Reviews – November 2017

Blaha Fresh Horse 7″ (Slovenly)
Mike Blaha wrote and recorded this 7″ EP himself, with cover art provided by Jim Blaha. Seems like a cool family! Maybe one day I’ll randomly meet Dustin or Christine Blaha and finagle an invite to A Very Blaha Christmas. I’m sure Mike got a guitar one year and caused quite a racket, as this three-song 7″ EP is stomping punk rock that stares the -abilly suffix in the face, at least until one side blinks. “Fresh Horse” is more or less a one-man-band take on Mayyors – the drumming and picking are distinctly Mayyors-esque, and the track that immediately follows, “All My Cells”, starts on basically the same note and tempo, but shifts toward a more raucous ho-down. I’d again defer to rock- or punk-abilly, but I don’t want to scare you off because this is quite enjoyable music. “The Day We Were Born” chills out a bit, taking Dinosaur Jr. into consideration in the sun-bleached slacker melody and mellow vocal delivery, with the simplicity of a couple overdubbed guitars and a repetitive one-handed drum-beat. I heard some people laughing as the song ended, which seemed like a cool trick until I realized it was my neighbors cavorting outside with some guests. Someone should try layering home-recorded family chatter in their fuzz-soaked garage-rock, I might be onto something!

Bless Bless 7″ (DZ Tapes)
DC’s just brimming with cool side-projects of side-projects (what fun is it to be a main-project anyway?), including Bless, featuring members of Flasher and Big Hush. Pretty weird vibe here, but one that I’m fully enjoying. Bless seem to be simultaneously celebrating and mocking the millenial-whoop phenomenon on “Yr Always On T.V.” – big beats, a couple well-paired melodies, lots of backing vocals and a lead vocalist who seems to be channeling Ian Svenonius channeling Steve Harvey. I couldn’t help but flip it for “Sick Puppy” which is just as fun and bouncy, seasoned with cool percussive tics, a little Thomas Dolby synth/neuroses and a manic energy that I don’t normally associate with indie-rock. It’s even more raucous on the comparatively-straightforward “Chameleon”, which feels like Elvis Costello spiritually inhabited by the crazy dancing guy from Future Islands. Gotta hand it to Bless for really coming up with their own formula, one that is both familiar and strange, but most importantly a lot of fun to hear. Jah would be proud.

The Brain Too Much To Dream / First Steps 7″ (High Fashion Industries)
My guard instantly goes up when hardcore-punk types have a new band that’s “psychedelic”. I’ve started to think playing psychedelic music is like the opposite of straight-edge: if you weren’t always, you’re not now. Maybe that’s unfair of me? The Brain’s Alican Koc was in Total Trash earlier this decade, and now he’s doing The Brain, and for what it’s worth, this two-song single is perfectly fine. “Too Much To Dream” is a song that doesn’t progress, it simply varies in speed and intensity, starting with a slow-burn that leads to a comparatively furious crescendo and then back down. Vocals are layered, echoed and mostly indecipherable, although I say this as someone who’s third eye is tightly shut. “First Steps” is more traditionally structured, with a bass-line that Wooden Shjips would’ve ripped, pumped-up drumming and a natural energy – no sense of tie-dyed cosplay here. The mix is full of effects but never muffled, and it feels like a band behaving the only way they know how, as opposed to taking a vacation from their punk roots. You know, now that you mention it, I would like a hit from your alien bong if the offer still stands.

Neil Campbell & Richard Youngs Six Scores LP (Shaking Box)
Here are two of Great Britain’s best and freakiest improvisers, Neil Campbell (of the Vibracathedral Orchestra among others) and Richard Youngs (so wild, his last name is permanently pluralized). I love these two guys, but I’m also slightly apprehensive to check out any given record of theirs, as they’re just as likely to churn out some devilish work of genius as a pointlessly awful lark at the listener’s expense. That’s part of the excitement, though, and Six Scores is nothing but fun. Credits go to Youngs on the violin and Campbell on the Casio, both providing “voice”, but they must’ve severely mucked those two things up with a variety of effects pedals, as this record sounds more like a bubbling electronic curry than a keyboard with string accompaniment. I’m reminded of Richard Youngs’ very cool Like A Neuron LP, in that a vague sense of techno is subverted here through innumerable processes, from babbling voices to distorted frequencies that are closer to a theremin-enhanced guitar than the credited instrumentation. Although the scores are varied in their direction (and often quite hilarious), these tracks are similar in sonic construction, with various electronic processes scurrying about, under and over each other like ants in a vast underground colony. Well done!

Christmas Pets Glow / Hipbone 7″ (no label)
Even though it seems like there are more labels than ever before, all clamoring to release more music than each other, there are still some fine bands out there either too new or too anti-social to get involved with anyone except the customer service reps at United or Gotta Groove. Christmas Pets seem to be one of them, and this two-song single is pleasant, don’t-call-it-indie rock from somewhere in Ohio. “Glow” is an idiosyncratic strummer that works quite nicely, recalling some ancient demo track discarded by The Embarrassment or The Feelies long ago. It’s also easy enough to enjoy that, had Christmas Pets existed twenty years ago and turned the ear of Kurt Loder, they could’ve squeezed between R.E.M., Len and Harvey Danger on an MTV alterna-block and all would be fine. “Hipbone” picks up the pace with an upbeat drum machine and zany synth squiggles, as if Imperial Teen were booked for a Yo Gabba Gabba! appearance. Non-threatening, non-normal, and fun for everyone. Now I can’t help but wonder, how is Kurt Loder doing these days?

Daywand Real Time Ruin LP (Vanishing Daze)
Daywand’s 2012 debut LP was a left-field fave back then, so I was excited to hear Real Time Ruin, another obscure, outsider slice of electronic production in a pressing of merely one hundred copies that probably still won’t sell out for a while. It’s been a few years, and Daywand has clearly caught a severe case of Sample Fever since then, as this record is a melting pot of samples both familiar and foreign, all smushed together in hopes that it makes some sort of sense. The instrumental to Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” is slowed and bombarded with an assortment of incongruous samples and sounds, for example. It’s like a mix of the whimsical hip-hop fun provided by Handsome Boy Modeling School and the corroded basement electronics of FRKSE, or something close to it. Real Time Ruin is a beat-centric record for sure, but the beats aren’t particularly notable in and of themselves, it’s all the wildly firing synapses that take place simultaneously that gives the album its strange flavor. It’s like The Avalanches if they weren’t avalanches but merely a big chunk of melty snow falling off a suburban roof onto a 2002 Honda Accord, denting its hood. You know, real-time ruin.

Albert DeMuth Supports Corporate Rights 7″ (no label)
Albert DeMuth supports what?! On this new self-released 7″ single, DeMuth takes on the persona of a WWE heel, and the suit fits this peculiar indie outsider well. “Corporate rights” comes up frequently in the lyrics to the a-side track, “Call The Police”, which utilizes a Dr. Seuss-ish rhyming scheme over a brutally down-picked riff that must’ve crawled over from Swans’ Cop album. Definitely the most aggressive tune I’ve heard from DeMuth, and perfect for some corporate office break-room mosh sessions. “Reservoir Ave (Edit)” is on the flip, and it’s a cool splash of aloe by comparison – picture a loop found on the basement floor of Ashra or Manuel Göttsching, slowly awoken until reaching its frantic conclusion. Two different tastes here and they pair nicely. This 7″ comes packaged in an attractive silk-screened sleeve, although it pales in comparison to the lavish presentation of DeMuth’s two LPs. He could’ve only really topped those by packaging Supports Corporate Rights in a hand-carved rosewood chest, but that doesn’t make me any less disappointed that he didn’t.

Dirty & His Fists Dirty & His Fists 7″ (Feel It)
At first glance, I was hoping the main guy from Dirty Dirt & The Dirts finally put together a new group, but it seems to be an entirely different squad: five swipe-rights outta Los Angeles or one of its many suburbs. On one hand, I feel like the vast history of punk music is likely to suffocate any new band attempting to conquer the musical style, but then how are so many modern bands so good at it, so quickly? This four-song EP is supporting evidence, as Dirty & His Fists play classic spiky-boots melodic punk at an incredibly high level. I’m immediately thinking of Adolescents, Code Of Honor, Agent Orange and modern talents like Video and The Love Triangle when listening, as well as images of Christian Hosoi flying high above the coping, grainy photos of punks outside The Masque and the teenage years of Keith Morris’s memoir. When compared to the wacky thrash and grindcore that emanated from Los Angeles in the ’00s, it’s kind of stunning how serious and sophisticated the music of Dirty & His Fists is, like they were grown from a lab in Kevin Moody’s backyard or something. I say they need to get an LP out immediately, on the chance that the magic they’ve captured here is merely temporary.

DJ Central & Erika Casier Drive 12″ (Regelbau)
Lately I’ve been dipping into the Regelbau discography, most notably with the hefty DJ Sports album from a few months back and this 12″ from DJ Central & Erika Casier. This Danish label has been gaining recognition (hell, it finally made it to Yellow Green Red!) and rightfully so, as “Drive” is one of the most instantly-infectious and soothing cuts of downtempo break-beat house I’ve heard this year. I suppose nothing about “Drive (First Mix)” could be considered unique or startling: stuttering breaks, hovering synths, a soft vocal melody bouncing on top. The thing is though, when all of these elements converge at just the right spot, with the perfect vocalist for the job (Casier’s voice is a gorgeous vehicle for these coy, unguarded lyrics), this form of music is pure heavenly manna, and “Drive” is one such instance. I’m reminded of the first time I heard Luomo’s “Tessio” in the instantaneous bond formed by the softly-lit synths and vocal melody. It’s stirring! On this 12″, you also get “Drive (Ambient Mix)” which pulls out the drums, almost frozen in time if it wasn’t for Casier’s speedy vocal. The flip features the aforementioned DJ Sports with a “Club Mix”, which blots of some of the original’s emotional embrace with hip-house beats and a punchier groove that is built for, dare I guess, the club. Pretty essential slab of 2017 house right here!

Dog Trash Temple LP (Drop Medium / 100% Breakfast)
I’ve known a few groups named Dog in my day, and they’ve all been pretty good, this new one being no exception. They’re really carrying the Load Records torch here with their debut full-length, a menacing mess of noise-rock and no-wave that immediately falls off the stage and rolls around in the filth beneath, even on one of those winter evenings where everyone tracked snow and salt and dirt into the venue. Dog don’t care! Trash Temple is full of disco beats with barnacle-crusted hi-hats and guitars with extremely chipped paint finishes, and you can practically smell the burnt wires deep in someone’s amp. Kinda like Tinsel Teeth with less tinsel, more teeth. For much of the record, the vocalist appears to be snapping and growling, avoiding any formal language, but then by the third track her repetitive barking took the form of recognizable English, or at least brief snippets of such. Nice! The whole affair is really quite sloppy, with songs prone to dissolution (“Path Over Sleeping Mountain Giant” works this nicely, like a miniature Air Conditioning cut), but that’s how I want it – leave the technical, proggy noise-rock to someone else, Dog know what’s up.

86 Gemini 86 Gemini 7″ (High Fashion Industries)
More new hardcore outta Chicago here from 86 Gemini, who play their last show November 4th (if their Bandcamp page is to be believed). So you’ve got four days to celebrate 86 Gemini as an active group, make it count! They’re pretty cool, if fairly garden-variety modern hardcore: gruff vocals, slashing guitars, mean-mugging breakdowns and synthesized interludes (which I guess is the one aspect that strays from the herd). The cymbals sound particularly crappy, but a good kinda crappy, like they found the crash jammed in the air duct of their practice space and decided to use it. Vocals have just the right amount of echo (scream with your inside an aluminum garbage can at home for a similar effect), and there’s really nothing to dislike here, although it’s the drumming that’s my favorite part (and the quilt-sized newsprint insert that barely fits inside the sleeve when folded is a nice touch). The music is not quite remarkable enough for my ears to fully perk up, however – if they were on a modern day Process Of Elimination, they’d be the Violent Apathy (a step up from Youth Patrol, of course). That said, it’s still sad to see them go. Hopefully they all wind up playing punk somewhere else soon, or at least give that drum kit to someone else who can.

Eroders Eroders 7″ (It’s Trash!)
Beachfront property owners better beware, here comes Eroders! They’re a Detroit rock trio, offering four songs of pleasantly predictable punk rock. They come in on the bluesy, roots-rock end of things, somewhere near The Flesh Eaters, The Fleshtones and Poison’s Flesh & Blood album. Just kidding about that last one, I’m simply trying to amuse myself over here, as I’m sure Eroders are down for some foolish fun too. They have a time-tested, well-worn sound, essentially worn to the point where I never need to hear a new band play it ever again, but there’s a snug tautness to Eroders delivery that has me thinking the drummer at the very least thinks as highly of the Urinals classic “Ack Ack Ack” as I do. I prefer their simplistic and repetitive moods to their cowboy-ish hooting and hollering, but as this EP features four songs, fans of both methods will leave at least semi-satisfied.

F ingers Awkwardly Blissing Out LP (Blackest Ever Black)
It took Awkwardly Blissing Out for me to finally stop recoiling at the band name “F ingers”. It’s just so unlikeably pretentious, but then again what are you coming to the Blackest Ever Black label for, wholesome middlebrow fun? F ingers make pretentious music as well, of course, but I like it a lot, especially on this record. These songs are generally constructed with dub bass, 8-bit sonar blips, effects-laden electronics and vocals (wordless and cut-up or occasionally in the form of discernible lyrics), and what can I say, it’s an equation that pays dividends. I’m crazy about Carla dal Forno’s new EP, and as a member of F ingers, I appreciate that she neglects pop structure or hook-based melody here, instead drifting off into a different region of her brain where neurons connect over entirely different stimuli. At least two thirds of the group are Australian, but Awkwardly Blissing Out feels British to me, following other high-minded post-industrial pursuits – Lemon Kittens, Diana Rogerson and Nocturnal Emissions (or perhaps Caroline K. in particular) come to mind while listening, as does Charles Hayward’s post-This Heat productions. It’s distant and impenetrable and cool as hell.

High Boys World Dumbination EP 12″ (Höga Nord)
Couldn’t resist scooping up this 12″ EP based on the fact that the group is called High Boys, one of whom is Joachim Nordwall (he of The Skull Defekts and the iDEAL label), and the bad pun title. I’m easy to please. I had suspicions that Nordwall’s involvement in an ostensibly traditional techno group might have some interesting twists or turns, but perhaps the interesting twist is that World Dumbination is not particularly interesting at all. That’s not to say it’s not good – these four tracks are rigid and basic templates of downer techno. Elements of trance are notable, but quickly eclipsed by the sharp, icy textures of analog gear befitting a Rrose record. Rrose, however, would pummel things into oblivion, like a hammer that doesn’t stop after the nail is already fully embedded, but High Boys never push things to the point of breaking. Actually, the production here fits the idea of two literally high boys, content to leave things on repeat while ever-so-slowly turning two knobs in opposite directions. I’m not sure I’ll be checking out another High Boys 12″ unless it comes with a trustworthy recommendation, but the claustrophobic acid of “This Is The Captain Speaking” is worth blaring at an enemy at least once.

Honey New Moody Judy LP (Wharf Cat)
As more and more Brooklyn bars, venues and record stores close to make way for Duane Reades that only accept Taskrabbit personal shoppers, underground rock bands somehow persist, like Honey for example. This is their second album, and my first time hearing them. It’s pretty good, treading similar paths to Destruction Unit, Dead Moon, Comets On Fire, Purling Hiss, Hound, hell I’ll even generously say The Stooges, but it’s a style of music where “pretty good” doesn’t necessarily get you much. There’s just so many astoundingly great rock records out there, and no one person can possibly hear them all (except maybe that one guy in Brazil who owns 7.4 billion records?)… New Moody Judy doesn’t really make a case as to why you need to hear it. They’re not rude, or braggadocious, or undeniably cool, or outrageous, or funny, or incisively smart… they’re just a trio of dudes rocking out on some moderately-hot riffs in search of a good time. The mileage you might get out of it depends on how hard up you are for this sorta thing – for me, it varies on mood, and if I simply need to hear a squealing guitar over an up-tempo beat, Honey will do just fine. It’s moments of discerning taste where I might need something a little stronger.

ISS Endless Pussyfooting LP (Erste Theke Tonträger)
The most meta punk record ever? ISS is a duo consisting of Edwin Schneider (Brain F≠) and Rich Ivey (Whatever Brains), and they create new punk songs out of old ones, quite literally in fact. Allegedly every drum loop is sampled from punk records (a few are certainly familiar, but I can’t ascribe provenance with complete confidence), upon which they play bass and various other samples, sounds, voices, maybe even a guitar or two. It’s definitely a conceptual project, and I don’t normally equate conceptualism with solid post-punk, but ISS are really onto something here. Perhaps it succeeds because the drums are generally basic enough that they never overpower the songs themselves, and Ivey’s familiar vocals tie things together nicely with a number of catchy hooks and outlandish samples. Their irreverent attitude reminds me of great semi-joke punk like Men’s Recovery Project and Sexy Prison, but ISS don’t lose sight of the songwriting in the process – if I didn’t know any better and simply heard Endless Pussyfooting, I’d have thought it was a cool new post-punk thing with a vague familiarity. Plus, it’s like an expert-edition Punk Trivia game (“wow, that’s a slowed-down X-Ray Spex sax solo into Sakevi from GISM’s trademark nyeah!“) molded inside a fun and cynical post-punk album, quite ingenious indeed!

JASSS Weightless 2xLP (iDEAL Recordings)
At this point I’m checking in with iDEAL monthly to see what they’ve got, and it’s an errand that’s paying off. It’s how I found out about JASSS, a Spanish “sound designer”, and now that I know about her, I’m going to locate her earlier 12″s on Mannequin as well. Weightless is a great album, one that nods at industrial techno, Belgian new-beat, modern post-noise experimentalism and various other sounds, be they seductive, strange or stinky. Spanish industrial legends Esplendor Geometrico are a reasonable touchstone for JASSS, both by geographical proximity and sonic similarity, although JASSS is clearly digesting far more than industrial synth music. Arabian percussion will highlight a track, just as the sound of swishing water and overheard conversations will pepper a queasy, beatless stretch of time. It’s all grist for her mill, but it comes through as a cohesive album full of trapdoors and booby-traps – it’s a singular construction, but one’s personal safety is never guaranteed. Try to jam on the warbly bass and percussion that kicks five minutes into “Danza” and see if an unexpected dust-storm doesn’t send you flying. Who among us doesn’t want to jam hard into unexpected disorientation?

Lebenden Toten Mind Parasites LP (Overthrow / Lebenden Toten)
There’s been a chorus of voices I trust heralding Lebenden Toten as one of punk’s modern pinnacles over the years, and while I’ve never previously shared that sentiment, Mind Parasites is where it finally clicks for me. I enjoyed their other records (show me a better 8″ released in 2007 than Death Culture Deprivation!), but they always seemed like part of the noise-punk pack, whereas Mind Parasites presents a strong case for Lebenden Toten’s uniqueness and greatness while still proudly tethered to punk’s rich lineage. Most songs here operate on a strict economy: raging drum patterns heavy on the toms, clear and full bass-line, Vitamix guitar noise and angry vocal chirping. It’s a fantastic recording, one that feels robust in spite of the fact that it’s really only a bass guitar providing the heft, full of piercing noise that never feel lo-fi or distorted and memorably primitive songwriting. And I didn’t even mention the Klaus Schulze-esque synth on the title track! It’s a short album (which is the perfect length for any punk record that isn’t a two-song single), the art is rich with horrifying detail, and if I wasn’t sold before, I’m completely drinking the Lebenden Toten Kool-Aid now. In a way, Mind Parasites is the closest contemporary punk record to Septic Death’s Need So Much Attention, in that the music is raging and distinct (and utterly baffling at times), with a sense of both masochistic dementia and sincere anger bleeding through each tune and the carefully constructed art (and poster insert). No wonder people are buying up rare Lebenden Toten tapes and Japan-only 7″s just to hear alternate mixes of songs they already know. Doesn’t get much more Septic Death-ier than that.

Calvin LeCompte Zagat Rated LP (Winston Taylor)
From what I can gather, Calvin LeCompte is an artist moonlighting as a musician. Or maybe he’s a musician moonlighting as an artist moonlighting as a musician? Who can really tell – all I know is that his record comes from Manhattan, the same bustling metropolitan where Zagat Rated‘s release show was held, in an art gallery as opposed to a traditional show space. It’s entertainingly baffling, but I wish his music added to the mystique, or at least took some painfully uncomfortable left-turn into unlistenability. He was slowly seducing me with his image, record art and packaging but the spell wore off once I gave it a listen. Zagat Rated is six songs of slow and simplistic guitar with vocal accompaniment. There is barely enough energy for survival, the vocals are mixed so that his lyrics are unintelligible, and hooks are avoided in deference to a meek despondency, as if LeCompte recorded these six songs immediately after getting dumped and falling down a flight of basement stairs. It sounds like something I’d hear nestled on a Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club compilation, the sort of barely-there singer/songwriter music I’d anxiously sit through while waiting to hear some scorched indie-crud from Gang Wizard or Minmae. Maybe Manhattan loves this stuff now, though? I mean, have you seen the way New York socialites are dressing these days?

Cindy Lee Malenkost LP (Maple Death / W.25th)
Like a surprisingly high number of cool things, Cindy Lee comes from Canada. It’s the work of one Patrick Flegel, who fronted the group Women (not the grandest of band names), and I can see why labels both American and Italian are clamoring to release their work – it’s quite good! Opening tune “No Worth No Cost” is an unexpected engine fire, complete with large plume of black exhaust. It’s as if someone looped bits of Harry Pussy’s first LP and tried to pretend like folk songs could be sung on top without ill consequence. A mixtape-worthy tune if there ever was one – I actually might go make a mixtape just for the sake of opening with it. The rest of the record isn’t always as acerbic, as much of Malenkost plays out like heartbroken doo-wop, or the slowest Velvets tunes, or Introducing… by US Girls. It’s presumably a solo project, but the instrumentation seems to be live, although I am not educated on the specifics of how it all went down. I do love to imagine that Cindy Lee recruited multiple guitarists for the stark interrogation of “No Worth No Cost”, at the very least. All in all, a great mix of lo-fi art-pop, caterwauling guitar abuse and blurry emotion.

Minor Science Whities 012 12″ (Whities)
I’m fully locked-in on the Whities label at this point, even through records I am not completely on-board with (like that recent Lanark Artefax), but this new Minor Science pleases to the fullest. I want to hear club-aware electronic music that is one or two steps ahead of everyone else from Whities, and Minor Science could very well be the label’s poster-boy for such. It’s the work of Angus Finlayson, a Resident Advisor contributor, and his passion for modern dance music goes beyond an ability to sense it, but to create it as well – “Volumes” is one of the most instantly-recognizable tracks I’ve heard this year. It floats on pristine synths and new-age pads given a modern upgrade, as if Joy Orbison was remixing K. Leimer, and a vocal snippet predicts the volume change, announcing either “soft” or “loud” immediately before the track follows suit. It’s silly, but the track’s clean sophistication ensures no one is taking it as a joke. You can be cool and have fun; how nice of Finlayson to give it to us both ways! “Another Moon” is on the flip, and the title fits, as it sounds like a couple of Star Wars droids (the current trilogy, undoubtedly) sharing polite conversation on a cosmopolitan roof-deck where holographic spiritual entities of The Misshapes are projected onto a 3D-printed DJ booth. I’d step out onto the dance-floor and bust some moves, but my oxygen infusion drip hasn’t finished yet.

Mount Kimbie Love What Survives 2xLP (Warp)
Electronic duo Mount Kimbie have been around since dubstep essentially fell apart (2009 or so), and they’ve always been ahead of the curve in its wake. On Love What Survives, their first album since 2013, they step aside from forward-minded bass and IDM constructions, taking the moment to essentially fabricate their own band that’s not really a band. What could be more 2017? It’s as if Mount Kimbie took this album as the opportunity to create a stunning Spotify playlist of hip new electronic / post-punk groups, but instead of gathering existing songs, they brought on board some of their favorite vocalists and generated brand new alt-pop tunes for them to sing on. James Blake sings on a couple songs that sound very much like James Blake (the nimble and graceful piano underpinning “How We Got By” is his signature style), Archy Marshall sings on a subterranean post-punk stomp that’s probably exactly what Iceage’s next album will sound like (I love it), and Micachu lends her voice to a tropical Arthur Russell-esque groove. And I have to say, it’s all quite fantastic! If these songs weren’t as immediately catchy and cool and slightly foreign-sounding, the concept might fall apart, but Love What Survives is consistently entertaining… enthralling, even. Once you get past the fact that hundreds of Thom Yorke fans are probably as thrilled by Love What Survives as you are, the enjoyment is really quite endless.

Nasti Big Achievements LP (Iron Lung)
Not sure which came first, the band name or the sound, but “Nasti” certainly describes the music produced by this hardcore quintet. The art fits the bill too, lots of demented Nick Blinko-esque scribblings care of band member Riley Kerr, including a poster that includes hundreds (thousands?) of spiders. But let’s get to the music: Nasti are a modern-sounding hardcore band, full of gnarly mid-tempo riffing, a surplus of effected guitar noise, quick stompers and stretched-out dirges. I’d triangulate them somewhere between United Mutation, Hoax and Cult Ritual, although like most modern bands I’m sure they’re only citing Void, Rudimentary Peni and various obscure Japanese flexis as inspiration (I’m still waiting on a Manbiki Chocolate 8″ flexi tribute group to emerge). It’s not too far from that recent Bad Breeding album on Iron Lung either, although Nasti are a bit scrappier, less heavy. Had this group shown up ten years earlier, they would’ve been a revelation for sure, but hearing them now, they strike me as an above-average entry into your modern underground hardcore playlist, which of course is a fine place to be.

Obnox Murder Radio LP (Ever/Never)
Obnox… Murder Radio… turn that shit up!*** This is Obnox’s 306th album of the year, on track to complete his “one new album every day in 2017” goal. At least it feels like it, right? The man, Bim Thomas, cranks them out effortlessly, enlisting various contributors and friends along the way, and Murder Radio stands up nicely next to the rest. This one is noisy and rock-centric, which works for me, but there’s still plenty of inexplicable weirdness, psychedelic torment and occasional forays into hip-hop to keep things from blending together. At times, I’m reminded of the earliest and most ear-squelching Purling Hiss material, or Timmy’s Organism’s rawest singles, in that many of these cuts (like “Deep” for instance) seem to melt into a mass of plastic and environmentally-harmful gasses, as if the Murder Radio master tapes were delivered on the same plate that just microwaved Thomas’s dinner. It all works quite well, and as he’s backed up by none other than Pere Ubu’s drummer this time around, I can only hope there’s more respect from the old guard of garage-rock headed his way. Here’s hoping we can give this one enough of a proper listen before Obnox drops something new, which of course is a fine problem to have.

Overdose Support Try Dying LP (Kaos Kontrol)
Overdose Support is a misleading name for this Helsinki-stationed noise-rock group – it seems like they’re far more likely to condone and encourage one’s depraved behavior than come to their aid after things go south. They clearly inhabit a world without party consequences, and I hope they enjoy the time they spend there, as we all know it’s a temporary existence. Although maybe in Finland you can be a party monster well into your 40s and it’s still a reasonable look? Overall, Try Dying is pretty cool, melding a few divergent sonic strains to the classic noise-rock aesthetic. Much of the material here is pretty fast for the genre – dirges are few and far between, as Overdose Support favor jumpy beats and punk speeds. Much of the riffage reminds me of At The Drive-In, actually, with upbeat and mathy (but not too mathy) rhythms, but performed here with the sonic disturbances one might expect to find on a Dope-Guns-N’-Fucking compilation. The singer gives it his all, often warbling like Jello Biafra on Monster Energy (a frightening thought indeed). Not a crucial record unless you’re low on Finnish noise-rock debauchery, but if that’s the case, do not delay any further.

Radiation Risks Headless Horseman 7″ flexi (Feral Kid)
I better start writing about this 7″ flexi soon while it’s still playable – I’m not sure where they got it “pressed”, but it seems to be on some sort of glossy paper rather than plastic, the sort of thing that might disintegrate in my hand on a particularly humid day. It’s a fitting medium for Buffalo’s Radiation Risk, another mutant-friendly hardcore group with tastelessly abstracted artwork. They’ve got a Coneheads-y sort of caffeinated down-picking / clean guitar with airtight drums thing going on, augmented by sax (played melodically, not as a noise prop or Brainbombs motif), and it works for me! Even on these barely-existent flexi grooves, these songs jump out strong, punk that likes to party but stays on the right side of silliness, scumming up these speedy tunes with a gruff vocalist (and some loopy circus organ on the second cut, “Nancy”). From a strictly sonic perspective, they’re kinda like the midpoint between Coneheads and Downtown Boys; it’s a fairly wide chasm, but I’m sure they’ve probably played together in some small town in Oklahoma or Iowa at one time or another. If their paths should ever meet again, I recommend they plan ahead and see if Radiation Risks wanna come play, too.

Rash Skinner Box LP (High Fashion Industries)
Got an itch for modern hardcore-punk outta Chicago? If so, it might be Rash! I should probably end the review there, but High Fashion Industries was gracious enough to send a copy in so I’ll extrapolate a little further. They’ve got the current hardcore style down, which is to say artwork that seems inspired by late ’00s Youth Attack mixed with Swans circa Filth (who would’ve guessed twenty years ago that at least one person would be wearing that Swans teeth shirt at any given hardcore show?). Musically, it’s not quite as obviously contemporary – no excessive use of noise, no pogo-punk drumming, no feigned incompetency in hopes of being perceived as authentic mutants. (There is, however, the requisite “listen to how insane I am” dirge care of “The Hole Under A Soapbox”.) Rather, Rash fall on the heavier end of the underground punk spectrum, where it feels like Die Kreuzen and His Hero Is Gone had an equally profound impact. I’m reminded a bit of short-lived NYC group Pollution, perhaps Citizen’s Arrest too, although Rash seem to change parts with greater frequency than either of those two, with merely a smidge of stompy AmRep vibes. Pretty cool stuff – I doubt it’ll blow your mind, dear reader, but there’s a good chance Skinner Box will rehabilitate it after a particularly lousy day of work, school, or whatever.

Seeping Go To Hell, You Bastards! 12″ (Resistance/Restraint)
Mark Groves is the man behind the Red Wine & Sugar project (reviewed here last month), but that’s not all he does with his free time. He also collaborates with David Coen in Seeping, who pair Groves’s manipulated vocals with thick industrial electronics, and they do so quite sharply might I add. It verges on industrial techno, but Seeping seem disinterested in provoking their audience to dance; the closest the audience might get is a staunch fist-pump, head facing downward, as thoughts such as “life is pain!” and “the universe is meaningless!” flash through their brains. At times, the bass is so deep and low that it barely registers at all (time to upgrade my Sony boombox to a Sonance Kayak), like an Emptyset record played two apartments over, but it seems that subtlety and creeping menace are integral parts to Seeping’s aesthetic, versus macho feats of strength. It might be a little too background-y for those looking to be properly bludgeoned, but there’s plenty of other bludgeon-centric records out there already – Seeping are here for you after the bruises are already set, an ominously comfortable leather chair ready to stick to your sweaty backside.

Ricardo Villalobos Empirical House 2xLP ([a:rpia:r])
So long as Ricardo Villalobos keeps putting out new albums, I’ll keep checking them out – we’re essentially life partners at this point. This one has a cool title (is it a new genre?) and it’s quite typical for anyone familiar with Vasco, Sei Es Drum, Alcachofa or Dependent And Happy. That’s to say, it’s effervescent tech-house that is at once both stagnant and constantly changing, like watching the shadows cast on a building slowly morph as clouds float by. The percussion seems to come from his familiar toolkit of blips, snaps, pops and drums on these four lengthy cuts, and while there is essentially nothing groundbreaking happening here, I keep reaching for it each time I remember that this album exists. Opener “Widodo” breezes in some light jazz over a “Billie Jean” bass-line run through a random tone generator, all while various hypnagogic conversations pass through. “Bakasecc” is like a freshly uncorked bottle of carbonated Luciano, “Subpad” is classic carsick Villalobos, and the title tracks wraps things with the slippery slap of tree-frogs mating in a rubber tree, enhanced by the hushed groan of a man who ate a little too much. I’m almost curious to know what Villalobos personally gets out of making tracks like these, as he’s been making similar music for so long now, but then I remember that I’m crazy about listening to these new cuts and that there’s no reason to overthink the joy he has bestowed upon us.

Writhing Squares Too Summer Singles Series 2017 7″ (Richie)
Barely making the summer deadline, Richie Records delivers a second year of their 7″ singles series. I’ve been known to enjoy singles in each of the four seasons, so it doesn’t matter when they show up as far as I’m concerned. I’m simply happy to enjoy this two-sided, one-song 7″ from Writhing Squares Too, aka Writhing Squares supplemented by Ben Leaphart (Purling Hiss), Max Milgram (Watery Love) and Mary Lattimore (Mary Lattimore). They’re going full-on next-galaxy krautrock here, driving the van off the edge of the planet and bending spacetime in the process. Leaphart is a master of playing a beat longer than other drummers, and his bloodshot determination is the glue that holds the rest of these rambunctious players together. No idea what Lattimore is playing here – could be a harp, but everything sounds so amplified and fiery, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was mashing an effects-laden keyboard. Ultimately, who cares who’s doing what, as Writhing Squares Too is a testament to the power of the egoless collective, five seekers of the truth blasting it out for a couple dozen people inside a venue named Kungfu Necktie.

***To be sung to the tune of Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerilla Radio”

Reviews – October 2017

Asda McDonald’s Prayer 12″ (No Corner)
Much in the way that many people around the world crave McDonald’s, I crave the music of Asda, the British spoken-word / rhythmic-electronics duo whose 12″ EP was high on my 2016 best-of list. This new one is quite cheeky indeed, as the a-side exclusively contains “McDonald’s Prayer”, another great cut of their distinct lyricism and tweaked electronics. The catch here is that it’s under a minute long! Shades of Napalm Death’s “You Suffer” on split 7″, for sure. The b-side features two standard-length remixes, one from Japan Blues that fills in the empty grime framework of the original with some stylish 808 beats and chops the vocal into a dance-friendly sample. The other comes from Ossia, who retains a bit more of the vocal and continues to avoid any form of 4/4 thump, allowing the electronic buzzers and bells to flap in the dirty evening breeze. Very strong cut, but I want to hear more Asda material that comes direct from the source, unedited and undubbed. For the time being, I’ll carry around this nearly-empty 12″ like a fool, but a smiling fool!

As Longitude Blauer Part 12″ (Knekelhuis)
Strongly feeling this 12″ EP from Berlin’s As Longitude on the fantastic Knekelhuis label, whose releases I’ve been scurrying to gather. As Longitude deliver a very potent form of left-field synth-wave here, five tracks of flexible bass, barely-coherent sampling and sickly grooves, all delivered at a most leisurely pace. I’m reminded of Esplendor Geometrico’s mid-’80s work, when their industrial harshness gave way to tangy hyper-color, as well as BGM’s Back Ground Music album in the unhurried rhythms and bizarre choice of sounds. It’s like a food-poisoned form of instrumental electronic pop, music that snaps and grooves with the best of ’em as it tries to hide the illness beneath. Each track is great (and they all work exceptionally well together), but I’ll give the personal recommendation to “Kalte Fusse”, which feels like Yellow Magic Orchestra trying to cover a Tangerine Dream soundtrack theme with their toes. Actually, the menacing wobble of the title track might be my favorite, like Kraftwerk undergoing chemotherapy, if I can continue the health metaphor. Regardless of personal faves, this EP is a big winner!

Michael Beach Gravity/Repulsion LP (Spectacular Commodity)
Melbourne’s Michael Beach is back with a new album, just in time for the Australian summer! I liked his previous album from 2014, although it’s probably been that long since I last listened to it, and Gravity/Repulsion is quite similar to what I can recall. Reminds me of the strong lineage of American rock troubadours, combining the sound of various decades the way that many artists do these days (’60s folk rock, ’70s proto-punk, ’80s power-pop and ’90s indie sliced thinly and wrapped in brown paper). For much of the record, Beach’s voice reminds me of Steve Gunn, although the music is far more indebted to the first-wave CBGBs rock scene than, say, The Grateful Dead. Although I’m sure there’s some Deadspiration in Beach’s songbook, too! Drummer Utrillo Kushner (of the late great Comets On Fire) pushes things to a more frenzied atmosphere, charging through his rolls and fills as if he could transform these laid-back rock songs into hardcore thrash by sheer will. Very pleasant, stately music, about as respectable as you can be while still being a rocker. Is this what The National sounds like? I’m curious, but still not curious enough to actually check out The National.

Blank Veins A Guest / Taken Out 7″ (UNC)
Blank Veins continue their reign as Greece’s preeminent noise-punk group, issuing limited singles with the frequency of the Olympic games. One might think the presumed lack of local competition would allow them to rest on their laurels a bit, but the songs here stack up against any international challenger. “A Guest” has the locomotive pace of Mayyors with the addition of a squawking saxophone. It’s essentially one part, and I would be perfectly content if they played the track two or three times as long – they found a natural and noisy groove, so they’ve earned the right to sit in it as long as they want. “Taken Out” is a bit more relaxed, a grungy Brainbombs-esque riff with indiscriminate shouting over top. And of course, the sax player can’t resist getting in on the action here as well, wiling out over the perpetual riff. Not a lot of flair here, just two rugged cuts, a-side fast and b-side slow, ready to tear a chunk out of your stereo if you crank it appropriately.

Burial Rodent 10″ (Hyperdub)
Somehow missed talking about Burial’s other recent-ish 10″, Subtemple – could it be that I’m taking him for granted? It’s probably more that I thought it was a little boring, comparatively, but this new one, Rodent, is great. I love when Burial aims for the ‘floor, and there’s no denying the club appeal of “Rodent”. It’s like he’s gone Paul Oakenfold or something, with a softened tech-house beat that’s surprisingly direct. Even the disembodied vocal hook, a move that Burial essentially originated, is less ghostly and more corporeal here – I can actually picture a person singing it, as opposed to a violet-colored mist sweetly emanating it. It’s barely four minutes long, and Kode9 remixes it for the b-side (just as Burial’s career began), hard-panning a shredded version of the melody until it sounds like Ripatti remixing JJ Fad. Could’ve fit on a 7″, but Burial’s crowd would’ve probably been turned off by such a small format, and the much-maligned 10″ seems more in line with Burial’s aesthetic, refusing to fit neatly in any box.

Cobra Man New Driveway Soundtrack LP (Goner / Danger Collective)
Can someone seriously go check on the Goner folks, and make sure they’re okay? This is the second retro-schlock synth project they’ve released in the past few months, and I’m starting to get concerned. Has the tried and true garage-rock sound stopped fulfilling their hearts and desires? Or is this some doctor-prescribed cheese-centric diet? I don’t get it. Anyway, Cobra Man is a Los Angelean duo, and while I know that Sarah Rayne comes from a Barsuk recording artist called Babes, I don’t know Andy Harry’s punk lineage, although I get the feeling he was probably playing music that sounded more like Carbonas than ABBA a few years ago. But here we are, with an intentionally corny romp through ’70s roller-disco and ’80s Italo. I suppose the songs are alright for an obvious genre LARP, even if Harry’s vocal range is more suited to a Spits cover band than The Erotic Drum Band, but I can’t get over the feeling that the group is constantly giggling “can you believe we actually play music like this?” as I listen. It’s more Har Mar Superstar than Golden Teacher, that’s for sure, and compared to the last M83 album that mines essentially the same territory (and completely rules), the disparity of talent is evident. There are a couple punk-ish tunes that bridge the gap between the rest of the album and their presumably punk background pretty decently, but they’re the minority. In a world of Yandy.com costumes, Cobra Man is pure “Disco Stud” – is that really what you wanna be for Halloween this year?

Depressor Depressor LP (Fuck Yoga)
I’ve always had a personal affinity for the genre of “stench-core”. I’m not entirely sure what it describes, or how its parameters are set, but c’mon, stench-core, you must know it when you hear it, right? I’m thinking Depressor, whose 1995 self-titled album is finally seeing the light of day care of Fuck Yoga, must fit the bill. They land somewhere near the collision of industrial, metal and hardcore, and seeing as this album was recorded in 1995, that’s no retrofit, they were there. Strong vibes of Neurosis, Deviated Instinct and Unsane are present, with programmed drums in lieu of a live drummer, sludgy guitars and gruff death-metal vocals. It sure sounds like it reeks! I’m picturing lots of dreads, black t-shirts with the sleeves cut off eons ago and the shirts themselves faded to some sort of taupe, a background in Profane Existence’s catalog and inner-city squatting. It’s a solid style all around, and Depressor certainly do right by it. Turns out they did a split 7″ with Agathocles a while back – I guess I could’ve cut right to the chase and told you that immediately. If there’s a greater sign of stench-core approval I have yet to find it.

Ellen & The Degenerates Herb Alert 7″ (What’s For Breakfast?)
This pun-based band-name is an easy layup… I’m surprised it took someone this long! Nicely done. They’re a Brooklyn group, but don’t expect aloof coolness or obscure retro specificity, these fools are content to play time-tested speed-punk, directly descending from The Ramones, The Spits, The Donnas, Screeching Weasel ad infinitum. I can’t say that Ellen & The Degenerates significantly stand out from the faceless horde of pop-minded punk groups over the past forty years (holy crap it’s really been that long now), but they do have that name, and their songs are well-recorded (it’s got a solid low-end that many bands lack). As well, vocalist Elena Barrio (the titular “Ellen”) conveys a lot of personality in these songs, most notably in the rapid-fire delivery of “Fair To Me”, which feels like a forgotten ’90s alterna-hit (in a good way). Actually, the more I listen, the more these songs are sticking with me, if not due to specific hooks but the energy of the group and the fun they seem to be having. Makes me wish I was moonlighting in a pop-punk band to open for them… anyone have any good Dr. Phil puns?

Glands Of External Secretion Backlist Colander With Holes Shaped Like Numbers / Bok Choy Festival 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
The Glands are back in town! The long-running duo of Seymour Glass and Barbara Manning is an expert fit for I Dischi Del Barone, bringing their decades of weirdness experience to this young and impressive 7″ label. They haven’t lost a step here, either, as both tracks are fascinating dips into the unknown. “Backlit Colander With Holes Shaped Like Numbers” is a glorious number – small bubbles pop as a guitar softly reverberates and various snippets of humans casually saying outrageous things (“you walk around with melted butter in your hand”) lead the mix. It eventually twiddles off into a hazy pink fog, as if you just imagined the people you were hearing. “Bok Choy Festival” pushes further out, with high-pitched tweaks and muffled voices coming from under the floorboards as an ancient typewriter drafts your final will and testament, capped off by a braying donkey. It’s inspiring to think that these two freaks have been birthing bizarre audio-collage nonsense psychedelia for over two decades and are clearly as inspired today as they were back then.

Goli Deca Mania LP (Fuck Yoga)
Goli Deca are a Macedonian metal trio, and whatever image that conjures in your head, I am certain they both surpass and conflict it. I love speed metal myself (what kinda fool doesn’t?), but there is something that can be supremely satisfying about glacially-paced metal, particularly when it doesn’t get fancy or proud of itself but instead wallows in the misery and pain that such heaviness can exacerbate. That’s what Goli Deca are delivering here! Think of Swans’ Children Of God with any sense of gothic fancy or tunefulness sucked out, Corrupted’s infinite dirge philosophy cut into edible chunks, or Chaos Echoes’ heightened sense of tension through anti-gravity black-metal riffs. Goli Deca have a good thing going for sure, as the riffs (or lack thereof) are perfectly primitive, with drums acting more as heavy-duty punctuation than any sort of rhythmic element. No fun seems to be had here – Mania is a conjuring of dark forces, not in any sort of Satanic or religious way but more primal and inexplicable. It feels like what you’d expect an occult dungeon ceremony to sound like, and as two of the three members of Goli Deca are sporting facial piercings that do not correlate to their nose, brow or lips, I have to wonder if they haven’t undergone some sort of dark-arts piercing ritual themselves. Maybe if I show them my belly ring, they’ll let me drink some of their home-brewed vodka before we stalk the forest after dark?

Philippe Hallais An American Hero LP (Modern Love)
Responsible for some of my favorite weirdly-aggressive modern techno records under the aliases Low Jack and B-Ball Joints, Philippe Hallais decided to step out under his birth name for this album on the distinguished Modern Love imprint. I was psyched to hear it, being such a big fan of his other work, and while it’s perfectly fine, I won’t be returning to it very often. An American Hero fits in with artists like Arca, Lanark Artefax, Lee Gamble, Mana – post-modern sonic architects who are strongly invested in obscure digital wreckage and the furthest limits of one’s laptop memory. I totally get the excitement in going deep into an intricate mess of sound files, where new-age ambiance is bit-crushed by the weight of a million digital elephants or a pair of synth tones are mapped onto an image of Justin Bieber (and the resulting raw data compressed back into FLAC format), but as a listener, this sort of thing is compelling once, twice, maybe three times, and that’s kind of it. And I think recording under his own name, in a move that seems to imply gravitas or a personal self-reflection, is a little annoying, because this seems like the least personal music of all to me – the psychotic pill-tongued raves of Low Jack, the BattleBot insanity of B-Ball Joints, that’s where Hallais’s personality is fully on display! Now that everyone can buy a Macbook with a petabyte of memory, I assume projects like this will continue to flood Boomkat’s new arrivals… I just hope the artists I love can resist the temptation of mouse-clicking deep into their own navels.

Katastrof Katastrof 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Katastrof is the newest project from a couple of Swedish d-beat lifers, namely Totalitär’s Poffen on vocals and Martin Lindqvist of Herätys responsible for everything else (which in this case is the standard lineup of guitar, bass and drums). These four songs are unsurprisingly true to the form: galloping beats, down-tuned heavy guitars, screamed vocals and just a tasteful touch of Motörhead-esque guitar leads. I dunno, this is probably hardcore heresy (or more accurately, kätteri), but this specific form of Swedish hardcore never did much for me. Something about the riff-rock tendencies that underpin it, or the drums’ 95% DNA match to any given Strung Out or No Use For A Name song, or the fairly clean recording, or the fine-but-generic vocals just leaves me wanting to hear something else. Probably a combination of all of the above. I love this style when it is either fiercely amateurish and rotten (see Discharge, Shitlickers, etc.) or overworked to the brink of explosion (see Framtid, Kriegshög, etc.), but Katastrof dwells in the middle ground between the various hardcore extremes, and while I applaud them for their mastery of the style, I’ll leave records like this for someone else to enjoy.

Lone Taxidermist Trifle LP (Memetune)
Fascinating debut here from London’s Lone Taxidermist, an artist utilizing every form of media (audio, video, print, baked goods) to her own nefarious ends. I’ll talk about the music first: Lone Taxidermist are a four-piece group in the studio, more or less fusing synth-pop, post-punk and electro. Imagine some sort of midpoint between Björk, Maximum Joy, Kid Creole and The Residents… music built for impish dancing, the soundtrack for scampering off after a devilish prank. Vocalist / band-leader Natalie Sharp’s voice really pushes these tunes to a heightened enthusiasm, recalling Ari Up’s playful range, as likely to charm you as destroy your bedroom with a lawn edger. These songs are great fun, catchy and queer, but it’s the full Lone Taxidermist aesthetic that really makes this a can’t-miss happening. Trifle is also a famous British custard dessert (I had to Google it, which is shameful considering my deep appreciation of dessert), and Lone Taxidermist views gluttonous, sugary, slimy dessert treats through the lens of a perverse fetishist. It fits in with all those other YouTube videos of G-rated fetishes, like balloon popping or stepping on figurines, where decadent food is rendered sexual and grotesque (or tantalizing, depending on your point of view). Perhaps if Gazelle Twin fully adopted the snack-rock aesthetic of The Go-Nuts, her music would come out like Lone Taxidermist? Or Peaches, with lots and lots of cream. All I know is I’m ready for a thick slice, either to gracefully consume or abruptly face-plant into.

Gabi Losoncy Security Besides Love LP (Recital)
Took a chance on this LP by Gabi Losoncy for a few reasons: she’s a Philadelphia resident, she was a part of the hyper-obscure duo Good Area who did an album on Kye, and Security Besides Love comes to us from Recital, Ian William Craig’s label, and he seems pretty cool. I’ve run through Security Besides Love a couple times now, and that’s probably all I’ll need for a good while, but it’s a journey I’m glad to have taken. Losoncy is clearly an Artist with a capital A, and while that is very much not the world I inhabit, she clearly has developed her own keen view of reality and how real life can be transformed into thoughtful art. Take “Part One”, the first side of this two-track LP. It’s a fifteen minute recording of her on the bus (or subway, but I’m going with bus), wherein another passenger gripes, rants and converses as the hum of the vehicle rises and falls with each stop. If you pay full attention, you can follow some of the speaker’s sorrows, drug- or family-related, but it’s the shuttering hardware of the bus and tonal shift of the engine that really sucked me in. On the flip, there’s another long diatribe, this time coming from Losoncy herself over a skipping CD or frozen computer. She describes her take on art and creation in a long sprawl that is at once eloquent and seemingly improvised, as if she is forming her own ideas milliseconds before speaking them. I can’t imagine talking to no one for fifteen minutes about making music or art, so kudos to her! Perfect track to clear the room of anyone but the freakiest of thinkers. I’m sure Ian William Craig grinned his way through the whole thing.

Machine Woman When Lobster Comes Home 12″ (Technicolour)
Machine Woman keeps knocking me out with her masterful 12″ singles, and this new one for the Technicolour label is no exception. She’s always had a dry sense of humor (I desperately need to hear the cassette she released entitled Thank You Slipknot), but she turns it up here with the track names. I mean, it’s not since the heyday of Usurp Synapse and Neil Perry were we treated to such lengthy, ridiculous titles: “Camile From Ohm Makes Me Feel Loved”, “But It Was Like 30 Intros In A Row”, and “I Want To Fuck Tech House”. Tell me that last one shouldn’t be a bumper sticker! Her playfulness is evident in her productions too, as this is her most carefree 12″ yet. “Camile From Ohm” bumps hard, with a healthy mid-range squiggle and frequent deployment of the Mortal Kombat narrator declaring “fatality”. The “30 Intros” cut is even better, calling to mind peak Melchior Productions with woozy organ, melted vocal hooks and a particularly rusty hi-hat. “I Want To Fuck Tech House” seems to do just that, forcing what must’ve at one point been a standard techno cut into an impatient throb that one could only smoothly dance to if they insisted on it. It feels like she’s one step ahead of the rest of us, and I intend to continue following along.

The Monoliths The Monoliths LP (Mastermind)
Danish trio The Monoliths have been kicking around their idyllic city for a few years now, finally offering up their debut full-length. When I read the terms “Copenhagen” and “noisy punk” in the same context, there’s already a specific image in my head, and I have to say that it’s certainly not The Monoliths. But rather than the mysteriously menacing artistic grandeur of the Posh Isolation label, The Monoliths are kicking up a dusty mess of blue-collar, domestic-beer punk. Or maybe if The Monoliths are drinking Bud Light, it’s imported? I’m getting off topic, sorry. The Monoliths call to mind Feedtime, but also a large chunk of the Headache Records roster. I’m hearing Niblick Henbane and Limecell in particular… queue up Limecell’s “Marlboro Miles” next to any given track off The Monoliths and tell me those vocalists couldn’t be twin brothers. There might be an aesthetic connection to Watery Love too, but The Monoliths have much more of a ’90s street-punk sound than Watery Love’s lo-fi style. I’m honestly surprised at how much I enjoy The Monoliths’s take on it – their songs are simplistic and not particularly interesting, but it’s the vocalist’s frustrated yowling, in what seems to be an American accent, for which I have such an affinity. Frustrated, semi-drunken white guys yelling up a storm is a beautifully universal language, after all.

Neo Neos The Hammer Of Civilization 7″ (It’s Trash!)
At first I was a little annoyed at this band – who do they think they are, calling themselves the Neo Neos? I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental, but I’d feel the same way if a 7″ by Deeper Wound or Greenest Gang Green showed up. All it took was a couple spins to truly fall in love with this group, though, which doesn’t happen that often around here. So many modern punk bands are interchangeably great, but Neo Neos really have something special going on. Stupid, barely-coherent riffs; poorly-recorded drums; outrageous teenage-snot vocals, like the littlest nephew of Deep Wound’s Charlie Nakajima or a pre-teen Jeff McDonald; the thrilling amateurism of Maniax… it all comes together here for a stunning punk tableau. I’m hearing Count Vertigo and The Urinals as well, but Neo Neos are probably a little more self-aware, although it doesn’t work against them. They’ve got multiple speeds too, from mid-tempo despondency to blazing low-volume thrash ala the original Neos. It’s a crowded arena these days, when it comes to spiky little nuisance punk, but Neo Neos are a true cut above. It’s a keeper for sure, and I’m excited to forget it exists in a year or two, then find it again, scoff at the name once more, and get blown away all over again.

Pallas Pallas 12″ (Drop Medium)
Very cool seven-song debut EP from Atlanta’s Pallas care of the Drop Medium label (who constantly confuse me because “Designer Medium” is credited as the label on the cover, but alas). If Pallas was still fishing for a DIY record deal, I would’ve pointed them toward Sister Polygon, as this seems like the right kind of fit: way-cool post-punk with oddball delivery and dance-ready drumming written and performed by a group of not-all-dudes. Imagine Gauche’s jittery jams with Deerhoof’s time signatures and an Americanized Anika harmonizing like she’s got a publishing deal with 4AD. Or maybe if Grass Widow were as weed-centric as their name implied and they mellowed their minds before a studio sesh. Sounds like a good combo, right? Pallas certainly have it going on, with tricky songs that sound slick and an unassailably cool presentation. Discogs files it under post-punk, no wave and shoegaze simultaneously, and while that seems like a pretty sticky situation, Pallas dance across those distinct genres with pizazz.

Pandemix Scale Models Of Atrocities LP (Boss Tuneage)
Pandemix are a politically-charged punk band out of Boston, and the vibe suits them – tell me you couldn’t imagine seeing “Pandemix” written out in some cool bristly font along the butt-flap of a studded leather jacket. I’ve been hearing their name around for a while now, one of those “can’t miss” bands playing one of the many hardcore-punk fests happening in the Northeast US, and I’m pleased to have finally made their acquaintance here. Based on my assumptions, Scale Models Of Atrocities isn’t quite what I was expecting… just by the nature of today’s scene, I anticipated down-tuned street-punk riffs played at Bone Awl speed, raucous pogo-punk or even zany angular Devo worship, but Pandemix are far removed from any of that. Rather, they fit right in with the American political punk of the ’90s – I’m hearing Defiance and Aus Rotten in their mid-paced, anthemic sound, from the spoken-word intros to the dour melodies. Certainly the type of band I’d expect Slug & Lettuce to fawn over after an ABC No Rio matinee performance that Fleas & Lice headlined. It’s not a sound I was expecting to hear again anytime soon, and while it’s never been my personal favorite, Pandemix are rightful torchbearers, remaining steadfastly underground as other outspoken politi-punk peers seek larger audiences and studio budgets.

Prom Nite Dancing To This Beat LP (Barfbag)
Prom Nite are a new punk band outta Toronto, and they’re behaving like most new underground punk bands, releasing various tapes before stepping to vinyl. Dancing To This Beat is my first exposure, and I can see why a label as esteemed as “Barfbag Records” would jump on a band like Prom Nite, as they’ve really got the goods. They’ve got a great style, very slick and trashy, like Redd Kross’s streetwise swagger mixed with the inscrutable attitude of CCTV. Musically, I’m reminded of Warm Bodies and Joint D≠ without the hardcore influence, in that these groups zig and zag through these fast punk songs, twisting and turning in unexpected ways – it’s music that must take a bit of practicing to get down, no doubt. The vocals are great too, delivered in the same disinterested, too-cool tone of JJ Doll’s Sara Abruna. Prom Nite’s Anya (whose last name I couldn’t locate) doesn’t necessarily sing along to the rhythm – sure, she’ll do that, but she’s just as likely to lose herself in a stream of consciousness tirade that flows over the manic riffing. Very nice! She rarely raises her voice to a scream or yell, which adds a flair of personality that perma-shout vocalists lack. I’m impressed that so many newer punk bands are able to make such crafty, intricate punk music that is still undeniably punk and not something else, of which Prom Nite are a fine Canadian example.

The Rebel Poems With Water Trilogy LP (Monofonus Press)
The singular voice of The Rebel is something to be treasured. It’s the name Ben Wallers of The Country Teasers has been recording under since the early ’00s, leaving behind a trail of scattered singles, tapes, albums and CDs, collaborations and one-offs, inside jokes and studied compositions, the whole gamut. A discography such as this can be daunting to enter, so it’s with pleasure that I can assure you that Poems With Water Trilogy is a satisfying affair for obsessive fans and dabbling newcomers alike. A variety of modes are explored here: lightweight Casio pop, post-punk strummers, musique concrète, avant-garde spoken-word, nonsensical noise, and at least one track to prominently feature accordion. Wallers can turn a hook in the most unlikely of places – give the man an analog answering machine and he could hand you a finished album on one of those microcassettes the following morning. Lyrically, there seems to be a loose theme regarding misogyny, patriarchy, men and women, often delivered in crude and offensive terms. It’s pretty classic Rebel, a world unto himself, and while it might sound as though this album is a scattershot collection, it works great as an album (although you could also just drop the needle randomly and be entertained just the same). What else could you hope for from an artist whose logo is a swastika helplessly bent out of shape?

Red Wine And Sugar Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders LP (Index Clean)
Red Wine And Sugar are a curiously-named project out of Melbourne, Australia and this is their debut LP. Kind of a strange design, with the “song” lyrics emblazoned across the cover as though it were a misprinted inner sleeve, but the strange is certainly best suited for this duo. The similarity to The Shadow Ring is undeniable: these tracks are comprised of various thuds, ticks, beeps, crackles and other bits of sonic ephemera as a studio-deepened male voice recites eerie non sequiturs. “The only place sacred from interruption / Is the private toilet / Swallow them down whole, / Absent-mindedly and with little relish” is what you’ll hear this Australian-accented Frankenstein say as car doors slam shut and a synth’s “low battery” light begins to flash. The Shadow Ring influence is stark, but I love The Shadow Ring, and as there are so few groups taking such distinct influence, I find myself heartily enjoying Red Wine And Sugar too. It’s trickier than one might think to make this aesthetic compelling, but Red Wine And Sugar have located the right levels of madness, ludicrousness and po-faced seriousness to make it work and work well. Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders could sit at the same table as I’m Some Songs without any social disruption, I’d only hope someone would have the decency to record such a meeting to be used later as a manipulated field recording.

Rubber Mate Cha Boi / Hogtied 7″ (Total Punk)
How is it that Cleveland has so many aggro punk bands? And so many good ones, too? I swear there’s a new one reviewed here every month! It’s a decades-long phenomenon that is well-deserving of some extended think-pieces, but I can assure you that Rubber Mate will not be the ones writing them, as thinking is not their specialty. Nope, they’re another mutated mess that laughs in the face of standard songwriting practice, preferring a route that requires far less brain cells to complete. “Cha Boi” seems to be some sort of a song, in that there are a few different parts (and the bass playing is notably sprightly) but the vocals emanate from a bubbling witch’s cauldron, completely disregarding the music at hand. It’s like a less aggressive Dawn Of Humans and a less ear-piercing Exit Hippies, which is to say it’s great, of course. “Hogtied” is right on queue with its semi-inferred references to both pigs and BDSM (two hot topics for any purposely-grotesque punk band in 2017) and displays a stronger musicality, scuzzing up a Judas Priest progression for a couple minutes. The vocalist seems to actually acknowledge the song that the rest of the band is playing this time, but of course it could just be accidental. Not gonna lie, I wish I had three or four friends living close by that I could create such an interminable useless racket with myself. What’s rent like in Cleveland these days anyway?

Rut Attraction 7″ (Digital Regress)
Immediately, Rut’s Attraction spoke to me, with a big bold Nancy moshing on the cover, which is printed on the cheapest-grade copier paper available. Punk 7″ sleeves are supposed to be flimsy! Rut sound pretty good too, although easily spotted as a modern punk group, as they utilize classic mean breakdowns as main riffs, pogo-punk drumming with more floor-tom than hi-hat, and barked vocals that punctuate the melody with limited verbage. One song’s called “Control”, and you can rest assured that the chorus is the word “control” yelled four times in a row. Might be hard for a casual listener to differentiate between Rut and, say, C.H.E.W. and S.H.I.T., which would be made even more difficult if Rut ever make the switch to R.U.T. Still, there is nothing wrong with Rut’s hardcore-punk proceedings, and I’d fully expect their friends to fling into each other while they play, I just hope Attraction is the foundation upon which they build a more distinctive sound and/or personality.

Sheer Mag Need To Feel Your Love LP (Wilsuns Recording Company)
Sheer Mag are the closest thing we’ll get to a Rock’s Great New Hope in 2017, and as far as I’m concerned they’ve earned it. Self-releasing 7″s (and finally a debut album) in the face of widespread major-label interest, putting their left-wing politics front and center, and most important of all, writing great, memorable tunes that seamlessly fuse a variety of guitar-centric styles, capped off with a powerful vocalist. I’d been wondering when they’d step up to a full-length, and overall, Need To Feel Your Love delivers on their promise. They’ve still got their Thin Lizzy shuffle and AC/DC fist-pumps intact, but expand their sonic palate to include clear nods to Van Halen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ratt, hell, even ABBA and The Jackson 5. It’s like they blended anything on a major label with a guitar from 1976 through 1985, purified the remains and cut it into twelve easily digestible servings. If you enjoyed Sheer Mag’s singles and hoped for an album, I can’t imagine you’re coming away disappointed here. I will say, however, that some moments of their denim n’ leather rocker cosplay get a bit much to take, particularly when paired up against their sincere, socially-concerned lyrics. It’s fairly clear Sheer Mag don’t actually hang out in the street smashing bottles and cranking shoulder-carried boomboxes while using cop cars as skate ramps, so when Christina Halladay shifts from that imagery to a description of the Stonewall riots or a brief biography of anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, it feels a bit stilted. If anything, I’d want even more personal/political songs and less “we rock and roll in the streets tonite baby!” hokeyness, because the activism-minded tunes, although occasionally awkward, resonate as far more honest to Sheer Mag. Actually, if Andrew WK wrote an album railing against transphobia and capitalism in between brain-dead party anthems, I might dig it, so maybe it’s my issue, not theirs.

Shit Blimp Good-Natured Friends Of The Scene 7″ (Shit Blimp Inc. / Ryan’s Tasteful Nudes)
The band is called Shit Blimp and their ten-song EP is titled Good-Natured Friends Of The Scene. If you’re not at least slightly enamored by this record already, I’d have to wonder what we’d have in common! They’re yet another zonked-out hardcore-punk group from Cleveland, and none of these tracks exceed a minute in length, which works for me. They remind me a bit of Fat Day, in the way that their songs whiz by with a freewheeling attitude and a fidgety ADD mentality, as if they figured out how long most hardcore bands would play each individual part and then divided by three. The band and their presentation are overtly wacky (an insert photo reveals all three band members in dollar-store Zorro masks), but with the exception of “The Whisper Song” (I’ll let you figure out what they do there), the music isn’t silly at all, just frantic and unhinged. If you were planning to fill up a C90 with Cleveland’s greatest worst punk, I hope you can spare a few minutes for Shit Blimp’s inclusion.

Stave Black Hills 12″ (Standards & Practices)
This new Stave 12″ is the follow-up to the debut Standards & Practices release, the Talker 12″ recently reviewed in these pages. S&P have a great font and visual consistency already, and are keeping it tightly knit, as Stave is one half of Talker, Jon Krohn. Sonically speaking, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Stave is more hard-edged industrial techno cross-fit, full of sternum-bruising percussive blasts and low rumbling bass. These four tracks are certainly meant to be played at high volume in large rooms with unfinished cement walls, chugging along as if Neo and Trinity are about to chase someone through the crowded dance-floor. Even the vinyl comes complete in a grey-ish swirl, as though it were formed from the materials left behind by various pipefitters and rebar workers out on site. “In/Human” is probably my favorite of the five tracks here, as it’s got a little extra grit in the mix alongside the cautionary moans of a synth. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of this stuff – just remember to tape up your fists before enjoying Black Hills as blisters will occur.

The Thingz Vault Of Tomorrow LP (Coffee Addict)
The Thingz are a garage-rock trio out of Long Beach, CA, and this is apparently their sixth full-length since 2011. So, if you check this record out after reading this review, and love it, there’s a wealth of material awaiting you! Their interests seem to fall in line with the classic garage-rock / punk aesthetic: B movies, comics (which is evident in Andrew Goldfarb’s excellent cover illustration), extreme coffee behavior, anything junky and harmlessly crude. They cover The Cramps’ “Human Fly” on here, for example. At best, their original tunes remind me of The Penetrators, perfectly dumb tunes that stomp and sizzle with customary riffs and primitive delivery. All three members share vocals, including presumably-married / or-are-they-siblings Mike Morris and Kim Morris. They vocalize more like cartoon renditions of punks than actual punks, if that makes any sense – I can’t help but imagine a Peter Bagge cartoon band when I hear The Thingz, with Kim occasionally veering into Edith Bunker territory. Nothing that hasn’t been done dozens of times before, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to be the one doing it. And with six albums to their name, clearly the appeal of being a proudly-nerdy garage band hasn’t lessened for The Thingz.

Tin Foil Tin Foil LP (Almost Ready)
The award for “best hair of the month” is unanimously handed to Tin Foil’s Alex Lovat – pure Johnny Ramone perfection, its curved symmetry is a true wonder to behold. Falling millimeters over his eyes, shining like a Garnier Fructis commercial even in lo-res monochrome, I swear, he could release a solo album of Chet Haze-style raps and my admiration wouldn’t falter. Anyway, time for me to think about Tin Foil’s debut LP instead, although seriously, with that hair can you blame me for getting off track? They’re a Detroit-based quartet, and they’re clearly in love with the sharpest, deepest rock music of the ’60s and ’70s, calling to mind Neil Young, Love and The Band, as well as certain more-recent artists who found similar inspiration, like The Lemonheads and Purling Hiss. Their songs are varied but strong, and they go down smooth and without agitation. I hear a lot of bands that attempt this style and end up sounding like a punk band trying on ill-fitting rocker costumes, but there’s no lingering scent of dilettantism here – Tin Foil clearly devoted themselves to this band, and this album. Now if only the other three guys stepped up their hair game, there would simply be no stopping them.

Wetware Salpinx 12″ (Bank)
Wetware is a new project comprised of Matthew Morandi (he of the very cool Jahiliyya Fields and Inhalants) and his friend and collaborator Roxy Farman. I read somewhere that this was their version of a “punk band”, but don’t be fooled like I was – Wetware has about as much in common with The Sex Pistols as actual intercourse with a glock. Rather, it falls somewhere on the more experimental side of industrial post-punk, where traditional song structures are ignored in favor of a looser, stranger design. Morandi’s beats and atonal accompaniment are continuous, knobs frequently tweaked, and Farman’s voice is almost fully unintelligible, morphed and edited as though it were another sine-wave and not the group’s front-person. At first, I kept wanting them to kick into some powerful industrial rager, like Youth Code covering Discharge or something, but Wetware only tease the idea of being heavy or anthemic. In the end, it makes me like them more, because these songs are truly demented, closest in relation to Hogg than any other modern group (or an early live Psychic TV bootleg if we’re looking into the past) and allowed plenty of room to sprawl out. Salpinx never throttles the listener for attention – even a track called “Fuck Them All” merely sways like drunken acid – but that’s the beauty of Wetware. They’re not the obnoxiously loud roommate who breaks your dishes, they’re the new mattress you bought that secretly off-gasses its toxic chemicals into the bedroom, ensuring a few weeks of unexplained headaches and misery.

White Suns Psychic Drift LP (Flenser)
Through the last decade, White Suns always seemed to push the confines of noise-rock to its outer limits, more eager to run off into uncharted territory than obey the genre’s familiar references. On this newest one, Psychic Drift, they forego the “rock” aspect of the equation entirely, but to simply call it “noise” would be incomplete. Rather, I’d say it sounds like a modern update of classic early industrial ala Throbbing Gristle or Thomas Leer & Robert Rental. It’s slow-building and methodical, disconcerting and cold, and feels as though it was built with a composer’s mindset, not that of a pedal-stomping / knob-twiddling noise artist. They’ll sit on an oozing bass frequency for a few minutes, skitter some ungrounded electric shocks over top, and eventually the vocalist (who is either Dana Matthiessen or Kevin Barry as White Suns are down to a duo) will recite some poetry deep in the mix, as if he’s just as confused as a performer as we are as listeners. I had assumed that my patience for ten-minute-plus slow-moving industrial noise tracks had run thin, but here I am flipping between sides of Psychic Drift with the satisfaction of someone who never heard this form of music before.

YC-CY Todestanz LP (X-Mist)
Swiss noise-rock is today’s special, care of YC-CY and X-Mist. They’re a relatively new group, playing a fairly well-defined sound (noise-rock in more of its streamlined, palatable form, not Unholy Swill or 25 Suaves or something like that), and as far as I’m concerned they have every right to do so. They’re quite Metz-y, but also reminiscent of progenitors like The VSS and Unwound. The drums carry each song on their back, as guitar and bass churn and chug along and the vocalist (I can’t locate any of their names, sorry vocalist) moans and groans in appropriate fashion. The guitar stands out a bit, as its distortion is particularly robotic – maybe some sort of ring modulation? Who knows, I’m a music critic not a scientist. YC-CY are the rare band in 2017 that cites The Festival Of Dead Deer as inspiration, and I gotta tip my hat to that as they were always one of the great overlooked groups from that whole Three One G / GSL explosion. Can you imagine a more perfect holiday than strolling down the sun-dappled cliffs of Geneva at dusk and stumbling into a centuries-old pub where YC-CY are clanging away in a darkened corner? I cannot.

Rob Noyes / Alexander split 7″ (C/Site Recordings)
Here’s a rare split 7″ offering of two solo acoustic guitarists. It’s so damn tasteful, at times I feel like I don’t even deserve to be in the same room as it, knowing the things I’ve done in my life. Rob Noyes came onto the scene last year with a limited LP featuring a fine Raymond Pettibon cover (that’s one way to ensure that your limited release grabs some attention), and he’s got a dazzling track here, gunning down meadows, alleys and jagged coasts like a Jack Rose LP on 45. There are six strings on his guitar and each one of them is singing, as if the entire instrument was vibrating on some frequency that’s so fast it seems slow, like a hummingbird. The preciously-named “Alexander” has a tough act to follow, and he wastes it with a slightly out-of-tune rendition of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching”. Just kidding! He offers a complex and sumptuous tune, full of unusual phrasing and a keen sense of pause, not a long leap from the master himself, John Fahey. Nice to know that in today’s age of information overload and the creeping inability to sit down and just do one simple thing by itself for an extended period of time, some people are still able to damn near master the acoustic guitar, offering up works both polished and humble.