last week i received an email from zach phillips, who used to run OSR tapes, an excellent and prolific experimental record label...purchasing that whole discography right before the OSR bandcamp page closed in 2017 has been a gift that keeps on giving, so i was excited to hear word of new musical transmissions from his corner. his latest personal project is called fievel is glauque, the product of a set of songs in need of a singer, and a chance meeting with his collaborator ma clément in his current home of brussels, after having knocked himself out by walking into a street pole.
it's been a week that felt like a year, but one bright spot (aside from the obvious) was the november installment of the monthly ritual known as 'bandcamp friday', when bandcamp graciously waves their share of artist revenue in an effort to give folks who depend on it more income during the pandemic, or if they don't, a better ability to fundraise for charitable causes through their work.
it's been a popular move, and on the first friday of each month fans of underground music can expect new releases, archived material and full discography discounts from the vast universe of musicians that use bandcamp. i bought quite a few friday releases this time around, so i figured i would make a post highlighting a few of them.
this album is a lush, modern texas country gem with the kind of songwriting that expresses the universal through observations of the mundane, much in the tradition of great songwriters we have lost this year, like john prine and jerry jeff walker. the production is beautiful, with some duet vocal performances, the playful presence of a saxophone throughout and the peerless organ and accordian playing of texas legend and sir douglas quintet alum augie meyers.
acoustic storm, the latest record from east coast instrumental psych-folk duo elkhorn, was recorded at home, late at night during a blizzard, making the best of a bad situation. a big show in brooklyn had been snowed out so they took that energy and frustration and put it on tape. this could be seen as foreshadowing for the circumstances musicians and other artists find themselves in now...mother nature, in the form of a pandemic and the limits of human societal cohesion and intelligence (we are, after all, natural beings) has put an end to the idea of safe, responsible performance, and we are left with only remote means of expression. it's heartening, to me at least, that this particular reaction to a cancelled performance resulted in my favorite elkhorn record to date, one that explores new territory for these veteran players.
joined by turner williams of ramble tamble on an additional guitar, the band eschews their familiar electric jazz/acoustic american primitive dichotomy and goes all unplugged for these two amorphous, improvised sides. the music flows between various folk and jazz inflected grooves, at times getting distant in tunnels of near-disintegration, only to come back to something recognizable as being adjacent to the folk-blues. this is unencumbered, instinctive jamming, and the organic feel is reinforced by the gritty sounds of fingers sliding and tapping, an occasional bump here and there. the style of recording reminds me of the intimacy and immediacy of something like the pizza tapes, but mood-wise, this music can no more be pinned down than the snow storm it is named after.
i came at the koker ballads not knowing what to expect. the discography of baltimore-based multi-instrumentalist and experimental recording artist yes selma is vast and varied, so i had no idea if i'd find fucked up indie-pop fragments or some kind of industrial free jazz. what i discovered was music made from and for our fraught times; bleak, minimal, introspective drones created with nothing but a casio, a microphone, and a tascam 4 track.
my first thought listening to this blast through the speakers of my stereo was that this is what 'no pussyfooting' would sound like if it was made with absolutely no budget (and no guitar), and that's a great thing. YS placed a microphone against the window during the lonely, self-isolated process of recording the instrumental drones, and mixed these field recordings in with the hazy layers of the compositions. the sounds of life going by, laughing kids and casual gatherers especially, are heartbreaking in this context.
this is high-end quarantine rock, a prophecy of harsh wind eroding the sharp corners off of a dead civilization. this album can comfort too, however, because within the pain of its detached documentation of the normal world, there is a warm nostalgia that matches the soft hiss from the all-tape recording process. get it on limited cassette or digital from KMAN 92.5 tapes.
the song opens gently with bird sounds and a bubbling, swelling synth arpeggio, evoking a pastoral morning coffee vibe. before too long, a brushed snare drum and an e-piano melody shift the gears from drone to electro-folk. the arrangement reminds me a bit of late 90's british singer/songwriter david gray, who may not have gotten enough credit for the forward looking production of his hit album. however, horse apples is considerably more THC drenched than david gray. the pop sensibilities are here but they are undermined, in a good way, by shimmering slabs of synth that surface from the mix and hit like sunbeams on bloodshot eyes, and the laid back romantic slacker vibe of the vocals. also, the bird sounds never get potted down, chirping insistently over the titular verses.
horse apples have released a number of songs in the past few months, 'love and some verses' being a highlight for me. i recommend checking all of them out, which can be done easily by copping them in collected form as the album "II", available here as a download and/or a free one-of-a-kind CDR.