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DIY/Lo-Fi





"Subversive To Care" comp released to benefit AAPI communities

In today’s fast-paced modern era of music streaming and profligate playlist making (not to mention Twitch DJing and all the other means of assembling original musical mixes) the notion of an old-school compilation album (or “comp”) may seem hopelessly out of date. But comps can still be wonderful things, and Subversive To Care (referred to as Sub2Care forthwith), which has been released to coincide with the launch of Paul Is Dead Records, checks off many of the boxes that make them good things.



For one thing, comps are often assembled to raise money for charitable/activist organizations and this one fits the bill with proceeds going to several AAPI organizations—The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (www.NAPAWF.org), Asian Mental Health Collective (www.ASIANMHC.org) and The Tibet Fund (www.TIBETFUND.org)—in response to alarming levels of hate crimes and ongoing struggles against prejudice against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What’s more, a good comp is a great way to discover new music and new artists without having to continually troll Spotify’s Teen Beats playlist (granted, SyKo’s “#BrooklynBloodPop!” has its pleasures). And with 60 original songs by the original artists Sub2Care should keep you occupied for a while as you make your way from the start (Wake Up’s “Hurricane” in exclusive demo form; the band is pictured above) to the finish (Squires’ “Tombstoning”) so you basically have got a conceptual theme here of moving from wakefulness to the Big Sleep—not that you can’t skip around within and between individual tracks which is another one of the nice things about comps. They’re basically sampler platters in musical form.

Sub2Care was put together by the new LA-based label Paul Is Dead Records (with satellite offices in New York and Wisconsin apparently) and is likely named either after the notorious Beatles urban legend, or the recent death of Paul Van Doren, patriarch of the Van’s sneaker empire. And while LA artists predominate on the comp (speaking of Vans some of these LA artists no doubt look a lot like Jeff Spicoli or perhaps Phoebe Cates) there’s also a decent number from other locales including New York/New Jersey like Frankie Rose, New Myths, Mevius, Dahl Haus, CITYGIRL, Skyler Skjelset (Fleet Foxes), The Natvral (Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and Shana Falana (featuring Shana Falana).

Across musical history, comps have occasionally played a key role in defining the sound of a nascent genre or a new record label—like the Lenny Kaye-compiled Nuggets (1972) that set an early template for punk rock, or the 1988 Sub Pop 200 comp that was a who’s who of future grunge all-stars—and while Sub2Care isn’t strictly speaking a “label comp” since it’s made up of tracks donated by “artists who are close friends and family members of our label” quoting label head and co-founder Evan Mui, it’s still got a certain vibe or aesthetic, if you will, while being pretty darn eclectic at the same time.

I would prospectively call this vibe or aesthetic Twilight Music. By Twilight Music I mean songs that’ve got a certain hazy/dreamy/slightly off-kilter quality whether they’re upbeat or downbeat or mid-beat. And in this way it’s good music for putting on around twilight say when you’re pregaming for a Saturday night out (tracks #13 and 14 are two good examples: Smirk’s “Do You?” and Eternal Summers' “Belong”) or waking up Sunday morning trying to recall what happened the previous night (rewind to tracks #10-12: Four Dots’ “I Left My Heart Pump In San Francisco,” D.A. Stern’s “Funky Holocaust (Drunk Demo),” and Big Nitty’s “Chemical Plant”) or songs that fit equally well for either scenario (for example, tracks 32-34: Dahl Haus’ “Silhouettes and Alibis,” Black Needle Noise’s “And Nothing Remains,” Built Like Alaska’s “Ran Into A Coroner").

So throw a few bucks in the Bandcamp bin for Paul Is Dead Records if you like what you hear. And in return you may discover a new favorite artists or two--whether one of the ones mentioned/displayed here or some other deserving object of your musical admiration. (Jason Lee)









 








VIDEO: “It’s All Right” Finds DIY-er Tatiana Hazel Working on Herself

Photo Credit: Yanin Gzv

L.A.-based Chicago native Tatiana Hazel’s latest track/video, <i>It’s All Right</i>, is a preview of her latest EP (after 2020’s <i>Duality</i> EP), and it’s difficult not to enjoy the track’s laid-back danceable groove and breezy vocals, while also being touched by it’s casual honesty about facing mental health challenges.

At points throughout the song, Hazel delivers some sobering lines about facing ones mental illness as well as general disillusion with “truths” presented by the larger world: “maybe i should take a good look at myself / and mirror check on mental health / couldn’t be clearer that I’m not doing well, darlin’ / and maybe everything you told us was a lie / maybe all we gotta do is pass the time / maybe everything is gonna be all right.”

Ultimately, though, the chorus takes solace in the idea that, as crazy as this life can be, having someone who loves you along for the ride can make things somewhat more tolerable: “It’s all right / It’s all right / as long as I know that you love me / as long as you are thinking of me.”

Listeners will find Tatiana Hazel’s pleasingly unaffected voice similar to other electropop chanteuses such as Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso. However, if one looks past her admittedly polished, Top 40-ready public image, one will quickly realize that, with Hazel not just singing, but writing, producing, recording, mixing, and mastering all but one of her EPs tracks herself, she’s a one-person indie pop dynamo well on her way to bigger, better things. Gabe Hernandez





Tyson Swindell Releases Single "Binary Stars" Off Box Set

In the Spotify Age, musicians looking to sell hardcopy releases are well-advised to bring extra assets to play. “L’Aventura,” the latest box set from songwriter and composer Tyson Swindell comes correct for lovers of musical minutiae, with a bound book of poetry and an honest to Memorex mixtape of pre-release material alongside his sweet, new lo-fi lament “Binary Stars.”

At bad open mics or the wrong side of YouTube, the term “lo-fi” can be shorthand for “low rent, low effort, low energy.” Not here. Swindell’s work is “lo-fi” in the best sense: slow, intimate, real. Ironically, the actual production fidelity is excellent. Swindell’s work has been consistently well-produced, and in places “L’Aventura” is almost cinematic.

The same sense of growing mastery extends from the production to the sound. Working almost exclusively with electronics, Swindell starts with the vibe of an excellent bedroom DJ, but shows a classic, songwriterly sensibility that recalls some of the bygone best of indie and shoegaze masters. “Binary Stars” may rely on digital instruments, but there’s as much blood from Band of Horses as Tycho, with both sides serving a poetic but personal lyricism recalling Bright Eyes and late-career Elliott Smith. It’s sad boy music for certain, music to mope to, but executed with pretty production and elegant restraint.

As to the rest of the assets, The Deli can’t comment – haven’t received a copy. If the book and tape live up to the single, however, the box is worth a look for anyone seeking musical company for a quiet night in.

- Matt Salter

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Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.



The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)





On “SITUATIONS,” Paris Texas Meld Hip Hop & Synthpop Sensibilities

Photo Credit - Jimmy Bui

Compton, South Los Angeles multi-disciplinary creative outfit Paris Texas (the team of Louie Pastel and Felix) have released their debut project, BOY ANONYMOUS. Across the project’s 8 self-produced tracks, the duo span an impressive range of genres and textures, and a particular standout is the single “SITUATIONS.”

The, tense but nimble track is a spare, minimal blend of icy late 70s/early 80s UK synthpop with “slice of life” hip-hop lyricism. The sonic landscape is populated with warm, rounded synth bass, distantly-reverbed vocals, and a jaded chorus repeating the phrase “hey now / these situations / hey now / just keep your patience,” while lines like “leave the house for all the dreams I had to chase,” and “couldn’t stay behind ‘cause shit would stay the same” hint at a desperate desire to escape a dire domestic situation to stake a claim at some sort of autonomy, whether creative or otherwise. And all the while a nervous, insistent synth organ phrase repeats throughout, restlessly peaking over the fence at the rest of proceedings.

The sense of anxiety mixed with fatigue is palpable, but the off-hand style and catchiness of the track keeps things from growing stale. Gabe Hernandez

 

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