October 2020 Roundup

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this autumn has been an especially phenomenal season for new records. With everything going on in the world right now, we needed it. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the very fine releases that we’ve been digging this month…

SPAZA feat. Ariel Zamonsky, Gontse Makhene, Malcolm Jiyane, Nonku Phiri – UPRIZE! (Music from the Original Motion Picture)

I can’t think of a single official improvised soundtrack for a film, other than the profound score that SPAZA cooked up for the UPRIZE! documentary.

The album’s highly expressive minimalist experimental jazz sound, which consists largely of piano, upright bass, trombone and effects-laden vocalizations, perfectly emphasizes the themes and emotions of the film.

UPRIZE! details the story of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa, which fought against apartheid. There’s an ever increasing tension, anger and discordance that flow throughout the performance, and yet there’s always a sense of hope that courses just below the surface of each tune. The vocals that filter through the music are often passionate and brimming with pride, really mirroring the sense of hope and longing for liberation that filled the hearts of the 20,000 students who took part in the protests.

Beautiful, stirring and deeply informative, this is perhaps the record that needs to be heard and studied the most this year.

You can get your vinyl copy of this album today from Mushroom Hour Half Hour. Just click here.

Death Valley Girls – Under the Spell of Joy

Death Valley Girls have reemerged with Under The Spell of Joy, which is the gothic garage gem that we needed this October.

On songs like the title track and “The Universe,” the group seamlessly merges their trademark gritty rock and roll with sax-infused psychedelia. While perhaps not as cosmic as some of Hawkwind’s freak-outs, many of these tunes marry the essence of the space rock legends’ wall-of-sound jams with the glam punk of records like Lust for Life.

Rich with chainsaw riffs, siren harmonies and shadowy slick hooks, Under The Spell of Joy is a devilishly good time that fans of The Black Angels, Roky Erickson and The Seeds would surely love.

Get your copy on cassette or vinyl here.

Dan Horne – Motorcycle Song EP

Dan Horne, of whom you may know of as the bassist of Circles Around the Sun and Grateful Shred (one of the best Dead cover bands in existence) and the producer of works by the likes of Cass McCombs, Pacific Range and Allah Las, has released a totally classic slab of pure cosmic Americana music. With the resume that Horne has, how could this EP be anything but that?

The party kicks off with an astral country instrumental that beautifully Frankensteins together ELO synth wizardry with dusty acoustics, which is immediately followed by one of the raddest Canned Heat covers ever. Horne leans deep into the psychedelic aspects of the 60’s group’s classic “Poor Moon,” letting the faux-sitar guitar lines drift far off into space and warp with an assortment of dizzying effects.

Yet it’s the title track that leaps out to me the most. Similar to the “Poor Moon” treatment, Horne finds the subtle stoned cowboy elements of the Arlo Guthrie standard, and expands upon it, mutating it into a full-fledged acid-fueled honky-tonk anthem.

Get your copy right here.

Lazy Salon – Twilight Properties

With the nights getting longer and the cold is beginning to creep in, it seems like the perfect time for some introspective solo guitar music. Lazy Salon’s new album, Twilight Properties fits that bill to a “T.”

This New Jersey artist has mastered the more cosmic end of the spectrum of the American primitive guitar sound quite well, blending acoustic finger picking with reverb-drenched electric waves and spacey ambience.

Shades of William Tyler, Steve Gunn and North Americans are felt all throughout this sweeping record. Yet it’s the gorgeous closing track, “New West,” that really nails this as a new essential in its field. Echoing pedal steel guitar plus delicate acoustic fingerstyle drifting leisurely through a cosmic atmosphere? What’s not to love??

Click here to give this a listen today, you won’t regret it.

Mat Eric Hart – Spirits & Reflections

Speaking of solo guitar music, Aural Canyon will soon release Mat Eric Hart’s genius new album of ethereal six-stringed meditations, Spirits & Reflections.

Crafted from his personal studio in the countryside of Provence, France, Hart’s latest record perfectly conjures the peace and solitude of his surroundings without the help of a single lyric. Much like the work of Daniel Bachman, Nathan Salsburg and Gwenifer Raymond, Hart’s music evokes places that the listener might not have ever visited, but could immediately picture, with little more than just a guitar.

Pastoral, soothing and instantly transportive, this is a record that anyone needs if they have plenty of Elkhorn, Glenn Jones and Buck Curran albums in their collection.

Click here to preorder your copy now.

Snaex – The Nameless and the Named

For El Gran E Records’ first vinyl release, they went for a record that truly covers all the bases.

Snaex, a group out of Maine, show off just how versatile they really are on The Nameless and the Named. The experimental group flirts with everything from electro music to folk rock and even post-rock, while giving each genre a unique twist.

Perhaps the best moment of one of these twists is “Bella Ciao,” which has a melody that is reminiscent of one of Tom Waits’ more upbeat numbers, while the instrumentation, vocals and production work feels like a modern take on something that would have been on the Flying Nun label back in their glory days.

If you want a record full of surprises and achingly tender ballads [“It’s Like Magic at That Point” is a prime example of one], then get yourself a copy of this record here today.

The Rowan Amber Mill – Golden Strings to Tether the Sun

The fall is the best time to hear psychedelic folk and British folk music, so thankfully The Rowan Amber Mill has returned with a new collection of classic standards that make you want to stroll through the nearest forest.

Longtime readers should know what to expect from TRAM, but for the newcomers, they take keyboards, winds and strings, plus an appreciation for folk horror and the traditions of olde wyrd Britain and create eerie songs that feel both ancient and futuristic.

On this record, they resurrect classics, like “Rosemary Lane,” “Blackleg Miner” and “John Barleycorn,” and infuse them with dark drones, chilling vocals and claustrophobically tight production that together give the listener a haunting sense of unease. This slightly unnerving quality even can be felt lurking in the background of the most beautiful and pastoral of the album’s tracks. This is a very impressive feat.

Fans of the original Wicker Man, Steeleye Span and Tunng definitely need to check this album out.

You can find it here.

Pefkin – The Land is a Sea in Waiting

On a similar note, Pefkin (AKA Gayle Brogan) has returned as well, with a hauntingly beautiful mini-release of darkly ambient folk music.

Brogan, who is a contemporary and a sometime collaborator with the Rowan Amber Mill folks (most notably with Meadowsilver), blends her spectral vocalizations with creaking and droning strings, tense synthesizers and other astral sounds to create soundscapes that belong in a mystical Del Toro film soundtrack.

Hovering somewhere between the astral folk magic of Pantaleimon and Alison Cotton’s spooky The Girl I Left Behind Me, this is a record made for the fall and for being around nature. So be sure to pick this up (click here) and enjoy it out amongst the autumn foliage.

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Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and Thewaster.com and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

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