Indie Basement (7/29): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
As we say goodbye to July we say hello to new albums from Louisville trio Wombo, indie eccentrics of Montreal, Toronto dreampop group Tallies, Liverpool's The Orielles, and techno greats Orbital. Plus: Elizabeth Fraser's Sun Signature release their debut EP to streaming services.
There are lots more albums that came out this week, and Andrew reviews a bunch of them in Notable Releases, including Beyoncé, Chat Pile, Friendship, Florist, Amanda Shires, and more. If you need more Basement-related news, there's only one thing you need to know: Pulp will tour in 2023.
Need more? Check out Indie Basment's Top 22 Albums of '22 So Far.
The Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including new albums by Kevin Morby, Belle & Sebastian, Porridge Radio, Spiritualized, Wet Leg, Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Mercury Rev, Aldous Harding, Parquet Courts, and King Hannah, not to mention classics from Kraftwerk, Sparks, Spoon, Stereolab, Broadcast, Beach House, LIlys, Pylon, The Cribs, Goldfrapp, Oasis, Echo & The Bunnymen, Slowdive, Roxy Music,The Libertines, and more.
Head below for this week's reviews...
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Wombo - Fairy Rust (Fire Talk)
Light and dark are balanced perfectly on this Louisville trio's excellent second album
Louisville, KY trio Wombo have created their own appealing, unique blend of post-punk on their perfectly titled second album, Fairy Rust, that is dark and light, dissonant and beautiful, complex and immediate all at the same time. These are songs that would bewitch even as an instrumental album; slithering basslines, spiderweb guitar work full of spooky harmonics and jazzy muscular drumming recall a wide swatch of 1981, from The Cure and Siouxsie to Young Marble Giants and The Slits. But guitarist Sydney Chadwick's vocals -- clear and breathy -- pull everything into the sunshine.
The album was inspired by classic fairy tales and that figures directly into the album's unique symmetry. “We are trying to speak on something called sacred darkness in mythology," Chadwick says. "It means that darkness is not always a negative and is a necessary part of the equal balance between light and dark and sometimes it can signify renewal and the birth of creativity.” One of the album's standouts, the delicate "RVW," reimagines the tale of Rip Van Winkle in a way that seems current: "Tell me what today is / Has it really been so long?" The title track feels like the state between waking and dreams, dark and dawn, with Chadwick lamenting, "We lived in cities that were built on rivers / and we lived in houses that were built by people /who moved from the country and they left behind / things that no one here knows a thing about" as the bass carries dread and the guitars sound like rusty water lapping on the riverbank.
The whole album carries such sad surreal elegance, a hypnagogic hallucination that you wish you could wake from but are stuck inside, admiring its sad, majestic dreamworld. With Wombo as the house band, there are worse places to be.
Of Montreal - Freewave Lucifer f<ck f^ck f>ck (Polyvinyl)
The 17th album from these Georgia indiepop eccentrics is impressive even while suffering from too many ideas and hook fatigue
Give it up for Kevin Barnes, a genuine weirdo whose theatrical, glammy, twee musical vision as of Montreal has always marched to its own beat. Occasionally over the last 25 years his and the world's wavelengths have fallen into sympathetic rhythm, like in the mid-'00s when of Montreal gave us Satanic Panic in the Attic, The Sunlandic Twins and Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? back to back. Otherwise, Barnes happily zooms along his ever-eccentric, always melodic path, freak flag flying high.
Freewave Lucifer f<ck f^ck f>ck is of Montreal's 17th album and you have to admire Barnes' creativity -- which is cranked to maximum psychedelic overload here -- even if you long for more focus. Each of the album's seven songs, even the one that's just three minutes, feel like 17 songs in one. You reach for one of the album's many, many big hooks, but it slips by just out of reach while another appears in its place. It's the kind of album where after hearing four or five amazing things, you look at your player and realize they were all in one song that's only half over. At times you want to sit him down and say "just stick with this idea for two and half minutes!"
Likewise, Barnes has said the lyrics this time are "a free flowing collage of all that I was perceiving and absorbing" during the pandemic. They may not add up to much, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as his random musings are funny, compellingly paranoid, and often highly quotable. A few of the many memorable non sequiturs: "When people ask me my gender I just tell them brunette"; "Phoebe fakes orgasms, has a career, Phoebe fakes orgasms nobody hears"; "I’m a mutt, I drink human blood / my mistake did I mention I’m a stud?"; and in a nod to Prince, "I was creaming when I wrote this so forgive me if it makes you wet / If there’s any position you can’t cum in I haven’t found it yet."
Despite all the sonic ADD, Freewave Lucifer is an easy listen. Few continue to balance high-tech and low-fi as well as Barnes and the way he seamlessly stitches together these disparate fragments is impressive, even if you're worn out before its over. But Barnes isn't waiting for stragglers to keep up; you can you can catch him again when he whizzes by on the next lap.
Tallies - Patina (Kanine / Hand Drawn Dracula / Bella Union)
Toronto group channel classic late-'80s/early-'90s UK dreampop on their second album
Toronto's Tallies have been honing their shimmering brand of dreampop for the last five years, drawing from a very specific place and time -- I put it at England from 1987 to 1991 -- when 4AD and Creation were the among the coolest labels around, and dorm rooms walls were decorated with posters of The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, The Cure, and The Stone Roses. Tallies proudly still have those posters on their walls and they aren't shy about those influences, but they've grown as songwriters, performers and arrangers and use these shimmering sonic touchstones to their own means. Tallies are now signed to Bella Union in the UK, the label run by onetime Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde, and their first album for the label features an album cover than is undeniably an homage to the iconic '80s/'90s artwork by 4AD's late in-house designer, Vaughan Oliver. While you can hear echoes of many 4AD artists on Patina, the group Tallies most closely resemble are The Sundays (who were a perfect synthesis of The Smiths and Cocteau Twins). On songs like "Heaven's Touch," "No Dreams of Fayres," and "I Am the Man," the resemblance can be downright uncanny, with Sarah Cogan sounding eerily like Harriet Wheeler, and Dylan Franklyn weaving swoony guitar cascades. But the more you listen, the more Tallies' distinctiveness reveals itself. "Memento" goes from another perfect day to torrential thunderstorm, and "Wound Up Tight" holds its own against the OG noisy shoegaze of your choice. Plus, when the songs are as good as these, Tallies having no problem standing aside their heroes.
Sun's Signature - S/T EP (Partisan)
Originally a Record Store Day-only vinyl release, this debut EP by Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser and Massive Attack drummer Damon Reece is now on streaming services
Sun's Signature, the duo of former Cocteau Twins vocalist Elizabeth Fraser and partner (and Massive Attack drummer) Damon Reece, released their self-titled EP last month as a Record Store Day vinyl exclusive. While this is absolutely a collaborative project, Sun's Signature, perhaps more than any other record Fraser has ever been on, is by design a delivery device for her Voice of God. It's wonderful stuff that recalls both Cocteau Twins and Fraser's work with Massive Attack -- "Underwater" was originally an extremely limited edition solo single in 2000, just a couple years after "Teardrop," and sounds like it -- but also takes her voice into new, magical realms. The luxurious "Golden Air" and "Bluedusk" are the aural equivalent of walking through a big budget Ridley Scott fantasy film. All you really need to know is this is five new(ish) songs all with Elizabeth Fraser in the spotlight, and the the music lives up to her ethereal pipes. Turn it up and bask in her glow:
The Orielles - La Vita Olistica (Heavenly)
UK group rework 2020's 'Disco Volador' as a movie soundtrack
UK band The Orielles released their excellent second album, Disco Volador, just a couple weeks before Covid hit in 2020. Mixing early-'90s acid house and '60s soundtrack music into their brand of poppy indie rock, the group hit on a cool sound that got a little lost in the pandemic shuffle. During the downtime, instead of playing endless homebound livestreams, they further explored their love of film by making one of their own, La Vita Olistica ("The Holistic Life"), and reworked Disco Volador as its soundtrack. "We'd always shared an interest in writing music for film," they say, "and so used lockdown as an opportunity to rewrite Disco Volador into a continuous score, which is what birthed the idea of 'La Vita Olistica.'' They screened it around the UK in the summer of 2021 and have now widely released its soundtrack. Some songs have been radically altered in wonderful ways, and the flowing, continuous nature it now has puts a new light on the whole album. Listen below and watch a clip from the film:
Orbital - 30 Something (Orbital Recordings Ltd.)
Phil and Paul Hartnoll belatedly celebrate Orbital's their 30th anniversary with a unique compilation featuring remixes, reworks, and reinterpretations of their techno classics featuring Jon Hopkins, Lone, Shanti Celeste and more
Orbital, aka brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, were one of the most important electronic acts of the early '90s, racking up a string of rave-ready techno, house and trance classics that sampled obscure punk while managing to break through to the UK pop charts as well with "Chime," ""Halcyon + On + On," "The Box," "Belfast" and more. Orbital were a huge part of their country's dance revolution (that never quite managed to cross the Atlantic) and have stayed relevant over the last three decades -- 2018's Monsters Exist showed the Hartnolls still had a finger on the pulse.
They planned to spend 2020 celebrating their 30th anniversary but, as you know, everyone ended up dancing on their own for most of it and those plans got shelved. Instead, they figured out a way to "celebrate their past that was actually about the future" via this new compilation that features reworks, remakes, remixes and re-imaginings of squelchy Orbital classics that is based on their legendary, mind-expanding live shows. It's like a recording of the anniversary tour they didn't get to do, featuring a festival set's worth of hits given the 30-Something remix treatment, plus a disc's worth of remixes by artists that Orbital influenced, including Jon Hopkins, Lone, David Holmes, John Tejada, Yotto, ANNA, Dusky, Joris Voorn, Logic1000, Eli Brown, Shanti Celeste and more. Some of these remixes -- Hopkins' "Halcyon + On," Tejada's "Impact" -- are truly inspired. Hopefully we'll get that tour, but till then 30 Something is a banging, clever placeholder.
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