Review: Toon Town - "The Great Dissolve"

Toon Town - The Great Dissolve
(Self-Released 2016)

One might expect a band named after Disney's now-defunct MMORPG venture from the mid-aughts to fall more in line with the polygonal, artificially flavored bubblegum bass of PC Music, but such presumptions will be instantly obliterated upon streaming Cincinnati psych punk duo Toon Town's debut EP release, The Great Dissolve. Despite Midwestern origins, Toon Town funnels muscled Texas blues riffs through a garage rock sieve that lends much of its waterlogged warble to Thee Oh Sees. 

At the top of the order, "I Don't Wanna Lose" emerges from its ominous dust cloud as a single serpentine riff that writhes with increasing violence, a jittery snare shuffle in tow. This dehydrated tension quickly comes to a head, erupting into Byzantine tangle of arid riffage and basement-show blast beats. The tune adopts the form of a Gothic outlaw country tune, splattering a sanguine canvas with the sickly forms of Bela Lugosi and a sun-like moon. 

The country-fried couplet that follows "I Don't Wanna Lose" scales back the aggression to conjure a more desolate atmosphere. The record's title track is filled with angular, yet ethereal guitaristry: the residual stain of regret left behind by the crepuscular murder scene that opens the EP. "Cha Cha to the Moon" leaves things unresolved - its eerie dissonance serves as a dangling intermission, a sinister sunrise that promises a new day's worth of sweltering DIY punk.


Review: More Future Suffering - "(Unsend/Untitled)"

More Future Suffering - (Unsend/Untitled)
(Personal Escape 2016)

Despite the project's name, More Future Suffering's ghostly lo-fi atmosphere is quite suited to the Midwestern weather of the present, a chilly Autumn shower of late-90s emo riffage that's as comforting as the rattle of rain on vinyl siding, tacit guitar phrases forming hilly protrusions in a cheesecloth veil of reverb. The solo outfit's latest venture, (Unsend/Untitled), takes the form of a chapbook left on the bus stop's bench, its construction paper pages bound with a strand of red ribbon and covered with post-rock prose poems. The tape's untitled opener rolls the wistful indie-pop simplicity of Suicide Squeeze Records' earliest pressings into a Play-Doh sphere in soft palms, a compact ball of dreamy haze that appears textureless, but is eerily gritty and squash-able to the touch. Blustering acoustic guitar chords float past one another like languid clouds on their morning commute, yawning Major 7ths curling up next glistening add9s. From a picnic blanket below, a single snare surveils their migration, imagining a sky full of avian Michelin Men. 

Track 2 kneads the Play-Doh into crust while the snare naps in the shade. Tufts of chords are spun into threads of buzzing ambience, knit into a sweater dotted with fingerpicked nubs. This pullover is later tossed into the dryer on the following cut as about 40 cents worth of loose change rattles around in the spin cycle. The bathroom floor rumbles to the beat of a somber freak-folk groove. 12-minute outro "Sailor Song" captures the faint howls of distant construction equipment descending on the nearby stripmall as the afternoon sky fades into darkness. 

A sleepy throwback to Sentridoh's Winning Losers and Modest Mouse's Sad Sappy Sucker, (Unsend/Untitled) is an aural space heater that oscillates, leaking nostalgic vibrations into the living room air.


Review: Moon Racer - "Moon Racer"

Moon Racer - Moon Racer
(2016 Self-Released)

Named after the winged lion who governs The Island of Misfit Toys, Durham's Moon Racer composes effervescent keyboard melodies that stagger about on wobbly footsteps like those taken by the stop-motion puppet cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Her self-titled tape release is a haunting, understated affair: 3 tunes worth of gritty casio chord progressions dotted with warped melodies that peek from the sand like pink bits of beached clam shells. Reverb-soaked vocal harmonies salted with Tascam fizz wash ashore, turning stretches of coastline to gloomy mush.

"Starry Up" plows a traversable path through a blizzard's deposit of cottonball snow on the morning roads, a drum machine loop's snare splashing through fuzz like a tire that sends a swell of slush onto the sidewalk.

The spoon exhumes a mummified square of Shredded Wheat from its burial mound of added sugar piled at the bottom of a milk pond.

"Song of the Mogwai" looks to the mid-80s for its influences in puppetry - it's sleepy and minimal enough to have been parroted by one of Steven Spielberg's animatronic Gizmo marionettes, huddled around the keyboard that sits on the desk in your dimly lit room. 

Channeling the spirits of two family films set during the Christmas season, Moon Racer's new tape is a rainbow string of incandescent bulbs whose light ricochets off of the surface of the crust of ice that blankets your front lawn.


Review: Bon Iver - "22, A Million"

Bon Iver - 22, A Million
(2016 Jagjaguwar)

Many thanks to my university's  newspaper, The Northerner, for hosting my latest review - you can peep it in full here!


Review: Night Auditor - "Midnight Cultures"

Night Auditor and the Fam - Midnight Cultures
(2016 Kerchow! Records)

Parked beneath the watchful glow of a ketchup-red Arby's sign, you spy on your friend through a transparent window as he asks the Circle K manager for a restroom key and a roll of powdered Donettes that resembles a white, shrink-wrapped caterpillar in his closed fist. The headlights of station wagons huddling up to gas pumps fill the mid-October night with a warmth more imagined than felt. Each parked car is an astronaut tethered to its rectangular craft by a black, rubber rope, floating in a weft of crisscrossing beams that span the visible spectrum of light. Midnight Cultures rattles the passenger seat you've tilted back with the recliner handle. 

Night Auditor is the experimental pop project of California's Hilal Omar Al Jamal, his 4th release and first full-length project Midnight Cultures taking the form of a genre-bending mixtape that's as grime-caked as it is gaudy.  Its A-side is a woozy, undulating mass of viscous funk, tinged with fluttering improvisations and the screwball sort of lo-fi potpourri produced by Kerchow Records labelmates. Night Auditor slaps a watery, fuzzed-out filter on Of Montreal's bookish brand of post-RnB, traps it in a subtle, shadowy border of Memphis horrorcore production on "Bebe" and "Wonder", then highlights the soundscapes with optimistic twee-pop vibes on an atmospheric cover of Karen O's "The Moon Song"

Your gaze traces the sinister pen scratches etched across the face of the bathroom stall. Webs of exposed hardwood peek from the blue paint, their angles and splinters as sharp as the blinding light of an artificial bulb from above. It claws against sleepy eyes that struggle to stay opened. A JanSport slumps against your left calf, the unwrapped pack of powdered sugar pastried jutting from its front pocket.

Midnight Cultures' B-Side assumes an anthemic aesthetic that recalls the blog-rock of the late-aughts while still holding firm to the mixtape's off-kilter beatcraft. Opening track "Lovelslaves" funnels distorted Dinosaur Jr. riffage through the bouyant maximalism of Arcade Fire circa Reflektor. "I Get Lifted" evokes a more dissonant incarnation of Prince, threading twisty-straw melodies around meaty chunks of raspy rhythm. "Need That Dough" and "Heart of Grime" close the set with a one-two punch of skeletal jazz pop.

Midnight Culture is an innovative and ambitious effort that's just as easy to appreciate in an ambient sense as it is to lose one's self in deconstructing and understanding. Fans of Lil Ugly Mane, Prince and Madlib alike will find Night Auditor's strange concoction fascinating and/or satisfying. 


Single Review: Thought Tempo - "I Can Fila"

Thought Tempo - "I Can Fila"
(2016 Zoom Lens)

Slot machines are programmed to play the three notes that make up the C major triad, (C, E, G), and no others. To shake the hand of the one-armed bandit is to become a single percussionist in a symphony of strangers, neatly arranged columns of shoulders and obscured neck-napes hunched over spinning fruits like Cistercians in the Scriptorium solemnly transcribing their texts. Whether sinking coins into a cruise ship's slots, filling an empty hall with the scrapes of a pen's tip against vellum, or even adding the rumble of an engine to rush hour traffic, entering into a state of technological communion with those in close proximity transforms the self into the unwitting instrumentalist in an industrial dronescape. 

I imagine Thought Tempo's "I Can Fila" to be the concentrated tones of mass-transit clamor and unheard earbud transmissions broadcast within it captured by a yet-to-be invented vocoder, then re-arranged into an imposing construction of stainless steel footwork. It's the fossilized remains of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" discovered within an outer wall of your local Internal Revenue Service branch's new cyberpunk office building.


Review: Happy Doghouse - "Above the Stars"

Happy Doghouse - Above the Stars
(2016 Secret Songs)

While much of the internet's DIY scene works to carve out their own intimate lo-fi crawl spaces as a means of combating the sense of smallness that streaming services' glut of choice can impose on fledgling projects, Korean shoegaze outfit Happy Doghouse combats the vastness of the Web with stadium-rock grandiosity. The self-proclaimed puppy-punks' sophomore EP is spaciously arranged, a low-gravity chamber housing milky trails of space debris, muscled right-and-left hooks of colloid guitaristry and resonant trap percussion that wouldn't feel too out of place on a Bones mixtape. Leadoff tune "don't give me grapes" is sturdy and skyscraping, a slow-burning anthem that plays like the festival EDM remix of a track from Beach Fossils' Clash the Truth: despite its timbral roots in twangy twee-pop, Above the Stars is a record that fits snugly alongside the airy future-bass aesthetic of Ryan Hemsworth's Secret Songs label.

"Throw My Ball" exudes the whispered fragility of a particularly contemplative scene in a Rankin-Bass Christmas special, breathy vocals piercing a translucent layer of strings and glassy keys. It feels as if a janitor had unwittingly placed a large space-heater in the center of the icy, vacuum-like installation that is Beach House's Bloom. Happy Doghouse's sound is colossal in scope, but as inviting as a stoked fireplace and the smell of muffins in the oven. 

Above The Stars is a shoegaze void that's anything but void of warmth - it's a leap of faith into an eternally hot shower. 


Single Review: Cosmic Neighbourhood - "Elf House"

Cosmic Neighbourhood - Elf House
(2016 Kit Records)

The inflatable witch keeping watch over your neighbor's front yard, (standing about eight feet high with traditional green skin and pointed features), keels over on its jointless limbs and lets out a final wheeze before curling up in a mattress of unraked leaves. Its shed shell, limp and rubbery, is prodded by the curious paw of a leashed Labrador making a pit stop on a queasy patch of arid lawn. It is dragged a few feet by a brief bout of violent wind, but remains tethered to a post hammered into the earthy flesh of the suburbs. A few squirrels burrow their way beneath the deflated blanket, hiding beneath its wrinkled folds. The whole block anxiously awaits the emergence of a human figure from the shadows of the home's front porch to resuscitate the fallen Colossus, but the moment never comes. For the rest of October, and through the winter months that follow, the witch preserves its prostration in the snow-draped foliage. On New Years' Eve, when the balloon has been all but forgotten, a trio of elves tiptoe through the yard and hoist the pile of drenched latex onto their shoulders, whistling this tune as they ferry it to the nearest landfill.

Cosmic Neighbourhood is the whimsical musique-concrete project of British illustrator Adam Higton, his latest effort, "Elf House", employing the same unadulterated color palettes and safety scissored constructions that accent his visual pieces. The new tune, which is slated to appear on his upcoming Collages II LP via Kit Records this October, feels like a field recording conducted from the inside of a particularly optimistic picture book, buzzing synth chords billowing like smoke from tape-reel chimneys while springy sound effects litter the aural backdrop. Imagine Beat Happening covering Eno's Music For Airports on a Fisher-Price tape deck.


Review: hypercyute - "sugar solution"

hypercyute - sugar solution
(2016 vore music)

Like the stream of a hot shower on frostbite or a styrofoam cup of coffee sipped a few seconds too early, hypercyute's sugar solution hits one's eardrums with the euphoric numbness of slightly singed skin. Heating saccharine samples on a bunsen burner of violently loud sub-bass, the Chicagoan noise necromancer assembles murky footwork constructions from the carbon remains of powdered synth melodies. The EP cordially invites the listener to remove their jacket and get cozy, opening with a glissando sweep of chimes that might have instructed young readers in the 80s to "turn the page" of a book on tape. This moment of nostalgic tranquility is quickly proven to be a facade, however, as intro cut "nxjnn e e a## red red rib cage" bursts out of the starting gates on a lumbering kick drum blast beat and the squeals of .wav files mangled beyond recognition.

hypercyute's frenetically fractured production gives the sensation of watching an Autechre DJ set on a glitched-out VideoNow system. Shreds of discarded data scrap for superiority, piling onto a scrum that grows increasingly unstable as time moves forward. Following the Amen Break barrage of "kish^^3^^//" and the impenetrable "mesenchymal stem cell waltz", the one-two punch of "zone transfer" and "yellow yellow blue eyes green" creates a sense of emptiness as hypnotic as the pocket of darkness hidden near the foot of a candle's flame. The former pairs surreal, urban ambience with the steady pulse of a kick drum while the latter spins a dizzying Tilt-A-Whirl melody about rattling hi-hats. Stuffed full of harsh emptiness, sugar solution is a work of maximal minimalism.


Review: Ferdinand - "What To Do"

Ferdinand - What To Do
(Self-Released 2016)

Each inhale sticks to your soft palate like an individually wrapped pack of stale peanut butter crackers and the wallpaper is floral. The notations to four short songs are printed on the yellowed inside cover pages of the Heathcliff comics anthology that's spent a few decades wilting in your great-grandmother's basement. What to Do, he third EP release by Nashvillian bedroom pop outfit Ferdinand, is an intimate crawl space outfitted with a leather recliner, the flickering warmth of post-rock pulsations, and a hint of mildew in the air. It's the spare room you ducked into as a child to dodge chattering relatives at a family reunion, a grape Kool-Aid Jammers stain watercolored on the off-white carpet.

Amoebic blobs of feedback and minimal riffage glide across a microscope slide on "Opener" while frontman John Lewandowski whispers glossolalic observations into a tape recorder. There's a sense of organic construction to the tune, as if each translucent guitar note attained sentience and crawled along the song's shuffling marching band beat. "Underbed" is a halftime show performed in secret on the high-school gridiron after midnight, its stray melodic twangs lapping up against the bleachers like firefly flares while the drum line marches into the abyss. Closing cut "Right" is a surprising burst of retro emotive hardcore energy, a sturdy base for What To Do to stand on - its Beach Fossils six-string harmonies tie a Christmas tree to the station wagon while sleety cymbal splashes melt on the windshield.

A cherry Fla-Vor-Ice drips into the grass, a shed reptilian skin in your hand.


Review: Elemantra - "Foreign Breath"

Elemantra - Foreign Breath
(2016 Self-Released)

Unlike 90s-revivalist acts before them - Yuck's delicate wefts of sparkling guitar and early Wavves' walls of incomprehensible fuzz, for example - Elemantra don't craft minimalist deconstructions of late 20th century alt-rock tropes. Rather, their sophomore full-length excursion, Foreign Breath, is an aureate re-imagining of the best that the decade has to offer, all crammed into a blender and poured into an insulated thermos. The first quick sip of this bountiful smoothie, "Peach Fuzz", is instant evidence of Foreign Breath's carefully calculated depth of flavor - tangy proto-emo riffage is threaded around swooping chord changes, tinged with Pavement eccentricity in the form of a twinkling jazz-pop breakdown. The New York quartet channels a vast breadth of influences on a track-by-track basis, yet they're skilled at preventing clutter - beneath the layers of revivalism and ornate instrumentation are solid pop tunes. Case in point: "My Friends" juggles The Cure's citric acid-tinged guitaristry, whispery Smashing Pumpkins bombast, and a few bars worth of J Mascis noise-rock to concoct a cohesive bedroom pop anthem that's cinematic in scope. Even the interludes are memorable - "Boltok", clocking in at a minute long, is an elegant piece of post-rock trip-hop that hearkens back to the shuffling shoegaze groove of Chapterhouse's "Pearl". Foreign Breath is a smorgasbord of hooks and familiar retro-rock textures that refuses to let its listener get too comfy within its borders - the record is constantly shifting focus and mood to brilliant effect, its linear song structures serving up fresh ideas at every turn. It's a musical haunted house that hits you with unexpected bouts of nostalgia instead of jump-scares.


Review: meltycanon - "soft and wet"

meltycanon - soft and wet
(2016 Self-Released)

I've scheduled all my classes for the evenings of this current semester. The tranquility of my weekday morning routine is just too cozy to give up for an 8 AM lecture - hop out of the shower, play some Earthbound on my Wii U, then smooth over the rough patches of reviews I'd left unfinished from the night before while warming my hands on a mug of meltycanon's meditative brand of twee trap. Alchemically fusing King Krule's spartan jazz arrangements with weightless dancehall vibes and a sprinkle of Yo La Tengo eccentricity to taste, his first proper LP release, soft and wet, is best experienced in a state of crusty-eyed drowsiness. It's a watercolor augment to the half-conscious mind, a long soak in a tub filled with languid major seventh chords and frothy tufts of bubbly synth leads. At its best, the record is a fully immersive cloud of late-teenage melancholia, vaporous cuts like the bubblegum-ambient "behelit" or "budew" and its spearmint sting sinking into the listener's aural tastebuds like candy melted on the tongue. A holy union of bedroom pop humanism and the automaton bliss of PC Music, soft and wet is the soundtrack to a laptop's cat nap.

Premiere: Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"

Braeyden Jae - "Two Mirrors Looking"
(Whited Sepulchre 2016)

- crawling on hands and knees through miles of Mario Kart pipeline -

Braeyden Jae's video for "Two Mirrors Looking" (directed by Curtis Whitear) is an excursion to a planet beyond the reach of our own solar system, one whose vast oceans border oxidized shores. The aquatic dronescapes that populate Jae's Fog Mirror LP, tinted with rust and the piquancy of salt, make the perfect incidental playlist to transmit over the PA system of a sinuous system of tunnels that stretches out undersea. Globules of oily feedback float quietly at the water's surface, distorting this alien sun's light as it slices through their amber bodies. "Two Mirrors Looking" records the shimmer of warped luminescence as seen from below sea level.

Enter the bass wave aether via Whited Sepulchre.


Interview: Rei Clone

Rei Clone // Denton, Texas Shoegaze

What brought Rei Clone together as a band? Did you have a clear idea of the sound you wanted to strive for when first starting out?

Yes, we did have a set sound that we wanted to achieve. From the outset we were heavily influenced by 90's shoegaze like Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and mbv. When our violinist Nirmal joined we realized that we could kind of put our own twist on it though. We also knew from the beginning that we wanted female vocals in the mix so that was a factor in selecting members.

What was your first completed composition? Which installment in your discography are you the most proud of? How do you feel you've evolved artistically since your self-titled debut?

Our very first composition for the band was "Junketsu." That one was written and more or less completed before we had a final lineup. As far as which one we're most proud of, I can't speak for everyone (this is Zach speaking) but I think we're most proud of "Ready to Die." It's a simple song but everybody's individual contribution made it the uplifting and dense piece it is now. Artistically we've become more experimental from our first ep. Tracks like "Dreaming of Nagato" and "Facehugger" are examples. We try to have a balance of noise, punk, and dense layering on all releases but we try and experiment more with structuring and harmonies with each song. We also are trying to do more things with synth as of late. We sort of established that with "Sleeping Christian" and "Cat Planet Suicide" which both have some synth parts on them.

"Cat Planet Suicide" is such a solid cut! Very gelatinous. Rei Clone is pretty outspoken on the 'web about their love for anime - you're self-described "otaku shoegazers", your titles reference various series and characters, and you've even included a sample from K-On (I think) in the intro to "senketsu". Do you feel like anime influences your music as much as it does the band's visual aesthetic?

Abe speaking. That sample is actually from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and yes, watching anime really inspires me when I write music.
I take a lot of influence from j-pop and j-rock, even though I don't think it is super evident in our music all of the time.

Hmm, I could have sworn I'd recognized that clip! I do see some of the J-rock influence in the density of the music and swooping chord changes. 
How does your sound translate to a live setting? What bands have you shared bills with that have really impressed you?

We try to sound as good live as we do recorded, though our live shows have their own special qualities to them. As far as our favorite bands to play with, the list goes on, but to name a few:
Smith + Robot
Bad Times
Ghost Data
Big Hand//Big Knife
Better Now
Chris Lopez
Ringo Deathstarr
All bands we have played with/adore.

Also, when playing live, we really want an ocean of noise. It should really surround you.

How were you able to get in contact with Smoked Cheese Records about putting out Wet? Smoked Solid Dairy has been a favorite hardcore outfit of mine for some time.

Ive known Alec (ssd front man) since I was in high school. I used to write concert reviews for his website (txpunk.net). He has supported me ever since my first real project, Anger House. Once we discovered we both loved anime, it all exploded from there. I am very grateful for his support and friendship.

What series are favorites among Rei Clone's members?

Still Abe replying, I can't speak for everyone but:
Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Kill La Kill
Steins Gate
Desert Punk
Dragon Ball
Cat Planet Cuties
Squid Girl
Ghost in the Shell
The list could go on

Seinfeld is essential 😎
Any plans in the works for future Rei Clone material?

Absolutely. We are very far from being done. We have more EPs and a full.length coming out in the future. Probably sometime next year. Touring as well.


Single Review: Bunny Boy - "Aqua"

Bunny Boy - "Aqua"
(Granite Tapes 2016)

"...and viewers like you - thank you."

"Aqua" floats in an Ovaltine swimming pool, sunburned biceps girded with a pair of Casiotone water wings. It treads the lactic surface, its bouyant ripples of synth mimicking the warble and wobble of a THX logo creeping towards a static-charged television screen or an intro to a mid-80s episode of PBS Frontline. This mucoid ambience bleeds into tissue paper tape-whirr like the death throes of a particularly nasty fever - it's a triumphant, head-clearing sneeze expelled by the respiratory imagination of Massachusetts' Bunny Boy, his whiskered leporid nose twitching in relief.

The track's looped sequence of music-box synthesizer gradually snakes its way through a densely wooded chord progression that grows more cinematically bassy as the melody ventures deeper inside. Cue the lens flare; let the flashback sequence commence.

Bunny Boy's Shelly drops September 5th via Granite Tapes.