David Grubbs releasing new record this summer with Portuguese guitarist Manuel Mota

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Hold onto your overall straps, fellow Midwesterners, it’s time for a new release from none other than our collective father David “Squirrel Daddy” Grubbs — this time alongside Portuguese guitarist Manuel Mota for Mota’s FIRST EVER U.S. RELEASE! Ope!

Out June 22 on Blue Chopsticks (a precocious child to Grubbs’s parent label Drag City), Lacrau is the first the world has heard from this particular duet of longtime friends. Recorded in real time on a warm, Lisboan afternoon, Lacrau explores Mota’s balmy, microscopic soundworlds alongside Grubbs’s signature jazz-referential finger-fretting. It takes its title from an antiquated Portuguese word for “scorpion,” as well as from the name of a cheap good-eats spot in Mota’s hometown of Ericeira. A multiplicity of meanings to represent the record’s multiplicity of feelings!

Those who don’t know Grubbs from his membership in Gastr Del Sol or Squirrel Bait may know him from his long list of collaborations — Will Oldham, Matmos, and Royal Trux, to name just a few. (Those who still don’t know Grubbs may want to READ TINY MIX TAPES ONCE IN A WHILE.)

Anyway: crack open an ice-cold pop, cook yourself up some dry-rub BBQ, and let this new record spirit you away to the coast of Portugal. Well, that is, if you go buy it first.

LACRAU tracklisting:

01. EIRA

Music Review: DRINKS – Hippo Lite

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Hippo Lite

[Drag City; 2018]

Rating: 4/5

DRINKS is the collaborative side project of Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley, truly a psychedelic crossover event for the ages. Le Bon is known for making arresting psych-rock, characterized by mercurial guitar work and her distinctive, Nico-lost-in-the-woods vocals. Presley mostly records under the name White Fence and has a reputation for erratic garage-pop couched in consciously lo-fi production values. Their last record under the DRINKS name was 2015’s Hermits on Holiday, a gamble of irregular post-punk experimentation; less ripping it up and starting again, more just ripping it up for confetti.

Despite sounding like a short-lived soft drink, Hippo Lite takes its name from Saint Hippolyte-du-Fort, a sleepy town in the south of France where the pair retreated to record. Artists withdrawing to relatively peaceful surroundings to fuel creativity can often seem hackneyed, a well-worn trope of the press release, but in this case, it’s something of a crucial detail. The album is saturated with a sense of place; many tracks are littered with unassuming field recordings of the French countryside, croaking frogs and all. Part of its exploratory nuance lies in a conscious evocation of rural, Mediterranean tranquility; surroundings don’t so much inspire the tracks as dissolve into them. Le Bon and Presley flout conventional album architectonics in the name of producing something profoundly, unashamedly weird.

What’s made DRINKS a compelling project thus far is the surprisingly fluid synthesis of the pair’s idiosyncrasies. Many of Le Bon’s motifs are here — erratic chord mutations, that craggy guitar tone — as is the scratchy eccentricity of Presley’s White Fence output. The first few listens of Hippo Lite are baffling — frustrating, even — declaring a nomadic kind of creativity. Ideas emerge and evaporate without ever seeming to really develop. It can seem completely arbitrary in its movements, like a dog who’s just been let out into the sun and doesn’t know what to do with itself first.

Listless opener “Blue From the Dark” is like a lullaby — nothing but sedate guitar and wispy vocals, with the dim presence of a fussing child on the fringes. “In the Night Kitchen” features little more than a lithe guitar and nature’s ambient squawk. The two musicians stretch the dynamics of “atmosphere” to a point of quiet fracture, yet the record has a cumulative effect that’s oddly intoxicating. With multiple listens, you’re gradually absorbed into the pair’s bizarre compositional logic; what’s slowly revealed is a short (30-ish minutes) series of sketches, more humble than glib, evoking surreptitious soundcheck smiles.

“Real Outside” seems fashioned from the silt of Le Bon’s outstanding 2016 album Crab Day, all guitar ricochet and bobbing piano keys. The spidery fingerpicking and processual vocals of “Greasing Up” are reminiscent of the more batshit work of The Incredible String Band, sounding like the pair’s attempt at a foley-ish recreation of a Renaissance fair. Such a jumbled track-to-track progression ends up having the incongruous charm of a charity shop browse. There are Beefheart-esque flights from structural orthodoxy; the avant-pop of “Corner Shops” has Presley’s spectral backing vocals singing of “temporary living conditions,” while guitar fragments are woven into wayward piano. The pair rightly conceive of the avant-garde as something transformative but still fundamentally a sort of game. Otherworldly string arrangements constantly simmer and buzz, recalling the oblique appendages of The Raincoats’ Vicky Aspinall, like on closer “You Could Be Better,” where angular strings act as a strangely grounding influence.

It’s fun to imagine the two sequestered away, recording this album, wrestling with the essential impenetrability of the banal — something like a more interesting, less puritanical Walden. On “Pink Or Die,” Le Bon delivers the inscrutable line “I am the color of here” — at times, the record is just classically Surreal, a bucolic unheimlich provoking a fleeting confrontation with the unconscious. What remains most alluring about this experiment’s broken logic is the sense that you’re furtively occupying someone else’s dream.

Ty Segall announces break from releasing new albums to release new album with White Fence

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How well do you remember 2012?

Well enough to recall that was the year that Ty Segall and White Fence (a.k.a. Tim Presley) first joined forces for to create a two-headed psych-folk masterbeast called Hair? Or is that just some distant yet fond memory now nestled among the countless Ty Segall releases (the dude appears to have no off-switch) and the White Fence/Presley killers like his recent DRINKS record with Cate Le Bon?

Okay, now stop scratching into your pot-holed memories, because all that is in the past and you have a very bright and expansive future ahead of you in which Segall and White Fence have re-united for another record. This time it’s called Joy, and it’ll be released via Drag City on July 20.

You needn’t worry whether Joy will be some wild departure towards conga-infused, spoken word pieces, either; because the lead single “Good Boy” — conveniently embedded below — suggests that it contains another solid 15 tracks’ worth of burning-garage-flecked psychedelia.

Pre-order the album here and catch the lads live this fall when they hit the road to prove they aren’t holograms (because let’s face it: the wildest of rumors are always the hardest to shake).

Joy by Ty Segall & White Fence

Joy tracklisting:

01. Beginning
02. Please Don’t Leave This Town
03. Room Connector
04. Body Behavior
05. Good Boy
06. Hey Joel, Where You Going With That?
07. Rock Flute
08. A Nod
09. Grin Without Smile
10. Other Way
11. Prettiest Dog
12. Do Your Hair
13. She Is Gold
14. Tommy’s Place
15. My Friend

JOY to (the following select cities of) the world:

10.06.18 – Revolution Hall, Portland, OR
10.07.18 – Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC
10.08.18 – Neumos, Seattle, WA
10.10.18 – Harlow’s, Sacramento, CA
10.11.18 – Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma, CA
10.10-10.14 – Desert Daze Festival in Moreno Valley, CA

Drag City artist David Grubbs is releasing a new book — and I’m excited about it, but I’m playing it very cool

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Damn. Ok. I’m here to tell you about a new David Grubbs book, and I kinda gotta gather my shit, cuz the editors around here have told me I’m only allowed one “boy howdy” per post going forward on account of it “ruins the vibe” or whatever — and to be totally honest, this feels like a four to five “boy howdys” kind of post if you ask me. So here we go…I guess.

Anyway: David Grubbs. You know him. You love him. He’s played with all the cool bands; he’s released solo works; he’s written a book about John Cage. He’s really the whole package.

Well, Grubbs wasn’t content to rest on his laurels evidently, because I’ve just heard tell of a brand new book he’s got coming out via Duke University Press on April 13. Entitled Now that the Audience is Assembled, it’s a book-length prose poem that traces the tale of a “phantasmagorical all-night concert.” Boy h… No, wait, I’m saving it. But! That sounds sick, right?

In honor of the book’s publication, BOMB magazine just posted a neat little convo betwixt and between Grubbs and John Sparagana, the artist who created the book’s cover art as well as some collage work included within the book. The book is available for pre-order now, and there’s even a 30% discount on offer if you use the code E18NOW.

And…BOY HOWDY, that’s not all: turns out Grubbs is also planning a short little tour (with more dates coming soon) featuring readings from the book in conjunction with solo guitar performances. Peep the book’s cover down below, and get at it, y’all.

tour dates:

04.13.18 – Chicago, IL – Seminary Co-op Bookstore
04.14.18 – Chicago, IL – Corbett vs. Dempsey
04.18.18 – Washington, DC – Rhizome DC
04.19.18 – Baltimore, MD – The Red Room
04.26.18 – New York, NY – Printed Matter *
06.02.18 – Louisville, KY – KMAC

*Reading and discussion with Mónica de la Torre

“F**k, not another scarf!” Purling Hiss has the cure for those Secret Santa blues with new, Bandcamp-exclusive, digital-only EP BREEZE out NOW on Drag City!

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If anything can make a buck or two, then you know someone will be doing it out-the-ass. So, of course there are more online “Secret Santa” generators than you can count. (Or 1,480,000 if you can count, like Google can.) Gawd knows how hard it is these days to rustle up a hat or an empty Tupperware container, some scraps of paper, and a pen in an office!

Shun the forced workplace camaraderie and reindeer games by giving yourself or someone you love the festive holiday gift of Purling Hiss! The Hiss his’self — a.k.a. Mike Polizze — has gifted an early Chrimbo prezzie EP called BREEZE, and it’s available via Drag City as a download only on Bandcamp. Compiling 8 tracks recorded mostly over the past year, BREEZE will please with plenty of Polizze’s off-kilter, feel-good jams.

Unsure if it will be a perfect fit or not? Then listen to the ”My Dreams” first, then, in the true spirit of the season: buy buy buy!

BREEZE tracklisting:

01. Crystallized Chrome
02. It’s Always Something
03. Talking to the Wind
04. My Dreams
05. Park Bench Imagination
06. Iota
07. See You Smiley
08. Bury the Leaves

Some live Hisses:

01.11.18 – Brooklyn, NY – Sunnyvale *
01.12.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie *
01.13.18 – Greenfield, MA – The Root Cellar ^

* Mike Donovan and Long Hots
^ Ron and Scott

Bitchin Bajas might get fresh with you on tour this December

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Q: What’s fresher than FRESH?

A: Shit that’s not even finished cooking yet, that’s what!

I mean, talk about makin’ the donuts: Chicago’s favorite analog improv team Bitchin’Bajas’ newest album Bajas Fresh is STILL IN THE GODDAMN OVEN over at The Drag City Institute’s Test Kitchen Facility, and ALREADY the trio is gearing up to hit the road in support of it!

Okay, so they’re not teeeeechnically leaving for the tour until AFTER the new album’s November 17 release date — the tour starts with back-to-back nights at Chicago’s famously hot-to-trot improv spot Hungry Brain at the end of November before winding down through the southeast and back up again, concluding with a few dates in Canada and Michigan (a.k.a. American Canada) in mid-December — but HEY, SUE ME. I had to say something clever to draw you in, didn’t I!?

Either way, instead of being all mad at me, why not just listen to “Circles on Circles” off the impending Bajas Fresh and check out the special tour video created by the band down below, before it gets all stale and shit? Then, feast your eyes on all those fresh-ass mother-f-ing winter dates.

That’s definitely the course of action I’d pursue if I were you. I’m sure of it.

Bajas alfresco:

11.30.17 – Chicago, IL – Hungry Brain
12.01.17 – Chicago, IL – Hungry Brain
12.02.17 – Bloomington, IN – Blockhouse
12.03.17 – Nashville, TN – Darkmttr
12.04.17 – Asheville, NC – The Mothlight
12.05.17 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
12.06.17 – Chapel Hill, NC – Nightlight
12.08.17 – Philadelphia, PA – The Soundhole
12.09.17 – Brooklyn, NY – Park Church Co-Op
12.10.17 – Boston, MA – Studio 550
12.11.17 – Montreal, QC – L’Esco
12.12.17 – Toronto, ON – Smiling Buddha
12.13.17 – Detroit, MI – Trinosophes

Circuit Des Yeux announces circuit de 2018 tour dates

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Let’s face it: we’d all love to spend more time enjoying the rich sensory experiences that this beautiful world has to offer; the happy green trees, delicious orange sunshine, and rich, unctuous purple at the end of the rainbow. But things happen, readers! Schedules change, people flake, tectonic plates shift…it’s all part of the cosmic dance, you know what I mean?

For instance, Reaching for Indigo — Chicago-based composer, musician, and armchair optometrist Haley Fohr’s latest album as Circuit Des Yeux — sounded pretty reasonable to us when it came out last week on Drag City. We pretty much figured: wow, sounds amazing; yeah, let’s grab a table, order up some of that indigo “for here,” and just chillax around the table for a little bit, chatting and enjoying the decadent experience of PURE INDIGO…like, really really SAVOR the blueness of those motherfucking purples.

Sounds pretty nice and reasonable, right?

But then: goddamn it. OF COURSE a bunch of shit went down. The boss called. The babysitter got sick. The house ran away. The dog was on fire.

Suddenly we were leaping up from the table, all-like: Uhhhh, excuse us! So sorry! But…is there any way we can take this indigo “to go???”

And luckily, Haley Fohr was (as always) a total pro, so she goes: why, of course you can, folks! And she boxed that shit right up for us, quick as indigo pie! And no, it wasn’t exactly “ideal” or whatever, but like the wise ones always say: we don’t make “mistakes,” we just have “happy accidents.”

Thx again, Ms. Fohr. We owe u 1!

Indigo to-go:

11.10.17 – Detroit, MI – Trinosophes*
11.11.17 – Toronto, ON – The Drake Hotel*
11.12.17 – Montreal, QC – Bar Le “Ritz” P.D.B*
11.13.17 – Allston, MA – Great Scott*
11.14.17 – Providence, RI – AS220*
11.15.17 – Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade NYC*
11.16.17 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s*
11.18.17 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall*
01.19.17 – Los Angeles, CA – Resident
01.20.17 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
01.21.17 – Santa Rosa, CA – Atlas Coffee Company
01.23.17 – Seattle, WA – Barboza
01.24.17 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
01.25.17 – Boise, ID – The Olympic
01.26.17 – Salt Lake City, UT – Diabolical Records
01.27.17 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
01.28.17 – Phoenix, AZ – LBX
02.06.17 – Geneva, CH – Festival Antigel
02.07.17 – Baden, CH – One of a Million Festival
02.08.17 – Heidelberg, DE – Karlstorbahnhof
02.09.17 – Berlin, DE – Kantine am Berghain
02.10.17 – Copenhagen, DK – Vinterjazz
02.12.17 – Eupen, BE – Galerie Vorn und Oben
02.13.17 – Brighton, UK – ACCA
02.14.17 – London, UK – The Lexington
02.15.17 – Gent, BE – Vooruit
02.16.17 – Paris, FR – Espace B
02.17.17 – Rotterdam, NL – Worm
02.19.17 – Amsterdam, NL – Muziekgebouw
02.20.17 – Koln, DE – Gewolbe
02.21.17 – Luxembourg, LU – Rotondes

* Ka Baird

Music Review: Circuit des Yeux – Reaching for Indigo

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Circuit des Yeux

Reaching for Indigo

[Drag City; 2017]

Rating: 4.5/5

“The world wants an oath
but all you can say is
a promise to take up space
I can only promise to take up space”

– “Brainshift”

I‘m unqualified to write about Reaching for Indigo, Haley Fohr’s new album as Circuit des Yeux. Even the trivial task of splitting up the lines above, from the brilliant opener, felt difficult. Because, on the album, Fohr’s phrases unfold fluidly over dense instrumental arrangements, so as to make my own medium, with its arbitrary divisions, seem paltry and dim. (Others feel similarly.) But this music should be written about.

I’ll start with the end. The album closes with “Falling Blonde,” a song about the spectacle of power. Fohr’s agile, operatic vocals tell a story — set to somber synth pop, beat-less yet still beating — about tenability: what can be known, held, and promised in a world in which the only sustainable position seems to be one above another. Thus: the peculiar sadness that saturates the song’s tenderly conjured images of a young blonde who has fallen down in the road, like an allegory for wasted potential. The street lights are changing to green, the crowd is gathering, and they feel the blonde’s dream fading. But the blonde is deaf to their warnings. The sun gets in their eyes, and suddenly, their world is turned upside down: “Hands were in the ground/ Feet were in the sky.” After the fall, Fohr’s poetic delivery morphs from enunciation to vocables that shiver empathetically.

The intensity of the moment made my cheap earbuds crackle, overdriven, the sensation of which made me cry, overwhelmed. Or was I moved by the story, this little drama? If expanded, it could be its own opera. But its message is unclear: are we, the listeners, meant to identify with the fallen blonde or with the crowd that did so little while looking on?

Each song of eight on the album develops its own world of feeling, each in a different mode and with a unique musical setting. As Giovanni Russonello wrote, some are “like laments for lost connections, others like solitary exorcisms.” Taken as a whole, the album feels like a warm, melancholy memory I have of sitting around a stereo one autumn in Indiana. A random series of characters filtered through the room, each offering up a selection to the queue: warped tapes, documents of faded trips, noise records, delicate epiphanies carved into time. In other words, the influences here are many, but they all embrace each other.

The album vacillates between these influences and Fohr’s whole incendiary catalog, from the drifting simplicity of Portrait through to her 2016 alter-ego album by cowgirl Jackie Lynn. “Philo” is overtly minimalist, resembling Terry Riley or La Monte Young piano works, whereas “A Story Of This World Part II” (referring back to Part I, on Fohr’s 2015 album In Plain Speech) is pure post-punk, a jam with a propulsion that makes it feel longer than it is. “Black Fly” is similarly referential, recalling a particular strain of avant-folk, something like the urgency of Joni’s Hissing of Summer Lawns mellowed by the spiderweb guitar beds of Elliott Smith. “Paper Bag” is the sound of lights flickering, things bursting in and out of focus, the sun split up by the shapes of leaves, a small sound lab that demonstrates what the voice can do. And “Geyser,” a love song, is the most distinctive of the set, replete with tiny pitch swells and microbends in the accompaniment parts, which seem to represent the dream cycles Fohr sings about.

Only this music can match life’s mutability. “It all feels the same,” Fohr sings, so dynamically, of days on “Brainshift.” This incision into what she says by how she says it is what makes this music necessary. In 1963, Amiri Baraka wrote, in reference to John Coltrane’s vitality on the album Live at Birdland, “His music is one reason why suicide seems so boring.” When I listen to Reaching for Indigo, I think to myself, so this is what he means. He means we have been given a reason to stick around. “If it is a master we are listening to, we are very likely to be moved beyond the pettiness and stupidity of our beautiful enemies,” Baraka had written, that last word referring, at least a little bit, to himself.

No Age to return in 2018 with a new album (called Snares Like A Haircut) and a new label (called Drag City)

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Sometimes you’ve just got to go where that west wind takes you. Los Angeles art-punk duo No Age have packed up their van full of guitars, tape loops, and drums and driven themselves over to a new home at Chicago’s Drag City label. The duo’s Grapes of Wrath-in-reverse move comes after almost a decade at the equally impeccable Sub Pop where the band released three albums and a bunch of singles.

And what better way to settle into a new home than to hold a house warming party? …The soundtrack of which will be No Age’s latest album…which is artfully titled Snares Like A Haircut…which will be released January 26 2018…which you may have noticed is all the way over in next year! But don’t freak out; in order to stave off your longing for 2018 to roll around, the record’s first single “Soft Collar Fad” has time-traveled back to right here and now in good ol’ 2017.

Perhaps fittingly, the album is described by the band as “driving music” and, according to the label, “sounds like the good shit and smells like the buzzy burning off of an aura, the marine layer suddenly vanished, leaving a thin layer of smog over the songs, simmering sock gazing tunes, revved and displacing enormous amounts of sound soil,” which we translate to mean basically “all the parts of the old No Age you love, but better…and primed to kick against the pricks that currently surround us!” But what the heck can we really know about the future, anyway? For now, just kick the jam below and pre-order Snares Like A Haircut from the dismal-but-predictable comfort of the specious present.

Snares Like A Haircut by No Age

Snares Like A Haircut tracklisting:

01. Cruise Control
02. Stuck In The Changer
03. Drippy
04. Send Me
05. Snares Like A Haircut
06. Tidal
07. Soft Collar Fad
08. Popper
09. Secret Swamp
10. Third Grade Rave
11. Squashed
12. Primitive Plus

No Age dates:

10.20.17 – Hotel Vegas, Austin, TX
11.10.17 – Metro Gallery, Baltimore, MD
11.11.17 – Everybody Hits, Philadelphia, PA
11.12.17 – Comet Ping Pong, Washington, DC
11.13.17 – 1984, Wilmington, DE
11.14.17 – Elsewhere, Brooklyn, NY

Bitchin Bajas prepare organic, non-GMO new record Bajas Fresh for Drag City, share new, cage-free single “Circles on Circles”

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Summer may be coming to a close, but that just means that the sweet, fragrant prime time of fall farmers markets is upon us. Maybe you’ll grab some cold-pressed cider? Oh, it smells so nice! And look, over there are some seasonal squashes! NYT Cooking says you can cook those in over 30 different ways! (THIRTY!) And, hey what’s this curious item hiding behind the tasty kohlrabi at the Drag City booth??? Why, it’s a budding new record from Chicago’s very own Bitchin Bajas! And it sounds like it’ll be ripe for the picking on November 17.

Bajas Fresh will be the analog improvisers’ first proper album in more than three years, so it’s okay if you don’t remember that we liked their last one a lot. Following a medley of collaborative projects with some of the midwest’s other favorite experimentalists — Will Oldham and The Natural Information Society to name a few — the new record will continue the band’s reputation of creating continuous, spooling records of unique, farm-to-table sound and ambiance. (ALLERGY WARNING: although it will feature no animal or gluten products, Bajas Fresh DOES CONTAIN percussion and a horn section.)

You can preorder the album now, and over there next to the samples of Amish cheeses, you can find a tasty first listen to the new track “Circles On Circles.” It’s a gorgeous, healthy serving of new music that shows the band’s ecosystem of textures and feelings hasn’t wilted one bit.

Oh, but wait…before you click “play”…are you sure these arpeggios are all grass-fed?

Bajas Fresh by Bitchin Bajas

Bajas Fresh tracklisting:

01. Jammu
02. Circles On Circles
03. Angels and Demons At Play
04. Yonaguni
05. 2303
06. Chokayo
07. Be Going