Anohni Hopelessness LP (Secretly Canadian)
I’ve been a casual Antony (now Anohni) fan ever since their I Am A Bird Now garnered international spotlight (and with that voice, for good reason), so when I heard that they went synth-pop with Oneohtrix and Hudson Mohawke producing the beats, why not take a peep? I’m sure glad I did, as it’s a pretty amazing album, particularly in that it’s one of the few records I can recall in recent times to have me literally laughing out loud at moments that were most certainly no laughing matter. I’m referring to the fact that Anohni’s lyrics are often shockingly brutal, frank and completely free of allegory or metaphor – they directly comment on drone bombs killing innocent victims, politicians lying, environmental disaster and societal downfall in a way that makes Discharge and Anti-Cimex sound like Rumi. And to hear such uncomfortable lyrics over what would otherwise be joyous, modern synth-styled R&B pop tracks is more shocking than any d-beat riff, that’s for sure. It’s like you want to raise up your hands under a strobe light to the nimble, effervescent sounds of “Execution” until you realize the painful smack of reality delivered by the words (you better believe the phrase “North Koreans” is given a diva-esque croon). It’s like Anohni wants us to celebrate and feast while also shaming us into facing up to the irreversible disgusting mess we’ve made, and it’s a glorious form of confusion, even if I truly feel bad about things after listening to Hopelessness.
Asda The Abyss 12″ (No Corner)
Asda’s first release was a strange 10″ care of Vessel’s antagonistic vanity label FuckPunk, offering merely a few minutes of distorted beats and spoken word accompaniment. I’m thrilled to see that it wasn’t a random one-off, but that Asda continue to exist, and this new six-song EP builds upon their debut just as I hoped. Throughout The Abyss, Asda move from feedback/noise-play to in-the-red digital dub, not unlike a Jahtari remix of Whitehouse instrumentals. It’s a fairly constricted framework, perhaps only the work of a couple of sound boxes (or less), but Asda display a keen ability to bring out vivid imagery and unique situations within it. The beats alone are great, but the spoken-word vocals (care of Vessel’s bud Chester Giles) really make it pop. Giles paints surreal scenes, runs through repetitive poetry and posits sly questions, always in a calm, mannered tone that reveals no particular emotion or shtick; it sounds like he is simply trying to deliver his words in the most natural and direct way he can. I’m occasionally reminded of The Door & The Window or some other droll British DIY group circa ’79, but the peculiarities of Asda make them instantly recognizable within any conceivable Kugelberg list. There’s even a track of nothing more than flute and Giles’ voice, and it sounds just as reasonable as the manic blasts of static that preceded it, a testament to Asda’s ability to shine their strange aesthetic no matter what the circumstances.
Blackball Visions Of The Third Eye Undone 7″ (Sorry State)
In listening to and looking at this Blackball 7″, I can’t help but wish that “Blackball” was some sort of underground sport that only punks played. As a teenager, my group of friends invented a game called “street ball” that involved skateboards and a half-empty Pepsi two-liter, so why not, right? While I sit and fantasize about the rules and scoring, I’ll enjoy this EP by this Raleigh, NC hardcore group. They’ve got six tracks here, and it’s a pretty nice form of heavy, menacing hardcore that verges on crust. They fall somewhere between Totalitär and His Hero Is Gone (wait, isn’t that just Tragedy?), rugged hardcore built for both headbanging and slamming. Sickoids also come to mind, but there’s a palpable metallic-crust gloominess to Blackball that has my third eye visualizing Amebix patches. They also thank a band called “Drugcharge” on the insert, so perhaps that’s really all I had to say. Gotta go do my Blackball fantasy draft now anyway, bye!
Peter Brötzmann & Heather Leigh Ears Are Filled With Wonder LP (Trost)
Just like watermelon and Feta cheese, some combinations might seem unwise upon snap judgment but are quickly proven to be wonderful, as is the case with this live duo of lifelong saxophone abuser Peter Brötzmann and mercurial pedal steel player Heather Leigh. Ears Are Filled With Wonder was sold to me with the promise that it was a full-on sound battle between the two players, but that’s not quite what I’m hearing. On these two pieces, Brötzmann certainly goes off, shocking air through his instrument like a man possessed, but Leigh’s pedal steel acts as a salve, a wet dab of Neosporin on the patch of hair Brötzmann just yanked out. Even Brötzmann seems to be lost in Leigh’s hypnotic strings at times, chilling his puffs until they are forlorn and introspective, like the dog who just tore up your favorite pillow resting meekly at your feet. In other instances during these two long tracks, I can’t tell if it’s a musical conversation happening between these two, or if they are simply following their own paths in spite of each other, but connections occur regardless, particularly when Leigh gets heavy on the pedal steel, sweating and overheating like it’s about to hurl from some extended airplane turbulence. Great sessions either way, a pairing from whom I am both expecting and anticipating more.
CC Dust CC Dust 12″ (Perennial)
Record of the month alert! To quickly sum up the bio (which is important or I wouldn’t share), CC Dust is the synth-pop project of Vexx vocalist Maryjane Dunphe, her lungs and lyrics backed by the simplistic productions of Laurent Dagnicourt. The EP’s brilliance is immediate in the form of opener “Never Going To Die”, a truly joyous, unrestrained track that bursts like a dove unscathed through a barbed-wire fence. The rest of the EP is more reserved (how could it not be), but plays out in fascinating waves, like the art-pop spin on classic New Order via “Tonopah”, the M Squared-esque patter of “Baby Boy” and the early Simple Minds swing throughout the last two cuts. It’s an utterly fantastic record because Dunphe’s voice is bridled with emotion, almost to the point where she sounds like she’s quivering her tears away – I would make a case that she is the cold-wave Fetty Wap in that regard. Plus, Dagnicourt’s tracks have the rudimentary, early-attempt feel of the first Cold Cave records, wherein the simplicity and lack of sophistication are their biggest strengths, cutting right to the core of what makes electronic pop so satisfying. If Vexx weren’t still sort of around (with a new album dropping shortly, praise the Lord!), CC Dust might be my favorite band!
Beatrice Dillon & Rupert Clervaux Two Changes LP (Paralaxe Editions)
Over the past year Beatrice Dillon has quickly become my number-one Techno Person To Watch, as her carefully-considered discography covers all sorts of interesting electronic bases, from gauzy boogie to tightly-buttoned percussion exercises. This prepared me for the strange sounds within her second collaborative effort with Rupert Clervaux, a two-track album entitled Two Changes. “The Same River Twice” is the a-side, and it’s a strange fifteen minutes, that’s for sure. Fluttering noises and intermittent percussion slowly assume the shape of a beat, one that is soon accompanied by the seedy, noir-ish sounds of a pocket trumpet. It’s as if you’re reading one of China Miéville’s dystopian sci-fi novels and it suddenly transforms into a pulpy Richard Stark paperback. What could be better, right? “A Different River Once” grabs another fifteen minutes or so on the flip, and it’s nearly as fascinating. The pulse is torturous at first, presided by a leaky faucet, until a mischievous xylophone stumbles into the room and a tweaked tech-house beat befitting Bruno Pronsato quickly follows. Two Changes manages to fuse high-minded acoustic composition and populist techno with a sense of pranksterism that I find incredibly appealing. I wish more artists were willing to enter such strange territory, but then again, most people aren’t Beatrice Dillon and Rupert Clervaux.
Far Corners Far Corners 12″ (Limited Appeal)
Far Corners are a Rhode Island-based trio, the husband / wife duo of Justin Hubbard and Tara McManus along with various replaceable bassists (aren’t they all). They’ve been bashing around in Far Corners and other bands (Turpentine Brothers, for example) for a few years, and this is pretty solid slash n’ burn post-punk. I’m reminded of both A Frames and Spray Paint in the way that Far Corners robotically perform their garage-primitive punk tunes (and maybe it’s the geographical proximity but I’m hearing a little Arab On Radar in the different-but-interlocking guitar- and bass-lines), but Far Corners keep it pretty loose, sounding like actual humans in a room together. And while I’m sure it can be tempting, they never veer off into artsy experimentalism or noise – Far Corners is a punk record like countless others before it, which of course is in no way a weakness. Only 200 copies exist, all painstakingly sprayed-painted on the b-side of the vinyl (a risky move if there ever was one), so if Far Corners don’t sound too exceptional upon first listen, just huff the b-side and try again.
Framtid The Horrific Visions 7″ (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
Northeast American punks shed many tears when it came to light that Framtid were denied entry for their US gigs last March, but this new four-song EP is a strong consolation. Sure, it’s not the same without the spritz of second-hand beer in the air, spike-laden denim scraping your arms and Makino screaming in your general direction, but some of us are too old for that sort of thing anyway and prefer our righteous anti-war supersonic d-beat destruction in the form of private home listening. Even without Shin behind the drum kit, Framtid remain at the top of their game; the combination of thick, down-tuned guitars and fill-laden drumming continues to resemble an avalanche or stampede. Three of these tracks rage accordingly, while “By Any Reason” grinds on a metallic riff, gobs of political samples and sound effects and the righteous chant “by any means / war is unnecessary”. Ironic that a message as peaceful as this sounds so ferocious and violent, but that’s the name of Framtid’s game, of which they remain elegant masters.
Giorgio Murderer Holographic Vietnam War LP (Pelican Pow Wow)
Giorgio Murderer is the synth-based alias of Buck Biloxi (or perhaps Buck Biloxi is the non-synthetic version of Giorgio Murderer, depending on how you’re viewing it), and this is his first legit album under this moniker. Musically, it’s quite the same as Buck Biloxi – ultra-minimal drums (zero cymbals?), angrily down-strummed guitar with basic-setting amp distortion, simplistic punk rock with hilariously negative song titles. In the course of Giorgio, the drums appear to be electronic, and there is at least one layer of synth-sploodge covering each tune. Like a good comedy, I don’t want to spoil all the jokes within if you decide to pick up a copy, but I sniggered and guffawed at track titles like “I Ain’t Doing So Hot” and “Beat Up The West Coast”, as well as band personnel credited to John Synthwhistle on bass/synth, Kenny Logarithms on guitar and Diptheria Derbyshire on organ/piano/synth. There’s also the somewhat off-putting element of the Vietnam war in the artwork, apparently all photos and ephemera taken from Biloxi’s dad’s service – the true horror of war clashed with Giorgio Murderer’s campy punk negativity is incongruous at best. But even while played up, it’s clear that Biloxi’s hatred and disgust are real, and if I’m feeling awkward about Holographic Vietnam War, I am sure he would be quite pleased with himself to know it.
Hallelujah! / Holiday Inn split 7″ (Maple Death)
The cover art for this split features a pencil drawing of a woman holding her face in her hands as a maroon cloud surrounds her waist in a pool. Really, gang? This is how you want to represent yourselves? Both groups hail from Italy, where perhaps menstruation is taboo, and cover aside, they’re a reasonable pairing of noisy garage-punk styles. Hallelujah!, whose one-sided 12″ I enjoyed a few months ago, are back with a raucous Homostupids-esque burner (“Terror At The Post Office”) and the more dynamic “You Are The Champion”, which goes from grotesque to belligerent and back, stomping like Lamps in one of those big wooden tubs where you mash grapes for wine. Holiday Inn is Italy’s entry in the “one dude screams along to basic-entry synth beats while wearing a funny mask and sunglasses (perhaps shirtless)” canon, and while I feel like we’ve already got plenty of these dudes here in the States, out-shocking each other left and right (to be the king of this scene you have to eat your own toenails on stage at this point), there’s not much to differentiate Holiday Inn. (The French are often a cut above when it comes to this sort of thing; the sole 7″ by The Anals remains a personal favorite.) Good to know though that if I find myself in Italy and want to enjoy some boisterous attention-seeking party punks with my EVOO, I’ve got options.
In School Cement Fucker 7″ (Thrilling Living)
In School’s second 7″ EP is nothing if not bittersweet, as they seem to have reached an otherwise-unseen level of hardcore-punk greatness while at the same time calling it quits (or at least entering “indefinite hiatus” mode). I enjoyed this band before, but these four songs are worthy of study and admiration, somehow intensely familiar yet wholly original. Take opener “Bloodlust”, for example, which sounds like the first Shitlickers EP had they played punk instead of hardcore, or the following title track, which sounds like Born Against’s Bllleeeeaaauuurrrrgghhh! contribution, “Nail That Sticks Up”, buffered by greasy mosh parts. “You’re Not That Dumb” sounds like early Black Flag covering Psycho Sin (don’t we all wish), and “Awakening” is like a sloppy Gang Green drunk on hatred instead of domestic beer. In School truly inspire such colorful comparisons but never feel remotely like an authenticity re-enactment – they aren’t playing these songs to impress their record collector buddies, they’re doing it because they are truly revved up and inspired to play the most riotous and thrashing hardcore-punk they can. Thrilling Living indeed!
In The Mouth Of The Wolf In The Mouth Of The Wolf 12″ (Diagonal)
While Powell has kept his output fairly restrained in the past twelve months, the hits on Diagonal just keep on coming, like this eponymous 12″ from In The Mouth Of The Wolf. It’s a new project by Cindytalk and Ancient Methods, and if that isn’t intriguing enough, allow me to continue. The 12″ opens with “Need Of Angels”, and it immediately hits you with a huge sawtoothed-synth riff, sounding almost as if it was heavily strummed like a guitar rather than played with fingers on keys (or mouse-clicks, perhaps). It’s the perfect vehicle for the rest of the track’s eight minutes, chugging at a moderate pulse that recalls hard-edged Belgian EDM more than industrial techno, although both camps have plenty to sink their teeth into with this meaty cut. “Sleight Of Hand” opens the b-side with some dangerous machinery before ripping into another dense beat, the sort of thing over which you’d almost expect Trent Reznor’s voice to suddenly materialize, going from pained croon to emotive screaming as he does so well. Instead, random radio interference shows up (along with what sounds like a turnstile in hell) to commence gleeful destruction. Closer “A Search For New Realities” brings us down a bit, with a lengthy noise manipulation to open it up before a chase-scene beat arrives. It’s not remotely as heavy as the first two cuts, but it’s essentially an act of mercy, tantalizing us with scattered drums and fizzy percussion rather than bludgeoning once more. My brain isn’t back to its normal state afterward, but it comes close.
Samara Lubelski The Gilded Raid LP (Drawing Room)
There’s a light summer rain going on outside as I type this, the perfect chance to steep some herbal tea (loose and hand-sifted, of course) and listen to Samara Lubelski’s new album. It’s actually my first time listening to her music at all, although her name is a familiar one, as Lubelski was active in seemingly all aspects of the “New Weird America” boom of the mid-’00s, from interactions with sweet folk revivalists like Espers and noisy mongrels like Mouthus. I’m a little surprised to hear that her own music is so straightforward, but that’s not a complaint, as Lubelski clearly has a knack for writing tender and vulnerable psych-pop. I’m strongly reminded of Belle & Sebastian, Nico and Camera Obscura (the Scottish one), in the way that Lubelski’s soft lullabies are sweet and welcoming, like vaping a bowl of strawberries (you can do that now, right?). Bells, xylophones and horns all accompany her baroque tunes, while Lubelski’s voice barely registers above a whisper, the sound of someone who is here to heal rather than tear down; the psych-folk version of chicken soup. Not the sort of record I usually reach for, but once my ears lock onto The Gilded Raid, it’s too comforting to let go.
M Ax Noi Mach On The Edge LP (Alter)
So nice that M Ax Noi Mach’s second proper full-length is now available, care of the forward-thinking Alter label (owned and operated by Luke Younger AKA Helm). M Ax’s Rob Fransisco has been honing in on a regimented and narrow sound over the past decade or so, and his approach is refined within On The Edge. Operating on a couple drum machines in varying states of disrepair, Francisco wallops simplistic industrial beats with static shocks and analog noise – think early Clock DVA or Portion Control as interpreted through Bloodyminded’s rig and you’re not too far off. On The Edge balances things nicely, with obvious chant-along bangers such as “Walking At Night” and “Second Glance” (of which the chorus “I don’t / know / exactly / what’s / going to / happen tonight” is an inevitable industrial anthem) sharing space with instrumental walls of hypnotic noise and drippy rhythmic excursions (“Surrounded” and “Tender Sin”, for example). Personally, I love it most when Francisco is shouting at me about his passion for darkened doorways, seedy voyeurism and metropolitan fear, and there’s still plenty of that here, if perhaps slightly more nuanced than ever before.
Miserable Uncontrollable LP (The Native Sound)
On first glance, I had a slight spark of hope that Miserable was a new project by Olivia Neutron-John due to the physical resemblance to Miserable’s Kristina Esfandiari (it’s all in the brows and stance), but Miserable bears no actual relation beyond the tenuous one I just described. Esfandiari is hellbent on living up to her moniker through Uncontrollable, an album that tries out sad-sack-chic to moderate success. There are strong similarities to Tamaryn’s most arid tunes, Hope Sandoval’s shoegaziest work and whoever it was that played at the bar in the second season of True Detective. Think beautiful black velvet gowns, tear-stained eyeliner, a rusty Fender amp and a cowboy leaving in the middle of the night for vengeance and you’ve picked up Miserable’s general aesthetic. It’s a world that is already inhabited by many strong personalities (including those I previously listed), but Miserable doesn’t have any particular voice of its own; this is music that is willing to fade into the wallpaper, content with a semi-presence in the room as opposed to taking command. If I ever have to dye my hair black in a desert motel bathroom because I’m trying to leave my old life behind, I’ll try to find Miserable on YouTube, but chances are a bunch of other random videos will come up instead.
Mysteries Of Love Wasted Love LP (Alberts Basement)
For like a dozen people on Earth, this Mysteries Of Love album is a total treat, and luckily enough, I’m one of them! It’s one of the many groups that don’t seem to ever truly exist within the Alberts Basement / Breakdance The Dawn orbit, like faint ideas of bands that somehow actually laid down tracks at some point, then dissolved into another non-functioning concept of a band or three. I love this sort of ego-less, almost human-less music, and Mysteries Of Love is particularly tickling my fancy. This group consists of the two dudes in Greymouth (whose album from last year I love dearly), plus a guy from Love Chants and someone else, surely also of various other bands. The music here is guitar-centric slow-motion DIY post-rock noise, with the guitar tickled and splayed and confronted with foreclosure notices to ensure that it gently weeps. It’s played somewhere between Oren Ambarchi’s solo work and his feedback-laden nonsense in Menstruation Sisters, with a touch of Jandek’s bleary-eyed repetition even in the face of errors. There are drums and bass too, which are generally located in the back of the stage, away from the lighting, and a vocalist is credited, whose mic is turned down so low it’s as if you’re listening to his presence in the room rather than his actual voice. Imagine Mad Nanna’s tunes stretched out to five or ten minutes each, performed with the stuffy isolation of your favorite Gate records, and perhaps one day you may unlock the Mysteries Of Love.
Nah Woe LP (Ranch)
Ranch upgrades Nah’s 2014 cassette release Woe to a black vinyl slab, and I for one am pleased to hear it. Seems like there has been a lot of Nah output over the past few years, and while I had only previously heard the album Difficult (highly enjoyable instrumental post-punk), Woe reveals a different side. It’s ostensibly a hip-hop record, both with MCs and without (Givv and Prince Asshole appear on a few tracks), and as you may suspect, its style veers toward edgy experimentalism. I’m reminded of Clipping and Death Grips, although Nah’s beats are more prickly and tense, rather than blown-out and mean-spirited. A dying synth will sputter over a generic Roland digi-kick while an orchestral sample sneaks up from around the corner. Without rapping, it sometimes sounds like a bedroom synth-punk project that opts for funk breaks instead of punk rhythms, a stylistic road-less-traveled that maintains my interest longer than I may have guessed. Nah’s clearly spending a lot of time in his Belgian bunker putting together tracks, and I appreciate his willingness to share.
Nurse Nurse 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
Not a reunion of the great ’80s Japanese hardcore group, but rather a new band out of Scavenger Of Death’s Atlantan orbit, here’s Nurse four-song vinyl debut. They certainly fit in with the current underground hardcore melee of bands like S.H.I.T., Gag, Warthog, Blazing Eye, etc., as they favor fast-paced oom-pah beats, guttural vocals and a distinct appreciation of the more violent-sounding original hardcore groups like Mecht Mensch, Die Kreuzen and the Dutch Agent Orange. And like most of those bands, they’re really quite good, if not particularly noteworthy – the most distinctive attribute here is the guitar tone, which coasts on a phasery wobble not unlike Gas Chamber’s bass. These four songs are tight and clearly well rehearsed, almost to an Impalers level of precision, and surely are quite thunderous when presented live (or at least there are no excuses for them not to be). Hoping to hear more from Nurse, not only because their hardcore is high-quality but also because I hope to discern their specific individual style – there is nothing better for a hardcore band than being both intensely ferocious and instantly recognizable.
OBN IIIs Rich Old White Men / On The Verge Of Collapse 7″ (12XU)
I remembered hearing that OBN IIIs had transitioned from a brawling garage-punk band into denim-and-leather rockers (maybe on their last album?), but I don’t believe I had actually witnessed their shift until this new two-song EP hit my doorstep. I loved OBN IIIs as sort of an arrogant American corollary to Eddy Current Suppression Ring, so when “Rich Old White Men” came out firing with twin guitar leads, it took a little adjusting. It’s clear these guys had the image of Thin Lizzy on motorbikes in mind when putting that tune together, and if you want to argue with that sort of rock inspiration, I’d be happy to show you the door. “On The Verge Of Collapse” is a bit punker, like an inebriated Wipers crashing at the Dils’ apartment all weekend and leaving this song as a thank-you card. For a style that doesn’t necessitate a ton of song-craft, OBN IIIs don’t mind putting the work in anyway, offering more choruses, verses, pre-choruses and bridges in this one song than the first side of any Ramones album. It could sink a lesser band, but the arena (or at least outdoor Red 7 stage) feel that OBN IIIs bring to the table is just their size.
Portable I Reflect Thee 12″ (Live At Robert Johnson)
Last year Portable quietly dropped “Surrender”, a truly uplifting and glorious slice of vocal house, and he continues that avenue on the Live At Robert Johnson label with “I Reflect Thee”. Just like “Surrender”, it’s a one-song 12″ (this one featuring an extended flute-solo instrumental and an acapella on the b-side), and while I wish he would’ve just combined both tracks for one utterly essential 12″ EP, I don’t mind doling out the loot for both when the quality is this high. “I Reflect Thee” isn’t the stirring masterpiece that “Surrender” is, but it feels awfully nice just the same – the beat slowly swirls up (there’s even a cool video of Portable performing it live out there), verging on pop structure were it not so regal and sophisticated. And Portable sings beautifully, like a South African Daughn Gibson with lyrics presumably sung to his parents or children, the sort of touching stuff for which iPhone commercials aim. I wish there was a Portable channel on TV, just so I could spend more of my time in his thoughtful, poignant world of techno-pop.
Raime Tooth 2xLP (Blackest Ever Black)
There are only a small handful of underground releases per year that feel like an “event” these days, but Raime’s second full-length is one of them. I’ve really enjoyed this duo, from their earliest cavernous industrial-dub excursions through their sophisticated first album, and I spent a good couple months eager to hear Tooth, waiting on the vinyl to arrive. You can really only do menacing, slow-motion industrial techno for so long before repeating yourself, but Raime never had me concerned, as they always seemed to be moving forward in a new direction, one that sounds different from prior releases but maintains the same dreadful, foreboding atmosphere. Tooth certainly accomplishes this, as they work with traditional rock instruments for the basis of their tracks, using electric guitars the entire time, often accompanied by what sounds like acoustic drums performed live (and sampled) and electric bass guitar. It’s certainly similar to their one-off 12″ as Moin, but not quite as post-rock – Tooth sounds like Slint and Lungfish chopped apart and edited into tense circular rhythms. Mostly every track on here has the vibe of dangerous espionage; it’s the music you’d expect to hear after breaking into someone’s office and uploading the info from their laptop onto your USB stick, waiting for the screen to say “100% complete” as you hear the quick steps of armed guards approaching down the hallway. It’s another form of mysterious, dark, dare I say blackest ever black electronic music, and Raime wears it well.
Razz Pleasantries 7″ (Warm Wet)
Oakland’s Razz inaugurate the Warm Wet Records label (love that creepy company name), and while they missed the chance to name a dude in the band Todd Nundgren, they’re coming with a working history of punk and power-pop music for a well-equipped four-song debut. It’s about as pleasant as music can get while still retaining some link to punk – I’m reminded of M.O.T.O. or Aussie power-pop obscurities Cheek, or perhaps someplace in between Ramones-friendly punk and unabashed sell-out power-pop. I feel like this style works best when the band has no fear of losing “punk cred” and writes the biggest pop hooks they can, throws in some dazzling guitar solos and allows themselves to be as corny as they want to be, and Razz seem to be well on that course. A track like “No Time”, the lead cut, sounds like it was meant for some ’90s slacker record-store movie soundtrack, like you’d hear it while the cast of Reality Bites meet up to browse used CDs. That’s a compliment of course, and I hope Razz can find their place in modern society as well.
TM404 Acidub 2xLP (Kontra-Musik)
TM404 is an alias of Sweden’s Andreas Tilliander, whom I first encountered via his bleak and unrelenting techno under the name Mokira. TM404 is a different beast entirely, one that centers around unabashed gear porn – it’s a vanity project in that the music exists in praise of the machinery that produced it, as well as Tilliander’s vast and impressive collection of Roland synthesizers (find him on Instagram and behold his analog majesty). If he could dress up his synths in sexy outfits and make love to them, I’m sure he would, but in the meantime he has put together two albums (this being the second) of pure and authentic dub techno with acid tendencies. You probably guessed that from the generic title anyway, and while techno orthodoxy isn’t something I often pine for, TM404 seems to be a project of true admiration, fandom and love, an enthusiasm I would never try to dampen. Plus, as part of the home audience and not a fellow producer, it’s a wonderful listening experience, with tracks varying from pulsing dub techno that recalls early Tin Man and any given Maurizio 12″ to floating, grumbly ambiance (album closer “MC 202 Quartet” is a beautifully morose warble). I can’t help but picture Tilliander as the Randy Holden of synths, as purely in love with his instrument as any human can be with an electronic device, and I just hope we all find that form of love for ourselves at some point in our lives.
Torn Hawk Union & Return LP (Mexican Summer)
You know, for all the touching eulogies we’ve all seen for the likes of David Bowie and Prince in the past few months, part of it rings hollow for me. All these writers want to act like they support bizarre and talented iconoclasts who operate outside of genre or time, and yet the same predictable Drake and Radiohead albums are on all of their top tens, you know? I bring this up because Luke Wyatt (AKA Torn Hawk) is one of the few visionary weirdos operating today, and no one seems to really notice or care. And now, thanks to the endless millions behind Mexican Summer, he’s onto his second full-length albu, and it’s as pretty as it is bizarre. Wyatt has seemingly dismissed any sense of techno or dance from Torn Hawk’s identity at this point, pursuing some amalgamation of Pat Metheny Group, James Ferraro, Final Fantasy soundtracks, Kate Bush instrumentals and Coldplay’s widescreen HD emotional gaslighting. The sounds are all familiar (some might say “pre-sets”) but Wyatt orchestrates them into massive flights of fancy, with both piano and guitar leading charges through various emotional trails, often with a sense of intrigue and melancholia. Subtle hints of Goldeneye and Mario Paint echo throughout, but I can’t tell if I’m simply fooling myself, lost in Union & Return‘s beguiling mazes (which, if I’m not mistaken, are thematically linked to some story of a futuristic city in the sky). Let’s not wait ’til Luke Wyatt dies before we rave about how great he is.
T-Tops / Cyrus Gold split 10″ (no label)
A split 10″, self-released by two unknown bands coming from somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania? This isn’t the type of record Yellow Green Red shies away from! The T-Tops side of the cover features a Topps baseball card parody, and Cyrus Gold’s features a cartoon of two colorful anime mutants, so lets dig in. T-Tops have me imagining what Clockcleaner would’ve sounded like if they played stoner riffs, and I suppose the clear answer there is “The Melvins”. Lots of long, sticky riffs, harsh vocals, nothing too fast (or doomy slow), with classic-rock nods given the proper kick in the pants. Not bad! Cyrus Gold opt for more of a Hydra Head-metal format, with frantic drumming, throaty screaming, quick shifts and downhill rhythms. I’m reminded of Botch, maybe The Dillinger Escape Plan if they formed over a love of Rye Coalition and Avenged Sevenfold instead of Discordance Axis. Not really feeling it, but that doesn’t mean some Pittsburgh bar (where you can still smoke, sadly) won’t be lively when Cyrus Gold take the stage. Someone’s going home with this split 10″ in their tote bag, you can count on that.
Urochromes / Wizzard Sleeve Two Mens – Live At WFMU LP (Jeth-Row)
The catalog of cool bands that has graced the WFMU studios must be impossibly vast at this point, and Jeth-Row has cherry-picked their own house band (Wizzard Sleeve) and paired them with an up-and-coming hardcore-punk outfit out of Western Mass, Urochromes. Urochromes start it off and I dig their style: impossibly perfect drumming leads the way, sounding like an electronic drum kit set to “natural”, if that makes sense, with unpleasant down-picked riffs and a barking vocalist that sounds like Lumpy doing his best Hank Wood impression. I don’t hear any bass, and while I think Urochromes would benefit from filling that standard rock position, they’re gonna do what they do, right down to the Joe Matt-borrowed lyrics of “pissing in a bottle in my room”. Wizzard Sleeve’s set dates back to 2009, and as they haven’t existed as a band in a few years, I’m not sure if Jeth-Row was just looking to fill up some available vinyl property or what, but I certainly don’t mind hearing these cuts of mid-paced psychedelic sludge-punk, led by a synth that sounds like it must measure at about 6’5″, 330 pounds. By no means the bread-and-butter release for either of these bands, but perfect snacking material.