." - ANTIQUATED FUTURE

PILGRIM is a hell of a leap forward from where 2015's HUGE DARK MOUTH left off, which is a plenty strong twenty minute missive in it's own right, seeming here gutted for parts to help construct this fully realized full blown masterpiece, which, the more i listen to it, the more i think it just might be TUCKER THEODORE's best yet, at the very least it gives one of my all time favorite tapes in 2013's TO MAKE THE SUN HURT a real good run for it's money

THEODORE brazenly pushes his moody outsider folk style to its limit, channels the GRATEFUL DEAD and NEIL YOUNG by way of MAGNOLIA ELECTRIC CO's TRIAL & ERRORS and MV & EE's ECSTATIC PEACE sides like GETTIN' GONE and BARN NOVA as well as concurrent heralded HCA gems GUITAR BARN and IRON BREW - but there's more to PILGRIM than crunchy jams - it's an outsider rock opera of sorts, a potpourri gleaned from a diverse array of high priority targets ranging from PINK FLOYD to THIN LIZZY to the REPLACEMENTS to DINOSAUR JR to CODEINE

there is plenty of "MASCIS plays NEIL" here i think, not just referentially where MASCIS's white hot guitar reinforces those aforementioned MV & EE records, but reverentially as THEODORE employs that distinctive sound tactfully and to great effect, not as a gimmick or a prop, but also not sparingly, actually reminding me of BARDO POND more than once or twice, and not just as part of some epic guitar lineage, but as an elemental sonic reference as PILGRIM pours it on with impressive and rather unexpected flashes of BARDO POND esque heady oomph

if THEODORE's trajectory over the past three years wasn't indicative enough (KILL AND DRESS > HDM > this), it should now be quite clear that he has not just separated himself sonically from folks like JAKOB OLAUSSON and TERRORS, but qualitatively as well, i mean no slight to that favored cluster of underappreciated weirdo folk'ers, it's just that PILGRIM is on another level - that said, THEODORE doesn't abandon folk - while carving out this swath of bizarro classic (loner stoner) rock he manages to maintain a considerable force on the outsider folk front - there's contemporary synergy with IRMA VEP's recent masterpiece NO HANDSHAKE BLUES [REC# 186] and WOODEN WAND's BRIARWOOD - even though the cement hasn't quite dried yet on IV's NHB i'll go ahead and say both of those are top echelon favorites of mine this decade, and PILGRIM looks to be right there with em


24 May 2017


whited sepulchre 2017, edition of 200

"Midwife is Madeline Johnston. Known for her minimal ambient work as Sister Grotto, Midwife finds Johnston and collaborator Tucker Theodore creating powerful anthems of dislocation and loss under the weight of reverb buried power chords and swelling choruses." - MIDWIFE bandcamp

"Under the name Sister Grotto, Denver based artist Madeline Johnston explores the limits of minimalism in transcendental drone-pop. With 'Like Author, Like Daughter' Johnston uses the Midwife moniker to craft triumphant, fist-in-the-air anthems that tackle themes of dislocation and falling in (and out) of love with a person, a home and yourself. ...a portrait of Johnston's last year as a resident of Denver's famed diy venue Rhinoceropolis which closed in a rash of politically motivated assaults on creative spaces across the United States. The album internalizes loss, addiction, abandonment and wrings them through distorted power chords, powerful leads, sheets of drone to create building, aching monuments to past-selves and lost relationships into a positivist statement of resilience and self-love. Performed, recorded and co-produced by Tucker Theodore (Buffalo Voice), recorded in Denver at Rhinoceropolis and INAMBULANCE in Olympia WA." - WHITED SEPULCHRE

recall almost a year ago when i hyperbolically boasted that JOHNSTON's "heaven metal / soft gaze" outlet SISTER GROTTO had achieved all there was to achieve, if not on her stunning slow burning collaboration with BRAEYDEN JAE [REC# 106] courtesy ANTIQUATED FUTURE then most certainly on her split cassette with YARROW [REC# 127] co-released by TERRIBLE PLEASURES and JOHNSTON's own in house imprint TINYAMP - i posited the question- "what's left for her to conquer in the weirdo cassette world, what's left but to break out to a broader audience with a righteous vinyl debut"

well, it happened - this is her righteous vinyl debut and to my ears it has the appeal to make waves beyond the weirdo cassette world - i would be a little surprised if WHITED SEPULCHRE's run of 200 copies lasted the summer - speaking of the label, a brief intro-- fellow weirdo blog TOME TO THE WEATHER MACHINE honcho RYAN HALL runs it, a "small-run vinyl and tape label out Cincinnati focusing on experimental and ambient music" that launched last year with JAE's vinyl debut FOG MIRROR (another title i criminally failed to properly recommend) - HALL also finds time to run HELIGATOR RECORDS which "exists to continuously fund the Malindza Refugee Camp Library in Mpaka Swaziland" - wow - to quote CROW T ROBOT, "i feel so insignificant, then again i -always- feel insignificant"

MIDWIFE is a maximum equilibrium of JOHNSTON's musical capacities, an ideal synthesis of everything she previously accomplished, now honed and harnessed to develop a fertile middle ground between SG's droned out bliss and MARIPOSA's hushed balladry -another tributary of JOHNSTON's incredible talent- to strike a drool-worthy-when-done-right balance between "experimental" and "pop" pushing the underground toward the surface without making a mess of things, similar in this regard to all time list crasher IAN WILLIAM CRAIG's CENTRES [REC #167] and GROUPER's DRAGGING A DEAD DEER UP A HILL - the former is less a viable sonic comparison but the latter is undoubtedly an influence on JOHNSTON's music

LIKE AUTHOR is a pensive and wistful understated work, never wavering from it's measured pace, a slow motion elegance pulled from the waters where ballpark contemporaries EKIN FIL and GROUPER and RAAJMAHAL submerge themselves - there is a sense of forward momentum -albeit subtle- that separates from that pack, no doubt in part owed to crucial collaborator TUCKER THEODORE [REC# 59], but not so much as to stomp out that hypnagogic haze that gets me hook line sinker every time - at times it echoes the vaguely significant nostalgia of earliest/best BEACH HOUSE (i'm a sucker for that first BH record, man that hidden track at the end is as good as it gets) juxtaposed with ethereal-ized regurgitations of glorious BLACK TAMBOURINE hooks, which were always lurking in JOHNSTON's music, waiting in the wings - just listen to "song for an unborn sun" as heard on that split with YARROW then listen to the reprise here on LIKE AUTHOR

i hope i'm not too forward in stating that it stretches toward SUN RIAH's (formerly PSI LAB's KING MARY) "slow motion lucid dream pop ballads dusted with playful experimentation and hauntingly beautiful otherworldly songcraft" where JOHNSTON swaps crystalline harp for distorted guitar, naturally - for more typical comparisons i might say something like "WINDY & CARL meet MAZZY STAR" or "GROUPER meandering through languid COCTEAU TWINS covers" - and to be fair, the most important ingredient in LIKE AUTHOR might be "throw THE MOON AND THE MELODIES in a blender and hit puree" but if you try this metaphor at home you will most certainly get inferior results because there is a crucial proprietary blend of intimacy and je ne sais quoi that is JOHNSTON's alone

07 May 2017


unknown tone 2017, edition of 10

"Written, performed, recorded and mixed by Samuel Regan (early 2016) / Photography by Samuel Regan, Violin on 'centuries' by Sarah Reid, Vocals on 'centuries' by Sarah Nawotka / Thank you for listening, even if briefly. / thanks to Mark and Lindsey Kuykendall, Sarah Reid, Sarah Nawotka, Jake Alvarez, and Amy Erickson. / Mastering by Mark Kuykendall / Highly limited 1st pressing of 10 copies / 45rpm / lathe cut / includes three 35mm Photographs by Samuel Regan " - UNKNOWN TONE

UNKNOWN TONE, a "Midwest label exploring the surreal", a husband-and-wife team out of tulsa, an audio engineer and a metaphysical scientist / classically trained violinist - that's a hell of a team it would seem, an ideal operative pair perfectly suited for their mission - "avant-garde blended with film noir as expansive and isolating as the Oklahoma prairie"

the operative ordinal number here is "1st" as A WARM ROOM is begging for a more abundantly distributed cassette issue or even a proper vinyl pressing to placate likeminded listeners sure to want/need it before they even finish hearing the first track for the first time

also, a behind-the-blog note - SARAH REID was one of the local artists i approached when assembling the inaugural PSI LAB batch more than three years ago -wow that's somehow already three years ago- i liked what i had heard but it didn't pan out

ENO's APOLLO by way of STARS OF THE LID is a proven formula no doubt, though one could make the argument that there's plenty of that already out there and/or it's a league where the greats separate themselves from the pack too much to fairly consider the not-quite-as-greats - all of that might be fair -then again it might not be- but like folk guitar music, for me, if the execution is on the money then i gotta have it and REGAN is absolutely right on the money here - A WARM ROOM challenges KJ's WAKE [REC# 138] for the best "classic ambient" album i've heard in the decade since SOTL called it quits or went on hiatus or whatever, right there alongside all time favored cassette DAVID ANDREE's IN STREAMS

there's neatly incorporated and brilliantly reserved embellishments akin to ANDREE & MASON's CALL RESPONSE or some of UNKNOWN TONE labelmate DANNY CLAY's work, echoing the peculiar style of "oklahoma minimalism" as heralded throughout UNKNOWN TONE's catalog as well as fellow tulsa label SCISSOR TAIL particularly early titles before they congealed into an overtly folk enterprise, like GOLDEN PAWN and NEW HONEY SHADE -aka MARK KUYKENDALL- and head honcho DYLAN AYCOCK's output as TALK WEST - given the pedigree a hundred miles northeast, it is a bit curious that this sound emanates from norman where the experimental scene in general seems more brazen and moody, perhaps more receptive to oklahoma's proliferation of weirdo pop/psych/punk - DEBRIS, CHAINSAW KITTENS and of course the LIPS whose influence despite half life dissipation may be forever inescapable - then again SARAH REID and LAINE BERGERON aka SHAMELESS FRIEND are based in norman, and other likeminded folks i'm sure - this just seems a bit more counter to the (counter?) culture and to me sounds more at home on a tulsa label -- but i won't pretend that i know the ins and outs of oklahoma music scenes - i don't go to a lot of shows, i don't actively seek out local music in particular, i just seek out music tuned to my wavelength, and A WARM ROOM is most certainly that




01 May 2017


faux discx 2017, edition of 500

"Irma Vep is a loner, a joker, a roamer, a ribald construct riddled with both earnest anxiety and mercurial songwriting talent birthed by a young Edwin Stevens in Llanfairfechan, North Wales. Having since fully grown into Irma Vep and now residing in Manchester, Stevens' discography has expanded to document every aspect of his music, from ecstatically free group experiments to bare, sparse songwriting that cuts to the quick, shorn of ornament or pretence. No Handshake Blues is a homage to Llanfairfechan (Transylfechan to the locals).

Having bedded down into Manchester's bourgeoning DIY scene, Stevens moonlights in several other groups (Sex Hands, Klaus Kinski, Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Yerba Mansa), bringing with him an instantly recognisable guitar language. However it's in Irma Vep that his most life-affirming, troubling and thrilling music is made. Much Irma Vep feels like what 'classic' music should feel like if it weren't so Classic. Each record, each song exists as an evolving drama." - FAUX DISCX

that's a nice wholesale pitch for one EDWIN STEVENS who has already delivered one of my upper echelon favorites this year as half of favored "psychotic rock power duo" YERBA MANSA [REC# 170] courtesy DEEP DISTANCE and now looks to one-up that and just about everything else i've heard this year with this unexpected "loner joker roamer earnest mercurial" anti-folk blues masterpiece

there's some CODEINE and MUDHONEY and SONIC YOUTH codons stashed away in STEVENS' dna as expressed on the opener's twelve minute barrage that hits like a velvety MAGIK MARKERS cover of CAN's "little star of bethlehem" fronted by a stoned out DAN MELCHIOR - a jam, yes, but not the sort he's churned as YERBA MANSA or as a member of free rock outfit DSDV - the distinction is clear - this is in no way a free rock exercise, as born out over the next half hour

after kickin out the jams, STEVENS embarks on an outsider folk blues journey the likes of which challenge the best i can recall, and what i recall at the moment is DAN MELCHIOR's THANKYOU VERY MUCH and WOODEN WAND's glorious 2009-11 run, and more tangentially the worn down (sonically and in my copy's case, physically) flipside of PAUL CARY's GHOST OF A MAN (get a good whiff on "armadillo man" > "i want to be degraded") and MARK ALEXANDER MCINTYRE's GRAPES (which, despite all these being way underrated and/or underappreciated gems, GRAPES might be the most of all) - these references aren't too far removed from one another - weird but cool guys with true grit and a knack for "zingers" (as TOTH puts it) and a wry sense of humor and learned everything the hard way

but STEVENS has more up his sleeve than just a loner stoner jam and a handful of countrified punk ballads - there's a lot of variety, a lot of key details filling in and filling out the record - the title track is like MARISA ANDERSON covers FLYING SAUCER ATTACK or somethin like that, a shimmering shoegazing folk guitar hymn for the ages that fades into a short n sweet am radio retro pop lovesong before diving off the deep end into "the moaning song" which is a six minute psychotropic meditation kinda like WILLIE LANE laying down a nice VU & NICO drone with MELCHIOR blurting and crooning like a bizarro TIM BUCKLEY - but there's no denying the strong force here on NO HANDSHAKE BLUES is the blues (of the outsider folk kind) which everything else swirls around like a mid-life tropical storm with an eye that's a knotted mess of self destruction, self pity and sorrow, staying true to the blues maxim "lord if it wasn't for bad luck i wouldn't have no luck at all"

25 April 2017


debacle 2017, edition of 250

"longtime friends Jesse Shepard (12 string acoustic guitar) and Drew Gardner (electric guitar). this incredible duo fuses a rich vein of American primitive with psych, jazz, and improv. The result is a nearly perfect album that wildly bounds through the American story of guitar in the 20th century. It is a high wire act of the highest order. heavyweight vinyl in a beautiful sleeve designed by Mikey Rioux with spot UV gloss embellishment." - DEBACLE

"folk/psych-rock guitar duo interweaves folk tradition with psychedelic improvisation; from American Primitive to Psychedelic Rock, from Hindustani to Mauritanian, from Krautrock to Jazz; multilayered music that shifts fluidly from pre-rock to post-rock, from the 1860s to the 1960s and beyond." - ELKHORN bandcamp

BLACK RIVER follows their now sold out self titled debut cassette out last year via BEYOND BEYOND IS BEYOND [REC# 149] - previous metaphors and comparisons i used then still apply - "smoky electric solos anchored to acoustic rhythm backbones, think SANDY BULL meets LIGHTNIN HOPKINS with more heavy 70s oomph" - but this lp opens it up, not just in terms of the warm and rich yet well reserved fidelity that vinyl affords but also thematically as THE BLACK RIVER meanders a bit more beyond that established home base while also excavating deeper into the righteous mine that coughed up all those self titled gems which i collectively likened as a "sky high collaboration between BEN CHASNY and JUSTIN WRIGHT"

here ELKHORN safely and cozily land alongside DEBACLE labelmates DANIEL BACHMAN, EXPO 70, PLANKTON WAT and fitting SCISSOR TAIL crossover HAYDEN PEDIGO, point in fact THE BLACK RIVER sounds like it could have just as easily been another SCISSOR TAIL hit, pushing the BULL meets HOPKINS narrative boldly toward what i imagine a collaboration between EXPO 70 and JACK ROSE would have sounded like, at times approaching the actualized SONIC MED sounds and vibes of TERRANE's BASALT PALISADES [REC #25] which is PLANKTON WAT and CHUCK JOHNSON (as heard via SCISSOR TAIL's BLOOD MOON BOULDERS--how i never managed to post a proper recommendation for that one i'll never fully understand)

so one foot in contemporary folk guitar akin to MARISA ANDERSON and CHUCK JOHNSON and, say, WILLIAM TYLER, with the other firmly planted in brooding psychedelia like EXPO stripped of his kosmische armor or MATT VALENTINE on a(nother) vision quest fueled by a FUNKADELIC and SPACEMEN 3 binge, plus a healthy dose of TAKOMA guitar, oftentimes found free ranging through scarcely populated territories as previously trailed by the likes of ILYAS AHMED and HERBCRAFT - but if you're lookin for that moment where BLACK RIVER runs wild and bursts through any possible preconceived notion, then you'll need to stick around until penultimate track COLTRANE's "spiritual" which on paper ought to be one of the most transcendental moments in folk guitar music ever, and by my estimation it is