Not all music comes from feelings of desire, happiness, anger, jealousy, fear, or sadness: some of it emerges from the sweet hazy sweetness of torpor. Vexxed specialize in that vibe. The songs on their EP, Thank You Sooo Much, all sit in that sweet spot of up-all-night punchiness, where exhaustion still feels pleasant and your perception and attention is stretched in unexpected ways. “Mood Ring,” the lead track, is so, so good, a languorous little jam that ends with a sparkling guitar riff. “Heavens Away Team” is likewise catchy and fun, a pretty slow-motion tune that references the (terrifyingly creepy and sad) Heaven’s Gate cult deaths. “Gimme the Money,” the last track on the album, is part Junior Boys, part Low, and part late-night karaoke dare, a weirdly lurching and beautiful track, a good example of the band’s aesthetic. The whole EP is immediately catchy and impressive, and it’ll be interesting to see what Vexxed do next.
Chris Reimer played guitar in Women, one of the best bands of the last fifteen years, and was a touring guitarist for the Dodos. His guitar playing in Women was remarkable and he helped make that band’s sound what it was: sharp, imperious, and weird. Reimer passed away in his sleep in February 2012.
Besides his work in Women and the Dodos, Reimer had also worked on his own compositions, instrumental jams, drone pieces, and soft, hazy loops. “Hello People” is a collection of his solo work and it’s a wonderful listen. You can hear the creativity and imagination he brought to Women in these songs, and his customarily expressive playing. “Waving Goodbye From a Tree” is a fantastic example–it starts with a blizzard of notes on the guitar (very much in the tone of what he used to play in Women) that dissolves into calmer acoustic plucking and the kind of prickly strumming that you hear on early Microphones songs. Drums enter. It all builds to a culmination about two minutes in, a plaintive and searching song. The album has a handful of songs, like “Waving Goodbye..” and “About,” “Hongdi” and “Mustard Gas” that have more traditional song structures (even some gentle singing on “About”), and others that are more free-form or experimental, like “Malchhovish” or “Arpeg” (which sounds like a kind of pastoral Aphex Twin), along with some intensely pretty drones (like “Beneluxx”). It’s clear from the album that Reimer was an endlessly curious artist and he had the talent to pursue all of these different modes. “Hello People” is a beautiful collection of his work. You can find out more about Reimer and his work at the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund.
Like a short, perfect novella, “Aliso” is like a little world with a defined vibe, one that Malena Zavala creates and explicates over the course of 10 songs. When I wrote about “Should I Try” before, I mentioned that there’s something old-fashioned about Zavala’s songwriting, not so much that the songs sound old or passé, but more in the way they’re constructed. It seems to me like the songs have a quality of classic craft–even though I can’t quite pinpoint what that is technically–they’re sturdy and reliably beautiful and hummable; they unfold in a way that highlights her fantastic voice and her melodies. “A Vision That’s Changed,” like “Should I Try,” starts quiet and small, unsteady, and expands and brightens in the last third; almost all the songs on this album move, change, evolve. It’s a great listen.
Preoccupations’ new album, “New Material,” operates at a high level, just like all their music. This album is more approachable, to some degree, than previous albums, but all the songs still have that sharp edge that the band has carried with them since their formation. “New Material” is not as dark as the self-titled album, which felt like it had a flat and dim tone (not a bad thing; I love that album). Songs like “Disarray” and “Solace” feel poppier than anything on the other albums, there’s a weird kind of flashiness to the guitars in those songs that puts some of the other music into sharper relief. It’s exciting to hear them play around with their sound and experiment a little bit with the shape of their albums–“New Material” ends with an instrumental track, “Compliance,” which to me seems like it should be playing over the end credits of an elliptical and terrifying sci-fi movie, and the album lacks a mega-song statement like “Memory” or “Death” (the closest is probably “Antidote”), and it feels like a quicker and easier listen because of those changes.