Mild Wild took the opposite approach to crafting the music and production of its single “Chain-Link Fence” than what we hear too often now when most makers of music can afford to sound “good” in a professional musical sense. But what too much music lacks is a sense of rough hewn spontaneity. The instruments used on the recording and the gear employed to capture the sounds were come by through inheriting items from friends or finding them at the thrift store or in a dumpster. And if that’s partly a myth, this song certainly sounds like someone used an old Tascam Portastudio and used it to great effect as say John Vanderslice did on his early recordings or the way Microphones sound on The Glow, Pt. 2. It has the aesthetic of a found reel-to-reel tape of indeterminate vintage as the songwriting isn’t really dated by popular cultural references but, rather, a commentary on the corrosive nature of consumerist culture on how we value not just art but how we construct meaning in the world and thus each other and ourselves. It warns of not aspiring to dubious dreams that make you essentially a servant of a system of economics and existence that relegates everyone and everything to a commodity that is immediately disposable and consumable. It suggests that we deserve better and we can have it if we don’t fall victim to a mentality that atomizes our experiences and lives by colonizing our sense of self and each other in all areas of our lives. The song is a refreshingly unvarnished hearkening back to mid-2000s lo-fi indie pop that seemed to take no cues from commercial musical trends while being instantly accessible as the music was meant to be relatable and convey a sincere commentary on society without being didactic. Listen to “Chain-Link Fence” on Spotify (where you can listen to the rest of the album Mild Wild, Vol. 1) and connect with Mild Wild at the links below.
Impostor Syndrome’s industrial post-punk track “Mercury in Retrograde” was partially inspired by the concept how events and phenomena beyond our control can have a negative impact on our behavior and thinking. Given how the worst global pandemic in a century has barrelled into the lives of most people in the world it’s easy to see how that scenario plays out whether one chooses to believe in things like astrology or not. The song feels like the intro to something bigger like the first track of a larger song cycle of an album. It sounds a bit as if Front Line Assembly picked up some musical cues from big beat artists along the way. The song, although short, establishes a strong sense of urgency and menace with the suggesting of a burgeoning crisis on the immediate horizon. Listen to “Mercury in Retrograde” on Spotify and connect with Impostor Syndrome at the links provided.
In calling its song “Calm,” Kaption makes a simple statement of intent for a song that embodies exactly that. The simple electronic piano figure over a gentle flow of white noise and meditative percussion, melodic winds calling gently over the proceedings and gorgeously ethereal threads of non-verbal vocals and resonant tonal accents that elevate the mood run through the entire song as though designed to untangle the ambient angst and intensity that seems to be coursing through the world like a slow motion wrecking ball of everyone’s mood. The song doesn’t downplay the concerns that inspire so much of the amplified emotions of today so much as remind us that we can’t always dwell there and that doing so might be unhealthy long term and that we can indulge moments of being transported from our dark places to moments of blissful tranquility. Listen to “Calm” on Spotify and connect with Kaption at the links below.
“Screened” billows forth with vocals processed as an abstracted atmospheric presence floating through bright, drifty synth arpeggios and simple beats. Its layer of minimal components creating a soundscape like the analog of having the luxury of taking in the view of a foggy coastal morning with the sunlight illuminating the sky and slowly cutting through the haze and a swirl of clouds as you contemplate what you will do with a day when there are no pressing concerns and no real demands on your time. It is the sound of a mind cleansed of life’s pressures, like your own internal heaven out of which you can emerge refreshed and ready for whatever comes your way. Aficionaodos of chillout IDM and downtempo techno will appreciate the way Witchbrew crafts a beat as a kind of sonic canvas across which tones flow and resolve organically. Listen to “Screened” on Spotify, follow Witchbrew at the links below and if you like what you hear you can check out the full album Anamorphosis at any of the streaming platforms linked on the Instagram profile.
The music video for Adult Programming’s “Let It Come 2 U” looks like something out of a better version of John Constantine: Hellblazer with the mix of the lurid, the gritty, the menacingly mystical and the surreal. The song itself is an upbeat synth pop song with a dark underbelly with vocals that have an edge and power like something you’d expect to hear in a death rock song. And maybe that’s what “Let It Come 2 U” is in some sense, an urgent death rock song written with the immediacy baked into a bright melody. Watch the video for the song on YouTube where you can sample several of Adult Programming’s other imaginative and playfully haunting music videos.
Dan Sartain invites us for a journey into the myth of the Old West as embodied in American popular music on his new album Western Hills (due out in the Fall on Earth Libraries) but it’s one that subverts the paradigm a bit in presentation and execution. The debut single from the record “Flaming Star” is a cover of the song originally recorded by Elvis for his 1960 movie of the same name in which he plays a half Native American, half European American character in arguably one of The King’s greatest roles. But in the music video directed by Sarah Orr we do not even see Dan Sartain, we see an older black actor performing the song in surreal lighting and commanding your attention like a legendary Vegas performer playing a private room like a rock and roll magician, like Sun Ra of countrified rockabilly. It is both haunting and endearing precisely because of this experience of the song. The song itself and what it promises for the rest of the album gives us a different side of Sartain who, while not a household name, has built a mystique as a performer with his fans including the likes of Jack White and John Reiss (Rocket From The Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes). The single is an example of a psychedelic cowboy ballad. Which you can’t say about too many songs. So take a gander at the video for “Flaming Star,” follow Sartain at the links provided and look out for Western Hills when it drops in the Fall.
The entrancing, spiralling melodies of “Golden Child” from Philadephia-based psychedelic band Magic Cobra leads you backwards and forwards through time in musical history. The shimmering, fuzzy and fiery guitar work melts with the keyboard undertones while preserving a core of folk-inflected songwriting. One hears echoes of Camper Van Beethoven covering Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” through the lens of late 90s Brian Jonestown Massacre. The potential nod to Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” is deft as well. Touchstones aside, “Golden Child” is an immersive sonic expression of joyous ardor. Listen to “Golden Child” on Soundcloud and follow Magic Cobra at the links below.
The minor chord progression in the guitar riff of Les Gold’s “Want U 4 Mine” sets the song up to go to interesting tonal and emotional places from the beginning. It seems to start as a kind of modern garage rock song but blossoms into a sonically rich bit of electronic psychedelia all while soul-inflected vocals lay out lines about a strong attraction in a manner more poetic and creative than the standard pop song and gives a sense that the attraction goes beyond the raw, physical kind. The lyrics aren’t just an expression of bravado-laden desire but also speak to the narrator’s own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The driving electronic bass section later in the song alongside fiery guitar work and glimmering synth arpeggios bring to the song a rare richness of soundscaping that sets it apart from a great deal of music tapping into similar influences in post-punk, psychedelic garage rock and R&B. Listen to “Want U 4 Mine” on Spotify and connect with Les Gold at the links below.
On its single “Weak Sounds Are Hard to Hear When You Fear to Be Hurt” Frogooo addresses the way most of us have been conditioned to display a bravado and false strength in the face of our struggles and adversity. It’s a shield we put up between each other and a pretext for not acting in the best interests of our communities when conventional wisdom suggests we must pursue what we perceive to be our own best interests at the expense of others if need be. It’s a pathology that runs throughout Western history and culture but also manifests in cultures worldwide to varying degrees. That need for displaying strength and stoicism when sensitivity and and gentleness are a better approach and yield better results. That compassion and vulnerability are seen as deficits in a “practical” world is laughable, really, when we know better through practice and experience. Often if we’re patient and willing to be open to more than we’ve been conditioned to be and to take people and situations on their own terms rather than an imposed understanding we can expand what we know about ourselves. Musically, fans of Young Marble Giants, Malaria! and the Raincoats will appreciate the delicate yet urgent rhythms and intuitive dynamics that put the mind into an alternative headspace that reinforces the song’s message of people being in solidarity with those less fortunate or more vulnerable in the late capitalist end game before the next stage of human social evolution sets in and we can weather the inevitable crises ahead with humanity rather than adherence to “efficiency” and the dictates of the soon to be deposed masters of the mechanized economic order who demand austerity for the many so that the few can live not in real luxury that could be for everyone but a diminished form of it in the context of the dystopian world we’ve fallen into. The song says we all deserve better and suggests we can get there with these small gestures that taken as a whole are stronger than what currently seems monolithic like the vine that breaks concrete. Listen to “Weak Sounds Are Hard To Hear When You Fear To Be Hurt” on Spotify.
The music video for the Lycio single “Somebody” was put together from footage shot by drummer Alex Lowe often using vocalist Genie Mendez’s phone across three years of bonding as musicians and traveling to gigs. Which suits the subject of the song which, on one level, is about an unrequited love, which is surely a kind of metaphor for what it’s like to be in a band that isn’t yet known outside a relatively small circle of a fan base. The song, a compelling mix of downtempo and R&B-inflected synth pop, somehow encompasses that tentative feeling of experiencing that unrequited love with the hope and anticipation of that love becoming a reality or at least keeping your spirits up while you’re working your way through to accepting it’s never going to happen but not dipping, as most of us will, into a phase of despair thinking we’ll never find a love that is life affirming, fulfilling and healthy. That mix of emotions also parallels that of being in a band where you hope your songs connect with an audience or at least someone for whom what you express resonates and captures the imagination and all the effort and work you put in that no one much talks about because it’s the unseen, largely boring, drudgery, every day, un-glamorous activity that makes it all happen. The sorts of things that you sometimes have to make it fun for you to get through even though it’s part of the deal. You watch the video and you do see some of the frivolity amid the mundanity and that is the core of this lush, soulful song that recalls so many of the better, aspirational synth pop songs of the 80s by bands clearly steeped in soul and R&B: it embraces the romance of our infatuations and being swept up in pursuit of our dreams because life without those guideposts is barely life at all which jibes with the title of the song as well. Watch the video for “Somebody” on YouTube and connect with Lycio at the links provided.