When I first stumbled upon then Hudson, NY based experimental rockers Palm last year when they opened up for genre-defying heroes Buke & Gase, they were already a bit ahead of themselves playing new songs they hadn’t even set down to track yet, largely ignoring those from an EP that had released merely months before. It was a curious dilemma of not having any sort of reference point when describing to people who were not at that show what in the hell I had just witnessed–and why exactly my aural palate was forever changed that night. Over the last year and a half the quartet have sort of caught up to themselves. Many of those songs that endeared them to me in the first place have since been put to tape and soon I’ll be able to hear them in a way that doesn’t include following the young band around the east coast.
While Palm may have attempted to throw you off their scent with their Ostrich Vacation EP released earlier this year on JMC Aggregate, their debut full length Trading Basics is the home for several of those songs that caused my mouth to gape and my head to bang that fateful night in the Spring of 2014. “Crank”, the first single from their upcoming record, is a more than appropriate introduction to Palm who always seem to be in a constant state of agitated reinvention. “Crank” from its very beginning phrase is all anxious forward momentum. There are complicated, interlocking layers but instead of luxuriating on them self-congratulatory, the track is more concerned with its unrelenting plod to the finish. Even when it seems like it isn’t. “Crank” is a track that zigs when you expect it to zag – it bobs and weaves out of the way of listener expectation even as it builds to the climax its brisk pacing and layer stacking foreshadow. Eve Alpert contributes vocals but in a sense they’re treated as another layer – rather than bearing down or leading the track in any particular direction, they follow the undulating course until, sensing the impending collapse, they pull out just in time for everything to majestically bowl over.
Palm’s debut full length Trading Basics dropped November 6th via Inflated and Exploding in Sound Records. Grab it here »
Every once in a while you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a band that makes your jaw drop and the filthiest, most heartfelt expletive spring to mind. Chicago quartet Oshwa are such a band. Introduced to them earlier this year via a single live session video for their song “Old Man Skies”, it pretty much defies explanation (except for me being a ginormous idiot) why I didn’t deep dive into them sooner. But better late than never seems tailor made for a band of Oshwa’s caliber; intense and exciting but for now anyway possible to overlook.
Oshwa belong in a tier that’s among my favorite to discover: those with an almost unquantifiable sound. Genres don’t really stick to them, although upon a revisited listening I heard in them a kindredness with Brooklyn’s Celestial Shore. Not that they’re making music all similar but Oshwa’s tendency to play fast and loose with meter and tempo with interlocking, complex mathematic instrumental parts does align them with Celestial Shore’s underlying aesthetic. And yet, while Oshwa pursues a purposefully challenging musical style, there’s an undeniable catchiness. Oshwa are experimentalists yes but their music isn’t completely impenetrable. Take “Old Man Skies” whose appeal lies not only in the way singer Alicia Walter disassembles and distorts the mantra-like lyrics but also in her own voice. It’s not done with any sort of effects but rather naturally, Walter contorting them into angular shapes much like the guitar that accompany them; bowed, bent, and gracefully arched into unmistakably beautiful formations. At its heady climax – Walter recounts and recites all of the presented lyrics backwards, casting them out into something altogether different.
Releasing their debut full length record Chamomile Crush back in 2013, they’re just about due for a follow up. We’ll keep you posted.
Lolipop Records shares this gem by Portland, Oregon’s Psychomagic, taken from the Los Angeles label’s latest cassette comp World Peas (Vol. I), which you can grab at their shop for just a few bucks. Great nostalgic Lou Reed vibes ahead:
Editor’s note (that’s me!): Wow, haven’t posted since mid July? Thus marks the end of a much needed, impromptu, unannounced-but-now-rectified summer hiatus. Y’all shouldn’t have been on the computers much anyway, right? Right. Now let’s get cranking on those fall mixes, turn up the wood stoves and add some roughage to our diets. We’re in this for the long-haul.
One of the first ever bands I got obsessed with after reading about them on a blog was London foursome Stricken City. Their debut mini-album Songs About People I Know was the soundtrack to the majority of all of their days and when they announced their sudden and unexpected split in 2011 after releasing their follow up album Losing Colour I was devastated. While Stricken City was made up of a number of talented individuals (and at least two different incarnations of the band existed in the short time I knew about them) one of the band’s major selling points lay in its singer/micro-korg player Rebekah Raa. Her vocals were pure frenetic energy but also capable of emotive depths when not tossing and turning in the tumult of Stricken City’s jangly fast-paced pop rock. But the band called it quits right when they were getting the kind of exposure that ensure I’d be able to catch them on a stateside tour. Again: I was devastated…
So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered Rebekah Raa had apparently returned to the London music scene about a year ago with a brand new music project by the name of RAINER.
RAINER finds Raa paired with British producer Nic Nell aka Casually Here for a brand of electro pop that’s gloriously hard to pin down. No one song is the same but Raa’s vocals and simple lyrics drawn from mundane subjects remain as affecting as ever. Take “Water”, the title track to their recently released debut album. Rebekah Raa’s vocals are smooth as silk, gliding over a gradually building bit of minimal production. When the beat finally comes in, after a minute or so, Raa shifts from lyrical free-fall into a more focused descent. The most endearing thing about “Water–and something which bodes well for RAINER in general–is that the duo never allow themselves to be content with what is working currently. Raa isn’t just another songstress boringly crooning over static beats, as “Water” finds itself in a state of constant metamorphosis that Raa’s vocals agilely adapt to. Instead of having to battle with elements of the production, the arrangements spring into a lushness that artfully compliments Rebekah Raa’s increasing vocal layers. Everything from the delayed entrance of synth shimmers to the steel drums and saxophone squawks in the rush of the chorus is subtle enough not to overwhelm but form an interesting basis for Raa’s casual glide through the song’s various sections.
RAINER’s debut full length Water is out now on Kissability/Algebra Records. You can order the limited edition frosted clear 12″ here.
One of my favorite qualities about Brooklyn based experimentalists SOFTSPOT is their tendency to always be working on something new. Though they’ve released their sophomore album MASS just last year, it’s no surprise to find out that the foursome absconded soon after into the wilds of North Carolina to begin working on a brand new set of songs. “Abalone” just happens to be one of those songs and it finds the group leaning more heavily into the nascent pop flourishes peppered throughout their past two records.
That’s not to say that SOFTSPOT have abandoned their occasionally atmospheric experimental rock but rather expanded their dynamic vision in a direction that’s downright infectious in its New Wave recalling sweep. Sarah Kinlaw’s lyrical power remains at an all time high – featuring complex cerebral arrangements but relateable nonetheless a proper love song. While you could argue that Kinlaw’s vocals are often the most compelling part of SOFTSPOT’s song construction, “Abalone” finds the band operating at full efficiency. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of musical offerings – from Kinlaw’s bewitching coo, the sultry swirl of Jonathan Campolo’s synths and Bryan Keller Jr’s guitar interweaving ornamental riffs, to even the soft pitter-pat of Blaze Bateh on drums, it all blends together to form an effective siren song; luring you into its casually rolling waves, coasting into the band’s wonderful outro jam before everything’s swallowed up in a wash of noise.
“Abalone” might only be a teaser of more to come but it’s a damn good one proving SOFTSPOT’s creative impulses are to be trusted. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before SOFTSPOT offer up more of their innovative art rock but until then “Abalone” is a more than sufficient placeholder.