New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Doug Freeman, Greg Stitt, Michael Toland, Doug Freeman, Derek Udensi, Alyssa Quiles, Tim Stegall, and Raoul Hernandez, Fri., May 14, 2021
Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, Jon Randall
The Marfa Tapes (Sony Music Nashville)
Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify
For all the mythos of Marfa as hipster cowboy art colony, what the tiny West Texas destination offers is solitude, and a reset. That certainly draws songwriting partners Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, and Jon Randall, who retreat to the town repeatedly for inspiration and produce mega-hits like Lambert's "Tin Man."
The Marfa Tapes offers something altogether different from the Texas triumvirate.
Reflective of the creative spark before the studio polish, each artist finds themselves. Lambert's superstar status doesn't distract from the calm twilight of the recordings, but rather reinforces her own grounded songwriting talent, while Ingram continues to mature beyond his Lone Star country roots with poignancy. Randall, best known as a guitarist (Emmylou Harris) and producer (Dwight Yoakam, Dierks Bentley), revels in the stripped-down acoustic camaraderie.
Results from these campfire sessions prove an utter delight from the outset.
Recorded last fall, the lo-fi setup documents the late- night desert wind and lonesome rustling in the distance. Lambert's crystal twang rings soft and securely in yearning opener "In His Arms." The song swap then licks informal and intimate, as Ingram's "I Don't Like It" hearkens Guy Clark, celebrated in the slapping ode that borrows the title of his "Homegrown Tomatoes."
Lambert's tender "The Wind's Just Gonna Blow" offsets the understated boil of her breakup escape "Waxahachie" and harmony-laced "Am I Right or Amarillo." Both could easily strike big hits in the studio. Likewise, her brooding, "Jolene"-inspired "Geraldene" smokes dark and bluesy.
These songs highlight the joy of sharing.
"I can listen to you sing this song all night," Ingram says before Lambert's stunning "Ghost," and the chatter and laughter among the trio offers half the attraction. A gentle, jazzy strum to "We'll Always Have the Blues" and the jaunty Western swing of the Austin-centric "Two-Step Down to Texas" pace perfectly. Lambert revives two previous releases with the laughing, stumbling "Tequila Does" and an immaculate version of "Tin Man." Ingram finally provides album capper "Amazing Grace (West Texas)," a peaceful, spot-on closing note.
Whether a one-off curiosity propelled by pandemic or harbinger of its regression, The Marfa Tapes reels forth a unique experience. Eavesdropping, the listener eventually stops and hushes, not wanting to disturb this magic moment. – Doug Freeman
Creekbed Carter Hogan: Good St Riddance
Recorded last year in the Arkansas Ozarks midst and released on the artist's 32nd birthday last month, Bridget Brewer's performance alias explores the patron saint of trans and nonbinary people through fingerpicked introspection and bittersweet confessionals. All 11 songs recorded in a single take and backdropped by streams, birds, and insects of the land, the final product is enhanced with layered vocals accompanying the scratch of Brewer's hands changing chord placements or picking harmonics and occasional foot stomping when the tempo shifts up. She cites Lucinda Williams and Adrianne Lenker as inspirations, but also connects to the field recordings of Liz Harris and earthbound ethereality of her ongoing Grouper project. A portion of proceeds from Good St Riddance benefit the Osage Nation Foundation. – Greg Stitt
If we must slap a label on Austin duo Doppel, fusion is fairly accurate. Don't imagine keyboardist Jan Flemming and drummer Michael Longoria aping Miles Davis or Stanley Clarke, however – or even the Seventies in general. Lush, expertly melodic, "Heinrich" and "Nitewalker" pull more from sonic explorers like French duo Air than Chick Corea, while the slow-jamming "Transformation" swings from a modern rhythm and blues perspective. Just when you think you've got the pair sussed – electronic jazz/hip-hop/R&B jams? – Flemming pulls out his accordion for punctuation on the spoken-world psych of "In Passing," and uses it to carry the melody under singers Ana Barajas and Camille Schless on the beat-heavy pop of "Silencio." Clearly, to call Intermission fusion is to use it in the classic sense: an organic blend of styles that morphs into a sound all its own. – Michael Toland
Hot Texas Swing Band: Devil on My Tail
Fifth LP from Alex Dormont's venerable Western swing collective, Devil on My Tail heads out to the West Texas trails for a much sweeter ride than the dread title track portends in the first slot. Led by Liz Morphis, a sweet jazzy sway to "Hill Country Texas" and Selena Rosanbalm's twanging "When the Bloom Is on the Sage" serve as better markers, with swinging horns that punctuate throughout the proceedings. Saunter through the sagebrush more than ride on the range, even the cover of Ennio Morricone's "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly" lightens its stare behind vocalized "wah-wahs." Cat Clemons' clear guitar tone highlights soft waltz "Once Again" and trades licks with Rick McRae on centerpiece "My Heart Will Always Be in San Antone." The ninepiece keeps remarkably tight and suave, "Takin' a Trip" standing out for its playful pep, and Johnny Gimble's "Hill Country Sunset" alights an easy closer. – Doug Freeman
Golden Dawn Arkestra, "Phenomenal"
Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Tidal
For a beloved bunch such as Austin's Afro-psych freak show Golden Dawn Arkestra, the pandemic must be a bitch. The band thrives on collective participation, with a more the merrier aesthetic, and that's just the people on stage. Given the necessity of social distancing, it's no surprise chief GDA wizard Topaz McGarrigle took matters into his own hands for new music. Heavily synthesized, fresh single "Phenomenal" debuts the band's association with local label Spaceflight sounding far more insular, as if very few cooks populated the kitchen during its prep. Good vibes power this hooky synth-pop nonetheless, the breathy desire and effusive praise for the object thereof bespeaking a throbbing pulse. When did GDA not bend a hip-swinging groove? Produced by Walker Lukens, "Phenomenal" comes damn close to being just that. – Michael Toland
Quin Nfn, "Having My Way"
Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube
Quin Nfn expressed momentary dissatisfaction with label home 10K Projects last fall after his March 2020 mixtape Quincho failed to receive a deluxe release. All now seems well between the indie record company and Austin's commercially preeminent rapper after a run of music videos all topping 700,000 views reinforced his potential. Fresh single "Having My Way" marks the first track debuted through the label since last July's "G Route" (well-viewed 2021 singles "Right Now" and "Laid Back" uploaded to DSPs two months after YouTube premieres). The luminous Eastside rhymer uses the pensive guitar melody co-authored by BeatDemons and trusted collaborator CioMadeTheTrack to affirm his strong-willed attitude regardless of obstacles. He also intends to motivate: "I spit that struggle on the beat to give the streets vibes/ And I'm the flyest ni**a livin' I need a G5." Quin continues to rack up impressive guest features from out-of-towners (NLE Choppa, Mozzy, Stunna 4 Vegas), so here, Atlanta's Derez De'Shon joins the growing list with an appearance reflecting self- disbelief at his come-up. – Derek Udensi
Curse Mackey, "Submerge"
Tribute to industrial and gothwave DJs and their resilience throughout the coronavirus crisis, Curse Mackey remixes the opening track of his 2019 solo debut Instant Exorcism. Paying homage to now simpler times, the Austinite revisisits "Submerge" with echoing synths and guitar progressions. Alongside Clan of Xymox guitarist Ronny Moorings, he delivers resonating vocals complemented by resounding deep beats. Pulsing Eighties electro, the track tempts listeners to stop everything and throw their hands in the air – move with the groove, feel every note. As the mind flows out into an ocean of dance, "Submerge" dives deeper into a darkwave abyss of slick guitar stylings, whirling inside its own hypnotic rhythm. – Alyssa Quiles
Riverboat Gamblers: Ramotorhead
Weeks after kicking 16 shades of crap outta Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line" in the company of Sabrina Ellis, Riverboat Gamblers tackle the most overtly political songs in the repertoires of hallowed punk gods the Ramones and Motörhead. "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" bopped Joey and Dee Dee Ramone's shock at President Ronald Reagan's 1985 state visit to a German World War II cemetery where Waffen-SS officers lay. "No Voices in the Sky" unleashed a 1991 Lemmy snarl at religion's cold comfort based on Mark 10:25: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." For "Bonzo," an actual Ramone – Dee Dee's replacement C.J. – joins the chorus. On the flip, chief Krum Bum/Starving Wolf/Casualty David Rodriguez chimes in alongside Mike Wiebe. Stuart Sikes captures the deliciously raw guitar fury. – Tim Stegall
The Dead Space Returns from A Chlorine Sleep
In direct opposition to the dreaded sophomore slump arises the sophomore realization. "This spry post-punk trio's debut LP births a series of tightly wound meditations on loss and isolation," observed the great Greg Beets here in 2014 about Faker from Austinites the Dead Space. "Austerity abounds in both the spartan arrangements and forlorn subject matter." Six years later, celebrating the return of native son Garrett Hadden, Chlorine Sleep relegates its predecessor also on local forge 12XU to sonic exploration in racing past Faker to full-blown identity attainment. Every Beerland show by the Dead Space once achieved this level of lockdown. When opener "La La Man" winnows down to bass bastion Quin Galavis repeating "This is all that's left of me" in his trademark abandon-all-hope vocal anxiety – always palpable, forceful, vulnerable – Chlorine Dream rings like it got recorded last year, not 2015, the year after Faker. Hadden's fast, aggro, angularity as guitarist – stabbing and slashing, whittling and withering – avalanches across the strings ("Head on a Glass"), while Jenny Arthur powers up the human hit machine for a beating, the listener blissfully black and blue by the end (that "Head on a Glass," man). Burrowing and lashing all at once ("Animal"), often brooding, but never unanimated, Chlorine Dream bobs and jabs, striking out, then pulling back in, always dancing and moving, lithe despite a pleasing thickness. The title track throbs Jesus Lizard-like under the gothic ring of Hadden's dark riff summoning UK and NYC post-punk from across the decades. Short bursts ("Crooked Books"), slower burners ("No Harvest"), and stabbing Brit rock ("Point of View") funnels forcefully toward the Stooges-y fun house of "So Wasteful," a spacious pummel where lead and rhythm punch and recoil from opposite corners, meeting in the middle at the shaman chant of Galavis, who moves from "I'm the gift of life" to "I'm sorry I don't waste away" in three minutes flat. Phew. – Raoul Hernandez