Friday, March 27, 2015

EIS Review: Courtney Barnett "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit"

Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Mom & Pop / Marathon Artists / Milk!; 2015
Review by Eric Gagne

Courtney Barnett has a fantastically casual quality to her voice; she sings partly in asides, and then shifts quietly into a tuneful melody. She squawks and sneers at times, but when the song needs to be sung, she hits each note with zero ambiguity. It makes for an interesting listen. She jams a lot in too, which gives a quick mind plenty to do. It’s like listening to hip hop at times: You ride along with her sharp turning cadences, bouncing throughout. Sometimes it’s hard to know the country of origin of a singer as you’ve got kids from Brooklyn singing with brogues, and Russian bands you’d swear were from Boston. Ms. Barnett’s voice retains her Australian accent, and I think it even probably adds to the romance of her sound. Rockers, and especially punk rockers, are ever the outsiders; Barnett is way outside, having to endure a sixteen hour flight to get to New York. And now at a time when each wave of punk is co-opted faster and faster, quirky indie rock is the new deadeyed music of choice for the disaffected, even if the music doesn’t make your parents angry at the drop of the needle. One unexpected side effect of this rapid exponentialism is that substantial underground records are getting pop receptions. It’s an exciting time to be engaged.

There is a certain uncanniness to Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit that could possibly be attributed to the otherness that I mentioned before. This thing’s waiting for the sun to come out for sure, though. The crispness and simplicity of the production is dreamy without the added reverb; it’ll be bopped around to in cars full of smoke, spontaneously danced to in bars, turned up on stereos pointing outside jammed against windowscreens as kids drink cans of beer on porches. The breezy vibe lets itself in and stretches out, and by the end you aren’t sure quite what happened, like a subliminal image in a film. You have to go back and check it out again. You rock along throughout, feeling that rad Stones guitar / handclap combo, and then “Kim’s Caravan” hits like “Moonlight Mile”. You keep drinking through the night, but at some point you’ll get low, and this song is the getting low; a slow burning crescendo. The repetition of the “don’t take what you want from me…” is exquisite, giving way to fine shredding as this penultimate track flies into the sun, the last moment floating back down to earth like ashes from space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

EIS Review: Lightning Bolt "Fantasy Empire"

Lightning Bolt
Fantasy Empire
Thrill Jockey Records; 2015
Review by Emma Behnke

Lightning Bolt’s Fantasy Empire is the Providence duo’s first album in six years, and the only full-length LP to date released on Thrill Jockey, a departure from their ten prior records released on Load. After more than a decade of playing together, Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson seem to share the same uncanny synchronicity that my dad (a fanatical birder) never fails to point out in the seasonal blitz of sparrow flocks: somehow, whether evolutionary biofeedback or Ouija voodoo, they anticipate each other’s moves. In the earlier days of the band, there was a type of Tom and Jerry interplay between drums and bass: Chippendale and Gibson whirling up a soundtrack for inanity, a hyperactive race around the room on stubbed toes.

It’s almost hard to pin down Lightning Bolt’s signature sound; given how incredibly good they are at aping other styles. The breakneck cadence they manage to maintain on every one of their releases brings to mind the mid/late 2000’s flirtation with chiptune and frenetic pop mashups. Electronic sounds tend to cast a trompe-l'œil effect—mimicking analog textures and lifting them from traditional boundaries. Lightning Bolt runs the equation backwards: with such precision and control over their sound, they seem preternaturally slick. There’s something inherently stylish about Lightning Bolt: the scratched out technicolor scenes on their album art (Chippendale has created some fantastic graphic novels, all of which are highly recommended, and Gibson designs video games as a day-job), the synthesis of mathy precision and lo-fi listlessness. And of course, Chippendale’s balaclava (originally a macgyvered solution to keep a mic near his face) is an invitation to anarchic interpretation. As a style choice, regardless of function, it gives the duo a type of guerrilla bravado.

Fantasy Empire moves away from the loose-electron static of fellow New England bands Arab on Radar and Sightings. Tracks like “King of My World” reveal a slightly heavier, industrial influenced rhythm. Wolf Eyes may have patented the plodding, sludge-footed noise jam, but Lightning Bolt imbues it with a slackjawed garage-rock manner, an endearing nonchalance perfected by the mysterious and most-likely extraterrestrial FNU Ronnies, who deserve a shout-out in any review of a Load Records band.

Chippendale’s buildups begin like a drowsy free jazz solo, winding up into a burst of deranged energy—punctuated by hoots and howls. Gibson’s knotty basslines in any other context would be borderline-machismo if they weren’t so damn strange: often played in standard cello tuning and fed through an ungodly number of effects pedals. Occasionally the duo will slip into an overworked math-rock tedium, which they can hold for up to fifteen minutes as if it were an electrified copper wire: a nod to the erratic pacing of Japanoise heroes like Boredoms and the complex, atonal compositions that Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano produced during their years in Harry Pussy. “Leave The Lantern Lit” is a short lilting track that sounds like the result of forgetting a record in the backseat of a hot car. In true Lightning Bolt habit, the album closes out with an unbroken eleven-minute song that simultaneously unravels and yet maintains a remarkable sense of control. In a 2006 interview with Pitchfork, Chippendale describes his day-to-day routine in a rather quaint and appealing manner, saying: “Each day I try to draw. It's a similar expulsion of buildup: Milking the cows every morning. Checking the chickens' eggs.”

It’s this consistency and routine that shows itself in Lightning Bolt’s past records, and particularly in Fantasy Empire. Despite my dislike of the word “craft” in relation to artistic endeavors, it seems appropriate here. If there is such a thing as noise-rock professionals, Lightning Bolt are certainly it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Melt-Banana Announce US Tour Dates w/ Torche

[press release] MELT-BANANA Announces North American Tour. This 3 months tour includes appearance of Maryland Deathfest & Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. Tour dates are listed below.

05.06 Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom w/ Lightning Bolt
05.08 Albuquerque, NM - The Launchpad
05.09 Norman, OK - Opolis
05.11 St. Louis, MO - The Firebird
05.12 Milwaukee, WI - The Cactus
05.13 Grand Rapids - Pyramid Scheme
05.14 Pontiac, MI - The Pike Room
05.15 Columbus, OH - Skully's Music Diner
05.16 Buffalo, NY - Mohawk
05.17 Toronto, CAN - Lee's Palace
05.19 Providence, RI - ASS20
05.21 Boston, MA - Great Scott
05.22 Philly, PA - Johnny Brenda's
05.23 Brooklyn, NY - St. Vitus
05.24 Baltimore, MD - Maryland Deathfest
05.25 Carborro, NC - Cat's Cradle Backroom
05.27 Jacksonville, FL - Jack Rabbits
05.28 Orlando, FL - The Backbooth
05.29 Miami, FL - The Church Hill
05.30 Tampa, FL - The Orpheum
06.01 Atlanta, GA - The Earl
06.02 Birmingham, AL - TBD
06.04 Baton Rouge, LA - Spanish Moon
06.05 Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds
06.06 Dallas, TX - Three Links
06.07 Austin, TX - Red 7
06.10 Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
06.11 Fullerton, CA - The Slide Bar
06.12 Santa Cruz, CA - The Catalyst Atrium
06.13 Sacramento, CA - Harlows
07.02 Portland, OR - Dante's ^
07.03 Seattle, WA - Chop Suey ^
07.04 Vancouver, CAN - The Venue ^
07.06 Edmonton, CAN - The Pawn Shop ^
07.07 Calgary, CAN - The Gateway ^
07.08 Saskatoon, CAN - Amigos ^
07.10 Winnipeg, CAN - Pyramid Cabaret ^
07.11 Fargo, ND - The Aquarium ^
07.13 Indianapolis, IN - The Hi-Fi ^
07.14 Chicago, IL - The Empty Bottle ^
07.15 Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon ^
07.16 Des Moines, IA - Wooly's ^
07.17 Omaha, NE - Waiting Room ^
07.18 Eau Claires, WI - Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival
07.20 Nashville, TN - The Exit / Inn ^
07.21 Columbia, MO - The Rose Music Hall ^
07.22 Kansas City, MO - Record Bar ^
07.24 Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge ^
07.25 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge ^
07.26 Las Vegas, NV - Bunk House ^
07.28 San Deigo, CA - Casbah ^
07.29 San Diego, CA - Casbah ^
07.31 Los Angeles, CA - The Roxy ^
08.01 Oakland, CA - Metro ^

^ With Torche

Friday, March 13, 2015

EIS Review: Digital Prisoners of War "Casually Defying Physics"

Digital Prisoners of War
Casually Defying Physics
Self-Released; 2015
Review by Eric Gagne

I saw a link to this record online, accompanied by the anecdote that the actual drummer (Cynthia Koch, who is on tracks 2 & 4, and is also quite good), got sick before the session, and since the recording was happening at Justin Pizzoferrato’s Sonelab, Murph of Dinosaur Jr sat in. Having peripherally known Supriya Gunda, aka Digital Prisoners of War, I took that opportunity to check out her music. Her voice totally sells the songs, both earnest and apathetic, it offers an appealing read of darkwave rock and roll writing.

“Kill Whitey” is absolutely my favorite track on this; I’ve been listening to it nonstop. I love how the guitar and drums somehow feel like they are being sounded at the same time; each note struck simultaneously, putting out some serious waves. The melody is off kilter and ready to slay; it weaves around the riffs so perfectly, like fingers through hair. Gunda’s vocals throughout achieve this excellent sense of place within each song. I don’t know why, but it makes me think of Molly Ringwald. I think she would really like this. I can see her twirling around and pogoing to this record, she’s unplugged her phone, and is completely confident and delighted with life.

It keeps bringing me back to my youth. Why do so many records bring me back there? We all imagined our adult lives through the lens of the nostalgic documentation of the 60s and 70s. The contemporary bands we listened to were all compared and reframed through the great touchstones of rock and roll. They were superimposed in front of the props of the previous age. It is a special and magical occurrence in history, and it brought to us a fantastical cast of archetypes. There are unique records that connect us back to these archetypes through any synergy of sound and experience. Casually Defying Physics taps directly into the rooftops and Buicks of my teenage years, when we would stare into the night sky, looking for the neatly completed thoughts spread out for us in the movies and songs we would champion. Hoping that our problems too would be solved, our fears and anxieties quelled, love and acceptance found finally; all potential eventualities anticipated throughout every shared cigarette in our imagined cinematic timeline.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"The Colossus of Destiny - A Melvins Tale" Launches Kickstarter

[press release] The filmmakers of the forthcoming Melvins’ documentary, “The Colossus of Destiny – A Melvins Tale,” have launched a Kickstarter campaign (HERE) featuring artwork donated by Haze XXL, Brian Walsby, Arik Roper, Skinner and Mackie Osborne.

The film, which is currently under production with an anticipated early 2016 release, is the creation of Bob Hannam and Ryan Sutherby. The pair, who met through a mutual affection for the Melvins, began work on the officially authorized documentary in late 2014.

“We kept asking ourselves why no one had ever made a film about the Melvins,” explained Hannam. “What an incredible story and twisted tale both Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover have taken. There aren’t many bands who can say they’ve influenced some of the most popular artists of our generation and done it in every instance according to their own rules, still as important, if not more so, some 32 years after forming.”

The Colossus of Destiny – A Melvins Tale” follows the band’s journey, from the backwards waters of the Chehalis River in Washington, through the Golden Gate of Northern California and finally, into Los Angeles where Osborne and Crover both reside. The film features lengthy interviews with Osborne and Crover as well as present and ex band members, collaborators and many other musicians from bands such as Mudhoney, The Jesus Lizard, Soundgarden, Butthole Surfers, Sleep, Babes In Toyland, Neurosis and Redd Kross to name but a few.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Melvins Announce Tour Dates + "Electroretard" Reissue

[press release] The Melvins return to the road with the continuation of their Hold It In tour kicking off June 6 in Tucson at Club Congress.

The tour announcement comes as Ipecac Recordings’ confirms the June 2 reissue of the Melvins’ 2001 release, Electroretard. The 8-song album features the line-up of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Kevin Rutmanis.

The Melvins' released Hold It In in October, the 12-song album pairs Osborne and Crover with Butthole Surfers' JD Pinkus and Paul Leary. Osborne, Crover and Pinkus will be the touring line-up for this run of dates with labelmates Le Butcherettes opening. Le Butcherettes released Cry Is For The Flies in September and had joined the Melvins on the first leg of the Hold It In tour.

The Melvins and Le Butcherettes were recently featured on Last Call with Carson Daly HERE and HERE, respectively.

Tour dates:

June 6 Tucson, AZ Club Congress
June 7 El Paso, TX Lowbrow Palace
June 9 San Antonio, TX Korova
June 10 Austin, TX The Mohawk
June 11 Dallas, TX Trees
June 12 Norman, OK Opolis
June 14 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
June 15 St. Louis, MO The Firebird
June 16 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme
June 17 Detroit, MI Shelter
June 18 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar
June 18 to 21 Montebello, QC Amnesia Rockfest
June 22 Toronto, ON Danforth Music Hall
June 23 London, ON Call The Office
June 25 Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop
June 26 Syracuse, NY The Westcott Theater
June 27 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
June 28 Hamden, CT The Ballroom at the Outer Space
June 29 New York, NY Santos Party House
June 30 New York, NY Santos Party House
July 1 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
July 2 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
July 3 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 5 Nashville, TN Exit In
July 6 Louisville, KY Mercury Ballroom
July 7 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue Theatre
July 8 Chicago, IL Double Door
July 9 Madison, WI High Noon Saloon
July 11 Minneapolis, MN Grumpy’s
July 12 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
July 13 Sioux Falls, SD The District
July 14 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room
July 16 Ft. Collins, CO Aggie Theatre
July 17 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
July 18 Taos, NM Taos Mesa Brewing
July 19 Albuquerque, NM The Launchpad
July 21 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom

Tickets for all shows, with the exception of the Amnesia Rockfest, which is already on-sale, are available this Friday, March 13 at 10 a.m. local time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

EIS Review: Pile "You're Better Than This"

You're Better Than This
Exploding In Sound; 2015
Review by Eric Gagne

I first saw a Pile set in Peterborough, NH; full band, thick swaggering tone, gigantic drum sound. It was great, but it wasn’t until seeing Rick Maguire play a solo set in a Brookline livingroom that I became completely infatuated. Then, when I saw the Krill song entitled, “Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears”, I realized that other people were on this page already. He played a rough looking acoustic guitar, manhandling it into a swaying, vibrating element. His voice breaking apart as he smashed through his tenor range into a bit of a punctuating scream. It was similar to hearing a dialect or accent you haven’t yet encountered in life and thinking, “I didn’t know you could talk like that.” He writes songs like few others, working hard, but not taking himself too seriously. He wears an affable bashfulness with a handsome jaw and bright eyes, underscoring the urgency of the writing.

This music tears my brain apart. It’ll just get in there and thrash around; like a drunken friend who you mostly trust, but who at any moment could still grab the wheel and plunge you into the forest at 70 mph. This is Pile. They let the cat out by accident, step in the dog’s bowl, leave their shoes on in the house, that kind of stuff. They’re all over the furniture in your brain, but you can’t say anything because they are so fucking genuine. Makes you remember what it was like before you really owned anything, when your only responsibility was to vacuum on Sundays. When you found something on the ground, you were laying down propped onto elbows in a split second so that your face could be directly on top of it like a goddamn microscope. This music belongs in your brain, can attach itself to memories, and grip fast like barnacles. At any moment, grabbing some fleeting spark and diving headlong into a deep well that you forgot existed.

John Coltrane is one of my heroes. His soft-spokenness coupled with the ferocity which he was capable of on the saxophone really feels like one of the truest iterations of humanity. His music is some of the purest and powerful sound that I have encountered in this universe. Rick Maguire’s voice often reminds me of that constant push that seemed to innately inform Coltrane’s ideas. Rick pushes his voice past it’s own physicality, straining things until they might pop, grinding against the rails for just a second before he settles back into a formidable range that helps to insure sweetly unexpected tendernesses. The band’s arrangements stretch (but don’t strain) to support the weight of Rick’s voice and delivery; they’re quite nicely matched in this task. Any musical acrobatics are so nonchalant as to convince the listener, with a sideways grin, that this was something that was just pulled out of thin air.

Pile, as a band, deftly maneuver some wild waters, and every record they release shows consistent growth and further exploration into the fractal conduits of modern songwriting. You’re Better Than This is no exception. It’s bursting with new ideas, and fresh impressions on the desire for order, love, and understanding. It’s no secret: shit is bleak out there, but it’s more than a consolation that there are amazing records getting made regularly that can lift us out of the mundanity and tragedy of modern civilization. I have no doubt that You’re Better Than This will be regarded as a seminal work by this ripping, hardworking band from Boston. You should get this record, and I implore you, see them live: burst into tears like Steve, and get down in the dirt.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EIS Review: Torche "Restarter"

Relapse Records; 2015
Review by Emma Behnke

Torche has a knack for evading genre stereotypes. Metal bands tend to be relegated either to small, dark venues, or massive arenas that can easily take on the sweaty fervor of a Pentecostal church (if you haven’t watched Heavy Metal Parking Lot within the past year, consider this your reminder). However, the Miami four piece bridges this divide, garnering a remarkably diverse range of listeners.

Torche’s 2015 sound is meaty and three-dimensional without drowning in its own weight, a marked improvement from their last release. Despite its breakneck pace and impeccable production, 2012’s Harmonicraft has certain patches of lost momentum. Songs that should clobber their eager listeners over the head instead blend into a type of background panorama. Many of the guitar parts, though impressively precise, seem at odds with the backbone of the song and wail overhead in a shrill tone that I initially mistook for a keyboard. That said—the last few tracks on Harmonicraft hinted at what Torche now achieves with Restarter: a more balanced and unified sound.

“Annihilation Affair” sets the record off to a churning start: with a deftly played balance between guitars that I can only compare to Big Jesus, an Atlanta band that has the rapport between riff-chugging fuzz and crystal clear solos on lock (to digress: this is particularly impressive considering they only have one release under their belts — a record so good it’s hard to listen to it without getting aggravated that there isn’t a hefty discography to mine through). “Minions” is a plodding headbanger of a song — and with Kurt Ballou of Converge mixing the record, the result is anthemic, not glossy.

Though Torche is usually referred to as a metal band, Restarter may have more in common with the rhythmic, stoner-sludge grittiness of bands like Earth and The Melvins. The quartet also seems to take some cues from Cave In — with more pronounced vocals and relentless cadence, but always a firm grasp on the song’s foundational hook. This emphasis on structure and melody is what makes Restarter such a satisfying listen. Too bad you spent all your money on that double-LP color vinyl reissue of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, because this is one you’ll wanna own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

EIS Review: Krill "A Distant Fist Unclenching"

A Distant Fist Unclenching
Exploding In Sound / Double Double Whammy; 2015
Review by Stephen Pierce

It was hard for me to do much of anything when I was living in Boston. That's completely hyperbolic, but having grown up on the outskirts, moving away, and then later living there for a reasonable chunk of my adult life, I always found the city to be stifling. It produced in me a hopeless anxiety that I could never really crest or overcome. Maybe it's the narrow roads of Cambridge and Somerville, the potholes that appear after the ice from endless winter melts away. Maybe it's the transience, the omnipresent fear that the people you're leaning on and inspired by will up and move away to New York or Portland or wherever people move to nowadays.

Krill lives in seemingly a pretty similar space of nervousness. You can hear it in Jonah Furman's voice, cracked and confident, tense but languid. There's a self-deprecating honesty-of-being in lyrics like "to be given one shot, and to know that I will blow it" from "Squirrels" that, without relying on the obtuse and abstract to establish atmosphere, directly hammer home what Krill is surrounded by, mired in and rising above. Hey man, I get it, completely.

I know, it's bigger than that. I'm transposing my own neuroses and experiences onto someone else's, but that's part of the greater beauty of Krill: For as direct and focused as the lyrics and altogether tone of the record can be, there's a universality that resonates and is endlessly relatable. You can feel it.

Musically, A Distant Fist Unclenching is a record beautifully balanced on the precipice of collapse; A hell of a feat, and one of my favorite qualities about music. There's a casual precision to it, but not in the typical method of virtuosity: This is by no means a sterile display of talent as much as it is a raw, open and sincere expression of experience. We're talking full-bleed, eviscerating noise, guts and bones and all. There's a tension that underscores the record from start to finish, and at any point you feel that the record could fall apart into chaos, as if Krill has given themselves completely: Passengers on a train without a conductor, wheels lifting from the rails around every corner but miraculously staying on the tracks. Bass and guitar diverge and intersect, rarely following the same patterns. When they do, though, holy shit: It's boldface and underlined. In italics. You notice.

Look no further than the one-two punch to the stomach that is "Torturer" into "Tiger", unquestionably the centerpiece of A Distant Fist Unclenching. It begins in a squall of residual static, a ghost left over from the end of "Fly", an overdriven bass, and haunting stillness. "Torturer" is all vibe, building into a cathartic release, spiking and murmuring into "Tiger" which deliberately works around a serpentine bass phrase, building toward the album's heaviest declaration, stark and standout as one of the few moments where Krill seems to sit in place for long enough to let the devastation sink in. When it releases, a wash of codeine euphoria rides in on the reverb's tail. It's one of those moments of staggering dynamic and texture that highlights not just the abilities of the band, but also of the documentarian in the control room. In this case as in many cases of guitar perfection, that role is filled by Justin Pizzoferrato of Sonelab, master of all things fuzzy and heavy and huge. The record breathes with the life it does due to the incredible craft and thought put into the songs, but in this case also due to the incredible craft and thought put into capturing them in the way that they are best served. Especially in that last half-minute of "Tiger", as we're hearing a unity otherwise unplayed throughout, we're hearing a band and engineer completely suited to each other, creating an unparalleled vibe.

True to Krill's form, it's only a momentary pause at the end of that singularly important moment before they launch right back into noise.

And I guess that makes sense: A band as self-aware as Krill doesn't need to fuck around with high drama or, you know, heavy declarations. They know that huge moments can exist in the mundane, in the ordinary. That nuance can exist in the everyday, and that inside levity can exist an incredible tragedy. In a press release for the record, Jonah was quoted as saying that "Torturer" is about "self-love, self-hate, and the rightness and wrongness of each" - To me, it seems like this would be a pretty apt summary of not just the entire record, but maybe the totality of the human experience.

Maybe that's what makes this record such a relatable, hugely staggering achievement. Krill inhabits a lot of different spaces on A Distant Fist Unclenching, all important, whether trivial or meaningful. Whether direct or indirect in their striking understanding or longing to understand the life's periphery. After all, Krill knows that there is as much meaning in life's bigger moments as there is importance in the banal. Krill gets it. Maybe that's what makes this such an exciting and difficult record to write about. The more I listen to it, the more there is to find. The words I write continue to fail to do justice to the ever-expanding meaning found within. Layers of an onion, man. It develops and spreads out, becoming bigger and bigger and more and more impactful with each listen. It's incredible how thoroughly my listening experience evolved with each pass I took at that record. I'm sure that I'm still not hearing things that I'll hear in a year, in ten years. This record will stay with you. These songs will inhabit you. Krill will be your favorite band. Krill is forever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

EIS Review: King Tuff "Black Moon Spell"

King Tuff
Black Moon Spell
Sub Pop; 2014
Review by Eric Gagne

I became aware of Kyle Thomas firstly because he was part of the colorful tapestry of Brattleboro, Vermont. I didn’t quite understand how instrumental he was in building the cred of that quasi-city at the time, though his music and art spaces were points of reference through a number of great moments there. I was setting up at a show at the old Tinderbox space once, and went in search of an outlet. I found a crunchy looking dude balled up in a sleeping bag underneath a single outlet that had, through various connectors, 4 or 5 extension cords stuffed into it, and each of these had numerous other frayed cables trailing off into the dark corners of the expansive room. Having just done a bit of electrical work over the past few years, my mind was blown; I couldn’t figure out how the building’s breaker was holding together. Above the perimeter of disarray, there flew a gigantic papier-mache skeleton. I’m not sure if I ever saw Kyle there, but I knew he was involved in some way; that skeleton his phantom, guiding all proceedings.

So when I was navigating through my 20s, I managed to completely miss the boat on the original freaky days of Brattleboro, where Kyle’s Feathers burned down houses next to Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and Vetiver; it was all too precious to me then. Granted I own all the records now, and have gotten to see a number of these performers live, back then the good cheer seemed too good to be true; superfriends too super to be real. A club I was not invited to join. I didn’t realize at the time that the only thing membership required was a willingness to open up to the sound.

What it took me awhile to fully grasp was the level of musical intelligence that was on display, and that has fully bloomed throughout the King Tuff catalogue. It’s a pop sensibility akin to Brian Wilson or Joey Ramone; rough around the edges, though deliberately and with feeling. Kyle has a deftness of tone and an understanding of amps and feedback that make the records pop with a purity and authenticity, and rip with an edge that is both driving and inviting. Each record has torn a larger hole than the previous, and in the process achieved a new depth and reach. Black Moon Spell has the unenviable task of following the self-titled King Tuff album, which is my favorite thing Kyle has done since Happy Birthday, but it really lives up to its predecessor. There are some real Beatles moments here, thoughtful passages with enough breathing room to drift, but still a thick enough haze about them. Reverb is an oft-abused tool, but he’s really got shit dialed in here. I have dreams where I am cool in high school, and this is the music playing at the dance. “Staircase of Diamonds” is the song that would have played when Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski danced outside of the prom had Zack thought to fire up a joint first, put his hand in Kelly’s back pocket, and sail deep into the stars. I hope with all of my heart that Black Moon Spell is the soundtrack for first cigarettes, getting laid, stealing parents’ cars, fake I.D.s, and all of the perfect scenarios of youth that can only truly crystallize with the proper music.

Friday, February 6, 2015

EIS Review: Six Organs of Admittance "Hexadic"

Six Organs of Admittance
Drag City; 2015
Review by Eric Gagne

Christ almighty, Ben Chasny has lit his goddamn ass on fire. I haven’t gotten to look into the mathematical outlines for Hexadic yet, just threw it on the player and it is tearing the speakers up. Kurt Ballou, I think you would appreciate this guitaring. It’s ferocious and unrelenting, but with an abandon that brings to mind Pharoah Sanders biting his reed and spewing jagged loving lines into space. Chasny, the mainstay of Six Organs of Admittance, inhabits a similar quietude, so when there are explosions of this sort, it feels even more urgent and necessary.

So now I have read about the open system that Ben put together in order to facilitate the composition, or the impetuses, that make up this album. It is some next level shit. Though I suppose, at this time, a lot of the skronks have been skronked; the standard tunings of a variety of instruments have been stroked and loved and brought along through a plethora of combinations. The timing is ripe for work like this. It feels mystical; the notes are calling forth entities not of this realm. The band he’s got working with him on this is right on the money too; a punk rock King Crimson, each instrument an element, and all of them building some insane compound chemical. They hang with Chasny through it all, sitting slightly behind him in the mix, but also pushing against his guitar just enough to provide the resistance that anyone really stretching out needs to stay connected to the Earth; they’re his gravity.

After a couple of bloodboilers, things mellow out a bit, and it’s there that you can really start to feel the framework of these correspondences; the music is suggested via a number of graphic, game, and language aspects, and I believe these are jumping off points that also provide constant commentary, steering the ship, as it were, through the compositional waters. It’s fucking impressive as hell, and I’m looking forward to seeing the accompanying deck of cards that will also be available through Drag City. Chasny will divebomb through your eardrums, but it’ll be pretty impossible to headbang to this one. Some of the heaviest numbers are a frenzy, there’s no real downbeat to swing your hair too, it’s all power and speaking in tongues. You can only go with it, hold on tight, and try not to be swept overboard.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Built to Spill Announce New Album "Untethered Moon"

[] Built to Spill haven't released a new album since 2009's There Is No Enemy, but all that's about to change: The seminal indie-rock group have announced plans to put out a brand-new effort this April titled Untethered Moon, the track list for which is below. If you were fortunate enough to be at their Philadelphia show in November 2013, then you probably heard them debut "Living Zoo" in concert. If not, then satiate your Built to Spill cravings with the aforementioned track list and forthcoming spring tour dates.

Untethered Moon track list:

1. "All Our Songs"
2. "Living Zoo"
3. "On The Way"
4. "Some Other Song"
5. "Never Be The Same"
6. "C.R.E.B."
7. "Another Day"
8. "Horizon To Cliff"
9. "So"
10. "When I'm Blind"

Built to Spill tour dates:

March 27 – Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Festival
April 10 – Visalia, CA @ Cellar Door
April 11 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ SLO Brew
April 12 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
April 13 – Santa Barbera, CA @ SoHo
April 14 – San Diego, CA @ Irenic
April 15 – Los Angeles, CA @ Shrine Auditorium
April 16 – Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
April 17 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
April 18 – Flagstaff, AZ @ The Orpheum Theater
April 20 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon
May 9 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Music Festival

EIS Review: Mount Eerie "Sauna"

Mount Eerie
P.W. Elverum & Sun, LTD.; 2015
Review by Cameron Stewart

There’s always been an intangible part of Mount Eerie’s music that evokes both distinct and abstract spaces and environments. It’s received as part landscape painting, part déjà vu, and part revisiting places and memories attached to them. On Sauna, Phil Elverum still plays tour guide for his imaginary scenery, but the new creations have taken on an ethereal, sometimes cosmic quality.

“Sauna” is a contemplative opener that finds itself somewhere between meditative and hypnotic. At 15 minutes, it’s as much Cageian experiment as it is traditional song, but serves as an effective introduction to the album. The song opens on a single, immobile chord whose droning qualities gradually shift it to the backseat of the listener’s attention. Recordings of life emerge: a crackling fireplace, harsh winds dancing just outside. Elverum’s lyrics fit well with the transcendental vibe of the album: “To show that I am beyond this animal form … The wood heats up and cracks and pulls apart the way your body groans.”

Aesthetically, the album is far from coherent and each song feels like it exists with little or no relation to the ones around it, but the impression of Elverum’s landscapes drifting through time and space only reinforce the supernatural world(s) that Sauna is focused on illuminating. The pulsing marimbas of “(Something)” lead directly into “Boat” and its anxious wall of distortion. “Planets” applies romantic chance and circumstance to the cosmic drift, as Elverum sings “Two of us are planets, crashing through separate lives.”

Mount Eerie has never felt constrained by traditional structure or form, and Sauna is unmistakably a chapter from Mount Eerie’s discography. That said, there are new thematic ideas explored and an overall sense of diving deeper and deeper into Elverum’s imagination, from cozy cabins to the void of outer space, and the time and space in between.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

EIS Review: Holy Sons "The Fact Facer"

Holy Sons
The Fact Facer
Thrill Jockey Records; 2014
Review by Eric Gagne

I’ve always found genre to be fairly limiting, and definitely not much help in describing music beyond how you might explain it to a person who has no interest in it. But why would you attempt such a thing? Music is so often instinctual; you hear something and it grabs you; we are built to sense authenticity and sincerity. Sometimes music can be a dart, hitting you in a very specific point; maybe just a song, or a lyric. Albums like The Fact Facer hit a person in so many places at once, with as many voices. We have the fleshy technology to process and understand so much that it is always a gift to encounter a document like this for serious listening. I consider Emil Amos to be a bit of an outlier, climbing through cities on tour, keeping to the shadows, searching for the bright splashes of water reflecting in the sun; rainbows of chance igniting like gasoline thrown into the air. Rereading Hesse’s Steppenwolf, it’s striking to me how different artists’ work can intersect across decades and geography. Haller hears melodies that snap him out of one depression or another, and this Holy Sons record would surely do the same.

Emil Amos is a cannon that shoots thoughtful songs into space. There is a comforting schizophrenia about The Fact Facer, that only helps it to relate in a more complete way; the best artists have often connected and fired on myriad cylinders. Humans are complex systems; we develop spectrally. As a child’s understanding of the world develops, they begin mastering dimensions, learning various levels of operating. In this way, our minds are built, at first by single bricks of epiphany, and then more and more quickly until we aren’t even aware of all of the constant change. Our skin is basically always falling off, and there are patterns that span countless elliptical orbits until we are essentially complete different organic material than we were at birth.

The wisps of familiarity will drag you through imagined pasts. I feel as though I spent entire summers listening to this album years ago. I can remember the warm sun, the wet wood of the dock, the smell of charcoal, hoppy beer, and a single joint burning somewhere behind the house, The Fact Facer wafting out of a boat stereo. This thing is full of wormholes! It’s powerful, man. As soon as I got into one song, the rest of them came at me until the entire album projected itself backward into my life! I think it happened specifically on “All Too Free”, so if you want a shortcut to what could prove to be a wild future summer, cue it up, and add a little pot and a glass of Johnny Walker for optimal results. After that, each track will hit you like a building, albeit one traveling at super slow speeds. Slow enough to feel every grain and fiber and the gravity of it all.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

EIS Review: Dirty Dishes "Guilty"

Dirty Dishes
Exploding In Sound Records; 2015
Review by Abe Kimball

Over the last two years, Dirty Dishes have been transitioning: not just from a creative standpoint, but a physical one as well. After relocating to synth and bass player Alex Molini’s native Los Angeles, it’s evident that the band took the opportunity to reimagine their artistic concentration. From humble beginnings playing dive bars in Cambridge and Allston, Massachusetts, the Dishes quickly grew into a local force to be reckoned with. Everyone wanted to race to pin them as revivers of grunge/alternative/shoegaze, what have you. And they might have been just another group worthy of such stock labels had they not separated themselves from the pack by maturing into their own quirky species. Utilizing the sway of Smashing Pumpkins, the airiness of Deftones/Team Sleep, the atmospheric dreaminess of My Bloody Valentine, and the viceral execution of ‘90’s-era Dischord bands, Dirty Dishes are more than an amalgamation of name-drops, and Guilty proves that they have perservered to emerge as a chameleon in the pantheon of thought-provoking rock music.

As their first proper full-length, Guilty exhibits all of the group’s strengths, while also fully realizing their sonic potential. Album opener and first single “Thank You Come Again” perfectly sums up the band’s focus up to this point with a punchy, catchy, fuzzed-out study of pop songwriting and a dash of “fuck you” sprinkled overtop. “Red Roulette” oscillates back and forth, and nods its head behind a carnival ride guitar hook, while “Guilty” and “Androgynous Love Song” bridge the gap from previous release The Most Tarnished Birds by showcasing the Dishes’ penchant for moody, stripped down slow-burners. Reminiscent of Jawbox’s “Green Glass”, the latter’s acoustic riff lays the foundation for lead singer Jenny Tuite’s outpouring of twisted lament. Venting over a rejection, yet taking somber comfort in it, she basks in the feeling’s ill-fated familiarity, and paints a bitter portrait of loss.

The next track signals a pivot point. If “Androgynous Love Song” was the end of a long, emotional night, “Dan Cortez” is the entrace into a dream, only to catch yourself reliving painful events in a lucid state. Tuite and Molini, along with former members Doug Wartman and Zack Fierman on bass and drums, equally delve into a trance-like hallucination, surrounded by ethereal, post-rock glimmers and sparse, ghostly vocals throughout the middle of the album. Highlight “Lackluster” finds the group at the depth of their aural head trip: around Tuite’s spectral croon lies a cinematic terrain; a jagged beat with gurgling synth, both swelling and dilating as the song builds to a crunchy crescendo. All the while, Tuite expertly pulls off evoking a distant coldness while repeteadly demanding “What are you waiting for? / Come close let me feel your warmth”. We finally wake up the next morning in “One More Time” and album closer “Sugar Plum Fairies” as the cloudy ballads encapsulate the journey thus far. Bleak and fatigued, they grow from simple, bare-bones structures and escalate to atmospheric climaxes, drowned by gushing synths and reverbed guitar.

By the end of the collection, Molini and Tuite have successfully tricked you into following them down their auditory rabbit hole, only for you to become aware after you’ve gone too far to turn back. Not only does Guilty demonstrate their strongest songwriting yet, the album also achieves at producing the stark visual landscape that they were always equipped to attain, but had never done so before to this extent. Whereas their first EP In The Clouds saw Tuite almost hiding behind a wall of echo and distortion, their newest release discovers her at her most honest and poignant; revealing herself while conducting an unembellished celestial orchestra. The band have noticeably spent the last couple years in between their last EP honing their craft and whiddling down their sound to its bare essentials. And as the final track fades away, it becomes quite clear that the only thing Dirty Dishes are guilty of is creating their most solid, nuanced, and haunting record to date.