Rerelease Date: June 10, 2016
From the depths of Austria’s late ’60s psych scene came a single album by the band Paternoster. Originally released in 1972 and since reissued by Now-Again Records, Paternoster is a leading example of psychedelic kosmische musik (sometimes referred to as “krautrock”). With just seven songs, the band takes the listener on a ride through a gloomy dream of vivid organ-led melodies, fuzzy guitars, and sparse panning vocals. Heralded by many as a prog holy grail, the best moments are not the least bit progressive, but more heavy, reverberating guitar riffs backed by pulsating drums, a groovy baseline, and a haunting, heartfelt organ. The band flows in and out of somber cathedral-type bits into trippy, echoing leads and distinctively lo-fi whirling vocals. One standout cut is “The Pope Is Wrong,” with a melodic organ as the foundation for an evolving soundscape of far-out fuzz; gusty, echoing special effects; and an inexorable rhythm section pushing the tempo.
Paternoster is a creative masterpiece of beautifully morbid, slow-burning rock, giving us just a glimpse of Austrian kosmische musik.
Let’s just go ahead and state on the record that Smino is the future of St. Louis hip-hop and R&B. His inherent street trap swag works perfectly with his southern, soulful R&B vocals. From Slick Rick, Lauryn Hill, and André 3000 to Devin the Dude, Drake, and Anderson .Paak, there are too few vocalists with the skill to succeed in both hip-hop and soul music. However, there’s simply no denying that skill in Blkswn—you just haven’t heard anything quite like it.
A few highlights include the choppy, Dilla-esque “Spitshine,” showcasing Smino’s silky falsetto seamlessly fused with his uniquely southern rap cadence. Next up is the uber catchy “Netflix & Dusse,” a slightly dub-riddim groove, where Smino gives another example of his vocal skill with some beautiful harmonies. In another highlight, the slow burner “Anita,” producer Monte Booker chops up a distinctively neoteric beat and Smino entices us with his state of the art rap-sing style. Smino fuses hip-hop, soul, jazz, swag, and funk like only a few others—ever. Yeah, the guy is undeniably that smooth. Let’s say, future smooth.
(Iron Lung Records)
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Seattle’s Dreamdecay has put together this collection of subtle yet pummeling noise-rock-psych songs to create a listening experience like none other this year. The initial big-riff-age sound melds into kosmische musik (also referred to as “krautrock”) repetition and makes YÚ a varied, complex listen. Haunting and murky, bellows echo from singer/drummer Justin Gallego’s gruff voice, all D. Boon rants and shouts, but buried under layers of primordial sonic ooze.
More concise and direct than their previous releases and less focused on atmosphere, YÚ’s title track announces this newer Dreamdecay sound. The razor sharp, entwining, dissonant double guitars by Alex Gaziano and Jon Scheid lock in and hammer away, and that, added with the intricate and thick basslines, makes it a pleasant assault, a terrifying groove. Jason Clackley on the bass plays like a faster David Sims from Jesus Lizard—these guys can all really play their instruments. This, mixed with Justin’s loose yet powerful drumming, makes for a unique and dark palette.
“Ian” starts with a slowly building guitar line, repetitious and menacing, lulling you in until the tension is released with a battering stomp. It’s almost like an arthouse Black Flag. “F.R.A.N.K.,” another stand out track, is maybe the best instance of the Neu!-meets-Suicide world the band is inhabiting—inhabiting but still creating their own thing. Truly one of the more inspiring and memorable releases in a while.
Sunny and the Sunliners
Mr. Brown Eyed Soul
(Big Crown Records)
Release date: September 22, 2017
Sunny Ozuna was a high school senior in the late ’50s and was on the verge of both graduation and superstardom. Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, the Latin crooner matured on healthy doses of the Beatles, Bessie Smith, and Buddy Holly. He’d eventually tally impressive accolades, notably being the first Latin performer on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Songs like “Forever,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and “Smile Now, Cry Later” are shimmering paragons of Tejano music—a subgenre that evolved through Spanish speakers in Texas who imbued songs with traditional Mexican elements and American soul, blues, and some folk.
With this year’s Mr. Brown Eyed Soul, a compilation of garage rock–tinged soul by Sunny and the Sunliners, the small Brooklyn imprint Big Crown Records shifted their aim toward reissuing overlooked cultural recordings. Harboring some of Sunny’s best known hits, the release is a curated collection of best songs, ditties, originals, and covers.
Most of the cuts have textured melodies and soft basslines that usher vivid, uncomplicated heartache, love, and worry along. It’s interesting to note that “Smile Now, Cry Later” was a celebrated track first heard on East Side Story Vol. 12, one of San Jose’s most celebrated and rare contributions to vinyl culture.
At best, this is a concise and carefully chosen intro to Sunny’s long and colorful catalogue; at worst, it’s the most soulful record released in recent months. Or, says Sunny on the album’s lead single: “Put me in jail…if I fail…to give you all the love that’s yours.”