Monthly Archives: October 2017

DIVISIONISTS – Daybreak LP (orange vinyl)

Album: Daybreatk LP

Artist: Divisionists

Label: Mount Watatic

Release Date: March 17, 2017

https://mountwatatic.bandcamp.com

The Upshot: A near-perfect blast of visceral psychedelia and blissed-out power pop that yields earworm after earworm.

BY FRED MILLS

Devotees of latterday psychedelia surely shed more than a few tears when New England quartet Abunai! called it a day in the early ‘00s, after a fruitful 1996-01 run that yielded three critically acclaimed full-lengths. There have been the inevitable reunion shows over the years, but for the most part the members have concentrated on their post-Abunai! projects, and with Divisionists, formed by guitarist Brendan Quinn, we have a combo that not only builds upon that psychedelic legacy, it definitively merges psych with power pop and shoegaze for one of the freshest-yet-familiar albums of 2017 to date.

Quinn, a multi-instrumentalist whose solo albums have featured appearances by fellow Abunai! alumni, the Bevis Frond gang and other indie avatars, and spotlighted, in particular, his fingerstyle guitar virtuosity, is based in London these days and is joined by guitarist/synth man Mark Bennett, bassist Mike Whitaker, and drummer Rob McGregor. In 2012 they released the “we play rock music…” EP to good notices, but with the arrival earlier this year of the “Say Can You” single, all bets were immediately off for Divisionists. A hi-nrg blast of chiming, fuzzed-out guitars and soaring, ecstatic vocals, it conjured classic images of everyone from Teenage Fanclub, Ride, and Matthew Sweet, to Byrds, Crazy Horse, and Velvet Underground. That, along with followup “Dream Landscape,” a moodier, drifting/droning ballad that adds Big Star to the pop rogues list, are  obvious highlights on Daybreak’s first side, although that’s not to say that any of the other tunes are slackers. Far from it—just check the gospellish vocals and rippling guitars of “Alone” or a luminous cover of the Velvets’ “Pale Blue Eyes.”

Flip the record and the delights keep coming, from the warm, womblike sonic cocoon that is “Colors (Song For a Spaceman)”—for you influences trainspotters, listen for the modal, almost Quicksilver Messenger Service-like fretwork—to the straight-up jangle pop of “Little Margaret” to the dark, explosive, feedback-laden, space-rocking “We Must Be Careful,” which, at seven minutes, has ample time to ebb and explode in a prismic burst of dynamics, tones, and textures. All in all, a remarkable record that repays successive listens with earworm after earworm. All those above comparisons to icons? Believe it.

Consumer Note: The album, available at the above Bandcamp link for the record label (which is run by Quinn and Lisa Makros, who also guests as a backing vocalist) or at the group’s Bandcamp page (which compiles a slew of ecstatic reviews), comes in digital or vinyl formats—180gm orange wax, to be specific, and it is a visual, tactile feast. Included is a download code as well as a full-sized, four-page insert for credits, lyrics, and photos. I call that going the extra mile, and it is truly appreciated, gentlemen.

DOWNLOAD: “Say Can You,” “Freedom,” “Colors (Song For a Spaceman)”

KAT GOLDMAN – The Workingman’s Blues

Album: The Workingman’s Blues

Artist: Kat Goldman

Label: self-released

Release Date: August 01, 2017

http://katgoldmanmusic.com/

The Upshot: Canadian singer-songwriter falls deeply in love in/with Boston, putting her heart through life’s wringer as her fourth release attempts to resolve the experience.

 BY ERIC THOM

 There are thousands of singer-songwriters plying their trade but few stand out as far as this one. Kat Goldman’s fourth release sees her doing what she does best: playing to her strengths with an edge that only comes from a position of absolute confidence. Her voice is distinctive, phenomenal and, coupled with a piano-friendly approach to writing and her innate sense of building around a strong hook, Goldman has crafted a 12-song release that seizes your heart as it tells you its story.

Somewhat autobiographical, this is a concept album based on a love affair gone wrong in real time as she, to follow along with the press notes, “explores the dark underbelly of American society through the eyes of a character, the “workingman,” as told by a female narrator.” Taken slightly aback by its bizarre cover art (P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights?), the 12 originals follow the demise of a relationship but, more importantly, reveal an approach to music which knows few boundaries. From the acoustic guitar-led, semi-melancholic “Take It Down The Line”, an introspective Goldman sells its sad, yet soaring, chorus with the help of (her own) haunting backup vocals and little else, in the role of the protagonist. Switch gears, if not cars, for the ‘50s-sounding girl group holler of “Release Me’ with its pounding beat and face-first bass line (Marc Rogers) as Goldman fronts an imaginary girl group to drive home her need for distance from this one-sided deal, if not complete salvation.

Both songs go a long way towards underlining Goldman’s spirited approach to her art – and she can do it all. Folk. Pop. Rock’n’roll. Soul-searching introspection, with little or no accompaniment – and we’re only two songs in! The third track, “The Courthouse”, boasts chiming guitars, a wall of B3 and an aggressively animated, old-school “Na-na-na-nah-na-na-na-na…Nah-nah-na-na-na” full chorus. WTF? In a lesser artist’s care, this might suggest sheer chaos yet Goldman’s gift is to demonstrate her mastery over all she touches. The hooks are set so deep, you may lose the story line but you’ll never lose the urge to commit each melody to memory – uncontrollably singing along after repeated plays. With indigenous-style percussion, the ring of acoustic guitar and warm, acoustic bass, “Put Your Toolbox Down” injects compassion and gentleness into the narrative as Goldman volunteers a dash of Suzanne Vega onto her palette of sonic references. The title track is stripped down to voice and piano – how Goldman starts her day. And, like all her music, she’s able to squeeze more color from simplicity than most on yet another catchy track, adding little more than Lou Poumanti’s minimal organ runs to flesh out the intimacy of the moment, her vocal range stretched beyond the expected with delightful results.

Likewise, “South Shore Man” begins simply before adding meaty drums (Davide Direnzo), her own multi-tracked backup and Poumanti’s B3 as the piece lifts skyward. Aside from the sound of angels in the form of (her own) backup vocals and the heavenly caste afforded by Kevin Fox’s cello, there’s something truly haunting about “Ghosts in the Apartment” – maybe it’s its subtle resemblance to the key strains of Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage” (yet few would connect the two) and it’s one of the strongest tracks on the release, if not its most ethereal. “Baby, I Understand” slows things down to acoustic guitar and Goldman’s soft, seductive vocal, resplendent in her multi-hued collection of evocative inflections. “It’s Ovaaah” is pure singer-songwriter, its dramatic piano chords and abrupt pacing forging intimacy as the song develops arms and legs, getting slightly caught up in its own emotion if not carried away in its slightly schizophrenic cast of characters.

Cue reminisces of Judee Sill as the bittersweet “The One To Dream” comes to life with the help of backup vocals, cymbal washes and acoustic guitar. The purity and clarity of her self-assured vocal, her every articulation and quirky pronunciation (“funny” becomes “funney”; “money” becomes “munney”), a slightly nasal tone and that can’t-quite-place-it accent all serve to define a distinctively strong, independent artist on top of her multiple skills. As the piece builds from its simple melody, adding backup vocals and further instrumentation – featuring an impressive, other-worldly (too short) guitar solo from guitarist/producer, Bill Bell, this is one song to fall madly in love with. Forget the sour note at the launch of “Mr. Right” – it’s quickly redeemed by this infectious track with its Paul Buckmaster-style build-up, over-dubbed vocals and lovely organ break. A quick-set melody, it’s impossible to discard. The final track sets up the obvious end to any broken relationship – what’s next? “Don’t Know Where I’m Bound” sends the forlorn romantic back to her country of origin (Canada) to be as far away as possible from the blues that Boston brought.

So, whether you follow the concept from beginning to end as the artist makes her case to dramatize the nightmare and myriad emotions that come with bad love laid bare, it really matters not. Goldman succeeds in outdoing herself through the divine creation of a dozen absorbing, accomplished songs, adding to what is already an impressive canon of work.

 DOWNLOAD: “Release Me,” “Put Your Toolbox Down,” “The One To Dream”

 

 

J HACHA DE ZOLA – Antipatico + “A Fanciful Invention” lathe-cut 7”

Album: Antipatico + “A Fanciful Invention” lathe-cut 7”

Artist: J Hacha de Zola

Label: self-released

Release Date: October 06, 2017

http://www.jhachadezola.com/

The Upshot: A compelling all-over-the-map collision of jazz, blues, show tunes, garage rock, and Latino flavors—plus a gorgeous vinyl collectible.

BY FRED MILLS

A little over a year ago, BLURT spotlighted New Jersey’s J Hacha de Zola’s second album, Picaro Obscuro, premiering the remarkable “In Curtains” song, his Tom Waits-meets-Nick Cave sound as unique as any we’d heard in 2016. Now comes the new Antipatico, which apparently translates from Spanish as “unfriendly.” That may be underselling the record—it is, at points, hypnotic, cinematic, lush, and dissonant—but there’s no question that it is also a challenging, at times daunting, listen, one which grabs the listener by the shoulders and gives you a good shaking: Pay attention.

From the salsa/rumbafied “Amaranthine,” which finds de Zola’s lascivious vocals draped in echo amid a noirish vibe and debauched Ralph Carney (Tin Huey, Waits band) and Dana Colley (Morphine) sax lines, to the riotous “Lightning Rod Salesman,” whose dense, jungle-throb rhythms, squawking/barking instrumentation (it includes a psychedelic jaw harp courtesy of another Waits sideman, David Coulter), and stream of consciousness vocal brings to mind vintage Captain Beefheart, Antipatico is an uncompromising listen that insists you meet it on its own terms. Cue the record up and be prepared to be immersed in outre blues, Latino rock, lounge jazz, twisted show tunes, gypsy polka, garage psych, and just plain outsider sounds; de Zola conjures up a mini-universe for each composition, all the while warbling in his signature upper register that’s part-croon, part-sneer, and part-swagger.

The record closes with the dirgelike-yet-melodic, anthemic-in-design ballad “A Fanciful Invention,” which is also the track (specifically, an alternate take of the track) that graces a limited edition 7” lathe-cut single de Zola just released, and for record collectors, it’s a must-own artifact, pressed on clear vinyl and hand-painted on the back side to give it a decidedly surreal effect when spinning on the turntable. Clearly de Zola considers his music to be “art,” and it must be said, both CD and single are striking testaments to the gentleman’s unbridled artistry. “Unfriendly,” my ass—one listen to his music and you’re gonna want to know him personally. (Incidentally, you can hear the record and more at his official website, and you might also want to check out his outrageous cover of Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” over at the Cover Me project’s Bandcamp page.)

DOWNLOAD: “No Situation,” “Lightning Rod Salesman,” “On A Sleepless Night”

Highly Suspect + Bones 10/26/17, Memphis

Live at the New Daisy Theatre, and a good time was had by all.

 BY MARK JACKSON

Massachusetts’ Highly Suspect has been one of my favorite bands ever since I stumbled across them by chance playing the New Music Experience while on assignment at Bonnaroo in 2015, and Thursday night reminded me why I look forward to photographing and hearing them every chance I get. Highly Suspect has been playing the music festival scene ever since, playing such high profile events as Rock on the Range Rock Festival and Beale Street Music Festival. (BLURT was of course on site at both to cover all the bands and tell you about the new bands you should be adding to your devices.)

 

With a nearly sold-out show for the New Daisy Theatre, Johnny Stevens and the brothers Meyer (Rich and Ryan) were in rare form, but first the crowd was treated to the band Bones, from London, who have made their way to the U.S. and are quickly making a name for themselves. Although the crowd didn’t know what to expect from this unknown band, as soon as they started playing you could tell they had the “IT” factor. The girls had the crowd jumping and rocking. I think Bones definitely made some new fans and you should also check them out.
***

Then Highly Suspect opened their part of the show with “Bath Salts” and continued rocking throughout the night with hits such as “Lydia”, “Fuck Me Up”, “My Name Is Human”, and “Little One”. The boys even threw in a little blues to honor the famous Beale Street blues music scene.

 

If you like real, raw, stripped-down rock and roll, then Highly Suspect is for you. Johnny sings about his real life and things that affect him, and the honest, heartfelt lyrics really come through. The aforementioned “Lydia” is about a girl whom Johnny met when he and the band moved to New York, but their paths were headed in different directions. Meanwhile, Johnny seems to have survived his heavy drug days (that period of the his life is graphically portrayed in the song “Bath Salts”), and he and his band are destined to make it to the top. Noteworthy guests in the crowd included Zach Myers from Shinedown and former lead singer of Full Devil Jacket and current frontman for Day Of Fire Josh Brown.

 

Text and Photos by Mark Jackson: @markjacksonphotography1            

 

Dinosaur Jr + Easy Action 10/24/17, Englewood CO

Dates: October 24, 2017

Location: Gothic Theatre, Englewood CO

Hallo, Guv’ner! It was a night full o’ decibels at the venerable Gothic Theatre.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY/ PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS

Wow, Detroit’s Easy Action, led by the legend John Brannon on vocals, opening up for Dinosaur? Excellent! The last time I saw Easy Action was in the early ‘00s, when they played on ther floor of a coffee shop in Portland at 1:00 AM. If you’re wondering whether Brannon still commands the stage with that commanding scowl that used to scare the hell out of people when he was the vocalist for the Laughing Hyenas (and before that, Negative Approach), well, think no more. The scowl is still in full effect.

Aside: In the audience this night was Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper. Out to catch some legenday, noisy rock!

The band is basically the same current lineup he has these day for N.A., with Harold Richardson on guitar, Ron Sakowski (looking like Jesus) on bass and John Lehl on drums. They blasted through a good 45 minutes of howlin’ bluesy, garage rock and sounded in fine form. They’re due for a new record, like now.

Amherst, MA’s Dinosaur Jr came back to town almost exactly a year to the day after I saw them at the Bluebird. J, Lou, and Murph are their names and rockin’ is their game. Still the loudest band on the street. They haven’t released a record since last year’s Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not, so they’re due; I thought that record was an improvement over 2012’s I Bet On Sky, the only album since they reformed that I haven’t liked.

They opened with “Thumb”—the same song they opened with last year—and then launched into a few cuts I wasn’t as familiar with (“Goin’ Down,” “Lost All Day” and “Left/Right”), but then kicked into a few fan favorites like “Feel the Pain” and “Out There.” I was also happy to hear the great “Crumble” off their first comeback record, 2007’s Beyond.

From there we heard “The Wagon” and the classic “Freak Scene” and they ended the set with an extended version of “Forget the Swan,” from their self-titled1985 debut. My ears were bleeding.

After some stomping from the crowd they came out for two encores, including “Sludgefeast” and a cover of The Stooges’ “TV Eye,” then left the stage on this brisk Tuesday evening.

It’s always a pleasure to see these guys live—especially bassist Lou Barlow, who is still such a unique bass player. (Well, J and Murph are no slouches, either, just to be fair!) See ya’ next year guys, hopefully.

 

ACTION SKULLS – Angels Hear

Album: Angels Hear

Artist: Action Skulls

Label: CMP

Release Date: September 29, 2017

http://billmumy.com/ActionSkulls.html

The Upshot: Folk-rock, atmospheric psychedelia, luminous balladry, and more from this indie-pop supergroup.

BY FRED MILLS

Vicki Peterson. John Cowsill. Bill Mumy. Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas. Wait, you don’t recognize the names? Maybe the group’ they’re most closely associated with will jog your memory: Bangles, The Cowsills, Barnes & Barnes, Neil Young. Clear now? Good. Let’s discuss.

A project that began in early 2014 following an impromptu Christmas party gather-around-the-piano harmonizing session, Angels Hear almost never happened due to Rosas’ sudden passing the following November. But the remaining three remembered they had cut some special material, so once each musician tied up individual loose ends, they reconvened in the studio and polished things off, even drafting Mumy’s former Lost In Space co-star Angela Cartwright for art layout and graphic design duties.

Right from the get-go, Angels Hear is a sonic delight, with the Brit Invasion baroque pop of “Mainstream” leading the way via sinewy jangle-twang riffs, a very McCartneyesque bass line, and take-your-breath-away vocal harmonies. “In the Future” follows, each of the three singers swapping off on lead vocals against an irresistible Bo Diddley beat, and that in turn is followed by the downcast-but-luminous heartbreak ballad “If I See You in Another World.” From there the aural delights keep coming as the group essays a remarkable number of styles—the Laurel Canyon folk of “Map of the World”; swaggering garage rock for “Standing on a Mountain”; atmospheric psychedelia—not to mention those three-part harmonies again—in “The Beast and the Best”; the minor-key Americana of lengthy, and masterful, album closer, “The Land of Dreams.”

With Rosas permanently absent, it’s hard to predict whether Action Skulls will ultimately turn out to be a one-off; the members have stated that the bass player was a undeniable part of the musical alchemy they all experienced in the studio. (Mumy and Cowsill’s son Will pitched in on bass duties when it came time to complete the album.) Peterson, of course, continues with the Bangles; Cowsill is a touring member of the Beach Boys; and Mumy is a producer and filmmaker. But for the time being we’ve got this album, and as a result the music world is just a little warmer and brighter. No bones about it.

DOWNLOAD: “The Land of Dreams,” “Mainstream,” “Map of the World”

NICK HEYWARD – Woodland Echoes

Album: Woodland Echoes

Artist: Nick Heyward

Label: Gladsome Hawk

Release Date: August 11, 2017

www.nickheyward.com

The Upshot: The erstwhile Haircut 100 pop star proves he’s still relevant more than three decades into his career.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been close to two decades since Nick Heyward last put out a solo record and much has changed in the music world. Thank god, no one mentioned that to Nick.

Woodland Echoes, his latest solo album. is cohesive and strong and despite being a little more mellow than some of his earlier offerings, would fits nicely alongside his work from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Though he’ll always be remembered first by an entire generation as the voice of Haircut 100, Woodland Echoes proves he hasn’t let rust settle in over his hiatus. Thematically, the beauty of nature is woven throughout the record (“Mountain Top,” “Beautiful Morning,” “Forest of Love,” “Perfect Sunday Sun,” and on and on…), which tracks with an interview he gave in the late ‘90s where he discussed “coming alive through nature.”

Heyward was always a great lyricist, and that’s apparent throughout this new record, especially on tracks like “The Stars” and “Baby Blue Sky.” He’s also not afraid to experiment a bit, like on the jazz-tinged “Who.” It’s been a long time coming, but with this latest, Heyward proves he’s still relevant more than three decades into his career.

DOWNLOAD: “The Stars,” “Who” and “Baby Blue Sky”

 

MOUNT KIMBIE—Love What Survives

Album: Love What Survives

Artist: Mount Kimbie

Label: Warp

Release Date: September 08, 2017

https://warp.net/

The Upshot: It’s a gorgeous, unreal place that the indie rockers evoke on Love What Survives, but dissonance leaks in through the crevices.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Mount Kimbie layers shimmery pale washes of electronic tones over one another, creating soft, wavery atmospheres that are punctured, like as not, by the rougher tones of organic instruments – a bass line buzzing up from the underpinnings, the dry crack of snare piercing the twos and fours, a church organ on full-bore vibrato wheedling into the spaces between verses. It’s a transportingly pretty aesthetic, rather dreamy but full of good feeling, but it lands most resoundingly when there’s a contrast, a friction, a bit of difficulty woven into the mix. On Love What Survives, the third full-length from the London duo Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, the sting in the sweet comes most often from the guest vocals, particularly King Krule, but also Micachu and James Blake.

King Krule’s “Blue Train Lines” is the album’s clear highlight, the music bubbling with jittery drum-beat anticipation and ebullient surges of synthetic tone. Krule’s voice is a necessary corrective, spitting gnarled strings of frictive lyrics, landing hard on the downbeats, dragging out yawning cockney vowels that end without a punctuating consonant. He’s delivery drips with sarcasm against a backing of pure euphoria. Yet at the chorus, he turns wounded, romantic and downright lyrical, admitting ruefully that “yeah might have seen it all” with the kind of vulnerability that only a tough guy can muster.

“Marilyn (feat. Micachu)” is completely different but likewise very strong, incorporating a gamelan-ish tonal percussion into its mesh of drum rhythm, synth tones and a dreamy rumble of running bass. This almost-melodic percussion becomes a recurring motif in Love What Survives, recurring in Konono 1-ish “SP12 Beat” and the sing-song-y cadences of “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)”, the track with the angelic French-Mexican artist Andrea Balency on vocals. Yet it works most intoxicatingly on the cut with Micachu, here poised somewhere between punk playfulness and cinematic atmospherics as she slips in and out of a softly variegated mix, breathing, “I’m looking at you/are you looking at me?”

Mount Kimbie invited long-time collaborator James Blake in for a couple of tracks, and his fluting tenor turns single “We Go Home Together” into a stunning evocation of romantic longing. Here the musical backing is quiet, a shake of tambourine, looped bit of laughter that becomes a rhythmic element and that tremulous drone of organ. Over all this, Blake’s voice flutters effortlessly, asserting “And it’s the best it could have been…we go home together,” high and fragile and emotionally charged.

The non-guested tracks can be very fine as well, particularly the opener “Four Years and One Day,” which builds quivering, oscillating masses of tone, in which every note is shadowed by a dopple-ganger and melodies shimmer like reflections on wind-ruffled water. Yet even here, a rougher, more unpredictable element bursts through in drum beats that rise from the distance and moving toward the center and bass guitar, very scratchy and real, that pounds through gauzy layers of tone and hiss. It’s a gorgeous, unreal place that Mount Kimbie evokes on Love What Survives, but dissonance leaks in through the crevices.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue Train Lines (Feat. King Krule),” “Marilyn (Feat. Micachu)”

PYLON REENACTMENT SOCIETY – Part Time Punks Session EP (colored vinyl 12″)

Album: Part Time Punks Session 12" EP

Artist: Pylon Reenactment Society

Label: Chunklet Industries

Release Date: October 20, 2017

http://www.chunklet.com/ / https://chunklet.bandcamp.com/

The Upshot: Classic Pylon material made to breathe anew rather than approached with overly clinical reverence.

BY FRED MILLS

Anyone who was remotely aware of the Amerindie music milieu during the ‘80s—particularly those tuned in to the Athens scene and the rise of the B-52s, R.E.M., etc.—knows the name Pylon. It’s even likely that a lot of people who were not tuned in have heard the name, as the Athens four-piece continues to be cited as an influence on younger musicians and discovered by successive generations of music lovers. Maybe not quite at Velvets-type levels of influence and discovery, but in significant numbers just the same.

For many of us, it was also a passionate love affair we had with vocalist Vanessa Hay, bassist Michael Lachowski, drummer Curtis Crowe, and guitarist Randy Bewley, along with the quartet’s collective sonic and lyrical vision, which has clearly stood the test of time. Anyone who saw Pylon perform live back in the day proudly wears that as an indie badge of honor; yours truly caught ‘em a couple of times during their initial 1979-83 run, and then again on their 1989-92 reunion when they opened shows for R.E.M. Beyond that, I’ve also returned to the Pylon well consistently over the years, both literally (their first two singles, 1979’s “Cool” and 1981’s “Crazy,” are permanent fixtures in my 45 playbox nestled beside my turntable), and journalistically, discussing the 2007 remastered reissues of their albums (an utter joy), eulogizing guitarist Bewley after his sudden death from a heart attack in 2009 (an utter tragedy), and, more recently, reviewing the powerful Pylon Live archival album that Chunklet Industries released last year.

In a companion piece to that review, I briefly mentioned the Pylon Reenactment Society, which had formed in 2014 as a kind of a one-off to perform during the first Art Rocks Athens at the behest of Casper & The Cookies guitarist Jason NeSmith, who asked Hay to have Pylon’s music represented at the event. Soon enough, the PRS was an ongoing concern featuring Hay, NeSmith, bassist Kay Stanton (also from C&TC), drummer Joe Rowe (The Glands), and keyboardist Damon Denton (Big Atomic), and among the group’s subsequent gigs was a December 11, 2016, radio session in Los Angeles for DJ Michael Stock’s KXLU-FM “Part Time Punks” series. Hay, upon hearing the taped results, tipped Chunklet Industries’ Henry Owings, and with all concerned agreeing that, yes, this was indeed a dynamic performance worth preserving and sharing, things kicked into high gear to make Part Time Punks Session EP a six-song 12” vinyl reality.

A remarkable reality, at that. First things first: The Pylon Reenactment Society is not, as Atlanta journalist and longtime Pylon fan Tony Paris wrote last week, “a reformed Pylon, nor is it a tribute to the original band, with musicians carefully recreating each song to its minute detail.” That’s a point the band would certainly make, as Hay herself duly noted in an interview last year with BLURT’s own Tim Hinely.

But there’s no mistaking the Pylon sound. These are, after all, six Pylon covers, and even if they weren’t, Hay’s instantly recognizable voice, which can upshift rapidly from a rowdily reassuring tenor rumble to a sneering, aggressive, upper-register bark/yowlp, would brand that sound. Too, NeSmith instinctively reclaims Bewley’s angular, at times arpeggiated, guitar lines—although, as Paris suggested, he’s less concerned with replicating Bewley note for note, and more about recalling riffs that were key to certain songs, then coloring in around the edges. The PRS “take” on Pylon is subtly more fleshed-out than the original songs’ oftentimes blunt-force minimalism.

“Buzz,” for example, originally on 1983’s Chomp, is borderline lush (by Pylon standards, at least), its martial vibe leavened by how Hay’s vocal croon, Denton’s organ textures, and NeSmith’s almost Edge-like atmospheric fills all combine to make the tune dronier. Denton’s swirly, spiraling keyboard lines also get equal billing with NeSmith’s riffing during “Precaution,” from 1980’s long-playing debut Gyrate; while keys were not necessarily absent from Pylon’s studio recordings, onstage the band was still a guitar-bass-drums-voice setup. Of the six tracks, my personal faves keep changing, but at the moment they might be Chomp’s “K,” for its relentless rhythmic throb and hypnotic, sinewy vibe; and 1981 single “Crazy,” whose sleek melody and snappy series of riffs were deemed sufficiently memorable that no less a group of Pylon fans than R.E.M. would cover it, and which, here, firmly secures itself “timeless” status. (The PRS surely feels the same way—their admiration of and devotion to the song is palpable.)

Ultimately, call the EP a compelling aural document from five musicians who know the material inside out, so much so that they’ve found ways to make it breathe anew rather than approach it with overly clinical reverence.

Consumer Note: The front of the record sleeve is a smart homage to a UK-only Pylon 10” EP from 1980 titled !!, while the rear artwork revisits the photo layout and text fonts of the original “Crazy” and “Beep” 45s, a visual Easter egg that Chunklet’s Owings also offered on the rear sleeve for 2016 single “Gravity” released in conjunction with Pylon Live. (Owings is the graphic design whiz behind numerous recent indie titles and reissues, including the upcoming Savage Young Du Husker Du box set for the Numero Group label.)

 

And it comes in no less than four different colors of vinyl: an initial black wax pressing of 200 still available for purchase at the Chunklet Bandcamp page for the EP, clear red (50 pressed) to be sold at live shows, clear orange (50 pressed, now sold out) for preorders, and completely clear (50 pressed, also sold out) for promotional, online, and brick-and-mortar retail. Reportedly, there is also a cassette iteration en route, so keep your eye on that Chunklet Bandcamp page for ordering details.

DOWNLOAD: “K,” “Crazy,” “Feast On My Heart”

 

SPEAKING SUNS – Range 2LP

Album: Range 2LP

Artist: Speaking Suns

Label: Anyway

Release Date: September 29, 2017

www.anyway-records.com

The Upshot: Sunshiney indie pop leavened by an open-ended approach to arrangements that allows the requisite darkness to seep in, and some of the sweetest, most emotional vocals you’ll get this side of the Beach Boys.

BY FRED MILLS

Hailing from Yellow Springs, Ohio, a tiny town east of Dayton and home to Antioch College, Speaking Suns is on album numero two, and by any musical standard, Range is a winner. Nominally described as “indie pop,” the group—guitarists Jacob Diebold and Jay Teilhet, drummer David Byrne, bassist Dylan Sage, and trumpeter Jonathan Jacky—readily shifts between sunshiny radiance (joyful opening track “Spell,” with its massed vocal harmonies and peppy horns), moodier meditations (“Out of Range” has a distinctively woozy, almost Wilco-type vibe), and excursions into darkness (there’s an angular complexity at play in a track like “These Are the Days” which wouldn’t have been out of place on a classic Flying Nun band’s record in the ‘80s).

With nearly every song clocking in at nearly five minutes or more—several hit the six- and seven-minute mark, with the amazing “River,” a luxurious, droning slice of Rain Parade-esque West Coast psychedelia, a full 9:46—the band allows itself plenty of room to stretch out and explore the myriad sonic possibilities such open-endedness affords them. Guitars twine and unfurl in classic dueling fashion, yet they never veer off into Proggy self-indulgence, thanks in no small part to the way the rhythm section is always being mindful of bringing things back to basics. (Moe Tucker would be proud of these guys.) And the vocals are to die for—somebody here grew up listening to the Beach Boys.

Pressed up on translucent emerald vinyl so gorgeous that the group’s hometown is rumored to be changing its name to Green Springs, in a limited edition of 300 and housed in a sleek-stock gatefold sleeve, Range hits all the right notes from start to finish—from inside to outside.

DOWNLOAD: “River,” “She,” “These Are the Days”