Nine Circles ov…My Metal “Retreat”

beach-guitar

Man cannot live on metal alone.

“Blasphemy!” you may cry, but true…at least in this dude’s case.  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of stress and activity as I turned another year older, paid another bill, worked another late night, blah blah blah.  It gets to a point sometimes when you just need to clear your head and take a little time for yourself.  Not to mention that after a while when you’re digesting promo after promo you run the danger of not giving the music the attention it warrants.  And you start to look for shortcuts.  “Well,” you tell yourself, “I heard the first four songs, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to really change my mind about this thing.” Or worse, you start just leaning more and more on the materials in the press release: “Oh! A cross of Joan Baez and Incantation?  But with drone elements?  I’ll say a mix of Joni Mitchell and Malevolent Creation with, uh….fuck it, drone elements.”

You know what I’m taking about.  For me, it’s a matter of disconnecting in order to reconnect.  And there’s been plenty of music I’ve been discovering over the past few months that have helped me to reconnect with what it is I love about loud noises.  So for this edition of Nine Circles ov… I want to share a few of the records that have been recharging the batteries and re-calibrating the heavy sensors.  Let’s dig in.  

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Roky Erickson – The Evil One: The story behind Roky Erickson, the leader of the 60’s band the 13th Floor Elevators who was arrested for carrying a joint only to opt for a stay in a state asylum where he was subjected to horrific treatment including electroshock therapy is staggering.  There’s even a documentary you can check out.  1981’s The Evil One was his first real album upon being released, and it’s a wonder of rock and pop hooks with a curious and paranoid bent.  Filled with lyrics about the monsters and aliens he obsessed over it stands today as a hidden gem of songwriting and guitar rock that was a staple of the time period.

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Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Eddy Current Suppression Ring:  Even if you remove the metal component, the Australian music scene is INSANE.  The Eddy Current Suppression Ring is garage rock done right: biting and fun and gnarly and loud, with an emphasis on melodic hooks that smirk as they bite you you on the ass.  I came across these guys from Henry Rollins’ KCRW radio show, which is always an amazing place to discover new music.  Their second album, Primary Colours, is just as good and feels perfect coming out of your car at a loud volume in the heat of the summer.

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TV Colours – Purple Skies, Toxic River:  Another incredible album out of Australia, another great recommendation from Rollins and the KCRW show.  TV Colours is the work of Bobby Kill, and its mix of noise, lo-fi synthesizers and harsh production recall a more jagged, less bouncy Japandroids or a more serene M83.  But like those bands, TV Colours injects a sense of melody in the maelstrom that’s addicting, and songs like “Lost Highway” and the ultra catchy “Beverly” remind you of how vibrant the indie rock scene is if you look past what’s trending online.

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pink frost - new minds

Pink Frost – New Minds:  How can you describe Pink Frost?  How many times do I start to write “Pink Floyd” then realize my mistake?  Mixing elements of hard rock, punk, noise and shoegaze with a patina of psychedelia, the band expertly navigates between crushing ragers and more open, contemplative moments, often in the same song (the killer “Bare Roots”).  It’s not a far step from Pink Frost to some of the bands we regularly cover here at Nine Circles, and more importantly front to back New Minds is just a killer record.

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Mystery Girl – Basement Tape:  Retro garage rock and roll?  Mystery Girl’s demo is called Basement Tape and that sounds like where it was recorded, but there’s a charm and skill in linking to the late 50s/early 60s rock and roll songs songs like “Bad Vibrations” and “Let Me Down” channel, and it somehow manages to evoke the feelings of alienation, boredom, and rebellion better than a lot of what passes for rock and roll today.  Even better news: the demo is PWYW on Bandcamp right now, so you have nothing to lose in checking it out.

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ali helnwein - strange creations

Ali Helnwein – Strange Creations:  If you haven’t checked out the wonderfully odd assortment of music coming out of SpringBreak Tapes, rectify that immediately.  They have some of the most interesting music being released today, and Ali Helnwein’s compositions are equal parts exciting and challenging in how they utilize unique soundscapes alongside more traditional instrumentation.  Strange Creations, from 2012, is a series of short instrumental tracks that to me convey a myriad of different moods, turning our conception of what typically constitutes chamber music on its head.

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monophonic shooting spree - dirty wash

The Monophonic Shooting Spree – Dirty Wash:  Besides bantering back and forth on the merits of noise and even occasionally speaking eloquently on podcasts, Erik Highter blows my mind every few months creating dense, layered and incredibly challenging (to my ears) sounds using a wide variety of sources: up to and including his own body.  It’s a process that’s fascinates me, as I try to unravel his process and see how I can use it in my own music.  The track “Dirty Wash” is his latest experiment, utilizing reverb, feedback and stereo panning to create a unique sonic narrative that fires my synapses in a way that expands the idea of how sound can be utilized to create a mood, a narrative, or something more internal.

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slow dive - slowdive

Slowdive – Slowdive:  What can I say about this groundbreaking shoegaze band that Neige from Alcest (probably) hasn’t said already?  Along with My Bloody Valentine they were the band that really pushed me hard into the genre, and also like My Bloody Valentine who came back after 22 years with the brilliant mbv, Slowdive’s self titled return after the same period of time is a gorgeous, gauzy dream of a record, something that reveals new subtleties with every listen, and sounds completely and utterly modern even as it very much sites in the same time and place as its brothers from the 90s.

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fm-84 - atlas

FM-84 – Atlas:  Well, I thought I could get away without listing a synthwave record here, but alas (or Atlas..c’mon now!), it was not meant to be.  In my defense, what FM-84 sets out to accomplish with their music is a far cry from what bands like Perturbator or GosT are doing.  Whereas a lot of synthwave sets out to evoke a general feeling of nostalgia, FM-84 aim for something much more specific: a kind of cinematic score that feels like it was part of my summers as a kid growing up in the 80s.  In single “Running in the Night” they have a stone cold classic that would have been a hit back in the day, yet manages to be sincere and gentle and not mock what it’s emulating.

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As I scrolled through my Bandcamp collection I realized there were so many more albums I wanted to touch on.  I didn’t get to any of the amazing African funk and rock from the impeccable Soundway Records, the earthy R&B/hip-hop of Xenia Rubinos, or the wavy garage rock of Australia’s Ooga Boogas.  I will live and die a lover of metal and all that is heavy, but opening my ears to so many other different kinds of music from all over the world not only refreshes me mentally and spiritually, it helps me to get an even deeper understanding of this loud, angry screaming music I fell in love with the first time I heard Randy Rhodes play that opening riff from “Crazy Train.”

All aboard, indeed…

– Chris


 

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