Holy Wave — “Interloper”

Album Reviews

Holy Wave — “Interloper”

Posted by on Oct 26, 2020
Photo by Pavel Mezihorak/KUTX

Holy Wave — Interloper (The Reverberation Appreciation Society)

Halfway through Interloper, Holy Wave reveals a mission statement, repeating it like a mantra: “ecstasy, energy, jealousy’s elegies.” Perhaps a tall order, but it’s an easy enough checklist for the El Paso-born, Austin-based five-piece that has become staples in the Texas psych scene over the past decade. The band’s fifth record hones in on recognizing yourself as a stranger — in a place, in the past, in your own head. Even as the band muses on such existential anxieties, Holy Wave pours sunshine warmth into its sound, taking care to not burn the edges of your mind. The title track soothes with a blurry reverie that disguises harsh truths: “Sleeping with the enemy / lost all of your energy / searching for security / searching for some purity.” There’s an earned clarity to Holy Wave’s experienced songwriting and a penchant for melody that keeps you moored amidst the noise. A metronomic beat propels “I’m Not Living in the Past Anymore.” Galactic synths and jangly guitars keep things humming in the opener “Schmetterling.” Songs unfurl with languid ease. “Escapism” drifts in ambiance, with waves of sound pooling into each other. “Buddhist Pete” goes for the opposite effect — hedonism over meditation — with a throbbing, head-shaking beat. Yet the track takes its time getting you there, stretching out over a trancelike six and a half minutes. Airy and ever-shifting, Interloper paints a desert mirage: it may dissipate at any moment, but the vision’s tantalizing enough to keep you grasping.

– Annie Lyons

3.75
Purchase Interloper HERE

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numün — “voyage au soleil”

Album Reviews

numün — “voyage au soleil”

Posted by on Oct 26, 2020
Photo courtesy of the artist

numün — voyage au soleil (Self-released)

I recall watching Radiohead perform a few years back, marveling at the densely layered atmospheres created right before my eyes. Dating back to the first electric guitar, electronic instruments were built to stand apart from their acoustic counterparts. It takes skill and refinement to blend these elements together, and the synthesis can be beautiful. But this is the age-old problem with electronic music, it’s often so alien that it feels almost willed into place. It’s hard to imagine it being played by actual human beings. numün takes a step back from the polish, leaving the cracks visible. The trio (Gamelan Dharma Swara’s Chris Romero and Joel Mellin, with Bob Holmes from the ambient-country band SUSS) accomplish this simply. There’s not a robotic beat, glitch or bloop to be found; instead, the synths are joined by Eastern tunings, banjos, tambourines, and congas. In place of distance and remove, the music is present; you can almost hear being played around a campfire. In a year of music typified by anxious navel-gazing, this tranquil and absorbing set keeps calling me back.

– Jeff McCord

3.75
Purchase voyage au soleil HERE

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Greg Vanderpool — “Sub Raton”

Album Reviews

Greg Vanderpool — “Sub Raton”

Posted by on Oct 26, 2020
Photo by Martin do Nascimento/KUTX

Greg Vanderpool — Sub Raton (Self-released)

As much as any singer-songwriter out there, Greg Vanderpool’s music places you squarely in a time and place. To me, it’s a West Texas back porch, watching a distant thunderstorm roll in. Vanderpool named one of his previous bands Monahans for a reason. Though he comes from Dallas’ Deep Ellum scene, Vanderpool and his longtime collaborators keep his music full of desolate atmosphere and wide-open space. Vanderpool wears his influences proudly — Neil Young, Townes — but his style is unmistakable: undisguised narratives, a quiet and keen melodic intuition, and a voice that creaks with a lonesome beauty. Years tick by between Vanderpool releases. His earliest work, with his band Milton Mapes, kept a certain guitar menace at bay. Sub Ratonhis first release since 2017’s Pilot, is his most restrained to date. In juxtaposition to our turbulent times, there’s a purposeful sense of slowing down and breathing in. His songs reveal romance and its wounded aftermath, and sound out desperation, a weary resignation, and ultimately a determination to keep going. “I’m counting the stars for you,” he sings, “And I’ll watch the night as long as it should linger.”

– Jeff McCord

4
Purchase Sub Raton HERE

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Slug — “Loot Takers”

Album Reviews

Slug — “Loot Takers”

Posted by on Oct 26, 2020

Slug — Loot Takers (Hushpuppy Records)

Clocking in at 15 minutes long, the chilled beats of Slug’s debut EP Loot Takers pop open like a Fruit Gusher, jewel-colored and lush, and melt away with a lingering brightness. White Denim’s Greg Clifford, Soul Food Horns’ Louk Cox and No. 18’s Chase Goldman, all alumni of the UT jazz program, with additional collaborators, recorded the EP remotely across four international time zones. The trio’s released a handful of jazzy, lofi instrumentals under the Slug moniker this year, but with featured vocals from Austin rapper Chucky Blk and Los Angeles’ Nafets, Loot Takers crystallizes the vision. In “Stuck In The Stone,” Nafets unwinds inner anxieties over a rippling psychedelic hook, while a shuffling beat in “Hangouts” gives Chicagon trumpeter Noe Mina a warm backing palette. Blk’s slam poetry background shines in the title track’s cadences as he salutes “the loot takers, the bread bakers and the floor of our loom makers” showing solidarity in protests against police violence. “I don’t owe you none of my civility,” he affirms. Much of the EP reflects its environment. If you wonder how a track called “Springtime Blues” made its way onto a late August release, its musings on the calming power of walking outside ring all too familiar, punctuated with muted brass flourishes and bird calls. Yet none of this falls too on-the-nose, and sly wordplay, complete with fantasy video game references, bring a playful energy. Slug filters reality through delectable production to craft an immersive universe within its short runtime.

– Annie Lyons

3.75
Listen to Loot Takers HERE

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Various Artists — “Angelheaded Hipster”

Album Reviews

Various Artists — “Angelheaded Hipster”

Posted by on Oct 26, 2020
Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Various Artists — Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Boland and T. Rex (BMG)

Hal Willner was an aggregator whose brainy imagination brought musical ‘what if’s’ to life. Beginning with 1981’s Amarcord Nino Rota up until his death from COVID-19 this April (he was sixty-four), Willner crafted wildly ambitious and messy tributes, both recorded and live, covering everything from Disney songs to the works of Charles Mingus, from pirate ballads to a retreatment of the Harry Smith Anthology. He cast against-type and cross-pollinated his musicians. Think Todd Rundgren belongs on a Monk tribute album, or Sun Ra would sound great recording music from Dumbo? No problem. He made albums with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, produced the most interesting (though rarely the most commercially successful) albums for artists like Marianne Faithful, Lou Reed, and Lucinda Williams. One of his two Kurt Weill homages, Lost in the Stars, might be the best tribute album ever made. Everyone wanted to work with Willner. Due to his untimely death, the Bolan/T Rex-themed Angelheaded Hipster becomes his final project. There are many things to admire here. It’s fun to hear Peaches take on “Solid Gold, Easy Action”, as well as Guatemala’s Gaby Moreno, and long-absent singers like Nena (of “Luftballoons” fame) and Marc Almond, cult favorites like King Khan, Emily Haines, and Elysian Fields. Yet partly because Bolan was a pop star, the arc seems less exotic. Carla Bley or Henry Threadgill do not appear. As great as Bolan was, he was not exactly Carl Stalling or even Leonard Cohen. The arrangements of his songs are carefully crafted, yet some of Hipsterparticularly among the better-known artists, feels like more pedestrian fare. There’s one glaring exception – Nick Cave’s “Cosmic Dancer.” Stripped from its straightforward rock treatment, this reflective outlier from T Rex’s Electric Warrior album stands as a monument to what makes Willner so irreplaceable. From what is largely braggadocio, Willner and Cave craft an elegiac ballad that becomes a wistful look back. “I danced myself right out the tomb/Is it strange to dance so soon?”

– Jeff McCord

3.5
Purchase Angelheaded Hipster HERE

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