LIME GARDEN - “Marbles/Clockwork” [7”](So Young UK/Believe FRA)
Lime Garden is another British band that wants to make Post-Punk according to its original definition. Like Goat Girl or Pillow Queens, this pair of singles show their skill and depth. “Marbles” is a dazzling dance track (in the same vein as “Sad Cowboy”) that smartly does not reveal its hook too soon. When that one is not on repeat (as it will be,) “Clockwork” is more of a moody Talking Heads bubbly jam (think “Air” with a Disco-y chorus.) In addition, the group can even vocalize with that same stylish detachment as Wet Leg. Rest assured, Lime Garden’s fruits are all their own.
PLOSIVS [LP](Swami/The Orchard)
An indicator of how truly unequal new music and its promotion truly are. Consider that the spiky Punk-meets-Power Pop of PLOSIVS almost zipped by largely unnoticed despite having Swami John Reis (Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu) and Rob Crow (Heavy Vegetable and Pinback.) Luckily it was uncovered and allowed to favor us with a burst of harmonious Nineties yet bashing RAWK. Blending the hammering riffs and attack of Reis with the Pop sensibility of Crow is a genius-level move. Every song leaves the gate like a Kentucky Derby racehorse. “Hit The Breaks,” “Rose Waterfall” and “Broken Eyes” are ALL singles. The tense chording of “Thrown Clear” with Crow’s vocals reaching over all the storm of emotion the foursome create (Jordan Clark on bass with longtime Rocket From The Crypt slammer Atom Willard on drums) is countered by the bittersweet “Pines” with its thrilling slow build conclusion. Plosivs truly rage against a dying light - but it never grows heavy or overbearing. Given the personnel alone, there should be higher numbers at least from streaming. An awesome debut that leaves you hoping for a promo blitz on the follow-up.
ACTORS - Acts of Worship [LP](Artoffact/The Orchard)
HOUSE OF HARM - Vicious Pastimes [LP](Avant! NED)
On the Vancouver band’s debut, they punch through all the characteristics necessary for an edgy Eighties-reminiscent SynthPop record. Still, Actors are much darker and at their best when they start spartan and add piece-by-piece to their songs. “Obsession” is a triumph of production ideas lifting the simplest song to new heights. The very ‘86 mix of forbidden sensuality and mid-tempo dance beats on “Cold Eyes” paints a desperate picture of love in a very Sisters of Mercy-ian way. However, it is the Moroder-esque/New Order-ian pulse of “Death From Above” where Actors show how they can craft a single and not compromise their bleak-yet-danceable sound.
On the other side of the digital drum fence is Boston’s House of Harm who follow their pair of demo EPs with a fully-realized debut album that revels in both twinkly SynthPop (“Isolator”) and driving Cure-ian Goth Rock (“Behind You”). The chorus-drenched Chameleons-ish guitars on all the songs are a great touch (especially with punchy bass and the confident Martin Gore-ian vocals.) The unabashed Pop fares best of all as the C86 spray of jangling “Catch” is the closest they come to having a single. (Their latest single “Feel My Heart Beat” takes a Kitchens of Distinctions turn toward propulsive Shoegaze that sounds like their most original track yet.)
PAUWEL - Dear [CD](Unday BEL)
Beneath the Country touches and the whispered vocals, there is a deep, dark record in here. Pauwel’s “Dear” is most comparable to Elliott Smith’s self-titled album. His gently plucked guitar chords and arpeggios are clearly the engine that kept him going during time in choppy waters. “Mess” stretches out lyrically around its open arrangement (and those dreamy ooohs) to drop some stunning ideas. When Pauwel hits the first emotional peak and actually raises his voice, he is cut off by a pair of snare hits. Then as he returns to his normal timbre, his plea “I miss my friends” really slices through the song. The happy/sad initiative is also beautifully displayed in the intimate “Bones” where Pauwel breathes out his words (“skin of my skin/now you’re just bones”) until you have a lump in your throat. Having now assembled a band, they take an extended run at a heartfelt groove on the heartbreaking “Sister” as Pauwel truly quivers while getting this painful period out of his system. Riveting.
PAT MATSHIKIZA/KIPPIE MOKETSI/BASIL MANNENBERG COETZEE - Tshona! [LP](We Are Busy Bodies/Redeye)
Considered the early holy grail of South African music, “Tshona!” is a World/Jazz album that finds its charm in mixing Reggae shuffle, melodic saxophone, and a uniquely miked upright piano. “Stop and Start” is exemplary as it allows each player to toy around with its childlike melodic line but always have fun with the spaces between. Fun is actually the key element to “Tshona!” Because the musicians are so laid-back, every track takes its first few bars to settle into the groove. “Kippie’s Prayer” employs a little Jazz-like call and response, while “Umgababa” could be Seventies Pop with African brass runs. The mammoth title track that opens is more than a Blues shuffle, it is the sound of musicians celebrating their freedom to simply play off of each other. That joy is wildly contagious.
KNIGHT & GALLOW - For Honor and Bloodshed [CD](No Remorse GRE)
In this metallic Dungeons & Dragons game brought to life, Sacramento’s Knight and Gallow roll through a set of NWOBHM gallop meets lengthy early Metallica-esque solos. The vocal portions of the tracks are generally only the framework (“Men of the West”) for long wah-wah and Thin Lizzy-esque melodic fireworks. The Maiden-esque “Soul of Cinder” would likely be the Headbanger’s Ball addition today. However, the clarion call of “Stormbringer’s Call” and its clever opening might be the best opening move from the new metalheads.
$7!T AND SHINE - Phase Corrected [LP](The Garrote)
Texas’ Craig Clouse always makes some dangerous music, but “Phase Corrected” may be the closest that he (or many others) have ever gotten toward capturing the hair-raising sound of Melvins circa “Lice-All.” “Phase” is indeed slow and lumbering as you expect from a sludge album. “Plum Whiskey” even with its booming drums has enough fuzz in it to catch a speaker on fire. Clouse’s cymbals have this eerie ring that actually guides you like a flashlight through the blistering white noise everything dissipates into. “Burnet Road” nearly renders its instrumentation unidentifiable under the jetstream of distortion. While the bizarre Boris-at-a-high volume “Nrun” hides voices (?) in the dense cloud of mind-blowing notes. (Are they really notes? The only time you feel them is when Clouse actually either stops the impact of pick on string ) “Phase Corrected” is built to be listened to at an incredibly loud volume. Clouse has clearly hidden a lot of small secrets in these tracks, but the fun is just seeing how much you can withstand.
CREMATION LILY - Dreams Drenched in Static [LP](The Flenser)
London’s Zen Zsigo must dream about radio transmissions. His “songs” are Shoegazer-esque Synth creations that appear from behind curtains of static, samples, and distorted sounds. “Wavering Blood” is like a Cocteau Twins track played through a fuzz pedal. At times, you really have to “squint” to make out the song - but Zsigo likes to use a lot of stops and starts (the title track is most exemplary) to draw you into the quiet passages before frying your synapses when it comes raging back. “Selfless” is the closest to an actual song with Cure-ian (think “Plainsong”) streaming synths and a Washed Out doubled vocal part that is enticing. The title fits perfectly.
EARTHEN SEA - Ghost Poems [CD](Kranky)
There is a certain wash of white noise and the particles of air in a natural room that Jacob Long uses to beautify his ambient music. The looping and those atoms swishing around on “Ochre Sky” sound like Mother Nature playing brushes on a snare drum. The effect is entrancing. Located somewhere between Stars of the Lid and the quieter Matmos (all the clicks and upfront machine-like sounds,) “Ghost Poems” lands away from the dreaded “Ambient (made on purpose)” to instead land in “Ambient (made to reveal nature.”) Like those Eno + Cluster albums from the Seventies, Earthen Sea creates an aural experience to soak in. The chords on “Fossil Painting” change like waves arriving on shore and then softly departing. “Rough Air” is paced around trees perhaps breathing in the wind. While “Deep Sky” uses its emotive chords to draw emotion from you like Long was locked down making soundtracks to lament the nature he could only see - and not hear.
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