New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Kahron Spearman, Abby Johnston, Doug Freeman, Alejandra Ramirez, Jay Trachtenberg, Derek Udensi, Kevin Curtin, and Greg Stitt, Fri., April 16, 2021
Pre-Form (Holodeck Records)
The uplifting Pre-Form, Future Museums' latest release for renowned Austin electronic outfit Holodeck Records, experienced what lead sound designer and multi-instrumentalist Neil Lord calls "synchronicity."
"It's been an incredibly surreal experience regarding the timing of it all," he states about the release and the recent birth of his son.
The album puffs and drenches in an unusual clarification, each notion more defining than the one before it. Where much of Future Museums' work typically introduces varying levels of haze, this iteration – based on Lord's "lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences" – finds the local producer in a period of evolving clarity. The all electronic Pre-Form represents a complete departure from Lord's previous full-length for Aural Canyon, the Can-influenced Damo's Dream, a two-track atmospheric treatise and dedication to Damo Suzuki that gets densely intoxicating in a Berlin minute.
No, these seven tracks with accompanying ambient visuals play out like profound decompression.
"Peace Guppy" swims in reiterant bells and meditative synth swells. Progressive and charging, "Unseen Mirage" suggests an unmitigated boundlessness – finding stability in life's abstractions. First single "Rabbit in Passing" bounces in Krautrock and New Age inclinations, while gorgeous closer "11:11" runs as an interrupted dream, at once surreal and reflective, and, like previous material, bubbles new futures and fresh ideas.
"The synchronicity of titling the album Pre-Form before ever learning we were pregnant, and my son's birth coming within a day of the album's release, shook some cosmic dust off the whole experience," relates Lord. "My relationship to the record as a whole took on an entirely new depth of perspective. I was already making quiet [and] contemplative music, so I've leaned into that aspect of my approach now that there's a sleeping child usually near me while I work." – Kahron Spearman
Lolita Lynne, "Leave Me Alone"
Lolita Lynne marked the release of her new single and video "Leave Me Alone" with a two-hour-plus release party proving that, despite the song's name, she doesn't wanna go solo. Twelve acts fêted the release, looping in a diverse genre roster from locals like Daniel Frances Doyle, kick ass trio Tiarra Girls, Calliope Musicals, LGBTQIA rapper Mama Duke, and two German acts. Then the main event: Lynne's fever dream seduction from a femme fatale. As choreographer Alexandra Achieng Ligawa and A Giant Dog's Sabrina C. Ellis demonstrate through modern dance in the video, the lure of a well-deployed sax, hazy guitar solos, and bongos keep you coming back for more. – Abby Johnston
Croy & the Boys: Of Course They Do
Politically charged Austin honky-tonkers Croy & the Boys seldom mince words, and never less so than this special 4/20 release of iconic antiestablishment covers. Reaching back to his punk roots, bandleader Corey Baum reworks Negative Approach's "Ready to Fight" at the outset, transforming its declaration into an accordion-soaked Tex-Mex anthem. Likewise for the swinging, countrified Crass cover "Do They Owe Us a Living?" and poignant, stripped-down take on Fugazi's "Cashout," which speaks to modern Austin as much as anything Baum ever wrote. Blaze Foley and Billy Bragg slide perfectly into the mix with "Officer Manley" and "Between the Wars," respectively. The six-shot EP saves best for last, though, taking on the Dicks with "Croy Hates the Police" retooled as a brooding boil that intimidates. – Doug Freeman
Fuzzed and muffled, "Can't Stop Running" bursts like a vintage FM radio blues fixture, bleeding and cutting through busted stereo speakers. Uncorking the Austin singer/guitarist's full-length debut, the lead single deconstructs contemporarily., mixing the open chord slide of Delta blues with a dubby wall of electronics. Adding tracks to his 2020 EP, Zach Person spins a playful permutation of the blues as it steers into modern embellishment and pop hooks. Evident on his American Idol run in 2016, the young Texan boasts instrumental prowess in spades. Songs like the amplified rework of Elvis' "All Shook Up," greasy slinger "Back to Me," fuzz blunderbuss ballad "How Long," and country-pickin' "Carolina" make his LP a true guitar introduction. Unlike the ostentatious jamming and overwrought display of technique that often defines contemporary blues slingers, Person breaks from those trappings by leaning in toward softer intonations and away from the archetypal form of monstrous roots rock. Pastoral beauty "Wanna Fly" and aching lament "R.D.M.S (Demo Version)" glean of a tactile intimacy, while standout "Crossroads" casts a story of biblical predestination. – Alejandra Ramirez
The Cobras: Caught Live at the Continental Club
Engraving the Austin blues scene onto the international map, the Cobras formed from a coterie of Dallas refugees led by singer-turned-KUT(X) deejay Paul Ray, who laid a foundation for the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, the latter of whom played with the Cobras for two years. By the time of this sonically vibrant live recording from early 1981 at one of Austin's still-favorite haunts, Ray and SRV had long departed, but the group's core kept intact behind singer "Junior" Medlow Williams, adding a gospel-infused intensity. The band always specialized in a potent mix of polished, uptown Bobby "Blue" Bland-inspired R&B and low-down, dirty Texas blues as this raucous set attests. Denny Freeman and his guitar own the spotlight with scintillating interplay on "Tomcat," "Learn to Treat Me Better," and Bland's "Further on up the Road." Completing a devastating front line is the swaggering Texas tenor sax of "Smokin'" Joe Sublett, who breathes fire into "Blow, Joe, Blow" and "First to Let You Know," and swaps licks with Freeman on Freddie King's "See See Baby." Both Sublett and Freeman soon became members of the Antone's house band before venturing to L.A. to play with Taj Mahal's Phantom Blues Band. – Jay Trachtenberg
Norman Ba$e, "Walk With Me"
Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
NYC-hardened emcee Norman Ba$e rounded out March by uploading a stream of three different tracks from his vault to digital streaming platforms. March 30 upload "Walk With Me" (originally from Oct. 2017) sticks out from the pack due to its vivid imagery and vulnerability. What's the point of rocking jewelry if the owner feels empty inside? The Austin dweller poses that question and more existential musings on a track laced with personal sentiments. "Picture waking up everyday feeling like vomit/ Rats and roaches gangbangin' up in your apartment," he spits in wondering when unfavorable living conditions will end on both a personal and societal level. He later touches on a previous feeling of helplessness due to seeing friends punished for simply trying to overcome obstacles out of their control. "My people come from the struggle," he iterates thrice until the beat fades out. – Derek Udensi
D.Harmon, "Ghost Ride"
Amazon Music, Apple Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube
D.Harmon quickly follows his last release, "Noir Sur Noir," with a 180-degree pivot. The Luxembourg-raised Austin rapper tries his hand at drill on "Ghost Ride," which may come as a surprise after "Noir Sur Noir" touched on protests for social justice and racial equality. Rather than employing the typically dark, violent lyrical content uttered over drill beats, the versatile MC instead takes the opportunity to reinforce his ability to wreak havoc over any instrumentation, stating, "Only came this far to take it further/ They won't say I'm street, but I've been servin' murder." He vindicates this boast with an interesting rhyme scheme referencing an array of three-letter things. Houston rapper Jdagr8 injects a short dosage of menace to punctuate the track. – Derek Udensi
The Point's Phonkadelic
Q: What's the Point? A: Two Texas teens equally at home throwing down at a beat scene warehouse show and backing blues musicians at Antone's. On their fourth album in three years, multi-instrumentalists Joe Roddy and Jack Montesinos eschew the stylistic kitchen-sink approach of previous works to home in on a Southern trap trip. "RIP2PIMP" fetes UGK's genius with deep grooving bass and jazz trumpet, organ, and electric guitar leads, while dirty noise loop "No Guns" evinces gravity defying low-end production techniques and "Bobby" fills a Styrofoam cup with purple liquid and a midtrack screw shift. Meanwhile, key cut "Julios" chops a Nina Simone sample into a banging beat. The musically dense, exceptionally produced cassette is dedicated to DJ Screw, Pimp C, and late guitarist/screamer Nick Curran as a love letter to the Lone Star State. – Kevin Curtin
Johndavid Bartlett & Acid Carousel
Blossoming after years under construction, local flower-punk quintet Acid Carousel joins forces with Texas psych legend Johndavid Bartlett for In Your Dreams, a melding of the minds and a collision of psychedelic eras. Inductee of the Red Krayola's freewheeling "Familiar Ugly" friends group as found on the Houstonians' 1967 studio debut, Bartlett signed a three-album deal with International Artists the following year at age 17, though industry frustrations put the kibosh on that. Jam sessions with members of the 13th Floor Elevators resulted in a project called the Eagles (not that Eagles), and a short-lived L.A. relocation caused Bartlett to walk away from performing altogether until 2001. His 2012 psychedelic folk album, Falling Through the Universe, concentrated on reworks of many with ties to the Elevators, but In Your Dreams finds a poetic freedom under Acid Carousel's fluttering winds and brass, realizing an ambition over 50 years in the making. Available on LP from Ft. Worth's Dreamy Life Records. – Greg Stitt
Balmorhea: The Wind
Michael Muller and Rob Lowe come full circle with seventh album The Wind. Like on 2017's Clear Language, the instrumental Austin duo continues to pare back their compositions, yet still manages to paint expansive, provocative musical landscapes. The Wind plays as modern myth, taking inspiration from contemporary climate activism and the 13th century Otia Imperialia story of St. Caesarius carrying a breeze from the sea to a barren valley. Twelve tracks across two LPs evoke a beautiful fragility in their contemplative movement. The soft wash and wind chimes that flow into Lowe's piano on opener "Day Dawns in Your Right Eye" set a soundtrack to Lili Cuzor's supple reading of the untranslated text, which cedes to a pipe organ and dual piano of standout "Rose in Abstract," accented by Clarice Jensen's cello. The album marks Balmorhea's debut for prestigious label Deutsche Grammophon, and with recording at Berlin's Funkhaus Saal 3 and production from Jonathan Low, it signifies a major evolution for the local duo, even within their minimal textures. – Doug Freeman