Cassette Corner: Euphoria Again - "Bedroom Recordings Remastered"

Euphoria Again - Bedroom Recordings Remastered
(Z Tapes 2013)

Though they only have a couple cassettes (plus a digital compilation) to their name, Slovakian label Z Tapes has quickly become one of my favorite purveyors of fuzzy sad-pop. Late last year, the label caught my attention with the release of Jackie Trash's wow so sad, a jangly look at the lo-fi ethic of early Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Last Saturday, I received the second addition to my Z Tapes collection, a collection of home demos recorded by Euphoria Again, the solo project of Salt Lake City's Johnny Forrest. Though not as fast-paced and poppy as Jackie Trash's offering, Euphoria Again more than makes up for its minimalist aesthetic with patient songwriting, impressive maturity and a ghostly aura that pairs well with its cover. Without resorting to gimmick or flashiness, Euphoria Again has received a permanent seat in my family's car's cupholder, which holds albums reserved for listening on the way to school.

At 17 tracks, Bedroom Recordings might seem like a daunting listen, but it really isn't so. Many of the tracks are rather rough sketches, usually containing just a single verse and a chorus, and the whole tape clocks in at a reasonable 40 minutes. I'll admit that a good majority of these whispery lo-fi acts have very beautiful, almost brittle sounds, but it's rare that one of them has had me humming their songs in the hallway at school, and so often. Tracks like "X Marks The Time", "Ol Rudy" and "Janis Klonopin" will stick with you even after the cassette is ejected and tucked into its case. They're just that forcefully catchy, creating powerfully memorable melodies from rudimentary materials.

If there's one band Euphoria Again reminds me of, it's Uncle Tupelo. The gritty sound quality and trudging chords landing on heavy bass note footfalls remind me very much of the slacker-folk duo's more melancholic cuts like "Fatal Wound". This is especially evident on "Uncle Sam's Adopted Sons", a sludgy track that rolls along on droning chords and a shimmering tambourine. If you must listen to one of these bedroom recordings, though, it has to be "X Marks the Time". It's intro features absolutely gorgeous vocals, wordless coos heavily affected by a tremolo pedal. The vocals have a sort of jump-rope rhyme repetition: "Black as my brain / cold as your heart / white as my skin / tough as your hands".


Cassette Corner: Jump The Blinds - "Kill Kill Bangkok"

Jump The Blinds - Kill Kill Bangkok
(2014 Self-Released)

As my last few posts have mentioned I enjoy a tape surrounded with a hint of mystique, and it's only natural that Jump The Blinds' new album Kill Kill Bangkok piqued my curiosity. It arrived in a normal looking letter-sized envelope, a lone purple tape absent from its box, wrapped in torn notebook paper. The album title was scrawled directly onto the cassette's face with a black sharpie, bordered by heavy, jagged marks that I might find myself absent-mindedly doodling in a notebook. Honestly, I didn't know all that much about the New York quartet before popping the tape into our van's deck, but the DIY feel of the tape had me excited to give it a listen.

I've listened to the eight song EP a few times now, and it's still extremely difficult for me to pin it down to a single subgenre. At times, it perfectly resembles the crusty, rhythm-driven skate punk sound of the early 80's. A dark, yet also undeniably catchy approach to hardcore is taken throughout the album, reminding one of the surprisingly tuneful aggression of the Misfits or Drunk Injuns. Other elements of Kill Kill Bangkok, however, point to the neo-garage rock recently popularized by Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. It's especially evident in the sour, moaning guitaristry on "Dance" and the acid twang of the vocals. There are even a few moments showing some post-punk restraint. "Clockwise" opens with muted guitar and a heavy, galloping beat, possibly signifying a Fugazi influence. In fact, I'd imagine it could pass for an emo track in the right setting.

In the end, I can't help but love this tape, not only for it's unabashed DIY spirit in design and sound quality, (the songs were recorded in an old barn with vintage equipment), but also for its raw brand of punk, transcending any specific label. This can, at times, make for a few jarring shifts in mood or timbre, but overall, this variety keeps the listener more actively aware of what he's consuming, inviting comparisons to other punk acts.

Contact the band at whirpool138@gmail.com or at 2214 24th Street, Niagra Falls, New York 14305 if you're interested in getting your hands on a copy.


Interview: :3

Sounding a bit similar to the Slinkeys, (featured in yesterday's review), San Antonio's :3 create fuzzed-out bedroom pop that's simple and delicate, yet conceals a sinister aura, not unlike the photo the e-mailed me, shown above. Read on to find out why frontman Joshua Belmares chose the band's seemingly unpronounceable name, what food he enjoys, and when :3 might make their live debut.

1.) Why did you decide your name after an emoticon? How would one pronounce it in conversation?

I’ve been writing songs since I was thirteen but always knew they weren’t actually songs so much as weird song embryos that awkwardly exist in a sort of bardo state, between abstract noise and conventional sound. it wouldn’t necessarily even be right to call it music, noise or otherwise, and it’s certainly shouldn’t be thought of as avant-garde, but that still left the action of writing and recording, which I was doing, and some of the compositions I created could have sounded like songs to a deaf person. :3 is an attempt to sort of pretend my songs exist in the real world along songs by other people who also exist. we called it such because no other words really captured what we were trying to do, and it always reminds me of sending text messages in high school on cheap plastic phones, so there’s a nostalgic element to it. I’ve always pronounced it silly cat face, but :3 is pretty anti-language, so you should ask them instead.

2.) How did :3 originate? Who's in the band and what are they like?

:3 is me but a lot of other people also. we all have a lot of fear, anxieties and nervousness and that’s kind of what created :3 in the first place. it’s all teenaged satanic music and we all exist inside of it, so listening to the recordings should tell you exactly who and what we are. and if you want to meet us in person (whatever that means), we live in san antonio, in texas, in the united states. our address is 1110 vista valet, apartment #704. I think our zip code is 78216. we have two cats.

3.) Your latest release, "Mindless Eating", has a chaotic and extemporaneous atmosphere. How are the tracks recorded and written?

mindless eating was kind of strange for us. it was recorded after a lot of emotional turmoil the previous and summer and was sort of an attempt to come to terms with that stress - it’s very much a summer record. I wanted listening to the album to be kind of uncomfortable, like when you’re home fevered in bed on the hottest day of the year, sticky cough syrup dribbling out the corners of your mouth. we had sent a digital version of the adventures of me and my ghost twin to almost halloween time and they wrote back asking if we had any other songs they could listen to, so we kind of rushed through the recording process, but it worked out since this was our punk record and it was supposed to be a blurry memory of an angry season. we recorded everything between our car and our apartment (we have very thin walls), mostly at night, and our lyrics were written mostly in the middle of the day. I ended up failing the semester at school because the record took up most of my energy.

4.) What bands would you consider influences on your sound? I definitely hear at least a little Sentridoh in there.

any similarities with sentridoh aren’t necessarily deliberate, other than the home recording aesthetic that a lot of shrimper bands had out of necessity. I never really listened to any of lou barlow’s music until I was already out of high school. actually a much bigger influence would be daniel johnston, who collaborated with jad fair of half japanese on it’s spooky, an album I’ve always been mildly fascinated by. we got to see daniel when he performed at an art show during south by southwest last year, after all the people from california descended on austin like a swarm of angry bees. it’s a really horrible experience being in the city that week (imagine a stream of terrible automobiles flushing inside and out like a douche), but seeing him in a tiny gallery was a dream come true for us. spook houses are another one of the artists who we admire best - they create these amazing jangly dream punk compositions and make it seem effortless. every time we listen to one of their records it makes us want to go out and create our own. they’re a lot like wisdom tooth in that respect, whose beautiful pop record baby neptune we could listen to over and over again. it kind of sounds like watching cartoons stoned and then vomiting from eating too much cereal. two other bands who influenced us in a giant way are woods (especially woods family creeps) and the unicorns, who we’ve been listening to since middle school. they both planted these achingly psychedelic compositions in the recesses of our brains, so whenever we’re playing one of our tunes we’re playing one of their songs too.

5.) How did you get the chance to get a release on Almost Halloween Time? I love the artwork for that label.

we initially emailed our demo to labels, blogs and artists we like very much but didn’t really receive any kind of feedback except for some extremely polite and slightly ambiguous no’s. I think cassie ramone has a cd we burned and decorated with paint markers, and we’re sending a few unreleased songs and photographs to the experimental musician christina carter later this month through the postal service. the most positive reaction we got came from luigi falagario, who owns and operates almost halloween time by himself and hand paints each of those releases. I’m not sure any of them have sold yet but we’re really grateful he liked our sound enough to dub the cassettes, even though the people releasing the new recordings would be completely different than the ones behind the adventures of me and my ghost twin. mindless eating became much more of a traditional exorcism compared to me and my ghost twin’s high school record.

6.) Are any of you guys (or have you been) in any other bands?

some of us have performed with others in things which could have become non-fictional bands but didn’t, but we’re all still pretty wet behind the ears. one of us produces electronic music under the name franklin eighties. mostly it’s just :3 though.

7.) What's your favorite food to eat mindlessly?

I really love bread, candy, cakes, sweets, sugary things and anything that’s there and cheap and plentiful. that’s a really big issue with me, consuming out of boredom anything devoid of nutrition so that I kill my appetite for any kind of actual food. all of mindless eating is kind of about that, devoting your time to any repetitive action which doesn’t deserve it, whether it be masturbation or smoking or watching television. that’s why the thing on the cover has a screen for a head - he’s the personification of death from sterility, so it’s good that he’s vomiting. all of that fecal matter becomes ghosts inside your body unless you release it somehow. 

8.) 2nd favorite emoticon next to :3?


9.) What's in store for the future of :3?

we’re going to play a show this year, probably around halloween-time. we’ve been practicing a lot. I’ve never performed in front of any kind of audience so it makes me kind of nervous. we have no idea what venue we might perform at in the city or who we might open for or play with or how long it should be or which songs should be played. right now I’m working on some outtakes from the mindless eating sessions and recycling some lyrics that were meant to be recorded already, and some covers of spooky songs we like very much. we still have a few mindless eating experiments to do before the next collection of songs, before the album can be buried; we should sell a few tapes too so someone will want to put out our next release


Review: The Slinkeys - "Somebody"

The Slinkeys - Somebody
(2014 Self-Released)

Though many successful lo-fi bands like Beat Happening and Half Japanese have cited the innocence of pre-adolescence as an influence on their primal, amateurish sound, few have taken a look back at elementary school as closely as the anonymous artist behind The Slinkeys. "When I was 4-7, I pretended I was in hundreds of bands and I made a lot of CD booklets, and the main band was The Slinkeys," read the digital liner notes of the project's debut EP. "This project is me taking those old lyrics and putting them to music years later". It's a bold move, but one that pays off. The style of verse re-visited is beautifully simple and circuitous, reminding me of the fictional "video game strategy guides" I used to scribble in a Spongebob notebook back in the day. 

"Be not nobody, somebody, nobody," sings our mystery musician on the opening line of the Somebody EP's title track, a tune that might appear on an existential version of Sesame Street. A sputtering drum machine skips along like a stone across water, and an acoustic guitar fumbles along with it. "I would fly above you / She would clean the street / I am waiting for somebody to rest on me". At this point, what may seem to some like a child's nonsensical fantasy actually bears a resemblance to the feverish surrealism often penned by Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Magnum. The guitar and off-kilter rhythm of "Somebody", now that I think about it, would feel right at home on NMH's 1996 LP On Avery Island.

"Let Go" is the punkest track on the EP with its abrasive 8-bit synths and forceful rhythm. The lyrics here are a bit more absurd, but fit well with the dark assault unleashed by their backing track, which sounds like it could be the battle theme from a Pokemon game. "You'd say your name / I'd say my name / That's enough / 20 eggs laid". Lines like this are wonderfully innocent and clearly improvised. This is definitely the must-download track of the bunch. A fun experiment in nostalgia, the Somebody EP is an addictive effort that is surprisingly study-able.


Half-Gifts Issue 7

The thickest issue ever! 4 Pages of reviews, and interviews with Bad Waves Tapes, Athletic Tapes, Raymond Chalme and Feldi. Also a short piece about fast food packaging by myself and a great short story by my pal Damian Fisher. 


Review: The Humors - "Bleeding Edge"

The Humors - Bleeding Edge
(Self-Released 2014)

Though nostalgia is the norm these days in the indie scene, there has been a surprising dearth of bands that emulate the sound of late 70's punk rock. It's strange that such a gap exists, as the eras surrounding the age of The Clash and The Ramones are major centers of attention and inspiration as of late. Burger Records and Gnar Tapes alone release hundreds of tapes reminiscent of 60's garage rock and fuzzy psychedelia per year, and both 80's hardcore and new-wave have experienced a recent revival as of late thanks to labels like Captured Tracks and Grave Mistake. Punk distilled into its purest form, however, is hard to come by. On their new EP, Bleeding Edge, Boston quartet The Humors set out to fill this void, providing three tracks that give a crunchier take on the shambolic sound of The Libertines, with punk/pop hooks on par with those of the Buzzcocks.

Bleeding Edge darts right out of the gates with its strongest track, "Million Things". Machine gun fire cymbals accompany a razor-sharp guitar riff, starting the listener out with a jolt of pure pop energy. The vocals scratch against the canvas of sound, adding to wonderful abrasiveness that pervades the song. At a minute and forty-five seconds, this track does not overstay its welcome. After two short verses and a chorus, "Million Things" does its job, (quite well, I might add), packs a few impressive flourishes into twenty seconds, and packs up its things. Songs that balance memorability and humility tend to be my favorites, ad this one is no exception.

"Bleeding Edge" is another great tune, this one the longest on the EP. It's carried by the buoyancy of its gurgling bass riff, allowing the vocals more space to work with. The guitar is not neglected on this cut, though, exploding into a brilliant shower of tinny, spiraling fuzz. Bleeding Edge may not be the most innovative rock release of the year, but it certainly may be one of the catchiest.



Review: Jackie Trash - "One Thousand Years in a Dreamscape"

Jackie Trash - One Thousand Years in a Dreamscape
(Self-Released 2014)

Shedding the meta-humor and lowercase sarcasm of its predecessor, One Thousand Years in a Dreamscape builds a new sound upon Jackie Trash's former "tumblr-era emo" attitude, a description I manufactured for my review of 2013's wow so sad. Embracing a more mature approach to songwriting, the Canadian lo-fi pop project maintains its addictive attention to melody and emotion, but is also more open to experimentation. The new LP explores longer track lengths, allowing for radical mid-song shifts in sound, and is also not afraid into venture into ambient territory. While Jackie Trash may hold on to the fuzzy sound quality popularized by Julia Brown and friends, the brains behind the band, Linus Taylor, carves out a niche all his own by borrowing ideas from earlier alternative epics like Ok Computer and Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness.

Not to say the album is devoid of pop gems. Far from it, in fact. "Worthless Skeleton" opens One Thousand Years after a noisy introductory track. The song is carried by a twangy guitar riff that matches Taylor's vocal melodies note for note, a tambourine shimmering alongside it, urging the song forward. Though memorable, the more upbeat cuts such as the one just mentioned are upstaged by the album's sadder moments. "Lying On The Floor" is easily the most beautiful tune offered here; a drum machine and keyboard throb while acoustic guitar samples played backward swirl throughout. I know I compared Jackie Trash to Smashing Pumpkins last time around, but it's once again worth noting that this track could easily pass for one of their demos.

While tracks marked with quotation marks on the album's bandcamp page like "Absence" and "In August" may come as a shock even to tenured Jackie Trash fans, they make a lot more sense considering Taylor's reverence for experimental singer-songwriter Dean Blunt, who frequently includes long instrumental sections and bizarre but fascinating samples between and during songs. "Absence" especially fits this bill, featuring the female equivalent of the computer from Radiohead's "Fitter Happier", new age-y keyboards and clunky guitar strums, all floating above the sound of a synthesized choir.

The two final tracks represent both the climax and conclusion of One Thousand Years in a Dreamscape, interesting due to the fact that they are also the most understated songs on display. "Swingset" is driven by sparse, twangy plucking and spans a whole 5 minutes. It seems to keep my interest, though, to the tension held throughout, as if it were from Slint's Spiderland. "Bones" concludes things, a keyboard-led farewell piece that matches the level of lo-fi fuzz on wow so sad. When glockenspiel joins Taylor as he sings the cut's sing-songy chorus, I can't help but be reminded of the Sesame Street theme song somehow. There are many beautiful neo-lo-fi albums out there, but few achieve the level of epicism acihieved on One Thousand Years.