Bill’s Indie Basement (2/21): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week in the Basement: alt/psych legend Julian Cope has still got it on his 35th solo album; we lost DJ/producer Andrew Weatherall this week but he left us with a killer new single; Olympia, WA duo Daisies set indiepop tunes to sliced-up drum-n-bass beats; the late Ed Ackerson's final project, Capricorn One; Spinning Coin make jangly shambolic indiepop in the great Scottish tradition; and Lithuanian darkwave courtesy of Solo Ansamblis.
Need more new album reviews? Andrew looks at Moses Sumney, Lee Ranaldo, Grimes and more in Notable Releases. Other records I liked this week but am not writing about: King Krule's Man Alive!, Peggy Sue's Vices, Guided By Voices' Surrender Your Poppy Field, and you may only ever listen to Jan St. Werner's Molocular Meditation (featuring the late Mark E. Smith) once, but it's worth that one spin.
Also not reviewed here is Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli's very good solo debut, Random Desire, which I recommend checking out, along with my interview with him from earlier this week.
Anyway, this week's Indie Basement waits below...
Julian Cope - Self Civil War
The Archdrude aims to "represent the sheer volume of discontent in people's lives," plus songs about Facebook and "sippin psilocybin by the side of the river" on this 73 minute psych opus.
At 62, onetime Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope remains an insanely prolific artist and with a handful of different ongoing series and most of his recent output not on digital services, I will admit it is hard to keep up. But the effort is often worth it when it comes to the Archdrude, as fans call him, as even his more esoteric releases -- like last year's John Balance Enters Valhalla, a tribute to the late Coil frontman -- are pretty interesting. Julian just released Self Civil War, the closest thing you could call a proper studio record he's made since 2013's Revolutionary Suicide, and is apparently his 35th album (!). It's also the first release in his ‘Our Troubled Times’ series, "a fine temporary refuge from our daily bombardment by media luvvies and fuckhead world leaders who take us all for idiots." Despite his not undeserved reputation for being "out there," Cope always seems to have his finger on the zeitgeist.
Self Civil War is, at 13 tracks and 73 minutes, a lot. ("I tried to represent the sheer volume of discontent in people's lives," Cope told the BBC's Marc Radcliffe.) There are cosmic psych jams, krautrock rhythms, mellotrons, cheesy synths, sound effects, mushroom tea folk, sea shanties, ren-fair ditties about norse gods, the terrible things we're doing to our planet every minute, plus anti-technology parables ("Your Facebook, My Laptop"), and at least a couple songs about drugs. (It would not be that hard to argue that all Julian Cope songs are about drugs.) But it's all rather charming, with great wit, empathy and no shortage of melody, either. Julian Cope's well of tunes never seems to run dry and he's still got great pop songs in him like the organ-driven "Billy." Meanwhile, his distinct, commanding voice remains in great form and is capable of making lines like "Somebody hacked my Paypal account!" or "I will snort every powder in your handbag" sound regal.
Self Civil War is not on streaming services, but you can check out "Berlin Facelift" (about the VW emissions scandal) and "Immortal" (about doing Cope-ious amounts of drugs), via YouTube:
Andrew Weatherall - "Unknown Plunderer" 12"
We lost the great Andrew Weatherall this week and this brand new single shows he was still at the top of his game.
DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, who unexpectedly died on Monday, had a huge impact on popular music over the last 30 years. Beginning with Happy Mondays and Primal Scream, Weatherall really understood how to connect rock, dance music and dub in a way that felt organic, exciting, and new. While his heyday was the '90s, he continued to produce, remix, DJ and remain a creative force while rejecting the superstar DJ route (unlike Paul Oakenfold with whom he worked on Happy Mondays' "Hallelujah"). In the last couple years his remix credits included tracks by Peggy Gou, Tracey Thorn, Confidence Man, Noel Gallagher and, very recently, he produced Jah Wobble & Mark Stewart's anti-Brexit single.
Weatherall also made music himself, as part of Sabres of Paradise, Two Lone Swordsmen, The Asphodells (to name three) and under his own name. Sad timing, but this new 12" released today shows Weatherall was still at the top of his game. Opening with satellite pings and embellished with sound effects, "Unknown Plunderer" sounds beamed in from outer space, offering up a mellow, funky groove with lots of headroom. This is Weatherall's sweet spot -- chill but danceable -- that's he's been working in since Primal Scream's "Loaded." Amid the cosmic wooshes there's the kind of "wub wub" deep bass you can feel in your spine and a very cool guitar riff woven throughout by Ride's Andy Bell. The b-side, "End Times Sound," is even dubbier with more of Bell's guitar and echoey melodica.
There are a couple of cool remixes as well: the Radioactive Man remix drops the track down an electronic well that is icy and claustrophobic, while the Manfredas Remix is sleek and more distinctly clubby.
Andrew, you will be missed and I hope there are still a few more tracks like this one still to be released.
And while we're at it, here's one of my favorite Weatherall remixes, his cool and deadly 'A Mix In Two Halves' version of Saint Etienne's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart":
Daisies - Cherries EP
Sample-heavy Olympia, WA duo are back with with a four new tracks of dubby, danceable sunshine pop.
I feel fairly certain that Olympia, WA duo Daisies were fans of Andrew Weatherall. The group, which includes Chris McDonnell (of CCFX and TransFX) and vocalist Valerie Warren, recalls that period in the early '90s when indie groups discovered dub, dance music and sampling. (Saint Etienne and One Dove come to mind.) Daisies put out two records in 2019 -- What Are You Waiting For? and a second, simply titled 2 -- that skirted the dark, warm outer reaches of trip hop, but single "Anyone's Style" was a blast of sunshine. The new Cherries EP is more in that song's mode, especially single "Everybody's Moving to London" with its warm harmonies and a '60s psych guitar lead. The unifying sound on these four songs is the sliced-up Roni Size-style breakbeats, which sound especially cool on the kaleidoscopic, blissed-out and reverby "Dancing on the Screen." There's also the the sleek and synthetic "Perfect Vision" and "Out of the Blu" which owes more than a little to Tricky. It's all filtered through a distinctly overcast Pacific Northwest style that still manages to find the rainbow after every thunderstorm.
Capricorn One - Capricorn One
The late Ed Ackerson's final project is a melodic, psychedelic “space rock journey"
Minneapolis music, producer and studio owner Ed Ackerson, who died back in October, had been in a lot of bands over the years -- The 27 Various, Polara, BNLX -- but the project he was working on before his death was Capricorn One. Written, performed and recorded entirely by Ed, Capricorn One weaves together his many loves: '60s psych and garage, Britpop, krautrock, spacerock, shoegaze and other tripped-out sounds. The album just came out as a joint release via Ed's Susstones label and Anton Newcombe's A Recordings and if you dig any of the previously descriptors from this paragraph, Capricorn One is a welcome final gift from one of the good ones. Listen below.
The Capricorn One record came out coinciding with a celebration of Ed and benefit for his family that happened last weekend at Minneapolis' First Ave which featured performances from The Jayhawks, Kraig Johnson & The Poe-gram, Mark Mallman, Two Harbors, and two of Ed's band's, BNLX and his '90s-era poppy shoegaze band Polara. Polara's 1995 debut album just got its first-ever vinyl release in celebration of Ed's life and it's well worth picking up too.
Spinning Coin - Hyacinth
Scottish indiepop made the old fashioned way, with noisy jangly guitars and wonky singing.
Glasgow's Spinning Coin are young but the music they make could've come out of the city's early-'80s scene that sprung up between Orange Juice's sound of Young Scotland and the noisy revolution of the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Upside Down." In fact, they are signed to Geographic, the Domino imprint run by The Pastels' Stephen McRobbie and they owe a huge sonic debt to his band's sound and DIY spirit. (Extra local cred: their excellent 2017 debut album, Permo, was produced by Orange Juice's Edwyn Collins.) Jangly guitars that are mostly in tune, singing that's more concerned with the feeling than hitting the notes -- it's a sound anyone can do but only a few actually do well. Spinning Coin do it very well.
Hyacinth is Spinning Coin's second album and was created under some duress, with half the band moving to Berlin and the record finished in the middle ground of western France. New bassist Rachel Taylor brings a welcome voice to the mix which otherwise is split between singer/guitarists Jack Mellin (whose songs tend to be more rambunctious) and Sean Armstrong (who writes strummier songs and sings in a shaky register). Her jazzy contribution, "Black Cat," is one of the album's highlights. I'm partial to the songs that sound the most collaborative, such as the wonderfully romantic "Laughing," where all three voices join in warbly harmony. It's those moments where Spinning Coin feel warm and lived in, like vintage cardigan jumpers you associate with this sound and feel just as right.
Solo Ansamblis - OLOS
Superior post-punk/minimal wave from Lithuania
Much like shambolic indiepop, gothy minimal wave is another genre that is easy to replicate but extremely difficult to do well, especially with a sound that doesn't want to progress beyond 1981. Lithuania’s Solo Ansamblis do it very very well, pulling from a variety of black-clad, early-’80s post-punk subgenres. There is a rigid, robotic quality to their music, but they mix their synthesizers and drum machines with traditional rock instrumentation, giving their sound a much more visceral, human impact. It’s an appealing sound; danceable, melodic, gritty, a little sleazy… and their use of their native tongue completes the vibe. They remind me in all the right ways of Montreal's Automelodi, in that they know exactly how this stuff should sound, but don't forget to write a catchy tune. You can hear what I mean on Solo Ansamblis' second album, OLOS which is out today:
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