Indie Basement (4/9): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Kind of a quiet week in Indie Basement but as always I've found a handful of things worth checking out: New Orleans group Silver Synthetic have delivered a chill stunner of a psych rock debut; CFCF wrap its new album in late-'90s nostalgia; Requin Chagrin finds room to dream on Bye bye baby; Sorry are back with a between-albums EP; Ride's Andy Bell gets remixed by Pye Corner Audio; and there's a new, unique book about the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall.
For more new record reviews, Andrew dives into the terrific new album from Damon Locks and more in Notable Releases. Other Indie Basement-approved things from this week: Museum of Love (Pat from LCD Soundsystem and Jay Dee's Dennis McNany) announced their second album; The Avalanches are releasing a quadruple vinyl 20th anniversary edition of Since I Left You; Roisin Murphy is releasing an alternate version of last year's amazing Roisin Machine; there are a bunch of Seefeel reissues on the way; and if Spiral Stairs is to be believed, carve out some time in 2022 for a full-on Pavement tour.
Also: Record Store Day announced its 2021 exclusive titles and, despite record pressing plants being majorly backed up due to the pandemic, it seems like there's more stuff than ever, including some Basement-y stuff (Super Furry Animals, The Flaming Lips, the Other Music documentary soundtrack, The Replacements, and lots more).
Head below for this week's action:
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Silver Synthetic - Silver Synthetic (Third Man)
Terrifically chill '60s-style psych-pop debut from New Orleans band featuring members of Bottomfeeders and JEFF The Brotherhood
Back in 2017 or so, Chris Lyons of New Orleans' Bottomfeeders realized he'd written a bunch of songs that didn't quite fit with the band's rip-roarin' garage punk style. They were more melodic, almost gentle, and just asking for chiming guitars and rich harmonies. To help flesh them out, he enlisted his Bottomfeeders drummer Lucas Bogner, guitarist Kunal Prakash (who had played in the full band version of JEFF the Brotherhood) and bassist Pete Campanelli. Silver Synthetic were born.
You definitely want the words "garage" and "punk" out of your mind right now, as Silver Synthetic make tightly constructed, smart, tuneful, mostly chill and definitely very catchy psych-rock that draws from a whole host of inspirations spanning the late-'60s to the dawn of post-punk. (They would also fit on a bill alongside Cate Le Bon, Younghusband, and the much missed Ultimate Painting.) Their self-titled debut doesn't have an unmemorable track on it.
Silver Synthetic is an understated album, but one that blossoms quickly and catches you off guard with its beauty and musicianship. If you're like me you'll go from "this is nice" to "no this is GREAT" pretty quick. It's also a terrific example of purposeful, concentrated noodling. The sunny "Around the Bend," the poppiest song on the album, spends the last minute on a cyclical guitar lead worthy of Eno or Television that could've stretched out for a few more minutes as far as I'm concerned. Then there's the album's standout, "Chasm Killer," a swaying, low gravity waking dream that seems to float on sunbeams and harmonies, with a ripper of a solo nestled tightly into the song.
Be it a Sunday morning or a Friday night, there is no bad time to listen to Silver Synthetic but the album probably sounds best on a sunny afternoon with a cool breeze blowing. It's also so good that this may grow from side project to main project for its members. Says Prakash, “We’ve all been in punk bands and, to a certain extent, it felt like the most punk thing to do was to chill out a bit and work up a bunch of hooky, danceable rock-n-roll music with lots of guitar solos and vocal harmonies—you know, real punk shit.”
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: CFCF - Memoryland (self-released)
Montreal producer Mike Silver explores "the gulf between the fantasy, the reality, and the memory, and how we live inside each of those at different points” by revisiting sounds of the late '90s.
Twenty-Twenty was a wild year with so much spinning out of control, so many things to be angry and frightened about, when we weren't actively fighting things a lot of us slipped into comfort zones, whether it was baking sourdough, rewatching The Sopranos, or falling back in with the music of our youth. It happened with artists, too. Take Montreal's Mike Silver who records as CFCF. "I was feeling fatigued by an overabundance of ‘calming’, productivity-oriented music," Mike said.
Most of the music Silver has made as CFCF has fallen into the "calming" subgenre of electronic music -- from Balearic and Japanese "City Pop" inspired records to an album titled Music for Objects that was just that -- but for his new album, he "wanted to explore something angsty, messy, and dark, while also applying a pop sheen." In doing that he took a trip back through the music of his late-'90s youth, encompassing not just electronic music (house, trip hop, jungle, techno) but also noisy indie rock and shoegaze. The result is Memoryland, a loose concept album about moving to the city in your early '20s, "Losing your sense of self to the whims of your surroundings and trends in music and fashion; the wrong people, and trying to dig yourself out of that hole," and then trying to find your own path.
Though Memoryland covers a lot of ground, both stylistically and in sheer length (it's a double), it's also CFCF's most engaging record since his 2009 debut, Continent, and despite the genre-tripping it holds together as an album. The album isn't as brazenly nostalgic as M83's Saturdays=Youth, but it covers some of the same ground, especially on the early tracks like the jungle-shoegaze amalgamation "Life is Perfecto" and "Punksong" which is probably closer to The Radio Department than actual punk. He also gets some help from actual shoegazer No Joy on "Model Behavior."
From there, the album becomes fully immersed in clubland, from the rush of going out dancing every night ("Night/Day/Work/Home") to dalliances with the lounge scene ("i regret the jet-set"), French Touch ("Self Service 1999"), chillout grooves ("After the After"), and more. Tracks are interspersed with ambient collages that feel like actual memories of hanging out, hazy half-remembered conversations, and other everyday moments of life. The album ends with "Heaven," featuring Sarah Bonito, that ties the album's themes and sounds into one grungy dreampop anthem about the Greek myth of Icarus. Nostalgia has its place, especially when filtered through CFCF's forward-thinking hands.
Andy Bell - The Indica Gallery EP (Sonic Cathedral)
The Ride singer-guitarist hands his solo songs over to analogue synthspert Pye Corner Audio.
Ride's Andy Bell released his terrific solo debut last year, and is now using the songs from it for a series of EPs he's calling "Ever Decreasing Circles." Andy explains: “Each release in the series will be smaller in size than the last, so we start with a 12”, then a 10”, a 7” and CD. I like the idea that the EPs represent fainter and fainter echoes of The View From Halfway Down and remind me of water splashes reducing in size on a pond, much like the shots in the sitcom's opening titles! Pretentious, moi?”
The first of those, The Indica Gallery, is out today and features six of the songs from the album remixed by analog synth wiz Pye Corner Audio. If you're familiar with Pye Corner Audio (part of the Ghost Box stable of retro-futurists) and Bell's solo album, you know what to expect: trippy versions of Bell's already trippy songs, majorly augmented with gurgling vintage analogue keyboards. Which is to say it's pretty awesome. There's also an edit of The Indica Gallery's title track by GLOK, which is Bell's electronic pseudonym, making for ever more inner-spiraling circles of meta-ness.
There are lots and lots of Pye Corner Audio songs in Adam Curtis' amazing new documentary series Can't Get You Out of My Head.
Requin Chagrin - Bye bye baby (KMS Disques)
Chilly French dreampop for fans of Chromatics and Molly Nilsson
Parisian musician Marion Brunetto has been recording as Requin Chagrin since 2014, making the kind of dreampop with a real emphasis on "dream" -- a wistfully lonesome sound that's heavy on reverb, tremolo'd guitars, icy synths and melodies that hearken back to the early days of rock n' roll. "David Lynch music" is a bit of crutch description, but it also takes you to a specific place and I would be shocked to learn that Marion disliked Twin Peaks.
Requin Chagrin also puts her own spin on this sound that's just a little shoegazy and a touch more indiepop that many of the artists who wish they could play the Bang Bang Bar. Singing in her native language also adds to the air of mystery -- rock and the French language don't always go together so well, but it's perfect for instantly evoking a noir atmosphere. Bye bye baby coulda been released on Captured Tracks in 2010 with its hazy mix that falls somewhere on the venn diagram of Chromatics, Molly Nilsson and Wild Nothing. You're probably either hitting play or skipping to the next item at this point in this review, but this is superior stuff. Someone should slide David her album as he works on his new Netflix series, Wisteria.
Sorry - Twixtustwain (Domino)
New EP from London duo finds them in a more experimental mood in between albums, but no less captivating.
London duo Sorry released their debut album right when COVID hit, and were actually in NYC for their first-ever US shows when the city went on lockdown. It was good music for the times, dark and moody, woozy and boozy, and just a little claustrophobic. It's was also a big sounding album, and very well produced. Weird, but with a sizeable budget. As a way to stay busy during the pandemic and work on new ideas before spending a lot more of Domino's money on 925's official follow-up, Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen have given us a new Sorry EP that's decidedly smaller in scale but no less enticing. The five songs on Twixtustwain are glitchier and more idiosyncratic, and also more creative, with a throw-it-against-the-wall attitude, and more of it sticks than not. Sorry are very good at "mopey" and there are a couple great bummers here: "Things To Hold Onto" sounds like a perfectly dreary day, with bloopy percussion as fat raindrops; while "Separate" revels in its bad mood, a musical equivalent of despairingly kicking the dirt. Sorry can also do sweet and romantic, too -- "Favorite" charms like a modern day version of The Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You," with Asha still exuding a sad vibe, but seeming happy to have someone with whom to share it.
Excavate!: The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (Farber & Farber)
A unique exploration of Mark E Smith's endlessly influential band, featuring rare art, lyrics, new essays and more, edited by Bob Stanley.
There are already a number of great books about The Fall, including bassist Stephen Hanley's The Big Midweek, Brix Smith's The Rise The Fall The Rise, and Mark E Smith's own Renegade, not to mention the compendium of ex-members, The Fallen. The iconic band's lifespan is too big, too messy for a traditional rock bio, so Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley (who wrote the amazing Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop) and Tessa Norton have put together a unique book -- Excavate! - The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall -- that offers insight on the band via band fliers, rare artwork and photos, lyrics and other handwritten material, as well as essays by a variety of fans. "This book is not about a rock band," Stanley and Norton say "This is not even about Mark E Smith. The book is for Mark E Smith more than it is about him.”
That last part is probably a bit of a joke, but it sounds like Excavate! will lovingly be poisoned with Smith's style of bilous wit. The book is out now in the UK and will be released June 22 in North America. There's an audiobook too, read by Maxine Peake, Pat Nevin and Dean Williamson, and as to what really went on there we only have this excerpt-uh:
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