TRACK | Goon – Angelnumber 1210

5/5 golden merles

Los Angeles’ Goon has delivered to us more hypnotically drifting, catastrophe cooing psych rock. The band is in a unique place, confidently contorting melodies and multifaceted textures around otherworldly tales. There’s much care and craft to its interlocking layers and marbled phasing.

From the first moments of the field recordings discordant rumble, then the turning into a steady spine of percussion, it carries itself forward into being with great assurance. The piece feels sculptural and fills the audible void by pushing in many directions. There’s plenty of subtle sequences and attention to detail, each caringly extracted from the aether and melded into the elaborated structure.

The language is casually cryptic or explicitly ambiguous: environmental, a gathering, on earth, belated or in dream. The point is the feeling and the sense of collaborating within a stunning phenomenon and in a world of possibility.

The vinyl is delayed a few months from shipping due to manufacturing shortages but there are digital, tapes, and assorted articles of clothing if you would like to affiliate your physical body with their audible output, all coordinated at the bandcamp.

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 | The Lavender Flu – Demons In The Dusk

5/5 golden merles

Experimental psych and folk rock from Oregon, The Lavender Flu’s “Demons in the Dusk” finds the lugubrious periphery of rock to be a haunting and inviting sector. And they offer great returns residing and mining this quarter comfortably immediately before collapse.

The album as a whole is consistently wailing and receding, working within its own internal logic that promptly consumes the listener. But “Demons In The Dusk” is probably the foremost hook, the crown jewel of a barb that easiest draws you in. It rewards your patience with a strange, strangled style, then an uptick of treble and trembling in the end.

As we hurtle unapologetically toward a new dark age, estranged from the storied ends, adrift and listless, it suits us well. At least the paths run parallel. Craven and composed, it saunters to the threat of annihilation, an easy going end that specifically omits a mea culpa, “The Lies that you breathe / will follow you.”

4 sides for 30 wending tracks, the double vinyl is around.

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.

TRACK | Cotton Jones – Blood Red Sentimental Blues

5/5 golden merles

Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw have always had a great sense of production, properly documenting the smoke in the air, the curving and crashing that elevates the storytelling. This is still firmly in that tradition but a bit bigger.

When they gradually grew away from the charmed lo-fi folk of Page France, the goal seems to be to create a warm ambiance of fertile soil in which to grow their melodies.

“Blood Red Sentimental Blues” would work as a title alone. But there’s a lot more to it than that. The organ cements the foundation of the thing. The dual vocals route a pincer maneuver on the heart. When the tambourine track clicks the drum into a richer stereo around 1:23, all of this gets more tactile. It is eminently lovely stuff.

TRACK | Maggie Carson – From Here To Anywhere

5/5 golden merles

Second single off the up-coming The Dark Was Aglow (June 24th, Open Ocean), “From Here To Anywhere” is Americana full of vibrant twang and vengeance. A fanged and full-throated track which demonstrates that anguish is the engine of revival.

How do I leave / if the road’s just a halo?

There is a remarkable rising to it. With much might and lightly mangled, a strong and rousing performance has been captured. There’s great range and effect as the vocal rises to meet the instrumentation, the swelling synth and glittering banjo elevating alongside. It’s part commiseration, part rallying cry.

Having toured and performed with acts like Sharon Jones, Dr. Dog, and Nana Grizol, there seems to be a quality and breadth of first-hand and collaborative influences to pull from. It is a small spectacle, drawing on some subtle genre fusions while at heart remaining in the folk-traditional realm.

Open Ocean is not-for-profit record label with a donation and gift contribution model of acquiring both the vinyl and digital editions, suggested at $30/$10 respectively. I have seen plenty of pay-what-you-want digi releases, but none yet in the physical form, so please consider supporting these Rockaway Beach based operators.

TRACK | Twain – Young God (gotta lotta feeling)

5/5 golden merles

Twain’s “Young God (gotta lotta feeling)” is a bundle of tones and tethered vibrations, plaintive and patiently emitting. It functions on its own accord, a kind of Americana with spirit; unfortunately an exception to the rule.

There’s a kind of masterful, natural skewer and slouch to the unfolding instrumentation, definitely some majesty among the assembled merits. Not overworked, but still intricately plotted, just enough without getting lost in form or sacrificing the feeling.

And it builds up to something moving and unencumbered: naturally ascending tambourine, flush with guitar and a parading piano. Part of its glory is not being able to pin it down or put it dead under the glass. But some copy of it has been captured and maintains the illusion of a living body. And that can be bought for $8-20 in various forms.

TRACK | Simon Joyner – Joy Division

5/5 golden merles

Shattered in the heart and scattered in the brain... you asked for a chorus but you got a refrain.

Such is the quality of the storytelling that I’m hearing it for the some-hundredth time and still unearthing new lines or implications within couplets.

It probably gets a bit tiring being called a songwriter’s songwriter. But I have no time and I refuse to look into it. It’s a great compliment. Please just take the compliment, Simon.

The track is full of wonder, much compelling musing and brooding. It hosts a novella of characters conveyed in rapid sequence, their dialogs interleaved and exposed in momentary visions. The pastiche is formed from a scattershot of misgivings, commiserations granted a ceremonial quality, and articulated in a structured sequence that captures a larger feeling chronically an era of impressions. The thread is maintained in a consistent tone from a narrator that endears throughout by the beauty of his phrasing.

It is a testament. And it is beautifully balanced to captivate. If it wasn’t immediately apparent from the tremolo and distortion off that early strumming, when the instrumentation hits around the four minute mark, and the wailing rises to meet it, there is created a small clearing. You can escape for a couple minutes into it.

TRACK | Mount Eerie – Voice in Headphones

5/5 golden merles

Julie Doiron (Eric’s Trip) and Phil Elverum (The Microphones) collaborate in this nocturnal, potable mantra of a track. The harmonies here are special and good. The content balanced across that form (“It’s not meant to be a struggle, up hill”), recurrent and reaffirming, is about as close to some therapeutic advising you’ll get in America without a silver spoon to exchange.

I saw Phil Elverum (as Mount Eerie) play in a high school gym somewhere I think in southern Indiana. I don’t remember when, but it was during or shortly after college, maybe 2005-8. Nobody I knew wanted to go but I was hopelessly invested in The Glow Pt. 2. He sat on a metal folding chair or stood in the middle of the basketball court and played a lot of songs I didn’t know. But they were good, kind, inspiring things.

I am most familiar with Julie Doiron from 2009’s tremendously heartfelt and forged I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day. I’ll write about that later, at least one of the tracks. To my not immodest discredit, I haven’t listened to much Eric’s Trip, but look forward to doing so.