Los Angeles band The Feels, are desribed as  “Psych punk future rock+roll post-everything melody music,” goes the effusive run-on sentence, “from LA.” it closes. Even as someone paid to write about how music sounds, feels, and fits into the grand scheme of things, I can’t think of any better way to describe Feels, so I’m going to go with that.

Fronted by Laena Geronimo previously of the band Raw Geronimo  Feels’ self-titled debut came out in 2016 on Castle Face Records and was produced by Ty Segall. The rest of the band is made up of Shannon Lay (backup vocals, guitar), Amy Allen (bass), and Michael Rudes (drums), to compose a formidable four-piece who play the kind of garage rock that makes talk of rock being “dead” sound downright ridiculous. The record is just nine songs and twenty-nine minutes long, but it’s still impressive enough to cement them as one of LA’s best new bands. Given their last record came out two years ago, the band is ripe to release some new music.

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Band Members
Laena Geronimo,
Shannon Lay,
Michael Rudes,
Amy Allen,

Later this month, The Feels are playing a free show in downtown Los Angeles on July 28, check out Feels’ debut album .

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The Band emerged in the late sixties as part of the roots movement that would come to counter the psychedelic influence that had taken a grip on popular music. This group of four Canadians and one Arkansas musician, who once backed Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, exploded onto the scene with arguably two of the greatest albums of all time – Music From Big Pink and the self-titled second album The Band. Rustic and encompassing various genres, performed with musicianship of the highest order and with a great trio of vocalists in Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, the albums are like timeless storybooks, documenting a long-gone era with nostalgia, bitterness and regret.

Flanked by a guitarist of the highest order in Robbie Robertson and the almost mythical layer-adding Garth Hudson, these are soundscapes like no other. Songs like The Weight, Whispering Pines, Lonesome Suzie, The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down and King Harvest represent a group in full mastery of their abilities and are rightly regarded as classics.

The problem with The Band is that they peaked too early. The dirty habits of the rock and roll life style set in, drugs and alcohol the corrupting influences that saw the group decline after the third album Stage Fright. In addition to this, Robertson has also alluded to the pressures of being on the road that only served to exasperate the issues facing these talented musicians. By the early seventies, Manuel, once the main songwriter for the group, could no longer pen material. His voice remained entrancing but onstage he could barely perform beyond a few numbers.
The Band would continue to show sparks of their former selves throughout the remaining seven years they spent together. Moondog Matinee, a covers album, is pretty fine and there are a few nuggets to be found on Northern Lights-Southern Cross, one of the original setup’s final albums. By the time they called it quits following the Last Waltz they were burned out. Robertson could no longer tour and Manuel would tragically take his own life in 1986. A reunited Band in the nineties (minus Robertson) was unable to capture the magic, with very little new original material penned. Here are some of their classic songs.

A Musical History

The Weight

Gram Parsons might have coined the phrase “cosmic American music”, but has any piece of music ever sounded so cosmic, or indeed so American, as the Band’s signature track? By the time Levon Helm’s road-weary traveller has pulled into Nazareth – not in biblical Galilee, but eastern Pennsylvania, where CF Martin founded the oldest guitar company in the US in 1833 – he’s already “feeling ’bout half-past dead”, with light years on the clock, and no end to his journey in sight. So ingrained is The Weight’s sense of the mythological and metaphysical that even after you learn the more prosaic truth behind its cast of characters – that “Luke” refers to their former Hawks bandmate Jimmy Ray Paulman, “Anna Lee” was a childhood friend of Helm’s and “Crazy Chester” was an eccentric club owner from North Carolina – it still feels as esoteric and inscrutable it did on your first listen. It’s a song that doesn’t sound like it was written, so much as divined – a nugget of gold panned from the riverbed of American musical tradition, even if four-fifths of the group who happened upon it were Canadian.

Chest Fever

According to guitarist Robbie Robertson: “If you like Chest Fever, it’s for god knows what reason … it doesn’t make any kind of sense in the lyrics, in the music, in the arrangement, in anything.” Yet it’s hard to see how the reason could be any more obvious: if you like Chest Fever, it’s because of Garth Hudson. The multi-instrumentalist didn’t sing, and his songwriting credits were scarce, but his peerless ability and technical know-how were a huge, if often overlooked, asset to the Band. Ophelia – on which he almost single-handedly constructs a Dixieland-jazz wall of sound – is perhaps the greater testament to his musicality and versatility, but personal preference means Chest Fever sneaks on to this list ahead of it. Sure, the lyrics were ad-libbed and largely meaningless, but Hudson’s extraordinary Lowrey organ intro (improvised from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor) and the heaving, inexorable groove of the song’s central riff elevates what might have been a throwaway number into a thing of indomitable power and majesty, which for many years served as the centrepiece of their live set.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

In later life, drummer Levon Helm began to dabble in acting, appearing in movies such as Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Right Stuff and, bizarrely, the Steven Seagal eco-thriller Fire Down Below. His greatest performance, however, will always be that of Virgil Caine, the defeated but stoically defiant protagonist of what is possibly the Band’s finest track. Helm inhabits the role of a forlorn Confederate veteran so completely that when he sings – in that high, lonesome, cigarettes-and-rye rasp – about how the last days of the US civil war are “a time I remember oh so well”, you find yourself believing him. In writing it, meanwhile, Robertson displayed remarkable nuance: the lyrics are not an expression of sympathy or support for the Confederacy, much less slavery; they’re the lament of an ordinary man who knows he’s on the wrong side of history, aware that his own suffering – and the excesses of the victors – has already been written out it.

Whispering Pines

Much of the Band’s early magic lay in their rejection of clearly defined roles. Each member had a primary instrument but would chop and change as the music required; songwriting duties were mostly shared between Robertson and nominal lead vocalist Richard Manuel, but there was no de facto leader; they were adaptive, instinctual, egalitarian; a band – the band – rather than a vehicle for individual talent. That began to change after their self-titled second album, as much because of Manuel’s drug-induced inertia as the bitter disputes over Robertson’s royalty shares, but the heartrending Whispering Pines stands out as perhaps the greatest collaboration between the group’s two main songwriters. Manuel composed the melody – so haunting it would have given Brian Wilson shivers – on an out-of-tune piano he kept at home before tasking Robertson with finishing the lyrics; the guitarist responded with a poetic meditation on loneliness that Manuel’s fragile falsetto managed to wring every last ounce of pathos from. It was no accident, as Robertson later explained: “Richard always had this very plaintive attitude in his voice, and in his sensitivity as a person. I tried to follow that, to go with it and find it musically. We both felt very good about this song.”

Up on Cripple Creek

There’s an argument for 1969’s The Band – also known as The Brown Album – as a loose concept album about the people, places and shared experiences of an older, more innocent and fast-vanishing America, an idea not entirely dissimilar to what Ray Davies was doing on the other side of the pond with The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur. The Band’s worldview, however, was decidedly more blue-collar: they gravitated towards earthier tales of stricken sharecroppers, down-at-heel outlaws and charismatic drunkards. Up on Cripple Creek is the epitome of that, the story of a sanguine, free-wheeling hobo’s cross-country adventures with his “little Bessie”, and likened by the critic Greil Marcus to Harry McClintock’s Big Rock Candy Mountain as “a place where all fears vanish beyond memory”. Underpinned by the bright, sure-handed bounce of Helm’s drumming and Hudson’s funky, undulating wah-wah clavinet, it’s possessed of a roguish, irresistible charm that never fails to have you reaching for the nearest bottle.

Stage Fright

All five members of the Band had cut their teeth as working musicians in the 1950s, when the concept of success was very different to what it would be a decade later when they finally achieved it for themselves. “If you’ve never made a million dollars overnight, like we did, you have no concept of what it can do,” reflected bassist Rick Danko. “Suddenly, we had all the money we needed and people were falling over themselves to make us happy, which meant giving us all the dope we could stand.” Stage Fright was the sound of the Band choking on fame’s poisoned chalice, a theme that ran through the album of the same name – see also WS Walcott Medicine Show’s mockery of showbiz artifice, or Daniel and the Sacred Harp’s Faustian parable about a musician selling his soul – and yielded some of its strongest material. In this case, the creeping anxiety and psychosis – “Your brow is sweating and your mouth gets dry / Fancy people go drifting by / The moment of truth is right at hand / Just one more nightmare you can stand” – belonged to Robertson, whose writing was taking a darker, more personal turn, but the song is brought to life by Danko’s twitchy, nervous vocals.

The Shape I’m In

By 1970, the shy, sweet-natured Richard Manuel had started down the self-destructive path that would ultimately consume him. A heavy drinker since his teens, Manuel subsequently developed a fondness for hard drugs that made him unreliable and accident-prone, and he seemed content to let his considerable songwriting gifts wane – after that year, he never wrote again. Robertson would later recall: “I begged him, I pleaded with him, I offered to become his partner in songwriting, I’d pull him into a song I was working on just to get him in the mood or give him a taste of it, thinking he would go on to follow it up. But he didn’t.” It’s tempting to wonder if The Shape I’m In was one of those songs. It was certainly written about the pianist’s physical and psychological deterioration, and not withstanding the mischievous twinkle in its eye or the Stax beat in its step, the lyrics – “Out of nine lives, I’ve spent seven / Now, how in the world do you get to heaven?” – have the air of an intervention. Manuel sings it with a gruff, haggard charm, but the real stinger comes close to the end, when he lays out the dilemma his bandmates were wrestling with: “Save your neck, or save your brother / Looks like it’s one or the other.” Manuel took his life in a Florida hotel room 16 years later.

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Cahoots, the group’s misfiring fourth album, brought to an end to one of rock’n’roll’s most febrile creative streaks, containing what Rolling Stone would later (and to these ears unfairly) call “Robertson’s first truly awful song”, the unloved The Moon Struck One. Yet it still had its moments, principally this one – a song written by their former paymaster Bob Dylan, but which belongs, in the broader sense of the word, to the Band, and to Levon Helm in particular. The drummer’s characterful vocal captures the essence of a Yankee outsider’s odyssey through Europe – romancing “a pretty little girl from Greece,” dodging lions in the Coliseum, navigating a near-riot in Brussels – far better than Dylan’s own sub-par version, released a couple of months later. Special mention must also go to Garth Hudson’s sparkling turn on the accordion, which lends the song a discombobulating layer of faux-continental sleaze.

It Makes No Difference

Though it might seem like the kind of song more suited to Richard Manuel’s wheelhouse, Robertson wrote It Makes No Difference with Rick Danko in mind, and the bassist knocked it out of the park, out of the neighbourhood, and several area-codes down the road. Simply put, this is one of the rawest, most devastating vocal performances committed to tape, by this band or any other: a seemingly straightforward torch song about the void left by an absent lover, Danko’s high, keening delivery amplifies it to levels of hurt and desperation that are almost as uncomfortable for the listener to hear as they were for Danko. It’s a song that you can’t turn away from, an apocalypse-by-melancholy, whose heartsick protagonist is ceaselessly pursued by low-hanging storm clouds, torrential rains and – just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse – a herd of stampeding cattle.

Acadian Driftwood

This list concludes in 1975 with the release of Northern Lights – Southern Cross, after which the original lineup would record only one more studio album, the contractually obligated (and how it showed) Islands. Yet their penultimate effort – discounting those of their latter-day iterations, which featured neither Robertson nor Manuel  was a welcome return to form, and even fitful greatness. Acadian Driftwood, the album’s big moment, tells the story of the Great Upheaval of the 1750s, when tens of thousands of Acadian colonists were forcibly deported from Canada by the British, who “signed a treaty and our homes were taken / Loved ones forsaken, they didn’t give a damn”. As a meticulously researched song of historical record, it shares some DNA with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, but it’s arguably even more ambitious. Though it’s never made explicit, once Manuel, Helm and Danko start intuitively trading verses, there’s a sense that this story is not being told from a single perspective, but several, with each man expelled from his home into an uncertain future. It was the last time the group’s three lead vocalists would share a song between them, and they couldn’t have chosen a better or more quintessentially Bandish one for the occasion.

  • Rick Danko – bass, vocals, double bass, fiddle, trombone
  • Levon Helm – drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar, percussion
  • Garth Hudson – organ, keyboards, saxophone, accordion, pedalboard, woodwinds, brass
  • Richard Manuel – piano, organ, vocals, lap steel guitar, drums
  • Robbie Robertson – guitars, vocals, percussion

The band

The original band of the Animals, broke up in 1966 and this band was entirely new except for lead singer Eric Burdonand drummer Barry Jenkins, who joined the original lineup when John Steel left in February 1966. With the new band, featuring guitarist Vic Briggs, bassist Danny McCulloch and electric violinist John Weider, Burdon began to move from the gritty blues sound of the original mid-1960s group into psychedelic music.

The album is the first to feature nearly entirely original material, written by Eric Burdon and band members, and involving equal songwriting credit. This practice would continue with the following album, The Twain Shall Meet,

The album opens with the sound of waves washing over the title track, “Winds of Change”. “Poem by the Sea” is a spoken-word piece by Burdon with a swirl of echo-drenched instruments. “Good Times” and “San Franciscan Nights”

Burdon dedicated the album to George Harrison of the Beatles, whose espousal of Hindu philosophy following a visit to India the previous year Burdon cited as an inspiration. Burdon was also a fan and friend of Jimi Hendrix and wrote the fifth track as an answer song to Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” Burdon was so inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s music that he wrote one of the psychedelic era’s rare “answer” songs, “Yes I Am Experienced,” as an homage to the guitarist; the latter’s influence could also be heard in “It’s All Meat,” the LP’s closing track,

Winds of Change was the band’s first real psychedelic rock album. They praised the closing track “It’s All Meat” and the hard rocking cover of the Rolling Stones “Paint It, Black” as rare examples of psychedelic rock songs by the Animals that are strong and convincing one of the group’s handful of memorable covers from this period, “Paint It Black” — driven by John Weider’s electric violin and Vic Briggs’ guitar, and featuring an extended vocal improvisation by Burdon, their approach to the song was good enough to make it part of the group’s set at the Monterey International Pop Festival that June, and also to get a spot in the documentary movie that followed.

“The Black Plague” opens with a Gregorian chant structure that recalls “Still I’m Sad” by the Yardbirds, and was another vehicle for Burdon’s surreal spoken contributions.

“Hotel Hell”, is an obscure but very fine (and quite moody) track on Eric &The New Animals first album, “Winds Of Change” The album was released in 1967, which peaked at a halfway point on the US charts. With a brand new band of New Animals, “Winds Of Change” introduced a “kinder and gentler” Eric, ready to take up the cause of peace and flower power on “warm San Franciscan Nights”…and all that… It was a surprise to many, and the LP was termed a “psychedelic album” (a sign of the times, of course). It was quite experimental really, with a variety of styles and song types, some working exceptionally, some not as well. “Hotel Hell” works great – it is an understated bluesy ballad, recounting a singer’s lonely life on the road .”and I’m so very far…. from my home…” I recall reading that Eric wrote the song, inspired (or perhaps depressed) by his stay in a Northern Californian Central Valley town when touring back in those days – and no, he wasn’t “stuck in Lodi again…” It was somewhere else. “Hotel Hell” is perhaps the best track on the album, with Eric’s voice and phrasing perfectly on target for the subject matter. It ain’t the original Animals….but it is “Something Else”, in more ways than one. And how about that horn in the background! Whoever is playing it was not credited, but what a great touch, giving the song kind of a Spanish feel as well. Great performance! Excellent song!

The Animals :

  • Eric Burdon – vocals 
  • Vic Briggs – guitar, piano, arrangements 
  • John Weider – guitar, violin 
  • Danny McCulloch – bass 
  • Barry Jenkins – drums 
Additional Personnel
  • Keith Olsen – “stepped in on some tracks to deputise on bass after Danny McCulloch broke his wrist

In the midst of the country’s turbulence in 1968, five musicians later named simply The Band hunkered down in a salmon-colored house in upstate New York to craft Music From Big Pinkan album that brought the rural folk Americana sound to popular music and to the classic album canon.

Before finding their footing with this debut album, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel played as backing musicians for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. After the 1966 Dylan tour, the group hunkered down in the Big Pink house in West Saugerties, N.Y.

You likely know the rest of the story. To mark the 50th anniversary of its release, Music From Big Pink is getting a reissue worthy of one of the greatest albums ever recorded. On August. 31st, the record will receive a new stereo mix on CD and digital, with five outtakes, alternative recordings and an unreleased a cappella version of “I Shall Be Released.” including the new stereo mix of the album’s historic single “The Weight” .

The Band will also release a double-LP vinyl box set of the album, which includes the CD, digital access and a high-res surround mix on Blu-Ray. It also includes a reproduction of the 7-inch single “The Weight” b/w “I Shall Be Released,” and a hardback book with an essay by music journalist David Fricke and photos by Elliott Landy.

The box set of Music from Big Pink’s reissue includes two LPs, CD, Blu-Ray, 7-inch vinyl and a hardback book. And yes, there are limited-edition versions with pink vinyl.

In his 1993 memoir, titled This Wheel’s On Fire, the dearly departed Levon Helm wrote, “We wanted Music From Big Pinkto sound like nothing anyone else was doing. This was our music, honed in isolation from the radio and contemporary trends.”

Although the album was not immediately popular on its release, Music From Big Pink is now widely recognized as one of the most influential albums of all time. July 1st marks Music From Big Pink’s 50th anniversary.

[cover art]

This was a film that covered Bob Dylan on his 1966 European tour backed up by the Hawks that eventually became The Band minus, Levon Helm. The film was to be shown on ABC television but ABC rejected and saying it was “incomprehensible” because Dylan himself was one of the editors and wanted the film to have more of an artistic feel.  It was shot under Dylan’s direction by D. A. Pennebaker, whose groundbreaking documentary Dont Look Back chronicled Dylan’s tour the previous year 1965 British tour.

It was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker who filmed Dylan’s 65′ European tour when he played acoustically called Don’t Look Back. Don’t Look Back is terrific. This film is very disjointed. This is the Dylan period that probably is my favorite. The Hawks are raw and powerful and Dylan was

There are some highlights to this odd film. A spontaneous piano duet with Dylan and Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Bob Dylan very high riding around in a cab, and the famous concert footage from the  infamous Manchester Free Trade Hall concert, wherein an audience  member yells out “Judas” because of Dylan’s conversion to electric music. After the Judas remark, he proceeds to tell Robbie Robertson to play it loud and they kick off in a vicious “Like a Rolling Stone.” My favorite live version of that song. Those folk music fans were harsh.

The film is disjointed and frustrating to watch because some of the songs you want to see and hear are there…but only partly. You will be seeing Dylan performing something and then flash away to something else. Some of the concert footage and film from this ended up in the Martin Scorsese movie No Direction Home…I would recommend No Direction Home to be seen by everyone. Other scenes include Dylan and Robbie Robertson in hotel rooms writing and working through new songs, most of which remain unreleased and unpublished. Among these songs are “I Can’t Leave Her Behind”, which was later covered by Stephen Malkmus for the I’m Not There soundtrack.

Bob was pale and nervous and there is no secret he was doing drugs heavily through this movie. After the tour, Dylan had his motorcycle wreck heard around the world and after he recovered he didn’t tour for years.

The cab ride with John Lennon is historical now. Both of them in sunglasses and Lennon trying to inject humor into the situation and Dylan is ok at first and then starts getting sick as the filming stops. As Dylan shows signs of fatigue, Lennon urges him to get a grip on himself: “Do you suffer from sore eyes, groovy forehead, or curly hair? Take Zimdawn!…Come, come, boy, it’s only a film. Pull yourself together.”

Lennon would later recall in an interview with Rolling Stone that he and Dylan who were “both in shades, and both on fucking junk, and all these freaks around us.

If you are a Dylan fan it’s worth a watch. I’m glad we have “No Direction Home” to see some clear film segments on that tour. Eat The Document has not been officially released but you can get a bootleg of it or watch most of it on youtube.

 Thanks to PowerPop… An Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture

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Over the span of their first five albums, the Roadside Graves were quintessential, New Jersey roots-rock storytellers, with songs full of empathetic third-person narratives. On their fifth album, and first for the esteemed Don Giovanni label, they are ready to tell their own. At its best, Acne/Ears unassumingly places itself within reach of New Jersey’s A-list of confessional indie rockers.

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It’s as unflattering as you’d expect from a song called “Acne/Ears”, two facial features that seem to exist for the sole purpose of causing adolescent embarrassment. “Some boys are filled with piss and vinegar/ Some boys are filled with just pus and blood,” John Gleason sings, recalling the days when his breakouts were so profuse, he didn’t even bother going to school. It’s similar to Strand of Oaks’ breakthrough single “Goshen ’97”, in which a sullen teen finds relief by singing terribly in the mirror even when he could hardly bear to look at himself.

John Gleason’s creaking vocals about a lonesome kid holed up in his bedroom. There is a larger scope here, as if that kid finds a suburbia full of other holed-up kids, but it’s when they get together, when they are just “boys in basements making noise” that the song erupts into rollicking, full-band joy. We see much of the louder joy and frustration of this record rise out of solitary quiet. On string-laden “Endangered”, Gleason calls for help because he’s in danger “just like the fish in the sea.” On Acne/Ears, trouble isn’t really a change in the program but more like the same come down. Sometimes, on the heartbreaking loss of “The Whole Night”, it’s too much to bear. Other times, on “Gospel Radio” for instance, it’s the music that makes it all bearable, that can turn pain and closed bedroom doors into wide open spaces of sound, into release. Like the suburbs these songs sound born from, Acne/Ears sprawls outward, in a few small moments almost too far, but in the end the record keeps its shape while offering surprising turns throughout. For Roadside Graves, it’s not about escaping the pain, it’s about making something bigger than it.

girlsnames

On their fourth album, Northern Ireland’s Girls Names plunge themselves down into a dark, dark place. It’s not as immediate as previous efforts, but I think I like this new one more than anything they’ve done so far. It brings to mind the moody “difficult” post punk the Sound’s All Fall Down and Comsat Angels’ Sleep No More.

‘Karoline’, the latest song to be taken from our new album Stains on Silence, out 15th June on Tough Love Records

Our latest album on Lolipop/Burger—’Psychsploitation Today’—has had a great run, garnering a lot of attention & rad vibes. You may have heard that there were videos being made for all 10 album tracks…not only is that true, but we’ve also made a 35-minute movie featuring all of the tracks. Carve out some popcorn time for ‘Psychsploitation Today: The Video Album’

The Prefab Messiahs are back with a new installment of wiggy Garage-Pop-Psych scheming. Their fourth full-length release ‘Psychsploitation Today’ comes to you via Lolipop Records, with Burger Records .

These 10 self-produced songs represent a unique kaleidoscopic voyage through today’s cultural zeitgeist — taking on everything from 21st century media “Psychsploitation” to explosive ruminations about the “Last Day On Earth.” 

The Prefabs’ front Xerox Feinberg, a self-described “Lost Generation Wanna-be Spokesperson,” calls the album “a mental and sonic continuation of the things we were obsessed about from the beginning — mashing up the sounds and attitudes of ’60s garage-psychedelia with post-punk ’80s stuff and dragging all that into whatever ‘today’ is — while generally trying to poke people in the ribs and skewer some of the Big Shams behind all the Shiny Facades. We’re still trying to toss everything into the mix including the kitchen sink. We’re still bemused and shocked and disgusted with The State of Things — and also in love with the noises in our heads. The Prefab Messiahs’ work is never done.”

Released January 26, 2018

The Prefab Messiahs music with a 60’s influenced rock laden in lots of harmonies and layered vocals. Animation suits the music well and would especially appeal to collage kids–underground stuff, with much subtle, hidden commentary about life and its struggles without being heavy. Could watch it again and again and each time see something funny and new in the content.

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Hilang Child is the project of London singer-songwriter Ed Riman. You may have heard him last year on the debut album from Lost Horizons, the new project from Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde, whose Bella Union label is putting out Hilang Child’s upcoming album YearsRiman is sharing a video for the album’s new single “Crow.”

The track is characterized by a U2 dramatic, boundless crashes, but Riman’s voice evokes the gracefully hollow harmonics of Robin Pecknold and Fleet Foxes. Its lyrics move with a bright and earnest determination, and the video feels appropriately meditative.

Riman spoke of the new single:

“Crow” is the most hopeful song on this album. I wanted to write something that sonically created the feeling of glimpsing at a brighter future; a release of euphoric energy in anticipation of better times incoming. I went for a more ‘live’ and visceral approach rather than the measured/layered songwriting that features on the rest of the album, as I always knew it was going to form the album’s crashing climax despite being one of the earliest songs I wrote for it.

“Crow” is taken from the debut album by Hilang Child.

Lay Llamas essentially is Italy’s Nicola Giunta creating multi-textured psychedelic rock. On Thuban he has a few guest to help him out including Goat and Clinic, but this is his show of rhythmic dalliances into north Africa, Thailand and the Beta Band’s Edinburgh.

Dwelling in the night sky of the Northern hemisphere, Thuban (named after the Arabic for ‘snake’ also known as Alpha Draconis, and sometimes as the ‘dragon’s tail’) was the star closest to the North pole from the fourth to the second millennium BC. Yet in a migration that perhaps allows us to consider our own insignificance in the realm of the cosmos, its never-ending trajectory will mean that it will once again become the polar star by 20346AD. It’s a star system powered by mystical significance enough for both Matt Groening to include it in Futurama and for David Icke to consider it the homeland of the shapeshifting reptiles that he maintains secretly control Earth. For Nicola Giunta of Lay Llamas however, this mysterious point in the night sky offers pause for thought. “A polar star is something that drives the travellers towards a safe place. But in the age we’re living now it seems hard to recognise a polar star. Do we have to wait for that? How many times? Do we have to look in another direction?”

Nonetheless, the personal journey Giunta has embarked on in the four years since Lay Llamas’ Rocket Recordings debut Østro has been characterised as much by forward motion as cosmic drift. A number of smaller releases on labels such as Backwards, 4 Zero and ArteTetra followed, as the live band that notably supported Goat at London’s Roundhouse and effortlessly managed a psychic demolition job of considerable force at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia was replaced by a different constellation of musicians. Yet following the departure of vocalist Gioele Valenti, Thuban is very much Nicola’s brainchild, involving as many of twelve different musicians yet with him writing lyrics, singing, producing, mixing and recording at his home, whilst utilising new instruments from marimba to sax to kalimba to pilot this craft to dimensions unknown. The result has been a step beyond the kraut-damaged psychedelic mantras of Østro into a realm seemingly without boundaries, one in which a pan-global fascination with rhythmic hypnosis and an unquenchable experimental zeal manifests hermetically-aligned revelations aplenty.

It’s as much a voyage of discovery for himself as the listener, as he reveals, both stylistically and creatively. “Everything around us is transforming, always! You know, I’m not a proper songwriter, I consider myself a sound crafter. An experimental alchemist of sounds and visions. And sometimes I start with an idea and finish with something really different” True to form, Thuban maps out terrain where collaborators including members of Clinic (on the sax-assisted ritualistic darkness of ‘Cults And Rites From The Black Cliff’) and Goat (on the jubilant tropicalia serenade ‘Altair’) can contribute to the air of earthy vibrancy and fertile exploration. Moreover, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group’s spoken-word contributions to the searing ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ (styled by Nicola as ‘dystopian afrobeat’) steers the album to new pinnacles of intensity informed by science fiction yet with explicitly political force. For all the outward exploration of its sonics, and even considering the excursions through inner space that they resemble, this is an album with its feet firmly on the ground in the here and now.

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“I was born and grew up in Sicily, but now I live in the north part of Italy” says Nicola. “That extremely south part of the Europe represents the main gate for a lot of people that coming from Africa, Asia and the Middle-East. A real cultural melting process is on the way. And there’s not any kind of fascist law that can stop this. Thuban talks about ancient sea travels, ancient cultures, ancient rites, but also about today’s travellers, travellers from all ages. Travellers that are still looking for their Thuban, for their polar star to reach a safe place to live with their family.”

Released June 15th, 2018