Welcome back to 7-inch city, Crawf's unofficial/official column at ye olde TOME about some of these 7-inch waxen wonders that have been circling 'round the turntable via ye olde mail service. These little gems beg for coverage yet often avoid the lengthier reviews afforded to full-length releases... because...? Well, I don't exactly know, and shit, I am at but only the beginning of my adventure for this edition, so who knows where these little discs might lead my prose? Fact is, I'm not even through the first half of the first release I'm planning to write about as I scramble my way through yet another awkward post intro, and my head is already spinning and my fingers are flying across my macbook here, so let's just see where this thing goes... it'll get wild so hang tight. We good?
Gamelan to the Love God ( self - released )
First up is a doozy... and where to begin? Trabajo is a duo from Brooklyn that calls itself "experimental world music," but I'll be honest, it's tough figuring these guys from anywhere even near planet Earth. There are instruments on this release from Earth's past and present, sure — sampled drums and gamelan to be specific — but those things have been abducted, hijacked from their histories, and travelled off and away to a far, far dimension where they now serve other, darker purposes. Refigured into stop-and-go non-forms that nonetheless revolve around hypnotic repetition, and complete with wailing, seasick vocals drones amidst the madness, this is music that will not hesitate to turn the pupils ever-so-slowly inwards. But as the groove spins around and the ritualistic garbs Trabajo sports begin to flash their colors in a feathery display, some downright funky beats sneak their way in to completely throw you off your ass and straight onto the dance floor. Where, how, and why all of this happens seems like a job for some kind of archeologist, as the record does have the air of something ancient about it. But since we don't have one of those at our disposal, let's just be content to sit here with our puzzling artifact, crosseyed and wondering why in the hell our feet are moving. And if those voices are telling us something demonic or to do something evil... well, I just don't quite know what to say about that. Sometimes the cure is worse than the sickness... better to ride out the spell, don't you think?
Mavo 7-inch ( Fixture )
If you thought Montreal's Fixture Records had been keeping relatively quiet this year, it's only because I've done a bad job of reporting on how amazing the label's been doing, in spite of the fact that they themselves did a fine work keeping me on the up-and-up. So to bring everyone up to speed a bit, this imprint has in fact dealt out three phenomenal, substantial recordings I had the pleasure of enjoying in 2013, including The Homeshake, Chevalier Avant Garde, as well as the debut long-player from Freelove Fenner (who you'll remember charted on my year-end list for 2012). But we're not here to talk about all those folks... no. we're here to talk about another charmer, and that is the trio known as Mavo — the band you always wanted to be in but never were. The band who wrote all the songs you wish you wrote, but never did. Yes, that group of glasses-wearing geeks who you always poked fun at, but were actually way cooler than you and you knew it (editor's note: I have no idea if any of them actually wear glasses). Mavo's incessantly cheerful jangle and uncommonly feisty energy seems to come out of nowhere, the trio pulling something incredibly exciting out of drab stuff like the single chord drone-pop you'll find in the hilariously-titled first track "Mock My Accent" (which must have to do with the Japanese-born singer's delightful delivery) or the super simple 4-5-1 chord progression you'll find in the second, "Horrible Brit Pop Haircut" (which... must have to do with his hair?). But then that guitar starts to shriek like it does, and that heartbeat thump in the low tom gets faster and faster, and a little louder... little by little, and they have you, hook reel and sinker, and you're sunk. It's leather jacket rock and roll in the vein of The Modern Lovers with some of The Feelies insatiable pep to keep it all afloat. Hot-red, red-hot teenage love and exhuberance disguised in a beige veil of badass apathy.
"Traveller's Shoes" b/w "Second Nature" feat. Lee Relvas ( SELF - RELEASED )
A troublemaker called John Bellows sent in a box earlier this year with an LP and this here 7-inch record. And with the LP at least, which he called Fast Hits, that troublemaker blew me straight away with its straight-up ass-kickery. And yes, I know I'm supposed to be a writer and come up with better ways to describe things, but Fast Hits is the kind of record that leaves your senses dulled, brain numb, and neck muscles too sore to even think about doing anything else but just give in and listen to it again (thus beginning a vicious cycle of self-inflicted pain that is nearly impossible to stop). So this lap steel-laden, countrified little number, being that it is a completely different ball-game, came as something of a surprise (bet it a sulky, sappy-sad sucker sort of surprise). But ultimately, this is actually the perfect come-down from Fast Hits' dizzying delerium: A whisky soaked set of country balladry with which one might drift away into a sweaty slumber. In fact, a tune like "Traveller's Shoes" could even be Bellows' ode to his post-tour self, maybe reflecting on finishing his last show in a blaze of fury and realizing that, "beyond all yr riches / you will see for yourself / you're a man just like everyone else." ...uhh, not that he's rich or anything. Still, it's the kind of tune that reads like a wake-up call of sorts. The B-side offers a something of a glimmer of hope in the fact that it appears to be a lovely little love tune; a duet that picks up the tempo while showing off the vocal talents of Miss Lee Relvas, who's blue-eyed charm finds a nice balance to Bellows' doofy earnestness.