Reviews – July 2018

Alienation Bitter Reality 7″ (Warthog Speak)
You think Alienation has any time for your pissing and moaning? Think again! They hail from the remote Canadian province of Halifax (it’s so far up the eastern North American coast I think Reykjavík is actually the closest neighboring city) and they are fully aware that life ain’t all its cracked up to be. This is their third EP on Warthog Speak and while I’m not overly versed in the first two, I’d imagine they are also full of screaming-mad hardcore with sonic ties to Negative Approach and Necros as well as slight nods to No Comment and Capitalist Casualties (and not a long jump from modern hardcore like S.H.I.T. and Glue, either). It’s a classic ten-song 7″ EP (you can’t mess with that model), perfectly raging but also without any pretense or mysterious/shocking vibes shoehorned in. Only gripe is that I wish it came with a lyric sheet, as titles like “Johnny Coffee Shop” and “Squirrel Bait” (presumably not a tribute song?) raised my brow. The little colored “availability” bar on the Bitter Reality BigCartel page appears to be roughly three quarters completed – it warms my heart to know that people are still buying 7″ EPs of high-quality by-the-books hardcore such as this.

Alexander Arpeggio Streng Geheim EP 12″ (Neubau)
As promised, I’m tearing through Neubau’s newest releases as if they were a life necessity, and maybe they are? These raw techno 12″s are hitting the spot, including this one, the debut from Alexander Arpeggio. He runs the Mond Musik reissue label, digging up rare electronic jams from the ’70s and ’80s, but don’t expect his own productions to follow a retro frame of mind. Sure, he’s clearly using old drum machines and synths instead of modern software, but Streng Geheim sounds fresh for today. The title track is a double-digit BPM strut, colored with some Middle-Eastern melodic flair. It feels like an impromptu dance breaking out in an arid open-air market bustling with goods being bartered and sold, or perhaps a non-ironic corollary to Men’s Recovery Project’s Bolides Over Basra album. Geier aus Stahl remix “Streng Geheim” on the flip, looking up toward the night sky with their interpretation (and as hoped, they leave the lead melody intact). “Du Hast Kein Gesicht” closes it out in high fashion with a chugging arpeggio (how appropriate) that recalls Petar Dundov at his meanest with an airy synth melody not unlike something you’d find on a Bone Thugs N’ Harmony CD from 1995 and a tauntingly unintelligible vocal. With each new release, my love for Neubau only grows stronger and more intense.

Bad Times Streets Of Iron LP (Goner / Nuthin)
Alright, now this is the Goner Records we all know and love! Here’s a welcome reissue of Bad Times’ 2001 debut self-titled LP. They were a short-lived (and by short-lived I mean apparently less than 48 hours!) “supergroup” featuring Jay Reatard, Eric Oblivian and King Louie. It’s the stuff garage-punk dreams are made of, and Streets Of Iron lives up to whatever hype that may imply. This album is clearly the result of a “first thought = best thought” songwriting mentality, just throwing together simple and rugged riffs the way these three punks knew best, and I’d say that’s exactly how you’d want these guys to operate. It’s really great stuff: a song like “Trapped In The City” is a shoulda-been hit, as visceral as anything off The Pack’s 1978 LP, but with the manic urgency that comes from being in a band destined to implode before next week. This version comes with a couple original tracks restored (and a couple live tracks removed), a thoughtful enhancement that maintains full acerbity. It’s a truly rabid gem (“You’re So Lewd” feels like Bobby Soxx with his pants on fire), a testament to the ferocity and intensity of the pre-Y2K Memphis / New Orleans garage-punk scenes.

Black Panties Dirt From The Mop / Dreams Of My Teeth 7″ (Total Punk)
You just can’t keep a good pair of panties down, as evidenced by this new Black Panties 7″ on Total Punk. In the past, I could take or leave this guy, kind of just another modern slimy punk band (like so many, forever to exist in Lumpy & The Dumpers’ shadow), but these two songs are pretty on the mark. “Dirt From The Mop” starts with a drum solo (accurately described in the liner notes as a “short, impressive drum solo”) before kicking into some furious garage-y hardcore punk, lo-fi and loving it. “Dreams Of My Teeth” is kind of a psychedelic title, but it’s a mid-paced meltdown of a similar style, far slower than the a-side but equally full of semi-humorous misery. Black Panties is a band (I’ve witnessed them live myself), but I guess it’s also a guy (kinda like how “Alice Cooper” works), and he recorded this single entirely on his own, playing every instrument, from the choked-out guitar solo on the b-side to the drum solo that opened the a-side. Sometimes punk is best experienced in self-imposed solitary confinement, and it does the trick here.

Brown Sugar Long Strange Drip LP (Feral Kid / Loki Label)
Buffalo’s Brown Sugar put out some great records in their day (2011 – 2014, more or less?), and this LP is jam-packed with most of them. Collecting prior singles and comp appearances and outtakes, Long Strange Drip is a solid compendium of this band, detailing their evolution from a snotty, delinquent hardcore-punk band to, well, basically the same thing except they figured out how to write some of the most memorable songs of their time and peer group. At 21 songs on the a-side alone, the actual vinyl looks like a damn Hellnation LP… I have to wonder if a curated selection of their best tunes would’ve been more effective for casual listening, but at the same time, I realize the concept of the CD discography is a relic of the past now (I actually miss ’em) so this is probably the best way to memorialize a group in 2018. I recommend you start on the b-side for the Tropical Disease EP, one of my favorite Brown Sugar releases, which combines the manic energy of their Toxic State contemporaries with the bite of Cleveland hardcore (Inmates, Puncture Wound, Bad Noids maybe?) and their own distinct nonchalant charm. Great liner notes too, outlining the inhospitable atmosphere of Buffalo, NY and their struggle to have fun in a place where fun was frowned upon. Not entirely sure if Brown Sugar are still a band or not (they seem to fade in and out, breaking up then immediately playing a fest and putting out a record, touring and then canceling a tour, etc.), but Long Strange Drip is excellent proof of their existence.

Daytime Cleaners Daytime Cleaners LP (Commuter)
This LP came from Daytime Cleaners’ bassist Earl Kunkel, who’s responsible for the great / truly weird label Vwyrd Wurd, so I was expecting something gelatinous and psychedelic like Daywand or indeterminately blackened like Nocht The Only Ghouls. Instead, Kunkel and his friends did the weirdest thing possible by playing in a completely normal, easily-approachable indie band! Out of Bethlehem, PA, no less – who knew? I kept waiting for something to jump out from Daytime Cleaners, revealing that the whole thing is a miserable hoax or a Negativland-style social experiment, but nope, seems like Daytime Cleaners are in fact simply a regular band, four white guys with mustaches and glasses, just the way white guys like to wear ’em. It’s slightly disappointing, as there isn’t nearly the same level of creativity on display here as on Kunkel’s label, just classically-crafted indie-pop with soft psych/garage leanings, ala Elf Power or I dunno, maybe Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, with a touch of Promise Ring in the vocal department. Daytime Cleaners are certainly as pleasant as those three… different shades on the khaki scale, but on that scale all the same. I guess no town is complete without one of these bands, and Daytime Cleaners are perfectly fine, perhaps even finer than Bethlehem currently deserves.

Dint Hooker 12″ (Horo)
Say what you will about Limp Bizkit but I think we can all relate to the occasional need to break stuff. Good thing there are producers like Berlin’s Dint out there, dropping overly aggressive, dare-I-say-macho records like this, perfect for putting a ball-bat through a box-screen TV, or fist to mirror, Rollins-style. Normally, I bristle at electronic guys invoking sex workers in an attempt to add some sort of edgy coolness to their music, and I guess I still did when I first saw this record, but the title track is so outrageously gnarly that I can’t help but tip my hat. Picture Raime’s slow and minimal repetition as deployed by Pantera’s rhythm section – it’s that good! Definitely in the same league as Andy Stott’s remix of Batillus, as well as Demdike Stare’s “Past Majesty”, one of the slapping-est tunes in their significant catalog. Second cut “Shovel” almost verges on power-electronics, but the underlying tension is too tuneful (and the harsh noise is deep in the background), hitting that sweet spot between Haus Arafna and The Haxan Cloak. We head back to the club (albeit a pitch-black, grim and frostbitten one) for “Skewer” on the b-side, with various electronic alerts, sonar pings and bass throbs slowly gathering intensity until unexpectedly fading, as if the pack of grim reapers chasing you through a concrete maze were all just a dream. Or were they?

Elephant Rifle Hunk LP (Humaniterrorist)
Elephant Rifle begin Hunk, their third album, with a stomp-down – gotta hand it to any band who cuts immediately to the chase like that, getting the ignorant hillbilly mosh-pit started without hesitation. From there, they explore various forms of heavy, belligerent rock, calling to mind AmRep, Harvey Milk, Melvins, KARP, that strain of underground post-hardcore that flirts with butt-rock and metal but never quite goes in for a kiss. Thankfully, they’re not overly serious about it (see the oil(?)/mud-coated male abdomen brandishing the word “HUNK” on the cover), and seem to truly have fun administering their pounding riffs and aggressive rhythms. The kind of band that would musically attract Mudvayne fans while simultaneously mocking them for being Mudvayne fans. Elephant Rifle certainly aren’t the first group to adopt this musical approach and attitude, and I don’t see much within Hunk that really stands out beyond the shadow of their forefathers… that said, their ideas are certainly that of their own (as opposed to a direct homage/rip), and while I may not want to sample their body grease up close, I am happy to admire it from afar.

F.U.K. Road Kill 7″ (HoZac)
Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night, wondering if Roger Miller of Mission Of Burma ever had a good ol’ fashioned punk band in the late ’70s with Sue Rynski of Destroy All Monsters? Allow this archival 7″ of F.U.K. (short for “Fucked Up Kids”) to ease your mind, as it’s true, they did! And this is it. Now, I’m not usually desperate to hear every little scrap of punk rock ephemera that’s unearthed (although I appreciate that it all exists), but I have to say, “Road Kill” is pretty timeless and amazing, in that there are still young punk bands with a Burger Records cassette tape and a dream wishing they sounded this good. I’m reminded of a stompier Loli & The Chones, although they never had a molten lava guitar solo quite like this! It’s kind of stunning that this track somehow remained undiscovered for so long, as I can say with confidence that this is top-shelf material. There’s no way “I Got A Head” on the b-side could match the primal righteousness of the a-side, but it’s by no means a throwaway. It’s stupider (your average second grader could write smarter lyrics, and is that someone singing through a kazoo?), but stupid in the way that all great punk classics are stupid, simplistic and pure. If this actually came out in 1977 in a pressing of 300 copies, it’d be on Ryebread Rodeo for $2,995.00, but instead it came out in 2018 and we can all snatch it up for whatever new seven-inches cost these days. Ten bucks? Can’t think of a better use of my money.

Jayda G & Alexa Dash Diva Bitch 12″ (Freakout Cult)
While so many electronic producers are retreating to their home studios for the sake of meticulous electronic editing, clicking their mice thousands of times to ensure their dance music is eviscerated beyond recognition, there are still people like Jayda G, for whom music’s main function is to bring a party to life, to tap into the eternal party euphoria that dwells within us all. She’s interested in the basic classics that are classic for a reason, and on this new EP for her imprint with DJ Fett Burger (another party essentialist), she gets down to the bare bones of early house. “Diva Bitch” is basic vogue music in the form of a minimalist Chicago house groove and a guest vocal from Alexa Dash, the “Diva Bitch” in question. She uses the track to diss inferior men and praise those who are worthy of her time, essentially turning a highly-demanding dating profile into an uplifting spoken-word rant that eventually leads into a Diana Ross-inspired chorus. It’s a little ridiculous, but so is life in the club, and if you’re not being at least a little ridiculous, why are you even there? This 12″ comes with a “Jayda G Get Down On Ur Knees Mix” which edits things a bit, as well as an acapella version if you just want to spend some private time with Ms. Dash. You better be looking extra fresh!

Gen Pop II 7″ (Feel It)
Feel It aren’t slouches – they knew Gen Pop had a great thing going on and wanted a piece. It’s a good pairing, one of the most thoughtfully-curated new hardcore labels and Olympia’s Gen Pop, a hardcore band writing thoughtful songs. Maybe smart is a better word for it than thoughtful – these songs are immediate and direct rather than studious and brainy, consistently following the shortest path to success. Opener “Oh No” is a prime example, essentially working two back-and-forth notes for rapid ‘core satisfaction, and it’s followed by the even faster “No Change”, which throws a third note in the mix. I could go for a hundred of these forty-second blasts of nascent hardcore jams, but Gen Pop demonstrate a sly versatility too – “Plastic Comb” might be my favorite, a weirdly slow groove with belligerently British vocals, this time coming from the drummer, I think? It’s like Jeff Geggus of the Cockney Rejects stumbling through a post-punk hangover, quite beautiful indeed. At other times I’m reminded of classic Boston hardcore ala FU’s or Gang Green (check “No Identify”) but Gen Pop are too smart to be either drunk or straight-edge, and the last song feels like something The Thought Criminals would’ve done had they stuck around long enough to get into hardcore. Each band member sings (it’s pretty fun to watch live, wondering who’s gonna handle the next tune), but even if you missed ’em on their recent US tour, these eight minutes of music bear much repeating.

Danny Graham Danny Graham LP (Xerox Music / Sinsemilla)
Seems like Australia has an equally endless cache of rock rarities waiting to be reissued as the US, and I guess that’s probably equally true for any first-world country dating back to the mid ’70s or so at this point. This is Danny Graham’s debut privately-pressed LP from 1980, now brought back to life care of Xerox Music, complete with folded lyric sheet and collage insert. I can count at least five times that obscure Australian music has shocked me to my core (Slugfuckers, X and Victims to name the first three), but this isn’t one of them. Graham’s music falls somewhere on the non-punk side of the late ’70s / early ’80s rock underground, calling to mind the queer rock of icons like Lou Reed and David Bowie alongside the glam-rock sparkle of T. Rex and probably at least a little Bee Gees influence (spin “Early Morning Heat Wave” and see if your straight-leg jeans don’t turn into boot-cut polyester slacks). Maybe a little folk-jazz fusion ala Larry Coryell in some of the instrumental passages, too? It’s one of those records that I can understand why people are eagerly shelling out $300+ for original copies, but I can also understand why it never took off in the first place, and why no one besides elite collector fiends really care. No unabashed, shoulda-been hits on here, just a nice collection of thoughtfully-composed songs that clearly soaked up the rock, glam, disco and folk of its era.

Grouper Grid Of Points LP (Kranky)
I got on the Grouper train inexcusably late: 2016’s Paradise Valley 7″ single. I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do (blame it on my avoidance of artists named after animals in the ’00s, aka Raccoo-oo-oon Syndrome), but I picked up this new one and have been enjoying it plenty. At first, I was expecting more – maybe some big sweeping orchestral moments, the inclusion of noise or drone techniques, a little post-rock heaviness, perhaps a startling field recording or two – but Grid Of Points is stark and simple, just Liz Harris and a piano in a rustic cabin in some faraway land. I was hoping for more than just this, too, but after acclimating myself to these soft, tender, drifting tunes, they started to take shape in my mind, the extent of their beauty and depth revealed. In particular, a track like “Driving” is oddly hummable after a while, and Grouper’s talent at blending the ambiance of sustained piano chords with her vulnerable-yet-distant voice is unparalleled. Grid Of Points is a quick eight songs, half of which are under three minutes a piece, which lends itself to repeated full-album listening and the development of a familiarity which really helps connect the listener to this sparse and melancholy music. Or at least this one listener in particular.

Twig Harper & Bill Nace Live At Dreamland LP (Open Mouth)
Bill Nace is more or less tied with Chris Corsano as the friendliest face in American underground improv. They’re equally busy too, and Nace has been doing a fine job documenting it on his Open Mouth label. Nautical Almanac, on the other hand, were one of the first groups I ever saw do that thing where various wires enter one performer’s mouth as they convulse onto the floor (a staple move in early ’00s noise), so they’ve got a special place in my heart, all of which led me to snag a copy of this collaboration between Nace and Nautical Almanac’s Twig Harper. They’re both credited with “voice”, with Harper on electronics and Nace on guitar, and it’s just the sort of dank sonic stew I was hoping for. The majority of the tones deployed here come from unidentified origins, with high-end that isn’t ear-piercing so much as ear-confusing – is Nace using a guitar pic made of dry ice, or is Harper providing wireless connectivity to a pile of old aluminum foil? They drone a bit too, but it’s always moving, hovering between tones like a restless (and stoned) hummingbird. Live At Dreamland is surprisingly pleasant, or at least not abrasive, with plenty of breathing room even at its most frantic. Perfect summer record for when the A/C in your window starts to vibrate uncontrollably and the mice run clumsy laps in the walls – it’s like you’re all jamming along!

Francis Harris Minor Forms 12″ (Scissor And Thread)
A fresh-cut arrangement of pink roses rests within an elegant vase, overlooking a hazy foreign city through drawn velvet curtains – such is the scene Francis Harris sets for us with Minor Forms. It’s a new 12″ on his Scissor And Thread label (ran in conjunction with the Brooklyn-based Halcyon record shop) and it’s a luscious, velvety dive into deep-house grooves. “More We Cannot Do” is kind of a Bruno Pronsato-ish title (y’know, tech-house Yoda speak) and it’s a very comfortable entry, complete with vibraphone to give off the flavorful scent of Mr. Raoul K. “Minor Forms” is next, upping the ante not only with more vibraphone but some tasteful trumpet as well. It doesn’t feel like part of the horn-based techno trend I’ve noticed so much as part of the tradition of smooth jazz instrumentation carefully spread across hypnotic deep-house grooves. Notably more jazzy and not nearly as melodramatic as anything on Giegling, who I’d consider the current bar for this sort of thing. The flip holds two remixes by Valentino Mora of the title track, the first of which brings the 4/4 thump to the forefront alongside some tasteful electronic squiggles. The second gazes toward the heavens, a calming bliss-out with hiccup-pitched percussion added for taste. Harris might be spending his days on Clinton Street in Brooklyn but his mind has ran off to somewhere far more serene.

Healer / DJ Eons Dank Goblins 7″ (Warthog Speak)
Not that there’s much competition anymore, but this is the split 7″ of the year, no doubt! West Bay dank-core is one of the most distinct and stylish forms of extreme hardcore, and this EP pits Healer alongside DJ Eons (aka Dan Lactose from Spazz). Healer’s side is actually their 2017 demo in its entirety (a whopping three minutes!) but man, what a demo! Vinyl was a necessity, as this is the sort of prime-cut Bay Area power-violence that would’ve found a home on Slap A Ham were it released twenty years ago. Various hip-hop and soul samples (which are often longer than the actual songs) buffer blazing-fast grind, calling to mind No Less, Capitalist Casualties and Crossed Out, but with its own distinct flavor. Really hoping we can squeeze at least another three minutes of perfection from this unit. On the flip, DJ Eons throws together some mean-mugging loops with the help of Agents Of Satan’s Ramon Salcido on bass, meant to be played out of a trunk while driving 5 MPH through a school zone. If Madlib could recognize Plutocracy tracks by titles alone, his edits would probably sound similar to DJ Eons. Healer and DJ Eons compliment each other perfectly, friends supporting friends (which was always part of the West Bay scene’s allure, along with all the graffiti and weed) – it’s been out for like three weeks now but this 7″ already feels timeless.

Iceage Beyondless LP (Matador)
Way back when (2010), Iceage’s teenaged debut knocked my socks off, and amazingly, some five albums later they’re still reinventing themselves in wonderful and unforeseen ways. I saw someone say that Iceage are pretending to be cowboys now, and while there is plenty of drunken waltzing through a honky-tonk saloon on Beyondless (a logical continuation of “The Lord’s Favorite” off Plowing Into The Field Of Love), that’s only part of what’s going on here. Throughout, they provide some unique strain of slow garage-rock that never previously existed, a ’90s buzz-bin torch song (“Pain Killer”), some raucous Neu!-inspired choogle (the fantastic opener “Hurrah”) and the silky pelvic thrust of my personal favorite, “Catch It”. Vocalist/heartthrob Elias Bender Rønnenfelt continues to sound like Tim Armstrong in a Nick Cave wig (or would it be a combination wig/bald cap at this point?), singing surprisingly tunefully at turns but still immediately identifiable as the ex-teenager most likely to make smoking cigarettes cool again. And the rest of the band (all going by their first, middle and last names on the insert, in case you didn’t realize how serious they are) exhibit growth by actually playing the songs in time with each other, all the while still possessing their ramshackle je n’ais se quoi. Speaking of je n’ais se quoi, Rønnenfelt actually says it at one point in “Showtime”, and this time around I swear some of its unintentional humor might actually be intended.

Joy O & Ben Vince Transition 2 12″ (Hessle Audio)
The horn-powered techno just keeps on coming and I for one am living for it. What should we call this, two-tone techno? Or third-wave house? Anyway, Hessle Audio continues to churn out the hits years after their post-dubstep inauguration, and this new collaboration between Joy O and saxophonist Ben Vince is a delight. “Transition 2” is immediately gratifying: a deep-house groove underpins some heavily gated percussion as Vince volleys two sustained notes throughout. It’s as if you just boarded the ferry that goes to Techno Island and the captain (Ben Vince) is announcing the vessel’s departure. It’s a fantastic cut, but don’t expect the flip side, “Systems Align”, to be any less potent. This one segues through various electronic avenues, traveling along tight-knit techno grids that shift in momentum. Sounds like Vince is using his horn to emulate the tires of a race car Tokyo-Drifting across a cobblestone alley in some sort of sleek European chase scene. It’s really quite stunning how seamlessly Vince’s horn collides with Joy O’s artificial worlds, and both players are all the better for it, confidently sharing the spotlight. I’d say if you’re only going to buy one horn-centric techno record this year, you should consider this one, but I certainly hope you’ll join me in purchasing numerous horn-centric techno records this year, other genres be damned.

Matt Karmil Will LP (Smalltown Supersound)
British-born German transplant Matt Karmil must’ve made the move via air travel because Will is an undeniably high-altitude album. Karmil’s form of house music starts on the ground, utilizing downy-soft 4/4 kicks and soothing tones, but often floats away from the beat entirely, leaving only the vague imprint of dance music as melodies hover above. It fits in well with other modern chill-out house artists like Kettenkarussell (who by no coincidence are another personal favorite), Anthony Naples and Galcher Lustwerk, but Matt Karmil soaks his material in Pop Ambient textures and can easily switch from the Giegling-esque chug of “Can’t Find It (The House Sound)” to a rippling, beatific meditation like “Maffé”, as if Fennesz was tasked with remixing The Field. It’s not necessarily a new sonic proposition, but Karmil balances both ends masterfully, knowing when to leave an elegant loop on repeat and when to ease the momentum into an untethered drone. If you’ve ever wished to dance while entering a lucid state of hypnosis, Will is the perfect elixir.

Leda Japanese Key / The Silent Contest 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Hell yeah, new Leda! Sofie Herner is one of my favorite current guitarists, or at least I think she’s playing guitar most of the time in her group Neutral and solo as Leda. It’s affected beyond recognition, of course, but in such playfully unusual ways – her music will trick me into thinking a broken washing machine is actually playing a Black Sabbath riff. These two new songs, both freshly recorded this year, are examples of her technique, and they’re great. “Japanese Key” is a slow throbbing pulse, origins unknown but it sure sounds sloppy, like you’re trying to walk through a darkened underground tunnel and can’t tell if you’re soaking your loafers in rain puddles or something far more repulsive. She rips out a sinewy solo(?) over top and kinda mumbles through it at the same time… it’s fabulous. “The Silent Contest” has kind of a similar momentum, relying on a stop-start pulse, but this one is more solemn, with grey-noise static blasts that end on a pitched tone and Herner’s vocal clearer in the mix, all resulting in an oddly noise-based devotional. Two very unique, very noisy, and very enjoyable new cuts from a clear master of her craft.

Liquids Hot Liqs Revenge LP (Neck Chop)
A pal of mine casually mentioned that Liquids have written something like 90 songs in three years, and while I haven’t verified (I don’t think it’s quite the case if you count re-recordings), it’s still pretty startling. This NWI punk band, featuring ties to Coneheads and CCTV, are clearly addicted to writing eighty-second-long snot-punk tunes, and Hot Liqs Revenge is their second proper full-length, featuring twenty new ones. It’s definitely up to par with the rest of their material, calling to mind Angry Samoans, Adolescents and Circle Jerks with a rough home-recording patina and a jittery, over-caffeinated feel similar to their modern Midwestern brethren. Songs are about how looking at you makes them want to throw up, and how they wish you’d shut up, too. Good stuff for sure, and oddly mastered for vinyl, as each track has a few seconds of silence between them, providing ample time to reflect on each tune (not unlike the Crossed Out 7″). I have to wonder though, what if these guys cooled it a little on the quantity, and tried instead to create The Perfect Punk Album? Really labored over each part and melody and vocal line, maybe stepped up the recording quality while still retaining that rawness? Angry Samoans, Circle Jerks and Adolescents probably didn’t have 90 songs combined by their first three years, and I feel like Liquids might be able to match their greatness if they worked on perfecting their tunes rather than quickly moving on to a new one.

Lysol Teenage Trance / Chemical Reaction 7″ (Neck Chop)
Seattle’s Lysol are back, after I think going away for a little bit, or maybe having to change their name? I remember the same thing happened to Tyvek, where they had to become TVK for a while… kinda funny that these mega-corporations actually care about their name being used for bands trying to sell three hundred copies of 7″ EPs, but I guess that’s what mega-corporations do. Anyway, Lysol are still rockin’ and rollin’ across these two brief tunes, a welcome return if they ever left us. “Teenage Trance” has the gruff, falling-down-the-stairs attitude of early Reatards with the energy of classic hardcore, let’s say Poison Idea. Cool breakdown that allows for some power-moves on the guitar, kinda like a messy younger sibling of that recent Fetish single. You could probably make a mix exclusively of songs titled “Chemical Reaction” and it’d be pretty good, Lysol’s included. I’m actually picking up a strong Hank Wood vibe on theirs, from the riff’s horizontal action and the vocalist’s huff-and-puff delivery (by the chorus, it’s uncannily similar). I could’ve gone for a full can of this stuff, but these two tracks are a refreshing spritz.

Patois Counselors Proper Release LP (Ever/Never)
If you told me the next great art-punk band was going to come from Charlotte, North Carolina, I’d probably choke on my iced chai, but I think that really might be the case! Of course I’m referring to Patois Counselors, whose debut 7″ I enjoyed back in 2015, but this is a mighty step up, a fully-realized vision of what cynical post-punk can be. I’m picking up strong vibes of Tyvek and Parquet Courts throughout, as Patois Counselors frequently utilize jumpy bass and drums alongside primitive and jangly guitars to energize the room, but they come across as more refined than the former and punker than the later. Certain oddball tracks like “Get Excitement” and “So Many Digits” recall The Rebel at his most successfully experimental, with any shock-jock tactics replaced by an understated lyrical wit. Patois Counselors are basically screaming “fuck society!” but with such elegant prose it might even please fans of Mars Volta. Some of the songwriting recalls The Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast in its baroque peculiarities, but it’s still simple enough to knock heads with the rest of the Ever/Never roster. Not a moment wasted, with plenty of memorable moments and weirdo charm (“Terrible Likeness” is the best song Men’s Recovery Project never wrote), and the first record of the year that I dug around inside the sleeve looking for a little download code (I found it!) because I need to take Patois Counselors with me wherever I go.

The Pink Noise House Of Cards LP (Sounds Escaping)
Yep, you read that right, The Pink Noise are back! You may remember them as one of the groups to help solidify Blank Dogs as a global trend in the the late ’00s, but I guess The Pink Noise actually never really went away, and just quietly got better over the years, becoming their own thing rather than another faceless lo-fi bedroom punk band (or solo project). This new one, unfortunately sharing names with a disgraced Netflix drama, is quite good, and bears little resemblance to the Pink Noise of old. It’s some sort of disjointed post-punk new-wave… drums come in unusual patterns (don’t expect the snare to keep 4/4 time), the guitar attempts glam-rock sass but trips on the cracks left by the drums, and vocalist/bandleader Mark Sauner kinda shout-moans over it all, recalling Black Eyes’ Hugh McElroy if he envisioned himself as a Killed By Death punk rocker. House Of Cards recalls Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask in some of its weird shredding, but it really covers so much ground – I’ll find myself thinking of ZZ Top, Rik & The Pigs, US Maple and The Contortions simultaneously and wonder how we ended up here. The influences are familiar but the end result is unique, a praiseworthy vision of overly-articulated punk riffing and laid-back retro set dressing, and certainly The Pink Noise’s finest achievement to date. Maybe they’re just getting started!

Potter Natalizia Zen Shut Your Eyes On The Way Out LP (Ecstatic)
Here’s a collaborative project that caught my eye: Colin Potter (the decades-long electronic artist who’s worked with Nurse With Wound, Current 93, Organum, etc etc) with Alessio Natalizia (aka Not Waving) and a guy with the intriguingly great name of “Guido Zen”. They lugged all their hardware to the studio and laid down Shut Your Eyes On The Way Out, a synth-heavy set full of meditative electronics, gentle techno thud and the loose vastness of kosmische. This sorta thing often gets the “soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist” tag, but PNZ avoid that sort of thing by withholding any sort of emotional gravitas or dramatic flair. Rather, Shut Your Eyes sounds like laboratory music, not so much experiments in sound but three talented people crafting exactly what they like. Think of a chef whipping up some signature dishes from old trusted recipes rather than first attempting to mix Szechuan and Mexican for the sake of seeing what happens. They’re also great with restraint, as these tracks are never overloaded – I have to presume at least one of these guys is sitting on his hands at any given moment, while one or two of the others twist their vintage knobs with studied precision. Masterful synth-work without any showy virtuosity, if that’s your interest.

Prime Minister Of Doom Mudshadow Propaganda 3xLP (Planet Uterus)
Alright, let’s just get it out of the way: no, “Prime Minister Of Doom” is not Insane Clown Posse’s DJ, and yes, I realize it’s an incredibly Juggalo-esque moniker. It would normally be enough to turn me off, but as mentioned last month, this triple LP was released in conjunction with the DJ Healer 3xLP, both produced by the same unidentified (presumably German) person, and as I’ve loved all of their other material, I had to check it out. It hasn’t disappointed! Whereas DJ Healer’s release was full of ethereal textures, open quiet reflection and extensive dialogue samples, Mudshadow Propaganda lands in the middle of the club and remains there for it’s equally lengthy duration. This is straightforward tech-house at its most efficient and durable, with many tracks led by hand percussion (bongos, congas, maybe even a marimba or two). Tracks are different from each other, so it’s not one homogeneous groove, but the tempo and energy remain steadfast throughout, quickly locating the proper zone and locking in. I’ll admit, if this was just some random Cadenza release I might not have given it the same amount of attention, but it’s an excellent addition to this producer’s bulging discography, the perfect rousing morning wake-up to follow DJ Healer’s delicate midnight epiphanies.

Quirke Whities 015 12″ (Whities)
I’m forever indebted to Whities for bestowing the work of Avalon Emerson, Minor Science and Reckonwrong upon me, so while some recent releases have taken a turn for eccentric modern-composition or cutting-edge electronic experimentation (not necessarily always my cup of tea), I will keep checking out whatever they do. I happen to really dig this new one by Quirke, the second Whities 12″ for this London producer. “Vatied City” opens it up with the frenetic push of some heavy-duty hi-hats, like a slightly less cryogenic Objekt. It’s a great rhythm, similar to something Bruce would cook up, and Quirke squeezes out some sour melodies over top; very nice. “Ttransport Craving” (his typo, not mine) is slightly less aggro, firing off some steam pistons with a chilly loop coasting alongside, not unlike something Kyle Hall would drop. “Hydraulic Deer” finishes things on a more abstract note, with an Autechre-esque take on bent melody, indeterminate scrapes and IDM clicks that eventually grow in strength and size. Not as singularly distinctive of a sound as Minor Science or Avalon Emerson, but Quirke cleaned my ears out nicely with this trio (well matched by the eye-catching cover design that comes with all Whities records).

Sashcloth & Axes M.A.R.K. -13 LP (Lament)
I can’t tell which comes first: the leather gimp mask, or the solo electro-dance project? They seem to go hand-in-hand these days, and that includes the work of Southern California’s Sashcloth & Axes. I get the impression that Sashcloth (aka Ricky Douglas) is coming at his music from a punk background as opposed to a Resident Advisor one, and while Douglas self-identifies as “synth-punk”, there isn’t a whole lot of sonic relation to say, The Screamers, Six Finger Satellite or even Suicide here. Rather, Douglas uses various synths and drum machines (often on the awkward “live drum kit” setting) to create rudimentary electro and new-wave tracks, filling them up with either a barrage of noisy samples (no shortage of meowing cats) and his own vocals, distorted beyond repair. I love a good outsider perspective on any given genre, but these tracks aren’t really doing it for me – too often M.A.R.K. -13 feels like low-budget haunted house music, and if I wanted haunted house electro, there’s no greater than Whodini (or the Fat Boys, or Fresh Prince… come to think of it, ’80s Halloween Hip-Hop is a robust genre). I’m not sure how shoehorning in the vague allusions to S&M help the project either, although there seems to be an abundance of Plack Blague fans out there (much to my confusion), so I can understand wanting to tap into that audience. It just doesn’t include yours truly.

The Sueves R.I.P. Clearance Event LP (HoZac)
If you’re into frills, I recommend you look elsewhere, as R.I.P. Clearance Event has none to offer. It’s The Sueves’ fourth full-length (and second for HoZac), and it makes this Chicago trio’s intentions clear: they are here to scorch, sizzle and drool through a dozen or so classically-indebted garage-punk tunes. Even their names are simple and effective: the back cover lists Joe on guitar and vocals, Rob on bass and Tim on drums. Does it get much more white-guy Americana rock n’ roll than the names Joe, Rob and Tim? Anyway, I should probably tell you whether or not I dig it, and I have to say that I do. Their songs are simple and tuneful, but delivered hot and crispy, as if one of those early Homostupids records utilized Back From The Grave-style riffs. The part that really won me over is the vocals of Joe though, who has the perfect croak for the job. I’m trying to think of exactly who he reminds me of, and it’s killing me because I can’t quite put my finger on it… not Mick Jagger, not Arthur Lee, maybe The Monk’s Gary Burger, or Cole Alexander’s earliest Black Lips recordings? Regardless, it’s the perfect voice to kick these tunes in the pants. Dare I say the best record made by a Joe, Rob and Tim you’ll hear this year?

Teenage Burritos Something To Cry About LP (Burger / Volar)
I saw Teenage Burritos play a show in their hometown of San Diego back in 2014 and promptly forgot all about them until this LP showed up. They were cool amateurish poppy punk band then, and they still are now, albeit with a firmer grasp on how to make it all work. Even so, there still seems to be a number of directions pulling at the ‘Burritos: sappy sock-hop pop, angular no-wave, ’90s pop-punk, HoZac’s garage-punk of the ’00s, even early hardcore in the form of their cover of Black Flag’s “Paralyzed”. Teenage Burritos certainly fit in with bands like Xray Eyeballs, Nots, Heavy Times, Hunx & His Punx, bands that gleefully enact a retro / party-centric take on punk. Not to mention of course all the other punk bands who reference junk food in their name, like Personal & The Pizzas, Miami Doritos and so forth (Weekend Nachos excluded). That’s a whole lot of band names I just dropped, and it’s probably because Teenage Burritos fit into that fray without necessarily establishing their own distinct presence. Not specifically the food truck you came for, but if the line’s too long at the Korean taco and Wisconsin cheese-curd trucks, maybe a burrito would hit the spot after all!

U.S. Girls In A Poem Unlimited LP (4AD)
I thought the prior U.S. Girls album came out pretty recently, that is until I realized it was merely an illusion due to my continued frequent listening. Half Free was gonna be hard to top, no doubt, but Megan Remy’s U.S. Girls project continues to unfold in startling new colors, like an exotic flower you thought had already fully bloomed that opens up to reveal a plethora of bold new petals. I know Public Image Ltd. came up with the term “Death Disco”, but I A Poem Unlimited seems to embody that more than any other piece of music – this album is full of throwback disco grooves scrubbed clean of corniness or irony (even the “house strings” are refreshingly cool) with Remy singing tales of lust, murder, murder-lust and its various complications, all with the candor and temperance that elevated Johnny Cash and Nina Simone to immortal stature. It blows my mind she isn’t a full-blown rock star at this point, and maybe I should blame misogynist Spotify algorithms for that, because these songs have immediately resonated with everyone I’ve played them for, man woman and child (especially child), in no small part to their bold and funky arrangements, slick recording, and Remy’s unmistakable voice driving it all. I’m just waiting for someone on the internet to put together an hour-long loop of album closer “Time”, the only modern disco song I’ve heard that desperately needs the Dopesmoker treatment.

White Denim mega-sale blowout!

Hi again! In case you didn’t know, I don’t merely review records, I occasionally release them, too! I’ve done a label called White Denim since 2003, taking a hiatus in 2015, and I’m glad to announce that there will be another release coming later this year. In the meantime, I’m hoping to clear out a little space for it, so here’s a sweet limited-time offer! Four of the most recent White Denim releases for $20 postage-paid in the US! (International buyers, please email me for postage rates!) It’s a deep discount to move out the titles I still have a few dozen copies of. If you share my general musical tastes, you’ll love these records, promise!

Here’s what you’ll get:

Young Trynas Probably Music 7″ EP (two-thirds of Flasher before they were Flasher, playing rough punk-core somewhere between Madball and Hole!)
Veiled El Temps No Passa 12″ EP (gloomy industrial from the bi-continental duo of Rob Francisco (M Ax Noi Mach) and Arnau Sala (Exoteric Continent))
King Blood Where Is He 7″ EP (scorching instrumental-guitar takes on Guns N’ Roses classics, no lie)
Will Over Matter Phenomenal Highways LP (imperious dungeon-synth from Finland; a personal favorite!)

There are MP3 samples on the White Denim website as well as the Soundcloud. If interested, please send a PayPal payment of $20 direct to whitedenim@gmail.com, just note the “special sale” in the payment description. Thanks for the support!