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Outsideleft Week in Music We're hearing from The Armed, Alan Vega, Laraaji, LYR, Wadada Leo Smith, Belvedere,The Goa Express, Sarah Neufeld, Steve Almaas, Sam Eagle, The Mountain Goats and Flowertown

Outsideleft Week in Music

We're hearing from The Armed, Alan Vega, Laraaji, LYR, Wadada Leo Smith, Belvedere,The Goa Express, Sarah Neufeld, Steve Almaas, Sam Eagle, The Mountain Goats and Flowertown

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: April, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

Flowertown are everything that's right with music and nothing that's wrong.

Outsideleft's record round up. I am sitting here thinking... There must be more than this? And then the new best band in the world comes along... 


The Top
Flowertown are everything that’s right with music and nothing that’s wrong. The duo, Karina Gill and Michael Ramos have emerged from a basement in San Francisco clutching aloft their ultimate lo-fi masterpiece. As I have maintained from the start, the lockdown was not a creative lockdown and here already so soon is evidence of that for sure. Flowertown has the slightly rambling aesthetic of Half Man Half Biscuit or the Television Personalities or Patrik Fitzgerald without any of the yampy wishing to please.  This track, RCP,  from their forthcoming LP, Flowertown, drifts perfectly along with an aimless precision. The guitars, drums, and voices driven by ennui so strong it all might end before it’s gotten going. But it doesn’t, it does, just enough. What you are about to hear is a definition of musical eloquence.  --Ancient Champion

Dark In Here
The Mountain Goats return with distinctly succinctly superior slice of indie pop. John Darnielle has previously mentioned the work the band was doing, at Muscle Shoals as it turns out, and Dark in Here is an eponymous single from an LP out June 25th on Merge Records. Or is it. It's called 'Dark in Here' on Bandcamp and 'Mobile' on Spotify... Whatever... In a decent and just world this would be single of this or any other week. --Ancient Champion 

Turn Me Over
(Cooking Vinyl)
Sam Eagle’s soft romantic, song semi-falsetto, intimate, voice. Oooh, loves there on the line, from the head, and from the heart. His voice reminds me of Wayne Coyne, of The Flaming Lips, a bit, no bad thing. The orchestration builds a wave before crashing, and there, hesitancy, a truly weird, fast explosive middle eight that seems to come out of nowhere, and disappear into the ether, like the early days of FM radio in the UK when there was occasional police, taxi, chatter, on the radio, in and out. Overall, Sam, yea,  one for them's wot's in love, chasing someone who is less certain.  -- Toon Traveler

Everywhere You’ve Been
(Cooking Vinyl)
Not really a country fan, least of all on a dulled cloudy post-Duke's funeral Sunday. Listening to the title track from Steve Almaas’s forthcoming LP, well, I make only occasional forays into the Country, and there may be something in there, but this is for me archetypical C&W, slide guitar, Dwayne Eddy twanged, paeans to love, and sliding glissandos on weeping violins. That low keyed guitar seems deliberately manipulative, the song full of love words, maybe gone, maybe hoped for. Lot fo God references sprinkled around. Not a song I feel better for hearing. -- Toon Traveler

The Top
(Paper Bag)
Sarah Neufeld is best known maybe as the fiddle player for Arcade Fire.  Anyways, that’s a day job. I thought I'd save this one for crisp crystal light Coffee and Croissants Sunday morning. Hmm... Today's dulled dimmed and sunless. No matter. The solo violin, pensive swirling,  and that is all that there's really is, it weaves a magical, simple romance, of Spring aromas on the breeze, a hint of April showers on the horizon.  Voices drift, randomly in and out, dreaming of the past, hoping for the future. I love the slow sweeps across a misty landscape, think... Silver sun, a misty lake, swans stretching wings, and you've got the piece, relaxing, contemplative and mystical, but not in a "Hobbit" sense. -- Toon Traveler

Second Time
(Ra-Ra Rok Records)
A beautiful nailed on pastiche of the North West in the 90s… Wrangling gangly guitars, and that endearing nasal twang, if you like that voice, (I think it’s pretty effective for rock'n'pop'n'roll ) a whine if you don't. Simple chops and key changes, a song that' made for summery parks, poolside larks, car windows down, cafe sitting, latte-sipping, hand-holding, lazy hazy dreamy days. The video is filmed in Manchester, worth a watch for that alone, the song could have been written any time in the last 20 years, but that timelessness is a strength. There’s an obvious, joyous, youthful optimism, the pandemic might be ending and the good weather cyclists are coming. Saddle up and join them. -- Toon Traveler

Camera Obscura
(Thousand Island Records)
Oh dear. Pumpin’ up the volume, playin’ it loud, heavy-handed this and that, a rapid-fire guitar, with strangely California mid 90s pop vocals. Rebel dope ok yah, and not a lot else for me. Maybe the vol. just pisses me off and makes me more critical of the song's lack of substance.-- Toon Traveler

Sacred Ceremony
I’m not so familiar with Leo's work, only heard splashes and slivers, based on this track wow what a great player, a master of the horn, some serious strange timing on the drums, and Leo keeps it moving, this has rhythm, and power, delicate playing and evocative runs. As part of a year-long celebration of his 80th birthday there will be numerous box sets on TUM, Sacred Ceremony is a track from the first box set, there’ll also be two world premieres, inclusion in a film and concerts and residencies at Harvard, The New School, Other Minds Festival and more. There's straight-up soul and passion here, a playful sense of music and it's hard to believe there are so few players, I Love the drumming - forget that thump bump splash crash of rock's tradition, this is music from an octogenarian, at the top of their game. It's not the hard power blows of youth, this is the considered playing of a master, the slimmed-down backing yells  "less is more" demonstrates this expertly. Wow! What a great piece of music. -- Toon Traveler

Winter Solstice
Yet again, it’s time to put away your records by those ‘talking instead of singing’ types and give your attention to a genuine poet.  ‘Winter Solstice’ is a tale of the dejected drama of unrequited love from Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, Patrick Pearson, and Richard Walters.  A rich and romantic melody, a narrator who may be more complex than initial impressions suggest, a line borrowed from Prefab Sprout’s ‘Desire As’ and an appearance from the band’s Wendy Smith to deliver the closing line. The overwhelming sadness of the combination brings a shudder.  The stuff that pop and poetry has that power to do.  A record to swoon over! --Jason Lewis

Infinite Sun
Laraaji, Carlos Niño, and Superpotion. 
Only an utter killjoy would point out to Laraaji and his collaborators on this enchanting hymn for universal oneness, that the sun is not actually infinite.  Some are prone to nitpicking, and sadly the magic world(s) of Laraaji may be beyond them.  

For more than forty years, Laraaji has been celebrated for his ambient, meditation, and spiritual work. Up until last year, he was most associated with the zither, then he decided to release three albums within months of of each other of elegant piano improvisations.  

On 'Infinite Sun' Laraaji is playing the role of the best hypnotherapist you have ever experienced.  On this journey, he is accompanied by percussionist/composer Carlos Niño, and renowned ambient duo Superposition.  'Infinite Sun' is their first collaboration, and an indication of the brilliant meditative journey we are about to take with them. --Jason Lewis


(Sacred Bones)
Alan Vega is legendary for his work with Suicide. Toon Traveler reviews the full Mutator LP, here. -- Toon Traveler

(Sargent House)
The Armed look like a team from a Michael Winner movie. Looks aren't everything though. See Alex V. Cook's full review, here. --Ancient Champion

Main Image: Flowertown. So many clunker cars on one street! Amazing.

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

about Ancient Champion »»



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