Bright Sparks is posted once a month and offers a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let slip past our radar. Vol. 26 is box fresh and ready to go.
Outer Spaces – Gazing Globe
Working under the moniker Outer Spaces, Baltimore-based Cara Beth Satalino creates off-kilter pop songs that shift and shimmer, like arcane messages from some place out of sync with our own—a distinct dimension, an outer space. Released last month on Western Vinyl, new album Gazing Globe suggests that such a place might not be a deviation from reality but a more distilled form, somewhere free of projections and expectations that can shape us beyond our control.
The record is a product of great upheaval, Satalino turning to meditation in the aftermath of a relationship. “I think I was trying to get back to myself and my identity,” she explains, “separate from my relationship.” Perhaps the Outer Space does not concern some external world but something far closer, an interior nonetheless separate from the quote-unquote ‘real’ world, a space where we can find ourselves.
Kali Malone – The Sacrificial Code
Stockholm’s Kali Malone makes expansive, organ-based ambient music that pleasures in patience and precision. Released by iDEAL Recordings, The Sacrificial Code is a double album where no minute is wasted, working within a self-imposed austerity to achieve a near-hypnotic focus. “By voluntarily giving up the freedom to do whatever momentarily comes to mind,” Steve Reich once said, “we are, as a result, free of all that momentarily comes to mind.” Malone operates according to this ideal, stripping back any sense of surroundings, organ music suspended in blank space. The result is a meditative, ascetic lesson in transcendence, where open-ended does not mean nebulous.
Big Joanie – Sistahs
Consisting of Stephanie Phillips (vocals/guitar), Estella Adeyeri (bass) and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums), London punk trio Big Joanie draw on influences from across the spectrum to form their distinctive style. Owing as much to The Ronettes as to the Riot Grrrls, and borrowing some of the weight of the post-punk movement, the band refuse to settle in any one box. “[We wanted to be] completely ourselves as black women,” they describe, “and discover what was possible to realise in those spaces.” The result is Sistahs, a full-length album released late last year via the The Daydream Library Series of records and tapes, the independent house label of Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s publishing imprint Ecstatic Peace Library.
Abe Hollow – Paradise
Abe Hollow is the the recording project of Oakland-based composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Hirsch, and its songs display the full range of his talents. Born of an obsessive interest in family history and his Jewish heritage, debut album A Palace in Time is a collaborative, improvised journey through the many layers of Hirsch’s psyche—“a Yiddish gothic trip” according to one friend.
Single ‘Paradise’ gives some clue as to what such a thing might sound like, a single full of radiant shimmers and ethereal vocals where nothing is quite as it seems. With help from Ryan McGill (aka Ryan Von Gonten on guitar), Andrew Maguire (drums) Doug Stuart (bass) and June Hong (piano), Hirsch weaves a pleasantly surreal soundscape that’s at once forward-facing and reflective, proving that digging into one’s history can lead to discoveries as meaningful and rewarding as any other.
A Palace in Time is out on the 10th July via Ephemeral Stream Recordings and you can get it from the Abe Hollow Bandcamp page.
Slow Pulp – Big Day
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Slow Pulp bring to life dreamy soundscapes with a minimalist touch, angular riffs punctuating the gauzy space. Released with our friends at Citrus City Records, Big Day goes a long way in perfecting the style, borrowing from shoegaze and post-punk but maintaining its own unique spirit. Which is fitting, seeing as the EP is concerned with ideas of development and learning, focused on the formative years where everything is strange and new and nothing is set in stone. Slow Pulp take this idea into their music, moving forward without hesitation or preconception, letting the experience speak for itself in the present moment.
Big Day is out now via Citrus City Records and you can get it from Bandcamp.
Nathalie Joachim – Papa Loko (Interlude: September 24, 1918)
Nathalie Joachim is a Haitian-American composer, flutist and vocalist who draws upon hip hop, indie rock, electronic and classical music to form a sound capable of forging new directions while maintaining an awareness and respect of cultural traditions. Joachim is set to release her debut solo record later this summer via New Amsterdam Records, an album which sees her joined by the Grammy-nominated string ensemble Spektral Quartet.
Fanm d’Ayiti, or “Women of Haiti”, is something of a celebration of Haiti’s female performers and storytellers, featuring recorded interviews with these artists, including Joachim’s grandmother and the the girls choir of her family’s home farming village of Dantan. Opening track gives a view ‘Papa Loko (Interlude: September 24, 1918)’ gives a glimpse into this vivid blend of music and oral history, and hints at what promises to be a special release.
Joyer – Here
Drawing inspiration from slowcore, 90s-era slacker rock and the contemporary bedroom pop movement, New Jersey’s Joyer make richly textured songs that often barely break a murmur. The songs exist in a crepuscular lethargy, favouring a kind of slow dawning rather than any immediacy or confrontation.
The duo are interested in movies and new album Peeled is no different, with Counterzine going into the influences of Harmony Korine and Andrei Tarkovsky on the lyrics. But there is a filmic quality to the sound itself too, with single ‘Here’ showing off the image-based, atmospheric style.
Peeled is out now and available from the Joyer Bandcamp page.
Mauno – Vampire
Montreal experimental pop duo Mauno have a new record on the way. Out later this summer, Really Well sees the band delve into high weirdness in order to explore the absurdity of life under late capitalism, where everything from art, love and even the self are assaulted by the drive for productivity and growth. With its playful tone and metaphorically ripe title, single ‘Vampire’ is the perfect example of Mauno’s style, fiercely critical yet grounded in humour, as though in wit lies a truly subversive power.
The song comes complete with a video directed by Max Taeuschel which further layers the critique, Mauno made to exercise non-stop for an hour during recording as a comment on the reality of creating and promoting music today. The duo can barely sing at times, exhausted and visibly sweating upon bikes stripped of their purpose, going nowhere.
Really Well is out on the 2nd August and you can pre-order it from the Mauno Bandcamp page.
Kate Tempest – Holy Elixir
If performance poetry and spoken word artists are experiencing something of a boom, then Kate Tempest can stake some claim for instigating a new urgency in the movement. While the form gets co-opted from all angles, popping up on every other advert as banks try to mimic a human face, Tempest stands resolute as an example of the true power of words. Recorded with Rick Rubin, her latest album The Book of Traps and Lessons builds on what has come before, its tracks alive with some electrical frisson, something related to both love and dread.
Lead single ‘Holy Elixir’ serves as a fine example, its force conjured from the unfurling sentences, as though within the correct sequence of syllables an energy can form. This energy lies at the heart of all things, both good and bad, though Tempest seeks to harness it, channel it in the right direction. “I hope that people feel connected,” Tempest explains. “I hope they connect with the work, and that this connection enables them to connect with themselves, and that this connection encourages a deeper connection to others. It might sound like high hopes. At this stage in the game, you have to know your motives. Otherwise, why even try?”
The Book of Traps and Lessons is out now via Fiction and you can get it from the usual places.
Daughter of Swords – Dawnbreaker
Daughter of Swords is the moniker of Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, who you might know as part of folk trio Mountain Man. Setting out solo, Sauser-Monnig uses Daughter of Swords to explore a break-up before it even happened, both pre-empting the sadness to come and dreaming of the things that couldn’t happen on her current course. As the title track highlights, the result is something elegiac and warmly hopeful, as though only through some great, earth-shaking catastrophe can the new shoots of life break through the topsoil.
Dawnbreaker is out now via Bella Union and Nonesuch, and you can get it from the Daughter of Swords website.
High Sunn – Perception
High Sunn is the recording project of San Francisco’s Justin Cheromiah, who makes an upbeat and glimmering brand of bedroom pop. New record Perception was released earlier this year, with Tristin Souvannarath joining to lend drums, as well as mixing and mastering duties, leading to the most vivid and immersive High Sunn tracks to date.
Indeed, the process of creating the record was the most involved too. “Never have I ever spent months on a release,” Cheromiah explains. “I’ve ached, cried, stressed, and felt joy writing these songs of love, real life experiences, struggles, and pure gratitude.” Lead single ‘Grateful’ shows off the care and attention that constitutes the release, a jangle pop so lush you can fall back into it and not hit the ground.
Our Perception is out now via Spirit Goth Records and you can buy it now.
Briston Maroney – Fool’s Gold
After a nomadic childhood strung between Florida and Tennessee, Briston Maroney eventually settled back in Nashville, laying down roots and cutting his teeth in the DIY music scene. Winning fans one living room at a time, Maroney built up a reputation and has now released an EP, Indiana, with Parlophone Records. Despite the big label, single ‘Fool’s Gold’ shows off Maroney’s grounded and intimate style. There’s a tenderness to the sound, a gilded nostalgia that drives a hope for the future, kicks of reverb hinting at the dissatisfaction with the present. Check out the video directed by Joey Brodnax below:
Indiana is out now on Parlophone Records and available from all the usual places.
That’s all folks. Check the tag for previous editions of Bright Sparks.