It’s easy to get caught up in the bevy of modern “cold wave” artists putting out
records, not to mention the the dozens of reissues that pop up weekly. There’s a
whole lot of fingers touching synths out there, and it can be exhausting just
reading the band names, let alone giving them a spin. One of the better modern
artists in today’s minimal-synth (or what have you) genre is Void Vision, helmed
by Shari Wallin. With only one 7″ available thus far, it’s clear she’s not out to
bombard the world with Void Vision – you actually have to go out of your way to seek
her out, live or recorded. Those who do are rewarded, though, as her songs are
delicate, dynamic and, well, actual memorable songs, rather than pre-existing
templates set to a pre-determined fashion template (email me privately for a list
of offenders). There’s a Void Vision LP on the way soon, as well as a new set of
live shows, so I figured I would check in and pick her brain a little.
How long have you been playing synthesizers? Were you always drawn to that instrument,
or did you start off playing different instruments?
I have been playing and writing since I was young. Piano lessons started at
around age 8, but within a few years I started teaching myself. I can sincerely
say that from as early as I can remember, I have always had a strange and strong
attraction to synthesizers and particularly melancholy tunes. When I listened, I
saw images, shapes, math, science, colors, and textures. It tickled my brain. I
was obsessed with watching my brother play old video games because the music was
so infectious. I tried to write vocal lines over Nintendo songs. By age 12 my
brother had given me a tracker program for the computer and I learned very quickly
how to use it. I also played a lot with sampling and creating my own sound libraries
because I was fascinated with the idea that any sound imaginable could be arranged
with other sounds like puzzle pieces, to form some great sonic collage. Overall,
the magic of electronic music gave me hope at a young age because I knew I was a
weird girl; it would be hard to find other likeminded musicians to work with and
this medium allowed me to work independently. It also made me realize that you
didn’t have to be some guitar virtuoso or superbly talented in any physically
dexterous way in order to make music. As long as you had a clever idea and
creativity, that was all you needed. I suppose I’ve always felt a futile inability
to compete with the rest of the world in any physical manner, but I understood
that I could compensate by focusing on developing myself mentally and in other
ways, if that makes sense. Electronic music gave me what I needed for that.
When and how did Void Vision get started? Was it just you at first?
Void Vision originally started out as a full 4-piece band. I was the main synth
player in the beginning. After a while, the guitarist [Hayden Payne] and myself
came to the conclusion that our goals and interests were similar and that we would
be better off as a duo. He switched from guitar to synths, and we both started
collecting a large amount of vintage gear and experimenting with various setups
and recording techniques. We spent a lot of time being nerds together and soaking
up all the knowledge we could. We performed together for a while but ran into
some issues during the recording of our 7″ and Hayden decided to leave to pursue
his own project, Dream Affair.
It’s been a few years, and there’s only a Void Vision 7″ out… when’s the next release
coming? Why haven’t you put out more?
I chose to continue with Void Vision because I didn’t want to abandon the songs
that I had put so much into. But it took me a while to get back on track with the
music. I had to acquire a lot of gear, spend time programming, and rethink how I
was going to present everything in a live setting by myself. I have played many shows
since then, but my progress with recording and writing was again halted by a very
tumultuous and damaging 2-year relationship. I have only recently managed to become
resettled in the beginning of this year, but since then I have been able to devote
time to recording and writing again. I’m about half way through with the full length
at this point, and I have a number of other things in the works for Void Vision. I
have also been contributing musically to the band Hot Guts, who I’ll be going on
tour with in late June, and a few other projects for friends.
What is your current live lineup like? Do you see yourself building up to a full
The current live setup consists mainly of myself and a pile of machines, but I am
occasionally joined by my lovely and talented violin player, Miss Adrina Marie. I
haven’t ruled out adding other members to the lineup, but I probably wouldn’t have
a full band again, at least not in the same format. This music was meant for drum
machines and synths. I like to be able to hear the dynamics, the intricate or
delicate sequences, and the tones of the synth sounds. Those things are important
and give a song it’s character. From my own experience, adding things like guitars,
bass, and drums usually just muddles the sound up too much or instantly makes it
sound like a generic rock band. Some musicians can do it right, but it’s rare. And,
even though I have a pretty strong voice, I don’t like having to scream over a whole
band to be heard. I find it’s easier to write alone in most instances, and there’s
less to worry about in terms of coordinating schedules, but I will say that I did
really enjoy working as a duo, and when you have the right combination of people,
magical things can happen. Ultimately, I suppose it all depends on who you’re
working with and how well you work together.
What’s the LP sounding like? Is it similar to the 7″? Any themes, or changes in direction
you’re excited about?
The LP is stylistically similar to the 7 inch, yes. The songs are mostly from around
the same time period, but a few are more recent. They are still quite dance-oriented,
but I also have some mid-tempo songs and a newer one that is what I refer to as my
epic ballad, which is rather lush with violin. But I’ve been working in a slightly
different way since Hayden left and I’ve had to adapt the way I perform many of the
songs live. I have some of the same equipment as before, but many new pieces of gear
I’m trying to incorporate as well. I do have some ideas for directions I want to move
in after this album, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets just yet, and I also
don’t like to pigeon-hole myself. Time will tell…
As this has been something you’ve enjoyed since a child, synthesizers and melancholy
tunes, how do you feel about the current resurgence of it?
I have mixed feelings about the resurgence. On the one hand I think it’s great because
it gives me an audience, and there are a lot of really amazing artists that have emerged
and among the people that are truly passionate about it, there is a wonderful and
supportive community. On the other hand, a lot of people are just into it for social
status, fashion’s sake, or to get laid. But that always happens with every genre of music.
It’s unfortunate, but the artists that end up breaking through to the mainstream are
usually dressed-up, watered-down versions of that genre. Hopefully audiences will be
smart enough to sort out the quality music from the disposable kind themselves. My biggest
quarrel is just that the rise in popularity has driven up the prices of gear.
Were there any electronic albums that you heard as you were growing up and learning how
to make music that really inspired you?
Sure, although I don’t particularly like naming specifics since people tend to be very
snobby and judgmental about such things. I will say that I grew up in the suburbs in a
place that had literally no diversity whatsoever and there wasn’t anywhere to go to
find music. I also didn’t have cable and therefore no MTV and the Internet wasn’t like
it is now obviously. But I did have a big brother, and one of the first things I can
recall really having an impact on me was his Nine Inch Nails albums when I was about
11 or 12. I was fascinated by the sound textures and I wanted to know how they were
made. I was also inspired by the fact that it was made by mainly one man. After that,
I began digging deeper and further back into music history, finding Depeche Mode,
Cabaret Voltaire, Severed Heads and so on. I started reading a lot of biographies
because I was very interested in the whole history of what was going on in the late
’70s and early ’80s music scenes. It seemed like such a creative and fertile period
of time. Of course, my interests go way beyond electronic music. I also grew up
listening to a lot of Moody Blues thanks to my mother, and classical music, thanks
to my father.
Do you think it’s harder to process music slowly, like you did as a child, because
there’s just so much of it available today? Like in 2012, you could download the top ten
most “essential” cold-wave albums in a few minutes, but that makes it nearly
impossible to slowly soak up and appreciate…
That is a really good point, and I think in many ways you’re right. Technology always
is a double edged sword. On the one hand there is an increased level of exposure to
diverse kinds of music and things that used to be hard to come by. But, the thrill of
the hunt has been essentially removed, for better or for worse, and the fast-paced
overload has, in a way, made it more difficult to keep focused on any one thing for too
long. Feeling connected to an album, and the musicians themselves, was one of the
greatest things about music when I was growing up. For every album that I acquired in
my youth, I played it incessantly before I moved onto the next thing. Now people seem
to have short attention spans, and being able to pick and choose songs they want to
download often causes them to miss out on experiencing an album as a whole. I’ve
always appreciated artists who put a lot of effort into constructing an album with
dynamic, where each song was treated as a vital part of a bigger picture, and they
didn’t just throw ‘filler’ material in between the hits. I’m glad that making and buying
vinyls is popular again because I think it is a medium that forces both artists and
consumers to engage music in a more complete manner, and the limited quantities and
delicate physical nature of vinyl itself brings back a sense of value and many of
the lost thrills of hunting.
How do you feel about older synth-based groups reuniting?
As for the subject of older synth groups reuniting, it’s interesting to see them
present their old hits to a new fan base. I think many of the ones who sank into
obscurity for years feel happy that their songs are being rediscovered and appreciated,
which is nice for any artist. But it’s perhaps even more interesting seeing what
became of them after they moved on with their lives and who they are now. More often
than not, their re-emergence ruins the mystique they had originally created. And
many times when they get back together and try to write new stuff it just doesn’t
work because the musical atmosphere of the world has changed and they’ve been tainted
by the influences of modern culture, or they just don’t have the same stimulus driving
them. But, every once in a while there is an exception and they pull it off and prove
that talent transcends age. My feelings are mixed, but I support it as long as it’s
coming from an honest place. Music should not be limited to the young.
Actress R.I.P 2xLP (Honest Jon’s)
Here we go, another full-length excursion into the mind of a freak so unique that a song title like “Bubble Butts And Equations” seems downright normal. Actress’s recent Rainy Dub EP demonstrated his peak form, subverting any rational notions of techno or dance music by way of his microscopic viewpoint, wherein the tiny bits of bacteria that grow on a beat are visible, alive and up-close. R.I.P doesn’t quite explode my mind in the same way as that last EP – through these fifteen tracks, I am teased, pleased, denied and confused, just as I had expected – I just wish those primal “what the hell?” moments were more frequent. The first track to really get my arm-hair standing is “Holy Water”, an endless downpour of electronic drips layered so thick that I’d swear Actress is trying to waterboard us. “Marble Plexus” follows, and is probably the track I’d choose to play for a friend if I had to introduce them to R.I.P: it’s got that characteristic haziness, like a beautiful painting left in a humid room and later destroyed by children. His dissection of techno music is so intricate and severe that it deserves a closed-casket funeral, lest the music’s relatives grieve any further. I’ll admit, part of Actress’s appeal is that he is so damn cool and confounding that I truly want to understand his music, to feel smart and sophisticated enough that I can listen to an album like R.I.P and feel like I’m in tune with its obscure syntax. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly get there, but Actress has once again made it an incredibly engaging and satisfying attempt.
American Cloud Songs Aum LP (Dais)
Dais as a label is a few years old at this point, and I’ve loved watching their universe unfold – no matter how disparate the sounds, it seems like every artist made some authentic connection to the label along the way. Take American Cloud Songs – it’s the work of tattoo artist Robert Ryan, and I can just imagine one of the Dais guys getting his sleeve re-done when the topic of music is brought up and Ryan casually mentions his American Cloud Songs project. Maybe that’s not how it happened, but Aum feels just as organic and natural. It also feels like it could’ve been made by a tattoo artist, as these slowly-winding Americana instrumentals (and Eastern chants) take patience and a steady hand to properly unfold. Kinda seems like the perfect opening act for a hypothetical Sigur Rós / Om tour, as the music is acoustic and meditative while still expressing some deep, delicate emotions. If I ever get that magical rune chest-piece I’ve been considering, I think I’ve found the man to do it.
Aufgehoben Fragments Of The Marble Plan LP (Holy Mountain)
No, that’s not a dozen boulders demolishing a freeway, it’s the new Aufgehoben album. These aging Brits destroy music like few others, taking a heady “improvised jazz” mentality towards scorching guitar-noise, feedback, drums and smashed debris. That’s been their approach since day one, and here at album number six, they refuse to change their stance. The song titles are as oblique as ever (“Ethicsisnoption (TI23)” and “Schollum159”, for example), but they fit well here – it’s like they’re Stuxnet codes, forcing your hard drive’s fan to explode and emailing your private naked pictures to all your friends. Aufgehoben really do sound like the musical equivalent of a horrible computer virus, making guitars malfunction, rubbing cinderblocks on ride cymbals, any sort of violent chaos that cannot be tamed, really. I love it, and while there isn’t any real evidence of progression with Fragments Of The Marble Plan, it’s a fantastic work of improvised noise unlike any other group.
Bad American Pretty / Ugly LP (Bad Recordings)
Bad American’s guitarist is one of the first “older” punks I met in my show-going infancy, so there will probably always be some level of personal admiration toward whatever bands he does (although I trust that my subconscious would draw the line at a joke-rap project). That said, I’ve listened to Pretty / Ugly enough to confirm that my enjoyment isn’t strictly personal, but due to their solid, Black Flag-inspired hardcore. For what is pretty clearly a hardcore band, there’s a lot of slow stuff here, but in the My War vein – this isn’t noise-rock, it’s hardcore-punk, even when played slowly, and it sounds good this way. They vary the self-destructive brooders with faster, moshier numbers that recall early Corrosion Of Conformity (or to keep it local, maybe Flag Of Democracy), and it leads to a record that is varied enough that specific songs stick out without the unfortunate side-effect of sounding “eclectic”. Doesn’t hurt that Bad American go in and out in under twenty minutes, or at least that’s how the album feels. Pretty / Ugly is another solid entry in today’s hardcore sweepstakes – why not test it out yourself?
The Band In Heaven The Band In Heaven 7″ (HoZac)
I don’t know, if I died and suddenly found myself surrounded by HoZac singles, I would assume my soul was sent far below, not up through the pearly gates. The Band In Heaven are pretty cool, though – they’ve got that sort of shoegaze-riding-a-Harley vibe that made Spacemen 3 so damn cool, kinda heavy-ish and stoner-y, but with a garage mindset. I feel like their playing skills are somewhat limited too, but it makes music like this better – less notes, less complications, just straightforward riffs, rudimentary drumming and a constant moan in the air, either guitar- or vocal-based. I think it might be that easy simplicity that leads me to enjoy The Band In Heaven, rather than just get kinda bored (like with White Hills, for example). Stupid “funny Internet picture” cover art might sway some from checking out this 7″, but these four exhaust-burners make it an easy pass to give.
Blanche Blanche Blanche Wink With Both Eyes LP (Night People)
I’m gonna assume that this guy is just a huge fan of a specific Golden Girl and not trying to rep a particular cooking technique with the name Blanche Blanche Blanche. These plinky, bleepy Commodore beats come with a strong whiff of ’80s nostalgia, but it doesn’t stink like a recently-opened Skunkor so much as a tray of fresh Ellio’s pizza. Think Blank Dogs, with the guitars and gothic overtones replaced by a pair of thick nerd glasses and a thrift-store VHS collection, each song recreating some fictional past with carefully layered keyboards. The inside cover states that “no sequencers or computers” were used in the making of Wink With Both Eyes, and I believe it – this seems like the work of someone who doesn’t take shortcuts, and is without the demands of a social life or other responsibilities to spend the time to make it happen. King Tuff guests on a song, and the overall amicable demeanor of Blanche Blanche Blanche reminds me of Happy Birthday in a way, perhaps if they shared the musical aspirations of Systematics. I like it.
Boddika Acid Jackson / Basement 12″ (Swamp 81)
Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Boddika’s up to with “Acid Jackson”, his latest for Swamp 81. I wasn’t feeling his prior 2×12″, but his recent collabs with Joy Orbison are some of the most infectious, glorious techno I’ve heard this year, so I figured I’d check back in with him solo. “Acid Jackson” is pretty cool, working those classic acid squiggles into a funky, modern dance sound, but I still find myself wishing Joy Orbison was around to help him form it into something massive. “Basement” is a little more to my liking, kind of a Knight Rider-ish acid groove that pulses with visions of what the future looked like in 1983. If I played a game of laser-tag with “Basement” on the PA system, I know I’d suddenly take it far too seriously and possible ruin a friendship in the process. A cool EP for sure, and while not a crucial purchase, it’s hard to ever really go wrong with any Swamp 81 product.
Bone Awl / Ashdautas split LP & 7″ (Klaxon)
If you ever want to capture me, just set up a big metal trap outside my house and stick a Bone Awl record inside. Glad to see that they’re still pumping out new material, and as their side of this split LP seems to last fifty minutes long, they clearly have plenty left to give. Their side is great, too – somewhat clearly recorded by Bone Awl standards, but still the same song they’ve ever written, over and over again, and just the way I like it. If I came up with the idea to weld black-metal sonics to a ’77 Oi template, I’d keep making that music too. Ashdautas were new to me, and a departure from Bone Awl’s militaristic approach – these guys are more of a “bats in the cathedral”-style black-metal group, with bizarre hair-metal soloing throughout. Maybe Bone Awl have just left me in a great mood, but I’ve enjoyed Ashdautas too, and I appreciate the utter gratuity of the additional one-sided 7″ that came with this record, featuring a shorter Ashdautas song. Can you imagine ever waking up and feeling like you want to hear the track on the one-sided Ashdautas single that came with this LP? Who cares! Buy the whole thing anyway.
Brabazons Cling On / Ma Babby 7″ (Artistic)
Quick and painless single from Brabazons, a group I know little about. And while I generally like to create some sort of back-story to an unknown group as I listen to them, these two songs don’t do a lot to stoke my imagination, even if they ain’t half bad at all. “Cling On” reminds me of one of Whatever Brains’ garagier numbers, what with the snarky lead vocal and boppy rhythm. “Ma Babby” is even more deranged, like a Monks song played faster than appropriate while someone’s Yorkshire Terrier barks wildly in the background. This one barely counts as a song, which makes it the winner in my book – it’s a perfectly executed bad idea. It’s rare that I feel comfortable comparing another band to The Mummies, but Brabazons may have stumbled upon such greatness with “Ma Babby”, which is more than many other garage-rock bands can claim. Maybe it’s not too late to really go for it and start calling themselves The Draculas instead? How much can it really cost to buy four capes?
Brain Killer Third EP 7″ (Framework / Vinyl Rites)
The fact that I’m able to sit here and form cogent thoughts after listening to this Brain Killer EP should signify that the band has failed at their mission, but maybe not quite – I am pretty sure that their brand of Japanese-inspired hardcore-punk destroyed at least a dozen brain cells in the process. Six tracks here, and while they tend to lay it out in a very heavy Bastard / Framtid sound, they cover a bit of ground within that – I swear I hear the anthemic riffs of early Fucked Up, Disorder-nodding noise-core and NYHC-worthy breakdowns, along with other less distinct influences, through this EP. It’s kind of like a sampling of what is good in hardcore today, all played by the same band, and fronted by a guy who’s got that Devoid Of Faith / Bastard voice down pat. Can’t go wrong with that. And while I wasn’t considering enlisting in the army this weekend, maybe “War” persuaded someone who was. Nice job!
Culture Kids Culture Kids LP (Make A Mess)
Wild n’ crazy full-length from San Francisco’s Culture Kids here, care of the smell-sensitive Make A Mess label. I didn’t take the yellow, green and red colors on the cover as a cheap review bribe, but rather a nod to reggae music, which had me fearing that Culture Kids might take an ill-advised stab at Bad Brains’ particular genre hopping. Instead, Culture Kids do very little besides thrash out their frantic, youthful hardcore without interruption. Kinda makes me think of Hit Me Back doing a Hoax interpretation – the songs are hard, speedy and short, and the vocalist sounds like Bart when Homer’s choking him, squeaking out this distorted rodent snarl. They’ve got breakdowns and choruses, but the album really just plays like one long session of stops, starts and fills, and it works well that way. They’re almost the Bay Area’s answer to New York’s Crazy Spirit – they don’t have to find shelter in the winter, and they’re more likely to go out and skate rather than scavenge the dumpster for something edible. Kinda wish there was a picture of these kids going nuts on stage included in the packaging, but I’ll have to just close my eyes and imagine the scene myself while “Headless Body In A Topless Bar” spins once more.
Cuticle Mother Rhythm Earth Memory LP (Not Not Fun)
The cover to Cuticle’s Not Not Fun album looks like a James Ferraro record that somebody sat on – you can imagine my legitimate fears of slowed-down Looney Tunes samples with pre-set Casio beats. Regardless of whether Cuticle intentionally tricked me or not, the music of Love Angel Music Baby (editor’s correction: Mother Rhythm Earth Memory) is an interesting, divergent take on today’s post-noise techno zeitgeist. I’d classify it as “techno” if I had to, but really, this record pulls in a few directions – the songs are colorful, disjointed, funky, bittersweet and corny in equal parts, and it makes for a pretty enjoyable listen. Cuticle can go from 8-bit tones to synthesized tropicalia in a single track and make sense of it without any signs of a struggle. Reminds me of Leprechaun Catering or Eats Tapes at points, but more if either of those groups were pared down to one member, leading to a more streamlined and less cluttered approach. Maybe a more listenable and concise Heatsick, too? There are even vocals on some tracks, and they’re comfortably fey, accompanying the beats nicely. Smart, subtle diversity can be a difficult quality to locate in today’s many electronic dabblers, so I’m thankful that Cuticle didn’t pass me by.
Daywand Temporary Sanctuary LP (Vwyrd Wurd)
Fans of unclassifiable weirdness better get on board with the Vwyrd Wurd label fast – after that peculiar Nocht The Only Ghouls LP, and now this Daywand album, I can’t think of a label outside of Kye that I find more wonderfully perplexing. The first side of the record leans toward a proggy/krauty vibe, with live drums, various keyboards and affected guitars plunging through the deep. Might be considered pleasantly normal, if it wasn’t for the ridiculous gargled vocal effect that shows up through most of these tracks, about as intelligible as a cat’s meow. And yet, it seems like Daywand has a pretty natural music ability, where an acoustic guitar and overdubbed whistling can work smartly next to drum machines and amplified blenders. It’s real enjoyable, but I actually prefer the longer cuts on the b-side, as they drift into the weird subconscious that Idea Fire Company and Jason Lescalleet seem to inhabit, where the concept of music is carefully turned to ooze. Temporary Sanctuary is one of those rare experimental records that works great in both early morning and late evening hours. At this rate, I can’t wait to hear what Vwyrd Wurd do next.
Diplo Express Yourself 7″ (540 / Mad Decent)
Not sure if the Savage / Shake Records 7″s reissues funded this Diplo single, or vice versa, but it’s clear that 540 Records has taken all of the usual aesthetic curatorial concerns a punk record label may have and wiped their nose on them. I’m unsure of the name of the ultra-specific dance music sub-genre Diplo has pillaged on this 7″ single (previously an MP3-only release on his Mad Decent label), but “Express Yourself” involves dubstep wobble-bass, Baltimore-club-via-jungle drumming and constant vocal toasting. This is the music people on YouTube shake their butts to, right? The b-side “Move Around” has Elephant Man hollering over a tweaked interpretation of David Banner’s “Play” beat, and comes with the perfect swollen thump to get a festival crowd so sweaty that their collective humidity becomes visible within the confines of a tent. Probably unfairly, I often find myself leery of Diplo’s music, but this single is a two-sided banger, no doubt.
Elgato Zone / Luv Zombie 12″ (Hessle Audio)
Seems like many of the people involved with the advent of dubstep have tried to wash their hands of the whole thing after its low-brow popularity boom, the Hessle Audio label included. I love that these guys are trying all sorts of different things instead, and this Elgato EP nearly reaches Actress levels of inaccessibility. I have no idea what Elgato expects us to do with these two tracks, but it’s a boldness I can appreciate – “Zone” is a looped vocal syllable (sounds like the guy is saying “feel”, maybe) and a 16th note blip, repeating with slight percussive additions and deep sweeps of bass. So little happens in this “Zone”, but I find myself gazing into its emptiness rather than reaching for another record. “Luv Zombie” hits closer to the rave-house of Joy Orbison or the Night Slugs label, but it’s still so offensively repetitive that you could sneak it on some avant-electronics compilation from 1981 and I’d be fooled. You probably need to be real deep into post-post-dubstep nonsense for Elgato to make any sense, but I think I’m there, as this weird-ass 12″ keeps lighting me up.
Emptyset Medium LP (Subtext)
Medium is the new Emptyset album and very well may be their last, at least according to some cryptic interview comments, but I hope that’s not the case – no one makes black-hole techno quite like Emptyset. For the uninitiated, Emptyset are a duo that seem to suck the color, fun, melody and rhythm from electronic music, focusing on brittle textures, dynamic bass explosions and the electronic disturbances that resonate from such. They keep it real slow, so a simple one-two bass/snare rhythm is given the proper examination, the listener’s focus aimed at the manner in which the reverb disintegrates or the crackling of the distortion rather than the beat itself. Medium was recorded in some old haunted chapel (can’t believe they beat Demdike Stare to it), and while it doesn’t sound any different than their prior recordings, it does feel a little creepier. Final track “Mirror” is my favorite, maybe more industrial than techno; it’s based on five quick bass punches that trail off into the ether, over and over again. All of Medium is great, though, particularly when testing out your stereo’s limits – this is extreme music in any sense that doesn’t involve snowboards, and I hope they keep on making it.
Endless Boogie Swedish Pizza 7″ (Boo-Hooray)
This stupidly-expensive new Endless Boogie 7″ is just how I want to hear them – raw and unfiltered in the basement, seemingly unaware that their music was being put to tape as they jammed onward and upward. I understand that they spend a great deal of time perfecting and revising their full-length studio efforts, but those clear recordings always slightly missed the mark for me – it’s the gritty, unfocused jamming where they excel, which is certainly the case with these two rockers. I’d say these songs are actually a step up from those first couple lo-fi albums, fidelity-wise; both of these tracks sound thick and doughy (not unlike the pizza featured on the center stickers) but raw enough that Paul Major’s vocals come across like the bearded bullfrog that he is. You’re not going to find this single for less than the cost of a large pie, but for all the enjoyment I’ve consumed from Swedish Pizza, it has certainly been worth the splurge.
Fucking Werewolf Asso Fucking Werewolf Asso 7″ (Alleycat)
Alright, I think I love this Fucking Werewolf Asso 7″, simply on the basis that I’ve gotta be the only person on the planet who does. Imagine the cheesiest post-Get Up Kids emo band that does the whole pop-punk keyboard/synth-bloop thing, and give them a crab-core makeover. I’m pretty sure this is the sort of idiotic crap that Epitaph is peddling these days, except Fucking Werewolf Asso are from Sweden and probably getting paid zero dollars to sound this stupid. Seriously, the only thing that could make something like Attack Attack! more hilarious is Swedish accents and more keyboards, and that’s what you get here. And to top it off, the song titles are all names of female front-persons in various other bands (“Jemina Pearl” of Be Your Own Pet and “Yasuko Onuki” of Melt Banana, for example), in what is probably the creepiest move I’ve seen a band pull this month. I truly can’t imagine a single Yellow Green Red reader would ever do anything more than scoff at something as lame-brained as this, and I don’t even consider you to be a particularly snotty bunch. This 7″ comes on clear vinyl, so if you stare hard enough, it’s almost like the record doesn’t exist at all. I love music.
Human Toilet Human Toilet LP (Black Thirteen Recording Company)
Excuse me, waiter… I didn’t order this! Human Toilet are a studio-based three piece (unless they somehow make the “Gary on vocals, Chris on drums, Seth on guitar and bass” thing work live, which would honestly be fantastic), and they play a weird mix of Guitar Center-approved rock styles – I swear, they go from thrashy hard-rock like Overkill to skanky Rocket From The Crypt grooves to slapstick pop-punk ala Schlong, all through the course of this record. It’s like if The Mentors wore baggy shorts and chain wallets year round, but not as offensive, and not as funny. But then that’s just me assuming they’re trying to be funny? The David Liebe-Hart artwork adds to my suspicions, but I can’t figure out the joke. At least Liebe-Hart probably got paid, so that’s good. I don’t know, I’m just not getting a whole lot out of this record. For those awaiting the arrival of this decade’s Bugout Society, however, your yacht has arrived… the rest of us can continue to comfortably avoid any toilets that aren’t fashioned from porcelain and pipe.
Hunting Party Sub Rosa With Whispered Pacts 7″ (Hesitation Wound)
Word on the street is that Hunting Party are the new hardcore band you gotta catch live – I’m sure whatever Chaos In Tejas gigs they’re playing (they must be playing Chaos, right?) will be well attended. With that in mind, my first spin of Sub Rosa With Whispered Pacts wasn’t quite the down-tuned tour de force I was expecting, but after a few times around my turntable, I’m enjoying Hunting Party for what they are: a gruff, heavy hardcore band. They mainly remind me of Deathreat, Pollution or Dead & Gone – hardcore that crusty patch-wearing types have claimed ownership of, along with the nerdy record-collecting elite (and that’s not to mention that design-wise, Hunting Party use all the right fonts, and even sport an attractive, classic circle-shaped punk logo). They never quite reach blasting speed, but always keep it pummeling with the aid of what’s gotta be at least two stacks per guitarist, and a vocalist who barks not unlike Alston of Walls. Solid, gimmick-free hardcore like this will never do me wrong.
King Blood Vengeance, Man LP (Richie)
Richie Records has really established itself as a safe-space for unabashed guitar worship, the sort of music that keeps Joe Carducci from an untimely passing. This new King Blood 12″ is particularly scorching – much like his debut, the riffs are solitary, fiendishly executed and erupt from the speakers like volcanoes. I’m reminded of the Chains And Black Exhaust compilation as interpreted by Tetuzi Akiyama, taking those acid-rock riffs, caking them in overheated fuzz and repeating them until only rubble and dust remain. Vengeance, Man gets a little lighter toward the end, and nearly placid in the five-minute-plus ender “Silent Dust”, but it’s an almost necessary meditation after the squealing, Purling Hiss-style leads that came earlier. The beautifully-screened sleeve seals the deal – allow no hesitation while procuring a copy.
Lower Plenty Hard Rubbish LP (Easter Bilby / Special Award)
What’s up with Australian bands using photos of first-world squalor for the album art? I swear, from Kitchen’s Floor to that Eddy Current singles comp, and now this Lower Plenty LP (among others I am surely forgetting), Aussies sure are impressed by piles of their own garbage. It’s no signifier for the music here, though – Lower Plenty are mopey, sophisticated indie-rock that offer a level of professionalism unrepresented by their backyard cover photo. Reminds me of early Bright Eyes without the melodrama, maybe a touch of Will Oldham’s ho-hum meanderings, and a dusting of Mazzy Star’s half-awake sermons. They’d probably rather I just say that they sound like Neil Young or something, and there’s certainly some of that, too. Similar to fellow countrymen Deaf Wish, Lower Plenty offer a variety of melodies among these carefully-considered tunes, managing to sound both mature and completely disinterested in pop stardom (an excellent combo). If Thurston Moore tours on his recent solo folk record again and asks me who he should get to open, Lower Plenty would be on my short list.
L.U.N.A.R. Revolt Mind Losers LP (NØ-Man)
Here’s some silly psych-rock from Philadelphia’s L.U.N.A.R. Revolt, whose acronym I dare not attempt to figure out, lest some order of the cosmos finally be revealed. I feel like this music would go over real big at a comicon – they’ve got some solid rock moves, are intentionally wacky and space-oriented, and I could easily picture Jack Black as an active member of the band. There’s a song called “Intergalactic Terrorists For Hire”; what angry nerd that comments on plot-holes in the new Avengers movie wouldn’t love this? Musically, it’s somewhat simple rock stuff, filled with gratuitous soloing (I think that’s at least part of the point), keyboard effects, Andrew WK-ish rhythms, and a vocalist with a cartoon-character voice that’s impossible to get mad at. Maybe if Von LMO read a lot of Tolkien, they would’ve sounded a little more like L.U.N.A.R. Revolt? That said, it’s really not my thing at all, just a convergence of too many things I’m not wild about (decent guitar rock, happiness, outer space), but those who need a record to enjoy amidst Futurama DVDs and bong hits will cherish L.U.N.A.R. Revolt for light-years to come.
Moffarfarrah Thread Bare 7″ (Albert’s Basement)
If every record I bought sounded like Moffarfarrah’s Thread Bare, I’d die a happy man. An insane, sputtering, brain-damaged man, but a happy one nonetheless. Both of these tracks seem to be entirely vocal-based: “Skeletal” is the sound of mouth-farts, raspberries, gibberish and amateur beatboxing, all run through various effects. It’s like an even more pointless Menstruation Sisters, and I could listen to it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “T-shirt” is a little more organic, with what sounds like nothing more than three idiots and a microphone, just going at it ’til they pass out. They kinda lose me when the one guy whinnies like a horse and then follows it with some Beaker-esque meeping, but I’m sure I deserved it. Seriously, don’t buy this thinking I’m abstractly describing some crazy-sounding post-punk group… Moffarfarrah is nothing more than wordless vocal buffoonery and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Natural Law Find The Flock LP (Deranged / Katorga Works)
The stack of good modern hardcore is shoulder high at this point (and I’m a tall man), and within it you’ll find this new Natty Law LP. I thought their debut 7″ was an unessential good time, but this LP shows a more focused, fine-tuned band, able to put together their own influences so that someone might overhear this album and say, “hey, that sounds like Natural Law.” Most of Find The Flock has an early Dischord vibe, but not #1 through #4 so much as #5 through #8 – the frantic melodies of The Faith are in place, along with Minor Threat’s signature baldheaded delivery. It’s not a retro act though, and I hear all sorts of hardcore seeping out of Natural Law, from Citizen’s Arrest and Born Against (they did name a song “Nail That Sticks Up” after all) to Husker Du and maybe even a little Tear It Up. I realize I’ve covered every conceivable hardcore style in that description, but I swear it’s all in there. This band probably couldn’t be your life, but I’m enjoying Find The Flock for its basic pleasures anyway.
Pink Reason Negative Guest List Jukebox Single 7″ (Disordered)
For as much as I expected this new Pink Reason single to be a “listen once and file” record, I was pretty excited to get my hands on it. Flimsy hand-screened / hand-glued cover, a “remix” on the a-side and a cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” on the flip, a limited edition pressing… these are the things that get me to put on pants in the morning instead of jumping out the window. At their best, Pink Reason are incredible, and at their worst, Pink Reason are beyond horrible, so either way I figured I was in for a good time. So let’s get to it… “Wrong/Right (Dancehallocaust Remix)” is a remix of a song by The Hussy, and Kevin Reason’s help from Psychedelic Horseshit’s Matt Horseshit is smeared all over this one – sounds like drum-machines and guitars engaged in a Nerf battle where everyone ends up with rugburn. Probably won’t ever listen to it again, but it certainly lived up to my expectations. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, however, is a sleepy interpretation that’s all well and good, except that they go so far from trying to match W. Axl Rose that the various singers almost seem scared of filling his boots – the vocals are restrained and bored, and there isn’t a single ayy-ayy-yeah to be found. Even so, this record looks and feels cool enough that I’m willing to ignore the music’s shortcomings and continue to proudly own it.
Gerry Read Yeh Come Dance 12″ (Delsin)
House-music wunderkind Gerry Read is on a tear with new 12″s lately. Doesn’t he have to study for finals, or go ride bikes with friends? He’s put out ten since 2011 (for real), and of the four I’ve heard so far, nothing has touched “All By Myself”, but this new EP is a satisfying trek just the same. Read really has a knack for taking standard Detroit-style building blocks (old dusty drums, Rhodes chords, crisp hi-hats) and piecing them all together in a beautifully imperfect way, allowing sharp edges to stick out, be it an oddly-mixed kick or a drum-loop that seems playfully out-of-place. “Bozza” is probably my favorite of the four, as the drums feel out of time, even though the groove is palpable. Levon Vincent has a similar mischievousness to his tracks, although Read’s material is much sweeter… a classic form of house music roughed-up by teenage hands. Been having a lot of fun with Yeh Come Dance, which has cemented Read on my list of must-follow house dudes.
Roomrunner Super Vague 12″ (Fan Death)
Here’s a band that’s really going for it – seems like Roomrunner formed less than a year ago, wrote enough songs for a cassette and a 12″ EP, and have been hitting the road ever since. I’m glad they’re putting in the effort, because I enjoyed that first tape, and I’m enjoying Super Vague too. Like the tape, their ’90s rock moves are in proper order here, dabbling in Sponge, Blur and Foo Fighters riffs for the hipster set. They actually sound a bit punker on Super Vague, though – maybe the recording is just crunchier, or they toned down the pop aspirations for warehouse-friendly punk rock moves, but these four tracks sound good to me too, even if their biggest hits remain on the tape. Last track “Petrified” even sounds like a live recording of Arab On Radar covering the White Stripes, which is a cool-if-somewhat-limited direction for a band that is clearly shooting for the stars. It’s all gonna come down to the eventual LP anyway, and I have little doubt they’re gonna leave me blistered with a few new anthems whenever that drops (and at the pace this band is hustling, it will probably be before 2013).
Sapphire Slows True Breath 12″ (Not Not Fun)
It’d be easy to make a “True Breath… well it sure does stink!” joke, but Sapphire Slows are 100% spearmint. It’s a Not Not Fun release, but I feel like this might’ve been better filed under 100% Silk – Sapphire Slows is soft, luxurious, Casio-lite techno with vocals so ambient they might’ve already left the room by the time I arrived. It has that pre-req ’80s vibe, but comes off less of a nostalgia trip than similarly ranking artists – Sapphire Slows is clearly channeling her own style, and I’m digging it. Almost reminds me of one of those Sushi multiple-LP compilations of Japanese club-pop, but slimmed down and chilled out so that only the essence of the original sound remains, all exaggerated vocals and sunshine-y drum-breaks wiped clean. If you listen to True Breath ten times after midnight, animal-print charm bracelets will appear on your arms – there’s magic in this music.
Scott & Charlene’s Wedding Para Vista Social Club LP (Bedroom Suck)
Ah, who can forget the most special day in the lives of those two lovebirds, Scott and Charlene… it was a magical moment, captured on full-length vinyl by a handful of scruffy semi-employed Aussies. Really though, these guys seem like hipster-welfare wiseguys, but Para Vista Social Club is a killer rock album as sweet as it is stubbly. It’s kind of hard to describe – they’ve got a playful, near-grunge vibe, but the lyrics are sharp and snide, and the tunes are as frequently mellow and peaceful as they are raucous… I guess there’s a Replacements vibe, but Scott & Charlene’s Wedding seem more consumed by sloth than gluttony – these guys don’t sound drunk and stoned, they just sound comfortable on the couch. The recording is great, and each song is its own trip, with more than enough hooks to go around – it’s kind of what The Young seem to be going for, but without the lingering notion that they had to make a conceited effort to do so. Para Vista Social Club kinda breezed right past me the first couple times, but as the hooks set in, I quickly realized how happily trapped I became in their world. Of all the Australian bands going right now, these guys are on the top of my list for a US tour, but they’re probably too damn comfy where they are to get on a plane for 24 hours. Can’t say I blame them.
Shackleton Music For The Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ EPs 3×12″ & CD (Woe To The Septic Heart!)
You know the moment when Steve Irwin used to uncover a twenty-foot alligator under his canoe and yell “crikey!”? I felt similarly in relation to this massive new Shackleton release on three separate occasions: upon hearing of its existence, opening the package, and finally, listening to the music within. You get at least two hours of Shackleton on CD and triple 12″ vinyl, and a giant crazy lyric booklet that I am scared to read, all covered in that awesome artwork he’s been using for a while now, like if Pushead got heavy into hallucinatory drugs instead of punk. Starting with the CD, the hour-long Music For The Quiet Hour is crazy and great – it’s certainly Shackleton, but drawn out, cinematic, experimental and just utterly captivating. Weird ticks give way to drones, and then to beats; what sounds like Lawrence Fishburne in The Matrix gives a big speech, Russian spies start broadcasting from their submarine… I don’t know why I still pay for cable TV when this CD is far more entertaining and expansive. And then there’s the three 12″s EPs that comprise The Drawbar Organ EPs, falling much closer to the usual structure and style we’ve come to expect from Shackleton, but possibly superior to all that’s come before. A track like “(For The) Love Of Weeping” hits all the right spots, from a deep, jumpy bassline to exotic percussion and space-age production. I didn’t think he was gonna make me dance, but I nearly cheered when the beat kicked back in around six minutes on this one. The rest of the tracks are all top notch too, highly replayable, if even just to explore the different alleys and rooftops that were missed on the first few spins. I’m trying to come up with a reason why you should save your $50 or £30 or whatever but I just can’t. This one’s a 2012 requirement.
Spacin’ Deep Thuds LP (Richie)
Great debut LP from Philadelphia’s Spacin’, more or less the other creative half of Birds Of Maya that didn’t become Purling Hiss. I liked Birds Of Maya, but in their death (or I guess “extended hiatus” is more appropriate), they’ve birthed two fantastic new groups. I sure love Purling Hiss too, but Spacin’ really spun me for a loop – this is stoner-ish, classic guitar rock, played in the fashion of cut-off jean shorts, empty cans lining every flat surface and a potent puff of weed in the air. They jam their riffs loosely, and save the time-changes and chord progressions for the eggheads – like King Blood, every good riff constitutes its own song. I’ll be honest, for as much as I love the guys in Spacin’, this kind of laid-back, outsider-y stoner sound can get by just on its own perpetual motion, but I’d like to stress that Deep Thuds isn’t just some lifestyle accessory, like a tour-only Moon Duo record – Spacin’ write memorable, endlessly listenable songs with hooks that dig right in (be it the Stooges-y “Empty Mind” or the sweet-chooglin’ “Ego-Go”). This isn’t just a record of pleasant, familiar comforts, it’s an album of songs you’ll want to hear over and over, and paced so perfectly that you’ll go from side A to side B to side A again without realizing you’re still outside on your stoop getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. If you’re gonna listen to this one outside, wear protection.
Teledetente 666 Les Rats / Panne Sexe 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Thought I had past the point in my life where I’d be interested in any band that uses a “666” in their name, but here I am, swaying like a maniac to this new Teledetente 666 single. They’ve got a yahoo.fr email address, but I knew they were French from the moment the cruddy drum machine clanked out its beat in “Les Rats”. They’re clearly cut from the same soiled cloth as Cheveu, The Anals and The Feeling Of Love, committed to a miserable, inebriated lifestyle. It’s like instead of waking up with permanent marker on your forehead, these guys actually tattooed that penis on your face, permanently taking a prank too far. Both songs are pretty long, chugging along like unhappy robots until the deconstructed guitar consumes the recording entirely. You’d think at some point I’d tire of this sort of mechanical, noisy post-punk sound, but nope… give me like five more Teledetente 666 singles such as this and I’ll still be rolling around in it like a gleeful idiot.
Tile Friend Stealer / Hitchhiker 7″ (Torn Tendons)
Here’s another satisfying EP from Tile that only one hundred people will ever hear, this one in celebration of Record Store Day. This might be my favorite one yet – “Friend Stealer” could be their simplest riff, but it’s so damn sludgy and mean that it could work for either Goatsnake or Unsane, which is pretty much where I’d be aiming if I were Tile. “Hitchhiker” features a bent note not unlike that latest Alice In Chains single (which rules, I should add), at least until the momentum pushes it down a mountain, collecting debris and contusions along the way. Both songs seem pretty short, at least by stoner-y sludge-rock standards, which has led me to play “Friend Stealer” over and over. If you’ve got all those Black Sabbath tribute 7″s on Hydra Head and need something new to collect, I suggest you start here.
The Traveller A 100 EP 12″ (Ostgut Ton)
The Traveller is Shed under a different name, whose album The Traveller I hated on last year. After Shed’s recent great The Praetorian EP, and now this banger of a 12″, I’m wondering if perhaps he was right and I was wrong. Under his “The Traveller” guise, Shed drops some merciless, rotten house music, the sort of maniacal dance cuts that keep Berghain alive. Title track “A 100” has like three interlaying hi-hat patterns and a gracious bass thud that leaves stars in my eyes from its impact. It’s great, and it’s tempered by the floaty Pop Ambient-style “BER”, whose cascading loops recall The Field at his most neurotic. Closer “Bypass” might actually be my favorite though – the bass rhythm syncs in and out of time, depending how The Traveller lays down the beat, and it’s a cunning and exciting trick that mixes anticipation with dance-floor euphoria. I get so many dance music singles that it can be easy to really enjoy one and then forget all about it, but I’ve found myself purposefully reaching for A 100 more often than not – it’s like a virus I don’t want to fight.
Tropical Trash Fear Of Suffering 7″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Wonderfully strange debut 7″ from Louisville’s Tropical Trash here. Wasn’t sure what to expect, I mean this could’ve been anything, but Tropical Trash do this sort of weird deconstructed rock thing that couldn’t have really come from anywhere but itself. A-side “Baltimore” sounds like later-period Landed attempting a Dinosaur Jr. cover, at least for the moments between mosh-core breakdowns – see what I’m saying? The b-side pulls in even stranger directions, recalling atmospheric black-metal (kinda), Dischord-ish post-hardcore (sorta), and noisy artsy-fartsy-ness (maybe). Maybe I just really like the band name (I do), but this weird melange of styles somehow makes sense when taken as a whole – I bet this’d be a fun live band to see. You can’t sound like Tropical Trash and not have at least one crazy-looking guy in the band.
Trus’me Remixes 12″ (Prime Numbers)
The phonetically-spelled Trus’me moniker has always intrigued me, and there is basically no Marcel Dettmann remix I won’t try out, so I figured this single had to be mine. Not sure I am any closer to pinning down Trus’me’s vibe, but it’s been a good if surprising listen. Marcel Dettmann remixes “Sweetmother” on the a-side, and it’s a bit of a departure for him – rather than another relentless, astringent take on industrial-tinged techno, Dettmann works an organic, lively bassline under the mix. It reminds me of Morphosis’s Ra.H project in its pairing of fleshy bass with mechanical overtones, and the monster voice that says “Sweetmother” in some hilarious artificial accent is a great addition. I love Norman Nodge, even if it’s mainly for his look (seriously, Google image search this guy!), and his dub of “Good God” is true to its intent, overlapping some spoken-word samples over dubby bass and slappy percussion. Can’t say my life was changed by any of this, but so much of my day is spent among people I don’t care about that it’s a delightful escape to spend ten minutes in the company of Trus’me, Marcel Dettmann and Norman Nodge.
TV Ghost Phantasm / Panic Area 7″ (Sweet Rot)
I feel like the existence of TV Ghost has lowered the life expectancy of its band members, past and present, but that’s one of the really appealing aspects of TV Ghost – they seem dangerous, like when they fall down on stage or get arrested on tour, it has real consequences. It also doesn’t hurt that they seem to be getting better with each new record – these two songs are an excellent intro to the band and some of their finest work yet. Imagine a teenage Nick Cave with a crusty pompadour instead of a goth-mullet, laughing wildly as his friends run through the woods after egging Vincent Price’s house. Not sure where TV Ghost recorded this, but they can stop looking around – if there’s any possibility of another full-length before these guys die, they’ve found their studio. “Phantasm” sounds great, particularly when the bass-drum gets pounded on the chorus and the whole thing feels like it’s ready to cave in. “Panic Area” is a little more subdued, scaling a haunted guitar line and letting the organ bleed green blood all over what is otherwise a pretty danceable punk song. I was already a TV Ghost fan and I’m still a bit surprised at how good this single turned out.
White Suns Sinews LP (Load)
White Suns often come up when Brooklyn-based noise-rock is discussed (tell me that hasn’t been a hot topic at your local water cooler!), but Sinews doesn’t really fit the bill – this album sounds more like the absence of noise-rock. I kinda get the feeling that the members of White Suns just got so good at playing their instruments to the point that it built up a weird self-hatred; the record opens with a flailing drum roll, and then the drummer just sits there for like two minutes, pointing his middle fingers at anyone who wants to hear him actually use his instrument. The whole record’s got that vibe of uncomfortable silence, like the actual music was kidnapped, and we’re left with the warm-ups and cool-downs, resulting in a weird record that sounds like Black Dice’s Cold Hands album as reinterpreted by Twin Stumps. I can see how White Suns would get along with Twin Stumps (whose vocalist Alessandro Keegan painted the cover’s disturbed egg), as both groups seem to really wallow in the spaces in between beats, those empty, static-laden passages where the music is forced to stare at its ugly reflection. Took me a little bit to fully grasp Sinews, and I certainly don’t feel any happier about my life now that I think I have – job well done, White Suns.
Yi Host Body 7″ (no label)
I tend to enjoy any record that looks like it came out of a wet recycling bin, this self-released Yi single being no exception. They play a kind of high-energy, jagged indie-rock, reminding me of hometown-brethren Sopors, but with a wider range of songwriting ability – these guys go from mod-ish power-pop to a riff-heavy chorus in a few short moments and it’s all seamless. Almost reminds me of The Mae Shi, but without all the tomfoolery. Or perhaps even a smidge of Homosexuals? There are three songs here, and they’re all different enough that I can’t pinpoint where Yi are headed… even so, it sounds like a place where Gang Of Four, Home Blitz and Tyvek can all walk down the street without getting mugged. If this sounds appealing, try to track Yi down on the Internet and see if they don’t send you some newspaper with a 7″ fit snugly inside, too.