Angeldust Angeldust 7″ (Heavy Psych)
Here’s a nasty black and white 7″ from Philadelphia’s Angeldust. Three short and ugly bursts of feedback, static and manic vocals on the a-side, very crunchy power-electronics served up just right. They wrench a lot of tension and release out of these spewed sounds but it’s a calculated affair, not some “press play and headbang” deal. These guys aren’t just turning on their amps and striking noise poses, there is some serious effort put forth to frame their mood. “The Darkside” is a live cut that fills the flip, very Intrinsic Action-esque in delivery and attitude. And just like Intrinsic Action had some memorable lines amidst the electronic fuckery, I can’t help but raise my fist every time Angeldust’s vocalist squeals “welcome yourself to the dark side”. This sort of noise can only truly exist on society’s fringe.

The Beets Don’t Fit In My Head 7″ (Captured Tracks)
I nearly bought the Beets’ debut LP based on that awesome Carlito cover art, but after a test-spin I couldn’t pull the trigger – the music just wasn’t my bag. I figured a 7″ would be more manageable for this sort of lo-fi acoustic stumble, and it is, especially since it comes chock full of that awesome colored-pencil artwork by Matt Volz (even the center stickers are packed with it). Both songs utilize a really simple, plodding jangle that is probably influenced by some of those Nuggets comps but ends up sounding like the Versatile Newts, thanks to their earnest-yet-amateurish strumming. Something about staring at these goofy cartoons while I listen to these songs is an incredibly satisfying multimedia experience. I’m sure I still couldn’t hang for an LP of this stuff, the hooks are just too few and far between, but as for a bright and attractive 7″ single that plays under four minutes, count me in.

Blues Control Local Flavor LP (Siltbreeze)
The Controllers are back in 2009 with some sweet n’ tasty Local Flavor, branching out a bit from their first two records but still maintaining that B.C. essence that drove us all wild in the first place. It kicks off with “Good Morning”, and it’s a real wakeup call, based around the fastest drum track Blues Control have ever touched, a boogie freak train that attracts the freak train conductor himself, Kurt Vile, to jam with the gang (on trumpet, turns out he didn’t dump it after all). An unexpected speed sesh that rocks in the truest sense of the word. The other tracks are prime Blues Control, piano arpeggios locked in with various guitars and drones. It’s like they take any and all balearic / new-age sounds they can find and carefully reconfigure the wiring into something krauty, smooth and cool. Epic ender “On Through The Night” is a real comfortable set of loopy drones that’s met with a chopped-and-screwed funk beat at the eight-minute mark, coasting home to the finish line in style. I truly appreciate that Blues Control has stuck with the “one full-length at a time” production plan, rather than succumb to the leaky-faucet release schedule of many of their contemporaries, as there is nary an unworthy moment within Local Flavor.

Cooly G Narst / Love Dub 12″ (Hyperdub)
The wildly-flattering Wire feature and Hyperdub affiliation had me stoked to check out Cooly G, specifically on this, her first piece of vinyl. If you’re going to do the same, please skip “Narst”, as it’s a disappointing instrumental – pretty weak selection of sounds that comes across like an amateurish attempt at dancehall, far from the quality I was expecting. It’s wimpy, and even worse, boring; kind of an odd choice for a first impression. The two versions of “Love Dub” on the b-side fare much better. It’s got a cool downtempo vibe, tighter percussion and Cooly’s gorgeous vocal. Only two phrases are repeated, but her voice is so lush that she could unfold an entire story with a single moan. Very slick and melancholy, the way Hyperdub likes it. I will definitely check out one of her mixes, if I can ever get her MySpace page to finish loading… Cooly G has a great sense of spacing with her music, not her web layouts.

Free Choice / Mental Powers split 7″ (Fifth Column)
Free Choice is Jarod Zlatic, who you know better as the hairy half of Fabulous Diamonds. Here he gets real deep into his synths, roping up a circular keyboard melody with some sweeping chords that eventually just ends. Very pleasant sounds, but not without the subtle quirk that could easily fit Free Choice in between guitar bands on some early Rough Trade compilation. I wonder if we’ll get some of this complex key-work on the next Fabulous Diamonds release or if this is just a way for Zlatic to blow off some steam. Mental Powers put together a very Paw Tracks-styled acoustic jam on their side, like something off Campfire Songs while the boys were waiting for Panda Bear to come back with more firewood. You know, bongos, strummed guitars, probably some incense too. Split 7″s are practically an obsolete format at this point, but one could do much worse than to indulge these two Australian groups from the artier side of the underground.

FRKSE Remove LP (Divergent Series)
Here’s a difficult-to-decipher LP from some guy(s) out of Jamaica Plain, MA. Real hermetic, handmade design that fits the slow-moving instrumentals contained within, content with providing information only to those who search it out. One idea flows into the next, just cruising in neutral until it’s time to stop. Calls to mind if Black Mayonnaise were commissioned to write a beat for those Clouddead guys to rap over or something. A lo-fi drone fighting with a crawling funk. It’s mastered real quiet, so that the surface fuzz that sometimes comes with a clear vinyl pressing such as this ends up mixing in with the actual music. None of this seems particularly fleshed out; I almost get the impression that it would work better as a DJ tool for some warehouse improv group than a record you sit in your living room and listen to. There are definitely more questions than answers here, which is probably how FRKSE intended it.

Guitars White Night White Night LP (GTRS)
White Night White Night starts off like the Beavis and Butthead theme, which instantly caught my attention. I really dug that little guitar lick, it’s almost a shame that “I Can’t Wait” picks up speed and turns into an actual song. Pretty much all of this album provides similarly warm memories, thanks to the simple strumming, occasional rocking and mellow vibing. It’s like the musical equivalent of Miller Lite – some people swear by it, some people don’t mind it, the rest drink it anyway. Nothing really jumps off the record here, just a satisfactory porch listen that won’t disrupt any party, no matter how much it’s already wound down. The insert’s a little salty, a cut-and-paste of a nasty email the band received that I guess I’m supposed to laugh at. Doesn’t really fit with their musicality, and leads me to believe that Guitars are one of those bands that has some 2:00 PM SXSW showcase that no one attends and they make a bunch of snide, bitter comments between songs.

Hot Guts Hot Guts 7″ (Badmaster)
“The Ballad of Jon Simon” sounded just like No Age, until the vocals kicked in and I realized this is a 33 rpm record. Upon corrected speed, it sounds like No Age covering Joy Division. Go figure! It’s a real cool song and probably my favorite of the three directions Hot Guts takes on their debut single – they even work a “doo-doo, do-do” chorus into something I’d sing along with. The second cut owes more to Liars or Health than anyone else, kind of a loose bashing of instruments and effects that sufficiently meets its goals. The flip is owned exclusively by “Did You Not Go to the Dance Alone”, starting with more of that Liars menace, then augmented with a Nick Cave desert wind and finally is turned into a more traditional rock tune. Based on the somewhat divergent sounds that came out of this single, I’d imagine these guys are still figuring each other out; it’ll be interesting to see where they decide to go.

Moritz Von Oswald Trio Vertical Ascent 2xLP (Honest Jon’s)
I saw an awesome picture of Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo, etc.) playing a ridiculous Tommy Lee drumkit as part of the new Moritz Von Oswald Trio a few months ago, forgot about it, and was pleasantly reminded when I found out that they went and recorded an album of this stuff! Vertical Ascent is the name, and it’s comprised of four beautifully unfolding “patterns”, their term for the focused, rhythmic improv pieces they share with us here. This meeting of two minimal techno juggernauts (and a third dude, also involved with Rhythm & Sound) is an incredibly chill one, like all of these guys are just so confident and cool that none of them feel the need to flex their muscles, neither at each other nor the listener. Three of the tracks focus heavily on Ripatti’s perpetual percussion, all expertly played, while Von Oswald tweaks and twists the sounds to his liking. Definitely sounds like a live group jamming out, somewhere between that Circle album with Verde or Move D and Benjamin Brunn’s Songs From The Beehive. One thing I’d like to stress is just how universally enjoyable Vertical Ascent is, as it’s not often that a loosely-improvised electroacoustic album will satisfy people who aren’t already deep into loosely-improvised electroacoustic music. Vertical Ascent is most definitely the exception here, as almost all of the sounds here are difficult to identify yet easy to enjoy.

My Mind Path Masher 7″ (Badmaster)
Lots of songs on this debut 7″ by Philadelphia’s My Mind, a nice slice of whiplashy pop-punk. I bet these guys dug really hard on Blood Visions, as they deal in a similar strain of top-speed punk hooks, cramming at least two minutes of music in every 45 second cut. They’re really good at it though, and the crisp recording gives Path Masher the justice it deserves. Lots of time changes and unexpected turns, to the point where I almost have difficulty determining where one song ends and the next begins, but My Mind really own their ADD. Some tracks remind me of Sicko, which is probably not considered flattery by most people, but I think it sounds great. I looked for pictures of these guys on the internet and couldn’t find any, but I am certain there is at least one guy repeatedly pushing thick-rimmed glasses up his sweaty nose when they play live.

Obliteration This Is Tomorrow 7″ (NITA / Disposable)
Second single of ripping, classic hardcore from some Painkiller Records guys and their friends. It’s hard to find a group of dudes more capable of producing raw, pummeling hardcore than them, and that’s exactly what they do here. The Propaganda Records vibe found on the first Obliteration 7″ is still here, as is the vocal delay and high-speed momentum; the only major difference I noticed here is the willingness to let some rock moves (read: soloing) shine through. This Is Tomorrow is so patently authentic, from the Skeletor and bombs-of-war artwork to lyrics of winged beasts ripping people apart, that it’s startling. In my mind, a Civil War re-enactor who wears an old-timey hat and carries around a paper-mache musket is pretty lame, but the psychos who live and breathe it and wash their coat buttons in urine and eat rotten fruit because that’s exactly how the original soldiers did it are pretty awesome. Obliteration are like the hardcore equivalent of that.

The Pheromoans Revamper 7″ (Convulsive)
The Pheromoans are one of the most authentic modern-day UK DIY groups, if just for the fact that they are actually UK born and raised. Three songs on this single, the first two full of pep in a classic Fall or contemporary Country Teasers way, understated guitar-scramble with a talking singer whose voice houses the perfect amount of disinterest. B-side “The Man Who Wolf Whistled” is pure Graham Lambkin, as the rambling voice over the telephone is totally unaware that some weird rock band is rehearsing down the hall. I know the Pheromoans have a newer single out and an LP on the way, and I for one can’t wait to follow along. I hope they remain as weird and unbashful as they are on Revamper.

Planetary Assault Systems Temporary Suspension 2xLP (Ostgut Ton)
Been meaning to pick up one of these cool-looking Ostgut Ton records, if only because I dig the clean and dark aesthetic and consistent font choice and figured the connection to the Berghain club would yield something palatable. I lucked out with Temporary Suspension, Luke Slater’s first album in years as Planetary Assault Systems. This is some banging, wide-open techno music that speaks directly to the dancefloor. Sure, the sounds contained within have all been heard before, and it’s not like this album is going to open up minds or break barriers, but it’s that refusal to do anything besides smash some hard-edged techno in my face that makes this such a satisfying listen. The track I keep coming back to most is “Whoodoo”, anchored by some massive drum breaks and a bleak, post-industrial vibe that fit together perfectly uncluttered. The energy is palpable and just keeps rising through its six minutes. It’s impossible to sit still with “Whoodoo” playing at a low volume while paying bills; I can only imagine the toplessness that would occur inside Berghain’s walls. “Attack Of the Mutant Camels” is begging for a music video with that title, and it’s just as pounding and intense. Really a phenomenal album of acid techno that reminds me that it’s not how obscure and weird your sounds are, it’s what you are able to do with them.

Jay Reatard Watch Me Fall LP (Matador)
For an addicted vinyl consumer like myself, it’s unlikely but true that Watch Me Fall is the first time I really sat down with a Jay Reatard recording. I understand this is the garage-punk equivalent of “I don’t even own a TV!”, but for whatever reason (okay, mainly because of that dopey name) I never checked out Reatard beyond a few of his side projects (Angry Angles, Final Solutions, both cool) and a couple second-hand Blood Visions spins. I know that the cult of Jay Reatard has reached the breaking point where all his earliest fans now hate him, and vice versa, and I’m glad I’m not wrapped up in any of that pointless tail-chasing myself, as Watch Me Fall is a superb guitar-pop record. I really can’t believe how much I am digging it. Twelve songs, out of which at least three cuts have already entered my subconscious (make that four by the time this review prints). I wasn’t expecting the exaggerated Bowie moves, acoustic guitar layering and assumed British accent, but the whole thing works marvelously, with enough going on to keep me interested and hooks that don’t let go. The drummer is on fire, really the band as a whole is just so tight and the recording is perfectly crisp. Wish I could get a copy of the “I’m Watching You” acapella, I can’t get those hilariously awesome vocals out of my head.

Roman Soldiers Warmer / Yuppie Fires 7″ (Captured Tracks)
Roman Soldiers is Gary War and Mike Sniper (Mr. Blank Dog for the one person interested enough to care but clueless enough to not already know) and together they present a sound not unlike Blank Dogs and Gary War records simultaneously playing. The synth quotient is upped from both of their projects, with all sorts of sci-fi chirps and synthetic gurgles pushing each other around a few hastily-fashioned guitars and vocals. I count at least thirteen different sounds between these two tracks, each of which seems to be fighting against the formation of a song. It’s not bad, but at the same time, “Warmer” and “Yuppie Fires” (both pretty Doggystyled titles) seem to highlight the pomp and fluff that both Blank Dogs and Gary War have sometimes employed to mask a lack of musical ideas. Neither of their strongest moments are to be found here, but who was really expecting that anyway? Roman Soldiers is no dirty trick; if you buy this record based on the band members, you get exactly what you bargained for.

Six Finger Satellite Half Control LP (Load)
Half Control is also half-new, in that these are recordings from 2001 that have only now seen the light of day. That might explain why these songs sound very much early aughts, that transitional period before our cell phones learned to communicate with our cars and keep us company. No weird interludes or noise tracks, just eight tracks of vintage Six Finger Satellite, maybe this time a little heavier and with an added nasty bite to their ever-swirling rock rhythms and knock-out synths (not that I’d expect less when there’s at least one Landed guy in the mix). I am quickly reminded of records like Trans Am’s The Red Line and Microwaves’ System 2, hard-edged post-hardcore played by guys too smart for their own good. Half Control is a worthy addition to Six Finger’s canon, although I wish it had entered my life back when it was fresh out the oven. I know these guys are life-long freaks and I am more interested to know what they are doing today.

Teenage Cool Kids Foreign Lands LP (Protagonist Music)
Remember when the teenage cool kids were rich preppies, uncontrollable latch-key kids or arrogant jocks? Apparently nowadays they are friendly, affable indie rockers, and in the case of Foreign Lands, that’s fine with me. The cover features a bunch of cartoon kids in masks dancing around a campfire, very 90’s Nicktoon-esque, and it fits the music nicely. Reminds me of a rougher, less mature Shins, which is to say they have crafted some interesting or at least non-traditional hooks and perform them with the same attitude and inner-joy one has while playing with a cat. The singer has a non-whiny nasal tone that sometimes honks like the guy from Lovesick, whose records I should pull out more often. Uplifting stuff, like these guys really took that movie “Pay It Forward” to heart.

Kurt Vile Fall Demons 7″ (Skulltones)
Fall Demons couldn’t arrive fast enough for me, as the premise of five new KV tracks will cause any half-smart rock enthusiast to bite his or her nails a little more than usual. This one was kind of hard to find, selling out quickly in local shops, and the online distros lucky enough to get some made them available for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. It’s his most limited record yet, and while I’d love to inform the have-nots that Fall Demons is a throwaway, superfluous release… Mr. Vile instead went and did up five top-shelf tunes to actually justify spending eBay dollars (perhaps in the dozens) on a limited 7″ single. (This one doesn’t feature a picture of Kurt milling about some abandoned Philadelphia lot though, what gives?) Opener “Subliminal Message” is like a “Good Lookin’ Out” remix, without the drums or riffs, just some earthy, loopy drone with his trademark voice beaming bright. I love when he puts down his acoustic and fires up his keyboards, and he does that a lot on here, both with “”Crystal Crowns” and “Society In A Riff”. Only a minute per cut but they both feel so nice. “Summer Demons” is acoustic Kurt versus a Mantronix beat and it sounds great. Normally a guy about to release his big-indie debut wouldn’t be so willing to share five exclusive ideas with a hobby label, but Kurt is clearly flush with great ideas and down to share them.

XYX Momento Acido Contemporaneo 7″ (Skulltones)
XYX’s debut 45 was a scorching, unique blast of bass-driven punk, a real character in last year’s sea of average joes. That single offered three short and scruffy punk blasts and a long psychedelic trip, and the tracks on Momento Acido Contemporaneo seem to combine those two attacks with the skill of a band anticipating their second tour, not their second band practice (as may’ve been the case with their debut). The title track comes with a more assured playing style, but starts to drag after a couple minutes, kinda reminding me of Black Cat #13 or something else that would’ve found its way onto GSL or Three.One.G in 2002. The brevity shown on their other tracks would’ve been nice here. The two b-side cuts clock in at three minutes total, but I worry that the drummer has gotten too good or something, overplaying his kit when subtlety could be most effective. Don’t get me wrong, these songs are still really cool, it’s just that the off-the-cuff quality that drew me to XYX seems to have faded here, like getting together and actually writing songs with different changes and parts dissipated their original flavor. It’s hard to stand in the shadow of such a wildly awesome debut sometimes.