Forget the images the name Sell Farm might bring to mind. Pressure might be described as an industrial darkwave dub album but it also has as much in common with ambient music and the avant-garde pop music Phil Elverum has been making for over 20 years including his time with Old Time Relijun, Microphones and Mount Eerie. There is no attempt to stick to genre convention or instrumentation. Imagine an album made by later 90s era Swans through the lens of indie pop. “Fools” introduces us with lush and lo-fi soundscapes produced by distorted white noise and repeating motifs of stringed instruments and processed drones giving a sense of grittiness like an old and decaying film print of a stranger’s 8 millimeter reel of a family holiday celebration. Though there is a mysterious accessibility here the whole album sounds like a long lost cassette culture industrial product out of the 80s underground. The vocals even when they’re at their most melancholic reveal some roots in the influence of R&B via Prince and D’Angelo. But you could also hear this on the soundtrack of a future David Lynch film, especially the brooding and foggy “Ideas and Missiles.” The album ends with the propulsive title track that hits like a dub-infused EBM song akin to an older Nitzer Ebb track circa That Total Age. Live all of these songs have such a startling power, particularly “Pressure,” but even on these recordings you have to wonder when these songs were written and recorded which is a testament to Sell Farm’s ability to free associate styles across decades. Listen to Pressure on Bandcamp and pick up one of the limited edition cassettes if you’re so inclined.
“Cool Waters” finds Belfast, Ireland’s bobsled team draws us in with a simple and strong bass line in the beginning of the song on a journey through sparkling guitar tones and unconventional counter melodies with vocals that stand out like a spirit working its way through a mist of noisy drones that somehow sit find in the mix of tonal imagery. The contrasting aesthetics remind one of a time in the mid-90s when a bunch of naff, ersatz alternative rock and tough guy aggro nü metal pushed aside more interesting sounds and tenderness and sensitivity out of mainstream music. So much was louder without saying a whole lot and the bravado then as now was insufferable. But in the underground there was indiepop of the variety that embraced strong songwriting and unconventional pop hooks as well as noise and a spirit of experimentation that operated without reference to popular trends: Felt Pilotes, Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Oliva Tremor Control—the whole Elephant 6 thing and its cousin scenes. There was also dream like noise and art rock like Unwound, Versus and Helium that resonated with the ways Sonic Youth took the avant-garde and made it accessible. The fusion of those lineages you can hear in the music of bobsled team and “Cool Water,” from the group’s fantastic full length The Colours Blur, is a fine example of those impulses and influences manifested in a new expression of a similar creative spirit. Listen to “Cool Water” on Bandcamp and connect with bobsled team at the links provided. Score a very limited edition vinyl version of the record on Bandcamp as well.