It’s time again for another blast of Discogs cheapness! If I’m not careful, Yellow Green Red could devolve entirely into a “cheap Discogs deals” fan-site, so I’m gonna keep doing this once a year (or less). If you’re a new reader, let me explain: I like to share a few older records currently available on Discogs for five dollars or less, in hopes that you check them out, or maybe really go for it and buy them! It’s not a get-rich-quick scam – none of these records are sold by me personally – trust that I am keeping my personal copies of these underappreciated gems. I know, I really want to pick up the new Joshua Abrams Natural Information Society album too, but you can get all these records combined for significantly less than what that one will run you, so keep that in mind! Alright, let’s dig in…

Billy Bao Fuck Separation 10″ (S-S, 2007)
Billy Bao is probably the most contemporary Discogs Cheapo entry thus far – this record comes from 2007, and although the Billy Bao alias seems to be retired at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if some new triple-LP gatefold came out next week. As far as I’m concerned, this plain-looking 10″ on the S-S label is Mr. Bao’s musical peak – two absolutely shredding cuts of bloodstained noise-punk. I feel like the contemporary hardcore-punk scene has fully realized how great The Leather Nun’s “No Rule” is at this point, and I’d say these two tracks are about as close as a modern group has come to emulating that same sense of combustible, no-brakes menace, like Motörhead riding a bridge to hell in search of revenge. As with all Billy Bao records, I am sure there is some philosophical concept to this one (each side features a single track of exactly ten minutes length), but as far as my ears can tell, the only concept at play here is to demolish every other monotonously-chugging punk band in their wake.

Defektors The Bottom Of The City LP (Nominal / Grotesque Modern, 2010)
There must be a million bands that sound like this – trust me, I get at least three or four albums like it a month! I’m talking about hard-driving post-punk groups that stabilize their musical focus between The Hot Snakes and The Wipers, trying to be tough but mature, psychotic yet wise, all while violently strumming their guitars downward in speedy unison. And yet, I feel comfortable in saying that Defektors are the absolute best at it, truly the best, and The Bottom Of The City, their sole full-length, is their flawless pinnacle. They have that rare magic where every song sounds exactly the same yet each track comes equipped with distinct hooks; it’s that special form of Ramones superpowers that is almost impossible to locate, particularly in a style done so frequently. It’s like you’re either born with this ability or you’re not, and the short-lived Defektors truly excelled. If only they were also ex-Drive Like Jehu, they’d be headlining arenas right now, but they were three nobodies from Canada somewhere, so they’re relegated to the arena in my heart.

The Dramatics $50,000 LP (Menlo Park, 1997)
How ironic, seeing as The Dramatics’ $50,000 is currently the cheapest of the bunch, yours for a whopping $2.99! The Dramatics were a Baltimore based junk-rock duo, clearly harnessing the spirit of no-wave years before the no-wave resurgence, and doing so in their own particular fashion. Which is to say, lots of tuneless percussion, wild fumbling, squelched guitars and exactly the sort of musical tomfoolery that hooks me in. Kind of a Load Records style, but prior to all the Load Records bands who embodied similar styles came to be. Seems like Derek Bailey and The Boredoms were probably on The Dramatics’ mind as well, but who can really say? Baltimore avant-garde fixture Jason Willett was one of the members, who currently plays with Half Japanese, and had a group in the early ’00s called Leprechaun Catering who had sort of a more electronic take on The Dramatics’ sound (and whose sophomore album I proudly released!), but it almost feels like $50,000 is where it all first snapped together for Willett, this insane freedom to layer six thrift-store guitar tracks with shaken cans of beans, children’s electronic toys and some high-pitched babbling. Truly a fine freakout, which could also be said for much of Menlo Park’s exquisite discography, much of which is of similar high quality and budget price.

Excelsior Land Of Enchantment 12″ (Belladonna, 2000)
Around the turn of the century, crude rock n’ roll wasn’t exactly at a surplus, and Philadelphia was no exception to that drought. And yet Excelsior, a rag-tag group of frenemies who would rather drink cheap beer and crack jokes on their stoop than put together any sort of meaningful touring regimen thrived in this time, perhaps because pretty much no one gave a damn about them. While their other two albums are quite good (one of which sadly never made it to vinyl), Land Of Enchantment displays Excelsior at the height of their powers, somehow merging the bitter indie-punk of The Monorchid with the swampy guitars of Lynyrd Skynyrd and some punishing yet precise drumming. The vocals are snarling with snot, the riffs are danker than anything Man’s Ruin was releasing at the time, and I’m telling you, the drumming is absolutely magnificent – I wonder whatever happened to that guy? Basically every member of this band was too good to be in a band that is heisting a rental van to go play a show in Allentown to a crowd of fifteen people, but that’s exactly what Excelsior did, and I will forever love them for it.

The Kill-A-Watts Kill Kill Kill Kill 7″ (Rip Off, 2000)
With few exceptions, it seems that mostly any garage-rock / garage-punk 7″s released between 1999 and three months prior to the moment you are reading this are relegated to the dollar-bin. It’s easily affordable if you’re a fan of the stuff, but there’s a lot of mediocrity to wade through. Unlike the 2000 debut single by Wisconsin’s Kill-A-Watts, that is, which features two of the most misanthropic and catchy garage-punk rippers of the ensuing decade, both on the same side of the 7″ (as was the Rip Off Records style of the era). “Mutant Brain” is the initial killer, railing against someone severely lacking intelligence, and “Treat Me Like A Jerk” spits venom all over someone foolish enough to disrespect one of the ‘Watts. They look great in the photo on the cover, in their horizontal stripes and angry faces, like they’re going to stick their gum in your hair if you even think about getting in their way. The rest of the group’s output was good (if not always great), but this single is the stuff that Y2K Killed By Death dreams are made of, if anyone were to conjure such a dangerous dream.

Media Children But They Still Ignore… 7″ (Mass Media, 1991)
Musically, Media Children’s sole 7″ EP is probably the weakest of the records listed here. Okay, I’m absolutely positive it is. But as far as charm goes, this one is tops, right up there with the most tuneless offerings found within Kugelberg’s DIY 100 or any Bullshit Detector comp. It’s political crust done with all passion and no technique, complete with the vocals of a singer named “Shant” who maintains the same off-key high-pitch tone for all of her shouted vocals, much to my delight and the agitation of my neighbors. Amazingly, there are multiple YouTubes attached to the record’s Discogs entry (including demo and unreleased tracks?), not to mention full scans of the cover and inserts, so I’m clearly not the only person infatuated with this slice of early ’90s DIY crust-punk. I’d recommend you check out “H-Bomb” first for a dose of clunky d-beat destruction, but the entire EP is spirited, raging and gloriously painful to listen to.

Reviews – April 2019

Alberich Quantized Angel LP (Hospital Productions)
When it comes to harsh techno-inflected industrial of the American variety, Alberich has been a personal favorite for a while now. He’s busy but reclusive (and one of the fine artists to politely decline a YGR interview back when I still did those), and when he actually puts out an album, or long-playing tape set or what have you, it makes a splash. Quantized Angel offers little in the way of surprise, but it delivers the goods with precision and efficiency. In a way, it feels like the rest of the world has caught up to Alberich, as there are countless new artists making gritty and rhythmic industrial music, but even as the increased population has slightly diluted the impact of this general sound palette, Alberich stands out. For whatever the reason, his gear pounds notably harder than your average player, with simplistic and repetitive patterns that maintain their own isolated DNA, even through the blown-out distortions and tense clangs that rain down like lava from a nearby volcano. The title track in particular dazzles with echoes of pounded metal, which has me envisioning a power-electronics interpretation of the musical Stomp starring Hospital’s Dom Fernow soft-shoeing over some rusty Oldsmobile wreckage. Anything is possible with these mischievous sonic connivers!

David August D’Angelo LP ([PIAS] Cooperative)
I can’t shake the feeling that Hamburg’s David August was created by some hyper-efficient algorithm tailored specifically to my musical tastes: cross Nicolas Jaar, Scott Walker, Daughn Gibson and Matthew Dear and you’ve arrived at his destination. Only seven tracks on D’Angelo, August’s sophomore full-length, and they make a lovely impression, one of a solitary male figure sweeping through the night into a world of hidden glamour and lust that plebes like you and I could only imagine. The Nicolas Jaar vibes are particularly strong, but there’s very little laptop-gazing to be had here; August likes a good riff, be it an outwardly spiraling harp melody or a fat chugging bass-guitar, and he knows how to use them. August’s vocals are generally ghostly moans or cyborg-enhanced crooning, certainly splitting the difference between Jaar and Matthew Dear, and across these unhurried, sumptuous tunes, they really hit the spot. Some of the songs feel like they would work as disco if they were sped up exponentially (he barely seems to break 80 BPM most of the time), but I prefer them this way, on the verge of nodding off, the guitars and keys sliding in and out of their natural states as August tries to get us home safely. Slapping a big recommendation on this one!

Beyond Peace What’s There To Be So Proud Of? 7″ (Slugsalt)
Philly’s Slugsalt label must’ve taken a Midwestern road trip last summer or something, because they dropped a heavy dose of Midwestern punk recently, which includes this EP from Iowa City’s Beyond Peace. It’s a nice package, silk-screened and stamped and all that, and their music is urgent and slightly-uptight, the way all good political hardcore-punk should be. Musically I’m reminded of Ill Repute and Christ On Parade, with perhaps an early ’00s detour through much of the thrash 625 was peddling at the time. 1984-style hardcore, let’s say, but with a finger pointed at today’s issues: monuments to political villains, white supremacy, complacency and cops. What’s nice is that their lyrics attack these issues beyond broad and vague sloganeering, and you can still slam n’ mosh to ’em, particularly the spirited chug of “For Peace”. Nothing trendy or of particular interest to today’s hardcore tastemakers here, but Beyond Peace are from Iowa City, what do they care? No one of social importance is gonna pay any attention to them regardless, so they might as well do their own thing!

Bitumen Discipline Reaction LP (Vacant Valley)
Vacant Valley is one of Melbourne’s more eclectic labels, covering pretty much any crevice of underground rock-ish or rock-esque music, so I was interested to dig into Bitumen’s debut album upon its arrival. Didn’t take long to figure out Bitumen’s vibe, which is textbook goth-rock, right down to their black shirts tucked into their black pants. Roomy, semi-electronic percussion; flanged bass and chorus-y guitars (or is it the other way around?); moaning, wounded vocals; the sensuality of spiders crawling up your spine. If this is precisely your deal, Bitumen are here to guide you through another dark night, but if you need something beyond a trustworthy genre exercise, Discipline Reaction might leave you a little bored or wanting. I kept waiting for hooks, or risks, or any attention-grabbing moment to come from this record, but Bitumen play it fairly safe, eager and ready to fill the opening slot when the distinguished seniors of goth come through to play one of Melbourne’s haunted theaters. I’d put on my leather pants if I was going to see Bitumen, but they’re going to have to wow me with their next record if they expect me to do my eyeliner, too.

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters It All Comes Down LP (Grubby Publications)
In case you were worried the Aussie underground had gone fully twee, the lengthily-named Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters are here to ease your concerns, dishing out another album of sturdy pub-punk (it’s their term, not that I disagree). Nine tracks here, and Briggs and company do well by them, lodging themselves into each of these varied grooves until every last Heater is satisfied, from the rhythm guitarist to the keyboard player (his name is “Guy Buzz” and I can’t help but assume he was born with the name). I’m reminded of the OBN III’s in the way that The Heaters seem to aim for the back rows of the crowd with their songs, trying to get as big as a band can be in a small dive bar. I’m also hearing The Cheater Slicks in the way that Briggs seems to plea for his humanity over these thick and pleasant garage-punk tunes. To someone disinterested in the style, It All Comes Down might pass as acceptably generic, but as for rabid fans of tuneful and basic Aussie rock in the heralded tradition of Cosmic Psychos, feedtime, The Scientists, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Tyrannamen and surely hundreds more, I bet they’ll be fist-pumping and singing along to “Australian Dream” the first time they heard it, just like I did here in very-much-not-Australian Pennsylvania!

Chris Corsano, Bill Nace, Steve Baczkowski Mystic Beings LP (Open Mouth)
If I was participating in an American Improvisor fantasy league (why doesn’t this exist?), these three would be high on my draft list! The octopus-armed percussive whirlwind of Chris Corsano, sadistic guitar surgeon Bill Nace and heavyweight saxophone powerhouse Steve Baczkowski, what’s not to like? Mystic Beings comes from a session late in November 2016, and they sure are playing as though it’s November 2016: frantic, shocked, dismayed and appalled, this is free-jazz at its most combustible and disturbed. The trio setting is fairly optimal, as each artist is well-represented in the din – Corsano’s percussion comes from all angles while Baczkowski rips a hole in the sky and Nace emits mechanical scrapes not unlike a roll of barbed wire dragged across glass. You can focus on any specific player (which is fun) or let the entire thing cleanse you out, like one of those intentionally-painful facials that leaves you looking decades younger. I doubt anyone was there to mosh to Mystic Beings at the time it was recorded, but rest assured, I’m moshing to it now.

The Cowboys The Bottom Of A Rotten Flower LP (Feel It)
At the bottom of a rotten flower… who among us hasn’t been there before? This is the sixth full-length outing for Bloomington’s The Cowboys since 2014, and while I normally look suspiciously toward extreme prolificacy, I’d say it has worked in their favor. This group continues to get better at what they do, and not by simply trimming the fat, either – this new one has sixteen tracks, and while that number strikes me as dangerously large for any power-pop garage-punk album, they never falter into fatiguing repetition. They’ve really stepped into a great formula instead: the compact-design retro-rock of The Strokes circa Is This It with the melodic sensibility and general aesthetic of late ’70s private-press American power-pop (Boyfriends, The News and other great bands with overused generic names), performed with the over-caffeinated zeal of the Liquids / Coneheads posse. “Wet Behind The Eyes” is probably the best Strokes-y song on here, and two tracks later “My Conscience Is Clean” sounds like a male-fronted, later-era Dum Dum Girls delivering the goods, but those are merely a couple of the flavors The Cowboys share with us here. This is a group capable of a lot of great rock n’ roll, which is a relief considering their feverish rate of production.

Dark Blue Victory Is Rated LP (12XU)
Not since The Vines played on Late Show With David Letterman has there been as precious an accord between the United States and Australia as the group Dark Blue, whose songwriter and vocalist John Sharkey bounces between continents with the frequency you or I might go see a new Star Wars movie at the theater. To be fair though, he’s kinda-fake Australian (proudly born and bred in the burbs of Philadelphia), and as Dark Blue are proudly kinda-fake skinheads, the whole thing just works. Victory Is Rated is their third full-length, and while this group arrived aesthetically fully-formed (cynically humorous sad-skinhead Britpop), Victory Is Rated displays the band fully confident with their decisions, no longer bridging the gap between punk and indie but simply setting up camp among the best that ’90s alternative pop-rock had to offer. It suits them! These songs are some of their most immediately enjoyable, rich with easy-to-swallow hooks and assertively guided by Sharkey’s increasingly masterful voice. When Kurt Vile’s guest trumpet solo hits on “Let Me Tell You A New Story”, and Sharkey extends the word “baby” to nine syllables, I can’t help but feel like they’ve unintentionally bested The Wedding Present at their own game. At the very least, much better than Better Than Ezra.

Equipment Pointed Ankh Live LP (Sophomore Lounge)
First and foremost, not since that first Satanic Rockers LP have I been so thoroughly entertained by an illustrated penis on a record cover! This one is worth zooming in on for sure, the sort of thing where I want to meet the person who conceptualized it, while also really not wanting to meet them. Anyway, about the record that inhabits this cover: Equipment Pointed Ankh is the solo-project-turned-live-ensemble of one Jim Marlowe, most notably of Tropical Trash. On Live, he’s accompanied by other locals like the Flanger Magazine guy, Dan Davis (also of Tropical Trash) and others. They space out over some superbly lengthy grooves, clearly under the psychic instruction of krautrock but speaking in their own musical language. The a-side locks into a springy rhythm and those who can solo over top, do. It’s trippy and vaguely humorous, with guitars that work themselves into sounding like honking geese before they call it a wrap. The three tracks on the b-side are murkier and less focused, a primordial soup of electronics and strings, at least until final cut “MA Wishlist” hypnotizes once more, replete with an expressive horn and Eastern scales. The label compares the album to Harmonia, Ashtray Navigations and Sunroof!, and while I like to think I know how to compare bands to other bands far better than the record labels that release them, I’d say Sophomore Lounge hit the bullseye.

51717 Paranoia Star LP (L.I.E.S.)
In a dark-electronics scene where releasing multiple records each year is fairly commonplace, 51717 is a notable divergent. Paranoia Star is the first official full-length from the long-running project of one Lili Schulder, and the fact that she finally decided to release a vinyl album really makes the record feel like it means something, you know? A solitary recorded statement from someone who has been incredibly deliberate with such. Through at least thirteen years of live performances and sporadic limited-editions, Schulder has been honing in on a very specific mood with 51717, and it culminates here, where claustrophobia, eroticism, tension and anomie collide. It’s clearly designed to work as an album with an insoluble plot running throughout, not merely a collection of tracks, although one could appreciated it piece-by-piece, too. Let’s take “Twisted Pair”, for example, and examine it: a languid heartbeat persists through violet fog and poisoned wind, not unlike Black Rain’s soundtracks or Huerco S. wearing corpsepaint. This leads into the nerve-racking electro-pulse of “Exile”, recalling the exact moment Alexa decided to lock your doors from the outside, kill the lights and raise the thermostat to 110 degrees while calmly reading you the Yahoo! News headlines of the day. The title Paranoia Star is a sharp fit, as 51717 intermingles oppressive electronics with pristine beauty and dreary atmospheres as though they were meant to be, sharing the spirits of Coil, Raime, Carter Tutti Void and any other fearless explorers of the abyss.

Forward Future Troops LP (540 / Todo Destruido)
Forget The Rolling Stones, Forward strikes me as the rock band that will outlive us all. Comparatively, they’ve only been at it since 1997 or so, but unlike other groups of their vintage, it feels like Forward are only getting stronger and more resilient as they march onward. Future Troops is their fourth full-length, hot on the heels of a 7″ single last year, and it’s as unrelenting and brawny as you could’ve hoped. No musical surprises, which is comforting: this is a record that sounds like a mix of Death Side, Motörhead, World Burns To Death and Judgement, all that good hardcore draped in chains and soaked in gasoline. On a side note, the crunchy guitar of Future Troops bears an unexpected resemblance to that of ’90s blue-collar punks Limecell, clearly the tone of choice for disgruntled middle-aged punks with a high alcohol tolerance. Forward aren’t singing about beer and other lighthearted party-punk subjects, however: Future Troops is a pointed attack at the Japanese government, most directly evidenced on “Mother Fucker Japan”. These hard times call for blunt and unflinching directness, and Forward are particularly suited for the task.

Freak Ritual Death 7″ (Vague Absolutes)
It’s sad, but I’ll admit it: I can’t see the word “freak” in the context of loud and distorted guitar music without thinking of Korn. This is my cross to bear, as this short-lived Los Angeleno hardcore-punk trio has nothing to do with eyebrow piercings or baggy bondage pants. They briefly existed in 2015 and recorded a demo, now lovingly upgraded to 7″ vinyl care of Vague Absolutes. It’s a shame, really, because they sound great, both plainly familiar and distinct, which is the paradoxical aim of any great hardcore-punk band. Their music is repetitive and easily understood; Freak usually locks into a riff for the entirety of a track, often favoring a more mid-paced slam indebted to the rough-edged mid-’70s rock that initially influenced hardcore-punk (Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper?) complete with the sporadic fireworks of a guitar solo. The vocalist sounds a hell of a lot like Ross Farrar from Ceremony at his most unhinged, a gargly voice that works exceedingly well with Freak’s hellbent riffage and single mindedness. The label’s press sheet references Leather Nun’s “No Rule” as a sonic reference point, and while I don’t think anything on this demo quite reaches the glory of that tune, I bet Freak would’ve come close to matching it had they stuck around a little longer.

Fried Egg Square One LP (Feel It)
Arguably the best way to release one’s debut hardcore-punk LP: on a label that has developed its own distinct underground style that is also run by one of the band’s members. It’s DIY but not performatively so – when you really love hardcore, you end up doing a label that puts it out, and you end up playing in a hardcore band, and if you’re lucky, both of those ventures are enjoyed by other people. I’d say that’s the case with both Fried Egg and Feel It, and Square One is a fine display of their talent. Whereas prior Fried Egg records have been predominantly fast, they ease into more of a mid-tempo hardcore groove this time around, sure to raise comparisons to Black Flag’s Jealous Again and My War besides myself comparing it right here. Lotta loose Ginn-isms on the guitar, but vocalist Fried Erik is so frothy and winded in his delivery that Square One never falls into tribute-mode (and there’s a fair share of speedy ragers more in line with Haram, Arms Race, C.H.E.W. and today’s younger upstarts, too). Fried Egg deliver cool songs with character here, surely sending the chain punks back to their base for reinforcements. (Are we still doing the egg vs. chain thing? No? Okay, sorry.)

International Anything Like This Girl 12″ (Perlon)
Far removed from any of today’s techno trends, Perlon is a reliable bastion of playful tech-house. I love the stuff, so I grabbed this International Anything single based solely on Perlon’s reputation – figured I was due to check in. Both tunes are high-gloss fun, reminiscent of Ricardo Villalobos’s many collaborations with Chilean pop-freaks Los Updates, which is some of my favorite techno-pop ever. I love when Perlon artists utilize vocals, it’s almost always great, and that’s the case with both tracks here. “Like This Girl” is a mid-paced cabana-pumper, somewhere between Italo disco, The Hercules & Love Affair and Thomas Melchior. It combines the glitz of downtown NYC with the hedonistic excess of Ibizan tech-house, two of my favorite flavors of anything. “Echo Of The Years” struts onto the polished marble floor like a trust-fund playboy, tilting his shades in the direction of the complimentary frozen margarita station. Luxurious and gaudy, I’m imagining Röyksopp as an NXT tag team of narcissistic pretty-boys while blasting this cut. It’s just the sort of elastic, fizzy tech-house I’ve come to desire from the label… sleek, slightly preposterous and notably more fun than whatever the serious on-trend producers are doing.

Jensen Interceptor The Ultimate Wave Riding Vehicle 12″ (Craigie Knowes)
I’ve always been unfairly suspicious of Australian techno, but this new 12″ from Sydney’s Jensen Interceptor has converted me to a firm believer. The Ultimate Wave Riding Vehicle is my first encounter with the man, and it’s a pleasure to behold: timeless, supersized, breakneck electro-funk acid. Impervious to trends, this is music indebted to Drexciya, Kraftwerk, The Egyptian Lover, etc etc, but fully ‘roided-up and ready to force its way to the top of one’s playlist, making all that trendy deconstructed club music wish it was simply expertly-constructed club music like this instead. “Wave Slave” is the standout, a Drexciyan pounder that gets nice and sweaty while a thousand Kool-Aid Men bust through the walls in rapid succession. EP closer “Biometric” thumps for joy at a more relaxed pace, as if The Egyptian Lover’s “And My Beat Goes Boom” encountered Beau Wanzer’s “Balls Of Steel” in a sub-aquatic disco lounge. Four tracks on this one and all of them highly rated!

JH1.FS3 Trials And Tribulations LP (Dais)
Been intrigued by this group since I first learned of their existence, the duo of Frederikke Hoffmeier (aka Puce Mary) and Jesse Sanes (the skull-mutilating vocalist of Hoax). I’ve enjoyed both Puce Mary and Sanes’s work with Hoax, and they both seem like cool people, so finding out they were working together (and, if I may gossip, might be a romantic couple as well?) was good news. I missed their debut on iDEAL, but this Dais follow-up sounded good, and it is, ten tracks of cryptic and unsettling electro-acoustic noise. The look of the record is very Posh Isolation (clean typefaces haphazardly placed among gloomy still-life photography and plenty of white space), which I guess isn’t too surprising, but what does surprise me is the slow-burning creep and unresolved tension, nary a harsh blowout to be found. JH1.FS3 is far mellower in approach than either Puce Mary or Hoax – no screaming or wails of feedback, just looping pulses, clanking drones, spoken vocals (both unintelligible and clear) and various sounds that emit from various electronic sources plugged into each other on a table. There’s at least one overtly macabre sex story here, and a nice little interlude of what sounds like hundreds of tiny bones breaking, so while the mood is generally that of restrained murky dread (ala jazz-less Wolf Eyes, live Coil bootlegs or Nocturnal Emissions), it never grows dull. Plus, it’s cool to think that while most couples curl up on the couch and fight over what Netflix to watch, these two are layering samples of broken violins with scratchy tape loops while deciding which dark-erotic story to recite over top.

Komare Got To Stop Me / Hot Tarmac 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
The 28th IDDB release! This Swedish label is really putting in the work where no one else is, a dedicated series of avant/experimental/outlying noise and music 7″ singles. What’s even more amazing, they’re pretty consistently great, like this one from Komare, a British duo that is new to me. They’ve got two brief tracks here, both quite pleasing and certainly in line with the label’s basic intent. “Got To Stop Me” seems to be pitched-down cymbal reverberation and refrigerator hum over a brittle rhythmic tapping, with hushed vocals seeping through the cracks like carbon monoxide. Reminds me of Furious Pig, if they weren’t actually furious at all. Sleepy Pig, maybe? “Hot Tarmac” sounds like it should be a new Sleater-Kinney song title but operates with the same ingredients as the a-side (unnatural hum, synth-hiss, distant percussion), this time less of a forward-march and more of a sit n’ stew, as if Komare realized they locked themselves into the studio by mistake and had to wait until morning when the janitor comes by to let them out. I know our tax returns aren’t as hot this year, so financially speaking I’d love to let you know you can skip purchasing this one, but my conscience won’t let me – add it to the list.

Mary Lattimore Charlie’s Yard cassette (Petty Bunco)
Alright, so I somehow forgot to talk about Mary Lattimore’s most recent solo album when it came out last year (this just in: it’s beautiful!), so lemme do something a little unexpected and review this adorably understated cassingle that the Richie Records subsidiary Petty Bunco recently bestowed upon us. Lattimore has been everywhere and done everything in the last couple years – she gets my vote for hardest working musician in show-business – so why not add a tape of her playing guitar (not just harp!) to the stack? I love when musicians who are really good at one instrument swap it out for another; the results are almost always interesting, if not entertaining, but Charlie’s Yard is both. She washes out a few sickly guitar chords in the sun, layers in some electronic processing (wait, is that also some harp after all?) and just lets it steep until the water turns from clear to a rosy shade of purple. I’m reminded of outsider, semi-new-age gems like G.B. Beckers’ Walkman or one of Gigi Masin’s more playful compositions, and jealous that Lattimore can just sit down with some gear, focus for a couple hours and bestow these fully-formed ambient sparklers upon us. Could be her hard work, or her innate talent, but I’m guessing it’s both!

Low Life Downer Edn LP (Goner)
Sydney’s Low Life have come across as one of the more intense groups operating within Australia’s DIY underground over the past few years. Not a lot of records, possible break-ups and get-back-togethers (or so I’ve heard), lineup shifts, all the personality-driven drama and mystique that makes a band seem larger than (low) life. This is their second album, now with the inherent garage-respectability afforded by the Goner Records stamp of approval, and after a few listens, my feelings are mixed. I can’t quite tell if I like or dislike the music: their songs are basic driving rock tunes with little in the way of memorable hooks or choruses, but that seems by design. The guitars are fully shoegazing, drifting through various daisy-chained effects pedals while the drums plow ahead, occasionally at uptempo punk speeds. The vocalist sounds remorseful and weary, as if he wants to glorify hedonistic sex and drugs while also acknowledging the detriment they’ve had on his life. Reminds me a bit of Nothing, really, particularly in the way Low Life present themselves as emotionally-vulnerable old souls who also hang out with gangstas with Air Jordans and face tattoos – “RBB” comes closest to a hook with the repeated chorus of “you know who the fuck we are”, a phrase that also appears around their very Nothing-esque logo, come to think of it. Imagine Nothing if they were inspired by goth-punk instead of grunge-pop, maybe? Wish I could read the lyrics, as I get the impression Low Life are speaking frankly about uncomfortable subject matter, but no lyric sheet is included, and the guitars tend to swallow up all the other sounds around them. The back cover features matching portraits of all the band members, a rogue’s gallery of possible drug dealers you might encounter on Tinder, which I find oddly endearing. More than anything else, I just hope these guys are okay.

Mattin Songbook #7 LP (Munster)
Sonic provocateur Mattin continues his unlikely partnership with Spanish garage-rock label Munster for the latest entry in his “songbook”. As if Mattin has ever written an honest-to-goodness song in his life! Songbook #7 is another bleak suite of fractured electronics, live instrumentation, cut-up noise and plenty of Mattin himself screaming slogans over the din. As an artist who’s made pretty much every kind of avant-garde noise/silence at this point in his career, he’s kind of lost the element of surprise, as one can only expect the unexpected with his music. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as some of his most surprising records were also some of his least enjoyable (I still shudder to think of the black-hole of entertainment that is his Billy Bao-monikered Urban Disease album), and the impassioned, politically-minded collage of tracks presented here is engaging and cool. I presume that Mattin kinda told the other players what to do for this session, tricking and caressing them to follow his musical bidding and then manipulating the results even further until everyone lost track of whether it’s anti-anti-music or anti-anti-anti-music they were making. Cool to see that Moor Mother contributed to this record, too (although not through her trademark spoken-word) – I could go for a duo collaboration of these two, if only because I’d be curious to know which of these two distinct and domineering artists would guide the ship. Mattin may have met his match!

The Native Cats Spiro Scratch 7″ (Rough Skies)
Three great new ones from Hobart, Tasmania’s truest heroes, The Native Cats. Last year saw the release of their fourth full-length, which is worth your time, but there’s something about the urgency and diversity displayed on this EP that I find particularly enthralling. “Preservation Law” is one of the fiercest cuts I’ve ever heard from this group (and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all of their songs) – thudding drums, circle-pit bass and vocalist Chloe Escott going buck-wild about preservation law, her delivery recalling Johnny Rotten’s performance on “Problems”. They quickly temper that with the muted electro-melody of “Olivia”, Escott this time locked into more of her trademark detective-noir lyricism, and yes, a soothing melodica solo. Flip it over for the syrupy industrial throb of “Mètre Des Archives”, wherein Escott sings as if it’s a pop-rock ballad backing her up and not the Wolf Eyes-esque lurch that it actually is. Marvelous! Three different approaches to The Native Cats’ humble setup of bass-guitar, vocals and electronic percussion, showcasing the wide range of ways they can turn their lemons into lemonade. Easily the best Native Cats single since, well, the one I put out nine years ago!

Negative Gears Negative Gears 12″ (Disinfect)
Been looking to get a full-size back tat, and I think I might’ve found it in the cover of Negative Gears’ debut 12″ EP – a faceless, naked human getting halved by a giant razorblade mid-somersault, held up by a rubbery arm miles above Australia. It’s a welcome introduction to this new Sydney group, who manage to perform their tightly-wound, energetic, Australian post-punk and only bear a passing resemblance to Total Control. On paper, they’re kinda similar – the guitar drives these songs alongside economic drumming, capped off by a vocalist who sneers through his distress, too disgusted to scream – but these riffs are more traditional, resulting in an overall sound closer to groups like Joy Division, Au Pairs and Crisis than their Aussie brethren. Like most groups who do this sorta thing successfully, it feels like Negative Gears are coming at their restrained, moody tunes from the vantage point of punk and hardcore rather than indie-rock, which I find to be a far superior approach. They probably mixed their Wire records with Flux Of Pink Indians and This Heat, and shame on anyone who doesn’t!

Night Vapor 1,000 Miles Of Mud LP (Corpse Flower)
Don’t bother setting the table, this mean-mugging slop-rock from Pittsburgh’s Night Vapor doesn’t require any silverware. They hail from the same family of bands as Brown Angel and Microwaves, and they remind me quite a bit of the latter this time around, in the way that Night Vapor take menacing noise-rock and abstract it into some demented form of proggy no-wave. Most notably, drummer John Roman doesn’t play the beat so much as the riff – his patterns punctuate and scour the gristly bass and prickly guitar, which is certainly a nice way to distinguish their sound. This leads to a pretty angular take on Killdozer- and Melvins-style mud-stomps, enhanced by the truly over-the-top vocals of Albert C. Hall, who sounds like he recorded them in an ambulance on the way to the hospital for severe indigestion. It’s a character portrayal, like what I’d imagine the Squidbillies to sound like (I’ve yet to watch an episode), but it works well for Night Vapors – you may not enjoy it, but you won’t forget it! They even throw in a well-suited cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Hot Head”, through which I picture Hall devouring the BBQ sauce-covered corpse of Don Van Vliet. Lean but tasty!

Nivhek After Its Own Death / Walking In A Spiral Towards The House 2xLP (Yellow Electric)
If you’re a fan of uncompromising artists who simply don’t give a fuck the way artists are expected to give a fuck in 2019, how can you not love Liz Harris aka Grouper? For more than a decade she’s been pursuing her beautifully lonely drone music through a variety of approaches and instruments while continuing to grow a sizeable fanbase, and lately has taken to self-releasing her albums on Bandcamp. Last year had the hasty “full-length” Grid Of Points, and she followed it with this, a lavish LP and 12″ set, sold together (but kinda packaged separately?) under the name Nivhek. I’m reminded of Young Thug being like “you can just call me Jeffery now” by Liz Harris’s switch to what seems to be “Kevin” spelled backwards (kinda), completely unconcerned with marketability or revenue maximization. That sense of freedom extends to these two records, which casually pursue beauteous solitude care of the haunting echo of bells, Harris’s disembodied vocals, brooding tremors of unknown origin, a piano or two, a guitar (or something with resonant strings), and so on. The music sounds distant but feels immediate, especially when she gets cooking and folds her vocals into the soft spots left between melodious chimes and tone swells. I know she didn’t, but by the time I’ve settled into side C and hold the letterpressed sleeve in my hands, it really starts to feel like Harris made Nivhek especially for me.

Ravi Shavi Blackout Deluxe LP (Almost Ready)
Providence’s Ravi Shavi keeps on rolling, this being their third album since 2015, all of which arrived care of Almost Ready. If you were familiar with Ravi Shavi’s prior records, good news, this one sounds pretty similar and is just as entertaining as the previous two, if not more. If you’re unfamiliar, I’d be happy to fill you in: this is a garage-pop group playing retro riffs through a modern prism of styles. I’m reminded of Chain & The Gang, some of The Walkmen (more than ever before, Blackout Deluxe feels somewhat indie-rock inspired), and the general sense that Austin Powers could easily suss out a dance routine to many of the tracks here. Not necessarily much bop-shoo-bop, but plenty of yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah, if that’s a distinction worth making. Ravi Shavi’s style and sound is not something I would usually gravitate toward, and yet I find myself happy to let both sides of Blackout Deluxe spin through to completion. Could be vocalist Rafay Rashid’s perfect-for-the-job voice, or the fact that the songwriting is interesting enough without veering off course (and the Austin Powers-isms are never too disturbing), but whatever the case, Ravi Shavi are breathing pleasant life into this geriatric art-form.

Science Man Science Man LP (Swimming Faith)
Wow, not only is Buffalo’s John Toohill one of the main forces behind Night Slaves (who came through YGR last month), he also plays in Radiation Risks and Alpha Hopper. And if that weren’t enough, he’s got a solo project under the name of Science Man. I honestly can’t tell if having this much creativity is a blessing or a curse – when does he sleep or binge-watch? Anyway, this science-themed project is extra-fast garage-punk, streamlined for ease of use and drum-machine guided. These songs all sound like highway chase scenes, ripping downhill in an attempt to shake off impending danger. The tempo and structure of Chixdiggit with the attitude of Zeke or Teengenerate, let’s say. It’s hard to really pick out any particular standout moments of this self-titled debut, as the record all kinda blurs together, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When listening, it’s as if Science Man himself ran into the room and shook me by my collar for twenty minutes or so, hollering about viruses and dark matter and whatever else it is that science-y types tend to care about. Undoubtedly better than his counterpart, Social Studies Man, were such a project to exist.

Session Victim Dawn EP 12″ (Delusions Of Grandeur)
As winter starts to finally thaw out, I can’t help but want to listen to deep house records like this new one from German duo Session Victim. Don’t let the spooky name or foil-embossed cover intimidate you, Session Victim are a couple of sweet boys-next-door, wondering if maybe you wanna noodle on the Rhodes or run your vocals through their vocoder as they let these pleasantly smooth jams unfurl. That sense of communal satisfaction is reiterated by the guest spot of Nebraska on the title track (though, as Nebraska is also a producer of deep house music, I’m not sure of his specific contributions), as well as the mixture of live instrumentation, be it drums or bass-guitar, which helps these tracks to feel loose but guided, more journey than destination. Dawn comes with three such journeys, akin to the most sun-kissed work of Theo Parrish, Leafar Legov or Floating Points, and a smudgy Sven Weisemann mix, as is his wont. There’s no shortage of music like this, but Session Victim demonstrate an awareness and caring that makes Dawn the perfect antidote to any seasonal hangover.

Strapping Fieldhands Alluvium Trinkets LP (Omphalos)
After taking more than a decade off (I tell ya, kids don’t raise themselves!), Strapping Fieldhands have resumed semi-frequent activity, initially with a 7″ on Richie in 2013 and now with Alluvium Trinkets, their first album in sixteen years, released on the group’s own Omphalos label. Mercifully, they haven’t gotten any more mature, or bluesy, or decrepit, but rather they seem to be frolicking into advanced middle age, as carefree and jubilant and boinked as any group of twenty-somethings, perhaps even more so (the stress of social media does not seem to weigh heavily on Strapping Fieldhands). Nah, this album is full of silly ditties with semi-serious undertones, freaky indie-folk that relies on traditional songcraft rather than lo-fi abstraction. I’m reminded of The Cherry Blossoms this time around, or perhaps if Pentangle were reconfigured for Yo Gabba Gabba – “Back To Arkansas”, for example, is exactly what I’d expect to hear as Kermit and Miss Piggy roll their jalopy out of Manhattan and into the country, looking for adventure. If you have any willingness at all to hear a song called “A Pinch Of Patchouli”, I strongly recommend you listen to the one written by Strapping Fieldhands, which appears on the second side of this very album.

Tazer Human A+ EP 7″ (Levande Begravd)
Tazer are a Danish punk group, which of course means at least two members are wearing aviator sunglasses in any given promotional photo (pretty sure it’s a national requirement in order to get one of those sizable artist grants every country but the United States has). Kind of a weird vinyl debut – a three-song, one-sided 7″ EP – but weird works for me, and it clearly does the trick for Tazer as well. They’ve got a pretty modern thing going on in various ways, such as the absurdist cartoon cover art, creepy synth-punk sound, and predilection for Adidas tracksuits, so while it may not be the most shockingly original cocktail of influences, I’m happy to abide. Their music recalls Count Vertigo, Gary Wrong Group, Von Lmo, any sort of slow-ish punk that uses synths to simulate space travel, with a vocalist who keeps his cool through it all. I’m almost picking up a slight Viagra Boys influence, if not in the sounds utilized but the pacing and vocal delivery. Pretty optimal for a three-song EP, but can Tazer take this sort of thing to higher heights? Or even better… lower lows?

Terrine Cheat Days LP (Bruit Direct / [tanzprocesz])
When it comes to making weird-ass music, I feel like the French are inappropriately under the radar. Sure, they’re a romantic, chain-smoking people, but they also know how to bug out and create socially inappropriate music like the best of ’em. Take Claire Gapenne and her Terrine project for example, which has found a nice home on Bruit Direct after a handful of CD-rs, tapes and one prior LP. Cheat Days is my first encounter with her music, and it’s enchanting, as Gapenne leaves no sonic stone unturned while seeking out new pathways to amuse, delight and perhaps even summon up some dancing, too. She likes to make beats, but they are often at odds with each other – don’t expect the tight synchronicity of an Ableton grid here, as Terrine is happy to slap a handful of unmatched loops together and let them fight it out. It’s techno somewhere on the looser, goosier end of Knekelhuis and Not Not Fun’s respective outputs. Those beat tracks are buffered with various audio scribbles, be it a few loose piano improvisations (reminding me of something Elklink might stick between a tape manipulation), bustling field-recordings or other moments that avoid easy description. I’d say “it’s like if Jandek made a techno record”, but it’s also not at all like that, and Jandek has probably made a dozen techno records by now anyway.

JJ Ulius Tänder Ett Ljus / Era Jävla Manér 7″ (Happiest Place)
JJ Ulius is a person (presumably not his real name, although I wouldn’t put anything past the Swedish people), and when he’s not rocking out in his punk group Skiftande Enheter or experimenting with his post-punk/noise duo Monokultur, he’s playing wholesome DIY guitar pop under his own name! The label name “Happiest Place” seems to directly apply here, as these two songs are cute and tender little things, like a tulip popping up through the melted snow at the first sign of spring. “Tänder Ett Ljus” is wistful and breezy, and “Era Jävla Manér” is even lighter, like a zero-calorie dessert that’s actually delicious. I’m reminded of Eddy Current at their most infantile, Home Blitz in a rare moment of pop focus, or a more vulnerable Dagens Ungdom (to keep it Swedish). It’s just a quick two-song single, so as I find myself wanting more of these tunes, I just end up listening to them over and over again. Which has done wonders for my Swedish, of course!

Franck Vigroux Théorème 12″ (DAC)
Franck Vigroux first entered my consciousness in a way most heavy-duty electronic producers wish they could, via a collaboration with the late great Mika Vainio. That album was great, so when I saw the cover shot of a lil speedboat cruising through some dark grey water on the cover, I figured it was worth my time, and Vigroux didn’t disappoint. The first two tracks are the standouts, for sure: “Carré” is one of the best hostile electro-industrial tracks I’ve heard in a while. It rides a warble that almost recalls early dubstep, but utilizes it to slowly bore a hole through the earth’s mantle. If the drums were slightly faster, it’d pass as one of Nine Inch Nails’ best songs of the last decade, but I like it even more that it’s so slow and sinister (and free of vocalists, although I sure would love to give it a try). “VX90” is sonically similar but Vigroux adopts more of a Sunn O))) approach on this one – no percussion, just tidal waves of molten basalt created by processing electric guitars to an extreme degree. Kind of Heldon-esque, which works for me! The beats return on “TT”, the closest thing to techno on here (albeit a pro-sculpted techno abstraction), whereas “Nord” creeps through abandoned subway tunnels with rhythmic hisses and pulses, as all evil avant-garde electronics should. Funny how modern, state-of-the-art synthetic music can evoke such primal, earth-moving forces!