Bill’s Indie Basement (11/9): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Oh, hi. This week: Cult group Part Time make the successful leap to mid-fi with their new album; superior French garage rock by Cathedrale; caustic Montreal garage punks Priors; Allah-Las guitarist Pedrum Siadatian goes solo as Paint; a new video from Brazilian-American duo Winter & Triptides; and a killer comp of vintage German post-punk curated by Optimo's JD Twitch.
Need more Basement-approved stuff? The first single from Piroshka (Lush / Moose / Elastica / Modern English) is great; Canadian musician Ellis makes lovely dreampop; and Parquet Courts' Neil Young cover is pretty awesome. There's also new albums out today from Jon Spencer and J Mascis.
Also: I made a list of some cool music-stuff to watch on streaming service Filmstruck before it shuts down at the end of the month.
In the world of eccentric purveyors of pop who embrace the softer, cheesier sounds of the '60s, '70s and '80s, some prefer Ariel Pink and others choose Connan Mockasin, but gimme Part Time every time. (I have nothing against Ariel or Connan, I should add.) To keep the metaphor going, main man David Loca is the Taleggio or Vacherin Mont D'or of this stuff -- the tastiest, most refined fromage around. Over the last 10 years or so, Loca has successfully mined the '80s, mostly, nicking bits from John Hughes soundtracks, C-86, Air Supply, Prince, whatever fits into his sonic universe at the time, making it his own.
Spell #6 is the first Part Time album in three years, following the great double LP Virgo's Maze, and is what Loca calls his "studio album" because "it was entirely re-recorded at my drummer Walter Byer's studio, unlike most of my past releases being bedroom experimental pop recordings." We're definitely in upper mid-fi territory here, with less hiss on the guitars, less reverb on the vocals, more snap in the electronic handclaps, and more depth to the LP's many great basslines. The added clarity, thankfully, does nothing to diminish Part Time's quirky charms and it certainly doesn't hurt that he's working with a great batch of songs.
Speaking of Ariel Pink and great basslines, both are present on "I Can Treat You Better," a lush medium-to-slow jam where Loca tries to woo someone away from their lover. The whispered backup vocals on the chorus are the perfect touch. In much the same mold is "So Far Away," another killer soft-focus cut that almost plays like a remix of "I Can Treat You Better," but here given more of a "Careless Whispers" vibe, complete with '80s Sax and some heavy breathing. Best of all is "Hide," which kicks off like "Don't You Want Me" but quickly turns into something more suave and sophisticated (and is like something you might have heard on Minks' underrated 2013 album Tide's End).
Part Time's jangly side is well represented on Spell #6, too, with the twee "The Boys That Make Her Cry" (shades of Television Personalities), the sing-songy "Before You Fall Apart," and the twangy, '70s-ish title track. The only song that doesn't 100% work for me is "Shattered Love" which dips to far into kitsch. But, like with Go-Kart Mozart, such flights of fancy are part of the territory and it wouldn't be a Part Time record without them.
Earlier this year I wrote about French psych-rock band Slift. and now here's another band, Cathedrale, who are also from Toulouse, are also on Howlin' Banana Records, and also make what you could call "garage rock." That's where the comparisons end, though. There are some psych touches (reverb and effects pedals), but overall Cathedrale are a pop group at heart and their new album Facing Death is overflowing with big hooks and catchy melodies. Songs like "I Think I Can," "Games" and the LP's title track have a breathless romanticism that reminds me of the early '00s when The Libertines were inspiring groups like The Cribs and Maximo Park. Cathedrale are not quite as anthemic as those UK bands, but there is a similar style in the guitars and arrangements. There is little room for anything but hooks and choruses on this album which runs through 10 songs in 25 minutes. If you're weary of anything labeled "garage," Cathedrale are better than 90% of it, and if you're wary of "French" they sing in English (mostly). It's not out till next week but we're premiering a stream of the whole thing:
Montreal's Priors, which features members of Sonic Avenues, Steve Adamyk Band, and the Famines, make mutant garage punk, equal parts dystopian attitude, adrenalized riffage and a misting of turpentine. The group's new album, New Pleasure, is out November 16 on Slovenly, a label that specializes in this sort of tasty muck, and you can sample the record's acrid jams via "Provoked," which hits the ground running and blazes out in two minutes. The group's Chance Hutchison says the song, lyrically, is "completely up for interpretation, but was inspired by loss and coming to terms while banging your head against a wall. Depression is real." He also says this one was one of the last songs written for New Pleasure. The song premieres right here:
Would it surprise you to learn Mikey Young of Total Control mastered this album? Well he did.
Los Angeles band Allah-Las have, from the get-go, looked and sounded like they were teleported from 1966, wearing their fringe like Roger McGuinn and making jangly, harmonious pop. I loved their first album, but it's been somewhat diminishing returns since for me. However, lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian just released a solo album as Paint, which stays in the '60s but gets weird, and is all the better for it. The songs began as solo four-track demos; then Pedrum ended up collaborating with the extremely talented Frank Matson (of Matson, and occasional member of Jacco Gardner's band) which took things on a whole other trip.
The songs on Paint recall a whole host of talented musicians who explored the interiors of their psyches, from Syd Barrett and Donovan to Arthur Lee and Julian Cope. What makes this record work, in addition to a bunch of catchy songs, is the off-the-cuff, imperfect vibe, and the feel that several millimeters of dust were blown off. It's warbly throughout, but then some magical guitar filigree or production touch (like the flute on "Silver Streaks" or the mellotron on my favorite song, "Heaven In Farsi") remind you there's more going on here than you may have first realized.
Paint may be minor, and a side project, but it's a great one and I'd love to see some of this experimentalism creep back into Allah-Las.
Earlier this year, Brazilian singer/songwriter Samira Winter and Glenn Brigman released Estrela Mágica, their debut as Winter & Triptides, which mixes tropicalia and sunshine psych into one lovely record. (Fans of Dungen, take note.) One of the LP's standout cuts is "Desaparecidos," which juxtaposes feelings of loss and abandonment with cheerier melodies and has taken on new meaning for the band since releasing it. "Even though the song was written before this election, ‘Desaparecidos’ resonates with the recent Brazilian political race," explains Samira. "The song and video express feelings of alienation and looking for your friends. Similar to the Trump election, a lot of Brazilians feel estranged by their close friends and family who support this oppressive candidate."
There's now a video for "Desaparecidos," which was shot on film by director Jeff Leeds Cohn and explores some of the song's themes. “What initially struck me about ‘Desaparecidos’ was the dissonance between the song's dark subject matter and its lighthearted delivery," Cohn explains. "I wanted the video to lean into this tension and engage with the idea of mysterious disappearance in a listless, dreamy sort of way. The video abstractly portrays an encounter between Samira and her alter-ego. As day turns to night, the two personas converge in a hyper-stylized confrontation between predator and prey." Is it real? Is it a dream? Is it it all because in the opening scene Samira takes the world's largest joint with her into the mountains? (OK, that may be a blanket/yoga mat, though I think it is clearly up for interpretation.) The video premieres in this post and you can watch it, and stream the album, below.
Winter is currently in Brazil while Glenn is about to go on a Triptides tour of Europe. They will tour together as Winter & Triptides for the first time in 2019, dates TBA.
As a big fan of the post-punk era, I love compilations of regional/international scenes that never really made it, in those pre-internet days, to a worldwide audience. There's a great comp of French post-punk titled BIPPP from 2006 that sent me down a rabbit hole (which is part of the reason this column features a lot of French bands), and now here's a German one compiled by JD Twitch of Optimo. Most of these groups were from Berlin and, being at the height (and center in many ways) of the Cold War, the groups were especially intense, even if many didn't last very long. I'd heard a few of these bands -- Malaria!, Die Haut -- but the majority I had not and there are definitely some real gems, including P1/E's claustrophobic "Up And Above / Up And Above Dub" and Christiane F's dystopian disco single "Wunderbar" (which gets a JD Twitch edit here). If you like this kind of stuff -- Bauhaus, PiL, This Heat, The Pop Group -- it is definitely worth a spin. I wrote more about Kreaturen Der Nacht here, and you can listen to it, and that BIPPP comp (why not?) here: