In Notes from Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with new music from Total Unicorn, The Black Ships, Long Live the Goat and Public Memory. What have you been listening to this week?
Total Unicorn, “Whole Lot of Louvre“
The music of Austin, Texas, electro wizards Total Unicorn is about as uncategorizable as you can get. They meld meditative rhythms, new age melodies and the sounds of nature into a corrupted spin on relaxation music-although you’re not going to be very relaxed when you’re done listening to them. They filter these sounds through a series of inverted electronic impulses and signals. Imagine if Gang Gang Dance or Black Dice were to cover Yanni’s “Live at the Acropolis” and you’re getting close to the off-kilter noise and brilliance that the band works through on a daily basis. Known for their extravagant live shows, complete with outrageous costumes, the band exudes a twisted electronic hiss with each step they take.
On recent single “Whole Lot of Louvre,” they fashion a modern new age aesthetic that’s equal parts shock therapy and sublime natural integration. Beginning with some choral voices and shimmering synthetic sounds, the track eventually gives way to an ecstatic and mutated dance floor rhythm and carries a shrieking electro pop noise along its length. Feeling as through you’re being pulled through a collection of cables and frayed wires, you get the sense that the band is slowly breaking down the world by its base elements and reconstructing something new from the separate sections. It’s miraculous and fascinating, and you’re not likely to hear anything else like it anytime soon.
The Black Ships, “Dead Empires“
Looking to the past for inspiration can prove tricky and downright foolish if you’re not well-versed enough to understand why you should be drawing upon those artists in the first place. For nostalgic New York fuzzed-out dream rockers The Black Ships, however, this understanding seems ingrained in every note and chord they play. It’s obvious that bands such as Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen have played a considerable part in their formative musical upbringing, but there is also an energetic, rebellious tint to the music that comes solely from The Black Ships.
With their newest single, “Dead Empires,” the band furthers this mysterious and dark melodicism, creating a sound that’s as equally indebted to those prior influences as it is to the band’s own sense of musical discovery. This song feels half-buried, caked in distortion and dirt. But despite this unhinged exterior, there is a seriously catchy melody at its heart, and The Black Ships know enough to let it run wild for as long as it wants. The guitars spin and slice through the air while the drums conjure images of darkened underground bars in the early ’80s. The Black Ships are carrying the mantle passed on by a handful of genres that provided the necessary impetus for each member’s own musical awareness, and doing it without even breaking a sweat.
Long Live the Goat, “Drag“
If you’re ever curious about what things you should never do during the recording of a music video, look no further than Chicago rock outfit Long Live the Goat and their new video for “Drag.” Over the course of its short runtime, the band smokes weed, takes bong hits and gets doused in alcohol of every sort, not to mention that the lead singer is forcibly manhandled by a woman. You wonder if this is par for the course for the band or simply a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the perils of overindulgence. But quickly enough, all that’s forgotten amid a hail of chugging guitar riffs, thrumming bass lines and a bone-shaking percussive thrust that’ll leave you dizzy and covered in sweat.
Not content to simply turn up the volume, Long Live the Goat sheers away our expectations and shakes your senses until the floor is spinning beneath you. Their particular brand of stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll seems to be in short supply these days-there’s nothing overly complicated or superficial. It just flattens everything in a 30-foot radius, and that’s really all it cares about. The band is just now getting started, but if “Drag” is any indication, they’ve already set a high mark for anything that comes after. If you’re looking for something to rattle your windows and put that familiar snap in your neck, check out Long Live the Goat and rest assured that rock is most assuredly not dead.
Public Memory, “Lunar“
Brooklyn-based Public Memory is the avenue through which multi-instrumentalist Robert Toher crafts a fractured electronic landscape full of delicate melodies, subtle hip-hop inclinations and warped melodies that recall the woozy tendencies of bands such as Faust and Can. Having previously been a part of Brooklyn electronic outfit Eraas, Toher is no stranger to these kinds of shivering, experimental sounds. In fact, he seems to breath a certain synthetic atmosphere that helps him turn and subvert these rhythms in ways that aren’t all that clear upon first inspection. His music often carries with it a somnambulic appearance, with everything seeming to run in slow motion and Toher himself quietly navigating these soundscapes with an almost-unnatural ease.
Public Memory recently signed to Felte, and the label will be releasing his debut sometime in the spring. Until then, we can slowly start to see how this moniker will be different from his previous musical iterations-and we can do this by listening to new single “Lunar.” The track boasts a hypnotic gait, complete with its fair share of krautrock influence and Toher’s dreamy vocals weaving in and out of the music at measured intervals. The perfect soundtrack to a late night you don’t particularly want to remember, “Lunar” wraps its musical sensibilities around your head, covering everything in a fog of synths and thumping percussion. There are some experiences you might want to lose, and with this song, Toher provides a welcoming and darkened place to store those memories.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.