Rex (Southern Records)
An early version of slowcore band rex originated in Maine in 1989, but then dissolved as some members moved to New York. Soon after, drummer Doug Scharin started devoting his time to slowcore innovators Codeine. In 1994, rex restarted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. From the beginning the band, which at its core is a trio with Curtis Harvey on guitar and vocals and Phil Spirito on bass, wanted to include strings, specifically cello. Kirsten Maccord became the first of many string players to contribute to the band's unique sound. rex used a DIY 4 track recording approach more out of necessity than belief, with Doug handling the engineering duties. After a few live shows their self-titled debut was picked up by Southern Records and released that same year. This record fluctuates wildly between gentle meandering guitar lines, powerful emotive vocals and weird burnout psychedelic dreamscapes.
The follow up to the first album was a 10" vinyl only release called waltz. The EP brought in aspects of old time music to add to the already complex mix. The band's next album, C, recorded by Brian Deck at Idful studios in Chicago revealed a significantly more mature version of Rex. The slow, rolling nature of the band was augmented by the addition of string arrangements and more emotionally refined vocals with focused lyrics. Well received by the critics, C established rex's unique variety of slowcore/post rock. The band's ties to Chicago incited a collaboration with Red Red Meat, released under the name of Loftus as well as the addition of Julie Liu on violin and viola. After many tours with this new quartet the band was ready to record their final record of that era. With the album 3 the band refined the steady, driving nature of C into a more complex soundscape. They successfully shifted their gritty grungy slowcore sound with a cleaner, gentler post-rock sound.
The band's maturity signaled a further emphasis on clarity and composition, as opposed to previous efforts where crescendoing bursts of emotional power defined their art. At the end of 1998, after several tours to support the album 3 the group dissolved as all three members focused on their own projects. Harvey under his own name, Scharin under the name HIM and Spirito under the name oRSo.Later on in 99 Spirito and Scharin moved to Chicago. The band had a summit in 2012 to play music, eat, hang out and strategize about rereleasing their records. After many attempts to get their masters back from Southern records failed, the three went back to their lives and other activities. In 2021 Rex was contacted by Numero Group to do a full re-release of all their records. Numero helped to negotiate the release of the masters and in 2022 rex’s music is finally being released digitally for the first time. This positive movement built the momentum to get back together and play live again and start to record some new music together. Although Harvey, Spirito and Scharin live in three different corners of the country they are excited to be working together again although is is very different from when the lived in the same loft together in Brooklyn.
Snake Oil was established in 2011 by Jason Labbe and began as a collective of over a dozen musicians, living all over the country, who used home recording technologies and file sharing to collaborate on three hard-to-categorize instrumental releases: a self-titled LP, a 7” EP, and a second LP titled The Train is White and the Moon is Strong. Over the next several years, a core line-up of musicians emerged and Snake Oil regularly took to the stage, sharing bills with bands as diverse as Mates of State, Acid Mothers Temple, and Deerhoof. A commission by NPR’s Story Corps brought the band out of a short hiatus with a new line-up, and before long Snake Oil’s latest LP, Dying of Sunsets, was released on Safety Meeting Records. Departing from their usual recording process, the new album was tracked live to 2” tape at Brooklyn’s Seaside Lounge by Charles Burst and Jason Labbe. This record also marked a drastic stylistic change for the band, with vocals by keyboardist Emily Lee (Shearwater, Loma, Fiery Furnaces) and guitarist Kelly L’Heureux (Atrina). Their vocally-driven arrangements act as compliment and counterpoint to the fuzzy psychedelic instrumentals, continuing to draw on influences ranging from Sabbath to CAN to Bitches Brew.
Mesmer is a new project consisting of many members from band of CT old name of Crag Mask. It’s alternative rock with a hint of slime. It’s punk junk with a glimmer of grime. With nearly 100 on going demos that might never get finished, the only way to hear it is to see them live style.