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August 22, 2013

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The blissed-out, quasi-shoegaze outfit Hazes (hazesband.bandcamp.com) began as a home-recording venture from Nick Turner (Forest Magic) and Justin Wilcox (Moonlight Bride) before eventually becoming a full band with the addition of two other Forest Magic alumni Allen Hartley and Allie Stafford, plus Josh Boutwell. The group’s self-titled debut EP (soundcloud.com/hazesband) offers six tracks of dreamland pop-rock enshrouded in a velvety fog, sustaining a distinctive, comforting mood with tamed, reigned-in guitar swirls. Among the high points are “Show Me Anything,” which delivers a codeine-induced watercolor wash with gently mingling guitars, somewhat reminiscent of Slowdive, and “Catacombs,” with a supple mix of reverent keyboard chords, intersecting guitar lines and welcoming vocal harmonizing.

The new 4-song EP, simply entitled An EP, from the power trio Monomath (monomath.bandcamp.com) on Ten Twenty Two Records (tentwentytworecords.com) brings to mind a ’90s Chicago indie rock aesthetic with glimpses of prog and math rock. From the start, there’s a quality of rigor, like with the use of an 11/8 time signature on the opener, “Playing Post Office,” and “Hog Jammin’” evokes Robert Fripp’s early-’80s guitar craft in King Crimson with lithe, nimble patterns. Guitarist and singer Gabe Barrett, drummer Chris Lanza and bassist Brian Hennen chug along forcefully, being vigorous but not oppressive, even sporting a major-key, cheery aural disposition on “A Climb Down in 7.”

Xanax Squaredance (xanaxsquaredance.bandcamp.com) is the current name of the decade-strong collaboration between Adam Foster and Ezra Robertson, which has experienced numerous line-up and band name changes. Although both country and punk influences are cited—in particular, Merle Haggard and Hickey—the needle squarely points to the punk-rock end of the spectrum on the group’s recent EP, Swervin’ on Durham. Clocking in at under ten minutes, it’s short and sweet and to the point, with an infectious and urgent energy, bringing to mind west-coast punk styles rather than more earnest mid-Atlantic hardcore acts. The best song is the closing number “Blink of an Eye,” revealing the group at its most melodic, with a full, nourishing sound and a power-pop/rock attack.

GTRUK (a.k.a. Grumptruck) is the instrumental hip-hop manifestation of Joseph Micolo, the multi-instrumentalist and studio wizard behind projects such as Segamented Worms and JJEMMEIII (soundcloud.com/jjemmeiii). Declaring itself to be “urban decadence in audio form,” GTRUK evokes scenes of teens skateboarding and tagging, during the age when samplers and drum machines became affordable in the late ’80s. This summer, it dropped the full-length mixtape NOFLXGVN, available now on Bandcamp (gtruk.bandcamp.com) and later as a cassette release. It’s a mischievous, spit-shined mix of head-nod-inducing beatbox blasts, pulsating and effervescent electronics and choice samples of cinematic criminal confrontations and sci-fi camp.

The one-man noise tsunami Millipede, a.k.a. Joseph Davenport, has unleashed its latest album The Lower World, available both on cassette on Failed Recordings (failedrecordings.blogspot.com) and as a digital download on Bandcamp (millipede.bandcamp.com). Davenport uses heavily treated guitars, tapes and effects processing to create his harsh noise inferno, which requires total concentration for its peak effect. It’s definitely not for everyone, and although some may find it too intense and punishing, it cannot simply be dismissed as random noise; like Lou Reed’s infamous Metal Machine Music, there are melodies and patterns below the surface. For effect, there are abrupt drop-outs to ensure listeners don’t get too cozy with any particular zone, and under the layers of distressed steel and barbed-wire windings, sucking envelope effects act like alien maws opening and closing.

In April 2012, the “old-timey avant-garde” Chattanooga duo The Shaking Ray Levis (Dennis Palmer on Moog synthesizer and Bob Stagner on drums and percussion) visited their longtime friend and collaborator Frank Pahl in Michigan and had a fruitful recording session, creating some of the most beautiful material of their careers. Palmer passed away in February of this year, and Pahl immersed himself in the completion of the project as a way of seeking solace. The trio’s album, Fishers O’ Wufmen, was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign (tinyurl.com/wufmen), and it’s alternately playful and contemplative, with certain parts being eerily and presciently elegiac while always being uplifting and far from bleak. Some tracks are free and colorful improvisations, while others have more of a semblance of structure, weaving deeply felt melodies. The sound palette on Fishers O’ Wufmen is wide, and Pahl is featured on a multitude of instruments including piano, melodica and euphonium; Stagner even comes out from behind the drum kit to play horn and ukulele parts, and Palmer’s vibrant and cosmic synth excursions are imbued with affection and a sense of purpose.

by

August 22, 2013

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