Hopefully with the weather getting nicer and the lockdown starting to let up, the creative spirits will keep rising and we’ll be able to see live music again. I mean, at any good space rock show, people are 6-feet apart anyways.
I’ve been listening to a lot more music lately, and have also been working on the Masstransfer book that should come out later this summer. Though, it’s hard to believe how quickly a month goes by these days – time seems to have lost some perspective. But not all hope is lost, I still somehow seem to know which day is Monday.
For fans of textured guitar treatments smeared across a sonic canvas, The Virgance (aka Nathan Smith) returns for one final flight with Flying V, released this week by El Vals del Conejo. Though some song titles are a bit combat-oriented (“Wingman”, “Battle Damage”, “Attack Formation”) – the vibe is closer to flying fast through the stratosphere, high above where the Earth seems like a blur. Drum beats add a rhythm and structure, but the sharp edges are smoothed over and add to the pulsing movement of the songs. It’s a sound that shares a similar origin as the hazy realm of Flying Saucer Attack and Third Eye Foundation.
I’m sorry to hear this is the last Virgance album, having followed Nathan’s work for most of the past decade, but also excited to see what his next chapter brings.
This article was originally published in the second issue of Masstransfer, 1998.
Vancouver’s Electrosonics have emerged from a succession of lineup changes to release “Rampion”, the follow up to their 1996 self-titled debut EP, on Drive-In records.
The band coalesced three-and-a-half years ago with a nucleus of Eric White (vocals, bass), Heather Campbell (guitar, keys) and Clare Kenny (vocals, guitar). They put a musician’s ad in a local paper, which caught the attention of Curtis Hobson, who had recently quit a band which included an “alcoholically-challenged guitar player”, while Wendy Young joined in December 1997 to fill out guitar and vocal parts. Michaela Galloway was recruited in February 1998 after Clare left the band to return to university.
The Electrosonics debut EP features Clare on vocals and is reminiscent of early 90’s guitar based dream pop bands such as Lush and Slowdive, although Heather also lists the Monkees, Tears For Fears, and the Stray Cats as influences. However, this band adds an ever more textural mood to the mix. They utilize effects processors and obscure synths, such as the Jupiter 8 and the ARP Axxe, to build an emotional climax to their tracks. The last song on their first EP, “Star Scream”, is 8 ½ minutes long and captures groups penchant for slow-building epics.
The band also has a philosophical view regarding the future of music and how they fit in. As White explains, “popular music is a strange amoeba…just when you think it’s atrophied as much as it conceivably can, it stagnates further. Then it starts munching at fringe music. Then it digests it. I don’t really see that process changing. For the short-term though, it looks as though droney and more experimental bands are starting to tinker with structure and dynamics. The opposite is also happening, which is pretty cool. Honest and beautiful music will always exist. Maybe in the new millennium more people will be motivated to find it.”
Hello there fellow humans, we’re deep into this pandemic now and things have really slowed down. This has given some artists and musicians more time to compose and record, even if the topic is just the quarantine itself. I’m starting to see quite a few tantalizing releases on the horizon, including a big release for any fans of the old Detroit Space Rock scene (more on that to come). For now, check out these new treats, take care of yourself, and help out those you can.
Fans of Kosmiche-era eletronics will rejoice in the release of Diaphanous Structures, the latest from Listening Center. On this outing, the arpeggios are a little darker and more skeletal – “Hovering Haze” is the sound of a factory devoid of humans, continuing to do their jobs day in and day out. This feeling continues on songs like “A Torn Hedge” and “Sapling One”, which continuously morphs into new sequences of synth sounds. A few tracks, “Concentric Circles” and “Glass Phantoms”, elicit a comparison to the glassy tones of mid-70’s Cluster, while the around-one-minute interstitial material is reminiscent of fellow retrofuturists Broadcast. This is impressive company to be in.
In a similar electronic vein, yet decidedly more fun and funky, is the new album Puzzlewood from Plone – their first in like 20 years, this one on Ghost Box. If you’re prone to the sheer pleasure of dancing by yourself to retro futuristic beats a la the lighter side of Stereolab or the High Llamas, then by all means throw this on and have a time. From the label: “This is unironically joyful and melodic electronica; informed by library music, music for children’s TV and a deep passion for the history of music technology.”
If you‘ve been reading the blog for a bit you’ll notice a pattern in most of the bands covered here – they’ve been around for awhile and they continue to create evolutionary sounds and music. This month’s featured band, Zelienople, is no exception.
They emerged from a scene in Chicago in the late 1990’s roughly centered around the Loose Thread record label, headed by Melochrome frontman Pramod Tummala. He introduced me to many new bands and artists, but the first few Zelienople albums, along with Western Automatic (a solo project from the band’s singer and guitarist Matt Christensen) especially stood out. The band released 12 full-length albums up until 2015’s Show Us the Fire, after which they took a 5-year hiatus.
The New Album
A few weeks ago, Zelienople released their latest album, Hold You Up which continues their exploration of sparse soundscapes and hypnotic bleakness which began almost 20 years ago. I had the chance recently to talk with Matt, just as this coronavirus quarantine was starting to take shape. The emotions that the current situation evokes, those of loneliness and isolation – the ill-effects of social distancing – drive the sparseness of their sound and form a basis for lyrical content. “I’m also working in mental health. I’ve been dealing with a lot of communities that are impoverished”, says Matt, “a lot of the stuff that I write about deals with poverty and marginalized people. I also, you know, I have anxiety. Depression. Got a pretty messed up family. I write from that perspective a fair bit.”
During this time of self-isolation and ever-evolving news, get lost in an expansive mix of dreampop, ambient, spacerock and other outersounds.
The current pandemic and associated social distancing repercussions have devastated the short-term prospects of the musician and entertainment communities, so I’ve put the focus on some bands and artists that should be familiar with both Sonixcursions as well as Masstransfer readers from over the years. Please give your support where you can.
Light Heat “Used To Know Why”- from 2018’s V, continuing the musical evolution of Quentin Stoltzfus, who previously recorded under the moniker Mazarin.
Wow – a lot has changed in the 4 weeks since my last Orbitings post. Bars and restaurants are closing, causing ripple effects in the music and arts business. We need to put our heads together and figure out ways that we can help these musicians get by during this time of uncertainty. I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days, but for today BandCamp.com is Supporting Artists During the Covid-19 Pandemic by encouraging fans to buy music today (Friday, March 20) and sending all the revenue to the artists.
From their statement: “To raise even more awareness around the pandemic’s impact on musicians everywhere, we’re waiving our revenue share on sales this Friday, March 20 (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time), and rallying the Bandcamp community to put much needed money directly into artists’ pockets.” Go forth and support these artists today (and over the coming weeks and months) because we will get through this, and we’re all gonna want to see a show when this is over.
It’s been a couple of years, but Chicago’s Zelienople are back with a sonic document of the times, Hold You Up – a testimony to driving ahead amidst looming uncertainty. The bleakness of some of the songs speaks to our current state of isolation, especially with the title track as well as “You Have It”. I had the chance to sit down (virtually) with singer and guitarist Matt Christensen the other day, and should have the interview up soon, but until then check out the new album as well as their deep back catalog that goes back to 2002’s Pajama Avenue. Matt himself is fairly prolific on BandCamp.com as well, with over 100 releases posted. Well worth the dive.
Time has flown by so fast this year, that I just realized I hadn’t posted my favorite albums from 2019 yet, as I’m also in the process of making a list of top albums from the 2010s as well (which is getting interesting…). So here goes…
The top two were very tight, but LMTO are just knocking it out of the park at the moment and the extended jam of “La Maga” puts this one over the top.
Lorelle Meets the Obsolete
Speaking of which, Lorena and Beto of LMTO are gearing up for an EP that releases March 13. Re-Facto contains 2 remixed tracks from the album, along with 2 new ones, pressed on a limited edition translucent orange and green vinyl 12”. They’ll be on tour in the US for the month of March, so check them out if they come near your town.
Between the coronavirus, political tensions and climate anxiety, there’s no shortage of crazy stuff going on in the world at the moment. So if you’re looking for a sonic diversion you’ve come to the right place – new music from Canada, England, Estonia, Australia, and the US to enlighten your day.
The Asteroid #4 conjured up their 60s influences to deliver “Under My Umbrella”, the chorus of which could easily have been pulled from the Magical Mystery Tour. At the request of the record label’s owner, Stu Pope, “the A4 jumped back into the heyday of Psychedelic music’s first wave”. The flip-side, “The Seventh Moon”, starts out with a motorik feel, but changes halfway through into a more mystical vibe with a flute that glides over the song.
Flyying Colours are possibly one of my favorite bands of the last decade, though we haven’t heard much from them since 2016’s Mindfullness (Club AC30 recently did a pink vinyl re-press). Well they are back with a new track, “Big Mess” (video below), spiking the intro with synth arpeggios leading into a heart-racing guitar-driven experience that challenges you to sit still.
This article was originally published in the third issue of Masstransfer, 1999.
Many circumstances inspire people to start a band. For Dallas, it was the ability to actually perform music after 50 years of Soviet domination in their homeland of Estonia. Having been isolated for so long, this group has ridden the explosion of musical elements both native and imported. Formed in 1992 to contribute a track to an Estonian Independence compilation, Dallas has since become the darlings of the scene in Tallinn (capital of Estonia), although certain music charts label them as imports due to their English lyrics and general western flavor. Having been compared to early Cardigans, Stereolab, Pram, etc, this group of spunky youths prove themselves as musically independent as their homeland. They recently found a home on Toronto’s High Park Records, and their debut full-length CD was released in North America earlier this year.