Reviews – December 2017

Fatima Al Qadiri Shaneera EP 12″ (Hyperdub)
Fatima Al Qadiri is one of electronic music’s greatest conceptualists, no doubt about it. Last year’s Brute was a gut punch of police-state realness, perhaps resonating even more poignantly and ominously now than a year ago, but she’s moved in a new direction with this five-track EP, Shaneera. The title is apparently an Americanized (read: bastardized) form of an Arabic word pejoratively referring to queerness, a word that’s been reclaimed by those persecuted beneath it. I’m probably getting some of this wrong, and if you’re looking for a lesson in Middle Eastern queer theory I suggest you locate your web browser elsewhere, but that’s the attitude and style that pervades this new EP, right down to Al Qadiri sporting “drag” makeup on the cover, channeling Rita Repulsa en route to a Bartschland party. The music follows suit, with cascading synths in minor-keys, tumbling Arabian rhythms and a dark sense of eroticism often highlighted by the vocal toasting of Bobo Secret and Naygow. While released on the British label Hyperdub, like much of Al Qadiri’s music, this one isn’t aimed for a white Western audience, but rather her Kuwaiti family and friends, a point that has been made bluntly clear in the few recent interviews I’ve read (she doesn’t suffer fools gladly). I’m glad I got to steal a peek into this fascinating world, and with such a talented guide, no less.

Bodykit NO NRG LP (New Body)
Hot on the heels of that great ISS LP, Rich Ivey (the main Whatever Brains brain) is at it with Bodykit, his new-ish electronic project, of which this is its debut full-length. Over the past decade or so, Ivey has really honed his own voice (literally and figuratively) in the world of underground punk, which extends to Bodykit as well – I can’t help but notice that the rhythmic patterns, vocal melodies and general sonic attitude are closely related to Whatever Brains. It’s almost as if these songs could be fully electronic interpretations of the Whatever Brains’ post-punk sound, that they could’ve been just as easily performed with guitar/bass/drums, even as the primary focus is on the rhythms, with often little to no melodic accompaniment. I wonder if Whatever Brains is an ongoing concern, or if after their multitude of releases, Ivey is moving ahead in a less traditional fashion? The tunes on NO NRG are definitely entertaining, but fairly familiar and predictable as well… I get the feeling Ivey is still sussing out electronic music programming, and talented as he may be, he has yet to utilize his gear in a distinct or striking fashion. Wouldn’t put it past him to blow my mind with Bodykit at a later date, though!

Burial Pre-Dawn / Indoors 12″ (Nonplus)
Quite a busy year for Burial, churning out EPs at a furious pace, not to mention an ace remix (Mønic’s “Deep Summer”). Most recent is this two-track single on Nonplus, and while choosing favorites between Burial records is often on par with a parent choosing their favorite child (difficult but also not that difficult), this might be my favorite Burial of the year. “Pre-Dawn” comes on strong – it has that classic Burial style, but it’s pure cardio, a high-BPM thumper with a hypnotic melodic squeal and at least four different layers of intentional vinyl static churning at all times. Like most Burial tracks of the past five years, there are a number of cinematic interruptions, but that foreboding melodic whistle is never far behind. “Indoors” is just as fast and filthy, this time affixed to a pitched-up vocal loop and a startling refrain that seems to be hummed by an inhuman replicant. Hardcore rave material for sure, especially in a room filled with people wearing the iconic masks of Scream, Mr. Robot, V For Vendetta and probably one or two oversized latex Cartmans (it’s the giggling goblin samples). I love when Burial is introspective and weepy, but I love it even more when he goes hard like this.

CCFX CCFX 12″ (DFA)
What a treat, here’s the debut from CCFX, the collaboration between Olympia’s CC Dust and Trans FX (although their current home-bases may vary). If I owned a CC Dust t-shirt I’d wear it every day (probably a good thing I don’t own a CC Dust t-shirt), and Trans FX seems to get better with each successive album (which means they’re quite good as they’re at like album number ten at this point), so I had high hopes for this collab, and the four songs here don’t let me down. Unlike some collaborations, this one is a clear merging of the two projects’ musical styles, where it’s possible to pick out who’s responsible for what. The simplistic melodies of CC Dust are here (most songs are pinned by little more than two alternating notes), as is vocalist Maryjane Dunphe’s unmistakable voice, but Trans FX pulls them from any sort of cold-wave synth behavior toward ’90s Brit-pop lounging. The beats are straight from Primal Scream and EMF’s samplers, although brought down to a tempo that encourages La-Z-Boy reclining as much as dance-floor grinding. I’m quite glad that they left it at that, and didn’t attempt to complicate their songwriting or programming – CC Dust’s charm is 90% Dunphe’s captivating voice and presence, but the other 10% is their amateurish musical approach (Xeno & Oaklander they are not), and that remains the case here. Nothing on this 12″ tops “Never Going To Die”, but that’s probably the best song of the decade, so go enjoy the autumnal grooves of CCFX and make sure you peep the thanks list on the back, it’s hilarious!

Chain & The Gang Experimental Music LP (Radical Elite)
There is simply no stopping Ian Svenonius – I picture him on his deathbed (hopefully many decades from now), still cranking out hilarious satire and intentionally nutty social mythology over retro soul-punk riffs. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all his output, from recent The Make Up reunion gigs to this new LP by Chain & The Gang, Experimental Music, but it’s worth trying! This record’s as consistently fun and raucous and acerbic as you might’ve hoped, the sort of album you’d expect to soundtrack an episode of The Brady Bunch where Greg and Marsha seize the means of control from their bosses and empower the people to joyously riot (not sure it ever aired). While it’s incredibly familiar music for anyone who followed America’s Sassiest Boy’s journey to become America’s Sassiest Man, it’s not short on hooks: “The Logic Of Night” has a great Monks-esque groove and catchy chorus in particular. Somehow, the Valley Of The Dolls / Crazy World Of Arthur Brown aesthetic axis works exceptionally well for Svenonius and his crew in this modern age – he’s clearly got such a deep knowledge of what makes this sort of sound work well (and what to avoid), and it’s a wide open platform, ripe for his complex ideas to flourish.

Choke Chains Trace Amounts LP (Heel Turn)
I know what you’re thinking: the band name, the distorted font, the harsh collage artwork, the album title (referring to some sort of poison left by the band in one of their many murder plots?)… it conjures an evil and transgressive hardcore band hellbent on a Youth Attack Records contract. Sorry, incorrect! Maybe this band should consider changing their name to Choke Chainz, as they’re got the sort of drunk n’ druggy, unhinged punk n’ roll approach that lends itself to pluralizing things with a z. For the style they’ve chosen, Trace Amounts is kinda basic – it never fully ignites into a tantrum, nor does it drag deep in the lowest depths of humanity. Rather, it rocks in a straightforward manner, like a group of friends inspired by Thin Lizzy and Teengenerate who wanna enjoy a slice of that fun for themselves. I certainly can’t blame ’em, but I’m not sure their tunes are fresh or inspiring enough for me to sing along, although I’ll admit that I picked up the words to “Degenerate” (“I’m a degenerate”) quickly enough.

Colleen A Flame My Love, A Frequency LP (Thrill Jockey)
Surely I can be given some leeway for not checking out an artist that simply goes by the name “Colleen” until now, right? Not much leeway, though, as Cécile Schott (her name’s not even really Colleen!) has a thick discography under her belt, and if any of it’s like A Flame My Love, A Frequency, I need to stop wasting time and grab some more of her stuff without further delay. It’s a captivating album, based around one (or two at max) synth sounds per song and vocal accompaniment (or often, no voice at all). This album is simplistic and sweet, but don’t confuse that for easy and sappy – Colleen masterfully extracts spirals of light through her rippling synth, singing over it when the feeling compels her. It’s like a stereophonic Broadcast album played on a system with only one working speaker, or Morton Subotnick if he ever drank too much red wine and unwittingly entered an emo phase. For such sparse instrumentation, Colleen pulls an abundance of color and emotion out of her rig, with her voice adding a near-pop element that any reasonable listener would find irresistible. A Flame My Love, A Frequency was apparently written and recorded in the wake of the tragic Bataclan shooting, but it’s an album rich with peace and nourishment, not anguish and despair.

Computer Internet LP (Skrot Up)
Computer is the result of Jim Vail (FNU Ronnies) and John Laux (Musk), but if you were hoping for some sort of ultra-distorted noise-punk meltdown like I was, prepare to be disappointed! Disappointment is probably one of the main sensations those two were going for with Computer’s Internet, an album full of random unwanted samples, sounds and snippets. It’s like the sonic equivalent of the crud that flies out of a computer keyboard vigorously shaken upside down (I dare you to shake yours now and see what you get!). Or perhaps more accurately, the dankest of memes turned into song: a queasy saxophone, digital delay, a confused man muttering, a corny television sound effect, sampled hip-hop loops and Alvin & The Chipmunk vocals, all mashed together like a jpeg of lasagna with substandard resolution. One might think this would lead to hilarity, or at least attempts at humor, but somehow most of Internet doesn’t come across as silly or lighthearted – it’s more as though Vail and Laux are reminding us that this is our miserable modern existence and forcing us to lay down in it, or at least stare it in the face. It’s of a similar mindset as James Ferraro, minus any sense of musicality or specificity, just a big dump of digital trash that cannot be avoided. Just like the real internet!

Carla dal Forno The Garden 12″ (Blackest Ever Black)
It was around this time last year that Carla dal Forno dropped her debut LP, and while I thought it was great, this new one really takes the cake. I’m still spinning the recent F ingers LP frequently (that’s dal Forno and two buddies going the abstract experimental route in case you forgot), and I can’t help but wonder if it didn’t clear the way for a more directly song-based solo release in The Garden. This four-track EP is funereal post-punk music that lodges itself in the listener’s brain with the potency of pop, and it’s great. I suppose there are many gothic elements at play, but I couldn’t rightfully file The Garden under goth as it’s not remotely corny, fanciful or melodramatic, just stark and impenetrable. The bass is rugged and hefty, the drum machines sound like they’re puffing their last gasps, and dal Forno’s vocals are enchantingly cold and heartless. I’d imagine that if Lana Del Rey spent a year inside the sketchy catacombs of Berlin’s Berghain club, accidentally exposed to the harsh personalities of Vatican Shadow and Regis, her music might sound like this. There’s apparently some sort of nod to Einstürzende Neubauten in the title, either real or imagined by the press, and while nothing here sounds like Neubauten, I can certainly imagine dal Forno and Blixa Bargeld sharing some herbal tea at an outdoor cafe on a gloomy weekday, comparing their all-black wardrobes and cruel artistic intents.

David Nance Band Summer Singles Series 2017 7″ (Richie)
While Richie Records generally keeps things local (the artist almost always resides within a five mile radius of any decent hoagie counter), David Nance is a staunch resident of Omaha. His music is guitar-centric, hazy, loose and just a tiny bit demented, so geography aside, he’s a solid fit for the Richie roster. “Amethyst” is the a-side and it’s a slow burner: think The Dead C covering Neil Young, but in Nebraska, surrounded by corn and nothing else. Very pleasantly raw. I prefer the b-side though, a raucous clap of garage-rock thunder that amazingly seems to come from little more than one guitar, a snare drum and a tambourine. Maybe if Tetuzi Akiyama wanted to secure an Estrus Records contract, he’d have come up with something like this? It’s sweaty and brief, the sort of thing of which I would’ve happily enjoyed four more subtle variations (and even on the side of a 7″, there is plenty of room). I keep hearing how I need to check out David Nance and his Band’s full-lengths, and this single cements the thought.

Dendö Marionette 傀儡電伝 LP (Bitter Lake Recordings / Mouse)
Japanese hardcore and punk have been so deeply excavated in the past twenty years (and the supply of fresh mind-blowing obscurities still isn’t dwindling), but it’s time someone dug into Japan’s equally deep synth-wave / post-punk / experimental history. That seems to be what Katorga Works offshoot label Bitter Lake is doing, teaming with Japan’s Mouse Records for a reissue of Dendö Marionette’s impossible-to-find 7″ flexi alongside a previously-unreleased EP. It’s new to me, and definitely ripe for the reissue treatment, as Dendö Marionette certainly had it going on: experimental synth-wave music that exists on its own level, free of contemporary influence (which is the blessing and curse of today’s music climate). The opening cut reminds of me Kitchen & The Plastic Spoons, with its speedy and ratchety drum machine coasting over some oddball Devo motifs, but they quickly change it up, from rhythmless drones to bent Kraftwerk worship (or is it Yellow Magic Orchestra they were envisioning?) to primitive electronic wizardry ala the M Squared label. The unreleased material is of equal caliber, and I am eager to see what Bitter Lake unearths next – if I might make a suggestion, the Vanity Records label is ripe for modern accessibility and critical reassessment!

Eel Night Parade Of 100 Demons LP (Beach Impediment)
My first exposure to Eel came in the form of a YouTube video, a live show wherein some fan got his head brutally wounded by an angle grinder and eventually sought medical attention. So that’s something! It seems as though the band formed with the intent to be the Bad Luck 13 of Japanese hardcore (replace all pro-wrestling inspiration with a dedication to classic Japanese noise-core violence), and on Night Parade Of 100 Demons they come across as a pretty faithful interpretation of all those Zouo, Gudon, G.I.S.M. and Confuse favorites. I was expecting a little more dedication to the No Fucker school of anti-music (sound effects of bombs in lieu of vocals, a completely incomprehensible recording, more power tools, etc.) but Eel play it pretty straight here, with plenty of Randy Uchida-inspired soloing. The recording is properly rough and trebly, with a thin layer of distortion coating each instrument (and a thick molten one over the vocals), but in 2017, American bands playing unabashed Japanese hardcore like this isn’t particularly startling, but rather just another thing that lots of people like to do. I certainly can’t blame them, as this style kicks significant ass, and Eel do it substantial justice, after all. Your mileage will depend on whether you’re a listener who needs to hear more of it, deliberate re-enactments and all, or if you’re content with the originals. Either way, bring a helmet if you go see them live.

Emptyset Skin 12″ (Thrill Jockey)
Here’s an appealing concept: perhaps the heaviest of all British electro-brutes, Emptyset, recording an EP that is entirely acoustic, with no post-production processing. The title had me hoping it was the sound of James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas spanking each other’s bare bottoms ’til they glowed pink, but sadly we’ll have to wait for them to get around to that. Rather, this one is focused on what sounds like a hammered dulcimer, initially played percussively, and then either the same instrument or something similar-but-different mercilessly strummed with some light devotional chanting beneath. It ends up reminding me a lot of recent Earth, albeit a little too fast for Earth’s measured pace, but the same sense of transcendental heaviness is there, repetition utilized as the key to enlightenment. If this was the first I heard of Emptyset, I might not be as impressed, as while it sounds great I know at least half a dozen people who could bang out a work of similar style and quality over a weekend. Still, I know that it’s Emptyset who did it, and I appreciate that they are finding ways to channel their lead-plated aesthetic through fresh and unexpected means.

Ero Guro Ero Guro 7″ (Ronny Rex)
Self-recorded, self-produced, friend-funded Belgian punk is what this Ero Guro 7″ EP is all about. That’s the way to do it – have all the fun and get a friend to pay for it! It’s a heartwarming scene I’m envisioning. Maybe I’m particularly prone to admiration here, as the label sent a two-page hand-written note explaining how Ero Guro and this debut 7″ EP came to be, but musically it’s pretty cool too. It’s mostly mid-tempo punk with lightly distorted vocals, conniving riffs and a general sense of mischief – somewhere between early Mekons and the noisy garage-punk revival of the ’00s. Nothing remotely mind-blowing or a must-listen situation, but I can get the sense that Ero Guro is a fun and exciting thing for all involved parties, right down to the hand-stamping of the center stickers. Worth a Bandcamp perusal, especially if you are either living in Belgium or plan to swing by and wanna see what the kids are up to.

Gap Whip In A Room 12″ (Ever/Never)
While centralized in New York City and its various boroughs, Ever/Never scans the globe for various cantankerous forms of rock and anti-rock music, this time touching base in Yorkshire, UK with Gad Whip. Gad Whip have self-released a number of tapes previously, but this is their first vinyl offering, a one-sided 12″ with a stately b-side etching of what I presume to be the Gad Whip family crest. I’m glad to have made their acquaintance, as these four tunes are highly enjoyable (and highly British) artsy post-punk. The most obvious sonic correlation is Sleaford Mods (I bet they’re already sick of hearing it), thanks the the vocalist’s sharp rap/rant delivery and accent, but the music comes from live drums, guitars, keyboards, what-have-you, recalling downer Kiwi pop, not entirely far from Tall Dwarfs or The Bats, with a touch of Talking Heads, maybe even some tougher, leathery post-punk like Crisis (particularly on the final cut, “Train Song #2”). It’s a combo that works quite easily, and Gad Whip have the proper mindset to deliver it with just enough bile, just enough tuneful accompaniment, and just enough whip, lest they merely gad.

Gen Pop On The Screen 7″ (Upset The Rhythm / Lumpy)
Excellent debut here from Olympia’s Gen Pop. They feature Maryjane Dunphe and Ian Corrigan of Vexx, but I get the impression that this is Corrigan’s baby, and what an adorable little sprout it is! It couldn’t have been easy to start a new punk group in the shadow of Vexx (best rock group of the ’10s?), but Gen Pop have their own sound and style while still bearing some delightful similarities. First off, Corrigan sings on most tracks, and maybe there’s a burp caught in the bottom of his throat or something, but he has this stately Australian accent somehow, as if he just found out his biological father was in The Scientists and couldn’t help but sing accordingly. The music rips like Vexx at their most straightforward ‘core, but also like cool agitated hardcore punk rock from the early ’80s like The Fastbacks or Screaming Sneakers, groups that were slick enough to write a speedy pop ballad on one side of the record and blast a handful of ragers on the other. The co-release info should’ve tipped you off to Gen Pop’s versatility anyway, as what other band would receive the tacit approval of hip UK post-punk tastemakers Upset The Rhythm as well as Midwestern mutant nerds Lumpy? If there’s a head not being turned by Gen Pop in the punk scene, I have to assume it’s wearing a neck brace.

Giant Swan The Last 30 Years Of Human Ego 12″ (Timedance)
Giant Swan are a techno duo out of Bristol, UK, but unlike most British techno folks, Giant Swan come from a rock background, as they are half of the long-running psych-rock group The Naturals. It seems like most British techno producers were raised on raves and DJ sets and wouldn’t even know how to hold a guitar if you gave them one, but I appreciate Giant Swan’s origin story, as it lends a roughness and rowdy belligerence to their tunes, as though they are less concerned with the rules that govern hard-edged electronic bass music than the rest of the well-schooled pack. “Celebrate The Last 30 Years Of Human Ego” is a real bruiser, operating with cut-up noise ala Russell Haswell and the elastic snap of labelmates Batu and Lurka. Love those minced vocals! I presume the flip-side’s track title “IFTLOYL” is a texting acronym I’m not yet hip to, and it’s different yet also great, like Blawan fresh from spending a night drinking cider with crust punks. Cool vocals too, like a post-punk Kerridge, perhaps. I’m often wary of rockers who want to become techno DJs, particularly as the trend continues to rise, but Giant Swan are no dilettantes – if your tracks are this grotesque and mighty, I don’t care if you used to be in Skankin’ Pickle.

girlSperm gSp LP (Thrilling Living)
Generally speaking I’m not a fan of bands that insist on capitalizing or punctuating their name in unorthodox ways, but what am I gonna do, mess with girlSperm? I’m not that stupid! This Bay Area punk trio is all business, and what righteous business it is – minimal and messy post-punk, full of spite and vitriol and equipped with the intelligence to spew said spite and vitriol in a series of direct hits. The drums tend to lead the charge over the two guitars (often plucked one string at a time), and the vocals seem to come from every angle, often all at once. If there was ever an argument to be made for punk rock as a collective action, heralding the communal gang over individual showboats, it’s within gSp. My only gripe is that I wish the record came with a lyric sheet (or, in a consolation prize, were published on the album’s corresponding Bandcamp page), because I’d love to know for sure what they’re yelling about. “20K Band” is probably my favorite cut, and besides the chanted refrain of “just give us twenty K!”, I would be tickled to know exactly what girlSperm are saying. Same goes for closing track “You Are Like An Art Object”, which plays out like Coïtus Int. with the vocal approach of Le Tigre’s “What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes”, although they hereby obliviate both of those references. The list of this trio’s prior bands is a mile long (and a very necessary playlist in its own right), but girlSperm strike me as a unit fiercely dedicated to stirring up the now, not reminiscing on former glories. Famous dude-punk bands should consider a similar approach!

The Gotobeds Definitely Not A Redd Kross EP 7″ (Chunklet Industries)
Not sure why this was made, but lo, here it is: The Gotobeds covering Red Cross’s eponymous 12″ EP (before they became the non-copyright-infringing “Redd Kross”) on a gold-vinyl 7″ in its entirety, complete with replica disco-sleeve artwork. The Gotobeds play the concept pretty straight, offering faithful representations of these six tracks, and while I am open to the idea of a wildly creative reinterpretation, there’s really no need: Redd Kross’s original record is pure teen-punk perfection. It’s really kind of crazy how effortlessly Redd Kross wrote six of the greatest punk songs of all time and put them all on the same record – they simply had that elusive magic. It’s essentially perfect punk music, so when it comes to another talented bunch of punks playing these tunes, albeit very much not teenagers, it sounds great just the same. I’m not a big fan of entire records being covered, but if this was the start of a thirty-volume Chunklet series of various bands covering Red Cross, I would gladly listen to all of them, and I bet they’d all be pretty great. Either way, The Gotobeds have certainly done justice to this holy punk artifact.

Hothead Summer Singles Series 2017 7″ (Richie)
Last but not least, Hothead complete the trio of Richie Records’ 2017 singles series. They’re a group based equally in Baltimore and Philadelphia, so you can imagine the miles they’ve clocked on I-95 with plenty of time to listen to music, talk and think about what they wanna do with themselves. This is their first vinyl appearance (following a debut tape on Sister Polygon), and they surprisingly use it for two covers, one of Townes Van Zandt’s “Snake Song” and the other Danny Whitten’s “I Don’t Wanna”. “Snake Song” is a mean horseback march through the desert, with vocalist and bandleader Laurie Spector’s full-moon croon adding the necessary gravitas before an unmarked saxophone solo threatens the campfire. The brief original “Jammed Together” opens the flip with a pleasant psych stumble, like one of those early Kurt Vile toss-offs, before “I Don’t Wanna” hits. It’s a slow-dance while the world burns, like that brief moment of clarity you have walking into a movie theater when you realize you forgot to take your Pepcid after that spicy meatball submarine sandwich.

Joe Tail Lift / MPH 12″ (Hessle Audio)
It’s ironic that Joe’s new single is called “Tail Lift”, because that’s exactly what my tail did when I first heard it! Joe’s productions are both idiosyncratic and populist – his style is distinct in a sea of similar producers, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t appreciate the man’s music. This new 12″ is another fantastic entry, for which “Tail Lift” is mostly responsible. It’s a colorful, breezy jam, shifting down various paths in the same delightful ecosystem. For the literary-minded, I’m reminded of the wedding celebration scene in Jean de Brunhoff’s 1931 classic Histoire de Babar (recommended reading): all sorts of different species intermingling for the sake of a good time. “MPH” is sleeker and not as immediate, a post-modern cool-down after the sweaty fun of “Tail Lift”. It’s not too far from Kode9’s recent Burial remix, although Joe seems to be dealing in early ’80s ECM jazz / new-age sounds, albeit with a squeaky, queasy, Actress-esque nose tweak. Pretty essential dance music for any reasonable person’s 2017, if you ask me.

Samuel Kerridge The Silence Between Us 12″ (Downwards)
Gotta hand it to Samuel Kerridge for such a consistent level of reinvention. His music has always fallen under the banner of industrial techno, but within that framework his style and sound has shifted dramatically, from precision steam-engine techno to neck-deep sludge dirges to scorched drum n’ bass, and now however you care to classify the frantic new offerings on this 12″ EP. “Possession/Control” is startling, even for a seasoned Kerridge fan like myself – it shoots through with an unusual speed and dexterity, like something off his pal Objekt’s Flatland played on 45 instead of 33. It’s high velocity mayhem, subjected to various interruptions before wrapping up, as if the hazmat crew were trying to contain this violent chemical reaction but their results were ultimately futile. “Ascension” kicks off the flip, a pumped-up electro-acid workout that seems to exist in the fallout of the a-side, extra contaminated and astringent (and still much too fast). Same goes for the last cut, “Radical Possibilities Of Pleasure”, which works in some wide-range saw-toothed synths typical to previous Kerridge records, as if to say he’s still in there, somewhere, even as the smoke and dust obscure his figure. Quite a bloody ripper, and although I have no idea where Kerridge can take things from here, I have no doubt that he somehow will.

Maraudeur Maraudeur LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
Here’s an album that exudes so much cool, I swear I wasn’t wearing these sunglasses when I put it on ten minutes ago. Maraudeur are part of the current Swiss post-punk scene that I wish I knew more about, and following a killer split 10″ (who knew anyone could release a killer split 10″ anymore?), this is their full-length debut. They play slowish, grooving post-punk that touches on no-wave’s off kilter structuring as well as the deviant pop aspiration of The Vaselines as well as the Sister Polygon scene of minimal and non-macho post-punk. Generally speaking, the bass moves through a series of melodic corridors and the drums (or drum machine) clank along, while the guitar favors the high strings, the keyboard fills in the sonic range and the vocalist talks herself through it all. It feels like a missing Rough Trade release from 1980, some lonesome project featuring a couple Young Marble Giants, one Swell Map and maybe one of Cabaret Voltaire’s roadies rounding it out – at the very least, it sounds as timelessly cool as such a collaboration would’ve been.

Metz Strange Peace LP (Sub Pop)
Never would have guessed that heavy post-hardcore screamo would have such staying power into the ’10s and beyond, but not only are Metz out here kicking butt, it seems as though they’ve inspired a legion of younger bands to follow in their sonic footsteps (just as they themselves were inspired by the ’90s Gravity Records roster that came before them). And who knew that they’d only improve in strength and skill as they move ahead with album #3! Strange Peace reveals the band to be well aware of their strengths, and they highlight them here. Drummer Hayden Menzies pounds with the power of a dozen Grohls, a metronomic jackhammer that is Metz’s secret (or not-so-secret) weapon – when this man fires up a beat, it really doesn’t matter what the guitar and bass are doing so long as they’re loud and discordant. It’s what they’ve done for the past two records, but this time around it’s enhanced by an openness to pop hooks, or if not exactly pop, choruses and melodies that are engineered to stick to one’s memory. Alex Edkins figured out how to tune his snarling Canadian Johnny Rotten vocal into more than just an additional layer of noise, and it pushes these songs much farther – first single “Cellophane” sounds like Public Image Ltd. covering something off Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase, a conceit I hope Metz continue to explore. That is of course presuming Menzies doesn’t render them all deaf first.

Midwives No LP (Holy Family Players Theatre)
To anyone bold enough to proclaim a lack of Wisconsin hardcore, I present you with Midwives’ No. They’re a Milwaukee quartet and they pressed a scant one hundred copies of this LP, replete with handcrafted cover and stamped labels. In an earlier time, all copies would’ve sold immediately, but we’re living in an era where the vast majority of physical music products are passed over, so chances are good that if you like the ensuing description of the record, you can still obtain one with relative ease. Midwives have a decent thing going on: messy and tricky riffs with a vocalist who opens the album on a cathartic “woo!” and spends the rest of it shout-ranting in or out of time. I’m no psychic but I wouldn’t be surprised if bands like Drive Like Jehu, John Henry West, Angel Hair and The Jesus Lizard offered inspiration, or perhaps more recently, groups like Slices, Paint It Black and Double Negative. Something for the button-up office attire and black band t-shirt crowds alike.

Neutral När LP (Omlott)
Praise be, a new Neutral album! At six tracks, I guess they’re calling it a “mini-album”, but I’ll take Neutral in any dosage I can get. It should be fairly evident that my expectations are high with this Swedish duo, but they continue to rule with När, which I assume translates to “gnar”, short for “gnarly”, an apt description for this record. They move away from guitars and embryonic formations of guitars here, utilizing corroded electronics and bleak rhythms as the basis for these tracks. Bass (guitar?) waddles through many of these tracks, however, and Sophie Herner’s vocals remain cryptic and translucent, like a ripple of microfiche across a fiery projector screen. Some of the sonic textures remind me of Demdike Stare, even, in the way that evil dub grooves and harsh effects are brandished, although Neutral are far deeper in the dirt. Tracks like “Du” and “Berg 211” are a shaky rope bridge between Broadcast and Macronympha, and while it’s as precarious as that sounds, I can’t help but walk it over and over and over. Neutral are so good.

Plaque Marks Anxiety Driven Nervous Worship LP (Learning Curve)
Plaque Marks are a Philadelphia trio that I’m fairly certain all work at the same bar together, or at least used to. Don’t let images of Huey Lewis bar-rock fill your head, though, as Plaque Marks stomp and grind out some professional-grade noise-rock here, complete with a heavy back-end and screamed vocals mixed low in the cacophony. They might be a new band, but they’ve certainly got the style down pat: the bass is vibrant and vulgar, the drums are boomy and loose, and the guitar balances it out nicely. The b-side is fully owned by the title track, and it’s a sleazy, queasy cut; it’s certainly my favorite of the bunch, somewhere in the outer orbits of Tar, Rusted Shut and Black Mayonnaise. If that doesn’t offer a vivid image of Plaque Marks, try to imagine a band that formed specifically to open a full Unsane tour, which you actually don’t even have to imagine, because that’s exactly what Plaque Marks did earlier this year!

Proto Idiot Leisure Opportunity LP (Slovenly)
Forget Protomartyr and all their book-learnin’, here’s Proto Idiot, locking themselves out of the car while it’s still running and proud of it! They’re a Mancunian punk group, and they’ve found a space for themselves in the proud tradition of goofball British punk. Think The Undertones, The Lurkers, maybe even some Cockney Rejects too, with the American polish of The Dickies, The Briefs, and Jay Reatard (who were really just spitting back all those British influences in the first place anyway). Proto Idiot seem to be thrilled with the idea that they tricked people into believing they’re a real band, with songs shouting out their instruments, a band theme opening the album, and a general sense of proudly foolish fun. Proto Idiot might not have the costumes and grease makeup of The Rezillos and The Adicts, but they brandish that same sort of carefree attitude, the type of punks that step in gum and dog poo and find it hysterical rather than annoying, proudly sticking to the cement and stinking past other pedestrians. I pray these lads may never locate intelligence.

Rash / C.H.E.W. split 7″ (Slugsalt)
For months now, the Chicago hardcore scene has been in a state of violent disarray – Rash fans going crazy, and C.H.E.W. fans trying to take them out. It’s gotten pretty ugly, but thankfully there is peace in sight, as C.H.E.W. and Rash are finally on the same piece of vinyl! Both have been discussed in these pages before, and silliness aside, this is a proper pairing of two Chicago hardcore groups on a Philadelphia-based label. Two tunes from Rash here, which remind me of a slightly slower Warthog, or a less frantic Acrylics, perhaps. Kind of a hardcore carb-loader, which is necessary for any mosh-pit workout. C.H.E.W. spice it up with their three tunes, performing a similar tone of hardcore, just with more manic energy and speedier riffing. Rash strikes me as more of the Butthead, and C.H.E.W. the Beavis, but just like those two, how can you appreciate one without sharing a fondness for the other? And like practically every American hardcore record I’ve reviewed this year or last, this split EP is mastered by Will Killingsworth. How is this possible? Are there multiple Will Killingsworths?

The Sickness Complete Sickness LP (ОПАЧИНА)
Seemed only a matter of time before Boston’s obscure proto-sludge-punk pioneers received the reissue treatment. The group only released one 7″, but they later spawned The Groinoids and Kilslug (one of the all-time greats, who even came back with a mind-bogglingly great album in 2012), and come on, what aspect of early Boston hardcore (or anti-hardcore as the case may be) hasn’t been revisited in the past couple decades? In a strange fashion that suits The Sickness, this album comes on a new Macedonian label, with a variety of limited colored vinyl variants, and it features the Sickness’s sole 7″ alongside tracks recorded at Radiobeat and a small handful of live and rehearsal tunes. The best stuff is the studio work (unless you’re really into purposely-godawful “Louie Louie” covers), but don’t expect the word “studio” to insinuate some form of professionalism – The Sickness perform their music with a low level of competence, and a disregard for whatever competence they may actually have. It’s like no-wave without the effort to purposely annoy, or punk that’s too lazy to rock. On a busy rush-hour highway, The Sickness aren’t that freak cutting people off and swerving between lanes, they’re the rusted jalopy driving thirty miles below the speed limit in the passing lane, smoke pouring from the hood, oblivious to the traffic around them. If it wasn’t clear, I love this music, and urge you to check it out if you consider yourself a fan of impotent and bawdy punk rock. If you only pick one punk reissue this year to be down with…

Sweet Knives Sweet Knives LP (Big Neck)
More than a couple people I know hold The Lost Sounds in incredibly high regard, although I never fully got the hype myself. The remaining members of that group (RIP Jay Reatard) have apparently reconvened as Sweet Knives, and from my point of view the sound remains more or less the same. They play driving, menacing-yet-melodic garage-punk, taking nods from greats like Dead Moon and The Wipers and inflecting things with an understated dash of synthesizer. They’re not out to thrash and bash, or use their synths in a Nots-like fashion (frenzied alien abduction), but rather simmer through studied rock moves as the seasoned vets they are. Of course, they can’t help but find solace in a soft touch of snot-nosed Killed By Death aesthetics, too. (There’s a song called “Isolation Deprivation”, in the classic syllablizing of The Authorities’ “Radiation Masturbation”.) I didn’t expect to love Sweet Knives, but I came around to their sound pretty quickly, so if you’re already got a trusty leather vest with a neon Lost Sounds pin on the lapel, your satisfaction will be immediate.

Reviews – November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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