Mind Eraser are my favorite modern hardcore-grind band going today. (Sadly, Gonkulator were disqualified
from the running). It’s easy to slap together fast, blast-beat hardcore, and it’s even easier for it
to suck, but Mind Eraser clearly put in the time and effort to make something great; they operate at a
level where the product they provide is deliberately crafted and powerfully visceral. They’ve been
around seven years, with only two LPs and a few select EPs to their name – how’s that for quality control?
And yet, no one forgets about this band in today’s rapid-turnover market; rather, their reputation only
grows as leaders of all things heavy, brutal and grinding. They’ve been doing it all themselves, or with
the help of friends, and their music just keeps getting better. Now someone find me a copy of that
“bootleg” single I’ve been hearing about.
I know you guys play and have played in various other bands and keep pretty busy,
but Mind Eraser seems to be, collectively, the members’ most notable and heralded band.
Did it start off as a side project, or was Mind Eraser serious from the very start? Did you
expect the band to last as long as it has?
Chris (guitar): Started as a side project for me and Justin. It was a pretty inconspicuous beginning. Just
the two of us trying to do songs on a four-track that were like half way between Infest and
Citizen’s Arrest. If you’ve ever heard our demo you know we failed miserably, but that was the
starting point. I honestly had no expectations because very little thought went into it, and if you
ever saw us in the first year of existence, it’s safe to say it was not very serious. I guess It’s been
seven years this fall which is pretty long.
Justin (vocals): I’ve definitely sold more t-shirts with other bands I’ve been in but Mind Eraser is the one that
has had the longest lifespan. Back when we started I never would have believed I’d be doing it seven
years later but during that time I’ve never had the hankering to hang it up. I think we have done
a good job with not burning ourselves out by being too active.
When did you decide to become “serious” about Mind Eraser, and why? It seems like
Mind Eraser has always had a pretty solid level of support and praise from, uh, “the scene”;
was that a factor?
Chris: I guess maybe when Glacial Reign came out the lineup sort of firmed up and we sort of
developed our own parameters for our sound a little more. So that’d be like 2006. Its never been
that serious at least compared to some bands. We don’t play out of state that much, we don’t
make that much merchandise. The scene and all really hasn’t been a major factor. I feel everyone
in our sort of extended family have been pretty fortunate where there’s always a decent amount
of people keen to what we’re doing. I don’t think it’s usually something that effects the way we
conduct the bands, but we do put our time into all this, and it’s appreciated when folks notice.
Justin: From the start I wanted to play shows just because I had such a good time singing in
a band, unfortunately I may have been the only one who enjoyed me singing in a band. Believe it
or not (I still find it hard to believe), but around the time our first LP came out we felt as though
we were onto something and we got inspired to work harder on song writing and getting better
as a band. Also, I think having a stable line-up makes life so much easier as far as practicing and
wanting to get tighter.
I’m sure a lot of people have wondered why you don’t tour more often. Is it just your
regular jobs, or what?
Justin: It’s not so much that. I just don’t see the point of a band like us going out on the “circuit”
for half the year. I’m fairly satisfied with the niche we have carved out for ourselves.
Chris: We don’t tour much really because most of us work regular jobs, and honestly I don’t think
touring would be that financially viable for a band like us. we do good enough when we go on the
road and sometimes we come back with a decent chunk of change, but we don’t have our own van,
and we don’t have a ton of spare cash to front for merch and records. It’s kind of a big deal to
even take two weeks off of a regular 9-to-5 job too. If we did a lot of touring it would also kind
of impede on the time we divy up into our other projects. For the most part I think we all like staying
home and just making new records and new projects. Maybe I’m a polygamist at heart.
Would you say that everyone in Mind Eraser has the same vision for the band’s sound
and style? I guess what I’m trying to say is, are there multiple directions being pulled
within the band which lead to the final output, or is it more of a streamlined thing where
everyone is always on the same page when it comes to writing a new song?
Chris: I write the majority of the riffs, but there’s definitely some additional shaping by the rest
of the band, and power of veto generally on their part. I think everyone has their own
perspective on it, but especially at this point we all sort of know the sound, and the boundaries
of it. The first couple records there wasn’t really anyone in the writing process except me and Justin,
but on Conscious/Unconscious, Prodigal Son, and the upcoming Brutal Supremacy stuff,
the other guys would make changes and suggestions as needed. Brendan actually wrote three
of the songs we did for Brutal Supremacy and he’s contributed a few riffs in the past too. There’s
been times when I know I’m not really getting through with what I want the song to be like when
I’m going through it with the other dudes, and usually in the end I figure maybe that’s not going
to work for this band. Usually when they say to change something they’re right.
Justin: I would say we have about as similar a vision as four people could have. I think when we
first started I may have wanted to be a little more metal, but eventually we added all those
Is Mind Eraser’s sound still changing, or will the listener pretty much know what to expect
with any upcoming records?
Chris: My goal at the get go was that each record would sort of have a distinct flavor but they’d all
sound like one band. So I mean, they all sound similar to a degree but i try not to be repeating myself.
The new Brutal Supremacy stuff is kind of a continuation of the last 7″, but pushed a bit further
I think. When I listen to stuff we did even a couple years ago there’s parts I hear that I wouldn’t
write now or I’d play a different way just based on where I’m at now and what my listening habits are
for other music so I guess there’s still change… I don’t ever wanna be in a band that’s just running in
place so I hope it’s never too easy to guess what you’ll get.
What is Brutal Supremacy?
Chris: Brutal Supremacy is a 2×7″ with one side each featuring Mind Eraser, Iron Lung, Scapegoat,
and Hatred Surge. It’s coming out this year (finally) on Painkiller. The idea being these are all friends
and acquaintances that mutually respect each other and shooting for the same end in different ways.
You’ve released most of your records on Painkiller, which I know at least one Mind Eraser
member personally owns and operates. How important is that to you, the complete control over
your music, not just in writing, but in how it is distributed and presented to the world? Was
this an intentional decision, or more just a product of circumstance?
Chris: Well the first two LPs are Painkiller, the 12″ EP is on Clean Plate, the 7″ EP is on Youngblood,
the split with Slang is on 540, and the Brutal Supremacy comp will be on Painkiller, so we’re
batting .500. In the beginning it was pretty much, “no one else is going to release this”. I already
had a label, it was just easier to do it “in-house”.
After Glacial Reign and some touring and shit, there was interest from outside parties and
I the band was going to do these two EPs back to back (Conscious/Unconscious and
Prodigal Son). I’d already released a couple things on Painkiller that year in other bands, and I felt
it wouldn’t really be right if I had all these things featuring myself come out on the label at one
time. So we just sort of ended up asking the people that I thought were trustworthy and that wouldn’t
be hard to deal with, hence Youngblood and Clean Plate. It’s good to know and trust the people who
are putting out records for your band. I’ve been ordering records from Youngblood since I was like 16
and got into hardcore, and you know over the years I’ve got to know Sean well enough where I know
he’s not skeevy. He’s been doing his label since like ’96 and always just done records of bands he likes,
never tried to make it into one of these assembly line labels that seem more like businesses. I respect that
in a big way. It started off with me and Justin joking “you know we should do a record on Youngblood”
since we don’t fit the profile at all, and then it was just like “fuck it, let’s do it”. Similar thing with
Clean Plate I guess. We recorded the first 2 lps with Will, and me and Justin had been to his studio to
record plenty of other stuff, and over time got to know him fairly well, a very likable and trustworthy guy
who had been doing records for a similarly long time. I think it helps both people not having an
assembly line mentality about the records they put out, because the releases actually get the same
attention to detail they would have if we did them on Painkiller. The split with Slang is really new,
Timmy who does 540 asked us to go with them on tour for a week and a half, and so we did this
new release, which is not normally our style but I think it came out cool. We don’t do a lot of records
and releases so I don’t wanna have strangers handling them. I keep a fairly tight reign on the
visual aspect of the band, and since 2007 I’ve recorded all our stuff too, so whatever, I’m a control
freak. The thing everyone has to accept is that you can’t really control the way people process
or interpret your music and so a lot of the time you spend trying to exercise control really ends up
being for yourself, more than others.
Justin: I know from experience that a good way to fuck up your band is to hand over too much control
to outside parties. Even if they have a vested interest, I feel it changes the dynamic of the
band entirely. We handle the business side ourselves and when we don’t we put it in the hands of
competent friends we know we can trust. Avoiding those type of headaches makes being in a band
so much more enjoyable.
Would you be interested in working with a stranger if there was a promise of a much larger
recording budget or promotion? Could that ever be a factor?
Chris: A couple offers have come down the pipe. Not a lot but maybe two or three that would be “larger
budget and promotion”. Honestly I’ve never had a moment where I was like “if only we had more
money we could…” or “if only we had a bigger push behind this record we would…” so none of the
offers have been that appealing. I don’t want to be thrown into one of these assembly lines because
I think it actually takes something away from the band that you can never get back. I’m not saying
I’d never do it with any band, but I don’t think I would with this one. Honestly I don’t think it would
actually help us much. Most people do this to get money for tour support and recording. We don’t
tour almost ever, never for more than a week if we do, and we have our own means of recording so
we don’t need expensive studio time. Some people make this decision to expand their fanbase but I
mean we’re pretty limited as far as that goes. Even if we increased the people into us by a couple
hundred, there’d be just as many who wouldn’t be interested now that we were on some large indie
label. Honestly I’m pretty content with the number of people that come to see us when we play out,
I don’t usually sit down after and go “man if we could just get like 50 more in here next time…”
Justin: Like I mentioned before, I don’t really care too much about promotion but I can’t help but
find the promise of a studio budget enticing. It’s not that I want some slicked out recording with fake
sounding guitars and drums tracks looking like math homework all lined up perfectly on a grid, but it could
be fun to have the money to work with someone who I think makes really great sounding records.
I hear a lot of different influences in Mind Eraser, running a pretty wide scope through hardcore
and metal’s various sub-genres. The only omission I’ve really considered is the lack of
any black metal influence. Am I missing it?
Chris: Yea and no. There are certain bands that are important to me. I take after the 80’s definition
of black metal more than what they call black metal now. Bathory, Mercyful Fate, Venom, Sodom…
those bands have all had a major effect on me, and song writing and presentation, as well as just…
those are all bands I really love that made great records and have had an effect on me on a spiritual
level. I don’t care for most modern black metal, it’s just not for me. Brendan, our drummer, is pretty
immersed in present-day black metal and he’s played me some cool stuff that’s really moving, but I
consider myself a total outsider. I feel like its been a bit trendy in hardcore of late to name-check
black metal bands… I don’t really care for this either. Most of the ones I like are early 90’s bands
that came from death and thrash anyway.
Justin: I agree for the most part. I love all the bands Chris mentioned along with all the classic recordings
by Darkthrone, Mayhem, etc., but I’m not really much of a black lord to be honest.
What would you recommend as an under-the-radar or under-appreciated ’90s metal
record that I could pick up an original for say, under $25? One that you consider to be
incredibly high quality for the cost. Does anything that cheap even exist in today’s market?
Chris: I don’t want to come off like a know-it-all. I got into underground music through hardcore
and punk. Eventually in my 20’s I started listening to metal, I’d say it’s about an even split 50/50 now,
but you know, it was a later addition to my diet. Okay but… the short answer to your question. I think
for like well-known bands, the first Paradise Lost LP is so good but like never really discussed; Justin
pushed me to buy that one. Total $10 LP that you’ll spin again and again. Also the final Saint Vitus
album Die Healing is shockingly good. It just got pressed on vinyl for the first time so that kind
of doesn’t fit your question, but it totally tears just like their more “classic releases”. Ummm… less
known. My pet project for the last couple years was obtaining every release on the Seraphic Decay
label, and there’s a lot of pricier joints on there like the first Mortician 7″, the Abhorence 7″,
Demigod/Necropsy split LP, Death Yell 7″, but there’s some totally overlooked cheapies that are
fkn’ great. Messiah Paratroops 7″ has a stupid name but is a totally awesome Finnish death thrash
ripper. There’s still stock copies that turn up sometimes for like $5 and it’s a total repeat player. The
Monastery 7″ on Seraphic is totally never talked about and it’s one of the best on the label. It’s a side
project of Sinister and Entombed members but it’s really a bit more raw and punky, almost like they’re
trying to do a band like Master. The songs are all really short, like one-and-a-half or two minutes.
The Belial Wisdom In Darkness 12″ just got reissued, but my favorite is the Gods Of The Pit Pt. II
7″ they did right after you can still get pretty cheap on the Moribund label. Gods of the Pit Pt. I
was actually a killer demo release too, the only ripoff design Mind Eraser has ever done was a shirt
with the art from Gods of the Pit Pt. I on it. There’s a lot of demo only stuff out there that’s
totally killer too, obviously; same as punk and hardcore. “Under-rated” is all pretty relative. Relative to
Left Hand Path, Clandestine is pretty under-rated, and like a $10 record. the ’90s are a crazy time
for metal because there were some of the best years in the first half, and some of the absolute worst
in the second half. Consider that majorly influential releases in death, doom, and black metal all came
out in the first half of the ’90s. Records that are still being emulated in some cases by hundreds of bands.
Justin: I’m not a record collector so I’ll leave this one for Chris to answer, however if you see the
Crypt Of Kerberos Cyclone Of Insanity single you should pick that up before every single good
’90s death metal record balloons in price. Matter of fact, maybe they already have…
You guys usually play fast. Are there any doom/drone/stoner-metal bands or
musicians that have really affected how you play or write music for Mind Eraser?
Chris: For sure. Tom Warrior and me are similar guys I think. We have big ideas and limited skills. I’ve
learned a lot from Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. It’s an obvious pick, but it’s a big one. I think Dave
Chandler from Saint Vitus is kind of the same way. So probably those are the big ones that have
rubbed off on my playing. There’s a lot of stuff… the first couple years of Mind Eraser I felt
was like Justin going “check out this band; you’ll like them” to me, and it would be you know… Trouble
or Cathedral or Winter. Bands I listen to all the time now. This question’s kind of funny, some
people in the past have said we don’t have enough fast stuff.
Justin: There may have been a tiny bit of it on the first record but we didn’t really start adding doom
elements until the second LP Glacial Reign. All the releases from then on have it in my
opinion, especially Conscious/Unconscious.
I think you balance it pretty well, honestly. Do you think about that when making a record,
that you want the balance between fast/slow to be somewhat even?
Justin: I feel as though we have been pretty spontaneous as far as song writing goes. We did sort
of have a game plan for what we wanted to do on Conscious/Unconscious before Chris started
writing the riffs but I would say that’s the one exception.
Chris: No, there’s no science to it really. I mean if I feel like we need a slow one after a few fast ones
we just kinda do it.
Suppose you were hanging out with someone who said “death metal is corny and wimpy”.
What would you play for them or what would you say to change their mind? Of course, it’s purely
hypothetical that you would ever find yourself in such lousy company, but humor me, if you don’t mind.
Chris: I guess maybe it would depend on the person, but there’s no big secrets. First two Autopsy
LPs are a pretty surefire starting point. Nihilist demos, the first Unleashed album, Grave Into the
Grave, pretty much any Bolt Thrower… I guess I would base recommendations off this person’s
other tastes. I guess some people would go obscure, but it’s the same for hardcore. If you want
someone to understand why it’s cool you just play them Victim In Pain. If they don’t connect,
it’s probably a lost cause.
Justin: Demigod Unholy Domain. If they find that “wimpy” then they are more man than I’ll ever be.
You’re offered access to the full musical archives of either SST or Earache – which do you choose?
Chris: You know… that’s funny. Earache is kind of the new SST. At one time so relevant, and now
just a total garbage dump. I guess at least Earache still kind of releases new bands that fit
their established profile. That said, I’d go with SST by a long shot. Who knows what weird shit’s
kicking around there? ‘Flag outtakes would make it worth it for sure. For most of Earache’s artists,
everything they’ve done is known. Theoretically you could walk into the SST Fortress and find an
unheard Black Flag session or Saint Vitus outtakes or something; you’re not going to walk into
Earache HQ and find anything like that. Maybe if you’re lucky some Pitchshifter remixes.
Justin: This is the hardest question you’ve asked all interview long!
Anxiety Pathetic EP 12″ (Social Napalm)
Killer EP from yet another group of knuckleheads outta Massachusetts. Has anyone checked the synthetic hormone level in Boston’s milk supply lately? Anxiety has a raw hardcore sound that intersects a few crucial points, namely mid-’90s Cleveland (think H100s, Inmates) and early ’80s Mutha Records (The Worst and Mental Abuse come to mind). Ragged, nasty and raw hardcore with sentiments like “I hate the fuckin’ human race” and “stop breeding / you are the problem, I am the cure” at every lyrical turn, the type of universal hatred that any half-decent punk can get behind. Anxiety also bring the occasional mosh part to the table, perhaps unavoidable due to their proximity to Boston, and it works well. A couple of stupidly great, punched-in guitar solos, courtesy of Mind Eraser’s Chris Corry, only sweeten the deal. Factor in the great goofball cut-and-paste artwork and you’ve got what very well might be my favorite hardcore record of the year.
Bastard Noise A Culture of Monsters LP (Deep Six)
Quickly following their fantastic split with The Endless Blockade, Bastard Noise are back once more in bass/drums mode with A Culture of Monsters, proudly serving the skull. It’s heavy as hell, churning more than pummeling, and a bit more grandiose than previous Man Is The Bastard records – not quite as raw as say, the Capitalist Casualties split (certainly one of the greatest hardcore splits of my generation). Still, the first couple minutes of “Me and Hitler” are as possessed and gnarly as anything else Eric Wood has created, and there is no mistaking A Culture of Monsters for anything other than a brutal onslaught. Besides the hardcore-prog we’ve come to love, Bastard Noise throw a few curveballs on here: the spoken word intro is an excellent way to get into the proper headspace for the duration of A Culture of Monsters, but what is one to make of the weird Jarboe-esque crooning in “A Silent Night in the Horrible Garden”? Or the even more peculiar ballad that follows, “If Another World…”, which sounds like Antony & The Johnsons covering Kate Bush? Yes, this is still the Bastard Noise review. It sounds nuts, and it is, but Bastard Noise pull it off. They wrap things up with the nice n’ lengthy “Interior War”, which ends with a fired-up, gridlocked Eric Wood (pretty sure that’s his voice) ranting about how he wants to just jam and destroy all “stupefucks”. When the war against the stupefucks takes place, I’ll be right by his side.
Benga Phaze: One 2×12″ (Tempa)
There will always be a spot reserved in my heart for Benga’s “Night”, due to its possession of one of the squirmiest, queasiest basslines I’ve ever heard, inclusive of all genres. After my enjoyment of the recent Skream single, and with my hope that the Tempa crew is still blowing minds like they were a couple years back, I was unfortunately disappointed by Phaze: One. Across these four sides, Benga never really ventures outside of his safe space: the rhythms are slow and creeping, the bass is wobbly and vibrant, and the whole thing is performed effortlessly and unenthusiastically, to the point where predictability reigns over creativity. This is essentially the same sound I heard on Benga’s Diary of an Afro Warrior, which I really dig, yet I was hoping for something fresh with this new release, not a rerun. I’m not saying I want Benga to just follow the pack and sound like Ramadanman and Joy Orbison, it’s just that I’m not sensing a lot of inspiration here; it’s as if Benga is content to just do what he does and challenge neither himself nor the listener. I dig the titles, like “Rock Music” and “Your Band (Descending)”, but the music doesn’t quite live up to how I hoped they’d sound. I’m assuming the enumerated title confirms that a second “phaze” is forthcoming – hopefully Benga is just getting fired up for that one.
Blawan Fram / Iddy 12″ (Hessle Audio)
A new Hessle Audio 12″ with nonsense song titles from some unusual new name that is probably just another alias of some young dubstep producer who already has multiple other aliases? Don’t mind if I do! “Fram” is pretty fast and great, melding that intricate Hessle Audio percussion with a distant and hushed vocal, T++ style. He pairs that with a real nice synth line that sounds like an Audi shifting gears as it blows by minivans on the freeway. “Iddy” starts with the sound of scissors chopping and that same creepy T++ whisper (or is it a field recording from a bird sanctuary?) before busting into a hardcore drumline workout. I really enjoy the contrast of banging drums and subtle creepy synth, of which Blawan’s debut is bountiful. For whatever reason, I wasn’t expecting this one to stack up to the rest of the Hessle Audio catalog, but shame on me, Fram / Iddy pursues excellence just the same.
Boys Noize & Erol Alkan Avalanche / Lemonade 12″ (Phantasy Sound)
Boys Noize and Erol Alkan are like the Batman and Robin of electro-house, consistently saving the day and quipping one-liners as they knock out the bad guys. Last year’s Waves / Death Suite got me hooked, so there was no passing up this delightfully-titled new single. “Avalanche” sticks with their modern-Knight Rider vision, conjuring images of an all-black Mercedes racing across a desert with no particular destination. These guys know how to build a track ’til it explodes, and they do that a few times in “Avalanche” to thrilling effect. “Lemonade” is a little sweeter, as expected, with a punchy, Daft Punk-esque riff and lots of fresh pulp mingling amongst the ice cubes. A perfect compliment to the summer heat. I’m not crazy about all Boys Noize, but his collaborations with Erol Alkan have been nothing short of great. As focused and sweat-laced as the tennis pros adorning the picture sleeve.
Danzig Deth Red Sabaoth LP (The End / Evilive)
Danzig’s first two albums are not only classics, they are classics that I routinely enjoy, as I frequently holler along to “Killer Wolf” or “Am I Demon” as fellow rush-hour commuters gawk, surely wishing they too were possessed by the man un-ironically nicknamed “Evil Elvis”. Deth Red Sabaoth is Danzig’s ninth proper album, pretty far removed from Danzig and Danzig II: Lucifuge, but his dark essence and one-in-a-million vocal style remain strong. I mean seriously, Danzig could sing for Passion Pit and it’d still just sound like Danzig. I miss John Christ’s subtle and groovy riffage, not to mention his name, but the band’s modern, almost nu-metal approach isn’t the laughing-stock it could be. “The Revengeful” is built to be a pro-wrestling entrance theme, as its basic riff commands headbanging and respect, with the perfect chorus for Danzig’s glorious howl. Can’t say I ever really wanted double-bass from Danzig’s drummer, but after getting used to the idea on “Rebel Spirits”, it certainly has its place within the overall sound of Deth Red Sabaoth. He’s still got the ballads (“Black Candy” carries the perfect combo of cheesy and stone-faced, and “On A Wicked Night” starts like a lullaby), and even though I might not make it through all eleven tracks every time I sit down with Deth Red Sabaoth, Danzig refuses to let me down.
Deadboy Cash Antics Vol. 1 12″ (Well Rounded)
Dubstep-infused R&B anthems aren’t what I’d expect from a guy named “Deadboy”, but whatever, I can get into it. “Way That I Love U” is a thick remix of Ashanti’s song of the same name, with a pleasurable bass boost, Joker-style synth work and various electronic effects sprinkled throughout. Deadboy seems to squeeze more emotion out of the vocal than I remember on the original; perhaps sweltering bass has that effect on any diva. Deadboy remixes a couple Cassie tracks on the flip – the first, “Unofficial Girl”, is spun deep into the UK dubstep arena, sounding more like a Joy Orbison original than a pop remix. “Long Way 2 Go” has a thuggish, David Banner swagger and a Kode9 shine, a nice display of just how complimentary the disparate tastes of American R&B and UK dubstep can be.
Defektors The Bottom of the City LP (Nominal / Grotesque Modern)
Deviants of all stripes, take note – there is hardly a modern punk rock band more worthy of your attention than Defektors. Pretty sure they released a single or two before this album, but it usually takes me more than a whim to pony up the Canadian shipping costs these days, which unfortunately left me blissfully ignorant of their greatness prior to The Bottom of the City. I hope those early records aren’t as good as The Bottom of the City, or else I’ll have to make that sacrifice, as this album is impeccable in both aesthetic and execution. Musically, Defektors tie together both coasts through the classic Dangerhouse bands (Eyes, Dils, X) and the nascent CBGBs punk scene (Richard Hell, Dead Boys), all with a healthy Wipers sheen. It’s great to hear a modern punk band working these Time Life: History of Punk influences, rather than relying on Killed By Death comps for aesthetic guidance, as everyone has already out-obscured everyone else, we’ve all got the Internet at this point, and when it all comes down to it, those classic punk bands of yore wrote some of the best songs of all time, even if you’re personally content with never hearing “Los Angeles” or “Blank Generation” again. It’s a hard style to own in this day and age, with a good thirty years of both failed and successful attempts, but Defektors wear it so well, balancing discordant and epic on “Bottom of the City” and just totally kicking things into high-gear with “Shadow of Fear” and “Doomsday Girl”. Lots of great choruses, a killer vocalist with nothing to prove, and a tough attitude make this one impossible to not recommend. Defektors’ peers can do the whole “look at me, I’m crazy” thing all they want, I’m going to hang with Defektors and try to pretend I’m as cool as they are.
Effi Briest Rhizomes LP (Sacred Bones)
Effi Briest have been kicking around Brooklyn (and maybe England?) for a few years now, but Rhizomes is my first experience with them. It’s kind of what I expected: mopey and slow post-punk with a female vocalist capable of either soft or shrieky (and often both). Effi Briest have received comparisons to the Slits, and I can see that in a way, Effi Briest approach their songs with a whole lot more caution and restraint, playing slow enough that mistakes simply don’t occur. Don’t come to Effi Briest looking for a boost of energy; this is not the soundtrack to an Ohio to New York overnight drive, nor will it pump you up enough to break your gym’s deadlift record. The whole vibe reminds me a lot of The xx, although Effi Briest are far more run-of-the-mill and write songs in a much more predictable gothy-post-punk format. The hooks are few and far between, which isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s just that most of these songs are over five minutes each (or at least feel that way) with nothing to command my focus. I’d love to get lost in the gray mist of Effi Briest, they just have to pull me in first.
Emeralds Does It Look Like I’m Here? 2xLP (Editions Mego)
Emeralds made easy fodder for “edition of 22 numbered cassettes of the guitarist eating breakfast” jokes, with a discography to rival the Hellacopters in just a few short years of existence. I enjoyed Allegory of Allergies, but felt the tracks were a bit too long to really appreciate, as they drifted without the direction I look for in my drone music. Does It Look Like I’m Here is a huge step in the right direction, as it works the same touchstones as Emeralds’ earlier material but with a focused, sharp delivery. I don’t think any of these cuts break ten minutes, whereas previously, the average Emeralds track demanded a chunk of time I could’ve spent completing an episode of Seinfeld. Could’ve sworn they were noisier in the past, too, or at least of lower fidelity, as everything on here is crisp, clear and gorgeous. Quite worthy of the hype! They go from bubbly ambiance and serene meditation to krauty rhythms and masterful epics like “Genetic”, clearly influenced by elder synth wizards like Tangerine Dream and J.D. Emmanuel, yet with a gaze aimed upward, toward the future. The answer to the album title is obvious: Emeralds have clearly arrived.
Excision & Datsik Boom / Swagga (Remixes) 12″ (Rottun)
Ever wish Michael Bay would retire from film-making… and start making dubstep techno? Well, allow me to introduce you to the combo of Excision and Datsik. The graphics for the DJ sleeve and center stickers feature some sort of Alien / Predator / Deceptacon hybrid anyway; it’s clear that these guys are on the right tip. Same goes for the tunes – “Boom (Skism Remix)” is utterly massive, robotic and violent, like one of those Transformers fight scenes where you have no idea what’s happening, except in this case, you can headbang to it. “Swagga (Downlink Remix)” keeps the vibe going, with some truly wild bass sounds and a mean voice yelling “guess I got my swagga back” every now and then. I understand that this music is only going to please a small slice of the general population, but I often crave gnarly, explosive-bass dubstep, and my action figures and Nintendo games are all boxed up in my parents’ attic… how can you hold this against me?
Innergaze We Are Strange Loops LP (Touch Your Life)
Aurora Halal and Jason Letkiewicz are Innergaze, two dance freaks bonded over synths and the many waves they can create. I knew of Letkiewicz from his Rhythm-Based Lovers project, so I was expecting some sort of breakin’ electro-boogie from Innergaze, but We Are Strange Loops is funky in a new-wave way; sure, it’s all analog synths and vintage drum machines, but the mix of warm and icy tones along with disaffected, dual-gendered vocals sets Innergaze up as a modern, dancy homage to 80’s homespun synth music. Authenticity isn’t some badge of honor that I think this sort of music needs to be judged by, because who can really prove what is or isn’t authentic synth-pop anyway, but Innergaze are the closest contemporary link to The Minimal Tapes that I’ve heard – just check the botched New Order riff and mumbled vocal on “Reception-Deception” and tell me otherwise. It’s a great sound, lightly restricted by its DIY fidelity, but nevertheless vibrant, party-ready, cheerful and melancholy all at the same time, with a BPM that changes smartly throughout the record. Most importantly, Innergaze come across as a group writing songs, not just loops and sounds, which has kept me digging this album deep into the night.
La Corde Back in Salem / Urban Burqa 7″ (no label)
Don’t let the cartoony cover art fool you into thinking this sounds like the Ergs or something, La Corde let their monochromatic, patina-riddled music set the mood. Simple and understated is a good way to go when it comes to guitar-led post-punk, so even though nothing about La Corde is sweeping me off my feet, I can easily get down with their vibe. “Back in Salem” has a punked-up Joy Division style, with a warbly vocal holler just far back enough in the mix, not unlike the way the old Camera Obscura on Troubleman used to do it (sans fuzz or feedback). La Corde mix the old and the recent in their sound, and it works. “Urban Burqa” acts similarly, with a spindly little guitar-line that gets theatrical through the chorus, flavored by a touch of Comsat Angels or Killing Joke for good measure. La Corde didn’t over-think things with their debut two-song single and I appreciate their restraint.
La Urss Product LP (Todo Destruido)
I didn’t make it to Chaos in Tejas, but I read the reports, and La Urss sounded particularly interesting: a young, Spanish punk band bribing Mexican officials to cross the border, along with a singer who clawed at his own chest ’til he bled onstage. Product doesn’t live up to that level of mayhem, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. Pretty classic second-generation punk rock, ala early 80s Alternative Tentacles or the P.E.A.C.E. compilation, blended into a leopard-print smoothie, with a male singer who sounds like a mix of Jello Biafra and Kathleen Hanna. Depending on just how East Bay Ray the guitars get, La Urss can really let their Dead Kennedys flag fly, but a little DK worship never did any harm. Cool hand-screened chipboard sleeve design too, although it comes across a little more solemn then I think these guys really are, since they are sneering and smiling and dressed like Operation Ivy in all the pictures of them I’ve seen.
Ninca Leece Feed Me Rainbows 12″ (Thesongsays)
The first Skittles-inspired techno record? Ninca Leece is a French electronic artist who uses her breathy accent to a very sweet effect on “Feed Me Rainbows”. Her voice reminds me a bit of AGF’s, in its comfortingly soft foreign accent and clunky cadence, whispering over glitchy beats. This track’s a slow builder, rising from the sun-bleached aether into a quietly-funky house beat, never fully rising up, instead content to just turn over in bed on a perfect morning. I can hear butterflies flapping their wings and Cupid playing a trumpet softly on a cloud, and if I really concentrate, someone singing “Activia!” in the distance. Entirely pleasant and soothing, if not quite dancefloor-appropriate. The flip is a remix by Public Lover, who is apparently the duo of Leece and her techno husband, Bruno Pronsato. The remix definitely has a Pronsato vibe, with a rubbery beat and vocals processed through a twisting double-helix of effects and filters, creating a welcome complexity in contrast with the original. On the whole, it’s a subtle record, but one that glows warmly in the early light.
Mount Carmel Mount Carmel LP (Siltbreeze)
Even the most knowledgeable Acid Archives historian could be fooled into thinking this Mount Carmel debut is some long-lost gem, as it doesn’t sound remotely like 2010 – it doesn’t even sound like a modern band trying to sound like they’re from the ’60s. No, this is pure 1967-68 blues rock, as tried and true as a pair of Levi’s shrink-to-fit 501s. Every move Mount Carmel makes follows this aesthetic; I am honestly wondering if I haven’t already seen their name listed as an opening act on some classic Blue Cheer or Cream gig poster. They’ve even got an extended drum solo in “Hear Me Callin” and a track called “Studio Jam” that you can easily figure out. There is certainly nothing even remotely new here, which for Mount Carmel is a blessing. There is something holy and universal about this sort of power-trio rock music, it’s utterly impossible to dislike, and while the originators are either dead or scooping up all the car commercial money (or both), Mount Carmel are the dudes keeping the flame alive.
Nerve City Sleepwalker EP 12″ (Sacred Bones)
I really hated that Nerve City single on Hozac, still do, but Sleepwalkers offers some slight redemption. It still sounds like it was recorded from inside a tumbleweed, but this go around, I can actually hear what is happening, and it’s not half bad. Lonely, twangy, lo-fi blues with vocals sung by a cowboy’s ghost, warning you of drought and vultures in the next canyon. In a weird way, these songs are kind of pleasant in their scratchiness, as if this is what you heard upon finding out your grandfather wrote some songs while he was in jail. The hooks and vocalist aren’t so strong that I’m willing to sit through this more than once in a while, but I no longer mind what I hear from Nerve City.
Nuel Aquaplano Ltd 01 12″ (Aquaplano)
Nuel’s collaborations with Donato Dozzy had me searching for the vinyl like a man who lost his wedding ring in a hot tub, so why not investigate his solo efforts? I assume this one’s “limited”, as the title implies (and all Aquaplano releases are hard to come by anyway), but thankfully I snagged one. Five untitled cuts on here, ranging from atmospheric dancefloor meditations (the opener is a slow tug towards the cliff of some electronic infinity edge pool) to Basic Channel-inspired minimal techno (the first track on the flip sounds like Maurizio jamming with a heart monitor). I can dig deeply into Echospace and Basic Channel and any sort of dub techno that provides a foreboding sense of danger along with its euphoria, and Nuel is particularly stunning with this specific craft, happy to help the listener step outside his or her mind for a little while.
Pearson Sound Down With You / Higher 12″ (Darkestral Galaxicos)
Always nice to hear something new from Pearson Sound, my second favorite of David Kennedy’s nom de plumes (he’s also the superstar best known as Ramadanman). First off, I appreciate the use of colored vinyl and an actual record cover, this one sporting a sinister-looking version of Asteroids on the cover, a fleet of indestructible bosses waiting to disintegrate your puny vessel. An interesting contrast to the music, as “Down With You” is some of Kennedy’s mellowest work, still utilizing a frantic tin-can percussion loop, but cushioned by a soothing vocal and eletronic ambiance. Very understated. “Higher” has more of a push but is equally esoteric, emphasized by the hushed giggling and hoarse whispering mingling with various bird calls and subtle synths. An unessential yet tight single that melds Kennedy’s more experimental leanings with a straightforward and chill vibe.
ROTFLOL Rolling on the Floor Laughing Out Loud LP (Audio Dregs)
ROTFLOL is the solo moniker of Jacob Ciocci, the little mustachioed guy from Paper Rad and Extreme Animals, voted “most likely to wear a tie-dyed t-shirt with old Furbys and Burger King crowns sewn into the fabric” in his high school yearbook. Either you love his neon regurgitation of kid culture from the past two decades, or you don’t, but there’s no denying the sheer will-power and endless stamina Ciocci has for creating his art. Personally, I love the stuff, and Rolling on the Floor Laughing Out Loud is a fine retrospective of his work from the past ten years, featuring songs that were used as Paper Rad video soundtracks, previously unreleased club jams, and dance tracks created on antiquated computer systems. It helps to stare at his overstimulated collage art while listening, but the songs themselves hold up on their own: furious little grooves that borrow freely from 90’s rave culture, video game soundtracks, direct Justin Timberlake and Salt N’ Pepa rips – it’s all in there. This package comes with a digital download of the album with extended tracks, as well as a DVD; you only need some lukewarm Hot Pockets and a tall glass of Hi-C Ecto Cooler to complete the sensory experience.
Rusko O.M.G.! CD (Mad Decent)
Okay, so there’s a British dubstep guy named Rusko, and a British dubstep guy named Roska. These dudes never make it easy, do they? They both trade in party music for high-capacity venues, but Rusko seems most poised to cross over to the mainstream, as his club-step (see what I did there?) owes more to modern R&B radio and Diplo’s signature style than say, Burial or Skream. I’ve marveled at the YouTube videos of Rusko DJing at Control with a sea of people going nuts, and O.M.G.! is specifically meant for such a situation – party music that checks dancehall riddims, diva vocal hooks, wobbly dubstep bass, Lil’ Jon-esque refrains, Timbaland-inspired beats, and American rap posturing off the list. And like any modern club-pop album, O.M.G.! has some fantastic tracks and a bunch that just drag along (“Scareware” in particular seems much longer than its four-and-a-half-minute run time). Fine as it is, I’ll probably forget this album exists in a couple months, but I will continue to dream about crossing the Atlantic, just to witness Rusko driving hundreds of young men and women to the sweat-drenched brink of euphoria.
Sex Church 6 Songs by Sex Church LP (Convulsive)
I missed Sex Church’s debut single on Sweet Rot, but the impression I got of the band sounded cool: goth-punk with teeth. If that was the case, they have matured a little on 6 Songs, going back to the original goth rockers, the Velvet Underground, for some inspiration. There isn’t much in the way of unhinged freak-outs on here, rather Sex Church strum their single-string riffs with a sunglasses-at-night coolness, almost as if Spacemen 3 wrote songs with punk rock verse/chorus structures. They follow a couple fuzzed-out rockers with a heroin ballad like “The Floor”, allowing them room to grow without sounding unfocused. Hope this band tours soon, their sound allows for a wide variety of hairstyles (mop-tops, long n’ greasy, pretty much anything but dreads) and I want to see what they’ve chosen. On a side note, is Convulsive on the Sacred Bones tip or what? I understand that these labels are good buds, but we’ve got “Convulsive Records Presents” on the front of a silk-screened white jacket with the label logo on the back of a moody and gothy post-punk record… there are far worse labels to imitate, no doubt.
Sis Sceam / Break Down 12″ (Cocoon)
I always have to go searching for new Sis records, he just doesn’t get a whole lot of internet promotion (at least in my daily web travels), but my effort has always been worth it. Besides being a proof-reader’s nightmare, “Sceam” is Sis just as I want him to be: bouncy, fun, slightly druggy, and based around a memorable vocal loop. The main vocal on this one sounds like some sort of melodic asthma attack, which is soon aided by various other singers and moaners, building wonderfully towards a Cocoon-worthy level of revelry. “Break Down” is less ecstatic and moodier, one of Sis’s house cool-downs, although the repetitive vocal loop (guess which two words are said) is nearly as catchy as the a-side. I really get a lot of mileage out of Sis’s continually expanding discography, one that seems undisturbed by modern trends and completely comfortable with just pounding out infectious tech-house and sticking a tiny colored umbrella on top. I’m still playing his records from the past few years on a regular basis so something must be working.
Alex O. Smith Ultra Fine One 12″ (FXHE)
My main gripe with No Fun Acid was that it came across without any flair, chutzpah or attitude, sounding like someone just turned on a 303, set the dial to preset sequence #07 and let it rip. Ultra Fine One is a perfect example of how to make modern acid music the right way, and a fine addition to my ever-expanding FXHE collection. Sticking with the Alex O. Smith name, Mr. S is on fire with both “Ultra Fine One” and “Ultra Fine Two”, swapping out hi-hat ticks, pumping or deflating the bass, echoing some claps and just expertly kneading the ripply acid line like clay on a potter’s wheel. Some guys just have techno in their blood. The last cut is named “Mid 90’s”, making it clear that Omar S and myself have had two very different experiences of that decade; it’s another fine acid workout with a meaty thump. The vinyl plays from the inside out and doesn’t even come with a DJ sleeve, although there’s really no reason Ultra Fine One should be sitting on anyone’s shelf for too long.
Kurt Vile Square Shells EP 12″ (Matador)
Not one to rest on his laurels, even as he is deep within the trenches of early fatherhood, Kurt Vile is back with another brief collection of new-and-old music. When held up against Childish Prodigy, or God Is Saying This To You, Square Shells has been the most immediately satisfying of the three, probably because it takes all of ten seconds until the hook of opener “Ocean City” is indelibly etched into one’s brain. This one’s new to me and a satisfyingly silly little tune, Kurt strumming his acoustic rather than picking, the type of song that can be performed competently through any level of sobriety. One of my favorite early demo cuts finally gets the proper treatment here too, “I Know I Got Religion”, boasting some of his finest lyrics to date (“I stopped using picks, just another thing between me and my guitar”, among other gems) and a pitch-perfect melody. Vile also offers a chill-wave version of an interlude that already made it on a different release, titled here as “Losing Momentum (for Jim Jarmusch)”; I think the other version is off Constant Hitmaker, I certainly recognize that brooding little guitar lick no matter what the speed. I love little replays like that; I’ll never tire of Kurt Vile’s various self-references throughout every release. Maybe it’s the brevity of Square Shells that promotes such a high level of enjoyment, but regardless, this stop-gap EP has more than enough essential Vile to be considered a worthy addition to the family.
Wolfgang Voigt Freiland Klaviermusik CD (Profan)
I’ve always considered Wolfgang Voigt to be a charming figure, never caught in public without wearing a tailored suit, and as quick to offer houseguests a thoughtfully arranged amuse-bouche as he is to create entire new genres of electronic music (both pop-ambient and minimal techno are covered in his fingerprints). I missed the Freiland Klaviermusik 12″ from a couple years ago, so this new one completely took me by surprise – this is Voigt at his most diabolical, unhinged and antagonistic, a far cry from anything ambient or pop. The entire album is based around the piano or harpsichord (most likely synthesized, but who knows for sure), sometimes backed with a repetitive bass pulse, sometimes performed solely on the right side of the keyboard without any rhythmic sense of motion. This might sound bland, except for the fact that Voigt plays the piano in such a maddeningly off-key way, like multiple small children banging on the keys, or some particularly sloppy Conlon Nancarrow piece, as if Voigt’s aim is to peel away the listener’s sanity. And he succeeds! Freiland Klaviermusik is utterly frightening at times, grating at others, and occasionally menacing… but mostly grating. Save for “Geduld”, this is not even remotely dance music, this is what plays in your head when you’re trying to fall asleep in a bedroom with a confirmed bedbug infestation, just waiting for those little guys to crawl out of the cracks and dig in as soon as you lose consciousness. Voigt has completely flipped the script with this hilarious fick dich of a record, so exasperating that I simply can’t stop playing it.
The Wankys / Lotus Fucker split 7″ (Katorga Works / SPHC)
If Yellow Green Red had a buzz bin, I’d gladly throw this astringent split single in there. The Wankys and Lotus Fucker toured the US together in June, commemorated by a poster that comes with the record (forever immortalized as the “Noisy Summer US Tour”). In case you missed them in your town, or the cider spills they left behind have fully dried, The Wankys offer three tracks of noise-punk in the proud tradition of Disorder and Confuse, if maybe a little sillier than those originators – for example, their side starts with a song called “Princess Wanky”, based on a riff that sounds a whole lot like Kiss’s “Deuce”. Nice and snotty, these songs stayed with me longer than their material on the Exit Hippies split, perhaps due to the more manageable portion size. I’ve been eager to hear Lotus Fucker, despite hearing that they are Anime freaks (I’ve yet to find a satisfying Anime/hardcore mix), and with these two tracks they make The Wankys sound like The Riverdales by comparison. Lotus Fucker kick it off with a massive grind blast, followed by various breakdowns, d-beats and passages of feedback, completely crazed yet never verging screamo. I still haven’t figured out where the first song ends and the second begins, but who cares? Time to track down their LP.
Wild Thing Age Difference 7″ (Daggerman)
I’m fond of bands with names that are so obvious, they should’ve been used dozens of times before, but somehow haven’t been. I know this band is hated/beloved for being provocative and “telling it like it is”, and I can get behind a punk rock loudmouth, but I’m not sure Wild Thing has the songs to really back it up just yet. Opener “(Now I Wanna Die In A) Nuclear War” is as generic as the title, but it’s a good generic, fast and simple and hectic, with a nice little overdubbed bored-guy vocal on the chorus. The other two tracks lose me a little… “Age Difference” ain’t bad; it reminds me of Nodzzz, or some other young garage band that carries a separate stash of lunch money specifically for the bullies. “I’m Smoking (Leave Me Alone)” has a cool, Loli and the Chones-worthy premise, but the song never quite picks up momentum. It’s their second single, so these guys could still grow into something better, but they haven’t yet earned the Dwarves-esque level of misogyny that their artwork so desperately portrays.