by: Paul McEldowney
Ulaan Markhor - Ulaan Markhor – (Soft Abuse)
Por y para memorial day I engaged in ecological seance via a day trip to the Salton Sea, a once hot-spot that celebs and musicians in the 20s through the 50s visited for vacations of water-skiing and other out of the limelight activities. Now the Salton Sea is essentially a barren desolate wasteland whose neighboring towns are seeing parallel fates. It's hard to say why, but the decrepitude of the Salton Sea and its neighboring towns are probably systemically related to the agricultural runoff that has caused the Sea to be so salty such that its oxygen content is too low to sustain life, resulting in shore everywhere-dense littered with fish corpses.
Walking the beach was a strange synethesiatic experience, as the smell of dead fish, the beating of the 'reelfeel' 101 degree sun, and dryness of the air, while nominally distinct, all seemed to naturally mesh together. As I noticed that the sand felt more course than usual, I looked down and found that the sand was just an expanse of finely cracked fish bones. Being a quasi-tripophobic, I felt goosebumps the entire time. Amidst this almost post-apocalyptic landscape, there was an air of hope. All the signs around this to-be-shut-down state park both explain how things got so bad and call for an SOS that is not without self-defeat. The trip was comforting in a hippy dippy all-is-one sort of way and tension fueled and freed from a felt solitude-solidarity combinatoric.
Ulaan Markhor is Stephen R Smith, guitarist of post-molecular psych downer band Hala Strana, marking a difference in approach yet growth in ethos from his 0-bpm dronescapes as Ulaan Khol, in which he recorded a trilogy of some of the best solo psych guitar of recent times. While these new recordings share the inescapable drudgery and eastern-medieval aesthetics of Ulaan Khol, they also offer a smoke signal of hope that transcends and accepts (and works with) current conditions of sonic and thematic constraint via participation in more traditional rock and earthy conventions.
After leaving the Salton Sea, we decided to visit the notorious Salvation Mountain, which we often and appropriately would confused with Salvation Army and Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain. We met an older man (not the founder) who had been living there for decades, visiting the (in every sense of the word) deserted mythical and wacky tourist attraction. As we talked more, he asked if we wanted to go shooting with him to let out some aggression, and we respectfully and coyly declined. After taking a photograph for us, he wanted us to think about the meaning of the mountain turned mecca and how we all somehow ended up here at this particular place at this particular time. To him, everything was part of his God's plan. To me, it didn't really matter in a way that both the signs at Salton Sea and Ulaan Markhor's new album hints toward. He told us to visit natural hot springs that were close, and after taking his directions, we were unable to find them, eventually gave up on our search for this oasis. Afterwards, we decided to look for mud pits that another local told us about, which we were also never really able to find.
Nihiti - For Ostland – (Lo Bit Landscapes)
Mental metal chimed post-bpm insect sounds mixed with Philip Glass wall of sound with industrial R&B overtones. Now I will enumerate R&B in ways that I find relevant: rusty & bare, ripe & brisk, ready & bean, rites & bichon, rage & bagainst the machine, rapture & bush, renounced & ballsy, rudimentary & beautiful, rack & bane, rich & beetle, ru & bpaul,...
Emily Jane White - Ode To Sentience – (Antenna Farm)
The thematically existential music keeps on coming. Melancholia in summer is not even too bad, considering all the summer fun to be had. But some days you want to just stay in and watch a Lars Von Trier film. I just watched Anti-Christ recently, and it was pretty hard to watch even though I had torta in one hand and a glass of jack in the other. Like the kind of cute fox that screams chaos reigns, Emily Jane White's new album is whimsical and subtly dark beautiful singer songwriter folk that is captivating, saddening, uplifting, and empowering.
Mike Sheidt - Stay Awake – (Thrill Jockey)
Doom Metal guitar god and Krav Maga champ turned orchestral-sentimental-wall-of-sound universal folk and Krav Maga second time champ. Also, I had no idea there were subdivisions within Doom Metal. While trying to look up weird stories about Doom Metal artists, because I just assume there's got to be one pretty insane story for every metal subgenre, I found that according to the wiki, there's traditional doom, epic doom, stoner doom, sludge doom (my favorite), and tons more. Sheidt's debut solo album is by no means Doom Metal per se, but in terms of ethos, the parallels run deep. I suppose the doom metal analog of this album would be 'death/doom' or maybe just traditional.
Public Image LTD. - This is PiL – (Self-released)
So this is the first Public Image LTD. album in 20 years. If you aren't familar, they are a seminal post-punk band led by Sex Pistol's Johnny Rotten. Needless to say, it's a pretty insane and necessary listen. This is the PiLzone!!
Crocodiles - Endless Flowers – (French Kiss)
The first time I saw this band they were the loudest band I had ever seen at the time. It was bass-free treble-scarring ear-piercing ear drum ripping MC5 meets suicide garage punk. Now there is bass, less violence, more sanitation, and more heartthrob and immediate catchiness. Even the dissonant feedback carries de-tangled layers of thick melody.
2:54 - 2:54 – (Fat Possum)
I was talking to Neha in the lobby and her friend had a purse that she made that had a clock. The clock was an hour behind exactly, and at first I was initially confused, and then she asked me, "what is time, anyways?" We use temporal indexicals in our everyday speech and maybe it's the tie-dye shirt that is making me confused and overly focused on the question. The question seems pressing especially at a time (hehe) when external forces make me feel like I need to justify my humanities degree. For one, there's the subjective phenomenological experience of time passing, yet our best scientific theories say that time is but one dimension within a space-time universe, which doesn't really 'pass'. So 2:54 a track length of a Melvin's song that fully determined the name of this band, and to stick with the line of thought that I started, this album messes up time, as there are swirling guitars that seemingly come in from nowhere. Yet at the same time, every song features a strong and inescapable rigid temporal structure. Also, do you think they meant 2:54am or pm? The questions seem to keep adding up.
Pomegranates - Heaven – (Modern Outsider)
Every week the hardest albums to listen to aren't the ones that are too painful or violent or cheesy. At least those albums can be interesting. The ones that are hardest to listen to is the endless amount of roadrunner records bound form-fitting boring mediocre indie rock. A gem in 'indie rock' is a needle in a dull hay stack. Pomegranates happens to be a sweet gummy needle, borrowing conventions of an already overdone discourse in an imaginative, important, and forward way.
The Mynabirds - Generals – (Saddle Creek)
Anti-plastic-synethetic soul fueled all-out all-star politically frustrated exploratory orchestral pop.
Lemonade - Diver – (True Panther Sounds)
Peripheral top 40 anti-Bruno-Mars celestial 90s R&B a la PM Dawn with equal parts sweet and sour. A result of Clockwork Orange style viewing of R Kelly's ignition (remix) on ceaseless repeat.