New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Raoul Hernandez, Carys Anderson, Kevin Curtin, Derek Udensi, Tim Stegall, Michael Toland, and Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 5, 2021
Del Rio (12XU)
At what point does sound become music? USA/Mexico, apparently: first Laredo (2017), then Matamoros (2019), and now Del Rio (2021). Three songs over 34 minutes, the third album by Austin power grid Craig Clouse (guitar), Nate Cross (bass), and King Coffey (Butthole Surfers), with "vocals" from Colby Brinkman, proves the charm – resolution of the group's first aural arc.
Where's USA/Mexico headed? Beyond the walls of measure and genre to a Lone Star sound hole where neither light nor recognizable audio escapes. Del Rio emanates rather than merely amplifying, exists instead of simply disseminating, escalating.
Laredo's seven songs averaging four minutes documented a lithe disgorgement of screeching sludge, like someone pouring cement over whichever demon band Leatherface booked for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and them playing until the density and inevitable snuffage overtakes all ("Windsor Park Hardcore"). Matamoros then baked those tapes in a meth lab, ingested 'em, and trotted out to the cow pasture for a methane splat of molten goo – sonic sediment so potent, heavy, and writhing it cracks foundations and turntables ("Shoofly").
Del Rio essentially obliterates all function and form before it.
If ever you believed fatty pork sausage might not be good for you, let opener "Chorizo" erase any doubts. Its quasi-industrial ouroboros of ear penetration clogs said canals quicker than atherosclerosis. Like a corrupted MP3, these are nearly unrecoverable sounds now squealing like someone grinding glass on railroad tracks.
Guitar overridden by distortion, Coffey's drums bludgeoning from some far off dimension, and specters-in-the-machine "vocals" hiss through a sonic portal located at the electrical socket in your dining room. And that's the nominal single at 4:36! "Chorizo" wafts the katabatic winds of a Martian winter.
Temptation might warrant classifying this in the noise category, but really, it's sonic interference – oftimes malevolent – approaching field recordings from the inner mind. Inside this all-knowing psyche radiates a recurring pattern of disintegration and granulation, an electro-magnetic bonfire seared by extraterrestrial amp abuse, steel string torture, and beat inevitability. Or so delivers 13 minutes of "Soft Taco," a portabella mushroom of audio Manifest Destiny that leaves you hungry for the unedited version.
Three minutes longer, the concluding title track's grisly sound immolation – a crushing, crumbling sloth of white static phosphorus – reduces its two predecessors to instant extinction. An unspeakable Lovecraftianness possesses its monolith tempo and roaring transmission of hemorrhagic fury and decay. Sound leprosy knows no cure. – Raoul Hernandez
Sun June: Somewhere
"Somewhere in the deep part of somewhere/ You live there/ Look out for me," intones Laura Colwell on "Colors," forlorn closer to Sun June's sophomore album Somewhere. Via an Austin/Boston label collaboration from Keeled Scales and Run for Cover, that proves a fitting summation for the effort, which revels in the comforts of the unknown. Where 2018 debut Years stuck to tried-n-true indie rock intimacy, crowning keys and slick production locally from Danny Reisch lighten the melancholy of Somewhere, while also strengthening the brand of "regret pop" practised by Colwell, guitarists Stephen Salisbury and Michael Bain, bassist Justin Harris, and drummer Sarah Schultz. Hazy atmospherics and mid-tempo grooves feed the frontwoman's vivid patchwork of personal details and popular allusions: "I saw Karen O live in a basement in Brooklyn/ Had a dream that night that you came back to me/ My father called three times." Tiptoeing between the concrete and the abstract, Colwell's lyrics detail an undefined place. Swathed in the warm arrangements of Somewhere, they stick. – Carys Anderson
A. Sinclair, "Evening Light"
Funny thing about A. Sinclair is how they're actually a fivepiece rock band, but the moniker makes it sound as if they're a solo artist, like Jethro Tull or Ed Hall. In fact, Aaron Sinclair leads Austin's popular indie rockers and in this case – a pandemic – wrote and played every note the group's upcoming album. Advance listen to Sunshine Ghost, arriving March 26 on local imprint Mr. Pink Records, reveals a remarkable work where the bandleader works through life's weirdness by mining memories, addressing grief, having imaginary conversations, and musing on existence as a family man musician. Lead single "Evening Light" rides a breezy electric guitar riff and lands as the most content song on Sunshine Ghost. – Kevin Curtin
J Soulja, "Dear God"
Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube
Impassioned East Austin MC Jalen Howard uploaded the deluxe version of This Ain't Shxt onto streaming platforms to kick off 2021. Initially receiving a limited physical release at his 28th birthday party in October, his sixth studio album's extended edition now leads with "Dear God," a powerful track premiered during Riders Against the Storm's Black Everythang Matters livestream last August. The Smoke Out ATX founder begins his three-minute onslaught by taking aim at crooked authorities ("Can't let up off they neck/ Like the police/ Rest in peace to George Floyd/ I hope your soul at ease") before proclaiming the strength of his rhyme: "I manifest on tracks because it's power in my word/ And then I walk with action 'cause it's power in the verb." The accompanying video lenses Soulja speaking his truth in front of Chris Rogers' East Austin mural dedicated to prominent victims of racial injustices. – Derek Udensi
Joe Barksdale's Sonic Weekly
Apple Music, Spotify
Back at beatmaking in his new weekly song series, Detroiter-turned-Austinite Joe Barksdale unveils a new tidbit every Monday. Voice actress Meeya Davis provides narration over instrumentals dabbling further into the realms of hip-hop/soul begun on last year's R&B (Eats), Vol.1 beat tape. Series opener "Keep Me Close" and Jan. 25 release "You Should Come Home" pay homage to Kanye West, the latter in particular demonstrating the influence by way of a soulful sample chop. NFL veteran Barksdale credits the brazen nonbeliever in "no" as a major inspiration in his transition from the offensive line to full-time musician. "Animosity" explains the 32-year-old's decision to start playing guitar in 2014, while "Never Letting Go" employs Teddy Pendergrass' "Love T.K.O." in detailing his adoration for soul music's ability to evoke raw feelings. – Derek Udensi
Sweetfeed, "Picture of My Heart"
McCartney-like bass lines, hyper-melodic musical sensibilities, and a strong singing voice explains Justin Smith's popularity in homegrown complementary roles, like contributing bass/vox in the Reputations, Bobby Jealousy, and Rolland Hazzard. Solo debut as Sweetfeed, "Picture of My Heart" delivers a smooth and splashy groover about a man on his knees as he reconciles the fate of a relationship, gene splicing Bryan Adams' "Heaven" and Prince's "Little Red Corvette." Exquisite Eighties production hallmarked by soft synthesizers, resonating crash cymbal, and delicious backup vocals as brought to life at Jimmie Wildcat's Sweetheart Studios portend a dialed-in sound for Sweetfeed's forthcoming EP. – Kevin Curtin
Walter Daniels & the Del Valle Trustees: Townes Van Zandt's "Marie"
A video for Chicken Ranch Records' upcoming single from blues punk scholar Walter Daniels revives a death ballad for the ages. Paired with his mountain music-fueled Del Valle Trustees, featuring Cunto!'s Evan Whitehead on guitar and Chronicle scribe Kevin Curtin on mandolin, plus JD Pinkus on banjo, the ringleader matches his irreverent but faithful mojo to Townes Van Zandt's morbid, mordant tale of homeless love, as does director Mike Dickinson's visuals. Shots of hobos strumming guitars, pushing shopping carts through scrap yards, and sleeping beside freeways alternate with littered ponds and burn-out tin shacks. Meantime, the band plucks out murderous sub-bluegrass, as Daniels throats gritty lyrics: "Summer wasn't bad below the bridge/ A little short on food that's all/ Now I gotta get Marie some kind of coat/ We're headed down into fall." – Tim Stegall
Monks Jazz Club Livesteams: Pamela Hart Quintet, Adrian Ruiz Quintet
The Austin Jazz Society's Project Safety Net shows no sign of flagging. Black History Month begins with Texas jazz veterans in the Pamela Hart Quintet and the Adrian Ruiz Quintet. Austin's first lady of jazz, vocalist Hart appears Feb. 9 with her long-running foursome, her song selection panning old-school Big Band to Sam Cooke and contemporary balladry. No matter the source, the velvet-voiced chanteuse owns the spotlight. Showcasing Feb. 11, trumpeter Adrian Ruiz, one of the earliest Monks livestreamers, waited until 2017 to make his debut as a leader, but his career as freelancer and teacher includes legendary names like James Moody, Eddie Palmieri, Clark Terry, Carmen Bradford, and even Bernadette Peters. Monks proprietor Collin Shook and his trio, along with guest saxist Gil Del Bosque, provide backup over which the San Antonio native will soar. – Michael Toland
Erin Ivey: Solace in the Wild
Erin Ivey soothes. Even at her darkest, the Austin singer wields a voice gentle and inviting, one seeking a deeper grounding amid uncertain currents. It's the balance of opener "Lost Girl," musing, "I wish I could breathe underwater," and the subsequent gospel swell of "Joy" choiring, "Joy, joy, let the river flow." Those moments of transcendence and strength thread Solace in the Wild in the bluesy pop surge of "Where Have You Been All My Life" and smokey "Jealousy," but they stand out most in deep ballad "Dust Bowl" and beautiful anthem "Charleston," written in the wake of 2015's Emanuel AME Church shooting. Producer Chuck Pinnell fleshes out the adventurous yet light arrangements with support from Rich Brotherton and Peter Stopschinski, and Warren Hood's violin shading on the pastoral "Honest Man." The album steeps in the strength of surviving, even in the willowingly weary interpretation of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies," pushing toward the light breaking the surface while still embracing the struggle to keep swimming. – Doug Freeman
Tele Novella: Merlynn Belle
Tele Novella's sophomore LP and debut for preeminent Left Coast indie Kill Rock Stars, Merlynn Belle billows with an intoxicating charm and mystery. The duo of Natalie Ribbons (Agent Ribbons) and Jason Chronis (Voxtrot, Belaire) casts a spell that wisps dark and beautiful, a contrast of eerily soothing lullabies. Ribbons' vocals reel against easy melodies like Nancy Sinatra's psychedelic-tinged torch singing layered on Vashti Bunyan's idyllic old world folk, while her precise and trilling lilt stings like Josephine Foster bent through a desert flair. Opener "Words That Say" gallops into the bouncing "It Won't Be Long" as Chronis' arrangements maneuver provocatively through an instrumental menagerie of autoharps, vibraphones, harmoniums, and optigan as aided by Sarah La Puerta. Merlynn Belle lingers in and longs for connection, to a place ("Technicolor Town"), to friends and lovers ("Desiree," "A Lot to Want"), and memories ("Never," "One Little Pearl"). You'll recognize the landscape all too quickly. – Doug Freeman