Trip out like a Lite Brite with Bart

The video for "Wade" by Toronto psych pop group Bart is probably the closest thing you're going to get to Laser Floyd in 2015. Now, I've never seen Laser Floyd, but I always assumed it would be part planetarium part Lite Brite. 

Bart wants you to know these images aren't computer generated. According to the band, "they are a product of lasers, analog video feedback and travels through time and space."

"Wade" is off Bart by Bart, out now on Idee Fixe Records.

Slight scores a psychedelic monastery with 'Spirit School / Tasting'

Montreal psychedelic/pop group Slight have a pair of new hi-fi tunes for you.

With Spirit School / Tasting they show two different sides of the band, honing their craft since last year's three-song Melodion. "Spirit School" seems to embody that growth, with lyrics detailing a newfound understanding of self and environment.  Their playing shines through with the improved production, a bouncing bassline propelling chant-like vocals through its choruses. 

Then that pretty guitar turns distorted for "Tasting", moving at a meditative pace as they groove in seven. It's the soundtrack for something between a commune and monastery. 

You can download Spirit School / Tasting PWYC from Slight's Bandcamp page. They're playing Casa del Popolo with Crown LarksJLK and the Bad Morning Breath and Year of Glad on November 14.

Read an interview with Year of Glad here.

Montreal Psych Fest takes over La Vitrola this weekend

psychfest

Montreal Psych Fest is back for a third year, finding a familiar home at l'Esco and at this summer's new venue on The Main, La Vitrola. The weekend of mystic grooves starts tonight (see the whole lineup on Facebook).

Here's "Talk" by local trippers The Backhomes, they're headlining Sept. 12.

For something a little dancier, here's Les Marinelles with their self-titled LP. They're playing La Vitrola on Sept. 13.

Stream the new drugged-up cassette from Small Teeth

Local noisy psych rock four-piece Small Teeth put out a cassette in June of recordings done across Montreal over the past year, and it's a lovely mix of jammy psychedelics and frenetic punk spirit à la Thee Oh Sees. Sip on some mushroom tea and enjoy. Download the five-track EP / buy the tape for $5 from their Bandcamp page.

Dub Thompson's eclectic clang and retro psychedelia

Jammy drum/guitar duo from Agoura Hills, California Dub Thompson put out a record yesterday on Dead Oceans. Here's the second track "No Time," but one song really can't sum up this record, a collection of retro psychedelia, groove, noise (and yes a little dub, but that's pretty much just in this song) emerging in different forms recorded in Bloomington, Indiana under the auspices of Foxygen. Just two guys, guitar, drums and their voices. Stream the whole record on Hypemachine.

Wayne Coyne and the Electric Würms start their record with a Yes cover

The Electric Würms is a a collaboration between members of The Flaming Lips and Nashville trippy soundscapers Linear Downfall. The band (in some form) may date back to the '70s if you believe the press release, but the press release is on drugs. With Wayne Coyne on vocals, it sounds pretty much like The Flaming Lips. They've posted the first track on their forthcoming record (out August 18 on Bella Union), a cover of the 1971 Yes tune "Heart of the Sunrise." The record is called Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk, which Google tells me is German for Music, the hard to twerk. And yes, it would be hard to twerk to this slow psychedelic jam.

Lose yourself on Caribou's psychedelic dancefloor

Dan Snaith is back, but it's not like he ever really left.

Though it's been more than four years since Caribou's last LP Swim, he hasn't exactly been idle. He's been indulging his club side under the moniker Daphni, not to mention opening for Radiohead on the last tour that brought them to North America. On his new track "Can't Do Without You" Snaith's psychedelic disco pulses though a trebly haze, until at the flip of a switch the track swallows you whole. Swim was a move towards this dreamy dance sound, but it took his live band to really get the feeling across. The LP version of "Sun" was left incomparable to the dense masterwork of his band, Snaith layering guitar and percussion overtop the intensity of Brad Weber's front-and-centre drumming (hear Weber's band Pick a Piper here).

But "Can't Do Without You" is club-ready with just Snaith and his studio magic. We're left blissed-out beyond belief by the end of the track. It makes the wait until the new LP Our Love drops that much harder. 

Our Love is out October 7 on Merge Records. He'll be in Montreal with his killer band November 10 at Le National.

“The Clash Meets Beach Boys”

Sometimes it takes the right environment to push a band to their full potential; to gain the inspiration to flesh a project from fun with friends to something they want the world to hear.

For The Breezes, that place is Breakglass Studio.

“It’s a really special place, it’s formative for The Breezes for sure,” said James Benjamin, singer/multi-instrumentalist for the local psychedelic indie group. “When we first went to Breakglass, it was just me and [singer/guitarist] Danny [Leznoff]. Right away there was a kind of magic to it.”

Benjamin loved the studio so much that he became an owner. With co-owners Dave Smith and the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek as mentors, Benjamin grew as a producer and sound engineer in the three years it took to complete The Breezes’ self-titled debut LP.

With bands big and small regularly passing through Breakglass, his work there is a constant learning experience and one that has been instrumental in The Breezes’ evolution. This year, some notable projects he’s worked on include Purity Ring, Stars and just recently, Arcade Fire.

With access to a studio that hosts some of the city’s heavyweights, Benjamin and company had the opportunity to do something much more ambitious than the bedroom recording experiments that made up the band’s previous release, Update My High, tracked in Benjamin and bandmate Adam Feingold’s old St. Urbain St. apartment.

“A lot of the stuff you’re hearing coming out of Montreal is DIY, low-key production, the idea of the production is to have that DIY aspect to it,” said Benjamin.

“I find this record is refreshing because it’s not like that, this is a studio record. We thought a lot about every sound on there, and when the mixing time came around they were done on this incredible Neve console, that is one of the greatest sounding consoles in the world.”

The Neve is the Breakglass pride and joy, and a piece of history—Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was recorded on it.

All that hi-fi care on The Breezes is most evident when the strings come in, giving off a rich, Motown-esque vibe on a couple tracks, notably the retro-wave “Promethean Eyes.”

“They were recorded using a super cool, old-school microphone technique,” said Benjamin. “We used these awesome Coles ribbon mics, and those are classic for recording strings, they’re really dark and rich.”

The record shows some of the many faces of The Breezes, just short of a jukebox of contemporary indie sounds with chilled-out, synth-driven tracks, Beach Boys-emulating straight pop tunes, and a bit of intentionally sloppy indie rock.

At times there’s even a Radio Radio-like sense of humour, a band they opened for at Metropolis last year for their biggest show to date.

“When we were on tour, somebody told us we were The Clash meets Beach Boys, and I never forgot that. I thought it was a pretty hilarious combination of sounds,” said Benjamin.

“In some ways The Breezes is a best-of record. We have an enormous bulk of songs, but we really chose the ones that would be the best premiere for us, what we hope is sort of a unified, almost quality-controlled record.”

Their varied sound is due to Benjamin, Leznoff and Feingold all sharing songwriting duties equally, fleshing out their songs together during the recording process.

Now that the debut LP is completed, the band is wrapping up the business side of things, including independently distributing the record across North America and Europe. They’re able to pull it off because of the connections they’ve made over the years, the European distro being taken care of by an old friend of Benjamin’s living in Amsterdam.

“Through Breakglass I work with all kinds of different bands, big bands and small bands, so I’ve gotten to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Benjamin, referring to the daunting task of releasing a record without label support.

The band is expecting the newly pressed vinyl edition of the record to arrive any day now, which will be available at their album release concert next week at La Sala Rossa—a show that will feature guest performances and live strings.

Their vinyl is being shipped from the Czech Republic by custom manufacturer Pirate Press. While LPs have witnessed a renaissance over the last few years, there’s not yet a closer vinyl pressing company with the band’s desired intersection of price and quality.

Until the show at Sala, The Breezes are setting the stage for the new release.

“You’ll be seeing The Breezes popping up all over town in the next week or two,” said Benjamin. “We’re going to see just how far we can go with it.”

The Breezes + CFCF + Suite / Dec. 11 / Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent Blvd.) / $8.00 advance, $10.00 door)

Soft & Slow

Photo Vincent Yip

With an approach that sits somewhere between those of Dirty Beaches and Women, Damon McMahon’s solo project Amen Dunes offers an edgy introversion with his second LP. The record clings to bedroom-fi aesthetic, falling into pits of reverb and distorted guitar, melting into minimal percussion. Rising from repetitive feedback, song fragments appear over faint percussive pulses to guide you through the haze.

Through Donkey Jaw is a collection of McMahon’s trippy ideas, falling together as a slow-burning return to music after five years in Beijing. Starting out as desert seranades gestating in upstate New York, this LP is a tense vocals-and-noise driven piece, making more sense as a whole than its disjointed elements do on their own. There are the odd moments of softness (the meditative “For All”) but more often it gives off an eroding chaos (“Jill”).

There’s very little to hang onto in this record, but after a few listens the ideas begin to make sense.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29502947]

At its most lively, the album hearkens to the clangy psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators, but most of the time Amen Dunes slow things to a steady dirge, building and receding with each drawn out chord. It’s sparse and haunting, a quiet record save the odd point of climactic noise. But don’t expect any resolution; it engages only insofar as you let the strange tension seep into you.

Healthy Hallucinations

With the lure of a snake charmer, John Dwyer returns from the dark with demon punk power. Thee Oh Sees’ second LP this year, Carrion Crawler/The Dream brings the band back in a bigger, heavier way. From the first vibrating chords of the Side A opener, this record is a deep, dark trip for the modern psychedelic punk.

The album is a loose, jammy block of DIY-fi garage punk, quite the opposite of the record he put out this summer. Instead, Dwyer brings his bandmates back in the studio for a rougher ride than the largely solo Castlemania. The quartet expands Dwyer’s distorted visions, cakes them in thunder and sludge, cackling demon at the helm.

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Rolling percussion, rumbling bass, and echoing waves of noise wash over each track, guitar left to rattle and clang against the tide or flood the moment with feedback-heavy red-hot leads. Thee Oh Sees show they’re a full-fledged band, far from the experimental solo work that birthed this. It’s a trip for lovers of living, fire-breathing music, finger on the pulse of garage sounds of the past, bloodshot eye to the future.

On the Hunt for Bad Vibrations

It's easy to get lost in the slow-building desert rock of The Black Angels, even without the drugs.

The Austin-based five-piece creates music that spreads a message of individual, non-violent free thought, a plea adorning the inside panel of their latest record Phosphene Dream. It's the attempted death rattle of modernity's pitfalls, a sentiment consistent with the band's sound.

“Everything evolves, everything has evolved in this world. How we've evolved is through natural selection,” said lead singer Alex Maas. “We've been attracted to certain books and songs, and just like natural selection we've held onto these things."

The Black Angels keep it old school, with rumbling percussion and dark, blusey guitar laying foundation. Their sound has the feel of an acid-induced dirge, with Mass singing from atop a mountain – echoing and reverberating its way to our ears.

“I'm not huge into synth and drum machines, but I think they can be done well,” said Maas. “If you look at [late '70s punk duo] Suicide, they were using early drum machines and all kinds of weird shit – oscillators and different synthesizers.”

“Stuff that came out in the '80s and late '70s were kind of horrendous noises, but I think it can be done right. I think it's just about who's playing the instrument,” he continued. “If you put David Bowie behind a Casio organ from K Mart he's going to make it sound badass.”

Sticking with tools from the '60s yields the best results for The Black Angels. Channelling vibrations of artists passed, their desert rock finds ample space to thrive in the 21st century.

“If you play vintage instruments and older guitars and pedals then you're naturally going to have an older sound. They're obviously not making amplifiers like they used to,” said Maas. “It's a little harder for upkeep and it falls apart a lot, but for us it's worth it.”

This band is bringing more to the table than recycled 50-year-old ideas. It's a rejection of upbeat, homogenous music, and is a breath of fresh air that's gaining in strength.

“We're different people than the people from the '60s,” said Maas. “We watch different movies and read different things, we have different inspirations than they did. I think we have a good balance between past and future.”

And they aren't the only ones. Over the past several years the band has seen more and more artists adding vintage psychedelia into the forefront of their sound, and have more groups than ever coming for the band's own annual hometown music festival at the end of the month, Austin Psych Fest.

“This year we found about 55 bands that are kind of in the same vein that we're bringing to Austin for the psychedelic music festival,” said Maas. “That older sound is on its way back.”

Maybe there's extra humanity found in laptop-free music, or at least it seems that way in The Black Angels' approach. It's all about good vibrations, and the band has the power to capture the crowd in its collective trance.

“I just want to feel the music,” said Maas. “If we can make a people feel a certain way, whether they're enjoying it, or having some sort of drug-induced feeling through the music, then that's awesome.”

It's always been more about the music than tripping out for the band. The mystique of flower-child-meets-rock-star lifestyle fades pretty fast when considering the amount of those originals who are now unstable and incoherent.

“You see burnouts, people who did that like Roky Erickson or PJ Valletti, people get too fucked up,” said Maas. “Those things can open doors but it's not what we're about.”

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