Archive for 'Reviews'

Reviews – August 2019

Ellen Arkbro Chords LP (Subtext)
Don’t ark me, bro! Actually please do ark me, because Ellen Arkbro’s sophomore album, Chords, is just the drone for me. She approaches her compositions with fantastically microscopic detail, and delivers them direct and without fuss, which is an excellent combination for this style. You can think about it for days (and she clearly has, digitally aligning her “chords” to exacting microtonal perfection), or you can just throw it on, lay down and see what happens to the space inside your skull. Two tracks here, “Chords For Organ” and “Chords For Guitar”, and they ain’t lyin’. “Chords For Organ” lays down a massive throb as though it were highway pavement, all thick, perfectly formulated and smooth for driving. Walk around the room while listening and your ears will provide their own unique remix! “Chords For Guitars” changes the pace while continuing the thesis, as Arkbro strums a perfectly tuned (and electronically modified) guitar so that it’s rich with overtones both natural and synthetic. You might be wondering to yourself, “slow acoustic guitar repetition, does that mean it sounds like Earth?”, and no, fellow music enthusiast, it’s not particularly heavy or loose, and it really stays its course for the full side, allowing each consecutive strum to pull you further into its web. Reminiscent of Alvin Lucier’s long-form minimalist pieces, in that these intriguing conceptual ideas actually result in compositions that are engaging and satisfying to listen to.

Bad Breeding Exiled LP (Iron Lung / One Little Indian)
Yikes, so what very well might be my favorite no-nonsense hardcore album of the year comes from… England?! The patriotic eagle in my heart is shedding a single tear. That’s right, I’m talking about Bad Breeding and their new album Exiled. Hailing from the humble municipality of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Bad Breeding have crafted yet another masterwork of grisly hardcore aggression. Their aesthetic cocktail is specific yet universal, taking inspiration across hardcore-punk’s long and thorny lifespan to make their own noise, which is absolutely wonderful. You get the snarling Crass Records bite of Flux Of Pink Indians and Rudimentary Peni, the impenetrable misery of Youth Attack’s mysterious-guy hardcore circa the mid ’00s, the scorched earth of hardcore early-wavers like Die Kreuzen and United Mutation, just a touch of Swedish heaviness ala Anti-Cimex and Shitlickers, and the “will it all fall apart?” sensation of the first Iceage album, all smushed together in an unventilated basement, pushing and pulling against each other. The songs carry all that diversity without ever veering outside the statutory boundaries of hardcore-punk (this is a good thing), the vocalist has an appropriately frothy bark, the guitars test out some disturbing effects at exactly the right moments, and the snare drum sounds like it was fitted with a sandpaper head. What else do you want to know? Bad Breeding capture the essence of the moment (spoiler alert: it’s grim) and channel it through a thoughtfully creative and unrelentingly brutal album.

black midi Schlagenheim LP (Rough Trade)
I like to think I’ve got a finger on the pulse, but I’m still a little shocked to process that the underground rock band with the most buzz in 2019 is… a spazzy math-rock band? Has the nostalgia cycle already caught up to late ’90s artsy emo-core? I’m not necessarily complaining, particularly in a landscape dominated by inoffensively mopey electronic R&B pop, but I’m still not understanding why black midi were one of the “must see” acts of SXSW earlier this year. Maybe if I saw them I’d understand? Anyway, enough about my poor grasp on today’s music trends, let’s talk about British wunderkinds black midi, who opt for an all-lowercase band name in case their music itself didn’t inform you of their pretentiousness. Schlagenheim is their debut album, and I’m intrigued to hear strong similarities to Hella, 90 Day Men, Portraits Of Past and Slint. Definitely would’ve been a high-profile release for GSL or 5 Rue Christine, had black midi been born fifteen years earlier! And while they are strongly indebted to that era and sound, they’re clearly operating with a broader scope, benefiting from having the history of music at their disposal and incorporating soul, noise, free-improv and krautrock influences, punctuated by the finest percussive tracking I’ve heard on a record this year or last (the drummer is the star, no doubt about it). Multiple members sing, but I’m a little perplexed at the Adam Sandler-esque voice of Geordie Greep (which, let’s face it, sounds like the name of a character Adam Sandler would play). I find it off-putting and slightly embarrassing, especially when compared to the cool, calm and collected British cadence of the other guys. Maybe the wacky vocals help lock in the Mr. Bungle and Ween audiences? Whatever the case, I find myself perplexed in many ways by black midi (particularly the world’s reaction to them), which makes them more fun of a listen (and topic of rumination) than much of what contemporary underground rock has to offer.

Charly Bliss Young Enough LP (Barsuk)
If you ran into me a couple years ago (or anytime since), there’s a good chance I blabbed in your face about how much I love Charly Bliss’s debut album Guppy, so naturally I’ve been eagerly anticipating the follow-up. They reinvigorated all the great things about pop-punk on their debut, and did it in their own weird way (those alien-baby vocals!) with at least four earworm hooks per tune. It’s a hard record to follow, and while I don’t think Young Enough has quite matched it, by any other grunge-pop band’s standards it would be an unprecedented success. If I may try out a Matt Sharp-based analogy, Charly Bliss’s debut was strongly Weezer-ish – thick with power-pop riffs and “playing in the basement, dreaming of stadiums” rock moves – whereas Young Enough is far more Rentals-ish: synth-laden, heavier content, still richly melodic but slightly mopier and more nuanced (read: less lyrics joking about pee and weed). I would’ve been completely content if they had released Guppy Volume 2 instead, but this is most certainly not that – Charly Bliss are already stretching the confines of their initial cotton-candy pop-punk party zone towards a more textural production quality, a wider range of emotion and a sense that they’re really committed to getting the most out of themselves and their band. This is cool and all, but the only question that really matters is “does it slap though?”, and while it doesn’t slap in that same instantaneous “wow I just found my new favorite band” way that Guppy did, these songs are catchy as hell too, filled with more smart-dumb lyrics, hooks upon hooks, and all the stuff that drew me in in the first place.

The Cool Greenhouse Crap Cardboard Pet 10″ (Lumpy)
Oh my god, my new favorite band is here! They’re called The Cool Greenhouse, hailing from London and offering up some of the sharpest, least difficult post-punk I’ve heard in quite some time. Just go peep the opener of this three-song 10″ EP, “Cardboard Man”, which utilizes a simple Casio pre-set rhythm, a taunting one-note guitar “melody”, colorful bass guitar and a vocalist who is utterly self-assured in his conversational tone. His lyrics are more like amusing, thematically-related tweets, little sentences and snippets that paint an entertainingly real picture of modern society’s endless numbing agents. Same basic premise goes for “Pets” (wherein the vocalist waxes at length about, well, pets) and “Crap Art”, which copies the guitar rhythm used in “Cardboard Man” but has the decency to add an additional music note. For years now, I thought the singular WTF genius of Ziggy Stardust Band would sit alone on the shelf, but The Cool Greenhouse deserves a seat at that table – these songs are like fractured, one-handed takes of The Fall with a laid-back sense of humor, wearing its musical monotony like a badge of honor (and rightfully so). It’s most certainly a one trick pony, but when your trick is as perfectly delivered and musically satisfying as this, why would you ever do anything else? I see that there are already a couple other Cool Greenhouse records out, and by the time you read this they’ll have hopefully already arrived at my doorstep (thanks Discogs Prime!).

Current Affairs Buckle Up / Worlds In Crisis 7″ (…)
That’s no typo, the label is called “…” (you say it like “dot dot dot” if you ever were to reach a point in your life where you need to discuss this label out loud) and they’re putting out some cool international punk singles, complete with risographed covers and hand-stamped labels (why pay The Man to print your labels when a chiseled piece of rubber and an ink pad can do the trick?). Glasgow’s Current Affairs are new as a band but not new as musicians, with personnel coming from Anxiety and Shopping and Rose McDowell’s band, and they’ve got a pretty great sound across these two songs. “Buckle Up” is tense and classic new-wave punk, reminiscent of bands that arrived in Joy Division’s immediate wake and tried to do a similar thing but couldn’t help but be themselves instead. Somewhere between Magazine and Marine Girls, maybe? “Worlds In Crisis” is even nicer, bouncing like Girls At Our Best with great contrasting vocals on the chorus and an urgency that would normally find itself at odds with these slick melodic moves. I’m nowhere near as cool as Current Affairs, but it’s incredibly easy to bounce around the room to these two great tunes and pretend.

Cyberplasm The Psychic Hologram LP (Iron Lung)
Do we have room in the scene for two cyber-punk sci-fi hardcore bands intermingling corroded electronics, dial-up internet connections and G.I.S.M. worship? My sources say yes! The most obvious entry is L.O.T.I.O.N., but Olympia’s Cyberplasm are out and about too, grinding out a very similar aesthetic territory. Rather than make this an unnecessary competition, I’m happy to enjoy Cyberplasm for what they are offering, which is mostly fast and noisy hardcore-punk utilizing synthetic drum programming, Lebenden Toten-esque guitar squalls, cavernous vocal screams and plenty of nearly-techno interludes. They’re not afraid to throw it all in a blender, overloading any given track with harsh noise run through flangers, additional percussion loops, pretty much anything to drape their tunes in a paranoid sensory assault, as if the video game bosses we feared most have come to life and are stomping towards our homes. I’m not really picking up much in the way of individual tracks on The Psychic Hologram – sure they stop songs and start new ones, but the whole thing plays out like a demented free-for-all, as if the more hardcore moments of G.I.S.M.’s catalog engaged in a final showdown with Hanatarash’s bulldozer. If Cyberplasm can work out some distinct hooks in the future, they might topple the competition, but the spewed digital shrapnel of The Psychic Hologram is already worth the price of admission.

D7Y D7Y LP (Iron Lung)
Not sure how you say the name, so I’m doing with “dee seven why” – even Icelandic acronyms give me trouble! D7Y feature members of Roht, Dauðyflin, Börn and other Icelandic hardcore / punk bands, and in this particular formation, they’ve opted to play buzzsaw d-beat hardcore. Fans of Disclose and labelmates Physique will presumably reap a similar level of enjoyment from D7Y, as the music follows a similar aesthetic pattern. Good burly vocals on this one, with guitar that sound as though its strings are red hot from nuclear exposure. I personally enjoy the fact that a flange effect randomly appears through many of these songs, its volleying rhythm frequently out of time with the tempo of the actual song. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m surprised more crasher-crusty hardcore bands don’t rip various loud alarms or shock-based soundwaves while their songs play – if I was to start a d-beat group, I’d want at least one member to fire off a couple different car alarms during the set, just because. At twelve tracks, D7Y are in and out pretty quickly, about as straight and direct as noise-laden d-beat gets. And all you fans of skulls out there, rest assured that D7Y don’t leave you hanging: there are four on the cover and 112 on the inner sleeve, all lined up and ready for inspection.

France Ott 2xLP (Mental Groove / Standard In-Fi)
I can’t believe I’ve been walking around all these years, thinking I was a fan of transcendentally noisy drone-rock, yet blissfully unaware of this group that goes by the name of France (who apparently are from France). This is the finest slab of repetitive one-note psych-rock churn I’ve heard since I don’t know when! And on the fittingly-named Mental Groove Records, no less. Anyway, these three sides of 12″ vinyl (with the first disc housing sides 1 and 3 so that a listener with a dual turntable setup can spin them uninterrupted) contain the entirety of France’s performance at Ottfest in 2014, one of the first places I’m headed if I ever get this time machine working. With a setup of bass guitar, drums, and hurdy gurdy, France slowly chug across the astral plane, subtly shifting their patterns while maintaining the same continual trajectory for what, maybe a full hour? It’s a slow rise, but once off the ground, the hurdy gurdy multiplies itself into a flock of screaming violins, as if you dropped four of the craziest Velvet Underground bootlegs simultaneously over a caveman-style percussive thud. It’s utterly majestic! For a live show, the recording quality is top notch, and the group’s single-minded dedication and perseverance is awe-inspiring, truly locked-in and focused on a soul-numbing drone-rock caravan. If anything, I’m sad it’s not longer, but there’s apparently a bounty of France recordings out there, and I’m making it my mission to track down every last one.

Ben Hall & Don Dietrich Tiger Swallow Tail LP (Radical Documents)
Two heavyweights of contemporary noise-aligned free-jazz, Ben “Hell” Hall and Don Dietrich of the immortal Borbetomagus duking it out in two fifteen-minute spars. What’s not to like? If you know these guys at all, you know what it’s going to sound like, and that’s exactly what it does. On the a-side, Hall maintains a rolling boil for the entirety of the track, somehow avoiding fatigue or repetition in his performance, while Dietrich brays like a wounded donkey to his maximum capacity. I can’t say I hear much of a conversation between the two, but it’s a solid vibe: a steamroller and a jackhammer working side by side. I’m fairly certain Dietrich switched over to a guitar on the b-side, or some other instrument capable of ear-piercing hot sweaty treble, but he uses it in the traditional Hijokaidan fashion to invoke a gruesome ambulance pile-up, all sirens still blaring. Hall pounds a little harder here, and justifiably so, as it feels like one elongated climactic ending; if both members are in the upright position at the end of this one, they’re stronger men than I. Truly boggles the mind that moshing was invented in the ’80s to hardcore punk rock rather than in the ’70s when this assaultive free-jazz came into existence – how else could one be expected to properly dance to Tiger Swallow Tail?

Heatmap Thank 12″ (Dimension Arts)
Can someone pinpoint the exact moment that bands on Dischord traded in their ragged t-shirts for button-ups? 1990 or 1991, maybe? Philadelphia’s Heatmap certainly fall on the dress-shirt side of the equation, playing a tight and melodic form of post-hardcore that has me thinking of Frodus, Jawbox and Q And Not U. These six songs are fairly simplistic for a genre that often revels in its possible complexities, but I tend to prefer it the way Heatmap do it: robotically groovy basslines, guitar interjecting as necessary, understated drumming, and a vocalist who sounds a lot like Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins. I haven’t listened to much of this stuff lately (except for the Revelation Records In-Flight Sampler CD that somehow has been a continual part of my life for over two decades), but Heatmap are reminding me how enjoyable this sound can be when performed with no pretense, direct songwriting and a steady vocalist who never veers off into atonal emo yelping. I bet Frodus, Jawbox and Q And Not U have sold close to 250,000 records combined (this is based on a wild guess – could be significantly more!), yet Heatmap will probably require a few months and a heavy show schedule to sell out of the 100 copies of Thank they pressed on their own Dimension Arts label. Dismal times to be a band, and although Heatmap don’t seem too bothered, I’m registering my complaint on their behalf.

Hierophants Spitting Out Moonlight LP (Anti Fade)
Go ahead, try to put Geelong, Victoria’s Hierophants into a stylistic box – you cannot! This group dresses like Man Machine-era Kraftwerk, and they play a welcoming form of let’s-call-it indie rock that feels indebted to Stereolab, The Clean, Imperial Teen, Hall & Oates, Kindercore compilation CDs, The Music Tapes, and so on and so forth. The aesthetic overlap between that list of groups is fairly low, but the convivial, almost child-like positivity that imbues the music of Spitting Out Moonlight is what links it all together. Their songs often feel like different bands entirely, depending mostly on who is singing and how much of a reliance on spacey synths they have for any given track, but I can get into bands that scatter their tunes across various genres, particularly if they’re not jerks about it. Hierophants seem particularly un-jerky – even their sense of Devo appreciation feels playful, not aggressively mutated, as is the common contemporary inspiration taken from Devo in the underground scene. I always bristle when some random dad is like “hey, just saw Toy Story 3 and it was good for both kids and adults!”, but this random dad is telling you that Spitting Out Moonlight is enjoyably upbeat, dance-y indie music suitable for all ages.

The Infinites The Infinites LP (First Humans)
Jared Leibowich has been the voice of The Zoltars throughout their underappreciated career, and now he’s in a band called The Infinites, singing for them too. As a resident of Austin, TX, it can’t be very hard to find a band or three, so Leibowich is reveling in the opportunity and putting out some cool records in the process. Whereas The Zoltars existed on the twilight edges of indie-rock, content to stargaze or linger over a cup of diner coffee after hours, The Infinites are far more social and upbeat, prone to going out rather than staying in. Leibowich’s voice remains the same distinct tone of cautious vulnerability, but these songs skip like Elf Power or The American Analog Set. Nothing to prove, no trends to glom onto, just jangly, breezy indie-pop that keeps things moving. All the songs are titled after people on here – not sure what that’s about, except that I first thought “Nathan Wray” was a touching tribute to Nathan Lane before I double-checked the title. Enjoyable record for sure, which makes me wonder if The Infinites are truly a cut above the rest or if I actually like mellow indie-rock more than I thought I did.

Insanlar Demedim Mi LP (Rush Hour)
I like to think that it takes some truly special and well-considered musical decisions to satisfy my sonic needs, that I’m some sort of high-level aesthete who demands the utmost craftsmanship and quality, but I’m starting to realize that isn’t the case. Case in point: Demedim Mi pairs a rudimentary tech-house beat with long-form psychedelic baglama solos (that’s a stringed Turkish folk instrument)… that’s pretty much all there is to it, and I cannot get enough! I’m certain that Istanbul’s Insanlar duo didn’t just slap it together, but both sides of this long record (“Demedim Mi” parts 1 and 2 total nearly fifty minutes) are audio comfort food for yours truly. The beat persists with little variation (although if you squint hard enough, it’s there), and baglama player Cem Yildiz stretches his legs across all of it, sometimes riffing along, sometimes spiraling deep into outer realms and utilizing effects to reach his destination. It all feels like something Ricardo Villalobos would’ve done in 2008, which of course is a personal stamp of approval, but it also feels special, like a very specific moment in time between electronic producer and acoustic performer that bridges old-world culture with modern electronic dance.

Kilchhofer Anklin Moto Perpetuo 12″ (Marionette)
That big Kilchhofer album from last year still gets plenty of play around the house, but this new EP in collaboration with Michael Anklin is even more enticing, if less of an easy background listen. Together, they’ve created a quiet storm of abstract and microscopic electronics. It sounds like if Autechre collaborated with a full-scale bee colony, or maybe if one of those preciously quiet Marginal Consort performances found itself deep within nature. Dried bamboo shoots rattle arrhythmically, or wait, is that actually the magnified flapping of a locust’s wings? There are moments that absolutely must be typewriters and spoons given the Chris Corsano treatment (“Flor”, for example), but Kilchhofer and Anklin blur the lines of the natural and the inorganic so smoothly that any attempt to parse the sound sourcing will prove fruitless. I’m perfectly content remaining in the dark as to the origin of these sounds, as these two guys are master magicians in their craft, with a vague sense of abstract techno guiding these curious and tricky pieces. As is the case with nature, Moto Perpetuo feels like a glorious miracle of chaos, but if you start to look closely, patterns emerge from their wondrous and post-modern disorder.

Knowso Like A Buzz / Physical Freak 7″ (Total Punk)
Always nice to get a new blast of weird Cleveland punk, this one coming from one of the lesser-active groups in that orbit, Knowso. They’re the brainchild of artist Nathan Ward, whose frenzied artwork has graced numerous slabs of goofball punk in the past few years, but his music is notably less wacky than say, that of Perverts Again or Citric Dummies (whose cover art he has designed). “Like A Buzz” feels like early FYP with a deadpan vocalist and an angular (nipple) twist, whereas “Physical Freak” ricochets off the walls like A Frames with a Devo addiction, but really it all just sounds like Knowso and their collective group of friends. From what I gather, Knowso don’t seem to have a permanent drummer, but Jayson Geryczcz (say that ten times fast) is amply talented on the kit for these songs, and he recorded this single to boot. Does he just not want to commit, or are the other two members of Knowso content to play the field like the swinging bachelors they are? Maybe it’s time they sat down for a talk.

LBB Popped Music LP (Iron Lung)
Don’t swing at this one thinking it’s a heater down the middle – LBB’s Popped Music is one of those fancy curveballs Iron Lung loves to pitch once or twice a year. I’m really curious how the average Bad Breeding / Wound Man / No Statik fan will process this one, as it’s about as far removed from hardcore as anything bearing the Iron Lung label. That said, it fits in due to its extreme nature, as this is a record of harsh silences, violent cello improv, sharp-cut electronics and a profound sense of impenetrability. I’m thinking of a Xenakis composition remixed for RRRecords release, the squeaky squawks of Agencement’s long-form violin improvisations, and one of those pre-genre-classified oddball experimental albums found on the hallowed NWW list – you know, records that are either worthless or priceless depending on one’s personal point of view. LBB not only maintain my attention throughout Popped Music, they lead me down various unexpected passageways with their thunderous klang and pensive drones, seemingly equally curious to discover where things are headed as I am. Throw in the cool cover art reminiscent of Barcelona’s first two records and you’ve got yourself a deal!

Lifes Treading Water LP (Here And Now! / Knochen Tapes / Middle-Man / Triple Eye Industries)
The improper grammar of “Lifes” is killing me, much like every time I think about early Hollywood punkers The Cheifs, but both of these bands sound good enough that I’m able to overlook the (presumably) intentional misspellings, particularly in our age of band-name saturation. This Milwaukee hardcore group features personnel from Kungfu Rick, Seven Days Of Samsara and People Again, and let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from those trees. Treading Water is a fairly unrelenting album of grinding hardcore, reminiscent of Despise You, His Hero Is Gone, Converge and the aforementioned Kungfu Rick. They’re a (deeply distorted) bass-guitar / drums duo, so they must get their share of Iron Lung comparisons, but if we’re here to split hairs (what else are we here for?), I’d say Iron Lung are more on the technical power-violence tip whereas Lifes are burlier and looser, with longer track times. Definitely similar, though! This style is by no means fresh or new, the sort of thing where a listener such as myself might rely on the late ’90s classics and skip out on the modern torchbearers, but Treading Water is certainly enjoyable, chock full of hardcore-grind comfort food to keep us entertained from start to finish.

Limbs Bin Blast Anthemics For A New Generation Of Ecstatic Youth 7″ (Wyatt)
Limbs Bin have a pretty good thing going – harsh blasts of noise with beyond-human drum programming and screamed vocals – but how many times can you go around that track without it getting at least a little old for performer, audience or both? Sure, Agathocles are somewhat of an exception to the rule, but even Napalm Death chose to start writing songs longer than fifteen seconds only a few years into their existence. I would say that Limbs Bin has found a solution to this issue with Blast Anthemics For A New Generation Of Ecstatic Youth, a positively entertaining 7″ EP that either has a few dozen tracks or one track per side depending on how you’re counting. It essentially plays out like an Adult Swim mini-sitcom version of brutal noise-core, as each side is edited with various non-sequitur nonsense in expert fashion. The a-side in particular is great, with a voice actor repeating the name “Limbs Bin” interspersed with live recordings of the crowd between songs, some traditional Limbs Bin “songs”, and other chuckle-worthy snippets of sound. The b-side is less thematically solid, and more of a jumbled mess of harsh blasts and random clips, including part of a @catatonicyouths-style nu-screamo ballad (if you know, you know), which made my day. Gives off kind of a Cock ESP vibe, but with a sharper wit and less decadent nihilism, which the vaguely straight-edge looking cover art echoes. Recommended!

Mock Identity Where You Live 7″ (no label)
What’s amazing about the constant flow of new underground rock bands coming out of DC isn’t merely the quantity, but the quality! I feel like I’m hearing about a new thoughtful and interesting punk(ish) band out of DC every week at this point. This is not a city that breeds lackadaisical stoner-rockers, to say the least! Speaking of, I can’t claim to know how much or how little Mock Identity choose to imbibe, but if “sober-rock” was a genre, I’d file them right in. You can’t be wasted and hope to play these precisely angled riffs, as there isn’t much room for error in these technically-advanced tunes. Even the bassist isn’t afforded a moment to zone out! With songs as tricky as these, it takes a confident vocalist to find their place within them, but Adriana-Lucia Cotes is up for the task. She’ll spit verses over a speedy punk riff, rant at her own pace over a jazzy breakdown, or come up with her own counter-melody when the band locks into one of the numerous prog-punk moments found on this four-song EP. At this point, I can imagine her passing out from boredom if forced to run through some Ramones covers, or anything less than the nimble post-punk riffing of Mock Identity to keep her on her toes. Betcha this band knows where to get a good cup of coffee in our nation’s capital!

Model Zero Model Zero LP (Black Gladiator / Slovenly)
Here’s some hot-oiled, electronics-enhanced garage-punk outta Memphis, a new band with old dudes (as is becoming more and more common for garage-rock). I know there’s some shared personnel with Ex-Cult and The Sheiks, and surely other bands we’re all familiar with in the mix, but none of that really matters too much if the tunes aren’t good, which thankfully these are! I really like what Model Zero are throwing down, which is a relaxed, semi-sleazy take on noisy punk rock, as likely to do the robot to rudimentary drum-machine rhythms as to space out over some glam-rock stomps. I’m reminded in part of Gary Wrong Group (the imposing aura of downer psych?), TV Ghost (the slinky trash-rock moves) and Mordecai (the loosey-goosey vintage riffing), but Model Zero come across as a worthy peer, not an aspirational pretender. They cover Neil Young, but not in that Clockcleaner way – Model Zero shake and snort all through “Mr. Soul”, which fits in nicely among all their original material. Plus, they’re all wearing some of the crappiest makeup on the insert live photo, as if the band’s inherent straightness wasn’t already clear.

Pleasure Leftists The Gate LP (Feel It)
Sad to admit I had kinda forgotten about Pleasure Leftists, but that almost feels by design: self-promoting, self-branding, self-fellating this band is not. It’s as if they are content to be a hidden gem in a sea of aggressively goth-styled rockers who thank House of Vans and Red Bull in their liner notes, and I can certainly understand the ‘Leftists’s confidence in letting their music speak for itself, as The Gate deserves a spot on that skinny little shelf where the featured releases go above the alphabetized bins. Their music is tuneful, moderately abstract post-punk, which feels both old and new without kowtowing to either time frame – they don’t go all out with dated effects for authenticity’s sake, nor do they give it that modern slick blandness that at times feels inescapable. The songs are great, filled with cautiously joyful melodies, energy and mood, and vocalist Haley Morris remains the crown jewel of the group, singing with the confidence of a thousand The Voice contestants in her own distinct articulation. How best to describe her vocals: a pitched-down Kate Bush? Drunk Fiona Apple? However you want to slice it, hers is one of the most unique voices in the crowded field of post-punk vocalists, conveying a kaleidoscope of emotions through words that are only partly intelligible. Of all the Feel It releases, this is probably the one you’ll feel the most.

Preening Gang Laughter LP (Digital Regress)
Oakland’s Preening are squeezing a lot of mileage out of their fairly modest setup of vocals, bass, drums and saxophone, which I’d say is a testament to their talents and creativity. I loved their first 7″ single, at which point they certainly seemed like a two-single band at best (in a good way!), but they proceeded to release two more, all entertaining, and have now stepped out with a full-length! Good for them. Moreso than the primitive no-wave skronk of their previous records, Gang Laughter reminds me of unheralded ’90s weirdo punk groups from the deepest underbelly of the scene, groups like Impractical Cockpit, Mecca Normal and Fat Day; bands who played folk festivals one night and metallic hardcore matinees the next. None of those groups sound particularly alike (although they all enjoy making a spazzy mess whenever possible), but they share a sense of disinterest in the prevailing trends, instead searching out their own unique language even if it means the masses either don’t understand or are indifferent toward their music. It feels like Preening are doing Preening, which is refreshing at a time when so many are doing accurate and satisfactory reenactments of others. My favorites on here are “Watercloset” (wherein two members repeat the phrase “water closet” to increasing incredulity) and “Red Tape”, which alternates between a sickly melody on the horns and canned laughter, but the whole record is a pleasantly rude gesture in the face of conventional mindsets both personal and political.

Private Anarchy Central Planning LP (Round Bale)
Finally, my own Private Anarchy. This is a solo outing by Clay Kolbinger of Davenport and Maths Balance Volumes, and if those names mean nothing to you, allow me to explain that Kolbinger is a part of the American extension of what musician Rob Hayler dubbed the “no audience underground”, where everyone involved is an active participant in making and trading and occasionally even selling low-edition CD-rs, tapes and vinyl. Anyway, if you’re an uneducated dolt like me, the word “anarchy” makes you think of punk, and while that connotation probably fits some aspect of Private Anarchy, it’s not a bullseye. Private Anarchy’s songs are tweaked and twitchy, with undistorted guitar, plunky bass, anxious vocals and at least some slight form of production mishaps disrupting what would otherwise be regular music. A little math-y / basement prog-y action in the guitars, but the drums generally just plod along in time, which makes sense seeing as Kolbinger recorded all this stuff himself. I’m reminded of something that Wheelchair Full Of Old Men would release, except Central Planning isn’t particularly funny… maybe similar to Perverts Again if they felt zero allegiance to hardcore-punk and got deep into Negativland and the tail-end of those Hyped 2 Death comps? I prefer it when Kolbinger is at his furthest from standardized song, as the delirious garbled chatter of “Accumulation” is a barrel of fun, but there’s something to be said for the more rock-based post-punk here as well, so long as you like your post-punk overly caffeinated, paranoid and weird.

Psience Pscience LP (Space Taker Sounds)
The P’s gotta be silent, right? Seems like a novel new way of enabling successful Google searches without doubling up on a consonant (I don’t care how many big venues they sell out, I’m glad my band isn’t called “Alvvays”!), and while Pscience are clearly a direct-to-the-point garage-punk band, it’s evident that they consider the details, too. Their riffs are very much in the back-and-forth Buck Biloxi style, and the drums carve a similar path (no fills, maybe an occasional crash cymbal if you’re lucky), but there’s no sense of nihilism or hatred simmering in the sounds of Pscience. Rather, their punk sounds like it’s covered in pillows, with any sharp edges softened and a generally welcoming attitude to any interested parties. The lyrics remind me of A Frames’ post-grad science lingo, which of course is fitting for a band called Pscience. I just did a little research, and it turns out Buck Biloxi himself is actually in this band, along with other New Orleans punkers from bands like Trampoline Team – who knew that Mr. Biloxi had such a distinctive writing style? And was capable of turning down his social resentment! If Buck goddamn Biloxi can better himself while maintaining a distinctive artistic core, what’s your excuse? (Post-publishing correction: Buck Biloxi sent YGR a message stating that he simply plays drums in Pscience and is not responsible for any of the songwriting – his bandmates wrote these songs. I stand corrected!)

Room Thirteen Daytona Beach View LP (Syncro System)
Maybe a year ago, I was plagued by ads for some show after Better Call Saul starring a blonde bearded hippie dude engaging in madcap Southern Cali adventures. I forget the title, but I’ll be damned if the vibe that show was going for (or at least its commercials) isn’t deeply ingrained in Room Thirteen’s Daytona Beach View. Much like the title, this is a record for part-time surf shop employees who accidentally stumble upon love, or at least wander off into the perfect sunny day. Room Thirteen play twee-pop with dalliances into old soul and hazy surf styles, with just the right amount of smudgy tones and electronic enhancement to keep things CBD-friendly. The vocalists’ breathy coo (both Abigail Clark and Heather Lee Smith are credited for vocals) remind me of April March at her most sun-dappled, probably Hope Sandoval too, except Sandoval never cracked a smile as wide as Daytona Beach View. For as proudly retro as it feels, there’s a newness to these songs, like a particularly engaging new configuration of the unsolved Rubix cube that’s been laying between old magazines and a bong on the coffee table for months now. We’ve reached peak sweltering summer, and Room Thirteen seem to embrace it without making a big deal out of it, embodying shoes-free summertime bliss without the icky Instagram Influencer aftertaste that stinks up much of that vibe these days. I’m gonna stash this one away until it’s the middle of February and I need a record to warm my chilly bones.

Rough Sleepers Hangman EP 12″ (Tall Texan)
Before Tall Texan, there was the Dull Knife label, and before Rough Sleepers, there was the Balaclavas band. The Dull Knife label released no less than four Balaclavas records back at the turn of the current decade, and it’s nice to see the friendship (and artistic patronage) still in place, even as things change and people grow older. I’m not sure if there’s more than one Balaclava in Rough Sleepers, but they have a similar vibe, and it’s one that I find appealing. Big, beefy, gothy industrial-rock moves, as if Peter Murphy played Freddie Mercury in that new Queen movie, perhaps. The keyboards are rich and powerful, utilizing sounds meant for big-room EDM parties, but performing some sort of glammy, kraut-rockin’ post-punk instead. Think Spiritualized’s soaring guitars re-calibrated for goth night with a faint whiff of something Cedric Bixler-Zavala would add to his Apple Music playlist, maybe? They’ve got a good sound, and while I haven’t detected any must-hear hits on this four-track EP, it wouldn’t surprise me if Rough Sleepers are putting the finishing touches on one of those in their practice space right at this very moment.

Sea Urchin Tahtib Tehbat LP (Bokeh Versions)
Gotta love the Bokeh Versions label for consistently expanding the definition of dub, both as a musical practice and a sonic philosophy. Thanks to their keen curation, I now know about Sea Urchin, the Italian / Egyptian duo of Francesco Cavaliere and Leila Hassan (both based in Berlin, because of course). Even with all the micro-genres of electronic music that exist today, I’m hard pressed to cleanly fit Sea Urchin into any given box, but I’ll try my best at describing it to you. They utilize multiple percussive loops of seemingly disparate lengths and tempos, often on the same track, favoring what sounds like hand percussion and acoustic items warped and bent into new configurations. Over this, Hassan speaks and murmurs and makes her presence felt, maybe like a shadowy, avant-garde corollary to Christabelle’s work with Lindstrøm. Peaking Lights meets Sublime Frequencies, maybe? It’s pleasantly disorienting, music that soothes and mellows the spirit while confusing the mind, as if reggae was invented in the Middle East in the year 2099 instead of 1960s Jamaica. That’s not to say that real grooves aren’t cooked up as well – “Mish Hata’ref tesHa?” simmers across melodious grooves and pitched percussion with Hassan providing verbal instruction – and electro-dub bass is never far from one’s chest. The name really suits ’em, as this is beautiful, entrancing music that would probably immediately poison me to death were I to accidentally step on it.

75 Dollar Bill I Was Real 2xLP (Thin Wrist)
So I guess this is where I’m at now: paying big bucks for new releases of stately vanguard experimental music with bespoke packaging. I guess it beats being just another sweaty body in the Have Heart crowd? A friend recently saw 75 Dollar Bill perform with Joshua Abrams Natural Information Society recently, commenting that buying both artists’ new albums together would require a literal 75 dollar bill, and while my immediate reaction is disapproving, I can also empathize with artists who put a lot of care and thought into their albums and wish to be compensated for it. For $30 plus shipping, I Was Real comes in a lavish gatefold cover with that sort of sewn-in tweed material usually reserved for Mozart collections or obsolete encyclopedias, and most importantly, the music is utterly fantastic. This group features a guitarist and a guy who sits and taps on a plywood crate, which is instrumentally quite different but spiritually akin to Joshua Abrams, if I can keep the comparison going. 75 Dollar Bill get deep into cyclical grooves that conjure pre-war blues as much as Group Doueh, extending their soul-nourishing songs into serene new heights, with the confident freedom exhibited by Laddio Bolocko at their most meditative or the psychotic/hypnotic boogie minimalism of Tetuzi Akiyama (who’s inspiration is plainly noted on the track “Tetuzi Akiyama”). For such a humble setup, 75 Dollar Bill present a variety of styles, all of which they finesse masterfully, with multiple well-considered contributions from friends and collaborators. Slapping a big fat recommendation on this one!

Toyota Toyota LP (Digital Regress)
Jeez, I had heard San Francisco’s Toyota described as a band very much inspired by Coneheads, but I wasn’t prepared for how much of a contemporary imitation they were willing to deliver on their self-titled debut album. Maybe it’s on purpose, some sort of meta commentary on the fruitlessness of originality? Anyway, they play their nerdy, angular punk as tightly wound as possible, directly indebted to what Coneheads were doing, although by no means an exact replica – Coneheads still seemed to have some allegiance to early hardcore-punk like Angry Samoans and Adolescents and the like. There’s no meaty bite to Toyota, only artificial flavoring, which might be exactly how they wanted it. I’m actually picking up kind of a Neon Hunk vibe here too, due to the spazzy drumming and fragmented songwriting, yielding music that sounds like it was written by poorly-stitched Muppets in day-glo fashion. The other clear influence at play here is Uranium Club, as Toyota seem to have bit the entire Uranium Club aesthetic (inserts filled with corporate-speak, and Toyota pretend to have their own company too, Discontinuous Innovation Inc.), while also performing gonzo punk with blurts of synth (and even auto sound effects, just like Uranium Club did on their last record!). If I were to listen to Toyota in a vacuum devoid of other modern underground punk awareness, I’d say that it’s enjoyably freaky nerd-punk with no-wave leanings, but the stylistic similarities seem too egregious for me to enjoy this one guilt-free. Unless, in a stunning display of art imitating life, Uranium Club and Toyota merge corporations, lay-off 40% of the members, contract out Coneheads for all songwriting (without insurance or benefits) and offer free shipping on their records in an effort to put all local Devo-worshipping punk bands out of business.

Reviews – July 2019

Alien Nosejob Buffet Of Love 12″ (Aarght!)
I thought Alien Nosejob were a punk band, at least they certainly seemed like one, but that definition continues to fail them as they branch further out into various non-punk styles. Buffet Of Love is their biggest divergence yet, a purely electronic dance EP. Inspiration is attributed to Fancy, Black Devil’s Disco Club, Alexander Robotnick and Decadance on the back cover, and while I appreciate the willingness to be frank about one’s influences, this particular musical frontier is not Alien Nosejob’s strong suit. It’s no easy feat, embodying Black Devil’s psychotic effects or Alexander Robotnick’s impeccably memorable hooks, so I’m not entirely surprised that these four tracks sound more like close calls with The Human League, Depeche Mode or Cold Cave than the stated inspiration. As is often the case with this style, the vocals could make or break it, and the vocals here are like semi-comfortable, not-entirely-tuneful karaoke attempts – passable, but passable isn’t really good enough for this sorta thing, especially when there are so many artists knocking this sort of retro synth-pop sound out of the ballpark right now. I’m sure it was fun to make these tunes, and there’s no denying that Alien Nosejob has wide ranging musical talents, but if I’m being selfish, I’d like them (or is it just a “him”?) to get back to the sardonic and sticky punk rock they were churning out a year or two ago. Like Jon Bon Jovi told us: who says you can’t go home?

Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas Lexachast LP (Pan)
Amnesia Scanner rocked my 2018 with Another Life, so I was thrilled to see this new album hot on its heels, even if I knew better than to expect more of the same. It’s not like Pan founder Bill Kouligas is known for his personal pop sensibility! Together on Lexachast, it seems as though they took a couple dozen terabytes of electronic dance music and mulched it down into a fine slurry, then sifted through the remains with curious intentions. The opener “Lexachast I” (all nine tracks are numbered Lexachasts) is what I’d imagine power-electronics using Spotify R&B instead of white noise and feedback to sound like, and from there the trio’s tempers cool. The alien-baby vocals that I loved so much on Amnesia Scanner’s Another Life are back on “Lexachast IV”, and they seem to be singing in that Sigur Rós language this time, or something similar. The rest of the album slowly invokes various subtle and repetitive motifs, not unlike Arca’s Xen at its most sparse and uninhabited, with the sense that deep consideration went into every sweeping sonic gesture or dramatic synth stab. A cool curio no doubt (especially when witnessed with the world’s most disturbing screensaver that visually accompanies the album, care of director Harm van den Dorpel), and a friendly reminder that Amnesia Scanner are probably watching me in my sleep, harvesting my shadow-data and cyber-metrics. It would be a scary thought if I didn’t dig their vibe so much!

Ausmuteants The World In Handcuffs LP (Anti Fade)
It’s been three years or so since the last Ausmuteants album, which in garage-punk years is a lifetime, and they come back with this curve-ball: a satirical cop-themed album! And not only that, its ten tracks appear twice on this vinyl record: once on the a-side with police-themed skits between each tune, and then again on the b-side without skits (and inexplicably in an entirely different order). I love creativity that I don’t fully grasp, of which The World In Handcuffs is exemplary. Musically, the ‘Muteants are in top form, playing aggressive garage-punk with proto-hardcore leanings (and plenty of DEVO-esque kooky keyboard), and they seem more at ease with their craft than ever. As for the lyrics, I dunno, I fully appreciate the satirical concept and their commitment to it, but there’s something about the vocalist maintaining the character of an assholish cop for the entirety of ten songs that grows a little unpleasant, at least for me. Maybe if American cops were lighthearted clumsy crossing-guards instead of a legalized gang of racist thugs I could find more a(us)musement in the whole package, but some of the miserable behavior lampooned here hits too close to home. That’s just me though, and the songs are great (and clearly Ausmuteants are saying ACAB in their own sarcastic way, don’t get me wrong). I do recommend hearing the side with the skits at least once – they’re about as stilted and awkwardly hilarious as ’80s porno dialogue.

Brandy Clown Pain / Rent Quest 7″ (Total Punk)
If there’s a band alive today that I want telling me about clown pain, it’s New York’s Brandy – they’re like the Impractical Jokers of punk, and I’m here for it. After the igneous post-punk klang of their debut LP, I was ready for more, but “Clown Pain” slows the pace down a bit, a confident strut versus a supermarket sweep… it’s oddly anthemic, using one of those public-domain three-chord progressions, but it feels glorious, either in spite of or because of its genericness. “Rent Quest” is less friendly, and more in line with the demeanor of their album, splitting the difference between Mayyors and Urinals in both fidelity and monotonous riffing, with reverb-laden vocals that burn a hole in the song like a red laser beam through a bank safe. I like that they were able to get a little happier on the feel-good punk tip of “Clown Pain”, but it’s reassuring to see them go back to their mean-mugging, no-fills / no-choruses style of aggressive post-punk on the flip. I like knowing Brandy can be happy sometimes, but I don’t want them to be too happy.

Bruised Arrow Of Disease + Psychic Stain 7″ (Randy)
Cool debut 7″ single here from Chicago’s Bruised: two songs, no fuss! “Arrow Of Disease” has the dead stare of early Cali punk ala The Dils, with plenty of open hi-hat splashing around everything else. The recording is great, in that it’s clearly lo-fi but in all the right ways, capturing this punk band in their natural raw state – the perfect sound for a song with a chorus of “destroy-oy-oy”, which happens to be the case with “Arrow Of Disease”. “Psychic Stain” is unable to maintain the same composure, thrashing and bopping like a crowd of angry runaway teens at The Masque. The melodic progressions remind me of Bags or The Dogs, whereas the pesky bass-line and energy have me thinking of The Urinals. I can’t say that Bruised transcend or are even on par with the other bands mentioned here (and to be clear, basically no modern bands are), but they certainly exude many of the same sonic qualities that made those bands so special, so for a debut 7″ EP on the Randy Records label, what else could you ask for?

Stefan Christensen & Friends Unknown Fortune LP (C/Site)
I have to wonder, does Stefan Christensen even have any friends who aren’t musicians? He probably has one friend who’s a painter or sculptor, but besides that, it seems like everyone in his orbit keeps some sort of musical instrument on hand, ready to jam at a moment’s notice. He’s gathered a nice selection of them here, on an album that maintains a sort of hazy introspection no matter if there are multiple soaring guitars or it’s something more stripped down. Unknown Fortune has a very New Zealand feel to its proceedings, with slow rumblings of guitar, patient interactions and a elegiac feel to nearly every track, no matter if it’s cruising at a nice altitude or softly murmuring below. I’m reminded of Dadamah and some of the earliest, most meandering Red House Painters records, but by now Christensen (and Headroom, and Mountain Movers, and etc. etc.) have put together a large enough body of work where it sounds most familiar to himself. I like it most when they throw structural integrity out the window, whipping up a turbulent boil of guitars and percussion (see the b-side opening “Illustration I”), but the more traditional tunes (complete with Christensen’s vocals) balance it out reasonably. Is it too much to ask for a “Stefan Christensen & Enemies” record next? I’m picturing him jamming with members of Antiseen and Psycho and I’m ready to smash that pre-order button.

Chrome Skulls The Metal Skull 7″ (Vanilla Box)
What was the first upgrade I made to the bike I got in 6th grade? You guessed it, chrome skull valve caps! Chrome skulls will make anything a good 25% more bad-ass, and this New Jersey hardcore band clearly respected that when choosing the name. They play a powerful form of d-beat hardcore that reminds me of Krömosom, Kriegshög, Anti-Cimex, and more than anyone, Framtid. Okay, so the Chrome Skulls drummer isn’t playing endless sick fills (as is the Framtid standard), but the vocalist really takes time to strain and enunciate every screamed word, as if his throat is constipated and he truly has to squeeze with all his might to get words like “war stories” into the mic. The sonic influences are obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful when properly executed, as is the case here. There’s a song called “Public Animal”, and I was initially hoping for an unexpected GG cover, but then I remember that his is #1, whereas the Chrome Skulls “Public Animal” remains unranked. Probably best that they leave the covers to sleazier, slimier punk bands and continue with their raw d-beat assault.

Clever Hangin Egg LP (Tropical Cancer Rort)
From my outsider vantage point, it seems like Brisbane punks carry their own particular cynical chip on their shoulder, at least in comparison to those in Melbourne and Sydney, and it’s an attitude that I find mostly pretty appealing! I’ve been unable to verify if Clever are from Brisbane proper (at the very least, Tropical Cancer Rort is), but they certainly carry that same swagger, the stuff that made Kitchen’s Floor and Meat Thump come across as slightly intimidating, even when they’re shaking your hand and patting you on the shoulder. It helps that Clever are good at what they do, too, which is slamming out some disjointed noise-punk. Closest, basest comparison would be The Jesus Lizard with Darby Crash on vocals, and while I stand by it, Clever don’t strike me as a mere imitation. They’ve got some cool riffs for sure, often swinging side to side like Slint or Shellac but with a basement-punk perspective, not any sort of technical-challenge masculinity test. It helps that the vocalist is prone to violent babbling and scrawny hollering, which plays well off the group who remain pretty locked-in for most of these tunes. I can already picture the hordes of drunken University of Queensland students wandering between bars and clubs on a Friday night, and Clever watching it unfold from their windows, sneering and seething and writing new songs in retaliation.

Condor Singles 2017-2018 LP (Beach Impediment)
You can’t spell “oui, oui!” without “oi!”, which is perhaps why oi from France is such a natural fit. Condor is the solo project of Maxime Smadja, who plays drums for beloved French oi group Rixe (and is apparently also the mastermind behind those humorous synth-pop covers of classic punk songs under the Digital Octopus alias), and I guess Rixe wasn’t operating at an acceptable pace or something, so Smadja started doing Condor on his own. This 12″ collects two cassette singles, and it certainly sounds like an accomplished street-punk band, not one guy manning all the instruments on his own. These songs cruise without feeling too slick, and they’re melodic without verging on the melodies of, I dunno, Lagwagon or some other pop-punk that I often accidentally hear when listening to modern oi. I like a sparing amount of street-punk oi, and I generally either want it super amateurish ala Skin Deep and Iron Cross or raw and frightening like early Combat 84 or Blitz, but although Condor falls in neither camp, I find myself tapping my oxbloods and snapping my suspenders with righteous authority while listening to the seven quick tunes across this 12″ record. It can be tricky territory for some, but Condor’s tunefully driving oi-punk is a considerable success.

Da-Sein Mirror Touch LP (Galakthorrö)
It’s ironic how the fathomless misery of Galakthorrö’s output brings me such joy. Maybe I’m only happy when it rains? This new album from Madrid’s Da-Sein is an excellent case in point, as it is stridently on course with Galakthorrö’s general aesthetic (morbid and gothic industrial power-electronics) and an incredibly pleasurable listening experience just the same. Much like Haus Arafna, Da-Sein is a male/female duo of presumed romantic involvement (and remarkably similar in appearance, with both groups featuring a bald man and a blonde-haired woman), and they harbor the same ill intent for their static-laced oscillators and harsh analog electronics. These tracks are mostly dreary dirges or pulsing throbs of white noise, enhanced by the chillingly calm vocals of Kas Visions. One could describe this as “funeral music”, but to me it’s more like deathbed music, suited for a comatose lover slowly drifting into the afterlife from their rickety hospital bed, the thrum of their heart monitor pumping out a doleful rhythm. It seems like Da-Sein understand and embrace this as well, as their lyrics are more elegantly macabre than anything I’m writing here – the lyrics to “King Ov Pain” eloquently display their morbid fascinations far better than I could. Personally, I’m absolutely horrified of dying, but listening to Mirror Touch alleviates my fear… if death is half as sexy as Da-Sein make it out to be, I’m more accepting of my eventual fate.

Dollar Band Permanently Reduced LP (Tall Texan)
Put on your faded denim and meet me by the quarry – Dollar Band’s self-released 2017 cassette is now on vinyl! It comes care of the new Tall Texan label (which comes from the ashes of the Dull Knife label, if my intel is correct), and since I’m doing some explaining, I’ll mention that Dollar Band is a part-time rock trio featuring Dylan Sharp and Daniel Swire of Gun Outfit and Steven Urgo of The Solar Motel Band. Thus, the urban hippie vibe is strong with Permanently Reduced, and they deliver on their well-versed skill sets through these nine thoughtful tracks. This sorta stuff isn’t my area of expertise, which is my excuse for why I’ll say it reminds me a hell of a lot of Steve Gunn at his most rambling (both Paradise Of Bachelors albums, let’s say), which probably means most other people will be reminded of The Grateful Dead. Sharp’s vocals are direct with a slight matter-of-fact drawl, in the same neighborhood as Kurt Vile and State Champion’s Ryan Davis. Their tempos are either easy or breezy, their playing is loose with a firm sense of security, and their outlook appears to be cautiously optimistic. Not sure if Dollar Band is a project with legs, or a one-time meeting of some like-minded heads, but it’s a gratifying rural-rock document just the same.

Eliza B.C. Eliza B.C. LP (Chained Library)
Here’s an attitude that I find particularly endearing: so you’re an experimental electronic artist who occasionally releases cassettes to tiny audiences (probably a big chunk of which are personal friends or like-minded artists), and rather than try and promote yourself or get on social media to stir up a buzz or even take the basic steps to be recognized by someone online or anywhere, you change your moniker from Elizabethan Collar to Eliza B.C., you know, just because. I truly appreciate artists who operate with a proud indifference to the rest of the world’s reaction, and as is the case with much of Chained Library’s roster, that seems to be what’s happening with Eliza B.C., whoever they might be. This self-titled album offers five repetitive tracks of reductionist techno – no bass-lines, no percussive elements, certainly no vocals, just five different rhythmic arpeggios which maintain course for a few minutes (with subtle and occasional variation) and then move out of the way for the next one. The closing track simultaneously chugs and twinkles like something I’d expect Petar Dundov to make into a full-scale dance cut, but Eliza B.C. is content to leave it alone, as though it were suspended in gravity-less space. The opener’s rubbery pings are cool too, like some sort of acid take on Morse code, elongating itself over a couple of minutes as it waits for a beat that never arrives. I’m a fan, but I love patience-testing and monotonous electronic music, so be forewarned that if you need to hear music where stuff actually happens, Eliza B.C. probably isn’t for you. I doubt Eliza B.C. cares much either way!

Ero Guro No Nansensu 7″ (Belly Button / Ronny Rex)
Second single from this Belgian punk group, and I question the sincerity of the title: there seems to be plenty of nonsense happening here. They play a rascally form of crunchy lo-fi punk, mostly mid-paced so no one has to worry too hard about playing their respective instruments perfectly. I’m reminded of the earliest singles by Wavves and Home Blitz, French garage-punk of the early ’00s like Cheeraks and The Feeling Of Love, and the punker end of the Columbus Discount Records discography. “Male Pornstars” is the hit (with the incongruous chorus of “running outta wisecracks”), but the rest of these six songs chug along just fine, unconcerned with changing your life. Ero Guro just wanna have fun living theirs, and if their 7″s to date are any indication, they’re doing just that.

Észlelés Középtempó Radikále 7″ (Megvető Kiadó)
The Hungarian hardcore onslaught continues with Észlelés and their cool-as-hell eight-track 7″ EP. This one also appears as though it might actually be a lathe-cut, or some odd plastic material between lathes and pressed vinyl, but it sounds better than your average Peter King limited edition, so who knows? Clearly lathe technology has improved in recent years. Anyway, Észlelés play a rowdy and noisy form of insubordinate hardcore-punk, and it’s really hitting the spot for me. I’m reminded of No Trend circa Too Many Humans and the noisier hardcore repped by Iron Lung Records (Cold Sweat, Mutant Video, Control Test, etc etc) with maybe a touch of Dawn Of Humans-style splatter-crust. They seem to be a hardcore-punk band firmly disgusted by the general hardcore-punk consensus, and eager to provoke close-minded ears (which, for those of us who get it, is a delight). The bassist occasionally goes into trippy Eric Wood mode, and there’s saxophone more than once on here, which blatantly rips the breakdown of Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters Theme” for good measure. Freaky hardcore-punk for freaky punk rock freaks!

Felchers Felchers LP (General Speech)
First off, I had to look up what “felching” is, and lemme just say that if this group used it as their name because they thought it sounded cool and not because they actually enjoy felching, I’m giving then a thumbs down! Assuming they are tried and true felchers, however, let us continue with the review of this Kentucky hardcore-punk group’s debut album. Theirs is a juvenile, tantrum-prone form of sneering and amateurish hardcore, sharing a spirit with crude offenders like Nihilistics, The Inmates and Chronic Sick, if not necessarily sharing an abundance of sonic similarities. The vocalist often reaches Doc Dart levels of maniacal bleating, whereas the band plays an aggressive but not heavy form of hardcore akin to Feederz, Angry Samoans and Mentally Ill, captured with what sounds like a rehearsal-room recording. Is there a place in modern hardcore for bands writing songs like the self-evident “Who’s Gonna Fuck Your Mother When I’m Gone”? I like to think so, as puerile behavior and inexcusable rudeness are core elements of what’s commonly defined as punk rock. I just hope these southern pranksters are putting their money where there mouth is and felching the night away.

Golden Pelicans Grinding For Gruel LP (12XU)
Glad to see Orlando’s persistently-agitated Golden Pelicans continue to put out records and do their thing. 2015’s Oldest Ride Longest Line impressed me, and this new one on the venerable 12XU label does the same, reminding me that there will always be a place for male American pissed-off rock n’ roll in my life, at least so long as it’s of this high caliber. This time around, Golden Pelicans seem to have found some inspiration in the music favored by guys that would’ve beaten up punks in the early ’80s, bands like Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest and the like, but the ‘Pelicans are still playing these tunes with the bitter barfly frustration one might expect to find on any given Cheater Slicks album or Headache Records release. It really works for them, but I get the feeling Golden Pelicans could rightfully tackle any hallowed loud rock tradition and make it their own. As was the case before, a good bit of this credit goes to vocalist Erik Grincewicz, who sounds like he’s shouting every line through gritted, bile-crusted teeth, but whereas a regular Joe like you or I would immediately start coughing or need a sip of water, he seems to only grow stronger with every gravelly scream. Truly the perfect set of pipes for these working-class-rebel songs – I bet the polyps in his throat have polyps of their own! So long as Grincewicz can continue his righteous croak, their mighty marriage of garage-punk attitude and heavy metal riffage need never cease.

Hoover1 Hoover 1-2 12″ (Hoover)
A little confused if the artist here is actually Hoover, or Hoover1, as I’ve seen both used, but that sort of obfuscation (or perhaps more likely, total lack of caring) on the part of the artist is something I find undeniably charming. In any case, this isn’t the old Dischord emo-core band, it’s René Pawlowitz, who you probably know best as Shed or Head High. Hoover1 sounds a bit like the difference split between Shed and Head High, as these tracks feature the air-tight rigidity of the finest Shed techno, but they deploy classic jungle break-beats and raved-up vocal samples, of which Head High’s discography is packed. I’m digging it! “Hoover1-2A2” is about as tidy and efficient as throwback jungle can get, each little piece perfectly operating and doing nothing beyond that – I’m sure Pawlowitz’s ancestors were German cuckoo clock makers, as his music shares that sort of technical precision. “Hoover1-2B1” is cool… a bit more skittish, with retro synth-stabs to recall an 8-bit motorcycle racing game, almost like a proto-footwork from the post-footwork era, if that’s not too time-bending. I prefer “Hoover1-2B2”, however, which is the exact same as “Hoover1-2B2” (literally) but it features the addition of a time-stretched British politician vocal sample, providing this sharp throwback exercise with a colorful splash of WTF. Sitting here listening to “Hoover1-2B2” as I finish writing this review, I find myself feeling sympathetic and sorry for anyone who doesn’t love techno music. Their loss!

Karenn Kind Of Green 12″ (Voam)
Always nice to receive a new transmission from the duo of Blawan and Pariah, known to you and I as Karenn. Their early twelves were some of my favorite slabs of non-gothic industrial-techno of the early ’10s – no romance, no drama, no emotion, just hard-hitting percussion and a heavy and warbly synth line to match, with a diffused cloud of radiation surrounding it all. It’s impressive how, years later, the Karenn template really hasn’t changed, but if you’ve got a good thing going (merciless dance-floor artillery), why mess with it? “Salz” is probably my favorite, or it’s at least the heaviest banger here, but there’s something to be said for the “malfunctioning space station” aura of “Newt”, operating at an unhurried BPM with what sounds like a supercomputer desperately attempting to replicate human language (but failing) as a hi-hat ticks down the seconds til implosion. It’s funny, even before I heard Kind Of Green I had a fairly accurate guess of what it would sound like, but rather than turn me off by its predictability, it’s making me want to pull out those other Karenn 12″s from a few years ago and revisit their efficient and minimalist aggression. May they never stop!

Khidja In The Middle Of The Night 12″ (DFA)
I khidja not – Khidja released a 12″ EP on DFA! This Romanian duo seems to be everywhere these days, so while I’m surprised to see them working with DFA, I’m also not surprised at all. And I’m also not surprised at the fact that these four tracks smoke! “Don’t Feed The Animals (Hiding In Your Room)” opens the EP, and for good reason – this is the one you’ll want to play in front of party crowds, family gatherings, whatever, really. This one has a super-cool descending bass riff over a 4/4 disco pulse (very DFA of them) and garbled vocals trying to warn us before it’s too late. It’s a corker! “Devil Dance” is sneakier and slightly less spooky, pads careening over each other like a helicopter traversing mountain ranges at low altitude. I’m already satiated, but there are two more cuts on the b-side – “I Can Never Relax” is as twitchy and distracted as the title might lead one to believe (complete with some “Robots”-style Kraftwerk vocals), but “I’m So Bored” is anything but boring, working a rubbery bass-line and patterns of congas into something I’d expect Matthew Dear’s name to be associated with. Each cut is great, with flecks of John Carpenter and Sis and The Juan MacLean sprinkled throughout, but ultimately all very Khidja-esque. Which is great, because I love Khidja!

Meitei Komachi LP (Métron)
Métron Records ‎is a German label with an exclusive distro deal through Toronto’s carefully-curated Séance Centre, and Meitei is a Japanese artist fairly new on the scene. Isn’t it nice when things come together on an international scale such as this? It’s especially nice when a debut album comes along like Komachi, as it’s a beautifully refined suite of abstract sonic miniatures. From what I gather, Meitei is searching for Japan’s ancient soul, one where patience, harmony and a search for understanding are guiding principles both philosophically as well as his approach to making music. I’m assuming these tracks are mostly sample-based, but I don’t know if it’s Meitei’s own piano compositions and personal field-recordings he’s manipulating or if these sounds come from times and places long ago. Wherever they originated from, Meitei loops and shuffles them with the tenderness one uses to swaddle an infant. Rustling water bumps up against delicate piano keys, Japanese percussion loops over crackling static and electronic warbles… I’m reminded strongly of O$VMV$M, although the oil-stained midnight alleys of O$VMV$M’s Bristol are replaced by Meitei’s contemplative rivulets and hushed forests. Some of these cuts bear subtle grooves, to the point where the addition of a drum loop would have me hearing echoes of J Dilla, but Meitei never gets rowdy enough for rapping. This is experimental lullaby music, and I plan to continue to set aside undisturbed time for Komachi‘s soothing tunes. Self-care y’all!

Metro Crowd Planning: LP (Maple Death)
London’s Maple Death has been a busy conduit for the Italian rock underground for a handful of years now, and I might go ahead and dare to say that Metro Crowd’s Planning: is their finest offering to date. This group is from Rome, where the tourism surely makes them sick, and they mash a number of trendy and previously-stylish techniques into their own potent entree. They’ve got the queasy mechanical lurch of Throbbing Gristle and the like, the languid post-punk simmer of contemporaries such as Exek or Shopping, and the spastic screamy hardcore of groups like The VSS or Jaks, all with vocals that are distorted beyond recognition. That’s a lot to throw in one pot, but Metro Crowd sift out the bits and pieces worth saving, and write some great tunes, like “Student”, whose supple rhythm allows for a wide range of dancing, from tantrum-moshing to jiggly swaying. It often feels like the best case scenario of Y2K Spock-haircut sass-rock, one that pursues dance-punk rhythms while maintaining a wildly ugly demeanor, as liable to bite into your throat as co-DJ your after-party. Planning: doesn’t retread the same ideas, nor does it lash out in conflicting directions, which makes for a highly entertaining listen, both for chin-scratching critics and those looking to have a little noisy brain-dead fun. Pencil me in for both, please!

Nots 3 LP (Goner)
Writing one great garage-punk album can be tricky, writing a second is even tougher, and a third? Well, you better be that incredibly rare minority that can maintain the excitement of that initial spark of activity across three records, or more likely, you’ve found a way to grow and mutate your sound to keep it fresh. The latter is the case for Nots, who are down to a trio here, with vocalist Natalie Hoffmann handling both guitar and synth duties. It tends to result in a starker sound, particularly as she seems to be playing the synth and guitar in real-time, so if the song relies on wooshing outer-space sound effects, there’s a good chance the guitar will be mostly absent. Their songs are also moodier and ever-so-slightly slower this time around, embracing their lyrical themes of paranoia, isolation and surveillance with tense drumming and fundamental bass-lines locked in unison. There’s still plenty of rapid-fire floor-tom destruction care of the indefatigable Charlotte Watson, much to my delight, but some of these songs feel a little too sparse for my personal tastes – I guess I still enjoy garage-punk most when the guitars are out of control and blaring in my face, and that happens notably less here than on previous Nots records. On “In Glass”, for example, the guitar is conspicuous by its absence, particularly considering the raging temperament of the tune. Nots seem to be moving towards something else here though, a more neurotic and tightly-wound form of spastic post-punk that doesn’t rely on the sizzle of electric guitars, and while 3 isn’t my favorite of their discography to date, it points to intriguing future territories.

Nun The Dome LP (HoZac)
A wise man once said “nuns have no fun”, and who am I to argue? This Melbourne-based synth-wave group don’t seem to deny it either with The Dome, their shadowy sophomore album. Nun play a fairly by-the-books version of moody synth-pop – no guitars, just a trunkload of keyboards and modular synths and electronic percussion – and if your lifestyle is based around this form of music, Nun make for a welcome addition. One could file them in a lineup with Adult. and Xeno & Oaklander without aesthetic interruption, but Nun haven’t quite hit the whiplash electro-highs of Adult. nor do they possess the clinical precision of Xeno & Oaklander. “Another Year” is probably my favorite cut here, strongly reminiscent of Ceramic Hello care of the drum rolls and bilious synths, but much of The Dome feels like a basic genre exercise, for better or worse. Maybe it’s the song lengths? Almost half of these tracks coast past the five minute mark (and the rest are just under), but they don’t quite have the substance or variety to warrant such spans of time… expect to hear verses and choruses a good four or five times per track. I’d probably develop a greater affinity for album opener “Wake In Fright”, for example, if they whittled it down to under three minutes, as opposed to its 5:28 running time. I could chalk it up to my adult ADD, but then that doesn’t explain why I’m happily sitting through 45 minutes of a single Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society track… but enough about me, all music is free online now, so you can be the judge!

Rakta Falha Comum LP (Iron Lung / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Rakta have been a reliably gloomy, reverb-y post-punk band for a few years now, so it’s only a matter of course that the two artists I’m reminded of most on their sophomore album Falha Comum are… Magma and Hawkwind?! It’s crazy but it’s true, and what’s even more crazy is that it still sounds like the Rakta I became familiar with over the past few years. Falha Comum uses essentially the same ingredients they’ve always had – heavy ceremonial drumming, booming bass, cavernous vocals careening off every hard surface – but this time they’re playing as if their lives depended on it, trading in a sullen gloom for a fervid presence. It works especially well on “Flor Da Pele” and “笑笑”, both of which call to mind the possessed visions of Magma; I could listen to “笑笑”‘s heavy piano loop all day. “Fim Do Mundo”, on the other hand, is a perfect example of Rakta’s scorched-earth take on Hawkwind’s astral chug, eventually switching to a dance-punk beat over a cavalcade of echoed vocals, guitars and synths (while the single-note bass keeps the train on its track). Much like fellow Brazilian noisemakers (and European tourmates) Deafkids threw out the rule-book for heavy metallic crust, Rakta have expanded their post-punk beyond expectations and it’s thrilling to behold.

Sleeper And Snake Junction & High LP (Aarght!)
Hey, are you into bands? Amy Hill and Al Montfort sure are! Hill is in Constant Mongrel, School Of Radiant Living and Terry, and Montfort is in Terry too, plus Total Control, Dick Diver, Lower Plenty, and on and on. My head is spinning just imagining their weekly band practice regimens. Does Montfort ever get on stage for a Lower Plenty gig and accidentally play Straightjacket Nation songs (another band he’s in?)? It boggles the mind! And now, these two Terry musicians have their own duo album as Sleeper And Snake (she’s the sleeper, he’s the snake), and they found a way to make it great, too. The songs here alternate between tender twee-pop (I’m reminded of Elf Power or Olivia Tremor Control, as well as the softer side of Terry) and free-form experiments in cheap electronics, horns, keys and whatever else is lying around the garage. It’s a surprisingly smooth combination, and reminds me of the endless creative energy that orbited the Homosexuals camp in their heyday (I’m thinking of records by George Harrasment and Sara Goes Pop). Before the tweaked whizzing drones of “Royal Filth” have a chance to overstay their welcome, the sleepy summer swing of “Wisdom Vermin” takes over; Hill and Montfort harmonize the lyrics “gonna be a hot one” over a twinkly keyboard solo, stately bass-guitar and a time-keeping acoustic strum. If you think that sounds nice, but wonder why they don’t end the tune with a harmonica solo, have no fear – Sleeper And Snake have got you covered.

Small Cruel Party La Chrestomathie Du Désespoir 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Seemingly unstoppable by all the factors that are rendering vinyl 7″ records obsolete and financially ruinous to labels, I Dischi Del Barone marches on with the first new Small Cruel Party record in over a decade! I don’t know if it’s archival material or something new, but who really cares, the noisy avant-garde sounds of Small Cruel Party are more or less divorced from time. It was a small cruel move for I Dischi to not list the RPM on this one (though I’m fairly certain it’s a 33), but these tracks are wonderfully evocative and probably work at a variety of speeds. “Titania: Il Passagio Al Bosco Come Un Atto Di Libertà Nella Catastrofe” (that’s the a-side) sounds like some sort of long-extinct pulley system being worked – I’m picturing old rope and rusty axles pulling buckets of wine down a winding cobblestone path, some sort of steam-punk fantasy that’s actually magnificent and beautiful. “νεκυįα: La Nostalgie De La Lumière Comme La Nostalgie De La Conscience” is a consistent stream of tapping laden with squeaks and yanks – this time, I’m picturing someone trying to stretch a buffalo hide over a frame of copper pipes while an old man sits cross-legged nearby, nervously tapping on his Mason jar (directly next to the microphone that captured this recording). I love noise records like this, ones that create their own vivid mental scenes, and I thank I Dischi Del Barone for keeping the ‘Party going.

Soft Issues Soft Issues LP (Opal Tapes)
When I think of Opal Tapes, I think of avant- and/or lo-fi techno cassettes, but Soft Issues is neither of that! It’s the vinyl debut of this Leeds duo, who are intent on bludgeoning the listener with harsh, digital power-electronics. They’re far from the first British duo to take this aggressive approach to noise music, but Soft Issues are quite adept at it, forcing drum machines to convulse on the floor, overloading power supplies and screaming until the microphone cuts out. I’m reminded of Bloodyminded, Sissy Spacek and Consumer Electronics, or perhaps some red-eyed mix of the three, with quick cuts, potent blasts of electronic noise and percussion utilized as weaponry (or vice versa). The short track lengths help too, as over eleven tracks Soft Issues get in, pummel, and get out, with more of an economical approach to sonic construction than your average harsh noise act. And while some of the song titles have a very Swans-y aftertaste (“Crawl Backwards”, “Personal Sewer”), I get the impression that Soft Issues are exploring inward issues of distress and frustration, as opposed to the overdone power-electronics tropes of sexual perversion and serial killers. Maybe those count as hard issues?

Suck Lords True Lords Music 7″ (Edger)
Surely you know Marie Kondo’s “does it spark joy” test by now, right? I have a similar but slightly different test I like to apply to music: would it spark joy in Beavis and Butt-Head? I like to think that Portland’s Suck Lords would delight those two losers to no end, and after spending time with their two ripping 7″ EPs, they delight me too. At first, I thought this was some sort of repackaged repress of their debut, but that one is called New Lords Music, so rest assured if you decide to pick this one up, you’re treating yourself to eight new tracks of unrelenting hardcore thrash. They absolute plow through these songs, reminding me of the first Sex/Vid EP, or perhaps an American version of Olho Seco, or maybe Neos if they shared Poison Idea’s domineering physicality. Their vibe reminds me of post-Y2K Clevo-core, similar to Upstab or Bad Noids in the way that Suck Lords present themselves as rude and unsupervised punks causing trouble for trouble’s sake, but Suck Lords play faster than anything out of Cleveland probably ever. The songs are fantastic (and interesting and technical without being off putting), and the “Getting to know the Lords” side of the insert is one of the funniest hardcore-punk liner notes I’ve seen since In/Humanity’s The Nutty Anti-Christ fake t-shirt order form. I’m already sending in my money orders for Blue Lords Music and Screw Lords Music.

Justin Sweatt Say Your Goodbyes LP (Night Rhythms)
Scene trend prediction time: the Italians Do It Better-style neon-wave disco-house du jour is on its way out, and the private-press computer-folksy Weather Channel ambient-synth is on its way in. Take Justin Sweatt for example, who used to release electro-house synth-wave stuff under the Xander Harris moniker (and probably still does, seeing as the last Xander Harris album came out last year), but he’s trying something different here under his own name. Gotta say, I’m enjoying it! This music is wistful and restrained, moody and downcast, and precisely the sort of composed electronic filler you hear while waiting for an actual human Verizon employee to pick up your call. Say Your Goodbyes also falls in line nicely with rare and expensive gems by Leon Lowman, Doug Snyder and G.B. Beckers, stuff that the underground zeitgeist pushed aside for thirty years until realizing that hey, putting aside Kitaro and Vangelis, some of this new-age synth-jazz is actually pretty sweet. Sweatt certainly understands that when doing this sorta thing, less is more – he is able to locate a simple groove or a cozy-soft chord change (I give myself a little hug each time “Chasing Paper” comes on) and stay there, resisting the urge to inflate it with big sounds or attention-grabbing additives. No acoustic guitar or flute solos just yet, but if Sweatt keeps this up, he may want to start working on his embouchure.

Thought Broadcast Abduction LP (Chained Library)
Bleak times call for uplifting music, but Ravi Binning doesn’t care – his new album under his Thought Broadcast moniker, Abduction, is bleak as hell! The New York-based Binning seems to be one of those noise artists that other noise artists name-check, and I’m not surprised, as this album of submerged chunky loops, grinding industrial processes and dystopian ambient shift is of fine distinction. I’m honestly curious where and how these sounds are sourced – they sound too organic and analog to be entirely synthetic, but they unfurl in careful patterns and shapes, negating any chance of pure field-recording origins. I’m hearing smokestacks oozing black silt, locomotive engines straining with friction, the run-out grooves of an ancient 10″ acetate, toxic smoke softly filtering out of an abandoned air duct… the fruitless sounds of human-derived wreckage, on full display. If that Chernobyl series wasn’t already expertly soundtracked, Abduction would’ve done the trick masterfully, as these tracks embody a similarly passive horror; this isn’t a monster coming to get you, so much as an interminable, insentient process that lacks any awareness of the damage it reaps. If you’re a fan of mechanical post-industrial noise, Abduction is eager to take you there.

Upsammy Wild Chamber LP (Nous’klaer Audio)
Are you down with Upsammy? I surely am! Last year’s Words R Inert was at the top of my 2018 singles chart, so I snagged a copy of this album the moment I realized it existed. What I loved most about Words R Inert was the unique way Upsammy marries propulsive percussion to glossy synths, but that’s not necessarily the focus here. She’s still got that gear on hand – “Screaming Colours” displays a similar percussive palate – but these songs are less vigorous and pumping. In fact, I’d file Wild Chamber under “IDM” as opposed to “electro” or “techno”, as these songs drift in a sickly harmonious way that recalls Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album or maybe even Autechre’s Confield, with a forlorn ambiance reminiscent of Milan W.’s recent work. Late ’90s / early ’00s experimental electronic music seems to be the main sonic reference point, although Upsammy is more fascinated with the tweaked tones and busy sonic environments her gear can render than cut-up breaks or anything remotely drum n’ bass affiliated. It’s certainly not what I was expecting, although it’s not a drastic departure, either – her synths were always clinical and spotless, but without a muscular beat behind them, these songs focus on twinkling arpeggios, delicate melodies and mysterious little chambers of sound, a style one might associate with the heyday of Mille Plateaux. Throwback or not, Wild Chamber is a highly pleasant album of rarefied electronic gestures… but I’m hoping she brings back the wallop of Words R Inert sometime soon, too.

YC-CY Béton Brut LP (X-Mist / Order05)
Swiss noise-rockers entertained me with their 2017 album Todestanz, and they’re sounding even better this time around on their third full-length, Béton Brut. As before, they seem to approach their sound from the noisy, arty hardcore side of things (as opposed to the riff-centered, gear-head side), and they manage to make that sound their own; YC-CY do not appear afraid to write weirder songs or, if not veer entirely off course, at least wobble a bit. At their ugliest, I’m reminded of White Suns and Twin Stumps, but there’s still plenty to be enjoyed by a plainclothes Metz fan looking to head-bang and get floated. It would probably go over well with fans of that latest Daughters record too (there are some clear similarities in the shrill, overtly-synthetic guitar tones), but YC-CY aren’t particularly looking for regal artistic perfection – they wanna smash n’ crash around the room like any bunch of spastic hardcore fools, it’s just that they’re tighter and musically more interesting than artists cut from a similar cloth. I’d say YC-CY are ready to break into the North American market with a record on Three.One.G or GSL, but sadly I don’t think either of those labels are really operational anymore, which doesn’t bode well for my Bottlenekk credit slip.

Yu Su Roll With The Punches 12″ (Second Circle)
Not sure this Yu Su is the best record I’m writing about this month, but it’s certainly the one I’ve listened to most! This is one of those records that goes well at any time, in pretty much any situation: doing the dishes, driving to a show, morning exercise, evening time-wasting on the internet, you name it. I really enjoyed last year’s Preparations For Departure EP, but whereas that one had more of a somber, reflective tone, Roll With The Punches is a rejuvenating sponge-bath of electro rhythms, new-age chords and left-field electronics. “Little Birds; Moonbath” could just as easily have been titled “Little Moon; Birdbath”, as both scenes are conjured through its meditative synths and hop-skip percussion, with the soothing vocals of Michelle Helene Mackenzie baked in the middle of the mix. It’s great, but all five tracks are great, a small abundance that has me wondering if this isn’t more of a “mini-LP” than a 12″ EP, but that’s some grossly nerdy territory I do not wish to pursue any further. “Tipu’s Tiger” feels like a funky corollary to Meitei’s recent album, but my favorite cut is “The Ultimate Which Manages The World”, which utilizes a sprawling reggae downstroke and finely chopped vocals to explore some new blissful form of sunbaked dub-techno, as if it existed for centuries on some remote island untainted and Yu Su somehow discovered it. Actually, who am I kidding, this is definitely my record of the month!