Those who’ve been fortunate enough to catch Dungen in a live setting, are aware of the transformative experience in store, how they stitch together a fine and fiery tapestry of song. Dungen’s new album Live is the golden, glimmering thread holding it all together.
Live is Dungen in their own land, saving up stunning solos and fiery interplay for their home team, elements of their farthest-out and most inspired moments assembled into one piece of continuous music by producer Matthias Glava. Dungen worked with Glava on their second album Stadsvandringar, aka 2, when the band was just gaining traction in Sweden and a bit beyond. Glava returned to help Dungen capture the beautiful, crisp stillness of their 2015 return Allas Sak, and stayed on through the creation of Haxän, their interpretive soundtrack to the silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
Entirely instrumental (including a footstompin’ cover of Doug Jerebine’s “Ain’t So Hard to Tell” – check with our buds over at Drag City for the full story on that one), Live showcases what Dungen does best: create a vibe where none existed, build a mood out of circumstance, attack the music with a fan’s soul and a master’s scorching virtuosity. It extends moments out of their catalogue that seemed like they were already explored and breathes new life into them, at times graceful, at others rambunctious, and sometimes a little of both. It stirs memories of when those first import copies of Ta det lungt hit the record store, how we listened in awe and watched the customers turn around, that first shock of awareness, that anxiety over trying to take home what appeared to be the last copy on the shelf before someone else with the same idea beat you to it.
Fans of Reine rippers need look no further. His classic burnt guitar tone and masterful touch is on full display within Live, as is his more recent propensity to build vibes with the Mellotron. Matthias and Johan are locked in as usual, the backbone, wildly swinging in the way they do. Gustav seems to be peaking here, directing currents of energy and melody with the precision of an air traffic controller. This thing gets air; it gives the sense of a band playing purely out of their own time, passionately reviving seldom-remembered histories of recorded sound.
What makes Live really work is the notion that Dungen have this side in them at all times, the idea that all it takes is time and a response to get them into this form. Going through the band’s entire catalogue, growth as musicians is a constant. They’ve afforded themselves the luxuries of being able to go at their own pace, and one of the best things about doing that is that they’re always aware of where you came from, and they build on that to take themselves and the listener out to the rarefied spaces explored within. It’s an intense ride through everything that makes a Dungen show special, back to back to back. All the peaks, all the moments of improvisation and connectivity through sound. It’s pieces of everything you know about them, reinterpreted out of love and respect for the craft. All things that are unmistakably part of what puts Dungen in the top tiers of latter-day psychedelic soul expression. Please hold onto your ticket because it’s about to get punched.
As sure as if it had been mapped in the stars, or written in a prophecy buried deep beneath the sands of the Marfa desert, a collaboration between Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox was always something of an inevitability. After years of admiring each other’s work from afar, the two finally converged on Marfa, Texas in 2018, at Mexican Summer’s annual Marfa Myths festival. Gaps puttied by a band of frequent Cate Le Bon co-conspirators on drums, saxophone, percussion, keys and additional guitar (Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Stephen Black of Sweet Baboo, Tim Presley of White Fence, and Samur Khouja); the EP–fourth in Mexican Summer’s Myths series–was written and recorded in just one week.
For both Le Bon and Cox, Myths 004 signals a change of tack: meticulousness thrown to the wind as spontaneous, jammy tales of firemen and 5p plastic bags, unbrushed hair and shoelessness and makeup-daubed landscapes—roll effortlessly off their cuffs. “We committed ourselves to embracing the chaos, surrendering to all moments and moods that travelled through,” says Le Bon. “It’s a crude holiday scrapbook shared by all involved, an amalgamation of the changes in mood and light that shaped the days.”
Though Myths 004’s seven tracks are wondrous in their variety, they sit perfectly alongside one another–the gently melancholic cutlery drawer percussion of sole single “Secretary,” and the lippy cynicism and wit of final hurrah ‘What Is She Wearing’ united; along with every other shape, character, prang, plod and playful bite, by a feeling of sheer joy. ¡Viva la colaboración!
Odditties Sodomies Vol. 2 is the long awaited second volume of uncollected music by Ariel Pink, compiled from non-album tracks, outtakes and rarities spanning 1999 – 2018. The collection includes unheard music from Ariel’s historic run of releases as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti as well as recent recordings made over the last decade.
This entry of Ariel Archives is a companion to expanded reissues of all eight original Haunted Graffiti releases, including a reissue of Odditties Vol. 1 plus a third volume of Odditties to pick up where Vol. 2 left off. The ambitious cycle of reissues and new collections reckons with the treasure trove of material Ariel recorded during the most prolific phase of his artistic development. Born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg in 1978, and raised in the Beverly Glen neighborhood of Beverly Hills, Ariel’s encounter with the fringe music scenes of Los Angeles – first in Sunset Strip nightclubs and local record stores, then later at CalArts with a coterie of musical troublemakers – lead him down a creative rabbit hole that resulted in some of the most inventive and influential underground music made in the early 2000s.
Ariel’s music experiments with multivalence, often layering multiple narratives in one song or various styles across the same album. This suggests an important element of Ariel’s music is not the establishment of a single artistic voice but an exploration of “performativity” and stylistic adventure. Odditties Vol 2. shows Ariel inhabiting various musical identities, stretching for example between deliberately theatrical, baroque modes and more sincere, unmasked expressions. In genre terms, Odditties ranges from neo-Prog-Rock to Post-Punk and any / everywhere in between.
Odditties Vol. 2 gathers the overspill from Ariel’s series of Haunted Graffiti albums and follows similar odds and ends to present day. Contributions include tracks co-written with John Maus (“The Law”) and with Patrik Berger, Mac Demarco, and Charlotte Ercoli Coe (“Party Zone World”). In addition there is a cover by The Smiths (“This Night Has Opened My Eyes”) and a quartet of recent songs recorded in between July 2017 – December 2018 (“Bolivian Soldier”, “Stray Here With You”, “House of Yesterday” and “You Can Have It All”).
The debut installment of Ariel Archives begins with an expanded version of Underground, Ariel Pink’s first release under the name Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Catalyzing Ariel Pink’s great creative burst of 1998 – 2003, Underground signaled a historic series of albums released as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Originally self-released on cassette in 1999, while a 21-year-old undergrad at CalArts, Underground captured the rudimentary brilliance of Ariel’s rapidly evolving music – which in short time shifted from crude proto-Punk experiments to an adventurous home-recording aesthetic that explored a wide continuum of pop music.
This installment of Ariel Archives expands the track-listing of the original Underground release to include twelve additional songs recorded in the same period. Unheard songs such as “Michelle” and “Let’s Stay in the Past” fill in beautiful missing details from Ariel’s earliest recordings, while familiar classics such as “My Molly” are collected for the first time on a full-length release.
The great burst of musical activity that began with Underground provides a narrative that mixes the mundane and the extraordinary, as Ariel developed a preternatural songwriting sense nurtured by a strong desire to escape into the alluring musical worlds he studied keenly as a teen. Born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg in 1978, and raised in the Beverly Glen neighborhood of Beverly Hills, Ariel went to Beverly Hills High School and then UC Santa Cruz for a year before returning to Los Angeles and transferring to CalArts. Ariel was already making music – experimental, primitive home recordings – before he met the fellow CalArts students that became an important coterie of peers and collaborators.
At CalArts, Ariel joined the garage band Bianca and then started performing his own music, with drummer Sandra Edelmen, as The Appleasians. Performances by The Appleasians were unrehearsed and spontaneous, cobbling together early versions of songs that would appear on Underground. Only after Ariel received encouragement from a new fan and friend, a first year music major at CalArts named John Maus, did he begin recording his own music more methodically with an 8-track cassette machine.
Underground appeared in handmade iterations first (on cassette and then CD-R) before a later version on vinyl offered only a sample of the original tracks. The Ariel Archives edition expands the original cassette sequence to include additional music from Ariel’s Underground period. All together these songs reveal an unusual amount of emotional depth for a new songwriter and they anticipate much of the melancholic, rueful ideas that would find their fullest expression on Ariel’s next album, The Doldrums. As a precursor to The Doldrums, Underground remains an unassuming artifact, a favorite among fans but lesser heard among subsequent Haunted Graffiti albums that received wider release.
After Underground and The Doldrums, Ariel would drop out of CalArts to concentrate on music, proceeding to record what would become the albums Scared Famous, FF, Loverboy, House Arrest and Worn Copy, as well as a collaborative album, Stranded at Two Harbors, with Matt Fishbeck as Holy Shit. Ariel Archives revisits this period with comprehensive historical reissues painstakingly retransferred and remastered from the original tapes.
Cycle one of Ariel Archives begins with Underground and Loverboy, plus a new release: the long awaited second volume of uncollected music, Odditties Sodomies Volume 2.
Ariel Archives revisits Ariel Pink’s historic run of albums as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti with a series of definitive reissues and new collections. The first installment begins with Underground, the inaugural album in the series, Odditties Sodomies Vol. 2, a long-awaited second volume of outtakes and non-album tracks, and finally Loverboy, an exemplary disc recorded between October 2001 and July 2002, at which time Ariel also recorded House Arrest.
Pink had mastered an idiosyncratic recording technique by the time of Loverboy, using his Yamaha MT8X-8, a consumer grade 8-track cassette machine he first used to record The Doldrums two years earlier. Ariel’s music had developed its signature elements: intricate arrangements with memorable hooks, startling instrumental tones and manipulated, layered vocals. Ariel’s “mouth-drums,” an unusual beatbox technique that required rhythmic bursts of air, provided percussion. The songwriting ambition had increased, too. Loverboy delivered confident songs that seemed rescued from a lost canon of pop music with a mysterious point of origin.
Loverboy and its sibling albums also showed a comical and irreverent side to Ariel’s music. This instinct was encouraged by the experimental pop antics of Ariel’s new mentor and friend, R. Stevie Moore. Ariel Pink recall’s Moore’s influence in the new liner notes for Loverboy (written by Hedi El Kohlti): “I was listening to his tapes and marveling at how inventive the stuff he was doing at my age was….He was pushing me to do my own thing.” Loverboypays tribute to R. Stevie Moore with a remarkable cover of “Hobbies Galore”. Ariel reinterprets Moore’s haunting acoustic song in a darkly hued 80s synth-pop style.
Loverboy was created alongside House Arrest and recorded in an unusual environment; Ariel’s bedroom inside the Ananda Marga Ashram and Meditation Center. Located in a house near the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Central, Los Angeles, the ashram espoused a list of rules for tenants, which Ariel observed. In an effort not to disturb his roommates, Ariel recorded in the evening using headphones and performing instruments directly through a pedal to his 8-track tape recorder without amplification. In the morning Ariel would listen to the results on his Sanyo stereo system next to his mattress on the floor. Thus was established a recording process and ritual for the sophomore phase of the Haunted Graffiti catalogue.
Despite this meditative environment, Loverboy was not a solitary effort. Several of the albums most outstanding songs were collaborative. “Ghosts” and “Loverboy” were co-written with John Maus, who had supplied skeletal keyboard fragments for Ariel to develop into full songs. Another Loverboy classic, “I Don’t Need Enemies,” was written by Matt Fishbeck, a new collaborator and close friend. Ariel and Matt also started working on Stranded at Two Harbors, the debut album by Holy Shit, in Ariel’s bedroom at the Ashram.
For Allah Las’ fourth album, LAHS, the Los Angeles quartet turn their collective gaze toward unknown horizons. A record that prefers travel to time, LAHS transmits from a place not found on any map. While the West Coast mood and melodies from their previous work remain, LAHS looks through a wider lens, exploring the exotic, exciting essence of global folk, soul and downbeat.
JEFRE CANTU-LEDESMA returns with his third full-length venture on Mexican Summer—Tracing Back The Radiance—a slow, delicate meditation, delving far afield from the pop drenched melodies which have defined his recent efforts. Grown from a few simple piano lines, a need for change, and an evolving process which fell somewhere between conversation, singular vision, and a wild game of exquisite corpse—Cantu-Ledesma acting as contributor, servant, and guiding force to the emerging album’s all-star cast of voices—JOHN ALSO BENNETT, MARILU DONAVAN, CHUCK JOHNSON, GREGG KOWALSKY, MARY LATTIMORE, DAVID MOORE, MEARA O’REILLY, JONATHAN SIELAFF, ROGER TELLIER CRAIG and CHRISTOPHER TIGNOR—the culmination takes a decidedly experimental turn—a vast, ambient landscape of abstraction, texture, and tone—open space punctuated by the restrained harmonics of vibraphone, processing, flute, pedal steel, synthesizer, piano, organ, and voice. With nods to historic high-water marks in ambient and electroacoustic music, as well Italian minimalist pioneers like Giusto Pio, Lino Capra Vaccina, and Francesco Messina + Raul Lovisoni, Cantu-Ledesma delves forward with one of his most ambitious, elegant, and exciting endeavors of his career, retaining every bit of the ease and openness in musical language which has guided him across the decades. A beautiful, immersive, melancholic, and contemplative balm for the troubled times in which it was made.
It was on a mountainside in Cumbria that the first whispers of CATE LE BON’s fifth studio album poked their buds above the earth. “There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” she says, recounting the year living solitarily in the Lake District which gave way to Reward. By day, ever the polymath, Le Bon painstakingly learnt to make solid wood tables, stools and chairs from scratch; by night she looked to a second-hand Meers—the first piano she had ever owned—for company, “windows closed to absolutely everyone”, and accidentally poured her heart out. The result is an album every bit as stylistically varied, surrealistically-inclined and tactile as those in the enduring outsider’s back catalogue, but one that is also intensely introspective and profound; her most personal to date. Over this extended period a cast of trusted and loved musicians joined Le Bon, KHOULA and fellow co-producer JOSIAH STEINBRICK—STELLA MOZGAWA (WARPAINT) on drums and percussion; STEPHEN BLACK (aka SWEET BABOO) on bass and saxophone and longtime collaborators HUW EVANS (aka H HAWKLINE) and JOSH KLINGHOFFER on guitars—and were added to the album, “one by one, one on one”. Be it on her more minimalist, acoustic-leaning 2009 debut album Me Oh My or critically acclaimed, liquid-riffed 2013 LP Mug Museum as well as 2016s Crab Day, Cate LeBon’s solo work—and indeed also her production work, such as that carried out on recent Deerhunter album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?—has always resisted pigeonholing, walking the tightrope between krautrock aloofness and heartbreaking tenderness; deadpan served with a twinkle in the eye, a flick of the fringe and a lick of the Telecaster.
JESSICA PRATT is not a loud performer. She does not have to be. In a club of a few hundred, even the bar staff are known to go quiet while she’s on stage. Her third album, Quiet Signs, feels like a distillation of this power. The album leads off with “Opening Night,” a nod to Gena Rowlands’ harrowing, brilliant performance in the John Cassavetes film of the same name. It’s also an emblem of where this spare, mysterious collection of songs falls in the course of Pratt’s career. After a collection of demos and early studio recordings (Jessica Pratt, Birth Records, 2012) earned her a small, dedicated audience, Pratt moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and recorded her first intentional album in her bedroom in a matter of months. That album, On Your Own Love Again (Drag City, 2015), would bring her around the world many times, leading many to fall under the spell of Jessica Pratt the performer, the songwriter, the singer with the heavy-lidded voice that feels alien and familiar at the same time.
The verb, the noun, the substance, the action, the command: make a mark! If fire came first, paint came second—they had paint all the way back in those caveman caves, and you can still understand that ancient handprint on the wall even though it’s 40,000 years old. Point being, it’s a primal act, or what you might call a good first step. So now this PAINT: guitarist/singer PEDRUM SIADATIAN of the ALLAH-LAS making his first solo record with his first solo recordings of his first solo songs. It’s simple: he’s making a mark. He’d started four-tracking strange little song-sketches as the Allah-Las finished their third album Calico Review in 2016— little song-sketches that wouldn’t fit the full band, but that indicated an outré sort of potential. These were slow-growing ideas fed by a certain acid-bitter poetry (Gregory Corso and John Lennon, for two) and by strands and lines unraveled from casually encountered prose or reportage. They’d derive a certain blurry life and sound from the murky music of Kevin Ayers or Syd Barrett, whose cultivations were as likely to bloom into gloom as beauty. Paint’s first song was “Moldy Man,” grown almost in secret far from harsh light and hot air. His next was “True Love (Is Hard To Find).” With one, he could’ve been done, but with two, he knew he was at the start of something.
Jassbusters is CONNAN MOCKASIN’s third album and first in five years. An unclassifiable, unconventional album that neither picks up from nor abandons the modes of 2013’s widely-embraced Caramel or its 2010 predecessor Forever Dolphin Love, Jassbusters foreshadows a five-part melodrama film titled Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn, created by Mockasin. Jassbusters soundtracks the unpredictable narrative of the film in eclectic, electric ways. Whether bending genres or collaborating with artists like James Blake, MGMT, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Connan Mockasin has always maneuvered in mysterious ways. After touring with the likes of Radiohead and Neil & Liam Finn (Crowded House), the R&B surrealist continues assembling a cult around his theater, nay spectacle of life with Bostyn ’n Dobsyn screenings and Jassbusters performances throughout
A mutant offspring of diverse stylings, unlikely convergences, unfixed constellations, Zebra, ALEXIX GEORGOPOULOS’—aka ARP—fifth full-length album, is a post-everything symbiosis of ancient to future psychotropics, emphasizing points of connectivity between far-flung traditions. Zebra is as naturalistic as it is alien, disrupting outdated boundaries between musical traditions, hierarchies and genre politics. Using forward-looking production techniques and an idiosyncratic instrumental palette—analog synthesizers, double bass, Fender Rhodes, electronic and acoustic drums, flute, vintage harmonizers and tape delay—Georgopoulos proposes a vast, shimmering prospect, floralizing an array of styles and smiles—Fourth World tremors, vibey Cosmic Jazz, 80s Japanese production, floating kosmische drum atmospherics.
With 2018’s Marfa Myths festival slated to take place in the idyllic namesake backdrop of far West Texas, Mexican Summer once more reveals the fruits of the previous festival’s recording residency. For the third Marfa Myths release, we’re proud to present seven all-new songs written and recorded by Stockholm’s psychedelic masters DUNGEN and adventurous Brooklyn indie-folk pioneers WOODS. As the Marfa Myths record series progresses, the spirit of the collaborations between the artists chosen—one a member of the Mexican Summer family, the other for which we share deep admiration—deepens as well. In the case of Dungen and Woods, the two bands were tourmates in the summer of 2009, traversing America and bonding with one another in the process. The familiarity with one another’s music and personalities was already well in place, but the eight years that passed between the tour and the making of this record reveal that nothing was lost in the interim.
That this is the most music assembled for a Marfa Myths release to date is telling of a rare and special connection between Dungen and Woods, reignited by the circumstances of the occasion. Dungen’s GUSTAVE EISTES and REINE FISKE, and Woods’ JEREMY EARL and JARVIS TAVENIERE were provided the freedom to acclimate themselves to the unique frequencies of the Marfa experience without distraction. Myths 003 showcases a seamless merging of two bands following the same track to different locations throughout their career, as if they’d been playing together for decades, an exhilarating and buoyant example of how shared experiences can foster truly wonderful music.
ARIEL PINK’s new album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is his first solo album since his highly acclaimed 2014 prog-pop opus pom pom, and first full-length release on Mexican Summer. The new release’s title makes a direct and heartfelt reference to a real-life Los Angeles musician, long presumed dead, who resurfaced online in 2007 after 35 reclusive years to pen his autobiography and tragic life story.
On the Echoing Green is an elegant work of lush, shimmering sound, rendered with a singular touch by eternal electric romantic Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. In contrast to the haze and hermetic process of previous albums, Green was conceived as a deliberate experiment in clarity and collaboration: “I was interested in trying to bring out more overt pop elements, to let them come to the front and be present. I also have more trust now in letting things happen – trusting other people’s musicianship, and being open to people’s ideas. Eventually, things emerge.”
Sorcerer is the new full-length studio album from Andy and Edwin White, the Florida / New York duo known as Tonstartssbandht (tahn-starts-bandit). On Sorcerer, the brothers chart a heavenly course above the storm and stress, one explored over years of touring and a poetic language forged between performers and siblings.
Sorcerer offers three long form depictions of Tonstartssbandht’s boundless spirit; ambitious noise rock narratives buoyed in a swampy sonic scene of delay, distortion, and virtuosic interplay. The album displays larger lyrical concepts within the framework of a guitar and drums duo; Andy’s guitar and vocal loops creating a cascading sheet of interpretative reverb and future melodies, Ed’s high-stakes drumming divided every which way but loose, a deep canvas of cohabitating sounds.
2017 collaborative EP between to alt-rock favorites. Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering have worked together before: Mering provided vocals on 2012’s Mature Themes and joined Pink’s band on the subsequent tour, and they teamed up for a Mild High Club track from 2015. Now, the two of them have recorded an entire EP together. Myths 002 is the follow-up to a similar collaboration between Dev Hynes and Connan Mockasin from 2015, and it has Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood working on four tracks together.
Weyes Blood’s Front Row Seat to Earth is folk music of the near future. The closeness of Natalie Mering’s third album conceals it’s aspirations to the outside, to the “Earth” of it’s title. Mering leads us through the microcosm of the personal to the macrocosm of the transpersonal. These are not typical love songs or protest songs of folk before; they are painful, poignant riddles that celebrate the ambiguity of love. There is a faded California beauty to Front Row. A gentle honesty that recalls the finest folk music made on the West Coast of the ’70s. The hue hangs in the sweet-spooky harmonies, the pulsing sway of the vibrato, and the ecstatic chord resolves. It is the joyful release of energy as the song delicately unfolds from intro to extrospection. But this beauty is scratched with shadow; with dark foreboding, alienation, and acceptance of change. Love and loss balance together in suspended alchemy, as the earthiness of the singer-songwriter tradition wears digital sounds like feathers in it’s hair. Mering, together with co-producer Chris Cohen and some special guests, contrasts live band intimacy with the post-modern electric sheen of A.M. radio atmospherics. The experimental flourishes sparkle amid the succinct, thoughtful arrangements.
On Calico Review, Allah-Las weave their dreamy version of west coast psychedelia with advanced songwriting and exquisite production detail. The California quartet’s third album, Calico Review, focuses on both the outer trappings of their home and surroundings, and the through line of darkness that suffuses life in L.A. county. Bearing the mark of four students becoming the teachers and sharing the sentiments of the town they call home, there’s a lot to learn from Allah-Las. The band formed in 2008 while three of the members were working at Amoeba Music in L.A. The Allah-Las released their debut seven inch single in 2011.
You kind of cannot fuck with Shannon Funchess. She’s probably the best—or at least most interesting—vocalist in America right now, and pretty much everything she sings on turns to gold, so it’s particularly gratifying to have a whole album of her doing all kinds of freaky shit. She and bandmate Bruno Coviello clearly have a lot of favorite bands, but manage to one-up basically everything else out there. This is new and it’s great. Goth music has no right to be this smart. It’s deep, loud, and not all fussy or overdone. Music for people who actually aren’t afraid of the dark. This is vampire-pop and I hope it lives forever.