Balaclavas Balaclavas 12″ (Dull Knife)
There are a million plural-noun bands around today but Balaclavas are far more intriguing than the rest of the pack. This is a severely-limited 12″ issue of their earliest recordings, with improved mastering and some bonus sax for good measure. Like their vinyl debut on Phonographic Arts, Balaclavas have a haunty, moody, visceral sound, located somewhere before Bauhaus saw any pop marketability in themselves and after Nick Cave started to fancy himself a writer. It’s gothy in that “skeletons dancing in a cabaret” way and somehow lacks the goofy pretension that such an aesthetic might entail. It’s good, but this record really just makes me curious to know what they’re up to nowadays. Lots of promise here. New album is out next month, so I don’t think I’ll have to wait very long to find out.

Bastard Noise / The Endless Blockade The Red List LP (Deep Six)
This one’s a dream come true: Eric Wood and company gearing up the bass rig and drum kit once more, for a result that is far more Man Is The Bastard than Bastard Noise. In their standard, umm, “noise” formation, Bastard Noise can be great (their live set from 2007 still burns fresh in my mind) but there is nothing else on Earth like the MITB bass/drum assault. Any fears of accumulated rust from the decade-long break are for nought, as these four Bastard Noise tracks are of the highest caliber – magnificent prog-core bass-lines cutting through the smog, locked to the drums with an Orthrelm level of precision. And the vocals! Coming in three flavors (orangutan, Gollum and serpent), there is simply no one who can deliver a treatise for the elimination of the human race like these guys. Man Is The Bastard are one of the few bands to leave such a mark on their genre without ever being imitated, probably because it’s simply impossible. And speaking of impossible, The Endless Blockade are given the task of holding their own on the flip, which they do nicely in a fifteen-minute suite filled with alternating passages of grindcore and noise. Reminds me a lot of Mind Eraser’s Conscious / Unconscious, if not quite as good. The CD (read: Rapidshare) version also comes with two remixes of The Endless Blockade, one in a chopped-up Sissy Spacek style, the other a crackling lava flow courtesy of one of the modern masters of that sort of thing, The Rita. I never really checked out The Endless Blockade before, there’s just something about GISM-appropriated band names that doesn’t sit well with me, but they have proven formidable here. Doesn’t matter either way though, Bastard Noise has already made this an essential purchase.

Coconuts Coconuts LP (No Quarter)
I saw these guys live and they pretty much looked like the Brooklyn chapter of the Thurston Moore Motorcycle Club; three dudes, all easily over six feet a piece, hair in their eyes, a well-worn leather jacket, one guy in dirty corduroys. Come to think of it, Thurston Moore Motorcycle Club is a pretty apt description of their music too – they’ve got real hazy, affected guitar and slow-motion vocal chants, suctioned to earth by the most righteous of stoner basslines and minimal percussion, reminiscent of that great Them, Themselves Or They single from a couple years back. It’s a great style, surely crafted with recreational drug-use in mind. Kind of weirdly sinister too, in that Bobby Beausoleil way, and it makes me wonder how much I’d dig Wooden Shjips covering Abruptum (the answer: very much so). Don’t let that blog-wave band name fool you, the only beach you’ll find these Coconuts on has animal skulls in black sand and thunderclouds in the distance.

Edie Sedgwick / Aran Epochal split 7″ (Silver Rocket)
An odd pairing here, but one that works nicely in the form of a split single. This Edie Sedgwick is a confusing musical exhibition, as it’s a guy from El Guapo taking the form of one of Andy Warhol’s best-known muses. Maybe he just wanted to be un-Googleable, but on the other hand, there are bands called Food and Girls that do the trick just as well. Anyway, when I hear a soulful, funky tune with a charismatic singer from DC, it’s impossible to not feel the shadow of the Spiv looming overhead. I love the Make Up, and while Edie Sedgwick is a little smoother and probably closer to the realm of Jamie Lidell or !!! in delivery, I get a similar sensation from his side’s “Who’s That Knocking On My Door (Blacula Mix)”. Sedgwick’s indie-gogo is curiously matched by Aran Epochal’s downer pop. Aran Epochal’s singer reminds me of The Edge on U2’s “Numb” (remember that video?) and the instrumental chorus is total Arab On Radar, from the ricochet drum-beat to the sea-sick surfy guitar riff. Weird tune that offers no explanation whatever. Really, this entire record offers no explanation to anything, but it’s probably just as well.

Martyn Fabric 50 CD (Fabric)
Martyn has risen to become one of the most desired DJs in the past year or so, and for good reason – he’s as thoughtful a curator as he is a consistent shaker of rumps. He’s clearly uninterested in sticking to any single path, too – just in the last few months, his gorgeously sad remix of Efdemin’s “Acid Bells” bears no resemblance to the funky house of “For Lost Relatives” on All Night Long Vol. 2 but they both work famously. On Fabric 50 he takes the opportunity to really stretch his legs and showcase his variety of tastes, from the Outkast-y funk of opener Hudson Mohawke to the jittery dubstep of Zomby and the dance-rock of Detachments. A lot of it leans towards the young UK dubstep sound (I don’t think anyone is surprised by the inclusion of Joy Orbison and Cooly G) but this isn’t a negative, as Martyn’s mixing somehow summons an added vibrance from otherwise familiar material. 50 Fabric mixes is a bit of a milestone and Martyn’s has an appropriately celebratory feel.

Medication This Town LP (Hozac)
I’ve been seeing the name of Medication around for a while, Hozac is nothing if not successful at getting the word out. With their (or rather, his) debut album, I can now say I’m familiar with the music of Medication too, although it’s already clear that our relationship will be short lived. Reason is, This Town is a quietly-mastered collection of unengaging acoustic rock that fails to bring me into his lonely world. He sings like Jeffrey Novak in Cheap Time, whose voice I’ve always enjoyed, but the songs themselves are just too boring for me to derive any pleasure out of the whole deal. I get that this is trying to be dark or somber or sad, but in no way do I find myself wondering what the inside of his bedroom looks like or where his friends went or why he landed in this sorry state in the first place. Instead, I find myself hoping that people aren’t tricked into thinking this is anything near as cool as Pink Reason or Kurt Vile just because he’s another mopey and introspective modern-day troubadour.

Mess Folk Something I Remember 7″ (Hozac)
Truly a horrible record, the only good thing to come from Mess Folk’s self-titled 7″ is that I will finally stop knee-jerkedly reacting to Urinals and Electric Eels comparisons when I read them. Did the label actually listen to this band first, or does the MySpace band page creation process now include a “Do you wish to have a record released on Hozac?” check-box? Boring, uninspired, pointless music that I can’t imagine anyone enjoying, not personal friends of the band nor some die-hard weirdo who blindly buys every new lo-fi bedroom cassette. “Give Me A Gun” is the crappiest song I’ve heard in years, so I guess that’s some sort of accomplishment. Purchasing the “gold edition” provided me with a similar sensation to finding an issue of People magazine in my stall while taking a painful dump.

Mi Ami Cut Men / Out At Night 12″ (Thrill Jockey)
Not ones to rest on their laurels after the unfortunate dissolution of the Touch & Go label, Mi Ami are back with a 12″ courtesy of their new home, Thrill Jockey. “Cut Men” harkens back to Mi Ami’s spastic roots; it’s a high-energy blast of funk, probably the song to wait for if you plan on stage-diving at one of their shows. Daniel Martin-McCormick’s guitar playing is at its most coherent too, kind of like a post-punk version of the Purling Hiss guy just wailing over the potent rhythm section. There’s a calmer synth-break in the middle but “Cut Men” finishes up as frantically as it started. “Out At Night” is an excellent yin to the yang of the a-side, a narcoleptic house track that’s as peaceful as it is psychedelic. Mi Ami have always gravitated towards electronic dance music and “Out At Night” just showcases their comfort with creating this sort of sound. I could certainly go for a full album like it. It all makes for a highly satisfying 12″, worthy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers logo that adorns the center stickers.

Mickey She’s So Crazy / I Am Your Trash 7″ (Hozac)
Mickey are a bunch of dirty rock n’ rollers with a 1976 CBGB’s style, taking their band photo by squeezing all five guys on a tiny couch whilst giggling and drinking booze. It’s cartoony proto-punk, influenced more by suede vests and bell-bottoms than chipped teeth and spiked bracelets. “She’s So Crazy” is a self-explanatory rocker that I wouldn’t recommend, but I wouldn’t turn off either, as something vaguely Cheap Trick-ish keeps me from pulling the plug. “I Am Your Trash” is the softer side, with a lyrical sentiment eerily close to that of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy”. There are definitely some people out there who like their punk rock to be foppish and limp-wristed – you know the middle-aged guy in the tie-dyed shirt and leather jacket selling New York Dolls picture sleeve variations at the flea market? I should tell him about Mickey.

Myelin Sheaths Do The Mental Twist 7″ (Hozac)
Even the stodgiest of wallflowers will find themselves mentally twisting to this Myelin Sheaths single. Sure, it’s a lo-fi punk 7″ with the reverb turned up, which accumulate faster than dishes in my sink these days, but these guys and girls have clearly studied the right records for the job. “I Don’t Wanna Have An Operation” is the best of the bunch and a satisfying ripper that could easily fit into a classic Angry Samoans set; the title cut swerves all over the road that divides Loli & the Chones and Dum Dum Girls. I might grow weary of an LP, especially if it’s filled with longer/less-snotty tracks like b-side “Drugstore / Pharmacy”, but taken by itself, this one’s a winner.

Nazi Dust Nazi Dust 7″ (Youth Attack)
The provocatively-named Nazi Dust are the latest young band in the post-Sex Vid hardcore landscape to catch my attention, where skateboarding skeletons have been replaced by bleak black-and-white photography and a secular black metal aesthetic. Nice to see seven songs on here, and it’s even nicer that those seven don’t include a boring dirge or artsy noise-collage that seems to be de rigeur with the Youth Attack crowd. Instead, it’s all pretty thrashy and blunt, with a vocalist that falls somewhere between the Civil Disobedience guy and Pushead. The drummer really sucked live, to the point where he was unable to keep up with the rest of the band, but I’m not noticing that here, thankfully. A couple of these guys are ex-Cult Ritual, and while it’s not quite of that same caliber, they don’t make any mistakes with this yellow piece of wax.

Nerve City Red Tops 7″ (Hozac)
Nerve City are purveyors of musical amnesia, because I’ve listened to this one at least five times and find myself unable to recall anything about it, mere seconds later. It’s so insignificant that Red Tops is one of those records you don’t even realize has stopped playing until a few minutes later and you hear the subtle pop of the needle, begging for release. I don’t even feel like I’ve really heard Nerve City after listening to this, the record is just so quiet and fuzzy that it’s like listening to the band from outside the club. Nerve City has a number of tapes and records out, with more on the way. I ask you, fine labels, is this really the best thing you can find to invest your hard-earned money in? A band whose music is recorded so poorly and quietly that it makes Myelin Sheaths sound like Pink Floyd in comparison? I can’t blame Nerve City, it’s great to have someone release your band’s record, but I can blame the labels who decide to press this sort of horribly-executed music into my favorite form of plastic. If you don’t want to do it for me, do it for our future generations.

Puerto Rico Flowers 4 12″ (Fan Death)
Perhaps John Sharkey (guitarist/vocalist of the freshly deceased Clockcleaner) grew disgusted by his former band’s fanbase, or simply lost the will to antagonize, but through his Puerto Rico Flowers project, his unexpected and new-found maturity has improved his craft as both singer and lyricist. Most people knew of Clockcleaner as that band that peed on stuff, figuratively and literally, but on 4 Sharkey wishes to atone for his sins and move on with his life. Here, he mentions his wife numerous times, in terms of devotion and security. A Clockcleaner song about a wife would’ve probably involved a jail cell and lipstick. And to all those he’s offended through the years, “Let’s Make Friends” is essentially an olive branch, a sincere request to start fresh. It’s possible to imagine Puerto Rico Flowers as a hoax, a soft buttering-up before pushing us in the mud again, not unlike Anal Cunt’s satirically-successful acoustic love song EP Picnic Of Love, but the thing is, Puerto Rico Flowers sounds too damn good to possibly be anyone’s idea of a joke – while all four tracks share essentially the same pace, tone and sentiment, each comes with a separate set of hooks that are stronger than any other gothic post-punk to come out after 1987. His voice is killer, deeper than before, but pitch-perfect and emotionally-wounded. I’m not sure if this is a one-off project, due to Sharkey’s nomadic lifestyle, but no matter what, I hope there is more of this to be pulled from his well. And then I notice the John Mayer quote on the back cover and wonder if I’ve actually gotten punked like I feared all along.

Sentence Diagrams Always Try Your Best At Stuff 7″ (Malleable)
Here’s a cool single from out of the blue, courtesy of New Jersey’s Sentence Diagrams. The titular song is a Powerpearly rocker that grabbed me by the shoulders and shaked, about as triumphant as a record with goofy notebook paper art can be. “Diamonds and References” is a little more frantic but just as good, like Weston covering Sparks, and like the a-side, there’s a snack food reference snuck into the lyrics (Twix here, Ruffles on the other). It never hurts to take a lesson from the Go Nuts. I heard something about Sentence Diagrams being associated with Home Blitz, and while that may or may not be true, the two of them together would make for one hell of a backyard gig come summer.

The Seven Fields of Aphelion Periphery LP (Graveface)
The Seven Fields of Aphelion is one of the Black Moth Super Rainbow people, and Periphery is her debut album. I can kind of see the correlation to Black Moth Super Rainbow, but The Seven Fields of Aphelion doesn’t rock in the slightest; this is plaintive and ambient piano music, the type of thing your Grandma hears in her head when she finds an old pair of earrings, puts them on and closes her eyes, recalling herself at a dance in 1948. Close your eyes hard enough and I bet you too can hear these random clusters of pleasant piano chords, sometimes augmented with a synth whirl or ambient winds. It’s incredibly precious – the perfect soundtrack to writing thank you cards. Not a whole lot to sink into here; as your annoying co-worker likes to repeat, “it is what it is”, and the soundtrack to Fox’s 24 it ain’t, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t go for some background music while looking through a box of old photos.

Sis Uhhhh / You Want A 12″ (Cocolino)
Sis is one of my favorite players in the minimal house game, and that’s not just because he looks like a Jersey Shoreified version of Devendra Banhart. This guy knows exactly what to do, and while it’s clear many of those cues have been pulled from Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano among other Ibizan swingers, he just puts it together so well that it doesn’t matter where his inspiration comes from. This new one is fantastic, and placed at the top of my Sis pile – “Uhhh” starts off with a thick Tone Loc bass slide, quickly complimented by some diva vocal slices. “You Want A” works with a cool set of wood-shop percussion that reminds me of Pearson Sound, if Pearson ever calmed down enough to work a simple 4/4 beat. If Sis has a signature move, it’s that rapid-fire percussion pitch-drop, tastefully paired with some Spanish brass here. Sis builds momentum up and down so effortlessly that I can’t imagine anyone having anything less than an ecstatic time at one of his parties. If he ever comes to the States I will buy a pair of drop-crotch pants for the event, you have my word.

Skream Repercussions of a Razorblade / A New Dawn 12″ (Swamp 81)
Skream’s “Midnight Request Line” is one of the first dubstep tracks I’d ever heard, and a pretty fantastic introduction to the genre, even in 2010. He’s contributed to no less than 40 releases since then, and while I have failed to really keep up, this new one is as minimal, thuggish and raw as I could’ve hoped. “Repercussions Of A Razorblade” slinks along with percussion that sounds as though it was lifted from a Mortal Kombat finishing combination, karate chops for snares and kicks to the gut for bass. Some strings even show up later on to really give it that “haunted dojo” feel. “A New Dawn” comes with a similar approach, only hinting at the fluttering power-bass that has become a signature for so many of his contemporaries, never fully pressing down that glass-encased red button. It’s kind of a chill-out, but don’t take that to mean “easily ignored”; “A New Dawn” is emotionally tense in spite of its subtlety. If I forgot to keep my eye on Skream in the past few years, this 12″ serves as a powerful wake-up call.

Slavescene Fuck Off Away From Me 7″ (Deranged)
My first impression of Slavescene, based on a downloaded cassette (this is what I do on weekends, I download cassettes), was that of a hackneyed Drunkdriver rip-off. Yet still I pressed on, catching them live (they were pretty good) and picking up this 7″, which has been a nice pay-off for all my hard work. “Fuck Off Away From Me” is totally great, I remember it from their set, because it’s based on essentially two chords, strung together in a tense and frantic manner. You could do anything with them, but the drummer pounds away at a hardcore pace and gives it a nervous energy not unlike No Trend (and I don’t throw around that name without meaning it). “Shit Gait” has a little of that Drunkdriver feel that they were so much better without, but it’s a short song and I can’t stay mad at the same band who just asked me to fuck off away from them.

Levon Vincent Double Jointed Sex Freak 12″ (Novel Sound)
Without even taking the title into consideration, the three parts of Double Jointed Sex Freak just sound straight-up X rated. This is dark and carnal NYC club music, but there’s no cut-up porn samples or DJ Assault-fashioned lyrics here, Levon Vincent’s samplers and drum machines ooze that nasty, sweaty groove on their own. It’s such a simple groove too, with arpeggios bordering on pre-sets, as “Double Jointed Sex Freak” is an amazingly intuitive piece of music that one can only assume Vincent put together in the same manner a punk band writes a song, rather than by spending hundreds of hours holed up with various computer programs. “Part 1” is especially bleak, with a couple vocal samples delightfully skewed beyond the point of verbal recognition. It’s that vague human element, along with a set of sounds that would’ve easily fit within a KMFDM gig, all processed into a dirty house track, that has kept “Double Jointed Sex Freak” on my mind and turntable for weeks now.

Vindicatrix Die Alten Bosen Lieder CD & 12″ (Mordant Music)
People throw around the word weird, but this is weird: A Demetri Martin look-alike, comically bellowing German lyrics over either a techno pulse, classical music samples, live drum outbursts and/or nothing. And it’s packaged as a CD with an accompanying 12″. You think your shoegaze band is difficult to explain to relatives over Thanksgiving, imaging being this guy. Whether or not this is good music remains to be determined by my ears, it’s just a totally alien concept that beguiles more than anything else. What makes a man do something like this? It almost sounds like Ghedalia Tazartes if his friends forced him to go to dubstep parties, but I doubt even Tazartes sat at home listening to as much Wagner and drinking as much wine out of a tuba as Vindicatrix. Credit is certainly due to Vindicatrix, as I didn’t really care for Die Alten Bosen Lieder but I’m absolutely dying to hear what he does next.

Wetdog Frauhaus LP (Captured Tracks)
Captured Tracks must have a well-funded English A&R department, as they’ve added a number of UK acts to their roster in the past couple months. I’d imagine many of them are fuzzy bedroom solo projects, which Wetdog certainly ain’t – this is a post-punk trio who opted for a studio recording and seem to have aspirations beyond a couple limited singles. Rightfully so, as their sound is a satisfying update on the Kleenex / Liliput axis. Their songs are jarring, sweet, economically-sound and often made great by the multiple vocalists, who frequently break into unexpected harmonies. Of the 14 songs here, I could probably do without the instrumentals, but cuts like “Lower Leg” and “Womens Final” make me believe that Wetdog are securing their place in the lineage that started with the Slits and continued through Meltdown.