Art Yard The Law / Something In Your Eyes 7″ (Ride The Snake)
I admire any label who seems to take the “wouldn’t it be cool if this existed on vinyl?” approach to releasing records, Ride The Snake certainly being one of them. I don’t think the indie underground was a-buzz in hopes of a reissue of the two Art Yard songs featured on a Propeller Product compilation cassette from 1981, but that’s how Ride The Snake rolls. And I don’t know about you, but my new-wave compilation-cassette collection is pretty weak, so I appreciate these two snappy, skinny-tie post-punk cuts that I never would’ve heard otherwise. Both songs are pretty sweet, the type of single that, had it been released by Bomp! in 1981, would probably sell for $15-20 and work well alongside solid third-tier efforts by The Table or Pete Holly & The Looks. Add in the thoughtful (and kinda sad) liner notes from band member Bob Valentine and you can’t help but hand it to Ride The Snake for using the power of vinyl for good, not evil.

Avon Ladies Guns & Gold 7″ (Katorga Works)
Avon Ladies offer a pretty mean-spirited debut 7″, which I suppose is to be expected from H-100s and Pigeon Religion dudes. This sounds like music with a black rain-cloud following it down the street, as if Avon Ladies are only able to play guitar chords with their fingers in a frowning formation. You know the type: bands that try their hardest to get kicked out of a club and then complain when they do. You’d think the gold foil embossing on the cover would make them happy! But no, this is miserable, screechy stuff. It’s a good single, but I suggest you watch their live video on YouTube where the singer makes a stinky fuss about the cops to truly enhance one’s enjoyment of Guns & Gold. The records that come from this camp always seem to be more of an afterthought to the live show anyway. I actually was out at a record shop recently (me of all people!) and saw an impressionable youth in a neon-green Avon Ladies t-shirt – clearly this band has already hindered one life, as seems to be their intent. You can take the man out of Cleveland…

Balam Acab Wander / Wonder LP (Tri Angle)
It’s kinda funny that now that “witch house” is essentially a dead genre, all the good stuff starts to show up, particularly that recent Holy Other EP and this, Balam Acab’s debut full-length. Much like Holy Other, and pretty much 80% of the people making abstract, sad, slow and floaty techno, Balam Acab works the Burial vocal technique fast and frequently throughout Wander / Wonder. And while I admit the trend is reaching full capacity, Balam Acab makes smart use of this effect, managing to utilize it in a unique-enough way without infringing on his many contemporaries. Wander / Wonder is awfully gloomy, but unlike Burial or the many other producers evoking cold and wet city streets after midnight, Balam Acab conjures the dark calm right before sunrise. This isn’t a night of extended debauchery gone sour, it’s the disconcerting and introspective feeling you get while waiting for your plane to reach its gate after a particularly restless red-eye flight. The use of orchestral strings and choral, church-like vocal samples (rather than your usual tweaked R&B vocals) brings that vibe home, nicely complimented by the various water sounds (ebbing tides, the splish of Link running through a watery temple, a desktop electronic waterfall’s churn, etc.). The perfect soundtrack to a movie wherein Disney’s romantic characters peacefully lose their virginities to each other (just check “Now Time” and tell me you can’t picture Beauty and The Beast in post-nuptial bliss). Wander / Wonder provides me with lots of sweetly peculiar images like those I’ve mentioned here; I keep coming back for more.

Bestial Mouths Hissing Veil LP (Dais)
Ready for some goth-screamo? The very thought could be enough to spoil your breakfast, but Bestial Mouths have intrigued me enough to keep spinning Hissing Veil, even after determining that I don’t really care for it. Imagine if A Trillion Barnacle Lapse joined forced with Tearist and then kicked out the three least important band members and you’re in Bestial Mouths’ neighborhood. The drummer holds down the Witching Hour-style beats, and the vocalist wails lyrics like “convulsing in an ocean of flies” and “asexually committed to the waves of gold” with ten layers of reverb. Guitars and keyboards fill in the rest, but the songwriting seems to be an afterthought to the overall mood they are trying to establish. It’s cool that Bestial Mouths aren’t just throwing their hat in the Tamaryn / Zola Jesus race, and are playing a particularly aggressive and wild style of music… I just can’t get into it. The oddness of their approach has kept me coming back, as well as the Dais affiliation (for fear that I’m just not getting it), but I have determined that the audience that digs Hissing Veil isn’t one to include me.

Call Back The Giants The Rising LP (Kye)
It’s been a real hoot getting into Graham Lambkin’s Kye label lately… his peculiar aesthetic doesn’t seem to exist anywhere beyond this close-knit crew of weirdoes. If I had to recommend a Kye release, this Call Back The Giants LP is pretty great – Ex-Shadow Ring member Tim Goss and his step-daughter Chloe Mutter get meditative over brooding synths and sad organs. And yet, The Rising seems completely divorced from the modern cold-wave / minimal-synth / ’80s-nostalgia happening out there. It somehow toes the line between song-based music and synthesized non-music storytelling, completely abstract but without a wall of pretension to climb over. I guess it’s similar to Black To Comm at times, but whatever field recordings Call Back The Giants use here seem like inherent components of the music, not an intentional artistic move. Definite cerebral horror movie vibes, like a film that focuses on the main character’s intense spiral of paranoia and only ever reveals the ghoul in the final scene. Great vocals too, from Mutter’s sad angel lullabies to Goss’ malevolent super-computer speak. So many try to put together a dramatic work of disturbing musical fiction, but Call Back The Giants truly succeed. If your loved one already has all the Ghost Hunters DVDs, The Rising makes for the perfect stocking stuffer.

Jon Convex Radar / Vacuum States 12″ (Nonplus)
Jon Convex’s debut 12″ provided a triumphant musical experience, one that vindicates all the hours I spend trudging through mediocre techno samples, as he managed to create something fresh and new while bucking the trends of the day. I still spin it on the regular, so as soon as I found out about the existence of this follow-up, it was mine. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that “Radar” and “Vacuum States” don’t live up to Convex’s 3024 debut (it’s just too good), but as my initial disappointment has worn off, I am able to appreciate these two new tracks just the same. “Radar” is a meaty banger with just the right amount of angry synth stabs, versatile enough that it could work for both fetish club and Sprite commercial. “Vacuum States” has a nice and slippery bass line and similar tempo (I’m guessing like 125 bpm?), rolling through different moods and energies in its six-minute duration. The cover art kinda tells Convex’s tale, as his 3024 single featured a wild collage of color and street design, whereas Radar / Vacuum States looks like an advanced computer-graphics textbook cover. Either way, I am all over whatever he does next.

Cosmin TRG Simulat 2xLP (Fifty Weapons)
Ever since Cosmin TRG lured me in with the Jock Jams-style dubstep of his Now You Know EP, I’ve been sticking with Cosmin’s continual flow of 12″ singles, even though none of them have hit me with remotely the same impact. I guess it speaks of Cosmin TRG’s skill as a producer that he is able to keep me interested as a listener without any bona fide club smash or repeatable hook to really sink my teeth into. He maintains this track record with Simulat, which I believe is his only full length amidst countless EPs. There’s twelve songs across four sides, mostly four to five minutes long, the momentum never really slowing (or increasing). He’ll use some Hessle Audio-style bass slides, cold-wave clacks, shiny house keyboards, the gamut really, all to impressive effect. It’s odd, because for as much as I like listening to Simulat, I still can’t recall any particular track, or any moment that I am specifically thrilled to hear. Cosmin TRG is just so subtly good that I would happily give Simulat a whirl at any moment, yet not bright or expressive enough that I’d recommend it to a friend. I guess I’m still waiting for his next big moment, even as he maintains a mighty fine status quo.

COUM Transmissions Sugarmorphoses LP (Dais)
Dais continue to dig deep into the Genesis Breyer P-Orridge archives, a veritable Pandora’s box of avant-garde nonsense. I think it’s pretty clear that they started with the most listenable recording in the Early Worm reissue and continued to work farther from the center of comprehensible music with COUM Transmissions’ Sugarmorphoses. Quite simply, this is a recording of Breyer P-Orridge banging on a piano he painted blue in order to “play the blues” (haw haw), interspersed with random spoken-word recordings (this is what kids did before they had Twitter). It’s the sort of archival experience you really only need to hear once, or probably even not at all… the liner notes, describing the atmosphere and lifestyle that fostered this recording, are much more illuminating and entertaining (you could also just read them as you listen, which is cool too). I don’t know, it’s a beautifully-packaged record, and I appreciate Dais’ dedication to unearthing P-Orridge’s history in a stately manner, I just can’t imagine anyone but the utmost superfans savoring repeated tastes of Sugarmorphoses.

Drainolith You Paid For It / Deepwater No Cars 7″ (Psychic Handshake)
This Drainolith record has made for a real nice soundtrack to the interminable rain and flooding us East Coasters have been dealing with the past few weeks. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but Drainolith have this kind of bent-up swirl of synthy noises, kinda like Blues Control falling asleep on their gear in a syrupy haze, then poorly dubbing that recording onto a Shadow Ring cassette. Which is to say, I like it a hell of a lot. “You Paid For It” has some of the queasiest guitars I’ve ever heard, smacked into a wall of canned drum sounds and pitched-down vocal muttering. I think I actually prefer “Deepwater No Cars” though, its throbbing percussion kind of a backwoods take on Raime, accompanied by more of those blackstrap molasses vocals. Even the handwritten “Psychic Handsake” misspelling on the center sticker adds a demented charm to the proceedings. Sure, maybe it’s easy to cook up Drainolith’s particular style of sonic pudding; I just wish more people would do it.

Dum Dum Girls Only In Dreams LP (Sub Pop)
I think at this point, anyone still filing Dum Dum Girls under “lo-fi girl-group indie” needs to hand in their iPod to the local authorities. Their recent He Gets Me High 12″ is an insanely catchy slice of garage rock, particularly the mammoth title track, and while Only In Dreams doesn’t push further into the ’90s alt-rock territory He Gets Me High hinted at, it’s still a wonderfully listenable experience that couldn’t have come from any other post-retro-garage act. Ironically, from Dum Dum Girls’ humble bedroom beginnings, Only In Dreams has a production level generally unheard of in this digital age – it’s clear that they didn’t just spend hours, but days, figuring out how to get every instrument to sound exactly as they do, from the almost mechanical backing vocals on “Always Looking” to Dee Dee’s tortured croon on “Coming Down”. You can just tell they had a person in the studio whose only job was to change the microphone placement. And while little things like the snare’s reverb or guitar tone may vary from track to track, Only In Dreams plays like one consistent and even statement, through its peppier numbers that congratulate boys for being good and shame boys for being bad, and its slower ballads that pine for bad boys to turn good. Sometimes I wish Dee Dee would share her thoughts on topics besides love and sadness, I mean her powerful voice clearly belies the outdated pious female submission of her lyrics, but she seems to have locked-in the Dum Dum Girls’ parameters from day one and remains steadfast in her dedication to them (no pants allowed on stage!). I’ve listened to Only In Dreams a bunch, and while there’s no single track that rivals “He Gets Me High”, it’s such an easy album to fall right into, over and over, sucked in by the picture-perfect recording and Dee Dee’s commanding voice. I just hope the creeps in Guitar Center know better than to talk to the ‘Girls like they’re amateurs when they stop in to get picks and strings. No guitar tech with a braided goatee will ever make a record that sounds this good.

Faith Subject To Change Plus First Demo LP (Dischord)
With most of hardcore’s minutiae receiving archival reissue treatment in the past decade, it’s only fitting that one of the bands that actually mattered in their time, Faith, finally received such an honor. Dischord have reissued Subject To Change, Faith’s seminal 12″ EP, and tacked on a demo recording featuring some of the same songs, as well as those that made it onto what is unquestionably the greatest hardcore split LP of all time (I said unquestionably!). It’s probably been years since I sat down with Subject To Change, and it still sounds great, complete with a remastering job that my pedestrian ears didn’t notice, which is probably for the best. You can hear the echoes of Dischord’s first four 7″s in Faith, maybe a little Germs too, as well as some basic foundations for what came about with Embrace and Rites Of Spring and all that… wait a minute, why I am describing Faith? Who doesn’t already know? Anyway, the included demo is cool too – I’ve enjoyed it in the form of a split 2×7″ bootleg with Kansan Uutiset for many years; certainly a rawer take on songs that were eventually re-recorded and properly released, and certainly worth one’s undivided attention. While the endless debate between Faith / Void rages on (with modern history certainly favoring the latter), I stand proud while defiantly casting my vote in favor of “both”.

Far-Out Fangtooth Pure & Disinterested LP (Siltbreeze)
Never a label to neglect its hometown, Siltbreeze brings us Far-Out Fangtooth’s debut long-player. I live here too, but have yet to see the band live; something about their name has always been a bit of a turn-off, and I think I saw a live photo of them where the one dude was wearing a wizard robe, just enough to keep me at bay. I came at Pure & Disinterested with an open mind, though, and after a few run-throughs, I have determined that my early avoidance was vindicated. Far-Out Fangtooth kinda sound like a band influenced by some of Siltbreeze’s exceptional albums, but not quite worthy of joining the roster themselves… a lot of Pure & Disinterested reminds me of a mediocre mix of Naked On The Vague’s current incarnation and Sonic Youth, and then there’s a track like “Woe” that sounds like Diet Circle Pit. Far-Out Fangtooth probably have a Hozac single out, but if not, they should, as I’ve heard their sort of dreary, fuzzy punk on various Hozac singles over the past couple years (the names of which have mostly escaped my memory). Maybe I’ll see Far-Out Fangtooth randomly and fall in love, but this LP offers me no reason to feel anything but uninterested.

Innergaze Shadow Disco 12″ (100% Silk)
This new 100% Silk imprint has been doing some cool things in the name of American art-school techno, but it’s this new Innergaze 12″ that I’ve been particularly excited for. Last year’s We Are Strange Loops was one of the cooler takes on ’80s new wave in recent times, nice and icy, yet somehow without the posturing and “authenticity at any cost” mindset that seems to come with the genre (no need to fight for authenticity when Innergaze’s sound makes it perfectly clear). This certainly led to my surprise in spinning Shadow Disco, a four-track EP that seems to leave behind any sort of the group’s cold-wave despondence, replaced by live drums (care of Mi Ami metronome Damon Palermo), funky bass guitar and an Arthur Russell / “party in the studio” vibe. The title is about as apt a descriptor (and new genre?) as anyone could conjure, really. There are still plenty of synths at play, but they don’t push the songs forward so much as groove over top, providing some pretty sweet melodies and working their pleasingly foreign sounds over the rhythmic base (of note: the awesomely-weird ascending synth riff in “Shadow Disco”). This is like the music Omar S and Moodymann heard on the radio when they were ten years old and first decided they wanted to make people dance someday. You could even say Shadow Disco is on a Balearic trip, but once again Innergaze inhabit their world and their world only; they just seem so damn comfortable making this music, like it’s as natural for them to bust out a smoke-plumed disco jam as it is for me to zip up my boots before I leave the house.

Lunice One Hunned 12″ (LuckyMe)
Heard good things about Montreal’s Lunice, and while the Paperrad-esque cover art had me thinking “artistic barista”, Lunice’s vibe is full-on hipster electro. If you live in a city that has more than one DJ dance night, American Apparel retail store and/or a shop that sells knock-off Raybans with neon-colored frames, you’ve probably seen flyers for this sort of thing – it’s what Mad Decent has built an empire upon, dance music that simultatenously references everything and nothing, with cults of personality and disposable trends taking precedence to lasting musical enrichment. (And I’m not saying this is a completely horrible thing, I’m just saying.) One Hunned is a pretty strong example – ’90s rave moves, retro-future synth sounds, hip-hop beats, chopped vocal samples, 8-bit chirps, electro bumps… it’s all here, and all very 2011. Lunice has taken influence from the last three decades of electronic party music and its many sub-genres, resulting in an effort low on staying power but high with momentary rushes. It’s like when you were thirteen and mixed all the soda flavors at 7-Eleven in one Big Gulp; as tempting as that premise is, the final product doesn’t really taste like anything you’d want to drink over and over.

Martyn Masks / Viper 12″ (Brainfeeder)
Martyn has always been cool as hell, but in a musical climate where you’re old news if you haven’t released something this month, it can be easy to forget. This 12″ is an alleged sampler for his next album, and while I felt like his debut full-length never quite stood up to the power and innovation of his earlier EPs, Masks / Viper gives me hope that Martyn’s next album will blow my metaphoric roof off. “Masks” is great because of how well it combines clashing textures – you’ve got a slippery, house-y bass-line, Sega chimes and some synth-patch squelching that would fit into Wolf Eyes’ ouevre, all coming together in the name of dance-friendly tech-house. Plus I love it when some guy just says “masks” throughout the groove’s duration. “Viper” is nearly as great, fueled by some ’90s Euro-rave chords, but at under three minutes, I’m not ready for it to end. Thankfully it comes back in a longer “London’s Arches” edit, almost bleeting itself into cold-wave; a cool trick indeed. So glad that Martyn is back to show these under-25 dubstep dudes what it’s like to truly develop one’s own style and sound. Years into the game, he has once again elevated his product to a higher level – if this is a teaser, consider me sufficiently teased.

Motor City Drum Ensemble L.O.V.E. (Remixes) 12″ (Studio !K7)
“L.O.V.E.” was the MCDE’s hit off his recent DJ Kicks mix, garnering not only a 12″ single issue but this remixes EP as well. The original is tight as hell, and so true to “The D” that I’m surprised Moodymann isn’t leaving Motor City Drum Ensemble angry voicemails demanding royalties. There’s the ever-present high-pitched strings floating in the background, funky bass, soulful vocals… it sounds like it came straight from Moodymann’s Ol’ Dirty Vinyl, which is most certainly a good thing by my ears. Anyway, the original “L.O.V.E.” isn’t on here, just the remixes. Talk about two quality personalities to get on board for remixing, though: “L.O.V.E.” gets a choppy, tech-ed out treatment, care of Kyle Hall, whereas Wolfgang Voigt’s version stays true to the original’s smooth intent. Hall’s mix is particularly entrancing, the sound of a helicopter’s blades circling as the softest part of the male vocal is looped over and over. Real meditative, dark, and a wonderfully different take on the original. Voigt plays with the panning, offering a more immersive (and intimidating) experience, and Smallpeople remixes it into a generic house cut you’d hear at a wine bar’s over-30 singles mixer. And after the unique visions of Hall and Voigt, Smallpeople sounds pretty damn good, too.

OBN IIIs The One And Only LP (Tic Tac Totally)
I remember OBN IIIs from their good-if-unremarkable 7″ EP on Tic Tac Totally a few months back, but The One And Only is like I’m hearing the band for the first time – this album sounds like an entirely new group, overly confident and rightfully so. Opener “If The Shit Fits” sets the tone well – any random bar band could play this song, but OBN IIIs strut through it as if they were classmates of The Stooges and The Oblivians. It’s a certified garage-punk hit, one of many to be found here – “No Enemies” and “Communicated To Death” work familiar (yet unplaceable) hooks that I want to hear over and over again. OBN IIIs almost come across like an American Eddy Current Suppression Ring here, cussing in every song and cramped by a denser city population. I’ll be honest, I was expecting to kinda drift off a bit through The One And Only, but the egg is squarely on my face. I love a good fusion of The Damned and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and no one is doing it better than OBN IIIs. My only gripe is that the MP3 files I downloaded off the insert card were corrupted and unplayable. The one time I try to use one of these things…

Omar S It Can Be Done, But Only I Can Do It CD (FXHE)
That title! If it’s not gibberish like Psychotic Photosynthesis or Blown Valvetrane, Omar S hits us with a hilarious boast, just the sort of fantastic braggadociousness I’ve learned to love from him. I guess when it comes to crafting a full-length album of homemade house music, few can do it like Omar S. There’s a whole lot of smoothed-out electro-house here, frequently composed of feral-sounding samplers that only Omar S could tame, like he found the gnarliest synth sounds and sanded them down until you didn’t have to worry about catching a splinter. That’s been his style, and I love hearing him bring those unwieldy bleeps and static-laced claps out from the wild and into his cage. And just like Just Ask The Lonely had it’s share of unexpected moments (love those sad keyboard tunes that go on forever, and when he mercilessly teases the kick), It Can Be Done has a shocking moment of its own: “Look Hear Watch”, which sets a plaintive techno lullaby to a porno scene, the woman’s screams of pleasure enough to unnerve and titilate even the staunchest celibate. It just goes on and on, that screaming… be careful not to leave it on unattended. Other highlights include the stompy-thwack of “Nite’s Over Compton” and the previously-released dancefloor jammer “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance”, but the record as a whole falls into the better half of Omar S’s output. And if you still can’t get enough, there’s a new free Omar S digital EP floating around care of Scion (yes, the car manufacturer), only adding to the dumbfounding awesomeness that is Mr. Alex O Smith.

Pangaea Hex / Fatalist 12″ (Hemlock)
Pangaea tends to either hit big with a track or not at all; his Inna Daze single didn’t really grab me, but his hit ratio remains strong enough that I went for this new Hemlock single. Glad I did, because “Hex” is right up there with the best of the best in the modern bass game. Starts off innocuously enough, snappy snares and a wavering bass line, until the vocals hit, completely blowing the roof off. Pangaea takes a couple dancehall vocal snippets and twists, loops and interpolates them in this intense way that combines Joy O’s rapid-fire repetition and Doormouse’s audial sadism. Really a killer track, the kind of music that perks me up every time I hear those vocals go buck wild. “Fatalist” is a cool b-side, wobbling not the bass but the mid-range, just generally flapping along for peak-time club enjoyment. Makes for a nice pairing with “Hex”, which I’d imagine any DJ worth his or her salt has crated already. I have to hear this in a club.

Purling Hiss Lounge Lizards 12″ (Mexican Summer)
Another new Purling Hiss 12″ that further clears out guitarist/vocalist Mike Polizze’s basement tapes. I kinda feel like I am at a distinct advantage to enjoy Lounge Lizards (or really any Purling Hiss record for that matter) as I have gotten to see the group play live many times. In that setting, usually in a room with a decent PA, they manage to shred while still retaining their poppy playfulness and heavy guitar-centric splooge… I can’t think of another modern rock group who shreds as hard as Purling Hiss while still offering pop hooks in every tune. If you’ve only got the records to go on, you still get the great songs, it’s just that on Lounge Lizards, the fidelity is so dusty and soft that you’ll have to really crank the volume to hear the music, turning it past ten to even come close to the proper Purling Hiss experience. I’m pretty sure the full Purling Hiss band doesn’t play on this one either, and they certainly bring the feeling of a well-oiled unit to these songs that a solo recording cannot. I get the impression that Purling Hiss’s next record is going to be a bigger affair, one that will come with a recording budget… they’ve got some of the best songs around, and if they manage to cherry-pick and re-record their favorites for a full-length, world domination is only a matter of time.

Rat Columns Rat Columns 7″ (Smart Guy)
Between Siltbreeze and Smart Guy (and the distribution efforts of Easter Bilby), it seems any and all worthwhile underground Australian music is getting the proper promotion here in the States. Rat Columns is the work of Australian expatriate David West (currently of Rank/Xerox fame), and this 7″ follows his recent Rat Columns cassette with some of the same songs. (And the exact same cover photo. I guess if you’ve found that perfect shot, it’s worth using twice.) Nice to hear the sweet little chime of “I Wonder” again, a song that conjures the simple comfort of crawling into a bed with too many pillows. In a world where Blank Dogs have become an endangered species, Rat Columns sticks with songs and avoids messing around with too much home-recording trickery (check that last Kid Romance album), writing these sad post-punk pop songs that console like a penpal letter from a rainy English town. If you own a Joy Division t-shirt and a Messthetics CDr, pick up Rat Columns immediately.

Raw Nerve Midnight 7″ (Youth Attack)
Raw Nerve deliver more of that Youth Attack Sound on another elaborately-packaged, black-on-black-on-black 7″ EP. I caught Raw Nerve live a year ago, and they were cool, but something about the LP didn’t grab me, like they had all the right moves but lacked the meatiness of Vile Gash or the combustibility of Cult Ritual. Glad I gave them another shot with Midnight though, as they expand their violent, feedback-laden hardcore to include weird moody spoken-vocal parts and other unexpected moves. Opener “Dating Problems” is a great way to kick things off, the guitars almost doing an Arab On Radar thing over a chugging beat as the singer wonders why girls don’t like looking at his collection of Sex/Vid t-shirts and hunting knives. They blast back into a frantic hardcore style for the rest of the a-side, somewhere between Neos and Charles Bronson (I guess that means Failures?) with today’s noisy production values. The b-side kicks in with like five seconds of Crucifix-esque ranting before the blasting continues, ending in a dogpile of noise. There’s enough interesting tweaks amidst the frenzy to keep me intrigued, and Raw Nerve clearly have the hardcore chops to earn their keep on the Youth Attack roster. Now I need to go back and re-evaluate their LP – maybe it’s not them, it’s me.

Regis In A Syrian Tongue 12″ (Blackest Ever Black)
Gonna start this review with a gripe – no sooner had I heard of this new Regis 12″ on the ever-blossoming Blackest Ever Black label than I placed my order… only to receive a “second edition” copy, which is to say, without a cover. The cover looks cool, and I’ve always dug Blackest Ever Black’s design, so it really stung to be deprived of that element! I can only hope that if they do a third edition, it still comes with the actual vinyl. All is not lost, though, as the music of In A Syrian Tongue is as bleak and oppressive as I could’ve hoped – a-side “Blood Witness” is one thick, continual fog of bass with industrial rhythms peaking out here and there. It’s like staring at a massive hornet’s nest and taking note of the unified swarm as well as the individual hornets that swerve around the cluster. The b-side opens with a live version of “Blood Witness”, which would sound like a bad idea for someone else, but Regis somehow harnesses the power of Slayer in the live setting. The sounds may be drastically different, but I sense a metal kinship in Regis. (Maybe it’s just that any given Absu cover art would work for the music of Regis as well.) Closer “Blinding Horses” is killer in a post-dubstep way, and I am feeling so utterly abused and distraught after listening that I very well might just have to find a “first edition” copy and pick it up too. I don’t know what else to do.

Resist Control Dissipation EP 7″ (Feral Kid / Shock To The System)
Eleven songs on this 7″ EP, which I’ve always found to be a good sign – I don’t care what the style. With a name like Resist Control though (two words used in countless hardcore band name variations), I can’t say the rapid-fire blastbeats and blurry guitars came as a shock, more like a pleasant confirmation of my expectations. It’s good stuff, and different from most modern hardcore-grind in that the singer has kind of a Dan O’Mahoney shout that rarely breaks into unintelligible screams, and the bass drum has a nearly-constant 16th note frequency. When drummers are capable of blasting double-bass pedals into hyper-speed, they generally can’t help but do it, even if the music isn’t really improved by its presence (and honestly, it’s a little distracting from the rest of Resist Control’s brutality). It’s a petty crime in the world of hardcore, but seeing how the bar has been raised so damn high for this sort of thing thanks to groups like Insect Warfare, Iron Lung, Mind Eraser, and probably a dozen other bands, I have to deduct the points. Dissipation would’ve impressed me back in 1998, but we’re in 2011 – your game has to be flawless.

Royal Headache Royal Headache LP (R.I.P Society)
Goddamn… no sooner do I convince myself that it is statistically impossible for another Australian group to completely blindside me with their greatness than Royal Headache show up and knock me senseless. Looks like a pretty boring record, what with the “band in an empty lot” album art and sparse information, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the best traditional punk album I’ve heard this year. It’s like a perfect blend of The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Circles and Nasty Facts, with maybe a touch of The Housemartins for good measure. If you are familiar with Nasty Facts, you know they’re not a comparison to make lightly, but seriously, Royal Headache are right there – speedy, Mod-ish punk with an endless, precise energy and a vocalist who would make any band sound better with his mouth behind the mic, the type of confident singer that sadly seems to have fallen out of punk rock fashion. It’s kind of thrilling to hear a band be this good. And they even throw in a song like “Surprise”, ripped straight from the first Strokes album, and incorporate it into their own style. I know underground Australian rock is a cool trend for us Americans to be into and all, but Royal Headache surpasses all of that; it’s a record anyone into punk rock needs to hear. I’m not making this up!

Scuba Adrenalin EP 12″ (Hotflush Recordings)
Scuba’s always been a mid-card dubstep dude in my book, but for every boring Hotflush release, they’ve got one that hits me in just the right spot, so I figured it was once again time to check in with both the artist and label. Gotta say, “Adrenalin” is pretty cool – as expected, there are essentially no signs of dubstep here, just a 4/4 house beat holding down various soaring synths and an awesome title-inspiring vocal hook that takes a minute to figure out (then again, maybe I’m just slow). It’s simple, without any big surprises, and leaves me feeling better after listening to it than I did before. Scuba swerves us with “Never” on the flip, a slow-mo electro jam that ends up being the midpoint between the a-side and the final cut, “Everywhere”, a track that sounds like Cameo remixed into a Fabriclive set. Really not where I was expecting Scuba to head, but “Everywhere” is a real silky ’80s jam and an excellent change of pace. For as rigid as dubstep and its offshoots can be, you really never know when an artist will toss a knuckler your way, which is one of the main reasons I can’t get enough of this stuff.

Slices Modern Bride / Chump Change 7″ (Kemado)
Two more hot slices from Slices, just the type of single to get us fully amped on the premise of their soon-to-be-released second full-length effort. “Modern Bride” is a bit more melodic than their Cruising material, even as vocalist Greg Mantooth sounds like he put on a few pounds, his voice deeper and more frustrated than before as he angrily grunts about his favorite magazine subscription. It’s about two minutes long and incorporates garage-punk nicely into their musical template. “Chump Change” is similar, kinda like if The Candy Snatchers played through Harvey Milk’s rig. Nice and heavy, but with a driving melodic core you can raise a fist to. Only 300 copies I believe, which if there is any sense in the world are all already spoken for.

Social Circkle Expiration Date EP 7″ (Side Two)
I’ve seen Social Circkle perform in a variety of towns over the past few years, but never heard them on record until Expiration Date. Pretty sure the title refers to Social Circkle’s recent (and apparently planned) breakup, which is a shame, as these five songs are great examples of the speedy, snotty hardcore-punk I remember from their live shows. They sound like a mix of Kid Dynamite and The Freeze here, just flailing forward with powerful drumming and a faster speed than I expected. The singer also reminds me of the guy from 30 Foot Fall in a way, a band I am truly ashamed to admit that I know what their singer sounds like. I guess there’s really no good reason for any solid hardcore band to exist more than five years or so (with today’s current reunion circuit, you can always come back anyway), so I appreciate Social Circkle’s dedication to checking in, blasting out some punk hits, and calling it a night before anyone gets bored. Pretty sure every dude in this band was at least 6’5″, too, at least that’s how I will remember them – Social Circkle’s demise leaves a very tall hole in the hardcore underground.

Stacian Pul 7″ (Moniker)
Been digging the other recent Moniker offerings (Jealousy and Rollin Hunt), so I was pretty psyched to get this debut Stacian single within my grip. As expected, it’s weird music – Stacian is the work of one Stacia Standoff, and sounds pretty much like what we’ve come to expect from a synth-based solo project in 2011. Standoff’s synth-lines and programming aren’t particularly dextrous, but that’s okay… I don’t really look for insane musical agility when it comes to something like this, I look for charm and charisma (or a resemblance to Chrisma), but Stacian falls short in those categories too. It’s not bad by any means, but neither is that Mac Blackout single that came out on Sacred Bones a year ago, and Lord knows I haven’t touched it in just as long. If you absolutely need to hear a mix of Zola Jesus and Sally Strobelight at their most amateur (which is by no means a bad thing), Stacian is here, otherwise feel free to sit this one out. Maybe I’m just pissed that the a-side song is called “Blood Sugar” and there’s no “Sex Magik” to be found on the flip.

The Stoned Ambassadors Bring You Down 12″ (Labor Of Love)
When I read “member of Failures, Cancer Kids and Bucket Full Of Teeth”, I don’t think “stripped-down Brit-pop”, but that’s what The Stoned Ambassadors are all about. And you know what, when you can write simple, droning rock songs that don’t require sweating through your shirt and hauling gear into a basement, it kinda makes sense to take a pause from the ‘core. “The Stoned Ambassadors” sets it up right away, as if modern-day Mudhoney tried to write songs like peak-era Oasis, which of course is great. There’s an unavoidable Spacemen 3 vibe, of which there’s no good reason to avoid anyway, and the recording has just the right amount of heaviness to lock it in through these four brief cuts. The songs on the flip don’t grab me with quite the same strength as the a-side, but I get the impression The Stoned Ambassadors are just kinda feeling things out for the first time on this EP. There’s an undeniable hit lurking in The Stoned Ambassadors that they’ve yet to write, and I can’t wait until they do. The beers are sitting here, it’s only a matter of time ’til The Stoned Ambassadors command an audience to raise them.

Andy Stott Passed Me By 2×12″ (Modern Love)
Man… I never expected anyone on the Modern Love label to come anywhere near the emotional weight, atmospheric power and overall uniqueness of Demdike Stare, but after some fairly uneventful dubstep / post-dubstep singles, Andy Stott has entered their ranks. This is a pretty amazing piece of work – like the recent Facets EP by Miles, Passed Me By is one of those gritty, industrial-ish records you could recommend to your friend with the Tesco Organisation fetish, even though this ain’t no noise record. The first few tracks have a very soothing, weathered vibe, as if some basic Mount Kimbie or Echospace tape was rubbed with sand, misted with dust and then remixed by Fennesz. And yet, Fennesz never worked a beautifully sad vocal like Stott does in “New Ground”. My favorite material comes later on, though – “Intermittent” is like a jacked house track that was kidnapped and tortured, Hostel-style. “Dark Details” stays in the dungeon, working this killer chant that seems to emanate from the rowing slaves on a Viking ghost ship and morphing that into a mean cold-wave beat, as if Trisomie 21 took an interest in programming a mosh pit. “Execution” is next, and just as evil as the title implies; this is definitely death by intense smothering, or some other sadistic method (complete with the craziest vocal effects I’ve heard in a while). I guess the Demdike Stare comparisons would make sense, but there is no way I’d confuse any of Passed Me by for anyone but Andy Stott, a man whose pleasant, regular-guy demeanor belies the horrifying thoughts he has clearly kept hidden. Let’s just hope he sticks with music as his only release, as this seems to be the work of a man capable of only electronic programming or serial murder, nothing in between.

Untold Bones Remixes 12″ (SSSSS)
Untold is cool, but it was the presence of Joe (yes, the enigmatic dubstep producer Joe) that had me Pete Rose-sliding to grab myself a copy. For as many dubstep and future-bass dudes that are out there, few are as instantly recognizable to me as Joe; the simple, uncluttered way he turns any track into an electronic marching band is a style all his own. Here, his rhythm on “Bones” is wonderfully precise, with various surprising moments to keep me entertained (like the techno version of when that guy pops up and yells “toasty!” in Mortal Kombat). The melody isn’t quite as infectious as Joe’s original material, but I’m going to blame that on Untold and keep believing that Joe is capable of nothing less than greatness. Rockwell’s remix on the flip is nearly as percussion-centric, but with the addition of the sound of an overheating motor in the background… kind of sounds like something Ramadanman would’ve done back when he was at the top of his dubstep game and hadn’t yet dabbled in electro and house (I’m thinking of his Revenue single). I guess I didn’t really need this one, I mean Joe’s track is only all of four minutes, and neither song is a mind-melting blockbuster, but when it comes to Joe, I simply can’t take any chances.

Felipe Venegas I Ching 12″ (Cadenza)
Ah, more sweet South American-inspired tech-house care of Cadenza. You can practically sniff the chimichurri all over this platter. It’s kinda nice, because while the master of this craft, Ricardo Villalobos, has ran off and gotten so minimal and artistic that none of his music even sounds like music anymore, we’ve got guys like Felipe Venegas at it, practically willing themselves to become Felipe Villalobos. Just check “I Ching”, a very rich and rural slice of techno, with hints of Spanish guitars and what sounds like a grandmother of twelve playing accordion next to her vegetable stand. Villalobos has been here and done that (especially when considering Venegas’ randomly banged drums that seem to be lifted directly from Sei Es Drum), but it still sounds sweet when someone else gives it a shot. Venegas goes for another well-tread trick in the shaker percussion and random drum fills on “Orisha Chango” on the flip, and once again, it sounds pretty nice. Probably gonna need less of this stuff as we move away from summer and into autumn, but come next year’s first 90 degree day, I will make sure I’ve got I Ching ready to go.

Vile Gash Deluded 7″ (Youth Attack)
I’d happily dig into a plate of cold Burger King if you told me it was a new Vile Gash record. Thankfully for me, Deluded is actually a smart new clear-vinyl 7″ on the lauded Youth Attack label. Only three songs, and as Vile Gash haven’t altered their formula in the slightest, this one takes longer to tuck into its packaging (including the time to seal the polybag flap) than it does to hear. If anything, they sound even more pissed off than ever before… maybe they took that Hoax 7″ as a personal challenge to remain America’s angriest hardcore group. “Nothing Left” nearly verges into Bone Awl territory, thanks to the oompah drumming and the vocalist’s throat (which sounds like it’s made of tree bark instead of flesh), but this is still hardcore and nothing but. I was expecting “Every Day” to be the trademark record-ending dirge, but they flip the script and offer another brief cut of misanthropic hardcore instead. Their poignant lyrics crack me up once again – “walk down city streets / the people make me sick / everyone’s the same / a constant stream of shit”… what I wouldn’t do to watch these guys guest-judge an episode of Top Chef.

War Hungry War Hungry LP (Six Feet Under)
I always considered War Hungry to be Cold World’s scrappy little brother of sorts. Pretty sure they share a member or two, but whereas Cold World are a singular entity that cannot be duplicated, War Hungry were a pretty generic mosh-metal band, somewhere between Strength For A Reason and Blood For Blood on the toughness scale. They’ve clearly revamped their sound for their self-titled full-length, however, as War Hungry is straight-up groove metal, about as close to hardcore as Anthrax ever got. A member of the band referenced “early White Zombie” to me in describing their current sound, which is enough to get anyone’s Dragula running, but most of War Hungry is so Pantera you can almost smell the Dimebag Darrell memorial t-shirt. The riffs are so beautifully constructed, churning with Dimebag’s sense of timing and crunchy sound. Unfortunately, whereas Pantera had the unparalleled anger of Phil Anselmo at the helm, War Hungry’s vocalist doesn’t sound particularly confident in his role. He screams, sings, and yells, but none of these approaches rise above mediocrity or earn their place amongst the riffing. I can imagine he was decent back when War Hungry were a heavy hardcore band, but this sort of music requires at least a James Hetfield-level of vocal ability, which War Hungry’s guy simply doesn’t seem to have. If War Hungry had Jerry Cantrell on vocals, or even the guy from Iron Age, I’d be spinning it non-stop, but even without that dream lineup, many of War Hungry’s riffs simply cannot be denied (go ahead and try not to mosh when the final breakdown of “Empire Of Idols Pt. 1” kicks in).

Watery Love Die With Dignity / Leave Me Alone 7″ (Siltbreeze)
As we enter playoff season, Watery Love return with a new two-song single care of Siltbreeze, a Philadelphian pairing on par with Joey Vento and heart disease. “Die With Dignity” is a mean-mugged stomper, the musical equivalent of finding out your mom just went on a date with Sab Grey (damn that OkCupid!). By the time you memorize the chorus and lace up your boots, Watery Love hits the brakes and busts out into this repetitive riff-fest that sounds like the last thirty seconds of a Fushisusha jam. Expect nothing less. Dub-Love add to their history of excellent cover song selections with Lou Reed’s “Leave Me Alone”, twisting his two chords into the bratty anthem it was meant to be, and playing it for far too long, as is Watery Love’s signature style. Next stop: Matador?

The Wax Museums Zoo Full Of Ramones LP (Tic Tac Totally)
Denton dum-dums The Wax Museums get their singles and comp tracks collected in handy LP format on Zoo Full Of Ramones, for fans with an active lifestyle. I have the Rambo Knife EP, and based on that, always figured The Wax Museums were good but not great – Rambo Knife is included here, and I gotta say, it pales in comparison to the rest of Zoo Full Of Ramones. Wish I had known this earlier, because this collection of songs is lunkhead punk in the best possible way… each song has its own juvenile concept (from eating vomit and living in an eyeball to, uhh, Billy’s room), delivered with a Spits-like efficiency and demeanor. Sounds like a drum machine on some tracks and a live drummer on others, probably just one guitar track too, but they make such good use of their humble means that even a lead guitarist (or bassist) would seem like overkill. Most punk bands could hope for one Killed By Death-y hook in their existence; The Wax Museums have at least twenty of them here. For better or worse, I am now able to recite “I Eat Vomit” from memory, and I only have The Wax Museums to thank for that.

Woollen Kits Maths / Out Of Town 7″ (R.I.P Society)
The curiosity I felt toward new releases from R.I.P Society has quickly turned to eager anticipation in the wake of a number of smash hits from this great label. Beats me who Woolen Kits are, surely just another good (if not great) Australian rock group, so let’s check it out… “Maths” opens with a sunshine-y guitar riff and bouncy drums, the sort of thing that would be melodic pop-punk if they played it at twice the speed. The vocalist seems to like this laid-back tempo though, slowing and deepening his vocals to a Calvin Johnson-esque bellow, sung from the gut with a rose in his teeth. “Out Of Town” picks up the pace, kind of a standard garage number if it weren’t for the even more prominent vocals, culled deep from the well of indie rock (or maybe The Trend’s “Band-Aid”). Pretty cool single overall, although in the presence of Woollen Kits’ R.I.P Society peers, a soft backboard layup amongst so many 360 dunks.