Asva & Philippe Petit Empires Should Burn… LP (Basses Frequencies / Small Doses)
Much like that recent Locrian and Christoph Heemann collaboration album, this one pairs modern avant-metal with notable personalities from the depths of a Cold Meat Industry mail-order catalog circa 1995. And unlike that Locrian collaboration, things actually happen during Empires Should Burn…, an approach that works well for this small collective of deviant artists. Edward Ka-Spel, Bryan Lewis Saunders and Jarboe contribute vocals to different tracks here, truly a fine selection of voices that help make these drifting, uncomfortable-ambient passages come alive from the ooze. I was expecting at least a little metal from the Asva contingent, but bass guitar is only credited to one track (no guitars otherwise), which allows the electronics, turntables and piano to unfurl their humid drones, filled with dread and muted disgust. I keep thinking that I’ve reached my quota of “theatric evil drone” records, but albums like Empires Should Burn… keep showing up and charming their way into my home, much in the way that Chucky would quietly work himself into the stuffed animal collection of an unsuspecting family.
Baader Brains New Era Hope Colony EP 12″ (Clean Plate / Ebullition / Empyre Record Holdings)
You ever read some dork talking about how Fucked Up “expanded” or “improved” hardcore music, by you know, just playing indie-rock with violins and bongos instead? I generally don’t want to hear anyone try anything different when it comes to hardcore, but this Baader Brains EP might have to be the rare exception. It’s really quite unusual – the actual songs are fast, powerful stuff, like if Yaphet Kotto or Anton Bordman wrote anthems and toned down the emo, but in between these tracks, you get strange samples, James Ferraro-esque new age nonsense, a Sublime-style groove, and even a touch of Tim & Eric‘s absurdism. And it seems like they put just as much time crafting these ridiculous interludes as the actual hardcore songs, which is to say, a lot! Clearly they take all their crazy mythology seriously, like a hardcore-punk Drexciya that creates their own universe but doesn’t forsake the songwriting in the process. I hated the band name, and wasn’t prepared to enjoy New Era Hope Colony as much as I did, which has been a whole lot. Inspiring stuff on a few different levels, and proof that you can innovate hardcore without having to appeal to the over-21 cubicle-worker crowd.
Bits Of Shit Cut Sleeves LP (Homeless)
The idea of “shit” doesn’t gross me out, but there’s something about bits of it that just doesn’t sit well with me. I get that it’s actually some Australian slang, but I’m sure these snotty punks will be delighted to have turned my stomach, as they play punk rock of the rudest order. The singer has a vaguely Doc Dart-ish squawk, but the music plays out like The Spits or Live Fast Die, fast and punchy and catchy and hare-brained. Has a slight “bar band” touch to it at times, which is to say that maybe Bits Of Shit wouldn’t fall entirely on deaf ears to a crowd of Turbonegro fans. And while the music is often pretty speedy and frantic, Bits Of Shit carry with them a “classic” punk rock feel. 35 years ago, these guys would’ve been hanging out with The Damned or The UK Subs, swapping sex partners and drinking each other’s beers and ruining backstages together… but nowadays, they’ll probably open for Ty Segall whenever he plays in Melbourne. Pretty good one, even if Cut Sleeves runs a little long for my personal tastes, and is probably overshadowed by a few truly phenomenal Australian punk bands playing today. I’d drink a beer and kick over a garbage can with them; why not?
Blank Realm Go Easy LP (Siltbreeze)
Not sure how, when or why Blank Realm morphed from fairly average lo-fi indie-psych to the outfit that appears on this stunning long-playing disc, but Blank Realm have transformed from caterpillar to butterfly right in front of my eyes. Go Easy kicks off quite uneasily with “Acting Strange”, a track that recalls the alien menace of FNU Ronnies but without all the noise; it’s like a photon-blaster fight wherein only the punks survive. “Cleaning Up My Mess” follows shortly thereafter, and I’d say it sets the tone for the rest of the album, recalling Television at their strangest and most appealing. That comparison has a lot to do with the vocalist, but the riffs are as precise and sharply-tailored as Television’s were, too – really, if there was an album that came out before Marquee Moon, one that was a little rougher and punker and druggier, it’d be Go Easy. I don’t think I ever heard the slightest bit of Television in any of Blank Realm’s earlier efforts, but it’s all over this one, and I’m absolutely loving it. That said, I wouldn’t accuse Blank Realm of ripping anyone off, this just smells like a sweet coincidence to me, and they manage to mix up the songs enough to keep it interesting from start to finish (of note is the two-parted “The Crackle”, which adds a nice ramshackle DIY feel to the album). If that Mount Carmel album didn’t come out earlier this year, Blank Realm’s Go Easy would be my top Siltbreeze pick of the year! Those who didn’t click with Blank Realm before (I was one of you) really need to check this one out.
Boomgates Double Natural LP (Bedroom Suck)
‘Bout time Boomgates stepped out for an album, as their prior singles were sweet little doses of drama-free indie-pop. Same goes for Double Natural, even if the potency of the singles is a little diluted here – In ten tracks, there are only three that really stick with me (“Flood Plains”, “Layman’s Terms” and “Hanging Rock”), and I’d already enjoyed one of those on an earlier single. The rest of the record is good, although I am admittedly such a fan of vocalist Brendan Huntley that I sit through the Eddy Current AT&T commercial every time it comes on (every twelve minutes?). Boomgates were in my good graces before I heard a note of Double Natural, so those who aren’t so enamored with certain band members might find it to be a little more boring than I. Still, their freshly-showered twee is so darn pleasant and bittersweet that anyone willing to actively dislike it is probably the type of person who’d refuse a bouquet of roses. Even if it’s a generic red dozen, they’re still worth a sniff.
Cold Cave A Little Death To Laugh 7″ (Heartworm)
Say what you want about Cold Cave, but don’t accuse them of staying in one place for too long – in just a few years, Wes Eisold has taken his project from the bedroom to Radio Shack advertisements to a Prurient dance-party to an album of blown-out emo-synth to multiple touring members (now including ex-Samhain and AFI personnel). And for this brief moment, he takes a pit stop back in his home studio, recording this two-song single before whatever comes next. Gotta say, “A Little Death To Laugh” is one of my favorite Cold Cave songs yet, in that it taps deeper into the cold-wave / minimal-synth genre (circa 1980) that Cold Cave were always accused of copying but never really did before. It beeps along a sullen melody with the lyrics to match, a wonderful example of what one man in black can commit privately in his bedroom. If this came out 30 years ago, there’d be a nine LP Vinyl On Demand box-set in the works right now. “Young Prisoner Dreams Of Romance” hits closer to New Order (or at least the two Cold Cave albums), but it still has the scent of a home-made track around its edges (for its minute-plus existence), and the single is rounded out by a near-IDM instrumental that wishes it knew how to find its way to Mille Plateaux. Great record, and what better way to obtain a copy than checking them out on tour? Don’t feel bad if the merch line is long – I waited in it too.
Desperat Demokrati Eller Diktatur? 7″ (Beach Impediment)
I meant to check out Desperat’s debut LP, but I think it was like $45 new or some ridiculous price like that. Come on guys, we’re supposed to pay big bucks for old hardcore records, not new ones! This new EP comes at a reasonable domestic price, and it’s a wonderful blast of raging political hardcore that ignores the modern trends of noisy, trebly recordings, instead going straight to the gut with a thick studio production. It flies by pretty fast, with killer drumming and a thick wall of bass and guitar, to the point where I no longer have to imagine what it’d sound like if NOFX covered Framtid. Pretty sure these guys are hardcore lifers (either that or they got into it in their late 30s, which has to be impossible) – I appreciate that they still rage with anger and precision, avoiding the many pitfalls of being old dudes in hardcore. Hell, the one guy on the back cover even has a Bart Simpson haircut, which is proof positive that Europeans are second only to the Japanese when it comes to aging gracefully in hardcore.
Terrence Dixon From The Far Future Part 2 2xLP (Tresor)
When it comes to dark, brooding techno, Terrence Dixon’s no spring chicken! His discography goes back to Clinton’s time in office… Dixon is a long-time Detroit techno soldier. I’d only previously heard random tracks on mixes, so I was psyched to check out From The Far Future Part 2, as random comments of “it fits in with the Modern Love / Sandwell District sound” appeal to someone like me. I’m a few listens into it, and while I can see where the Demdike/Stott/Silent Servant comparisons could come in, Dixon approaches his music like straight-up Detroit techno… there isn’t a whole lot of avant-gothism at work here. Most of From The Far Future Part 2 reminds me of Echospace, in the way that beats remain understated and deep and just kinda hang in the breeze, never pulling out of their orbit. “Fountain Of Life” is nearly six minutes, but it feels like double that, as the watery arpeggio just rolls on through with little provocation or adjustment. It’s not bad, and if I were to be involved in an intense game of chess, I’m sure it would help to have Terrence Dixon stimulating my cerebellum, I just kinda feel like dub techno or its off-shoots have moved past this sort of low-key, unobtrusive vibe for more interesting paths. He kicks up some real curious/strange stuff toward the tail end of the record, but I’m usually too worn out at that point to fully dig in. Dixon probably would’ve blown my mind with From The Far Future Part 2 in 2006, but this is 2012 and stakes are high.
Dum Dum Girls End Of Daze 12″ (Sub Pop)
While I always enjoy Dum Dum Girls albums, it’s been their EPs that have excited me the most. There may not be any obvious pop hits like “He Gets Me High” on End Of Daze, but it’s a really great EP all its own, and probably Dum Dum Girls’ most sophisticated release yet. Sure, the opening track talks about kisses and death (as usual), but the rest of the EP is downright nihilistic if you can pay attention to the actual words Dee Dee is cooing, as she rallies against daylight, people, nature, lovers, pretty much anything that isn’t her own coffin. And the music has moved even further from ’60s “girl group” pop, treading deep within shoegaze territory and blowing the competition out of the water by offering interesting songs, not just a daisy-chain of effects pedals. For such a frequently mellow record, it sounds huge, and it’s certainly worthy of the larger stages Dum Dum Girls have graduated to in the past year. I keep going back to this one and liking it more each time… the only thing I’m unsure of is if I want Dee Dee to eventually cheer up or simply become further entangled in her dark little world.
Forza Albino Infestation 12″ (Posh Isolation)
These Posh Isolation records are getting more and more cost-prohibitive to order direct from the label (I’d share how much these last two cost me, but I’m afraid my family might be reading this), but I still have yet to feel unsatisfied when opening the package and throwing these records on. This Forza Albino one is particularly interesting, or perhaps rather it is so incredibly uninteresting that it circles back around towards the sublime. I’m picturing one ugly Danish guy, maybe like a twenty-something version of Costes, holding down two keys on a beaten-up synth in the lower level of an abandoned parking garage, occasionally kicking an old shopping cart that he soldered a contact mic onto. He rants about something that only he really understands or cares about, holding court to an audience of no one, and doesn’t stop until he’s damn well finished. The impression left by Infestation is just so bleak and lonely that I want to surround myself with loved ones directly after listening, for fear that I may turn into a Forza Albino myself if I spend too much time alone listening to records like this. I don’t even feel like Forza Albino is trying to be oppressive or shocking here, he (or could it be they?) is simply doing what Forza Albino does, producing the musical equivalent of waking up against cold concrete with an aching back and chapped lips. Killer 12″ indeed.
Goldendust Goldendust LP (Night People)
At over 170 releases, Night People has some top-shelf records to their name (FNU Ronnies!), but this ain’t one of them. Seems like Night People’s focus has been on nerdy bedroom synth-pop lately, and while groups like Blanche Blanche Blanche, Featureless Ghost and Driphouse demonstrate technical skill and a healthy understanding of how to use their gear, Goldendust feels like a novice’s first attempt. The melodies are rote and intuitive, the vocals are only there to fill the space that a voice can fill, and the songs just sound too delicate when considering their simplicity. It leads to a pretty boring sound, like listening to Silk Flowers if they released an album after two practices. There’s probably some potential here, I mean it’s not “bad”, it’s just that this seems more like someone testing the waters of synth-pop than an artist with a fully-realized aesthetic or style… there’s nothing unmistakably “Goldendust” about this. Now let’s just hope this isn’t the solo project of Dustin “Goldust” Runnels, as I completely take back everything I said if it is.
Holy Balm It’s You LP (Not Not Fun)
Holy Balm’s 2011 single was an unexpected jolt of poppy, synthy post-punk, one that left me eagerly anticipating this full-length follow-up. Much like Not Not Fun Records, It’s You moves further onto the dance-floor than Holy Balm’s debut, but it’s a welcome progression, even if I could’ve gone for a few more rougher-edged tracks like that of their single. There are hints of Balearic grooves and Italo Disco pre-sets within It’s You, but the songs move with the energy of some of the more dance-oriented no-wave groups, like if Bush Tetras or Rosa Yemen tried their hands at techno (had techno existed at that time). Tracks like “Favourite Sweater” and “Losing Control” are catchy enough that I’d request them live, but the whole album is undeniably pleasant and solidly enjoyable too. I suppose there are a million “electro post-punk dance” groups going now, but Holy Balm do an excellent job of making it sound like they’re the only one that matters.
Humongous Miniature Pinschers LP (Adept Recordings / Black Velvet Fuckere / Chinstrap Productions / Consanguineous)
The hilarious list of record label names involved in the production of this album had me ready to enjoy Humongous’s Miniature Pinschers before I had a chance to drop a needle. Kinda tempted to obtain a full Chinstrap Productions discography if possible! I’m expecting like what, Smashmouth and POD outtakes? Anyway, Humongous bring their own sort of playful out-rock tendencies to the table here, working a cornet and keyboards among more standard rock fare. They remind me a lot of the wackier Sun City Girls records, the ones where songs are based on punchlines of jokes and funky grooves are interrupted by fierce noodling (and, perhaps by no coincidence, these are usually the cheapest Sun City Girls records on eBay). It’s weird in a distinctly ’90s way, when musical talent still triumphed over audaciousness… Humongous are clearly capable musicians, and they give free range to their scatterbrained tendencies, jumping from one style to the next with little care for what anyone is going to think of it. Can’t say it’s really my bag, but Humongous seem like a fun crew of people, and I mean that sincerely, not because I can’t think of anything else nice to say.
Impo & The Tents Pop Secret 7″ (no label)
This is like the fourth Impo & The Tents record I’ve received, and I swear that with each new one, I figure I will finally be sick of their bubble-gummy punk rock. And still – not yet! Pop Secret might be my favorite Impo & The Tents record of them all, as they seem to be more confident than ever in their gooey power-pop punk, blazing through four more tunes like Jay Reatard in his prime. If Sloppy Seconds were a fantastic catchy punk band instead of Sloppy Seconds, they might’ve sounded like this. Impo & The Tents are incredibly tight, and their songs are always catchy without resorting to generic hooks. I get that they’re stupid, and not stupid in a cool Sockeye way, but stupid in a “Swedes who watch too much Monty Python” sort of way, but even that hasn’t repelled me from these Dickies-esque ditties. See you next single!
Kitchen’s Floor Bitter Defeat / Down 7″ (Negative Guest List)
With titles like “Bitter Defeat” and “Down”, it’s safe to say that Kitchen’s Floor haven’t seen any rainbows since they last checked in. I love Kitchen’s Floor and the utter resignation that comes with them, and this new single is no exception. “Bitter Defeat” is mellower than the last LP, trading in the bass guitar for an organ and powering off the distortion pedals, resulting in a vibe similar to their live record. Same goes for “Down”, which sonically exemplifies the photos of cold, crappy noodles on the back cover. Maybe if a couple of the poppier tracks from Nirvana’s Unplugged album were appended onto C86, it’d wind up like this? Probably not the best place to start for a Kitchen’s Floor novice, their last Siltbreeze record remains their pinnacle achievement, but once you’ve cozied up to that one, the sad, humble vibes on this 7″ will feel even nicer.
Kraus Supreme Commander LP (Moniker)
That first Kraus LP got some rave reviews around my part of town, but its outrageous retail price (like $35?) kept me at bay. Guess I’ll have to hit an ATM, as Supreme Commander is a fantastic album that exceeds my already high expectations. Imagine that your favorite classic rock riffs were abducted from your favorite classic rock songs, probed by aliens, and eventually forced to act as b-movie props. “Kraus” is the name of the person who makes all this music (save for “Maryann”‘s drums on “Flute” and “Mono Lulu”), and he treats his sci-fi trips with the reverence they deserve. Parts remind me of the first couple Blues Control records, had Blues Control left any remote new-age signifiers behind and just smoked a lot of pot while watching one of those “classic horror movies” DVD box-sets that Wal-Mart dumps in giant metal cages and sells for like $2.99 per box. I love when Kraus really shreds (see “Guinea Coin Blues” in particular), making love to his guitar Randy Holden-style while pesky flying saucers circle his Marshall stack. Fans of King Blood and Human Eye that want to leave the rest of humanity behind need to search this one out pronto… it’s a record to be savored by humans and humanoids alike.
Lamps Under The Water Under The Ground LP (In The Red)
Been patiently waiting for this new Lamps LP, and much like a shiny blob of ketchup, it was certainly worth the wait. Lamps have really honed their own particular brand of garage rock over the course of many singles and two albums, and Under The Water Under The Ground is their third and most potent full-length blast yet. There’s gotta be a fair amount of credit due to Chris Woodhouse’s production job (of Mayyors, FM Knives and Los Huevos fame, to name but a few), applying his trademark crunchy fuzz to what was already a pretty blistering guitar sound. Woodhouse is a big part of why all those A Frames records sound so great, and his ability to combine static hiss and low-end power are put to great use with Lamps. Think High Rise meets The Cramps! I recognize a few of these songs from prior singles, but it’s nice to hear them with a unified, souped-up recording. It’s also Lamps’ most aggressive collection of songs yet, like they are trying to cause their amps to overheat and drum-heads to break from the abuse they dish out. Their best songs are the ones where every beat is bashed, and there’s plenty of those here. Purchase with confidence!
Marching Church Throughout The Borders 7″ (Posh Isolation)
I realize that most everyone else is sick of Iceage or burned out on the hype, but I’m still a huge fan, and will follow band-leader Elias Rønnenfelt to whatever side-project of a side-project he does next. That said, I’d imagine that if Marching Church was his only band, he wouldn’t be getting invited to play fancy music festivals around the world, as this is some dour, miserable music… kinda folk, kinda metal, kinda punk, kinda alternative, but presented in a fiendishly lo-fi manner. It’s like he wants to just be Crisis or Death In June or The Mob or something, but on the a-side, he uses riffs that might make more sense for Snapcase or Marilyn Manson (and I swear the opening riff of “Throughout The Borders” sounds like Temple Of The Dog). I realize I’m going off the deep end with references here, and I can assure you it’s really not that crazy, Rønnenfelt’s just got a very peculiar songwriting style that doesn’t follow the generic “dark punk” tropes. I probably prefer the hearty acoustic strum of “Not Worthy” to the other three tracks here, but even as the rest of the record isn’t something I’d necessarily consider “good”, it’s been incredibly fascinating and satisfying to follow the musical output of what has got to be Denmark’s Saddest Boy. Give him an Xbox for Christmas and I swear he’d be like, “but I wanted a Playstation…”
Modra The Line For The Men’s Room LP (Savage Quality)
The blurry cover pic of a bunch of skinheads urinating in the bathroom had me expecting some sort of hallucinogenic take on oi, but Modra are even more harrowing than that. Early on the first side, it sounds like Modra are trying to play songs, something along the lines of Sonic Youth’s early works, or some sort of rough n’ tumble take on indie-rock, but they quickly abandon all hope and force you, the listener, to re-evaluate your life. I mean it devolves past Jandek, nearly reaching a Menstruation Sisters level of primordial ooze. It’s really quite amazing how they keep at it – I think it’s “Nowhere To Fly” where the one guitarist tries to sound like The Edge for a few seconds, which of course is in vain. The drummer seems unwilling to drum, and the rest of the guys just kinda mess around with their gear long enough that sounds continue to be produced. This is the type of record that sucks me in so deep that I wish I released it myself, even if I can’t get any of my friends to sit down and listen to a full song’s worth with me. Definitely a record I wholeheartedly recommend, though I doubt most people with ears would agree. I love Modra for all of their bruises, welts and sores, and hope that they continue to only ever find the wrong notes.
Pink Reason Ache For You / Darken Daze 7″ (Savage Quality)
At this point, Pink Reason will probably continue to exist so long as Kevin Debroux continues to walk the earth, and that’s cool with me, as I have yet to meet one of these flimsy paper-sleeved Pink Reason singles that I didn’t enjoy. Pink Reason loses me on the albums sometimes, but knows what to do with a single 7″ 45, like here for example: “Ache For You” is moody, driving punk rock, not unlike The Adolescents or TSOL… real brooding, one-dangly-cross-earring punk rock. Music by and for kids who were kicked out of the house before they finished high school. “Darken Daze” heads from high school to the bar, like a Columbus-rock take on Gun Club perhaps? It’s possibly Debroux’s most inspired vocal performance yet, and it makes for a wonderfully bummed-out come-down from the a-side’s Social Distortion-esque fury. If you skipped that oddball Negative Guest List Jukebox single from a couple months back, you may want to hop back on board the Pink Reason train with this one – this is definitely “the good” Pink Reason.
Guy Reibel Granulations-Sillages / Franges Du Signe LP (Recollection GRM)
Alright class, please be seated; silence your phones and open up your textbooks, as Advanced Electro-Acoustics is now in session, care of Recollection GRM. It’s a new label, yet another offshoot of the Editions Mego empire, and it’s here to reissue obscure electronic music made by people who are either now dead or soon-to-be. Records like this really put into perspective the epiphany any twenty-something may have from modifying a Speak & Spell, as people have been intelligently mucking about with crazy electronic sounds for nearly as long as the invention of electricity. Granulations-Sillages / Franges Du Signe was initially released in 1974, and its two pieces are dedicated to dog-whistle tones, syrupy slurps and what has to be R2D2 taking a leak, completely unstructured and uninhibited. The music is occasionally cunning, but mostly impish and annoying, like being tickled with a feather past the point of pleasure. The notes explain that these works are designed “for six channels diffused in a concert on a main stereo system”, and while I am doing Reibel a disservice with my modest home system, I think I still get the point: these sounds never existed on Earth prior to Reibel’s creation of them, and now that they’re here, they’re out for trouble.
Rites Of Spring Demo 1984 10″ (Dischord)
Pretty cool demo from Rites Of Spring… I think these guys are going to become very influential someday! But seriously, Rites Of Spring never really clicked for me like at least 90% of all the other classic Dischord bands… pretty sure I sold their LP some time ago. Not sure if it’s just been a large enough gap of time, or if I’m finally ready or something, but this early Rites Of Spring demo sounds great to my ears. I was thrown for a loop by all the weird tape collage / found-recordings that pop up occasionally on here, but when the songs kick in, they really kick in, with passionate vocals, memorable riffs and even some unexpected guitar wankery. Not sure if most of these songs made it to the album or if they’re exclusive to the demo, but the whole thing certainly sounds vinyl-worthy to me, like a fully-formed band that took the premise of thoughtful emotion and somehow made it sound raw and cool. And then I look at the faded photo of the band on the back cover and am reminded that if they weren’t teenagers in 1984, they sure looked like it – these are some serious babyfaces. I had barely gotten into ska music at that age, and these guys were writing these powerful, provocative treaties on punk rock and life. I hate to be one of those dorks nostalgic for a past that never truly existed, but this 10″ makes it easy for one’s thoughts to wistfully drift back to a post-hardcore, pre-emo DC.
Ritual Mess Ritual Mess 7″ (Clean Plate / Ritual)
Ritual Mess sounds like a band name fresh from the “mysterious guy hardcore” band-name generator, but that isn’t quite what they’re all about. They’re a new band featuring old guys (a couple from Orchid, one from Ampere), and rather than pretend they are in their early twenties and on Youth Attack, Ritual Mess stick to what they know, which is pounding, Gravity-inspired emotional hardcore. They’re probably a little heavier and punker sounding than your average Witching Hour group, but Ritual Mess definitely would’ve toured on that circuit had they existed in 1999, hitting some basement in rural Virginia with Usurp Synapse and Page 99. Kind of a fitting follow-up to Orchid’s Chaos Is Me, even if it leans closer to classic raging hardcore at points, which is certainly a good thing in my book. Not sure if this is a one-off project or an active band, but either way, Ritual Mess is proof that these guys haven’t lost it just yet.
Pierre Schaeffer Le Trièdre Fertile LP (Recollection GRM)
I have a soft spot for 20th century electronic composers who look like 60 Minutes news-anchors, so this reissue of Pierre Schaeffer’s Le Trièdre Fertile certainly tickles the electro-scientist in me. With a wall of heavy-duty switchboards capable of launching a space shuttle, Schaeffer plays with frequency, duration, pitch and intensity like a child with wooden blocks… he throws them around, piles them up and carefully examines them one at a time. Tod Dockstader was my entry-point for this sort of sound, so all these other electronic pioneers always remind me at least a little of him, but Schaeffer is less quizzical, and more likely to keep his tie on while cooking up his algorithmic music. If this sort of thing is your bag, why not set aside a little Pierre time? An hour a week can’t hurt.
Lorenzo Senni Quantum Jelly LP (Editions Mego)
I liked this record the moment I laid eyes on the melty Asics that adorn the cover. Can’t go wrong with some of that, especially when paired with the eye-piercing pink and blue contrast on the back cover. Quantum Jelly is advertised as a “one-take, live, no overdubs” techno record, and if given enough time, I probably could’ve guessed that – Senni sets up his Roland and lets the bars repeat with only minimal tweaking, allowing the locked techno loops to bounce back and forth like a Pong ball. It’s kinda fun to get lost in his unflinching repetition, particularly when the loop sounds like it came from Petar Dundov (“Makebelieve”) or the last few measures of a Sensate Focus track (the mega-sized “XMONSTERX”). I find it interesting when beat-oriented techno is produced with an experimental / don’t-you-dare-dance-to-this mindset; it can really fail hard sometimes, but something about Senni’s work seems too gleeful and studied to bother me. It’s kind of like watching a flower bloom, but in painfully-slow real-time. Most people would probably find Senni’s repetitive, concentrated music to be torture after a couple minutes, but I’m not most people, now am I?
Source Of Yellow Source Of Yellow LP (Twin Lakes)
Source Of Yellow get all sorts of krauty on their debut self-titled album, now available on vinyl care of Twin Lakes Records (must’ve been a CD before?). So often these sort of “communal improv freakout” bands end up sounding like that 58th Sunburned Hand Of The Man CD-r that no one wants, but not Source Of Yellow. One of the main reasons they remain in my good graces has gotta be their bassist, who frequently sounds like he’s auditioning for Yes or The String Cheese Incident with his continual grooving. It’s particularly enjoyable when the drummer and electronics/effects guy cook up a flavorful stew around it. This bassist can really play, and it frequently results in what sounds like a jazzier Pixeltan (if they were a Thrill Jockey band?), or Amon Düül II fueled by pints of Ben & Jerry’s. And even when the bassist isn’t going wild, the tracks are interesting or weird enough that I am mentally transported to wherever this mystical “Source of Yellow” is and not just thinking about how this is actually just another band from Brooklyn. There’s even that prerequisite “free jazz” saxophone wailing, but it sounds fresh and revitalized here as well. Now I just wish I had a beanbag chair deep enough to really give Source Of Yellow the listening session it deserves.
Southern Comfort Silver And Gold / Don’t Cry No Tears 7″ (Black Petal)
Southern Comfort is Angela Bermuda (of Circle Pit and Straight Arrows fame) and a friend, plugging in their amps in the bedroom and just jamming out some surly rock riffs (who wants to lug the drums up from the basement anyway?). “Silver And Gold” starts off with some ambient room-noise that fills my speakers so loudly that it nearly dominates the actual music, but it’s a nice backdrop for their guitars to crackle and hum, burning slowly like unattended cigarettes. Kind of like a home-recorded Hole session after Patty Schemel was booted, senses muted on booze and Clint Eastwood flicks? “Don’t Cry No Tears” is a Neil Young cover, and I cannot speak to the original, but this one is so blown-out lo-fi that I feel as though I’m inside their amps as they strum it out. It’d probably be a tender little ballad if I could just put some distance between myself and the recording. Certainly fits with the a-side’s “holed up in a motel hiding from the cops with nothing else to do” vibe… music from a bottle of Jack’s empty bottom. Can’t say I’m really crazy about it, either the recording is too raw or the riffs are too sleepy, but I’d check out some more Southern Comfort some other time… there could be something really cool here.
Spitting Image Valley Floor 7″ (Negative Space)
Reno, NV is a pretty bleak place, one that can’t help but inform the mood of the bands that call it home. I swear, I even heard a wacky skateboard-thrash band from Reno and they still sounded pretty hopeless and desperate. It’s where Spitting Image hail from, and they do a noisy, driving indie-rock thing, initially spawned from Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. and now thriving in Spitting Image. More specifically, the vocals remind me of Hellbender, and the music sounds like a faster-paced Broken Water, resulting in a wounded form of rocking ’90s indie. They sound pretty good, like they were borne out of punk and just ended up being too melodic and brooding and tuneful to remain a punk band, as opposed to just another group of indie-rock blog-hype hopefuls who have no idea what a real circle pit is like. Keep it going, Spitting Image!
Stalwart Sons Stay Cold LP (Revolution Winter / Anteduvia)
One might think Stalwart Sons are preaching to their beers, but it’s probably the frozen Canadian tundra that their album title implores. The hardy resiliency that comes with living way up north is evident in the music of Stalwart Sons, a three piece rock trio that clearly feel the weight of their encumbering parkas. Musically, I’m hearing everything from The Replacements to Hot Water Music, and a whole lot of Dischord-inspired emo-core… you know, music where emotions are taken seriously, and it’s okay to shed a tear at the sight of a local library losing its funding for the year. There might be one or two upbeat moments, but generally Stay Cold is a bristly set of weary rock songs, like something Bruce Springsteen would’ve written had Mitt Romney won. Not bad at all, I would just rather spend my time not thinking about the first-world sadnesses Stalwart Sons call to mind. That stuff is just too real already.
Andy Stott Luxury Problems 2×12″ (Modern Love)
Very pleased to have the new Andy Stott double 12″ in my possession, as last year’s two EPs left me clamoring for more of his decrepit, war-torn tech-house. Luxury Problems‘s twist is that it came promised as a “now with vocals!” affair, and while there is definitely a lot of singing on here (courtesy of his friend Alison Skidmore), this record just sounds like prime-time Andy Stott to me. He’s worked vocals into the mix before, but something like opener “Numb” sticks them in the spotlight, smearing half a dozen Skidmores into a tasty slice of electronic lasagna. He does it with the same sort of exhaustion and crumbly aesthetic as his last two EPs, like it was recorded on shredded analog tape that ripped the moment the song ended. The rest of Luxury Problems falls into more familiar tropes, just with a Sade-like vocal floating through the wreckage, and it even picks up a groove on occasion, or at least the sort of groove a rusty manhole-cover rolling down the street might possess. And of course, there are plenty of unexpected noises, even a drum n’ bass break, and other surprises that fit well within the Stottiverse. To be honest, part of me was expecting to be a little tired of Andy Stott’s approach to techno at this point, sort of a “too much of a good thing” problem, but nope, Luxury Problems really nails it all over again as we enter a new chapter in Stott’s post-apocalyptic novel.
Teen Anal Terrorist Warm Blatz For Teenage Runaways LP (Savage Quality)
Another compellingly weird one from the Savage Quality label, confirming this label as One To Watch. This one is a big ol’ pile of incongruous drum machines, crusty effects, probably some cassettes, and at least a few small electronic boxes of undetermined origin. Kind of like if you sped up a Black Mayonnaise record to a reasonable tempo and tried to beat-match it with one of those dusty SPK 12″s from deep in their dance music phase. It’s electronic music, but done in that outsider / Culturcide sort of way, where it’s impossible to tell if there is a scornful mindset behind it or simply a whole lot of belligerence. In other words, this LP sounds like something that Load would’ve released in 1997 to little fanfare. Hell, even the name “Teen Anal Terrorist” sounds like it came out of Load’s laboratories! Probably a little too aggressive and punk to be released on the Kye label, but I would imagine much of that audience would groove to Warm Blatz For Teenage Runaways‘s lack of rhythm. I’m sold!
Total Control Scenes From A Marriage 7″ (Sub Pop)
Was only a matter of time before Total Control got sniffed out by some of the big dogs… Henge Beat was just too good. You never know what you’ll get from Total Control, could be blistering hardcore or synthesized disco, but Total Control meet in the middle on this one. “Scenes From A Marriage” features the band in rock format, offering what sounds like their saddest song to date. The guitars chime like they just lost a friend, the tempo stays sullen even at its heaviest moments, and I can safely say this song isn’t about Peg and Al. It’s almost so smooth and straight that if it wasn’t played by Total Control, I might not even think twice about it. B-side “Contract” switches over to electro-pop mode, with what sounds like a vocal loop snatched from the a-side. It’s pretty cool, and nicely programmed, even if I can’t shake the nagging thought that it could be a remix some GSL or Three.One.G band would’ve had back in 2001. Not the most exhilarating material Total Control has had to offer, but a fine addition to their discography nonetheless. Can’t wait for that next LP!
U.S. Girls Gem LP (FatCat)
I really dug the efforts of the last ex-Siltbreeze band to do a record on FatCat (Psychedelic Horseshit, of course), so I figured it was as good a time as any to check back in with U.S. Girls, whose U.S. GIRLS ON KRAAK album I had heard good things about but never got around to picking up. Not sure if that one sounded like this one, but the appeal of Gem is strong and clear – on here, U.S. Girls match Ariel Pink’s paranoid, ’70s AM radio vibes with a touch of glam-rock and a pinch of Siltbreeze siltiness, all capped off with Megan Remy’s voice, which sounds like Ida No trying out for a David Bowie cover band. Clearly, Gem was made by people who wear makeup and lots of it; it’s also a record to appeal to anyone who finds themselves in a sort of Ariel Pink / Glass Candy mood, which should really mean any person under 30 who isn’t afraid of a little fun. Gem moves fast, and by the time I reach the magnificent mashup of Iron Virgin and The Runaways that is “Slim Baby” (see if you play this at a roller rink and a fight doesn’t break out), I’m thinking about starting Gem from the beginning once the b-side grooves run out.
Ricardo Villalobos Dependent And Happy 5×12″ (Perlon)
Now we’re talking, a gigantic new album from Ricardo Villalobos, and it’s the chilling industrial-goth techno we all were hoping for. Not! If there’s one guy who is wonderfully unblemished by dance music trends, it’s Villalobos, who is too busy tinkering with all sorts of electronics, records, instruments and software in his studio-mansion to worry about what the rest of the world is doing. Dependent And Happy is a massive collection, so rather than take you on a thesis-sized track-by-track run down, I will happily confirm that this collection is Villalobos at his most carefree, playful and strange. It’s still dance music, more or less, but he uses his rubbery, amorphous beats as the foundation for all sorts of colorful experimentation – tweeting robins are mixed with electronic blips, a German man recites from an opera while bongos linger behind him, water is processed to sound like a wooden rollercoaster… the list goes on. At first, I was hoping for one of these tracks to completely hook me in, another “Enfants (Chants)” or “Easy Lee”, but Villalobos doesn’t make it that easy here. Dependent And Happy is less inclined for dance-floor eruptions and more suited toward inspiring one’s imagination. If I taught an art class, I’d throw this on during “free sketch” time and watch as the work of my students instantly improves. It was almost hard to return to Villalobos’ world after spending so much of my techno time deep within blackened and uncompromising 4/4 grids, but Dependent And Happy is a wonderful reminder that sometimes you get sick of black-and-white art-house films and just need a blast from the newest IMAX flick.
Violent Change Suck On The Gun EP 7″ (Melters)
When I think of a band called “Violent Change”, I think angry skinheads kicking riot-squad shields, mosh pits erupting with fights, John Brannon’s face… not whatever this record is. But that’s alright, maybe it’s time my horizons were expanded, as Violent Change (featuring at least one ex-Sopors member) take sturdy punk riffs and twist them into strange new forms. Take the title track, which could easily be some riff The Faith used, but they ride it out into some form of long-haired van-rock, closer to Fu Manchu in spirit than Negative FX. And then “Feeding In The Dark” takes what could’ve been a stompy, mod-ish riff and dresses it up like it’s heading out to a Paisley Underground gig. This EP is more normal than that may sound, which is to say the songs feel familiar in a good way (Suck On The Gun never gets boring). These guys are probably the perfect tour-mates for Home Blitz, as Violent Change also seem to take inspiration from a wide swath of underground guitar music and process it into their own satisfyingly jumbled product. Ripe for a Messthetics compilation twenty years from now, that’s for sure!
Islands In-Between compilation LP (Touch)
If you don’t already have enough “exotic musical vacation postcard” records in your collection, Touch has recently reissued one of their earliest cassette releases, Islands In-Between, apropos of nothing. Maybe they were just digging around in the closet when they found this unmarked tape, popped it in, and were instantly transported back to Java and Bali, the land from which these sounds originally emanated. Don’t expect any tourist traps – this album takes you across dirt roads, thick marshes, foggy cliffs and lively town squares. Careful, you almost stepped on a duck! No artists are credited to any of the tracks here, but what were you going to do anyway, go and track down the other records by that one dog that was howling in the background of some sort of flute solo? Islands In-Between is a pretty raw and undisturbed take on island life, far from cruise ships and Corona Light, and I appreciate its humble beauty.