Sacred Bones

Nearly a year and a half ago Sacred Bones Records released The Sistrum by Factums, a landmark for the just blossoming Brooklyn label. In the time since, the imprint and its honcho Caleb Braaten have become the preeminent tastemakers of no-nonsense rock with a dark bent. Factums, meanwhile, have been mining a trove of fertile activity that has kept releases flowing without any noticeable activity in the public realm. Flowers was recorded back in 2006–07 and doesn’t really stray from the bent on their Alien Native LP on Siltbreeze or their Spells and Charms CD on Kill Shamen, that is, murky post-punk pop songs intercut with experimental soundtrack pieces, the lines between the two totally unclear most of the record. At least one song, “See Inside,” is pulled from an obscure French single. I don’t blame them, as the song is quintessential Factums. “Hamburger Lady” and/or demented Speak and Spell vocals? Check. Propulsive drum program and/or killer live drums? Check. Elastic guitar lead whose melody is derived entirely by feedback? Check.

In other words, Flowers is another excellent Factums LP, though I’m not entirely sure how it sets itself apart from those previously mentioned full-lengths. It’s hard to reflect upon any progression or arc in their discography, as the Seattle group pieces together their art from a seemingly endless library of recordings, bits of sound, ideas sometimes never fully drawn out, direct influences (heavy Chrome worship on this one) barely hidden. Much of the work is in composing the final product. In this respect, Flowers succeeds, because I’m a sucker for this type of rock. If you’re a fan of Factums this one is essential, and if you’ve never indulged, Flowers is as good a place to start as any, especially considering the stunningly detailed screen design on its sleeve.

Moon Duo
Killing Time ep
Sacred Bones

Ripley Johnson’s second EP of the year with Moon Duo, his almost-solo diversion from Wooden Shjips, is the perfectly dreamy compliment to Factums’ nightmare. Moon Duo is a return to the more minimalist focus of Ripley’s earliest Shjips tracks. Those recordings were a revelation for some, and while the two Wooden Shjips LPs haven’t been the disappointments that many would lead you to believe, they haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of psychedelia like I was hoping they would. The Killing Time EP takes the old Shjips concept, sprinkles a bit of the dreamier guitar gauze Ripley’s been tooling with on recent offerings, and packs it up into four concise jams.

Johnson shows quite a bit of constraint on all four tracks. Each song could conceivably go for minutes longer and could withstand additional guitar or key tracks. Much like on those early EPs, he builds upon a small, singular idea, be it a keyboard tone, drumbeat or guitar melody. Where the Shjips take waves and make them immense storms, Moon Duo take still water and make ripples, like on (obviously) “Ripples,” a song for those (like me) who wished “Clouds Over Earthquake” lasted a little longer. Here’s to hoping Ripley keeps both projects sailing.
Doug Elliott