Mas Ysa : Worth

Years

Late last year, Brooklyn-based multi-media multi-tasker and studio wizard Thomas Arsenault offered up the first fruits of his new solo project Mas Ysa, a thrilling six-minute transmission called “Why?” that wrapped scrappy but impassioned vocals in a blanket of piano-led electro pop before piling on a barrage of pounding tribal techno beats, whipping up a twister of anxiety and longing and eventual blissful release. Over the course of nine tracks – four fully-fledged songs (including the aforementioned “Why?”) buffered by five instrumental miniatures – the Worth EP, out February 4 via Downtown, reveals the Canadian expatriate as an artist capable of traversing the entire spectrum of human emotion as easily as the recording studio. Slow-burner “Life Way Up From” compliments lyrical scenes of rustic contentment with icy synths that thaw and blossom like time-lapse footage of a flower opening up in the morning sun; “Shame”, meanwhile, one-ups “Why?” by applying EBM-inspired production – pitch-shifted cymbals, a shuddering staccato bass line – to a massive, defiant show-stopping vocal, whilst elegiac closer “Years” exercises enough restraint to stop it slipping off the tightrope that separates the moving from the mawkish. Like many ‘80s babies (I’m guessing here), Arsenault seems intent on writing songs to soundtrack the heart-wrenching climax of his own imaginary John Hughes film, but few do it as well as this and the subtle touches to be found in the interludes (woodwinds, classical guitar, albeit likely synthesized) suggest that his artistic ambitions may soon outgrow his current one-man-and-a-laptop set-up; a mouth-watering prospect, certainly, but until the main course arrives this EP is an appetiser worth savouring.

Worth is out February 4 via Downtown, and is streaming now via Pitchfork Advance; check out the video for “Why?” below.


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Xiu Xiu: Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Xiu Xiu - Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Jamie Stewart has never been one to make things easy for other people, or for himself. For over a decade now the Xiu Xiu front-man has been dropping offerings of lyrical gore and sonic brutality at his hardcore fan-base’s doorstep like a cat bringing home dismembered rats, making a play for their hearts with actions more likely to turn their stomachs. After a string of nominally “pop”-influenced albums (albeit ones that wrapped that notion up in so much barbed wire and broken glass), latest long-player Angel Guts: Red Classroom abandons the pretext of accessibility altogether, a move which actually works in its favour. Whereas in the past the juxtaposition of Stewart’s confrontational lyrics against playful synth-pop melodies often made the singer seem like he was trying too hard to shock, here – alongside the hissing, clanking horror flick atmospherics and ear-splitting electronic squall that account for half the record’s musical backing – his half-whispered, half-yelped outpourings (loosely themed around the ‘70s Japanese porno with which the album shares a title) barely raise an eyebrow; meanwhile, anything too closely resembling a beat or a hook that the listener could grab hold of – primitive industrial techno banger “Black Dick”, say, or the droning Suicide synths of “Stupid In The Dark (below) – is soon dragged to the floor and stomped on until it lies twitching and choking on the digital detritus of scream-fests like “Lawrence Liquors” and “El Naco.” Easy listening this is most definitely not, but that’s the point, and it’s one that Stewart makes very well.

Angel Guts: Red Classroom is out February 4 via Polyvinyl; stream it in full now via Pitchfork Advance.

Thrill Jockey double: Guardian Alien and Pontiak

 
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It’s been a while since we did a Thrill Jockey “double feature”, and to be honest I’d kinda overlooked these until last week, hence this unusually concise post: first up we have former Liturgy and current Zs drummer Greg Fox’s second release for the label under his Guardian Alien guise. Spiritual Emergency finds Fox backed by a full band, combining controlled rhythmic chaos with avant-funk interjections, electronics and spoken-word samples to create one of the trippiest, most exhilarating psych-rock records this side of the Boredoms’ catalogue; listen to a preview “montage” below.

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For those who like their altered states to be more mellow than manic, the latest offering of back-to-basics bong-rock from Blue Ridge Mountain boys Pontiak should do the trick. Innocence is the prolific Carney brothers’ seventh long-player in as many years, and hammers home just how ridiculous it is that these guys aren’t the superstars of stoner rock they deserve to be. Good old-fashioned blunt object riffage in the Cream/ Led Zep mould, with enough subtle nods to metal and Krautrock to make Julian Cope choke on his mushrooms; check out the roaring title track below.

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Spiritual Emergency by Guardian Alien and Innocence by Pontiak are both out now on Thrill Jockey.

Tracks Of The Week


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The ten best tracks to hit the net this week:
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Beck “Blue Moon” (from Morning Phase, out February 25 on Capitol)

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ScHoolBoy Q “Break The Bank” (from the forthcoming TDE album Oxymoron)

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Mac DeMarco “Passing Out Pieces” (from Salad Days, out April 1 via Captured Tracks)

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Mark McGuire “In Search Of The Miraculous” (Shinji Masuko remix)

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Tomorrow The Rain Will Fall Upwards “Thus They Sang In The Golden Age” (from the Blackest Ever Black 10″ How Great A Fame Has Departed)

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Tycho “Montana” (from Awake, out March 18 on Ghostly International)

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Young Thug & Meek Mill “Hundreds (I Had A Dream)”

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Future Islands “Seasons (Waiting On You”) (from Singles, out March 24 on 4AD)

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Pile “Special Snowflakes” (7″ out March 11 via Exploding In Sound)

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Ratking “Canal” (from So It Goes, out April 8 on Hot Charity)

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Hospitality : Trouble

The self-titled 2012 debut from Brooklyn’s Hospitality was one of those rare records that managed to radiate youthful nonchalance whilst at the same time sounding like the work of a band a good few releases their senior. Follow-up Trouble, out January 28 via Merge (US)/ Fire Records (EU), finds the trio growing with their sound rather than out of it, largely forsaking sun-soaked good vibrations for something a bit more nuanced and nocturnal, be it the slinky glitter-ball groove of “Going Out”, “Inauguration”‘s slow-motion electro pulse, the Rumours-influenced disco-tinged AOR of “Last Words” or “I Miss Your Bones”’s wiry (and indeed Wire-y) post-punk. Frontwoman Amber Papini sounds more sensual here than sleepy, and with three multi-instrumentalists (bassist Brian Betancourt and drummer Nathan Michel also contribute guitar, keys and backing vocals) all helping with songwriting duty the arrangements are impressively unpredictable; opener “Nightingale”, for instance, bounces in on a rubbery blues riff before veering off into bedroom pop territory and ending in an extended prog-rock jam, whilst the folksy “Sunship” climaxes in a swell of Bacharach-esque brass. The sun may sting their eyes a bit more than it used to, but in embracing darkness Hospitality have crafted a subtly superior sophomore album; check out “I Miss Your Bones” below, and stream Trouble in full over at NPR.

Indian : From All Purity

Chicago blackened sludge-metallers Indian return this week with their fifth full-length – and second for that powerhouse of all things heavy Relapse RecordsFrom All Purity, and it’s the most direct expression yet of their notoriously indiscriminate nihilism. With Sean Patton (credited simply with “noise”) playing a bigger part here than on previous releases, devilish screams and monolithic guitar riffs as glacial and imposing as a looming iceberg are layered against industrial drones and washes of distorted electronic hiss, creating an atmosphere of dread that will chill the blood of even the most hardened listener. With “doom” all too often a catch-all term for anything featuring down-tuned guitars and quarter-speed tempos, Indian are the intruders under the bed, grabbing the genre by the ankles and giving it a much-needed scare; check out the crushing “Rhetoric Of No” below, and stream the album in full at the group’s Bandcamp.

Jack Name : Light Show

In between stints with Fictional Boys and Tim Presley’s psychedelic garage outfit White Fence, the awesomely-monikered John Webster Johns has found time to record a cracking little solo album under the slightly less awesome pseudonym Jack Name. Light Show, out January 21 via Drag City imprint God?, is a bite-sized chunk of exemplary weirdo pop that finds snot-nosed punk, (“Do The Shadow”), spaced-out soul (“Pure Terror“) and crunchy glam rock riffola (“Born To Lose”) exploding against a backdrop of primitive drum machines and wipe-clean synth sheen, the studio-savvy multi-tasker firing off slippery six-string missives and purring seductively like the kind of cat that’s too big and too dangerous to be rubbing up against your legs. With its Bolan and Bowie influences writ large (a second half heavy on concrete noise interludes and ambient miniatures gives off serious Low vibes) and bawdy undertones Light Show paints Johns as The Man Who Fell To Earth & Landed In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a saucy, swivel-hipped snake-oil salesman shooting sex and surrealism into the stratosphere; listen to  “Born To Lose” below.

Tracks of the week


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Pretty self explanatory, this one; the first in an occasional (weekly?) series highlighting noteworthy tracks that popped up on the web over the last seven days.
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YACHT “Plastic Soul” (DFA Records 12″)

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Tweens “Be Mean” (from forthcoming Frenchkiss LP)

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Warthog “Exterminate Me” (Katorga Works 7″)

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Helm “Analogues” (from The Hollow Organ EP on Pan)

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Merchandise “Begging For Your Life/ In The City Light” (edit) (4AD 12″)

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Adult Jazz “Springful” (from Am Gone/ Springful 12″ on Spare Thought)

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Step Brothers (Alchemist & Evidence) ft. Action Bronson “Mums In The Garage” (from forthcoming Rhymesayers LP Lord Steppington)

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Real Estate “Talking Backwards” (from Atlas, out March 4 on Domino)

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Jets ft. Jamie Lidell “Midas Touch” (Machinedrum Version) (Leisure System 12″)

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Liars “Mess On A Mission” (from Mess, out March 4 via Mute)

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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra : Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

THEE SILVER MT ZION - Austerity Blues (excerpt)

It might be fair to say that the wonderfully titled Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything represents a “stripped back” version of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: with the line-up boiled down to a quintet (still featuring the core trio of Godspeed You! Black Emperor members Efrim Menuck, Thierry Amar and Sophie Trudeau), this seventh long-player clocks in at a snappy fifty minutes – the first since their debut almost fifteen years ago to fit onto a single LP – and loses the auxiliary horns that swelled the ranks on 2010’s Kollaps Tradixionales. Of course one shouldn’t assume such streamlining would prevent the Montreal group from making more noise than ever before. Here all their frustrations and furies – at politicians, polluters, capitalist fat-cats and any number of others intent on making the world an even shittier place for future generations – are focused into a point sharp enough to drive right through their enemies’ evil blackened hearts. A far cry from the instrumental neo-classicism of the band’s earliest releases, these are 21st century protest songs, massed voices crying to be heard over pounding drums and the blitzkrieg howl of two violins and Menuck’s six-string fascist-killing machine; but if lyrics like “All our cities gonna burn/ All our children gonna die” predict a decidedly bleak outcome, “Austerity Blues”‘ “Lord let my son live long enough to see that mountain torn down” mantra suggests that the things the group are fighting for – hope and love – are more important than the things they’re fighting against. The album is out January 20 on Constellation Records; stream it in full via Pitchfork Advance or check out an excerpt of the 14-minute “Austerity Blues” below.

Henry Blacker : Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings

“Wrote acres of songs, chose 10 to record; picked 8 to be on this here album. Went out for a joyous Chinese in Camberwell, had a beer at a new bar in Peckham, drove home.”

You have to admire a group so unconcerned with music industry bullshit or massaging their own egos that the self-penned press release for their debut LP makes the celebratory meal at the end sound like the most exciting part of the recording process. Of course, in this case such wry apathy is misleading: Henry Blacker (named after the 7’4” 18th century “British giant”) are a Somerset-based three-piece featuring Joe and Tim from Hey Colossus, and if you were anywhere near as smitten as I was with that group’s 2013 album Live Life Like Cuckoo, you’ll likely find that very exciting news indeed. Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings finds the trio getting straight down to the serious business of rocking the fuck out, spewing forth a succession of razor-sharp hooks and loose-limbed locked grooves as fierce as stomping Cuckoo highlight “Hot Grave” and sounding every now and then like they can’t quite decide whether to keep jamming on the same two chords for another ten minutes or stop and have a nervous breakdown. If you wished the Jesus Lizard had had the Melvins’ sense of humour, or preferred QOTSA when they were robo-riffin’ wild men as opposed to the chart-friendly friends of Elton they are today, then this is for you: injecting their speed-freak boogie woogie with precision-tooled metallic sludge dynamics (the immense, lumbering “Pearlie”), insane vocals – imagine Tom Waits panicking midway through a sword-swallowing trick – and just a pinch of melodic sugar, the Blacker boys have created the year’s first great outsider rock record.

Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings is out February 3 on Riot Season; check out its first two tracks, “Crab House” and “Pullin’ Like A Dray” below.


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