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"Subversive To Care" comp released to benefit AAPI communities

In today’s fast-paced modern era of music streaming and profligate playlist making (not to mention Twitch DJing and all the other means of assembling original musical mixes) the notion of an old-school compilation album (or “comp”) may seem hopelessly out of date. But comps can still be wonderful things, and Subversive To Care (referred to as Sub2Care forthwith), which has been released to coincide with the launch of Paul Is Dead Records, checks off many of the boxes that make them good things.



For one thing, comps are often assembled to raise money for charitable/activist organizations and this one fits the bill with proceeds going to several AAPI organizations—The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (www.NAPAWF.org), Asian Mental Health Collective (www.ASIANMHC.org) and The Tibet Fund (www.TIBETFUND.org)—in response to alarming levels of hate crimes and ongoing struggles against prejudice against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What’s more, a good comp is a great way to discover new music and new artists without having to continually troll Spotify’s Teen Beats playlist (granted, SyKo’s “#BrooklynBloodPop!” has its pleasures). And with 60 original songs by the original artists Sub2Care should keep you occupied for a while as you make your way from the start (Wake Up’s “Hurricane” in exclusive demo form; the band is pictured above) to the finish (Squires’ “Tombstoning”) so you basically have got a conceptual theme here of moving from wakefulness to the Big Sleep—not that you can’t skip around within and between individual tracks which is another one of the nice things about comps. They’re basically sampler platters in musical form.

Sub2Care was put together by the new LA-based label Paul Is Dead Records (with satellite offices in New York and Wisconsin apparently) and is likely named either after the notorious Beatles urban legend, or the recent death of Paul Van Doren, patriarch of the Van’s sneaker empire. And while LA artists predominate on the comp (speaking of Vans some of these LA artists no doubt look a lot like Jeff Spicoli or perhaps Phoebe Cates) there’s also a decent number from other locales including New York/New Jersey like Frankie Rose, New Myths, Mevius, Dahl Haus, CITYGIRL, Skyler Skjelset (Fleet Foxes), The Natvral (Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and Shana Falana (featuring Shana Falana).

Across musical history, comps have occasionally played a key role in defining the sound of a nascent genre or a new record label—like the Lenny Kaye-compiled Nuggets (1972) that set an early template for punk rock, or the 1988 Sub Pop 200 comp that was a who’s who of future grunge all-stars—and while Sub2Care isn’t strictly speaking a “label comp” since it’s made up of tracks donated by “artists who are close friends and family members of our label” quoting label head and co-founder Evan Mui, it’s still got a certain vibe or aesthetic, if you will, while being pretty darn eclectic at the same time.

I would prospectively call this vibe or aesthetic Twilight Music. By Twilight Music I mean songs that’ve got a certain hazy/dreamy/slightly off-kilter quality whether they’re upbeat or downbeat or mid-beat. And in this way it’s good music for putting on around twilight say when you’re pregaming for a Saturday night out (tracks #13 and 14 are two good examples: Smirk’s “Do You?” and Eternal Summers' “Belong”) or waking up Sunday morning trying to recall what happened the previous night (rewind to tracks #10-12: Four Dots’ “I Left My Heart Pump In San Francisco,” D.A. Stern’s “Funky Holocaust (Drunk Demo),” and Big Nitty’s “Chemical Plant”) or songs that fit equally well for either scenario (for example, tracks 32-34: Dahl Haus’ “Silhouettes and Alibis,” Black Needle Noise’s “And Nothing Remains,” Built Like Alaska’s “Ran Into A Coroner").

So throw a few bucks in the Bandcamp bin for Paul Is Dead Records if you like what you hear. And in return you may discover a new favorite artists or two--whether one of the ones mentioned/displayed here or some other deserving object of your musical admiration. (Jason Lee)









 








Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.



The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)





Trick Gum’s Quirky Debut Single “Hot Rifle” Turns On The Offhand Charm

Photo courtesy Trick Gum

L.A. duo Trick Gum is the work of producer Justin Raisen (Charlie XCX, Angel Olsen, Yves Tumor) and Jordan Benik of cult LA band Sweaters, and their debut single, “Hot Rifle,” sends out a strong current of left-field 90s indie pop quirk.

The new track marries tasty acoustic drums to a loping, charmingly clumsy fuzz bass, jaunty rhythm guitar touches, and gravely bass vocals. They show some real muscle in the chorus, with lines like “I am cheap perfume/I’m your prince of doom/Come get and eyeful/Of my hot rifle,” but overall the vibe is of two buddies horsing around, while still showing off their considerable skills in the studio.

The band says “‘Hot Rifle’ is about being pushed to the edge and losing your faith in societal norms, the moment you give up on the rules and consider stealing a very large amount of money, and the peace that dwells within you in this moment, freed from the constraints of principle… in other words, a summer jam.”

If only pondering grand larceny had a soundtrack a catchy as this. Gabe Hernandez

 





DELI TV: "Decoder Ring" by The Planes

The Planes are a power-indie-pop power trio who've mastered their own distinctive brand of pop-rock-craft as illustrated by their new album-teasing single called “Decoder Ring.” Check out the exclusive Deli-made video for the single below because you gotta pass the time somehow until Eternity on its Edge comes out on June 11.

If you’ve ever seen the holiday perennial A Christmas Story (directed by the same guy who directed the seminal slasher movie Black Christmas) then you’ve heard of secret decoder rings. Made famous in the 1940s and ‘50s by Ovaltine as prizes given away in packages of the sweetened and vitamin-enriched milk powder product, decoder rings could be used to unscramble coded messages broadcast on the Ovaltine-sponsored Captain Midnight program in which the show’s titular aviator war hero battled villains like ruthless criminal mastermind Ivan Shark, his sadistic partner-in-crime and daughter Fury Shark, and the Nazi ne’er-do-well Baron von Karp.

But I digress. "Decoder Ring" is a fitting title for a Planes song given how good the band are at writing and arranging sugary pop hooks but enriched with indie rock nutrients like guitar jangle, grungy distortion, and psychedelic flange--all joined to a narrative about being “down in the dungeon and out in the sea” (just like Captain Midnight!) with an appeal to “look at me / I can’t be seen / without a decoder ring” (just like the show's Ovaltine-hawking host!) which is enough to make you wonder if "The Planes" is really just a cover story for this trio of fighter-pilot Nazi-hunting super spies. Or maybe not. Maybe instead they're taken inspiration from Keith Moon and the Who in hawking sugary milk-based treats to kids.

Tune in next week to learn the thrilling answers to these and other questions!  (Jason Lee)





New single "Jesus" begotten by Native Sun

Jesus” is the name of the new song by Native Sun and not unlike its namesake it’s got a certain hippie-freak vibe, and if Jesus Christ Superstar wasn’t already a thing it’d need to be after this song because it makes me wanna put on a flowing white robe and sing my heart out to the hills of Galilee, helped along by the song's assurance that "it's ok to lose your mind."

And did I mention it's over six minutes long--at least in its unedited form, the video version above is slightly foreshortened--and it’s got sections. Like how after an opening minute-and-a-half that's chock full of rousing guitar fanfare and lighter-waving vocals “Jesus” transforms into more of a glam number (actually it all kind of is) but more of a glam ballad and one that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. And then before long we get a dueling guitar solo and another big chorus and then another tag team guitar section that takes up the whole last couple minutes up to the (not) ending complete with fake fadeout a la “Helter Skelter” before returning in even more frantic form but with a fadeout that sticks this time.


So yeah we've got a song here that makes even Jesus going to Hell sound cool. And maybe it would be cool because him and the Devil could hold a peace summit or at least just talk things out. But what's more alarming is how there's a reoccuring theme here, given that Native Sun’s last single was called “Government Shutdown” and it made that subject sound really cool too, but in more of a punk rock kinda way. So I’m not saying we should call the CIA or anything but maybe keep an eye on these guys is all I’m saying because there's clearly a subversive element at work. (Jason Lee)

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