Archive for 'Reviews'

Reviews – July 2018

Alienation Bitter Reality 7″ (Warthog Speak)
You think Alienation has any time for your pissing and moaning? Think again! They hail from the remote Canadian province of Halifax (it’s so far up the eastern North American coast I think Reykjavík is actually the closest neighboring city) and they are fully aware that life ain’t all its cracked up to be. This is their third EP on Warthog Speak and while I’m not overly versed in the first two, I’d imagine they are also full of screaming-mad hardcore with sonic ties to Negative Approach and Necros as well as slight nods to No Comment and Capitalist Casualties (and not a long jump from modern hardcore like S.H.I.T. and Glue, either). It’s a classic ten-song 7″ EP (you can’t mess with that model), perfectly raging but also without any pretense or mysterious/shocking vibes shoehorned in. Only gripe is that I wish it came with a lyric sheet, as titles like “Johnny Coffee Shop” and “Squirrel Bait” (presumably not a tribute song?) raised my brow. The little colored “availability” bar on the Bitter Reality BigCartel page appears to be roughly three quarters completed – it warms my heart to know that people are still buying 7″ EPs of high-quality by-the-books hardcore such as this.

Alexander Arpeggio Streng Geheim EP 12″ (Neubau)
As promised, I’m tearing through Neubau’s newest releases as if they were a life necessity, and maybe they are? These raw techno 12″s are hitting the spot, including this one, the debut from Alexander Arpeggio. He runs the Mond Musik reissue label, digging up rare electronic jams from the ’70s and ’80s, but don’t expect his own productions to follow a retro frame of mind. Sure, he’s clearly using old drum machines and synths instead of modern software, but Streng Geheim sounds fresh for today. The title track is a double-digit BPM strut, colored with some Middle-Eastern melodic flair. It feels like an impromptu dance breaking out in an arid open-air market bustling with goods being bartered and sold, or perhaps a non-ironic corollary to Men’s Recovery Project’s Bolides Over Basra album. Geier aus Stahl remix “Streng Geheim” on the flip, looking up toward the night sky with their interpretation (and as hoped, they leave the lead melody intact). “Du Hast Kein Gesicht” closes it out in high fashion with a chugging arpeggio (how appropriate) that recalls Petar Dundov at his meanest with an airy synth melody not unlike something you’d find on a Bone Thugs N’ Harmony CD from 1995 and a tauntingly unintelligible vocal. With each new release, my love for Neubau only grows stronger and more intense.

Bad Times Streets Of Iron LP (Goner / Nuthin)
Alright, now this is the Goner Records we all know and love! Here’s a welcome reissue of Bad Times’ 2001 debut self-titled LP. They were a short-lived (and by short-lived I mean apparently less than 48 hours!) “supergroup” featuring Jay Reatard, Eric Oblivian and King Louie. It’s the stuff garage-punk dreams are made of, and Streets Of Iron lives up to whatever hype that may imply. This album is clearly the result of a “first thought = best thought” songwriting mentality, just throwing together simple and rugged riffs the way these three punks knew best, and I’d say that’s exactly how you’d want these guys to operate. It’s really great stuff: a song like “Trapped In The City” is a shoulda-been hit, as visceral as anything off The Pack’s 1978 LP, but with the manic urgency that comes from being in a band destined to implode before next week. This version comes with a couple original tracks restored (and a couple live tracks removed), a thoughtful enhancement that maintains full acerbity. It’s a truly rabid gem (“You’re So Lewd” feels like Bobby Soxx with his pants on fire), a testament to the ferocity and intensity of the pre-Y2K Memphis / New Orleans garage-punk scenes.

Black Panties Dirt From The Mop / Dreams Of My Teeth 7″ (Total Punk)
You just can’t keep a good pair of panties down, as evidenced by this new Black Panties 7″ on Total Punk. In the past, I could take or leave this guy, kind of just another modern slimy punk band (like so many, forever to exist in Lumpy & The Dumpers’ shadow), but these two songs are pretty on the mark. “Dirt From The Mop” starts with a drum solo (accurately described in the liner notes as a “short, impressive drum solo”) before kicking into some furious garage-y hardcore punk, lo-fi and loving it. “Dreams Of My Teeth” is kind of a psychedelic title, but it’s a mid-paced meltdown of a similar style, far slower than the a-side but equally full of semi-humorous misery. Black Panties is a band (I’ve witnessed them live myself), but I guess it’s also a guy (kinda like how “Alice Cooper” works), and he recorded this single entirely on his own, playing every instrument, from the choked-out guitar solo on the b-side to the drum solo that opened the a-side. Sometimes punk is best experienced in self-imposed solitary confinement, and it does the trick here.

Brown Sugar Long Strange Drip LP (Feral Kid / Loki Label)
Buffalo’s Brown Sugar put out some great records in their day (2011 – 2014, more or less?), and this LP is jam-packed with most of them. Collecting prior singles and comp appearances and outtakes, Long Strange Drip is a solid compendium of this band, detailing their evolution from a snotty, delinquent hardcore-punk band to, well, basically the same thing except they figured out how to write some of the most memorable songs of their time and peer group. At 21 songs on the a-side alone, the actual vinyl looks like a damn Hellnation LP… I have to wonder if a curated selection of their best tunes would’ve been more effective for casual listening, but at the same time, I realize the concept of the CD discography is a relic of the past now (I actually miss ’em) so this is probably the best way to memorialize a group in 2018. I recommend you start on the b-side for the Tropical Disease EP, one of my favorite Brown Sugar releases, which combines the manic energy of their Toxic State contemporaries with the bite of Cleveland hardcore (Inmates, Puncture Wound, Bad Noids maybe?) and their own distinct nonchalant charm. Great liner notes too, outlining the inhospitable atmosphere of Buffalo, NY and their struggle to have fun in a place where fun was frowned upon. Not entirely sure if Brown Sugar are still a band or not (they seem to fade in and out, breaking up then immediately playing a fest and putting out a record, touring and then canceling a tour, etc.), but Long Strange Drip is excellent proof of their existence.

Daytime Cleaners Daytime Cleaners LP (Commuter)
This LP came from Daytime Cleaners’ bassist Earl Kunkel, who’s responsible for the great / truly weird label Vwyrd Wurd, so I was expecting something gelatinous and psychedelic like Daywand or indeterminately blackened like Nocht The Only Ghouls. Instead, Kunkel and his friends did the weirdest thing possible by playing in a completely normal, easily-approachable indie band! Out of Bethlehem, PA, no less – who knew? I kept waiting for something to jump out from Daytime Cleaners, revealing that the whole thing is a miserable hoax or a Negativland-style social experiment, but nope, seems like Daytime Cleaners are in fact simply a regular band, four white guys with mustaches and glasses, just the way white guys like to wear ’em. It’s slightly disappointing, as there isn’t nearly the same level of creativity on display here as on Kunkel’s label, just classically-crafted indie-pop with soft psych/garage leanings, ala Elf Power or I dunno, maybe Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, with a touch of Promise Ring in the vocal department. Daytime Cleaners are certainly as pleasant as those three… different shades on the khaki scale, but on that scale all the same. I guess no town is complete without one of these bands, and Daytime Cleaners are perfectly fine, perhaps even finer than Bethlehem currently deserves.

Dint Hooker 12″ (Horo)
Say what you will about Limp Bizkit but I think we can all relate to the occasional need to break stuff. Good thing there are producers like Berlin’s Dint out there, dropping overly aggressive, dare-I-say-macho records like this, perfect for putting a ball-bat through a box-screen TV, or fist to mirror, Rollins-style. Normally, I bristle at electronic guys invoking sex workers in an attempt to add some sort of edgy coolness to their music, and I guess I still did when I first saw this record, but the title track is so outrageously gnarly that I can’t help but tip my hat. Picture Raime’s slow and minimal repetition as deployed by Pantera’s rhythm section – it’s that good! Definitely in the same league as Andy Stott’s remix of Batillus, as well as Demdike Stare’s “Past Majesty”, one of the slapping-est tunes in their significant catalog. Second cut “Shovel” almost verges on power-electronics, but the underlying tension is too tuneful (and the harsh noise is deep in the background), hitting that sweet spot between Haus Arafna and The Haxan Cloak. We head back to the club (albeit a pitch-black, grim and frostbitten one) for “Skewer” on the b-side, with various electronic alerts, sonar pings and bass throbs slowly gathering intensity until unexpectedly fading, as if the pack of grim reapers chasing you through a concrete maze were all just a dream. Or were they?

Elephant Rifle Hunk LP (Humaniterrorist)
Elephant Rifle begin Hunk, their third album, with a stomp-down – gotta hand it to any band who cuts immediately to the chase like that, getting the ignorant hillbilly mosh-pit started without hesitation. From there, they explore various forms of heavy, belligerent rock, calling to mind AmRep, Harvey Milk, Melvins, KARP, that strain of underground post-hardcore that flirts with butt-rock and metal but never quite goes in for a kiss. Thankfully, they’re not overly serious about it (see the oil(?)/mud-coated male abdomen brandishing the word “HUNK” on the cover), and seem to truly have fun administering their pounding riffs and aggressive rhythms. The kind of band that would musically attract Mudvayne fans while simultaneously mocking them for being Mudvayne fans. Elephant Rifle certainly aren’t the first group to adopt this musical approach and attitude, and I don’t see much within Hunk that really stands out beyond the shadow of their forefathers… that said, their ideas are certainly that of their own (as opposed to a direct homage/rip), and while I may not want to sample their body grease up close, I am happy to admire it from afar.

F.U.K. Road Kill 7″ (HoZac)
Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night, wondering if Roger Miller of Mission Of Burma ever had a good ol’ fashioned punk band in the late ’70s with Sue Rynski of Destroy All Monsters? Allow this archival 7″ of F.U.K. (short for “Fucked Up Kids”) to ease your mind, as it’s true, they did! And this is it. Now, I’m not usually desperate to hear every little scrap of punk rock ephemera that’s unearthed (although I appreciate that it all exists), but I have to say, “Road Kill” is pretty timeless and amazing, in that there are still young punk bands with a Burger Records cassette tape and a dream wishing they sounded this good. I’m reminded of a stompier Loli & The Chones, although they never had a molten lava guitar solo quite like this! It’s kind of stunning that this track somehow remained undiscovered for so long, as I can say with confidence that this is top-shelf material. There’s no way “I Got A Head” on the b-side could match the primal righteousness of the a-side, but it’s by no means a throwaway. It’s stupider (your average second grader could write smarter lyrics, and is that someone singing through a kazoo?), but stupid in the way that all great punk classics are stupid, simplistic and pure. If this actually came out in 1977 in a pressing of 300 copies, it’d be on Ryebread Rodeo for $2,995.00, but instead it came out in 2018 and we can all snatch it up for whatever new seven-inches cost these days. Ten bucks? Can’t think of a better use of my money.

Jayda G & Alexa Dash Diva Bitch 12″ (Freakout Cult)
While so many electronic producers are retreating to their home studios for the sake of meticulous electronic editing, clicking their mice thousands of times to ensure their dance music is eviscerated beyond recognition, there are still people like Jayda G, for whom music’s main function is to bring a party to life, to tap into the eternal party euphoria that dwells within us all. She’s interested in the basic classics that are classic for a reason, and on this new EP for her imprint with DJ Fett Burger (another party essentialist), she gets down to the bare bones of early house. “Diva Bitch” is basic vogue music in the form of a minimalist Chicago house groove and a guest vocal from Alexa Dash, the “Diva Bitch” in question. She uses the track to diss inferior men and praise those who are worthy of her time, essentially turning a highly-demanding dating profile into an uplifting spoken-word rant that eventually leads into a Diana Ross-inspired chorus. It’s a little ridiculous, but so is life in the club, and if you’re not being at least a little ridiculous, why are you even there? This 12″ comes with a “Jayda G Get Down On Ur Knees Mix” which edits things a bit, as well as an acapella version if you just want to spend some private time with Ms. Dash. You better be looking extra fresh!

Gen Pop II 7″ (Feel It)
Feel It aren’t slouches – they knew Gen Pop had a great thing going on and wanted a piece. It’s a good pairing, one of the most thoughtfully-curated new hardcore labels and Olympia’s Gen Pop, a hardcore band writing thoughtful songs. Maybe smart is a better word for it than thoughtful – these songs are immediate and direct rather than studious and brainy, consistently following the shortest path to success. Opener “Oh No” is a prime example, essentially working two back-and-forth notes for rapid ‘core satisfaction, and it’s followed by the even faster “No Change”, which throws a third note in the mix. I could go for a hundred of these forty-second blasts of nascent hardcore jams, but Gen Pop demonstrate a sly versatility too – “Plastic Comb” might be my favorite, a weirdly slow groove with belligerently British vocals, this time coming from the drummer, I think? It’s like Jeff Geggus of the Cockney Rejects stumbling through a post-punk hangover, quite beautiful indeed. At other times I’m reminded of classic Boston hardcore ala FU’s or Gang Green (check “No Identify”) but Gen Pop are too smart to be either drunk or straight-edge, and the last song feels like something The Thought Criminals would’ve done had they stuck around long enough to get into hardcore. Each band member sings (it’s pretty fun to watch live, wondering who’s gonna handle the next tune), but even if you missed ’em on their recent US tour, these eight minutes of music bear much repeating.

Danny Graham Danny Graham LP (Xerox Music / Sinsemilla)
Seems like Australia has an equally endless cache of rock rarities waiting to be reissued as the US, and I guess that’s probably equally true for any first-world country dating back to the mid ’70s or so at this point. This is Danny Graham’s debut privately-pressed LP from 1980, now brought back to life care of Xerox Music, complete with folded lyric sheet and collage insert. I can count at least five times that obscure Australian music has shocked me to my core (Slugfuckers, X and Victims to name the first three), but this isn’t one of them. Graham’s music falls somewhere on the non-punk side of the late ’70s / early ’80s rock underground, calling to mind the queer rock of icons like Lou Reed and David Bowie alongside the glam-rock sparkle of T. Rex and probably at least a little Bee Gees influence (spin “Early Morning Heat Wave” and see if your straight-leg jeans don’t turn into boot-cut polyester slacks). Maybe a little folk-jazz fusion ala Larry Coryell in some of the instrumental passages, too? It’s one of those records that I can understand why people are eagerly shelling out $300+ for original copies, but I can also understand why it never took off in the first place, and why no one besides elite collector fiends really care. No unabashed, shoulda-been hits on here, just a nice collection of thoughtfully-composed songs that clearly soaked up the rock, glam, disco and folk of its era.

Grouper Grid Of Points LP (Kranky)
I got on the Grouper train inexcusably late: 2016’s Paradise Valley 7″ single. I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do (blame it on my avoidance of artists named after animals in the ’00s, aka Raccoo-oo-oon Syndrome), but I picked up this new one and have been enjoying it plenty. At first, I was expecting more – maybe some big sweeping orchestral moments, the inclusion of noise or drone techniques, a little post-rock heaviness, perhaps a startling field recording or two – but Grid Of Points is stark and simple, just Liz Harris and a piano in a rustic cabin in some faraway land. I was hoping for more than just this, too, but after acclimating myself to these soft, tender, drifting tunes, they started to take shape in my mind, the extent of their beauty and depth revealed. In particular, a track like “Driving” is oddly hummable after a while, and Grouper’s talent at blending the ambiance of sustained piano chords with her vulnerable-yet-distant voice is unparalleled. Grid Of Points is a quick eight songs, half of which are under three minutes a piece, which lends itself to repeated full-album listening and the development of a familiarity which really helps connect the listener to this sparse and melancholy music. Or at least this one listener in particular.

Twig Harper & Bill Nace Live At Dreamland LP (Open Mouth)
Bill Nace is more or less tied with Chris Corsano as the friendliest face in American underground improv. They’re equally busy too, and Nace has been doing a fine job documenting it on his Open Mouth label. Nautical Almanac, on the other hand, were one of the first groups I ever saw do that thing where various wires enter one performer’s mouth as they convulse onto the floor (a staple move in early ’00s noise), so they’ve got a special place in my heart, all of which led me to snag a copy of this collaboration between Nace and Nautical Almanac’s Twig Harper. They’re both credited with “voice”, with Harper on electronics and Nace on guitar, and it’s just the sort of dank sonic stew I was hoping for. The majority of the tones deployed here come from unidentified origins, with high-end that isn’t ear-piercing so much as ear-confusing – is Nace using a guitar pic made of dry ice, or is Harper providing wireless connectivity to a pile of old aluminum foil? They drone a bit too, but it’s always moving, hovering between tones like a restless (and stoned) hummingbird. Live At Dreamland is surprisingly pleasant, or at least not abrasive, with plenty of breathing room even at its most frantic. Perfect summer record for when the A/C in your window starts to vibrate uncontrollably and the mice run clumsy laps in the walls – it’s like you’re all jamming along!

Francis Harris Minor Forms 12″ (Scissor And Thread)
A fresh-cut arrangement of pink roses rests within an elegant vase, overlooking a hazy foreign city through drawn velvet curtains – such is the scene Francis Harris sets for us with Minor Forms. It’s a new 12″ on his Scissor And Thread label (ran in conjunction with the Brooklyn-based Halcyon record shop) and it’s a luscious, velvety dive into deep-house grooves. “More We Cannot Do” is kind of a Bruno Pronsato-ish title (y’know, tech-house Yoda speak) and it’s a very comfortable entry, complete with vibraphone to give off the flavorful scent of Mr. Raoul K. “Minor Forms” is next, upping the ante not only with more vibraphone but some tasteful trumpet as well. It doesn’t feel like part of the horn-based techno trend I’ve noticed so much as part of the tradition of smooth jazz instrumentation carefully spread across hypnotic deep-house grooves. Notably more jazzy and not nearly as melodramatic as anything on Giegling, who I’d consider the current bar for this sort of thing. The flip holds two remixes by Valentino Mora of the title track, the first of which brings the 4/4 thump to the forefront alongside some tasteful electronic squiggles. The second gazes toward the heavens, a calming bliss-out with hiccup-pitched percussion added for taste. Harris might be spending his days on Clinton Street in Brooklyn but his mind has ran off to somewhere far more serene.

Healer / DJ Eons Dank Goblins 7″ (Warthog Speak)
Not that there’s much competition anymore, but this is the split 7″ of the year, no doubt! West Bay dank-core is one of the most distinct and stylish forms of extreme hardcore, and this EP pits Healer alongside DJ Eons (aka Dan Lactose from Spazz). Healer’s side is actually their 2017 demo in its entirety (a whopping three minutes!) but man, what a demo! Vinyl was a necessity, as this is the sort of prime-cut Bay Area power-violence that would’ve found a home on Slap A Ham were it released twenty years ago. Various hip-hop and soul samples (which are often longer than the actual songs) buffer blazing-fast grind, calling to mind No Less, Capitalist Casualties and Crossed Out, but with its own distinct flavor. Really hoping we can squeeze at least another three minutes of perfection from this unit. On the flip, DJ Eons throws together some mean-mugging loops with the help of Agents Of Satan’s Ramon Salcido on bass, meant to be played out of a trunk while driving 5 MPH through a school zone. If Madlib could recognize Plutocracy tracks by titles alone, his edits would probably sound similar to DJ Eons. Healer and DJ Eons compliment each other perfectly, friends supporting friends (which was always part of the West Bay scene’s allure, along with all the graffiti and weed) – it’s been out for like three weeks now but this 7″ already feels timeless.

Iceage Beyondless LP (Matador)
Way back when (2010), Iceage’s teenaged debut knocked my socks off, and amazingly, some five albums later they’re still reinventing themselves in wonderful and unforeseen ways. I saw someone say that Iceage are pretending to be cowboys now, and while there is plenty of drunken waltzing through a honky-tonk saloon on Beyondless (a logical continuation of “The Lord’s Favorite” off Plowing Into The Field Of Love), that’s only part of what’s going on here. Throughout, they provide some unique strain of slow garage-rock that never previously existed, a ’90s buzz-bin torch song (“Pain Killer”), some raucous Neu!-inspired choogle (the fantastic opener “Hurrah”) and the silky pelvic thrust of my personal favorite, “Catch It”. Vocalist/heartthrob Elias Bender Rønnenfelt continues to sound like Tim Armstrong in a Nick Cave wig (or would it be a combination wig/bald cap at this point?), singing surprisingly tunefully at turns but still immediately identifiable as the ex-teenager most likely to make smoking cigarettes cool again. And the rest of the band (all going by their first, middle and last names on the insert, in case you didn’t realize how serious they are) exhibit growth by actually playing the songs in time with each other, all the while still possessing their ramshackle je n’ais se quoi. Speaking of je n’ais se quoi, Rønnenfelt actually says it at one point in “Showtime”, and this time around I swear some of its unintentional humor might actually be intended.

Joy O & Ben Vince Transition 2 12″ (Hessle Audio)
The horn-powered techno just keeps on coming and I for one am living for it. What should we call this, two-tone techno? Or third-wave house? Anyway, Hessle Audio continues to churn out the hits years after their post-dubstep inauguration, and this new collaboration between Joy O and saxophonist Ben Vince is a delight. “Transition 2” is immediately gratifying: a deep-house groove underpins some heavily gated percussion as Vince volleys two sustained notes throughout. It’s as if you just boarded the ferry that goes to Techno Island and the captain (Ben Vince) is announcing the vessel’s departure. It’s a fantastic cut, but don’t expect the flip side, “Systems Align”, to be any less potent. This one segues through various electronic avenues, traveling along tight-knit techno grids that shift in momentum. Sounds like Vince is using his horn to emulate the tires of a race car Tokyo-Drifting across a cobblestone alley in some sort of sleek European chase scene. It’s really quite stunning how seamlessly Vince’s horn collides with Joy O’s artificial worlds, and both players are all the better for it, confidently sharing the spotlight. I’d say if you’re only going to buy one horn-centric techno record this year, you should consider this one, but I certainly hope you’ll join me in purchasing numerous horn-centric techno records this year, other genres be damned.

Matt Karmil Will LP (Smalltown Supersound)
British-born German transplant Matt Karmil must’ve made the move via air travel because Will is an undeniably high-altitude album. Karmil’s form of house music starts on the ground, utilizing downy-soft 4/4 kicks and soothing tones, but often floats away from the beat entirely, leaving only the vague imprint of dance music as melodies hover above. It fits in well with other modern chill-out house artists like Kettenkarussell (who by no coincidence are another personal favorite), Anthony Naples and Galcher Lustwerk, but Matt Karmil soaks his material in Pop Ambient textures and can easily switch from the Giegling-esque chug of “Can’t Find It (The House Sound)” to a rippling, beatific meditation like “Maffé”, as if Fennesz was tasked with remixing The Field. It’s not necessarily a new sonic proposition, but Karmil balances both ends masterfully, knowing when to leave an elegant loop on repeat and when to ease the momentum into an untethered drone. If you’ve ever wished to dance while entering a lucid state of hypnosis, Will is the perfect elixir.

Leda Japanese Key / The Silent Contest 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Hell yeah, new Leda! Sofie Herner is one of my favorite current guitarists, or at least I think she’s playing guitar most of the time in her group Neutral and solo as Leda. It’s affected beyond recognition, of course, but in such playfully unusual ways – her music will trick me into thinking a broken washing machine is actually playing a Black Sabbath riff. These two new songs, both freshly recorded this year, are examples of her technique, and they’re great. “Japanese Key” is a slow throbbing pulse, origins unknown but it sure sounds sloppy, like you’re trying to walk through a darkened underground tunnel and can’t tell if you’re soaking your loafers in rain puddles or something far more repulsive. She rips out a sinewy solo(?) over top and kinda mumbles through it at the same time… it’s fabulous. “The Silent Contest” has kind of a similar momentum, relying on a stop-start pulse, but this one is more solemn, with grey-noise static blasts that end on a pitched tone and Herner’s vocal clearer in the mix, all resulting in an oddly noise-based devotional. Two very unique, very noisy, and very enjoyable new cuts from a clear master of her craft.

Liquids Hot Liqs Revenge LP (Neck Chop)
A pal of mine casually mentioned that Liquids have written something like 90 songs in three years, and while I haven’t verified (I don’t think it’s quite the case if you count re-recordings), it’s still pretty startling. This NWI punk band, featuring ties to Coneheads and CCTV, are clearly addicted to writing eighty-second-long snot-punk tunes, and Hot Liqs Revenge is their second proper full-length, featuring twenty new ones. It’s definitely up to par with the rest of their material, calling to mind Angry Samoans, Adolescents and Circle Jerks with a rough home-recording patina and a jittery, over-caffeinated feel similar to their modern Midwestern brethren. Songs are about how looking at you makes them want to throw up, and how they wish you’d shut up, too. Good stuff for sure, and oddly mastered for vinyl, as each track has a few seconds of silence between them, providing ample time to reflect on each tune (not unlike the Crossed Out 7″). I have to wonder though, what if these guys cooled it a little on the quantity, and tried instead to create The Perfect Punk Album? Really labored over each part and melody and vocal line, maybe stepped up the recording quality while still retaining that rawness? Angry Samoans, Circle Jerks and Adolescents probably didn’t have 90 songs combined by their first three years, and I feel like Liquids might be able to match their greatness if they worked on perfecting their tunes rather than quickly moving on to a new one.

Lysol Teenage Trance / Chemical Reaction 7″ (Neck Chop)
Seattle’s Lysol are back, after I think going away for a little bit, or maybe having to change their name? I remember the same thing happened to Tyvek, where they had to become TVK for a while… kinda funny that these mega-corporations actually care about their name being used for bands trying to sell three hundred copies of 7″ EPs, but I guess that’s what mega-corporations do. Anyway, Lysol are still rockin’ and rollin’ across these two brief tunes, a welcome return if they ever left us. “Teenage Trance” has the gruff, falling-down-the-stairs attitude of early Reatards with the energy of classic hardcore, let’s say Poison Idea. Cool breakdown that allows for some power-moves on the guitar, kinda like a messy younger sibling of that recent Fetish single. You could probably make a mix exclusively of songs titled “Chemical Reaction” and it’d be pretty good, Lysol’s included. I’m actually picking up a strong Hank Wood vibe on theirs, from the riff’s horizontal action and the vocalist’s huff-and-puff delivery (by the chorus, it’s uncannily similar). I could’ve gone for a full can of this stuff, but these two tracks are a refreshing spritz.

Patois Counselors Proper Release LP (Ever/Never)
If you told me the next great art-punk band was going to come from Charlotte, North Carolina, I’d probably choke on my iced chai, but I think that really might be the case! Of course I’m referring to Patois Counselors, whose debut 7″ I enjoyed back in 2015, but this is a mighty step up, a fully-realized vision of what cynical post-punk can be. I’m picking up strong vibes of Tyvek and Parquet Courts throughout, as Patois Counselors frequently utilize jumpy bass and drums alongside primitive and jangly guitars to energize the room, but they come across as more refined than the former and punker than the later. Certain oddball tracks like “Get Excitement” and “So Many Digits” recall The Rebel at his most successfully experimental, with any shock-jock tactics replaced by an understated lyrical wit. Patois Counselors are basically screaming “fuck society!” but with such elegant prose it might even please fans of Mars Volta. Some of the songwriting recalls The Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast in its baroque peculiarities, but it’s still simple enough to knock heads with the rest of the Ever/Never roster. Not a moment wasted, with plenty of memorable moments and weirdo charm (“Terrible Likeness” is the best song Men’s Recovery Project never wrote), and the first record of the year that I dug around inside the sleeve looking for a little download code (I found it!) because I need to take Patois Counselors with me wherever I go.

The Pink Noise House Of Cards LP (Sounds Escaping)
Yep, you read that right, The Pink Noise are back! You may remember them as one of the groups to help solidify Blank Dogs as a global trend in the the late ’00s, but I guess The Pink Noise actually never really went away, and just quietly got better over the years, becoming their own thing rather than another faceless lo-fi bedroom punk band (or solo project). This new one, unfortunately sharing names with a disgraced Netflix drama, is quite good, and bears little resemblance to the Pink Noise of old. It’s some sort of disjointed post-punk new-wave… drums come in unusual patterns (don’t expect the snare to keep 4/4 time), the guitar attempts glam-rock sass but trips on the cracks left by the drums, and vocalist/bandleader Mark Sauner kinda shout-moans over it all, recalling Black Eyes’ Hugh McElroy if he envisioned himself as a Killed By Death punk rocker. House Of Cards recalls Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask in some of its weird shredding, but it really covers so much ground – I’ll find myself thinking of ZZ Top, Rik & The Pigs, US Maple and The Contortions simultaneously and wonder how we ended up here. The influences are familiar but the end result is unique, a praiseworthy vision of overly-articulated punk riffing and laid-back retro set dressing, and certainly The Pink Noise’s finest achievement to date. Maybe they’re just getting started!

Potter Natalizia Zen Shut Your Eyes On The Way Out LP (Ecstatic)
Here’s a collaborative project that caught my eye: Colin Potter (the decades-long electronic artist who’s worked with Nurse With Wound, Current 93, Organum, etc etc) with Alessio Natalizia (aka Not Waving) and a guy with the intriguingly great name of “Guido Zen”. They lugged all their hardware to the studio and laid down Shut Your Eyes On The Way Out, a synth-heavy set full of meditative electronics, gentle techno thud and the loose vastness of kosmische. This sorta thing often gets the “soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist” tag, but PNZ avoid that sort of thing by withholding any sort of emotional gravitas or dramatic flair. Rather, Shut Your Eyes sounds like laboratory music, not so much experiments in sound but three talented people crafting exactly what they like. Think of a chef whipping up some signature dishes from old trusted recipes rather than first attempting to mix Szechuan and Mexican for the sake of seeing what happens. They’re also great with restraint, as these tracks are never overloaded – I have to presume at least one of these guys is sitting on his hands at any given moment, while one or two of the others twist their vintage knobs with studied precision. Masterful synth-work without any showy virtuosity, if that’s your interest.

Prime Minister Of Doom Mudshadow Propaganda 3xLP (Planet Uterus)
Alright, let’s just get it out of the way: no, “Prime Minister Of Doom” is not Insane Clown Posse’s DJ, and yes, I realize it’s an incredibly Juggalo-esque moniker. It would normally be enough to turn me off, but as mentioned last month, this triple LP was released in conjunction with the DJ Healer 3xLP, both produced by the same unidentified (presumably German) person, and as I’ve loved all of their other material, I had to check it out. It hasn’t disappointed! Whereas DJ Healer’s release was full of ethereal textures, open quiet reflection and extensive dialogue samples, Mudshadow Propaganda lands in the middle of the club and remains there for it’s equally lengthy duration. This is straightforward tech-house at its most efficient and durable, with many tracks led by hand percussion (bongos, congas, maybe even a marimba or two). Tracks are different from each other, so it’s not one homogeneous groove, but the tempo and energy remain steadfast throughout, quickly locating the proper zone and locking in. I’ll admit, if this was just some random Cadenza release I might not have given it the same amount of attention, but it’s an excellent addition to this producer’s bulging discography, the perfect rousing morning wake-up to follow DJ Healer’s delicate midnight epiphanies.

Quirke Whities 015 12″ (Whities)
I’m forever indebted to Whities for bestowing the work of Avalon Emerson, Minor Science and Reckonwrong upon me, so while some recent releases have taken a turn for eccentric modern-composition or cutting-edge electronic experimentation (not necessarily always my cup of tea), I will keep checking out whatever they do. I happen to really dig this new one by Quirke, the second Whities 12″ for this London producer. “Vatied City” opens it up with the frenetic push of some heavy-duty hi-hats, like a slightly less cryogenic Objekt. It’s a great rhythm, similar to something Bruce would cook up, and Quirke squeezes out some sour melodies over top; very nice. “Ttransport Craving” (his typo, not mine) is slightly less aggro, firing off some steam pistons with a chilly loop coasting alongside, not unlike something Kyle Hall would drop. “Hydraulic Deer” finishes things on a more abstract note, with an Autechre-esque take on bent melody, indeterminate scrapes and IDM clicks that eventually grow in strength and size. Not as singularly distinctive of a sound as Minor Science or Avalon Emerson, but Quirke cleaned my ears out nicely with this trio (well matched by the eye-catching cover design that comes with all Whities records).

Sashcloth & Axes M.A.R.K. -13 LP (Lament)
I can’t tell which comes first: the leather gimp mask, or the solo electro-dance project? They seem to go hand-in-hand these days, and that includes the work of Southern California’s Sashcloth & Axes. I get the impression that Sashcloth (aka Ricky Douglas) is coming at his music from a punk background as opposed to a Resident Advisor one, and while Douglas self-identifies as “synth-punk”, there isn’t a whole lot of sonic relation to say, The Screamers, Six Finger Satellite or even Suicide here. Rather, Douglas uses various synths and drum machines (often on the awkward “live drum kit” setting) to create rudimentary electro and new-wave tracks, filling them up with either a barrage of noisy samples (no shortage of meowing cats) and his own vocals, distorted beyond repair. I love a good outsider perspective on any given genre, but these tracks aren’t really doing it for me – too often M.A.R.K. -13 feels like low-budget haunted house music, and if I wanted haunted house electro, there’s no greater than Whodini (or the Fat Boys, or Fresh Prince… come to think of it, ’80s Halloween Hip-Hop is a robust genre). I’m not sure how shoehorning in the vague allusions to S&M help the project either, although there seems to be an abundance of Plack Blague fans out there (much to my confusion), so I can understand wanting to tap into that audience. It just doesn’t include yours truly.

The Sueves R.I.P. Clearance Event LP (HoZac)
If you’re into frills, I recommend you look elsewhere, as R.I.P. Clearance Event has none to offer. It’s The Sueves’ fourth full-length (and second for HoZac), and it makes this Chicago trio’s intentions clear: they are here to scorch, sizzle and drool through a dozen or so classically-indebted garage-punk tunes. Even their names are simple and effective: the back cover lists Joe on guitar and vocals, Rob on bass and Tim on drums. Does it get much more white-guy Americana rock n’ roll than the names Joe, Rob and Tim? Anyway, I should probably tell you whether or not I dig it, and I have to say that I do. Their songs are simple and tuneful, but delivered hot and crispy, as if one of those early Homostupids records utilized Back From The Grave-style riffs. The part that really won me over is the vocals of Joe though, who has the perfect croak for the job. I’m trying to think of exactly who he reminds me of, and it’s killing me because I can’t quite put my finger on it… not Mick Jagger, not Arthur Lee, maybe The Monk’s Gary Burger, or Cole Alexander’s earliest Black Lips recordings? Regardless, it’s the perfect voice to kick these tunes in the pants. Dare I say the best record made by a Joe, Rob and Tim you’ll hear this year?

Teenage Burritos Something To Cry About LP (Burger / Volar)
I saw Teenage Burritos play a show in their hometown of San Diego back in 2014 and promptly forgot all about them until this LP showed up. They were cool amateurish poppy punk band then, and they still are now, albeit with a firmer grasp on how to make it all work. Even so, there still seems to be a number of directions pulling at the ‘Burritos: sappy sock-hop pop, angular no-wave, ’90s pop-punk, HoZac’s garage-punk of the ’00s, even early hardcore in the form of their cover of Black Flag’s “Paralyzed”. Teenage Burritos certainly fit in with bands like Xray Eyeballs, Nots, Heavy Times, Hunx & His Punx, bands that gleefully enact a retro / party-centric take on punk. Not to mention of course all the other punk bands who reference junk food in their name, like Personal & The Pizzas, Miami Doritos and so forth (Weekend Nachos excluded). That’s a whole lot of band names I just dropped, and it’s probably because Teenage Burritos fit into that fray without necessarily establishing their own distinct presence. Not specifically the food truck you came for, but if the line’s too long at the Korean taco and Wisconsin cheese-curd trucks, maybe a burrito would hit the spot after all!

U.S. Girls In A Poem Unlimited LP (4AD)
I thought the prior U.S. Girls album came out pretty recently, that is until I realized it was merely an illusion due to my continued frequent listening. Half Free was gonna be hard to top, no doubt, but Megan Remy’s U.S. Girls project continues to unfold in startling new colors, like an exotic flower you thought had already fully bloomed that opens up to reveal a plethora of bold new petals. I know Public Image Ltd. came up with the term “Death Disco”, but I A Poem Unlimited seems to embody that more than any other piece of music – this album is full of throwback disco grooves scrubbed clean of corniness or irony (even the “house strings” are refreshingly cool) with Remy singing tales of lust, murder, murder-lust and its various complications, all with the candor and temperance that elevated Johnny Cash and Nina Simone to immortal stature. It blows my mind she isn’t a full-blown rock star at this point, and maybe I should blame misogynist Spotify algorithms for that, because these songs have immediately resonated with everyone I’ve played them for, man woman and child (especially child), in no small part to their bold and funky arrangements, slick recording, and Remy’s unmistakable voice driving it all. I’m just waiting for someone on the internet to put together an hour-long loop of album closer “Time”, the only modern disco song I’ve heard that desperately needs the Dopesmoker treatment.

Reviews – June 2018

Black Abba Feel Good 7″ (Ken Rock)
The irreverently-named Black Abba are back with another quick 7″ EP, this time on Swedish garage-punk mainstay Ken Rock Records. “Feel Good” really ups the ante for what this band seems to be trying to accomplish, which is to become the most sarcastic, least enthusiastic synth-punk band around. I should probably put synth in scare-quotes because it’s barely greater than a monotone bleep here, and Black Abba step up their nihilistic lack of interest as the downpicked mono-riff slowly drifts off time from the plodding drums. Magnificent! “Let’s Fight” is far more professional (they actually play some ordered music notes) but it has the same mean-mugging attitude thanks to a group-shouted chorus of “let’s fight let’s fight / let me play with your knife”. Seems like they might be joking about it but I don’t want to take the risk. “Mike” ends on a poppier note, but the whole thing is an unabashedly misanthropic take on lo-fi punk (and life in general), in a wonderful way of course. I’ve read that there has been some membership overlap with Buck Biloxi over the years and man, these New Orleans punks know how to let the bad times roll.

Bobby Funk Avocado Stains 7″ (Autonomonster / TNS / Krautpop!)
You’ve been asking for it, now you’ve got it: a green “avocado-shaped” vinyl record. The grooves are about seven inches or so, but the rest of the fruit extends beyond, hence Avocado Stains being issued in a standard 12″ sleeve. That’s dedication! It’s an attention-grabbing record for sure, and even if the gimmick outshines the music (which I’d say is the case here), it’s still undeniably fun. Bobby Funk are an overtly British melodic punk group – their first two EPs were titled Pasty Blagger and Piss, for crying out loud, and there’s a song on here called “Johnny Wanker” that goes down a list of people who are all, you guessed it, wankers. I’m reminded of the punk rock I used to enjoy on those mid-’90s CD comps that would be crammed to capacity with music, like the Punk Uprisings series or one of those Fat Wreck Chords or Lookout! budget samplers. Silly, stupid fun is the name of the game, and Bobby Funk remind me of Blanks 77 or Blatz. Can’t really go wrong with that, although I don’t think you can really go right with it, either. I wonder where Bobby Funk falls on the “avocado toast” debate? They probably think both sides are wankers.

Bocksrucker SixSixSix 12″ (Neubau)
Alongside the killer Gil.Barte EP on Neubau (gushed about at length below), I snagged a copy of Bocksrucker’s SixSixSix EP. It srucks serious bock, no doubt about it! These three tracks are rugged and funereal, like what I’d imagine Jeff Hanneman’s wake was like (a mosh pit breaking out in Slumber Room B, black roses on polished mahogany, bloody tears, etc.). The beats are huge, grayscale noise is a constant texture (but used sparingly, not overpoweringly), and each track features samples of some old Satanic art film, tying the EP together with its title. The samples are deployed well, adding a dramatic, cultish flair to Bocksrucker’s menacing tracks that flit between industrial, techno and EBM. I’m picturing Beau Wanzer finally getting his ears pierced for goth night, Orphyx and Winterkälte updated for the late ’10s, or Shadowlust wearing Slipknot tees. Neubau’s aesthetic, which seems to reimagine early ’90s noise label aesthetics (think Tesco Organization or Cold Meat Industry) as DJ-ready dance 12″s is a home run in my book, Bocksrucker clearly the most nefarious offering yet.

Boothroyd Pure Country LP (Fnord Communications)
I love a good concept, and Peter Boothroyd’s debut album Pure Country is just that. Picture the pulsing EDM build-ups of Tiesto and Calvin Harris left to idle on repeat (no beat drops) with cornball guitars and harmonicas adding an out-of-place “country” touch. I saw the harmonica sound described as “Roseanne-style” and while that cracked me up, it’s sharply accurate – just peep “Blue” and tell me you can’t picture the family gathering around the table, passing plates of food with Moby setting up his CDJs in the corner. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it’d be such a winning combination, and perhaps in lesser hands it would quickly crumble, but Boothroyd knows how to scale things back just right, so that the combination of twangy acoustic guitar and broad sketches of mainstream electro-pop feel like a natural pair rather than something to dismiss. Besides that ridiculous harmonica, I haven’t laughed at Pure Country at all, rather finding myself drifting into his alternate reality of pop music, one where Yelawolf is a household name and Frank Ocean boot-scoots onto the stage. I’m convinced anything could happen at this point.

Boy Harsher Pain II 12″ (Nude Club)
Okay, so I do this blog to tell y’all about cool stuff, so why didn’t any of you return the favor and let me know that my Boy Harsher coverage was sorely lacking? I feel like a dope for only recently finding out about this group, who I’d say are pretty clearly at the tip top of the “male/female gothy industrial synth-wave duo” genre, a crowded field if there ever was one. Thankfully Boy Harsher are making their vinyl ever so slightly easier to obtain with this new 12″ pressing, featuring the previously-released “Pain” alongside a remix by The Soft Moon on the flip. Normally I’d think this is kind of a throwaway release for any band, but I’d have to cash in my 401k if I want to afford a copy of the original Pain EP, and this song is so instantly infectious that it deserves the repeated attention. “Pain” is a modern classic and I don’t say that lightly – every aspect is perfectly assembled and delivered, resulting in the sort of magic every artist hopes to one day attain. On the back of its simplistic and recognizable melodic arpeggio, Boy Harsher layer startlingly confident whisper-moan vocals, catchy little sonic additives and a chorus that simply refuses to stop ringing in my skull. The Soft Moon adds some electrified debris and tries to coax a Rammstein-esque mosh pit into existence on his remix, which works for me, but the original is this priceless artifact that I feel blessed to be able to spin whenever I want. Which apparently is always.

The Child Molesters 1978 Hound Dog Recordings 12″ (Ace & Duce / Negative Jazz)
Seminal shock-rock punkers The Child Molesters have been high on sweaty-palmed record collectors’ want-lists for at least a couple decades, and in “celebration” of the 40th anniversary of this early recording session, these four songs are presented on a 12″ EP. If you haven’t heard ’em, these cuts are certainly top-notch Killed By Death crap-rock – “I’m Gonna Punch You (In The Face)” in particular is wildly charming and so catchy that I almost want to get punched in the face while hearing it. The Child Molesters were clearly coming from a musical background of Alice Cooper and The Stooges, desperate to flick their noses at proper social behavior and at their happiest when all nearby feathers are ruffled beyond repair. That said, I still feel a little strange seeing a new record in 2018 that features swastikas on both the cover and insert; there’s a brief disclaimer in the insert that directly states the group is not Nazis nor actual child molesters (what a relief), but it comes across preemptively defensive, as if you’re just a wimpy baby if you don’t also enjoy pretending to be a Nazi to offend the neighbors and that no discussion is to be had regarding punks who sport fascist imagery. Surely there are other archival punk recordings waiting to be reissued that aren’t covered with the stuff, especially seeing as these Hound Dog Recordings have been released numerous times through the years already? (Not to mention that the original Wholesale Murder 7″ was released to coincide with Hitler’s birthday, as prominently noted on the insert?) As a punk rock artifact, The Child Molesters are noteworthy of more than just a footnote, but perhaps the mindset with which they are presented could use an update from 1978.

DJ Healer Nothing 2 Loose 3xLP (All Possible Worlds)
DJ Healer (real name unknown?) is one of the most fascinating and creative techno producers today, not just creating different sounds through his various aliases (Prince Of Denmark, DJ Metatron, Traumprinz, etc.) but building up entire worlds around them. Not one for subtlety, he recently released two triple 12″s under two new monikers, Prime Minister Of Doom and DJ Healer, and in case you are thinking you don’t need six more 12″s following his somewhat recent octuple- and triple-LP releases under the Prince Of Denmark name, think again – you do! It seems as if he realized he can do no wrong, so he lets things run wild without over-editing or the slightest consideration of brevity. I already love these two new ones dearly, but DJ Healer is probably my favorite as it is particularly evocative, utilizing ambient techno and dramatic samples as a storytelling device. One track might be little more than mildly rustling wind and a faint electronic pulse, and the next might snap a beat into action with sampled vocals providing the emotional resonance (is that Nico on “2 The Dark”?). I’m reminded of the intros/outros of Burial’s more cinematic material, but DJ Healer allows things to unfurl slowly, unhurried by the constraints of a single 12″ side. It’s touching, spellbinding, lush, and just a little bit corny, my fondness growing stronger with each new listen.

DJ Marcelle / Another Nice Mess Psalm Tree 12″ (Jahmoni Music)
Amsterdam’s DJ Marcelle is a constant presence throughout Europe’s underground scene, often using three turntables simultaneously in a sort of live mash-up spectacle. Another Nice Mess is the name of her radio show, and apparently her records are under both names, which I’m finally no longer confused by. This new one is pretty great: comedic industrial techno, let’s say? The opener pairs a distorted rhythm with outrageously warbling human voice tones (not entirely unlike what Errorsmith deployed on his last album) with a sample of someone saying “constipation” over and over again. It’s as if Regis remixed a particularly hilarious People Like Us collage for the dressed-in-black club set, and while it’s directly up my alley, I’m impressed by how natural and smooth DJ Marcelle makes it all seem. The opener is my favorite for sure, but the rest of the EP deploys choppy, impolite percussion with well-mannered samples (“Psalm 3, Verse 3: Walking Around Aimlessly” is rhythmic fuzz and reversed bass blips paired with old-timey whistling), highly creative and lacking a direct similarity with the work of any contemporary producers, even the weird ones. The last track even pushes into some sort of troll-driven footwork, which I realize doesn’t make much sense, but DJ Marcelle is interested in making wild new sounds, not sense.

Graham Dunning Way Too Much Time 12″ (AD AAD AT)
Fantastic vinyl debut here from one of London’s most ingenious sonic experimenters, Graham Dunning. This 12″ collects four cuts made by his “mechanical techno machine”, which should be read quite literally: Dunning has devised a wild spinning column of live-action effects and tricks that are used to create snappy minimal techno. He’s a viral sensation on YouTube, and rightfully so, as the concept behind this music (you really should just go search his name on YouTube rather than sit here while I try to explain it) is wildly inventive and fun to watch. Of course, on a record, you have nothing to watch, but thankfully his machine’s results are just as pleasant to the ears without the visual. Through these four tracks, I’m reminded of Wolfgang Voigt’s Studio 1 EPs, or Donato Dozzy at his most essential, but there’s a strange humanity granted to these tracks that the garden variety hands-off techno doesn’t include. I’d say there are also touches of the live-action electronic frippery of Leprechaun Catering or Ekoplekz, but Dunning never veers from techno’s 4/4 grid, even as his equipment may be longing to do so. Couldn’t love this more if I tried!

Fetish Take The Knife / A House Is Not A Motel 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Seems pretty clear that Fetish’s primary fetish is guitarists – this hardcore supergroup has no less than three of them! Do you think they’d mind if I joined in on fourth guitar? I don’t care if they turned my amp to Vinnie Stigma’s levels, I just wanna stand on stage with these burly dudes. Anyway, back to the matter at hand: Fetish is comprised of 75% of Long Knife and two members of Poison Idea (War All The Time era), and while that sort of background gives them a permanent pass to do whatever they want in these later years (rockabilly, ska, ska-punk, ska-abilly, etc.), the men in Fetish are sticking with raging powerhouse hardcore. “Take The Knife” arrives on an explosive intro before kicking into its upbeat hardcore riffing and an explosive, moshworthy breakdown (is that double-bass I hear coming from the drum kit?), all with an extra serving of blazing guitar solos. Finely crafted for sure. “A House Is Not A Motel” is a Love cover, but don’t take off your moshing sneakers just yet – Fetish coat the moody psych-garage melody in lead paint and use their collective amplification to shred anyone left standing. Admiring their band photo on the insert, I can’t help but wonder what the inside of their van smells like. Maybe I’m the one with the fetish.

Gil.Barte Ssjip EP 12″ (Neubau)
What’s great about techno is that there is simply an endless expanse of it, with more being created at roughly the same rate the universe is expanding (I’ve confirmed with leading physicists on the matter), so there is always a new favorite waiting to be discovered out there. This debut 12″ by Gil.Barte is certainly one of them, as its a prime example of exactly what I’m hoping to hear: basement electronics, lo-fi industrial, mid-’80s Esplendor Geometrico and seductive New Beat grooves all tidily scraped together. “Sssjp” is reminiscent of ugly American electro like Patricia and Beau Wanzer but has a personality all its own, with various voices appearing behind curtains as the potent groove stalks through a digital grid, as if the original Wolfenstein 3D video game was based on distributing drugs in a basement rave, not murdering Nazis. (Although if you wanted to murder some Nazis to “Sssjp” I wouldn’t hold it against you.) “Myaso” follows, and it’s a moody requiem that feels both intolerably claustrophobic and transcendent, like laying in an MRI tube that simultaneously provides a deep tissue massage. “Kemang” is the last cut and may be my favorite of the three, as it features quite possibly the best electro-vibraslap effect I’ve ever heard, traversing a weirdly pitched bass-line as it encounters various spoken transmissions, slowly increasing in mania. I really can’t believe how great Sssjp is, and have already started throwing my money at the other recent Neubau releases as they seem to follow similar aesthetic aspirations. Highest recommendation, to be sure!

Peggy Gou Once 12″ (Ninja Tune)
If there’s a more universal form of music than house, I’ve yet to hear it – every populated continent on Earth has hundreds of people making it and thousands of people dancing to it (and I bet I could find at least one or two producers from Antarctica on Soundcloud). Peggy Gou is South Korean but she calls Berlin her home, and her effervescent, poppy house is a delight. “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” gives disco drums a space-station makeover care of a cuddly acid line, bongos and a vibraphone, with Peggy Gou’s own vocals providing the tune with a sense of sleek sophistication. “Hundres Times” is more traditional house in the vein of Omar S at his most ebullient, arpeggios intertwining in colorful displays. Meanwhile, “Han Jan” sources the elastic funk of Zapp and Mantronix and whips up another retro-futurist groove (complete with rapping!), as if Stereolab remixed Dopplereffekt to celebrate the opening of a boutique vape shop. I should probably stop listening to this so much because my interest in inhaling artificially-flavored high-density mists grows stronger with every spin.

Hogg Self-Extinguishing Emission LP (Scrapes)
For some reason I had just assumed that Hogg’s last record, Solar Phallic Lion, would be their last… both the group and the music they made just seemed so volatile, as if it was a random lucky chance that everything converged on a moment where they were able to record an album and have someone put it out. Much to my delight, they’re sticking around for a bit longer, and Self-Extinguishing Emission reveals some interesting growth, though I don’t mean growth as in “cleaned up fidelity with newfound pop aspirations”, so much as the giant weeds that sprout out of an abandoned building. This sounds like a band who understand what works best and they twist the knife in that exact spot (industrial percussion, hysterical vocals, wet throbbing bass), sounding like a feminine Coil signed to Subterranean. “Black Into Dirt” in particular showcases their talents: a swampy sound-effect merges with a punchy drum machine and drooping bass-line while moaned vocals crisscross each other, a guitar stabs out of nowhere and someone does a brief vocal imitation of Abruptum’s It. The Throbbing Gristle resemblance remains particularly striking, not just in sound but in the confidence of their decisions, as if making music any other way would be a waste of time. Self-Extinguishing Emission certainly seems like the logical answer to many of life’s burning questions.

Human Adult Band Sonic Enlightenment LP (Third Uncle)
Don’t let anyone tell you that New Jersey ain’t freaky, as Human Adult Band and their Princeton / New Brunswick associates have been keeping it real for quite some time now. On this new one, the confidently-titled Sonic Enlightenment, they’ve got a couple of styles at their disposal and they make good with all of it. The a-side is fully inhabited by “Easton Ave Laundromat”, a slow-burning jam that offers further evidence that Neil Young retroactively became a hero to the contemporary lo-fi guitar/noise scene. It loosely weaves through various sticks of incense until disintegrating completely (but not before some mystical flute joins the tune). Human Adult Band balances their epic a-side with six cuts on the flip; they seem to play “This Will Happen Again In A Year & A Half” backwards but in real time, and grind through various other forms of uninhibited noise-rock blues, calling to mind Universal Indians, Bullet In The Head, No Trend’s weirder side and maybe The Dead C, were they an American group raised in the ’90s on Mountain Dew and Mad magazine. Vocals are rare, although I get the impression that someone is always singing at least a little bit, even if it’s not into a microphone. I’d proffer that Sonic Enlightenment will be the most prestigious release on Third Uncle Records this year, unless they plan on releasing another Honey Radar 5″ lathe-cut.

Intensive Care Everything Has Its Price 7″ (Iron Lung)
Intensive Care’s debut album Voyeurism struck me as the output of a group with aspirations of working with Iron Lung Records but not quite up to par with the label’s standard of quality. Either they’ve really stepped up their game or I need to re-visit Voyeurism, because this new 7″ EP is pretty sick. For a bass/drums hardcore duo operating with power-violence and power-electronics influences, they deliver precisely what I’d want to hear. The bass tone is utterly massive, like two Cavity records playing through Bongzilla’s rig, and they churn out the aggressive blast-beat / stop-start / fast-slow riffing with panache. Their noise interludes work well, hearkening back to Gasp and Volume 11’s brutal-psych atmospheres, but really the bass tone is just so monstrous and gnarly that everything else defers to it, and rightfully so. They certainly aren’t reinventing heavy hardcore riffing, but it works undeniably well alongside the more esoteric sounds and enraged-gorilla vocals. Perhaps it’s the fact that Intensive Care decided to embrace Ted Dibiase’s personal philosophy, “Everything Has Its Price“, that led to this smashing success.

Tom Lyngcoln Doming Home LP (Solar/Sonar)
“11 Pieces For Voice & Guitar” is the subtitle of Tom Lyngcoln’s solo debut and while it’s technically accurate, I think it could use a little finessing. First of all, I’d call them “songs” as opposed to “pieces” (avant-garde neo-classical this is not), and while there is nothing else to be found on Doming Home besides Lyngcoln’s voice and his amplified (but non-distorted) electric guitar, these songs feel like little bits of his soul being offered to the public at his own peril. He’s not shy with his singing, belting out his lyrics somewhere between The Housemartins’ P.D. Heaton and Joe Strummer, but often warbling on the verge of emotional collapse as well, as though he inadvertently backed into an early Bright Eyes record. The guitar calmly follows his voice or underpins it with some sort of melodic housing, not unlike how Cat Power or Will Oldham used to do it, although Lyngcoln’s passion is always teetering on high. Just check “Out Of Time” and imagine the shared discomfort of witnessing him perform it in the corner of a coffee shop to a small seated crowd. Lyngcoln looks kinda big and mean on the cover, like he’s ready to dunk your head as if it were an Aussie Rules football, but Doming Home reveals he’s a fragile softy like the rest of us.

Miss Destiny Ice Queen / Randy 7″ (Shipping Steel)
Shipping Steel is a very new Melbourne-based label, but they’re making their mission statement clear: black leather, red meat, white powder punk rock (n’ roll). Miss Destiny are a smart fit in that regard, following their debut LP on R.I.P. Society with these two cuts of traditional hard-rocking punk, as if the macho fantasy of heavy metal remained forever entwined with the sneering cynicism of punk. “Ice Queen” cruises like The Dead Boys on a Saturday night, and “Randy” more or less does the same thing with a melodic lead vocal. This record was produced by Jack Farley (of the great Scott & Charlene’s Wedding) and I think at least one member of Miss Destiny named Harriet (there are multiple) plays in Southern Comfort, revealing yet another set of connections in Melbourne punk’s massive and tangled family tree. Miss Destiny are on the raunchier end of that tree, smoking out back while listening to live Guns N’ Roses bootlegs, a necessary element of any thriving punk habitat.

Nag / Lip split 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
At first glance I thought this was a new 7″ by Nag called Lip, but nope, that’s a band too! You’d think there’s some registrar that charges bands by the letter or something, but these two groups simply appreciate brevity, both in band name and song form. Nag’s first tune “Eye Level” is a slower stomp than what I’m used to hearing from them, at least until someone sticks a match under its rear and they go careening off a cliff. “Surfer” is their second and maintains the early-but-fast punk feel, reminiscent of the great and overlooked Vial 7″ from a couple years ago as well as the not-overlooked output of The Randoms and The Urinals. Lip’s music has a similar urgency, a little more bass-driven than Nag, with a variety of vocals careening in and out for a cool disorienting effect (while still clearly punk, not psych or anything else). Their tune “Control” is particularly memorable and mixtape-worthy (or perhaps more to today’s style, internet radio station play-worthy?) whereas “Road” is less distinctive. Still, four cool songs by two cool punk bands, so why not?

Physique Punk Life Is Shit 12″ (Iron Lung)
Most of the labels that repeatedly turn up on this webpage demonstrate a sincere love for the music they release, but I can’t help but think that the folks at Iron Lung really, really lust over noisy buzzsaw hardcore-punk. Like even if the rest of the world moved on and stopped buying records, Iron Lung would be pressing up the latest current ear-piercing hardcore band, no matter if the records were destined to remain on their basement shelves. This new one comes from Olympia’s Physique, who bear a standard resemblance to Disclose, Framtid, Totalitär, and of course, Discharge. Physique come in on the heavier end of things (think Framtid without the superhuman drum fills), with enough vocal echo to fill a nuclear fallout shelter, riotous guitar leads and a satisfying sense of familiarity for anyone who ever sewed a black denim patch onto the back of their black denim vest. Physique offer nothing remotely new, but this record has a cool title (I’ve thought it back to myself multiple times since first encountering it), the blank b-side has a great skeleton etching (because what else are you gonna etch?), and if that’s not good enough for you, maybe it’s time you moved on to rare Soviet prog reissues or something.

Retirement Retirement 7″ (Iron Lung)
A bit of an ironic band name for Iron Lung, as if these folks are ever gonna quit it with the raging, noisy hardcore! Retirement are a fairly new group, developed from a solo project into a fully-staffed live outfit (as is so often the case these days), and they certainly deliver the goods on this debut EP. Which, in this case, is raw hardcore-punk with subtle garage-punk and industrial-noise inclinations, as if they borrowed some of Jay Reatard’s earliest, ugliest riffs and applied them to the sonic templates of Cold Sweat and Vile Gash. The guitars are never silent, and might even be at their most ear-splitting when nothing is happening (gotta love the piercing feedback that opens a tune), although a song like “Yours Is Mine” is purely hardcore, operating on the same platform as DYS and Toxic Reasons, just recorded through the scorching acid bath we’ve come to expect from today’s repugnant hardcore music. Maybe it’s because Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With Wound have been fully accepted by the hardcore masses as valid forms of aggressive music that today’s traditional hardcore bands are eager to embrace weird and harsh noise, but Retirement are a fine example of the success such a mindset can deliver. Let’s hope they’ve got a good enough pension to keep the hits coming.

Ritualz Doom LP (Artoffact)
Finding it hard to not be a hater while listening to Ritualz’s Doom album, the Mexico City artist’s sophomore full-length. There’s just a lot going on here that I find unappealing: first of all, the name Ritualz can also be “stylized as †‡†” (I thought that sorta nonsense was buried alongside witch-house?), and the music on this album is all blustery melodramatic synthwork and spooky vocals that miss any sense of provocative beauty or gothy darkness, instead coming across like the Hot Topic repackaging of such. Doom has me imagining Blink 182 putting together a dark-wave side project (I can already picture Travis Barker in Kat Von D’s signature eyeliner), although to their credit there’d probably at least be some memorable hooks to be found in that. Ritualz seems more about the aesthetic sense (streetwear goth that crosses over with A$AP Rocky, body-mod Tumblrs, horror-rap, Dimmu Borgir, etc.), and the music itself is merely another extension of the style, rather than something that received much consideration or effort. A previous EP was titled Ghetto Ass Witch, and I dunno, I’m either gonna go full Juggalo or no Juggalo, whereas Ritualz inhabits a specific territory in between that I do not care to revisit anytime soon.

John Roberts Spill 12″ (Brunette Editions)
Quietly one of techno’s most intrepid explorers, John Roberts has been infusing his house and techno with jazz and avant-garde experimentation for about a decade. His release as Body Four remains one of my personal favorites (imagine Arthur Russell doing a noise tape for Broken Flag in 1987), but Spill is right up there too, a stark new fusion of modern electronic processing and post-modern composition for double-bass and trumpet. “Spill” is the a-side and it’s a declaration of interdisciplinary strangeness, with horns tooting alongside violent electronic squiggles and mournful strings. I’m reminded of Vessel’s fantastic Punish, Honey in the way that maximal industrial-techno sounds are forced to mesh with natural and softer sonic elements, but “Spill” is more of a multi-directional collage than something that could ever get airtime in a club. “Wrecked” on the flip is a purely electronic cut of syrupy pirouettes, but “Fluid” brings back Evans on the trumpet, echoing through the courtyard at Roberts’ behest as a lush drone signals the sun to set. I have to say, I’m all for this recent micro-trend of horn-based techno – from Sebastien Casanova to Beatrice Dillon, it’s a sonic pairing that has yet to do me wrong.

Ruby Karinto Ruby Karinto LP (HoZac)
I don’t care if you aren’t ready for it, here’s some upbeat no-wave pop from British Columbia! I realize “no-wave” can be taken practically as many ways as “hardcore”, so let me clarify that Ruby Karinto are operating in the vein of ESG and Liquid Liquid as opposed to Teenage Jesus or Glenn Branca, relying heavily on funked-out drums and slippery bass guitar to guide their songs. They do a fine job of it, too – it’s easy to fall into pre-fab disco beats and dance riffs but Ruby Karinto deliver their own vision throughout this squirmy album. I’m particularly partial to “Chikotan”, which feels like a Sightings rhythm given a sparkly makeover by Pixeltan or Polysics, vocals sung (and chanted) in Japanese and synths bleeping and blooping out into the atmosphere. As bizarre as they may be, Ruby Karinto never seem weird for weird’s sake, and even the strangest moments are locked into rhythms that would properly realign Kid Creole’s spine. No guitars on this record, and with all of Ruby Karinto’s irresistibly disjointed action, who needs em anyway?

Somewhen AFL 12″ (Ostgut Ton)
Hailed as part of “Berlin’s new techno generation”, it’s somewhat of a relief to know that Somewhen basically sounds like Berlin’s old techno generation, or at least Ostgut Ton’s signature style. I try to check in with Ostgut Ton at least every couple months, and I went with this Somewhen 12″, which delivers just what I was hoping for: sexy, dark, serpentine techno that doesn’t beat around the bush. Knight Rider synths are given a hefty modern software upgrade for these cuts, and Somewhen puts his particular stamp on things by the smooth integration of vocals – they’re generally chopped and buried in the mix, somewhere between a subliminal message and someone attempting to talk to you in the middle of the dance-floor. At times Somewhen can practically verge on pop (“Undress” sounds like Nine Inch Nails remixed for a Fabric CD), and that’s a net positive for me, as seductive grooves such as these are often enhanced with a taste of pop’s lasting hooks. I’m pleased that Somewhen put the image of Shed and Kobosil flirting with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult in my head – if I accidentally jam “AFL” a little too long, my erotic fan-fiction career might finally begin.

Space Afrika Somewhere Decent To Live LP (Sferic)
If you’re gonna call your dub-ambient project “Space Afrika”, it better not suck, so thankfully this Mancunian duo do right by it. Somewhere Decent To Live is a fantastic record, one that maintains a sense of self while still subsuming the environment with thick fogs, both those that get you high and those that do not. Space Afrika take it slow, gradually building these tracks into some semblance of song, if only recognizable by repeated samples or rhythmic clicks and hits. An echoed female voice provides the feeling of an empty airport terminal, all flights grounded due to extreme atmospheric mists of course, but swooping synth chords float you where you want to go for free. This one sits well next to other avant-ambient producers like Pendant and Gas, but Space Afrika tell a different story through their lush pads and dreary-yet-hopeful melodies. It’s as though you can see the crowded city and oily streets that surround you, but the metropolitan clatter is reduced to a soothing hum, a space for meditation and subtle grace. In other words, somewhere decent to live.

Stella Career Suicide LP (no label)
Stella are a Cincinnati-based group that apparently likes to brace for their own failure: just check the title of this self-released album, following their 2016 cassette Planned Obsolescence. It’s like they’re trying to insult themselves before giving anyone else the chance to do so, and my advice to them is to let their guard down a bit – they’re not bad at all! Besides the alarming similarities between their cover art and the Pepe The Frog meme, they’ve got a good thing going – noisy indie-pop with no-wave leanings. Their grooves are jittery and cautious, like Ex-Models or perhaps an overly caffeinated Deerhoof, and the vocals are frequently overloaded with sass, like Ian Svenonius or James Chance trying to wiggle themselves out of a particularly awkward social moment. Like any band that splatters their music outward, some of it will stick and some of it won’t, but on the whole I enjoy what Stella are serving… “Drill Your Skull” in particular is a fine mix of catchy/irritating vocal repetition and deconstructed noise-punk grooves. See, Stella, at least someone likes you!

Subsonics Flesh-Colored Paint LP (Slovenly)
Slovenly must’ve had a connecting flight in Atlanta while scouring the globe for garage-punk, because they picked up Subsonics and Flesh-Colored Paint, the group’s eighth full-length (and fourth for Slovenly). This is a staunchly garage-sounding trio who’ve been putting out records since 1992, and at a pretty continuous pace to boot. They’re still posing with big-hole 45s next to jukeboxes, still holding onto the hairstyles of their youth… and they’re really quite good! Vocalist “Rockin’ Clay Reed” has a great voice for the job, like Iggy Pop clutching a helium balloon, and their riffs (cribbed from The Cramps, Bo Diddley, Velvet Underground, Elvis Presley, etc.) really come to life behind him. As a form of music, this style is reaching retirement age, but Flesh-Colored Paint is like a five-pound Cialis pill for the genre, an album full of sharp silliness, enjoyable hooks and contagious fun. You can tell that they simply don’t care about outside opinion or popular trends; this is a group that loves what they love (3D glasses, Back From The Grave comps, monster movies, Mick Jagger’s butt) and they love to craft their own take on it, too.

Susan TV Girls 7″ (Volar)
The cover photograph of a longhaired person playing two basses had me hoping Susan’s newest EP was inspired by Thundercat or Primus, but those dreams will have to wait. Instead, Susan are all smiles with “TV Girls”, a Beach Boys-inspired indie-pop jangler that recalls the sunshine-y days of Go Sailor and The Hi-Fives. “Little Notes” mixes up the mood, recalling Dum Dum Girls in their full-band lineup. Pretty simple music, and it might fall apart if the vocalists were less confident or generic, but whichever member(s) are singing (I think it’s two of them at the same time for the most part?) really elevate these tunes to something special. Really all you need with this style is basic major-key chord changes and a great vocalist to ensure success, and Susan check both boxes easily. They end with a cover of Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her In My Arms”, and while I’m unfamiliar with the original, Susan rip through it with such joy I immediately ran to my window, opened it, stuck my head out and smiled toward the sky, arms outstretched. I have no idea what Susan are so happy about, but it sure is contagious!

Thieving Bastards Complete Musical Disasters EP 7″ (SPHC)
It feels all too rare that I get to say “this band sounds like Lärm” on here, and I can’t tell if that’s simply a personal failing or society’s as a whole. Whatever the case, I’m glad SPHC released the debut EP from Manchester’s Thieving Bastards, which probably never would’ve made it to vinyl otherwise. It’s tuneless, semi-comedic fast-core delivered hastily, with a vocalist who more often numbly recites his words than screams them (hence the Lärm comparison). Complete Musical Disasters feels like a practice session put to tape, with at least a couple takes of certain songs (“In My Garden” is played twice in a row) and various brief discussion among band members between tunes. Certainly the type of stuff that would’ve come out on a 70-song Dutch hardcore compilation cassette in 1985, wedged between Jetset and Massagraf. Sixteen tracks in all, and while that might seem like a lot, I assure you that it’s barely a warm up – I could personally go for at least double that. Other titles include “I Was Born”, “Elephant Song”, “Secret Pizza Eater” and “I Love My Mum”, so if you haven’t already located a verified web-retailer stocking Complete Musical Disasters, I can’t help but question your life pursuits.

Tim & The Boys Growing LP (Meatspin)
Interesting amalgam of artistic approaches here on the debut album by Sydney, Australia’s Tim & The Boys. They’ve got that silly name, Mat Brinkman-esque masks on the cover (which I believe they wear more often than just this one photo-shoot), kind of a Lumpy Records-esque feigned-stupid detachment (plus the shared interested in masks), a sense of wokeness (I get the impression that the song “White Guys” isn’t a sincere celebration, plus it’s distributed in the US by the highly discerning Thrilling Living label), and perhaps the most pleasant and least grating take on synth/drum-machine punk I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s definitely still punk – the rhythms are driving, the chord progressions are simplistic and sharp, and the vocals shouted – but they move at a leisurely pace, with a strong sense of melody and a notable lack of feedback or lo-fi crunch. I’m reminded of the earliest Devo singles before the synths took over, or maybe a shared songwriting approach to fellow Aussie punks Ausmuteants. I almost kinda wish they’d go off the rails a bit, and maybe push things closer to the absurd, just to see what that’d be like, but Tim & The Boys do a fine job staying in their chosen lane, where drum machines coast alongside tuneful guitars and chanted vocals. Punk, but different.

Witchtrial Demo 2017 12″ (Beach Impediment)
The band name itself, the band name written in a pointy medieval font, the blood red logo featuring a winged inverted cross, the photo of the band standing in a graveyard at dusk… my, what could this group possibly sound like? If you guessed “ex- and current hardcore dudes playing metal heavily influenced by Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory”, well my friend, you should be writing your own reviews too! I can’t tell if “cvlt” metal is having another hardcore-punk underground moment, or if its last moment never really went away, but it makes sense to me, as this style is pretty timeless and indisputable. Raging metallic leads, mid-paced dungeon stompers and high-speed motorcycle chases in hell, tortured screams and double bass-drum pedals, who can argue with any of that? Even though it’s their first demo, Witchtrial demonstrate a firm understanding of the genre, what works best and what to leave on the shelf, and these four songs (with titles like “Speak To Evil” and “R’n’R Hellfire”) don’t waste anyone’s time. Considering how massive Power Trip have become, it only makes sense that new bands start sprouting up with a shared aesthetic sensibility, although I will miss slightly confounding bills (Power Trip and Sheer Mag?) if metal eventually grabs a majority share.