Album Roundup

Music by Alexander Rudenshiold
Issue 39 • May 2016

Featured in this roundup:
Camp Howard • Camp Howard
Sympathy Points & Backtraveller • Vacation Songs
Mallets • Replaced Tiles
k+* • Wet Hands, Damp Wrists
Oahu • Plant Life

Camp Howard
Camp Howard

Richmond • March 11, 2016

In an orgy of heterogeneous sound, Camp Howard has produced a compelling, cohesive indie rock album – despite the fact that each song could have been performed by a completely different band. This eponymously-titled epic opens with hardened, punky palm-mutes on “Holding Her Tight,” reminiscent of Repeater-era Fugazi, then abruptly segues to the almost surfy “You’ve Been Misled,” a track full of math riffs and an effortless midpoint time signature change. From there, we move to “Dog,” a crisp Ty Segall-esque number, wrapped in crunchy distortion and tied up with a solo.

Later in the track listing, things go even further afield with Spanish lyrics on “Llorando Y Fumando” and the folksy, drawn-out vocals of “She Doesn’t Mind” in the style of indie rock giants Grizzly Bear. Bringing up the rear, the smooth, collected psych-rock songwriting of “Anybody” is only parallelled by bands like Quilt and Woods. Camp Howard has dreamed up a real gem here. It’s an album that would be expected from scene veterans, but shocks as a debut release. Camp Howard is available on CD from Crystal Pistol Records and cassette via Citrus City Records and Bad Grrrl Records.

Sympathy Points & Backtraveller
Vacation Songs

Washington • March 4, 2016

This dreamy collision of universes brings ambient electronic producer Sympathy Points and lo-fi shoegaze outfit Backtraveller together to create something totally new. Combining Backtraveller’s mellow vocals and cut-and-paste guitar, all drenched in convolution reverb, with Sympathy Points’s ticking drum machines and enveloping synth prowess, Vacation Songs sounds like what would happen if Dntel produced a Low album. Hitting all points on a spectrum from groovy to abstract, this EP feels like a living, breathing organism, subtly shifting from track to track. Vacation Songs is a downtempo, yet engaging listen, quietly surprising in the best ways possible.

Replaced Tiles

Richmond • March 4, 2016

Imagine the surface of the moon, but as noise. If you can do that, you’re probably thinking of something akin to the new Mallets album, Replaced Tiles. It’s flush with haunting drones and cavernous ambience that wouldn’t be out of place in the third act of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This album evokes the work of Heathered Pearls, but achieves a less claustrophobic sound by opening up the soundscapes for transcendent results. If Brian Eno made music for airports, Mallets makes music for spaceports. Available now via House Pet Records.

Wet Hands, Damp Wrists

Richmond • April 19, 2016

Hip hop producer k+* emanates sampled bliss with Wet Hands, Damp Wrists. Experimental, lo-fi instrumentals make up the lion’s share of this unsettling yet groovy release, exhibiting Casio-inspired drum loops similar to Shigeto. The sampling on Wet Hands, Damp Wrists is excellently managed, incorporating non sequitur voices and borrowed instruments in short modulated cuts. All of this takes place over an undulating synthesizer backdrop, suggestive of Boards of Canada. Though some tracks are so short they almost come off as teasers, the result is coolly synthesized neo-jazz gold, setting k+* well apart from the pack.

Plant Life

Virginia Beach • April 14, 2016

On Plant Life, Oahu has sculpted two tracks of hypnotic escape, each the length of one side of a cassette tape. Recorded and performed by Adrian Thomas Webb, the first side, “Plant Life,” features drawn out tropical drones, subconsciously evoking vibraphones and chirping birds. The second pictures a forest at both the micro and macro level as suggested by it’s title, “Ant Colony, Redwood.” Procedurally, Plant Life is similar to Chris Walla’s solo album Tape Loops, but is closer sonically to Foxes in Fiction’s Swung From the Branches. Regardless, it taps the essence of minimalistic ambience. Available as a limited run cassette tape from Second House.

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