<p>The IMPOSE staff has the good problem of being perpetually overwhelmed with incredible records, piling up in our inboxes year round. It slows slightly during the end of the year or during SxSW and CMJ as we pretend like we're all “out of office”. Otherwise, the flood is jamming records into our ears 24-8 (we are on a G-Side level of hustle). Here's our half-year ode to the records that slid under our radar or sat on our coffee table for too long or got spins, yet never received the just due word count. We hope this makes up for missing you the first time around.
Ari Spool – #Managing Editor
Madalyn Merkey, Scent (New Images)
Madalyn Merkey is an Oklahoma City native transplanted to Chicago, where she happened upon the DIY noise scene and ran a small tape label in college called Irma Vep. Absorbing what she saw at house shows for a few years, she started experimenting on her own in 2010 and 2011 with her own musical ideas, using only a Juno 60 synth and a digital voice processor. The result, Scent, a five song LP released on Matt Mondanile's New Images label in April, is a delicately textured gelatinous mass of phase-shifted tone.
Different emotional cues are detectable within the wobbles: “Neptune” is an explorative ballad of elation in finding one's own internal future-sense, while “Siren”, the only track that uses voice instead of synthesis, is a droid reaching out for the comfort of touch. “Mend” has been given a rousing tempo, and its 11-minutes seem to evaporate in the urgency of its bass hum – about halfway through it turns into a spectral band exploration, but none of its exigency is lost in the change-over. The album captures what I feel is a zeitgeist of what noise music should be reaching for right now: the humanity of the analog tone is represented with both the stereophonic emotive properties and the clear creative impulse. This music is not created within a harsh, restrictive programming system but rather by an artist's hands, while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of what feelings should sound like, and all the best experimental artists are playing with this exact idea.
Stephanie Glass – #Embryonic Capitol
Horse Lords, Mixtape Vol. 1 (self-released)
At times it seems unfair the amount of groundbreaking music emerging from the smokestack hills of Baltimore. For almost a decade eyes and ears have been turning to Baltimore as a growing rise of musicians, like Beach House and Wye Oak, are rightfully making it on the larger indie circuit.
With such a relative stream of steady success these past years one might think the flame would cool under Charm City’s feet and the local scene would slowly start to burn out. Instead the exact opposite has happened. Baltimore’s underground scene is continually expanding thanks to labels like Friends Records and a strong collection of underground spaces. Thankfully this all appears to be happening at an appropriate rate signaling longevity for the scene and city.
One of the most pioneering acts I’ve heard out of Baltimore recently is krautrock laced Horse Lords. I was lucky enough to catch them their tour recently for their Mixtape Vol. 1 that was released in May. The tape is a two track melding of rhythms that hits everything from tropical infused jazz to building orchestral rock due to the employment of two drum kits, alto sax and four exceptionally gifted musicians. Their live performance is a penetrating physical and mental experience that they’ve managed to seamlessly cross over into their recordings.
The over thirteen minute “Side A” serves as the perfect introduction to what makes Horse Lords such a needed creative boast to the current national scene. Beginning with a steady one, two beat before bringing a tropical bass and guitar riff in that enriches the song’s building fixed pulsation. One of the strongest aspects of Horse Lords is their patience, which allows their sounds to breathe and expand. The track’s build starts to get noticeably tenser at the one-minute mark with the appearance of alto sax. The tightness emerges from the crescendo’s growing need to bridge and release, but the foursome stays strict in maintaining an intrigue and desire for the listener to be on their toes with continual tempo and riff switch ups.
This technique of measure reversals marks Horse Lords as noticeably unique from many current instrumental groups that relay on beautiful, but at times overly safe instrumental melodies. The first six minutes of “Side A” seems to be following that method as it creates a trance of consistent drums, guitar/bass work and slices of alto sax, but things start to get thrown apart as the drums get strikingly frantic in an influx of rapid island beats. The saxophone grows almost claustrophobic in the eardrums and it seems that the sense of control is going to be lost resulting in a tornedo of noise and nonsense, but it doesn’t, at least not yet.
Even as the song’s rhythms remain remarkably feverish and fast, a common thread preserves in the saxophone’s jazz inflictions and firm working of the two drum kits. As a listener you are able to find the thread and stay interwoven, until once again things fray apart in a matter of seconds with the slash of electrical guitar from seemingly out of nowhere that forms a call and response with the saxophone. Only in the remaining gasps of “Side A” does Horse Lords permit for the full freedom of sound to explode, but their slow build to it has allowed a bond to form between them and listener, letting us too feel the complete satisfaction of their creation.
Matt Sullivan – #Contributor
Ohbliv, Freekbeet (Culture Dealer)
Ever since hitting his stride in full with EZ Widas, Ohbliv's knack for adventure within traditional forms, taking left turns in confined spaces, and spiritual perspective on beat conducting have only become richer, evolving to sophisticated new heights with his insane run of high-quality concept beat tapes last year. Freekbeat is the Richmond, VA-based producer's sci-fi beat tape soap opera, reconciling his proven gifts for thematic immersion with a narrative flow even more powerful than the emotionally charged New Black Renaissance tape. The spacey warbling, cries of “Leggow,” overjoyed fusion funk of “Aurracle,” and the cool-cruising soul of “tete a tete” showcase 'Bliv's signature minimalist sequencing while employing heavy and heady textural experimentation and degraded source material, much like old school Oval or The Caretaker might riff on, while “Diff Clawson” takes exciting, danceable chances with alternate rhythms, coming off more like a house track than a head-nodder. It was quietly unveiled this past January as a CS-only release on Culture Dealer (along with the criminally underrated Couch by Ahnnu), and while the maintained mystery fits in line with 'Bliv's ideology, here's hoping more people give this gem a deep, hazy listen.
Luke Carrell – #Head Cleaner
Los Jharis de Ñaña, Los Creadores Del Sonido de la Carretera Central (Masstropicas/Light in the Attic)
During the mid-1970s, Los Jharis de Ñaña helped seed a blend of American psychedelia and cumbia, known as the “Carretero,” style that has come to influence much of Peru’s modern “chicha music.” Much like the traditional beverage with which the genre shares its name, chicha is a home brewed affair, born out of the poorer “Conos” suburbs of Lima and brimming with appreciation for a good time. That back-story might esoteric, but this isn’t the kind of music that’s served justice sitting in the dusty World Music section of your local wax shop: it’s music that’s meant to be moved to.
Originally released on a cassette and distributed by street vendors, Los Creadores del Sonido de la Carretera Central, a six track LP released via Masstropicas and Light in the Attic this past March, showcases Los Jharis de Ñaña’s sound during early 80s. Setting their explorations of deep passion and even deeper intoxication over a framework of danceable, polyrhythmic beats, the group incorporated contemporary synths seamlessly into their increasingly reverb-heavy sound. Band-leader and guitarist Teo Laura’s signature six-string gymnastics bring plenty of swagger, but shy away from guitar god histrionics, preferring to defer to the vocals and flirt with the rhythm section to create a more dynamic feel. It’s a unique balance of sounds and styles that doubles as a reminder of the fact that any good party is a group effort. That emphasis on good times and collaboration might be why the band is still going strong after nearly 40 years. And yes, that’s a younger Teo using a beer as a guitar slide on the LP cover.
The disc also comes with a bonus 7” of music from the modern band Sensación Shipibo a shaman-led “cumbia-masha” group who are doing some stylistic alchemy of their own. We are streaming “Ay Rosita” in our player below.
Blake Gillespie – #Senior Editor
Walsh, Back To The High Life (Dracula Horse/AM Discs)
At the risk of sounding like a pompous, privileged journo, sometimes I get records too early. Gross, right? Such is the case with Walsh's Back To The High Life record. Recorded by Dracula Horse label head and COOLRUNNINGS founder, Brandon Biondo, pka Walsh, the album builds a metropolis atop his beat foundation laid out in previous EPs. Hooked on the first listen, I gushed over its seemingly analog beat compositions that seemelessly sought refuge in dystopian John Carpenter scores (“Adam's Theme”) and glam-house meets disco mutations (“We Only Have 2 Night”), as well as fried and freaked, psych-out beats (“Girlfriend”). Back To The High Life became my weekend pre-game soundtrack for the first six months of 2012, yet it managed to dodge an ode in our byte section or grace our monthly Best Of… list in January.
Back To The High Life is streaming here.
Taught Abroad, Taught Abroad EP (self-released)
Taught Abroad was only introduced to me three days ago, but in that small span I've squeezed enough listens in to know it belongs in our apologetic wrap-up. “Feel Like You Like Me” was slyly played during a road trip, as one of my backseat companions slid it into a playlist and waited for me to comment, as I tend to do when I don't instantly recognize a song. I played right into his hands and thus began my introduction to a new band from Chicago. Taught Abroad is the solo downtempo/chillwave project of former The Loyal Divide singer Chris Sadek. His eponymous four-song EP is the virgin gasps of escape from the claustrophic machinations of his former band. The EP is airy and serene with a patient build that is fully-realized by closer “All The Devil's Friends”.
Mac DeMarco, Rock And Roll Night Club (Captured Tracks)
Sometimes I'm just stubborn for no goddamn reason. Captured Tracks and the PR agency they keep on retainer pitched me Mac DeMarco a dozen times over, but I'll shamefully admit I just never listened. I put it in my stack of CDs mentally labeled “priority with potential”, but it never found its way into the speakers. Rock And Roll Night Club finally got an afternoon burn, while I was editing entries for this piece. Fugg me and my stubbornness, Mac DeMarco's record embodies some of my favorite sounds, circa the golden days of Stiff, early Johnathan Richman/Modern Lovers, and thoses London-sessions between Lou and Bowie (Iggy and Bowie, to be fair). The recordings are warm and fuzzy, which makes DeMarco's hushed voice sound as though it's gently petting the rhythm section. By the “106.2 The Breeze FM” interlude, I begin imagining DeMarco playing an actual lounge or jazz night club, rather than the standing room only venue. I want to be in the back, seated in the middle of a half-moon booth, slouched-down and sipping bourbon, while DeMarco performs Rock And Roll Night Club in full – because I'm a man.
Maria Sherman – #Anxiety Block
Merchandise Children of Desire (Katorga Works)
Merchandise, the Tampa, Florida post-punk (it feels weird to associate a single genre term) act stem from the state’s hardcore scene, manifesting a mass audience in certain underground followings while isolating themselves from others. Merchandise are weird ‘80s alt romantics, establishing an aesthetic that is as sensual as it is melancholic, as sensitive and honest, as it is desperate. In their sophomore release, Children of Desire, the band plays with shoegaze-y guitars and, at moments, sounds like a forgotten kraut record. Carson Cox’s vocals swoon with well-illustrated deprecation (a la Morrissey, and I don’t make these claims lightly,) sounding blindingly clear yet memorizingly complex and confusing. A sensation that, at it’s best comparable to staring into a stained glass window at high noon, when a spring sun is at its brightest. The colors fade in and out of one another until the light is too much to bare, and becomes a cohesive whole.
The record, within a certain underground community, has been up for much discussion— but relatively slept on in the indie rock game. One point that hasn’t been explored is the album’s production: lush and crystalline clear, without being overproduced (not an issue when considering the DIY nature of the band) proving that big pop records can be created without the budget.
A few hours after I began writing this, the second track on Merchandise’s Children of Desire LP, “Time” was given Pitchfork’s coveted title of “Best New Track” and the band announced that they would begin working with Life of Death PR (The Men / Ceremony / Trash Talk). If you are unfamiliar with the band, that won’t be true for long. And while there is much to be said about the record (and the band’s) philosophical ethos, I’ll leave you with this: Children of Desire is largely the best record I’ve heard this year.
Mark Craig – #Contributor
Soko, I Thought I Was An Alien (Because)
Around late February, I was treating my S.A.D. with a steady regiment of hangovers. I came across an album complimentary to the disorientation and misery of my early morning barista schedule and dehydration. There are very few bands I’ll listen to at daybreak in winter, and as much as I like Desolation Wilderness, Taken By Trees, Cass McCombs, Angel Olsen, Feist, Beach House, and The Walkmen, I needed something fresh to ease my greasy self into its part-time role. Prior to setting up the coffee bar one morning, I checked out Stereogum’s ‘Heavy Rotation’ section and clicked on the Sepia toned image of a girl and an alien to find Stéphanie Sokolinski’s, aka Soko, full-length debut, I Thought I Was an Alien, streaming at the other end of the link. I’d never heard of her, her acting career, her 1.5 million Youtube view reputation, or her EP, Not Sokute.
I work alone in the mornings, so I was able to soak up the album without interruption or peer judgement. A handful of songs into the album, the melancholy cracks of English coming out of the native French speaker's mouth over the playful nature of a girl and her guitar with an array of lo-fi toys captivated my attention. It was like hearing Camille with Nouvelle Vague interpret CocoRosie’s La Maison de Mon Rêve with a Playskool xylophone and a department store acoustic. Seriously sad shit. The cigarette following my listen was one of the best I’d had in months, it seemed.
A couple of weeks later, I was riding the J towards the Bowery on my commute to the coffee bar and the song “For Marlon” came up on my headphones. I’d listened to the album a handful of times, enough to know some lyrics, and that this song was one of my early favorites. On this particular listen, the lines “What’s there on your arm/You said don’t look, please don’t ask/I’m a recovering addict and sometimes I relapse” caused my eyes to well with tears. The harmonizing bridge of a distant choir over Soko’s arpeggiated picking tipped the drops from behind my sunglasses onto my right cheek. It’s not often that I drop tears over music, but there I was, a 26-year-old man, listening to this song about a guy choosing heroine over his girlfriend, dotting my cheek with emotion, in public. A moment like that will really reinforce your love for music. Such intimacy and power exercised over a simple acoustic progression is rare. So delicate and vulnerable. Throughout I Thought I Was an Alien, Sokolinski’s brooding songs about aging and unrequited love tap into the discontent of the romantic. The struggle and expression is timeless.
And for that, Soko, you’ve given me one of my favorite albums of the year. An album that’s bound to the imagery of that particular place in my life. An odd milestone, that I’ll never forget. Thanks.
Sjimon Gompers – #Goldmine Sacks (Week In Pop)
Lilac, Christine (Different Fur)
I know this SFxLA band from catching their energetic shows with folks from the Slumberland Records to Bay Area hometown buzz heroes. You may know the group from their ex-pat registry from the likes of BRIDEZ, Girls Honey, Hunx and his Punx, or the public split of Kirsten Knick and Will Ivy which gives an edge to the quarreling ex-lovers duals of angst ridden moods and clashes of rock and roll styles that permeate their album Christine. The opener “Sea of Grey brings to mind the proto-Lilith Fair sound before blowing up the Nancy & Lee model with lots of scuzz from “Noise Pollution” to “Bedroom Eyes,” taking it somewhere further than the sum of their overstated 90s influences or the break-up-rock cliché. This can also be attributed to the talents of bassist Chrys Nodal (who should have a side project of his own) and drummer Jon Wujcik. Title track “Christine” delivers well on the angst/anger principles with Will’s primal screams answered in succession with Kirsten’s responsive and alluring “Come Inside” dressed in mean guitar with fuzzed out looks to kill. Also look for their upcoming tape coming this summer from Burger Records.
Sandy Bull & the Rhythm Ace, Live 1976 (Drag City)
Fans of the Vanguard Records classical and psych guitar-father Sandy Bull have craved and prayed for a ‘lost’ recording since his last 1972 release of Demolition Derby. Bull re-wrote the book on stringed instruments and gave us modern versions of “Carmina Burana Fantasy,” an echoed instrumental re-interpretation of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” “Blend,” then later in his jam phase of the late 60s, “Electric Blend” before he became lost in a druggy void never to return. Some 35 years ago Sandy opened up for Santana at the Berkeley Community Theater where the classic /psych guitar master creates the sound of a full onstage band with the help from a mechanical, analog helper.
On Live 1976, things get kicked off with the Eastern picker “Oud,” before Sandy introduces the Rhythm Ace drum machine like a professor explaining the merits of new technology along with corresponding real world applications. “Love is Forever” aches with that light AM guitar sound with a voice full of hurt and lyrics for seeking an unfound permanence. “Driftin’ is a pure stoned out twang Drifters tribute with surprise treats, “Alligator Wrestler” showcases the funky side of Mr. Bull with an intro story that bridges his childhood memories of Floridian reptile ranches with an anecdote about a compulsive masturbator roommate from a stay in a 70s New York drug rehab. The real treat for the jam fans is the brain picking cool ode, “New York City.” Most guitar geeks thought this recording would never be unearthed and folks unfamiliar with Sandy Bull’s contributions to the modern canon will hear what turned the Beatle-booted squares onto sounds from the east, the classics, new ways to strum old instruments and explorations from the expanse of head space.
Lee Perry & the Upsetters, High Plains Drifter (Pressure Sounds)
From the UK roots label that recently brought you rare and unreleased dub plates and reels produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry with Sound System Scratch and Return of Sound System Scratch comes a collection of hot 45s, forgotten singles from the rocksteady, early-reggae period of 1968 through 1971. For those obsessed with the inimitable bass and rhythm section of the Barrett brothers, the dawn of first gen dub, funky American southern soul and UK northern soul influenced cuts, songs styled and inspired by spaghetti westerns and rare cuts from Junior Byles, The Silvertones, The Mellotones, the Faithful Brothers; then listen to these all stars who deserve to have their visages plastered on the poster walls of college dorms across the world. A great collection and for most of us a first to some of some great lost scorchers from those formative year prior to the ground breaking establishment of a certain home studio in 1974 Washington Gardens, Kingston but by now I have gotten ahead of myself.