Recorded in the heart of last year's harsh winter, Believe In Nothing is cloaked in gloom from its nihilistic title to the album art's murky, purple hue, reminding me of a psychic-type Pokemon card. It is the second LP in as many years, conceived by Minnesotan trio Hollow Boys, and is an impressive progression from the streamlined drone-pop delivery of their debut to a lush blend of Rough Trade jangle, voluminous shoegaze and a theatric delivery that recalls The Smiths; possibly the Misfits at times. "Spellbreaker" pits a creamy c86 guitar riff against a gravelly bassline. The two grate against each other, converging into a wall-of-fuzz chorus, complete with a triple-vocal harmony. "Melted" oozes into sludgier textures, its dissonant chord progression slathered in reverb and distortion. Overall, the effort is a sizeable portion of late-80s casserole: a combination of all my favorite indie-rock archetypes of that era crammed into one serving. It's a delicious combination that'll have you reheating the leftovers for repeat intake.
It's been fifteen years since West Coast weirdo Ariel Pink released Underground, his first dispatch of scuzzy, saccharine pop; a garage/glam crossbreed tinged with a sardonic delivery borrowed from the last gasps of the eighties. Since then, in all honesty, not much has changed. Fast forward to 2014, and that same brand of warped, low-fidelity psychedelia is just as present on his newest double LP, pom pom. The difference: a recent interest in Pink's work has wormed its way into the foreground of the indie music scene on the strength of his 2010 effort, Before Today, an album of re-recorded, "cleaned up" versions of his most accessible material. The album was met with incredible acclaim, but in the context of Ariel's career, was perhaps too immediate, too grounded in reality. pom pom is a return to the elements of his early material that make him so intriguing as both a musician and character: an exaggerated, Bowie-esque delivery, unconventional song structure and nostalgic pop vibes.
Besides Pink's manipulation of sensationalist music journalism to promote his album, perhaps the sudden interest in Pink's unique sound can be attributed to the postmodern aesthetic that has rapidly injected itself into the indie music scene. The PC Music collective has deconstucted dance music to its most spare components, exploring its inner workings at a minute, almost scientific level. 'Based' rappers like Yung Lean, Lil B and Kool AD don't so much break as they do ignore the rules of hip-hop. It's only natural that Ariel Pink's exploratory efforts would spike in popularity. pom pom's whimsical opener, "Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade" is an example of a song that's teeming with such an atmosphere. It's intricately constructed, yet does not take itself particularly seriously; its chiming keyboards and ecstatic, juvenile energy can be compared to children's music made by acts like The Wiggles, but such a timbre pairs extremely well with his penchant for over-the-top songcraft, peppered with trippy sound effects and dramatic shifts in mood or texture.
While pom pom has its strong pop singles, the feathery "Put Your Number In My Phone", for example, it's the album's most adventurous moments that steal the show. "Dinosaur Carebears" is classic Pink, a lengthy composition that splices together jagged pieces of fractured musical debris, from the unnerving cry of a circus calliope to a spacey reggae rock groove. "Exile On Frog Street" is a warm prog-pop number that hearkens back to late 60s albums like Pet Sounds and Their Satanic Majesties Request. Whether it's beauty, depth or fun you're looking for, you will find it in pom pom.
Bedroom pop artists take note: this is how lo-fi is done right. Moral Guest's most recent EP release is a sort of throwback to the beach-pop explosion of 2010. The project runs sparkling guitar melodies through layers of muck and reverb, finding a middle ground between post-punk and shoegaze. The first of Mooral Gest's three tracks, "Let Me Down", begins with a chunky surf-rock bassline, its blunt force tempered by a buttery, repetitious riff, laced with a slight phase effect to give the track a swirling timbre. Distant percussion and detached, nearly spoken-word vocal delivery join the droney instrumentation, making for fast-paced slice of guitar pop tinged with a hint of melancholy.
The song is followed by the more ethereal "Wild Man", much spacier than its predecessor. The guitar tone is glassy, with notes played in a high register. The vocals are so buried in reverb that they're impossible to hear, coming out in a breathy warble that vaguely recalls Jack Tatum's tender intonation on Wild Nothing's debut album. "Do You Feel It?" rounds out the EP, slowing things down considerably, stewing in dreamy vibes and grimy distortion. Mooral Gest is a beautiful, fleeting hit of grimy dream-pop that makes good use of its short length.
Sum up Cool Dad's debut EP, sweet boys, in just a few words and you'd fish for terms like cozy, languid and nostalgic. Not much has changed since its July release date: the latest Cool Dad single, accompanied by a music video, is made of the same somber, entrancing stuff: minimal guitaristry, tenuous emotion and a warbly, fuzzed out aesthetic. The video is a perfect match, the tape-recorded documentation of a few hours out at the arcade playing air hockey and putt-putt, reminiscent of Daniel LaRusso's trip to Golf 'N Stuff in The Karate Kid. It's a brief shot of warmth and innocence to the system, a video sure to put its viewer in a snug autumn mood.
It's no coincidence that cover art that adorns Rayning's cassette debut closely resembles that of the Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas. The Michigan-based solo project, fronted by Gerald Mckay, has nearly matched the alchemical blend of ephemeral effects that compose the Twins' mythical dream-pop guitar tone. Like any good shoegazer, McKay finds a balance between noise and delicate beauty. His self-titled album opens with "We Are", which pits a gritty, lo-fi drum loop against an endless wave of guitar noise. Surprisingly, this abrasive combination, the lumbering percussion buried beneath layers of gnarled static, does not only sound pretty; it feels wispy and light. It encloses the listener's in its own atmosphere of noise, distortion and reverb, the heavy air swirling and undulating, never ceasing in its movement. McKay's distant vocals are delivered in a laid-back, almost absently, in a way that gives his music a Slowdive-ian timbre. "Necklace" and "If Only" two welcome outliers that appear on the release, more forceful, yet somehow more twee in nature than the songs they compliment. Rayning is an impressive debut that serves as a reminder that great shoegaze music is still being made in the 21st century.
Tell us about your project. How did falatek get started?
My name is Gregory Falatek. I went with falatek as my artist name because that’s what everyone has always called me. I’ve been making music off and on since my senior year of high school. I left college after two years and started taking music seriously. I’d say falatek officially started after I dropped out of school.
Your recently released EPs, "V i d o r r a" and "s o i r e e" both greatly differ in sound from
"r a v i". The first is very intimate and features a couple acoustic tracks and the second is very sample-heavy. In what direction would you like to take Falatek in the future?
I love slow, relaxing music. But at the same time, I like making something that can get people out of their seats. With Soirée I wanted to create a small soundtrack for a night out in the city circa 1985. But with Vidorra I wanted to make something you could listen to in the morning/while you sleep. Vidorra was created during a two hour studio session. I have so many musical interests so I like to make each project for a new time of day or new set of situations. I don’t want people to be able to predict what I am going to give them when I release a project. I want my listeners to grow with me. I’m still conscious of people who have supported me for years and I keep certain elements of my music the same. I want you to know it’s me when my voice comes on a record but I definitely don’t want you to know what I’m gonna say. I really like how my sound is progressing. It’s still amazing to me because everything started from a very hip-hop oriented place.
You have some live dates set up for this winter. What's the tour going to be like? Have you played any other show before?
This mini-tour is going to be great. I’ve done shows in the past but only during college when I was making underground hip-hop type records. I’m excited to perform the wide variety of music that I’ve created over the past year. Now, I have a vocal processor and new microphone. I’m about to buy a vocoder and projector screen for the winter show dates. Some of the venues have projectors so I would like to have all of my videos playing in the background. I’ve been working with a visual effects artist from The Netherlands named, Hidden Behind Leaves (@RotterdamRonin). If you haven’t seen any of the videos, check them out when you can. I think they will add a great aesthetic to the shows.
The production on "r a v i" was really stunning, and made the album an immerse experience for me, especially the cosmastly beat. How did you choose the beats, and how did you go about writing songs for each one?
I appreciate the kind words. I’m actually releasing an EP in 2015 that will be produced entirely by Cosmastly. There wasn’t much of a selection process for the beats. I have a lot of beats on my computer and I was recording so many songs last month. I ended up grouping Ravi and Soirée as they are because I figured everything sounded best this way.
What music are you listening to these days? What else do you do that's not music related?
I listen to all types of music. I like searching through soundcloud to find new artists. I can’t stop watching The Killers live performances. I need to listen to Modest Mouse every day. Young Thug. Grimes is amazing. I really don’t do anything non-music related at the moment. But I’ve designed clothes throughout my life so I want to continue doing that in the future. I’d also like to get back into painting because I did a lot of drawing and painting during my childhood.