Bill’s Indie Basement (12/14): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
I know last week I said that Indie Basement would probably shift into year-end coverage this week, so for those who were looking forward to that, you're going to have to wait just a little bit. I realized there was still some stuff I wanted to talk about about before I get into listmaking. (I have begun listmaking, but I'm just not quite ready to share.) So, this week we've got great new albums from Glasgow avant-disco group AMOR, and cult heroes The Bevis Frond, plus the icy waters of The KVB and Shiny Darkly, and skronky Quebec City trio VICTIME.
PS: If you live in NYC: hopefully we'll see you at the BrooklynVegan Holiday Party at Brooklyn Brewery with sets from Gang Gang Dance and Ela Minus, me and the rest of the BV staff DJing, and more.
"This is the product of my fevered mind / This is the sound of being left behind" is the opening couplet to the opening track on The Bevis Frond's new album and you have to think that Nick Saloman, the group's sole constant, is aware of his reputation as an eccentric cult artist who has always forged his own sonic path. That song, "Enjoy," is knowing, full of self-effacing humor, and is one of 20 ultra-catchy songs on what is the...I'm not actually sure how many albums they've made but it's more than 20. Anyway, Saloman's been doing this for more than 30 years and on We're Your Friends, Man he sounds confident, in control and at the top of his game.
While the running time -- a massive 85 minutes -- is daunting, there is very little filler here and cult artist he may be, but there's nothing weird or obscure of difficult about the songs on this LP (or really anything in the Frond catalog). This is hooky rock, owing to Big Star, Neil Young and Arthur Lee, and in the same zone as Dinosaur Jr and Teenage Fanclub (who've both covered Bevis Frond). The closest analog, in spirit and sound, might be Guided by Voices, except The Bevis Frond let it all hang out more often and release records at a more normal human pace.
We're Your Friends, Man is just overflowing with killer songs. There are the upbeat rockers ("In the Leaves," "Enjoy," "Pheromones"), pretty, introspective numbers ("Venom Drai" and the stunning "Little Orchestras"), and the guitar jam workouts (13-minute closer "You're on Your Own"). The sentiments expressed in "Enjoy" pop up again and again here, whether it's on "Young Man's Game" or on "Theft," where he sings "I'm an old muso, an interesting relic." He might not be wrong, but there's nothing wrong with that. There are too many boring relics out there that get a lot more attention. To me, it's reassuring that Saloman continues to do what he does. Like the Fanclub, J Mascis and Bob Pollard, Saloman doesn't really stray far from the sound of The Bevis Frond's first LP, but when the songs are (still) this good, it doesn't matter.
Glasgow quartet AMOR, which includes Franz Ferdinand drummer Paul Thomson and experimental musician Richard Youngs, just released their debut album, Sinking Into a Miracle. You may recall I wrote a bit about lead single "Glimpses Across Thunder," back in October, and that song is pretty indicative of the rest of the record: it's disco, or disco-influenced dance music, but much closer to Arthur Russell than the KC & the Sunshine Band.
Sinking Into a Miracle is a great title, conjuring up all sorts of thoughts, and the five long tracks here fit with it. Be it the upright bass on opener "Phantoms of the Sun" or the low cellos running through "Full Fathom Future," this is big music with a beat and a beating heart. These sounds envelop you. Spazzy electronics rub shoulders with horns and scratchy violins, while drum machines splatter handclaps next to Thomson's impressive playing. Richard Youngs has the perfect voice for music like this, weary and warm, somewhere between Robert Wyatt and The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan.
There is plenty of room in these grooves for the band to stretch out, experiment, and lose themselves in the moment. Nowhere is this more evident than the 13-minute closer, "Truth of Life" that begins with a four-on-the-floor kick drum and light percussion, as other elements are added -- congas, fretless bass, throbbing blasts of analogue synth -- in dubby, druggy fashion. The track atomizes at one point, as if consciousness was lost or you've fallen into a deep well. Elements fade in and out as the song keeps you under the surface for the last four minutes, and it's mesmerizing. It also sounds like the whole thing was done live, which adds to the mystery. New pieces of this wonderful, very danceable record, unravel every time I listen.
UK duo The KVB have been around since 2010, trafficking in moody, motoroik krautrock/synthwave descended from Suicide, 4AD goth, and Spacemen 3. (They've toured with The Soft Moon, and that's a good pairing, as would be Moon Duo. Or Chromatics.) The band are now signed to Invada Records, the label run by Geoff Barrow of Portishead/Beak>, which is the perfect place for them.
The KVB just released their sixth album, Now Only Forever, and that title is also a window into The KVB's worldview. There's a real wistful, me-and-you-against-the-world vibe here, especially on dreamier songs like "Violent Noon" and "Tides." The more melodic these two go, the more successful they are. "Above Us" and "On My Skin" have big, memorable choruses, as does "Live in Fiction" which benefits from some nice textural guitarwork. Some of the record coasts on mood -- it all sounds good (and probably sounds great played very loudly in a cavernous club) but can be a bit like black-patterned wallpaper. Still, points for style.
Danish trio Shiny Darkly are I-wear-black-on-the-outside types whose noir style pulls from post-punk, glam, cabaret, dance music, and more. While they worked with some of the same producers as Iceage and Marching Church on their new album, Bronze, Shiny Darkly are more Roxy Music and Bunnymen, and less boozy and seafaring. (Their name is in many ways very apt.) The record came out in September in Denmark via Crunchy Frog (the label that gave us Junior Senior, The Raveonettes, Eggstone and more) and is getting a worldwide release on February 15. Stream it below.
We've got the premiere of the video for "New Country," which was directed by Frederik Valentin, and shot in a retirement community. Needless to say, the residents were treated to a performance that is miles away from what is probably happening on any other Thursday. Watch the video below.
Finally, from Quebec City we have trio VICTIME who brought breakneck tempos, last-minute left turns, icy cool and serious skronk to their album La femme taupe which was released back in February. It's shouty, it's jazzy, it's punky and I have no idea what they're singing/yelling about but they do it with style and attitude. If you dig no wave, The Ex or current Brooklyn band Pill, this should be your bag. You can stream the album below.
We've got the premiere of the video for "Virus super danger" which is as alarming as the title of the song, but in a '50s educational film kind of way. You can watch that below.
VICTIME will release a new EP, titled « Mi-tronc mi-jambe » in March, so keep an eye out for that. They'll also play Montreal in February as part of winter multi-club festival Taverne Tour.