California Sounds: Orpheo McCord’s meditative percussion, Teenage Wrist’s distorted rock and Bludwork’s vintage house music
Teenage Wrist, “Dweeb” (Epitaph). The grainy, static lyric video for this new song from the rising Los Angeles guitar band moves through visual textures similarly to how they maneuver effects pedals.
The trio was formed in 2015 in guitarist-singer Marshall Gallagher’s Koreatown apartment and takes its cues from 1990s bands including Smashing Pumpkins. They feed that energy through filters that recall British guitar wrestlers Ride — and just enough emo openness to reveal vulnerability.
“Dweeb” is from Teenage Wrist’s forthcoming debut (March 9) for long-running L.A. punk label Epitaph. “Chrome Neon Jesus” was recorded by Grammy-winning producer and engineer Carlos De La Garza (Paramore, Jimmy Eat World), and you can hear it.
He highlights as much distortion in the mix as possible without taming or flattening the rest of the frequencies, and the result glistens with a certain majesty.
Bludwork, “Redemption EP” (Chainsaw Corp.) These four tracks are driven by what the artist who performs as Bludwork has described as “beautiful chords that warm my heart from soul and gospel records my dad used to play when I was young.”
The humming EP seems transported from a long-gone dance floor, before electronic dance music had been subsumed by the bro crowd. A moment when house and techno music were coming into their own and disco meant more than just “Saturday Night Fever.” The producer, who declined via email to give his birth name, came up in Long Beach and attends college in Santa Clarita. In 2016, he issued a set of minimalist dance songs for L.A. underground cassette label 100% Silk and delivered a disco, soul and house mix for Far Away, the taste-making party and imprint run by DJs Jen Ferrer and Cooper Saver.
Bludwork on “Redemption” harnesses the defiantly arcane sounds of vintage synths and sequencers to build wiggly rhythms. Best is “Kisses,” a 4:44 workout with the pew-pew sounds of old video games shooting through the thumpy beats.
Orpheo McCord, “Recovery Inhale” (Sound Creature). Percussionist McCord has the rare distinction of being the only instrumentalist to drum for both British post-punk band the Fall and group-love collective Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros — to say nothing of his experiences percussing with Flaming Lips, Master Musicians of Joujouka, Fool’s Gold, Cass McCombs and more. His new solo album doesn’t sound like any of them.
McCord, who lives and works in Ojai, builds hypnotic instrumental pieces on his new album, “Recovery Inhale.” Treading the line between new age and minimalist ambient music, the seven tracks work as either foreground or background music.
Each a tectonic plate floating on a world of McCord’s making, pieces such as “Terpsichore,” “Ether” and “Monstro” feature gradual shifts that are dotted with vague clusters of percussion.
Particularly haunting is “Ghost Ship,” an elegy to those killed during a fire at the titular Oakland performance and living space. McCord has long been a musical rudder in the California underground, and he layers empathy across the work’s five minutes. Brutally emotional, he gradually hits a massive, and heartbreaking, crescendo.
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