New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: space rock

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.

A Creepy, Trippy Maxi-Single For a Creepy Year From Scorpio 70

“People are eating people now,” drummer Guy Bibi observes about ten minutes into Scorpio 70’s new “horror motorik spacerock” soundscape, Space Madness, streaming at Bandcamp.

From a distance, it reminds of the most vast segments of 17 Pygmies’ classic album Celestina, one of the most haunting outer space psychedelic albums ever made.

This one takes a long time to get going. Keyboardist Yair Etziony sets the stage with his layers of blips and twisted radio transmissions. Eventually guitarist Barry Berko joins the picture, sparely and warily over the dirgelike wave motion that rises behind him. Bassist Benjamin Esterlis finally introduces a slow dub reggae pulse before the music decays to a slowly turning vortex again. 

Epic, Sweeping, Gothic Nocturnes From the Moon and the Nightspirit

Don’t let the Moon and the Nightspirit’s name, or the title of their new album, Aether, lead you to think that this is hippie-dippy new age bullshit. Gothic psychedelia would be a more accurate way to describe the Hungarian band’s sound. They sing in their native language. The record is a suite, more or less; it comes with lyrics and English translations, which have a mystical focus. They like long, hypnotic, slowly crescendoing tableaux with both folk and classical influences.

Stately piano and frontwoman ‘Agnes Toth’s misty vocals blend with a whirl of white noise as the album’s opening, title track gets underway. From there Mihály Szabó takes over the mic, rising from a whisper to a roar as this one-chord jam hits a pummeling, imaginatively orchestrated sway. It comes full circle at the end.

That pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the record – streaming at Bandcamp and available on both purple and black limited-edition vinyl. The second track, Kaputlan Kapukon At (Through the Gateless Gates) has spare, circling twelve-string guitar and eerily tinkling piano over the slowly swaying neoromantic angst.

Toth moves back to lead vocals as the drifting minor-key vamp of Égi Messzeegek (Celestial Distances) gathers force; that bagpipe guitar is a tasty touch. Ringing twelve-string poignancy returns along with graceful, incisive harp above the oscillating loops and disquieting close harmonies in A Szarny (The Wing): it’s the album’s best and most majestic track.

With a deep-space twinkle from the harp and the keys, the album’s most hypnotic soundscape is Logos. The group follow a slow series of layers rich with somberly picked guitars, spare piano, keening microtonal violin and a wash of vocals in A Mindenseg Hivasa (Call of the Infinite). The suite ends with Asha, its Balkan folk illusions and a loop receding to the edge of the universe. Turn on, tune in, you know the rest.

An Epic, Oceanic Album Release Show by Sky Picnic Followed by Some Surf Rock

Wednesday night at Rock Shop in Gowanus, Sky Picnic played a mighty, majestic album release show for their new one, Her Dawn Wardrobe, streaming at Bandcamp and available on delicious colored vinyl in addition to the usual digital formats. The sweep of the band’s epic spacerock songs made it hard to believe that such a vast, oceanic sound was being created by just three people. Guitarist/frontman Chris Sherman played lingering, sustained lines awash in echo and reverb and took the same approach to his vocals, holding the notes, letting them sink in over the midtempo-to-slow dynamics driven by bassist Leah Cinnamon and drummer Pete Meriwether. Meriwether quickly turned out to be the band’s not-so-secret weapon, fueling most of the towering crescendos, the band building to mighty peaks where he’d fire off clusterbombs of tom-tom and kickdrum riffage. Cinnamon has a distinctive and very interesting style: she likes to slide up to a note, coloring her catchy, sometimes hypnotically circling phrases with hammer-ons and the occasional nimble, bluesy phrase.

They opened with a couple of big, swaying, uneasily echoing anthems driven by resonant guitar lines that reminded of Peter Koppes’ work with the Church  – who are coming to town in March, by the way – in their most straightforward moments. Likewise, the downwardly circling hook that opened the night’s third consecutive big-stadium number. From there the trio hit a tricky tempo (13/4?), a strutting, matter-of-factly rising mashup of dreampop and mathrock followed by a dissociative jam that Meriwether pulled together with another methodically explosive crescendo.

Interestingly, the album’s catchy, moody title track was mostly just guitar and vocals, Meriwether adding just a mist of cymbals against Cinnamon’s looming, mimimalist resonance. Then they picked up the pace with a galloping number where Cinnamon fired off big leaps on her bass against Meriwether’s animated attack as Sherman took his time, choosing his spots. The guy’s got a genius for simple, memorable hooks…then he makes them last with all that reverb and delay. The rest of the set featured Meriwether firing off endless, machinegunning volleys of sixteenth notes, then a bit later the band rose out of a a dizzyingly rhythmic instrumental intro into to a richly clanging, brooding minor-key anthem, Neil Young and Crazy Horse adrift in some other galaxy. They encored with a high-voltage, treble-toned, practically new wave cover of Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine. Sky Picnic’s next gig is Feb 20 at 9 PM at Matchless.

After that, it was fun to watch New Jersey surf rock trio the Black Flamingos make their New York debut. They’re definitely a party band, and drew chuckles from the crowd with their half-baked, semi-choreographed stage antics, guitarist Robert Butkowski and bassist Declan O’Connell stalking each other, sparring and pushing each other to the edge of the stage. Butkowski is a walking encyclopedia of classic and obscure surf and twang licks: bits and pieces of Dick Dale, the Ventures, the Shadows, Buck Owens and Lee Hazlewood songs bobbed to the surface throughout the band’s roughly 45 minutes onstage. Butkowski’s most sizzling moments were when he went deepest toward the noir, with an ornate, richly chordal, jazz-tinged number early in the set. The musically most impressive moment of the entire night was a spot-on, pummeling cover of the Ventures’ version of Swan Lake. Playing Tschaikovsky on bass and guitar in perfect precision is not easy, but the two guys nailed it, drummer Vincent Minervino capping it off with a cool trick ending.

And it was too bad to miss seeing Sun Voyager open the night: their stoner garage assault is a lot of fun.