Moon Beach quickly establishes an elegant and subtly evocative dynamic on its single “Don’t Drive Away” between the introspective vocals, a simple yet elegant keyboard figure and spare, ethereal guitar work. The singer seems to implore her love to not leave the scene despite some setbacks and difficulties and her inability to fully articulate her feelings in a way that will make everything alright. It’s almost a resigned yearning but toward the last third of the song one that is imbued with some hope and being able to reach the the feeling that made her remember what made the emotional connection so strong and real and finally able to say the simple phrase that is the title of the song as an opening to more. Between the vocals and the rhythm the song is reminiscent of late 80s Suzanne Vega and early offerings by The Sundays and that compellingly wistful style of dream pop. Listen to “Don’t Drive Away” on Soundcloud.
ASHRR, like some of the most interesting artists from Los Angeles, highlights the experience of the side of the City of Angels that isn’t romanticized on television or in movies. The group’s sound reflects the unusual and surreal qualities of the city’s unique blend of geography and culture as a place where many go to pursue their dreams but finding it far different than anything they would have assumed. ASHRR’s musical vision is more in line with William Friedkin’s and Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s own depictions of Los Angeles and not that of Beverly Hills, 90210 or even Bret Easton Ellis’ nihilistically lurid depictions of the city and its culture. The music video for the group’s song “All Yours All Mine (Dark Days Mix)” is an apt companion to its darkly rich synthesizer melody with a plot like something out of Black Mirror or the new Twilight Zone with a man encountering duplicates of himself at home and lurking about even when he manages to escape the scene in his car into the night. Musically the song is also something like an R&B-inflected, late 80s Depeche Mode song, the aforementioned melody drawing a wide-ranging, pulsing sonic arc. That dynamic suggests the rhythm of night driving and the way street lights can serve as an almost hypnotic strobe to induce an introspective mood. Watch the video on YouTube and follow ASHRR at the links provided.
Mykimono’s “MotherTongue (language has a fault of its own)” has a roiling dynamic that swirls with saturated tone that goes spacious and clear like a day with high flying clouds that flow and move rapidly in a wind that hasn’t quite hit the ground. Musically it is reminiscent of a more introspective Swervedriver with the wah elegantly pitching the tones accented by a bass line that periodically punches gently through the soundscape to accent the riff. The tone is a touch melancholic but awash in nostalgia and hints of romance whether that’s romantic love lost or of something or some time that can never be again. The words of the song express well the inadequacy of language to express the fullness of feeling though one tries with poetic language and metaphor. Listen to “MotherTongue (language has a fault of its own)” on Soundcloud and follow Italian dream pop/shoegaze band Mykimono on Facebook (linked below).
Don’t put too much numerological analysis into SevenAntenna and it’s song “Nine from Lax-di-Kal” as it reduces to seven all over again. Further analysis will just take you down the Max Cohen rabbit hole and no trepanning needed. But the song begins like a retro IDM excursion that sounds like a musical analog of a basic Rube Goldberg machine and from there the beats increase in complexity and the layers of distorted synth tone take on more bombastic figures as the song progresses and then fade from the foreground in the final minute of the song. One might also imagine playing one of the more immersive early 8-bit video games to this song like Metroid but one in which you navigate an abandoned city of the future based on the artwork of Moebius, searching for treasure and solving the mystery of why the inhabitants had to leave. Listen to “Nine from Lax-di-Kal” on Soundcloud.
On “You’ll Only Make It Worse” Renwick articulates in some detail and with an air of sensitivity and hard won self-awareness the feeling of knowing you need to try to make amends to someone you hurt but that maybe your current self and your ways of being and communicating can only make the situation worse. Its hushed tones and beautifully saturated and lush soundscape express well a gentleness of spirit and vulnerability in that moment in having good intentions but being so keenly aware of one’s limitations and the hurt caused and the painful realization that maybe making things good again is beyond your abilities. It really is mostly a male instinct to think one can simply “fix” something with actions but here Renwick sagely recognizes that such a mentality is hard to shed when it’s so ingrained in you to be a “problem solver” and shed it you must and not so that you can make amends in a possessive way but so that you avoid causing harm in similar ways in the future. It’s a bittersweet, resigned song but all the better for not taking on the stance of conquering male bravado. The song comes from Renwick’s 2019 EP I Hope You Feel Good In The Morning and you can listen to the single on YouTube and follow Renwick at the links below.
Pleasures of the Flesh is a post-punk band from Louisville, Kentucky (home of some of the greatest art punk of the last 35+ years) that is trying to cultivate a punk community with “equality and kindness.” To that end the group wrote the song “Passover” as a way to address the curiously lingering cultural feature of white supremacy as a stumbling block to a just and open society. The refrain of “over and over and over” reflects the weariness with how white supremacy really should have been in the rearview at this point in history but for a variety of reasons some people cling to such regressive outmoded ideas even when it is simply used to manipulate them against their own natural interests to stay in conflict with people who live on the direct delivery end of its effects. And when something is pervasive, especially when some people think it’s subtle, it pops up in odd and often hideous ways obvious to anyone that doesn’t have a stake in perpetuating white supremacy. The song goes into some of the complexities of the issue without mincing words and that is not something one immediately expects from a post-punk band even though groups like Gang of Four, The Pop Group and Heaven 17 (to name but a few) tackled heady issues on the regular in their own music back in the day much as did Fugazi and bands like IDLES, Priests and Cheap Perfume do today with a creative and incisive flourish. This single and its wiry, evocative guitar work and impassioned vocals may have a touch of melancholy and atmosphere but its message refreshingly is direct and unequivocal without coming off as performative. Listen to “Passover” on Spotify and follow Pleasures of the Flesh on Instagram. The group released its Earthly Pleasures EP, of which “Passover” is a part, on Christmas Day 2019.
The diffuse pulses of billowing tone drifting into pink noise textures on Mike Costaney’s “J” conjures visions of what it’s like to look out across a bank of clouds from above lit by moonlight. Or to be aboard a ship drifting through a luminous bank of fog in the early morning. Its sounds have an unusual quality of being both abstractly hypnotic and soothingly intimate. It suggests the experience of a breeze flowing over you and of a dream state in which your mind feels unmoored from its corporeal bonds. Though the track comes from an album with the humorous title Ambient Music For Ambient People II, “J” sounds like the audio analog of a tranquil dream of flight. Listen to “J” as well as the rest of the album on Spotify and follow Costaney on his Soundcloud account.