Reviews – September 2017

Anxiety Wild Life 7″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Anxiety’s debut LP whipped me around the room like a mini tornado, so I jumped on this new 7″ EP, also released by the praiseworthy La Vida Es Un Mus label. It’s four more songs of their potent stew of rigorous hardcore-punk and molten atmospherics, and exactly what we all needed. My favorite is probably the opener “Pegasus (I Feel Nothing)”, as it employs a sick slithering bass groove and atonal guitar noise in tandem, the sort of thing that invites the listener to creep around the pit and then wonder the next morning why one of their ears isn’t working. Closer “Lizard Lads Under A Rock” is probably my second fave, as it employs various disruptive motifs throughout (fast monkey-beat drumming, stompy Victims-esque riffs, a mosh breakdown reminiscent of Hoax, the general paranoia of Rudimentary Peni, aneurysmal panting to end the track). The other two cuts are shorter, meaner blasts of hardcore not unlike Dawn Of Humans at their peak, but I like it best when Anxiety allow their songs to fully match the freakiness of their overall band personality, with psychosis taking precedence to brutality. Any well-maintained 7″ bin would file Wild Life directly behind Anti-Cimex and Antidote, and I can’t help but think this isn’t entirely an alphabetical coincidence.

Benni I & II LP (Goner)
We’re truly living in a musical landscape where genre is meaningless, and everyone listens to radio-pop, free jazz, kraut-rock and mid-century country & western with equal enthusiasm. It’s a little weird, right? Kinda makes me miss the purist metal-heads of the ’80s who smashed anything that wasn’t specifically metal. I bring this up because Benni is the solo project of Benny Divine (of Gary Wrong Group and Wizzard Sleeve, among others), and it’s an instrumental ’80s synth-wave throwback affair, through and through. Released on the venerable garage-rock label Goner, of course. There’s really no reason to be surprised at this point, both by the fact that it even exists, and by my opinion that it’s a perfectly enjoyable genre exercise. Think Klaus Schulze, Giorgio Moroder (although I bet Benni has gotten wasted with Giorgio Murderer on more than one occasion), the Airwolf theme, any Jan Hammer records currently buried under a pile of mottled stuffed animals at your local Good Shepherd Thrift Shop, one out of every three records on 100% Silk… Benni knows the drill. Neither I nor II offer any new revelations on the genre, or even predict the eventual rise of Daft Punk, but they’re perfectly entertaining just the same, with titles like “Night Theme Reprise”, “Ard’rain’s Theme” and “Stardance” (which features a nice vocoder performance). You may not need a copy to continue living, but those greasy New Orleans punks deserve to drunkenly dance to ’80s cheese just as much as the rest of us, for which Benni has provided the winning original soundtrack.

Blue Chemise The Music Lesson / Watcher At The Window 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Fresh transmission here from the I Dischi camp, this one coming from Blue Chemise, an artist that my recon has confirmed is either Australian or merely pretends to be. “The Music Lesson” is pretty sharp, and carries the quality I’ve come to expect from the label. Featherweight strings drone back and forth through the track’s duration, embellished with a crackly, microscopic field recording, tuned metal percussion (or so it sounds) and probably one or two things that I either cannot place or am only subconsciously hearing. To some ears, it’s probably quite creepy, but I find it as soothing as a spa pedicure – maybe we can split the difference and say it sounds like one of those creepy pedicures where little fish eat the dead skin off your toes. “Watcher At The Window” pushes those same little bells from the a-side to the forefront, repeating a cautious melody while some old guy sitting under a single bulb tears up his movie script, crumples it into a ball and tosses it into a wastebasket before lighting another cigarette. Very cool stuff… I could easily go for an album of this material, which is serendipitous because Blue Chemise recently did an LP too. Just gotta make sure I clear out my pre-World War II doll collection from the room while listening, lest their eyelids to start flutter and they begin appearing throughout my house in places I never put them.

Tracy Bryant Parachute / Protect Your Head 7″ (Volar)
Tracy Bryant used to front the group Corners but he’s been on his own for a few years now. It makes sense, as the music on this 7″ single sounds exactly like the music a guy makes after leaving a punk band for a more mature direction under his own name. “Parachute” is nestled somewhere between the waning years of power-pop and the earliest beginnings of college-rock, a vulnerable jangler that I’d expect to have come out of a college town suburb in 1985. “Protect Your Head” reveals that the gap between the aforementioned ’80s post-new-wave rock and Interpol is less than one might expect, pushing straight ahead with a wiry guitar lead, the sort of thing that would make as much sense on a budget-priced Enigma Records label sampler as a Nissan commercial aimed at millenials. I appreciate that both songs are fairly upbeat, and Bryant’s wounded yelp meshes smoothly, adding a dose of emotional nuance to these tunes. LA is probably overstuffed with guys who look and play music like this, but for whatever reason I find that to be an oddly comforting thought.

The Bug Humbug; Or, So Many Awful Things 7″ (Not Normal Tapes / IFB)
Right off the bat, I didn’t want to check out The Bug because I am not a fan of new bands using names that are already well known, like c’mon, can’t these punks do a quick Google and notice that there’s already a “The Bug” who makes kick-ass hardcore electronic music and jams with Earth? I get the feeling that the members of The Bug would laugh at my complaint, and probably start a band called Earth just to spite me, and after listening to this absolutely scorching 7″ EP, I’d have to say they’re in the right. They’re from somewhere in or near Chicago, and they somehow found a way for hardcore-punk to be unhinged and on the verge of total collapse while still firmly remaining a hardcore-punk group, not screamo or noise or whatever else. Much of that comes from the guitar playing, which recalls one of those crazy Antioch Arrow live videos where everyone immediately flails to the ground, or perhaps grainy video footage of YDI at Love Hall in 1983. I can’t remember the last hardcore band I heard that was so raw and primal, they reminded me not of other bands’ records but their third-generation video footage. The guitar really makes Humbug, but the rest of the band delivers these songs with the unstable fury of Nine Shocks Terror or Mukilteo Fairies, as if the songs were not being played but rather exploding out of their bodies. All this, plus what is probably the best punk song title of the year (“Late Lunch Sogged With Grease”) and a booklet full of lyrics and lyrical explanations, taking a righteous and aggravated stance against injustice and misery in a way that is both direct and distinct. A good bud of mine is already calling it the hardcore 7″ of the year, and I’m not about to argue.

Stefan Christensen Shake Off The Village LP (C/Site Recordings)
Shake Off The Village is Stefan Christensen’s first vinyl full-length, and his third record reviewed here, the first two released by Ever/Never and I Dischi Del Barone, two labels dutifully providing a necessary service for the international underground. Both of those were fairly recent, but somehow it feels like I’ve been enjoying Christensen’s music for much longer, across more records – it must be that his personal strain of lived-in guitar noise and experimental indie-rock feels like home. If I had to lead you toward only one of his songs, in hopes that it might encapsulate all that he does, I’d go with “Over Scrawl”, the second track here – it’s got a buzzing guitar melody to recall Great Plains or some late ’80s pre-grunge college-rockers, utterly scalding noise that I’d expect from an early Sightings record, mumbled vocals not unlike something on Xpressway, and a tuneful, mysterious coda that eventually dissipates like a lingering butt in the tray. Exceptional! I’m hearing plenty of sounds, noises and melodies reminiscent of Flying Saucer Attack, Gate, Hood, Drunk Elk and Alastair Galbraith, but I get the impression that Christensen is simply doing his own thing – he could’ve been listening exclusively to Seasons In The Abyss and The Age of Quarrel prior to recording Shake Off The Village and I wouldn’t find it peculiar. Although, if he hasn’t been, I certainly recommend he try it for album number two.

Citric Dummies Tearing Out My Nails LP (Fashionable Idiots)
Fashionable Idiots has really been neglecting the fashionable and honing in on the idiots lately, and I’m all for it. Check our Citric Dummies for instance – what a name, right? They’ve got great cover-art care of Nathan Ward, great song titles (“Someone’s Living In The Bathroom”, “Kill Everyone Who Drives”, “Hooked On Pie”, etc.) and really nail the carefree bozo punk vibe. The music is very much of the snotty early-hardcore scene that emanated from California in 1982 – I’m hearing Circle Jerks, Red Cross (not Redd Kross), Vom and semi-recent updates on the sound like Clorox Girls, too. Faster than standard-issue punk, but still beholden to memorable choruses, silly hooks and lyrics that immediately connect (the aforementioned “Someone’s Living In The Bathroom” is a key piece of evidence). It’s not a new style, but Citric Dummies inject their own personal acidic flavor in every aspect of Tearing Out My Nails, making for an incredibly pleasant way to dumb down your afternoon. Apparently they’ve already got another album slated for later this year, tentatively titled The Kids Are Alt-Right, so anyone looking to come up with a hilarious album-title pun better step their game up.

The Cowboy The Cowboy Album LP (Fashionable Idiots)
The Cowboy is a new group out of Cleveland, proudly sporting two Homostupids and one of the Pleasure Leftists (although isn’t there at least one Homostupid that’s also a ‘Leftist? How does that change the tally?). If that’s not confusing enough, allow me to clarify that The Cowboy has nothing to do with The Cowboys, a current garage-y punk rock band on Lumpy Records. It’s like all these bands know that the internet makes it too easy to know everything, so they go out of their way to make simple things difficult. I guess I respect that. Anyway, The Cowboy are pretty cool – the riffs seem to come from the same mind as Homostupids, winding downward like a helicopter that ran out of gas, but the recording is significantly cleaned up, reverb essentially absent from the equation. That lo-fi hiss was a big part of the ‘Stupids experience, so The Cowboy offer a different approach, a bit more straightforward, less caterwauling and more low end. A song like “Smaller Rider” gives me some Eddy Current vibes even, quite tasteful punk, at least until you follow the lyrics on the back cover. Certainly fits in well with contemporaries / buddies like Watery Love and labelmates Citric Dummies, bands of smart guys whose only reaction to this messed-up world is to act stupidly. Who can blame them, really – if you can’t quote some Derrida while shooting a bottle rocket out of your butt, it’s time to learn.

Dauwd Theory Of Colours LP (Technicolour)
Dauwd Al Hilali is a British house producer / DJ who simply goes by his first name on records, and can you blame him? Cool name; fun to say. Theory Of Colours is his first full-length and my first exposure to his music, and while the concept of “the house music full-length” can be quite troubling (and in almost all cases, the wrong entry point for any given producer’s work), Dauwd really nails it here. By normal house standards, Theory Of Colours is a quiet record, one prone to stretching out on a couch even as your feet stay planted to the ground, tapping along. It has such an alluring and enjoyable feel that I wonder why more producers don’t also tone things down a bit, allowing subtle details to emerge. Through these seven tracks, I’m reminded of Kyle Hall at his most cuddly-soft, Boards Of Canada’s psychedelic nostalgia and Nicolar Jaar’s most active house cuts (the rippling bass and pristine chords of “Unconscious” evoke all three artists simultaneously). The title track isn’t too far from a Postal Service instrumental, and while that might be a turn-off for some, its uplifting bass is like a sunrise after an evening of sophisticated pleasure and powerful introspection, like The Field if unbounded by rigid 4/4 loop patterns. Second only to Kettenkarussell for down-tempo house album of the year, don’t @ me!

Edward Giigoog 12″ (Giegling)
Edward’s Shufflehead is still on hot rotation here, but I couldn’t resist checking out this even-newer 12″ on the Giegling label. It’s called Giigoog, a title that I’m still waiting on the right time to say out loud, and just as Shufflehead was a diverse cluster of forward-thinking dance/etc., Giigoog takes us on an exploration to three other sumptuous and strange worlds. “Bebe” opens the 12″, and while I was hoping for a touching celebration of one of the mall’s most glamorous shops, it’s something entirely different. Much like Newworldaquarium’s recent 12″, “Bebe” is essentially one sixteen-bar loop for twelve-plus minutes – but what a loop! It’s like the peak of a Moroccan street festival party, right as dusk is setting in and someone just rolled up with a fresh keg of ice-cold almond milk. There are subtle shifting details, but ultimately the track’s success is due to that perfectly-sourced loop. “Io Io” follows, clapping like Joe or Untold until another perfect vocal loop comes in, recalling Luciano’s Tribute To The Sun in its soothing burst of energy. Fairly sure it’s Spanish, but it could be Greek? Either way I want to move to this track’s homeland immediately. At this point, I don’t even need a third cut, but Edward finishes the 12″ with “Bongo Herbaoe”, a more traditional slice of evocative tribal-house that ebbs and flows rather than attaining Perfect Loop status and holding position. Edward’s got so many great ideas, I just hope I’m able to process and savor them at the rate he’s churning them out!

Enhet För Fri Musik Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig LP (Omlott)
Omlott could close shop today and I’d still be praising them for years thanks to the two monumental Neutral albums they released into the wild, but their fingers continue to actively dip in other bowls of Swedish strangeness. They just delivered a new one from Enhet För Fri Musik, replete with the full heavy-duty glossy gatefold treatment, and it’s a satisfying venture into private sound. This group features both Dan Johansson and Sofie Herner of Neutral alongside I Dischi Del Barone mastermind Matthias Andersson and a couple other friends who probably drink coffee at each others’ homes and take long bicycle trips through the forest together. Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig doesn’t feel like a group recording so much as a culmination of various solo pieces – maybe Herner drones on an old Wurlitzer on one track, then Andersson picks up an acoustic guitar and it’s his turn for two minutes of improvised fingerpicking. Field recordings, horns, ’60s pop tropes, even the slight residue of harsh noise contribute to this motley collection of songs. I’m reminded of Finnish avant-noise hippies Avarus in the ebullient kitchen-sink approach shown here, as both groups make music that brings the listener in… it’s as if there’s an open chair waiting for you and all contributions are welcomed. Any one track of Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig won’t quite do it – you have to sit down with the whole thing to truly understand, but it’s a time worth taking.

En Kernaghan Band Divine Body Care 7″ (Ever/Never)
So my understanding, from this 7″ and the previous En Kernaghan Band 12″ release, is that En Kernaghan Band is the musical project of Ethan Kernaghan, an Australian teenage skinhead Krishna devotee who loves explicit garage-rock. I’m sure at least two of those details are outdated or incorrect, but if I asked Ever/Never for specifics I’d probably be even more confused by their answer. Like many of Kernaghan’s rebellious and drunken garage-punk peers, he’s matured a little, pulling back on the fuzz and grease and taking a deep dive into his parents’ record collection instead. Why is there so much of that these days? Don’t we all have a friend who used to wrestle with garbage cans outside of the bar years ago, who now spends his time talking your ear off about which Neil Young and Grateful Dead live boots are the best? Enough already. Anyway, let’s finally get to the record at hand. “Divine Body Care” is a devotional chant, presumably about something more important than soaping one’s crack, but my brain wanders each time I’m sitting through it. “Things Are Constantly Changing” perks me up a bit, with brushes on the drums, sunglasses-down guitar solos and a great chorus breakdown, as if En Kernaghan Band were in a van on the way to Woodstock when they tragically caught a flat and never made it to the big time. I’m glad “Things Are Constantly Changing” made it into my life, even at the cost of all this other crazy information my brain insists on storing. I can spell “Kernaghan” without having to look it up, for crying out loud!

Exit Hippies Dance Maniac LP (SPHC)
I literally gasped when I opened the record mailer and saw a brand-new Exit Hippies album staring back at me. What joy! It comes in a 12″ DJ sleeve, with center stickers that parody the classic Dance Mania label, and I couldn’t get it on my turntable fast enough. I think it’s safe to say that with Dance Maniac, Exit Hippies have reached a new level of greatness – whereas previous efforts commingled noise-core and acid-house, Dance Maniac is their complete sonic fusion. Certain tracks have me imagining a world where Justice remixed Sore Throat (which, no surprise of course, are fantastic), whereas others seem to use the guitars and drums of the early Earache catalog as the sound-bank for their particular brand of jacking house music. And lucky me, it’s not just a split 7″, but a robust full-length with eight sizeable tracks. Maybe if Atari Teenage Riot was an actual recording of teenagers rioting with Ataris it would sound like this? Or if the Boredoms didn’t just share the Lollapalooza stage with Ministry in 1994, but actually genetically spawned with them (and then immediately caught a serious round of food poisoning), or perhaps the Principe discography retrieved from the crevasses of a highway underpass. I’ve been listening to Dance Maniac a whole bunch, and there’s still so much freakery and pleasure to unpack within these tunes. I might cry.

Glue Glue LP (540)
Unlike many of their hardcore-punk contemporaries, Glue have been active participants in the North American hardcore scene without much in the way of recorded output – since 2012, just a 7″ and a few tapes of varying provenance (I still hold it against Sex/Vid for ushering in the “live hardcore tape” trend). Glue are easily placed as a hardcore group of the 2010s, and not just because of the live tapes: they’ve got poorly-sketched mutant creatures in their artwork, angry lyrics frequently directed at “you”, riotous and ragged hardcore tunes with subtle Oi! and butt-rock influences, and a vocalist with a cartoonish snarl. That said, they’re quite good! The vocalist reminds of the guy from Men’s Interest (how I wish that band didn’t burn out so quickly), and Glue’s songs clearly reap the reward of having been written and refined over a decent period of time – it’s clear that these eight songs are their strongest offerings, not just another batch quickly churned out to the pressing plant. Even among similar artists like Warthog and S.H.I.T., there’s a distinctive playfulness in Glue’s approach, but not to the point where anything could be written off as a joke. One can only hope they continue to stick together.

Laurel Halo Dust LP (Hyperdub)
Laurel Halo is one of my favorite Hyperdub artists – both prior albums, Quarantine and Chance Of Rain, receive enduring plays in my abode. They’re quite different from each other, and I feel like Dust is Halo bridging that gap for even greater bounties, synthesizing her varied talents into one complete and enthralling whole. Which is to say, Dust is basically a wild reconfiguration of ’90s glitch, Cadenza-style tech-house, spiritual ethno-jazz, modern-radio EDM and dubstep experimentation. Instrumentals would be more than enough, but Halo sings throughout, putting her vocal and production talents to use in stunning combination. Her voice alone is quite expressive, but put through her various filters and effects, a new realm of emotion is explored. Check “Moontalk” to see what I mean – it’s a wholly unique mutation of Italo, Caribbean and Cambodian musicology with gorgeous pop hooks, sweet melodies and an expertly-utilized “disconnected number” dial-tone. Not all of Dust is as streamlined, but I’m just as content to wander through the hazy paths of “Like An L” (almost Mike Cooper-esque in its druggy exotica) as I am to shuffle along to one of her “Fela Kuti meets Pharoah Sanders in Luciano’s Ibizan tent” moments.

Andy Human & The Reptoids Refrigerator 7″ (Total Punk)
If I had to choose only one TP to live with for the rest of my life – the records of Total Punk, or toilet paper – I’d probably pick the former. I’d rather scavenge leaves in my time of need than give up this fine label’s multitude of music! Andy Human has passed through these pages before, and he always registered as passing-grade garage-punk of the day (usually tipped over toward the pop end of things), but backed by the Reptoids here he’s all business, ready to behave as if groups like Le Jonathan Reilly and Fergus & Geronimo never existed. “Refrigerator” is a big-time winner, a menacing punk hop that ticks all the right boxes. I’m reminded of Vox Pop, Video and Guinea Worms, three bands I’d get tattooed on my left arm if I were into such decoration. “You Don’t Even Know” carries that same toughness to a proto-punk rocker, reminiscent of White Boy And The Average Rat Band, The Rotters or any of the aforementioned groups. Both tunes are quite catchy, the sort of expletive-free punk I’d pack for my next radio program if I were into such broadcasting. Turns out Human and his Reptoids did an album together a couple years back, do I need that one too?

Impalers Cellar Dweller LP (540)
Hardcore is one of those genres where the many groups in a specific scene can be suddenly rendered obsolete by the supreme greatness of one of their peers; such has been the case for Impalers. They’re consistently head and shoulders above all the other bands who perform a violent mix of classic American ’82 hardcore and early Swedish d-beat, and somehow keep getting better. I wouldn’t be surprised if Impalers started walking around smirking like Steph Curry, fully aware of their peerlessness, but thankfully nothing about Impalers is annoying. Psychedelic Snutskallar was their previous high mark, but Cellar Dweller steps it up by maintaining that same sense of over-boiling energy and heft while cutting it up into memorable songs (the trickiest aspect for this form of hardcore is in crafting memorable songs as opposed to succinct clusters of riffs). They fuse in Burning Spirits-style Japanese hardcore buzz-cuts and glimmers of early NWOBHM / thrash through these tunes, always well-considered and tasteful and utterly ferocious. And as if the music doesn’t already go big enough, Cellar Dweller comes with a full-color wall-sized poster with artwork outlining each tune, mostly standard punk topics (anti-cop, anti-yuppie, anti-Nazi, anti-nuclear war, etc.) but done with a panache and vigor that makes me feel like I’m hearing this discourse for the first time. They may be dwelling in the cellar but they’ve set the bar impossibly high.

Al Karpenter The Chosen One 7″ (Munster)
Another one from the camp of Mattin – call him what you want, just don’t call him lazy! It blows my mind a bit that Munster has developed a relationship with him, as it’s a label I still associate with ’90s pop-punk (they released my favorite Sicko album and at least one live Mr. T Experience 7″), but I am coming to terms with the fact that anything goes in 2017, musically or otherwise. So, Al Karpenter: I can’t say with certainty that he’s not a fictitious person, but his trio (including Mattin on guitar and drums) sounds a lot like Billy Bao, back when that project resembled punk music (in the blurriest way possible). Instruments are played seemingly independent of each other – the bass might riff for a bit, then cut out, Karpenter might scream at a wall for a second or two, someone’s guitar is strummed with a tortilla chip until there’s merely crumbs on the floor. Very deconstructed and cuckoo, as if one of Fushitsusha’s psychic jams was condensed into a couple minutes of indigestion. So long as this means we’re one step closer to Mattin producing a comeback Mr. T Experience album, I’m all for the indulgences displayed here.

GG King Another Dimension 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
The First King Of Punk is back on home turf with the Scavenger Of Death label for this entertaining 7″ EP. “Another Dimension” is probably the impetus for the EP’s release, and rightfully so – it’s a perfect slice of overcast punk, cut from the same cloth as Shattered Faith and The Adolescents, memorable from the get-go. They still allow smoking inside of bars and clubs in Atlanta, so it makes sense GG King would come up with a tune like this. It’s followed by the madcap “Make A Movie (Dub Edit)”, a blast of audio verité not unlike Cock ESP. I’ll take it! At this point, I was prepared for anything on the flip (fingers crossed for a cover-song medley), but King switches back to semi-serious punk mode with “Gilliam Park”, another downer punk tune on the slower end of mid-paced, not far from The Wipers with an extended shout-along chorus that gives a strong nod to “Kids In America”. Very solid EP, another modern take on classic punk sounds. Wonder if this means he’s saving all his black metal tunes for the next album?

Richard H. Kirk Dasein 2xLP (Intone)
I’ve been loving the early Cabaret Voltaire records for years and years, keystones of my personal growth as a fan of diabolical synth-y post-punk, so why I never checked out Richard H. Kirk’s solo material until now is beyond me. Chalk it up to ageism and foolishness, I suppose. Anyway, this new one is just the sort of thing I want to hear, industrial-synth comfort food, so to speak. Each of the nine tracks here follows a linear path, usually guided by a rapidly-bleeping arpeggio or rudimentary drum pattern, upon which a dizzying array of buzzing electronics, heavyweight synths and various other nocturnal elements (is that a guitar?) are lovingly distributed. Imagine Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” given an industrial makeover, or the primitive electro of Rabih Beaini’s Ra.H material stretched to fit Front 242’s gear, with just enough Kraftwerk-ian sunlight poking through the clouds. Some of the tracks here are downright Soulcycle-worthy, but they never lose the icy, distant menace that is key to Richard H. Kirk’s aesthetic. The only question remaining is do I start going through Mr. Kirk’s discography from the early ’80s on up or 2017 on down?

Charles Manier Luxus Steroid Abamita 2xLP (Bopside)
Charles Manier is merely one of Tadd Mullinix’s aliases (which is odd because “Tadd Mullinix” is his birth name and by far his most exotic moniker). Mullinix makes R&B-infected house as Dabrye, acid techno as James T. Cotton and, by far my favorite, sensual and idiosyncratic EBM / pop-industrial as Charles Manier. Luxus Steroid Abamita is my first Manier experience, and it’s right up my alley, a rollicking suite of strange effects, horny beats, crystallized synths and elastic rhythms. If Matthew Dear dressed up like Drab Majesty, I’d expect his music to sound like this: distinct and well-rounded beats with various processes and melodies seething around, capped off by Manier’s disassociated vocals, sometimes processed to oblivion, other times directly whispered into your ear. Certain instrumental passages remind me of that great and slippery EP by The Modern Institute that I reviewed last month, but there’s far too much cosmic funk in Luxus Steroid Abamita for it to be neatly filed under “minimal synth”, alongside an “anything goes” playfulness that I find highly appealing (check the ten-second hardcore-punk snippet that closes “Plenary Psychic Automatism” for no conceivable reason). Manier hits a lot of switches here, but they result in the perfect combination, a veritable Konami-code of outsider industrial funk.

Ornament A Lion Is A Lion 12″ (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Ornament is the name that Joe Denardo, one half of Olympia-to-Brooklyn dronesters Growing, has chosen for his solo work. This 12″ EP is his debut, and I already like it, just from the magnified 8-bit art, as if my nose were pressed against the glass of a vintage Galaga console. If you’re familiar with Growing (and I hope you are), you’re probably expecting heavy electronic music that operates at a relaxed pace, and while that’s still pretty true here, Ornament’s music is always active, even if the rhythm (or distinct lack thereof) crawls along. As I listen, I’m imagining Fennesz an an American roots artist, plucked from a state-funded European symphony hall and dropped onto a front porch in some flyover red state. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been spending a bit of time with that new Stefan Christensen record, but there are some clear similarities to that one too, as Ornament’s music has a like-minded homespun feel, albeit with any trace of rock n’ roll scrubbed clean. Pastoral industrial, let’s say. As more and more Brooklyn artists and musicians get priced out of their apartments and practice spaces and try to start fresh upstate in Beacon, Kingston, Woodstock, etc., I have to wonder if experimental noise will be taking a turn for the rustic. I mean hell, Amps For Christ is touring again right now!

Plasmalab Love/Life LP (Bruised Tongue)
Plasmalab are a Toronto-based trio, utilizing that traditional rock formation to snub their nose at societal convention. They’ve got a “dark side of the ’90s” vibe going on, somewhere between Hole and Cows in their discordant, noisy delivery. It’s kind of a popular style these days – Plasmalab would fit in well with bands like Heaven’s Gate and Pill, bands whose definition of feminism includes rolling around the floor of a basement show in a patched-up denim jacket because there’s absolutely no reason only boys should engage in such ecstatic idiocy. While it certainly seems as though Plasmalab are having fun, don’t expect any happy riffs, as all melodies here are dirge-like; punk rock as funeral procession. There’s definitely a distinct personality at play here (the label-described “meme-punk” tag might be onto something) but their songs don’t quite match, crafted from familiar progressions and often played with a sagging energy level (which of course is probably intentional). I’ll keep an eye on Plasmalab though, because if they get bored playing the songs on Love/Life and decide to write nuttier music to match their general outlook on life, it could be magical.

Porter Ricks Anguilla Electrica 2xLP (Tresor)
Porter Ricks is a German dub-techno duo that first materialized in the ’90s, dissolved before the ’00s and returned in 2016 with an EP and now again this year with Anguilla Electrica. They’re right up there with Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound when German dub-techno is discussed (which I’d hope is at least weekly in any decent reader’s household), and this new one is fantastic, not just a return to form but a refined mastery of such. Much like other Germans, Porter Ricks seems to approach their techno not as a form of music but a life philosophy, led by a sense of exploration and curiosity but grounded by firm behavioral boundaries. Anguilla Electrica doesn’t so much sound like the work of synths but highly-advanced robotic beings that are right on the cusp of synthesizing various human voices, gastrointestinal processes and trombones, not unlike T++’s finest productions. Or maybe it’s more like a poltergeist trying to fly out of your laptop, prevented only by an up-to-date copy of Norton Anti-Virus Essentials. Part of me assumes this is what those reunited Throbbing Gristle albums sound like (I need to get around to hearing those!), but of course Porter Ricks has far more Detroit funk and minimal-techno snap in its DNA than improvised noise. The more I listen, the more it feels like this is the only form of music my body needs.

Preening Beeters 7″ (Digital Regress)
Here we go, hot new Oakland trio comprised of Max Nordile (ex-Violent Creeps), Sam Lefebvre (fantastic music critic, plus he’s got that cool tongue-twisty last name) and Alejandra Alcala (I don’t know the first thing about her but should probably acclimate myself). They have a very San Fran-styled approach to guitarless no-wave, and rightfully so, as they’re tripping on the same cracked pavement as Factrix and Erase Errata did when stepping outside for an It’s It. Lefebvre tries to pin down Alcala’s slippery bass with his drums, as if each little beat is another net that he’s tossing seconds too late – Nordile, on the other hand, lets the skronk out on his sax when he’s not convulsing out some lyrics I wish I better understood, delivered in the manic, walking-on-hot-coals style of Ex-Models’ Shahin Motia with a touch more “demented street poet” to his cadence. Having a general sense of two of Preening’s members’ musical tastes, I’m a little surprised Preening isn’t somewhat harsher or more aggressive, either via a rougher recording or punker riffage; more than anyone else, Preening remind me of DC’s The Cranium, due to the minimal instrumentation and general (occasionally funky) delivery. Cool EP for sure, with apparently an Ever/Never follow-up EP on the way because that label has an infinite wellspring of liquid assets that I hope to someday grasp. Tax scam?

Regler Regel #9 (Blues) LP (At War With False Noise)
My heart sank as I opened the box that this Regler LP came in the moment I saw the Regler name at the top. The last Regler release that came through here was one of my least-favorite Mattin projects, a big empty 12″ with the lingering sense of disappointment, but I did my duty and dropped Regel #9 (Blues) on my turntable anyway, maintaining my impressive dedication to properly informing my readership. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that this newest “Regel” is pretty intense and discomfiting and raw, a concept that really delivers. The music consists of bass-guitar and drums, maintaining a monotonous two-note dirge beat (across both sides of the LP) while Mattin layers various recordings of social and political discontent: street riots, protest violence, loud arguing, people screaming over each other. These samples are slowly dispersed throughout, occasionally coming together in a deluge that truly recreates the panicked, fearful state of the first world, one guided by anger and resentment and hopelessness. Certain samples really stress me out, probably because this isn’t some sort of dystopian fantasy but all too real, and being reminded of it via Regler’s oppressive repetition can be a bit too much. I get the impression that “a bit too much” is exactly what Mattin was going for with this iteration of his Regler project, though. It’s the sort of audio document that stings right now but will be a valuable document for future generations to unearth and evaluate.

Rivener Rivener LP (These Are Not / Twin Lakes)
Rivener is a male duo out of Connecticut, and they certainly like to improvise: Paul Belbusti on guitar, keyboard and percussion, Michael Kiefer on the drums. I’m reminded of two scenes as I listen: the jazz-informed post-rock underground that was happening in Chicago around the turn of the century, and the heady improv scene up in Massachusetts, players like Chris Corsano, Bill Nace and Paul Flaherty and the general orbit of the Ecstatic Peace label. There’s a wide range of personalities in those two times and places, and I haven’t quite put a finger on Rivener’s attitude or demeanor just yet – not sure if they are mischievous, humble, berserk or what. The recording is notably clean; it’s certainly a studio endeavor where the emphasis is on what is being played, not the room it’s being played in or the gear on which it’s being recorded, and while I appreciate that, I’m not sure there is enough distinction in Rivener’s sound, clear as it may be. Belbusti’s guitar mostly sounds like a guitar, rambling through deconstructed blues chords, partial space-ragas and moments of unobstructed release (certainly following a path set by Keiji Haino and Loren Mazzacane Connors), and Kiefer taps along in the traditional free-jazz style, generally matching the guitar’s frenetic energy or sullen calm. Can’t go wrong with that, but I also can’t help wish they went a little more “out” with this one. When it comes to free guitar/drums, Rivener is nothing if not “in”.

Sacrificio Pulidores De Tumbas LP (SPHC)
I need to figure out where SPHC sources LP jackets like this, the same style they used for the Era Del Vacio album a couple years ago – they’re made out of some sort of ancient and textured cardboard parchment, a perfect texture for the raging hardcore-punk that resides within. Sacrificio are a Mexico City trio (and, just like Rick Ta Life, they look great on horseback, as seen on the insert), and Pulidores De Tumbas is fourteen tracks of solid, by-the-books hardcore with thrash and grind leanings. I’m partial to the faster stuff myself, recalling Capitalist Casualties, E-150, Stapled Shut and Cop Out, and there’s plenty of it on offer here. Pulidores has the vibe of hardcore-punk bands who just played as fast as they could so they ended up into grindcore territory, as opposed to a group coming from a metal perspective that wanted to incorporate blast-beats. They’re by no means the fastest, tightest, most memorable or distinct group to deliver such a sound, but the drummer is sick (sounds like he’s got half a dozen different cymbals set up and he’s not afraid to use ’em), the vocalist has a righteously phlegmy shout, and like I said, they look cool on horses. What more would it take to please you?

Science Project Basement Blues 7″ (Neck Chop)
Egregious cover art error here for Nova Scotia’s Science Project, using the same Manson photo that Negative FX turned into classic hardcore iconography back in 1985. I have a feeling it was an unintentional coincidence, and that they wouldn’t care anyway, but it also makes little sense in the aesthetic scheme of Science Project, the solo project of a one Cody Googoo, who also performs in Booji Boys (among others). How many bands does one person need to prove their allegiance to Devo? I may never know, as Science Project goes full-on geek-punk, with prerequisite nasal vocals, sci-fi synth effects and rigid rhythms. Basement Blues contains six songs, compiled from two previous cassettes, and I’m not sure why it didn’t remain as such. At best, there’s a nerdy menace that recalls Count Vertigo, but for the most part this sounds like anyone’s Devo-inspired punk solo project, neither good nor bad, as if anyone could buy the “Devo-inspired solo project” instruction manual and follow these simple steps. At least the lyrical sentiments occasionally veer out of the “I’m a depraved robot / you are a mutant” vein, instead offering bored-in-the-scene social concerns, with songs railing against “Discogs sellouts”, “Tumblr punks” and “mysterious guy hardcore” – serious issues indeed. For every Neck Chop release that I enjoy, there’s at least one that I can’t help but wonder why it was deemed worthy of existence – did they truly think this science project deserved greater than a C+?

Sex Snobs Emotional Stuffing LP (High Dive)
Oklahoma City’s Sex Snobs return with their third LP. Their first came through here, which I recall as being a solid entry in the Drive Like Jehu / Wipers category of underground rock, but Emotional Stuffing is far more poppy. Took me a moment to adjust, but I think I prefer it! Opener “Ritalin” sounds like Purling Hiss mixed with whoever sang that “Teenage Dirtbag” song, and the next few songs have me thinking of a more alt-rock Get Up Kids, or if Harvey Danger never made it to MTV and just opened for The Murder City Devils on multiple tours before calling it quits. In melody and lighthearted snark, I’m also reminded of major label pop-punkers The Ultimate Facebook – there’s even an ironic song about going to the mall. I’m a fan of this style, and Sex Snobs unexpectedly do it justice, no doubt about it. If Hollywood ever decides to re-boot 1995’s Angus, I’m nominating Sex Snobs for top billing on the OST!

The Snails Demos 7″ (Neck Chop)
Here’s another tape-to-vinyl upgrade care of Neck Chop, this time coming from The Snails, a hard-to-Google group that I believe hails from California somewhere (it’s a big state). Six songs here from two prior tapes, and they make for a solid sampling of contemporary snot-nosed punk. The Angry Samoans are the direct descendant of this style: speedy drumming, simple-but-catchy melodies, and teenaged vocals are on order, both then and now. The recording is punk and muffled, sounding as if the kick drum and snare are actually just a large cardboard box and a smaller cardboard box, but it works for The Snails, even if it doesn’t quite allow the songs to lodge themselves in my brain in the same way as the aforementioned ‘Samoans have. Bands like The Liquids (and dare I say The Coneheads) are probably more than a little inspiring for The Snails and their general presentation (barely-there crappy art, basic titles like “I Become” and “Shit”), but they’re all just little splashes in the infinite stream of juvenile punk rock, one that is far deeper and wider than even the biggest fan will ever fully experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and The Snails certainly contributed their part.

Trampoline Team Drug Culture / I Don’t Play Games 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
Space Taker’s only other release thus far is a recent Nag 7″, which goes hand-in-hand with the speedball punk of Trampoline Team. Both songs here are classic punk in the Dangerhouse tradition, picked downward and tuneful and mean-spirited, the sort of thing that’d fit right in with The Nuns and The Randoms. Both choruses involve shouting the song title in a stompable rhythm, and they flow downhill with the ease of Steve Caballero in Future Primitive. Kind of picking up some Goner vibes too, in the more punk / less garage end of their spectrum, like Nots’ first album. There isn’t much of a pronounced sound or voice going on with Trampoline Team, but it’s a genre I enjoy well enough that I don’t particularly mind their lack of invention. Maybe they can invest in some actual on-stage trampolines if they need to add a gimmick while maintaining a rudimentary musical approach – it’s high time trampolines retained the punk edge that Weezer unlawfully removed from them.

Yass Night Wire LP (X-Mist)
How is there gonna be a group called “Yass” and it’s not a Broad City spin-off? I was all set for a modern update of Le Tigre with Abbi and Ilana on vocals and Hannibal Buress on electronics. Much to my chagrin, Yass are an all-male German duo who insist on subjecting noise-rock guitars and vocals to a dance-pop makeover. I’m hearing plenty of Death From Above 1979, or perhaps what would result from Steve Aoki remixing Metz, or Young Widows squeezing themselves into some DFA skinny jeans. I’ll go on record as having no issues whatsoever with discordant, harsh guitars as well as populist disco beats, and Yass combine them quite smoothly, as if these rhythms were the only suitable framework for heavy guitars run through half a dozen effects. Sounds pretty good, but Yass would benefit greatly from a standout vocalist – a self-assured hipster ala James Murphy or otherworldly creature like Pixeltan’s Mika Yoneta might push these tunes to the next level. The sounds are there, Night Wire just flows more like a series of like-minded ideas more than a set of distinct songs. That said, if you’re dancing hard enough, as some inevitably are, nothing else really matters.

Reviews – August 2017

B-Ball Joints Blue Boy Joints LP (PRR! PRR!)
The PRR! PRR! label is my go-to for top-notch techno tricksters… last year’s Battle Break “compilation” was a stone-cold killer of hardcore techno absurdity, and the An Ultimate DJ 12″ from two years ago melded riotous banging with an acoustic guitar cover of “Wicked Game” to glorious results. So now B-Ball Joints (which I believe to be another of one Low Jack’s aliases) gets their own album, delivering the same sort of cartoonish menace that made Battle Break so strangely pleasing. There’s a ton of tracks here, and they go all over the place, from aggressive EBM to choppy breaks to techno you’d expect to accompany the Power Rangers into battle. It can be pretty cheesy, but that’s the point, riotous techno with a ’90s aesthetic, the sort of thing you’re supposed to blast while eating five bowls of sugary cereal on a Saturday morning. The vocals (of which there are a bunch inserted within) sound more like characters from He-Man’s Evil Horde than human beings, and the intensity is not unlike a small child physically threatening an adult twice their size. If Cobra Commander ever gets the DJ residency at Berghain that he’s been pushing for, I’d imagine he’d be packing Blue Boy Joints in his titanium-reinforced flight case.

Mark Cone Now Showing LP (Neck Chop)
The name “Mark Cone” had me a little confused at first: this solo synth-punk provocateur isn’t Mark Winter of the Coneheads, but actually Jackie McDermott of Urochromes. Is this some sort of intra-scene potshot, or just a strange coincidence? Whatever the case, I’ve enjoyed spending my time with Mark Cone, who behaves like Geza X on the set of a Roger Waters film, throwing around cheap props and rattling his drum machine until its AAA batteries fall out. If he doesn’t sport one of those waxed twisty moustaches and a rumpled suit while playing his aggressive punk songs on a vintage karaoke machine, he should understand that this project affords him the circumstances to do so, just like the man with the pained grimace on the cover (or could that be him?). Very manic and aggressive delivery for something that is guitar-less and driven only by pre-set keyboard sounds and carnivalesque rhythms, but McDermott sells it hard. He even reduces the music to a single repetitive plink on “Intermission (If The Cone Fits)”, but his intense confidence makes it a standout cut, displaying his microphone mastery on a song that would surely falter for a lesser vocalist, recalling vintage Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. Now Mark Winter just needs to start a project called Jacky Chrome and the circle may be complete.

Arve Henriksen Towards Language LP (Rune Grammofon)
I try to move a little slower in the sweltering summer months, so a record like Towards Language by Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen has really been hitting the spot. He’s some sort of vanguard experimental jazz trumpeter, and I’m sheepish to admit this is the first I’ve heard of him (I don’t want word getting around that I’m not up on exceptional Norwegian experimental trumpeters), but it’s a very easy record to like, no learning curve needed. Towards Language features nine tracks of sedated and smooth motifs, all locating different points on the emotional spectrum: pensive, ebullient, playful, remorseful and inquisitive. Electronics, guitar, bass and sampler all provide the understated framework that Henriksen’s trumpet fills with color, at times reaching a gratifying sound that has me imaging a particularly tender Chet Baker sessioning with Jóhann Jóhannsson. It’s a record that rewards close listening with its various tics and strange forces, but you can just as easily toss it on while napping a small child or toasting your morning bagel and feel nourished by its sound. What good is experimental jazz if it’s not versatile? Oh, and the vinyl edition comes with a CD, which reminds me of that Mitch Hedberg bit where someone handing you a flyer might as well be saying “hey, can you throw this out for me?”

Intensive Care Voyeurism 12″ (Anthems Of The Undesirable / Divergent Series)
No sooner had I assumed I wouldn’t encounter any more harsh-noise-laced power-violence this year than Intensive Care show up with Voyeurism. Like a great deal of the hardcore records that are being released these days, it’s mastered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air, and if you’re a particularly observant nerd, you know that he’s also in No Faith, the other recent noise-infused grindcore group I’ve reviewed. I have to say, while I admire Intensive Care for pursuing such a noble form of music, Voyeurism isn’t quite cutting it for me. They’re a bass/drums duo, and historically those have a tough time reaching the level of brutality that the style demands (I’m looking at you, Godstomper and No Comply, although both of you had your moments). Intensive Care are victims to this peril as well – their riffs aren’t strong enough, nor is the sole bass heavy enough to carry these songs, reminiscent in song-form to Phobia at their most straightforward and Black Army Jacket at their shiftiest. The noise is the best part, various harsh collages and effects looping around and through some of the tracks (not unlike Gasp), but it’s not enough to save Voyeurism from the discount hardcore bin full of other solid close-calls with greatness.

Joint D≠ مخابرات / Intelligence LP (Sorry State)
Been a while since the last Joint D≠ album (four years to be precise), so Sorry State corrected that deficiency by releasing last year’s Scavenger Of Death tape on vinyl. I’m not sure if Joint D≠ are still a “real band” or a studio project or on hiatus or what, but they’ve certainly amassed a righteous discography, merging familiar hardcore/punk influences into a sound that distinctly sounds like them. Like prior records, this one sounds like a mix of The FU’s and Code Of Honor with subtle garage-rock tendencies and the manic, no-breaks delivery of classic Japanese hardcore. I’ll be honest, I haven’t spun any of the earlier Joint D≠ records in a while, so I can’t comment with too much authority on any subtle stylistic shifts, but as far as I can remember this is what Joint D≠ has always sounded like, and they do it well here too. The record seems to be centered around the current global and political chaos, taking shots at the 1% and miserable tyrants controlling our lives, but I will never understand why bands put their lyrics in tiny-printed continuous blocks of text, as if they want to make it as difficult as possible to actually read what they have to say. Images of Ronald Reagan, military planes and a burning copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged make for a provocative design, but I wanna know what you’re really saying without having to fetch my magnifying glass.

Leda Gitarrmusik III-X LP (Förlag För Fri Musik)
As I’m always clamoring for more Neutral, I was pleased as punch to see that Leda, Sophie Herner’s solo venture, released a new LP. Took a little finagling to obtain a copy (shout out to the Australian shop Albert’s Basement for sourcing a copy of this Swedish record), but it was worth any financial or logistical struggles I may have faced. The title pretty much sums it up, as this album features eight tracks of “guitar music” (that’s the English translation care of yours truly). Leda usually fires up some sort of looping rhythmic structure, and either piles more sound on it or plays within its vicinity. I’m reminded of solo guitar slingers like Tetuzi Akiyama and Oren Ambarchi, but there’s something about Herner’s playing that feels distinctly PSF, like High Rise’s deconstructed rhythms are in her head and she’s clanging right along (“Gitarrmusik VI” has a particularly psychedelic stoner groove). Other tracks carry the industrial sludge of Hunting Lodge or Laibach to splendid effect. On the whole though, Gitarrmusik III-X unsurprisingly sounds more than a little like Neutral, merely with the colorful and atmospheric haze of electronics and voice stripped away. For a guitar noise record, it sure is entrancing and entertaining, about as easily digestible as this sort of thing can get while still retaining a degraded and tarnished sound. Recommended!

Long Knife Sewers Of Babylon 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Portland, OR’s Long Knife return after a couple years, now with the addition of Keith Testerman of Lebenden Toten on drums. Don’t you wish your inactive punk band could just come back to life with Lebenden Toten’s drummer? Move to Portland, I guess! Anyway, I’m sure they wouldn’t want to hear it, but there’s something about this five-track EP that has me imagining an alternate reality where Fucked Up never released any LPs and just got more and more into Poison Idea, pushing their tempos, raging guitar solos and Motörhead moves into overdrive. (Isn’t Sewers Of Babylon kind of a Fucked Up-y title, too?) I’m generally not a big fan of hardcore where you can understand every word in spite of the singer screaming, but vocalist Colin Jarrell really has the right voice for the job, even adding a welcome touch of melody (in the loosest sense of the word) to “Only A Reflection”, my personal fave of the bunch. It’s really all top notch stuff though, to the point where I was almost kind of surprised at how great Sewers Of Babylon is, even though Beach Impediment is already well established as a Hardcore Label You Can Trust.

The Mad Doctors No Waves, Just Sharks LP (King Pizza)
Brooklyn’s Mad Doctors are so familiarly garage-punk, it’s practically comforting in a time of such global uncertainty. Their album title paints a picture of pulpy beach violence, their band name conjures kooks in lab-coats and goggles, and their label name gleefully reveres garage-punk’s favorite food. It’s like they exist in a choose-your-own-adventure Ramones song, and for what it’s worth, they do the genre no disrespect. They’ve got their Ty Segall, Shannon & The Clams and Nobunny riffs down pat, and if someone isn’t spilling canned domestic beer while crowdsurfing in ripped jeans, something has gone terribly awry. There are a few moments on No Waves, Just Sharks that shake up the formula a little, if not lyrically but musically, like the strange, kinda classic-rocky sway of “Shit Hawks At Blood Beach”. The imposing monotone speakerbox voice works quite well in this setting, and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual blurry, middle-of-the-mix garage-punk holler. I’m probably the only sober geek paying attention to stuff like that, though, as the music of The Mad Doctors is clearly built for unscrupulous partying, not sonic theorizing. Screw it, I’m gonna drop my laptop on the floor, put on one of those human-sized hot dog costumes and see if The Mad Doctors need a roadie.

The Modern Institute The Modern Institute 12″ (Night School)
Sometimes I think I’ve had enough sci-fi synth-punk irritation in my life, and yet I keep buying it – even records like The Modern Institute, where I know the clear PVC sleeve’s toxic properties will eventually wreak havoc on the vinyl itself (if I ever get cancer, I’m blaming my picture disc collection). There’s something about the combination of a bitter electronic pulse and a person’s heavily-affected droll voice that I will always enjoy, and that’s exactly what The Modern Institute are offering, a Glasgow-based group featuring at least one fellow from the righteous Golden Teacher. These electronics are clinical and strict, mostly mid-range or high-pitched tones, twitching like state-of-the-art hospital equipment with a voice so echoed that I can’t even pick up the Scottish accent. Feels pretty American really, calling to mind other pessimistic synth-wavers like German Shepherds (without the depravity) and Voice Farm (without the pop aspirations), although The Normal surely factor in as well. The Modern Institute come across like a group of scientists dismayed that their research funding has been cut, with lyrics like “the universe is meaningless” sprinkled within syrupy synapses and sharp oxide puffs. Guess I’ll follow their lead and use disposable latex gloves to handle this record moving forward.

Nag No Flag 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
One cool thing about modern punk is that if I hear a new band and like them, they probably have three other records coming out soon or already available. Feels like I’m still settling into Nag’s perplexing and cool Total Punk 7″ and they’re already offering another new EP. No complaints, just observing! “No Flag” opens this one with a nice unorthodox strut – it has me imagining a world where Mayyors traveled back in time to 1978 in an attempt to influence The Urinals. Heavy snare, snotty vocals somewhere in the hiss, very pleasing all around. We get two more cuts on the flip: “Patterns” plays a little straighter, with an on-trend oom-pah punk beat, one that they play in a fiercely punk manner. Think Reatards more than Dawn Of Humans, although things get pretty slimy. “Walls” is last, a big-mouthed bop that calls to mind Cheap Time if they enlisted Shin Takayama of Framtid for drum duties (and spiritual guidance). Definitely cool, but each track hits quickly, like three little blips on your beach-side metal detector. I can only hope that when it comes to live shows, Nag pull an OFF! and play fifty songs in a standard eighty-minute set.

Natural Causes Natural Causes LP (Sorry State)
Natural Causes aren’t simply my preferred form of death, they’re a synth-friendly garage-punk band out of Carrboro, NC. Both of their prior records (a debut LP and a 7″ single) have been reviewed here, so let’s make it three for three, shall we? This new one comes on the respected Sorry State label, and maybe I’ve just been smacked with a bunch of really superior and distinct punk lately, but Natural Causes isn’t doing a heck of a lot for me. Nothing about the album sucks, they just seem to tiptoe through their songs with caution, like they’re still trying on a new outfit and aren’t entirely sure it’s a proper fit. They’re clearly aiming for territory similar to Ausmuteants and Total Control, but they lack the memorable absurdity of the former and the razor-sharp hooks of the latter. A track like “Like It Should” feels like a Total Control song at 80% strength. They opt for stranger, post-punky tunes here as well (much of their previously noisy atmosphere has been cleaned up this time around), and while it’s perfectly fine, I can’t help but think how a contemporary group like Whatever Brains excels at the same sort of unhinged delirium that Natural Causes seem to be shooting for. There’s plenty of potential here, Natural Causes just need to figure out what makes them special and amplify it.

Newworldaquarium Chubby Knuckles EP 12″ (NWAQ)
Newworldaquarium’s The Dead Bears was one of the first techno full-lengths I really got into, so he’ll always have a soft spot in my heart. But casting nostalgic devotion aside, Jochem Peteri (the man behind Newworldaquarium) keeps kicking butt, like this new EP on his own label. “Chubby Knuckles” is essentially a loop that slowly arrives, hangs and then leaves, but it’s not about the intricacy or difficulty that makes deep-house great, it’s the ability to locate a godlike loop and let it hang in suspension, just as Newworldaquarium does with this one. Jungle flutes, stomping disco kicks, bongos taken out of DJ Fett Burger’s rucksack, funk bass and a two-note guitar additive make “Chubby Knuckles” an immediately satisfying cut, each element locking together to form a Voltron-esque dance imperative. I hate to flip it, but I’ll do it for the sake of “42”, a long cut of sunbleached dub-techno hypnosis that slowly lifts up and dissipates, like fog on a lake. And if that wasn’t chill enough for your tastes, “42 (Yoga Outro)” closes the EP, to ensure all muscles are properly stretched and cramping is avoided. Meet you for green smoothies later?

Niagara Comboios 7″ (Ascender)
Niagara are easily one of the coolest groups going worldwide, and now that I’m hip to them I’m trying to snag all their new EPs, which seem to come at a brisk clip. This new one is on the moving-toward-sad-obsolescence 7″ format, and it’s great. “Ida” is the a-side cut and it’s a rainy-day dub of drum machine patter and either an ancient melodica or an affected harmonica (maybe all that Davy Kehoe listening is getting to me). It’s airy and meditative, a lonesome Portuguese reggae. “Volta” pumps up the beat on the flip with bass guitar, one-two drum kicks, unquestionable harmonica and a stuttered vocal snip, and “Calor” brings it home with a collage of sounds you might hear down by the harbor on holiday: drinks being poured, stomachs growling, waves crashing and the faint hint of last night’s dance party. There seems to be a sonic kinship with the freewheeling dance eclecticism of Dublin’s Wah Wah Wino crew, but Niagara are especially organic, at times recalling what Mi Ami might sound like if they still existed and pushed beyond their comfort levels of experimentation. Crisp and beautiful 7″ EP, it only has me wanting more.

Molly Nilsson Imaginations LP (Night School / Dark Skies Association)
Molly Nilsson hit my radar last year via 2015’s Zenith and I was immediately hooked – her music felt so fresh, catchy and strange, it was as if moody synth-pop didn’t exist before her. And to my delight, she had a reservoir of previous albums (five prior to 2015!), so I slowly submerged myself in her world, one of amazing consistency, aesthetic uniformity and of course her unique voice, androgynous and soulful and slightly inhuman, the Gollum to Nico’s Smeagol. I was quick to grab Imaginations upon release, and for whatever reason, it didn’t immediately grab me like her previous records, so I’ve spent some time with it, listening mid-day, at night, while checking my phone and while laying on the floor, eyes closed in concentration. The sounds are all in place: Caribbean moonlit grooves, Eastern Europe karaoke-machine beats, pensive melodies and Nilsson’s distinctly captivating voice, just as I’d hoped. I guess I’m just not picking up the same hooks, or disarming wordplay I’ve come to relish – a song like “Let’s Talk About Privileges” is a great concept that hits a little too bluntly, and “Not Today Satan” overtly borrows from RuPaul’s Drag Race in a way that feels more like a musical meme than classically beguiling Nilsson verse. Imaginations is a grower for sure, and it’s growing on me, but with so much Molly Nilsson to choose from (even her recent 7″ of album outtakes is catchier and more immediately gratifying), I can’t offer Imaginations monogamy.

Bill Orcutt Bill Orcutt LP (Palilalia)
Here’s a crappy game-show I’d love to watch: Bill Orcutt interprets Top 40 hits on his guitar and contestants have to buzz in to guess. That’s kind of what he’s doing here on this self-titled album, the latest in his heavy string of releases since his return to the scene in 2009. His obsession with the Great American Songbook has popped up on other releases and continues here, what is somehow his first solo electric guitar record, and also one of his most somber, tender and somnambulant. He takes traditionals like “Ol Man River”, “White Christmas”, “Over The Rainbow” and “When You Wish Upon A Star” as starting points for the unique journeys his brain likes to carve out, offering a familiar chord change within sparkling clusters of notes and string-based conversations of his own creation. These tracks are slow-burning and moody, yet serene and occasionally joyous – I can’t help but imagine Orcutt having his “I’m having a fucking moment here!” outburst at any given point through the record, like he’s so damn in love with his guitar that he’ll fight you for disturbing it even slightly (search YouTube for “Bill Orcutt having a moment” and revel in its glory). If Bill Orcutt wasn’t already positioned alongside John Fahey, Loren Connors and Jack Rose in the pantheon of iconoclast guitarists, Bill Orcutt should certainly nudge him into such a noble and elite group.

Parris Your Kiss Is Sour 12″ (Hemlock Recordings)
I don’t just enjoy listening to techno, I enjoy reading about it too, which is how I first came across Parris. Articles and reviews made him out to be this future-techno visionary, juxtaposing strange styles into a vibrant new hybrid all his own, and well, what was I waiting for? This new 12″ on Hemlock seemed like a fine place to start, and I have to say, the music threw me for a loop. Not because it was even more forward-thinking than I had imagined, but because it’s so sparse and practically empty, to the point where it almost feels like he’s putting us on. “Your Kiss Is Sour” feels like a mid ’10s Hessle Audio production with the majority of its stems muted: you get one wavy loop, a strange vocal here or there, maybe a florescent drip into a koi pond, and they just move throughout the room for six minutes. “Flowering In Three’s” is next, the only track with a functioning beat, although it’s as rudimentary as they come, augmented by crashing waves, electronic droplets and a couple other foreign synthetic tones. By the time “My Beautiful Fantasy” is reached, one can’t help but wonder if the actual music is still coming later and this is all a ruse, but it’s just as fractured and empty as the rest, coming across like an Actress cut through a stereo with the left speaker unplugged. Listening to Parris is like looking at a painting that was abandoned halfway through completion: kind of annoying at first, but if you can get past your initial disappointment, there’s a certain twisted beauty to be discovered.

Perverts Again My Accident / My Embarrassment 7″ (Total Punk)
Just when I was certain I had finally reached my quota of intentionally-demented Cleveland punk, this 7″ by Perverts Again lands in my lap and I feel like I’m ready to go another ten rounds. “My Accident” kicks it off just right: smooth, subtle, groovy punk, like Flipper with a fistful of Cheetos instead of acid and heroin. The vocalist has a great delivery, too – not overly kooky, no fake accident, but rather a well-enunciated delivery that jives with his strange tale of a doctor’s visit gone wrong. “My Embarrassment” has the same basic deal – floor toms and snare driving a mid-paced beat, with down-picked guitar/bass and the vocalist’s conversational tone, this time with the solid hook of “underneath your clothes you’re not naked”, with “naked” given the high-pitch treatment, a weird-punk calling card that never fails to please. Seriously considering crowd-sourcing the funds to cover a fancy dinner attended by the members of Bad Noids, Folded Shirt, Wet Brain, Perverts Again and Bulsch, just to sit in and listen to these guys actually speak to each other and carry on conversation. Or do they just erupt into a food fight immediately?

Piece War Apathy 12″ (Square One Again)
Good friends Tina Pihema and Barbara Rocha lived in Auckland, NZ back in 2014, and decided to do a band. Intriguingly titled “Piece War”, they recorded a few tunes and released a 10″ lathe cut (limited to thirty copies, as lathe cuts often are), now rescued from the deepest depths of obscurity by Square One Again (to what will surely be a slightly more elevated level of obscurity). They’ve got a good thing going here, which makes the reissue understandable: Pihema and Rocha play a stripped-down form of rock music that splits the difference between forlorn indie-rock and jagged post-punk. There’s just one guitar along with the drums, but it never feels empty or lacking, as though additional guitar or bass would simply crowd things. I’m picking up moments that recall Red Monkey, The Courtneys and even The Make-Up through Apathy, but Piece War are clearly just doing their own thing, with poignant and thoughtful lyrics (that I mostly had to read to understand, thanks to the guitar’s up-front jangle) capping it off nicely. Kind of bittersweet that this is probably the only thing we’ll ever hear from Piece War, but I’m trying to learn to appreciate what I already have rather than endlessly wish for more.

Pinch Water Bomb / Cold New Worlds 12″ (Cold Recordings)
When it comes to quality, non-corny dubstep, Pinch is always there (in a pinch?) to make your next crossfit playlist extra ‘eavy. I have probably taken him for granted over the years, but this new 12″ is a refreshing wake up call, reminding me just how satisfying that big, hairy-chested dubstep aggression can be. There’s really no better way to describe “Water Bomb” than its title, which truly sounds like either giant explosive-laced aquariums crashing on the street, or those spiked floating mines blowing up underwater (are those real, or a Super Mario creation?). It’s such a great sound, I’m surprised he didn’t craft an entire album around it. “Cold New Worlds” on the b-side feels like an industrial-strength, steroid-abusing remix of Girl Unit’s “IRL”, like you brought in your Chevy Lumina for a tire rotation and when you came back it was a canary-yellow Polaris Slingshot. If someone in your household hates loud video game noises, they’re going to ask you to turn this one down (or more likely, off entirely), but you can always wait until they leave to work on your solo dubstep moshing, right?

Powell New Beta Vol. 1 12″ (Diagonal)
Without sufficient warning, Powell recently dropped a new 12″ “mini-album” on his own Diagonal label following last year’s high profile XL release. I’m a huge fan so I snatched it with the quickness, although it’s taken me a few weeks of listening and processing to really get a handle on it. Time will tell if this is a random divergence from the usual Powell sound or if he’s making stylistic moves, but most of what I recognize in Powell’s music is absent here: odd post-punk / no-wave samples, lurching drums, fat acid squiggles as bass, repetitive vocal snippets snatched from an early Rough Trade 45. Powell really built up his own form through multiple 12″s and culminating with 2016’s Sport, but New Beta Vol. 1 follows an alternate evolutionary path. Rather, these tracks are mostly rudimentary drum-machine workouts, bolstered by antsy synth arpeggios and rapid rhythms. I’m reminded of the “deconstructed ’90s trance” style of Lorenzo Senni at times, in the way that this EP seems to toy with early rave sounds, trying to stunt them into a modern form, indebted to ’90s pirate radio jungle sessions instead of early industrial and electro. At first I was disappointed, but now I’m appreciative of these tunes, although I’d still take Club Music or Sport over New Beta Vol. 1 any day. Maybe, as the title implies, Powell’s just working out some bugs.

Rat Columns Candle Power LP (Upset The Rhythm)
Been thinking I should change the name of Yellow Green Red to David West New Release Update Center. Doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way, but it’s more fitting, as beloved Aussie musician David West just keeps on churning them out: new records by Liberation and Rank/Xerox are still fresh, there’s a substantial (and great) album under his own name from last year, and rumors of a new Total Control record in the near future, too. And this is only what I’m aware of! It’s a blessing that he finds himself in the studio setting so frequently, as this new LP by his group Rat Columns is great, the sort of thing I didn’t know I needed until it arrived. He moves away from emo-rock to pastoral indie bliss on this one, delivering the scotchy scent of Belle & Sebastian, with humming organs buffering the billowy guitars and West’s soft vocal delivery leading the way. I haven’t kept up with Belle & Sebastian, but aren’t they a disco group now? Regardless, Rat Columns beat them at that game with “Blinded By The Shadow”, the album’s catchy pinnacle, which feels like the holy consummation of Young Marble Giants and ABBA (yes, there’s a brief violin solo), with lyrics that the Gallagher brothers only wish they wrote: “I was blinded by the shadow that you cast”. I can only hope West finds the time to take the show on the road at some point, perhaps some sort of greatest hits extravaganza spanning all his groups. I can already picture Mikey Young in a sequined tuxedo, somewhere toward the back of the stage, holding down rhythm guitar with a smile on his face.

The Rememberables The Rememberables LP (Adagio830)
I’d love to tell you all about this record, but I really can’t recall a thing about it. Just kidding! The Rememberables appears to be DC-centric hardcore dudes trying out commercial guitar-rock, a divergence that makes sense to me. There are only so many songs a band like Coke Bust can write, and the allure of putting together a collection of pop hooks better than the pros pulls at any musician who’s toured a bit and wondered what it’d be like to play the main stage instead of the basement below. I have to say, The Rememberables came out of the box well formed, perfectly mixing Weezer’s quiet / loud guitars and thick sound with the vaguely serious emo-isms of early Foo Fighters. It’s not a distinct sound, but it certainly gets the job done: a track like “If You Should” could’ve been a Killers single before they discovered Bruce Springsteen. There’s just enough pre-mainstream emo-pop to keep it from sounding too bland (some Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World-inspired melodies here), and a laid-back vocal delivery that falls somewhere between Merchandise’s Carson Cox and Sponge’s Vinnie Dombroski (just check “Walk” and see if you aren’t picking up those vibes). My instinct was to write The Rememberables off as a ‘mersh vanity project, but I can’t deny a solid set of pop hooks when I hear them, and this concise debut has plenty.

Roll The Dice Born To Ruin LP (The New Black)
Seems like Peder Mannerfelt’s been leaving his Swedish fingerprints all over the electronic underground lately, remixing, producing and releasing a dazzling array of projects. Roll The Dice is his long-running duo with Malcolm Pardon, and this new one is glorious, hyper-focused and sinister. Songs vary wildly in tempo, but all come with a sense of intense concentration, focusing on repetitive rhythms and dark, shadowy tones. What makes it stand out is the frequent addition of Per Johansson’s saxophone, released in staccato bursts that punctuate the rhythms like exclamation points. The maddening repetitive qualities and violent horn assault often has me thinking of Swans circa Children Of God mixed with Wolfgang Voigt’s Freiland Klaviermusik – the opener “The Derailed” is a fine example of this comparison, and also why Born To Ruin sounds so good. They also behave like some sort of cyber-punk reimagination of The Stooges with a cut like “Cannonball”, although that may be pushing it, and drop a mighty piano plonk on a particularly aggressive sax line with “Bright Lights, Dark Hearts”. For such a clear set of rules, Roll The Dice express a wide range of ideas within its confines, all of which I’ve been happy to spend time exploring.

Ben Schumacher & Eric Schmid Vienna Acid 7″ (FQW)
The Fusetron description for this one pulled me right in: “Ben and Eric mock each and their careers other over a crap techno song.” Sounded like the sort of thing I’d enjoy, and as that Los Tres Pericos album still gets plenty of play around my parlor, I thought my new thing might be Musical Side-Projects Of Serious Contemporary Artists. And yet, while that brief description is a spot-on explanation for what happens here, I’ve come to regret this purchase. The a-side is an acapella version (no music, just two male voices, seemingly taken from voicemail recordings, possibly in exaggerated accents, occasionally edited with minor effects), and as I let it spin, I slowly felt the desire to slather my face in grease makeup, so that I might resemble the clown I knew I had become. I love garbled nonsense, but nothing about the a-side pulled me in, or gave me any sense beyond “yep, this is a recording of hard-to-decipher inside jokes and complaints between two dudes I don’t personally know”. The b-side slightly makes up for it, as it does indeed come with an acid-house track, spacious and lonely and amateurish, like someone’s first attempt at copying Tin Man using free software, while the exact same vocals are laid over top. Far more tolerable, but still fairly unsatisfying. Of course, the more I research the FQW label’s offerings (acapella covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “talking (German / English)”, and “an improvised audio drama”), I feel a strong urge to purchase them in spite of myself. Somebody scramble the password to my PayPal account, quick!

Sick Thoughts Songs About People You Hate LP (Neck Chop)
Just when I thought Sick Thoughts’ Drew Owen might have turned a new page and opened up his heart to joy and happiness, I checked the album title… Songs About People You Hate. What an irrepressible rapscallion! There’s probably no accurate classification, but I get the impression that Sick Things is his “main” project, maybe because it’s released the most records and the fidelity is on the higher end of the basement-fi spectrum. As far as snot-nosed leather-jacket pop-punk is concerned, Songs About People You Hate is pretty undeniable. The riffs are simplistic and familiar, the drumming is steady and mean, and Owen’s voice is ripe for the job, as if an alternate reality existed where Wavves never learned how to skate and make friends. Buck Biloxi seems like the strongest spiritual figure for Owens, though, as the majority of Sick Thoughts songs discuss their disgust, hatred, annoyance or boredom in crude and convincing fashion, with music that veers between the poppy garage-punk of Rip Off Records and classic Killed By Death standards. Not really music to truly hate yourself by, as much as songs like “Young And Suicidal” and “Wasting My Youth” seem to hope, but rather music through which you might enjoy the idea of hating yourself.

Soft Shoulder Songs & Intermissions LP (Gilgongo)
Songs & Intermissions is one of two new LPs by Soft Shoulder, both released by Soft Shoulder leader James Fella’s Gilgongo label. Gilgongo seems more and more like a clearing house for his personal work, a vinyl-based catalog of events, and if he doesn’t mind financing it, why not? The other one that came out, Repeat #4, features two long and drawn-out takes of the same track (again I say: why not?), but Songs & Intermissions is more substantial and diverse, as well as to my liking. They’ve really got a strong handle on disjointed, DIY, no-wave-inspired punk, which is explored in depth here. Echoes of Urinals, Mars, A Frames and Ex-Models persist throughout, as well as the noisy and gruff post-punk of pre-No Age group Wives. The neo-no-wave renaissance is certainly passe at this point, but that’s part of why Soft Shoulder are so satisfying – this is clearly a group making a turbulent racket because it’s a form of music they sincerely believe in, not because it’s what everyone is supposed to play this year. Things move fast and with purpose, from a crash n’ bash punk stomper to a percussion-free post-punk droner, all fitting together and generating a sense of discovery and excitement. Looks like there are at least a dozen rotating members of Soft Shoulder… I wonder if I could just sneak in to a practice someday without anyone noticing.

Taiwan Housing Project Veblen Death Mask LP (Kill Rock Stars)
Taiwan Housing Project’s debut 7″ EP was really good, and they’re a fantastic live force, but I still wasn’t prepared for Veblen Death Mask, the Philadelphia group’s first full-length. I think most sensible people would file Taiwan Housing Project under “no-wave”, but to me, no-wave infers some sort of anti-groove, a nervous and unavoidable tick that ensures rapid irritation. Taiwan Housing Project smell like that, but man do they groove, locking into these mean motorik formations as though they don’t realize every siren is wailing and their house is about implode. It’s as if you applied the chunky stomp of A Frames or The Stooges’ “Fun House” to the entire Lust/Unlust discography (played quadraphonically). And not only do Taiwan Housing Project fall deep in the pocket on many of these tracks, they’ve put together some memorable hits as well – if it takes more than two listens of “Multidimensional Spectrum” and you’re still not singing along to the chorus, I have to wonder what is seriously ailing you. It’s a special and satisfying thing, to find music that buzzes with disjointed noise while simultaneously locking your butt into a beat, so hats off to ’em!

Talker Battle Standards 12″ (Standards & Practices)
Talker is one of the mightiest units operating in the crowded realm of industrial techno – they don’t do anything particularly unique, they simply do it bigger and better. This new EP is the debut for a label run by Talker’s Jon Krohn, and it’s a great way to kick things off, complete with bold and visually-oppressive artwork to match the hard-hitting techno within. “Battle Standard” turns at 45 on the a-side, and it’s a populist take on their sound, replete with a pendulously swinging beat, a moaning wave of mid-range drone and a bass kick to knock the wind from your lungs. It’s a little faster than I feel like Talker usually runs, BPM-wise, but it’s a good fit for peak-time rave antics. “(Gold) Standard” opens the flip with a simplistic punch, dropping a hammer onto steel with a wobbling bass effect and an eventual choir of horns to announce the return of the wolves to the throne room. “Snub Nose” wraps it with a speed-bag workout that shucks and jives, a bit more nimble than the other two but nearly as bludgeoning. Back in 2014, Talker really figured out how to make Sandwell-inspired greyscale techno that is basic and elegant without being generic, and Battle Standards maintains their mastery.

Trans FX Gaslit LP (Jokes Got A Posse)
Trans FX cannot be stopped, following last year’s The Clearing with Gaslit, released on the bafflingly-named Jokers Got A Posse label (which also put out a Trans FX tape, of course). This time around, Trans FX set their sights on the post-rave Brit-pop of the ’90s, with sweeping melodic gestures, layers of keys, booming artificial drums and a vocal that slowly melts over top. They’re going hard on The Verve, The Stone Roses, definitely Spiritualized, music made by mop-topped white boys too drugged to care about anything besides love and loss and the next bag of drugs. Gaslit definitely verges on historical re-enactment at times, really trying to soak every sense in a 1992 issue of NME, right down to the trip-hop beat in “Jest Sane” that has me forcibly containing myself from shouting “you’re unbelievable!” along with it, EMF-style. I guess it’s the atmospheric strangeness, the neon-lit rain of a big city via the endlessly-cloudy home of Trans FX, Olympia, that saves the album from coming across entirely as an homage, but rather their own visualized creative expression. Or maybe Sneaker Pimps recorded an album for 4AD back in the day and Trans FX stole the tapes and slapped their name on it.

USA/Mexico Laredo LP (12XU)
Often, a new group consisting of notable ex-membership doesn’t stack up to its predecessors, but I’m here to tell you that USA/Mexico, the Austin, TX trio consisting of Craig Clouse (Shit & Shine), King Coffey (Butthole Surfers) and Nate Cross (Expensive Shit) exceeds whatever lofty expectation those toilet-centric names might inspire. Laredo is gloriously molten sludge-punk; it’s heavy as hell, just the right amount of dumb, and injects its own personality in each tune, even the Bullets For Pussy and Fall covers. That character comes in the form of rippling digital distortion, which often seems like it’s snapping the songs’ essential tendons, and a strange vocal effect, as though the voice is run through Macronympha’s noise processors or a child’s toy Yak Bak (I’m reminded of the chorus of Dr. Dooom’s “You Live At Home With Your Mom” more than once). USA/Mexico have most in common with Rusted Shut, but they utilize actual riffs more often than not (and never spiral out into ten-minute jam territory), calling to mind Kilslug, Quttinirpaaq and one of those over-fried Stickmen With Rayguns live sessions. I have faith in our youth to surpass the sonic brutality of my musical generation, but I’m wondering if anyone alive today can surpass the elder statesmen of USA/Mexico when it comes to igneous, putrid noise-rock.

Violence Creeps Ease The Seed Bag 7″ (Drunken Sailor)
Let’s say you’re Violence Creeps, and some British label sends you an email, asking to put out a single. What are you gonna say, no? Of course not, you’re going to dig up some random tracks and send it over, and make a 7″ EP like Ease The Seed Bag. The a-side features a Wormhole “variant” of “Sex Dwarf” (additional cowbell and chorus pedal?) and an “underwater edition” of “Amber Alert”. Both songs were previously released here or there, and these two versions are less direct than the Violence Creeps I’m used to hearing – I’ll take it! The b-side has two more tracks, both new as far as I can tell: “Backhand” alternates between fuzzy bass and static-cling guitar as vocalist Amber Feigel berates them both, then “Gentle” steps in like a sassy punk who just got a fresh mohawk, like something I’d expect out of Rik & The Pigs. Not the first Violence Creeps record I’d tell you to buy, but let’s be real, eventually I’d recommend that you buy them all.

Wiccans Sailing A Crazy Ship LP (Dull Tools)
Brooklyn’s Dull Tools are here to remind you that they also like hardcore-punk, care of the newest LP by Austin, TX’s Wiccans. It’s been five years since we last heard from Wiccans, but I can assure you they had no musical epiphanies since they last checked in, no maturation, no growth, no newfound appreciation of Father John Misty. For as strange and conflicting as their concept can be (they’re called Wiccans, the back cover offers a sci-fi Armageddon backstory, songs are titled “Medusa 3000” and “Sword Of Heaven”, etc.), they play a very straight-forward form of hardcore-punk, one that displays a reverence for all-forms of Black Flag without coming across as a pastiche. What’s impressive is that they take these basic, tried-and-true hardcore moves and stretch them to songs in the three-minute range without losing any intensity or urgency. As this group is a side-project in a realm of side-projects (Wiccans feature members of Video, Bad Sports, Institute and Radioactivity among surely others), it’s no surprise that they have the skill-set to craft sturdy and respectable hardcore-punk without bringing in strange sonic influences or “experimenting”. The experiment happened in 1981, the result being that hardcore was already perfect.

Xylitol Is Toxic To Pigs?? 7″ (Thrilling Living / Total Negativity)
Cretinous and radical punk is on order care of Olympia’s Xylitol, the latest Thrilling Living offering. They’ve got a distinctly modern hardcore-punk style: simplistic and speedy pogo-punk drumming, ugly mutated-street-punk riffs, moshy breakdowns and vocals that emanate from some sort of mythical forest creature (of the Grimm’s fairytale variety that tricks and eats misbehaving children). However, they also offer proof that greatness can be derived from this popular style by sheer force, as well as the ability to go bonkers as a form of catharsis (with just a smidge of nihilism). Vocalist “Mr. Meat” really conjures the heinous stink of evil spirits with her voice, like the Crazy Spirit guy on helium with the suave seductive abilities of the titular creatures in Gremlins. Plus, somehow, these songs simply stick to the inside of my skull more than others: it only took one lyric sheet follow-along for the first verse of “Bisquick” to be permanently stored in my memory, all prepped and ready to sing along (I’d print the lyrics here but they are far too obscene for this unrated website). If the cops are smart, they’ll let Xylitol walk with merely a warning, as who knows what sort of damage they’d do to the inside of a police cruiser.

Horrendous New Wave compilation LP (Fish)
The concept of the “fake punk compilation” has delighted me for years, and I’m not alone: Fat Day more or less did this with Killed By Death #11 (or maybe The Frothy Shakes truly existed at some point?), and Fucked Up did it with their David’s Town LP. There’s something about inhabiting an alternate punk reality that is infinitely exciting and aesthetically freeing, and I am fairly certain that’s what is happening here, care of Lumpy Records (although actually released by “Fish Records”) and various members of “real” bands like Rik & The Pigs, Glitter, Ausmuteants, Janitor Scum, Nosferatu and Trauma Harness, or so I’m told. It’s a pretty apt title, as these various, hilariously-named groups contribute punk-wave nervousness, sloppy synths, hilariously unfunny in-jokes, meaty rock moves and whatever tickles their fancy. You’ve got Dequantize doing a soft instrumental called “Quantize”, Knob Noster Band offering “Butthole Flag On Parade”, Sexual Christians with “Spiritual Headlock” and probably my favorite band name / song title combo, Duty Toot and “Bit By Bozo”. I should also make it clear that while the concept is hilarious and eccentric, the execution is what makes Horrendous New Wave a keeper, as each one of these semi-fictional bands are either very good or extremely great. I can only hope Lumpy and crew are programming a virtual reality headset so that I might get a chance to inhabit the universe where the artists of Fish Records live and play.