Reviews – September 2018

Avola Zone LP (Nadine / Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
There’s certainly a zone being explored on Vern Avola’s newest record, but I’m not sure it’s one of our earthly dimension. Rather, this record reminds me of the sonic areas explored by Wolf Eyes and their fellow psych-noise travelers shortly after the turn of the century. Avola uses a variety of synths (in most press photos, she’s hunched over one) to create these bristly, finicky musical organisms, and while she’s not the first to have this idea (many of the ideas explored through Zone can be traced back to Throbbing Gristle and beyond), she works it well. At times, things get out of control in a Nautical Almanac or Cotton Museum sorta way, but usually Avola lets her tones linger in the stratosphere, as if she’s trying to lure the Silver Surfer back to Earth by emitting a particularly dazzling selection of colors into outer space. Listening to Zone takes me back to the days of not knowing who or what was responsible for the random few American Tapes I was able to acquire, but loving them dearly all the same.

Bad Breeding Abandonment 12″ (One Little Indian)
I’m telling you, the breeding has gone from bad to worse, and we’re all the better for it. This new four-song 12″ EP comes on the Flux Of Pink Indians-related One Little Indian label, and Bad Breeding are the perfect band to carry Flux’s flag, as they are also unrefined, abrasive, insanely good, and verifiably British. These songs are a little longer than I’m used to hearing from Bad Breeding, but it works in their favor, allowing these menacing, feral punk tunes to unfold naturally. I’m thinking if Impalers opted for a heavier post-punk influence (picture Crisis or Wire given a molten hardcore enhancement), it might tumble to the floor much like Abandonment does, right through to the mind-melting crescendo that terminates “Complicit”, the last song on here. The sound quality is pretty much perfect for what they’re trying to accomplish, too – it’s thick and heavy, but brittle on the edges, as if the recording is on the verge of catching fire, be it magnetic tape or hard drive. If the only thing keeping you from ordering a copy is not knowing whether or not it comes with a big gnarly collage that features chain-link fences and the words “war”, “torture” and “control” prominently displayed, well, spoiler alert: it does!

Harlan T. Bobo A History Of Violence LP (Goner)
Straight up: the name “Harlan T. Bobo” befits an Aerosmith-themed circus clown, so I always politely avoided his music in the past. There are just too many people out there making music for me to lend my ear to someone with a name like that, you know? Anyway, I relented and peeped this new one, and I have to say, it’s undeniably great, a finely crafted album of mature n’ depressed rock music. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this guy – did all of you avoid him because of the name, too? Anyway, Bobo stacks up against vice-laden white-guy greats like Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen here, calmly enunciating his whiskey-worn voice through exquisite tales of sorrow and redemption. He works sullen, contemplative ballads as expertly as he grinds out garage-y grooves – clearly any standard delivery method of rock n’ roll is grist for Bobo’s mill. It’s only a matter of time before one of the more plaintive, moody numbers here end up soundtracking one of the many Netflix true-crime documentaries, if it hasn’t already happened. The songs are polished and sharp, but it’s Bobo’s confident, experienced voice that really makes A History Of Violence a notable entry into today’s garage-rock league of elder-statesmen. I love it, but I’m still not sure I’m ready to wear a t-shirt that says “Harlan T. Bobo” on it. We’ll see.

Brandy Laugh Track LP (Monofonus Press)
I’d been wondering what the Moesha star had been up to lately (I loved that show), but unfortunately this album isn’t going to help me out with that. Nope, this is a new noise-punk trio out of Brooklyn featuring personnel from Pampers and Running, and their music is as knowingly rude as the smirks the band members wear on the back cover. Their closest sonic relative is without a doubt Mayyors – both groups share a massive wall of midrange fuzz and stomp it out all over the place, with the vocalist’s nasal sneer echoing off every flat surface in proximity. Whereas Mayyors were content to bash the listener’s skull repeatedly and without constraint, though, Brandy vary their approach a bit on their debut. Expect high-octane moshers that would delight any half-wasted Oh Sees fan to buffer rigid scuffles that recall Lamps at their most inflamed throughout Laugh Track, with nods to classic punk buried deep within the scuzz. Much like Lamps and Mayyors, it’s hard to decipher if Brandy is laughing with us or directly at us, as they seem to coat their disgust (or delight?) in a thick layer of dry wit. They’ve even got funny song titles that aren’t the normal sort of “funny song titles”, but rather ones like “Two Titles With A Slash Pt. I”, “Two Titles With A Slash Pt. II”, and “Blandy”. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to somehow make fun of me for writing this review, even though it was entirely positive!

The Coltranes White Hag LP (SPHC)
There are more sub-genres and aesthetic options for punk and hardcore bands than ever before, and with White Hag, The Coltranes pull at a few directions at once. The cover is a violent, Mike Diana-esque sketch of various evil creatures and gimp-masked beings dragging the Pope to his torturous demise, of which the album title seems to bear no direct relation, and it comes with a short story of the same title in booklet form, presented by something called “House Of Alternative Production” (is this a Uranium Club influence?). I’m not sure what sense is being made here, but thankfully the music of The Coltranes is much more direct. Much of this album borrows strongly from early ’80s Black Flag (lots of My War and Slip It In style riffing) with a vocalist who snarls like an exaggerated Ross from Ceremony. That’s a musical combination that will almost always work well, and it certainly works here. At times, all the mid-tempo riffing can grow monotonous (and not in a good way), particularly as it’s a fairly long album by modern hardcore-punk standards, but just when I’m getting bored I’ll notice that the singer is ranting about how Wednesday is his favorite day of the week, so I’ll let it ride. A confusing album, but maybe it makes perfect sense to them.

DJ Quest / Go Like This Double Homicide 2 12″ & 7″ flexi (Alimentary Music)
True West Bay dank-core is immortal, confirmed by this split between DJ Quest and Go Like This. Simply seeing their logos in that same Plutocracy-style lettering on the cover makes me smile, and the music within operates on that same level. DJ Quest is a San Franciscan turntablist who offers up some thick bounce on his tracks here. Touches of acid add color to his booty-bass alongside various samples, not to mention a cut-up track of Go Like This samples that are just waiting to be co-opted by KMFDM or Ministry. Go Like This feature members of Agents Of Satan (one of the all-time greats) and Plutocracy (one of the other all-time greats), and they play in the manner you might expect from such a pedigree: quick-changing thrash-metal / grindcore with multiple vocalists, ridiculously hard samples and a strong predilection for the devil’s lettuce. The 12″ comes with a red-vinyl flexi with more material from DJ Quest alongside DJ Stinkweed, as well as a hand-burnt insert, in case you didn’t already notice the intense level of care that was put into the making of Double Homicide 2. Rest assured that in some smoked-out basement, Tony Molina is currently moshing to this record, so why not try it out for yourself?

Donato Dozzy Filo Loves The Acid 2xLP (Tresor)
For Tresor’s three hundred and third release, they decided to release Donato Dozzy’s Filo Loves The Acid, an album seemingly in tribute of the Roland 303 and its world-famously acidic properties. Get it? Now, we all love Donato Dozzy (I certainly do), and he continues to pump out new records at a healthy clip (I didn’t get a chance to review his recent Mindless Fullness EP and it’s top-notch), but I’m starting to think that simply hearing about this album would be as necessary as hearing it. Dozzy is a born innovator, but Filo Loves The Acid is a traditional run through the same paths acid-techno has taken over the past 3+ decades. It’s a respectable and trusty entry in the genre, one that abides by all the standard rules and pounds out club-ready thumps alongside squiggly acid worms, but there’s nothing remotely new at play here. If you’ve never heard the genre before, it’s a fine introduction (presuming a record from 2018 is an acceptable way to learn about the genre – could a person first learn about punk via a punk record from 2018?), but Donato Dozzy is at his best when operating solely by his own set of rules, not that of a fully-defined (and done to death) genre. I’d rather hear what he would come up with using only an autoharp, a contact mic and a sampler, and if his track record is any indication, a record that weird is probably forthcoming.

Fåglar I Bur Platt / Öppen Inbjudan 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Ahh, I certainly enjoy my share of I Dischi 7″ singles, but this one, this is the one to get! Fåglar I Bur are new to me, and probably new to everyone, seeing as this is their only public recording, but this 7″ single is marvelous and I’m spinning it to pieces. The quickest way to describe them would be to proffer the question “what if Young Marble Giants played industrial music?”, and trust me, Fåglar I Bur live up to such a lofty fantasy. “Platt” features a pissed-off drum machine with some underlying electronic distress as vocalist Felicia Lindgren talks smack in her native Swedish tongue. “Öppen Inbjudan” sounds like a smoothed-out dub of Neutral, another Swedish industrial-esque duo that shares a number of attributes with Fåglar I Bur, although Fåglar I Bur seem far more reserved and minimal, and less prone to feedback and violent outburst. Both tracks make their point succinctly, and while it’s clearly of a certain industrial tradition, this duo is on their own unique trip and I’m already desperate for more.

FRKSE Denigration Rapture 7″ (Iron Lung)
Cool to see Massachusetts-based noise-jammers FRKSE link up with the Iron Lung fellas. It’s not a combo I saw coming, but one that makes sense: FRKSE always seemed to be winking toward some aspect of gnarly underground guitar music, and Iron Lung has no shortage of ugly mutated noise blasts in its back catalog. This 7″ is a fine introduction if you’re not familiar with FRKSE, and if you do happen to like it, there’s a massive discography awaiting your perusal. A collage of samples sandwiched into some churning rhythmic aspects is what you get with opener “Burn First Then An Affront”, not unlike a basement-industrial Demdike Stare. Same goes for “Lions To Poach”, not entirely removed from other currently-active industrial loop-based creeps like Hogg or SabaSaba, but FRKSE have been at it long enough to have honed into their specific little corner of the genre. There’s a tension and mystery within FRKSE’s murky tracks, similar to Leda perhaps, but with a vaguely Middle-Eastern feel at times, due to the stringed instruments and percussion that sometimes shine through the deep patina of the samples. The best part is, if you accidentally leave this record in your car on a hot day and it badly warps, it’ll only sound better!

Gad Whip Post Internet Blues LP (X-Mist)
Gad Whip are an attractive proposition for various mindsets and aesthetics, as demonstrated by their first record on the New York-based avant-rock label Ever/Never and this follow-up on German punk/hardcore label X-Mist. On Post Internet Blues, they sound like some sort of lonely strain of ’90s alt-rock mixed with the sour tongue of Crass… wait, isn’t that the exact formula for Chumbawumba? Maybe I need to review my findings. I’m serious though, the music here recalls early Radiohead, maybe Filter or even Incubus (soaring, sorta-artsy bass lines; chugging grooves; a willingness to get funky), whereas the vocalist continues to ignore the music almost entirely, ranting and raving about various specific miseries in a manner very similar to Sleaford Mods, or when less aggressive, Wat Tyler. Most of the references are beyond me: I got the one about Twitter, and the album title makes sense, but I have no idea what “Goat Bag” is about, even though he repeats it dozens of times. I’m not mad, though – I love when artists focus in on the details of their lives and center that in their art, even if it leaves me a little lost. At least it’s honest, right? There’s a lot of sharp honesty to be found within Post Internet Blues, even if the music sounds like Tool covering Pink Floyd. God bless these weirdos.

Half Human Positive Image LP (Specious Arts)
There once was a sound and style that I associated with Brooklyn’s indie-punk scene, but that’s become a thing of the past. Nowadays, when I hear a new band from Brooklyn, they’re either precisely copying some other more popular band, or off in some sort of bizarre stylistic netherworld, put together seemingly at random. Half Human exist in the second camp, and Positive Image is their somewhat confusing first album. They seem unable to stay in one place for too long, both stylistically and musically. A plunging New Order bass-line will guide a gothic post-punk jam, only to be followed by a rickety, brittle no-wave spasm. Not to mention the track “Territory In Exchange”, which feels like Liars on a heavy kick of Rush, and it weirdly starts as the last song on the a-side, only to continue as the first song on the b-side (at least I think it’s the same song?). And just when it seems like the prog-rock influence has taken over and Half Human are on some “King Crimson meets Drab Majesty” tip, the last song artfully drones across nearly seven minutes like Slint dueling Pittsburgh noise-rockers Microwaves at midnight. A whole lot of ideas here, and Half Human will stick them just about anywhere, like a big computer monitor covered in post-it notes. You might not like all of it, but you’ll probably enjoy some of it!

Haus Arafna Blut – Trilogie Des Blutes | Nachblutung 2xLP (Galakthorrö)
The last Haus Arafna album to receive deluxe vinyl treatment is their debut, Blut. Initially a CD-only release from 1995, it now exists as a gatefold double LP on opaque blood-red vinyl, complete with the Nachblutung tracks that previously only existed as a bonus to the 2006 CD remaster. I’m as big a Haus Arafna fan as they come (they’re like the brooding gothic parents I never had), so this was a nice addition to my collection, and of course it’s put together in fine Galakthorrö fashion, to their always exacting standards. As far as the album itself goes, one can certainly tell that this is Haus Arafna at their earliest and rawest – brutal rhythmic pulses, guttural screams, electric shock treatment and dramatic analog synths are all poised to strike, and strike they do. It’s a stunning declaration, one that fuses the beautiful decay of classic industrial and gothic melodrama with the harsh vigor of early power-electronics, and it still sounds exciting all these years later. That said, I think Haus Arafna have only gotten better through the years, finding new ways to present similar underlying themes, and mastering the use of “VCO, VCF and VCA” – hell, even writing catchy songs within this imposing and aggressive style. Now that all previous ghosts have been properly reissued, let’s hope there’s a new album shortly on the way.

ISS ISS LP (Drunken Sailor)
First thing’s first, I love ISS, the North Carolina-based post-punk duo that utilize classic and obscure punk samples to create their rickety lo-fi scrums. That said, did we really need a vinyl reissue of their debut 2015 cassette, following last year’s Endless Pussyfooting album and a 7″ EP earlier this year? Speaking as a fan of the group, I’m not sure I needed it, and I have to wonder who the audience is that has the amount of money necessary to buy all this stuff, all while presumably purchasing records by other bands they enjoy. As a concept and as songwriters, ISS have only gotten sharper over the years, so while these early tracks offer a nice glimpse into their formative days, both musically (samples buffer their drum-and-bass-led punk rock rather than seamlessly integrate) and punk-pun related (you get “(Dis)charge It To The Game” and “(I Want A) Amphetamine Prescription” here), it’s simply not as good as their other two records. Which is a good thing, because it means they keep getting better, but it also makes this record somewhat extraneous in the process, contributing to a vinyl-overloaded malaise wherein a thoughtful punk shopper just backs away empty-handed, crippled by the endless choices, rather than picking up the one great record by one great band on the “new arrivals” list. I realize I’m stretching here, but honestly am I really stretching that much?

Patricia Kokett Diabel 12″ (Knekelhuis)
The hits just keep on coming from Dutch mostly-techno label Knekelhuis. I hadn’t heard of Patricia Kokett before, but I took a chance, and I’m glad I did, as these four songs are great. Kokett plays an unhurried form of EBM techno, music that coasts on a longboard past industrial and trance for sunnier pastures. A track like “Mmuo” is practically krautrock in the fully electronic sense of the term, but without any retro throwback feel… it pulses with a neon beat and smooth transitions, and in true nonsensical krautrock fashion, is punctuated by an elephant’s roar. Some of Diabel is so warm and inviting, it almost feels like a hidden soundtrack to Mario 64, but it comes without any of vaporwave’s cloying nostalgia. I still play the Job Sifre 12″ on Knekelhuis all the time, and Diabel feels like the optimistic corollary to Job Sifre’s gloomy doom, almost reaching Avalon Emerson levels of jubilant optimism. Patricia Kokett is clearly a raver at heart, but approaches things with a tender humanity that piles of neon strobe-lit pills can sometimes miss. Of course, pills might go well with Diabel, but I’ll leave that to the more adventurous listeners.

Limbs Bin One Happy World LP (Torn Light)
Limbs Bin continue their singular-minded approach to noise (and grind?) with One Happy World, the artist’s first full-length vinyl LP following numerous cassettes. Much like the flexi that came through these pages a couple years ago, the Limbs Bin style remains the same: harsh noise blasts (a drum machine turned up to 1,000 BPM, maybe?) over screamed sentences or phrases. These blasts tend to last as long as the average sentence (I wanna say between three and five seconds?), and there are plenty of them to go around here. Occasionally the vocals will be shouted in some sort of rhythmic pattern, but for the most part it’s grind-speed power-electronics and screamed vocals, with feedback filling in for the vocals whenever Josh Landes (it’s his solo project) needs to take a breath. Both sides end with extended silence tracks, and I’m not sure if that was a mastering goof-up or some intentional artistic statement, but either way it adds a starkness to Limbs Bin’s extreme noise content. I’m not sure exactly how long a person can continue a project that sticks to such a rigid and fixed formula as this, but I appreciate that Limbs Bin shows no signs of fatigue. Maybe I should go ask Vomir!

Lolina The Smoke LP (no label)
The first time I listened to this new album by Inga Copeland’s Lolina alias, it reminded me of To Live And Shave In LA, in the manner that it bludgeoned me with its sheer ridiculous audacity. The Smoke sounded great on that first listen, but I’ve spun it countless times since then, and songs have emerged from the big pile of question marks that first hit my ears. Let’s call it “experimental synth-pop”, although I don’t think Copeland is particularly experimenting with anything besides just being herself. The beats here are sad and weird, somewhere between Tin Man’s Acid Test series and Lil Yachty, and Copeland sings and rants over them with the ease and comfort usually reserved for covering Ramones songs. Her voice is particularly great, and weird – from what I can gather, she’s Russian-born but has been living in London for a number of years, but her voice sounds neither Russian nor British… more like some new digitally-enhanced species of human being? But there aren’t crazy effects added to her voice, it’s just her voice. Her manner of production and vocals are enough to delight, even if they were delivered in random jumbles, but these songs really are perversely catchy, or actually just regular-catchy. One of the finest albums of the year, I’d say!

The Mighty Jabronis Heart Punch My Heart / Put ‘Em In A Headlock 7″ (Uh Huh)
Not trying to brag, but I feel uniquely qualified to critique a pro-wrestling-themed punk band, so let’s get to it. The Mighty Jabronis are proudly such, named after one of The Rock’s most popular insults and dedicated to goofball wrestling worship via classic upbeat punk rock. “Heart Punch My Heart” and “Put ‘Em In A Headlock” are sonically akin to collector-scum punk like The Child Molesters and The Shit Dogs, or perhaps more directly The Turnbuckles and their Super Destroyer Mark II single, and while that’s perfectly A-OK, The Mighty Jabronis merely tread the genre’s water. The a-side is based on Roman Reigns’ finishing move, which would be like writing a punksploitation song that pays homage to Green Day’s American Idiot. You know, painfully poseurish, even for a subculture that is inherently uncool. If wrestling is a funny joke to you, and you just like the stuff on cable TV, you’ll probably get a couple hoots from this single, but I have to wonder what Antiseen or Rancid Vat would think. They probably keep a steel chair handy for situations just like this.

Mosquitoes Drip Water Hollow Out Stone 12″ (Ever/Never)
That’s not just a cool poetic title to Mosquitoes’ five-song EP, it’s also the five song titles strung together. This London-based group delighted me with their first self-released 7″, and it’s nice that Ever/Never brought their goods to an American audience, as that’s where I live, and this is my kinda thing. They still remind me of Sightings here, which is a rare and admirable quality, but they’re like Sightings without the feedback or squelch. Their form of avant-rock seems to tiptoe across the marble floor, delicately tickling your ribs rather than blasting you out of your chair. The bass dances around just like Sightings’ did, but the drums here are carefully measured, wherein the tuning of the drums is just as important as the impact of their hits. The vocals are quietly muttered – I can’t confirm they’re even in English, but they convey plenty of confusion and disarray regardless of the lyrics or total lack thereof – and the guitar takes the band name to heart, buzzing like a winged insect that should’ve gone extinct eons ago but instead continues to thrive. Probably the freshest and coolest no-wave-derived music I’ve heard in a while!

Mountain Movers New Jam 12″ (C/Site Recordings)
Mountain Movers might not have been moving actual mountains, but they’ve been working nearly as hard, touring around the Northeast and beyond while releasing a steady stream of vinyl and tapes. This new one moves away from their normal song construction in search of headier territory, one that I certainly appreciate a bit more than their average indie-rock nugget. The title here tells no lies: you get two “new jams” on this comfortably-lengthy 12″ single and one titled track, all seeking higher levels of sonic elevation. “New Jam 5” and “New Jam 3” work essentially the same bass-line, but don’t worry, it’s a sweet one, with drums locked into the pattern like musical crochet as the guitar explores the deepest reaches of whatever psychedelic effects pedal is closest by. I’m feeling like Bardo Pond, Can and Brainticket may have provided some inspiration here, and if you’re looking to play instrumental rock music, it’s hard to go wrong with those forefathers gazing down upon you. “Clearview Hwy.” is the other track here, and it’s a little looser than the jams; it’s a loose improvisation that sounds like a half-asleep Laddio Bolocko, which is nearly as good as wide-awake Laddio Bolocko, and it works as an enjoyably hazy respite from the cunning bassline of both “New Jam” tracks. More of a mountain chiller than a mountain mover, but it suits them well.

No Love Choke On It LP (Sorry State)
Has anyone else noticed that a specifically North Carolinian hardcore-punk sound has developed over the past few years? It’s been brewing for a decade or so, probably fostered by the great support system of label / distro Sorry State, but it feels firmly in place at this point. The generalized NC style streamlines garage-rock riffs into cascading hardcore punk tempos, with minimal breaks, few dirges, only the occasional d-beat and a level of musicianship and recording quality that notably surpasses poor or lo-fi. I’m thinking of Brain F≠ and the associated Joint D≠, as well as Davidians to some degree, and of course No Love, with their debut LP Choke On It. It fits my earlier description head-on, complete with shouted-yet-discernible vocals, tasteful guitar-work and even a cover of their buddies ISS. I’m also reminded of White Lung before they decided to “go for it”, in the way that these fiery tunes songs ceaselessly blur into each other due to a fairly homogeneous tempo and sound. I could go for less technical perfection from No Love and more personality and attitude – there isn’t one memorable chorus here, but it feels like most songs are streams of parts rather than distinct verses/choruses anyway. They seem like a likeable group though, and No Love clearly have worked hard at Choke On It, so if they’re happy with it, I’m happy for them.

Thee Open Sex White Horses LP (Sophomore Lounge)
You never know what you’re going to get from Sophomore Lounge, except for maybe that the artist probably hails from a non-major city and there’s a good chance an amplified guitar will be involved. Both are true for Bloomington’s Thee Open Sex, a project that revolves around guitarist John Dawson and his various serious-musician friends, but serious in a good way – these folks aren’t trying to become rich stars, they’re simply trying to reach new pinnacles of sound. White Horses is my first time hearing Thee Open Sex and it’s a highly enjoyable excursion into deep krautrock territory. The track “White Horses” takes up both sides in two parts, and it takes shape via extended snare roll, cyclical guitar melody and the slow-build of some cosmic keyboards. Very Neu!, very Manuel Göttsching, and not entirely removed from Faust & Tony Conrad… maybe if “Bitchin’ Bajas & Tony Conrad” ever existed, it’d be similar? It’s an old and well-worn concept, an infinite spiral of two notes aiming up to the heavens, but it’s a trusty one… White Horses is a suitable key for unlocking one’s third eye.

Pious Faults Old Thread LP (Feel It)
Holy moly, I’m just calling it right now: this is my favorite hardcore-punk album of the year! I’ve never heard of Brisbane’s Pious Faults before, but I’m already obsessed. Allow me to try to explain their deal: they come correct with the unpredictable frenzy of Cult Ritual at their peak (sans all the distortion and heaviness), the manic post-punk sneer of Seems Twice and S.Y.P.H., and the general sound of classic hardcore/punk somewhere between, say, The State’s No Illusions EP and Feederz’s Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss? album. It’s a unique cocktail, and Pious Faults seem to be operating purely under their own authority, rewriting hardcore without losing its inherent visceral impact or lack of pretense. These songs are all wildly different, from tuneless bashing that recalls the first Hospitals album to intricate off-kilter grooves (I’m going to once again invoke the great name of Seems Twice), or even frantic inexplicable punk ragers that sound like Saccharine Trust attempting no-wave. I’ve thrown out a lot of big names here, but I’m telling you, Pious Faults could stomp around with the best of ’em. And would you look at that, they’re touring the States right now!

Protomartyr & Spray Paint Irony Prompts A Party Rat 7″ (Monofonus Press)
Goddamn, I love a good anagram, and the title of this EP (combining both band names) is startlingly well-suited and poetic. Somehow, these two bands decided not to do a split, but combine together to write and record these two songs. I’m fascinated as to how that works (did the guitar players flip a coin?), not to mention how awkward it must be to present a new riff not just to your bandmates but another entire band as well, but these guys made it happen. That alone is enough to earn my respect, but these two tracks are worth hearing, too – somehow, this record isn’t a novelty afterthought. “Corinthian Leather” is moody and crude, like Protomartyr After Dark or something, whereas “Bags & Cans” rides a chiming, upbeat pogo into some sort of Interpol speedzone with someone other than Protomartyr’s Joe Casey on vocals. Cool tunes for sure, but if they really want to impress me they should add another group to the mix. Can you imagine all the great possible anagrams from Protomartyr & Spray Paint & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah?

Raime Am I Using Content Or Is Content Using Me? 12″ (Different Circles)
The title of this new Raime EP is so corny in that Black Mirror sort of way that it has to be intentional, right? Raime are fan of elegantly long titles, but never before so direct, and their music is so consistently smart and forward-thinking that I can only assume they are as people, too. Title aside, this new four-song EP is another change-up from Raime, albeit one that fits in with their general MO of minimalist reduction. They’ve sucked the marrow out of dubstep, drone and industrial techno in the past, and this time it’s more of a take on future-bass or grime instrumentals. I’m reminded of Fatima Al Qadiri, or perhaps Kode9, just with the actual drums and bassline removed. Rather, Raime work exclusively with the sounds that normally would be placed on top of the beat, resulting in nimble dance movements with plenty of open air. The sounds they utilize are cool (synthetic animal roars, digi-flutes, crowd noises and artificially-rendered shakers), and distributed in slowly-emerging patterns. Not sure if I’m using Raime or if they’re using me when I listen to these tracks, but I’m happy either way.

Scumputer / L.O.T.I.O.N. Campaign For Digital Destruction LP (540)
After releasing one of my favorite albums of 2015, L.O.T.I.O.N. took it kind of easy, so I was thrilled to see that this new split LP with Scumputer (a solo project by Chaos UK guitarist Gabba) was ready to go. Scumputer are up first, and while I was hoping for the music to live up to the name and cover art, Scumputer isn’t nearly as harsh or extreme as I had hoped. The electronic drums are programmed to fast punk beats, often overloaded with tinny guitars and various samples (including a more-or-less remix of RUN-DMC’s “My Adidas” at one point), but instead of sounding like some brutal mix of gabber-techno and Chaos UK, I’m reminded of the more aggressive Atom & His Package songs with different vocals. Sorry! I guess Scumputer’s tracks are fun and ultimately harmless, but I have no intention of returning to them anytime soon, especially since L.O.T.I.O.N. is on the other side, and their contribution is fantastic. Their side opens with the sound of a chopper and distorted emergency sirens before kicking into some unholy sonic union of M Ax Noi Mach, Psalm 69 and the second track on G.I.S.M.’s SoniCRIME TheRapy. It’s mostly a mid-paced affair, perfect as the soundtrack to a robotic horde of mutant punks marching toward a city hall engulfed in flames, and entirely appropriate for the Lärm-referencing title. Cool lyrics too, relaying modern-day horror without being typical or generic. Hoping the next L.O.T.I.O.N. release arrives before we’re all huddled around the Amazon-Google water-tanks, awaiting our weekly rations.

The Skygreen Leopards The Jingling World Of The Skygreen Leopwards LP (Soft Abuse)
Let’s take a trip back to 2002, a time when you could tell your friends you just printed up a CD-r release and they’d respond with “cool!” instead of “huh?”, a time when dropping out of life with psychedelic imagery in hand was alluring and even sensible. That’s when Glenn Donaldson’s group The Skygreen Leopards recorded the material on The Jingling World Of, which compiles two early CD-r releases and some other random tracks of that era. It fits in well with other weird folksters of the time, like Devendra Banhart, Six Organs Of Admittance or Espers, but Skygreen Leopards was always a bit more reserved and less distinctively retro-minded than some of their more popular peers. These songs borrow from the sad and hazy tones of Sarah Records as much as the folksy strum of Pentangle or Fairport Convention, with just a light swab of Beachwood Sparks for good measure. It’s pretty pleasant music, although it passes by shyly, just as content to be forgotten as beloved. Personally, I could take or leave their Jingling World, but I’m here right now, and it’s nice.

Spiritual Cramp Police State 7″ (Deranged)
San Francisco’s Spiritual Cramp have been opening popular hardcore fests for a little bit now, and while that’s a fun place to be (I for one wish I enjoyed their close proximity to Cold World), I can’t help but think that less moshy pastures await them. That’s the impression I get while listening to their new Police State EP, at least. On stage, they’re a raucous jean-jacket punk band, complete with tambourine player (I wonder how many people they auditioned for the job?) and swiftly down-picked guitars, but they display a greater range throughout these four tracks, dare I say a more “mature” punk sound. The opener “Spiritual Cramp” is the straight-ahead anthem (as any band-name-titled song should be), but the rest of the EP takes aim at older punk styles that haven’t been overly mined in recent times. I’m hearing plenty of Clash, Subway Sect and maybe even a little Ian Dury on these tracks – it’s very upbeat and two-tone/mod inspired, with crooned vocals one might expect to find in lively conversation with Debbie Harry and David Johansen at some Manhattan dive circa 1978, all trying to avoid Cheetah Chrome. These songs are surprisingly tender, and while they’re mostly written in a basic verse/chorus/repeat/end formula, I think they’re onto something special – perhaps it’s album time?

Tanz Ohne Musik Night 7″ (Galakthorrö)
Tanz Ohne Musik are one of the rare Galakthorrö artists with a significant discography prior to joining up with the label, but don’t let that mislead you into thinking they are musically distant from the rest of the crew. Nope, Tanz Ohne Musik sound exactly as one would expect a Galakthorrö artist to sound: gloomy, overtly-gothic industrial synth-wave with morbid themes and troubled vocals sung in Romanian-accented English. It’s comforting, knowing exactly what Night is going to sound like before actually hearing it, and Tanz Ohne Musik deliver on that inherent promise. These four songs are lovely, falling more on the softly-dour side of the spectrum (expect moody synth tension ala November Növelet, not scalding furnace blasts ala Haus Arafna), but still bone-chilling and seductive. The fact that Tanz Ohne Musik are Romanian only enhances their vampiric qualities, which is exactly what I want from music like this, the sense that it was composed and written by a dying Nosferatu who refused to drink the blood of his true love. Immortality never seemed so desirable!

Teakup Miscellanea I 12″ (Is/Was)
A lot of European techno gets discussed in these pages, but I’m an ugly American through and through, so I decided to check out this new EP from Ohio’s Teakup on the Pittsburgh-based Is/Was label. They’re only doing vinyl (they sell the records through Bandcamp with no sound samples – you’ve gotta admire that audacity!), and I sure like vinyl, so I’m glad to have made their acquaintance. Miscellanea I lives up to its title in the varied sounds and styles explored through its four cuts, but in a highly enjoyable way. Opener “Lose My Mind” sounds like peak-time Audion or Jon Convex… elastic and energetic tech-house with cool vocal effects. It’s followed by the rough n’ ready Detroit-style techno of “Shimmer” and “Darkcore 2020”, which seems to reference its intense drum n’ bass style in the title, not unlike a lost Peverelist remix. The EP wraps with “I Don’t Fkn Kno”, another punchy tech-house sizzler in the classic style of Perlon. Nothing groundbreaking, but all four tracks are catchy little winners… plus, this was made somewhere in Ohio, one of the hardest places in the developed world to successfully rave. Credit where credit is due to Teakup.

Upsammy Words R Inert 12″ (Die Orakel)
Within four seconds of “Dancing Faries”, the first cut on this 12″ EP, you know whether you’re in or you’re out – Upsammy gets into her turbo-boosted electro right out of the gate. It’s great! Imagine Dopplereffekt at their most caffeinated, practically levitating across the dance-floor with a massive, twitchy beat. That would be enough for me, but Upsammy throws some viscous synths over top, running over the edges of the groove like too much syrup on pancakes. It’s simple but perfect, in the same manner that Avalon Emerson’s “The Frontier” is. “Wednesday Morning” is nearly as exceptional. It’s far less hectic but more demented, the sort of thing I’d expect to hear while grocery shopping in the year 2078. Music for light industry of the future, no doubt. The title track commands the b-side and it’s the slowest by far, pulsing like some sort of bioluminescent sea creature outside of Drexciya’s Atlantean home. These tracks are familiar in the way that pulse-pounding electro beats can’t help but be, but vastly alien due to the manner in which Upsammy approaches them, thanks to her uniquely tuned ear for unexpected melodic patterns. Top pick!

Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas 2xLP (Smalltown Supersound)
So, you want your child to achieve greatness someday? Allow me to recommend that you name them “Bugge Wesseltoft”. It’s the name of the Norwegian pianist and jazz musician who teamed up with Prins Thomas for this sumptuous long-playing affair. I realize that “chill ambient jazz and instrumental hip-hop for studying and relaxing” is a disgustingly powerful new genre care of Spotify and the various other passive-listening phone apps that modern society seems to love so much, but let me tell you, I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of this album and I don’t care who knows it. They go deep on their grooves here, with multiple tracks around fifteen minutes or so, and it really pays off. Skittering percussion will lead to some featherweight house music, a jazzy groove will open into some passive ambient bliss, and it all shifts gracefully, like one of those plants that folds up its leaves at night. Prins Thomas seems to leave his trademark space-disco behind in favor of airy live instrumentation and exploratory coffeehouse melodies, and the result is a small piece of magic. I can’t say there’s any particular moment on here that’s must-hear, or any track or aspect that is liable to blow minds, but I’ve probably listened to this album more than anything else in the past two weeks, so there must be some explanation to be found somewhere. Maybe I’m just old now?

Yu Su Preparations For Departure 12″ (Arcane)
As the lines of techno, jazz and ambient continue to dissolve upon each other, more and more cool records are popping up in those blurred areas, such as this five-track EP from Yu Su. Preparations For Departure is a lush record, one that finishes smooth after floating by like a particularly appealing cloud formation. Expect clarinet and live bass among chiming chords and potent synths, resulting in something akin to Keith Jarrett remixed by Newworldaquarium. You know I love me some horn-based techno, but this EP doesn’t hit any dance-floors… instead, it aims for the back of your skull as you slowly relax all muscles and give in to Yu Su’s soothing ebb and flow. if this record were a massage, it’d be pure Alexander technique. I get the sense from the postcard memorial that comes tucked inside the sleeve, as well as the title itself, that Yu Su was thinking about the afterlife when she put this record together, so if death is even half as soothingly serene as this music, I’m no longer frightened by my eventual tomb ride.

Reviews – August 2018

Joshua Abrams Excavations 1 LP (Feeding Tube)
If you’ve ever played in a punk band, you’re probably familiar with the mix of disgust and confusion that comes from your family’s reaction upon hearing your music. I can only imagine, then, what the parents, children, cousins and relatives of Joshua Abrams must think when they hear Excavations 1, an uncompromisingly irritating solo acoustic bass album that eschews even the faintest sense of tolerable musical behavior. He can’t be allowed to play this stuff in the house, not even in the basement, can he? This is an album of deliberately creaky squeaks, aggressive shuddering, atonal chalkboard scrapes and furious acoustic raspberries, all laid out in a single line across seven lengthy tracks (no overdubs or post-production effects). He plays his bass with a bow (and what must be some sort of hand-held drill at one point?), so if you’ve got an ear for the most extremely unpleasant pitches audible by the human ear (and I certainly do), Excavations 1 is an advanced-level excursion into such territory. Parts of “Buzzards” almost recall Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck in its severe state of panic – if a stand-up bass could dry heave, this is what it’d sound like. It’s a very bold and brutal album… I can think of only maybe one or two of my friends that would tolerate Excavations 1 for more than a minute, so I should probably get them together for a mighty listening session.

The Art Gray Noizz Quintet A Call To You / Won’t Say it To My Face 7″ (Robellion Music)
The Art Gray in question here is Stuart Gray, whom you may have enjoyed in such knuckle-dragging Aussie noise-rock units as Lubricated Goat and Beasts Of Bourbon. I wasn’t sure what he’d be up to today (it’s not uncommon for rockers of a certain age to be charmed by old-timey blues or rockabilly motifs, as we all sadly know), but I’m pleased to announce that his Noizz Quintet are stomping mud-holes with the vigor of a pimply-faced teen. “A Call To You” is a prime chunk of gothy noise-punk, which strongly calls to mind the mean n’ spooky sonics of TV Ghost (who were, as it turns out, actual teenagers for much of their career), and it’s Captain Gray at the helm, speaking with a voice that’s saltier than any sea dog I know. The sharp dual-guitar interplay is executed perfectly, too – excellent track indeed! Gray’s voice is even frothier on “Won’t Say It To My Face”, which feels like a classic Cramps song infused with Birthday Party guitars and Stooges chug – if that sounds enticing, that’s because it is! I think there’s one guy in the Noizz Quintet who mostly just plays tambourine or cowbell with his shirt off, too – if you’re not currently scrambling over to Stubhub to pick up tickets to see these guys live, I implore you to re-read this review.

Blawan Wet Will Always Dry 2xLP (Ternesc)
Let’s face it, Blawan made probably the best hard techno track of the decade with “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”, and it’s been hard for me to reconcile that with his ensuing 12″s over the past few years, as he’s since opted for a more textural and grittier sound at the expense of hooks. I appreciate that his style is always evolving, though, and I’m glad I checked in with this, his debut long-player. It rules! His synths have progressively gotten heavier, and the sounds he utilizes here are domineering, as though he’s equipped with the hardware needed to assemble a thousand-foot steel suspension bridge while his contemporaries are merely fashioning metal folding chairs. Though his sonic pressure is extreme, Blawan leads a path to memorable hooks in the form of his voice throughout Wet Will Always Dry; they’re either sung or noisily deconstructed, and it’s a nice touch, adding some vague sense of humanity to his Terminator: Salvation hellscape. Much of the material fits in well with the most commandeering works of T++ and Kerridge (“Kalosi” and “Stell” both feature a particularly T++-esque cyborg swing), although the snappy, flickering snare/kick rhythms are entirely his own, a signature that runs through the majority of his work. In case Blawan is taking stylistic suggestions, a pal of mine was hoping he try singing like Tom Delonge over his beats, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a path worth exploring.

Citric Dummies The Kids Are Alt-Right LP (Erste Theke Tonträger)
Feeling some sympathy for Citric Dummies here, as no sooner did they release this album than Bad Religion released a song called “The Kids Are Alt-Right”. It’d be like if my aunt opened an Etsy store for her embroidery and called it Yellow Green Red. Anyway, I really enjoyed Citric Dummies’ debut LP last year, and this next one is stupidly sharp and sharply stupid too. They play a speedy and melodic form of early hardcore-punk, in line with seminal groups like Really Red and Angry Samoans, and they seem to be a little more tuneful here than last year’s Tearing Out My Nails, albeit in a good way (there’s nothing aspirationally commercial here in the slightest). I’m also reminded of the grotesque childish joy exhibited by The A.G’s, an underappreciated proto-nerd-punk group if there ever was one, but Citric Dummies are savvier than “I Like Boobs” or “Fudge Pack”… if only slightly. It’s Citric Dummies’s wit that sets them apart, straight-facing themselves through various jokey song titles that they somehow elaborate into full songs (“We Don’t Care Who We Sound Like”, “I Made Love To The Internet”, “Kill Everyone (Who Dies)”, and “I Am Going To Suck Your Dick” to name a handful). I don’t think Circle Jerks or Code Of Honor would’ve ever written a song boasting that they are going to win the Super Bowl, but Citric Dummies make it seem as naturally punk as tossing a brick through a cop’s windshield.

Cold Meat Pork Sword Fever 7″ (Static Shock / Helta Skelta)
Excellent news, a new Cold Meat 7″! They’re one of Perth’s finest punk bands, and I’m pleased to report that their sonic sophistication and technical abilities have made no leaps since their 2016 debut. Their agitated punk rock continues to plod mightily, recalling Good Throb’s vinegar-soaked attitude and the pogo sensibility of Vice Squad or Abrasive Wheels. One of the natural bonuses of being born and raised in Australia is that when you shout, you sound kinda British, which is pretty much the best way for this style of punk to sound. I’m a sucker for angry Riot City-style punk-core where the song title gets repeated four times in a row as the chorus (ala “Lazy Anarchy” here) – it’s a rudimentary songwriting method that simply cannot be denied. Rather than singing about boots and braces, however, Cold Meat opt for a prescient misandry – I’m not sure any other band could write a song like “Maternity Stomp” and have it succeed on levels both stupid and profound. Might be the best track here too – if they offered instructions, I would gladly maternity-stomp along with ’em.

Counter Intuits Vietnamese Lighter / Edge 7″ (Total Punk)
Total Punk has covered a lot of stylistic ground under in its day, but I wouldn’t have guessed to see Counter Intuits join their ranks – they strike me as too old and too competent. Kudos to both of them for agreeing to work together on this new 7″ single then, as I’ve been waiting on some new Counter Intuits material and these two songs are a nice little taste. “Vietnamese Lighter” hangs around with a bad attitude, meandering around the room until one of the hosts asks the song to leave. I was hoping the b-side was a tribute to everyone’s favorite Irish guitarist, but it doesn’t seem to be… I guess the Homostupids’ The Edge EP will have to suffice for my Ohio punk U2 worship. Anyway, “Edge” is another slower tune, marching along with a memorable chorus and the various lo-fi production glitches that come part and parcel with any Counter Intuits recording. Kinda surprised they didn’t blast through a couple fast tunes on here, in Total Punk fashion, but Counter Intuits are nothing if not contrarian, which of course is the punkest way to be anyway.

The Dead C On The Outbreak Of Civil War / Good Consul Is Punished 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
I love The Dead C as much as the next guy, but I have to wonder, do we really need more Dead C records? There are already more out there than any one person has heard, and if that one person does finally hear them all, well they’ve got a whole new challenge in the form of tapes, CD-rs and lathe-cuts, and don’t even get me started on side projects! Still, I’ll happily spin any Dead C within walking distance, and this new 7″ is unmistakably them. “On The Outbreak Of Civil War” goes through a few emotions in its brief run time, from a noisy rhythmic jam to morose tones overrun by some sort of electro-phased space pistol. “Good Consul” opens with a frazzled tantrum and then dips into a zombie march that is sustained through the rest of the track, with at least one guitar imitating Marduk in case you thought they were slipping. I’d like to revise my previous statement and clarify that okay, maybe after this one we’ll have enough Dead C records.

De Leon De Leon LP (Mana)
This De Leon album has been a real summertime treat, the sort of thing that sounds just as good alongside a shaded mid-day breeze as a humid midnight drive. Not sure who “De Leon” is, or even how I came across it to begin with, but I can’t keep it off the turntable. De Leon certainly fits in closely with Beatrice Dillon and Rupert Clervaux’s Studies I-XVII For Samplers And Percussion, another album I absolutely adore, as it’s an entirely percussive record, but a calm and tuneful one at that. It’s essentially gamelan edited and constructed with the sterile touch of techno, with any sense of drama or cultural significance scrubbed away in the name of minimalism. So what you get are circular rhythms played on melodic percussive instruments that drift in for a few minutes before drifting out. No filler, although I suppose the entire record could be considered filler to less patient ears. I’m also reminded of Joe Mubare’s work with One Tongue, or even the various modern artists following in Jon Hassell’s “4th World” footsteps, but De Leon is so refined and single-minded that it really only generates six variations on one specific theme, and does so beautifully, might I add. Recommended!

Devious Ones Plainview Nights LP Hold Fast / No Front Teeth)
The vibe of Detroit’s Devious Ones is summed up pretty adequately by their Discogs promo photo: three guys hamming it up (including the use of props) and one guy in a pork pie hat slugging a bottle a beer. They are here for fun and good times, like the sort of good times people had in the ’90s, proudly sitting on a couch just like you or I would do. You might be wondering what they sound like, which is poppy, upbeat punk with an emphasis on melody and groove, not unlike Marked Men, The Hi-Fives, Ted Leo and maybe let’s say the UK Subs. They’re pretty good, and clearly just doing it for the fun – don’t expect any overt seriousness or professionalism, as a carefree and smiley attitude permeates every crevice of Plainview Nights. My favorite cut here is “Djarum Summers”, which is a slight bummer since I already heard it on last year’s 7″ of the same name, but that shouldn’t dampen the experience for anyone not already familiar. Pop-punk has always been an effective tool for transforming suburban ennui into zany, neighbor-rattling fun, and Devious Ones continue in that proud tradition.

Dirty And His Fists Demo 2016 7″ (Negative Jazz)
The debut Dirty And His Fists 7″ was a hit around here, a top-notch slab of scabby-knee Cali punk, so unlike most demos pressed to 7″, I was excited to check this one out and see what Dirty And Co. were up to back in 2016. 2016… seems like a lifetime away, before our spirits were collectively broken, doesn’t it? Anyway, turns out Dirty And His Fists were ready to rumble right from the start, as this doesn’t sound like a rough demonstration of newly-formed songs so much as six pressurized punk torpedoes ready for launch. It’s tuneful but aggro, certainly in that Adolescents or TSOL frame of mind, but not entirely removed from the present day. They don’t rep chains or eggs, just general discontent, unfocused aggression, frustration and a short fuse – timeless punk feelings like that. I don’t think Demo 2016 is quite as good as their self-titled debut, but it’s all superb thus far, the work of a group who understands what needs to be done and has the proper facilities to do it.

Edward Fortune Teller 3xLP (Giegling)
Really, truly can’t get enough of these triple-LP releases coming from the Giegling camp and its satellite players. Edward has been one of my faves over the past couple years, so I eagerly dug into this ten-track collection and it’s hitting all the right spots. Using my keen sense of observation, I can’t help but pick up on the similarities between Ricardo Villalobos circa 2007-2010 and Edward circa now: they both favor richly detailed synthetic textures and apply them to elastic tech-house grooves, pulling from all sorts of unexpected sources, like Brazilian folk, British soccer chants, bored socialites mumbling at a party, cosmic krautrock, Latin percussion, and so on. Villalobos has since ventured off to sonic realms that are notably more esoteric and less grounded, and while I appreciate his forward-thinking abilities with regard to sonic architecture and cutting-edge software, Edward really hits the sweet spot of funky tech-house with full kitchen-sink accessorizing. These tracks cover lots of different sounds and styles, from lively rainforest jams to cruise-controlled forays into modular synthesis, and while the sounds aren’t uniform, Edward’s sense of adventure and sharp sonic curation ensures a particularly high quality. It’s a rare techno artist that can deliver a triple 12″ set and have me immediately ready for three more, but I’m already stashing all spare change in a jar labeled “EDWARD” next to my bed.

Evol Ideal Acid 12″ (iDEAL)
Evol have been deconstructing acid techno for a number of years now, usually in the most maddening ways possible. My first exposure was with 2015’s Flapper That 12″ on Diagonal (which was easily the most room-clearing, “please take this off immediately” record of the year), but I think they’ve reached a new peak with Ideal Acid. Like all Evol records, there’s a concept, and here’s what’s happening here: snippets of varied acid loops glued together across two sides of vinyl. They dug deep in their archives, sampling 303 records (that’s a quantity, not a description), letting each record run for one to four bars. The result is dizzying, as your brain is forced to follow the bouncing ball in constantly changing but deliberate patterns, never sure of what is coming next, only that it is coming. It only takes one side of this 12″ to fully exhaust me, but in a great way, as if I speed-read a novel and somehow retained it all. The whole thing is quantized too, so you could throw it on at a party, make a bunch of quick hand motions behind the DJ booth and trick your friends into thinking you’re the next Jazzy Jeff. Plus, if you actually have the ability to think while listening, you might find yourself marveling at the infinite musical possibilities the Roland 303 synthesizer has provided. Great concept, great execution, and without a doubt the greatest new record with which to annoy your friends and neighbors.

Holiday Inn Torbido LP (Maple Death / Avant!)
Ever since Throbbing Gristle decided to title an album Twenty Jazz-Funk Greats, there has been an underground post-punk fascination with repurposing harmless and ubiquitous names into something sinister and malevolent. Like this Italian duo calling themselves Holiday Inn, for instance – I’m honestly wondering how long until I see a harsh power-electronics tape by a group called Denny’s. Holiday Inn seem to fall under the “industrial” tag, and while their use of a rudimentary drum machine and buzzing synth as the extent of their instrumentation certainly comes with industrial roots, Holiday Inn recall the ’00s garage-punk fascination with noisy synths more than anything else. I’m reminded of Black Bug, Cheveu at their most electronic, Scorpion Violente, the Catatonic Youth 7″ and perhaps most strongly, Sewn Leather. It’s a style that I inherently find appealing, and Holiday Inn do a fine job of it, never taking themselves too seriously, nor do they not take themselves not seriously enough. I appreciate that the vocals are sung, not screamed, but in a perfectly annoying pitch, in case you were concerned these songs were insufficiently irritating. Kinda surprised they didn’t go with the name Ibis instead, though: you haven’t seen a miserably bare-bones hotel room until you’ve stayed in an Ibis. The half-size bed basically buffers up against the shower drain!

Kid Chrome I’ve Had It 7″ (Neck Chop)
Kid Chrome is the solo work of Chad Bucklew, he of Lysol and Freak Vibe (and surely many others). I have to wonder, is he holding out the good stuff for Kid Chrome, or is this the material that the rest of his bands refused to play? I’ll never know, but I will bob my head along to these simple, upbeat rockers. “I’ve Had It” has a hard bop not unlike Hank Wood, with a greasy little guitar lick riding on top… not your typical drum-machine-punk, for sure. That same attitude and sound carries over to “Pall Mall 100’s” (a possible Milk Music beef, if I’m interpreting the lyrics right?) and “Don’t Walk”, more slobbery vocals and slobbery guitar over a punchy beat, presenting the good times that hard rock has to offer in a punk context. The repurposed cartoon imagery cements I’ve Had It‘s presence in the contemporary punk realm, and while these three cuts are quite enjoyable, they’re lacking the distinctive qualities that would be necessary to elevate Kid Chrome above the legions of punk Mickey Mouses, punk Felix The Cats, punk Family Circuses and punk Garfields. Maybe if he went with a punk Beetle Bailey I’d be more apt to remember.

Kinski Old Gold / Loved By You 7″ (These Are Not)
There’s gotta be a band called Herzog at this point, and if so, these two should link up for a split! Kinski are a long-running psych-rock / indie-rock sorta band out of Seattle, and they are taking it so easy this time around that they didn’t even bother to write their own tunes. Rather, “Old Gold” is a Love As Laughter song, and “Loved By You” was written by David Kilgour for his band Stephen. As far as being a cool obscure cover band, Kinski do a fine job with it. “Old Gold” chugs with a fuzzy quality not unlike Mudhoney’s last decade of work, and “Loved By You” has a sun-streaked jangle to recall The Lemonheads. Apparently both tracks were digital-only bonuses that came with Kinski’s most recent album (back in 2015), so These Are Not Records quite literally turned what was not a record into one. There you have it!

Alek Lee Colors 12″ (Antinote)
Alek Lee’s Sfarot 12″ was my favorite EP of 2017, so I jumped off my chaise lounge the moment I discovered he had a new 12″ for sale and purchased it immediately. Colors isn’t as stunning or unique (honestly, how could it be), but now that I’ve settled into these four songs a bit, it’s really hitting the spot as summer gets into swing. Whereas “Sfarot” was a slow-motion cinematic strut, much of this EP is easier to categorize: deep house with live instrumentation, lush melodies and Mediterranean breezes. “Time” is a high-quality house groove with zipping bass and sparkling vibes, music suitable for island resorts but only really forward-thinking ones. That’s as energetic as it really gets, as “Kesef” slips into a downtempo mode, with an airy melody, suavely shuffling drums and an unhurried path to romance care of dub effects and a slurred vocal. “Colors” is closest in attitude to Lee’s debut EP, a hypnotic bongo-based stride with more ‘tude than Garfield in sunglasses. “Dark Colors” concludes the record with a little more techno energy but essentially as a direct continuation of “Colors”, same pace and presence with a different suite of melodic overtones. If you’re exclusively a beer drinker who scoffs at bay breezes and mai tais, this might be the record that changes your perspective.

Erik Nervous Assorted Anxieties LP (Neck Chop / Drunken Sailor)
After polluting the underground with a handful of cassettes and vinyl EPs, Erik Nervous worked with the fine folks at Neck Chop and Drunken Sailor to collect all of it onto one full-length LP. That’s what Assorted Anxieties is! Nervous’s home-recorded punk music seems specifically built for the enjoyment of obscurity-craving punk obsessives, so I’d have to assume his fans must already own at least some of this material on their previously-released formats, but maybe he’s breaking through, and everyone seems to hate 7″s these days (shame on all of you), so maybe there actually are a few hundred people planning to buy this. Considering his traditional setup of guitar/bass/drums/vocals, Nervous manages to mix things up, from Coneheads-styled speedballs to herky-jerky no-wave to stately power-pop. None of it sucks, but nothing really stands out to my ears as a “you gotta hear this” moment, either – maybe it’s because his vocals are merely there, as if they are a placeholder for a more charismatic singer to replace at a later time. Still, if you are absolutely hard-up for some modern bedroom punk that doesn’t bludgeon you with neon colors, cartoon scribbles and an intentional void of songwriting, Erik Nervous welcomes you to join him on his journey.

O$VNV$M O$VMV$M LP (Idle Hands)
This is the third self-titled LP by O$VMV$M, and I really hope it’s a trilogy in the way that The Fast And The Furious is a trilogy, meaning there are actually endless iterations released on a steady schedule. Bristol-based Amos Childs and Sam Barrett are part of the Young Echo crew (and most certainly contributed to that big Young Echo collection a few months back), and their productions as O$VMV$M are a big part of why I liked that release. This new album features more of what I’ve come to expect from them, but their aesthetic covers such broad territory that it feels like they’ll never run out of fresh ideas. These instrumental productions play like brief vignettes into fascinating alternate timelines – a warped slice of Stranger Things-esque tension will follow a crusty break that could’ve been plucked from MF Doom’s dank-smelling tote, or a ghostly Tri Angle-style séance might buffer a lonesome digi-reggae beat or a dramatically-slowed jazz loop. That sense of insulated, cozy withdrawal (along with a strong weed scent) permeates most of the album, moving with the same crisp efficiency of DAF’s 1979 debut. Sometimes I wish I had access to extended versions of these tracks, or that some rapper or vocalist would give them a run, but that might negate some of the intimacy that O$VMV$M have instilled in their music, so I quickly let that thought pass.

Outer Spacist Illness Is Creepin’ On A Come-Up LP (Heel Turn)
That’s some title, right? I generally applaud anything that makes me think about Bone Thugs, so Outer Spacist are in my good graces right off the bat. I recognize their name as one of the many bands that were part of Columbus Discount Records’ burst of activity around the mid-to-late ’00s, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard them until this album. I’ve spun this record a few times now, and while it’s not my cup of tea, they seem to be having plenty of fun – I mean if you’re naming your album that, how could you not? They play a pretty agreeable form of indie-rock, one heavily informed by late ’70s proto-punk – I’d expect to see records by Rocket From The Tombs, Love, Pere Ubu, The Stranglers and 13th Floor Elevators crammed into a cardboard box next to their turntable. Guitars and keyboards weave with a hard-edged psychedelia as the vocalist pleads and moans like an imprisoned Mark Arm. They’re quite capable, but I’m not hearing any hits, and they never get heavy or weird enough for my liking, always just kinda teetering on normal acceptable bar-band rock music, which of course lots of people enjoy. Maybe the Bone Thugs reference actually worked against them, prompting unreasonably high expectations.

Parquet Courts Wide Awake LP (Rough Trade)
Prior to Wide Awake I’d only heard Parquet Courts in passing, but I’ve admired their ability to exist as a fairly plain and unobtrusive indie post-punk group without a slick command of social media or some blatant gimmick and still somehow sell tens of thousands of records, significantly more than any of their sonic peers. I am baffled as to why that is, and also fascinated by it – why is Parquet Courts selling out thousand-cap venues across the US and appearing on Ellen but Tyvek are lucky to sell 500 copies of an album over a few years’ time? Let’s face it, these guys aren’t notably handsome or cunning or outrageous, three boxes I thought you needed to check if you wanted to live off your rock music in 2018. After spending some time with Wide Awake, I think I’ve come up with some answers to my questions. First off, the art here (made by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Savage) is spectacular – the funky-swinging bodies, the bold color palette, the hand-written text, the sweet gatefold that opens into a dazzling lyric-book – it all builds a distinct world, one that enhances the listening experience, taking it from 2D to 3D. The music seems streamlined for enjoyment, too – these songs run a gamut of moods, from excited and spastic to solemn and stoned, but they all belong to the same universe, often held together by Savage’s cool voice, simultaneously big-mouthed and well-enunciated. They clearly realize the importance of not wasting a moment. There’s a hit (the titular dance-punk earworm), plenty of silly-but-smart garage ala Jonathan Richman or the first wave of Sire Records punk bands, and forays into soft-edged pop-rock that explain the Beatles and Sublime fans I saw in their live audience. I’ve now determined that they’re a great band, and this is a pretty great album, but that can’t be the secret to their success, can it?

SabaSaba SabaSaba LP (Maple Death)
There’s an evil cave-dwelling invertebrate apparition on the cover of SabaSaba’s debut LP, and it’s an appropriate advertisement for the music within. This Italian duo go full creep throughout this self-titled album, dipping their ritual candles into early British industrial music, ’90s dark-ambient drone and probably a Demdike Stare 12″ or two. These songs are slower than slow, as viscous and dark as molasses and all the more satisfying because of it. A synth pulse will throb at the lowest pre-set tempo, vocals will ominously infer, a mysterious stringed instrument will be plucked as a prayer bowl is rubbed and a djembe tapped… if this is your kinda zone, SabaSaba do right by it. They manage to pick and choose their influences wisely (think of Current 93’s most psychedelic rhythmic maelstroms without any of the Ren Faire corniness), with just a hint of left-field dub grounding the proceedings. I can’t imagine a Coil fan would sneeze at SabaSaba either, unless sneezing is part of the magic spell they’re trying to cast. Alongside recent personal discoveries of A.T.R.O.X. and FP & The Doubling Riders, Italians are proving themselves to be a lot weirder than I ever imagined.

Seraphim Rytm Prayers By The Lake 12″ (Mirae Arts)
Does the genre of “Ansel Adams techno” exist yet? If so, I’d like to file this 12″ by Seraphim Rytm under it. This Belgian techno producer gravitates toward somber and moving images of mountain ranges and foggy fields for his art and internet presence, and his music, soothingly repetitive techno, is the perfect backdrop for extended contemplation of these images. These four tracks sparkle with the same sort of texture I’ve come to associate with Donato Dozzy, and not just because Dozzy has a project called Voices From The Lake, quite similar to the title of this EP. These tracks feel effervescent and weightless, but there’s a gravitational pull at hand to ensure a steady and secure orbit. Not far from some of my favorite Zadig productions too, although there are probably dozens if not hundreds of people trading in this sort of meditative techno sound. It’s been quite a while since I prayed, let alone by a lake, but these four elliptical tracks make it a tempting proposition.

S.H.I.T. What Do You Stand For? LP (Iron Lung / La Vida Es Un Mus)
The first thing you’ll notice about S.H.I.T.’s debut LP is the extravagance (or wastefulness, depending on your point of view) of the cover – a pro-printed color jacket is wrapped in a black-and-white OBI strip that’s as wide as the jacket itself. Not sure what’s going on there, but it’s a bold move, and a bold move is just what this absolutely ripping hardcore LP deserves. I’d heard S.H.I.T. before and never thought a whole lot about them (they seemed to be standard-issue faceless hardcore-punk at first), but What Do You Stand For? is really special. I’m not sure how they did it, but the recording is phenomenal, harnessing that intense mid-section heaviness that I thought only Japanese crushers like Crow and Nightmare were able to attain. Everything kinda merges into one solid column of sound (only the hi-hats and crash cymbals cut through for the drums) but it works in S.H.I.T.’s favor, particularly as they seem to be playing these songs with an intense level of energy and a speed that’s slightly faster than everyone else. Vocalist Ryan Tong has the perfectly pained caterwaul for the job, and at 45 RPM this album is in and out fast, with nary a dirge or outro or moment of introspection, just steamrolling megaton hardcore. Impalers are the only other modern group to lay forth such a mighty hardcore sound – I’m surprised that feeble capitalist politicians haven’t already put forth a law prohibiting these groups from playing the same gig, lest society be fractured beyond repair.

Parrish Smith Sex, Suicide & Speed Metal 12″ (Dekmantel UFO Series)
Sometimes I’ll get folks who tell me they like reading my reviews (I’m blushing just remembering those moments), but they don’t really “get” the techno that’s discussed here, or why I’m into it. This new EP by Parrish Smith is a great example of why! Parrish Smith has previously put out some excellent dungeon-level industrial-techno (his L.I.E.S. EP is a real bondage scorcher), and then he comes out with this, a new EP on the hip Dutch techno label Dekmantel, only to open it with “Sex, Suicide & Speed Metal”. Just listen to this track – it’s a slow-motion sex affair with truly outrageous guitar soloing, as if Slash stepped off the set of an after-hours Cinemax movie and got down n’ dirty with a wah pedal. Truly ludicrous music, and yet this is how Parrish Smith sets things off! See, rock music is great, but even new sounds quickly become formulaic, whereas with techno freaks such as Smith, it’s always about moving on to the next insane idea, pushing yourself to some hitherto unexplored realm without stylistic limitation. “Mute” and “Fall Into Sin” follow the mind-boggling opener, two enjoyable varieties of throwback electro fist-pumper (Nine Inch Nails fans take note), chains swinging and black PVC pants sticking together as we walk through the rave’s entrance tunnel. “Skin” wraps it up with another mid-tempo cobwebby banger, but it’s really the title track that has blown my mind; I can’t get over Smith’s audacity to do something so inappropriate and great. May all artists and musicians share that sense of unbounded freedom!

Suck Lords New Lords Music 7″ (Stucco)
Yet another cool new hardcore band that understands how to do it right – I’m talking about Portland (Oregon)’s Suck Lords! Following their 2016 demo, this five-song EP is a delight for anyone who ever found themselves moving in the opposite direction of the circle pit and loving it. It’s my understanding that at least one member of the defunct NASA Space Universe is in Suck Lords, and I’m not surprised, as both bands understand the visceral nature of hardcore. Whereas NASA Space Universe would get a little out there at times (not in a bad way), Suck Lords are straight to the point, even if their point follows a fierce and jagged path, not unlike a human body falling down a rocky mountain slope. Poison Idea, Wrangler Brutes, The Bug and Neos all come to mind for various reasons, but Suck Lords are on their own trip, looking to add their own distorted tag to The Bathroom Of Hardcore rather than simply aping the greats. Not pretentious enough for Youth Attack, a little too weird for Painkiller, too anti-social to join up with Iron Lung, and perfect for you and me!

Table Sugar Collected Acknowledgements 12″ (Stucco)
The breadth of Olympia’s underground music scene is infinitely expanding, and I’m all for it, particularly as it has enabled Table Sugar and their debut 12″ EP to exist. They’re a sincerely classic-sounding post-punk group: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and it sounds like they’ve been comfortably playing this form of music with each other for years. These seven quick songs are charming, nervous, pretty, catchy and just a little spazzy, calling to mind The Raincoats and Rosa Yemen at their most economical. I’m honestly stunned at how British Collected Acknowledgements sounds – I’m not sure which member is singing, but her voice has the same natural timbre as what I’ve come to expect from the United Kingdom (definitely picking up a Petticoats vibe), which leaves me a little confounded. She’s clearly not trying to sound British… maybe was born there and just moved to Olympia? No one “from Olympia” is actually from Olympia anyway. Regardless, I’ll have to get over my incredulity, and continue to enjoy these playful, skittish post-punk tunes in all their early Rough Trade glory. I’ve heard they share a member with Gen Pop, whose vocals occasionally sound Australian, so clearly anything is possible at this point.

Tongue Party Looking For A Painful Death LP (Learning Curve)
This November, I’ll be casting a write-in ballot for the Tongue Party! They’re from Minneapolis (seems like a large number of bands are these days) and while I’ve enjoyed their aggressive post-hardcore previously, this album is a nice step up. They basically take the sonic sludge of Floor or Cavity and play it at KARP-like speeds, as if they’re racing through their songs before the cops come to shut things down. It’s a decades-old rock tradition at this point, but Tongue Party really cut to the chase, so if you find this style appealing, there is scant filler to wade through here. I’m particularly partial to a back-and-forth burner like “Service Please”, which I swear recalls Korn and System Of A Down in a way that the underground would tolerate (as would fans of Tile and Metz). Looking For A Painful Death is definitely an album that, when blasted, will increase your ollie height by at least six inches. For full effect, I need to transfer Looking For A Painful Death to a blank TDK 90 for playback in my Reliant K, parked but idling in some empty township parking lot while me and my buddies grind a waxed curb.

Tough Customer Darlene 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Sweet Rot has been a reliably off-kilter punk label for a number of years now, never getting bogged down in any one particular trend and content to release just one or two records a year (or none at all?) unless they’ve gotten their mitts on something special. Tough Customer’s debut 7″ EP certainly fits the bill there, a cool Canadian post-punk group who work a lovely dislocated dance sound. They have the peppy attitude of Delta 5 or Kleenex, with minimalist drums and only-when-necessary bass bringing the funk, but the guitarists seem to operate on a different level. Rather than replicating punk or post-punk, they seem to be playing various folk and classic-rock melodies, as if they sought inspiration from The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers instead of The Slits and The Mekons. All these elements together make for a great combination, recalling a more manic Household, a more sophisticated Holy Balm, or more likely, something fresh and original entirely. Like, “Mash” could be a Sea & Cake song, but it’s clearly post-punk, so who knows. Recommended, even when taking Canadian postage rates into consideration!

Trash Knife / Dumb Vision split 7″ (Kitschy Spirit)
I literally chuckled out loud when I picked up this split 7″ and saw the band names – I can’t think of a clearer case of punk names made up from random punk adjectives and nouns pulled at random than these two. Trash Knife? What does that even mean? Dumb Vision? Like, as in you need to wear glasses? I’m truly fascinated by the lack of purpose or thought in these band names. Musically, it’s pretty par-for-the-course modern punk from these two, which I guess is to be expected from those names. Trash Knife are snotty hardcore-punk, captured in low fidelity and with an odd lead guitarist who just kinda noodles over these solid if typical tunes. Dumb Vision are pretty similar, maybe a little fuzzier and more melodic – less basement slime and more skateboard rash, probably more likely to secretly own a Screeching Weasel record than anyone in Trash Knife (who probably just listen to punk YouTubes on a phone with a cracked screen). I think I prefer Dumb Vision of the two, but they’re both perfectly competent lo-fi punk rock bands, ripe for inclusion on a comp with bands named Negative Piss, Sick Minds, Crimson Boys and The Shit Wires.

Aaron Troyer Lone Offender LP (no label)
First thing I noticed about Aaron Troyer’s Lone Offender album is how much I liked the cover print of a house falling off a cliff – turns out Troyer is a teacher by trade, and designed it himself! Lucky kids, whoever is getting his instruction. He also decided to release an LP of his own music, a tantalizing proposition for any musician, big or small, and here it is. Troyer’s music is pretty basic, low-risk rock, nodding to classic ’80s new-wave rockers like Elvis Costello or Tom Verlaine, you know, nervous white guys in skinny ties who skipped the prom to hug their guitars in their basements instead. I’m reminded of Home Blitz too, from the way that Troyer appropriates some grand rock moves for his humble aesthetic, but his work is far more by the books than anything Dan DiMaggio ever left his fingerprints on. “Operational Deal” is particularly charming in its vintage bridge (and cool guitar non-solo), certainly the track I keep coming back to. Lone Offender is a pleasantly harmless record, surely to be enhanced if Troyer were to come over and teach me how to draw while we sat together listening to it. Just saying.

Wax Chattels Wax Chattels LP (Captured Tracks / Flying Nun)
First thing’s first: I caught New Zealand’s Wax Chattels live a couple weeks ago, and I’m going on record right now that it was the best rock band I’ve seen this year! Just absolutely pummeling and unfathomably tight, with inventive songs, memorable hooks and a cool manic intensity, each member committed to playing their instrument faster than legal limits. It was like a godly mix of Psychic Paramount, Shellac and Clikatat Ikatowi (no kidding), so I had to grab the album from their merch table. Listening at home now is a nice experience, but it pales in comparison to their mighty on-stage performance. The songs are all played a tad slower here, and with less energy, which of course makes sense, but after giving me a taste of that transcendent live show, I’m still adjusting to this lesser dose. It’s nice to hear their songs again though, that’s for sure: on drums (barely half a normal kit), a keyboard and a bass-guitar, Wax Chattels craft some expressive and thrashy post-punk, akin to early no-wave as well as the more experimental side of ’90s Gravity Records (I swear the drummer is an Antioch Arrow fan). They navigate a variety of moods with panache, from spacey explorations to rapid-fire morse-code blasts, in a way that I thought only This Heat would ever be able. Very cool album, but I worry what my life will be like if I don’t get to witness them live again soon – I’m still recovering.

Milan W. Envelope LP (Ekster)
In case you’re wondering, the W stands for Warmoeskerken, so Milan W. can be forgiven for going with the shortened moniker. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon his music, but I’m certainly glad I did, as Envelope is a rich and cunning album of low-key Belgian electronics. Discogs categorizes it as “Ambient”, but there’s far too many moving parts and processes going at any given moment for that label to really stick, as far as I’m concerned. Honestly, “Electronica” is probably what I’d file it under, if such a genre still exists – Milan W. seems to be working in the spirit of Autechre and the Mille Plateaux label, but there’s a particular warmth at play here that belies the cold, clinical aesthetic one might associate with those two. I think the secret’s in the melodies – even though the sounds are coming from state-of-the-art software with tones twisted and altered, there seems to be the old ghosts of folk-song or jazz-standard melody buried within, revealing some sign of tenderness under the indeterminate electronics. Regardless of how you’ll file it in your make-believe record shop, Envelope is a highly pleasurable experience, no matter what distance you’re listening from.

Wolves Of The Dry Ravine Play With Matches Near The Powder Keg LP (Stepdads)
First the wolves got into the throne room, and now you’re telling me they made it into the dry ravine? It’s an epidemic! Wolves Of The Dry Ravine are from Washington, DC, and I swear I could’ve told you that just by looking at the typefaces and design of Play With Matches Near The Powder Keg – something about it strongly smacks of Fugazi or Bluetip or Dag Nasty or something. I’m sure they’d love to be on Dischord (who wouldn’t?), and their upbeat, punchy punk comes close to something I would’ve expected from that label ten years or so ago. Their songs are no-nonsense and lightweight, not unlike Ted Leo, Milk N’ Cookies or The Pointed Sticks – expect a cutesy little organ, tambourine and spirited hand-claps sprinkled throughout. The thing about Ted Leo though is that he has that inimitable voice and presence, which is really what any mod-inspired power-pop punk requires to rise to the top, and while Wolves Of The Dry Ravine make a good go of it, they’re lacking that special something to really make their music stick. Maybe a slight foray into psycho-jazz would do the trick?

Wound Man Prehistory 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here we go, a 7″ EP of doomsday-prepper power-violence care of New Bedford, MA’s Wound Man. Hardcore dudes in the New Bedford and Boston scenes have been stridently refining their approach to classic power-violence since the mid ’00s or so, and Wound Man are the latest distillation of such (featuring at least one ex-member of Breathing Fire). Now they’re all bearded and grizzly, wearing the same tattered t-shirt for days, and that sort of anti-social distance permeates these nine tracks – I’m a little surprised they haven’t written their own manifesto yet. Prehistory follows Crossed Out’s fine use of unexpected blast-beat stops/starts, the stoner-y dirge segues utilized by Infest and Neanderthal (maybe a little taste of Noothgrush in there too?), and the manic frustration of Despise You. There’s even one part during a respite between blasts on opener “Dive” where the vocalist (possibly the guest listed as “The Torturer”) sounds like Rick Ta Life with his dreads on fire. It’s pretty much a textbook replication of power-violence, but if that’s what you want to hear (and I certainly do), allow Wound Man to set things straight in their severely negative way.