Allison Lorenzen’s 2021 album Tender is the kind of record you take in and get transported to a place beyond time and outside linear logic. Like dream pop from beyond the Wardrobe to a reconciled, peacetime Narnia. But in Lorenzen’s deep atmospherics are moments of mystery and darkness and Jack Manzi tapped into that for his video collaboration with Lorenzen and the treatment of the song “Vale” through Silver Island Studios. Cast in black and white with stylized movements, some seemingly ritualistic with the trappings thereof as well, and set in a wooded area per the song title, the grainy and hazy drone of guitar perhaps provided by musical contributor Madeline Johnston (Midwife) offering an immediate emotional lens alongside Lorenzen’s own solemn, processional piano and the sparest of percussion, the video is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s 1945 avant-garde film classic A Study in Choreography for Camera. Like if Deren had collaborated with Georgia O’Keefe on the visual design and produced a film rural mystical noir. Lorenzen’s enigmatic lyrics are like a dark prophecy that fades with the sustained gloom of the song like a dream that isn’t a nightmare but imbued with a sense of menace nevertheless. It’s the kind of mood that is somehow worth visiting to give voice to the feelings that haunt you in moments of heightened anxiety as a way to gain comprehension of them and loosen their ability to grip your psyche. Watch the compelling video for “Vale” on YouTube and follow Lorenzen at the links below.
Now that summer is over, Walshy gives us a reminder of the early morning energy of that season with “Long Time.” In the video a woman wakes in a wooded glen and we see a green caterpillar crawl casually over her hand whole she looks at her hands as if they are new parts of her body while around her natural colors turn strange and the sonics of the track warp and wash out for moments before going back on track in warm tones but with a dynamic a little collage and a little like the tape upon which it’s recorded is melting. But she dances on from the green and purple landscape morning into sunset like all of these tripped out color changes are a dream and in the end when she writes on the screen the name of the artist in green paint the whole presentation gets even more meta but in a playful way that suggests that even when life gets a little weird and unsettled we can have fun and get through it if we don’t get too caught up on when things go off the rails a little. Watch the video for “Long Time” on YouTube and connect with the Dublin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Walshy at the links below.
Borrowing elements of Chuck Berry’s 1964 hit “No Particular Place to Go” Hoagie Reignz finds a way to suffuse hip-hop bravado with rockabilly with his song “Ridin’.” In the video our hero further mixes imagery with a leather jacket with spikes and his ride looks to be a white, 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition. His lady friend is dressed in a red and white polka dot dress and also looks like she stepped out of the late 50s. But the lyrics are like a transposition of today’s lingo to the Chuck Berry style with a few words swapped in so it isn’t wack. And yet while there is plenty of humor underpinning the song it isn’t simply a gimmick. Hoagie Reignz makes this work and his genre bending is inspired and creative with an astute blend of visual signifiers in the video as well. Who doesn’t love a little sly subversion? Watch for yourself on YouTube and follow Hoagie Reignz at the links below.
The granular distortion on the cycling electronics at the beginning and throughout Spanish post-punk band Dea Nammu’s “I Can’t Breathe” really enhances a pervading sense of dread and menace. With the measured electronic percussion and minimal guitar work and almost chanted lyrics the song is reminiscent of something Nitzer Ebb might do if it emerged today and came up through the more industrial end of darkwave. But instead of that urgent pacing, this song traces a slow and tortured path as suggested by its lyrics that seem to describe life under an authoritarian order. But it’s more complicated than that though the lyrics are very repetitive and simple. How many people being oppressed directly by state sanctioned violence have declared they can’t breathe? A simple right essential to survival and one that is threatened by air pollution. But that statement in this song and the chorus of “breathe and die” with breath as a metaphor for freedom and life works as the shouted words in Nitzer Ebb’s “Join in the Chant” where the words take on a mythological and symbolic rather than a face value significance and as such the song feels like something much bigger than its individual spare elements suggest separately. Listen to “I Can’t Breathe” on YouTube and follow the Madrid-based Dea Nammu at the links provided.
You can all but see the end credits of a moody action thriller scroll with overcast sky and gentle rainfall from the very beginning of SV’s single “How Did It Feel” especially once Ariana Celaeno’s breathy vocals drift into the song to linger such is immediate cinematic quality of the song. Celaeno’s voice is like a figure we see wandering off into the foggy distance, dropping lines like “tell me how did it feel/crushing my heart into pieces without any fear” and outlining the various hurts she’s endured from someone that supposedly loved her. Not in an accusatory way, nothing that aggressive, but almost matter of factly and in that way more affecting. Perhaps one could think of it as a summary of the movie that had just happened, though never was, and reflecting on the experience with a mixture of regret and resignation. A lonely piano figure seems to trace this path and synth drones carry an ambient melody in the background, all accented by precise, downtempo percussion lending it lush trip-hop flavor an enigmatic quality that tops off a song that ends on a more satisfying note than many movies these days. Listen to “How Did It Feel” on YouTube and follow SV at the links below.
A Shoreline Dream is a band from Denver that has often been lumped in with merely shoegaze but in this case that includes the electronic soundscaping element in its aesthetic in a way one might associate with Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Seefeel. Founded in 2005 ASD has gone through a variety of lineup and stylistic changes as its membership absorbed ideas and influences but all through its existence the project has been helmed by vocalist and guitarist Ryan Policky whose background in visual art and graphic design has graced the music’s presentation beyond the captivating and enveloping music. Policky got into the local music scene initially through death metal but by the early-to-mid-90s Policky had developed a taste for dark atmospheric music and underground electronic dance music. For the rest of the decade he got involved in both the Denver Goth and rave scenes and as a member of Pure Drama started down a path toward more experimental guitar rock and shoegaze. After the latter split Policky spent a few years in the relatively short lived trip-hop style group Drop the Fear before reuniting with former Pure Drama guitarist Erik Jeffries to write music that brought together ethereal, tonally rich guitar melodies with IDM-esque electronic sequences with live drums that can be heard on A Shoreline Dream’s 2006 debut album Avoiding the Consequences. The music didn’t sound much like other Denver practitioners of the shoegaze arts but none of them sounded like each other either. Since then Policky has followed whatever muse seemed to give form to the next chapter of songwriting across four more albums and now with a sixth, Loveblind due out September 23, 2022 via Latenight Weeknight Records. The new record is largely a solo endeavor for Policky with contributions from Jeffries and others, a product of the pandemic era and the changing nature of the music industry that had already been transformed before any lockdowns. The resultant songs are reflective and leaning toward hopeful even as the subject matter is a direct discussion of the forces that make the world we live in more challenging. But the exquisite and transporting melodies and inspired dynamic drift make it yet another ASD album to dive into places of cathartic tranquility.
We had a chance to interview Policky and discuss his past in music, his working with pinball machines, other projects like Genessier and Brim Liski as well as his struggles with the ups and downs of industry and being a maker of music in the wake of all the challenges facing anyone putting out music today. Listen to the interview on Bandcamp, give a view to the music videos for “loveblind” and “alarms stop ringing” and to check out the full album and follow what Policky is doing with A Shoreline Dream and his other endeavors visit the Latenight Weeknight website.
“Without Reserve,” the latest single from Sex Park’s forthcoming full length album out on Dowd Records later in 2022, showcases the trio’s elegant songwriting in the realm of post-punk. The group’s debut LP Atrium (on Denver-based post-punk band Voight’s Vacant Decade imprint 2018) revealed an ability to craft ebullient darkwave tracks with urgent guitar hooks and early No Age-esque lo-fi aesthetics. The vocal accents and layered rhythms and melodies lend the song an emotional nuance worthy of its lyrics sketching vividly a headspace of someone doing what he can to cope with the anxieties and unresolved emotional traumas that can build like a persistent specter always on the edge of consciousness. Yet the soothing sounds and energy of the song which has a flavor reminiscent of Technique period New Order and wouldn’t sound out of place on a a Future Islands record minus the guitar. As for the latter, the delicate arpeggios hang perfectly off the synth lines tracing the paces like something you might hear if Depeche Mode had guitar on Speak & Spell in that it would never be the focus of the song, just another element to create a deep mood that itself is the goal of the song as a vehicle for expressing feelings and ideas that can be heady but delivers well with a mix of minimalist elements. At a time when many modern post-punk and darkwave bands have settled into stylistic predictability, Sex Park gives us a song that reconciles its influences with a modern sensibility apt for conveying a complexity of thinking and feeling in a way accessible without downplaying struggle. Listen to “Without Reserve” on Spotify and follow Sex Park from Portland, Oregon at the links provided.
The images of the band at play and frolicking in the sunshine and the upbeat hooks of Laveda in the music video for “Surprise” serve as a great contrast to deep spirit of melacholy of the lyrics. Even the imagery of the video shows a place where not all the grass is green, where the playground equipment looks well worn and the buildings show signs of the kind of urban decay that used to be a major feature of all American cities of size and is starting to again if you’re not too dazzled by the veneer of “development.” The song’s lyrics really do get to a social phenomenon that has been at play in the USA going back thirty years when generations of students and young people in general are told to manage their expectations in the richest nation on earth and to just accept that all the lies we’re told growing up about working hard and getting educated and that anyone can be anything they want but when you get there it’s more challenging than you’ve been led to believe. “Thought I’d give away my youth/To something better used/And I need it babe/It’s just part of the day” really articulates that feeling of being beat before you’ve had a chance. “I don’t know/never talked much/Sometimes feelings not enough/There’s a deeper pain/It’s empty” later in the song maybe isn’t about how if you keep up your spirits that you’ll get through the tough times but there’s nothing on the other end of those tough times but more of the same. And “Get up/I know we just made it home/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober/Being alive is just getting old/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober” has to be one of the more poignant lyrics that addresses the fatigue, the overwork, the sudden realization that hustling may not be a temporary situation for your generation and that self-medication is one of the only ways to cope when all other paths to changing things seem to be closed to you. And yet in the irresistible haze of Laveda’s guitar work and propulsive rhythm there is a sense of hope and perseverance against the tide of history because what else are you going to do but at least do some of the things you love and not give your heart and soul to a system that will crush everyone under to perpetuate its destructive funnel of all the goods of society to fewer and fewer hands. Watch the video for “Surprise” on YouTube and follow Albany, NY’s Laveda at the links below. The band is currently on tour with a stop at Denver at Lost Lake Lounge on September 25, 2022.
“Mist of the Teal Mara” begins with The Lunar Year sounding like a lost track by Cocteau Twins or Drab Majesty in the unconventional melodic progression but then eases quickly into more psychedelic territory as the song progresses to the halfway point. Languidly wailing guitar reminiscent of a gentler Bardo Pond get lost in the mist suggested by the title intertwine with the contemplative flecks of melodic drift that course through the song sits between vocal passages that seem to wander amid dream imagery and logic. The lyrics are a bit mysterious yet point to a yearning for focus and direction but only able to discern what that might be in symbolic language. Lines like “cat dream killed by sunshine” and at the end with “going to bed to find the thing I killed” appear to be clues to how dreams can offer answers to elusive aspects of our psychology and when interrupted we can feel cast adrift in our own minds and in perhaps returning we can rekindle that spark of psychic energy that reconciles the inner life with its disparate elements again. But even despite these attempts to make sense of the song’s resonant, impressionistic imagery it works as a condensed work of expansive, vital dream pop that feels like you’ve been on a real journey by the end of its all too brief one minute, fifty five seconds. Listen to “Mist of the Teal Mara” on Spotify and follow The Lunar Year on Soundcloud.
Kal Marks emerged a little over a decade ago as a solo project of singer/guitarist Carl Shane born of evolving experiments in songwriting and recording. But the full band developed around the house show and DIY scene in Boston around the turn of the 2000s into the 2010s and its sound would be difficult to pin down to an established style except that as its releases came out you could hear the fingerprints of punk, emo, noise rock, ambient music, collage pop and post-punk. Out of all of that was a band whose lyrics seemed informed by a frustration with the warped social and economic order and its impact on everyone’s everyday lives down to a very granular level. The intense vulnerability and inverted aggression of the live show is thrilling and disarming at once and its music is dense of creative musical ideas and an engaging energy that’s impossible to ignore. Over the last decade or so Kal Marks has released several albums and EPs that have given raw and poetic observations on working class existence and the looming challenges we all face and how difficult the weight of the likely possibilities of life in the near future can be to bear with bleak obvious prospects. And yet this music is both honest in those emotions and meets it with an inspirational ferocity. The new record My Name Is Hell (2022) came about when Shane had to assemble a new incarnation of the band when the earlier Kal Marks trio split in 2020. He was approached by friend and drummer Dylan Teggart of NYC noise punks A Deer A Horse and second guitarist Christina Puerto of also NYC based post-punk greats Bethlehem Steel and rounded up the lineup with bassist John Russell. The new album feels like a continuation of the ideas Shane had been developing all along as well as a rebirth with the benefit of two guitars in the mix allowing for an expanded atmospheric and dynamic range and seemingly allowing for Shane to stretch out a little more as a vocalist. It’s yet another remarkable offering in an already impressive catalog.
We had a chance to speak with Carl Shane by phone in the first leg of its 2022 USA tour and you can listen to that interview on Bandcamp. For all things Kal Marks please visit the group’s Instagram page where you can find a LinkTree in the bio to find out where to get a hold of its releases and keep track of its news and live events.