Reviews – February 2020

Barn Sour Horses Fucked Over The Head With Bricks 7″ (Careful Catalog)
Careful Catalog is really asserting itself as one of the top American purveyors of experimental WTF nonsense. If you like sound art with infinitely more questions than answers, Careful Catalog’s got what you need, like this 7″ single from Barn Sour, whoever they might be. What do you file this under, agricultural comedic noir? I’d like to see what other records are in that bin. The a-side is about four minutes of forced laughter over a pulsing drone that slowly increases in volume and some ambiguous, distressed physical sounds, as if a magician were attempting to free themselves from a straightjacket made of plastic Target shopping bags. Does anyone know why she’s laughing, or if any horses were actually harmed in the making of this audio recording? It ends abruptly, and the b-side offers no clues – rather, multiple frothy voices argue in gibberish over some resonant piano, like Michael Pisaro walking into a wordless argument between Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil. Kind of reminds me of Menstruation Sisters through the use of absolutely intolerable human voice, but the moody piano and fluttering drones add a mournfulness that sets Barn Sour apart from most other experimental noise acts. What scares me most isn’t that these completely bizarre and confounding recordings exist, but that somewhere out there, there might actually be someone who can make sense of it all.

Beauty Hunters Muscle Memory LP (Dirty Knobby)
Everybody loves Mudhoney, but it’s worth pointing out how cool their modern-age bassist Guy Maddison is. The guy can recite DRI lyrics at the drop of a hat, save a life using his EMT skills, and probably just as easily end a life using his rippling Aussie physique. Turns out he’s keeping busy during Mudhoney downtime with some synths and friends, operating under the name of Beauty Hunters, now with a debut album of three long-form cosmic synth excursions to their name. Alongside Sean Hollowell and “video editor” Curt Buchberger, these men drift deep into the outer reaches with murmuring arpeggios, galactic rumbling and a meditative patience suited for this musical practice. The a-side is the longest, reminiscent of Klaus Schulze under a cloud of black smog, and the b-side’s two cuts follow similar compositional patterns, with the final track (the appealingly titled “Fried Eggs For Everyone”) appropriating some cinematic dialogue deep in its murk. I’d place it somewhere between Tangerine Dream and Black Mayonnaise, or a Death Waltz soundtrack for a movie based on a killer oil spill that murders its victims very, very slowly. I didn’t know Maddison had this in him, but I’m delighted to know that he does!

El Conjunto De Su Tio El Conjunto De Su Tio 7″ (Musica Desechable)
Not interested in instrumental rocksteady ska? How about some Venezuelan instrumental rocksteady ska on a Mexican lathe cut 7″? I for one love that the Musica Desechable label exists to help promote underground South American music on their own modest scale (I can only find a scant Soundcloud page online), and that they’re doing so in their own weird way. On this presumably-quite-limited lathe-cut single, El Conjunto De Su Tio plays two songs of easygoing first-wave ska, lead by a meandering organ that might appeal to fans of Quintron’s exotica. Certainly fans of scratchy 2 Tone 45s in their company sleeves will find it to be a pleasant outing. Far, far from the chain-walleted reaches of ska’s third wave, these songs hearken to an earlier era, of suits and ties and skanking as a form of courtship. Nice to know that it’s currently happening in Caracas, that’s for sure.

Eroders Eroders LP (Outer Limits Lounge)
Trusty Detroit rockers Eroders follow up their smattering of singles and EPs with their debut self-titled full-length on Outer Limits Lounge. Rather than expand on their basic garage-rock / American post-punk template, they deliver more of the same, satisfying comfort food for fans of the genre and probably confoundingly boring to YouTube vlogging teens. I’m hearing echoes of the usual suspects in these tunes – Wipers, Los Angeles’s X and Gun Club – with an energy and occasional vocal delivery that calls to mind the earliest At The Drive-In 7″s, back when garage-rock was one of their main stylistic points of reference. Pretty basic stuff, but they jazz it up with tasteful Farfisa, riled-up backing vocals and the strange decision to cut the Violent Femmes-y “16” in half, ending the a-side and starting the b-side with it. Why not, I guess? Doesn’t seem likely that Eroders will change anyone’s mind about anything, but as for a fresh slice of dependable and tuneful garage-punk, it’s available for anyone to dig right in.

Eyes And Flys Eyes And Flys / Fall Asleep With The TV On 7″ (no label)
New solo thing here from Buffalo’s Eyes And Flys, a solo project from a guy named Pat Shanahan who may or may not have been a member of Facility Men (and surely some other Buffalo punk and hardcore groups over the past decade). He’s trying his hands at one of these “one person plays all the instruments so it sounds like a regular band” deals, which results in some pretty pleasant-if-unremarkable garage-y post-punk. The title track repeats the group’s name four times in a row for the chorus over a floor-tom-led groove and down-picked guitars, like an early, bluesy Hot Snakes practice tape, were such a thing to exist. The cool thing about this song is that Shanahan could easily license it to artisanal Brooklyn comfort-food specialists Pies ‘n’ Thighs with a quick change of lyrics. Why don’t more non-corporate restaurants have their own theme songs, anyway? “Fall Asleep With The TV On” is slower and trippier, utilizing tambourine for percussive time-keeping and delivered in a bleary monotone, presumably aware of the existence of Brooklyn’s Kaleidoscope. These two songs together have me thinking that Eyes And Flys might appeal to fans of Ty Segall and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, but the vinyl for this self-released 7″ single is black, not neon lava-lamp colored. I’m still hung up on that Pies ‘n’ Thighs idea, honestly.

Yan Hart-Lemonnier Le Partages Des Griefs LP (AD AAD AT)
If my name was Yan Hart-Lemonnier, you better believe that I’d be picking up a sweet pile of synths with which to compose some lush and peculiar electronic music! This French producer has put out numerous albums over the past few years, and Le Partages Des Griefs is his second for London’s AD AAD AT. Much is explored over the album’s eight tracks, from blissful power-ambient surges to wistful IDM, all with a consistent mix of synthetic versions of natural sounds and synthetic versions of synthetic sounds. I’m imagining the electrical cords of Kid 606, DJ Scotch Egg, Arca and Eats Tapes all tangled together while listening to Hart-Lemonnier’s music, although any particular sonic similarity proves to be quickly fleeting, as his creative spirit seems restless indeed. I like it best when it veers to the cinematic – much of the first side puts together sonic characters with such depth and distinction that they easily come to life in the mind’s eye of a focused listener. If our future robot overlords sound like this, maybe it won’t be so bad?

Huevos II III 12″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Huevos II is a new laid-back, no-pressure rock group featuring Ma Turner (whose Warmer Milks project I’ve always enjoyed) and two other friends with less peculiar names, John McGuigan and Patrick Borezo. Noting Turner’s involvement, I kept waiting for some subversive secret to reveal itself as I listened to these five simplistically sweet indie-rock tunes. Were they actually playing all the instruments upside down? Did they play these songs backwards, and then flip the tape forward? It appears the answer is “nope”… Huevos II are just a regular indie-rock band like countless others before, although the pencil drawing of a phallus-nosed Mickey Mouse on the b-side label is a little unnerving, thankfully. III falls into that sort of collegiate ’90s Matador vein, perfectly poised to open for Calexico, Chavez and Pavement whenever they roll through town. The song “Memories” actually reminds me of Purling Hiss in their prettiest pop mode (sans any scorching solos), and the rest of it has me thinking of Pavement circa Shady Lane or Spit On A Stranger (which is my favorite Pavement, and at odds with the popular opinion, for whatever either of those things are worth). A friendly and familiar sound, but not one that offers much in the way of its own sonic distinction or character. Maybe that’s the point?

Jivestreet Revival Jivestreet Revival LP (Slackersound)
Oof… that name. It should be your goofy uncle’s blues band, or some boring street fair with overpriced fried cheese curds, or anything besides the belligerent German scum-rock band that it actually is. I’ll chalk it up to cultural miscommunication, so if you’ve actually taken the plunge to read this review about a group called “Jivestreet Revival”, you’ll be one of the lucky ones to know that they’ve got a decent handle on seedy punk that calls to mind Fang and Kilslug. The songs are on the verge of becoming metallic but never quite reach that, instead pulling punk in its sleaziest sonic direction, all with a vocalist who sounds recently disturbed from his uneasy sleep before stepping to the mic. The tunes move quick, and the more I sit and soak up their Lubricated Goat-ish riffing and damaged demeanor, the more I think I might really get behind this group if they were named something, anything else (even “The Cheese Nerdz” or “Flapjacks Unlimited” would be steps up). I suppose true low-level druggie-rock such as this doesn’t really concern itself with aesthetic perfection, though.

Kopy / Tentenko Super Mild LP (TAL)
I read that Lena Willikens is a big fan of Osaka’s Kopy and Tokyo’s Tentenko, often including their tracks in her live sets, and when Lena Willikens talks, I listen! I’m glad to have discovered the work of these two Japanese producers, and while I am unsure if they are friends or collaborators or more than just two separate artists brought together on a split LP, their styles are quite complimentary and similar. Kopy’s sound is loose and exploratory, somewhere between the earliest raw house experiments of Kyle Hall and the industrial boogie of Jasss. Rhythmic patterns are given a light kick in the pants, and the tempo drops to a crawl on “Carl”, which is certainly in Williken’s wheelhouse. Tetenko’s sounds are similarly rough around the edges, invoking tribal drums and aggressive pads as well as sampled voices on nearly every track. The brittle pulse of “Super Soggy” is probably my favorite, a claustrophobic throb suitable for any disagreeable Downwards mix. Of the two, I’m not sure I can easily pick a winner, as both Kopy and Tentenko are making some cool n’ rugged techno-industrial, and not everything has to be a competition, right? Sometimes I catch myself simply enjoying music without rating it, like right now.

Lithics Wendy Kraemer EP 12″ (Moone)
Without any good reason, I’ve been sleeping on Lithics… I know, what am I doing not checking out this cool post-punk band released by labels like Thrilling Living and Kill Rock Stars, but there are only so many hours in the day, alright? In the immortal words of Ray Of Today: “get – off – my – back!” Anyway, here I am finally checking them out in the form of this vinyl-reissued cassette of practice demos and improvisations that eventually morphed into their album Mating Surfaces. I’m afraid that if I am to eventually hear that album, I won’t like it as much as this 12″ EP, because this rough (but not too rough) collection of tunes is right up my alley! These songs are all elbows and knees, poking out and knocking into each other in a crammed backseat. I’m reminded of my favorite parts of Erase Errata (the weirdest parts), the unfeasibly-workable guitar interplay of Arab On Radar (just without any fuzz), and the enchantingly hushed mathematics of Et At It, all with a strong spiritual connection to Suburban Lawns (there’s no track listing anywhere, but the second side opening tune is exemplary). I love that they’re able to eschew the drums entirely for one song, and have them lead the next – for a tossed-off tour tape, Wendy Kraemer has a marvelous flow, right down to the random found-sound snippets and no-wavey gems. Recommended!

Galcher Lustwerk Information LP (Ghostly International)
Seems like a pretty solid deal for both respective parties here: Galcher Lustwerk gets the boost of a larger label and its inherent seal of approval, and Ghostly gains the cache of a staggeringly cool producer like Galcher Lustwerk into their fold. This is an artist who found his lane early on and has stuck with it, and it’s been a pleasure following along. Unlike previous records, Information mixes up the percussive sound a bit – for the first time, Lustwerk samples a live drum kit instead of purely electronic hits and kicks. It’s not a drastic left-turn for low-key deep house such as this, but it lends a different feeling to these songs; it still sounds like nighttime, just a different form of nighttime. In addition, he slows the pace frequently throughout – I’m not sure “Cig Angel” counts as a slow jam so much as weightless house music geared for La-Z-Boy recliners and sleepy head-bobbing. As always, Lustwerk’s distinct, hushed vocals emboss these tracks with his signature sound, and the synths mostly remain the same: lush tones that slowly swirl outside your luxury SUV as it cruises down a coastal highway at 3 AM. Information is more of a mood-setter than a collection of party anthems (such as previous cuts “I Neva Seen” and “Parlay”), and while it’s fun to move one’s body to the music of Galcher Lustwerk, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather set my mood.

Sam Mallet Wetlands LP (Recurring Dream / Musique Plastique)
This posthumous collection of cassette-only and previously-unreleased material from Australian artist Sam Mallet is so on-trend for today’s electronic music underground that I’m checking my watch for the backlash, but you won’t be getting any of that from me – I really love this kinda stuff. The jury’s out on whether or not I’m simply another trendy robot, but these tunes, full of semi-ambient beauty and vaguely non-spiritual new-age soundscapes, do the trick. Crazy to think that there were so many unheralded artists such as Mallet doing this stuff in the mid ’80s, surely inspired by My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, personal synthesizer ownership, ECM jazz and the advent of computers as musical tools. Wetlands collects some nice moments from his tape releases as well as some unreleased gems, to include lounge-jazz trumpet and standup bass alongside the sound of cars driving past (“Amber”) and circuit-bent Cabaret Voltaire-inspired exotica (the lovely titled “Skateboard Terrains”). Beautiful sonic artistry on a DIY level… it’s truly a shame that Mallet isn’t here to appreciate that the world has finally caught up to what he was doing.

Messrs Messrs LP (Heel Turn)
I always found the genre title “pigfuck” to be unappealing… it’s distasteful, for starters, and not a reasonable description of the music to which it applies. I think it’d work for Messrs, though, not simply because they play a snarling and loose form of ’90s-inspired noise-rock, but because the cover art features the remnants of some unfortunate swine, blood and goop and intestinal bits splattered about. Not sure what their relation with that particular pig is (I hope it came from an ethically-sourced butcher and not one of the band members’ extracurricular hobbies or something), but their music here is thicker and gooier than their Savage Quality 7″ EP that rolled through these pages back in 2016. The singer certainly sounds as though he is wearing a soaking-wet button-up shirt, either from perspiration, spilled cocktails or some mixture of the two, slurring and swinging wildly at the cops who are tossing him in the back of the patrol car. The songs are mostly chaotic mid-tempo noise-rock slams, akin to a de-tightened Jesus Lizard or a punker Tar, with very little of the garage-punk scuzz that I heard from Messrs before. They speed it up on occasion as well, recalling the fury of Condominium without the manic stamina. If this description sounds appealing, I’m going to assume you’ve already heard plenty of other groups who sound similar to Messrs, but if you insist on seeking out more ugly and inebriated noise-rock, rest assured that Messrs are not even remotely plant-based.

Midnite Snaxxx Music Inside LP (Slovenly)
Kind of a rare offering here from Slovenly: a group that I’ve actually heard mentioned by friends and acquaintances! That might sound like a diss, but well-praised (or even vaguely acknowledged) bands are often overrated, you know? Midnite Snaxxx is a group who seem to have developed a following among various crowds, from the MRR posse to Total Punk to the internet and beyond. You might as well lump me in there too, because they’ve got a good thing going! Music Inside displays the group’s comfort with numerous punk styles, from spindly post-punk ala The Raincoats to primitive proto-punk reminiscent of Glass Candy’s first album, numbskull pop-punk akin to Clorox Girls and an unrefined take on Exploding Hearts’ ’77-inspired power-pop. No matter if they’re pogoing out a drunken anthem or hip-shaking to some taut post-punk rhythms, it all sounds like Midnite Snaxxx, thanks to an enthusiastic vocal delivery and consistent energy, as if playing these punk songs is first and foremost a matter of fun, not business or social status or any other nefarious reasons. A song like “Gold Chains” sounds like it should be a cover, as though it’s some catchy Vibrators song I forgot about, but nope, Midnite Snaxxx have the knack for making the new sound old in a new way.

Mooey Moobau Powder, And All That Store-Bought Hair 12″ (Related)
Mooey Moobau is the tender child of a guy named Joseph Tepperman, one of the many unsigned, unrepresented artists who make life slightly more interesting for those who encounter them. He’s certainly got his own style down, one of Dada-inspired verbal gymnastics, quiet freakiness and loosely structured live-band instrumentation. Reminds me a bit of Xiu Xiu without the electronics, sexual hysteria or emo tantrums, or maybe Bryan Lewis Saunders on a proper schedule of anti-depressants and a newfound love of The Decemberists. This one-sided 12″ veers into solo musical theater at times, which is sure to test most listeners’ patience, although his use of his live vocals alongside his own pre-taped vocals is fairly novel and entertaining for at least a few go-arounds. Not much technical talent to be found here, but who needs that when you’ve got the overwhelming confidence and chutzpah that pours out of Mooey Moobau’s music. Related Records is from Phoenix, so I have to wonder if they haven’t crossed paths with the Gilgongo crew throughout the years, as Powder shares a similar feeling of unschooled and under-financed high-art by folks who more closely identify with punks than gallerists. In a different time and place, this would be one of those classic love-it-or-hate-it K Records releases from the late ’90s, but it’s 2020 now and the world is somehow significantly bigger and lonelier.

Mosquitoes Emergences / Resurgences 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
While certainly their own thing, I can’t help but see Mosquitoes as carrying the torch left by the dissolution of Sightings. Both groups gleefully deconstruct rock music through methods of noise, no-wave and experimentation, and both do a fine job of making it interesting, weird and worth replaying. Mosquitoes differ in that they seem to have more of an avant-garde jazz influence than the primordial garage-rock that initially fueled Sightings, and they make keen use of that sense of timing and engagement on these two cuts. “Emergences” fumbles fat fingers across a bass, mumbles and flutters percussion and voice, and stirs up some guitar that sounds like curdled milk. The bass-line (or relative resemblance of a bass-line) almost feels like a distant relative to pop music, albeit severely disfigured. “Resurgences” is notably heavier, with the guitar droning like a factory out across a decrepit parking lot, a more resonant bass sound and the drummer putting a little muscle into his trap kit. It ends up sounding like the last jazz bassist and jazz drummer in the world, improvising until an incoming tsunami obliterates them. Excellent stuff, and an urgent reminder to pull out Mosquitoes’ great 12″ from 2018 as I’m left wanting more.

NightFreak Blade Of The Knife 7″ (What’s For Breakfast?)
New Chicago power-trio here, sporting a flying-V guitar, a spray-painted bed-sheet banner and a song called “Blade Of The Knife”, which to be fair is one of the more obvious blades out there. They make use of that title for a hard-edged riff out of Judas Priest’s playbook and perform it with the gusto of traditional Chicagoan punk rock. “The Holler” stays the course, perhaps splitting the difference between Thin Lizzy and Nashville Pussy, with vocalist/guitarist Steve Henderson screaming out of a throat that’s clearly experienced its share of unfiltered cigarettes. The energy increases on “Shitting Bricks”, as does the level of sloppiness, but what can be expected of punks playing NWOBHM licks and having some messy, beer-soaked fun whilst doing so? They’re not called NightNormalPerson, for chrissakes.

Parashi Tape From Oort Cloud LP (Sedimental / Skell)
One of the cool things about writing these reviews is the random connections that sometimes occur. I recently wrote about the collaborative Spykes / Parashi 7″ single, and Mike Griffin (that’s Parashi) noticed and decided to send me this new LP! Not bad at all. Free from the infernal squawking of Spykes, and given twelve inches instead of seven to spread out upon, Parashi’s deep electronic murmuring conjures some sort of rocketship-as-dungeon imagery (engines off, drifting further and further away from humanity). Fitting title then, invoking the Oort Cloud through these four deep and hopeless electronic excursions. I’m actually kind of reminded of those late-period Hair Police albums that sounded like a dead body in the basement of a castle slowly rotting away, but instead of a harsh, lo-fi recording suitable for ’00s noise, Parashi locates these same feelings of avant-garde despair through what must be one or two fancy vintage keyboards. Very supple, rich bass tones, giving my modest speakers a healthy workout in a way that many other “solo synth project” records do not. It ends with some warmly resonant tones, almost enough to make me think Parashi’s glass is half full, at least once in a while.

Luiso Ponce Nuevas Emociones 7″ (Musica Desechable)
The other Musica Desechable lathe-cut single is about as far as one can get from traditional ska while remaining on the dancefloor – acid techno! Luiso Ponce is a Guatemalan artist whom the label states “comes from the hardcore scene”, and it’s kind of reassuring to know that hardcore kids turning to electronic dance music is a worldwide phenomenon at this point. He’s got two tracks of rigorous and bleak techno here, both of which are fairly rudimentary in design and execution. Certainly feels like a “first attempt” sorta thing, or something close to it, and while I generally enjoy first-attempts when it comes to punk and hardcore more than that of electronic music, how can I possibly hate on this, seriously. The lathe-cut properties also add a gritty layer of distance between my ears and the music, and its interesting in an accidental Christian Marclay way, not a carefully conscripted Burial sorta thing. I prefer the fluttering tones of one of the two tracks (I can’t tell you which because neither side is labeled and the matrix is blank) – it probably sounds transcendent played live at a Guatemalan post-hardcore rave, but for now I’ll just have to lean in close to my speakers and try to imagine such a scene while it spins.

Donovan Quinn Absalom LP (Soft Abuse)
Donovan Quinn is a pretty great name, if you ask me – it’s equally suited for NFL quarterbacks as bookish indie troubadours. Let me make it clear, then, that this particular Donovan Quinn isn’t the type to throw any game-winning touchdowns, but rather one who’ll craft humbly thoughtful indie-folk. His voice is like 60% Bob Dylan and 40% Home Blitz’s Daniel DiMaggio when he whisper-sings, and it sits comfortably upon the orchestral backdrop of his songs, arranged around acoustic guitars, strings, pianos, keyboards, bells, and so on. There’s a seeming abundance of precocious and charming instrumentation, as if Quinn raided Belle & Sebastian’s storage closet, but it all feels integral to these songs, never overstuffed or cluttered. A Dylan-esque wordsmith over baroque indie-pop is surely a polarizing sound for the readers of this webpage, and Quinn won’t be changing any minds on that (even if he charmingly drops f-bombs into his melodic choruses like on “Satanic Summer Nights”), but if a world-weary member of The Skygreen Leopards in a J Crew button-up singing smart and soft songs sounds palatable, Absalom is just what the doctor ordered.

Reek Minds Reek Minds 7″ (Edger)
Here’s some hardcore-punk that’ll fix your posture! Portland, OR’s Reek Minds follow last year’s demo with this fantastic eight-song EP on Edger. It’s a vibrant mixture of violent early hardcore (Mecht Mensch, United Mutation) and the speedy blasts perfected by No Comment and Lack Of Interest. Certainly feels like something that 625 Productions would’ve released around the turn of the century (and would’ve been their finest release of the year), but nasty and unhinged enough to appeal to today’s Void-repping hardcore kids who were born after Saves The Day released their first album. Pretty sure the No Comment similarities here aren’t a coincidence, seeing as there’s a song called “Dead Stare”, perhaps a nod to No Comment’s untouchable “Dead Stare For Life”. Their Portland residence had me noting Reek Minds’ sonic similarities to Suck Lords as well, and what do you know, they apparently share some members. When the power of hardcore-punk compels you, truly compels you as it does these fine gentlemen, there’s no reason to stop at just one band! How long until Iron Lung comes sniffing around these Reek Minds?

Soft Shoulder Aerosol Can Stand 7″ (Gilgongo)
James Fella’s Gilgongo continues to release James Fella’s Soft Shoulder, and why not? Ever heard of D.I.Y.?? Unlike all the other Soft Shoulder records I’ve heard, which take classic no-wave ideas as a jumping off point for modern noise-rock / improv freakery, Aerosol Can Stand features two pretty normal indie post-punk tunes. Again I say: sure, why not? “Thin Red Straw (High Tension)” rides on its purposeful bass-line as Fella does his best Mark E. Smith impression on the mic, which is surely a fun thing to do. “Wellness Line (Move A New Way)” follows the same template but injects a little shoe-moving energy, answering the question of “what would Moss Icon sound like re-imagined as one of the lesser Y2K dance-punk groups?”. Is there an audience out there beyond friends and neighbors of the group, willingly purchasing these records and paying attention to the stylistic shifts of Soft Shoulder? I do not know. If there is, one thing’s for sure: Gilgongo never leaves ’em hanging for too long.

Sore Points Not Alright EP 7″ (Slovenly)
The Sore Points! You know, like what you get after running a half-marathon without a soft protective undershirt. My hilariously irreverent humor aside, this trio comes from Vancouver and they’ve certainly earned the pins on their denim and leather jackets, as they play their traditionally-classic punk rock with gusto and confidence. The recording is thick and fuzzed-out, clearly recorded at a studio that knows what to do for punk bands who use random grid patterns on their artwork. When playing music as stylistically outlined as Sore Points’ is, it sure helps to get a powerful-yet-dirty recording such as this! Fans of Night Birds, Radioactivity and even The Viletones will surely summon the strength to slam n’ worm to these four tunes, as they strike out in a similar sonic direction. You’ve heard it countless times before, but if you like punk rock at its most atomic level, what fault could you find with Not Alright?

Thigh Master Now For Example LP (Goner)
My excitement for mild-manned Australian indie-punk has waned over the past year or two, as documented in these very pages, but that doesn’t mean I’m in full-on hate mode, just getting a little restless with the large quantity of same-old same-old. Thigh Master certainly fit the basic description, but there’s no listener-fatigue to be had with Now For Example, the Brisbane-based group’s sophomore album. I’ve been trying to figure out why, exactly, but my enjoyment of Thigh Master comes down to some of the hard-to-describe intangibles, the little sparks that make me want to listen to a band over and over instead of politely filing away. The main vocalist has a great voice for the job (although I’m not sure who it is, as all four members are credited with vocals), on-key while also being aloof with a slight touch of nasal sourness; that’s certainly part of their appeal. The band also plays these songs with a zesty energy that I don’t find in most similar-sounding acts; it’s as if Thigh Master are truly overjoyed to be playing music together, rather than doing it mostly as a means of social activity. “Entity” is a pretty good example of that, with punchy drums played slightly faster than other bands would and an upbeat groove that could light up any modern indie-rock playlist, or even better, my turntable!

Steven Warwick Moi LP (Pan)
Steven Warwick used to record under the name Heatsick, releasing one of my favorite left-of-center electro-pop albums of the past decade (2013’s Re-Engineering), and as of the past year or so he’s moved toward recording under his own name. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to signify a “more personal” shift or whatever, but it sounds a heck of a lot like Heatsick, and this new one, Moi, totally rules. Perhaps he’s going under his own name now that his lyrics are more prominent than ever, singing (or rather, speaking) over the whole album and rarely repeating his words in traditional pop music fashion. His personality is incredibly vivid and hilarious and disarming throughout Moi, his voice resembling that of a droll custodian of records in a cardigan and glasses, even though he looks ready to walk the runway for Walter Van Beirendonck on the cover. It’s a great voice, instantly recognizable and surprisingly flexible, and he lends it to these colorful little electro grooves that reside somewhere in the middle of the miles-wide chasm between The Normal and PC Music. If you’re curious, check out “Kaleidoscope”, a busy lightweight groove that swerves and twists like a pinball machine, or “Open Fire Hydrant”, which pairs witty spoken-word over what sounds like a loop of Super Mario powering up. They’re my two favorite cuts here, but the whole thing delivers the unique form of calm-but-crazy, funny-but-serious electro-eleganza that Warwick has perfected.

Richard Youngs & Raül Refree All Hands Around The Moment LP (Soft Abuse)
There is nary a wilder wild-card persistently operating in the musical underground today than Richard Youngs. I’m not really a fan of when most artists try on different aesthetic suits, but Youngs never seems to fail, be it “Richard Youngs makes techno” or “Richard Youngs makes d-beat crust” or “Richard Youngs makes mutant disco”. I came into All Hands Around The Moment not knowing what kind of art Raül Refree likes to make, so I was prepared for anything. Lo and behold, it’s a tasteful suite of haunting, cyclical folk. I’ll take it! The specific instruments aren’t credited, but these four lengthy songs utilize intricate and repetitive acoustic guitar lines, deep resonant cello(?) and Youngs’ own vocals, sung in a disarmingly traditional manner. I’m thinking of Pentangle or Fairport Convention, although Youngs and Refree update things ever so slightly, pushing the dial away from bell-bottoms and flowers and closer toward some form of quiet introspection. Lots of lyrics too, filled with indirect queries and oblique ruminations, which gives these sprawling songs the grandeur of some old epic poem. It’s so pretty and delicate, I may need “Richard Youngs plays Vomir” next, just to clear my system.

Nobody Knows This Is Somewhere compilation 12″ (C/Site)
Clever title here for the latest transmission from Connecticut’s psychedelic hub, New Haven. Must be something in the pizza that has this crew so attuned to each other’s varied-but-complimentary vibes, and while it seems like all these folks already play in each other’s bands, there’s something about regional comps that I will always love and admire. With only Headroom, Stefan Christensen, Alexander and Mountain Movers featured here, each artist gets plenty of room to stretch out, and seeing as part of the New Haven psych-rock vibe is a commitment to unhurried stretching, it’s an excellent glimpse into the C/Site scene. Headroom opens with a posi two-chord progression and three wild guitars sparring in an act of friendship, not combat. Headroom member (and by my determination, the scene’s shining beacon) Stefan Christensen follows with a solo construction that drips some plinky piano over a hypnotic guitar drone and distorted spoken-word detritus before rumbling out into some Dead C-style ring outs. Certainly the most Shadow Ring-y thing I’ve heard from Christensen thus far and a nice contrast to the soothing sprawl of Headroom. Alexander is the gang’s premier fingerpicker, so I was surprised that his piece here involves few fingers and even fewer pickings – it’s a two-level drone excursion from electric guitar feedback and organ. I suppose it’s fine for what it is, but it isn’t really much, particularly in the context of the other offerings here, and his talents as an acoustic assassin are surprisingly undisclosed. The Mountain Movers (whose members Kryssi Battalene and Ross Menze overlap with Headroom) bring it home with a softer rock-band-jam featuring a cool propulsive drum pattern and more of that swirling, steamy guitar that this crew has on lock. If you can have this much fun with your friends, who cares if anyone knows about it?

Reviews – January 2020

Bato Ravages Of Time 7″ (Not For The Weak)
No, this isn’t that handsome presidential candidate dropout’s solo project (although that’s gotta be in the works, right?) – Bato is unrepentant Virginia Beach hardcore. The label is called Not For The Weak Records, for crying out loud! You better have a decent push-up count before heading into Ravages Of Time. Anyway, if you’re up to snuff, you will probably enjoy these seven tracks of by-the-books hardcore. They’re energetic and mosh-ready, and I’m kind of surprised they haven’t found a home with Beach Impediment just yet, based on their geographical proximity and the fact that Bato’s sound bears similarities to Wasted Time. At the very least, they don’t waste any time themselves, punching through these tracks with tight (but not technical) performances and a meaty presence. “Rot” is probably my favorite cut, but the whole thing makes me wanna take my shirt off just like vocalist Chris Taylor and clobber an inanimate object.

Buttechno Badtrip 2xLP (трип)
Listen, I’m not trying to say the name “Buttechno” out loud in public spaces, but as far as my hard-earned dollar goes, Badtrip is the best pure techno album of 2019. The template remains basically the same throughout these nine tracks, but it’s so catchy, raw, simple and satisfying… undiluted techno pleasure. Buttechno utilizes little more than raw drum machines, tweaked synth leads and brief vocal samples (all in the form of a droll, monosyllabic male voice through a crusty loudspeaker), and it makes me wonder why anyone intensively labors over modern sound design when they could bang heads and drip sweat over some basic analog gear such as this. It certainly feels closer to some form of humanity than the ice-cold artificial-intelligence vibes so many other producers are delivering – many of these tracks sound as though they’re edited on the fly, dials turned and fades pushed in real-time by Buttechno, choppy edits and/or mistakes included. Plus, it really doesn’t hurt that while listening, I’m picturing these songs as the property of dingy underground Moscow clubs where Buttechno resides, zombie-faced Russian youths decked out in Gosha Rubchinskiy and passing unfiltered cigarettes among each other. If opening cut “Bbbase” doesn’t get your motor running, I’m not sure we have anything left to discuss.

Ben Carey Antimatter LP (Hospital Hill)
Deep in some Sydney laboratory, Ben Carey is twiddling knobs on a massive wall of electronics suitable for an obsolete nuclear reactor, or at least that’s what it sound like he was doing to create the long pieces that comprise Antimatter. The two a-side cuts sound like Tod Dockstader tasked with repairing a fleet of androids: electronic burps and whizzes ring out against jumbles of wave-forms or the black nothingness of space. For as sparse as it can be, there’s some sort of musical conversation happening; either that or my brain is permanently damaged by listening to records such as this. The second side is filled entirely by a piece called “Networks Articulated”, which gives a nice glimpse into Carey’s particular frame of mind for this composition. Unlike the first two cuts, tones ring out here, eventually rippling into layered drones and humming with microscopic activity. I think I like “Networks Articulated” best, particularly when the ground starts to shake during its second half, but all of Antimatter is a pleasant study in primitive-modern electronic sound. Plus, it comes in one of the nicest Stoughton sleeves I’ve seen in a while, sturdy and tailored and ensuring that Antimatter is handled with the serious reverence it deserves.

C.I.A. Débutante The Landlord LP (Siltbreeze)
By my calculations, this is the sole Siltbreeze release of 2019, following only one in 2018, but I don’t attribute that to a lessening of the label’s activity so much as a heightened level of choosiness – selling records is harder than ever, so you might as well be extra considerate regarding one’s plan for doing so. Whatever the circumstance, I’m glad Siltbreeze decided to put out the full-length vinyl debut of C.I.A. Débutante, a duo featuring jack-of-all-trades Nathan Roche (whose records with Le Villejuif Underground still sound fantastic) and Paul Bonnet, a man whose resume is more mysterious. It’s fitting, because this is some mysterious music, to be filed next to your Vinyl On Demand sets of early ’80s tape-trader industrial. Weary mechanical rhythms are forced into rotation, distorted voices read ransom letters at a barely audible volume, telephone receivers are hacked and the dust on Roche’s speaker cones takes on a life of its own through these inscrutable tracks. I like when noise is mild and vaguely rhythmic, which could be said for much of The Landlord. In fact, I believe Siltbreeze described the album as “The Shadow Ring meets Cabaret Voltaire”, and while I wouldn’t disagree, I’d expound on that by clarifying that it’s easier to parse than The Shadow Ring and less danceable than Cabaret Voltaire, which is probably the best way to meld those two distant sonic points. A fine slab of post-modern industrial no matter how you slice it.

Crimson Ghostbusters Crimson Ghostbusters LP (no label)
You know those random mash-up t-shirts that have proliferated in the last few years, ones where it’s like Darth Vader quoting Breaking Bad for no reason, or Rick and Morty dressed like Pikachu (or vice versa)? Crimson Ghostbusters is the punk band version of that, a mash-up-for-mash-up’s-sake of Misfits songs and karaoke classics. Now, if I’m walking into O’Neal’s Pub and there’s a live band playing under a moldy Pabst Blue Ribbon banner, I’d love to hear them gleefully cover Cheap Trick, Slayer and The Misfits with their own silly lyrics, but that’s pretty much where my interest in this sort of thing begins and ends. I wasn’t into Schlong’s interpretation of West Side Story back in 1995, and while I may have enjoyed one of those “Punk Rock ’80s TV themes” compilation CDs back around that time (I didn’t say I did, I said I might have), there’s not a lot of substance for me on this record, not even the Marilyn-themed update of the Buggles’ classic “Video Killed The Radio Star” or the “American Nightmare”-themed take on Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. Those are real songs that happen on Crimson Ghostbusters, sure to delight dozens, maybe hundreds of other people, I’m just not one of them.

Carla dal Forno Look Up Sharp LP (Kallista)
Nothing turns the leaves from green to dark red quite like a new Carla dal Forno record. Look Up Sharp is her second full-length and the first on her newly minted Kallista imprint, and while it offers no musical surprises or deviations from her previously established formula, it’s great, probably her best one yet. If you’re not already familiar, you’re in for a treat: dal Forno plays this somber, ethereal (yes ethereal) form of skeletal, dubby post-punk: think of Crisis given a deep dream-pop rinse alongside the addition of gothic Lana Del Rey vocals and a subtle industrial-folksiness and you’ve got a rough sketch of dal Forno’s distinct musical world. This time around, the electronic elements are more prominent behind the bass guitar, drums and vocals, flushing these songs full of mood and intrigue in a more sophisticated way than her earlier recordings. She seems to be in full control of her sound at this point, no longer feeling out the process (which of course was wonderfully charming and great too, just in a different way), resulting in an album with a lot of crossover appeal, assuming it’s still possible to crossover from indie to mainstream (or if those two designations even continue to exist). My favorite part is that her lyrics seem to have gotten more hateful and bitter than ever, providing a sharp contrast to her soothing vocal delivery – she ends the song “So Much Better” with the line “I am so much better / than you” with an unflinching seriousness, and she’s probably the only artist around today who could get away with it. She is better than whoever “you” is, of that I have no doubt.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)
With not a bang but a whisper, Eddy Current Suppression Ring sneak out a brand new album after a ten-year hiatus. Understatement has always been a key to their formula, and that’s never been more true than now on All In Good Time. Their lineup remains unchanged, as does their sound – it’s almost shocking how precisely Eddy Current-sounding Eddy Current are now, a decade after their last transmission. Danny Current’s simple punk rhythms are in place, Rob Solid bops along, Eddy Current jangles out his copywritten-so-don’t-copy-me guitar lines and Brendan Suppression squeaks along like a precious child experiencing wonderment for the first time. Whereas they went a little grander on their last two albums, with epics like “Rush To Relax” and crowd pleaser “Which Way To Go”, they dial the energy back a bit on All In Good Time, winding through these songs without the slightest sense of urgency. It works well with Suppression’s lyrics, which remain some of the most kindhearted punk lyrics ever written, heartwarming slices of inspiration to anyone feeling underappreciated or down in the dumps. On first listen, I was underwhelmed, but All In Good Time is a true grower, softly revealing its charm (of which there is plenty) through multiple listens – truly in line with the title’s message. Please, sweet Goddess above, tell me a United States tour is in the works!

Exek Some Beautiful Species Left LP (Anti Fade / Digital Regress)
Melbourne’s Exek continue to efficiently churn out new material and I’m not mad at ’em. I think their hazy, dubby post-punk is tops! Some Beautiful Species Left follows 2018’s Ahead Of Two Thoughts, and while the sonic properties and general tenor of both albums are undeniably similar, it seems to me that the group are loosening their grip a bit this time around, content to swirl outward, away from pop song-form and closer to misty dub versions. Some Beautiful Species Left opens with a few minutes of nothing more than hypnotic drums and spirals of guitar noise, helping the listening acclimate to Exek’s off-kilter equilibrium, as these songs softly shift around, a feeling similar to standing on a ferry instead of solid ground. It’s very nice, but I personally gravitate towards their catchier moments – “Lobbyist” has a precocious little chorus tucked away in there, which I could sing to you now if asked. Ahead Of Two Thoughts crammed in more of those repeatable, poppy moments, and it remains my favorite Exek record to date, but this one is a pleasantly menacing trip as well… I can’t blame them if they’re slightly more disoriented this time around, seeing as society continues its various self-harming habits around us.

Figure Eighter People’s Last Words Are Often Insignificant LP (Fuzz)
Figure Eighter are an Albany- / Philadelphia-based duo and they’re pushing some dreamy suburban ennui here on their first vinyl offering. It’s my understanding that they come from an indie-rock background (understandable), but the Figure Eighter I’m hearing here avoids drums and vocals to instead pursue fluttering melodies, drifting tones and an evocative sonic grandeur. I’m reminded of something on Constellation Records (minus the spoken-word samples of street preachers rattling off doomsday prophecies), Ian William Craig, The Caretaker, the noisy parts between songs on the earliest Merchandise recordings… maybe a little early Fennesz as well. It’s a little too busy or attention-grabbing to comfortably sit as the backing soundtrack to a film, but only barely. The second side introduces repetitive acoustic guitars, recalling the ghostly echoes of basement shows from years past, hinting at a song that is perpetually on its way but never fully arrives. Very enjoyable sounds, ripe for painful self-reflection, drifting off to sleep, or some combination of the two.

Giant Swan Giant Swan LP (Keck)
I recently learned that Bristol’s heavy techno duo Giant Swan named themselves after… a Blood Brothers song. What a world! I kinda love that these amped-up British bros are fans of sassy Y2K Southern Cali screamo, and I suppose it makes a little sense, as both Blood Brothers and Giant Swan know how to work combustible, jagged noise into their grooves. This is Giant Swan’s debut full-length, on their newly minted Keck label, and as far as techno full-lengths go, this one is a winner. They mix up the moods enough to keep things interesting without losing their intensity or power. You can practically hear their sweaty bodies banging into their messy tables of hardware on tracks like opener “55 Year Old Daughter”, with a vocal hook that sounds like it was violently shaken sideways before being served. “‘I’ As Proof” seems to split the difference between forward-thinking British techno and the horror-gaze of Health, leading nicely into the swirling industrial clank of “Pan Head”, which brings to mind massive vats of factory foodstuffs churned and pressed into bars on a human-free assembly line. Giant Swan can certainly hang with artists in a similar regional orbit, your Karenns and Bruces and Kowtons and such, but their visceral approach finds broader appeal with dance-floors that give way to mosh pits, fans of modern industrial and, well, at least a couple Blood Brothers devotees.

Gino And The Goons Off The Rails LP (Big Neck)
Quite a handful of records by Gino And The Goons have arrived in my mail over the past few years, and I consistently find myself put off by their visual aesthetic: hand-scrawled band name, maybe a skull or two drawn with the skill and precision of a distracted third grader, and that’s it. Good thing I have ears as well as eyes, then, as the music of Gino And The Goons on Off The Rails is really about as top-notch as you can get from modern-retro garage-punk. They certainly sound like truant high school smokers hanging out under the bleachers, and while I am fairly certain this group is all of legal adult age, their vibe is so convincing and their songs are so catchy that I find myself fully on board regardless. Nothing new is ventured here, but that’s fine with me, as they absolutely nail stupid-tough garage anthems like “Got No Friends”, wherein Gino laments, you guessed it, not having friends. (The band even chants the song title together, which leads me to wonder: are The Goons not each other’s friends? What an interesting form of solidarity.) Graphic designers they are not, but when it comes to couldn’t-care-less garage/punk/junk, Off The Rails is a fine modern specimen.

The Hiveminds The Hiveminds LP (Back To Beat)
Still kinda blows me away, the way that punk-inspired garage-rock has thrived and continues to thrive in Europe. I know it’s been a globally-embraced form of music for decades now, but there’s something about the European Union that nourishes decidedly throw-back garage bands. Good for them! Take The Hiveminds for example, a new Norwegian group who certainly sound like they’re all wearing matching suits, even if they’re not. Their sound is pleasantly predictable, standard-issue garage-rock with hand claps, tambourine, fuzzed guitars, guitar solos, vintage amplification, probably at least one pair of black sunglasses, too. At times I’m reminded of The Original Sins, but it’d almost be like saying one particular wave in the ocean reminds you of a different one – there is no beginning or end to the vast array of bands in this style. The Hiveminds don’t do wrong by their chosen major, and they have a nice crisp recording that benefits this debut (with a vocalist who could probably handle covers of The Hives, The Killers and The Walkmen with equally relative ease), but I’d only recommend The Hiveminds to dedicated fanatics of the style, the maniacs gifted with the mental facilities to truly savor and remember each individual garage-rock swell as they come coasting toward the shore.

K-6000 Bloodsport LP (100 Limousines)
Rugged and restless house here from someone (or something) called K-6000 on a label that comes from one of my least favorite named cities in America: Hamtramck, MI. You’ve gotta be at least a little adversarial to come from a place named Hamtramck, and the music of Bloodsport certainly fits the bill. I’m merely presuming that K-6000 is a local native of course, but I’m gonna go ahead with that presumption, particularly as these tracks remind me of other lonesome Midwestern techno savages like Snakepiss and Siobhan, wherein a skipping electrical current or lo-fi tape hiss are just as prominent as cut-up hip-hop breaks or a smooth house bass-line. There are nine tracks listed, but each side flows smoothly even as ideas rapidly change, occasionally calling to mind the creepy pastoral-industrial of Boards Of Canada and the crude electro-confusion of Actress. I’m particularly partial to the monotonous and imposing tones of “Yah Is Again Genesis”, but all of Bloodsport works well, sure to please seekers of adventurous and unfriendly techno and nearly-techno. Cool cover design too, reminiscent of something K. Leimer or Marc Barreca would’ve released in the mid-’80s, an era and scene that more and more people are eager to escape to, myself included.

Charlie McAlister I’m The World’s Richest Man LP (Almost Halloween Time / Tick Tock)
Underground folk artist Charlie McAlister sadly passed away in 2018, but not before touching the lives of many and leaving a deep trail of music, art, performance and creative works behind him. John Darnielle and Shepard Fairey both contributed to the accompanying notes for this posthumous album, if that’s a slight indication of the various lives he touched. Tick Tock and Almost Halloween Time did a nice job with this one, collecting his most recent recordings and packaging them up with a thick book of art and writing (mostly scribbled, but writing nonetheless). His musical approach reminds me of guys like Eugene Chadbourne, Dan Melchior and The Rebel, sharp contrarians who sit fearlessly in front of punk audiences with only an acoustic guitar to defend themselves. McAlister’s songs here also align pretty closely to the post-Y2K folk-punk sound that emanated from nutritional yeast-dusted basements across America, but there’s a twinkling charm and unpretentious fun inherent to McAlister’s music, making it significantly less annoying than, say, Mischief Brew or Defiance Ohio. Fun, at times silly, at times poignant music from a man who wasted no time making his wild creative ideas tangible in his brief Earthly stay.

Midland The Alchemy Of Circumstance EP 12″ (Graded)
I first encountered Midland some ten years ago (damn) on a collaborative 12″ with Ramadanman. Haven’t thought much about him since, that is until I stumbled upon this four-song 12″ packed to its round edge with sonic treats. The title track comes first and it’s the star, opening with some funky drum breaks that eventually step aside for a minimalist thump and the most wacked out R2D2 styles I’ve ever heard. I’m assuming this is what R2 would sound like absolutely munted on pills and staring at the psychedelic rave-ball that adorns this EP’s cover. Beautiful! It’s one of my favorite techno cuts of the year, no doubt, and three other gems follow. “Frequency FM” is a low-tempo spa treatment that’s both effervescent and elastic, the sort of thing I’d expect to hear Matthew Dear crooning over. “Play It As It Lays” returns to a more straightforward tech-house template with muscular arpeggios and well-placed whoops, and “Tortuga” guides the energy level down back down with some snuggly synth patterns. Really though, it’s all about that title track, a marvel of left-field techno precociousness and manic robot freakery.

Monokultur Monokultur LP (Ever/Never / Förlag För Fri Musik)
So glad to finally get my mitts on a copy of Monokultur’s debut LP, thanks to the powerful international alliance of Ever/Never and Förlag För Fri Musik. Monokultur are a Swedish duo, both of whom also are members of indie-punkers Skiftande Enheter, but I prefer them in Monokultur mode, where songs get smudged, riffs are repeated and bloops are bleeped. Throughout this self-titled album, I’m reminded of Siltbreeze artists like Factums and Teenage Panzerkorps in the way that industrial, gloomy pop is crusted with a thin layer of murky basement grime. In the case of Monokultur, this often results in something that sounds like a prehistoric Carla dal Forno demo, or Wooden Shjips under the tutelage of Amor Fati. It doesn’t feel as though these songs underwent much in the way of careful crafting prior to being recorded, which certainly works in Monokultur’s favor – dank DIY post-punk is often best when it plops out onto the floor without much forethought or planning. Got a cool melody on the bass? Let me fire up this second-hand drum machine to an appropriate tempo and slap some distorted guitar over top! If this sounds appealing to you, I recommend you start with the Schleimer K-esque “Dåliga Nyheter” and travel onward from there; you won’t regret it!

Musk Animal Husbandry 7″ (Total Punk)
I had assumed a mouse had died somewhere near my singles, but nope, it was this Musk 7″ that I had misplaced for a couple weeks! I should’ve recognized its particular scent – hints of pink peppercorn and burnt plastic – but I’m glad to be spinning it now. “Animal Husbandry” is great, a meaty noise-rock jam where the bass propels the action and the guitar is so slathered in slap-back and distortion it might even cause the members of Confuse to raise an eyebrow. It hits quick, with the zest that might accompany a collaboration of Mayyors and Tropical Trash. You’d think they might need a breather on the flip, but “The Floor” is ugly honky-tonk noise akin to Stick Men With Rayguns’ “Satan Baby”, deep-frying a Cramps groove until it’s golden brown. Been a few years since the last Musk album, and by the tone of these two top-notch cuts I’d say we need a new one now more than ever.

Nameless Creations Upon God’s Call LP (Kill Your Parents)
Very cool debut here from Poland’s Nameless Creations on their charmingly-titled Kill Your Parents Records imprint. Their visual vibe jives with today’s Dais / Sacred Bones goth styles (the sole band member on the cover certainly resembles a typical Boy Harsher fan), but their music is firmly rooted in snarling, feral post-punk with only subtle goth undertones, much to my delight. They chocked this album full of spindly, noisy grooves, much of which reminds me of the first Christian Death album, The Birthday Party circa Junkyard, and, when it gets particularly unhinged, the untethered spazz-punk of Yugoslavia’s Sexa. Fans of early 45 Grave and The Leather Nun will surely have lots to enjoy here too, as would anyone who finds value in dirty, decrepit post-punk adorned with hairspray, eyeliner and fingerless gloves. Can’t imagine a better soundtrack to lurking in centuries-old Polish graveyards, that much is certain.

100 Flowers Fascist Groove Thang 7″ (Spacecase)
Woah… this is like that classic Twilight Zone trope where you wish for a million dollars and then the IRS shows up and takes it all away. Want some brand new, unreleased material from the great San Fran post-punkers 100 Flowers? Careful, it might end up being a supremely dorky cover of Heaven 17! I’m seriously scratching my head over this one: their take on “Fascist Groove Thang” sounds like what I’d imagine Paul McCartney’s Sirius XM station sounds like. Adult-contemporary pop-rock where one member wears a funny hat and sunglasses or something; just really heinous stuff. The flip is an inexplicable “remix” of the a-side, adding some electronic effects to the proceedings but overall pretty similar (if ultimately more tolerable, although I’m really just splitting hairs here). Who is this for? I can’t imagine any fans of 100 Flowers (let alone Urinals) finding much to enjoy here. What’s worst of all, I feel compelled to want a fascist groove thang after hearing this. Woof!

Program Show Me LP (Anti Fade)
Anti Fade Records has been on a tear in 2019 – fourteen new releases by my calculations! The label runs the gamut from indie to hardcore and new-wave, of which Program’s tuneful, easy-going indie-punk comfortably fits in. Show Me is about as cordial as electrified rock music gets; I can picture the band happily turning down the volume at the request of an aggrieved neighbor and then helping an elderly woman carry her groceries to her door. The artwork features photos of the group seated around a crackling fireplace, contemporary mullets on proud display, and you can’t help but wonder if they’ve had a bad day in their lives. Feels like lots of Australian rock bands convey this similar easy-breezy attitude, somewhere near the musical neighborhoods of The Go-Betweens, Possible Humans and The Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, paying unintentional homage to The Clean and R.E.M. with their spindly riffs and vulnerable vocals (reminiscent of The Zoltars’ Jared Leibowich). At this point, the returns on this style are diminishing for me, just based on the sheer quantity of bands playing harmless indie-rock such as this (particularly from Australia!), and Program don’t quite have the pizazz, songwriting prowess or distinctive character to grab my interest. I stand by my assumption that they are perfectly nice and friendly folks, though.

Psychic Void Skeleton Paradise 10″ (Vanilla Box)
Pretty sure Skeleton Paradise was the name of the haunted-house ride I walked briskly past at local carnivals as a kid, and now it’s also the name of Psychic Void’s vinyl debut. They’re from Windsor, Ontario and they’ve clearly soaked up a lot of the more popular hardcore-punk styles of the past ten years or so, which is what they’re spitting back here. It’s mostly fast and moody hardcore in line with Warthog and echo-laden Toxic State hardcore, but they also have electronic intros and chorus/flanger effects to recall the gothic fog machines of Lost Tribe, and a surprisingly silly tune called “Denim Daddy” that shares the spirit of Good Throb’s songbook. I’m a fan of all of those references – they’re certainly fertile soil for any new punk band – but I’m not hearing Psychic Void’s distinct voice in there, or anything that reaches the same level of those stylistic peers. Psychic Void are good, but the bar for even average hardcore is so high at this point that I can’t see myself returning to Skeleton Paradise much in the future, considering the wealth of contemporary options out there. If they’re able to locate a band called Psychic Faith and do a split LP, however, I may be convinced otherwise.

Quintron Erotomania 12″ (Mind Meld)
Much respect to living legend Quintron – he’s a New Orleans treasure, a true original who’s surely done more cool stuff in the past three decades than you or I. He probably won’t stop making music so long as he’s physically able to do so, and now the Total Punk-related Mind Meld label has caught him for a new 12″ of instrumentals. Erotomania focuses on tiki-bar exotica, instrumental lounge, Mardi Gras street party music and such. Very true to the heart and soul of Quintron’s formative influences… but not something I really would ever wanna listen to, if we’re keeping it 100. It’s just not for me, this sort of kooky, old-timey, Martin Denny-esque easy listening. He does jack it up a bit, like the last couple minutes of “Dixie Disaster” (those maddening edits are certainly my favorite part of Erotomania), but on the whole this EP plays too closely to sounds and styles that don’t personally resonate with my pair of ears. Not saying I can’t be convinced otherwise – maybe there is one traditional exotica record I need to hear for it to truly click – but for now I’ll sit this one out.

Rocket 808 Rocket 808 LP (12XU)
Rocket 808 debuted with a 7″ single on 12XU a few months ago, and it issued a clear mission statement: classic Link Wray-styled guitar over rudimentary, Suicide-esque drum-machine rhythms. This debut album offers no U-turns or diversions from the single’s template, as it features eight more tracks of that very same thing. Rocket 808 is the work of one John Schooley, and he sings on some tracks (lyrics like “my baby looks cute”) and leaves others instrumental, both strategies yielding similarly satisfying results. Certainly ripe for Quentin Tarantino’s plucking, the camera scanning past women’s feet dipping in and out of the pool at a rundown Southwestern motel the morning after a bloody shootout. Were Schooley able to wrangle Chris Isaak to lay down some spirited vocals over these tunes, I’d probably add Rocket 808 to my daily rotation, but for my particular tastes this album is mostly just a pleasant interlude, agreeable background noise but nothing that would ever steal the spotlight. It’d jazz up any classic car show by at least 10%, though!

The Shitdels Shape-Shift Faces LP (What’s For Breakfast?)
Quick complaint: this scatologically-themed garage-punk band released their album on what is clearly vomit-colored vinyl. It’s impressively barf-like, with spatter and chunks and not the same-old same-old Pirates Press color configuration, but it really should’ve gone to a Vomit Visions singles collection or something. Anyway, this group comes from Nashville, a fertile ground for roots rock exploration, and they play a nice n’ trashy form of garage-punk, buzzing like a virus-laden mosquito in a manner that recalls Cramps, Lamps and The Coachwhips (who I actually wish were called The Coachwhamps so I could’ve completed the rhyme). The vocals are essentially unintelligible, all slap-back reverb on a high-pitched quack, and the keyboard basically does the same thing on a different frequency, while the drummer favors the crash cymbal over the hi-hats and the guitarist loosely follows the rest of the group’s musical threads. Nothing particularly inspiring, but pretty decent overall; surely a fun time live, and if not, The Shitdels need to break-up immediately because this form of music is custom-tailored to being a fun live experience. One cannot coast by on a poop theme alone, take my word for it.

Mark Sultan I’m A Filthy Rat / Heart Attack 7″ (Slovenly)
I had assumed that Mark Sultan was one of the many distinguished garage-rock musicians who kept the surname of his earliest band even after making a name for himself elsewhere (y’know, like Jay Reatard and Mike Sniper and such), but I did my due diligence and it turns out he wasn’t a member of The Sultans, but rather did time in Les Sexareenos and The Spaceshits. There’s still time for him to change it to Mark Spaceshit, I suppose, but whatever the case, Mark Sultan has been a fount of garage-punk for decades now, and is showing no signs of slowing. This new two-song single, taken from the sessions of his Let Me Out album, are well done, revealing his sly charisma and knack for simple yet effective hooks. “I’m A Filthy Rat” lists off reasons why he’s a terrible human being to a slinky organ-led groove, whereas “Heart Attack” messily bops from side to side with lazy teenage angst, even if Sultan is closer in age to parents of teenagers than teenagers themselves. Nostalgic garage-rock tunes with all the trimmings, but performed with enough gusto and lack of polish that I find them endearing and enjoyable no matter how many similar songs were written before.

Sweet Knives I Don’t Wanna Die 2×7″ (Big Neck)
I’ve been pretty consistent through the years in my solidarity with the double 7″ EP format – so many good ones exist, and while it can be a pain to have to go through a 7″ boxset, two doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable amount of trouble. This one is pushing it, though, as it’s a handsome gatefold sleeve (with art by the immortal Timmy Vulgar) but each side opens inward rather than outward, decreasing the ease with which its handler can pull out the records. On the positive side, that might also result in the listener paying closer attention to these four songs, as unlike everything else in our phone-based world, they actually took a little effort to enjoy. And they’re pretty enjoyable! Coming together out of the ashes of The Lost Sounds, Sweet Knives ride through some melodic garage-punk with occasional synthetic overtones and a thick grungy vibe that wouldn’t be out of place alongside groups like Bully or The Breeders. Quite sweet indeed, although the group opted for a devil-winged mutant skull with a knife through it on the front cover, lest we think they’ve gone soft.

Under Attack Through The Blade 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here’s a new band with some familiar old names for anyone who’s been following DIY hardcore for the past couple decades: Richmond’s Under Attack features Mark Telfian of Hail Mary, Dave Witte of Discordance Axis and Municipal Waste, Jason Hodges of Suppression and apparent newcomer Alex Copeland (on vocals). Under Attack’s pedigree reads like a Deep Six Records compilation, so I was surprised to hear the relatively straightforward sounds of Through The Blade. Honestly, if I heard these tracks sight unseen and had to guess the label that released them, I would’ve proffered Youngblood before Iron Lung – this is fairly clean-cut aggressive hardcore that would appeal to fans of No Tolerance and Stand Off perhaps more than Pig Heart Transplant and Rakta. Witte doesn’t even resort to any of his trademarked blast-beats here, cementing the idea that Under Attack are traditional, no-frills hardcore with a back-to-basics approach. Pretty cool, but I’m hoping for an Iron Lung release that has more of a Back Ta Basics approach – surely some group of kids is starting a band that sounds like Fatnuts and Comin’ Correct and needs a solid label to take them to the next level?

Russ Waterhouse 1 Minute 2 Midnight LP (Drag City)
Sad to see Blues Control call it quits, but they gave us more than their fair share of great music (which continues to stand the test of time), and it seems both members are off on new sonic ventures, so I wish ’em the best. Russ Waterhouse is first out of the gate, with this pleasantly perplexing solo album, two side-long tracks that go deep into some unusual explorations. “Hopewell” follows a pulsing heartbeat for nearly twenty minutes, building at an unhurried pace through fields of twitches, glitches and intrusive industrial additives. It has that deep dark pacing of Suicide, but turns toward tweeting feedback tones and crushed noises, like a particularly heavy part of a Helm set elongated into a noisy meditation. Not what I expected, but I shouldn’t be surprised that Waterhouse is so adept at grinding industrial blues. “Too Many People” starts off with some middle-of-the-mall vérité (did Shots get loose in his studio?), but that leads the way to an aching electronic pulse – if “Hopewell” was a healthy checkup, “Too Many People” is the sound of a pacemaker groaning over its depleted battery. That pulse blooms over the next seventeen minutes like some sort of putrid alien egg, ugly synth tones vibrating against each other in a way that has me wondering why this came out on Drag City in 2019 instead of United Dairies in 1982. Definitely surprising how raw and industrial 1 Minute 2 Midnight is (particularly considering that the sharp, gold-embossed cover design is more suited to a fancy $80 candle than a noise record), but a most pleasant surprise indeed.

Werewolf Jones Werewolf Jones 7″ (It’s Trash)
I could’ve sworn Werewolf Jones was a Tracy Morgan character, but apparently it’s a downer punk band from everybody’s favorite Detroit (Michigan, USA), released by a label from nobody’s favorite London (the one in Ontario, Canada). They play very strained, frustrated punk with a fuzzy, dare-I-say-grungy thickness to their sound (check the Bleach-y bounce of “Falling Out”). The songs start and don’t dip or vary for their individual durations – I’m imagining each track’s waveform looking like a solid thick line – but that’s what they want to do, and I certainly have no intention of stopping them. The vocalist has a nice delivery, sounding like he’s gasping for air inside a padded cell, which gives these otherwise fairly basic tunes some added life. Definitely sounds like a local band that would’ve impressed me as a scrubby teenager in homemade punk clothes, so I appreciate Werewolf Jones giving me a taste of those pleasantly nostalgic vibes. If they’re out there playing shows in Ontario, I can only assume they are impressing current-day teenagers with their depressive punk attitude, and I salute all parties involved.