Ahoe-Ahoea True Love Never Dies LP (Bunkerpop)
Bunkerpop is only four releases in, but they’re already a label you can count on for attractive no-frills vinyl reissues of obscure DIY post-punk from Europe and beyond. Ahoe-Ahoea is new to me, and I can’t really be blamed as True Love Never Dies is their sole release, issued on cassette back in 1983 to presumably little fanfare in their native Netherlands. Lucky then that I’m hearing it now, as they’ve got a great thing going on. Throughout True Love Never Dies, I hear a lot of the impassioned, free-flowing lyricism of Crass or The Ex, with the measly post-punk beats of Instant Automatons and forays into twitchy dub rhythms not unlike The Pop Group. I would’ve loved to peruse the book and record collections that Ahoe-Ahoea kept on their shelves, as True Love Never Dies is tightly wound and full of sharp wit, performed with the “who cares?” attitude shared by many of the great early post-punk groups (I’m thinking of The 012 in particular here). Cool insert too, with lyrics and some history as well as intense live video stills of the vocalist clutching his mic on its stand next to a guitar leaning on an amp and an otherwise black void surrounding it all. Seems like there might be a WFMU connection to Bunkerpop and their deep collection of ’80s Dutch post-punk strangeness, and I hope their desire to share continues – I love this stuff.
Ashley Bellouin Ballads LP (Drawing Room)
Ashley Bellouin got me – she named her album Ballads, on a label that could ostensibly release an album of ballads, but nah – this record is two sides of expansive and soothing drone meditation. Even her photo on the back cover, she looks more like a rock troubadour than a drone composer – she doesn’t even wear glasses! But anyway, getting to the music, it’s quite pleasant and bare… these tracks aren’t too invasive yet they still take up the space they deserve. Bellouin is credited with harmonium, glass armonica (that’s no typo, I had to Google to be sure and it’s a crazy-looking instrument indeed), aluminum rods and “electronics”, with some electric guitar and cello played by two friends, but for the most part Ballads finds the right tone to heal and nurture one’s body and spirit and hangs there, like a cleansing massage you didn’t know you needed. Even when bells (must be those aluminum rods?) chime, I can’t help but picture them as audible specs of dust hanging in the sunlight, myself shrunken to their size and floating in the lower atmosphere alongside them. She should call her next album Drones and write a dozen Whitesnake-esque slow-jams, don’t you agree?
Black Bananas Spydr Brain / Frozen Margaritas 7″ (OSR)
I’d been meaning to check out Black Bananas, Jennifer Herrema’s post-Royal Trux project, so I thank the OSR Tapes label for this warped 7″ EP. Not warped in a sense of the vinyl’s physical properties, but rather the sonic kombucha that emanates robustly from its grooves. “Spydr Brain” sounds like a nervous, hastily-edited computer edit of some long-lost funk track, but I get the impression that actual human musicians are inexplicably behind the instrumentation, from the slimy bass to the coke-dusted keys. Herrema mostly sticks to the choral hook, “you’ve got a spydr brain”, like a psychedelic sweat-stain on George Clinton’s blazer. I would assume most everyone has a positive psychosomatic response when they hear the phrase “frozen margaritas”, and the song lives up to that upbeat, about-to-get-wasted feeling. The bass on here is particularly farty, working up a strut that avoids a straight line into an eventual daytime nap – I have a feeling if I asked any of the players to recite the alphabet backwards after recording this tune, they’d barely make it to W. Great tunes, to be sure, in a style that no other artist dares to approach, either out of intimidation or disgust. Screw ’em!
Blod Käre Jesus / Mandys Bil 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
I hope the I Dischi Del Barone label never quits it with these weird 7″ singles. They wrapped 2016 with this one from Blod, a solo project from one of the loons in Enhet För Fri Musik, and it’s certainly something to behold. “Käre Jesus” is a lazy polka waltz with male vocals indiscriminately hollering over top – I assume Blod is using a “found” tape for the music and added his own vocal nonsense? Surely I will never know. “Mandys Bil” I take personally, since I know a couple named Mandy and Bill, but I realize that just like the words spoken on the a-side, it’s all in a language I don’t remotely understand, and whatever point Blod is trying to make, I’ve gotten it completely wrong. Anyway, “Mandys Bil” is a more rousing affair, with saxophone blurting in between at least four voices passionately arguing at what must be a dinner table with plenty of libations handy. Very disorienting stuff, and for my money, not one of the hottest I Dischi singles on the market, but I’m still glad Blod is out there, just waiting to bamboozle some unsuspecting fool.
Bruce I’m Alright Mate / Post Rave Wrestle 12″ (Timedance)
Bruce thought he could quietly slip this two-track EP through the close of 2016, but I’m on full alert! Had to pick it up, on the trustworthy Timedance label, and I’m glad I did. Both tracks are proper club constructions for the most part… a bit more conservative when compared to the rest of Bruce’s work but not without his distinct desire to screw things up a bit. “I’m Alright Mate” is a four-on-the-floor banger, snapping and popping just as one might expect, but Bruce goes haywire with what sounds like the entire internet crashing at once – a massive electronic slurp cuts the track entirely, the sort of move no right-minded DJ would pursue. The title “Post Rave Wrestle” conjures a direct confluence of my personal interests, but sadly there are no Sgt. Slaughter samples over Sven Väth beats. I wasn’t disappointed for long though, as “Post Rave Wrestle” cycles through a couple different tunnels, making sense of the initial chaos and locking up a sensible bounce. The groove is relentless, even as Bruce frequently shifts the rhythmic elements, like a child creating random structures from a colorful pile of Lego. It’s not my first, or second, favorite Bruce EP, but it’s nevertheless quite entertaining and worth my while every time I give it a ride. There may come a day where I disrespect Bruce, but we’re not there yet.
Coordinated Suicides False Pleasure 7″ (Kitschy Manitou)
It’s hard for me to think of Madison, WI without drifting off into dreams of Bovine Records and all the stoner, sludge, grind and noise-rock bands that graced their split 7″s throughout the ’90s. Madison is also where Coordinated Suicides come from, and I’ll be damned if they aren’t walking a similar path two decades later. They’ve got a pained, noisy sort of post-hardcore vibe going on, not unlike Pachinko or Thug, groups who never quite made it but had at least a couple good tracks between them (and who could forget the tidy Who Shaved Pachinko? 5″ EP, I know I couldn’t!). In other words, False Pleasure feels like a homespun, amateurish take on Melvins, as if the musicians of Coordinated Suicides want to make music as heavy and intense as possible but are still just kinda figuring it out (and at least one band member probably secretly wishes they could try to sound like Hum and Fugazi (probably the drummer, it’s always the drummer) but the rest of the band are the only other dudes in town who want to play remotely underground music so what can you do). At least that’s how it would’ve went down in 1996, and I can only hope that much hasn’t really changed. Not a lot on this EP moves me musically, but I’m getting a little misty-eyed imagining these three young guys practicing in a cold basement together trying out different distortion pedals and screaming. It’s a sweet and tender thought.
Nicky Crane Bent Water / Bent Night 7″ (Rhythm Works)
Nicky Crane is the moniker James Vinciguerra (he of Total Control and Lace Curtain fame) has chosen for his solo tech-house excursions, making the step from tapes and CD-rs to vinyl on this Rhythm Works 7″. The man is clearly obsessed with rhythm, and as his efforts with Total Control include some of the best punk drumming this century, it’s no surprise he’s ventured off into an electronic corner of his own, surrounded by a mismatched pile of synths, drum boxes and knotted cords. “Bent Water” is a gear workout goes through numerous motifs and sounds, although the beat remains constant throughout; I’m picturing the fast-moving hands of Profligate with Fast Eddie’s casual-cool demeanor as I listen. “Bent Night” hops on a different track, chopping some jungle break-beats into a retro drum n’ bass stew. Disembodied vocals moan across the astral plane as Mr. Crane stutters the rhythm like Squarepusher in the late ’90s – your party won’t be dancing to this one until hours of “Bent Water” variations work things to a sweaty frenzy. I can’t help but feel like these are merely two small transmissions from a mind that is constantly thinking about beats, someone who hears a train passing by and immediately starts thigh-drumming along with it. The generic white sleeve comes with art by in-demand hardcore-punk artist Matthew Bellosi, just in case you forgot where this all came from.
Avalon Emerson Narcissus In Retrograde 12″ (Spectral Sound)
Just reading, thinking or saying the name “Avalon Emerson” immediately triggers the melody to her track “The Frontier” in my brain – I don’t know when that song will stop feeling so vital and intense for me. Clearly, I wasn’t the only person afflicted, as Emerson’s Whities EP drew strong praise from the dance community, and she followed it with this, a four-track EP on the Spectral Sound label. Naturally it was unfair to expect her to match (or even top) “The Frontier”, but I couldn’t help but hope she might. I’ve spun Narcissus In Retrograde a few times now, and it’s safe to say that she hasn’t, at least not here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a finely-crafted and highly-enjoyable EP all its own. Opener “Natural Impasse” is probably the strongest of the four, riding a “Humpty Dance” bassline with stuttering snare hits and glossy melodies. “Dystopian Daddy” has a little ’80s workout-tape funk to it, all set for your cardio program, and “Why Does It Hurt” offers a disconnected vocal hook over sausage-thick synths and a persistent thwack before the tank-sized bongos of “Groundwater” brings it home. She’s only been producing records since 2014, but Narcissus In Retrograde speaks to the quality and depth of her talent, as these tracks would easily stand up against anything Audion, Guy Gerber, Luciano or Boys Noize are producing for the club – the delicate dynamics of crowd-moving yet carefully-considered track construction are either incredibly well-studied or naturally inherent for Emerson. Gonna be spinning this one quite a bit more, if only to get something besides “The Frontier” out of my head for a few minutes…
Mark Feehan M.F. II LP (Richie)
Mark Feehan is one of Philadelphia’s hidden treats, and I mean that literally when referring to his band Taiwan Housing Project’s live show: he’s always tucked behind someone else’s amp, teetering on the edge of the stage far removed from any club lighting. I admire a guy who shuns the spotlight while furiously creating, and this, his second solo album (the first care of the mighty Siltbreeze) is an entertaining thirty minutes or so, rich with spastic ideas and a frenzied denial of the musical rule-book. It opens with an acoustic guitar passage so mature and introspective, you might think Glenn Jones or Richard Bishop commandeered the instrument, but that idea is quickly dismissed once a bizarre bleepy-bloopy one-act play follows, a form of bubbly hysteria I’d expect out of Carlos Peron or Ghédalia Tazartès. The rest of the album playfully dances between those two extremes, offering plenty more stoic acoustic guitar wanderings alongside creaky, borrowed-gear punk (not unexpected considering Feehan’s time with both Broken Talent and Harry Pussy) or the occasional undead techno beat jumbled with other undetermined instrumentation, putting M.F. II in the same Richie Records’ loony bin as Factorymen and Violent Students (RIP). Feehan is clearly a man of many (broken) talents, with ideas bouncing in his head like children in Ikea’s ball pit, and I’m thankful he restrained himself long enough to capture another fourteen of them here.
Final Exit Seasons Are Going And Going… And Lives Goes On 12″ (SPHC)
Will SPHC ever willingly release their tax records, so I can find out how they’re funding gratuitous noise-core records such as this? Seasons Are Going And Going… is a 2005 recording originally released on CD in 2008, now available on one-sided 12″ vinyl in a lavish glossy gatefold sleeve. I can’t for the life of me figure out why, but good for Final Exit, I suppose! They’re a mid-card Japanese noise-core group with many years and dozens of releases under their belt, and this one is fairly par for the course, mixing harsh atonal noise-core blasts with jokey genre excursions. At one moment, the vocalist will be screaming as though his microphone was a Vitamix, and the next, they’re covering an Iron Maiden riff, toying with surf-rock guitar parts or jumping headfirst into some Epi-Fat melodic punk. It’s fine, although not nearly as brutal as Sete Star Sept or Noise (if I’m comparing recently released SPHC noise-core records), and the musical silliness wears a little thin for my tastes, but hey: you want this on vinyl? I’m not going to stop you.
The Flying Calvittos Goodbye You Spaghetti Punks 7″ (Insolito)
I feel like I’ve grown up right alongside Germany’s Insolito Records: they released a triple 7″ set of some of my favorite power-violence groups back when I was a teenager, and in recent years, they’ve been excavating some of the most exciting and obscure experimental post-punk noise, most notably that highly-necessary Slugfuckers compilation (perhaps the finest Australian group in history). The reissues continue with this proper and tidy reproduction of The Flying Calvittos’ sole work, Goodbye You Spaghetti Punks. If you didn’t add that one to your want list based on the title alone, check your pulse! The a-side features two tracks about Mama and the food she’s cooking: a hysterical collage and a pokey new-wave strut. The b-side gets a little rougher with “Squeal Like A Pig”, which resembles Le Ritz’s “Punker” or Pork Dukes at their most inflamed, then spacier with the spoken-word synthesized space capsule of “Fastnet” (quite similar to Systematics). It wraps with the stompy rock anthem “Lucky To Be Australian”, a powerful rock piss-take that resembles what Life Stinks have been doing to Rolling Stones and Who riffs with great success. Five disparate and intriguing tunes here, each quite worthy of further exploration, but as far as I can tell the Calvittos didn’t make it past this singular EP. I suppose once you’ve said goodbye to the spaghetti punks, there’s not much left to accomplish.
Grouper Paradise Valley 7″ (Yellow Electric)
Inexcusable poser alert: this two-song 7″ single is the first time I’ve heard Grouper. I know, right? She’s clearly one of the top names in the experimental guitar-drone game, but I dunno… when she first came out, I had a strict aversion to checking out artists that were just specific animal names (I still haven’t heard Panda Bear yet, either), and then by the time I realized I should, all of her records were like eighty dollars a piece. Why am I trying to give you excuses when I already said it’s inexcusable? Anyway, here’s my fresh take: she’s great! I think I was expecting a little “more” from her music here, like it was gonna flush my brain with twelve layers of field recordings and blown-out guitar rituals, but these songs arrive at a chilly distance, as if their beauty would evaporate if you actually managed to get a close look. “Headache” is a soft strummer with unintelligible vocals, but what is lacking in clarity is made up for in ambiance and melody. “I’m Clean Now” is a little warmer, with Grouper’s voice offering no hooks but rather a rising mist of emotional tone, the perfect foil to her repetitive and melancholic guitar. Guess I need to save up eighty dollars!
Chester Hawkins Natural Causes LP (Intangible Arts)
Chester Hawkins has been recording a mix of psychedelic electronic styles for a few years under the moniker Blue Sausage Infant but this is his first time producing under his own name – maybe he got tired of answering “Blue Sausage Infant” when people asked him what he did at parties (don’t I know the feeling). Anyway, Natural Causes is comprised of two lengthy tracks, apparently a commissioned soundtrack for a movie called Pale Trees (sorry, but unless your movie was a Taken or Jason Bourne sequel I probably haven’t seen it), and they both exude a confidence and curiosity in the world of long-form instrumental electronic habitats. The a-side opens with the squawking of long-extinct birds and various rustling before settling into a dub techno loop not unlike cv313, then it transforms into some sort of interplanetary craft I’d expect Patrick Vian to have designed. The second side starts out with a similar wide-open atmosphere, eventually docking into a heavy bass tone – presuming Hawkins made this record with actual keyboards, he must’ve spent a lot of time holding down keys. The deep drone eventually heeds to a violent laser light-show that brings forward a sleazy drum beat, the sort of outro I’d expect to frame Charles Bronson calmly exiting an alleyway lined with the corpses of thugs who dared mess with his family.
Idea Fire Company The Synthetic Elements LP (Crisis Of Taste)
A new album by Idea Fire Company always feels like a small but thoughtful gift. The core duo of the group remains Karla Borecky and Scott Foust, and they are uninterrupted here through eight pieces of piano and synth accompaniment. The piano-led tunes are quite gorgeous and pleasant, like Nils Frahm on a restricted recording budget, melting the frost on your window with delicate little musical phrases. It’s Borecky on the piano, and Foust is never too far behind with some sort of synth-based modulation, almost at odds with her stately playing, as if he’s trying to distract her away from her composition in some sort of game. There are also three versions of “The Synthetic Elements” on here, a synthesized algorithm that sounds like something unintended for human ears, as if it were a process deep inside the belly of some mega-server warehouse. As is often the case with Idea Fire Company, the result is a beguiling mix of soothing melodic comfort and inexplicable electronic processing, may they never stop.
Janitor Scum Scenes From The Grocery LP (Lumpy)
Thank the good lord for Lumpy Records, both aggregator and magnet of the most damaged and unfiltered punk sounds happening across this continent. I’m not sure I would’ve ever located the psychotic jangle of Janitor Scum otherwise, what I believe is a two-person project out of Calgary (it may or may not share personnel with Glitter). They have a great thing going on: the amateurish Germs / Dead Kennedys worship of FNU Ronnies is present here, mixed with crappo drum tracks (is everything but the guitar and vocals synthesized replications?), squawked vocals and a sense of discombobulated home studio (read: laptop) post-production. Janitor Scum’s punk lunacy fits right in with the Lumpy roster, no doubt about it, from the fidelity and attitude right down to the art: Scenes From The Grocery comes with one of the most righteously demented inserts I’ve seen since In/Humanity’s The Nutty Anti-Christ, like a bad-trip take on a grocery advertisement inserted into a small town paper in 1989. I wouldn’t be surprised if the insert took longer to make than the actual recording, which would only be fitting, as great sloppy punk like this should be excreted quickly and carelessly.
Ava Mendoza, Maxime Petit, Will Guthrie Untitled 7″ (Be Coq / Ranch)
Three talented players converge in France on their respective guitar, bass and drums and drop a few tracks on the French label Be Coq and the Pennsylvanian indie-punk label Ranch. Works for me! I wasn’t sure how “out” things were going to get (Ranch’s promotional squad assured me it sounded “European”), but the answer is not very. Rather, these three got together for a few cuts of raging math-rock, with precision and outrageous timing acting as guiding principles. I’m reminded of early Battles, late Don Caballero, or Spring Heel Jack’s live recordings with Evan Parker and J Spaceman in the way these tracks sizzle with crisp snare rolls, inverse guitar theatrics and a sense of difficulty-as-pleasure, as if slowly jamming on a Jimmy Buffett cover would cause all three players to collapse simultaneously: death by easiness. The last track kinda kicks up a storm like a mini Magma, which is always a good sign. Not sure I have much reason to re-visit these tracks on vinyl too often (and I mean come on, they couldn’t come up with a band name? some of the best band names are math-rock band names!), but if they move this gathering outside of France and closer to the home of Ranch Records, I may have to pull up a folding chair and bear witness in person.
The Moving Pictures EMDR PTS 1 2 + 3 LP (Perennial / K)
Very cool and beguiling debut from The Moving Pictures, who naturally have very little information about themselves available online. They’ve put together quite a hodgepodge of experimental pop, dour synth-wave, DIY punk and post-punk attitudes on the catchily-titled EMDR PTS 1 2 + 3. They’ll go from a soft synth ripple that recalls early Simple Minds to a loud guitar echoing Elastica’s “Connection” that comes and goes in a flash, and then retreat back to some crepuscular pop. I’m reminded in bits and pieces of labelmates Cairo Pythian and Trans FX, in the way The Moving Pictures handle their wistful and depressive synth tunes, but there are a good number of tracks that have me imagining some sort of collaboration between Carla dal Forno and Merchandise – the vocalist shares Carson Cox’s emotive register and the songs drift loosely on the outskirts of pop structuring. This leads to a jumbled, sometimes-scatterbrained feel to The Moving Pictures and what they’re offering (some tracks are over ten minutes, others less than sixty seconds), but there’s nary a dud in the bunch so no complaints here.
Erik Nervous Teen Distortion Art Junk Music 7″ (Neck Chop)
The influence of Coneheads and their associated cluster of bands continues to grow into 2017, a development that I’m personally fine with so long as the influenced groups are good. Erik Nervous is clearly aware of this as well, as the insert to this 7″ proudly proclaims “Not On Lumpy, Not From NWI”, as if those are the first two questions people ask him upon hearing his music. It’s not without good reason, as his musical style is filled with speedy and distortion-free guitars, anxious drumming and sci-fi zap-gun keyboards. There are six songs here, and the shorter ones are my favorite, as twitchy punk rock is best delivered in a minute or less (I’m reminded of the holy Seems Twice 7″ more than once), although I wouldn’t be surprised if Nervous’s songwriting chops continue to grow (he looks a bit like that Car Seat Headrest guy, after all). I also have to what he’d sound like if he started smoking pot medicinally – Erik Chill, perhaps.
Niagara São João Baptista 12″ (Principe)
Principe has been responsible for bringing Portugal’s underground techno / electronic / dance scene to international prominence for a couple years now, and while I’ve been digging bits of pieces of DJ Marfox and DJ Firmeza in recent months, this Niagara EP is really speaking to me. In a scene of DJs, Niagara are apparently a “band”, or at least they are three people creating music in real-time, not a DJ with a laptop screen. Their music is unique and fresh while also feeling familiar, as Niagara manage to take a few popular and unrelated flavors and splash them together. I’m hearing the downtown NYC avant-funk of Arthur Russell’s Dinosaur L productions, Mi Ami’s freakout post-punk tribalism and the glorious lo-fi crunch of Jamal Moss. There’s a kick, some keys, and various other sounds commingling (is that an old change purse jingling for percussion?), and the occasional echoed vocal ugh has me thinking of a laid back, stripped-down Golden Teacher. Or perhaps Juju & Jordash on a This Heat trip would yield similar results. The four tracks here are fantastic, and it looks like Niagara dropped a whole bunch of EPs in 2016 (mostly CD-rs, go figure), so I’ve got to dig into those too.
Noise Demo Tapes 1991-1995 LP (SPHC)
If there was ever a reason for the “vinyl reissue” to exist, this is the case for it right here: four never-before-on-vinyl demo tapes from Brazil’s Noise collected with all artwork intact. I had only previously caught Noise via compilations (their contribution to the 28-track Chards Of Civilisation 7″ being my personal intro), so I’m thankful I don’t have to trade dubbed tapes in Sweden and Peru in order to hear Noise in all their brutal glory. Demo Tapes 1991-1995 is pure unfiltered noise-core grind par excellence: most songs are under ten seconds or so, the drumming is so crisp and gnarly I can practically taste the smell of burnt popcorn in the air while listening, and the vocals are predominantly high-volume buzz-saw noise, with occasional fidelity upgrades to reveal that it’s an actual human making those sounds. Noise take on a strident anti-capitalist, anti-fascist stance which I find personally appealing, especially when coupled with brutal blasts of hardcore-based noise-core to rival Fear Of God at times (and I would never make that comparison lightly). Makes me want to hit a snare drum twenty times per second in a basement with my friends, that’s for sure.
Omegas Power To Exist LP (Beach Impediment)
Toronto’s Omegas always had a potent mix of classic NYHC chops and a winking, amusingly exaggerated approach to their personal style. I saw them live a few years ago and they looked like a who’s who of the characters on Murphy’s Law’s claymation album cover: thrash guy, straight-edge jock, drunk punk, chain-wielding criminal, etc., but in their back cover portraits they seem to have assumed some sort of Escape From New York heavy metal bondage thug look, all five dudes wearing sunglasses as if they were mercenaries hired to kill Turbonegro. It could easily come across as silly (and if there’s one thing the modern hardcore scene despises, it’s silliness), but Omegas have always written thrilling hardcore songs, which they continue to do here. Imagine Warzone and Sick Of It All if they had the lightning-fast reflexes of The FU’s, with time changes and unexpected twists to rival Impalers. This all comes with a vocalist (named “Hoagie”) who seems to envision Raybeez reborn as a nemesis of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the lyrics are fascinating, cryptic and often poetic, singing about society’s underbelly in his own way. Omegas are clearly on their own trip, and if you’re not digging it I have to wonder why.
Prince Ratchets A Storm Of Seas LP (Drawing Room)
Prince Ratchets is the second artist to be released as a part of Drawing Room’s “bootleg” series, and little about them is known – the press release keeps things mysterious. I wonder if it’s someone I know (Dad, is that you?), but whatever the case, this mysterious stranger has concocted a fine album of self-assembled industrial klang. A Storm Of Seas often sounds like Jack Bauer waterboarding a cello in the basement of some abandoned factory, with mechanical creaks, percussion echoing through the rafters and small hives of feedback maintaining themselves throughout. I’m reminded of Innercity in the way classic industrial noise is given an orchestral makeover, or perhaps Niellerade Fallibilisthorstar through the constant ambient sense of post-societal decay, as if living organisms are suddenly in short supply. Prince Ratchets, keen recording artist that he is, manages to take all this and shape it into somewhat functional songs, at least in a loose sense of the word… if he needs to remain veiled in shadows to amass such delights, I’m content to let him do his thing.
Question S/T LP (Fashionable Idiots)
Glad to see Fashionable Idiots back at it again, a trustworthy Minneapolis hardcore-punk label that’s been quiet as of late. Question are a great addition to the family, and perhaps the heaviest and most pummeling group to ever appear on the label. They’re got a heavy, propulsive hardcore sound going on, much like Framtid and Kriegshög, where the insane drumming kinda runs the show – I truly wonder how hardcore drummers manage to get this good, where they’re hitting so hard and running through precise little fills nearly every measure. The music is also appropriately blown-out, but not as a means to obscure their lack of ideas or talent so much as a necessary sonic texture for music this raw and steaming. I thought I recognized the snarl of vocalist Saira Huff, and it turns out she also sang in Minneapolis crust institution Detestation. Minneapolis certainly has a rich history when it comes to menacing, crust-influenced hardcore-punk, and Question are one of its finer exports. My only question for Question is, why call your album S/T when you can simply omit a title and the record becomes self-titled as a result? The rest of you can go mosh, I’m gonna sit here and ponder this for a little while.
Rkss Cutoff EP 12″ (Alien Jams)
I was given the hot tip to check out Rkss by some real live British music fans a few months ago, and who am I to ignore a recommendation straight from the source? Alien Jams also released that cool Beatrice Dillon / Karen Gwyer split, and musical scientist Rkss is a fine addition to their interplanetary roster. Rkss (whose legal name I have been unable to uncover) seems to be an experimental hardware technofile, similar in spirit to artists like Vessel and Egyptrixx in their ability to locate previously non-existent sounds and finagle them into beats and tracks. “Cutoff” opens with what sounds like Steph Curry dribbling two basketballs simultaneously in an empty court as a track slowly forms behind it, whereas “Drive” appears as a dishwasher on its last legs, soapsuds oozing onto the floor right before the house party begins. One can’t help but wonder what processes were necessary in order to create these sounds, but before long everyone is moving to the beat and initial inquisitiveness gives way to physical motion. It’s a personal sweet spot for me, where adventurous sound-craft and brain-dead funkiness meet, and I have to wonder if I’ll ever tire of artists like Rkss sharing it.
Sete Star Sept Beast World LP (SPHC)
Sete Star Sept are one of my favorite currently-active noise-core groups today, and I extend my gratitude toward SPHC and whoever else is shelling out their money to ensure that records as grotesque and brutal as Beast World continue to leak into the underground. In case you aren’t aware, they’re a blasting bass/drums duo with two flavors of vocals (guttural or piercing), and their approach is generally (but not always) the same: Napalm Death, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer songs condensed into tiny miniatures that eschew the definition of “music”. Here’s what’s new and exciting about Beast World: firstly, their art received a huge upgrade from the corny horror-Anime style of 2013’s Visceral Tavern thanks to illustrator Rudolfo Da Silva, whose horrific slime-monsters call to mind Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit series, or perhaps Lumpy on an MFA track. The music is a little different too, in that drummer Ryosuke Kiyasu and bassist Kae Takahashi switch instruments for the b-side. The b-side is a bit sloppier and not as heavy, but they make up for the lessened brutality via the minimalist vulgarity of their song titles: “Worthless Piece Of Shit!”, “You Fucking Dick!!!”, “Eat Ass, Jerk!”, “Mother Fucker” and “Jerk Off” are merely the first of twenty-two similarly-titled songs. In the hands of a lesser group, it’d just seem stupid, but I’m sitting here Da Vinci Code-ing myself through these titles, hoping to unlock the secret of life.
S.L.I.P. Slippy When Wet LP (Sorry State)
The Braddock Hit Factory never quits, its latest offering in the form of S.L.I.P.’s debut album. They’re a Pittsburgh-based punk group, fronted by the half-man, half-machine punk Dave Rosenstraus (who appears to be more machine than man in his shirtless back-cover photo), and I have to say, I still can’t believe it’s him on the mic. He’s sung in bands before, but his voice here is that of a snotty teenager on week-long detention duty. It sounds like the voice of a cartoon skater kid, or the semi-affected vocals of Killed By Death classics Peer Pressure, and I still can’t get over it. However he came into this voice, it works well with the rest of the band, who play scrawny, surf n’ turf punk rock, like Agent Orange or Shattered Faith or any of the dozens of bands that shared LP compilation space with them. It’s a little startling to imagine the music of S.L.I.P. coming from anyone above drinking age – these songs carry an anti-authority, bored-in-school attitude so strongly and sincerely, even if the lyrics are occasionally more nuanced (rest assured there are anti-cop, anti-USA, and anti-heroin tunes present). If Peter Panning yourself through a life of hardcore-punk can sound as fun and rambunctious as Slippy When Wet, I may have to pull on some green tights myself.
Submissions Submissions LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Submissions are a heavy post-industrial duo, belching all sorts of smog from their smokestacks on this self-titled debut. They’ve got James Plotkin on mastering and thank Godflesh in the liner notes (for what reason I cannot say), and that offers a fairly reasonable radius for listening to their music. Their drum machine sets a leisurely pace for most of these tracks, with stormy, droning guitars and some sort of hazy swab of vocals permeating the mix as well. I’m reminded of Black Mayonnaise if they were showered and shaved, or a less violent Quttinirpaaq. Godflesh certainly aren’t too far from the mix either, and I’m sure the men of Submissions own at least one lavish gatefold SunnO))) album between the two of them. It’s a style of music I find easy to enjoy, and Submissions keeps things interesting withough feeling antsy or impatient… once they lock into something majestic and sinister, you can rightly expect them to stick with it for a while. I prefer the heavier, more gruesome tracks to the Jesu-ish shoegaze touch they sometimes approach, but either way I am openly accepting Submissions.
SW. Untitled 2xLP (SUED)
An interesting backstory on an artist isn’t lost on me, and reading about SW. has only made me appreciate his music more. Not because of anything crazy (he didn’t live in Antarctica as a teenager, wasn’t a backup dancer for Christina Aguilera), but because everything I’ve read has made it clear how SW. and the rest of the SUED crew simply love music; they constantly seek out grooves for the sole purpose of losing themselves within them, with downplayed / non-existent artwork and a humble aesthetic. I’ve enjoyed previous SW. recordings, and this new double 12″ is an impressive bounty of eclectic house and techno. Many of the tracks here favor authentic drum-kits, working those pristinely-recorded ride cymbals and woodblocks into dazzling rhythms. Much of this album seems to be set within tropical alien landscapes (think bird-calls mixed with horizon-sized synths) but SW. enters an unexpectedly funky territory at times too, most notably with the funk bass guitar and taut disco-edit feel of side C’s opening track. There’s a lot to process over these four sides (although having spent some time recently with Prince Of Denmark’s infinite opus 8 I feel somewhat prepared for the task), but the beauty of SW. and his debut album is the space it gives the listener, to either lock in and focus on all the remarkable subtleties or drift off, allowing the music to inhabit a pleasant background expanse. Doesn’t matter either way to SW., as he’ll be spending endless hours in his little production room no matter who’s checking in or out.
Vexx Wild Hunt 12″ (M’Lady’s / Upset The Rhythm)
I pre-ordered this Vexx 12″ back when the idea of an orange president was scoff-worthy, and now here it finally is. Vexx are undoubtedly one of the most important punk bands of the ’10s, if not for the world for me personally, and this EP reveals their talent as well as offers a few ideas of where they might’ve gone had they not split up (far too early, I’d say). Whereas previous records showed Vexx as a raging punk band capable of disassembling the DNA of a basic riff much like the best early emo bands (I swear there was some strange sense of Clikatat Ikatowi and Moss Icon buried in their musicality and violently sped up), live they were unparalleled, each musician firing on all cylinders while vocalist Maryjane Dunphe put her body on the line like an avant-garde stuntwoman, utilizing interpretive dance the way Iggy used peanut butter. And now, on Wild Hunt, they’re displaying a side I wasn’t expecting: proto-glam metal power-pop played at hyper speeds. Go figure! They’re like the toughest leather band, as if the earliest Judas Priest garage demos were actually performed by Nasty Facts or Screaming Sneakers. Guitarist Michael Liebman is possessed throughout, Corey Rose remains the most interesting (and relentless) American punk drummer, and of course Dunphe is taunting and terminating with her elastic voice, all co-existing on the edge of a total breakdown. I guess they did break down, or at least someone moved to a different city, so while I’ll have to consciously force myself to stop thinking “what if Vexx just kept being a band?”, at least I’ll have the thick grooves of Wild Hunt to wear out.
Warm Bodies Domo 7″ (Neck Chop)
Warm Bodies are another cool Midwestern punk band to pop up (from Missouri, as it is), and Neck Chop got its meaty paws on their Domo cassette, giving it the vinyl treatment to which all cassettes secretly aspire. I have to say, I like what they’re putting down here: rambunctious, splashy punk rock with guitars constantly firing, like one of those modern Nerf guns that has half a dozen foam darts blasting at any given moment. I’m reminded of Vexx thanks to the combo of wildfire guitars and fearlessly emotive vocal yowling, but Warm Bodies don’t seem to be pursuing any higher plane of artistry so much as they’re simply a bunch of goofballs who want to have fun in your basement for fifteen minutes or so. I’m always impressed when bands filled with musicians who display strong technical mastery of their instruments just want to play junky punk rock with their friends, and I really hope Warm Bodies can fight the urges to “mature” their sound or write more complex or difficult songs in order to challenge themselves. I mean, who doesn’t wish Government Issue kept writing Legless Bull a few more times instead of Joyride? Domo is pretty fantastic right where it is.
Hartley C. White & Friends Something Better LP (OSR)
Hartley C. White is a charming, idiosyncratic songwriter, whose previous OSR album slapped me like a wet towel, a stunning refreshment. I’m glad to see he put out a new one, Something Better, which maintains his distinct approach to song-form. He’s aided by various OSR-related personnel here (Zach Phillips and Christina Schneider among others) and they do a fine job of adhering to White’s aesthetic while filling it out and thickening the songs, be it with a jangled ring of keys, a tremolo-ed guitar or some floppy bongos. In case you haven’t already familiarized yourself with White’s music, the tempos of his songs flow with the cadence of his sentences rather than any sort of traditional 4/4 beat. It makes his music sound jittery, jumpy and almost non-musical, more like tuneful Morse code than rock or pop. I’m not sure many other people could pull this off, but White fully inhabits his songs, a style I might envision as Gil Scott-Heron leading Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. Something Better benefits from the inspired instrumentation of White’s friends, which I recommend to anyone wanting to hear songs they most certainly have never heard before.