Normally when a great band goes from sometimes-active to mostly-inactive
status, it’s a cause for great sadness. Not so with the case of Birds Of
Maya, though – guitarist Mike Polizze’s Purling Hiss is God’s gift to melodic
rock, and bassist Jason Killinger’s Spacin’ is the weed God smoked while
wrapping it. After some sporadic live shows, Deep Thuds made the
sweltering summer of 2012 tolerable, grooving with the spirit of the simplest
Velvet Underground and Hot Tuna licks, and resulting in an unpretentious,
captivating rock record suitable for noon or midnight. Killinger’s frontwards
ball-cap merely hints at the comfortable, casual vibe that Spacin’ exudes,
with just enough kraut-rock dalliances and artsy flourishes to keep the record
nerds at half-smirk while the local townies dance. Killinger doesn’t do
interviews, but I got him to speak about Spacin’ anyway! I sure am slick.
How long has Spacin’ existed? I feel like I’ve seen the name around for a
few years, and the occasional show, but I think it was pretty different
from Deep Thuds…
I’ve made late-night songs and recordings in my basement for many years. In
December of 2010 I recorded a couple of songs that sounded good together and
called it Spacin’. I convinced Ben Leaphart and Mike Polizze (the other two-
thirds of Birds of Maya) to play some really strange live stuff for a show and
that was the first time it became a band. Some of that stuff made its way onto
Deep Thuds in sections. Most of the album and live shows are comprised of myself
attempting to play guitar and sing, Paul Sukeena playing all of the good lead
guitar playing, Sean Hamilton on bass, and Eva Killinger on drums. We’ve
also been a ten-piece band for a couple of shows. Spacin’ is all of this.
So basically as long as it’s you on guitar and vocals, it’s Spacin’? Do you play
the same songs no matter if you’re a three-piece or a ten-piece, or does the
lineup dictate what you’ll play?
It’s almost always the four-piece band, we just sometimes do it other ways or
are open to doing it in other ways. Sometimes it’s the same songs, sometimes
it’s much different versions of already recorded songs. We played at the
Institute of Contemporary Art here in Philadelphia last fall as a ten-piece
band, half of which was percussion. We wrote a weird afrobeat-sounding song
that we were going to play for twenty minutes, but when all was said and done,
the song went for nearly an hour. None of us realized it was happening.
Was it weird playing in an art museum? Do you think Spacin’ exists in that sort
of avant-garde music continuum, or are you more of just a band geared for
The only art world we’re ever really involved in isn’t far removed from the
backyard barbeques, so we’re into both. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.
So did the Rolling Stones really get in touch about your album cover? Were you
psyched that they somehow noticed, or was it more of a pain?
They contacted Richie Records. When Richie told me, I was indignant at the
idea that I couldn’t paint a mouth and tongue on our album cover if I wanted
to. I casually attempted to convince all of my friends that this was the result
of our grotesque economic machine that pressures people to syphon words, images
and ideas away from us and convert them into their own personal profit,
indefinitely. To which they all seemed to respond “Yeah, but you painted the
Rolling Stones logo.” Ha ha. So I changed it.
I know you are a graphic designer by trade… are there any other iconic rock
logos you are a big fan of? If copyright laws didn’t exist, what logo would you
When I was a skater kid in central Pennsylvania I used to draw punk logos
on my closet door in colored chalk for some reason. I would try to copy the
logos and typefaces of bands from advertisements in either Thrasher or
Sessions. I definitely got good at drawing the DRI guy, Dead Kennedys
logo, Misfits skull and all that. That was the first time I ever really paid
attention to graphic design. I don’t think I’d ever incorporate another bands
logo into our own artwork again though. I do have a pin on my backpack that is
the universal “No Bullshit” sign. I might use that.
If guitars never existed, what kinda music do you think you’d be listening to?
I suppose jazz could’ve happened without guitar. I don’t listen to much jazz
(yet) besides Pharoah Sanders or Alice Coltrane or stuff that everyone knows.
Also, a lot of Brian Eno stuff doesn’t have guitar, I love Brian Eno, but I
don’t think that’s what you are asking. This is the most difficult question
I’ve ever been asked.
When did you first start playing guitar? I know you came up as a bassist…
I taught myself how to play guitar in the late ’90s when I graduated high school,
but I’ve still never actually learned how to play chords correctly. I think I
only ever play two strings at a time. Fortunately Paul is a much better guitar
player than I am, so it makes a cool balance. Bass comes much easier to me, so
Simplicity seems to be a key component of the Spacin’ sound. Is that something
you purposely try to reign in, or is this just as complex as you can write?
There will never be a Spacin’ prog-rock opus, right?
I like a lot of music that I know we can’t pull off in good taste, but I
don’t want Spacin’ to be any one thing. I would rather it be without genre
and hard to define. I’m not saying that’s what it is, but that’s what I would
like it to be. Loose in every way.
Are you working on new Spacin’ material? Any plans for another record?
I have tons of songs that are waiting for us to learn them as a band. We have
a lot of stuff we’ve done since Deep Thuds and I’m constantly recording
everything. Sean was leaving my house one day and says “We should totally
start recording for the next album” and I say “We have been”. Ha ha. The next
record will happen sometime this year.
Altered Boys Altered Boys 7″ (Katorga Works)
Here’s more Now! That’s What I Call Hardcore from the friendly boys over at Katorga Works. Altered Boys sound like a mix of Goosebumps and Hounds Of Hate to me, which is about as modern-day of a reference as one can get, but it feels appropriate here. I’m sure Altered Boys are thinking more like The Abused meets Bold or something, but I dunno, this is very now, very Katorga. And to be fair, I think Altered Boys best both Goosebumps and Hounds Of Hate – they’ve got the speed and moshability of Goosebumps without the dopey attitude and poor quality, and the intensity and anger of Hounds Of Hate without the awkward cartoonishness. They do it pretty well, melding classic NYHC influences into a contemporary form, and they leave room for the Double Cross fanboys amidst the swarm of Youth Attack only-childs. Hope there’s more to come from Altered Boys!
Apostille Wrong / The Road To War 7″ (Comfortable On A Tightrope)
I could tile my kitchen with modern-day bedroom synth-pop, but I’m not gonna, because I tend to enjoy at least the majority of these lonesome strangers with synths and the means to capture recordings of them. Apostille are throwing their hat in the ring, and it’s not bad – “Wrong” has a jovial marching beat, bouncing on rusty springs and sung with an underwater dead-pan that likens the song to Silk Flowers. “The Road To War” has more of a woozy, waiting-room shuffle not unlike one of Blanche Blanche Blanche’s calmer moments, or those instrumental interludes on the Ceramic Hello album, at least until the chorus locks in like that one memorable Our Daughter’s Wedding song. Certainly a single you can take or leave and feel no remorse either way – no one needs to hear this Apostille 7″, but those who do probably won’t mind.
Astral Travel Bodymelt / Povos 7″ (Vertex)
I remember the Vertex label, not just from their great The Fix-ish logo, but the killer Burning Sensation LP as well. The freaky-styley artwork of this Astral Travel single (and well, the name “Astral Travel”) had me expecting something besides blistering hardcore, and my suspicions were correct – this is some very current-sounding hipster-rock, the sort of thing Mexican Summer cooks up in their laboratories deep under the streets of Brooklyn. I don’t mean that to be a diss, it just is what it is – “Bodymelt” is a nice and driving slice of today’s sound… among its goth undertones, I hear bits of the Cure, maybe the vocal prowess of Austra, and probably some sort of Fleetwood Mac appreciation (you know, in an oblique way). If Cold Showers ever traveled to Australia, their tour-mates are waiting. “Povos” takes a more familiar, angrier riff and tones down the goth in favor of a rocking Sleater Kinney-ish approach, which is equally as nice as the a-side. The vocalist (or are there two? I can’t tell) has a great voice, and while there isn’t a whole lot of personality on display here, Astral Travel get by on chops and musical talent – I just can’t promise I’ll remember them in the morning.
The Blimp Not Beer 12″ (Violet Times)
Wasn’t sure about a group calling themselves “The Blimp”… I feared some sort of sunshine-y, Beatles-esque Elephant Six audition, but this group is far more twisted than I could’ve imagined. Before I heard Druid Perfume and had only read positive descriptions of them, I expected it to sound like this record – a demented, Beefheartian swirl of untraceable guitar noodling, Lester Bangs humor and evil-hippie menace, not carnival punk. The Blimp jump right out with “I Want Good Music With Boobs In My Face”, a mantra for many men who gather empty beer cans instead of meaningful human relationships, and it’s a doozy – they’re going ape within seconds, and at some point it turns into some sort of proto-Queen disaster, but only barely long enough for me to register before it devolves (or evolves?) into a stadium-sized Swell Maps tune. If Dr. Hook were raised on scratchy Ramones records, they might’ve wound up sounding like The Blimp. I can’t recall the last rock record I heard where the band seemed to be having as much uninhibited fun as The Blimp are – it’s like I can picture their friends on the couch all going crazy and wearing funny wigs and hats and smoking weed while The Blimp try to finish a take without laughing. Only four songs here, lopsidedly placed on one side of a 12″, and I can’t help but stare at the smooth, blank b-side, wishing there was something there.
Buck Gooter Witch Molecules LP (X-Mist / Beau Travail)
Imagine if Killdozer were raised in a swamp instead of a city? You’d probably end up with something similar to the freaks known as Buck Gooter, a Virginia-based duo comprised of one guy with dreadlocks and one guy in his 60s (or so I’ve been told). Pretty weird stuff… the songs of Witch Molecules generally play out with some sort of stubborn rock riff, a belligerent vocalist challenging you to step outside, and various Windows 95 sound-effects blaring over electronic drums. Has kind of an ERL Records vibe, like Vertebrae or Al Perry & The Cattle, the way it twists TAD’s backwoods-metal vibe into something truly unlistenable. Definitely the sort of record I’d stumble upon in some suburban record store’s disgusting dollar bin (you know, the ones that are rudely smashed under the normal record bins, like second-class citizens) and immediately fall in love with. Except instead of being released in 1993 with a rumpled red construction paper sleeve, Buck Gooter are around today, and put their record in a pro-printed jacket that will be able to withstand the damage that awaits it, as I’m sure a dollar-bin future isn’t too far away for them. I don’t hold it against Buck Gooter, though – most people are idiots and let the good stuff like this just sit there.
Burial Truant / Rough Sleeper 12″ (Hyperdub)
Burial snuck this new two-song EP in between the holidays, and it’s pretty much the perfect little single for the dance music fan estranged from his or her family, eating cold pizza and crying through Home Alone on the couch while their friends are drinking nog with their families by the fire. Following in the expanded nature of his prior 12″, Burial rolls through two expansive cuts of the unmistakable Burial sound, weaving plumes of cigarette smoke through abandonded tunnels while wind and rain beat down heavy on the club that is pumping out techno deep below the surface. No new tricks are offered here, no awkward moments or curveballs, just exactly what anyone could expect from Burial at this stage in his career. Both songs change pace multiple times through their durations, acting more like suites than the singular ideas / patterns that appeared on his first two albums. No one does it like Burial, and I love it, even if this one might be his least essential post-album work thus far. Sometimes reinvention isn’t necessary – in Burial’s case, a few more killer cuts will do just fine.
Cheater Slicks Reality Is A Grape LP (Columbus Discount)
I caught on to Cheater Slicks pretty late in life, but when it comes to this group, you can plug in at anytime – it’s never too late. Reality Is A Grape is their newest studio album, and in its entirely analog fashion, it’s as gruff and possessed as anyone could hope. They operate like the best possible rock jukebox in a way, recalling fine moments of Roky Erickson, The Cramps and The Stooges while still retaining a specifically Cheater Slicks vibe. You know, the level of really good rock music that is just below the mainstream, but not so obscure that only record geeks are familiar. I really dug their recent live record (also on Columbus Discount), but it’s the one-two punch of “Psychic Toll” and “Love Ordeal” here that really tips over my stool – I can feel the blood vessels bursting in these three men as they slug through these songs. It’s kinda like the old guy at the end of the bar who looks like he just got out of the hospital but can still beat half a dozen teenagers to a pulp if they try to steal his wallet as he leaves. There’s just that sort of unspoken toughness in the Cheater Slicks’ vibe that can’t be faked or taken away, and it’s marvelous.
Everyone Asked About You Let’s Be Enemies LP (25 Diamonds)
You’ve gotta be really into emo to be aware of Everyone Asked About You, a late ’90s group out of Arkansas who played a couple fests, released a couple 7″s and disbanded like so many of their peers (the unexplained Y2K emo meltdown). They recorded this album in 1998 and it languished all that time in someone’s shoebox, that is until the 25 Diamonds folks pulled the strings to make it happen, clearly a labor of love for those involved. I can see why one would love it, though – when it comes to heart-on-sleeve, poppy emo with synths and layered vocals, Let’s Be Enemies contends with the best of ’em. I’m reminded heavily of Braid, The Get Up Kids, The Jazz June and The Anniversary, and I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy records by all four of those bands. It’s definitely a heady time capsule, as this is an unmistakably late ’90s record, but Everyone Asked About You are so capable with this style, and the songs are so uplifting and pleasant that even as someone who never had Everyone Asked About You crash at my place on a tour, I can easily get into it. Wanna smell life before 9/11 and G.W. Bush? Take a big whiff of this.
Fins Lawnmower 7″ (Obscure Me)
Obscure Me take their name literally here, as the use of dark purple ink on a black background has given me a magic-eye-puzzle headache trying to read the song titles on the sleeve. That’s where my complaints with Fins’ Lawnmower end, though, as this is a solid EP of messy, punked-out indie-rock, the sort of thing that made Al Burian and Blake Schwarzenbach such heart-throbs in the ’90s. No lyrics are included, but they’ve gotta have at least one song that talks about staying up too late, listless and strung-out on black coffee. The music is punchy and tuneful, and even as multiple vocalists burst out into emo-tantrums, Fins never lose sight of the melody. Four songs, and I dig all of them; if you’ve ever sewn a patch that references your love of biking onto your messenger bag, you might have a similar reaction.
Gardens Days To Name / The Onion Peels Of Honest John 7″ (Urinal Cake)
The cover art, comprised of the band name in Cyrillic and a smudgy drawing of the Earth in a flying saucer’s net, screams “just flip on past me and onto the next single in the bin”, but those who bother to take a second glance might find the laid-back indie-garage of Gardens to be worth a stop. “Days To Name” has a speedy, friendly melody that makes me imagine The Strokes if they weren’t spoiled rich kids – and hell, there’s even a guy named Julian in this band! The curiously-titled “The Onion Peels Of Honest John” has a similar vibe, maybe veering a little closer to the Black Lips’ rock n’ roll monkey-house, but still pretty subdued and cool, the sort of tune one can rock out to without having to take off his or her jacket. Pretty nice time here, although I’m not sure I’ll remember much about Gardens in a couple months. At the very least, if I do end up recalling this band by the summertime, it will be fondly.
Ghost Of Chance Paddle Boat 7″ (Obscure Me)
Ghost Of Chance’s Paddle Boat single goes down as smoothly and inoffensively as your daily allergy pill – the sugar coating is plain and familiar, and it slides down your throat with a gulp of water long before it has a chance to get disgusting. They jingle-jangle like many others through these four songs, somewhere between the linoleum-floor stomp of The Oh Sees and the child-like wonder of Elf Power. The guitar is in the foyer and the vocals are echoing in the stairwell, and if the recording was just a little rougher, I’d be double-checking for a HoZac logo somewhere on the packaging. I doubt the band name is a knowing acknowledgement, but there’s gotta be at least a thousand bands like Ghost Of Chance in the US alone, all cramming themselves into SXSW or Tumblr or wherever these bands go in hopes that Pitchfork or some hot blog will shine kindly upon them. It almost seems like pure luck, those who do go on to have some sort of notoriety, and while Ghost Of Chance don’t have much of an “it” factor, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went on to be next week’s Real Estate or Hospitality or whatever.
Golden Torso Broken Extra Arms 7″ (25 Diamonds)
I always dig when a band has a cohesive look, and Golden Torso’s promo photo proudly boasts theirs – these gents look like the tattooed strongmen from some 1800s traveling circus and the guy who rolls their cigars. It fits their music, too – Golden Torso are a speedy, burly rock group that pound it like a garage-based Hot Snakes, or maybe if Fucked Up came from Chicago. I’m also reminded of the group V.Reverse, as I remember them being massive dudes who could throw their guitars around and stop on a dime just like Golden Torso. I don’t hear much on these four songs that really sticks Golden Torso out into the league of touring acts, but I’d imagine at least a couple headlining bands have fallen limp following a Golden Torso performance. If you’ve ever considered eating a burger while getting tattooed, this group might be the one you’ve been looking for.
Good Throb Good Throb 7″ (Super-Fi)
Holy crap, record of the month right here! Sadly I caught wind of Good Throb a little too late in 2012 to make my best-of lists, because this is punk rock of the highest order. Picture Pink Dirt’s vitriolic Sex Pistols impression mixed with the unfiltered anger of Crass, that Small Black Pig 7″ on Slampt and the self-confident swagger of Foams and you’re pretty close to the maniacal force that is Good Throb. Through listening to these four songs, I slowly grow self-conscious, as if Good Throb are aware of all my little hypocrisies and are going to crawl out from under my stereo and choke me unconscious. Their hatred is more real than a thousand young men in Hoax t-shirts, like Poison Girls if they skipped the art-drama and scraped at your chest with pointy fingernails. And if given the chance, Johan Kugelberg would probably dance so hard to Good Throb, his starched collar would turn yellow before the record stopped spinning. I won’t deny it, I deserve a swift kick to the crotch as much as the next guy, and I’m glad Good Throb are here to deliver it.
Holly Hunt Year One 2xLP (Other Electricities / Roofless)
While the band name had me expecting tortured emo-metal, Holly Hunt is a much more subdued affair, one where the long hair isn’t flailing wildly, it’s neatly tucked under a Burton Snowboards painter’s cap. Holly Hunt is the side project of Floor/Cavity drummer Beatriz Monteavaro, and along with guitarist Gavin Perry he takes you on a thick and meaty tomb ride care of Year One, a collection of songs recorded in their second year of existence (editor’s correction: actually their first year). It’s all instrumental, and more of a “name that riff” contest than any sort of new and meaningful songsmithery. I hear Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Floor, Lowrider, Goatsnake… the gang’s all here, with these heavy sonics that all eventually lead back to Sabbath. These guys are great at it, the sound is pretty dead-on, and I have no doubt that Holly Hunt’s practice space resembles a modest Sam Ash, even considering their two-piece lineup. Don’t expect any tricks or unique thoughts, just a variety of tempos (from molasses-melt to mighty gallop) and four capable hands to bring it on home. Worth checking out if weed and surfing are significant aspects of your lifestyle.
Icon Gallery Valiance / The Pact 7″ (Solar Funeral)
Pittsburgh has always been a place where its best bands seem to go unnoticed by the rest of the world, which explains why Icon Gallery are putting out 7″s on Solar Funeral instead of touring on some Sharon Osbourne-curated metal showcase with bands like High On Fire and Mastodon opening for them. Maybe I just don’t know enough metal-heads anymore, but Icon Gallery blew me away live a few years ago and have continued to deliver with every new record, this 7″ included. Picture the most post-apocalyptic NWOBHM with slight nods to metallic crust, crossover thrash and gloomy punk rock, and that’s where Icon Gallery is at. The riffs are razor-sharp and catchy without ever feeling generic, and the vocalist (whoever she may be – Icon Gallery are private with their band member info) has this commanding, pitch-perfect metal voice that could easily fill in for Rob Halford, Ashley Marshall or Steve Grimmett. These songs rip, although it’s the Icon Gallery album from a couple years past that I enjoy the most, as I can just sit back and really feel empowered by their studded-black-denim metal. Recommended!
Karenn Untitled (Sheworks004) 2×12″ (Works The Long Nights)
As soon as I heard Blawan was messing with Pariah to create even more grueling dungeon-techno, I raced over to my local Karenn dealer and asked for the finest vinyl they had to offer. This double 12″ EP is pretty much exactly what you’d expect – gritty filters on straight-forward, pounding rhythms, with plenty of industrial squawks and squeaks skittering through the monolithic grooves. It seems like there are plenty of noise dudes approaching techno out there, but this is clearly the work of techno dudes approaching noise, which is oddly refreshing – they know how to build and maintain a pulsing rhythm from scratch, but their dabbling in scratchy, ear-piercing sonics makes for a satisfyingly rude result. The antagonistic track titles (like “Nicotine Window Netting” and “A Room Full Of Fuck All”) give the EP a menacing, almost angry tone, and it would easily perk up the ears of anyone who wishes Vatican Shadow would vary his approach from time to time. Killer stuff!
Lightning Bolt Oblivion Hunter LP (Load)
Hot on the heels of their reunion tour, Lightning Bolt have released Oblivion Hunter. Wait a minute… they never broke up! In fact, of all the cool groups to really get going in the prior decade, I can’t think of any who have stayed as true to their aesthetic as Lightning Bolt, decimating the concept of “bass and drums duo” to the point where it’s not even worth anyone else’s attempt. This is a band with integrity; even as they finally migrated to the stage from the floor, their music is truly their own distinct product, even if many failed duplicates have popped up over the years. This new one is a pretty sharp addition to their discography – the a-side drifts from the more metallic riff-minded approach of their last couple albums, instead working a loose improv-feel, like you are sitting in on a particularly stunning Lightning Bolt practice as the two Brians mind-meld in the way that only they can. The b-side is just as delightful, as Brian Gibson spends a lot of time scaling the high notes in some sort of child’s psychedelic dream, like a tattered old Tom & Jerry VHS tape that’s stuck on fast-forward with all the colors bleeding together. Lightning Bolt might not give me the goosebumps they once did, but they still have me checking the turntable speed to make sure I’m not playing it too fast. God bless ’em!
Lotus Fucker Forever My Fighting Spirit LP (Katorga Works / RSR / SPHC)
Not sure I understand what Lotus Fucker are going for, but it’s fun trying to figure it out… self-empowering motivational speakers for the cause of Anime, nature and hardcore? Not sure I’ll ever completely parse Lotus Fucker’s message, and they’re offering no hints with their music, a seemingly tireless forward-motion of oompah drumming, noise-core riffing and hoarse barking. The recording here is actually surprisingly clean, especially when compared to Zyanose or Isterismo or other modern noise-core warriors. The drums take the lead, with the din of the bass, guitars and vocals somewhere beneath, an odd-leveled mix that ultimately works out. Song structure is a fleeting concern anyway, as Lotus Fucker focus on delivering a continual explosion of music more than a set of memorably tunes, ending the a-side with a wild field recording of the band raging without their instruments, like they just beat Final Fantasy VII after logging 170 hours of game-play and had to run wild through the streets to celebrate how great they are. The b-side is entirely comprised of “Inner Peace”, a swollen hardcore anthem that ends in triumphalist synths, perhaps the noise-crust equivalent of Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn”. I’m not totally sold on the music, it’s kind of just there, but the vigor and unwavering self-righteousness of Lotus Fucker is undeniably appealing.
Lust For Youth Saluting Rome EP 12″ (Avant!)
How Much Cold Cave Could A Swedish Guy Copy If A Swedish Guy Could Copy Cold Cave? I’m not trying to be a hater, but that’s seriously all I can think when listening to Lust For Youth’s Saluting Rome. I thought that the Lust For Youth song on their split with War was awfully Cold Cave-ish, but this EP emulates it even further: the music is an industrial-tinged, home-spun take on New Order with slight diversions into noise, and the vocals of project-leader Hannes Norrvide utilize the exact same echo-distance of the first few Cold Cave EPs. And what’s on the center stickers? Why, a messy collage of newspaper clippings and bondage photos, of course. Cold Cave and Prurient certainly didn’t originate that style, but when combined with every other detail of Lust For Youth, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion than that this guy really wanted to do what they do. I am a fan of early Cold Cave, and I guess on principle the music of Lust For Youth should please me similarly… it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it seems so incredibly attributed that I can’t possibly take them seriously as artists. Probably a fine local band to have in one’s hometown, but Lust For Youth will need to come up with their own identity to warrant an international vinyl release such as this.
Manpig The Grand Negative LP (Deep Six)
Lo and behold, the mythic Manpig record has finally come into existence. After taunting us for years, the famed “other” band listed in Man Is The Bastard’s power-violence shout-out song gets their due, featuring some Infest dudes and their friends banging out ferocious hardcore that fits in the orbit of Infest, Lack Of Interest and No Comment (Deep Six’s top-shelf reserve). Initially recorded in 1992, Manpig re-recorded these tracks at various points through the last decade, and the wait was worth it, as these songs drill straight into one’s skull like the finest early power-violence, recorded raw but with a pummeling intensity. They mix it up enough that these seventeen tracks never even begin to feel stale (a criticism some may have had of Low Threat Profile), and the standard “instrumental death-march” is second-to-last rather than last, switching it up a little. It’s amazing to wait so long and then not be disappointed by something, as Manpig delivered a fantastic LP here. Of all the full-time functioning bands out there, why can’t Manpig replace one of them?
Jacob Milstein / Thomas Macfie Graduation Music / Circle County LP (no label)
Here’s a truly bizarre album, and I’m not saying bizarre as in “they used cardboard drums” or “the singer is ten years-old”, but bizarre in that I cannot wrap my head around why this record exists, and how it came to pass. The cover features the same pencil-scratched chalice on each side, and has a velvet strip sewn onto its spine, so you know each record cover must’ve been handled by a human for at least ten or twenty minutes. As for the record itself, Jacob Milstein’s Graduation Music splits the difference between Bob Dylan and Conor Oberst, mostly going solo with his guitar and mournful voice, played quietly enough that he could easily book a tour of public libraries without any disruption. Nothing too special about Milstein’s work, which is surely quite personal and meaningful to him; I just haven’t felt much of a connection from my time spent listening. Flip over to Thomas Macfie, and you get a story that takes him fifteen minutes to tell, blurred and monotone, and I dare anyone to have the mental stamina to follow along through its conclusion. It’s kinda fun to leave on, randomly picking up actual sentences out of his droning voice; it’s almost like something Graham Lambkin would do, and I’m just as confused as to Macfie’s motivation. I’m certainly intrigued as to how such a record came to be, but I will set this aside and leave it to a more daring person to investigate further.
The New Season The New Season 12″ (Vacant Valley)
Vacant Valley gets the Forrest Gump “Box of Chocolates” award, because I truly never know what I’m going to get. Could be something on a Mecca Normal level of awful, could be the best thing I heard all month. The New Season fall somewhere in between, but they’re as peculiar as anything else on the label – they recorded these six songs back in 2003 and no longer exist, although my sources tell me these three guys have gone on to be in other Victoria-based rock groups. They’re actually pretty straight-forward and understated, like a Sloan without pre-distressed jeans or The Saints without a sense of urgency. They just kinda coast through, providing well-serviced rock songs that register the same good taste as a cold draft beer and a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses. Kinda hard to really say much about The New Season, in that they are a perfectly unremarkable example of fine guitar-based rock music. If you were around during the time of The New Season, or know these guys, these songs will probably mean more to you, but I can’t imagine that more than a few hundred people can make that claim. I’m sure every diner is someone’s favorite diner, you know?
Night Sins New Grave LP (Avant!)
A few Philadelphia hardcore guys step out into goth-rock as Night Sins, but whereas some ex-hardcore folks manage to seem like they truly dwell in a velvet crypt, New Grave just feels like the same old hardcore kid hangout draped in dollar-store Halloween decorations. I’m sure they’re well-intentioned, and not trying to make money or become stars as Night Sins or whatever, but the utter commonality of their music makes it unappealing to anyone who prefers creativity to historical re-enactment. The music cribs from Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and Joy Division, and rather than adding in their own particular thoughts or feelings, the people making this music retract into the background, content to give you the goth template and nothing else. If this ends up being a fully-staged, pessimistic art action devised to kill the goth resurgence by brazenly jumping the shark, I applaud them for their accuracy; otherwise, Night Sins are just a particularly deep nail in this trend’s coffin (so to speak).
Omar S Triangulum Australe (Say It In Space) 12″ (FXHE)
I felt a little less enthusiastic about the past few FXHE 12″s I had checked out, so rather than end my relationship entirely with a man I greatly admire, I figured I’d take a break. This new 12″ has one of those bizarre titles that only Omar S could create, and I’m glad I decided to step back into his world, ’cause this one’s a real beaut. “Triangulum Australe (Say It In Space)” is equal parts Drexciya, Kraftwerk and outer space, as if those first two electro giants were sucked into a black hole and only their trace elements remained. The beat is relentless but constantly shifting, in the subconscious way that a master like Omar S does so well. And after this sturdy excursion into the uncharted deep, he follows the track with a chopped and reversed answering-machine message? Truly baffling, I love it. “Mayall II” on the flip has more of a dance-floor appeal, certainly one of Omar S’s more party-appropriate cuts, and it too wraps up in a distorted phone message. Few modern punk records feel as uncompromisingly DIY as Triangulum Australe, from the crazy tracking to the etched grooves both inside the music and out. How can anyone not love this?
ONO Albino LP (Moniker)
This can’t be the same ONO that had that weird album on Thermidor back in the early ’80s, could it? A little research confirms that it is, that somehow this obscure group of weirdos has not only remained a musical group (or at least gotten back together), but they also didn’t die. Seems like so many quality freaks from the ’80s haven’t made it to the modern day, but not only are ONO alive and kicking, they’re as demented as ever. Through Albino, I’m reminded of Excepter at times, in that there is one belligerent ringleader barking out all sorts of nonsense while a woozy electro-funk lurks behind him. ONO apparently have as many as seven band members here too, and they use that diversity to string together songs that sound as indebted to Coughs as Curtis Mayfield, throwing funk and noise-rock and techno and the blues on top of each other like a pile of dirty laundry. And they even put their spin on a sincere rendition of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. Definitely wacky without the slightest bit of self-consciousness (which leads to things like the whole band wearing upside-down hockey masks), but there’s no doubting the pedigree of this unusual and untamed band. I like it!
Mickey Pearce Numb Nut (Soft Brain) / Socks Off 12″ (Swamp 81)
Swamp 81 just keeps cranking out the modernest of modern dance music, and it’s their prospect of undeniable dance hits that keeps me coming back. Hadn’t checked out Mickey Pearce before, but he’s fixed up and looking sharp on the cover of this EP, like he’s not just ready to DJ a street-wear after-party but walk the cat-walk as well. “Numb Nut (Soft Brain)” is a potent shuffle that employs a few cool tricks, from the sharply faded vocal cheer to the elastic pong that drives the rhythm. Kind of like Ramadanman’s Maurice Donovan alias, but with a high school pep-rally vibe. “Socks Off” works a pile of clicks, snaps and ticks into a frenzy, reminding me of one of those great early Pearson Sound singles where the percussion comes across like a particularly aggressive rainforest jam (if that makes even the slightest bit of sense to anyone else). Far from essential, but a very fun time even if you’re not deep in the Swamp 81 modern-bass aesthetic.
Polanyi Ongoing Resonance LP (no label)
Didn’t know what to expect from this bare, unassuming LP, but the gritty wind that it flushed out of my speakers is mighty nice. There are four long tracks here, and the first is an unwavering static fuzz, as if Vomir had to perform using nothing more than an oscillating desk-fan. It sets the pace for the rest of the record – you’re either in or your out, and while I’d imagine most people leave pretty early (see the back cover photo of Polanyi’s Steven Wright in a big auditorium recording all by himself), I somehow got sucked in. The next three tracks might throw a subtle beat or a (disintegrating) loop your way, but it’s essentially like trying to see in a sand storm – you might make out a vague shape, but you really might as well be walking with your eyes closed. The wavering drones are never heavy or high-pitched enough to be harsh, so Ongoing Resonance just glides on through, like a tanning booth that uses a pigmented mist instead of bright halogens to darken your skin. Recommended for people who wish Fennesz used television static instead of guitars, or if they ever wondered what would happen if Gate fell asleep while performing.
Pregnancy Scares Facelift 7″ (Deranged)
Here are six more songs of quality Canadian hardcore care of Deranged. The name “Pregnancy Scares” had me expecting some sort of hardcore garage “rock”, like a band that would hang out with Nashville Pussy or the Candy Snatchers or something, but the mysterious black-and-white occult artwork of this 7″ had me thinking differently. They stay true to the art’s aesthetic with their music, blasting through these violent, feedback-strewn tracks like a blindfolded trip through Youth Attack’s Big Cartel web-store. The vocals are a frothy screech that approach both black-metal and screamo without ever crossing either threshold, and the songs focus more on speedy picking and flailing limbs than moshable breakdowns. I’m willing to say “if The Crimson Curse met Raw Nerve”, but without adding “in a dark alley”, because I’d like to keep some sort of critical dignity if at all possible. Good single!
Rational Animals Cross Eyed Delights / Way After Midnight 7″ (Katorga Works)
It seems like the modern hardcore scene re-wrote history in the past couple years, determining that side two of My War is Black Flag’s pinnacle achievement, resulting in all sorts of rip-offs and homages in recent times. Rational Animals are now taking that one step further, heading into Slip It In territory with this new Katorga Works single. “Cross Eyed Delights” has a definite “Black Coffee” vibe to it, as though Rational Animals were once hardcore kids but have since grown their hair out far too long to ever come back. “Way After Midnight” forgoes punk entirely, very much like a Rollins Band jam where Henry adopts the voice of some sort of seedy character, although from the looks of Rational Animals’ singer, there may be no fiction involved here. This record is pretty unabashed Rollins/Flag worship; they don’t even water it down with modern hardcore/punk moves like most groups, and there’s something about their boldness that I find appealing and more memorable than their album, which danced around the ‘Flag worship without fully diving in.
Rrose Wedge Of Chastity 12″ (Eaux)
I always look forward to the next kiss from a Rrose, and while the recent Bob Ostertag collaboration left me nonplussed, Wedge Of Chastity gets back on track. And fast – “Cavity” opens the EP with a rapidly ascending/descending bassline, resulting in some sort of neo-classical chase scene that I find highly appealing. Doesn’t take long before a choppy groove surrounds it, and I find myself having an Ostgut Ton of fun (get it?). The other two cuts are a little less notable, but still provide plenty of sonar-bass and jittery percussion, hotly fired like a more mainstream Sandwell District club cut. These Rrose 12″s always come with top-notch art design too, Wedge Of Chastity being no exception, resulting in records that are highly appealing both on and off the shelf.
RunnAmucks Deficit Of Dreams LP (Ripping)
Here’s a true weird one… I had always avoided RunnAmucks through the years, if only because of their weird Marvel Comics-appropriated cover art (how do they get away with it?), and this new one is as bad as ever, covered in Captain America imagery. I wasn’t prepared for the music, though – the title track opens the album, and I swear, it sounds like Ariel Pink if he tried his hand at SoCal punk rock… I was expecting hardcore punk, but got some weird amalgam of AM radio schmaltz and The Offspring. Who knew? I hated it at first, but as I keep listening, I have to admit it’s growing on me. The combo of lite-rock, melodic alterna-punk and classic punk-rock snot is a beguiling one, and somehow RunnAmucks make it seem like a normal, casual choice. Kinda like mid-period The Freeze if they spent too much time listening to Elton John? I feel like it’s hard to be a surprising punk band in 2013 no matter what you do, but RunnAmucks, a band who have existed for over a decade, do just that. You may have to hear this for yourself, just to understand!
E.D. Sedgwick We Wear White LP (Dischord)
For over ten years Justin Moyer was Edie Sedgwick, but he’s changed it to the more bookish E.D. Sedgwick on We Wear White. Kind of ironic, since this is probably his most energetic, direct record since I’ve been following along. We Wear White opts for less funk, more rock, often reminding me of some of those “rock is back” groups, like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Hives, The White Stripes, if not necessarily in sound but spirit. Maybe if Ian Svenonius fronted one of those NY retro-rock groups (or wait… is that what Weird War was? I never heard them). Sedgwick still works call-and-response vocals to snappy effect, and while he’s probably singing about gentrification and congressmen on a few of these songs, he’s not above calling a track “Ghost Dick” either. Kind of the thinking man’s !!!. He’s certainly sincere about his music… I don’t think anyone doing groovy, garage-y indie-funk these days (if there is anyone besides Sedgwick, even) is doing it for the media spotlight, and he’s certainly honed his craft through these eleven tightly-wound cuts. You might pretend to be too cool for We Wear White, but only the recently deceased won’t accidentally tap a foot or two through its duration.
Smokey Emery Quartz EP 7″ (Indian Queen)
If the concept of traditional song structure and melody makes you nervous, settling in with this Smokey Emery EP might be the way to go. This guy unravels a small selection of disorienting loops while ghouls and accountants shuffle in the background, like a dark cab ride in an unfamiliar setting. The fact that it’s a 7″ reminds me a little of something Pork Queen would’ve plopped out in the ’90s, and I’m sure Smokey Emery is more than a little familiar with the collage-concrète techniques of Nurse With Wound, too. There’s probably a little Prick Decay in there as well, in both sound and spirit. Not too spooky, just kinda foreign and unkempt, which is a good look for this sort of thing. I feel like a more interesting person after having listened to Quartz, so I’ll give it a thumbs up.
Two Dogs In A House Eliminator 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Two Dogs In A House might be my favorite name for any techno/electronic group ever. So simple, so unassuming, so stupid, so utterly appropriate for the work of Ron Morelli and Jason Letkiewicz, two old friends who travel to the deepest realms of analog techno together. They seem to drop one 12″ a year under the Two Dogs name, and this is their 2012 offering. It’s no longer just my favorite American Gladiators event, Eliminator is now a two-sided suite of techno terror. Starting with a pretty unassuming bass-line arpeggio, the Two Dogs add layer upon layer to the mix, from squelchy to smooth, until the track feels like it’s about to burst into shards of hot plastic. They essentially work the same layering technique on both sides, and it feels like I’m in the same room (or house) as these guys, watching the sweat bead up on their foreheads as they bob hunched over their gear and completely caught up in the syncopation. Something about the gritty-yet-punchy recording has me thinking of Levon Vincent’s Novel Sound singles, but the steamroller effect of Eliminator confirms that in an earlier life, Two Dogs In A House spent time in a mosh pit or two. Nicely done!
Valkyrie / Earthling split 7″ (Tension Head)
Pretty cool split 7″ here of two underground metal acts… could this be the record to finally unite fans of classic melodic doom-metal with fans of melodic stoner death-metal? Valkyrie are about as close as you can get to Pentagram without having to pick up Bobby Liebling from his parents’ house – there are some ace guitar leads, the song’s tempo is cut in half for the verses, and whoever is singing has clearly studied his Pentagram long into the night. I don’t mind a tribute if it sounds this good! Earthling are the heavier, gnarlier of the two, barreling out of the gate with an Immortal-style black-metal charge that eventually falls into a death-metal groove and ends on a sludgy stoner dirge. In the course of one song on a split 7″, Earthling make sure to showcase all their styles, as if this is their one chance to impress the world, and I appreciate the effort. Nice to see some honest, well-played metal from two groups who just want to kick ass, rather than cultivate a mysterious persona, or trick you into paying $43.99 for a tri-gatefold splatter-vinyl LP of demo songs. Nicely done!
Violent Bullshit Adult Problems LP (Violent Responsibility)
I’ve only heard horrible things about the music and live performances of Violent Bullshit, so they’ve got nowhere to go but up, right? I was preparing myself for Violent Bullshit to make Vision and Black Army Jacket sound like Agnostic Front and Crossed Out, but really this isn’t that bad, it’s just not all that special. Adult Problems goes from moshy breakdowns with sing-along parts that make their five friends go crazy to flailing blast-beats and unhinged thrash. Definite Trash Talk vibes, in that the songs seemingly have no meaning, and just fire off bits of hardcore at random, like the important thing is that music is filling up the space so that destruction and skating can occur, not the actual music itself. I was kind of impressed how the singer Jayson Green (most famously of Orchid) sounds almost exactly like Rick Ta Life circa Friendship.Loyalty.Commitment, slurring his screams beyond recognition. He also looks a hell of a lot like Andrew WK on the cover, and now that I think about it, Orchid broke up pretty much right as Andrew WK was hitting the scene. Kinda makes you think…