The acoustic version of Vox Rea’s “Julia” highlights the delicate textures and raw emotional intimacy of its tight vocal harmonies. But those harmonies like the expressive guitar work expands and blossoms with a dynamic unpredictability in emotional swells like a specific sense memory of someone coming to you suddenly. It’s a complete rework of the more rock-oriented original. The urgency is maintained but here that energy is much more immediate in a different way with everything but the essence of the feelings underlying the original stripped away and given the space for a direct expression. Both versions are so different from each other with neither outshining the other, just fascinating interpretations and manifestations of the inspirations behind the songwriting. Listen to the acoustic version of “Julia” by Vox Rea on Spotify and follow the group, slated to perform at Treefort Music Fest in March (22-26), at the links below.
From the opening guitar riff and haze of synth of “Liseberg” there is a mood of a deep dive into an emotional memory. Detective Larsson in using guitar and strings to bolster the warmly introspective vocals truly evokes an intimate tone of romantic affection that lingers well after the song ends and through the ending in which the artists left a touch of post-song guitar sound the way you’d hear if you were there to witness the song live. And that air of spontaneity is what keeps the energy fresh and sincere. There is a bit of Swedish folk music flavor on the track perhaps brought to the table by singer Amanda Larsson who is from Skövde, Sweden, but it also resonates with other folk traditions and it is that enigmatic yet welcoming aspect of the song that sets it apart from something that might easily be placed in a specific subgenre of pop or folk or rock. Listen to “Lisberg” on Bandcamp and follow Detective Larsson at the links below.
In song and short film for J.PERIOD’s “The Legend of Globetrottin’” is an animated comic book and live action featurette that charmingly relates the tale of one of the greatest basketball matches in history between Masego and J.PERIOD. But it’s more than that, of course. It begins in a record store where crate diggers are looking for solid wax to sample when they think they spot DJ Jazzy Jeff and indeed in puppet form it is the legendary DJ. The song deftly samples sounds of a basketball game and various MCs taking verses in classic hip-hop style telling the story and the jazz samples and unconventional beats like a nod to one of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s collaborators years ago in J. Dilla. This rich fusion of elements, style and presentation really speaks directly to hip-hop culture as a significant creative subculture of American and global culture but in tying it with comics it layers storytelling styles and elements in a way that is highly accessible and experimental at once resonant with what Dmitri Jackson did with his 2018 comic collection Blackwax Boulevard: Five Years, What a Surprise (2012-2017) Watch the video for “The Legend of Globetrottin’” on YouTube and follow J.PERIOD at the links below.
The Six by Seven remix of Supercaan’s “Zoetrope” maintains the introspective mood of the original but highlights the otherworldly aspects of the track and its textures. It is slower, spookier and given a similarly black and white video treatment by Simon Peecock as well the song becomes an unsettling dip into a bleak mirror image of the song like Six by Seven turned the vibe inside out and stretched the breezy pop sound of the single to its limits. Lars Von Trier did not direct the video, Swans did not do the remix but that intensity and emotional menace and desperation runs through the remix and the video seems to be coming to us from the same sinister alternate dimension from which we hear the sounds of the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Suspended tones and vocals that echo in the distance and hit us up intimately close. It’s disorienting and compelling at once and completely spins “Zoetrope” into a song that is basically unrecognizable from the source material which is what some of us want from a remix worth our time. Watch the video for “Zoetrope [Six by Seven remix]” on YouTube and follow Supercaan at the links below.
The title track of 1st Base Runner’s Night Stalker EP is a little like getting into the head of an obsessive in a focused episode. The nearly whispered only words in the song “I will follow if you leave me” are like a mantra that establishes a constant emotional image, like a rhythmic element in itself. This over percussion like a drum stick hitting an oil drums with the reverberation processed out. Later a tonally sharp, ascending arpeggio suggests urgency and in the last third of the song, full-fledged, bright drones convey a sense of pursuit like the person whose words we hear is closing in on his prey whether a person who has wronged him, or who holds the promise of some kind of psychological fulfillment or a goal, a dream that is slipping away if life is allowed to pass by. There is a sense of low key desperation underlying this industrial and synth driven track and one that implies it’s a section of a larger narrative and just like on the EP this is the penultimate chapter with the climax of the story on the horizon. Listen to “Night Stalker” on Spotify and connect with 1st Base Runner at the links provided.
Springworks dropped on us “Catastrophe Just,” a song that sounds like it was assembled from a sped up sample of a 1980s New Wave pop song, perhaps something from the Flying Nun imprint due to the slightly outre melody and rhythm, taped from the radio dropped into a field recording of a busy restaurant from the perspective of the dish pit lending a unique, almost pointillist texture and percussive element that was never meant to be used that way but somehow also works so that the rhythm of that and the melodic sample synergize to create something new and truly unusual yet undeniably accessible. That it ends on the sounds of people talking from a crowded room gives it a haunted quality as well but without the spookiness. Not much like it and though lo-fi the concept is not, rather it’s arrangement taps into that sonic resonance to mutually recontextualize and create something that isn’t hypnogogic pop or experimental post-punk or anything like that but its own hybrid style which we don’t hear nearly enough. Listen to “Catastrophe Just” on Spotify and follow Springworks at the links below.
Linear musical structure matters less than layers of emotional coloring and tone in The Loud Bangs’ “Candy Sometimes Always.” It somehow works as a hooky pop song without conventional structure because the collage of guitar melody, distorted waves of textures, an almost sampled, musique concrète element of vocals and expressionistic percussion collude to sweep you away in a sustained effervescence that feels like a bubbly cleansing for the brain in the listening. Fans of Asobi Seksu, Blushing and the more pop end of My Bloody Valentine will appreciate what The Loud Bangs have done here and with the rest of its December 16, 2022 EP Salvation Memorial Hospital. It is music as visceral as it is dreamlike in emotional resonance. Listen to “Candy Sometimes Always” on YouTube and follow The Loud Bangs at the links below.
Kendall Bates crafts a deep sense of space and mood on “Transmission 3.” Like maybe we’re hearing the decayed recordings of a device sent to capture and send forth the sounds of a distant planet and in the transmission wavelength something is added to the sound patterns of water coming into a shore we can’t see. Or it was once video and now all we have is the sound portion or the data approximation and reconstruction of those transmissions from which a scientist might be able to glean some facts about that planet and its environment from this particularly abstract and corrupted information but once plugged into a program to map out the wavelengths into sound we get the tinkling of chimes, slowly expanding drones, the sound of rain and an incoming tide and an environmental sound of such depth of field it’s like we are sitting on that alien shore and soaking in the beautifully desolate tranquility that is nevertheless rich in subtle sensory detail. Listen to “Transmission 3” on YouTube and follow Kendall Bates at the links provided.
Mantocliff establishes its own mysterious musical world on its single “Ocean.” The enigmatic lyrics like an ode to the ocean itself as a person of dark depths seem secondary to the slow swirling moods and shifting textures and free flow of layered atmospheric elements like a hazy and more abstract Hiatus Kaiyote. More downtempo and even more driven by a dream logic. In moments its reminiscent of the weirder end of Laurel Halo’s more recent works and highly processed vocals that don’t sit in a predictable style within loping rhythms that shouldn’t work because of how intermittent they seem but it creates an utterly idiosyncratic pace and structure that draws you into its avant pop dreaminess like an electronic Aldous Harding. Listen to “Ocean” on Spotify and follow Mantocliff at the links below.
Madeline Goldstein’s use of saturated synth tones and her own wide-ranging, sultry vocals on “Seed of Doubt” is completely engulfing in a way you’d want to hear more often in music in the darkwave and synth pop spectrum. Fans of Patriarchy (the song has the same engineer, Matia Samovich, as Patriarchy’s excellent 2022 album The Unself) will find much to like in the perfect fusion of futuristic disco and Gary Numan-esque soundscapes. It has a similar emotional resonance as Tor Lundvall’s A Strangeness in Motion record in that it taps into a retro pop sound but sounds so modern in its dance beat sequencing it has as much in common with Goldfrapp as it does something in the realm of electronic Goth. With lyrics seemingly about conflicted relationships, desire and identity, “Seed of Doubt” is immediately compelling and riveting from its opening moments until the end. Goldstein is the front person for Portland, Oregon’s long-running synth punk band Fringe Class. After relocating to Los Angeles in 2019, Goldstein launched her solo project which has continued in an experimental vein but leaning more toward a pop sensibility that should be in the wheelhouse of anyone into the ways in which Electric Youth’s music synced so perfectly with the mood and atmosphere of Come True. Listen to “Seed of Doubt” on Spotify and follow Goldstein at the links below.