Monday, February 28, 2011

The Pheromoans 'It Still Rankles'

The Pheromoans celebrated the release of new album 'It Still Rankles' in fine style last weekend at Ryan's Bar (with profits going towards Letha Melchior Rodman Cancer Fund).

With a run of singles on Sweet Rot, Savoury Days and Night People it was the label that put out their first 7" in 2009 that does the honors releasing Pheromoans debut full length. Convulsive Records (Animals & Men, Dan Melchior) have said of 'It Still Rankles' - "One of the first truly great albums of the decade", I mean to employ no sort of hyperbole when I say I agree. At the forefront of UK's DIY scene right now, The Pheromoans chew up 40 years of music and spit out two to three minute shambolic Punk masterpieces. Fans of Messthetics will enjoy this band as The Pheromoans have a gift for wrapping up all of the best bits of those compilations while leaving their very own distinct mark on the songs. Highlights 'Soft Targets', 'Monged on Valium' and 'Bad Dandelion'.

If you couldn't make it to Ryan's Bar never fear! The Pheromoans are playing with Tyvek in March right here in London, don't miss out on seeing one of the most exciting bands in the UK today.

Interview from Russell for Gilded Gutter

Limited to 500 copies!!



Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kebab 'We Live In A System'

Soft Spot Music unearthed this lost gem at the tail end of last year. This Belgian quartet create insular Post Punk influenced by Crass Records DIY mindset where spikey guitars and drum machines are coupled with Slit-esque vocals. The first side cultivates all of their known studio recordings and rare 1982 single "Life It's A Joke". The second side is demo cassette HUP! which, in 1981 when released, was only available in a meager quantity of 30. All the tracks have been remastered and the LP comes with a lyric sheet, photos and interview from back in the day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dead Ghosts 'Dead Ghosts'

Florida's Dying how I love you!! Following a slew of singles and a live set of recordings which made it from tape to 12", 'Dead Ghosts' is the first full length album from the Vancouver band. Mike, Mo and Bryan started out playing in Trap Door together and then moved on to form Dead Ghosts. Forth member Drew was recruited after he responded to an ad on craigslist for anyone 'into 60s garage rock'. The group also use the same person for nearly all of their art work, Seattle artist Carlos Ruiz. Thus far, the band have played shows alongside Nobunny, Box Elders, Hunx and His Punx, Personal and the Pizzas and BBQ Show if that helps give a gist of where Dead Ghosts fits in. 'Dead Ghosts' hits jangly DIY Lo-Fi pleasure centres doing something so right with what could easily be done wrong. Their trashy 60's influenced garage rock has a sense of being played live on the LP, striking like a bolt from the blue 'Dead Ghosts' is an irresistible party stomper from start to finish,

Slug Guts 'Howlin' Gang'

Some may say Australia is in the midst of a revival but it could be argued that Oz was just off our radars for a while, possibly overshadowed by the explosion in New York and Brooklyn over the last few years. Acts like Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Naked on the Vague and Kitchen's Floor are turning heads and bringing music lovers, nerds and freaks back down under and making us all wonder why we left in the first place.

Slug Guts formed on the fringes of Brisbane in a barren suburb, with little else to do the foursome started playing together. Assimilating influences from Birthday Party, King Snake Rooster and the Scientists Slug Guts released debut LP 'Down On The Meat' after just four months of playing together on Stained Circle Records (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Jay Reatard, Dirtbombs). "Howlin' Gang" sees the band offer up thirteen new deranged tracks on Sacred Bones featuring Angela Bermuda (Circle Pit) and Sarah Spencer (Blank Realm).

Opener 'Howlin'' is quintessentially as Australian as it gets in its nihilism. "My life is cheap" is vented numbly alongside barbed guitars, palpitating bass and mincemeat making rhythms. It's this castaway point of view which aptly sums up the band's character and dominates the album. Illustrated further on 'Down in the Mornin' Sun', "Where I'm going next no one needs to know" interplays boy/girl anesthetized vocals balanced out with siren guitars makes the album monotone as it is melodious. "Howlin' Gang" as a whole is super consistent with chanting deadpan vocals cemented at the core lurching the album forward until cooling off with curiously heartfelt and lamenting closer 'Angie'. Delivering their songs with a sense of ritualism "Howlin' Gang" is as unhinged as it is focused. Slug Guts deliver music with an attitude you'd expect from Nick Cave, embracing the cheap and nasty, ultimately contributing to putting Australia's music scene rightfully, back on the map.

Interview with Slug Guts for Gilded Gutter

Monday, February 14, 2011

Metal Mountains: Interview!

Metal Mountains have just released their first record 'Golden Trees' on Amish Records. I got to catch up with them recently via email about the new album and a few other things too!

As a fan I’ve always found it comforting that Folk keeps going, fashionable or not. Do you find this as a musician? How have trends if any affected your work?

I think, as a musician you have to try to let yourself do the work that honestly comes out, even if that is not necessarily a widely popular form. That's not to say not to push yourself and make explorations, but more of self-searching process where you ask yourself, "does this feel true?" We've seen an interesting time in the past few years, where we’ve seen another resurgence of folk influenced music on the radar. The funny thing is, once something gets codified by journalists and music writers, it's usually not long before it is a trend that's considered "over".

Everything keeps going... How have trends if any affected playing? Seems that we, and everyone else, are buying more pedals.

With that in mind, what's it like being in a psych/folk band in NY today?

Well, New York sometimes doesn't necessarily feel like the ideal setting or inspiration for making that kind of quiet music. I think live music in general is a bit of a struggle in New York. Just the logistics of playing out. It's a kind of over-stimulating place. So much going on that it's daunting.

Seems to be a larger audience from back in the Cooler days, but then and now the shows were pretty freakin' intense. So, no, not much has changed.

Do you enjoy playing shows? I've noticed you’ve been performing 'Orange/Yellow' and 'Turn to the East' from ‘Golden Trees’ for a while. Does playing live help develop songs before you get to the recording process? Or do you utilize live shows to play them unaltered as a way to let the songs live and breathe before the recording stage?

I do enjoy it--especially shows that have a kind of relaxed feel to them—a lot depends on the setting. I like to think of songs having room to breathe and develop a kind of life of their own. Of course once you make a recorded version, there's a tendency to want to consider that the absolute definitive version. But I think they can continue to develop. Playing the songs live before you record them can be a good way to workshop the ideas. I remember when we recorded the basic tracks--Samara and I happened to both be terribly sick with the flu. Helen felt so bad about that, but the sessions were all set up. Anyway, I almost was in this altered drugged-out state. Actually, it might have focused my playing in a way. Just really slowed me down. It was a kind of fun time in spite of being sick. Eating Thai food, collapsing on the couch between playing.

Yea, I do like playing Metal Mountain shows. There was a live version of trucks on 95 that we did with Tower (Tower Recordings) - left me shaking. I keep it pretty loose with Metal Mountains (that's how it was with tower as well) so, it's always slightly different within a very fixed feel. I've got a notion that it helps keep it present.

I get pretty nervous before we are about to play live, but I love playing with Samara and Pat and they are both amazing musicians so that helps alleviate my anxiety. We had been playing these songs, live & at home, for quite a while before we recorded them so they had a long time to develop. I'd say more progress is made from rehearsals in my living room than playing live. The songs have a loose structure so there is a lot of space to be free. That's how we recorded it and that's how we play live, sitting down, playing around the structure and jamming in the jammy parts......

Helen, you once told me that your lyrics come to you when you're riding your bike over the Manhattan Bridge. I always thought this was quite romantic in a poetic way. Can you expand on your lyric writing process?

I ride into the city every day over the bridge. It’s a great and it leaves a lot of time for thinking and taking in the day, it kind of touches the senses and inspires many ideas. I try and ride the most un-trafficked way, which takes me past the amazing 'Admirals Row' houses and every day I see the city skyline anew. I sing a lot when I am riding my bicycle, working on lyrics and just singing songs I like. Lyrically I'm pretty sparse, I write a poem of sorts first and then whittle it away into a song. I want to leave room for interpretation, I know what they mean to me, but I want others to feel as if they own them, if that makes sense.

Metal Mountains seems to merge a fresh psychedelic sound with traditional folk at the core of the songs. Acts like Pentangle come to mind when listening to 'Golden Trees'. Being English is it important for you to stay true to your roots in the music you make? Or would you be writing like this regardless of where you came from?

I was quite into folk music in my teens, listening to 'The Trees', 'Pentangle' etc etc and I really liked traditional English & Irish folk songs too. That definitely inspired me to pick up the guitar, I really wanted to play and sing those songs. So, the base is there and maybe if I'd grown up elsewhere that would have been different. To me it's a part of my music history, since that time I've discovered new cities, different countries, new genres to dig deep into, new guitar sounds etc etc....they all play their part so I'd say the sound comes from where I am.

Do you ever revisit records you’ve made in the past? If so, what’s that like?

When I'm working on mixing something, I'll put on some previous things I've done to see how it fits or doesn't fit in. It's weird--sometimes depending on how much time has past there can be moments of "gosh, I almost forgot about that". It can bring you into the head-space of where you were when the music was created.

Rarely, and I tend to be surprised at either how bad, or how good it sounds.

Samara, are you a self taught Violinist?

No. I took classical lessons for over a decade when I was growing up, and played in a bunch of school/youth orchestras as a teenager...

Are there any violinists you take inspiration from?

Cale (yea, it's a viola) and Conrad are the ones - both, singularly, went their own way...

Helen, I haven't read much about your Art Work. Speaking about the drawings with you it sounds like line is crucial in your work. The aerial shapes placed on the page seem to create other worldly negative space on the paper. Can you explain how you developed your drawing style? Does any of this coincide with how you play guitar? Does one influence the other at all?

Ha ha, I'm pretty sure no one has ever written about my Art Work.... I really just make things for my friends, cards and such and draw posters for our shows (Oh, and the artwork for our record of course). I guess my 'style' was initially influenced by comic books, minimalism, the 70's and a lack of talent using color (excluding Paynes Grey, silver and gold). I just combine all those elements add a touch of nature and it turns out as it does...All my creative stuff is pretty minimal, the way I play/pick the guitar is very simple, I like playing that way and I can jam on the same one or two chords for quite sometime. I also have notebooks of sentences slowly becoming a word. I'm not sure how they influence each other, but they are all a part of me so I'm sure that they do.

How does it differ getting your band heard from pre-digital era Tower Recordings to pro-digital era Metal Mountains? During a time of Myspace, iTUnes, blogging and downloading is the internet a help or hindrance when you're in a band from your experience?

Yeah, that was such a different time. And really not that long ago. I get some warm fuzzy feelings thinking about that pre-digital age of fanzines. When making a seven inch single seemed to have an impact in that very niche community. Overall though, I enjoy the advantages of the technology a lot, especially as a listener. I guess it's that paradox—we have more ways than ever before to communicate yet sometimes things can (inexplicably) feel there's not much to say haha. 'Depends on your mood at the time I guess.

Uh, well ya know if ya wanna check out what a band "sounds like", it makes it pretty easy, but it seems to widen the gap between information and experience.

Helen's much easier to find out about stuff and easier to get your music/band's also easy to move on's both +/-, but I'd say I'm leaning toward the positive.

Pat, a show you played for your birthday a while ago has always stuck with me as one of my favourite New York moments. You gave everyone in the audience harmonicas and we played along with you for the final song. What have been some of your most memorable/fun experiences at a show either performing or watching a band?

So far, I've done that 3 times with harmonicas--once every few years. It's always a fun and special moment to involve the audience like that. That birthday show stands out as a really fun one for me. I think growing up I had the tendency to be a bit of a mopey, sullen kid, and at some point I realized that--well, you really gotta make your own fun. So, why not mark your birthday with getting friends together, playing a gig, etc. I've had many moments as an audience member feeling very moved by the experience. Some stand out, well, last fall I saw the Swans play an amazing set at the Masonic Hall in Brooklyn. It was very emotional and intense. I just saw Bert Jansch play a couple of times in New York, which was really fantastic.

"I'm full of dust and guitars." - Syd Barrett. If you were cracked open what would be inside?!

Haha, to be honest I'm afraid I might be full of "processed cheese-spread" and cheap beer.

Probably some records that haven't been made yet.

A complex puzzle that only the right person can solve.

Footage from their recent show at Monster Island Basement, February 4th

Metal Mountains Myspace

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kleenex/Liliput - Vinyl LP Box Set

For those familiar with this compilation, whether you nabbed the original 1993 double disc set released through Off Course Records, or if you got the 2001 reissue from Kill Rock Stars, Mississippi has upped the ante with a four LP 12 page booklet box set.

When they formed, the girls were put under pressure by company Kimberly Clark to change their name as the sanitary organization planned on using 'Kleenex' to brand tampons. Liliput was chosen to replace it but, now feels like a moniker that never fully stuck leaving both names synonymously existing next to each other. Kleenex/Liliput were together for five years before they disbanded. Forming in 1978 they spent the first four years as a group touring with The Raincoats, Swell Maps and Subway Sect. It wasn't until a year before they split up in 1982 that they had released a full length album. Rough Trade put out their only two records, in addition, they had a meager three singles in the Kleenex/Liliput cannon. Their material went on to play a key part in influencing the Riot Grrrl movement and was championed on John Peel's Radio One Show (see 'Perfect Unpop Peel Show Hits & Long Lost LoFi Favourites 1976-1980').

The tracks have been organized in a slightly different order to the original compilation but all the good stuff is still there. Post punk has had a revivalism over the past few years encouraging a younger generation to bring new blood to the genre. I'm not old enough to have experienced post punk first hand, as much as I enjoy this new breed of bands Mississippi's compilation highlights where it all came from. Kleenex/Liliput's material remains unmatched even by today's standards, which is why it's relevant and so valuable to have these songs reissued once more.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mind Spiders 'The Mind Spiders'

Can you remember the last time hanging out in a bar a record came on that made you put down your drink and go 'What IS that?!'. For this blogger, it was Marked Men and this is how I got hip to them. Picking up a copy of 'Ghosts' faster than it took to bug the DJ that night, this album has gone everywhere with me since. After this release Jeff Burke who shares guitar duties with Mark Ryan left Denton, Texas for Japan and Ryan with some spare time on his hands. Luckily for us it wasn't long before Ryan started cranking out new material under latest project Mind Spiders also on Dirtnap (Bad Sports, Goodnight Loving, White Wires).

Listening to the two singles already available from Mind Spiders, these pop punk songs much like his previous band are little pieces of adrenaline. However, the singles do hint at exploring new sounds especially on B side 'Time Sucker' on the self titled 7", so don't be surprised to discover Ryan doesn't play it safe on this debut full length.

The album ducks and dives between party stompers and slower darker numbers with Ryan drawing from an amalgam of musical influences. Ryan could have been an Adverts fan in his formative years as 'The Mind Spiders' sounds influenced by them in the way that 'Blood Visions' unintentionally did. Opening with head turner 'Go!' most of the first side is a collection of brilliant high energy pop punk numbers slowing down a beat only for 'Read Your Mind'. 'Mind Spiders Theme' on Side A hints at the transformation the songs take on the later part of the album. A curious interpretation of Little Richard's 'Slippin and Sliddin'' on Side B has a lofty, sluggish sound you might associate with Spacemen 3. From here Ryan explores post punk in a style not dissimilar to Blank Dogs especially on track 'Your Soul'. These darker synthesized numbers bring more of the late great Jimmy Lee Lindsay projects to mind like Angry Angels and Lost Sounds, may be you'll hear it too? I don't know... The aptly titled track 'Close the Door' ends the album cooling off with Greg Rutherford's (Bad Sports/High Tension Wires) pulsating rhythms and Ryan's eerily sanguine tinged guitar and voice. Is it too early to have a favourite 2011 release? Nah, Mind Spiders are the band to beat.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sic Alps 'Napa Asylum'

Listening to Sic Alps last album 'U.S EZ' (2008, Siltbreeze) it's easy to see why they wound up opening for bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth last year. Sic Alps' exuberance for slacker sounds and eschewing 'studio magic' has put them on the map as a psyched-out-garage-folk-watchimacallit-band favourite. With a new album Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman are joined by a new band member Noel Harmonson (Comets of Fire). Their latest offering 'Napa Asylum' on Drag City sees the band grow without losing their primitive aesthetic. Drenched in all the distortion and reverb you can handle they concentrate on a fuller rock sound, it wouldn't be a surprise if the amplified recording style on 'Napa Asylum' attracts new music fiends to the group. Perhaps it's just me but, some songs bring Syd Barrett to mind and others wouldn't sound totally out of place on Ty Segall's 'Melted' record. Highlights on 'Napa Aslyum' are, 'Low Kid' and 'Zeppo Epp'. The weather's rubbish out right now and I can't think of a better record to spend a night in with.

Read full review of Napa Asylum - Sic Alps on ©