Bananagun Out Of Reach 7″ (Anti Fade)
Ooh la la, here’s the second single from Melbourne’s most fashionable freak-beaters, Bananagun, featuring a cut off their upcoming debut full-length. They’re a relatively new band (these are only their third and fourth songs to be released), but they are clearly going for it: I count one manager, four press contacts and two booking agents among the contacts listed on their Facebook page. It’s a deep squad of employees for this group, but I can’t say I don’t understand why, as Bananagun have a slick and warm sound that will easily appeal to people of all ages. They tear pages from some pretty popular books – Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Cornelius, Beck, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Os Mutantes – and condense it into highly palatable pop tunes, not entirely unique but certainly unique enough. “Out Of Reach” might be their best tune yet… it’s an upbeat jam that pops into shape care of some breakbeat drumming, flutes, an earworm vocal melody and the finest bongos I’ve heard on an indie record since I don’t know when. “Takosubo” is the 7″ exclusive, an airy and funky b-side that reclines nicely. Essentially an instrumental (group vocals pop up during the infrequent chorus), it showcases the group jamming on piano and flute, in-the-pocket drumming and sunshiney bass. It clarifies the situation nicely: whereas other groups might try their hand at psychedelic Afrobeat yé-yé bubblegum garage on a lark, Bananagum seem to be constructed for that very task.

The Bedrooms Passive Viewing LP (Domestic Departure)
Life in Portland, OR isn’t all novelty donuts and vegan strip-clubs, you know: there’s plenty of bad weather and ample time to spend indoors, dwelling on things that make us sad. At least that’s the vibe I get from the super-serious melodic post-punk sounds of The Bedrooms. While the beat is usually punchy and buoyant, the chiming guitars and stern vocals offer forbidding proclamations of heartbreak and malaise, no matter how limber and funky the bass might be. I pity any audience member who is caught goofing off during a Bedrooms’ set, as I can easily imagine vocalist Jen Cobridge freezing them to death with a focused stare. I’m reminded of goth-y New Romantic groups like The Names and The Church, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Savages, Joy Division of course, and maybe even the final (for the time being?) Dum Dum Girls material. For a band clearly operating on a DIY / community-based level (as opposed to a multi-album deal with Factory), they’re quite professional, at least in the way that they are all talented players and recorded Passive Viewing with power and clarity. The Bedrooms are serious, and it suits them!

Leila Bordreuil, Bill Nace & Tamio Shiraishi Live At Pageant Soloveev LP (Open Mouth)
The Open Mouth “Live” series has been satisfying thus far, but here’s a particularly tasty trio: drone cellist Leila Bordreuil, guitar illusionist Bill Nace and sax squealer Tamio Shiraishi (of none other than Fushitsusha!). Pageant Soloveev is roughly a five-minute walk from my pad (and a pleasant walk at that), and yet I somehow wasn’t in attendance for this performance last August, probably because I figured live music would still exist in a year’s time. Foolish me, but I’m glad to experience their set now, which traverses various sonic terrains, all of which are pretty gnarly. Opening with a creeping drone of cello and guitar, it’s not long before Shiraishi steps up, his alto sax like an unattended tea kettle on the stove, begging for release. That piercing whistle is his primary zone, and he plays around within those eardrum-popping frequencies as Nace and Bordreuil solemnly stack their mud bricks beneath him, at least until they violently demolish the whole thing toward the end of the first side. Did Nace accidentally glance at a portrait of Greg Ginn or something? He’s the razor-edged swatter that’s trying to smash Shiraishi’s fly, whereas Bordreuil’s trying to suffocate them both in her unfiltered molasses. The b-side starts like the tense quiet after a blowout fight, eventually kicking up into a dust storm that leaves every tabletop object overturned and back again. A potent reminder to never skip out on mind-exploding improvised sound when it’s lurking in your neighborhood.

CB Radio Gorgeous CB Radio Gorgeous 7″ (Thrilling Living / Not Normal Tapes)
Been awaiting the arrival of some CB Radio Gorgeous wax for a couple years now, but sometimes it’s nice to actually feel anticipation and then eventually get something and it rocks. That’s the case for this four-song EP, which showcases the punk expertise of this Chicago group. They’ve got a pretty contemporary sound – jittery clean-guitar punk played a little faster than it should be – and the right personnel to make it click. Drummer Joe Seger comes from C.C.T.V. and Big Zit (to name but two prior groups), and his speedy playing is a godsend, wiling out all over the kit and providing the punch to these choppy and energetic tunes. In a style that seems at least a little indebted to Olivia Gibb of Warm Bodies (and going back to the OG source, Su Tissue), Anna Kinderman yips and yaps across the music, extending syllables with a theatrical flair and generally ignoring the hard work the rest of the band is putting in to keep things airtight, much to my enjoyment. What good is a punk singer if they aren’t constantly trying to screw up the rest of the band? File next to Vivienne Styg, Fried E/M and P22 in the category of “best new punk vinyl of 2020”!

Choir Boy Gathering Swans LP (Dais)
On paper, I shouldn’t gravitate toward this band: another retro synth-pop group, one with kind of a dorky name even, on Dais. And yet, here I am professing my fandom! Whereas many of their contemporaries seem to seek out a safely bland sound and feel through the same generic set of goth or vaguely-goth signifiers and affectations, Choir Boy has its own unique equation, easily spotted in a crowded batcave. I suppose much of that falls on the singer, Adam Klopp, of whom the band is apparently named (a mocking childhood insult turned band name, I believe). First of all, he looks like a miniature Jared Leto (it’s nearly uncanny!), and he insists on appearing on both Choir Boy album covers to date in sorta-sloppy Halloween costumes, a far cry from the super-serious, nothing-is-or-can-ever-be-humorous attitude displayed by many of Choir Boy’s contemporary synth-wavers. There’s nothing sloppy about Klopp’s voice, though, which sounds as if someone is lampooning Morrissey and accidentally out-maneuvering him in the process, his melodies dipping down and then rocketing up in a single phrase. It’s a little ridiculous, but that’s also what makes the group so notable and occasionally even captivating – Klopp is naturally talented and completely committed to being the most audacious singer around, and it works marvelously. These songs also benefit from a move toward more “adult-pop” sounds, mixing the eclectic instrumentation and emotive pull of Talk Talk and The Blue Nile with the airbrushed sheen of Duran Duran and the studious synth moves of Cold Showers rather than just sounding like some Bauhaus dance remix. If you can’t already tell, I’m impressed!

The Cowboys Room Of Clons LP (Feel It)
Soon as I get my new band “The Cowboy(s)” off the ground (the s is silent, we’re pretty arty), I’m sending a copy of our demo to the good people at Feel It. I have a feeling they might be interested! In the meantime, The Cowboys are keeping the label busy, and this new one (their hundredth?) finds them at their most distinctive – simultaneously inexplicably weird and classically guitar pop-centric – which suits them wonderfully. On the few faster tunes, I’m hearing similarities to Uranium Club, with unsettlingly-friendly game-show-host vocals and zany guitar licks, a sonic interpretation of that meme where a cartoon dog is drinking coffee in a burning building and saying “this is fine”. Those are the outliers on Room Of Clons, though, as the album more frequently digs into the street-view psychedelic pop of Syd Barrett and the eloquent rock mastery of The Kinks. And then there’s “The Beige Collection”, which sounds like a nerdy version of the biggest alt-rock hit The Killers never wrote, an odd musical triumph smushed between one song that sounds like Hubble Bubble and another that sounds like The Olivia Tremor Control (and prominently features kazoo). As the label’s promotional sticker says, it’s an ambitious album for sure, but these wild, nutty songs are great, and The Cowboys know exactly how to play ’em. I’m not sure if they walk around wearing colorful top-hats and animal-print bow-ties, but after releasing Room Of Clons, they’ve certainly earned the right.

Sam Gendel Satin Doll LP (Nonesuch)
2018’s Music For Saxofone & Bass Guitar really walloped me over the head, a disorienting concoction of experimental jazz, new-age weirdness and minimal electronics by Sam Wilkes and Sam Gendel that was unlike anything I had previously heard. Since then they seem to have blown up a bit (original vinyl copies of the aforementioned record have reached OG Nervous Breakdown prices on Discogs!), and as far as I’m concerned, rightfully so – these guys have really struck something widely enjoyable and curiously unique. Anyway, on Sam Gendel’s newest full-length, Satin Doll, he continues on that same trajectory, which has grown more familiar now and is nearly as satisfying. I guess this album came about from Gendel jamming with his friends Gabe Noel (electric bass) and Philippe Melanson (electric percussion), and it has the feel of three sonic auteurs playfully re-working jazz standards or simply improvising up new ideas that maintain a similar path, one of calm electro-spiritual righteousness, beauty and wonder. I’m reminded a lot of James Blake here, in the way that one talented visionary musician takes a classic style (for Blake it was R&B, for Gendel it’s jazz) and refashions it for a post-dubstep generation, filled with flittery drum machines, off-kilter rhythms, severe electronic effects and a sense of loving homage. If he hasn’t already met up with Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake for sushi and oxygen masks while discussing their impending collaborations, it’s only a matter of time, you know?

George Heroine TMYLTL LP (Love Anthem)
Advertised as an album of “scrapped sessions from what would’ve been the second Meercaz & The Visions album”, TMYLTL sounds… pretty much like that. The name change is interesting enough (another punk George Harrison parody, or is it something else?), as is the Ultimate Warrior face-paint cover, but by my thorough evaluation, these tunes sound like the b-sides of b-sides. They’re garage-pop with hints of psychedelia, new-wave and private-press soft-rock, and while I like to think I’m open for that sort of sonic bouquet, there isn’t much that I find myself latching onto here, unlike say any given Dan Melchior record, who seems to inhabit a similar outsider singer-songwriter universe. I suppose it might come down to the crucial element of the voice, because I simply can’t connect to guitarist/singer/songwriter Muzz Delgado’s voice here or elsewhere – his singing style is amateurish and not particularly tuneful, which of course can be fine if he had some sort of exceptional personality or style to go along with it, but he mostly sounds listless and tired, as if he’s singing his tenth karaoke song of the night and just waiting for the bartender to close out his tab. He’s probably got the same range and natural vocal talent as Milk Music’s Alex Coxen, for example, but no one would ever accuse that guy of not going for it. If Delgado isn’t pumped up and rearing to share George Heroine with us, why should we be excited to hear it?

Green / Blue Green / Blue LP (Slovenly)
New project here from Jim Blaha, previously of The Blind Shakes and, you guessed it, the band called Blaha. I’m only somewhat familiar with his previous material, and yet I feel comfortable in stating that the debut album as Green / Blue, his duo with Annie Sparrows (previously of The Soviettes), is my favorite thing he’s done yet. I’m hearing an interesting, somewhat unexpected set of influences in here, which work nicely as this duo gives them a proper swirling. The ticking time-bomb energy of the albums Jay Reatard released under his own name, jangly indie-rock ala the classic Flying Nun canon and fuzzy minimal garage-pop (I’m thinking of The Raveonettes) all congeal nicely in Green / Blue’s hands. Opener “At A Loss” sounds like a fine Institute track with an entirely different singer, whereas other songs seem to combine fuzzed-out garage reminiscent of The Oh Sees with a whispered sour croon not unlike the one that propelled Billy Corgan to stardom. Plus, they seem to play all their songs a couple notches faster than most other Slovenly-approved garage bands would settle on, which provides a satisfying urgency to their sound. It’s a cool mix of agreeable styles that aren’t repeatedly put into play together, and Green / Blue have the chops to whip it up into some appealing tunes.

Jahder Bagigi Dub / WW Dub 7″ (Planet Rescue)
On their 2015 album, the group was known as Yader, but this Italian trio is going by Jahder on this recent 7″ single. If they crack their car windows, you’ll be able to smell the skunk from down the street, as these two songs are wonderfully psychedelic interpretations of classic digi-dub ala Augustus Pablo’s ’90s output. “Bagigi Dub” glides in on a thick carpet woven from an upbeat bass-line, vintage drum machines and swirly effects. Even the reverb has reverb, which is just how I like it. “WW Dub” clocks in at a suspicious four minutes and twenty seconds, and it wears a similar smiley face as the a-side (one with pot leaves for eyes) thanks to the sprightly bass-line and bouncy rhythm. Keys drizzle on top, throwing some color to an otherwise verdant setting. Fans of Jahtari’s 8-bit dubs and Niagara’s free-form grooves will certainly dig into Jahder’s pleasantly warm tunes, but honestly anyone who finds themselves unable to vibe with Jahder needs more help and care than I could ever personally provide to them.

Lemon Quartet Crestless LP (Last Resort)
You know what they say: when life gives you lemons, start a quartet! If you’re familiar at all with the avant-garde / ambient / experimental jazz of London’s Last Resort label (like that great Improvisations On An Apricot album from a year or two ago), Lemon Quartet brings together the players responsible for the label’s other releases, and it’s full of the tender peaceful bliss that hits so well in these warm springtime months. They recorded Crestless “at home in Akron, Mondays, 9 pm”, which grounds these soft and subtle evocations in a sort of social domesticity, which is a fun way to process these outre sounds. Bass, drums, vibes, horns, electronics and surely other instrumentation are involved, resulting in eight songs that sound best with the windows open, well-equipped to merge with the outside world no matter if it’s honking traffic or softly rustling fauna. I’m reminded of the tastefully subtle jazz of Arve Henriksen, the lighter side of the ECM catalog, that Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas album from a couple years ago, and even a touch of the Chicago post-rock scene ala Tortoise or Isotope 217. Some groups creak and moan and sprawl, others lock into forms of easily-recognized melody, but Lemon Quartet merge those two paths with careful ease and soft distinction. Recommended!

MM & The Peculiars Paean 12″ (Donor)
Okay, when you’re a band wearing tight denim outfits and posing next to a kick drum with your name written on it, I’m gonna expect garage, or garage-punk, or power-pop, or something in that extended family of retro-minded musicality. I found it peculiar indeed, then, to hear the booming, anthemic alt-rock that is “Paean”, which seems poised for MTV Buzz Bin success in 1995, somehow frozen in time until now. The MM in question here is Maegan Mills (of burly hardcore types Big Cheese and Rapture), and she wields her perfectly commanding vocal over the soft-loud dynamic of “Paean”, which smacks of post-grunge pop-rock such as Veruca Salt, early Foo Fighters and Quicksand. Makes me want to mosh at Lollapalooza, that’s for sure! “The Engine” and “Form An Orderly Queue (First Version)” keep the vibe going, finding a pleasant lane between Screaming Females, Helium and the heavy breakdowns prevalent in Siamese Dream. They toe the line nicely between the warring ’90s factions of college-rock and arena-grunge, bringing the heavy “Teen Spirit”-bouncy choruses in one hand and anxious noodly verses in the other. There’s no reason to play this sorta thing if you’re not going to aspire to greatness – MM & The Peculiars seem to have set their sights high, and rightfully so.

Moron’s Morons Looking For Danger LP (Slovenly)
Have you been wishing for a new stupid-on-purpose garage-punk band that’s not afraid to wear funny sunglasses and drip fake blood on themselves? Me neither, but that hasn’t stopped Warsaw, Poland’s Moron’s Morons from releasing their debut LP with the help of global punk ambassador Slovenly. This group takes its cues from the first wave of this stuff (The Damned, The Dickies, Angry Samoans) and into the second wave (Rip Off Records and the punker side of Estrus’s catalog), offering a fairly standard if enjoyable sound, delivered with a fuzzed-out recording and a sustained level of energy. Occasionally a song will recall the cretinous punk glory of Ivy Green, or the wannabe pop-star debauchery of early GG Allin, but it mostly sounds closer to The Rip Offs or The Motards, with lyrics that focus on murder, hating people, and murdering the people you hate, which I find to be both classically timeless and kinda boring if utilized without some specific panache. It seems to me that Moron’s Morons just wanna have fun being grotesque and clumsy punk rock idiots, just like their heroes were, which means singing about the same things and striking the same poses their heroes did. A noble intention, but nothing particular fresh or exciting, if those are two qualities you require your punk rock to possess.

Oilmen Tremendous Menace / Expect Excellence! LP (ADAADAT)
Just finished an exhaustive (too exhaustive, if you ask me) book on the early ’80s NYC club scene, so this vinyl debut from Berlin’s Oilmen is pairing nicely. Their sound is deeply indebted to the elastic funk and sputtering insanity associated with the downtown NYC no-wave scene. Tremendous Menace / Expect Excellence! is faithful to that time and sound, but there’s something about crazed jittery rhythms, wild vocals and bleating horns that will always strike me as a reasonable method for expressing one’s inability to find satisfaction in modern society. The vocalist shrieks in a similar fashion to Nick Cave losing his cool on “Big-Jesus-Trash-Can”, as if he’s accidentally sucking his syllables inward instead of puffing them out. Oilmen seem to be having more fun than should be legally allowed through these tunes, each of the three members never sitting still for a minute – if there’s no bass, grab some jingle bells, or a vibraslap, or screech uncontrollably like a monkey (as someone does in “Knuckle Walk”). Certainly not a style I would’ve associated with the frenzied-yet-intellectual electronic noise of ADAADAT, but Oilmen are clearly the type of group that’ll happily push their way into any scene and incite a wild happening.

Oksun Ox I Don’t Care I Already Told You LP (Round Bale Recordings)
The sole photographic image I’ve seen of Oksun Ox (whose membership is solely comprised of a guy named Ben Holmes) displays him holding some sort of rigged ukulele while seated in front of two big keyboards taped together, wild swirls of instrument cables, a couple effects pedals, and at least one cup of coffee precariously placed. That’s pretty much what Oksun Ox sounds like! File it under “unhinged solo project of the biggest freak in a small town”, a genre that has really blossomed as home recording technology morphed from an elusive, expensive venture to a built-in feature of any given laptop or cell phone. I’m reminded of the warped mindset of Oso El Roto, the childish mania of Teddy Fire, the intergalactic crud-funk of ONO, the lo-fi alt-reality “pop” of Pumice, and even a little Wesley Willis, particularly on the song where Holmes starts hollering “it’s the ace of spades!” over music that is very much not the “Ace Of Spades” we all know and love. Drum machines generally carve the path, but the thick gooey wash of whatever instruments are being played (at least one of those gunky keyboards, and probably a guitar at some point) quickly overtakes most of these tracks, with reverb bouncing back and forth in the fashion of a malfunctioning Zoom call. It’s honestly kind of wearying to listen to all of I Don’t Care I Already Told You at once – there are a lot of tracks here, over a lot of minutes, and the lo-fi haze and lack of discernible songs (or at least “songs” as customarily defined) is likely to increase one’s headache from mild to migraine. Oksun Ox doesn’t care, though: after all, you can’t say he didn’t already tell you.

Old Table Sexual Reproduction 12″ (Zag)
Oof… thanks to years of chilled-out indie-pop whoa-ah-oh music taking precedence as the current musical trend I find most painfully unappealing, I had almost forgotten about brashly whiny emo acoustic-guitar guys. I don’t know what Old Table are sounding like these days, but Sexual Reproduction is a five-track EP that came out digitally in 2008 and only recently made it to vinyl (for reasons beyond my comprehension), and it is extremely that. Singer / guitarist Willie T sings about wishing he was in elementary school and being scared to talk to girls while lusting after them online. It could be read as some sort of commentary on being a hapless loser (and the insert artwork, full of entertaining cartoon scribbles, leads me to believe Willie T is a smart guy), but if there’s some sort of ironic distance between the singer and the words he’s singing here, it’s not apparent enough for a listener such as myself to grasp. T sings in a register a shade higher than good sense would recommend (which is a common aspect of emo vocalizing); he’s clearly operating in the spirit of Jeff Mangum but nowhere in the same league (though to be fair, I don’t think anyone’s really in Mangum’s league). The guitar is accompanied by cello, which works as a pleasant and understated counterpoint (my favorite cello-centric emo group Very Secretary would surely approve). The chords are strummed with fervor, self-confidence in no short supply, and I have no doubt that he wants us to feel what he’s feeling. If they left these songs purely instrumental I’d happily keep spinning, but this sort of thing lives and dies on the personality and style of the singer, of whom I’ve had my fill.

Abe Partridge & The Psych Peas Lackluster LP (no label)
God bless local rock bands who follow their own hearts rather than common prevailing trends, particularly in this age where there’s only one big scene, called The Internet, which molds everything into everything else. There’s no big record contract coming for Abe Partridge and his band, The Psych Peas, but they’re pressing up their own album anyway, because they like playing their music and want other people to hear it! What does it sound like, you ask? Imagine heavy-metal-era Kid Rock fronting a Rage Against The Machine cover band, or Violent J if he tried his hand at a “don’t believe the government’s lies”-themed roots rock band. Partridge raps like an incensed street-preacher over lumbering hard-rock grooves, across both the “studio” side and the “live” side (of which three of the same songs appear on each). I certainly don’t mind it, although declaring it “very good” or even “pretty alright” might prove difficult if taking any standard musical rating system into consideration. This crew is having honest, raucous fun rocking out in their hometown Nashville bars, which is really what it’s all about. As Partridge says at one point on the live side, “it don’t really matter if I’m in tune anyway.”

Phasm Double Hell LP (no label)
Pure genre-exercise bliss from West Virginia’s Phasm on their self-released vinyl debut. That’s right, West Virginia! I honestly can’t think of a better American state for producing blackened, miserable metal such as this (okay, maybe Alaska): a region filled with creepy mountain forests, cultural despair and a stark lack of organic juiceries. Phasm take clear influence from the prominent first-waves of black metal and death metal, throw in some hardcore breakdowns (reminiscent of let’s say Mind Eraser) to make it pop and voila, every devil-horned skeleton in earshot will bang their heads on contact. I appreciate that, while overtly metal in structure and tone, they keep their songs short, generally around two minutes a piece, which appeals to the “short fast and loud” part of my brain (as opposed to my significantly smaller “dazzling masterful epic” cranial hemisphere). The vocals are generally a cacophonous blur, but with song titles like “Burned Crushed And Poisoned” and “Supreme Burial”, what do you want the singer to sound like, Mark Hoppus? Double Hell is a tried-and-true metal attack, right down the particularly intimidating form of Old English lettering they chose for the art (which, for the record, is attributed to someone named “Buttcoffin”). Nothing remotely new or unexpected, but the perfect soundtrack to blasphemous Appalachian terror. Big-city metal is overrated!

Primo! Sogni LP (Anti Fade / Upset The Rhythm)
It seems like any discussion of contemporary Melbourne post-punk has to include Primo!, if not simply because they’re quite good but because their members are intertwined with a heaping handful of other notable groups. Two members of Primo! play in Terry, one used to be in Constant Mongrel, another was in The Shifters… where they find the hours to devote to these various projects, I do not know, but I envy their time management abilities. Sogni is Primo!’s third full-length, and if you liked their unfancy and reserved songs from previous records, this one will surely offer similar satisfaction. They’ve got the casual melodiousness of The Dolly Mixture and deliver it with the unhurried attitude of Mark Perry’s early solo outings. Many of these tunes are pretty slow – certainly slower than your average Anti Fade or Upset The Rhythm act – which feels like one of Primo!’s defining features, a commitment to a deliberate, non-aggressive pacing. It allows the listener nestle into these comforting, steadfast tunes, and makes a tune like “Machine” sound like “Neat Neat Neat” in comparison to the rest of Sogni‘s offerings. Might be a bit of an acquired taste for listeners who equate post-punk with upbeat energy, but those who acquire it may never seek out a slam pit again.

The Puds Toxic Shock 7″ (Radical Documents)
While I’m generally not a fan of the prominence that reissue culture has attained in the underground, I won’t deny that I love finding out about cool old music that wasn’t already on my radar no matter how I find out about it, like this 7″ single. The Radical Documents label usually provides documentation of currently-active radicals, but I can’t blame them for popping out a faithful reissue of this one, The Puds’ sole vinyl release, a two-song single originally released in 1981. It sounds weird now and it surely sounded weird back then – this San Franciscan trio were artsy pranksters who pushed the limits of good taste with glee (as evidenced by the sole live photo of the group I’ve found, which features one member wearing nothing but nerd glasses, a hard hat and a 7″ 45 as a cod piece). Each member of the group contributes vocals and vocals alone: one member repeats the title in a rhythmic manner, another babbles, and the other babbles too, or maybe tries to provide some semblance of lyrical song. Somehow, it works, not entirely unlike a first-wave post-punk version of Jud Jud. I’m certainly reminded of the original no-wave artists who existed solely within their own reality, like Boris Policeband, Mykel Board’s You Suck! or that John Gavanti album, if more in kindred spirit than sound. Phil Minton’s spittle-spray muttering might come closest in actual sonic similarity, although b-side “Vege-Nam” has a definite Culturcide vibe in the aggression and discomfiting menace whipped up by these three crazy dorks. Ya learn something new every day!

Schizos Schizos LP (Sweet Time)
Schizos first came around in the form of their 2017 EP, Fuck Iggy Pop, which was a rude slice of less-than-amateurish synth-punk splooge. I didn’t hear any guitar on that one, but on this, their debut full-length, guitar is nearly all I can hear! The album opens with what sounds like a vacuum cleaner run through a RAT pedal, and not a nice vacuum either, one that you found in your dorm room left behind by the previous tenant with a bag that desperately needs to be emptied. I have to say, as a fan of bristly, ear-stinging guitars, I prefer this band in standard punk-rock formation, which is how they’re operating here. Vocalist Dale Schizo is furiously belligerent over these mostly fast-paced tunes, converging snotty hardcore with all the ways The Reatards taught us how to behave. I can certainly smell the GG worship too, particularly with a song called “Banned In Birmingham”, as there’s nothing more Allin-like than being proud of being unwanted and disliked. And seeing as current-day nihilist-punk-influencer Drew Owen provided the cover art (random explicit scribbles sure to land you in detention), I sense that Schizos looked up to his “hate you before you can hate me” attitude as well. I’d be incredibly impressed if Schizos ever learned to love, but for now they’re doing a fine job of hating.

Static Static The Future As Dark LP (Space Taker Sounds)
Space Taker has become a reliable vendor of dour punk rock from New Orleans and its various satellites, as is this case with this new album from New Orleans synth-punk duo Static Static. They completely opt out of live drums, guitars and bass guitars, instead programming their nervous and frigid rhythms through their synths, organs and drum machines. As is usually the case with this sort of style, John Henry and Heather Vinz sing over top, frequently in unison and with an icy disassociated tone. Suicide is a clear stylistic reference, whether Static Static were personally inspired or not, because this sorta thing usually leads back to them. It’s also when they’re at their most Suicide-like that I enjoy The Future As Dark the most, such as the bleary-eyed throb of “From The Dirt”. Songs like “Where Have I Been”, which push the drum machine up front and rely on traditional punk chord progressions, leave me less enthused. Just lock into a menacing spiral of electro power and stare me down, you know? No need to try to replicate mid-paced punk songs with purely synthetic means, unless you’re one of the select few capable of such feats. Pick a good setting, tape down the right key and let it rip ’til your speakers melt, that’s what I say!

TK & SÅJ Das Moabiter Duo – Recovered LP (Fantôme Verlag)
I love records that aren’t easily explained, why is a good explanation for my interest in this one. It entered my radar due to a Din A Testbild connection, but apparently that’s a bit of a stretch – sure, it was mixed by Din A Testbild’s Frieder Butzmann, but that’s all he did. TK is improv performer Thomas Kapielski and SÅJ is free drummer Sven-Åke Johansson, who apparently went by “Das Moabiter Duo” for at least a single performance in Berlin in 1983, which is the main source material here. Johansson playfully skips through his traditional jazz kit with gusto, and it’s a good thing he does, as the sound of his drumming accounts for 95% of the music on this record. Occasionally it’s met with radio interference, manipulated vocals, electronic effects or other sounds (“kitchen utensils” are credited), but for the most part it’s a fairly untouched and lengthy drum solo. Kapielski’s contributions are so sparse as to almost seem hallucinatory (did I really just hear a pitched-down voice a second ago?), and Butzmann cranks the levels once or twice as a means of making sure the listener knows he’s there, like a free-improv proctor in charge of the proceedings. But mostly, it’s one thirty-minute drum solo, and that’s cool too.

John Truscinski Bridle Path LP (Open Mouth)
Like me, you might know John Truscinski best from his duo with Steve Gunn, whose loose and exploratory rock improv has found its way onto numerous full-length releases over the past decade. I wasn’t sure what sorta music he made on his own, but upon learning of this solo album on Open Mouth, I was eager to find out. Turns out he decided to step away from his kit in the process of making Bridle Path, which contains six long minimalist drones. I’ve met plenty of drones I didn’t like, but these tracks hit a particularly nice spot in the back of my skull – each track tends to take a single extended tone that swells and fluctuates on its own particular scale. I like the lull of “Esker”, whose warm tone sways side to side with the simplistic elegance of something Ellen Arkbro might’ve conjured. I’ll admit, my enjoyment of Bridle Path isn’t solely due to the music itself, as I find the fact that it was recorded on a beach-adjacent street in Ocean City, NJ to be somewhat fascinating and unexpected. The pure and serene drones found on here don’t remotely conjure the family-friendly chatter and social bustle of the Jersey shore from where they emanated. In addition, the stark, hand-screened tip-on sleeve (is that a distorted abstraction of Ocean City’s ferris wheel?) is a sturdy and handsome dwelling for these patient and meditative works. It certainly has me seeing the boardwalk pizza of Manco & Manco’s in an entirely new light.

UK Gold Epigram No. 2 LP (UK Gold)
This Olympia trio didn’t have an album out, so they did the right thing: they recorded at High Command and they pressed up the records themselves. I can understand why labels might not have been knocking down their door to put it out, as Epigram No. 2 is not a timely or fashionable record, for better or worse (mostly for better). Their music strongly recalls turn-of-the-century indie, where emo (before emo meant “pop rock”) collided with dare-I-say-angular math-rock and the jagged post-punk of Gang Of Four. Reminds me a bit of Q And Not U, maybe a little Hoover, probably some Les Savy Fav, and just a hint of Measles Mumps Rubella, (remember them?). UK Gold seem pretty impassioned to be playing the form of music they’ve chosen, which makes sense because I don’t see any upside to playing this sorta stuff in 2020 unless you truly believe in it and get something out of it. The album definitely reminds me of that specific scene and musical era, which I look back upon fondly, more than it strikes out in a singular fashion one could exclusively attribute to UK Gold, but that’s fine with me. If you want more of this style, particularly a current band that is actually out there playing it right now with sincerity (or at least eagerly awaiting when it will be safe to go out and play again), might as well type “UK Gold bandcamp” into your search browser and see what happens!

Vincas Phantasma LP (Learning Curve)
It seems safe to say that colored vinyl is no longer an interesting aspect of records (the Funkopop-ization care of various Vinyl Me Pleases has nearly discredited the entire format, honestly), but it makes perfect sense that Phantasma is on gory red vinyl. Pretty much every song on the record is about blood, death, bloody death, dripping your blood in hell, a graveyard with bloodstained stones, bloody rain from above… you get the picture. And I have to say, it really works for this group out of Athens, GA. The lead vocalist has a tone and tenor that almost exactly replicates mid-’80s Michael Gira, and he booms his blood-lust over heavy post-punk. Is it possible to sound both swampy and mechanical? Vincas somehow make it work, with stormy guitars and electronic enhancements, particularly in the form of programmed drums. The songs are heavy and energetic, drearily dark but in a hopelessly death-obsessed way that recalls Crime & The City Solution or The Gun Club, not Black Tape For A Blue Girl or any band that would consider wearing more than just eyeliner. If you liked the last Daughters record but wished it was less screamy and experimental and more death-rocky and centered in bleak Americana, your limousine to Hell has arrived in the form of Phantasma.

Vladislav Delay Rakka LP (Cosmo Rhythmatic)
I could always go for a new album from the humble master Sasu Ripatti under his Vladislav Delay alias. The intricate and alien soundscapes he constructs under this moniker are fascinating and intense, often filled with more detail per square second than the vast majority of music I go out of my way to listen to. It’s usually fractured and deeply processed music, but with a sense of melodic beauty if not up front than on the horizon, which explains the shock I felt upon throwing on Rakka. This is basically hardcore power-electronics, extreme in its aggression and staunch avoidance of tunefulness. Think Ben Frost at his grumpiest, or maybe a violent software rendering of early Ramleh. “Rampa”, for example, sounds like Aunt Mary given a Digital Hardcore remix, with locomotive rhythms pounding at black-metal pace, chopped and spliced seemingly at random. It’s heavy duty stuff, often sounding like a gruesome battle between iron-clad fortifications and blistering sub-zero winds. Pretty out of character for the generally charming and benevolent Vladislav Delay, but if there was ever a time to strap on one’s sonic bazookas and start mercilessly bearing down on the terrain, now makes sense to me.