In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from Wieuca, Otzeki, Screamfeeder and Eli Raybon. What have you been listening to lately?
Wieuca, "Slow War"
Athens, Georgia, rockers Wieuca formed in 2012 when multi-instrumentalist Rob Smith and visual artist Will Ingram made the move from Atlanta to Athens to attend the University of Georgia. Once there, they met and enlisted guitarist Jack O'Reilly and producer-bassist-banjoist Sam Kempe, solidifying the lineup of the band. They then set out to create a sound that combined their shared influences but stood on its own in terms of its history and production. The band is currently gearing up for the release of their new record, "Guilt Complex," due out July 14 via Land of the Freak, and is looking to further this idea of exploratory musical adaptation.
On their new single, "Slow War," the band drops the twang of their previous work and focuses instead on the clash and clang of classic indie rock, with a bit of psych fogginess thrown in for good measure. Toss in some mid-'90s emo and some warbling rock experimentation and you've got a good idea of the source material with which they're working. Fuzzed-up guitar tones pace alongside a caustic lyricism that evokes the sounds of bands like Built to Spill or Sonic Youth while holding to their rhythmic ideologies. They're having fun playing around with the various histories of their influences, creating something both familiar and doggedly unique from these shared sounds.
Otzeki, "True Love"
London electronic-rock duo Otzeki, built around the twin inspirations of singer-guitarist Mike Sharp and synth-handler/percussionist Joel Roberts, creates a dance-heavy, churning pop-rock aesthetic that aims to obliterate your senses while quickly urging you out onto the dance floor. Intensely intimate at times and darkly euphoric, their work bridges the narrow distance between dense pop revelations and a more synthetic blend of club atmospherics. And while it would be easy to allow these sounds to clash and dull the edges of each other, Sharp and Roberts never allow the music to lose any of its beat-driven purpose or determination—they maintain a weighted but iridescent pop gravity.
With their latest single, "True Love," the duo creates a wobbly electro swamp of throbbing melodies and menacing rhythms. The track pulses with a synthetic life, a jolt of slowly creeping energy that casually seeps into your skin. Brooding pop beats and insinuating synths seem to collect at your periphery before bounding into the spotlight and capturing your attention. The song creates an expectation of dark movement, as if there is something dangerous waiting for you just around the next corner—and "True Love" is all the more remarkable for being able to maintain this moody and complicated presence from its persuasive opening to the echoes of its emotionally resonant ending.
Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, indie rock progenitors Screamfeeder create fuzzed-out pop and scuzzy rock landscapes where guitars thrive on electricity and melodies are born from thin air. But they're no mere hangers-on; Screamfeeder was part of the original indie rock revolution alongside bands like Hüsker Dü and Buffalo Tom. They helped define what indie rock was in the first half of the '90s and went on to redefine the ideals and relevance that could be explored within these guitar-centric sounds. The band is ready to release their latest album, "Pop Guilt," June 23—which makes this the first collection of new songs they've shared since their 2005 EP, "Delusions of Grandchildren."
On recent single "Shelter," the sound of early '90s indie rock rebellion is in full force, and the track begs you to check your calendar to make sure you haven't been magically transported back to 1992. The guitars are powerful, with just a hint of the fire and distortion that lurk beneath their dense riffs. But this is no simple nostalgia; the band goes back to bands like The Who and The Replacements for inspiration on how to sustain these raucous rhythms without losing an ounce of their bite. It's a sinewy rock throwback to those early underground years—although in all fairness, they were part of that movement to begin with, so they're simply reshaping the mysterious and burly sounds of their own history.
Eli Raybon, "30 Cents"
The work of musician Eli Raybon has half its heart in the present and half in the past; more specifically, he found inspiration in modern bands like The Killers and Phoenix and then dove headfirst into the music of bands (The Smiths, New Order) that played a pivotal role in those artists' evolution. Leaning heavily on fuzzy synths and an obsession with bright, fluorescent melodies, Raybon displays a preternatural understanding of why these specific sounds resonated so deeply with so many people. His music shimmers, sparkles and evokes the romanticism of an '80s pop heartache. On his forthcoming EP, "Green" (out June 23), he collects a handful of songs that work to revive these neon-filled landscapes where dazzling pop music is allowed to stay up dancing until the crack of dawn.
On "30 Cents," Raybon isn't just looking back to the warbling pop craziness of the '80s for inspiration—he's submerging himself from head to toe in its candy-coated synth melodies. This is nostalgia filled with synth pop napalm, ready to explode and incinerate at the slightest touch. But rather than hearing this as some experiment in pop assimilation, Raybon sees these sounds as honest (if often over the top) emotional conveyors and approaches this maximalist noise with equal parts respect and wariness. His ability to tread the thin line between ambition and excess is impressive and reveals just how well he understands the underlying mechanics of ecstatic pop music.
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.