Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

Lightning Strikes

Lightning Strikes!

  • A-Brim With the Doing of Life – “The Candle and the Flame” by Robert Forster

    I really don’t know how to say this, how to convey music’s impact on me without betraying it with platitudes and saccharine bromides. Oddly, perhaps, but without exaggeration, I feel almost exquisitely, tenderly suffocated by it, held a bit breathless inside the press of its beauty, its insistent beauty, how it entwines as it does, spun throughout memory and trailing behind it, vine-like, vein-like, helping support the ‘what’ of what I remember while simultaneously overtaking it, music’s contours and resonance never dimming, the soundtrack becoming the movie. As has been made clear this is all speculation. I’m not entirely sure – am in fact quite ignorant about – how it works exactly. I only know that without music I’d be less dimensional, more bound to the lure of the quotidian, which is to say my life would be much duller and how I love others would not be as strong. All this reflection comes to the fore with the arrival of Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster’s latest solo album (The Candle and the Flame, Tapete Records Feb. 3rd) for reasons I hope I can find the strength of insight to lay bare. Were there a standard by which one measured a...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE – “Requiem for Max” from Kramer’s Ambient ‘Music for Films Edited By Moths’ Album

    To the extent it has a reputation, ambient music doesn’t in most cases attract superlatives, nor for that matter much reactive heat whatsoever, instead being viewed by that mysteriously droll entity ‘the wider public’ as a passing distraction that, at best, registers on the favorability scale a tick or two this side of muzak. Kramer’s not here to change that – one guesses in fact that, if anything, having hewed for a lifetime toward the variously pop perverse end of the musical spectrum, he’s more likely to relish if not celebrate that fact in some oblique fashion – but being among our most adventurous, respected and avidly restless artists, his immersion in the form, aside from being a somewhat curious departure just by definition, amounts to a trusted invitation to explore a genre that (we feel it’s safe to assume) many if not most of us have pretty much ignored. Because, really, if anything can be said of Kramer’s storied, eccentric career it’s that it’s never been boring and in fact, over the course of nearly four decades, it’s been something of a reliable bellwether, consistently leading us toward a music where the word ‘interesting’, for once, actually means interesting,...
  • STEREO EMBERS SINGLE/VIDEO EXCLUSIVE – Meatloaf band Neverland Express w/American Idol 13 Winner Caleb Johnson Present a REALLY Fresh Take on “Bat Out of Hell”

    The relatively short stint I spent in the ‘music industry’ happened to coincide with a very critical moment of rock music’s evolution. Because of some incidental connections (ie friends made at a now-legendary record store called Rather Ripped on the northside of the UC Berkeley campus where I spent a couple years engaged in weak academia before running out of electives) I found myself during the years 1977-1979 at a one-stop in Oakland, a way station that just happened to provide the crucial link between the ill-fitting suburban version of me and the whatever-the-fuck me I am now. As it happened, alluded to above, it was in retrospect an almost revolutionary moment in the world of rock’n’roll however one defines it. Whereas there was the upsurge of bands like Aerosmith, Styx, and Kansas taking over the mantle from the old guard – essentially the new behemoths supplanting the old behemoths – there was, simultaneously, the counter current of punk then post-punk and new wave, asserting itself in the manner akin to the quirky cool kids in high school outshining the prominent jocks and popular girls with their quirky aloofness (think Christian Slater and Parker Posey leaving the Cruises and Phoebes...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – numün (SUSS, Gamelan Dharma Swarma) announce new album “Book of Beyond” with “Vespers”

    We struggle to make ourselves whole, to be the ideal, however flawed. As humans, especially those of us in the Western world, we’re good at making lists and running errands and plotting a career path but, when it comes to negotiating grace or abandoning ourselves to beauty, we too often tend to shy away, make excuses, check our phones to see what updates we have, what’s on our calendar. It’s enough of a complicated, intimidating world as it is without trying to explain ourselves in the face of the ineffable. And it’s not just those of us encountering art that find ourselves wrestling with this discomfort but, from a slightly different angle, artists themselves as well. By its nature the act of being creative is a self-conscious proposition, one that demands constant reappraisal, of purpose, of talent, of the very need to get it ‘out there’ to others. All of which inevitably leads to the crippling ‘why do it at all?’ type of interior conversations which, no surprise, are generally carried out in the darkest of night when doubt can appear as an actual demon capable of making you writhe with the slightest twitch of its skeptical face. What we’re...
  • DARKSWOON EVER CRASHING – 2022’s Best Darkwave Releases from Victor Montes and Dave Cantrell (PLUS 2022’s Single of the Year!)

    Yes, here we are, at that time of the year again, the time for that sort of select reckoning that every critic, writer, or listener greets with a curious mix of love and dread. Love because of the joy in reliving still another thrilling ride around the dizzying darkwave merry-go-round that this suddenly dying year has again offered us, a ride that only the phrase ‘freewheeling insanity’ might adequately define, dread because, due to 2022 being as bulgingly abundant with head-turning, mind-blowing, pulse-quickening albums as any previous year if not arguably more so, how does one choose one’s favorites without risking one’s sanity and/or standing? We’ve covered the absurdity-bordering-on-inanity of this whole process frequently enough in these pages that we thought we’d let that aspect rest this time but believe us, we thought about tip-toeing past the whole prospect and if it weren’t for the weight of expectation we likely would have. That said, in the end, it is kind of our responsibility and damn it if it wasn’t indeed a great pleasure to rediscover the extravagant spill of dark gems that kept piling in through the door all year long. Read quick, as 2023 is already breathing down your neck…[and remember,...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – SPECTRA*paris “Modernism” / SOCIAL STATION “In The Fallout” / postlooperish “Wistful”

    SPECTRA*paris “Modernism” (Dependent) Challenges. Challenges and joy. Challenges, joy, and excitement. You best be prepared to accept a dizzying, often bewildering brew of all three overtaking your senses if your plan is to put pen to paper (in whatever form) and write about music. ‘But wait,’ we can already hear you saying, “Challenge, sure, we get that, that means there’s some work involved. But ‘joy’ and ‘excitement’? Why should we worry about those? Those sound great!’ Well, yes, of course they are and indeed they’re the ingredients that make this process most rewarding but, one, in this gig anyway, you can’t get to the last two without going through the ‘challenge’ stage, and two, ‘joy and excitement’ are distracting, they tend to tempt one away from the page and into the mist, the ether, into some form of ecstasy. And ecstasy, as everyone knows, is the opposite of work. Thus one seeks that shifty balance that’s essentially an act of simultaneously staying on track while, to some extent, losing track, of yourself, where you are, all that. In workshops years ago I came to call this ‘the gaining control of the letting go’ and, in truth, it’s become as much...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – “Tender Years” from Go-Between Robert Forster’s upcoming album ‘The Candle and the Flame’

    Overall, it’s a crapshoot trying to predict which artists will maintain their ‘edge’ (variously defined) as they age. History and our own experience tend to tell us ‘not many’ yet still, even as our own years advance, we fall prey to the belief, based on some brilliant debut, that this time this artist will make that cut (so to speak) and we’ll be enjoying their work on a similar level for many years. Then their second record comes out and, well, yeah, we move on even as we pledge to keep an ear cocked in their direction. It’s a kind of songwriter lottery, one that measures not just the artist’s endurance vis-á-vis the calendar but, far more crucially, the verve and quality of their material and the seeming ease with which they continue to surprise, delight, and impress, still bringing a perspective that’s innate and contoured enough it relates to the listener’s own life in a way both universal yet oddly – almost eerily – intimate. It’s that last that’s most impressive, not to mention – and we hesitate to use the word – precious. While one could name a however-diminishing slew of writers (sadly, they keep falling off the carousel) that still...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE – “The Temple of Song” EP from TRUE BODY

    Those moments, those all too rare moments, when something clicks. A shaft of bright light flashes unexpectedly through a just-opened door and with it a noise that arrives like a whoosh of the spirit and from that encounter comes that oddly ecstatic sensation that’s maybe best described as ‘a flood of warm chills.’ Comparable to our vision – if not quite reality – of falling in love at first sight or those isolated times when a passage of prose or poetry brings us to our knees, it’s the experience most associated with a sudden, unexpected rush of music we’re talking about here, of course, one that most often has stolen into your ears without warning. It doesn’t have to be on some Wagnerian scale or endowed with the immediacy of, say, “Safe European Home” (the track that introduced this writer to the Clash in 1978), it ‘simply’ has to, well, strike an intrinsic chord that more or less reverberates throughout your heart like it was born there and is just now making itself known. It’s an occurrence we’re all familiar with and regard with a certain preciousness because, again, it’s so relatively rare, so rare it’s basically an emotional version...
  • STEREO EMBERS WORLD PREMIER – “Gilles Memory” from Belgian Artist/Activist Rudolphe Coster and Band

    Musically, let’s go here: Lou Reed circa Coney Island Baby injected with the energy of X-Ray Spex if they’d been grounded in funk instead of punk, a hybrid thanks largely to an almost licentious bassline (Male Gaze’s Matt Jones) walking a wild side through a squawking, angry windstorm of a sax attack provided by Jeff Tobias of Sunwatchers while Maya Postepski from The Organ maintains what might be called a ‘savagely taut’ drum foundation pacing underneath it all with a metronomic fury.  Insofar as the lyrics go, and the cathartic way they’re delivered? Let’s not go anywhere but the truth: the ‘Gilles’ here was a friend of Rudolphe’s that was killed in the horrendous terrorist attacks carried out in Belgium in 2016. In a vocal performance that simultaneously massages and attacks just about each word, one cannot help but be not just riveted by the passionate drive Coster brings to this remarkable single but as well feel the inextinguishable loss and pain that fires it from deep inside Coster’s heart. It is, far more than anything, an act of love. This all comes to us via Capitane Records, itself a curious proposition. Having been founded but a scant few years...
  • Adding Another Name to an Exclusive Club – Richard X. Heyman Returns with “67,000 Miles an Album”

    R. Stevie Moore before his recent retirement. John Andrew Fredrick under the guise of The Black Watch. Daniel Johnston. Jad Fair. Robert Pollard. To a small clutch of music nerds out there that relatively sparse grouping shares among them one central immediately obvious attribute: a work rate that would seem wholly unsustainable to your average mortal and the discography that comes with it, one so staggering that just scrolling through it can leave one exhausted. To this class of the restlessly fecund must be added the name Richard X. Heyman. Now, in this case a lengthy list of releases on Discogs might be suspected to some degree seeing as Heyman turned seventy-one this year but a quick scan down that list mostly undermines that presumption. Sure, The Doughboys, formed in the guy’s hometown of Plainfield NJ, had a couple singles appear on the Bell label when he was still in high school – they reformed in 2000 and have subsequently recorded eight full-lengths since 2007 so, yeah, let’s add that to our dizzying premise – but Heyman’s debut solo album Living Room! didn’t drop until 1988 by which point he was already thirty-seven. Since then? Well, according to our calculations...
  • Gilded in Something That Approaches Epiphany – New Album “My Heart” from Nora O’Connor

    This world, perhaps as much as ever, needs its honest songwriters. Not just those speaking truth to power – though, whoa, do we need a lot of those, indeed we do – but as well those that simultaneously ground us while allowing a moment of escape into another’s heart, a heart unguarded, uncynical but nonetheless, as is necessary in this life, always aware of its surroundings. This world needs the likes of Nora O’Connor. Known to many for her sterling work traveling the touring world with the likes of Mavis Staples, Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird and a slew of others, O’Connor’s solo work has always found her on an equal footing talent- and, often, style-wise with such luminaries and My Heart, her third and released on Pravda October 7th, is no different. Forced, as so many were, to find her own way as a musician these last few years, O’Connor took to playing backyards around her Chicago home base, just a woman alone with her guitar, a gathering of deeply appreciative neighbors and, not infrequently one presumes, some damned fine barbecue, discovering anew that that singular spark, which couldn’t help but be a bit subsumed as she traveled the world...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE – Debut Album “Hypnopomp” from the Incomparable Katie Lass, Mastered By Warren DeFever (with track-by-track rundown from the artist)

    We could begin this way: “Every once in a while, an artist comes along that blasts holes in pretty much every understanding we have of so-called ‘pop’ music.” Or we could choose this as our opening: “Imagine if the creative energy of Can in the Damo years was condensed and reconfigured into a single, heretofore unknown young solo home-recording artist.” Or, maybe this: “What would you get if you took a primal, raw-but-somehow-fully-formed aesthetic bursting at its natal seams and crossed it with a fearless freshness raised in the US rust belt that, weirdly, feels like a mashup of Broadcast and Gong ?” Any one of those and countless others – we could do this all night – land you in the sui generis parameters of Detroit-based Katie Lass. Driven, blessed with a store of self-made, up-her-sleeve tricks that would make Daniel Johnston blush and Kramer go crazy, this is the type of rarefied territory that connects the until-now unconnected dots between The Shaggs and Miranda July, ie a quality that one might refer to as an ‘elevated primitivism.’ Whatever label anyone might attach to them – and the fact that everyone that hears this work will come up with their...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE – Mortal Prophets’ Cool Incendiary Take on “Baby Please Don’t Go” ft. Morphine’s Dana Colley (includes interview with head Prophet John Beckmann!)

    Like a fire-breathing ensemble risen from the ether with a fearless blend of genre-fucking intelligence driving them toward a type and level of musical adventurism that’ll leave any music nerd worth their salt dumbstruck in the bestest of ways, muttering ‘Be still, my ravenous heart’ beneath their barely-caught breath, NYC’s Mortal Prophets arrives in our all-too-cautious midst ready to blow minds with an almost wicked nonchalance. As approachable as it is take-no-prisoners, the John Beckmann-helmed Prophets’ sound reflects – if a bit blindingly – their stated mission to “dig deep into America’s primal scream.’ To this aim, with both the Stomp the Devil EP released in June (featuring no less than Gary Lucas) and today’s dual release of two singles from upcoming debut full-length Me and the Devil due out December 9th (itself with a bevy of guests including Colley, Rubyhorse’s William D Lucey and others), of which SEM is premiering the feverish re-write of that timeless blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go,” Beckmann and company are delivering the goods like nobody’s business. It’s a delivery that strikes an especially raw nerve for someone as, umm, ‘seasoned’ as your correspondent, whose teeth were cut on early 70s rock’n’roll which, aside from the...
  • Like an Act of Blissful Subterfuge – Former Akron/Family Member Dana Buoy’s New “Experiments in Plant-Based Music, Vol.1”

    However one chooses to remember early-21st c. ensemble Akron/Family – skewed but charming pop provocateurs, genre-wandering minstrels of the first water or, as this writer due his history is wont to believe, a canny complex blend of exactly what their name told us on either side of that forward slash, ie the anti-hero heroes of the Akron-based devolutionary movement of the late 70s grafted on to the actual band Family with their own odd-pop proclivities – the fact that ties them all together is that, once heard the A/F collective was impossible to ever unhear. For all their precepts and tendencies that found them corralled into the New Weird America pen with the likes of Animal Colletive, Vetiver, and Sunburned Hand of Man, Akron/Family, like many of those cohorts, never strayed too far from the eternal truth as constituted by hook and melody. In Dana Janssen, that band’s drumming heart now dba Dana Buoy and soon to release Experiments in Plant-Based Music, Vol.1 (November 4th on Everloving Records), his third full-length since 2012, one may very well find one of the more compelling reasons why that was the case. Steering with an assured hand through a seldom-driven soundscape connecting the spectral spiritualism...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE – “Typical Girls, Volume 6” from the essential Emotional Response label, w/track-by-track commentary from ace compiler Camylle Reynolds

    If you’re like us here at SEM, your early listening life, when the hungers of the curiosity were at their sharpest and most insatiable, was well-served by that most wondrous of full-lengths the compilation album. Personally, by my late 20s, I owned some eighty-plus comps on vinyl, and while the bulk of those are long gone here forty years later, I have to confess that, thanks especially to deep-diving DIY label Messthetics and its US counterpart releases under the Homework imprint, supplemented by more recent collections from the likes of the Cold Transmission label and others, the V/A shelf out in the garage, while not quite approaching that earlier accumulation, is nonetheless beginning to groan a bit from the assembled hordes. With that as our context, you can understand why we get so stoked when a new installment of the impeccably-curated Typical Girls series from the ever-tasteful Emotional Response label arrives. Based out of Arizona and founded by Stewart Anderson of Yorkshire UK-based lo-fi legends Boyracer fame, the first five of these were chockful of exactly the kind of plucky individuality that underlines, with some emphasis, the V-word in V/A. And where this is the place in an introduction of...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – Kramer’s “Bukowski on the Beach” from His New Ambient Album ‘Music For Films Edited By Moths’

    The question must ultimately arise: Is there a modern musical niche in which the shape of Kramer’s talent – not to mention his psyche – doesn’t find a way to adapt, and in fact thrive? While making his name 30+ years ago via the fractured pop/disturbed rock’n’roll of the original Shimmy Disc generation, a time when he and the stable in his label were firing off in so many directions that should anyone have tried to map them all they’d have ended up in an asylum, he has since wandered the unsanctified hallways of melodic indie on 1998’s Songs From the Pink Death, swerved into baseball-based solo compositional form – like you do – with The Greenberg Variations in 2003 where every track is named after the various historic pitches in a pitcher’s arsenal (“The Curve Ball” “The Goo Ball” “The Ephus”), dove with deep reverence into Brill Building brilliance not once but twice in the two thousand teens which are imperative listens as explained here, before he, with 20/20 hindsight predictability, spent a year as esteemed label Joyful Noise’s 2020 artist-in-residence. A man of action that tends to loiter in the shadows (where the possibilities are far more fetching),...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE – Debut EP from Wash DC ‘Supergroup’ Ecstatic International (ex-Priests, Ex Hex, et cetera) with Track-By-Track Breakdown!

    Most transitions in the artist/music world, we’ve found, are, if not tortured, at least a bit messy, a bit…fussed over. Not so the leap for former Priests founder G.L Jaguar, who formed Ecstatic International pretty much within minutes of his former band, Washington DC’s super-crafty pop-punkers Priests, playing their last show on New Years Eve, 2019. Whether or not it’s to be considered the most quickly acted upon New Years resolution in the history of bandkind is not for us to say but nonetheless we have to assume that the turnaround between the old and the new was at the very least quite the head-snapper for those involved in the Capital’s tight-knit scene. Which is appropriate in a way as the result will indeed have a similar, if much more direct, anatomical effect. Drafting in Ex Hex drummer (and enduring friend) Laura Harris – the two could have formed an instant support group seeing as Harris was pretty much going through the exact same parting-of-the-ways at the exact same time – they immediately roped in new pal Nikhil Rao and proceeded to spend the pandemic basically woodshedding, crafting a ‘fresh’ sound that simply could not be fresher. Further expanding the...
  • LEST WE FORGET, Vol. 2 – Sleepyard “Head Values” / doubleVee “Treat Her Strangely” / Sinead O’Brien “Time Bend and Break the Bower”

    SLEEPYARD “Head Values” Y’know that sense of a gem you can get when glancing at a raindrop on the window glass, that soft glimmer that briefly shines like a pearl in a dying world, the seems, for just a second, to hold inside itself all the available outside light? It’s those type moments, though rendered in sound and melody, that Sleepyard seems intent on unveiling no matter the cost in time and patience. The edict – if it is one – that you can’t hurry beauty would seem a suitable mission statement for this long-time Norwegian project from brothers Oliver and Svein Kersbergen that’s set to celebrate a quarter century next year. Looked at from one angle, one cold say, a bit glibly perhaps but not altogether without accuracy, that Sleepyard, throughout it’s arc, has carried itself through a creative process similar to that of what might be imagined if ECM ever signed a pop band. While still true here – “Dream Solution,” once emerged from its softly majestic, vaguely Gaelic intro, pings along like a slightly jazzier Polyrock while “Falling in Love,” voiced by Sandy Dedrick, has a melancholic-yet-still-sunny California vibe to it – the moods and...
  • Winning the Race to the End of Superlatives – Kill Shelter Once Again Kills it on New Album “Asylum”

    Whether it was destined to be the writer with his words or the musician via the auspices of his work, one of us was going to eventually lose the race to the end of superlatives. In the case of your correspondent vs. the output of one Pete Burns, dba Kill Shelter, the outcome, I’m both afraid and ecstatically happy to say, was predictable. Having barely withstood the quality onslaught of 2018’s Damage with its wondrous glut of collabs then the Antipole meetup A Haunted Place from last year, the wells of praise this particular pen has available to dip into are perilously close to running dry. I shall soldier on regardless of course, extracting what dribs and drabs of panegyric I can possibly wring from the dregs at my disposal because, lord knows, what choice do I have with an album like Asylum holing up inside my ears, attacking then saturating the pleasure centers at will. Again alive with co-conspirators – 70% of the ten cuts this time around – the new record also underlines the usual deft touch at tracklisting, with two of the Pete-only tracks opening and concluding proceedings and the third, called “Crossing Borders,” nestled in the center sounding for all the...
  • SEM Video Premiere – “How Much Longer?” from Butthole Surfer Paul Leary’s 1992 ‘History of Dogs’ LP reissued by Shimmy-Disc/Joyful Noise

    In this frightfully off-kilter world it’s comforting to know that some things don’t change: chocolate is as close as we’re ever going to come to the idea of ‘God,’ doing laundry will never not suck, and the Butthole Surfers were pretty much the most intensely memorable rock band that ever existed. That latter, though inarguably true, nonetheless begs for an asterisk denoting the further fact that they were also one of the funniest (even if their brand of funny ran, or rather hurtled, toward the absurd and disturbed). Thunderous, catchy, and headstrong enough to be the very thing people are referring to when they use the phrase ‘a force of nature,’ there was never an opportunity or ‘marketing strategy’ the band couldn’t grab and immediately tear into shreds, not out of some foot-shooting instinct – OK, maybe a little of that – but simply because they were as they were and how they were left them no choice. Unbridled as they may have been, however – their live shows are so legendary they’re almost a genre of performance art unto themselves – we’d not be talking about them if they weren’t also talented as holy f*ck. Like the Residents on...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO OF THE DAY – “Burial at Sea” from KRAMER’s Just-Released Ambient Album “Music for Films Edited by Moths”

    As the long-abandoned remnants of the teenaged hippie buried deep inside me is wont to say, ‘Time’s a trip, man.’ While stoner vague enough to be immutably true it seems to this writer, from his now somewhat elder perch, that Time, for all that’s attributed to it from poets, philosophers, and accountants, is an overrated obsession. I mean, really, I don’t give a shit if it curves or is having a boisterous romp with Space at the Hotel Continuum or is living off its borrowed self in its mom’s basement. I don’t even care if its apparent linearity is a sick practical joke. Upon semi-deep reflection I’ve come to realize that, aside from the inevitably emotional weight that the passage of time ties to our memories, giving our personal nostalgia those amber or not-so-amber shades depending on our natal luck, time is, in actual fact, kind of a selfish prick. It doesn’t give of itself freely whatsoever and what it does give it tends to take back at twice the price. Time, in short, is all about itself, and would seem to (not so) secretly relish watching everything under its watch wither into nothing at its own given speed.  Kramer,...
  • The Word ‘Dynamic’ Cowers in its Inadequacy – Kristeen Young’s Intense, Riveting New Album “The Beauty Shop”

    One makes amends constantly in this life. Whether at the ‘evolve or die’ level or to a seemingly more incidental degree there’s scarcely any distinction in terms of scale. Once the jig is up on whatever it is you’ve been neglecting, consciously or via simple ignorance or (usually) a complicated mix of both, the moment the truth’s revealed it’s time to suck it up and let it out, own it. So here goes. While writing that recent piece about Shilpa Ray’s astonishing Portrait of a Lady, this specter of a memory kept kept haunting behind the words: I’d had the opportunity to ‘discover’ her years prior thanks to the gentle urging of Northern Arms‘ Keith Peirce. For reasons unknowable I’d not taken that advice and then there I was forced to come to terms all at once with my breath being every second taken away by the tempest before me. And lo and be-fucking-hold if I don’t find myself in exactly that spot again. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of a dear and trusted friend whom I’ve known for decades, the equally phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime whirlwind talent that is Kristeen Young has been ‘on my radar’ for quite some time now, suggesting...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE STREAM – New EP “Mind Wipe” from The Special Pillow (ft. ex-members of Hypnolovewheel, Run On, Tryfles et al) with Track-by-Track Rundown by Dan Cuddy

    One of the more enviable liabilities of this writing gig is discovering bands and artists you’ve not encountered before – often new to the scene but not too rarely well-established but somehow missed by yours truly (we’ve all got copious blind spots, there’s no escaping it) – and falling sufficiently in love with them that they end up sticking to you as if with some kind of (in my case) fanboy super glue and, next thing you know, five years or so down that promo-littered road your musical body weight is, well, off the scale. It’s as if you’ve adopted a horde of orphans and now your family could fill Shea Stadium. For me, an early-ish addition was The Special Pillow, the project helmed by ex-Hypnolovewheel bass player Dan Cuddy that set out its side-project shingle in 1995 but didn’t reach my ears until Sleeping Weird landed on my digital desk in 2018, resulting in a review in the now-defunct “Lightning Strikes” column. As that piece not only tells you most of what you need to know about this truly delightful ensemble (or anyway enough to trigger your intrigue), and as the personnel remains the same, I’m going to take...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – “Time on Earth,” the Title Track from Pete Astor’s Upcoming New Full-Length

    Pete Astor has a thing about time. Now, that might reasonably be said about any of us but Pete, by most indications, has something of an intimate attachment to it. Aside from the very integral role it plays in any musician’s life – their entire output is based in it, full stop – and beyond the banal-yet-profound influence it wields over our existence at every turn from every angle, for Mr. Astor we’d posit that the big T exerts a particular sway over his thoughts and daily practices beyond that of most mortals. This is to be expected, we believe, given Astor’s interest in – and adopting of – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theories that, in a nutshell, substantiate the idea that getting lost in the flow of one’s work is not only to be encouraged but is necessary, resulting as it tends to in maximal happiness for the artist and thereby better, stronger work. That by definition this way of thinking requires the actual losing track of time would seem to run contrary to our supposition here but, on the contrary, you can’t practice what’s essentially the canceling of time without recognizing that you’re ruled by it in the first...
  • A Mixture of the Raw and Pop Art-Divine – Slang’s “Cockroach in a Ghost Town”

    Maybe it’s the water. Maybe it’s the mountains. Maybe it’s something so prosaic as the memories of once-cheap rent combined with a then-quite-livable city spawning a vibrant music scene that boasted both a family feel and a national profile. But whatever it is/was, this sense of an inexhaustible, fully sustainable spring of inventive musical energy that can easily lend itself to the impression of a creativity petri dish the size of Portland continues to nurture. Whether it be fate, dumb luck or destiny, those fertile waters, even despite the now-strained charm of its once bubbly origins, seem set to keep rippling forever outward. While the results will seldom (read:never) fit under a heading marked ‘sunny’ – this is gloom-loving Portland, don’t forget – they’ll never want for drive, intelligence, verve and presence. And melody. And raw dynamics. And class as measured by a gut-level sincerity of purpose. And here we are now with the latest slice of that undying Pacific Northwest climate (shall we say), in this case called Cockroach in a Ghost Town, the debut album from the pedigree-rich band Slang, released in late May on that most iconic of northwest labels, Kill Rock Stars. Formed, as far back...
  • Zander Schloss: The Persecution, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Karl the Wiener Boy, Part Two: Zander Schloss on Acting in Repo Man, Joining the Circle Jerks, and Owing It All to Michael Nesmith

    Zander Schloss, previously interviewed here has some very cool associations in his resume, from acting in punk films – most notably in Alex Cox’s films Repo Man, Straight to Hell, and Walker, but also in more recent fare like An American in Texas where he plays a record store owner and promoter who helps a young punk band. He’s played bass for the Circle Jerks since the mid-1980’s, was musical director and guitarist for Joe Strummer and the Latino Rockabilly War played in LA punk band the Weirdos and as of 2022, has recorded his first solo album, Song About Songs, a collection of surprisingly gentle, introspective, and highly tuneful reflections on life, many of which he’s been releasing rock videos for (a couple of which are discussed at length below). It’s also on Bandcamp and available as gatefold vinyl through Blind Owl Records. In the second part of our feature, Schloss gets into how he joined the Circle Jerks – whose 40th anniversary tour has gotten back on the road after Keith Morris’ recent ordeal with COVID – and the key role of the late, great Michael Nesmith in Schloss scoring the role of Kevin in Repo Man (beating out a...
  • Settling Over Your Memory Like So Much Dust and Light – Curse of Lono’s “People in Cars”

    In all the years I’ve been alive and conscious of what’s what – for kicks, let’s date it back to 1970 when I was fourteen – the times have never been richer in confusion than they are now. I don’t need to elaborate, you know what I mean and you know that what I say is, in most respects, correct. Sure, I could cite this or that but none of it would carry much import. A drift has set in, it can be sensed in that inexorable silence behind the noise, and when a drift sets in specifics hardly matter. Despite brave faces, steeled will, despite our spirits fighting against that tide in the name of human resilience, everyone knows this, accepts it in their bones. Most of us resist saying any of this out loud as inflicting such pain on our hopeful, ever-striving hearts is too difficult a prospect to entertain but there are those few that feel the need to speak to it because – or so we guess – they see that as their only option. You can’t have hope if you can’t name it, their logic seems to go, and you can’t name it if you...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREVIEW – “The Human Jazz” from Berlin’s TWÏNS

    If you took the wildly wandering (and actually surprisingly warm) spirit of kosmische and, with a slotted spoon, blended it into the somewhat more organic groove of, say, a Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, you wouldn’t necessarily find yourself in the heart of TWÏNSville but you would at least find yourself on the teasing outskirts, loitering with intent. And what would that intent be, exactly? Well, from what we can hear, it would be the desire to mix a musical mysticism with a carefree, almost utopian joy. It would be the deathless hope to experience that spark of the 70s originators finding innate congress with our current moment’s sample-y digital possibilities. Or it could be, lo and behold, simply the wish to find your ears the target of sincere, expansive-yet-intimate machinations of our earnest, complicated mortal heart. Whichever of these desires and/or others of your own making will find succor in the perfectly-titled Human Jazz, the newest album from Miro Denck’s Berlin-based TWÏNS, out today, June 28th on the Earth Libraries imprint. From the gentle wake-up call of opening track “Desert Mother,” flute and electric organ laying treads out of your dreams with a soft-focused determination, a mood continued, if in...
  • Crackling with Brio and Intelligence – “VS” by The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart (and a Dozen Co-Conspirators)

    With art, sometimes it just all comes down to ‘What the fuck?’ Situations arise in the form of ‘product’ from whatever discipline that present particulars of such magnitude that any hope of a cogent, articulate response is, at least at first blush, out of reach, hovering, it would seem, in some conceptual ether just around the bend. A context can be sensed but often only loosely. We’ve seen/heard ‘that’ element of the piece before but not necessarily loitering about in ‘that’ neighborhood. Challenging to the mind, challenging to the damn psyche, even, the result can be, for the ‘consumer,’ a state of spirited vexation that, for one, arouses our further pursuit and, for a perhaps more important two, expands our understanding of the art form right there on the spot. A neat parlor trick of the highest stripe, we all have a list we carry around in our heads of the writers, painters, and, especially, musicians that have dared go to ‘those’ places, performed ‘those’ feats of aesthetic derring-do (you’re reviewing yours this very moment) and thus, you might ask, given the album under consideration here, is what’s being suggested is that, in Mark Stewart, that driven irascible force of...
  • Raging with Uncompromise – Shilpa Ray’s Astonishing “Portrait of a Lady”

    One day in the fall of 2009, after some fifteen years plus or minus spent chasing that lunatic chimera the great – or hell even just decent – American novel I found myself at the age of fifty-three in that Smithsonian of bookstores called Powell’s staring at the floor-to-ceiling wall of newly-published fiction and understood to my utmost depths how truly quixotic and delusional that pursuit was (a conclusion further fed by the bare fact that the last thing the shrinking novel-reading public needed was more perspective coming from a straight cis middle-aged white guy from Portland). The universe in its eerie and inscrutable wisdom apparently agreed as within a couple months the opportunity to write for this plucky esteemed publication fell into my lap like something between a cherished scrap of manna and a foul ball. My pen and I took that invitation and never glanced back, regret left to the dogs and my original and thereby truest passion – music – was thrust to the fore. And now here I am over a dozen years later faced with this latest full-length from Brooklyn artist Shilpa Ray, seething beautiful unflinching and extraordinary, and to a weird extent, meaning I...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE – “I’m On a Mission” from 90s Portland legends No. 2, released ahead on new LP “First Love” on Jealous Butcher

    While there has always been ‘something’ to the notion of halcyon times, some fleeting truth embedded in the golden haze of nostalgia, the now-impermeable barrier that divides our cultural lives between the Before and After of the internet’s full-on arrival has intensified not just your standard garden variety yearning for one’s younger years but as well the idea that music was, indeed, ‘better’ before the Great Digital Saturation came to drown us all. Now, many of us would almost violently balk at that type of thinking – I’m certainly among them and have forever been; nothing worse than greybeards lamenting the good old days when brilliant music is being made right under their upturned noses – but when one considers the entirety of the experience rather than trying to stage some sort of generational battle of the bands, that contention may have some merit. Primary among the advantages in that primitive time, we believe, was this sort of built-in underground community that, by necessity, thrived from the corners of ill-lit independent record stores to one-off, word-of-mouth Friday night warehouse shows to the telephone poles in various bo-ho neighborhoods weighted down by several inches of flyers and a pound or two or...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIER – “Love Me While You Can” from Mott-Approved Band The Handcuffs’ Upcoming Album ‘Burn the Rails’

    Yeah, it’s true, we often seem to be privileging the at least slightly more esoteric around here, not necessarily detouring entirely into the outré but nevertheless keeping a keen ear out for the slightly askew pop romp for which we, quite admittedly, have a bit of a weakness. But after a while we reach a point when it’s just time for some traditional, vintage-sounding rock’n’roll, the kind that tweaks, massages, and kicks in the ass that 1970s DNA we’ve all got lurking in our bloodstream whether we admit it or not. It’s the type groove/trope/wig-out we can’t ever fully shake ourselves free of which is just bloody fine since why the f*ck should we? Speaking personally, having cut my youthful ‘kick out the jams’ teeth at Winterland beginning in early 1973, not only would I rather not cleanse myself of that influence – despite my well-known post-punk leanings – but welcome it into my skinny hippy arms like the beloved love child it’s always been. And here, pretty much on cue, comes The Handcuffs, bringing us not just a hearty slug of the real stuff in the form of “Love Me While You Can,” the second pre-released cut from upcoming...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – DON’T GET LEMON “Hyper Hollow Heaven” / SUBURBAN SPELL “Split Levels” / CINEMASCOPE “A Crack on the Wall”

    DON’T GET LEMON “Hyper Hollow Heaven” (à La Carte) Have to admit that, like pretty much all of us, your correspondent is a sucker for an intriguing, unusual band name. Whether it makes you cock your head with curiosity or causes a silently gasped ‘Wow’ that simultaneously flutters your heart for a moment – personally, in that latter category, none will ever better 90s Boston band Drop Nineteens – nothing, not even a pre-debut wave of Tik-Tok hype, grabs our attention like, well, an attention-getting name. The key, however, the inescapable catch, is that then they have to live up to it. The music cannot disappoint, not a jot. Fortunately for all concerned, band and fan alike, the wonderfully WTF?-named Austin trio Don’t Get Lemon (the band prefer lowercase but editorially that’s just too awkward) has quashed any such worries since first emerging in late 2019 with intro EP Grey Beach. Frankly startling in its full-formedness, that debut has been followed by a steady stream of strength-to-strength releases – among them the diverse array that is the Forward Not Forgetting EP and a New Order 40th anniversary commemorative single last September – that continued whetting appetites for what would surely be the glory hallelujah...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT – “Omniverse” from Finnish Polymath Artist, Techno Sax Deviant Jimi Tenor

    Some artists fashion their own world that the rest of us live in to one degree or another. It’s not necessarily a world made out of whole cloth – in fact it quite seldom is – but rather one created from a process of manipulating what’s available in the chosen culture, in the prevailing winds, in what can be gleaned from circumstances immediately at hand. They are, in a word, innovators (if of various levels and stripes) and, in a phrase, fairly fearless explorers of the zeitgeist. And while their skills are pretty much never less than prodigious, it’s the seemingly uncanny ways they integrate them into the Great Flow of Things that sets them slyly but surely apart. It’s an inherent, open secret kind of talent that makes them appear as if they’re simultaneously of, and ahead-of, the culture at large. Call it the conjurers touch, making the simple look complex and, yes, the other way around and sometimes, somehow, both at the same time. Most importantly, their ambition nearly always seems to be one more purely born out of a restless curiosity than material gain (even as the latter is, of course, a nice bonus). Playful yet serious as...
  • The Persecution, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Karl the Wiener Boy: Zander Schloss on Joe Strummer, Alex Cox, the Circle Jerks and His New Solo Album – Part One of Two

    Like most people, I became aware of songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist/ actor Zander Schloss in the early 1980’s, when he played the dorky but memorable Kevin in Alex Cox’s 1984 cult classic Repo Man. I had no idea who he was at that time, but I enjoyed his performance enough that it was really pleasing to see him, a short time later, playing bass with the Circle Jerks on 1985’s Wonderful. That was the first album that the band recorded post-Repo Man, and got plenty of spins from my 17-year-old self, benefitting greatly from the association with a film I could almost recite line for line (“There’s fucking room to move as a fry cook!”). It was even more delightful to see Schloss as Karl the Weiner Boy in Cox’s 1987 feature Straight to Hell, a ridiculous but delightful spaghetti western spoof featuring fellow Repo Man alum like Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, Fox Harris, Miguel Sandoval and Jennifer Balgobin (to say nothing of the other lead actors Joe Strummer and Courtney Love, and the film’s many celebrity cameos, which include Jim Jarmusch, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, the Pogues, and Elvis Costello). I didn’t realize until much later that Schloss also worked with...
  • Couplets Bounding Along with a Puckish Aplomb (and other delights) – Simon Love’s “Love, Sex and Death etc.”

    Whatever level of lasting insight attainable to one engaged in this music-writing game – if any at all, that is – can be condensed into some version of what may be life-in-general’s most useful aphorism: the more you learn the more you realize the true depth of your relative cluelessness. Known more succinctly as the wisdom paradox, it’s a conundrum that’s bound to club you over the head no matter what your field of interest but lordy is it a potent leveler over here in the digitized monster of the music world. However prodigious one might believe one’s knowledge to be, there is always going to be some glimmer shining from what you took to be a favored corner of your deeply informed fandom that you not only didn’t know was there but nearly blinds you with its relative genius, in the process tearing down your wheelhouse and forcing you to rebuild it again. Welcome, then, all you Jazz Butcher/Kevin Ayers/early Costello-loving aficionados, to your latest reconstruction project as represented by the sure-to-endure work of Mr. Simon Love. Cutting to the proverbial quick, let me just point out (and this may or may not be pertinent in the longer scheme of...
  • STEREO EMBERS SINGLE/VIDEO PREMIERE – “The Belleville Sun” from Gates of Light from Upcoming Album on Shimmy-Disc, Video by Renowned Scottish Film Director Grant McPhee

    Y’know that beguiling blend of melancholy and quietly stubborn joy that pretty much defines the ‘it-ness’ of life, that odd, vaguely floating feeling that’s the emotional equivalent of dawn being just on the resplendent edge of its own awakening but could in fact go either way? It’s a spot in our collective psyche that has proven a fertile territory for many artists over the centuries, from poets to dancers to abstract watercolorists and, at least as prominently as any discipline, songwriters, and it’s a spot in which Scottish singer Louise Quinn, in her creative guise as Gates of Light, has carved her own indelible mark. Less a distaff Donovan than a Canterbury-esque chanteuse softly self-exiled toward a darker realm, Quinn matches well here with the talents of one of Scotland’s most visionary filmmakers (having worked with the likes of Loach Boyle and Soderbergh to name but three), Grant McPhee. The result of this inspired collaboration, as it meshes symbiotically in both sound and vision, is an instantly enduring piece of work that honors the traditions while subtly tilling new ground. With the gauze of heartbreak swirling in unison with the hazy light of the morning sun, the soft twins Unsettling and Soothing...
  • STEREO EMBERS ALBUM PREVIEW – “Melt” from Shoegaze Dreampoppers Whimsical, with a Track-By-Track Breakdown from the Band

    Perhaps, coming from a place like Dyer, Indiana, a town that would ‘simply’ be a suburb of Chicago were it not a few inches over the state line from Illinois, the duo that make up Whimsical, Krissy Vanderwoude and Neil Burkdoll, were naturally drawn to making music that straddles borders. Whether that be the case or not, the extent to which the pair excel at merging the sheet wave dynamics of shoegaze at its most coruscating with the tender invincibility of dream pop is something of a marvel. Their third album in the last five years, the band would seem to be – very successfully – making up for lost time, having formed originally in 1997 with a debut that emerged in 2000. Again, whatever the case it’s fine with us, as in their current run they keep going from strength to strength with what appears an effortless élan, a progression made all the more convincingly clear with today’s appearance of Melt on Shelflife Records. From the sudden force blast-off “Rewind” that opens the album with a pound and a whoosh, the indie-goes-feral and sweet of “Gravity,” “Take All of Me”‘s beautiful, easily-bruised pop shimmer that suggests the Cocteaus taking...
  • Immortality, Grace, Craft – The Monochrome Set Return with “Allhallowtide”

    How long has it been? Too long? Not long enough? Well, we tend to think that however long or short it’s been since The Monochrome Set’s last full-length – for the record it’s been almost three long years since Fabula Mendax, an album with the none rarer distinction, given its subject matter, of being both post-plague and pre-plague – it must by definition be precisely the proper moment simply because, well, Allhallowtide is here and we have, over the years, developed a well-earned faith in the innate unerringness of this Bid-led lot’s judgment, be it in the creative realm or business-related or, hell, even what’s for lunch. In any case, it’s not like we’re talking The Black Watch here where one can barely pip the last period on a review of the latest effort before the next one’s being released. This will, after all, ‘only’ be TMS’s fifth long-player since 2015’s crazy good Spaces Everywhere (all of them, this one included, on the Tapete label) and seventh since the band’s more-than-slight return to active duty in 2012. No, one has to believe that what lends most weight to the impression the Set have been on an even more torrid pace of late – and...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIER – Retrowave Gem “You Are A Star” from Perennial Alt.Pop Artist Jenn Vix + A Flock of Seagulls Drummer Ali Score

    Some stars are made in the heavens and some stars seem as if they should have been formed in the heavens. Jenn Vix very convincingly fits into that latter category. A source of something close to pure light in the alternative/synthwave pop universe for over a quarter century now (her first, self-titled LP dropped from the firmament in the mid-90s, garnering instant love from many publications, Rolling Stone not the least), the Providence-born Vix had the good sense and good fortune to spend her formative – 1980s – teen years hanging out at record stores in New York City, in the process becoming enamored of that fervent, fertile post-postpunk period that spawned the likes of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, The Human League and countless others. One band that particularly grabbed her attention in that formative decade was A Flock of Seagulls, hearing their first single “Talking” upon its release in 1981 and becoming an instant fan. Fast-forward forty years and Vix finds herself chatting with a friend that just happens to help manage the websites and social media pages for…A Flock of Seagulls. Not one to shy away from the occurrence of a great idea meeting head-on with the opportunity to...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – PALAIS IDEAL “Negative Space” / The Sea at Midnight “Oceans” EP / Dry Wedding “Sway”

    PALAIS IDEAL “Negative Space” (Cold Transmission) Pretty much every aspect of what Palais Ideal have going for them is…complicated. While on the one hand, the duo of John Edwards and Richard van Kruysdijk being of a certain age (53 and 54 years old, respectively) might, by some people’s lights and despite these relatively enlightened times, be a mark against them, the evidence pouring through the speakers, um, speaks to the contrary and with some force, if anything pointing instead to the inherent merits of having a fair amount of lived life behind you as you’re plugging in your gear. I mean, aside from the skipload of both received and hands-on wisdom they’ve accumulated as they plow well into their fourth decade of music making, there’s also just the mere perspective accorded anyone from that somewhat ‘elevated’ perch that guarantees a certain seasoning assuming one’s been paying attention, which, by the sound this lot’s been making for some time now – prophetically titled debut EP The Future Has Been Cancelled dropped summer 2017 – not to mention the wallop of authority behind it, they most certainly have. Added to this non-issue are the similarly inconsequential facts that one is full-on British while the...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO/TRACK PREVIEW – “Friedleggings” from LUMBEROB’s Upcoming ‘Language Learner’ LP, Brought to You by Shimmy-Disc/Joyful Noise, Mixed and Co-produced by Kramer

    Do the names Jad Fair, Neil Innes, Daevid Allen, Vivian Stanshall and Daniel Johnston fill you with a giddy glee and wonder, make you want to eat sugar cookies and write skewed pop songs that are half fairy tales half cockeyed semi-perverse nursery rhymes half eccentric genius and yes that’s three halves but that’s sort of part of the point? How about an imagined home movie of Moondog at the age of seven singing an early composition after a heaping big bowl of Coco Pops? If any of those names or that zany – if thoroughly intriguing – theoretical sent an endorphin-releasing jolt of curiosity straight through you from head to toe then do we have a treat for you! Lumberob (real name Rob Erickson), a not infrequent collaborator with Kramer over the past couple-plus decades – quelle surprise, no? – first got the latter’s attention when he began his tape-loop journey in Austin in 1999. By all accounts an unforgettable – if, paradoxically, somewhat simple – live experience, part audio-Kreskin on acid part visual shaman, it’s not unusual for Lumberob to leave his audience, be they newbies or experienced Lumberobbers, just about vibrating with awe. His is an innovative...
  • STEREO EMBERS ALBUM PREMIER – “Contenders” from Great Lakes, including a Track-by-Track Breakdown from Founder Ben Crum

    Some songwriters’ aim is so true you have to wonder as to the origin of their gift. Was it hard-won, years of throwing chords into the dust until finally they began to fall into a self-ordered place and the words followed in a flow that suggested a pre-ordained grace? Were they just born that way, songsmithery lurking in their character as naturally as, say, being left-handed or having a cleft chin? Or was there some half-past midnight crossroads deal made with a lanky shadowy figure holding out a glowing golden light in the palm of their hand in exchange for just one mere, simple thing if you get our meaning? Or maybe it was as simple as what Verlaine said, a case of lightning striking itself, but whatever the case from wherever the source, and however you define the contours of ‘born songwriter,’ Ben Crum, the steadily vivid voice at the center of Great Lakes, fits that mold.   Of course, another viable guess regarding Mr Crum’s talents would be the age-old chestnut ‘practice makes perfect,’ seeing as Crum planted the seeds of this project with a classmate (Dan Donahue) while still in high school back in 1990. And whereas,...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO TRACK OF THE DAY – New York’s Coatie Pop’s “City Song ft. Nameless Shufflers”

    This is insane and almost never happens anymore. A song and accompanying video lands in front of me that’s so immediately full of addictive charm and visual can’t-look-awayness that I not only can NOT quit watching and listening but every time, and I mean every freakin time, I feel the most wonderful type of music drunk it’s possible to feel. Sultry giddy and loose like a trip-hop groove high on nitrous oxide, gliding into your nervous system as if it were given the key to your inner Dance City, we can almost guarantee that there isn’t anything you won’t do to keep hearing this track over and over and that’s not even addressing its visual delights. Coatie Pop (Robert and Courtney Watkins) inviting the Nameless Shufflers to animate in human form the innate metabolic shimmy of their track was perhaps the most genius stroke of genius there’s ever been, since not only can you not keep your mind off the audio merits of “City Song” (from upcoming album Deathbed we presume, due Feb 11th) but now your optic nerves will be relentlessly on your case, quivering for their next hit. “Play it again!!” they’ll be hissing at the reflex control center in...
  • Pathos and Panache – The Life and Death of The Jazz Butcher as Told Through Final Album “The Highest in the Land”

    Like the perpetual underdog with a dogged belief in his own creative chops, Pat Fish, AKA The Jazz Butcher, despite significant hiatuses here and there and less-than-worldbeating sales figures, never threw in the towel because he couldn’t find it and had no desire to go looking for it. He was, in that sense, the definition of a lifer until death came on October 5th of last year and shut down the wit and spirit arcade that was the man’s restless creative spirit. While a shock and terrible shame that cut to the bone of his friends and fans (two designations that in Pat’s case seemed particularly synonymous), the manner of his passing – sat at the kitchen table waiting for his morning coffee to brew – was almost eerily poignant given how it could so easily have been a fleeting but necessarily unmissable detail in one of his own songs. Death, too, it would seem, is a Jazz Butcher fan. Formed in 1982, The Jazz Butcher was a breath of fresh, odd, wryly inscrutable air that harkened back to, well, hardly anything. Kevin Ayers minus his Soft Machine wiring might due if one were determined to reach for an historic...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – “Where is My Happiness?” by OG New Zealand Post-Punks Vietnam

    There is this conundrum when it comes to our response to art, an emotional paradox of sorts that one tends to notice early in their ‘art life.’ For me it was first noted in my teenage/early adult reading habits as I realized that the darker the writing the deeper, more intense – which is to say more satisfying – my visceral reaction to it was, turning the likes of Catch-22, Catcher in the Rye, and anything by any number of late 19th early 20th century Russian novelists into fast, and lasting, favorites. Quite predictably that basic insight carried over into all other forms of expression but especially music and especially post-punk as it roared to the fore from its dreary confines (1979 Manchester with its smoke and unrelenting grey surrounds could at a glance have been mistaken for industrial Stalingrad). Within that awareness comes the further understanding that whatever psychological elements, whatever angst and struggle underlie, say, Gregor Samsa or any of Ian Curtis’s autobiographic narratives, are inseparable from the socio-political circumstances that had an inescapable hand in shaping them. It’s an aesthetic dynamic New Zealand band Vietnam have been intimately familiar with since their very beginnings in Wellington circa 1981....
  • Guileless, Endearing Intelligent Indie Pop – “I’ve Been Trying…” by Pioneer Falls

    Ahh the sinuous and subtly insistent ways life finds to tie us together. Up until a few weeks ago I’d neither heard, nor heard of, Pioneer Falls let alone its lone creator Armando Ibarra. While in and of itself not surprising in the least – the sheer vastitude of the music world, even if limited to, say, the indie and darkwave elements of it (and yes, that’s a precursive clue to where this is going) is such that one could spend 25 hours a day unto eternity doing nothing but searching the relevant databases and still barely scratch its shimmering surface – the fact that this artist from this place (Brownsville, TX, another clue), in their effort to gain some notice for their work, was somehow steered in my direction points to the possibility that perhaps there is something to this destiny business after all. In his email, Armando mentioned having been in a band with a couple of friends that split off to form what’s become a very successful post-punk enterprise which triggered two simultaneous thoughts in my somehow still-functioning brain: I hadn’t realized – though am not surprised – that Joel and Luis had a band that pre-dated Twin Tribes and,...
  • Stereo Embers’ TRACK OF THE DAY – Luscious Apparatus’ “Infiltrate”

    While the dividing line that separates a, say, 2021 from a 2022 is arbitrary enough to be at least mildly absurd – for proof look no further than these twins just born in different years – it is, as we all know, an exceedingly handy hook for culture writers of any and every stripe to hang a few hundred words on every January, whether with accompanying numbers going from one-to-whatever or not. On a much broader scale, of course, after all these millennia, the kissing off of a passing year and the ringing in of a new portends the specter of change, of renewal, of (dare we say) rebirth for any and all of us. Naturally there’s no shortage of reflection, some of it somber, some celebratory, most of it relatively mundane to anyone but the one doing the reflecting, but there’s no denying the import this perceived moment of transference carries with it. And while we here at SEM are in no ways immune to any of this be it personally or editorially, as music writers (read:obessives) we’re especially moved when a new band with their spanking new debut track emerges within the first week past the ball drop...
  • A Haunted New Earth – Victor Montes and Dave Cantrell Present the Best of 2021’s Darkwave/Post-Punk/EBM/Synthwave

    It’s a hell of a task. In fact, it is such a hell of a task that it sloshes into the impossible, the absurd, the, in the end, unthinkable. How? How in the HELL do we extract any sense of ‘bestness’ from the beyond-bumper crop of offerings that, once again, besieged us over the past twelve months? Imagine for a moment that some seventy-five to a hundred extraordinarily creative children had been born to you in the course of a year. Each has their own core brilliance, surpassing any measure that the dark arbitrators of such have yet concocted. Each, it goes without saying, is worthy of your greatest love. But god damn it, there are SO BLOODY MANY OF THEM!! It’s an age-old conundrum here in the so-called ‘critics world.’ While it’s a source of great discovery and/or confirmation of our readers’ opinions, it’s a tortuous process for those of us consigned with making what are, in the end, purely subjective decisions, the flimsiness of which could be mercilessly detected by any of you reading this. And yet, we persist. Not because it’s fun – though it kind of is – but because it’s expected of us and rightly so. After all,...
  • STEREO EMBERS WORLD ALBUM PREMIERE – Prodigal Country-Rocker Eric Schroeder’s Third Full-Length “The Crucifixion of Eric Schroeder”

    In what is almost certainly our last album premiere of the year, and seeing as we often feel that such features amount to something of an offering, a gift if you will, it feels both appropriate and fortuitous to be bringing you, right here in the thick of gift-giving season, the newest album from young phenom songwriter Eric Schroeder, pithily titled The Crucifixion of Eric Schroeder. Looking for that special something for the music fan that obsesses over the late 70s Laurel Canyon-goes-electric vibe? Worry not, this has that. The sharp, wry songwriter fan that favors, among many others, the Johns Hiatt and Prine? This album’s got that as well, the latter, in fact, even name-checked in what is possibly the album’s most affecting track, the damned-near anthemic “What’re You Going to Do.” Or maybe you’re looking for that perfect sonic stocking stuffer for the uncle that has an unrepentant soft spot for that era of rock’n’roll when the raucous was tempered by a rough-hewn vulnerability. Well, you can cross that one off too. Truly, it’s all here in this young artist that has, over the course of not that many years, gelled from a promising young talent to an...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS “Fallacy of Fairness” / CHILD OF NIGHT “The Walls at Dawn” / KOIKOI “Pozivi u strana”

    GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS “Fallacy of Fairness” (Oráculo Records / FDH Records) Every one of us leaves a legacy trailing behind us like some tatterdemalion shadow but there are a relative few that create one with the word ‘lasting’ attached to it. Be it via art or infamy or mere inheritance, the prospect that any of us will be long remembered past our mortal pull date by those beyond our immediate circle is not a promising one. Life’s a busy seething thing, noisily cluttered to a point past measurement, so rife with distraction that even having your voice heard meaningfully inside a single moment of the present echoes with the faint hopelessness of shouting into the void. On the other hand, however, create something of immediately lasting value as Vancouver BC’s Girlfriends and Boyfriends have done here with Fallacy of Fairness and, at least on this count, you can rest easy. If they ever did in the first place, the quartet responsible for this richly realized piece of work, Grant Minor (bass vox synth guitars), Peter Panovic (guitars synths), Ben Lowe (guitars), and Ian Pierre Cardona (drums), have no more worries in the legacy department. While not free of influences – who...
  • Just in Time for Bandcamp Friday – “In Regulated Time” from Philadelphia’s Silence Kit; 15-Year REMASTERED Edition

    So, the received wisdom regarding the early 21st century darkwave revival is that it kind of kicked off around 2010 and has slowly – then very quickly – gathered its dark head of steam over the intervening years which leads us to the embarrassment of riches we face today, where keeping up with every spark and flame and utter explosion is both an imperative and bloody fucking impossible. While that’s a neat narrative (’10 making for a handy numerical jumping-off point), a cursory glance at the, ahem, record books puts paid to such nonsense. Truth be told the ‘revival’ has never actually been exactly that but has instead seen steady wave after steady wave bravely carry the torch forward through the 90s and the two thousand aughts, ignoring the sneering hordes of doubters every dark determined step of the way. Among them? Philadelphia’s ever-consistent The Silence Kit, who are celebrating the fifteen-year anniversary of their quietly groundbreaking 2006 debut album with a terrific remaster just in time for Bandcamp Friday. While not among the She Past Aways or Ash Codes or Twin Tribes of our current ‘up there’ universe, these guys were there way way before all that, doing all that torch-carrying while...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREVIEW + INTERVIEW – “And The Wind Blew It All Away,” from Kramer, First Solo Record in 23 Years

    As I write this the world, our world, teeters on so many brinks you’d need a scorecard the length of a miracle mile just to stay up to date. No need to cite specific examples as that previous sentence sent the lot of them spinning into a tumbling blur as if in a lottery drum turned by the hand of a non-existent or at least very disinterested god. The only thing certain is uncertainty and yes that’s maybe how it’s always been when looked through a particular lens but the truth now is that every lens portends the same, the view through every glass fogged over in smoke and chaos, not a whit of which of course even covers one’s own personal circumstance. It is into this midst that Kramer’s new solo album, the first in some twenty-three years, arrives with the only type of breath that could qualify as ‘refreshing’ and that is an unrelentingly honest one. Soft-spoken with an out loud heart, facing head on – no flinch allowed – his own foibles, those unforced errors of a very lived life while powering through his doubts with a humility that acknowledges the pain caused and the pain felt,...
  • A Wildly Satisfying Feast of Versatility – The Self-titled Debut Album from The Lord Baltimores

    Out of self-preservation, which is to say an at least minimal maintenance of my sanity, I have to be careful about how I manage the new release slush pile that comes gushing over the transom on a weekly basis. Being of catholic tastes and frugal means, with the reflexive tendencies of any music obsessive addicted to the ‘possibility of the new,’ the combination of a couple dozen new albums from multiple genres that have managed to get their hooks in me over the last five decades along with the fact they’re free for the download taking, means I could all too easily find myself bingeing on this mad diet of ever-intriguing, no doubt notable marginalia while neglecting the healthier aspects of my actual diet not to mention personal hygiene. Over time this has led to a vetting process which, to be honest, has become brutally efficient, certain genre tags dismissed with a curt ‘I don’t have time.’ Again, it truly is for my own good – life if really fucking crazy enough, thank you – but I’d be lying if I said those perfunctory dismissals don’t come with a – fleeting, yes – but very visceral ache of longing, a glint of...
  • Painting in Memoir – Debut Solo Album “Dream State Treasure” from Black Ryder’s Scott Von Ryper

    Well, y’know, records do do this on occasion, don’t they?  Come somehow out of nowhere – or at least one’s personal nowhere – emerging from the noise that seems to have become this planet’s primary element to knock you seven ways to rock’n’roll Sunday. As we all have but our own individual – and thereby limited – compass with which to navigate the vast enormity of the modern-day music universe, it makes sense that, no matter how avid or prodigious your curiosity, artists and albums that surely belong inside that gloriously messy wheelhouse of yours will continue to elude your detection. The only consolation, such as it is, is that little fillip of joy you experience when chance corrects this oversight, that sweet sudden burst of remorse and happiness that tastes a touch cathartic. So do I come to the work of Scott Von Ryper. Though knew of the name Black Ryder it was only at a noisy gazey sideways glance, and while an ardent fan of the Jesus and Mary Chain in the way back when – saw them on their first US tour and kept current with them into the 90s – I must admit their more recent activities and...
  • Classic Cocktail for Modern Ears – “Mixers & Elixirs from Columbus Ohio’s The Wake

    Remix records can be tricky at best, either being successful reinventions of their originals or failing miserably. It depends on a series of factors, not the least of which is who does the mixing, and often, the purpose for the remix. While not a household name, Columbus, Ohio’s The Wake are a fixture of 80s goth, albeit not a pervasive as Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy, yet having forged a path of their own into many a dark heart — not to mention onto many a dark dancefloor. Following a surprise album “Perfume and Fripperies” released in 2020 — their first proper release since 1999 — the band spawned in 1986 was again on the menu in 2020. As an elder goth, this warms my cockles, but even as we are an aging breed, the music around us doesn’t remain static. Goth merged into the pounding intensity of industrial, driven by electronics and heavier beats. How, then, to entice a younger generation into the fold? By fusing the music with some of the best modern minds today, of course, and hence the birth of this year’s remix EP “Mixers & Elixirs.” Where “Perfume and Fripperies” will appeal to one aesthetic,...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – “Devotion,” First Single/Video from Thrilling New Project Saló and Archangels Thunderbird

    Tim Iserman, aka Saló and formerly a member of Ritual Veil, and Ian Henderson, doing business here as Archangels Thunderbird following their stint as Lilian Void in Portland band OVER, have teamed up from their respective locales – Tim in Portland, Ian now in LA – for a project that, right off the bat (appropriately enough), establishes them as a darkwave, EBM/synthwave-brandishing force to be devilishly reckoned with. The video, filmed in the dead of night at the Salton Sea and directed by Nestor Valenzuela with an assist from Saló and AT, has a dancey, menacing ACAB revenge groove to it that’s as irresistible as it is provocative but really it’s the song, which is pretty much one 3+ minute-long hook packed with verve and momentum, bursting with a natural confidence we have to assume is a product of the pair’s by-now longstanding musical friendship, that broadcasts the arrival of an exciting new prospect. Like any publication we love it when we’re allowed in for a sneak, ground-floor peak and while they’re always a delight by their very nature, when they arrive with this degree of a visceral punch that in turn amounts to great promise in the making, we...
  • STEREO EMBERS VIDEO PREMIERE – “Dream Slow” Off of Upcoming ‘Here & There’ Album From the black watch

    As certified lovers of supremely well-crafted pop songs and unexpurgated dictionaries, that we here at SEM would develop an abiding fondness for the work of John Andrew Fredrick, dba as the devotedly lowercase band the black watch, is a foregone – and glaringly obvious – conclusion. Weaving rich and nimble pop tropes like some kind of (lowercase) god that can create breathtaking tapestries while blindfolded, the work of JAF (as we shorthand him around here) is a force of Beatlesque nature that infiltrates both heart and mind simultaneously with an almost profligate ease and thus finds a very welcoming embrace here at SEM Central. However, even though, unlike most sustained relationships, ours has been quite pacific (no pun intended as regards Mr Fredrick residing near the Southern California oceanside all his adult life or at least we don’t think there was) there is one notable exception: the black watch’s unwavering, damn near punishing prolificacy. It’s an issue that comes up quite often as it has no choice since seemingly every new album – Here & There will be the band’s twentieth – arrives with the shadow of the next one already looming up behind it. Now, while this ‘challenge of abundance’ would...
  • A Still-Restless Heart with a Touch Less Clamor – “For Those We Met On The Way” from Comet Gain’s David Christian

    As ingrained in our lingua franca, the phrase we all know, of course, is ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.’ There are, in our view, however, two things about that saying that, if not ‘wrong’ exactly, are at least cause for some re-evaluation. One is that, despite its charitable and quaintly egalitarian intentions and the fact in rings in our ears with some frequency, the reality is that as a species we do it all the time anyway. Presumably tied to some primordial fight-or-flight kind of reflex (and isn’t it nice and handy that so many of our baser instincts can be pinned on evolution), the tendency to draw an impression from how someone or something looks is as baked into our collective character as our fear of the howls of nearby predators or seeing someone with a Nickelback shirt heading for the jukebox. Our other quibble is that by a contextual logic the word ‘book’ could easily be swapped out for ‘album’ and the meaning would be altered not one jot. Which is absurd. If anything, anyone that’s been buying records for any length of time knows well how the lure of a bold, intriguing cover by a theretofore unknown (or...
  • Flutter the Heart with Vigor – The ‘Self-Titled’ Debut from ONETWOTHREE

    Memories crowd and shimmer, they jostle, cajole, using their elbows when they have to in order that their owner might find them then at other times shying away into oblique recesses where they nestle into oblivion never to be heard from again, their very identity as memories buried away with them in the murk of the unremembered. Then there are those moments, those bands those sounds that sit like virtual holograms of experience amid that otherwise unholy jumble of a scrapbook, filled with blurred polaroids and familiar voices growing ever fainter, that we consider the chronicle of our lived life. Studies suggest that our poor overworked (or not) brains can only store a select tranche of such treasured recollections which is why, for this writer, a substantial percentage of said treasures are kept in a file simply labeled ‘1978-1982.’ Thus is a release of this nature (released on Kill Rock Stars October 15th) not only ensured to turn my head but, when it’s this flat-out great, it’s also guaranteed to flutter the heart with a vigor enough to reanimate that overflowing folder as if its contents had never been placed in the archives in the first place but instead were...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE/NEW LP ANNOUNCEMENT – Kramer Returns with New Video “The Crying” as a Preview to Upcoming Solo Album, First in Over Twenty Years

    As he so often is, despite any protestations he would surely offer, Kramer, quiet as he may ostensibly seem, is one of our most fearless seers. We say this even in the face of the potentially withering irony that might come with such a claim given the title and tone of new track “The Crying” off his upcoming album  And the Wind Blew It All Away (via the revivified Shimmy-Disc label in conjunction with Joyful Noise), the video for which we premiere today. Truth be told, however, there is no surprise or paradox inside any of this at all. To the extent that fearlessness equates with strength there are few greater tests than opening oneself up to the entire wayward snarl and noise and chaos that is our inner selves. Strength, after all, is not the exclusive province of the muscular or taciturn (far from it, in fact) but rather – and emphatically – finds its truest expression when one admits the entire spectrum of human experience into one’s, shall we say, theater of vulnerability. We would, in fact, go so far as to say ‘strength equals vulnerability” and would brook no argument because there is none. It’s a point of...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREVIEW – “The Bewildered Mind” from Stockholm’s Astral Brain [with track-by-track perspective from the band!]

    As music writers we often say things like “If Stereolab went on holiday with ABBA and they all fell in a well together, when they were hoisted to freedom they’d sound like Astral Brain.” Or “Imagine Broadcast never had their run tragically cut short but instead were able to keep reinventing themselves, releasing a new ‘debut’ album Groundhog Day-like every couple years. One of them would sound like The Bewildered Mind.” As you no doubt know we don’t say these things to be cute – well, OK, maybe a little – but to provide salient compass points that’ll help you chart what we’re trying to describe to you on the map of sound you have pinned to the walls inside your mind. You likely also realize that I didn’t just pull those above examples out of some randomized comparison generator but rather because, when it comes to this album from Astral Brain, they’re not too far off. Released today (Oct. 15th) on the uncannily reliable Shelflife label, this debut album from composer/producer extraordinaire Einar Ekström and melodist, lyricist and exceptionally lyrical singer Siri af Buren, dba Astral Brain, shimmers with intelligent pop smarts, as one would expect from this pair and from...
  • STEREO EMBERS TRACK PREMIERE – “Pulse” Off Debut Album ‘Dream State Treasure’ from The Black Ryder’s Scott von Ryper

    For those of you fortunate enough to be familiar with LA-via-Sydney-based The Black Ryder and their hypnotic, mysterious, alluringly cinematic sound, today is your very lucky day as we give the world the first listen to “Pulse” off the upcoming debut solo album Dream State Treasure from TBR co-founder Scott von Ryper, released tomorrow, October 15th on Tran-si-ent Records/Silver Door Music. Loosed upon us with a similarly dark and intimate grace that attracted us to his main gig yet marked with something of a greater openness, “Pulse” presents itself like a soundtrack to a subtly sweeping vista opening up before you in your mind’s eye, albeit one attended by a slightly foreboding wind and a few shadows where you might not expect any. As replete with that combination of deeply rooted pop tropes and the kind of understated washes of sonic splendor as fans of TBR have come to expect – and that led to Jesus and Mary Chain enlisting his services – Dream State Treasure is one of those somewhat quietly compelling albums that takes up residence inside your psyche and, not improbably, end-of-year lists. Every track has a siren song quality to it, not least the lithe, charging “Pulse”...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – balans “sam pravm” / Flood Twin “Flood Twin” / Stranded “Midnight Sun”

    balans – sam pravm So, yes, this column is meant to cover fairly (if not absolutely) up-to-date releases but sometimes in one’s most honest pursuit there comes a time to fudge, to let yourself be a bit elastic about your preset parameters if in doing so you’re righting (writing?) a consequential wrong. Now, by ‘wrong’ I don’t mean to imply that what’s being corrected here is in any way the product of some pernicious misdeed or petty revenge or even lazy neglect, there is no guilt involved real or imagined but rather the simple (and rather pure, really) oversight that can happen when the world is so immodestly awash in quality post-punk/darkwave/etc artists that missing a creme de la creme band becomes an all-too-common reality. The tsunami of talent that has continued to grow – precipitously, one might say – over the past fifteen years or so goes so far past mere revivalism there’s barely any use looking back behind you because you won’t really be able to make out anything more that the dim outlines of that bulwark of legends and progenitors standing back there on the shores of the late 70s early 80s for all the electrifying...
  • Idiosyncrasy For A Deeper Purpose – “Heatwave” by Negative Nancies

    When things are said to have appeared ‘out of the blue’ the exact nature of the ‘blue’ is never specified. This seems a fundamental oversight. What hue of blue? A soft pale sky blue? An electric neon blue? Greenish? Purplish? Striated? Perhaps it’s a haunted melancholic blue, as would be the case for someone suddenly hearing Billie Holiday for the first time maybe. Then there’s the blue this debut album from New Zealand’s Negative Nancies comes bursting out of, a wild jagged giddy experimental primal funky cerebral blue that’s as unafraid of breaking your heart as it is breaking your brain. That kind of blue, a kind of color you’ve not quite ever encountered before, a blue to get you going, a blue to keep you there. Released on vinyl by Dunedin’s Fishrider label back in April and newly available on CD from that label’s northern hemispheric partner Occultation, the first and perhaps most elemental thing we should have you understand about Heatwave is to not let your musical foreknowledge of that modest antipodean seaside town’s legendarily jangly, nun-flying history have any sway over your expectations. This ain’t that (as wondrously multivalent as that particular ‘that’ is). No, to go...
  • STEREO EMBERS WORLD VIDEO/SINGLE PREMIER – “Give Paw” from new Kleenex/LiLiPUT-related, all-bass trio ONETWOTHREE

    There’s not one of you reading this that doesn’t harbor beyond-fond feelings for the Kleenex/LiLiPUT movement from four decades ago. I say ‘movement’ instead of ‘band’ because, one, while certainly an integral part of the European post-punk community overall – in memory if not in the moment itself they were in a sort of sonorous sorority with other groundbreakers such as the Slits, the Raincoats, Ludus and others – their effect, one assumes, on their immediate scene in and around Zürich and indeed all of Switzerland was at the very least quite significant; and two, well, listen to just about any track off either of LiliPUT’s albums (self-titled from 1982, Some Songs from ’82) and try not to engage in some serious movement yourself. As for that first point one need look no further than the two bandmates joining original K/L bassist Klaudia Schifferle in new band ONETWOTHREE, whose debut full-length (untitled but with the band name on the cover) appears on Kill Rock Stars October 15th. Sara Schär and Madlaina Peer – fun fact: both also bassists – were also both involved in ‘that’ scene in the late 70s early 80s, the former in the bands TNT and The Kick, the...
  • STEREO EMBERS WORLD VIDEO PREMIER – Toronto Post-Punk Duo TRAITRS’ Unleash “Mouth Poisons,” the Latest Video from Upcoming ‘Horses in the Abattoir’ Album

    Born in 2015 in what one senses was a burst of urgency given the sound they’ve made ever since, TRAITRS return to the sprawling fray that is the current and endlessly roiling post-punk/darkwave scene that continues to expand across the world at a bold and dizzying pace with the soon-to-be-released Horses at the Abattoir full-length due mid-November on French label Freakwave. Among the most strongly consistent practitioners of the form as evidenced by a run of back-to-back-to-back albums released each year from 2016 to ’18 that went from strength to strength while in the process building a substantial fanbase, theirs is a mix of style and substance the character of which (or ‘brand’ in dry modern-day marketing parlance) tends to form something of an addictive bond to the dark hordes eager for exactly that fix, the very people, it should be said, who, like us here at SEM, are therefore very pleased to have a new TRAITRS album on the horizon after lo these three long years. Coruscating yet indelibly melodic, neither throwback nor unmindful of the genre’s powerful roots, with an intelligence, drive, and an underlying pop suss that puts them in a league with the likes of She Past...
  • TRYPTICH INTO DARKNESS – Trance to the Moon “Lavendar Skies” / FLOSSING “Queen of the Mall” EP / Voidant “Voidant”

    TRANCE TO THE MOON – Lavendar Skies From Echo and Teardrop and other habitués of the second Liverpool explosion to Siouxsie’s kaleidoscopic forays to not a little of shoegaze to the trippier corners of ethereal wave, the line dividing the dreamy expansive milieux more commonly held to be the province of cosmic explorers from the hippie age and those of us more comfortable over here in the darker dominions with our gothic inflections and bat-cave sonar, is a rather ecstatically blurry one, the distinction between the two often – appropriately enough given our purposes here – shadowy at best. One might even contend that the likes of the Sisters, with all that fog and trenchant mysticism, were dipping more than just the toes of their black leather boots into the swirl of psychedelic waters. While none of this is exactly news to anyone paying even passing attention – to the extent there’s been scholarly work regarding post-punk et al over the past couple of decades this is not exactly untrodden ground – it’s certainly been an established article of faith for Ashkelon Sain whose journey through the more darkly bewitched territories of the diaphanous the past twenty-five...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIER w/INTERVIEW – “Coalescence” the New Single/Title Track from Cold Weather Company’s Upcoming Fourth Album

    New Jersey residents Brian Curry, Jeff Petescia and Steve Shimchick, dba Cold Weather Company, traffic in a style of classic American harmonizing that positions them along a spectrum running from the Righteous Brothers through the Byrds, the (vastly underrated) Association and all the way to the backwoods cabin magic-making of Justin Vernon as Bon Iver on For Emma, Forever Ago, which we fully realize was a multi-tracked solo effort but nonetheless belongs in that class as well as any. It’s also a relevant marker for the work that the CWC trio have been offering since 2014’s debut album Somewhere New, sharing as it does a similarly resonant and rich – and richly natural – emotionalism that can raise the hair on your arms while eliciting shivers of recognition in your heart. Soon to celebrate the arrival of their fourth – and first label-issued – album Coalescence (dropping October 8th via Deko Music), we’re thrilled to be presenting the album’s third and final pre-release single that just happens to double as the new album’s title track, following on the heels of the lavishly received “Golden Hour” and “Movement.” From the autumnal piano with which it opens to a horn arrangement worthy of...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS (The Icy Cold Records Edition) – Mekong “End of the Word” / Bleib Modern “Afraid to Leave” / Order 89 “L’été des Corbeaux”

    MEKONG – End of the World Every year there’s at least one record (or twenty) that elicits such a viscerally staggering response in me that it damn near makes me actually, y’know, stagger. 2020’s debut from True Body, Heavenly Rhythms for the Unititiated, was one of those as was/is anything Kill Shelter’s name is attached to with or without Antipole. Now, naturally, given the unholy abundance of riches that floods the flourishing darkwave renaissance across every inch of the spectrum these days, this is not a surprise nor a rare occurrence for any of us, it’s like being hit by a fucking epiphany on a daily basis, but what we’re talking here is that one that strikes just a little deeper, and this year, thus far, that one (or one of the ones) is End of the World from the Portugal-born, Krakow-based Renato Alves’ Mekong project, released on Icy Cold back in May. Like most such instances of an album stepping out from the crowd and ‘speaking to you’ there’s nothing particularly innovative in song structure or instrumentation or even execution on this record to explain its ‘it’ factor but instead something almost impossibly kinetic and full in both the tracks individually and how they cohere...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIER – ‘Silver Twin’ from Portland-based Krautrock Interpreters MØTRIK off Upcoming Album “MØØN: The Cosmic Electrics of MØTRIK”

    Stranger things have happened (strangers things are always happening) but one of the possibly most startling facts within the worldwide palette of musical brushstrokes is that Portland, that once hideaway hipster town turned (supposedly) anarchist hotspot, is home to one of the most unabashed and truly inspired krautrock bands in the whole of the kosmische universe. Craftily named – oh where or where did that lost ‘o’ in ‘motorik’ disappear to? – the group lovingly known as MØTRIK has been almost surreptitiously releasing quietly astonishing autobahn soundtrack LPs on the devotedly local Jealous Butcher label for seven years now. A deliriously held open secret, the work the four-piece (Cord Dave Erik Lee) have been producing has, no surprise, led to a devoted sect of local MØTRIK followers that, one imagines, lift a foaming stein of dunkel every time a new album emerges. But, like most if not all locally held secrets, the magic of MØTRIK has spread far beyond the Portland city limits and the band’s following is now following them from postal codes far and wide. This is what happens when the groove magic you are dispensing traverses various borders by appealing to Conny Plank devotees of whatever nationality. Messing with...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE WORLD PREVIEW ALBUM STREAM – Glasgow band Sister John’s “I Am By Day” (including a track-by-track breakdown from songwriter Amanda McKeown)

    By this point we’ve thrown so many deeply deserving plaudits and accolades at the Last Night From Glasgow label and its artists that we might be forgiven for laying down a marker and allowing ourselves a detour through any of the many other promising new-ish (to us) labels out there, to haunt someone else’s vaults for a while. LNFG will always be there, after all, there’s no reason to fixate really, is there? Well, no, we suppose not, and in truth we’ve kind of tried, we really have. But just when we think we’ve achieved hiatus status from this little label that could, this relatively fledging operation that, despite (or, yes, maybe because of) not having even existed a little over five years ago and operating as a strictly crowdfunded operation has, to many of us, reached something close to ‘venerable’ status virtually overnight, they throw something like this at us, the beguilingly unfussy third album from fellow Glaswegians Sister John, I Am By Day. A four-piece built around songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist (as all of them are) Amanda McKeown, you can read a quick – but, y’know, comprehensive – thumbnail history of the band from when we premiered the band’s...
  • One Cannot Help But Reach for the Superlatives – the black watch’s “Led Zeppelin Five, 10-Year Anniversary Remaster”

    “You know the feeling. You glance at the calendar – yep, we still hang ’em on the wall in our house – and think ‘Oh, huh, it’s been a while. Should be a new…something from the black watch soon.’  Then, as serendipity would have it, there’s John in your email.” Those were the words written in preparation for a review of the black watch’s release from this past May called The White EP which I ended up not covering because, y’know, I’m only human. Or anyway I think it was that EP but what’s funny one way or the other is that the most recent tbw we did review was not ‘something’ but rather Fromthing Somethat that arrived on the scene in the latter half of last year and which, if memory serves, didn’t reach these pages until some time between insurrection and inauguration, 2021. Now that that’s all (almost certainly not) cleared up – the only thing for certain here being that being in this band’s company can make a jumble of your own personal history – let’s move on to the new album which, in predictably perverse fashion, isn’t exactly ‘new’ but is newly remastered to terrific effect and anyway gave your faithful scribe...
  • Catchy Clever Craftful & Intuitively Sussed – LMNOP Return with New Album “whatNOP dOWN7”

    It was 1989 I was 33 years old and moving to Portland from San Francisco don’t ask me why it’s too long a story involving doctors running red lights and broken bones and a decent-if-not-great cash settlement but the point here is I stopped in Ashland to rest for the night at a friend’s place and said friend it probably goes without saying worked at the town’s only record store and of course I arrived before they closed and of course I stopped in to say ‘Hey, I’m here’ and browse and of course I bought a few things but the only one I remember for sure (bought on spec because of its strikingly bold if straightforward cover) was by a band I’d yet heard of called LMNOP which as it turns out was their vinyl debut entitled elemen opee elpee the entire concept of which was damnably clever in a way where it was both surprising and not surprising that no one had ever thought to use that name before but anyway got it back to my pal’s place and gave it a spin and I’ll be damned if the din within didn’t tweak a theretofore untweaked chord in me that...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM PREVIEW – Heaven By The Backdoor by wojtek the bear on the Last Night From Glasgow label w/added track-by-track band commentary!

    We admit it outright. Mention the Scottish label Last Night From Glasgow and we sit up straight, move our chairs in closer and fix our attention with a laser-like intensity on whatever’s being brought to our attention. Mt Doubt, Hadda Be, Gracious Losers, Close Lobsters, the Bluebells’ most recent work, which to be honest barely scratches the surface as we glance at Discogs and make note of the host of other bands and artists we need to catch up on, LNFG is among the very few modern labels that reminds us of that hazy golden era when a label approached the building of a stable as an act of careful, almost devotional curation, deliberately molding a loose but identifiable aesthetic that was unmistakably Postcard, 4AD, Creation, Les Disques de Crépuscule. In LNFG’s case, the focus is on songwriting, the type that rings with a deceptively easy, intrinsically human depth as if the songs arrived straight from the songwriter’s heart fully formed. Following effortlessly in the footsteps of Scotland-born forebears the Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Aztec Camera, Friends Again and others, wojtek the bear, here on their sophomore album Heaven By The Backdoor, take 2018 debut album A Talent For Being Unreasonable‘s ...
  • TRIPTYCH INTO DARKNESS – Whispering Sons “Several Others” / XTR HUMAN “G.O.L.D.” / The City Gates “Age of Resilience”

    WHISPERING SONS – Several Others How unlucky am I? Having launched this column a couple months ago I’m now faced with the ‘arduous’ prospect of sitting in intense communion with an album like Several Others by Belgium’s Whispering Sons. Oh my the burden, the backbreaking labor of listening over and over to one of the most inspiring, dynamic, just plain fucking gifted post-punk bands that just happen to be riding atop the ever-cresting wave that is the 21st c. resurgence. It is, as they say, a tough job but someone’s gotta do it and for you, dear reader, I’m willing to take the hit, wincing with joy, cringing under the punishing spell of utter bedazzlement. No no, no need to thank me. I make this sublime sacrifice willingly and, really, anything for you, anything. Following on the long heels of 2018’s Image, the arresting cover and stunningly nuanced urgency of which found it not only landing well-placed in SEM’s top 25 releases of that year’s fervent darkwave scene but garnering the coveted feature photo as well, the unassumingly titled Several Others (June 18th on ) finds the Brussels five-piece leaning forward with such force into their already formidable momentum that it...
  • Like an Ever-Unfolding Epiphany – Lanterna’s Translucent Eighth Album “Hidden Drives”

    Looping, loping, pausing for a suspended second, driving on, the world with all that lush and unexpected, the mundane sublime transfixing and frozen, the world in all its complex myriads pouring through the windshield like manna from a heaven most either miss – buried as they are in a shroud of their own thoughts and concerns – or misread as a mere reality concocted out of the daily shrug of experience rather than an extraordinary burst of everydayness they’ll never see nor feel again, an epiphany unfolding as often as they’d like to witness it. At a guess this is the type of experiential territory Champaign Illinois guitarist – and Lantera’s primary driver – Henry Frayne continues in his efforts at mapping here on Hidden Drives (released June 4th on Badman Recording Co.), just as he’s done over multiple albums for the past thirty years.  Instrumental throughout as has been nearly all of Lanterna’s material, this is music that, via innovative if unforced turns and some purposeful detours, gets out of its own way. Over the course of those previous three decades Frayne, like any quietly obsessed artist, has accumulated an always growing store of ideas captured, in his case,...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM STREAM w/ARTIST’S TRACK-BY-TRACK RUNDOWN – “Real Happiness” from PEARIE SOL

    With a vocal style that has no choice but to sound like the ecstatic bastard son of David Thomas, plus an endearing avant-pop weirdness that doubles as intimate down home, mildly deranged therapy rock that triples as dramatic kitsch balladry that quadruples as a Nuggets era lost masterpiece (we could go on), Pearie Sol’s second full-length Real Happiness (released June 18th on Happy Happy Birthday To Me), despite the wooly off-the-beaten-trackness that our description just now implies, never fails to lead to a place of genuine pop delight. Whereas the quality – in both the character and accomplishment aspects of that word – can’t really be all that much of a surprise given that Pearie (née Perry) is a member of Washington DC’s noise-pop extraordinaires Gauche, there’s a joy inherent in this record that exceeds expectation. Even though this is a solo joint and so naturally brims with a more singular drive, it’s nonetheless the case that the crafted, confident pop-centricity baked into Real Happiness‘s every track is noteworthy enough to merit a quick spin-through. In a playful yet dead serious way this album, and by extension the artist that made it, remind me of a license plate frame I...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE ALBUM STREAM – The Extraordinary Self-Titled, Guitar Soli Debut from Assorted Orchids

    At 35 years old, T. McWilliams is no fresh-faced phenom lighting up the message boards of the worldwide acoustic guitar community with the brilliance of his sudden, unforeseen emergence. He is, however, everything that foregoing sentence says minus the ‘fresh-faced’ bit and, possibly, the ‘message boards’ part but if the latter is true, well, give ’em time. This quietly mind-blowing, Whale Watch-released debut did, after all, just drop today and if the soli-based internet knows what’s good for it it will have fully absorbed the manifold wonders Assorted Orchids is humbly offering to the world by this time next week at the latest. Recorded last autumn by Bob Nash at his Wonka Sound in Lowell, Mass, what really stands out overall on this initial outing from McWilliams in his Assorted Orchids guise is the depth and wholeness of its sound. To some degree that’s a product of the guitarist using steel- and nylon-stringed instruments exclusively but that alone doesn’t sufficiently explain the delicate intensity of feel and authority that permeates. No, what’s likely most responsible for Ochids‘ gorgeous solidity is, as is so often the case, the rich and varied life experience that prefaced its making. Having spent the last seventeen years...
  • Once Again Proven Peerless, a Genre Unto Themselves – “Rejoice” from Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand

    A teasing mystery attends. In the post a small envelope arrives from Germany. Aside from the ‘to’, an inconclusive ‘from’ and the postmark there is no appreciable data from which to draw a clue. It is too thin and light to contain a CD or even a mini-disk whatever the hell those are anyway and it’s only the square stiffness of the enclosure, evident by touch, that separates it from the impression that this is some strange, transatlantic empty envelope prank. As the Stasi’s no long a concern I hasten for the letter opener and…and…the mystery remains a mystery, if a more attractive one, as inside is a 10cm square card with, on one side, what looks to be a partial shot of an ancient robotic Mayan pyramid and on the other an offer, in English and written in the print equivalent of glue-and-glitter lettering the message “if you would like a copy of this record to listen to…simply email to: (etc etc).” Having no idea what this might entail nor the ability to resist such a thing I sit down at the laptop, tap out the basic ‘yes, please’ missive and proceed to forget all about it until the Rejoice CD...
  • Power and Nuance – The Stunning “Black Swan” Album from Push/Button/Press

    There is perhaps nothing that more clearly reveals the essential ‘who’ of who we are than what we yearn for. Not what we hope for financially or professionally, not so much the targets of our ambition, not the more reflexive feel-good bromides such as world – or for that matter inner – peace. Rather, it’s what constitutes that ineffable gist of our existence, the thrumming intuitive heart-beguiling core where desire pleasure satisfaction and fulfillment are fused inside an electric pulse, ie the center of things where the glowing kernel of passion burns the purest. Love initiates here, of course, including, most notably as poetry dictates, love of another human being, but whereas that can so often and sadly turn to ash, the love born inside the cauldron of the intense art experience – literature visual dance film and, most indelibly it would seem, music – is inextinguishable, and the wish, nay drive, to feel the spark repeatedly lit, due to the ‘know it when I hear (or see or read) it’ aspect of it, speaks most unimpeachably to the otherwise buried key of ‘self’. It’s our truest tell. For this writer, no surprise, the crux of the crux lies in...
  • The Time is Long Past to Be Honest About the Absurdity of the End-of-Year Best Albums List

    Up until fairly recently it seemed a tenable proposition. A magazine or newspaper polling its writers who were each polling their own thoughts and memories, consulting their notes, all to be collated, scored, then pulled together into a unified end-of-year best albums list. Understandably it’s an annual tradition that’s akin to a holiday ritual, beloved by generations of music lovers be they casual or hardcore. It is also equally – if not more – understandable that publications would be rue to the point of hostility at the suggestion that they drop or even modify such a reliably clickbait-rich feature. Thus we have little (read: zero) confidence that this essay will find much (read: zero) favor within the community of music writers nor, especially, editors, whose livelihoods depend on etc etc blah blah blah, none of which rebuts the plainly simple, quite obvious truth that, with the best Google-searched estimate putting the current monthly number of new album releases worldwide hovering somewhere north of ten thousand, the task, on every level, has long ago surpassed being virtually impossible and lapsed into the realm of the laughably ridiculous. The prospect is, in a word, absurd. To a degree, though, if we’re being truthful,...
  • Chiming Amongst the Melancholy – The Career-Topping “Fromthing Somethat” by the black watch

    We refuse to engage anew in the John Andrew Fredrick ‘prolificness’ factor this go-round but suffice to say that the archly malapropped Fromthing Somethat, just released on ATOM Records, is as plentifully – and, quelle surprise, deftly – packed with PhD-level pop arabesques and other such reliably adroit features of the literate pop rock/popsike idiom to make every faithful tbw fan – and who amongst us isn’t? – smile with immodest satisfaction if not veritably burst with craft-inspired wow!  Utilizing his usual Creighton-Campanella (x2) crew – the ‘Rob’ half of the latter returning to the producer’s chair where he’s been not just for previous tbw albums but as well for The Tyde and Brian Jonestown Massacre – Fredrick once again shepherds a comely, swoonsome amalgam of sunny retro-futurist LA-goes-to-England vibes, invincible progressions, and a level of stormingly at-ease ensemble playing to deliver a tidy ten-strong batch of song that pleasingly tweaks the synapses with its heart-on-(slightly awry) sleeve pop constructions while bringing great soothe to those dopamine receptors desperate for hits of pure-bred pleasure in this long midst of uneasy times. A tonic that, musically, lyrically, and in richness of sound rewards both the easy listen and a purist’s deep dive, From...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE PREMIER – The “Satsuma EP” from NY’s sly indie-pop maestros Life In A Blender

    Before we go any further, for those of you unfamiliar with Life In A Blender that are assuming the ‘NY’ up there in the title is in reference to New York City (because where else?), allow us to disabuse: LIAB, celebrating their 10th studio release, come to us from their long-returned-to home base of Poughkeepsie, a city that, due its peculiar name, has long been synonymous with a certain strain of vaudevillian low-brow, working class humor which, when considered in terms of this lot’s creative drive makes more sense than one might imagine. It may not seem like a band of their stature and wittily literate chops would call the seat of Duchess County deep in the Hudson River Valley home, but it actually fits their brand of blue-collar surrealism to a union-made cotton tee, an assertion leant significant weight not only by the six tracks crowded on to this EP like restless wrestlers bingeing on energy, finesse and verve, but as well the thing’s presentation, sleeved inside a handsome 12-page pamphlet of sorts that, aside from being a visual treat that includes lyrics, pairs unique cocktail recipes that are (of course) as exotic as they are down home. So cool...
  • STEREO EMBERS WORLD VIDEO PREMIER – “Reset” from The Red Step, fronted by Black Heart Procession co-founder Tobias Nathaniel

    One month past the release of their self-titled debut LP’s first single “Black Summer,” The Red Step, a band comprised of singer/guitarist Nathaniel and members of Belgrade’s high-powered alt-garage band Kazna za uši – bassist Rudolf Cibulski, Boris Eftovski keyboards, and Vladimir Markoski on drums (the latter two already current members of BHP) – along with London cellist Sarah Jane Seatherton, return with powerful new single “Reset.” Bringing a gritty, determined and anxious vibe to the fore, the track, right down to its title, could not have a more timely resonance, dropping as it is on November 9th, 2020 (which isn’t to mention one of the song’s jump-out lyric snippets “I can’t breathe“). While the arc of the message within doesn’t fully tip its hand, the fact that it’s both oblique and direct in a single stroke only makes the narrative all that much more compelling, makes it, in fact, a single stroke of genius. Beyond and behind the vocal, “Reset,” musically, past the more ragged, more aggressive “Stockholm” riff it appropriately opens with, presents like a pre-death rattle Mark Lanegan fronting Th’ Faith Healers, flashing both that band’s latent, pushing post-punk dynamic and a pure driving rock’n’roll classicism (witness the...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIER – “Other Side of the Dream” from Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help (Glenn Morrow = the guy behind Bar/None Records, Maxwell’s & Hoboken scene alumnus etc etc)

    As it happens, due my age and proclivities, it’s not all that rare for something of interest to cross my desk that harkens back to ‘that’ time in ‘those’ years. As occupational hazards go it’s pretty sublime, as being thrust back in to – in this case – 1982 isn’t exactly an unpleasant proposition. That was the year that at-the-time (and, relatively, still) obscure New Jersey band The Individuals released their debut – and only – album Fields, an 11-song trawl through pre-Paisley Underground jangly post-punk that included a track called “Walk By Your House” that remains in this writer’s internal jukebox to this day, blessed as it is with a bassline that’s as earworm-y as they come and a melodic vocal hook to match. As evocative of naive/jaded romantic yearning as any song I’d heard before or since, that track would indeed appear on my ‘desert island mix tape’ if such a thing ever exists. Though not known at the time, the co-author of that track, Glenn Morrow, would soon, in 1986, become a co- (and eventually full) owner of Bar/None Records, to which almost summarily must be added ‘and the rest is history.’ Flash forward more years than I...
  • Built on the Scaffold of Epiphany – “Doubtlands” by Mt. Doubt

    Well hell. Had hoped to be done with my writing that morning last week and could get up from the table and shuffle about the kitchen in prep for a second cup of coffee and a Saturday breakfast when the new Mt. Doubt album peaked out from where I’d tucked it under the flap of my writing gear. It’d been pulling at me for a while, its frame-worthy, gloss-finished monochrome cover, starkly plain but darkly elegant, its title, and the memory of listening when it first arrived (too many) weeks before, its mindful saturnine grace seeping in to a little haunted corner of my consciousness and refusing to budge no matter what other matters intruded. Thus, for at least a good full hour that sunny fall morning, I dove into Doubtlands – released Sept. 18 and the band’s third full-length to go with a clutch of EPs – as the work of the man at...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE – Debut Video from Yama Uba, Solo Project of Akiko Sampson from Ötzi

    In a musical community based in trust, empathy, and fearless explorations of the darker parts of the human psyche, Akiko Sampson of Oakland post-punk band Ötzi and co-founder of the Psychic Eye label stands out. Fiercely honest not just in word and deed but also as an artist, you can be certain that wherever they train their creative focus will be well worth checking out, an assurance backed up with some force by this debut video from their solo project Yama Uba. Tailored specifically for a Halloween release, the imagery that flashes across the screen as “Phantom World” plays out, backdropping Sampson as they dance and exhort toward the camera like the very spirit of a yama uba – a ‘mountain witch’ in Japanese folklore – is a rich unsettling evocation of the song’s central tension. Ominous clouds scudding behind black skeletal trees, an abandoned room, a scarred church later set to flame, jagged white lines crackling cross-wise like synaptic lightning strikes, it all flows into and out of one’s vision like hallucinations designed precisely for the final night in October. However, while without question an effective, diabolical visual feast, it’s the bewitching, twitching, beat-addictive quality of the song itself...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREVIEW – The Apartments’ “I Don’t Give a Fuck About You Anymore”

    2020’s reputation is being rather mercilessly battered and rightly so seeing as it could easily be portrayed as a whack-a-mole game gone off on a nightmarish, steroidal rage, the creatures popping out of their respective holes getting gnarlier and more vicious with every passing day. It is, then, of utmost importance that we recognize those rare moments that have brought us joy, allowed us moments of revelry, offered succor in whatever way they could. Locked down citizens singing off their balconies in Italy, penguins given free rein to roam through their aquarium at night or go on field trips to the nearby natural museum, restaurants, themselves staring at an uncertain future, donating food to healthcare workers. And, lest we forget (not likely around here or in your life, we’d reckon), the steady stream of great records that have continued to roll off the presses at their more or less usual  – which is to say, in pandemic terms, heroic – rate, one of which we here were particularly grateful for being the Apartments’ In and Out of the Light.  Just the second – and a half if you factor in 2013’s Seven Songs – full-length this century from Peter Milton Walsh’s...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIER – Alpha Cat’s Moving Cover of Warren Zevon’s “Reconsider Me”

    Warren Zevon. The name evokes a torrent of thoughts and reactions, nearly every one of them tinged with emotion and glowing with respect. While to some degree the depth of that fondness flows from the too-early age of his departure from this plane – his ride arriving at the still-tender age of 56 – its primary source is, of course, the work he left behind. Though emerging on the same LA wave that, in the wake of Joni and the rest of the Laurel Canyon commune, brought the likes of Jackson Browne and John David Souther to the attention of record executives from Asylum and Elektra, it didn’t take long for Zevon to distinguish himself as a songwriter of a somewhat different cloth. Both a bit more warped and more eloquent, dusting traces of, say, Hunter S Thompson into the singer-songwriter tropes of the time, Zevon at his zenith was untouchable, like some sort of possessed cross of Dylan Waits and the works of some wildly irreverent Zen masters, an existential juvenile delinquent that in truth transcended heights unthinkable to his peers. Perhaps what most enamored him of the fates, however, was how, despite his intrepidly singular poetic vision, Warren...
  • Stinging, Seductive, Take-No-Prisoners Glory: Das Fluff’s “Maximum Damage”

    Introduced to this writer and in turn to this publication thanks to the short-lived, semi-legendary Sometimes A Great Notion festival here in Portland in the early two thousand teens, Das Fluff, the Berlin-based duo of Dawn Lintern (vocalist, songwriter) and Christian Ruland (synths, sounds, beats) have proven not just a durable proposition but quite the inspiring one as well. For background as to why, we direct you to our previous DF disquisitions (here, here, and here), but if we wanna talk ‘lights that never go out’ then it is toward their burning, inextinguishable torch that we must turn our can’t-look-away gazes as they alchemize the terrors tensions and molten anxieties of this worldwide dumpsterfire of a year in this crucible of a new album. Manic, crafted down to their scathing essence, its bursting surfeit of tracks – fifteen of them, as if they were too driven to bother looking for the ‘pause’ switch – unrelent (yes, this record demands we now recognize that as a verb), persuading via obsession and gall not just that the band apparently knows no mortal limits but that their modernized-Weimar last-dance electro-sleaze approach was prescient all along. Listening to Maximum Damage, pinned to your chair...
  • The Gift of Evocation – The Apartments return with “In and Out of the Light”

    In many respscts 1985 was a blurry year. The jagged daring post-punk dream was in the midst of its initial dying throes, the false glow of the New Romantics rutted around in cahoots with MTV’s already growing smarminess, a development that to many of us was actually more the worthless grit from the oyster than the shower of pearls it was being presented as, all of this, going down smack in the middle of the power-walking Reagan/Thatcher years – a phrase that to this day is an irritant to the ears – cast an overall pall barely dented by the jarring arrival of Jesus and Mary Chain, the fabric-rending of Sonic Youth or the Smiths’ light that would never go out or anyway not for a couple more years. Culturally, for the ‘underground,’ there was a penumbral dimming to the entire era such that, in retrospect, it makes profound sense that that would be the moment the Apartments’ debut would emerge on the scene or what remained of it. Sweeping in with an almost unsettling quietude, The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years, hushed but forceful, gauzy and frank, took our breath away, the same breath we’d been holding as we’d waited...
  • Harvey Gold, Complex Pop Engine, is Back with “It’s Messy Vol.1”

    Though it stretches credulity a titch considering his skewed-but-illustrious history and the kind of sideways lasting legacy that has been and continues to be built (we’ll just Wiki all that right here for your convenience), but if you need introduction to the varied wonders of Harvey Gold, wonders grounded in an emotional honesty while gilded perforce in the Akronesque witticisms and zapped sensibilities that birthed not only the Gold-founded Tin Huey that included among their number Chris Butler later of The Waitresses and Ralph Carney later of just about everything, but their jittery brethren Devo and a host of others as well (Rubber City Rebels, anyone?), allow us to direct you with due haste to track 7 from his latest, the quasi-compilation It’s Messy Vol.1 which, as luck would have it, is also the album’s first video (though unavailable in the US so we’ll settle for the generic print): While the majority of Harv’s material over  the years hasn’t tended to lean toward the searing personal as “Lazy Boy” does, the song nonetheless helps illustrate how, as with his cohort (in structure and tone “Lazy Boy” suggests a core lineage with Butler’s recent solo work on Easy Life and the like), there...
  • QUARANTINE AGE KICKS Vol. 5 – “Gary Olson” by Gary Olson, “Brilliant Failures” by the black watch, “Geiger Counter” by liar, flower

    Gary Olson “Gary Olson” on Tapete Records (released May 29, 2020) In the indie/rock/pop context, nothing brings the poignant, the yearning, the late night reflective (and somehow implicitly wise) like the well-placed presence of a single parping trumpet. It’s as if it’s the voice of a steady-on poet/philosopher speaking in brass. Naturally, to be most effective, it’s best when it finds itself embedded in an already ace piece of songwriting and, well, when it comes to Gary Olson, he of Ladybug Transistor fame, we’d reckon that you’d reckon that those bases are ably covered and on this self-titled ‘solo’ outing you would, of course, be correct. That word ‘solo’ earns its enclosed single quotes due the fact that, while it’s Olson’s name on the tin, the album would not have happened were it not for the entreaties and subsequent efforts of the Oslo-based brothers Ole and Jorn Åleskjaer. Both are members of the band Loch Ness Mouse that kept bumping into Ladybug when both were on tour back in the early twenty-teens. At some point Ole mooted the idea of an Åleskjaer-Olson collab and neither party could think of a good reason not to and thus, some eight-plus years later,...
  • STEREO EMBERS EXCLUSIVE TRACK DEBUT – “Dark Slopes Away” from Mt. Doubt’s Upcoming ‘Doubtlands’ Album

    Nothing quite like discovering one of this world’s most wryly astute songwriters and (especially) lyricists hiding in plain sight. In this case said artist is named Leo Bargely, the Edinburgh-bred and, since at least 2015, rather indefatigable leader of the redoubtable Mt. Doubt.  Echoing, in style and word, everyone from Edwyn Collins to Baby Bird to those gents from The Bitter Springs, Bargery and his cohorts bring an alluring and kind of forceful melancholy to bear, especially here on the first track from their new record Doubtlands, slated for a September release on the marvelous Last Night From Glasgow imprint. While at first audio glance one might read Bargery as being umbilically connected to a congenital cynicism – and indeed it does seem that a tendency toward darkness likely comes easily to him – it would appear, at least as heard here, that something of a sweet reflex toward redemption can’t help but insert itself into the mix. Presented in the form of a conflictual meditation on the inherently sublime resilience of the natural world in the face of our species’ callous encroachment upon it on pretty much every front, “Dark Slopes Away” (aside from being a serious contender for...
  • The Sixteenth NEXT Current Post-Punk Bands You Should Know About

    This is a time, isn’t it? The level of damage and death being met too often by the perfidy of the political class, the yawning gulf of societal iniquities again being thrust into the spotlight* as it – no surprise – grows deeper and wider (while of course corporations get…oh, why bother even saying it?), the lockdown stay-at-home quarantine psychosis unmasking in even sharper relief the level of radical idiocy infecting this – and pretty much every – country, it seems to me that referring to this massive upheaval as merely a ‘crisis’ as is so often the case is only acceptable if it’s universally understood that the word ‘existential’ is implicitly set in front of it. And while those of us here in the worldwide darkwave community could well be expected to kind of adopt this event in a way that would more or less amount to a nihilistic ‘We told you so,’ what has impressed me over the past two plus months has been the level of outreach, compassion, and just outright love that has flooded the scene. We are by nature reclusive in many ways, viewing the wider world with, at the very least, a hard-earned skepticism....
  • STEREO EMBERS TRACK OF THE DAY – “In God You Trust” from Boston’s Pilgrims of Yearning

    Songs that matter, they have a defiance, a drive running down their center with a precise recklessness, splitting the love/hate atom nearly every second of the way. Fast or slow it doesn’t matter, they have the charge in them and it’s unmistakable. They’re fired by their own passion and ambivalence, balancing on a paper-thin fulcrum between existence and its opposite, which is to say they’re mirror-image avatars of the artists that produce them. It’s a dynamic you’ll find in every moment of ‘rock’ history worth remembering but it would seem to especially be the case in the punk/post-punk/goth/darkwave realm, where the tension of the ‘life and death’ equation has few rivals (aside from, perhaps, the blues at its most desperate). What seems to draws us to – and keeps us forever in – that multifarious genre is the redeeming promise of darkness in the face of a false and spurious light. It’s a case of speaking truth to power where truth is, well, the truth, and power is the mundane, the gathered forces of an oppressive ‘reality.’ Examples abound, they’re legion and nearly, umm, boundless. “London Calling” is obviously one, “The Passion of Lovers” another. “Love Will Tear Us Apart”...
  • QUARANTINE AGE KICKS, Vol. 4 – “The Distance” by Nick Kizirnis

    Feeling both ahead and behind a schedule that in large part doesn’t even exist – for this writer, never has the title of Elvis Costello’s “Man Out of Time” felt more accurate – we here at Stereo Embers, like most of you we suspect, are playing a random, scattershot version of catch-as-catch-can when it comes to, well, life in general but more specifically in our case, album reviews.  Now, to be honest, that’s not exactly a status that requires the calendar-shredding effect of a shelter-in-place lockdown for us to find ourselves in  – albums arrive amidst enough of a swirl in ‘normal’ life to make decent coverage a challenge – but from what we’ve been able to tell, nearly everyone finds themselves, in their own way, seized by the paralysis of an enforced immobility. Stated in “Wizard of Oz” terms, that tornado that displaced our dear Dorothy is, in our current pandemic context, fueled by the fierce winds of nothingness that keep dropping us into the dry barren fields of a place called Anomie.  But really, enough is enough, the time has come to rally, shake off our torpor, gather our wits and words about us and get to it. Welcome, then,...
  • Quarantine Age Kicks, Vol. 2 – “Reeling” by Stutter Steps

    Feeling both ahead and behind a schedule that in large part doesn’t even exist – for this writer, never has the title of Elvis Costello’s “Man Out of Time” felt more accurate – we here at Stereo Embers, like most of you we suspect, are playing a random, scattershot version of catch-as-catch-can when it comes to, well, life in general but more specifically in our case, album reviews.  Now, to be honest, that’s not exactly a status that requires the calendar-shredding effect of a shelter-in-place lockdown for us to find ourselves in  – albums arrive amidst enough of a swirl in ‘normal’ life to make decent coverage a challenge – but from what we’ve been able to tell, nearly everyone finds themselves, in their own way, seized by the paralysis of an enforced immobility. Stated in “Wizard of Oz” terms, that tornado that displaced our dear Dorothy is, in our current pandemic context, fueled by the fierce winds of nothingness that keep dropping us into the dry barren fields of a place called Anomie.  But really, enough is enough, the time has come to rally, shake off our torpor, gather our wits and words about us and get to it. Welcome,...
  • Quarantine Age Kicks, Vol. 1 – “New Store # 2” by Chris Maxwell

    Feeling both ahead and behind a schedule that in large part doesn’t even exist – for this writer, never has the title of Elvis Costello’s “Man Out of Time” felt more accurate – we here at Stereo Embers, like most of you we suspect, are playing a random, scattershot version of catch-as-catch-can when it comes to, well, life in general but more specifically in our case, album reviews.  Now, to be honest, that’s not exactly a status that requires the calendar-shredding effect of a shelter-in-place lockdown for us to find ourselves in  – albums arrive amidst enough of a swirl in ‘normal’ life to make decent coverage a challenge – but from what we’ve been able to tell, nearly everyone finds themselves, in their own way, seized by the paralysis of an enforced immobility. Stated in “Wizard of Oz” terms, that tornado that displaced our dear Dorothy is, in our current pandemic context, fueled by the fierce winds of nothingness that keep dropping us into the dry barren fields of a place called Anomie.  But really, enough is enough, the time has come to rally, shake off our torpor, gather our wits and words about us and get to it. Welcome,...