Esqueleto – “Be My Baby Kitty”

I discovered Esqueleto by accident while researching a couple of albums I picked up in New Orleans a few months back, Space Cadaver and Crescent City Carnage.  Both were put out on the C Rage! Records label, and that’s how I stumbled across their bandmates Esqueleto on Bandcamp.  After listening to parts of just a couple of songs I immediately ordered their 2012 release Be My Baby Kitty.

esqueletobabykitty

One word from a live review of an Esqueleto performance perfectly describes their style – quirky.  Yes, I know that can mean many different things.  But bottom line, this is some quirky stuff.  Slow psych shoegaze with elements of surf, New Orleans jazz, and blues are all tossed into a blender, thrown against the wall, then overlaid with nursery-rhyme-like vocals.  “Baby Boo” sounds like the kind of song you’d sing to your kid right before bed, except the harmonica is haunting in a way that gives the whole thing an undercurrent of uncertainty, like walking home on a foggy night on a path you know well but that is still a bit scary because you have to go through the woods on a dirt road and maybe, just maybe, this will be the time that something bad happens.  “Spider” and “What a Bummer” both drip with slow psych, and the closing track “Heaven” opens with a New Orleans-style funeral march before slipping in to a dark, dreamy space that contrasts heaven and hell.

Some people say the other place is nice,
Other people say it’s fine,
Other people say the other place is great,
If you want to do the time.

The album can be sampled on Bandcamp HERE and you can also buy the record there for just $9.  When my order arrived it had some extra cool tidbits in there as well from the label, like stickers and flyers, which I thought was cool.  So go support some indie music, ya stiff!

Godchilla – “Hypnopolis”

Godchilla are another of those Icelandic bands we’d heard of, but for whatever reason never managed to see perform live over the years.  We corrected that oversight at Airwaves this year, catching their set at Gamla Bíó (♠) (below) and came away more than a little impressed with their brand of sludge.

DSCF4841

This year Godchilla dropped their second full-length album, Hypnopolis, their first on vinyl.  Or is it their second?  Because they put out a song on a split 5″ single alongside Pink Street Boys and released by Lady Boy Records, but technically that was on a plastic square.  So while yes, it is a record; no, it was not vinyl… but I’m probably just splitting hairs here, since regardless of the material it’s still played on a record player.  I just have a hard time thinking about some of these plastic discs as “records”.  Which probably means I’m old and will soon start yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

godchillahypnopolis

After a brief, quiet intro Hypnopolis hits you right in the chest with a deep doom power chord, and from there it’s sheer ponderous weight with an almost religious oppressiveness.  But it’s actually the next track, “Bum a Smoke/Trash a Car”, that kicks things into gear.  We’ve still got the slow sludgy style, combined with vocals delivered with pure seriousness but still just a bit of a sense of humor.  After all, it’s a song about bumming smokes and trashing cars.  By “Dracoola” we’re back to something more akin to early Sabbath, parts of it played so slow that you almost have a hard time believing what you’re hearing.  The pace accelerates over the second half of the song, eventually breaking free of it’s self-imposed steel cage.  “Hannigan’s Mannequin” follows, and while it’s short at under three minutes Godchilla pick up the tempo a bit to create a solid metal number, one that you can rage to a bit.  They close out the A side with the even faster and shorter “Holographic Capsules,” probably the most truly doom jam on the album with mid-range speed and guttural vocals; it just feels metal.

I’d seen Godchilla described as surf previously, and that element does come to light on the B side instrumental “1064°”, a drop-in on a 20′ foot wave that threatens to swallow you whole.  Hypnopolis ends with the marathon nine-minute “Dreams of Osaka”, another almost religious-like experience, like a Colossus barring your way to freedom, physical density converted into music.

Hypnopolis is available through the Godchilla Bandcamp page HERE, and I should note it comes with a pretty sweet poster – so if you find a used copy, make sure that’s included or get the seller to knock a few bucks off the price.

(♠)  We also discovered, completely by accident, that Godchilla guitarist Hjalti Freyr Ragnarsson and bassist Birgir Sigurjón Birgisson actually make up the experimental electronic duo Panos From Komodo, a band that musically couldn’t be much more further removed from Godchilla.

Phantom Limb – “Dance of the Guilty”

This was another in what has been a long string of early 1980s electro/synth scores I’ve made in the New Arrivals section of Seattle’s Georgetown Records over the last year or so.  I need to get to the bottom of this – are all these from one big collection that just gets slowly seeded into the new arrivals, or do all the people into weird 1980s stuff congregate in Georgetown?  Either possibility is viable.  I almost passed initially because the cover is pretty beat up but the vinyl itself turned out to be surprisingly clean, which is the most important part for me, so I picked it up.

phantomlimb

Phantom Limb were from Belgium, though many people assume they were Dutch because their only release, the five-song Dance of the Guilty, came out on a Netherlands-based label.  As near as I can tell this comprises most of the music they ever released, and song called “She Dances” was on a four-song Belgian comp back in 1993 called 4 On 1.  Six songs.  That’s it.  But man are they good.

The first time I played this Holly gave it the immediate thumbs up, and rightfully so.  As a people who came of age in the 1980s Phantom Limb’s sound has a certain familiarity, though a bit edgier than anything that either of us were listening to at the time.  There’s an undercurrent of post-punk transitioning to new wave – the guitars still have that dark, reverb-y quality and the vocals a bit of that melancholy Cure-like texture.  The title track is particularly intriguing, incorporating some strange bell-like sounds that jingle around in the background while the rest of the music moves forward deliberately, almost mechanically.  The closer, “Deep In Mines”, is probably the best song on the album, snapping drums setting the pace and giving everyone else room to roam and the vocals fbreak out and soar at times.

Fortunately Dance of the Guilty was re-released on vinyl in 2015 as a split release with a band called The Happy Hunting Ground, and it looks to still be available HERE if you’re interested.  Original copies are a little pricey and tough to find in the wild, especially here in the US, so this is a good option if you just want the tunes.

More From Bónus Plötur

Back in June I blogged about a trio of 7″ record put out by the new Icelandic label Bónus Plötur.  Well, I brought back a few more from our recent trip to Reykjavik, so let’s give them a spin, shall we?

bonusploturnov17

BP-06 7″
A:  Manxego – “Stadan”
B:  Mimra – “He’s All Yours

Manxego brings us an interesting mix of beats and loops and effects, changing pace in ways that never allow you to get into a comfortable groove.  I’m not sure if the vocal pieces are samples or actual vocals, but either way they break the tension a bit.  Mimra takes things in a totally different direction with some female-vocaled soul-pop.  Musically electronic, but with truly soulful singing, Mimra could have found a home on Mowtown back in the day.

BP-07 7″
A:  Oyama – “Handsome Devil”
B:  Náttfari – “Serge”

Oyama is a band we’ve seen live a number of times.  Their style is more or less shoegaze, and “Handsome Devil” sort of follows that template, more folky than psych but still with that dreamy quality that defines their sound.  Náttfari is a good pairing with Oyama – “Serge” has a folk-rock vibe with elements of surf-psych, but all played in a slow way that reminds me of that sensation of just when you transition from being awake to falling asleep, that hard to hold on to moment or two as you sink into REM.  Beautiful song.

BP-08 10″
A:  Rafidn – “Gueid”
B:  Justman – “Neon Lights”

Rafidn brings us some bleeps and bloops, an uptempo pogoing little jam that has a certain cutesy feel to it that makes me think of Japanese television.  It has an intentional yet synthetic innocence to it.  Meanwhile Justman takes us back to more of the Oyama/Náttfari style, slow psych guitar with an almost country sadness paired with languid choral-like vocals.

 

As with other Bónus Plötur, these are very limited – all three are numbered editions of 30, so they won’t be easy (or cheap) to find.

Deletions / Tófa – “Split” 7″

deletionstofa

First things first.  Split is a limited release of 300 copies, and just the quality of the packaging makes it worth the $7 price tag on Bandcamp.  A velum obi strip, hand-stamped labels, and a high-quality 12-page booklet come with your white 7″ record.  It’s one of if not the nicest 7″ products I’ve seen.

Deletions are from the US of A and their two tracks are punk, almost a bit no wave.  I particularly like the more garag-ey “Curse and a Curse”.  Tófa hail from Iceland and give us a more straight-forward style of female-fronted punk rock.  For my money, “You’re Done” is the clear winner on Tófa’s side of the record.

Get it while you can!