Full of buzzing noisy guitars that trace their lineage back through a jagged line connected by th’ Faith Healers, Pixies and Wire, Wichting Waves second album Crystal Cafe is sure to of interest for folks who like noise rock with gashes of melody and ambient interludes. The band have professed a love of Sleater-Kinney, Dischord Records and Beat Happening and there is certainly a DIY aesthetic to their music. It’s raw sounding but their talent shines and rounds a lot of the rougher edges. Opener Twister features a swirling riff and Emma Wigham singing. Seeing Double switches to Mark Jasper singing /shouting. Back and forth it goes at a herky-jerky pace with a couple instrumental interludes that give you some time take stock and reflect right in the middle of the maelstrom.
If Kurt Cobain were still alive I could see him championing Witching Waves either by sporting a WW t-shirt or mentioning them in passing during an interview. As it is, they’ll have to rely on a few blogs and the digital underground to pass the word on about how great this is.
You never know what someone is going to throw away. Not everyone can be bothered to put their junk up for sale on Ebay. Athens, Georgia band Tunabunny recovered a “sound input device” from the garbage heap. Now a sound input device could be anything, right? In Tunabunny’s case it appears to be electronic in nature that has the ability to create synthetic sounds: loops, dots, blips, and other various and sundry glitchy sounding things. So the band are finally diving into a vast new kingdom of technology by accident.
Of course, some of the greatest things ever discovered by man were by accident, right? Peanut butter and jelly, velcro, viagra, and now Tunabunny’s re-imagine themselves on their fourth album. The previous three records were strictly guitar bass drums but now that they fished their very own “Echo” out a dumpster they sound like they’ve been re-energized with new possibilities and song structures. Save It Up sounds like Black Box Recorder while Power Breaks reminds me of something from Peter Gutteridge‘s Pure cassette. The band do restrain themselves and don’t let their new device totally take over the ship. Coming For You is vintage Tunabunny with the just the right amount of pop smarts and noise. Kingdom Technology is the most fun Tunabunny have sounded yet. stream: Tunabunny – Save It Up (from the Kingdom Technology album on HHBTM)
Weird, they did it again. I’ve listened to the new Tunabunny album probably 10 times, but it wasn’t until tonight that it clicked with me. This happened on their last album, but I thought I had them figured out and would immediately dig their second one, but there is something about this band from Athens, Georgia that keeps catches you off guard. Minima Moralia was recorded in apartments and houses and sounds lo-fi, but doesn’t subscribe to current trendy lo-fi aesthetic. The band are hunkered down ignoring the world, flying in the face of fashion and making records on their own terms.
Tunabunny like their guitars sounding raw and they like you to hear the singing bleeding into the red on the recording console, making it sound like they’re in YOUR basement when you play this record loud. They use violin and keyboards economically in their songs, sometime to increase the dissonance and sometimes to reign you in from the noise. This summer’s brilliant single Solar Sister reappears, but everything else is new. Songs like Fake It Faker are tense and taught. Perfect Time, Every Time is strangely funky, and then Cross Wire Technique is pure white noise and tin can funk, the kind fellow Athenians Pylon did in the 80’s. The record hums like an engine and blows out like a car crash at the same time.
Anything you read about Seattle grunge in the 90’s mentions how bands were making it up as they went along. Left to thrive in a vacuum far away from the rest of the world and its influence they came up with their own sound. That doesn’t happen much anymore because you are only isolated if you actively try to be isolated. Tunabunny aren’t grunge, but seem to be working in their own self-imposed vacuum down in Athens, Georgia and Minima Morilia is like a thesis on how to do it on your own, in isolation and very well indeed.
As I mentioned last week, I went to the Capitol Hill Block Party on Friday, but my weary bones failed to make a reappearance. Maybe it was age. Maybe it was not wanting to stand inside a dark, hot Neumo’s on a beautiful day. Maybe it was my lack of tattoos. (Capsule Review: I loved the Fresh & Onlys set, but wish is was outside. Thurston Moore played the longest note of the day. I think he and his band held a single note for at least a minute and a half. People went wild for Fucked Up while they played the same song for 45 minutes. It was all I could do to stay for all of Yuck which was not all their fault. I was beaten by the Block Part.) By Sunday I had recharged enough to head down to a venue that shall remain nameless for a DIY show. A couple LA bands (Dunes and Cold Showers) along with a couple Seattle bands (Stephanie and Mountainns) played what amounted to a loft show next to a freeway that bookmakers and seismologists say will collapse the next time the earth quakes.
I think this may have been a quasi secret show as both Dunes and Cold Showers played at the Block Party earlier in the day, but as discussed earlier there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to make a second appearance at. In this world there are two kinds of concert goers. There is the type that go for the spectacle and bragging rights of it and there are those that go for the music. It’s pretty safe to say that everyone in the loft Sunday night were there for the music. Why else would you choose to be someone’s sweat box of a living room with 30 other people who may or may not have showered that day? I arrived in time to see Stephanie. I own their GGNZLA EP, but I don’t remember them sounding like Boy era U2 if it had been produced by Martin Hannett (yeah, I know Hannett produced 11 O’Clock Tick Tock). Their singer has a big melodramatic voice while the rest of the band have obviously studied their Joy Division and New Order records.
Both Dunes and Cold Showers are progeny of the defunct Mika Miko. Cold Showers who are the newer band, have just a single single which is out on the Mexican Summer label. Speaking of Mexican Summers, the venue was as hot as a Mexican summer and I’m talking about one on the coast. Heat aside, Cold Showers features former Mika Miko bassist Jessie Clavin and she is their secret weapon; Shredding on guitar full time and doing part time vocal duties. They have a dark sound that pulls in influences from their hometown like X and Gun Club and mixes them with the likes of Bauhaus and Joy Division. The majority of the vocals are handled by bassist Jonathan Weinberg who has a deadpan barritone. The ringing guitars, Weinberg’s deadpan vocals juxtaposed with Clavin’s gritty angelic ones made for a killer sound. It may have been someone’s living room but they still easily made the music soar. Dunes Drummer Kate Hall joined them for their final song bringing a two drum attack as well as reuniting 1/2 Mika Miko on stage, or living room rather.
On record Dunes evoke the ethereal playfulness of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their songs rely on shimmering guitars and echoed vocals to create their empyrean sound. Maybe it was the DIY space, or maybe they just can’t quite pull off the task of equalling their records, but the trio of drums and two guitars (no bass) didn’t quite reach the celestial sounding heights of their records. Former Talbot Tagora guitarist/singer Mark Greshowak took the vocal reigns for one song momentarily making Dunes sound slightly like his old band. Otherwise Stephanie Chan handled the singing of which she is more than capable of doing, only her voice just didn’t strike me as much as it does on the records. Dunes were just OK live. Maybe it was the heat or the venue. They were too rough around the edges whereas I wanted them to explore more of their subtle and pristine side which I think is the best part of them.
A few months ago I wrote about this do it yourself ethos that has begun to flourish in the indie underground over here in the US. Record Labels popping up like dandelions in the spring and bands jumping from label to label with a 7 inch here, an album there and a cassette on another one. Back in March when I wrote that post it didn’t seem like there was a similar thing happening over in the UK. Fast forward to now and those dandelion seeds have blown across the Atlantic and are sprouting. Within the last two months I’ve heard so much good stuff originating from the UK that it nearly feels like the early 90’s again. The only drawback to this nascent UK scene is that a 7 inch single in the UK costs nearly twice what costs in the US, and that’s before you add in shipping. It’s not the man keeping me down it’s rock n’ roll.
This UK DIY scene is slowly making it’s way over to the States, with records, tours and more records starting to happen. Coming up later this month, San Diego’s Crocodiles are bringing their UK friends the Pens and Graffiti Island with them on a west coast tour. The Pens are an all girl three piece outfit from London who as far as I can tell, have yet to release a record that isn’t a split 7 inch. They’ve done singles with Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, and have a four way split coming on Art Fag that they share with the Crocodiles, Graffiti Island (again) and Dum Dum Girls. They’ll abandon the split singles (at least for one release) when their album appears on De Stijl next month. It’s called Hey Friend What Are You Doing and promises to be a shambolic, ramshackle affair with lots of noise to bury the melodies. Pens tour mates Graffiti Island could best be described as cave rock. The vocals are full of reverb and they like to sing about wolf men, and other primitive stuff. They’ve also had their share of songs on the old 7 inch medium, the latest being the Head Hunters single on House Anxiety. They have a bunch more on the way including the afore mentioned Art Fag split single, one on Sex Is Disgusting and 12 inch on Capture Tracks later this year.
Speaking of Sex Is Disgusting (the label), they’ve just released a limited edition (250) by Mazes, a band that answers the question what if the Woods’ Jeremy Earl had fronted Guided by Voices. Based on the a-side to their single it would have been very good indeed. Their mySpace is pretty funny, on it they state: “We wanna do rad things like back Mark E Smith and tour with Jonathan Richman… email us if you can facilitate stuff like that.” Mazes apparently have an album in the can, that they “wanna put out”, meanwhile look out for an upcoming split 7 inch with the Pens.
One of the more pretty sounding lo-fi bands of the current crop is Internet Forever who remind me of very underrated It’s Jo and Danny. Their songs are precious sounding but they keep the fidelity at the low end as not to sound to precious. Their cover of Beat Happening’s Bewitched is a prime example of just that. No records yet from this three piece, but that won’t be the case for long with releases lined up on Art Fag and Twenty Years of Boredom.
The Spectrals could be the UK doppelgangers of the Crystal Stilts except that their a bit more girl-group loving than the darker exploits of their Brooklyn brethren. The song Leave Me Be which I’ve pretty much killed has been floating around the internet for a good month. No physical releases yet from this one man band, but he’s promising a single and full album sometime in the near future on Captured Tracks. The Spectrals and Graffiti Island aren’t the only UK bands that Captured Tracks has signed up. Veronica Falls have promised a 12 inch record to the label, so I’m assuming that they have more than one great song that has been up on their MySpace for the last month all by itself, but it’s so hauntingly good that I’ve been going back quite often in hopes of some more. Veronica Falls are made up of former members of the Royal We, so I’m not too worried about them only having one good song.
Another London band (they’re all from London except for Mazes) is the duo Swanton Bombs who put out their Mammoth Skull ep at the very beginning of this year. They also made an album of demos that is available for free over at their MySpace. They seem to get compared to the White Stripes mostly by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Yeah, they’re duo playing guitar and drums but piano plays a large part in their sound. It’s all very basic and some of the songs remind me of early Billy Bragg, but they also have these little prog-like parts in some of their songs that remind me of what the Mystery Jets were doing on their first record. They’re kind of a breath of fresh air if you are geting tired of the lo-fi distorted guitar sound that most of the other bands in this post specialize in.
Last but not least and hot off just signing with Sup Pop is Male Bonding who have done split 7 inches with the likes of Graffiti Island, Pens, Cold Pumas and Eat Skull. Based on all that, they may be the poster children of the entire scene. If the Spectrals are the bastard sons of Crystal Stilts then Male Bonding are the illegitimate child of No Age and Abe Vigoda. Abandoned by their parents they were raised by their grandparents Husker Du, or something like that. The split 7 inch with Eat Skull just came out and is pretty hot, expect an album sometime early next year on Sub Pop.
It’s been 24 years since Orange Juice called it a day after releasing the very underrated The Orange Juice album. Along the way a few bands have payed tribute to this seminal Scottish band. Blueboy named themselves after an OJ song and Belle and Sebastian in their early DIY roots claimed them as an influence. Back in the mid-90’s Orange Juice went through a resurgence/rediscovery phase in light of Edwyn Collins’ worldwide smash hit A Girl Like You. Postcard reissued the early singles as well as Ostrich Churchyard and Polydor reissued all three albums as well as the Texas Fever ep.
Ten years later all of those reissues are out of print, so it seems like we’re ripe (sorry) for another revival. The revival, if you can call it that,seems to be manifesting itself a little differently this time around. Lately, it seems like there are a bunch of bands that are paying tribute to Orange Juice in one way or another, either with their sound, their name, or both. Let’s take a closer look at this new Scottish gentry and ascertain their OJQ (Orange Juice Quotient).
Wake the President
Are they Scottish? Very, they come from Glasgow. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Yeah, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever and Rip It Up era OJ What else is there to know? Wake the President call Glasgow their home and have a distinct early OJ thing going on in a lot of their songs. Their first two singles came out on Electric Honey Records which run by students at Stow College in Glasgow, you might remember them for releasing Belle and Sebastian’s Tigermilk. WTP are a four piece fronted by twins Bjorn and Eric. Besides the OJ influence, another Scottish band, the Close Lobsters come to mind when I hear their latest single You Can’t Change that Boy. Singles: on Say Dirty, Electric Honey and Aufgelanden & Bereit. Album: due in October. myspace: Wake the President OJQ: 82 mp3: You Can’t Change That Boy
Are they Scottish? Another yes, and from Glasgow as well. Do they sound like Orange Juice? They’ve got an early Postcard singles sound, and not just OJ singles but also a bit of Joseph K. What else is there to know? They’ve been endorsed by Franz Ferdinand and are pals with Voxtrot. Besides Bricolage hanging out in Glasgow and having a tightly wound early OJ thing going on, their name is French for DIY. Being signed to Memphis Industries bodes kind of well for their chances of making it over to the States. And since there is already an American band with the same name, they’ll likely have to change their name to something goofy like Bricolage UK or Band of Bricolage over here. Singles on Creeping Bent, Fantastic Plastic, and Memphis Industries Album: currently recording myspace: Bricolage OJQ: 81 mp3: Footsteps
Are they Scottish?: No, they’re Swedes from Stockholm. Do they sound like Orange Juice?: Yes, more late period northern soul Orange Juice with a little St. Christopher thrown in. What else is there to know? They’re a three piece band who’s singer/songwriter Henrik Linden is a librarian. That explains all the literary references, Henrik in the stacks reading books and writing songs. He must also be studying how to perfectly imitate Edwyn Collins croon, he’s nearly got it down too! Singles on Cloudberry and Plastilina Album: early 2009 promises Plastilina myspace: Twig OJQ: 88 mp3: Helen of Troy
Are they Scottish? Not even close, they’re from the Phillippines. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Not really, but there is their name, which was an OJ song. They’ve got more of an early New Order and Kitchens of Distinction sound. What else is there to know? A five piece band that hails from the South Pacific that specializes in dreampop/Sarah records sound may seem crazy, but only to those of us who were ignorant to the indie pop scene in the Phillippines. Moscow Olympics have kind of taken my world by storm quickly releasing a single earlier this year and now album earlier this month. Beautiful stuff that in a perfect world would take everyone by storm. Singles: Fraction Album: Cut the World out now on Lavender myspace: Moscow Olympics OJQ: 64 – great band but OJ influence appears to be in name alone. mp3: Cut the World
Are they Scottish?: Close, but not quite. They’re from up in northern England, Huddersfield to be exact. Do they sound like Orange Juice? Named after the OJ song Scaremonger from The Orange Juice album, but it’s not just the name. Armitage’s voice and his witty intelligent lyrics remind me of Edwyn. What else is there to know? The core of the band is writer/poet Simon Armitage and Craig Smith. It’s not just the two of them though, on many of the songs Armitage shares vocals with his wife Sue Roberts and they’ve got full band to flesh out their songs. Besides writing songs Armitage also writes books of poetry and prose. His latest is called Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist. Singles: Cloudberry, Corporation Pop Album: Haven’t seen any info on one. myspace: Scaremongers OJQ: 79 mp3: If You Ever Leave Me