Mystic Chords of Memory - 3 Stars
Couture, Couture, Couture - 4 Stars
Like some celestial meteor barreling through earth’s atmosphere, Beachwood Sparks has—under the pressure and intense heat of large-scale touring and swelling expectations—fragmented into several smaller but still noteworthy projects. The first, All Night Radio, a collaboration between pedal-steel/keyboard player “Farmer” Dave Scher and drummer Jimi Hey, released the psychedeli-pop gem Spirit Stereo Frequency (Sub Pop) earlier this year (see Paste issue 9, p. 20). Now, Sparks bassist Brent Rademaker and singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, each have new projects of their own.
Gunst’s Mystic Chords of Memory is a hushed, tranquil and introspective collaboration with his partner Jen Cohen (formerly of The Aislers Set). If Beachwood Sparks sounded like an exploding pinwheel of countrified watercolors, Mystic Chords sketches in earthy Crayolas; a trickling brook of sonic vibrations and smooth wood tones that glisten ever so slightly, as if dashed with DayGlo and baked in the warmth of the Northern California sun. Gunst’s songwriting here is whimsical yet permeated with the bizarre earnestness that’s come to characterize his music, and he and Cohen’s near-whispered harmonies are priceless.
On the heels of this Mystic meditation comes Rademaker’s long-overdue, all-night dance party—Couture, Couture, Couture. The Frausdots frontman said he would’ve made this Cure/Echo & The Bunnymen-inspired record straight out of high school if he hadn’t been occupied as a sideman in so many projects. But the waiting has paid off. Couture is dark New Wave- and-Brit Pop-inflected dance rock; mood-altering night music with textures that sparkle like the club lights. Rademaker and his cohorts—including former Guns N’ Roses backup singer Michelle Loiselle and members of The Cure, Velvet Crush, Rooney, The Tyde and Brian Jonestown Massacre—layer the record with polished keyboards, driving hi-hat beats, echoing guitar and desperate, withdrawn vocals that shroud your eardrums like a high-priced fog machine, making Couture a consuming, authentic trip into the melancholy dream-rock of the early ’80s.