Spirit Guide is a secret phoenix. Born from the ashes of the now defunct Dream Boat, this project’s already showing signs of soaring beyond its supremely awesome predecessor — even if it’s gliding just below the radar for now. Sina Sohrab’s new jams take the avant-dark vibe of Dream Boat and shutter it into the sort of peyote-trip techno all but designed for a hallucinogenic afterhours; a jittery color wash of vision floaters and disassociation.
Spirit Guide’s only a couple months into its (hopefully long) life, but keep your eyes open: If these tracks are any indication, Sina’s about the run the table on seriously mesmerizing hypno-beats.
Somewhere in the humid blur of SXSW, the drinking and playing and texting and drinking, Men In Burka became my favorite band. They’re like some mystical drug, a bite of neon peyote, seducing you from the edges of the desert. The deepest beats. The heaviest grooves. These guys are a fucking windstorm.
Take the ambience of Muslimgauze, the slow and low electronics of Fatima Al Qadiri, even the sugared pop of Amr Diab, and smash them against the hyper-rattling beats of anything coming from Fade To Mind: That’s Men In Burka. This Denver-based project of Modern Witch’s Kamran Khan and Mario Zoots, plus Strange Powers’ Josh Powers, is relatively new — we’re talking 6-8 months, if a day — but the trajectory seems clear enough. Expect their upcoming release on San Francisco’s Tundra Dubs to make a splash; this is some serious shit, all luring and entranced, the conceptual mix of Pakistani and American cultures blazoned against sexy, bone-crushing beats that reference UK funky as swiftly as hip-hop or Arab-pop. Seriously: Check this now.
We used to tour together, Jack and I. This was back before he was a Londoner, when I was just a baby, and we’d dash around the States playing show spaces like Providence’s AS220 and that storefront in St. Louis; the freezing one with all the couches. He was juggling the post-punk Radio Berlin and haywire electronic A Luna Red, and later, once he ditched Vancouver for Jolly Old, he’d exercise similar energies in Savage Furs and Primes. Jack Duckworth, after all, doesn’t pause. He makes noises like they’re in his blood.
But history aside — even in the context of watching that history unfold real time — nothing’s quite touched the spectral glow of Soft Riot. It’s Jack cued up to serious next level: The conceptual result of all those wicked synthscapes and EBM swagger filtered through a pin-prick minimal lens. Latest release Another Drone In Your Head cycles through the elements he’s embodied all these years — the static and drone, biting black humor, arpeggiated drive and desperate longing — but it puts a fresh premium on subtlety. The trick to Another Drone, to Soft Riot en masse, is what it’s refusing to do. Like the tension-soaked soundtrack to a robotic mob, just on the brink of anarchy.
Grab Another Drone In Your Head now from the Tundra Bancamp and follow Jack’s journal and playlist at Soft Riot’s official page. If you’re lucky, he might spin some old tour stories about epic noise jams and weird toy closets.
Ensemble Economique feels like something lurking just beneath the surface, at the edge of the horizon; some terrible, nameless danger or monster or curse. Helmed by Starving Weirdos’ Brian Pyle, the solo project crosses thriller-cinema landscapes with lurching found sounds — and while that particular combo sounds trite in the text, trust me: Ensemble Economique is anything but. These are post-apocalyptic suburban wasteland jams. These are next next level.
Take the nervous strings, the undulating hum and jitter, of “Heat Waves”. Or the constricted bells on “Vanishing Point”. Or anything, really, from Pyle’s latest Crossing The Pass, By Torchlight — it’s all a mess of tension, the teeth-grinding build to a release that only sometimes arrives. And while the album for sure relies on the cultural association of retro psych-thrillers with FM synthesis and a certain sort of brassy bass, there’s something legitimately trepidatious about the way each song moves. Like even Pyle himself doesn’t know how this story ends — only that it ends badly.
Grab Crossing The Pass, By Torchlight from Dekorder, then check 2010′s epic slasher tribute Psychical on Not Not Fun.
I regret all the time I’ve wasted not listening to The-Drum. Not knowing their deep and oceanic vibe, how those melodies glimmer off each other, all warm waves and undertow. The way their R&B-inflected pulse takes the chill off the miserable dregs of winter, especially in Chicago, where the duo live and work. The-Drum are the opposite of Chicago. The-Drum are, like, Curacao.
Unless you’re talking Chicago The Production Mecca, in which case: The-Drum are Chicago through and through. Brandon and Jeremiah (last names unknown) are making good on the city’s long-held legacy, turning undulating R&B into a surreal slip of a thing, most of it influenced as much by Kraftwerk as it is, say, Keith Sweat. Tracks like the fluid creeper “Run You” and prickly, indigenous “Euthanasia” throb with pitch-shifted vocals and so-hot-they’re-erotic beats, but there’s something beyond fresh about the way they put it together. Whether it’s a prancing marimba, the sudden clatter of congas, some snippet of a vocal coming at you from the ocean floor, their tracks thrive in unexpectation. Severe next level shit.
Pre-order The-Drum’s upcoming LP Heavy Liquid from Audraglint now, then grab their split with fellow Chicagoans Sich Mang on Bandcamp. No regrets.
Because it’s tough to accurately describe the primal lure of Arctic Flowers in terms more writerly and complex than, say, FUCK YES, let’s start by hitting play on the video up above.
This PDX quartet goes for the gut. They’ll knife you to shreds like nothing has since middle school, when you heard your first punk record and the whole world opened up. And while some of that’s sense memory — Arctic Flowers conjure a gazillion riotous flashbacks to UK anarcho-punk, most instantly Flux of Pink Indians — there’s another thing, some immediate and unexplainable pull, hovering around them.
Debut LP Reveries is like an evil siren call; this swaggering mass of crust and gutter, the ghostliness of Excuse 17, the post-punk shards of LA’s defunct Shoot Out The Lights, all of it balled into a fist, poised to attack. This is tough shit, just vicious as hell, the sort of spit-in-your-face, no-holds-barred punk so many of us have been craving without even realizing it…and from what I can tell, man, they’re just getting started.
Vatican Shadow’s thematic concept sort of stops and starts with this little sum-up from Hospital Productions:
Militant religious industrial. Music for assassins on the world-scale board game upon which it isn’t clear who is winning or what side you are on.
Besides being one of the most ingenious descriptions ever put to paper, apt or not, those sentences are beyond faithful to Vatican Shadow’s vibe. This newest moniker of Prurient mastermind/Cold Cave synthist Dominick Fernow spent much of 2011 dropping release after release of predatory, militaristic noise, all of it cloaked in black, slinking round a side street, rifle in hand.
Fernow’s courting a Muslimgauze-esque level of prolificacy here; from the loping hypnosis of Mural of Saddam to the blistering grenade launch of Kneel Before Religious Icons — not to mention the collected Washington Buries Al Qaeda Leader At Sea Decks 1-3 and Pakistan Military Academy and Yemeni Commandos and, and, and — Vatican Shadow goes hard on a black-market electronic kick, drawing on the aforementioned Muslimgauze and even modern industrial, drone and ambient to hone a sound that’s equal parts nihilistic and hopeful.
But be forewarned: This is a catalogue that requires your full attention. Though the releases definitely stand alone, there’s a certain puncture and flow to the lot of them together. A real otherworldliness, this dark and uncompromising underground luring you into so much conspiracy. So dim the lights and settle in; Vatican Shadow’ll have you as a pawn in that global, deadly chess match faster than you can say “pull out the pin”.
Let me tell you about Lawrence Pearce. He’s the sort of person you want around in that sappy, half-drunk, post-holiday haze; the best kind of conversationalist, you know, a real dream-thinker. An enthusiast to the nth degree. When the twinkle lights stop twinkling and the champagne’s almost gone and 2011 comes crashing to a close like so many freeway accidents, Lawrence is the one most likely to hang out with you ‘til 4am, waxing all excited about Sixth June and Reality Bites. Truth.
But that’s not the thing. His project Nové Můra is the thing, this crunchy-hot electronic work that radiates the energy of both modern LA and 80s minimal synth, the cling-clang of metallic industrial, a mess of wires and sci-fi chimera. And lest you think that last paragraph bore zero relevance, take a listen: Lawrence’s exuberance comes barreling out of Nové Můra in great puffs of sonic enthusiasm. Music that’s exciting to hear because you can feel how excited the musician was to make it.
So here, in this last Sounds From the Other Side of 2011, I beg you: Cozy up with the aforementioned post-holiday haze, grab one last drink, turn off the lights and let this sci-fi fantasy drag you away. It’s the sound of 2012, or 3012, or 4235. And Lawrence will be totally happy to show you around.
Gabriel Bruce has an unreality about him, this slip of a figure cut from ether and cigarette smoke, like Weetzie Bat’s father-ghost or the memory of William Burroughs. He used to sing for the UK’s gothy/grungy Loverman, but now he’s on his own. Tracing the shadows of wisened men, making records that combine Cave and Cohen and Dada and Freud. Debut single Sleep Paralysis is boozy and psychological, a thinking man’s something or other, growly and rich and pretentious as absolute fuck…and you’ll love every minute of it.
But you really need the vinyl to appreciate this one. (And, you know, because it’s not available in any other format.) Released earlier this month by London collective Off Modern, Sleep Paralysis is equal parts book and record: The “Sleep Paralysis”/“No Love Lost” seven inch, plus 50 pages of writing, illustration and cut-up ephemera exploring the sensation of sleep paralysis.
Gorgeously designed by Off Modern, sourced and written by Bruce, it’s a natural extension of the theme’s clinical, smoky terror — and, for that matter, Bruce’s persona. The shadowy artist with darkened eyes, all black-clad and thoughtful, conjuring eons of poets, philosophers, recluses and bon vivants.
Bruce’s unreality, that sense of him as some ghostly figure appearing from absolute nowhere, isn’t a gimmick or escape mechanism; it’s just what happens when you spend so much time diving into the wreck. Grab a limited-edition LP and take a dive with him.
If you spent 2011 craving more of DOSE’s dirty, sexy, fuzzed-out grime — or, like me, obsessively spinning “Smile Blender” for anyone within earshot — Jonny Teardrop’s got you covered. Meet CRAVE: Teardrop’s fucked-up, scuzzy hot, depressive new side project.
Think of it as DOSE’s delinquent half-sister. CRAVE may come from the same screaming, furious family but the tracks are more maudlin than violent; all liquid-eyelined and slouched into a leather jacket. Teardrop describes the project as harsh verse chorus harsh verse chorus harsh, and while that’s apt — I mean, the whole thing is like a bi-polar mood swing — it glosses over the hellish little details. Those teeth-grinding, skin-crawling synths, clattering 808 beats, everything both manic and codeine-slow. A real sonic nightmare, creeping in from all sides. The name is no joke; these are seriously addictive tracks.
Grab CRAVE’s debut full-length Heal at Bandcamp, and check the project’s website for videos, images, tons of scuzzed-up art and hopefully, someday, a few US dates.