Indie Basement (4/16): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week in Indie Basement: Wand's Cory Hanson releases his sublime second solo album; LA's Automatic get remixed by OSEES, Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins, Peaking Lights and more; Jarvis Cocker gets remixed by dub icon Dennis Bovell; The Catenary Wires (Amelia & Rob of Heavenly and Talulah Gosh) announce their third album; and Belgian trip-hop group Hooverphonic reissue their debut album on vinyl.
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew takes on Spencer Krug and more in Notable Releases. And for more Basement-adjacent stuff from this week: No Joy are going orchestral; Soft Cell are working on their first album in 20 years; and it's worth noting that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Morrissey on The Simpsons this weekend and the episode is called "Panic on the Streets of Springfield." Set your DVRs or don't.
A couple BV shop related items of note to Basement readers: The Shins' debut album is getting a 20th Anniversary reissue (preorder on blue-and-white marbled vinyl); and José González announced his first album in six years, and we've got it on exclusive red vinyl.
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Cory Hanson - Pale Horse Rider (Drag City)
Wand's frontman crafts a gorgeous, melancholy cosmic country record for his second solo album
Wand moved further away from the garage-psych beginnings on 2019's great Laughing Matter, and now frontman Cory Hanson takes his songcraft in subtle, but no less awe-filled directions on his second solo album. Inspired by country music and the classics (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, David Berman), Pale Horse Rider is an absolutely gorgeous record that is heavy with sadness while still floating off into space. Things get only a little twangy, but pedal steel plays a huge part in the album's sound, creating an otherworldly, angelic yearning that is felt even without paying attention to the lyrics. An atmospheric swirl surrounds Hanson's simple but affecting folk/country melodies, and it's big, lonely and beautiful.
Made just before the pandemic, at a desert home studio surrounded by six-foot tall sculptural psychotropic cacti, Pale Horse Rider is an impressionist look at the state of our nation. Hanson is using watercolors, not a fine-point pen, letting its intent seep in via osmosis, but it's not that obtuse either. On the elegiac chorus of the album's best song, "Angeles," Hanson sings about his hometown -- "I've been driving through darkness / Through the smoke and fire / On the ground / Risin' like a phoenix or a bird of paradise" -- as the harmonies and pedal steel rise like that phoenix.
Pale Horse Rider is full of sublime musical moments like that: the ethereal chorus of voices on "Limited Hangout"; the ragged solo that rips up the pretty "Another Story From The Center of The Earth"; and that weepy pedal steel that tugs at your heartstrings on "Vegas Knights" as Cory mixes gambling metaphors with thoughts of loss. "Can I turn back the turnstile? And parachute us back to the paradise we left." Hanson dedicates the album to David Berman and, while Cory's style is nothing like Silver Jews', you can feel his ghost all over the record. On "Birds of Paradise," another album highlight, he sings, "I'll find you in the end alive in the mirror / Your eyes painted on with dots / Yet hold me in your heart,' as his delicate guitar arpeggiations intertwine with the pedal steel into the cosmos. The words are moving but it's that musical lift that really gets you.
Automatic - Signal Remixes (Stones Throw)
Oh Sees' John Dwyer, Peaking Lights, Sudan Archives, Bauhaus' Kevin Haskins and more remix songs from LA trio Automatic's debut album
LA trio Automatic released their debut album, Signal, back in 2019 that mixed a lot of 1980 post-punk styles (synthpop, minimal wave, dub, goth, "angular") into an appealing, stylish batch of very catchy songs. While we wait for its follow-up, Automatic have released Signal Remixes which hands the album's tracks over to a variety of artists to rework and remix. It's better than the average remix album you get these days, thanks in part to Automatic bringing the same good taste they use on every other aspect of their band to their choice of collaborators.
Highlights: Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf turns the already playful "Too Much Money" into more of a mid-'80s electro jam; Sudan Archives takes "Strange Conversations" for a trip around the world; Peaking Lights put a little "Funkytown" on their dub mix of "Calling It"; and OSEES' John Dwyer ups the wow and flutter on "Electrocution." Then there's Bauhaus/Love & Rockets/Tones on Tail drummer Kevin Haskins, who is also the dad of Automatic drummer Lola Dompé, who drops an excellent dub mix of "Highway."
Many of the remixers amp up Automatic's already chilly sound. Panther Modern give "Suicide in Texas" a metallic, alien sheen, while JooJoo and Maral offer very different, each icy in their own way, versions of Signal's title track. Most remixes albums these days are uninspired but this one's worth the second spin.
JARV IS... - Dennis Bovell Mixes (Rough Trade)
Our first taste of 'Further Beyond the Pale' has JARV IS... remixed by reggae and dub icon Dennis Bovell
Speaking of remixes, last year when I interviewed Jarvis Cocker (pre-COVID lockdown) about his new JARV IS... album Beyond the Pale, I asked him if he had any remixes for the songs planned, given how danceable most of it is. He said that a couple had been commissioned, mainly for "House Music All Night Long" -- which got released at the end of 2020 -- but it didn't seem like there was much interest in it. But then the pandemic happened and, like many of the great records that came out last year, Beyond the Pale felt like it was left to atrophy without Jarvis and the band being able to tour it or properly promote it.
With the world opening back up and tours being rescheduled, artists (and their labels) are now feeling a need to put something else new into the world before they hit the road, and Jarvis has revisited the remix idea and will release Further Beyond the Pale later this year. The tracklist has not been shared yet but the first taste has -- new mixes of "Swanky Modes" by reggae and dub icon Dennis Bovell. If all the remixers/remixes are as cool as this (and I'd be willing to bet they are), we're going to have an excellent new record. "As silver linings go this is a pretty good one," says Jarvis.
"Swanky Modes" is the most Pulp-esque song on Beyond the Pale and recounts a dalliance Jarvis had with a fading star actress in "the days of VHS and casual sex." It already sported a reggae-ish bassline and a drum part heavy on the side-stick rim clicks, with a sweeping John Barry feel that made it an obvious choice for a dub mix. But it takes someone like Bovell -- who's worked with everyone from Linton Kwesi Johnson and I-Roy to The Slits, Orange Juice and Bananarama -- to deliver something as sublime as this. Jarvis' signature Sexy British Whispering style sounds great with a load of echo, and for the single mix Bovell drops everything out but the bass, snare, high-hat, strings and vocals. The DubMix pares things down even further with just Jarvis's "how about you get on this?" interjections and Serafina Steer and Emma Smith's backing vocals remaining. The Dub Instrumental chops things up further. They're all great
A 7" single featuring the Bovell Mix and the DubMix will be released in June with Further Beyond the Pale out later in the year. Meanwhile, JARV IS... will be on tour in the UK this fall, which I am jealous of. I'm still holding onto my tickets for the Elsewhere shows which will hopefully be rescheduled sometime (probably 2022).
To see some real Dennis Bovell magic, watch the "Lovers Rock" installment of Steve McQueen's fantastic Small Axe film series on Amazon, which has a transcendent scene set to Janet Kay's Bovell-produced "Silly Games" -- and the man himself has a cameo role. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.
Hooverphonic - A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular reissue / Remixes EP (Music on Vinyl)
Trip hop also rans were better than they're given credit for -- their debut album is getting a 25th anniversary reissue and an EP of remixes.
Belgium's Hooverphonic were never really rated by true trip-hop heads, often cast in the same "lite" light as Morcheeba, and more likely to be heard in trendy hair salons or hotel lobbies than in clubs... but I always kinda liked them. Especially their debut album, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, which they originally released under the name Hoover before realizing the name was already being used by a few bands (like the DC post-hardcore band), not to mention a litigious vacuum cleaner company.
Hooverphonic sounded more like an actual band to me than many trip hop groups at the time, and that came through on Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, with live drums and lots of guitars in addition to samples of old records, synths and string sections. There are a few Portishead soundalikes here for sure, including the band's debut single "2wicky" (which got used in a lot of late-'90s movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer), but the best tracks go in different directions. My favorite has always been "Plus Profond," which is set to a skittering drum-n-bass breakbeat and eerie E-bow'd guitar. It still sounds mysterious and elusive and cool today. The band also had a distinct shoegaze influence, and singer Liesje Sadonius' gossamer voice was perfect for hazy tracks like "Cinderella," "Nr.9." and "Someone Else." The album's definitely not a masterpiece, but at their best, Hooverphonic cannily sounded like everything that was going on in non-grunge mid-'90s alt/indie circles.
Originally released in 1996, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular is getting a 25th anniversary reissue via Music On Vinyl on May 21, pressed on transparent blue vinyl with only 1500 copies being pressed worldwide. As a companion piece there's an EP worth of remixes coming out for the first Record Store Day 2021 Drop on June 12 with two remixes each of "2Wicky" and the album's opening cut, "Inhaler."
Hooverphonic are still going, by the way. They were all set to compete in the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, but then it got canceled because of COVID. They're back again this year, though -- their song "The Wrong Place" is Belgium's official entry in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest.
The Catenary Wires - "The Overview Effect"
The Catenary Wires, aka indiepop icons Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (Heavenly, Talulah Gosh), release new album 'Birling Gap' in June
Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey have been in so many great bands over the last 40 years, most notably Talulah Gosh and Heavenly, but also Tender Trap, Marine Research and, since 2014, The Catenary Wires. The names and other band members change over the years but the general vibe does not -- indiepop that veers towards, but not too far into, twee territory with heartfelt, bookish but unpretentious lyrics. Amelia and Rob are set to release Birling Gap, the third Catenary Wires album, on June 18 via Shelflife and Skep Wax Records.
Previous Catenary Wires albums have been very gently, just Amelia and Rob and some lightly strummed acoustic guitars, but they're now a five-piece, and Birling Gap looks to be a much more fleshed-out record. We've already heard a taste of what's to come with "Mirrorball," an unabashedly romantic and danceable tribute to never giving up on love and '80s discos. (Watch the video below.) They've now released a second single, "The Overview Effect," a tender, dreamy number about getting older and accepting it. "Can't things stay the same?" Rob and Amelia sing to each other, stars in their eyes, already knowing the answer.
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