Dance the Mutation is a monthly column from Ears to Feed contributor Jesse Locke, highlighting the most exciting new music releases and archival reissues that come across his radar. Dance the Mutation was a radio show on KPISS FM, and before that it was a song by Simply Saucer, the band that Jesse wrote an entire book about.
Goosewind – “Shadow Mirror Raps” (Shrimper)
This month’s column begins with a video premiere from Goosewind! Since releasing his first three cassettes of unclassifiable lo-fi song-forms on Shrimper Records in the early ’90s, LA’s Rick Goosewind has followed a winding trail through the sub-underground. He returns to the label for the first time in 30 years with Grateful 4 the Times We Share, a new album featuring a cast of frequent collaborators. “Shadow Mirror Raps” neatly summarizes his contrasting approaches, drifting through a haunting melody that could be mistaken for a private press folk LP (or Fievel Is Glauque at half-speed) before dipping into an ominous drone with backmasked Lynchian nightmare vocals. Goosewind’s still got it!
Eliza Niemi – Staying Mellow Blows (Vain Mina / Tin Angel)
Eliza Niemi’s music is funny, but that’s just one of the colors in her palette. Her voice is casual, melodic without affectation, and stinging with sadness. On Staying Mellow Blows, the Toronto multi-instrumentalist is joined by a large ensemble of players to try on the styles of electronic orch-pop, tears in my beers country, and midwest emo twinkle. Niemi’s deft arrangements lend her songs a newfound air of gravity, while some of the album’s most breathtaking moments focus on her cello, such as the Arthur Russell-esque “Death I” and “Death II.” At her most pointed, Niemi has the ability to cut a subject to the core with a single line, like the mansplaining manipulator at the heart of “Not Killing Bad Energy”: “You talk about music like a high school teacher ruins a beautiful book.” 💀
Panda Bear and Sonic Boom – Reset (Domino)
It’s hard to separate Animal Collective’s music from memories of the mid aughts when I was first experimenting with psychedelics and wearing a shoelace around my head. For the two years between Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion, it seemed like every Hipster Runoff reader in the world was on mushrooms, until people inevitably took things too far. There’s a reason why I never sold my copy of Person Pitch, though, and that’s because Noah Lennox singing angelic Beach Boys harmonies over gloopy, dubbed out sunshine pop will always sound heavenly. His new album with longtime collaborator Peter Kember of Spacemen 3 cycles through traces of time-warped psych, doo-wop, and Bruce Haackian earworms, scratching a deep itch I didn’t know I had.
The Koreatown Oddity – ISTHISFORREAL? (Stones Throw)
On his 2020 album, Little Dominique’s Nosebleed, the Koreatown Oddity welcomed listeners into his world with a conceptual song cycle about a pair of car accidents. The LA rapper subverts this autobiographical approach on ISTHISFORREAL?, weaving songs together through a series of Putney Swope-esque satirical sketches where he claims to be a British man that learned to talk like an American by eating at Fatburger. Snippets of late-night cable broadcasts, dusty electronic beats, and bizarre punchlines abound, but the album’s title track reveals feelings of grief. Nodding to the late Nipsey Hussle and Ras G, TKO injects pop culture references with heartbreaking doses of reality: “The Simpsons got a black actor for the voice of Carl / But only after the police killed another one of us off.”
Duet Emmo – Or So It Seems (Mute)
During Wire’s first hiatus in the mid-’80s, guitarist Bruce Gilbert and bassist Graham Lewis teamed up with The Normal’s Daniel Miller as Duet Emmo (an anagram of Dome and Mute). The trio’s sole 1983 album is an unusual entry in their dense discographies, layering melancholy Eno-esque vocals over extended minimal wave experiments before descending into a post-industrial netherworld on the 16-minute “Long Sledge.” The album concludes with “Heart of Hearts (Or So It Seems)”, a beat-propelled reprise of its title track that’s far more fun than the po-faced post-punk this crew is known for.
Ghösh – Ghettoblaster / Testin’ My Raver (Self Released)
Zach Fairbrother first appeared on my radar in the early 2010s with his psyched out bands Omon Ra II and Lantern. Since moving to Philly, he’s switched his focus to the high-energy digital hardcore project Ghösh, a collaboration with vocalist Symphony Spell. The duo’s latest Bandcamp double single keeps the hype levels up with alien-pitched gang chants, slamming jungle beats, and Nirvana references slathered in AutoTune. Listening to Ghösh makes me want to tear up the house like Key and Peele succumbing to dubstep.
The Shangs – Sonny Bono Tear Down This Wall Of Sound! (Judy Gee!)
Hamilton, Ontario has been back on my mind lately, and not just because of the tragic death of Teenage Head guitarist Gord Lewis. His beloved punk band shares a lot of history with fellow Hamiltonians Simply Saucer, and if you continue peeling back the onion, you’ll find The Shangs. Original Saucer member David Byers stepped off the spacecraft before it took flight in the early 1970s, while his own voyages drifted into different otherworldly realms. The Shangs’ longtime fascinations with ’60s pop, mysterious celebrity deaths, and dreamlike psychedelic meditations have aged like fine wine on Sonny Bono Tear Down This Wall Of Sound! Highlights include the Manson Family death trip “Eleven (Eleven They Will Never Solve)”, featuring melodic bass runs from Simply Saucer bassist Kevin Christoff, and the abrasively noisy throb of “In Shadows of Stars (Part Two)”, a tribute to singer Kyu Sakamoto, who died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123.
Man Made Hill – Mirage Repair (Orange Milk Records)
Speaking of Hamilton, lo-fi funk freak Man Made Hilll has linked up with producer Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys, Jessy Lanza), and the result is a thing of warped beauty. The 10 shimmering songs of Mirage Repair are streamlined in comparison to the jam packed, fidelity-agnostic track listings of previous MMH releases, with a soft-focus sound that’s occasionally reminiscent of Junior Boys at their most minimal. Of course, the album still has enough elasticity to stretch into the speedy arpeggios of “Body Thoughts” and welcome a growling cameo from subterranean metal maniac Corpusse. If you’ve ever wondered what Wicked Witch making synth-pop would sound like, look no further.
Midori Takada – Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter (WRWTFWW / MEG Museum)
Japanese percussionist Midori Takada has explored the intersections of African and Asian musical styles since her acclaimed 1983 debut, Through The Looking Glass. On her first new solo album in 23 years, she continues these efforts with a rendition of “Nhemamusasa”, a polyrhythmic piece composed for the mbira by the Shona people of Zimbabwe. The album’s first of two sidelong pieces, “Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter (In The Morning)”, begins with a buzzing, clattering swell before settling into the song’s joyful melody played by Takada on marimba. Side two, “Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter (In The Night)”, introduces a sustained meditative mood with resonant, hollow percussion instruments that sound more wooden than metallic. When Takada’s marimba dances back into frame, the recognizable melody of “Nhemamusasa” now takes on a wistful quality, looking back at the past while knowing it can never be the same.