Shop Regulars is the new project from members of Honey Bucket, Woolen Men and Mope Grooves. The Portland group’s debut cassette Spirited Regulars is filled with tracks of impressive wit and agility recorded with the grain and reverb expected based on the associative members’ tangential projects.
From Miles Davis’ “Shhh / Peaceful,” Ornette Coleman’s “Theme From A Symphony,” to Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War,” French producer Etienne Jaumet switches on his analog machinery for an electronic interpretation of seven jazz monstrosities (and one original piece) on 8 Regards Obliques.
A supreme source for subsurface experimental, ambient, and outsider music and art is Good Morning Tapes. The French label, infamous for their head-spinningly quick sell-outs of their cassette releases and merch, maintain an elite status within the nebulae of underground culture. There are slow moving ambient, deep-groove dub, and terrestrial electronic entries on the label’s catalog each emblazoned with emblematic low fidelity graphic oddities.
Stay on the front line at Good Morning Tapes to grip physical copies and merch before they sell out. North American friends can keep their ear to the ground locally at Commend (NYC) and Gym Standard (San Diego). Stream some of our favorites below.
What started as a group of siblings and childhood friends setting up recording equipment in a vacant house in the Canadian prairie while their parents were away eventually, after a decade of on-again-off-again work periods, became the debut release from Foxwarren. Fronted by the exquisite Andy Shauf, the songs are constructed with precision, indicative of anything Shauf lays his hand on.
Providing a dose of inextinguishable youthful energy for the close of the year, Dog Date supply maximum fuzz with minimal apprehension letting their playfully disjointed punk roam on Little Cowboy.
Purchase Dog Date’s latest release Little Cowboy via cassette available only at their shows.
On Citrus, Rnie marries soft synths and lofi guitar amps for a multi-sensory soothing introspection capturing the anxious fragility of chillwave and bedroom pop. Through a warm fog, the emotionally fatigued vocals of Lamont Brown anesthetize the gently droning momentum of the record’s phantasmagorical detachment.
Los Angeles based musician Lens Mozer’s immersive, open-sunroof sound is an instantly captivating introduction to a songwriter tastefully balancing nostalgia and originality.
The first Lens Mozer track appeared last year on bandcamp. Was your first version of "All My Friends" your first foray into recording music? Had you worked under another name or been in any other groups before starting Lens Mozer?
I’ve always been in some sort of band over the years, but “All My Friends" was the first song I’ve released as a solo artist. I’ve been writing songs in some capacity since I was about 14 or 15. My cousin and I had an instrumental rock band and we would record a lot to a 4-track, ask our moms to drop us off at band practice, that sort of thing.
Can you trace back the first inspirations to begin writing material for Lens Mozer?
I was really inspired by the idea of working on my own. I had this idea that I needed to get away from the distractions of home and dive into writing a record so I convinced my friend Chris to let me crash with him in New York for a couple weeks. He’d go to work everyday and I’d just sit in his room listening to records and playing guitar. I wrote 4 or 5 songs I liked during that time. It really helped me figure out how to finish stuff on my own. I’ve always been used to having a band to lean on.
Before an album or EP was on the radar, you had already reworked one of the two singles out in the world. "All My Friends" sounds like it got some studio treatments for it's release as a track from Don't Stop. Where did you record the track and was it self-produced?
My friend Jason Quever and I produced the track together at his studio Palmetto Recording. He has a great ear and played all over the record, mixed it, etc. It definitely got his magic touch. I really enjoyed working with him.
In what part of Los Angeles do you reside? How do you engage in the arts scene in Los Angeles? Do you find it to be a place where like-minded creatives support one another or is it less communal in that regard? Who are some local artists that you are inspired by or mentored by?
I live in Highland Park. There are definitely a lot of like-minded creatives here. I find everyone to be very supportive though, especially for such a big city. Lately, I’ve been listening to Jason's project, Papercuts. He just released a new record that I’ve been digging. Benjamin Jones, who plays guitar in my live band has a project of his own. He is an insane songwriter. Sugar Candy Mountain are great. They’re from the Bay Area but we were both working on records with Jason at the same time so they feel local to me. The Donkey's have been super supportive and let me play a bunch of great shows with them. I love Midnight Sister. There is definitely a lot of great stuff going on in town.
Aside from Lens Mozer, you run the label Plastic Jurassic. How did you start the label and what's the vision for it's releases?
My friend Joel (Fort Jams) had recorded a couple of songs and shared them with me. I was listening to them a lot at the time. I think he made a comment about "letting them rot on his hard drive" or something to that affect. I just thought that people should hear them and talked him into letting me release a 7" for him to try and get it out there somehow. For now the label is mostly just an avenue for my friends and I to release our music through. A home base of sorts. I plan to naturally build on that overtime though. I’d love to see it grow into something bigger.
The video for the second single from your project "Cut My Heart In Two" was directed and animated by Shane Beam. For the music video, did you have the vision for the animation or did you let Shane interpret the song for the video? What about Shane Beam's portfolio connected for the visual component for the track?
I pretty much let Shane do his thing with the video. I sent him the album cover as a reference point and we talked about the overall vibe of the video throughout the process but nothing crazy. He really nailed it. It was a pretty painless process on my end. Clare Byrne, who did the album art, recommended him and once I saw his stuff I was in. I just love the coloring in his work. It’s so warm and has this warbly feeling. I thought it fit well with the song. I am really glad he was willing to work with me.
With a minimalist approach to composition, Japanese ambient artist H Takahashi redefines the scope of capabilities for singular, microscopic synth arrangements. The integrated individual tones and the mindful use of negative space develop into polished, fluorescent configurations.
Purchase H Takahashi’s latest release Escapism out now via Not Not Fun.
On their first release since relocating to the opposite American coast, Shadowgraphs reinforce their grandiose, wide-angle psychedelia with Another Time.
Another Time is the first release since relocating to Portland from Charlotte. What prompted the move? Has there been a reaction or adjustment period to build a new audience in the new city?
We knew that Charlotte would be a difficult place to grow a wider audience and the two of us had already started to discuss what larger city we wanted to move to. When we arrived in Portland on tour last year it was the end of June, one of the best times to be here, and we just fell in love with the city. Not just the weather and beautiful landscapes, but the vibe and music as well.
I think the hardest part has been trying to break into the local music scene. We're having to re-establish ourselves and go through the motions that a new band goes through, yet we've been around for 3 years now. The typical stuff like local magazines not mentioning you in show write-ups, venues not responding to you, bands not taking you seriously. We do feel like things are really starting to pan out now, especially over the past couple of months. We've met some awesome local bands, hopped on some rad shows with Holy Wave and Vinyl Williams. Plus we have our album release show at Doug Fir with Reptaliens December 4th!
How has the coast swap impacted the songwriting for Shadowgraphs? Are there creative influences that exist in Portland that weren’t felt in Charlotte?
We have our musical influences that have been pretty solid over the lifespan of this band and we always seem to stick within the realm of those sounds. So I don't think the coast swap has changed our songwriting in any way. Outside of that though we have been inspired by the scenery change. There is a lot of beauty and nature here like glaciers, meadows, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, all of which are super inspirational to be around when running into writer’s block.
You guys left Charlotte as the band’s trajectory seemed to be ascending with a successful record in Venomous Blossoms and higher profile shows. Was that momentum captured on the new record? In terms of personnel, did the band have to change or adapt to the new city?
Yes, when we started writing and tracking this new record we gave each track a lot more detail and hard work knowing that we now had someone who trusted and was backing us. A lot of the songs on the record are about touring and that wild adventure we had those 28 days last summer.
When moving out here, our bass player and drummer stayed behind, so our touring bassist Tyler (Bryan’s younger brother) moved out and joined the band full time. After the first month of living here I met an awesome drummer named Phil who honestly couldn’t have been a better fit for the band. I think he might even have better hair than Bryan…
In the past, Shadowgraphs have taken the recording process on independently. Where was Another Time recorded? How was the process different than previous efforts?
Another Time was primarily recorded in Charlotte, NC. All of the drums and some other instruments were tracked in Bryan’s old studio, parts in my house, and then most of Bryan’s vocal takes out in Portland, OR. This time around we didn't record to tape, so we had more flexibility with utilizing more tracks for things like multiple synths and vocal harmonies. We love tape and the process of tape, but since we had done an LP on a 2” 24 track for the last release, we wanted to still use analog gear but not limit ourselves to ideation. The recording process was a lot faster, and we spent a lot more time tracking vocals and harmonies. But because there were about twice as many tracks on each song, when we mixed in Athens with Drew Vandenberg, the process was a little longer.
It seems like “psychedelic” music is becoming more wide-ranging and ambiguous. It could be due to the trending commercialization of some of the bigger acts claiming their psychedelic intentions or the easy versatility of the term to describe art. How do you view Shadowgraphs’ art and style as it relates to being or seeming “psychedelic?” Do you see the culture around psychedelia changing as a musician and an artist?
For us I think psychedelic means there are no boundaries, each song can be a different genre, whatever. But like you said the second you label a track “psychedelic,” then you get into situations where people immediately think you’re a Tame Impala band. You use a phaser pedal, you’re a Kevin Parker rip off. You use a chorus pedal, you’re a Mac Demarco rip off.
How has writing and releasing your second record changed things you took for granted or overlooked during the creation and touring of your first record?
We definitely learned that it’s important not to half-ass things when recording. There's nothing worse then feeling like a vocal performance on tape could have been better but it’s too late to re-record it. We also learned a lot from touring as far as expenses and what to avoid the next time we went out. The past year has been a huge learning process for us but we are taking it in strides.
Enjoy the group’s second full-length Another Time streaming below.
After being recognized for their bold debut EP in 2016, Qlowski made the move from rural Italy to London and channeled their wide-eyed spirit into tracks that would become Pure As Fear, their latest 7-inch out on Maple Death Records. The group’s ragged-edge experimental sound combines restless U.K. post-punk rhythms, rowdy percussion, and a swarm of noisy feedback delivered with the aggression of a rebel militia.
Throughout Calvin Love’s backlog of songwriting, a musical and artistic evolution has been steady. From the early, chippy, lofi tracks to his latest palette of cinematic swoon on the easel of Highway Dancer, Love has sustained a career bound by true individualism, unrestricted creative exploration, and the unending refining of his craft.
The songs on Highway Dancer are a collection of material from the past 3 years. What ties these songs together?
What ties the songs together is my vocals and my experiences. When I start writing an album I'm never really sure what direction sonically I'm gonna go, until the songs start forming and complimenting each other. During the process, I'll write as much as possible and get down everything that comes out. Whether that is a soundtrack instrumental song, or a folk song, or synth ballad, or a waltz.
Not everything is a keeper. I just do the work, get the ideas out and into 3D, organize it all. Then I'll start to hear where it's all headed.
How was preparing Highway Dancer unlike your last release, Ecdysis from 2017?
It's all just living life and growing as an artist. Highway Dancer was more refined than Ecdysis and I had more time with the songs singing them, working the lyrics, the arrangments etc. I learned from what I couldn't do on Ecdysis and tried my best to do it on Highway Dancer. The next album will evolve from this and so on and so forth.
The album name symbolizes your seemingly constant state of moving and traveling across the world. Was there a certain place you visited during the Highway Dancer writing period that impacted you most?
The sheer scale of a country operating with so many people was pretty mind-blowing. Total chaos but somehow in complete synchronicity.
Highway Dancer is a soundtrack for any occasion and I wanted the album to have a broad landscape sound and to feel like your moving along as you listen.
The juxtaposition of the tracks on Highway Dancer resemble the changing landscapes or identities of the places you pass through on your journey forward. Do any of the songs have a geographic memory or origin for you? Were any landscapes or geologic features emblematic or influential for your songwriting?
Yes. For example “The Coin, The Stick, The Take” geographically feels dry, expansive, used up, isolated. Which Is the vibe I've felt while driving through certain parts of the California Desert or along the Trans Canada Highway. “A Thousand Years” is a poem I wrote while people watching driving in LA, in Mexico City. For the song “Highway Dancer,” I wrote the lyrics while driving on one of the many interstates in the USA. I think we all kinda feel that sentiment while travelling. Being away from home, away from people you love, knowing anything could happen.
I know it makes me more vulnerable...
The record was recorded between LA and Toronto. What made those places desirable for recording?
Toronto is where I currently reside, and LA I've had a long live/work relationship with...
Toronto is the home zone now where I can sit in my studio and reflect on my travels, the people I've met along the way and the experiences that will shape my writing.
LA has always had a strong allure for me. It has a quality and a certain mysticism that I appreciate more now that I'm l visitor then when I was a resident.
It’s a beautiful mess of a place. But you know maybe next year I'll move somewhere else and spend time there. Technology makes it easy to record anywhere.
What's your favourite place to drive?
Read our interview with Pat Thomas, bassist and songwriter for San Francisco’s Cool Ghouls whose debut solo record I Ain’t Buyin’ It takes on urban displacement, financial injustice, and moral inequities with an impenetrable hopefulness.
I Ain't Buyin' It is your latest solo record and it begins with "The Money Guys," a song that's about the pecuniary dilemmas of the day. Living in San Francisco, how have you noticed the city changing as a place for artists and creatives? How do musicians and artists last in such a high-rent and expensive place?
This is a question that every band from San Francisco gets a lot. I was only 21 when I started making music here 8 years ago, so it's hard to say how many of the differences I see between 2011 and now are the result of changes to the city and how many are just the result of getting older. I was so inexperienced when I was 21. I was still just getting acquainted with this city and the music scene here. I've only been capable of making perceptive observations about this place for a couple years I think. Rent is higher than it was, but my friends and I are less willing to live in closets and pantries than we used to be. You do have to work a lot to afford living here, leaving less time for music. Based on stories from people 10-15 years older than me, I guess it didn't used to be that way.
There is still a tight-knit community of musicians here. The Bay Area has lost a whole bunch of artistic people to Los Angeles over the last few years. But Los Angeles sucks too for different reasons, and is getting more expensive as well. There's no escaping it really. You name a city, sounds like they're experiencing gentrification. So where can you even go to escape this shit? Now Amazon is moving to New York. And for all the doomsaying regarding the music scene in the Bay, I still think it's the open-minded attitude, physical beauty, and density that keeps artists in San Francisco (or even continues to attract new ones!), despite the large numbers of moronic office bros who sometimes fill quarters of the city. Plus as fodder for art, if you're engaging with the conflicts and dilemmas of the contemporary world, what better setting is there than in the belly of the beast?
You're also the bassist, vocalist, and songwriter in Cool Ghouls. How is writing your solo record different than working with the band? What parts of music-making are easier in a group setting?
Well for one, I don't have to take into consideration how my bandmates will feel about the songs, which isn't something I'm consciously thinking about when writing for Cool Ghouls, but knowing that I wanted to write some songs that were relatively outrageous, I knew it would be quicker and easier to do it without having to talk anyone else into getting on board. Throughout recording the album, naming the album, coming up with the album art, it is freeing not being bogged down in the debates that come with being in a democratic band with multiple songwriters like Cool Ghouls.
But it's this same sense of singular ownership that's made the solo project challenging in ways that Cool Ghouls isn't. In Cool Ghouls there's a sense that the band belongs to all of us. All the songs are published under all four of our names 25% each, no matter who the primary songwriter was. All the money is band money. There's a van that we all share. There are four people who consider the band their band. With the solo stuff it feels like everything is on my shoulders, and that the other people in the band are kind of doing me a favor. It's a lonely feeling, going solo. Go figure.
There's a quirk to your idiosyncratic songwriting. Were you influenced by any particular "outsider" musician or artist for your sound on I Ain't Buyin' It?
I was listening to a good amount of Kevin Ayers. Was also getting into Gil Scott Heron. I think you can hear that the vocals on "What is Coming" are pretty David Byrne (I don't know if he's an outsider.) But with that song, I was thinking about more contemporary groups who draw form that same obtuse new wave thing. I'd seen my friends French Vanilla from LA play for the first time and was really stoked on the way they use this talking/shouting style of vocal delivery - it allows them to be wry and direct and you don't even need to rhyme. I was walking home (I primarily write while walking) and just thought of "Why's everybody floundering around?!" and thought that this new-wavy thing would serve it best. So each song gets it's own treatment and thus set of influences. But long answer short, I'd say Kevin Ayers.
When you listen back through your new record, what pieces do you think were most directly influenced by your time living in San Francisco or California in general?
"Give the Land to the People." I don't think I'd have such strong political opinions regarding the right to housing if I wasn't living in San Francisco. Maybe I would. Who knows. "Money Guys" as well. There are a lot of money guys doing their thing here in the Bay Area. I've spent my entire life in California so I guess it's all California music. There is no non-Californian me to compare myself to.
Is the title, I Ain't Buyin' It, a personal mission statement? How do you keep the claws of the corporate machine out of your personal life and your art?
Great question! You could write a book about that. Your interpretation of the album title is correct - it's a rejection of the implied premise, which is neoliberalism.
How do I keep big money out of my art? Well it's pretty easy to do when they've never heard of you!
But yeah, how do you fight corporate power? I don't really buy into the whole conscious consumerism thing. Like boycotting the big and bad guys as an individual consumer - not as a partnering company ending a contract, which could have real effects; or a municipality taxing the shit out of a company (the polar opposite of what we see cities doing now) - is going to change anything. Plus there's this obnoxious piousness that comes with trying to shame people into changing their habits. Like I don't buy things from Amazon because fuck Amazon. But I'm not going to hate on everyone who does. I don't think that's a realistic strategy for taking these guys on. Putting the onus on the individual consumer actually deflects responsibility away from the governing apperatuses that could actually enact systemic change. I think it's the same deal with issues like public health and waste management. Instead of putting energy into educating poor people about healthy eating habits, poor communities need to be given material resources that they themselves control - community gardens, grocery stores, etc. Yes, recycling is important, but i don't think that the planet will be saved by each individual remembering to put a piece of plastic in the correct bin. There needs to be a large-scale orchestrated collective effort.
What we need are alternatives to these imperialistic so-called service providers. New supply chains for everything from clothing to food to entertainment which are controlled by the groups who utilize them. Infrastructures that exist not for profit but simply for their own existence. So to answer your question, I don't think I'm doing everything I can toward these ends at present. It's not just a matter of defending against the claws of the corporate machine but a matter of fashioning some claws of our own to be on the offensive end of the fight.
Like it or not, the music streaming business plays a substantial role in the industry today. As a musician, how do you see streaming platforms? As a listener, able to have the endless plethora of content at your fingertips for a cigarette budget per month, do you have a different sentiment?
I guess I do have differing sentiments as a listener and as a musician when it comes to streaming. Obviously as a listener it’s really nice and as someone trying to sell music it sucks. So then the two sentiments combine into a big "what can you do?"
My friend Arvel, who runs Empty Cellar Records, and I were commiserating about this the other day. He mentioned rightly how valuable music really is to people in their lives - the meaning it provides people, how important music that they love is to them, their happiness, their sense of self. I know that's true for me. So it feels contradictory how, monetarily, a song is virtually worthless now, unless you license it or something, or if it's hugely popular. But then I don't know. Seems like as long as the internet exists, and as long as you want your music to be accessible, this is the natural way of things. Like relative to the millions (billions?) of streams per day, how much is a song that's streamed even hundreds of times owed?
I wish I had a solution. I think everyone does! How about a streaming service collectively owned by the musicians? That sounds better. But even still, the little guys are making pennies, and the streaming option is detracting majorly from record sales. So yeah, I dunno man.