Music Review: Cass McCombs – Tip of The Sphere

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Cass McCombs

Tip of The Sphere

[ANTI-; 2019]

Rating: 4.5/5

Dear Cass,

How are you? I’ve been meaning to get in touch. I only know you from your songs, which I guess is less and more than anything else. I’ve been listening to Tip of The Sphere every day for a few weeks now, and, like the other records, its magic is revealed in increments. I’ve often thought of song as a sort of channeling, a ghostly union with eternal spirit, with disincarnate character-elementals. But when I listen to an album from another angle, an equal impression is revealed: an architecture that is, while spiritual, also a plain labor. Maybe that should have been obvious from the beginning; it’s been a while since I played music, and one can forget the physicality of the practice.

In the craft of the song is the revelation of the song’s eternity? These things, the ineffable temper of the song (of the poem or the film, &c) and the earthly made-ness of the art, are the same. But that’s like “of course.” Is this so of any labor? It’s a curse to say anything isn’t capable of being an altar. We aren’t just working for nothing. Well, OK, it usually feels that way. Thus, the pursuit of “truth” begins.

But maybe that’s all neither here nor there. It’s music — let it play. I was in Poictesme in the summer of 2016, when I was supposed to write a response to Mangy Love. I had thought of doing something kind of like what I’m doing now. I thought I’d say, “Dear Cass,” then go on to write about the album. That’s the flaw of introducing the epistle into “music criticism.” The audience, the readers of Tiny Mix Tapes I mean, probably want this review to give some sort of reasonable summation of the album’s merits, and all I feel able to do is ramble on like this into the air within which I imagine the creator of these songs. But I can think of no other way of interacting with a body of work so dear to me. Let’s try a compromise, all…

A while back, inspired by the poet Clark Coolidge’s “For Kurt Cobain,” I wrote a poem called “For Cass McCombs.” Maybe I wanted to open the psychic bridge a little. Maybe I was searching for my analogue to Coolidge’s Cobain.

There’s a line from the Coolidge poem, I used it as an epigraph: “How much further do we get with this naming?”… It felt linked inextricably to the kinds of questions your songs tend to ask, or generate.

What do you call yourself, if anything? I do not care to call myself much of anything…

Tip of The Sphere, and I might be wrong, seems to be an album of unity in isolation. Of the sadness of that predicament and of the power of that sadness. Of the nameless — though sometimes the nameless are named, aren’t they? Most of the album’s characters are somehow screwed into a lonely life. I see the chilly walker in “Absentee” or the drifter Hermes (“If I had your dollar…”) in “I Followed The River South to What” as instances of identifying that momentary “Tip” of the “Sphere” — like how, neo-proverbially, any one person is the center of the universe when observed, if the universe is infinite (though they say it isn’t these days).

Loneliness kills. It kills the sufferer, and as we have seen in this world lately and forever, it claims other adjacent victims. For a while, it can inspire deeply or balm anger, but loneliness always gets its due in the end. Like we’re all sleeping volcanoes and our eruptions, our isolated pressures, don’t have isolated effects. It’ll be helter skelter all over the world. Is there salvation in the old ways when the new ways are killing us? Is Romance the demiurge?

If I’ve heard a lonelier song than “Sidewalk Bop After Suicide,” I can’t bring it to mind. Everyone in Tip of The Sphere is on the edge of some kind of destitution, seeking a connection or to feel RIGHT. I want a day like today, but not today, you sing in “Prayer for Another Day,” and I think that’s right: not utopian, an appropriate hope, an apt spell. Although not overtly political (as in, dealing with the current political noösphere), this album feels somehow more appropriate to our connection-isolation than an album of straightforward protest could.

An album where cash is both golden ticket/activating talisman (“I Followed The River…”) and straight-up sacred trash (“American Canyon Sutra”) is an honest album, I think. And I appreciate honesty. Well — within reason. Mundus vult decipi, after all.

The elusive details in the songs here are what bring me back, haunted. I think, “Was that really there, or am I misremembering, hallucinating, the songs?” But it was there: that chiming coda in “Real Life,” the asynchronous layers of voice and electronics in “American Canyon Sutra,” the melody at the end of “Estrella” sung in Spanish, “Rounder” in its entirety, its cut-up neologisms. There are subtler practices going on here. It’s kind of you to bury and to decorate thus.

Anyway, again, thanks for the music. It’s great for thinking on. There’s more I’d like to say about the album, about everything, but this is a public forum and my time has run out. Let’s get a drink sometime.

The Pit of The Damned, Penn.
Feb. 2019

Music Review: Girlpool – What Chaos Is Imaginary

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What Chaos Is Imaginary

[ANTI-; 2019]

Rating: 3.5/5

From the beginning, Cleo Tucker’s and Harmony Tividad’s mutualism has been at the fore of Girlpool’s music. The L.A.-based duo would either sing in featherweight, too-pure-for-this-world harmonies or in frantic shout-sung mania, their voices in both cases sounding so simpatico that it was nearly impossible to distinguish one singer from the other. And though they had met mere months before releasing their 2014 self-titled debut, the Girlpool sound they established on that EP was one that suggested at least a decade of airtight camaraderie.

On What Chaos Is Imaginary, the group’s latest outing and follow up to 2017’s Powerplant, that synergy is still apparent, galvanized here by the same fervor and leavened by the same delicacy that informed Girlpool’s first three releases. There’s the late-90s alternative rock verve of “Hire,” which ardor reaches a fever pitch during Tucker’s grungy shout in the song’s second half. Conversely, though, Tividad will often provide a softer counterpoint to her bandmate’s more truculent vocal style, as in the timid falsetto on “Hoax and the Shrine.” What Chaos paints the band as more of a yin and yang, two disparate but complementary figures, than the mirror images they seemed to be on Girlpool’s older material.

What Chaos Is Imaginary by girlpool

The most obvious change in the group’s sound is Tucker’s voice, now a sturdy tenor reminiscent of Jim Reid that’s equally capable of tough standoffishness and vulnerable rumination. The former quality shines through on tracks like album opener “Lucy’s,” as he sharply enunciates each syllable of his words on top of a fuzzy, chugging guitar line. The latter, however, is evident on “All Blacked Out,” an Elliott Smith-inspired number that channels the late singer’s penchant for half-whispered lyrics of desperation and malaise. Tividad, on the other hand, is more singular in her delivery, favoring introspection over forthrightness. This disposition is typified on the title track, an aching synth ballad on which her talent for airy-yet-expressive vocals is fully realized. On the record is a very clear preponderance of poignant slow cuts to speedier tracks: Chaos leans heavily on slow-burning tracks (sometimes to a fault), which makes its scarce moments of aggression all the more significant and powerful.

Continuing the practice they began on Powerplant, Tucker and Tividad further luxuriate in abstract lyricism. “You look out the window like/ There’s a goodbye every day/ You’re waking up alive,” Tucker sings on “Swamp and Bay.” Tividad dreamily pronounces “It’s the Montana drive where you once lived by the sea/ All the kids you thought had bigger eyes/ Consumed by schemes” on “Stale Device.” Perhaps on a dadaist bent, these lyrics are best consumed one line at a time, as context rarely clarifies the singers’ words. The most salient theme to be parsed on the album is that of displacement, the feeling of being in a specific place but never feeling present. Several of the songs on this album were culled from Tucker’s and Tividad’s solo projects and rerecorded, making the cohesion in the album all the more impressive; Cleo and Harmony were largely removed from one another during the writing of “Where You Sink,” for example, and this sense of separation and physical absence resonates throughout the rest of Chaos’s lyrics, as inscrutable as they may seem.

What Chaos Is Imaginary’s greatest weakness is its pacing. Fourteen songs over forty-five minutes doesn’t require much patience on the listener’s end, but when the album relies mostly on mid-tempo dirges, it becomes more of a slog than most would prefer. And while there are many high points in the record’s slower cuts, Chaos could have benefited greatly from another “Kiss and Burn” or “Magnifying Glass,” briefer songs to counteract the more subdued moments on the album. Still, What Chaos Is Imaginary serves as an important document of the Girlpool narrative: a juncture in the band’s career that highlights the emotional (and in Tucker’s case, physical) changes its artists are reckoning with as their success grows in the indie community. Girlpool aren’t trying to combat chaos, they’re simply trying to brook it.

First Listen: New ratio:state remix taps into the deeply cathartic nature of Doe Paoro’s ‘Over’

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First Listen: New ratio:state remix taps into the deeply cathartic nature of Doe Paoro’s ‘Over’Images Uploads Gallery Doe Paoro Photo Credit Rinny Riot 5

Doe Paoro poured her soul into a timely new record named Soft Power this fall. The artist, real name Sonia Kreitzer, described her songwriting process as a “reclaiming [of] parts of myself that I had lost.” It’s an immensely personal new song cycle, one which explores womanhood, misogyny, and invites its listeners to process and grieve their own experiences in an equally personal scope.

Media outlets have previously compared Paoro’s lush soul aesthetics to that of Amy Winehouse. Track titles like “Walk Through The Fire,” “Over,” and “Guilty” raise questions about harmful relationships, societal injustices, and reconciling with one’s worldly attachments. Each brings Winehouse’s truths to mind as Paoro sings the modern “what kind of fuckery is this” all throughout.

But within Paoro’s electronic departure — the new album sheds her 2015 Justin Vernon-produced After style of moody electronic soundscapes Paoro re-focuses on soulful, piano-driven pop —she gets less intentional about what the music’s achieving and more focused on what it’s saying, forsaking stylistic precision for emotional intent. It’s a move that hearkens back to her propulsive take on the Hercules & Love Affair cut “Blind,” from just a few years ago.

And it’s the same freeing embrace that channels through in ratio:state‘s new remix of the track “Over,” which Dancing Astronaut is sharing an exclusive first listen of today.

ratio:state reinterprets the song’s central question “now that I’m older / does it get easier / to get over” into a demanding, self-affirmation in its four-on-the-floor flair.

“We hit the studio, the vibes were just so natural, the result is what you hear.”

ratio:state said of the track. It’s fitting then, that the rework is a slow-burner. There’s no eruptive nature to the interpretation. There’s no bombastic EDM chorus, and there doesn’t need to be. It does get easier, but it truly is a soft kind of power.

Doe Paoro’s Soft Power is out now via ANTI- Records.

Photo Credit: Rinny Riot

Mothers (no not yours) announce new album on ANTI- Records, share new single “Blame Kit”

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Word to the name of the band this post is about, because Mothers have announced a brand new album. Fresh off their signing to ANTI- Records, the Philadelphia by way of Athens, GA group will release Render Another Ugly Method, their second full-length, on September 7.

Wait, what is that dessert secretly and lovingly tucked into the sack lunch (mother humor!)…is that album announcement? An album teaser?? AND a full song!? Aww, Mothers, you’re the best!

“Blame Kit” is the full song in question, exemplifying Mothers’ brand of “left-of-center indie rock” that trips over the border into near-prog or math rock territory. The album teaser previews a different song, “Baptist Trauma,” showing just how far out there the band can stretch the boundaries of their sound.

If none of my mumbo jumbo makes sense, head down below to hear the good music for yourself. Make sure to also check out the artwork and full tracklisting for Render Another Ugly Method down below; and if that whole combination of sight and sound appeals to you, pre-order the album here. Remember, Render Another Ugly Method is out via ANTI- Records on September 7, a day that henceforth will be known as “Mothers Day.” Got a nice ring to it, no?

Render Another Ugly Method tracklisting:

02. PINK

♫ Listen: Deafheaven – “Honeycomb”

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The consensus about the new Deafheaven song is that it’s good, but that it’s more of the same, another exercise in the black metal/post-rock aesthetic of 2013’s Sunbather and 2015’s New Bermuda. In a sense this is true, but “Honeycomb” also seeks to blend the sounds of those two records: the fractured lightness and leaded buoyancy of Sunbather with the sludgy darkness, the more self-consciously “metalness” of New Bermuda. In order to get these ends to meet, “Honeycomb” traverses a wider range of styles, acting as a sort of kaleidoscopic mashup of heavy metal, black metal, post-rock, ‘90s indie rock, classic shoegaze… and even some gestures that sound pop-influenced. These ideas aren’t layered on top of each other, but, rather, they happen sequentially, making “Honeycomb” one of the most nimble and versatile tracks of Deafheaven’s wild journey. If what comes next is also “more of the same,” Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, due July 13 on Anti-, could be an incredibly good record.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love by deafheaven

Neko Case announces headlining North American dates in support of forthcoming album Hell-On

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Sometimes you just get a feeling about people. Many years ago, I regularly caught Neko Case play shows with one of her early bands, Maow. I could have never predicted the career trajectory and success that Case has earned since then; but there was always something about her, even back then. Intelligent, outspoken, and funny, it has been no surprise whatsoever to see that she has become one of the most consistent and beloved singer/songwriter/producer triple-threats around. And damned if she doesn’t seem to just keep expanding her reach more and more.

“Case” in point: she’s just announced a September headlining leg to her already-large 2018 touring schedule. Case will play the Sasquatch Fest on May 27 before immediately heading out on a lengthy road trip with Ray LaMontagne, which sees the pair of heart-tearing troubadours travelling America together. After a brief respite, she’ll head out for those September sojourns with Thao of the Get Down Stay Down as support. There is also a bunch of Euro dates booked in the fall. (And relax, hosers! Everyone’s favo(u)rite American Canuck sympathizer will play Toronto in September. Montreal, Vancouver, Sober Island, Ball’s Falls, and Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, you’re shit out o’ luck this time around!)

These tours are in support of Case’s new album, Hell-On, which is out June 1 on Anti-. Stream the video for “Bad Luck” down below; and for tour info and album pre-order links, head to Case’s site, where — as the kids now say — “you can get all the feels” (the kids still say that, right?).

Hell-On tracklisting:

01. Hell-On
02. Last Lion of Albion
03. Halls of Sarah
04. Bad Luck
05. Curse of the I-5 Corridor
06. Gumball Blue
07. Dirty Diamond
08. Oracle of the Maritimes
09. Winnie
10. Sleep All Summer
11. My Uncle’s Navy
12. Pitch or Honey

Neko Case tour dates:

05.27.18 – George, WA – Gorge Amphitheatre, Sasquatch Festival
05.28.18 – Boise, ID – Summerfield at Memorial Stadium #
05.30.18 – Bend, OR – Les Schwab Amphitheater #
06.01.18 – Berkeley, CA – Greek Theatre #
06.02.18 – San Diego, CA – Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre #
06.03.18 – Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre #
06.05.18 – Phoenix, CA – Comerica Theatre #
06.08.18 – Irving, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory #
06.09.18 – Austin, TX – Austin360 Amphitheatre #
06.10.18 – Sugar Land, TX – Smart Financial Centre #
06.12.18 – Rogers, AR – Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion #
06.13.18 – Southaven, MS – Bankplus Amphitheatre at Snowden Grove #
06.15.18 – Indianapolis, IN – Farm Bureau Lawn at White River Amphitheatre #
06.16.18 – Chicago, IL – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island #
06.17.18 – Nashville, TN – Ascend Amphitheater #
06.19.18 – Charlotte, NC – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre #
06.20.18 – Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion #
06.22.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing #
06.23.18 – Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion #
06.24.18 – Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion #
06.26.18 – Wallingford, CT – Oakdale Theatre #
06.28.18 – Bangor, ME – Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion #
06.29.18 – North Adams, MA – MASS MOCA #
06.30.18 – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica #
07.01.18 – Detroit, MI – Meadow Brook Amphitheatre #
07.03.18 – Pittsburgh, PA – Heinz Hall #
07.04.18 – Cooperstown, NY – Brewery Ommegang #
07.06.18 – Madison, WI – Breese Stevens Field #
07.07.18 – St. Louis, MO – Peabody Opera House #
07.08.18 – Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theatre #
07.10.18 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre #
09.05.18 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater ^
09.06.18 – St. Paul, MN – The Palace Theatre ^
09.07.18 – Des Moines, IA – Hoyt Sherman Place ^
09.08.18 – Lincoln, NE – Bourbon Theatre ^
09.09.18 – Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom ^
09.11.18 – New Orleans, LA – Civic Theatre ^
09.12.18 – Birmingham, AL – Iron City ^
09.13.18 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse ^
09.14.18 – Chapel Hill, NC – Memorial Hall at UNC ^
09.15.18 – Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theater ^
09.17.18 – Harrisburg, PA – Sunoco Theatre ^
09.20.18 – New York, NY – Beacon Theatre ^
09.24.18 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall ^
09.26.18 – Buffalo, NY – Asbury Hall at Babeville ^
09.27.18 – St. Johnsbury, VT – Fuller Hall ^
10.29.18 – Stockholm, Sweden – Nalen
10.30.18 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Bremen Theatre
11.01.18 – Berlin, Germany – Bi Nuu
11.02.18 – Cologne, Germany – Stadtgarten Cologne
11.03.18 – Groningen, Netherlands – Takeroot Festival (De Oosterpoort)
11.04.18 – Brussels, Belgium – Rotonde – Botanique
11.06.18 – Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
11.07.18 – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
11.08.18 – London, UK – Barbican

* Ray LaMontagne
^ Thao (of the Get Down Stay Down)

The Dream Syndicate announce new album How Did I Find Myself Here?, share title track, leave us with more questions than answers

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Dust off your Rickenbackers: one of the key bands of the “Paisley Underground” scene (a mostly-L.A.-specific label for the jangle pop revival of the mid ’80s), The Dream Syndicate, have announced their first album in almost 30 years. How Did I Find Myself Here? will be out on September 8 via Anti- Records. The band have also shared the title track from the LP, a jammy, eleven-minute single.

So how did they find themselves here? The Dream Syndicate’s original run of four studio albums (including the classic The Days of Wine and Roses) lasted until 1989; led by chief songwriter Steve Wynn, the group reunited in Spain in 2012 and have played over 50 live shows since. Going back into the studio in 2016, “[The magic] was there with almost as much ease and grace as the first rehearsal we had three years before in Madrid, despite [longtime bassist] Mark Walton, Dennis Duck and I having not played together for several decades,” says Wynn.

Pre-orders of the album are now available through the band’s PledgeMusic site (Damn, for an 80’s band, they’re pretty good at using the internet, aren’t they?!), with the goodies offered ranging from rather generic-looking tote bags to a private Dream Syndicate show in your living room (at the very affordable price of $15,000). For all you cheapskates out there, the band will also perform in several US and European cities this summer and fall. Check out the dates, watch the album trailer, and listen to “How Did I Find Myself Here” below:

How Did I Find Myself Here? tracklisting:

01. Filter Me Through You
02. Glide
03. Out of My Head
04. 80 West
05. Like Mary
06. The Circle
07. How Did I Find Myself Here
08. Kendra’s Dream

The Dream Syndicate tour dates:

07.30.17 – Camden, NJ – XpoNential Festival
09.29.17 – Portland, OR – Star Theater
09.30.17 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
10.14.17 – Oslo – Rockefeller
10.15.17 – Göteborg – Pustervik
10.16.17 – Stockholm – Kägelbanan Södra Teatern
10.18.17 – Copenhagen – VEGA
10.19.17 – Hamburg – Uebel & Gefährlich
10.20.17 – Bonn – Rockapalast Crossroads Festival 2017
10.21.17 – Berlin – Festsaal Kreuzberg
10.23.17 – Amsterdam – Bitterzoet
10.24.17 – Paris – Centre Barbara Fleury Goutte-d’Or (FGO)
10.25.17 – Turin – Spazio 211
10.26.17 – Milan – Magnolia Segrate
10.27.17 – Bologna – Locomotiv
10.30.17 – London – The Lexington
11.01.17 – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
11.03.17 – Leuven – Het Depot
11.04.17 – Athens – Gagarin

Rihanna – Desperado (3lau Remix)

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Rihanna’s eighth studio album, ANTI was widely acclaimed by critics as one that pushed the boundaries of R&B — one of the main factors that helped it reach double platinum status since it bowed in early 2016.

One of the standout tracks of the genial album, “Desperado” has now received the remix treatment by talented American producer 3LAU, to great effect. 3LAU has cleverly left the original vocals practically unblemished, though he has increased the tempo and added a powerful beat to the remix, making it significantly more danceable than the soulful original track.

The producer has also borrowed certain percussive elements from future bass and trap, making for a unique and energetic build-up which melts into the bass-heavy, almost Dyro-esque electro house drop.

Read More:

Watch This: 3LAU’s official music video for “On My Mind” starring Gronk and Mojo Rawley

Listen to 3LAU’s Remix of Katy Perry and Migos’ ‘Bon Appetit’

3LAU – On My Mind (Feat. Yeah Boy)