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A small collection of Madison’s June 2022 releases

New music from Godly The Ruler, Free Dirt, and others enlivened a hectic month.
Cover or promotional art for five different releases are set against a blue background: Or Does It Explode's album "Chrysalis," Free Dirt's album "Spaghetti & Mothballs," Godly The Ruler's single "Midwest," Histo's album "JGDC," and Pretty From A Distance's EP "This Unlimited Feeling.”
Cover or promotional art for five different releases are set against a blue background: Or Does It Explode’s album “Chrysalis,” Free Dirt’s album “Spaghetti & Mothballs,” Godly The Ruler’s single “Midwest,” Histo’s album “JGDC,” and Pretty From A Distance’s EP “This Unlimited Feeling.”

New music from Godly The Ruler, Free Dirt, and others enlivened a hectic month.

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June 2022 had more than its fair share of dispiriting, downright cataclysmic moments on the national scale. For those who sought solace or reprieve in local music, Madison musicians delivered in kind. Apart from the festivals—Dirtnap Records’ 20th anniversary celebration, the Madison Jazz Festival, Marquette Waterfront Fest, and Make Music Madison among them—local musicians put out a lot of new releases. While not everything will be covered below, what you’ll find are two videos and a trio of records that deserve strong recommendations. Newer artists, familiar faces, and a penchant for artistry collide across these five selections. As always, if a local release has caught your ear and you think it deserves Tone Madison‘s attention, don’t hesitate to send it our way.

Histo, “Cosmic Trends”

Donald Curtis and Joseph Galloro’s hazy, punk-tinged pop project Histo returned on June 24 with “Cosmic Trends,” which teases the September 16 release of the duo’s forthcoming full-length album, JGDC. Nature shots dominate the video for “Cosmic Trends,” most of them featuring aquatic wildlife. There’s an oddly mesmeric bent to the visual composition that nicely accentuates the relaxed groove of the song. Fittingly, the lyrics also fixate on the ocean, friction, and perception, lending the whole affair a gentle queasiness that feels akin to greeting the ebb and flow of a slightly oversized wave. Warm, immersive, and memorable, “Cosmic Trends” suggests Histo’s got a strong record on their hands.

Pretty From A Distance, This Unlimited Feeling

Benjamin Sholl’s blissed-out trip-hop project Pretty From A Distance put out Madison’s best referential song title in 2021 with “What’s Up Denny’s?” which left a high bar to clear. Thankfully, Sholl proved he was up to the task with This Unlimited Feeling, a new EP that emphasizes Pretty From A Distance’s core strengths. Syrupy melodies, mellow beats, and a sense of content sedation are imbued across This Unlimited Feeling‘s four tracks. “Cruel,” the EP’s seven-minutes-and-change closer, is Pretty From A Distance at its finest. Inventive and hypnotic, the track traffics in a liminal space between comforting familiarity and curiosity-piquing unexpectedness. “In my dreams, we say goodbye,” Sholl croons over a bluesy jazz guitar figure, mirroring that feeling of warped intimacy. It’s the perfect end-cap for an admirable EP. 

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…Or Does It Explode?, Chrysalis

“Dream Deferred,” the sprawling, seven-and-a-half minute opener of …Or Does It Explode?’s new full-length Chrysalis, makes it abundantly clear the band’s not shying away from ambition. Invoking the unease produced by inequity via a sound collage of speeches laid over a bed of post-rock is a bold move but, here, it works. What follows are nine more tracks proudly bearing the marks of an array of influences: Shellac, American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Wrens, La Dispute, Cap’n Jazz, and Slint among them.

Chrysalis, by virtue of both those influences and its overall scope, is a statement record. Consistently engaging throughout a runtime that brushes up against an hour, Chrysalis is hard proof that …Or Does It Explode? mean business. While Chrysalis includes all three of the tracks (“Dream Deferred,” “Killswitch,” “The Chrysalis And The Swan”) from the band’s 2021 demo, the record lays some enticing groundwork for what might come next.

Godly The Ruler, “Midwest”

Following 2021’s madcap spree of singles, Godly The Ruler has seemed focused on accelerating tempos, style, and aesthetic. “Midwest”—which recently netted some national attention—is hard proof of Godly The Ruler’s creative restlessness. In under two minutes, director Sean Russo’s accompanying video neatly conveys the freneticism inherent to Godly The Ruler’s recent work. Vibrant colors and jarring smash cuts accentuate the transient nature of the music, which incorporates bits of rap, hyperpop, punk, and noise. Eye-catching, catchy, punchy, and relentlessly insistent, “Midwest” finds Godly The Ruler wound up and ready to deliver a haymaker.

Free Dirt, Spaghetti & Mothballs

An Americana-leaning rock record that was mixed and produced by Boy Howdy and mastered by Justin Perkins is all but guaranteed to be worthwhile. Free Dirt’s second record following 2019’s Pink Floyd On Ice finds the trio, led by Blueheels frontman Robbie Schiller, in fine form. Chris Sasman’s thundering drums and Joe Copeland’s bone-rattling baritone guitar work act in tandem to heighten an ever-present sense of dramatic tension. Curiously cinematic in nature, Spaghetti & Mothballs showcases Free Dirt’s acute awareness of—and control over—atmosphere, pacing, and narrative. 

Everything here fits snugly together, though some flourishes across the record may come off as disparate at first glance, like the dusty Morricone-esque backing vocals of “The Ballad Of Larry And Linda” and the sprawling, urgent guitar squalls of “Queen Of All Of Illinois.” Rowdy spikes of volume coexist comfortably with moments of plaintive, subdued quiet. Spaghetti & Mothballs is full of uneasy contradictions being skillfully corralled into coherence by a band of veteran musicians living up to their collective pedigree.

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