It’s hard to believe that buying a split seven-inch in the summer of 1995 would lead me to meet bands and musicians that I’d still be following to this day. Such is the case with Sean Byrne, who first showed up in my record collection while in the band Lenolaback in the mid-90s. He’s been creating music under a number of guises and projects since then – appearances with Mazarin, Azusa Plane, Matt Pond PA; as well as his own brands The Twin Atlas (with Lucas Zaleski) and Lazy Salon.
Earlier this year, he released an album of a project, called Camino Sound, that he has been working on with a local musician along with a longtime friend from college. This “band” got me excited again about the prospects of neighborhood garage bands and how there are always opportunities to connect with fellow musicians to make something awesome.
A refreshing sound emanates from the notes of Western Excuses, filled with myriad styles swirling together and played in a band environment. There are no genre boundaries here – the songs span multiple styles, even within the same song. The members of the ensemble – Sean Byrne on drums, Van Kapeghian on guitar and Keith Allen on bass – represent many years of playing in and out of scenes, listening to and absorbing a variety of influences along the way.
I’m covering a lot of musical territory on this one – from psych to ambient to a Stereolab cover in Spanish. This episode will trend towards the dreamy around the middle, so get cozy… but don’t worry, the Epic45 track will bring you back to reality.
Starting off is Astrel K, the solo project of Rhys Edwards of Ulrika Spacek recently released on the Duophonic label. “Gnistrande Snö” harkens back to some of the more slack moments of Steven Malkmus, or even middle-era Velvet Underground, forming the perfect backdrop for late summer here in Michigan.
As this crazy summer continues rolling on, I’ve been immersing myself in all the current music floating around – which has skewed heavily towards the ambient and electronic direction lately. The AirPods will have to be surgically removed from my ears.
Holy Wave gets us started with the opener off of their latest Interloper. “Schlettering” displays a more avant-pop vibe than their previous guitar-based works from a few years back, but the sound has been growing on me.
A shared love of vintage synths and German music from the 70s has inspired a collaboration between Travis Thatcher (Voice of Saturn) and Dave Gibson (Heron & Crane), known as Personal Bandana. After releasing their debut in 2018, they are working towards the release of their second full-length, This Time It’s… in the Fall of 2020, featuring the included track “Chloroplasts”.
Following along the vintage synth path, the aquatic sound of Polyporeslatest album Azureshould help cool things off this summer. “Coral Palaces” serves as your soundtrack for an extended virtual deep-sea diving session.
Moving from underwater scenes to the industrial age, Gilroy Mere gives us “The Age Of Trains” from the recent Adlestropalbum – an aural homage to rural English train stations slated for closure in the 1963 Beeching Report. Quite a fascinating audio adventure.
Jim Musgrave, aka Land Equivalents, continues his exploration of eclectic electronica on “Our Friend And Colleague” from his latest Industrial Accounting EP – blending analog synth sounds with rhythmic fragments that constantly evolve and morph over the course of its duration.
Forest Robots is the work of musician Fran Dominguez, this time around focusing on minimal compositions with his upcoming release After Geography. The track featured here “Of Birds Migrating In The Distance” provides a glimpse into a meditative soundscape while providing an unsettling undercurrent that is hard to get away from these days.
On a slightly lighter note, Japanese multi-instrumentalist Nao Kakimoto – known as [.que] – offers a glistening guitar-based piece, “Film”, from his latest And Inside from the Sound In Silence label. The songs span styles from “gorgeous twinkly folktronica, joyful dream-pop” to “nostalgic melodies, dark atmospheres and complex rhythms” – it’s quite a sonic journey to behold.
For the final track, we are roused by the glitchy beats of Spectrals – “a virtual band created in lockdown times”, made up of Matthew Shaw and John Robb. On “Zip Zam Zoom”, The Happy Monday’s Shaun Ryder recounts a tale of a visitation by a UFO on the streets of Salford, England many years ago.
As always thanks for listening, and sign up for the email newsletter to get monthly updates on these and other bands featured in the podcasts.
A ton of new music is rolling through the doors of Sonixcursions HQ – and I’ve been absorbing it over the long (and hot) weekend here in the states. Most of it has been in the ambient and analog electronic vein, which seems to stretch time out even further when you’re lying in the sun.
To mark this strange season – where it’s really nice outside, yet the ominous cloud of a global pandemic and a toxic political environment make it difficult to fully enjoy – I’ve started a series of mixes on Mixcloud to offer a soundtrack to the “festivities” (more about that below).
Take a virtual deep-sea diving session with Polypores, on Mr. Stephen James Buckley’s latest release Azure. The music here veers toward the aquatic – gentle arpeggios float along the currents, waves and washes follow the tides, echoes from undersea worlds beckon to be explored.
Constant rain during the recording sessions may have played a role in creating this bathysphere: “I was also able to immerse myself in various books, films, and documentaries related to the ocean, particularly the mythology and lore surrounding it”, say Mr. Buckley. It’s well worth the submersion.
I’m not here to tell you how messed up the world is right now on many fronts. It’s a difficult time in history to find any rays of light, but hopefully I can offer some solace from the real world if only for a short time. Put on your headphones, take a walk and let your mind float with the music.
Air Formation “You Have To Go Somewhere” – from 2007’s Daylight Storms
As I continue to work on the Masstransfer book, it’s amazing to see how many bands and musicians featured in the zine are still active and producing new works. These bands are achieving high points of their careers, and I’m excited to follow-up with them to add new material to the book and this website. Here’s a few of the highlights.
Very happy to report that Chris Jeely, aka Accelera Deck (among other monikers) has re-emerged under that guise to release a new EP entitled Crystalline Prickle. His return to the more electronic and “beaty” sounds of AD comes after focusing the last few years on an equally amazing project called Llarks, which explores more of the textured guitar that usually overlays older Accelera Deck works, and stretches it out beyond the horizon. Check his album from earlier this year called Come & Close Your Eyes:
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.”