Greetings, folks! Here’s hoping that your new year is off to a great start. I spent the end of 2020 packing up and moving into a new home, so I’ve been a little behind on reviews. So here’s the first half of this month’s roundup of cool new releases that have been hanging out in my inboxes and spinning on my turntable endlessly over the last few weeks.
FOG – Fogesque
For their debut record, Seoul’s FOG cut one of the dreamiest slices of shoegaze this side of Slowdive.
Released on cassette early in December on Knoxville’s Gezellig Records, Fogesque, floats like ice on a still sea, and sheens with an extremely polished production. Much like the work of Flying Saucer Attack and Windy & Carl, the band leans heavily into post-rock instrumentation and atmosphere, even on the more song-oriented cuts, like “Space Space Space Shuttle.”
Unlike many records of this genre, there is quite a bit of heart and humanity tucked into these songs. Tracks like “Dehumidifier” and “The Colors Become My Dream” contain sections that shimmer with a heavy sense of optimism and beauty. An utterly gorgeous recording from top to bottom.
If the lighter moments of David Pearce’s work make your heart swell, then this is an album you have to experience. Get it right here today.
Radio Receiver – s/t
The debut record of Radio Receiver, a side-project of Hearts of Oak’s Nate Wallace, is a collection of rustic country-folk tunes that sting and sway with a gritty wooziness.
Even with a single listen, you easily feel that Wallace absolutely lives in each of the album’s twelve songs. Singing with a nasally modern-day Dylan-esque voice, Wallace lets his most raw and genuine emotions seep through every composition, even when the music tends to fall into more complex and surreal territories. This is perhaps most notable on the vaguely trippy “Lonesome as No Other Part,” which features both backwards guitar effects and a vocal performance that is deeply rife with pain and sorrow.
This is a record filled with farm dust, visible scars and stoned ruminations on the ways of life. If Time Out of Mind, On The Beach and Mark Lanegan’s Bubblegum LP are some of the most played albums in your collection, then you need to hear this album right away.
Profe Fool – Bleak Psychedelia
After releasing a string of strong rap/psychedelic rock fusion singles throughout the summer, Profe Fool has returned with a dynamic full-length album, the aptly titled Bleak Psychedelia.
Hailing from Orlando, FL, this experimental duo seamlessly blends proggy John McLaughlin-like guitar workouts with tricky rhythms (provided by a live drummer) and dizzying vocals, rapped by Amiri Brown.
The mixing of these disparate styles and influences results in an exhilarating sonic experience that is truly unlike any other album. Songs like “The Contractually Obligated Love Song” flow as fast and slick as cascading rock slides, with streaming jets of rhymes zooming past at breakneck speed, perfectly in time with Connor Tutins’ acid funk guitar lines.
Much like the recent digital singles, the production on this album is simply astonishing. Strap a good pair of headphones on, and you’ll feel Brown’s vocals swirling all around your head as the guitar and drums rise up and surround you like an intimidating wall of living sound. With every song here, you feel completely swallowed up by the album’s dense mixing.
Bleak Psychedelia will totally immerse you into its sonic universe. Be prepared.
You can check out this new record on Spotify.
Ghost Dance Collective – Getting By EP
Social distancing during the pandemic inspired Edinburgh’s Ghost Dance Collective to simplify their sound back to basics. This necessary change revealed a whole new spectrum of strengths and skills for the band to explore.
While currently in search of a new drummer, GDC has fully embraced a return to acoustic-based music. This change in band dynamics proved just how strong and sweet the band’s harmony chops can be. This is perhaps most obvious on the opening title track, which between its harmonic vocals, fingerpicking and accompanying synthesizer, conjures the likes of early Genesis, Magna Carta and Caedmon.
Elsewhere on the EP, the band feels relaxed and appears to be reaching towards a state of catharsis, especially with the joyous Robyn Hitchcock-like “Here Comes The Rain.” When listening to this little collection of “oddities and rarities,” it’s easy to feel just as loose and at ease as the songs sound.
Get your copy from the group’s Bandcamp today.
Burd Ellen – Says The Never Beyond
On a similarly folksy note, Burd Ellen’s Says The Never Beyond is a darkly stoic take on antique carols and winter songs that, to quote the album’s liner notes, exist in the murky space that lurks between the “sacred and secular, connecting to the deep seasonal traditions of Britain and Ireland.”
The main focus of the album is the combined power of Debbie Armour (Alasdair Roberts, Green Ribbons) and Gayle Brogan’s (Pefkin, Electroscope) gorgeous vocals, which breathes new frosty life to these semi-ancient classic tunes.
While their powerhouse harmonies are reminiscent of Silly Sisters and Rusalnaia, the accompaniment of droning guitars and sinisterly groaning synths give this album at times the feeling of a modern folk horror film soundtrack. Bucolic, rustic and filled with an ever present atmosphere of tense dread.
While the instrumentation packs a powerful punch and really hammers home the album’s ritualistic tone, it’s the moments of the duo’s a capella singing that really steals the show. Just listen to their take on the “Sans Day Carol.” There’s some true magic in their voices, especially during the traditional standard’s chorus.
Fans of The Watersons, The Iditarod and In Gowan Ring would find this record to be absolutely essential. Get it here now.
Rudy De Anda – “Helado” (Music Video)
With a pleasantly vivid combination of Tropicália effects and vocals with heady Mexican psych rock vibes, Rudy De Anda’s “Helado” was a major highlight on his breezy Tender Epoch LP, which came out on Karma Chief/Colemine Records back in September. If you are already a fan of this track, or if it’s brand new to you, you should absolutely check out its brand new music video above. It will easily put a smile on your face and make you feel like you’re in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, no matter what time of the year it is.
Meanwhile, you can grab Tender Epoch right here, if you haven’t already.
Come back soon for part two of January’s Roundup!