Yellow Green Red is not usually a hub for promotional synergy, but every now and then things line up perfectly – like this interview with Nots and the release of their debut LP, which took place a couple days ago! For those uninitiated, Nots are a scorchingly primitive art-punk band, and they take cues from Urinals, Screamers and Teddy & The Frat Girls (to name but a few greats), which they channel through modern-day Memphis, a hotbed of garage-rock action. That is, at least until they released this LP, which adds in a pretty distinctive synth-wave undercurrent and all sorts of intriguing nuances amongst the bash n’ crash. I spoke with guitarist/vocalist Natalie Hoffmann over the past couple weeks (we were equally tardy in our correspondence) and I’m psyched not only to jam their new album but to see them live on the US tour they have already embarked on. You should too!
How did you all get together? I know at least a few of you were or currently are in other “established” bands too.
Charlotte the drummer and I have been playing music together for years, and we both joined other bands along with Nots. Charlotte joined Manateees a few years ago and still plays drums for them, and I used to play bass in Ex Cult. Madison (bassist) moved to Memphis in 2010 and before had been in a few bands in New York. Alexandra recently joined us on synth and she had played drums for a summer with The Barbaras.
Is Nots a side project? I feel like there’s usually a negative connotation with that term, but I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.
I don’t consider Nots a side project at all, Nots is my main jam. But that isn’t to say I’m not open to experimenting and playing with other people; I think some really great stuff comes out of that. I don’t have any negative feelings toward side projects. Everyone in Nots is really dedicated and feels strongly about playing music together. Living in Memphis means no band has to be a side project since it’s such a small music scene, and everyone in Nots is really supportive of each other.
Are there a ton of punk bands in Memphis? Does it feel like most people that go to shows there are also in bands?
Yep, there are quite a few punk bands in Memphis, some more active than others. I’d say about half of the people who come to shows are in bands, and the other half are live music lovers or regulars at the bars!
Was there any specific ideology behind forming the band, or was it just some friends jamming? Like, was there ever any specific “let’s start a band heavily influenced by X, Y and Z” sort of discussion?
There really wasn’t an ideology behind it in the beginning, and honestly Nots has changed so much since our first lineup that even if there were, it’s mutated into a totally different thing that none of us really expected.
How has Nots changed since your first lineup, both musically and personnel-wise? What’s the current mutation?
Nots has had several incarnations, and our sound has changed with each of them. Charlotte and I are the only consistent members in all of the different mutations. The first lineup of Nots was a
three piece: Charlotte played drums and our friend Carly played bass. Carly wrote these incredible melodic bass-lines and she was really good at harmonizing vocals, so maybe you could say that we used to have a
more refined approach to vocals and melodies when she was in the band. She ended up moving to Austin, so we switched things up and Charlotte moved to bass and we got our friend Laurel to play drums. We ended up
giving up on harmonies in favor of shouted gang vocals because we thought it sounded better and it was fun. This is the lineup on both of our singles. Laurel ended up quitting the band before we recorded the album, so Charlotte moved back to drums, we got another one of our friends, Madison, to play bass, and we added Alexandra Eastburn on
synth just to see what happened. So the album is a reflection of these changes. And a reflection of the chaos of these changes.
What would you say “happened” with the addition of Alexandra on synth? There are so many sonic possibilities with a synth, how did you narrow them down, or did you?
Honestly, we thought it would be really fun to have Allie in our band and we thought it would expand our sound and make writing and jamming more involved. Allie and I had been friends for a while and we both went to art school together, so we knew it’d be fun to hang out all the time working on music. We also knew she listened to tons of great synth-driven music, so we figured she’d be a perfect fit. And we were right! As far as writing goes, we’ll say something vague, and she’ll interpret it and usually something totally unexpected happens that we are all really stoked about.
Lyrically, are there any general themes that keep popping up? If you are all singing the same words, are lyrics written collectively, or does one person take care of it?
I write the lyrics, and then we decide during practice which parts are going to be sung as a group. I’d say the most general themes on the album are the ideas of multiplicity and a sort of internal struggle and how these affect both peoples’ personal lives and a society as a whole. I want to explore this gray space, almost everything: people, problems, relationships, and conflicts are way more complicated than we like to imagine. It’s easy to want things to be very black and white, this or that, but I just don’t find that to be the case most of time. And most of the songs on the album address this in a less direct and more metaphorical way through a bunch of different scenarios.
How was Gonerfest? Is it truly as friendly and welcoming a punk fest as it seems to be?
Gonerfest rules. It’s great to see friends from all over the country (and out of the country too) hanging out and listening to killer music. I also love hearing about how much everyone looks forward to the food in Memphis. I think the experience of the fest is what you make of it. People come here looking forward to getting outta town (or off of work if you’re in town) and having a good time, and I think with that kind of attitude and with a fest as lined with debauchery and fun as Gonerfest, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
Have you had any particular moments since Nots began where you felt like you were truly a part of something special, and more than just being in a band with friends?
It may sound cheesy or something, but playing music in general is always really special to me, being able to enter that totally different headspace that playing music creates is what keeps me sane. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who want to jam and be generally creative all the time even though it isn’t always easy. It’s hard to work a ton, balance some resemblance of a personal life and play in a band, but we have a great time together. And this most recent combination of Nots feels pretty fearless; we aren’t afraid to experiment with what kind of music we’re making, and we’re all stoked to take it to the streets.
Punk music often succeeds on its amateurism, but you’ve been a band for a little bit now… how do you balance getting technically better and more confident as a band without losing that initial spark or thrill?
We don’t worry much about keeping an “amateur” sound. We’re actually always trying to get better at jamming with each other and figuring out how our different sounds can fit together. As far as keeping the spark goes, it’s hard not to have some electricity when nobody has any expectations for what a song “should” sound like. We’re really open to experimenting with everything we work on.
What can we expect from the new album? Is it going to be the Nots we know and love from the 7″s, or are there any new developments, musically or vocally or otherwise?
It’s a mutant version of the 7″ Nots. The addition of the synth brings a whole new world of freaky sounds and the lineup changes added a good dose of intensity to the mix. We were under a pretty big amount of pressure writing and recording, but we were also having a ton of fun doing it. The LP is alive and wild. Watch out.
Which is the better ambassador of the word “not” – the Wayne’s World franchise or Anthrax’s Not Man? Feel free to think long and hard about this.
Gotta say Wayne’s World, of course. But it’s not the sarcastic fart kind of “noooooot.” It’s a more straightforward “not,” much more related to Garth’s “Foxy Lady” jukebox dance. Get the ears right.
Bad Daddies Negative Fun Singles Club 2014 7″ (Negative Fun)
Singles clubs are almost always a better idea in theory than practice – for as tantalizing it is to get that one beloved band’s exclusive 7″, you’ve gotta wade through a bunch of other records you never wanted, and that’s operating under the assumption they all eventually arrive. Negative Fun is undergoing such a task, for whom I do not know, but recruiting Bad Daddies is never a bad idea, no matter what the task at hand. “This Ain’t Right” shows a clear progression of chops from their earliest 7″, directly ripping Germs’ “We Must Bleed” with three other words in its place. Three more pissed-off, feedback-squelching tunes are on the b-side, replete with gloriously awful guitar work on “Teenage Hell”, some between-song nonsense and a channeled mix of Necros and The Reatards with more brattiness than a busload of spoiled children. Not sure if you have to sign up for the club to get this one, but it’s a solid winner!
Black Rain Dark Pool LP (Blackest Ever Black)
More dark electronics from the Blackety Blax camp! You know, it must be peculiar to find out that a genre you kind of created and helped establish to little fanfare ended up becoming really popular some fifteen-plus years later. Might as well give it another go around at that point, which is what Stuart Argabright is doing with Dark Pool, his first proper album under the Black Rain alias in nearly twenty years. It opens and closes with the spoken word of Keluar’s Alison Lewis, connecting Black Rain to a younger generation of synth-pop provocateurs while still remaining firmly in a world predating The Matrix (but nevertheless thick with the frightening promise of the Internet and mass brain control). Dark Pool focuses on mood over movement, with thick, spacious tracks that pulsate and flicker with a pessimistic sci-fi worldview. It’s much like Vatican Shadow, only with decades of prior experience handling synthesizers and spared of the conceptualized military manifesto, and I can only hope the Black Rain continues to pour.
Brain Tumors / Pisswalker split 7″ (Lagerville)
In a world of bands undeservedly releasing 7″ EPs, here’s a split that seems almost unfair in its brevity. Sure, I was expecting some decent generic hardcore from a band called Brain Tumors, but they are just so delightfully frantic, but also melodic, but also totally garbled noise – it’s like United Mutation jamming some of the more intricate Neos songs, with one guy who kinda wishes he was in a pop-punk band, and the guy from Bone Awl (He Who Sniffs Tombstone Dust or whatever) recording the whole thing. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that good, but still Brain Tumors come across like the unstable cousin of Ivy, and that’s more than enough for me. Pisswalker are cool too, but the less notable band – they play a simplistic form of anthemic one-two one-two hardcore-punk, the sort of style destined for a white-ink-on-black-canvas patch on someone’s buttflap, where a street-punk chorus can be paired with a blast-beat intro and it makes perfectly crusty sense. Not far from Vaaska or five minutes spent with any Short, Fast & Loud!-sponsored compilation. Now where can I get some more Brain Tumors, besides the consumption of lead paint?
Bremen Second Launch 2xLP (Blackest Ever Black)
Brainbombs have an interesting history of side-projects, from the instrumental Stooges-pounding of No Balls to the straight-forward minimal-techno of Dryer and a variety in between (and we can’t forget Totalitär either). The most recent to pop up is Bremen, the work of two Brainbombs members. Whereas Brainbombs make you squirm in your seat due to their utterly vile and horrifying lyrical subject matter, Bremen cause discomfort in a different way: through the seemingly endless monotony of their space-rock drone. At times I’m reminded of Darkside if they misplaced all their studio tricks, just the musicianship of Moon Duo, but after one and a half sides, Second Launch drifts so deep into space it’s almost as if nothing is happening at all, like a soundcheck for one of Harmonia’s underwhelming reunion gigs. I honestly didn’t think I could make it all the way through in one shot – Second Launch is so boring that I nearly tapped out multiple times through, but by the time I was flipping the second record onto its second side, I had psyched myself up for the challenge, thinking “this is what it must be like to race in the Tour de France”. In the end, I didn’t mind it actually, and I appreciate Bremen’s intense focus for no good reason, but it’s gonna be a while before I gear up for launch once more.
Julian Casablancas & The Voidz Tyranny CD (Cult)
Yep, I still love this guy, even as he slowly becomes a rock-critic punchline (unfairly, may I add), just because he’s not following the narrative that fans and writers predetermined for him. I am still finding fantastic new tricks and twists in his debut solo album, Phrazes For The Young, and this new one with “The Voidz” is completely crazy, for better or worse. Just the amount of time that must’ve went into such a giant sprawling mess is staggering to think about – it’s an hour long and jam-packed with musical ideas, from LCD Soundsystem-esque struts to Queen songs ran through multiple Rat pedals, cut-up noise and epic guitar wailing. Casablancas pushes his voice through half a dozen octaves – he’s truly one of his generation’s male vocal talents, that is when he decides to pull the vocals out in the mix far enough that you can actually hear them. That’s the one fault I find here: his vocals are so frequently buried that I never have any idea what he’s saying, and his lyrics almost always add another level of enjoyment to his tunes. It’s such a scatterbrained, chaotic album that I am impressed not only by its glaring snub of the mainstream but also the Axl Rose-sized brain/ego that must have put it together (and the allegation that The Voidz are a bunch of young-and-washed-up studio musician hipsters only adds to my enjoyment). Some of the most overwrought, out-of-time creativity is happening right under our noses and shame on you if you’re too cool for it!
Contact First Contact 12″ (Temporary Residence)
Contact is the project of A.E. Paterra (of Zombi fame) and acclaimed British film composer Paul Lawler (which is explained on the shrinkwrap sticker – as if I don’t already know my acclaimed British film composers, sheesh!). Actually, I don’t, and for all I know this could be some fraudulent promotional campaign with Temporary Residence calling our bluffs, fully aware that no one actually fact-checks anything these days. Either way, I refuse to investigate the depth of Lawler’s accolades, and am content believing what Temporary Residence told me as I spin these four epic instrumental-prog jams. I can’t help but be reminded of the 3-2-1 Contact intro when listening to this EP, as Contact seem to explore the wonders of the natural and artificial sciences through their music as well, just without the slightest hint of disco. Strong Pink Floyd and Styx vibes here, just itching for a remake of Knight Rider or any of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s late ’80s filmography (sadly I don’t think Time Cop makes the cut). Contact clearly missed the boat on soundtracking Halt And Catch Fire, that would’ve just been perfect, but it’s still the perfect musical accompaniment for anyone home-assembling their own Dell desktop well past midnight.
Eric Copeland Logo My Ego 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Black Dice were the first band I remember being afraid of seeing, so they hold a special place in my heart, as does their lead vocalist and consistent producer of strange electronic music, Eric Copeland. Been a while since I checked in with him, and the great mutated Casper artwork lured me in (it’s not often L.I.E.S. does cover art for a 12″, so this had to be something special, right?). For as strange a guy as Copeland is, it’s interesting that the music of Logo My Ego is basically what I expected – wonky, lop-sided loops of samples, like a melted cartoon disco you’d find in one of Brian Chippendale’s comics. Dancing is possible, but I can’t picture the masses being moved by “Uncle Sams Blues”, just a select cadre of the weirdos responsible for the first wave of gentrification in their city. It’s too crazy to really focus on, as Copeland is not afraid to layer half a dozen loops like some sort of methamphetamine lasagna, and while it is certainly an entertaining feat of DIY maximalism, I feel like I’m probably good for another year or two before checking in with him again.
Daughters Of The Sun Ride To Die LP (Not Not Fun)
Just like Daughters, Daughters Of The Sun are actually a bunch of dudes, and unlike Daughters, these dudes are into extended improv-y rock grooves, somewhere between psychedelic and coked-up. I’m listening to it right now, which I’ve found is a necessity if I want to write about it – this is like the fifth time I’ve spun Ride To Die, and something about its modest, continual cloud of hazy grooves disperses from my consciousness as quickly as it entered. It’s one of those records that I didn’t notice stopped playing until I looked over and saw the needle in the run-out groove, you know? Anyway, I am paying close attention now, and I’m envisioning Naked On The Vague and Wet Hair doing a collaborative LP instead of a split one, covering their favorite Soft Machine songs from memory. It’s like chill-wave without the wave, Or synth-wave without the synth. You might like it, just don’t be fooled by the bad-ass album title and track names like “Werewolves On Wheels” – this sounds nothing like DMX or Judas Priest.
Dopplereffekt / Objekt Hypnagogia 12″ (Leisure System)
Here’s a quick and cool pairing of two of the finest electronic artists to ever end their names with “ekt”, Dopplereffekt and Objekt. Dopplereffekt represent the old guard here, a frequently name-checked influence for current producers of interesting techno, and it’s always nice to hear from them. This track stays true to their Drexciyan roots, rapidly scanning through synthetic tubes like that Windows “3D Pipes” screensaver. I’m still reeling from Objekt’s massive #3 EP from last year (and eager for his upcoming PAN album), and this track is another solid representation of his strengths – precise and well-oiled post-techno, like T++ after a professional sharpening of his blades. There’s a distinct form of violence to Objekt’s snare texture, and he’s not hiding it here. A very cool record, even if it’s “more of the same” to those with plenty of Dopplereffekt and Objekt records in their bins. Perhaps not a mandatory purchase, but who could ever find disappointment in a 12″ like this? Not I!
Ekman Entropy 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
Dutch producer Ekman has kept a busy schedule lately, this being his fourth EP this year following an even busier 2013. His brand of acid-techno seems like the kind of music made by someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends, so it makes sense – what else is he gonna do with his time? This new EP is a little less acid-fried, but the sounds are still distinctly Ekman – I can’t help but him seated in front of some giant plastic console with two large buttons, one for kicks and one for claps, Ekman wildly mashing them in various sequences as he chain-smokes. The title tracks is the standout, though – in a particularly gutsy move, Ekman forces two out-of-time patterns to interact, slowly coming in and out of focus (and also sounding like someone’s first failed attempt at making a salient beat in the process). Anyone who says they dance to “Entropy” is lying, and it disgusted me at first, but I’ve already moved past that disgust to some strange sense of pleasure I don’t feel comfortable discussing. Ekman’ll do that to you.
Exiles From Clowntown Tape Scissors Rock LP (Soft Abuse)
For as much as I’ve enjoyed Exiles From Clowntown thus far, I kinda never expected to see an album out of them – they just seem like the sort of slothful and ridiculous band destined for a small handful of singles before calling it a day (and maybe a Live At WFMU tape as their final offering; they’re one of those kinda bands). I’m more pleased than surprised to see that they’ve made it here though, as I can never have too much Exiles From Clowntown (well, let’s not test that), and they come barreling out of the gate with “Space Today”, a song that requires actual physical exertion to perform. They keep things varied throughout, opting for slow-motion drifters that recall The Dead C on a smoke break, surfy instrumentals and discordant rockers reminiscent of Sonic Youth at their infancy. If anything, Tape Scissors Rock shows signs of maturity without losing the spark of indifference that make their initial singles so captivating. (“Whistling Assassin”, originally off a 2010 single, closes the album and feels perfectly in place.) Really nice record, and if Clowntown don’t like it, they can shove off.
Gazar Strips Sparkling 12″ (Sonic Masala)
Sparkling is not only my favorite form of water, it’s the vinyl debut of London’s Gazar Strips. They play a fairly trad-modern form of indie goth-rock, clearly as much fans of Bauhaus as Interpol, and they interpret those influences in fairly standard ways. The vampire teeth start to grow during “Sparkling”, perhaps the most operatic track here, but generally this is a pretty by-the-books goth-rock experience, for better or worse. The bass is so intensely flanged and frequently center-staged that it practically turns my t-shirt into a black mohair sweater upon contact, and the rest of Gazar Strips seem truly dedicated to their sad and wandering sound, pop-acceptance be damned. Maybe a little more Buffy The Vampire Slayer than Nosferatu, but both are classics at this point anyway.
Gel Set / Stacian Voorhees 12″ (Moniker)
Double shot of Midwestern solo bedroom vocal-electro care of the busy Moniker label. This is my first experience with Gel Set (and perhaps her first vinyl release), and it’s alright. She plays a very basic form of pre-set synth-pop, with a fairly predictable layer of ethereal vocals drizzled on top. At times I’m reminded of Crack: We Are Rock, but there’s no menace or perversion to Gel Set, just a fairly basic set of ideas that could hide on a Faint b-side from 2002 and remain hidden for all eternity. Stacian has a few records out, and fares better for me here. “Ice Hole” opens like Kyle Hall’s earliest work, frantic and acidic, but the vocals maintain the formless vocal echo of Gel Set (and Tropic Of Cancer, and dozens of others). It sets the stage for eight-plus minutes of “Airlock”, which channels Devo and Thomas Dolby into a long-form groove without feeling like an imitation – Stacian seems to have gotten more comfortable with her gear and, well, better at programming it, and this track is the sort of thing that I’d find gratifying no matter if if I’m in a smoky after-hours club or hunched over my sink scrubbing the dishes. Plus, she speaks like a concerned professor over “Airlock”, a vocal approach I can fully get down with. Stacian and Gel Set are touring the Midwest this month, and if I can only hope that their beats are welcomed with open arms and shuffling feet.
Grizzlor When You Die 7″ (Money Fire)
A lot of modern noise-rock passes through Yellow Green Red’s halls, often with only a brief stay (let’s face it, if I kept every record that was reviewed here my condo would’ve caved in by now), but this Grizzlor… this is cool! Okay, maybe it’s not gonna blow your mind, especially if you’re a door-guy who still wears his Helmet backstage laminate from when you served them deli meats back in 1995, but actually, that’s probably the perfect mind for Grizzlor to blow. They’ve got a big, Karp-like recording, a drummer who probably listens to way more metal than hardcore, and a vocalist who provides Mike Doskocil-levels of sewage and refuses to cater to any sense of melody. I’m reminded of Pantera’s “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills”, not in lyrical content but musical mood, on more than one song here, and while it’s unlikely that Grizzlor have Static X hair and wear Kevin Smith-sized shorts, it’d almost be cooler if they did. Just own the style, you know?
Hoax Hunters Comfort & Safety LP (Negative Fun)
Okay, if TLC or Bravo hasn’t already pitched a show called “Hoax Hunters”, something is wrong with the world. Maybe the show exists and I’m just unaware, and this is a tribute band? Anyway, television aside, Hoax Hunters are also a hard-rocking band from Richmond, VA, moving somewhere in the tunnels that connect post-hardcore and grunge and melodic punk, the dark infrastructure that supports folks who wear Minutemen t-shirts to Milk Music gigs. Hoax Hunters are nothing to write home about, but they’re alright – one minute they’re jangling, the next they’re coming close to raging, and sometimes if the mood is just right, they’ll do both simultaneously. I’d need a more captivating singer or urgent songwriting to become hooked, but maybe one day they’ll finally find Hoax and turn into the most psychotic alt-grunge band to have ever existed.
Human Adult Band Trash Pickin’ 7″ (D.I.H.D.)
Trevor Pennsylvania of Human Adult Band had a solo project called Buckets & Batteries like ten years ago, and that band has the distinction of having released the first 7″ I ever saw where random trash was glued to the cover. I appreciated it back then, and it’s nice to see that his obsession with trash continues into Human Adult Band a decade later, a Jersey scum-rock group that moves at a slovenly pace, free from the constraints of popularity or success. This 7″ is certainly the best I’ve ever heard them: “Garbage & Th’ Trees” is the a-side, and it sounds like Tad covering “Black Hole Sun” as some sort of drunken joke, only it ends up sounding really heavy. “Night Terrors” is beautiful ’90s-style noise-rock, caught in the wake of grunge but lacking any of the funkiness or cheeseball production that makes many of those Dope-Guns-‘N-Fucking comps difficult to get through. I had to check just to be sure, and it appears that Ecstatic Peace has yet to release a Human Adult Band album… that just doesn’t seem like it can possibly be right.
Husere Grav / FRKSE split LP (Divergent Series)
Another strange transmission from the FRKSE / Divergent Series camp here, this one wafting in like grey steam from the cracks in a manhole cover. Husere Grav (pronounced similar to “Hoosier Daddy”, I’m guessing?) starts things off with three parts of “Amber Phantom”, a very cautious, slow-moving drone track that never gets more than a couple feet off the ground even at its highest speed. Not a whole lot to grab onto besides a sense of subtle intrigue. When the needle ran out, I was just like “oh”, and flipped it over to FKRSE, which thankfully opens with a distorted, mile-away scream, the perfect little palate cleanser for their creaky, loose-limbed industrial electronics. Now more than ever, I’m reminded of a rudimentary, hardware-based take on Andy Stott, opting for similarly corroded sounds but looping them in a fairly basic 4/4 setting. It gets pretty harsh, but never too heavy, as FRKSE’s modest fidelity can’t provide much subsonic boom, just a chunky crunch (imagine the Butterfinger factory malfunctioning). These tracks are broken up nicely though, with some strange managerial announcements throughout – another FKRSE success for sure. Not sure I needed to spend my time with Husere Grav, but what are you gonna do, tell these freaks how to behave?
Iron Lung Savagery 7″ (Iron Lung)
Nothing like a new Iron Lung record to provide a little reassurance that everything will be okay. They’re the last remaining link between the second-wave of power-violence and whatever fragmented scene exists today, and they are as solid and true-to-form as ever – this is grindcore you can set your watch to. Stops are as crucial to Iron Lung tunes as starts, and they continue to utilize them expertly here, ending dirges just as they get started and quickly whipping up an auto-fire grind assault only to have it cut away into silence. It’s those moments of disjointed change that are most arresting, and it’s a masterful move for any hardcore band to make their breaks sound as negative and miserable as their full-on thrash. Twelve songs, uniquely hand-stamped covers, how can you go wrong?
Jo Johnson Weaving LP (Further)
Been trying to convert your ex-hardcore friend to the soothing world of long-form electronic music without any luck? In that case, why not entice them with Jo Johnson’s Weaving album, starting with the tidbit that Jo Johnson was the guitarist for seminal UK punk group Huggy Bear, and now creates blissful vortexes of thoughtfully-considered ambient electronics? This is her debut solo release, and it’s quite beautiful and majestic, like viewing an iceberg via helicopter. Throughout, I’m reminded of the final Emeralds material with the compositional feel of Tangerine Dream or Manuel Göttsching guiding the ship. This isn’t a dance record, it’s the sort of thing you inhabit for twenty minutes or so, the perfect album for brainstorming new ideas or simply getting baked. As if another reason was needed to get on the Further train, Weaving is the sort of whirlpool in which drowning is a cause for celebration.
NeoTantrik Blue Amiga LP (Pre-Cert Home Entertainment)
The Demdike Stare camp seems to only take a break from making music to make music under different names, this one being NeoTantrik, featuring Sean Canty alongside Andy Votel, Suzanne Ciani, Bruno Spoerri, Jane Weaver and the mysterious N. Racker. Mercifully, I’m going to say that unless you are a diehard fan of these folks and doesn’t spend your money on anything else (your parents must still pay for your cell phone bill, even), this one can be skipped – surely there is a Testpressing or two that you still haven’t grabbed anyway. NeoTantrik is soft, floaty, background-music ambient, the sort of thing that is pleasantly ignored or enjoyed, depending on what you’re doing. I get that they were inspired by the barely-there Giallo soundtracks, although I’d say Eno’s footprints are just as visible. At worst, I’m reminded of the minutes of my life I’ve wasted listening to Dolphins Into The Future, and at best, there are some strange, unexpected moments on the b-side that recall Genesis P-Orridge’s early archival material on Dais, from the short bits of uninhibited piano and strings. Cool record, beautiful cover, but for those of us with bills to pay, a quick YouTube sampling and hi-res JPEG of the cover will do just fine.
Nerv USA Off Earth Now! 7″ (Lagerville)
The Toxic State aesthetic is irresistible (I’m talking wild and ragged hardcore-punk music housed in outrageous semi-ironic, entirely-gross cartoon artwork, all tied together with a nihilistic outlook), so it’s not surprising to see Lagerville put on their homemade studded leather-chaps for at least a couple records. Nerv are lacking an e but are clearly raging too hard to spell-check, stumbling through their songs as fast as the drummer can take them. I’m quickly reminded of Brown Sugar, Manic and maybe a little Joint D≠, if you’d care for some contemporary references, although I am sure they’d be far more psyched if I told you they sounded like a mix of Bad Posture and Sick Pleasure (which I guess they kinda do too). The a-side starts off with five seconds of slow-mo punk misery worthy of a Cyanamid reference, and I kinda wish they would explore that side of the coin further (it sounded mighty cool) but their flailing, basement-show hardcore is pretty sweet in its own right, too.
PC Worship Social Rust LP (Dull Tools)
PC Worship is one of those “one dude playing with a varied cast of whatever friends he has willing to join him at a given time” projects. These generally live or die by the leader’s personality – is his or her vision so strong that they can compel Pat Spadine to play circuit-bent tape players and Shannon Sigley to play drums just as they command? I saw PC Worship live once, and remember not understanding what I was watching even as I watched it (and I still haven’t decided if it was cool or not), but this LP is almost certainly cool. All sorts of instruments are employed here, as if the “musical equipment” section of a thriving Goodwill was picked clean and a band based themselves around it, and it leads to a fairly riff-heavy, noisy rock record that stumbles its way through life with a stoned grin. Just flip to “Paper Song (Dig)”, the b-side opener, and watch as a Wooden Shjips song is given the Earth extended-edit treatment and warped in the sun under a Royal Trux spyglass. I’m also picturing a half-asleep Purling Hiss at times, where the riffs are secondary to the chaotic muck beneath them, and wouldn’t you know it’s a pleasant place to end up. The cover art features a costumed human in a strange terrestrial landscape, similar in concept to the first No Doctors album cover and just as righteously obliterated. Keep spendin’ that Parquet Courts money on records like this, Dull Tools! The world shall thank you.
The Pen Test Biology 7″ (Moniker)
Personally, I was more into Physical Education and Study Hall than Biology, but to each their own, right? If anything, it’s a fitting name for this studied electronic EP, digging through the history books written by Morton Subotnick, Kraftwerk and Pierre Schaeffer in search of answers. “Biology A” is a nicely syncopated 2D landscape of ones and zeros, the perfect soundtrack for a time-lapse video of parameciums reproducing. “Biology B” is a little more subdued, gazing upon the same sunrises that fascinated Tangerine Dream and Tomita, and ultimately pretty similar to the final days of Emeralds. I’m also reminded of that Physics 7″ that littered screamo distros in the early ’00s, not in sound at all but because they are both picture-less 7″s named after distinct fields of science. Looking forward to mid-terms with these folks!
Roche Stillhope 12″ (100% Silk)
There are currently two sides to the underground American techno coin, the darkness of L.I.E.S. and the light of 100% Silk. Each label seemingly has an endless supply of mostly-American youngsters with something to show for the hours they’ve spent alone in their bedroom studios, and 100% Silk just delivered another four tracks from Roche. It’s pretty cool stuff, and certainly fits the light/dark analogy from a couple sentences ago – these tracks are uplifting, melodic tracks with sumptuous samples and effortless grooves. I’m thinking you might find Roche somewhere between the instantly-likeable moods of Nebraska and the lush and vaguely-nostalgic sampling of The Avalanches, but it would still make sense in the lineup of a Magic Touch-headlining party. Often the 100% Silk crowd is a little too optimistic and jubilant for my personal techno tastes – any music that conjures an image of Dwayne Wayne doing the cabbage-patch isn’t something I’m going to want to listen to repeatedly, but Roche surely has a deeper catalog of Shake Shakir records (or MP3s) than Fast Eddie, let’s say. Not bad!
Sheer Mag Sheer Mag 7″ (Wilsuns RC)
Has your favorite sports team ever acquired one of the best players in the game, and while you wanted to gloat to all your friends about it, you almost felt kinda bad because that player is just so good that it’s not even fair? Well that’s how I feel about Philadelphia and the recent relocation of Sheer Mag (they got started as a SUNY Purchase band, I believe), a new quintet who just released their debut four-song EP and is ready to take the world by 2015 (or if they don’t, the world is flawed even deeper than I had imagined). Anyway, they absolutely slay: imagine Nasty Facts if they recorded a power-pop single for Gulcher in 1979 under the watchful eye of Red Cross’s McDonald brothers. Or perhaps you should envision Exploding Hearts if they didn’t adhere so strictly to genre boundaries and wiled out on obscure classic rock like Dust and Sir Lord Baltimore before sitting down to practice? I’d say the pitch-perfect heartbroken vocals make the band, but the riffs are so deceptively complex and undeniably catchy, and the recording captures the perfect state of lo-fi garage glory that it’s really a toss-up across the board. If you’re the type of underground acolyte who feels that bands are ruined once Pitchfork asks them about their favorite Nokia Snapchat moments, I suggest you grab this single and spin it dearly as time is ticking.
Siobhan Southgate LP (Opal Tapes)
The parade of mysterious techno dudes using female aliases continues, this one being Siobhan, fresh from a clutch of tapes on noise labels, electronic labels and noise-gone-electronic labels. I feel like my patience for the regularity of this should be wearing thin, but it’s not wearing from Siobhan, because Southgate is a distinct and infectious record. I have no idea where Siobhan is from, but I can’t help but hear a sonic link to Detroit, not just because of its hallowed techno roots but from the Hanson / American Tapes universe, where anyone with the reanimated corpse of a keyboard can cut twenty minutes of uninhibited garbage music onto a tar-and-feathered cassette. That feeling cuts through strongly on the a-side, with Siobhan’s lurching beats thick with the violence of Robocop on homedubbed VHS and garbled vocals that I can’t help but picture Nate Young choking into that contact mic he keeps in his mouth as though it were a pinch of Skoal. Pretty sure Siobhan is repeating “Hell is other people” over and over, and it makes me wonder what would be if Animal Disguise Records was reborn under the mentorship of Jamal Moss. A little steep importing this one into the States (if you can find this for under $25 shipped you should start a blog to tell me about it), but I feel like Southgate is now home where it belongs, in my loving arms.
Chase Smith Falling Out EP 12″ (Harmony Society)
Spray-painted cover, Pennsylvania Dutch-styled label name and center sticker art… I was expecting some home-recorded freak-folk, weren’t you? But nope, this is 2014, and this is 12″ EP is filled with four songs of economy-grade house music. This is my first encounter with the Pittsburgh native, but he’s been at it for a few years, and it shows – while these tracks tend to utilize familiar pads and beats, Smith’s style is refined and his brain is attuned to the dance-floor’s needs. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I can’t help but feel like this would fit in easily with the Future Times crew, somewhere between Beautiful Swimmers’ balaeric breakdancing and Protect U’s kaleidoscopic crunch. If 100% Silk hasn’t checked out Chase Smith yet, I can imagine it’s only one friend-request away from happening.
Tape/Off Chipper LP (Sonic Masala)
Who can forget Tape/Off, the classic Nicolas Cage / John Travolta thriller where they make mix tapes for each other? It’s also the name of a band from Australia, and unlike Cage/Travolta fan-fiction, it’s not really for me. They play a pretty standard form of post-Siamese Dream, post-Last Splash soft/loud indie-rock, occasionally verging on major-label emo ala Sunny Day Real Estate or MTV buzz-bin rock. I am picking up Bedhead and Constantines vibes too, but that’s just when I really pay close attention. Mostly, Chipper sounds so delightfully normal that it’s almost like listening to nothing at all – it’s like when you pass the same buildings on your way to work, they stop registering as buildings and just become part of the landscape. Admittedly I am the last dude you’ll find with a deep collection of ’90s indie-rock and its varied offspring, so I’m sure there are at least a few hundred life-long Hold Steady / Pavement fans with a gap in their Ikea CD shelf, just waiting for a band like Tape/Off to come along, and I certainly hope that connection is made.
Terekke Terekke 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Some techno purists have tried to rally a backlash against the massive influx of new producers on the scene, particularly those coming from punk/DIY backgrounds with an affinity for raw, hardware-driven beats. I think it’s a foolish and elitist view, but if I had to sit down with one of those people and listen to this new Terekke 12″, I would be unable to form a valid defense. Seriously, when people talk dismissively of an endless glut of tech-house Johnny Come-Latelys, it’s records like this that come to mind. No artwork or track titles here, and while that wouldn’t make any difference to me on a banging record (I cherish equally-unadorned 12″s by Donato Dozzy and Moodymann), it really speaks to the lack of effort I am witnessing from Terekke here, an artist I otherwise thought was decent. These tracks just seem like the easiest, least thrilling pieces you can make, going through the motions with the gusto of an Amazon shelf-stocker. None of these four tracks out and out suck, and maybe that is part of the problem – the mediocrity is so severe here that it angers me much more than someone mashing the keys of an unquantized Casio would. I am definitely being unfairly harsh toward a record that means well, but damnit, just let me vent, okay?
Torso Community Psychosis 7″ (Adagio 830)
Berlin-based Adagio 830 is one of those quiet workhorses of the underground hardcore economy, pumping out records faster than they can update their website to tell you about and paying particular attention to the US scene while helping the European Union flourish as well. They just released this 7″ by Oakland, CA hardcore band Torso, an ostensibly vegan, feminist (and possibly straight edge?) quartet. I’m quickly reminded of Nine Shocks Terror and Replica in their Japanese-inspired, US-bred hardcore thrash, moving between mid-paced d-beat moshers and frantic thrash-core explosions. Kinda surprised Prank hasn’t snatched Torso up yet, as this sort of talented, fully-formed hardcore is right up their alley, not to mention the Bay Area connection. If you’re the type of person who grabs a vegan donut before heading to the Maximum house to hand in your top ten, you’ve probably already partied with Torso, but for the rest of us Community Psychosis is in stores now.
Una Bèstia Incontrolable Nou Món 7″ (Iron Lung)
Hello, Nou Món! What, no Seinfeld fans? Anyway, Una Bèstia Incontrolable have been making waves since last year’s cool debut album, leading to many Caucasian-American punks attempting their best Spanish accents while pronouncing the band’s name. Personally, I thought their album was good-not-great, with a lot of weirdness for weirdness’ sake (and I couldn’t help but hold them up against hardcore steamroller Destino Final), but people were talking about their live show like it was the Virgin Mary’s face in a piece of toast, so I had to check out this new single on the never-shabby Iron Lung label. Sadly, I did not see them live this go-around (might as well wear a “kick me” sign for the rest of the week), but this 7″ is great, and has converted me from a skeptic to a believer. Mostly I just love how they are a hardcore-punk band that plays slow songs, but they’re not generic hardcore-dirges – somehow Una Bèstia Incontrolable have created a new framework for what hardcore can sound like without being unnaturally “creative” or pushing hardcore in a direction favored by indie rockers (yuck). “Nou Món” sounds like a damn Goatsnake song before the vocals come in, and “Cinturons, Genolis, Vidres I Cossos” follows a psychedelic intro with a near-metallic riff and uniquely aggressive drumming. If their name doesn’t translate in English to “Best Uncontrollable Dudes”, it should.
Universe People Are Coming To The Dance LP (Dragnet)
However you come to Universe People, don’t do it like I did – reading the “ex-A Frames” tag and expecting something remotely close to that. I am fully aware that musicians often play various styles of music, but any mention of A Frames hits too close to home, as they are one of my ’00s-punk favorites. Anyway, once I got over my initial depression and finally came out of the bathroom, I discovered that Universe People are pretty cool. They remind me of a rougher, tougher version of Yellow Fever, with the rigidly simple structure of Prinzhorn Dance School and maybe a touch of Imperial Teen when things get grooving. Are Coming To The Dance comes with a ’90s sort of cool, back when “hipsters” were “scenesters” and The Make Up and The Delta 72 dictated underground fashion guidelines. Fun album for sure, the sort of record that deadpans its humor and laughs through its solemnity.
Urbanoia Psykisk Terror 7″ (Solar Funeral / D-Takt & Råpunk)
You know how they say that like 90% of all dollar bills have trace amounts of cocaine on them? Well, I propose a new theory, that 90% of all walls have had a punk band pose by them for a promo photo at some point. It’s a beautiful thing – just take Urbanoia for example, who look as bored and uncomfortable as any other good hardcore-punk band that stands near a wall for a photo. They offer four songs of raging D-beat hardcore here, reopening Discharge’s wound and soaking up its blood. I am picking up a slight hard-metal feel to some of these tunes, just a hint of Judas Priest’s British Steel peeking out from a tapestry of Anti-Cimex and Svart Framtid patches. That said, this is still incredibly derivative hardcore-punk, of which I mean no slight – might as well do it the right way, you know?
UV Glaze Daily Vomit 7″ (Bachelor)
As soon as I poured this UV Glaze single out of the cardboard, I was excited to give it a spin. Cool band name (are they members of the UV Race messing with us?), non-existent artwork, song-titles like “Daily Vomit” and “Data Corpses”… so far so good. Unfortunately, my hopes for UV Glaze did not match their music, which is cool, but not anything I’d mention to a close friend (not that I don’t consider you, dear reader, a close friend, but you know what I mean). It’s pretty standard garage-y noise-rock, like the most obvious Black Flag riffs played faster than they ever did, with touches of The Reatards, Guitar Wolf and Melvins sprinkled throughout. I’d probably like it just fine if it wasn’t for the singer, who does this off-timed, completely exaggerated drunken slur that I find highly unappealing. He sings his own lyrics, and they might be great, but my mind just translates whatever he’s saying into “I’m so cray-zay, I’m a wild maniac, look at meeeee!”, over and over again. It’s a fun vocal style to try, where you essentially sidestep any critical assessment because you’re already purposely out of control, but I’d rather hear someone else give these songs a vocal try. That’s just me though, so if you enjoy this sort of outrageous Brother Love-esque howling, go on and get yourself glazed.
Vessel Punish, Honey 2xLP (Tri Angle)
Holy Moses, album of the year! That’s what I’m shouting about Vessel’s sophomore album, the sassily-titled Punish, Honey. Last I knew, Vessel was making dark, dubby and unsurprising modern techno, and then he goes and drops this on us, an entirely unique and distinct voice in the world of bludgeoning rhythmic electronics, one that demands its own classification, going far beyond “industrial”, “goth-techno”, “experimental” or anything else you could try to stick on it. Apparently he hand-crafted his own mutant hardware for many of the sounds here, and I believe it – I’ve never heard music as simultaneously queasy and robust as the tracks here. And it’s varied! The first track sounds like Aufgehoben or Fantomas, then it’s followed by the best Demdike Testpressing, and that’s followed with an epic electro-metal dirge befitting Earth or Asunder, sans guitars. Seriously! At first I was picking up some Shackleton vibes, but I’m on my twentieth listen (at least) by now, and I no longer hear anyone but Vessel, really. It’s a diverse-yet-uniform album of music that the world never heard before, and damn if I’m not completely in love.
Void Vision Sour 12″ (Mannequin)
About time someone seriously invested in Void Vision, one of modern cold-wave’s most underrated artists (if you ask me). Just give “Sour” a minute of your time, hell, even thirty seconds, and you’ll be hooked – Void Vision’s Shari Vari is a technological analog whiz-kid like many others, but paired with her keen sense of pop romanticism, it’s all over. “Sour” is a song that could work for Asylum Party or Madonna, for Martial Canterel or La Roux… it just has that timeless quality that could fit onto a cult obscurity or a mainstream smash with similar ease. I’m assuming it’ll be on Void Vision’s upcoming album, but you might be tempted by the b-side too, featuring a Vanzetti & Sacco remix of the title track (pretty basic, warm Italo vibes – I prefer the original) and an instrumental cut that establishes another icy and temperamental mood. Cool EP for sure that I advise checking out, but if you want to wait for the album instead, just promise to save me a spot in line, okay?
Weed Hounds Weed Hounds LP (Katorga Works)
Of all the bands to deserve the moniker of “Weed Hounds”, be it celebratory or punitive… this band? I was expected some riff-worshipping stoner-rock, or maybe even some floaty space-folk, but nah, Weed Hounds are pure post-grunge shoegaze-pop, and a delightful group at that. Their songs chime with the serene majesty of Slowdive but move with the urgency of The Wedding Present, with a vocalist not far removed from the subtle coo of April March. I’m certainly picking up a Darla / Slumberland vibe, which can’t entirely be coincidental, and there are sparks of blissed-out pop-genius that Dum Dum Girls seem to have been chasing on their last album. Top quality stuff here, the sort of project that I can understand why a label as fast-moving as Katorga Works apparently stuck by for five long years until it was finished. Five years to finish a record? I finally understand where the weed came in.
The Young Chrome Cactus LP (Matador)
I first heard The Young’s third album Chome Cactus after Pitchfork delivered their “good luck on tour!” fatality, and it was the sort of brutal review that made me sympathetic to this group of likeable Texan men. I had skipped Dub Egg, and only vaguely recall the icy-hot guitar-centric indie rock of Voyagers Of Legend (it had been a while since I last spun it), so it was nice to hear this one, a fairly simple and unassuming album of pop-leaning rock, the sort of missing underground link between The Replacements and The Foo Fighters (though certainly nowhere near the distinction of either). The vocalist reminds me of some ’90s buzz-bin artist, and it has been driving me nuts trying to figure it out – it’s not Collective Soul, not Sponge, not Soul Asylum… maybe Dishwalla? That’s as close as I can get to figuring it out, but the singer has this sorta chilled-out sneer that works well with tasteful guitars that come from the Neil Young / Dinosaur Jr. axis of power. My kinda easy listening, really.