May 16, 2013

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Various Artists

CiTR Pop Alliance Compilation, Vol. 3


If the new collection CiTR Pop Alliance Compilation, Vol. 3 presents the state of emerging indie-pop, then it sounds a lot like the state of underground indie-pop from 20 years ago. Centering on Vancouver acts and the University of British Columbia radio station CiTR 101.9 FM that champions them, this compilation—available on vinyl and as a digital download—will remind indie-pop aficionados of West Coast and Northwest U.S.A. styles in Portland, San Francisco or Washington state on labels such as K and Slumberland Records. These are mostly unknown groups, presenting tracks that aren’t too awfully ambitious, typically with a competent but non-slick musicianship, but they will likely appeal to a built-in audience.

The track by Gal Gracen evokes a British post-new wave mid-’80s flavor, with electric guitar melodies mirrored by synths and vocals that are obscured in a haze, and the trio PUPS, featuring indie-pop mainstay Rose Melberg of Tiger Trap and the Softies, benefits from Melberg’s soft and pretty voice and a surprise second-half swift tempo shift. “Even Black” by Weed is one of the album’s more aggressive numbers, with a saturated, heavy pop sound that distinguishes itself on this collection, and Korean Gut plows through its speedy, strummy garage-rock number in less than 90 seconds, with an impatient attitude.

One of the best songs on the collection is “Apocalypse, Please Sign the Release Form First” by Sleuth, offering unabashedly bright, glistening jangle-pop with Moe Tucker-esque drumming, heavy on the floor tom, snare and tambourine; the lead singer, named The Lion in Love, navigates through lyrics like “He told me he’d sing a socialist serenade” with a singing style that isn’t showy but sticks in the ear. What can a person learn from listening to this collection? This writer’s advice to young bands: If the music is going to follow a formula, then try to make the singing as distinctive as possible and don’t hide it.

The Dead C / Rangda

The Dead C Vs Rangda

(Ba Da Bing)

The new split LP featuring The Dead C and Rangda is touted as “Four guitarists. Two drummers. Two sides,” and while each trio uses the same instrumentation—a pair of guitars and a drummer—that’s where the similarity stops.

The side from The Dead C, the 27-year-strong New Zealand group, features recently discovered material nearly lost in the band’s archives, originally recorded as part of the sessions for the 1989 album Eusa Kills. The “noise rock” label sometimes bestowed upon the group is woefully inadequate; it’s often way beyond rock, using uneasy improvisations and abstract, spine-tingling sounds to create haunting moods.

The first track “Eusa Kills” is a meandering, sludgy number that is actually maddening because it provides little to hold onto, like quicksand through fingers. The situation improves with the following number, “Tomorrow,” with a shambling, sick-sounding guitar apparently trying its best despite being broken; toward the end, a low-note mantra and a crackly static disorder emerges, with the players sounding like they’re trudging onward despite bleeding profusely. “This Much I Know” uses disquieting tones and what sounds like a pitch-shifted loop of the opening skronk of Big Black’s “Kerosene” and incomprehensible vocals, and “Heaven’s Wheel” actually offers drum beats with a semblance of rhythm and buzzing guitars with a sort of demented determination, closing the mind-bending side.

Rangda’s two long tracks employ the same broad philosophical approach, being more about crafting textures and slowly building an incline than hammering out riffs. “Gracilaria” features the two guitarists, Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance and Richard Bishop of Sun City Girls, tethered with pedal notes yet free to drift into the atmosphere with a light, fluid dexterity; Chris Corsano smolders with restless, irregular yet tight drumming, driving the proceedings toward its kinetic conclusion. “Sancticallist” is a slow-burn number, keeping its volume and temper down while simultaneously being jittery and impatient. Joining the band’s excellent albums False Flag and Formerly Extinct, it’s a worthy addition to the catalog of Rangda—those mystical guitar-hero wanderers with a wild-card drummer.


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