A few volumes of moody garage series Bitter Bells had vanished from the web, but upon request they’ve gradually been re-up’d in one and the same place. 119 tracks in total, get them here. About time to continue with the G100 series then!
APN-owned New Zealand Herald has finally given up the broadsheet format and switched to the more handy tabloid. The launch happened a few weeks ago, along with a major redesign of the web issue (as well as an introduction of the obligatory facebook app). The printed paper has been redesigned too, particularly noticable is the new masthead, but I’m unusure of how extensive the changes are since I’m yet to find a review of the new desig (or any mention of whether it was an in-house job or not). The new, blown-up H seems a natural solution aimed at finding a symbol more suitable for digital icons etc. Someone pointed out the similarity to The New York Times style magazine, and it’s not exactly a visionary concept.
What I do like however, is the above tv commercial made for the launch, which features something as clever as a PRINTED animation, filmed with a method approaching stop-motion. The actual roll of paper would be an interesting artifact, I wonder if the individual frames were created by interpolation or manually… The making of the actual film is explaned in this secondary clip.
What a job Burger has done of putting together the double cassette compilation The Kitty Comp! 52 tracks by as many bands, and as far as I can tell all exclusive (or how about Matthew Sweet covering Fever B’s “This Sea Is My Life” and a Resonars jangle explosion called “I Didn’t Feel So Cold Then”). I’ve made several happy new aquaintances but best of the bunch I think, must be Thee Goochi Boiz from Denver, recorded by Jason Testasecca (who has played with and recorded a bunch of groups like Nobunny, Mandy + Jason and the excellent Harlem). Goochi Boiz’ only release so far is this debut tape that Burger put out last year, but it’s so great I have to post about it despite its lacking news value. Oops! contains 12 songs every bit as playful and inventive as Harlem’s 2010 album Hippies. But tather than that group’s edgy garage punch, this set is covered in a warm fuzztone that places Goochi Boiz somewhere inbetween Burnt Ones and the Unwed Teenage Mothers. With songs averaging 1½ minutes in length, it’s impossible to get enough of bubblegum hit “Banana Split”, powerpop ripper “This Gun’s For Hire” and the closing love song “You’re the One I Want”. The tape is still availabe from Burger, as well as streaming on bandcamp while they’re waiting for their new album Fast Food For the Teenage Soul to reach the shelves. It will contain their contribution to the comp, called “Why You Gotta Be Mean to Me” and which borrows a guitar line from Love. Francis Carr from the band was nice enough to send me some rough mixes of a few more new ones, and “You’re Melting” is simply too cool not to let you hear it.
Another new name on the radar is The Be Helds, out of Montana. This year, they’ve put out what appears to be a self-released LP called Volume 1. The record is brimming with guitar-and-drums garage upheld by strong songwriting. While sharing the approach of say, White Mystery, their sound is more jangly and blues-based, maybe somewhat like Dead Ghosts. It’s quite a murky production, but oozing of good times with its pummeling drums, double vocals and the odd harmonica or whistling. I’m imagining this group would be a whole lot more fun live, but still, they’ve captured some of that nerve on these 10 songs. Buy and stream the whole record on bandcamp. Below is their track from The Kitty Comp, “Just Dreamin'”, which is a free download.
About a month ago Bart & Friends released their latest ep It’s not the Words That You Say (Shelflife) and it was preceded by a companion ep There May Come a Time (Matinée). Two sides of the same coin, they can be compared to the 2 mini-LPs from 2010-2011, one featuring Scott Stevens on guest vocals and and the other Pam Berry. Together they make up what I think is Bart Cummings’ best chunk of work since the Pencil Tin and Shapiros sets of two decades ago.
Bart’s choice to give up vocal duties completely has perhaps lead to the repeat on the first ep of two brilliant Pam Berry tracks from 2010’s Make You Blush, which is apparently sold out anyway. It’s a joy to hear the all-new 6 songs of the second ep, with Scott laying down some beautifully melodic vocals. The press release mentions the The Hang Ups, and these are definitely two of the best pop recordings in that vein since the 90s when Grimsey Records was around. Humble and non-contrived pop music without any of the usual trappings that weighed down so much of the 90’s indie scene, showing off talent where it actually resides. Bart & Friends try their hands on a cover too, not because they need to considering Bart’s songbook, but because “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (popularized by Roberta Flack) works surprisingly well for them, and reveals a bit more of Scott’s register. You really wouldn’t know it was a cover! Unfortunately boths ep are only available on cd, or as digital downloads.
After The Soft City’s apparent hiatus, Phil Sutton returns with the first band he’s actually fronting himself. After drumming in Comet Gain, Kicker, Cinema Red and Blue and most recently The Soft City (in which he was also the main songwriter), he’s now on guitar and vocals duties in Pale Lights. Backed up by musicians from other New York bands (Crystal Stilts, Knight School) this is their first release – a 4-track ep on Sutton’s own Calico Cat label.
You’ll recognise the songwriting style from Soft City, perhaps Kicker even, but the production on this ep is a bit more dense than his previous release (the Four Stories EP by Soft City). It’s a very even effort with four strong numbers of roughly equal stature. I must say I’m surprised Sutton hasn’t done more singing because the vocals sound both inspired and balanced. It’s hard to pick a favourite out of these sombre cuts, but “Waverly Place” certainly possess a nostalgic sentiment that appeals to me. The ep is recorded by Gary Olson and there are definitely touchpoints here with his longtime recording project Ladybug Transistor. Hear for yourself, and play the rest on soundcloud.
Out of the releases on the previously mentioned label Anti Fade, based in Geelong outside Melbourne, this 45 from Hierophants is the most impressive. They share members with Frowning Clouds, whose new single “Propellers” is out on the same label. But this ep is almost monstrous in comparison, with its hollowed.out groove, and with a clever title like “Wray Gunn” may we suspect a bit more of a surf influence? Like early Charlie & the Moonhearts, Hierophants do something unique with that influence. “The Untimely End of the One You Love” starts things off with a lilt and a spacious 12-string guitar line. It’s a muddy but strident sound, that picks up during the handclap-speckled instrumental and the tribal chant that kicks off the flip. Everything comes back in full swing on the majestic closing track “Death and Burial of the Hierophants”. This song takes the riff from The Wailers’ “Hang Up”, slows it down to a menacing grind and put some shouts over the top. Ingenious, almost on par with Black Time. Hierophants also have a split cassette with Cobwebbs, which is sold out, but you you’ll find the tracks on Anti Fade’s youtube channel. Look out for a new 45 from the other Frowning Clouds side project Bonniwells soon as well!
Orange County’s Cosmonauts have been around for a few years, released two albums worth of decent garage rock. But this year it seems like the band’s sound has finally gelled, and no longer do some of the songs feel needlessly drawn out or like aimless excercises in fuzz. This year Burger put out the new LP If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die, and it’s brimming with 12-string riffs, psychedelic keyboards and hypnotic grooves; much to the same effect as their rolemodels in Spacemen 3. It’s no exaggeration to say this album is of the same calibre as the first Crystal Stilts record, though it doesn’t seem likely Cosmonauts will recieve the same hyperbole. Stream the whole thing on bandcamp. As you can see, a few of these songs have been on previous albums, but the fact that these new versions appear here reaffirms my belief that the group have now cemented their sound. Cemented; as in filling up a tub with cement, putting your feet in and then sinking to the bottom of the harbour.
To accompany the album, the people behind Austin Psychfest have put out a 12″ called Lazerbeam. But rather than lead your thoughts to Lazer Guided Melodies, this 4-track ep is a somewhat poppier outing. At least the titletrack has that same immediate quality that Sonny & the Sunsets’ “Lovin’ On an Older Gal” had some three years ago. You simply can’t stop listening to it, and then there also a great live clip of it from Austin Psychfest over here. Call it timeless if you will. A lot of new bands seem to sound like The Stooges (again), and Cosmonauts hit some of the same vibes on the ep, but without being derivative.
Yesterday Malmö art gallery Signal hosted the lauch of local artist Jonas Liveröd’s new publication Permanent Daylight. It’s a book with a fragmented structure of articles from various cultural fields, and could have been a nightmare to design. Thanks to Re-public‘s tasteful and playful solution however, it has turned into a beautiful artifact printed on broadsheet-format newsprint and housed in a cardboard box cover.
This quote is from “Rhetoric, Humanism, and Design” by Richard Buchanan in Discovering Design: Explorations in Design Studies (The University of Chicago Press, 1995), an early but key anthology of essays in the field. Buchanan goes on to say that “prediction after the fact is what designers and design theorists do when they conclude that design is a determinate activity – an activity of discovery – rather than an activity of invention concerned with the indeterminate. A designer’s beliefs are sometimes elevated to the status of determinate principles governing all of design, rather than personal visions infused into a rhetorical art of communication and persuasion. From this perspective, design history, theory, and criticism should balance any discussion of products with discussion of the particular conception of design that stands behind the product in its historical context.”
This concept of humanism in design which Buchanan advocates can be seen as a precursor to the human-centred design of the more recent ‘semantic turn’ (Krippendorf, 2006).