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Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and more

on April 02, 2015, 12:00pm
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Shit and Shine – Chakin’ CS [Astral Spirits]

shit shine chakin Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreLook beyond the reaction-demanding moniker and you’ll find Shit and Shine to be a surprisingly dexterous outfit, from jazz to noise to workouts that’ll remind you just a bit of Zs. Chakin’ is a sharp departure from their enigmatic recordings on Load Records years ago, venturing into a choppy jazz stew that thickens as the brushes shuffle across the drum heads and a strangely unapologetic Fender Rhodes states its case. The murkier it gets, the more my ears perk up; soon we’re in the abyss, searching for signs of life. Stand-up bass and sax bubble up then disappear, existing only to elude your senses. When the tempo picks up again, you’ll snap along, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be waiting for the next chance to plunge your head underwater, an opportunity that arises sooner than you might expect. There’s even some dubby rhythm-shifting afoot, turning what was a disorienting listen into a funhouse blob of wooziness. You’ll find shades of Comets on Fire’s opus Blue Cathedral, out-jazzers Polar Bear (vaguely, at that), and very little else, thankfully; Shit and Shine are nothing if not innovators, despite the fact that Chakin’ is as broad as anything they’ve done.

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Macula Dog – s/t CS [Haord]

macula dog Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreIt’s impossible to lack inspiration when Macula Dog are on the prowl. This hairy, synth-stacked, self-titled effort segues into all manner of mindless (yet mindful) fun. If you survived the wave of weirdness out of the northeast over the last decade (Zach Phillips/Blanche Blanche Blanche, Big French, the Feeding Tube label to name a few), or get down with Chicago’s Bird Names, you should be ready to take the Dog on, provided you don’t have a history of allergic reactions to kitsch and/or cheap keyboards wound tight as a parade snare. Think funhouse mirrors, cartoon drum sticks hitting rubber heads, voices obscured by pitch bends, and songs, in particular “Wrong Phone,” written in Pee Wee’s Playhouse; if that doesn’t do anything for you, picture the Panoply Academy Legionnaires in their prime, decked out in net hats with duck bills, spinning future-synth yarns for the world to hear. Historically I’d link them to Devo and The Residents; modern-day we’re talking about a mish-mash of contemporaries, from McFerrdog to the bands mentioned above. Join them.

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Martyr Group – s/t CS [OSR Tapes]

Martyr Group, 1983Speaking of Zach Phillips, one of his new projects, Martyr Group’s self-titled debut, showed up at my doorstep the other day, and I’d like to tell you about it. And believe me, you’ll want me to give you the lowdown, as there’s no other way to find out unless you want to request a paper catalog from OSR Tapes (which you should totally do), an offline recording operation that wants nothing to do with inters or nets. But that’s another story; let’s get down to business. Martyr Group is named after a Philip Taafe collage and employs a similar approach, throwing a lot of ideas at a canvas and letting stick what may. So many delicately interspersed sensibilities are at work here, the common element being laid-back keys and clean guitars, deadpan, intricately applied vocals, caffeinated AM trucker-rock vibes, and the tendency to piss-take all over the place. Phillips wrote all 24 tunes himself, and while his paw prints glare like the burning sun, he’s also growing a lot as a composer, at times approaching songcraft you wouldn’t expect from an artist entrenched so deeply in the underground. I loved that first Curtains record, and that’s the closest influence I can come up with, so if you dig that or anything ZP or his friends have conjured in the past don’t hesitate to look into Martyr Group for yourself.

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The Octopus Project – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter CS [Illuminated Paths]

octopus project Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreSometimes being as consistently creative as Octopus Project can be a burden, as it’s easier to take a band for granted when it seems like the albums are stacking. I know I missed a couple of ’em, and not at all on purpose, so it’s a special treat to be so mega-blown away by this adorable little tape. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter will hypnotize you quicker than Michael Caine’s stare, from the mesmerizing analog synth charts of “Library” to the exotic death-march rhythms of “Bunzo” to “Thrift Store”, an ambitious cut that derives the maximum emotion from a programmed stretch of sounds a la Radical Fashion. Octopus Project’s past proclivity for more boisterous fare is nowhere to be found, replaced by a deft touch that schools the tape game, ground-up. You could almost say Kumiko is the ultimate blueprint for an effective experimental cassette release, ripe as it is with all manner of moods, from hopeful, sun-peeking-out-from-behind-the-clouds intimacy to darker, cloudier stretches of intrigue. Plenty to keep the ear busy, as they (I) say, and with tapes like this, who needs horror soundtrack reissues (J/K, I love them too)?

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The Myrrors – Arena Negra CS/LP [Beyond Beyond is Beyond]

myrrors arena negra Next Little Things: The Octopus Project, Alessandro Cortini, Raica, and moreThe Myrrors exist because the work of psych is never done. The question is, how can they compete in a genre overflowing with life? The answer, care of Arena Negra: Extreme reverence. It’s what the members of this band have for their material as they pound out measure after measure of lean, insistent psych-/post-rock in the vein of Religious Knives and pre-Sub Pop Jennifer Gentle. This is robe-wearing music, trance-inducing and at times quite heavy. The vocals, at least those found at the outset of Side B, are unfortunate and short-lived, so get past them because this trio won’t let you ignore them for long once they bring strings, reed pipe, tablas, quena, ocarinas, jaw harp, and many other instruments you’ll barely hear to the table. And that’s part of the fun, anyway; there’s a lot more going on under the surface, a whole other world of sounds that require a bit of searching out. If this column gets a little synth-y, let Arena Negra be the break in the clouds.

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