Friday, July 27, 2018

Listen: Mr Twin Sister - "Echo Arms"

After releasing the first of their new singles "Jaipur" a month ago, New York dance pop experimentalists Mr Twin Sister are back once again to drop another song of the summer contender in "Echo Arms". Though I assumed the reveal of a second single would herald the announcement of a new album, instead the quintet has announced an extensive North American tour this Fall as well as a 24 hour radio stream which they used to premiere the new single. Mr Twin Sister will feature original mixes as well as rarities and full album streams from the band. While "Jaipur" served as a sort of rallying cry towards trying to become a better, kinder person in a time that it's not really seen as necessary, "Echo Arms" is a bit more carefree. Andrea Estrella is still sincere as hell despite the parody of streaming radio culture the band has packaged it up in. It's a groovier, more downtempo number that still is immediately ear-catching and toe-tapping inspired. Like "Jaipur" it's a melange of layered sounds - sweeping strings, synths, and a multitude of subtly deployed effects, "Echo Arms" is effortless an chill and breezy single that still manages to keep its eye on the prize as an all-consuming dance jam.

Mr Twin Sister are still being particularly cagey about whether a follow up to their 2014 self-titled sophomore record is forthcoming but as long as they keep dropping tracks like "Jaipur" and "Echo Arms", they can take their time with album release news.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Listen/Watch: Mothers - "PINK"

photo by Dylan Pearce
One of the things I immediately noticed about "BLAME KIT" and now "PINK", the two first singles from Philly experimental rockers Mothers upcoming sophomore record Render Another Ugly Method, was how lyrically dense the songs are. It's not that singer/songwriter Kristin Leschper wasn't a particularly obtuse writer previously, but When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired seemed to strike a particular balance of even her most abstract lyrics fitting suspiciously smooth into each song's particular narrative. On "PINK" and perhaps indicative of Render Another Ugly Method in general, Leschper's isn't particularly bothered by framing things in a tidy, coherent structure. Instead Leschper achieves a sort of stream of consciousness expanse tethered by a particularly methodical delivery. Perhaps more so than ever, Leschper outfits her voice like another instrument in the band - less concerned with it's softer, more fragile qualities and instead exploring how it can feed into a band in motion. Where previously there seemed to be an ebb and flow between the instrumental parts of Mothers' songs to provide room for Leschper's delicate vocals, here they're a part of the din.

Where "BLAME KIT" seemed concerned with the body - ways that external stimulus effect it in the form of positive and negative attention, "PINK" is concerned with time. Leschper again experiments with song structure in her lyrics and stitches a series of memories together all bound by their relation to cars. It's a song containing a great deal of tension - it's nearly 7 minutes operating at much of it's initial tempo. For a band like Mothers that revels into dynamics, it's a surprising move but one that builds even more tension through the subversion of expectation.  

The music video, directed by Jake Lazovik and Richard Phillip Smith, capitalizes on that drawn out sense of tension placing Leschper in a waiting room for what indeterminable about of time but the viewer sees through a window and how the light affects her, that the passage of time. It's subtle but there's an element of uncomfortableness not unlike a psychological thriller as slightly weirder things start to happen in the room. Leschper dodges a cinderblock wrapped in yellow balloons and  while this moments would normally warrant a big reaction, it's treated as a normal occurrence and as such the music doesn't change to soundtrack it. Where the viewer serves largely as a voyeur to Leschper's patient stay, the action both in the music and its video are initiated and dictated through her. When she suddenly cranes her neck in alarm towards the window, the tension reaches a breaking point and the song finally gives in to a dramatic shift. It's a sort of release of the build up and yet, the video instead creates more: Leschper's startled face appears on the room's sole television screen, her dropped plastic cup gets an almost unsettling closeup.    

Render Another Ugly Method, Mothers' sophomore record and ANTI- records debut is out September 7th. You can pre-order the record now.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Listen/Watch: Saintseneca - "Ladder to the Sun"

photo by Nick Fancher
When Columbus, Ohio folk pop collective Saintseneca previewed their upcoming fourth full length album Pillar of Na with first single "Frostbiter" the most immediately noticeable thing was the synths. While Saintseneca are no strangers to the use of synths having utilized them on previous album Such Things, there was a level of prominence that seemed a little jarring. Known for their harmonic mesh of various exotic string instruments, "Frostbiter" saw singer/songwriter Zac Little expanded the band's textural palette as he experimented with sounds not typically associated with folk. The result was a shimmering, found sound featuring ballad that hinted at an assortment of new compositional options for the band.

"Ladder to the Sun", however, places the band right back into their exuberant, infectious folk pop. Unsurprisingly, for as much as Little struggled with the creation of much of Pillar of Na, "Ladder to the Sun" sprung forth from him pretty easily. Some of that frustration - of continuously trying different options and trying to make sense of ideas that are floating around you make their way into the song. When I first heard "Ladder to the Sun", I was immediately taken with how the lyrics had a sort of conversational, stream of consciousness quality to them. They didn't entirely feel like they belonged to different songs but Little had little problem interrupting himself to offer up another thought. The songs is a casual glide through ideas - beginning at first as self-given eulogy: "Tell my sister when I'm gone, I built a ladder to the Sun" before Little focuses on the present. Where "Frostbiter" was an amalgamation of memories and anecdotes - both his and others, "Ladder to the Sun" is a somewhat more assertive criticism of memory and who dictates what that is. "Who says you're right?" Little and band continuous ask and while it's delivery never reaches a tone of confrontation, it's does express a sincere amount of doubt about who gets to dictate what is happening in the moment. It's a song filled with these little moments of truth-seeking that are wonderfully presented.

Little asks questions but seems less concerned with definitive answers and more the feeling that accompanies those questions - the chasm of either doubt or bridge of certainty those questions open up. Another curious moment - probably the more so than anything else that happens in the song's rather short duration is between right before the recap both of the chorus and the song's initial phrase is a one-and-done moment Little affords himself. "I did the best you can, you did the best I can", Little sings and that moment - essentially defining the self through another is so strangely wonderful. It's ambiguous at best but feeds into the song's main theme of someone other than the self getting to tell the story; to set the parameters and provide context.

The video for the single, directed by Jon Washington and Little himself, introduces the "Ladder to the Sun" as an actual concrete thing and Little spends the video's duration chasing it. The ladder proves to me more of a concept than a thing you actually want to come in contact with though as Little finds when he grabs the ladder and experiences both an intense psychedelic vision and what looks like a great deal of pain. There's subtle references to Pillar of Na itself - "Moon Barks At Dog", and the strawberry heart from the album cover but the star of the video is the ladder that Little pursues with a hunter's acumen. It's hardly surprisingly "Ladder to the Sun" was a moment of catharsis for Little considering how effortlessly and swift the ideas both lyrically and visually the ideas seem to come from it. "Ladder to the Sun" may end up being the outlier in terms of a sprightly folk pop jam but it's certainly appreciated.

Saintseneca's fourth full length album Pillar of Na is out August 31st on ANTI-. Pre-order the record now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Listen: Ohmme - "Water"

Last month when Chicago experimental pop duo Ohmme announced their much anticipated debut full length album Parts, they shared album opener and first single "Icon": a brighter, more pop rooted cut than the occasionally folky, more darkly textured tracks of their self-titled debut EP. Though not quite a completely jarring shift, it did display that Ohmme's game plan for the full length would be much more of opening themselves to different than doubling down on what they've already offered. Though "Icon" featured more consonant guitar riffs in line with Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart's impeccable vocal harmonies, the duo didn't completely divorce themselves from abrasiveness as the song takes a dramatic tonal shift and incorporates some of those angular, rougher hewn elements. 

"Water", our second taste of the duo's full length, is a dip into turbulent waters once again. It's an experiment in opposites as Cunningham and Stewart's guitars cut aggressive shapes alongside Matt Carroll's similarly intense drumming while their vocals stream out in clean arcs. Ohmme established early on a knack for blending seemingly conflicting, dissimilar textures, and somehow finding a way to stitch them together into a cohesive musical tapestry and "Water" is no different as Cunningham and Stewart take grit, add propulsive energy, and essentially end up creating glass. "Water" is brief but severe musical science experiment happening in real time and the result is a work of art equal parts crude and elegant: the brilliant cacophony giving way to its beautiful, crystalline climax.   

Parts, Ohmme's debut full length album, is out August 24th on Joyful Noise Recordings. Pre-orders are available for the record now.

Listen: LWW - "DTE"

With the release of Portland based composer/multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland's debut album under his new LWW moniker on the immediate horizon, he's released "DTE", one of the his first experiments with creating alternate tuning systems. Much like "PNO", "DTE" is a one-take improvisation but where "PNO" quickly establishes its melodic intentions, "DTE" takes much more of its experimentation with form from "CTP" and much like it, "DTE" relies on elements outside of Wyland's piano in the form of a loop pedal. Of the three pieces, we've heard from 3PE so far, "DTE" is perhaps the least concerned with pattern and structure. Where "CTP" saw Wyland essentially revising a previously recorded improvisation, "DTE" is a much more ephemeral effort - "CTP" and "PNO" immediately embracing whatever melodies formed and chasing them to their natural conclusions, "DTE" doesn't shy away from the establishment of melody but Wyland also challenges himself with his regard for equal temperament towards moving on from any patterns in favor of something different all together. Initially an exploration of equal temperament, Wyland also experiments with timbre as well - giving himself three different types of sound to utilize in his synthesizer based improvisation.

Luke Wyland's debut album as LWW, 3PE, is out July 20th on the Leaf Label. You can pre-order the album as either a digital download or on limited edition 12" now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Collection of Colonies of Bees - HAWAII (2018)

Though most people's introduction to Wisconsin outfit Collections of Colonies of Bees may have been due to the fact that its members played alongside Bon Iver's Justin Vernon as Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees have been crafting incredibly innovative and intricate guitar music for the better part of two decades not unlike a sort of Deerhoof of the Midwest. But aside from an impressively long career filled with records each more incredible than the last, that's pretty much where the Deerhoof comparisons live and die. Throughout the years COCOB has undergone a number of lineup changes sharing members with Field Report, Megafaun, Sylvan Esso, and All Tiny Creatures but guitarist Chris Rosenau has remained its steadfast captain, navigating the outfit as its most consistent and senior member since the departure of his co-founder, drummer Jim Mueller.

HAWAII, the band's most recent album and their follow up to 2014's SET, introduces those not in attendance at the third year of Vernon's Eaux Claires festival to its newer lineup which welcomes Marielle Allschwang into the fold on vocals - another shakeup for the previously solely instrumental focused band. Though the addition of vocals might in theory appear to push COCOB towards a more standard form of rock music than they've been purveying over the years, ever the innovators - Allschwang's inclusion comes with a bit of a surprise in the form of the creation of a synced pedal rig that connects Allschwang's vocals with Rosenau's guitar to further flush out Collections of Colonies of Bees' harmonic language. When first single "Ruins" dropped, I was unsure of how exactly Rosenau and Allschwang's relationship would play out over the course of an album but "Killerers", the album's opening track instantly answered that question. The entrance of Allschwang's vocals enter as a sort of stutter-stop hum - not quite tied to meaning but an integral part of the song's multitude of layers. I was reminded instantly of the technique of Ryan Lott of Son Lux where he recorded his collaborators vocals, cut them up and turned them into samples, and then tied them to individual notes. The main difference of course being that Allschwang is a present and active participant in the delivery of her vocals. Where previous albums SET , GIVING, and Birds presented Collection of Colonies of Bees as a pretty straight forward melody rich but rhythmically focused melange of guitars, bass, and drums HAWAII reintroduces the more diverse elements of the band's more distant past like the return of synths even as they push themselves toward a more ubiquitous sound.

HAWAII isn't a complete re-writing of the what the band's been about for the past decade or so however - even as they implement the use of lyrics for the first time. The band had a way of presenting engaging musical tableaux without the use of lyrics or even descriptive titles, and though hardly nonsense or gibberish - the addition of vocals by Allschwang and guitarist Daniel Spack, are largely impressionistic; another timbre to resonate in their multitudinous harmonies. Even as Collection of Colonies filter in more familiar pop leaning elements, there's an equal subversion and embrace of those expectations. Songs like the eponymous "HAWAII" which might've been a 7 minute long instrumental post rock jam elsewhere uses the added vocal framing to achieve the grandiose highs of songs like "G (F)" or "Lawn". The vocals undergo their own subtle evolution over the course of the album - enduring a sort of climax on "For Ghost" - the album's briefest and most singer/songwriter recalling effort.

While the old adage might be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", bands like Collections of Colonies of Bees thrive by their ability to push themselves into new sounds and creative visions that inspire them and HAWAII even if you take away the seeming gimmick of the pedal rig that steers Allschwang's vocals - it's an album that's so delightfully complex without really insisting on that complexity. Take a song like "Ruins", arguably the album's most standard verse-chorus-verse type song. There's so many elements that work in tandem like Allschwang and Spack's dueting vocals but there's little embellishments that are beguiling effortless - like Allschwang's breathing being a noticeable part of the song's climatic breakdown that are hands down contribute to some of the album's most winsome moments. Collections of Colonies of Bees might've worn their influences of electronica, jazz, and post rock much more openly in their earlier days, their embrace of the familiar has added a much appreciated new dimension to their music. If Collections of Colonies of Bees are truly trying to bridge the gap between their experimental and pop tendencies, they've certainly succeeded on HAWAII - an album filled with engaging compositions that makes a bold but interesting new direction for the band.

Collections of Colonies of Bees' HAWAII is out now on Polyvinyl. You can order the record now.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Listen: Rubblebucket - "Fruity"

photo by Amanda Picotte
Considering the fact that Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth of Rubblebucket have not only been touring pretty consistently but also putting out a decent amount of singles for the past couple years ("Donna", "If You C My Enemies"), it entirely escaped my notice that it has been approximately four years since Rubblebucket's last full length record Survival Sounds. Part of this may be due to the fact that last year both Traver and Toth put out records with their side projects Kalbells and Alexander F as well as putting out a Rubblebucket EP that it seemed very much like the band had taken no time off at all.

But aside from keeping busy with side projects (Toth even started another band - a solo project by the name of  Tōth that saw him turning to the guitar), the band had been hard at work on a follow up to 2014's Survival Sounds. "Fruity" is the band's first official single from the record and it is characteristically groove-inflected if not more subdued than longtime fans might've expect. It's a introspective piece that doesn't forget to be interesting about promises broken and how time just kind of marches on regardless. "I've said I'll make it to the party but I've got a lot going on" Kalmia Traver coos atop a mellow wave of synths and pulsing drum hits. As the song goes on, it becomes clear it's not just about fear of missing out or upholding some weird social contract but about finding room for yourself when you've been accustomed to operating as a unit. "I let you wrap your body into mine until we're one thing" and "I gazed at your face for too long until my own was gone" Traver sings, recounting promises she's made before offering an apology "I'm sorry, Fruity, but I must find the Earth again". Despite its incredibly dance-y dressings "Fruity" is a breakup song but also a love song. For all of the utterances of promises made and broken, shifted, and suspended; there's a promise that never is. The love contained in "Fruity" is a pure and genuine one that'll remain post-breakup just in a different form.

Rubblebucket's fifth full length album Sun Machine will be out August 24th on Grand Jury. You can pre-order the record now.