Written by Arjun Ray
The Smell has been and continues to be the home of many of the best experimental punk, and weirdo bands to come out of Los Angeles. From the thundering art-grind juggernauts Health, to nearly un-listenable but awesome Foot Village, The Smell has allowed a lot of great acts to get a foothold in the underground music scene. If you haven’t been to The Smell yet, come to So Many Wizard’s CD release party and check out some great bands doing everything from psychedelic surf to electro-pop to bedroom folk.
Photo by Laura
So Many Wizards
So Many Wizards is a band that could only exist in California. From the moment the music hits your ears, it evokes unending sunshine and languorous hours spent on idyllic beaches. There is no urgency in the cadence, no aggression to the subtle tensions within the songs. This stuff is the soundtrack to that carefree American Summer that lasts all year round. While there are songs that have darker nostalgic undercurrents, everything is handled with a certain sonic lightness. The instruments float like a loose herd of musical balloons, vaguely coalescing into a kaleidoscopic daydream. The notes don’t linger on your eardrums as much as they wash on and evaporate off into a psychadelic haze. So Many Wizards are the very opposite of heavy. As far as songwriting, each song appears to be written from a different guiding principle, however subtly it shows in the music itself. With an album called Love Songs for When you Leave Me, these guys must be hopeless romantics. I don’t mean flowers and bullshit, I mean the kind of romantic who knows it’s only a matter of time, and hindsight soothes as much as it stings. If I was forced to use genre qualifiers, surf, 50s pop, experimental, and vaguely ‘asian’ (asian pentatonic scales) would fit…somewhat. Overall, the band presents a pretty unique sonic experience. Since this event is a release party for So Many Wizards, expect new music from their Warm Nothing cassette and Lolipop Records 7″.
Photo by Qwillmode
Corners plays a particularly messy brand of garage surf. Primordial power chords and ever-pounding drums drives some of these songs forward at a drawling mid tempo pace. Other songs take a 60s garage pop style with jangly percussion and acoustic instruments filling in on rhythm. The recordings of the band sound intentionally ancient and unpolished. Raw. The adjective ‘raw’ is often used to hide shortcomings in ability or songwriting, but in the case of Corners, their rawness is appreciable as an integral part of their sound. The vocals trade off song-for-song between a slightly acidic vocal and an affected brit-pop singing style. The whole sound is deep fried in analog distortion, and reverb helps to saturate the spaces between the notes. Although self-classified as punk, garage, and surf, the latter two adjectives best describe the retro styling of this band. Come see these guys play some big ol’ hollow-bodied surf hypnosis at louder volumes than you probably expected.
Instead of throwing away your drum machine once it appeared obsolete in the late 90s, you should have given it to that brooding pre-teen cousin of yours so he/she could bring the 80s back in the 2010s. Roses unabashedly practice 80s electropop worship with a whole-hearted nod towards the Smiths. That uniquely formal vocal elocution along with those downbent guitar chords are all in full effect. If you like Twin Shadow, this band will agree well with your tastes. The beats are all electronic, and guitar and keyboard riffs keep the songs memorable and break the songs into verses, choruses and occasional solos. Song parts and changes focus around the emotion of the lyrics, neatly creating a vessel for the song to connect with the listener on both an emotional and nostalgic level. Speaking of nostalgia, did I mention that Roses does a good 80s throwback? Bring your haircut, and your dancing shoes.
Rachel Birke is that mercurial girl from around the apartment building who you can hear singing through the walls. Maybe you’ve fallen a little bit in love with that voice. A voice that sounds like nobody else is listening, that is naked and sweet in that way that only women, and only certain women can sing. The recordings from Rachel are literally bedroom recordings of her voice accompanied by guitar, banjo, and occasional drums.There is something of the pattern-focused repetition of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon in the playing. The only recordings from her are from August of this year, and they sound like sketches of varying audio quality. I hope that she continues to put out recordings and continues fleshing out her sound. One of the more compelling of her recordings, “Three Crows, A Summons”, takes on that waltz-dirge of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with several layers of vocals. It’s the kind of song that you would imagine getting from a friend on a mix tape, where you might break in the rewind button trying to get to know that voice.