The trio that makes up unhappybirthday come from Wismar, a small and very old city in Germany that has almost always been small. If you’re like me, you might know the town from its contribution to the formation of the Hanseatic League, an important thirteenth century trade federation and mutual defense pact formed by several important Northern European commercial cities. Wismar is a much simpler place today and as the band tells it, rather isolated and contended with its slow pace while they were growing up. A single record store in the city made that unchanging tableau a little more dynamic, connecting them with bands like the Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, and Units; ultimately inspiring them to make their own music, taking a synth heavy approach to “Neue Deutsche Welle” – or, literally translated, new German-wave. Their debut album Sirup is a collection of songs written since the band resolved to make it their own way, renting a house together and making music nonstop. By their own description, these songs are “sometimes washed out like a raindy or sticky like chewing gum”, but never without a “pretty melancholic root to howl”. “Molly” is a sad prom-night-song about undefined yearning, while “Kalt” is more bleak, with cold synth tones stabbing, freezing the listener’s heart. These songs are direct and purposely catchy, but intimate – they seethe, too restrained for anything but a slow burn, regardless of tempo. Together, unhappybirthday is shaping a new reality for themselves and we can hope that the success of Sirup might inspire a happy occasion for them next year.
Preorder Sirup on limited edition cassette and stream it on our bandcamp. We’ll be premiering some new tracks over the next couple weeks, but for now he’s our recent video for “Pyramiden”, the second track from the new album.
Some Ember’s Hotel of Lost Light is one of my favorite releases we’ve had the pleasure of putting out on Crash Symbols. Dylan Travis, the mind behind the project, has a gorgeous way with woozy synth sounds and hazy drones call to mind a version of Pocahaunted fronted by a slightly less depressed Robert Smith. Earlier this week the homies at No Fear Of Pop got the drop on this stellar new single from Some Ember’s upcoming second cassette, Pleasure. “Flowers Open” has changed out the haunting drones from Hotel of Lost Light for a much more driven, explosive pop sound, leaving fans and new listeners alike practically begging for more.
Stream/Download: Some Ember - Flowers Open There is no label or release date announced for Pleasure yet; only the notion that it will exist.
Tom Mike, aka Ghibli, has been on an extended vacation - Poland, to Germany (Berlin), and then Morocco - for much of the time we’ve been promoting his latest album, Rare Pleasures. None of that time was he particularly disconnected, so having gotten back to Canada, he put together a short mix of tracks he’d been feeling over the trip and called it Forest Flower. Lurve it.
Originally self-released midway in 2010, VHS Vision was the one and only release from Texas producer Stephen Farris under his Cosmic Sound moniker, which he used briefly between solo releases. It hung around long enough to raise a few eyebrows, get some good “I never saw this coming” press, and even a nod from Com Truise before Farris began focusing on his work under his own name. At the time, reviewers loved his circuit bent keyboards and the horde of field recordings and other sounds that Farris recorded and mixed using his VCR, but aspects of those characteristics have since become typical of his larger output, so perhaps the name stopped making sense or the short tracks felt too tentative for Farris to want to justify the conceptual ground he would cover later. Nevertheless, it is an early and certainly one of the best statements of Farris’ experimental audio aesthetic and incomparably clever, always catchy synth-play. We couldn’t be happier to add it to the catalog over at our imprint Crash Symbols. My wife and I even played track #3 at our wedding last year.
“…super ill synth work, melted vibes and like the EP says, it’s a VHS Vision.” -Com Truise
“This ambient project of ‘lost vhs tapes, forgotten sounds and lucid dreams’ has a beautiful, cascading dream-like quality.” -Friends With Both Arms
“‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’ from those XX commercials could only dream of being as cool as this dude.” -Digital Hygiene
Preorder the limited edition cassette or download VHS Vision directly here. For a limited time, while the cassettes last, we’ll only be charging $4 for digital downloads on our bandcamp.
Nomadic Firs is the solo project of Ryan Boos, a Tennessean with a petite farm, lots of pets, and a lovely wife named Holly. Boos says that his self-titled debut release started out (almost six years ago) as “colors and ideas” in his head, which isn’t surprising, since you’ll very likely feel an increase in your personal jubilance while listening to this album. Taking cues from his four year stint as a house DJ (and his experiments with electronic music), Boos fleshes out simple ideas into songs that sound like they were made by a full band; compelling beats are joined by inventive sound loops, sun-drenched reverb, and pop melodies that would warm even the iciest of hearts. While he draws a lot of inspiration from his idyllic surroundings, the songs also serve as mirrors, reflecting both his personal achievements and the darker places (burnt bridges, a bar fight) that spurred his move to Tennessee in the first place. While the band name fortuitously popped into Boos’ head one day, he’s since realized deeper meaning behind it - humans’ desire to explore but to also be grounded in some sort of domesticity, and how that translates to social media and the global possibilities that come with it.
Download the album or buy it on limited edition cassette here. The first 50 cassettes will come in hand-knit tape cozies! Thanks to a new digital distribution deal we’ve got in the works, it will also be available very shortly through iTunes and other digital retailers.
Thanks everyone for making our recent burst of releases such a success! It’s been a blast. Several of these projects are being done at different plants, so shipping will be a little inconsistent. Later this week copies of Some Ember’s Hotel of Lost Light will be shipping, but unfortunately Ghibli won’t be available until early June - thanks so much for your patience!
QTM is Quinn McCarron, a 23 year old graduate student in architecture originally from New Jersey. Growing up and to this day, his family spends summers in Holgate, the southernmost town on Long Beach Island. His debut EP Holgate is to some extent the document of a life anchored by those summers, all 23 of them spent in Holgate at the vacation home his grandfather built in the ’70s; the same house decorates the cover that McCarron helped design for the release. He calls the town “a primary source of both continuity and musical inspiration”. A drummer since 13, McCarron turned to making mashups and sample music when his living situations prevented having drums. Over the course of subsequent years he expanded the range of those first experiments, changing his focus to making truly original compositions, for which Holgate is first and best testimony. Though the mood in the photograph is somber, McCarron’s music is colorful, animated in large part by catchy sample arrangements and cinematic juxtapositions of vocals and effects. We’re honored to be releasing Holgate on our imprint Crash Symbols. MP3:
Named for a piece in Galway Kinnell’s Book of Nightmares, Some Ember’s debut LP Hotel of Lost Light is the culmination of a lifetime’s experience for Dylan Travis; the man behind the moniker, he is a longtime musician and most recently a member in good standing of the Bay Area music community. Some Ember began dramatically. Laid up for weeks after a car accident and loaded up with a little compensation money, Travis “blew it all on synthesizers and production software”. In the past he and various bands he played with relied on studio engineers, but he was determined to learn and use that process for himself. Though Travis describes making Hotel of Lost Light as a very intuitive process, refracting his experience with post-punk and noise pop through a more minimalist, no-wave sensibility, recording and producing it eventually drew on every technique and technology that getting hit by a car had gained for him. Appropriately enough, this is a very personal album for him; seeking catharsis in his experience of music, Travis brings his vocals to the fore, underscoring a vividly offered shared experience in their naked emotion and the darkly evocative imagery of the album. His prowess as a producer only improves the experience as subtle nuance emerges in how instruments and vocals set distinct paces or the sound of unconventional warps and effects - whether vocal distortion or sega-synths - as they come into focus.
Dylan sums it all up best himself…
“…the point of this record is to explore emotional territory that is perhaps uncomfortable, but to make that process a positive and constructive one. It’s about finding strength and solace even in the midst of loneliness, sadness, jealousy, or anger, things we all go through.”
Ghibli is Thomas Michael, an Edmonton based producer whose love of house music was born in Eastern Europe where - the child of immigrants - he would spend summers with his grandparents. Being in an isolated region and of a sympathetic turn of mind, he became absorbed by European music television, etching the likes of Modjo’s “Lady”, Craig David’s “Fill Me In”, and Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” into his mind for the trip back to Canada. As he began making electronic music in his teens, the influence of that early European house re-emerged in his mind, receiving it’s finest summation on his new album Rare Pleasures, a ten track opus built entirely of samples collected from youtube videos. Taking as his point of departure what he identifies as a lack of experimental sensibilities in the underground house scene, Michael blazes a trail of funky grooves and disparate more or less fully explored cultural references across the full breadth of his youtube cullings. We couldn’t be more excited to offer it to y’all.