Sasami Weaves a Cathartic Tapestry of History, Anger, Art and Fantasy on Squeeze

The writhing, bloody-mouthed woman-monster illustrating Sasami Ashworth’s sophomore album Squeeze is fearsome but familial. As the musical, lyrical and sensory terrain of her latest album divulges, the Californian singer-songwriter has been digging into her past, her mother’s family history, and discovering generations of capture, imprisonment, racism and displacement. The fury that emerged was only compounded by her own experience of being put in her place by techies on tour.

“I went into making this album with the intention of making a heavy rock album because touring the first album with mostly a queer femme band, I was met with a lot of toxic male sound person energy: questioning our abilities and knowledge of our instruments, and always asking us to turn our amps down. Inherently, that just manifested in me being more chaotic and turning my amp up louder, becoming more aggressive. I knew this chaotic, restless energy that’s on Squeeze was already bubbling on my first album tour,” she explains.

Ultimately, Squeeze (out February 25th via Domino Records) manifested as eleven tracks of macabre industrial and hypnotic sonic textures. Sasami produced most of it herself, with acclaimed garage rocker Ty Segall co-producing on a couple of tracks. “Ty is so strange and funny and goofy and bizarre, a perfect collaborator,” Sasami says.  COVID restrictions limited who she was able to work with, but they are a fine roll call nonetheless: her studio partner Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) co-engineered and composed; Christian Lee Hutson and Hand Habit’s Meg Duffy added guitar and encouraged Ashworth’s folksier leanings. None other than Megadeth’s drummer Dirk Verbeuren rumbles in devilishly on a number of heaving, grinding bangers, including opening track “Skin A Rat,” a snarling, metal-industrial grinder built on militant drums, a tidal storm of crushing guitar riffs and the sing-song, suggestive refrain about three quarters in: “There are many ways…to skin a rat.”

Ghosts of Nu Metal weave their spectral fingers throughout the album, never more so than on “Say It.” The savage, distorted percussion (courtesy Moaning’s Pascal Stevenson, aka Fashion Club) is softened by Sasami’s soothing, calmly collected voice, even as a chilling mechanical refrain, disembodied and hollow, assures “Everything’s okay/Lie to me/Why don’t you rip it off?” There’s a resignation in Sasami’s sultry, cool response: “I don’t want you to apologize, just say it, say it, say it.”

She insists that there was no one person, nor one experience that inspired each of the songs. They were designed to be malleable to a spectrum of listeners, contouring to whatever personal grievances and ideologies they needed to hear echoed back to them, or expunged in cathartic howls.

“Whereas my first album is very autobiographical and diaristic, I built this album thinking way more about how a listener would use the songs to have an emotional cathartic experience, or creating art that echoes an emotional sentiment…” she explains. “I really wanted to make music that could soundtrack anyone’s, not just my own, experience of wanting to process frustration, rage, disappointment or anger, whether it’s systemic oppression or personal unrequited love or lack of communication. The main through-line I’m exploring is what if I, instead of trying to brighten my negative mood or get bogged down by sadness, leaned more into frustration, rage and violence? Then, in a fantasy kind of way, I’m able to burn some of that excess rage or frustration.”

The snaking, malevolent bass chugging away, skewered by shredded guitar fizzing like broken power lines on “Need It To Work” sounds like an action hero theme song warped and misshapen, eminently more interesting than a Bond song. But she nimbly evades pigeonholing by situating “Need It To Work” next to the ’90s folky-grunge-country of “Tried To Understand,” which channels some big Liz Phair and Sheryl Crow energy. “Feminine Water Turmoil” is a whole mood in itself, a rising tide of strings that surges and builds before transitioning into album closer “Not A Love Song,” in which Sasami’s lovely, yearning voice radiates over the surface like a sunrise over wide expanses of ocean. “I tried to turn it into something so profound/It’s not a love song/Just a beautiful, beautiful sound,” she sings, and it is beautiful and profound, with the timeless quality of a Celtic ballad. 

“I wanted to build the album more like a movie or a haunted house as opposed to being one long mood or meditation. There are different scenes or rooms on the album,” Sasami says of the constantly shifting soundscape on Squeeze. “It was definitely a risk… [I was] trusting that my voice was enough of a through-line to connect it. I very intentionally put some slap bass and distorted guitars on some of the songs that, within a certain genre, wouldn’t always have that. ‘Call Me Home’ is a mashup of folk, synth-pop and heavier rock all mixed up into one song. It was a very intentional experiment in putting things together that don’t always go together.”

She had years of musical training, live touring, studio composition, recording and production experience to rely upon when going out on a limb. A 2012 graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Sasami started out as a composer of orchestral arrangements for film, screen commercials and other artists’ albums. From 2015 she played synths for scuzzy-rock band LA band Cherry Glazerr, before pulling up anchor and setting sail as a solo artist at the beginning of 2018.

From the get-go, her solo tracks won industry acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork and The Fader. She toured with – amongst others – Mitski, Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail and English indie band Menace Beach. Exactly twelve months after going solo, she released her self-titled debut. Singles “Jealousy” and “Free” (featuring Devendra Banhart) only solidified her reputation for tight arrangements, a light hand on production, and a nuanced appreciation for the interplay of hard and soft, organic and machine, violence and sympathy. Though it sounds very different from her debut, the rogue experimentation of Squeeze could not have happened without SASAMI introducing her to a dedicated audience.

“It comes from a place of being super grateful to have gotten attention on my first album, humbled knowing that people will listen to this album,” she confirms. “The instrumentals all came first on this album. Music in itself is a language and I wanted to tell stories with the instruments first, then find lyrics and words that tap into the same emotional world that’s being built. That’s why I was drawn to nu metal and classical music, because they’re so contrasting and so extreme. I wanted to create a feeling of whiplash, a chaotic environment, very intentionally.”

Traversing the extremities of sound and emotion was not without cost, but Sasami is candid about the realities of working within such revered and fiercely protected genres. “That was hard for me, to be shameless. It’s so easy to be insecure and worry about what people will think about your choices, especially [when] metal and certain realms of rock are gatekept and very white cis male-centered,” she says. “It’s scary to put yourself out there and even put yourself in the same world as that music, knowing very well that women of color are the most criticized artists in a lot of ways and held to a certain standard that other people aren’t.”

Ashworth is a descendent of the Zainichi people on her mother’s side, a diaspora of ethnic Koreans who lived in Japan during Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The descendants of the Zainichi – the second largest ethnic minority in Japan – are still systematically oppressed in present-day Japan. The word “Zainichi” is Japanese, meaning a foreign citizen “staying in Japan,” implying only temporary residence and inherently reminding people of their outsider status for generations.

“I grew up understanding a little bit that my mom had a difficult time as a Korean person in Japan,” Sasami remembers. “But growing up, especially being a typically Asian-looking person in a white neighborhood in America, I was so obsessed with assimilating into Caucasian culture that I wasn’t digging into my mother’s history.”

The pandemic circumstances provided her with the time to do a deep dive into her family’s mixed Korean and Japanese history and culture. “Being in America during 2020, while we were going through this extremely intense cultural reckoning about racial identity and inequality, it’s natural that it pushed me to do more research about my family’s heritage and my personal identity and how I connect with my family’s historic identity,” Sasami says. “Zainichi people chose to either claim their Korean identity despite oppression or assimilate more into Japanese culture.”

In reconnecting to her roots, Ashworth stumbled upon stories of the Japanese yōkai folk spirit Nure-onna (translation: wet woman) and was immediately awe-struck by this mysterious water creature, emboldened by how Nure-onna was feminine and noble, yet powerful and vicious enough to brutally destroy victims with her blood sucking tongue.

The album artwork weaves together Sasami’s historical, personal tapestry, just as her skillful balancing of sonic elements draws you in to Squeeze: sweet, sour, grinding and gristle, dramatic, melodious and deeply feminine. There is something earthly in it, in the pared-back, stoic nature of her voice contrasted with the heavily treated, warped harmonies that snarl in and around her. There’s a darkness, too, though it is not so much horrifying as a curiosity, like the vampiric deity with the head of a woman and the body of a snake that adorns the album cover.

“My mom’s youngest brother – he actually passed away recently – was an anime artist, producer and director, so when I wanted to build this fantasy avatar for my album cover, it made sense to draw inspiration from that,” Sasami says. “I connected with Andrew Thomas Huang, who has collaborated with fka twigs, Bjork, and Charli XCX, and he was down to find inspiration from Japanese and Korean folk tale characters.”

Sasami’s Nure-onna avatar has been modified with crab-style legs in respect to her Cancer star sign, and despite the bloodied mouth, the creature – like Ashworth – is captivatingly beautiful in all its diverse meanings and nuances. “I was actively experimenting, trying to push genre… to marry something so harsh, industrial and heavily aggressive with a texture that’s more intimate and personal. I think that all humans have such a range of emotions and characters that all these contrasting elements fit together, and it’s very human to have these super contrasting things within one body,” she says.

Sasami is humble and candid in conversation, wearing the hats of artist and observer just as skillfully as she juggles production and songwriting. But thematic heart of Squeeze is a self-assurance, and a validation that our fantasies and realities must exist beyond judgement, only inviting awareness and curiosity. “I think it’s a very human thing to want to feel powerful while maintaining some sort of beauty and femininity,” she reflects. “It’s about ownership as opposed to what’s right or wrong… being honest with how you feel, what you want to be, and who you want to be.”

Follow Sasami on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

La Luz Embrace Their Glorious Weirdness on Self-Titled Fourth Album

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Last Friday, L.A.-by-way-of-Seattle surf-noir trio La Luz released their self-titled fourth album via longtime label Hardly Art, a representation of their lengthy friendship, combined and individual musical careers, and journeys both geographical and emotional. More than their previous releases, this album feels less like the product of their producer’s personality and much more attuned to the band’s essence. It seems fitting then that they should name the album after their own moniker. “In Spanish it translates to ‘the light,’” explains band founder, lead vocalist and guitarist Shana Cleveland. “We just liked the sound of it at first… now the name feels really right because I think the band has a lot of contrast between light and dark.”

Currently, Cleveland is joined by Alice Sandahl on keys and Lena Simon on bass (drummer Marian Li Pino left La Luz in 2019, while Simon replaced Abbey Blackwell in 2014). Though the original lineup has seen some changes since La Luz released their debut EP Damp Face in 2012, there’s a strong sense of identity on their latest album, perhaps even more so than previous full-lengths It’s Alive (2013), the Ty Segall-produced Weirdo Shrine (2015) and 2018’s Floating Features.

“We know each other really well as individuals and a musicians, and we have a certain kind of familiarity and almost ESP to our communication. We’ve made a number of records and this one has a special intimacy. It made sense to name it after ourselves,” says Cleveland. “I think that in the beginning of the band, there was a lot more of thinking about what other artists we wanted to emulate and now we’re at a point where it’s more self-referential.”

Still, it always helps to have the input of a talented producer, and when Cleveland’s partner suggested Adrian Younge, the idea seemed to stick. Sandahl lived in the same Los Angeles neighborhood as Younge’s studio, and had seen posters up for his Jazz Is Dead live performances. Both she and Simon were familiar with his hair salon-meets-vinyl record store Artform in Los Angeles.

“We were really open to working with Adrian on this record, and making it a true collaboration. Whereas maybe before there was an element of us being young and fresh, we were more confident coming into this record,” reflects Simon. “He’d never recorded or worked with a band before. He’d done a lot of film scoring.”

Indeed, Younge has 20 years of experience as a film editor and he’s mostly composed for soundtracks. His prolific work going back to 2000 is mostly with hip hop, jazz and soul artists. Earlier this year, Younge collaborated with Ghostface Killah on “12 Reasons To Die” (released in April on RZA’s Soul Temple Music) and also released the album The American Negro in March (the behind-the-scenes making-of film is a must-watch). He also produced the podcast “Invisible Blackness,” charting the development and evolution of racism in America.

Here, he has brought out the contrasts – the light and the dark within the band as a collective but also within each of the women – on the album. They’ve got stories to tell, they’ve been through things, and they have memories to unpack and explore, not the least of which was their traumatic 2014 tour van collision. While the shock was, understandably, more palpable on 2015’s Weirdo Shrine – with its tight but savage guitar riffery, layered harmonies and almost gothic beauty – the more melodic, upbeat and dream-like La Luz reveals spiritual release.

With the gentle chime and childlike harmonies of “Watching Cartoons,” the band have captured the essence of those early mornings eating sugary cereal. Elsewhere, the tidal sweep of “Metal Man” channels the Hammond B3 Organ into a jangly, surfer anthem.

While the B3 has featured on La Luz albums since the beginning, the sitar and a harpsichord that were sitting around Younge’s studio turn “Yuba Rot” into a divinely trippy, hazy instrumental track. Younge has expertly helped to translate emotions into arrangements, but it is fundamentally the women’s work; the album’s eclecticism reflects the band’s confidence in their sound, even if their novel way of writing long-distance (due to the pandemic) required strict scheduling.

“It’s so different to the way we’d ever done it before, in terms of writing and collaborating,” says Sandahl. “In the past we’ve written together in the same room fairly quickly, maybe in a week or two of intensive writing sessions and jamming out together. Being forced to be alone and writing our parts by ourselves…we were missing that element of playing together, discovering our parts together.”

Simon explains, “We had the names of the songs… so we said, let’s try to do two per week. It was like homework.”

Each of the women sent their parts to Simon via Dropbox and she’d get to work on constructing demos in her Florida-based home studio, adding bass and drum parts. It added up to some “pretty goofy” sounding stems and demos in the end, but they had the raw material by the time they got into the recording studio with Younge.

It’s hard to imagine, regardless of their individual geographical locations, that La Luz are not always together; even as we wrap up our phone call, they’re headed out to a dinner date. They admit they’ve been reflecting on their history a lot just in the past few days, especially.

“Our first tour, Shana was like ‘what have I got myself into?’” laughs Simon. “It’s been almost a decade. We were different people then. We’ve gone through a lot of changes personally and as a band, [and we’ve] developed and gotten really close.”

Follow La Luz on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Musician and Photographer Denée Segall Reveals What Makes Her Feel Good

Photo Credit: Denée Segall

What makes you feel good? Is it a tub of hummus and Netflix, or is it the love of your life in a matching onesie beside you on the couch? Or the sound of grumbling, guttural guitar? Perhaps it’s all of these. Denée Segall shamelessly admits she feels good when she’s with her husband Ty. A couple for thirteen years, their co-written single “Feel Good” (from Ty’s recent Harmonizer album) came out in August, accompanied by a video featuring Ty and Denée on a glamorous night-time road trip. In disco-era satin and sequins, Denée poses up a storm in the back of the car, on the hood and then, finally, taking the wheel while Ty rides shotgun. Serrated-edge guitar riffs sound like they were recorded in a photo booth, yet almost rip the hairs off your arms. Somehow, there’s a dance-friendly melody at work, too.

“’Feel Good’ is not directly about [our] relationship,” Denée clarifies. “I wrote it as a more universal theme. Ty came to me with a loose concept he had for the song and I took it and ran with it. But of course, when writing a love song, he is my ultimate inspiration. I don’t think it really reveals anything specific about us. Since we typically like to keep our relationship somewhat private, I guess it’s just a nice little glimpse at our collaborative minds, and our love and adoration for each other.”

It’s also a love letter to dance punk – a running theme for both Ty and Denée. They collaborated with Emmett Kelly under the moniker The C.I.A. back in 2018, releasing a self-titled album that year (via In The Red Records) full of furious hip-shaking, head-tossing, carnal noise. True to their experimental approach, the band consisted of two bass guitars, no lead guitar, and a drum machine. Recordings and reviews of their live performances reveal Denée’s natural frontwoman persona, a singer and lyricist who punctures the poker-faced cool of the Cali crowd with her intensity. While Ty’s simultaneous multi-project, multi-band work has defied the 24/7 human schedule, Denée has a trail of musical glories in her wake too. She was the bassist for LA punks VIAL, which released their 7″ EP in 2015.

“I was in VIAL from the beginning to the end, which was 2013–2017,” she recalls with evident joy. “It was such a fun band to play in. We are all old friends from San Francisco and had all recently moved to LA from SF with a lot of other friends in a mass exodus because of the tech boom and insane rent prices that followed. Playing shows in the LA DIY punk community was a really great way to settle in and to meet people. At the time, most of us considered ourselves very amateur musicians and we really encouraged and supported each other to grow musically. Man…reminiscing about this band always makes me miss it!”

A VIAL reunion isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, though. When she’s not making music, Segall keeps busy: snapping photos – including promo shots for Ty, Shannon Lay, LA punk legend Alice Bag, and more; designing album covers; and working at In The Red Records, her day job of the last eight years. “I’m the only employee so I basically do whatever is needed. A big chunk of that involves laying out album art, running the website, talking to artists and customers, mail order, etc. [Label founder] Larry [Hardy] is the greatest boss so it’s easy to work for him and also make time for music,” Denée says.

There’s been more time than ever to dedicate to music while touring has been off the table, and both Ty and Denée have been working from their home in Topanga, where they’ve lived for two and half years. “I felt at home here as soon as we moved in,” Denée says. “I grew up in Northern California in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Ty grew up in Laguna Beach. Topanga is very reminiscent of our respective hometowns. We are a short drive to so many beautiful beaches, but our home is in the canyon nestled among giant oak and eucalyptus trees.”

“As for the space itself,” Denée adds, “there isn’t much division. We do have our separate workspaces. I have an office upstairs, and Ty has the studio in the backyard. We do our morning chores together at our dining room table while we drink too much coffee.”

In her own space, Segall embraces quiet moments. “When I’m working in my office on the computer, I tend to enjoy the silence. It helps me focus. I listen to the birds chirping, the dogs barking at the squirrels, or whatever record Ty has on that drifts upstairs,” she says. But naturally, Audiofemme wants to know what she’s been listening to.

“If I’m driving, I usually like something upbeat that I can blast and sing along to,” she replies. “I’m all over the board, but lately I’ve listened to The Hunches, Free Kitten, Plastics, Swell Maps, and Suburban Lawns. I’m pretty picky when it comes to new music. I don’t mean to be biased, but I most enjoy the music that my friends make. Oog Bogo, P22White Fence, and CCR Headcleaner are just a few favorites.”

Segall says she’s also a huge Neil Young fan (“Simply put, he is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. There is an album and/or song to fit any mood I’m in. Ty and I actually saw him standing on Pacific Coast Highway a few weeks ago. Blessed day.”) but her first musical loves were Beastie Boys and the grunge/noise-art bands she discovered in the ’90s.

“My older brother Todd introduced me to [Beastie Boys] when I was super young. I remember either he or my dad took me to our little local record store at midnight to get a copy of Hello Nasty when I was 10. I still love them,” Denée says. “In high school, my favorite band was Sonic Youth. I looked up to Kim Gordon for sure. I loved The Breeders and Nirvana too. I guess I was really into early ’90s stuff in general. I worked at Hollywood Video in high school and would rent 1991: The Year Punk Broke over and over until they transitioned from VHS to DVD and then I bought it for a buck. I also loved Le Tigre and the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP and album.”

These bands have been formative to Segall’s very identity. “Now that I’m thinking about it,” she muses, “I guess I mainly looked up to women who had unique voices, were uninhibited, and who seemed to not give even one single fuck.”

NEWS ROUNDUP: Music for your Holiday Hangover + More

Music for Your Holiday Hangover

We have officially entered the holi-daze time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so let’s review all the beautiful-to-bizarre Christmas music released last week.

Spider-Man released a Christmas album. The Flaming Lips covered David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s Christmas Medley. Mac DeMarco collaborated with Kirin J. Callinan and covered Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song;” it appears on a benefit comp featuring Alex Cameron, Weyes Blood and more. Mariah Carey broke the all-time single-day streaming record on Christmas Eve with her 1994 Christmas original “All I Want For Christmas is You” (it was streamed almost 11 million times).

The New New

A few artists have released new music not focused on the holidays as well! Unknown Mortal Orchestra released a 19 minute instrumental track titled “SB-06.” Cardi B released a music video for her latest track “Money.” Ty Segall released his sixth full length of the year with a new band, The C.I.A., featuring his wife Denee Segall on lead vocals.

End Notes

  • New York City will be renaming streets after Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan and Woodie Guthrie.
  • Nicki Minaj was cast as a voice actor in Angry Birds 2.
  • Ozzy Osbourne will continue to tour after his farewell tour named ‘No More Tours 2.’

TRACK REVIEW: Ty Segall “Break a Guitar”

Ty Segall’s “Break A Guitar” is a classic hair metal rock ‘n’ roll number straight out of the 80s, complete with screaming guitar solos and rocker attitude. The basics of the song itself aren’t very complex: it’s got repetitive guitar riffs peppered with an unwavering drumline, and carefree, self-assured vocals throughout. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to throw on and jam out to, particularly at top volume.

In fact, this single as a stand-alone is a bit refreshing—it demonstrates that his recently released second self-titled album is the exact type of raw, impassioned garage rock we’ve come to expect from Ty Segall. His previously released single, “Orange Color Queen,” seemed to be a deviation from that—a melodic and mildly unexpected love song, it hinted at the possibility of a new direction. But overall, this album—Segall’s ninth over the course of his prolific history—is as hard-hitting as past works. The inclusion of more honest, contemplative songs reflect a more refined work overall, while “Break A Guitar” represents that vintage Ty Segall sass.

He’ll be touring the U.S. this year with his full band, meaning there will be ample opportunities to experience the exuberance of his live shows. Get amped for destruction with “Break A Guitar” below:

NEWS ROUNDUP: LCD Soundsystem, Andrew Bird & Wolkoff


  • LCD Soundsystem Is Playing NYC This Weekend!

    Guess the breakup didn’t last too long- after announcing plans for a new record and festival dates, the band will be playing at Webster Hall 3/27 and 3/28. Tix are first come, first serve, so you’ll have to enter a lottery to even get the chance to buy them. Do it here!

  • Tickets For RBMA Festival Are Now On Sale

    The energy drink sponsored festival will take over NYC at the end of April, bringing select performances, events and lectures to a variety of venues. Highlights for 2016 include a talk with Spike Lee, Dizzee Rascal (Performing ‘Boy in Da Corner’), a performance with Kamasi Washington, Pharaoh Sanders and The Sun Ra Arkestra and a Brooklyn Flea Record Fair. Plus many, many more.

  • Stream Are You Serious by Andrew Bird

    The 13th album by the whistling violinist is streaming on NPR ahead of its April 1st release date. It includes “Left Handed Kisses,” a duet with Fiona Apple. Check out the song’s video, which features a playful singing showdown between the two, below:


  • Wolkoff Releases “The Homecoming” Video

    The song is frenetic yet hopeful, and its video stars a dog (played by a girl in a mask) who struggles to fit into a domestic life. It’s both strange and heartwarming. You can read more about its origins and meaning on Jezebel, and watch it below.


  • Ty Segall Is Scary (In A Good Way)

    First he terrified the audience of Stephen Colbert’s late night show by throwing candy at them while dressed like a more low-key version of The Joker. Turns out, he also likes haunt your dreams by wearing a creepy baby mask. Check out the getup on his Conan performance, where he plays the song “Californian Hills:”

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  • RIP Phife Dawg

    Phife  Dawg, aka Malik Taylor passed away on Tuesday at age 45. A founding member of Tribe Called Quest, his unique style resulted in classic songs like “Buggin’ Out,” “Electric Relaxation,”, and “Butter.” For a full obituary, click here.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

TRACK REVIEW DOUBLE FEATURE: New Singles from Ty Segall’s Label

Ty Segall God? Records

Ty Segall‘s GOD? Records imprint, on Drag City, is only a little over a year old, but Segall has chased a visceral, DIY aesthetic since the imprint’s very first release. To that end, Segall is bringing out two new 7″s from noise rockers Running and the tech-heavy, growling metal outfit Zath. Stylistically, the two groups have chaos in common–whether zany or doomed, Zath and Running test the limits of listenability with heavy distortion and production thick enough to wade through.

“Totally Fired,” the B side to Running’s Frizzled, opens with a slew of reeling guitar riffs, reveling in the sheer pleasure of making a whole lot of noise. The rest of the track is half blissed out with punk rock naiveté, half sci-fi and surreal. Even though the song’s backdrop tells an old story–a dingy basement show and a sea of moshing blue mohawks, beer cans crushed underfoot–there’s a drone to the guitar work  that occasionally cuts into the forefront with a sound like a space laser.

Zath’s “Black Goat Razor” is more old school, but not a whit less freaky. This is technical, guitar-led, metal, beefed up by growling vocals that seek to dominate–sometimes literally. “Do what you’re told,” the most audible line hisses, the words backed by a rapid and gunshot-crisp drum line. There isn’t anything particularly innovative about this single, but that doesn’t bother me a bit. Remember how Behemoth released The Satanist early this year and even though it didn’t really break new ground for the band, it still ruled so hard your ears started bleeding halfway through? Exactly. Sometimes heavy metal just needs to be heavy. “Black Goat Razor” will land on you with such force that you’ll feel oppressed, in all the right ways.

You can check out both new tracks in the Soundcloud links below. Go here to purchase Frizzled, and here for Black Goat Razor. 

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Nick Waterhouse “It No. 3”

Nick Waterhouse Audiofemme

Nick Waterhouse‘s R&B-inflected debut Time’s All Gone came out in 2012, and may seem like a non sequitur coming from a twenty-something white guy from California. The album borrowed substantially from the bluesier end of sixties rock, meshed interestingly with a soulful Motown slant. But so much of modern music mixes up decades and blends stylistic influences—especially those from the sixties—that it no longer seems fair to dock points for anachronism. Waterhouse’s particular musical blend, while not unique, is certainly endearing—Time’s All Gone radiates with the kind of garage rock that lets you notice each instrument individually, without them being much treated or blurred into each other.

Waterhouse doesn’t change that aesthetic in “It No. 3,” a Ty Segall cover just released off his upcoming sophomore album Holly, out March 4th. The minimal production on this track doesn’t matter a bit next to the sheer vocal personality. Maintaining the jumpy soul of Waterhouse’s first album, “It No. 3” indicates Waterhouse is gaining a greater comfort level in the music he makes, having more fun and paying less attention to the many—and formidable—influences that contribute to his work. His ownership of this song is especially impressive given that “It No. 3” is a cover, and though the rendition is a fairly faithful one in many respects, the personality behind it is all Waterhouse, no Segall imitation. Shrinking Segall’s original down from fifteen minutes to three, Waterhouse creates a concise, likeable sound that offers a lot for what it asks.

Go here to pre-order Nick Waterhouse’s new album, Holly, out March 4th. Listen to “It No. 3” below:

SHOW REVIEW: Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall

There’s not a whole lot left to say about the caliber of Thee Oh Sees’ or Ty Segall’s live shows; both acts are known in many circles for providing one of the best live experiences the price of a concert ticket can buy.  It’s not mere hype; the energy and skill which these musicians and long-time friends bring to any stage is a real thing, and best seen to be believed.

Those in the NYC area had multiple chances to do so this weekend – both bands played brand new Bushwick venue The Well on Saturday, Death by Audio on Monday, and Thee Oh Sees played ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror on Sunday.  Given the chance to choose between these shows, I’d say the show at The Well was least preferable.  Going into it, I was excited to check out the venue, which boasts and incredible beer selection as well as gourmet eats.  But I was totally underwhelmed by the interior of the space, which basically looked like someone was storing their fully-stocked bar in an empty garage.  The stage was huge, framed between the brick walls of surrounding industrial buildings, with an expanse of dust and gravel for show-goers to kick around below.  The sound wasn’t bad, but the setting was far from intimate (which would be the advantage of having gone to Death by Audio), much more reminiscent of a festival or large SXSW showcase than a punk rock show.

Thee Oh Sees had already started by the time I arrived, just after 8pm.  It was hard to get close enough to the stage to actually see anything that was going on, but I could hear just fine – crashing drums, crushing guitar distortion, and John Dwyer’s characteristic yelping.  They shredded through favorites like “Warm Slime” “I Was Denied” and “Tidal Wave” as well as “Lupine Dominus” from recent release Putrifiers II, bouncing along with the crowd every beat of the way.  It’s nearly impossible to not enjoy an Oh Sees show, and I did.  But the enjoyment stung a little; I was definitely kicking myself for not bothering to attend their shows years ago, before I had to stand in a mob to do so.

Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees are garage pop’s version of peanut butter versus jelly – an unquestionably appropriate pairing for the ages.  Their camaraderie actually borders on adorable, and it makes the vibe at shows like this that much more ecstatic and playful.  Segall brings a gritty frontman charm to a talented group of musicians that includes drummer Emily Rose and guitarist Mikal Cronin.  During crowd-pleaser “Finger” it started pouring rain, but few folks in the audience bothered to run for any sort of cover – if anything the crowd got rowdier.  Plenty of them had already been soaked by airborne plastic cups half-full of craft beer, so maybe the rain collectively drowned everyone’s remaining inhibitions.  Someone raised a pair of crutches in the air – they’d made a brief appearance earlier in the show but this time they stayed lifted.  I saw a couple of idiots go from good-natured moshing to an almost legitimate altercation; luckily someone standing by helped the two angry dudes cool out.  Meanwhile, Segall stopped the show to call a medic to the front of the crowd, where apparently someone’s ears had started bleeding.  With that issue resolved, he dedicated his next song to the medic.  In addition to unleashing plenty of classics like “Girlfriend” “Standing at The Station ” and “My Sunshine” Segall played new material from Slaughterhouse, and even showed a flair for a irony by riffing a few lines of “Sweet Home Alabama” and encoring with a snippet of “The End” by The Doors.  The rest of that encore can be seen in the video below, as this was the only time I was even remotely close enough to the stage to justify recording anything at all.

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I’m not as stoked on The Well as I thought I might be given its size, but depending on who is booked there in the future I can’t say I’d never go back.  Ticket prices were pretty cheap despite the professional level of the stage and sound equipment, so no complaints there.  What will be truly interesting is to see where the trajectory of Oh Sees/Segall will take them; while they’ve built a reputation playing to smaller audiences in less commercial spaces both have clearly outgrown these institutions in terms of popularity.  It’s rightfully earned and there’s no judgement in that. “Selling out” is a thing that certainly doesn’t exist when your entire goal as a musician is to incite your fans to have the best time they can possibly have; with the degree of excellence these guys bring to their performances, it’s unlikely either will find an audience so large that that can’t be done.