Reviews – November 2018

Alex.Do Songs 12″ (Magazine)
One of three 12″s Alex.Do has released this year, Songs affirms that this Berlin-based artist has fully succumbed to the power of the beat. These four tracks are juiced-up tech-house pumpers, with the essences of electro, industrial and trance prominent throughout. Opener “Hecto” is infested with groggy, harshly distorted vocals, as if you’re inside the head of a pilled-out German youth who is slowly regaining consciousness in the middle of the dance-floor. That voice continues on “Basecap” (and the rest of the EP for that matter), which otherwise brings the pulse down from rave madness to flirtatious intrigue. I’m already satisfied, but there are two more cuts on the flip, the tweaked digital techno of “Harmoni” (much in the vein of Jon Convex or Matthew Dear’s Jabberjaw project) and the subterranean shuffle of “Questions”. It’s quizzical, gloomy and weirdly energizing music, not too distant from the creations of Machine Woman… I’m picking up the slight scent of Lena Willikens’s Zickzack-inspired techno explorations, too. With a name like a Russian pirated-software-virus URL, it’s easy to flip past Alex.Do in the bins, but I’m pleased my fingers lingered long enough to see what he had to offer.

Alien Nosejob Various Fads And Technological Achievements LP (Anti-Fade)
Alien Nosejob’s great Death Of The Vinyl Boom EP still has me punk-dancing around the house, so I was thrilled to spin a full-length of theirs. You can imagine my surprise, then, when the baroque instrumental indie-pop of “Cache Latte” introduced the record. Huh? The rest of the record isn’t as charmingly quaint, but it’s not fast distorted punk, that’s for sure – for their long-player, Alien Nosejob deliver a bunch of friendly, upbeat pop songs. The guitar is full of notes and tricky little licks, the bass gets as funky as necessary, the drums are snappy and the vocalist does his best to sing in tune. I’d file this sound somewhere between The Scientists’ “Frantic Romantic” and Belle & Sebastian’s “I Fought In A War”, which is far from the Killed By Death maelstrom of their aforementioned single, but quite pleasing if you enjoy those two sonic goal-posts. I get the impression Alien Nosejob might be a solo project, or at least some of the time (punk bands are so ethereal these days), so it makes sense that this project would find itself at the mercy of its maker’s shifting desires. With such a clear degree of musical talent, I can only hope ’90s skate-punk is Alien Nosejob’s next target.

Ancient Methods The Jericho Records 3xLP (Ancient Methods)
It’s taken over a decade of existence for Ancient Methods to release a full-length, but they made it worth the wait – three full 12″ records on evil-colored vinyl. Ancient Methods have been churning out high-grade industrial techno product pretty consistently, first as a duo and now as the solo work of Michael Wollenhaupt, and The Jericho Records is both a victory lap and an in-depth accounting of what Ancient Methods has to offer. “Twelve Steps To Divide Jordan’s Sand”, for example, rides a deliciously molten chug, like Ministry run through an analog synth the size of a Volkswagen bus, and the majority of the album follows that same trajectory, steamrolling anything in its path under massive metal treads. That’s what I came here for, and I got my money’s worth (which was a lot – good luck finding this record domestically for under forty bucks!). This might sound like an endurance-testing slog for the non-fanatics, but Wollenhaupt keeps things moving with a variety of guests who all do the things you’d expect them to do: Regis, Prurient, Cindytalk, Orphx and even King Dude are all present and accounted for, well representing the Dais / Blackest Ever Black axis of spooky underground sounds. If it’s a vibe you can get into, self-serious dungeon-techno clad in designer black leather, The Jericho Records is your one-stop shop.

Constant Mongrel Living In Excellence LP (Anti-Fade / La Vida Es Un Mus)
I feared that Constant Mongrel were goners, having not heard from them in three years (which equates to two decades in punk years), but they’re back with a sharp new album, intercontinentally released care of Anti-Fade and La Vida Es Un Mus. Their primitive, unschooled post-punk always sat well with me, calling to mind Urinals and Germs and other things that might be located in a men’s restroom, but they’ve tuned and tightened things up with Living In Excellence. In doing so, their resemblance to Total Control has grown uncanny. I’m sure some similarities were there before, but this time they’re slapping me in the face with it – these songs sound like the missing link between Henge Beat and Typical System, fusing Gary Numan synths with constant heavy strumming and a disconnected male vocalist. Even a little sax, too! Listen to the title track and tell me that the interplay between the lead guitar and the rhythm section isn’t a mirror image of Total Control, I implore you. As if to drive this point home, Mikey Young mastered this record (to be fair, he masters every record), and Total Control drummer James Vinciguerra did the art (okay, he’s been doing plenty of that, too), but the resemblance is truly overpowering at times, even down to the pacing, from extended moody anthems into upbeat slammers. It’s quite good, but I have to wonder if Mikey Young ever thought “wait, did I write this?” while mastering Living In Excellence. I’m still wondering myself!

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt Brace Up! LP (Palilalia)
Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt make outstanding records, both separately and together, but their record covers alone already leave me deeply impressed, every time. Orcutt’s galaxy-brain operates on a different plane of meme creation, and this stolen shot of an early ’00s thrash-core PA dive is on par with his previous exploits. Same goes for the music of Brace Up!, their first studio-recorded album together after numerous live releases, and it smokes just as one would expect. Corsano plays his kit as though he’s attempting to put out an encroaching fire with all wind his physicality produces, and Orcutt is drilling holes through various frequencies, riding out a maniacal surf line, twisting a Leadbelly riff into barbed-wire, and dementedly howling when the mood strikes. What’s particularly satisfying about their collaboration is that neither of these two beloved underground powerhouses ever fully wrestles control from the other – rather than one submitting to the other, they’re locked in epic stasis, like liberty and justice. There are a few tender, possibly introspective moments peppered throughout, but I came to Brace Up! expecting to have my scalp blown back, Botox-style, and that’s exactly what the impossible frenzy of “The Secret Engine Of History” achieved. Two masters at play.

Crazy Doberman Rust Clatter For The Midwest Sun 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
There’s no denying Crazy Doberman’s craziness – I saw a video of them playing in Kentucky with what appeared to be thirty people on stage, truly a glorious and orchestral free-jazz clatter, and then I went to see them perform and it was only two guys, each playing pocket trumpets the size of whoopie cushions, wheezing and croaking and belching through the crowd. Go figure! The a-side here is “Rise”, and the full Crazy Doberman ensemble crafts a moody plume of orange smoke, possessed by ritualistic drumming and conjured by a suspiciously relaxed horn section. “Set” is the flip and most certainly an after-hours affair, the sort of thing that you’d hear if you accidentally knocked open an old garment trunk in Sun Ra’s attic on All Hallow’s Eve. It’s dark and stormy, with horns approaching from all angles, a little too blurry to determine if they’re friends or foes. Very cool tunes! I could’ve gone for both “Rise” and “Set” in extended form across two sides of a 12″, but that’s not the I Dischi style, and their style is one that I must respect.

Matthew Dear Bunny 2xLP (Ghostly International)
Never used this word before, but I might as well come clean right off the bat: I’m a Matthew Dear stan. I love his music (Black City remains one of my favorite albums of the decade), he’s hilariously entertaining on Instagram, I interviewed him once about clothes for SPIN (RIP), and I’ve seen him perform in Philadelphia, Barcelona and on a boat cruising the Detroit River. Phew! I’m already prone to loving the man and his music, but I still approached Bunny with open ears, ready to dislike if need be. But nope, this one’s a winner! It’s an album of eccentric, post-modern electro-pop, as to be expected, but the main feature is Dear’s voice, now more than ever. His voice sounds like Tom Waits on the third day of a sinus infection on “Calling”, then a robotic didgeridoo on the next track, “Can You Rush Them”. “Echo” follows, a bizarrely babyish melody with Dear’s various vocal tracks swirling in a syrupy haze, as if recorded after two red-eye flights, lyrics written on the fly. He delights in the depth and pitch of his own voice, almost as if trying out different characters to inhabit his tunes, but it never seems corny, only delightfully necessary. And for as weird as it can sound, it always sounds like him, as though he’s trying to sound as much like himself as possible, even when dueting on the two most radio-ready pop songs here with both Tegan and Sara (do they ever roll individually?). It’s a colorful record, occasionally munted and occasionally tender, and I’m here for it.

Device Control The Spirit Module 12″ (Double Standards)
Double Standards, a subsidiary of Standards & Practices, really understands two crucial aspects of doing an underground record label: cool typefaces and cool colored vinyl. The design here is ace, and as luck would have it, the music that inhabits it is great, too! I liked Device Control’s white-label L.I.E.S. debut, but The Spirit Module reveals a more playful personality behind the gear. The title track bears an unrelenting 4/4 kick, sequences some shiny-wet Dopplereffekt-style synth patterns, and caps it off with a holy vocal sample, delightfully incongruous with the rest of the track. It’s the sort of simple-stupid hook that always works, no matter if you’re Green Velvet or Beau Wanzer, and I can’t get enough. Ken Meier (brother of Talker member Karl Meier) remixes “The Spirit Module” with a harder edge, tweaking the synths alongside percussion that resembles the sounds of careless home remodeling. “Tension” and “Symmetry Obsession” offer similar sensations, as though the listener is unwillingly sucked into an internet modem and privy to a variety of dial-tones and overheard conversations en route to an ASCII-based dance party that can only be unlocked with one of those promotional America Online CDs. “Tension” is more of a shuffle, and “Symmetry Obession” pounds the hardest, but I assure you that the entirety of The Spirit Module will be to your liking.

Domenique Dumont Miniatures De Auto Rhythm LP (Antinote)
Over here on the eastern seaboard, the days are getting colder and the nights are getting longer, but not when Domenique Dumont is in town! This mysterious French / Latvian trio came onto the scene in 2015 with Comme Ça, a delicious fruit that’s still yielding plenty of juice, and this new one expands upon it beautifully. Their MO remains the same: lightweight Balearic synth-pop, but this time around the guitar takes center stage, elevating these synthesized “miniatures” into all-expenses-paid beach-resort anthems. The beats frequently chug along like Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France”, but the guitar shines through like Pat Metheny offering bottle service in a Hawaiian shirt. Along with the hushed vocals, I’m picking up a distinct Ariel Pink vibe at times, maybe even a little Phoenix if I really want to stretch it, and the music will certainly appeal to fans of John Maus’s sunnier side, too. Stereolab with a suntan, geared for crowds of dancing tourists, not arms-folded indie-rockers, perhaps? However you want to describe it, just make sure you invite me if you plan on playing it… I’ve got a nice new pair of boat shoes I’ve been meaning to break in.

Earthworm / Human Adult Band Happy Horrordays 7″ (D.I.H.D.)
This has to be at least the third vinyl EP to come through here that features Human Adult Band alongside someone else. They just don’t GAF, as the kids say, pumping out distorted and lo-fi psych-punk whether anyone’s paying attention or not. On this one, apparently in celebration of both Halloween and Christmas (slick move, covering both markets at once), Earthworm offer two tunes on the a-side. They feature a shared member of Human Adult Band, and the first tune is a grungy dirge that sounds like Mudhoney care of Headache Records; the second a convulsing hardcore blast rendered unintelligible through their choice of effects pedals. Human Adult Band adds the yuletide cheer with “(All I Want For Xmas Is A) Rusty Roll Of Quarters”, about as Flipper-like as a group can get in the digital age. A cantankerous bass melody offers a path through the various tweaked sounds emanating from the guitar, lap steel and King Darves’s additional percussion (what a team player). If Jon Solomon doesn’t give this one a spin on his next 25 Hour Holiday Radio Show, I’ll eat my Christmas stocking.

Electric Chair Public Apology 7″ (Stucco)
After the cool-as-a-cuke post-punk of Table Sugar and the raging hardcore mania of Suck Lords, my arms were like Creed’s when this new record showed up: wide open. Wasn’t sure what to expect, but it took all of one second to confirm that Electric Chair play hardcore-punk in a very classic sense. It’s flailing, a little lo-fi, pissed off, and bears a strong genetic match to groups like White Cross, The FU’s, No Labels, hell even Indigesti when they truly seem to lose control. Electric Chair’s aesthetic seems to be a mix of modern Olympia nose-thumbing (haphazardly designed and hand-written with lots of sarcasm) and classic Mystic Records bad-kid behavior, which of course works perfectly for the music they’re delivering. As these tunes blast out of my speaker, I can’t help but imagine Electric Chair sitting inside a filthy van riddled with fast food wrappers with Beta Boys and Stiff Love, sniffing each other’s farts on purpose, and it warms my heart on this chilly autumn evening.

Giant Swan Whities 016 12″ (Whities)
Giant Swan are quickly developing a name for themselves within the crowded British techno underground. They’re making some great music, of course, but I think a good part of their success is based on the fun they seem to be having. You can hear it in the songs, which pummel in a friendly way (like rough-housing among friends), as well as the vocals, which float through and around the songs, as if some sort of director’s cut audio was spliced and mulched into their aggressive techno tracks. The three tracks here are all shining examples of this – robust beats that recall fellow techno-weaponizers like Batu or Ploy are met with ecstatic loops, live-action distortion and heavily-processed hollering. All these ingredients could result in a mess (although I probably wouldn’t mind a mess of this stuff either), but Giant Swan guide their music with the knowledge that people will want to dance to it. B-side “The Plaque” is particularly great, wherein a tar-covered Knight Rider arpeggio is harshly interrogated, sounding like Mr. Oizo on Hospital Productions. Whities, you’ve done it again!

Joe Herrick Dream Reading LP (Extrapolation)
Been enjoying Dream Reading quite a bit, a compendium of productions from Bristol’s Joe Herrick that span the past five years. He seems like one of those guys that just loves making tracks, genre specificity be damned, and Dream Reading benefits from his eclectic taste. If there is a constant running through the record, it’s the use of loops, but the loops vary wildly, from smudgy house to ambient chill-wave to disco edits to jumpy beats just waiting for an MC to rap over. I’m reminded of Boards Of Canada in the way that Herrick inhabits a vague dream-state, as well as the Young Echo crew in the comfort he has navigating a variety of styles, and Nicolas Jaar in Herrick’s seemingly inherent understanding of what makes a track snap. It’s nice company for Herrick to share, but his music seems more deeply blunted than any of the aforementioned artists – he’s not looking to create a melancholic dystopia to mourn within, he just wants to keep your head bobbing between puffs, and maybe even get you to venture over to the dance-floor once in a while, like when the silky-smooth stir-fry of “Cannot” drops.

Intercourse Everything Is Pornography When You’ve Got An Imagination LP (Constant Disappointment / Eye Tape)
Kind of an exhausting title, right? That seems to be the MO of New Haven, CT’s Intercourse: blast out long and somewhat convoluted punchlines within their spastic hardcore tunes. Ozzfest is mentioned in one song title, Metallica and Fear are used for puns in others, the word “cuck” sarcastically appears in multiple songs… the lyrics and titles have a Family Guy-level of reference mania, certainly not geared for all audiences. They even have a song called “The Kids Are Alt-Right”, a pun also used by Citric Dummies and Bad Religion earlier this year! Intercourse’s music is as frantic and intricate as their song titles, no doubt – these players zip through off-kilter metallic hardcore with forays into grind, modern mosh-core and math-rock, a touch of black metal, some noise, and pretty much anything that allows heavy guitars and drums to fully seizure. Vocalist Tarek Ahmed shouts and screams his narrative lyrics much in the fire-at-will style of David Yow, railing against jock culture, xenophobia, Trump and his followers… all worthy targets if not necessarily groundbreaking ones. Intercourse seem to be trying really hard to impose their woke-party-guy vibes, and while there are plenty of pieces of crap out there that could use one of Intercourse’s sneakers to the side of their head, this album might impact the rest of us like a meme – not bad, good for a light chuckle, and quickly faded from memory.

Kuzu Hiljaisuus LP (Astral Spirits / Monofonus Press)
The Astral Spirits label keeps the contemporary American-centered free-jazz flowing, here with the debut from new trio Kuzu. The album title translates to “silence” in Finnish, but it also sounds like you’re saying “hail Jesus” with a bunch of crackers in your mouth – try it and see! This album’s comprised of Dave Rempis on a few different saxophones, Tyler Damon on drums/percussion and Tashi Dorji on guitar, and they whip up a heady exuberance together. Twenty-plus minutes of “Fontanelles I” sees them slowly engage from slumber into a potent little dust-devil, certainly capable of blowing off one’s glasses if not secured by Croakies. They push and pull through various levels of energy throughout that lengthy a-side and the other two tracks, mostly in fight-mode but occasionally veering off into oddly pretty forms of flight mode, too. I’d say Rempis’s sax is the standout for me (even in the maelstrom he knows how to sweetly simmer) but all three players are quite adept at wrenching sounds both typical and inexplicable from their respective instruments.

Lavender Hex Lavender Hex LP (no label)
Like so many unexpected treats, this LP comes from Berlin. It’s Lavender Hex’s debut, they being a duo who more or less play bass-guitar and drums, but calling them a “bass and drums duo” is like calling Guy Fieri a fry-cook. They utilize a variety of found-sounds, dub effects, spatial noises and crude edits to create an ecosystem within which actual songs inhabit, and it’s intoxicating. I’m reminded of Broadcast in the way that Lavender Hex deliver some sort of groovy magic that cannot be fully understood, Anika’s too-cool post-punk dub, and even a little of Merchandise’s earliest days, when their melodies were bathed in static and tape-noise. Maybe even a little bit of Crass’s spoken-word fervor, too! If this all wasn’t cool enough on its own, the duo recruited some amazing folks to provide guest vocals, like Truly Kaput, Rae Spoon and Stef Petticoat of none other than The Petticoats. You know Stef Petticoat isn’t gonna lend her voice to any old project, and I assure you Lavender Hex is not any old anything. Highly recommended for fans of super-smart noisy post-punk dub, which I assume is all of you.

Les Lullies Les Lullies LP (Slovenly)
Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve discovered about French punk group Les Lullies is that their name translates in English to… The Lullies. Can that be right? I was hoping to discover that it translates to The Windshield Wipers or The Butterknives or something, but nah, they’re just Lullies. Anyway, they play a well-worn form of punk rock, the one that’s dressed in tight leather jackets and derived directly from Chuck Berry riffs. Les Lullies speed things up, add some “wop shoo-wops”, run up and down those painfully-familiar scales and chord progressions, and do it all with an attitude that says they could care less if they’re the millionth band to do the exact same things they’re doing. If we want to split hairs, I’m reminded specifically of The Incredible Kidda Band, The Real Kids, Teengenerate and The Dead Boys, but it’s kinda like comparing a plain thin-crust pie from a Domino’s in Columbus, OH to a plain thin-crust pie from a Domino’s in Sacramento, CA. Only an obsessive fanatic would catch Les Lullies’s specific nuances, but I know they’re out there, and they won’t be disappointed by this full-length debut.

Finn Loxbo & Karin Johannson Vent LP (Omlott)
Kind of amazing that there isn’t a single umlaut between those all those Swedish names, isn’t it? I’m a sucker for the heady avant-jazz and improvised noise of the Omlott label, and took a chance on Vent, a collaboration between guitarist Finn Loxbo and pianist Karin Johannson. It’s pretty out-there, that’s for sure – much of Vent is empty canvas, with splashes of plucked piano strings, tampered guitars, electronic effects of indeterminate origin and even a little modified “toy piano”. You’ve got to be willing to take their journey, far away from structured music and rhythm, but if it’s your sort of trip these two are excellent guides, cutting through a weedy overgrowth similar to AMM, Derek Bailey, Henry Krutzen’s Silances and the quietest moments in Wolf Eyes’ catalog. That is, at least until album closer “Gap”, which is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of instrumental music I’ve heard this year: it sounds like a half dozen guitars, banjos and ukuleles plucked at random by some sort of medieval wheel-based propulsion system, a rickety player-piano contraption possessed by the spirits of Günter Schickert, John Fahey and Mick Barr. It’s beautiful and I never want it to end, and the fact that I had to navigate such a turbulent variety of noises to get to it makes it that much sweeter. Loxbo & Johannson left a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, and I hope to eventually meet someone else who’s heard and enjoyed it, so that we might embrace each other over this beautiful shared experience.

Mr. TC & Lo Kindre The Storm EP 12″ (Neubau)
I’m already fully onboard with the Neubau mission, but when I saw they had a new one coming from two guys known as “Mr. TC” and “Lo Kindre”, how could I not grab a copy with the quickness? Those sound like the names of two low-level Double Dragon bosses, and the music they make together is right in line with the rest of the Neubau roster: slow, delirious techno with psychedelic intent. “The Storm” successfully welds Miami bass to industrial-dub attitude at cruising speed; “The Waving Bridge” ups the tension with a nervous arpeggio and a sideways-glancing strut to rival Alek Lee. Both are critical displays of low-rider techno, performed at low speeds for high volumes. Neubau founder Heap remixes the title track on the flip, injecting the drums with steroids for dance-floor optimization. It’s great stuff, but the drippy, spaced-out originals on the flip score biggest with me. Undoubtedly hoping that this isn’t the last time these two characters cross paths on wax!

More Klementines More Klementines LP (Feeding Tube / Twin Lakes)
More Klementines is the result of three old friends getting together and jamming for an afternoon, picking up instruments they usually neglect and seeing what comes of it. They’re on drums, mandolin, banjo, guitars and assorted electronics (can’t forget the electronics), and their connective vibe cannot be denied. They take their rural psych in a skyward direction on both lengthy sides, clearly improvised but often locked in for significant periods of time, not unlike Ash Ra Tempel if they were reacting to modern pop-country radio. These guys are from somewhere in deep Massachusetts, and if you consider the excellent camping proximity, the music of More Klementines makes perfect sense – this is cabin-ready improvised post-rock that should come with a complimentary CBD-infused Clif bar. When the banjo locks into a repetitive pattern and the drums are cruising and some ambient tones puff alongside, I can practice smell the campfire and bear repellent, which is especially nice since the only time I’ve gone camping, the radio could only pick up a static-laced pop station that just played Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance With Me” on repeat. And if I dared try this sort of sonic reunion with two of my oldest friends, we’d quickly devolve into messy grindcore, so kudos to these guys for keeping it so sweet and spiritually uplifting.

Nazamba Vex 12″ (Pressure)
Go on, imagine the heaviest electronic dub plate. No, heavier. Getting close, but heavier still. Now take wherever you’re at and make it just a little heavier and you’re at least close to the imposing industrial dub of Jamaican poet/vocalist Nazamba’s “Vex”. His deep and brooding incantations are backed by the production of none other than Japanese “anarcho-dub collective” G36, because who else would suffice? “Vex” is massive, a mega-weight electro-industrial dub in the shape of a mushroom cloud. At one point, Nazamba actually laughs, as though he has his finger on the big red button controlling interplanetary nukes, with Thanos, Vic Rattlehead and Skeletor all puppets dancing at his command. Only this time, Nazamba is taking aim at the crooked politicians and narcissist plutocrats that continue to damage our planet irreparably rather than siding with the villains. The flipside offers “Vex (Demolition Dub)”, which blows poisonous debris into the air after what was surely a gruesome battle across the same menacing bass-line. Pressure is The Bug’s label, who is already one of the mightiest names in sound-system destruction – if he’s the Scott Hall of Pressure’s New World Order, Nazamba is assuredly its Kevin Nash.

Niagara Apologia LP (Principe)
Portugal’s Niagara have always been pretty out there, exploring deep uncharted realms of post-punk dub, homespun electronica and colorful noise, but Apologia, their first vinyl full-length, really pushes limits. Previous recordings tended to utilize drums or percussion as a rhythmic anchor, maybe even congealing together in a final form that befits dancing, but the majority of Apologia is more interested in texture and peculiarity of sound than user-friendliness. Slurpy synths will keep some sort of pace, maybe there will be a drum, or a Donald Duck-style vocal snippet, but things tend to play out like of one Idea Fire Company’s strange processes, or perhaps Lee Gamble’s oddly-angled productions. There’s certainly a similar form of motion, but Niagara’s sonic signature remains firmly their own, forcing traditional house sounds to act as irritants, electronic drums to accent rather than drive, and vocals to disintegrate upon contact. There’s a sonic connection to some of the headier Wah Wah Wino recordings, but Niagara feel more like weirdo artists living near sea cliffs than metropolitan gear-obsessed crate-diggers. Which are really the only two genres of musicians that matter, come to think of it.

No Statik What Did You Give Away When You Gave In? 7″ (25 Diamonds)
No Statik are a Bay Area hardcore institution at this point, still playing the sort of hardcore one might associate with one of their main labels, Prank Records: thrashy and fast; high energy; screamed vocals; intimately familiar with d-beats, blast-beats and breakdowns. On the first two tracks, they blaze forward like they always have, calling to mind the thrash-end of 625 Productions (unsurprising as I believe one member used to be in What Happens Next?) as well as the jump-around fast-core of Look Back And Laugh (also unsurprising as No Statik features a member of them, too). Solid stuff, if not particularly newsworthy… the two a-side tracks might be the sort of thing you enjoy and then politely file away, but No Statik are really onto something on the flip. It’s “Numerous Fragments (Dub)”, and it’s fantastic, a cut-and-paste edit of what was presumably more standard No Statik fare into something ominous and twisted. The bass-line paces the room angrily while distant percussion and a whirling drone refuse to break eye contact. It’s like one of Andy Stott’s metal remixes, Demdike Stare’s “Past Majesty” or something Eric Wood would drop spoken-word over, and I could go for a whole album of No Statik dubs like yesterday.

Obnox Templo Del Sonido LP (Monofonus Press / Astral Spirits)
Already eight albums in over the past decade, I wasn’t sure where Obnox’s Bim Thomas was gonna take his singular-minded garage-punk next – he’s already dipped into hip-hop, jazz, soul, hardcore, noise, pretty much any genre that’s worth a lick. Now with his ninth full-length, Thomas is having his Keiji Haino moment with Templo Del Sonido. It’s a manic ripper of what seems to be loosely-constructed songs, filled with red-molten guitar, slap-back vocals, wild upright bass soloing, and powerful drumming in the ritualistic manner of Jaki Liebezeit. Tracks are delineated, but Templo Del Sonido sprawls out like one wild improvisation in the realm of Fushitsusha at their most agitated. I didn’t expect Obnox to sound like this, but it makes sense, as Thomas has always been infatuated with the outer limits of distorted guitars in the rock band tradition, and this record pushes pretty far out there, towards deconstructive rock freaks old (Guru Guru) and new-ish (Sightings). And like Haino, it’s not all musical violence – the track “Names” simmers with the passionate spoken-word of Kisha Nicole Foster and Ngina Payola, a stark dose of reality amidst all the out-rock chaos. I’d say that Templo Del Sonido is the finest Obnox album to date, but there’s a good chance he’ll put out something new in two months and blow this one out of the water, too.

O/H Market Values 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Industrial techno legend Orphx teaming up with industrial techno legend Huren, are you kidding me? This must be what it was like the first time someone decided to pour tomato sauce over fettuccine. Apparently these two guys linked up as O/H once before in 2015, but this is news to me, and thrilling news indeed. Best of all, Market Values absolutely destroys! It lives up to both artists’ intense styles, offering five tracks of brutal techno not unlike Winterkälte (perhaps “rhythmic noise” is more appropriate) with shouted vocals ala M Ax Noi Mach. Weirdly enough, the title seems to ring true through this EP, with lyrics about financial success and fiscal strategy? I’d ask you to imagine what it’s like to hear a distorted techno thud with a guy yelling “make sure to carry a balance, so interest accrues”, but you don’t have to – that’s exactly what happens on “Supply/Demand”! Not sure I understand where the Wall Street aesthetic is coming from, but it’s a refreshing change from the morbid images of sex, death and destruction that usually accompany this form of electronic music. Really exceptional stuff, even by the high standards of Orphx and Huren, and my 401(k) has skyrocketed ever since I followed their instructions!

Predator No Face 7″ (Total Punk)
Presumably inspired by the recent cinematic reboot, Atlanta’s Predator are back at it with another two-song blast on Total Punk. It’s been three years since their last vinyl outing, but they haven’t lost a step – “No Face” is full of bad attitude and a razor-sharp sneer, basically one long hook with a shout-along “no face!” for the fans. Fits in snugly with similarly-aggrieved labelmates Video, no doubt. “White Plague” is the b-side cut, which somehow melds the pace of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with the minimalist punk of Nag into their distinct sonic fold. Very cool the way this band can just kinda come around when they want, drop two distinguishable punk rippers like it’s a casual errand and continue living their lives (which for one of these guys includes owning a fancy restaurant – did I hear that right?). Sometimes Total Punk’s artists can get by on sheer force of punkness, musical enjoyment be damned, but Predator slay and make it look so easy. Just like the real Predator, I guess.

The Shifters Have A Cunning Plan LP (Trouble In Mind)
I bet The Shifters’ idea of a “cunning plan” is to water their friend’s plants while they’re away for a long weekend, or surprise someone on their birthday with homemade cupcakes that are actually really good. This Melbourne group is all warm and sweet, a feeling that envelopes their great and mellow post-punk janglers. Throughout the album, I’m reminded of the simplistic garage-pop of Tyvek, the careful DIY brilliance of Happy Refugees and the quaint tunefulness of Terry, and it’s a combination that pays big dividends. One can’t help but sing along to the celebratory hook of “Carlisle”, or snigger at the modern-life requiem that is “Work/Life, Gym Etc”, perhaps the greatest punk song to ever reference wearing a lanyard. Seems like there’s a large number of indie-punk groups coming out of Melbourne these days, but The Shifters stand out in that crowded room, mostly because they have a real knack for crafting minimalist and poppy post-punk tunes that stick around… but also because they seem nice. Don’t ever underestimate nice!

Stave & Grebenstein Live From Frankfurter Straße 12″ (Standards & Practices)
Continuing the Standards & Practices mission of bringing Talker and Talker-related heavyweight techno to the masses, this new one features Stave (half of Talker) and Grebenstein going buck wild down on Frankfurter Strasse. If you desire minimal, skull-cracking techno propulsion, this record will leave you roundly fulfilled, with three tracks, each about five minutes or so, each delivering the goods. I’m not sure what to make of the “Live” aspect of the title here, as this is cleanly recorded and richly mastered – maybe they just created it on the fly, no edits? The bass tones sound like a tuba at the bottom of a well, the percussive blips are deployed in furious volleys, the mood is menacing, and what do you know, the buildings over on Frankfurter have mysteriously developed cracks in their foundations. Fans of Blawan, Sandwell District and the heavyweight division of Downwards Records will be well served, as well as newcomers eager to discover what imposing techno brutality can do for them.

Stigmatism Stigmatism 7″ (Beach Impediment)
I love Agnostic Front’s United Blood EP. I’m almost positive that you love Agnostic Front’s United Blood EP, too. But there’s no way either of us love it the way the guys behind Stigmatism love it. They’re a Canadian / American duo (in the studio) that inflates to a real band on stage, and they’ve taken Agnostic Front’s first dozen songs as the image from which they traced these nine tunes. You could even chant the “there’s no justice, there’s just us!” line over the breakdown in “End Is Near” and the flow would remain undisturbed! So, what do we make of this? As far as I’m concerned, for a band as influential and legendary as Agnostic Front, I’ve yet to really hear a direct rip like this one, and for that alone I’m willing to give Stigmatism a thumb’s up. Someone had to, and Stigmatism do a masterful job of it, bringing to life an alternate dimension of Victim In Pain outtakes with vigor and aggression. (Don’t believe me? Check opening song “The Aggressor”.) Stigmatism is truly the highest form of flattery, right down to the similarly-styled combat boot on the cover, and I’m down for their cause.

Tile Come On Home, Stranger LP (Limited Appeal)
Allentown, PA’s Tile continue to inflict the dismal greyness of their hometown on the rest of the world with their second full-length, Come On Home, Stranger. They’ve been honing their thick n’ meaty sludge-punk for over a decade now, and while other groups might’ve exhausted their creativity over such a substantial period of time, Tile show up with the energy of a bunch of eighteen year-olds hopping in the van for the first time. They’ve also managed to find inspiration in a sound that often breeds homogeneity – there’s no denying that this is all speaker-bursting, detuned post-hardcore, but Tile carve out plenty of room for themselves within that space. Slow-burners, downhill thrashers, anxious blasts of tension, they’re all here, but let’s face it, if you’re reaching for a Tile record it’s because you want to be bludgeoned with dense riffs ala Floor or Iron Monkey, and there’s plenty of that, too. Plus, bassist-vocalist Ray Gurz has ollied over a boombox blasting Come On Home, Stranger on more than one occasion – can your noise-rock band do that?

Tommy & The Commies Here Come LP (Slovenly)
There are eight songs on Tommy & The Commies’ debut 12″, and they’re repeated on each side of the record, presumably because it’s expected that you’ll scratch up the first side out of furious jealousy that you can’t write classic ’77-style power-pop punk songs as good as these, but then want to hear them again, of course. They’re from Ontario, and anyone who says Canadians can’t rip off British punk the way Americans can, well, I don’t even know how to respond to such a ludicrous statement. Tommy & The Commies are certainly good at it – they’ve clearly studied the studio works of The Buzzcocks, The Vibrators, The Undertones, Protex, all the great punk tunesmiths at the dawn of the 1980s, and aced the final exam. They have that exact sound, but their songs are their own, so it feels like Tommy & The Commies are adding to the pile of great power-pop rather than rehashing it. “Sucking In Your 20’s” is all theirs, for example, even if the title might have you thinking it’s a long lost Pork Dukes b-side. Far, far superior to Tommy & The Christian Libertarians, I assure you.

Uranium Orchard Knife & Urinal LP (Cold Vomit)
The fantastic Cosmic Sand Dollars LP that came out of this camp still has me happily scratching my head, and my sense of confusion is exacerbated further by this new Uranium Orchard full-length. It’s not like anything they’ve done before, at least on a musical level, but their same sense of outrageous adventurousness is in tact, perhaps stronger than ever. The most glaring change is the presence of a new vocalist, credited as “little sister Vanessa” in the scant label description. So instead of one of the guys moaning and wheezing over these songs, there’s a tuneful, occasionally-sorrowful vocalist peeking through the mix. As for the music, it’s still all over the place, but a more tender version of “all over the place” – I’m hearing ’50s doo-wop, C86-style indie-pop, the windswept garage-rock of April March, maybe even a feigned attempt at lounge jazz, all mulched by Uranium Orchard’s fearless musicians, who never met a wrong note they didn’t like. The record ends with a fairly straightforward cover-band take on Nazareth’s “Hair Of The Dog” (as an aside, one of my personal faves on Guns N’ Roses’s The Spaghetti Incident), following a warped manipulation of the original Legend Of Zelda castle theme (I think). On any other vaguely-punk band’s album, a random classic-rock cover might be the curious outlier, but it’s far and away the most normal thing Uranium Orchard have done.

The Wirms Ain’t Gonna Find Me LP (What’s For Breakfast?)
At this point in my life, if you tried to introduce me to a new garage-punk guitar/drums duo with an album title that’s awfully close to a Jay Reatard song title, I’d quickly check my phone and pretend I just received a very important text while stepping away, and yet here I am, listening to The Wirms and genuinely enjoying myself. While not a steadfast rule, sometimes a band’s delivery can outweigh the substance they’re delivering, and I’d say that’s the case with Ain’t Gonna Find Me – these two guys just really lay it all on the floor. This Arkansas-based group are writing very basic garage-punk blooze, but the singer delivers his lines somewhere between Lux Interior, David Lee Roth and Sakevi Yokoyama, as if he’s choking on his own tongue with every syllable. It could be a total put-on, and probably is, but he’s just so committed to this slobbery inflection that I can’t help but condone it. His guitar’s a trebly mess, but the drummer really lets it rip, pummeling his kit and turning feeble riffs into riotous jams in a way that reminds me of The Thermals at their lo-fi best. Next time I find myself down in Arkansas, rest assured I’m going to approach random strangers outside convenience stores until one of them tells me where The Wirms are playing.

Reviews – October 2018

***Don’t forget, the Graham Dunning LP is still available! Info here!***

Alien Nosejob Death Of The Vinyl Boom 7″ (no label)
It’s a holy moment when a punk group is able to create something both gimmicky and undeniably great – such is the case with this self-released 7″ EP from Clunes, Australia’s Alien Nosejob. The packaging is a hilarious take on the time-tested “anti-collectible-record collectible record” style, complete with a smashed piece of vinyl glued to the front and a variety of selling points on the back. (“Will increase in value!”, “over the top Aussie accent inside!” and “not completely a joke” are all potent advertisements.) I’m already entertained, but these are some truly fine punk songs they’ve got here, clearly well-studied on the classics with their own twist – I’m picking up the same mechanical lurch of The Normal’s “TV OD” in “Caffeine OD”, whereas the backing vocal melody on “Fly Blown” recalls the peculiar punk send-up of Helen Keller. These tunes would fit in nicely alongside any mix that already includes Vom, The Victims, Ice 9, Weirdos, The Chosen Few, or The Feederz… basically any indispensable punk act whose three-figure first-pressing 7″ is worth every penny. Death Of The Vinyl Boom only costs like ten bucks or less (plus shipping), so don’t delay!

Oren Ambarchi, Konrad Sprenger & Phillip Sollmann Panama / Suez 12″ (A-TON)
Oren Ambarchi is the Aussie who never sleeps, even if his music is often quite conducive to such behavior. This new two-track 12″ follows the repetitive trance-state of 2016’s fantastic Hubris album with two new lengthy explorations of cyclical rhythms that slowly widen in scope and emotion. “Panama” chugs with an insistent krautrock groove, consisting of what sounds like a twinkling system of synths and perhaps even an electric guitar. I’m picturing Ambarchi, Sprenger and Sollmann all hunched over different stations at NASA headquarters, turning knobs and patching cords to ensure the utmost sonic quality, imperfections be damned. “Suez” opens with some lightweight percussive patterns that eventually blossom in full color, care of what must be Ambarchi’s extended guitar performance (in his distinctive style) and whatever a guy named Konrad Sprenger does… program some classic ENIAC algorithms into his modified Apple watch? “Suez” has a little more tension than the ear-to-ear smile of “Panama”, but they’re both nearly as deep and majestic as the canals that inspired them. All excellent feats of human ingenuity, to be sure.

Amnesia Scanner Another Life LP (PAN)
Album of the month right here! This Finnish duo have been kicking around for a bit now with their hyper-modern, art-installation-ready digital releases. It’s clearly the sort of project that is ripe for a deal with the technologically-advanced PAN label, but Another Life is its own fascinating beast entirely, and surely the finest experimental electronic album to feature sneakers on the cover since Lorenzo Senni’s Quantum Jelly. Amnesia Scanner essentially apply the digitally-microscopic sonic editing style of Arca to aggressive dancehall beats, all of which are mutated beyond any human recognition in the spirit of energetic industrial noise. Maybe if Sean Paul and Genesis P-Orridge became a singular pandrogyne (s)he’d make music like this? What’s most incredible is how Amnesia Scanner are able to wring such massive pop hooks out of their twisted sonic debris – tracks like “AS A.W.O.L.” and “AS Chaos” play out like DJ Khaled mingling with Vessel’s heavy-duty artillery, and they provide immediately memorable (and danceable) results. Labelmate Pan Daijing provides some great vocals on a couple tracks, as does a proprietary computer-voice called “The Oracle”, just in case you were worried this album wasn’t over the top enough. “AS Too Wrong” is my favorite, a ridiculous banger that has me moshing, but the whole record is more or less essential to surviving today’s tech-cloud hellscape with a cynical wink.

Baczkowski / Padmanabha Mastoid Process 7″ (Iron Lung)
Iron Lung is really pushing to see how far their audience is willing to follow them with the release of this blistering free-jazz single… there’s no hardcore to be found within miles of this record, unless of course you consider it in terms of the sheer physicality these two players exert. It’s Steve Baczkowski on sax and Ravi Padmanabha on drums, and they go full-tilt for the duration of these two pieces. Padmanabha cascades across his kit, executing his extravagant rolls in a manner befitting Chris Corsano or Milford Graves, while Baczkowski squeals like a fire alarm and gutturally bellows like an elephant in labor (with twins). I’ve seen Baczkowski perform live, playing a saxophone roughly the size of a canoe and blasting a seemingly infinite cache of air through various reeds and metallic equipment. There’s a rodent-like scuttering at the end of b-side “Trachea”, but this is mostly a pants-on-fire affair, a free-jazz assault that’ll scald you if handled without insulated gloves. Could this be Iron Lung (the band) testing the water for a free-jazz release of their own???

Beta Boys Late Nite Acts LP (Feel It)
Like a troubled teen bouncing from high school to high school, Beta Boys have put out singles on a variety of today’s busiest American punk purveyors: Digital Regress, Neck Chop and Total Punk, to be precise. The ‘Boys convinced Feel It to handle the full-length duties, and Late Nite Acts is a nice summation of Beta Boys’ talent (or lack thereof). Bolstered by a mid-fi recording, they deliver basic hardcore-punk with a guitar slathered in chorus or flange (or probably both) and a vocalist who is constantly volleying between accurate impersonations of Bobby Soxx and Darby Crash. If you’ve gotta pick two classic punk singers to ape, I can’t think of a better duo! The Bobby Soxx styling is particularly notable (just listen to the way he pronounces “urban decay” on “L’Appel Du Vide”), and I can’t tell if he’s naturally blessed or sought formal training to sound like Texas’s greatest punk frontman of all time, but I guess it doesn’t really matter either way. Pretty cool overall, and surprisingly with-it for a band that previously seemed content to release error-laden, “direct to laptop”-sounding nonsense – even their cartoon scribbling seems to have improved, if only by a little. They even end with a dirge, which is about as by-the-books as a hardcore-punk LP can get, and the song is about some sort of drug-ridden sex nightmare, which has quickly become one of modern punk’s favorite topics. The Beta Boys might want us to think they don’t really give a fuck, but I suspect that they do, at least by now.

Cement Shoes A Peace Product Of The USA 7″ (Feel It)
Feel It Records has quickly become a reliable dealer of modern hardcore-punk, and seeing as Richmond has a continual supply of new hardcore-punk bands, it’s no big surprise that newcomers Cement Shoes linked up with the label for their debut 7″ single. “Fruity Funhouse” is the a-side and it leans toward the Sorry State brand of hardcore, you know, one that involves songs with four parts or more, goes after a studio-grade recording and is generally played fast or slightly slower than fast. This track reminds me of a snottier, scragglier version of the Fetish 7″ that recently came out on Beach Impediment, but with the guy from Street Trash singing. Not bad! “I Saw The Devil Again (Last Night)” isn’t a song title off Danzig’s newest record, it’s the b-side here, and it rocks a little looser, with runs up the neck of the bass and some leathery guitar moves, certainly nodding toward Poison Idea (“you can feel the darkness” is a lyric) even as the vocalist sneers like he’s trying to do shots with Nashville Pussy after the gig (or maybe during the instrumental outro?). As a bonus, each cover is hand-painted over the printed design, ensuring you contributed to the main Feel It guy’s carpal tunnel syndrome with your purchase.

Charnel Ground Charnel Ground LP (12XU)
Can you get down with the concept of minor indie-rock legends wylin’ out on their respective instruments? If so, this debut Charnel Ground album might be up your alley. This group features Kid Millions (from Oneida, but also known for just being Kid Millions) on drums, Codeine’s Chris Brokaw on guitar and Yo La Tengo’s third wheel, James McNew, on bass. They tackle a variety of styles with aplomb, from the frantic Flying Luttenbachers-esque tune-up of “Jimmy” to the ten minutes of Psychic Paramount-y road-burner “The High Price” alongside a couple softer, indie-er grooves that seem to extrapolate Pavement riffs into oblivion. They really space out on the b-side encompassing title track, over seventeen minutes of McNew’s precise single-note delivery and Millions’ variations on motorik beats while Brokaw deeply contemplates the meaning of life through his guitar. It’s quite possible they just came up with the idea and let it rip, knowing that Millions and McNew had the endurance to maintain an airtight beat and that Brokaw has an infinite stream of color ready to pour from his guitar. They’re like three Dave Grohls that still have to work for a living… how long until Charnel Ground gets its own HBO limited series professing the life-altering power of rock n’ roll?

C. Memi & Neo Matisse No Chocolate / Dream’s Dream 7″ (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Following their reissue of C. Memi’s Heavenly Peace EP, Bitter Lake rounds it out with C. Memi’s only other recording, a collaborative 7″ single with Neo Matisse. These are some obscure-ass names I’m throwing around here, even to yours truly, but Bitter Lake are seemingly all about unearthing the most unknown Japanese rock/wave/electro music from the early ’80s, and I tip my hat to such an intent. This one is pretty cool, and dare I say preferable to Heavenly Peace on the whole. “No Chocolate” starts with a wild scream of the title (could there be a worse fate than no chocolate?), and alongside a stomping piano and full backing band, C. Memi summons the swagger of New York Dolls and Roxy Music for a proto-punk art-rock declaration. It even gets messy and threatens to fall apart, thanks in no small part to the blustery piano. “Dream’s Dream” goes a little deeper into the electronics – various 8-bit helicopters are circling above the polite melodic vocals and the sunglasses-on cool of the bass/drums. You can tell that this crew had no interest in obtaining a copy of rock’s rulebook – if they did, they probably would’ve just tossed it out the window. Bizarre and tantalizing sounds, lovingly recreated for modern consumption.

Cold Fish Cold Fish 7″ (Tropical Cancer)
I wonder if the gimp mask industry has seen an increase in sales due to underground hardcore-punk’s recent fascination? Are all these bands actually buying them, or just using pics of them to appear more subversively deranged and sexually unstable? I would ask Cold Fish directly, but there’s always the chance that they actually are psychotic dungeon-masters looking to toss me in a sex cage, so I don’t want to risk it. Their style isn’t necessarily generic, but it’s what one might expect: severe Darby Crash-style groaning over repetitive Brainbombs-esque guitar licks, often enhanced with punchy hardcore drumming and a drunken demeanor. Song titles include “Flickr” and “Arsehole Fetish”, to be sure you know where this Brisbane group is coming from. Do they actually love anuses and fill their personal Flickr accounts with images of them? Only Cold Fish’s internet service providers know for sure.

Cold Leather Smart Moves LP (Adagio830)
Cold Leather are a new punk group out of Berlin, and they quickly hop through nine songs on Smart Moves, their full-length debut. They play a very specific form of melodic punk, one that seems to nod toward classic ’77 punk, but in a decidedly 21st Century way. I’m thinking of bands like The Vicious, Murder City Devils, Pretty Girls Make Graves, No Hope For The Kids… punk rock for conventionally attractive people, maybe? It’s music that sounds like its wearing freshly-printed Nasty Facts and Guilty Razors t-shirts, if that makes any sense. As for Cold Leather’s take on it, they do quite fine, mixing tempos while maintaining a peppy energy (even a moody downer like “Stunned” packs a punch). I’d say it’s a little too clean-cut and harmless for my tastes, but a song like the title track is undeniable as far as cleaned-up DIY punk goes, with its cruising Tony Lombardo-style bass-line and spunky delivery. Give Cold Leather a chance and they might impress you!

Conduit Drowning World LP (Kitschy Spirit)
Kid you not, I’d been wondering what was up with the Twin Stumps fellas recently. I enjoyed their extra-brittle, hiss-filled form of noise-rock, and it turns out two of them got together with a guy from White Suns and another pal to form Conduit. I’d say Conduit picks up right where Twin Stumps left off, delivering a sticky grey blast in the form of Drowning World. Whereas Twin Stumps seemed particularly interested in pursuing some of the more avant-garde, musically-intolerable ends of the noise-rock spectrum, Conduit get more or less straight to the point, bashing through these sideways-swaying dirges of murky bass, deliberate drum patterns, snarled vocals and damaged guitar. Ben Greenberg’s recording is a perfect match, providing space for each instrument while still coming through as hot as the tailpipe of an idling Chevrolet – you can hear what’s happening, and it’s vicious. Kinda classic sounding too, as if the miserable art-pummel of Swans circa Filth was applied to the tuneful guitar strangulations of early Black Flag and delivered with the bleary-eyed grace of Landed. If you want a copy for yourself, look elsewhere – I’m holding onto this one!

The Cosmic Sand Dollars Let’s Go Nuclear Woody! LP (Old Comet)
The last thing I saw from the Cold Vomit posse was a Uranium Orchard LP that was actually just a piece of pegboard fashioned into the shape of an LP, so just when I thought there was nothing they could do to pleasantly surprise me, they offer up this LP by The Cosmic Sand Dollars (on sister label “Old Comet”, get it?). I’m assuming this group is some (if not all?) of Uranium Orchard, but they’ve really found something special here in a seemingly unintentional way, like someone accidentally tripping backward over a duffel bag full of cash. The general premise is “surf music”, but The Cosmic Sand Dollars enhance it, fudge it and drag it over various electronic sound effects and beats, content to casually flow with the tide instead of riding the ripcurl. It’s perfectly mellow surf guitar with a dirty twist, and Let’s Go Nuclear Woody! ends up in the sonic neighborhood of Young Marble Giants’ sleepiest instrumentals, a particularly cosmic Dan Melchior outing or Francisco Franco’s lazy-day library music, but ultimately exists solely within its own unique dimension. Very, very weird stuff, in the best way possible of course, and it even comes with a Risograph-printed zine of nuclear surf art that’s probably going to be worth thousands of dollars some day. In my mind, it already is.

Death Commando Pattern Nightmares LP (Going Home)
Whereas the first Death Commando album was attributed to an Alan Hurst, Jason Letkiewicz reveals himself as the Death Commando puppet-master for the sophomore album Pattern Nightmares. Letkiewicz has left a sprawling trail of releases under his belt (Innergaze, Two Dogs In A House and Mutant Beat Dance are a few of my personal faves), but he really seems to be having fun as Death Commando. This project is deeply indebted to sleazy VHS culture – gore, sex, car chases, aliens, terrorists, fantasy warlords, demonic possession, anything that involves lots of red-dyed carob syrup and rubber prosthetics and was only available in the back of your Shop Rite or Stop N’ Shop’s VHS rental counter circa 1987. A lot of people are chasing this vibe, but Death Commando seems to hit it right between the eyes – these tracks conjure Metal Gear‘s Snake trying to break a code while surrounded by sleeping guards, a child hiding in a dark closet while a werewolf ravages their parents, maybe even a possessed cheerleader bowling with her math teacher’s skull. All moods are explored within Pattern Nightmares, unified by a slightly unclean sensation, as though Death Commando has a stricter parental rating than you are permitted to enjoy (but the babysitter doesn’t know!). “Into The Ground” is particularly chilling, but you’re gonna want to hear the whole thing!

DJ Residue 211 Circles Of Rushing Water 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
DJ Residue is the result of techno iconoclast Gunnar Wendel (aka Kassem Mosse) spending five days cramped in a hot apartment in New York City. For most people of Wendel’s generation, that would involve lots of take-out, Netflix and weed, but he took the opportunity to record these nine tracks of dark, minimal electronics. He only had a Moog and a couple of cymbals, and 211 Circles Of Rushing Water is proof positive that severe limitations can often yield terrific results. These tracks bleep and churn with only the slightest sense of melody; they feel more like nagging internal processes that our brains have learned to tune out, like the rhythmic thud of laundry machines or idling diesel engines outside the window. At times I’m reminded of Actress in the way that Wendel amplifies his microscopic sounds, but DJ Residue is far more rudimentary and blunt – yes, that’s a Zildjian cymbal he’s rubbing and smacking on “Shallow Bowl”. It’s like a non-menacing, fragile take on dungeon synth – AirBNB synth, maybe?

DJ Richard Dies Iræ Xerox 2xLP (Dial)
As the second most seductively mysterious member of the White Material crew (the first is Galcher Lustwerk, of course), DJ Richard has delivered some knockout punches in his day (“Nailed To The Floor”) and some records that went in one ear and out the other (his debut album Grind). Still, I couldn’t resist peeping Dies Iræ Xerox – the scribbled, barely perceptible demon face on the cover was calling to me like Pennywise through a sewer grate. I’m glad I checked in again, because this record is DJ Richard at his most insidious, filling the room with a slightly poisonous mist as the tracks unfold. If I can point you in one specific direction, it’s the second track, “Pitfall”. It rolls in on a narcoleptic beat and is quickly joined by one of the most seductively serpentine synth-lines I’ve heard this year – it’s as evenly tailored to soundtrack some sort of horror movie sex scene as a Warren G freestyle. When I find myself able to take “Pitfall” off repeat, I’m enjoying the smoky, deliberate pacing of the rest of the album, buffering unfriendly mid-paced techno jams like “In Broad Daylight” with foreboding ambient cloud-patterns, such as the Huerco S.-ish “Old Winter’s Way”. It’s grueling in the best sense of the term, as if we are thrust into DJ Richard’s sexy nightmare and forced to confront it, lest he ensnare us forever. If he wants to ensnare me just a little bit longer, though, I’m cool with that.

Filthy Grin Saturn In The Mirror LP (Gilgongo)
Life is more hectic than ever, so why not give yourself a moment to queue up some Filthy Grin and focus on nothing but the sweet decomposing tones? This Vancouver-based artist (but apparently previously a one-time member of Phoenix noise-rockers Pigeon Religion) is all about the sustained crumbly drone, patiently hunched over his digital gear in what is surely a dilapidated industrial art-space of some sort, be it an old mattress factory, abandoned schoolhouse or, worst case scenario, parents’ basement. Saturn In The Mirror is comprised of two long tracks – the a-side kicks off with the sound of Filthy Grin walking through some detritus before launching into a sustained melodic melt, not unlike something William Basinski might offer. The b-side is a little more sparse, with tones reverberating into silence, a morose soliloquy of industrial decay with plenty of open air ripe for contemplation. This sorta thing rarely works for me live – at a show, I want to socialize and exchange energy with the artist in some way or another; I don’t want to have to worry I’m stepping on a squeaky floorboard during a quiet part or focus on staying supremely motionless. Thankfully, this Filthy Grin material comes as a publicly-available vinyl LP that I am free to enjoy privately.

Maxine Funke Eternity 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
New Zealander Maxine Funke came onto my radar care of a great interview in a recent Dynamite Hemorrhage issue (one of the finest DIY zines still on the market), and while I didn’t yet hear her music, tempting as it was to blow $250 on one of her coveted and elusive LPs, I knew that I wanted to. Thankfully I Dischi Del Barone made it possible with this new four-track 7″ EP, sure to delight her cult fanbase as well as newcomers. I’m not sure how I Dischi coaxed this material out of Funke, seeing as she seems to live life first and record songs second, but it’s quite charming music… I can clearly understand the hype and fascination. Three of these tracks are acoustic guitar with vocal accompaniment, calling to mind Nick Drake or Meg Baird, not so much as an imitator of either but one of their peers. Her songs effortlessly unfold, and her voice is as mysterious and knowing as one could hope from high-grade outsider folk. The odd-track-out is “Sandhopper”, a sort of rhythm-box noise interlude, which of course only makes the EP that much more appealing. I recommend you do what you can to find a copy of this single before it becomes another pricey gem!

Goat Girl Goat Girl LP (Rough Trade)
Without any radical new advances in musical technology since the turn of the century (we’re all just waiting on virtual reality-based music now, right?), a large number of guitar-based groups who desire to be more than a simple retro act end up combining influences in new and unexpected ways. London’s Goat Girl are a great example of this, as they mix the deviant rockabilly of Country Teasers with the subdued and distant warmth of Hope Sandoval. It’s not an equation I would’ve imagined, but Goat Girl render it as naturally congruous as crust and grind. With it comes the huge hit “The Man”, a rock gem that could’ve ransacked the pop charts in any decade but this one – it’s infectious and silly and sexy, with a rallying chorus that’ll even get the incels moshing. There are a number of other entertaining tunes here too, songs like “Cracker Drool” that really push the Country Teasers side of the equation (not to mention what appears to be a direct homage in the track “Country Sleaze”) and “Burn The Stake”. Perhaps the weirdest thing about Goat Girl’s self-titled debut is the fact that it’s a whopping nineteen songs, many of which appear to be tossed-off instrumental sketches rather than fully-formed tunes. I’m not sure why they did this, as attention spans are at an all-time low, and I find my mind wandering as well, waiting for another “real” song during some of the many interludes. A little editing would’ve cut Goat Girl down to a svelte fighting weight, but these cool women are clearly just doing whatever they want, so who am I to complain.

Helena Hauff Qualm 2xLP (Ninja Tune)
Helena Hauff entered my consciousness as a gnarly analog-techno DJ, the type of person who puts out ugly-looking 12″s packed with red-lining beats care of antique drum machines. While she is still very much that same person, she’s managed to raise her profile considerably over the past few years, bringing her aggressive and blown-out techno to large crowds and festivals, not to mention the highly credible Ninja Tune label. I consider her first album Discreet Desires to be a modern masterpiece, fusing in various industrial, cold-wave and acid influences, but Qualm is far more blunt and singularly-minded – this record is here to pummel and burn and leave it at that. She tours constantly now (what other London-based, German-raised DJ has played Philadelphia more than once in the past couple years?), so I’m not sure if she didn’t have the same amount of studio time to put Qualm together as her debut, but it certainly feels like a “first thought, best thought” record, as though she just plugged in, worked up a few rugged beats, pushed the levels until the speakers became audibly uncomfortable, and called it a wrap. It’s both positive and negative, in that regard: these aggressive tunes are fun and exactly what one might expect from Hauff, but they offer no surprises or even slight deviations from her signature style. I’d ponder things further, but my ears are starting to ring.

Petre Inspirescu Murgullll 12″ (Mule Musiq)
Petre Inspirescu’s recent full-lengths have drifted away from the dance-floor upon which he built his rep and beamed toward headier locales. Last year’s Vîntul Prin Salcii is a modern post-classical album filled with melancholic electronics and seamlessly interwoven field-recordings / instrumentation, and while it’s beautiful, I’m also glad to see him getting back to club basics on this two-track 12″. “Murgullll” is indebted to the Ricardo Villalobos school of early ’00s tech-house, no doubt. A slippery bassline swerves between lanes as light percussion and static pops sprinkle the tune like seeds on an everything bagel. The same is more or less true of “Cumva” on the flip, which solidifies things with a 4/4 thump and some interesting blips and bleeps – it sounds like some sort of biological process amplified through a stethoscope, like a packet of air-bubbles slowly rising from stomach to esophagus. A pensive little bass-line eventually appears, but “Cumva” is more for sneaking through darkened corridors than a warehouse packed with ravers. Cool, unassuming tracks that certainly aren’t kowtowing to modern trends… I get the feeling Inspirescu needs to get this sort of thing out of his system every few years, and for that I’m thankful.

IV IV 7″ (Total Punk)
While so many Total Punk groups seem to revel in childishly crude artwork and brash attitudes, they all pretty much have their own Bandcamp pages, or at least some sort of basic info on the insert. Not so for IV, a mysteriously unrepresented group within the world of Total Punk or the internet in general – I’m not even sure if I should be calling them “Four” like the Roman numeral or “eye-vee” like the drip. Gonna go with the drip, and hope that I eventually get to learn more about this group, as they’re particularly vicious and above-average compared against a label roster that’s already above-average. They’re delivering straightforward, hot-tempered punk rock across these four succinct tunes, with what’s either double-tracked vocals or multiple singers shouting through tuneful-yet-unrefined melodies – I’m reminded of The Love Triangle with less hardcore speed and more punk sneer, maybe Video without any kitschy camp, or perhaps the most blown-out Cheap Time single scrubbed clean of any garage-pop aspirations. It’s all within the standard punk playbook, but IV deliver their music with such gusto and attitude that I can’t help but sit up straight and take notice.

The Lopez Like A Prayer / Throwin’ Shade 7″ (no label)
So not only did The Lopez release this 7″ single on “cat puke”-colored vinyl, they shelled out the cash to print up cat-puke shaped stickers advertising such, proudly slapped on the cover. That’s dedication one has to admire, and the silly fun continues with “Like A Prayer”: a fuzzy bass-line grooves with electro-pop drums as the room turns into a swirling ’90s party, where The Go-Gos, Len, RuPaul, Deee-Lite and The Apples In Stereo catch Pee-wee Herman as he dives off the kitchen counter. Simple and fun, upbeat and carefree, it would do us all some good to pretend we’re this happy once in a while. “Throwin’ Shade” carries the same neon color scheme but in a more muted design, recalling an electronically-programmed version of The Courtneys (the vocals in particular are quite similar here). The Lopez aren’t re-writing the indie-pop handbook, but they’re having plenty of fun following its instructions, on what will surely be the friendliest barf-themed record you come across this fall.

Nathan Micay Whities 017 12″ (Whities)
I love me some Whities – it’s a modern techno label you can trust! This new one comes from Nathan Micay, who used to produce music under the name of Bwana, this being the first under his given name. He can call himself whatever he wants as far as I’m concerned (except maybe like, Speed Hitler 2000), because this new EP is a beautiful selection of delicate, futuristic techno. “First Casualty” thumps with the best of ’em, and it prominently features a careful little melody, as if Micay convinced the ARP synth from The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to hum a lullaby over cascading chords and a trusted, sturdy beat. A great mix of tender and tough, no doubt. I’m already satisfied, but “Beginning Ballads” carries a similarly uplifting feeling, as if propulsive techno can be used as a meteorological force to part the clouds. This one squeals into the highest corners of the room in tandem with its unflagging pulse, quite similar to Avalon Emerson’s Whities record and deserving of similar praise. The great cover art seals the deal, a colorful collage of overloaded information.

Preening Nice Dice 7″ (Fine Concepts)
In an effort to ensure that as few people hear them as possible, Preening continue to stick with 7″ EP releases. This new one comes on the Nice Concept label, another Oakland-based entity strictly in service to the underground, and it features four more songs of Preening’s mangled, sax-guided post-punk. I’m not sure which member of the group is singing on this one, but they’re going all in, red-veined hollering over the sparse drums and bass and room noise, calling to mind Tropical Trash or Landed even as the music is closer in wave-form to Mecca Normal or Delta 5. Zachary Watkins is credited as a guest guitarist, but I can’t tell if that’s a gag or not since I don’t hear any guitar – maybe he’s simply holding it, in some sort of sustained feat of minimalism? Regardless, these songs are quite cool, as spindly and irritating as anything else in Preening’s discography, with perhaps a bit more spittle on the edges of their lips and sweat upon their brows. It was a hot summer, after all.

Pumice Platelets 7″ (Soft Abuse)
An endearing figure in the realm of underground New Zealand noisy nonsense for decades now, it’s clear that Pumice’s Stefan Neville will need to be physically forced to cease all musical operations in order for him to do so. His discography dates back to the mid-’90s – he was releasing weirdo lathe-cuts back when I was excited for the first edition of the Hellcat Records Give ‘Em The Boot CD sampler. Hell, the last Pumice 7″ on Soft Abuse came out some nine years ago now! Anyway, let’s talk about this one: “Haemochromatosis Bring A Plate” is the a-side and it’s a curious organism of accordion, violin, keyboard and maybe something else? No vocals, just a rickety and mournful sway. “Real Blood Is Cheaper Than Fake Blood” picks up the mood with the hyper-crumbly guitar-work one might normally associate with Pumice, whereas “Its More Realistic Too” picks at its own melodic scab, both tracks finding the midpoint between a fractured Deerhoof melody and the Menstruation Sisters’ no-fidelity genius. What with the great state of New Zealand healthcare, we’re probably in for a few more decades of Pumice at least, so buckle up!

Puppy & The Hand Jobs I Eat Abortions 7″ (Black Gladiator / Slovenly)
It’s a little discomfiting to realize that childish shock-jock punk will outlive me, probably long after I’m gone in fact. Two hundred years from now, when any memory of my existence is lost, there will still be guys wearing panties and silly sunglasses singing about poop and pee. Take Phoenix’s Puppy & The Hand Jobs for example, a new group where guitarist/vocalist “Puppy” wears a diaper and the other two members dress as, wait for it… Ward and June Cleaver. Yup! They play crude and insulting punk in the classic style of The Child Molesters, Puke Spit And Guts and of course the patron saint of offensive punk schlock, Kevin Michael “GG” Allin. If that style appeals to you, along with song titles like “I Eat Abortions”, “Trash Rock-N-Roll” and “I Think I’m Gay” (which has its own video on Pornhub Gay – did you faint from disbelief yet???), you may be wondering where Puppy & The Hand Jobs rank, to which I tell you that these songs will not disappoint those looking to receive a hearty dose of yesteryear’s shock-punk. May God judge you kindly.

Ragtime Frank & The Drivers I Know Said The King 12″ (Ever/Never)
Sporting a black turtleneck, white Zorro-style mask, a flapless ushanka cap and a friendly pet cat, it’s clear that Ragtime Frank is the kind of self-assured guitar-playing non-conformist that Ever/Never is drawn toward. He was one of the main forces behind The Lost Domain, who shared an interest in crudely-deconstructed blues and rock n’ roll, one that is strongly demonstrated through these four songs. The Drivers that back him up are two apparently-simultaneous drummers, offering their mostly-aligned take on the Bo Diddley beat while Ragtime Frank rips distorted, bluesy chunks of sound from his guitar with the possessed hollerin’ to match. It strikes me as spiritually akin to Bill Orcutt, although Orcutt is clearly an innovative master of his own unique playing style and Ragtime Frank just kinda slams it around like anyone’s drunk uncle who used to play in garage bands might. They’re both grey-haired white guys who sit down while emitting a cacophonous frenzy of old-timey-induced mania, so there’s that, right? Ragtime Frank takes joy in pushing the limits of rhythm n’ blues, knowing full well that they’ll never break, no matter how spastic and tunelessly he insists on playing.

Sissy Spacek Blear LP (Gilgongo)
Whereas so many of his No Fun Fest peers have moved on from harsh noise, John Wiese continues to embrace it, both under his own name and with his long-running Sissy Spacek project. I’ve always known Sissy Spacek to provide a form of cut-up grindcore that somehow exists outside of the grind scene – maybe he’s just too arty, or his band logos are far too legible. Apparently there’s a new Sissy Spacek album out now on Nuclear War Now!, which should certainly open him up to more traditional audiences, but the rapid-fire splicing and editing that goes into Sissy Spacek always struck me as in step with outsiders like Aunt Mary or Fear Of God’s Dave Phillips. I need to hear that other new Sissy Spacek album, but Blear is cool, if an entirely different beast. The grindcore is fully absent here, replaced by long-form demolition work, be it digitized, live or a synthesis of the two. I’m strongly reminded of The Haters (not to mention Hanatarash) in the way that the rumbling harsh noise blends into live-action destruction, the sound of metal beams tossed errantly among broken bottles and decayed furniture inside some abandoned and cavernous warehouse. There are five “tracks” here, but the destruction is somewhat uniform; tracks are delineated by brief breaks in the mayhem, although there was clearly some production added after the initial recording (I’m particularly partial to the sloshing swipes that close “Garbage Matte”). He’s still got it!

The Unholy Two The Pleasure To End All Pleasures LP (12XU)
One might hope that The Unholy Two would be kind enough to explain specifically what the titular pleasure is, but they’re keeping it private for now. Drinking a milkshake while going down a waterslide, maybe? It’s an odd choice of title for this, their third vinyl full-length, as it’s an album that pushes even further from their previous endeavors in noise-rock toward pure noise, far from what any respectable citizen might consider enjoyable. I’m kind of impressed by how little this album rocks – whatever sense of garage-rock aesthetics The Unholy Two might’ve mildly displayed in the past are fully eradicated now, with at least half a dozen forms of incessant guitar noise and feedback slathering every tune on here. Some of them don’t even really seem to have any rhythm, more like Skullflower-style endurance tests, but a couple of them do reveal some semblance of percussion, usually dirge-like and miserable. It’s practically a harsh noise record at times, similar to guitar-wielding assailants like Hijokaidan or Ramleh, but it’s probably a friendly coincidence, not a direct inspiration. I always assumed this ugly form of music couldn’t get any more despondent and misanthropic than Rusted Shut, but some of these cuts make Rusted Shut look like a Rush cover band by comparison.

Violence Creeps Nephew Melting 7″ (Total Punk)
Allow me to take us back to 2015, when Violence Creeps’ debut 45 On My Turf arrived and scuffed up everything in its path. It was a brash, fun, volatile statement of amateur-style hardcore-punk that seemed built to burn out quickly, and yet here we are, three years later, and they’ve amassed a formal LP, a 12″ EP and three other 7″s, not to mention a small Target bag’s worth of cassettes. It would be practically impossible to do all that without shifting stylistically at least a little bit, which they do here on “Nephew Melting”, a dare-I-say angular-sounding tune, driven by boppy drums and a tipsy little bass-line. Vocalist Amber Feigel insults mustaches in two separate lines of lyrics on this one, pissed-off even by her standard of always being pissed-off. “Ford Go Bikes” is a punk dirge brain-drain in the style of Flipper, or perhaps more accurately Total Punk label-mates Gary Wrong Group, shifting between two unfriendly notes as Feigel’s vocal paranoia is enhanced with echo. Violence Creeps aren’t rookies anymore!