Archive for 'Reviews'

Reviews – February 2019

Baby’s Blood Baby’s Blood 7″ (Neck Chop / Blast Of Silence)
After finally warming up to the work of self-aware punk rocker Drew Owen care of his Sick Thoughts album on Goner a few months ago, this EP by his new project Baby’s Blood arrived on my doorstep. Thankfully I’m over 18, because they could get in trouble for distributing this sort of punk-rock filth to minors! This group is Owen and at least one or two new friends he made while currently residing in Finland (you never know if his projects are “real” bands or just him playing all the instruments), and it’s rougher, meaner and undoubtedly more Finnish than Sick Thoughts. Jesus Christ Allin seems to be the main influence at play: tracks like “Against The Law” and “Ready II Die” are delivered in the classic early-GG style of nihilistic-yet-melodic punk, with exaggeratedly disgusted vocals and tight memorable choruses. For whatever apprehension I may have had upon first glance, there’s no denying the righteousness of Baby’s Blood – they come correct with all the right swear words, drug references and gleeful promotion of self-harm, and they’ve got the riffs and style to pull it off. I’ve always been one to live slowly and (hopefully) die old, but records like this tempt me to quicken the pace.

Bruce Sonder Somatic 2xLP (Hessle Audio)
Hessle Audio has been one of my favorite British electronic labels for a while now, but the few full-lengths they’ve released in the past (Pangaea, Pearson Sound) have housed some of the label’s least-enthralling moments. I’ve been loving the past few years’ worth of Bruce EPs, both on and off Hessle, and remained hopeful that he could put together a compelling full-length, especially when I saw the eerie-dance cover image. He didn’t let me down! Sonder Somatic is a big album, if not a surprising one – it makes good on the promise of his previous singles, retaining his signature style of pulsing grooves and oddball production tics. Tracks like “What” and “Elo” are primed to push a hall full of dancing partygoers toward euphoria, but are just as valuable for those of us planted on a couch and eager to dissect the ornate detail and mind-bending construction that went into these tracks. At his best, Bruce excels at connecting with the cerebral as well as the primal, crafting lush techno jams that are as fun to mentally investigate as they are to physically engage in rhythmic gyration. It’s a pretty long record too, eleven healthy cuts across four sides of 12″ vinyl – other techno full-lengths might leave me feeling fatigued, but Sonder Somatic continues to energize.

Bummer Holy Terror LP (Learning Curve)
It says “Holy Terror” at the top of the cover in Black Flag font, but the band is called Bummer, as evidenced by the logo on their kick drum. Or maybe they’re called Peavey, based on all those amps? Anyway, this is the first full-length from this Kansas City-based metal-core outfit, and if you are saddened by thick guitars, screamed vocals and frequent heavy breakdowns, this group will surely live up to their name for you. Their vibe seems to be that of “depressed wise-guy”, full of snarky puns as well as lyrics like “I am just the leftover piece of trash that you forgot to throw out”. Their music is heavier and more metallic than most of the groups who share Bummer’s outlook, calling to mind a punker Strife, or maybe a less-tricky Converge? The vibe is AmRep, whereas the sound is Deathwish. This one comes on fancy tri-color red, white and blue vinyl, as if there was any question as to Bummer’s country of origin. As far as I’m concerned, us Americans originated this art form!

C.H.E.W. Feeding Frenzy LP (Iron Lung)
Through my previous encounters with records by Chicago’s C.H.E.W., I had mentally filed them away as a solid lower-tier hardcore group, one of the many unremarkably-good hardcore-punk acts of today. I was a little surprised to see Iron Lung partaking, but upon listening to Feeding Frenzy, it makes sense, as this debut full-length is a firm step up from their previous EPs. Maybe they simply needed the extra vinyl inches to fully deliver their goods, or perhaps they’ve improved as a group in the past couple years – I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both, as this album sincerely rips. In what manner does it rip, you ask? Well, they blaze through a good number of fast hardcore tunes as though possessed by the ghosts of Talk Is Poison and No Comment, mix it with head-spinning thrash similar to No Statik or Permanent Ruin, and throw in just enough demented weirdness to ensure their dignified position within hardcore-punk’s colorful tapestry. I read somewhere that they were initially influenced by Crass Records and Dead Kennedys, which of course is a fine place to start any band (particularly teenaged ones though, let’s be honest), but those influences seem more mental and emotional than musical, as Feeding Frenzy is a hard-pounding menace in league with S.H.I.T. and Impalers. I wouldn’t expect to see a new release on Crass, but my fingers are crossed for a C.H.E.W. record on Alternative Tentacles.

Chronophage Prolog For Tomorrow LP (Cleta Patra)
Very cool debut here from Austin’s Chronophage on a new label run by Candice Metrailer of Mystic Inane. Chronophage take the opportunity to hone in on the art-rock that was created in the brief window of time that starts after cool punks grew bored with punk and ends before they fully transitioned into college rock. I’m hearing the tuneful yet abstract style of Homosexuals throughout Prolog For Tomorrow, a touch of Eat Skull’s feral pop sensibility, a big heaping of Doc Dart’s Patricia and the first couple Tactics albums, too. Chronophage’s songs are diverse in fidelity, structure and mood – a DIY country skiffle might butt up against a tenderly twee melody that segues into a distorted tape experiment, like a mixtape that seamlessly sticks Girl Ray next to Flying Calvittos and Thin Yoghurts. Chronophage are really bursting with ideas, but it comes out focused and fascinating, not messy or confused, even as seemingly every member of the group takes lead-vocal duties at some point or another. Strongly recommended for any fans of off-kilter DIY rock and the joy it brings.

Civic Those Who No 7″ (Anti-Fade)
Been hearing good things about Melbourne’s Civic ever since their debut 12″ came out last Spring. This new four-track 7″ EP is my first experience with the group, and even considering the large quantity of high-quality, melodically-minded punk bands that’s come out over the past few years, Those Who No is a standout! For some reason, I had it in my head that Civic were a hardcore group, but this is hook-driven anthemic punk, in the manner of groups like Radioactivity, Dillinger Four or even The Exploding Hearts. Probably a little Cocksparrer and Jawbreaker in there too, but Civic don’t sound remotely British or Oi-inspired, nor are they remotely emo or poetic, so more of a slight whiff than a stink of those two. On this plainly-designed EP, Civic jam through their great upbeat punk tunes with choruses that catch your brain by the third verse. They wrap it up with a cover of Brian Eno’s gem “Needle In The Camel’s Eye”, which could easily pass to an unlearned ear as a Civic original thanks to their assured delivery and unflinching attitude. A touch of glam suits this versatile punk group! And as is true with the very best Australian rock groups, Civic feature a member by the name of Roland; he plays bass.

Color TV Color TV LP (Deranged)
Minneapolis’s Color TV follow the preordained path of punk behavior by releasing this, their full-length debut, after a couple 7″ singles and a demo. That’s really the way to do it, isn’t it? Anyway, they were clearly up for the task, as this is a strong effort of frantic skinny-tie punk rock, akin to Jay Reatard, The Vibrators, The Time Flys, Clorox Girls, Dark Thoughts, Buzzcocks, that sorta thing. As far as the style goes, Color TV’s sound is somewhat anonymous – they certainly don’t make any wrong moves, but they don’t do anything to particularly establish themselves from their peers, either. Maybe by just being really tight and good, that’s how they stand out? Actually, scratch that – there are probably more really-good power-pop punk groups playing now than any other time in the past thirty years. It even goes through to their name, which certainly fits well within the genre of established punk tropes, but doesn’t really offer any fresh new angle. I’d be intrigued if they went with something more specific like “Big-Ass Projection Screen Box TV From 1994 That No One Wants And Is Too Heavy To Throw Away”, but honestly then I’d probably accuse them of trying too hard. You just can’t win with me!

Convenience Stop Pretending 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here’s a new hardcore band featuring old hardcore peeps: members of No Statik and Iron Lung ripping through seven tracks of ugly American hardcore-punk. I love that the members of Convenience have clearly played countless hours of hardcore music in their lives, and decided to get together with each other to do what? Play it some more! Across these tunes, No Comment and Capitalist Casualties come to mind, as well as early MDC (if they were a little heavier) and Cold Sweat (if they were less chaotic). Those are all reliable bastions of hardcore, and Convenience does it right too, mixing in fast-core pummels and thorny mosh parts to ensure the listener’s full attention is paid. My favorite is probably “Adult Contemporary”, for both the white-collar evisceration and the breathless vocal repetition that concludes it. As long as there are thoughtless, selfish jerks out wandering around and making life harder for everyone else, there will be pissed-off hardcore-punk bands taking them to task for it.

Dewaere Soft Logic LP (Phantom / Bigoût / Dewaere)
Far too frequently, I encounter underground rock bands where the act of singing (or screaming or yelling) seems like an afterthought, as though the vocalist picked the shortest straw and was assigned the role rather than begged his or her bandmates for the mic. Maybe it’s just the vocalist-pride in me, but it’s nice to encounter a group with a commanding vocal presence like Dewaere. This French group doesn’t sound French so much as manically European, thanks in no small part to the vocals of Maxwell James Farrington – he sings like a game-show host with his pant-leg on fire, some sort of unstable mix of the guy from The Pineapples and a mocking impression of Julian Casablancas. Attach that voice to the METZ-like throb of “Garden” and you’ve got a winner! Farrington varies his approach wildly, as though he’s auditioning for France’s Got Talent! one moment and French Impractical Jokers the next, and it works excellently with the group’s plunging riffs ala Drive Like Jehu and Girl Band. Playing loud rock music with your friends is supposed to be fun, and I have no doubt that the gentlemen of Dewaere are having a marvelous time.

Ryan Dino Chapter One: The Final Chapter LP (Scavenger Of Death)
If you didn’t stifle a slight chuckle upon reading the album title, check your pulse: you might be dead! Ryan Dino aka Ryan Dinosaur is the name used by Ryan Bell (of Predator, GG King, Hyena, Bukkake Boys and so on) for his “solo” material, but this album appears to be a deeply collaborative effort between Bell and his various hardcore-punk friends, not a lonesome basement recording. Chapter One features full-band lineups for essentially every tune, with varying personnel, and it certainly sounds like a real band, not a facsimile of one. If you’re familiar with any of his other bands, the music on here shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it all tends to orbit the same speedy, melodic, slightly-raw punk aesthetic. There’s less hardcore here though, and more forays into poppy punk and downer melodic ‘core ala Wipers or Rikk Agnew. “Krog St. Tunnel” sounds like Boomgates (the twee-ish Eddy Current side project), whereas a track called “Funeral War” ends with echo-laden screams and heavy riffing. “Breakin’ The Danelaw”, on the other hand, goes full-leather into Judas Priest territory, because why not? This album comes with an enormous poster of Ryan Dino and his friends hanging out in the street, probably fresh from practicing the genre-impure punk music that comprises this album, as if they weren’t already endearing enough.

?FOG 7-Inch Round Black Thing 7″ (Bunkerpop)
I’m waiting to hear someone say this band name out loud, but seeing as I don’t get into nearly enough conversations with experts of early ’80s New Zealand post-punk, I may never know how it’s pronounced. And don’t even get me started on where to properly file it in the alphabetized 7″ bins; that’s still up for lively debate! Whatever this band might be called, they released this 7″ on their own ?Fog City Enterprises label back in 1985, and now it has been rescued from total obscurity and placed into semi-obscurity care of the great reissue-punk label Bunkerpop. It certainly has that mid-’80s Flying Nun recording quality, with roomy drums and twangy guitars, but this group plays with the fierceness of early ’80s punk, which is to say it ends up sound like a particularly agitated session from The Fall around that same era. The vocalist angrily spouts his words, the drummer rips on the closed hi-hat, and the group lock into their succinct melodies for a couple minutes before stopping and starting a new one. Picking up some early Birthday Party vibes too (maybe the Boys Next Door days before any gothic drama entered the picture), as well as some standard snarling punk rock moves, a little late for 1985 but sounding sweet to these ears right now. The name has me shook, but if you can get past the zany and offbeat presentation (the back cover features a comic-book-style illustration for the song “Fatman With A Big Dork”), ?FOG are deceptively sturdy and ripping.

Geld Soft Power 7″ (Iron Lung)
Really quick, can we talk about the way that most of the new Iron Lung 7″ releases have a die-cut back cover in the shape of their logo? This is a hardcore label that considers the big things as well as the small, and we’re all quite lucky to have them with us. Of course, it’s not difficult to enjoy something like this 7″ from Melbourne’s Geld, one of the most ferocious contemporary hardcore groups currently active, offering four new tunes following last year’s Perfect Texture full-length. As expected, this EP is full of ragged searing hardcore: “L.O.W.A.G.” features the same melody as one of my favorite Agents Of Satan songs (always a plus), and the title track ends with a smoky piano dirge, reminding me of something Orchid would’ve done back in 1998. Whereas Geld’s album really honed in on psychotic, feedback-laden Japanese hardcore, this EP reveals other paths for the group… I don’t want to say more “mature” styles, because I hate the insinuation that primitive noisy hardcore is immature, so let’s say equally ugly and intense sounds, just more diverse in their application. Melbourne has quickly become the land of carefree, feel-good indie pop, so it’s nice to know Geld are helping balance it out. It can’t all be sailor caps, silly mustaches and wool cardigans.

Globsters Express Everything LP (SPHC)
“Kentucky’s Ultimate Noise” is prominently written on the a-side label of Express Everything, and I dunno about you, but my interest is piqued! This is a vinyl pressing of what was initially a cassette of Globsters’s sole full-length released back in 2014, which makes zero business sense (aka completely normal SPHC sense). I don’t think Globsters are still a functioning group, but who knows, and I guess who cares, too – I’m not planning on tracking them down, but I’m happy to listen to their proudly messy tunes. They play a very unintimidating form of noise-core punk: imagine if No Fucker called themselves No Fudger instead, or if Gloom were into video games and Slurpees instead of crust pants and alcohol. It’s kind of endearing, as Globsters clearly want to make impressively abrasive music, and they do, it’s just not particularly forceful or menacing. “Original Series Fuck Off” could’ve been a Chemotherapy song had it been recorded a little cleaner, which is a net positive. All this and multiple recorded-from-the-TV pro-wrestling samples, which go on longer than most of the tracks (an aesthetic choice I personally shared when I was nineteen). Globsters come from a sincere, unpretentious place, and while they won’t be winning any Hardcore Awards for style or popularity, there’s a soft spot in my heart reserved especially for them.

Gong Gong Gong Siren / Something’s Hapening 7″ (Wharf Cat)
A few years ago, a Chinese group called The Offset:Spectacles released one of my favorite albums of the decade. Quite simply, it’s just so good, a gloriously sideways take on perpetual Velvet Underground-style strum with minimal percussion, guitars working overtime on rhythm as well as melody, supremely catchy but also dark and inscrutable. Anyway, turns out the main force behind that group, Tom Ng Cheuk Ki, has continued this practice under the name of Gong Gong Gong, and this is their vinyl debut, somehow picked up by the sensible Brooklynites of Wharf Cat. “Siren” does exactly what The Offset:Spectacles did, and I love it – monotonously cyclical guitar, some primitive guitar heroics on top, vocals that provide a sense of structure and song, all delivered in their own distinct style. “Something’s Happening” is an instrumental, which I find to be less potent by default, but the progressions utilized are just as ferocious and shades-on cool – am I wrong in hearing some Randy Holden circa Population II on this one? I wouldn’t throw around the name of The Lord Our God Randy Holden carelessly, but The Offsets, and consequently Gong Gong Gong, are guitar groups of a truly elite caliber. Please tell me there’s a full-length on the way!

Graf Orlock Examination Of Violent Cinema Vol. 1 LP (Vitriol)
I recall Graf Orlock from over a decade ago as being the band that released a record that was also a backpack, or packaged in a backpack, or something ridiculous and hard-to-file like that. This new album, their fifth, is packaged in an opaque black plastic bag, and the LP jacket within is sealed shut diagonally across its front, requiring its owner to perforate it open, revealing the inner guts of a cyborg human in the form of a glossy inner sleeve. Are all their records completely crazy? I appreciate the band’s dedication to making striking visual pieces – you’ve gotta do something to stand out – but musically, Graf Orlock are fairly unremarkable, at least on this record. They play a fairly straightforward form of metallic hardcore / grindcore, reminiscent of Coalesce, Page 99 and early ’00s Pig Destroyer, not unlike a group that would’ve made the cut for a Hydra Head split single but not a full-length. It’s honestly kind of surprising how dated their music sounds, as it seems as though, for better or worse, most bands have moved on from this sound, either to more esoteric and experimental realms, or more primitive and bare-bones aggression. Graf Orlock squeeze in lots of movie samples of aggressive violent dialogue in between the songs as well, presumably in support of the album title, which also feels like a throwback move, although I suppose it’s not really a “throwback” if you’ve never left. Boilerplate metalcore with crazy graphic design, which would be an astonishingly perfect combination if they press their next album into some form of edible pancake-like material, so that you can headbang along until you get hungry. Maybe the cover could be printed on a biodegradable napkin?

Laurel Halo Tru / Opal / The Light Within You 12″ (Livity Sound)
Laurel Halo and Hodge: two artists that I routinely enjoy, whose most recent works I’ve either missed or spent insufficient time with. For as much as I love Laurel Halo’s second and third albums, I haven’t gotten around to peeping her fourth, and Hodge has dumped at least half a dozen new EPs over the past two years that I sill need to check out. Good thing then that they came together on this three-track EP for Livity Sound, as it’s a fantastic melding of their particular methodologies. “Tru” and “Opal” inhabit a similar aural zone, both with big vibrant beats, ornate melodies and lush pads. Halo’s unrestrained eccentricity pairs sharply with Hodge’s precision-guided room-fillers, no doubt. I’d say that’s most evident on “The Light Within You”, the standout track of the EP. It spotlights a self-help, spiritually-mindful sort of vocal sample (“all good things come to me”), ceaselessly repeated as the music slowly blooms from a hovering buzz into a playfully prismatic groove – it makes me want to book myself not simply an hour-long massage, but the deluxe all-day spa package. Fits right in with recent work by Peder Mannerfelt, Joy O and Batu, while plucking its own particular combination of emotions. If all good things weren’t coming to me before I listened, they’re certainly on their way now.

Dirk P. Haubrich Robinson Out Of Context 12″ (Quanta)
Not to be confused with any other Dirk Haubrich you might be listening to, Dirk P. Haubrich is a German composer and producer, and after years of composing music for various dance and ballet companies, his music has landed on vinyl care of Quanta Records. Robinson Out Of Context features two pieces scored for modern dance performances; they’re both around twenty minutes long, and while I was hoping to hear something along the lines of Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll (Part 2)” extended into infinity, there are no obvious rhythms or grooves to be found on either of these compositions. Rather, Haubrich takes to microtonal electronica here, wielding lavish slabs of sustained synthetic ambience, intricate clicks and intermittent puffs of bass to situate the mood. I bet it works well with limber, strapping dancers in leotards contorting themselves into prepossessing forms, but as far as a home-listening experience, this music quickly fades from focus, like a subtle sonic screensaver that is easily tuned out. Perhaps I don’t have the Dolby surround sound mega-speakers needed to truly immerse myself in Robinson Out Of Context (the promotional material does note that this record “is challenging and requires a lot of attention from the listener”), but whatever the case, this EP fades to pleasant musical wallpaper much quicker than many other artists plowing similar meticulously-arranged avant-ambient fields.

Heavy Metal Too OZ 4 I.T. 7″ (Total Punk)
The ingenious Heavy Metal are without a doubt one of the punkest bands in Europe at the moment, so it’s only fair they were given some airtime on one of the finest purveyors of the craft, Total Punk. Unlike many Total Punk artists, who seem to be in competition with each other to release the shortest 7″ singles possible, Heavy Metal contribute four tunes here, a meaty EP’s worth of their acerbic punk tantrums. At any given moment, it seems as though half of the instruments being performed are fully synthetic in nature, which lends Heavy Metal their own unique luster – the bass could be a four-stringed Fender blasting out of a crusty amp, or merely the lowest keys on a child’s Casio run through effects – who knows for sure? It’s a great sound, and Heavy Metal make excellent use of it here, writing songs that are 75% repetitive hook, 25% attitude. I’ve found myself singing along to “Overtime”, and I don’t even know the words! The vocal delivery reminds me more than a little of Ed Schrader this time around, which is particularly effective on “Gasmask Factory II”, a putrid strut that verges on the mean-spirited electro-sass of Virgin Mega Whore. Or maybe some sort of crime-ridden collaboration between Le Shok and FNU Ronnies? No matter how you slice it, Too OZ 4 I.T. is one of the more essential Total Punks in recent memory.

Khidja Și Balabaș Khidja Și Balabaș 12″ (Malka Tuti)
I fell pretty hard for Khidja’s Plot 12″, so I immediately went looking into what else this Romanian duo had to offer. This new one is a collaborative effort with violinist Mihai Balabaș, and the first track, “Chloe”, was exactly what I didn’t expect – a decidedly non-electronic foray into jazzy jam-band grooves, like John Mayer guesting with Dead & Company on a European vacation. What gives! I don’t necessarily mind it, but… still pretty distant from my preconceived notions of what Khidja are all about. The following three tracks, however, turn directly away from that fusion jam-band style and move in a direction I would have anticipated: opulent and hypnotic grooves with emotive live instruments worked into the mix. The twelve-minute “Mos Ene” is particularly alluring, slowly building a slurpy churn with minimalist keys that resembles Bruno Pronsato tackling the works of Steve Reich, whereas “Apa Grea” simmers like the fourth-world groove of Nuel’s Trance Mutation. The record closes with “Komagome”, a sparkling cut that melds glitzy synths with manipulated vocal snippets, as if Luciano got into vaporwave. Could this be the gateway record that gets Dave Matthews fans into contemporary experimental techno? Is the world ready?

Nick Klein Bathroom Wall 12″ (Bank Records NYC)
Based on his resume, Nick Klein could easily be described as a maker of techno music for noise enthusiasts. With releases on Monorail Trespassing, Alter and Ascetic House, his music is revered by those with a shared appreciation of Marshstepper, Richard Ramirez and Sickness, which is cool with me, but also a little surprising, as at least here, Klein’s music consists of no-fuss jacked grooves direct from a modular synth. The kicks and snares are a little crispy, and the melodies occasionally push into red-lined distortion, but mostly there’s nothing overtly noise-like about Bathroom Wall, both sonically and aesthetically. Sure, it goes well in a damp and darkened subterranean bunker at inappropriately loud volumes, but Klein taught his gear to dance, not destroy. I particularly enjoy the red-hot acid of “American Gut” and the relaxed-fit funk of “Poor Me Another”, both of which call to mind the distinct personalities of Beau Wanzer, Delroy Edwards, Mammal, and some of those ’90s-era Esplendor Geometrico records. Fine company for any practitioner of the synth-based arts, and Nick Klein’s Bathroom Wall is equally worthy of your time.

Lady Lynch Lady Lynch LP (Cut Surface)
More seductive gloom n’ doom from the Swiss Cut Surface label, this time from a group whose name I can’t help but misread as “Lydia Lynch” each time I see it. It’s not too far fetched to imagine Lydia Lunch and David Lynch getting hitched, although I have a feeling he’d be more likely to change his name to David Lunch than Lydia giving up her famous mantle. Enough fantasizing, let’s get to this record, which is a pretty par-for-the-course take on dark and gothic indie post-punk. I’m reminded of groups like DVA Damas and Savages, although Lady Lynch aren’t nearly as noisy and hypnotic as the former, nor are they as fiery and impassioned as the latter. I get that Lady Lynch are in it for the the slinking, simmering grooves, rather than any sort of bombast or pop hooks, but they don’t quite possess the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to push things to the next level, say like The Xx or Cold Beat. Still, Lady Lynch firmly establish a mood through this self-titled debut, one of dark velvet, lace and candle-smoke.

Mülltüte Mülltüte LP (no label)
Curiosity got the best of me, so I had to look up the English translation to “Mülltüte” (my money was on something like “mule toot”, so maybe “donkey fart”?). Apparently, it’s “bin liner”, which is even better! Anyway, this German group has been releasing their own 12″s and 7″s for a few years now, and I’m surprised a larger hardcore label hasn’t snapped up their taut and raucous hardcore-punk. It certainly sounds right up the alley of Deranged and Sorry State – maybe they tried, and Mülltüte politely declined? Whatever the case, this 45 RPM 12″ LP features twelve fast and pulsing tracks of clean-guitar hardcore. I’m reminded of groups on the moodier end of the spectrum, like The Vicious and early Iceage, as well as classic Euro-core like Zmiv and Electric Deads. The vocals are gruff and stoutly enough for any self-respecting street-punk group, and they work nicely with these high-energy tunes. I appreciate the commitment to the undistorted guitar tone, too – when they blaze through “Schimpf und Schande”, I’m getting Feederz sensations, which is imperative to my mental well-being (I usually get my daily supplement direct from listening to Feederz, but this works too). Next time I take out the trash, I’ll think of Mülltüte!

Neo Neos Kill Someone You Hate LP (Neck Chop)
The Neo Neos 7″ on Neck Chop from 2017 was a surprise hit here at the YGR office, a real treat of scatterbrained and primitive hardcore-punk, so I was excited to give this album a spin – not even the egregious Anime artwork could stop me. I have to say, while there has been a good bit of music I’d describe as “meme-like” or “meme-inspired”, Kill Someone You Hate seems to truly embody the meme form, much to my surprise after their notably less-deranged 7″. Hear me out: good memes are hilarious, display poor technical craftsmanship as well as advanced cynical wit, are often grossly pixelated from repeated re-posting, and are ultimately pretty disposable. The same could pretty much be said for this Neo Neos album! These songs are bristling with lo-fi crud; they share a uniform fidelity, each song falling into the next with another frantic series of parts; hilarious recordings of friends (or enemies?) talking about punk (and Quiznos) are interspersed throughout. Listening to this album feels like a manic late-night scroll through Instagram meme accounts, one poorly-Photoshopped gag after another in a seemingly infinite stream of shitposts. Musically, I’m strongly reminded of Coneheads and Liquids thanks to the nasal-alien vocals and high-speed Angry Samoans riffs, which works nicely, but the way Neo Neos have compressed all those tunes into this messy pile of in-jokes and sonic chaos is their true achievement. Even the insert seems to be hand-assembled over printed-out memes – someone could make Kill Someone You Hate their post-grad thesis on the brain rot induced by digital media consumption, I swear!

Overmono Whities 019 12″ (Whities)
Simply can’t go wrong with the Whities label as far as I’m concerned, so when I saw that the British duo Overmono (brothers Ed Russell and Tom Russell aka Tessela and Truss) dropped a fresh one, I had to investigate. Three tracks here, all varied in concept and delivery, and all pretty sharp and modern revisions of time-tested techno and IDM forms. “iii’s Front” opens it as a dramatic dissection of the “Funky Drummer” break – for at least a couple minutes, the track is little more than live drums, pulled apart and reduced and maximized. I didn’t realize such a concept would be as fascinating and pleasant to the ears as it is! “Quadraluv” sounds like one of those stylized Nissan Maxima commercials given a Whities makeover, with various colors disintegrating and fading as the pulse persists, eventually leading to some soft jungle breaks. “Yell0w_Tail” reads like a pesky computer virus, and I guess it kinda sounds like one too, albeit a virus that permanently loops clips of blissful waterfalls and cloud patterns on your screen. Not entirely unlike the more relaxed cuts by Bruce or Ploy, and an appropriate cool-down after the opening cut’s brilliant drum work. Add to cart!

Richard Papiercuts Twisting The Night 12″ (Ever/Never)
I still can’t believe “Peanut Butter Is Back” from Richard Papiercuts’s 2015 album If never became a worldwide smash-hit ala “Gangnam Style” or “Hey Ya”. As far as I’m concerned, that song demonstrates all that is glorious and fun about pop music, guided by the universal theme of peanut butter (sorry, those of you with nut allergies) – it must’ve somehow gotten lost in the algorithm. That tune earned Richard Papiercuts a place in my heart forevermore, and while the four tracks on this new 12″ EP do not achieve that same level of greatness, they’re a welcome addition to his trim discography. On Twisting The Night, Papiercuts and his gang deliver more tender, New Romantic-inspired pop, sashaying across similar meadows as Tears For Fears, Strange Boutique, Simple Minds and other ’80s groups with haircuts that were mocked in the ’90s but are carefully emulated by the teenage tastemakers of today. I’m hearing some sonic similarities to Dark Blue this time around too… maybe if Dark Blue were infatuated with Kate Bush and Spandau Ballet instead of Blitz and The Stone Roses? What’s striking about Richard Papiercuts here is the way the surface-level cynicism and irreverence is undercut by a sympathetic tenderness, visually represented by the softhearted inner-sleeve photo of children (the offspring of the group, perhaps?) hanging out on a city playground, looking like a GAP Kids ad in a world that somehow defeated capitalism. I wish more male artists could confront complex emotions with the unguarded sincerity displayed by Richard Papiercuts, but until that becomes the norm, he will continue to stand out.

Red Delicious Far From The Tree 7″ (Slugsalt)
Did you know about Great Lakes Hardcore? I’m sorely under-informed, but thankfully Red Delicious are here to blast some in my face. Theirs is a sloppy and turbulent form of hardcore – eight tracks, no fuss, all raw and petulant like Necros’ I.Q. 32, Svart Framtid’s 1984 or Hysterics’ Can’t I Live?. The vocals are menacing and exclusively shouted in Spanish, which hopefully means lots of pot-shots are taken at people who only understand English. Not sure I understand why this group named themselves after something as non-raging as an apple, but after blasting this EP a few times, I am certain there’s a vision behind it. All this makes for a very cool hardcore 7″, but the penis-as-recliner drawing on the back cover makes the whole package something you won’t want to miss, unlike the penis on the cover of Street Trash’s Five Dirty Fingers EP, which has haunted my nightmares since 2004.

S.B.F. Same Beat Forever LP (Neck Chop)
At first I thought the group was called “Same Beat Forever”, which I guess is partially true based on their revolving-acronym name (in the spirit of MDC), and I was immediately behind the concept – why not fully embrace the sameness inherent in so much good punk music? Unfortunately, this punk duo (two guys on guitars and vocals plus a drum machine) actually mixes the beat up a bit, but I’ll forgive them for not following through, as Same Beat Forever is great mean-spirited punk. In a weird way, I’m reminded of the earliest Fucked Up singles, as S.B.F. seem to hold classic street-punk progressions close to their hearts, but they channel those melodies through their own particular delivery system. “Rock To The Head”, for example, sounds like it was written by Cockney Rejects, but it’s performed by a digital drum machine, buzzing guitars and throaty American vocals. Unlike many studio-punk bands, it feels like S.B.F. are having a lot of fun – “Hole” sounds like the missing link between Suicidal Tendencies and Ministry – and their sort of fun is contagious. If your new year’s resolution was to mosh to a drum machine, S.B.F. is precisely what you need.

Schiach Schiach LP (Phantom)
German punk label Phantom Records put out German punk band Schiach’s debut LP, which is what I’m talking about right here. It’s already very German in origin, but I swear it sounds extremely German too, in the dry and rigid delivery and production, and vocals, of course. Schiach play rudimentary post-punk, similar to Crisis, but with a brusque delivery and a foreboding sense of the walls closing in around them, the same sort of tension inherent in great groups like Abwärts and Slime. Schiach aren’t as flashy though, and have instead decided to kick through their songs with the insistent aggravation caused by an itchy bug-bite or rash. The guitarist often picks at single notes, and the band as a whole never displays any swagger or pomp, just workmanlike and grueling punk sounds. Punk can be fun, but it can also be a viable outlet for miserable frustration – whether or not Schiach felt a spark of joy in making their self-titled debut album remains to be seen, but I liked listening to it!

Stern Missive: Sister Ships LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
There are some famous Sterns out there, but vocalist and composer Chuck Stern is bold enough to claim the surname for his own group. And what a strange group it is! Featuring notable NYC avant-garde players like Toby Driver on guitar and Tim Byrnes on synth, there’s not much else out there that sounds like Stern, or if there is I’m sorely uneducated. Missive: Sister Ships isn’t unlistenable or crazy, but rather its own distinctive form of brooding, maudlin, shoegaze-inflected slow-core. Phew! I’d liken it to Swans in their Burning World era, or perhaps if Jesu and Scott Walker got together for an album? The pace is slow, deliberate and oddly timed, and Stern’s vocals dance around and over the music, never harmonically matching but somehow always in place. You can tell these guys took some advanced math classes back in school, and have found ways to apply those concepts to the unlikely field of depressive avant-garde post-rock. Stern mostly sings like a comforting angel, but he occasionally screeches as well, black-metal style, which has me wondering if this is what it’d be like if Talk Talk and Khanate shared a practice space. It’s always satisfying when records prompt previously-unrelated neurons to connect, and there’s a lot of that happening here.

The Suburban Homes E.P. 3 7″ (Neck Chop)
I’ve seen this band around long enough now that I no longer think “Descendents cover band?” when I see their name, which of course is completely incorrect. Nope, they’re a DIY punk mostly-solo-project out of Billingshurst, UK run by a man named Paul Messis, and whereas my previous encounters with their music was fairly unremarkable, this new EP carries an urgency that works well with the beyond-simple chord progressions and delivery. From listening, I’m reminded more than a little bit of Desperate Bicycles, particularly their angriest songs like “Advice On Arrest”, as well as the quaint amateurism of Taco Leg (remember them?). What’s most remarkable to me about this EP, and The Suburban Homes in general, is the varied reasons for the ire he puts into his songs. In the liner notes, he calls out In The Red Records for being a “bigger label” only in it for the money, which by any metric is an amusing claim, and in an interview in the latest issue of the indispensable Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine, he states that 7″ EPs are “being killed off by the pressing plants”, that live music was great in the ’80s and ’90s but now is only about being cool, that you shouldn’t take selfies because the person who made your phone may have killed themselves, that the ’60s garage revival is dead (although he apparently releases a large amount of ’60s garage under his own name, dressed up in garage-revival outfits), and so on. He’s probably got some reasonable points buried somewhere in all that fussy indignation, but mostly he just strikes me as an exasperated doofus, which of course is more entertaining than having nothing to say at all.

Ritchie Venus Demetria / Demi Dream LP (no label)
Ritchie Venus is one of New Zealand’s underground-rock legends, operating the fantastic Onset/Offset label as well as playing in the Flying Nun group Blue Beetles. I swear, does New Zealand have more underground-rock legends per capita than any other country? It’s like one in four, I think. Anyway, he’s got no plans of slowing down as he reaches retirement age, as music is clearly a passion, not a career, for this man. As for this single, I can’t comfortably judge it against his vast discography (of which I’ve admittedly heard very little), but it’s entertaining enough. “Demetria” is a lounge-y, unhurried tune with the sonic attributes of a low-rent karaoke rendering of a normal rock group – I can practically picture Venus in the corner of a dive bar, singing about someone named Demetria as the lyrics slowly populate on a wall projection. “Demi Dream” seems to pick up exactly where “Demetria” left off, riding a similar wave of schmaltz, as if Tom Jones was in charge of booking an All Tomorrow’s Parties based in Tasmania. I tip my hat to this endearing rock personality, and while this single isn’t beckoning for repeat performance in my household, I am certain that at least one WFMU DJ pumped their fist when they saw this 7″ in the bin.

Vessel Queen Of Golden Dogs LP (Tri Angle)
Vessel’s last album, 2014’s Punish, Honey, was my favorite album of the year and continues to receive frequent rotations. It was a bold reimagining of “industrial techno”, crafted from scratch on proprietary electronics, so naturally I was on the edge of my eat for Queen Of Golden Dogs. Not one to repeat himself, Vessel has moved on entirely from the sounds of Punish, Honey, and while I expected that and was ready for whatever bold new horizon he was charging toward, Queen Of Golden Dogs isn’t quite doing it for me. It seems to suffer from a similar circumstance of many of his peers: the boundless possibilities offered by today’s software processing power and digital workstations. Vessel charges out in many directions, almost all at once – there’s plenty of disturbed chamber music, for starters, often sculpted into unfriendly drones, clattering footwork rhythms and cybernetic beats. Similarities to Arca are undeniable, in the non-linear, unintuitive song structures and microscopic sonic detailing, as well as the predilection for orchestral composition. There’s even a part in here that sounds directly borrowed from the hyper-plastic cyber-pop of Sophie, and some that recall the imposing architectural noise of Emptyset. Vessel is unbounded by genre or stylistic limitation, but his experimentation sounds a lot like everyone else’s experimentation this time around, and doesn’t stick to the ribs the way his stylistically-limited, sonically-specific masterpiece Punish, Honey did and continues to do. Perhaps there’s something to be said for limits.

Viagra Boys Street Worms LP (YEAR0001)
Trust me, it took more than a couple proddings for me to look past this band’s name and give them a try. They’re from Stockholm… maybe Viagra is still a funny idea over there? Anyway, I hope you can give them a break with the name thing too and check out Street Worms, because it’s certainly one of the catchiest, funniest, least-pretentious-but-still-quite-smart rock records of last year. Imagine if Idles or Protomartyr were into Huey Lewis and George Thorogood instead of Ceremony and The Fall, and it’d probably come out sounding a lot like Viagra Boys: superbly memorable, proudly silly post-punk with an emphasis on punk and a saxophone never far behind. Their songs are all simplistic and direct, the sort of thing you might wonder “why hasn’t anyone written this before?”, to which the answer is “well, many other bands have”, just never quite like this. The vocalist really makes it, writing lyrics worth paying attention to, if not for universal profundity then for some cheap laffs, his arid and nicotine-stained voice illuminating various characters, sometimes indulging in strange American South accents and always with an endless supply of references to dogs (beats me). His deadpan baritone elevates the single “Sports” into a delirious party anthem, as if Andrew WK gained sentience and tried to play it cool. I’m also reminded of The Hives, not just geographically but in the way that Viagra Boys create a full-throttle and ludicrous form of punk rock that succeeds through its own overwhelming enthusiasm and commitment. “Shrimp Shack” smacks like the unguarded intersection of Watery Love and LCD Soundsystem – if you try to clown music like this, I’m afraid you might just be clowning yourself.

From The Bottom Of The Earth To The Top Of The Wazir compilation LP (Altered States Tapes)
Congrats to Australian electronic label Altered States Tapes on their 100th release, as running a sub-indie label focusing on marginalized, overtly-weird and tiny-fanbase artists can be thankless. So thanks! This comp features nine new tracks from a variety of mostly (all?) Australian producers, all of whom exist in the wide and hazy environs of electronic beats and techno. Which is to say, there’s sub-industrial clatter, chintzy vaporwave, 100% Silk-style lo-fi house, slinky EBM and seasick ambient, created by what is surely a dazzling array of electronic devices with little flashing lights plugged into each other and of course a laptop or two. Some names are familiar to me, like Lucy Cliché (previously of the late great Naked On The Vague), Trevor (aka James Vinciguerra of Total Control) and Tarquin Manek (of F Ingers with Carla dal Forno), but those that aren’t are equally intriguing, like the seedy pulse of Oil’s “VIP Lounge” and the smoothed-out, Kyle Hall-esque acid of WRX. To date, Altered States has released music by artists named Incompetent Cervix, Club Sound Witches, Static Cleaner Lost Reward and Suburban Cracked Collective, and for the simple pleasure of reading those names alone, I extend my gratitude.

Reviews – January 2019

Arv & Miljö Svensk Sommar I Stilla Frid LP (Omlott)
Matthias Andersson runs the great I Dischi Del Barone label, which seems to turn up in these pages on a monthly basis (the highest possible frequency). All that time spent with other people’s experimental noise and drone music has given him the itch to make his own, which he’s been doing for a few years now as Arv & Miljö. This full-length comes from the Omlott label, which seems to be the standard-bearer for Swedish underground avant-garde behavior, and it’s a fine trip through a shrouded landscape of earthbound ambient. National Geographic-style photos of animals in natural habitats adorn the album’s design (as well as a photo of Andersson preparing to consume a fresh beer), and the music contained within works with those images, calling to mind the vast impossibility of nature, or maybe the sound of a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. Much of Svensk Sommar I Stilla Frid hums with the pulse of synths, not unlike the repetitive Twin Peaks interludes used in moments of intrigue, but with an additional hand mashing more keys, and the slight interjection of other recordings (hallway echo, acoustic guitar, voices) sprinkled sparingly. Certainly conjures a contemplative mood, to the point where I’ve wondered more about the lives of the deer on the record cover than a good number of the actual humans I interact with on a daily basis.

Félicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Limpid As The Solitudes LP (Shelter Press)
It’s difficult to remember the time before Félicia Atkinson’s impenetrable sonic webs were a part of my world, but I existed then, merely in a lesser state. Her music (as well as her collaborations with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma) take life’s black and white images and color them in curiously – people with green skin, purple dogs, neon yellow skies. It’s hyper-strange ambient music, and if you blast it in private, your brain comes out a little different on the other end. This new one features less than half as many tracks as their first collaborative effort, Comme Un Seul Narcisse, and the extended track lengths allow Atkinson and Cantu-Ledesma to go deeper than before, plunging toward the undiscovered bottom as opposed to skimming briefly across multiple surfaces. They expertly balance serene melodic beauty with unwelcoming field recordings – plaintive electronic tones brush up against chirping birds, incessant static and even a pesky mosquito, as if you’re at your child’s senior piano recital on a particularly muggy evening as the nearby cellphone tower bursts into flames. Perhaps if Graham Lambkin put on a nice shirt and assembled a recording for 4AD’s consideration, it’d sound like this? No matter the case, Atkinson and Cantu-Ledesma drag me blindfolded through swamp, metropolitan patio and corporate server-farm with Limpid As The Solitudes and it’s most appreciated.

Axis:Sova Shampoo You LP (God?)
Chicago’s Axis:Sova keeps on keeping on, channeling the better-aged forms of platform-shoe-and-denim rock with their fourth album, Shampoo You. Unlike today’s youth, I’d prefer a nice lather n’ rinse to a stick n’ poke, so I’m happy to meet Axis:Sova on their level, particularly as their rock tunes grow ever cooler as the band continues its existence. Shampoo You navigates the various back alleys of classic rock with aplomb, displaying a confident comfort with their arrangement and performance of stompy glam, shades-on power-pop and Acid Archives-friendly grooves. These songs remind me of Wooden Shjips (if they were remotely sexy), Purling Hiss (if they traded in their Dinosaur Jr. records for Kiss and T. Rex), Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets (if it was released on Richie Records in 2014) and Lou Reed (if he was a more likeable person and substantially less famous). Great use of drum machines too, in that the electronic rhythms fold perfectly into the tunes with visions of grandeur, not the feel of your average basement-bedroom fuzz-punk solo-project. If you’re not stomping your boots next to the pool table when “Stale Green” hits the jukebox, you’re not worth the polyester suit you’re wearing.

Benni The Return LP (Goner)
I hadn’t even realized Benni had left, seeing as his other album came out in 2017, but lo and behold, he’s returned! Benni is the moniker that punk rocker Ben McCullough uses when he sits down to worship at the altar of the synth, and The Return continues in the same manner as his debut, delving into retro-soundtrack pumpers in the vein of Jan Hammer, John Carpenter, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder, that sorta thing. All moods are explored, from “investigating abandoned warehouse for clues” to “riding motorcycle into sunset”, which is pretty much par for the course, but Benni is true to the vision of this style. The opener “The Return Pt. 1” might be my favorite, as it makes me wonder if Benni ever took some edibles while listening to Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder records, but then I realized what a foolish question that is. Of course he has!

The Boiler Body=Death LP (Cut Surface)
Creeptastic minimal-synth is on order from The Boiler, straight from Austria and carrying the quality one might expect from that upstanding nation. Goth seduction can really happen anywhere on the planet, and The Boiler gets right into it on this slippery and seductive debut. I’d triangulate the specific sound between November Növelet, Portishead and Silent Servant, particularly the slower, funereal tunes in each artist’s catalog. Some tracks veer toward rough-edged techno (as is frequently the case with today’s underground synth scene), but those moments of high-energy bat-releasing are tempered by foggy drones, languid rhythms and repetitive vocal incantations. Body=Death sounds good, although for my specific tastes it seems to cover too much stylistic ground, or at least it never fully develops a musical aesthetic beyond its surface. The Suicide-esque squeal of “Born In A Bag” is my favorite, an electro-punk bash that would surely goad the more pretentious lycanthropes out on the dance-floor for at least a minute or two.

City Hunter Deep Blood LP (Youth Attack)
It’s generally accepted that the realm of metal is fantasy-based, and hardcore is reality-based. If you’re into demons fighting winged serpents, you listen to metal, and if you delight in beating up a friend who stabbed you in the back, you listen to hardcore. Of course, metal can embrace reality (or at the very least a performative interpretation of “reality”), but when hardcore-punk groups pursue fantasy, it often rubs the wrong way. City Hunter are very much a fantasy-based hardcore band, and they seem to polarize the typical hardcore audience with their presentation – a black-masked, murderous phantom that brandishes large knives on fright-filled killing sprees. It’s a one-dimensional aesthetic, but they really go all out with it – can you think of any other hardcore bands with photos of their singer murdering a family in cold blood? Imagine how different this musical form would’ve become had Bad Brains ever done that. It’s pure slasher-film mania, and if you’re willing to accept the theatrically violent presentation of City Hunter, you’ll probably love it. I do! Their music certainly helps their case: blistering, jagged hardcore as you’d expect from Youth Attack (not particularly far from Veins or Cult Ritual), but with a heavy edge, bolstered by occasional metallic leads and double-bass-drum blackened thrash. The vocalist (the titular “City Hunter”) sings through processed effects to ensure he sounds like a maniacal killer from beyond the grave, as if Jason Voorhees checked out Citizens Arrest after killing a camper who was wearing one of their shirts. That’s how it starts!

Closet Christ You’re In My World Now 7″ (Lumpy)
Heard some distressing news recently, that Lumpy & The Dumpers might’ve called it quits. Can anyone confirm or deny? It’s a tough break if so, but it happens, and thankfully there are numerous sprightly hardcore bands eager to carry their slime-coated torch, like DC’s Closet Christ for instance. They released You’re In My World Now as a tape last year, and I would’ve probably never heard it had Lumpy Records not given it the vinyl treatment here, so I thank them for that! This EP features six brief bursts of youthful aggression, with the delightfully muffled sound quality of Neos’s Fight With Donald EP and the snarling, attack-ready poise of United Mutation or, well, Lumpy & Their Dumpers at their feral peak. The drummer plays like they just got done listening to Stark Raving Mad’s debut EP, the guitarist and bassist do their best to keep up, and the singer bares all their teeth while projectile-groaning. If you require more than this from the music you like to listen to, I give you my pity.

Dead Waves God Of The Wild LP (Entheon)
Not much to make of the cover of God Of The Wild – a nostalgic photo and the album title in a retro font – but I suppose a record cover that properly reflects the confusing guitar music contained within God Of The Wild would need to be fashioned out of some material besides cardstock paper… peat moss, grip tape and burlap, maybe? Dead Waves pull from a variety of styles, or rather, I hear a variety of styles in their music, but these songs are so strangely out of touch, I highly doubt they’re influenced by anything that bears close sonic relation. That’s what makes God Of The Wild such an entertaining listen! I hear the lugubrious drone-rock of Coconuts, the melancholic simmer of Drunk Elk, the inebriated poise of Earth circa Pentastar, and even the outre emo-rock of Still Life (check “Innate”), all performed with a startling seriousness and commitment. Some of these songs are barely songs, more like unfinished stumbles into the realms of psych- or stoner-rock; closer in spirit to the slapdash nature of early Royal Trux, but aiming for some sort of psychedelic ascension, not glam-rock glory. With so many psych-rockers locking into the same comfortable formula, it’s more than refreshing to hear these two freaks stumbling along their own path, similar to Mountain Cult’s interpretation of garage-rock back in 2011.

Demdike Stare Passion 2xLP (Modern Love)
After slowly receding from their occult witchery cloaks and pushing out into various crannies and cracks of experimental techno, Demdike Stare look towards turn-of-the-century IDM and drum-and-bass for inspiration on Passion. In a way, it’s almost as if this sound is where Demdike’s hearts always resided, that they’ve been slowly trying to lead us back here since first hitting the scene some ten years ago – I can’t say that if they started sounding like this instead of, say, Forest Of Evil, I would’ve paid much attention. After all, a perusal of Demdike’s Miles Whittaker’s works under his Hate and Millie aliases makes his love of hard-hitting jungle and aggro breaks pretty clear, years before Demdike picked up their Ouija boards and summoned the complete Hellraiser series on VHS. With Passion, they utilize their experience and future-mindedness to inject the genre with today’s crisp and articulate textures, reimagining hard-style drum-and-bass with today’s boundless technological possibility at their disposal. Confield-era Autechre, the late ’90s output of Planet Mu, Tigerbeat6’s Violent Turd sub-label, the tricky rhythms of labelmates Equiknoxx, and countless other hardcore rave favorites come to mind while listening, a genre whose classics can be bought second-hand for pennies on the dollar, thanks to their ubiquity at the time and lack of desirability at the moment. Demdike Stare have been such efficient tastemakers throughout their career, though, to the point where I can only assume other goth-techno warriors are running to trade in their Haxan Cloak and Sandwell District records for a pile of Metalheadz twelves and some µ-Ziq albums. Wherever Demdike Stare have gone, others have quickly followed.

EOC The Path Of Untitled Memories 12″ (Mirae Arts)
I don’t mean to stereotype, but Japanese artists frequently come up with better and more outrageous English band names and artistic aliases than native English speakers – take Katsunori Sawa for instance, and his Enormous O’ Clock project, shortened to “EOC” here. I don’t get it either, but why aim for “getting it” when you can simply stand back and appreciate? This 12″ comes on the Mirae Arts label, an electronic label out of California attempting to bring foreign techno sounds to the US, an admirable if somewhat challenging effort. As EOC, Sawa digs into some lively dub techno. The beats are aggressive and agitated in comparison with dub-techno stalwarts like Echospace or Basic Channel, as if you smoked a big blunt and decided to go for a run through the forest instead of slumping into your couch. The pumping arpeggio that drives “Why You Need 100 Million” simultaneously conjures a cyclist zipping downhill and quicksand slowly engulfing a buffalo – heavy gravitational pull that creates both speed and slowness. Enormous O’ Clock was not something I had heard of prior to Mirae Arts releasing The Path Of Untitled Memories, and I’m thankful for the introduction.

Yoshinori Hayashi Ambivalence 2xLP (Smalltown Supersound)
With little fanfare, Smalltown Supersound has been releasing some truly high-end electronic records lately (namely Matt Karmil, Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas, and Bjørn Torske), but this full-length debut from Japanese producer Yoshinori Hayashi really takes the cake. After a few singles on cool labels like Going Good, Lovers Rock and Jheri Tracks, this album explores a variety of motifs, dabbling in exotic forms of house, techno, boogie, experimental electronics, DJ edits and whatever else tickles Hayashi’s fancy. What stands out to me most is the unexpected sonic similarities to much of what Blues Control were exploring on their last couple albums: some weird pumped-up fusion of ’80s soundtracks, fascinating loops, modern DIY haze and a heaping spoonful of Vince Guaraldi-style keys. Hayashi will smash the cosmic pop of Vanity Records artists like SAB and BGM into some funky house you might expect to hear at an Optimo club night and cut up some A Charlie Brown Christmas-sounding ivories for good measure. It sounds crazy, but Hayashi’s love of disparate sounds is infectious, particularly when considering his talent in making it all congeal together as smoothly as electric guitar pairs with drums. Maybe if Mark Mothersbaugh tried to make a record specifically tailored for today’s modern experimental-electronics audience, it’d come out close to this? I get the sense that an incredible amount of time went into Ambivalence, while the record itself sounds deceptively easy, as if Hayashi simply pressed play on a tape deck, ran a couple loops on his MPC and soloed on a synth while enjoying a beverage or texting a friend. Regardless of his specific process, I can’t stop playing this one, an album suited to practically any situation.

Just The Right Height Let Forever Be Only You Tonight LP (She Rocks!)
Eventually the toll to cross the Verrazzano bridge will rise to a couple hundred bucks and the island of Manhattan will exclusively be the realm of aristocrat billionaires, but even when that happens, there will still be resilient art-weirdos living in the cracks, determined to create new and exciting movements in the face of negative bank accounts and broom-closet apartments. I can’t claim to know the financial status of Keke Hunt, a “non-traditional tattoo artist” who also makes music as Just The Right Height, but she’s making some fantastically anomalous music here. Let Forever Be Only You Tonight is her debut, and it’s the sort of twisted, fascinating record that I immediately fall for. The project could be broadly described as vocal-based synth-pop, but it’s pretty far removed from anyone else operating in the genre right now. Her rhythms are stocky and brisk, more like the sound of Timberlands moving a dresser down a flight of stairs than high heels on the dance-floor, and her vocals range from jagged spoken-word to Sound Of Music-style emoting to straight-up character acting. I’m reminded of Flying Lizards’ version of “Money” (if it were accidentally cut to shreds by a ceiling fan), the electro-dry-heave of Blectum From Blechdom, a little Tim & Eric, some of PC Music’s short-circuited internet-pop… it all blends in, so that the track where Hunt seems to serenade R2D2 seems as reasonable as the country fiddle that leads into “Keep Calm & Pray”. Let Forever Be Only You Tonight plays out as though you’re following a highly entertaining maniac through the city, watching her pick fights and skip rope past million-dollar condos and pizza rats, and it’s an opportunity I urge you to consider.

The Lake Millions Thrednodius Daevidius 7″ (no label)
The Lake Millions appears to be the solo moniker of San Franciscan guitarist Josh Pollock. I’m not sure if he can’t find a full band to join, or simply doesn’t want one, but in any case he doesn’t seem to need one, just his guitar, a Microkorg and a pedal or two. This two-song single was recorded live on KZSU, performed in tribute to the passing of a friend, and it’s cool noisy psych, the sort of thing I’d appreciate if a friend wrote for me when I kick the bucket. “Demondance” loops a spindly riff and then splatters it with wet hot soloing. “Sea, A Mate” is calmer and soothing, not entirely far from one of those instrumental jams on Pearl Jam’s Ten, healing via tuneful and layered repetition. This 7″ comes with a digital download of a full album’s worth, and I dunno, I’m not the type to pursue digital extras unless it’s made by someone I’m actively stalking – considering the cost of 7″s has ballooned to nearly that of an LP, why not just press the whole damn thing on an LP if you’re feeling it? It’ll probably sell better, or at the very least, you might be able to convince your friends and relatives that your music is a legitimate endeavor.

Mark Morgan Department Of Heraldry LP (Open Mouth)
Mark Morgan is best known as the vocalist and guitarist of Sightings, whose contributions to experimental avant-rock in the ’00s and ’10s deserve high marks. I loved that group, and while my love was spread fairly evenly to each member (each guy uniquely approached their instrument of choice), I couldn’t resist checking out Morgan on his own, just him and his guitar, an amp, and what must surely be a thoughtfully-curated selection of effects pedals. Department Of Heraldry is pretty much in line with what one might expect based on the music of Sightings: turbulent tones that fluctuate in intensity and shape, sunburnt loops that seem to emanate from dead guitar strings, curdled noise and anxious sonic poltergeists zipping down the hall. It lacks the element of surprise, sure, but this record also gets right down to the good stuff, infernal racket straight from a molten and mutated guitar, with tracks that vary in intensity and temperament so as not to lull the listener into complacency. Certain moments recall the subterranean horror of Aaron Dilloway’s concrete dirges, too, but Department Of Heraldry is Morgan’s world alone, one where the gravity is oppressive and the atmosphere is mostly motor exhaust.

Nagual & Stefan Christensen Third 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
“All performers play guitar” is what it says on the insert to this 7″, and I can’t help but think, right on! It would be wonderful if every performer played guitar, as far as I’m concerned – imagine Steve Carell, Lebron James, Ariana Grande and Guy Fieri all jamming on guitars… wouldn’t the world be a better place? Anyway, Nagual is the duo of Ian McColm and David Shapiro, so by my calculations that’s three guitarists in total here, and it works for me. Speaking of the word “total”, I’m picking up some Total vibes through this music, or perhaps something else Matthew Bower-affiliated, in the way that the guitars all aim skyward on the a-side, hovering in the upper atmosphere and daring each other to look down. The flip-side starts at the same height and slowly twists into a distress signal before fading to black, cries for help unanswered. I’m impressed by the restraint wielded by all three players, as no one ever rips out and goes for it, preferring instead to fully extend their tones to the brink of feedback but never past it. I bet Guy Fieri would opt for a different approach.

Molly Nilsson Twenty-Twenty LP (Dark Skies Association / Night School)
International treasure Molly Nilsson continues to pump out a new album every twelve to eighteen months, showing not even the slightest sign of fatigue with Twenty-Twenty. It’s her eighth album in ten years, and while 2017’s Imaginations was one of my least favorite (but compared to most other misty synth-pop sirens, superior), Twenty-Twenty is sweet as could be. The record brings to mind a teary-eyed teen waving goodbye to their first love as they drive away in a car down a grey residential street, a specific emotional state of mind that no one does like Ms. Nilsson. She takes Monsters Of Rock-style balladry (think Toto, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, Firehouse) and stares it dead in the eyes until it shrinks down to a tiny drop of universal truth, delivered with the uncompromising sensibility of the outsider synth-pop artisan she is. The tunes are great (and consistent with the sound and style she’s always had), but Nilsson’s voice remains her knockout punch. It’s strong but vulnerable, deep but also kind of alien-sounding, without a Swedish accent or really any accent at all, and the perfect vehicle for her insightful and entertaining lyrics, sharply specific while speaking to common affairs of the heart and soul. And if you’ve made it through the first nine songs only to be disappointed by the lack of a saxophone solo, have no fear – there’s a succulent one in the closing tune “Blinded By The Night”.

Objekt Cocoon Crush 2xLP (Pan)
Has it really been four years since Objekt’s debut album? He’s been a fun German to follow, his early self-released and numbered 12″ EPs slowly revealing a distinct personal style, weaving intensely mechanical sounds onto a rigid grid, perfect for humans, cyborgs and half-human-half-cyborgs alike. I preferred the character found in some of his singles to the debut full-length Flatland, but Objekt shakes things up dramatically with Cocoon Crush, following the growth of many of his Pan-affiliated peers into intensely intricate sound design over pounding club music. Unlike some of the contemporary producers who gaze a little too deeply into their expensive laptop screens, Objekt keeps things compelling throughout the record, a journey full of unexpected and welcome twists, even if little of it seems to take the act of dancing into consideration. Orchestral strings mingle with electric ratchets, microtonal drones flitter around squelchy bass, and occasionally a beat will come up to the surface for air. “Deadlock” sounds like it could’ve been an abstracted instrumental off Dr. Octagonecologist, which is tops in my book, whereas “35” feels like Oneohtrix Point Never pulling a prank on Autechre. No matter where Objekt goes here, it’s engrossing stuff.

Shelley Parker Red Cotton 12″ (Hessle Audio)
Even after all these years, Hessle Audio still knows how to thrill and delight. Shelley Parker is new to me, a British experimentalist who has a limited-edition CD on Entr’acte to her name among other obscurities, and this 12″ hits the sweet spot between impassible musique concrète and modern British bass music. The title track hits the nail on the head, pairing what sounds like a lazy concrete mixer with some ‘ardcore drum programming, perfectly synced and ready to boogie. Kind of a Ministry feel to it, actually, which I wish I could say more often. “Angel Oak” sounds like Emptyset sleeping in a haunted hotel, with percussive rhythms as brittle and chilly as a frozen pond, beefed up for DJ utilization with a handy remix from Ploy. “Masonry Pier” wraps things up, and I have to say the phrase “masonry pier” almost sums up Parker’s musical aesthetic, re-purposing industrial cast-off and accidental sound-pollution alongside snappy and hypnotic rhythms.

Parsnip Feeling Small / Winter 7″ (Anti-Fade)
Anti-Fade seem to have locked in the very best that Melbourne indie-rock has to offer, coasting on the recent volume of their New Centre Of The Universe compilation and really emphasizing the point with this fantastic new 7″ from Parsnip. Go ahead, listen to “Feeling Small” and try to stay mad about what’s been troubling you – this tune is uplifting guitar-pop perfection, bopping down the sunny side of the street. There’s a sweet little guitar solo too, and it pretty much sounds like a bunch of Fraggles who wrote a cult-worshiped Northern Soul song in 1978, thanks to the vocalist’s cartoony chirp and the overall mix, which sounds like the song is being performed in the middle of a lively house party. “Winter” takes a different track, acknowledging punk rock while still maintaining a sheen of happy-cool attitude, recalling the great Pink Plastic & Panties single through its fidelity, energetic drumming and smiley keyboards. I don’t know about you, but after a couple great singles, I’m ready for a Parsnip album. Hell I’d say I’m ready for two Parsnip albums at this point!

Please Stop! Built To Die 7″ (No Front Teeth)
Here’s some amusing and sloppy punk outta Minneapolis, blissfully out of touch with today’s established punk behavior. They crammed eleven songs onto this 7″ (mystifyingly pressed by a British plant?), opted for a color-blasted collage for the cover, and chose a band name that calls to mind the post-screamo of Level Plane Records – taken together, it seems like a 7″ that would’ve come out in 2005, not 2018, although I suppose the mere act of releasing a 7″ record could be considered more 2005 than 2018. As for their music, it’s mostly mid-tempo and vaguely garage-y, and it tilts and leans precariously, with a cheap-sounding recording (for better or worse). The vocalist squawks with passion, really leaning into those high notes and daring a less-tolerant audience to pack up their things and go. It’s certainly great fun for Please Stop! and their friends and fans, but I’m not sure there is much to be taken away from Built To Die unless you’re directly within the group’s social or geographic orbit. Doubt I’ll be spinning this one again anytime soon, but my advice to the band is contrary to their name: by all means, continue!

Reckonwrong Whities 018 12″ (Whities)
After Reckonwrong’s Whities 009 split my heart open in 2016, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the follow-up, and lo, here it finally is. Four more tunes of his distinctive and unpredictable vocal house fill the EP, and while it took me a couple spins to settle in, I’m downright crazy about it. “Paris Is Melting” and “Half A Pill” are mid-tempo boppers of the highest order, full of slightly-off melodic flourishes and Reckonwrong’s queasy AutoTune, whereas “14 Days” and “I’m A Spoon” are piano-led ballads full of unexpected emotional resonance. He delivers his lines like a drunken philosopher full of unexpected wisdom, this clean-faced British guy who looks like he barely sneaked out of adolescence explaining that “sometimes the truth comes after the fact” and “nobody knows what the future holds, but it’s safe to say – we’re all getting old”. I’m doing 360s to the spirited pop of “Half A Pill”, which sounds like Matthew Dear’s newest album created with zero budget and zero sleep, and sopping my tears to his elegiac pleas for “14 days of happiness”, and then repeating everything when it’s done. I’d say it’s a must-hear, and seeing as Whities went all out to package the 12″ in a printed clear bag and an actual dried flower pressed into the dust sleeve, it’s a must-buy, too.

Rocket 808 Digital Billboards / Mystery Train 7″ (12XU)
Normally, if I saw a band called “Rocket 808″ with a rocket logo walking towards me on the street, I’d turn right around and duck into an alley, but this came out on 12XU, a label that always means well (and puts out more killer rock records per year than you or I). Apparently it’s the solo work of a guitarist named John Schooley, who has apparently played in bands on Crypt and Sympathy For The Record Industry and Goner (although I cannot confidently tell you which ones), and this 7” is a very pleasant interlude through classic rock n’ roll guitar territory. “Digital Billboards” opens with a crusty drum-machine rhythm (I wanna say a mix of “slow rock”, “bossa nova” and “rhumba” settings) and Schooley glides his guitar right over it in classic Link Wray fashion, coloring things in nicely with style. “Mystery Train” is a vocal cut, also aided by fundamental drum-machine, with the addition of a descending bass line and gratuitous rock n’ roll guitar soloing. Sounds good, but would probably sound better if I was peering into the motor of a classic car and admiring its many valves and pistons while the song blasted out of a nearby boombox. This may not be the record that convinces me to open up a combination old-timey rock n’ roll barber shop / tattoo parlor, but it’s pushing me in that direction.

Roht Iðnsamfélagið Og Framtíð Þess LP (Iron Lung)
What happens if this ends up being Roht’s only great record, and I want to recommend it to someone? “Err, yeah, the one you wanna get is Insane Fellatio Framtid Bess, I think…” I’ve heard that Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages to learn, and I believe it – thankfully, Reykjavik’s Roht make powerfully simple industrial punk music, the sort of stuff that only a few hundred brain cells are needed to successfully comprehend. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a guitarist in the mix, because I think there was on their debut 7″, but if so, kudos to them for providing nothing but a mild coating of white-noise to the songs, a soft and present crackling like ghosts in the wind. What I do hear is heavy drumming (both electronic and live), simplistic bass-guitar playing melodies befitting Doom, Vile Gash or Lebenden Toten, and a pained vocalist underneath it all, gasping for air in a thick sonic stew. The noise expands in different directions on the second side, in the classic oppressively greyscale way one might associate with the Broken Flag label, and the songs maintain a steady mid-tempo, a little too slow to headbang but perfect for disgruntled fist-pumps. For many reasons, it should be obvious why Iron Lung loves this.

Spiritflesh Spiritflesh LP (No Corner)
Check the Discogs entry for Spiritflesh’s debut album and you’ll notice that its style of genre is categorized as “Ambient, Techno, Dub, Drone, Grime, Post-Punk”. That’s a lot of directions for any one group to head, this Bristol-based trio included, but they come pretty close to checking all those boxes, and they do so without any awkwardness or sense of struggle. Most of the record is filled with heavy percussive rhythms and industrial-tribal beats, let’s say in the neighborhood of Kerridge and Shackleton. I’m not so sure about the grime or post-punk sonic similarity, seeing as there is no rapping or traditional vocals at all, but the unpolished, direct-from-the-source feel of both grime and post-punk is present throughout, as though these productions were not endlessly labored over but rather fired off when the group found itself particularly in sync with each other. Demdike Stare are probably an influence, but Spiritflesh feels inherently less cinematic, more direct; Chris & Cosey also come to mind, but a Chris & Cosey raised on Hospital Productions, perhaps. I’ve yet to feel compelled to purchase a black four-sided longsleeve t-shirt from the multitude of bands and artists printing them these days, but if a particularly sharp Spiritflesh one existed, it might be my time.

State Champion Send Flowers LP (Sophomore Lounge / Feeding Tube)
Bands like State Champion generally aren’t my thing – sweet, folksy, alt-country indie-rock that plays tender melodies garnished with violin and pedal steel. That said, they seem like a band that relishes the challenge of charming a cold heart such as mine, like they’d enjoy nothing more than to accidentally perform at a harsh-noise basement gig and leave the audience blushing and holding hands, forgetting that their personal aesthetic requires continued aggressive frowning. This is fourth album, and it displays the band as confident as ever, even as the members have geographically spread out and tend to live their lives without State Champion as its sole focus. The songs are calm and pleasant, flowing organically in a manner befitting casual gatherings, not rigid pop songs, and it’s the perfect template for vocalist Ryan Davis to endlessly rant and sing his crafty lyrics. Davis laughs at punk, cries at lust, teases himself and holds his love dearly, usually all in the same song. He practically has too much to say, but he fits it all in with ease, as if his words were matter-of-fact riffing and not expertly edited through multiple revisions. Like I said, this sort of low-key indie-country isn’t my thing, but by the time I’m finished spinning Send Flowers I’m oddly touched, wondering if I’ve got it all wrong and State Champion have it all right.

Tropical Trash Southern Indiana Drone Footage LP (National Waste Products)
If you’re like me, the tears you spilled lamenting the loss of the Load Records label still haven’t dried, but I’ve got excellent news! National Waste Products is a new label run by Ben McOsker (Load’s one and only overlord/head janitor), and it seems he has plans for National Waste Products to continue more or less where Load left off, releasing ugly and cantankerous rock records without the slightest care toward modern trends or the scene’s general disposition. Load released Tropical Trash’s first album UFO ROT in 2015, so it’s a fitting continuation that National Waste Products gives us Tropical Trash’s second vinyl long-player, Southern Indiana Drone Footage. I’ve been enjoying this group for just as long, appreciating their filthy rock music and its many twists and turns – at any moment, a Tropical Trash song might disintegrate into white noise, burst into some free-jazz mayhem, lock into a power-rock groove, or abruptly cut out entirely. At least that’s how they used to be, as this album is by far their most presentable work yet. The recording is quite clear – if not properly washed, they at least shook off most of the muck – and they blast through their red-eyed noise-rock in a fashion similar to groups like Spray Paint, Brandy and Shit & Shine. I can practically picture some of the members wearing button-up striped shirts while listening to these tunes, whereas previously I could only picture them in sweat-stained tie-dye, shredded cargo shorts and cowboy boots. Never underestimate the benefit of versatility in your tightly-wound noise-punk!

Vanilla Poppers I Like Your Band EP 7″ (Feel It)
My initial reaction was to thank Vanilla Poppers for their compliment, but then I realized it’s probably meant sarcastically, to be followed with something like “did your mom pick it out for you???” and lots of pointing and laughing. Then I read the lyrics, and it seems the song is actually lampooning an annoying social leech posing as a punk, which also seems to draw their ire in “I’m An Adult Baby”, and more or less in “Get Away From Me”, too. Word to the wise: if you’re a creep, sycophant, druggie loser or know-it-all, Vanilla Poppers have zero tolerance for your nonsense! This is the Cleveland group’s first follow-up to their 2017 album on Lumpy, and it’s pretty cool hardcore-punk that leans on the garage-y side of things, particularly in the groove of the title track. Opener “Get Away From Me” reminds me a bit of Kill-A-Watts (forgotten garage-punkers from Wisconsin whose Kill Kill Kill Kill single is one of my personal faves of the genre), although one has the sense that the members of Vanilla Poppers have probably at some point witnessed Tony Erba bleeding from the head with his pants down, which naturally seeps its way into these songs. I’m not cut out for life in Cleveland, but I admire those who are!

WLMRT Lube 2 7″ (Pleasence)
This young punk group is Canadian, so I ask them, why can’t you just call yourselves “Walmart”? Do you even have Walmarts up there in Canada? Can they really sue you for it? I like to think that American punks would simply call their band Tim Hortons, not TMHRTNS, but I digress. Lube 2 is WLMRT’s debut EP, five songs of keyboard-assisted speed-punk. Opener “Dark Dollars” kicks right into the Toxic State oom-pah drumbeat, but the rest of the EP loosens up into dance-friendly snot not entirely unlike something out of the Coneheads / Warm Bodies scene, enhanced by nonplussed vocals that sound as if the lyrics are being read off a sheet of paper for the very first time. Lyrics seem personal in nature, inside jokes mixing with sincere annoyance – “Emergency Money Available” seems to relay rightful disgust at service-industry employment and the lack of opportunities available to millennials (apparently even Canadian millennials, too). They’ve got the modern punk-band look – not all men, at least one mustache, someone wearing sandals – and their sound fits right in too, ready to play one of those punk fests in Northwest Oklahoma or southern Idaho that come across far more silly, fun and self-effacing than anything I had available as a pimply teen.

Yaws New 12″ (Alien Jams)
“Yaws” isn’t what people yell when they see a particularly stunning drag queen entrance – you’re thinking of “yasss”. Yaws is Dom Stevenson, a London-based producer of aggressive and modern electronic dance music, and this, his second 12″ EP, truly is new, at least for the time being. Stevenson manipulates the rapid-fire sampling associated with footwork and applies it to punchy, energetic electro, and it’s a combo that doesn’t miss. Never has the “Alien Jams” label seemed like such an apt descriptor! I’m reminded of Upsammy’s fast Detroit-style techno, Errorsmith’s colorful crowd pumpers and Profligate’s maniacal live-action techno sequencing while listening to these six fast-moving cuts. If you’re not at least slightly bobbing your head to the second half of “Burner” when all gears are in motion, or tapping your shoe to the sticky swing of “Red Clock”, I have to wonder if your brain is able to process rhythm. It’s fun music, but also serious, perfect for anyone who favors Drexciya’s harder-edged tunes, Jlin’s simplest cuts and the bounty of quality electro that lies between the two.

Butcher’s Waltz Volume 3 compilation LP (Learning Curve)
Learning Curve continue to provide its services to the modern noise-rock scene, releasing plenty of albums yearly in addition to splits, singles and, like this thing right here, compilations. Had a little trouble initially parsing this one – the first side offers two songs from the Australian group Dead, three from Chicago’s Lardo, and then the second side is “Marx Presents”, which I guess means guitarist Adam Marx chose a track from his band Marx as well as one from Novacron (who feature Gay Witch Abortion and Vaz personnel), and then North Carolina’s Wailin Storms wraps it up. It’s almost like instead of clicking around through various interlinked Bandcamp pages, Learning Curve stuffed that same sense of loosely-linked discovery onto a vinyl LP, for better or worse. The plainly-named Dead are probably my favorite of the bunch, as they get heavier and dirtier than the other contributors. They’ve got an intro called “Pig Plate” on the back cover (and “Piggy Plates” on the center label) and follow it with a grinding march called “Commander”, strongly reminiscent of Harvey Milk in construction and vocal delivery. Lardo are more pop-oriented in their fuzzy post-hardcore (at least until melody succumbs to the bizarre guitar frequencies of “Larunda”). The b-side acts are less distinctive, not quite noteworthy enough to get you to perk up and pay attention, nor are they poor enough to remove the record prematurely. Butcher’s Waltz strikes me as a labor of love, because why else would you willingly release a compilation album of lesser-known noise-rock bands in 2018? Learning Curve loves this stuff.