Reviews – September 2015

Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paradiso UFO High On New Heaven Live In New Haven 3xLP (Safety Meeting)
Perhaps it was Acid Mothers Temple’s quest for the most righteous pizza on Earth that led them to the quaint town of New Haven, CT, but whatever the basis for their arrival, they conjured their sonic séance expertly on April 20th, 2013, captured via a surprisingly clear recording and pressed onto six sides of 12″ vinyl. Chances are you know what Acid Mothers Temple is all about by now: half a dozen Japanese people on stage, one of them in a Degeneration X football jersey, rocking endlessly toward the astral plane… they’ve been doing it for decades now. This set is a pretty great sonic representation of what they’re all about, sans smoke machines and stage lights – there are plenty of extended guitar solos that tie Wah pedals to Echoplexes and fly them like kites, somber and trippy death marches that re-interpret the Kama Sutra, and a nearly thirty minute rendition of their perennial hit “Pink Lady Lemonade”. You could’ve watched an entire episode of Seinfeld in the time it took these cosmic jokers to build it up and coast it on down. Acid Mothers Temple are great, and such an institution at this point that I can only hope they outlive me… maybe it’s time I started thinking about what kind of a world I want to leave behind for Acid Mothers Temple.

Badlands Dark Dreams 7″ (Porchcore)
Dark Dreams sounds like a Ben & Jerry’s flavor I’d be interested in sampling, and it’s also the name of the two songs on this quaint and homely 7″ single, although the track “Dreams” is the a-side and “Dark” follows on the flip. “Dreams” will have your head swaying in no time, a friendly little cut of acoustic guitar-led indie-pop, with just enough suede fringe on the jacket to give off a lonesome country vibe. I’m reminded of the lighter side of K Records, maybe a touch of Lavender Diamond too (although a bit dimmer than Lavender Diamond’s sun-blasted jubilance). “Dark” works similarly, and although I can’t understand anything that band-leader Adrian Chi Tenney is singing, I can’t help but assume this song is about hopping trains to meet your lover on a cliff, only to find out that they threw themselves off it into the ocean because being apart was simply too much for them to bear. (Okay, the lyrics are printed inside the sleeve, but my interpretation still stands.) Two pretty songs that have that same sort of top-down, Kurt Vile’s hair-blowing-in-the-wind sorta feel, even as dusk starts showing up earlier in the evening.

J.G. Biberkopf Ecologies LP (Knives)
J.G. Biberkopf (German for “Justin Bieber fan”) is a newcomer to the post-post-modern avant-techno landscape, but as far as I’m concerned, his presence is welcomed. Not sure how he was discovered (plucked out of the Soundcloud minor leagues by some hard-working techno talent scout?), but Ecologies is a nice snapshot of what the undanceable underground is up to. Through these six tracks, Biberkopf offers rave motifs (huge swabs of electro-synths), technological sound-effects (the sound of a security camera rotating to follow you down a hallway), Graham Lambkin-esque found-sound (a dramatic cut to windshield wipers struggling across a dry windshield), the soundtrack to any given Stephen Seagal film, and Egyptrixx’s knack for making the listener feel like they just activated the power on a fleet of Terminators by mistake. And through it all, there’s some of Ben Frost’s macho-ambient atmosphere for good measure, too. It’s an immersive experience, and briskly paced so that I never lose interest – if anything, I find myself wanting to press rewind on specific musical moments that quickly pass through. I’m uncertain that Ecologies will hold up a couple years from now, as it seems to be an experiment in the specific musical technology currently offered to home-based producers, but the entire concept of the future is uncertain anyway, isn’t it?

Blawan Hanging Out The Birds 12″ (Ternesc)
Just as expected, Blawan’s second 12″ of 2015 on the Ternesc label is here, and it’s a mighty EP of downhill techno. I love Blawan, and I don’t expect that to ever change, but both of his newest 12″ EPs sound great in the most expected of ways, to the point where I’m slightly disappointed. He’s managed to create such distinct sonic territory for himself that it only takes a sludgy kick or frantic electronic wobble for me to recognize a Blawan track on sound alone, but on this EP in particular, it almost comes across like someone doing a really fantastic impression of Blawan, using all of his signifiers and trademarked synth settings without adding anything new or strange to the mix. The electronic chirp and incessant warble of “Mine Oh Mine” is particularly sweet, but these tracks just add to his total minutes of recorded material rather than elevate it further. Hanging Out The Birds is an urgent and carefully-crafted example of Blawan’s signature style, but my mind remains intact rather than splattered all over the ceiling.

Domenique Dumont Comme Ça LP (Antinote)
French electronic music is nothing if not distinctive, from Daft Punk to Justice to Air, and the Antinote label is a notable new wrinkle on its landscape. They’re almost like the passive European answer to the American-born L.I.E.S. label, merging deep-house and home-recorded aesthetics but focusing on retro / obscure electronic music and the lighter side of things. If Antinote is recording in a basement, it still has giant windows and plenty of natural light, if you catch my drift. This debut six-song “album” by Domenique Dumont, for example, is a delightful drizzle of coconut oil on my musical diet, recalling the beachy exotica of Pizzicato Five, Fantastic Plastic Machine or Stereolab, as if you’re laying out on a glistening European beach that shines like 8-bit Nintendo pixels and smells like Serge Gainsbourg’s aftershave. Dumont skips the funk-break samples, turntable scratching and other dated signposts for a more streamlined approach that at least nods in the direction of such contemporary cool as Peaking Lights and John Talabot, pursuing easy-going deep-house and breezy dub-exotica in equal measure. Ah, c’est si bon!

Ecstatic Vision Sonic Praise LP (Relapse)
A lot of bands praise the riff, but Ecstatic Vision seems to take it a step further and praise the chord itself. One guitar ringing out the same holy chord while a bass repeats it on 8th notes can achieve transcendence as purely as any set of chord changes, if they have anything to say about it. Ecstatic Vision seem to dig on that pretty hard, allowing repetition and skin-tight playing to elevate minds, not unlike Boris or Acid Mothers Temple. They seem to mostly sing about what they’re doing, from desires to reach astral planes, sonic praise (“Sonic Praise”) and a general appreciation of all things righteously stoner. Doug Sabolick’s vocals are hoarse and Matt Pike-like, helping keep the Hawkwind-brand space shuttle grounded, at least until any given song breaks in the middle and they blast off, drums and bass locked into a perfect algorithm while the guitars aim for galaxies Hubble has yet to locate. It’s a tried and tested formula for sure, but I dunno, I don’t mind getting higher with a group as refined and talented as Ecstatic Vision, as it helps balance all the other times I find myself involuntarily getting lower.

Evol Flapper That 12″ (Diagonal)
I come to the Diagonal label in search of electronic madness, but this 12″ by Evol pushes beyond my craziest expectations to Wolfgang Voigt levels of repetitive, torturous loops. And I thank them for it! “Flapper That” is broken into two long parts on here, starting off with the sound of an Atari game stuck on a trampoline. Eventually the bounce sound changes, but only slightly, and at such a fast pace that the ten-or-so minutes per side feels at least twice as long. That’s all there is, beyond a constant hum of bass on the second part: a single rubbery synth loop modulated in pitch and frequency. I’m picturing some person in an all-white room in a long white lab-coat, playing a synth that was built with Twizzlers instead of keys and Skittles instead of knobs, turning it on letting it play itself as they furiously take notes on a clipboard. Maddening music to the utmost degree, and essentially exactly where I want Diagonal to take me in late 2015.

Frau Mira 7″ (no label)
One of my greatest regrets of this summer is missing Frau as they came through my town on tour. It was an unavoidable conflict, but I now have no choice but to wonder how these maniacal, unhinged punk songs sound live, if only because I can hardly believe that music this frantic and unrestrained exists on our planet. “Mira” opens with a hailstorm of noise that would make Derek Bailey and Chris Corsano sit up straight, before blasting into a two-note / no-chord barrage of primitive hardcore-punk. The other three tracks are just as manic, somewhere between Texas obscurities Foams and Rhode Island avant-punk noisers Dynasty, just pure musical beauty. The 7″ comes with a lyric sheet, and while Frau sing exclusively in English, following along with the lyrics while listening is an intense and near-impossible task, like performing two heart surgeries as once. God I love Frau.

Gel Set Human Salad LP (Moniker)
Gel Set entered my consciousness via 2014′s split EP with Stacian, a fellow Midwestern dabbler of vocal-led techno/synth-pop, and now she’s keeping the party going with this attractive new LP. The cover art is worthy of its own Fantagraphics title (nice work, Otto Splotch!), and the music is much as I had expected: think the earliest 100% Silk releases (Innergaze, Maria Minerva, Body Double, let’s say) with the bite of Tamion 12 Inch and the Ersatz Audio crew, and a residual hint of the electro-perversion of Crack: We Are Rock and Tracy & The Plastics. That enough band names for you? There’s usually a drum machine popping like popcorn while a scary bass-line darts beneath, all as Laura Callier (the sole proprietor of Gel Set) talks, coos and mumbles her way through an unlit basement hallway. As far as left-field synth-pop, it’s actually a pretty unobtrusive album, as I’ve put it on a few times only to forget I was listening to it – sometimes Gel Set’s lightweight grooves blend into my desk fan ambiance a little too easily. Still, when she has my full attention, I can’t help but wish I had a portable smoke machine and mirrored dance-floor to moonwalk myself onto, which is really what it all comes down to.

Golden Bats Godhead / Bunny Lake 7″ (Coffin Cut)
Golden Bats is the solo project of Geordie Stafford of Australian hardcore group Teargas, and he uses the opportunity to slow things down considerably, genuflecting honorably in front of the Electric Guitar. “Godhead” coasts on an epic tuned-down riff comparable to Melvins or Neurosis, working its Sabbath-approved chords into new arrangements and eventually belting out some gruff, misty vocals through the din. “Bunny Lake” operates similarly, like Goatsnake covering Bongzilla with a little Iron Monkey in the tank (and a Kerry King-esque guitar solo toward the end). There are millions of bands that sound just like this, but there are millions of different chocolate cakes out there that all taste like chocolate cake, and you wouldn’t catch me complaining about that, you know? There can never be enough down-tuned doom-metal as far as I’m concerned, so if you happen to encounter Golden Bats, it won’t take much effort to enjoy yourself.

Helta Skelta Reds / The Devil’s Triangle 7″ (Rock Bottom)
You’d think I’d know every Australian punk band by now, but each week there are like another dozen I’ve never heard before, like Perth’s Helta Skelta for instance. This is kind of a strange one: a recent US pressing of their self-released 7″ single from 2013, but I can understand the appeal while listening to “Reds” – it hits the sweet spot between early Total Control and The Vicious, looking back at the earliest Australian punk singles with clear admiration. I’m a little confused by the b-side choice though, as it’s an instrumental that plays out like the mid-section of The Victims’ classic “Disco Junkies”… cool sound for sure, but c’mon, y’all couldn’t come up with any words to sing over it? At the very least, this single has done a fine job of whetting my appetite for more of their classically-trained proto-punk / post-punk rumble, presuming more is on the way eventually.

Howling Gruel Jolly Jape LP (Wormwood Grasshopper)
Always nice to see the name “Wormwood Grasshopper” hidden somewhere on a vinyl product, as this Australian label revels in gleeful amateurism like few other. Howling Gruel are new to me (although my intuition tells me the players are not, perhaps doing time in Hammering The Cramps or Drunk Elk or Lord knows who else), and with their shambolic sound, such a link would certainly makes sense. Someone’s usually playing some sort of portable keyboard on Jolly Jape, and they seem to be the leader of the group, as the guitarist seems to be following along via sonic and visual clues (perhaps a head-nod across the studio). The vocalist picks up the melody and does his best to mimic it, and the drummer, who seems to be equipped with half a dozen cardboard boxes of varying structural integrity, will play along until they get bored and decide to imitate Brian Chippendale for the absolute good of no one. In the first few songs, I found myself checking my phone and wishing things would hurry up, but by the time I was halfway through the second side I was truly enamored with this peculiar trio. It’s like when you see a person in a club and their outfit absolutely revolts you when you first see them, and a year later they’re your personal style icon. There’s a giant essay on the back cover that I haven’t read, because I assume it says basically the same thing.

Ital Toxic Work Environment 12″ (Gang Of Ducks)
Daniel Martin-McCormick (aka Ital) has always had a knack for coming up with vivid and striking track titles; who doesn’t want to hear a techno track called “Toxic Work Environment” or “Canker Sore”, both of which appear here? He’s been busy putting out all sorts of records, remixes and mixes lately, and I was overdue for checking in, so this new EP seemed like as good a place as any. After spinning a few times, I’m a bit surprised at how Toxic Work Environment sounds, because it’s strikingly normal. There aren’t any crazy vocal effects, unquantized loops, barely restrained emotional glee or any of Ital’s signifiers, just a very sturdy and workmanlike set of dark techno songs, ready to be played over a powerful club system after midnight by Adam X or Planetary Assault Systems. It’s cool stuff for sure, I just kept waiting for clear evidence that D.M.M. was behind these tracks to materialize and it never did. As it turns out, my favorite cut is probably the G.O.D. “rework” of “The Citadel”, which breaks the drums down into a jittery pile of plywood and nails as rusty bass saws through it. I’ll admit, hearing Ital violently cut up Lady Gaga vocals wasn’t exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear all the time, but this surprisingly unsurprising EP has me missing his shoeless exuberance at least a little bit.

Ivy A Cat’s Cause No Dog’s Problem 7″ (Katorga Works)
I noticed that Katorga Works pressed a thousand copies of this new (and ostensibly final) Ivy 7″, and that sort of information gives me hope that quality underground hardcore bands can still sell four figures’ worth of seven-inch EPs, even as the format grows more obsolete and cost-prohibitive. If the quality of the music is any factor into those statistics, it makes sense, as this is another excellent set of uniquely ramshackle hardcore-punk tunes. These songs flop like wet fish, like each player is trying to forcibly adjust the song’s tempo or direction at the same time: maybe the guitarist will suddenly play extra-fast, or the drummer will throw in a couple extra rolls that seem to indicate “I’m bored, let’s mix it up”. I’m reminded of old punks as varied as Adrenalin OD and the ERL Records label, as well as modern friends-of-the-band like the Total State community or Mystic Inane. It’s all very Ivy though, and while the news that they have broken up sucks, I will enjoy these records for years to come.

Kerridge Sonic Instruments Of War 7″ (Contort)
A new 7″ single from the mighty Kerridge, entitled Sonic Instruments Of War? I can’t help but cut to the front of the line for this one! As it turns out, this EP offers two live tracks from one of his recent Contort sets (the loosely dance-based event Kerridge and his wife Hayley curate), and I dunno, it doesn’t come close to matching the sonic magnitude of his fantastic second album that still accompanies my many daily activities. “Sonic Instruments Of War #01″ has him pressing the pause button repeatedly on a basic-yet-raw drum n’ bass break while a red-lining wave of static cuts through the atmosphere like a torpedo. “Sonic Instruments Of War #02″ is much more my speed, borrowing a cosmic flatulent ripple from Emptyset (where have those guys been lately anyway?) and pairing it with a chopped and distorted drill-sergeant vocal, not unlike Genocide Organ or Grey Wolves on a particularly bass-heavy tirade. It’s cool, but nothing that bears repeat listens for a guy like me – neither aspect of the track is particularly impressive, and their sum is equal to its parts. While the second track is killer, it’s tough to justify purchasing this 7″, though, unless you’re a fellow Kerridge-aholic. And even then, you might want to download some MP3s and continue to squirrel away your finances for his next studio release, whenever that may be.

L.O.T.I.O.N. Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence LP (Toxic State)
From what I’d heard, it was my understanding that L.O.T.I.O.N. were the New York hardcore band taking on G.I.S.M.’s Military Affairs Neurotic as their clear and direct inspiration. Sounded cool enough to check out (I admittedly did not pick up the split USB earring that contained their earlier material), but after numerous spins I am still feeling kind of blindsided by how fantastic L.O.T.I.O.N.’s album is, and how it goes far beyond G.I.S.M. pastiche. This is supremely ugly music, that’s for sure… it starts off sounding like Dawn Of Humans covering Ministry, and quickly unravels in various industrial/punk directions, each more raw and brutal than the last. Is that Nitzer Ebb covering Crucifix? Early SPK throttling Sexa? Portion Control using Neubaten’s scrap-metal snare drum while Robocop is dragged behind a horse-drawn cart, Hector-style??? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a modern punk band integrate electronics and ostensibly-techno beats as seamlessly (and ferociously) as on here. I can smell the G.I.S.M. in the visual presentation of this album (as well as the bleach-soaked vocals), but L.O.T.I.O.N. have crafted a world all their own, where computers are attacking humans who are attacking cyborgs and there is no obvious hero or villain, just a pile of consumable violence for us to wade through. Naturally I’m interested in what you think as well, but as far as I’m concerned this is the punk album of the year.

Galcher Lustwerk I Neva Seen EP 12″ (Lustwerk Music)
Why bother with a proper label when your grooves sell themselves? That’s what Galcher Lustwerk is asking via his new Lustwerk Music label, this being the second of two 12″ EPs to hit this year. I still haven’t stopped spinning Parlay on a weekly basis and now I’ve got I Neva Seen to keep it company. For Lustwerk fans, naturally you’ll need all these records too, but for the casual fan of nocturnal urban house music, I’d recommend you grab Parlay and determine if you need this one at a later time. “I Neva Seen” features one of Lustwerk’s catchiest hooks (he even does a little singing alongside his barely-awake rap-speak), but the rest of the EP has more of an odds-and-ends vibe: there’s an instrumental version of “I Neva Seen” (nice, but the vocal version is clearly superior), a drifting drone track (“Stem”) and an enjoyable-but-basic track that name-checks Mr. Lustwerk (“Cricket’s Theme”). Almost feels like one of Omar S’s “it’s up to you to do something cool with it” 12″s, but with such a limited number of Lustwerk tracks on vinyl, I could’ve gone for some of his more realized cuts. Then again, when it comes to Galcher Lustwerk, I can’t help but act greedy.

The Mothmen Pay Attention LP (On U-Sound)
On U-Sound released the debut Mothmen album back in 1981, and now they’ve gone and reissued it again, eager to infiltrate fresh ears. I’ll be honest and admit my ignorance of this British post-punk group’s existence until recently, and with an earlier 7″ release on the great Absurd Records label, I suppose I have no excuse. It’s fun catching up now though, as The Mothmen have a pretty nice sound: disco beats, eclectic songwriting and avant-pop aspirations reverberate here. Think of Contortions if they signed to Recommended Records, or Gang Of Four if they featured ex-members of Henry Cow and went on to form Talk Talk (maybe I should stop writing reviews and get into post-punk fan-fiction instead). The a-side has a nice suite of songs (“Factory / Teapoint / Factory” is my favorite of the bunch) and the b-side stretches out for “Mothman”, a lengthy answer to the question “what would happen if Kid Creole joined This Heat?”, full of spiraling percussion and manic concentration to rival Glenn Branca. As if we needed any further proof that 1981 was one of the greatest years of recorded music.

Northern Liberties Errant Ray LP (no label)
Northern Liberties have slowly become an under-appreciated Philadelphia institution, this being their sixth full length album since the turn of the millennium. They seem to have an endless supply of songs and art pencils with which to draw the artwork that surrounds them, and this new album is as good a selection as any. Like most bands with half a dozen albums under their belt, they really sound a lot like themselves, to the point where Northern Liberties can (consciously or unconsciously) appropriate Fugazi rhythms, pop-punk riffs, Hum’s deft balance of the heavy and melodic, Load Records’ neon scree and a dozen other musical signifiers I’m missing without ever feeling like a direct rip-off or homage to anyone besides Northern Liberties. For a band that is just a bassist, vocalist and drummer, they cover the sonic spectrum pretty well, rather than homing in on a very specific and singular vibe ala Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. The lyrics tend to quickly drift off into prog-fantasy territory, not unlike fellow underground scribblers Human Host (you better believe there’s the line “paramecium – gaze upon the flame”). I can’t imagine anyone would try to stop Northern Liberties from continuing, so maybe they’ll go on forever?

Permanent Makeup Taker LP (No Clear)
Straight from the majestic plains and valleys of Florida, here comes Permanent Makeup with their second full-length outing, released on their own label. The back cover shows them playing in some dank basement, re-imagined as a solar flight, and it’s that ability to dream beyond their natural surroundings that surely inspires them onward. This record is pretty cool: they go pretty heavy on the basement Sonic Youth vibes, with odd, propulsive melodies and plenty of heavily-effected guitar freakouts. The vocals come through almost painfully direct and without any added reverb or distortion, so it’s almost like the neighbor next-door complaining that the band needs to turn down has unexpectedly taken on vocal duties. Maybe they’re a little Pere Ubu-ish, in that regard? Sounds good to me either way, to the point where the fact that the bassist is wearing shorts in the live band shot hasn’t deterred me from listening. It’s hot down there, sure, but only a select few can truly rock out with bare calves.

Pig Eyes 2nd Album LP (Electric Assault)
Do you think there is an Acoustic Assault Records out there somewhere? How can I get on their promo list? Anyway, Pig Eyes are a Swedish sextet (although judging from their mugshots on the back cover, two of them look like the same guy with or without large sunglasses on), and while they seem like fun, they take their music seriously. It’s fairly interesting – on the opening track, imagine Queens Of The Stone Age riffs, but used the way Swans play their music. It’s like they take modern radio-rock riffs and bludgeon them repeatedly, or stretch them out far beyond pop structures, like Neu! doing the Franz Ferdinand catalog while wearing Circle’s Judas Priest outfits. 2nd Album would probably fit somewhere in the broadly-defined “noise rock” section of your local Sam Goody, though, at least to those who aren’t listening particularly attentively. Swedes, man – I’m pretty sure their government pays people healthy living wages just to start obscure bands like this, and I’m going to try my best to pretend I’m not insanely jealous.

Ragtime Frank I’m A Rocketship For My Lord LP (Little Big Chief)
On first glance, I couldn’t help but assume “Ragtime Frank” was one of the Sun City Girls’ more-obscure aliases – the man on the cover even looks like a Bishop brother. Research proves that it isn’t, though, but rather some Australian guy with two prior albums on the sorely-missed Negative Guest List label, both of which landed somewhere off my radar. The back cover reveals that I’m A Rocketship For My Lord was recorded in one take back in July 2013, and I am not one to doubt their claim. Ragtime Frank plays his guitar with apparently thumbs only, approximating some form of the blues that sidesteps melody and tone entirely, using the electrified guitar as some sort of electric buzzer, while the drums of one Leighton Craig keep time. You can almost hear them nodding at each other to signify song stoppage or a change of parts, and occasionally Mr. Frank will let all six strings reverberate at once, nearly drowning out everything else in the room. Picture Maher Shalal Hash Baz on a Howlin’ Wolf kick, or Tetuzi Akiyama with his hands cut off and you’re kinda close to this record’s sensibility. This is the butter with which Little Big Chief swabs their bread, and a fine addition to their family of unspeakably amateurish horror-rock.

Sand In The Face Music Made To Riot: New Jersey Hardcore 1982-1983 LP (Made At The World)
Sand In The Face is one of those band names you can’t help but pause at while scanning the track-listing of The Master Tape, Vol. 2, and while I always assumed they never did anything beyond that, this retrospective LP proves me to be wonderfully wrong. They recorded eighteen tracks in 1982, and I’ll be damned if they aren’t great, very much a clear product of their time but in a positive way. I’m reminded of Ill Repute, the early Mutha singles, maybe some Code Of Honor, and certainly Dischord’s first year in business – the songs are fast and simple, occasionally catchy, highly teenaged and the vocals have that slight touch of roomy reverb that makes me wonder if Cyanamid didn’t record in the same New Jersey studio a few years later. The liner notes offer a detailed and interesting band history (although it saddened me to see that “Sand In The Face is on Facebook”), and now you hopefully won’t have to think exclusively about Floorpunch, Mouthpiece and Ensign when New Jersey hardcore becomes a topic of conversation.

Toupée Leg Toucher LP (Moniker)
Toupée opt for some bold lettering on the cover of their debut album, not unlike Total Control’s so-ugly-you-can’t-stop-looking Henge Beat, and it suits their maniacal version of post-no-wave whatever music that they’re spilling all over the floor. I like it a lot, in part because they manage to do a lot of different things while sounding like the same band – there’s a Harry Pussy-level freakout in “Come Back To Camp” and it’s followed by a Garbage Pail Kids version of a Runaways song in “School”, and that’s just the start of the b-side! Elsewhere, I’m reminded of the fall-apart skronk of Total Shutdown, the deconstructed anti-blues of fellow Chicagoans US Maple, and the last Erase Errata album before they reformed (Leg Toucher sometimes feels like ugly no-wave growing into tuneful post-grunge guitar-rock ala The Gits or Seaweed). I bet Toupée used to go see The Coughs when they’d play around town, and perhaps they took that sort of unpretentious Tazmanian Devil approach and applied it to a larger set of musical skills. I am dying to know what Toupée look like, as their music doesn’t clearly signify any sort of visual stereotype – guess I’ll have to wait until they come to my town to find out if they have dreads or beards or mohawks or what.

Violence Creeps I’m Broke / Gridlock 7″ flexi (Degenerate)
Stapled to the inside of the strangely cool Degenerate fanzine, issue #16, was a red one-sided Violence Creeps flexi. If you’re having trouble moving copies of your fanzine, might I suggest that you include the same? Anyway, this delightful treat went right on my turntable and I was immediately greeted with “I’m Broke”, a gnarly Flipper-ish ballad played on 45 (am I picking up a slight Black Fork vibe as well?), the sort of song that oozes such pure human frustration that even the Koch brothers would approve of its passion on some level. “Gridlock” is another one of modern life’s failures brought into the spotlight by the Violence Creeps, similar in rhythm but with a little more fire in its belly, perhaps because being stuck in gridlock is even worse than being broke. Violence Creeps are truth-tellers, and it would do us all well to listen and listen intently.

Beau Wanzer Untitled 12″ (no label)
Ah, a fresh delivery of Beau Wanzer tracks, this one coming on presumably the same unnamed label as his album, complete with the same illustration of Freddy Krueger on a first date on the center sticker (maybe this is the official Beau Wanzer logo?). Four tracks here, and they are cool, exploring some different and exciting corners of the electronic underground. It opens with “Beefhearts”, four minutes of wobbly rave beats, intermittent bass throb and a delightfully homemade “haunted house rave” vibe. That shifts to a queasy synth equation titled “Drew Is A Dogeater” that sounds like something off the M Squared boxset, with the sense that the music keeps trying to hit an acid-house groove only to be rejected at the net by Wanzer’s stiff fingers. Flip it for “Seedless Grins”, which seems to sample the overloaded ambiance of air travel and lay it under a pill-popping trance loop; very nice! The final track title “Beaches Of Leeches” sounds like it should be a Kevin Drumm / Wolf Eyes collaboration and I guess it kinda could be, looping what seems to be someone calling for help from inside a locked metal safe into a groove that L.I.E.S. probably wish they owned the publishing on. Beautiful EP all around, and if you haven’t checked out Beau Wanzer yet, I have to wonder why not?

Peter J. Woods Impure Gold Pt. II LP (FTAM)
I reviewed Impure Gold Pt. I in these very pages last year, and it’s nice to see that noise artist Peter J. Woods is continuing forward, in the face of what must surely be a whole lot of indifference. His is not an easy music to enjoy, that’s for sure. The a-side “Skin And Movement” is full of dead air, white noise not unlike a window fan and spoken word that comes through so softly, I can’t help but assume Woods is setting me up to put my ear close to the speaker, only to blare an air-horn at me just when I thought I was safe. Occasionally the static flips on and off like you’re going through the channels on a TV with no reception, but ultimately this track falls in the Billy Bao / Francisco López realm of sustained un-pleasurable listening. The b-side continues with the sustained static for a minute or two before a subtle heartbeat and singular piano note usher in a slight variation on the monotonous blankness that colors Woods’ work. That continues with varying levels of grey static until the closing track takes over, which sounds like Woods attempting to open a particularly well-sealed bag of chips while a heart monitor confirms his pulse. I’m not sure that this record would appeal to any of the Yellow Green Red audience, but if it appeals to you, please get in touch, as you’re probably the type of weirdo I’m looking to correspond with.

Reviews – August 2015

Ausmuteants / Housewives split 7″ (Total Punks)
Leave it to Total Punk to give the split 7″ format a worthy go, pulling it from certain obsolescence and placing it in the hands of these two bug-eyed Aussie punk bands. And of all things, these groups put a fresh spin on the split, with each band writing a song for the other to also perform, sharing the chords and lyrics. It’s like remixing the way nature originally intended! I don’t know which band wrote “Brown Out” and “I Wanna Sedate You”, but on Ausmuteants’ side, they rip some silly keys and pubescent male vocals into a frenzy, like Dow Jones & The Industrials if they acknowledged the Ramones. Housewives are notably heavier (come to think of it, does anyone play bass in Ausmuteants?) and slightly more generic because of it; pretty solid, but easily mistakable for Constant Mongrel or Bits Of Shit if you aren’t already a sharp-eared fan. Cool concept and execution all around, though, and I would like to extend the most impossible of challenges to Total Punk: release a great split 10″. I dare you!

Broken Talent Rules No One LP (Florida’s Dead)
Much like its general population, Florida’s punk rock contingent has always been uniquely strange. It’s like they figure out at an earlier age than the rest of us that life is full of despair and meaningless car crashes, either that or they inebriate themselves hard enough as to ignore this truth. Anyway, Broken Talent are a particularly peculiar chapter in Florida’s punk history, with only a couple tapes and a 7″ to their name until this retrospective vinyl LP. They’re dubbed “Florida’s answer to Flipper”, and while it may be more overt than most comparisons, seeing as they clearly acknowledge their love of Flipper in the detailed (and highly entertaining) liner notes, it’s a fitting one. So often, bands compared to Flipper get the noisy damage right, but ignore Flipper’s inherent pop core; Flipper were clearly trying to write sunshiney pop anthems, just in their own nihilistic way. These songs fall somewhere between Flipper and The Penetrators (it’s the hummable garage-based ineptitude), resulting in an authentic dose of outsider goofball-punk with spoken vocals, live show antagonism and a general disgust for their immediate surroundings. I had never heard of Broken Talent before this LP, and now I can’t picture life without them.

Chaos Echoes Transient 2xLP (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Checked out Chaos Echoes on a whim, as you probably know that I’m not an ardent Nuclear War Now! subscriber (although I am a big fan of many of their releases). Anyway, this is some “experimental” French black-metal / death-metal group, and to my ears, it’s very nearly the best possible result of what such a genre designation could imply! It’s a sprawling album, but never dull, shifting coyly while maintaining a bleak atmosphere and oppressive sonic themes throughout. The guitars are almost constantly at full-throttle black-metal speed, but the drums are often not there at all, resulting in this feeling of heavy weightlessness, like floating a few hundred feet deep in the ocean. You’re impervious to gravity but your chest is about to cave in, you know? Anyway, they build it up for a while (the vocals don’t really show up until the third track!), transitioning into a meaty two-chord riff I’d expect out of Midnight or one of the simpler Pantera songs or something. It all spirals from there (excellent use of strings, drones, ambient horror, etc.), until the 4th side turns into what I’d imagine The Psychic Paramount would sound like if they tried their hands at death-metal (which absolutely annihilates, I should clarify). I don’t listen to enough experimental black-metal to confirm that Transient is a masterpiece, but I can confidently proclaim that it’s one of the best guitar-based albums I’ve heard this year.

Lucy Cliché Drain Down 12″ (Noise In My Head)
The name Lucy Cliché might ring a bell, as she was one of the two founders of Naked On The Vague, interviewed in these very pages some years ago. Like nearly every experimental punk person I know, she’s gone techno now too, operating under the Lucy Cliché moniker as the name “Lucy” is already in use by some Euro techno dude (as are most female first names these days). While Naked On The Vague initially reveled in their amateur musicality (they taped down Casio keys and awkwardly strummed guitars like no other), Cliché seems quite adept at making muscular and squirming acid-techno / electro from the very start. These four tracks thump with passion, like Profligate with sunglasses on, or perhaps something recent on the Diagonal label were it layered and calculated as opposed to live and free-flowing. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of these tracks, both in the kitchen and in the comfort of my personal lounge, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my enjoyment of Drain Down extends to the dance-floor someday. It’s a natural progression.

Drab Majesty Careless LP (Dais)
It’s about time that a sexy clown entered the gothy synth-pop foray, so here’s LA’s Drab Majesty. It’s the solo project of Andrew Clinco, of alt-rockers Marriages fame(?), but he goes by Deb Demure here, guitar strapped-on and folding table of gear neatly laid out. I have yet to see Drab Majesty perform, but unless the live show involves fire-dancers and a 3D video installation, it’s hard to hear this as anything but another good-not-great take on The Cure with Minimal Wave compilation overtones. Think of a more ethereal, guitar-based Cold Cave, or a calm and restrained John Maus giving you a guided tour of The Crow OST and you’re close to what Drab Majesty is serving. I generally like it, although I’m a handful of listens in and have yet to recall any particular track or musical motif a couple hours later (okay, “The Heiress” on the b-side is pretty catchy). The center stickers are some of the best-designed center stickers I’ve seen in a while, though, and while that is certainly admirable of Dais (I hope they won’t be pissed if I eventually steal their concept here), if your center stickers are more attention-grabbing than your music, it might be time to spend less time at Sephora and more time attempting to craft unforgettable goth-pop anthems.

Golden Pelicans Oldest Ride Longest Line LP (Total Punk)
Following last year’s self-titled debut album, Golden Pelicans are back with more beaten-up garage-punk paeans and cool hand-drawn, tattoo-style cover art. Essentially nothing has changed since Golden Pelicans checked in last, their songs still pumping like New Bomb Turks on cruise control or Dogs’ “Slash Your Face” after downing a sixer. Great tunes, but I think Golden Pelicans’ greatness comes from their vocalist Erik Grincewicz, who sounds like John Reis performing AC/DC karaoke (and winning the cash prize). Grincewicz could be reading off Fox News transcripts in lieu of actual lyrics and I’d still find him to be a charmingly mean authority figure, like your first boss at the feed mill who taught you what hard work was really all about. Have the rest of these garage-punk bands ever laid blacktop? Probably not.

Green Gums Black Tongue EP 12″ (Diagonal)
I always try to keep one eye on the Diagonal label at all times, as Powell’s taste aligns with mine more often than not and he’s always a few steps ahead of the pack. I dug the two Bronze Teeth 12″s that came out last year, and now here’s Green Gums, which is either the solo project of Bronze Teeth’s Dominic Butler or just another alias for Bronze Teeth entirely – I leave it up to you to unlock the mystery. Anyway, this one is pretty much in line with Bronze Teeth’s style, which is to say unrelenting acid-techno warm-ups full of sweaty-browed rigor and subtle manipulation. I dig this stuff for sure, but something about Black Tongue feels less like a well-planned sonic venture and more like someone messing around with cool synthesizers and drum machines in their basement while you sit and watch, waiting to take a turn yourself. If I’m not mistaken, opener “Zozomono” is just one acid arpeggio slowly and confidently tweaked – one could easily check their phone with one hand and twist a knob with the other to create a track like this, I have to assume. I prefer the oily pads and cracked-out flutter of “Dag”, and whereas “Cestoda’s Labyrinth” finds some percussive restraint around its central loop, it’s “Tap Dancing Goat Man” that comes out on top for me, some sort of electronic squid pumping digital ink in a way that recalls Actress’s earliest Honest Jon’s material (as if the title “Tap Dancing Goat Man” didn’t already solidify the track’s top-dog status). Cool stuff, but a highly casual affair, the sort of thing these Diagonal folks could knock out in an extended evening (and probably did). If I knew how, I probably would too.

Helm Olympic Mess 2xLP (Pan)
After chatting with Luke Younger (aka Helm) last month, I was quite excited to hear Olympic Mess, and now that I’ve grown accustomed to its strange fruit, I’d like to tell you about it. Younger has been using Helm to broadcast all sorts of painful, funny, inexplicable and irritating sounds, from power-electronics to the sound of wood crackling in a fire and everything in-between (both natural and supernatural). He’s always had a knack for storytelling with his avant noise, but on Olympic Mess he takes a step in a new direction, queuing up a variety of synthesized and near-pop sounds for a trip through his grinder. Most of the tracks are loop-based and progress subtly over time, calling to mind the most troubling Pop Ambient compilation there could ever be. Helm’s music soothes as it irritates, layering lush ambiance and disorienting hiss into a sweater that is fantastically warm yet madly itchy. The inclusion of “Strawberry Chapstick” is the biggest outlier, a whispered spoken-work track that feels like Graham Lambkin reading the diary of an obsessive Iceage fan. But all in all, it’s like Helm wants to make sure you get some sand in your sneakers while enjoying a beautiful day at the beach, and I for one and happy to take his holiday.

Institute Catharsis LP (Sacred Bones)
Had no idea that Institute’s debut album would be the record I listen to most this summer thus far, but I guess that’s also part of the reason some people are crazy about sports: you never know what’s going to happen. I thought this band had some cool singles, and I dug their name, as well as their crass attitude toward borrowing riffs off classic punk obscurities, but yeah, I just can’t stop spinning this one. It’s just got exactly what I want to hear: simplistic punk riffs that verge on kraut-rock if it weren’t for the fact that the last few notes are usually sour, unhinged vocal moaning that registers some Madonna-grade British accent, guitars that are loud but not too loud, and songs that seem to be held together by the same glue Mad Nanna use. I could put this on at a respectable house party and no one would notice that vocalist Moses Brown’s been groaning for the past twenty minutes, or that the song seems to be stuck in an infinite loop. It’s like a punker, nihilistic version of Eddy Current, if Eddy Current weren’t all such teddy-bears and instead took the teachings of Doc Dart seriously. Love it!

KAG//TFX Fugue 7 7″ (Perennial)
KAG stands for Katie Alice Greer (supreme vocalist of Priests, niece of David Allan Greer) and the TFX stands for TransFX, the electronic dance project of someone from Gag or the Perennial label itself (the mystery is almost alluring enough for me to properly research). Anyway, this is a weird one, a double A-sided single in that both sides have the exact same song, which is actually called “Trim”. It’s pretty cool – Greer leaves her bile acid in DC and sings softly and confidently, like a VHS tape that compiles Madonna and Deborah Harry’s Saturday morning cable-access dance show performances from 1982 mixed with Amy Dykes of the unfortunately-named I Am The World Trade Center. The music is suitably present-but-distant, like a song you vaguely remember hearing before, and Greer captivates along with it. Now if only they would’ve gone ahead and recorded more than one damn song.

Male Patterns Thinking Too Much EP 7″ (Shock To The System)
Sadly, the only pattern human males are famous for is baldness, but Male Patterns find some sort of solace in their defeat, even if their general outlook is fairly bleak. On this six-song EP, they request to be killed, question if they deserve to live, get annoyed by poseurs, feel tired, notice that other people don’t like them, and once again reflect on their exhaustion and general malaise. All in a day’s work! The music calls to mind early ’00s hardcore punk like Caustic Christ or Tear It Up, with essentially no mosh parts or breakdowns, just straight-forward speedy riffing, gruff-but-intelligible vocals and just a splash of guitar wankery (closer on the dial to Turbonegro’s leads than Greg Ginn’s). Ultimately a pretty forgettable record for a guy like me who lives states away and has heard this sort of thing done many times before, but it’s surely meaningful to grumbly old punks in Albany and its bordering suburbs, a fact that I have no interest in diminishing. Male Patterns are surely meaningful to some, I’m just not one of them.

The Minneapolis Uranium Club Band Human Exploration LP (Fashionable Idiots)
I’ll hand it to this band, as the simple act of looking at their record and playing it was more confusing than my first time navigating the subway alone. They’re called The Minneapolis Uranium Club Band (or maybe it’s just Minneapolis Uranium Club in reality), which doesn’t really seem like a real band name, what with various references to the Sunbelt Chemicals Corporation and center stickers for a band called Pencil and their album Not Pen!, which of course is an intentional mistake. And I thought navigating Fucked Up’s fictional universe was exhausting! Anyway, I’m sure they would delight in my exasperation, but I don’t really mind either, considering their music is pretty fantastic. They’re like a 50/50 split of Wire circa Pink Flag and Angry Samoans circa Inside My Brain. The guitars are taut and sharp, the songs straight-forward and simple, the vocals snotty and obtuse, and it works exceptionally well. They’ll cruise in an Eddy Current-esque holding pattern and then bust out a stompy groove like “The Misadventures Of Prissy Chrissie”, which might be my favorite track on the record. It’s a nice example of classic punk tropes with a modern scrubbing, and if I can ever figure out the secret handshake, you might catch me at the next Minneapolis Uranium Club tricky tray beef n’ brew.

Kassem Mosse & Simone White Three Versions 12″ (Honest Jon’s)
This collaboration between German techno purist Kassem Mosse and American blues/folk singer Simone White is not the sort of pairing you’d expect, but leave it to the good folks at Honest Jon’s to make it happen. White has a few releases on Honest Jon’s under her belt and I’m sure Mosse has at least a remix or two, and now here they are together for an intimate suite of elastic analog techno and soft, shadowy vocals. I’m reminded of the fractured electronic and spoken-word mashup of AGF, particular in the way White’s voice is so hushed and direct, like her lyrics are all secrets whispered in your ear. Unlike AGF, though, Mosse is eager to lock into a rhythm, be it the chill-out house of “Flowers In May” or the ethereal and percussive “In The Water Where The City Ends”. Unless I’m missing something, White is absent from “Long Moon”, in which jingle bells are peppered onto one of Mosse’s trademark stutter-step grooves, not unlike cocoa hitting hot milk. I get the impression this was a fleeting partnership, as though they are two strangers having a perfectly intimate conversation at a bar and never seeing each other again, but I can only hope this is merely the beginning and not also the end.

Move D & DJ Jus-Ed Brother’s EP 2×12″ (Underground Quality)
Feeling kinda foolish for not checking out Move D more often, as every time I do, I am reminded of his fascinating take on house – for music that can be entirely electronic, his always feels so vibrant and alive. Teamed up here with the underground legend DJ Jus-Ed, this EP offers four fantastic tracks of lively, party-patrolling dance music. Opener “Acid Grind” is almost like watching a DVD with the commentary on, as Jus-Ed and Move D discuss the origins of acid, pump each other up and talk shop over an infectious acid groove. “From Bridgeport To Heidelberg” is a first-class flight where you are seated between Theo Parrish and Guy Gerber with complimentary champagne, and then “Hustler Suite” brings back the color commentary over a nocturnal tech-house excursion. My favorite is “It’s A Struggle”, though, a track that has been kicking around for a few years and finally given the vinyl treatment. It utilizes a plaintive acoustic guitar loop and the title repeated like a mantra, like a beautiful blooming flower you can dance to. A lot of ground is covered on these four tracks, all of which I desperately need more of in my life. Not a cheap record (I think it’s over thirty dollars at any reputable American distro), but Brother’s is better than any dinner out you’ll have this week, I guarantee.

Mystic Inane Ode To Joy 7″ (Negative Jazz)
If you catch me on a bad day, I might bemoan the severe conformity that seems to have taken over hardcore-punk in 2015 – sure, bands are emulating classic 1982 hardcore and 1984 post-punk goth with stunning accuracy, but historical accuracy can be dreadfully boring! This is why I’m glad that bands like Mystic Inane exist, as they certainly could fit right in on P.E.A.C.E. or some other classic hardcore comp, but they have a unique style all their own, particularly due to their songwriting. Take “Ode To Joy” for instance – it kicks off with a Crazy Spirit / Dawn Of Humans pogo, sans vocals, and then after a minute or two cuts into this strangely moshable breakdown, where the vocalist repeats a word that sounds like “visa” over and over until it eventually disintegrates. Who came up with this? Oh to be a fly on the wall during a Mystic Inane songwriting session. “Pervert In Society” and “Grease Inna Hair” follow on the flip, sounding like Priests if they lived at ABC No Rio in 1986 (is that an actual tuneful guitar line I’m hearing in “Grease”?), each with unintuitive vocal flows and peculiar intent. I dunno about you, but I’m dying for a Mystic Inane album, because if there’s any band today who can really pull apart the “hardcore punk album” concept into something new and wonderfully unappealing, it’s these folks right here.

Nocht The Only Ghouls Zodiac Chord LP (Vwyrd Wurd)
Quite vwyrd indeed, Nocht The Only Ghouls are back with their second vinyl album, this one packaged in a color fold-out poster so giant it could conceal an entire Volkswagen Jetta. You probably didn’t catch their first album (limited to one hundred copies I believe, with most presumably residing in Pennsylvania), but it was a strange slice of dust-covered acoustic guitar music with the constant fear of black metal impending at any time – the musical equivalent of an early scene in a horror movie where a child is playing in the attic and a doll flings off an old rocking chair, but that’s all that happens. Same deal more or less for Zodiac Chord, comprised of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, occasional banjo and the inherent sound of the rooms they were recorded in. It’s simple enough, but something about the whole project seems disturbed on a level I can’t place… perhaps this is all a grave warning that I can’t decipher. Kind of Jandek-ian in that way, but then again, it’s really just guitar. Comes with a few strange typed-up stories too, one that starts with the line “It was Herman Ratzel who invented dentistry” and goes from there. I’d say this one is for true freaks only, but your parents actually might like it too. It’s that sinister.

Ravi Shavi Ravi Shavi LP (Almost Ready)
Throwback garage-rock isn’t often something I crave, but when it’s done right, it’s an undeniable testament to the perpetuity of the electric guitar, as is the case with Ravi Shavi and their debut LP. First, you need a strong vocalist, and they’ve got that in bandleader Rafay Rashid, who conjures both Arthur Brown and Ian Svenonius in his sassy, demented squeals, convincing not just the front row but the back of the house to fall in love with him. The band is quite good as well, tightly executing these fairly traditional garage-rock tunes, seemingly uninterested in the punk that followed a decade later and keeping it strictly for the sock-hop crowd, albeit the hottest, most sexually liberated sock-hop around. I dunno, I’m not reaching for Ravi Shavi too often, but each time I do I can’t help but remark at how skillful and enjoyable this group is, poodle skirts be damned.

Secret Lover Secret Lover LP (Sister Cylinder)
With an appealing skull painted on the cover, cool band name and cool shot of the band hanging out against a wall (they look like Monotonix cleaned up for a first date), Secret Lover already endeared themselves to me. A few listens into their self-titled album, though, and I’m still trying to figure out what happened. They look like rockers with plenty of hair to bang around, but they play these soft, slow-dance power-pop songs, although there doesn’t seem to be much power in the equation. It’s like a garage band that plays the prom, fronted by Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, forced into only playing the slow jams. The lyrics have a cool brokenhearted distance that I enjoy (you can tell they are truly feeling the title “Sometimes My Wine Becomes My Lover”), but ultimately I don’t find much appeal in the songs themselves. They’re just too slow and somber, and built upon the same “Blue Moon” / “Heart And Soul” variety of hooks that I pretty much never need to hear again. I hate to insult a band with as many cool-looking slobs in it as this one, though, and can only wish them the best of luck as I slowly walk backward to the exit.

Sigha Techno Derivatives 12″ (Avian)
Okay, so Sigha was always one of those perfectly fine second- or third-tier avant-techno dudes in my book, the sort of producer that does a commendable job of fitting with the popular underground sound without really making any sort of unique statement, but I have to say, he’s winning me over big with Techno Derivatives. I mean, come on, that title! It’s making me want to do an album called Redundant Punk Rock or Grindcore Facsimiles. I assume he means it more in a way of stripping down techno to its basic necessities, like a car engine disembodied and running on cinderblocks, but I love the idea of calling one’s own music derivative right off the bat. Especially since it’s not necessarily true here… these tracks certainly fit in with the Downwards order of the day, but they are so limited, repetitive and inappropriate for dancing that I find myself slowly enamored, like I’m listening to the opening bars of a Female track from 2004 removed of any bass and trapped in a loop. “04″ might be my favorite, as it reminds me of the run-out groove on a Test Dept record, short upward slaps of static that fluctuate in power and precision with a whooping alarm that never quite gets to belt out its siren. Thumbs up!

Sightings Amusers And Puzzlers LP (Dais)
When word came through of Sightings calling it quits, I can’t say I was surprised, but that doesn’t mean it lessened the blow. The past fifteen years or so have been made so much richer due to their existence, this NY band who took the no-wave ethos to previously unexplored territory, starting by imploding garage-rock on itself and quickly moving to more alien terrains. Just look at the various labels that released their records and it’s like a list of the best experimental-rock imprints of the current millennium. Anyway, Amusers And Puzzlers is their final album, recorded around the same time as 2013′s Terribly Well, and it’s a fine way to go out, sort of integrating all their various sonic avenues into one tidy album. Richard Hoffman fiercely transmits other-dimensional morse code via his bass, Jon Lockie triggers sonic booby-traps with his drumming and Mark Morgan scrapes the unnatural out of his guitar while howling, yowling and growling his abstract lyrics. No one does it like Sightings, before or since, and along with my memories of their live shows and previous albums, I will cherish Amusers And Puzzlers.

Small Wigs New Wig / Hangdog 7″ (Mock)
Small Wigs features the brothers Kuehn (Elvis and Max, sons of T.S.O.L. keyboardist Greg Kuehn), whose work in the group FIDLAR has caused many a parent grief over the past couple years. Judging from FIDLAR’s touring schedule, this is the side project, rounded out by Mikki Itzigsohn (talk about an easily-Googled name) on bass and “vox”. These two songs exemplify the good-time party-rock of the ’10s, the sort of thing you expect to hear at a Burger Records showcase while a pizza-eating contest rages on in the parking lot. Small Wigs avoid the lo-fi pitfall by offering a slick recording that aids these two tracks, proving you don’t always have to hide your sun-kissed garage-pop under a dark veil of GarageBand hiss. A little slide guitar tastefully sneaks its way onto “Hangdog” too, which is probably named after the food truck they all meet up at before going skating. Oh, to be young again!

Snäggletooth Snäggletooth 7″ (4490)
Punk has always celebrated physical traits that the mainstream tried to scrub clean, from GBH’s stellar acne to this modern British band called Snäggletooth. As the punk leather jacket on the cover seems to imply, they’re certainly interested in the classic ’77 punk style and how it crossed over into the hard rock of the ’80s. They open with a cock-rock instrumental intro, and go right into some solidly basic British-sounding hardcore-punk. I’m reminded of a more metallic Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys, particularly in the vocals. Lots of stadium-sized guitar ring-outs, punched-in solos and wild drumming, all of which helps provide Snäggletooth a nice swatch of denim to compliment their black leather and red tartan. They definitely carry the vibe where I’d expect to see their name on a flyer for a ten-band punk rock barbeque with a colorful cartoon punk-guy illustration yelling “punk’s not dead!” – you know the scene I’m talking about, but if I happened to hear Snäggletooth as I walked by, I might be tempted to stop in, and not just for the corn on the cob.

State Champion Fantasy Error LP (Sophomore Lounge)
The Sophomore Lounge label seems to have no defining aesthetic beyond what they happen to fancy at any given moment. It’s a business practice that I personally appreciate, but I can’t help but feel like State Champion is the Sophomore Lounge house band – at least one member of the band helps run the label, and they’ve done a number of records together, building up to Fantasy Error, the Champ’s third(?) full-length. Gotta say, they really nail what they’re going for here, an easy-listening, well-worn rock album with the heavy influences of country and slacker-indie coming to blows and leaving as friends. It squares off somewhere between Pavement, Wilco and Calexico, with a focus on personal and inventive lyricism (each song has enough lyrics to fill a chapter in a book) and comfortable hooks. Kind of crazy to realize that “No Pleasure” is over seven minutes long, the way it breezes in the room and drops its friendly hook on the couch. When I play this record, it’s like I’m walking into a bar and the whole band turns their heads and smiles at me simultaneously, calling me over to their table and picking up my first round. Time flies when State Champion are hanging out just shooting the shit, what can I say?

Terveet Kädet Lapin Helvetti LP (SPHC)
SPHC steps up for the North American pressing of Terveet Kädet’s fourteenth album, Lapin Helvetti. They might be the longest continually-running hardcore band at this point, pushing through every decade of the genre’s existence with thrashing speed and a firm belief in the “louder, faster, shorter” hardcore ethos. Kind of amazing, really, to witness this band rage forward with dreadlocks attached to their heads that are probably as old as some of you reading this right now. I’m no deeply informed historian of the group, but I’ve heard enough Kädet in my day to know that this new album leans a little closer to metal than previous outings, particularly in the guitar picking and overall production. There’s plenty of jud jud-ing on the guitars alongside the occasional Motörhead-ish chord progression and Läjä Äijälä’s rapid-fire vocal bursts. Definitely not one of the more exciting hardcore albums I’ve heard this year, but if you keep in mind that this group have probably written at least 500 hardcore songs in their day, it’s a boggling human achievement that may never be surpassed.

Tropical Trash UFO Rot LP (Load)
After a few singles displaying their slippery form of hardcore-punk, Tropical Trash are promoted to the Load Records camp, and for good reason. They demonstrate their style here with gusto, strutting through simplistic and monotonous punk that seems equally indebted to late ’70s no-wave and early ’90s noise-rock. This basically means that they’re a perfect fit for Load, recalling the label’s earliest days as a twisted strand of garage-punk, as many of the songs here recall the glory of Thee Hydrogen Terrors or the rock-based Six Finger Satellite records. While the drums seem to emanate from a windowless basement (maybe it’s just the constant open hi-hat that gives off this prisoner vibe), the recording’s clarity is on the right side of audible and you can even make out some lyrics here and there. Seven hefty and upbeat blasts await you on the a-side, and two deliberately extended pieces are lurking on the flip (think Crash Worship without the fire-dancing on “Knowing” and Landed without the fire-wearing on “Pink Sweat”). Cool!

Vaaska Todos Contra Todos LP (Beach Impediment)
A nice group of punk skeletons greets us on the cover here: one guy’s barfing while brandishing a hunting knife; another has a large pair of hedge clippers; someone’s got an automatic rifle and they all have impossibly-soft heads of spiky hair, perhaps the only freshly-shampooed punk skeletons in history. A different barfing skeleton in a leather jacket (this one has a mohawk) brings us the song titles on the back. I love punk. Anyway, Vaaska always seemed second-tier when it came to the vibrant and diverse Austin hardcore scene – solid stuff, but ultimately nothing too memorable. I still mostly feel that way, although Todos Contra Todos is my favorite thing I’ve heard from them yet. The recording is solid and powerful without coming across too clean, the vocals nicely set into the mix, and the riffs are simpler (and thus more effective). I wouldn’t hesitate to play “Policia Policia” if I was doing a hardcore-punk radio show somewhere, but as the entire album goes, it sounds great but kinda blends after a while and doesn’t stick to my ribs the way I’d like. Some damn fine punk skeletons they’ve got here, though. They should get their own show.

Violence Creeps On My Turf 7″ (Veecee)
I know, you’re probably expecting me to tell you about some new band featuring members of Warthog, Ajax and Ivy playing ’82 UKHC or something, but Violence Creeps are going to surprise you! Sure, they’re unflinchingly angry and ready to push you off a balcony, but they do so with these strangely post-punk-inflected hardcore tunes. Imagine The Door And The Window pretending to be Red Alert for Halloween, members of The Yah Mos and FYP forming a new band over a shared love of Madball, or Bad Daddies infatuated by the earliest Rough Trade singles and you’re somewhat near the amateurish majesty of Violence Creeps. Plus, something about the black and red cover art and the construction paper they’re printed on has me dreaming of Touch & Go releases #1 and #2. “On My Turf” is the slow-pitting standout on here, although all three tracks chomp flesh and spit gristle. If you disagree with me and decide to mess with a band called Violence Creeps, well, that’s on you.

The Warden The Warden 7″ (Lumpy)
Picked up this 7″ by The Warden from the Lumpy BigCartel last month without the slightest clue. From checking out the cover art and knowing Lumpy Records’ interest in bands who create and inhabit unique fictional worlds, I was hoping this was supposed to be a band based around an evil prison warden, with the songs written from his perspective. Would’ve been a cool idea, but instead, The Warden are a fairly regular (but good) thrashy hardcore band, making use of all the tempos faster than mid-paced – you’ll get a Lack Of Interest-y blast-beat or three, some hectic 97a / No Comment-ish time changes, a touch of Poison Idea’s steamroller rage and plenty of hard mosh territory, all with snarling vocals that reside in the middle of the mix. Eight songs on this EP, all of which seem ripe for a split with MK Ultra or Pretentious Assholes or some other gnarly Midwestern hardcore-grind band from the late ’90s. The Warden should be proud of themselves.

Zadig Kern Space Adventures Episode #2 12″ (Syncrophone Recordings)
Not sure how I stumbled upon Parisian DJ and producer Zadig, but I sure am glad I did. First of all, he looks like a real-life version of The Ghost Of Christmas Past (just Google him and be amazed by his ancient eyebrows), and secondly, his simplistic, repetitive techno continually hits my sweet spot. This recent 12″ in particular has proven to be something I can’t stop listening to, even if there’s nothing exceptional about it. It’s as though most other producers are at the ice rink, skating around the oval in a counterclockwise loop, but Zadig is a pro, gliding effortlessly and turning his body in such as way as though he seems to levitate. A-side “Quiet Orbit Around Gladia” unfolds like a Calathea flower, the way in which the music seems to progress without actually really changing at all. “Hunted By The Cosmic Assassin” has a little more of the Drexciyan flavor the title might imply, but it’s just as soothing and appreciated as an ice cube in your drink. Cheers, Zadig!