Welcome to April. This week I've got reviews of new albums from Mudhoney, FACS, Tricky collaborator Marta, electronic producer James Holden, Kings of Convenience's Erlend Øye and Marbled Eye offshoot Public Interest.

Once again it's a much bigger week in Notable Releases as Andrew reviews new records by Wednesday, Scowl, Blondshell, and more.

More Basement-related content: The Clash's Paul Simonon made an album with Galen Ayers (daughter of Soft Machine's Kevin Ayers) that features Damon Albarn and more; Ride's Andy Bell announced a collaborative album with ambient jazz duo Masal; New Orleans' Silver Synthetic are back; Underworld are back in action; that new DC club that's a replica of the original 9:30 Club is opening next month; and if you've ever wondered what Depeche Mode could do with Gordon Lightfoot's soft rock classic "Sundown," your dreams have come true.

The Indie Basement corner of the BV online shop is a good place to blow your tax refund with vinyl, books and merch from Love & Rockets, The Raincoats, King Gizzard, Cocteau Twins, Grant Lee Buffalo, The Lemonheads, DEBBY FRIDAY, Sleaford Mods, Belle & Sebastian, New Pornographers, Naima Bock, Stereolab, Protomartyr, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, Bowie, and lots more.

Head below for this week's reviews...

facs still life in decay

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: FACS - Still Life in Decay (Trouble in Mind)
Gleaming, propulsive and compelling, it's the Chicago trio's fifth and best album yet

With Still Life in Decay, Chicago trio FACS have moved out of the shadows, from behind the clouds. They are still an ominous, gothic monolith; heavy like a white dwarf but now gleaming like obsidian. Brian Case's vocals, partially hidden and mutated by reverb and other effects on the group's four previous albums, emerge from the haze unobscured, presenting a confident, seething frontman. As usual, FACS are powered by the formidable rhythm section: Alianna Kalaba's steely, sky-scraping bass lines that fire like rocket boosters sending their songs ever upward, and Noah Leger's crushing, precise drumming. With Case's highly atmospheric guitarwork, Still Life in Decay is a triangulated attack of post-rock, post-hardcore, and post-punk. It's not demonstrably different than their other records, but everything is refined and noticeably lifted.

Take for example, the massive "You Say." No one would ever confuse it for a pop song -- up front as his vocals are here, Case doesn't so much sing as bark -- but the bass hook is undeniable and this is as big a banger as they've ever created. The other five songs, including epics "Still Life" and "New Flag" which make up all of Side 2, are equally as memorable, mixing dub techniques with experimental rock, muscular playing, subtle ambience and, as always, a palpable sense of dread. Still Life in Decay is such a perfect encapsulation of what they do, I'm not sure where FACS go from here, though knowing them the next record might already be finished. With Kalaba having departed after making this one, and original member Jonathan van Herik back in the band, perhaps they will blow it all up and start building a totally new menacing high-rise.


Mudhoney Plastic Eternity

Mudhoney - Plastic Eternity (Sub Pop)
The Seattle legends are older but still snotty on their 11th album

The snottiest of Seattle's OG grunge generation (OGGG), Mudhoney have been defiantly flipping the bird and shouting "who's next?" for 35 years and have been one of the most consistent of their peers as well. The band have slowed their roll a little, having dropped back to a clockwork once-every-five-years release schedule since 2008, but they haven't mellowed one iota. Plastic Eternity continues with the apocalyptic anxiety of 2018's Digital Garbage, but adds in all the crap of the last three years to the mix, with Mark Arm's wicked sense of humor in especially fine form. "Cry Me an Atmospheric River," one of 2023's best song titles, imagines the earth's climate system as an apex predator that has no pity for the ones who turned up the thermostat. "I will always be here, heating and cooling / It doesn’t matter to me what happens to the humans," Arm sneers against a maelstrom of mutoid psych rock. "Cascades of Crap," another great title, follows a similar unsubtle but effective tack. There's also "Here Comes the Flood," which lampoons anti-vaxxers and Ivermectin users, while "Human Stock Capital" aims its darts at the ugly gig economy many of us are stuck in. The album does have a couple sweet moments too: "Paul Herman's Hermits" is an ode to Pere Ubu's on-again-off-again guitarist, and the album ends with "Little Dogs," a tribute to Arm's pomeranian, Russell. ("Sure they get wound up, but they’re easy to distract / Just pick ‘em up or give ‘em a tasty tiny snack"). Plastic Eternity may not be as essential as Superfuzz Bigmuff or Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, but it's always good to have them back. As Arm puts it, "Some people have poker night or whatever the fuck, and they have the excuse to get together with their friends. For us, Mudhoney is that. This is what we do.” May they never stop.


public interest - spiritual pollution

Public Interest - Spiritual Pollution (Erste Theke Tontraeger)
Chris Natividad of Marbled Eye offers off up a bleak vision on his second Public Interest album

When not playing in Oakland's post-punk inspired band Marbled Eye, Chris Natividad makes even more gothy post-punk as Public Interest. There's a nice emphasis on the punk side of things here, and Spiritual Pollution -- the project's second album -- has a real snarling energy to it. The album reminds me a lot of Belfast band Girls Names, and as they broke up in 2019 this fills a bit of a void. Not that there aren't a bunch of other dystopic groups slashing with dark abandon out there, but Natividad attacks with true bleak vision; when he sings "Why bother at all?" he means it, man. On spiderweb rippers like that one, "Residue" and "Undone," he shows innate skill at weaving together snaking guitar parts, moody basslines and icy synths to create a palpable air of romantic nihilism.


james holden - Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities

James Holden - Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities (Border Community)
A work of hallucinatory post-rave beauty from this veteran UK producer

British producer James Holden has been part of the electronic community for over two decades, running the Borden Community label, remixing everyone from Madonna to New Order, and dabbling in everything from IDM to EDM and most points in between. These days, he occupies a space somewhere in the quirky ambient world that owes equal parts to new age and rave comedown music. He's cited The KLF's seminal Chill Out as an influence, and you can also hear The Orb, Boards of Canada, and 808 State in what he does. (True heads would probably name less obvious comparisons.) Imagine a High Dimensional Space of All Possibilities is Holden's fourth album under his own name and is a conscious look back at the blissful '90s. “I wanted this to be my most open record, uncynical, naive, unguarded, the record teenage me wanted to make,” Holden says. “I used to balance my clock-radio on a wardrobe to catch the faint pirate FM signals from the nearest city, dreaming of what raves would be like when I could finally escape and become a New Age traveller. So it’s like a dream of rave, a fantasy about a transformative music culture that would make the world better. I guess it’s also a dialogue with that teenage me.” Full of percolating modular synths, lilting sax, gentle beats, and nature sounds, Imagine a High Dimensional Space of All Possibilities has a few songs that could fill a dancefloor, but nothing that would disturb your sleep at normal volume. That's not a criticism. It's wallpaper, but gorgeous, compelling wallpaper to get lost in.


marta and tricky when its going wrong

Marta and Tricky - When It's Going Wrong (False Idols)
Tricky vocalist goes solo...sort of

Polish singer Marta Zlakowska was a bartender when, in 2017, a chance meeting with Tricky altered her career path dramatically, and she's become the trip hop icon's chief vocalist for the last six years. Her smoky voice and chilled out delivery is at times uncannily like original Tricky vocalist Martina Topley Bird, and has been no small part in his creative rebirth. (If you haven't checked in with Adrian Thaws in a while, his recent stuff is worth a spin.) After appearing on a number of Tricky's records, he's helped Marta make her solo debut, producing the album and writing eight of the nine tracks. (PR calls it a solo album but streaming services credit it to both.) He adds his signature whispering vocals to a few tracks, too, which means it's almost indistinguishable in style from his 2020 album, Fall to Pieces. Nothing wrong with that either -- it's minimal and moody in all the right ways, with warm, slow pulses of synthesizer, muted guitar, strings, and the chillest of beats. Their voices sound great together. Also like Fall to Pieces, none of the 10 songs crack the three minute mark, and though the album is shorter than many King Gizzard songs, it doesn't feel underbaked. The record could use a little more to distinguish itself from other releases on Tricky's False Idols label; only "Czarno Czarny," a cover of on an early '70s song by Polish folk singer Mira Kubasińska, feels like something Tricky wouldn't do.


erlend oye winter companion

Erlend Øye - Winter Companion (Bubbles Records)
The Kings of Convenience co-founder's quickly recorded EP is highlighted by a cover of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman"

"It's been a dream for me to release songs that I have written while they are still fresh out of the oven," Erlend Øye of Kings of Convenience, a duo known for taking their time with their records, getting every note and detail right. His new solo EP proudly states on the cover that it was "Recorded in Mexico City January 2023" and two of the songs were written then as well. The dashed off nature of this EP is felt -- it's pretty slight but nonetheless fun. The first two songs are spider and sharks that could almost be children's songs, while the best two tracks are covers: Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" which he pronounces "Witchie-Tah" and The Moore Brothers' affecting "New for You." I appreciate Øye's usual tendency to sweat the small stuff, but it's also great to hear him just put songs out in the world like this.

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