Indie Weirdo Round Up – Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Ducktails, Omar Souleyman, Talubam!, Woods
When Sweet Sleep Returned – Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (Tee Pee)
Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound were eight miles high oh, about, 20 miles back. However high one would be if she got the point where the light of the sun starts to dissipate into the blackness of space and she were able to toggle between the two, the way she can float on the surface of the ocean and suddenly plunge—all three eyes open—into its cool, gravityless weirdness. They’ve got pretty sweet harmonies, too, like "Two Birds" where the west coast psychonauts lay out into an easy seven-and-a-half minute groove, guitar solos and tandem vocals navigating between the two, a faint twang giving hints of the green/blue Earth below. Even during their most fuzzed-out throbs ("Clive and the Lyre"), there is a lightness to Assemble Head’s approach (which comes to fore in the first floating, flute-driven minutes of "End Under Down," resolving into a perfect fusion). Head? Assembled.
Ducktails – Ducktails (Not Not Fun)
For a one-man basement recording project, Ducktails sounds a lot like the beach. Or as much imagining of the shore, anyway, as one can do from a cool, shaded basement. Innocent summer pop is the primary reference point throughout Ducktails self-titled LP. Lo-fi to the teeth, one can imagine Matthew Mondanile’s jams working just fine near a gently lapped tideline, but also anywhere else on a humid, sunshiny day, when everything just needs a little nudge to slow down to something tolerable: the passing cars, people on the streets, the advancing years. As nostalgic in its vibes and song titles ("The Mall," "Pizza Time," "Beach Point Pleasant") as it is au courant in its strained drones (‘Gem’), drum machine love (‘Friends’), and post-Fripp/downtempo guitar bliss (‘Horizon’), Ducktails is a gem.
Dabke 2020 – Omar Souleyman (Sublime Frequencies)
The great Sublime Frequencies made a name for themselves as a collectors of something like the real world, cobbling together compilations from tape bins, radio broadcasts, and field recordings, often bootleg-style. But in the last year or so, they’ve become a conduit for active groups, presenting new works and tours from Group Doueh, Group Bombino, and others. Dabke 2020 spans the decade-and-a-half (so far) career of Syrian New Waver Omar Souleyman. Production finds an exact middle ground between new sounds (hyperspeed synths) and old (an electrified bouzok), suggesting an organic evolution between the two, innovating not for art’s sakes, but for tradition’s. Souleyman’s voice (especially on numbers like the album closing ‘Kasat Hanzal (Drinking From the Glass of Bitterness’) is expansive and soulful.
Boogie in the Breeze Blocks – Talibam! (ESP-Disk)
After several gazillion CD-Rs, LPs, split LPs, and live shows, the Brooklyn jazz duo Talibam! has finally made an album as ambitious as their brainiac spaz-outs often suggested they were capable of. Interspersed with half-nonsensical hip-hop style skits of keyboardist Matt Motel and drummer Kevin Shea reacting to one-sided recordings of a police scanner, Boogie in the Breeze Blocks is filled with guests and random-ass moves —horn players, vocalists, spoken word + shouting (‘Entertaining the After Beast’), dub breaks (‘Schroeder Meets Jagger’). Their work is still anything but accessible, but the wildly veering synth/drum parties, punctuated with juvenile/surreal humor, make up Talibam!‘s most cohesive, adventurous, and successful statement yet.
Songs of Shame – Woods (Shrimper)
It’s interesting to hear lo-fi creep over music at large, like psychedelia did in the ’60s (infecting songs with wah-wah pedals) or punk and New Wave with sneers and synths in the late ’70s and early ’80s. On Woods’ 4th album, Songs of Shame—essentially modest psych-folk—it comes in the sounds of Jeremy Earl’s falsetto vocals (a distorted hiss, sometimes only slight, built in to their consonance), and most especially, the guitars. They are over-saturated (‘Born to Lose’), tinny (a cover of Graham Nash’s ‘Military Madness’), granular (‘Rain On’). At their best, the elements combine into pop grandeur, like ‘Gypsy Hand,’ which strikes a perfect balance for a minute-and-a-half before a cooing blow-out ending, or the layered vocals and strings of ‘Where and What Are You?’ Even the liner notes, which feature minimal musician credits and a warbly ink drawing of a third eyeball suspended between a peace/victory hand sign, are lo-fi.