Much like the explosion of chillwave artists that emerged from the wake of acts like Washed Out and Neon Indian circa-2009, we’re beginning to see a handful of bands that will undoubtedly garner comparisons to Tame Impala for daring to dip back into the sun bleached coffers of 70’s nostalgia. But chasing the sound of psychedelia comes with some caveats. It’s difficult for a band to harness the potential that comes from this pursuit, as the line between controlled chaos and an unstructured mess runs thin.
Fortunately, Toronto-based Grounders isn’t one of those bands. The quartet is set to release their debut LP this summer, Grounders, and have a new single dropping this week, “Drawing Space.” The jangled guitars and upbeat tempo contrast with the lo-fi vocals to create a disorienting sense of melancholy. The result is a surprisingly refined track that challenges what a traditional psych-pop song should be. What separates Grounders—and elevates the genre itself—comes from the intricacy of their lyrics, and how what’s being said is enhanced by the instrumentation, not buried by it.
More and more becoming the central hub for adventurous new sounds from the still largely unexplored Central European scene, Budapest-based Farbwechsel Records has unearthed young Slovenian producer Christian Kroupa, whose first 12" for the label is a strong and confident statement. While the title track of A Dangerous Game stays in rather calmer waters, carried by warm synth string pads, a syncopated bassline and a repetitive, almost hypnotic sample, the "909 Version" is aptly pounding, built around a straight 4/4 kickdrum for your 5am 'floor desires. The original's gloomy mystery is still there but pushed to the background, leaving room for the rhythm to unfold. Stream the track exclusively below.
I have a new musical crush and rather conveniently his name is Boycrush (well Alistair Deverick actually, from New Zealand). And he's gone and done a song with a former member of Yumi Zouma, Kim Pflaum, whose new project is called Madeira. The song in question is "Flirt" and as you would expect, it's riveting. Full of a bounding bounce as well as ballooning, volumnious squats of brass, and Pflaum's now instantly recognizable singing style, "Flirt" is a hop, skip, and a jump into the summer of our discontent. I can't help but agree with Pflaum when she sings "Just a fleeting touch/That's all I want." Truly a bittersweet symphony here.
"Flirt" will be on Boycrush's EP Girls On Top, which comes out May 27. Check out the whole EP when it arrives. It will bowl you over with just how stunning and charming it is.
There's this one thing GvB's Chris Cantalini and I could always agree on: San Francisco outfit The Sandwitches are criminally overlooked, and for inexplicable reasons. Joke's on you though, as the band's forthcoming third-full-length Our Toast will be their final offering. While The Sandwitches' distinctive melancholy permeates the LP, however, it's not all sadness and gloom. Take second single "Wickerman Mambo", premiered below: The jangly guitar chords may not be steeped in happiness either, but there's a certain, almost defiant (or sarcastic) optimism coming through, a joyful carelessness that can only be expressed by someone who's experienced pain and sorrow but still refuses to give in. It's a last flicker though, in a way, as the album's penultimate track before "Nothing But Love" shifts the tone again, slowly and sadly waving goodbye in style. I have no clue what's next for the band's members – one may hope that at least Grace Cooper will release more gorgeously haunting material as Grace Sings Sludge – but The Sandwitches and their damaged yet beautiful and always sincere take on classic garage and americana will truly be missed.
There is something unsettling about the work of Budapest-based producer S Olbricht. In his musical world, whether it be for Lobster Theremin or Opal Tapes, he seems to always have the option of going toward the light, but, for whatever reason, he stays put, basking in just enough darkness, able to still see the brighter and lighter side which he is resisting. His brand new release for Bratislava-based Proto Sites, an imprint that has thus far done nothing but allow space for blissful augmentation of ambient abilities from acts like Casi Cada Minuto and Imre Kiss, interestingly has a moment of uplifting relief. "Onhom" is a trance-infested, emotive and sloping track, one that speaks to elation over and submission to change and redux. This is the one track on the EP that fills the shoes of what a "trancess" may be, either a trance princess or some kind of ticket for gaining access to trance. As usual for S Olbricht, most of the songs, their titles, and anti-directional soundscapes are otherworldly, sprinkled with a little spookiness; however, when "Onhom" hits, we gain some fresh perspective about not only the artist's faculties, but perhaps also about our own.
Trancess is out soon on Proto Sites. You can hear more of said "blissful augmentation" here, and pre-order the vinyl here.
As is often the case with words derived from Latin and employed in different European languages, the connotations of ‘ignorance’ in modern English and ‘Ignoranz’ in German are not exactly congruent. The difference is subtle: While ‘ignorance’ denotes the lack of knowledge in a principally neutral manner, ‘Ignoranz’ is decidedly derogatory, a reprehensible quality most commonly understood primarily as a lack of the will to know. When thinking about the accustomed perception of post-reunification Germany especially among my non-German peers, my native tongue’s meaning seems more appropriate.
In recent years, marked by important publications such as Denk and von Thülen’s brilliant “The Sound of Family – Berlin, Techno and the Reunification”, it has become habitual to take Berlin, that “big playground filled with infinite possibilities”, as the focal point for narratives about the country prior to and following the fall of the wall in 1989. In the deserted wastelands of Mitte, techno culture was able to bloom mainly due to a historically unique lack of authoritative structures, leaving big parts of the city unregulated and free to be occupied by counter-cultural currents. For contemporary witnesses, the anarchic conditions promised an underground paradise, and the appeal of that time still resonates not least as a cliché reference point for every club night in town. It still is one of the main reason why so many young people want to move to Berlin today.
“Ignorance”, the lead track on local producer ASA 808’s new 12” on London/Berlin imprint ManMakeMusic, in a way echoes this legendary era of classic Berlin techno. It is raw, straightforward, and dark, evoking images of unrestrained nights in abandoned warehouses. It’s not a joyful track but one made for ecstatic oblivion, to relive the feeling of freedom the city once embodied some 25 years ago.
The thing is, if you let Germans play anarchy, the most likely outcome is not techno but a pogrom.
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Just in time for the 70th anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, the video for “Ignorance”, premiered above, is a necessary reminder of this. Depicting the events in Rostock Lichtenhagen in the summer of 1992, it shows the other side of the breakdown of public structures. Over the course of three days, a vitriolic mob was able to express the people’s hate and frustration by attacking the shelter of the most vulnerable members of society, refugees and so-called ‘guest workers’ (it would take Germans another 15 years to slowly become comfortable using the word ‘immigrant’). The reaction of the authorities was reluctant and insufficient at first, and catastrophic in the aftermath. The incidents in Rostock represent the shameful counter-narrative of the reunification years. As it happens, it’s also the one that we forget to tell often enough.
When people want to show how admirable the New Germany really is, they like to point out that as opposed to so many other European countries, right-wing populist parties like those haunting France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, and others usually don’t stand a chance in federal elections. Sure enough. The reason for that, however, is not so much that we’re all such reasonable people. There’s simply no real need to vote for upstart populists if their positions are already comfortably covered by the main parties in the parliament, usually by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But make no mistake, the Social Democrats won’t hesitate a second if morally outrageous standpoints benefit their electoral campaigns, in particular if the victims of ensuing parliamentary decisions are not considered part of the body politic. What happened in 1992 is a case in point: the political reaction to the Rostock pogroms (and other violent xenophobic incidents in the early 90s) was not to strengthen the protection of refugees but to effectively abolish the constitutional right to asylum, all in order to appease the incensed electorate. The two-thirds majority necessary for the change of the constitution was eagerly provided by the oppositional Social Democrats under Oskar Lafontaine (who of course remains highly esteemed among the pseudo-communists at Jacobin), a decision he should be reminded of every morning at breakfast until the end of his days.
30 years ago on May 8th, 1985, the late former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker managed to reinterpret history by postulating that just like Auschwitz or Buchenwald, just like Denmark or Poland, the Germans were ‘liberated’ by the Allied Forces in 1945, as if the Nazis had been something alien, an irresistible force that had somehow overpowered the poor, ignorant German populace in 1933. Similar words will be spoken tomorrow, generic drivel about the hardships of war, and about how we have ‘learned’ our lesson so that we’re now entitled to tell other nations in Europe and beyond when and where they err, and how they should behave in order to become as wise and dignified as we ourselves are today, all because of what ‘happened to us’ during National Socialist rule. Dialectic can be so ironic.
It’s lovely, this benign new Germany, isn’t it. Most of my expat friends in our Kreuzberg/Neukölln bubble sure think so. Why should we, they ask, not have the ‘right’ to mourn those civilians who died in Dresden and all the other bombed-out cities, why shouldn’t we have the ‘right’ to point out the ‘injustices’ of the post-war expulsions of Germans from Eastern and Central Europe?
Yes, why shouldn’t we. Perhaps because it was us who started it. Or perhaps because there is an uninterrupted, coherent narrative line running from November 9th, 1938, to the events in Rostock in the summer of 1992 and all the way to Tröglitz in April of 2015. That’s why. For those who don’t want to see, ignorance becomes an excuse.
After all, 70 years is a fucking short amount of time.
Those who agree that Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, is an unconditional reason to be cheerful should celebrate at SchwuZ tomorrow night together with our friends at Jungle World. More info on the event over here.
Full disclosure, Eric Wells is my friend. Better known as Sayth, Eric is the only queer rapper in my hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Things you should know about him: He is, more or less, a living beam of light. Passing through town, chances are you’ll run into him hanging up flyers for a house show or helping a local band screenprint t-shirts. His mom is his biggest fan.
Sayth released a video for “Rare Candy” this week. To date, the track is his magnum opus, a call to action for community and statement of rejecting the commodification of art, “Raised in a culture that values art as an audience/A corpse and a bunch of vultures seeking dominance.” The video is all things summertime in Eau Claire, a sleepy place with a constantly rotating group of kids reappropriating space and making cool shit. The current cast of young local movers in those quiet Midwestern places is shown-- hang down by the river with the boys of Glassworks improv or girl-gang around the mall with Hemma and Adelyn Rose. Watch “Rare Candy” below.
I'm uncertain as to whether I possess the language for describing what it is about Christelle Gualdi's music that induces so much nostalgia. Some tiny, indiscernible aspect of it hits a neuropath in my head, which sends me back to an acute memory from my childhood, sans direct and obvious associations. It's a memory of an atmosphere - something about thunderstorms - not an event, and I've said it before and see the need to continue to explore this evocation. Since Gualdi integrated 303 beats, announced in a most celebratory fashion with 2013's Joy One Mile, those burnished sensations and otherwordly keys have been thoughtfully restrained out of will to renovate and, paradoxically, truly set the sounds free. Stellar OM Source, like always, offers an ethereally well-dressed package that holds within itself mathematically palpable infinity. Her discography is likewise a narrative, one that imparts the trials and tribulations of laboring in the lab of life.
Forthcoming Nite-Glo is a spot-on perpetuation of structuring her wild, melted-metal synthscape. This already soldered sound beams out through the creases of a geometic puzzle, one that rotates stoically and meditatively through space. Starting off with a demanding tone, "Sudden" communicates the onerousness of finding a solution to a gaping question: how does one house infinity? Unsure where to begin addressing the issue, we begin the task anyway. "Never" likewise commences with its nose turned down in concentration; yet, halfway through the track, more colorful keys join in attempt to ease the severe attitude of the song. A modular language of effervescence persuades the track's direction, leaving us in a mood for dancing. "Live" is where Gualdi achieves some lightheartedness through a somewhat comical rhythm operating from a lower octave, serving as the spinal column of the track. "Sure" delivers us to a warm spot on a hill, where we reflect that the EP has so. much. acid, apprehensive about so much hard work being demanded of us again in the future.
Nite-Glo is out on RVNG Intl. June 9th. Enjoy the video for "Sudden" in the meantime, and don't work too hard.