Friday, May 24, 2019

Peculiar Pretzelmen's Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream

This is one of the strangest and coolest indie rock releases I've heard this year, a mixture of down-and-dirty delta blues mixed with junkyard percussion that's so crazy and cluttered that it sounds like it's being performed blindfolded in a junkyard after midnight. Incroyable and Deacon are the names of the two men who are both peculiar and pretzelmen, and yes they are following in the two-person rock template that has guided Black Keys, White Stripes and a multitude of other duos who want to ride the latest wave of glory. But Peculiar Pretzelman take it a step further with blues that are so ragged and deep that they waver in the sun like a mirage, augmented with a found-object rhythm section that is just as odd as anything David Van Tieghem came up with in the '80s.

As weird as this all sounds, it's also genuine and serious in a way. These two guys fill out their trademark dark pinstripe suits with some serious blues chops, as they seem more focused on hardcore delta fans than their hometown crowd in Hollywood. (That detachment, of course, is probably what makes them such an LA fixture. LA loves irony.) Their attack can seem frantic and full of chaos at times, but then they reign it in when they turn quiet and pull out something from the deepest part of the swamp. It's good, it's straightforward and it makes perfect sense.

There are plenty of familiar elements here--the Tom Waits caterwaul, the slide and the two scoops of unadulterated, American-grown voodoo. What breaks this loose from other roots albums is that massive, sharp-edged percussive wallop that is so beautifully recorded that you'll obsess over what it is you're actually hearing, and whether or not you can make those same sounds once you uncover the source.

I've read stories about the Pretzelmen's live shows, and I'm sure that would peel back some of those mysterious layers, but just remember that much of the fun in Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream is listening to these tracks like they're noises you've discovered on an old ham radio, noises that were made thousands of miles away...or even further.

High End Munich 2019--Whole Lotta Tidal

My latest report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns a huge display of Tidal Audio speakers--more than I've ever seen in one place. You can read it here.

HIgh End Munich 2019--Garrard, SME and the Resurrection of a Dream

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one's about the new Garrard 301 from SME, perhaps the biggest news at the show. You can read it here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

High End Munich 2019--The World of KEF

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about the massive display of KEF speakers in one of the main atriums. (Atria?) You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. and Orphan Goggles

I think the title of this 7" single will be longer than the review, and the review will take longer to read than this record will take to hear. It's a fun little disc from White Worm Records featuring a band on each side, with just one song. I'm not even sure if either song cracks the two minute mark. This is an example, however, of the crazy fun stuff I get from indie record labels these days, and I never want them to stop putting me on their mailing lists.

The first band is called Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O, something I bet looks great on a club marquee. (Dammit, we ran out of letters again!) The song is called "From Planet Orb with Love, Part One." I'm not sure where Part Two is, but maybe it's coming. This track is on the psychedelic side, with a gradual and somewhat lengthy intro (lengthy, that is, in the context of its short running time), and it sounds just like Planet Orb is a few decades behind Earth, perhaps in the late '60s when rock was starting to stretch out and explore themes of interstellar travel. You know, prog rock but better and more succinct.

The second band is Orphan Goggles, and "Hey Bud, How's You Blood?" is a fast and dirty punk anthem, swirling with energy, over too soon. The LA-based Orphan Goggles (OG, get it?) is the work of one Harry Cloud, who has recorded this quick exercise with "underground scions" Sterling Riley, Neil Crowley and Arturo Shaman. Between them they've played in a thousand bands, maybe more, and this was a great opportunity for four friends to get together and explode.

Pairing these two songs together may seem odd, since they're not that similar, but there's this--who cares. Sometimes I get these crazy little singles and I think back to those days where I listened to records all day, something I just mentioned in the Stereo Creeps LP I reviewed just a little while ago. I'm too young for Woodstock and too old to really be the L.A. punk I wish I was, but this awesome little single brought these two worlds together for about four minutes and put a smile on my face.

Stereo Creeps' Suck

You've been reading all these show reports from Munich and AXPONA and, soon enough, Philadelphia and Long Beach CA, and you're probably wondering when the Vinyl Anachronist is going to start writing about music again--especially music on vinyl. The ol' review pile is perhaps bigger than ever, and people are starting to ask me these questions. To tell you the truth, I have been busy traveling the world and I won't apologize for that, but reviewing music is what keeps me grounded. In addition, the vinyl rig is about to go through some changes since I just purchased a new cartridge--the first one I've purchased since my Denon DL-103 a few years ago. I also have a few Vinyl Anachronist reviews cued up at Part-Time Audiophile, ready to go, and you'll see those soon. In other words, it's time to dig into some vinyl before I have to get on another airplane.

Stereo Creeps' Suck has been on the review for a very long time--it was the first record I played on the Technics SL-1200G turntable I have in for review, something I picked up way back in January or February. This angry/fun album seems like post-punk at first, which usually right up my alley, but after a few plays I think I'm onto something different--pre-punk. I'm not sure if this is a term that's been coined a million times before, but let me explain my concept of it. Back when I was a teenager in the mid to late '70s, my friends and I all listened to rock and roll, the stuff that's now called classic rock but was original just called rock. Then, here and there, we started finding music that was a bit different, a bit more strange and dark and angry. It wasn't quite what we called punk, but it was certainly the beginning of it. We're talking about the New York Dolls, the Runaways and even some of the music Bowie was recording in Berlin. It all sounded dark and confused, and we really liked it because no one else was listening to it yet.

Stereo Creeps, a power trio from Seattle that is made up of guitarist/vocalist Sean Moe, bassist Mark Wardell and guitarist Robert Dollison...wait just a minute. I'm confused. For some reason Stereo Creeps doesn't credit the very present drummer, and at first I thought Dollison had to be the drummer. I'm not sure what the story is here, a typo, or some kind of PR mystery, but anyways. Someone on their bandcamp page named Bucky has proclaimed that "this album SUCKs every last drop of nostalgic 90s chaos off the bar room floor and spits it in your pimple crusted face with a post-punkish sneer and a hydroponic punch." I don't see it. I see PRE-punk. I see an adherence to old-fashioned hard rock signatures dancing in the same dark corners where you might run into Satan or at least a very cute Goth girl with a few too many body piercings.

What's unusual about this tough album, tagged as scuzz pop on their website, is that it's nicely recorded and pressed on beautiful transparent blue vinyl. I thought this was another indie rock band lucky enough to make a deal with the Pallas Group pressing plant in Germany, but there are none of the prerequisite stickers on the outer sleeve. It's released by DeepSkull Records, mixed by Don Farwell at Earwig Studio and mastered by Levi Seitz at Black Belt Mastering and they've all done an incredible job. Our pre-punk albums back in 1976 didn't sound this good, but we were listening on little record players on the floors of our bedrooms and not with analog rigs that cost twice as much as my first new car. But Suck definitely takes me back to a time when everything was about to bust open and change in ways we couldn't possibly imagine.

(Edit: I just heard from Sean Moe, who wanted to explain the drummer situation: "We were in between drummers during this period of time so one of the engineers (Mikel Perkins) tracked the drums with us after rehearsing the songs with us. That's the quick story." Thanks for the clarification, Sean!)

High End Munich 2019--dCS Bartok, HIFIMAN and WyWires

Are you waiting for me to talk about headphones in my show reports from High End 2019 in Munich? Well, here you of the best headphone experiences I've ever had. You can read it at Part-Time Audiophile right here.