Slow Previewing 2: International Hello, Fabulous Diamonds, Highlife

Following on from Friday’s blog, another round-up today of some records that’ve taken me an embarrassingly long time to write up.

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Following on from Friday’s blog, another round-up today of some records that’ve taken me an embarrassingly long time to write up.

First out of the traps today, the self-titled album from International Hello. As far as I know, this is technically the band’s debut, on Holy Mountain, though at least some of them have a past life as Monoshock, a North Californian psych band whose freeform ‘90s jams were very much the precursor of bands like Comets On Fire.

“International Hello” pretty much gets going where 1995’s “Walk To The Fire” left off, mixing up ranty and intense outbursts of avant-MC5 ramalam with strung-out passages of soupy, churning, freaked-out dirge. I imagine they’ve probably listened to quite a few Hawkwind albums over the years but, even at their most horizontal, there’s something very visceral and punkish about International Hello; if your favourite Comets album is “Field Recordings From The Sun”, especially, maybe check this out.

Another San Franciscan band who operate in Monoshock’s slipstream is Wooden Shijps, and an Australian duo, the Fabulous Diamonds, have certain dronepsych affinities with them; perhaps even more so with Ripley’s other band, Moon Duo. I must confess that Fabulous Diamonds’ first album didn’t register on my radar, but “Fabulous Diamonds II”, on Siltbreeze, is a gem: dulled, humming organ-led psych with a persistence reminiscent of The Silver Apples.

Something very mantric about this one, too, in spite of the blunt functionality of its presentation (a typical song title is “12 Mins 15 Secs”), with a lot of phasing and tumbling tribal drums. Also, Nisa Venerosa’s sparing vocals have the sing-song potency of some post-punk incantations: kindred contemporary voices might be Rings or Effi Briest, but Fabulous Diamonds’ music is generally a lot more interesting.

Finally, an EP from a very well-connected Englishman in New York. Highlife is the project of a guy called Sleepy Doug Shaw, who seems to have played alongside Mira Billotte in White Magic, and who’s accompanied on “Best Bless” by Billotte, Tim Koh from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Jesse Lee, drummer in another band Shaw has played with, Gang Gang Dance.

With such personnel on board, drawing comparisons between Highlife, Animal Collective and The Dirty Projectors might present Shaw as quite the scenester. But “Best Bless” has a loose, ecstatic life of its own, building up African loops (a Mahmoud Ahmed sample on the opening “War Fair”, for example) into some gorgeous songs: the first El Guincho album and Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” are probably apt reference points, though Highlife’s songs feel more organic and handmade. Belatedly, I think “F Kenya Rip” might just be one of my favourite songs of the year. Please hunt it down and let me know how it works for you…


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