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08 June 2018

Glitter and Glimpses: The Chills Mystery Box Unveiled. By Jenny Andreotti.

Last Fall I wrote about the importance of supporting The Chills Film’s Kickstarter campaign. I gushed in anticipation of receiving my own incentive: a mystery box of Martin Phillipps’ personal collectables. It arrived a little over a week ago, and ever since I have been gleefully trying to research the meaning of its’ contents. Two of the items came with detailed descriptions. One item contains four metallic purple rings that were a part of an instillation Phillipps created for a photoshoot for The Lost EP (1985) (the photo can be found on the backside of The Lost EP). The other item contains a tiny bottle of glitter (fit for Alice in Wonderland) that was prepared by both Phillipps and his mother as souvenirs for the 1982 debut of The Chills (please note this was the debut of phase 3 of The Chills). Other items related to The Chills include a gorgeous array of neon flyers (including the flyer from The Chills (phase 3) debut), an ad for “Tally Ho!” (2015), a postcard from The Chills’ Somewhere Beautiful (2013) collaboration with artist Shane Cotton, and a signed copy of Silver Bullets (2015) (promotional copy).

The box also contains an array of personal items. Two I have owned in the past (and had either sold during hard times or had lost during one of my many moves during my adulthood) and now belong to me once again like some cosmic boomerang (I am now once again the proud owner of Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans (Panther Edition 1962) and New York Dolls self-titled (1973) CD). Other items include a Matchbox version of Lady Penelope’s Fab 1 from Thunderbirds, a McDonald’s Happy Meal Catwoman Cat Coupe (1991), Snoopy comic strips (should integrate nicely into my own Peanuts collection), a signed but voided check (damn!), and much more. One item was indeed a mystery to me. An ominous picture of a fox beneath the words “There is no God but me.” Further research indicates that it is the work of Toothfish, anonymous environmentalist and artist (I’m hooked!).

Owning the box is a thrill and being the caretaker of a small portion of my favorite band’s history brings me great joy. It’s been a pleasure getting a glimpse into Martin Phillipps’ Kaleidoscope World. I learned I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about The Chills, and credit the box with deepening my understanding of one of the most significant and influential Indie artists of all time. I look forward to The Chills’ future and eagerly anticipate their forthcoming full-length, and documentary film. Here’s to The Chills, and to the beautiful sounds Martin Phillipps will bring into the world for many years to come.

Links:  (The Chills Film’s Website)  (The Chills’ Website) (Toothfish website)

06 June 2018

TONIGHT! WTSH airs on DKFM @ 10pm ET.

TONIGHT! Expect new tunes by Agent blå, The City Gates, NO SWOON, There's Talk, Thud, Vet Trip, Swirlpool, DORIAS BARACCA, Soft Science + MORE!

Stream it live
10pm ET/9pm CT/7pm PT or via the app

Psychedelic AF: an Interview with Firefriend.

Setting aside the buzzy haphazardness and semantic dilution characterizing today’s use of “psychedelic” as a descriptor for music, look no further for utterly authentic, quintessential psychedelia—music that expresses and invokes extraordinary states of mind and perception—than the powerful, inspired rock of São Paulo, Brazil’s Firefriend. This prolific project has been releasing albums and EPs for a decade and consists of Julia Grassetti on bass, vocals, and keyboard; C. Amaral on drums and various electronics; and Yury Hermuche on guitar and vocals. They’ve been recording and producing in their own studio since 2016’s full-length, Negative Sun. 2017 EP The Black Hole and this year’s long-player Sulfur have followed, creating a stunning trilogy of self-recorded efforts, each one riveting from start to finish. Elite Portland psych label Little Cloud Records has done us the service of releasing The Black Hole and Sulfur in fine vinyl editions available from Little Cloud itself as well as from Cardinal Fuzz, while Negative Sun is available in digital form.

In the spirit of predecessors The Velvet Underground, Firefriend prize the authentic over the finely wrought, and in doing so achieve, like the Velvets, a very distinctive immediacy and presence. Some of Firefriend’s excursions are on the lengthy side—“Quiet Vampires”, the closing track of The Black Hole EP, runs 8:29 and takes up an entire side of the 12”—but even the lengthiest are gripping throughout. In sympathy with much of psychedelia, post-rock, and shoegaze, there’s a great deal of emphasis on sounds and textures, often strange ones. Both Julia and Yury deliver vocal incantations with a spoken and whispered feel while still subtly expressing melodic lines. Structures are unexpected and seem very organically grown, as if emerging from within the music rather than being imposed from without, while the tracks still move through a very specific sequence of transitions that are essential to their impact. The sum of these propensities is a wonderful fusion of song and experimentation—dark and heavy, jaggedly beautiful, uplifting in its ultimate effect.

The songs are not without melodic and rhythmic hooks, but the real “hooks” in this
material, the qualities that grab and hold our attention so effectively, are largely located elsewhere. The core of the music’s power lies instead in the way Firefriend seems always to take us somewhere, to portray and draw us into spaces and places—not literal
geographies, but, in the great tradition of psychedelia, territories of mind and feeling. (The term “psychedelic”, coined in 1956 by a research psychiatrist for the purpose of
bringing trip-inducing drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin together under their own classifying rubric, has two Greek roots, “psyche”, meaning “mind”, and “delos”, meaning “manifest”; its literal meaning, then, is mind-manifesting, mind-revealing.) Extraterrestrial mindscapes shiver and unfold in the revealing beam of Firefriend’s starcraft headlights. “We like to think,” Yury has told us in our electronic correspondence, “that we are looking for new shapes and places…Don’t you feel that some songs, some records, are entire universes?”

Sulfur comes with a booklet insert titled “Operating Manual for Planet Earth.” It lays out the bands entire discography while also, in accordance with the title, providing handy travel tips for any entity finding herself “lost on Earth”. Herein Firefriend advises, “Express yourself through any method you want. That’s how you become a transmitter, generating waves that will open connections with others vibrating on the same frequencies. That energy field will change the game.” Now that is a truly psychedelic perspective if there ever was one.

Firefriend has just finished putting visuals to Sulfur’s entire forty-two minutes. Stream the result immediately below.

Deep gratitude to Firefriend for taking time out for this interview and for releasing such an awful lot of really good music. Thanks also to Little Cloud for connecting us with Firefriend for the interview that follows. 

"We take our ideas—sounds, riffs, chords progressions, whole songs—to rehearsals, where the band will then destroy them, and build a new thing out of their bits."

04 June 2018

WTSH #123 is now streaming on Mixcloud!

ALBUM REVIEW: Pinkshinyultrablast | Miserable Miracles. Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.

Pinkshinyultrablast - Miserable Miracles (Club AC30/Shelflife)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

These quirky, critically acclaimed dream-gazers from St. Petersburg have made a real splash on the scene over the past several years due to a series of excellent releases and a fresh take on the old shoegaze sound. Rather than retreading the tired MBV/Slowdive ground followed by so many other acts, these folks have employed a delectable melange of sparkling synth pop and ambient cool meshed with sprightly melodies.

Singer Lyubov’s lilting high soprano soars above the shimmering sonic textures, enchanting the listener from start to finish. Witness the album opener “Dance AM” with its throwback sound and a clean, chill vibe. It’s the ultimate of cool and underscores the shift in the band’s sound.

It skitters effortlessly into the lush electronica of “Triangles” and moves through to one of the singles, the lovely “Find Your Saint”. I might be inclined to conjure up a bunch of purple prose to describe the majesty of these songs, throwing in butterflies and buttercups in a high meadow, but I will leave that to other scribes.

“Eray” is pure retro, flashing me back to the late 80s music that crowded my collection, from Depeche Mode over to OMD. It’s such a perfect melange of past and present, with updated textures and refined recording techniques. And all of it’s wrapped in ear candy that will sweeten your day for sure. “Blue Hour” is an unexpected ambient treat, with minimalist tones and a cosmic vibe that will send you straight into orbit. “Earth and Elsewhere” is the perfect soundtrack for late night listening, and I love how rippling synths enhance this chilled out instrumental.

“Taleidoscope” has glimmers of A Sunny Day in Glasgow and School of Seven Bells but maintains the unique, somewhat exotic stamp of a band breaking new ground. “In the Hanging Gardens” is the first song I heard from this album, and it’s a winner and good choice for a single. Finally, “Looming” is pure, fuzz-drenched shoegaze meshed with dreamy interludes. A terrific end to a beautifully rendered work of musical art.

01 May 2018

INTERVIEW: Soft Science | Interview by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.

The excellent dream gazers from Sacramento, Soft Science, are at it again, and are releasing their third full length album called Maps on June 1st. It’s not an abrupt departure from earlier outings, but it’s immediately striking for its crystal clear sound as well as a more nuanced approach to their art. In listening through to Maps as I write this, I am struck by some sonic similarities to unexpected groups. For example, the enchanting “Sooner” takes a leaf from the Single Gun Theory playbook, at least initially. The group has a penchant for swooning, expansive soundscapes, expertly played and helmed by the sweet, sultry vocals of the band’s friendly singer, Katie Haley. I was lucky to meet her at the 2016 NYC Popfest, though I didn’t get to see them play. The band is well beloved by fans of shoegaze, dream pop, and even psych, for there’s no denying the atmospheric and occasionally spacey vibe that runs through their music. Katie and keyboardist Ross Levine were kind enough to answer my questions. Thanks also to Amber Crain and Shauna McLarnon for all that you do. -- Elizabeth Klisiewicz

In your childhood, who influenced you the most musically? Were there family members who played instruments or introduced you to great music?
Katie: My Mom sang, never in a band, but in choirs, and my Dad was really into music. He primarily liked 50s, 60s, and 70s pop, jazz, soul, and country. My Mom was really into 40s big band music. Between the two of them several decades of music were pretty much covered as there was music playing in the house at least at some point every day. I feel very thankful for getting exposed to a lot of music early on. I started singing in school choirs when I was about 10 years old. In my early teens, my older brother John (John Conley, Desario – Graphic Designer, BlkBrix) had the biggest influence on my developing taste in music. We would watch 120 Minutes on MTV and then proceed to the record store together to find stuff we liked. Starting in the 1990s John and I got really into bands on indie labels like 4AD, Teen Beat, and Sarah Records. The music seeking basically has just continued and I still love finding out about new music that speaks to me.

Ross:  There were a few Gordon Lightfoot and Jim Croce 8 tracks around, but my parents didn't really listen to too much music.  Matt and I really got most our early musical exposure from going through our older brother's record collection.  He had all kinds of good stuff for a solid foundation like Ramones, Sex Pistols, P.I.L, Depeche Mode, Jesus & the Mary Chain, R.E.M. and Love and Rockets. Also, like Katie, 120 Minutes was huge for us as well. From junior high on we had a turntable in our garage and the neighborhood kids would come over and we'd all play records, mostly punk rock. My introduction to "shoegaze" came when a friend of mine recommended that I go to a show with two bands that I had to that point never heard of that were touring together, Ride and Lush. I still consider that show one of the best I've ever seen, it made a huge impression on me. 

When did you start thinking about joining or starting a band? How did the members of Soft Science come together?
Katie: Well…I have been friends with Matt and Ross for a long time. Ross and I worked at a record store in Sacramento, CA, called The Beat, while we were both in college. This is where we met and became friends. We were all in different bands at that time but would go see each other’s bands play and hangout. Side note - I actually met my husband through Matt and Ross. Eventually, we were all in a band together called the California Oranges which also included my brother John, and Verna Brock (Rocketship/Beanpole). John, Verna, and Ross were actually the original members of that band; Matt and I joined later. After California Oranges broke up, Matt, Ross, and I decided we were not done playing music and wanted to form another band. Ross had been playing in a side band with Mason (our bass player) and asked him to join us. Soft Science was the 4 of us for a couple years with Ross on drums. After Detour came out, we asked Tony Cale (English Singles) to join us on drums and Ross moved to keyboards. That is probably the least complicated summary of our journey I have ever managed to come up with! Too funny.

Can you describe the recording and song creation of the new album as compared to your earlier work?
Ross: We definitely have a clearer vision of our sound than we used to, which helps to better know which songs to work on and which to ditch. I also have been making more fleshed out demos so when we work on the song as a band we can hit the ground running.  Every once in a while we'll work up an idea from scratch at practice, but it's tough for us because we don't practice enough. We actually practiced last night and Katie called it a "Soft Science miracle".

We self-recorded Detour in Matt's basement and it came out great considering we didn't know what we were doing. But Maps is the first record we've done since Tony, who is an experienced engineer, joined the band and he made a huge difference.  We tracked most of record at a nice studio (Prairie Sun in Cotati, CA) and Tony ended up mixing it and really took it to the next level.  

Katie: Ross covered the nuts and bolts but to add, this time around we actually felt a bit of pressure that we had not really experienced before. Detour was better received than we anticipated, which we still are thrilled about. We knew that our next album had to raise the bar or at least be just as solid. Frankly, this made the process a little more difficult especially since our producer and engineer (Ross and Tony) are in the band. It’s really hard when you are that close to a project like this to tell if its good, needs something else, a tweak, or perhaps you are the one tweaking out because you are too damn close to it. A few times along the way we had to take a break; take a few steps back to move forward. We learned a great deal along the way and in the end refined our process. The latest song we recorded and mixed was the NPL cover of ‘Paris’ which we managed to knock out in about a week. This too was a “Soft Science miracle” (ha, ha). I want to enjoy Maps being done and going out into the world soon so I am not quite ready to move on thinking about the next go around. But I feel hopeful that at least our lessons learned on Maps will pay off for us in the long run.