Single Review: Cosmic Neighbourhood - "Elf House"

Cosmic Neighbourhood - Elf House
(2016 Kit Records)

The inflatable witch keeping watch over your neighbor's front yard, (standing about eight feet high with traditional green skin and pointed features), keels over on its jointless limbs and lets out a final wheeze before curling up in a mattress of unraked leaves. Its shed shell, limp and rubbery, is prodded by the curious paw of a leashed Labrador making a pit stop on a queasy patch of arid lawn. It is dragged a few feet by a brief bout of violent wind, but remains tethered to a post hammered into the earthy flesh of the suburbs. A few squirrels burrow their way beneath the deflated blanket, hiding beneath its wrinkled folds. The whole block anxiously awaits the emergence of a human figure from the shadows of the home's front porch to resuscitate the fallen Colossus, but the moment never comes. For the rest of October, and through the winter months that follow, the witch preserves its prostration in the snow-draped foliage. On New Years' Eve, when the balloon has been all but forgotten, a trio of elves tiptoe through the yard and hoist the pile of drenched latex onto their shoulders, whistling this tune as they ferry it to the nearest landfill.

Cosmic Neighbourhood is the whimsical musique-concrete project of British illustrator Adam Higton, his latest effort, "Elf House", employing the same unadulterated color palettes and safety scissored constructions that accent his visual pieces. The new tune, which is slated to appear on his upcoming Collages II LP via Kit Records this October, feels like a field recording conducted from the inside of a particularly optimistic picture book, buzzing synth chords billowing like smoke from tape-reel chimneys while springy sound effects litter the aural backdrop. Imagine Beat Happening covering Eno's Music For Airports on a Fisher-Price tape deck.


Review: hypercyute - "sugar solution"

hypercyute - sugar solution
(2016 vore music)

Like the stream of a hot shower on frostbite or a styrofoam cup of coffee sipped a few seconds too early, hypercyute's sugar solution hits one's eardrums with the euphoric numbness of slightly singed skin. Heating saccharine samples on a bunsen burner of violently loud sub-bass, the Chicagoan noise necromancer assembles murky footwork constructions from the carbon remains of powdered synth melodies. The EP cordially invites the listener to remove their jacket and get cozy, opening with a glissando sweep of chimes that might have instructed young readers in the 80s to "turn the page" of a book on tape. This moment of nostalgic tranquility is quickly proven to be a facade, however, as intro cut "nxjnn e e a## red red rib cage" bursts out of the starting gates on a lumbering kick drum blast beat and the squeals of .wav files mangled beyond recognition.

hypercyute's frenetically fractured production gives the sensation of watching an Autechre DJ set on a glitched-out VideoNow system. Shreds of discarded data scrap for superiority, piling onto a scrum that grows increasingly unstable as time moves forward. Following the Amen Break barrage of "kish^^3^^//" and the impenetrable "mesenchymal stem cell waltz", the one-two punch of "zone transfer" and "yellow yellow blue eyes green" creates a sense of emptiness as hypnotic as the pocket of darkness hidden near the foot of a candle's flame. The former pairs surreal, urban ambience with the steady pulse of a kick drum while the latter spins a dizzying Tilt-A-Whirl melody about rattling hi-hats. Stuffed full of harsh emptiness, sugar solution is a work of maximal minimalism.


Review: Ferdinand - "What To Do"

Ferdinand - What To Do
(Self-Released 2016)

Each inhale sticks to your soft palate like an individually wrapped pack of stale peanut butter crackers and the wallpaper is floral. The notations to four short songs are printed on the yellowed inside cover pages of the Heathcliff comics anthology that's spent a few decades wilting in your great-grandmother's basement. What to Do, he third EP release by Nashvillian bedroom pop outfit Ferdinand, is an intimate crawl space outfitted with a leather recliner, the flickering warmth of post-rock pulsations, and a hint of mildew in the air. It's the spare room you ducked into as a child to dodge chattering relatives at a family reunion, a grape Kool-Aid Jammers stain watercolored on the off-white carpet.

Amoebic blobs of feedback and minimal riffage glide across a microscope slide on "Opener" while frontman John Lewandowski whispers glossolalic observations into a tape recorder. There's a sense of organic construction to the tune, as if each translucent guitar note attained sentience and crawled along the song's shuffling marching band beat. "Underbed" is a halftime show performed in secret on the high-school gridiron after midnight, its stray melodic twangs lapping up against the bleachers like firefly flares while the drum line marches into the abyss. Closing cut "Right" is a surprising burst of retro emotive hardcore energy, a sturdy base for What To Do to stand on - its Beach Fossils six-string harmonies tie a Christmas tree to the station wagon while sleety cymbal splashes melt on the windshield.

A cherry Fla-Vor-Ice drips into the grass, a shed reptilian skin in your hand.


Review: Elemantra - "Foreign Breath"

Elemantra - Foreign Breath
(2016 Self-Released)

Unlike 90s-revivalist acts before them - Yuck's delicate wefts of sparkling guitar and early Wavves' walls of incomprehensible fuzz, for example - Elemantra don't craft minimalist deconstructions of late 20th century alt-rock tropes. Rather, their sophomore full-length excursion, Foreign Breath, is an aureate re-imagining of the best that the decade has to offer, all crammed into a blender and poured into an insulated thermos. The first quick sip of this bountiful smoothie, "Peach Fuzz", is instant evidence of Foreign Breath's carefully calculated depth of flavor - tangy proto-emo riffage is threaded around swooping chord changes, tinged with Pavement eccentricity in the form of a twinkling jazz-pop breakdown. The New York quartet channels a vast breadth of influences on a track-by-track basis, yet they're skilled at preventing clutter - beneath the layers of revivalism and ornate instrumentation are solid pop tunes. Case in point: "My Friends" juggles The Cure's citric acid-tinged guitaristry, whispery Smashing Pumpkins bombast, and a few bars worth of J Mascis noise-rock to concoct a cohesive bedroom pop anthem that's cinematic in scope. Even the interludes are memorable - "Boltok", clocking in at a minute long, is an elegant piece of post-rock trip-hop that hearkens back to the shuffling shoegaze groove of Chapterhouse's "Pearl". Foreign Breath is a smorgasbord of hooks and familiar retro-rock textures that refuses to let its listener get too comfy within its borders - the record is constantly shifting focus and mood to brilliant effect, its linear song structures serving up fresh ideas at every turn. It's a musical haunted house that hits you with unexpected bouts of nostalgia instead of jump-scares.


Review: meltycanon - "soft and wet"

meltycanon - soft and wet
(2016 Self-Released)

I've scheduled all my classes for the evenings of this current semester. The tranquility of my weekday morning routine is just too cozy to give up for an 8 AM lecture - hop out of the shower, play some Earthbound on my Wii U, then smooth over the rough patches of reviews I'd left unfinished from the night before while warming my hands on a mug of meltycanon's meditative brand of twee trap. Alchemically fusing King Krule's spartan jazz arrangements with weightless dancehall vibes and a sprinkle of Yo La Tengo eccentricity to taste, his first proper LP release, soft and wet, is best experienced in a state of crusty-eyed drowsiness. It's a watercolor augment to the half-conscious mind, a long soak in a tub filled with languid major seventh chords and frothy tufts of bubbly synth leads. At its best, the record is a fully immersive cloud of late-teenage melancholia, vaporous cuts like the bubblegum-ambient "behelit" or "budew" and its spearmint sting sinking into the listener's aural tastebuds like candy melted on the tongue. A holy union of bedroom pop humanism and the automaton bliss of PC Music, soft and wet is the soundtrack to a laptop's cat nap.

Premiere: Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"

Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"
(Whited Sepulchre 2016)

- crawling on hands and knees through miles of Mario Kart pipeline -

Braeyden Jae's video for "Two Mirrors Looking" (directed by Curtis Whitear) is an excursion to a planet beyond the reach of our own solar system, one whose vast oceans border oxidized shores. The aquatic dronescapes that populate Jae's Fog Mirror LP, tinted with rust and the piquancy of salt, make the perfect incidental playlist to transmit over the PA system of a sinuous system of tunnels that stretches out undersea. Globules of oily feedback float quietly at the water's surface, distorting this alien sun's light as it slices through their amber bodies. "Two Mirrors Looking" records the shimmer of warped luminescence as seen from below sea level.

Enter the bass wave aether via Whited Sepulchre.


Interview: Rei Clone

Rei Clone // Denton, Texas Shoegaze

What brought Rei Clone together as a band? Did you have a clear idea of the sound you wanted to strive for when first starting out?

Yes, we did have a set sound that we wanted to achieve. From the outset we were heavily influenced by 90's shoegaze like Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and mbv. When our violinist Nirmal joined we realized that we could kind of put our own twist on it though. We also knew from the beginning that we wanted female vocals in the mix so that was a factor in selecting members.

What was your first completed composition? Which installment in your discography are you the most proud of? How do you feel you've evolved artistically since your self-titled debut?

Our very first composition for the band was "Junketsu." That one was written and more or less completed before we had a final lineup. As far as which one we're most proud of, I can't speak for everyone (this is Zach speaking) but I think we're most proud of "Ready to Die." It's a simple song but everybody's individual contribution made it the uplifting and dense piece it is now. Artistically we've become more experimental from our first ep. Tracks like "Dreaming of Nagato" and "Facehugger" are examples. We try to have a balance of noise, punk, and dense layering on all releases but we try and experiment more with structuring and harmonies with each song. We also are trying to do more things with synth as of late. We sort of established that with "Sleeping Christian" and "Cat Planet Suicide" which both have some synth parts on them.

"Cat Planet Suicide" is such a solid cut! Very gelatinous. Rei Clone is pretty outspoken on the 'web about their love for anime - you're self-described "otaku shoegazers", your titles reference various series and characters, and you've even included a sample from K-On (I think) in the intro to "senketsu". Do you feel like anime influences your music as much as it does the band's visual aesthetic?

Abe speaking. That sample is actually from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and yes, watching anime really inspires me when I write music.
I take a lot of influence from j-pop and j-rock, even though I don't think it is super evident in our music all of the time.

Hmm, I could have sworn I'd recognized that clip! I do see some of the J-rock influence in the density of the music and swooping chord changes. 
How does your sound translate to a live setting? What bands have you shared bills with that have really impressed you?

We try to sound as good live as we do recorded, though our live shows have their own special qualities to them. As far as our favorite bands to play with, the list goes on, but to name a few:
Smith + Robot
Bad Times
Ghost Data
Big Hand//Big Knife
Better Now
Chris Lopez
Ringo Deathstarr
All bands we have played with/adore.

Also, when playing live, we really want an ocean of noise. It should really surround you.

How were you able to get in contact with Smoked Cheese Records about putting out Wet? Smoked Solid Dairy has been a favorite hardcore outfit of mine for some time.

Ive known Alec (ssd front man) since I was in high school. I used to write concert reviews for his website (txpunk.net). He has supported me ever since my first real project, Anger House. Once we discovered we both loved anime, it all exploded from there. I am very grateful for his support and friendship.

What series are favorites among Rei Clone's members?

Still Abe replying, I can't speak for everyone but:
Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Kill La Kill
Steins Gate
Desert Punk
Dragon Ball
Cat Planet Cuties
Squid Girl
Ghost in the Shell
The list could go on

Seinfeld is essential 😎
Any plans in the works for future Rei Clone material?

Absolutely. We are very far from being done. We have more EPs and a full.length coming out in the future. Probably sometime next year. Touring as well.


Single Review: Bunny Boy - "Aqua"

Bunny Boy - "Aqua"
(Granite Tapes 2016)

"...and viewers like you - thank you."

"Aqua" floats in an Ovaltine swimming pool, sunburned biceps girded with a pair of Casiotone water wings. It treads the lactic surface, its bouyant ripples of synth mimicking the warble and wobble of a THX logo creeping towards a static-charged television screen or an intro to a mid-80s episode of PBS Frontline. This mucoid ambience bleeds into tissue paper tape-whirr like the death throes of a particularly nasty fever - it's a triumphant, head-clearing sneeze expelled by the respiratory imagination of Massachusetts' Bunny Boy, his whiskered leporid nose twitching in relief.

The track's looped sequence of music-box synthesizer gradually snakes its way through a densely wooded chord progression that grows more cinematically bassy as the melody ventures deeper inside. Cue the lens flare; let the flashback sequence commence.

Bunny Boy's Shelly drops September 5th via Granite Tapes.


Premiere: Monogamy - "Enormous Mirror"

Monogamy - "Enormous Mirror"
(2016 Citizen of the World / Side Wound Worship / Almost Halloween Time)

Crunchy as dead foliage and just as warmly toned, "Enormous Mirror" is neat mound of autumnal decay piled neatly at the foot of a suburban lawn. Creaky power chords plus a sprinkle of glockenspiel accompany Monogamy's spectral stanzas and the deterioration of VHS footage.

A pickup truck infiltrates the Circle K.

The noisy floorboard wheezes.

Monogamy's Semifloral EP is available now on 7" record via Side Wound Worship (USA), Citizen of the World (USA) and Almost Halloween Time (Europe). 


Review: New Horror - "Fruitless Search"

New Horror - Fruitless Search
(2016 Soft Verse)

Despite their name, Newcastle-based shoegaze trio New Horror are aurally entrenched in the past, resurrecting the Manchester melancholia of The Smiths and bundling it up in a noise pop parka of distortion borrowed from The Jesus and Mary Chain. Fruitless Effort, the title of their debut EP, is another misnomer - the record is a bumper crop of Spectorian haze, a tinnitus-inducing survey course in the trademarks of early 80s post-punk. 

"Like A Child" kicks things off, its sandpaper chords leading into a trebly loop of Thatcher-era motorik percussion metronomically performed by a drum machine. Detecting Lewis Thompson's theatrical delivery buried beneath sheets of industrial sound is like recognizing a close friend's voice in the midst of a crowd. It's not often intelligible, but it is quite familiar - a buttery post-punk croon that flirts with Morrissey-impersonation on sludge-addled slow dance "In the Night" "Everything Feels Like a Stab in the Heart" waxes gothic, carving a solid rockabilly tune into its monolithic surface while "White Walls" explores the comfier end of the darkwave spectrum inhabited by The Cure, weaving a sitar-like instrumental in the vein of the soundtrack to Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart. Though it may dabble in arid textures and inclement atmospherics, Fruitless Search is anything but.


Premiere: Hearts Bonfire - "e," (Video)

Hearts Bonfire - "e,"

Stock cars glide across the Applebees' subtitled flatscreens, performing their ovoid ballet of left turns. A school of digitally-rendered swordtails traverse your cubicle's idle monitor. The narcotic dream-house ooze of Hearts Bonfire's "e," feels quite suited to soundtrack these usually silent forms of incidental theater, but it does just as fine a job accompanying frontman Leon Wright's public restroom dance moves in the single's transcendentally mundane new video. Watch Wright unclog his shower drain, soak in a kiddie pool, and attempt a headstand above.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for a new HB mixtape coming in the near future. In the meantime, scope some of his earlier discography via Memory No. 36 Recordings.


Single Review: Kero Kero Bonito - "Graduation"

Kero Kero Bonito - "Graduation"
(2016 Double Denim)

Bottling the balmy optimism of summer vacation's end, British bubblegum-bass trio Kero Kero Bonito march proudly into school in matching graduation gowns dyed as pink and blue as county fair cotton candy. Though as twee as their image suggests, KKB aren't the type to operate under the terms of others - their latest offering, "Graduation", is a puerile punk tune that blows Eurobeat raspberries at the shortcomings of particularly uninspiring educators while (somewhat sarcastically) patting itself on the back for earning a diploma. 

Though partly indebted to the suburbanite impudence of Descendents, "Graduation" is, at its core, a reconfiguration of the cacophonous, drop-heavy EDM peddled by Diplo and DJ Snake, massive bursts of grimy aggression traded for Kids Bop-py arrangements of MIDI-fied drums and Mario Kart sound effects. Though the end of the academic year may be about 9 months away, listening to KKB's new single feels like attending an early grad party.

"What shall I do now that the world is mine?"


Review: Christie Pits Baseball Pitch - "1994"

Christie Pits Baseball Pitch - 1994 EP
(2016 Self-Released)

The fondest childhood memories are often those spent in microcosmic derivatives of the adult world. Browsing the chewing gum-tinted turn-of-the-20th century architecture of Disneyworld's Main Street (constructed at a 3/4 scale to give the viewer the illusion of their own largeness) lets one participate in a surreally idealized simulacrum of the "American experience". Earning virtual cash for your avatar in the worlds of Club Penguin or Neopets during indoor recess is a low-stakes daily grind. Stepping foot on a Little League baseball diamond lets one experience the payoffs and pitfalls of celebrity on a small scale. It's the hyperreality of Little League Baseball that's the subject of 1994: a lo-fi soundscape occupied by Rothko streaks of infield down the knees of canvas-white pants, indistinguishable fatherly advice shouted from behind the backstop and the rest of the myriad cliches that are perhaps unavoidable when describing the game. Sentimentality is as inseparable to baseball as it is to chillwave - it's surprising that it has taken this long for the two concepts to be combined this harmoniously.

Named after a park and multi-sport complex in Toronto, chillwave revival project Christie Pits Baseball Pitch revels in Polaroid nostalgia. Layering lumbering jazz organ basslines and clumsy lead guitar riffs atop a distorted drum machine loop, opener "Bonds Became" hearkens back to the hypnagogic grooves of early Ducktails cassettes or the oleaginous noise-pop of Grippers Nother Onesers' Live At Slimer Beach. "Pull Hitters" is a breezy corporate-jazz jam that could have appeared on the soundtrack to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney, while its successor, "Dugout", dips into more melancholy tones, its tinny synths hailing down on a fingerpicked awning. 

Holding firm to a sonic color palette of late-summer oranges and yellows, 1994 EP is the chillwave equivalent to the Houston Astros' infamous "tequila sunrise" uniforms. In my opinion, that's a very good thing.


Review: C. Worth - "Duga"

C. Worth - Duga
(2016 Unread Records and Tapes)

A geiger counter sounds a salvo of throaty crackles - recorded on the thirtieth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, Duga's barren soundscapes feel like a Camcorder's record of a wasteland filmed by a crew of a hazmat-clad documentarians. Wheezes of feedback drift through a lattice of tinny six-string noodling as rusted and misshapen and a long-abandoned playground's jungle gym or the gutted remains of a brutalist housing complex. The greyscale terrain decays beneath the camera's grainy distortion.

Though his improvised creations are about as inviting as untreated concrete crowned with barbed wire, there's something scarily soothing about C. Worth's new tape. Surrendering to its abyssal drone is like surveying the pool beneath the towering high dive you're standing on or giving into sleep after an exhausting day at work. Duga is a void worth jumping into - it's a cannonball into the deep in; a few hours worth of dreamless sleep in the afternoon. Melding the needly twang of a Carpenter-ian slasher soundtrack, the post-apocalyptic vibes of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor interlude and the narcotic whirr of an oscillating fan, this is one of the most compelling Unread Records and Tapes releases I've reviewed to date. It's sleepy, spooky and overwhelmingly bleak.


Review: Slime Girls - "Tapioca"

Slime Girls - Tapioca OST
(Self-Released 2016)

Slime Girls' recent output has afflicted me with serious case of late-aughts nostalgia, particularly for the fingerprint-smeared copy of Wii Music I'd rent from Blockbuster in the 5th grade. Though the game limited its player to a setlist of folk songs and pre-Iran Contra soft-pop tunes, I'd find myself mesmerized by the vast library of instruments available to digitally pluck, bow and beat with my WiiMote. I'd spend hours constructing and comparing arrangements of these pre-determined songs, conducting a marimba sextet's Reich-ian run-through of "Jingle Bell Rock" or an intimate rendition of Madonna's "Material Girl" composed for jaw harp and bassoon. Cheesy as the game may have been, Wii Music served as a catalyst for my love of songcraft and my fascination with the different sonic textures that genres and combinations of instruments can produce. This feeling of motion controlled discovery is recreated note for note on Slime Girls' score for Tapioca, the latest pastel-toned short film animated by Toronto's Punimelt.

The EP opens with a 5-part medley comprised of abrreviated versions of the songs that follow it - the first of these full-length cuts is "Summer 3 Tokyo Drift", a high octane Calypso-punk tune that takes me back to dropping long-range jumpers in a game of Wii Sports Resort Basketball. Its taffy-like synths pair impeccably with its frenetic rhythm section, as if you're floating on an emoji-shaped raft in the middle of an unusually aggressive wave pool. By contrast, "Walking To School Can Be Hard" packs some of the mellowest twee-pop vibes this side of Matador Records, crowning its trap percussion with a canopy of overcast ambience. It's the sort of melancholy jazz-folk that'd play while collecting shells down by your Animal Crossing town's shoreline in hopes of pocketing a few bells at Tom Nook's shop.

Whether it's accompanying the film it was created for or a leisurely stroll around the block, Tapioca is as suited for animation as it is for your solipsistic fantasies of starring in your own JRPG. Consider Tapioca an augmented reality OST.