Matias Aguayo Ay Ay Ay 2xLP (Kompakt)
Ay Ay Ay is one of those effervescent albums that cannot be hated in any right mind. Matias Aguayo has always maintained a playful, friendly persona, and this record is all about that persona blooming in your face, completely exaggerated and silly. Every track on here is based around his vocals; from beat-boxing to harmonious singing, deep melodies to falsetto improvisation, they run the show. He covers a lot of ground with that voice, singing in various languages or none at all, using it for percussion or the lead vocal hook. It’s like the diametric midpoint of Rahzel, Gwen Stefani, Mark Mothersbaugh and Yoko Ono celebrating Earth Day together. Resolute technophiles might act like they aren’t feeling it, because the tempo changes with essentially every song and it’s by no means a straight-up dance record, but come on, Aguayo uses a slide whistle gratuitiously on “Mucho Viento”! It’s pretty clear that Aguayo’s musical agenda is simply his own; he is not trying to beat the rest of the pack at the next big thing, or follow a pre-tested path to success. The vibe I get from Ay Ay Ay is similar to the goofy headrush from one’s first Girl Talk experience, with the startling exception that Aguayo hand-crafted every whisper and wheeze himself.

Demdike Stare Part 2 12″ (Demdike Stare)
As promised, here’s the second 12″ in the Demdike Stare equation, with a matching style in both appearance and sound as the first. Starting off with “Haxan”, Demdike Stare kind of go in a Maurizio direction with things, pumping some isolated techno that is more club-friendly than anything on Part 1. Demdike Stare almost veer into power-electronics territory on the next track, with pulsing tones and an unhinged female vocal, only to follow that with a Shackleton-style ghost ragga. One of the thickest tracks on here is “Nothing But The Night”, a night filled with queasy stars and a slowly-building paranoia aided by a slow-mo dubstep swipe. An uneasy dream sequence if there ever was one. I wasn’t as bowled over by Part 2 as I was Part 1, but I think that’s only because I already knew what to expect and had lofty expectations (which were most certainly met). Both of these 12″s have been compiled on CD entitled Symbiosis if you have trouble running down copies. It’s really not important how you hear Demdike Stare, just that you do so immediately.

Andre Ethier The Running Of The Bulls / Gibraltar Rock 7″ (Dull Knife)
What the hell, Dull Knife. How’d you coax this sort of powerhouse, awesome track out of a distinctive artist to be released on a pressing-of-300 7″? What did you promise Andre? Is he your uncle or something? Or is he just blissfully ignorant of the quality of music he sent you? “Running Of The Bulls” is such a hit, the type of gloriously-rocking, catchy, triumphant tune that is rarely found in the realm of well-distributed albums, let alone vanity singles. And that buttery Neil Diamond voice! Hallelujah. “Gibraltar Rock” is a spoken-rocker that calms things down but commands attention just the same. Fantastic single from a guy I will certainly be following from this point forward. Someone set up an Andre Ethier / Endless Boogie US tour and maybe we can finally get all musicians under the age of 30 to hang it up.

Factums Flowers LP (Sacred Bones)
When it comes to sculpting out new alien-punk terrain, few have been as prolific as Factums, Flowers being their fifth album since 2007. And like their Siltbreeze debut, the material here was recorded two to three years prior to its release and is completely packed with tracks (20 on the debut, 22 here!). Just looking at the tracks on the actual vinyl, the short and skinny cuts all circling each other, I’m reminded of the first BGK and Dayglo Abortions albums, when it was a necessity to cram as many tunes as possible onto an LP. Factums’ short-and-sweet approach to songwriting is kind of refreshing in an experimental economy that favors side-long tracks, but there’s still more to digest here than I could ever really take in one sitting. The only time they released a 7″, I loved it; their disjointed style seems to work best in a small series of short bursts, not a marathon. It’s pretty clear that Factums are oriented towards specific sounds, not songs, and while I normally look for something to stick in my head once it’s stopped playing, Factums come with no pretense and manage to make their time on the turntable worthwhile.

Fluffy Lumbers The Police Cruisers EP 7″ (Weird Hug)
Ever wonder what it’d be like if Wavves and Blank Dogs collaborated? Of course you did! It very well might happen someday, but in the meantime, your best bet is the debut Fluffy Lumbers single. On The Police Cruisers, Mr. Lumbers serves up some painfully contemporary lo-fi bedroom pop. The two a-side tracks really pound that Wavves / Blank Dogs collab home, “Cruisers Pt. 2” sounding like Wavves covering Blank Dogs and “American Visions” sounding like Blank Dogs covering Wavves. Rough stuff. However, I made it to the b-side, and fearlessly listened to a song called “Mutant Barrymore”, which drops the Wavves vibe and is a pretty pleasant Captured Track if there ever was one. Final cut “Shore Patrol” is both the corniest and best tune on here – a lazy, organ-propelled rocker with a memorable and dopey hook, the type of song you’d make up in your 8th grade head on your last family vacation before the divorce. I know Fuzzy Lumbers is from New Jersey and “Shore Patrol” captures the essence of the Jersey Shore as well as that Promise Ring song ever did. Sometimes it pays to stick with what you know.

Former Ghosts Fleurs LP (Upset The Rhythm)
You’d think Zola Jesus would’ve mentioned an upcoming “synth-pop” project with the main Xiu Xiu guy when I asked her about her upcoming releases a couple months ago, right? Had no idea this one was in the pipeline, but it doesn’t take much of a listen to realize that Fleurs is far more Jamie Stewart than Nika Danilova. The music is all synthesizers, drum machines and assorted clicks and loops, sounding very much like the Xiu Xiu I remember (I’ll be honest, I haven’t tuned in for the past three albums or so), just a little more straight-forward and verse/chorus-y. I guess it’s pretty similar to Zola Jesus too, although the music of Former Ghosts feels limp compared to the mammoth percussion found in the ZJ discography. Stewart is the main vocalist here, doing his usual “Average Joe having a mental breakdown” thing, which would be fine if I wasn’t just waiting for Danilova to bust out her deep pipes and go all diva on us. Former Ghosts just comes across like a slightly-divergent Xiu Xiu, with the few Danilova-fronted songs stacking up short against her Zola Jesus material. Lots of creepy love ballads on here, with rhyming lyrics to accompany a lonely slow dance. It’s a cool album and I appreciate that they actually wrote songs and didn’t just “plan and jam”, but I can’t picture myself reaching for Fleurs while I still have Knife Play and The Spoils on my shelf.

Luciano Tribute To The Sun 3xLP (Cadenza)
Luciano’s Fabric mix from last year was an uplifting and entertaining dancefloor exercise, but it only hinted at the weird beauty to be found within Tribute To The Sun. Tribute starts off with an album (career?) highlight, “Los Ninos de Fuera”, possibly an homage to Villalobos’ “Enfants (Chants)” from last year, taking things in a totally new direction. It’s got what sounds like Sigur Ros vocals melted over a sped-up children’s playground rhyme, repeated continuously and subtly paired with a micro-house beat. This is some seriously adventurous music, with a joyous vibe that continues on “Celestial”, starring a passionate choir of angels singing from their souls and flapping their wings into a set of wind chimes. I certainly haven’t heard music like this before. “Sun, Day and Night” is just as gorgeous, built around live jazz percussion breaks, ethnic drums and sumptuous vocals. I imagine this is what plays in one’s head during the birth of their first child. After the first half, things slow down a bit and fall into more familiar techno territories, but that come-down is almost necessary after the overload of musical information in those first few lengthy cuts. It’s not a disc that you throw on and dance to for 70 minutes, but each song has that standard pulse, skipping around the room. Tribute To The Sun is some other-level, life-affirming music that anyone can and should enjoy.

Melted Sunglasses Sparks / Melted Sunglasses 7″ (Weird Hug)
Sometimes, a crappy punk 45 can get by on sheer force of will, which is the case with Melted Sunglasses’ debut. Both “Sparks” and the self-titled anthem are top-quality modern KBD, the type of hits that bands will attempt to cover in 2029 (at which they will ultimately fail). “Sparks” sounds like a lost Loli & The Chones song, if the Chones all switched instruments before recording and the vinyl was mastered slightly off speed. Two chords that you’ve heard before, played with a je ne sais quoi that manages to pull me in deeper with every listen. How can this be so good? “Melted Sunglasses” is just as great, coming through with a motorik churn and what sounds like half a dozen guitars racing down the toilet. I’ve bought more new punk singles than loaves of bread this year, in hopes that I’d find something as timelessly rotten as Melted Sunglasses. They should just break up now, their Mona Lisa has been painted.

Moon Duo Killing Time EP 12″ (Sacred Bones)
Moon Duo is the work of Ripley Johnson, known best as Wooden Shjips’ shy and bearded frontman. Apparently, when he’s not playing with Wooden Shjips, he plays music that sounds like Wooden Shjips, as all four cuts here follow the same “one riff per song” rule and offer no tempo changes, no drum fills and hardly any reason to believe this music is made by humans and not just a robotic loop. This guy nearly loves his guitar as much as Randy Holden – nothing stops him but the finite nature of vinyl. The full-band dynamics and hooks of Wooden Shjips are removed from the Moon Duo equation, which I honestly don’t miss as much as I thought I would. By no means essential, but this Moon Duo (a Moon Duo? Amon Duul? Did I just unlock the Da Vinci Code?) is a fine if unobtrusive trip.

Bill Orcutt A New Way To Pay Old Debts LP (Palilalia)
Billy’s back, which is surely sweet relief to the hundreds (thousands?) of Harry Pussy fans who missed his fiery guitar extrapolations since he hanged it up a few years back. Within the first few notes of “Lip Rich”, Orcutt blasts off his guitar like a wasp trapped in your skull, violently suffocating against your eardrum, which continues through both sides of this unassuming piece of wax. He’s got one of the most identifiable guitar tones around, playing some sort of four-stringer with cascading, angry plucks that remind me just how visceral an experience it can be to play a guitar. A lot of A New Way To Pay Old Debts sounds like Sir Richard Bishop doing a Mick Barr pisstake, like a tantric experience in the storage space above your parents’ garage. It’s pretty cool when he hollers along with the notes or you hear a motorcycle speed past his window, too. He packs in such a large amount of musical verbage that I feel stressed after listening; it’s the type of record that will ease the listener into developing a nail-biting habit. Part of me wishes he’d gear up with a full band again, but I can’t imagine there are many people who are mentally and physically up to the task.

Pumice Magnedisk Recordings Of Gfrenzy Songs 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
My love of terrible music is put to the test on this new Pumice single, the type of record that has probably led to more than one close friend of the Dirty Knobby label questioning its well-being. Magnedisk Recordings is just that, Pumice recording some acoustic filth on an ancient dictation machine, which had me leaving the couch to make sure both my turntable and the record itself weren’t destroyed beyond repair numerous times. It’s an idiotic record, as almost every sound is melted before it pops off the vinyl; you would have better luck enjoying actual music on that Tumor Circus picture disc with the hole drilled through it. I can’t imagine any time or place where listening to this record would be appropriate. That said, I certainly admire the gusto of both Pumice and Dirty Knobby, as they clearly took the steps, both financial and physical, to turn this bag of dirty old newspapers into a mass-produced vinyl record. This is some fearless music making, because there is essentially no one in the world who would want to hear this.

Pygmy Shrews Lord Got Busted / Kill Yourself 7″ (Fan Death)
Pygmy Shrews throw their name in the Brooklyn noise-rock hat with this debut single, where my interest in also-rans is quickly diminishing. I saw them live and they had all sorts of tricky rock moves, conjuring A Minor Forest instead of the usual modern noise-rock references, but “Lord Got Busted” has none of that, as the drummer plays a slow and simple oom-pah that never veers off course, content to bump along with the irritated guitars. The male vocals do nothing for me, but the female singer has a lousy drone that calls to mind a young Teenage Jesus; I wish she sung the whole thing. The b-side is a cover of Pussy Galore’s “Kill Yourself”, which I wouldn’t have caught if I wasn’t told. I guess I’ll blame PG for the Flipper-lifted bassline, but this is a pretty run-of-the-mill b-side and not what I was expecting from a band who seemed to have a decent handle on things live. It’s not a bad record, but Pygmy Shrews don’t seem very interested in offering something special to listen to with this one; seems like more time went into crafting the cover painting (I’m guessing the same person who did Clockcleaner’s Nevermind, or someone else in love with that “mongoloid nuclear family” aesthetic).

Rosemary Krust Bernt Anker 7″ (Dull Knife)
Bernt Anker is one of the laziest records I’ve heard all year, like a band that would rather get bitten by a mosquito than swat it off their arms. There are four songs here, and the two on the a-side are sweltering in low fidelity with no percussion to remark of (unless you count that ultra-slow clap that finishes “Fire”), just simmering guitar and vocals. Flip it over and “For Matthia” sounds like a ten year-old girl’s family recital ruined by her noisy four year-old brother, pretty sure he even blows out her birthday candles right as the song ends. The most divergent tune here is the last, “Redicularis”, a Krustified take on early punk, kind of like The Foams or The Petticoats if they didn’t have a reliable place to practice. Not sure I’ll be playing this one often, but as a fan of the Dull Knife label it’s a worthwhile piece of the puzzle.

Shackleton Three EPs 3xLP (Perlon)
Took me a while to really understand the Skull Disco vibe, as initially it was a little too “serious drum n’ bass artist” for me. It probably first clicked on the “Blood On My Hands” Villalobos remix, and as I’ve since followed along more closely, somehow a lofty triple LP release on the impenetrable Perlon imprint seems perfectly fitting at this point. These three records are completely stuffed with prime Shackelton material, each track bearing his unmistakable touch. The stuttered and hazy vocal samples, Arabic percussion and unintuitive rhythms all make me feel like I’m hanging in some open-air market in Dubai circa 2099, kids on hoverboards cruising by old women with bluetooth headsets sewn into their scalps selling live chickens. Lots of healthy bass here too, although Shackelton uses it as an ingredient within a larger dish, not a crutch with which to bludgeon. It’s a lot to take in, but somehow I feel energized after traversing Shackelton’s maze, not exhausted. It’s probably that strong “distant future meets the ancient past” vibe that is highly appealing and so distinctly Shackleton.

Twin Stumps Twin Stumps 12″ (Dais)
Finally, some modern noise-rock that owes nothing to the Brainbombs or any of the popular touchstones that are of themselves fantastic but weak when imitated. Twin Stumps don’t just blare feedback, they understand it, and when you pair that understanding with a desire to create ugly music, something great is bound to happen. Each of these six tracks are monotonous and grating, never coming close to hardcore’s speed, instead content to waddle along, pants at their ankles. I keep getting reminded of the earliest Black Dice material, up through that 10″, as the guitar-crud is just as visceral and confusing. The vocals sound a lot like the unholy bark of Mike Connelly’s work with Hair Police, which is most certainly a good thing in my book. Just like the Drunkdriver / Mattin collaboration, these guys put an emphasis on the noise side of the equation and come out on top because of it. This is about as thick and gnarly as a 33 rpm record can sound. They pull out a couple more records like this and I’ll be happy to dub Twin Stumps the Unholy Swill of our generation.

Kurt Vile Childish Prodigy LP (Matador)
Well, it took some blood, sweat and beers, but Philadelphia’s Rock Savior finally got a record deal worthy of the hits he so constantly makes. So here’s Childish Prodigy, another hearty slice of Vile’s signature “Tom Petty goes kraut-rock” style. One thing I find so appealing about Kurt Vile is evident all over this one – his songs never seem to really begin or end, and there is enough overlap between songs (and albums) that you can step into his realm from any angle. In a world of side-scrollers, Vile’s got his own 3D universe. He’ll repeat that “snake slithering up a spiral staircase” line when you least expect it, or record various versions of the same song (“Hunchback” appears here in a slightly groovier form, while “Inside Lookin Out” is essentially the shadow of “Good Lookin Out”). Fans of the moodier, early-evening vibe found throughout most of God Is Saying This To You and the tail-end of Constant Hitmaker will find lots to love here, especially with “Overnite Religion” and “Blackberry Song”. It’s about time “Freak Train” made it to vinyl too, which was nice to finally own on vinyl. I have to admit, first hearing Childish Prodigy wasn’t as exciting for me as it may be for you, since a good handful of these tracks were floating around on a CDr for a year or two and have been live show staples. These are clearly the words of a creepy fan / borderline-stalker though, so I’m glad this stuff is finally available for mass consumption, but my eyes are aimed towards Vile’s horizon. This is a cool record that will receive lots of autumnal play, but I think we’re all waiting for the double LP (two sides solo, two sides with the Violators, of course). It’s a necessity, Kurt.

Peter Wright The Terrifying Realisation We Might Be Wrong 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
There’s certainly something in New Zealand that drives a man to make a drone; maybe it’s the lush landscapes that surround their backyards? Whatever the reason, Peter Wright is another quality NZ-born soundsmith who works with guitars, laptops and contact mics to form his music. I swear it’s not just a convenient coincidence that Wright reminds me of Birchville Cat Motel, as his moody drones come with a similarly earthy patina that sound like they’ve been created on the edge of the Earth. There are three cuts on this short record, so he’s winding down by the time most drones would be getting warmed up, but it’s still a lovely dose of drift.

Vibe 1 compilation 12″ (Future Times)
Man, DC really caught the disco-funk flu, for which the only prescription is more disco-funk. The Future Times family has the retro-electro on lock, with a positive outlook based on inclusiveness and a shared love of deep grooves. Vibe 1 features four artists from this ever-growing community: Max D, Sensual Beings, Protect U and Beautiful Swimmers. Max D kicks it off with the banger, classic drum machine sounds and a tight little vocal line. I want to hang in this dude’s basement and just watch him make it happen. Sensual Beings and Beautiful Swimmers do a similar thing, popping off some nice cuts that could easily buffer Kraftwerk and Fast Eddie on the dancefloor (where at least one person is breaking). Protect U is probably my favorite though, taking some Tangerine Dream with their funk, doing a weird retro thing that no one else is doing, like an electro-Blues Control who can get away with synthesized slap-bass. A successful DIY 12″ compilation if there ever was one, I just hope some of the proceeds are being put towards a proper Protect U release.