Reviews – July 2015

Dave Arvedon The Best Of Dave Arvedon Vol. 2 LP (Mighty Mouth)
It seems wrong, listening to the second volume of a best-of collection without ever experiencing the first, but in the case of Mr. Dave Arvedon, it feels so right! I initially assumed he was some famously obscure punk rocker who put some solo tunes together on the side, but upon further investigation that’s not quite the case – he was in a group called The Psychopaths who released one 7″ way back in 1967, and has been doing his own music ever since, continuing up until the present day, complete with a personal website that would make Geocities proud. Anyway, this collection is way more fun than I expected – it’s goofy, quirky, piano-driven and quickly memorable, somehow prophesizing the arrival of Billy Joel, DEVO, KISS and R. Stevie Moore before any of them started making music. He’ll do multiple vocal tracks just to stage an argument with himself, write a love song to a dog and pepper it with canned dog-bark sound effects, and while I probably just lost a lot of you on the idea of checking this out because of that (and the Billy Joel comparison), his unbridled corniness is the sort of thing I wish to celebrate, not dismiss. First time on vinyl for all of these tracks, and better late than never!

Black Panties Black Panties 7″ (Lumpy)
Figured I’d enjoy some extra-curricular activities while ordering the new C.C.T.V. EP (see below) so I picked up this Black Panties single too, just because. You never know when you’ll stumble upon something sublimely great in the Lumpy universe, and while I am now certain that this 7″ is not great, it’s still a pretty cool lo-fi garage-core (or perhaps garbage-core) EP. It’s all done by one man (or so the jumbled insert has led me to believe), and he boils up a sonic stew that I’d expect to find on the menu of Solid Sex Lovie Doll, Shattered or P. Trash. “Broken Brain” sounds like Downtown Boys covering Homostupids, as though it were misplaced from a Burning Hell Records boxset circa 2009. Still sounds good, just not so fresh, nor does it quite attain the level of uninhibited madness one needs to achieve to truly stand out in this genre. It’s another Lumpy record in my box though, and I intend to file it away with pride.

Blawan Warm Tonal Touch 12″ (Ternesc)
Hard to believe it’s really been three years or so since Blawan dropped the His He She & She EP, a monster of an EP that really set him apart from the crowd and surely increased the font-size of his name on festival posters the world over. I’ve been more than ready for this new four-track EP, and while it doesn’t melt my ears like the last one, it’s an excellent showing for one of dark techno’s most reliable sources. There’s a sense of refined simplicity at play through these four tracks, as if his DJ gigs in larger capacity rooms have informed his own productions. I don’t want to say these cuts are made for a lower common denominator, but there’s less abrasion, more perfectly tuned percussion swipes and an even fuller, healthier clarity to it all. It’s as if Blawan took his tracks to Crossfit before debuting their muscular new bodies, even if the hollow heaviness of the kick and chalkboard-scratch of the snare remain present. Another new Blawan EP is set to drop shortly (perhaps by the time this review is published), and I am already prepared, credit card in hand, to make that move.

Bummer’s Eve Fly On The Wall / Blue 7″ (Almost Ready)
Would love to hear Bummer’s Eve collaborate with Endless Bummer on a parody rendition of Will Smith’s classic “Summertime”, but until that day comes I am able to satisfy my Bummer’s Eve needs with this two-song EP. They play the form of poppy, soaking-wet garage-psych that Burger Records has built not just a label but a new sub-genre of hipster upon. You know the drill: straightforward drums with no fills, vocals submerged under a rainbow of effects, “Crimson And Clover” guitars smeared like a child’s watercolor painting. The first song is called “Fly On The Wall” but I swear they are just singing “yeahhhhhhh” for the chorus, and “Blue” picks up the tempo while essentially maintaining the same sonic consistency of the a-side. I suppose it’s pretty good – if HoZac were a baseball team, Bummer’s Eve would probably be batting second or third. It’s a minor league game, sure, but those are often way more stupid-fun than the MLB anyway.

C.C.T.V. C.C.T.V. 7″ (Lumpy)
This band is so good that I was willing to listen to them through Tumblr last year (the only means to hear C.C.T.V. beyond a tape compilation, and well, I guess I prefer Tumblr these days), the track “Mind Control” over and over again. Praise be, I ordered this 7″ the day it was put up for sale online (and amazingly received it like four days later), and it’s easily going to be one of the best things I hear this year. Let me explain: C.C.T.V. come equipped with the speedy oddball post-punk vibe of Seems Twice, the crazed paranoia of Systematics’ punker material, and the art-damaged queasiness of Pink Section or some other Bay Area new-wave punk freak-show that would’ve been released on Subterranean (and consequently reissued on Superior Viaduct). It’s that great! Clean-channel guitars, manic drumming, stream-of-consciousness vocalizing… C.C.T.V. feels like a recently-unearthed gem from 1979 that I’d pay $500 for, but instead they’re around today and the 7″ costs one-hundredth the price (as does a t-shirt if you mail in the back cover!). Fantastic, utterly essential punk music for your life and mine!

Chinese Girls A Two Album Set: “Pop Life” & “Of” 2xLP (Drawing Room)
The Drawing Room label has been an excellent source for skillful and mature post-rock / experimental / guitar-based creativity for a year or two now, and while I look forward to their releases, this one by Chinese Girls turned me off immediately. I mean seriously, Chinese Girls, these two white dudes from Little Rock, Arkansas wanna call themselves Chinese Girls? Apparently these two albums (recorded back in 2001 through 2003) are finally seeing the light of day now, but man, the whole trend of guys othering minorities through their band name is just so distasteful and stupid, I can’t give this record a fighting chance. I’m sure they are nice guys, and didn’t mean any harm or offense with the name, but that’s not enough for me to enjoy their band. Turns out it’s not much of an ethical dilemma for me anyway, as their music is decent but nothing special, fitting snugly between Eat Skull and Sic Alps in their early primes, clinging punk drumming to Flying Nun guitar chime and low-mixed vocals, with occasional forays into guitar experimentation and lengthy jams. It’s fine, but I don’t need one album by Chinese Girls, let alone two, and I kinda hope they’ve been able to reflect on the meaning that can come with band names like theirs in the fourteen-plus years since they came up with it, although I’m not gonna hold my breath. Most guys are stupid, after all.

Clocked Out Clocked Out LP (SuperFi / At War With False Noise / SPHC)
Here’s a hardcore record that takes me back… not to 1981 (I was a child), but to 1998, when I was playing Mario Kart and listening to dozens of hardcore compilation LPs in the background, such as No Royalties, America In Decline and El Guapo. Hopefully you pick up the vibe I’m putting down – power-violence hopefuls mixed with regional crust, oddball joke bands and gnarly hardcore that seemingly had no reason to exist (I’m looking at you, Potato Justice). I say this because Clocked Out sounds exactly like one of those bands, like they’d fit seamlessly on a mixtape with Remission, Nine Shocks Terror, Ulcer and Assfactor 4, offering fast / faster hardcore that verges into the occasional blast-beat or skankable groove, all with a tuneless one-note squawking vocalist who never dips below full-power. It’s not great, but it takes me back to when hardcore was not something to be ruthlessly self-promoted online, but the only meaningful outlet for escaping the doldrums of your high school (or whatever Clocked Out’s Scottish equivalent is – secondary school?).

Detached Objects Detached Objects LP (Gilgongo)
Detached Objects are a new rock band out of Arizona, their band member résumé boasting the likes of Avon Ladies, Gay Kiss, Soft Shoulder and others of whom I am unfamiliar. Detached Objects kinda sands down the rough hardcore edges and quirky noise of the aforementioned acts into something more mature and easier to digest. I’m hearing a looser Hot Snakes, slight hints of Wipers and Rocket From The Crypt, and a strong scent of the Sub Pop Singles Club circa 1993, ala The Fluid and Seaweed. Very workmanlike, well-played, forceful rock music that revisits both hardcore and grunge. This might sound like vague, faint praise because I suppose it is, as there isn’t a whole lot about Detached Objects that strikes me as exciting or original, but they do what they do nicely and if my sister were engaged one of these guys, I’d think to myself, “well, better than one of those troublemakers in FIDLAR.”

Femme En Fourrure Smell EP 10″ (Cocoa Music)
I was probably trawling through the netherworld of free techno music blogs when I stumbled upon Femme En Fourrure’s “Plump Bisquit” track a few years ago – tell me you aren’t going to download a track called “Plump Bisquit” if you see it! It’s a couple years later and I still think about this group far too often, so it was nice to give in and check out their newest record, a 10″ EP that is advertised online with an image of some sort of Resident Evil runway model / monster. Who could resist? Maybe their music has undergone a subtle shift in the years since “Plump Bisquit”, but this EP moves away from the punchy tech-house I was familiar with and closer to the sensual slow-motion trip-hop of Tri Angle circa 2012. I’m strongly reminded of witch-house and oOoOO (remember them?), the way that trap beats coincide with shoegazy synths and desperately erotic vocals. The fact that I can’t make out the specific language these songs are sung in (it’s probably English but I can’t say for sure) only adds to the mysterious sensuality. Definitely took me by surprise, but pleasantly so. Just try saying the word “Fourrure” out loud and see if you don’t feel a little sexier yourself.

Fleabite T.T.Y.L. 7″ (Puzzle Pieces)
Cool four-song debut from Boston’s Fleabite, an indie-pop band who transcend the genre by simply running the guitar through what must be a refrigerator-sized fuzz pedal. The hand-written band name in the middle of the cover had me subconsciously thinking about Vivian Girls (I even went back and checked the covers of the first two Vivian Girls albums, and while similar, Fleabite’s penmanship is far more sans serif), but Fleabite are far heavier – it’s like they put J Mascis’s guitar in pigtails and knee-socks, making it all happy and poppy but still an undeniable beast. The vocals recall Rose Melberg dipped in reverb and left to dry in the summer sun, and these four songs skip merrily down the lane, “Seconds” in particular being something I’d expect to find wrapped up in one of Tony Molina’s blunts. I bet Fleabite smoke weed too – they just seem like the kind of people who do such things.

Gas Chamber Stained Hand 7″ (SPHC)
Gas Chamber are one of those hardcore bands I’ve just never gotten. I’ve seen more than one person describe them as the best hardcore band today, with full understanding of the seriousness of that claim, and yet their records never grabbed me one way or another. Try as I might, they’re a band that goes over my head, which remains true on Stained Hand. I think the issue is that they are too technically proficient – the intro to “Stained Hand” sounds like Queensrÿche interpreting Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” for a couple minutes, and then turns into a flailing and heavy hardcore eruption, like Page 99 if they knew how to write a riff or two. There’s just too much going on for me, like I’m listening to the history of Guitar Center when all I want to really hear is Dawn Of Humans and Sockeye. Maybe if I knew how to play guitar, I’d appreciate Gas Chamber’s subtle tonal shifts and various tunings (and maybe even the flanged-out bass tone, too), but for now I’m just going to nod politely while Stained Hand plays and daydream of GG Allin getting hit in the nuts with a football.

Goatsnake Black Age Blues 2xLP (Southern Lord)
In case it’s not already clear, Goatsnake are one of my favorite bands – they released a few life-changing LPs and EPs around the turn of the millennium, of which I have kept in close possession ever since. They marry absurdly heavy guitar riffs with the sweet n’ tortured vocals of Pete Stahl, resulting in some sort of unholy combination of Black Sabbath and Warhorse’s musicality and Wino and Layne Staley’s vocals – yep, Goatsnake are that good! It’s crazy that it’s been fifteen years since their last album, particularly as these songs haven’t skipped a beat from where they left off on Flower Of Disease, coming through as righteously heavy and majestic as ever. On the first few spins, none of the tracks quite jump out to me as their earlier records did (Goatsnake write hit songs, not just collections of riffs, I should clarify), with the exception of “Elevated Man”. The addition of a gospel choir (or a close approximation of such) backing up Stahl on various tracks is a great and unexpected change, emphasizing the emotional soul that has always lurked beneath Goatsnake’s down-tuned guitars. Some of the songs get weirder than ever too, like a song about having breakfast with Elvis (?) and one lamenting the death of Jimi Hendrix. I appreciate their playfulness here though, clearly proceeding without anything to prove as they are already masters of their field. I’m gonna be riding out on Black Age Blues long into the sweltering summer and beyond, that’s for sure.

Innercity ABABABABABABAS (Blue Lion Child) LP (Further)
Listen, I don’t name the albums I review, I just talk about them, okay? Innercity is a new artist to me, but in my continued trust and support of the great Further Records label, I went ahead and grabbed this one. Innercity is the work of a guy named Hans Dens, and he’s been putting out a stream of releases for a few years now. On this one, Dens is joined by Bart De Paepe, working with guitar, violin, and presumably some form of supplemental electronic devices to create beautiful scenes of desolation. This music could accompany fast-motion video of hornets building their nest or an art-house film about the death of a cell-phone battery with equal success, as Innercity offer a sonic flavor that supports both techno-paranoia and nature’s organic mysteries. It’s infrequent that I even recognize the sounds of guitars or violins here, but I know they’re there, lurking underneath the brown water somewhere, like a wretched eel or some old rusty bike just waiting to scrape your shins. Another attractive entry in the Further family!

Nicolas Jaar Nymphs II 12″ (Other People)
With the apparent and much-too-soon dissolution of Darkside, I’ve been waiting on some new Nicolas Jaar to surface (that Pomegranates soundtrack was cool but seemed like more of a casual experiment than any sort of formal release), so it was nice to see this new two-track EP roll in. Jaar is a modern master of cool, either through keen manipulative intuition or dumb luck, and that continues through these two tracks, with metal-core-esque track titles like “The Three Sides Of Audrey And Why She’s All Alone Now” – you can practically see Jaar’s name in a distressed Converge font, can’t you? Anyway, these two tracks are what I’ve come to expect from Jaar: precisely muffled soundscapes, bizarrely-treated instruments and the constant delay of dropping the beat. On the a-side, the drum roll leading up to the beat is really all he ever shares, and the b-side is as delicate as the first time you heard your baby’s heartbeat in utero. The b-side in particular (“No One Is Looking At U”) gets kind of emo, Jaar’s vocals appearing as if they were Ben Gibbard’s apparition. I think I dig it, but something about Nymphs II feels as though Jaar has gotten a little too comfortable doing what is expected of him. He’s kept me guessing up until now, and I can’t help but hope that the incoming Nymphs III surprises more than this one.

Johns Grift Marks LP (Peterwalkee)
Johns have the sound of what many youthful punks grow into these days, evidenced by their debut album, Grift Marks. It sure beats the rockabilly retirement home that befell many in the ’90s! You can hear echoes of flailing, snotty punk in Johns’ sound, but they’ve mostly reigned it in, gotten a little darker and a little smarter, and found solace in classic downer punk like The Wipers and Dead Moon, while still keeping their Dillinger Four and Marked Men records as they purge the rest of their collection to help scrape together a down payment on a house just outside the city. Maybe a touch of AmRep or The Melvins (or Clockcleaner) in the mix too. They do a fine job mashing that all together into a sturdy record, with dual-tracked vocals, sharp drums and a set of songs that holds up stronger than many of the other bands plowing similar fields. Also, the vocalist is the only person actually named John in the band, a narcissistic act of which I wholeheartedly approve.

Kent State Samsara / Planetary Wounds 7″ (Debt Offensive)
The little promo-sheet for this Kent State 7″ promised a “Brainbombs meets Oasis” sound. That’s an intriguing musical car-wreck if there ever was one, so you can imagine my surprise when I put it on, only to hear some basic sugary emo-pop. Like seriously, you’re telling me that if you take the serial killer singer of Brainbombs and pair him with Liam Gallagher you’ll end up with Mineral or Sunny Day Real Estate? I guess the beauty of music is that we all hear things differently. Anyway, these two tracks are pretty decent if you are the type of person who carries their library books in a Polyvinyl tote bag. They’re softly fuzzy and chiming like the most upbeat Jazz June tunes with a one way ticket to Slumberland. Not bad at all, but can someone go and actually start that “Brainbombs meets Oasis” band now? The world is finally ready.

Laurice Best Of Laurice Vol. 2 LP (Mighty Mouth)
If you’ve read these pages for even a little bit, you’d know that I’m not big on reissues, and while I appreciate the Mighty Mouth / Almost Ready / Last Laugh empire for the hard work they put in, much of its output has very little meaning in my life. You can imagine me snickering when I opened the second volume of Best Of Laurice, ready to dismiss it as some unnecessary relic for obscurity’s sake, can’t you? Well, I feel a great amount of shame in admitting that, as this album of various previously-unreleased Laurice songs is a godsend – he’s already become my personal Lewis, as far as I’m concerned, and I almost don’t feel like sharing him with you! On this record, he apes T. Rex, The Velvets and David Bowie and occasionally surpasses their greatness, delivering unheard hit after hit with a casual cool that the rest of us will never attain. It’s almost scientific, like he unlocked the biological code to make “Baby Tomorrow” and “Dark Side Of Your Face” so instantly recognizable and dazzling, and I admire his clinical perfection. Bravo, Laurice! Gimme Volume 3!

Galcher Lustwerk Parlay 12″ (Lustwerk Music)
I’ve been counting the days until the two new Galcher Lustwerk 12″s dropped (and from what I can tell, only this one is actually available for purchase thus far), so the release of Parlay was a joyous occasion. It couldn’t have arrived any sooner, as there are plenty of summer nights ahead, the perfect setting for these dusky, dreamy house tracks to enter my consciousness. Pretty sure I’ve heard at least one of these tracks in his 100% Galcher mix (easily the best hour-long MP3 on my iPod), but it’s nice to have them as stand-alone cuts here. The title track kicks things off beautifully, with an unhurried house beat and two wavering synth notes, as fragile as Fabergé eggs and as emotional as your child’s graduation ceremony. Lustwerk eventually wakes up just long enough to murmur through his lyrics – he is so damn cool that he never even slightly raises his voice, letting everyone else get themselves worked up as he remains slouched against a velvet chaise, sunglasses and hat concealing his level of sobriety. The other tracks are nearly as fantastic (the EP ends with an instrumental cut of “Parlay”, but if you ask me his vocals are key to the experience), and his distinctive voice in underground dance music is further cemented. A+!

Marching Church This World Is Not Enough LP (Posh Isolation / Sacred Bones)
No matter how much the indie underground worships or hates Iceage and its bandleader Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, I just think they’re really quite great, okay? And not just because of their runway-readiness, because we all know they are one phone call away from becoming the new face of Dior. Anyway, Marching Church is Rønnenfelt’s vanity project (as if there wasn’t enough vanity in Iceage), and while I enjoyed the earlier 7″ that kinda sounded like a Marilyn Manson demo (or was that actually War/Var? It’s hard to recall), this new album is utterly fantastic, the perfect counterpart to Iceage’s brilliant Plowing Into The Fields Of Love. This World Is Not Enough is Rønnenfelt playing up his immortality, narcissism and hubris to exceed your average comic book villain, backed with these excellent live-band tracks that either plod forward like an early Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds rehearsal or slink into a groove that David Bowie would’ve purchased off Roxy Music (just try not to shimmy in your wingtips to “King Of Song”). Rønnenfelt still sounds like an industrial-goth Tim Armstrong, but his voice is far more versatile than I would’ve imagined, as I can’t picture anyone else singing these hilarious, twisted and occasionally vulnerable songs. Marching Church isn’t for everyone, I’m sure, but I can’t help but wonder where the people who aren’t digging it went wrong.

Night Vapor Night Vapor LP (Thunderhaus Ltd.)
Look at this Night Vapor album, a new and pleasant surprise from the Thunderhaus camp, which previously dropped Brown Angel and Microwaves records on us. All these bands feature the drumwork of one John Roman (and probably contain other band member overlap that I haven’t fully investigated), and I think this might be my favorite project of his in quite a while – this sort of belligerent, stumbling, heavy no-wave is right up my alley. I’m instantly reminded of US Maple and My Name Is Rar Rar by the bass-line rambling wildly, the guitar shucking and jiving on sour chords and the vocalist sounding as though he was just denied service from every bar in town, blathering to anyone in earshot. By all accounts, I should have already had my fill of this sort of music, but Night Vapor are really quite good at it; their sounds come from deep within the gut, not the nasal cavity, and that’s just how I like it. Hope they make it across the state sometime, I might even be willing to vape with them!

Pure Disgust Chained 7″ (Katorga Works / Quality Control HC)
It’s almost not even a decision to make anymore – if you are a hardcore band, you pick the closest Old English lettering you can find and boom, you’ve got your band logo and the song titles on the back cover straightened out. Am I the only one getting bored by this? Surely there is an option between like, standard Old English lettering and goofy, badly-drawn-on-purpose handwriting if you want to be a hardcore band in 2015? I digress – it’s not Pure Disgust’s fault, as they are just another band playing hardcore music and following the rules – my hate is directed to the game, not the player. These six songs are pretty cool – Riot City / No Future-tinged hardcore from DC, leaning closer to the tuneful buzzsaws of The Partisans or Angelic Upstarts than the thuggish static of Chaotic Dischord or Disorder. I’m reminded of 86 Mentality (right down to the vocals) or perhaps an even split of Battle Ruins and Ajax. They stand out in the lyrical department, which is nice, as they are actually writing about their own lives and giving a bit more reason to believe they are truly sick of society and the forces keeping them down, as opposed to their many contemporaries expressing similar sentiments. They put it all together nicely, leaving plenty of room for Fred Perry’d hardcore kids to stage-dive and punks to carelessly spill their beer. Time for Pure Disgust to tour with Priests and truly put DC back on the map, don’t you think?

Silver Shadows Silver Shadows 12″ (Gilgongo)
Silver Shadows are a San Francisco-based group, entering the fray with this one-sided 12″ EP. They play a shoegaze-inspired form of post-punk, not unlike Cocteau Twins, Lush and Siouxsie & The Banshees (or perhaps more accurately, not unlike a bunch of other bands playing today). Nothing about Silver Shadows’ debut strikes me as special, but that isn’t to say it’s not very good. The vocalist (I’d attribute the specific band member’s name but there’s no insert and their Facebook doesn’t connect names to instruments) has a beautiful siren call, darting in and out of the riffs like a dove released from the hands of a imprisoned lover, and the songs are mostly upbeat and driving while still staunchly maintaining that 4AD thousand-yard-stare. No big hits or dramatic moves, just more of that satisfying and modern post-Joy Division sound for anyone who is looking to fill some gaps between the Cold Showers and Warpaint records in their collection. No complaints from me, that’s for sure!

Snakepiss Arson 12″ (Chambray)
I caught wind of Snakepiss care of Actress’ DJ Kicks mix, and I’m glad I did, as Snakepiss (whose name sounds like some grotesque black metal project Arthur Rizk would produce) and his surrounding Chambray Records scene inhabit a cool little corner of Detroit. Chambray covers a decent amount of electronic ground, both for the club and those who listen at home, and Snakepiss himself is a good example of how one can stretch themselves while maintaining their own voice. Naturally, if Actress is repping it you know Snakepiss is bizarre, and while that’s true, these six tracks are easily digestible and memorable because of their strangeness, not in spite of it. “Set Fire To The Living” is a slow-burning 808 groove with an industrial supply of ambient sound and a menacing vocal, but my favorite is either “Our Love”, a darkly emotional banger that feels like the layover stop between Moodymann and Burial, or “Frig”, which stutter-steps a pitched-down vocal with a ticklishly descending bassline. The mix of basic electro drum programming and deep swells of narcotic motifs is really quite keen. Rest assured I’ll be keeping a close eye on both Snakepiss and Chambray Records from here on out!

Rodger Stella The Final Programme 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
These I Dischi Del Barone singles are always a treat. It might be the strangest 7″-based label around these days – I’m still scratching my head over that Idea Fire Company single, and Kostis Kilymis transports me to a new foreign locale with every spin of his. Now here’s one from one of the true pioneers (and personalities) of American noise, Macronympha’s Rodger Stella, and he stays true to his game. Jacked-up synth tones, trash compaction, sharp clusters of static hiss, radio interference and metal-on-metal collisions run these two sides of The Final Programme. It’s kind of what I expected, but also what I hoped for, as I love this sort of sonic mess, a big pile of mutated noise that can never be fully unraveled. Newcomers may want to check out Macronympha’s fantastic Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania album first, but it’s all good, really.

Swiftumz Everybody Loves Chris LP (Melters)
Everbody Loves Chris opens with a great sample: Swiftumz’s Chris McVicker’s dad leaving a message about the $27 BMI check that came for him in the mail, with a tone in his voice to suggest that his musical efforts reaped a tidy sum indeed. Then the record kicks into the sunkissed “Willy”, a jovial tune that recalls twee bedroom pop and upbeat pop-punk in equal measure. The rest of the album follows suit, as if the friendliest band members on the Elephant 6 and Lookout! Records rosters worked together to solve loneliness and despair via baked goods, bike rides and amplified guitars. It’s nice and stoned too (I’ve only listened while sober and I swear the vocals in “Waste Away” are constantly morphing into that of other people’s), with the sort of breezy shoegazing, melodic joy and unemployed/underemployed indie-slackerdom that labels like Slumberland and K find irresistible. I may have scoffed at the thought initially, but okay, maybe I love Chris too. The rumors really are true.

Tomboy Sweetie LP (Ride The Snake)
Not sure how all these cool DIY punk bands are affording rent in Boston, but I feel like I’m finding out about another great Boston punk band on a weekly basis, the most recent being Tomboy. They play a moody form of pop-punk, jockeying upbeat and major-key riffs with lyrics aimed squarely at the miserable dudes they constantly encounter, from the jerks at the bus stop (“Sweetie”) to the condescending pro-’tuders they share the stage with (“I’m In The Fucking Band”). Their frustration is delivered with a tough, sneering sarcasm and their songs are so bouncy and catchy that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the guys they are angrily cussing out are too caught up in the music to even notice (although the enclosed lyric sheet surely helps). The sharp edges of “Bethany” make for my favorite track on the record, the misleadingly sweet vocals recalling Young Trynas’ “I Love You” (whose Taylor Mulitz designed the art for Sweetie, as a matter of fact), with seemingly the whole band backing the listener into a corner, beatdown imminent. If Tomboy doesn’t get popular, there’s gotta be some Dave Chappelle-style conspiracy at work.

Warhead Warhead LP (540 / Blood Sucker)
It can be easy to take stalwart Japanese hardcore bands for granted, simply by their continued existence and unwavering consistency, decade after decade. I’ll admit, I didn’t do any cartwheels or anything when this Warhead album appeared in my mailbag, even though it’s their second official full-length in like two decades of existence. The cartwheels were in full effect once I started playing it, though, as this album sounds like a band on the verge of combustion, just utterly frantic and heavy and raging and precise and manic. It’s quite nearly perfect! I swear, I could happily listen to any of the isolated production tracks and be satisfied – the drums by themselves, the bass, the vocals, the guitars, any of these sounds would be fully raging on their own, but combined it’s godly. Warhead’s Cry Of Truth is a Top Ten Japanese Hardcore release for many, and for good reason, but I can’t help but think this new self-titled album edges it out. For any person trying to make the argument that a hardcore band should grow up by growing out of the standard template, allow me to crack a copy of Warhead over their skull.

The Wilful Boys Anybody There? / Flat Out 7″ (Ever/Never)
Ever/Never seem to have settled into a groove with hard rocking New York groups that feature Australian ex-pats in the lineup, most recently that very good Ballroom album and now The Wilful Boys with their debut 7″ single. It’s music for the blue-collar working class into underground rock who prefer Dead Moon and Dead C to Dropkick Murphys and The Business. You get two songs of simple yet strong stature here, like a bricklayer who is damn good at laying bricks and little else. “Anybody There?” has a tense back-and-forth befitting Feedtime, with an energy level beyond what I’d expect a bunch of old guys would have after a full day’s work. I like “Flat Out” even more, which sounds like Watery Love attempting the blues, distraught and violent while the rest of the world walks by without taking notice. Cool single, and while most of the people I know who would enjoy this sort of sound spend less and less time playing 7″ records at home on their turntables (either their kids or their cats would knock it over), I’ve enjoyed flipping this one back and forth.

Zomes Near Unison LP (Near Unison)
I’m coming into this one pretty fresh, as not only have I never heard Zomes before, I’ve barely heard Lungfish (although to my credit, I spent a lot of time with the Pupils LP maybe ten years ago now). Zomes is the long running side-project of Lungfish’s Asa Osborne, joined here by Hanna Olivegren (who has been a part of Zomes since 2013 – I did my research!). Anyway, Near Unison follows a simple yet effective formula – basic snare/kick drum programming (not a single cymbal hit), thick synths/organs which wind through dignified and convivial patterns, and the majestic and strong voice of Olivegren cutting through like a lantern in the woods at night. I’m reminded of Nico’s Desertshore, at least in its unwavering stare into the expanse, but Near Unison is a warm and gentle record, with melodies that wrap you like a blanket and an unhurried pace that seems to signify “you’re safe with me”. Near Unison could easily fall apart if any one of its parts weren’t up to snuff, if Osborne’s keyboards were too flimsy or Olivegren’s voice not so unfalteringly righteous, but they’re both subtle experts at making Near Unison an album that welcomes you when you return home.

Helm

Contrary to some beliefs, modern noise isn’t exclusively inhabited by rehashed S&M imagery and failed machismo – there are a few people out there making inventive, brazen sounds that resist easy categorization. Luke Younger is one of them, and he uses the guise of Helm to do it, crafting long-form narratives of desolation, intrigue, static hiss and unrelenting crunch with sound sources both obvious and highly classified. His records keep getting better and better, and while I have yet to hear his newest work, Olympic Mess (just released this month), I can’t wait to settle into it and stumble blindly through his exotic soundscapes all over again. Mr. Younger answered a few questions for me below, although to be honest I really should’ve pressed him about the obsessive Iceage fan-base a bit more…

You just finished a pretty long tour with Iceage. How did that go? I assume you were mostly playing to audiences who wanted to hear traditional rock songs, more or less…
It was amazing on many levels and I feel lucky that I got to experience that sort of tour playing the music that I do, as these kind of opportunities don’t really arise that often. It was a great to play to a completely different audience and blew apart any preconceptions I had of what it was going to be like. We did a whole month in the USA together, then two weeks in Europe and also four gigs in the UK last month. Out of all the different countries we went to, I have to say that the USA was more receptive and sympathetic to what I was doing. I would say on average you had about 40% of the crowd watching my set and taking it in, 30% watching it and fucking hating it and 30% non-plussed and talking to their mates. I would say that’s a pretty decent result for a support act, especially one like myself in a situation where you are opening for a band like Iceage who have quite an obsessive fan base and are there pretty much only to see them. At this point I think I have enough material about crazy Iceage fans that I could write a book, or at the very least a very substantial Tumblr.
I would say the best gigs for me were playing at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, a packed out Echo in Los Angeles and the gig in Denver where it sold out, the straight-edge hardcore band Civilised opened and had a massive PA. There were some midwestern towns where people came up to me and asked what the music I was playing is called because they had never heard anything like it before and wanted to hear more, which felt rewarding and made the daily nine-hour drives feel worth it somehow. A guy in Omaha also told me I was probably the first person to bring a modular synth into the city – whether that’s true I don’t know, but I’m happy to believe him nonetheless. In fact, the only gig which I thought had a bad reaction was the one which you were at in Philadelphia on the first night of the tour and an obnoxious prick in the front row heckled me about my shoes for five minutes until he got bored. The most difficult gig was on the recent UK tour in Manchester which is by far the most hostile reaction I have ever had to playing live music. Five minutes into the set people were shouting at me to “fuck off”, threatening physical violence and someone even punched the stage out of frustration. I was part shitting myself and part loving it, although I couldn’t leave the dressing room afterwards.

What would you say is more satisfying – when you get to blow someone’s mind who’s never heard ‘noise’ music before, or when someone with an established reputation in the field gushes over your work?
Both are nice for different reasons and I’m not sure I could put one above the other easily. It always feels good to be acknowledged by someone you respect but ultimately it’s good to receive positive feedback regardless of whoever the person is.

Your first releases nearly a decade ago were on CD-r. Do you miss that format as a viable thing that people would willingly buy when it came to underground experimental music? Or are you glad it’s mostly obsolete?
I have mixed feelings about CD-rs. I used to really enjoy seeing the effort that some people put into the packaging to make them feel quite personalized – you could tell there was an element of craft involved which elevated them above music into individual pieces of art. That seems to have been lost with the rise of digital and even the re-emergence of cassette and vinyl as common, almost mainstream, formats to an extent. That said, I definitely do not miss acquiring countless of these things and coming home from my travels with a bag full of shit harsh-noise and drone CD-rs by people with names like Rectal Massacre, Dog Waster, Levitating Rainbow, Goat Smoker, etc… I still have a box full of this crap at my parents’ house which I need to deal with at some point.

How faithful are your live performances to your recordings? Do they exist in two separate worlds, or is there a lot of overlap?
They are separate in the sense that the way I make music at home or in the studio is completely different to how I perform it live, ie: I use equipment to play live which I don’t use in the studio for creative purposes and vice versa. This made playing live quite difficult at first because my live sets didn’t really represent the records much, but the more I started to play gigs things gelled together and the two processes started to inform each other and became part of a bigger picture. Now I’m very keen for the live set to represent the records and see playing live as a way to present them in a different light. I think it’s nice that if people come and see me play then they can hear things that are recognisable from the records, but performed with subtle differences – maybe mixed differently and have different pieces interwoven with each other so they end up being a out of their regular sequence. I guess in a nutshell, I’m trying to abstract the recordings somewhat whilst still trying to present something that feels cohesive as a whole. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s all part of the ‘experiment’ for want of a better word.

Your new album, Olympic Mess – was that influenced by your live performances?
A good chunk of it was, and a few of the tracks I had been playing in my live sets for a while before I recorded them, but overall I would say that the record was more informed by the experience of being on tour as a whole and traveling – the fleeting conversations you have with random people you’ll probably never see again, visiting cities but never actually feeling like you were ever there once you leave, the monotony of traveling, etc… It’s funny how much of an unnatural way to live it is, yet a lot of musicians and artists do it without question and some even crave it. It’s funny how people on the outside seem to always think that touring is some glamorous and decadent thing. Of course there are some moments of needless excess, but generally if most people knew how mundane it was they’d probably be quite disappointed, ha.

How does the effect of long periods of touring play into your recordings? Are you actively recording bits and pieces while on the road, or just getting ideas? Or is it merely a mundane album with moments of needless excess???
When I’m touring and playing live on a regular basis I’m usually quite out of the mindset I need to be in to record so I don’t really think about it too much. If I’m playing pieces that haven’t been recorded yet, then I’ll sometimes think of ways I can develop them further and then how I ultimately want them to sound when they’re finally put down. Usually if I’m traveling to play a one off gig then there’s more chance of me bringing a digital recorder and recording some bits and pieces before the gig, but usually it’s nothing more than some tinkering around in my hotel room or whatever I can find in or around the venue that sparks my attention.
With this new album, It was recorded in pretty intensive bursts during and in-between tours which was good for giving long periods of reflection on the material afterwards. A few days were spent at Heaven Street in NYC with Sean Ragon before a US tour in May last year, then I did a couple of sessions with John Hannon from Liberez at his place in Essex before and after the Iceage tours. It was nice working with both of them as they have different approaches and techniques but equally get and understand what I’m doing to a degree so they chipped in with some good ideas. Both of them were also working on their own records at the time too so it was interesting to see some of that reflected back at me.

Do you think you’ve found a permanent home with PAN, for your records? Or is that just the label you’re working with for the time being?
Yeah, Bill is a good friend who I’ve known for years, easy to work with and I like his label so it makes sense. He’s very supportive and puts a lot of work into the releases so I’m happy to keep working with him!

Am I wrong, or does Bill / PAN handle all the artwork in-house? Is that something you don’t mind, having someone else handle the art for your records?
Yes, Bill handles most of the artwork. For Olympic Mess we worked with a Danish photographer named Kim Thue who we have known for quite a while. Kim published a book of his own photography from time spent in Sierra Leone a few years ago and also shot and directed the last Iceage video for “Against The Moon”, so it ended up being a nice three-way collaboration. I always have input into what I want the records to look like and I trust Bill’s taste so am perfectly happy for him to direct things.

I see you’ve just done a remix for Blood Music. Have you done a lot of remixing? Do you have any sort of standard approach to that, or is it more that you just take bits and pieces of the original track and play around with them?
I’ve done three so far. The first was for Lust For Youth and the most recent a techno act from Belgium called Orphan Swords. I really enjoy doing it as it’s a great retreat from working on your own stuff. I don’t really have an approach for working on other peoples material, which I think helps as you can be a bit more “reckless” with the process. All three acts I’ve remixed so far have been quite different as well so I’ve had to approach them in slightly different ways. For the Blood Music remix I hadn’t even heard the original tracks as I don’t think they’d even finished editing it properly at that point. So Simon from the band just sent me a bunch of stems which I chopped up, looped, processed etc… Built a basic structure and then mixed it with Sean in Heaven Street after fucking around with some bits and pieces on his MS20. Definitely doesn’t sound like either a Helm track or a Blood Music track, but has elements of both which I really like!

How long do you see Helm lasting? It’s just yourself, so it could conceivably go on as long as you are alive. Is Helm ‘it’ for you, or something you can see yourself terminating eventually?
I don’t think I could ever put a time frame on it really. In some ways this has now become my life’s work and as long as I feel compelled to create music and work which I feel suits and makes sense in the bigger picture of the project, I will keep going. I mean I will probably do things outside of Helm too as I always have done, but at this point I can see myself making Helm records for as long as my body and mind are able to.

We’re halfway through 2015, and while it’s weird to even think about looking back, is there any record that came out this year thus far that you insist my readers seek out immediately?
I can’t necessarily think of one specifically and I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. For electronic stuff, I liked Anthony Naples’ debut LP a lot, Proto by Mumdance & Logos has been on quite heavy rotation, as has Mind Minatures by Aquarian Foundation. For noise / industrial, the Prurient and Ke/Hil LPs are killer and the Olymphia LP on Posh Isolation is ambitious but they pull it off. Chris Goudreau’s new stuff is unreleased but awesome. Dawn of Humans, NO LPs on La Vida Es Un Mus. Jenny Hval LP and Amen Dunes EP on Sacred Bones. Hour House LP coming out soon on Penultimate Press deserves a shout out too. Probably more…