Noise Pop

REVIEW: Palberta - Roach Goin' Down

a2720916839_10.jpg

Phillipe Roberts

Palberta announce their presence with a screeching “We’re Palbertaaaaa!” in the closing third of Roach Goin’ Down, delivering a clunky, bass-heavy hip-hop beat sprinkled with blips of detuned guitar. Like a professional wrestler playing their entrance song just before delivering that perfectly choreographed pile-driving finisher, the move would feel anti-climatic and awkward if it wasn’t so characteristically them to ignore any conventional order of operations while spitting on your expectations. Live, the trio switch instruments almost as fast as they leap between ideas, a would-be performance gimmick that illuminates just how damn singular their approaches are behind the kit and in front of an amp. On the strength of showmanship and increasingly bizarre songcraft, Palberta has become a bit of an open-secret sensation, but Roach Goin’ Down is their strongest argument yet for blowing the doors wide open.

For all of those individual qualities and instrumental quirks, what makes Roach Goin’ Down such a big leap over its predecessors is how accomplished they’ve become at fusing them into a seamless—albeit slightly prickly—whole. Highlight track “In My Fame - Jug!” is ruthlessly efficient with melodies. Its first section is a pile-on of scraggly guitar, bass chords, and splashing percussion, ricocheting off each other in a thrilling chain-reaction explosion. As it glides to earth to start part two, soft guitar strums carve a path onwards—not towards a conclusion, but a circular conversation that fades gradually into the distance, a sound they explore again on “Jumping From Lamp to Lamp,” with an added dose of sprightly loneliness.

Indeed, despite the textural and tonal grit that Palberta are fond of, the outright poppiness of punk tracks like “Big Time” sound almost too smooth to be the work of a noise (or noise-inclined, if you will) band—until they tear it off like a BandAid in the last few seconds with a howling sax solo. The titular chanting in “Cherry Baby” cleaves through the wonky pulsing of horns and bass around it, detuned to its surroundings but perfectly preserved in an airtight bubble that’ll keep you humming it for days. Palberta have always performed this delicate balancing act, but these snippets of hypnotic warmth have never sounded so deliberate, even if they come packaged with an equally fierce punchline.

Roach Goin’ Down’s cover art features the visages Ani Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser whipped into a single slimy heap, differentiated only by glasses, teeth, and hair, in a real case of blended identity that mirrors the album. Unless you see them perform the songs live, it’s nearly impossible to tell who wrote or played what part. And somehow, the longer you listen to Roach Goin’ Down, or allow yourself to be taken in by the wacky, impulsive construct that is Palberta, the less you feel the violent urge to deconstruct and divide that gooey whole into something piecemeal. If you need things to make microscopic sense, don’t listen to this album. If you want to hear Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” transfigured into a Rage Against the Machine-style basher, exposed for the bloated corpse of a track it was by way of annihilation, you may have found your record of the year.

REVIEW: Fake Palms - Pure Mind

pure.jpg

Phillipe Roberts

Mining a vein similar to the one explored by fellow Canadian gloom-punk outfit Preoccupations, Fake Palms hit the motherlode on Pure Mind, an LP that forges their formidable instrumental chops into a searing collection of nocturnal anthems, putting anxiety under the knife for a makeshift dissection.

When we last checked in with the Palms on “Snowblind,” the scathing closer from the Heavy Paranoia EP, they were peeling apart the tension they’d maintained in that collection, building up a towering inferno of distortion and cascading drums. The otherworldly screech they left behind is the bedrock of Pure Mind opener “Fear,” an open wound hissing with anticipation before their signature swirl of thorny guitars shoots out in all directions. Guitarists Patrick Marshall and Michael Le Riche weave a disorienting tapestry of notes together, climbing over one another in a frantic tightrope race to the finish line. It helps that the muscular rhythm section, led by returning drummer Simone TB and assisted by the sinister bounce of newcomer bassist Lane Halley, never bats an eyelash at the guitarists' melodic provocations. TB is particularly stunning across the record. Good drums provide a backbone, but her hyper-aware playing, from the rolling-thunder tom flourishes on the aforementioned “Fear” to the confident, tastefully melodic 7/4 strut of “Glass Walls,” forms the whole damn skeleton.

The atmosphere of Pure Mind is deliriously psychedelic and manic; it never settles into a groove long enough for the listener to rest easy. With so many elements lurching out at every corner, the overall effect is that of a kaleidoscope drained of its color, tunneling around your eye in grayscale horror. It’s here that Le Riche’s vocals enter the mix. Gliding through the turbulence and dripping with reverb, he provides the lone island of calm—a kindred spirit with a ghostly tune to guide you out of the rubble. On smoother patches of sonic terrain, where the claustrophobic clamor of the band dies down to a simmer, Le Riche takes on a confident croon. Swaying in front of a minimal bass and piano figure, his voice paints imagery like “Little silver bells / Falling out of me” with a haunting, ethereal coolness that calls Grizzly Bear or Broadcast to mind.

While these moments of respite are welcome, they never feel necessary. Whether in the form of the dance floor-ready shimmy of “Heaven Scent” or the soaring, arena-sized chorus of “Can’t Erase,” Fake Palms are happy to deliver round after round of moody post-punk that’s rich in texture and taste. Arriving later on the album, “Holograms” feels like a summation of all of their best elements: liquid guitars, arrhythmic no-wave breakdowns, and a jagged, powerhouse rhythm section to make sense of it all. In the video for the song, wireframed digital models tumble, writhe, and dissolve as they’re hurled through rapidly disintegrating landscapes. The pain howling within quite literally breaks and stretches their mesh bodies to the limits of recognizability. Similarly, on their quest for purer minds, Fake Palms have emerged almost unrecognizable from the noisy wreckage of yesteryear, brighter and better for it.

INTERVIEW: Dirty Dishes

Will Shenton

Every once in a while, one of our favorite bands from Brooklyn ends up on the wrong coast—namely, mine. When the annual Noise Pop Festival came to San Francisco a few weeks back, I was downright giddy to see that Dirty Dishes were on the ticket.

In the midst of a week filled with as many great shows as weird ones—iLoveMakonnen literally performing on a Tuesday fell squarely into the latter category—I caught up with the New York-based fuzz-rockers at a coffee shop before their killer performance at The Knockout with Wax Idols, Dinosaurs, and Carletta Sue Kay.

We chatted about the band's origins in Boston, the dream that drove lead singer and guitarist Jenny Tuite to pursue a life of grungy music, and when, exactly, Billy Corgan became such a weirdo. And while I own a camera, I'm pretty abysmal when it comes to actually using it, so bear with me on the photos.

ThrdCoast: So you guys are originally from LA?

Jenny Tuite: We spent time in LA, but we’re an East Coast band. We were in LA for a while, and we recorded our record out there.

Alex Molini: Yeah, Boston to LA, then back to Brooklyn.

TC: So how did you all get together in the first place?

AM: We met in Boston, just hanging out and knowing a lot of the same bands. We eventually got sick of the cold weather and moved to LA, and then we got sick of the warm weather and moved back to the East Coast.

TC: I’ve found that LA has a special kind of warm weather that’s pretty easy to get sick of.

AM: Yeah, it’s just the same every day! It gets boring.

Steve Bone: I was there for five years and it felt like one giant month [laughs]. At least you get fog up here.

TC: How did you get involved with Exploding in Sound?

JT: Dan used to live in Boston, and he’s come to pretty much every single show we’ve performed since the beginning.

AM: Back in the day when he was going to school, our band-best friend, Grass is Green, knew him as well and we played a lot together. He was just the guy at every. Single. Show.

JT: He used to just have the blog, Exploding in Sound, and then he started a label from there. He’s the best. He does all this stuff himself.

AM: He pretty much provides for 20 bands. PR, mailings, physical records, advice… Exploding in Sound is Dan Goldin.

TC: What are your individual backgrounds? How did you get into music?

AM: I started playing piano as a kid. One thing led to the next, this instrument and that instrument, and I just found that I wanted to do it all the time. That’s about it [laughs]. I teach music for a living—lessons at the moment, but I’ve taught at schools in the past—and I just do whatever I can to make sure that music is my job in some way or another.

SB: I started playing drums in middle school. I played in a lot of crappy bands over the years, covered a lot of Blink 182 and Green Day [laughs]. That was kind of my jam. I want to emphasize, we were crappy. The music was awesome [laughs]. I ended up going to school for mechanical engineering, and I realized that I couldn’t stand it and really wanted to pursue music. So I quit, and now I’m a recording engineer.

JT: You work at some dope studios.

SB: Yeah, I did the studio thing in LA for a while, but playing drums has always been a steady thing that I love.

JT: I played piano when I was little, and then when I was in sixth grade, I had this, like, half-hallucinatory experience one night when I was falling asleep. I heard all this wonderful, beautiful guitar fuzz, and it felt like it was raining. I woke my parents up in the middle of the night and said, “I need an electric guitar.” They looked at me like, what the fuck are you doing awake right now? [Laughs]. They told me to go back to sleep, but after a while I got one. It took some convincing.

TC: Wow, it literally came to you in a dream.

JT: [Laughs] yeah. I don’t usually tell people that, because they assume I’m joking.

TC: Who would you guys say are some of your biggest influences?

JT: Well, I probably listened to Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins a million times while I was growing up. So definitely that album, especially the guitar. I love that sound. We all like Radiohead a lot.

AM: Just kind of the ‘90s in general.

JT: Alex listened to Unwound a lot.

AM: Yeah, all that ‘90s shit [laughs]. Smashing Pumpkins, a lot of heavier stuff. Soundgarden, STP.

SB: STP!

AM: A lot of electronic music, too.

SB: I listened to a lot of the Pumpkins growing up as well, but I was more into Mellon Collie. As I got older, though, I shifted more into the Siamese Dream camp. I mean, it’s just a better album.

TC: I feel like I had the same progression. Mellon Collie was that transitional album between when Billy Corgan was pretty rad and when he became a total nutjob, but it wasn’t as far off the deep end as their later stuff.

SB: Yeah, exactly! That’s the thing, it’s 28 songs, and it only needed to be like 12. There’s a bunch of fluff, but those 12 are great.

AM: In short, we all like fuzz. Various shades of fuzz [laughs].

JT: My Bloody Valentine, too.

TC: What can you guys tell me about your songwriting process? Do you do everything together, or does one of you take point?

AM: Generally, Jenny makes a demo, with all the vocals, melodies, and forms.

JT: People always ask if I just write lyrics, but I do the guitars, too. I feel like I need to point that out [laughs]. I do the words last, and I don’t really like that part.

TC: So lyrics are always the last step?

JT: Yeah, but just because it’s my least favorite part of the process [laughs].

TC: Was the process of recording Guilty any different from your previous albums?

AM: Well, we recorded it all over. Only part was in LA.

JT: We actually recorded the B-side first, up in Chelsea, MA in this big, old masonry building. We were originally going to do to separate releases, because side A and side B were so different. We’d just been doing a lot of rock stuff and getting kind of bored of it, so we wanted to challenge ourselves to do something different. I don’t think the B-side has any fuzz at all, it’s a lot more sparse. The A-side was in our friend’s garage in LA—he’s a really good engineer. We haven’t really recorded in a proper studio before, we usually avoid that.

TC: What are you guys working on now?

JT: We’ve got some new stuff that we play live, but right now we’re really focusing on touring. After that, who knows?

INTERVIEW: Palm

Eve (All Photos: Dylan Johnston)

Eve (All Photos: Dylan Johnston)

Gerard Marcus

A little while back, I had the chance to sit down for a quick bite with Eve Alpert, vocalist and guitarist for one of our absolute favorite bands, Palm (for the locals, we were at Skytown Diner in Bushwick just before this show at Palisades). We talked about the origins of the band, playing music without formal training, moving to Philly, how they got to work with Exploding in Sound and Inflated Records, and a bunch of other stuff while wolfing down some chicken sandwiches.

Palm's new album, Trading Basics, comes out next Friday and is already easily one of my favorite records of the year. Check out the interview below, along with some old photos we have of the band from this other, equally awesome show at Palisades. And if you're in NYC next Friday, make sure to check them out at their album release show at, you guessed it, Palisades. Palisades Palisades Palisades.

Eve Alpert: Big Neck Police

ThrdCoast: Big Neck Police? That’s a great name for a band.

EA: Really good.

TC: Awesome. Well I guess we should start the interview. Can you tell me a little about the origins of Palm?

EA:  I meet the other guitar player, Kasra, in London, and we became really good friends and started playing together right towards the end of our senior year of high school. We were always sharing music and stuff and going to shows together before that. Then we both went to Bard and would just play in his dorm room every day. Just the two songs that we had. We eventually met Hugo, our drummer, when Kasra took a class with him and we showed him our two songs in this practice space and he was like, “Yeah! I like it” [laughs].

TC: So you all went to Bard?

EA: Yeah, he’s the grade beneath us though. But yeah, we just started being a band from there. The three of us. An instrumental band where we’d play the two or three songs that we had. Hugo and Kasra I think became friends just from both of them knowing and liking this band that was really obscure at the time called This Heat. That’s how they connected and how we started playing. Then a year later, maybe six months, we realized that a bass would be really good maybe even integral. At first we were like, “Oh! It’d be cool to have just two guitars...”

TC: But then you added a bass and thought, “Oh wow!”

EA: No, we were more like, “It needs bass” [laughs]. You can't just have low-end guitars. So Gerry was already living with Kasra, but he had never played bass before.

TC: Never?

EA: Not really, no [laughs].

TC: Was he a guitar player?

EA: No. Piano, actually.

TC: Oh, wow. Was there a major learning curve or did he just pick it up in a snap?

EA: There was a learning curve for all of us at the same time, pretty much.

TC: All in it together.

EA: Yeah. Well, we kind of grew together. The band didn’t really start in London, it started with the addition of Hugo and Gerry. Before that we never had more than like three songs. And we didn’t know what it meant to have the songs we made until we meet them.

Kasra

Kasra

TC: So in those early days it was just straight-up experimentation?

EA: Pretty much, yeah. At the end of high school Kasra and I were really into Sonic Youth and stuff, so pretty much everything we wrote was in some obscure tuning or pretty heavy, like Slint-influenced I would say. And yeah, a lot of experimentation because Kasra and I weren’t guitar players, we just started playing guitar together. So the reason we were going into different tunings and stuff was because we didn’t really know how to make a song in standard tuning [laughs].

TC: I love that. There's a certain genuineness to it, you know?

EA: [Laughs] Yeah, I see what you're saying. We would only play like four songs at a show early on, because it would take us so long to tune in-between songs.

TC: I don’t remember you guys tuning that much the last time I saw you.

EA: Well, we started using standard tuning. Actually, now I guess we use like two different tunings. Two or three including standard. We don’t really play any of that early stuff anymore.

TC: Listening to your back catalog was really interesting because it's obviously the same group, but this new album you guys have coming out is just way more refined.

EA: Yeah, for sure.

TC: How long did you guys work on it?

EA: Well... We wrote and recorded an album last summer that was sort of in the vein of the previous stuff. Which I think was more of us trying to figure out how to play together. I mean, we're still doing that now, but that album was less of a distinct sound that we were comfortable playing. So we scrapped the album and just wrote a bunch of songs that felt a lot better than what we had just recorded. We decided to keep working on new songs, and it all happened kind of naturally and abruptly that we just got tighter together as a group.

TC: You had your "ah-ha" moment?

EA: Yeah, it was just easier to write songs for some reason. It had always taken us so long to write a single song. We’d wait until the last minute to write vocals and stuff, but it all got easier after we recorded that album that we weren’t that happy with. Then we recorded this album the following December, after we came off tour with a band from Hudson called Buke and Gase. They’re a bigger band and asked us to be one of there supporting acts for like ten or twelve dates.

TC: How did you guys know each other?

EA: They were friends of ours in Hudson. I had been going there a lot while I was in college and worked at Basilica, which is this venue in Hudson, and I just met them there and we became friends. We started rehearsing in the same building, so when it was time for them to go they just asked us. Out of the kindness of their hearts, maybe? I don’t know [laughs]. At the time we were trying to decide whether we wanted to keep that first album we recorded or not, and then this engineer came up to us a at Buke and Gase show and offered to record what became Trading Basics. So yeah, we decided to record it. The guy's name is Eli Crews, he just started a studio in Prospect Heights with a guy named Shahzad Ismaily.

TC: Another awesome name.

EA: Yeah, The studio is called Figure 8. Eli had previously recorded Deer Hoof and Tune-Yards and a bunch of other people. He was really hyped on us, so we took the offer to record with him in a really good studio. When we went it was brand new. I think we were one of the first to try it out.

TC: Christening the studio.

EA: [Laughs] Yeah.

Hugo

Hugo

TC: So after you guys had that revelation and songwriting became easier, how has that changed how you guys work together?

EA: I don’t know if it’s really changed that much, but it usually starts with a seed and then everybody brings something in. And by the end, its usually completely different from what the seed was. It’s changed a little more recently. We all grew up playing different instruments and none of us are musically trained—like, Hugo was a guitarist originally. Kasra’s a drummer. And Gerry was originally a really good piano player. I just dabbled [laughs]. But I think that has informed our approach to how we work now. Kasra has a very rhythmic approach to things, so I'd say a lot of the guitar playing is very percussive.

TC: Yeah, I’d definitely agree with that, and as a corollary it seems like Hugo’s drumming is kind of melodic.

EA: Yeah, totally. It’s an interesting idea to think of how the bass and drums can take a more forward role than the guitars, and carry the melody while the guitars are more of a rhythmic tool. We’ve thought about that a lot with songs we’ve written.

TC: Where do lyrics come in?

EA: That’s usually the last thing and we pretty much split them up. Whoever sings them writes them, for the most part. But, you know, each thing is different.

TC: So there’s no central influence for the lyrical material?

EA: A lot of it is very abstract. Vocals are the hardest thing to feel comfortable with for us. It’s always left to the last minute because Kasra and I aren't that confident of singers. Now we’re trying to make it more like a tool and less like a traditional vocal part.

TC: I really like how you guys use your vocals as an effect.

EA: Yeah! Totally. And it’s really helped getting the vocal effect pedal.

TC: Yeah, it sounds great live. What is it?

EA: It’s a doubler, basically. A TC Helicon. We just put it on a fixed setting and depending on how wet or dry you make it, it distorts itself.

TC: How long have you guys been using that?

EA: Since about November. After we went on tour with Buke and Gase, who use a lot of vocal processing—it’s such a part of their set.

TC: You know who else has great vocal effects?

EA: Who?

TC: Laser Background.

EA: Oh yeah, definitely. Andy’s great.

TC: I just saw him the other day with Mild High Club, and was amazed at how lush his vocals were. Especially in Silent Barn. He’s in Philly too, right?

EA: Yeah, that’s not where I know him from but I've seen him since moving there.

TC: How did the move go?

EA: Great! We’re living with a band we love called Banned Books in two different houses. We went on tour with them in May, and also met them on that Buke and Gase tour in October. They played the Philly show. We became really good friends after that, and decided to move to Philly and live together.

Gerry

Gerry

TC: Nice. Like a musical co-op.

EA: Yeah. It’s really good because we both have basements, so we can practice a lot.

TC: What's it like living with all musicians?

EA: It’s not, like, as crazy as it sounds [laughs].

TC: I could see it being very creative, though.

EA: I hope so. It’s still very new, so we’ll see. That’s the dream [laughs]. We want to record another album soon, like in December. It was so long ago that we recorded this coming record, and now we don’t even play more than, like, two of the songs from the album.

TC: Already moved on to new material?

EA: Yeah, we kind of get antsy. We like to play new stuff.

TC: Well, that’s not a bad thing. So how did you guys get involved with Exploding in Sound?

EA: Dan Goldin just asked us if we wanted to before he had even heard the record.

TC: I’m starting to see a trend here.

EA: [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t know how that happened. Maybe somebody had told him that we had just recorded? But regardless, he was just like “I want to put it out!” Another guy also wanted to put it out at the same time, Dan Donnelly of Inflated Records. So they split it. Dan Donnelly fronted the LP cost and is doing physical distribution, and Dan Goldin is doing the tapes and the PR. But yeah, I don’t know how it happened [laughs].

REVIEW: Sun Club - The Dongo Durango

Laura Kerry

A collage of carousel bliss, terrifying clown faces, and other surreal carnival characters, Sun Club’s album cover serves as the perfect introduction to their debut LP. In the first track, “Glob,” a maniacal laugh and/or cough plays alongside a circus-like organ and children’s laughter and screams before bleeding into the reverb-soaked guitar of the next track. The organ and the clownish voice return elsewhere, reminding us that, like its art, The Dongo Durango is a kind of perverse carnival.

Throughout the album, even when Baltimore-based Sun Club’s expansive guitar-pop reaches its sunniest peaks, they maintain a sense of ghoulish humor. The word “punk” comes to mind—in part, because the yowl-laden vocals recall the genre—but mostly in the way that contemptuous old ladies use it in reference to preteens passing on skateboards (for example: “Oh dear, those punks have some nerve”). Three out of five members of the band, Shane and Devin McCord and Mikey Powers, have been playing together since they were preteens, so perhaps the youthful brazenness is a tribute to their origins. Or maybe it comes from the odd pleasure in their song names (“Language Juice,” “Cheeba Swiftkick,” “Puppy Gumgum”), or the bizarre interludes (see the end of “Carnival Dough” or “The Dongo Durango”)—but Sun Club does have some twisted, delightful nerve.

At first listen, that unruly boldness generates some effects that make The Dongo Durango difficult to penetrate. The hollering, reverberating voice and distorted guitars sound distant; the songs are frenetic; and their structures are somewhat opaque.  The more you listen, though, the more the music comes into focus. On songs such as “Beauty Meat,” Sun Club trades off between hooky melodies and guitar riffs and odd time signatures, which throws the listener off balance while propelling her on. Occasionally dipping into the sentimental yelp of Local Natives’ indie rock and the idiosyncratic yelp of Animal Collective’s experimentalism, Sun Club makes for an interesting ride through a warped version of pop.

Some of those tough-to-access elements are also the flipside of how the album derives its wild energy. Sun Club recorded the album live over a month in an old warehouse-turned-studio, which not only accounts for the echoing sound, but also for the lack of restraint. They successfully captured the sound and feeling of seeing a band in person. You don’t hear all the lyrics when you see a show, nor do you pick apart the chord phrasings, but you certainly do get your body moving. And isn't that one of the greatest things music makes you do? Exhilarating as it is dizzying, The Dongo Durango is a depraved carnival ride you will want to ride again.