Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

Posts filed under ‘Psychedelic music’

Circulatory System – “Forever”

May 26, 2012

Here’s the final song off of the best album to come out of that whole Elephant 6 thing.  “Forever,” off of Circulatory System’s self-titled, is as useful a summation as there can be for an album as sprawling and messy and brilliant as Circulatory System absolutely is, encapsulating that record’s twin themes of innocent exuberance and the inexorable passing of time in 86 dissipated seconds.

And what a perfect way to cap it off: After nearly an hour of psychedelic highs and maximalist excess, we’re left with a stoned campfire singalong dirge, wasted friends accompanying a single strummed guitar, chanting the song’s only lyric: “We will live forever and you know it’s true,” until everything fades away to black.  Perfect (click below):

Circulatory System – Forever

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John and Philipa Cooper – The Cooperville Times

March 31, 2012

john & philipa cooper the coopersville timesI normally shy away from ultrarare psych nuggets.  The fetishization of a recording’s rarity can and often does obscure any clear-eyed assessment of the music itself, and when discussions about a record revolve around the object and not the music, well, those discussions are more appropriate for Antiques Roadshow than, say, here.

The Cooperville Times, a 1969 record by South African psych-folk duo John and Philipa Cooper, would seem to fit that bill pretty well.  It appears to be the only recording by that group, about which there is precisely nothing substantial online beyond the fact that they shared a surname (husband/wife?  Brother/sister?  Happy coincidence?) and were from Johannesburg, South Africa.  So, yes, discussing the The Coopersville Times would be entirely conducive to crate-digging one-upsmanship (look what I found!) and nothing more, except for the insignificant trifling issue that its first four songs are actually stupendously deliciously excellent.  It’s true: Even when considered on their own merits and not as crate-digging artifacts, these songs are great.

Even better, these four songs are sonically diverse, not just four variations of the same successful theme.  Indeed, they succeed because of John and Philipa Cooper’s organic and subdued approach to psychedelia, which relies on judicious use of unexpected instrumentation throughout these songs.  A distended organ here or a buried guitar solo there contributes volumes on The Cooperville Times.

For example, opener “The Mad Professor” is a fairly standard axe-wailer recast by its explosive intro and unusually funky drum pattern (which is absolutely begging to be sampled by the RZA) into something at once odder and more engaging.  Meanwhile, “Gipsy Spell” is a charming cast-off spiked with surprisingly accomplished and otherworldly Balkan-influenced fiddling, not the sort of detail you’d expect on a record of this provenance.  “Wild Daydream” blends a jaunty clarinet and clusters of what sounds like a trilling harpsichord into a swinging shuffler.

The highest point in The Cooperville Times‘s beginning run is “I’ll Be Much More Than Satisfied,” a beguiling piece layering flute, upright bass, a deliberately picked acoustic guitar line, and a spectacular vocal performance by Philipa, who sings in that clear, piercing, affectless way common to many of her psych-folk contemporaries.  It’s not a very original way to sing, but she absolutely nails it, hitting her notes with a sort of precise coo that renders her soaring vocal range small and approachable.  I’ll happily open myself up to criticism by admitting that I’m actually kind of moved by the lyrical content of “I’ll Be More Than Satisfied,” as saccharine and naive as it is, but Philipa’s stunning delivery could make grocery lists give me chills.*

Taken as a whole, this album is merely very good, not great.  With the exception of the haunting “Singing In My Soul,” a song very similar in mood and construction to “I’ll Be More Than Satisfied,” the remaining material after the first four songs is forgettable.  But those opening songs more than make up for the unremarkable remainder of The Cooperville Times.  Grab it.

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*Though I must admit that there’s something about over-the-top homages to undying love, however divorced from reality they may be, that gets me.  The most moving song in this tradition is the Byrds’s rendition of “John Riley,” which routinely wells me up.

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The New Mummies – K-l-a-n-g-!

February 13, 2012

K-l-a-n-g-!new mummies klang, a new record by Austin-based, Rochester transplants the New Mummies, is sequenced like a nocturnal diver’s upward drift through black water towards air, beginning in murk and ending in (relative) clarity.  The album begins with three noisy drones—”Bridges Out,” “The Servants Call,” and “Delayed Response”—that progress from deeply abstracted tracks that approach musique concrete into a humid, delay-drenched menace reminiscent of Zelienople’s more diffused moments.  There’s more activity in these drones than you’d expect, given that genre signifier.  Rather than constructing pieces built around glacial progression, the New Mummies opt for more rapid crescendos.  Sounds identifiable and otherwise—disembodied chants, burbling tones, guitar arpeggios released on slow, careening trajectories—churn through the mix.

Elsewhere, as on “Caught in the Underfield,” songs (more or less) coalesce out of a swampy haze, during which the New Mummies channel No Wave-primitivism through a particularly bleak form of outsider folk to create a sort of desolate dark pop.  These songs, with the exception of the anthemic closer “Campaign for Wellness,” feel lucid only in relation to the trio of drones that open K-l-a-n-g-!.  Indeed, the New Mummies take every opportunity to tear these songs apart, plunging them in cascading reverb, ripping out the low end, tightly wrapping vocals in rapidly decaying delay, and subjecting them to the microphone-on-the-other-side-of-the-room lo-fi recording methods of early Magik Markers.  The result is a series of particularly emotionally direct songs made moreso by their obvious fragility, their precarious cobbling-together.

Given multiple, divergent threads of influence, it would be easy for the New Mummies to try to do to much here.  But  like Sparklehorse’s classic Good Morning Spider*, K-l-a-n-g-!‘s willfully de(con)structive production methods serve as a crucial binding agent, providing the common thread that runs through these quietly unsettling drones and dirges.

Enjoy it on their Bandcamp.

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* Which, despite sounding absolutely nothing like K-l-a-n-g-!, is a surprisingly handy signifier for it, being an album similar in fractured lonesomeness and fractured construction.

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Storm Shelter

January 9, 2012

storm shelter ep austin band

Leave it to me to find a new gem, spawned from my hometown, by reading a Poland-based psychedelic blog.*  The release in question is Austin-based quartet Storm Shelter’s self-titled EP.

On her website, Storm Shelter drummer Michelle Devereux labels her group an “apocalypse inspired chick band.”  The “chick band” part is true enough: Four women grace the release’s cover—but the apocalypse-inspiration part is no feint either.  This EP is entirely unapologetic in its worship of low tom beats and basic blues-scale guitar ambling, the perfect soundtrack to a post-urban witch’s coven.

Storm Shelter plods menacingly through these three tracks, purposeful tempos doing absolutely nothing to disguise this release’s shamanistic aggression.  Drumming is more spirited than precise, and unnecessary nonsense like “chord progressions” are unceremoniously shunted aside.  What we’re left with is some seriously bare-bones Road Warrior incantations, airs and dirges for post-civilizational shindigs and sacrifices.  Yes, Storm Shelter is positively elemental in its construction, and there is an undeniably elemental joy in listening to these perfectly primitive stoner pop jams.  You try listening to the swampy, grimy churn of “Stoneatopia”† without getting all fist-pumpy.  You shall fail.

That’s all I got.  I’m mighty proud to live in the same town as these supremely talented ladies, and I earnestly hope to be able to catch them live one day soon.  Until then, I’ll be smearing soot on my face, gorging on grilled flesh, and jamming out to the deliciously tribal Storm Shelter EP, which you can stream on the band’s site.  It’s getting gross over here, people.  Come revel with me.

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*That just ain’t right, gawdammit!

†Surely the national anthem for the baddest land around.

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Psychedelic Blog Roundup

October 31, 2011

Hello, all, and a most happy Halloween.  I figured I’d give a shout ‘n’ tout* to some of the blogs that keep me informed and fascinated and blown into the next goddamn week with psychedelic yumminess.  That’s right, into the next week.  I am currently in the future right now, and I can report that it’s pretty chill over here.

Enough of that.  Here we go, in the totally arbitrary and frankly lazy order that the feeds are in my Google Reader:

exp etc: Not a whole lot going in the way of commentary (oftentimes you have to use a combination of the album art and the post’s tags to guess at what the album you’re downloading will sound like) but a pretty consistent flow of largely experimental psychedelia, noise, drone, jazz, and avant-garde jams.  That isn’t all, not by a long shot, as they really cover all their bases.

Dr. Schluss’ Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities: A total classic, featuring witty, conversational ramblings on psychedelic music new and old (mostly old).  Blessedly, Dr. Schluss avoids a lot of the barrel-scraping you find on a lot of blogs that revisit the 60s that seem to favor rarity over quality.  None of that baseless snobbiness here!  If he writes about it, it’s probably pretty damn good.  Bonus points for the dual metrics he uses to rate albums (“Quality” and “Trip-O-Meter”).

soundweave: The blog generally focuses on post-metal and post-rock, but throws enough curveballs to keep it interesting.  It’s basically the only blog I use that mines those areas, so it’s my go-to for keeping abreast there.  Post frequency is down lately, but I’m not really one to complain, so…

Weed Temple: Weed Temple is my absolute jam.  Jacob (aka Panzerfaust) posts primarily (but by no means exclusively) drone tapes.  It’s a ridiculously rich resource for two reasons.  First, you are not finding 90% of this music anywhere else, so you get a lot of absolutely left-field gems (like this brilliantly humid Ocelote Rojo record) that you wouldn’t have found any other way…unless you, too, maintain a blog focusing primarily (but by no means exclusively) on drone tapes.

Deleted Scenes,Forgotten Dreams [sic]: Thankfully, as of yesterday, they appear back after a two-month hiatus.  It’s all beatless ambient drone and New Age bliss here, and the best, most comprehensive blog I’ve found that tackles that area.  One minor quibble: They recommend everything as HIGHLY,HIGHLY RECOMMENDED [sic] which, like, is nice if you say that in contrast to other records, but if that’s your default comment, it’s kinda extraneous character typage, ya know?  But the music on here is largely unimpeachable.

Sharing is Caring <3: Posting has currently been reduced to a trickle for the Sharing is Caring bro (lack of a consistent internet connection, apparently), which is a shame, because when his blog was kicking, it was a great catch-all resource.  No real rhyme or reason to what was posted, but that was part of its necessary charm.  Great for helping me break out of the psych/drone box I often find myself.

GLOWING RAW: This blog posts in batches, and when I wake up and see four unread GLOWING RAW posts, I feel like someone just showed up at my desk at work with a Taco 12-pack all just for me, you know?  I feel all warm and special-like.  Alex’s obsessions are minimal/dub techno & microhouse, ambient/drone, psych of all flavors and assorted other experimental genres.  Though he doesn’t do much pigeonholing, he is a nearly peerless curator: Of all the blogs I follow, his is the one I trust almost instinctually.

Raven Sings the Blues: This guy posts what he likes, and he likes komische, psych folk, and garage rock.  Well, two out of three ain’t bad.  I scan all the posts and if I see “garage” anywhere in it I just pretend it didn’t exist, and with good reason: The other stuff he posts is largely spectacular.

WE FUCKING LOVE MUSIC: Yeah, they really do.  Absolutely no genre-imposed limiting here.  The last five albums posted include a popular film soundtrack, modern classical remixed by Detroit techno artists, a Ventures album, classical piano, and the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I.  That basically says all you need to know about this fantastic blog.

And that ought to do it!  I follow a couple other magazine-type sites, but those are all the blogs.  Have I missed any awesome ones?  Lemme know!

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*I totally thought I made this unfortunate phrase up.  A Google search proves otherwise.  Darn.

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The Chaw – EP

September 16, 2011

the chaw epA quick hit for the the Chaw, a Concord, CA-based psych band responsible for a delicious little morsel that came my way earlier this week.  Their new EP is dark and you know what I’m gonna be frank here it’s honestly some pretty bonerrific music, plenty well-suited to trysting and heavy make-outs.  It’s true.  What’s more, listening to the Chaw has made me re-realize how much damn fun that uniquely sexy dark strain of late-aughts psychedelia is,* and how I need to listen to approximately 900% more of it stat.  This stuff is made for charged hip-shaking and is practically begging to be paired with a really badass party populated by people cooler than me.

So: The music is fun.  Highlights include “The Road,” which is deliberate and menacing and nocturnal and is bound to get someone pregnant one of these days, and “Horizon,” a magesterial, surf-tinged ballad characterized by all sorts of tasty crescendo and catharsis.  The EP sounds absolutely great, too.  Everything is appropriate huge and hazy and smudged.  Guitars brightly chime and blearily soar, leaving brilliantly arcing psychedelic chemtrails in their wake.  The vocals have an affected, brash confidence about them, situated in that commanding, sexualized space occupied by Elvis, Nick Cave, and Chris Isaak.  It’s well-suited to this kind of dissipated, sultry psych.

In the spirit of forthrightness begun by my use of the adjective “bonerrific,” I’m gonna say that the Chaw sounds pretty cocky on this EP, and I’m usually—usually—more the introspective type.  But you know what?  They have every right to sound that way.  Because that cockiness, that swagger, makes this EP a goddamn blast.  I can imagine it kicking all kinds of ass live.  (Yo, Black Angels, put these fools in Austin Psych Fest pronto!)  Here’s the Chaw’s Bandcamp and website.  Get some.  No, really, get some.

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*I’m talking about the Black Angels, Black Mountain, the Warlocks, Sleepy Sun, et al.

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Percewood’s Onagram – Tropical Brainforest

August 31, 2011

So I don’t really get much into songwriting on here, but let’s honor a spectacular song here, one whose merits rest almost entirely on its brilliance as an emotive and expressive vehicle.  I’m referring to “Tropical Brainforest” by German-American roots-prog group Percewood’s Onagram.  Nobody’s heard of this band (173 listeners according to last.fm), and I sure as shit wouldn’t have myself, if it wasn’t for the ProgNotFrog blog,* which I unwittingly stumbled across and which unwittingly turned me on to one of my favorite songs of all time:

Hyperbolic, sure, but also true.  About the only less-than-perfect thing about this song is its admittedly rather embarrassing name, which would lead you to think it’s a slice of low-budget psychedelic wankery way too overcooked for the Nuggets box.  This, blessedly, is not the case.  Rather, the criminally unknown Percewood’s Onagram has crafted a heartfelt, melancholically triumphant masterpiece by marrying Beatles-esque phrasing, rootsy instrumentation, and suite-like pop-song construction.  So get over the name and listen to “Tropical Brainforest.”  You’ll become a Percewood’s Onagram evangelist, I swear!  Become that 174th listener!  Impress your friends!  Enrich yourself!

 

*A breathtaking admission from someone who was categorically allergic to anything even tangentially referred to as “prog” just four short years ago.

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Peaking Lights – 936

May 26, 2011

peaking lights 936I’ve really really really really really been digging 936, the new Peaking Lights album.  To describe an album as a “stew” is such a shitty music crit cliche but I’m fighting a strong urge to employ it to describe this record.  Because, really, that’s what 936 is, a steaming, humid pot of stick-to-your-ribs ingredients simmered long and slow until everything blends together into something appetizing, inviting, and of a piece.  And yeah, it’s fucking delicious and it tastes better the next day.  What about it?

About those ingredients: There’s dubby production (and I mean dubby as in, echoing guitar stabs, rivers of deep, burbling bass, and cavernous expanses of dark, sultry space, not dubby as in “reverb”), muffled and clattering percussion like a robotic drumkit breaking down, perfectly artless female coos, spiraling and arcing sound effects without origin, and trebly wefting keyboards.  On 936, Peaking Lights combine carefully measured, varying quantities of each of these and make some seriously circular and ever-deepening musical hypnosis.  This album is one of the more engrossing, replayable things I’ve heard come out in quite a while.

Though 936 is Peaking Lights’s best foray into immersive psychedelic wormhole-construction, it’s not their first.  Their previous album, 2009’s Imaginary Falcons, was a nearly great record that fell just short in a couple areas.  For one, the rich, syrupy low-end that keeps nearly every song on 936 anchored in the sublime is nowhere to be found, and it’s sorely missed.  Instead of riding supple, sweltering grooves, songs (tracks?) on Imaginary Falcons float in a helium’d aether.  They’re incredibly, almost disorientingly trippy.  And as much as I’m into disorientingly trippy, the bass backbone on 936 is welcome.  The results range from the simply addictive (as on “All the Sun that Shines” to the positively time-warping (which the transformative “Birds of Paradise Dub Version” most certainly is).

Peaking Lights has also shown an increased interest in actual legitimate songwriting on 936.  Though it’s obvious that the duo is still totally in love with getting lost in the aural possibilities available to them, it’s no longer enough for them to suture a handful of otherworldly sonic elements together and let it ride for a few minutes (not that that approach is necessarily bad).  No, now melodies (or at least grooves) are of preeminent importance, with assorted intergalactic and subterranean sounds providing (welcome) filligree.  That means we get songs (songs!) like the gorgeously sweet and totally unexpected “Key Sparrow,” an adorably lilting melody that is at once soaring and small-screen, bleary and sparkling.

I’ll be honest: “Key Sparrow” is, really, the whole reason why I wanted to write this thing.  It’s new love and dreaming and nostalgia and warmth and flitting surges of hope and sadness wrapped into a perfect four-minute package.  I don’t think I’ve been as desperately in love with a song all year.  It’s beautiful and small and it secrets away an infinitude of fine-grained emotions in it.

Love it:

 

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Moa Moa – Serpentine EP

May 16, 2011

moa moa serpentine epNo more Austin Psych Fest reviews because I only went the first day.*  Let’s change it up!  Here we have the Serpentine EP by Austin-based minimalist psych duo Moa Moa.  Man, am I on top of my shit—they released their EP on Bandcamp yesterday!  I’m so good.  I’m the next Anderson Cooper.  Plop me in a warzone and watch me be dreamy.

Sorry, I’m sick and loopy on meds.

Anyway, Moa Moa burns through a surprisingly eclectic array of druggy, distended psychedelic moods across Serpentine’s six brief tracks, ranging from “Charlie,” a blessedly trashy and hard-charging slice of  garage punk, to “Seachild,” a scraping, seesawing dirge.  The EP’s closing song, “Morning/Onfire,” is particularly impressive, opening with an eerie flute-and-drum drone reminiscent of Fursaxa before abruptly veering into a sweet acoustic duet recalling Sleepy Sun’s more bucolic moments.  Yum.

Ryan and Leah—Moa Moa’s principals—treat negative space with respect, letting each dissipated note and wasted boy/girl harmony stretch out into tiny infinities.  Despite this, they manage to do a lot with very little, repeatedly combining the same ingredients—cavernous effects, a hollowed-out and tinny guitar tone, and some supremely seductive singing—into diverse and delicious psychedelic confections.

Serpentine is a quick, sweet hit, and I hope to hear Moa Moa stretch out onstage in Austin sometime soon.  You can listen to the EP here.

*More on that later, perhaps.  Perhaps not.  In case I never get to it, I’ll just say there needed to be more Moa Moas roaming around and fewer Places to Bury Strangers there.

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Austin Psych Fest

April 30, 2011

Hello, all!  Due to some last-minute heroics by my heroic friend Rachel, I was able to secure a free wristband for Austin Psych Fest 4.  And Lo! just like that, my weekend’s been transformed from a quietly productive one gardening, cooking, and reading to a loudly unproductive one watching stoned people melt other stoned peoples’ faces off with musical hypnosis.  I have to apologize to my collards, which will have to deal with looking like Swiss cheese for another week.

I only saw a couple bands last night, but here are My Thoughts, in descending order of coolness:

Crystal Stilts

As I pride myself on at least semi-outsiderness when it comes to new music, I’m depressed to even know the whole “Crystal is the new Wolf” meme.  But, dammit, it’s true.  And, just like bands with Wolf in their name, Crystal-themed bands usually suck.  But Crystal Stilts was actually pretty good, coming across like Disc 5 of the expanded Nuggets box set.  I mean that as a compliment.  There was one jam which was particularly hypnotic and dark and minor-key and transcendant that I found particularly “groovy.”  If I knew anything else about these guys, I’d even mention the name of the song that so impressed me.  Alas.

Atlas Sound

May I humbly admit surprise bordering on shock that I liked this?  I will admit that my musical obsessions lead, more often than I’d like, to knee-jerk elitism, and I’ll have to say that Atlas Sound was a victim of my tendency to make snap judgments of Pitchfork-approved acts.  To be fair, I think Deerhunter suuuuucks, so I was expecting this Bradford Cox’s solo thing to follow suit.  Wrong!  The loopy layery solo live thing has been done to death, for sure, but I’m a sucker for hypnotic repetition, and Cox served that up with aplomb.  I will be returning to this.

A Place to Bury Strangers

No.  Just…no.  Let me be clear: I love shoegaze.  I adore Slowdive and like My Bloody Valentine and Ride and Swervedriver.  I get it.  I don’t get the Jesus and Mary Chain, though, because it sounds painfully elementary to me in the way that traditionalist punk does, and really, a Place to Bury Strangers is just Jesus Mark II, except doomier (in a crappy, Joy Division-esque way, not an awesome, Om-esque way).  I guess I can see the psychedelic connection, in the sense that Strangers manipulates and explores sonic possibilities, but the shared means do not come from shared origins (post-punk vs. psych) or reach shared ends.  Thus, to me, the connection is spurious, and I can comfortably say that I was bewildered by their presence at Psych Fest, and that I thought they really just kinda sucked.  Thanks, but no, I will not be having seconds.  Boy, do I sound like a cantankerous asshole today.  Is my distaste for punk showing?

Some Dudes From Boston

I may or may not have made their origin up, but I attribute this band to being from Boston because the singer, at one point, repped the Celtics.  I don’t like the Celtics.

…aaaaaaaand that’s it!  I will now go back to listening to nothing but Labradford and Zelienople and South (the US (good) band, not the British (bad) band).  I may or may not post thoughts about today or tomorrow’s Psych Fest offerings.  But I can definitely say that I’ll be writing more about Labradford and/or Zelienople and/or South [US] really, really soon, because I’ve been really, really addicted.  Until then, ta!

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