New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
Dallas Acid blows some bubbles, KUTX remembers the Armadillo, and more music for the moment
By Kevin Curtin, Greg Stitt, Rachel Rascoe, Thomas Fawcett, Raoul Hernandez, Doug Freeman, and Tim Stegall, Fri., Aug. 14, 2020
The Bubble Club Vol 1: A Prayer for Peace
Our universe could be in a bubble that sits amongst other bubbles, each containing a separate world. It's a far-out structural theory, this blobby multiverse, and even more fringe to think that, where the bubbles touch, matter can transfer from one universe to another. You might well experience the same with Dallas Acid's new The Bubble Club Vol. 1: A Prayer for Peace.
Austin's ambient synth trio of Linda Beecroft, Michael Gerner, and Christian Havins captured 35 minutes of subtle musical movement from the modular control center they call the Brain. They then delivered sections of it to nine musicians who tracked their parts without the knowledge of what any other contributor played. As sounds transferred from bubble to bubble, the recording became a bath.
That's to say the four-track collection owns a particularly watery sound in contrast to last year's galactic journey The Spiral Arm. First edition of a charity series, this release benefits the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Relief International with sublime, meditative, healing vibrations.
On "Peace I," New Age prophet Laraaji cracks up over the slippery slide guitar of Bill Callahan and trickling percussion of Cacho seeds that germinate the EP. The experimental fingerprints of French-born multi-instrumentalist Ariel Kalma also touch the tracks, particularly his atmospheric vocals and circular sustained saxophone contributions, which give the effect of a warm front blowing in on "Peace II." The violin of Paz Lenchantin (Pixies, A Perfect Circle) bows melodic incantations atop the gentle plink of Joce Soubiran's piano harp via "Peace III," Rocco Deluca's pedal steel underscoring the mood.
A pneumatic percussive pulse drives the closer. Clint Newsom, once of Austin band Rhythm of Black Lines, plays a Buchla synth unit, while Gang Gang Dance's Brian DeGraw orchestrates the collection's most soaring composition. – Kevin Curtin
Midnight Strangers Livestream
www.fb.com/KOOPRadio, Thursday 13, 7pm
Community radio remains one of the many gears in the local music machine forced to pivot during the pandemic. KOOP no longer broadcasts live from the station, instead playing prerecorded niche and Austin-centric blocks of programming around the clock as staffers and volunteers socially distance via the airwaves. Jumping into the streaming game, 91.7FM also features the occasional live audiovisual component on their social feeds. This week, local trio Midnight Strangers take over Facebook with retro rockist blues-pop. Pulling their weight under 2019's Leave Alone, the clean vocals of West Coast expat drummer Chris Swimley nest atop scorching leads and Petty-esque poptimist twang with occasional psych flourishes. Donate to the station at www.koop.org. – Greg Stitt
KUTX Remembers the Armadillo World Headquarters
98.9FM, Saturday 15, 6pm
The Armadillo World Headquarters opened on Aug. 7, 1970. To honor the 50th anniversary of the Barton Springs Road music hall that put Austin music on the map, KUTX premieres an hour-long oral history Saturday. Host Art Levy interviewed Willie Nelson, trailblazer of the venue's famed hippie-redneck scene, and 'Dillo owner Eddie Wilson. Poster artists Jim Franklin and Micael Priest also offer remembrances of the old National Guard armory building, which the station celebrates all month long with music and stories. "Back Home to the Armadillo" will be available as a podcast on Aug. 17 – Rachel Rascoe
Tomar & the FCs
Rise Above (Splice)
Like Tomar & the FCs 2016 debut Heart Attack, sophomore LP Rise Above clocks 10 songs at a hair over 30 minutes, a formula that worked like gangbusters for classic Memphis and Muscle Shoals platters. Fronted by local music lifer Tomar Williams, the local quintet delivers a cocktail of Southern soul and country funk with an aggressive rock edge. Nowadays, they're far less committed to re-creating the classic Stax sound than they were four years ago – think less Bar-Kays and more Alabama Shakes – and that proves a welcome shift despite occasionally clunky songwriting. Modern blues-rock, "Innocence" spins the clearest illustration of the new direction even if it's something of a sonic anomaly. Assisted by otherwise absent horns and backup vocals from the Soul Supporters (an integral piece of the Black Pumas live show), the title track offers a feel-good call for unity. The falsetto-driven "Always You" pours a sugar-sweet soul ballad, while the warbling guitar and searing organ of "This Woman" gives its slow blues a sinister tone. Growing up in a large family band, Williams today notches four full decades of performance and finally hits his stride north of 50, as exemplified on last month's Rise Above spin-off Live at Antone's. Check in to Facebook Live on Saturday, 7pm, for Tomar & the FCs Live and Direct From Bud's. – Thomas Fawcett
Brenda Martinez: Favoritas de Mis Padres
Locally sourced sounds dominate the CenTex music scene, claramente, but Brenda Martinez managed an especially homegrown release. Dropped in December on Rancho Alegre Records, offshoot of both the free Austin conjunto festival and onetime radio show, Favoritas de Mis Padres squeezes and wheezes its notes of love and gratitude to the accordionista's titular dedication, parents Mary and Emilio Martinez, San Antonio music fanatics who instilled in their daughter obvious preservationist tendencies. Save for the bandleader's "two, three, four" count-off into "Bonito Huapango," the record dances all-instrumental and classic, covering pioneers including Rubens Fuentes, Naranjo, y Vela, and Leonardo "Flaco" Jiménez's "Hasta la Vista," wherein Martinez glides and vibes like helium. "Un Presentimiento" also floats, its clip seemingly lilting the marriage of a two-step and waltz with a tenor sheen akin to brass. Pressed to wax locally at Gold Rush Vinyl, boutique touches – Lado A and Lado B rather than A and B sides – match a provenance that according to the label hails it as the "first vinyl conjunto album in decades." – Raoul Hernandez
Como Las Movies, "Cumbia de los Monjes"
"Our last public outing was the Austin Music Awards in March. A few days later, SXSW was canceled and the rest of the city began to shut down. ... Next thing you know, I'm watching Matthew McConaughey on TV showing me how to make a mask using a bandana and a couple of chongos." So cracks Como Las Movies conceptualist Nelson Valente Aguilar while "Checking In" with the Chronicle this week to mention a new vinyl 7-inch. Delivered by Latin-centric ATX imprint Trucha Soul Records and covering Mexican Nineties breakouts Super Grupo G on both tracks, "Cumbia de los Monjes" b/w "La Inconforme" leads with the declaration, "La cumbia, la cumbia llena mi vida" – fills my life! – then lifts off into an otherworldly suspension, ringing like some space age afterlife theme. Latin percussion, an angelic female chorus, and Fifties bells, whistles, and keys vibrate a woozy cumbia that buzzes louder than cicadas. "Que viva la cumbia por siempre, por siempre!" Instrumental flipside "La Inconforme" sizzles another sonic resistencia. The accompanying video arrives next month. – Raoul Hernandez
Seela's pop earworms come alive at the outset of the Austin scene vet's ninth album. Leadoff "Prize" smooths with effortless melody and "Up2Me" kicks up a living room dance party. The crux of Cool, however, rests on the songwriter's mesmerizing lyricism – often unexpected phrases turned casually with a searing insight. Self-produced, the songs layer eclectic, from the light-roasted coffeehouse folk of "Shine" and easy country roll of "Hiding Place" to the poignant snap of standout "Black Blackness" and whistling sip "Build a House." The artist also continues to release impressive animated videos for each of the 13 songs. – Doug Freeman
As the artwork suggests, American culture documentarian Alison Ellwood's eponymous Go-Go's doc spends deserved time lovingly vivisecting the seminal quintet's humble beginnings as upstarts in the late-Seventies L.A. punk and New Wave scene, from its first members to first single to first international tour. Never understating the importance of the group's meteoric rise to fame, 1982's double platinum Beauty and the Beat led to a rushed Vacation cut short by drugs and drama. Following Talk Show, members parted ways in anger by 1985, but only for a time. Intercutting present-day interviews with Carlisle, Wiedlin, Caffey, Schock, Valentine, and many more, words aren't minced. An epilogue glimpses the eventual reunions and recording process of new single "Club Zone," first studio output since 2001 and released as a companion to the doc. For another companion, read All I Ever Wanted, native Austinite Kathy Valentine's springtime memoir. – Greg Stitt
Dig the core instrumentalists of this local punk supergroup: Pocket Fishrmen's Cris Burns and his arena-punk guitar, ex-Rockbuster Grant Dorian on drums, and bassist Kurtis D. Machler of everyone from Joe Rockhead to Black Eyed Vermillion. Behind Mary Welch singing and Alice Evans on keys, the Magnificats take on a Blondie New Wave vibe on their eponymous full-length bow, trashy pogo-rock opener "It's Alright" aside. Synths add gloss and the rhythms pop decidedly dance-floor-friendly across the majority of these Burns-produced tracks. "Marie Antoinette" in particular takes on a Eurodisco feel, with the guitarist manning frets in a manner worthy of The Edge. In fact, "Rockin' Rocket" basically boils down to, "Cut to the dance floor and shake!" With covers ranging from the Sex Pistols ("Silly Thing") and Loverboy ("Turn Me Loose") to Jo Carol Pierce ("Vaginal Angel"), the overall message is hip-shakin' f-u-n. – Tim Stegall
El Capitan (Keeled Scales)
Will Johnson's second full-length for local imprint Keeled Scales pairs like the acoustic rejoinder to last year's Wire Mountain. Perfect foil for the songwriter's crooked moan, the lo-fi recordings and sparse arrangements thrust a tender lonesomeness to the fore, with Lindsey Verrill, Thor Harris, and Britton Beisenherz returning to offer the subtlest of shadings. The result pulls like light folding across the room throughout the day, an aural grapple of meditation amid anxieties. "Bloody Boxer" astounds with a poetic introspection to the endurance ode of the title track, while "I Am Back at My Window Again" pleads for peace and "Trouble" lilts gorgeously hopeful. An album of harrowing beauty. – Doug Freeman