In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from Occurrence, Racing Heart, Lê Almeida and Curse of Lono. What have you been listening to this week?
Occurrence, "Pablo the Stalker"
Occurrence is the work of musician/playwright Ken Urban and musician Cat Hollyer, and through it, they summon the memories of past experiences, letting each event play out in a delicate but resolute call-and-response approach. With a mix of post-punk ferocity and icy, synth-drenched rhythms, the duo concocted the foundation of their new record, "The Past Will Last Forever," through a sustained period of Dropbox file sharing and long-distance collaboration. And though the finished album enlists the help of 12 additional musicians and singers, it truly feels like the cohesive vision of two distinct but thoroughly compatible people. It explores a craggy landscape of intimate storytelling and ragged musical collusion, blooming into an all-enveloping mass of noise and subdued beauty.
On their new single, "Pablo the Stalker," they combine a minimalist electronic foundation with chilly synths and foggy vocals—it's a bit foreboding but never holds you at a distance. The song possesses a ghostly chill and clatter, the kind that races up your spine and settles somewhere deep in your brain. Urban and Hollyer infuse these icy rhythms with a dark narrative of revenge and con games. You're left with a shaky hold on reality, as if you're not entirely sure what is real and what is a figment of the song's imagination. Wandering through this '80s-influenced soundscape, you develop a growing paranoia and apprehension about what lies just beyond the next corner. And with the band prodding you to take just a quick peek, that anxiety creeps into every melody and rhythm.
Racing Heart, "Squaring the Circle"
Multi-instrumentalist Mathias H. Tjønn was raised in Oslo but moved to Brooklyn some years back and has been releasing music as Racing Heart. On his forthcoming record, "What Comes After," Tjønn, aided by fellow Norwegian Jenny Hval and producer/musician Hanne Hukkelberg, creates songs of confounding experimental pop rhythms and precariously perched melodies. The record is overtly political but never reduces its message to bland platitudes—both sincerity and mischievousness to the music allow him to explore these darker corners of the world while still leaving room for pop music to stretch its legs a bit, and get some momentum built up for the inevitable release of emotion and experience.
On his latest single, "Squaring the Circle," Tjønn takes on the unenviable challenge of highlighting the endless and featureless faces of modern conflict, and giving those who suffer through it a much-needed voice. There's a bottomless darkness but also a spark of hope, and it's just enough that this incandescent light seeps in through the cracks, illuminating everything it touches. Synths rumble up from beneath the earth to swallow everything, creating a terse density that speaks to both the gravity of his idealism and the difficult task of speaking for those who can't make a sound. The song is both a call to arms and a warning about the dangers of clandestine military presumption, and the havoc it wreaks on those caught in its sights.
Lê Almeida, "Meditação Oracular"
Music is a communal language—it doesn't necessarily have to rely on a lyrical understanding in its attempts to offer something of worth to its audience. And for fuzzed-out Brazilian pop artist Lê Almeida, this sense of connected history and experience is what allows his music to transcend this obvious language barrier. Through his fuzzy guitar riffs and heart-pounding percussive bursts of sparkling, reverb-drenched noise, he channels lo-fi legends like Guided By Voices and Sebadoh while maintaining his own perspective on what made these artists so memorable in the first place. He's set to release a new record, "Todas as Brisas," in the near future and continues to traverse these warped pop landscapes with ease.
With "Meditação Oracular," he gives us a brief glimpse into the psychedelic grunge of his new album, complete with all the distortion-dripping guitar and DIY intrepidity we've come to expect from him. The classic indie rock touchstones are well-recognized, but he manages to create a swirling environment of familiar sounds sound as though we've never heard them before. The track has a pronounced garage-y bounce, the kind of swagger you would find on a "Nuggets" collection but with its individuality thankfully intact. Lê Almeida never once falls back on simple mimicry to position himself as heir apparent to this sound—his ability to successfully bear this mantle is proof enough of his authenticity and the earnest love he holds for the source material.
Curse of Lono, "Five Miles"
U.K. alt rockers Curse of Lono were born from the dissolution of British roots legends Hey Negrita, with lead singer-songwriter Felix Bechtolsheimer drawing together a group of artists with collective musical lineages stretching back for years. Many had performed in Hey Negrita, but Curse of Lono is its own animal, a goth rock-influenced indie rock outfit with spacey harmonies and choruses that could stretch for miles. Since their inception last year, the band has been writing and recording what would become the basis of their forthcoming self-titled debut EP, which is the soundtrack to a series of interconnected videos directed by Alex Walker and shot by Bart Sienkiewicz.
On recent single "Five Miles," the band picks up their acoustic guitars and creates a song that has its feet dug deeply in the roots rock of the Deep South while conveying an expansive emotional range. Rolling along at a skewed country rock gait, the track feels casual but piercing in its sustained vocal howls and shuddering guitar revelations. Many bands attempt to capture this sound and fail, leaving only the faint sense of imitation trailing behind them, but Curse of Lono submerges the tendencies of those other artists and works through their own vision of these sounds. The band delivers on their promise of insular indie rock steeped in the traditions of the Appalachian Mountains, even if there is an ocean separating them from those lofty peaks.
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.