Indie Basement (7/16): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week: late reggae and dancehall icon U-Roy gets a terrific sendoff; A Place to Bury Strangers are both more raw and more melodic than usual on their new EP; Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew goes post-rock; and new UK indiepop and French psych-rock comps are on the way.
For more of this week's offerings, Andrew looks at Clairo, Yves Tumor and more in Notable Releases. It was also a generally busy week here at BrooklynVegan and Basement-friendly stories included: Sparks are touring; Protomartyr announced a fall tour (and Kelley Deal is in the band); New Pornographers are playing Mass Romantic on tour (yes Bejar will be there); San Francisco's Cindy announced a new album; and so did Billy Bragg.
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: U-Roy - Solid Gold U-Roy (Trojan Jamaica)
The late reggae and dancehall icon gets a fitting send-off, featuring classic songs, great collaborators and perfect production
Solid Gold U-Roy, which pairs reggae/dancehall/toasting icon U-Roy with contemporaries and new reggae artists, was meant to be released last year as a celebration of his career that would also include a world tour. Sadly, COVID delayed the album and then U-Roy passed away in February and the world did not get that tour. Thankfully, we do get the album, though, which is a genuine triumph and is about as good a capper to an influential career as you could hope for. Produced by Killing Joke's Youth and Trojan Jamaica's Zak Starkey and Sharna "Sshh" Liguz, and featuring the legendary rhythm section Sly & Robbie, the album has U-Roy revisiting songs from throughout his career, with an array of reggae, dancehall, rock and pop voices joining with his signature toasting style.
What makes this record so good is the wise approach everyone involved took: A) start with great songs, B) add great voices, and then C) don't do anything to fuck them up. “U-Roy would toast his songs live and Sshh would sing the songs that were to be sung later by the guests," says Starkey. "Sshh and U-Roy bonded quickly doing this and had a lot of fun doing it. The band was Sly & Robbie, Tony Chin, Robbie Lyn and me. We had to work quickly (four days), as U-Roy was leaving for a six-week European tour right after recording his parts. After he split to go on tour, we spent a couple of months overdubbing and adding the guest artists. Most artists came to our studio in JA and some recorded at their own studios."
Solid Gold U-Roy doesn't try to reinvent U-Roy for 2021 (or 2019), opting instead for a timeless sound that could've come blasting out of a sound system in 1975. The Originator's toasting style, warm and natural, dances nimbly around the main vocalists that include Ziggy Marley ("Trenchtown Rock"), Santigold ("Man Next Door"), Tarrus Riley ("Tom Drunk"), Rygin King ("Stop That Train"), and Shaggy ("Rule the Nation"). These kinds of duet records can be a dicey proposition, but U-Roy became famous for "toasting" over the records he was djing so this is all a natural fit.
The album's showstopper, though, is "Every Knee Shall Bow (Miseducation)" which pairs him with another deejay/toasting legend, Big Youth, as well as Mick Jones of The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite. At 15 essential minutes, it lets everybody involved stretch out, strut their stuff, get wild, and get lost in the groove. And if it's not enough for you, the Scientist dub version immediately follows with another 15 minutes of deeper grooves. The album really leaves you wishing you could see U-Roy strut that stuff on stage now, but glad you have this terrific final document of his greatness.
A Place To Bury Strangers - Hologram EP (Dedstrange)
Veteran Brooklyn noisemakers debut new lineup (and new label) on first new record in three years
A Place to Bury Strangers needed a shake-up. The group, led by guitar pedal gur Oliver Ackermann, spent most of the 2010s on Dead Oceans with a mostly stable lineup, exploring variations of their noise-drenched psych sound, most recently on 2018's Pinned. In the three years since, Ackerman relocated his Death by Audio pedal factory from Williamsburg to Queens, started his own label, Dedstrange, and redrew APTBS as a new trio lineup that includes his old Skywave bandmate, bassist John Fedowitz, and drummer Sandra Fedowitz (both were in Ceremony East Coast).
The Hologram EP is the first A Place to Bury Strangers release since all that and, right out of the gate, you can tell it's a little different. A dirty, funky drum machine beat opens "End of Night," and it might make you check to see you've put on the right record. But then come the guitars and we're back in more familiar territory, but it's still a crazy sounding song, rough and raw like a four-track demo with Ackerman's wild guitaring and vocals super high in the mix. It's an arresting start to a record that offers significant tweaks to their well-defined sound.
The rest of the EP is a little more chill than you may associate with APTBS but is all the better for it. Tracks are powered by Fedowitz's strong, melodic bass lines which really makes things fresh. "Playing the Part" and "In My Hive" both fall into that David Lynch "night drive on a deserted highway" sound, while "I Need You," which closes the EP, is genuinely pretty. One of the most striking things about the EP is Ackermann's vocals which are less buried in the mix, revealing a terrific, emotive singer. Anxious to see where this leads them next.
K.D.A.P. - Influences (Arts & Crafts)
Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew discovers loop/sample-based recording, inspiring this ambient, electronic post-rock album
How was your pandemic? Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew spent much of his staying with friends in Southern England, exploring "the woods of Slinfold and along the canals of Islington." He also explored the world of loop-and-sample-based music-making with smartphone app Endless which ended up inspiring a new album. "I skipped the world of Ableton and progressive ways of living inside the digital box of beats," Kevin told us. "It was only once I met this app that I befriended the universe of a studio in my hand. I was amazed how I could leave the environment I was in and dive deep into the world of loops, effects, sounds and kick drums. I spent hours walking around and designing tunes that would end up on this record. It gives you the opportunity to still use your intuition and instincts in how you approach sound."
The app rekindled his love of ambient, electronic and post-rock music and, taking the Endless tracks into the studio with frequent collaborator Nyles Spencer, they became Influences. Released under the name K.D.A.P., the album plays like a divergent timeline in Drew's musical career where, instead of forming a band in 1999, he dove deep into artists like Boards of Canada, Ulrich Schnauss, Mogwai and the rosters of Warp, Thrill Jockey and MoWax. You can hear those sounds in BSS (who were always good at instrumentals) but this really does sound like a lost record from the turn of the century. In that regard, he's not exactly breaking new ground, but you can feel his enthusiasm in these eight tracks that escape into a ceilingless world of sound inspired by mist on the river and sunlight through the trees.
We also got Kevin to tell us about the influences behind Influences.
Various Artists - The Sun Shines Here: The Roots Of Indie Pop 1980-1984 (Cherry Red)
The music that influenced the C-86 scene gets a well-curated three-disc box set, ft Pulp, The JAMC, The Teardrop Explodes, Raincoats, Au Pairs, Dolly Mixture, and more
Back in 2013, Cherry Red put out the five-CD Scared to Get Happy: A Story of Indie-Pop box set that expanded on the whole jangly, scrappy indiepop sound that is synonymous with the famed C-86 cassette that came with an issue of NME and is still influencing shy, cardigan wearing musicians around the globe. The same curators behind that are now back with a new compilation that specifically targets the foundations of that sound, a substrain of UK post-punk that looked to reinvent pop music for a new generation. That sounds lofty and pretentious but bands like Scritti Politti, The Teardrop Explodes and Prefab Sprout did talk like that and actually managed to score chart hits on their own terms.
All three of those groups are found on this 74-track, 3-CD set that covers the gamut of early-'80s indie sub-sub-genres, be it new pop (Scritti Politti, Wah Heat!, It's Immaterial, Pale Fountains, Microdisney, Wild Swans), the angular (The Raincoats, Joseph K, Au Pairs, Scars, Essential Logic), the jazzy and quiet (post-Young Marble Giants band Weekend, Everything But the Girl and various offshoots and solo projects), and the wonderfully scrappy (Dolly Mixture, Family Fodder, Girls at Our Best, Mo-Dettes). For fans of early Creation Records, there's The Jesus & Mary Chain's debut single "Upside Down," label head Alan McGee's early band The Laughing Apple, Primal Scream dynamo Andrew Innes' shortlived (but great) Revolving Paint Dream, plus Jasmine Minks and The Pastels. Also: Pulp, Yeah Yeah Noh, Aztec Camera, The Higsons, Vic Goddard, Jowe Head, The Monochrome Set, The Bluebells, and lots more. Some of these songs are available for the first time outside of their original release (often being out-of-print 7"s). While not every artist you might want or expect is present (The Associates and Orange Juice come to mind), The Sun Shines Here makes a great case for the promise of the early-'80s, even if it wasn't totally fulfilled.
The Sun Shines Here: The Roots Of Indie Pop 1980-1984 is out October 29 via Cherry Red. It won't be officially on streaming services but someone made a Spotify playlist with about a third of the tracks to whet your whistle.
Various Artists - Pop Psychédélique (Two Piers)
Zut alors! This is a fantastic compilation that culls 50+ years of Francophone psych rock
Regular readers of Indie Basement know I have a fondness for Francophone music, be it the classics or more current groups, which makes a compilation like Pop Psychédélique a given to be included here. It almost feels like I curated this as it's got some my all-time favorite groovy Franco jams, including Bridget Bardot's "Contact" and "Harley Davidson," Jacqueline Taieb's "7 Heures Du Matin," France Gall's "Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son" and "Laisse Tomber Les Filles," Serge Gainsbourg's bongo-fueled "Requiem Pour Un Con," Jean-Jacques Perrey's "E.V.A." and Pierre Henry's "Psyché Rock" (which would become the theme to Futurama), here in Fatboy Slim remix form. On the more recent front there are tracks from Stereolab ("Cybele's Reverie"), Air ("Don’t Be Light"), The Liminanas ("Migas 2000"), Anton Newcombe and Emmanuelle Seigner's band L'Epée ("Dreams") and more. I wish Jacques Dutronc was on this, as well a few more current groups (La Femme, and Juniore) but Pop Psychédélique is still, as my French friends say, "super cool."
Pop Psychédélique is out October 1 via Two-Piers / Republic of Music. Watch the very out-there "scopitone" (music video before music videos existed) of Bridget Bardot's "Contact":
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