psych

Lord Buffalo: “Holus Bolus”

You might’ve caught last Thursday’s Austin Music Minute on Lord Buffalo. But even if you did, it’s a record release worth shouting out again.

You see, this Austin quartet’s been grazing across in the psych-Americana range for a dozen years now – spanning from their 2012 eponymous EP, their 2017 eponymous full-length, and their early pandemic installation Tohu Wa Bohu. And if you couldn’t tell from that last listed entry, Lord Buffalo’s got a real way with words.

Well, true to LB’s latest LP title (which translates to “all at once”), Holus Bolus gives you a bit of everything – post-punk, psychedelia, blues, and of course, Americana – across seven songs mixed and mastered by Danny Reisch and Max Lorenzen, respectively. The record dropped last Friday, just a few hours after Lord Buffalo wrapped up a release show at 13th Floor. But now that Lord Buffalo’s on the road and building up a new herd of listeners on a month-long national tour, we don’t want their hometown fandom to go the way of the…well…do we? So it’s best to set aside the full thirty-eight minutes to appreciate Holus Bolus front to back and uninterrupted, starting with the album opener, title track (and music video), “Holus Bolus”. Walking on water, banging drums against barren landscapes, shredding fiddle in the thick of the woods, curious coyotes, and enigmatic prisms – each cresting across dunes of heavy desert rock? Yeah, “Holus Bolus” has it all.

Grandma Mousey: “When I’m Not There”

Ever since we first caught sight of them in 2022, we’ve continued to make room for Grandma Mousey in our wheelhouse, even after their initial nest expanded from three members to five. Yeah, Granny M’s grown on us so much over the past couple of years, that we don’t mind ratting on their talent again at all.

Because between endeavorous concert stage props, Apollo program-era influences spanning from psych and classic rock to jazz, a humble refusal to take themselves too seriously, and an ongoing obsession with grasshoppers in their song titles (see the previous point), this Austin indie rock lab experiment feels like an anthropomorphic version of Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, and Phooey, spacey tastes included. And coming off their third studio installment Couch Surfing from last October, they’ve stirred local show rodents into a modest following…at least enough to keep the Orkin man from shuttin’ ’em down.

Now, a half decade out of their hole, Grandma Mousey’s stickin’ their not-so-elderly indie rock whiskers into something that’s a little less Mothers of Inventions and a little more your grandma’s speed – Motown-inspired modern rock. And that’s on behalf of “When I’m Not There”, the lead single from Grandma Mousey’s upcoming EP Slime Community – out this Summer. Where Vanilla Fudge famously put a decelerated, painfully melodramatic twist on The Supremes, Grandma Mousey maintains the powerhouse harmonies, infectious hand claps, upbeat tempo, and major chord progressions of soul’s golden era, albeit into strange places of softly sweet, paradisal psychedelia thanks to some choice synth swells, liquid bass lines, and far out lead guitar.

In terms of Grandma Mousey’s gig next Friday at Anderson Mill Pub? We hope you’ll be there. To Grandmother’s mouse we go!

Flicker Vertigo: “Midnight Fantasies Upon Prospect Hill”

As an unabashed Pink Floyd fan, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to firing up the Atmos mix of Animals on my home theater setup when the BluRay drops next month. Sure, the full record’s been etched in my memory forever now, but through the lens of the latest mix an full surround encoding, it’ll be like hearing it for the first time. And that’s a safe bet for most modern psych fans, right? Far out, effects-dense arrangements with a little bit of digital polish to make the mix pop more?

At least that’s what’s been doing it for us with Flicker Vertigo, the near decade-old project of multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer Nathan Nicholson. Brought up in Melbourne and now based out of Bournemouth. this walking enpsychlopedia of ’60s sounds and techniques flashes between dream pop, shoegaze, house, and of course psych rock for a feverish experience. Flicker Vertigo’s full discography has been great to dissociate to, so as we approach the post-eclipse era, we’re greeted with the news of more meditations.

On June 14th Flicker Vertigo unfurls their sixth full-length Infinite Verve. And this morning we got the first dose of IV with “Midnight Fantasies Upon Prospect Hill”. Despite its mouthful of a title, there’s a pleasant simplicity to this cosmic cacophony as it strobes through a dizzying drone of delay-drenched vocals, like if Kevin Parker ditched the day disco of The Slow Rush in favor of an all-night lo-fi dance frenzy.

Wilson Marks: “Isolation Town”

When we last spoke of Wilson Marks, it was just before Mother’s Day, and in fact for his newly-released song “Mother’s Day”. And wouldn’t you know it, when Wilson Marks sparks our interests yet again…it’s the day after Valentine’s. So while we won’t beleaguer you with delusional theories on causation versus correlation concerning Wilson’s releases and U.S. holidays, we will give you the rundown on what Wilson’s been working on since we last caught up.Just as planned, Wilson Marks did share another release late last year, but it ended up being the stripped-down EP they previously alluded to, Won’t Fit In a Song, instead of the trio’s next full-length as anticipated. Rest assured though, Wilson et al are still working on that LP and are looking at a drop date some time this spring. In the meantime, Marks has been making the most of a Monday night four-band residency at Sagebrush, continuing on the 19th – 8PM to midnight with opener Aaron Huff alongside closers Alex Riegelman & Friends and Virginia Creeper.Marks is definitely gonna be in good company for the remainder of that in-city, four-performance residency, and yet today he painted a very different picture with the upcoming album’s second single, “Isolation Town”. Between its bluesy trot, (breezy drum brushes and all), a real horse gallop of a woodblock pattern, some cozy chorus effects on the guitar, warm bass, wistful whistling and an oddly daunting second-person lyrical perspective and vocal character that both remind us of Roger Waters, “Isolation Town” channels that brilliantly wonky kind of early Pink Floyd-era psychedelia that almost borders on exotica.

Ghost Funk Orchestra: “To The Moon!”

Last Fall when we shared our KUTX staff picks for Levitation Fest, I got a chance to gush about one of all-time favorite contemporary projects, Ghost Funk Orchestra. That slick, spectral sound clearly continues to haunt me, because I’ve got yet another chance to gawk at Ghost Funk Orchestra today.

For those who haven’t already been possessed, Ghost Funk Orchestra is the brainchild of NYC multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger Seth Applebaum. Alongside Applebaum’s outstanding studio crew, Ghost Funk Orchestra raises a whole array of retro sounds back from their original decades-old resting places – exotica, psychedelia, jazz, surf rock – you name it. Well, just like the Apollo program, not long after the last LP, GFO’s already gearing up for their next mission – their fifth full-length, A Trip to the Moon, out February 23rd.

Inspired by the space age arrangements of Quincy Jones and Eddie Palmieri, this fifteen-stage instrumental, interstellar exploration may just rival George Méliès’ groundbreaking 1902 short of the same name in terms of outlandish style. The record’s lead single and title track of sorts, “To The Moon!” almost puts Tower of Power to shame with stereo-spanning, brilliantly-mixed brass that orbits Applebaum’s mission controlling, garage-style guitar. In other words, it doesn’t sound quite like Ghost Funk Orchestra’s completely ditched their dusty sheets for spiffy new spacesuits – and we love to hear it. Between its opening mosaic of authentic NASA transmissions and its descending reverse guitar solo that cues re-entry to our normal lives, we’re expecting A Trip to the Moon to hail in a new generation of “lost cosmonauts” with a one-of-a-kind astral listening experience.

Walkabouts: “Sinner”

When you’re surrounded by skyscrapers 24/7, it doesn’t take long to forget; here in Texas…we’ve got plenty of dry, cinematic wilderness. But for those of us who simply can’t squeeze in a road trip in every weekend? Our next best bet for a cinematic desert escape is some good ol’ fashioned Central Texas psychedelia.

That said, don’t let the genre label limit what to expect from Walkabouts, because true to their name, this Austin quartet doesn’t stick to just one corner. No, they chart an incredible amount of middle ground between dream pop and desert rock for live sets and albums blessed by psychedelic stream of consciousness. On top of that, this calculated hippie hermitage has already set a purposeful pace instead of ambling around like so many up-and-comer groups; in just over a year Walkabouts have evolved from playing frontman Sam Shaffer’s solo record Valley of the Living Water into the theatric four-man affair who just released their debut LP Bloomin’ Ocotillo last Tuesday.

Like lush lips on an arid shrub, wrapped up in the very fabric of the universe itself but never taking itself too seriously, Bloomin’ Ocotillo is a half-hour sonic journey, no doubt. But if you’re a psychonaut like me who loves the nuances of a live performance, drop out with Walkabouts 8:15PM tonight at Far Out Lounge in between CLTTR at 7 and Audio Sex Drive at 9:30. And especially if Election Day’s got you out of sorts, get in touch with your inner grunge with Western-ready wind gusts and the heavy-as-hell fuzz bluster that is “Sinner”.

Tina Piranha: “A Budding Interest in Treason”

The power of lyrical impact can be timeless, but as great as words over melody can be, there’s a whole different appeal to sans-lyrical explorations. For example, when added onto styles like funk or soul, the genre modifier “cinematic” usually tips listeners off to a strictly instrumental experience, where the lack of lyrics not only allows extra space for meditation, but also opens up your imagination to fill in the blanks – be it with visuals, Rod Serling-esque internal monologue, or just abstract emotional reactions to exotic sounds.

A top notch purveyor of such is Austin’s Tina Piranha, whose eight-player appetite chomps out the rarest bits of ’60s soundtracks, Turkish psychedelia, Ethiopian jazz and beyond into accessible, bite-sized soul tracks. Last year Tina Piranha teamed up with Grammy winner Beto Martinez to record and mix the octet’s debut EP Komissar 13, the ultimate horn-heavy score for any wannabe jet-setting G Men with too many jazz cigarettes on hand. This year, in an effort to change up the sonic scenery, Tina Piranha’s joined forces with Quiet Company’s Matt Parmenter, who’s already ushered in four new singles within the past five months.

With that rapid of output, Tina Piranha’s definitely far from having their fill for 2023, so keep your ears peeled on your preferred streaming platform. ‘Til next month’s meal, go ahead and take “A Budding Interest in Treason”. Just don’t let your boss catch you working on your midcentury espionage spec script.

The Runaway Grooms: “Mister Ford”

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, jam bands were all the rage. But now, in an era where song durations hinge on short attention spans or knowledge that shorter tunes simply hit bigger streaming numbers faster, jam bands are actually pretty polarizing. Even more recent innovators like Mars Volta or Godspeed You! Black Emperor have struggled to stay accessible because of lengthy runtimes. We’re so far removed from the long-form improvisation that jazz and rock normalized half a century back, that when a contemporary group can keep on jamming and pack it in on wax, they’ve got a serious leg up.

Take for instance Central Colorado quintet The Runaway Grooms. Sure, TRG’s 2020 debut Tied to the Sun simmers down with a 13-minute epic, but “Tales of Ernest” is really an outlier of their studio output. Instead The Runaway Grooms prove the power of brevity when laying down tracks. In doing so, The Runaway Grooms are able to evoke classic jam acts like The Allman Brothers or The Grateful Dead without sinking into the long song gimmick (looking at you, Phish). That ability to relegate the extended stuff to concerts is no doubt informed by seven national tours, but you don’t need to check their list of stops to experience This Road.

Tomorrow, on the heels of a statewide CO tour, The Runaway Grooms release their third album, This Road. This Road winds over eclectic retro blends in the ilk of Steely Dan and Yes across five originals. And with no genre stoplights in earshot, The Runaway Grooms navigate This Road by opening up the throttle, hitting hard left turns, and at times, coming to an abrupt stop, all while charting a cohesive musical pilgrimage. So if This Road is already giving you wanderlust jitters, rip into the record early with a single that that sounds like Jethro Tull and War had a funky-prog love child in the year between Aqualung and The World Is a Ghetto: “Mister Ford”.

Sam Shaffer: “Sup?”

Seasons are changing and wintertime migrations are abound. But here in the Live Music Capital of the World, we’ve learned that there’s an influx of musicians from other musical metropolitans year-round. One of which, Ohio-raised multi-instrumentalist Sam Shaffer, recently hopped down here not too long ago. After a handful of albums and countless performances with Chicago psych three-piece Faintlife, Shaffer relocated to the Lone Star State in late 2021, right around the same time he recorded his solo debut EP, Quiet Delta. Shaffer kept the momentum from the windy city by writing and recording and first-full-length Valley of the Living Water, which swept through last September. This dozen-song collection offers some pretty honest indie-psych-folk sonics, secured by Shaffer’s velvety vocals and largely unadulterated by post-production effects. That last bit is obviously more impressive live in concert, cold weather be damned. For a Chicagoan like Shaffer, these temps won’t do much to deter him from putting on a killer show 10PM tomorrow night at Hotel Vegas, opening for Sunrosa and Guma. Take today to familiarize yourself with the Valley of the Living Water, and be sure to greet Shaffer on Tuesday evening with one of two questioning song titles off the LP, “Sup?”.

The Harlequins: “TIME”

Relationships of all kinds deserve commemoration. Whether it’s with romantic partners or creative projects, after the initial handful of anniversaries, every fifth one merits something grandiose. This year Cincinnati three-piece The Harlequins celebrate their first decade and a half together, with the most recent third of that period spent writing and recording their next album, fittingly entitled TIME.

TIME may be The Harlequins eighth installment overall, but it retains the wonky and angular indie-garage psych-rock that made 2009’s Baron von Headless a must-listen. And since it’s practically guaranteed that TIME Magazine‘s gonna name Volodymyr Zelenskyy as their “Person of the Year”, if you’re expecting a TIME-related surprise, you’d better mark off your calendar for the record release, September 2nd. So with exactly one month to go ’til TIME, and with the toppling trippy-ness of its lead single “The Tower” already becoming a beacon on streaming, today The Harlequins treat us to the album’s brilliantly languid title track – one that perfectly captures the temporal disjointedness of its subject matter.

Michael Hays: “Flashback Moonlight”

Having moved from Mississippi to Austin in the ’90s, then to L.A. in 2004, and finally back to our auspicious city limits about halfway through the last decade, singer-guitarist Michael Hays has become a trustworthy transplant in the Austin music experience. By the time Hays released his solo debut in 2014, he’d already worked in a wind chime factory, apprenticed as an accordion technician, professionally taught guitar, and become a must-have session player, not to mention performing with his fair share of rock and fusion bands. Between the birth of his daughter in 2015 and the current year, a little under a dozen song ideas evolved into Michael Hays’ sophomore LP, Red Willow, which drops next month.

Red Willow reintroduces listeners to Hays’ brand of Americana-folk-psych with sounds that bridge David Gilmour to Elliott Smith, waterfowl-centric album artwork that picks up where Christopher Cross’ 1979 debut left off, and surreal cinematic visuals that further enhance already-stimulating sonics, as seen and heard in “Flashback Moonlight”!