TRACK | Keel Her – Deadly Nightshade

5/5 golden merles

Keeler-Schaffeler makes often lo-fi, always a bit experimental rock and keyboard pop music. Keel Her’s tracks are dreamlike, gauzy forces and a recurring presence on mixes I’ve slung at friends over the last decade.

Previously I’d intended to feature the “Almost Finished (My Life)” demo variant but it had vanished from the readily linkable archives. Nevertheless, there is much other good in the prolific demo-ing and reimagining at the project’s bandcamp.

The “Deadly Nightshade” version listed above is again the demo or at least earlier, nascent form of the track. The track is composed of a grainy recitation of instruction over hazy layers of synth and folded tones, much luster, much refracting, and what seems an approximation of an ambulance. There exists another variation on a later album which is also strong, and which ads a bit of coherency to the vocalizations.

TRACK | Pile – No Hands

5/5 golden merles

Pile makes a kind of post-punk rock that feels to me like pure commiseration. The work fruitfully balances the lyrically introspective with a to-life-scale ominous and sweeping dread, often riding a wave of mounting instrumentation. And, importantly, there always remains an untouchable, defiant core.

The chorus of “No Hands” is a melody applied to a somewhat recontextualized quote from Voltaire and a tremendous line in its own right:

Anything too stupid to be said is sung.

The line is critical and humorous in both its origin and repurposing. The song is picking up a dialogue that has been largely dormant or at best quietly admired for three hundred years. And it is done in a type of refined media that feels worthy of contributing to the earlier discussion, expounding on it, and, even in agreement, allowing “the musician” (even one immensely aware of the limitations of their medium) to reply in some format.

It places a sort of self-loathing in a broader historical context, contrasting it with nevertheless undeterred artistic ambition, and revels in these contradictions of self-expression. And in this work you get a piece that celebrates all the doubt and glory of ever doing anything. All that adds up to feeling quite a lot bigger than most songs of any given genre.

In my ignorance, I didn’t know how well beloved these folks were, as this track was my first exposure. But seeing the support on Bandcamp is comforting and reassuring. It’s an incredible closer.

ALBUM | Pega Monstro – S/T

5/5 golden merles

Beginning with one of the finest false-starts in all of garage diy, “Homem das Obras” soon emerges from the ocean an outlier. The track inventively takes a mutative structure with much great and organic ebbing and flowing.

The varied pace of its enduring, sequential waves operating on a gently obscured internal logic, or some secret formula of intent. And invariably these decisions work.

The LP is kept fresh in this way, avoiding the rut of traditional structures that must rely on additional layering or lyrical phrasing to keep the core from collapse.

These techniques are employed throughout the LP, complimenting its energy-drenched 4 track recording. It is truly some of the most structurally inventive garage pop you’re likely to come across. And constantly capable of innovating without alienating from the doctrinal genre forms and methods, each turn is another effuse with radiant texture and tone.

Pega Monstro is an inspired and valuable document. It is flush with rad melodies and teeming with spatial invention across the soundscape. It can be streamed or purchased here.

TRACK | The Paperhead – Africa Avenue

5/5 golden merles

The highly concentrated “Africa Avenue” from The Paperhead is a rich and lovingly detailed pop psych-folk tune. When this track comes up on the increasingly infinite mix cycle it is always welcome.

Each segment has a transition that is as thoughtfully crafted as the larger structures of the various verse/chorus/bridge. It has a manner of unfolding that is teeming with small flourishes of experimentation and acts as an excellent opener to the wider album set.

The primary mover of the thing is the forthright vocal performance, gilded in melted down gold records that had gone into disuse.

TRACK | Rude Television – Exactly

5/5 golden merles

I originally heard Rude Television’s “Exactly” on the great, if you are looking for more superbly well curated garage and punk rock.

The track has a euphoric and exacting production. The appropriately applied phaser and reverb laminate the vocal and guitar lanes, encasing them for posterity, not so much to keep them pristine but rather preserving the filth intact.

A strong melody that rises out of the gentle mire, echoing and effective. The synths careen about the upper ranges, harmonious. Emitting from a blown gasket on the outer reaches of West Palm Beach, Florida, the tones are said to be a curative elixir, or at least pretty good for what ails you. Anyway, it probably can’t hurt.

Pre-order on the bandcamp. The album releases in a couple of days on the 18th, I am looking forward to hearing the remainder.

TRACK | The Numerators – Dead

5/5 golden merles

“Dead” is Psych-Surf circa 2013. With a loping start that builds into a veritable gallop, the essential elements of the genre are soon assembled into a, to mix the metaphors, well-earned avalanche. Why didn’t I just say stampede, hm? No.

A little hard to place in the homestead: maybe equal parts garage and bedroom. It features a bit of the grit and pulp of either.

Full of texture and heart in a way that resonates with my cultural conditioning, the track reverberates in the manner only matter can seem to muster. By which, to add to the confusion, I mean energy condensed to a relatively slow vibration. But, fortunately, its output is one within the audible range of our lowly species, the decline of which the song itself laments and celebrates in equal measure.

When it pours from the speakers there is a comforting nuance to the noise, the distinction a product of tens of thousands of hours you and I have spent consuming similar external stimuli. And within all that experience, narrowing and selecting, “Dead” is plotted within the very narrow percentage of what I arbitrarily consider to be Good. Credulously, gullibly, naïvely I take it to be an earnest testament. And if it isn’t, so what?

TRACK | Banned Books – Fuselage

5/5 golden merles

“Fuselage” is Banned Books stunning opener from their 2016 self-titled LP. Full of stars and false starts, the track asks: What’s the worst thing that could happen? Then later addresses the picking up and patching over.

Its movement is staggered like an unpaved route navigating over mountainous terrain. The path is guided by fractals of drums and the coursing, world-on-a-wire guitar channels.

There’s a great deal of vacillating, variance to elevation, and the track is no stranger to intermittent silences. This has its own internal logic or natural tectonics, and maintains a balance that feels both original and jarring.

Each jagged and convulsive element is intricately plotted and administered by familiar, well produced instrumentation. Strong work from Philadelphia: Pop, Rock, Noise, with experiments to structure and pacing.

TRACK | Samuel Campoli – One Eye

5/5 golden merles

Samuel Campoli’s “One Eye” is a delicate and multidimensional track, something who’s size is difficult to assess. It is a kind of glittering aura phasing through a rift seen from great distance.

Parts psych-folk and freak-folk, there is within it an array of quasi-familiar attributes positioned on a foundation of vibration. The concerted warble feels equal parts ornate and obliterated.

Still, the sway has a good sense of purpose to it and in this weaving course we are united. When the drums pick up the ponderous becomes quietly devastating. The feeling reminds me of a quote from Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”:

For softness is great and strength is worthless. When a man is born, he is soft and pliable. When he dies, he is strong and hard. When a tree grows, it is soft and pliable. But when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Flexibility and softness are the embodiment of life. That which has become hard shall not triumph.

Glacial and gracious, it can be purchased here.

TRACK | Glittering Prizes – GP

5/5 golden merles

This Glittering Prizes blazing self-titled EP was created by Kevin Bell & Allie Torrance of Hamilton, Ontario. It reaches out to us from the good old days of two thousand and seventeen CE, an extremely negligible distinction along a geological timescale.

The EP is composed of a very fine set of highly undervalued, rampant lo-fi pop tunes.

My favorite track of the set is the opener “GP,” a sort of stereophonic blend of shimmering rhythm guitars, magnetic synths, and gently obscured vocalization.

The track is sacred, sharp and sinuous. You can purchase it here and somewhere in the region of 85% of that revenue will go to the artists. Or at the very least it will be sent to a PayPal address they may not have checked in awhile.

TRACK | Staring Problem – Eclipse

5/5 golden merles

Staring Problem’s “Eclipse” has a kind of masterful production which clocks in somewhere around the hi-er-fi of the lo-fi. Seemingly unadorned but performed and engineered with great precision.

The driving bass keeps all the moving parts locatable, everything in its right place. Discrete and eerie, the lead vocals amass into a rolling wave, layered but unvarnished.
Many admirable and complimentary tones are situated within this lucent and mammoth track.

I’m the sort of fella that thinks the generic pop music over the radio starts to sound a lot more compelling when the signal gets worse. And much of it, frankly, once consumed in pure static. But there is only a bit of noise here, the right amount, to politely remind us of our return to dust and that entropy will eventually triumph.