Punk Rock

REVIEW: Prism Tats - Mamba

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Phillipe Roberts

A little advice when trying out Mamba: check your DIY at the door. Garrett Van Der Spek makes garage rock that’s a bit too plush for the basement. Cushioned with clean vocal harmonies, embellished with soft synthesizers, and sandwiched between a pair of spacious, downbeat crooning numbers, Prism TatsMamba tackles the genre with a smirking poise. The tempos don’t rush ahead nervously and the instruments knit together seamlessly, entirely devoid of rough edges. There’s a calculated energy to the affair that can’t be ignored. For devotees of the genre, crate digging for the latest blown out gem, its pristine presentation leaves a certain “rawness” to be desired. But even still, Van Der Spek’s clear ambition in flexing his songwriting chops and the unflinching swagger he carries into each song makes for a brisk rush of energy from top to bottom.

To call the production on Mamba “clean” is a raving understatement—this album is Department of Health Grade A spotless. Even its loudest, most chaotic moments, like the feedback eruption that closes out the title track, don’t come close to putting the meter into the red or producing the slightest unwanted artifact. On tracks with a serious amount of tonal variety, like “Vamps,” which thunders ahead with plenty of vocal effects swimming around two guitars, one bright and palm-muted and the other ringing like church bells in the pre-chorus, this streamlined sound works well. It brings out a tremendous amount of flavor that would otherwise get muddled. But on “Live Like Dogs,” whose glam rock design struggles to pull ahead of the typical guitar-drums-bass instrumentation, it saps some much needed unpredictability from a tightly written tune.

However, when Garrett Van Der Spek has a mind to twist a song with some newfound instrumentation, his instincts are spot on. “Daggers” hangs heavy on its festival-ready chorus, and rightfully so, but it's the woozy, flute-like organ swooping into the verses that turns it into something more than a straightforward anthem. And when he branches out into more exotic textures, the rewards grow exponentially richer. In "Ocean Floor," it’s refreshing to hear a drum machine bumping out a metronomic pattern on an album of explosive live drumming, especially when paired with a Robert Fripp-indebted guitar lead soaring in the background, sounding like “Somber Reptiles” from Another Green World with vocals. Indeed, the tracks that burn more slowly, taking on an almost ambient pace, feel like the next step in Van Der Spek’s evolution away from garage relics of the past.

Where his last record closed with the fuzzy, burnt-out strums of “Know It All,” this time Van Der Spek brings the lights all the way down for “Doomed,” an acoustic track that drifts away steadily like the end credits to a space western. Liberated from the burden of injecting that typical venomous swagger over bombastic riffs, a more introspective Van Der Spek mulls over his fate, turning into a more relatable and approachable character in the process. And as much as the polished punk pouting still remains compelling enough to keep you listening, it’s this side of Prism Tats that will keep you waiting for more.

REVIEW: Fake Palms - Pure Mind

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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.

PREMIERE: Anamon - Stubborn Comfort

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Laura Kerry

The name Anamon comes from Ana Emily Monaco, a musician and singer-songwriter who has played in several bands in the Rochester, New York area. Anamon began as a solo project, but Monaco recruited Aaron Mika and Benton Sillick last year to fill in the sound.

In “Stubborn Comfort,” the title track off of their debut album, Anamon exhibit the intimacy leftover from Monaco’s solo act days, as well as the uninhibited energy that emerges from a band jibing so well together. It opens with lo-fi guitar and distant but strong vocals. When the drums and bass enter, Monaco goes on the defensive: “Can I talk to you for a second, maybe a minute / Without you charging at me with your big horns?” Later, she revisits the theme of confrontation, singing, “Maybe that's my problem all along / I’m too passive and I want to be aggressive” as her voice trails off in a low register. One could imagine these lyrics showing up in a heated conversation or a passed note; her words are direct and potent, cutting through the grind of distorted guitar and loose drums. Simple but full and emotionally raw, “Stubborn Comfort” is an enticing look at what’s to come on Anamon’s new album.