Posts Tagged ‘krautrock’

Klanggalerie – 5th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the Greek xénos, a noun meaning “stranger, guest” or an adjective meaning “foreign, strange”, xeno has come to used as a prefix meaning “alien,” “strange,” or “guest.” Meanwhile, ‘lith’ refers to a stone (making megalith and monolith self-explanatory).

Elliott Sharp’s power trio Bootstrappers’ brand of free jazz / classic rock crossover, they say, is ‘filtered through the ethos of cyberpunk, techno, and free jazz: raging, psychedelic, and filled with fantastic extrapolations’, and since the group’s inception in 1990, they’ve undergone numerous changes in lineup, but the ethos has remained the same, meaning that this offering truly is a strange stone – one that’s hard and soft, smooth and rough, not just in different places, but in some patches, all at once. Such a stone should be geologically impossible, but then, so should the sensory explosion of the seven wildly varied and inventive compositions here, courtesy of Sharp, along with Melvin Gibbs and Don McKenzie.

If the first, ‘Telentechy’ is, at least on the surface, a fairly standard jazz-leaning rock workout, it also possesses enough detail and enough changes to render it rather more. It does seem customary for many such acts to open an album with a track that sounds like a slowly-winding down finale at the end of an hour-long live performance, and this track just does just that, but where so many similar acts lose my attention is in making every subsequent piece sound like another eight-minute winddown and seventy minutes later you’ve had nothing but a crashing, discordant conclusion and not a lot else. So while Bootstrappers do essentially begin at the end, and have numerous sprawling, somewhat formless expanses of barely-contained chaos on Xenolith, they also present numerous changes in mood and tempo, even approximating structural form in places.

‘Sieze the Mement’ is a wibbly, noodlesome piece that evokes eastern scales while also hinting at a dizzying progressive / Krautrock crossover. Immediately after, and after bouncing along for about four and a half minutes, I suddenly realise that ‘Lo Shu’ has grown quite funky in its groove… but then just as the dawning occurs, so the groove melts and dissipates into so much flickering light.

There is a lot going on, but where Bootstrappers succeeds and stand apart is their being only three: this necessitates more minimal arrangements and means they’re not prone to the spells of chaotic discoordination whereby it sounds like six people playing six different tunes in different keys and different time signatures, and instead feels altogether more focused for the most part, and as a result, they do pitch into some nice grooves that you can really get into.

According to their bio, ‘Future editions of Bootstrappers may see the group expand to orchestral dimensions’. While this may be an exciting evolution, Xenolith evidences that they’re fine just as they are right now.

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Cruel Nature Records – 29th October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something magnificent about the naming of Oli Heffernan’s project Ivan the Tolerable. It not only places a charming spin on history, neutralising and disarming the fearsome image of ‘the terrible’ with a superbly balanced piece of bathos, but it’s also so very quintessentially English. It’s the weak smile, the stiff upper lip… it’s not terrible. It’s not good either. It’s, you know, tolerable. No-one died. Or only a few people, it could be worse.

Autodidact II is the follow-up to 2018’s Autodidact, separated not only by three tears abut about a dozen releases. Heffernan is nothing if not prolific, and equally, nothing if not diverse.

This fifteen-track behemoth opens with the fifteen-minute ‘Turkish Golden Scissors (Part I) – there are two subsequent, shorter parts, situated strategically about the album. It’s a meandering progressive piece with pseudo-mystical Eastern leanings, a trippy, psychedelic jazz experience that’s utterly baked, man. There’s a trilling keyboard swirling and twirling around in the midst of the sonic sandstorm, and it’s like a collision between a deconstructed Doors track performed by The Necks.

‘Red Throated Diver’, which is centred around acoustic guitar playing a looping, cyclical motif in the style of Michael Gira, paired with some ominous and atmospheric brass and rippling synths, and clocking in at a fraction over two minutes, is a contrast in every way.

The album’s title is perhaps something of a clue to the form, presenting Heffernan as the self-taught experimentalist finding his way as he navigates the sounds in his head and working through ideas and concepts, and Autodiadact II is big on the expansive, rippling Krautrock noodling, with bubbling analogue synth sounds and trilling tones weaving over lower-end oscillations and grind and lay a gurgling, churning bedrock.

Notes chime into space amidst crackling samples and reverberations that connote space voyages – and ultimately being lost in space. It’s appropriate, as Autodidact II is not an album of focus, butt a work that wanders with or without direction in search of… well, what it’s in search if isn’t entirely clear. Not that it matters. The album started life as three separate recording sessions in July and August 2021 as work for a soundtrack to a series of films about psychogeography and North Yorkshire folklore, and as such, if the expanses of North Yorkshire, the moors and beyond, are buried in a sonic fog of otherness, the psychogeographical element reminds us that the end is not the end: it’s all about the journey. And Autodiadact II, while springing numerous surprises and drifting in and out of an array of varied sonic spaces, leads the listener on a unique, if uncertain journey.

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Clue Records – 27th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The best thing about Team Picture is that, well, they’re Team Picture. A band that doesn’t look like a band, and certainly not in a cohesive, stylised way. The band’s name is a subtle but nifty encapsulation of what they’re about – the way teams at work are essentially a bunch of people thrown together with no commonality beyond their employment. They’re not your friends, they’re your colleagues, and while you may gel and not even loathe works nights out, those team photos only highlight the awkwardness, the disparities.

Every now and again, though, these disparate elements coalesce to positive ends, and this seems to be where the Leeds act are coming from, a band who are built on hybridity and variance. Their latest single – a scabrous satire of the pathetically sad and deeply toxic but occasionally dangerous incel community populated by predominantly low-IQ white misogynists – is a corker.

Speaking about the Single, Josh explained;“The Big Trees, The Little Trees’ is a sub-Talking Heads piece of black-pill satire. The title comes from what might be the first piece of incel literature ever unfortunately created, called ‘Might is Right’ by a total asshole called ‘Ragnar Redbeard’ (the pen name of one ‘Arthur Desmond’). The track was originally considered for the recording sessions for our 2nd record, but after completion of this version we decided it stood neatly enough on its own horrifying two feet to be presented separately…”

It’s got a nagging krautrocky groove that grabs you from the start, and even your dad might like it, and its success lies in its juxtaposition of the medium and the message.

The accompanying video really captures the band’s oddball nerdy misfit style, while pushing forward the homocentric / hypermasculine themes in an irreverent fashion – and it works well.

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Dates:

SEPTEMBER 
28th Bootleg Social, Blackpool 
29th The Parish, Huddersfield 
30th Broadcast, Glasgow 
OCTOBER 
1st Westgarth, Middlesbrough 
2nd Sidney + Matilda, Sheffield 
12th Yes, Manchester 
13th Camden Assembly, London 
14th Komedia, Brighton 
15th Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 
17th Wild Paths Festival, Norwich 
24th Karma Festival, Nottingham

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10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who doesn’t fall into the trap of swallowing the bullshit and climbing the corporate ladder to become the person they hated when they started out knows that all the motivational stuff is absolute bollocks, that wellbeing in the workplace is bollocks, and all the new age shit that people plaster all over social media is bollocks.

They’ll tell you that if you ‘Change your thoughts, you can change your world’. What they won’t mention is that the world is behind you, ready to stab you in the back and fuck you up the arse. They’ll tell you to believe in yourself. But that’s because no-one else will, because you’re a talentless sack of shit.

Vex Message have seen through the spin of self-affirmation. Derek Meins (lyricist/lead singer/button twiddler/strange dancer) who was once part of Rough Trade signed indie band Eastern Lane points the finger squarely and unapologetically at “Those cringe-worthy motivational mantras you see some chumps regurgitating,”, adding “‘It’s a beautiful day to go after your dreams?’ Fuck off. How about? ‘Aren’t you wanting to despair about your terrible hair and your coming demise?’ That’s more like it.”

This, I can get into straight away before I’ve heard a note. Given just how many people – especially creatives – who slug it out in dead end jobs just to pay the bills and cram entire careers as musicians, artists, writers, into their spare time, I’m amazed there aren’t more who don’t use their medium to rage against the machine. And anyone who says bands should steer clear of politics is simply wrong. We live in a capitalist society, and capitalism is politics, and more to the point, it’s a system that means your life is not your own, and even your time outside the workplace is dominated by agents trying to flog you stuff you don’t need to be paid for with money you don’t have.

As Meins explains, “The verses are structured in such a way as to emulate the trend for advertising slogans which ask you questions, suggesting their product has the answer. In summary, it is a tongue-in-cheek proclamation that you don’t need all the shit they’re selling, it’s all a load of bollocks and you’ll just have to get on as best you can in this modern hell-hole.”

Yes – it is a load of bollocks – fact. And the majority have been sucked into the consumerist cult, having to have the latest iPhone, a TV the size of a cinema screen filling the wall of a poky flat, and it’s neverending.

One thing that thankfully isn’t bollocks is this single. Over a gloopy Krauty synth paired with an overloading guitar chug and motoric beat, Meins writhers and yowls and whoops and croons with all the rock ‘n’ roll strut and swagger. It’s as gloriously OTT as the guitars are noisy and the drums are punchy. It’s theatrical but cathartic at the same time, parodic yet packed with a certain conviction.

B-side ‘And the Land Stayed Still’ is more overtly electro, propelled by a thumping disco beat, landing like a hybrid of Daft Punk and Sleaford Mods – or something. You hopefully get the idea.

It all stacks up to something quite different, presenting a twist on familiar tropes, and ultimately, it all stacks up to something brilliant.

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Alrealon Musique – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the past I’ve struggled a bit with Pas Musique. It’s not that I don’t think it’s music, despite the project’s moniker – far from it. It’s simply a matter of taste: their music has often felt a bit easy, a bit contrived, in its gloopy synthiness, to my ears. It’s easy to judge, of course, but then that is the function of the music critic. We trade in opinions, and if everything was entirely objective there would be none. And there would be no art. Because art exists to tap into the emotions, into the psyche, to stir a response – and a negative response is a greater feat than eliciting a sense of complete indifference. Art serves to reflect and articulate life experience and those innermost thoughts. If art doesn’t connect in some way to the human condition, then it is worthless. So what does Psychedelic Talismans have to say? How does it connect?

I’m not sure. But then, in casting that seed of uncertainty, it succeeds in provoking some kind of engagement. So far, so good, I suppose.

According to the liner notes, rather than being a collective effort, Psychedelic Talismans is actually a solo effort from project founder Robert L. Pepper, which was recorded during Covid-19 lockdown in Brooklyn, New York, and the music and drawings draw their inspiration from the Turkish archaeological site, Göbekli Tepe, which is said to be as old as 10,000 B.C. As such, there are deep currents running beneath the fabric of the album’s six compositions.

Opening the set, ‘Splash of Red Touch’ is gloopy, but also led by sparse, brittle, alien synth sound that sounds like it’s echoing down a long pipe, and as the layers build, there’s a low, almost subliminal thud of a beat and a guitar that sounds like twisted metal scraps. Then there’s twittering birdsong and disconnected voices and there’s a lot going on, and not all of the elements seem entirely complimentary or pinned to the tame time signature, creating a swimming, dizzying sensation, and it plunges onwards with ‘Collected Fictions Brightly’, by which time the style is becoming clearly set: insistent, urgent beats, thumping, monotonous, primitive in the Suicide sense, overlayed with wispy, experimentally-orientated Krautrock synth wibbles and drones.

The vibe is very much vintage here, and often the instrumental pieces, which by and large hover around the five-minute mark, are quite meandering, and despite the low-end density that dredges the depths at points, despite the tense guitar notes that emerge twisted and strangled on ‘In Likeness of Me’, and the impatient palpating beats, and an emerging sense of unease that surfaces in places, for the most part there’s a certain mellowness that permeates the album. Great sonic expenses unfurl in long-echoing reverberations, crackling snippets of sampled dialogue, and long, slow-turning drones.

‘Las Bas’ brings the curtain down in a haze of drones and drifts and with a dash of Eastern mysticism, trilling pipe notes which bounce off one another and turn and fade, and if the piece, and he album as a whole, seems to lack direction, then its points of interest all lie in the diversions, the distractions, the divergences. And when so little else is happening, those detours are most welcome. And finally, I feel I click with Pas Musique.

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Atypeek Muzik

Christopher Nosnibor

Apparently France’s One Arm is a ‘mythical’ band, although the newly unveiled existence of Mysore Pak, their first album which gathers a fill twenty years of work, suggests that’s not entirely true. There’s nothing like a bit of mythology and legend to bolster the status of an obscure cult act – and this particular cult act has managed to score a number of other cult performers to contribute to the recordings here, most notably Little Annie, who adds ‘kosmic vocals’ to ‘Space is the Place’.

Mysore Pak is, it would seem, a collection of recordings made over the last twenty years, but try to delve into the band’s history and details are nigh on impossible to locate or verify. Who said that it was impossible to hide in the age of the Internet? Anyway, Mysore Pak has a truly vintage sound, with touchstones going back far more than two decades, taking grabs from 60s psychedelic, post-punk, and early industrial.

The first song, the vaguely baggy ‘Real’ is dominated by the heavy clatter of two drummers and duelling basses and with its thumping motorik repetition, it calls to mind vintage Fall. ‘ESG’, meanwhile, locks into a slightly psychedelic groove – and with the airy female vocals, I;’m reminded more of the careening drift of Stereolab, as well as the more contemporary Modeerate Rebels who similarly spin classic indie with a Krautrock aesthetic. The slowed down, sedated ‘Space is the Place’ creeps and squirms stealthy around a primitive percussive clatter, and ‘City’ is a standout with it’s locked-in groove and discordant howls of wailing feedback.

Elsewhere, things get murkier and harder edge, as exemplified by the cutty, scrapy, hybrid trudge of jittery noise that is the eight-minute ‘Top Tone’. The guitars are sharp, there’s all the serpentine esotericism and eastern promise you could dream of, making this a dreamy, delirious meandered, and similarly, ‘Step 3’, which comes on like a head-on collision between Suicide and The Jesus and Marty Chain is a deeply compelling mess of noise. Closer ‘Virgule’, too, harks back to Psychocandy while plundering a seem much deeper and darker with its rippling flyaway synths and low-riding bass that meanders as it pleases while vintage snares crack in every whichway.

For the primitive production feel and the simplicity of basslines that just loop endlessly, Mysore Pak is so much more than a hipsterish replica of real life that skips along nicely. As accessible as this album is, it’s got more depth and more instant biteback than you would ever imagine. An album that steps out of time and spans infinite time and space, it’s got a lot going for it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of Man of Moon is well-documented: so well so, in fact, that a link to my review of their last show in Leeds, where they supported The Twilight Sad at The Brudenell; featured in their sponsored ad for tonight, which is bang in the middle of the UK leg of a significant European tour, that also coincides with independent venue week.

Oporto isn’t a venue I visit often, other than when it’s Live at Leeds, but I have fond memories of thrashing a few chords at the chaotic end of an Arrows of Love gig here some years ago, and the fact it’s still going and housing shows like this is cause for celebration.

Touring the UK not once, but twice with the Sad has served them well, in many ways: they’ve reached a bigger audience, their songwriting has evolved remarkably, and they’ve followed the lead in inviting artists they believe in to be their touring support.

And so it is that Wuh Oh – the musical project of fellow Scot Peter Ferguson – opens tonight’s show with some thumping electronica: he’s dressed in a superhero cloak and has a bionic arm, and it’s all delivered with high theatre and elements of interpretive dance.

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There’s a lot going on, with deep, quivering bass and monster percussion driving it all. Sampled vocals, heavily processed feature prominently in a set of all-out euphoric dance. It’s as commercial as it gets in a club context and this is never going to be to my taste musically. But the execution is outstanding, and besides, it takes some serious guts to pull this kind of DJ / mime karaoke shit off, and it’s a stunning performance with all the energy.

As they did at the Brudenell in October, Man of Moon om take the stage to Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they’re straight in with driving cyclical chords and propellant drumming on ‘Sign’, before debut single ‘The Road’ from back in 2015 goes full motorik psych.

Despite being only two in number, the sound is full and by no means lacking in depth, with the guitar signal split between a pair of two-by-twelve-inch amps, with the speakers placed facing back to the rear of the stage, resulting in the majority of the sound coming from the PA rather than a blast of backline.

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The set isn’t much different from their last visit, and is primarily constructed with material from their forthcoming album, but they’re tighter and more solid than ever, and the new songs have had time to bed in and take some proper road-testing.

‘Ride the Wave’ brings some thunderous bass, hefty vocal reverb and an insistent rhythm, and elsewhere. samples drift in by way of an intro, and there’s sonorous sequenced bas that churns the guts and an abundance of spaciously atmospheric guitars. ‘Rust’ brings classic vintage 80s electro with heavy Cure filtered through Twilight Sad influence with smoggy guitars and all the emotion. Dynamic and layered, it reaches the parts other songs can’t reach. And it’s this emotional intensity and increasing maturity that’s one of the most striking things about Man of Moon now in contrast to Man of Moon just 18 months ago.

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‘Skin’, the penultimate track and which featured on the Chemicals EP is a clear standout: while the studio version is smoothed out and leans toward Depeche Mode, live it’s a sharp, tense, uptempo groove and with a massive nagging bass line carry hints of Placebo, and the only criticism is that it could never be long enough. Throbbing dance grooves and cowbell drive closer ‘Stranger’, which threatens to veer off on an extended ace-rock workout, but instead, stops short leaving us wanting more. The album can’t land soon enough.

Everyday Life Recordings – 30th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

“We went into the studio with a couple of songs to record an EP, and we ended up with an album-length EP. We like to just let things happen and for songs to mostly write themselves. It’s a case of mucking around and seeing what feels right and what doesn’t. We say it all the time, but it’s important to note – we don’t intend anything. We don’t feel like ‘artists’ with grand statements to make.” So London-based ‘anti-music’ collective Moderate Rebels say of their second album, Shared Values – proving they’re fairly strongly anti-promotion, too.

Perhaps their lack of giving a shit, their lack of pretence, their self-effacing rejection of artistry is key to what makes Moderate Rebels true artists. It’s in this self-imposed distancing, even more than in their pursuit of repetitious, off-kilter kraut-influenced indie that Moderate Rebels really betray the influence of The Fall. You very much get the impression that if they had a hit they’d immediately bury further underground just to be bloody-minded.

‘The Value of Shares’ kicks it all off with a motoric drum machine – vintage, primitive, muddy and half-buried in the mix – and a chugging, wonky guitar that becomes increasingly swathed in flange and as they plug away at one chord and one line on and on and on, it gets more messy.

‘Stranded in Brazil’ is languid and magnificently sloppy in that early Pavement way, while ‘Eye in the Sky’ pitches a damning picture of austerity, privatisation and the whole morass of economic shit of 2018 against a ramshackle three-chord groove. There’s no shortage of those, with singe cuts ‘I Love Today’ and ‘Faith & Science’ being not so much standout tracks as prime examples of Moderate Rebels’ capacity to push a template to the max and achieve optimum effect.

‘Who will save me from my government?’ they ask – repeatedly – on closer ‘Have to Save Myself’, before answering with the song’s title. Repeatedly. It might not be a grand statement, but in a simple couplet they’ve captured a certain vital essence of the now. The answer encapsulates the culture of privatisation and absolute neoliberalist capitalism. Fuck you: save yourself or die. And in its absolute reduction to the repetition of just two lines, it also reminds us of May’s empty mantras and the soundbite media that dominates every aspect of our lives.

The structure of the album – essentially alternating spaced-out, meandering psychey efforts with straight-ahead, thumping Krauty rockers – swiftly emerges, and if, as a formula, it’s far from subtle, it’s no detraction, just as the fact that Shared Values sounds very like its predecessor, 2017’s The Sound Of Security, with its atonal multi-vocal disharmonies and sparse, repetitive song structures and lyrics, whereby two lines and three chords are stretched past the four-minute mark. And yet it’s not for a single second remotely tedious – and I say that completely without sarcasm, because they’ve totally nailed the trick whereby an infinite sonic loop feels like a kaleidoscopic tunnel that pulls the listener ever forwards despite being rooted to the spot. All of which is to say, it may not be a huge leap but then, if didn’t need to be. In the canon of wonky Kraut-rock, Shared Values is every bit as welcome and necessary as The Sound Of Security. Here’s hoping they continue to release an album a year for the next 40 years, and that they all sound like this. Meanwhile, it’s enough to play the two albums they’ve got out back-to-back and on a constant loop.

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Alrealon Music – ALRN083 – 20th April 2018

James Wells

The title of Anita Loos’ 1925 novel and the 1953 film starring Marilyn Monroe may have passed into general acceptance, but if gentlemen prefer blondes, I personally prefer brunettes myself. Make of that what you will, but as such, a house of blondes has limited appeal ordinarily, although on hearing this, I’m inclined to make an exception. Time Trip is a varied and expansive electronic-led work which forges expansive spaces with nebulous synths and insistent beats.

‘Discovery #1’ builds ambient eddies of sound around a droning organ synth atop a motoric groove, and there are infinite nods to the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream here, as undulation, oscillating synth repetitions bibble and tweet over long, undulating synth drones and insistent, repetitive beats.

There’s some droning, modular crackle and fizz to the yawning oscillations of ‘Mean Solar Time’, and the overall sensation of Time Trip is one of reaching back. It plucks flickers from shoegaze and ambience as well as the origins of electronica, positioning itself within a slow-arcing trajectory without defining its place in concrete terms.

This is music that billows, ripples, throbs and pulses, and is content to loiter on the peripheries of the focus-zone. The beats flicker and click, pitter and patter, while the synths glister and gleam, twisting in flange-soaked zero-gravity. It all feels very familiar, but at the same time, it’s rather nice.

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Play Loud! Productions – 13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

My first thought on hearing the opening bars of the album’s first track, ‘Light & Grace’ is ‘wow, this sounds just like Dinosaur Jr!’ My second thought, on the vocals starting is ‘No way, this really sounds like Dinosaur Jr!’ Sure enough, J. Mascis is listed among the long list of collaborators on this, the first Locus Fudge album in 20 years. Mascis has nothing if not a unique signature sound, often aped but never replicated. The track in question rumbles along for over eleven minutes, the singing soon giving up for the guitar solo to do the talking. Less characteristic of Dinosaur Jr is the way in which the solo comes to battle against a rising tide of extraneous noise, and the song itself finally collapses to a churn of dark ambience and feedback. As it happens, large chunks of Oscillations sound very Dinosaur Jr, and the overall vibe is very much late 80s / early 90s US alternative rock.

This is also very much the sphere to which Locust Fudge belong: their two previous albums, Flush and Royal Flush, released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, were released on Glitterhouse and saw the German duo aligned to the grunge movement. The EP, Business Express (1996), saw them push into more electro/industrial/krautrock territories, and even include overt elements of drum’n’bass in the mix. Those records are almost impossible to find now and the YouTube uploads of the tracks aren’t available in the UK. There’s something strange about the idea of being unable to access something on-line now. Whatever happened to the global village? Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore pitched the global village as the territory of electronic media; with territorial divisions over music rights, it feels much more like a map of war than a plan for peace.

Oscillation reminds of simpler times – but more than that, seems to belong there. It’s not merely a nostalgia work, but a heartfelt return. You can’t exactly criticise a work for being ‘derivative’ when the bulk of the artists it’s derivative of feature.

‘Hormones’ slips into the easy but wonky country vibes of Pavement, while the motoric groove of ‘No Defense’ has some gloriously skewed guitar work. And then…. then there’s a wild frenzy of discordant jazz all over the middle eight. The big sax break on ‘Something’s Wrong’ comes on like The Psychedelic Furs, over a big, crackling valve guitar buzz, a melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Turnip Farm’, and lyrics that appear to present a process of self-dismemberment.

It’s a great album – not of its time, but of its spawning era. And now I’m off to revisit You’re Living All Over Me. Just because.

https://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/locustfudge/trailercode.html

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