Hailing from East Rome, Heroin in Tahiti are a duo that have produced one of the most rewarding albums of the year with Sun and Violence. And they’ve seemingly invented their own genre, best summed as sun-scorched psyche Radiophonica. That may need work, so let’s go with their own tag of Spaghetti Wasteland. Much better.
There’s so much of interest here, so much that demands your attention, I barely know where to start. One thing that stands out is the brilliant use of field recordings – muezzin wale with intensity, birdsong and call is warped and coils in on itself, radio voices plead and spook, fragments of chants loop and animated rants become cadences.
Tracks erupt with rumbling ritual intensity or build to sudden ends. Drones haze the room and crystallise into diamond facets. Rhythms mass into tribal funks or drip with erotica. Synths wobble, float, and score lines across your vision. Guitars trace fragments of full riffs. Organs appease. Put it this way: I love this so much I even forgave them the use of sitars at the end of the epic ‘Continuous Movement’.
If Goat dropped all the spirituality nonsense and some of the somewhat tiresome posturing, and went a bit more pleasingly ‘out there’, you’d be almost arrive at the place Heroin in Tahiti inhabit. It’s a strange, third-eye coagulating, claustrophobically intense place, located somewhere beyond the visible horizon in an exotic land. I wanna go.
This is a brilliant album. I’d strongly consider buying it if you know your shit. BUY.
Italian instrumental post-rock band Stearica have served up their second album, and such is the intensity of it that it’s almost like running a marathon. Well, probably a bit like that; I’ve never ran a marathon myself but I imagine you start out all bright, eager and full of energy, have a little bit of doubt in the middle, and then end strongly as you feel the finish line coming up.
‘Delta’ is a storming first song, all angular guitars, in your face bass and sizzling hi-hats; next track ‘Halite’ takes up where that leaves off, with pummelling in your face drums. Then, while you’re still reeling ‘Bes’ slides in. Lulling you in with it’s slowish start before the punishingly thumping bass and drums combo bludgeons you.
With these album openers offering a one-two-three knockout, you’re left wondering if you’ve got enough stamina to keep up with this pace throughout the entire album. Things do slow down a little…eventually. But not until the final couple of tracks, by which time you’re all ready to be wrapped up in that shiney silver blanket that gets thrown on people at the end of a big run.
Mid points of the album, ‘Nur’, complete with shouty (occasionally almost bordering on the screamy) vocals, and ‘Tigris’ are pretty unrelenting, coming at a stage where I wanted some light to go with the shade of the physical assault, and ‘Siqlum’ borders on metal, which depending on your mood at the time might be utterly glorious or just a step too far.
Thankfully, Amreeka arrives just in time to slow things down a little, complete with atmospheric vocals. Things get even better with Sha Mat, the 11 minute-plus ending to the album. This brings in brass and woodwind instruments providing a contrast with the all-out guitar/bass/drum battering of the rest of the album, and the slow burning, building approach of this song makes it an absolute highlight. Taking it’s time to get into it’s stride it eventually transforms into a combination of all the best bits of the album on one song before fading to a satisfying drone.
And just like that, it’s over. You can topple over the finish line. Then you can do it all over again – this is an album that rewards repeated listens, and fans of bands like And So I watch You From Afar and Russian Circles would do well to check it out.
The four tracks on Overexposed EP, Flange Circus’ second self-produced release, each have a distinct sound of their own, but they are all definitely in the groove of electrically driven post-nu-kraut-psych-orbit-rock shot through with (dare I say it?) Northern Humour. I say orbit, because this Mancunian quartet are definitely grounded, not whirling completely into space.
Teaser tune and EP opener ‘Fabric Lughole Systems’ starts out with a driving warped synth line, before the reverb-soaked electronic melody takes control for the rest of the ride. This is a chase scene through some rain-soaked streets, taking side roads, then crossing against traffic. A pause for breath – have you shaken off your pursuers? Not now you’ve gone down a dead end. A resonant acidic pulse sweeps in as your pursuers approach, closer, there’s no escape… or is there?
Echoes of a warehouse with a strange machine at the center introduce ‘FAT CRAB’, before crunchy windswept Hawkwind guitar takes control. This is joined by mellotron-like organ, synth sweeps, and a single processed vocal stating the subject and the purpose of the piece. A live set would use this as a form of chant, perhaps. Even a signature dance move? The second half brings the one-chord driving guitar and organ, returning to the main theme, before wigging out in a whirlwind of electric sparks, ending on an almost church-like note.
‘Leopard Skin In Miniature’ starts out as what sounds like a straight rock song, backed with strings and whirring overhead noises, and distant paranoid phrasing from vocalist Pete, before some sinister Russian speech stops things in their tracks. Arpeggiated bleeps lead back into the main theme, and as the track resolves, the walls of sound move away, leaving you alone in the dark, with the electric fireflies.
I love me a phased intro, and ‘Disko Bay’ does not disappoint. The slow burn back-and-forth synths build, then step back for an electronic tapped phrase overlaid with violins, before all is brought down for the slow guitar notes and a beautiful piano resolution. A great EP-closer, and even better set-closer.
In this release, Flange Circus have taken the ideas and ideals of their debut Ekranoplan EP, and a couple of layering techniques from the spinoff drone duo Zirkus, pushed the rock harder in places, brought forth the psych, kept the humour, twiddled the knobs a bit more, added very welcome vocal touches, and come up with a tight, atmospheric and thoroughly good EP. Nice one. Buy it here.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Flange Circus contains two members of Both Bars On, in the great tradition of music journalists being in bands.Their previous release was reviewed by the then only other member. Now they’ve got me on board (the other new fella couldn’t do it because he’s in the band as well), so I drew the short straw this time. Except it’s a long curvy (yet angular) straw, which leads to places known and unknown, and I genuinely enjoyed the ride.
Let’s play a quick game of word association: What do you think of when you see or hear the word “Eindhoven”?
If you think “erm…it’s in the Netherlands somewhere but I couldn’t point to it on a map” then see me after class for a quick geography lesson. If, however, the words “Psych Lab” float their way into your temporal lobe and then out of your mouth, well done. Have a gold star and a hot vimto.
I’d like to think that Het Droste Effect, who are a band from that very Dutch city, have fully absorbed the goings on at the annual festival, and from the evidence of their debut album SOAR it would appear they have. Opener Syncopiapo is an industrial fizzer which sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. Follow up track You Know That I Knew really gets into the psych rock groove that moves the head and feet, and a glorious bass line that you’ll be humming for days.
While some of the shorter tracks wander into a more ambient territory, with bleepy field recordings punctuating the many layers of overdubbed guitar and cymbals, a full on fuzzy freak out is never far away: Hash It Out in particular stands out as a song where you just need to close your eyes and let it take you wherever it wants before the title track takes the pace down somewhat, allowing some much needed recovery time with icy synths taking a much more prominent role. Well, that is until the midway tribal drum breakdown and we’re back in full on psych territory reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s more experimental early post Syd Barrett recordings.
Final track Sandra Eats the sunshine is a near 10 minute epic which starts slowly with some dreamy sax and simple guitar before it just builds and builds. And builds.
You can name your price for the digital download of SOAR on Bandcamp so there’s very little excuse for not getting your grubby mitts on this. Vinyl and tape formats are also available by contacting the band.
Klara Lewis’ debut release on the excellent resurrected Austrian label Editions Mego is made up of found sounds, processed and looped and washed through with pad and soft industrial ambiance. There is drone here, and noise, and clouds and rhythm. It came out in April 2014, but I only caught up with it over the last few months, and I’ve been enjoying it greatly.
I hesitate to use the term ambient. After all, “Brain One” himself made ambient music to be as “as ignorable as it is interesting”. This is anything but wallpaper music, although you could certainly use it like that (music as a resource or tool to be “used” – discuss).
As far as the “industrial” influence goes, there are metal things being banged here, but you’re not being showered with flakes of rust. You’re standing on a green hill overlooking a factory city, with the oppressive noise softened to melody by the distance, mixed with the stormy weather and tape noise. That said, it’s not all listening to surf wash up on the rocky shores. There is some rhythmic input as well. Percussion is rarely used, rather the deep throbs of the effected sounds act as pacemakers, and the sudden end of a sound can act as percussion.
‘Shine’ is a standout track. A bass throb, with the resonance turned up to give a high pitched distortion, and an echoing synth stab, before the heartbeat resolves. Then the breathing starts, along with a suggestion of a distant tolling bell. End of the shift in the factory, perhaps.
‘Muezzin’ had me looking at the clock. Living and working as I do in Abu Dhabi, the voice of the muezzin, calling the faithful to prayer via the subtle medium of roof-mounted tannoys on every minaret on every mosque on every block, is a regular and familiar sound. This is a sound with such meaning for some, that it could be used as a cheap shorthand to make a piece of music more “ethnic”. But here it is simply a sound that has been captured, and used as a looping foundational phrase, before the hovering machinery approaches to spray down the dust. As such, the heavy meaning it could be said to have is replaced by a purely musical and structural effect, and a beautiful one at that.
Another personal fave, ‘Untilted’, is definitely percussive. Competing pulses of sonar, the closest thing to a drum on the album, a scraping as if you were brushing your teeth in time with unheard marching feet. The sonars allow you to home in on a single bass note, and a single repeated spoken phrase, and the track ends.
‘Altered’ is a 12 minute walk down a tiled corridor, carrying a Geiger counter to measure the effects of some disaster on the final residents of this abandoned tower block. Construction sounds (or the opposite) echo down stairwells, snatches of gentle music leak under doors as you pass. The hum of the building services shows that things still work here. It’s not oppressive, you know you’re welcome, you see and hear the residents as they watch you walk by. But when you complete your pass, you’ll be glad to drive back to the lab with your findings. You just don’t know if anyone will believe you.
It’s strange to think that a stark, almost cold album like this could simultaneously be warm and almost comforting, but somehow Klara Lewis has achieved it. A great album and a great debut. Buy it here.
I heard ‘Untilted’ originally on the Brainwashed Radio Podcast Edition, which (along with BBO itself) has become a reliable source of new and fresh vibes for me over the last few years, vibes which have done a pretty good job of acoustic lithotripsy on my calcified tastes, and for that I thank them. I’d also like to thank the BBO boys for the opportunity to write for them. I hope I can contribute.
Big news. Both Bars On now has four writers as we are joined by Matthew Petty and Pete Collins. Both are experienced bloggers, lovely people, and hold opinions on music suitable for sharing with the public.
We like them a lot, and we think you will too. Keep an eye out for posts from Matthew and Pete!
– the other two
Fourteen consistently excellent songs in thirty minutes… when you get to the end of Sauna Youth’s second LP you just have to play it again. For a band with such a clear idea of what they want to do and such a deliberately DIY approach to doing it, Sauna Youth are full of smart ideas. Short sharp post-punk pop songs, propelled by insistent no wave guitars. Spoken word pieces. More expansive songs like ‘Creeper’, which here seems positively epic at three minutes and forty three seconds. And the sonic oddity ‘End Loop’ (which is a loop but comes at the start of the record. How very Sauna Youth).
Here are two of the livelier tracks, because I love them so much. First off, ‘Transmitters’. Mind the dinosaurs.
And then ‘Abstract Notions’, which might well be the best 99 second song ever recorded. Why would you need a hundred seconds for a song? This is perfect.
I saw Sauna Youth once, supporting their Upset The Rhythm labelmates No Age. One of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. And of course Sauna Youth are also Monotony, on different instruments but equally amazing. You can tell I’m a fan, can’t you?
Buy this now here!
So because we are always on the pop pulse, I missed the news that the great Fanfarlo have shut up shop. I hate it when bands we have loved (since 2008!) fold, but at least you can hope that each member will go on to produce interesting new music. That’s certainly the case with Cathy Lucas’s new project Orlando, who share this cassette/download release with Tomaga. RAM Tapes (or The Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust to give them their full title) re-use old tapes for that essential crackle and pop experience, and the theme is suitably 80s: video game soundtracks, kerbside frogs, ghost mazes, etc. It’s too sophisticated – at least to these cloth ears – to be just more chiptune landfill but it’s extremely playful all the same. The Orlando side is closer to Cornelius in terms of its invention and charm; the Tomaga side is a little more spacious, dubby, dronish. As an album it’s a pretty irresistible combination.
Orlando’s opening track brings you the croaks of a telepathic amphibian, a bit of bossa nova and a steely science-fictional theme, all in 3 minutes and 25 seconds.
While Tomaga’s ‘Giant Bitmap’ made me wonder whether Pacman ever got the cold sweats while cruising those haunted midnight mazes…
Highly recommended. Of course the tapes sold out long ago but the download is available from Bandcamp here. We look forward to the next RAM Tapes release.
Sun’s out! Well it is here. And this ray of sunshine is brought to us by Frog, two guys from Queens, by Audio Antihero, one guy from South London. Starting quietly it builds into a lovely little pop song, with an upbeat chorus that deserves to be blaring out of a radio (and already is). It sounds great, sprinkled with yodelling (I think), banjo, xylophones (maybe) and god knows what else.
The Audio Antihero catalogue is packed full of little gems like this one. He really does have very good ears. This is a taster for the forthcoming second Frog album Kind of Blah, on the same label, which will definitely be worth a listen. Their first (Frog, Monkfish, 2013) was the kind of sleeper hit with discerning blogs that Nosferatu D2’s We’re Gonna Walk Around This City… was, and (crucially) Frog are still going, so here’s hoping the new one does as well as it deserves to.
The song’s a free/paywhatchalike download, and there are links to pre-order the album (vinyl/digital) here.