MPLS LTD, scratchin' us right where we itch

Jason Jackowiak

MPLS LTD keeps it scuzz.

This week's assortment of sonics comes to us by way of the awesome MPLS LTD imprint run by Christian Fritz out of its namesake (twin) city. The label's got an extensive (10+ year) history of melding the city's diverse range of sounds with like-minded groups from around the globe, and their latest batch of singles have their roots in 70s psych, 80s alternative and 90s shoegaze, albeit with a post-millennial slant that's darkly addictive. Check out the good work they're doing with the label, and don't forget, if you enjoy what you read here, be sure to head over to their site and pick up some of these tasty treats (get some Mac & Dennis) for yourself.

Our initial blast-off comes from co-ed sextet First Communion Afterparty and their Skyline, Starlight EP. Maybe it's the gossamer female vocal leads that make us instantly think of Slowdive and Lush, but the thickness and sustain of the band's roaring shoegaze attack is also reminiscent of the former's all-time-classic Souvlaki. The two tracks that comprise the A-Side – “Time Between” and “Featherhead” – are shorter, more pop-addled numbers, with gilded choruses and the kind of multi-tracked roar that Kevin Shields obsessed endlessly over when making Loveless. The eponymous flipside is its own kaleidoscopic journey through the looking glass, as wave after wave of tremelo'd guitar and analog synth eradicate the landscape, leaving purple-hued daisies all over the place and a feedback-laden spectral trail. Perhaps you could accuse them of being a bit too Warlocks-y in places, but then again, you could accuse the Warlocks of being a bit too BJM-y, who you could, well, you get the idea. While their sound certainly is directly influenced by the past, TFCA definitely seem to have a handle on where they're going with their post-psych sounds.

Swedish quartet Mono Stereo are next in this hit parade with their debut single, “On and On” b/w “A Matter of Confusion”. The A-Side is awash in Middle Eastern vibes, with fuzz-caked sitar lines laid over the top of the track's otherwise simple melodic construction; at times, it's redolent of a Rubber Soul outtake or a quaalude-dosed country-rock tune blasted straight from the heart of the baking sun. Flipside “A Matter of Confusion” is another animal, with a wall of overdriven guitars crashing over the rhythm like a tidal wave, the beat barely escaping, only to be pushed aside as the riffs gain momentum and begin marauding everything in their path. There's a nicely FX'd middle eighth with swooping bird chirps, blips, bloops and a whir of crystalline chiming that dovetails right back into the riff. These boys like a bit more pop than circumstance with their 'gaze, and while the two tracks showcase different sides of the band, if they're able to congeal the twin sides of their musical personality, they could well be a titanic proposition come 2011.

Our next bunch of astral orbiters are fuzzed out trio Sun in the Satellite, who's debut nod is “The Way” b/w “Wait to Fall”. These boys specialize in an altogether rougher-hewn brand of psych that nods towards bands like Teenage Filmstars and Catherine, where there's more dirt than paisley caked in the chords, vocals are mired in gobs of reverb and just the slightest twitch sends 'em reaching for their pedalboards to scorch their tunes in a wash of rocket-fire. Perhaps their most natural antecedents are Swervedriver, whose road-burned brand of space-rock is clearly the template for “The Way”'s brooding tension and penchant for phaser-happy ruminations about the minutia of normal life as seen through the cracks of an electron telescope, culminating in a tribal, almost industrial-sounding coda that ends up sounding strangely desolate. The flipside seems to pick-up exactly where Side A left off, as “Wait to Fall” begins life all alone on a barren moon of Jupiter, before eventually jettisoning for parts unknown via looped synths, gradually swelling starburst FX eruptions and a fragile vocal line that's forced to toughen up as it winds its way through the track's barrage of otherworldly incantations. Definitely a great start from a band that's got the potential to be standing atop the space-rock heap in no time.

Damned if we don't love us some heavily effected psych/space-rock, and this particular batch is really scratchin' us right where we itch. So instead of going out to buy the new The Black Angels album (which, incidentally, is a total bore) run over and scoop up this batch of singles and have your finger on the true pulse of the new shoegaze underground. Next week we've got a really great batch of new tunes from Chicago's Trouble in Mind label, as well as some overdue love for our old friends at Sacred Bones. Until then, keep your lamps trimmed and burning and pull out those topcoats, there seems to be a nip in the air.

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