Futuropaco : Futuropaco

There’s a serious groove that permeates each track on Justin Pinkerton’s debut record as Furturopaco. Not the typical groove, though. This album has an aged vibe to it that makes it feel both like some lost, sweaty acid-fueled Ennio Morricone score; as well as some Goblin recording session fueled by a night of over consumption of The Doors and some ultra fine vino. With a gig as the drummer of psych rock outfit Golden Void, Pinkerton lays down 9 tracks like he’s got something to prove(he doesn’t.) The results are a stunning debut of heft, melody, and enough groove to get our bell bottoms and funky jean jackets moving all night long.

Futuropaco is tight. There’s no space not filled and no forward motion wasted here. Pinkerton is not a stranger to 60s psych, and that essence is still alive and well here, but there’s a more regal feel. “Fantasma Arancione” sounds like a cross between Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s Luke Cage S/T, if Luke Cage had taken place in some neo-futuristic Tuscany instead of Harlem. The rhythm section just grabs you and doesn’t let go. “La Tore Cade” sounds like Lalo Schifrin scoring Umberto Lenzi with The Doors. “Bambino Tiranno” simmers in melancholy like Walter Rizzati attempting a counter-culture version of “Adagio in G Minor”. “Seppelire Fascisti” sounds like Queens of the Stone Age on a Goblin kick.

There’s a real sense that you’ve entered into some alternate reality with this record. A place where cobblestone streets lead you down narrow corridors and faint streetlights barely save you from being consumed by late night shadows. A faint buzz works its way into your brain, making solid decision making difficult. It’s like being under the influence of some unknown substance and letting the urge to succumb to it win. Moonlight and unfiltered cigarettes lead the way into the unknown. “Fuoco Palude” is the music that plays as you step into the unknown. Rock and roll meets the mystical as that street leads to your destiny.

Eccellente.

Pinkerton really blurs the line when it comes to genres here. 60s Italian film music, psych rock, and baroque pop meld together to form some hybrid genre that grabs you by the brain stem and pulls until you see brightly lit colors. “Peste Rossa” is all groove with tasteful synths laid over top like some kaleidoscope of colors and freakouts. “Ballare Sulla Tua Tomb” is a dainty, tasteful ending to this trip. A sonically dense mix of wah-wah guitar, synthesizer, and an underlying melody that feels like end credit music. Our tour of Italy is ending, but the sonic scars will remain.

Futuropaco will feel like revisiting some elegant dream from long ago. A dream where you drove a silver Fiat through the Italian countryside in search of nothing in-particular. Danger around every corner, an elevated sense of groove and purpose, and a need to strut in fine Italian loafers. Justin Pinkerton as Futuropaco has laid the groundwork for future grooves to come. Gritty, psychedelic, and full of purpose.

Giusto!

7.9 out of 10

 

 

IE : Pome

Listening to IE’s new record Pome is a lot like stepping into a dream. The five-piece from Minneapolis dabble in space-y, hallucinogenic songs that are as much soundtracks to existential drifts as they are fever dream walks on the moon. There’s lots of familiar vibes, but nothing you can quite put your finger on as you slip in and out of consciousness with this album. Bits of ambient drone, noise rock, buzzing electronic, and waves of experimental music come from all angles. Everything from Terry Riley, Massive Attack, and even Popol Vuh permeate IE’s musical world, which makes Pome an immense listening experience.

20 years ago if you had said you were in a drone band you may have just gotten a weird look and shown the door. The 80s and 90s pretty much made it a violation of man’s law to stop and make time to look into yourself. The decade of shiny things led to the decade of indifference. Nobody had time to crack open their skull and try and tidy up what was inside. Thankfully there has been a resurgence and revitalization of ambient and drone bands in the last several years. Bands that take that musical realm seriously. Heady trips into the subconscious to find some meaning in it all. For me, that’s an absolute must in the situation we live in. Bands like Landing, Billow Observatory, and of course IE, are making ambient and drone cool again(or for the first time? Or just cooler.)

Apparently the beginnings of Pome can be linked to a hot tub. Drummer Meredith Gill was gifted a hot tub by her eccentric handyman. An 8-person hot tub was then installed in Gill’s garage and she would soak in the hot, healing waters after band practice. You can almost feel the hot and consuming waters envelope you as you listen to album opener “Amulet”. A droning, hypnotic track that cascades like clouds with looping synth and simple percussion. Elements of Terry Riley permeate the track as Crystal Myslajek’s vocals appear from the ether. “An Empty Vessel Makes Much Noise” has a Krautrock vibe to it. More Popol Vuh than Neu!. The rhythm, quiet and subtle, leaves space for you to get lost in.

Elsewhere, the middle point of “Moon Shot” and “Idol Horizon” seem to have more pop elements than what came before. Not so much radio fodder, but there’s more emphasis on groove and melody with noise and drone floating just below the surface. “Nebula” closes the album on a free-floating space jam. Elements of Tangerine Dream step in and out of the mix on this excellent track. The Berlin School vibe is strong here.

Pome is one hell of a debut. Minneapolis can get pretty arctic in the winter months, and IE convey a certain isolation in their sparse, galactic jams. January in Minneapolis might as well be January on the moon. We need a soundtrack for those quiet, cold, and desolate moments. Pome is that soundtrack.

Grab a copy of Pome here.

7.8 out of 10

 

Lemon Pies and Lemon Skies : Ohio’s Lemon Sky Hits The Brass Rail June 16th

by J. Hubner

Another weekend is upon us, as is the age-old question, “What to do this weekend?” Well, I’ve got an answer for you. You should head to the Brass Rail tomorrow night, June 16th, and go check out the Ohio psych rockers Lemon Sky. They’ll be joined on stage by the always incredible Streetlamps For Spotlights and Lightlow.

So why Lemon Sky? Why now? Why so serious? Well, these guys know what they’re doing for one thing. They’ve got two impressive self-produced albums out now that you can grab over at their website or check out their Bandcamp page. As far as psych, well that’s a relative term. Lemon Sky’s idea of psych isn’t limited to wild colors, lava lamps, and rock bands with sitar players. Psych is more of a state of mind with Lemon Sky, and it shows in their music.

You wanna hear more about these guys before you see them live(tomorrow night at the Brass Rail), then continue reading. I threw some questions at the band, and the band threw answers right back.

Check it out below.


 

J. Hubner: So tell me about Lemon Sky? How long have you guys been around?

Lemon Sky: We’ve been around as a performing band since 2012, with Ed joining the band as the fifth member in August of that year.

J. Hubner: How did you all get together?

Lemon Sky: Eric Cronstein and Eric Keyes played music together in high school, Steve and Ed played music together in high school, and Aaron trained himself on guitar by learning John Mayer songs while in college and thought that he could probably play rock music.  He couldn’t.  All the pieces came together at different times but 2012 was the year it all coalesced , the same year the world ended, so that was a good sign.

J. Hubner: The band is described as a heavy psychedelic rock band. Are you guys more influenced by older classic stuff like 13th Floor Elevators and Nuggets compilations, or more modern bands like Wooden Shjips and Harsh Toke? Or both? Who or what did you guys bond over? 

Lemon Sky: When we say psych rock it’s because we took a bunch of psychedelic drugs together and figured that’s how most bands that call themselves psych were formed.  To us, the element of psychedelia is derived from the lyrics and the imagery created by the song rather than certain elements within the song, like the guitar tones, droning structure, or ruffled shirts.  We are influenced by old and new alike and don’t necessarily find those influences only in psych or even in rock…. Michael Jackson, Mozart, Music Machine, Pink Floyd, etc… they all have ingredients that we like to steal and bake into our Lemon pie.

J. Hubner: What’s the psych scene like in Cincinnati? Is the Cincy Psych Fest still going on? 

Lemon Sky: Our scene here is definitely rooted in grimy rock but is pretty all over the place.  Cincy Psych Fest happened for a couple years but didn’t attain annual status.  When I think of Cincy psych music I think of The Harlequins first and foremost.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about your most recent record ‘Dos’. Where was the album recorded?

Lemon Sky: We started recording Dos in February of 2014 at Oranjudio studio in Columbus, Ohio, by our very own Eric Cronstein.

J. Hubner: Can you talk a little about the writing and recording process with the band?

Lemon Sky: We had a bunch of the songs put together but there was a lot up in the air so we recorded sporadically over the next year.  The lyrics and most of Dos’ structure was written by Aaron then brought into the band for arrangement and finished in the studio.

J. Hubner: Did you record live in the studio?

Lemon Sky: This album was not recorded live but we hope to on our next album as Eric most likely won’t be engineering it… that makes it a lot easier for him to be part of the band when only wearing one hat.

J. Hubner: Does Lemon Sky dig the recording process? Do you guys like to get lost in the sonic structuring of an album, or would rather just be on a stage playing live?

Lemon Sky:  Fuck yeah we do… the studio is way too much fun.  The sonic production journey usually becomes a rabbit hole that often turns into performance itself…someone plays an instrument and someone else manipulates some effects.   Live is a completely different thing that is also waaaay too much fun.  It’s the most fun.  Our live shows are a lot heavier and more aggressive than our recorded stuff so it is just another expression of the same beast.

J. Hubner: Lemon Sky will be playing in Fort Wayne at the Brass Rail with Streetlamps for Spotlights and Lightlow on June 16th. Is this your first time playing Fort Wayne? How did the gig come together?

Lemon Sky: This will be our first time in Ft. Wayne!!  Our friends, in the Athens, Ohio band, Water Witches, have told us about Streetlamps for Spotlights a number of times and suggested we get hold of them.  We already had a weekend planned to play in Muncie, Indiana on the 14th, and Horicon, Wisconsin on the 15th, for the Jersey Street Music Festival, and we wanted to round out the run with a show on Saturday… it all came together and we get to see all of you fine folks this week.

J. Hubner: What other gigs do you guys have lined up after the Brass Rail show?

Lemon Sky: This is a weekend run for us so we’re heading back to Cincinnati after the Brass Rail.

J. Hubner: Does Lemon Sky have a new album in the works? Anything you can tell us about the new music?

Lemon Sky: We currently have all the music recorded for a 4-track EP and will be laying down the vocals as soon as we can get back into the studio.  Out soon.  We also plan on demoing out album three this summer/fall and hope to get it recorded in early 2019.  It will certainly still sound like Lemon Sky but will not sound anything like either album one or two.

J. Hubner: What does the rest of 2018 look like for Lemon Sky?

Lemon Sky: In August, we’re returning to Wisconsin to play at the Mile of Music festival… so that’s pretty rad. Aside from that we have some pretty killer shows lined up this summer and fall, both festival slots and venue gigs, so we’ll be doing a good mix of working on new music and hitting the road…. maybe back to Ft. Wayne?  We hope so.


Get out tomorrow night, Saturday June 16th, to the Brass Rail and give Lemon Sky a warm welcome. Streetlamps For Spotlights and Lightlow will be there, too. Won’t you?

Wooden Shjips : V.

It’s been five years since Ripley Johnson and Wooden Shjips set sail with their last LP titled Back To Land. Five years in this day and age feels more like a lifetime, so the announcement of the California psych rockers return was a much welcomed thing. Not that Johnson was just sitting on his laurels these past few years. In 2015, Johnson released Shadows of the Sun with Moon Duo(his electro/psych side project with Sanae Yamada.) Then in 2017 Moon Duo released two albums, Occult Architecture Vol. 1, and later in the year Occult Architecture Vol. 2. A concept album about the dark and the light, the ying and the yang, the male and female, they were both easily the best Moon Duo records yet.

Off that success Wooden Shjips returns with the excellent V.. This album can’t really be described as a return to form as Wooden Shjips have never really left the form they began with. What is that form? Fuzzy psych rock, space-y drones, and minimalist grooves in various shapes and forms since their self-titled debut in 2007. Some records had harder edges(West), while others tried to lighten up the mood a bit(Back To Land), but every time out Wooden Shjips kept it far out with a West Coast attitude. V. takes everything that came before and turns it into both the mellowest and loosest record yet.

“Eclipse” has a familiarity to it. That’s more than likely because of that dream-like guitar courtesy of Johnson. The echoed fuzz is his calling card, both with Shjips and Moon Duo. This song feels as if it’s falling from space, returning to earth’s atmosphere ablaze and ready to explode into a ball of fire. There’s some groovy saxophone thrown in that adds new sonic touches to the WS musical agenda. “In The Fall” has an all new vibe. Tighter grooves take over from the loose dreaminess, but there still ends up being plenty of dreaminess in the chorus. There’s hints of Suicide in Johnson’s vocal delivery as well. The spirit of Alan Vega lives on here. The quartet of Omar Ahsanuddin, Dusty Jermier, Nash Whalen and Ripley Johnson also capture some of the magic that NEU! possessed on their first couple of albums. “Red Line” is a pure, breezy summer jam. There’s an air of positive vibes and long car rides here with the backwards guitars and head-bopping rhythms that’s infectious. This might be one the most upbeat tracks Wooden Shjips have committed to tape.

According to Wooden Shjips Bandcamp page: “The songs were written during the summer of 2017 by singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson as an antidote to the pervasive anxiety both political and natural. As Ripley tells it, “We had huge forest fires just outside of Portland and there was intense haze and layers of ash in the city. I was sitting on my porch every evening, watching ash fall down like snow, the sky looking like it was on fire. It was an apocalyptic feeling. Summer in Portland is usually really chill and beautiful, and we were working on a ‘summer record,’ but the outside world kept intruding on my headspace.” You do get the sense that Johnson and Wooden Shjips are working against some kind of psychic downer here. They seem to be trying to build this positive musical statement against a world figuratively(and literally) up in flames.

The first single to be released was the nearly 8-minute “Staring At The Sun”. Imagine Love n Rockets and Jesus and Mary Chain working things out in some London studio back in the mid-80s and you’ll get what’s going on here. Loping rhythm and Johnson laying the vibes on thick. Pure space vibes. “Ride On” signs this record off in style. It’s as if The Band discovered fuzz pedals and got turned onto spacier realms as opposed to the earthier ones. It’s a beautiful and noisy way to end things.

I think Wooden Shjips were getting into a musical rut. While Back To Land was a decent record, it wasn’t breaking new sonic ground. V. is a stellar return for Wooden Shjips, while also opening the doors to new realms the band hadn’t yet visited. V. is the perfect summer jam that will easily carry you into fall and winter.

7.9 out of 10

Moon Loves Honey : You Drift Away From Me

As soon as you hit play on Moon Loves Honey’s debut record You Drift Away From Me there is an instant tilt in the atmosphere. The world’s axis seems to turn slightly, causing a slight dizziness. A woozy high envelopes your head and all seems mildly good once again in the world, even if for just the length of a record. The Danish dream pop/psych pop band is the brainchild of one man band Jeppe Dengsø. Dengsø started writing and recording the debut full-length in May of 2016. His acute attention to detail made this process a long and tedious one, but one that pays off well. You Drift Away From Me is a beautifully put together piece of dream pop heaven, and could very well be your favorite summer musical affair.

The album opens on the dreamy and druggy “To Be With You”, a slice of modern shoegaze in the vein of Young Prisms and Wild Nothing. There’s a wavering guitar line that also makes one pine for those classic Cocteau Twins albums of yore. Jeppe Dengsø’s voice is soothing with a nice falsetto that seems to absorb into the overall sonics. “Lonely Day” is a cleverly put-together slice of 80s synth radio fun. Dengsø is borrowing some of Kevin Parker’s studio tricks on this slickly produced song. If you’re going to take notice of someone, Kevin Parker is a great one to take notice of. “You Drift Away From Me” seems to convey the feeling of losing someone close to you through the cavernous reverb that coats the vocals, as if the singing is taking place in the back of your mind.

Elsewhere, “Is It Just A Dream?” has a shoegaze quality to it in the Ride-like guitar and heavily-affected vocals. There’s a real driving feel in the bass and drums, too. “Before I Crash” blends distorted guitar and synths well, while the vocals have a Diiv feel to them. The vibe of this album is very Captured Tracks via 2012. The New York label was putting out great shoegaze/dream pop records by Wild Nothing, Craft Spells, Diiv back then, and You Drift Away From Me captures that vibe incredibly well. It all comes to an end with the hypnotic “Replaced”. Dreamy vocals echo on as programmed rhythms carry the song into the ether. The songs seems to implode into a thousand sighs, like Brian Wilson disintegrating into the milky way.

Jeppe Dengsø, aka Moon Loves Honey, keeps things generally light on this debut. The psychedelic undertones aren’t counter-culture, but rather have the feeling of slight dazed comtemplation; looking across a body of water at sunset longing for someone not there. Or even the distant stare during a conversation you’re not quite paying attention to while in it. Moving along through the day-to-day while still fully aware that something, or someone, is missing from it. Moon Loves Honey’s debut was born out of distance between two close friends, and yet there’s a hopefulness to the melancholy. You Drift Away From Me, despite the sadness, banks on the hope that the friend will eventually drift back.

7.7 out of 10

Unknown Mortal Orchestra : Sex & Food

Ruban Nielson, from the beginning of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, has dabbled musically in darker terrain. There’s always a sense of groove and a funky nature to the music he creates, but even on the lightest days the songs sound as if they were aged in a time capsule and then dipped in some kind of low acidic brine. Drums and guitars bright and crunchy like a french fry left in the fryer too long, while the vocals and bass muffled in mold and shredded gauze. It always felt like the work of a shy singer/songwriter that couldn’t hack things being too open and obvious. Hiding the truth and vulnerability in the songs with a studio wash of cassette hiss seemed like a defense mechanism, as opposed to just aesthetic. But with each successive UMO record Nielson seemed to pull a layer of lo fi crud off and reveal a bit more. II showed some real songwriting chops with “Swim and Sleep(Like A Shark)”. There was still psychedelic adventures to be had on that record, but Ruban Nielson revealed himself to be a true songwriter with emotional depth on that song. 2015s Multi-Love was his TMI-opus and his funkiest set yet. Radio-ready tracks mixed with Stevie Wonder-meets-Prince-grooves showed a huge progression from just five years before on that UMO debut.

It appears that Multi-Love was too much oversharing for Nielson, so he’s dialed down the personal stories and has gone back to acid-tinged songs about nothing in-particular. Sex & Food is a basic desires kind of album. It’s UMOs funkiest and most riff-heavy album yet, and Nielson doesn’t want to tell you about anything except having a good time and letting loose. That doesn’t mean this album is a vapid pocket of nothing; rather it’s a collection of grooves and fuzzy vocals and seriously good guitar licks about forgetting the outside world for a bit. It’s about enjoying the simple things, like sex & food, for an album side or two.

“A God Called Hubris” is under a minute, but it tells you a hell of a lot about where this record going. It’s like “….And The Gods Made Love” mixed with the Partridge Family which then leads right into the heavy grooves of “Major League Chemicals”, a barn burner of a rocker that is like Beck, Bogart, Appice got caught up in a Sly and the Family Stone binge with a bit of that Hendrix magic thrown on top. When I hear something like this from Ruban Nielson I like to imagine the same song but with that studio grime pulled off. I can’t help but think how much more rollicking a song it would be coming thru the speakers sonically pure and at maximum fidelity. “Ministry of Alienation” shows off Nielson’s compositional majesty. I think he’s one of the most underrated guitar players working today. There’s a jazzy fluidity to his playing that doesn’t get the props in deserves. This track shows that off well, as well as showing off his near perfect vocal harmonization. The song seems to fall into a bit of madness towards the end with modulating insanity and wheezing saxophone. “Hunnybee” is a song Nielson wrote for his daughter and it’s a beauty. All 70s AM airiness with a touch of Sign O The Times Prince whimsy. Prince has always haunted Nielson’s work, and he’s very much here on this record, both in the lighter moments and in the guitar workouts. “Chronos Feasts on His Children” is an acoustic track that reaches back into the late 60s for inspiration. Ten Years After with a heavy dose of acid for good measure. That leads into the first single “American Guilt”. This is a track I would love to hear without the studio-engineered distortion. It’s a biting and jagged rock song thru and thru, with Nielson laying down some heady guitar. I think it’s safe to say this is the heaviest UMO song to date. Every piston is firing on this one.

Elsewhere, “The Internet Of Love(That Way)” shows off more impressive guitar and tasteful electric piano in a grimy R&B slow jam and “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays” opens like an early 70s Herbie Hancock track before opening into a beautifully disco-tinged track. Feel free to get funky, y’all. “How Many Zeros” lays the disco grooves on thick as well, albeit with a headier chord progression. “Not In Love We’re Just High” is an electric piano-led diss on feelings we may have under the influence. In a more just world this should be a radio hit. It’s catchy as hell and a downright beautiful soul track.

So while I would love to hear Ruban Nielson make an album of unabashed rock and soul sans the UMO grit and grime, Sex & Food is a great record. Nielson is one of the best songwriters working in the shadows of lo fi rock today. There’s a grandiose quality to his songs that he doesn’t want you to notice, but you should. It’s there and it’s wonderful. Just need to dig a little deep to find it.

8. 1 out of 10

Landing’s “Nod” is Out Of Sight

I came to Connecticut’s Landing by way of Denmark. We met up in a pub called El Paraiso Records, had a few pints, got to know each other, and now they are fast becoming a favorite ghost that haunts my skull. Thanks El Paraiso for introducing us. I have to say I’m a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t ever heard of Landing before 2016, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. You sometimes never notice the best view is right from your backyard. Not that Connecticut can be seen from my Midwest perch, but you get the gist.

To say Landing is a prolific band is an understatement. They’ve been putting out various full-lengths, EPs, and ambient sound excursions for 20 years now. The husband/wife duo of Aaron and Adrienne Snow, Daron Gardner, John Bent, and other capable creative types over the years have been churning out a kaleidoscope of dream pop, psych, shoegaze, ambient, and anything else 4AD or Sire would’ve happily released back in the heyday of early 80s alternative. Despite the sometimes hallucinogenic effect their woozy guitar and synth waves may cause, there’s always an underpinning of pop and melody(thanks to the capable and dreamy vocals Adrienne adds.) If you’ve ever melted into the darkened corner of your bedroom as you pined for that dark-haired guy or gal in Physics class listening to early Cure, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshess, Spacemen 3, Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine, then Landing is going to be your new favorite band.

As I was saying, I was introduced to Landing by way of Danish record label El Paraiso Records. Co-label head Jonas Munk had been a fan of Landing for years and decided he wanted to work with them. The collaboration was Landing’s 2016 record Third Sight(Impetus 25, if you’re keeping count.) It was a mix of psychedelic ambient and hazy dream pop. It was a stellar LP and a beautiful first collaboration between prolific band and prolific record label.  Nearly two years later Landing are readying their next record with El Paraiso titled Bells In New Towns. They’ve dropped their lead single and opening track called “Nod”. If “Nod” is any indication, Landing are turning up the intensity and it’s a hell of a good fit.

“Nod” opens in a blaze of drums, bass, and wavering synth. Where Third Sight was very much floating on a cloud of pink and purple into the ether, “Nod” has Dino Jr drive. Everything blurs into a fuzzy riff that explodes into an almost Lush feel, courtesy of Adrienne’s vocals. There’s an aggressive quality here that was absent before. This sounds like rock band exploding at the seams. Landing still adds plenty of dreamy, psychedelic heft within the buzzing bass-heavy track, but there’s no mistaking this for anything but a hell of a rock and roll banger.

I think with “Nod”, Landing have taken their sound to the next level. I’m hoping to share a few more pints with them as well.

Bells In New Towns arrives on May 4th via El Paraiso Records. Preorder the album here.