California

Part Time ‘Modern History’

David Loca is a busy man. With six albums and a plethora of EPs and collaborations behind him across ten years, it’s an astonishing feat that his seventh studio album under the Part Time moniker is as rich and brimming with sunny psych vigour as much as it does.

Modern History is a 19 track toy box of a record, a collage of lo-fi experiments all held together by silky enchanted production in the vein of Aerial Pink or Puro Instinct. Sharing similarities with Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, a True Star, there’s a wealth of material which deftly balances scope with a breezy buoyancy.

Expert, catchy-as-hell pop belies the troubled reflections on the glistening ‘Everyone’s Got a Gun’, a distillation of contemporary unease and anxiety that haunts American society with a hazy hue of radiant keys and jerky bass. An affection for childlike simplicity is present on the wistful ‘The Adventures of Sally the Sea Turtle, a gentle sing-a-long replete with whistles and the ocean shore which could easily have been one of Lennon’s more playful cuts off The White Album.

The various skits and instrumentals sprinkled throughout are equally as beguiling. The chunky pound of ‘Famously Lame’ swaggers confidently with electro-pomp, whereas the sprightly ‘Mints’ glows with dreamy synths and taut drum machines. Each jam is a little vignette, sketches both lush yet effortlessly captured.

With Part Time arguably being one of the progenitors of the new wave of West Coast psyche artists, Modern History is another ethereal and fantastic record from David Loca which enthrals with its expert bedroom psychedelia.

Kamikaze Palm Tree ‘good boy’

The psych cauldron currently bubbling away in the West Coast with acts like Goon and Spellling has belched forth another offering. Enter good boy, the second album of noise outfit Kamikaze Palm Tree, a sophomore effort which plays out like a jumbled ‘n’ jangled old jack-in-a-box, skewed pop and upside-down melodies turn the crank before the occasional jolt of frenzied drone rock and Avant-weird experiments.

Duo Dylan Hadley and Cole Berliner know how to fuse disparate, seemingly mutually exclusive arrangements and styles into a disjointed yet fascinating mess. The mangled ‘Sharpie Smile’ is a crooked house of cartoonish glockenspiels fighting with laser synths, punk thrash and eerie serenity congealed into a disquieting frenzy. No Wave incongruity scrapes and thuds on ‘Wants More’, intercut with brittle guitar textures that lift Hadley’s commanding, Nico like vocals.

Like The Velvet Underground, a sweet song is never far from the dissonance. The title track ‘Good Boy’ shows the bands penchant for sunny psych-meanders, a seemingly innocent and child-like meander of gentle acoustic strums and toybox percussion, before the twee deteriorates into an unsettling slew of atonal guitar, like flies caught in it’s cloying. Their psych inclinations and affection for unorthodox arrangements creep on the hazy dream of ‘You Talk’, surf guitar and Radiophonic Workshop effects mix to a languid fog surrounding Hadley’s sluggish delivery, and reach even headier heights on the various ‘Bongo’ interludes peppered throughout (replacing the ‘Clown’ from previous record The Ocean is the Solution).

Irregular, inside-out, and thoroughly unpredictable, good boy is an intriguing contortionist of a record, bending into impossible shapes and twisting itself into strange and brilliant forms.

Goon ‘Heaven is Humming’

Is that a wry smirk on the goblin? Or a grimace to be met with caution? Sporting the Poway City area code and a halo, Goon frontman and sleeve artist Kenny Becker presents us with an impressionist being that perfectly captures the hazy, textured indie-rock contained within.

Three years in the making, Goons debut LP Heaven is Humming has had a tumultuous gestation, Becker embracing an engagement while battling a chronic sinus condition which dulls the senses. The sparks which fly off the antagonism between light and dark were present on prior EPs Dusk of Punk and Happy Omen, but as art imitates life (or the other way round), the tension that bristles underneath has been afforded a wider palette of moods and styles.

Who would have thought shoegaze slack and big monster riffs could get along so well? Goon know how to make an exquisite racket, dreamy vocals strut alongside Drew Eccleston’s hard rock crunch on the thrilling ‘Northern Saturn’, interjected with sunny jangle guitar. Punk energy burns on banger ‘Datura’, Source Tags & Codes style heavy with Pixies vocals explodes into a thrasher so exciting you nearly quit your job to form a band. Lethargy rears its head when it needs to, never deteriorating to a bland drone which can befall their slacker contemporaries, most notably on opener ‘F Jam’, a gloriously sludgy wade through crashing drums and wailing, pained vocals.

The album shines in it’s moments of pause. The beautiful introspection of ‘Snoqualmie’ (named after the City much of Twin Peaks was shot) appears like a mirage, expert acoustic fingerpicking with all its intimate blemishes and string scratches soar with aching strings and subtle surreal sonics. Things end with an anthemic air on closer ‘CCLL’, a stirring and nostalgic plume haunts the finale with gorgeous synths and tripped-out psychedelia, before drifting away like the waning of an LSD trip.

We needn’t fear the goblin of Poway. In just 11 tracks, Goon has delivered an exceptional debut record of electrifying melodic, shoegaze soaked with sun and the occasional menace. Heaven is Humming has the power to trigger memories you forgot you had, and illicit emotions long suppressed.

Elizium ‘ELIZIUM’

Subtly operating off the L.A. radar is lo-fi post-punk outfit Elizium, consisting of rather obliquely named duo WL and SM. With little social media presence and scant information of the band, Elizium quietly slipped their self-titled demo EP to little fanfare, although one could mistake its demo production with characteristic tape hiss. The quiet release of ELIZIUM and the semi-anonymous nature of the band belie just how fantastic the EP is.

The urgent snap of steady snares and grooving bass swirl against WL’s muffled vocals and synth lines on opener ‘Monotonie’, the motorik drive given greater acceleration with tight punk riffing. ‘Reflection’ is a wistful and slightly sombre wander through foggy keyboards and damp drum machines held together by rich synth-strings before the cavernous crunch of ‘Promises’ takes the EP into more menacing electro territory. EP closer ‘EZ’ ends on a note of dreamy shoegaze punctuated with the industrial chug of abrasive percussion, the whispers that percolate within vying for attention.

WL and SM have hinted at an intriguing and infectious future of psychedelic punk with ‘ELIZIUM’, a promise of an exciting path ahead of tripped-out grooves which bites as well as soars.

POW! ‘Shift’

Neu! Snap! Wah! Monosyllabic onomatopoeia with exclamation punches are telling statements of intent. POW!, named after an L.A. festival called Party Out West where band members Byron Blum and Melissa Blue met, is confidently adorned across the cover of their fourth album Shift, making quite clear that this is a record about impact and hittin’ ya. Hard.

Fleeing the death rattle of gentrified San-Fran, but taking its art punk heritage of The Screamers, The Units, and Chrome with them, POW! decamped to the fringes of L.A. to soak up the grit and broken glass that was arguably missing from 2017’s Crack an Egg. With their fangs sharper and beat-up synths ever more fizzier, POW! bring a heady brew of punk rock, avant-garde spit and the occasional LSD soaked freak out.

When POW! wanna swagger, they swagger with the best of ’em. Second track ‘Disobey’ is a static ridden garage rock banger, Blue’s oscillations tangle with Blum’s corrosive guitar, yet still tightly held together with a god given hook. The snarl of Helios Creed bears a grin on the discordant ‘Machine Animal’, Blum’s growling vocals penetrated with alien vocoders and Cameron Allen’s motorik percussion. Thick slabs of atonal analogues and electronic trash exhale and gurgle on mood pieces ‘Peter’ and ‘No World’, downbeat wanders through the wrong end of POW! town.

Shift isn’t a mere dystopic exercise however. Chant along glam-disco rises from the septic murk on ‘Free the Floor’, an irresistibly catchy number with a big, fat groove and perfectly placed hand-claps. Echoes of ‘London Calling’ haunt the fervid ‘Metal & Glue’, a straight up rock and roll tune and thrilling demonstration of Blum’s solo skills.

Fizzing, throbbing, buoyant, and electric. Shift is a glam-infused garage rock gem, left to corrode and mutate in nuclear radiation, a glorious punk assault slicked with electronic toxicity.

Spellling ‘Mazy Fly’

Something wicked this way comes. Album opener ‘Red’ is the sound of the carnival coming to town, distant revelry creeping up on you like a sudden, strange spell. The closer the funfair gets, the more dreamlike its lights, candy floss, and harlequin performers intoxicate you. Things aren’t all it seems, and you know surely you owe Mr. Dark something for this kaleidoscopic escape…

Spellling, being the brainchild of experimental artist and part-time teacher Tia Cabral, has become a leading force in the queer/femme/brown psychedelic scene of the Bay Area, replete with extravagant costumes and Parliament/Funkadelic theatrics, and culminating with 2017s critically acclaimed debut Pantheon of Me. Initially toying with the idea of a disco side project, she instead poured her creative intuitions into her sophomore effort Mazy Fly, a haunted record that wears her love of Off the Wall, her Juno-106 synthesizer, and the supernatural on it’s sleeve.

Cabral’s disco inclinations shine on ‘Under the Sun’. Klein & MBO italo-pop bounces with 808 beats and violins, while a stirring synth hovers above, like a melody from another song. What can at first appear disjointed soon become intriguing and part of Spellling’s unique sound, going from Giorgio Moroder to astral ascendancy, floating beyond the ether to the wish of the planet receiving the warmth of the sun. Her silky smooth vocals cast a spell on the electrifying ‘Golden Numbers’, a gorgeous soul piece with vocal harmonies in perfect arrangement, lifted into strange new heights with hollow electronics glitching and wriggling in the sonic sparsity.

Coldwave, Metamatic minimalism chills on the eerie ‘Haunted Water’, Gothic synths pulse like early Legendary Pink Dots, examining the spectral residue of slave ship trauma, and it’s parallels with the perilous journey faced by refugees crossing the waters. ‘Real Fun’ is a prog-opera, spindly wah guitar whispers of aliens looking for music, before exploding into a full on organ pomp and Wurlitzer solo. The Wurlitzer returns on the soaring ‘Afterlife’, a saxophone trickles into the track like syrup against Cabral’s R&B vocals, then swells into a celestial voyage, beaming you up aboard the dazzling mother-ship and whisking you away from your every day mundanity.

Was it all a dream? As album closer ‘Falling Asleep’ eases you back into reality, its drums crash like the rumbles of a locomotive, the carnival’s packed up and off to the next town. Mazy Fly is a thrilling and ethereal mirage of a record, gloriously heady and endlessly fascinating.