Erol Alkan & Boys Noize Death Suite 12″ (Boysnoize)
Been digging the trendy tech-house of Boys Noize for a bit, as Alexander Ridha (Mr. Boys Noize himself) usually cuts to the chase in a way I wish others would. Ridha doesn’t write music for the 10 o’clock hour, it’s all pretty forceful peak-time dance music that you either get on board with right away or have no business being around in the first place. Teamed with Erol Alkan, the two tracks here are perfect examples of his succinct and powerful style. “Waves” is so simple it should be a pre-set, yet I keep coming back to it over and over. Deceptively simple and expertly-executed electro. “Death Suite” is the champ here though; the main hook changes like twenty times throughout these six minutes, with each loop lasting about as long as a skipping CD. It’s a snippet of that brief moment where all inhibitions are lost, repeating over and over until you need to replenish your body fluids. Can’t wait for the Boys Noize full-length.

Brown Recluse The Soft Skin 12″ (Slumberland)
Some real sweet sounds on The Soft Skin by these local boys, the type of underdogs you can’t help but root for. Brown Recluse do a six-piece indie-pop thing that is probably working off a list of obscure influences but really just sounds like Belle and Sebastian to my plebian ears. This is not a bad thing, mind you, as rather than get all Slumberlandy in their bedroom and try to capture their sound on a borrowed four-track, these guys took their act into a studio capable of revealing their lush and tasteful instrumentation. Each of these four cuts is well worked out, the product of songs that clearly underwent numerous revisions until worthy of public distribution, a detail I certainly celebrate. They go from sleepy (“Lazy Saturday”) to semi-rollicking (“Night Train”) and I can’t help but picture these tunes playing during ‘Harold and Maude’ or something like that. Very nicely done all around, making this worth picking up even for the casual indie poppist.

Coum Transmissions The Sound Of Porridge Bubbling LP (Dais)
Another curious artifact that Dais has rescued from Genesis P-Orridge’s dusty attic, this being a collection of the earliest Coum Transmissions recordings. The Sound of Porridge Bubbling is less a collection of songs than a scrapbook of recorded moments in the weird, stoned and sometimes turbulent world these young Brits created for themselves. A lonely voice might read a sentence over and over, then pluck a string, then speed up the tape, just to see what happens. Much of the a-side seems to be spawned out of the nascent experimentation of a cassette recorder’s capabilities. The b-side starts off with some material that fits perfectly with the UK DIY art-clutter that get started almost a decade later, providing further evidence that Genesis P-Orridge has been consistently ahead of the weirdo curve for a good 40 years. It’s pretty clear that this record wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the artistic success and popularity of the people involved, but I don’t listen to music in a social vacuum and neither do you. It’s a pretty interesting glimpse down this specific rabbit hole, anyway; music created without the expectation that anyone besides the artists themselves would ever hear it.

Demdike Stare Part 1 12″ (Demdike Stare)
Not since the first Burial album have I heard an electronic landscape as bleak and bombed-out as that of Demdike Stare. Although tempting, using the word “techno” to describe this would be a misnomer, since most of the five tracks here operate with little or no beating pulse, instead content to fleet in and out of dronescapes, analog hums and consciousness. Part 1 is essentially the sound of the Internet slowly shutting down a few months after human civilization is wiped from the earth. Opener “Jannisary” is the type of Satanic death march I’d expect to hear 200 years into the future, with the rest of the record quickly decaying in the best of ways. Truly fascinating music that defies any sort of easy categorization and drips deeper into my psyche with each listen. Demdike Stare can’t help but summon dark clouds when played through the appropriate speakers. If you care about miserable music like I do, you will take it upon yourself to find one of the 300 copies pressed ASAP. I believe Part 2 is forthcoming and I cannot wait.

DJ Said Long Story 12″ (Fatsouls)
“Long Story” doesn’t beat around the bush, as it’s an incredibly straightforward house track with grooving bass and sparse accompaniment. Quite pleasant to listen to, but nothing memorable either; it’s the type of thing you could squeeze into a DJ set while trying to find the perfect record without losing the crowd in the process. Jerome Sydenham’s mix on the flip tosses in a traditional house vocal with a nice but unremarkable edit. It closes with an “Afroteque Dub” of the same cut, with a warbly bass line and funky thud that is most to my liking. Long Story is a nice and direct house single that does little to differentiate itself from the pack. It’s both a blessing and a curse that dozens of tech-house 12″s that are just as solid as Long Story are released every week.

Drunkdriver & Mattin List Of Profound Insecurities 12″ (Badmaster / Suicide Tax)
I bagged pretty hard on the latest Billy Bao album, and rightfully so, but Mattin has certainly redeemed himself with this Drunkdriver collaboration. I haven’t previously heard any Drunkdriver recording that truly walloped me over the head like I assume was their intent, but List of Profound Insecurities changes things. The first side comes in quiet before bursting into a non-stop noise barrage; no riffs, just wailing feedback and frightening squeals over drummer Jeremy Villalobos’ freight-train patterns. Sounds like vocalist Michael Berdan is doing his best “say hello to my lil’ friend!” impression the whole time, which I dig. About halfway through some thick toneless bass rudely plops itself into the mix and we’ve graduated from violent noise-rock to violent noise. The b-side churns things at a slower pace with equally satisfying results and some high-pitched hearing-test tones testing your mettle. Imagine a more coherent and dirtier Aufgehoben or if Air Conditioning stuck with the PSF vibe for more than their debut. I’ll admit, I was surprised, but it’s really that good.

Dry Rot Philistine LP (Parts Unknown)
When it comes to following hardcore punk, I try to lock in on the bands that deviate from the norm, the ones who pour bleach on each other in groady basements, take musical detours with a crappy jam-rock 7″, essentially thumb their nose at hardcore punk’s standard conventions and are weirdly religious. That may sound kind of awful, but that’s Dry Rot, who seem to take great pleasure in the fact that just being themselves disrupts the hardcore status quo. I didn’t know what direction they’d head with Philistine, but I made a point to get a copy as early as I could in hopes of finding out. Turns out, they managed to fuse their spiteful, ugly hardcore moves with their noodly art-rock, creating a cohesive and ruptured slice of ‘core. The singer sounds like the guy from Filth (the East Bay 90s one) at one moment and hollers “oh yeah!” like he’s the Kool-Aid Man the next. And while so many hardcore guitarists are doing their best Greg Ginn impressions these days, I swear Dry Rot’s guitarist just wants to be Tom Morello. It sounds confounding, and it is, but it’s that mixture of raw hardcore (think anywhere between John Henry West and Reagan Youth) and post-rock left-turns that keeps me coming back.

The Feeling Of Love Waiting For The Cheerleaders To Get Drunk 7″ (Avant!)
I thought I only needed one French punk band who uses a “people holding guns who shouldn’t” cover photo in my life, that is until I heard “Waiting For The Cheerleaders To Get Drunk”. I also kinda hoped The Feeling Of Love sounded like a 50/50 mix of the Feelers and Tunnel Of Love, and while it’s not completely off the mark, The Feeling Of Love are most certainly on a higher level. They seem to approach their music with the same nonchalance and grit of fellow Frenchmen The Anals (whose catalog I celebrate), but their songs carry a tunefulness that allows their casual hooks to fully ripen. “Waiting For The Cheerleaders” is clearly the hit, punk rock with a boogie and a chorus that bears repeating over and over. It helps that I can really picture these guys living out that title, just hanging out under the bleachers smoking cigarettes in stained t-shirts. The b-side has a nice riff that reminds me of Excelsior in some distant way, although they take things in a much more playful direction. Impressive all around.

Krysmopompas Gesa / Volker 7″ (Avant!)
I know these guys had a double LP on SS last year but I never checked it out, as a double LP of artsy post-punk is usually not how I’d want my first encounter to happen. That’s like going all the way, whereas a single is more like a kiss at the end of the first date, much more suited towards a romantic like myself. Of course, now I’m going to have to find one of those double LPs, because the tracks here are just the type of mutant synth-pop I need in my life. “Gesa” rubs warm guitar on a Casio preset while a calming German man tries to sell me chewing gum or something. Sounds great each time around. “Volker” plays with a slinky riff and the “human voice” Casio setting while that same sweet man sounds like he’s trying to wake up his younger sister on Christmas morning, only to realize all the presents are missing. Krysmopompas are incredibly peculiar but never to the point of being non-musical, which is a very sweet spot to hit.

Los Updates & Ricardo Villalobos Bank Brotherhood EP 12″ (Barraca Music)
Like chocolate and peanut butter, Ricardo Villalobos and wild Spanish duo Los Updates are intensely satisfying when combined. When collaborating, Villalobos seems particularly focused on crafting a beautifully-precise beat, and the main Los Updates guy really gets to stretch out into some of the weirdest vocal territory put to techno. They worked together on “Baile” earlier this year, pairing a surprisingly antique 808 beat with Los Updates’ silly vocal style, a Spanish dialect intoned with the joy of a cartoon character. “Baile” is a track for people born in 2005 to dance to – I could picture a whole room of four year-olds having more fun to this than a Dan Zanes concert. On “Bank Brotherhood”, Villalobos goes back to a micro-house sound ala Sei Es Drum and the Los Updates guy does some spooky ranting about the global network of corrupted banking, almost veering into Spaceape territory with his baritone speaking voice. He’s really got such a unique, distinguishable voice that it must make Villalobos squeal with delight when the acapella is laid down. “Bank Brotherhood” sounds a lot like it could’ve been mixed into Fabric 36, somewhat of a return to form, the form that had me totally captivated and enthused in the first place. Add a vehemently anti-corporate lyrical sentiment and you’ve got another unique work from these brilliant freaks.

Mr. Raoul K Wind Of Goree / Abuja 12″ (Mule Musiq)
With his sixth 12″ in roughly a year, Mr. Raoul K shows no signs of slowing down his pace or watering down his sound. This Mule Musiq 12″ is a hot one, and instead of coming with two versions of the same cut, it offers two distinct sides to his sound. “Abuja” is one of the most unique cuts in his discography – it’s a compelling, electro take on Afrobeat, cheesy sax and keys just grooving out with the beat and a very Fela-esque vocalist (could be him actually, pardon my ignorance if so). Not the classic Raoul K style but an interesting diversion, for sure. “Wind Of Goree” is crafted in his normal structure, a free-roaming excursion with a flat techno beat and an exotic musical instrument, this time some sort of African xylophone. This cut in particular is what I’d expect to come from a Manuel Gottsching / Petar Dundov dream collaboration. Somehow Mr. Raoul K’s repetitive instrumental music carries an emotional weight I don’t find many other places.

Omar S Still Serious Nic 12″ (FXHE)
After feeling a little let down by the past couple Omar S outings, Still Serious Nic has raised my spirits and dashed any doubts that he is the master of his domain. Four tracks here and kind of a value package, as each track mines one of his different specialties – handmade house that builds at a snail’s pace, lonely drum machine chatter, off-putting soulful vocal house, and semi-raw analog electro. The songs flow directly into each other (you can’t even see the space between tracks on the vinyl) and it makes me wish this 12″ was as long as his Fabric mix. My favorite Omar S remains Just Ask The Lonely, and all of the tracks here seem to come from that same place in his skull, where crooning vocalists exist in the lonely cyberspace of ‘Tron’ and drum machines have a “melancholy” setting. I love looking at his pictures on the labels too: he looks like a sad fugitive on the a-side and floating in a musical womb on the flip.

The True Achiever Regular Guy, Regular Haircut 10″ (QSTNBL)
I’ve had a pretty good run with unsolicited vinyl so far, but I guess garbage-can records like this are a rite of passage for any music blog. Midwesterner Adam Cole sent me this debut 10″ of his band, The True Achiever, with a little form letter that offers an interesting explanation as to why this record was released: “I’m putting this album out to raise awareness of me.” Well, we probably all long for a little extra awareness, but Cole’s foray into music is the last thing people should be made aware of – I’d almost certainly find his ability to make a grilled cheese sandwich more interesting and impressive than Regular Guy, Regular Haircut. There’s six cuts of deflated power-pop here, destined for perpetual opening-act status, which is confirmed once the vocals come in, sung with the dexterity of an accountant’s first karaoke attempt. You can almost hear his bad breath. It’s really appropriate that this 10″ (already a maligned format) will do little more than gather dust in discount racks over the years, as the music here reminds me of the many late-80s new-wave rock 7″s I’d find marked down to ten cents at Jerry’s, only to give them a quick spin and instantly understand the pricing. Time to go cleanse my palate with Pure Prairie League, Ace of Base, practically anything else.

TV Ghost Cold Fish LP (In The Red)
Wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the debut TV Ghost album, if only for the unfortunate screamo elements that made it into their sound (albeit unconsciously, I will admit). It didn’t really make sense, but to their credit, it was clearly the work of a band not interested in making sense. I caught them live, and after watching these late teenagers fumble with the PA system for 45 minutes, their set was a taut bullying of punk rock, the band adding a combustible energy to the songs off their debut that needed it. On the strength of that show I’ve been looking forward to Cold Fish, and while I can’t say it matches the live experience, Cold Fish is certainly another step in the right direction. They’re still working with the basic garage-rock elements, but something about the way these kids punch out their songs is colder and more disturbed than your average In The Red act. Their whole gothy vibe seems incredibly isolated at times, like something on ZickZack in 1982. The guitarist plays scrappy and loose; maybe he just got worse, or ran out of picks, but these licks were meant to be played with a paranoid hand, so it’s beneficial to the TV Ghost experience. The singer still sounds like a stuffy-nosed, awkward kid trying to tell a convincing ghost story, and while I don’t ever want to hear his “masturbating profusely” line off the first album again, his vocals fill the appropriate space. I also appreciate that they seem to have replaced the temper-tantrum moments with hi hat-led beats – just check the unhealthy tic of “The Recluse” and tell me you can’t picture a basement venue food fight breaking out. Smoking cigarettes to make music to smoke cigarettes to.

Vladislav Delay Tummaa CD (Leaf)
Welcome once again to Vladislav Delay’s wide and weird world of precisely accidental sound. I enjoyed his previous and most heralded work Anima for its ability to provide a unique color to my surroundings, as if the leaves on trees swayed with a specific intent and the movement of pedestrians was oddly choreographed while Anima squirted out of my speakers. Tummaa works with a very similar purpose, not heavy-listening but something you put on to add a little flavor to your day. Unlike previous Vladislav Delay material, this one features some more standard instrumentation (sax, clarinet, piano, etc), almost all of which are squeezed through Delay’s ringer of filters and effects. There’s even the occasional nod-able beat, kind of curious but never intrusive. Tummaa almost veers off into mid 90s Thrill Jockey territory here, possibly recalling a heavily-edited Isotope 217 at times. I still prefer the Luomo persona, as it meshes the ambient and delicate production found here with staggering lyrics and a pop sensibility, but Tummaa is nevertheless painted with the brush of a genius.

The Wicked Awesomes Punk Holograms LP (Psychic Handshake)
Rather than try to explain what modern garage punk sounds like to some friend who hasn’t paid attention since 2001, I’d simply play them Punk Holograms by The Wicked Awesomes. These guys seriously sound as if all the bands on World’s Lousy With Ideas Vol. 8 got together and pulled a Temple Of The Dog, combining their moderately disparate elements into a pretty homogenous effort that Siltbreeze would pass on releasing. It’s a decent garagey punk record, but the W’Awesomes just play it too safely for me to really take notice and want to hear it again. I’ve listened a few times and it quickly becomes a sonic blur, no single track standing out from the rest. The Eat Skull vibe is particularly strong, what with the fuzzy cavern recording, and the vocalist does a similarly aloof speak-sing, but it’s just a little too slacked and the vocals a little too unintelligible for the sum of its parts to coalesce like Eat Skull. Certainly a good effort, but the title rings somewhat true: there isn’t much substance to a hologram.

Utmarken compilation 10″ (Release The Bats)
To celebrate Release The Bats’ 50th venture into recorded sound, they’ve given us a compilation 10″, its grooves filled by four projects local to the art space for which this record is titled. I’m familiar with the optimistic and exciting feelings you get when you receive the keys to a cruddy empty warehouse, and it’s clear that a similar sensation is running through these six individuals involved with the Utmarken space. All four of the groups here (Street Drinkers, Kallarbarnen, White and Attestupa) seem to be working in the same loose-klang style, some variation of the post-Double Leopards/Skaters drone peppered with modest machinery clucking in the background. Vocals are of the effects-pedal emo moan variety, if they appear at all. I’m sure Utmarken is an awesome place to hang out and get creative, and the earnest liner notes give a healthy explanation of all that (I’d love to splatter some paint with these kids there sometime), but a compilation 10″ is going to be a hard sell, especially with a selection of fairly young and unknown noise artists that don’t do anything remotely spectacular. It’s certainly a nice-looking record that I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve given it a spin, it’s just not the type of record I’ll remember that I own.