Actress Splazsh 2xLP (Honest Jon’s)
After much delightful confusion, I think I’ve finally gotten a loose handle on Actress and his enigmatic style. It’s kind of hard not to, when there’s a full fourteen tracks to dig into, spread across Splazsh‘s four sides of vinyl. These cuts are still all over the place, but now I understand that it’s to be expected with any Actress release (I picked up his first single, No Tricks, and there’s even some deconstructed rapping on that one). Amongst the various mechanical tricks and experiments, you get a budget horror take on the early sound of Detroit techno with “Bubble Butts and Equations”, which leads into a much smoother and Martyn-friendly track like “Always Human”. This sort of stylistic jump is rampant within Splazsh, and somewhat jarring at times, but once you figure out that the constant swerve is the nature of this beast, there are a nice handful of high spots to be enjoyed. I’m always down to hear “Maze” (that weird cold-wave cut, also on the Paint, Straw and Bubbles EP), and “Purrple Splazsh” grooves like the soundtrack to a Jack LaLanne exercise VHS tape your sister rented from the library in 1988. If this all sounds too perplexing and unfocused, it is, and it might not be for you. As for me, I have succumbed to the insanity that is Actress.

Birds of Maya Regulation 7″ (Richie)
Not ones to usually hit the road, Birds of Maya stormed the Midwest in May, and if you checked their merch table, this limited and unassuming little single was probably laying right next to Ready to Howl. “Regulation” is a heavy blues jam in the classic Birds of Maya style, but it’s special in that local man-about-town Harmonica Dan sits in on their session (I’ll give you one guess what he plays). Dan doesn’t mess around, he just takes off his backpack, cracks open a tallboy and blows harder than an office fan, psychically connected to Birds of Maya and the bluesy groove they stand for. It’s pretty smoking and serves as an excellent petition to recruit him as a full-time member. The untitled b-side is sweet (a nice pairing to the savory a-side), starting off with some psychedelic swirl and guitar noodling, almost veering into art-drone territory (not that it’s a bad thing), but just as I’m ready to put on my Keiji Haino wig and smoke a clove, it kicks right back into a standard Birds of Maya stoner riff with Harmonica Dan riding the rails once more. Not sure how easy this 7″ will be to find, if it was tour-only or what, but please, make it your mission.

The Black Clouds The Black Clouds 7″ (Ride the Snake)
Here’s some bummed-on-life garage for anyone who appreciates Frank Kozik artwork and hates their day job. The Black Clouds operate within a pretty standard, blues-based garage template, owing far more to Electric Mud than say, Rocket to Russia, and I like this template, as it leaves things pretty wide open for any group of miscreants to really give you a solid dose of their collective personality. The Black Clouds use this opportunity to reflect glumly on previous events, most evident on both “Trouble’s Visit” and “Pathetic”. Their sound strongly calls to mind the Unnatural Helpers, specifically in vocal delivery, simplicity of song and the gusto that only dudes in their thirties can provide. If the music blew me away, or the singer was some larger-than-life rock n’ roll character, I’d probably tell a friend, but I’m pretty sure any decent-sized town has one of these bands to show for it; there’d be no one to open the yearly Easy Action gig otherwise.

Black Feelings / Grand Trine split 7″ (Blue Skies Turn Black)
Blue Skies Turn Black is a force within Montreal’s underground music scene; not just a record label, it’s also responsible for a large portion of the city’s left-of-center live music programming. According to the insert, this split single was released to celebrate the label’s ten year anniversary, a fine excuse for a party if there ever was one. Black Feelings offer a speedy and modern post-punk tune with a Blank Dogs vibe, thanks in part to the drum machine and watery recording quality, although the vocalist actually seems engaged in singing and it comes across like the work of a full band, not a solo project. Grand Trine opt for a psychedelic hard rock vibe, phasers set to stun, blasting somewhere between Vee Dee and Dead Moon. There must be a noise guy in the band too, because the track completely breaks down into a mushroom cloud of static before regenerating itself and then ending. I’d imagine both of these bands have some sort of personal ties to the label, and with the variety of vegetarian sandwiches available at Casa Del Popolo, I don’t see how Montreal’s blue skies will ever really turn black. Partially cloudy at worst.

Butcher Cover Human Scrap 7″ (Lemon Session)
Lemon Session is a new label that kicked things off with the always-risky “singles club”, and I’m gonna talk about the first four of them this month, starting with Butcher Cover. I’ve got mixed feelings on this one – musically, it’s completely blown-out noise-punk, GarageBand recording pushed to its most brutal limit, almost to the point where the songs shift from trashy, Mentally Ill-inspired punk to some sort of Gerogerigegege noise melange. Plus, there’s a groady Negative FX cover to end the set, hard to go wrong with that. It’s just a shame that Butcher Cover decided to tarnish things with generic shock-jock, sub-Brainbombs “sick” humor, on display here with a song called “Bubblegum Faggot” (you didn’t think they’d say “faggot”, but they did!), a song called “Prison Wallet” (you have to keep stuff in your butt, haha!) and a sampled rape joke (just a joke, man! Lighten up! What are you, “PC” or somethin’?). Really uninspired, bottom-of-the-barrel imagery here; I will never understand why this sort of creative cop-out is appealing to so many of these modern punk bands. Maybe it’s because no one actually gets their asses kicked anymore.

Chasing Voices Acidbathory 12″ (Preserved Instincts)
This “anonymous” 12″ seems to have some relation to the Dope Jams camp, complete with this ridiculous hyperbole on their site: “grotesque low-end acidic excretions slope up and down a summit of flawless arrangement, mutating to form a breathing organism of the darkest musical beauty.” The write-up goes on to compare “Acidbathory” to the sea change that punk rock brought to the musical landscape of its day, and well, I had to buy the record; I’m willing to be a sucker sometimes. Turns out this isn’t one of those times, though, as this one-sided 12″ record is truly excellent, if not the Godhead of electronic music I just read about. Chasing Voices has put together a real nice piece of death-march techno, the kind that piles its load onto a hulking, lumbering bass-throb and aims it slowly toward the ocean. The buzzing, 16th-note hi-hat is kind of unexpected but works nicely in the scheme of things; really, everything about “Acidbathory” comes together comfortably into a form I can’t easily place. It’s much too stoic and dark to be a part of the thug-step movement (there’s no masculine playfulness here), and it’s too brutal and violent to resemble Demdike Stare. Honestly, the more I spin this one, the less embellished that Dope Jams description starts to sound.

The Chickens Chicken Shit 7″ (Siltbreeze)
Two of your favorite FNU Ronnies members had no interest in waiting around for the other to move back to Philadelphia, so they replaced him with a crappy drum machine and started The Chickens. Thanks to the financial backing of Siltbreeze, I can enjoy Chicken Shit in the comfort of my own home, with only the breeze from my window to dilute the powerfully recognizable odor. They’re still singing about drugs (or so the song titles would lead me to believe), only The Chickens are coming from more of a post-punk, NDW angle (less Hawkwind and Drunks With Guns, more Swell Maps and Abwärts). They sound especially potent on “Shit City”, notable for its rambunctious guitar solo and moody bassline. I’ve seen these guys live a few times, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually heard their songs, which are a fine addition to the ever-growing discographies of Mike Reaser and “Street” Kyle.

Conversions Spineless Wonders LP (Ride the Snake)
Spineless Wonders is Conversions’ posthumous final LP, properly put to rest by Ride the Snake. Conversions toed the line between straight-forward, blasting hardcore and count-the-time-change post-punk, a style that they have come closest to mastering here. This sort of frantic pacing and unexpected maneuvering could easily be considered weird for weirdness’ sake, but Conversions do well in making sure the hardcore aggression is never lessened because of it. The vinyl itself doesn’t have any clear song separations, and the music flows in the same manner, as if the nine songs here are just two long suites, filled with anthemic choruses, full-on assaults and wiry guitar lines. A years-old recording of a broken-up band can be a hard sell in today’s market, but it only takes a solid spin of Spineless Wonders to understand why Ride the Snake were compelled to release it anyway.

Demdike Stare Forest of Evil 12″ (Modern Love)
Demdike Stare shook up my world with last year’s fantastic Part 1 and Part 2 12″s, compiled on their Symbiosis CD. These records gathered a wide range of grim musicology and spat it out in the form of a futuristic and uniquely gothic techno, with most tracks clocking around the five minute mark in easily digestible bites. Since then, they’ve released a couple long-form mixes, stretching out with weird exotica, various dance musics and atmospheric recordings. On Forest of Evil, Demdike Stare have managed to find the perfect harmony between their shorter, semi-traditional techno cuts and their extended excursions into the Twilight Zone. The title is split in two sides, Dusk and Dawn, the perfect settings to consider right before peering in to Demdike’s curious journey. “Forest of Evil (Dusk)” sets the grim mood courtesy of some disembodied pianos, ghostly chords and birds giving way to bats in the trees; it’s gothic music, but not in a Mesh & Lace way, more of a timeless “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” vibe. As I listen, I feel like Castlevania’s Simon, while darkness falls and all the ghouls become harder to kill. “Forest of Evil (Dawn)” is even better, as the rhythmic undercurrents previously hinted at on the flip comes full bore for a few stunning moments, as heavy as any Sunn record (and probably equally frightening). Demdike’s editing has reached an apex here; there’s just so much depth and (witch)craft to the ebb and flow that these two guys are essentially operating in a league all their own. Highest possible A+ buy-it-now recommendation!

Marcel Dettmann Dettmann 3xLP (Ostgut Ton)
I knew I was in for a treat with this extended Marcel Dettmann release, three vinyl slabs of techno at its most concentrated and unrelenting. Similar to the great Planetary Assault Systems album on Ostgut Ton last year, Marcel Dettmann has no use for flowery detours, or intricate programming, or anything that strays from the path of righteous, rhythmic beating. You can be pretty sure that every track on here is going to end with the same pattern it came in on. No surprises, but why would you want them? The craft is in the loop, and the subtle (and sometimes practically non-existent) changes that pepper the mood. Dettmann really succeeds with that, and I appreciate his dedication to music that is the antithesis of rock n’ roll, replacing emotion and personality with a solid slab of concrete and ivory, ego-less and pristine. I’m also a sucker for the fact that all of these Ostgut Ton records are at least a little intimidating, too; I can only imagine losing my mind at 3 AM inside of Berghain (the legendary Berlin club/haunted penitentiary affiliated with Ostgut Ton) to the music of Marcel Dettmann and I’m not sure I’m ready for such an experience, drugged or otherwise.

Germ Attak Cruxshadow LP (Loud Punk)
“MySpace Crust” is the derogatory term I’ve seen associated with Germ Attak, and after running through Cruxshadow a few times, I’m pretty sure the creators of that pejorative are just scared of Germ Attak encroaching on their turf. There’s about 400 songs on here, but I will gladly accept that amount of great, unassuming pogo-punk, the type of music punks made in the 90s, right before the Internet unlocked every Killed By Death nugget for widespread consumption and punks only had third generation Varukers tapes and Casualties CDs to help them piece this “punk” thing together. Germ Attak are wholly unconcerned with appeasing modern punk trends or practices, I mean songs like “Shock the System” and “Trapped Inside Closed Doors” have been written a hundred times by a hundred bands but sound great every time. And when you throw in something like “Easily Sedated”, it’s just unfair to relegate Germ Attak to the minor leagues. The title track has kind of an epic Aus Rotten vibe, but the rest of Cruxshadow blazes like Quincy Punx or The Unseen at their respective peaks. Factor in the leather, bristles, studs and acne that these guys proudly display in their back cover photo and I’m one step away from sending Germ Attak a MySpace message to see if they need another roadie.

Happy Birthday Happy Birthday LP (Sub Pop)
Yep, “Happy Birthday”. Have bands no shame these days? Looking at the three dorks in the inner sleeve, I guess it makes sense, as they’ve got the unshowered garage-twee look down pat, complete with goofy smirks and imperfect teeth. I wasn’t exactly expecting Happy Birthday to sound like Antiseen, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how soft, slick and ultimately satisfying this self-titled debut ended up. Maybe the stubble on that caveman Michael Cera in the band led me to expect something a little grittier, but Happy Birthday is at its best cane sugar and at its worst, high fructose corn syrup. Pretty much every tune on here forsakes rocking out for the perfect hook, and since they nail it, who am I to request anything different? I figured “Girls FM” was the clear and present hit, and it is, but there’s a good half dozen other songs just as memorable and sweet, like “2 Shy” and “Zit”, or even the woozy slow-dance of “Subliminal Message”. Happy Birthday reminds me of the Queers during their Beach Boys phase and Don’t Back Down, which I loved, with maybe an aesthetic touch of The Adventures of Pete & Pete for the lovable ugly nerd quotient. Sure, it’s cheesy music, and yet here I am, checking behind my couch in hopes of finding the misplaced download card.

Home Blitz Perpetual Night / Murder In My Heart 7″ (Almost Ready)
Hot on the heels of Home Blitz’s great Richie Records album, here’s a new 45 from Princeton’s finest export since the Review. “Perpetual Night” is excellent and follows their winning formula: part glam-rock shuffle, part punk rock, part disjointed art moves, entirely endearing. It plays like a trip to the shore and back. I celebrate the first couple Home Blitz singles, but I think Out of Phase really nailed the recording that they needed, fuzzy yet crisp, and they’ve got it here once again, much to my delight. “Murder In My Heart” is a cover of The Searchers, one that I was not previously familiar, but it’s great as well – a real Powerpearl that I need to add to my want list. I can only assume The Searchers are English, because no other country knows how to make murder seem so courteous and polite. There’s no denying that Home Blitz are on a roll, although the “thanks to no one, die!” on the back of the sleeve leads me to believe that Daniel DiMaggio has spent a little too much time jamming with the hatemongers in Watery Love.

Infirmary Necropenetrator LP (SNSE)
Necropenetrator is just the kind of ridiculous harsh noise record I need. It’s like filling a neti pot with television static and flushing out one’s sinuses for thirty-some minutes. There are nine interchangeable tracks, each one as stoic, brutal and unflinching as the next, with absolutely no tension or surprises or personality, just pure noise in the “wall of” variety. The only noticeable change is when a track stops, thanks to the two-second silence that acts as the only signifier that Infirmary have moved on from “Voodoo Doll” to “Cocksucking Gnome”. Gotta hand it to these guys for abusing sound so badly that the breaks between tracks become as crucial to the experience as the noise itself.

Inhalant Bondage LP (SNSE)
SNSE has really narrowed its focus in recent times, streamlining the label’s efforts towards bleak and violent power-electronics. I loved picking up a SNSE release and not knowing if I was going to be hit with busted turntablism, loopy punk rock or mechanical drone, but the current specific sonic range has proven to be just as satisfying. Never heard Inhalant before, but I caught his drift quickly – Bondage is pure and heavy electronic distortion, with various instruments (synths, guitars, contact mic) all whipped together into a fine purée. There are vocals on a few tracks, with lyrics verging on Mariah Carey (“don’t ever leave me / don’t deceive me / love… don’t ever stop”), but any attempt to decipher them in the mix is futile. I love this stuff, especially when it’s as heavy as it is here; Inhalant comes across like The Rita with a more generic aesthetic (bondage is to harsh noise as hating the president is to punk rock) but I’m content without any reinvention; a powerful sonic attack is fine as is. Comes with a cool poster of Mr. Inhalant wielding two knives with malicious intent in his eyes, sure to frighten anyone who opens your locker.

Little Gold Completely Fucked! / Chainsaw 7″ (Heartbreakbeat)
Little Gold is a new project from one of the Woods and Meneguar guys, and while I’ve yet to actually hear either of those bands, Little Gold is pretty much what I’d expect from that whole modern urban indie-lumberjack aesthetic: you know, a friendly young guy graduates college, his hardcore group stops practicing, he stops shaving, he moves to Williamsburg with a fresh graphic arts degree, he makes friends, starts a new, more mature band with them, and winds up tending bar before finding something more serious. If that doesn’t describe Little Gold, it has to describe at least a fair number of their fans, and as a privileged white college graduate myself, I make that distinction without any condescension. Besides, if I ever choose to wear one of those little biker caps while drinking a locally-brewed organic IPA, I sure wouldn’t mind hearing “Completely Fucked!” coming through the stereo, what with its quality hooks and heavy Ted Leo vibe, albeit with a little less political resentment and a little more youthful exuberance than Mr. Leo. “Chainsaw” continues the vibe nicely with a country twang and unassumingly professional polish that can only be obtained through years of playing some sort of music. Little Gold’s style does very little for my personal sensibilities but there’s no denying that it’s good stuff. If I have to watch a Nantucket Nectars commercial on TV, might as well be these guys playing in the background.

Male German For Shark LP (Other Electricities)
German For Shark is the second album to come from Chicago’s Male, and a nice step forward. Their debut, All Are Welcome, set a reserved and thoughtful tone, but ultimately was a little too quiet and contemplative, like the air to mass ratio was weighted too heavily towards the former. German For Shark beefs things up, but don’t let that mislead you – Male still operate with a serene, cinematic swirl that never comes close to overwhelming the listener. The first side is a bit more on the buttoned-shirt, post-grad improv tip; I swear I hear some xylophone on a few tracks, amidst the timid metal clatter and guitars used as mixing boards rather than stringed instruments. For a sound so content to merge into your background, it’s pretty engaging. My favorite stuff comes towards the end of the second side, particularly on “The Tase (Two)”, a live recording that sounds like the Loren Mazzacane Connors Big Band, with the guitar taking center stage and softly weeping, like it finally returned to the edge of the ocean cliff where its lover fell and drowned. Top-notch art direction on this package, it even comes with a newsprint poster and is pressed on slate-gray Czech vinyl. This one’s going to sound even better when the summer’s sweltering heat arrives.

Naked on the Vague Heaps of Nothing LP (Siltbreeze)
Here it is, the new Naked on the Vague record, with the full band lineup that Lucy Phelan and Matthew Hopkins had promised, and it’s definitely different from the ‘Vague I came to love. What initially drew me to this band was the fact that even on their earliest material, they had a pretty unique sound, somehow crafting a signature style from bass guitar, vocals, drum machine and keyboards (and writing some hits along the way, too – I must’ve played “All Aboard” more than any other modern post-punk song in the past two years). On Heaps of Nothing, Naked on the Vague have forsaken some of that uniqueness in the name of rock n’ roll. The Naked on the Vague Band is pretty good, but most of the music on this album sounds cribbed from any of the other bands defining the modern Siltbreeze sound, like Pink Reason or Eat Skull or Psychedelic Horseshit. Opener “Mysterious Oven” has a curious guitar lead, but it’s quickly followed by “Wrong Room”, which sounds like Courtney Love fronting either Pink Reason or, umm, Hole. Lucy’s voice sounds a lot like Courtney Love on here, because how else are you supposed to sing over apathetic indie-grunge? I enjoy Naked on the Vague most when they get gothy and even noisy (the Sad Sun EP still kinda sounds like Wolf Eyes to me), but Heaps of Nothing lacks that vibe and instead comes across like a modern Siltbreeze lo-fi rock album that will probably get lost in the shuffle.

The Native Cats Always On LP (Ride the Snake)
The Native Cats rocked my 2009 with Always On, originally released on CD format, of which only scant copies made it off their island of Tasmania. Thanks to Ride the Snake, it’s now widely available in the US (and on a superior format), leaving no excuse for anyone remotely interested in moody post-punk to not check it out. I’m clearly a huge fan, but it’s because these two guys create such great music – with bass guitar, vocals, and various instrumental ephemera, they supplement their sparse, minimal tunes with a massive heap of mood, courtesy of Peter Escott’s noir-ish, unsettling lyrics. Escott leads the listener through back alleys and bath houses, turning phrases with a wink and a snarl; his words paint such robust, vivid pictures that a Native Cats tune sometimes sounds like a Charles Willeford short story set to music. And the music is great too, efficiently minimal with their drum machine and bass guitar rhythm section, calling to mind Young Marble Giants or Arab Strap and working the full emotional spectrum within those rigid confines. Always On is refined, witty and emotional, and undoubtedly one of the best albums I’ve heard in years. I don’t think anyone who hears “Shovel On Shovel” followed by “The Image of Annie & Ivan” would disagree.

No Fun Acid This Is No Fun Acid 3 CD (No Fun Productions)
Carlos Giffoni’s take on acid house has been intriguing me for a while, mainly because I wanted to hear what a guy with a noise/improv background would bring to the acid genre. Unfortunately, the answer is “not much”. Perhaps Taint, or Nate Young, or Jessica Rylan would do some amazing and unexpected things, but after engaging This Is No Fun Acid 3, it’s clearly evidenced that Giffoni has little artistic investment in this project. Of the two tracks on this disc, the first is an unnecessary twenty-three minutes long, providing a lengthy and rudimentary run through the Roland 303 and it’s basic functions and various pre-set arpeggios. The second track is about thirteen minutes and does essentially the same thing, only significantly faster and without any nod to the dancefloor. I get the impression that Giffoni’s role here isn’t to actually create any meaningful, resonant music, but instead just to cherry-pick this potent strain of dance music from the club and place it into the sterile, pretentious confines of an art exhibition, to drain its blood, embalm it and hang it on the wall, all while smugly claiming credit. And because he’s already an established name, his pre-existing fanbase guarantees an audience for whatever genre he decides to poach next. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when he’s on another expenses-paid UK tour under the name No Fun Krautrock in a year or two.

Pfisters Narcicity LP (Fan Death)
I had been wondering what became of The New Flesh, as last I heard, SS Records was slated to issue Parasite on vinyl, but it seems like that ceased to be the case somewhere along the line. Still not sure if they’re a fully-functioning band, but guitarist/vocalist Jason Donnells is keeping busy with Pfisters, a new three-piece rock band from Baltimore. The similarities between the two are plenty, but Pfisters differ from The New Flesh in the noise/rock equation – rather than rely on extended feedback, looped static or ratty chains of effects pedals, Pfisters opt for a relatively clean sound, far more indebted to something like Drive Like Jehu or Halo of Flies than say, Drunks with Guns or Unsane. Narcicity definitely calls to mind a classic strain of Am-Rep post-hardcore, one that still required its bands to be musicians as well as wild entertainers, rather than allow them to just dig into a sub-Swans rhythm and loop the feedback. While I admire Pfisters for performing competently and not taking the low road, between you and me, I prefer the disturbing and unhinged variety of noise-rock, the one that led to The New Flesh collaborating with Robert Inhuman, as opposed to Pfisters’ more sterile and competent variety. Maybe you’re different, but I’d rather listen to a third-generation dubbed live version of Unholy Swill’s “Belch Away the Boogeyman” than this collection of inoffensive and homogeneous rock tunes, not because I dislike Pfisters, but because Unholy Swill are simply where it’s at.

Puerto Rico Flowers 2 7″ (Fan Death)
Puerto Rico Flowers have quickly followed their debut EP with two more serious goth-punk tracks that will leave you wondering who this impostor is and what he did with the real John Sharkey. As far as I’m concerned, that old John Sharkey can rest in peace, because I am just completely digging Puerto Rico Flowers, this single in particular. “Voice of Love” is the PRF slow jam, the “leaving the prom alone” song, the sound of blood exiting your wrists while you stare, bleary-eyed, at the “Twilight” poster on your wall. But through such weary moments, Sharkey’s voice consoles you, insisting that you’ll meet the love of your life as a freshman in college, or that you’ll float up to heaven in spite of your suicide. This mood lingers onto the Neil Young cover on the b-side, “When Your Lonely Heart Breaks”. Covering a Neil Young tune without guitar is like performing a Michael Jackson song without dancing, and yet Puerto Rico Flowers play it like one of their own, as if this adopted child feels like an equal to his biological siblings. Sharkey’s voice sounds a hell of a lot like Chris Isaak on this one; I can just tell he’s going to be a wonderful father.

Puffy Areolas In the Army 1981 LP (Siltbreeze)
Puffy Areolas’ contribution to the Skulls Without Borders compilation cracked open my third eye, so I wasted no time grabbing this one. Just look at those dudes on the cover, it’s obvious that the guy with the nunchucks can’t twirl them for more than ten seconds without accidentally landing a direct shot to his balls. I’ve heard that these guys go crazy live, crawling over things and knocking people down and ruining equipment, and I completely understand that after a few runs through In the Army 1981; each song has essentially two different parts: a rocking riff and a chorus that usually acts as a short respite from the mayhem. Seriously, there are four songs on the a-side and I’m pretty sure I counted eight different parts before my needle reached the center. The Areolas just go back and forth between those two parts, rocking out until someone screws up or something falls apart – that’s about as deep as their musical craft goes. On “1981” it can grow kind of tiresome, but the track before it, “Deathcraze”, hits me like Nine Shocks Terror covering Hawkwind. In the Army 1981 seems less like an established set of songs assembled with the esteemed Siltbreeze label in mind, and more like a series of loosely-planned, gnarly rock moves intent only on self-gratification and destruction. Fine with me.

Ramadanman Glut / Tempest 12″ (Hemlock)
If you’re trying to keep score, this is YGR’s seventh Ramadanman review (with the eight directly beneath it). If you still haven’t checked this fella out, allow me to recommend this new one on Hemlock, as these two tracks are easily digestible and a pretty good indication as to why I can’t stop saying the name “Ramadanman”. “Glut” throws me for a loop, as it rips out of the gate with a speedy electro groove, propelled by one of those classic drum machines that I should instantly recognize by its number (303? 808?) and bubbling along with a vocal sample that could make Sis jealous. It’s certainly modern-sounding, yet you could easily slip this one in between classics at some “80s Electro Dance Night” and no one would blink, they’d be too busy removing their jackets to reveal the sweaty shirts beneath. “Glut” even gets a little melancholy at the end, too. I love the way Mr. Danman’s mind works. On the other hand, “Tempest” is in line with the Pearson Sound 12″ on Hessle Audio, and as that was one of my favorites from last year, I am eager to gobble it down. Lots of cool pitch-shifting and after an ambient pause, it eventually gets into this “dueling banjos”-style call-and-response that could easily split the crowd into some sort of loosely choreographed fight dance. Ramadanman is the man.

Ramadanman & Midland Your Words Matter / More Than You Know 12″ (Aus Music)
When I see that sideways, spherical Aus Music logo on the sleeve, I know to expect a house-ier sound from producers normally associated with dubstep, like say Appleblim or Martyn. Ramadanman is no exception, and with the help of Midland, these poetically-linked tracks are some of the finest bits of dance music I’ve heard from his camp thus far. “Your Words Matter” is slightly retro, kind of a turn-of-the-century vibe, with an array of minimal percussion sounds, sophisticated piano chords and an overall slick vibe, like you’d expect to hear this track coming out of a club named Glam or Posh or Nouveau, the type of yuppie meat-market where all suits must be professionally tailored in order to gain entry. Along with the rapid-fire female vocal hook that comes in (and eventually leads into a massive crescendo), I can’t help but expect to see Ally McBeal dancing wildly across the bar with Joey from Friends. I’m probably going off the deep end a little, but Ramadanman has a knack for invoking nostalgia that may have never actually happened when he sets his sights on crossover pop. “More Than You Know” is kind of a spacey extrapolation on the a-side, like you’re creeping around in the janitor’s closet below the dancefloor, listening in on the fun. You’ve done it again, Ramadanman.

The Reactors I Want Sex / Seduction Center 7″ (Last Laugh)
Here’s a simple and effective reissue of one of the true Killed By Death holy grails, The Reactors and their timeless classic “I Want Sex”. I believe the record’s history goes something like this: one hundred singles pressed, with twenty getting trashed, leaving a mere eighty copies to slowly disseminate through the decades, from dusty 7″ racks, attics and thrift stores into the greasy palms of the informed punk rock collector (and then back and forth between collectors, the price jumping higher with every new year). The first time anyone hears “I Want Sex”, it’s a revelation, courtesy of the buzzsaw guitar, galloping beat and maniacal vocal. Never has a warning siren intro been more appropriate. People complain about the world of punk record collecting, and its inflated values, but how can you hear this tune and not understand that an original vinyl copy is worth more than a used Kia? And unlike some other KBD-comped singles, the b-side “Seduction Center” is no slouch either; a little wackier, with sound effects and spazzier vocals, but musically just as fierce. Glad Last Laugh found no reason to alter the original 7″ issue besides a slightly thicker sleeve, as there’s really no room for improvement on the original.

Rib Cages Rib Cages 7″ (Lemon Session)
Of the first four Lemon Sessions, Rib Cages seem to have played it safest. They opt for a pretty good and fast garage-punk style, somewhere between the New Bomb Turks and Homostupids, although without the compelling hooks of the former and the panache of the latter. Competent playing, vocals that fit the mood, lots of energy… I don’t know, it’s good, but so is a glass of orange juice with my Rice Krispies. All of these Lemon Session records have near-identical artwork and design, which is cool, but it also makes it kind of hard to really get a feel for the band when I’m just going off of the music, which of itself doesn’t speak that uniquely. Still, I’d give Rib Cages another listen down the road; they’ve got just enough Candy Snatchers in their sound (especially on the last track, “Lock Horns”) that I’m willing to watch where they go next.

Teenage Nightwar Alexander Graham Bell / Letdown 7″ (Lemon Session)
Teenage Nightwar are my top pick from the Lemon Session bunch, and not just because they’ve got the coolest name. “Alexander Graham Bell” is frantic and tense from the get-go, with an emergency-warning bassline ushering in a quick and powerful post-punk ride, somewhere between Wire’s early demos and the Popular Shapes full-length. More bands should opt for this sort of locomotive drumming, but then again, you’ve got to have some level of chops to pull it off, which Teenage Nightwar certainly do. “Letdown” is less frantic, maybe think Wire circa Chairs Missing, which anyone with ears will enjoy. Both songs are over in a flash, leaving me with a taste for more. Very nice indeed.

Terrible Twos Keep It Grey / Catch a Cold 7″ (Lemon Session)
People raved about the Terrible Twos, but try as I might, I just can’t get into them. I picked up their LP on Criminal IQ, but it didn’t survive my last record purge; there’s just something about their songwriting and overall style that I found unremarkable and unexciting. This single reinforces that opinion, as both songs are well recorded, thoughtfully written, competently played and overall, pretty uninteresting. It’s kind of ironic that I say “uninteresting”, since it seems like these guys cram as many different instruments and parts as they can in a two minute garage-punk song (a couple guitars, a keyboard, who knows what else), yet nothing they do ever really sticks. Not a bad band by any means, their records are just nothing I’d ever specifically choose to hear. “Catch A Cold” even has kind of a metallic overtone mixed with their usual Detroit punk sound, complete with a dramatic intro and screechy black metal vocals, but it still hits my palette like a slice of white bread. Maybe this band just totally destroys live and I’m missing the big picture, but for the many ingredients on these two songs, the flavor just isn’t up to snuff.

Tonstartssbandht Midnite Cobras 7″ (Psychic Handshake)
Much like the Wicked Awesomes LP on Psychic Handshake, this Tonstartssbandht single seems like a focused attempt on capturing everything that is currently en vogue within the fifty-person capacity basement punk scene, although I’d say that Tonstartssbandht’s results are slightly more satisfying than that of the W. Awesomes. “Midnite Cobras” is probably also the name of some band opening for the Oh Sees right now, but on here it’s a wobbly, reverb-protected indie tune with a nice hook and unpretentious vibe, something like a poor man’s Wedding Present with a Captured Tracks production job. “I’m a Welsh Souper” sounds like Wavves, at least until it breaks into an unexpected and flailing Lightning Bolt part; they’ve even got some intricate, mathy guitar work that I had assumed to be too close to “trying hard” (and therefore unacceptable amongst their peer group). To complete Tonstartssbandht’s cornucopia of modern influences, “Electric Dragon Sword” digs into the Acid Archives and comes up with a pretty righteous stoner riff and some harmonious vocals. The title is a little too corny-on-purpose for me, but musically-speaking, it’s the most intriguing track of the three and a direction I hope this band follows. Only problem is, what if Tonstartssbandht get really good and I want to tell my friends to check them out? There’s no way I’m going to remember this name, let alone the spelling; all of my buddies are going to end up googling the “Tons of Fart Bandits” to no avail.

Twin Stumps Seedbed LP (Fan Death)
Twin Stumps’ debut 12″ really knocked me on my can. Heads above their peers, Twin Stumps use noise not as a dressing or decoration but as the core of their essence, with a visceral approach that fits snugly between your Con Dom and Mauthausen Orchestra records. Plus, they kind of rocked. After much anticipation, I can say that Seedbed is another great record that has lived up to their standard. I recall a lot more thrashing on the debut, whereas Seedbed is almost entirely slow, the type of record that never really exceeds the pacing of a snore. Only “Business Class” really gets pumping; the rest churn like Filth-era Swans, or Test Dept’s horrifying Beating the Retreat, or a particularly ‘luded Air Conditioning performance, complete with wretched digital fuzz. It could easily blend into one indistinct mass, but as I sit here, I can recall specific moments of “Landlord” and “Pope’s Nose” – startling, unique, exciting moments. “Pigs at the Trough” is a quiet and unsettling couple of minutes, like all hell is breaking loose outside while you’re bed-ridden with a pillow covering your ears, and “Caged Emily” (I wonder if she is friends with Alice In Chains) relies on an uncomfortably ascending riff to carry you home. I don’t want to call the whole thing “mature”, but Twin Stumps definitely work with a level of restraint, forethought and menace that the chumps around the corner haven’t even considered yet.

Flottante Tension D’eclipse compilation LP (SDZ)
Great comps are hard to come by these days, but thanks to SDZ’s ten-year celebration, I’ve got the closest modern-day contender to Let Them Eat Jellybeans in my hands right now. I always figured SDZ was just “another French garage label”, but they can’t be if they’re kicking things off with this sweetly nebulous Alan Courtis jam. Haven’t paid him much attention since Reynol’s dissolution but “Tataupa Listado Mora” puts me in the proper headspace for what’s to follow. I keep forgetting how good Feeling of Love are, but they remind me once again with “Dissolve Me”, the second cut on here. That’s pretty much how things go on Flottante Tension D’eclipse, smoothly sailing from a Goner / In The Red style garage template (Anteenagers M.C., The O Voids) to the strange things that can happen when those garage punkers start futzing with drum machines and samplers (Braindamage, The Rebel). Cheveu contribute a fantastic little nugget that reminds me of Clouddead with its off-kilter nasal rapping, Dead Clodettes are as great as that cool name led me to believe, and Electric Bunnies show more personality with “San Francisco Poet” than I remember finding on their recent album. The only disappointment here, and it’s a minor one, is the fact that The Daily Void’s contribution is just a different recording of a great cut off their recent Sacred Bones EP. As I’ve happily sat on my couch, insert in hand, and followed along to SDZ’s distinct taste a number of times, my satisfaction has only increased. I was blissfully ignorant of SDZ’s first decade; I plan on changing that for the next.