Reviews – June 2021

Michael Beach Dream Violence LP (Goner / Poison City)
So this guy comes up and asks me, he says “any plans to go to the beach this year?”, so I say to him, “yessir, I’m gonna spend plenty of time at the Michael Bea-” – actually you know what, scratch that, this newest album from Melbourne’s Michael Beach is too cool and serious for terrible jokes. I’ve been enjoying his music for nearly ten years now, and Dream Violence has gotta be his best yet. So much stylistic ground is covered, from brooding post-punk to loose-limbed psych to piano ballads and so on, but it’s the quality of the work that really stands out. In the past, Neil Young was the closest ancient white-guy rock-icon relation I would place upon Beach’s music, but this time it’s feeling closer to Lou Reed, specifically the disturbed, angrily-partially-queer, starting-to-age-out-of-relevance Lou Reed of The Blue Mask era. There’s a real downtown NYC paranoia to some of these songs, the dark side of blazer-sporting power-pop sorta vibe – listen to “Spring” and tell me you can’t hear the members of Television waking up from the natural sunlight in their roach-filled loft circa 1980. Beach has gotten deep into the mental state where madness inspires hope and vice versa, songs pumping hard with the blood of a wounded heart that refuses to stop beating no matter how many uppers and downers course through its aortas. A lot of rockers try to take you there, or at least want you to think they’re trying, but Michael Beach really takes you there, if you know what I mean.

Christos Chondropoulos Athenian Primitivism 2xLP (12th Isle)
My knowledge of Greek electronic artists is somewhat limited, but I tend to really love the ones I do know, like Jay Glass Dubs and Lena Platonos for instance. You can go ahead and add Christos Chondropoulos to that short list, a producer I had not previously known whose work I now feel a strong familiarity towards. A lot of ground is covered within these two LPs, most of which falls in that sort of vaguely new-agey analog house and dub style that’s quite popular these days. I’m reminded of the gauzy, esoteric grooves of Yu Su, the Mediterranean strut of Alek Lee and the semi-throwback digi-funk of Juju & Jordash, alongside a “home-recorder no one heard of in their time” feel that one might associate with the private pressings that Séance Centre and All Night Flight continue to unearth. Very enjoyable stuff, seemingly at no rush to fit in or please a certain constituency so much as channel the swirl of influences in Chondropoulos’s mind into musical form. Things get even wilder on the final side, where the vocals of Sofia Sarri take over (without the support of any synths or rhythms!), a fully avant deconstruction of the voice that has me thinking of a particularly inflamed Meredith Monk or Tamia’s 1978 self-titled head-scratcher. Sky’s the limit with Chondropoulos!

C.I.A. Débutante Pier 7″ (SDZ / Officine)
Here’s a charming three-track EP from France’s finest merchants of murk, C.I.A. Débutante. They’re the duo of chameleonic songsmith Nathan Roche and Paul Bonnet, and this record follows their Siltbreeze album nicely (among many low-quantity cassettes that I will almost certainly never hear). Rhythm boxes and errant noises seem to emanate from the basement beneath the basement, with occasional warped guitar tones and spoken vocals that are alarmingly slow and insubordinate. Their pal Nicolas Roggy adds bass-guitar to b-side “Kessler Syndrome”, but does so in a way that’s appropriately unmusical for the matter at hand. Remember when Breathmint Records would secretly record the noise groups that stayed at their pad and then release the sounds of them sleeping as tapes? Pier has me thinking of Sightings right before they completely nod out, devoid of aggression or feedback. Or maybe Mosquitoes covering Cabaret Voltaire with Graham Lambkin handling microphone placement? However you want to slice it, this is top-shelf avant-DIY on black 7″ vinyl.

CZN Luxury Variations 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
Valentina Magaletti is a London-based percussionist and composer, someone whom I had never heard of until just recently, at which point I’m seeing her name constantly. Kinda feeling like I should’ve known about her earlier, as she’s been making some incredible music over the past few years, in ensembles like Tomaga and UUUU and duos with Julian Sartorius and Marlene Ribeiro, all records I recommend you seek out immediately! Her newest work comes from CZN, a trio with João Pais Filipe and Leon Marks, and it’s a wonderfully dark, heady trip. Magaletti’s percussion binds it together, cyclical riffs of what sounds to be mostly hand percussion (though not entirely). Her rhythms are mesmerizing enough on their own, but with the rich bass tones and vaporous synths and electronics of Marks and Filipe, the whole thing turns into some sort of foreboding hypnosis, like industrial techno made with neither industry nor tech. “Brace Positions” in particular sounds better suited to the moniker “Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement” than the project it actually is, with tumbling percussion, creeping synths and an ominous bass pulse daring you to step foot into its murky waters. Recommended!

Dropdead Arms Race EP 7″ flexi Armageddon Label / Peterwalkee)
Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m a little scared to check out that new Dropdead album. They’re hardcore-grind royalty, one of those few groups who can somehow skate by on re-releasing the same twenty songs in various formats over multiple decades simply because it’s legitimately essential hardcore, firmly underground and unable (and unwilling) to be cashed in upon by scene leeches or the indie mainstream. They’ve already cemented their legendary status as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve heard that Bob Otis’s vocals have reclined from a high-pitched throat-shred into something less intense, so I dunno, can’t I be content with the self-titled LP, self-titled 11″ and splits with Crossed Out and Rupture? Perhaps this one-sided 7″ flexi featuring two hardcore covers is a reasonable way to dip my toes into modern Dropdead, even if it’s about as superfluous as a record can get in any band’s discography. They blow through BGK’s “Arms Race” and Poison Idea’s “Give It Up” in record time here, with Otis indeed singing less forcefully, albeit aided by gang vocals on the choruses. Wasn’t sure if blaster-master Brian Mastrobuono was going to try to grind-ify these songs at all, but nope, he sticks to a comfortable (if unchallenging) fast beat throughout. Regardless of the sonic necessity of this flexi, all proceeds are donated in support of immigrant youth, confirming that unlike Otis’s vocal cords, Dropdead’s righteous progressive politics have not dulled with age.

John Duncan And Stefano Pilia Try Again LP (Maple Death)
Perhaps one day John Duncan will give himself a break, but the confrontational noise artist has been ruffling feathers since the late ’70s without respite. Pretty fascinating guy if you’re not familiar, and although his more deviant works seem to be behind him, settling more into edge-of-perception field-recording / drone-work since the early ’00s, he’s always up to something intriguing. Try Again pairs his spoken-word with the fluttering bombast of Italian artist Stefano Pilia, whose synths and “processed recordings” resemble furious helicopter blades, the churning winds of a mountain’s peak, synthetic drones of the occult and, I dunno, Philip Glass interpreting a Hijokaidan composition? With the cover photo of a blurred astronaut mid-mission, one can’t help but think of vast emptiness, lonely technology and the smell of burning wires while listening. Duncan’s voice goes great over it, hoarse and weary and a little higher-pitched than I would’ve imagined him to sound today. If you told me he recorded his utterances on a doomed Russian spacecraft, presuming no one would ever hear, I’d say you’re being dramatic, but I’d do a Google search later just to make sure you were only kidding around.

Maxine Funke Seance LP (A Colourful Storm)
“The voice of Funke is a distinctive instrument”, says the press release for Maxine Funke’s fourth album. It rings truer with Seance than ever before, another tender song-suite from this fabulously reclusive New Zealander. If you’re not familiar, her work fits comfortably in the realm of acoustic-guitar singer-songwriters, but there’s a disarming casualness to her music, somehow harmoniously breezy and bracing. Unlike a similarly skilled folk singer such as Meg Baird, Funke’s songs tend to play out like private conversations, flowing at their own pace and without the firm boundaries of verse-chorus folk-song. Previous records might include a shocking blast of high-volume noise or lo-fi production values; it’s understandable when one considers her proximity to the lathe-cut noise scene even if her music is as far as it gets from labelmates like Taiwan Housing Project (Independent Woman) and Egg, Eggs (Feeding Tube). Obscure, domestic sounds of the minutiae find their way under her guitar here, often in rhythmic patterns (ie. the lustrous “Quiet Shore”), providing an intimacy of the mundane one might associate with the work of Graham Lambkin. Funke’s visionary approach certainly calls to mind Nico as well, and I can’t imagine a single Belle & Sebastian fan ever asking to turn the volume down on Seance, either. Considering myself lucky that such wonderfully private music as hers is continually offered up to us in the public sphere.

Gay Tastee Ex Machina Shook LP (no label)
Honestly, gimme one good reason why you shouldn’t name your band Gay Tastee Ex Machina! Never been a better time to make zero sense than right now, as this Albany-based trio seems to firmly grasp. Their sound is suitably kooky, but not in any sort of performative or trendy manner; rather, their loopy tunes recall The Flaming Lips and Meat Puppets at their most frizzle-fried, back when it seemed impossible to imagine that artists like that would ever find a foothold in the mainstream. How naive we were (or maybe it was just me). Vocalist “Steve” is constantly searching for the right note and he rarely finds it, but the charm is in the attempt – some people have terrible voices that are more enjoyable to listen to than “good” voices, and I’d rank him accordingly. The songs are casual and long, ending in the nearly fifteen minutes of “Space Ghost – Nagasaki Sky” which sounds like Doc Dart covering Neil Young for a Twisted Village release in 1993 alongside copious amounts of slide guitar. Trippy Americana for those that have long since aged out of worrying about looking cool, which may in fact be one of the coolest dispositions to have anyway.

Gemstones Novel Of Nothing 7″ (Celluloid Lunch)
The sound of Gemstones is really taking me back, in a nice way. This debut four-song EP has all the markings of something that would’ve shown up in a cardboard distro box at a VFW-hall punk show in 1996, back when the underground was bubbling with the success of Green Day, the failure of grunge and the ways in which they intersected. Gemstones are from Nova Scotia, but this rough recording (it must’ve been either from a four-track or a straight-up boombox) has me thinking of groups like Buglite and Sticks And Stones, moody pop-punk indebted to Gern Blandsten and Lookout! Records or, perhaps more accurately, the local bands that surrounded them who listened to Lookout! bands. Amazingly, Gemstones allegedly feature a member of Eric’s Trip, an unexpected stamp of credibility (not that these four plucky songs need any). A greater fidelity might eventually benefit the group, but as far as creating an out-of-time indie-punk nostalgia rush without directly aping any particular band or handful of bands, Gemstones don’t require clarity to shine.

Gravel Samwidge Complaints LP (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Brisbane trio Gravel Samwidge have a potent ’90s vibe going on, but not the aspects most likely to be emulated by today’s youth. I’m talking pixelated art on the front cover and a fish-eye lens shot on the back, and brooding, plodding grunge-punk riffs. It’s the sort of thing I would’ve expected to be played by people that seemed like old men back then (probably in their late 20s, early 30s?), released on Sympathy For The Record Industry or Amphetamine Reptile among dozens of other like-minded acts, and in spite of the lack of stand-out qualities or exceptional tunes, still sell 5,000 7″ picture discs. The glory days! Gravel Samwidge clearly aren’t going for any particular style – this music seems to be a precise representation of who they truly are, which means dirt-under-the-fingernails styled rock, though the group is content to menacingly pace in circles rather than rip out a traditional upbeat garage-rock riff or rhythm. These songs have titles like “Pink Eye”, “Hole In My Head”, “Waste My Weekend” and “Hangover”, and well, you can just tell they mean it.

Liquor Store Scumbag 7″ (Almost Ready)
Nice to see that NYC’s Liquor Store are still alive and kicking, as they’ve been purveyors of upper-crust (pizza pun intended) garage-punk for a number of years now, led by the irrepressible Sarim Al-Rawi. As I remember them, their sound was wild and crude party punk, but they’re demonstrating a more refined songwriting style on these two songs, even on a song called “Scumbag”. Moody and melodic, this one works both guitars in a downright respectable manner, reminding me of The Victims’s Real Wild Child record or something equally punk grounded in early glam-rock grooves. “We Buy Gold” is even more traditionally rock, the sort of thing I’d expect weathered Reigning Sound fans to request during music-hour at the Aging Punks Adult Resident Community wherein they reside. Not much in the way of wild energy or snottiness, “We Buy Gold” in particular is a mature sound more in line with The Replacements than Jay Reatard or even King Khan. Nice tunes, though I truly hope Liquor Store haven’t aged into polite gentlemen or, God forbid, gone sober.

LSDXOXO Dedicated 2 Disrespect 12″ (XL)
Probably an unpopular opinion, but I’ve always thought electroclash came and went too quickly. There were some hits in there! This new EP by the Philadelphia-bred, GHE20GOTH1K-raised, Berlin-based DJ/producer LSDXOXO has me thinking that it’s possible electroclash never really went away, or is due for a resurgence (in a different outfit and under any other name). LSDXOXO’s music is fiercely club-oriented, energetic and raunchy and fun. Clanging tech-house rhythms are abetted by chopped sex-moans and LSDXOXO’s lead vocals taunt and tease every ex-lover in the room. I’m imagining Mount Sims as remixed by Seth Troxler, though unlike the first wave of electroclash’s general hetero/cis-normativity, LSDXOXO is part of the TikTok generation that serves latex mini-skirts, bulging muscles, pigmented eyeshadow and bondage straps in equal measure. If it wasn’t implied, go listen to “Sick Bitch”, which opens with “I’m a sick bitch / I like freak sex” and goes on to rhyme “hurt” with “squirt”. For me personally, I enjoy some subtle innuendo, but LSDXOXO bludgeons their sexuality from center stage to the back row, and it works pretty marvelously all the same. Hard to listen to this and not get excited at the prospect of returning to in-person, non-digital clubbing!

Nick Melody Joyful Fantasy LP (SDZ / Officine)
If you’re gonna go with the name “Nick Melody”, you better be ready to either back it up or swing in an entirely different direction, putting out harsh-noise tapes or something instead. This Nick Melody backs it up completely, rocking out in a timeless fashion redolent of Big Star, The Apples In Stereo, The Shins, Teenage Fanclub, The Modern Lovers and so forth. His songs not being classically-established hits, however, has me thinking that he’s got the sound that those rare record collector guys who post little clips to their Instagrams favor so strongly. Only this isn’t a tax-scam pressing of a band that existed for six months in 1975, Nick Melody is alive and walking amongst us in Ypsilanti right now! Charming guitar leads, colorful bass-lines and harmonious vocals are in perfect working order, resulting in a sound that’s nostalgic without pretense. I don’t often find myself reaching for this style on purpose, and yet as I sit here listening to the charming chords of Joyful Fantasy as they spiral out of my speakers, it kind of feels like the greatest form of music to have ever existed on this planet. A Joyful Fantasy indeed!

Natural Information Society with Evan Parker descension (Out Of Our Constrictions) 2xLP (Eremite)
Say goodbye to your remaining stimulus dollars, there’s a new Natural Information Society double album! Their last one, the fabulous Mandatory Reality, was my favorite album of 2019, so I was eagerly awaiting this one. It’s a live recording from a Cafe OTO performance back in July of 2019 (not that you’d know from the pristine, warm audio quality), and it features British cyclically-breathing improv-sax legend Evan Parker out front. What a crew! There’s really only one musical concept happening here, a single seventy-five minute piece spread across four sides of 12″ vinyl, but like previous Natural Information Society pieces, it’s downright transcendent. Joshua Abrams plucks his guimbri merrily, Mikel Patrick Avery plots the time on drums, Jason Stein flutters and Evan Parker downright freaks throughout this long, unhurried journey. Parker’s minutes-long runs are absolutely hypnotizing, like a kaleidoscopic seagull calling out for world peace, but it might actually be the subtle churn of Lisa Alvarado’s harmonium that brings the whole thing together for me, filling in the cracks with those delightfully psychedelic tones. They bring it up and bring it back down throughout, and only until side D runs down and the (strangely edited) applause kicks in am I reminded that this music was somehow made by regular people, just like you and me.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum LP (Adagi0830)
Sometimes I think it’s best if sullen German cold-wave was left to the Germans to write and perform. Case in point is Berlin’s Ostseetraum, who conjure the desperate artistic creativity that managed to grow in the cracks of the Berlin wall in the early ’80s. The Zickzack label certainly comes to mind, care of the throbbing bass pulses, rudimentary drum machines and gloomy vocals, though Ostseetraum don’t seem to have any day-glo new-wave sheen to them, not even ironically. I’m trying to pick out any signs at all that this is a band from today (nods to harsh noise, ambient or Weather Channel funk, maybe?), but this is by-the-books NDW, strikingly similar in fidelity and approach to groups that developed this sound decades ago like Sprung Aus Den Wolken and Kosmonautentraum. Ostseetraum’s songs are often tough and unfriendly – good luck shaking hands with the nerve-racking “Träume” for example, a frantic escape down unlit city streets. On first listen, it did feel like somewhat of a genre exercise, but on second listen, third listen and so on, these songs stand on their own two feet, distressed and tangled in aux cables though they may be.

Preening Dragged Through The Garden 12″ (Ever/Never)
The Bay Area’s Preening come correct with this new nine-song EP, the best tangentially-punk record with the word “garden” in its title since Pink Reason’s underrated Shit In The Garden. To be honest, I didn’t expect Preening to stick around as long as they have… they have an explosive quality, the sort of thing that’s normally short-lived, a band for a specific moment rather than a legacy. Maybe Preening are on their way to a legacy? This new EP is the first nine-song EP I’ve reviewed in a minute, and they do well with these succinct jolts of no-wave inspired guitarless punk-funk. The vocals seem to imitate the sound of the sax, and the sax imitates the vocals, while the bass and drums hold things together (albeit with a loose grip). It’s not the first time I thought of Minutemen and Impractical Cockpit and Mecca Normal while listening to Preening, but they seem particularly inspired this time around, or at least even more naturally comfortable with their unorthodox instrumentation. They are probably incapable of writing a normal song at this point, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned – hell, if there’s one band out there right now I’d want a Ramones tribute album from, just because of how screwy and wrong it’d end up being, it’s these folks right here.

Sarushibai The Melancholy Of The Social Outcasts LP (SPHC / Japan Support)
For most people I know, one of the most attractive qualities of Japanese hardcore is its ability to tirelessly rage. Obviously there is as wide a prism of hardcore sounds out of Japan as anywhere else on the globe, but when I think of legends like Gauze and Confuse and Warhead and LSD, they seem to possess the same monumental will of spirit that’s found in Tour de France cyclists and professional free-climbers. Anyway, what Sarushibai’s new album seems to presuppose is… what if hardcore wasn’t actually that raging? They still play fast, and the vocals are still screamed and shouted, but even at their most frenetic moments, I can’t help but notice the lack of power exhibited. Even when I consider less-but-still-raging hardcore groups like Toast and Idol Punch, they’ve managed to find ways to innovate, or at least differentiate their sound to a positive effect. Could be a million reasons why (the recording, my personal prejudices, the songwriting, etc.) but Sarushibai’s music seems to exist in that murky middle territory between hardcore-punk, hard rock and indie-rock, and they don’t manage to strike gold in any of those configurations.

Schiach 2 LP (Phantom)
I decided to look up the English translation of German punk band Schiach’s name, having suspicions it translated to “Shock”, a suitable if not entirely creative moniker for their electro-punk sound. Turns out “Schiach” has no Google-understood meaning, and the German translation for “shock” is just “schock” anyway, which I suppose I should’ve seen coming. Contrary to the old adage, I don’t learn something new every day, but I did today. Anyway, this German group expound upon their sour electro-shocked punk sound here on 2, their (you guessed it) second album. Unlike many groups who use synths and drum machines alongside shouted vocals and buzzing guitars, Schiach take the tempo down a bit, kind of mechanically plodding through these songs in a manner close to Men’s Recovery Project or Danse Asshole. As astringent as their sound may be, most of these tunes favor rhythms suited for sloppy dance parties, not DEVO-styled discombobulations. Not a particularly fresh style, one could argue, but this isn’t a bakery, it’s a band, and they do throw some unexpected violin(?) in on “Zuagroasta”, so there! (I threw “Zuagroasta” into Google translate for the hell of it too, and that just came back as “Zuagroaste”, which seems to be a term referring to Bavarian immigrants. Turns out I actually learned two things!)

Shirese Three Going On Four LP (C/Site Recordings / Gnosisocial Progress)
I’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing the same usual suspects released by C/Site that it was surprising (and nice) to see an entirely different set of psych-damaged CT rockers receive their first vinyl LP care of the label. From what I’ve been able to uncover online, it seems that Shirese is the project of a guy named Matt Paolillo, joined on this record by five of his pals, presumably in different formations based on the varied stylings we’re hearing here. It’s a very American take on classic underground indie/rock/psych, bearing sonic resemblance to Sebadoh, Spacin’, Vermonster, Mordecai, and Headroom, though by no means an exact match for any of them. It’s more of a shared spirit, players who love guitars and all the usual guitar behavior, but write and record their music free from narrow genre confinements. A weepy ballad leads to a rapid-fire rocker reminiscent of Wishbone Ash, and the final track is something different entirely, a warped tape edit that does not seem to take the listener into consideration, like some hand-dubbed tape you received from the Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club alongside the Yak Brigade 12″ you sent five dollars (postage paid) to receive. The prices may have gone up, but the sentiment remains the same.

Paul Snell Come Monday / Dream 7″ (Altered States Tapes)
Limited to a scant thirty copies, this is a 7″ lathe of archival material from unknown-to-anyone Australian musician Paul Snell. Apparently an “old friend” of the parents of Altered States’ Cooper Bowman (or if not him, someone else directly related to Altered States’ affairs), this is as personal a release as it can come, complete with a lengthy interview in hand-assembled zine form, a wonderful accompaniment to these two songs. A breeze could easily knock over “Come Monday”, a lightweight strummer that saunters around soft as Egyptian cotton. “Dream” brings in some drums, bass and lead guitar, a very fragile take on later new-wave / proto-college rock, surprisingly not particularly Australian sounding, though I guess it’s not-not Australian sounding either. Plain enough of a sound that you could convince me it came from any predominantly Caucasian culture. If this record didn’t have the zine, I don’t think the memory of these songs would last more than five minutes in my busy little brain, but the overall package is tender and personal, successful by metrics that don’t include monthly playlist visibility or likes and shares.

The Stools Live At Outer Limits 12-28-19 LP (Big Neck)
Detroit delivers house and garage-rock with such passion and quantity that it’s hard not to get a little misty-eyed if I think about that city’s musical contributions over my lifetime. The Stools fall very much in the latter category, a newish garage-punk trio of whom I was previously unfamiliar that decided to release a live album as their second full-length. A corner stage with beer-soaked carpeting seems like the perfect environment to experience a group like this, and they perform these somewhat unexceptional songs with an exceptional vigor. I’m reminded of Supercharger, Bassholes and Teengenerate, but The Stools manage to flail through these tunes with a potent level of energy, really bringing some tried-and-true garage progressions to life. They must’ve either had a terrible Christmas and needed to blow off some steam or had an excellent Christmas and wanted to celebrate, but whatever the basis for their vigorous performance, only a true Scrooge could thumb their nose at the enduring glory of trashy drunken garage-rock and this fine example thereof.

Struggling Harsh Immortals 4 死 Death LP (Relapse)
One can only appreciate the recent Relapse reissues of G.I.S.M. and Zouo, but I’m particularly pleased that it also led to them releasing the sophomore album from Japan’s Struggling Harsh Immortals (aka S.H.I.). Featuring Cherry Nishida from Zouo (as well as other personnel from Zouo and Outo), S.H.I. refuse to pussyfoot on 4 死 Death. Pure hard-chugging industrial-metal relentlessness! I love L.O.T.I.O.N., and consider them to be the real deal when it comes to modern industrial-punk, but I wouldn’t blame them if they quietly sneaked out the back door when S.H.I. entered the room. Their music fuses modern WWE entrance themes with the moves of Ministry, Motörhead and Tetsu Arrey, the sound of a thousand motorcycles storming into Hell and whipping Satan’s pointy little tail. Live drums add the traditional hardcore-thrash power, but tracks like “Theme 2”, which favor piercing noise and electronic percussion, truly give the album the doomed techno-apocalypse vibe that I’m quite frankly living for these days. I’m completely behind the abolition of the police with one exception: the members of S.H.I. granted full punitive authority, armed with swords and allowed to wander the earth doling out justice as they see fit.

Fletcher Tucker Unlit Trail LP (Adagio830)
The crackling embers of a dying fire give way to keyboard drones, which eventually recede far enough that a sullen acoustic guitar and hushed vocals might emerge from the shadows. Fletcher Tucker’s music is heavily indebted to this well-established aesthetic, clearly in the shadow of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Six Organs Of Admittance, Mount Eerie and the like, offering vague yet eerie portents in a natural / spiritual sense. If there’s a centuries-old instrument capable of droning, it appears Tucker got his hands on it, from singing bowls to dulcimers to leaf rattles (yes, leaf rattles). It makes for what must surely be a fun practice or recording space, but Tucker more or less does exactly what one would think a person would do with these instruments, sounding exactly as one might assume them to sound. If dark-folk was a bigger part of my life, I’d probably get a little more mileage out of Unlit Trail, but my dilettante ears find it to be mostly a surface-level experience, with all the aesthetic parts in place but lacking in creativity. That said, I did a little research, and can confirm that Tucker is no poseur: the man is a dedicated naturalist, and an actual teacher of trail-craft as per his bio on the webpage for Esalen, the Big Sur educational institute / nature retreat of which he is a faculty member. Maybe I’m simply too far gone as a decades-long grease-stained city-dweller to sufficiently connect with the whispers of the pines and babbling of the brooks? I sure hope not.

Reviews – May 2021

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt Made Out Of Sound LP (Palilalia)
Even in times of societal peril, we can rely on the top-tier improv tag-team of Chris Corsano (drums) and Bill Orcutt (guitar) to supply us with their inspired abstractions. This new one is a long-distance collab, apropos of the times, with each player recording his part separately and then layering them together, not that you can really tell by listening. I am unsure if any specific guidelines or intentions were discussed prior to their recordings, because the two of them certainly seem to be on the same page here, a little more relaxed and introspective than on their barnstorming Brace Up! album from 2018. I’m pretty certain Orcutt lays down two guitar tracks per song as well, either that or his playing has reached some new, otherworldly plane of existence, which I’m not comfortable fully ruling out. If you know what these two do, you probably like it, and Made Out Of Sound will surely please. If you don’t, why not check this one out?

Dry Cleaning New Long Leg LP (4AD)
At this point in my life, I can safely own up to not understanding the underground trends popular with teenagers and even those in their early twenties, but what happens when I don’t understand the hot trends amongst my age-appropriate peers? London’s Dry Cleaning have only been around since 2018, and New Long Leg, their 4AD full-length debut, is apparently flying off the shelves, wherever shelves may currently be. It’s a head-scratcher! Not because the group is bad – I think they’re good – but you’re telling me this is where the indie zeitgeist is at right now? Boggling. Anyway, before I speak solely on hype and ignore substance, allow me to describe their sound to you: a band plays basic one-two one-two indie-rock, mostly riffs and tones you’ve heard many other bands play in different iterations before, with a vocalist who more or less reads her (entertaining) poetry at the same time (as opposed to in time with the music). Her name is Cleopatra Shaw, which of course sounds like a great name for a poet, and her warm voice seems to casually contort into different shades of British, reciting lines that are often comical, seeming like she’s off-the-cuff but clearly too good to be entirely winged. Shaw’s delivery and verbiage reminds me of Kim Gordon’s No Home Record, though the music behind Shaw is far less adventurous, closer to The War On Drugs than Body/Head. Maybe that’s the appeal, the mix of edgy/intriguing words and music that can be easily chilled-out to (ie. ignored)? If the recording were rougher and more Ohioan, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Siltbreeze logo on the back, but if there’s one thing New Long Leg proves, it’s that the method by which the British music press designates their indie darlings of the day will forever float outside my realm of understanding.

Géométries La Tristesse Du Facteur LP (Animal Biscuit ‎/ Dim Dampe Dumpe Dim / Troglodisques ‎/ Coolax ‎/ La République Des Granges)
If you couldn’t tell from the artist name, album title, and handful of labels responsible for its release, this debut from Géométries is French. So very French, and in the manner of the great French avant-garde, La Tristesse Du Facteur is truly out there, two long and inscrutable sides of unrestrained ideas and dexterous musicality (or, quite often, non-musicality). There are plenty of vocals, mostly delivered in a devotional sort of extended technique or casually conversational, sort of splitting the difference between a mantra and a one-act play. It gets even loonier on the second side, opening with a bizarre call and response that I’d place somewhere between the “no-wave opera” John Gavanti and the softer side of Costes. Very out-there stuff, somewhat fitting that the label responsible for the great Nina Harker album (Animal Biscuit) co-released it, but it also feels like it could’ve found an equally suitable home with Ultra Eczema (particularly as the packaging here is appropriately vivid and hand-spun, featuring a printed envelope filled with material glued to the back of the sleeve in addition to some bright interior printing only visible to those who peek inside). I’m tempted to open the windows and blare La Tristesse Du Facteur, just to see what kind of weird birds show up on my windowsill.

Gombeen & Doygen D’Americana / Auto-Lies 12″ (Wah Wah Wino)
Ireland’s Wah Wah Wino is one of my personal favorite blink-and-you’ll-miss-it electronic labels around – sure, it may be a stress-inducing challenge to source copies of their releases without obliging a greedy Discogs flipper, but it’s always worth the struggle. Gombeen & Doygen is label-head Morgan Buckley’s project with vocalist James Grünfeld, and their only other public release, the opening track on the Absolutely Wino compilation, was an immediately gratifying cut of sci-fi reggae, a ruthless skank through rugged digital terrain. That same sound is extrapolated on these two cuts, carving out a specific style that I can’t believe more people aren’t attempting to make. To my ears, it sounds like Ricardo Villalobos’ minimal classics found on albums Alcachofa and Sei Es Drum given a digital-reggae scrubdown, which is an exceptional combination. Buckley and the Wino crew are nothing if not inventive, and while the work of Davy Kehoe seems to enter entirely brand-new territory at times, Buckley has been nothing short of a master of stirring up various styles (krautrock, grime, house, dub, et al) into stunning new mutations. These two cuts follow similar paths, both armed with basic rhythm grids, a cabal of synthesizer effects and Grünfeld’s distorted spoken-word smoothly applied on top. Sounds simple, and I suppose in some ways it is, but it’s been blowing my mind on repeated spins, a solid reminder that I need to Google the phrase “new Wah Wah Wino record” every morning the moment I wake up.

Kyoufu Shinbun Death Training 3xLP (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Holy moly, just when I thought the lake couldn’t get any more bitter, they drop this absolutely repugnant triple LP box-set from obscure ’90s industrial-noise-punk artist Kyoufu Shinbun. As is the case with the overwhelming majority of the Bitter Lake roster, Kyoufu Shinbun are a Japanese act of whom I had no prior knowledge, and this hefty set, while probably not necessary, is a joy to behold. It’s the work of a man named Proletariat Honma, keyboardist in Kikeiji and Crazy SKB, who recorded and released nearly a dozen limited cassettes in the ’90s, all lovingly compiled here (alongside Kyoufu Shinbun’s sole flexi release). As a vinyl culture (of which I am absolutely a guilty party), so much of the various tape-only undergrounds are often written out of the story, which is a bummer seeing as the material compiled here is at worst pretty good and at best astonishingly sick. These direct-input, noise-laden songs recall Gudon’s second and third EPs, KK Null, occasionally G.I.S.M.’s M.A.N., a direct Flipper rip (“転落死”) and the lurking specter of Al Jourgensen. Space Streakings meets Deviation Social, maybe? It’s almost too much to really parse out and process, at least in the handful of weeks I’ve been spinning these records, but there’s really no bad place to drop the needle here, as the Kyoufu Shinbun aesthetic remains sadistic and snarling and future-shocked throughout, naturally delivered with the occasional porn sample (as was customary for the era). The unfussy packaging is the perfect vehicle for this project too, with the original explicit drawings starkly rendered in black and white in the accompanying booklet. Bravo!

Bobby Lee Origin Myths LP (Tompkins Square)
Wow, this record is so aesthetically spot-on that I have to wonder if “Bobby Lee” isn’t some sort of highly advanced AI developed by a round-table of influential-reissue-label urban-hippies in search of the perfect album to market to their followers: epic Earth-style guitar ripples, modal improvisations, jaunty riffing ala Steve Gunn, of course a cosmic drum-machine kept on hand (probably next to a suede poncho and a vintage ashtray with at least three active joints resting upon it), and earthy song titles like “The Badger And The Locust”, “Fire Medicine Man” and “Rule The Summer Clouds”. I probably sound more cynical than I intend, because even though I don’t consider myself to be one of those ex-punks who got super into Jerry Garcia bootlegs and Boot Boyz t-shirts and fancy stereo setups in the past few years, I’m enjoying the hell out of Origin Myths just the same. Sure, being a dusty sunburnt traveler in a beat-up VW van with a big Brain Records import sticker on the rear bumper and a handshake promotional deal with a local craft brewery has never felt trendier than right now, but there’s also no way to deny Bobby Lee’s easy-breezy hypnotic guitar jams, the sort of sound that would be more appropriately joined by The Grateful Dead’s rose-crowned skeleton than the actual music of The Grateful Dead.

Kathy Leisen Proof LP (Syncro System)
Kathy Leisen kicked up some dust when her group Soft Location dropped their debut Diamonds And Gems back in new-weird-2007, and she’s stepping out on the solo stage here with this wonderful album. Music has so many possibilities, and Leisen dances through and dunks on many of them, from blissful psych-folk to gauzy techno and DIY dub. These songs are spirited and strange, and while one track generally doesn’t sound like the one that preceded it, all of these songs share a sense of openness and freedom that many by-the-books artists will never be able to locate. I’m reminded of Fabulous Diamonds in the echo-y keys/drums tunes, Charalambides when the guitars flicker like constellations in a smoky sky, and I dunno, maybe a few similarities to Monokultur’s great new album in the way that synthetic home-recordings and live instrumentation meld to form something greater than their individual parts. It also feels as though the specter of Su Tissue hovers close over Proof, though more if she ditched the day-glo costuming for a long suede cloak befitting Fairport Convention. I’m simply trying to convey Leisen’s sound here to you, though, as like many really special artists, Leisen’s personal inspiration probably sounds nothing like the stuff she ended up making.

No Friends Band To All My Friends LP (Baggage Claim)
For a full-length collection of four-track recordings recorded over the course of nine years, To All My Friends, by the winkingly-named No Friends Band, sounds surprisingly cohesive! I suppose if you’re playing rowdy garage and noisy indie-rock, the chance of it all swirling together is somewhat high, as is the case with this, the solo project of one Kevin Cascell. He played in Trumans Water, and No Friends Band shares a similarly scrappy and underrated sound, picking up those dusty rock riffs off the floor and beating them like a carpet. I’m reminded pretty strongly of Brother JT’s work with The Original Sins, though not as strictly tethered to a garage structure… maybe throw a little of Sonic Youth’s discordant moves and Times New Viking’s dirty hooks into the picture. Cascell covers Dead Moon and Pere Ubu here (as well as… Bob Dylan?), which not only works with the style of his No Friends Band originals, it also acts as a reasonable guide for Cascell’s sonic reference points. Not sure if he’s anti-band or simply can’t find three other people to play music with, but considering the above-average quality of To All My Friends and the numerous lesser groups comprised of multiple people, some aspect of our society is deeply flawed.

Omar S feat. John FM Music For Hot Babes Only! 12″ (FXHE)
For as much as I wanna moan and groan about the current state of new records (they’re all thirty bucks or more, the good ones sell out immediately in tiny quantities, half a dozen vinyl “colorways” per release is annoyingly normalized, and so forth), I need to remind myself that Omar S and his FXHE label continue to thrive. And they thrive in their own unique way, sidestepping the eerily-standardized Bandcamp model and simply selling records on Omar S’s own actual website, and selling them for dirt cheap (this 12″ was an astonishing eight dollars, his standard EP price). It’s a truly beautiful, truly DIY thing, and the best part is that his productions remain fresh and strange, of which Music For Hot Babes Only! is a sterling example. The a-side “Cadillacs & Dinosaurs” is cool, a restless cut that goes a few minutes before the beat drops, an eventual sub-woofer workout that features I-wanna-say saxophone in both mournful and party-starting ornamentation. The b-side “Ain’t No Real Pimps Anymore” is the must-hear track though, a ridiculously fidgety and wild cut of booty bass with call-and-response spoken-word that goes slightly faster than my brain can parse. It’s like the perfect collision of DJ Assault’s Ghettotech and DJ Central’s deep house, with a weirder hook than any trying-to-be-weird techno producer… truly life-affirming music. I can’t even fathom a world without Omar S at this point, and I hope I never have to!

Opposite Sex High Drama LP (Spik & Span)
The New Zealand city of Dunedin simply does things differently, as evidenced by the last forty years of underground music up through High Drama by the trio Opposite Sex. I’d file them under alternative post-punk, but they don’t seem to adhere to post-punk’s general rules and regulations; these songs are as likely to meander or burst with theatricality as they are to employ a nervous rhythmic groove or primitive rock maneuvers. One moment I’m thinking The Raincoats covering Hole, the next I’m thinking of Helium butchering a Flipper song… nothing is hurried or forced, but it’s all delivered with conviction, even if that delivery includes making wild animal noises or de-stringing one’s guitar in a minutes-long web of feedback. The shrinkwrap sticker claims that the group is “liked by members of The Pastels, The Fall and Parquet Courts”, and while that’s surely meant to be taken with humor, I doubt it’s a fabrication. Sometimes these tunes are either a little too much or a little too little for my particular tastes, but the band certainly seems nutty, and I never know when I might end up in a back alley with members of Parquet Courts after dark, so I don’t want any trouble!

Panoptique How Did You Find Me? LP (Macadam Mambo)
To be honest, even though I ordered this record only like two weeks ago, I can’t remember how I found it – must’ve been one of my nightly crawls on the internet for interesting new music. It jumped out to me immediately, though, and upon repeated spins I’ve only grown fonder of this French duo’s debut vinyl album. They manage to combine two strains of the underground that I respectively embrace: the slimy, sluggish electro of the Neubau label and oddball synth-laden new-wave. Many tracks ride their grooves at a Beau Wanzer pace, scrubbed clean of his basement grime and overlaid with melodies, bizarre vocals and unexpected twists. I’m also reminded of the playfully regurgitated techno of Maoupa Mazzocchetti, though Panoptique are a little less goofy (yet far from serious in demeanor). Their music is delivered in a synth-pop fashion, but I can’t help but think of fellow French freakers like Nina Harker, Jac Berrocal and Ghédalia Tazartès as the record spins. They all share a homeland, as well as an appreciation of the absurd alongside the musical prowess necessary to translate their fantasies into something worth hearing. I love it!

The Reds, Pinks & Purples Uncommon Weather LP (Slumberland)
Glenn Donaldson wears many musical faces, but to be the best contemporary sad-sap indie-pop artist? It’s practically showboating at this point. I first heard The Reds, Pinks & Purples via a somewhat unexpected I Dischi Del Barone single, which I loved, and while I missed last year’s ensuing full-length, I didn’t make the same mistake with Uncommon Weather. He’s really found his lane and is sticking to it, which is great news for anyone who loves heartbroken pop strumming… it’s twee for mature audiences who decorate their depression with flowers, candles and self-deprecation. Sarah Records, The Smiths and The Cure are all channeled but not imitated, which results in a fairly one-dimensional album of heart-on-sleeve indie-pop (of the highest order). Donaldson’s lyrics are sly and witty, songs like “Don’t Ever Pray In The Church On My Street” and “A Kick In The Face (That’s Life)” truly embracing his role as the sardonic love-worn truth-teller as shimmery guitars and lightweight drum machines push these tear-stained melodies upward. One of those groups where I probably don’t need to own a ton of records by – their sound is comfortably repetitive – but it’s already essential that at least one Reds, Pinks & Purples record is within arm’s reach of my unmade bed at all times.

Marc Riordan Life Systems LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Chicago-based drummer/pianist/composer Marc Riordan gets to stretch his legs on Life Systems, which is from what I can tell his first solo record. He’s actually got some guests on here, quite a few in fact, who help him bring these rich instrumental passages to life, adding clarinet, saxophone, electronics and pianos to the mix (though it’s really the pianos and electronics I’m hearing the most). Tranquil, airy, sometimes kind of empty, Life Systems is a pleasant (if not particularly thrilling) escape into extended tones, impish melodicism and hard-to-place sound effects (is that a woodpecker or knuckles on a countertop on “Lost Above Lubinski”?). The title is fairly apt, as these songs would make the perfect background for a particularly curious nature documentary – when I listen to the soft pads and graceful movements of “Blood’s Journey”, I can’t help but picture the voice of David Attenborough describing some sort of endangered tree frog that has to carry its adorable babies on its back in the middle of an unexpected storm. Much of what is going on here compositionally and tonally is probably over my head, but I don’t need to firmly grasp every step of the process of making fudge in order to enjoy its sweet cocoa taste, now do I?

Rosali No Medium LP (Spinster)
There’s been a hole in Philadelphia ever since Rosali Middleman decamped to Michigan last year, but maybe it’s for the best, seeing as the change of scenery must’ve played some role in her fabulous new album, No Medium. She’s always had a knack for singing and playing guitar, but this record in particular reveals a bold fearlessness and artistry that demands attention far beyond the intersection of Girard and Frankford. She hooked up with members of The David Nance Group for this one, but they might want to change their name to The Rosali Group once No Medium starts making the rounds – if you’re missing my unsubtlehints, I think it’s an excellent record! For a basic and slightly inappropriate description, this record has me thinking about all those great full-band Red House Painters songs were they sung by an undiscovered Sheryl Crow instead. These loose, spindly and happily-damaged rock tunes swing with the breeze, not so much slacking as simply declining to participate in the instant-gratification madness that has become society’s default. Rosali’s voice soars with her finest lyrics to date, humble and funny and vulnerable and, I’m a little shy to admit, downright goose-pimpling at times. I thought I knew Rosali before, but having spun this one as many times as I have, I feel like I really know her now, and it’s been a sincere pleasure.

Smirk Smirk LP (Feel It)
I think I’ve hit that point where I can’t muster much excitement for any new punk solo-project where one person plays all the instruments. For the most part, the ones I’ve heard are good and occasionally great, it’s just that I dunno, there are a million of them now, and I’m kinda sick of how easy it is, how low-stakes the whole thing seems? Like if you wanted to be a one-person-band back in the ’80s or ’90s or even the ’00s, it took some serious figuring out and personal investment, whereas now practically everything needed to do it comes pre-loaded on our phones. I should clarify that that’s more of a general gripe and not any sort of personal beef with Nick Vicario’s Smirk, however. Vicario plays in Public Eye and Crisis Man, but Smirk is entirely his own thing, this long-player collecting his two short-run tapes of chippy and proficient first-wave punk. For the most part, these songs have kind of a Chiswick sound, punk that directly descends from rock n’ roll and is notably rough around the edges. I particularly enjoy the songs that bop at a skipping pace, reminiscent of The Lurkers and Johnny Moped, or perhaps closer to Institute before they caught the glam-rock bug. The speedier tunes remind me of Vanity’s first album, which of course reminds us all of another band who doesn’t warrant mentioning. So yeah, good stuff, and Vicario’s been playing in various multi-person bands since the early ’00s, so I suppose he gets a pass for putting together this sonic showcase of his talents, at least this one time. As for the rest of you, go start a real band!

Spiritual Mafia Alfresco LP (Ever/Never / Anti Fade)
An obscure band even by obscure standards, the members of Spiritual Mafia are apparently spread across the continent of Australia but got together to record Alfresco. Not sure if that means this will be the first and last we hear of them, or if they’re going to find a way to stick around, but at least they’ve got this album on their permanent record. Their style falls pretty squarely in the “repetitive discordant garage-punk riff” zone, one popularized by the inimitable Brainbombs, who many bands imitated anyway (and mostly failed and have already moved on to the next thing anyway). Motorik drumming, droning guitars, and a singer who often seems to be reading his older sister’s innocuous text messages aloud, hoping that the brooding band behind him and his stark delivery provide his words with menace and dark intrigue. I dunno, it doesn’t fully work for me? I can’t tell if he’s trying to shine a light on modern social monotony or the dark underbelly of our society, but these songs don’t quite hit that mark, presuming that’s what’s intended. If getting lunch with a friend and taking a bath are actually deviously transgressive behaviors (“Lunch” and “Bath Boy” respectively), well you can call me Matthew Breyer P-Orridge! Perhaps if the music was wild or brutal or intriguing enough, it could make up some of the gravitas that the vocals lack, but for the most part the music seems content to hide behind the curtains before ultimately receding from the stage entirely. Sometimes there are deeply creepy elements at play under a friendly guise, but I’m not really feeling it with Spiritual Mafia.

Spodee Boy Rides Again 7″ (Goodbye Boozy)
Connor Cummins has his band G.U.N. and his side-project Snooper with his partner, and while that’d be plenty for most people, he’s got his solo project Spodee Boy as well. He’s got a few singles under Spodee Boy’s (rhinestone belt-buckled) belt, and this new one on the seminal Goodbye Boozy label offers four cuts of cowboy-twanged punk. Imagine Country Teasers covering Fang songs on Homostupids’ gear and you’ve got a reasonable understanding of where Spodee Boy tends to reside, with surfy guitar, stompy rhythms and a honky-tonk vocal that is probably both sincere as well as an intentional characterization. Spodee Boy takes it fast and slow on these four tunes, imbuing them with a lighthearted sleaze and inebriated stagger suited to a punk being tossed out of a saloon into that big water bucket outside that the horses drink out of. If you spin records by Lamps and Link Wray in equal measure, you might need to add a little Spodee Boy to your life as well.

Spread Joy Spread Joy 12″ (Feel It)
When this new Chicago group tells you to Spread Joy, they mean it, as this 12″ debut celebrates life in a jumpy post-punk fashion. Not too far stylistically from Maximum Joy, honestly, although Spread Joy’s songwriting veers closer to punk basements than new-wave clubs (though both venues are suitable). Their music is fun, energetic and tightly wound, reminiscent of early Rough Trade-styled artists who found popularity outside the 7″ underground (I’m thinking of Wire, Scritti Politti and Delta 5 in particular). Vocalist Briana Hernandez certainly brings the joy, squeaking and yelping throughout, and singing at least one song in German (“Kanst Du”) to give me “Suburban Lawns via Zickzack” vibes. I wouldn’t have guessed that Su Tissue would be one of the essential iconic punk influencers in the ’20s, but I’m certainly not mad at it, as it results in new bands sounding like Spread Joy instead of, I dunno, Kill Your Idols or The Casualties. And while I’ve made it clear that Spread Joy are very much indebted to the earliest post-punk era, they’re certainly working out their own specific thing, recalling the mania of Warm Bodies one moment and directly borrowing three-quarters of Elastica’s most famous riff (for the uber-groovy “Unoriginal”) the next.

Stella Research Committee A Proposed Method For Determining Sanding Fitness LP (Fernald Field Archives)
A proposed what for determining a who?! Ohio’s Stella Research Committee (f/k/a Stella) are at it again, pushing further away from (an albeit abused form of) indie-punk and into a wild splatter of chaos. Works for me! This is caterwauling no-wave-inspired boisterousness, broken up into delineated, mostly-coherent tracks, the sort of thing one might associate with the furthest reaches of Skin Graft Records or the skinny-pants end of Load Records’ menswear section. Reminds me a lot of To Live And Shave In LA in the way that electronic pulses are fused with feedback and guitars to a frenzied end, though it feels like Stella’s vocalist is trying harder to harness James Chance more than Neil Sedaka. I can practically feel my consciousness’s Jenga stack tumble as Stella Research Committee lay into some of these tunes, flapping a warbly acid line over broken-string guitar jangle, manic vocals and at least two or three less distinguishable elements. I love bands like this, not only because I enjoy their music, but because I know the other members had to convince their conventionally-talented drummer to give up any hopes of commercial success and instead play in a band that sounds like this.

Andy Stott Never The Right Time 2xLP & 7″ (Modern Love)
A serious argument could be made that Andy Stott’s five-album run from 2011 through 2016 is the strongest single-artist collection of electronic music that came from the last decade. If you haven’t heard any of them, from Passed Me By through Too Many Voices, I implore you to do so! They’re as solely distinctive as Burial or Sophie, and still sounding as fresh today as when these albums first came out, even in the wake of countless imitators or stylistic piggybackers who have since entered the fray. I say this because I already feel so incredibly satisfied by Stott’s output that Never The Right Time, a beautiful album, doesn’t particularly expand his universe so much as increase its population. The same tricks and maneuvers are in place: emotionally-unavailable melodies at half-time speeds with heavyweight trip-hop beats, misty vocals and a keen use of space (both positive and negative). A plummeting bass tone will suck the air out of the room right as a vocal line expels some life-saving oxygen, and it’s all done with such grace that the overall effect is addicting. It’s fantastic stuff, but Never The Right Time falls closer to “more of the same” than “something new”, if that makes sense. My favorite cut is actually the Arthur Russell remix on the bonus 7″ that came with the package, a dramatic reworking that retains the captivating sorrow of Russell’s cello while infusing it with industrial grit, a path I’d certainly love to see Stott follow. Never The Right Time is a lovely album from an artist who has already given us so much, but, greedy bastard that I am, I can’t help but hope he continues to push outward with whatever comes next.

Virgin Thorns Onske / Song 4 7″ (Música Desechable)
Mexico City’s Música Desechable label follows its first couple lathe-cut 7″s with two new ones, genre allegiance be damned. Gotta say, I’m kind of scratching my head over this Virgin Thorns one – they’re apparently a disbanded duo from Vancouver, this single featuring their only two songs I could locate (their internet presence is impressively nil). Not trying to be rude, but it kinda stinks – the music is incredibly basic, reminiscent of the earliest Cold Cave attempts (sans hooks or personality), and the quality of the music on the clear lathe-cut disc really hinders any possible enjoyment I could’ve otherwise had. I had to turn it up to twice the normal volume, and even then, it required my brain’s full attention to process that I was listening to some generic synth-wave music. If Virgin Thorns are no longer a band, and the record is of such poor quality as to verge on the unlistenable… who benefits from this? There very well might be a perfectly valid reason for this release, but between this and the other new Música Desechable record, an equally hard-to-hear EP from Venezuelan organist Miguel Ricardo Rodriguez (who plays intermission-style rocksteady), I can’t figure out who beyond those directly involved might derive some form of joy from this venture. I want to love Música Desechable, an interesting Mexican DIY label with unusual taste and style, but these records aren’t making it easy.

Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You LP (Feel It)
Wow. Just wow! Consider me blown away by the debut from New Orleans’s Waste Man. Like you, I never heard of them before, and the band name and place of residence had me expecting some sort of pleasantly-low-effort noisy punk, but this is very much not that. Instead, it’s one of the finest punk records I’ve heard in forever, hearkening back to an alternate hardcore-punk history, one in which the mid-’80s bands that formed in the wake of the classic first-wave hardcore groups continued to deliver catchy spurts of aggression while also venturing into more musically-inclined and melodically-complex realms. As I listen to One Day It’ll All Be You, I’m imagining a world where Government Issue’s fourth album actually ends up being their most ferocious and best, or how killer I imagined Embrace to be before I actually heard them. Imagine your favorite early ’80s SST hardcore records combined with the best aspects of your favorite late ’80s SST college-rock records, and you’re getting warm. (Of course, make sure you filter it all through the weirdness of New Orleans, and the fact that United Mutation and Void are more popular with the kids these days than D.O.A. and 7 Seconds.) These songs are fantastic and made even greater by Jack Long’s vocals – his compelling voice could just as easily replace Rollins in Black Flag as Shogun in Royal Headache. He’s tuneful and wiry, a voice that seems to audibly translate that picture of Guy Picciotto hanging upside down from the basketball hoop, full of bile and emotion and just a teeny tiny sliver of Joe Strummer. I don’t know what else to tell you, I can’t stop listening to this truly inspired debut, and once again tip my hat to Feel It for their incredible service to the community.

Woodstock ’99 Woodstock ’99 7″ (Media Schlitz)
So we’ve got a raging hardcore punk band with an intentionally terrible name, song titles like “Pickled Bullfrog Titties” and a vocalist who leans towards performative idiocy… it’s starting to smell like Ohio in here, isn’t it! That’s right, Woodstock ’99 are a Cleveland band, and they certainly carry the same funny-yet-violent flag waved by fellow Clevelanders like Nine Shocks Terror, Bad Noids and Cruelster. Musically, they’re about as straightforward as it gets, heavy-duty American hardcore ala Poison Idea with a slight Burning Spirits style propulsion, and a vocalist who rages accordingly. I assume the song titles have nothing to do with the lyrical content (though I would love it if “$200 Pickled Red Onions” is lyrically true to its title), but then again it opens with a spoken-word intro that includes the line “listen Nazi, Popeye’s Chicken is fucking awesome”, which is about as memorable of a spoken punk intro I’ll probably hear this year or next. To be honest, I never understood the people’s preference toward ultra-serious / miserable hardcore bands, as if a completely humorless demeanor somehow implies higher quality. Playing hardcore-punk with your friends is one of the few joys this world offers, so why not act like hilarious morons while doing so? Woodstock ’99 understands this.