Pressing Concerns: R.J.F., Feast of the Epiphany, Weird Numbers, Spencer Dobbs

Welcome to a new week, and a new edition of Pressing Concerns. This is one of the weirder editions of the year so far (and I mean that in the best way possible); today we’re looking at new records from R.J.F., Feast of the Epiphany, Weird Numbers, and Spencer Dobbs.

If you’re looking for more new music, you can visit the site directory to see what else we’ve written about lately. If you’d like to support Rosy Overdrive, you can share this (or another) post, or donate here.

R.J.F. – Going Strange

Release date: March 17th
Record label: Self-released
Genre: Post-punk, experimental rock, minimalism, dub
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Cutting

Ross John Farrar has plenty of credits to his name already–he’s been the longtime lead singer of beloved California punk band Ceremony, and more recently has fronted SPICE as well, in addition to being a published poet. Two things that Farrar hasn’t been, however, are a recording musician (handling only vocal duties in his bands up to this point) and a solo artist–both of which have now changed with the release of Going Strange, his debut release as R.J.F. While Ceremony’s more recent post-punk-leaning material and SPICE’s exploratory alt-rock might spiritually prepare the listener for what to expect with Going Strange, it still ends up sounding quite unlike any of Farrar’s previous music projects. The album is presented on streaming services as a single 47-minute track–though the music all flows continuously, it does feel like there are discreet “songs” with stopping and starting points hidden here (and this is confirmed by how the record is laid out on Bandcamp), so I’d file this more as a “stylistic choice” than a necessity.

Taking in Going Strange all at once gives one the feeling of witnessing someone cautiously and deliberately figuring out how to make and present music in a new way. The record begins intriguingly with a floating instrumental opening, before establishing the minimal sound that most of Going Strange takes–for the first few “songs” (“Farrow’s Birthday”, “Totem of Love”, “Peace in Anger”), the record steps forward to the pace of a probing bassline, some synth accents, and Farrar’s low-key but capable vocals (as barebones as his accompaniment can be, Farrar still sings on this album). The bright keyboard and drum machine that kicks in at the beginning of “Cutting” is a welcome surprise, veering into pretty lo-fi pop–Farrar moves back into bass-driven, rhythmic post-punk afterwards, but at this point it sounds a bit “fuller” than the first third of the record. Going Strange engages in a bit of symmetry by drifting off towards its ending, although it also features a piano-soundtracked piece of spoken word and a subsequent outro in “Cleveland” that pushes it into ambient music territory. Nevertheless, Going Strange ends with one last song (“Emelie’s Dream”) in which Farrar’s bass and trippy synths are joined by prominent handclaps—he never stops moving forward and trying on new ideas. (Bandcamp link)

Feast of the Epiphany – Significance

Release date: February 22nd
Record label: Strategy of Tension
Genre: Art pop, synthpop
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: A Further Flame

New York’s Nick Podgurski has played in the bands GRID, Extra Life, MONAD, and Yukon, and has also been making music under the name Feast of the Epiphany for over a decade. Podgurski frequently takes on the role of drummer in his various musical collaborations, but he does a bit of everything (piano, synths, guitar, and bass, in addition to writing and singing the songs) on Significance, the latest Feast of the Epiphany record. Podgurski has made music all over the map, genre-wise, but Significance clearly carves out its own niche—slow-moving, deliberate, ornate 80s-influenced art pop. Although Significance’s artwork evokes the world of early 80s synthpop records (and there’s definitely some of that in there), Significance takes the busyness of that kind of music and merges it with the record’s biggest single reference point–the carefully-constructed, orchestrated wide-open sound of later Talk Talk records.

Significance sounds cinematic, and that’s intentional–Podgurski created the record as the soundtrack for a nonexistent film. Podgurski and his collaborators on the album–a diverse group befitting of the bandleader’s background, featuring musicians who have played with Lydia Lunch and Robert Fripp and members of everything from Dust Star to Gorguts–guide these ten songs deftly through movements and turns. Podgurski’s soaring, melodic voice is always the center of Significance, and its most frequent accompaniment is a warm, droning synth. A lot of Significance is built around sustaining a specific mood, and its moments of transition (like when the explosive start of “A Further Flame” unravels) take their time to feel natural. Some of the less-synthetic touches on Significance (like Tony Gedrich’s upright bass on the opening track, or Cameron Wisch’s live drums in a few songs, most notably the title track) stick out among the washes of keyboards, but that’s not a bug–it’s just another way Significance feels living. (Bandcamp link)

Weird Numbers – Weird Numbers

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Dandy Boy
Genre: Post-punk, garage punk
Formats: Cassette, digital
Pull Track: Uzis and Bikinis

Weird Numbers are four-piece West Coast punk rock band that formed in Seattle from the ashes of several Pacific Northwest groups that I’m just going to trust are real and not made up (Wasted USA, The Girls, Tourist, Maniac)–guitarist/vocalist Zache Davis has since moved to Los Angeles, but he and the rest of the group (bassist Collin Griffiths, drummer Ethan Jacobsen, and keyboardist/guitarist Alex Robert) have kept Weird Numbers going across multiple state lines. Their debut EP came out on Dirt Cult Records back in 2019, and their Dandy Boy-released first full-length record (featuring a couple songs re-recorded from that EP but mostly new material) shows off a sound well in-line with their first label’s brand of garage punk, but one distinct on its own as well. Weird Numbers’ ten songs are delivered with the measured, straight-faced nature of post-punk, but also pulsate with a scuzzy, dirty punk rock energy underneath the sleek exterior. 

“Green” begins the record with a basketball-dribbling rhythm section and a mostly-deadpan delivery from Davis. The first half of Weird Numbers keeps all of these ingredients intact, even when the band dip into a few more garage rock-flavored tracks like “Pretty Punctual” and “Switching the Code”. Weird Numbers balance their furious rock band energy and post-punk restraint throughout the record, pulling it off impressively on tightly-constructed tracks like “Truth to Tease” and the hypnotic “Soda”. Weird Numbers ends with the requisite six-minute scorcher, “Uzis and Bikinis” (re-used from their debut EP, but no complaints from me here). Davis pushes his vocals on this one as the band trek forward determinedly, building to a big finish where Davis is, frenetically, “drowning in pastis and regret”. Weird Numbers takes a refined-sounding tour through the scummy–by the end of the record, it makes sense that it’s permeated everything. (Bandcamp link)

Spencer Dobbs – If the Moon Don’t Turn Its Back on You

Release date: March 3rd
Record label: Dust Press
Genre: Outsider folk, blues
Formats: Digital
Pull Track: Funeral Band

There’s not too much information about Spencer Dobbs out there. The singer-songwriter hails from Texas, and has been making music for at least a decade, although the earlier releases under the name don’t appear to exist online anywhere at the moment. The two most recent Spencer Dobbs releases have come out through Dust Press, a label that appears to exist solely to publish Dobbs’ music. If the Moon Don’t Turn Its Back on You follows last year’s Bayou Keening, and the label has referred to it as an “archival” album. It’s listed on streaming services as being from 2004–are these songs nearly twenty years old? It’s certainly possible–the music of If the Moon Don’t Turn Its Back on You offers little to nothing in terms of timestamping itself.

If the Moon Don’t Turn Its Back on You is a haunted, lost-sounding album. It’s sparse, empty-space folk music that erupts itself into feedback-laden electric guitar outbursts when it sees fit to do so. It reminds me more than anything else of a post-rock Simon Joyner–comparisons to fellow Texas outsider Jandek would also not be off-base here. Opening track “Funeral Band” is nearly seven minutes and harrowing, with its unmoored, bluesy electric folk rock building and deconstructing itself over the song’s length. From the screeching riffs of “Barbed Wire” to the slowly-advancing “Heaven”, If the Moon Don’t Turn Its Back on You finds a lot to mine in this sound, although the record closes with a couple acoustic, more purely folk songs and “Choir”, which sounds like a Spencer Dobbs version of what the title implies and sends the record off on an appropriately spiritual note. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable: 

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