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More Eaze Explores Ambient Emotionality With New Album “yearn”

More so than any other Austin musician, More Eaze (solo project of Mari Maurice) effortlessly navigates the contemporary experimental music landscape. More Eaze is a prolific anti-composer whose unending stream of bafflingly diverse releases over the years has explored the fluidity between seemingly contradictory elements—primarily pop, minimalism and noise. In addition to her impressive solo oeuvre, she is a familiar face in the Orange Milk Records extended universe who also works in various capacities as a producer/multi-instrumentalist with a multitude of other artists: Claire Rousay, Fibril, The Octopus Project, Slomo Drags and Thor & Friends, just to name a few.

 

Keeping track of More Eaze lore can be intimidating, but lucky for you, “yearn” is her most soothing album in recent memory and is an excellent introduction to the more pastoral side of her unquestionably unique sound. Whereas last year’s “Mari” was a confessional epic, channeling influences as disparate as 100 gecs and Robert Ashley, “yearn” provides a concise set of ethereal soundscapes that are as melancholically comfy as the album title suggests. This is music for rainy days and dog walks, vulnerability and contemplation, maybe for when you’re a little worried about everything, but not anxious about much. It’s very pretty.

 

While each track is distinct enough to stand out individually, they function more so as movements of a broader composition. The first track “galv” begins with a subtle room tone reminiscent of the audio quality of an iPhone memo. A modulated synth warbles into the mix and is soon interpolated by hushed autotune whispers, then accompanied by gentle synth pad arpeggios throughout the latter half of the track. Delicate kalimba plucks on “in dreams” lay a new age-y groundwork for understated electroacoustics and deceptively complex synth counterpoint, and the captivating “priority” features ambient artist Ben Bondy, whose synth washes and wistful vocal harmonies beautifully compliment More Eaze’s American primitivist acoustic guitar stylings. 

 

The aptly titled “leave” serves as “yearn”’s clear-headed conclusion. On this track, More Eaze’s signature autotuned vocals carry the same gravitas as some of Frank Ocean’s most sensitive moments, and her masterful violin drones are as cinematic as something you might hear in the iconic film scores of a later Paul Thomas Anderson movie. However as soon as you’ve become fully immersed in these rich textures, an aquatic field recording takes over and you suddenly realize that you’ve been submerged the whole time. Another spacial pivot, and you are now eavesdropping on a domestic scene as dishes and silverware clank from across the room. Mari can be heard asking someone, presumably her partner (who illustrated the lovely album art), “do you want a cherry?” to a muffled reply. I think they're making cocktails. It’s a deeply charming moment which almost makes you forget how fearful of playfulness most “Art Music'' can be, and it acts as an effective transition for the listener back into the world of everyday life. 

 

Chicago’s Lillerne Tapes released “yearn” on Bandcamp Friday, a monthly event which gives artists the opportunity to receive 100% of proceeds from album purchases. While this is a very welcome practice, it’s ultimately a small consolation for musicians whose industry is systematically dominated by the value-sucking poverty royalties of Spotify. It’s an industry crisis and, without glossing over it or downplaying the enormity of this broader social situation, More Eaze’s music chooses to channel a monastic aura, suggesting a less alienated world where artistic practice is allowed to explore itself more freely. “yearn” is a simple release, but it’s an important moment in a thrilling career.

 

- Blake Robbins

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USA/Mexico Summons Texas Heat With New Album “Del Rio”

With admirable consistency, USA/Mexico makes music inspired by the border. “Del Rio” is their third album to take its name from a southern border town—the first two being “Matamoros” and “Laredo”—and consists of three extremely loud extended tracks which will appeal to some of adventurous music’s less pretentious fans. Having never visited Del Rio myself, I asked my thoroughly Texan father what he thought of the place. He replied “Beautiful lake, nice drive, right across from Acuña, Mexico, friendly people,” and “Pretty remote. Lots of caliche and cactus”. This geographical context is hardly superficialthe music evokes a few of these images on its own, and firsthand descriptions seem to confirm them as more than hallucination.

USA/Mexico’s massive sludge metal simulates the feeling of burning in the hot Texas sun while surrounded by cicadas, hopefully a body of water nearby. There is a lineage in Texas music which can be characterized by a certain auditory heat, from the dehydrated lethargy of Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, to the ghostly reprieves of Blind Willie Johnson, to the warped haze of DJ Screw, to the blistering 80s/90s Austin noise rock scene (Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, Cherubs) from which USA/Mexico directly descends—drummer King Coffey was a core member of Butthole Surfers.

 

But whereas that weirdly successful band eventually traded their noise rock deconstructions for a dated 90’s wackiness, this project translates their early spirit of cowboy derangement into a contemporary setting, finding itself at home with international trends in drone music and outsider metal. Guitarist Craig Clouse of the avant-freak project Shit and Shine has proved himself over the years to be more than capable of keeping up aesthetically, which is no easy task for a modern rock musician. Filling out the ensemble is Nate Cross, whose dense bass textures provide an essential wave of noise and ensure a consistent depth to each jam. 

 

While the overwhelmingly heavy “Del Rio” unleashes a geographically unique cosmic horror, it’s important to note that it’s also funny. Tracks with titles like “Chorizo” and “Soft Taco” ironically poke at the more banal elements of a shared culture, but are ultimately rendered absurd by the noise they signify: heavily processed walls of distortion guided by monolithic drums and eerie howls which are hardly reminiscent of Tex-Mex. If you let the soundscapes take over, the border itself might seem a little silly too, and Texas becomes a landscape that could have just as easily been called Northern Mexico in a slightly different timeline.

 

But the album isn’t purely conceptual—it could just as well be something someone puts on in the middle of an acid trip while you and your friends make your way through a second case of Lone Star. It’s USA/Mexico’s most focused album yet, and I look forward to letting them ruin my eardrums when it’s safe again for live music. 

 

- Blake Robbins

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Tele Novella’s “Merlynn Belle” is truly delightful

Tele Novella’s inviting and inventive new album “Merlynn Belle'' is out now on Kill Rock Stars. The band, made up of Natalie Ribbons and Jason Chronis, crafts sunny and alluring songs that whisk the listener away to a simpler time. Buoyant melodies careen down a myriad of instrumentation to give the heartfelt lyrics space to explore. 

While only clocking in at 32 minutes, “Merlynn Belle” manifests an inter-generational journey. It smoothly glides through compositional styles from the Renaissance to Americana to Sixties Folk to contemporary Indie Pop. The timeless nature of the record is partially due to the use of an 8-track cassette recorder to capture the intricate arrangements—it’s as if Fiona Apple were recorded in 1955. Incorporating the use of atypical instruments, such as the autoharp and the harmonium, also gives off an other-worldly quality one might find on a Richard Dawson album. 

This LP feels like a distinctive step forward from their 2016 debut, “House of Souls.” Ribbons, the singer/songwriter of the pair, moves from a purposeful croon to almost full yodel, telling stories of heartbreak, self-actualization and witches. The duo say they found “the music they wanted to be making all along but didn't know until it happened accidentally”, which is reflected in the natural feel of this record. 

Each of the four singles have a complementary music video that encapsulates the album’s aesthetic perfectly: modern tales through an old-fashioned lens. “Merlynn Belle” floats above vague subgenres, such as Baroque Pop or Freak Folk, into a cloud of familiar escapism. Texans sure need a wholesome distraction from the last couple of weeks, and Tele Novella have provided exactly that! 

 

- Hayden Steckel

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Ryan Sambol Releases New Album ‘Gestalt’

Ryan Sambol has a remarkable and mystical sense of humor. Across barely 23 minutes on his new album, Gestalt, he meanders through his own plucked guitar strings and muddled piano keys to highlight strange observations and theories. The name of the record comes from the German word for “shape” and is often associated with the Gestalt school of psychology, in which the whole is perceived to be far more than the sum of its parts.

 

The whole of Sambol’s career is, in fact, far more than the sum of its parts. He’s a well-worn poet and a former garage rocker from the Austin outfits The Strange Boys and Living Grateful and he likes to zig-zag while telling a story. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’s two sheets to the wind, but he’s eerily calm for a storyteller in his element.

 

Gestalt opens with tender chords that unfold like petals to reveal Sambol’s timid vocals on “You’re Still Lovable To Someone” (but it’s your guess who that ‘someone’ could be). “According to this guy / I haven’t seen the greatest movie of all time / I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was blind,” he exhales in his apathetic warble. Aspirational thinking rather than actionable advice drive his motives, if barely—“Let’s raise money for each other sometime / If the need arose it’d be good to know,” is the half-assed yet whole-hearted sentiment of someone trying to be the lovable type.

 

The power of quiet records comes from what’s unsaid more than what’s spoken for all to hear. “We met in the comments / Of one of our favorite singer’s songs,” Sambol sings on “Just Like Golden Hours”—not in the stands, not in the audience, but out in the forum where worlds apart are able to come together. The feeling is immediately resonant like a monostitch from the would-be Twitter account of Joni Mitchell; golden hours are prone to fade, YouTube videos queue to the next one and romances slowly die.

 

If Gestalt is more than the sum of its parts, it surely is a triumph. Its sum is a loosely-hewn batch of emotional country, but what it amounts to is a beautiful and poetic thought catalog of observations too small for the rest of us to catch.

 

- Mike Floeck

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Powerhouse Singer Cari Hutson Drops New EP "Salvation & Soul Restoration"

As anyone who has ever studied singing can tell you, music fans often define stellar singing according to whether they are partial to singers in the big voice belting camp (Pat Benatar, Brittany Howard) or the sweet, feminine, clear as a bell camp (Diana Ross/Emily Blunt/Katy Perry.) Austin favorite Cari Hutson is however a vocalist bridging both preferences, unexpectedly Carrie Underwood-like for someone who once played Janis Joplin for six months in a very credible off-Broadway production. 

 

On her first EP since winning a coveted Black Fret artist’s monetary grant in late 2019, she sings romantically about domestic bliss, finding me-time as a mom of a four-year-old during a pandemic and the callousness and dishonesty of Donald Trump and Governor Abbott in the funk-blues-dance tune, “Blame”, a throwback to the Stevie Wonder/Sly Stone era where a protest song could be funk and blues to which a person could dance. Hutson’s sweet voice and her rocking gritty voice possess so much impact that her few over-the-top wails seem just sort of there

 

On her video for “My Breath”, the 42-year-old Hutson, backed by her good-natured band (which includes her husband on guitar), takes the stage with the face of a cherub, softly arranged ginger curls, perfect makeup and a tasteful pantsuit that would be so Hillary Clinton if it weren’t for the shawl with  vertical black and white stripes. In true Stevie Nicks fashion, complete with sweet sultry looks, she beckons the audience to come into her spider web. If “My Breath”'s Melissa Etheridge hooks and guitars don’t make it to modern rock radio in 2021, I would be very surprised. 

 

The ironically encouraging thing about the times our society is in is that there is an increased awareness of a seriously flawed America. An EP like Salvation & Soul Restoration, just like a Biden presidency, would be good at any time, but in 2021, the second year of pandemic hell, an artistic AND obviously appealing album release that sounds like the Refinery 29 blog would sound if it was a pop album is going to speak to many, many diverse fans while keeping its integrity and edginess.

 

- Jill Blardinelli

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