“Flatland” opens with a cantilevered blare, downshifts into a lowing drone, and then settles into a pattern of tectonic conflict: scree, moooo, scree, moooo. A bottom-of-the-mix tremor and effects that mimic Alka-Seltzer meeting water upend the detente, sending the track spiraling off into the unknown: a bass-keyboard leviathan, brushed gongs and steel drums, surging, pensive effects; a gang of industrial saboteurs stumbling through the laboratory after hours, shadowy, inadvertently dosed, with no clear of idea of what they’ve come to steal.
Ashtray Navigations, “Fog Bottle Morning”
“Fog Bottle Morning” reminds me a bit of Skullflower’s Exquisite Fucking Boredom, where a sub-metal riff was caned, stretched, kneecapped, and otherwise tortured for what seemed like an extraordinary length of time; this was fine, because the band had a great riff, and knew exactly what they were doing. Ashtray Navigations likewise flog “Morning” into fresh, successive new realms of overloaded psych-ward psych for nine minutes. The result sounds like what might occur if a foursome of shredders faced off at the least clean-cut Guitar Center ever while being dogged by mobile, self-aware drum machines and a clerk laying into an organ keytar. If this somehow didn’t just improve your week or inspire at least one half-hearted fist pump, you are entirely beyond my help.
Wilco, “You Satellite”
The less we expect from life, the happier we ultimately are, which may go some way towards explaining why I’ve had a Wilco album on constant personal rotation for the past couple weeks. Star Wars is the jittery sound of rock royalty giving absolutely zero fucks for the first time since I lost interest in this band—circa around A Ghost is Born to the present—a low-stakes freebie that stings like a dare you’ve shied away from. For the toy in this Cracker Jack box, proceed directly to “You Satellite.” Forget whatever scenery Jeff Tweedy is gnawing at, vocally, and just belly-board on down into the bay-sized whirlpool of guitars that seems faster and frothier with each successive brace of drumbeats. “Face melting” is overused as a euphemism in music writing, but it applies in this instance, a seeming psychic rip-off of the L.A.-in-flames ennui that suffused Deconstruction’s criminally underrated 1995 self-titled album.