Saturday, 23 February 2013

Spanish Moss - Kelp: EP Review

Spanish Moss marks an occasion where I really should have listened to my wife, who said I would love this band, I dilly-dallied for some reason but she wasn't wrong.

Kelp is billed as an EP, but the six songs total over 35-minutes and it feels worthy of an LP-status. The psychedelic rock masterclass opens with Fuzz Puzzle, a sprawling monster clocking in at close to 10-minutes, Ian Caddick's guitar engulfs the listener in a napalm of solos, this is one of the most powerful performances committed to tape. At times it sounds like the wheels are about to fall off but the band keep things together while vocalist Tom Madden's reverb-laden vocals vie for attention in amongst the flames.

Patrick Haight's production is spot-on (forgive the pun), recorded in January 2012 (released August 2012) on a Tascam 388 to produce that proper old-school garage rock feel. Deliberately going for a retro sound and influence is a bridge some bands get stuck on, but while they wear influences on their sleeve, the quality of the songs smash through any inclination for simple nostalgia.

The other stand-out on the record for me is the penultimate track, Witch Rings, with another snaking riff before a break-out into Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd (an obvious and lazy comparison, but you will know exactly which bit when you hear it), then pummeling us with that riff again. The band blast out the chorus repeating "always remember, always remember..." not as a simple lyric, but as a demand, you will remember this sonic assault! As the guitar screams to a crescendo, we seam into the final track, Catherine's Last Trip, treated to a final guitar flurry to leave our minds blown and battered.



1. Fuzz Puzzle 09:47
2. Chemical Catherine 05:32
3. Vril Loop 01:52
4. Space Drugs 07:11
5. Witch Rings 07:38
6. Catherine's Last Trip 03:34

Spanish Moss are:
Ian Caddick (lead guitar)
Tom Madden (rhythm guitar/vocals)
Tav Palumbo (drums/vocals)
Jesse Perez (bass)

Kelp is available on vinyl (which I have, despite not currently owning a record player...) from Spot On Sound and cassette from Burger Records and Under the Gun, it can also be downloaded for a bargain $3 on the band's bandcamp page.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Föllakzoid - II: Album review

Question: A Chilean based cosmic music band releasing their album on Sacred Bones, what could possible go wrong?

Answer: Nothing!

The production on II is crystal clear and we're treated to an array of sounds attacking a repetitive drum and bass combination, With bands like Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips also on the radar, lovers of space-rock jams finally have some contemporary options without having to dig out their Neu! records for the thousandth time. While there is clear influence on the record there is something about it that seems fresh. 

It's hard to pick a standout track, but after the driving rhythms of Trees, 9 and Rio, the more atmospheric 99 does leap out with its swirling synths and wandering guitar delays. The record ends with Pulsar, a 15-minute wig-out that Porcupine Tree used to do so well in their early days (circa Up the Downstair through to Signify). 

It's easy for this kind of spacious psychedelic music to seem aimless and meandering, but II seems to have a focus, you're being taken for a ride, but the band know the best route and will not get lost while you get to enjoy the view.

Föllakzoid have a few shows lined up around the US, one of which takes them to NYC at the Mercury Lounge on the 21st of March with fellow Chileans The Holydrug Couple, which I'm certainly hoping to attend! Is there a fertile South American music scene just waiting to be unearthed? Or perhaps there is already and I am shamelessly ignorant, either way, I am looking forward to finding out.

Juan Pablo Rodrigues (vocals)
Domingo Garcia-Huidobro (guitar)
Alfredo Thiermann (piano, synthesizer)
Diego Lorca (drums).


  1. Trees
  2. 9
  3. Rio
  4. 99
  5. Pulsar

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Live review: Vivian Girls / Widowspeak / Eternal Summers / Heliotropes

When Converse Rubber Tracks Live announced another of their free shows at Music Hall Williamsburg, my heart raced. I'd seen Vivian Girls play a very short set almost exactly a year ago (10th of Feb 2012) at Gansevoort Plaza, possibly the only show I've been to where it snowed! Anyway, I was over the moon at the chance to see them play a full set and was even more determined to be on the ball and get tickets for this show since we missed the last one converse put on, featuring King Tuff and Metz!

First up was Heliotropes, I'd heard the name many times but had not gotten round to listening to their music. They play a blend of 70s-inspired doom/desert rock. Guitarist/vocalist Jessica Numsuwankijul blazes through some good solos to complement the riffs and they have an album due in April which should be worth keeping an ear out for. If I were being critical, the additional percussionist could do with a bit of variation, too much tamborine!

Next up were Eternal Summers, who I saw twice in 2012, once at a free outdoor show at Fulton Street and also supporting Nada Surf at the Bowery Ballroom. They always put on a good set and coming off the back of 2012's fine record, Correct Behaviour, are due to enter the recording studio for a follow-up very soon, so we got plenty of new material (some of which I recognised from the other shows), which sounded very promising.

Eternal Summers
Next up was Widowspeak, this was also the third time I had seen them (technically the first band I ever saw in NYC as they were the support act for Dum Dum Girls), and while I like their recorded output, they are a frustrating live band. Singer Molly Hamilton has a lovely Mazzy Star-like wistful vocal but is drowned out by the lead guitarist, who also comes across as a bit of a poser and seems at odds with the music. If they toned the other instruments down and notched Molly's vocals up they be greatly improved in my opinion (basically, to how they sound like on record).

Finally, Vivian Girls took to the stage and rattled through one of the most fun sets I've ever seen, they have the perfect mix of intensity, positive attitude and most importantly (for most bands seem unable to marry all these qualities), they are backed up by having great songs.

If you ever get a chance to see them play, you would be a fool not to. Leaving the occasional pause in between songs to interact with the audience and catch their breath, re-tuning is an option! The set covered songs from their three records and the night would have been close to perfect if they had played my favourite song, Can't Get Over You, but I'll gladly settle for it being the best show I've seen so far this year and one that will certainly take some beating! I just don't know how anyone could not have a good time at a Vivian Girls show.

I recorded The End, it's a crappy video (for a start I was watching them, not my camera, and secondly the camera is too close to the stage monitor) but it captures the vibe.

And just for good measure, I met Katy Goodman at the show I mentioned last year and it gives me a chance to post the picture:

And as a PPS, I saw Cassie Ramone do a short solo set the night before supporting Total Slacker at Webster Hall Studio (Katy was in the audience and I was too chicken to talk to her). Check out her 7" split with Hunx.