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Psych





KITTY COEN

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Nation of Language speak in tongues on new single

On their debut single released in 2016, Nation of Language asked “What Does the Normal Man Feel?” and it’s a question that's become all the more relevant in the five years since, given, you know, the five years since--five years which has made our brains hurt a lot. But “normal” itself doesn’t feel so desirable anymore anyways (if it ever did) and N.O.L. already understood this when they distanced themselves from normal man feelings (“free from it...can not find it in myself”) backing up this sentiment with a neo-Devo meets Human League meets Howard Jones sound, a sound harking back to men (and women) who didn’t exactly scream normalcy either back in the day despite penning many hits between them. 

In the interim Nation of Language put out a bunch of singles and one full length called Introduction, Presence, exploring a range of musical tributaries without deviating too far from their core sound. For instance, just listen to the band's stark coldwave cover of “Gouge Away” which evokes the Pixies’ extreme dynamics but in a whole different fashion.

On their most recent single, N.O.L. acknowledge how we’ve crossed “Across That Fine Line”  (see the video up top) and go full-on Motorik throb a la Krautrock/Kraftwerk which fits perfect with the notion of being in transit/transition from one state-of-being to another whether literally or figuratively or due to falling in L-U-V or whatever. And they manage to work in an anthemic chorus which is not really native to Krautrock so it makes for a cool push/pull dynamic which even comes across in the song’s opening lines, alternately comforting and disconcerting:

“Reach out, call my name
Whenever you want
Faced with the final convulsions
Contorting my tongue”

 

It’ll be interesting to hear what other new accents and dialects Nation of Language work into the mix on their next full-length, A Way Forward, scheduled for towards the end of this year, no doubt to be made available at your local record and tape outlet. (Jason Lee)





Hello Mary "Take Something"

For the Tripartite Challenge on this one (this one being Hello Mary's new single "Take Something") I’m gonna go with shoegaze/dreampop pioneers Lush crossed with a pre-“These Dreams” Heart in psych-folk mode crossed with the fuzzed out garage rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But whatever the mix it’s a heady one that’s why the kids like to call this “head music” it’s a known fact.





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)





The Cush Sends You on Musical Vacation That Feels so Real You Might Need a Moderna Shot

In 2021, having just come out of a year in which the demand for psychotherapy grew by leaps and bounds, the Calm meditation app is on everybody’s phone it seems and fifteen quarantine pounds gained is the norm, now more than ever, we badly need a trippy record to help us to relax. In a half-normal, post-pandemic world, we’re yearning for a record made by a band who promises their music will take you on a journey and bring you back seeing life differently. 

 

The Cush, a Fort Worth band consisting of husband Burette Douglas on vocals/guitar, wife Gabrielle on vocals/bass, Ben Hance on guitar and keyboards and Austin Green on percussion, place themselves in the “trippy genre” om their self-written Spotify bio, in which they also promise us a memorable musical journey. Their album “Riding In the Stardust Gold,” released April 23, was recorded at Fort Worth’s Empire Sound studio and Eagle Audio with Ben Harper’s Mad Bunny label imprint.

 

Although the new album often shows the expected musical influences of a trippy indie pop album nowadays (The xx, Alex G, The Cult, Slowdive), their imaginative songwriting and musicianship puts them more in the life-changing escape realm of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” than that of a regular dream pop record.

 

There are two tracks here that swerve from The Cush’s happy sonic dream vacation to create a challenging — even frightening — mood akin to getting seriously lost while traveling: “Beneath The Lines” and “Chariots of Smog.” And they are both quite fun upon a second listening. Between the Deep Purple/Stone Temple Pilots/Black Sabbath/Faith No More metal guitars, these really rock hard! On “Chariots of Smog.” Burette sings like a moody teenager. On “Beneath the Lines,” Gabrielle’s usual sweetly gorgeous vocals turn satisfyingly tense and emotional, with a few shrieks thrown in for good measure. Their long-time fans will be very surprised at this new side of the band.

 

“Haters,” the album’s first single (and the only one that Ben Harper produced) is currently receiving radio airplay. Hopefully Ben Harper’s fans will spread the word as well so that music fans discover this gem of an album.

 

- Jill Blardinelli

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