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No New Abnormal

Tag: my bloody valentine

Vast, Relentless, Menacing Epics From Nordgeist

T sits alone in her room somewhere in Siberia and screams.

And sings in a ghastly whisper, and plays layers and layers of guitar, and records it, probably on Garageband. And releases it under the name Nordgeist. That’s about all we know about her. Glenn Branca’s minimalist multi-guitar symphonies are a good point of comparison, Paysage D’Hiver is another: endless, hypnotic epics, vast clouds of guitar overdubs, and, song length aside, a very tuneful sensibility. You really can hum – or scream – along to Nordgeist’s new album Frostwinter, streaming at Bandcamp.

You could crank up the almost fourteen-minute opening monstrosity, Winter, and notice how fast she’s tremolo-picking those chords. The woman must have strength in her wrists to match the venom in her lungs. She finally slows down to a bitter, resigned descending progression before returning to the jackhammer assault.

A drum riff and then a pummeling vortex of My Bloody Valentine digital-reverb guitar burst in over Siberian steppe sonics as she launches into The Old Wolf. It’s a muddy, hypnotic mix, guitar and bass a lot higher than the vocals and the drums, which seems intentional. Is that a wood flute way, way in the back? Is that a blunt you’re smoking? That would make sense under the circumstances.

What does Revenge sound like? A lot like the rest of the album, and until about a third of the way through it doesn’t seem to have a time signature: it just keeps going on, and on, and on for almost a quarter of an hour. Talk about getting even.

From there she segues into the last song, Sorrow, quickly rising to a galloping intensity. The past almost fourteen months have been hell. Nordgeist feels your pain.

Ferocious Dreampop and Metal From Imha Tarikat

Imha Tarikat play a venomously, envelopingly melodic, reverb-drenched blend of black metal, punk and dark dreampop. Frontman/guitarist Kerem Yilmaz bellows in German; he doesn’t go for the pigsnorting cliches so many other bands fall into. If immersive, full-throttle minor-key guitar is your thing, this is your jam. The group’s new album Sternenberster is streaming at Bandcamp.

The first track is titled Ende, appropriately enough. It sets the stage for the rest of the record: a wall of guitars, machete tremolo-picking, machinegunning rhythms and a dreampop influence that reflects the gritty, assaultive swirl of My Bloody Valentine instead of the icy delicacy of Lush.

The stampede, the punch of the bass and the tremolo-picking get even faster in Sturm der Erlösung. By saying they slow things down a little for the punk anthem Kreuzpunkt der Schicksale says a lot about how hard this crew usually hit – and they take it doublespeed at the end.

Wailing up and down on the guitar strings relentlessly – Yilmaz must melt a lot of picks – they segue into Brand am Firmament, a vortex of dreampop and black metal with a southwestern gothic theme buried in the mix. The New Order outro is a trip.

They shift between MVB maelstrom and pretty straight-ahead punk in Klimax Downpour, with a rare, wailing guitar solo. The wall of tremolo-picking gets denser and more hypnotic in Aufstieg, built around a catchy ascending riff. They go back to thrash-punk stomp and torrential atmosphere in the album’s title track and close the record with a brisk, arpeggio-fueled classical piano theme.

Tuneful Heavy Psych Epics from River Cult

River Cult is the latest project of guitarist Sean Forlenza, late of epically intense, cinematic heavy rockers Eidetic Seeing. That band really liked long songs, a trait that Forlenza has carried even further on his new band’s debut ep, streaming at Bandcamp.The power trio builds a roaring, enveloping, psychedelic envelope of sound that’s a lot more propulsive than your typical stoner metal or postrock band.

The opening track,. Temps Perdu is a pounding mashup of the early Dream Syndicate, Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. As long as this song is – just a tad under ten minutes – it’s awfully catchy. Forlenza’s reverb-cloud solo slowly works toward a frantic shriek over Anthony Mendolia’s growling bass and drummer Tav Palumbo’s matter-of-fact, hard-hitting sway. From there they segue through a hypnotically looping outro to Shadow Out Of Time, Forlenza using his slide, again with a ton of reverb over a slow, loping beat. Tempos shift, they hit a headless horseman gallop, riffs echoing Sleep or vintage Sabbath, then finally take it out in a morass of bleeding amps and a twisted kaleidoscope of sound, like scanning the radio dial but not pulling a single clear signal.

The final cut is A Drop In The Ocean – gee, wonder what THAT one is about, huh? Interestingly, it’s the most straightforward number here: at its molten core, it’s an Abbey Road Beatles dirge as a vintage 70s stoner group like Poobah might have done it. Good music for slipping away from reality on a gloomy Sunday.

Exhilarating, Explosive, Echoey Psychedelic Postpunk and Dreampop from Bo Ningen

Japanese postpunk band Bo Ningen, who can be noisy and assaultive one minute and hauntingly atmospheric the next, have their third album, accurately titled III , due out on May 2o and a couple of New York shows coming up. On April 25 they’ll be at the Knitting Factory at 8 for $12 – and if you can stick around the neighborhood until midnight, legendary metal spoofers Satanicide (New York’s answer to Spinal Tap) play at midnight for free. Bo Ningen are doing a free show themselves, at Rough Trade two days later on April 27 at 2 and if you’re going to that you should get there early.

They call themselves psychedelic, and if you’re in the right mood, they are. Bassist/vocalist Taigen Kawabe whoops and squawks over the jagged, acid funk and crazed, spiraling pirouettes of Kohhei Matsuda and Yuki Tsujii ‘s guitars and Monchan Monna’s eardrum-pounding drums; other times, they slow down and waft through an icily ominous 4AD ambience.

The new album’s first track, DaDaDa opens with a squall and then an insistent syncopated bass-and-drum pulse. It’s basically an unhinged one-chord jam until they hit the chorus, like the Gang of Four but with more balls. The postpunk-funk of Psychedelic Misemono Goya (Reprise) reminds of the Bush Tetras right around the time of their big late 90s comeback, the guitars cutting and slashing against each other with an abrasive, reverb-toned menace and hints of dreampop as the layers peak out. Inu is a little slower, marching along like a mashhup of the Buzzcocks and Keith Levene-era Public Image Ltd.

The band kicks off Slider – one of the few tracks with an English title – with echoey minor-key chords and a series of big reverb-tank explosions and ominous contrapuntal vocals over a brisk funk beat. Like the second track, it’s basically a one-chord jam, but there’s so much strobe-guitar savagery going on overhead that you don’t notice. They open CC as a hardcore song with screaming, fractured English lyrics before a frantic sputter of guitar signals a sludgy halfspeed chorus – and then it’s back to the headbanging. By the time they wind it up, Kawabe is slamming out chords and the rest of the band has gone down into the mud again.

The slow, gently hypnotic Mukaeni Ikenai makes quite the contrast, with its lingering, bell-like guitar and echoey 4AD atmospherics. They bring back the funky buzz and grit and mingle that with the dreampop on the suspensefully stomping, midtempo Maki-Modoshi. Mitsume opens with My Bloody Valentine-like resonance and a hypnotic, practically disco beat – again, the guitars kick up so much of a turbine-in-a-tsunami squall that it obscures the fact that they don’t even bother to change chords. The rainy-day sonics return on the gracefully swaying Ogosokana Ao, followed by another mostly one-chord number, Kaifuku, its intricate two-guitar interplay cutting in and out of a swirl of reverb. For people who like edgy, assaultive music that you can dance to most of the time, this is pretty close to heaven. And it raises an intriguing question – how many other good, noisy Japanese bands are there out there that haven’t made it across the ocean yet?

Big Buzz Band Blouse Breezes into Bowery Ballroom

Portland, Oregon band Blouse‘s early singles worked moody 80s-style synth-pop terrain. Their latest album, Imperium – streaming at Spotify – finds the band evolving to put a more melodic spin on classic late 80s/early 90s-style dreampop. With the guitars’ enveloping, jangly chill, early Lush is the obvious comparison, but this band has become both more tuneful and uses more varied textures than just the watery chorus-box effects that give dreampop its icy swirl and echoey resonance. Blouse’s Bowery Ballroom gig on March 25 opening for the ghoul-pop Dum Dum Girls is sold out but there are still general tix for $15 for their Music Hall of Williamsburg show the following night, where they’re playing around 9:30.

Throughout the album’s ten tracks, bassist Patrick Adams plays with a gritty, trebly tone, his lines winding and twisting but not wasting notes. Guitarist Jacob Portrait will hit his distortion pedal when the chorus kicks in and go back to an echoey clang on the verse, or vice versa. Frontwoman Charlie Hilton varies her vocals from clipped and Teutonic to much more wamly alluring, particularly when she uses her lower register.

And the songs are catchy. The title cut follows a steady path from watery to searing and back again: with the mantra “Are you one of us?,” it sounds like a sci-fi narrative. On the second track, Eyesite, Portrait brings in a little scratchiness and then what sounds like a vintage repeater box. The strummy 1000 Years hides an echoey electric piano behind the layers of jangle, while In a Glass welds growly guitars to an insistently hypnotic 80s vamp. Capote juxtaposes nebulousness and noise over a steady sway, then A Feeling Like This hints at vintage disco.

No Shelter is totally Lush circa 1990, with an aptly apprehensive lyric: “We can’t keep anything, sky’s getting cloudy and it’s a different time…there is no shelter from this storm.” Happy Days goes back in time ten years for a lo-fi Siouxsie ambience; Arrested takes a familiar early Joy Division beat and beefs it up with ringing twelve-string guitars. The vamping final cut, Trust Me gingerly adds textures until the band has a full-fledged song. Judging from this band’s buzz, if only Lush, and My Bloody Valentine, and the Cocteau Twins would get back together and tour, they’d pack stadiums. At the very least they’d pack Bowery Ballroom.

Nashville’s Western Medication: Catchy Postpunk and Dreampop

Western Medication’s new 7″ ep, Painted World, leaves the impression that they’re a British band, right down to the declamatory, half-shouted vocals half-buried in the echoey wall-of-sound guitars. But the band is actually from Nashville. Frontman Justin Landis joins forces here with Adam Moult and Kevin Kilpatrick from noise-punks Bad Cop and Alycia Wahn of Useless Eaters for an original mix of old ideas. They’ve got the snide quirkiness and menacing post Syd Barrett chord changes of early Wire, and also the ringing walls of guitar that defined dreampop bands like My Bloody Valentine and Lush.

The first track, 50 Foot Dive sounds like Wire through the prism of mid-90s Blur, its catchy early 80s vibe fleshed out with plusher sonics, bassline rising over a briskly strolling beat. Track two, Big City sets G-L-O-R-I-A riffage to a hardcore beat and multitracks it into the stratosphere. If Roky Erickson was still alive he’d be into this.

The title track, the album’s longest and most hypnotic song, has the feel of New Order’s Ceremony done as a mashup of Clinic and MBV. It’s bookended by a couple of miniatures, the first with a languid, distantly apprehensive guitar line over a murky drone, the second a funky surf/garage groove with more of those shouted vox. It’s out now on the band’s own Jeffrey Drag Records.

Volcanic Antiwar Instrumentals from Sleep Maps

Postrock/dreampop instrumentalists Sleep Maps have a ferocious, politically spot-on new antiwar album just out, titled Medals. Inspired by the 1971 Winter Soldier protests – led by Vietnam vets who publicly disowned their medals as a repudiation of war crimes at the highest levels of power – the long 4-track ep sets smartly chosen samples of commentary from across the decades against a backdrop of blistering, murky guitar-fueled swirl and roar. More bands should be making music this powerful and relevant. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp site.

Frontman/multi-instrumentalist Ben Kaplan played all the instruments on the band’s previous, more metal-oriented album, Fiction Makes the Future. Although he’s got a full band now, it’s not clear if the latest album is all him or not. Whatever the case, he’s a tremendous guitarist. Tremolo-picking is his thing: he’s got a right hand that Dick Dale (ok, if Dick Dale was a righty) would kill for. Wailing up and down on the strings, his amp ringing with reverb or smoldering with distortion, he sounds like a one-man guitar orchestra, something multiplied many times over as he multitracks himself. Immediate comparisons that come to mind are Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine; Kaplan is also obviously into the more interesting side of metal, and will occasionally reference an atmospheric indie band like Explosions in the Sky. And unlike the previous album, this one goes in a goth direction when Kaplan puts a watery chorus box effect on his guitar.

The first track, The Final Weapon opens a la Siousxie’s Icons with muffled cannon-fire sonics, followed by a brutally disingenuous Lyndon Johnson sample. Kaplan taps and then tremolo-picks over a tricky tempo, rising and falling and then bringing in the watery 80s jangle. The dirge Blackout Eyes looks at the alienation and disillusion faced by veterans, with quotes from the January, 1971 Winter Soldier demo interspersed among moody atmospherics spiced by savage picking and what sounds like a string patch on a guitar synth. The Heavens Gaze Empty explodes with eerie MBV-style close harmonies and macabre chromatics, lush and ominous, as much a dismissal of the insanity of war as the samples of the vets throwing their Purple Hearts and Distinguished Service Crosses into the pyre. The final track, Horror in the Telescope  is the most careening and haphazard, and maybe for that reason even more powerful, at one point revisiting a gothic riff from the second song as crunchy Pantera-style metal. This album ought to pick up a lot of fans on both the metal and indie side and makes a killer reel for Kaplan in the event that he’s looking for film work.

Jah Wobble and Keith Levene Revisit New Wave History with Their First Full-Length Album Together Since 1979

The musical core of classic-era Public Image Ltd., bassist Jah Wobble and guitarist Keith Levene, reunited memorably last year, touring and then releasing then their Metal Box in Dub ep. Today marks the release of Yin & Yang, Levene’s triumphant full-length comeback album with Wobble, drummer Marc Layton-Bennett, trumpeter Sean Corby and a handful of guests. As a paradigm-shifter, Levene’s influence cannot be underestimated: echoes of his overtone-drenched style extend from the noiserock of the 80s through dreampop. It is impossible to imagine Sonic Youth, or for that matter, My Bloody Valentine, existing without him. This new album is a mixed bag – not all the songs stand up to repeated listening – but those that do are a fond reminder that Wobble and Levene can still conjure up the magic and menace of their corruscatingly iconic work together thirty-plus years ago.

Wobble remains one of the most brilliant, incisive, adventurous bassists around: here he leaves the Middle Eastern and Asian sounds he’s become so adept at in exchange for a tersely murky pulse over brontosaurus drums. As with the songs on the iconic 1979 PiL Metal Box album, most of the new tunes are long and slow, Wobble’s deep dub drive anchoring Levene’s paint-peeling, incendiary, achingly acidic washes of sustain, distortion and overtones. He’s the rare guitar god who relies more on space than speed, minute timbral shifts more than rapidfire riffage. And yet, his sonic assault remains one of the most brutal in any style of music.

It’s ironic that for all its bleeding upper midrange guitar and some wry quotes from PiL’s Memories, the title track – a one-chord jam, basically – evokes the stadium-rock PiL as much as it does that band’s classic new wave era incarnation. Over a dirty, distorted reggae bassline, Strut layers Levene in terse acoustic mode, adding darkly Brazilian-tinged lines, muted strings radiating feedback – this guy basically invented skronk. A long and completely unsarcastic tribute to British racing green, Jags and Staffs has the feel of a good outtake from Metal Box or Commercial Zone with swirly dub production, Levene unleashing poisonous, rising and falling waves of sound behind Wobble’s geezer-rap vocals.

Until the song’s almost over, you’d never know that Mississippi was these guys – the vintage soul-infused southern travelogue could be the great lost sarcastic track from White Light/White Heat until Levene finally starts squeaking and skronking over a shuffling vamp. They brilliantly reinvent the Beatles’ Within You Without You as twisted raga rock in 7/4 time, Wobble wryly referencing And Your Bird Can Sing on the bass as Levene eases his way in and then careens around with the drums. The album’s most intense track is Back on the Block, a slow, tense, impatient, distantly menacing reggae groove that owes as much to Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack noir as it does early 80s Jamaican dubsters like Niney the Observer, Levene’s wailing, spark-shedding riffage contrasting with swoopy synth ambience.

The heavy-handed fake funk of Fluid reaches for an electric Miles Davis vibe, unconvincingly, followed by Vampires, a brief dub interlude featuring a marvelously deadpan vocal cameo from noir cabaret legend/dub diva Little Annie. The album ends with the Metal Box reggae of Understand, with a lame vocal cameo from one of the guests; the dub version, which closes the album, is far more enjoyable, if closer to one of the dubs from the Clash’s Sandinista than anything that ever came out of Jamaica. The album’s out from Cherry Red in the UK.

Another Gorgeous, Lushly Orchestrated, Psychedelic Album from My Education

NYMD’s sister blog Lucid Culture called four-guitar Austin postrock instrumentalists My Education “The Dirty Three meets Friends of Dean Martinez meets Brooklyn Rider meets My Bloody Valentine,” which makes sense. Their music takes you away to a different and much better universe, where angst is confronted and then transcended, where pain rises and is then swept away on the wings of what sounds like a million guitars. Lush, ornate, hypnotic and psychedelic to the extreme, their new album A Drink for All My Friends blends Dirty Three pensiveness and FODM desert ambience with elegantly austere touches of Brooklyn Rider strings, then stirs it ferociously with a MBV dreampop swirl.

This album opens on an unexpectedly quiet note, guest Sarah Norris’ vibraphone mingling with James Alexandre’s viola for a hypnotic circularity that brings to mind Missy Mazzoli’s chamber rock band Victoire. Then the guitars enter one by one on the second track, For All My Friends, an army of roaring riffage that finally rises to a titanic wall of frantic tremolo-picking, reaching a Pink Floyd majesty as the bass bubbles over the top of the sonic cauldron and ends unexpectedly raw and jaggedly: what a ride this is!

The practically ten-minute, cinematic Mr. 1986 builds out of a pretty, acoustic chamber-pop theme into an elegaic anthem, both nebulous and forcefully direct, Henna Chou’s terse piano finally taking centertstage and then quickly receding against the guitar orchestra. Built around a distantly menacing, echoey heart monitor motif, Black Box richly blends twinkly Rhodes piano with all the guitars into a slow, crepuscular freeway theme speckled with weird samples of television or radio dialogue,

Robot-Hohlenbewoner rides a funky, more animated motorik groove: if U2 wrote good songs, they would sound like this. The ten-minute Happy Village takes its time to eventually clarify that this particular village isn’t so happy at all: it’s the Velvets as John Cale might have dreamed of orchestrating them circa 1967, plus mid-70s Floyd angst, hynotic Black Angels murk and an unexpected nod to new wave on the way out. The album ends with the arena-rock spoof Homunculus, like Big Lazy’s Starchild but more amusingly crass. My Education are huge in Europe, which is where they are right now, on tour: a band this good deserves just as avid a following on their own side of the pond. Count this among the most lushly enjoyable albums of the year in any style of music.

Wave Sleep Wave Puts a New Spin on an Old Sound

If it’s absolutely necessary to pin a label on what Wave Sleep Wave does, you could call it dreampop. Reduced to its essentials, it’s a shimmering, glistening, swirling, jangly, misty vortex of guitar textures over steady drums. Frontman/guitarist Jerry Adler is a one-man orchestra, slowly and methodically building a web of textures, sometimes hypnotic, often symphonically ornate, like a late 80s British version of Jon Brion. Influence-wise, there are a million bands out there who ape the catchy, simple, major-key mid-80s sound that New Order and the Cure made so popular; here, Adler reverts back to a deeper, murkier 80s sound that also offers a nod to Wire and the Cocteau Twins. He first made a mark about ten years ago leading the Blam, the catchy but edgy indie pop band that should have been as popular as the Shins but wasn’t; a little later, he took a powerfully lyrical detour into Dylanesque acoustic rock with his Flugente project. What’s most impressive about this album is that it appears to be just guitars and drums, with no bass, yet the sonics have a gyroscopic balance. Drummer Yuval Lion – Adler’s cohort in the Blam – keeps things moving along tersely and briskly, for the most part. Fans of the dreampop canon from the Cocteau Twins, to Lush, to My Bloody Valentine, to more obscure bands like Downy Mildew, are going to love this record.

It’s best appreciated as an uninterrupted whole, considering that most of the tracks segue into each other. The opening cut, Rats starts out with edgy, percussive guitar accents against a wave of drone, then leaps into a swirling chorus, then back, with a characteristically juicy yet minimalist guitar solo midway through. Interestingly, while Adler is just as adept a wordsmith as a tunesmith, lyrics take a back seat to the guitars here. “We don’t know what’s wrong, we just know what’s right,” he intones, deadpan, on the second track, Laws, methodically crescendoing with echoes of Bauhaus and Pink Floyd as the guitar orchestra grows, and grows, and grows. Images of violence and discontent recur throughout the songs: it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that this is a parable.

The hit single here is Hey…What, with its echoey guitar hook and dancefloor beat: “The pot is boiling with unbearable heat/The crowd turns violent and gets ready to blow/They’re tired of dancing with the devil they know,” Adler announces ominously as the song builds to a Railway Children-style chorus-box interlude with a seemingly endless wash of attractive, jazzy chords. Zip It artfully embellishes a catchy two-chord riff to a bell-like chorus and then echoey, choppy waves punctuated by buzzsaw lead lines, while Like Filings to Magnets is the most minimalist track here, juxtaposing a gentle, skeletal lead against a quietly oscillating drone. They evoke the artsy side of 17 Pygmies with the slowly swaying 1001 and then a sort of blend of Gang of Four and Cocteau Twins with Standard Fare, an apprehensive, allusive, nightmarish scenario. The album closes with Tongues, setting bloody imagery over a dark, offcenter backdrop that sounds like it might be playing at halfspeed, and then the anthemic How Low, which builds tension before finally resolving with a mighty “clang” on the chorus. As far as trippy, tuneful unease goes, albums don’t get much better than this. Wave Sleep Wave plays the album release show for this one at Bowery Electric on April 17 at 8 PM.