It’s rare that I go very long without listening to the music of Italy’s Donato Dozzy.
For a minimalist techno perspective, Dozzy’s music is incredibly versatile – from the
slow-motion, sex-after-dark suites of his recent album K to his acid-tinged EPs and
pulse-pounding collaborations, Dozzy has made music to suit any mood or activity. His
music is raw yet elegant, and an enjoyable experience for novices and seasoned DJs alike…
the sounds are inclusive, but Dozzy’s technique and style sticks out above the crowd.
This is a guy who hangs out with people named Neel and Nuel, after all. He travels
frequently, including the United States, so go find his anonymous-looking records and
then go see him live.
How did you get started making electronic music? Was it difficult to learn?
I started producing sounds at the very end of year 1990 in Rome together with my friend
Leo. We were lucky enough to have two mentors, Pietro and Paolo Micioni, who introduced
me to the way of doing that, patiently and carefully. From then, it was a long process
to become experienced and then to be finally able to obtain something out of the gears
that could represent the right transposition from my ideas to the music itself.
How different is your production setup now than it was when you first were
learning in the ’90s?
Not that big. When I first started attending sessions at Gimmik Studio in Rome I could
already find amazing equipment in there. At that time, Pietro and Paolo took care of having
any sort of goody (from Studer Multitrack recorders to an amazing Skorpion 64 channels
desk.. excellent analogue synthesizers, all sort of drum machines, hardware effects and, a
surprise for me, a computer), and I was simply amazed by that. Later in the ’90s, in full
digital/analogue transition and when it was time to collect my own equipment, I first
focused my attention to some digital stuff, but then, at the beginning of 2000, I turned
again to analogue, thanks to the influence of Lory D, the Modern Heads and Brando Lupi.
Somehow I learned the potential of digital but still keeping an analogue attitude, and
still do that way.
How would you define an “analogue attitude”?
It is the capacity to stand up and sit down a million times per day for the most unexpected reasons.
Some of your 12” records have nearly no identifying information on them… is
there a particular reason why some of your records have such an anonymous look?
This is mostly related to the Aquaplano releases, I guess. That was a decision Nuel and
I took when we pressed our first EP. We were not in need to give any special name to what
we were doing, and not keen to give a real artwork to our releases at that time, so we
proceeded in the simplest way possible and tried to give more relevance to the music
itself. The first release was a full black record and the second was a full white one
and so on. Now times have changed and my wife, Koto, is taking care of the artworks.
By releasing a completely anonymous-looking record, it’s almost like you are
rejecting the commercial aspect of releasing a record… did this play into it? I guess
I am coming from a record-shop perspective, and what it’s like to see a plain 12″ in
the bin with no identifying info on it…
We didn’t like the way some big distributors were handling things, but this is not the
main aspect to consider and, for sure, we were not the only ones. As I said before, we
were not in need, at that time, to show anything else then the music itself.
What prompted you to collaborate with Nuel? Were you friends prior to working together?
We met each other in Berlin during the summer of 2006. Somehow that was the end of my
period there and the beginning of his own. Both of us spent three years in town and in
the moment I left, he moved in my apartment in a pretty logical consequence of events.
From then, the musical cooperation came by itself.
How do you approach a collaboration, versus working on your own?
There’s not a big difference; I love both aspects in the moment they come. The cooperation
is slightly easier, ’cause it’s about two minds feeding each other, so the risk of being
“stuck in the groove” is a bit less. When it’s about my own production, I just have to
ride the wave in the moment it comes… when it’s not, no problem, I just take care of
other interesting musical aspects of what I do: try to improve the studio setup, listen
to other peoples’ music, learn more of my gears, etc etc.
Who else have you been listening to lately?
Most of the stuff I’m recently into is coming from the States. From noise / experimental
music (Weird Forest and Hospital Productions, just to mention a few) to amazing left-field
labels like Sublime Frequencies. I’m also into some techno and house producers like Omar S
and Fred P; love their musical approach.
Your album K is a pretty distinct departure from some of your previous
material; the first thing that stood out to me was how much slower and more sensual
it sounded. Is this the direction you’re headed with future productions, or will you
return to hard, banging techno?
It’s all a question of moods. I like the idea to change constantly the direction of
what I do. It keeps me very alive.
Are there any moods you haven’t expressed in your music yet that you would like to?
Not so far.
I’ve heard that you’re pretty popular in Japan… what do you make of that?
It’s cause of a chain reaction, and I can explain how that came: in 2007, I was invited
for the first time to the Labyrinth Festival, and the experience literally changed my whole
life. That was the “creme” of an audience (in a context of perfection) that everyone would
have loved to deal with. Sensitivity, kindness and a friendly attitude are only a few words
that can give a sense of definition of what I’m talking about. After that experience I went
back every year. I started being more involved, having friends, I mean real friends;
special people that make you feel so good, and the consequence is that you can play better,
like nowhere else. Every year is more and that is why I’m “pretty popular” in Japan right
now, I guess.
You’ve been to the States now too, correct? What did you think of the US?
I think in the most positive way, thanks to Bryan from Beyond Booking who understood me
and my music well; he sorted things in the most comfortable and professional way possible.
After my last tour, I must say I once again found very inspiring, peaceful and stimulating
crowds to deal with; scenes are growing fast, year by year, in each of the towns I have
been visiting: NYC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago and Denver. But it’s
not only about gigs: since two years ago, I also started cooperating with a few American
labels (Seattle’s Further Records and Los Angeles’ Absurd). Amazing people out there and
great music vision.
What are you working on next? Any new albums or singles?
I just put together the first Voices From The Lake album together with Neel (who is not
Nuel, just to make it clear) and this is going to be released on Prologue in the beginning
of next year. I’m also currently working on the next Aquaplano release together with Nuel
(who is not Neel) and also this should see the light around January or February of 2012.
Bad Noids Bad Noids 7″ (no label)
Destructive teenage hardcore punk from Cleveland, perhaps that city’s finest export of the past twenty years (sorry Drew Carey fans). It’s a 45 rpm single, but you’ll be checking to make sure, as the singer’s vocal snarl sounds like the guy from Crazy Spirit, were he a scabby teenage boy instead of a bridge troll, and the guitars shred with a particularly sloppy brand of speed. Reminds me of the first Necros EP, but with disapproving parents sitting around upstairs during the recording process. If you ordered a copy of this Bad Noids EP, chances are it arrived crumpled in your mailbox, as the nameless label that released it packaged the records in newspaper rather than cardboard. Some may complain, but this is the type of record that deserves a crumpled cover – it’s simply too punk to come without bent corners and a dried booger inside the fold. I’m tempted to grind some Cheetos dust into the grooves, in order to enhance my experience further, but these Noids are already bad enough on their own.
Balaclavas Snake People LP (Dull Knife)
Houston, TX hit some record high temps this year, but you’d never know it from listening to the music of Balaclavas, a post-punk trio with ice in their veins, as opposed to their hometown’s prerequisite rattlesnake spit and barbeque sauce. I liked their last album, Roman Holiday, a whole lot, but haven’t come back to it lately – Balaclavas are understated and workmanlike enough that they can be easy to forget about. They’re also really good, though, as evidenced by Snake People. I’m hearing a mix of Public Image Ltd. and The VSS, if such an amalgam existed in today’s techno-accepting underground, and they wear their style well. Electronic programming and dubby bass collide into something a Nick Cave fan would enjoy, carving out a pretty unique little hole in a music scene filled with sub-sub-genres for every conceivable sound. Only eight songs, but there’s no superfluent material here; Balaclavas know better than to waste our time or theirs. Missed their last tour, and I plan on correcting that when they hit the road next.
James Blake Enough Thunder 12″ (Atlas Recordings)
Before the legions of James Blake fans had much of a chance to trip up on his murky and undefined Order / Pan single, Blake brings the tears back to our eyes with Enough Thunder, rolling with his signature style that made James Blake the beautifully weird record it is. On this EP, he sounds even more comfortable with his voice than ever before: stark piano ballads “Once We All Agree” and “A Case Of You” are barely touched by anything besides human fingers and throat, which in Blake’s case is more than enough to make a dramatic impression. He’s still got an Antony-style androgyny to his voice, but he goes even further into diva-territory here, lending every other word more syllables than required as he sings his little heart out. Enough Thunder‘s not without experimentation though, as “We Might Feel Unsound” still makes zero sense to me, a nice post-dubstep diversion from his plaintive piano pop. And who can ignore the Bon Iver guest spot, a collaboration that probably matters to a lot of people (and sounds just as anyone would’ve guessed). A satisfying new sampling of Blake’s powers, for sure, and confirmation that his star remains on the rise. Next time I catch him live, I’m bringing a hanky… just in case.
Burning Itch Burning Itch LP (Tic Tac Totally)
There’s probably someone out there who thinks photos of a guy in a wig hugging a blow-up doll is the stuff of comedic gold, but as far as my own sensibilities are concerned, I found the punk-rock dirtbag self-humiliation artwork pretty off-putting. I was concerned there might be irreconcilable differences between myself and Burning Itch, but thankfully Burning Itch’s brand of classic fuzzed-out punk rock isn’t nearly as hokey or uninspired as the art that surrounds it. Rather, Burning Itch are poppy, bouncy and even kinda happy at times, but able to get serious when it matters, writing these compact punk tunes with hooks coming standard (“Dead End Street” being my pick of the bunch). Almost sounds like Timmy Vulgar fronting those Jay Reatard and Wavves backing band guys, thanks to the warbly singing voice and a slight touch of retro-kitsch in their garage-y riffing. If these guys existed thirty years ago, they’d probably beg to get on a matinee at Max’s Kansas City, then get too drunk to properly perform when it’s time to hit the stage, ruining their big chance. Joey Ramone would’ve probably dug these guys anyway, even if his OCD prevented him from shaking their hands. Sloppy and fun and stoner-ish punk rock that doesn’t sacrifice the music for the sake of a wild party.
The Ceiling Stares / The Super Vacations split 7″ (Velocity Of Sound / Sweaters & Pearls)
Pretty dull split 7″ here… I swear every college town has at least a dozen bands that sound like some combination of The Ceiling Stares and The Super Vacations, and while it’s not a bad thing, it’s certainly nothing one needs to seek out. I’m not going to travel across a couple states to visit an Exxon or Olive Garden – this sort of music is nearly as uniform and disposable, so why would I go out of my way to hear it on record? The Ceiling Stares offer a long and boring, organ-led indie-garage number, previously released on a cassette (clearly the chance to appear on this split 7″ wasn’t that big of a deal for them, either). The Super Vacations are more exciting, but only by comparison. Their brand of middle-of-the-road “psych” drives me nuts; it just seems like these bands strive for stable mediocrity. Not every band has to redefine music, and I realize I’m being a little harsh, but this is what happens when I have to sit down and actively listen to a record such as this. I really just gotta get it out of my house… nothing good is going to come from me possessing this 7″ a moment longer than I have to.
Colours Colours 12″ (Free Loving Anarchists)
Texas label releases Australian shoegaze debut EP – just another marvel of today’s modern economy. Unlike Zond, the only other Australian shoegaze band of which I’m familiar, Colours stay about as true to Slowdive’s and My Bloody Valentine’s templates as possible, overloading the air with effects and shimmering guitars, like a rainbow that ends in a mudslide. Probably an unfair comparison, and I’m not trying to be racist against Australians (some of my best friends are Australian!), but whereas Zond have this heavy ambient energy and a virtuosic drummer, Colours could just borrow Moon Duo’s two-button drum machine in a pinch and get along fine. Real simple melodies, but Colours warp them nicely, and when the vocals come in, they know enough to repeat a few lines all soft and stoney before evaporating into the air. Definitely feels like they aspire to rule the dingy-bar / club-basement circuit, rather than hire tour managers and digital promo companies, which is certainly how I prefer it. If Colours ever make it to the states, someone oughta book them with Screen Vinyl Image, or get them in the studio together… so many pedals, it’ll make A Place To Bury Strangers blush.
Cured Pink / Penguins split 7″ (Vacant Valley)
The cover photos tell the tale of this split – the Cured Pink guy is bashing a guitar with twelve-feet of rusty chain, while the Penguins guy takes an amplified drill to a bloody animal head, dirtying his denim outfit. I’d need both a helmet and a poncho in order to see these groups live, so this tidy split 7″ makes for a much more sanitary option. It’s pretty killer, too – Cured Pink have a focused, Swans-ish approach; their tune is one big icy stare with an attitude that makes Michael Gira seem like Ben Gibbard. Penguins are an excellent partner: similarly industrial, heavy on the percussion and bass and militaristic repetition (think Test Dept). Not sure I hear any meat being drilled though; maybe next time. Definitely more of an academic approach (think “Wire magazine subscription”) than I had expected, but it’s made for a better record than I had expected, too. There’s gotta be a purpose to the madness of Cured Pink and Penguins, one that I don’t necessarily wish to discover.
Yves De Mey Counting Triggers 2×12″ (Sandwell District)
A new double EP pack of abstract minimal-techno on the fantastic Sandwell District label? This is the sort of thing that gets me to wake up in the morning. Wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, being previously unfamiliar with Yves De Mey, and I think I read somewhere that Counting Triggers was used as some sort of interpretive dance soundtrack, but you can forget all that – this is subtle, heavy, hypnotic techno of the highest order. I was expecting something like Senking or Alva Noto, one of those extreme techno post-graduates who refuses to lay down a danceable rhythm in the name of musical progress, but De Mey sticks closer to the Sandwell District aesthetic, constructing his mechanical rhythms and curvy bass tones into head-bobable shapes, even if the music never quite reaches a danceable BPM. Some tracks take on a shortwave radio sort of fuzziness, but there’s always that massive, lung-flattening bass shaking the dust out of the speaker cones. I’ll admit, I was very much expecting to love Counting Triggers before the needle ever dropped, but it completely lives up to my expectations. No matter how lonesome his robotic procedures may sound, there’s always that life-giving bass, throbbing in the heart of it all.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring Walking In Unison 12″ (Captcha)
If there’s a bigger Eddy Current Suppression Ring fan than me, I’d like to meet that person, so it should come as a given that I’d be grabbing a copy of this new three-song 12″ EP. After giving it a whirl, it’s safe to say that Walking In Unison was designed with super-fans in mind, because as nice as it is, this is a 12″ record that anyone with less than a severe interest in Eddy Current can skip. The title track is a long, repetitive jam that’s about as improvised as garage punk can get, more a test of concentration than a hummable pop hit. I like it, but I don’t expect many others to make it the whole way through without some sort of boredom setting in. The b-side features live-on-the-radio versions of “I Admit My Faults” and “Second Guessing”, neither of which crack my top ten Eddy Current songs, but I still welcome these slightly different renditions into my home. If only Mikey would give all those other projects a break and get back to work with Eddy Current… the world just isn’t the same with Eddy Current Suppression Ring on pause.
Fat History Month A Gorilla 7″ (Sweaters & Pearls)
Fat History Month continue to crumple indie-rock into a ball with A Gorilla, four songs that predate their Fucking Despair album. “A Gorilla” has an obtuse Modest Mouse vibe to it, just kinda sneaking around your periphery, and “B” has it too, but with what could easily be a Bedhead cover. Same deal on the flip, although they pick up the pace a bit, and the drummer even gets to have some fun with his rolls on “Heart Takes A Beating”. I like Fat History Month, even if their records aren’t particularly inviting or listener-friendly… you gotta work to find an entry point. Don’t think I could hang with their records more than once a week (at max), but when I’m feeling particularly confused by life, Fat History Month commiserate nicely.
The Field Looping State Of Mind 2xLP (Kompakt)
I always kind of filed away The Field as middle-of-the-road, Kompakt-style “pop ambient”, the sort of droning techno benevolence that soothes me to sleep on long plane flights. Never made it through The Field’s Sound Of Light in one sitting, but I heard good things about this new album, and “good” ended up an understatement – it’s gonna be a while before some other person comes along and makes an album of simple loops anywhere near as enthralling as Looping State Of Mind. Those pop-ambient tones and lush atmospheres are still prominent, but most every track here focuses on a single 4/4 loop, sometimes no greater than two notes, slowly building up momentum until you are poised directly under The Field’s waterfall of sound. It’s as if Lindstrøm made a kraut-rock tune and trimmed his usual thirty-plus minutes down to a lean six or seven. There are seven songs here, and while they all follow the same structure, they’re also all so great (and sonically varied) that I can settle right into the Gas-plays-E2-E4 of “It’s Up There” and the IDM-throwback vibes of the title track without skipping a beat. Deceptively effortless, airy and sweet – time to delve into The Field’s back catalog and see what else I may have missed.
Fossils / Darksmith Million Year Spree LP (Kye)
Kye has got to be the cure for something… maybe not the common cold, or the blues, but some sort of physical or mental ailment that requires a complete brain flush. Think of the label as a sonic neti pot. This record pairs two like-minded non-musicians, offering a particularly confusing jumble of audio detritus and sounds left out on the curb by careless neighbors. The first Fossils cut sets Million Year Spree in motion with a slowly rising hearing-test tone that must be what it’s like for canines near a dog whistle… this single tone floats directly into a part of my brain I don’t often exercise, like eating a finely-prepared Szechuan meal that burns entirely different parts of the tongue. I’m not sure where one track begins and the next ends, but that tone is followed by a tumbling of mud and cardboard in a washing machine, real thick and chunky, and impossible to place in our natural realm. I could go on, but let’s flip over to Darksmith, a glorious sound-collagist in his own right. Darksmith goes for a subtler approach, doing that “sifting through the wreckage” thing that I enjoy so much, like metal detectors scanning a destroyed city for scraps of copper. I figured I would enjoy Darksmith more, but even as I found myself shaking my head more vigorously during the Fossils side, all of Million Year Spree is wonderfully disconcerting. Demand nothing less.
Four Tet Fabriclive 59 CD (Fabric)
I’m always down for a new Fabriclive mix. Maybe the worst thing they can be is boring, but most are at least somewhat interesting; certainly no amateurs allowed within Fabric’s hallowed walls. Haven’t spent much time with Four Tet in the past, but his Fabriclive mix is a diverse, almost cinematic take on the standard techno playlist. Opening and closing with the sounds of party-goers chatting amongst themselves, Four Tet walks us into a scatter-shot set of classic garage and modern bass music, revealing just how similar the future is to the past (some of this old garage stuff sure sounds a lot like Martyn’s new record, for example) and piecing it together with ease. There’s also a jazzier side to Four Tet, as he’s big on the highs and lows, displayed by the field-recording that comes in on the 13th track, or the orchestral strings in Floating Points’ “Sais (Dub)”. You won’t be able to just throw on Fabriclive 59 at your own party and pretend you’re mixing live, thanks to these many interruptions, but that’s poor form anyway, and shame on you for even considering that! It’s a cool mix, but I’m still not sure I’ll be going after Four Tet’s other stuff soon; while I appreciate eclecticism in electronic music, I don’t necessarily crave it, but this is a pretty nice mix nonetheless. At the very least, Four Tet turned me on to Crazy Bald Heads and STL with Fabtriclive 59, so he is owed my gratitude just the same.
Geffika / Skimask split LP (Sophomore Lounge)
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard most if not all of the records Sophomore Lounge has released, and I’m still not anywhere near understanding the label’s aesthetic. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between releases, besides the label’s own personal choice, which is certainly admirable, if a bit confusing for someone into Will Oldham or Little Gold who ends up picking up this split LP between Geffika and Skimask. Geffika are standard-issue Southern Lord doom – the thick, down-tuned guitars barely maintain a timed structure with the drums and vocals (both guttural and screamed). I have a hard time disliking this sort of stuff, even in Geffika’s case, where nothing remotely new is being offered. Skimask are a little more interesting – they remind me of Landed in their rock music phase, the bass and drums firing heavy Lightning Bolts alongside disemboweled guitars and vocals run through a distortion pedal. Very “’90s noise-rock”, but on the artier end of that spectrum, as opposed to the macho/monster-truck ghetto. Neither band blows the house down, but they’re well suited to each other, and at a modest 200 pressed, I’m sure every copy will find a suitable home soon enough.
Germ Attak Fear Of The Unknown LP & Lockdown 7″ flexi (Loud Punk)
In celebration of writing their 3,000th song, Germ Attak have released Fear Of The Unknown, their 18th full-length. Those figures may not be exact, but Germ Attak have been churning out spiky pogo-punk with the brutal efficiency of an Amazon.com warehouse, and I’m all for it. Something like “Back’s Against The Wall” is just timeless and great, a pure sonic expression of paint-markered leather that will never go out of style. I am impressed by the way Germ Attak unerringly stick to the script… you’d think they’d have sneaked one ska song or youth-crew breakdown in by now, but this is all top-shelf stuff for anyone who’s ever tapped his or her foot to The Casualties. Only two guys in the band too, which is kind of odd, because who wouldn’t want to join this band? Maybe their standards are just insanely high, in which case I can’t hold it against them. Fear Of The Unknown comes with a giant poster (it might actually be a tablecloth), and a one-sided clear flexi with two more songs, in case you needed some more… who can possibly resist?
God Equals Genocide / Libyans split 7″ (Shock To The System / Dirt Cult)
Nice split of hardcore punk here, the sort of effort that should’ve accompanied a US tour in the odd chance that it didn’t. God Equals Genocide have an Ebullition-y name that had me expecting the fifth coming of His Hero Is Gone or something, but I was relieved to hear that they are actually on their own weird trip, clean guitar strummed super-fast with screechy vocals and traditional punk drumming, kind of like a cow-punk take on Feederz with a knowledge of Killed By Death‘s janglier numbers. Definitely not the black-patch crust I was expecting, and cool enough that I’d recommend God Equals Genocide to a Charm City Suicides fan. I was more familiar with Libyans on the flip, who sound like a more experienced God Equals Genocide, raging so hard on their melodic hardcore-punk that it kind of takes on an early Gravity vibe, like Heroin or Merel reinterpreting The Freeze. Definitely a fitting split, the type of record where anyone who digs one of the sides will surely enjoy the other.
Grave Babies Pleasures / Deathwish 7″ (Hardly Art)
The pleasures of Grave Babies might not be entirely unknown, but they certainly fall within that territory. Just give “Pleasures” a whirl, a ragged take on Joy Division in the style of Blank Dogs. Once you stop dry heaving at that description, dry your eyes and allow Grave Babies to do their thing, because they’ve put together a pretty catchy tune here, commanded by the vocals and benefited by the song’s short running time. I can honestly say that I like it a lot, evidence that no matter how obvious one’s influences are, they can always be transcended. “Deathwish” is cool too, a little more haunted-house-ish, but still held together by Grave Babies’ vocal mist. This band will probably be the straw to break the nu-goth back for some, but I’ll continue to back Grave Babies, so long as they don’t name their next song “Lugosi” or “Corrosion”.
High Castle Spirit Of The West LP (Zum)
Zum was a pretty good source for Bay Area art-noise weirdness in the early ’00s, and while I haven’t really checked in with the label in a while, save for a random Foot Village record or something, this High Castle album makes it pretty clear that the label’s focus remains the same. Spirit Of The West has a strong Erase Errata vibe, from the vocal delivery and their artsy, no-wave leanings, but High Castle seem to take just as much influence from Skin Graft’s noisy history, smashing their feedback against tricky bass-lines and unintuitive drum patterns. It’s pretty good for the most part, particularly if you value musical capability in your brawny indie post-punk. It’s a little too middle-of-the-road for my particular tastes, never fully pulling me in (or violently pushing me away), but I respect their approach all the same and certainly wish High Castle the best that life has to offer.
The Lost Domain Blondes Chew More Gum 2xLP (Negative Guest List)
A double-album of “free-form rock n’ roll” recorded over a decade ago… in lieu of anyone nearby willing to go first, I guess I’ll step up to the edge and take this trip all by myself. This sort of “free rock” venture tends to be either slow and chooglin’ or wild and completely out of control – luckily for me, The Lost Domain opt for the smoother approach, coasting through their simple stoner jams with visions of The Velvet Underground, Swell Maps and No Neck Blues Band in their heads, not Harry Pussy or Demo Moe. Kind of has an A Band vibe at times, in that it sounds like the work of at least half a dozen people banging away on whatever they were able to plug in or stand right-side up. But generally, the endless jams of The Lost Domain don’t do much to stick to your ribs, or do anything at all, really… frequently a guy will sing, reading a shopping list or commenting on a show-goer’s shoes or tell a drawn-out story, but even he seems like he’d rather be checking his email (or whatever people checked in the late ’90s… his beeper, maybe?) than standing on stage. It’s not a bad thing, though – I can get down with this sort of hum-drum rock action where enough people are playing so that no one has to really put forth any sort of effort; the sound just takes a hold of itself, Ouija-style. There are people out there who can never own enough Ya Ho Wa LPs, or light up at the mention of Thurston Moore in an album’s liner notes (as here with Blondes Chew More Gum), and they’d probably love a taste of The Lost Domain. It’s alright with me, but I’ve gotta be feeling really lost myself before making this extended trip again.
Low Life Sydney Darbs 7″ (Negative Guest List)
Anyone to recently complete their Riot City and Erl discographies and in need of a new obsession will find lots to dig in Low Life’s Sydney Darbs EP. Low Life have this horribly washed-out guitar sound, straight out of the late ’80s (like later Dr. Know, or maybe a dollar-bin SST record) and approach their songs like Fang, probably closer to Fang than any other band going at it today. A fake British accent (can Australians do a fake British accent?) mugs over some California-circa-’83 hardcore riffing, just oozing disgust and the plausible possibility of violence. Definitely the sort of band that you’d randomly hear on a Mystic comp and run to the Internet to research, hoping that they did more than just a demo in their time. I could definitely go for more of Low Life and their British street-punk / American noise-rock combination. Some angry sounds were just waiting to be mixed.
Luomo Plus CD (Moodmusic)
You know how the Brainbombs singer exclaims “Yes!” in the song “Obey”? That’s how I feel whenever Luomo drops a new record. Vocalcity‘s “Tessio” is probably my favorite song of all time (Danzig’s “Killer Wolf” is a distant second), and the first half of Convivial is one intricate electro-pop hit after another. Within Luomo’s realm, Plus certainly falls closer to Convivial, drifting from the earlier minimal-techno workouts and closer to glossy, catchy, detail-oriented synth-pop. I love how Luomo manages to turn a basic melody into an entirely original idea, as evidenced by the best track on here, “Good Stuff”. If you pay close attention, the meticulous programming is striking, but you’re just as likely to fall back into its tight groove and dance (eyes closed, hands in the air). Along with his production, he’s always had a keen ear for guest vocalists, and while this male-dominated lineup doesn’t match the creativity or variety of Convivial, the vocals continue to add to the music’s success, never detracting (and “How You Look” has the most diva-licious hook I’ve heard this side of RuPaul’s Drag Race). Overall, a slight step down from where Luomo left us last, but when you’re so far above everyone else, it’s still a fantastic place to be.
Martyn Ghost People 2xLP (Brainfeeder)
No sooner am I sufficiently tickled by the Masks / Viper 12″ than Ghost People formally drops. Martyn’s last full-length kinda wore me out at points, failing to properly represent his strengths, but Ghost People corrects that, and with vigor. After a particularly amusing Spaceape-curated intro, Martyn busts into both “Viper” and “Ghosts”, perhaps my two favorite cuts on the album. That’d be a bummer if the rest of the album didn’t hold up, but throughout Ghost People, Martyn is at the height of his game, writing these memorable, infectious melodies that pin down his unique pads and rhythms. For all of the Hessle Audio / Hotflush / Apple Pips artists out there, none make me just want to dance the way that Martyn so frequently does. Ghost People‘s got all the trappings of modern, experimental bass music, but it comes packed with sustainable grooves that would make Ron Hardy proud. “Distortions” is particularly hot too, almost Green Velvet-ish in its 4:00 am sexual energy. Maybe you’ve lost touch with Martyn as of late – it’s easy to forget about someone this many years in the game – but I implore you to reconnect on Ghost People. His fire hasn’t stopped burning yet.
Kassem Mosse Enoha EP 12″ (Nonplus)
Kassem Mosse has intrigued me for a while now, not necessarily from the music he makes, but the fervent, cultish following he’s garnered. His series of Workshop 12″s seems to sell out faster than any other limited techno EPs, and I’ve never heard anything other than praise hoisted upon him. I’ve been following Mosse for a bit, and besides that ridiculous opening cut on Workshop 12 (that maddening “ensuality” (sic) vocal loop is the sort of thing that drives techno-haters mad), I haven’t really gotten Mosse. Enola, however, is the first record where Mosse’s loose, carefree approach starts to make sense to me. He actually titled these tracks, and through the four of them, it’s a pretty nice sampling of late-late-night electro; this is music that arrives hours after the crowd’s peak, when the only people left are too wired to fall asleep or exploring their carnal desires in a darkened corner or coat closet. Subtlety is key – even as “GSO2” pumps liquid like Drexciya, it has this lackadaisical flow that’s on the verge of turning completely sedentary. Enoha (particularly “Inswanna”) is the type of minimal tech-house that could go over big with the minimal-synth cold-wave crowd, although Mosse never reaches out for any sort of human connection with his music, not even a chilled one. I’ll admit, I probably wouldn’t have thought this hard about Kassem Mosse if he wasn’t so heralded, but I feel like my effort wasn’t wasted, as I’ve finally snaked my way into his impassive world of sound.
Multicult Open Fire / The Costume 7″ (Amplified Noise)
When I wrote about Multicult’s debut 12″ EP, I complained about the lack of band information – this age of Facebook keeps getting the better of me. My pleas have been answered, as this new 7″ shows the band standing in front of some gross wall, three impish faces looking about as uncomfortable as any noisy rock band should when purposely posing for a “band photo”. “Open Fire” is pretty cool, as if Shellac listened to a bunch of Jane’s Addiction on a lark and then accidentally got serious about it. Can’t say for sure that “The Costume” is the world’s first Yandy.com-inspired rock song (there’s no lyric sheet, so I can only presume…), but I like its groove too, kind of a stutter-step math-rock maneuver with harmonic picking, a trick I haven’t heard in a while (I must’ve misplaced my Snapcase records). You can kinda tell just from listening that this group is from Baltimore… makes a lot of sense that they eat from the same lousy diners as those Pfisters and New Flesh guys. Comes with a download card that offers MP3s of these tracks and two additional ones, a move that I feel mildly degrades the institution of playable wax, but I’m sure someone with less of an unhealthy vinyl fetish is just psyched to hear more Multicult.
New War Ghostwalking 12″ (Fast Weapons)
I had to check my watch and make sure I wasn’t in 2002 when spinning New War’s Ghostwalking EP. Check it: an indie dance-remix 12″ EP (including remixes care of The Gossip and the vowel-less moniker HTRK) with a dubbed-out groove ala Tussle and band members that look like stand-ins for The Make Up… it’s like New War are holding a séance in an attempt to resurrect Troubleman Unlimited. It wasn’t the greatest time for music, but it certainly wasn’t the worst, and even if the rest of the world has already moved on, New War make good with their minimalist, dubby groove. The Gossip’s remix is cool if kinda lazy, adding club-suited bass and claps and looping the vocal, certainly an unsurprising remix style if not an awful one. HTRK’s remix stays a little closer to the original, emphasizing the dub properties and morphing the vocals from human to, umm, ghost. I don’t know, not a bad record, just eight years too late. Not saying it’s a good thing to abide by the trends, but I for one need at least a decade before I’m ready to re-assess the Rapture-fied, indie-punk dance infatuation, new or old.
Nü Sensae Tea Swamp Park 7″ (Fast Weapons)
They may leave me nonplussed, but Nü Sensae continue forward for the many people that do like them, here with a new three-song 7″. Opener “Tea Swamp Park” is a different look for them, kind of a drone-y, mystical groove on a Not Not Fun tip, but they reign it in with “Gumbo”, taking hold of a two-note bassline and chugging it down hard with piercing vocals cheering on the instruments. “Dust” fills up the b-side, and is pretty much exactly what I remember from Nü Sensae’s TV, Death And The Devil, a pummeling, frantic song with minor-key riffs, like a convergence of art-rock, riot grrrl, screamo and punk rock that really just doesn’t do anything for me. I understand that Nü Sensae are probably awesome folks, booking shows and being punks and doing things themselves, all commendable actions; I just don’t really want to hear their music. We can get along in so many other ways.
Edie Sedgwick Love Gets Lovelier Every Day 7″ (Dischord)
Funky feel-good rock is Edie Sedgwick’s MO, and he’s got a bunch of friends backing him up on this new single. “Ava Devine” features the title phrase as its chorus, working a groovy little call-and-response vocal exchange that’s just a little more sinister than the cover photos of various people holding the same stuffed animal would lead one to believe. Flip it over for “Silver Bullets”, a group jam that sounds like a freshly-laundered !!! (remember how bad !!! used to stink, literally?), and “See Saw”, which basically follows the exact same template with the backing vocalists answering whatever silly question Sedgwick is asking. From an infrequent visitor’s perspective, DC seems to be at one of its least-fun musical eras, but if Edie Sedgwick and his band are bopping through Adams Morgan on a Friday night, I can’t imagine anyone not smiling at such a sight (except maybe the guy who is two jumbo slices deep). Love Gets Lovelier Every Day also comes with an eleven-song album download, which I refuse to acknowledge on the basis that these songs are probably more worthy of vinyl than half of the crap that gets released every day. How many Minor Threat discographies would it take to finance an Edie Sedgwick LP, like sixty? There’s no excuse for this sort of frugality.
Sex Church Growing Over LP (Load)
Sex Church’s Growing Over is their best effort yet, definitely the work of a band that sounds more like themselves than any of their perceived influences (The Velvet Underground, Cheater Slicks, Spacemen 3). For the most part, Sex Church keep it slow and mopey, which is my favorite way they roll – somewhere between The Gun Club and Neil Young in the desert at night. Reminds me a lot of that last Clockcleaner 12″, which is certainly a good thing, as their somber, sturdy riffing and resigned attitude is one I’d like to hear more of. Sex Church manage to mix it up enough to avoid boredom (there’s even a wild sax improv-freakout – maybe it’s part of any Load Records contract?), but slow-burners like “Growing Over” affect me the most. Solid album from a band that continues to improve with every new record – the perfect accompaniment to your upcoming seasonal affective disorder.
Soft Kill An Open Door LP (Fast Weapons)
Might as well get this out of the way – Soft Kill is the newest band of Toby Chan, perhaps the most notorious record-label scoundrel of the past decade. Half of the Internet wants him dead, and while I’ve made it through life without getting Chan’d myself, his existence in Soft Kill certainly flavors my reaction to their timely cold-wave music. Perhaps it’s the fact that you can trace the underground musical trends of the past decade through the bands he’s been in, but for whatever reason, I can’t help but shake the thought that Soft Kill is just another trendy put-on; this week’s costume, basically. And while that’s an annoying feeling, like I am getting duped by enjoying An Open Door, Soft Kill do the New Order-revival thing so well that I can’t help but get into the music, so long as I can distance myself from the musicians involved. Soft Kill have studied their Joy Division guitars and Asylum Party synths well… whereas others might just slap on some eyeliner and pancake makeup, Soft Kill clearly graduated cosmetology school. If you love this stuff, Soft Kill deliver it with just the right level of despondent flair… I just don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the bad taste Soft Kill leave behind.
Sokea Piste Oire 7″ (Peterwalkee)
Of the many countries that have attempted to play hardcore punk, Finland has rarely let me down. Sure, Finnish hardcore isn’t always thrilling, but these bands always seem to have serious respect for the form, either by performing it with a passion and skill above your average group of American louts, or by blazing it so ferociously that you have no choice but to lock up all your muscles and just feel it. Sokea Piste take the former approach, rifling through three tracks of meaty yet tuneful hardcore. You get two mid-tempo ragers on the a-side – raging at a mid-tempo speed isn’t always easy, but Sokea Piste nail it, as if Naked Raygun woke up one day particularly inconsolable and Discharge-obsessed. The b-side is longer, slowly building from a dirge to a tom-led crust march. I understand that this isn’t the first band for the members of Sokea Piste, but anyone could’ve guessed that, as their proficiency at crafting meaningful and non-generic hardcore is evident. Worth picking up if your studded black-denim vest doesn’t define you but you wear it every day anyway.
Andy Stott We Stay Together 2×12″ (Modern Love)
It blows me away the way these Modern Love guys aren’t content to break harsh new ground with an EP – they insist on quickly following it with yet another impeccable release. Andy Stott’s Passed Me By hasn’t released its boa constrictor grip from my neck yet, and here’s We Stay Together, another double 12″ that sounds like the Death Star’s club district right when Luke blew the whole thing up. It’s not to say that We Stay Together is just a quick rehash of Stott’s earlier work, though – these songs seem to be a little more techno-minded, clutching the beat, a beat that is too heavy to ride at a normal speed, preferring to lurch forward in agony. Play it at 45 though, and it’s all wrong… for such a lugubrious pace, this music doesn’t feel right at any other speed. At points, vocals try to escape, as if you buried your Force Tracks releases in the backyard and hear them moaning at night, trying to escape. Really captivating, essential, one-of-a-kind material from a guy I simply can’t stop fawning over (and not just because I want to be on his side when the global nuclear apocalypse finally arrives).
Void Sessions 1981-83 LP (Dischord)
Imagine sitting on unreleased Void recordings? It’s like a middle-eastern prince sitting on a country bursting with oil, refusing to treat his people to health care. Just the sheer fortitude to withhold these recordings from the rest of the world for so long, it’s unbelievable… I don’t care how many Evens records we’ve been subjected to, any pain is worth this final pay-off. There’s a valid reason why any modern hardcore show will feature at least three dudes in Void t-shirts, and it’s not just because they’ve got a cool logo – Void were unquestionably one of the most unique, unhinged and interesting hardcore bands to come out of the nascent hardcore scene, DC or otherwise. Their weirdo downer-metal-psych album Potion For Bad Dreams has still yet to properly see the light of day, banished to MP3 blogs, but maybe this collection of their earliest sessions is just the first step. You get the classic Condensed Flesh EP, Flex Your Head tracks, and a twenty-song session of other old favorites and songs that didn’t originally make the cut. I don’t listen to Void all day, but I certainly could, as even this odds-and-sods collection is a vital document of teenage hardcore rebellion. Wish there were more live tracks (when has anyone ever said that before?), as the crowd chanting “Void! Void! Void!” and forcing the band to play “My Rules” is just one of those moments that has me instantly clenching my fists with all the angst and bottled violence of my pimply seventeen year-old self. Long live Void.
Wishgift Folk Twain 12″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Another hard-rocking entry to the Sophomore Lounge family, this one care of Chicago’s Wishgift. Folk Twain reminds me of one of the wackier Man’s Ruin groups, like Zen Guerilla or FuckEmos or something; heavy, stoner-based rock music that’s spent a fair share of time brooding over The Jesus Lizard. Wishgift also like to get “proggy” at various times, which of course means weird time-changes and some guy bleating on his saxophone, kind of like if Harvey Milk had a younger brother who kept trying to impress his older brother’s friends when they came over. Folk Twain could go either way, but the guitars sound good enough that I find myself leaning towards a thumbs up. I should also mention that this is a one-sided record… I could’ve actually used that other side to really figure Wishgift out – maybe that’s just part of their plan.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan YT//ST LP (Psychic Handshake)
Took a little research, but Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is actually one band, or rather a collective, with three separate vocalists, multiple guitars, and even Alana Ruth credited on “lightning”. Through their deep ranks, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan go for a sweeping electronic prog vibe, like an indie-friendly Magma, or Nisennenmondai swelled up to an orchestral size. It’s pretty good, even though YT//ST occasionally gets a little too Burning Man for my particular taste, thanks to the glossy, tribal-psych styles in which certain songs take place, like an less-scary Crash Worship opening for The Flaming Lips. Definitely seems like the type of group that The Flaming Lips would take a shine too, as Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are cutesy and technically-sound in equal measure. Two song titles feature the word “crystal” in them, after all. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan will never really be my thing, but I respect their efforts just the same, knowing full well that there is an audience just waiting to be mesmerized by them.
Zola Jesus Conatus LP (Sacred Bones)
Zola Jesus has certainly skyrocketed in fame since last year’s Stridulum EP, and rightfully so. Few voices are as instantly recognizable as her feminine-Danzig wail, and even fewer are willing to really hone their own aesthetic around it (Zola Jesus has one of the coolest wardrobes going). So sure, I shelled out the extra $15 or so for what ended up being a zippered pouch for a plain-ol’ version of Conatus, and that’s fine, the zipper is nice and sturdy, and the design is cool… it’s the music of Conatus that had me longing for more. Besides her soul-shattering voice, I’ve always enjoyed Zola Jesus’ use of noise and static-as-atmosphere, as well as her ability to write simple but striking pop hits. On Conatus, the noise is nowhere to be found, replaced with a whole lot of “look what I can do” beats and glitchy EBM rhythms. No song comes close to the undeniable greatness of “I Can’t Stand”, “Night” or “Clay Bodies”, just off the top of my head. This would be okay, but Zola and her collaborators seem to have spent all the studio time working on these precise electronic textures rather than the melodies that support them… at least half of the songs on here feature basic melodies of three simple notes, often just stepping from one note to the next in simple time. It’s alright for one song, but when the entire album follows this pattern, it’s tough to rely on Zola Jesus’ vocalizing to transform a rote melody into a memorable hit, over and over again. “Vessels” is interesting, but the rest of the tracks tend to crawl into the same old forms, either morose EBM or plaintive ballad… simpler versions of songs she’s already written. Conatus certainly doesn’t suck – I’ve never heard Zola Jesus sing on anything that sucks, but it’s definitely disappointing, as it seems like the focus was on the glossy sheen of the music rather than its muscular foundation.