July 1, 2014

A spacerock sunburst for Summertime!

And... we're back! Miss us? it hasn't been that long.

Let's just say this "hiatus" will be sporadic. You didn't think we could go away forever, did you? There's just too much space rock goodness to be shared, so I thought maybe we could do this quarterly... semi-annually... not quite monthly... very more-than occasionally... What do you think?

This summery set starts off with a track from one of the very best albums of the year. And you know what's strange about this, is it's not even space rock! Not really, although ya'll know by know we have a very loose and adaptable definition of space rock around here ("not all space rock and not all the time" is our tagline for a reason). But The War On Drugs bring to what could nominally be called americana a definitive motorik beat (incongruously vintage krautrock) and a lush Eno-esque palette of textures (certainly somewhat psychedelic). Plus, it's good. So it's in. By now you must know Sleepy Sun quite well, if you've been paying attention to this blogcast anyway. The SF by-way-of Santa Cruz Psych rockers continue to evolve, and with this release have come up with some of their most consistent and least derivative material, and if the sets they played recently in SF and Austin are any indicator, they are likely to be with us for a long while. And you're probably not familiar with Boogarins, most likely because they're from Brazil. But they also appeared at Austin Psych Fest this year and what a pleasant surprise they were - mid-period Floyd tendencies filtered through South American sensibilities and the Portuguese language! What's not to like?

Temples were another highlight of this year's Psych Fest - this band comes fully formed as a Beatles-and-Byrds-esque baroque pop bombshell. With only one album (but one with zero filler!) under their belt, these British kids have already played multiple high profile gigs with some of the masters of classic brit pop, but they totally out-psych any of those tired old hacks (should we name names?). Speaking of the Byrds, Beachwood Sparks have long channeled the languid Laurel Canyon daze and they just keep on truckin' with that space cowboy sound. Also jangle-addled and harmony-soaked, Quilt (we were so bummed to miss them at Psych Fest!) evoke the halcyon Haight-Ashbury summers of love perfectly for a bunch of 21st century kids. Speaking of summoning the past, the post-post-post-post 60s garage revival (not sure which one we're on currently) has brought us many treasures that avoid the hackneyed cliches (think Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall...), and White Fence (a sprinkle of Syd) and King Tuff (a massive dose of Roky) number among them.

Speaking of garage rock and Thee Oh Sees, multi-armed bandleader Jon Dwyer (also of Pink & Brown, The Coachwhips et al. - to call him prolific would be vastly understating it) has yet another project up and running, this one is known as Damaged Bug and it's his chance to mess around with vintage analog electronic devices. And surprisingly (or not), it suits him. Sticking with the electronic slant, Liars have always included keyboards and samplers and various non-rock instrumentation to create a sound all their own that continually evolves from album to album, from the third-gen no wave of their first album to the dark disco bad trip psychedelia of their current one. Also astute at combining electronic and acoustic instruments, German postrockers The Notwist have always thrown a myriad of seemingly incompatible musical genres into a blender, and this year's release finds them in fine form. And what can be said about Pure X? Impossible to pigeonhole stylistically, these Austinites take 70s yacht rock and puree it in a blender of synths, samplers and sequencers until smooth (I also enjoyed the NME's description: ("Pure X used to be a drone-rock band. On their new album, they reinvented themselves into bringers of cascading, heart-shaped soft rock"). Also on the experimental/art rock tip are the Brooklyn duo The Lushes, who would be quite difficult to compare to anyone out there: damaged 70s downtown NYC scene revivalists (akin to Liars, above)? Syncopated post-rock jazzbos a la Chicago's Thrill Jockey-ists? Slash-and-burn nihilistic absurdists from the Birthday Party/Swell Maps school? They've got it all.

Pink Mountaintops need no introduction... or do they? Black Mountain has been featured all over this blogcast, but leader Stephen McBean's other project Pink Mountaintops have been somewhat neglected by comparison. This would likely be because of the focus being on his higher profile group, but now McBean has released another Pink Mountaintops collection and has piqued our interests in the viability of their material (and they were fantastic at Psych Fest this year). Great stuff, similar to Black Mountain but completely unfettered by genre so they happily keep us guessing. Also appearing Psych Fest 2014, Mirror Travel combine propellant motorik beats with fuzzed-out Spacemen 3 guitars and Cocteau Twins/Pale Saints shoegazing atmospherics that puts them at the forefront of the vital Austin psych scene. What's the first band that comes to mind after hearing 12 bars or so of this Cheatahs song? If you didn't say Swervedriver then we're not on the same wavelength. Not that there's anything wrong with that - we wouldn't say they're derivative as much as tasteful in their influences, and we can't fault them for that. One of them is British, after all. The other three hail from Canada, California and Germany so that's where that similarity ends. Next punny animal band name up? Fellow Brits Eagulls pull some of their monstrous and textural guitar sound from the shoegazers, but their singer's approach is look-you-in-the-eye confrontational, mantric chanting along the line's of Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman. Eh, if 21st century bands find it safe to mine the 80s, at least they're listening to the right stuff.

Speaking of raptors (although Eagulls brings to mind the noble raptor Eagle mixed with the shrieking scavenger Seagull), Eagle's Gift conjure a dark and tribal psychedelia of a shamanic bent that's so native American it belies their French origin. Far-Out Fangtooth remind us of what Sonic Youth might sound like if they had been taking goth lessons from (Peter Murphy?) and were contractually obligated to play through flanger effects. The rural brotherhood that is Pontiak (yes the trio are brothers who live on a farm in the rural American south) has been featured many a time on the SRC - we can't get enough of them, and their recent album is one of their finest. On record, Orange County self-described "motokraut" five-piece Dagha Bloom have a manic/shamanic energy with tribal rhythms and hypnotic repetition (reminding us a bit of Swedish psych collective Goat, a highlight from last year's Psych Fest), but during their set at Psych Fest one realized they all played sitting down (and aside from the singer and drummer they all played bass!), letting the music carry the audience for the ride.

Ostensibly metal bands, ? Helms Alee, Pelican and Alcest also bring psych and space rocks tendencies to double kick drums and shredding guitar arpeggios. Seattleites Helms Alee have a pointillist and impressionistic approach, Chicagoans Pelican indulge in instrumental math and post rock excursions, and Frenchman Neige (aka Alcest) crosses genres to create a shimmering yet doom-laden metal-gaze hybrid (that's actually become a genre in itself with a number of similar practitioners). The Nothing (or just plain Nothing) also hail from Philly and might be called darkgaze (or something), with the undulating cosmic waves associated with shoegaze, but of a decidedly darker, minor key variety, And last up, Black Submarine (fomerly Black Ships, in case you need to know) is the project of former Verve members Nick McCabe and Simon Jones, along with a revolving cast of guest stars, who draw from diverse influences, from trip hop (think latter-day Massive Attack) and wall-of-sound ensemble psychedelia (think Warlocks).

And that's it... for now. See ya when we see ya.

For you traditionalists who don't mind streaming from this site, the following tracks should appear in the first player below:

The Spacerock Continuum Theme - bRambles
Under The Pressure - The War On Drugs Lost In The Dream
The Lane - Sleepy Sun Maui Tears
Lucifernandis - Boogarins As Plantas Que Curam
Sun Structures- Temples Sun Structures
This Is What It Feels Like - Beachwood Sparks - Desert Skies
Mary Mountain - Quilt - Held In Splendor 
Pink Gorilla - White Fence - Cyclops Reap
Sun Medallion - King Tuff Was Dead
Sic Bay Surprise - Damaged Bug - Hubba Bubba
Pro Anti Anti - Liars - Mess
7-Hour Drive - The Notwist Close To The Glass
Never Alone - Pure X Crawling Up The Stairs
One Right Word - The Lushes - What Am I Doing
Shakedown - The Pink Mountaintops - Get Back
Pinholes - Mirror Travel - Mexico
The Swan  - Cheatahs - s/t
Soulless Youth - Eagulls - s/t
Supernatural NZ - Eagles Gift  - s/t
Green Hands - Far-Out Fangtooth Borrowed Time
Beings Of The Rarest - Pontiak Innocence
Zuu Zuu - Dagha Bloom No Curtains
Slow Beef - Helms Alee Sleepwalking Sailors
Deny The Absolute - Pelican - Forever Becoming
Shelter - Alcest - Shelter 
Dig - The Nothing - Guilty Of Everything
Here So Rain - The Black Submarine New Shores