Ash Pool Saturn’s Slave 7″ (Hospital Productions)
Ash Pool are one of Dominic Fernow (aka Prurient)’s black-metal projects, as he has been known to trade his precarious wall of amps for a guitar now and then. Saturn’s Slave is comprised of two incessant songs and hits many of the classic black-metal checkpoints along the way, with wailing vocals, treble-boosted guitar and cacophonious production. It’s actually quite more song-oriented than I was expecting, definitely more straight-forward metal than Vegas Martyrs or Taylor Bow. The b-side even has a languid guitar melody going on for a while. It’s all done so competently and successfully that nothing really stands out for me here, I haven’t found anything too over the top or ingeniously repulsive. Maybe he just wanted to do something completely true to form, but I’ve always admired Fernow’s more ambitious work, of which this is not.

Bare Wires Let Down 7″ (Milk N’ Herpes)
I generally like my power-pop two ways: corny n’ cute or dynamic n’ raw. Bare Wires doesn’t quite fall into either camp, but still makes do on “Let Down”, a proto-punk rocker with a brisk pace and agile guitar line. The problem here is that the vocals are so plain and devoid of personality that there is really no reason for me to ever have to hear this cut again. You gotta give me something, guys! “Looking For Some Action” has the better hook and the vocalist actually decides to sing along with the melody, which is appreciated. Real mild punk that goes down without much irritation and fades out about as quickly as it arrived.

Brain Children Brain Children 12″ (Stained Circles)
Yet another project from the seemingly non-sleeping musical prodigy Mikey Squire, of Eddy Current and the Ooga Boogas and probably half a dozen other bands I’ve already mentioned on YGR. Unlike all those others, Brain Children are far removed from the world of stripped-down guitar rock; nope, this is pure electro-pop, a complete curveball in his growing discography. Weird, right? The six tracks on here really remind me of Ratatat or some other modern group that can squeeze melodic guitar lines into a Daft Punk design. It’s pretty well done and will probably appeal to any youngster with a Sparks tongue and an American Apparel discount, and I dig it too, except sometimes the falsetto vocals that appear on some tracks are kind of pushing it. I much prefer the guest vocals of Nisa Venerosa (of Fabulous Diamonds fame) that show up on one song. Definitely the strangest thing I’ve heard from Mikey, but he manages to wear his mesh well.

D9 D9 CD (Urban Decay / Heart & Crossbone)
Sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t some new CD by NYHC documentary faves District 9. No, D9 are a modern power-violence band from Israel, of all places. Musically, it’s pretty much by-the-books hardcore grind – down-tuned guitars, unintelligibly-screamed vocals and three tempos that generally appear in each song: fast, blast-beat and doom. It’s pretty good and fans of the genre would probably not hesitate to ask D9 for a couple tracks to put on their comp or something. Definitely the type of band that I’d hear on some “international hardcore” compilation with 50 bands and in D9’s case, I’d check to see who it is. In full-length form, they flesh things out with the occasional noise interlude (think the waves of harsh static and looped vocals Psywarfare might throw down) and every now and then, an additional singer does a pretty rad Rick Ta Life gutteral yelp for which I am always in the market. Definite Pessimiser-Theologian vibes here, and while it’s not a disc I will be necessarily promoting to my friends as an essential grind release, the fact that these dudes are from Israel and have probably dealt with way more messed-up and horrifying life situations than any band from say, San Diego or Boston has certainly adds some cred to their sound.

FNU Ronnies Golem 12″ (Night People)
John Sharkey of Clockcleaner has publicly stated that FNU Ronnies are one of the only active bands to play Skull Music and his certification is wholly justified on this rotten one-sided clear-vinyl 12″. Opening with the most SPK-sounding electro-march this side of that big black Vinyl On Demand box, “Watchful Eye” trips its way into a kaleidoscopic terror of vocals and guitars. A total creepfest that probably would’ve had the guys in Church Police thinking twice about the direction of their lives. The real anchor here is the second cut, “Golem Smoke”, which moves ahead on a hunchbacked lurch, lead by the ghost of Bobby Soxx right into a broken elevator. This song pretty much ends whatever modern noise-rock revival is going on as there can be no better expression. The song just goes and goes, too. The record ends with a somewhat inconsequential splashing of noise, at least in light of the two cuts before it, kind of like the lonely air-raid siren after all has been decimated. Truly essential rock listening for anyone alive in 2009 with even the slightest predilection towards evil.

Fontana Not A Leg To Stand On 7″ (Milk N’ Herpes)
Two nice cuts of Detroit punk from Fontana here. “Not A Leg To Stand On” plays like an elongated version of something off We Got Power, very Mystic Records-sounding but not in a bad way. Pretty standard punk tune with some added flourishes. “Miss Calhoun” has a similar vibe, with it’s fairly long running time and mellow parts that cushion their straight-forward rocking. I really can’t help but think of like Ill Repute or Code of Honor or one of those Cali punk bands that wore bandanas tied around their knees and went to high school, their youthful vitriol replaced with some hard rock grandeur. Nice enough record but with all the punk 7″s that are released weekly, there isn’t much that elevates this one from the pack.

Group Doueh Treeg Salaam LP (Sublime Frequencies)
Everyone knows by now what an absolute scorcher the first Group Doueh LP is. If you say you’ve fully wrapped your head around that one in the past year or two that it’s existed, you my friend are a liar. So naturally anticipation ran high for this second Group Doueh, and coupled with the fear of a quick and definite sell-out (I’d rather not acquire my Doueh off the eBay black market, thank you), I picked it up at the first available record shop to the tune of $25. Unfortunately for me, this “new” album is actually a collection of Sublime Frequencies-picked cuts from some of the band’s old cassettes, recorded as early as 1989 and late as 1996. Doueh’s guitar is significantly toned down and less distinct here, and the initial physical reaction to his sound is far less severe. Some tracks are quiet meditations, and others probably came direct from some boisterous wedding reception (the latter being my favorite on here). It nearly sounds like a totally different band. Had I known that this was a drastically different thing, my cash would’ve went towards that Omar Souleyman instead, but with the impending fear of “buy now or pay later”, this is what I got. It’s still a nice record, and sure to please those hardcore Doueh Dudes, but I can’t help but feel let down at the promise of another Group Doueh record.

Intrusion Little Angel 12″ (Echospace)
Excellent new swirled vinyl 12″ from the Echospace label, its greens and greys proudly displayed through the clear plastic sleeve. “Little Angel” comes first with a Paul St. Hilare vocal, coasting nicely on an ambient techno waltz. He’s almost out of place here, but the kindness in his voice works with Intrusion’s rich textures. Almost makes me wish someone would put together a Gas / Sizzla mash-up for me to enjoy. “Little Angel” is followed by a dub version, and while that may sound redundant, it’s equally nice and soft. B-side “A Night To Remember” is total Pop Ambient material, modestly thumping with synths dispersing like the wake of a ferry. Very nicely done, with a replay factor much higher than other records of this nature. Most suitable for late nights and early mornings.

Ramadanman Humber 12″ (Apple Pips)
Humber is the first Ramadaman record I’ve heard that has really delivered on the greatness alluded to in that awesome name of his. Apple Pips just seems to make all their guys rise to new levels. “Humber” itself is real slick with that retro-modern synth sound popping around an airtight beat that would fit in nicely with something like Joe’s “Grimelight”. This isn’t dark or brooding dubstep, “Humber” is all clouds and candy but it never sounds childish or out of place. It almost reminds me of a totally stripped-down version of something that could’ve appeared on Luomo’s Convivial album, too, which is most certainly a good thing to my ears. The Sven Weisemann remix is real nice too, adds a bit of distance to the original and dims the lights; he even throws in one of those ominous echoed vocal clips that would’ve been more appropriate for a Skull Disco release before heading straight into 4/4 techno territory. Really pleasant record from one of the coolest names in electronic music. Is it pronounced with a “mon” at the end? Because that’s how I say it.

Richard Youngs High Sun Energy 7″ (Dull Knife)
Richard Youngs is one of those odd UK noise guys who is just as likely to mangle some feedback as he is to take a stroll down some Scottish moor, and it’s with this single-minded fearlessness that he makes for a perfect candidate to start the Dull Knife songwriter series. These swirls of churning guitar and radio static are manipulated easily in his capable hands. I guess these count as “songs” too, since each side comes with vocals, with “High Sun Energy” utilizing some sort of fuzzy yodel and “States of Time” opting for a static-laced spoken word. I haven’t kept up on all of his recent work, but these cuts definitely sound like the same guy responsible for so much incomprehensible clatter on that first A Band LP. He’s been going at it for years now and that experience shines through here.

Sis Bubu 12″ (Mitu Recordings)
Heyyy Bubu! A new 12″ by Sis, that guy who did “Trompeta” last year, which was transmitted through every decent soundsystem in Europe like snakes on a plane (too late for a SOAP joke? Sorry.). “Trompeta” (and the previous “Nesrib”) displayed his knack for molding some sort of weird deformed sound into a peak-time club hit, like a pop-oriented nephew of Villalobos (who actually released said Trompeta 12″). ‘Bubu’ sticks to that formula, once again working with an inhuman vocal hook to ride along his 4/4, really pushing the vocal into Burial territory, if Burial was buried up to his neck in Ibizan sand with a margarita under his chin. It’s another cool Sis record, but both “Bubu” and “Sum” don’t quite match his previous efforts. “Bubu” lacks the vocal strength of a “Nesrib” and “Sum” is almost downtempo, definitely the chilliest track I’ve ever heard from him. Don’t get me wrong, this 12″ is a lot of fun, it’s just that I am not as quickly compelled to dislocate my joints to these tracks. The remix of “Sum” by Stipe (could it be Michael?) is a little juicier, but Bubu remains the most coffee-table Sis I’ve heard, which is not what I have come to desire in his music.

Tin Man Cool Wave 12″ (Cheap)
Let me first state that Tin Man’s Wasteland EP from last year was one of the best records I’ve ever heard. Techno for people who dislike techno, drone for people with short attention spans, pop music for narcoleptics, call it what you want but I’ve never heard anything like it before. Cool Wave is the follow-up, and while it floats by even slower and softer than Wasteland, the six tracks that comprise it follow that great lonely space-station vibe to an incredibly satisfying production. “Constant Confusion” might be the hit, working the Tin Man formula effortlessly on a subtle beat, but “Cool Wave” is probably my favorite track. The beat is falling asleep and there’s this unusual feminine vocal that accompanies the voice of Tin Man, sounding like she was auto-tuned to match the bottom of the ocean. It’s an incredibly lush record, utilized best at night and perfect for sex right before or after falling asleep. It’s hard to hear these songs and not think of sex or sleeping or both, as each song floats along on closed eyelids and moistened lips. Gorgeous music that will be cruelly ignored for not fitting into a rigid genre, but honestly, I don’t mind keeping Tin Man a personal affair.

Twinsistermoon Bride Of The Spirits 7″ (Dull Knife)
It’s going to be impossible to talk about this record without mentioning the packaging – a gorgeous full-color artbook that makes for the perfect accompaniment while playing this softly psychedelic single. There are more than enough blurry nature still lifes to enjoy. The art and sound accompany each other here just as well as that Black Dice 7″ with the big book did a few years ago. The a-side is three hushed tunes comprised of little more than acoustic guitar and voice; Tenniscoats collaborating with Christina Carter would be an appropriate modern comparison. I prefer the b-side, which stretches its legs a bit, like NNCK just waking up in the morning, before going back into the same delicate vibe found on the a-side. Pleasant music and a gorgeous package make it obvious why this thing didn’t last on the shelves for long.

Tyvek Tyvek LP (Siltbreeze)
Like many, I’ve been waiting for the Tyvek full-length for a while, and like some, I’ve been getting less and less excited based on the diminishing returns of their past few 7″ singles that offered material that was either previously released or tossed-off (or both). Lucky me then, as Tyvek is a pretty great album that seems to tie together all of their varied influences and prerogatives into a highly listenable record. At first I wasn’t sold on these little minute-long instrumental jams that pop up frequently between songs, but if you just let the record play, those interludes serve as nice little moments that maintain the flow and never drag. It makes for an experience not unlike listening in to a really tight band practice. All the instruments are audible and I can understand a lot of the lyrics, but it still sounds like a DIY recording with the burps and tape cuts in plain sight. The whole thing has the feel of one of the more tuneful Messthetics bands (Desperate Bicycles or Beyond the Implode) working with an additional twenty years of indie music influence, as if Swell Maps’ riffs were placed in Pavement’s capable hands. Writing two catchy tunes and pressing 300 7″s isn’t really that tough, but applying that same aesthetic to a widely-available album and succeeding is commendable.

Watery Love Debut 45 7″ (Richie)
Having personally attended the majority of Watery Love’s gigs, I can say that I’ve never before seen a band perform with such a staunch refusal to provide any sort of entertainment or enjoyment for the crowd, a crowd that has often been filled with friends and acquaintances of the band. Their approach to rock music is essentially the same: bang out some simple, aggressive guitar tunes with as few frills and genre concessions as possible, to the point where fun is replaced with necessity as the answer to “Why did you start this band?”. On the surface we’ve got two short punchy songs and one long droner, but the essence of Watery Love is so solipsistic and dense that even attempting to slight the band or their music makes one look foolish. (The “You diss Dre, you dis yourself” paradox.) The Willeford quote on the back only further cements this fact, he an author as capable of writing a goofy essay as knocking you on your can. Buy this record or don’t, that decision will probably matter more to you than Watery Love.

Burning Hell Vol. 1 boxset 4×7″ (Burning Hell)
Just say the words “limited boxset with previously unreleased Brainbombs and Homostupids records” and you’ve gotten dozens of nerds perspiring across the internet. Yes, I’m one of them, and paying the $40 or whatever to own this thing hasn’t made me question my life goals, as it delivers on its promise. Four bands, four 7″ singles, limited to 100 with all sorts of screen-printed and hand-made covers. Brainbombs are first and while neither of their two cuts are as strong as anything off Fucking Mess or their last few singles, both songs are still true to form and will be cherished by the 100 sociopaths who get to own them. Homostupids must not have thought much of the opportunity to be involved, as their record is one impossibly short piece of noisy garage backed with a looped Roger Daltrey sample that is admittedly totally hilarious through repetition (and has gotten more spins in my living room than it reasonably should). Black Bug also rely on brevity with their 7″, two tracks that are cool but way less menacing than they seem to have intended. And finally there’s the Poppets who provide two goofed-up Brainbombs covers, something I’d expect to hear on a Wheelchair Full of Old Men tape. It may not sound like a very satisfying selection, but something about the entire package and the nihilistic music it contains is enough to keep this on my shelf and off eBay.

The World’s Lousy With Ideas Vol. 7 compilation 7″ (Almost Ready / Aarght!)
Volume seven of this prolific series features four Australian bands, and while it might not be the exact lineup I’d choose for such an excursion, the results are generally pretty good and make for a worthy addition to the World’s Lousy family. Starts off with Super Wild Horses who are just as tuneless and bashing as their debut 7″, which is certainly a good thing, and they are partnered with the UV Race, who do their usual mentally-handicapped Eddy Current thing with aplomb and a catchinesss that nearly matches “Lego Man” off their first record. Straight Arrows are the only group I wasn’t already familiar with, and their boring-yet-fine garage tune gives me no reason to investigate them further. Then it’s the act we’ve all been waiting for, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, who sound kind of like a band doing a really good Eddy Current impression, which is to say it’s not their greatest work but still a fine listen. Australia’s got enough cool punk bands to fill a double LP comp with hits, but this short 7″ comp is a treat just the same.

The World’s Lousy With Ideas Vol. 8 compilation LP (Almost Ready)
It’s about time this loosely-established scene got its own definitive compilation LP, and here it is, with the same highs and lows that grace most any genre-encapsulating vinyl compilation. Nine tracks, all familiar names, so I’ll give you the bad news first – The Sic Alps track is an “oh crap, we still need to record for that comp” throwaway and the Guinea Worms song nearly stinks a hole in the actual vinyl. Two out of nine isn’t bad. Vivian Girls, Blank Dogs, The Intelligence and Thee Oh Sees all turn in tracks that do nothing to hinder their respective legacies yet were clearly relegated to compilation status for good reason. Now, for the great – Times New Viking’s song will probably never leave my skull, and it’s enough to make me go investigate their other records as I never bothered after catching them live early in their career. Really killer tune that could easily kick off an excellent mixtape, were mixtapes still to exist. Tyvek’s “Flowers” appears elsewhere, at least I swear I’ve heard this somehow before, but no matter as its a great cut that encapsulates all of Tyvek’s power, from the goofy, untied-shoes riffing that somehow reigns in all sorts of colorful directions into a distinctive and inventive punk song. It’s Pink Reason that really goes to town here though, as “Going Home” is this bleak and brutal Screaming Trees jam that takes its time and just goes way deeper than any last-song-on-a-comp ever has. I could easily take a double LP of this sort of downer grunge right now, and hope it’s not the last I hear of Pink Reason heading in this direction. So really, the final report card comes in with three As, four Cs and two Fs, which I suppose is just below the honor roll at Compilation University. All of these bands have turned out better material elsewhere (well, maybe not Pink Reason, “Going Home” is really that great), but it’s still worth a cursory listen for anyone curious or fanatical about this little sect of underground music that I find myself frequently investigating.