Reviews – October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews – September 2017

Anxiety Wild Life 7″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Anxiety’s debut LP whipped me around the room like a mini tornado, so I jumped on this new 7″ EP, also released by the praiseworthy La Vida Es Un Mus label. It’s four more songs of their potent stew of rigorous hardcore-punk and molten atmospherics, and exactly what we all needed. My favorite is probably the opener “Pegasus (I Feel Nothing)”, as it employs a sick slithering bass groove and atonal guitar noise in tandem, the sort of thing that invites the listener to creep around the pit and then wonder the next morning why one of their ears isn’t working. Closer “Lizard Lads Under A Rock” is probably my second fave, as it employs various disruptive motifs throughout (fast monkey-beat drumming, stompy Victims-esque riffs, a mosh breakdown reminiscent of Hoax, the general paranoia of Rudimentary Peni, aneurysmal panting to end the track). The other two cuts are shorter, meaner blasts of hardcore not unlike Dawn Of Humans at their peak, but I like it best when Anxiety allow their songs to fully match the freakiness of their overall band personality, with psychosis taking precedence to brutality. Any well-maintained 7″ bin would file Wild Life directly behind Anti-Cimex and Antidote, and I can’t help but think this isn’t entirely an alphabetical coincidence.

Benni I & II LP (Goner)
We’re truly living in a musical landscape where genre is meaningless, and everyone listens to radio-pop, free jazz, kraut-rock and mid-century country & western with equal enthusiasm. It’s a little weird, right? Kinda makes me miss the purist metal-heads of the ’80s who smashed anything that wasn’t specifically metal. I bring this up because Benni is the solo project of Benny Divine (of Gary Wrong Group and Wizzard Sleeve, among others), and it’s an instrumental ’80s synth-wave throwback affair, through and through. Released on the venerable garage-rock label Goner, of course. There’s really no reason to be surprised at this point, both by the fact that it even exists, and by my opinion that it’s a perfectly enjoyable genre exercise. Think Klaus Schulze, Giorgio Moroder (although I bet Benni has gotten wasted with Giorgio Murderer on more than one occasion), the Airwolf theme, any Jan Hammer records currently buried under a pile of mottled stuffed animals at your local Good Shepherd Thrift Shop, one out of every three records on 100% Silk… Benni knows the drill. Neither I nor II offer any new revelations on the genre, or even predict the eventual rise of Daft Punk, but they’re perfectly entertaining just the same, with titles like “Night Theme Reprise”, “Ard’rain’s Theme” and “Stardance” (which features a nice vocoder performance). You may not need a copy to continue living, but those greasy New Orleans punks deserve to drunkenly dance to ’80s cheese just as much as the rest of us, for which Benni has provided the winning original soundtrack.

Blue Chemise The Music Lesson / Watcher At The Window 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Fresh transmission here from the I Dischi camp, this one coming from Blue Chemise, an artist that my recon has confirmed is either Australian or merely pretends to be. “The Music Lesson” is pretty sharp, and carries the quality I’ve come to expect from the label. Featherweight strings drone back and forth through the track’s duration, embellished with a crackly, microscopic field recording, tuned metal percussion (or so it sounds) and probably one or two things that I either cannot place or am only subconsciously hearing. To some ears, it’s probably quite creepy, but I find it as soothing as a spa pedicure – maybe we can split the difference and say it sounds like one of those creepy pedicures where little fish eat the dead skin off your toes. “Watcher At The Window” pushes those same little bells from the a-side to the forefront, repeating a cautious melody while some old guy sitting under a single bulb tears up his movie script, crumples it into a ball and tosses it into a wastebasket before lighting another cigarette. Very cool stuff… I could easily go for an album of this material, which is serendipitous because Blue Chemise recently did an LP too. Just gotta make sure I clear out my pre-World War II doll collection from the room while listening, lest their eyelids to start flutter and they begin appearing throughout my house in places I never put them.

Tracy Bryant Parachute / Protect Your Head 7″ (Volar)
Tracy Bryant used to front the group Corners but he’s been on his own for a few years now. It makes sense, as the music on this 7″ single sounds exactly like the music a guy makes after leaving a punk band for a more mature direction under his own name. “Parachute” is nestled somewhere between the waning years of power-pop and the earliest beginnings of college-rock, a vulnerable jangler that I’d expect to have come out of a college town suburb in 1985. “Protect Your Head” reveals that the gap between the aforementioned ’80s post-new-wave rock and Interpol is less than one might expect, pushing straight ahead with a wiry guitar lead, the sort of thing that would make as much sense on a budget-priced Enigma Records label sampler as a Nissan commercial aimed at millenials. I appreciate that both songs are fairly upbeat, and Bryant’s wounded yelp meshes smoothly, adding a dose of emotional nuance to these tunes. LA is probably overstuffed with guys who look and play music like this, but for whatever reason I find that to be an oddly comforting thought.

The Bug Humbug; Or, So Many Awful Things 7″ (Not Normal Tapes / IFB)
Right off the bat, I didn’t want to check out The Bug because I am not a fan of new bands using names that are already well known, like c’mon, can’t these punks do a quick Google and notice that there’s already a “The Bug” who makes kick-ass hardcore electronic music and jams with Earth? I get the feeling that the members of The Bug would laugh at my complaint, and probably start a band called Earth just to spite me, and after listening to this absolutely scorching 7″ EP, I’d have to say they’re in the right. They’re from somewhere in or near Chicago, and they somehow found a way for hardcore-punk to be unhinged and on the verge of total collapse while still firmly remaining a hardcore-punk group, not screamo or noise or whatever else. Much of that comes from the guitar playing, which recalls one of those crazy Antioch Arrow live videos where everyone immediately flails to the ground, or perhaps grainy video footage of YDI at Love Hall in 1983. I can’t remember the last hardcore band I heard that was so raw and primal, they reminded me not of other bands’ records but their third-generation video footage. The guitar really makes Humbug, but the rest of the band delivers these songs with the unstable fury of Nine Shocks Terror or Mukilteo Fairies, as if the songs were not being played but rather exploding out of their bodies. All this, plus what is probably the best punk song title of the year (“Late Lunch Sogged With Grease”) and a booklet full of lyrics and lyrical explanations, taking a righteous and aggravated stance against injustice and misery in a way that is both direct and distinct. A good bud of mine is already calling it the hardcore 7″ of the year, and I’m not about to argue.

Stefan Christensen Shake Off The Village LP (C/Site Recordings)
Shake Off The Village is Stefan Christensen’s first vinyl full-length, and his third record reviewed here, the first two released by Ever/Never and I Dischi Del Barone, two labels dutifully providing a necessary service for the international underground. Both of those were fairly recent, but somehow it feels like I’ve been enjoying Christensen’s music for much longer, across more records – it must be that his personal strain of lived-in guitar noise and experimental indie-rock feels like home. If I had to lead you toward only one of his songs, in hopes that it might encapsulate all that he does, I’d go with “Over Scrawl”, the second track here – it’s got a buzzing guitar melody to recall Great Plains or some late ’80s pre-grunge college-rockers, utterly scalding noise that I’d expect from an early Sightings record, mumbled vocals not unlike something on Xpressway, and a tuneful, mysterious coda that eventually dissipates like a lingering butt in the tray. Exceptional! I’m hearing plenty of sounds, noises and melodies reminiscent of Flying Saucer Attack, Gate, Hood, Drunk Elk and Alastair Galbraith, but I get the impression that Christensen is simply doing his own thing – he could’ve been listening exclusively to Seasons In The Abyss and The Age of Quarrel prior to recording Shake Off The Village and I wouldn’t find it peculiar. Although, if he hasn’t been, I certainly recommend he try it for album number two.

Citric Dummies Tearing Out My Nails LP (Fashionable Idiots)
Fashionable Idiots has really been neglecting the fashionable and honing in on the idiots lately, and I’m all for it. Check our Citric Dummies for instance – what a name, right? They’ve got great cover-art care of Nathan Ward, great song titles (“Someone’s Living In The Bathroom”, “Kill Everyone Who Drives”, “Hooked On Pie”, etc.) and really nail the carefree bozo punk vibe. The music is very much of the snotty early-hardcore scene that emanated from California in 1982 – I’m hearing Circle Jerks, Red Cross (not Redd Kross), Vom and semi-recent updates on the sound like Clorox Girls, too. Faster than standard-issue punk, but still beholden to memorable choruses, silly hooks and lyrics that immediately connect (the aforementioned “Someone’s Living In The Bathroom” is a key piece of evidence). It’s not a new style, but Citric Dummies inject their own personal acidic flavor in every aspect of Tearing Out My Nails, making for an incredibly pleasant way to dumb down your afternoon. Apparently they’ve already got another album slated for later this year, tentatively titled The Kids Are Alt-Right, so anyone looking to come up with a hilarious album-title pun better step their game up.

The Cowboy The Cowboy Album LP (Fashionable Idiots)
The Cowboy is a new group out of Cleveland, proudly sporting two Homostupids and one of the Pleasure Leftists (although isn’t there at least one Homostupid that’s also a ‘Leftist? How does that change the tally?). If that’s not confusing enough, allow me to clarify that The Cowboy has nothing to do with The Cowboys, a current garage-y punk rock band on Lumpy Records. It’s like all these bands know that the internet makes it too easy to know everything, so they go out of their way to make simple things difficult. I guess I respect that. Anyway, The Cowboy are pretty cool – the riffs seem to come from the same mind as Homostupids, winding downward like a helicopter that ran out of gas, but the recording is significantly cleaned up, reverb essentially absent from the equation. That lo-fi hiss was a big part of the ‘Stupids experience, so The Cowboy offer a different approach, a bit more straightforward, less caterwauling and more low end. A song like “Smaller Rider” gives me some Eddy Current vibes even, quite tasteful punk, at least until you follow the lyrics on the back cover. Certainly fits in well with contemporaries / buddies like Watery Love and labelmates Citric Dummies, bands of smart guys whose only reaction to this messed-up world is to act stupidly. Who can blame them, really – if you can’t quote some Derrida while shooting a bottle rocket out of your butt, it’s time to learn.

Dauwd Theory Of Colours LP (Technicolour)
Dauwd Al Hilali is a British house producer / DJ who simply goes by his first name on records, and can you blame him? Cool name; fun to say. Theory Of Colours is his first full-length and my first exposure to his music, and while the concept of “the house music full-length” can be quite troubling (and in almost all cases, the wrong entry point for any given producer’s work), Dauwd really nails it here. By normal house standards, Theory Of Colours is a quiet record, one prone to stretching out on a couch even as your feet stay planted to the ground, tapping along. It has such an alluring and enjoyable feel that I wonder why more producers don’t also tone things down a bit, allowing subtle details to emerge. Through these seven tracks, I’m reminded of Kyle Hall at his most cuddly-soft, Boards Of Canada’s psychedelic nostalgia and Nicolar Jaar’s most active house cuts (the rippling bass and pristine chords of “Unconscious” evoke all three artists simultaneously). The title track isn’t too far from a Postal Service instrumental, and while that might be a turn-off for some, its uplifting bass is like a sunrise after an evening of sophisticated pleasure and powerful introspection, like The Field if unbounded by rigid 4/4 loop patterns. Second only to Kettenkarussell for down-tempo house album of the year, don’t @ me!

Edward Giigoog 12″ (Giegling)
Edward’s Shufflehead is still on hot rotation here, but I couldn’t resist checking out this even-newer 12″ on the Giegling label. It’s called Giigoog, a title that I’m still waiting on the right time to say out loud, and just as Shufflehead was a diverse cluster of forward-thinking dance/etc., Giigoog takes us on an exploration to three other sumptuous and strange worlds. “Bebe” opens the 12″, and while I was hoping for a touching celebration of one of the mall’s most glamorous shops, it’s something entirely different. Much like Newworldaquarium’s recent 12″, “Bebe” is essentially one sixteen-bar loop for twelve-plus minutes – but what a loop! It’s like the peak of a Moroccan street festival party, right as dusk is setting in and someone just rolled up with a fresh keg of ice-cold almond milk. There are subtle shifting details, but ultimately the track’s success is due to that perfectly-sourced loop. “Io Io” follows, clapping like Joe or Untold until another perfect vocal loop comes in, recalling Luciano’s Tribute To The Sun in its soothing burst of energy. Fairly sure it’s Spanish, but it could be Greek? Either way I want to move to this track’s homeland immediately. At this point, I don’t even need a third cut, but Edward finishes the 12″ with “Bongo Herbaoe”, a more traditional slice of evocative tribal-house that ebbs and flows rather than attaining Perfect Loop status and holding position. Edward’s got so many great ideas, I just hope I’m able to process and savor them at the rate he’s churning them out!

Enhet För Fri Musik Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig LP (Omlott)
Omlott could close shop today and I’d still be praising them for years thanks to the two monumental Neutral albums they released into the wild, but their fingers continue to actively dip in other bowls of Swedish strangeness. They just delivered a new one from Enhet För Fri Musik, replete with the full heavy-duty glossy gatefold treatment, and it’s a satisfying venture into private sound. This group features both Dan Johansson and Sofie Herner of Neutral alongside I Dischi Del Barone mastermind Matthias Andersson and a couple other friends who probably drink coffee at each others’ homes and take long bicycle trips through the forest together. Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig doesn’t feel like a group recording so much as a culmination of various solo pieces – maybe Herner drones on an old Wurlitzer on one track, then Andersson picks up an acoustic guitar and it’s his turn for two minutes of improvised fingerpicking. Field recordings, horns, ’60s pop tropes, even the slight residue of harsh noise contribute to this motley collection of songs. I’m reminded of Finnish avant-noise hippies Avarus in the ebullient kitchen-sink approach shown here, as both groups make music that brings the listener in… it’s as if there’s an open chair waiting for you and all contributions are welcomed. Any one track of Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig won’t quite do it – you have to sit down with the whole thing to truly understand, but it’s a time worth taking.

En Kernaghan Band Divine Body Care 7″ (Ever/Never)
So my understanding, from this 7″ and the previous En Kernaghan Band 12″ release, is that En Kernaghan Band is the musical project of Ethan Kernaghan, an Australian teenage skinhead Krishna devotee who loves explicit garage-rock. I’m sure at least two of those details are outdated or incorrect, but if I asked Ever/Never for specifics I’d probably be even more confused by their answer. Like many of Kernaghan’s rebellious and drunken garage-punk peers, he’s matured a little, pulling back on the fuzz and grease and taking a deep dive into his parents’ record collection instead. Why is there so much of that these days? Don’t we all have a friend who used to wrestle with garbage cans outside of the bar years ago, who now spends his time talking your ear off about which Neil Young and Grateful Dead live boots are the best? Enough already. Anyway, let’s finally get to the record at hand. “Divine Body Care” is a devotional chant, presumably about something more important than soaping one’s crack, but my brain wanders each time I’m sitting through it. “Things Are Constantly Changing” perks me up a bit, with brushes on the drums, sunglasses-down guitar solos and a great chorus breakdown, as if En Kernaghan Band were in a van on the way to Woodstock when they tragically caught a flat and never made it to the big time. I’m glad “Things Are Constantly Changing” made it into my life, even at the cost of all this other crazy information my brain insists on storing. I can spell “Kernaghan” without having to look it up, for crying out loud!

Exit Hippies Dance Maniac LP (SPHC)
I literally gasped when I opened the record mailer and saw a brand-new Exit Hippies album staring back at me. What joy! It comes in a 12″ DJ sleeve, with center stickers that parody the classic Dance Mania label, and I couldn’t get it on my turntable fast enough. I think it’s safe to say that with Dance Maniac, Exit Hippies have reached a new level of greatness – whereas previous efforts commingled noise-core and acid-house, Dance Maniac is their complete sonic fusion. Certain tracks have me imagining a world where Justice remixed Sore Throat (which, no surprise of course, are fantastic), whereas others seem to use the guitars and drums of the early Earache catalog as the sound-bank for their particular brand of jacking house music. And lucky me, it’s not just a split 7″, but a robust full-length with eight sizeable tracks. Maybe if Atari Teenage Riot was an actual recording of teenagers rioting with Ataris it would sound like this? Or if the Boredoms didn’t just share the Lollapalooza stage with Ministry in 1994, but actually genetically spawned with them (and then immediately caught a serious round of food poisoning), or perhaps the Principe discography retrieved from the crevasses of a highway underpass. I’ve been listening to Dance Maniac a whole bunch, and there’s still so much freakery and pleasure to unpack within these tunes. I might cry.

Glue Glue LP (540)
Unlike many of their hardcore-punk contemporaries, Glue have been active participants in the North American hardcore scene without much in the way of recorded output – since 2012, just a 7″ and a few tapes of varying provenance (I still hold it against Sex/Vid for ushering in the “live hardcore tape” trend). Glue are easily placed as a hardcore group of the 2010s, and not just because of the live tapes: they’ve got poorly-sketched mutant creatures in their artwork, angry lyrics frequently directed at “you”, riotous and ragged hardcore tunes with subtle Oi! and butt-rock influences, and a vocalist with a cartoonish snarl. That said, they’re quite good! The vocalist reminds of the guy from Men’s Interest (how I wish that band didn’t burn out so quickly), and Glue’s songs clearly reap the reward of having been written and refined over a decent period of time – it’s clear that these eight songs are their strongest offerings, not just another batch quickly churned out to the pressing plant. Even among similar artists like Warthog and S.H.I.T., there’s a distinctive playfulness in Glue’s approach, but not to the point where anything could be written off as a joke. One can only hope they continue to stick together.

Laurel Halo Dust LP (Hyperdub)
Laurel Halo is one of my favorite Hyperdub artists – both prior albums, Quarantine and Chance Of Rain, receive enduring plays in my abode. They’re quite different from each other, and I feel like Dust is Halo bridging that gap for even greater bounties, synthesizing her varied talents into one complete and enthralling whole. Which is to say, Dust is basically a wild reconfiguration of ’90s glitch, Cadenza-style tech-house, spiritual ethno-jazz, modern-radio EDM and dubstep experimentation. Instrumentals would be more than enough, but Halo sings throughout, putting her vocal and production talents to use in stunning combination. Her voice alone is quite expressive, but put through her various filters and effects, a new realm of emotion is explored. Check “Moontalk” to see what I mean – it’s a wholly unique mutation of Italo, Caribbean and Cambodian musicology with gorgeous pop hooks, sweet melodies and an expertly-utilized “disconnected number” dial-tone. Not all of Dust is as streamlined, but I’m just as content to wander through the hazy paths of “Like An L” (almost Mike Cooper-esque in its druggy exotica) as I am to shuffle along to one of her “Fela Kuti meets Pharoah Sanders in Luciano’s Ibizan tent” moments.

Andy Human & The Reptoids Refrigerator 7″ (Total Punk)
If I had to choose only one TP to live with for the rest of my life – the records of Total Punk, or toilet paper – I’d probably pick the former. I’d rather scavenge leaves in my time of need than give up this fine label’s multitude of music! Andy Human has passed through these pages before, and he always registered as passing-grade garage-punk of the day (usually tipped over toward the pop end of things), but backed by the Reptoids here he’s all business, ready to behave as if groups like Le Jonathan Reilly and Fergus & Geronimo never existed. “Refrigerator” is a big-time winner, a menacing punk hop that ticks all the right boxes. I’m reminded of Vox Pop, Video and Guinea Worms, three bands I’d get tattooed on my left arm if I were into such decoration. “You Don’t Even Know” carries that same toughness to a proto-punk rocker, reminiscent of White Boy And The Average Rat Band, The Rotters or any of the aforementioned groups. Both tunes are quite catchy, the sort of expletive-free punk I’d pack for my next radio program if I were into such broadcasting. Turns out Human and his Reptoids did an album together a couple years back, do I need that one too?

Impalers Cellar Dweller LP (540)
Hardcore is one of those genres where the many groups in a specific scene can be suddenly rendered obsolete by the supreme greatness of one of their peers; such has been the case for Impalers. They’re consistently head and shoulders above all the other bands who perform a violent mix of classic American ’82 hardcore and early Swedish d-beat, and somehow keep getting better. I wouldn’t be surprised if Impalers started walking around smirking like Steph Curry, fully aware of their peerlessness, but thankfully nothing about Impalers is annoying. Psychedelic Snutskallar was their previous high mark, but Cellar Dweller steps it up by maintaining that same sense of over-boiling energy and heft while cutting it up into memorable songs (the trickiest aspect for this form of hardcore is in crafting memorable songs as opposed to succinct clusters of riffs). They fuse in Burning Spirits-style Japanese hardcore buzz-cuts and glimmers of early NWOBHM / thrash through these tunes, always well-considered and tasteful and utterly ferocious. And as if the music doesn’t already go big enough, Cellar Dweller comes with a full-color wall-sized poster with artwork outlining each tune, mostly standard punk topics (anti-cop, anti-yuppie, anti-Nazi, anti-nuclear war, etc.) but done with a panache and vigor that makes me feel like I’m hearing this discourse for the first time. They may be dwelling in the cellar but they’ve set the bar impossibly high.

Al Karpenter The Chosen One 7″ (Munster)
Another one from the camp of Mattin – call him what you want, just don’t call him lazy! It blows my mind a bit that Munster has developed a relationship with him, as it’s a label I still associate with ’90s pop-punk (they released my favorite Sicko album and at least one live Mr. T Experience 7″), but I am coming to terms with the fact that anything goes in 2017, musically or otherwise. So, Al Karpenter: I can’t say with certainty that he’s not a fictitious person, but his trio (including Mattin on guitar and drums) sounds a lot like Billy Bao, back when that project resembled punk music (in the blurriest way possible). Instruments are played seemingly independent of each other – the bass might riff for a bit, then cut out, Karpenter might scream at a wall for a second or two, someone’s guitar is strummed with a tortilla chip until there’s merely crumbs on the floor. Very deconstructed and cuckoo, as if one of Fushitsusha’s psychic jams was condensed into a couple minutes of indigestion. So long as this means we’re one step closer to Mattin producing a comeback Mr. T Experience album, I’m all for the indulgences displayed here.

GG King Another Dimension 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
The First King Of Punk is back on home turf with the Scavenger Of Death label for this entertaining 7″ EP. “Another Dimension” is probably the impetus for the EP’s release, and rightfully so – it’s a perfect slice of overcast punk, cut from the same cloth as Shattered Faith and The Adolescents, memorable from the get-go. They still allow smoking inside of bars and clubs in Atlanta, so it makes sense GG King would come up with a tune like this. It’s followed by the madcap “Make A Movie (Dub Edit)”, a blast of audio verité not unlike Cock ESP. I’ll take it! At this point, I was prepared for anything on the flip (fingers crossed for a cover-song medley), but King switches back to semi-serious punk mode with “Gilliam Park”, another downer punk tune on the slower end of mid-paced, not far from The Wipers with an extended shout-along chorus that gives a strong nod to “Kids In America”. Very solid EP, another modern take on classic punk sounds. Wonder if this means he’s saving all his black metal tunes for the next album?

Richard H. Kirk Dasein 2xLP (Intone)
I’ve been loving the early Cabaret Voltaire records for years and years, keystones of my personal growth as a fan of diabolical synth-y post-punk, so why I never checked out Richard H. Kirk’s solo material until now is beyond me. Chalk it up to ageism and foolishness, I suppose. Anyway, this new one is just the sort of thing I want to hear, industrial-synth comfort food, so to speak. Each of the nine tracks here follows a linear path, usually guided by a rapidly-bleeping arpeggio or rudimentary drum pattern, upon which a dizzying array of buzzing electronics, heavyweight synths and various other nocturnal elements (is that a guitar?) are lovingly distributed. Imagine Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” given an industrial makeover, or the primitive electro of Rabih Beaini’s Ra.H material stretched to fit Front 242’s gear, with just enough Kraftwerk-ian sunlight poking through the clouds. Some of the tracks here are downright Soulcycle-worthy, but they never lose the icy, distant menace that is key to Richard H. Kirk’s aesthetic. The only question remaining is do I start going through Mr. Kirk’s discography from the early ’80s on up or 2017 on down?

Charles Manier Luxus Steroid Abamita 2xLP (Bopside)
Charles Manier is merely one of Tadd Mullinix’s aliases (which is odd because “Tadd Mullinix” is his birth name and by far his most exotic moniker). Mullinix makes R&B-infected house as Dabrye, acid techno as James T. Cotton and, by far my favorite, sensual and idiosyncratic EBM / pop-industrial as Charles Manier. Luxus Steroid Abamita is my first Manier experience, and it’s right up my alley, a rollicking suite of strange effects, horny beats, crystallized synths and elastic rhythms. If Matthew Dear dressed up like Drab Majesty, I’d expect his music to sound like this: distinct and well-rounded beats with various processes and melodies seething around, capped off by Manier’s disassociated vocals, sometimes processed to oblivion, other times directly whispered into your ear. Certain instrumental passages remind me of that great and slippery EP by The Modern Institute that I reviewed last month, but there’s far too much cosmic funk in Luxus Steroid Abamita for it to be neatly filed under “minimal synth”, alongside an “anything goes” playfulness that I find highly appealing (check the ten-second hardcore-punk snippet that closes “Plenary Psychic Automatism” for no conceivable reason). Manier hits a lot of switches here, but they result in the perfect combination, a veritable Konami-code of outsider industrial funk.

Ornament A Lion Is A Lion 12″ (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Ornament is the name that Joe Denardo, one half of Olympia-to-Brooklyn dronesters Growing, has chosen for his solo work. This 12″ EP is his debut, and I already like it, just from the magnified 8-bit art, as if my nose were pressed against the glass of a vintage Galaga console. If you’re familiar with Growing (and I hope you are), you’re probably expecting heavy electronic music that operates at a relaxed pace, and while that’s still pretty true here, Ornament’s music is always active, even if the rhythm (or distinct lack thereof) crawls along. As I listen, I’m imagining Fennesz an an American roots artist, plucked from a state-funded European symphony hall and dropped onto a front porch in some flyover red state. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been spending a bit of time with that new Stefan Christensen record, but there are some clear similarities to that one too, as Ornament’s music has a like-minded homespun feel, albeit with any trace of rock n’ roll scrubbed clean. Pastoral industrial, let’s say. As more and more Brooklyn artists and musicians get priced out of their apartments and practice spaces and try to start fresh upstate in Beacon, Kingston, Woodstock, etc., I have to wonder if experimental noise will be taking a turn for the rustic. I mean hell, Amps For Christ is touring again right now!

Plasmalab Love/Life LP (Bruised Tongue)
Plasmalab are a Toronto-based trio, utilizing that traditional rock formation to snub their nose at societal convention. They’ve got a “dark side of the ’90s” vibe going on, somewhere between Hole and Cows in their discordant, noisy delivery. It’s kind of a popular style these days – Plasmalab would fit in well with bands like Heaven’s Gate and Pill, bands whose definition of feminism includes rolling around the floor of a basement show in a patched-up denim jacket because there’s absolutely no reason only boys should engage in such ecstatic idiocy. While it certainly seems as though Plasmalab are having fun, don’t expect any happy riffs, as all melodies here are dirge-like; punk rock as funeral procession. There’s definitely a distinct personality at play here (the label-described “meme-punk” tag might be onto something) but their songs don’t quite match, crafted from familiar progressions and often played with a sagging energy level (which of course is probably intentional). I’ll keep an eye on Plasmalab though, because if they get bored playing the songs on Love/Life and decide to write nuttier music to match their general outlook on life, it could be magical.

Porter Ricks Anguilla Electrica 2xLP (Tresor)
Porter Ricks is a German dub-techno duo that first materialized in the ’90s, dissolved before the ’00s and returned in 2016 with an EP and now again this year with Anguilla Electrica. They’re right up there with Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound when German dub-techno is discussed (which I’d hope is at least weekly in any decent reader’s household), and this new one is fantastic, not just a return to form but a refined mastery of such. Much like other Germans, Porter Ricks seems to approach their techno not as a form of music but a life philosophy, led by a sense of exploration and curiosity but grounded by firm behavioral boundaries. Anguilla Electrica doesn’t so much sound like the work of synths but highly-advanced robotic beings that are right on the cusp of synthesizing various human voices, gastrointestinal processes and trombones, not unlike T++’s finest productions. Or maybe it’s more like a poltergeist trying to fly out of your laptop, prevented only by an up-to-date copy of Norton Anti-Virus Essentials. Part of me assumes this is what those reunited Throbbing Gristle albums sound like (I need to get around to hearing those!), but of course Porter Ricks has far more Detroit funk and minimal-techno snap in its DNA than improvised noise. The more I listen, the more it feels like this is the only form of music my body needs.

Preening Beeters 7″ (Digital Regress)
Here we go, hot new Oakland trio comprised of Max Nordile (ex-Violent Creeps), Sam Lefebvre (fantastic music critic, plus he’s got that cool tongue-twisty last name) and Alejandra Alcala (I don’t know the first thing about her but should probably acclimate myself). They have a very San Fran-styled approach to guitarless no-wave, and rightfully so, as they’re tripping on the same cracked pavement as Factrix and Erase Errata did when stepping outside for an It’s It. Lefebvre tries to pin down Alcala’s slippery bass with his drums, as if each little beat is another net that he’s tossing seconds too late – Nordile, on the other hand, lets the skronk out on his sax when he’s not convulsing out some lyrics I wish I better understood, delivered in the manic, walking-on-hot-coals style of Ex-Models’ Shahin Motia with a touch more “demented street poet” to his cadence. Having a general sense of two of Preening’s members’ musical tastes, I’m a little surprised Preening isn’t somewhat harsher or more aggressive, either via a rougher recording or punker riffage; more than anyone else, Preening remind me of DC’s The Cranium, due to the minimal instrumentation and general (occasionally funky) delivery. Cool EP for sure, with apparently an Ever/Never follow-up EP on the way because that label has an infinite wellspring of liquid assets that I hope to someday grasp. Tax scam?

Regler Regel #9 (Blues) LP (At War With False Noise)
My heart sank as I opened the box that this Regler LP came in the moment I saw the Regler name at the top. The last Regler release that came through here was one of my least-favorite Mattin projects, a big empty 12″ with the lingering sense of disappointment, but I did my duty and dropped Regel #9 (Blues) on my turntable anyway, maintaining my impressive dedication to properly informing my readership. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that this newest “Regel” is pretty intense and discomfiting and raw, a concept that really delivers. The music consists of bass-guitar and drums, maintaining a monotonous two-note dirge beat (across both sides of the LP) while Mattin layers various recordings of social and political discontent: street riots, protest violence, loud arguing, people screaming over each other. These samples are slowly dispersed throughout, occasionally coming together in a deluge that truly recreates the panicked, fearful state of the first world, one guided by anger and resentment and hopelessness. Certain samples really stress me out, probably because this isn’t some sort of dystopian fantasy but all too real, and being reminded of it via Regler’s oppressive repetition can be a bit too much. I get the impression that “a bit too much” is exactly what Mattin was going for with this iteration of his Regler project, though. It’s the sort of audio document that stings right now but will be a valuable document for future generations to unearth and evaluate.

Rivener Rivener LP (These Are Not / Twin Lakes)
Rivener is a male duo out of Connecticut, and they certainly like to improvise: Paul Belbusti on guitar, keyboard and percussion, Michael Kiefer on the drums. I’m reminded of two scenes as I listen: the jazz-informed post-rock underground that was happening in Chicago around the turn of the century, and the heady improv scene up in Massachusetts, players like Chris Corsano, Bill Nace and Paul Flaherty and the general orbit of the Ecstatic Peace label. There’s a wide range of personalities in those two times and places, and I haven’t quite put a finger on Rivener’s attitude or demeanor just yet – not sure if they are mischievous, humble, berserk or what. The recording is notably clean; it’s certainly a studio endeavor where the emphasis is on what is being played, not the room it’s being played in or the gear on which it’s being recorded, and while I appreciate that, I’m not sure there is enough distinction in Rivener’s sound, clear as it may be. Belbusti’s guitar mostly sounds like a guitar, rambling through deconstructed blues chords, partial space-ragas and moments of unobstructed release (certainly following a path set by Keiji Haino and Loren Mazzacane Connors), and Kiefer taps along in the traditional free-jazz style, generally matching the guitar’s frenetic energy or sullen calm. Can’t go wrong with that, but I also can’t help wish they went a little more “out” with this one. When it comes to free guitar/drums, Rivener is nothing if not “in”.

Sacrificio Pulidores De Tumbas LP (SPHC)
I need to figure out where SPHC sources LP jackets like this, the same style they used for the Era Del Vacio album a couple years ago – they’re made out of some sort of ancient and textured cardboard parchment, a perfect texture for the raging hardcore-punk that resides within. Sacrificio are a Mexico City trio (and, just like Rick Ta Life, they look great on horseback, as seen on the insert), and Pulidores De Tumbas is fourteen tracks of solid, by-the-books hardcore with thrash and grind leanings. I’m partial to the faster stuff myself, recalling Capitalist Casualties, E-150, Stapled Shut and Cop Out, and there’s plenty of it on offer here. Pulidores has the vibe of hardcore-punk bands who just played as fast as they could so they ended up into grindcore territory, as opposed to a group coming from a metal perspective that wanted to incorporate blast-beats. They’re by no means the fastest, tightest, most memorable or distinct group to deliver such a sound, but the drummer is sick (sounds like he’s got half a dozen different cymbals set up and he’s not afraid to use ’em), the vocalist has a righteously phlegmy shout, and like I said, they look cool on horses. What more would it take to please you?

Science Project Basement Blues 7″ (Neck Chop)
Egregious cover art error here for Nova Scotia’s Science Project, using the same Manson photo that Negative FX turned into classic hardcore iconography back in 1985. I have a feeling it was an unintentional coincidence, and that they wouldn’t care anyway, but it also makes little sense in the aesthetic scheme of Science Project, the solo project of a one Cody Googoo, who also performs in Booji Boys (among others). How many bands does one person need to prove their allegiance to Devo? I may never know, as Science Project goes full-on geek-punk, with prerequisite nasal vocals, sci-fi synth effects and rigid rhythms. Basement Blues contains six songs, compiled from two previous cassettes, and I’m not sure why it didn’t remain as such. At best, there’s a nerdy menace that recalls Count Vertigo, but for the most part this sounds like anyone’s Devo-inspired punk solo project, neither good nor bad, as if anyone could buy the “Devo-inspired solo project” instruction manual and follow these simple steps. At least the lyrical sentiments occasionally veer out of the “I’m a depraved robot / you are a mutant” vein, instead offering bored-in-the-scene social concerns, with songs railing against “Discogs sellouts”, “Tumblr punks” and “mysterious guy hardcore” – serious issues indeed. For every Neck Chop release that I enjoy, there’s at least one that I can’t help but wonder why it was deemed worthy of existence – did they truly think this science project deserved greater than a C+?

Sex Snobs Emotional Stuffing LP (High Dive)
Oklahoma City’s Sex Snobs return with their third LP. Their first came through here, which I recall as being a solid entry in the Drive Like Jehu / Wipers category of underground rock, but Emotional Stuffing is far more poppy. Took me a moment to adjust, but I think I prefer it! Opener “Ritalin” sounds like Purling Hiss mixed with whoever sang that “Teenage Dirtbag” song, and the next few songs have me thinking of a more alt-rock Get Up Kids, or if Harvey Danger never made it to MTV and just opened for The Murder City Devils on multiple tours before calling it quits. In melody and lighthearted snark, I’m also reminded of major label pop-punkers The Ultimate Facebook – there’s even an ironic song about going to the mall. I’m a fan of this style, and Sex Snobs unexpectedly do it justice, no doubt about it. If Hollywood ever decides to re-boot 1995’s Angus, I’m nominating Sex Snobs for top billing on the OST!

The Snails Demos 7″ (Neck Chop)
Here’s another tape-to-vinyl upgrade care of Neck Chop, this time coming from The Snails, a hard-to-Google group that I believe hails from California somewhere (it’s a big state). Six songs here from two prior tapes, and they make for a solid sampling of contemporary snot-nosed punk. The Angry Samoans are the direct descendant of this style: speedy drumming, simple-but-catchy melodies, and teenaged vocals are on order, both then and now. The recording is punk and muffled, sounding as if the kick drum and snare are actually just a large cardboard box and a smaller cardboard box, but it works for The Snails, even if it doesn’t quite allow the songs to lodge themselves in my brain in the same way as the aforementioned ‘Samoans have. Bands like The Liquids (and dare I say The Coneheads) are probably more than a little inspiring for The Snails and their general presentation (barely-there crappy art, basic titles like “I Become” and “Shit”), but they’re all just little splashes in the infinite stream of juvenile punk rock, one that is far deeper and wider than even the biggest fan will ever fully experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and The Snails certainly contributed their part.

Trampoline Team Drug Culture / I Don’t Play Games 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
Space Taker’s only other release thus far is a recent Nag 7″, which goes hand-in-hand with the speedball punk of Trampoline Team. Both songs here are classic punk in the Dangerhouse tradition, picked downward and tuneful and mean-spirited, the sort of thing that’d fit right in with The Nuns and The Randoms. Both choruses involve shouting the song title in a stompable rhythm, and they flow downhill with the ease of Steve Caballero in Future Primitive. Kind of picking up some Goner vibes too, in the more punk / less garage end of their spectrum, like Nots’ first album. There isn’t much of a pronounced sound or voice going on with Trampoline Team, but it’s a genre I enjoy well enough that I don’t particularly mind their lack of invention. Maybe they can invest in some actual on-stage trampolines if they need to add a gimmick while maintaining a rudimentary musical approach – it’s high time trampolines retained the punk edge that Weezer unlawfully removed from them.

Yass Night Wire LP (X-Mist)
How is there gonna be a group called “Yass” and it’s not a Broad City spin-off? I was all set for a modern update of Le Tigre with Abbi and Ilana on vocals and Hannibal Buress on electronics. Much to my chagrin, Yass are an all-male German duo who insist on subjecting noise-rock guitars and vocals to a dance-pop makeover. I’m hearing plenty of Death From Above 1979, or perhaps what would result from Steve Aoki remixing Metz, or Young Widows squeezing themselves into some DFA skinny jeans. I’ll go on record as having no issues whatsoever with discordant, harsh guitars as well as populist disco beats, and Yass combine them quite smoothly, as if these rhythms were the only suitable framework for heavy guitars run through half a dozen effects. Sounds pretty good, but Yass would benefit greatly from a standout vocalist – a self-assured hipster ala James Murphy or otherworldly creature like Pixeltan’s Mika Yoneta might push these tunes to the next level. The sounds are there, Night Wire just flows more like a series of like-minded ideas more than a set of distinct songs. That said, if you’re dancing hard enough, as some inevitably are, nothing else really matters.