Reviews – October 2019

Cereal Killer Beginning And End Of Cereal Killer! LP (Anti Fade / Drunken Sailor)
Cereal Killer’s demo-on-7″ came through here a couple years ago, and I hated on it pretty badly due to its glaringly trendy tendencies, but what the hell, why hold a grudge? I trust the Anti Fade label, and if they are entertained by a fake Lumpy & The Dumpers from Geelong, Australia, perhaps I should be too. And while there’s still plenty of Lumpy influence on Beginning And End, it’s pretty clear that this group has listened to other stuff since putting out their demo. The overall sound is a little burlier, perhaps akin to Crazy Spirit or Bad Noids in the crunchy lo-fi textures and hardcore tempos, and there’s at least one or two tunes that utilize metal riffs (as seems to be the growing trend for hardcore-punk in late 2019). I suppose it’s pretty good, but there’s not much on Beginning And End that really stands out, which is perhaps the worst offense a hardcore band can commit: being easily forgotten. Some of the song titles are intriguing enough, like “Your Punk Scene Can Suck It” and “Should Punks Be Allies”, but sadly no lyrics are provided either with this record or on the associated Bandcamp page, so the lyrical contents of these tracks will remain a mystery. Maybe being a great breakfast-themed punk band is simply an unachievable feat… go spin some Waifle records to see what I mean!

Chubby And The Gang All Along The Uxbridge Road 7″ (Static Shock)
Hmm, “Chubby And The Gang” you say? Did Static Shock get into reissuing private-press funk 45s or something? Allow me to assure you that no, they have not – Chubby And The Gang is an apparent side-project (hence the low-staying-power name) starring Charlie Manning Walker (of Arms Race and Violent Reaction) and other Londonite hardcore hoodlums (members of bands with names like Gutter Knife and Salt Wound, really pleasant stuff like that). And I have to say, they absolutely rip! “All Along The Uxbridge Road” is thick and hook-laden power-pop with the energy of manic hardcore, and what a combination that is. Reminds me of The Love Triangle at their finest, but with the additional deployment of Powerpearls-esque hand claps and a raw yet powerful recording. Wasn’t sure if they could strike gold twice, but “Mockba” on the flip is nearly as good, a little more of a throwback rock n’ roll vibe to the riff, but it’s still played with the snarling hunger of a hardcore street gang. Definite beer-in-the-air, triumphant, high-octane hardcore-punk that would appeal to fans of Motörhead, Fucked Up, Nasty Facts, Marked Men, Poison Idea, etc., which probably covers at least 80% of all fans of rock music. I suspect some of these guys might be straight edge, which is a perfectly perverse twist on the matter if true. Those nutty Brits!

Civic Selling Sucking Blackmail Bribes 7″ (Total Punk / Anti Fade)
Civic came through here with a 7″ late last year that I really enjoyed, of the gruffly-melodic, poppy-but-not-pop-punk style. I was eager to hear more of that, but instead they seemed to have taken the name “Total Punk” as a personal challenge, absolutely raging through the two songs they’ve provided here. Even considering myself a reasonable fan of their music thus far, I’m blown away! “Selling Sucking Blackmail Bribes” is one hell of a title, and man do they make good on it – imagine the speedy-tight style of Zero Boys integrated into Fucked Up’s 2003 no-frills-hardcore prime, delivered with the recording quality of any given High Rise album. It’s a scorcher for sure, one that surprises me with its unbridled intensity even after I’ve already heard it and know what to expect! B-side “Velvet Casino” could be an acappella rendition of a Tom Jones song for all I care, Civic have already won this round, but it has the same disposition and sound quality as the a-side, maybe a little tougher and garage-ier, something for Goner Records fanatics who ride their motorcycles to the gym to listen to. No wonder half of the Melbourne underground is racing to put on polyester suits and knitted cardigans, how can you play punk with any sort of personal pride when Civic are wandering your streets?

Rupert Clervaux After Masterpieces 2xLP (Whities)
In case any journalists reading this are concurrently compiling a “50 Ruperts Under 50 To Watch” list, please, save a spot for Rupert Clervaux! This British-born world-traveler has made some supremely enjoyable music over the past few years, mostly with Beatrice Dillon, but also solo under his own name or his CVX moniker. And now, with the honor of becoming the first artist to get a Whities full-length, Clervaux has gone bigger than ever before with After Masterpieces, a six-track double LP. I knew I wasn’t going to get something I had heard before with After Masterpieces, as Clervaux is constantly looking beyond his current musical horizons, and these massive pieces are great, if not something that allows halfhearted dabbling. They’re more like long-form audio plays, suited for an avant-garde radio station’s 3 AM slot where only the truly maniacal insomniacs are listening (and without distraction). Clervaux recites irreverent poetry and prose over live percussive improv, juddering rhythmic loops, trumpet and sax, plucked strings or maybe nothing at all, just the silent sound of fog creeping into town. It’s hard to measure how much is happenstance and how much was precisely orchestrated, but Clervaux leads the charge unheedingly throughout, not caring if he’s the sole human who has the slightest idea what he’s going on about over four lengthy 12″ sides. I certainly can’t tell you what After Masterpieces means, but I’m firmly in support.

John Collins McCormick Ad For Nails LP (Gilgongo)
Following the Waxy Tomb album, Gilgongo continues to release music by visual artists who also like to get a little noisy. This one comes from John Collins McCormick (any relation to Daniel Martin McCormick??), who likes to play the drums while surrounded by half-dying motorized objects and sound buzzers. I’ve never tried it myself, but it sounds like a great deal of fun, and the occasional frenzy worked up on here seems to confirm the good time McCormick is having. On the a-side, McCormick dips and dives into his traditional drum kit while small crackly piles of dust shift and blow around the room, almost as if he’s improvising in tandem with some junk on the floor. The flip side, titled “How To Consider It Done”, is less obviously percussive, and more of a spontaneous field recording of dollar-store wind-up toys falling on their sides, TV interference, chatter of passers-by and the like, very much in tune (or anti-tune) with the Shots album that is discussed below. It’s almost as if music has stopped being a sufficient escape from reality, so artists who enjoy pursuing the furthest reaches of acceptable sound documentation are more and more drawn toward the Kye Records style of ecstatic arbitrary nothingness, forever circling a zen-like black hole. Perhaps you can relate.

Craow Branded Influence LP (National Waste Products)
Here’s the next barrel of discarded fryer oil care of Providence’s National Waste Products – an album by Providence’s Craow. The name, design and label affiliation had me expecting harsh noise with a techno influence, but this is really more on the synth-wave / minimal-techno tip, albeit one borne out of Rhode Island basement parties and DIY raves. A few years ago, this sorta thing would’ve seemed a little more cutting edge (and to be fair, Craow was making it a few years ago too, on cult labels like Nostilevo), whereas now it sounds pretty nice if a little expected. The label keenly “recommends it if you like” Boy Harsher, Orphx and M Ax Noi Mach, which really seems to be the perfect triangulation for the sounds within Branded Influence. Nighttime beats, synths that hover and zig-zag away, vocals deep in the mix with industrialized echo and ‘verb ala Uniform, and a thick sense of sexy and mysterious danger akin to Black Rain. Techno might be a fully normalized practice within the American punk-affiliated underground at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less affecting when done with style and awareness, as Craow has done here.

Curleys Johnny 7″ (Total Punk)
At some point, Total Punk has to stop being totally punk, right? Being punk isn’t something you can just take for granted, it’s a state of being that can easily be lost, and yet Total Punk continues to rep its name with integrity and pride. Take Curleys, for instance: I never heard of ’em before, might never hear of ’em again, but they rip through six fantastic jolts on this vinyl debut. The songs are quickly strummed, low on heavy-metal distortion, high on nervous energy, and guided by the incessant squawking of a vocalist who sounds like a mix between Hot Rod Todd of Le Shok and the agitated goose who sang for Pillow Talk. (Each of the three band members are credited with vocals, but the singing is pretty standard throughout – who is the real hero here?) Around the turn of the century, I got a little sick of overstuffed hardcore-punk EPs and appreciated the race to see which punk band could contribute the least amount of time to their 7″ singles (which is frequently the case with Total Punk 45s), but I think I’m kind of over that now and appreciate that Curleys gave us three bloody lil’ rippers per side here… they’re all so brief and rotten that there isn’t the slightest chance of boredom setting in, anyway. Unless you don’t like punk, which I don’t think is humanly possible?

Dana Glowing Auras And Black Money LP (Heel Turn)
Dana isn’t a solo project, it’s a group from Columbus, OH (curiously featuring no members named Dana), and they’re really going for it here on their second LP with Heel Turn. The record opens with the neo-no-wave funk of “Creamed Corn”, which calls to mind the day-glo splooge of AIDS Wolf or My Name Is Rar Rar, and while it’s a sound I certainly enjoy, this group is far too restless to settle on any particular style for too long. They proceed through the rest of the album like a hijacked van careening through a narrow alley filled with garage-punk, noise-rock, just plain noise, and post-punk, scraping their paint on every parked genre. They’ve got songs in here, but they slather them in effects, synths, even “custom electronics” (I hope that means some sort of Google Glass-based laser gun?). Often a group will lose me by going as crazy as Dana do here, but the recording is rich and distinguished (as opposed to a sticky paste of mi-fi treble), and they seem to be having all shades of fun. They must be an outrageously fun live band, because I can’t imagine any possibility of these songs not being entertaining in person, particularly the ones that spiral much longer than recommended – closer “Ballroom Bitch” goes on forever, somewhere between Tropical Trash, Royal Trux and a warped Man’s Ruin 10″. Say what you want about Dana, but there’s no accusing them of half-assing it.

Bill Direen A Memory Of Others 2xLP (Sophomore Lounge)
New Zealandphiles rejoice, here’s a heaping, career-spanning retrospective / “soundtrack” to an accompanying documentary from Bill Direen. I know him from The Builders and under his own name, but surely the Siltbreeze interns among us are familiar with the dozen or so other projects he’s been associated with, of which some of those songs appear here too. It’s kind of great what a scattered pile all of this is, with songs retroactively credited to bands that never played them, old songs that sound new and new songs that sound old, etc., because for as jumbled as it is, it all sounds like Bill Direen. He covers about as much sonic ground as a monthly weather forecast: dark clouds roll in, sunshine gives way to flowers, thunder crashes and drought leaves you distressed. And much like the weather, there are passages in this double LP collection that can be a little boring, but I’m not sure how that could really be avoided on a thick volume of psychedelic, moody post-punk that generally seems to have spawned from the Velvet Underground school of musical theory. Overall it’s a very enjoyable listen, particularly when a surprise like “The Utopians R Just Out Boozin'” shows up halfway through the D side, sounding like a late ’70s art-punk groove until one notices that Direen references iPhones in the lyrics. Bill Direen’s music is timeless in all directions, and long may he continue to make it.

Drose Boy Man Machine+ 2xLP (Computer Students)
Wow, so is this how all Computer Students releases will be? Lavish as all get-out and just like the Big’n 12″ they released last year, this Drose double album comes in a large sealed silver bag printed with precise and attractive typefaces, and inside that, a gatefold LP jacket along with a large, thick booklet of art and notes. Really the kind of packaging that can make an album feel more like an event – maybe Computer Students should get into wedding invitation design and really bring in the big bucks? Anyway, I could go on about the attractive extravagance of the packaging, but the music of Drose demands comment as well. Boy Man Machine came out back in 2016 (and received high praise from this very website back then), and now it’s remastered alongside tracks from their debut 7″ as well as some unreleased bits. Myself already being a Drose fan, it’s a little bit of a bummer, because I already own those records and was hoping to hear something new from them. Understandably, though, Boy Man Machine isn’t an album that is easily popped out every semester, it’s a true opus of insane post-rock deconstruction – it’s as if Slint, Swans, Billy Bao and Shellac fused only their most exemplary aspects and labored over an album recorded inside a literal automotive facility with cavernous metal spaces and a section of basement called “the hole” that required a forklift to access (!). Singer Dustin Rose sounds like he’s trapped in the bottom of a well with two broken legs for much of it, and the ambiance that surrounds every groove or anti-groove is thick and powerful. If you’re not already familiar, and you like big thick silver bags, wait no longer!

Exit Hippies Stoned / Stoned Agin 7″ (SPHC)
If it were any other band, Exit Hippies’ records would be slowly growing more disposable with each new release, particularly a sleeveless, two-song 7″ single such as this. And yet Stoned / Stoned Agin feels like precious gold in my hands! This really might be my favorite band of all time. If you’re not already acquainted, type “exit hippies” in the search bar on this website (I’m pretty sure it works), but if you’re too lazy to do that, let me just explain that they’re Japanese crasher-crusty noise-core punks who integrate filthy acid-house into not just their music but their fabric of being. When it works, it’s fantastic, and when it doesn’t work it’s still pretty amazing; as for these two tracks, they are magnificent. “Stoned” is a prickly, slow-acid groove not unlike Paranoid London but with a proper tweak of the nips. “Stoned Agin” is an entirely different track, prime-cut noise-core that has more in common with commercial jet engines than Disclose… it makes No Fucker sound like, well, Yes Fucker. A perfect reflection of the two sides of Exit Hippies, whittled down to about four minutes’ worth of music (or at least some rough definition of “music”).

Flame 2 Dive / Rain 12″ (Pressure)
The concept of Flame (both 1 and 2) is almost built for slight disappointment. Much like some sort of Street Fighter / Mortal Kombat crossover event, how could the collaboration between The Bug and Burial, two of the biggest, brightest, most forward-thinking UK producers stack up against their separate bodies of work? I was curious, as I often am, and was pleased to discover that while Flame 2 isn’t necessarily a new blockbuster, it’s still deep as hell, gruesomely thick and menacing, and a fine slab no matter how you weigh it. “Dive” is full of physical pressure, like a thick soupy cloud that just hangs in place – a frozen hurricane, perhaps? Burial’s trademarked crackle and rain coat some distant rave synths and pressurized bass, kicks and hats. If Godzilla or one of his enemies didn’t rise out of the nearby river while this one is playing, be thankful. “Rain” maintains the same inhospitable, greyscale atmosphere, but instead of idling in an ocean of murk, there’s clear and determined movement – the rhythm calls to mind an alternate history where industrial music was an exclusive descendant of reggae dub. At under four minutes, it feels like it’s just getting started before fading away, the ominous cloud cover parting for some breathable air. Heavy duty stuff from two heavyweights, to be sure.

Scott Gilmore Two Roomed Motel LP (Crammed Discs)
Discovered this album by perusing some random “favorite albums of 2019” list a Discogs user put together, an activity I highly recommend in moments of idle boredom. Never heard of Scott Gilmore before, but he’s a guy from LA with a “non-famous younger brother of Jared Leto” sorta look to him, and his music is a highly pleasant, no-nonsense romp through ’80s synth-pop. No aggression, no sense of pathos, just expertly deployed rhythms, pads, arpeggios (and occasional breathy vocals), a bright-eyed reimagining of The Human League or Gary Numan with awareness of Ford & Lopatin’s Software label and Not Not Fun’s pop-aspirational side. The title track is what I heard first, and it lured me in immediately: the weird stutter-step groove is smooth as sherbet and the various rhythmic leads (are those electric steel drums or synthesized bells, or both?) pretty much slay in that Switched On Bach way, but far more listenable and not retro for retro’s sake. The instrumentals are my favorite, not because the vocals are bad (they are not), but because there’s such a vibrant richness to these synth-pop carols that they stand firmly on their own. It’s a crowded field that Scott Gilmore is playing on (I can’t throw a frisbee in my neighborhood without hitting some budding synth-pop producer by mistake), but his Two Roomed Motel is worth a weekend stay at the very least.

Idiota Civilizzato Civiltà Idiota 7″ (Static Shock / Black Hole)
My Italian isn’t the best, but I’m pretty sure the band name translates to “Super Smart Civilization” and the EP is thusly titled “Civilized Genius”. Weird, but I’ll go with it! I’ve been seeing lots of praise for this group (Sorry State weekly newsletter, I’m gazing in your direction), and as far as Italian hardcore out of Berlin is concerned, I doubt there is finer. Following last year’s debut LP, Idiota Civilizzato’s new 7″ EP offers four new tunes of blazing hardcore and nothing but. This group’s songs seem to fall in the 90 to 120 second range, which can present challenges as far as maintaining intensity, interest and style are concerned (much easier to blast out a good 20 to 30 second ripper, let’s face it), but Idiota Civilizzato are up to the task, clearly well versed in the earliest, canonical records by Poison Idea, Rattus and Indigesti. I like all four cuts, but the last one, “Guerra Di Spettri”, is my go-to, as it offers an anthemic sound with free-fall hardcore speed and what I believe to be overdubbed backing vocals of heaving squeals. If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is!

Michul Kuun Great (Then After Awhile, It Didn’t Mean Anything To Them) LP (Ranch)
Michul Kuun had a few records come through these digital pages under the alias of Nah, which displayed his interest in percussion and rhythm both natural and synthetic. Not sure what sets Great apart from his previous work – maybe he just got sick of being called Nah? – but this is another album cluttered with grooves and bounce, as fine as anything under the Nah name. On the more esoteric instrumentals, I’m reminded of the more forward-thinking Hyperdub artists (Klein, Kode9 and Ikonika, let’s say) if they came from a DIY West Philly basement show frame of mind, not a British one where electronic music is respected as a form of art. Kuun is smart but playful (with a pretty hilarious repeated use of some guy saying “yeah, great” multiple times through the entirety of the album), willing to veer off into an unquantized hyperspace as much as lay down a thick and crunchy boom-bap with guest rappers spitting verse on top. Other artists might have a similar broad spectrum of influence, from crusty punk to electroacoustic studio compositions, but Kuun has a particularly keen ability to meld it all together in a way that feels natural, sounds cool, and best of all, is undeniably fun.

Les Milous Annie Hall / Shampoo Nightclubbing 7″ (Happiest Place)
A rare English-based outing from Happiest Place here with the debut of Les Milous, who I suspect has Swedish origins in spite of the French moniker. “Annie Hall” sounds like what the absolute coolest of the cool kids were dancing to in 1965 – prep-school teenbeat with attitude and flirtation. No garage-rock fuzz on this, just the sour snap of clean guitar with cool minimal drums and some tasteful keyboard ploops. “Shampoo Nightclubbing” sticks out to me from title alone, thanks to the infamous goth club of the same name here in Philadelphia (RIP), but I suspect it has nothing to do with that. This one has even more rah rah ooh mau mau built into its beat, with more of that clean rock n’ roll guitar rising up and down in surf-like patterns, but it’s overall not quite as strong due to its instrumental nature (what can I say, I love when a person huffs and shouts over music like this). Kind of a manic form of twee, which isn’t really going to blow down any new doors, but if you’re DJing one of those upcoming The Make Up reunion shows and you need a hot new 45 to squeeze into your velvet-upholstered singles box, it might be worth giving Happiest Place a call.

Levande Död Upp Till Kramp LP (Happiest Place)
Up until now, I thought I knew what to expect from Sweden’s Happiest Place label: JJ Ulius-related indie-pop and punk rock alongside noisy experimental stuff. Levande Död’s debut album doesn’t really fit those parameters, though I’m hard-pressed to think of a sonic arena that’s immediately suited to this peculiar band. They remind me of charisma-driven-but-musically-basic indie-rock like Girls, but then they also have slower songs that sound like a less serious, less fashion-y The Xx, but the entire thing is sung in Swedish by a guy who sounds like Thom Yorke shouting for help from a lonely warehouse basement. Very hard to pin down, but when it works, it really works! These songs are a shaky bridge between professional-grade indie-pop like Frankie Cosmos or Girlpool and home-dubbed tapes from the British DIY scene (I’m thinking of groups like The 49 Americans and The Mothmen, to be precise). It feels like a pretty long record, but not in a bad way, as Levande Död write different songs that sound good together as opposed to subtle variations of the same thing. Plus, the total lack of English is a sweetly defiant move to the rest of the world, and the pictures of (who I presume to be) the band on the insert, hanging out on cliffs and city streets enjoying each other’s company, are quite endearing. Good record, and one that I’m sure to never figure out entirely.

Mr. Clit & The Pink Cigarettes Pipsqueaks From Planet Fur LP (Heel Turn)
Listen, I just review the bands, I don’t name ’em! Blame Heel Turn Records for giving Mr. Clit & The Pink Cigarettes the platform of a vinyl album, not me. Anyway, this trio is two-thirds non-men, mercifully, and they play campy, poppy garage-punk with a trunk full of costumes, fake blood, wacky helmets, and so on. I get the impression that they are probably fans of The Spits, The Rezillos and The Plasmatics (visually in particular), and their sound, rudimentary and noisy as it may be, fits in there somewhere. Gotta say, is there a punk band geared toward juggalos yet? If not, allow me to make a suggestion. Mr. Clit & The Pink Cigarettes are from Indiana (the Midwest being a staunch juggalo enclave), and they come equipped with the exact sort of slapdash, raunchy nonsense that powers The Gathering – if they aren’t already, it might not be bad for them to start attending these functions and pass out their CD-rs (their debut of which is titled Cancer Tastes Great) to the open-minded ninjas who may be looking for something more appropriate for skanking and pogoing than horror rap. You can thank me later!

Moral Panic Moral Panic LP (Alien Snatch!)
Second full-length album from Brooklyn’s Moral Panic, and just like the first, it’s self-titled. They’ve apparently got better things to do than name their albums, and considering the crisp, hardcore-influenced garage-punk they’re doling out, I suppose I can’t complain. Much like their debut, I’m reminded of Video, as well as Career Suicide and Carbonas, maybe a little Dead Boys too, but there’s no confusing Moral Panic with a band that existed decades ago. They’re tight and to the point, and while they may lack the bite or individual edge one might associate with a group released by Total Punk or Feel It, Moral Panic run through their set with confidence and skill. The only thing I’m waiting for is some distinguishable aspect to Moral Panic’s songs, of which there currently really isn’t, but perhaps distinction is not their goal so much as tough, workmanlike garage-punk. To their credit, the song “Flower Violence” has a chorus of “so sick of this flower violence / just want some power violence”, which may be the first instance of a garage-punk band celebrating Man Is The Bastard and Crossed Out in song. It’s a start!

Bill Nace & Chik White Bill Nace & Chik White 7″ (Open Mouth)
Rare 7″ outing from avant impresario Bill Nace here, but what’s not rare is him finding musical company with kindred spirits of the outre sonic arts. Chik White is from Nova Scotia (or at least that’s where he can currently be located), and he joins Nace (here on amplified acoustic guitar) on a jaw harp, a “wired stick”, and vocals. Can’t say I’ve detected the vocals, unless you count the use of mouth in playing the jaw harp, but my ears probably just aren’t deft enough to parse out the human voice in these beguiling tracks. “Eel (All Parts)” is surprisingly tonal and rhythmic, a jovial swing casting its wide net across White’s distinctive jaw harp. “Wild Wire” on the flip is a little more in line with what I’d expect from Nace – unflappable drones that rub like corduroy against White’s amphibian-esque murmurs, some sort of processional hymn for the midnight tree-frog meditation, even if it’s actually just two dudes with some humble, mostly-not-broken gear sharing in a focused musical dialog that only they can fully decipher. Edition of 150 copies and I’m damn sure holding onto this one!

Nightmare Thirsty And Wander LP (540)
Not all who wander are thirsty, but that doesn’t go for Japanese hardcore legends Nightmare. They’ve been around for over three decades, and they maintain their upper-echelon status here, not wavering for a second into progressive songwriting or any signs of fatigue or weakening. No one knows how they do it, which of course makes it all the more sweeter – can you name an American hardcore band who is writing utterly gnarly, grotesque hardcore music consistently over three decades? Maybe Iron Lung will eventually get there. Anyway, as for Thirsty And Wander in particular, the guitar is particularly distinctive, with a violent twang and a painful level of treble, almost sounding as if Bill Orcutt returned to playing in Harry Pussy, but surely coincidental in that regard. The vocals are ferocious and spouted off mercilessly, the drumming is deceptively tight and intricate while continually cascading forward, and while I don’t really have much to say about the bass, I’m sure if I focused on it long enough I’d discover some fascinating properties there too. Pretty essential stuff, which feels weird seeing as hardcore is forever a young person’s game, just not necessarily in Japan, and certainly not with Nightmare.

Parsnip When The Tree Bears Fruit LP (Trouble In Mind / Anti Fade)
Earlier this year I was grooving to Parsnip’s Feeling Small 7″, wondering when they might do an album, and here it is! Nice how things can work out like that. This Melbourne group is out-tweeing the twee-est of ’em, and whereas that could possibly result in some painfully embarrassing material, Parsnip make funky playful softness seem as though it’s the only way music should sound. I suppose one could make a sonic connection to The Raincoats, as far as the way that both groups use punk rock as a launching pad for creatively un-punk sounds, but Parsnip are smoother than The Raincoats and less anxious, appearing more spiritually aligned with Sid & Marty Kroft than Rough Trade. I like the songs that are most bold in their preciousness, like the overly charming “Lullaby”, the funk-tastic “Taking Me For A Ride” and the shortcake psychedelia of “My Window” (which could’ve easily fit on The Apples In Stereo’s glorious Her Wallpaper Reverie). I can understand if When The Tree Bears Fruit is a little too cutesy and wholesome for some listeners, but Parsnip show no hesitation in their musical approach, which fits into the greater scheme of the Melbourne (and international) indie-punk scene while still wildly sticking out of it, like a brazen and character-defining cowlick.

People Skills Magnet Hill 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Is it a sad or happy thing that in order for me to enjoy the sounds of Philadelphia’s own People Skills on 7″ vinyl, I have to wait for a label from Sweden to release it? I’m not gonna linger on possibly depressing thoughts for too long, mostly because the music of Magnet Hill is enjoyably depressing enough as is! This single comes with two slow instrumental guitar/”drums” tracks and two infinite loops. “Three Smiling Dogs In A Dream” feels like a dreary sketchbook riff from Kurt Cobain’s diary; “Summer 1978” opens with some incidental street sounds before settling into a single repetitive guitar note punctuated by a high note on the keyboard, at least until Jesse Sinclair Dewlow (that’s People Skills himself) finds a lonely chord to press on before another cozy locked-groove takes the reigns. This is apparently one of three new People Skills releases, the other two being tapes, and I need to figure out which one comprises the live set I witnessed a few months ago, as that was an extraordinary puff of weary ambient choogle I wouldn’t mind hearing again.

Pleather Wasting Time With Riot 7″ (Feral Kid)
I had suspicions that the great hardcore-punk group Judy & The Jerks couldn’t exist in Hattiesburg, MS, all by themselves, and lo and behold, here’s the debut EP from Pleather, also hailing from that magical burg. They look pretty chill on the cover, wearing neutral tones and hanging out on piles of consolidated recycling, and their music, while firmly punk, offers a similar good-time, laid-back feel. “Riot” (which contrary to the EP title is the a-side) might be the least aggressive punk song to ever bear that title, feeling more indebted to the Velvet Underground than S.O.A. It’s catchy and tuneful, but avoids feeling like indie-rock… must be the attitude? “Wasting Time” is only marginally tougher, as there are moments when the drummer lets off of that Moe Tucker tom-ride and pounds, but the same sensation is delivered, the careless cool that made that dog.’s “Old Timer” and Redd Kross’s cover of “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind” so infectious and fun. I’m reading a vibe of “first time punk band”, but these tracks are too studiously crafted for newbies, so I’m not entirely sure what the case is with Pleather – all it takes is one member who can write a great song, I suppose – I’m just hoping to hear more from them soon!

Possible Humans Everybody Split LP (Trouble In Mind)
Another disc from down unda care of Trouble In Mind, who seem to have accepted the fact that if you want to put out well-considered modern underground guitar-band music, you’ll have to start combing through Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to maintain a steady clip. Possible Humans are a new group from Melbourne, and I’d bet their members have been in other bands before (at least it’s… possible!), as they play a highly-controlled, properly-executed form of DIY-inspired indie-rock. All the parts are in check – driving bass-lines, tight and compact drumming, tuneful jangle, understated vocals – but I dunno, Everybody Split isn’t really connecting with me as much as I’d like. There’s The Clean, The Verlaines, probably a little Gin Blossoms and Cranberries, and surely some Swell Maps and Mekons in the Possible Humans formula, but it’s like they take the safest and most-expected parts of those groups rather than anything that might spark a little excitement or cause any sort of problem. It’s jangly indie-punk with the edges sanded down to ensure no one cuts themselves on it. Hope I’m not coming across too harshly, as it’s an album that sounds perfectly fine and comes with no glaring faults, but it’s the sort of humdrum amateur-professionalism, the sense of motions being gone through that leaves me wanting rather than satiated.

Product KF Songs Of The Groves LP (Chicago Research)
Here’s my Chicago research: very cold in the winter, windy, unfortunate pizza, Billy Corgan lives there. I kid, I love that city and its wonderful people, and it’s cool to see new label Chicago Research giving consideration to their various locals, like cold-wavers Product KF for instance. As if you couldn’t already tell they play cold-wave, what with their European, cold-war-styled name and all. Songs Of The Groves is my first exposure to the group, and it’s been an enjoyable one. They seem to be kind of new, or at least not particularly polished with what they’re doing, and it works in their favor. These tracks almost come across like various mash-ups of cold-wave / gothy post-punk signifiers (flanged-out bass lines, scrapyard percussion, Ian Curtis-style warbling, a spooky dance-ability, and so forth), but it’s the jumbled nature of these tunes that I find appealing. I mean come on, they’ve got a song called “Pitch Dark” followed by a song called “Day Comes Too Soon”, these folks are true vampires in training. Songs Of The Groves feels less scripted than some of their contemporaries on larger labels, and more like a group of individuals who really know what they want to sound like, but aren’t technically astute enough to create a picture-perfect facsimile, so they’re just kinda throwing stuff together. It’s not an equation that always works, but it works nicely for me here.

Puzzlehead Big Sniff LP (Stucco)
After a couple banging hardcore EPs (Electric Chair and Suck Lords) and one fantastic post-punk EP (Table Sugar), Stucco moves on with Puzzlehead’s debut full-length. This feels like music very much made for the younger underground, with songs that might come across as somewhat, umm, puzzling to older folks (like me). Puzzlehead play a slow-motion, fuzz-soaked form of indie-grunge that keeps popping up on labels both major-indie and DIY self-sufficient, much to my surprise. Puzzlehead sound like Shop Assistants attempting to play Breeders songs in the style and sound of Kilslug, by my evaluation. Downtuned, sludgy and unhurried, Puzzlehead must’ve accepted a puff off of Milk Music’s Juul at one point or another, and I have to wonder if the influence of that band both stylistically and musically is something I’m dreading or eagerly awaiting over however many more months or years. Not really picking up much in the way of memorable hit songs here, but this feels like a band where their vibe is the focal point, not any particular single (although actually, the stoned pop jangle of “Cruisin’ 4 A Bruisin'” sticks out with its lyrics of “I’m gonna kick your ass”, a timeless statement if there ever was one). Complete with Grateful Dead-esque logo, simplistic cartoon-dog-and-flower art and a big newsprint poster (which seems to be a prerequisite for any Olympia-based release), Big Sniff stands as a shining example of where 2019’s underground youthful punk sensibilities are at, if not necessarily a captivating musical statement.

Shots Private Hate LP (Careful Catalog)
Here’s an appropriately ambiguous name for this experimental trio featuring Home Blitz’s Daniel DiMaggio and the Friberg brothers, John and Matthew. It calls to mind not just ground-level warfare, but also a crew of bros with a handful of Jager-bombs at the local bar, or Steph Curry’s three-point percentage, and somehow it all fits what this New Jersey-centric group is doing (or at least I think they’re all from Jersey – they named a prior release after a Mouthpiece record for chrissakes!). Anyway, this beautiful-looking record is a strange one for sure, filled with expansive tracts of absent sounds. The a-side opens with what might possibly be some uncoordinated basketball-dribbling in a suburban garage, followed by an awkwardly silent car ride over to the park, then maybe a drum kit slowly falling over? The soft fuzz of ambient silence is plentiful here, giving the listener plenty of room to settle in. The b-side takes us to a more populated venue: sounds of children in the distance and some sort of routine commerce are interrupted by indiscriminate microphone pops, as if the recorder was tucked inside a Jansport while walking through a high school hallway. Improvised field-recordings, should we call it? There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of post-production, but much like with similar works by Graham Lambkin and Gabi Losoncy, the mystery is never to be revealed. Private Hate is a record that bears very little repeating, and yet I’m at least half a dozen listens in… either Shots are cunning sonic tricksters or I’m a fool. It’s probably a little bit of both.

Trampoline Team Trampoline Team LP (HoZac)
New Orleans punk might best be defined by the fact that it doesn’t mess around, which is certainly the case with Trampoline Team. This trio slashes and bashes through their songs in classic downhill garage-punk-with-emphasis-on-punk fashion. I’m reminded of personal favorites like Loli & The Chones, Oblivians, Nots, Carbonas and Kill-A-Watts, but Trampoline Team are on the no-frills side of what is already a pretty frill-less cross-section. They play their songs slightly faster than this style usually allows, which adds a nice dose of mania to their fairly traditional chord progressions, and the vocalist Sam DeLucia (also of the wonderful Black Abba) shouts with just enough charisma to inject these straightforward tunes with catchy hooks and repeated enjoyment. Trampoline Team certainly aren’t the first band to play fast punk with songs about the various behaviors of jerks and the hate that those jerks inspire, but from where I’m sitting they deserve to be in the starting lineup of the genre’s modern purveyors.

Victory Hands Bishop 12″ (Headphone Treats)
It’s not often that a band, or a record, truly blows me away, but wow… color me blown away. Victory Hands are a Richard Nixon-themed math-rock band (yes, you heard me right) and this 12″ EP comes inside a multi-fold out, chrome-embossed, die-cut (for special securing of the actual vinyl LP as well as for added visual flair) cover. And this band, from Atlanta, has been doing this thing since 2013, previously releasing a 7″ as well as a 10″, all with the exact same visual and sonic aesthetics (and all lyrics cribbed directly from Richard Nixon speeches and dialogue). Do you understand any of this? I certainly do not. Somehow four guys thought this was a reasonable idea, and have stuck with it for years now, making these carefully produced records (and, none of my select Atlanta-based friends have ever heard of them, for whatever that’s worth). As for the music, it’s fairly basic poppy post-hardcore stuff, not unlike Shades Apart or Ethel Meserve or something in that realm, perfectly fine as well as more or less unmemorable. The whole thing, however, this idea of a Richard Nixon-themed band that is somehow not even remotely amusing and has clearly received significant aesthetic thought in spite of what must be a significant lack of fanbase, is something I won’t soon forget.

Reviews – September 2019

Anadol Uzun Havalar LP (Kinship / Pingipung)
Record of the month right here! I came across Anadol from reading a recent Vital Weekly transmission (a wonderfully obsessive outsider-music email newsletter), took a listen and was immediately hooked by her inclusive-yet-atypical sounds, casting a wide net over kosmische kraut-rock, moody synth-wave and avant jazz. Anadol is the name chosen by Turkish-born, Berlin-based Gözen Atila, and Uzun Havalar is a stunning statement, the sort of album whose clutches you immediately fall into. To create this record, Atila gathered a number of players to improvise on Middle Eastern folk songs, or so the story on Bandcamp goes, but the result is a unique set of sprawling, evocative portraits recalling city skylines under moonlight, criminal-infested jazz clubs, secret hookah lounges, and Klaus Schulze riding a camel solo across a sand dune at dusk. The drum machines occasionally share sonic properties with something off the Bippp French synth-wave comp, but then there’ll be some choked-up laughter folded into the track instead of pop vocals, or sultry trumpets to signify the arrival of a devious new element… Anadol has a vast arsenal at her display, and she wields it marvelously. Throughout the whole record, it remains unclear what is live music and what underwent post-production editing, resulting in an album that feels both authentic and fictional, like a book that’s clearly just a book but haunts your dreams at night just the same. Fascinating, stunning music that I can’t stop spinning.

Argument? Argument? 7″ (…)
Following that great Current Affairs single, the … label continues with the Crass-stencil-lettered Argument?, straight outta… Los Angeles, actually. Not sure how they linked up with this Berlin-based punk label, but they did, and they’re offering up six tracks on this vinyl debut. It might be the logo, but I’m definitely picking up a Bullshit Detector vibe to their style, which is unprofessional, guitar-free protest-punk. Just bass, drums, the occasional additional sound-effect of unorthodox origin, and two vocalists who chime along together and volley off each other. Like much of the Bullshit Detector roster, Argument? are a band that sucks by most metrics, but that’s part of their charm, of course. I like them at their best when they maniacally lose track of what they’re doing (“Alone” is a modern party-punk tune that needed to be written), acting as possessed spiritual heirs to Delta 5 and Fatal Microbes, but their more straightforward songs (“Ask”, for example) can feel like an early K Records throwaway, which I guess is a reasonable pitfall for roots-level music such as this. I have to say, I do wonder what a particularly stylish and untrained guitarist might add to Argument?’s sound, but I accept that I might go to my grave without ever finding out.

Buffet All-American LP (Knw-Yr-Own / Resurrection / All You Can Eat)
Kind of a bold move, coming up with a band name / album title to represent the worst of the buffet options? (Chinese and Indian tie for first place, then comes pizza, as far as I’m concerned.) And yet this punk band out of Anacortes, WA perseveres, perhaps even thrives, off the various miseries and inconveniences that living in Anacortes provides. From what I can tell, it’s their debut record, and it’s a solid serving of messy hardcore, poppy punk and their various intersections. Might be revealing my age a bit here, but my ears are reminded of FYP and the slappiest Recess Records bands, at times verging into the tuneless-pop bashings of a group like Slobber, as well as the cunningly tight and melodic speed-core of groups like Quadiliacha and I Spy. Feels like the best of the mid-to-late ’90s punk underground where hardcore (and even power-violence) would butt up against pop-punk, fully equipped with a modern sense of ennui. “I Like To Shop” is a great example of Buffet’s skills, working a discordant post-grunge riff to its most primitive ends, with frantic nerd vocals extolling the virtues of Amazon shopping (sarcastically, of course), reminiscent of a burlier and drier Diarrhea Planet (go on, take this moment to reflect upon the concept of “dry diarrhea”). If Buffet aren’t the best band in Anacortes, I need to get my hands on that scene report!

Cement Shoes Too LP (Feel It)
Richmond punkers Cement Shoes take the step from a Feel It 7″ single to a Feel It full-length LP. Why waste any time? My hardcore-punk studies have informed me that Cement Shoes features members of Brown Sugar, Fried Egg and Haircut, and while I didn’t expect such a star-studded affair, I can’t say I’m surprised by the sounds of Too based on the band’s pedigree. These songs work from a base template of contemporary mainstream-snubbing scruffy hardcore-punk (bands like Glue, Acrylics or any of the aforementioned groups) but take the time to infuse it with nods to early heavy metal (ala White Boy & The Average Rat Band) or other leather-accessorizing forms of guitar music alongside an imbibing-friendly party-time attitude. It’s as if there’s an understood agreement between Cement Shoes and the listener that the world is run by poisonous cretins, but instead of harping on that, let’s all get high on dirt weed, eat a gross pizza and laugh at Home Alone… a most useful form of escapism (at least when taken in small doses). I kinda feel like Vexx was headed in this musical direction toward their end, a sort of Judas Priest-informed classic hardcore sound (check “Mine Mine Mine” on here for some denim-clad beer-chugging riffage), and it’s nice to see that more than a couple bands are picking up that thread (Pinocchio included, I suppose it’s fair to say). Quite a good album here, although the Feel It quality has been so high lately that I’d say this falls somewhere closer to the middle of the pack, if we insist on viewing music as a competitive sport. Call them what you want, but there’s no way Cement Shoes are jocks!

The Clog The Clog 7″ (no label)
If you’re gonna call yourself “The Clog”, you might as well go and actually clog up a pipe, which is exactly what local Pacifica, CA resident George Albert Carpenter has done. I was hoping for an antagonistic synth-punk record ala The Wad, simply out of band name similarity, but The Clog is punk in a different way. These four songs remind me of Home Blitz and Pink Reason, in that the music feels like it was made by a lonely young white guy in a town that doesn’t understand him. These songs feel inspired not only by like, Jonathan Richman and Jandek and I dunno, Still Life(?), but also by the isolation of living in an anti-creative suburban locale that doesn’t care if you live or die. The similarities are there! For example, after three somewhat tuneful indie-punk strummers, the last track “I Am The Shark Herder” erupts with thick stoner riffing not unlike Bongzilla or Iron Monkey, which seems out of place, but also perfectly fitting if you’re a guy calling yourself The Clog and capturing the clash of musical ideas that erupts from your brain and heart. Not sure if this will blossom into a long and fruitful career ala Home Blitz or if this will be the sole documented instance of The Clog, but either way is cool with me.

Cop Warmth Self Harm LP (no label)
Cop… Warmth? Not sure what to make of that, but I’m hoping it’s supposed to invoke the image of some funeral pyre of law enforcement, a toasty bonfire with which to warm one’s self, but maybe I’m just projecting my own fantasies. I do get the feeling that blue lives don’t particularly matter to Cop Warmth, though, as this is some angry, vaguely-criminal-sounding noise-rock they’re dishing out on this self-released full-length. I’m picking up sour flavors similar to Unsane, Cherubs, maybe a little His Hero Is Gone when they break it down, and probably some Young Widows too – Cop Warmth play what are essentially hardcore riffs, but in a metallic fashion with plenty of swirling feedback and cacophony. If that’s your fancy, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy driving around town seeking drugs and a bad time to Self Harm, although if you’re more of an upstanding-citizen egghead who likes to nerd out on heavy and abrasive noise-rock in the comfort of your own home, you’d probably dig it too, even if there’s a better chance you might notice that the vocals are deeply buried in the mix (for better or worse) and that Cop Warmth deliver more of a general sound than a distinct set of songs. Pretty sure if you order a copy of the LP from the band, they’ll send you a big Cop Warmth poster, suitable to be hung in your window for maximum neighbor confusion.

Cosima Ploaia 7″ (Pingipung / Future Nuggets)
What’s up with Romania, and Bucharest in particular? From Petre Inspirescu to Khidja, that city seems to have a lock on eclectic techno / electronic pop, and I’d be remiss to not include Cosima’s debut single, which might be the most fascinating of them all. Her full name is Cosima Opârtan and she’s credited on Discogs as a “designer and singer”, and however it is that these two seductively elusive pop gems came to be, I’m supremely thankful I get to bare witness. “Ploaia” coasts on mournful steel drums, old-country string picking (could be a guitar, but I’m assuming not?), seedy low-end and Cosima’s rich and emotive vocal. It’s Balearic with a hint of goth, the subtle residue of trip-hop and the excitement of something new entirely. “Mai E Și Altfel De-a Iubi” has me imagining Sade produced by John T. Gast; it gallops out with a great muted guitar line and a sweeping, dramatic chorus, all in a language I don’t even slightly understand. Post-R&B for the apocalypse generation, let’s say. How is it that Blackest Ever Black or Low Company hasn’t already scooped up Cosima for a multi-album deal? This feels like a more polished, less basement-y take on what they’ve been aesthetically seeking for the past few years, like they’ve been running layup drills and Cosima showed up with an immediate slam dunk. Only two songs, but each of them are nearly perfect in their own right. I’d fly out to Bucharest to seek out undiscovered Cosima tracks, but I don’t want to spoil this wonderful mystery. I trust that Cosima knows best.

De Sluwe Vos Trans Magnetic Stimulation 12″ (Who’s Susan)
There are like at least five hundred young guys actively making club-thumping electro (not to mention all the non-young, non-guys making it!), and as it’s a style that I like to keep on steady rotation in my life, I frequently dip into that vast pool in hopes of hooking a winner. That’s what I did with De Sluwe Vos (translated to “The Slow Fox” in English), the chosen alias of Dutch producer / DJ Robert Vosmeijer. These tracks are electro comfort food, direct descendants of Drexciya and Alden Tyrell (and, going deeper in that lineage, The Egyptian Lover and Cybotron). De Sluwe Vos seems to be a live DJ first and a producer second, which means that these tracks are fine tailored for crowd engagement and physical motion. That’s what I want my electro to do, so it’s a perfect match! I like the big cascading synths on the title track (as well as a bigger-fisted remix care of someone named “Dexter”), and I also like the funky acid line that brings “Alphaeus” to life. The basic building blocks are fertile and strong here, and Vosmeijer infuses them with enough oddball tricks and flourishes (the dying modem blackouts that pepper “Alphaeus”, for instance) to keep me on my toes. Otherwise I’d just be on the balls of my feet, popping and locking with the smooth versatility of Todrick Hall, as I’m often known to do.

Dwig Music For XXX 2xLP (Dwig)
What do you say, how about some Giegling-affiliated smooth German deep house from a guy whose name is reminiscent of Integrity’s infamous vocalist? Count me in! There seems to be no end to the many branches and roots that extend from the Giegling family, or at least that’s my excuse for not knowing about Dwig previously, as his discography is fairly robust (and judging from the secondhand prices, quite desirable). After spinning Music For XXX a large number of times, I can certainly see why, as this is remarkably beautiful downtempo house, lush with ambient flora and twinkling with curlicues of piano and warm, bubble-bath bass. Feels like driving around LA at night in a Nissan Ultima fresh from the dealer without any other cars around, which of course is an impossible scenario for many reasons, but satisfying to dream about nonetheless (speaking personally, not universally, here). I’m reminded of the last Kettenkarussell album (although Dwig isn’t as much of a heartstring-tugger) with the soft touch of Portishead’s rain-soaked cab windows and the cordial, subtle elegance that Map.ache lends to his house music. Deeply refined and unhurried tunes, it might not be what you had in mind for an “XXX” experience but it’s enriched my non-carnal activities considerably.

The Gotobeds Debt Begins At 30 LP (Sub Pop)
C’mon, if you didn’t chuckle at the title of The Gotobeds’ third album the first time you saw it, I have to wonder if we’d be compatible as friends. These Pittsburgh dudes get it, the conundrum of life sucking (but sucking way worse for other people, so why are we so miserable?), and they apply that sort of educated slackerdom to this album, another tidy collection of upbeat and stubbly indie-rock songs (using the definition from back when indie-rock presented an actual alternative to corporate rock). They’ve probably been compared to artists like Pavement and Protomartyr before (and while neither are a bullseye, it’d be hard to argue with either), so they got savvy and actually brought on members of both of those groups (and members of Silkworm and Shellac and Downtown Boys and more) to contribute little bits and pieces to this album, either singing a guest verse or making some noise or plucking a piano wire somewhere in the mix. They even got living rock legend Gerard Cosloy to do something on here – maybe quietly nibble a New York slice in the corner of a vocal booth? Who can ever know for sure! It certainly gives the album a bit more of an obvious angle, a slant that might tempt a music writer to get excited more than just “aging white guys release punk-ish indie-rock album on Sub Pop” in an age and era that is very much not excited by that. They also included a song called “Poor People Are Revolting” here, following an earlier album by that same name, but it’s unclear if anyone notices details that aren’t Spotify play-counts these days. Forget everyone else anyway – I’m listening, Gotobeds, and I like it!

Akiko Haruna Delusions 12″ (Where To Now?)
The Where To Now? label has provided me with lots of great discoveries over the past decade (Beatrice Dillon, Lutto Lento and Machine Woman to name a few), and as it had been a minute since I checked in with the label, the time felt right to pick up Akiko Haruna’s Delusions solely on label association. It was worth the risk, as Haruna’s debut EP is a fine chunk of modern “deconstructed” club music, both sharp-edged and turbid. Her beats are easily disturbed and powerful, like a particularly anxious Mumdance running away from the ghost of Aïsha Devi. They collapse on themselves, power-up like a video game character and flitter like a flock of birds disturbed by a passing motorist. The detail is extravagant but keeps the listener at a distance – only Haruna knows for certain what’s inside this musical box. It’s her vocals (not personally, but the vocals she’s chosen to sample) that make Delusions for me, as they’re processed exquisitely, layering different pitches and dramatically glitched to inhuman heights. Not really a dance record, unless you’re one of those psychos who busts a move to Jlin’s albums, but I find myself fully satisfied by experiencing Delusions in a seated position. The gravity of “Husband Established”, for example, is so wonky that I might fall down if I tried to stand up anyway.

Jean-Luc Des Litres D’essence 12″ (Knekelhuis)
When I hear the name “Jean-Luc”, two distinct thoughts come to mind: the captain of Star Trek’s Next Generation, and that early ’90s coffee commercial where two women reminisce about a trip to France (truly a classic advertisement of my youth). And what do you know, this debut EP from Western Europe’s Jean-Luc (it’s a band, not a guy) is a suitable third, filled with the retro-futurist unknown of the Starship Enterprise and as awkwardly fulfilling as a hot cup of artificially-flavored java. Across these five tracks, the group pursues pleasantly strange forms of not-quite-techno and certainly-not-synthpop, seemingly unrestrained by traditional electronic aesthetics but clearly focused on what they want to do. I’m reminded of the playful electro-trickery of Carlos Peron at his finest (Peron’s Impersonator album is mandatory listening), as well as the post-electro textural funk of Charles Manier’s last album (another personal fave). These tracks vary from slow and misty grooves ala Excepter at their most nervous to brazen EBM bangers with a punk attitude, and it all works (and is all the better for the variety). Probably a little late-period Throbbing Gristle going on here too, maybe a spritz of Jac Berrocal’s freeform fusion, and at least one of the hairs on Maoupa Mazzocchetti’s chin all bubbling in the same cauldron. Leave it to Knekelhuis to bestow this engaging and genre-busting debut upon us, seemingly equipped with an endless inventory of inventive and bizarre electronic music at their disposal. Keep it coming!

Vesa-Matti Kivioja Mineral Waves 12″ (Ljudverket)
If you read the phrase “Finnish dub-techno” and aren’t at least mildly appreciative, I have to wonder what collection of errors led you to this website. Vesa-Matti Kivioja is a Finnish producer making exactly that, and his native culture of frozen snowy winters, steamy saunas, endless light and endless night serve him well on the four tracks that comprise this EP. The sensual pacing of “Wavellite” recalls Donato Dozzy circa K, whereas the stuttering dub vibrations of “Corundum” favor a similar sound palate as Sasu Ripatti (under his guises of Vladislav Delay and Luomo). Those are probably two decent signposts for Mineral Waves on a whole, which seems to investigate the slower end of tech-house while channeling the pleasant isolation of classic dub-techno. Nothing new, maybe, but that doesn’t prevent me from slowly melting into my couch in a liminal state of bliss while Mineral Waves spins. “Kosmochlor” wraps the EP and it’s easily the most abstract cut here, favoring subtle harp-like strings and finger percussion (or so I’m guessing) for an invigorating splash of peacefulness. Mmmm…

Kyosanto Communist LP (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Bitter Lake’s been diving deep into bizarre Japanese underground sounds for the past few releases, but this one is an easy home run: a first-ever vinyl collection of obscure early-’80s Hiroshima-based punk band Kyosanto. Is it even possible to reissue barely-known Japanese punk and not sell out immediately these days? The people have spoken and this is what they want. Communist not only properly breaks down how to pronounce the word on the cover (silly me, I always thought it was “commun-IST”), it compiles their two 1984 cassette tapes, remastered for true punk audiophiles. The first tape is pretty by the books, maybe sounding a little 1981 for 1984, but there were surely some extenuating circumstances to prevent Kyosanto from being on top of the hardcore-punk trends. The second tape, however, is more intriguing to my ears, if mostly because the guitar is almost entirely inaudible – a dramatic departure from the typical recording quality of the first tape. It’s faster and gnarlier – imagine the first Youth Brigade demo under the influence of The Stalin with the guitar completely muted and you’re close to what Kyosanto offered here. It’s baffling – the guitar is still there if you squint your ears hard enough, but it seems like the rest of the band gave him the Vinnie Stigma treatment for whatever reason. Hardcore-punk, and Japanese hardcore-punk in particular, are full of inexplicable mysteries that leave the mind to wander, and it beats thinking about pretty much anything else.

L.O.T.I.O.N. Urban Madman 7″ (Hardcore Survives)
Turns out L.O.T.I.O.N. released a “limited” 7″ for their Japanese tour in June, so I did the only reasonable thing and flew over there to catch them in the act and pick up a copy. Just kidding, the good folks over at Iron Lung got in some copies! I’m still reeling from the grotesque societal mirror that is L.O.T.I.O.N.’s most recent full-length, but these three new tunes are a welcome addition, and more of their own separate thing than an addendum to the album. “It Breaks” is an electro-rave stomp-down, a grizzled anthem geared for generator-run bridge parties with crust-pants and synth-dreads steaming in the moonlight. “Why Why Wifi?” turns up the BPM considerably for what could be a lo-fi Ministry demo in the clutches of Sakevi, and the b-side’s “Cut The Wires” goes back to that party under the bridge, bringing an EBM / Happy Hardcore vibe into the pit care of the mangled guitar riff and Alexander Heir’s Cobra Commander vocals. Much appreciated that L.O.T.I.O.N. decided to do this EP the old fashioned way (black vinyl, OBI strip) before we’re all permanently vacuumed up into cyberspace.

The Mentally Ill Gacy’s Place 12″ (Last Laugh)
The Mentally Ill recorded eight legendary tracks at Starbeat Studios on New Year’s Day 1979, three of which ended up on their debut 7″ EP. The rest were bootlegged, then officially issued by Alternative Tentacles in 2004 (and presumably still floating around one way or another), but just like Moby Dick or Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, these timeless classics deserve to be made available to the public in new editions til the end of time. That’s what this new Gacy’s Place 12″ is, to commemorate the 40th anniversary (wow) of this session. It’s a little funny to note the fact that most modern hardcore-punk bands take more influence from The Mentally Ill than say, Bad Religion or 7 Seconds, but The Mentally Ill and their twisted tunes really speak to our time. The bass is a fuzzy smudge, the drummer is surprisingly adept, the guitar playing is adequate at best and the vocalist truly sounds like one of those twerpy ’60s Batman villains who need to be locked away for good. These songs are purposely psychotic, punk rock that’s meant to frighten not just the norms but their fellow punks, too. I can only imagine what the general reaction to The Mentally Ill was back in 1979, assuming there was any reaction at all, but it’s a testament to their artistic vision that kids born in 1999 are trying their hardest to sound as demented and unfit for society as The Mentally Ill did so many years ago. They’re apparently still playing too, after what must’ve been decades off, but I’m scared to find out what that’s like – could it in any way enhance my enjoyment of these songs? No, right?

Metrist Pollen Pt. 1 12″ (Timedance)
I don’t know about you, but I love all these progressive techno guys out of Bristol and Brighton and other cozy British cities with names like Metrist and Peverelist and Appleblim, names that conjure graffiti taggers or scientists from the distant future. It’s such an entertaining and lively scene, and a record like Pollen Pt. 1 from Brighton’s Metrist is a sparkling example. Much like Ploy, Bruce, Batu and Laksa, Metrist pushes his post-dubstep / techno-adjacent beats through fascinating wormholes, twisting their shapes like a 3D printer gone haywire. “OL Face You Got” is the opener and probably my favorite of the bunch – a spoken vocal is diced into a glorious robotic stutter while the beat absolutely bangs, consistently cutting in and out to ensure maximum excitement. While the similarities in sound to the other names listed here are numerous, Metrist sticks out by being a little less direct-to-dancefloor in his pacing and beats than your average Timedance slugger, and not quite as avant-garde or rhythmically disruptive as say, Bruce or Objekt. Yes, I listen to a heck of a lot of this stuff in order to split these hairs that are probably only meaningful to myself and a tiny group of likeminded ‘eads, but I can’t think of a better use of my precious time here on Earth.

Overcalc Meaningless Terrain LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Pretty sure Overcalc is the one class every computer-science major hates but is required to take in order to graduate. It’s also the solo work of Nick Skrobisz of Multicult, and while Multicult are cool and all, I think Overcalc is his finest musical achievement to date! He plays guitar and programs electronics here, and it’s an expert-level melding of Tangerine Dream- / Ash Ra-style analog-synthesized processes and heavy metal theatrics care of the electric guitar. There are five tracks on the a-side, which investigate various hypothetical adventures (what if The Champs battled Jean Michel Jarre?), occasionally accompanied by electronic percussion or, more likely, solely the distinct pairing of computerized arpeggios and lightning-fast riffs. The b-side is entirely inhabited by “Bent Star”, and it’s the pinnacle of what he’s doing – honestly, where can he possibly go from here? Imagine if Iron Maiden stormed Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4, Eddie cackling as he types “666” in bright glowing green letters across every computer monitor in the studio. It just keeps going and going, and getting deeper and more intense, the sort of musical thrill-ride I’m always looking to hop on for a spin. If this sounds remotely appealing to you, trust me, it is!

Rashomon Pathogen X 12″ (Iron Lung)
Perhaps the only Criterion-approved hardcore band around, DC’s Rashomon follow their tapes with a one-sided 12″ care of the esteemed Iron Lung Records. The title Pathogen X sounds like it’s one of Wolverine’s greatest foes, and it works well for the thrashy, Burning Spirits-inspired hardcore contained within. Vocalist Kohei Urakami is presumably screaming lyrics, but his vocals come across more as sustained cries of anguish, which is probably more fun than reciting actual words anyway. He really leans into it, as though he just fought two vans full of hired goons and knows he’s got to go through at least two more before reaching the evil kingpin. Very capable and skillful hardcore-punk that reaches the metallic edge but never goes over, with longer songs befitting classic artists such as Nightmare and Death Side. Cool to see that hardcore lifer Pat Vogel plays in this band too (of Crispus Attucks, Sick Fix and many more), revealing Rashomon as a multi-generational hardcore band (and presumably all the stronger for it). On a side note, feels like I’ve been seeing a number of one-sided hardcore/punk 12″s lately… is this just the economic result of 7″s becoming unfeasible and undesirable, knowing that audiences are more likely to pay for a 7″ EP’s worth of music if its spread across twelve inches instead? Or maybe it’s just fun to have a big etched b-side, as is the case with Pathogen X.

Suburban Cracked Collective Private Failings LP (No Confidante Dictae)
Very cool under-the-radar debut here from Suburban Cracked Collective, the name Shaun Lacey (of Newcastle, Australia) has given to his secluded avant murmurings. It’s fairly inscrutable music, but allow me to try to, umm, scrute it – it’s what I love to do! There’s what seems to be live percussion (a normal drum kit struck with abnormal mallets?), stringed instruments (maybe a guitar), and sparse electronics that seem to be knocking on death’s door, and Lacey weaves it all together in an understated and alluring fashion. The sonic rhythms of first-world convenience shaped into little instrumental “songs” that no one will ever hear, except here I am, hearing them right now. One might file it under “industrial”, but these tracks are so weary and lacking even the slightest sense of confrontational aggression… perhaps “dark occult music for completely unreligious ceremonies” is more appropriate, but most record shops don’t have a section for that. “Milton’s Stilton” might be my favorite cut here, as it seems to be a chopped n’ screwed foghorn dueling with a faulty HVAC system, but the b-side-encompassing “The Bird Ceased To Be Articulate” is wonderful too, some sort of stylistic convergence of the loneliest Dead C-related solo projects and the mysterious new-age noise of Civilistjävel!. No matter how you slice it, Private Failings is a prime slab from the Aussie post-noise underground.

Taiwan Housing Project Sub-Language Trustees LP (Ever/Never)
Philadelphia’s got a few hundred guitar-rock bands at least, dozens of which I personally like, but I think Taiwan Housing Project might be my favorite? They are striking both sonically and visually (the last time I saw them, they had the largest bassist I’ve ever seen playing the tiniest bass guitar I’ve ever seen), uncompromising in their vision for even the slightest moment, and it’s a joy to behold. Case in point: Sub-Language Trustees is their second full-length, and they open it the way your average post-punk / no-wave group might end theirs, with “Charitable Fiend”, a song that lurches forward in and out of depression in a manner befitting the final moments of a live set, when the drums are already half torn down and at least one guitarist has wandered off stage. And then after a short pause, it comes back! This is music that’s meant to turn off anyone who can’t be turned on, and it’s a bold way to kick things off. Once they’ve sorted out their audience, the queasy throb of “Vessel Creep” churns like Häagen-Dazs soft-serve with all manner of corrosive and unpleasant effects hovering over it, guitars imitating broken toys and electronics (?) pretending they’re Jimi Hendrix. Beautiful! “Buy Buy Buy”, perhaps the strongest track on here by traditional music metrics, follows, with a riff so stanky Royal Trux would’ve left it on the curb for pickup. Even more beautiful! I could continue my track-by-track celebration of Sub-Language Trustees, but neither you nor I needs that, so I’ll conclude by saying that if you appreciate the spiky, slimy underbelly of noise-punk basement-blues neo-no-wave, this is the unsanctioned ride-share you’ve been waiting to slip into.

Waxy Tomb Imminent Fold LP (Gilgongo)
Can’t help but think about popular death-metal group Tomb Mold when I see the name Waxy Tomb, but wouldn’t the waxiness help prevent mold? So many deep tomb thoughts to process. Anyway, Waxy Tomb is the name that multimedia artist Jules Litman-Cleper has given to her musical output, and it’s oddly fitting, as the music is a slurpy, slimy brine of warped synths and hacked electronics. I’m reminded of the more playful material made by artists like Panicsville, Pod Blotz and Metalux, groups that came out of the early ’00s noise scene covered in neon goop instead of baggy camo pants and black flight jackets. Litman-Cleper adds their heavily-processed vocals to the squished 8-bit tones and malfunctioning rhythms, resulting in a sticky mess worth blessing. I’m also reminded of Cotton Museum, as that Midwestern noise project married the artist’s distinctive visual art to the music in striking fashion, which is very much the case with Waxy Tomb. Imminent Fold comes with a big glossy booklet, thick with sprawling digital renderings of tumorous growths and fictional objects, so richly detailed and meticulously conjured that I can’t tell if the music is supporting the art, or the art is supporting the music. Certainly the type of art-minded noise-wave record that those who don’t get will never get, but those who do will immediately enjoy.

Dan Webb & The Spiders Be Alright LP (Gunner)
Straight up, I’ll admit my prejudice against band names that follow the Regular Dude’s Full Name & The Something-Or-Others convention – it’s just a little too Hard Rock Cafe for my personal tastes. I know it’s unfair that Dan Webb’s gotta climb out of the pit I’ve already dug for him before I hear a single note of his music, but what do you know, I like Be Alright! It’s pretty plain, easy-going garage-based indie-rock, but I have to hand it to them, Webb and crew do a fine job within those guidelines. It verges on pop-punk without being too childish, simple songs sung simply and uninterested in being anything they’re not, falling somewhere between Spoon and The Smoking Popes. They’re the sort of band that could’ve secured a Lookout! Records contract toward the tail-end of that label’s existence, when things got a little slicker but still retained that pop-punk heart. A little smoother than Dillinger Four and The Marked Men, but Dan Webb & The Spiders could surely win over some of those group’s open-minded fans, particularly at a well-attended outdoor IPA festival stage. I found it interesting that this is their fifth album, not only because I hadn’t heard of them before, but because five albums is a pretty extended foray into being a poppy underground rock band – I have to wonder if they’re just now getting to the pleasant ease at which they deliver their tunes, or if they’ve always been at this level.

Wolf Müller Meets The Nile Project Wolf Müller Meets The Nile Project 12″ (Nouvelle Ambiance)
Percussionist, DJ and producer Wolf Müller looked beyond the confines of his native Germany for this new collaborative EP with The Nile Project, a collective of Kenyan and Egyptian musicians. Müller met them on their turf, recording these tracks in Aswan, Egypt with Kasiva Mutua, Adel Mekha and Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno on “hang drum” as well as guitar and other native percussive instruments. I’m assuming Müller sat back, admiring the scene, and then lightly edited the recordings for a more techno-minded audience, as his production here is light and unobtrusive. “Mabomba Dance” is the fourteen-minute sprawling groove, and there are three shorter pieces on the flip, my favorite being “Moso Radido Wuod Ndege (Nyatiti)” with its sparse rhythm, squeaky Jew’s harp and Otieno’s assured vocal. It sounds like a dance party without any of the normal dance party necessities (bass, mids, a powerful kick), playful and strikingly minimal to be sure. Wolf Müller Meets The Nile Project is a radiant success, if mostly because The Nile Project have provided a wealth of musical talent and Wolf Müller was wise enough to leave only the lightest of his fingerprints on the proceedings.