Artefact Votive Offering LP (Adagio830)
Artefact are a gothy post-punk band out of Wales, and if you’re at all like me, your tolerance for new gothy post-punk bands is running thin – too much flange and reverb and smoke with little backing it up. Thankfully, Artefact make good on the genre with Votive Offering, a rigid and well-balanced album that aspires to match the genre’s early greats. So many groups in this genre strike me as non-committal: they don’t want to give up the basic riffing and distortion of punk rock, they don’t want to go overboard with pop songwriting or tunefulness, they just want the heavy makeup and dour aesthetic to which “goth” lazily equates. Artefact, on the other hand, go full in with their songwriting, essentially eschewing punk from the equation besides its urgency and energy. Vocalist Hannah Saunders doesn’t mask her voice with a wall of echo and a placement deep within the mix; rather, she forcefully sings in a demanding tenor not unlike Keluar’s Alison Lewis. I’m also reminded of Pleasure Leftists in the way the songs coil outward, but Artefact are even less ambiguous in their approach (and the production is as crisp as any Duran Duran EMI single – just listen to “Styx”). I might not throw out my eyeliner after all!

Black Abba Lost Dog 7″ (Total Punk)
I haven’t yet figured out the significance of the name “Black Abba” (besides the inherent Black Sabbath gag?) but I’m not sure that I have to in order to get into their belligerent synth-punk. Their form of music is decidedly “so easy that any idiot could play it”, which is almost always how I prefer my punk rock to be. “Lost Dog” seems to be about cocaine or poor life choices (or both) and it’s a one-and-a-half note jangler guided by a bloopy thrift-store synth, all of which recalls vintage Le Shok. So many tried, but so few have it… Black Abba have it! “The Manager” has a similar vibe, less hurried than “Lost Dog” and full of vitriol aimed at anyone who might dare to attempt to help Black Abba become more professional or popular (and rightly so). Multiple band members are singing the same words, which really makes it feel like the entire band is ready to kick your butt, not just the lead singer. It’s a rare group that prints lyrics on their Total Punk 7″ insert, but I appreciate the gesture… I need to see if their debut EP on Goner is floating around anywhere. What good are used 7″ bins if not for finding records like that, or someday, this?

Borzoi Surrender The Farm 7″ (12XU)
The sheer number of guitar bands that continue to sprout in Austin, TX is overwhelming – it’s almost no longer a descriptor that offers much specificity, like I might as well say they hail from Earth. Maybe we need to split it into North Austin and South Austin, or maybe East Of Nueces Street / West Of Nueces Street? Whatever the case, I’m glad that town is pumping out such fine crap, like this new four-song EP by Borzoi. They play a mangy form of post-punky garage-rock, equipped with a nimble heaviness and plenty of dirt under the nails. There’s no confusing their rough-and-tumble punk with noise or no-wave, and yet I feel like subtle hints of Sightings, Liars and Harvey Milk creep through, in a most pleasant way. Borzoi run through a variety of tempos and moods on these four tracks, from inebriated and confused to spastic and scared, all of which suit these three young men nicely. They also do that thing where they take an old picture of random people out of a history book and then use it as their band photo, listing their names and instruments beneath. Classic move.

Burning Itch Intergalactic Ass Hat LP (Heel Turn)
It just occurred to me – is the band name a play on Burning Witch? Probably not, as I doubt these punk-rock goofballs think about anything more sophisticated than the limited-edition Doritos flavor they plan on cozying up to later in the evening. I mean, the four of them agreed on the title Intergalactic Ass Hat, although technically vocalist / guitarist Ian Lawrence performed all the music on this record himself (couldn’t fit more than one person in the studio?) so maybe it was just an awful surprise to the rest of the group. Anyway, they (or should I say, he) play(s) a fun and bouncy form of punk rock, the sort of thing that feels strongly informed by the classic white-guy first-wave (Dead Boys, Vibrators, New York Dolls, etc.), but also touches upon the ’90s pop-punk that worked under similar influence (The Briefs, Mr. T Experience, hell even The Riverdales) and the most recent garage-y pop wave of which Jay Reatard will forever be king. It’s a very easy listen, and although Lawrence’s vocals are coated in a crisp layer of distortion, he’s got a solid range and a compelling “crazy party punk” approach that only a true fun-hater could fully dismiss. Intergalactic Ass Hat is fairly interchangeable for the genre: don’t expect any surprises, good or bad, to disrupt the good time – they didn’t even bother to bust out a zany synth solo, as bands of this ilk often like to do. I just wish I could’ve been there when Lawrence explained to his mom what an “ass hat” is.

CVX Zibaldone I Of CVX 12″ (Laura Lies In)
Don’t let the ho-hum acronym allow you to skim past this review, because this CVX EP is probably my favorite of the month! It’s a moniker chosen by Rupert Clervaux, whose work with Beatrice Dillon I’ve heartily enjoyed, and it turns out that Dillon wasn’t carrying all the creative weight in that partnership. For CVX, the traditional rules don’t apply, which makes for a stunningly singular-minded EP. There are brief spoken word passages to open each side (and occasionally throughout), as well as some tasteful sax on the second cut and a xylophone moment that recalls Ken Nordine’s Word Jazz on the flip, but the heart of Zibaldone I Of CVX is percussion, presumably live drums (or at least initially live before some subtle production tricks were applied) that whip up some beautiful and intricate grooves – it feels about as “free” as organized rhythms can be. They are sharp and detailed, as if a Han Bennink record was edited for Shackleton’s playbook. Synths and samples work within the shadows, and the whole thing is just so masterfully delivered (and without obvious musical peer) that I simply can’t stop spinning it. If you ever wished the untethered spirit of ESP Disk would seep its way into experimental techno’s groundwater, look no further, friend.

Darkest Hour Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora LP (Southern Lord)
I would’ve never guessed that Darkest Hour were still a band – I clearly recall the ads for their Art Monk Construction CDs in Punk Planet and the Very distribution catalog (the singer was wearing a (frontwards) baseball cap low on his forehead) and apparently they’re still going strong over two decades later. I get the impression there are few original members remaining, but the one thing you can’t instantly achieve in today’s underground is an established name, so I understand Darkest Hour’s desire to still exist, even if far removed from its original form. They’ve certainly got their sound down at this point, somewhere between late ’90s Converge and Cave In (before they went emo-prog), metal-core that leans heavily on the metal side of the spectrum, expertly written and produced and utterly devoid of surprises or quirks. Godless Prophets is their tenth album, and by that point most metal groups have either totally watered down their sound or ventured down a different path entirely, but Darkest Hour retain the classic Hydra Head sound – as I listen, I can picture their professional-grade drum and amp cases with their band logo spraypainted on them being loaded into a club for soundcheck, metal built from experience and repetition. They made it to Southern Lord, lead American arbiter of all things metallic, so good for them!

Device Control Device Control 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
L.I.E.S. continues to be one of the most trusted names in American underground techno (and techno’s various offshoots), and while I’ve been enjoying a bunch of the label’s recent crop, this Device Control EP has me stomping my feet and dislocating my shoulders more than the rest. Not sure if you’re like me and recently went back to the Wax Trax! and TVT catalogs in hopes of finding some deep cuts that sound fresh for 2017, only to find out that Revolting Cocks use Seinfeld bass, but this Device Control 12″ makes up for things by rewriting history exactly as I wish it’d happened. This is definitely industrial synth-pop circa 1990 with the poorly-aging aspects removed and replaced with a cunning sleekness and modern efficiency. “Most People” sets the tone immediately, a persistent New Beat thump with a randomized arpeggio that perfectly communicates fear alongside various sampled sounds of angry crowds and authoritarian leaders. “Lexington King” and “Damaged” feel like Beau Wanzer if he ever bothered to shower and brush his teeth – taut industrial rhythms wheeze and sputter much to my delight, as punchy as anyone’s favorite Portion Control track but never too noisy. Same goes for “Pit Dynamics” (how is this not a Trapped Under Ice song title?), which scratches out various CPU processes in a language I do not understand. Exciting debut!

The Dogs Slash Your Face 7″ (Last Laugh)
I feel a pathetically smug sense of satisfaction when a classic reissue rolls in and I already own the original (collecting records is one of the least sympathetic mental illnesses a person can have), but this Dogs 7″ is just taunting me – I’ve wanted it for years, and the timing has just never been right for me to scrape up three hundred dollars (or probably more, at this point) and finally bring one home. In case you haven’t heard it, by all means, pull it up on YouTube with the quickness, or if you’re feeling particularly consumery, send some well-concealed cash to Last Laugh pronto. “Slash Your Face” is an undeniable punk rock classic, the sort of song that even the most stingy snob will agree stands shoulder-to-shoulder with The Stooges or Black Flag. “Fed Up” and “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?” are nearly as potent, combining caveman proto-punk riffs (think Blue Cheer) with wild punk energy (think Dead Boys), and amazingly, it was all recorded in front of a live audience. How they managed to be so raging and execute it perfectly (and capture the sound so crisply!) I’ll never know, but I’m still willing to pay hundreds of dollars to claim the original artifact as my own. Thanks for the reminder, Last Laugh.

Dreamdecay LP (Iron Lung)
Seattle’s Dreamdecay are back, four years after their debut Iron Lung full-length with its followup, . I haven’t listened to the first recently, but I remember it being a pretty heavy, long-form take on psych-rock and industrial in a hardcore-punk context, with lengthy tunes and colorful garbage on the cover. Nice to hear them once more, this time with a wider palate of influences and a stronger hand with which to use them. Sure, their core is still heavy, drone- and dirge-based rock, but they reach a little deeper into their record collections this time around, finding ways to fit the early experimentalism of Sonic Youth, the acid-burnt country of Meat Puppets and the devotional intensity of kraut-rock’s guitar-driven end (think Ash Ra Tempel or Agitation Free) into their sound. They do a fine job with it too, as their extended intros, synth-laden interludes and other unexpected digressions always mesh with their meaty core, full of Mayyors riffs and Swans toughness. Dreamdecay clearly have gotten bored with the “cover it all in noise” aesthetic that can initially be such a satisfying pursuit, injecting a bit of melody in their songs – the last track, “ARC”, could easily sneak onto a Spacemen 3 or Loop record without immediately being detected. After the pleasant, trippy haze of , I might have to go soak myself in some Pig Heart Transplant records to remind myself that the world is cruel.

Fallbeil Immun EP 12″ (Hafenschlamm)
Can’t quite remember how I stumbled upon Fallbeil, but there were too many recent 12″s coming out by this artist for me to not snag one. They’re a German duo and, generally speaking, they take the minimal-industrial vibe of Galakthorrö and sculpt it into something people can rap over. Not a bad idea, and this Immun EP showcases a few of those concepts. It opens with a beat rapped over by Sensational, whose direct delivery and lukewarm tone doesn’t do much for me, and it’s followed by a very similar beat that Miss Hawaii raps on, if you want to call it rapping – more like rude babbling, which is much more up my alley. The rest of the EP is instrumental, and while I probably would’ve preferred to hear Miss Hawaii’s manic voice over all of it, the productions are increasingly intriguing. “No Overtaking” sounds like a mix of M Ax Noi Mach and Mammal with robotic TV-static vocals, and “Increasing Action” feels like something Kyle Hall would’ve spray-painted as a teenager. “Black Snow” might be my favorite, an Ekman-styled nerve ending (that also has me thinking of Kyle Hall’s Wild Oats label), but it’s followed by the ninety-second “Game Over”, a rhythmless burst of ogre vocals that I wish was its own separate EP (or triple LP gatefold) for me to enjoy. Hard to get a firm grasp on Fallbeil, but I intend to keep trying.

Firing Squad At Their Mercy EP 7″ (Agitate)
Firing Squad are a new-ish Richmond hardcore band, and they play meat-and-potatoes hardcore with a heartiness that others lack – they’re coming correct with some Grade A sirloin and non-GMO Yukon Golds. They use mean, heard-em-before riffs and push things forward with gruffly barked vocals that call to mind Wasted Time or perhaps even Doom. At first I thought the cover art of a non-specific evil general dropping a bomb on some skulls was a Matthew Bellosi rip, but then I checked the insert and saw that Bellosi lent his distinct style to Firing Squad for the cover (always a nice choice). Lyrics take aim at jerks, losers and society, as hardcore-punk lyrics are wont to do, and none of these six songs deviate from fast, pounding hardcore. I can’t quite put my finger on why, maybe it’s just the sum of their parts, but I find Firing Squad’s debut EP to be highly enjoyable, a hardcore record that never lags or has my mind drifting, wondering if Wolf Eyes posted anything funny on Instagram lately. It’s a fine line between mediocre redundancy and a wholly satisfying re-invention of the wheel when this form of traditional hardcore is at stake, and Firing Squad just do it for me, what can I say.

John T. Gast Overseer 12″ (Apron)
Mr. Gast entered my radar with his cool collaborative 7″ with Inga Copeland, and seeing as Steven Julien’s appealing Apron label dropped this one-sided, one-track 12″ EP, how could I be expected to resist? Glad I didn’t, as Gast conjures a bleary-eyed form of repetitive tech-house here that I find highly appealing. “Overseer” seems to start not at its beginning but sometime after, as if we are merely permitted a brief engagement with this infinite beat. It’s a great rhythm to set on endless repeat, with stuttering snares, a synth that ebbs and flows in the background and various aggro percussive spots, offering just enough variance to feel like a track that is actively managed versus a sonic screensaver. Over it, Gast recites a list of what might be ancient holidays, or myths, or rituals, glumly reading through a Santa-sized list as though it was his job and he just found out layoffs were coming. It’s a great deadpan, and not the first time I’ve wanted to pump my fist along to a disaffected British man’s voice. Seems like Gast is getting busier with releases lately, and I for one look forward to following along.

Manateees Superman Dam Fool LP (Blak Skul)
I didn’t realize that Memphis’s Manateees had released enough singles to qualify for an LP collection, and I bet you didn’t either! They’re a gruff, bare-bones garage-punk trio with releases via Total Punk, Goodbye Boozy and Goner, to name but a few, and this compiles five of them, in an appropriately mixed-up, occasionally-slightly-differently-mixed fashion. I have heard at least one of these singles before, but it didn’t stick with me, and I’m remembering why: Manatees play basic, familiar riffs alongside hoarsely barked vocals. They’re not a dynamic group, and the stuffy recording really hits that point home, leaving me feeling more fatigued than ready-to-riot. Still, I’m not trying to hate on Manateees, as whatever they lack in sonic capability they make up for in bad attitude and stale cigarette smell – a track like “Wolf Creek”, taken on its own and not in the middle of a slog through similar-toned mid-fi garage-rock gets a thumbs up, sounding like Watery Love were they a Headache Records group. Not sure what kinda modern garage-punk fan is into Manateees enough that they want to buy a singles collection, but not enough that they don’t already own the singles, but wherever that person may be, their time has come.

Mordecai Abstract Recipe LP (Richie)
This is at least Mordecai’s fourth album, depending on whether or not you acknowledge tapes (or even worse, live tapes) as albums, and it feels like they’re more comfortable than ever in their unlaundered slacks. Their songs come in somewhat interchangeable shapes of modest and nimble college-rock (also the title of an earlier record), more like general ideas than composed music, which is a nice way to approach such a casual sound. Often, Mordecai sound like they’d come in last in a footrace with the Flying Nun roster, completely content to avoid any sort of competitive participation. Very pleasant stuff, made notable by vocalist Holt Bodish’s vocal style, which is about as commonplace as his name – Bodish’s tone sounds less like a rock front-person and more like a hostage pleading to his captors in hopes of having his life spared. His words come out with a wince (and a subtle British accent?), and they are just the right spice for an otherwise shambolic and standard rock thing that is content to exist without concern for whom it might or might not be entertaining. I’m entertained, at least!

Mothercountry Motherfuckers Confidential Human Source LP (Clean Plate / Empyre)
Mothercountry Motherfuckers’ debut and sole LP is a posthumous release for founding member Sarah Kirsch, whose presence in the seminal emo / hardcore scene can’t be understated (John Henry West, Bread & Circuits, Torches To Rome to name my personal favorites). Half of Ebullition’s discography wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Kirsch, and while her untimely passing is tragic, Confidential Human Source is a vital, glorious eulogy. In a way, it’s a culmination of the Ebullition sound: righteous politics at the forefront, frantic emo-core riffing with a melodic underpinning, passionately screamed vocals, as well as snarky costuming, dripping sarcasm and hilarious self-mythologizing. These songs are streamlined and unique, recalling plenty of Kirsch’s previous groups, but I’m also hearing the catchy hooks of Kid Dynamite and Hot Water Music mixed with the early Gravity Records sound, hardcore that is compulsively moving forward with an excess of energy. The tunes are interwoven with a variety of strange samples and sonic think-pieces, which call to mind In/Humanity, Uranium Club and even No Less (although Mothercountry Motherfuckers aren’t as overtly enamored with weed and gangsta rap). Even if you’re “over” sincere hardcore and just want to listen to glue-sniffing mongoloids club each other with chains, Mothercountry Motherfuckers are an undeniable force, in life and in death.

Overmono Arla II 12″ (XL Recordings)
Overmono is the combined effort of brothers Tom and Ed Russell, who produce separately as Truss and Tessela (and perhaps will continue to do so), and I dunno about you, but there will always be a special place in my heart for techno siblings. Overmono is a nice fit for XL then, in that these guys already have plenty of experience, and that the sounds of Overmono are perfectly on-time for contemporary electronic dance followers. Opener “O-Coast” sets the tone nicely, with an angelic arpeggio and plenty of sonic interference, building a groove that nods to the more experimental end of things (I’m thinking the PAN label and Oneohtrix Point Never) while maintaining a club-friendly vibe. “Telephax 030” mashes an unlikely sample into an icy groove, the sort of recontextualization one might expect from Actress, whereas “16 Steps” feels like Powell remixing Muslimgauze with its insistent pace and choppy samples. I’m sure the Diagonal label isn’t far from Overmono’s range of interest, as the half-minute “Concorde” follows with a sinister riff right from Not Waving’s playbook, along with a few Powell-ish moments throughout. A lot of modern references here, and that’s because Overmono sounds distinctly modern, where practically every interesting or pleasurable idea from the early ’90s through the present is stirred up and strained by Overmono’s capable hands. Painful as it is, I’d rather look to the future anyway – at least Overmono will be making cool records like this.

Phew Light Sleep LP (Mesh-Key)
Here’s an unexpected delight – a vinyl LP by Hiromi Moritani under her longstanding Phew moniker. She was in the bizarre post-punk group Aunt Sally back in the late ’70s (I still need that LP!), and has been producing music on her own as Phew essentially ever since, taking years off between albums, dropping a handful of CD-rs here and there, just doing whatever she feels like, which of course is the best way for any artist to release music. One might think that a few decades would dull one’s experimental or progressive mindset, but not so with Phew – this record sounds as crucially weird as anything on the Vanity Records label (one of my personal all-time favorites) and as fresh (probably fresher) as any other artist working drum machines, synths and vocals to experimental post-punk ends. Most tracks are based around a particular rhythm-box pulse and enhanced with wavering synths and Moritani’s quizzical vocals, often delivered conversationally or with a sense of confusion, but there’s also a sense of widescreen ambient beauty behind it – it’s like the majesty of electronic Krautrock fused with the beats of early Culturcide or Minimal Man. Suicide and Sympathy Nervous jump out at me as reference points too, as much of Light Sleep is soaked in the excitement and wonder of the early synth-based groups who preferred stark minimalism over overloaded pop, but Phew clearly mines her own territory, not that of her peers (past or present). I’m already holding this album dear to my heart – we’ve barely just met but it already seems so right.

Pierre & Bastien Musique Grecque LP (SDZ)
SDZ is a great French label, responsible for certain artists I doubt I would’ve heard otherwise (Le Villejuif Underground, El-G, and Drosofile to name a few), and as the label switches from nihilistic post-punk to electronic weirdness with ease, I wasn’t sure what Pierre & Bastien were offering. Perhaps that’s why I’m a little let down by Musique Grecque, as it’s a very basic punk album, as thought it were some sort of pre-loaded template. The music features downpicked, back-and-forth alternating chords in the Ramones tradition, with vocals that are also fairly Joey Ramone-ish, although I’m also hearing a bit of Clorox Girls in certain vowel pronunciations. The riffs are a little more unfriendly than your average Ramones selection, however, which has me thinking of mid-’90s Lookout! obscurities like The Hi-Fives and The Smugglers, or perhaps, dare I say, The Wipers (check “Accessoire”, a particularly mean-mugging cut, and tell me if you agree). For what it is, there’s really nothing to complain about, as Pierre & Bastien don’t do the genre any harm, nor do they mishandle minimal punk rock in any way. I’m just used to coming to SDZ for some previously undiscovered interpretation of underground punk music, so it’s really my problem, not Pierre & Bastien’s.

Playboy Celebration 12″ (Negative Jazz)
Very cool release from the always tasty Negative Jazz label, presumably a modern band called Playboy. (You can always tell the modern punk bands from the reissued ones – the reissued bands actually have liner notes or basic band information.) Lots of bands are compared to Flipper these days, usually fairly inaccurately if you ask me, but Playboy carry Flipper’s torch with pride and zest. Pretty sure there’s no guitar, just bass, drums, a synth or two, and someone skronking on a horn, and the riffs have the sort of bouncy, weirdly-happy progressions of a “Way Of The World” or “Shed No Tears”. The bass has a thick warble to recall Church Police, and the vocalist gives plenty of room for the band to jam, as if these four tracks don’t come with fixed lengths, they simply expire when all of the band members look at each other and someone gives a nod. “The Weather” stomps like Gary Wrong but is far more psychedelic than noisy, and “The Outside” is so slow and exhausted, as if Cyanamid’s “Stop The World” was covered by some Residents side-project for a Ralph Records compilation sampler. Celebration really hits all the right notes for me, and as far as modern agitated dirge-punk psychedelia is concerned, they’re a frontrunner.

Quietus Volume Three LP (Ever/Never)
Quietus, eh? They should do a split with a band called Fact Mag! Online journalism jokes aside, they’re an understated group out of New York City, offering a very grown-up form of rock, indebted to both smoky indie-rock and classic troubadour blues-song. An American Bad Seeds is a more succinct way to put it, the sort of music one gravitates toward post-divorce and post-inebriation, when you have the clarity to look back at your younger failings and hopefully learn to not repeat some of them. The perfect record for stroking your beard, right as you first notice that it’s half grey. Moments of slow-motion groove have me thinking of The Black Heart Procession or Pleasure Forever, but Quietus aren’t cloyingly sad or overtly goth – they’re probably closer to the spooky Western style of Angel Olsen in the way that they conjure loss and discontent with cinematic grace. At their most impassioned, I’m picking up a Jonathan Fire*Eater vibe, which is nice. Definitely the sort of group you might reach for when hoping to establish a mood in the room (one of woebegone Manhattanite coolness), rather than something you’d intently follow or sing along with, but records like these certainly have their place in any sophisticated record closet.

Reptile Ranch Reptile Ranch LP (C/Site)
I know what you’ve been thinking: all these UK DIY reissues are nice, but when are Reptile Ranch getting their due? Fear not, Connecticut’s C/Site put together a dapper LP collection of Reptile Ranch’s two singles, comp tracks and unreleased live tracks, and it’s a smash. I’ve enjoyed Reptile Ranch’s Animal Noises EP for years, but hadn’t heard them beyond that, and this LP illuminates their abilities to sound both primitive and sophisticated, often in the same song. Reptile Ranch came from the same scene as Scritti Polliti and Young Marble Giants (Cardiff, to be precise), and their songs display a strong interest in melody, mood and nuance – while I certainly enjoy groups of this era who recorded music before learning how to play any of it, Reptile Ranch are not one of them. Often drumless, the guitars are forced to maintain the rhythm, usually looping through unfamiliar riffs but never overly discordant or abrasive. I’m reminded of Desperate Bicycles and Dry Rib, if we’re talking contemporaries, in the way that Reptile Ranch seem to be more interested in discovering their own form of proggy low-budget pop than sending up the Sex Pistols. With the modern-day ease of laptop recordings and Bandcamp dispersal, I hope some of today’s unknown bands are putting as much thought and artistry into their music as Reptile Ranch did way back when.

Soggy Creep Shallow Drownings LP (Conditions)
Quite appropriately, Soggy Creep hail from Olympia, WA – were they a Tempe, AZ group, I would’ve expected them to go by Arid Creep. They seem downright morbid via the images of bathtub death prominently featured on the cover, like a PG-13 version of an Unsane album, and while there’s plenty of gloom here, they mostly hold back on the doom. I’d describe their music as moody, melodic goth-punk, somewhere between the darker, edgy post-hardcore punk of Southern California circa ’83 and, I dunno, Interpol? Interestingly, rather than finding a mopey Frankenstein to deeply intone his or her words over the music, lead vocalist Anthony Putas sings in what I can only describe as a Epi-Fat sneer, vocals that remind me of the main dudes in No Use For A Name and Propagandhi. I wasn’t so sure of this approach at first, perhaps longing for the cold comfort of another Ian Curtis impersonator, but once I settled into Soggy Creep’s sound, the odd combination of snotty pop-punk vocals and brooding post-punk music isn’t as strange as I initially thought. At six tracks, they don’t overstay their welcome, and I can’t help but wonder if the reverse would work just as well: Lagwagon instrumentals with Haus Arafna vocals. I’m gonna go with yes.

So Stressed PC Duster 7″ (Ghost Ramp)
The band is So Stressed and the single is titled PC Duster, although it took a little online verification to figure it out, as the cover only says PC Duster on each side. I swear, it’s like you can’t release a 7″ in 2017 without some significant obfuscation, as if it’s necessary to transmit a sentiment like “we released a 7″ but we all realize 7″s are obsolete tokens that we don’t actually expect anyone to notice”. Am I taking it too far? Maybe, but at least the music of So Stressed is direct and easy to understand. “Hype Sticker” is a flailing post-hardcore jab, not far from Pinkwash or Metz but with a lot of sideways action, not just up-and-down pummel. The vocalist seems to completely empty his lungs with every scream, so whatever “Hype Sticker” is about he clearly means it. They slow their churn on the b-side “Shaved Fades”, which reminds me of Roomrunner in the way that heavy guitars and winking attitude give ’90s alt-rock a much-needed makeover. Even as it’s somewhat tuneful, the chorus of “don’t wanna get to know you” insists on being rudely punk. Looks like So Stressed has an album that just came out, I wonder if they bothered to write their name on that one!

Stromboli Volume Uno LP (Maple Death)
Yep, a grim Italian noise artist going by the name of “Stromboli”… I’m imagining a world where Throbbing Gristle decided to call themselves “Fish & Chips” instead. Much like an actual stromboli, Stromboli folds numerous layers of sonic harshness into his music, keeping the heat on high even after a boil has been reached. Harsh loops reminiscent of Maurizio Bianchi, Demdike Stare and Esplendor Geométrico are abundant, often starting with a slow seethe and eventually overloaded. Stromboli’s music pumps out like a smoke machine with no off switch, eventually resulting in a sweet form of suffocation. I assume synths are mostly at play here, but who’s really to say, as certain tracks play with harsh noise as the main element, occasionally picking at their crust until some form of inner-beauty is revealed – high points call to mind what Fennesz remixing The Rita might sound like. Nothing groundbreaking, but Volume Uno is quite enjoyable all the same for anyone who finds beauty in decay and peace in loud, bassy distortion. It’s making me pretty darn hungry, at least.

Sumerlands Sumerlands LP (Relapse)
Even if you’ve been living in a nuclear bunker the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard something touched by the hand of Arthur Rizk, metal impresario responsible for producing the newest Power Trip, the Prurient album where he plays rocks, the last Inquisition album, and as I’m ethically obligated to tell you, my own damn group’s last album (I promised to pay him in free Yellow Green Red advertising; hope this counts!). He’s in a million bands – I certainly can’t keep track, but Sumerlands is his “baby”, an idealized project of classic power-metal that is now a reality. Sumerlands’ music is extremely mid-paced, somewhere within the general landscape of Ozzy Osbourne solo albums, Armored Saint, Manilla Road, etc., although I’m sure Rizk would scoff at my pose-dog references were he ever to ever read this. The opening track, “The Seventh Seal”, starts with a brutally Van Halen-esque riff, and moves to “The Guardian” – each song title might as well be the name of a different metal band, and that’s really the way to do it. I’m reminded of a pitched-down Helloween at times too, thanks in part to the vocals of Phil Swanson, whose underground metal pedigree and confident mid-range completes the Sumerlands package. I don’t sit around with a lot of metal, in case you haven’t noticed, but I’m perfectly content to allow Rizk and the gang to distill hundreds of great albums into the artisanally-crafted half hour that is Sumerlands.

SW. Extended Mix / Beat Mix 12″ (SUED)
Were you expecting a new SW. EP to follow his debut album so quickly? I wasn’t! I think I’m only starting to comprehend the luxurious depth of the SW. full length, but I still cook dinner at least a few nights a week and need something sprawling and smooth like this to help me prep, so I’m thankful just the same. “Extended Mix” isn’t kidding, as it’s fourteen minutes of opulent deep house, with the sense that it was crafted through the joy of spontaneous performance as opposed to precise post-production editing. A wavy synth recalls Newworldaquarium as various percussive motifs pass through, like a busy city sidewalk where each pedestrian is in fact a drum loop. It feels like SW. appreciates these sounds as a listener just as much as their creator, and the admiration is contagious. The title “Beat Mix” might have you expecting something a bit more pummeling (if only the song title had “featuring Rob Gee” appended at the end, my dream would be realized), but it’s just a hair more energetic than the a-side, with a Brazilian rhythm underpinning various synthetic sensations, resulting in a track just as suitable for trampolining as sinking into an oversized beanbag chair. I hope SW. never leaves his room!

Bjørn Torske & DJ Sotofett Høst 12″ (Sex Tags Mania)
It’s important that I keep up with not only DJ Sotofett but the Sex Tags Mania label as well, two of the finest options for Swedish deep house; this new 12″ checked both boxes so I had no choice but to peep. Very effortless displays of communal percussion and space echo here, the perfect soundtrack to grilling some gravlax by the pool or however they throw a proper gathering in Sweden. Probably some weed, too? The a-side is a DJ Sotofett mix of “Høst”, originally a Bjørn Torske track, and it is often no more than disco drums, hand percussion and mixing board effects – what else do you need? The occasional synth will squirt its greasy condiment over the beat every now and then, but this is eleven solid minutes of warm and easy-going grooves. DJ Sotofett holds down “Version” on the flip, which is more great bongo action, this time alongside the soothing Rhodes chords of Jens Wohlrab. It gets a little spacey, particularly as Wohlrab examines the various recesses of his mind via clusters of notes and melodies… definitely an after-after-party vibe here, at the point where most people have gone home or passed out but Sotofett still can’t be pulled away from his timbales and bongos. Long may he drum!