Reviews – May 2016

Félicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Comme Un Seul Narcisse LP (Shelter Press)
Merely typing out the names of these two artists was all it took for me to feel slightly more sophisticated, but the sounds they’ve captured really push that sense of avant-luxurious listening over the top. Comme Un Seul Narcisse is an album as curious as it is gorgeous, as if the listener is privy to various illicit affairs, discreet poisonings, pretentious coffee brewings and HVAC malfunctions through a poorly-insulated wall, straining to get the full picture but never quite grasping it. I’m not sure who is doing what (nor am I interested to find out – this is a record that succeeds on mystery), but one of them plays tasteful little phrases on the piano while the other chews gum, tidies up the recycling bin, smokes and feeds the cat, each motion delicately rendered and mixed as though you are the third invisible member of their trio. Graham Lambkin’s recent works with Michael Pisaro are a close reference, but even with similar general descriptions, both pairs create beautiful and evocative worlds all their own… Comme Un Seul Narcisse comes with perhaps a bit more congruity throughout (to which I don’t prescribe a value judgment). Whatever the case regarding the many questions posed by Atkinson and Cantu-Ledesma, their work together has subtly enriched my life, and I thank them for it.

Bloody Show Root Nerve 12″ (Heel Turn)
Bloody Show are the latest raucous garage-rock act out of Columbus Ohio, a city which clearly has no short supply of such sounds. There’s no lyric sheet to verify, but song titles like “American Pimp”, “Bell Hooks” and “Magic Negro”, particularly with the cover image of a man holding a sign that says “YOU BETTER KILL ALL BLACKS”, will grab anyone’s attention; thankfully it seems as though Bloody Show are taking an aggressive stance against stereotypes and racial injustice, either that or this is the first white-power band to be fronted by a black man (I suppose stranger things have happened). Musically, they carry that rage into a set of fairly traditional garage-punk tunes (including a Pere Ubu cover), leaning further toward the garage end of things (ample guitar soloing and head-bobbing rhythms, to be sure) than punk. Bandleader Jah Nada shouts and screams his way through, somewhere between Rob Tyner, Larry May of Candy Snatchers and Bim Thomas. Nada sounds inspired, but ultimately the lo-fi recording and basic songwriting relegate Bloody Show to opening band status; good, but I find myself waiting around for someone better to show up. Who knows what Bloody Show might put together next though, as the inspiration is clearly there, they just need to properly translate their attitude onto vinyl.

Bruce Steals 12″ (Hessle Audio)
That’s me screaming “BRUCE!” at the top of my lungs, not to celebrate any handsomely-aged rocker but the mysterious British(?) producer, as his new EP Steals is my favorite thus far. The title track is the show-stopper here, just an utterly invigorating cut that has me pumping my first, dislocating my hips and simply losing myself in its sumptuousness. The track orbits around an infectious stutter-step groove, but it sounds as though Bruce hired an octopus to offer live mixing – fades go up and out, static bursts shock the track out of order, the mute button is generously smacked, and there’s even the occasional DJ Premier-esque running-back. I could listen to Bruce coax this beat down various colorful paths for days, but I am willing to accept the six-and-a-half minutes he gives us here. On those rare occasions when I flip the record, I hear “Relevant Again”, a slow grinder that floats past Andy Stott and Actress but exists in a distinctly Hessle Audible galaxy – I need to spend more time with this one to be sure. Finisher “Petal Pluck” is another slow-motion nipple-tweak, with a melodic lead that plays hide-and-seek among so many infrared blips and airy crackles. Fantastic stuff, and currently neck-and-neck with DJ Fett Burger’s Burger Trip for my favorite EP of 2016 thus far.

Bummers Eve Bummers Eve LP (Almost Ready)
Goofball Cincinnati punks Bummers Eve continue onward from last year’s Almost Ready single to this year’s Almost Ready album. In case you were low on songs about crying into your burrito because you got dumped and ran out of weed while skateboarding to the bong shop, Bummers Eve are here to replenish your supply. They come equipped with a full range of superfluous hipster-punk problems here, all delivered with a spaced-out indie-punk sound and vocals processed through some slightly off-tune and continuous phaser effect, a choice that only Bummers Eve can explain. Very sophomoric, silly stuff, in the spirit of Wax Museums and Tampoffs or essentially any of the thousands of pizza-face white-guy punk bands that celebrate their dorkiness rather than shy away from it. My quota for this sort of thing has long since been met, and yet Bummers Eve doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should (a similar sensation I note while listening to Sloppy Seconds’ Destroyed). So good for them, and good for me too, I suppose.

Chaos U.K. Shit Man Fucker! 7″ (540)
Here are two entities without the slightest need to prove their punk cred to anyone, the legendary (and seemingly unkillable) Chaos U.K. and Timmy Hefner’s 540 Records label. Might as well team up for a 7″ EP of new material in that case, this being the 57th 540 release and quite nearly the 57th Chaos U.K. release. I’ll admit to not being an expert in the nuances and stylistic shifts of Chaos U.K.’s decades-long career, but it sounds to me as though Shit Man Fucker! could’ve been written anytime after 1982 and recorded anytime after 1992, with blazing hard-rock riffs, crunchy guitars, belligerent vocals and samples to open each side. They certainly haven’t gotten any softer, and whatever lack of talent they brandished in 1982 is replaced with skillful performance now – just listen to those cascading snare-rolls and rollicking changes and tell me these guys haven’t learned a thing or two along the way, even if by accident. I have no doubt that right now, somewhere in south-eastern Albuquerque, there is a new band calling themselves Shit Man Fucker! and recording their debut SPHC 7″, as Chaos U.K.’s global influence continues to spread like the flap of a butterfly’s wings.

Charcoal Owls Kid Brother 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Surprisingly musical addition to the I Dischi Del Barone family here, care of British duo Charcoal Owls. I first put on “Kid Brother” and thought it sounded like a particularly barely-awake sunrise from Arab Strap with the Pheromoans guy on vocals. Did a little research and it turns out it actually is the guy from the Pheromoans on vocals, Mr. Russell Walker himself, following his sentences wherever they lead him, and often sounding like he is reading his lyrics from a poorly-scribbed sheet, pausing to make sure he’s reading each word correctly. “The Hound Of Hounslow” is less musical – no melodic stringed-instruments in sight, just high-pitched hovering tones and the rustle of a tape-recorder tucked away in someone’s sport-coat pocket as Walker speaks slower and with even less confidence. Which is to say, if you want a copy of this 7″ you’ll have to search elsewhere as I plan on keeping mine.

Essaie Pas Demain Est Une Autre Nuit LP (DFA)
Marie Davidson is half of Montréal’s Essaie Pas, and I regret not reviewing her solo album from last year, as it was a standout in the crowded field of hardware-centric electro-pop. Essaie Pas has Davidson teamed with a sharp-dressed man named Pierre Guerineau (as if you couldn’t tell he was sharp-dressed by that name alone), and together they offer an addicting suite of high-class synth-wave with Demain Est Une Autre Nuit. They simply have a knack for the most sumptuous, dare-I-say authentic synth sounds, which is paired with the lean, infectious drum programming by which DFA has built their empire, and the combination is endlessly repeatable and enjoyable for anyone with even a passing interest in sexy electro-pop. Throughout the album, I’m reminded of the guitar-absent tracks on the great Bippp compilation, in just how damn French Essaie Pas sound – I swear, I was eating a sandwich which listening to “Retox” and it instantly turned my bread into pain. Both Davidson and Guerineau provide vocals, all in French, and almost entirely spoken, with a complex sense of intrigue, boredom and mild disgust, the way only the French (or French-Canadian, apparently) can do it. Conseillé!

Foster Care Sterilization LP (Total Punk)
Foster Care are one of the latest Total Punk signees to end up with an album deal, and while I was previously unfamiliar with this NY group, Sterilization proves that the label’s investment was justified. They play a rapid-fire, breathless form of garage-punk, indebted to classic hardcore-punk riffing and regional pre-hardcore punk rock attitudes, and while I can’t rightly pick out any single song in this pile of speedy and frantic lines, I’m not complaining. At times, I’m reminded of the best that Atlanta’s had to offer in the prior decade, like the most ferocious Carbonas song cut in half and sped up a touch, and who wouldn’t want that? Kinda similar to Predator as well (if we want to keep comparisons within the family), in the way that Foster Care careen through songs in a way that would make most any other punk band crash into a jumbled mess, but they come away unscathed, like when you watch a stage-diver fall directly onto his crown only to get up and start bopping along instantly as if he didn’t just fracture his spine. Foster Care’s hi-hat is almost always open, the vocalist spits through a guitar-amped mic and Total Punk once again delivers on their bold promise.

Golden Teacher Raveinstigator / Divine 12″ (Sounds Of The Universe)
More Golden Teacher is always a good thing, and this limited (with individually hand-painted sleeves) 12″ single couldn’t be passed up. After witnessing them live (one of my live-music highlights of 2014), I’m always struck by how stripped-down their recordings are. This is a group of six busy people, yet their recordings are clearly the work of less than a dozen hands. It’s merely an observation and not a complaint, as a track like “Raveinstigator” is a welcome addition to my diet – riding a simple 100-ish BPM rhythm and some funky synth stabs, vocalist Cassie Ojay is truly the Raveinstigator herself, toasting her commands as though dancing was both pleasure and punishment. Flip it for “Divine”, an Alexander Robotnick-styled groove with the other ‘Teacher vocalist Charles Lavenac given the green light to spin his tale. He sounds like the guy from Flash & The Pan’s “Walking In The Rain”, as if that man was transported to the shady side of Shakedown Street, hustling while trying not to be hustled himself. It’s rare that an electronic-based dance group has one great vocalist, but Golden Teacher have two!

Heron Oblivion Heron Oblivion LP (Sub Pop)
Modern psych-heads were tripping without the need for acid when they discovered the existence of Heron Oblivion, a new-ish San Fran group featuring members of Comets On Fire alongside Meg Baird. If you’re at all familiar with both entities, you can see how a combination of Comets’ heat and Baird’s cool would be so tantalizing, and I think it’s safe to say they established themselves appropriately on this self-titled debut. Baird’s voice will forever be the commanding presence of any project that utilizes it, and that is certainly the case here – while the guitars smolder and occasionally soar, Baird pierces through it like a beam of light through a dirty window, and it’s easy to get lost in it. I’m actually a little surprised at how restrained the rest of the group is – no one would doubt the abilities of Noel Harmonson and Ethan Miller, but they only hint at their overblown, High Rise-inspired tastes here. Rather, Heron Oblivion is filled with slow-to-moderate rock in the classic psychedelic fashion, starting at Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band and weaving through what must be dozens of tasty Acid Archives sounds my ears are too inexperienced to catch. The biggest curve is “Faro”, which moves towards a ’90s alt-rock atmosphere and is quite stunning because of it, the sort of track I’d perk up at in-between Cranberries and Collective Soul replays. I assume anyone in close proximity to good weed and a strokeable beard has already nagged a copy, so this one goes out to the curious few, to which I say: proceed.

Inhalants Deep Florida LP (L.I.E.S.)
It’s rare that I encounter an album of any genre that opens with such a striking motif as Deep Florida: right off the bat, Inhalants drop “Chasing The Dream”, a track of what seems to be infinite dirt bikes revving over endless dirt hills. In listening, I feel as though I’m instantly transported to the concept of “Deep Florida”, the netherworld of the South that is far from glistening beaches and tourist resorts, just inhospitable temperatures and bloodthirsty insects and the creation of one’s own fun through the destruction of goods and property. I could honestly listen to that track all day and feel content, but there’s a whole album that follows, and it seems as though the Inhalants boys have been paying close attention to the solo work of label-head Ron Morelli, as this is an album full of hardwired bleeps, unfriendly random-tone-generators and gritty textures. The many ways a car sounds when it isn’t working properly can be fascinating, and they share many similarities with tracks on Deep Florida, as if the synths used here had busted timing belts or faulty alternators. By the time “Deep Florida” hits, Inhalants seem finally ready to move to the dance-floor, and while I enjoy all of their night moves, I still can’t get over how great those dirt bikes sound.

Innsyter Poison Life LP (L.A. Club Resource)
Innsyter is a Brazilian producer by the name of Fernando Seixlack, and following a few odds n’ Soundcloud sods, the venerable L.A. Club Resource offers forward his debut album, Poison Life. I hate to be so geographically prejudiced, but you know how Brazilian thrash and black-metal groups often seem unhinged and uncontrollable in a way North American (and European) bands simply can’t? I’m kind of picking up a similar feel here with Innsyter, who certainly treads in the same crustily-analog techno rhythms of much of the L.I.E.S. label and surrounding entities, but Poison Life is particularly filthy. I’m not talking lyrical or aesthetic content (there doesn’t appear to be any of either), so much as actual sounds – each of Innsyter’s boxes sounds so corroded and worn down, like years of oily thumbs have rubbed off all lettering, leaving only stained rubber buttons and oxidized metal. Even the sound in-between beats is thick with humidity, as if everything is on the verge of permanent malfunction: just check the bubbly misery of “Cut Four” (it’s the third track, of course), it sounds as if Innsyter was pleading with a pile of old wires and electrical boxes to produce some sort of techno and somehow got drunk enough to make it happen. I’ll admit, there’s an even more killer mix he did that features some sort of Jonathan Davis vocalizing a few minutes in (please tell me that’s Seixlack himself), and while I anticipate more insanity to come, Poison Life is a disgusting round of shots in its own right.

Jealousy Paid For It LP (Moniker)
Can’t believe it’s been five years since the last Jealousy album, but he’s back with a new suite of violent psychedelic rock. While he hasn’t particularly been on my mind much, the solo work of CCR Headcleaner’s Mark Treise was great in 2011 and it’s even better now. As Jealousy, he maps out simple motorik grooves and stoner-friendly two-note bass melodies and proceeds to torch the whole thing with at least five vocal tracks per song (each with varying levels of reverb and sobriety) and what could just as well be vintage synths as imitation Fenders coasting through on a wave of effects in a drone-y din. I read that legendary freak Don Bolles contributed drums to some of these tracks, and I can’t say I’m surprised that these guys would pal around together, two drug-friendly Californians with sharp taste in underground music and a willingness to push beyond normal boundaries. Paid For It is dubby yet disturbed, with plenty of open space but never the slightest sensation of boredom (at least for my two willing ears). At Paid For It‘s best, I’m hearing a three-way Suicide / Loop / Guru Guru sound-clash, with vocals that often sound like a mumbly Beverly Hills rich kid who is simultaneously having the best trip of his life (to be followed by three days of dark sober depression), and this is an album that is almost always at its best.

K-9 Sniffies Master’s Touch LP (Urinal Cake)
After bestowing Protomartyr upon the world, Urinal Cake released a 7″ by a band called K-9 Sniffies a few years ago, to significantly less fanfare, but I was a believer. It seems as though K-9 Sniffies stuck it out long enough to write enough songs for an album, and voila, here’s Master’s Touch. I remember a level of thick garage-y distortion on that single that is absent here, as K-9 Sniffies play it out like some of the more notable Midwestern post-punky garage-rock groups instead, somewhere between the belligerent jangle of Tyvek and the strained basement psychedelia of Puffy Areolas. At their mildest, I’m reminded of the scuzziest Roach Clip tunes, but mostly K-9 Sniffies has me thinking of the less-catchy tunes on any given Tyvek album, the ones that sort of spread themselves out in-between the punchy hits. Not bad by any means, just the kind of record that slowly fades into the background rather than demanding one’s full attention, which is usually what you wanna do with this sort of music. That said, I appreciate the “random photo collage of band members and friends standing around” art on the back cover (from Suicidal Tendencies to any given Beer City Records 7″ this style never gets old), and maybe they just wanna hang out and play their tunes without giving much thought as to whether or not you or I want to pay attention, a decision they have every right to make.

Landlords Fitzgerald’s Paris LP (Feel It)
One thing that’s easy to take for granted in 2016 is the ease of communication within any underground community – socialist vegan basket-weavers in Portland, ME can share templates and techniques with like-minded folks in Omaha and Osaka with but a few clicks of the mouse. This wasn’t the case in 1983, when hardcore-punk was coming up in smaller suburban areas while coming down in larger metropolitan areas, and is presumably partly to blame for the delayed release of Charlottesville, VA’s Landords’ debut album, Fitzgerald’s Paris, some thirty-plus years after it was recorded. If the liner flyers are accurate, Landlords were relegated to gigs at Muldowney’s Pub, which is a shame for fans of American hardcore that weren’t in the immediate area, as Fitzgerald’s Paris displays a talented, confident hardcore band with all the trappings for success (besides their geographic isolation). At their meanest, I’m reminded of early Corrosion Of Conformity, but they’re usually a bit more tuneful and frantic, calling to mind Dayglo Abortions, Zero Boys, Tar Babies, or even the also recently-reissued Sand In The Face. Landlords would rip a guitar solo along a speedy Gang Green groove, goofy in one song and dead serious in the next, celebrating the ’70s rock records they loved as kids by playing similar songs, just five times as fast. The liner notes are a touching recollection of the group, and while I question the necessity of certain forms of hardcore archaeology, this was a T-Rex femur bone among so many trilobites.

Mary Lattimore At The Dam LP (Ghostly International)
Mary Lattimore is one of Philadelphia’s refined treasures, lugging her big-ass harp up and down trash-laden concrete stairs to dazzle quiet audiences for years now. While she’s often paired by the synth-based explorations of Jeff Zeigler, At The Dam is a solo outing, her first for the electro-centric Ghostly, and it’s a delightful experience. While frequently processed, surely in some ways I haven’t picked up, it’s a spare and delicate album, Lattimore’s harp twinkling in and out of dream sequences both pleasant and foreboding. If there was ever any doubt toward the versatility and emotional scope of the harp, Lattimore frees it from those story-book chains, wandering in what seems to be loosely-structured gardens, both uplifting and pensive. I swear I’m even hearing a little Jack Rose in “The Quiet At Night” the way she speaks through her fingers, but that could just be the spiritual Fishtown connection at play. Regardless, I am happy to wander through At The Dam from afternoon through evening and am confident you might feel the same.

Mosquitoes Mosquitoes 7″ (no label)
Supposing I live to be one hundred, I like to think that on my deathbed in 2081, if someone were to hand me a 7″ single and say, “hey, check this out, it’s limited to 100, self-released and is kinda no-wavey” I’d still light up like a child catching a Mickey Mantle home run. I certainly was glad to check out this one from the UK’s Mosquitoes, a bass / drums / guitar trio that play somewhere between DNA de-tuning their instruments before practice or Sightings with the PA system and all their effects turned off. The a-side’s “Keep Breathing” has that nervous Sightings bass transmission going, that’s for sure, while the other two squabble like Menstruation Sisters. The b-side’s “Life, End Of” follows an uncomfortable jazz dance on the bass while the guitar squeaks in and out and the vocalist mutters something about something, calling to mind some sort of informal interlude produced by a Mars / US Maple collaboration. Completely inessential and wonderful record right here.

Neutral Neutral LP (Omlott)
Don’t skip past this review on account of the band’s simple moniker – without a doubt, this’ll be one of my favorite records of the year! Neutral are a Swedish duo consisting of Sofie Herner and Dan Johansson, and they play an utterly enticing form of glacial acid-rock, full of bent corners, rippling electronics and primitive riffs. I hesitate to even classify Neutral as “rock”, in the way that their music seems to shift like clouds, at times slowly wafting forward and at others remaining an expansive grey blanket that lacks both beginning and end. They’ll build a simmering riff on bass or guitar (or both), and trickle little snaps and deviations throughout, as if Helm was lurking somewhere beneath the mixing desk. The use of Sabbath-style riffs for non-metal elevation reminds me of the wonderful Them, Themselves Or They single from maybe a decade ago, but Neutral put their own spin on it entirely, both focused and willing to indulge their least-musical ideas at length. I’m totally captivated (and the slick heavy gatefold sleeve seals the deal) and think that you might be too, lest we need to have a talk.

Puff Pieces Bland In DC LP (Lovitt)
Most bands, regardless of style, would be downright ashamed to represent themselves with the cover art of Bland In DC: a haphazard band name, album title and nerdy dragon dashed together in the time spent waiting for your check after you’ve finished eating. Puff Pieces clearly relish the unattractive simplicity, though, as it is takes hold of their music as well – they play supremely economical post-punk songs with zero flair or musical flourishes, like an Erase Errata record stripped to its bones. You can dance to mostly all of these songs, as held in place by drummer Amanda Huron’s Gang Of Four rhythms and colored by the muted picking of Justin Moyer (guitar) and Mike Andre (bass), but that seems to be more of a rhythmic by-product than any particular intention. Thinking of DC, I’m reminded of Et At It’s quiet minimalism and The Crainium’s caffeinated neurosis, except that Puff Pieces inject it with a proud nerdiness (Andre’s voice often sounds as though he’s passing the time waiting for a janitor to release him from the locker in which he was stuffed) and a DC-specific radar, what with its rapid-fire gentrification and violent lack of parity. The music of Bland In DC has me reminiscing over 2003 but the content within is proudly present-day.

Smiles Smiles 7″ (Melters)
I am of the opinion that even when San Francisco is fully transformed into a $5,000 / sq ft virtual-reality Google document a few years from now, there will still somehow be bands playing sunshine-y, feel-good indie-pop within its borders, as if they could still get a vegan cupcake for under eight dollars and kiss a sweetheart outside Gilman. Smiles are one of these bands, and they’re pretty cool – they remind me of some sort of chummy mix of J Church and Weezer (all eras combined), had those forces combined over a love of Big Star for a one-hit 120 Minutes video. There are four tracks here, and they’re all semi-hits, sung with a breathy early-Corgan sigh and peppered with hot guitar licks that knowingly wink at anyone willing to make eye contact. All of the songs appear to be about heartbreak, but the band is called Smiles after all, so you can count on them being there to dry the tears on your pillow and drag you to that new vintage-pinball-themed bar where you may meet the perfect rebound.

Snorre Magnar Solberg No-No 3 12″ (Club No-No)
Once I became infatuated with DJ Fett Burger, I had to seek out other records within that Norwegian techno orbit, like DJ Sotofett and the Club No-No posse, of which Snorre Magnar Solberg seems to belong. I recent snagged a Club No-No 12″ from 2014 and was bewildered by its hazy improvised techno, so it didn’t take long for me to scoop this new one either (I am nothing if not an efficient vinyl consumer). No-No 3 goes deep down the rabbit-hole, two lengthy excursions that change with such subtlety that I can’t quite tell if it’s the music or my brain that has altered these percussive workouts. The a-side teams Solberg with Torstein Mills for an acidic percussion workout, the sort of track that makes clocks spin backward. Solberg is joined by Tom Ace for production duties on the b-side (“No-No 3 B” as it’s lovingly titled), and it bears a hefty bass thump and pulsing rhythm (both of which the a-side lacked) but seems just as frozen in time as “No-No 3 A”, building slower than I knew human fingers were capable of turning knobs. Absolutely no frills, just patient extensions of techno’s genetic building blocks, the sort of thing someone might describe as “for the heads only”, but I’m no head, and yet here I am, loving it.

Theologian / Ancient Methods La Saignée 12″ (Metaphysik)
Very cool split 12″ EP here from a somewhat unlikely pairing, New York’s long-running dark-ambient project Theologian and German techno purist Ancient Methods. I had previously been unfamiliar with Theologian (shame on me, seeing as his Bandcamp is overstuffed with releases dating as far back as 1997), and his track here is a soothing wash in the river Styx, meditating past dead souls through mournful drones, occasional percussive plucking and string accompaniment. Sharp! It’s Ancient Methods that steal the show though, opening with one of the most distinct techno cuts I’ve heard this year (or in a few), “A German Love”. It’s a frantic piece of artillery that splits the difference between The Prodigy and Perc while an American man tells a frightening first-date story, a tale that has me kind of hating him while also longing for the out-of-control horror he relates. Both cinematic and dance-floor crushing, no doubt. Ancient Methods follows that with “Built On Scars”, which smacks like Karenn or Huren, industrial-techno without the contemporary “noise guy” feel, just jackhammering percussion and grey-scale steam blasts that would make Haus Arafna blush. Arrive for the wintry mix of Theologian and stay for the brutal triumph of Ancient Methods.

Tommy T & The Classical Mishaps I Hate Tommy T 7″ (Cool Death)
I know what you’re thinking: could it be the return of Tommy Tutone? Nope, this is a different Tommy T, fronting his Australian new-wave synth-punk group in an overly stylized retro-punk fashion. The a-side features two groovy, wonky stabs at Dangerhouse greatness, as if these folks stared at images of Black Randy and the Screamers logo to will their sound into being. The vocalist (Tommy T himself of course) has this overly-affected, nasally sneer that is almost too over-the-top to take seriously, but I suppose this band is intentionally riding the seriousness line anyway. This becomes particularly clear with b-side title-track “I Hate Tommy T”. It starts with a sad descending intro and Tommy T sobbing through his angular sunglasses before eventually cracking into a spastic jam you’d expect out of Downtown Boys (yes, there’s sax), just with a Lumpy-esque vocalist repeating nonsense. They even got Geza X to master it, and I have to wonder what that is like, receiving such a request on a piece of music quite similar to what you yourself had made some 35 years earlier. If you ever stop to think about it, punk is really old now.

TV Freaks Bad Luck Charms LP (Deranged)
Third album here from Hamilton, ONT’s TV Freaks, a band who I’ve always felt were unfairly limited by their classic punk-referencing band name. You might be expecting them to be working with a familiar Bloodstains-homage sound, and maybe they did to start, but Bad Luck Charms is a solid album that never feels overly same-y (an all-too-common pitfall). Rather, they run through neurotic slow-punk (the menacing “Forget You” that opens the b-side in particular), classic garage scorchers, hardcore blasts and variations on these themes throughout, all while sounding like the same band playing on the same album. Vocalist David O’Connor often reminds me of the great Tony Erba on here, particularly on the more manic numbers, and for the difficult task of writing what’s gotta be at least their third dozen punk songs, TV Freaks don’t overdo themselves by complicating their music or moving away from basic punk aesthetics (even if I swear I picked up a slight Hüsker Dü vibe on at least one track). And after all, maybe their band name is legit, and these guys have lost their minds since Netflix started streaming in Canada.

Whitney Houston’s Crypt Whitney Houston’s Crypt 7″ (Vacant Valley)
Saw this band name, and I don’t know, it feels a little “too soon” for me, what do you think? Perhaps the Australian mindset of this quintet makes it excusable, as their lumbering, no-wave-indebted post-punk has no relation to any sort of pop diva. These three tracks all swing slowly, instantly calling to mind Public Image Ltd. due to the pendulous bass grooves and sticky guitar lines that tickle the surface. I’m also reminded of Teenage Jesus at their most infantile or Arab On Radar before they learned dance-punk beats, although this is all kind of shot to hell because the vocals here range from atonal black-metal screeching to caterwauling meltdowns. Whatever lyrics there are seem to be put aside in favor of full-on screaming, an unexpected approach that I have yet to fully decide on. I mean, if you’re going to call a song “Michael Hotchips” I’d love to know exactly what you’re saying that’s got you so stressed! Perhaps it’s fitting that a band called Whitney Houston’s Crypt leaves me with unanswered questions and a sense that I wouldn’t want to know the answers anyway.

Mary Lattimore

Sure, I tend to dwell on guitars and synths within the pages of Yellow Green Red, but there’s room for all instrumentation in my life, even that of the majestic harp. It’s Mary Lattimore’s muse, and you’ve probably experienced her music without even knowing it, as she has backed up indie luminaries such as Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile throughout the years. Of course, it’s on her own where she truly captivates, working live effects and looping into her glistening tapestry of sound, either paired with other like-minded player or on her own. I am also lucky enough to consider her a friend (just have to put that out there), and was delighted that she was willing to share some detailed insight into her work and style.

I feel like it’s usually the case that people tend to put specific instruments into specific scenes or genres of music – electric guitars are rock, 303s are techno, harps are classical. Did you always see the harp as a vehicle for whatever you wanted to be, or did you initially share that form of thinking, and if so, what happened to break you out of that?
As a kid, I was around a lot of harps and a lot of harpists. My mom is a classical harpist and has played with the Asheville Symphony for thirty-plus years. She has directed a harp ensemble, has taught a lot of lessons, and played a lot of gigs, traveled all the time around North and South Carolina, always practiced a lot at our house. I heard how she was able to play not only classical music, but jazz standards, Celtic music, and instrumental versions of pop hits, so I knew that it was a versatile instrument, in a way. (I didn’t know about harpists like Zeena Parkins or Alice Coltrane or Georgia Kelley until I was a lot older.)
But I think that the freedom, limitlessness, and empty unwritten page of part-writing and improvisation was daunting for a long time and finding a personal style took a little while to cultivate, as maybe is common with conservatory-trained musicians. I have always been into absorbing tons of music for fun and slowly realized that my instrument could play the same notes as those guitars. I listened for those beautiful Nicky Hopkins piano parts. It took awhile to stop being so envious of and mystified by instruments I couldn’t play and to start speaking with my own giant, weird thing and take it to a place that I picked out for it. Part of that revelation came from working with the Valerie Project, writing parts for a re-imagined score for Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, and being a part of that mini-orchestra, being given the trust and sonic space to do whatever I wanted within a lush mishmash of cello, guitar, drums, synth, electronics. Part of it came from playing with Kurt Vile and getting psyched on sounds with him. If I only listened to classical music by myself and with my friends, I think I would probably only play those lovely, tricky, legendary pieces, but this is what happened. Haha.

For those of us who know nothing about the harp, can you give us a little background on it, from your perspective? Is it easy to play? Is it a versatile instrument? Do you need a dolly to move it? I noticed you tend to use your left hand for the strings further from your body and your right hand closer, am I correct in picking that up or was it just how you were feeling like playing when I saw you perform?
Yes, you’re right! That’s just the standard, classic way of playing a harp, left hand down on the lower strings, right hand plays middle to high. My harp is the big one, the Concert Grand, and it was made in Chicago. It’s organized by octaves and color-coded, so all of the C strings are red, all of the F strings are blueish black, and you can figure out the ones in the middle based on those colors. There are 7 pedals, one for each tone of the scale (C pedal, D pedal, E pedal, etc). Each pedal has three notches you can slip it into. If the C pedal is in the top notch, it’s a C flat, middle notch is C natural, all the way pressed down in the lowest notch is C sharp, so the string is essentially being tightened with each level you’re pressing it into. It’s very fun to play, and kinda hard, but it’s like driving a car, where you’re watching the signs, you’re using your feet, you’re using your hands to steer, you’re listening to the radio, and you’re drinking coffee. You get used to doing a bunch of things all at once and it feels normal eventually.
I have a dolly for it and sound like a creep when I’m looking for it at some kind of event: “Have you seen my dolly?”. Haha. It has a giant cover, it’s a giant thing but it only weighs 85 pounds because it’s hollow. It’s a really old instrument – there are harps painted on the walls of Egyptian tombs. It’s been through a lot of changes in design. Mine right now has a really good pickup which has 4 contact mics all connected and it’s glued in for life.

For anyone considering playing a harp, are there any particular things you DON’T recommend they do or try?
Don’t play with your pinkies – they’re thin like twigs and will snap off. Don’t leave your harp in the car in extreme weather, even if you’re lazy and really sleepy. Don’t leave it without a hand on it, even for just a second, on a windy day. (Dad did that and Dad cried as the wind picked it up and hurled it onto the ground.) Give yourself a lot of breaks if you’re practicing something tricky. You don’t want all of that stress and tension in your hands for so long. Give yourself a break, get up, take a walk, and come back to it. That’s all I can think of. Other than that, no rules, try anything you want.

Are you more comfortable performing with another person, or by yourself? Is it the same for in the studio?
Oh, either way. I like playing with other people, solo, with my great bandmate Jeff Zeigler on synth, with other unusual instruments (I have a harp and koto record coming out in October with this guy Maxwell, who plays koto through effects), improvising, playing parts that have been written out by me or someone else, all of it. It’s all pretty fun!

Would you ever consider starting on a new instrument and giving it the same thought and practice you’ve given the harp? Like, what are the odds that one day you’ll decide you want to move on to saxophone or guitar?
Sure! I’m trying to teach myself a little guitar. I’d like to learn the cello and our friend Jesse Trbovich just sold me this beautiful synth. As far as being a student and practicing intensely like I did when I was learning the basics of the harp, I hope so – focus comes in such waves. Going into a practice space, really digging in and being strict with yourself is cool and kind of a luxury when you’re older with a lot more mental chatter. Right now, I feel the pull of the screens and the social stuff and of work and playing live, etc, but know that, ultimately, there will be some space carved out for getting better at another instrument to some degree. It’s so satisfying to get better at something. It’s addictive to get better.

Your solo album is on Ghostly, a label that I think is great, but also an interesting choice. They aren’t exactly known for their carefully considered semi-improvised harp music. How did that come about? Is it a one-off, or do you feel like you are a part of their roster?
Haha, true. They just asked me to do a second record, so I guess I am part of their roster? Sam, the owner of the label, has been in touch since the first solo record, The Withdrawing Room, came out. It was released by a smaller label called Desire Path. Someone at his office was playing it and Sam was into it, so wrote me to say so. We’ve stayed in touch. Honestly, At The Dam wasn’t supposed to be the Ghostly record, in my mind, because I recorded it myself just using Garage Band and my laptop. I thought it’d come out on some smaller label and be very limited, more like a souvenir of a trip across the country. But Sam liked the songs and understood the thought behind the record, collecting vibes from different remote places, and wanted to put it out, so I’m happy about it! Ghostly has been so great to work with. Hopefully they’re happy with me, too, and it’s cool that they’re open to exploring new territory with the sounds they represent.

I bet you’ve got a bucket list, but is there anyone in particular you hope to perform with someday that you haven’t already? Anyone that particularly stands out?
A bucket list, always! I was just in Marfa playing the Marfa Myths festival and got to hear some heroes play and would love to see what we’d come up with. William Basinski played a gorgeous set that everyone swam around in. He performed in this huge former equestrian arena with the wind shaking the windows and his measured loops collaborating with the sunshine and the wind-sound. I’d love to do something with him and I think he’s a great person, too. I went to his house one time and he picked me some oranges from a tree with a special orange-picking instrument. He lives in the part of Los Angeles where the Munchkins, while filming the the Wizard of Oz, all lived in a hotel. Billy is the real wizard, has some magic powers.
Another of my favorite sets was the Raum set with Paul Clipson doing live projections. So artful, so thoughtful and quiet with tons of negative space. Raum is Liz Harris and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and they had a mini-residency, worked on this set and presented it on the last day of the festival. I loved it so much I wanted to cry and just live there in that spot, blubbering, for a long time. Haha. So, to collaborate with Liz and Jefre or each separately would also be a dream.
I just jammed with the elegant Julianna Barwick a few times and that was really fun, we’re gonna make a record.
Michael Rother in Forst. Also, MGMT in a kaleidoscopic glittery warped young bright world of hooks and total fun.