Galcher Lustwerk. The only thing smoother than his name rolling off the tongue is his music. Grabbing from house to jazz to techno to hip-hop, Galcher Lustwerk’s music is consistently inspired and inspiring – he’s connected with the much-hyped (and rightfully so) White Material label / crew, but there aren’t any other producers, American or otherwise, who sound like him. He’ll work up a dusty Theo Parrish-esque groove and drop some simplistic, Madlib-style raps over top, or get all happy mixing a field-recording into a tight shuffling beat. It’s all part of his world, from Wu-Tang to Rick Wilhite, and he is constantly working on tracks, carefully considered for both vinyl pressing and streaming online mixes. He seems so untouchably cool, I kinda figured he’d blow off my request for an interview (sadly it sometimes happens), but nope – Lustwerk was kind enough to oblige, a true gentleman through and through. Now if only I could peer into his vault of unreleased material…
First off, I don’t wanna pry too deep into personal inspiration on a topic like this, but can you comment on your name? Is it meant to be read as first name: Galcher, last name: Lustwerk? Is a French pronunciation necessary?
It’s a name and you can pronounce it any which way; it doesn’t matter.
I feel like your music exists in a very modern state of popularity, where there are thousands of people across the internet who are rabid fans of yours, but you might have difficulty drawing a crowd in smaller American cities like say, Louisville or Minneapolis. Do you think about that disconnect, what it’s like to be a coveted producer to so many across the internet, but also kind of anonymous in day-to-day life?
It’s cool, though. If I wanted to tour the rest of the country I would have to get Facebook and do photo-shoots and I’d have to rap more and curse more. I would have to demand even more attention online because Americans need to be marketed to. But the gigs I’m doing now are great, everything is cool. I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing for awhile. Play clubs, put out music. Maybe get a Snapchat or something. I’m anti-social, I like being anonymous, so this current situation is manageable right now.
That’s an interesting point, about the American audience needing constant information on an artists, lest they be forgotten. Do you think music loses a little bit of its magic when the artist is constantly promoting themselves on Twitter or Facebook?
Definitely, and it’s a waste of time. People go crazy over social media.
Do you consider yourself part of an East Coast techno/house scene? Is there any specific aspect of say, Brooklyn techno, that you won’t find in Bristol or Detroit?
I can’t articulate on any scene, but one specific aspect about Brooklyn techno is how long it takes for everyone to get their records pressed, haha.
I get the impression that you have a ton of unreleased material, and only a small handful of records under your belt. Are you just incredibly picky with what you release, or is it more that you don’t have the finances available to press up all your tracks?
There is a lot of unreleased music, but there’s no rush, I’m patient. Gotta test everything out in the club, too. That takes time.
Is that a necessity for a Galcher Lustwerk track – it has to go over well in the club?
Gotta make sure it sounds good in that environment for the DJs, but how well it “goes over” is their problem. I got a lot less clubby stuff lying around, too. The most important thing is to keep creating. Progress is a necessity.
At what point did you decide to incorporate your vocals into your music – was that something you knew you were going to do the moment you started messing around with samplers and drum machines, or did that idea arrive later?
I’ve always tried vocals with different levels of success. I guess now I don’t try and force anything. Be as natural as possible. I can barely raise my voice, so it’s not like my range is all that. I just do what’s comfortable.
When you are actually in the process of making your music, are you nitpicking over smaller details in pursuit of perfection, or do you just try to get into a groove and let it flow without thinking too hard?
Just keep working on a thing until it’s right. Then mix it good.
Is there anyone you look up to, when it comes to making music? Have you had any mentors who helped you figure out what you wanted to do?
Morgan Louis. He’s next up on White Material. Man, he’s gonna demolish all the clubs in Europe. Total destruction. He’s gonna be everybody’s favorite DJ. Everybody’s favorite producer, too. So good. When I first moved to Providence he had sort of a college night playing stuff like filter-house and electro and Jersey Club and stuff, so that’s where I got my chops DJing. I learned a lot about production from him, too. He still lives in Rhode Island but comes down to New York often, so I advise anyone who sees his name on a bill to go cause you will have a good time for sure.
Could you share something in particular you learned from him about production? Anything you’d want other producers to think about when they’re working in the studio, just for the benefit of music in general?
Haha, I dunno, I don’t remember much specifics. It’s more just like, tuning your ear better, listening more closely to the sound in an abstract sense, and not just as a collection of instruments and effects. Paying attention to dynamics. Also just be sure to listen to your tracks everywhere, on all types of speakers. Before, I was very punk about my approach to mixing because all I knew was bars or DIY venues with shitty PAs. I just figured things should sound noisy and harsh no matter what, but once you study sound more you can learn to only be harsh when you want to be, and have clarity when you want, unless the PA sucks. I think some people are naturally talented at these things, but I’ve had to learn over the years. I’ve been making music since like 1999 or 2000, it’s been a long road, haha. And it will never stop.
Is there any track, either of yours or someone else’s, that absolutely never fails in a club setting, no matter what the crowd is like?
Yeah, there’s an edit I made, I think Sarah Miles is the only other DJ who’s got it. I saw her play it at Farbfernseher in Berlin and the place went mad. You could play it at a high school dance and same shit would happen. No askin’ around for it either, haha!
White Material hasn’t put out a ton of records yet, but the word is definitely out. Do you think quality control has been a really important factor? Does everyone involved with White Material have to be 100% behind everything released on the imprint, or is it more of a blanket label for any of the things you’re all interested in releasing?
Young Male and DJ Richard run the label. It takes awhile to press records here in New York, and you gotta have some real cash-flow to be constantly putting records out. But downtime is good. It lets people sit on their tracks longer and decide how they want to present themselves, so yes I guess that’s a form of quality control. But for me, I’ll let them listen to my stuff and I get their feedback. “Tape 22” wasn’t my first choice by a long shot. But Young Male insisted, and it turned out to be a good call.
Tape 22 is currently pretty pricey on the secondary market – how do you feel about that? Do you wish everyone who ever wanted a copy of your record could pay ten dollars for it, or are you cool with records being in-demand to the point where people will pay collector’s prices?
Represses are coming so the price will be back to normal soon. I don’t care about collectors at all. These records are made to play out. I abuse the all the records I buy. I’ll scratch the shit out of em till I can’t play em anymore.
Before you were making this music, did you come up in the punk/DIY scene? Are you into much rock music?
I was what you would call a skater kid, so in turn I was exposed to a lot of punk and hardcore as a teenager. I don’t listen to much of it anymore cause it’s too nostalgic. I’ve been making electronic music since way before all of this, though. The rock thing was like a phase. Nowadays I just listen to rap music and my own stuff… and The Sea and Cake.
What’s next release-wise for yourself? Have you thought about a cohesive album release, or are you sticking with singles for the time being?
Yeah I definitely have enough material for several albums, but it’s all a matter of editing down. It would be sick to do an album. Almost every day I listen to like thirty or forty of my own tracks, and there’s a lot to think about, and a lot of research to do. I would want the artwork and any supplementary material to be properly considered as well. When you put in the work, it pays off and then all of a sudden you get a dope record! But yeah to be more specific, it will be on White Material sometime next year. There may be more releases related to me coming out this year, but new Galcher material will be next year. Right now I’m preparing to DJ a bunch of parties in the fall. I’ve been looking for some records to buy, but the problem is I can’t stop downloading rap mixtapes…
A.D. Skinner A.D. Skinner 7″ (3xReaper)
A.D. Skinner won me over before I heard a single note, thanks to their personnel listed on the back: Sausage Skinner sings, B.D. Skinner and Winner Winner Chicken Skinner on guitars, J.P. Skinner on bass and See More Skinner on drums. It’s not funny, it’s stupid, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s just what the doctor ordered. After spinning this single a few times, I still like A.D. Skinner, although their aliases are certainly the most creative aspect of the band – musically, it’s pretty by-the-books lo-fi garage-punk. Somewhere between The Oblivians and Eastlink, maybe? You’re not going to get a lot of personality out of these songs, just a standard level of workmanship and perhaps an empty beer can or three. I had my hopes up for something more audacious or strange, but I guess there is a level of comfort in this selection of mid-tempo to fast-paced songs, like trying on a new pair of Vans or something – you know exactly what they are going to feel like, and the experience is boring, but it’s still kinda nice anyway.
A Lovely Sort Of Death New Beginnings LP (Water Under The Bridge / Ghoul House)
An Annoying Sort Of Band Name, am I right? Whatever, let’s not judge too harshly before giving it a listen. Although, now that I have spun New Beginnings more than once (but not too many times more than that), I can say that any discomfort I felt reading their band name was an appropriate warning to the unexciting music contained within. I’d describe their sound as working-class old-guy screamo, if such a genre exists – A Lovely Sort Of Death sounds like a band raised on Touch & Go Records radio samplers from 1993, albeit without the gusto to properly recreate The Jesus Lizard or the technicality to recreate Drive Like Jehu themselves. It sounds like the singer just does wild screaming because he has no idea how else to do it, and for a band that clearly appreciates rock n’ roll, namely the power-trio format, their sound is incredibly weak – I swear, on some of these tracks it sounds like the bass was unplugged and recorded off a room mic, its oomph is that slight. I don’t wanna rip these guys any further, I am sure they are solid dudes who have some crap to get off their chests like anyone else, I just kinda wish I had no idea they ever created an outlet for it called A Lovely Sort Of Death.
The Bad Doctors Burning City LP (FDH)
Are there any happy punk bands anymore? Seems like modern underground punk is one big scowl-off, and that includes The Bad Doctors. To quote a screamo legend, there is no happy here, just punchy punk rock, indebted to synthy new-wave and gothic post-punk. At times I’m reminded of a bleepy-bloopy version of Defektors (who I heard have a new album on the way; finally!), or perhaps Puerto Rico Flowers played at Ramones speed. I’m kinda surprised that Bad Doctors seem to exist as a Philadelphian secret (they’re new to me, and I actually live here), as Burning City is nicely crafted and an above-average entry into the punk rock depression sweepstakes; the perfect album for an Exploding Hearts fan who’s been on the verge of getting into Interpol but never quite made the leap. Might even be some commercial marketability here, if they dedicated themselves to writing a pop hit for album number two. No matter what they decide to do in the future, I wish them well!
Bentcousin Dizzy 7″ (Teen Love)
Bold move of Bentcousin to not include their band name (or any info besides the record label address and URL) on the packaging of this record, save for the center stickers – either they have zero faith that anyone will flip past this record in a brick-and-mortar record store and want to buy it because they are familiar with the band, or they simply don’t care (or maybe I’ve put more thought into it than they have). The cover art looks like the type of Instagram pic your high school cousin would receive a dazzlingly large number of likes for, and that kinda sums up the music too, in a way. “Dizzy” is essentially H&M-centric indie music, music that simultaneously sounds like indie rock and radio pop (a dude even raps over one part) and probably assimilates Can and Vashti Bunyan and Skankin’ Pickle in equal measure. “2014” is gonna be dated in less than six months, but clearly Bentcousin are delighted to exist in our modern times where every new song has an expiration date three months into the future, ready to be removed from Spotify and Soundcloud playlists as quickly as it was added. It’s not a bad single, but rather another signpost for how quickly music has morphed from a thing that costs money into a disposable lifestyle accessory, and while it’s sending pangs of fear down my spine, there are surely hundreds of kids who are delighted to take photos of themselves while half-listening to Bentcousin.
Blood Pressure Blood Pressure 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Blood Pressure are a new Pittsburgh hardcore group, although the guys in the band have been around for what seems like forever, playing in bands like Brain Handle and Direct Control (to name but a couple highlights). I swear I’m not just being lazy when I say that it kinda just sounds like a mix of Brain Handle and Direct Control, too – you’ve got wildman Ed Steck on vocals, sounding deceivingly youthful and gnarly as ever, and a more-than-capable band backing him up with fast riffs that kick up dust similar to Poison Idea, Headcleaners and Koro. With song titles like “Peace Sucks / Low Class” and “Deceptive Fiction”, not to mention Steck’s literary focus, the lack of a lyric sheet is disappointing, as I’d love to know what he’s coughing up and ranting about while the band rages forward. Regardless, cool stuff from a band that I hope continues to develop, even with word that Steck has relocated to Florida (I swear I’m not stalking the guy – I just hear things, you know?).
Bronze Teeth O Unilateralis 12″ (Diagonal)
Powell truly knocked me on my can this year, to the point where I am now buying Diagonal releases (he runs the label) sight unseen, sound unheard. So far, this has been a fantastic life decision, recently evidenced by this Bronze Teeth 12″, the debut EP of Factory Floor’s Dominic Butler and some Optimo-related guy (never a bad sign). Well, no surprises here: this is a tense, forward-thinking slab of un-techno. “Tapeworm” runs the a-side, and it reminds me of one of those recent Vladislav Delay EPs in the way it just refuses to quit, drilling a singular algorithm into your skull while two sets of hands calmly twist knobs. “Acetone” kicks off the b-side with less brute force, more cunning restraint, interlacing a twitchy beat with undulating analog waves, the sort of track that elicits a physical reaction even though on paper it shouldn’t. “Glass Tooth” wraps things up similarly, although the sound palate calls to mind Luciano circa No Model No Tool or some other ’00s minimal-techno player, warped beyond the dance-floor. Apparently there’s already another Bronze Teeth 12″ out, and if you don’t think it’s already en route to my estate you really know nothing about me.
Code BMUS Strike Now, There Is No Cover 12″ (Ever/Never)
All new bands could suddenly cease to exist at this point, and us music fans could still probably go another few decades surviving on reissues of obscurities we never knew existed. It seems like every conceivable genre has hundreds of gems waiting to be unearthed, and early UK DIY post-punk is certainly one of them – take this reissue of Code BMUS’s debut 12″ EP, for instance. I had never heard of them before, and was simply going on Ever/Never’s fine reputation (they’ve only released one Exiles From Clowntown record thus far, but that’s good enough for me), and it’s a fine shard of early ’80s art-school angst. They certainly would’ve fit right in with the Fuck Off Records / Door And The Window crowd, but Code BMUS seem to take direction from Nick Cave’s operatic outlandishness (the vocals seem particularly inspired) and a bit of Crass’s inventive instrumentation as well. This EP blows by quickly, usually with the singer ranting ecstatically while a de-tuned bass plods alongside a standard drum kit and someone clanks some glass bottles or plucks a rubberband for accompaniment. I didn’t read the giant hand-written insert (I prefer to receive my headaches through other means), but I can tell Code BMUS were politically inspired as well, as were many of their contemporaries. A cool introduction, and another record to add to my ever-expanding want list (Ever/Never did a fine job, but I’m a sucker for originals – you just can’t reissue that smell).
Cremation Lily Fires Frame The Silhouette LP (Alter)
Been digging the abstract electronics / disruptive noise of the Alter label lately, who can be counted on for thoughtful and well-designed records, even if paying the import price stings. Cremation Lily has been churning out ugly ambient / power-electronics for the past few years, and has found a suitable home on Alter, in the form of this full-length vinyl debut. It’s pretty cool – these tracks usually feature a depressed, coroded synth, endlessly delayed sound-effects and perhaps a manipulated tape or two, frequently yielding an avant-garde, nearly psychedelic power-electronics sound. I’m strongly reminded of Prurient during his Black Vase period or the most recent Damien Dubrovnik material, where the listener is forced to dig through tons of rubble to find trace remnants of rave music, shattered and destroyed. A washing machine filled with sticks and rocks might be used as an anti-rhythm while a cocktail of wind and radio static is poured over at Cremation Lily’s bar. The poetic song titles also recall a very Prurient / Posh Isolation aesthetic, one that is certainly becoming de rigueur in modern noise, but Cremation Lily manages to keep his sound fresh, through a keen sense of timing and intriguing source-material selection.
The Deep Freeze Mice The Best Of The Deep Freeze Mice LP (Night People)
Based on Night People’s track record, on first look I figured this was some Midwestern basement weirdo poking fun at the idea of a “greatest hits” collections, but wrong was I – The Deep Freeze Mice were an actual real band back in the ’80s, with more than enough albums to qualify for such a collection (how did a guy like me not already know this?). They sounded pretty nice, too – they’ve got kind of a dry-humored art-school new-wave thing going on, and I’d offer references like Shop Assistants, The Family Fodder, Art Bears and maybe even Girls At Our Best, although that last one might be slightly off – The Deep Freeze Mice were clearly uninterested in entertaining predictable punk rock audiences. I can certainly see this band meaning a hell of a lot to a small group of people – they’re rich with the sort of self-deprecating charm that only comes from England, and their songs are fun and memorable enough that The Deep Freeze Mice could quickly become the type of band you put on mixtapes or list on internet profiles. The liner notes reveal that this band is as snarky as ever, in a good way, and while I wasn’t expecting Night People to get on the reissue train, they certainly picked wisely.
Donato Dozzy Terzo Giorno 12″ (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
One of the biggest complaints I get from people who are curious about techno but have yet to fully dive in is that they have no idea where to start. The techno universe is vast and intimidating, no doubt about it, but if you’re a techno-dabbler and have wondered about Donato Dozzy (and I can only hope that you have), please, start here! This 12″ has four tracks, and while it is far from a comprehensive sampler of his talent, it’s a masterful EP and a fine place to begin. It opens with “Il Canto Della Maga”, a frozen tundra of wind-chimes and brittle air, completely beatless and an appropriate mood-reset for whatever it was you were doing right before putting this on. It’s followed by “Il Canto Della Maga Part II”, a prime cut of Dozzy’s chase-scene techno, the perfect music for running down an empty subway corridor with a briefcase filled with the antidote required to save the president’s life. Flip it over for “Terzo Giorno”, which bangs even harder, akin to the meatiest Regis production but with Shackleton’s selection of alien percussion. “Sotto Ma Sotto” wraps things up with more mind-numbing locomotion; it’s monolithic, precise and deeply satisfying. If you buy a copy and hate it, just write me and I’ll buy it off you to just give to someone else, seriously, because I have determined that sharing the music of Donato Dozzy is my mission in life.
Margaret Dygas In Wood / That Oops 12″ (Perlon)
What better way to celebrate Perlon’s 100th release than two new cuts from Margaret Dygas, right? She’s the perfect wild-card, and doesn’t disappoint with these two tracks. “In Wood” is very slight, fragile tech-house, almost free of bass and guided solely by some sort of alien jazz music – I’m reminded of wherever Herbie Hancock’s spacepod was flying on the cover of Thrust as Dygas guides me through “In Wood”. “That Oops” is a little speedier, opting for a more traditional percussion loop, at least until she starts errantly tossing sound effects as if engaged in a playful food fight. I’m strongly reminded of Joe on both of these tracks, in the way that they both seem to emanate from alternate musical universes, as well as their kitchen-sink approach to sample application. Maybe a touch of Villalobos’s Sei Es Drum-period playfulness can be found here too, not to mention his longer-form, patient construction. Very cool, unique stuff from Dygas, who has made a career out of balking at the rules, much to her musical benefit and ours.
Ekman Untitled 12″ (Panzerkreuz)
I generally love any techno guy whose name sounds like an esoteric Mega Man boss (this explains my continued love affair with Ramadanman), so I had to check out Ekman, some solitary lunatic out of the Netherlands who insists on releasing a slew of unfriendly acid-house tracks with little or no corresponding information. This new 12″ is untitled, as are all of its tracks, and while it’d be nice to have something to refer to, it kind of fits here – these all feel like variations on a theme, the theme being “4:00 am Molly ingestion at a squat-house bonfire rave”. Ekman will usually send some foreboding synth-chord high in the sky, and then send in the ground-troops in the form of a wiggly, uncageable acid line. Sometimes it gets downright industrial, other times it takes the form of a minimalist update on New Beat, but it never strays far from the vision of one man, a few pieces of hardware and a whole lot of cables. Naturally, some of these tracks are stronger than others, but taken as a whole I can’t imagine that anyone who enjoys the current L.I.E.S. landscape would find any fault with Ekman.
King Tears Mortuary Asleep At The Wheel Of Fortune 7″ (Vacant Valley)
The Sims-style video-game art on the cover of this King Tears Mortuary has me tingling with pleasant nostalgia, and it’s a good way to emotionally enter Asleep At The Wheel Of Fortune, a perky little six-song EP of raucous indie-pop. They’ve got two singers, one of whom reminds me of a bratty Rose Melberg, while the other has this “excitable European game-show host from 1985” voice, and let me tell you, this combo works wonderfully! And when they open “ABCs” with what is basically one note off from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Impression That I Get” riff, I’m too busy smiling to care. I feel like they crammed six songs on this EP not because their songs are short, but because they play them so vigorously that they blew through six songs in the time it would take most bands to get through three. Very enjoyable, upbeat indie-punk – if it wasn’t for seasonal allergies, I’d go roll around in the grass with King Tears Mortuary on my Walkman.
Litanic Mask Vampire LP (Audraglint)
Nice to check out some new Audraglint releases, a label I hold dear for the Pulseprogramming records they released a decade or so ago (the first name in emo electronic music, as far as I’m concerned). Vampire is my first Litanic Mask experience, and while the name might call to mind Tom Cruise with fangs (or Klaus Kinski in a cape), it’s actually a very light and airy record, with a visually-appropriate white and silver cover. Litanic Mask play a misty, dreamy form of synth-pop, like an electro-Tamaryn, or perhaps a less-distinct Zola Jesus (there are at least a couple songs with big sweeping three-chord choruses not unlike a Zola Jesus production). I’d say it has all the markings of a Not Not Fun electro act, right alongside Sapphire Slows and Maria Minerva, but there’s a certain seriousness and emotional sincerity here that Not Not Fun artists don’t usually employ. It’s a good listen, if not a supremely memorable one, but if you’ve ever wanted to curl up on the couch and feel sorry about your failed relationships while sipping some herbal tea, Litanic Mask are ready to help you through the healing process.
Manateees Seek Help 7″ (Total Punk)
I respect the Total Punk label on the same level that I respect Charles Barkley and Leslie Nielsen, just true experts of their craft, but I was a little wary of this band, what with their silly spelled-wrong name (presumably for ease of Googling, which doesn’t help their case – who cares if some random jerk can find you easily on the internet or not, you think they have a briefcase with a million dollars they wanna give you?). This single certainly isn’t the finest of the Total Punk pack, but it’s still worthy of bearing their red-stamped logo. “Hate On Parade” sounds like Richie Charles fronting The Kill-A-Watts, with meaty mid-tempo garage-punk and done-with-life vocal haranguing. The b-side “Struggle” has a similar feel, kinda like if Dogs’ “Slash Your Face” had a younger brother who just wanted to skateboard and eat M&Ms for dinner. Surprisingly mean-sounding for a band named after such a sweetly harmless mammal, but maybe that extra e stands for evil. It doesn’t stand for eloquent, at least.
Missionary American Strike EP 7″ (Warthog Speak)
Been hearing about Missionary for a while, as their name is frequently mentioned in discussions of top-notch contemporary modern hardcore (and besides, it’s a cool name for a hardcore band). After a few spins through American Strike (even on the 4th of July, which was enough to make an eagle cry a single tear), I can understand why Missionary are being discussed – they’re great! Like most modern hardcore bands, they are clearly well versed in hardcore’s rich history, picking and choosing only the best aspects for themselves: a Poison Idea lead, a No Comment blast, Impalers’ momentum, a Stop And Think breakdown, The Abused’s drum sound, Lack Of Interest’s high-speed steamroller… the annotations are endless. It would be easy to lose any sense of identity when crafting hardcore music from so many ingredients, but Missionary hold it together nicely, with gruff-yet-intelligible vocals and a tight trio of players behind it. All this with a cool pocket-sleeve and a big-ass newsprint poster worthy of tacking up on your bedroom wall. Romance tip: make sure the poster is in perfect webcam view, just over your right shoulder, so the next time you’re Skyping with your internet crush they’ll be impressed by your distinctive taste in hardcore.
Naked Island Naked Island LP (Peak Oil)
Grab a big palm leaf and cover up, you’re on Naked Island, baby! I dig that this two-song album (if you wanna call it that – seems more like an EP to me, but who I am to judge, and these songs are damn long) comes with a little holographic sticker on the cover and not much else, because it’s the kind of meditative, sensual techno that you can imagine your own world around – your creativity is the only limitation. The a-side is called “Deep, Transcendent Waves Of Golden Light”, and while you might not have a strong conversation with God as it plays, it’s a pretty wide-scale shot of barely-beat-oriented electronic music. At first, it comes across like a ghost talking over a Dolphins Into The Future track, but then the beat rolls in and it feels more like Petar Dundov’s corpse washing onto the shore of a shimmering, white-sand beach. Not a whole lot of progression, just kind of a weightless stasis, but it’s a nice place to be. “Play It As It Lays” isn’t as gleaming, but the formula remains the same, casting these wide synth nets over an unchanging percussion loop and just letting it all slowly disperse like a recently-unplugged smoke machine, simmering until the room fades to a smoky white. It’s not dance-floor material, nor does it seem particularly composed beyond letting the drum-loop rip and just kinda holding down keys over top – this record could’ve easily taken a couple hours to conceptualize and perform, but I can get down with that approach as much as some Autechre track that took months to produce. Not sure I’ll be drifting over to Naked Island again in the future, but I certainly enjoyed my stay.
Neutron Rats Bomb Worship EP 7″ (Loud Punk)
On the verge of becoming a reissue label, Loud Punk step back into the present with Albany, NY’s Neutron Rats. They a play a familiar hardcore-punk style, somewhere between Bloodkrow Butcher, Nine Shocks Terror and Gauze, but you know, far less distinct than any of those bands. Their riffs might veer toward the metallic side of things, as far as the picking-style is concerned, but this is music meant for people with Disclose back-patches and Sickoids t-shirts, not Testament fans. Four songs, all quite straight-forward and raging, to the point where I am quickly running out of creative ways to talk about it – it’s the best kind of generic, in that sense, even without a single skull featured in their artwork. Maybe if they worked in a cover of the Weirdos’ “We Got The Neutron Bomb” that they changed to “We Are The Neutron Rats”, I’d have more to say, but until that time, rest assured that the Albany punks have at least one good reason to spend time in someone’s basement on a Friday night.
Pangaea Pob 12″ (Hadal)
Pangaea is responsible for some of the most fascinating (and banging) post-dubstep tracks of the late ’00s, and while not all of his records connect with me in the same way, I’m always down to check in – just like the super-continent of the same name, Pangaea hasn’t stayed in the same place. Glad I scoped this four-song EP on the new Hadal label, because it’s some of his best stuff in recent memory. “Pob” opens it up with a very hands-on groove, with seemingly every part shifting in different ways (that tweaked arpeggio is constantly in flux) and it’s a fascinating dance to behold. “Mackerel” follows, and it’s surprisingly straightforward, although not in a bad way – it’s faster than usual and its energy is cheekily utilized. Flip it over for “Ivy”, the hit of the EP. Pangaea always had a unique knack for the art of vocal manipulation, and this one features a booming dancehall toast flipped into an instantly memorable, hands-in-the-air jam. Lastly, “Solvent” cools things down with a lurching, twitchy stumble, sure to appeal to fans of Hessle Audio’s weirder and more difficult tracks. Great stuff all around, but “Ivy”‘s the one that will have them climbing down from the rafters in an effort to get closer to the dance-floor (or the speakers).
Perspex Flesh Perspex Flesh 12″ (Static Shock)
Not sure why, must be the American patriot in me (that’s what I get for listening to so much 97a), but I’ve always had this prejudice against British hardcore groups. It’s not fair, I know, but while there hasn’t been much that really moved me, a band like Perspex Flesh might be enough to change my perspective. They’re from Leeds, and while I dug their 7″ EP last year, this 12″ really sticks out. The singer has this commanding bark somewhere between the guy from Vile Gash and Joe Denunzio, and the band is adequately equipped to wrangle his meaty shout. The music is pretty gnarly, and it’s one of those hardcore records where it seems like they are playing incredibly fast, just from the intensity of it all, even though if I actually pay close attention, it becomes evident that many of these songs are mid-paced or speedy, but never truly blazing. It’s not a thinking-person’s hardcore band, though, which of course is a good thing – Perspex Flesh clearly put time and effort into making their songs unique, but it feels perfectly simple and raging, ready to be filed somewhere in between Poison Idea and Iron Lung (not literally – everyone knows hardcore records are meant to be filed alphabetically). After that utterly masterful Love Triangle album, and this, I’m putting Static Shock (and UK hardcore in general) on close watch.
Priests Bodies And Control And Money And Power 12″ (Sister Polygon / Don Giovanni)
Let’s face it, Priests are on the short-list of great contemporary American punk bands, so I was looking forward to this EP like a child awaits Christmas morning (actually, scratch that, I still love Christmas as much as any random child). Their debut 7″ was its own disturbed form of simplistic post-punk, and as they shifted into a more streamlined and adept group, it was time they had a piece of wax to match. That time is upon us! These seven tracks are Priests set-list staples, and for good reason – these are the songs you want the band to play, ranging from jagged and weird to bizarrely heavy and mean, checking off references like Bikini Kill and Avengers and Meltdown and Sleater Kinney while never really sounding like any of them for too long. The whole band seems possessed by their own personal demons, but rather than succumb to darkness they twist it in their favor, like Peter Parker’s spider bite (I truly believe Priests could be someone’s heroes). And before I say anything stupider, these songs are easily some of the catchiest, most feel-good punk rock I’ve heard in quite some time, all with that fiercely independent vigor that I foolishly thought died with Black Eyes in DC. If Priests don’t conquer the world in a year, it’s our fault, not theirs.
Rat Columns Leaf LP (R.I.P Society)
Always nice to hear from Rat Columns, who have blossomed from Total Control / Lace Curtain / Rank/Xerox member David West’s bedroom meanderings to a prim and polished rock unit. Their debut LP Sceptre Hole took me by surprise, as its pleasantly bittersweet strumming had me thinking of The Get-Up Kids, which certainly wasn’t where I expected Rat Columns to go, but it still had its own peculiar little twist, and hell, I like The Get-Up Kids. I was all prepared to sew a Karate patch onto my Jansport as I first threw on Leaf, and while some of Rat Columns’ familiar emotions are front and center (melancholia, introspection, sensitivity, longing), this follow-up album veers in a slightly different musical direction. Moreso than Mineral or Jimmy Eat World, I’m reminded of bands from the mid ’80s who were heavily Smiths-influenced but still came at music from a punk (read: not corporate) angle, like maybe Orange Juice or Aztec Camera, all with a moody jangle not far from The Cure. And rather than jump between parts, Rat Columns take an almost krautrock-esque repetition to their songcraft, an approach that I find quite enjoyable. It’s actually the poppiest, hook-laden tracks that I favor the most here, as Rat Columns seem to have really figured out their way around a sunshine-y melody without cracking a smile, although it could be the small selection of solemn art-dirges that provide a notable contrast. Whatever the case, Rat Columns are alright by me, evolving on their own terms and enigmatically fun.
Mike Rep And Friends Darby Creek Drifter LP (540)
Mike Rep has already cemented his status as an American outsider-rock legend, exhaled in the same breath as Neil Young and Lux Interior by annoying record collectors everywhere. I’m not one to disagree, though, and this new album of country or country-fied tunes reveals another layer to this man’s meaty onion. I have to say though, if this LP came without any information, I certainly wouldn’t peg it as the work of a weirdo-rock legend – nope, Darby Creek Drifter is a fairly straight-forward shot, reminiscent of something Folkways would’ve produced in the early ’80s or any other sort of dollar-bin private-press rural rocker you might find languishing with severe water damage in the back of a Good Shepherd. Very pleasant stuff, even slipping a “Pale Blue Eyes” cover in the middle of some Cherry Blossoms-esque cabin jams, but never particularly strange or delirious, just nice and expected country rock n’ roll. Probably the Mike Rep record most likely to become a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, so good for him on that.
Resist Control Cessation LP (Peterwalkee / Feral Kid)
Resist Control are an upstate New York hardcore band, continuing to dispel any notions that upstate New York equates to mosh-metal with this debut LP. It’s ultra-fast hardcore music, with plenty of stop-on-a-dime riff-changes and seemingly endless blastbeats, boasting a level of technical precision (particularly regarding the drums) that even the most calloused Behold The Arctopus fan would raise an eyebrow toward. It’s pretty good, but never does it rise above “pretty good”, and here’s why: the singer has an unremarkable voice, and when the beats are slower than a full-on blast, he almost always sings directly on the beat, which makes for kind of a monotonous, predictable template. And while the drums are absolutely flawless and dazzling, the overall recording (and snare sound in particular) renders it kind of powerless – it’s kind of like listening to a bag of popcorn popping in 4/4 time. Next time, Resist Control, play your producer a Framtid record before he or she starts mixing! Not a bad band by any stretch, but much as I feared after semi-enjoying their debut 7″, there isn’t any natural hardcore magic here, just masterful competency.
Roachclip Calmer In This Town 7″ (Quemada)
Well looky here, Quemada’s tenth release. This American label has been providing us with some of the best pensive and amateurish avant-rock that Australia has to offer, and they take it on back home for this new Roachclip single. For some reason, I assumed Roachclip were just one of those cool little side projects you hear from once and never again, but they’ve got a few records under their belt now, and it’s nice to see they are taking seriously their non-serious music. “Masters Dew” is a cool 7″ a-side – it starts off in the garage, maybe somewhere between Quintron and Eat Skull, before slowly liquifying into a flammable ooze that removes all rust and paint on its way down the drain. Not many bands can devolve a single song like this! “Cast Of Clowns” is on the flip, and it feels like Sic Alps covering their favorite British Invasion tunes while simultaneously swimming across the English Channel, getting stung by jellyfish and swallowing far too much saltwater in the process. Roachclip seems like a fun band to be a part of, like you can completely do the wrong thing on your instrument and no one will care, and that sort of positive vibe rubs off on me, the listener, too. Cheers!
Nathan Roche Magnetic Memories LP (Glenlivet-A-Gogh)
I love it when records show up out of the blue and whisk me away to an unexpected foreign land, especially when they appear as innocuous and, well, boring as Nathan Roche’s Magnetic Memories did when I first pulled the plastic off it. Little did I know that Nathan Roche is the type of guy who will wink and turn your glass of water into a frozen margarita, morph your work-boots into flip-flops and your mindset from clear to hungover, just like that. I’m reminded of a deeper, darker Jonathan Richman, maybe a little Nilsson, a whiff of Dan Melchior’s odd pop sensability, and just a smidge of Wazmo Nariz (if more musically and aesthetically than vocally). More than any other reference, though, I can’t help but think about how this is exactly how I wish Girls sounded when I first heard them, that out-of-nowhere Fader and Pitchfork hype-band that seemingly disappeared from the collective consciousness as swiftly as they entered. Magnetic Memories eloquently and drunkenly expresses a rainbow of emotional confusion, with half a decade of rock history behind it, as fascinating to pick apart as it is to just throw on as background music and forget about. Doesn’t hurt that Roche looks like a lanky dork who doesn’t know he’s a dork, either, like an alternate Eric Foreman from That 70’s Show. It’s like a hustler teen from a Robert Altman film started his own band – how can you go wrong with that?
Rüz Rüz 7″ flexi (Lumpy)
So when I heard that Lumpy & The Dumpers had their own record label, putting out other associated oddities, how could I not be interested? These guys have cultivated a distinct aesthetic, for sure, and it carries over beautifully to this Rüz flexi – I was instantly won over by the skinhead eating garbage out of a boot on the cover, not to mention the “six-song one-sided green flexi” format, which to me is like unlimited texting and data to a teenager. It’s the absolute best form of punk rock record gimmickry, if you ask me. Anyway, Rüz sound great too – fast, maniacal hardcore that feels like something that would’ve come out of the late ’90s Clevo scene (I’m thinking Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Puncture Wound, maybe even a little Cider), with a touch of Tear It Up when it comes to the alternating oompah-beat / thrash-beat song construction. Classic sounding hardcore, for sure, but not in a way that seems like a deliberate attempt to replicate 1982, which is somewhat refreshing. Records like this make me want to start a distro, and when bands cause me to find new ways to engage in new money-losing endeavors, you know it’s good.
Thee Samedi Lost Faith 7″ (Forbidden Seabass)
Cool concept here: a DIY venue / “teen center” called Ground Zero out of Washington state started their own label, with every aspect of the record, from the recording to the sleeve printing, being made by a Ground Zero associate. Nice to see people are still able to get things together without resorting to the self-entitled pleas of Kickstarter, and lucky Thee Samedi for being a part of that scene! Anyway, might as well talk about the band, too – Thee Samedi are one of those herky-jerky screamo-garage bands, the sort of sound that was popular right around the turn of the century, not unlike Panthers or Aim Of Conrad or early Racebannon. It’s not a style that particularly enthralls me, post-Nation Of Ulysses underground sass-rock, but Thee Samedi are fine purveyors of it, from the singer’s shrieks to the guitar / bass interplay. I guess someone’s gotta wear skin-tight black slacks and wingtips these days, and better them than me. If it’s your bag too, might as well spend a minute to investigate a worthy community-based effort such as this.
Self Abuse Teenage LP (Loud Punk)
I’ve been spinning the External Menace LP that came out alongside this Self Abuse LP so much that I admittedly forgot about this one for a bit. External Menace are just that good! Self Abuse are another early British punk reissue, this one coming from a 1983 cassette-only release, nicely cleaned up and completed by a pretty cool Wolfman skull on the cover and a delightfully awkward album title (“Teenage” what?). The music, however, doesn’t do much to rise above the masses. For something called Teenage, Self Abuse obtained a pretty professional recording quality and clearly were talented musicians, even back then. It’s just that this is the sort of mid-paced, non-energetic, occasionally-melodic street-punk that I usually find to be pretty boring, as is the case here. Some bands are forced into obscurity out of random fate, while others never make it because they’re mediocre, and I fear Self Abuse are the latter.
Sons Of Magdalene Move To Pain LP (Audraglint)
Move To Pain is the debut album of Josh Eustis, formerly of Telefon Tel Aviv (who I’ve never actually heard, but read their name countless times in zines or wherever). It’s my understanding that Telefon Tel Aviv were a bit more on the ‘experimental’ side of things, which is interesting because there isn’t much experimenting going on with Sons Of Magdalene – this is straightforward techno-pop. It’s a mellow, evasive form of modern synth-wave music, though, as there are no bangers, no ultra-glossy synths or vivid splashes of color – this is a record that sits on a black couch in a room with the shades drawn. Definitely picking up some emo vibes too, in the forlorn vocals and misty melodies, to the point where I can comfortably say that Sons Of Magdalene exists somewhere between Nihiti and Cold Cave. Usually, when this sort of music is sad, the synths get all icy and dour, even mean-sounding at times, but Sons Of Magdalene come with more desperation and weariness than any sort of anger. It feels more honest because of that, and while Move To Pain is mostly too shy of a record to grab my attention, I may need it in the future.
Sterilized Zero Sum Game 7″ (Warthog Speak)
The tank on the cover of this Sterilized 7″ isn’t nearly large enough, as far as representing the music that lies within – Sterilized is like 80% tank, 20% grim reaper, if you ask me. Very heavy, chugging hardcore that’s clearly sought out Shitlickers and Anti-Cimex for inspiration, but never to the point of parody or worship. Sterilized just knew the right place to start, and have taken the reigns with vigor. Normally I’d dismiss the war-atrocity aesthetic, it’s just been done to death (no pun intended), but this art is just particularly cool, and the music of Sterilized is raging enough that the grave subject matter is handled appropriately. Four songs here, all pretty severe, and certainly worth the attention of anyone who considers themselves a follower of raging hardcore-punk. Great band for sure, but if these guys want to really commit, I recommend that they skip the fairly rote practice of getting band tattoos and go straight for band vasectomies – Sterilized for life!
Torn Hawk Quadrifolio 2×7″ (no label)
I love Torn Hawk, and I love the double 7″ EP format, so this was a heavenly match-up for me. Torn Hawk is one of the most distinctive electronic artists to come out of the L.I.E.S. camp, seemingly unhindered by genre or musical guidelines, bounded only by his own imagination. There are four tracks here, and they are what I’ve come to expect from Torn Hawk – smeared, reconfigured electro-wave with strong nods to ’80s cable-access culture and boxes of VHS tapes left on the neighbor’s curb, full of crap and surprises. Nothing here grooves too hard or is particularly dance-floor accessible – this is Torn Hawk jamming at his own pace, seemingly both on auto-pilot and manning the controls with an expert’s grip. They’re all instrumentals, but each track comes with non-verbalized lyrics or explanations, offering unique insight into Torn Hawk’s psyche. Quadrifolio‘s only shortcoming is its brevity, but that just gives me the chance to play it over and over, an option I plan on pursuing.
Peter J. Woods Impure Gold Pt. 1 12″ (FTAM)
Peter J. Woods is a multimedia artist, and as you may have suspected, one of those media formats is audio. Judging from the cover art, I was expecting Impure Gold Pt. 1 to sound like a mix of The Boredoms and Henry Fiat’s Open Sore, but (sadly) that’s not the case – there isn’t even the slightest sensation of excitement to be found here. Rather, Woods slowly builds up tiny waves of white noise and radio interference, like you’re in a fairly moderate wave-pool but you somehow developed cramps anyway. Even at its harshest, Woods manipulates silence to his own nefarious end, invoking a subtle terror through processed computer voices and the absence of sonic destruction, which is kind of a neat little trick. I am sure that a live performance of Impure Gold Pt. 1, with Woods in a strange outfit or some sort of video presentation or whatever, would really inject the piece with excitement, but while this 12″ is clearly only one side of the story, it’s still provocative in its own way. These Midwestern noise folks, I tell ya – their lack of pretense and trendy performance venues leave them in this great position where they’ve got nothing to lose by just letting it all hang out. Or anti-hang out, in the case of Peter J. Woods.
Another Dark Age compilation 12″ (Another Dark Age)
I can tell that the noise-techno trend is reaching max capacity, with all sorts of ex-Wolf Eyes imitators throwing their hats in the ring, but in the meantime, I am gonna keep loving it so long as it’s killer, as is the case with this new info-less 12″ compilation, Another Dark Age’s inaugural release. There is zero artist info in the packaging (I wonder if it bums the artists out, or if they’re cool with that?), but thankfully I have internet access, and was able to determine that the bass-heavy turbulence and industrial-ambient clatter of the first track is the work of Phantom Selector – very cool sounds here, like a beatless Kerridge. It’s followed by Victim’s “Victim”, a very Regis-like occult techno jam with Neubauten-style percussion, perfect for dark ceremonies in caves and anyone who owns more than one cloak. The only artist on here I was previously familiar with, Form A Log, starts the b-side with a loop-based jam that seems to combine the lopsided flow of Eats Tapes with the cold concrete of This Heat’s experimental nature. Carrier wraps it up with “Bilge”, the least distinctive cut here, but still a fine image of a dystopian techno wasteland, where you have to ride your motorcycle across vast expanses of desert in search of pounding 4/4 beats. Hoping this isn’t the last I hear of Another Dark Age!