The Soundcarriers – Wilds

Released Jan 21, 2022

What a delight to have The Soundcarriers back in my life. There have been quite a few bands mining the same vein of nostalgic psych-pop in the seven years since the band’s last release, but very few have pulled it off with quite the same flair. Their sound has never been about faithful recreation of an era, though; it’s an imaginative mish-mash of scenes that existed separately at the time, stitched together from the most appealing elements of Nuggets-era psychedelia, krautrock grooves, Free Design whimsy, and breezy tropicalia.

For this reunion, prompted in part by AMC’s short-lived series Lodge 49, the band picks up right where it left off, their chemistry not at all diluted by the extended hiatus. If anything, those years have only concentrated The Soundcarriers’ sound. The songs on Wilds are concise and focused (no 12-minute jams here), built around Paul Isherwood’s forceful bass and drummer Adam Cann’s relentless drive. The commitment to melody is still there, Leonore Wheatley and Dorian Conway’s vocals blending as sweetly as ever, but the songs feel a little more urgent, more anchored.

Album closer “Happens Too Soon” is about as gentle as the album gets, but even that one ends with a build-up of head-held-high defiance. It’s a fitting end to a release that feels assured from start to finish, a confident reclaiming of The Soundcarriers’ space in the psych-pop pantheon.

Contagious Yawns – Dream of Consciousness

Outside of a single review from a podcast called Tabs Out, this release from anonymous producer(s?) Contagious Yawns seems to have been mostly missed in 2020. That’s a shame, because Dream of Consciousness’ breezy sampledelia is well suited to this atemporal moment. Peppered with spoken-word samples that coalesce around themes of perception, consciousness, and the self, the album is a warm bath of hazy synths, loping cadences, and lo-fi beats.

Puzzle of Who I Am” and “Keep Yourself Together” are highlights, the former for its playful appropriation of Alan Watts (who seems to have become a patron saint of chill electronica), the latter for a timbre that lies somewhere between the lysergic and the liturgical, building to a climax of overlapping voices, insistent drums, and church-organ swells. Elsewhere, “Infinite Mirror” follows a post-rock path of continuous crescendo, a welcome change of pace from the laid-back mood that dominates the album.

It’s a very soothing album, living in the same neighbourhood as Bill Holt’s Dreamies or the esoteric plunderphonics of Lesbianhorse, just a bit more affirmational and accessible than either. Like a nostalgic tribute to an era that never quite existed, it’s a calming, questioning refuge from the world outside.

The Hologram People – Sacred Ritual to Unlock the Mountain Portal

A satisfying slab of instrumental psychedelia and earthy kosmische from the UK. Acoustic guitars add bright textures, while walls of fuzz and cosmic synths aim to pierce the veil between this world and the great beyond. “Planet Sahara” makes the Sabbath influence explicit, although The Hologram People are less spooky, the buoyant grooves of tracks like “Pray to the Maypole Witch” and “A Seventies Void” indebted as much to Air’s hazy nostalgia and the prog-inflected library music of the Space Oddities series as to any lords or darkness.

Barring the extended ambient interlude of “Lord Shiva’s Mother Ship”, The Hologram People’s incantations are more concise than the mouthful of an album title would suggest. They may be opening the portal, but they aren’t leaving you adrift.