Actress Paint, Straw and Bubbles 12″ (Honest Jon’s)
This Actress is a man named Darren J. Cunningham and he is dressed like Raiden from Mortal Kombat in one of his promo photos. I hated his Joy Orbison remix, but the Actress name continued to pop up in my daily internet travels, and part of me will always trust Honest Jon’s to do worthwhile things, even if it’s not totally my cup of tea, so I gave Paint, Straw and Bubbles a whirl. While these cuts are real cool, it’s the fact that Actress is so openly embraced by the current crop of modern dance music tastemakers that has me impressed and scratching my chin. “Paint, Straw and Bubbles” is pretty far from dubstep, or modern disco, or minimal techno, or anything like that, rather it’s a delirious mix of all three, with a rhythm that sounds out-of-time with itself, like you’re listening to an Omar S beat-track while your cell phone keeps going off. For dance music, this isn’t danceable; it’s like a drunken Jamal Moss playing a sampler with his toes. Vaguely psychedelic and blatantly weird. “Maze (Long Version)” has an even stronger pull, as it’s essentially a John Carpenter-esque minimal-synth workout, not at all what I had expected, but totally great. I might even describe it as an incredibly morose house tune, or the perfect soundtrack to a computer funeral (I can clearly picture that Windows commercial guy weeping into a kerchief). Seriously, what is up with this dude? Until I figure that out, I can only confirm that he’s made some strange music that I can’t stop listening to.

Addison Groove Footcrab / Dumbsh*t 12″ (Swamp81)
After digging that Skream 12″ on Swamp81, I figured it was worth taking a chance on Addison Groove, another moniker of dubstepper Headhunter (why these dudes need multiple names, I’ll never know). I’m sticking with Addison Groove after this one, because “Footcrab” is a fierce head-bobber with a pitch-perfect, rapid-fire bass thump, truly a masterpiece of party-friendly dubstep techno. Some of the best modern dance production I’ve heard in a while; I can already picture the crowd getting juiced up as soon as the “footcrab / footcrab / footcrab / f-f-footcrab” vocal sample hits the air. This is musical Red Bull. B-side “Dumbsh*t” (their censorship, not mine) follows suit, and while not as instantly engaging, it’s still an excellent tune, mixed perfectly and mastered louder than anything else I’ve purchased from Juno in the past few months. Until given evidence to the contrary, Swamp81 has become a “buy on-sight” label at this point.

Ale Mania Robust Universe / Bayview 7″ (Hell, Yes!)
Never heard of Ale Mania before, and while the name calls to mind Atari’s great Root Beer Tapper game, this band is a whole lot easier to work with. “Robust Universe” is Interpol-friendly post-punk that coasts on a great bassline with two or three guitars just riffing along and a singer who seems less a frontman than just another part of the equation, which works well here. Gotta say, it’s pretty refreshing to hear some modern, scuffed-up post-punk indie that owes nothing to The Jesus and Mary Chain or Black Tambourine or whatever, but doesn’t come across like a passé remix of The Rapture, either. “Bayview” does a similar thing, keeping their indie-rock unpolished yet meaningful, at least on a physical level. I wish this is what Bloc Party sounded like. They never quite use the disco-punk drum beat on this 7″, but if they ever want to give it a shot in the future, permission granted.

Birds of Maya Ready to Howl 2xLP (Richie)
I first met Birds of Maya bassist / vocalist Jason Killinger at a party like five years ago, where he explained the band’s transition from raucous garage-rock under the name The Trauma Queens to the riff-worshipping boogiers that Birds of Maya are today: while touring Japan as the Trauma Queens, they toured with some serious Japanese rock band who not only played Killinger Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori for the first time, they gave him their original copy of the record as a sign of good faith. In an act as fateful as Merlin’s young boy pulling the sword out of the stone, it became certain that Birds of Maya would take their rightful place in the pantheon of rock after that experience. All of that has lead up to Ready to Howl, the most ambitious release to date by both the band and label. Three tracks, two of which span multiple vinyl sides, gatefold packaging, dragon mouth riding a tidal wave on the cover. Those expecting a Purling Hiss amp-fire might be disappointed, but I for one appreciate their ability to tone it down somewhere between the ‘Hiss and say, Endless Boogie, into some long-ass grooves that shine at such long lengths. The vocals poke through nicely too; I can clearly envision Killinger’s nose and mouth poking out of his long hair while he sings about whatever, probably booze and guitars. Birds of Maya will always be a live band for me, or anyone else living in the greater Philadelphian region, but this is as fine a substitution as I hoped they’d share with the rest of the world.

James Blake The Bells Sketch 12″ (Hessle Audio)
James Blake had a cool Untold remix a few months ago and Hessle Audio has yet to do me wrong, so I didn’t wait long to grab this one. “The Bells Sketch”, like Ramadanman’s latest EP, has that same “where am I going with this?” vibe, like these dudes are sick of the same-old thing and venturing into new territory that no one is sure of yet. There’s some slurpy R&B vocals, a beat that routinely disintegrates into the air and some g-funk synths that sound fresh from an Excepter / Joker collaboration (wouldn’t that be something). You know, like a Brooklyn art loft take on that “Purple” genre, as played by a naughty English boy who never raises the tempo above 100 bpm. It’s short and great. The title “Buzzard and Kestrel” sounds like a new Nickelodeon cartoon and this could be it’s theme, if the show is based on the travels of a futuristic hip-hop duo through space and time. James Blake is definitely on his own trip; I’ve even read that it’s his own soulful vocals I’m hearing all distorted on here. I love it.

Blank Dogs Phrases 12″ (Captured Tracks)
Seems like the Blank Dogs frenzy has finally subsided, thanks in no small part to his dramatically-reduced release schedule. (If you don’t count cassettes and reissues, the last new Blank Dogs was a 7″ in June of ’09, which is an eternity when compared to the first half of Blank Dogs’ existence). If you thought you saw a mysterious shirt-faced man lurking backstage at a recent Cold Cave gig, you may be right, as Phrases is a new direction for him, focusing on some of the chilly-synth ideas at which Blank Dogs only previously hinted. Whatever shreds of garage impulse he had left are replaced with a crisp, well-produced synth-wave sound; I’m picking up an early Thomas Dolby vibe and liking it, especially on opener “Heat & Depression”. Considering how de rigeur “minimal synth” has become, it’s kind of a curious shift, but on the other hand, Blank Dogs have already written more weirdly isolated post-punk tunes in the past two years than any other band after 1985; a stylistic change was inevitable. And really, these songs are pretty nice, sounding thoroughly practiced and never quite falling into cliché. I always thought the vocals were Blank Dogs’ weak spot, and they still carry that “sad kid with a stuffy nose and chorus pedal” tone here, but with the otherwise superior production quality, it’s not that big of an issue. I’m definitely hoping Phrases points towards the future of Blank Dogs.

Condominium Gag 7″ (Deerhealer)
There are currently more modern creepy-stolen-photo-art noisy hardcore 7″s being released than hours in the day, but Condominium have done a better job of choosing their shocking art than most, what with that “weird people on a chain” photo from their Fashionable Idiots record and the wild shot of Viennese aktionism that adorns Gag. I doubt that any members of Condominium are willing to open their bare butts in front of a studio audience, but this photo is intriguing enough that I’ll let it slide. A-side “Gag” somehow squeezes nearly seven minutes into its grooves, first recalling a forlorn, Cleaning the Mirror-era Pink Reason, until they crank the guitars and rock like a dopesick, punky Pink Reason. Owing not even a single dread to Bob Marley, their “Redemption Song” is a bass-driven, nasty punk tune that will get the kids in the basement doing that annoying sideways running mosh by the time the drummer really goes ape. A nice and surprising show of chops by the band. Lastly, “The Entire Human Body” is a lot to cover in a four minute tune, but they seem to take the perspective of aliens testing an abducted human with their interpretation, thanks to their unsettling strumming and vocal (?) noise that sounds like one of those Gears of War monsters yelling through a CB radio. This uncomfortable track goes absolutely nowhere, which is pretty perfect, both as an end to this single and a summation of their aesthetic.

The Daily Void The Eclipse of 1453 EP 12″ (Sacred Bones)
I was at a show in Chicago a couple years back when two drunk goofy dudes tried to do that “I don’t have any money so let me trade you my CD for one of yours” routine, a move that is almost always only favorable to the person making the request. Like any sap too shy to say no, I left the show with their disc, which ended up being an enjoyable if not crucial Daily Void album, filled with cool ideas but marred by uninspired execution. I forgot about the band until this new 12″, which, much to my surprise, is one of the best new punk records I’ve heard in years, no hyperbole. When did these guys get so good? It’s as if they funneled the Urinals’ violent down-picking into a lurching, greasy robot of a punk band, like FNU Ronnies if they spent more time with Killed By Death comps than hallucinogens. Were it released in 1979 in an edition of 500, “Psychic Violence” is the type of track for which sweaty collector-types fork over handsome sums of money. “iiii” is just plain evil; honestly every song on here is solid gold, recorded with a sonic bite that so few are able to attain these days. I am sure there are plenty of punk rock purists who won’t check out bands on a label that puts out Zola Jesus records or goth reissues or whatever, and shame on them, because if there’s a punk EP from 2010 better than The Eclipse of 1453, please point me toward it.

Daughters Daughters CD (Hydrahead)
When that first Daughters 12″ came out on Electric Human Project, no one was splashing around harder in the screamo puddle than these guys; in 2003, fusing the aesthetics of The Locust and Kid Rock was kind of a cool idea. The easy thing would be to then combust shortly thereafter: maybe the guitarist walks off the stage mid-set in some Indianapolis basement and never comes back, or the singer had to go to jail in Arizona for two years, or the drummer became a DJ and the rest of the band dissed him. The hard thing to do is to try to turn a band based around short, violent blasts of screams, prickly guitars and blastbeats into something with a decent shelf-life, and yet Daughters are still here in 2010, soldiering on with this self-titled album. I hadn’t really kept up, but part of me knew the vocalist would’ve tried his hand at “singing” by now, and lo and behold, he does, kind of a David Yow croon that relies a little too heavily on sass for my tastes. The music is still spastic and weird, but the players’ talent is more evident than ever, performing their Arab On Radar riffs with grinding speed and a new-found Hum vibe when things slow down. Yes, one could make the argument that it sounds like a polished An Albatross gone post-rock, but overall, Daughters is a quality post-spazzcore record that will appeal to Hydrahead’s more perverse consumer base (you know, the guys that giggle nervously when looking at Daughters’ “bat vagina” t-shirt). Pretty sure that’s the only demographic really paying attention at this point anyway.

Dead Wife D.W.S.Y.H.F. 7″ (Psychic Handshake / No Vacation)
Not sure, so I’ll guess: Dead Wife Screwed Your Happy Family? Dead Wife Stole Your Husband’s Food? Whatever the acronym, I won’t be sticking around too long to find out. Dead Wife are a Montreal-based punk group, three women and a drumming dude, eager to show off the fact that rude beer-swilling ignorance isn’t just a boy’s game. Four songs, practice-space recording, packaged with an insert collaging photos of their friends, tabloid headlines and weird drawings. It doesn’t suck, but there is no reason I’ll ever want to come back to this one, especially with their generic punk opening-band riffs and boring yelled vocals. When I’m checking out their MySpace friend Miss Lady Swamp Pussy and enjoying those tunes a hell of a lot more, it becomes clear that Dead Wife isn’t for me.

Drugs Dragons (I’m In A) Braingrave / Predator Weapons 7″ (no label)
When on a road trip, if you’re anything like me, the idea of record shopping in new and foreign locales can make even those dollar-bin crust-punk 7″s (yes you, Active Minds) look a little tempting, especially when you’ve got some cash to blow. So when Reckless Records writes up this hard-to-decipher Drugs Dragons single as a mixture of GG Allin, Black Sabbath and the Butthole Surfers, what kind of idiot lets that stay on the shelf? The poorly screenprinted cover (even the paper sleeve was screened; mine still isn’t fully dry) and hand-written label made this one a no-brainer. And look at the vinyl, two songs on one side, none on the other, ala the classic Rip Off Records style. Perfect! I get home, after making sure to keep this single safe between two techno 12″s so that its corners remain flat, put it on… and realize that basically everything I just wrote only served as a distraction to the mediocre, forgettable, mid-paced garage punk contained within the grooves. Oh well. Don’t feel bad for me, feel bad for any Wisconsin punks a couple years too young to have enjoyed the Kill-A-Watts in their prime and forced to go see these guys instead.

Dum Dum Girls I Will Be LP (Hozac / Sub Pop)
Fans of black lace tights, Beatle boots and liquid eyeliner take note, Dum Dum Girls have released the album that’ll accompany many a cigarette smoking session in the dark. Dee Dee’s got a band now, but I Will Be was recorded solo, with the help of a few different friends joining in here and there and a famous producer. I’ll admit, there’s no song on here that jumps out as instantly as “Longhair” or “Catholicked”, but I’ll be hard pressed to recall another recent garage rock album that plays through as nicely as this, hitting various highs along the way and no lows, just mediums. For such a simple sound, I Will Be somehow avoids becoming a homogenous blur, probably the hardest thing to do when there’s not so much as a single gear change or drum fill within these grooves. Dee Dee clearly wanted to create a bad-girl record, but there sure are a lot of pro-monogamy/marriage sentiments on here, which I find both amusing and sweet. Maybe the next record will be all about the ensuing run from the law after shooting her spouse in the desert? If there’s any rock group who could make both marriage and murder sound cool, it’s Dum Dum Girls.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring Wet Cement 7″ (Mexican Summer)
Hot on the heels of Rush to Relax comes this blink-and-you-missed-it Mexican Summer single, already out of print and already being repressed (and probably out of print again). If you have some stubborn friend who refuses to get into the Eddy Current vibe, and you haven’t already removed them from your Facebook, please find a copy of Wet Cement and aim it in his or her general direction, as the three tracks here might trump anything off Rush to Relax as far as that instantly catchy charm they’ve provided in the past is concerned. “Wet Cement” isn’t quite fast, but it’s got a superbly sly groove that could’ve worked just as well for Ooga Boogas as themselves; really hoping they play this one live in June. And if you thought Brendan Suppression couldn’t get any more ridiculous than his lyrics to “Gentleman”, he gives us “Hey Mum”, an upbeat number wherein he thanks his mother for giving birth to him. The earnest lyrics to this great party tune are enough to raise the brows of Hallmark’s Mother’s Day card writers. It’s as if Brendan has never heard of war or murder or lying or shoplifting or anything besides sunshine and rope-swings. I’m tempted to play him some Discharge and Black Heart Procession records when they come to town, I just don’t want the bad karma of his complete mental breakdown weighing on me. No one wants to hear Eddy Current Depression Ring.

Gary War Reality Protest 7″ (Sacred Bones)
Sacred Bones rescued this single from Euro Tour obscurity with a domestic issue, and while I will never fully grasp all that is happening in any given Gary War track, these two cuts seem to have simplified things, at least a little bit. Instead of fourteen different sounds going at the same time, it’s like he’s cut down to eight or nine, and now I’m picking up some weird New Order guitar that might’ve been there all along. “Reality Protest” is great, especially those last few choruses where some Jane’s Addiction guitar strumming shows up. “Hollow Futures” sounds like the same thing, like ten Blank Dogs tracks remixed simultaneously by James Ferraro, in a good way (surely someone out there thinks such a scenario could possibly have a positive result). Gary War is really perfecting his “Where’s Waldo?” approach to songwriting; the big picture is fun yet hard to decipher, but if you start scanning around you’ll see all sorts of cool little happenings, maybe even Gary War himself, in that red and white-striped shirt and blue jeans.

Harlem Hippies LP (Matador)
Three-piece Austin band Harlem have entered my world with Hippies, not a bad first impression for such a fun-loving bunch of disheveled hipsters. I’m too smart to let them date my daughters, but they’ve conjured a thick layer of charm here, especially with cuts like “Torture Me” and “Gay Human Bones” (yes… “Gay Human Bones”). Their jangly garage rock is shambolic and fun, like drinking beer in an old barn on Halloween, and for sixteen songs, I’ve detected a surprisingly low amount of crap. Still, sixteen songs is more than either volume of Use Your Illusion; I just can’t come up with a good reason why this couldn’t have been whittled down to a sensible twelve, so that I might make it all the way through more than twice. Retro-punk garage bands these days, I tell you… if they aren’t releasing a dozen limited splits and singles in the course of six months, they’re cramming all those songs on an album. Are guitar picks just really cheap these days or something? Why is this happening?

Hieroglyphic Being Ancient Echoes EP 12″ (+++)
If you’re going to invoke an Egyptian-sounding alias to make electronic dance music, your game better be as hot as the Egyptian Lover and Hieroglyphic Being, the latter being Chicago’s own Jamal Moss. Moss likes to make his music both funky and sharp, and it comes through strong and clear on Ancient Echoes EP, a limited release featuring a couple older tracks that shouldn’t have waited in the can as long as they did. Like Omar S, I can’t help but picture Moss performing this music in real time with his hands, pushing buttons, slapping down piano chords, programming a bass thump with one hand and looping a melody with the other. Not many people have the skill or gumption to make house music in such a rudimentary way these days, but it comes through the recording in a manner that no Ableton function can fake. Doesn’t hurt that there’s always this primal hiss attached to Hieroglyphic Being’s hi-hats and claps, not in a “mastered from MP3s” way, but more like you are in Moss’ basement sitting quietly beside him as he blasts it through an old Peavey amp. Ancient Echoes is great, but really I haven’t heard anything bearing the Hieroglyphic Being name that isn’t.

Lamps The Role of the Dogcatcher in African American Urban Folklore 7″ (Fan Death)
If you caught Lamps live recently, there’s a good chance they opened with “The Role of the Dogcatcher in African American Urban Folklore”. It’s a great opener, with Monty Buckles’ subtle chiming giving no indication of the pounding onslaught to follow. Drummer Josh Erkman handles all the vocals here too, providing the perfect frustrated yelp for the proceedings. And you can play it twice before your Celeste pizza is ready in the microwave. Kinks cover “Salvation Road” takes a poppier turn for Lamps, but really I just want to hear them bashing away at everything, like they do on the a-side.

Leather Anchorite 7″ (Caesar Cuts)
I’ve missed these guys like five times now, as is the eternal problem of trying to time it right to catch the opening band, but a 7″ as killer as Anchorite is sure to bump them up in the lineup. The Leather demo kind of went in one ear and out the other, processed like any other noisy young hardcore band, but these four tracks offer a distinct and somewhat unique sound, although remaining firmly grounded in the hardcore punk echelon. Their advantage is mainly due to the voice of Alex Agran, who, when not using a wounded-dog scream, actually kind of sings. It genuinely connects Leather’s sound to classic hardcore punk (I’m thinking the American Youth Report compilation for reference), as Agran’s voice recalls a classic Keith Morris or Alec Mackaye, not one of today’s muffled and distorted dime-a-dozen hardcore screamers. “Prince of the Salon” takes that voice to its most intense degree, almost to an off-putting level, but a similar sensation was probably felt the first time anyone heard Darby Crash. The music is pretty great too, usually following a mid-paced Black Flag tempo with good riffing, talented drumming and just the right number of stops and starts. By the time the locked-groove ending of “Anchorite” hits, it’s hard to not be at least a little impressed.

Shawn David McMillen Dead Friends LP (Tompkins Square)
I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to know any musician’s middle name, but I’d be happy to invite Shawn David McMillen over for eggs sometime, as this record has somehow accompanied more than a couple breakfast preparations in my household. I was expecting somber singer-songwriter stuff, but Dead Friends is an LP rich with various semi-improvised, guitar-based mood pieces, usually quiet and chill but never without a sense that the whole thing could light up and explode at any moment. All sorts of instruments are going down; one long track even sounds like light harmony hippie-rock with a spoon caught in the garbage disposal, but it never feels forced or intentionally loopy. It’s kind of like if the three best Sunburned Hand of the Man guys got together in a real studio and made a record with Sunday brunch in mind. Really, not the type of record I’d intentionally go after, yet it keeps getting spun.

Neon Blud Whipps 7″ (Fan Death)
Neon Blud are some Sonic Youth-inspired sonic youths from Florida, some of whom probably live in the same dilapidated house as the kids in Cult Ritual and Slavestate. Whipps starts off with some noisy lo-fi talking, kind of a litmus test to see if the listener is willing to move forward, and if so, enjoy this trove of crackly punk songs. Sonic Youth was not really a part of my 90’s musical landscape, so their looming influence here kind of leaves me hanging, but Neon Blud’s roots in basement hardcore shine through enough that I don’t mind sticking around, especially on b-side opener “Neon Anxiety” and whatever song it is where the singer asks “What would your mother say?” (I checked, it’s “Neon Wound Puncture 4 Pleasure”. Yes, all the titles are annoyingly self-referential; perhaps you’d prefer “BFF Blud”?) I guess it’s the b-side’s aggro tendencies that bring this one home for me, although I can’t imagine it’ll creep out of its sleeve and onto my turntable too often.

Ramadanman Ramadanman 2×12″ (Hessle Audio)
Just when you think you really know a guy, Ramadanman decides to put the dubstep in IDM with this peculiar new EP. I’ve been along for the ride as Ramadanman transitioned from run-of-the-mill dubstep to a modern techno style all his own, which has led me to expect some more expertly-crafted dance music here, impenetrable yet soft to the touch. There’s no denying his post-graduate level of craftsmanship, as practically every sound is painted with a unique brush; focus on any repeating sound and you’ll notice the filtering, echoes and effects that constantly morph and twist it, from garish synths to the smallest hi-hat tick. “I Beg You” and chopped raver “Don’t Change For Me” are the only tracks you’d have any real chance at dancing to, the other four are more like intense fleeting thoughts that Ramadanman has captured on wax. I still love this guy, and the Hessle Audio full-color die-cut cover double 12″ release is something I hope they continue with, but this one is just too strange and disjointed for me to want to hear over and over again. Ramadanman filled this double 12″ with fantastic, meticulous sketches, I just prefer his full-color prints.

Shake Thought Processes 12″ (Frictional)
Anthony “Shake” Shakir recently received a hefty fifteen-year retrospective in the form of a 4xLP set. Never came across his music previously, but downloading that thing was kind of a mistake… I’d need to invest at least forty hours of listening time just to begin to soak up and process what Shake has created since Bill Clinton was in office. I’ve kept a distance from that intimidating set, but in the meantime, picked up this new 12″ on his own label, which has proven to be a much more manageable affair. He’s got kind of a minimal Detroit vibe here, a style he probably originated, with a fair number of twists and turns through some chugging beats and warped melodies. Four distinct tracks here, which really makes Thought Processes a nice modern introduction for someone like myself. My favorite of the four is “Psychotic Tango”, not just because of the title, but because it fuses smooth with hectic, a wonderful contradiction indeed.

Shit & Shine Bass Puppy 12″ (Badmaster / Suicide Tax)
It was only a matter of time before some English noise group appropriated the sounds of dubstep to their own twisted ends, and I can’t think of a better band for the task than Shit & Shine, who have toyed with various musical boundaries in the past (multiple drummers, pure noise, sludge-rock, the list goes on). “Bass Puppy” is pretty sweet, focused on a nasty thug-step bass line ala Caspa or Ed Solo, real slow and filthy. Don’t expect any intriguing choruses or codas here, “Bass Puppy” is the monotonous sound of a forest being slowly destroyed by tanks (check the “alternate endings” portion of your Avatar DVD); it’s not a pleasant time. Various samples and screams interrupt on occasion, but there is no stopping that bass, especially as it speeds up a bit towards the end. “Fuck You Folk Singers” does essentially the same thing, albeit with a more engaging vocal sample (who doesn’t want to stick it to those damned folk singers, at least once in a while) and a bass line that is less a force of destruction than an unwavering sonic wall. I’ll be honest, both tracks kind of drag by the end, but this convergence of dubstep bass and angry, anti-social noise-rock is one that Shit & Shine definitely needs to further explore.

Society Nurse Junk Existence EP 7″ (Iron Lung)
Has hardcore punk finally run out of words to combine with “society”? I mean, does a Society Nurse really sound that bad or brutal? Are we dealing with an evil nurse; maybe that’s it? Before I get a migraine, I’m going to focus on the music, a savory set of three burly hardcore cuts. Like every good hardcore band these days, there’s some sort of debt to Void being paid here, but Society Nurse have a bit more froth at their mouths and a meatier bass sound than most of their ilk. Reminds me of Copout if they ever made it into a decent studio, or Los Crudos if they developed a serious Scandinavian influence. That’s about as awkward of a description as I can come up with. Pretty sure Society Nurse refer to Planet Earth as a “rock of shit floating in an astral septic tank” in the title track – while you ponder that, I’m going to flip this one over again.

T++ Wireless 2×12″ (Honest Jon’s)
It’s with a heavy heart that I discuss T++’s Wireless, as news has come across my desk that this is Torsten Profrock’s final outing under the T++ name. T++ has provided me with hours of electronic entertainment, frequently blurring the line between dubstep, experimental electronic music, minimal techno and Judgment Day sounds. (You know that synth pulse when there’s a Terminator nearby? Profrock has mastered that tone.) It was with slight surprise then that I found the four tracks on here to offer little in the way of long-form Krauty repetition and dying cyborg sounds; instead, Wireless is like some comment on a futuristic third world country, from the use of traditional African samples (both instrumental and vocal), snappy Jungle tempos and intense processing of all the sounds within. The speed and complexity here is enough to leave my head spinning – sure, I can bob my head to most of Wireless, but I’m left disoriented afterward, especially after listening on headphones (or whenever that queasy sample floats in on “Anyi”). It’s not a feeling I crave too often, but if T++ wants to shake the blood out of my skull on his final record, I graciously accept.

Tinsel Teeth Trash as the Trophy CD (Load)
I once showed up at a Tinsel Teeth show after they had already played, but they left a mark unlike most other bands: the floor was splattered with red and green goo, confetti and some sort of shredded cloth, the type of slippery stain that showgoers continued to accidentally stand in through the remainder of the evening. There aren’t many bands that leave that sort of stink hours after their performance, but Tinsel Teeth seem to revel in that sort of disgust, eager to show you their snot if it prompts a dry heave. Going on that, and the Load reputation, I was expecting to hear something like Kites with irritable bowel syndrome, but it turns out Tinsel Teeth are a straight-up gnarly rock band. If Six Finger Satellite are Providence’s Charlie Brown, Trash As the Trophy makes a clear stab at Pigpen, with grooving AmRep guitars and an unsafe forward motion. The female vocalist flips the script with a meaty bellow, about 100,000 leagues deeper than Daniel of Mi Ami, snarling her way through each track like a nastier version of Damad’s Victoria Scalisi. Pretty sure there’s a YouTube video of Tinsel Teeth’s singer slowly and repeatedly beating up some drunk dork in a basement, which sums up their style better than any written word.

Tusk Lord Meeting Blood Sentinels 7″ (Dear Skull / Mind Cure)
The hell, this is what Tusk Lord sounds like? I understand it’s a Slices dude and various friends, and I remember hearing reports of a Tusk Lord live show summoning some dark and stormy guitar drone. The unblinking eyes on the cover had me ready to get swept up in some sort of Dead C haze, but when I put it on… 50’s sock-hop pop-rock with a deep detached baritone. Is this a piss-take on something or someone? Still in disbelief, I flip it over and the two b-side cuts are along the same lines, maybe a little more dour and befitting of the vocals, which have really called to mind King Darves at this point. My world is no longer shook, and I have come to terms with the fact that this is what Tusk Lord is, but still… the next Tusk Lord record better sound like the Meatshits, that’s all I’m saying.

Vermillion Sands Something Wrong / Mother of Earth 7″ (Hell, Yes!)
Could’ve sworn I checked out Vermillion Sands before and it was mopey lo-fi country, but maybe I screwed up, because “Something Wrong” is fun as could be. For an Italian group, they sound more likely to have devoured a bowl full of cornbread and grits than pasta and meatballs; even the singer has a light twang to her voice that doesn’t sound forced or fake. Lots of boozy slide-guitar on both sides, with “Mother of Earth” sounding like April March guesting on a Johnny Cash tune. This isn’t normally my sort of thing, but the charm of Vermillion Sands operates on a gamma level, capable of penetrating even the most calloused of pretentious music-writing buttheads to their very cores.

Whatever Brains Nesting 7″ (Funny / Not Funny)
I dug the other Whatever Brains single I heard, even uploaded their CDr to my iPod (and to take things further, I actually remembered that I did that and purposefully listened to it). After flipping Nesting a few times, I still dig this band a whole bunch. The first two tracks remind me of The Intelligence and The Thermals, although something about their performance and flair is enough for me to distinctly identify this as the “Whatever Brains Sound”. “Nesting” almost has a Neutral Milk Hotel feel to it, which I might not have picked up if they didn’t cover Neutral Milk Hotel on that CDr, but it’s there, at least until they get going into another Intelligence-y serving of wobbly indie-punk. I like this band, what can I say. Just wish they would’ve provided something readable on this record; I know my contacts are expired, but it took me a couple weeks to notice the songs on the back cover. These guys aren’t such artistes that their artwork needs to give me such a hard time.