Boy King Islands - Fall (Plustapes, 2010; Eat Concrete, 2011)
Format: Cassette (run of 200 copies); LP, Digital
1. Math Is Christ
2. Wear You Well
4. Dead Friend
5. Hellos After Goodbyes
6. I Talk to The Wind
7. Feeling Nowhere
8. Lights in The Sky
11. Ghost Walk
Boy King Islands is:
Keyboards, Guitars, Mbira, Harmonica, Noise & Field Recordings
Words, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Drums and Percussion
Additional love from Jacob Croegaert (Bass on 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 & 10) and Elizabeth Hunt (Background Vocals on 4, 5 and 10, and Rhodes on 6).
All songs written & produced by Boy King Islands (Diaspora Movement, ASCAP and He Heard Himself Say, BMI) except "I Talk to The Wind" by King Crimson (McDonald, Sinfield), published by BMG Music, Inc.
Recorded by Boy King Islands in Chicago and NYC, with engineering assistance from Keith Kreuser, Jordan Lieb and Teren Foggi.
Mixed and mastered by Keith Kreuser at Croatia, Chicago.
Images from Someoddpilot
Friends and musical collaborators for nearly 20 years, Zachary Mastoon (better known as Caural) and Jason Hunt saw the first hints of Boy King Islands emerge in the summer of 1995. Outside in a park together at twilight, their improvisation unfolded as the basis for "Feeling Nowhere" - an emotive and melancholy progression magically unforgotten years later.
Named after a painting by the hugely prolific outsider artist Henry Darger, the duo of Boy King Islands was resurrected in the winter of 2002 when - then roommates - they stretched microphone chords around doors and through thin walls of their north side Chicago apartment to capture the beginnings of what would become their debut: buzzing Fender guitars with the gnarl of tube distortion; the tines of a Rhodes or the warm hum of a Wurlitzer; an mbira plucked through a wah pedal or a wooden box with broken glass and beads shook as percussion; and Mastoon's whispery and always doubled vocals swimming in a wash of crashing cymbals.
Mastoon returned to NYC that next year but, when not on tour or working on releases as Caural, he and Jason sent each other ideas to be fleshed out in infrequent studio sessions deftly engineered by their friend Keith Kreuser. Years later, the resulting collection of fuzzy and swirling shoegaze-influenced pop music spanning nearly 8 years was mixed in Chicago where the two began: with nostalgic echoes but eyes gazing forward.
Listen to it loudly.
Chicago duo Boy King Islands are Zachary Mastoon and Jason Hunt, two musicians who've spent the better part of their lives in bands playing music they've fallen in love with and then subsequently fallen out of love with. Not so with this new project, where a re-imagining of noisy yet poppy shoegaze rock music is forming around swirling guitars and walls of sounds, a handful of instruments and vocals that, at first listen, don't seem to belong.
It's the 1990's all over again with Boy King Islands, which mixes the best of Ride and The Jesus & Mary Chain's influence on indie rock with a bit of Thurston Moore-ish delivery, collegiate pop from the Midwest and a bunch of other mile-markers that you should skip over and just listen to the songs already instead. Also, listing out instruments like guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, Mbira, field recordings, ambient noise, etc. is helpful in getting further entrapped.
Fall, the debut record from this band, isn't entirely new but is now being carried on cassette release via Chicago's Plustapes label. It's a very limited-edition run (200 copies on cassette and includes a digital download), but the album is available on iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody as well.
01 Math Is Christ
02 Wear You Well
04 Dead Friend
05 Hellos After Goodbyes
01 I Talk To The Wind
02 Feeling Nowhere
03 Lights In The Sky
04 August a
06 Ghost Walk
Boy King Islands’ debut release has been a long time coming. The Chicago shoegaze duo is comprised of long-time friends Zachary Mastoon (who also plays under the alias Caural) and Jason Hunt, who’ve been collaborating musically for more than sixteen years. Back in 2003, they made the project official, naming it for one of Henry Darger’s fantastical watercolor paintings. While the band seemed to be an abandoned effort, going several years without any results, the duo has finally come through and released their first full-length, Fall.
The 11-song album blends Mastoon’s more conventional instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard) and Hunt’s stranger sounds (Mbira, field recordings, ambient noise, harmonica) into a steady flow of warm, dreamy, introspective rock. Even its most upbeat tracks, like opener “Math is Christ,” are hazed over with layers of fuzz and distortion. “Dead friend,” is an expectedly more somber track, featuring discordant guitars, deep, heavy bass, tons of distortion, and whispered vocals lost somewhere in the background. And “Atlantean” is yet another densely textured track, opening with pleasant, harmonic strumming then shifting into wavering, droning guitar and mellow, almost spoken vocals.
Despite its lush texture, the album has a distinct lo-fi, basement-recorded feel, due in part to the excessive distortion. Some tracks seem at times more like amorphous fuzz rather than coherent compositions; for example, the duo’s cover of King Crimson’s “I Talk to the Wind” is so woozy and fuzzed out it could make your eyelids droop. The duo also chose to keep the album sample- and sequencing-free, relying mostly on manual instrumentation recorded through microphones. Fitting to this lo-fi aesthetic, Fall is available in oldfangled cassette format through local cassette label Plus Tapes. But if you prefer an iPod over a tape deck, worry not, because each copy also comes with a digital download copy. Check it out for yourself, and keep your ears open for word of a possible cassette release show.
- Sarah Cobarrubias
Local cassette-only label PLUS TAPES has just released a new trinket for your tape deck from two-piece BOY KING ISLANDS. Fall, their new album, features 11 songs, including a totally sublime cover of King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind." Boy King Islands is the project of townies JASON HUNT and ZACHARY MASTOON; Mastoon is probably best known to listeners for his electronica/weird-hop production work as CAURAL. This tape is limited to 200 and includes a digital download code, in case your Walkman goes on the fritz.
- Jessica Hopper and J.R. Nelson
Chicago’s Boy King Islands new album, Fall, is meticulously complex in creation, but simplistic in sound. Working within the heady and lo-fi post-rock arena, the duo of Jason Hunt and Zachary Mastoon have created a very impressive first album filled with gorgeous, sleepy, cerebral rock.
Together since 2003, Hunt and Mastoon pull elements from influences like My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., and Elliott Smith, which can be heard resonating through each of their songs. Mastoon’s high tenor voice is unobtrusive and blends deliciously with the shimmery keyboards, chimey guitars, and cymbal laden drums.
The first song on the album is a tongue-in-cheek ditty entitled “Math is Christ”. It’s an upbeat (about as fast paced as they get), catchy piece layered with creamy Rhodes, delayed guitars, and fuzzy vocals. Mastoon sings cheerfully in the chorus, “Math is Christ, the devil’s in details, but everything exists just for me”.
“Dead Friend”, shows more of a darker side to the band and shows the heavy influence of My Bloody Valentine. The mood is changed entirely with Mastoon’s voice becoming breathier and blending even further into the instrumentation. Hunt and he drive the song with intense tribal drums, fuzzy clashing guitars sounds and heavy bass lines.
They again lighten it up a little in the first half of “Hellos after Goodbyes”, but leave their little face-melting surprise for the second part of the song. Using an acoustic with a light tremolo, Mastoon plays with airy harmonic vocals, exposing his Elliott Smith side. The steady quiet sound of feedback is threaded throughout the song, building a tension that explodes a minute and a half later. Screaming psychedelic guitar riffs, heavy crashing drums and bass on overdrive come roaring in, leaving you in awe of the diversity this band can pull off all in one song.
Another highlight on the album, “Atlantean” takes you on a little bit of a journey. The song opens simply with nearly surf rock-ish guitars and builds upon itself with keyboards, a lazy drum beat, and two part harmony vocals, eventually moving toward a crescendo of layered music and natural sound.
Boy King Islands are masters at blending their songs so that no one element is overwhelming. Distinct and cleverly composed, Fall takes the listener back to a time when music was slow, deliberate and meaningful for listeners; when rock wasn’t all wailing guitars riffs and lead vocal-centric, but emotional and intelligent.
- Britni Day
Loudlooppress.com (Top Ten of 2010)
I have to start off by stating my belief that My Bloody Valentine is the quintessential shoegaze band (and, yes, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins fall under this as well, but I’m not talking about them). The endless crashing off-set guitars, tinkle of occasional keys and thunderous drums while buried somewhere beneath drift the soft murmur of vocals.
All that having been explained, I don’t consider Boy King Islands shoegaze. I don’t even consider them nugaze – which really is a horrid name for the post- rock, shoegaze-inspired movement because it sounds like numetal and I think that numetal is the worst thing to plague human existence since Britney Spears and the Ebola virus. However, I do think that BKI is in a category of their own, which is why they made my top ten list.
I came across this album by miracle. Seriously. It was handed off to me by another LoudLoopPress.com staff member who wanted to listen to metal that day. And the metal gods must have been smiling down on me, because Fall happened to be a gift of the ages. Rich, fuzzy ambient lo-fi post-rock with lackadaisical Elliot Smith-esque vocals that have a dirty habit of twisting themselves into drilling guitar riffs with heavy bass lines and driving drums fill this album.
Boy King Islands make intelligent music, blending element into element with surgical precision and adding cheeky but clever lyrics to boot (“Math is Christ, the devil’s in details, but everything exists just for me”). Every song is unexpected but always a refreshing welcome blow to the ears. My favorite part of Boy King Islands? These boys love a tasty Rhodes piano with their clashing guitar as much as I do. Delicious.
- Britni Day
Boy King Islands is a collaborative effort long in the making. Zachary Mastoon and Jason Hunt's current project has roots reaching 15 years back to a summer evening in Chicago. The two have a long history of musical collaboration, and their extensive experience in other fields of music has manifested itself in their first public recordings. So named for the work of outsider artist Henry Darger, Boy King Islands' (as yet untitled) debut album's sprawling, lush textures exhibit a deep esteem for shoegaze, while the serene flow and attention to sonic detail are a clear reflection of Mastoon's earlier work in electronic music. Standout track "Wear You Well" encapsulates their ethos well - heavenly keys, cymbal wash, and a warm blanket of fuzz brush up against each other in hypnotic proportion. Boy King Islands have spent several years building this album piecemeal, yet the final product's cohesion speaks volumes to their artistic focus.
Granted, this probably sounds like a bio. That's because I wrote it as a bio for a newsletter. Still, these songs kind of rule, and I recommend everybody give it a listen at least. The chordwork is excellent and the production is above reproach. Also, there's a cover of "I Talk To The Wind" from the first King Crimson album which substitutes out about 3 minutes of flute solo for streamlined, textured excellence.
- Jon Ozaksut