Remember how just yesterday, I was informing you of my under-utilized pop side and letting you know I wasn’t all about the DARK and the NOISE just like other, normal human beings? Well, those day(s) are over, suckers. Back to the DARK and the NOISE and especially the last part.
The Julia Sound eradicates any other female-named Sounds and I’m pretty sure they can take down all the male-named Sounds as well, probably without breaking a sweat, all at the same time. Because The Julia Sound are SOUND with a capital-everything.
Former WOOD OWL (as featured previously here at Minor Scratches) [and cryptically abbreviated] R. has returned to the studio as part of The Julia Sound, picking up right where the WOOD OWLS left off: crafting incredibly loud, incredibly layered, sharply angled explosive blasts of white noise that hit your eardrums with enough force to cause vertigo and with enough abrasives to remove protective tympanic membranes, leaving you reeling around in an ear-ringing daze like a Who roadie after 35 years on the road. If this doesn’t sound like your “sort of thing,” I humbly submit that you are simply NOT playing it LOUD ENOUGH.
The Julia Sound’s EP, One Time for Ya Mind, is five end-to-end tracks that revel in the pitch black joy of ensnaring listeners in razor wire feedback and pummeling, thug-like, PiL death disco drums. As cathartic and confrontational as the Jesus and Mary Chain’s early live gigs and as resolutely uncompromising as some of the bands namechecked on its Facebook page (Pussy Galore, Meat Whiplash, zZz), The Julia Sound is an impossibility of logistics. How in the name of all that is unholy do these three persons (/R //E.V. Orman //No. 6), without a complete name between them, manage to create such an encompassing “Sea of Sound,” one which seems to be at least as much predicated on destruction as creation?
Somewhere between the JAMC, the Sisters of Mercy (Vision Thing incarnation) and Suicide lies this pretty thing, and by “pretty” I mean “check out those sharpened incisors.” A brief noise, not unlike a motorcycle made entirely out of blown-out speaker cones, kicks off the track, revving the throttle in an altogether threatening way. And away it goes, replaced by reverbed, guttural howls and the occasional shouty, echoed f-bomb. The beat goes on in a relentless fashion, but not one built of insistence but resignation. All in all, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that this was once a Jesus and Mary Chain b-side that somehow slipped into a wormhole during an elongated drugs-and-drinking session, only to be recovered by The Julia Sound, who somehow, against all SCIENCE, discovered they had ALREADY recorded it. (Cue scary musical sting.)
The OED doesn’t seem to be particularly lacking in words for stuff, but when it comes to something as intensely brutal and beautiful as this track, there’s suddenly a dearth of adequate adjectives. It runs 8:46 and as such qualifies as “epic,” even before a single note is played. But the notes are played and what begins as something you might be able to term a “first-date song” quickly devolves into something more in line with a “post-devastating-breakup song.” The drums go from “nonexistent” to “inescapable,” and the track itself from “inviting” to “tinnitus hellscape,” inviting comparisons to Stellarium’s “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” epic sonic destroyer Dead Nebula and My Bloody Valentine’s live finale You Made Me Realise* (“whatever doesn’t kill you leaves you desperately in need of immediate medical attention”). Gentle, it isn’t.
This is the sort of track that leads to this scenario when experienced live:
Uninitiated friend: “So… this is like performance art or something?”
[WAVE AFTER WAVE OF TJS SONIC BRUTALITY]
You: “I KNOW! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! I THINK MY NOSE IS BLEEDING”
Uninitiated friend: [slowly sinks into fetal position]
You: “FUCK YEAH! IT IS BLEEDING!”
Be initiated. The sight, taste and smell of your own blood as heightened by the collapse of Western Civilization in audio format is greatly preferable to laying in your own urine, hoping for a riot to cut the night short.
Stop by Facebook and add The Julia Sound to your “These Are the Sorts of Things I Like” List. Also, take a few seconds to gaze in awe and wonderment at the inspiration for the band and its namesake. (You won’t need more than 15 of those seconds.)
Share it with a friend.
SCREAM IF YOU WANT TO GO FASTER.
Wear proper hearing protection, etc. blahblahblah.
Comments Off on Recommended: The Julia Sound – One For Ya Mind EP
[Featuring the Haiduks, BrthCtrl, Wood Owls, Weekend, TÅNK and Stellarium.]
Shoegaze is the genre that never really went away. The original scene got stuck in a recursive loop while the rest of alternative rock turned into something completely unrecognizable, populated by fitted ballcap-wearing aggressors with a tendency to abusive the dynamic shifts when not abusing rhyming dictionaries. As grunge rose, fell and was replaced by a succession of increasingly dull roars, shoegaze went into hibernation.
Now that all that unpleasantness is behind us, shoegaze (along with most of the 80s) has stepped back out into the sunlight, even if only metaphorically, as darkened venues are preferable to the harsh glare of unshielded UV rays when it comes to making layered noise. And what better way to celebrate this resurgence than a handpicked compilation of shoegazer tracks, curated by your host with no consideration given to whether these bands even claim the genre as their own or the fact that this “brand-new” resurgence has actually been going on for years.
Without further underselling, here’s the inaugural edition of Miscellaneous Themed Compilations, thrust upon you by your favorite underproductive music blog, Minor Scratches. Keep in mind that this is a 2-part post, and while there won’t be a quiz at the end, there will be door prizes. (Which include, and are limited to, a zip or rar of all the tracks and some handmade cover art.)
This must be what it sounds like in Kevin Shields’ head. All. The. Time. While otherwise normal people (who have never helmed a seminal band whose career culminated in a masterpiece (Loveless) that simultaneously set the bar unreachably high and devoured an entire label) would hear something tunefully fuzzy and a bit askew (like say, Sloan’s Lemonzinger), Kevin Shields, here embodied by the Haiduks, hears looped guitar chords suffering from intense vertigo.
In a word: askew. But pleasurably so. Disorienting but engaging, like taking a ride on a sonic Tilt-a-Whirl in need of repairs but otherwise not life-threatening. Or firing up a worn-out belt drive turntable, only with guitars and such.
As long as our kilter is still a bit off, let’s head into something else delightfully noisy and prone to lurching around like Grandpa in search of some more MD 20/20. This track is so extremely rare that even Writer Mike himself has probably never heard it and I’m pretty sure he’s heard everything that was recorded between 1930 and earlier this afternoon.
BrthCtrl is the (mostly) unrealized, unreleased side project of home crowd favorite rraaiillss, itself a rather Jesus & Mary Chain-y, shoegazey effort. (Some day I’ll have to put together a list of “home crowd favorites” in some sort of order. And then maybe I can rotate them periodically, giving them each a shot as “Blog Mascot,” a title that comes with no prize money or additional accolades. It does, however, come with a fiercely loyal blogger whose lack of frequent updates tends to undermine the positive aspects of having such a blogger in your pocket.)
Unrealized or not, BrthCtrl rocketlurches from the gates with a monumental guitar swoon that seems on the verge of collapse any number of times, pitched to and fro like the drunken love child of MBV’s Only Shallow and Nirvana’s Radio Friendly Unit Shifter before the drums kick in and push it towards MBV’s Soon and most of JAMC’s Honey’s Dead. In other words, great stuff delivered guilelessly by a master craftsman and exclusive as fuck to boot.
Ah, this is nice. A refreshing blast of blasting. Well, in all honesty, it’s probably not “nice” but it certainly is bracing. In order for it to be “nice,” your definition of “nice” would have to be as flexible as my definition of “shoegaze.” This verges on No Wave (No Gaze?) in its single-minded pursuit of noisy guitar anti-heroics.
If the Jesus & Mary Chain met My Bloody Valentine’s pre-Loveless EPs in your garage for a session that would result in your eviction from the Homeowners’ Association, it would sound like this. (But probably only after mastering. [If that even happened. This sounds like 1985 opened a wormhole and shoved this through. Right into your garage. Weird. Try not to drop anything useful in there…] Before any sort of ultra-rough mastering, it would probably sound like this [starting about 5:50]:
So… basically the Wood Owls sound like your Marshall stack invited all the amps it knew to a party in the local bomb shelter WITHOUT TELLING YOU and you only found out because the goddamn bay windows buzzed right the fuck out the frames and collapsed on the ground to the accompanying sound of your voicemail filling up with increasingly profane noise complaints.)
What’s that about a “life worth living?” Pish and of course Posh. Weekend have brought the noise and are shaking things loose from your skull, waking you up just to tell you that they’re going to sleep for a long, long time.
Sometimes life’s what you make of it and sometimes it’s the parts that pass you by that affect you the most. Let’s sleep it off. Good luck sleeping, though! Oh, sure. It starts quietly enough. The drums kick in and there’s not much more than forward motion for a short while. But then the feedback kicks in, riding alongside a guitar set to “squall” and the pace never lets up, belying the inactivity of the title, but by no means suggesting that Life Is Being Made. You’re going for a ride and Weekend’s in the driver’s seat. We may not end up anywhere but at least we’re moving, am I right?
The guitar heat raises prickly bands of sweat on the back of your neck, perfect for dirt collecting during summer in the city. The feedback arcs and dives but never completely goes away. Fever dream music for the masses.
French one-man-band Christophe Mevel (a.k.a. TÅNK) isn’t normally associated with the shoegazer genre per se, but given the liberties I’m willing to take when arguing from the ear of the beholder (and doing battle with a variety of incomplete metaphors), we’re finding him grouped here despite his more Krautrockian leanings. Sure, this track may edge closer to space than to the introverted gauze of The ‘Gaze, but the necessary signposts are there. Manipulated guitars straining at the leads, surging on the backs of a theoretical “shitload” of effects pedals. Drumwork that propels, underpins and otherwise sets the pace (and the controls) to the heart of the sun while the surrounding swirl renders the rhythm section’s best intentions worthless – an enveloping fog that makes directional sense completely theoretical and as least as accurate as the old guy at the gas station who reeks of distilled Aqua Net and a lifetime of regrets.
Still, you’ll feel a bit more thump than shoegazing is accustomed to, but don’t worry, we won’t suddenly be taking a left into Germany’s idea of what rock should sound like if it’s not being played by The Scorpions. Instead, we’ll take a pulsing meander into the spacier side of shoegaze, which is at least as enjoyable as it sounds. And as to what exactly a “pulsing meander” sounds like? Two options: a.) TÅNK and b.) someone reaching the end of their mental thesaurus.
This track is a bargain. Introspective and downcast in the front, pure sonic overdrive in the back, like a wallflower at the dance that springs to elbow-throwing life when the DJ throws MC5 on the turntables. Suddenly, caution is thrown to the wind like so many journals full of overwrought poetry onto the bonfire. Maybe it’s not a party in the true high school drunkfest sense of the word, but it is definitely a Happening.
Going from bruised to bruising about halfway through, Stellarium flex their tonal muscles, which is never just mindless bulk, but rather just “cut” and “ripped,” like an aural Brad Pitt in Fight Club (or an Iggy Pop anytime). [Speaking of which, there is something a tad bit Stooge-ish in the blown-out swagger out the second half of the track…] Lithe but strong enough to make you feel that punch for the next several weeks. The build is as important as the release, setting you up for a series of uppercuts by lulling you into dropping your guard.
That’s it for this session. Part Two is on the way, featuring some more hazy instrumentation and effects pedaling, as well as a (probably) welcome shift in tone and tempo. (I originally typed that in as “shit in tone and tempo” and was EXTREMELY tempted to leave it that way. Now that you’ve been inside my head for a moment, allow me to gesture vaguely at the exits here, here and here. Feel free to drop back in any time. The door is always open. Or missing completely…)
For fans of the JAMC, this comes as news. It’s not exciting news. It’s not bad news. It’s simply news. Seeing as we’re only a couple of years away from the 20th anniversary of their last good album (1994’s Honey’s Dead), it makes one wonder how much longer a band like this, even as influential as they are, can continue to coast down this slope of goodwill before coming to a complete stop. It also makes one wonder whether or not it’s worth throwing down perfectly good cash money to watch two aging gentlemen replay a back catalog that suddenly nose dives at Stoned and Dethroned, never to recover again. No mention yet as to whether this will lead the Reid brothers back into the studio, but given what the last two albums did to their legacy, even diehard fans have to be hoping that it Does Not.
Then there’s the fact that your idols, like 99% of the rest of humanity, are failing to age gracefully. Jim Reid seems to be holding up well:
but William Reid seems to be well on his way toward morphing into Buzz from the Melvins:
[Compare and contrast]
It’s not as if it’s impossible to stay in shape well into (and past) your 40s. Take a look at Iggy Pop:
Sure, he’s got a face only that only a barren adoptive mother could love, but look at the muscle tone! Thirty years after that man’s death, his grave will hold nothing but a skull attached to 40 lbs of beef jerky. And that’s assuming he’ll die. Frankly, he looks like he’d just beat the shit out of the Grim Reaper and go on to compose a concept album about the whole experience, possibly collaborating with Diamanda Galas or Brian Eno or fucking Bright Eyes for that matter. Anything to confound the expectations of his fans.
The Jesus and Mary Chain don’t need to do this, fiscal reasons aside. There’s nothing to be gained artistically, and if they’re looking for a cost effective solution, they could just use animatronic dummies and Hope Sandoval, thus saving themselves the trouble of letting out William’s leather pants and venturing out into the unfriendly daylight of music festivals. A few headliner spots will pay the bills, but the legacy is long gone and compulsive touring isn’t going to change that.
Then there’s the redundancy problem. There are several bands out there right now doing a better Jesus and Mary Chain than the Chain themselves have done in close to twenty years. Why go head-to-head with your unruly offspring who are doing your legacy proud while simultaneously steamrolling your last two decade’s worth of “contributions” to the pantheon of recorded, feedback-heavy music? There’s nothing to gain here but the chance to see what the oft-used but rarely experienced term “chagrined” means.
Before we take a look/listen to the sonic forces of destruction that have taken the Chain’s game to the next level, here’s a couple of tracks to remind everyone of just how devastatingly good they were. Here’s one taken from their debut, 1985’s Psychocandy:
AND NOW, SIX BANDS THAT MAKE THE JAMC’S CURRENT ZOMBIFIED EXISTENCE REDUNDANT
We’ll start off with the most obvious heirs to the Chain’s distorted, leather-clad throne:
A Place to Bury Strangers
Known as the “loudest band in New York City,” (which doubtless makes them The Loudest Band in the World Not Named the Boredoms) A Place to Bury Strangers have grabbed ahold of JAMC’s legacy with both hands, crafting a Wall of Sound worth of Spector himself, if Spector had been into skull-splitting waves of feedback and basslines so distorted they threaten to weaken any lode-bearing structures within the entire metropolitan area (particularly threatening to New Jersey, as most structures have been crafted out of substandard material, thanks to the tireless efforts of skimming mob underbosses and a generally uninvolved crew of union construction workers).
Built on the back of lead Stranger Oliver Ackermann’s Death by Audio effects pedals, A Place to Bury Stranger’s music doesn’t simply beg to played loud: it downright demands it in a calm but serious tone that lets you know immediately it is Not to Be Fucked With. With a few albums and EPs under their belt, APTBS show no sign of slowing down, dialing back the volume or offering to pay for structural damage/ruptured eardrums.
San Diego’s Crocodiles may not be as sonically aggressive as A Place to Bury Strangers but they have JAMC’s blend of Velvet Underground-noise-meets-hummable-hooks song structure down cold. Not only that, but they’ve got twice the sexual/animal magnetism live (possibly more than that, given the declining ROI of the JAMC experience). While the Chain were content to stare at their shoes or the drummer or the amps, the Crocodiles give the audience something to look at as well as listen to, with charismatic frontman Brandon Welchez strutting, swaggering and sweating all over the stage. Observe them live below:
With the obvious suspects dealt with, let’s take a look at some of the undercard contenders:
Possibly the only band on this list to challenge A Place to Bury Strangers in terms of sheer sonic destruction, Stellarium hail from the unlikeliest locale ever listed as “Country of Origin” on a shoegaze CD: Singapore. While the JAMC is an obvious influence, their sonic attack also encompasses the expansive aural fuckery of My Bloody Valentine and the overall “hugeness” of seemingly unrelated bands like King Crimson (at their loudest) and Chrome (at their heaviest).
While Vertigo provides concise proof of their membership in the Chain gang, their true power is fully unleashed in longer tracks like the 13-minute Dead Nebula, which sounds like it would take years off your life experienced live.
It starts out as a reverb-laden altrocker before suddenly discovering the gas pedal around the 2:50 mark, steadily accelerating before crashing headlong into 50-car pileup made of white noise, somehow emerging on the other side, still cruising at a breakneck speed, covered in flames. There’s a moment of silence starting at the 8-minute mark (that lasts 90 seconds), at which point the track morphs into an extremely fuzzy breakbeat workout, not entirely unlike the coda to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, the somewhat more melodic Soon.
A bit of cheat, this one. Ceremony is composed of members of Skywave, Oliver Ackermann’s (A Place to Bury Strangers) former band. While not quite as ear-destroying as APTBS, Ceremony still whip up a furious amount of noise themselves. Breaking Up is pure Chainery, bleak lyrics paired with a blasts of distortion. There’s some very nice dynamic shifting going on, occasionally peeling back the layers of fuzz to reveal singular piercing tones of high-contrast feedback. Supposedly a followup to 2010’s Ceremony is in the works, but nothing can be confirmed. Hopefully so, as Ceremony have staked a solid claim to the feedback-laden future.
Speaking of Texas (and we were, eons ago in the introductory paragraphs: i.e., JAMC is touring, starting with SXSW), Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr have been franchisees of the Jesus and Mary Chain since 2005, not to mention having nailed down one of the most ridiculously cool band names in existence. As is illustrated by Some Kind of Sad, the Deathstarr know their way around the feedback/fuzz/distortion neighborhood, making stops at all things heartbroken or bleakly nihilistic. Also, like their influences, they’ve got a way with buried hooks, the kind that stay in your ear long after the ringing has died out.
Last, but most certainly not least, it’s the Young Boys, the (yes) youngest member of the nu-Chain. Coming from out of nowhere (thanks to the un-Googleability of their name) with Bring ‘Em Down, perhaps the finest impersonation of the Jesus and Mary Chain yet. While some critics might find this sort of appropriation/derivation to be an affront to the betterment of rock and roll or whatever, the fact is that no one else out there sounded this much like the original, leather-clad, un-tanned, crowd-baiting, bleakly beautiful but catastrophically noisy Jesus and Mary Chain of yore for nearly 20 years, least of all the JAMC themselves. For a fan like me, this was a blast of refreshing past, delivered by the future of the genre.
Several months later and the Young Boys have struck again, offering yet another set of brilliant pop tunes carefully hidden under filthy fuzz and cavernous reverb.
So, the question for the Chain faithful is: do you gravitate towards the new bands giving you what you want but can’t get from the source anymore, or do you fall for the Sunk Cost Fallacy and support the latest tour, entertaining the 1% of your mind that still believes that the JAMC will return to glory once again? My money’s on the new guys. But that’s because my heart belongs to the old guys. If I can’t have them the way I want them, then I’m getting my fix elsewhere. This new wave of bands may owe a ton to the Reid brothers, but as a fan who’s purchased (and re-purchased, thank you very much format shifting!) all the albums and several compilations and singles, I don’t think we owe the Reid brothers anything.