Auryn / Filth Mattress split 7″ (Square of Opposition / Long Way)
I like the way political punk’s modern progression seems to have taken a turn towards a Mad Max-styled self-sufficiency. These guys aren’t protesting world summits, they are building rafts out of pillaged tarp and downed trees and eating roasted squirrel and dumpstered bagels. At least that’s certainly the impression I get from these two groups, especially after reading the lyrics to Auryn’s “Ungdomshuset”, which is essentially a dramatic retelling of that Braveheart speech (apparently I’ve got Mel on the mind). Five short paragraphs, the second of which starts with “Prepare thy spirit, the hour’s at hand.” LARPers of the world, unite and take over! Filth Mattress aren’t quite as barbaric, but I’m sure they’ll be domesticating wild hogs in the mountains with Auryn soon enough. Musically, Auryn are like a high school musical Tragedy medley, while Filth Mattress perform the requisite crust-metal to the point where the hair on my head started to form a single dread as I listened. I work in an office, I’m surprised this record didn’t catch fire as I held it.

Tony Conrad & Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Taking Issue LP (Dais)
If there were ever two characters that should get together and improvise on violins, it might as well be Tony Conrad and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, right? Taking Issue is a document of their back-to-back live performances in January of 2009, and it’s a fun exercise in the stringed drone. “Taking Issue” is a nice swarm of sound, employing various techniques and movements throughout, not that I would expect any less from these free spirits. “Demilitarized Ozone” sounds like the other of the two shows, starting off with some pounding percussion (courtesy of Morrison Edley) that never gets in the way, rather it provides a loose set of boundaries, like lines on a road. While the music is satisfying, it’s the insert photography that I’ve enjoyed the most – Tony and Genesis as topless mermaid clowns, playing violins; (I presume) author Marie Losier dressed as a pumpkin; a shot of Genesis looking like Courtney Love, ready to suck Tony’s blood (who happens to be dressed like Run DMC). I swear, all of this is real, all of these photos exist. More than anything, their utter lack of creative and personal inhibitions is the most inspiring thing that I’ve taken away from Taking Issue, musically or otherwise.

The Electric Bunnies Through the Magical Door LP (Florida’s Dying)
Through The Magical Door is nothing if not ambitious. Before the music starts playing, one is greeted by the avant-garde board game that comprises the inner gatefold, complete with a perforated sheet of game pieces and an irreverent sheet of instructions. The Electric Bunnies approach their music with a similar sort of acid-fried whimsy, hitting tambourines and laying down some groovy guitar licks long after their roommates have finally passed out. I’ve heard people speak highly of the Electric Bunnies, and while I am inclined to agree, it’s taken me a good number of listens before any number of hooks started to take shape. “Psychic Lemonade” is a pretty undeniable slice of wicked garage, but there are multiple weird tangents (and the occasional hardcore lash-out; seriously) for every hot Nugget found on here. I guess that is to be expected from a band with the sound of Blues Magoos and the graphic design of the Flaming Lips.

Jacuzzi Boys No Seasons LP (Florida’s Dying)
Mamas, don’t let your daughters date no Jacuzzi Boy! They rock, they roll, they disobey signs, they even smoke a little reefer now and then. Heck, there are probably angry girls leaving nasty messages on their voicemail right now. I always admired the band name “Jacuzzi Boys”, apparently it means something to me, and they make pretty good on that vague appreciation with No Seasons. I don’t think anyone is going to be blown away by this record, but it’s the perfect non-descript party platter when you want to have fun without your guests asking what they’re listening to. Sounds like a subdued Los Cincos or a more ominous Cheap Time, and while I’d prefer to listen to either of those two, that doesn’t mean I can’t buckle my knees and shake my hips to “Island Ave.” or “Blow Out Your Lights” when the time is right. I would probably like this record less if it wasn’t housed in the wonderfully tasteless, pencil-drawn, middle-school-notebook orgy sleeve, though.

Joy Orbison J. Doe / BRKLN CLLN 12″ (Doldrums)
On first listen, I was a little skeptical of Joy Orbison and his breakout track “Hyph Mngo”; just seemed like the promised euphoria was a little phony, and that the groove was not tearing down the boundaries that people were claiming. Probably not fair to subject Joy Orbison to his own hype, but I’m only just a man. Anyway, I picked up this new one, and it’s really starting to click with me. “J. Doe” utilizes a split-second vocal hook that I find myself singing along with, which is a neat trick for a snippet that is practically half a word long. It’s not a pop track, but I find myself wanting to hear it over and over again as if it were built solely to get lodged in my brain, not move crowds. “BRKLN CLLN” is a nice cut as well, someone keeps yelling for “just one more” and some handclaps shake it up. Listening to this had me revisit “Hyph Mngo” and yeah, it’s a pretty good hit in its own right too. I am sure the fact that Orbison is young, white and handsome doesn’t hurt, but with this sort of dubstep action it makes sense why he is mentioned in both Spin and Wire and thousands of other techno dudes aren’t.

Lindstrøm & Christabelle Real Life Is No Cool CD (Smalltown Supersound)
Real Life Is No Cool is as hilarious and awesome as its title would lead one to believe. Lindstrøm has put together an album that celebrates 80s electronic pop music in such an endearing and masterful way that no amount of kitsch or corniness can render the experience foul. I’ve previously enjoyed Lindstrøm’s disco-based excursions, usually from a passive distance, but Real Life Is No Cool mines a much larger variety of styles (hits from the 70s, 80s and today!) to his own fabulous end. Christabelle’s vocals are pretty perfect for the material, as her soft voice and vague accent is the perfect base to Lindstrøm’s acid, sounding empowered, flirtatious or confused, usually all in the same song. “Keep It Up” is pure Kate Bush; I am almost startled at what an effective tribute these two were able to create. And then party tracks like “Baby Can’t Stop” are Quincy Jones-esque pop music, just begging for a 25 year-old Michael Jackson’s vocal hook to send it into the stratosphere. Although often energetic, the bulk of the album is sumptuously slow balearic pop, with tracks like “Music In My Mind” and “Lovesick” meant for a Sandals resort after nightfall. There’s got to be some hipster newlyweds conceiving their children to Real Life Is No Cool, just like their parents conceived them to the music that inspired it. That’s a circle of life I can stand behind.

Low Threat Profile Low Threat Profile 7″ (Deep Six)
I always considered Low Threat Profile to be more myth than reality, the type of thing that would forever be on Deep Six’s “coming soon” release list, always just out of reach. I mean really, a project band featuring No Comment’s singer, Infest’s guitarist and Lack of Interest’s drummer sounds like a power-violence fantasy, not something this plane of existence could support. I think we all felt like Indiana Jones in that temple when Low Threat Profile finally arrived in our mailboxes, just waiting for that boulder to come and crush us before getting the 7″ to our turntables. But we made it, and the reward was worth the wait – Low Threat Profile are as good as their membership would lead you to believe. Eleven songs of raging fast-core, with songs generally staying under half a minute, blazing with Infest’s intensity and Andy Beattie’s psychotic howl. It was recorded “pre-9/11” and has that typical mid-period Slap A Ham sound, less raw than today’s popular hardcore acts, but with a thick mid-section. An essential hardcore document.

Nice Nice One Hit / Ark Drum 7″ (Warp)
My world was flipped upside-down when I first heard Nice Nice in 2001, to the point where I was determined to release their music myself. Something about their unique brand of live, sloppy, dubby, psychedelic rock struck a serious chord with me, and still does to this day. I will admit, my interest feigned a bit when they released four CDs of seasonally-inspired drone, branching out when I wished they’d just stick with their original sound. It was just too good to mess with. Now they’re on Warp, which is pretty cool, this single being a teaser for an upcoming album release. “One Hit” is a pounding, weirdly rocking tune that features vocals (I believe their first) and will surely appeal to the Battles crowd; quirkly, spastic rock that falls slightly closer to academia than basement screenprint collective. “Ark Drum” is a tribal groover, akin to their classic sound but beefed up. There’s a whole mess of sounds here that makes me wonder if they are still a duo working a Boomerang loop pedal like nobody’s business or if they’ve recruited more hands and feet. I remember no one really paying attention to Nice Nice’s first album when it came out on Temporary Residence; hopefully this Warp deal gets them into the right ears, as Nice Nice are still clearly one of indie rock’s most peculiar entities.

Portraits of Past Cypress Dust Witch 12″ (Excursions Into the Abyss)
Upon a cursory glance, I had little hope for this reunited Portraits Of Past record. With the cheesy “Romantic Memories”-esque cover photo and the fact that this is a screamo reunion record, how could I presume otherwise? It’s with a mouthful of crow that I write this review, then, as Portraits Of Past have somehow surpassed their previous material with a stunningly effective emotive hardcore record. “Fire Song” gets it right from the start – frantic Antioch Arrow drumming, hoarse vocals, and a manic temper that makes me want to rhythmically pound my chest, even through the quiet parts. This sort of music helps me forget The Assistant and remember Merel, which is an excellent thing. Somehow, whatever maturity these guys gained since their last outing has made them better, not worse; the recording is clear and forceful, with the guitars especially verbose and vibrant, and they haven’t “grown” into instrumental drone or lo-fi black metal or whatever most dudes from Portaits of Past’s era consider a musical progression. Cypress Dust Witch stays so true to that late 90s emo-core sound but sounds incredibly alive and fresh, to the point where this four-song 12″ leaves me wanting more. Who would have guessed?

Protect-U Double Rainbow / Toughen Up 12″ (Future Times)
True to the DIY spirit, Protect-U wanted to hear some killer house from outer space, so they bought some gear and decided to make it themselves. “Double Rainbow” is the type of track that I will never tire of, it’s just so simple yet rich with ideas. I can only guess the BPM, maybe like 126 or something, totally geared to the dancefloor but filled with rotating toms, flocks of synths and this killer and subtle race-car bass sound that I wish would pop up more often. The title makes me think of Growing for some reason and I guess the vibe of two white dudes morphing New Age sounds into an entirely different thing is similar, too. “Toughen Up” takes a different turn, kind of a meditation on Rammellzee-styled future funk. You know, the type of Celluloid Records release you find for $2 at a flea market and are like “why haven’t I heard of this before?”. By far my favorite release on an already very cool label; highly recommended!

Purling Hiss Purling Hiss LP (Permanent)
The debut Purling Hiss record is a scorching piece of diesel-fueled rock n’ roll that blazes from beginning to end. No come-downs, no beer breaks, just two full sides of the highest-caliber raw guitar ever to touch down in Philadelphia. I knew of Purling Hiss as the solo project of Birds of Maya’s Mike Polizze, and I assume that’s exactly what it is, but Purling Hiss comes equipped with a sufficiently raw bass and drums rhythm section to properly support his endless guitar soloing. I knew he had a lot of juice in him from my Birds of Maya live experiences, but Purling Hiss turns it up a notch further, just utterly uncontained guitar with furious sequences of notes being shredded faster than my brain can process them. If you think it’s impossible to write a raging guitar solo over eight minutes long, please allow Pollize to cough in your face. It’s almost kind of offensive for this guy to just come along and make mincemeat of the solid rock bands of our time, looking like a bunch of Diet Cokes next to this frosty mug of beer.

Secret Cutter Secret Cutter 7″ (Square of Opposition / Discontent)
Working the Pig Destroyer / Discordance Axis model of guitar/drums/vocals, Secret Cutter offer four tracks of sludgy grind on their debut single. It’s really good – the guitar is sufficiently heavy, the bass guitar’s presence is not missed, and the vocals are satisfyingly robust, with a screech somewhere between that of Pig Destroyer and Ulcer. I knew of drummer Jared Stimpfl’s unhinged blast-beat style from his previous bands, and he turns it up a notch within the first few moments of “Occupational Shutdown”, gunning out a blast-beat at a snare roll’s pace. The recording captures this intensity nicely, but following that initial blast, the Eyehategod-esque riffs require Stimpfl to pound away at a stoner pace. It sounds great, and he does a fine job, but just knowing what he is capable of, I am a little disappointed that he doesn’t get to go to town more often. It’s like hiring Jacques Pepin to make you scrambled eggs.

Sex Worker The Labor of Love LP (Not Not Fun)
Sorry to disappoint, but the first official release of Daniel Martin-McCormick’s Sex Worker project is not just his Mi Ami vocal acapellas. Instead, DMM has crafted three long and hazy tracks of krauty contemplation, sometimes grounded by an undanceable mechanical loop or two. Mi Ami always seem on the verge of total celebration, like a New Year’s Eve countdown, while Sex Worker shares none of that enthusiasm. This is bedroom music, contemplative and sad, as the loops fade in and out amongst various bittersweet drones and the occasional vocal hysteria (which takes on more of a manic quality thanks to The Labor of Love‘s overall mood). I pick up a very rudimentary Manuel Göttsching vibe at times, like an unprecise first stab at E2-E4. It’s my understanding that Sex Worker is thematically based on the horror of the sex trade, which is appropriately portrayed through the depressing mood that envelops the record. Nice to hear some post-drone played by a twentysomething that isn’t a hypnagogic ode to Nickelodeon game shows or something like that.

Snowing Emotional Bullshit 7″ (Square of Opposition)
Snowing beat their would-be critics to the punch with the title of this 7″ EP. The Braid worship on this record is palpable, from the noodly guitar riffs to the airtight drum fills and swift tempo changes. If the singer could do a Bob Nanna impersonation, I’m sure he would, but instead we are treated to a strained puberty lead vocal that probably sounds better live (via a crappy PA system, buried in the mix). Like the members of Snowing, I enjoy this sort of mid-90s emo pop too, especially when played with such a high level of energy. Sure, the lyrics are the sort of generic “pouring my heart out” formula that makes it clear they aren’t really pouring their hearts out at all, but what would I rather these Lehigh Valley kids do, each start their own “glo-wave” side projects instead? Frame And Canvas is nearly twelve years old now, I think that’s enough distance for a band like Snowing to safely exist.

Taco Leg Freemasons’ Hall / Sunbathing In Squalor 7″ (Fan Death)
The UV Race are no longer the only stumble-fumble punk band going in Australia, or at least the only one of which I’m familiar. Taco Leg are from Perth, which I assume is like the Australian equivalent of Gainesville Florida or some place where there’s nothing to do but attempt in vain to avoid both the heat and the jerks. These two songs barely qualify as such, rarely utilizing more than one guitar string and playing a drum set you can carry all at once. They seem to work best when doing the least; “Sunbathing In Squalor” is particularly ticklish to my ears. Taco Leg’s approach kind of relies on the listener never completely enjoying it though, like an apolitical Puritan Guitars with nothing invested in anything. Probably wouldn’t break Kugelberg’s top 100 DIY singles – top 500 though, without a doubt.

Tamaryn Mild Confusion 7″ (True Panther Sounds)
My mild confusion quickly turned to unbridled joy at the sight of a new Tamaryn single in a local record shop. If you were a fan of any of Tamaryn’s previous material, or just need a new ethereal gypsy woman to guide you through the misty waters, I suggest you search one out too, as it’s as good as I could’ve hoped. “Mild Confusion” has a groovy bassline that I can picture Tamaryn doing a slow-motion hippie dance to, it’s less dramatic than Led Astray, Washed Ashore but just as potent. Maybe she realized she could be the Lilith Fair’s answer to Lady Gaga and is going for it. B-side “Light Shadows” is just as serene, lead by some shimmering guitar on what could’ve been the highlight of the Crow soundtrack, were it ready for release in 1994. Unlike the last Tamaryn single, there are 1000 numbered copies of this one available, and I paid $4.98 retail. I’ve been thinking about her, maybe she’s thinking about me too.

Useless Children Sky Is Falling LP (Exo)
It’s hard to avoid having a strong first impression with this one – big 3D cover of a creepy kid (3D glasses included) and the vinyl nicely tucked into the fold-over sleeve, all protected by one of those thick PVC sleeves that will eventually chemically destroy all it encounters. Useless Children are an Australian punk rock trio, two string-playing dudes and a female drummer/vocalist named Cinta Masters (a name too cool to not mention). There’s always been something a little wonky about a drummer that does all the singing (Hellnation excluded, Genesis not), but since I’m only listening to a record and not watching them live, it’s no biggie here. Useless Children are pretty moody, with some soft-to-loud screamo tendencies, tempered by straightforward riffing and the occasional slow-burner. When things slow down, Masters’ vocals remind me of Sleater Kinney or some other Pac-NW bold female yelp, maybe like Mocket’s? When things speed up though, she just kind of screams for her life, not nearly as good a look. That said, Useless Children seem to put a lot of time and effort into their work, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they kick Bangs-quality ass on their next piece of wax.

Ricardo Villalobos & Los Updates Driving Nowhere 12″ (Nice Cat)
Been a quiet 2009 for Ricardo Villalobos, no earth-shattering albums, just a few unhyped singles and remixes, many of which featured Los Updates, certainly my favorite of his muses. “Driving Nowhere” is pretty standard Villalobos fare, minimal techno that is constantly and subtly changing, understated and wildly complex. It’s like being served an expensive soup that appears average until you taste it. Really though, Los Updates’ Jorge González is the reason I am always so eager to snatch up these collaborations, because I never know if he is going to sing a Spanish nursery rhyme, or do some evil spoken-word, or rattle off a bunch of semi-coherent phrases. He opts for the latter here and lays out some doozies: “I want to marry you in Vegas again” and “You’re the type of person I’d like to share my absense of humor”. This 12″ is the inaugural release for González’s Nice Cat label, and it comes with Fiat600 and Audio George remixes, both of which seem to run with Villalobos’ subdued vibe and keep the beat safe rather than explode it into a new set of colors. By no means a crucial release, I just can’t pass up this sort of thing.

Wickeda A Nie Dvamata S Bobi Piem Kafe (Ramadanman Mix) 12″ (Hessle Audio)
It was a minor struggle to track down this limited white-label Ramadanman remix, but how could I not after reading the backstory: Ramadanman was asked to remix a 90’s Bulgarian pop track of his choosing by the British Council. I know very little about Bulgarian pop, but I do know my Ramadanman, and he doesn’t disappoint with his remix of Wickeda’s “A Nie Dvamata S Bobi Piem Kafe” (roughly translated to “And I And Bobby, We Are Both Drinking Coffee”). He slices the vocal into thin pieces and exercises his percussive muscles without drowning the track in superfluous sounds. The b-side comes with “Bonus Beats”, which is quite similar in nature to the original remix, and a “Horns-apella”, a curious horn arpeggio with some synth wash that I picture Ramadanman putting together while completing his morning crossword puzzle. It’s safe to say that at this point, no new Ramadanman vinyl will be escaping my grasp, but for non-obsessives, don’t feel bad sitting this one out.

Yellow Fever Yellow Fever LP (Wild World)
The Vivian Girls empire has grown to include Wild World Records, working with like-minded friends, united by a love of good times and cute animals. Yellow Fever are a three-piece from Austin and offer some beautifully minimal indie-pop on this quaint 12″. Seems like it’s either guitar or bass on each song, rarely both, but it’s really all they need to put together these soft and catchy songs. The vocals really push Yellow Fever to the front of the class though, as both singers have a perfectly harmonious little thing going on, reminding me of the Haden sisters’ work with That Dog or the first Rentals album, were it unplugged. I love that attractive female robot voice, even when Yellow Fever get a little pensive and the vocals veer toward an unintentional Chan Marshall replication. Usually I hear a record like this and think it’s adorable and move along, but songs like “Cutest” and “Cats and Rats” have kept me from prematurely filing it away.

All Night Long EP 2 compilation 12″ (Aus Music)
The second All Night Long sampler comes with four of my favorite flavors: Pearson Sound, Martyn, Appleblim and Ramadanman. Rammy and Appleblim collaborate on their side-long cut “Sous Le Sable”, starting off with the type of hectic rhythm I’d expect from these two. Slowly enough, aided by some lonely keyboard melodies, their track gets all sorts of housey; clearly these two have been affected by the deep house resurgence and my turntable is all the better for it. “Sous Le Sable” twists through a number of rabbit holes (it looks like seven different tracks on the vinyl itself) and I hope these two venture through them again. Martyn’s “For Lost Relatives” is not as melancholy as the title would lead you to expect, instead following suit with a more straight-forward house groove and some tasteful piano chords. All my dubstep friends are going house, but I’m not complaining. Ramadanman then dons his Pearson Sound mask for the final track, using a palate of sounds similar to his Plsn / Wad 12″ that I loved so much. Pearson Sound’s dancehall-dubstep is a perfect conclusion to this compilation, devoid of any filler and an excellent introduction to any curious newcomers.