All posts by Eddie Ugarte

If you thought the “Shoegaze” genre died at the tail end of the 90’s you’d be dead wrong. The relatively unknown Jaguwar creates music that…well, literally blisters through sensors with walls of guitar, deep rhythms and gorgeous melodies. The group’s own biography is short, straight to the point and leaves off where influences ceased to exist:

“Three people fell in love over noisy soundscapes and purple stars. Influenced by too many coffee and cigarettes while listening to My Bloody Valentine Vinyls in the dark they put together fuzzy reverb guitars with punk rock attitude. In 2014 the first EP came out to show the world how sugar noise can be.”

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Jaguwar is from Germany and includes band members Lemmy Fischer, Oyemi Noize and Chris K. The group’s II EP was released a year ago (Prospect Records) with little fanfare here in the States. It’s a shame because it wrecks havoc on just about every level. The group hasn’t had many releases, only the I and II EPs but they’re well worth it. While most groups that followed were a pale comparison of the first few  bands like My Bloody Valentine and their ilk, Jaguwar continues where the forerunners of the genre began. The music is apologetic in its approach and that’s a good thing. I’m sure it overruns even the band members’ attempts to control it. They simply let the music…go.

Currently getting ready for a European trek:

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Jaguwar: I EP

Jaguwar: Facebook // Soundcloud

Recent news of Oxbow‘s seventh album, Thin Black Duke (Hydra Head, Out May 5th) was met with much anticipation, and now the group shares its first audiovisual insight into the record, in the form of a new video for “Cold & Well-Lit Place” directed by Chris Purdie

Over the 30 years of Oxbow’s operations, no one has come comfortably close to classifying the Bay Area group. This could arguably be the result of Oxbow’s ongoing evolution, butaccurately describing any particular phase of the groups’ seven-album career is no easier than describing the broader metamorphic arc of their creative path, modifiers like “noise”, “avant garde”, and “experimental” frequently get tossed about, but even honing in on a head noun any more specific than “rock” becomes problematic. Sure, the band employs the standard rock choices of instrumentation and displays the requisite evolutionary tie to the blues, but such vague designations mean little. So it’s tempting to attach the only-slightly-more-specific handle of ‘punk’ to Oxbow, if one’s view of punk is narrowly focused on the kind of free-jazz inflected antagonism later-era Black Flag inflicted on the nascent American hardcore scene. But punk’s primitivism is completely at odds with Oxbow’s highly disciplined approach. This is especially true with their seventh album Thin Black Duke, where Oxbow’s elusive brand of harmonic unrest has absorbed the ornate and ostentatious palate of baroque pop into their sound, pushing their polarized dynamics into a scope that spans between sublime and completely unnerving. This is new musical territory for all parties involved.

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Oxbow – Thin Black Duke

  1. Cold & Well Lit Place
  2. Ecce Homo
  3. A Gentleman’s Gentleman
  4. Letter Of Note
  5. Host
  6. The Upper
  7. Other People
  8. The Finished Line

I’ve been procrastinating, and the fact that the Afghan Whigs dropped that single “Demon In Profile” didn’t help my current situation. Instead of listening to the slew of albums in front of me I kept hitting that repeat button again and again. I kept questioning, “Is this album going to be better than the last? I hope so. Please don’t let it suck. Where are my old albums? Oh, I remember now. No, they’re not there. Where are they???” seemed to be the scenarios popping through my head this week. I get distracted, as I constantly do when I’m writing, but I finally change the subject and move on to something else. ADD? Squirrel! But again, I digress.

This week we see the release of multiple artists that have both caused irreparable damage to my senses and have massaged them. First on my plate, Thee Oh Sees John Dwyer returns with his third album under the Damaged Bug moniker Bunker Funk. (Castle Face Records) Initial thoughts as soon as the album begins: one bizarre excursion. Dwyer’s main gig as a member of Thee Oh Sees gives him a finite sense of mobility, constricted as being a quarter of a whole. With Damaged Bug, Dwyer is free, unrestricted and bound only by the limits of his imagination. And as Bunker Funk attests, he’s fallen down the rabbit hole on multiple occasions. The album’s “funk” isn’t lost here, as “Bog Dash,” the lead single opens things up with loads of dissonance in the background while Dwyer flagrantly attacks instruments with an unabashed fervor.  The rhythmic thrust is captivating and the broken guitar work adds a savory hint of spice to it. Did you hear that right? That’s what you’ll be questioning once the track ends, hitting that repeat button before moving on to what follows. With Damaged Bug Dwyer plays with repetition, sometimes letting the monotony set in, like on “Slay The Priest,” with rhythm played over and over, with additional instruments breaking up that uniformity for more than half the song before Dwyer bellows, “I’ve seen a rising sun…” changing the song into something altogether different. He’s not opposed to creating creepy soundscapes with propelled rhythms, that’s obvious enough with “Rick’s Jummy.” Keyboards hum over that same drum pattern and while it may be odd and sinister, it doesn’t make it any less addictive.

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So it’s obvious Damaged Bug is about repetition, but it’s also more than that. Dwyer takes other instruments to completely obliterate what we all believe music should sound like. “No One Notice The Fly” starts off harmless enough, tossing around that jazzy beat, adding all the additional instruments to his recipe to create something…flavorful. Are those wind instruments playing against keyboards or keyboards made to sound like wind instruments? It’s trippy. For Damaged Bugs’ Bunker Funk, Dwyer has created an interesting wall of sound that seems to never end. Is Bunker Funk music that’s going to change the world? No, but it just might change your perspective on how you view it. That’s not a bad place to start.

This leaves me now with just one other another release this week. Yes, I’ve only book-ended with two albums although there were an originally planned 5 of them. It happens. But next on the radar is a Missouri band that has been working incessantly, releasing albums, touring, releasing more albums….and for the most part have been well accepted through a number of outlets. At first I wasn’t sure of the Ha Ha Tonka Heart-Shaped Mountain (Bloodshot Records) release but if there’s an album that grows on you it’s this one. And it does so quickly. The group’s Americana/Country sound differs from the band’s contemporaries. With this release it’s almost as if you can picture in your mind the fire that burns with these musicians. “Race To The Bottom” is the first track that slowly builds from loud to louder as the song progresses. Lead singer Brian Roberts’ eased delivery makes you want to pay attention from beginning to end as you sing along with the chorus. But it just seems to get better from that point on. When Roberts begins “Everything” there’s a sense of calm and when the rest of the band follows him in, you’re kept in that same mind space. It’s a sweet song about love, but without being overly saturated with too much sugary sweetness. It’s simply beautiful. There’s so much that goes on Heart-Shaped Mountain and it isn’t difficult pointing out everything that works to the group’s benefit, like the anthemic chorus on “All With You.” I’d be surprised if one didn’t sing along when “I want to see it all…all with you” hits. But it’s when you get to “Going The Way” where there’s mention of a “heart-shaped mountain” on this country jam. The imagery Roberts casts with his words is beautifully played. I haven’t gotten to the best part of the album yet though.

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Ha Ha Tonka: Heart-Shaped Mountain

That same wordplay that’s done so well can be heard on “Height Of My Fears,” along with its thrusting rhythm. The imagery is beautiful, wrapped in metaphors like “Canyons carved out by rivers of tears / Mountains rise up to the height of my fears.” Could it get any better? Yes it can. As soon as  “Land Beyond” begins, there’s no disguising what it is. The ban covers/reworks Asa Brooks Everett’s old Gospel song, turning it into one beast of a song that’s sure to have every church feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost.  The band jams here and rips right through it. But(!) it’s “Arkansas” that gets my full attention every time I hear it. This one can get the party started, feeling carefree, and when Roberts sings “You know we broke every law in Arkansas / I don’t know why but we got away with it all” there’s a feeling of abandon, no worries, just freedom. I just can’t seem to express how great this album is. Heart-Shaped Mountain is the band’s 5th album but it sounds like the band is just getting started. I can only assume they have a lot more tricks up their sleeves.

 

Damaged Bug: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Ha Ha Tonka: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

It’s Boss Hog’s first album in 17 years and it seems Brood X is continuing where the band left off. The band is known for impressive live performances, leaving no instrument un-abused on stage.  Led by Cristina Martinez (ably assisted by her faithful sideman/husband Jon Spencer, as ever playing Flavor Flav to Cristina’s Chuck D), Brood X feels less like the work of a group who’ve been on ice for so long, more a slithering and sludgy monster of an album, a boiling pot of hot funk keys, growling punk attack, searing blues breaks and the ground-shaking holler of Martinez.

On hiatus since they finished promoting 2000’s icy, wonderful ‘Whiteout’ album, Boss Hog began stirring again late in 2008 with the first of several short runs of shows. “We’d play a handful of shows, once a year,” Martinez remembers. “Festivals, the Amphetamine Reptile 25th Anniversary party, some benefit shows.” Things started getting serious a couple of years later, when the Boss Hog all-stars – Martinez, Spencer, bassist Jen Jurgensen, drummer Hollis Queens and keysman Mickey Finn – decided this reunion habit was worth committing to wax.


Cooked up in the same Lower East Side basement where Boss Hog brewed their first blistering noiseouts, and cut at Michigan’s Key Club Recording Company on the same Flickinger N32 Matrix console Sly Stone used for There’s A Riot Goin’ On, ‘Brood X’ is serious music for serious times, the perfect soundtrack for a necessary revolution.

The album drops on the In The Red Records on March 24.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of the Notorious B.I.G.  and everyone remembers Chris Wallace in their own way. But Mega Ran? The nerdcore/chip-hop rapper has gone one step above everyone else releasing the Notorious Ran: Ready To Live Mixtape. It’s a heartfelt, creative tribute to the man they called Biggie. Mega Ran and producers Fresh Kils and DJ DN3 cleverly re-sample 10 classic B.I.G. bangers, adding new lyrics and perspective to the sounds of the legendary MC.

Mega Ran shares the video for “Lyrically” the first single off of the Mixtape. It’s obviously a homage to one of the greatest artists to have ever rapped.

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Catch Mega Ran on Tour with MC Lars

2/28 Brooklyn at Knitting Factory Brooklyn
3/1 Allston, MA at Great Scott
3/2 Philadelphia at MilkBoy
3/3 Baltimore at Metro Gallery
3/4 Virginia Beach VA at Shaka’s Live
3/5 Chapel Hill, NC at @Local 506
3/7 Nashville, TN at Rocketown
3/8 Atlanta GA at 529
3/9 Tampa FL at Crowbar
3/10 Orlando FL at BACKBOOTH
3/11 Gainesville FL at HIGH DIVE
3/12 Baton Rouge at Spanish Moon
3/13 Dallas at The Curtain Club
3/14 Houston at The Secret Group
3/15-20 SXSW, Austin TX
3/21 El Paso at The Lowbrow Palace
3/22 Phoenix at Last Exit Live
3/23 Los Angeles at Hi Hat
3/24 San Francisco at Bottom of the Hill Bar and Grill
3/25 San Jose at AFKgg Gamer Lounge

http://megaranmusic.com/album/notorious-r-a-n-ready-to-live

(Photo: Julie Bishop)

Austin, Texas band XETAS is getting ready. The band is getting ready to inaugurate 2017 with its sophomore release The Tower, ten visceral tracks, to be released April 14 on 12XU Records.

“Propelled by a new drummer -O.D.J.- who will one day drum a hole to China solely using jazz brushes, XETAS seemingly are on a collision course with the halls of power, despite the absence of any campaign coordination with the Russian ambassador. Add in the blitzkrieg guitars, bass and vocals of D and K respectively and you’ve arrived at a collection of tools of the trade turned weaponized instruments the likes of which are sure to provoke many a sleepless night at NATO Headquarters. Recorded over a 24-hour period in the fall of 2016, the 37-minute, 10-track album was recorded in less than than 7 minutes –a testimony to the band’s energy and capacity for bending time and space after years of monastic devotion.”

 

XETASFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Pre-OrderXETAS – The Tower

When the Afghan Whigs speak, everyone listens. Greg Dulli went on Twitter and referenced a new album. It’s been 4 years since the group comeback release in the form of 2014’s Do The Beast, but today everyone knows the band’s new album, In Spades, is due out May 5 on Sub Pop Records. What is it that we should expect? Obviously more clever songwriting with its signature sound. The Afghan Whigs have cultivated a style all its own since the release of the group’s eponymous debut. This time around the album is produced by singer Greg Dulli himself, and it’s great to see guitarist Dave Rosser featured contributor while dealing with inoperable colon cancer.

The Afghan Whigs shared a new video for the track “Demon In Profile,” which stars none other than that Har Mar Superstar himself Sean Matthew Tillmann taking the lead.

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The Afghan Whigs – In Spades Tracklisting:
1. “Birdland”
2. “Arabian Heights”
3. “Demon in Profile”
4. “Toy Automatic”
5. “Oriole”
6. “Copernicus”
7. “The Spell”
8. “Light as a Feather”
9. “I Got Lost”
10. “Into the Floor”

 

With a release date of 4/28/17, TW Walsh’s new album Terrible Freedom is set to make its mark.  Terrible Freedom is an album about fear and liberation, space and time, the self and the mind. Its themes are existential and broad, but they also characterize the cultural and political dumpster fire in which we find ourselves engulfed today. Walsh grew up in Reagan’s America (The New Cold War, the AIDS crisis, trickle-down economics, The War on Drugs), so Trump’s chaotic presidency is familiar territory.

If Terrible Freedom has a message, it’s to cultivate compassion and courage. If you can muster the strength, simply lean into the fear. All things must pass. Whatever comes, just let it arrive. He gives listeners a preview of the album with the thoughtful “My Generation.”

Website: http://twwalsh.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/twilliamwalsh
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/twwalsh
Bandcamp: http://twwalsh.bandcamp.com

 

We’ve all been there when someone doesn’t answer a text, but that’s not what this is about. The PWR BTTM duo share the second single “Answer My Text” off their forthcoming album Pageant out May 12th on Polyvinyl Records. Singer Liv Bruce’s sarcasm isn’t missed here and when he belts out “Answer my text you dick!” you have a pretty good idea of where this track is going. It’s difficult not to fall in love with this band.