Category: New Audio

Copenhagen, Denmark-based pop duo and JOVM mainstays  Palace Winter — Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager — can trace their origins to the duo’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work throughout a number of different projects over the years. Naturally, that mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work led to the duo deciding to work together.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Palace Winter’s sophomore album, 2018’s Nowaways found the duo expanding upon the sound and songwriting approach that won them praise, as they paired breezy and melodic, radio friendly pop with heavy thematic concerns — with the album material’s touching upon the loss of innocence of adulthood, the accompanying tough and sobering lessons as you get older, the freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny and the like. But it’s all underpinned by the profound grief of inconsolable loss. Life, after all is about recognizing that immense heartbreak and devastating loss are part of the price of admission, and that somehow you have to figure out a way to move forward.

Palace Winter’s highly anticipated, third album . . . Keep Dreaming, Buddy is slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Tambourhinoceros Records, and unlike their preceding albums, . . .Keep Dreaming, Buddy‘s material was written through a long distance correspondence as the band’s Coleman was residing in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. “Caspar was sending me these synth hooks and drum loops from Denmark, so I started coming up with melodies and lyrical ideas to record into my phone,” Coleman says of the writing sessions. While Coleman’s lyrics were inspired by Tenerife’s unique landscape, drawing metaphorical parallels between Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano, which also is one of Spain’s tallest peaks and the looming fear of a relationship disintegrating, Hesselager’s instrumental parts were inspired by Copenhagen’s landscape. And as a result, the album’s material is literally a tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles: The album’s first single “Top of the Hill,” was a great example of the album’s overall tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states. Featuring shimmering and icy synths, thumping beats and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook paired with Coleman’s volcanic imagery-based lyrics, the song captures the bubbling dissatisfaction, boredom, frustration and distrust of a relationship about to boil over and explode. “Won’t Be Long,. . . .Keep Dreaming Buddy‘s second single may arguably be the album’s most ambitious and expansive songs. Featuring elements of arena rock, glam rock and synth pop, the track which was centered around a rousingly anthemic hook, a crunchy power chord-driven riff, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed acoustic guitar, the song is actually deceptively (and perhaps, even ironically) upbeat, as it tackles the anxiety of anticipatory loss of a loved one. Loss and despair are always around the corner, indeed.

“Deeper End,” the album’s third single is a decidedly genre-defying affair — and it finds the duo pushing their sound in a new direction but without changing the elements of their sound and approach that has won them attention internationally. Featuring an infectious hook, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar, the breezy song is one part synth pop. one part 70s AM rock, one part country — but while centered around an unusual juxtaposition: the song as the band’s Carl Coleman explains is “a story about a bad trip at a weird house party I went to with my sister.” Coleman adds “Think Kraftwerk playing a classic country song.” In either case, the song is full of slow-burning, creeping dread and anxiety, the fear of skeleton stuffed closets being exposed.

Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle contributes a guest verse to the song, a verse in which his character dispenses harsh yet very trippy truths to the song’s hallucinating and anxious narrator. Interestingly, the collaboration can trace its origins back to when the members of Palace Winter discovered that Lytle was a fan, after he added a Palace Winter song to one of his playlists. Coleman, who’s been a longtime fan of Lytle’s work with Granddaddy reached out to Lytle with what he thought was an unlikely proposition to work together. Obviously, Lytle said yes. “It’s wild to think that back in the early naughties I was wandering around Europe with Grandaddy in my headphones, and now here I am trading lines with Jason. It’s a real honour and a proud moment for our band” Coleman says.

Portland, OR-based The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.”

The members of the then newly formed Parson Red Heads spent the next year writing songs and rehearsing constantly. “We would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way fondly recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

In 2006, the band relocated to Los Angeles, with the hopes that they would take music seriously and become a real band. The members of the band moved into and shared a one bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says of the band’s early days in Southern California. The Parson Red Heads quickly became mainstays in a growing, 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene primarily based in Los Angeles’ Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way reminisces.

After the release of King Giraffe, The Parson Red Heads spent the next three years writing new material and touring, which eventually resulted in their sophomore album, 2011’s Yearling. The album was partially recorded at Los Angeles-based studio Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. After finishing the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and give up their apartments to go on a lengthy tour with their friends Cotton Jones. After the tour was completed, they would relocate to Portland.

Simultaneously, the band had developed a reputation for performing an uninhabited live show, in which they could easily morph from earnest folk to ass-kicking rock anthems with their sound and approach being inspired by The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Jackson Browne. Interestingly, with the band’s third album 2013’s Orb Weaver, the band desired to capture the energy and sound of their live sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” Way says of Orb Weaver.

The Portland-based band’s fourth album, 2017’s Blurred Harmony found the band actively intending to do things differently than they did on their previously released work — with them and recording and tracking themselves: frequently, they would set up drums ad amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band — and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited their touring Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album Lifetime of Comedy reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date.

Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope.

“All I Wanted,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s first single is classic Parson Red Heads — breezy yet careful and thoughtfully crafted song centered around shimmering guitars, twangy steel pedal, rousing sing–a-long choruses, saccharine bursts of multi-part harmonies, Evan Way’s plaintive falsetto and incredibly earnest lyricism, born of lived-in experiences. And while superficially sounding as though it could have easily been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions, the track manages to possess a subtle free-flowing, jammier vibe. If you pay close attention, you can literally feel longtime friends creating something with a revitalized sense of togetherness.

Featuring a regretful and brokenhearted narrator, “All I Wanted” thematically is full of the hindsight and regret of someone looking back at the past — their past selves, their past mistakes and misgivings — and wishing that there was some way that they could undo it, so that they could remain in a relationship that they desperately prized above everything else. And yet, there’s a tacit recognition that while you may pine for the past, you can’t ever get it back. In fact, life does what it always does — pushes and forces you forward.

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Initially making a name for herself with her critically applauded recording project Völuspa, the Bay Area-raised, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kristen Knick is stepping out and away from her alter ego to release material under her known name. But there’s one thing that remains consistent: Knick employs a colorful sound palette to bring her lyrical themes of lucid dreams, forgotten nightmares, past mistakes and future possibilities to vivid life.

Some of Knick’s earliest influences include Kate Bush, Brian Eno, Neil Young and Stevie Nicks — but after discovering punk rock through her high school sweetheart, the Bay Area raised, Brooklyn-based artist found herself inflated with life; experiencing good music, love, drink and drugs. After several years, countless lovers, jobs and travels that resulted in a breakdown, Knick found herself in New York. Realizing that alcohol and drugs had been a detriment to her creativity, she got sober, and started writing and putting her experiences and emotions into very personal songs.

Knick’s latest album Close Your Eyes is slated for a release this fall through Swedish tastemaker label Icons Creating Evil Art, and the album’s latest single “Life’s a Placebo” is centered around a hazy, sepia-toned nostalgic production — tinny stuttering beats, woozy and shimmering ambient synths paired with Knick’s warmly inviting vocals. While evoking some long ago summer of carousel rides and unconcerned, childhood day dreaming, the song explores loos in its entirely, as the Brooklyn-based artist explains. “The song is sort of an epiphany, that life is a placebo,” Knick says. “Life is as we see it. I could choose to grieve over this loss and wallow in self-pity, or I could move on and make shit happen.” 

“The recording process was with Eric Hoegemeyer and his chihuahua, Hoover, in his Astoria Queens apartment,” the Bay Area raised, Brooklyn-based artist adds. “I wrote the song when I first got sober in 2014 and when I brought it to him last year, he added some sweet synth tones and effects that gave it more dynamic than the bratty punk version I had recorded on my phone.”

The Bland is a rising Swedish indie pop/folk act that can trace its origins back to when its five members met serendipitously while traveling through New Zealand as teenagers. Feeling an instant musical simpatico, the members of the band promised to keep in touch and reunite when they returned home. Upon their return to Sweden, the band’s frontman Axel Öberg rented a big house, so that the members of the band could live and work together. That living space had an ad-hoc rehearsal space — the basement.

Although they didn’t initially have big career plans, they wrote a number of songs, which they returned in their home studio, Röda Paradise, a red wooden hut in Southern Stockholm — and for money, they tagged along with a friend’s band, selling milkshakes at music festivals. In between sets they played music to entertain themselves. But little did they know, their folk pop sound caught the attention of a small, local production company, a company that managed to run one of their homeland’s music festivals.

With the release of last year’s Beautiful Distance, the members of the Swedish folk pop project started to built up a growing international profile with captivating and critically applauded live shows across Scandinavia and Europe that included stops at Hamburg‘s Reeperbahn Festival and others across the international festival circuit. Building upon a profile, the members of The Bland are currently working on their forthcoming album, La Hata Vitoye, a concept album that tells a Romantic tale of an imaginary bar and town by the name of La Hata Vitoye. The band created a detailed historical background for the town that goes back to the 1300s, then created characters and situations and wrote detailed stories, which they then wrote accompanying music to them.

The album’s concept story begins at La Hata Vitoye, a tiny bar, located by the coast. As the band explains, the bar and its town, is the sort of place where caravans and traveling entertainers take refuge after long periods of touring and traveling. It’s the sort of place that returning travelings tell stories about — stories that seem way too good to exist in real life. But every character within this world brings something new to the story. As the world begins to hear more about the town, it starts to grow — and dramatic events occur to develop the town’s destiny. The album’s latest single, album title track “La Hata Vitoye” is an exuberant, breezy and mischievous track that draws equally from Tropicalia, Afro pop and Latin music, centered around a euphoric hook. While sonically recalling a deliriously upbeat Graceland-era Paul Simon, that exuberance is actually a bit deceptive in light of the pandemic. In many ways, the song evokes the chance encounters, the late nights in some sweaty and dark club, dancing to a band or a DJ that has the room rocking, the friends and regulars you’d encounter at your bar, your favorite club or what have you and so on.

.“When we were on tour in Germany last February, we heard about the first Corona cases,” The Bland’s frontman Axel Öberg explains. “Over the next few months, as a practicing doctor in Sweden, I saw how social isolation harmed people. With ‘La Hata Vitoye’ we want to try to look at life differently again, to come together and share a positive attitude towards life. This place called La Hata Vitoye, which we are talking about, will become a real actual place at our own festivals next summer. And we can’t wait to meet as many as possible there. If the situation permits.”

Gaspard Eden is a restlessly creative, emerging Quebec City-based singer/songwriter and musician. Eden’s full-length debut Soft Power is slated for release later this year through Coyote Records, and the album’s material reportedly finds the emerging Quebec-based singer/songwriter and musician pushing his sound in a completely new direction from his previously released work while evoking a wide ranger of emotions through melodic soundscapes and poetic lyricism.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Soft Power‘s first single, the brooding jangle pop “Pancakes,” a track centered around Eden’s plaintive falsetto and an achingly wistful nostalgia for a seemingly simpler past — in particular, the age-old need (and desire) to have family and loved ones nearby. The album’s latest single “Automatic Dreams” is a shimmering, hook-driven track centered around jangling guitars, atmospheric synths, softly padded drums, a euphoric hook and Eden’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the track reminds me a bit of Jef Barbara’s Soft to the Touch, as “Automatic Dreams” possesses a similar ethereal take on New Wave. The track also features backing vocals from Eden’s longtime friend, singer/songwriter Gabrielle Shonk, who adds a dreamtyl quality to the song.

According to Eden, “Automatic Dreams” “explores the different levels of lucidity that dreams cause.” The track follows a narrator through a lucid dream about a car ride that goes horribly wrong and throughout the song, he (the narrator) describes all of the sensations he felt during this vivid dream.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Bootblacks Release a Shimmering Dance Floor Friendly Single

Throughout this site’s decade history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the rising New York-based post-punk act Bootblacks. The JOVM mainstay act — Panther Almqvist (vocals), Alli Gorman (guitar), Barrett Hiatt (synths) and Larry Gorman (drums) — derive their name from novelist William Burroughs’ description of the dark underbelly of New York. Unsurprisingly, the band’s surroundings have deeply influenced and informed their work both sonically and thematically. “It’s an energetic city and people have all the reasons in the world not to give you the time of day,” the band’s Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I think our music has been shaped by that in many ways.”

In 2012, the New York-based post-punk released their Jim Sclavunos-produced debut EP Narrowed. 2016 saw the release of their full-length debut Veins, which they supported with extensive touring. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Fragments found the band expanding their sound with the material becoming more synth-based, more atmospheric and much bigger than its immediate predecessors. And as a result, Fragments received quite a bit of attention, which helped the band earn slots on a number of post-punk/New Wave/goth festivals including Cold Waves, Terminus, Absolution, Wave Gotik Treffen and A Murder of Crows — and the album landed on a lot of year-end lists.

Of course, like countless acts across the world, the members of the rising New York-based post-punk act had plans — and hopes — for a big 2020, pre COVID-19 pandemic quarantines and lockdowns: they were handpicked to open for Modern English during their North American tour this year. Unfortunately, that tour has been postponed. But in the meantime, the band’s highly anticipated Jason Corbett-produced third album Thin Skies will be released through Artoffact Records on October 9, 2020. Thin Skies reportedly finds the band zooming forward where Fragments left off, with the album’s nine songs meshing dance floor pulse and brooding post-punk with anthemic hooks.

Thin Skies continues the band’s long-held thematic concerns: the loneliness of city life. “Most of the lyrics on the album are about loneliness,” says Almqvist. “Looking back on the lyric writing process there seems to be some connective feeling of isolation and distance present in all of the songs… I’m always hoping that a listener personalizes the song, that’s why the songs never have a narrative but try to embody a feeling.”

I’ve written about Thin Skies’ first three singles: the brooding yet dance floor friendly “Traveling Light,” the jittery and anxious “The Jealous Star,” and the cinematic and atmospheric album title track “Thin Skies.” “Hidden Things,” Thin Skies’ fourth and latest single is centered around shimming, reverb-drenched guitars, arpeggiated synths and a dance floor friendly pulse, reminiscent of The Rapture and Cut Copy. According to Bootblacks’ frontman Panther Almqvist, “’Hidden Things’ is about looking into darkness to find your way out of it.”

New Audio: Acclaimed Norwegian Act Pom Poko Release an Exuberant and Breakneck New Single

Deriving their name from one of the more outre films ever released by Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, Pom Poko is a rising Norwegian quartet — Ragnhild Fangel (vocals), Martin Miguel Tonne (guitar), Jonas Krøvel (bass) and Ola Djupvik (drums) — that can trace their origins back to 2016 when the members of the band met while they were studying jazz at Trondheim Music Conservatory, and bonded over their desire to play punk rock at a jazz gig at a literature festival.

Interestingly, the individual members of the rising Norwegian act have publicly cited a wide and eclectic array of influences on their sound and approach, including Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Vulfpeck, Palm, KNOWER, Hella, Death Grips, Jenny Hval and Nick Drake among others. And as a result, the act has managed to establish a sound and approach that defies easy description or categorization. “We’ve all done lots of improvised music in the past, and I think that shapes the way we play, even though the tunes are not improvised,” the band explained in press notes. “We like when new and strange things happen in an old song, and that music can change over time by being played live, because that removes predictability and the ‘recipe’ that some genres of music have.”

Last year’s full-length debut Birthday received praise from the likes of Interview Magazine, The Line of Best Fit, The Independent, Clash Magazine, DIY Magazine and NME, who picked the band as one of the acts to watch out for in 2019 — and with the breakneck “My Blood,” a track that possessed elements of math rock, punk rock and indie rock was a great example of their wildly inventive, exuberant sound. Adding to a breakthrough year, the band also received airplay on BBC Radio 6 while landing Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannprisen) Award and Nordic Music Prize nods.

Building upon the momentum of last year, the Norwegian quartet’s highly-anticipated Marcus Forsgren-produced sophomore album Cheater is slated for a November 6, 2020 release through Bella Union Records. Written during the same period that produced one-off singles like “Leg Day” and “Praise,” Cheater finds the band further establishing the sound that has won them national and international acclaim — but the major difference between the two is that Cheater’s material wasn’t road-tested before the band went into the studio.”That meant we had to practice the songs in a more serious way, but it also meant the songs had more potential to change when we recorded them since we didn’t have such a clear image of what each song should/could be as the last time,” Pom Poko’s Ragnhild Fangel explains.

“I think it’s very accurate to say that we wanted to embrace our extremes a bit more. In the production process, I think we aimed more for some sort of contrast between the meticulously written and arranged songs and a more chaotic education and recording but also let ourselves explore the less frantic part of the Pom Poko universe,” Fangel says of the differences between Birthday and Cheater. “I think both in the more extreme and painful way, and in the sweet and lovely way, this album is kind of amplified.”

Cheater’s latest single “My Candidacy” finds the act managed to walk a tightrope between breakneck mosh pit friendly punk, centered around enormous power chords and saccharine sweet verses. Featuring the classic grunge rock alternating loud, quiet, loud song structure, the song explodes with an unpredictable, brash and girlish coquettishness while evoking the swooning rush of love. According to the band “the song itself is about the wish to be able to believe in unconditional love, even though you know that there probably is no such thing. We, at least, believe in unconditional love for riffy tunes with sing-song choruses.”

David Halsey is a rising 23-year-old Bay Area-based singer/songwriter and producer, best known as Petticoat. The rising pop artist has received attention across the blogosphere for crafting a shimmering synth pop sound that draws from 80s New Wave and dance music and bubblegum bass. “I love the music from eras that have had an eye towards futurism,” Halsey says. “Things like 2000s RnB and modern club/pop music.” And as a result, the young pop artist’s work evokes a swooning nostalgia — while being remarkably contemporary. Thematically, the rising Bay Area-based artist’s work explores contemporary life in the 21st century and gender expression and more.

Last year, Hasley released his debut EP, InFormat. The five song EP thematically examined the impact of modern technology on human connection. Sonically, some parts of the material echoed algorithmic structures while other parts were distinctly human. Building upon the momentum of InFormat, Halsey’s latest single “The Middle” finds the rising Bay Area artist further establishing his decidedly 80s inspired sound while gently expanding upon it. Centered around shimmering space age synths, tropical rhythms, a propulsive four-on-the-floor, Halsey’s plaintive falsetto and a euphoric, two-step inducing hook, “The Middle” is a crafted pop confection that brings Bananarama‘s “Cruel Summer,” The Thompson Twins and Tears for Fears to mind — but with a modern production slickness.

“‘The Middle’ is a direct inspiration from 80’s New Wave that I grew up on,” Halsey explains in press notes. “I was listening to a lot of Bananarama and Thompson Twins making this track. The song is a simple ‘break-free’ type song about leaving a hometown situation. The song is sprinkled with events and places that transpired when I was 18, all based around my home with my brother and father.”

Rising Geneva-based act Cyril Cyril features two of the city’s most acclaimed experimental musicians collaborating together:

  • Cyril Yeterian: In Geneva, Yeterian may be best known for being the frontman and accordion player for acclaimed Cajun blues trio Mama Rosin, an act that released four albums of material that evoked the ghosts of the Mississippi Delta and Mardi Gras before splitting in 2015. Yeterian also co-founded the forward-thinking, global, taste-making record store and label Bongo Joe Records.
  • Cyril Bondi: Bondi is a stalwart figure in the Swiss experimental scene, best known for being the founding member of Plaistow and for leading the Insub Meta Orchestra, an experimental ensemble featuring 60 musicians. Bondi has also collaborated a number of acts including diatribes, La Téne and Komatsu.

Interestingly, Cyril Cyril can trace its origins back to 2017. With the duo both seeking new creative challenges, Yeterian took on the banjo, adding a shit ton of effect pedals to it, so that it began to sound more like a bouzouki (a Greek, long-necked lute) or a krar (a five or six sting lyre, played mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea) — and simultaneously, Bondi cobbled together a cannibal drum kit with massive jingle bells and tropical nut shells embedded into his marching bass drum.

2018’s full-length debut, Certaine Ruins quickly established their unique sound, a sound that generally meshes the tough plucking and rhythmical patterns of Lebanon, The Levant and North Africa. The duo supported the album with rapturously received, relentless touring across the European Union which helped the band develop an electric live show which was equally at home on a big festival stage as it was in a small, sweaty club.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile across the European Union, the duo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Yallah Mickey Mouse is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through the aforementioned Bongo Joe Records and Born Bad Records. The album’s title is derived from a true incident: Yeterian and Bondi were touring with Swiss experimental transppop duo Hyperculte through the Middle East. While on a trip visiting the pyramids, Hyperculte’s Vincent Bertholet (double bass) rode a camel hilariously named Mickey Mouse. “He [Betholet] was so uncomfortable riding a camel, it was such a scene,” Cyril Cyril’s Cyril Yeterian recalls in press notes. “Watching him tell with a very French accent  ‘yallah’  to the camel to have him step forward on the sand.  So  ‘yallah mickey mouse’  was born. We immediately thought about the power this sentence had politically speaking. No words to add. Arabic world vs. American imperialism? Is there anything to say people don’t know already?”  

To celebrate the album announcement, the Geneva-based duo released three singles from the album:

  • “Les Gens,” Yallah Mickey Mouse‘s first single is a hypnotic and hallucinogenic fever dream centered around galloping African polyrhythm, shimmering banjo arpeggios played through tons of effects, dub-like reverb, punchily delivered call and response vocals — and of course MORE COWBELL! Sonically, “Les Gans” is a slick synthesis of Evil Heat-era Primal Scream, Levitation-era Flamingods and traditional Middle Eastern and African music. Yes, it’s the genre-defying sounds that I’ve long championed — but it’s only possible in a borderless, genre-less world. “The idea of the song was paradoxically born at a moment where we were completely fed up with how extreme tourism had become in both the most popular spots close to us and all around the world.” Cyril Yeterian explains in press notes. “What turned out really odd is that a few months later, everything was stopped by the Covid. And suddenly there was no one in the streets, and we realized our song could be understood as the nostalgia we have about the time we were gathering altogether. So we invite anyone to get this song the way they prefer!”  
  • “Al Boustan,” the album’s second single is centered around a hypnotic, dance floor friendly groove, shimmering banjo and organ and a forcefully insistent thump. While clearly drawing from the Middle East, the song seems to also hint at Bollywood as a result of the song possessing a cinematic expansiveness. It’s mind-bending — and if you put yourself in the right situation, the song can help you head to a higher plane of existence. “’Al Boustan’ looks at how our narcissism and the narrow fascination of ourselves deserve to come up against the unalterable force of the elements that decorate our daily lives,” the duo explain. “The trees will always grow and the moon will rise and set as long as a human eye looks up to the sky. Nevertheless. Against everything. We are many and we are nothing.”
  • “X-Crise,” the album’s third single is centered around driving polyrhythm, percussive banjo arpeggios, punchy melodies and an infectious hook. This song sounds as though it comes from a much-older place, something far older than time, when our earliest ancestors sat in front of the fire telling stories about the origins of everything. And in some fashion, it’s the most Tinariwen-like track of the three — but while brimming with a mischievous sense of adventure.

All three tracks reveal two things to me:

  • Bongo Joe Records is releasing some of the wildest, most forward-thinking music out there today.
  • Cyril Cyril may arguably be one of Geneva’s most forward-thinking and uncompromisingly challenging acts.

I’m looking very forward to the album and more of the labels’ releases — and to this album.

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls. The act, which currently features founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make UpThe Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps’ Laura Kelsey can trace their origins back to over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums). Interestingly, despite the fact that the band has had a series of lineup changes thrhgout their history, the band’s aesthetic and sound has been generally indebted to The Manson Family, B movie theatrics and the occult.

2020 has been a very busy year for the JOVM mainstays: Earlier this year, the band released the two song, seven-inch EP Breakthrough, an effort that saw the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays covering two songs that have a profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment. One of the songs included on the EP was  Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song the band originally discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian psych act The Funkees.  The Death Valley Girls’ cover leans more towards The Funkees’ version — thanks to grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ lines and an in-your-face, combative chorus — but all three versions are centered around the age-old desire to be free from prisons — both literal and figurative.

Continuing upon the momentum of Breakthrough EP, the members of the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays will be releasing their newest album Under the Spell of Joy through their longtime label home Suicide Squeeze Records on October 2, 2020. The album’s title is derived from the text on at-shirt that the San Diego-based heavy psych rock act Joy gave to Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden. Bloomgarden regularly wore the shirt constantly over the next five years, treating it like a talisman. “I read it as being about manifesting your biggest dreams and responding thoughtfully and mindfully to everything that comes in your path with joy and compassion first,” Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “There is a lot to be really angry about in the world but joy is just as powerful if used correctly!”

With Under the Spell of Joy, the members of the Death Valley Girls sough to make a spiritual record — what Bloomgarden describes as a “space gospel” — with the intention of bringing people together and creating the kind of participatory musical experience people have in places of worship. And as a result, the album’s material is generally centered around chants, choirs and rousing choruses, written with the purpose of encouraging people to sing along. Where the band had once sought to connect people through more esoteric means, Spell of Joy finds them tapping into an age-old tradition of uniting people by inviting them to be an active participant.

Although Bloomgarden and Schemel knew their intention for the album’s material before they had written a single note, the nature and direction of the music was initially inspired by the Ethiopian funk records they had been listening to while touring — but once they began playing and recording the material they had written, the music, which they claim came from tapping into their subconscious seemed to come from the future.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles: the slow-burning and expansive, Wish You Were-era Pink Floyd-like “The Universe,” which featured elements of shoegaze and classic psych rock — and the straightforward and soaring “Hold My Hand,” a track that evoked the swoon of new love, and the urge to improve oneself through deep personal reflection. Interestingly, Under the Spell of Joy‘s third and latest single, album title track “Under the Spell of Joy” is a hallucinogenic fever dream featuring chanted lyrics, fiery blasts of saxophone, enormous hooks and even bigger power chords. Seemingly one-part Fun House-era The Stooges, one-part acid-tinged psych rock, one-part Giant Steps-era Coltrane, the track is a rock”n’ roll take on the good news gospel stomp — while centered around an ebullient and mischievous joy.