Friday, February 15, 2013

A bunch of new shiny silver discs

While it's more ecologically responsible for promo peeps to furnish scribes like your humble chronicler o' events hyperlinks to new releases, there's nothing to prompt Protestant-ethic remorse like a stack of shiny silver discs that makes its way from the magic mailbox to every flat surface in the house before I get around to spinning and reviewing 'em.

Fort Worth-based ambient rockers Drift Era gots a new EP that you can stream or download via Soundcloud, or go to a show to acquire in corporeal form. I was once in an instrumental band which went Tango Uniform because one of the musos believed (this was about 15 years ago) that "they'll kill us if we go out there without a singer!" And I remember watching Confusatron at the Black Dog about ten years ago with a jazzer friend who scoffed, "Every song sounds like a long intro, but then they never do anything." Things have changed and non-jazz instrumental bands playing music without harmonic movement are, if not a dime a dozen, a lot more commonplace than they once were, and Drift Era's one of the best ones in my neck of the woods. The obvious audible inspirations are Radiohead (it's a generational thang) and local '90s dub juggernaut Sub Oslo (a couple of members of which are working together again under the rubric Wire Nest). While one man's hypnosis is another's monotony, Drift Era have a cinematic sensibility that lets you create the movie to accompany their soundtrack in your mind.

A package arrived the other day from Saustex Media, the label run by Hickoids frontman Jeff Smith, a man with an ear for the slightly-left-of-center in "roots" musics -- like an evil amalgam of Arhoolie's Chris Strachwitz and Estrus' Dave Crider. (He also rocks a pair of duct tape pants like no other label impresario in the history of recorded sound. Eat your postmortem hearts out, Sam Phillips/Leonard Chess/Don Robey.)

Los Ninos de Cobre is the debut full-length (they previously released an EP) from The Copper Gamins, a punk blues duo from the industrial backwaters of Mexico. After playing together in a cover band as teenagers and spending some time acquiring life experiences (collegiate music studies and European travel for Claus Lafania, busking and coffeehouse gigs for Jose Carmen), they traded instruments and started blasting out a primitive brand of crash and thump that's as redolent of the Sonics as it is of the Delta daddies. Their failure to take Mexico City by storm recalls Radio Birdman's initial descent on Sydney from Woolongong and necessitated a trek north of the Texas border, where folks are suckers for this kind of jive. Back in the '90s, before White Stripes and Black Keys were household names, these guys would have been right at home in the Estrus stable, home of my favorite purveyors of such sounds, the Immortal Lee County Killers. When Carmen's plaintive yelp sails out over the metallic clangor of his reverb-drenched guitar and the holy thunder of Lafania's primordial percussives, the effect is as soul-cleansing as it's house-shaking.

The Beaumonts hail from Lubbock, home of Buddy Holly and the Flatlanders, but also the launching pad for the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Their particular aesthetic combines a genuine love of honky-tonk country with monumental substance abuse proclivities and a propensity for scatological lyrics that pretty much guarantees that you'll never hear anything from "Where Do You Want It?" on the radio (as if such was a possibility for music released on a tee-tiny San Antonio-based indie, anyway). Sample lyrics: "If you don't love the Lord, you're fucking fucked" (from "(If You Don't) Love the Lord"), or "I think I deserve a fucking drink" (from "I Deserve A Drink"). Imagine an extremely dissolute Waylon Jennings spewing out all the accumulated vitriol and bile from the deepest recesses of his subconscious and you've got a fair idea of what these guys are up to. Bonus points awarded for character assassination of Toby Keith.

Churchwood's self-titled debut inspired comparisons with Captain Beefheart and his late '70s simulacra Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band. On their sophomore full-length, cleverly entitled Churchwood 2, they ride that pony a little farther down the line, revealing themselves as a more individuated entity at every turn. A couple of the tracks were previously available on a vinyl single and digital download, respectively, but they blend seamlessly into the corporeal digital mix here. Joe Doerr's tortured tonsils and perspicacious pen remain the primary focus, ably abetted by slashing dual guitars and an agile riddim section. The band adds some West Coast spice to their gutty blues-rock attack on "Aranzazu," which features Doerr at his most Beefheartian. "You Be the Mountain (I'll Be Mohammad)" churns up a welter of funk that hits like an alternate-universe amalgam of Little Feat, Westbound-era Funkadelic, and The Cry of Love. "Money Shot Man" gets some Nawlins spice from the addition of a three-piece horn section, while the closing "New Moon" progresses in fits and starts to shuffle along like an outtake from the first Moby Grape album. Pick of the litter, and a powerful incentive to see these guys live if you can.


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