Baltimore seems like one of those cities where nearly every art-school grad
is trying desperately to become a unique personality, the next big indie
star. Ed Schrader, on the other hand, never had to try to be interesting – he
can fill an entire hipster warehouse with his natural-born chutzpah and nerve
and not even realize he’s done it. From initially performing with little more
than his larynx and a floor tom, to his current Music Beat lineup with bassist
Devlin Rice, Schrader has always been a fearless performer, invoking all sorts
of interesting no-wave and post-punk comparisons, with a creative drive that
flows regardless of whether he’s on stage or in line at the DMV. I wasn’t prepared
for all the REM talk, but that’s on me, not him – the man is full of surprises and
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How did you decide that you, by yourself, on stage with a single drum and
a microphone (or sometimes just your own lungs), could be a live performance
people would want to see? Was it a scary idea?
I currently (for the past 2 years) record and perform with a bassist. From 2007 to
2009, I played solo: just me and a drum. It was (looking back on it) a time where I
was listening to NON (Boyd Rice, no relation to Devlin Rice,my partner-in-crime /
bandmate), Current 93, Big Black, Swans and Lou Reed’s Berlin. I was in a city
where lots of folks were utilizing electronic gadgetry to make multi-layered dance music,
which I enjoyed, but didn’t personally relate to as my own personal form of expression.
I’m a word guy, and the bands I’ve previously mentioned are of that nature, so I think
I was just trying to make something in that vein with the abilities and tools at my
disposal. Was it scary? Hell yes, but what worthwhile adventure is not? Playing to
thousands of people in New York while opening for Dan Deacon, Deerhunter and No Age
is one of my favorite memories, just me and a drum – wouldn’t do it again, but hell
it was good times. I think people would love to see a dude banging a drum by himself,
it will just not be me. That was a product of necessity and honestly had a limited
audience – I write songs with whole orchestras in mind. I want to be as big as John
What prompted the decision to have Devlin Rice join the group? Do you
foresee more members joining at some point?
I think I had just gotten to a point about two years ago where I couldn’t imagine myself
doing this the way I was doing it for too much longer. The press seemed to pigeonhole
me as some wacky outsider performance artist, or a surrealist comedy routine, and I
just wanted to write and perform pop songs. Devlin showed up the moment I was having
that thought, rather I showed up as his new roommate. We would just hang out and play
video games and talk about music and make Homer Simpson-esque jokes for hours. One
night I told him how I had a weird gig coming up that I wanted to kind of blow off,
as I was nervous about just playing to an electronic dance audience with a floor tom.
He offered up his services and we have been a unit ever since. I would certainly
like to bring some other folks in the mix once the time is right, but that stuff has
to happen organically. I don’t feel comfortable doing the same thing for too long. I
have always been impressed by people like Ricky Gervais, David Bowie, and Werner
Herzog, people who come at you with something new and enthralling every three years,
well we’re still waiting on the Thin White Duke! What I’m saying is I don’t wanna be
40 and banging on a drum and yelling “Gas Station Attendant” every night. The world
doesn’t need it; once is enough. I like to keep moving forward. Whatever set list
you hear now will be gone in three years. Devlin and I will be in it together no
matter what, he is my core guy, my Mick Ronson, my Steve Merchant!
I had a lot of fun collaborating with Matmos, and Randy Randall of No Age on this album,
Jazz Mind. Javelin will be working with us along with Matmos on the next one (if their
schedule permits and if they will have me – I haven’t asked them yet, but I can charm
I perform minimally, but when I compose songs I imagine an orchestra. The minimal performance
is for me more captivating than a nine-piece band. I just did vocals for the new Matmos
single coming out soon, and that was lots of fun because all I had to do was show up and
I was given themes and soundscapes to work with, and was asked by Drew to do something
relatively phonetic, yet I ended up tossing in some lyrics, cause I’m a word guy. They
ended up going with it. I think it’s going to be their first song with that type of pop
vocal structure, it’s really an honor! Those guys have worked with Bjork, and have made
amazing music! But yes the future will involve many players.
How did you meet and get to working with Matmos? Was it different for you
to approach singing on an electronic song, versus your own songs that are straight-
forward rock, at least by comparison?
Matmos and I met over dirty dishes. I was a dishwasher at this place called The Golden
West in Baltimore, and they had just moved to town. As I was busing their table (picking
up the dirty plates) Martin mentioned that he and Drew had bought my record The Choir
Inside and were rocking it in their house quite a bit. I did not know who they were
right away by face, just seemed like two nice folks making a dishwasher’s day. We chatted
for a bit, and I slowly realized who they were – duh! I was a bit intimidated, especially
since I was wearing a dirty smock and had crud all over me. They were so gracious, they
really made me feel special at a time where people just kind of laughed at me or yelled
for more oval plates. They talked to me like a real artist, and even asked what my future
recording plans were. When I told them about Jazz Mind they seemed very intrigued,
so I said, “hey, wanna cut a few tracks with me?” To my complete amazement they said yes,
and Devlin and I cherish those tracks.
As far as the way I do things, well here goes. I walk to Dunkin Donuts, pump out a chorus
over my hand held recorder, sit there at the cafe for an hour, make a verse or two, come
home and bang it out on the drum then eureka! At that point I show it to Devlin, who is
brilliant at taking something broad and harnessing it with just the right touches, like a
young Peter Buck! (He is a metal guy so probably wont like that comparison.) They both
share the bond of less is more, and economy of sound. We tour the song around, see how it
goes over, and feels. If it makes it through a tour and still feels right and gets folks
clapping, we hit the studio and lay it down. Now with electronic music (i.e Dan Deacon or
Matmos), you have guys that are well versed in music theory or capable enough to create a
large fleshed out atmosphere in the lab, and have it essentially ready to blow minds when
they hit the stage. Not to say they don’t try out different things on the road and work out
songs over a course of time, but essentially they have the nuts and bolts at the front (the
well expressed and mostly realised vision). I start with a crooked paint roller and a rickety
ladder, and as the tour progresses and I listen to what the audience is saying to me about
the songs, I develop and mold the idea to fit that “live” physical world, and use that as
the boiler plate for the fully realized tune. I feel like as long as you have a good stock,
the soup can’t get too fucked up, unless you just burn the shit out of it, or over think
it, which I have done. Devlin is really good in that situation, with honesty, and the ability
to say “hey dude, take a break, you’re thinking too much.” If i didn’t have that, I think
I would meander a bit.
Why do you want to write songs, do you think? Why did you gravitate to songs,
rather than abstract electronic music, or painting, or any other art form?
That question’s never been asked to me oddly enough. Well, I think some of it is hereditary,
lots of showboaters in my family – at the age of five I saw Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”
video, and around that same time my parents took my sister and I (more for my sister who
had a crush) to see this Michael Jackson impersonator who up until the age of fifteen I
thought was actually Michael Jackson. That was all I needed to get the bug – I wanted
to be a pop musician. After a spot on performance of “This Is How We Do It” in 8th grade,
and three unsuccessful REM cover bands, and lots of bad jobs, this is just kind of the
weird thing I ended up doing with my life. I happen to be doing pop/rock now but who
knows in five years! I am a ham, and it’s really hard to ham it up with a laptop in
front of you – I mean try doin’ a wizard’s hand while you open ProTools – yuck. I’ll take
the other special, please.
Do you find that your hamminess ever leads to people not taking you seriously?
Is that even a concern of yours, if people think you’re “joking” when you’re actually
Yeah it is a real big concern which is ridiculous because I do stand up comedy routines
where David Bowie and Rush Limbaugh are talking on an elevator about cat sex toys. It’s
like in one sense, I’m walking around with a sign that says “throw tomatoes at the circus
freak”, but then the next night I’m in Manhattan being like “check out my stoic beatnik, Bob
Dylan-on-acid drum-and-bass thing – okay, now don’t laugh.” I think I have to come to grips
with the fact that I’m an intense dude and it’s not bad if someone laughs – I laughed when
I met Michael Stipe, and he’s my hero.
Why Michael Stipe? I only know you through your music, but I would’ve never guessed him.
Growing up in Utica, New York, I really didn’t have access to lots of counterculture – the
music scene mostly consisted of wedding bands and weekenders who mostly covered Top 40 hits.
There were a few exceptions: a cool guy named Dante Blando that worked at Sears and made
me mix tapes, and my friend Bill Seth who made even cooler mix tapes and somehow always knew
about edgy stuff a year before people in New York. I’d say those guys were a big part of
my early exposure to weird stuff. But what really kicked it off was when I worked at this
pizza joint called Tolpa’s and one day in the middle of an ungodly awful shift “What’s
The Frequency Kenneth” came on. I wanted to run as fast as I could to the magical universe
where that was emanating from – I soon started a band called LOL, with Andrew Morse.
We covered REM and The Police with two originals. I felt like I was Bono! My fate was sealed!
You started a band called LOL? Did you predict the popular internet-speak, or
did this all happen very recently?
I wanted something like REM, but I didn’t want to seem obvious, so LOL it was. It would be
like naming a band Netflix or “Who Let The Dogs Out?” (“WLTDO”). It’s pretty stupid, but
the things we do when we’re young! Man what a dumb name. Named it after the term was phrased.
I though it meant “Laugh Online”, does it?
I always figured it was “Laugh Out Loud”. Anyway, what’s the next big change we
can expect for Ed Schrader’s Music Beat? Will there be some Jazz Mind tour support?
The next big change will be our direction musically – this next record will be as experimental,
but coupled with a broader pop sensibility that we hope taps a nerve with people besides
folks who are already in on the joke. I have no plans to stay underground – it is an
atmosphere that, although it fosters much in terms of musical progression, speaks a very
specific language to those privileged enough to relate to it – a dude playing put-put with
his family after putting in 60 hours at a car plant has a hunger for the catharsis offered
up through bizarre musings, but in the same breath does not have time to figure out what
Pitchfork is, or what he “should” like – he just wants to be blown away – that’s our guy.
This next album’s for him, and it’s gonna have to be a monster.
At this rate, we’re touring about six months out of the year with constant shows in between.
We’re about to hit North America for six weeks, then off to England and Europe for five weeks.
The buzz of the record and great press really helped, but you have to tour. So yes, we have
been supporting this record – it’s our job and we love our job!
Anasazi Attic Noise 7″ (Toxic State)
With this new batch of Toxic State releases, I can say I’m fully on board with this label and their mission to silk-screen every flat paper surface in the tri-state area. Initially I was shocked to think that the band who infamously had the worst-recorded album on Troubleman Unlimited of all time somehow got back together, but it’s not that Anasazi. This is a new NY group, and judging from their gloomy, proto-goth post-punk, they’re too busy fashioning their own dangly earrings and cobweb-shredded shirts to listen to old screamo-grind. The immediate and unavoidable comparison is gonna be Lost Tribe, as both bands are treading that same Spiderleg / Crass territory, and while I enjoy both, this Anasazi single has more of an immediate, memorable sound. The singer has a deep, faux-British yowl, par for the course, but it’s not masked in five layers of reverb ala Lost Tribe – I can understand most of what he’s saying, and I like it better that way. There are keyboards, but they’re downplayed, as Anasazi sound more like a punk band leaning goth than a goth band leaning punk. They also manage to make the seven-plus minutes of “Loving You” interesting, frequently switching up the song and resonating emotion where others would rather hide behind a velvet curtain. For some reason, I very nearly skipped adding this one to my order, which has taught me a valuable lesson: always buy more records, never less.
Cassegrain & Tin Man Carnal 12″ (Killekill)
Speaking as someone who has released a Tin Man record, and clearly has interacted with the gentleman, I can comfortably say that I have no idea what he’s on about. In the past 24 months, he’s put out like three full-lengths (one of which is a weird baroque synth-pop winter-time record) and numerous singles, collaborations and remixes, some with vocals and some without, and now most recently this collaboration with Cassegrain (on clear red vinyl and limited to 270 numbered copies). And if it didn’t say “Tin Man” on the etching, I wouldn’t have guessed it in a million years, as Carnal‘s four tracks are straight-up Basic Channel techno in its most potent form. Really, they’re so straight to the point that I almost feel like I’m missing something, or that there’s some sort of trick involved – the beats are dubbed-out in that understated, Basic Channel-trademarked manner and that’s really all there is to it. Toss in some narcotic percussion and echoed pads and it’s like Maurizio with an acid fetish. Maybe Cassegrain had Tin Man tied to a chair in the mixing booth, unable to lay down any of his icy, unmistakeable vocals? The last track has some cool steel drums echoing through it, but this is a pretty traditional-sounding 12″ overall, albeit a really nice one. I guess even Tin Man has to venture outside of his ice-encrusted space station and indulge his carnal desires once in a while.
Constant Mongrel Everything Goes Wrong LP (R.I.P Society / 80/81)
Everything Goes Wrong is a very special LP, the rare sort of record that pounces on first listen and never lets go. From the cover, I was expecting some sort of Wierd Records-esque cold-synth sadness, but no way Jose – this trio is a raw art-punk band through and through. I hear echoes of The Urinals, The Electric Eels, X (you can guess which one), a little Manisch Depressiv, and pretty much any notable punk group that pounds out a couple of chords per song with violent disinterest and a fearless self-assurance. They cover X_X’s best tune, “No Nonsense”, and while that could fall short for most bands, or seem like a record collector taunt, it hits like just another great song on Everything Goes Wrong. Eight songs, mostly speedy, and after a good ten listens, there are no signs that Everything Goes Wrong will ever grow old for me. They’re Australian (which shouldn’t be a surprise at this point), but it was released in the US by 80/81 Records along with Australia’s R.I.P Society for easy bi-continental consumption. No excuses, you need this one!
Jon Convex Lied To Be Loved 12″ (3024)
He hasn’t let me down yet, so I keep picking up these Jon Convex EPs, paying them like just another monthly bill. Gas, water, cable, Convex… In yet another stylistic shift, he teams up with noted house-producer/vocalist dBridge on two of these tracks, and it’s a pleasant turn of events. “Lied To Be Loved” sounds like a more aggressive version of something off Luomo’s Plus album… the beat is just slightly sinister as it bounces back and forth, with dBridge’s voice adding a pop shine to the final product. “Zero” is a slippery, sexy cut with sautéed moans, goofy bass and a snappy beat that feels like something Matthew Dear and Green Velvet would agree on. “Stay” sticks with the house tip, dropping fuzzy chords over dBridge’s looped vocal, like Theo Parrish in a good mood (and with updated production values). See you next month, Jon Convex!
Creem Creem LP (Katorga Works / Deranged)
It’s been less than a year since Creem’s debut 7″ came out, and I don’t remember a thing about it – that’s alright though, as this debut LP will remain lodged in my brain for months to come. Really, I can’t think of a recent hardcore group to step up so strongly from 7″ to LP as Creem… this self-titled LP is pretty flawless street-punk-inspired hardcore. Think Negative Approach’s Tied Down, 86 Mentality, Blitz, Slapshot, maybe a touch of DYS’s Brotherhood, really any sort of true-blooded hardcore music that people have lost teeth to. I like it best when they pound it out at a moderate tempo, like “Lucid” or “Dweller” for example, but the faster material works too, ensuring that beer is spilled. The vocals are great and snarly, the drums are appropriately crisp, and I am left with no criticism to offer, just the urge to finally shave my head and punch my boss in the face. Highly recommended!
Dawn Of Humans Blurst Of The Birdfish 7″ (Toxic State)
Jesus… after the first listen of this 7″ EP, I felt a profound sense of sadness reflecting on my tardiness in hearing Dawn Of Humans. I feel like this music was made specifically for my enjoyment: Blurst Of The Birdfish sounds like a Dr. Seuss book title, but it’s one of the most unique and excellent punk singles I’ve heard this year. Imagine The Murder Junkies circa ’91 swilling through Bone Awl covers with the crazed ineptitude of Blow Out Your Blood-era Hair Police, and a singer who is just as prone to gibberish and animal noises as he is to the English language. The recording is harsh, and not good, but it’s perfect for Dawn Of Humans – the drummer is somehow insanely talented (how could they convince any talented person to be in this band?), and he flails through six demented tracks that make sense alongside the understanding that this is the band that duct-tapes their genitals before hitting the stage. With the existence of FNU Ronnies in jeopardy, Dawn Of Humans have stepped in to be my favorite current punk band, and I still have yet to see them live (which is probably for the best, as I don’t want to get body-paint on my clothes). I can only hope that by the time this review is printed, I have tracked down their earlier EPs, and that they are half as good as this one.
Druid Perfume Druid Perfume LP (Urinal Cake)
Within seconds of Druid Perfume, before almost anything else, a slide whistle is enthusiastically played. That’s as fair a warning as a band can provide, essentially inviting you to sit on a whoopee cushion then and there or pack your things and leave. I’m pretty sure there was a time when Druid Perfume were a punk band, albeit a zany one, but on album number three, it’s full-on circus-freak chaos music. Think Wild Man Fischer dumping Man Man in the mud, or The Magic Band as directed by Weasel Walter, and you’re close to the slop Druid Perfume are slangin’. Fans of the silliest Sun City Girls albums might dig this too, but those people are probably fans of anything. I can’t get into Druid Perfume myself; the songs aren’t memorable (well besides the accidental mosh-metal track “Persian Rug Scissors”); all I hear is zany-freakout shtick, possibly my least favorite kind. Listening to this record enhances my overbite and need for corrective lenses, two features I’m trying to downplay… it’s just not the type of music I appreciate.
Jimmy Edgar Majenta 2xLP (Hotflush Recordings)
I love The Egyptian Lover, and I really like the modern electronic stylings of the Hotflush label, so it’s no surprise that this Jimmy Edgar album falls in line with my interests. Edgar looks like an extra member of 30 Seconds To Mars in his promo photos, but there ain’t nothing on Majenta that could be found in Hot Topic, save for glow-in-the-dark panties. Edgar lays on the sex nice and thick throughout Majenta, probably at its stickiest on “Sex Drive”, but I’m not entirely sold – for me to truly get into sex music, I have to believe that the vocalist/producer truly has seen and experienced his or her share of 4 AM orgies, but Jimmy Edgar, through his voice and lyrics, kinda seems like a poseur. I don’t know, I could very well be wrong, but it’s really not even the truth that is important here, so much as how the music and vocals sell it, and Edgar just sounds like a guy who wishes he lived the stories told through his lyrics rather than actually been there. The production is pretty tight, though – the classic synths are meticulously put together, like a less-intentionally-corny Rustie maybe, or if Pangaea and Cosmin TRG remixed the Egyptian Empire catalog. I like it, and I like Jimmy Edgar, but I am still waiting for the track that shows me he’s truly twisted up some bedsheets in his day and not just dreamed about it. He’s gotta put that passion in his voice.
Laurel Halo Quarantine LP (Hyperdub)
The descriptions I read of Laurel Halo were intriguing (weird singing with strange electronic loops), and Hyperdub’s a cool label, and the artwork is great, so I was enthusiastic about Quarantine from the get-go. A few listens in, and I’m still pretty happy about it – imagine Oneohtrix Point Never and Actress collaborating on production duties for an American Björk and you’re pretty close to Laurel Halo’s deal. She’s got a voice that’s equally beautiful and strange, and the fact that she is often singing these oddly mundane sentences (stuff like “you don’t want to see me anymore”, “I went down to the store to go shopping”, etc.) adds to her uniqueness, like these are random bits of true confessional stuff she’s going on about, undramatized and relatable. The music often sounds like it’s viewed through smudged-up sunglasses, her ambient loops frequently falling over each other like dominoes, and when paired with the clarity of her vocals it becomes clear that you’re listening to Laurel Halo and no one else. At the same time, she really is so unique and peculiar that I don’t wake up every day reaching for Quarantine, but it’s one heck of a “once a week” record, for sure. Save it for when you’re feeling particularly emotionally confused and want to amplify that state of mind.
Impo & The Tents Don’t Give Me Your # 7″ (Alleycat)
I loved the Impo & The Tents album probably more than I should’ve, but I’m just a sucker for goofball booger-nose punk-rock when it’s done carelessly right. Thought I might tire of these guys with a new single, but nope – still pretty great. They tone things down a bit here, actually… the first two cuts are less classic garage-y punk and more buttoned-up EU/UK power-pop, ala The Moderns or The Purple Hearts or something like that, but still with the snotty Jay Reatard-esque vocals. The b-side is a little faster, and it also sounds great, like an early Briefs record on helium. The colorful golden-age comic-book art fits the songs nicely (they’re a cartoony band after all), and I’m once again totally on board with this fun bunch of dum-dums.
Innergaze Mutual Dreaming LP (Cititrax)
So glad that Innergaze keep pumping out their abnormal dance music for all to enjoy… Mutual Dreaming, their second full-length, is particularly tight. It just seems like among all the classic-dance-oriented synth groups, Innergaze are the best at writing the melodies – most of Mutual Dreaming sounds like Mantronix writing music for Mega Man boss stages, particularly memorable and weird music, and it’s great. There’s usually some sort of tension in the air (hence the “boss stage” distinction, as opposed to regular gameplay), but some warm melody or arpeggio will show up and neutralize any possible violence. Plus, Innergaze are willing to throw in an X-Files-theme sound effect if the track needs it (see “Gravitate To Me”). The vocals are nice and inobtrusive too, offering a human embrace only when necessary, like on the Kraftwerk-y cut “In Your Gaze”. Mutual Dreaming definitely steps back into a more minimal-wave format compared to the funky, live-sounding Shadow Disco EP, and while I enjoyed that EP, I feel like Innergaze belong in this black-lit cave, staring at me with two red LED eyes and at least one monster from Krull lurking in the shadows. Pair Mutual Dreaming with a bucket of dry ice and you’ve got yourself a party.
Jam City Classical Curves 2xLP (Night Slugs)
Jam City’s fairly innocuous Waterworkx EP did not prepare me for the virtual insanity that is Classical Curves, his full-length debut. That EP was filled with pretty standard Night Slugs moves (modern house music with the energy and aggression of modern radio hip-hop), but this album is an entirely different beast. Frequently, Jam City will work up some hefty groove, and then completely pull the plug, or slow it down, or chop it in half. It’s like trying to dance to a skipping CD – just as you figure out how to move to the skip, the song resumes as normal, or shuts off entirely. And in between actual rhythms, Jam City will run through random drum sounds like he’s testing a drum machine at Guitar Center… there is really no trick so basic or foolish that he won’t try out here, just to catch you off-guard. And conversely, he finds a way to layer in the sampled sounds of cameras and basketball players in “Her” and “The Courts” without coming across as gimmicky, but rather creating something new entirely. You could certainly compare Classical Curves to Actress (that vibe hits heaviest in the wormy bass of “B.A.D.”), but Jam City clearly has an ear for pop hooks and large-scale club crowds that Actress has yet to consider. At first, I was confused, but I’ve accepted Classical Curves for the utter weirdness it spills, and now I can’t stop listening to it.
Lower Walk On Heads 7″ (Escho)
Hype be damned, I’ve been having a lot of fun following the underground Copenhagen scene for the past couple years, from Posh Isolation to Iceage and their many intersections. At worst, it’s kinda interesting, and at best it’s really great, so I was psyched to hear Lower, the newest punk band to emerge from that scene. They weren’t quite what I was expecting, but that’s probably for the best, as Walk On Heads is pretty great – imagine Iceage’s discordant sloppiness mixed with the heavy emo thrashing of Angel Hair or Merel. Seriously, forget whatever “no wave” comparisons you’ve read, this 7″ sounds like dark, early emo-hardcore with a distinctly European sadness. “Escape” is the closest they get to punk rock, like a less ragged Iceage (no wrong notes and a less distinct vocalist), but it still sounds it could’ve been released on a comp LP between Vanilla and Halfman in 1995, too. It’s hitting a real sweet spot for me, as Lower update that approach with cooler guitar-work and better influences than most ’90s emo-core bands (doubt these guys own a single Fugazi record). I bet they’ve got an album in them, and that it’ll be even better than this EP.
Lust For Youth / War The Glass House Etiquette 7″ (Avant!)
After War’s killer debut EP, I had to track down anything else they’ve been up to, which includes this split with Lust For Youth, originally released as a cassette on Posh Isolation, now vinylized care of Avant!. I admire Posh Isolation and their Hospital Productions-esque “we are ultra serious about our art, here is a meaningless and vague two-sentence description for each release” promotion style, so I try to scope any new vinyl coming from that crew. (I enjoy reading about the tapes, but I usually leave it at that). Therefore, it is and isn’t a surprise that both groups sound almost exactly like Cold Cave here. On the a-side, Lust For Youth drop amateur New Order synths over a rudimentary beat while muffled vocals offer up foul emotions. The song is even called “Denial, Veronica”… tell me that doesn’t sound like someone attempting to imitate Wes Eisold! War are even bigger offenders with their track, sounding like it was directly ripped from Cold Cave’s Cremations collection, the cheap Casios pushed into the red and dark vocal hiccups utilized like flashlights in the dark. I’ve enjoyed both tracks, and I plan on spinning this one further into the future, I just can’t shake how goddamn Cold Cave-y it is, to the point that I’d consider it some sort of unintended homage. I guess Cold Cave has moved onto working with real producers and writing pop hits at this point, so someone’s gotta fill their designer boots with the seedy underbelly of lo-fi, gothic electro-pop. Might as well be these guys.
Mirko Loko Featuring 12″ (Visionquest Music)
Mirko Loko will forever hold a place in my heart for “Mousa Big Band”, one of my favorite weird techno tracks of all time. I kept up for a little bit, but that double LP on Cadenza didn’t totally suck me in, and I got caught up with other things… this new 12″ caught my eye though, and once it started spinning, my ear, too. Both tracks feature someone else, hence the title, and the a-side “Harder” is totally killer – it has a Jabberjaw (Matthew Dear the tech-house producer) sound, but with a Matthew Dear (Matthew Dear the pop artist) vocal edge. The beat is relentless, but changes fluidly, and featured vocalist “Jaw” darkly intonates over top, beckoning you into a private booth much in Mr. Dear’s crudely seductive fashion. It’s a sensuously creepy song, and pretty much exactly what I want to hear. “Timeline” takes a different route, sampling noted pianist Francesco Tristano. The beat is still very Ricardo Villalobos-esque in its effervescent minimalism, but Tristano’s work on the ivories adds a nearly discordant counterpoint to the groove, a trick Luciano or Villalobos (his influence is undeniable) would’ve pulled a couple years ago. It’s still a sharp move if performed with the right set of sounds, and Mirko Loko makes it pop, coming up two for two here. I’m sorry I ever doubted him.
Mohn Mohn 2xLP & CD (Kompakt)
New project from two of German techno’s forefathers, Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger, who pretty much can do whatever they damn well please at this point. An album of cattle farts? Who cares, they’ve earned the right. In the form of Mohn, they’ve put together a healthy selection of slow-moving, serious, darkly intellectual techno tracks. Techno might not be the right word, though, as Mohn is slower than any sort of dance music, but far too rhythmically-focused to be considered ambient… whatever it is, it feels real nice. Interestingly, and much to my surprise, Demdike Stare is probably Mohn’s closest musical relative, in the way various bells and percussion bits float and shimmer forebodingly through the booming bass fog, often played in reverse for added intrigue. Perhaps if Demdike Stare lost all interest in horror movies and witchcraft, and just stuck with their dub-techno roots, their music could be interchangeable with Mohn. It’s got that heaviness, just without the spooky atmosphere. And then on a track like “Ambientôt”, Burger and Voigt ride a casual drumbeat into some form of comatose kraut-rock, resulting in my favorite cut on the album. It’s mostly a subtle record though… if Gas is various scientific elements dancing in the air, Mohn is carbon monoxide, barely evident as it lulls you to a permanent slumber. But what a way to go.
Multicult Spaces Tangled LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
This is the third Multicult record thus far, and their first full-length. After two EPs of standard, consumer-grade math-rock, an LP didn’t sound overly appetizing, but they managed to step things up a bit and make Spaces Tangled their own statement. As to be expected with a band like this, the riffs have kind of a ’90s vibe to them, but not like something on Touch & Go or AmRep… Multicult are too vibrant and upbeat. I swear I hear a couple Rage Against The Machine and Jane’s Addiction riffs recycled here, but chopped-up and re-aligned in such a way that Multicult fully own the publishing rights and any essence of Lollapalooza is extinguished. My problem with this style in general is that the songs aren’t always that memorable, but Multicult have a bunch that stick here – not the easiest feat, and I applaud their abilities. The vocalist reminds me of the guy from Hellbender, kind of a hoarse yell coming from the back of the room, and he rounds things out nicely. And to top it off, they move by with a hurried pace and short playing time, ensuring minimal listener fatigue. Good work, Multicult.
Mutant Beat Dance Let Me Go 12″ (Hour House Is Your Rush)
I don’t care what it sounds like, anything called “Mutant Beat Dance” deserves at least a few minutes on my turntable. I’m picturing that Total Recall strip-club scene, all sorts of hairy and multi-limbed freaks jamming to dance music on Mars. Mutant Beat Dance doesn’t quite live up to the scene I had envisioned, but Let Me Go is still a pretty solid electro-house single. The title track reminds me of The Dominatrix with touches of Minimal Man or Chris & Cosey maybe, very simple and driving but with a retro-house groove. The vocalist does a nice job too, probably closest to what I’d imagine Nightcrawler would sound like if he fronted a synth project (see, I’m still hung up on the “mutant” thing). If this track was three minutes shorter I’d return to it much more frequently, as it kinda idles its way to the end, foot off the gas. On the flip, “Rottonfunk” sounds like one of those weirder Green Velvet tracks, with its echoed talking and what might be digital sleigh bells at some point; another enjoyable slice of underground house. Nice record overall, but man, I’m so hooked on the idea of a “mutant beat dance” that I probably would’ve dug it no matter what it sounded like.
Nihiti For Ostland LP (Lo Bit Landscapes)
Nihiti return with a set of songs for Ostland. At first I figured he was just some European cousin who needed impressing, but Ostland is actually the name of the painting that graces the cover, and if there is an electronic group that is gonna dedicate their record to a painting, it’s gotta be Nihiti. I think I prefer For Ostland to their debut – it’s a bit darker overall, as if the shades were drawn before recording, with Nihiti’s various electronic textures and prickly percussion tracks best utilized under dim light. They’ve still got these indie vocal tracks mixed in with their avant-electro thought-pieces, and I swear they sound like The Goth Postal Service when they decide to sing. The thing is, those are also some of my favorite tracks. For as almost cartoonishly melancholy as “Ghosts And Lovers” is, I often find the chorus popping into my head at unexpected moments; music that owes some sort of reverence toward Nurse With Wound never has hooks like this, and yet here we are. The rest of the record kinda simmers in Touch Music territory, where you can’t tell if it’s the guitar that sounds like a drone or a drone that sounds like a guitar, with tracks that sound like a mix of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Killing‘s theme song (US version). An enjoyable listen for sure, but if they ever decide to skip out on all the artsy post-music influences and just do an album of slow and sad electronic renditions of Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy songs, I’d be pleased as punch.
Obnox Purple Reign 7″ (Negative Guest List)
Some quality modern garage from Obnox, the solo project of one Lamont Thomas (Puffy Areolas, This Moment In Black History, Bassholes, etc). The a-side opens with the fuzzy punch-up “Without A Soul” and concludes with “Jack And Jill”, a woozy stumble home from a bar presumably located up the hill. Combined, these tracks makes me think of the Tic Tac Totally label… maybe a little Burning Itch and OBN IIIs on the first track, and Day Creeper or Lover! on the second. Years from now, this current garage scene might be understood and seen as a definitive thing, but I’m not there yet. “Only Black Man In South Dakota” might very well be a true story, and it’s the shining star here: it starts off like a tweaked Prince (as the cover art implies) before crumbling into Dan Melchior’s peculiar vision of garage rock, like four guitars all doing different things as Thomas snarls through an American tale. I’d probably still prefer the all-encompassing pummel of a new Puffy Areolas record over anything else he’s done, but this Obnox single is a swell time all its own.
oOoOO Our Loving Is Hurting Us 12″ (Tri Angle)
For a group that I’ve never been truly blown away by, I sure do a good job of keeping up with oOoOO’s new records, the latest being this 12″ EP entitled Our Loving Is Hurting Us (aww). Not sure why I feel such an allegiance to oOoOO, besides getting the chance to say “Oh-OH-Oh-OHHH!!!!” when people ask me what I’m listening to, but this new one is definitely their best yet. The songs just feel more solidly constructed – opener “TryTry” has the sexual melancholia of an Enya track, complimented by Projekt-style beats and Mannie Fresh synths, and it somehow all fits seamlessly. Vocalist “Butterclock” contributes to a few songs, and her airy, disconnected vocal rides the beat just like Hooverphonic’s Geike Arnaert used to. There’s just a clear musical ability here, from the beat programming to Butterclock’s vocal range, with various unexpected and enjoyable touches to sweeten the pot (the ridiculous Santana-style guitar soloing in “Starr” is a personal fave). oOoOO just deliver the goods here musically, and that’s really all it comes down to – the lasting appreciation for good songs over hype probably explains why we haven’t heard anything about Salem in a while. Not sure if the rest of the world has moved past oOoOO (who talks about witch house in 2012?), but I hope not, as Our Loving Is Hurting Us is a pretty distinct slab of artsy electronic music, not just smoke, mirrors and hype.
Orange Sunshine Bullseye Of Being LP (Leafhound / Motorwolf)
Generic-as-hell stoner rock from a Dutch power-trio here, and that’s alright – stoner rock is one of the few genres where “generic as hell” still feels good. I’d sure take Orange Sunshine’s Sabbath-Manchu riffs over some sort of crazy technical metal any day… there’s a reason so many bands try to sound like this, and it’s because these riffs literally feel good to play. I can play the bass guitar with moderate accuracy, and when I nail a standard Cream or Blue Cheer progression through a loud amp, it’s like mental acupuncture. Orange Sunshine take things a step further by actually covering Cream and Deep Purple here, but really, what’s the difference? Might as well be up front about it, rather than change the last note of the riff and call it an original song. The opening jam is pretty great too, like something Nebula would’ve done (yes, that means there’s sitar), but stretched beyond their patience. Not entirely sure why this 2007 album needed a repressing in 2012, but hey, I ain’t trying to stop nobody.
Peak Twins / Scott & Charlene’s Wedding split LP (Night People / Bedroom Suck)
Cool and understandable pairing of lazy rock musics from where else but down under on this attractive split LP. Peak Twins kick it off in an understated fashion, kinda just strumming their sleepy indie rock, but with a level of musical ability that Mad Nanna could never fathom. Some might call this twee, but their voices are too deep (but not that deep), and I’m sure at least some of their riffs have been used by bands like The Dandy Warhols or Oasis in the past. Pleasantly forgettable. I’ll admit, I was most excited for Scott & Charlene’s Wedding anyway, whose Para Vista Social Club has made my rainy springtime memorable with its catchy, sad-sack tunes. I’m thankful for the band photo that comes with this record (look at these adorable bums!) – I can really picture these guys playing these songs… it was nice to look at them and gain that new level of understanding. Here more than on the LP, I feel like Scott & Charlene’s Wedding are the Australian answer to Kurt Vile & The Violators… they’ve just got that instant goofball, stoner-loser charm that can’t be faked. Wouldn’t mean too much if the songs weren’t great though, and these five songs are just as sweet and honest as the album. They make a song title like “I Wana Die” (sic) sound downright romantic in execution, and that’s no easy feat. Overall, I needed this for Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, and with Peak Twins tagging along, it’s a pretty nice way to spend an afternoon hour.
Seth Price Army Jacket LP (Dais)
According to the press sheet, Seth Price is a “multi-disciplinary conceptual visual artist”, so I prepared myself to hear two chalkboard erasers clapped together for thirty minutes, or the sound of coffee brewing in an empty hotel lobby… art’s generally pretty stupid, right? Thankfully I knew the Dais boys wouldn’t do me like that, as Army Jacket is actually a pretty varied, nutty album of tricky pop and experimental oddities. Reminds me a lot of something that would’ve come as an off-shoot of the original New York no-wave scene… could’ve fit in perfect on Neutral Records alongside Rat At Rat R and Y Pants, or perhaps in-between Boris Policeband and the John Gavanti soundtrack. This is my way of saying that there really isn’t any singular sound or style demonstrated here, so much as a dozen strange and thoughtful ideas formatted to a vinyl album. One track is a long and blurry discussion, another sounds like a children’s TV show theme song, and there’s at least one movement of alien drone. It’s all pretty interesting though, and so smartly curated that I find myself constantly entertained by Mr. Price. Why not?
Räjäyttäjät Räjäyttäjät Räjäyttää! 7″ (Bad Vugum / TNT Tapes & Records Services)
Just when I start to get comfortable in my ivory tower, assuming all the truly demented rock records were released prior to my birth, a band like Räjäyttäjät comes along and snaps my backside with a wet towel. This single is truly killer – imagine some sort of supergroup consisting of Tampax, Ebba Grön and Vomit Visions members trying their best to recreate the magic of The Stooges. The riffs are gnarly, simplistic proto-punk, the vocals sound like they emanate from a homeless magician (or if I may get even more obscure, the guy from Sexa), and it results in a 7″ EP that’s as highly replayable as it is gloriously foolish. I have no idea what they’re saying (I think the band name is Finnish for “explosions” or something), but each song could lyrically annihilate a different family member of mine and I’d still spin it regularly. There might even be a touch of The Leather Nun’s “No Rule” in “Alakaupungille”, were the song played by skinny punks who took over their high school. A+, I’m dying for more.
Santa Cruz Down On My Knees 2xLP (Motorwolf)
Here’s a band of drug-rock druggies who’ll drug you up and down the road of drugs in search of one thing: drugs. Seriously, from the cover art painting of the band members smoking drugs, to the “Drug Rock Enforcement” insert slogan, and song titles such as “Black Needle” and “What Is Love? (Crystal Meth Boogie)”, I swear only straight-edge kids talk about drugs with greater passion and frequency than these guys. Not to say I doubt their drugginess, though – through these four long sides of vinyl, they run through classic doom metal, heavy stoner riffing, ZZ Top boogie and pretty much any style Wino has ever dabbled in. It’s like a Southern Lord sampler, and while that may seem like a diss, it’s not, because I would enjoy such a compilation much like I’ve enjoyed Down On My Knees. These guys apparently have an additional three guitarists live, and I appreciate the dedication to excess… I just wish they were more self-confident in their drug-abusing misery to not feel the need to remind us every few minutes. Just be yourselves, Santa Cruz… people will figure out you’re as bad-ass as the dudes in Buckcherry all on their own.
Seb & The Rhaa Dicks Seb & The Rhaa Dicks 7″ (Echo Canyon / Purepainsugar / Rock & Roll Masturbation)
Ugh… real lousy 7″ from a label-described “great punk dad” here, although I could’ve guessed the “dad” part from the unexciting riffs and unfunny humor. The last song is called “You’re My MILF”… see what I mean? I bet Seb’s last single had a song about mullets. The music sounds like a band that would play some awful rock club to open for a crappy aging punk reunion act, like The Adicts or something, only to get paid nothing for the 45 minutes they wasted on stage. Like, Seb & The Rhaa Dicks are probably influenced by The Clash and The Vibrators and stuff like that, but really just sound like they’ve been listening to Lit and Goldfinger when the songs come out. There’s a delicious cake on the front cover, and the back cover shows it being wasted and destroyed, which is a pretty apt metaphor for my soul before and after this 7″ entered my life. Do what you want, just don’t bring dessert into this.
Dylan Shearer Porchpuddles LP (Empty Cellar)
Right off the bat, the sturdy cover and attractive vinyl pressing tell me that Empty Cellar have faith in Dylan Shearer to go on and do good. I appreciate that vote of financially-backed confidence when it comes from a label, and as Porchpuddles lazily spins ’round my turntable, I can see why Empty Cellar made it. Shearer’s got a pretty classic guitar-folk voice, somewhere between Syd Barrett and James Taylor, and his stately, cloudy ditties dress it nicely. Reminds me a lot of “Suicide Is Painless”, or Brian Protheroe’s “Pinball”, but not as serious as the former or silly as the later. Shearer seems content in his restlessness, waiting for a call that never arrives, but too busy strumming his guitar to notice. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t spend much of my free time listening to stuff like this, but Dylan Shearer made it easy to enjoy, snapping the humidity with his chilly condition.
Strategy Boxy Music 12″ (100% Silk)
Strategy has been around for a while – I first associated him with the great and short-lived Archigramophone label out of Portland, and later enjoyed his Future Rock album on Kranky. Future Rock is what I came to associate Strategy with: dubby, psychedelic soundscapes that extrapolate around the beat like Prefuse 73 on a tropical vacation. That’s not what Boxy Music offers, though – Dickow goes straight to the house on these five tracks, pumping out some warm, analog-sounding house music that works best under flashing lights and a glowing disco ball. Not sure if this is his first attempt at moving a crowd or one of many, but he’s clearly capable of competing in the house arena, even if nothing here (besides the Ed Banger-esque cover art) could really be considered exceptional. Doesn’t mean I still won’t enjoy dancing to it!
Take Warning Take Warning 7″ (Purepainsugar / Crapoulet / Meantime)
Here’s some bland and mushy punk rock from a band that may or may not be named after an Operation Ivy song (and not even one of their best ones!). It’s pretty evident that Take Warning are adults and not teenagers, though – through these five songs, they sound kinda tired, like the type of guys who stopped skating a couple years ago because their knees couldn’t take it anymore. And yet with song titles like “You Are What You Buy”, it seems like their general philosophy remains staunchly freshman-year punk. The music reminds me of a few boring local punk bands I was subjected to as a teenage firehall-show attendee – I guess I never understood why someone would want their band to emulate Pegboy or Leatherface when they could sound like Code 13 or Agnostic Front (and I still haven’t really figured that out). Far from the worst thing in the world, and surely a good time for some, Take Warning just fall in that punk rock middle-ground I generally try to avoid.
Untold Change In A Dynamic Environment Part 1 12″ (Hemlock Recordings)
I had forgotten about Untold for a minute, but coincidentally returned to a few of his older 12″s just before this new one dropped. I love the way he seemed to remove vital organs from dubstep, forcing these weird amputated tracks out onto the dance-floor, and I’m psyched to hear what he’s up to in 2012. With the first part of his Change In A Dynamic Environment series, he minimizes his rep as a bass-music trickster and just glides down the court for a two-handed slam dunk. “Motion The Dance” is a pretty straight-forward house cut, somewhere between Detroit and Berlin, but as it progresses, this evil acid line starts to sneak in, eventually usurping the track entirely. It’s like a boa constrictor left in a room of rodents overnight, slowly and assuredly devouring without reservation. “Luminous” comes with a funkier, Hessle Audio-style rhythm (maybe something Joe would throw down), but it’s a cut that could go over well at Berghain too – two great signposts for any dance track. And as “Luminous” moves forward, another gnarly shot of acid appears toward the end, leaving a trail of slime as it pushes through the crowd. I love that he does the same trick on both tracks, and that the music is tight enough that I’d be loving this EP regardless. Wonder what the rest of this series has in store, because I’m already hooked.
Vatican Shadow Iraqi Praetorian Guard 12″ (Blackest Ever Black)
Dom Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project and the Blackest Ever Black label seem like a match made in a gloomy, war-torn heaven. I really dug Vatican Shadow’s Kneel Before Religious Icons album, if not simply for its repetitive mechanical ululations but the entire aesthetic as well – picturing a paranoid, blood-splattered Middle East and its various fears and dangers while listening to Vatican Shadow is an excellent way to spend an evening safe at home. The two Vatican Shadow tracks here seem to stray from the lock-stepped, never-ending industrial clink of that album, instead drifting into nervous ambient territory, as if you’re walking through a room of sleeping machinery that will kill you if you wake it up. Might even recall Severed Heads if they spent an evening watching The Hurt Locker, too. And what better way to obtain a stamp of techno legitimacy than to have Regis remix one of your tracks, which is how this 12″ closes out. Regis adds his own techno artillery to the Vatican Shadow mission, intercepting enemy transmissions and firing them back on a bleak and rigid 4/4 grid. If it wasn’t already clear that this label is truly the blackest in town, Iraqi Praetorian Guard erases all doubt.
Veuve SS Viscères E.P. 12″ (Echo Canyon / Flower Of Carnage)
The idea of “regional sounds” in hardcore punk is quickly growing extinct, as thanks to the Internet, everyone knows what everyone else is doing across the globe at all times. Take Veuve SS, for example – they’re a French group, but they might as well be from Barcelona, Brooklyn or Brisbane, as they play a conglomerate of today’s popular hardcore styles – think Youth Attack’s pervasive influence and cryptic design (the back cover is all black with a small Roman numeral “IV” in the middle – spooky!), Destino Final’s chunky Motörhead riffs and echoed vocals, and Billy Bao’s purposely-annoying feedback trickery and you’re pretty close to Veuve SS. It’s not bad, but in listening to the one-sided Viscères E.P., I don’t hear songs so much as an attempt at a very specific style that many others have very recently done before. (The third song might as well be a cover of Sex Vid’s “Footsteps”, it’s that similar.) If Veuve SS had some killer riffs, or really stuck out in some way, I’d probably dig the opening locked groove of feedback, but without the meat to back things up, this record quickly grows tiresome. I guess if you’ve run out of Youth Attack-related hardcore product, and want to keep listening to records that sound like grainy photocopies of prison doors, by all means… Veuve SS just sound too much like followers and not enough like leaders for me.
Levon Vincent Fabric 63 CD (Fabric)
Was psyched to hear that Levon Vincent had entered the hallowed halls of the Fabric mix CD, as he is one of my favorite domestic producers of techno/house music. Sadly, this one doesn’t showcase the Levon Vincent I know, the guy who made “Double-Jointed Sex Freak” and so many other twisted, downright nasty club tracks – this is the work of a more sophisticated, posh and ultimately boring DJ. For one thing, Fabric 63 feels really long, stuffed at fifteen lengthy tracks that take their sweet time to unravel. It’s strange, because I consider myself a fan of mindless repetition in dance music, but most of this mix just kinda eases by on its inoffensiveness, content to merely be there rather than erupt or go crazy. I’ve heard Vincent play live in a club before, and his mix was much more fun than this – not sure if he was going for a broader appeal with this mix, or what, but there are only a small number of standout moments, just a smooth-flowing mix of enjoyable house / techno. And while so many of these tracks are his own creations, they somehow seem less vital… only “Stereo Systems” has really planted itself in my brain, and I didn’t even recognize “Double-Jointed Sex Freak II” from the 12″ version. If Fabric 63 came from anyone else, I’d probably enjoy it for its innocuous pleasures once and forget about it, but I know Levon Vincent is the man, so I can’t help but feel a little let down instead.
Whatever Brains Whatever Brains LP (Sorry State)
The ‘Brains in question might take kind of a laissez-faire approach to life, but this band clearly isn’t slacking when it comes to making music. I think this is their third full-length if you count an early CD, either that or it’s their second and the two of them just feel so big that it seems more like three. Regardless, I’ve reviewed a ton of Whatever Brains records in these pages, and if you still haven’t at least sampled an MP3 or two, this is the record to get (which is probably what I’ve said every time). At first the Sorry State connection didn’t feel like the best fit, but on Whatever Brains, Whatever Brains are aggro and unhinged enough that they need to exist on quality punk-based label, so it might as well be their local Sorry State affiliate. They just seem angrier here, but with that nasal-helium singer, things are always one step away from Doc Dart’s self-imposed exile. Plenty of hooks too, although they fly by so fast that it can take a few listens to sink in. I feel like I own at least fifty of their songs now, and while that’s probably more than I need of any band (except maybe Gore Beyond Necropsy), I have no plans to ever stop enjoying them. Although seriously guys, give me some time before the next one – maybe just release an email reminder about all your good records that already exist before dropping another dozen tracks on us. You’ve already done good.
Whores Mob Reality / U.B.M. 7″ (R.I.P Society)
An unfortunate single from the unfortunately-named Whores. “Mob Reality” is a straight Drunkdriver rip, with its slow-mo pace, hard-hitting drums, simple ascending riff and froth-mouthed singer. If you’ve heard fifteen seconds of it, you’ve heard the whole thing, and while there is certainly a time and a place for monotonously bludgeoning noise-rock in my life, this ain’t it. “U.B.M.” fares a little better, even if it’s essentially the same idea… there’s some high-pitched squealing, and what sounds like a carefully-recorded beehive that manages to add some tension, but ultimately Whores sound like another Drunkdriver, or any of the dozens of demo-tape-as-blogged-MP3 “transgressive” noise-rock bands that the post-Sex/Vid hardcore scene has already forgotten about (mercifully). Sorry, “Whores”.