Evan Zierk's new album on Atlantic Rhythms dissects our understanding of time and perception, the tones vibrate a space within. Zierk's skillfully blends together a minimal palette of sonic textures to create a vibrant world that swirls around your skull. Drifting/Bending simulates a loss of gravity, akin to an out of body experience, hovering as an observer. Zierk's gliding arpeggios dance from ear to ear, their pulse moving like a newly formed organism. Evan Zierk is joined by longtime collaborator Nate Mendelsohn playing alto saxophone, whose presence further adds to the feeling of drift, “Bending” causes an awareness of the complexities of perception and sensation. Spatial cognition is left behind, these deeply transfixing and spiritual tones drown out any other input.
Though she relocated to Austin, TX, a few years ago, Lou Rebecca’s hometown of Paris—not the one of Wim Wenders’ notoriety—is never too far away. Rebecca sings in both English and her native tongue, and in the self-directed video for “Fantôme,” first single from her upcoming debut EP, she pirouettes, sings, and broods through several archetypal environments: austere living quarters, a hard wood floor adorned with golden flowers, a dim red performance space. Each shot, each location, every action is striking, and finely-orchestrated to boot. As in her songwriting, Rebecca's directorial style and visual cues build from a foundation of poise and grace. The entire program feels like a dance routine, and I don’t just mean the parts where there’s, you know, actual dancing—the wavering space between physical bodies and the places they inhabit provides weight. It’s largely responsible for the video’s emotional tension and suspense, and makes “Fantôme” a joy to watch time and again.
Zoe Burke’s first release as Sapphogeist, a self-titled affair on the inimitable No Rent Records, was a sea change. After a tenure shrieking in power electronics provocateurs Reverse Baptism, the transition was profound, but well done and oh-so-satisfying. Songs like “Ultramortal” and “A Lie” boasted finely-barbed, sharp, unmissable hooks, transfiguring the listener into something like Frank at the end of Hellraiser. Though bookended by pop bangers, Sapphogeist still had extended passages of avant-garde, noisy instrumentation. On her Bank Records follow up, Mar A Lago, Zoe maintains an ethos of experimentation, but plunges fully into the realm of industrial-soaked R&B. “Holding On,” track two of Mar A Lago, originally a Bernard Herman composition, moves through evolving electronic textures. Beginning with an austere vocal pattern and simple synth section, the track warps into utter revelation as it crescendos and breaks about two-thirds in. The tracks on Mar A Lago show maturation and elegance, making for another essential grab.
Brothers Jonathan and Michael Rosen are Cones, a Los Angeles-based guitar pop outfit on the rise. Having spent the last couple of years woodshedding as Eleanor Friedberg's band, Cones' "Whatever You're Into" is the second of two singles being released via Canvasclub, Canvasback Music's monthly singles series. AdHoc is stoked to premiere the track, a groovily sauntering psychedelic dance jam — what Cones' Jonathan Rosen says is about "being a people-pleaser" and "a vehicle for somebody else's desires." Rosen also describes the track as "being at the wheel late at night, driving somebody wherever they wish to go" and reconciling your own desires with those of your companion. We're thrilled to have Cones headline Berlin on Saturday 9/9 with Cassandra Jenkins and Dark Tea.
A year out from their formation, Poppies has turned heads as a band with a knack at concealment. Under the band's unassuming pop lullabies lie lyrics that point to the darkness hidden in what we assume to be comfortable and adorable. That knack is on full display in the band's new video for "Devin," a standout track off their Good EP released in June. The track follows the titular boy, a troublemaker for his family and well as those around him. While the boy's bad antics are seen as common at first, passed off as "boys will be boys," his behavior quickly grows out of hand, compounding and following him as he grows into someone that is hardly recognizable, even to his own mother ("sometimes I feel like he's not mine, that boy is Rosemary's child"). While on its surface the song remains purely focused on the boy himself, Poppies seems to be offering up a storybook lesson—that tolerating rotten behavior from boys without an attempt to change them for the better only leads them to grow into rotten men.
The animations for the video itself match Poppies' interests precisely. Poppies says the video "was hand drawn and inked by our good friend Annie Zhao. She was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, Run Wrake, and Lord of the Flies." The inspiration of Run Wrake seems particularly obvious, as the video's children's story animals playing with one another soon lose their heads, literally and figuratively, and take to playing tug of war with one of their friend's. Things soon take increasingly disturbing turns as the whole scene becomes more and more akin to a pagan ritual than a day at the playground. Just as with so much of their other work, Poppies is a band that shows us just how dark things can be under rosy surfaces.
It takes a real struggle not to be pulled into the orbit of Brooklyn trio Honey's heavy, haunting psych rock. From the moment the opening chord of new single "New Moody Judy," which AdHoc is premiering today, rings out it serves as a call to arms, a warning of trouble rapidly approaching on the horizon. A fuzzy and chugging bass line and a guitar, which serves more as an alarm than a lead, move us along quickly to assess the danger at hand—the first and perennial danger, love.
Honey's Cory Feierman says the track stemmed from being "in love with a girl in a city I hadn't really spent any time in. It wasn't the first time. [I] Got locked outside her house and stuck on the street, no wallet, no phone, no idea where I was. Walked until the sun came up and I wasn't sure what love was anymore. It wasn't the first time." Reflecting back the same fervor of a love that one "can't get enough" of, the track burns with an intensity that is, as with any real passion, at once both chaotic and controlled. Ultimately, Honey bemoan having not "had more time" with their love and for wasting their time, but a track like this reveals that all past loves leave burns.
Keith Rankin plays with sound, tickling it out until it spills. "Soft Channel 003," from Soft Channel, his latest effort as Giant Claw, fidgets with the ludic ecstasy—fizzing and sprawling across circuits and MIDI—by which Rankin has for years made his name. But just as the album cover for this newest offering depicts a misrecognition, a crisis in identification, "Soft Channel 003" gnaws at uncanny sonic territory. Over the course of the track, Rankin fiddles with familiarity and unfamiliarity, spontaneously splicing and unexpectedly dissasembling spurts and motifs. One standout interstice is the MIDI choir Rankin employs: unstable, it titillates, inhabiting a vocal register that always feels androgynous, located somewhere in between the head voice and the chest voice, the alto and the tenor. Despite its uncanniness, the voices frequently spasm into something quite delicate, quite precious: a fleeting melody that hints at something grander, something that would complete the punchline that all Rankin's sounds seem to riddle toward. Now effortlessly incorporated into his repertoire, code-switching across aesthetic sensibilities becomes a focal point as Rankin grates the sublime and the beautiful, cartoon slide whistles and shards of Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1," together over his gurgling potpourri. A master impressionist, Rankin finds facsimile and structure too straightforward, too easy. Through this playful self-denial, the culinary asceticism, Rankin teases out something addictingly temporary, something effervescently evanescent, like the fizz before the swig.
Overcast and portentous, Brian Case's Spirit Design lurches. Rolling in like an oversaturated cloud formation swallowing anything from charred synths and shivering sub-bass into its its blackened atmospherics, Case's latest full-length for Hands in the Darkthreatens to collapse under its own yawning depth and smothering weight. In this totalizing sound environment, Case evacuates melody, structure, and legibility, leaving only the cold and brutal sparseness of his voice and devastating instrumentation to populate the noxious territory. But even Case's voice succumbs to this airless sound sludge: on "Shipbuilding," for example, Case's intelligible—if ominous—words bleed into incomprehensibility as the song's suffocating logics ooze out of control. On later tracks, like "Control" and "Say Your Name," his voice can only eke out the titles of the songs themselves in an arcane incantation that condenses speech and meaning into noise, into effacing squalor. On Spirit Design, Case unleashes a singularly enveloping haze of sound and mood so thick it's impossible to hear your own breath. Like other forms asphyxiation, it's orgastic.
Spirit Design is available August 25 on Hands in the Dark.
Sometimes, the ordinary can be infectious. On "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G," the sparkling bonus track off Moon King's latest tape for Arbutus, standard kicks, punchy bass, and a earworming piano melody play out along a familiar house thump. In the hands of a less capable producer, such an assemblage could run derivative or fall flat, but under Daniel Benjamin's delicate direction, each element whirs into place and delivers an intoxicatingly coordinated performance. Accompanying the addictive pulse of the track is a video that also succeeds in summoning a satisfying simplicity.
Much like the song itself, whose ordinary components come from a stock milieu but—when locked into the groove—enliven and thrum in ecstasy, the video for "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G" is situated in a blank, unremarkable room. But what sticks is what populates the room: bodies in motion, perfectly attuned yet letting loose to the banger that galvanizes their movement. Shots of sweat and silk, tattoos and tanktops twirl across the visual register under a layer of VHS fuzz. Far from muffling or obscuring the dynamic magnetism of the beat and the dancing, the coating of chintz captures the hazy trace, the blur of motion in itself. It's precisely this motility, this singular capacity to stimulate movement, that textures the corporeal sonics of "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G."
In a song ostensibly about the desire for an extraordinary lover, Benjamin and Natty G suffuse the track with a sensuous desire to move, to dance. In the very articulation of his desire, Benjamin has crafted a genuinely seductive song—and awakened the listener's desire, too. As the track plonks along, music becomes more than just an expression, a communicatory pathway: it becomes somatic. It becomes satisfaction. When Natty G sings that she's "tired of all the cream without the cherry," it's hard not to think of the track itself, a bonus track, after all, as a cherry on top, a visceral delight that gets stuck in your gums well after it putters out. What's the best way to work off a sundae, anyway? Dance it off.
Check out Benjamin's newest tape Hamtramck '16 out now, andmake sure to dance with Moon King when he performs September 8 at The Silent Barn with Dougie Poole.
In their new video for “Make A Promise,” the opening track on last year’s War & War cassette, Outside World take a voyeuristic, but totally legal, plunge into the strange world of luxury apartment rentals. Guided by an impersonal cursor, the video’s visuals swings around and through various static 360 degree renderings—so-called virtual tours—the video is a musing on abstract ideas of wealth, crystalized by New York high rises. “I felt literally nauseous after playing with them for a while,” the band's Ben Scott admits, alluding to feelings of disorientation while darting through digitized living spaces. Actually, on second thought, perhaps this sensation has as much to do with those “abstract ideas of wealth” as it does the visual accompaniment. Either way, vomit is vomit, I suppose.