Posts Tagged ‘psychic ills’



December 11, 2013

This year I did something I’m totally not doing next year. I wrote about every damn new release (compact disc) I purchased. You can read all the reviews in full here or (in a less edited spew) here. Since these are CD reviews (plus a vinyl or two), there’s a trove of truly excellent releases missing from the following lists. Mostly stuff released on cassette, often by Canadians. In the new year I’m launching a new series called Kassetten which will eventually cover some of these 2013 tape releases. Otherwise, between Weird Canada and Tabs Out, they’ve been covered already and you should be hitting those sites up anyway. I know I also missed most of the vinyl releases I picked up. When did those Fresh Snow and Young Mother LPs come out?  Anyway, great records I never got around to reviewing. Also Salted, Zacht Automaat… the list could go on. Plus there’s a few albums I haven’t gotten around to checking out in any format yet (White Poppy, Booka Shade) which I expect to enjoy. Well, you’re familiar with the limitations of year-end lists. Anyhooo…



Youth Code: Youth Code 

I originally gave this EBM pummeller a 4.875 (out of 5) rating, but I’m bumping it up to  a solid 5. “…jackhammer, chest compressing, beat and that mechanical bass sound peppered with guttural screams and old movie samples….” is how I described it, suggesting they were only missing the hooks their forefathers Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy boasted (I know, bands you totally associate with hummable ditties). Well, fuck that. The hooks are there, buried just beneath the surface, waiting to reward grave robbers who listen to this record on their iPhone everyday while they give their fellow subway patrons the evil eye.

Perhaps my love for Youth Code is a barely disguised form of mid-life crisis. A return to those halcyon days of listening to my Too Dark Park cassette on a Sony Walkman, hating everyone in the hallway of my high school and feeling strangely good about it. It’s the kind of record that makes you feel completely vindicated being a misanthropic loner. I feel like music these days isn’t anti-social enough. It’s all about community building and, ew, togetherness. As if other people can be trusted. The state of the world is proof they can’t. You really want to build a community with those assholes?

Anyway, there aren’t enough records like this. Sweet, sweet social oblivion. 

Just in time for Christmas, Dias Records has just released another run of the vinyl.


Most of these I gave less than a 5/5 rating at the time, but they’re all 5/5 (or damn close) in my eyes now.

Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone

I might simply live under some kind of counter-culture rock, unaware what the “mainstream” is listening to other than MumfordMiley and Drake, but it’s unfathomable to me how Valerie June‘s record isn’t more widely known. Obviously not in a Yeezus way (it’s not a record for thirteen year-olds and hipsters suffering from willful infantilism), but at least in a Neko Case kind of way. It’s exactly the kind of record you’d expect to see on the Rolling Stone year-end list. It’s a warm, smart, genre-bending, deeply emotional record, epic in scope but full of those intimate moments the mainstream MOR public is supposed to fawn over. Of course, Pushin’ Against a Stone does appear on that list but buried somewhere around 46, where a decade or two ago I feel like it’d have been in the top 5.

If people thought Paul Simon co-opting South African music was ground-breaking, what June does combining Afro-beat and bluegrass should have them completely losing their shit. But that was then and this is now, and for whatever reason (theories abound) no one cares about anything anymore. Information fatigue has caused the culture machine to stall, but no one’s really noticed because we’re still coasting downhill.

Anyway, on the bright side, people like Valerie June are still producing artful folk/rock/country/soul records with (what should be) a wide-appeal.


King Krule: 6 Feet Beneath The Moon

I gave Archy Marshall‘s debut full-lenth a 5/5 rating originally which was probably a tad generous in hindsight. But there aren’t too many artists coming out today who are this unique, who have his weird sort of charismatic, otherworldly presence—as if he’s less a real live boy and more of a character in a film. Which is, ultimately, what we want from our pop stars. More David Bowie, less David Robert Jones. I described him on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon as a “jazzy Mark E. Smith meets art-damaged Billy Bragg meets punk-thug Morrissey” and time will tell if he and his career lives up to those references. But for now this record does. Though how much I see him as an “exotic other” through a slight anglophile lens is hard to tell. Maybe to the Brits he’s just your average, unremarkable bloke? Probably.

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Psychic Ills: Dins (2005)

May 9, 2013


Roll: 5-1-9
Album: Psychic Ills, Dins

It was 2009’s droney “Sister Ray“-by-way-of-Faust-on-a-bender Mirror Eye (2009) album more so than Dins (2005) that first got me excited about Psychic Ills. I’d somehow developed the impression they were part of the chillwave movement or some vacuous, crappy Brooklyn synth-rock scene. I think I was also offended by the colour-treated Xerox image on the cover which I felt was a shameless riff on Hüsker Dü‘s classic Zen Arcade graphics. I guess it made me feel old and like I wanted trust-fund hipsters from Brooklyn to get off my lawn. Regardless, I pretty much ignored Dins upon release. What a mistake.

Luckily, I’ve since gotten over these erroneous negative notions as the Ills are one of the best and most consistent psychedelic outfits operating in the last ten years. While their latest release, the slightly Kraut-informed and trance-inducing garage rocker One Track Mind, takes them into almost commercially viable territory (in an alternate universe where Spacemen 3 were somehow commercially viable), their older material can get as freaky as you’d ever desire.

Mirror Eye was a deliciously droned-out journey into a cosmic desert and Early Violence (2004) was textbook example of artsy-fartsy psych-primitivism. Dins falls somewhere in between those early titles and their more recent material with loft-party ragas like “East” fading into ambient noise freak-outs like “Untitled” then onto proper songs like the dreamily chugging “January Rain” and underground murk of the velvety noise-rocker “I Know My Name“.

There are times Psychic Ills might come off as being a little aloof or too-cool-for-school, taking themselves a little too seriously. But it’s no more of a detriment than Anton Newcombe not taking things seriously enough with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. In fact, they are sort of a BJM without the tongue-in-cheek winking that harshes the mellow and makes you feel like a fool for following Anton on the trip.

The humourlessness of Dins can get a bit heavy by the end. But then, this is heavy music for heavy times when you’re in a heavy mood. Just chill out and let these heavy vibes crush you, man.