New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: church band australia

Lush Jangle and Clang and Retro 80s Spacerock From Blackout Transmission

Once in a blue moon a publicist for a band absolutely nails what they’re about. Here’s Dave Clifford on what retro 80s psychedellc group Blackout Transmission are all about: “This is not set-it-and-forget-it delay pedal rehash. Strong drums and lush guitars.” Thanks for the punchline Dave! Their jangly, atmospheric debut album Sparse Illumination is streaming at Bandcamp.

They open with a slow, echoey spacerock instrumental, Once There: it could be one of the short, vampy pieces that the Church would end an album side, or begin one with, back in the 80s. That comparison may seem like impossible hype, but this duo nail the Australian legends’ blend of lush clang and drifting textures in several tracks here. The tense, anxiously pulsing chords as the icy Heavy Circles gets underway, and the anthemic, ringing peaks and valleys of Verdant Return, in particular, are a delicious throwback to albums like Seance and Sometime Anywhere.

Since She Guided You Away is a loping Laurel Canyon psychedelic anthem through the prism of the 80s, with its layers of buzz, burn and drift, the missing link between the Church and, say, the Allah-La’s. Likewise, Tactile Responses comes across as the Cure’s Robert Smith staring at the desert sand. And the band loop a Seventeen Seconds-style riff for the most hypnotic, shoegazy number here, Pacifica.

The dancing bassline and echoey guitar trails in Portals are straight out of the Brian Jonestown Massacre playbook. The band go back to the Church again to close the record with Sleepwalking Again, Anthony Salazar’s restlessly tumbling drums and relentlesly uneasy chord changes. Lyrics and vocals don’t really figure into this music: it’s all about atmosphere, and textures, and tunes, and tight, purposeful playing from a group that also comprises bandleader/guitarist Christopher Goett, lead guitarist Adam D’Zurilla and bassist Kevin Cluppert. If that resonates and reverberates with you, fire this up and get lost.

Snarling, Cynical, Dark 80s-Style Rock From All Souls

For an American band, All Souls sound very European: a little glam, a little goth, some punk, a lot of Bowie. Their album Songs for the End of the World is streaming at Bandcamp. All the members have gigs with other groups – most notably with Black Elk – but this really gives everybody in the band a chance to show off their good taste along with their chops. Frontman/guitarist Antonio Aguilar’s cynical, very 80s-inspired songwriting proves to be as sharp as his eclectic guitar playing.

They open with Sentimental Rehash, an acidic, no wave-tinged take on the Stooges, Aguilar raising a middle finger to clueless “media-manipulated minds” over drummer Tony Tornay’s rumble.

Twilight Times has dissolute Bowie grandeur and Stones disguised as skronk, the twin guitars of Aguilar and Erik Trammell anchored by Meg Castellanos’ gritty punk bassline. From there they segue up into Winds, the album’s big, slow, cynical, apocalyptic epic, flaring with quasi-metal guitar leads and a long, grimly hypnotic outro.

Bleeding Out opens with an insistent hook that brings to mind a big 80s anthem by the Church, veers toward New York Dolls territory and then back. Slowly pulsing over echoey, growling, scrapy guitar multitracks, You Just Can’t Win has a coldly crescendoing, distant 80s menace and unexpected tinges of Indian music. Then the band kick into apocalyptic Bowie mode again with Empires Fall

Lights Out has more allusive hints of Bowie and also some late Beatles, caught between enigmatic insistence and stadium rock hooks. Jaggedness and slow, catchy spacerock collide in Bridge the Sun, with a deliciously dark, chromatic outro. The album’s final cut is Coming with Clouds, a grim, Celtic-tinged seaside eco-disaster parable: “A history of violence, knowing that the time was finally at hand,” as Aguilar puts it. This album really grows on you and demands repeated listening. You’re going to see this on a lot of best-of-2020 albums lists at the end of the year if such things still exist by the time we get to December.

A Powerful, Lyrical Solo Debut by the Jigsaw Seen’s Dennis Davison

Dennis Davison built a formidable back catalog as the leader of the Jigsaw Seen, one of the best and most lyrical psychedelic rock bands of the 90s and zeros. They played their final New York gig in late March of 2017 at Bowery Electric, an inspired set which proved that even at the end, they hadn’t lost their edge. In the time since then, Davison has hardly been idle, and has a characteristically brilliant new solo album, The Book of Strongman streaming at Bandcamp.

Here, Davison plays all the instruments. he’s always been a solid guitarist and distinctively articulate singer, but it turns out he’s competent on bass, drums and keys as well. As usual, his historically-informed, metaphorically bristling narratives scream out for the repeat button. The album’s opening number, Strongman and Sonny James, a big, stomping, angst-fueled anthem, follows a grim escape scenario:

Yellow bellies left for dead
Everyone was seeing red
Sanity was hanging by a thread
Juvenile soldier, flee!
Run like hell and return home safely to me

The ending comes as a surprise and makes perfect sense considering the current state of the world.

Shadow on a Tall Tree has a 60s Kinks/Merseybeat pulse rising to a lush ELO-ish chorus, awash in tremolo guitar and what could be a Stylophone keyboard. In the Folly of Youth begins as a wistful accordion-fueled folk-rock tune and hits a swaying Bowie-esque gravitas:

When the living is free there’s no misery
So it is and it was throughout history

Museum Piece is a sweeping, dreamy, subtly slashing, distantly Beatlesque portrait of a drama queen who’s seen better days. Bitternesss and disillusion reach fever pitch in the otherwise lushly anthemic Can You Imagine, which could be an early 80s number by the Church. Heaven Bound has a susupiciously blithe, strutting new wave bassline and layers of chilly guitars and keys: “You set your sights on the sky, that doesn’t mean you can fly,” Davison advises.

Organ and layers of keys swirl over stately strummed guitars in The Spoken Word, a meticulously detailed, cynical social media era parable. With bubbly bass paired against fuzzy guitar layers, Auras is the closest thing here to Davison’s old band.

Awash in vintage analog chorus-box sonics, the toweringly bittersweet Aberdeen Vista is arguably the album’s high point:

Clipper ships have sailed
Politicians jailed
Birthday cards were mailed
Locust on a string
Orange and black birds sing
Now we live as kings
In Aberdeen Vista

Davison winds up the album with What the Hell Is That Noise, an uneasily tongue-in-cheek, Love Camp 7-ish reminiscence of teenage experiments in avant garde soundscaping, complete with samples from his 80s basement duo project Bizarre Trolls with Kevin Mackenzie. You’ll see this on the best albums of 2020 page at the end of December, assuming there is a December this year.

Rare Archival Discoveries From an Iconic Powerpop Band

Skooshny are contemporaries of both Elvis Costello and the Church, two references which validate the consistently brilliant quality of the band’s output, They’re revered in the powerpop demimonde for their bright, catchy, guitarishly rich anthems and frontman Mark Breyer’s slashingly clever wordplay. The band more or less called it quits back in the zeros, but Breyer has continued with a similarly erudite, irresistibly catchy series of mostly duo projects under the name Son of Skooshny.

It seemed that Skooshny’s final release was a brooding cover of a rare late 60s Robin Gibb single, Saved by the Bell, but it turns out that there was more rare, unreleased material in the can. Their new ep, Deep Dive is just out and streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a collection of newly digitized recordings dating all the way back to their teenage days in the 70s.

With Breyer’s labyrinthine chord changes and guest John Bunkelman’s dancing bassline, the primitive 1972 basement performance of One Wrong Move – the first thing that two of the band’s core members would ever got on tape – is a dead ringer for the Move circa 1967, with an American accent. By comparison, the second track, No For Yes is prime Skooshny, featuring all three members – Breyer, guitarist/bassist Bruce Wagner and drummer David Winogrond – and bristles with layer upon layer of guitars and a characteristically aphoristic Breyer lyric.

The final three tracks are lo-fi home recordings that would later be released as full-band productions in 1991. The tantalizingly brief Masking the Moon – a song title for our time, huh? – is just Breyer slamming out catchy changes on his acoustic, with some vocal harmonies overdubbed afterward:

Napping without dreams
Is sleeping without real proof
Tapping on the beams
Is a cat on a cold steel roof
The cafe band plays on and I open my eyes
Two moons in the mirror that I recognize

Likewise, Dessert For Two features Breyer solo on twelve-string; it could be a particularly catchy, wistful Marty Willson-Piper folk-rock number. The final cut here is Malibu, a haphazard home recording featuring multi-instrumentalist Mike Thompson, part Beatles, part southern soul. If this is Skooshny’s genuine swan song, they had a hell of a run. Not bad for a band who in their entire multiple decade career played one single show: an Arthur Lee benefit.

A Rare Live Show by Composer Christopher Marti’s Intense, Cinematic Postrock Project

Guitarist Christopher Marti is best known for his film scores. But he also has a pummeling, epically vast postrock instrumental project, Cosmic Monster. He’s released several albums under that group name over the years, and he’s bringing that project to do an improvisational show tonight, Sept 5 at 6 PM at Holo in Ridgewood. What’s more, the show is free, and since it’s so early, you still have time to get home on the L train before the nightly L-pocalypse begins.

To get a sense of what Marti does with Cosmic Monster, give a listen to their eponymous 2014 six-track ep up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. The ominously titled first track, Strontium 90 – inspired by the Fukushima disaster three years previously, maybe? – has a pounding attack and multitracked guitars that strongly evoke Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, coalescing out of enigmatic close harmonies to a straightforward, anthemic chorus and then retreating.

Electric Battle Masterpiece has a watery 80s dreampop vibe – it could be Sleepmakeswaves covering a track from the Church’s Seance album. Marti brings back the vintage SY feel for Monster/Monster, awash in vigorously slamming tremolo-picked chords and big bass/drums crescendos, then returns to punchy Aussie-style spacerock with Answers From Space.

Ten Thousand Pink Satellites is both the densest and most concise track here, a spacier take on My Bloody Valentine. Marti winds up the album with the evilly majestic The Deep Blue Sleep, part Big Lazy noir surf, part coldly drifting deep-space tableau, part crawling Mogwai menace. It’s anybody’s guess what Marti might do in Queens, flying without a net, but it’s a good bet it might sound like all of the above.

Single of the Day 11/11/18 – Lush, Majestic, Searingly Lyrical Janglerock

Noctorum – the duo of Marty Willson-Piper, this era’s greatest twelve-string guitarist and longtime member of the Church – with longtime collaborator Dare Mason – capture an indelible London moment with Piccadilly Circus in the Rain (via Soundcloud). The way they pivot out of very subtle satire to withering realism will rip your face off. Another contender for best song of 2018.

A Look Back at a Dark, Underrated Gem by Epic New York Art-Rock Band Of Earth

Almost a decade ago, New York art-rockers Of Earth released their debut album, one of the few records that deserves mention alongside visionary, sweeping Australian psychedelic group the Church . Of Earth’s follow-up, The Monarch, from 2013 – still available as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp – is their Wish You Were Here, a dark, mighty masterpiece awash in layer upon layer of guitar and keyboard orchestration. It doesn’t quite hit the majesty of their first record, but it’s awful close, and there isn’t a weak song on it.

“Digging the truth from the shelters…we can murder the might, and into the night,” singer/bassist Rob De Luca intones over a dark, sweeping backdrop as the opening track, Sweep the Fire gets underway. Drummer Mike May’s groove subtly changes shape, alluding to a wryly staggered Led Zep riff.

The Prototype is a briskly stomping, orchestrated metal-flavored anthem, bringing to mind searingyguitarist Keith Otten‘s legendary/obscure zeroes band the Gotham 4. The title track has De Luca’s cold, enigmatically processed vocals over a backbeat drive that grows more intense: 90s stadium rock bands like Ride come to mind, at least until Paul Casanova’s multitracked guitars explode over the bridge.

Queen of the Apocalypse is a bitter, towering kiss-off anthem, the fluttering deep-space orchestration  of Casanova and keyboardist Rick Chiarello rising to a crushing peak on the chorus. Open Letter/Everything is a diptych, its bass-driven, circling, suspenseful, 17 Pygmies-ish spacerock giving way to slow, vast Floydian menace, the organ and guitars massing over De Luca’s tersely growling lines. Casanova’s Spanish guitar solo half-buried in the mix is a neat and subtle touch.

Further Than Rome is spare, desolate and driftingly hypnotic, anchored by tersely slipsliding bass and lingering, bell-like guitar. This loosely connected, bitter concept album winds up with Where Did It All Go: imagine Pink Floyd covering the Stooges, with a searing outro that could have gone on for twice as long as it does. There’s also an alternate mix of the opening cut at the end of the record. This isn’t stereotypical Halloween music, but it’s also relentlessly dark. Fans of towering, majestic psychedelic rock grandeur: Floyd, the Church and David Bowie’s most psychedelic early 70s albums, like Diamond Dogs – will not be disappointed. It’s a shock this band didn’t go further than they did.

Gorgeously Tuneful Janglerock and Psychedelic Pop from the Immigrant Union

Most New York fans of 90s rock probably have the Dandy Warhols‘ two upcoming Music Hall of Williamsburg shows somewhere on the radar. They’ll be there on Sept 19 and 20 at 9; general admission is $25, and considering that they sold out the Bell House, a larger space, last time they were there, you might want to get there early. But the Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer also has an intriguing, gorgeously tuneful janglerock side project, the Immigrant Union, with Melbourne, Australia singer Bob Harrow. That unit will be in town about a month afterward from Oct 21 to 25 at venues still to be determined. Their excellent second album, Anyway, is due out shortly: there are already a couple of singles up at Bandcamp.

As you might expect from a jangly Australian band, there’s a definite resemblance to the Church. The opening track, Shameless, pairs two deliciously clangy electric guitars with a steady acoustic track in the background: when the piano comes in, the Jayhawks come to mind. Harrow’s unpretentious, clear vocals, pensive lyrics and a lusciously intermingled web of guitars on the way out completes the picture and sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Alison isn’t the Elvis Costello song but a bitter, Byrdsy backbeat psych-pop anthem about getting out of smalltown hell: Don’t Go Back to Rockville, Oz style. I Can’t Return slips swirly organ in between sitarlike slide guitar and glistening Rickenbacker jangle. Wake Up and Cry could be a folk-rock flavored Church cut from the mid/late 80s albeit without that band’s enveloping lushness. The album’s epic title track has plaintive harmonies and a slow psych-pop sway much in the same vein as the Allah-Las – who have a killer new album of their own. Another artist they bring to mind here is George Reisch, the multi-instrumentalist who’s done such elegantly melancholy work with Bobby Vacant and Robin O’Brien.

From there the group segues into In Time, adding light southwestern gothic touches a la Saint Maybe, then go completely into spaghetti western with the nonchalantly menacing desert rock shuffle Lake Mokoan. The Trip Ain’t Over has a wryly tiptoeing acoustic-electric Rubber Soul-era Beatlesque pulse. War Is Peace takes a snidely faux-gospel Country Joe & the Fish-style swipe at clueless conformists, and the US as well. The final cut, The End Has Come has a flickering, nocturnal C&W vibe not unlike the Church’s Don’t Open the Door to Strangers. You want the cutting edge of 2014 psychedelic pop, this is it. Is this album the catchiest, most melodically attractive release of the year? Very possibly. Hopefully it’s not the last one these guys put out. Watch this space for further info on those October shows.

Majestic, Sweepingly Cinematic Instrumentals from Arms of Tripoli

Los Angeles instrumentalists Arms of Tripoli play exuberant, anthemic, frequently cinematic postrock, a swirling, pouncing, enveloping, propulsively percussive mix of guitars, bass, drums and keys. No verse or chorus is ever exactly the same. The music takes on majesty and grandeur as it goes on, with unexpected dynamic shifts that peak out and then hit quieter interludes. Guitarists Jaime Galvez, Michael Bouvet and Robert Bauwens, keyboardist K.C. Maloney, bassist Vic Lazar and drummer George Tseng don’t waste your time with lyrics, they just hit you with the hooks, one after another. More bands should be doing this. Their latest album Dream in Tongues is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

The opening track, Miniature Habitats, opens with an insistent guitar figure over resonant chords, shifts tempos back and forth as the drums kick in and then out, echoing Aussie art-rock legends the Church but with the faux-vintage keyboard voicings that are all the rage in indie circles. Then hits a long, hypnotic vamp and pretty much stays there. All this in just six minutes and thirty seconds: it gives you a good idea of what’s coming.

Velcro Thunder Fuck balances variations on a countryish guitar lick with layers of tinkling keys over a galloping rhythm as the bass shifs around, tremolopicked Mogwai-ish guitar giving way to a more echoey, dreampop-tinged chorus, then back up to the galloping theme. Scraping Skies shifts through even trickier tempos, anthemic guitar countermelodies rising over a midtempo sway, adding layer after layer of guitars and twinkling keys in the background.

Escalator Jazz turns out to be really cool. You think from the circular hook that opens it that it’s going to be a dorky mathrock song, but it comes together mightily on the chorus and from there it’s a big, majestic, atmospheric 6/8 anthem. The band works that same trick a little later with 10th Graders Forever, the most dreampop-flavored track here, and Canna, which eventually winds down to an unselfconsciously pretty art-rock lullaby of sorts.

Snowed In, with its allusions to surf music and spacious chords over nonchalantly galloping drums, is the most ominous of the tracks. Addendum begins with a country guitar lick and then builds to a spacerock theme with layers of distorted, ringing and echoing guitars – while it’s the most metal-ish and dynamically charged track here, it’s far from buffoonish. The final track is one of the simplest and most memorable melodies, a big ELO-ish anthem blended into an opaque, dreampop/postrock background, lush ambience contrasting with guitar snarl and bite.

A Surreal, Creepy Treat From Dark Rock Legend Martin Bisi

In a past century, Martin Bisi was best known as a producer with a list of iconic albums – most notably Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation – to his credit. Fast forward to 2014 and Bisi finds himself touring Europe and probably better known to this generation as a solo artist and bandleader, the purveyor of a distinctive New York brand of surrealistically menacing, psychedelic, melodic art-rock. His new album Ex Nihilo (Latin for “from nothing,” due out April 1) is a throwback to the raw, chaos-embracing, adventurous experimentation of albums like 1988’s Creole Mass. There’s plenty of Bisi’s signature savage erudition, literary and mythological references, and archetypes from across the centuries, scattered throughout these songs like bodies across a battlefield. And while there’s also plenty of bleakness and a relentless cynicism here (you just have to love the title of the concluding cut, Holy Threesome), Bisi’s irrepressible, sardonic wit glimmers amidst the chaos and desolation. He’s playing the album release show on April 15 at around 8 at Glasslands; cover is $12.

Contrasts abound here: Bisi’s cool, matter-of-fact, often half-spoken vocal delivery in the center of a whirlwind of overdubs, dead-girl choirs courtesy of chanteuse Amanda White’s epic multitracks, vocal samples, and vertigo-inducing orchestration. Likewise, Bisi’s guitar slashes and clangs, but with a purposefulness and tunefulness (Syd Barrett often comes to mind) that’s the one constant within what’s often a vortex of sound, most of it played by Bisi himself through a maze of reverb, delay and loop effects. This succinctness makes the sprawl around it all the more disquieting. Billy Atwell’s counterintuitive but propulsive drumming adds extra spice. .

The opening track, Nihil Holy begins as a cloudbank of nebulous, disembodied voices joined by muted, gritty electric guitar, drums and tumbles of keyboards, an acidic kaleidoscope of sound that sets the stage for the rest of the album. Eventually, the voices drop out and a starlit soundscape emerges. Bisi segues into the wickedly catchy 80s-style new wave goth anthem Sin Love Hate, with its massive, operatic choral arrangement and an unexpected free jazz free-for-all fueled by guests the Stumbebum Brass Band before it all comes together at the end. “I run around with animals,” Bisi intones sarcastically, “I pull their ears and pinch their tails.”

The Mermaid Queen, a duet with White, reminds of the Black Angels at their darkest and most focused, its slow, swaying Blue Jay Way-on-opium verse giving way to a catchy, early Pink Floyd-ish chorus, the backing vocals evoking a big gospel choir while the drums roll, the verses rise and an endless parade of devious psychedelic effects wafts and flits through the mix.The eight-minute Invite to Heaven Hell builds a stygian spacerock ambience, like the Chuch (or, for that matter, the Byrds) at their most psychedelic, with hints of peak-era Sonic Youth peeking through the pulsing guitars, disembodied vocals, soaring trumpet and that dead-girl chorus again. It’s one of the most deliciously tuneful things Bisi has ever done.

Suffer the Moon, another big epic, also evokes the Black Angels, but with a more grim, dramatic focus, cartwheeling drums paired off against the otherworldly choir, jaggedly tuneful guitars, rising and falling dynamics and a very devious melodic quote at the end. Fine Line finds Bisi and guest drummer Brian Viglione having fun with tempo changes that eventually coalesce into a murky post-Velvets groove, a snidely goth-tinged anthem about a girl who seems just a little too eager for her own good…or, for that matter, yours. The concluding cut is the album’s noisiest yet also quietest one: echoes of Pink Floyd (yeah, that’s a pun), the Church, the Velvets and the Beatles’ Revolution 9 swirl and overlap and obliterate each other in turn as the maelstrom spins, Bisi throwing a characteristically LOL ditsy vocal sample into the mix for extra sardonic bite. That’s a nuts-and-bolts look at what’s going on here: obviously, there are so many layers that it takes a lot of listening to figure what else is happening, if in fact such a thing is possible. More twistedly ornate aural junkyard sculpture – like a sonic version of the old Gas Station on Ave. B – than surrealistic pillow, it’s one of the most flat-out intriguing albums of the year. Bisi plays the album release show at around 8 at Glasslands on April 15; cover is $12.