I often lie awake in the still of the night, wondering what is beyond the night sky. From there, I wonder what is beyond our home planet. Then, I imagine what is beyond space. Matchess’s Whitney Johnson is beginning to chip away at the fantasy, providing a very real vision for the psychedelic galaxy of Hawking and Leary. The video “The Law of Pure Will (The Lamentation of the Greatest Wealth),” directed by Jenna Caravello, is a beautifully orchestrated day-glow nightmare of the fifth dimension laying outside the boundaries of the Big Bang. We are projected through the video’s protagonist, lying in the bushes staring up into infinity. With an eerie melody cobbled from midnight UFO landings and the light of imagination, Matchess captures that dreamy state where all our thoughts collide before our eyelids grow heavy and sleep overcomes us. We see stars turns into shapes and the sky change colors as a sea of gazing eyes also projects its feelings onto the ebon canopy. What you learn is as empty as space feels: you are never alone.
Trouble in Mind will release Matchess’ sophomore album, Somnaphoria, June 23.
It’s comforting that Sacred Phrases can offer the world the real pulse of the Indiana public at-large, even if it can’t speak to individual taste. The Fort Wayne-based label is able to pluck artists from near and far, not only as a representation of its own pleasing aesthetic, but as a true pioneer of a 21st century state that desperately wants to shake its Butternut roots by introducing the future to Indiana. Homophobia, widespread drug use, and an unmotivated voter base have been the morose subject matter we’ve disseminated in the past few months. Thankfully Sacred Phrases isn’t having any of it. Just when we need an uplifting soundtrack and round of inspiration, we get the warming glow of Vienna’s Dino Spiluttini. The comparisons between Austria and Indiana are few (one a mountainous, reborn nation and the other a flat expanse caught between old tyme nostalgia and modernization), but Spiluttini’s latest epic, All I Want is to Be a Happy Man, carries with it the stunning ability to bridge those spaces that make us all seem so different to find what makes us very much alike. Humans coping with the everyday struggles, grasping at scant opportunities to better ourselves.
All I Want is to Be a Happy Man is an uplifting tale told through sweeping piano and melancholic drone. It continually picks itself off of the cold, hardened ground and dusts itself off. It goes back to its rigorous job with the unrelenting schedule and pushy boss. Despite its white collar looks, it’s really a dirty blue collar of hard work and perseverance in the face of mounting adversity. Spiluttini craves happiness, and he has taken to carving out that niche of meditative solitude, sharing it with not only the people of Indiana-- who so desperately need it as their quiet flyover has turned into a media laughing stock-- but to a world that trying to make sense out of its own chaos. Yes, we are lucky that Sacred Phrases and Spiluttini have found each other, and the fruit of that union is the teary-eyed bliss of renewal.
Going where few have strayed, bringing back the best elements of stories of this alternate world to teach the foolhardy a lesson-- this is the study of the upstart Harry Talin, appropriately named Trailblazer. His is a story steeped in cinematic cautionary tales and paradigm shifts, where the world recasts Lexington, Kentucky into the epicenter of new noise and lost culture. In a world where the dark viscosity of '50s noir meets '80s sci-fi-- there you will find “Magic Hour.” As suggested by the title, the new age occult is at odds with the dystopic future in which it exists. Voices from the other side call out for salvation during the ritual, which condenses 60 minutes of wizardry into five. One minute is spent in each section of the blood drawn pentagram, each act building upon itself until the whole is aglow with a spiritual energy the baddies believed to be defeated. But the robe clad heroes, known as Trailblazer, are carving a path toward recapturing the goodwill of our past pioneers. Are Trailblazer a magnificent soothsayer saving us from ourselves or the prophet of a future we can no longer avoid?
Trailblazer’s new album, Regret is out now on cassette via River Girls.
In a world overrun with complicated mechanisms and a desperate gamut of one-upsmanship, I turn to the simple brand of wisdom of “Being There.” We hear the odd nomenclature of Michael Olivares; here a simpleton known as Michael O. His days of tending the garden of The Mantles are a memory of a time that no one noticed. He slipped away, with no claim to a psychedelic palisade, into the confines of his basement. But aided by Edmund Xavier, he rises through the ranks of a new aristocracy to find himself the confidant of a nation in NEED of some pop relief. “Being There” may appear to be straightforward savviness, but its prudence is comforting in these troubling times. The weary brass, the lackadaisical percussion, and an astute melody warms with every breathy chord Michael O. mouths. Seemingly a simpleton, truth is Michael O. is a man that walks on water with many faces and names. He likes to watch.
Really?, the full length debut from Michael O., will be released via Fruits and Flowers on April 28.
Somehow I’ve linked the visage of Johnny Appleseed to the corrupt, yet palpable idea of the American Dream. I hesitate to apply this notion liberally to the work of Tashi Dorji, but it also feels apt. Beyond the obvious goodwill story that built the backbone of America (no matter how embattled) and the entrepreneurial relish that the Appleseed tale can imply, Dorji’s is a story of leaving a bit of himself across a splendid wealth of small record labels: Cabin Floor Esoterica, Blue Tapes, Hermit Hut. It’s the idea that no matter where he came from, it’s where he now exists that makes his music so prolifically striking. And much like Appleseed, who often laid his head on the fertile earth and listened to the wind under the stars, Dorji also captures a stillness with “Murmur” from his latest seedling, Appa. Before our eyes, the stalk begins to sprout from the ground, gently at first. It’s almost afraid of sticking its feelers above the soil, perhaps afraid of its uniqueness or fearful that it is not in fact a delicate flower. Yet Dorji always creates something new from a handful of seeds and a mound of soil. He is truly a new version of Johnny Appleseed, happily populating a barren landscape with new growth well worth moments of isolated awe.
It’s a strange time to identify with Gen X. Some are lumped into the younger, millennial crowd and have embraced a persona more suited for the technologically advanced. Others have retreated into the schizophrenic norms of an era that never fully formed-- cut short by the same youth culture that has swallowed the Earth in its Internet of Things.
As some of us type it out furiously on our smartphones and others bang their heads against the wall of their childhood, we’ve all developed a psychotropic defense that causes further emotional deterioration. Tim Kinsella has captured that angst of a wandering demographic in “Issues.” Its industrial cynicism is reminiscent of a broken down NIN, coupled with rudimentary electro-pop melodies that spark what’s left of underground pop. Evading expectations, Kinsella delivers a messy screed on a lost generation where “all kinds of weird things” have led to identity crisis. Where does one stand on a spectrum being created in real time? It’s a rather confusing time to be trapped among the aging Yuppies and the ageless Techno-rabble.
Joyful Noise announced today that Tim Kinsella will be the label's Artist in Residence for 2015.
I sit at my bedside every night, hands pressed together in a prayer to whomever shall hear it. I press my knees deep into the worn rug and ask for a new Jim O’Rourke rock album. It doesn’t have to be like the others-- I enjoy O’Rourke challenging himself and the Steamroom series. A few nights ago, the angel Oren Ambarchi heard my words (of course they were discombobulated by the string of oscillating electronics and radio interference). He gave onto me a sound that combined his careful curation with the spastic wail of O’Rourke. He called it Behold but promised only a snippet, telling me that it could be too dangerous to hear anymore. But I begged him, even as he vanished from my room. And that room became a cell, as I dissected every bit of pop, noise, and delirium from Ambarchi and O’Rourke’s latest collaboration. The '70s fusion build-up nearly obfuscated in a heavenly chorus of electronics and organ. That angelic gift slowly turning devilish as I would not leave my room, now a cell. But a glorious, comforting place it is. I shall sit here and pray for the rest… my precious.
In a world overrun with personal branding and larger-than-life stage shows, there is a man who has retreated from modern trappings to preserve a way of life slowly fading. Chris Weisman has never claimed to be a hero-- and if he has, it’s been hard to hear it from his hermetic retreat near Brattleboro. He is just one man with a four-track and a memory full of melodic '60s folk pop from which to draw inspiration. His is a slow way of life, which adds a bit of complexity to the simplistic, “Don’t Be Slow.” Seemingly a sad farewell begging his companion to leave with the rip of a Band-Aid, it’s also a reflection of his own lifestyle, a touching love letter that may well be the first bellow from his reclusive trap; a rare glimpse into the inner dialogue of a man at peace with a way of life but finding romance encumbered by it. Or it's just a fantastically somber bit of pop mined from Weisman’s cerebrum.
The Holy Life That’s Coming is out Feburary 26 on NNA.
The motivations for McCloud Zicmuse must be similar to fixing up an old jalopy: restoring a lifeless shell into a roaring beast. The Euro-Asian version of Tracey Trance finds himself existing in a Bermuda Triangle of junkyard collections and reanimated sounds. Zicmuse constructed the instruments found throughout The Well-Tuned Iaeniaen from a robust collection of wooden boxes, sticks, and strings. If it was in your Nana’s junk drawer, it’s likely a part of the musical cornucopia of Zicmuse. “ND_hollande” not only borrows its sound from Zicmuse’s circus of mysterious creations called iaeniaens (hence the album title) but from his the vagabond lifestyle (a Pacific Northwesterner who now calls Belgium home after stays in France, Japan, and Sweden). Each of his host nations have a place throughout “ND_hollande,” from the strange post-WWII Javanese gamelan twang, the pulsing French club beat, to the practical Scandinavian thinking behind creating your own instruments to accomplish your goals.
The trend of modern names is one I just can’t fathom. I can name a handful of children who have the suffix –a[y]den. Kids I adore, but soon everyone’s going to be Olivias and Truckers. Makes me wish hard for the days of Moon Unit and Pilot Inspektor.
But we’ll meet in the middle thanks to Ryley Walker. Do not be fooled by the misspelling of a common name so popular in the suburbs. “Primrose Green” is a classic folk boogie, somewhere between the magical but fleeting freak folk of the early aughts and the classic psych folk of the late 60s that transformed a genre confined to coffee houses into a sociopolitical movement. Akin to those early D. Charles Speer revivals, “Primrose Green” is the sort of neo-traditionalism that we can stand behind in a nation of odd names and weirder politics. It’s a bridge to the wide-eyed yonder where music stood for change and where names are now identifiers by which unique personalities emerge untethered from the chains of all those Johns, Adams and Jennifers. Tell me when any of those regular Joes made a song as classically beautiful as “Primrose Green” and I’ll show you a record from 1971.
Ryley Walker's self-titled album is out March 31 on Dead Oceans.