The politics of the escape are tricky; the classic stylings of reminiscing rock music often threatens to slither into whitewashing and fetishism. But despite their rugged riffage and vintage muscle, Olympia's Milk Music raucously refuse to fall into the trap of dangerously depoliticized nostalgia on Mystic 100's highlight, "Dare to Exist." Even from the noisy onset, lead vocalist Alex Coxen lays into his listener, reprimanding the inertia and boredom of the "daydream" of inaction and self-involvement. Sneering and unimpressed, amid the jolting dissonance of Charles Waring's guitar, Coxen's salvo is an unescapable wake-up call that belligerently dissolves the haze of the daydream. As the overblown guitar and fuzzed-out drums drive the song forward, so too does Coxen's tone change. The spiky rawness of the song's introduction slides into an anthemic zenith furnished by Coxen's incantory directive to "Dare to exist"—the fact that "the world is insane and it's hard to exist" notwithstanding. This radical optimism, maintained "with or without the concept of God," situates Milk Music in direct opposition to the inertia of the daydream, constellating contemporary political engagement with an old-school ass-kicking.
Milk Music's Mystic 100's is out now on American Dom.
From her time as a co-trickster with Dean Blunt in Hype Williams, to her cycling through various aliases for different releases, Inga Copeland has never made easy legibility an artistic priority. Her debut full length, 2014’s Because I’m Worth It, was released as copeland, while a subsequent EP, RELAXIN’ With Lolina saw her take on the name Lolina. Last year, she retained the name Lolina for an album called Live In Paris that was not, actually, recorded live in Paris, however insistent the sinister chant of the titular phrase three minutes in is. Today she has shared a cryptic video for a track called “Fake Bond,” with the video’s still image splitting the difference between her monikers by referring to her as “Inga ‘Lolina’ Copeland.” The track is built around a wobbly electric piano loop that switches between two, unbalanced feeling meters, anchored by a slick, mischievous bass line. Meanwhile, strange, waterlogged sounds interject here and there, as if performing a modernist ballet.
Banny Grove waltzed onto the scene last year with the debut Who Is She?, a pop album that blends moving balladry with positivity and well-placed schmaltz. She’s the glam, cartoonish alterego of Rabbit Rabbit’s Louise Chicoine, accompanied by Peter Nichols of Grape Room, and together they put on an act with big dramatic energy. For Banny Grove, no subject matter is too small for fascination, and even the cheese dream gets its deserved airtime. In the video for “Cheese Dream,” directed by Philip Steiger of Nancy Shirley, a petticoated Banny Grove engulfed in strings of cheese grapples with the “spongey mess” of a nightmare that’s left her tossing and turning. Over punchy entwined guitar and synth lines, her refrain of “Don’t tell me, don’t tell me everything will be OK!” is almost real and desperate enough to wake us. The dreamy visuals reel us back in, though—fields of trees and flowers and the spinning sight of the duo in a sunlit river. This is a good primer for their imaginative live set, and Banny Grove will be touring the US celebrating “Life’s Wonders” throughout April and May. See their dates below.
Alex G is now (Sandy) Alex G—putting to rest long years of confusion between the Alex Giannascoli we know and love, and a very different, west coast singer-songwriter who also goes by Alex G, and, of course, restauranteur and my personal favorite Chopped judge, Alex Guanarschelli. The (Sandy) prefix isn’t too unusual anyway. It’s been part of the URL of Giannascoli's Bandcamp for a long while. The announcement is accompanied by a new single from his forthcoming record, Rocket. “Proud” continues the folksy, country-inflected sound explored on the previous single, “Bobby.” It’s a handsome song, with a lazy shuffle and a Floyd Cramer-style piano that dances around the mix. (Sandy) Alex G’s sweet vocal melody belies the complex, ambivalent relationship the song maps out—one that mixes admiration and resentment in equal measure. In the chorus, Giannascoli ruminates on the possible consequences of his own failings, a train of thought that proves too difficult to follow by the end, when he lets the last line, “if I fuck up,” trail off into the fade out.
Andy Molholt, member of bands like Speedy Ortiz and Very Fresh, pursues his own particular musical vision as Laser Background. Under this moniker, Molholt explores the affinities between psychedelia and childhood. “We Trust,” the opening track to Laser Background’s eponymous, debut EP, features a Spongebob Squarepants-style sea shanty chorus amid waves of flanged guitars and laser blast synth washes, while follow up record Super Future Montage’s “Fantasy Zone” sets Prince-like pitched up vocals against a Mega Man-core backing track.
“Climb the Hill” is the second single from Dark Nuclear Bogs, Molholt’s forthcoming record. If you have an affinity for anagrams, you might’ve noticed that Dark Nuclear Bogs is an rearrangement of Laser Background—a play on mid-career self-titled records that refine or subvert a band’s vision. If “Climb the Hill” is any indicator, then this trope will bare fruit. Not only is it one of Molholt’s most fully realized pop songs, it simultaneously pushes his music and production towards more textured, out-there, and evocative territory. It’s centered around a sparkling, nursery-rhyme keyboard line that’s rhythmically a little unbalanced, dropping a couple of bars here and there as it loops. The effect is something like the musical interpretation of a psychedelic crib mobile. It’s a compelling backdrop for Molholt’s pretty, hazy vocal melody, which relates what he has described as a “bit of psychedelic fiction”— a story about “a bell that you can ring” but can’t hear unless “you are pure.”
Being a kid, when a good chunk of what you experience every day is new and weird, is probably pretty trippy. The wooziness of psychedelia in music has often been used to explore hazy ambiguity between pleasure and terror; presence and non-presence. By connecting this ambiguity with the susceptibility to experience that comes with childhood, Laser Backgrounds makes psych-pop that’s remarkably affecting.
As Egyptrixx, Toronto producer David Psutka trawls the depths of sonic possibility. His latest album, Pure, Beyond Reproach, is a stark work contrasting serene, natural cinematics with a mangled, post-industrial grit. It clanks and sputters, but is firmly grounded in a world that humans and machines have saturated with waste. A longtime affiliate of the pioneering post-club label Night Slugs, Egyptrixx has evolved his sound far past the dancefloor, onto another planet entirely. In 2015, he founded his own label, Halocline Trance, as an outlet for mostly beatless productions that didn’t quite fit in with the woozy, DJ-ready template of Night Slugs. Just last year, Psutka unveiled a new project as Ceramic TL, where he painted paranoid and scathing noise-scapes that pointed to his fascination with ecological destruction. One of his tracks “Life on Earth,” is a scathing assault of noise which doesn’t allow room for any life whatsoever. We caught up with Egyptrixx to get a break down of his influences, and what to look forward to in his show in New York.
The warm sensations of Wanderings, Alix Hyde's debut album from Elestial Sound seem to crawl to the far reaches of the mind, creating a diverse dialog between sound, and silence. The artist crafts a particularly heart-churning composition on “Myriad Tears"—enveloping your soul, pulling you into a soothing realm. Hyde's sparse, sparkling piano melody drifts as though it were floating through space, colliding within the rhythms of a meteor shower. The video for “Myriad Tears”, made in collaboration with Tristan Whitehill of Euglossine, accentuates a mirroring of inner and outer space in the body, and mind. The phenomena of mental and physical dualities become a counterpart to the vast complexities of the human brain, and the universe. Bubbling pulsations are carried in a cosmic echo, visual, and sound begin to intertwine. The calming spaciousness of Hyde's music melds together the vividly palpable sensation surrounding the human form, and its relation to the atoms that are shifting around it weaving throughout space and time. Finding its home in a space where the difference between the two is uncertain.
Dead Horses, a three-piece experimental cowpunk band from the Ferrara province in Italy, have nailed deconstructed blues. Their new track “No Wahala” from Ballad For Loser is like Keiji Haino’s Black Blues gone country. The group's three players—Agnese, Zufux, and Mauro—employ a minimal drum kit, an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar—that’s it—but simple instrumentation in no way indicates simple composition. In the song, a plodding rhythm propels spindly, precise guitar work as incanted vocals float atop the track’s aggressive swagger. Dead Horses have been called the Italian Butthole Surfers more than a few times, though it's less about their exact sound than, as they say, their "mix of influences and live show." Which is to say, if you like the Butthole Surfers, you will probably like this. (As for "influences," no, I would not rule out the influence of drugs.)
Swet Shop Boys is the duo of former Das Racist member Heems and actor/rapper Riz Ahmed or Riz MC. Last October they released their first full-length album, Cashmere, made in collaboration with British producer Redinho. The album drew influence from the Sufi devotional music Qawwali, a genre which is popular across India and Pakistan, and often uses hedonistic themes as a metaphor for spiritual longing. The spirit of Qawwali, which bridges the gap between politically divided communities, serves as an inspiration for the the album highlight “Aaja,” which features Pakistani singer Ali Sethi, as well as the track’s new video. Directed by Sofian Kahn, the video is at once playful and sweet, showing a teen cycling between Flushing and Coney Island (home to large Indian and Pakistani populations respectively) to flyer for an upcoming Swet Shop Boys show, all while nursing a crush. The video concludes with a sample from Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani internet celebrity and activist who was the victim of an “honor killing,” to whom the video is dedicated.
There’s a venerable tradition of documenting a day in song—but what if this process could be automated? How can you document a moment or day in a way that is smoothed out of the messiness of personal experience? DC punks and Priests affiliates Flasher offer such an attempt on “Winnie,” the A-side to their upcoming 7”. “Winnie” recalls a motel breakfast in Winnie, Texas last May, intercutting verbatim quotations from news coverage of the Egypt Air Flight 804 with pharmaceutical advertisements heard on the TV that day. It’s a song that luxuriates in the weird, improbable sentiments created by juxtaposing the two source texts, and their uncanny effectiveness as pop lyrics—“these feet want to keep the beat moving,” taken from a diabetes medication commercial, is just one of many ear wormy hooks the track features. The track itself is riff-fueled post-punk joyride, sounding like something off an early Mission of Burma single; off-kilter but enthused with a deft pop sensibility. Flasher describe the track as a “bricolage tribute to the paranoia-fueled auto erotic American psyche,” but the song works just as well as a catchy-as-hell rave up.