TRACK | vivi milne – In 2

5/5 golden merles

Solstice is bedroom/lo-fi folk that is elaborately cut together, pulling at interpersonal strands and cogently tracing them back into their universal underpinnings. It follows closely on the heels after 2020’s also great Double Headed Deer and is akin to that cloth. “In 2” is a good representation of the style and substance of that storytelling, demarcating the unease in the daring, fractured totality.

The vocal tracks heavy leftward arc feels present in the room, the thoughtful melodies are at all times in a state of serenely careening. It feels like a personal but not indulgent document, a good, individual archive of the era and that is rare and valuable. “There are certain memories that remain inviolate to the ravages of time,” fortunately.

Sometimes songwriters use both style and text and it is a great relief. Maybe you think this is the default, but I tell you it is not. At least not to the extent by which both are refined or cataloged. It’s a lot less poised to perish than anything else you’ve been sold this month, musically or otherwise. $7 on the bandcamp for the set.

TRACK | Melaina Kol – Nu

5/5 golden merles

Melaina Kol creates Youngsville, North Carolina-based lo-fi bedroom rock. AMOSAT is layered in rich and compelling material, a delicately discordant ambiance constructed with much persistently viable misdirection stacked around the solid songwriting. “Nu” offers loads of angular pieces approaching of their own accord, an entire woven world of it to delve and get lost in, subtle hooks and abundant texture.

If I ever make anything good, I’ll have taken some lessons from this: its patience and sense of rerouting the narrative within the greater whole. There a lot of skill in guiding the persistent observer or judge in a kind of favorable figment or refracting everything in a favorable light; it’s nice to see such skill given to the refinement of experiment and innumerable unique transitions between tracks.

All of that is of value and is a kind of expertise that slowly accumulates an audience in the world, at least you hope so. It can be held by Naming your price at the bandcamp. Also check out the re-release of a set of 2017 tracks now out on tape/digital from 7th Heaven.

TRACK | Troll Dolly – Pooly

5/5 golden merles

Vancouver’s Troll Dolly has crafted some truly special experimental folk. Kindness is rarely given this level of craft and careful introduction into the world, for either one’s self or the other, and here it is both. Usually, its refinement is often hurried or perfunctory, the author somewhat slack, neither on the attack or defensive. Generally it is delivered with the understanding of either immediate acceptance and dismissal or an insurmountable suspicion/doubt enforcing its limitations. “Pooly” conveys a intricate context promptly and stunningly with both credulity and grace.

There’s a great deal of nuance to it, reflected in the production and the concepts, it contains the toil and tact needed for coherent processing of more complex ideas and emotions. The strongest line of the track, for me, is one that is not repeated, and regarding the expression of love: I’m afraid to ask for it / because I wake up in a deficit. Even when there is redundancy, for effect, it is accompanied by a new melody driving the point in a slightly different direction, providing scope. Grief, gray areas, and equal parts mournful and hopeful.

Its effect feels vast and outsized within the framework of the album/set of songs. Similar to the rawness combined with confrontation of A Crow Looked at Me, the medium is granted a status/use it doesn’t usually fulfill. And that is exciting and rare.

It runs parallel to precious and mighty things like Doiron’s I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, Olsen’s If It’s Alive, It Will, and Martch’s Now You Know. A kind of self-actualized consideration without a compromise to form.

If a song is a way of remaining within a conversation, this is approaching a healthy version of that honing and mantra refinement. Music is storytelling provided the greater context of form, style affording weight/significance that otherwise requires time or additional context to establish. These are simple definitions but their qualitative realization is a uncommon and welcome. Seeing as we seem to be approaching an era in which we will be covering ourselves in blood to stop from burning, it is a relief to see something moving in the opposite direction, offering healing and a compelling vision.

TRACK | Frances Chang – flower childs

5/5 golden merles

Frances Chang’s “flower childs” is made up of the stuff of slowcore, psych-singer songwriter, and expertly extracted from the bedroom recordings. It has an arc that rises from the hope found in craft, the most direct determination of destiny, and then, meteorically, quickly, pivots into some dearly dreaded speculation: i’m so happy / i could cry / i’m writing and music sounds good again. It operates with all the damning and deliberate wonder you could hope for.

The melodies are found in their nascent form before repetition hammers them into rote reminders and set queues. The reverb hangs around, an intermittent percussive xylophone accentuates it. In the telling, some halcyon days are recounted which needed to be lost in order to be truly valued, or maybe even realized for their worth.

Forever is found wanting, concepts collide with the earth, invariably misaligned in manifestation. Forgiveness is afforded or withheld, to be redeemed later with interest. what if you don’t forgive me? / or even worse if you do… Is the best way forward a doubling down on delusion or maybe in the end (there is no end) living as comfortably as possible in perpetual doubt.

I wrote recently about Haneke’s Amour, “I guess this is what films would be like if they were made for humans and by humans instead of by corporations and for money,” and this is near enough the musical equivalent; limited in posturing, full of exploration. There are tapes for $10 and FLAC files for $8.

TRACK | Mo Troper – I Fall Into Her Arms

5/5 golden merles

Mo Troper is returned with another fully fledged set of lo-fi power pop aches. The warp is strong and the warble can be counted on with lead single “I Fall Into Her Arms.” It plumbs the murky depths of the duality of love, wherein the dichotomy of finding true acceptance is considered: now i’m not afraid to die / now i wanna stay alive.

Flame and fuzz provide the context. Timelessly, the plasticine vocal core glides above the static and soft room ambiance, imparting to me, subjectively, as a different human, a feeling of ambivalence despite the explicit text affixed above. The track delivers on capturing that particular sort of hopefulness and queasiness, the kind that comes from ever really considering anything at length, weighing the opportunity costs of the leap, and committing to the bit of existence. But also ultimately coming down on the side of the earnest and heartfelt as the only proper guide amidst the chaos and malaise.

The full document drops into our laps on the 2nd day of September and Violet/Violet swirl versions of the vinyl exist with some fun perks on the Lame-O Records storefront.

TRACK | fizzface – blinking shivering

5/5 golden merles

Intricate Licorice is eminent experimental noise and folk rock from New Zealand. It is also a guide on how to properly synthesize influence through the prism of a personal vision that can still be accessed and appreciated by outside observers. Maybe that’s just a definition of art. But look: some finely wrought phrases planted in murk-laden hooks, and the ambiance and field to capture the greater multidimensional representation of the arbitrarily defined moment.

That amounts to some superb storytelling. There is invention and quality when the artifice of noise cuts prior to the lyric and the line completes in its isolation: my breath is frail / my hands are shaking / a response to what the wind has taken.

Most of magic is misdirection, how to position the observer and pacing. There is great value in knowing what to cut and leaving the next track to begin with a sigh at the outset of the take. Good work and unique voices are exciting and allow for reassessing the fundamentals which are regularly lost sight of for one reason or another. If you are estranged by the strangeness, it’s all there, the heart and pathos, half a meter underneath and more. 5 golden merles in praise of burnt potions, their efficacy, and addendums applied to horizons.

TRACK | Cindy Lee – I Don’t Want To Fall In Love Again

5/5 golden merles

“I Don’t Want To Fall In Love Again” is yet more Flegel, one of the great living builders of audible notes in aether. Sparkling, it is lo-fi rock with some experimental aspects. There is Reverb, tremolo and the metallic ash of drums, their coordinates coalescing in improbable simplicity and phases.

The work is well modified tradition, timeless infliction of temporality and texture. Not waiting, but hesitating at the start, the world holds off for about a minute, collecting itself prior to forming, knowing all that entails. Deceptively simple, attuned to the eternal, in so far as I understand it within our shared cultural conditioning, in the relative terms of our existence.

What Flegel has done throughout, in Women and Cindy Lee, is forge the familiar with the foreign, survey the zeitgeist and collective comprehension and reflect it back in a manner that is uniquely compelling, catchy and memorable. That’s what any artist is doing, to some extent: building out from the established, branching as far as is possible. But this is a level of fluency that speaks with uncanny accuracy and conviction. It’s good and to be admired.

TRACK | Yumbo – A House

5/5 golden merles

“A House” is determinedly and reverently assembling influence from what’s left of the world into remarkable folk and experimental pop. From the compilation The Fruit of Errata, itself derived from 4 albums appearing from ’98 to the present, the track is composed of inventively paced through orthogonal backing vocals and angular instrumentation.

The patterns are established and subverted, populating the soundscape with many recursions amidst the collapse. That sense of newly cut paths amidst familiar ground feels like exploring amidst friends, like adventuring in good company. It’s absorbing and convincingly arranged.

There are many finely detailed asides within. The Double LP by Morr Music and Alien Transistor can be got for €29.99 with some shipping.

TRACK | Cut Worms – Like Going Down Sideways

5/5 golden merles

One of the strongest 2-song 7″ I’ve come across, a pair of my favorites from the buildup to Alien Sunset. “Like Going Down Sideways” is delicate and dreamy alt country. It is also an expert projection of layering a demo into a fully fledged lo-fi phenomenon.

There’s a lot of wonder to the piercing polarization of the complimentary layered vocal lanes, creeping in solemnly from the treetops of hell before the chorus raises. The track also features texturally many deliberate flourishes, like a couple of the briefest xylophone or glockenspiel cameos known to man; arriving to puncture amidst the plucking and contribute just a bit more of the percussive, glinting and gleaming.

The persistent room noise in this version is lovely. This one came out perfected and doesn’t need refining. You can still buy the split from Randy Records for all of $6.50 plus shipping.

TRACK | Aldous Harding – Beast

5/5 golden merles

“Beast” is a prized prophesy of a track from Harding, lightly picked, all mysticism, scattershot and scorched earth. The slow accumulate crushing is combined with an intricate immediacy of language, using intrigue of veiled prescience to keep your attention. It contains one of my favorite lines of any era:

Why breed a boy for his meat /
To teach the child cruel rituals of ruin to repeat?

My greatest affection is for the early Aldous Hardling project output, like Beast here and the early live Horizon performances, although it remains inventive and interesting in all guises. The language hits on something larger, older, something like in Epic of Gilgamesh:

The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet savor, and collected like flies over the sacrifice

There are mechanics properly employed, like preying on our propensity for favoring the augural. But in a fun way that respects the audience enough, doesn’t get lost believing its own lies, material made of savoring the act without taking itself too seriously at the same time. There’s a world tour going on right now if you’re interested.