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Psych





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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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: On “Let Go,” Karaboudjan Lets Loose and Opens Up

Billy Kim’s a busy person. Along with being a multi-instrumentalist member of electronic musician Tycho’s touring ensemble since 2016, he’s also been hard at work making music of his own as Karaboudjan (a reference to a ship in the Belgian artist Hergé’s classic children’s comic strip The Adventures of Tin Tin). And now we have our hands on “Let Go,” the second single from his forthcoming debut EP, IMAGO, scheduled for release this September, along with and exclusive look at the new music video for the track.

Intended as a tribute to Kim’s late father, “Let Go” feels simultaneously chilled-out and hard-hitting, if such a thing is possible. If it is, it’s certainly thanks to Kim’s excellent use of dynamics in the production, with fluorescent synth pads and electric pianos deftly sharing space with reverb-drenched guitars, rubbery bass guitars, cavernous, strutting drums, and spiraling tape-delayed vocals, while the whirlpool-like builds to the chorus betray a definite psychedelic streak in his sound.

“I want to thank you for your time here,” sings Kim during the chorus. If this new single is any indication, we’re eager to spend more time in Karaboudjan’s musical world very soon. Gabe Hernandez





Atlas Engine urges you to be "As You Are"

Atlas Engine is a band whose material ranges from lush laid-back elaborated-arranged art-pop not totally unlike Alan Parsons Project if Alan Parsons project was cooler (sorry Alan Parsons Project but you don’t need to be cool anyway!) to driving motorik rock perfect for your next excursion driving the Autobahn (here's a great motorik playlist to check out if you got 41 or 42 hours to spare, you're welcome!)

Officially released today, “As You Are” is the second advance single by Atlas Engine (the first being “Modern Mind”) taken from an upcoming “suite of EPs” to which the average punter on the street may reply “what’s an EP?” and “what’s a suite?” But you, dear Deli reader, are far from being average—and whether you have the attention span to process a suite of EPs or not, you can most certainly appreciate the emotional resonance and the fine Swiss craftsmanship of a song like “As You Are” (note: the band are not Swiss but no doubt consume plenty of cheese and chocolate in Brooklyn so it’s close enough). But no doubt when the song eventually appears on When the Compass Resets Part I (Favorite Friends Records) it will be all the more fulfilling in that context. 

Speaking of the band's coordinates and identity (btw you can hear all their previous singles on the comp above) up until the past year Atlas Engine was one of those deals like Nine Inch Nails where it’s really just a single guy (in this case, Nick LaFalce) and whoever he surrounds himself with on a given record or tour but minus the rivalries with Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson. But that’s all recently changed. In 2020 Nick did something pretty much the opposite of most bands I’m guessing and human beings in general in terms of retreating into near isolation and just barely managing to feed and clothe ourselves (and not always the latter) but instead he used the time to solidify a stable, permanent membership for Atlas Engine in the middle of a pandemic with said bandmates being Meredith Lampe (vocals/keys), Patrick Cochrane (Bass/vocals), Brendan McGuckin (drums), and Jeff Fettig (guitar/synth) who now also participate in the songwriting process. And yes Nick has made us all look bad in the process and should be terribly ashamed of himself, but we’ll let it slide for now because these new songs are solid and we may wanna ask for VIP passes at Atlas Engine's next live show.

So let’s now turn to “As You Are” since it’s the new one. The song fades in with an electronic wind chime kind of sound and then moments later over a relaxed, rippling drumbeat there’s an ascending piano chord pattern/bass line with a sustained layer of electronic ambience before Mr. LaFalce’s stately yet etherial vocals enter. Up through this point “As You Are” sounds a bit like Wilco being fronted by Damon Albarn, and in the opening lines he slowly declaims that “the wretched hour / we’ve been waiting for / has come.” So wait, things are about to get more wretched compared to the past year (!) or maybe he's referring to the past year so let's table the discussion for now and move on.

And then right after the line “mouth is open wide / sharpening the knife” the band goes into a Grandaddy-like section (others might say “Radiohead section” but I’m sticking with Granddaddy) with cascading synths and a warm enveloping halo of sound—and this is where the the song really gets me—plus four overdubbed voices floating above it all like a rapturous choir of Brian Wilsons singing in falsetto, and I can almost imagine this part of the song being an actual Beach Boys song from their post-Pet Sounds Smiley Smile/Wild Honey artsy period. Then for a moment everything drops out and LaFalce drops a George Harrison-ism or maybe more like an Oasis-like pronouncement to “become as you are” and this is making me realize there’s a certain Britpop vibe to the song overall under the heading of indie pop power ballads that rock out at the end.

Speaking of rocking out, after the cycle described above repeats one more time with some new textures and lyrics thrown in, “As You Are” suddenly and briefly transforms into thumping half-tempo time with a pulsating tremolo guitar complete with grungy distortion overlay and a small dash of space rock synth until one last swooning harmony-laden chorus comes in that builds to a fairly epic climax before dissolving into a final few seconds of twinkling ambience which takes the whole thing full circle. So as you can see listeners are taken on a cinematic sonic journey in the space of just over four minutes which is handy since you can boil an egg to the song no problem that is if you like a soft yolk. Also adventurous and ambitious is the song’s lyrical theme which according to Nick is about “technology’s effect on one’s understanding of themselves” which honestly I’m not sure what he’s on about because I compose these blog posts on an old Radio Shack word processor.

And speaking of ambition, one last thing that bears pointing out is the larger concept underlying “As You Are”, "Modern Mind" and the band's other soon-to-be-released material is this whole suite-of-EPs idea mentioned earlier--more specifically, a collection of four EPs to be released throughout 2021 that will taken together comprise a set of conceptually-related chapters as part of a larger overriding work that will then be released as an album of its own once the pieces are in place. And hell we at the Deli heartily co-sign this Russian Nesting Dolls approach to record releasing because even King Crimson or Yes or Rush never came up with this particular concept in the Concept Album Sciences and we support innovation in all its many forms. (Jason Lee)





On Psych-Jazz “Kensho ! EP,” The Growth Eternal Finds Quality Over Quantity

Tulsa native and L.A.-based psych-jazz auteur Byron Crenshaw unveils their second official work as The Growth Eternal. Clocking in at a brisk 10 minutes, Kensho ! EP, is a collection of six lovingly-crafted miniatures that offer, according to the artist, “…introspective sentiments on Black identity, love for the environment, social media anxieties, and more.” Crenshaw continues: “This EP comes from my direct experience, me trying to see and connect with my true nature. I hope it helps you like it helped me. If it does, that’s Kensho.”

Kensho is a Japanese word from the Zen tradition, roughly translated as “seeing one’s true nature.” And these six tracks, although just a taste, feel as if we’re getting a small but vivid glimpse into the artist’s inner world. The songs pulse with anxious and wobbly, pitch-shifted vocals; haunting, spiraling vocal harmonies; guitar fragments filtered through a broken kaleidoscope; skittering minimalist grooves, and elastic and jazzy bass lines reminiscent of L.A. jazz/R&B virtuoso Thundercat. In other words, it’s a view into a complicated yet fascinating musical world.

Here’s hoping that The Growth Eternal shares a fuller look at their true nature with listeners soon. A fuller sense of Kensho. Gabe Hernandez

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