Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Recording Review/Tour/Video)

Thurston Moore

Demolished Thoughts

Matador Records

Those expecting Thurston Moore’s solo record Demolished Thoughts to sound like his work with Sonic Youth –  experimental noise rock – will doubtless be surprised. The LP falls into Moore’s song-propelled, rather than improv-oriented, catalog. But it’s the arrangements that are game-changing.

The instrumentation is quite different from SY’s, with an emphasis on acoustic guitars and even strings. Moore explores this “softer” palette enthusiastically, but he never loses his conceptual edge. There’s still a dysfunctional tinge to the lyrics. What’s more, many of ths songs exhibit a druggy post-psych folk ambience: Moore attributes this to his observations of the college age alterna-hippy set in his hometown – Northhampton, Massachussetts (He even dedicates the video below to these fair minded NoHo inhabitants).

Whatever the influence, Demolished Thoughts is a pleasant surprise, one that suggests that Moore’s music contains yet more previously unexplored multitudes.
Thurston Moore plays the Pitchfork Festival tonight. You can check out his other tour dates, and a video for the album cut “Circulation” below.

Thurston Moore Tour Dates

7/15 Pitchfork Festival, Chicago, IL
7/16 High Noon, Madison, WI
7/18 Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theatre #
7/21 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre #
7/23 Portland, OR – Alladin Theatre #
7/26 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall #
7/28 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour #
7/29 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour #
7/30 San Diego, CA – Casbah #

# w/ Kurt Vile

Timber Timbre: “Woman” (Video)

Timber Timbre’s fourth LP, Creep on Creepin’ On is out next week (Arts and Crafts 4/5). The label is sharing a video for the post-psych track “Woman,” which supplies appropriately weird and woozy visuals for the band’s acid bluesy roots rock aesthetic. The band’s also gearing up for a North American tour: perhaps they’ll be creeping into a town near you! (dates below)


April 2 – Peterborough, ON @ Murray Street Baptist Church
April 7 – Hamilton, ON @ Centenary United Church
April 8 – Toronto, ON @ Trinity St. Paul’s United Church
April 9 – Ottawa, ON @ First Baptist Church
April 11 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
April 12 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
April 13 – New York, NY @ Joe’s Pub
April 14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Galsslands
April 16 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
May 19 – Pontiac, MI @ Pike Room
May 20 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
May 21 – Evanston, IL @ Space
May 22 – Mikwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
May 24 – Minneapolis, MN @ Bryant Lake Bowl
May 26 – Winnipeg, MB @ Park Theatre
May 27 – Saskatoon, SK @ Amigo’s
May 28 – Calgary, AB @ Central United Church
May 29 – Edmonton, AB @ Avenue Theatre
May 31 – Victoria, BC @ Alix Goolden Hall
June 1 – Vancouver, BC @ The Vogue Theatre
June 3 – Dawson, YT @ Dawson City Music Festival
June 5 – Whitehorse, YT @ Yukon Arts Centre

Grails: “Deep Politics,” Heavy on the Strings (Review)

Deep Politics
Temporary Residence Ltd.

A common (mis)perception in pop music is that the inclusion of a string section inherently softens the edges of a band’s sound. On their past couple of LPs, Portland instrumental rock group Grails has confounded this notion, keeping propulsive rhythms in the mix of their already eclectic palette while deftly incorporating copious amounts of strings. One of the bands founding members was a violinist, so the presence of solo strings in Grails’ music is not new to longtime listeners, but composer-performer Tim Harris’ layers his stringed-instrument performances on Deep Politics in such a way as to give the impression that a larger cohort is playing. And through the magic of mixing, the strings are able to hold their own against percussion, vociferous guitar outbursts, and copious analog synth textures (including some lovely vintage Mellotron parts).

In addition to unabashedly reveling in these walls of sound, the band also channels European film music, particularly the work of Ennio Morricone, providing a new and unexpected twist. It’s not every day one hears heavily thrumming riffs such as those on “Future Primitive” and “All the Colors of the Dark” pitted on the same album against the exotic lyricism and tasty keyboard work found on “Daughters of Bilitis” or the post-psych rock jamming of “Almost Grew my Hair” (quite a knowing reference!).

In lesser hands, such disparate strands might seem too extravagantly far flung to cohere. But under the potently creative attentions of Grails, this eclecticism creates a marvelously well-rounded and imaginative sound world and spurs some of their most interesting work to date.

Berry – Blue Sky, Raging Sun

Berry - Blue Sky, Raging Sun

Blue Sky, Raging Sun
Joyful Noise Recordings LP

Berry is an under-heralded band. The post-psych rock quartet, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Joey Lemon, bassist Shane Bordeau, keyboardist Matt Aufrecht, and drummer Paul Goodnnough, employ the warmth of vintage gear – they record at home on an 8 track reel-to-reel deck – with the expansive ambitions of latter day space rockers such as Granddaddy and Super Furry Animals. Despite releasing four LPs and a handful of EPs in just five years, the Chicagoans’ brand of multi-layered psych-pop is still just glimmering at the edges of indie awareness. But perhaps this will ultimately prove fruitful – they’ve had time to cultivate a special musical language, simultaneously evocative of artful pop constructions past while retaining a fresh outlook. Their latest recording, Blue Sky, Raging Sun is being handled by the Joyful Noise imprint, which has a knack for raising artists’ profiles while allowing them to continue music-making with integrity.

Perhaps my impressions of the album will always be slightly skewed towards emphasizing the haziness the group is capable of in songs such as “Desired Desire” and the title track. A sonic artifact plays a role in this; my LP arrived banged up, imparting a warped ‘wah’ to the proceedings. Although working vinyl beets digital on an ordinary day, here a download from the label came to the rescue. I’ve returned to the MP3s again and again, savoring the arrangements’ varied hues. One usually associates long form pieces with this level of shifting details, but Berry manage to fit a startling amount of subtle variation into the standard 3-4 minute format. The exception is “Beauty is All,” a space-rocker with a touch of prog which takes the listener through seven minutes of rhythmically supple, metrically shifting terrain. Groovy yet substantive stuff!

BMSR: Review; MP3

Black Moth Super Rainbow

Eating Us

Graveface Records

 Black Moth Super Rainbow.jpg

Western PA’s Black Moth Super Rainbow hasn’t abandoned a psychedelic aesthetic by any means on Eating Us, their latest LP for Graveface.   Joined by producer David Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Mogwai), they create indie pop soundscapes that swarm with trippy effects; this is especially evident on “Born on a Day the Sun Didn’t Shine.”    

But despite these sonic artifacts, there’s little of the languor sometimes associated with psych in their new compositions. On “Dark Bubbles” and “Iron Lemonade,” there’s a focused determination to the proceedings. “Tooth Decay” and “Twin of Myself” explore additional electronic elements in some of the band’s most fetching and accessible work to date. Indeed, one might suggest that the band has poised itself to gain wider currency and, one hopes, more frequent airplay. Meanwhile, “Gold Splatter” and “Fields are Breathing” prove them still capable of fertile jamming.

Thus, with Eating US, BMSR maintains a venturesome spirit while creating music with pithy punch and versatile appeal.

MP3: “Born on a Day the Sun Didn’t Rise”

Cryptacize: Interview with Chris Cohen


Chris Cohen is a member of the band Cryptacize, an indie quartet whose recently released LP, Mythomania (Asthmatic Kitty), is a fascinating, oftentimes whimsical, affair. It traverses myriad musical genres: psych-rock, alt-folk, non-Western music, and echoes of Fifties-era pop balladry. The album’s artwork, drawn by Nat Russell, mirrors the band’s sense of inquisitive playfulness.

Cryptacize has been touring up a storm in support of Mythomania, driving from gig to gig in a tiny Toyota Corolla, necessitating a stage show employing miniature amps and a spare drum kit. The band’s turned this supposed limitation into a virtue, ramping up the performance energy level as they bring down the amplitude; providing their entertainment up close at intimate venues for enthusiastic audiences.  

Carey: What inspired the title Mythomania?    

Cohen: The filmmaker Raul Ruiz was talking about Hollywood movies or something – we just liked the word for some reason. Actually we had to look it up. But ‘mythomania’ is also good if you don’t know what it means – ‘myths’ and ‘mania;’ both pertinent to our album.   “Mythomania” really means compulsive lying, where you have to make up one story after another to justify previous lies.  

Our music is created by a process something like that – not that we’re lying – but one thing leads to another in a compulsive kind of way, and you end up with something in the end that’s really weird and isn’t what you’d expect originally.   I think that in general a person’s sense of reality goes something like that too – the narrative we feel like we’re living sort of self-generates and sends us on a very particular, self-determining path which seems somehow already decided.

Carey: I really enjoyed the CD’s artwork – how did you decide on images from the book This is the Smoke that is Inside You?

Cohen: Nat Russell is our friend from Oakland and we are fans of his work. We just came across the drawings and said ‘yes!’

Carey:  Cryptacize’s sound brings together a bunch of influences, including Non-Western rhythms and vocal inflections. Would you tell me a bit about some of your favorite reference points from outside the Western pop canon?

Cohen: We are interested in all genres.   If you check our blog, we post mixes there of stuff we’ve been listening to lately, so you could get more detail…   anyway I would say I like individual artists in every genre, but never every artist in any genre.   Lately I really like Selda Bacgan, Fairuz, the film composers Shankar-Jaikishan, Group Doueh, Etoile de Dakar, the Pearl Sisters… we’re pretty much open to whatever is unique/exceptional… a lot of that music is older stuff.   I like new stuff too, like Fiji music, but I don’t know about as much there.     It’s kind of like African highlife music mixed with rap, just drums and vocals, and they have really good videos on YouTube.

Carey: At the same time, pop styles from early rock ‘n roll to psych-rock are palpable. It’s great to hear you bring an intricate groove together with more straightforward rock signatures on a song like “Tall & Mane.” How did that arrangement come together?

Cohen: Thanks – I don’t know – Mike and I just started playing that rhythm pattern together on the cowbell and guitar.   It was trial and error like everything else. We wanted it to sound frantic so we brought in the sped-up guitars…

Carey: “Gotta Get Into that Feeling” and “I’ll take the Long Way” are examples of another kind of music-making at which Cryptacize excels: the ballad. Sometimes, it’s startling how earnestly presented your ballads are.   Given how cynical pop culture can be, is it difficult to allow a song to be earnest in its emotional appeal?

Cohen: No it’s not difficult. That’s just our natural personalities…   I guess I think a cynical ballad would be horrible.   Ballads should be sad!   They should make people cry! How are you going to do that and be cynical?

Carey: Are you still driving a Toyota Corolla to gigs?

Cohen: Yes, although not for too much longer… 4 people’s starting to kind of push it for space.

Carey: Using mini amps and a small drum kit certainly keeps things streamlined for touring. How have they affected your musical approach?

Cohen: The tiny equipment pretty much made it possible for us to go on tour. On the money we make, we can’t afford to pay for much gas.   We do like the sounds of our tiny equipment though! And it makes the sound-person’s job a lot easier, they like things pretty quiet on stage usually. I don’t know why, I love little amps. And my back loves me not carrying heavy ones anymore!



Sleepy Sun's LP Embrace: post-psych jams/alt-folk duets

Sleepy Sun



Sleepy Sun’s Embrace LP exudes psychedelic ambience: a trippy, hazy sound world, long form guitar jams, often bewildering vocals which veer from exuberant screaming to sweet crooning. But the music by this San Francisco (by way of Santa Cruz) sextet exceeds the expectations set by any retro attributions: better, at least, to call it post-psych. And when they’re in full-on feedback and roaring jams mode – as on “White Dove” – Sleepy Sun are the poster children of the genre.  The overlapping percussion and gradual buildup to a wall of sound on “New Age” is thrilling as well.

Still, what makes the group so appealing is their ability to veer quickly between performance demeanors. Underneath the gruff exterior of howling chants and vigorous, distortion-laden improvisations lies a core lyricism. Indeed, the alt-folk delicacy and duet vocals employed by Sleepy Sun during moments of repose – for instance, on the haunting “Golden Artifact” – may be some of their most memorable work. Embrace supplies excellent listening at both ends of the dynamic and mood spectrum.

Sleepy Sun