Fredericksburg • November 14, 2015
A personal project of Jeff Gandee, this eponymously titled album from Yellowbelly is dripping with ethereal guitar jams, soothing vocal harmonies, and mellow vibes. Listening to this album feels like slipping into a warm bath, lighting one up, and just stewing there for a few years. Gandee’s gently reverbed voice has a nasal, dreamlike quality reminiscent of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips but with none of the pretense. Instead, we just get the simple pleasures of well-constructed melodies and plenty of harmonium floating atop chilled-out drum loops.
For all its cohesiveness, there is a nice range of emotional content involved. Tender numbers like “100 Miles” are genuinely heart-touching, while others such as “Fog of the Dog Over Tokyo,” “High Up People,” and “Higher Hill To Climb” are more straight-ahead psych rock. While Yellowbelly’s musicianship is apparent, the arrangements consistently achieve an elemental naïveness similar to Talking Heads or The Beta Band. Combined with its solid production quality, the album continues to deliver on repeated listens. There is word of a second volume to this debut album, looking forward to its eventual release.
Charlottesville • June 6, 2016
For someone who claims that “all language is dead to me,” Phil Green (AKA Dogfuck) sure has a lot to say. This fifteen-minute hip hop mixtape has the spastic too-smart-for-his-own-good lyricism of MC Paul Barman, a frenetic assault of self-loathing, political commentary, and nerdcore weirdness. The latter is best represented with this laugh-out-loud hook: “Future / living in a spaceship / you can fuck your spaceship / most just fuck their spaceship.” The dense rhyme structure, dystopian beats, and fast-paced transitions will all but force you to listen to Rectangle straight through in one go. Flip the record.
Harrisonburg • April 12, 2016
Can you say heavy? The folks in Treatment sure can. Guttural vocalisations pervade this sludge-filled morass through and through. Dirges like “Dripping Wet” and “Marrow Thief” lay the hardcore crust on pretty thick, but glimmers of tonality pierce through on other tracks like “Drug Contest” and “Showalter.” That last one would almost be at home on a progressive rock album (save for the aforementioned ear-shattering vocals). The combination of decent technical chops and a commitment to this particular brand of darkness allows Habit have its say from beginning to end.
Charlottesville • March 18, 2016
Half-sung, half-whispered mediations of melancholy are the signature motif of this downtempo shoegaze EP from Backtraveller. Even when things seem to pick up a little bit on “Whenever You See Me” or “Better,” we still get the same barely vocalized lyrics over washed out guitars and splashy drums. The effect is more congruous on the contemplative offerings like “Ages 10 Through 20” and “Grocery List.” As stated in the liner notes, these songs were all recorded independently in “various bedrooms,” so there is some disjointedness from track to track, but the diary-like quality of the sequence makes up for it all.
Toner War / Brandon Hurtado
Frost / Never Felt
Richmond • April 22, 2016
This noise collage split single explores two aspects of deconstructed minimalism. On “Frost,” Toner War layers together ambient hums, rumbling white noise, and punctuated digital glitches to increasingly disturbing effect, all building up to a distant, warbling finale. Meanwhile, Brandon Hurtado’s “Never Felt” has a more meditative quality with its seemingly infinite number of strummed guitars phasing in and out of each others’ astral planes. Available as a digital download from the Richmond-based label Moreau.