Search results for: bow & spear

Reviews – December 2013

A Model Authority Model 001 12″ (A Model Authority)
I am fascinated by the recent noise/techno cross over, and that goes for both sides of the fence. Particularly intriguing are the techno guys trying their hand at something less-studied and harsher, and A Model Authority are another recent example, this being the duo of Shifted and Sigha under a new guise. This definitely feels like the work of techno guys who’ve been impressed by Hospital Productions and Vatican Shadow – the songs are simplistic, rugged, minimal and jagged, as if these guys are throwing their keen production knowledge out the window, choosing rather to just press three buttons on the sampler and let it rip. There’s even a couple “noise” tracks here too: one that just kind of washes over, and another that features a phone conversation run through a Rat pedal (or something equivalent). When it comes to contemporaries, A Model Authority is probably closest to Karenn in sound, as they don’t have the sonic force of Regis, nor the peculiar structure of Andy Stott (nor are they distinctly in-between like Kerridge). I will admit, there isn’t anything particularly special or revolutionary about this 12″, but I am so enamored by the modern industrial-techno sound right now that this EP, along with its attractive packaging, gets a thumbs up from me. Eventually, I’ll hit my quota of this specific sound, but until then…

Atlantic Thrills A Day At The Beach 7″ (Almost Ready)
Richie Cunningham might actually be a bald and wrinkly senior citizen at this point, but his high school persona forever lives on thanks to groups like Atlantic Thrills. Inexplicably, they are a group of present-day musicians who want nothing more than some freshly churned cotton candy and a sweetheart’s hand in theirs, and while that sort of alternate reality seems like a less satisfying fantasy to me in 2013 than Juggaloism, the soft-serve power-pop of Atlantic Thrills gets my stamp of approval. “A Day At The Beach” could go toe to toe with Ronnie Mayor’s “Can’t Wait ‘Til The Summer Comes”, very saccarhine sock-hop with some Deke Dickerson-style leads over top. “Hold Your Tongue” is far ruder, like The Monks if they did a photoshoot in swimsuits, highly boppable and silly in a vastly different way than the a-side. It’s not gonna change your life, but Atlantic Thrills entertained me on both sides of this 7″ playing a style of music older than most teenagers’ parents, so I’d consider it a success! If you disagree, I politely invite you to sit on it and rotate.

Bad Energy / Bad Side split 7″ (Badmaster)
How ironic, that the Bad Energy / Bad Side split 7″ on Badmaster Records is… good! All three entities are from Philadelphia, and it’s the sort of local DIY hardcore-punk connectivity that warms my heart. Bad Energy are fast and thrashy, with a vocalist who yells as much as he screams – I’d say they’re like a mix of Double Negative and Dayglo Abortions, although I admit that’s not deadly accurate. They keep the songs moving all over the place, but it never feels like anything but hardcore. Bad Side are even faster and thrashier, and also sloppier, but that’s not a complaint with hardcore this unhinged, particularly as the singer comes across like a mix of Roger Miret and Kevin Seconds (both in their respective early years). Bad Side are also a little moshier – their second track opens with a bass/drums intro that is sure to crack open a basement pit like an egg on concrete. Both bands are quite similar in style, almost like a pair of identical twins where you have to keep remembering which one it is that wears the glasses, but in this case it’s just fun and exciting to know that multiple groups of people in the same city are capable of blasting out gnarly hardcore-punk. It’s nice when competition is unnecessary and replaced by pure hardcore expression.

John Bellows Fast Hits LP (Special Needs)
I went pretty hard on a John Bellows 7″ last month, which I kinda feel bad about, but that might just be because I haven’t listened to it in weeks, and have been able to remove myself from the anguish of actually hearing it. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to Fast Hits, but to his credit, Bellows manages to spread his sound out a bit here. There are fast power-pop tunes, jokey indie-rock tracks, and a bunch of ’90s “alternative”-sounding songs, all smooshed together. I’m reminded of guys like Eugene Chadbourne and Mojo Nixon, the sort of wacky punk provocateurs that seem particularly dated now, and might not have actually been all that funny to begin with, but without a time machine I won’t ever know for sure. Maybe a little Bugout Society in there too, just without the hardcore influence? John Bellows still isn’t my thing in the slightest, but Carrot Top managed to create a million-dollar empire out of annoying zaniness, so maybe Mr. Bellows is onto something too?

Black Time Blackout LP (Monolith Sound)
Black Time were one of many garage-punk bands of the previous decade to release over a dozen albums, tapes and singles. I can’t say I kept up with more than half, but somehow I owned Blackout on CD (a more innocent time, when people still bought CDs), and listened to it frequently over the years. Black Time wrote songs that really stuck with me (unlike many of their contemporaries), and for a band that was pretty clearly sticking to the garage template, they felt far more punk than the rest of the crowd. Maybe it’s because I never got the feeling that Black Time were trying to be anything in particular – they didn’t need to wear blazers with old-timey punk badges and funny sunglasses in their photoshoots. Black Time always seemed above that sort of nonsense. Plus, the songs on Blackout all come with their own signature sneers; from “Catholic Discipline” to “Young Professionals”, there are tons of rotten anthems on here to cling to, and it never feels same-y, an achievement in a genre where I have difficulty telling bands apart, let alone songs. The Monolith Sound vinyl reissue comes in a big-budget LP sleeve, printed inner and quality vinyl, pretty much as nice a reissue as you could ask for. Though really, part of me just wants to blast this thing on a crappy car CD player, on my way to a warehouse show where everyone smokes and I already know I’ll feel awful the next day. It’s one of those few albums that makes me nostalgic for second-hand smoke.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy LP (Palace)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is an indie-rock institution, and like most indie-rock institutions, my knowledge of him is spotty at best. Sure, like any other middle-class music nerd who’s had his own apartment, I own a couple Will Oldham records and maybe an old Palace Brothers 7″ or two, but I cannot speak of the many twists and turns Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy has taken throughout his career. (He collaborated with Kanye West or Coldplay, right? And discovered Bon Iver? Or was he just in a funny music video?) Anyway, I’m happy to speak on the music of the ostensibly self-released, self-titled album I have in front of me. It’s a beautiful collection of acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment, very direct and stripped-down, as if he is performing in a tiny darkened cafe under a spotlight to a crowd of no more than a dozen, where you can count each whisker in his beard and hear his fingers squeak across the strings as they locate different chords. His voice is pained, sweet, curious and unmistakable here, and his understated-yet-nimble guitar performance is a sharp match. There’s a reason why some people become stars and others don’t, and even on an album as unstated as this, it becomes obvious that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy didn’t gain a following just because his dad was Arista’s head A&R guy for 25 years or something. He got it by being talented and cool.

Buck Biloxi And The Fucks Holodeck Survivor / Not Getting Stabbed 7″ (Total Punk)
I missed the first Buck Biloxi single, but kept hearing praise aimed in their general direction. Leave it to Total Punk to finally hip me to these fellas, something they have done time and time again, and the reason why record labels are still valuable resources and more necessary than endless internet news feeds. “Holodeck Survivor” might be the best Star Trek-related song I’ve ever heard – the music perfectly replicates classic Orange Records-era GG Allin, crudely chugging out a song that strives to be tuneful at its core. The vocalist ain’t too far from ol’ GG either, and the fact that there’s a guy named “Pee Pee Ramone” on guitar makes me wonder if Dick Urine didn’t produce this single too (legendary GG Allin producer – go on, check the back of those 7″ sleeves!). Same goes for “Not Getting Stabbed”, although it’s a bit sillier, and catchier too, Biloxi listing rude things that he and his gang are gonna do to you. On a label of total punk releases, this very well might be their totalest punk yet!

Brainbombs Disposal Of A Dead Body 2xLP (Skrammel)
I consider myself a lifetime Brainbombs fan, but it’s the sort of thing I’d rather keep private – when I dig into Brainbombs, I want to retreat from real life for a while, into a world of utter horror and the basest human misery. Seems like their recent resurgence came and went, which makes sense. It’s not like they have a Led Zeppelin-esque discography to slowly reinterpret – either you get down with bludgeoning caveman guitar riffs and a serial killer on vocals or you don’t. I’m gonna keep buying their records, but I can tell you that Disposal Of A Dead Body won’t be the first, second or third Brainbombs record I reach for off my shelf. My reasoning is based almost entirely on the recording – the early Brainbombs singles sounded like they were electrocuting your stereo, and Obey and Fucking Mess allowed you to hang on every twisted word, but this one just kinda gets by, the vocals mostly unintelligible, the guitars mostly muted, the mix mostly neutered. The riffs are just as you’d expect, but over the course of four LP sides, it gets kinda boring, particularly as I can barely make out the vocalist (I only really get a feel if and when he repeats his words after the music has ended). The song titles are as despicable and morbid as ever, which just makes me feel like I’m missing out on the full picture. Worth a listen for sure, they are still the reliable ol’ Brainbombs, but if you didn’t scratch up a few dozen Euros for this one, I hope to have relieved your fears.

The Cartoons She’s A Rock And Roller 7″ (Last Laugh)
For a group calling themselves The Cartoons, it’s a bold move that a brick wall is the only cartoon featured on the cover! I hate to see a chance for a punk-rock Daffy Duck wasted, what can I say. I guess that’s to be expected of a rude bunch of punk rockers such as this though, originally released in 1981 in what was surely a miniscule amount, and obscure enough that a moderate record junkie such as myself never heard of them before. “She’s A Rock And Roller” is pretty cool, mixing up a Sex Pistols attitude with a less transgressive hard-rock swagger, feeling like a song that was written by guys who actually beat up the punk rockers a few grades below and decided they liked the fit of the leather jackets they stole off them. “Who Cares” is less punk, more bar-friendly, but still rowdy enough that it might be the missing link between The Rotters and White Boy & The Average Rat Band. Once again, Last Laugh flexes their archeological muscle here, unearthing more rare punk that probably no one was asking for, but through its arrival surely many are delighted.

Constant Mongrel Heavy Breathing LP (Siltbreeze)
Constant Mongrel’s debut album may have been my favorite slice of Australian punk rock last year, a real buzzsaw mess of Urinals’ simplicity and Lamps’ brute force. I was ready to injure myself to Heavy Breathing the moment I first got my hands on a copy, but much to my surprise, Constant Mongrel toned down their punk rock lunkheadedness in favor of a more thoughtful approach, mixing quick pours of goth and psychedelia in their punch. At first, it put me off, hearing that weirdly-affected guitar chime away, but I quickly became accustomed to their growth. And really, after I realigned my brain to Heavy Breathing, I realized it’s still stupid punk music just a stone’s throw from Taco Leg – “Choked” could’ve easily been an early Germs tune, and “Perks And The Thrills (Pills)” sounds like Rik L Rik and Rikk Agnew arguing outside the Masque directly after the Germs’ set. So nice to hear a band that can “grow” without maturing, as Constant Mongrel have clearly gotten more technically talented (there’s really no way to avoid it) but still insist on banging two chords against a wall and using the floor tom the way most bands use the hi-hat. Time for a US tour, don’t you think?

Division Four 1983 Demo Cassette 12″ (Smartguy)
I like to consider myself an Australian punk buff, the sort of guy who can tell the difference between Section Urbane and Just Urbain from the tape hiss alone, but I never heard of Division Four before. They only ever did a demo cassette, back in (you guessed it) 1983, and Smartguy, purveyor of many high-quality Australian punk records, has taken to pressing it on vinyl. On first spin, I thought it was a cool mix of ready-steady street-punk and new wave synths, but then I put it on again, and again, and again, and now I’m wondering how I ever lived without “Doctor’s Wife” or “Sewer Song”. It’s the kind of formula that is ripe for a modern band to plagiarize – clenched-fist, plodding punk with a synth riding shotgun and a bleak world view, and yet I don’t think I’ve heard anyone really attempt it. That is, besides Division Four back in 1983, who managed to write some super-simple tunes that really delivered the goods. Catchier than Iron Cross and more dystopian than Gary Numan, it’s truly a travesty that Division Four didn’t get their due back in their day, which would have allowed folks like you and me to viciously duke it out on eBay for their original short-run vinyl some thirty years later. I’m prepared for that fight!

Donato Dozzy 200 EP 12″ (
For all the different techno styles Donato Dozzy has tried, I swear he’s never come up short. He’s like one of those jerks that looks as good in jeans and a t-shirt just as he does a tuxedo, you know? This is why I try to never miss any of his releases, and 200 remains another example of the wisdom in my choice. The story behind 200 is interesting – the label/website asked Dozzy to curate their 200th podcast, for which he wrote a long essay on the history of Italian electronic music and a mix of 55 Italian tracks. These three cuts were extracted from the set, and they are pounding techno par excellence. “200.1” and “200.2” take the relentless propulsion of Dozzy’s collaborations with Nuel and splash in some color through “tribal” drumming, unidentified chirps, swirling winds and the crisp sensation of whitewater spray. Both tracks lock into their groove and generally remain self-sustaining, with just enough subtle tweaking to feel alive. It’s on “200.3” where he really builds up steam though – this b-side cut is twice the size of the first two tracks, and feels even more like a fight-dance performed by Klaus Kinski inside the Matrix – it’s utterly wild and scary, but Dozzy retains supreme control over the proceedings. Even for the measly twenty minutes here, it’s envigorating to experience life inside Donato Dozzy’s world.

Emptyset Recur LP (Raster-Noton)
Emptyset are one of my favorite current electronic artists out of the UK, and surely one of the most distinct as well – they have constructed and refined their template of radioactive blasts of static interference, released at particular intervals, and it has served them well. This new one certainly doesn’t stray from that formula – the tracks either slowly tweak their sonic explosions, or stutter into arrhythmic patterns, and either way, it’s as dense and sonically relentless as I could’ve hoped. I’ve enjoyed blasting myself in the face with Recur, but at the same time, I feel like the lack of variation may end up working against Emptyset in the end, as newer, dorkier groups start co-opting this sound (an inevitability with anything cool). While listening to some of the tracks here, I can already picture a Skrillex remix, or the guy from Death Grips angrily rapping over top, and it’s nearly enough to ruin my experience. Certain tracks are surely a hair away from being ruined by some “shocking” rapper over-top, and I wouldn’t put it past 2014 or 2015 for such a thing to exist. For now though, I am going to cherish Emptyset as my own, and live in this moment that they have created.

The Floor Above Bishop LP (Savage Quality)
I get really excited when a new Savage Quality release comes my way, because it’s almost a guarantee that I’ve never heard of the band and they’re noisy and unusual and generally pretty great. The Floor Above certainly fits the bill, as they’re a manic hardcore band that pushes the limits beyond classic hardcore into something more thrashy, discordant, and dare I say screamo-ish. Some of the songs could pose as fill-ins on Die Kreuzen’s first album, but then they end up blasting off into violent, fall-on-the-floor territory that groups like Honeywell and Antioch Arrow reached in the early ’90s. But it’s never emo, just wild hardcore music that occasionally recalls the full-steam-ahead nihilism of Maniax or maybe even non-commercial black metal. The vocalist has a Homostupids-style caterwaul, and it’s the perfect pitch for this messy hardcore assault. Out of nowhere, The Floor Above have released one of my favorite hardcore albums of the year!

Francisco Franco Francisco Franco LP (New Images Limited)
If I told you Rob Francisco of M Ax Noi Mach and Veiled and Matt Franco of Air Conditioning and Holy Family Parish had a new project together, you’d probably expect some sort of crushing electronic industrial music… maybe something like Vatican Shadow meets Hunting Lodge, right? Well, these guys are delighted to take the dramatic left turn that is Francisco Franco, an intensely quiet instrumental pop-rock group. The bulk of Francisco Franco sounds like music made for study hall – songs you can play on your Texas Instruments calculator out of sheer boredom or little rhythms tappable by pencil on textbook. These songs are very repetitive, very stressed and overtired, but never result in an outburst worthy of detention. This album specifically reminds me of that one instrumental Young Marble Giants EP, Michael Rother’s Fernwärme, and the criminally dollar-binned Themes For ‘Grind’ by Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen fame. Just two guitars, a bass, and rhythmic accompaniment working out their little algorithms of melodic woe, coming together to form something that I enjoy even more than I had initially planned. I recommend you dub the LP to a crappy tape, then listen to it on a Walkman while walking in cold drizzly weather through an aging apartment complex on a Sunday afternoon for optimal effect.

Huerco S. Colonial Patterns 2xLP (Software)
Not too long ago, Huerco S. dropped a killer 12″ on Future Times, the sort of thing that aimed for the dancefloor but took out a few experimental music nerds on its way there, so I was amped for the release of his debut album Colonial Patterns. The first time I listened to it, I was on an overnight flight in a tiny airplane seat, falling in and out of restless sleep, and listening on an iPod, so I wasn’t sure if this album really sounded as smeared and uncomfortably ambient as I thought it did. After multiple spins of the vinyl on solid ground, I can confirm that it wasn’t just me – Huerco S. has put together an album of finely corroded house music, so rusty and weathered that only the finest footworker could really get down to it. I don’t remember there being such an Andy Stott vibe on his earlier stuff, but Colonial Patterns reps it pretty hard, from the way the beats sound like they are played with dying batteries and the melodies and chords sound like they remained undisturbed for years before being resuscitated back to life. Sure, by like the third or fourth track the beats are revived enough that you can actually groove to the music, but this album is dominated by its sleepy, narcotic haze, not its beats. I’m definitely reminded of recent albums by Austin Cesear, Terrence Dixon and Darling Farah here – there are a lot of folks doing this sort of thing right now, and I’m not even sure that Huerco S. particularly stands out, yet I keep throwing on Colonial Patterns on purpose, happy to settle into its web of dusty rhythms, simplistic synth patterns and hypnotic sense of space.

Hysteria Ward From Breakfast To Madness LP (General Speech)
Never heard of Hysteria Ward before, but any punk band ranting about breakfast gets my attention. Threw the LP on, and I’m thinking “man, this band is doing a fantastic job of melding dark post-punk and Crass Records vibes with blatant ’80s new-wave… they don’t sound remotely modern!”. After like the third spin, I decided to actually check out the insert, only to discover that Hysteria Ward released From Breakfast To Madness on tape back in 1986 out of their London home, and it all made sense, even if it took a little bit of the wind out of my sails, wishfully thinking that a band this strangely frozen in time got started in 2013. I’m reminded of Strange Boutique or UK Decay, but with maybe a pinch of Poison Girls, or maybe even a surely unintentional Shattered Faith aftertaste? All while keeping in mind that the group looks like a cross between Missing Persons and Campingsex. I think I’ve thrown out enough band names to make this review almost completely useless, but putting that aside, From Breakfast To Madness is a nice serving of early goth-wave, one that relies more on substance than style (while still setting aside a portion of gig earnings for hair dye).

Impalers Impalers LP (540 / Todo Destruido)
The bar for hardcore is set so high these days, I am surprised at how many bands are willing to try… everyone has MP3 collections of the finest hardcore on Earth at this point, so if you aren’t coming somewhat close, why put out a record? If you are Impalers, though, putting out records makes sense, as these guys are in the upper echelon of modern hardcore, clearly well-versed in its diverse history while never settling into one specific sub-sub-genre. I can imagine an Impalers songwriting sesh consists of the bassist playing around with a Motörhead riff, the drummer playing along like it’s Deathreat, and the guitarist jamming like he’s in Negative Approach until testing out a Thin Lizzy solo he’s been working on. Impalers really seem to have that wide spread of hard-edged guitar-rock knowledge and the technical skill to put it all together (some of these tracks are so perfectly air-tight that I start to feel lightheaded). They can write a song that sounds like both Disclose and Cro-mags, and they do so in a way that I am content with dumbly banging my head instead of trying to pick apart which influence came from where. It’s a pretty nice place to be!

Lakes Blood Of The Grove LP (No Patience)
Australia’s most prominent Death In June acolytes are back at it with another LP of gothic post-punk neo-folk. This style of music is so easily mockable that I feel inclined to try to like it… these bands just seem so preposterously serious and morbid and empty that they are just ripe for a wedgie that I’d rather let someone else give. Lakes certainly fit the bill – from the chiming guitars, minor-key melodies, dramatic atmosphere, militaristic drumming and deeply affected vocals, this is as much a studied exercise as your co-worker’s Zumba class. If you can get past that, or if you just absolutely crave this sound, Lakes certainly deliver, and there isn’t anything particularly stupid or over-the-top about them – they politely sing songs about blood coming from things that normally don’t have blood, and all the imagery (old stone ruins, a sigil of moons and a knife, etc.) really just makes me want to play The Legend Of Zelda again. At least I made it through the whole review without mentioning Cult Of Youth. Wait… damnit!

Jessy Lanza Pull My Hair Back LP (Hyperdub)
I’m not sure if pop music is getting smarter, or underground music is getting greedier, but it seems like there is really no boundary between radio-pop and independent electronic music at this point. It’s both cool and troubling, but for the most part I dig the fact that nothing is out of bounds in late 2013 – a noise guy will write a Home Depot jingle, a teen-pop star will mosh at a punk show… the singularity is near. Anyway, Jessy Lanza is one of the more recent underground-grown singers performing a smarter form of pop music, and Pull My Hair Back is pretty sweet. It’s kind of like if Kylie Minogue came up going to Ramadanman and Boddika gigs, getting heavy into deep bass and post-dubstep beats while still just wanting to sing “Locomotion” or “Physical”. I get some serious Jessie Ware vibes on the (relatively speaking) torch songs, the humanoid feel of Jamie Woon on some of the upbeat tracks, and maybe even a dusting of Laurel Halo’s bizarre fingerprints on some of the more creative productions. And of course, the bangers come with that TNGHT-styled trap-rap gusto. Pull My Hair Back will probably sound hilariously dated by 2016, but I’m living for today, and happy to jam some Jessy Lanza while driving my coupe to the club (or basement show).

Murcof & Philippe Petit First Chapter LP (Aagoo / REV. Laboratories)
From the names alone, it’s pretty clear that Murcof & Philippe Petit ain’t no Brooks & Dunn, or even Simon & Garfunkel. No, these two are interested in only the strangest of soundscapes, the sort of music you’d expect to hear in a doomsday-prepper-themed haunted house run by 9/11 conspiracy theorists. The usual avant-garde ambient tone-drift shows up first, but before you know it, this dream’s become a nightmare, with disembodied opera-singing, a cat running across the inside of a grand piano, and something referred to in the credits as a “cymbalum” (I looked it up, and shame on me – it’s actually a real thing). There’s some genuine musicality being flexed on “Pegasus”, but this is mostly a long sprawling soundtrack to an art-house film that makes zero sense but has a fine time doing it, mixing acoustic and electric instrumentation into a moody, mysterious soup. I guess that makes sense, because if you intend to serve Mystery Soup at your next dinner party, First Chapter should be the first record in your queue.

The Native Cats Dallas LP (Ride The Snake / R.I.P Society)
The third Native Cats album has been out for a few months now, and I’ve been slacking on a review, simply because I’ve been having trouble figuring out how I feel about it. The Native Cats are without a doubt one of my favorite groups to sprout out of the last decade – they’re just so unique and witty and catchy and odd, but with each new album they seem to push further away from pop and deeper into uncharted territory. Dallas makes that pretty clear – the overall mood is darker than previous efforts, the tone is frequently hushed, and the melodies are more likely to have you looking over your shoulder than tapping your shoes. Definitely not a Native Cats album for beginners – you’ve gotta work yourself up to Dallas, to be familiar with where they’ve been to really appreciate where they are headed. It’s an intriguing record for sure, with some drum sounds that are so bad it must be on purpose (“Cavalier”), and an uncharacteristically noisy blast care of “Mohawk-Motif”. I can comfortably say it’s my least favorite Native Cats album, there just aren’t as many moments of ingenious wordplay mixed with New Order-worthy hooks, but I will probably pick up Dallas in five years and be shocked by how much I absolutely love it. Just one of those records!

Permanent Collection No Void 7″ (Loglady)
No Void? What, are these guys Faith fans? Anyway, this 7″ by Permanent Collection seems kind of out of place in a few ways, meaning that none of the parts necessarily fit together – you’ve got a gory death-metal cover photo for a band that seems to identify as punk, but they force the guitar into some sort of awkwardly-flanged Duran Duran shape and the singer just kinda deeply whines his vocals, the sort of whining you do when you are already late and your travel companion won’t leave the bathroom. The four songs here all tread similar tempos and tones, a very new-wave take on post-punk, with all of my least favorite guitar effects in the forefront. Not a bad EP by any means, and if you told me this came from Iceland in 1979 I might even be willing to pay like twenty bucks for it, but that just means I’m a fool, not that Permanent Collection are particularly notable.

Räjäyttäjät Awopbopaloopop Alopbam Räjä LP (Räjä)
Back with their second album in 2013, Räjäyttäjät are solidifying themselves as the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band. I’m not sure how they managed to refine their sound over the course of just a few months (or even write enough songs in that short amount of time), but this one tops their debut, which I also absolutely loved. The magic might be in the recording, which sounds like it was recorded on gas-soaked reel-to-reel tape and ignited instead of mastered. It scorches like the first Comets On Fire album or Mainliner’s Mellow Out, but instead of crushing you with feedback and guitar distortion, they use the best glam, punk and classic rock riffs to fry your brain. It’s still like an unholy mix of Ebba Grön, Sweet, Tampax and Chuck Berry, but these songs are loaded with hooks, in the form of vocal squeals or guitar riffs or whatever else they can muster. And the whole thing flows like some sort of outsider collage, thanks to the various bits of noise, talking, samples and other audio detritus that fill the gaps between tracks. I think a US pressing is on its way, but seriously, forget that IMAX film you were planning on going to see and use those thirty bucks to bring home one of these – it’s just as mind-bending of an experience, but exponentially more satisfying.

Saralee Saralee LP (Ride The Snake)
Ride The Snake seem to be hitting the indie-pop pretty hard lately. I’m okay with that, unless I find out it’s been cutting into their Life Partners budget! Anyway, here’s Saralee, a Boston duo fronted by Sara and backed up by Lee. I hate to say it, but this one’s got “local appeal” written all over it – they are probably fun to see around town or hang out with, but as someone who has no idea who Saralee is as people, this record falls pretty flat on my ears. The songs are fairly hook-less (particularly for a style that demands catchy melodies), the playing isn’t either inept or dazzling enough for me to take notice, and the singing is supremely adequate. I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something, but as I listen to Saralee, I’m reminded of numerous boring opening bands I’ve had to sit through over the years, waiting for whoever it was I want to see. I’m one of those weirdos who insists on showing up at the time specified on the flyer, and I can’t help but feel like Saralee would be one of the acts to punish me for being unreasonably prompt.

Sete Star Sept Visceral Tavern LP (SPHC)
I’ve been hankering for more Sete Star Sept after their split 10″ with Noise blew me away. Turns out they have a slew of splits and tapes and CD-rs befitting that of the heinous noise-grind band they are, so I’ll go to one of the more “proper” releases, this shiny full-length release on SPHC. The cover art is disgustingly gross, the sort of thing that I’d take for a mature-rated Japanese Playstation game. It’s almost enough to turn me off entirely, but I knew Visceral Tavern would be great, so I stayed the course. And oh, how it is! The a-side is a long list of micro gore-grind tracks, like a mix of Arsedestroyer, Gerogerigegege and Gore Beyond Necropsy, all served in tiny bites. Delicious! The b-side might even be better, though – it’s a side-long drum improvisation, flailing around like a drowning Chris Corsano, and it’s paired with vocals that are mostly just fake laughter, hyperventilation, grunting and screaming. Very Gerogerigegege in the way Sete Star Sept deconstruct the concept of horrible noise-grind, removing its vital organs (guitars and bass) and adding laughter to the mix, which manages to pervert the music more than I would have expected. Visceral Tavern probably won’t be one of my top five “desert island” records, but if the UPS guy delivered it to leaf hut instead of Appetite For Destruction or Landshark, I might not even mind.

Slow Warm Death Slow Warm Death LP (Square Of Opposition)
Nice debut album from Bethlehem, PA’s Slow Warm Death – now that’s a town in need of a good sweaty drunken young rock band if there ever was one. It’s pretty timeless, quality garage-inspired indie-punk, and I’m not saying timeless just because the Slow Warm Death website is inexplicably hosted by Angelfire – their riffs are open source for the most part, but played with the passion they deserve. I’m often reminded of a cleaned-up Coachwhips, or Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin and that whole entourage, but it’s heavy and fuzzy enough that they could’ve toured with The Fluid and Mudhoney in 1992 and it would’ve made sense too (except I’m not entirely sure that all of Slow Warm Death were born by then). They might one day have the honor of opening for Kurt Vile, but no one will mistake one for the other, you know? They mix it up enough to never get boring (the unexpected dirge that opens the b-side is particularly cool), and the whole affair seems like it intends to get a basement of drunken kids fired up, not find publicity management and gear up for ad syncs. There are plenty of bands that more or less sound like Slow Warm Death these days, but they’re one of the good ones, okay?

Systems Of Desire Control / Consumption 12″ (Happy Skull)
Another techno tag-team here, this one consisting of Hyetal and Kowton, two names associated with the Young Echo scene. I’ve been digging on a bunch of Kowton, and vaguely remember Hyetal’s name from a mix or two, but I still wasn’t prepared to love this Systems Of Desire 12″ as much as I do! “Control” has a huge current of bass running through it, but more than anything, this track swings with severity. It’s heavy and mean, but there are a few different melodies that charm it up a bit, enough where I would feel comfortable blasting this to a dance-floor of well dressed people who might run away from someone like Blawan. Maybe a slight Audion vibe too, but I don’t remember Audion ever being this dynamic. “Consumption” utilizes the same exact melody from “Control”, and while it feels like a dub version at first, Systems Of Desire turn up the heat with a giant slime-mold of bass and kung-fu percussion, forcing the track to live on its own. Definitely removed from the dance-floor, or at least a generic dance-floor, but as equally fascinating as “Control” (and perfect for listening at home, when you just wanna sink into your couch and never come out). Killer 12″ all around, and a name I have already committed to memory, for whenever it pops up in a “new releases” list next. I need more of this!

Tadzio Queen Of The Invisible LP (Edible Onion)
I don’t care if this record is just a field recording of babies crying at Wal-Mart, I’m already in love – the cover art is this beautiful hand-cut forest screen-print with an actual copper leaf floating behind it. Just making one of these must take at least half an hour, and there are hundreds of these LPs in existence! Truly beautiful packaging here, and the music of Tadzio isn’t afraid to flutter its eyelashes at me either. It’s the work of Mandy Katz and various friends, and she sings along to delightful and sprightly piano, frequently accompanied by violin, cello, harp, backing vocals, and whatever else they’ve got in the music room over at Downton Abbey. If Espers were harder into Comus than Fairport Convention, they may have had a slight Tadzio vibe, but that’s not totally dead-on, as Tadzio don’t really have anything sinister lurking beneath – this is a pond you can jump into without a giant fish slurping you up. It’s kind of like a fairy tale without an antagonist, just an airy walk through the meadow with butterflies landing on your tea cup, but in a way that is respectable and not Disney-fied. Not usually my thing, but seriously, who can say no to a cover like this?

Täx Bent Spear / Arms 7″ (No Patience)
‘Bout time Australia got their own peace-punk revival band, and it’s a good one! Sure, their artwork makes it look more like an early Fucked Up single than something on Crass Records, but the music ignores modern hardcore in favor of a more artsy take on droning agitprop punk. “Bent Spear” is like a an un-gothed Lost Tribe covering Box Of Fish’s “Erosion”, with some pretty killer electronic noise filling in where a guitar solo might have otherwise gone. Usually bands these days will keep the drumming simple, but Täx’s drummer busts out plenty of fills, and it ends up sounding great. “Arms” is surely referring to guns, not my favorite limb to wrestle with, and it’s a bit darker in atmosphere and has more going on than the a-side, but in kind of a Rudimentary Peni way, where it feels like chaos is subsuming everything, rather than a pointless mess. The vocals are pretty generic, but generic in the best way possible, as all I want with this style of music is some frown-mouthed guy bellowing about a frightening future anyway. Nicely done!

Tropic Of Cancer Restless Idylls 2xLP (Blackest Ever Black)
Another synthy goth record with a strange display of household items on a colored background! I noted Cairo Pythian’s design last month, and I swear, it’s not just a trend but a fully-blown epidemic at this point. Whatever though, Tropic Of Cancer are cool enough (and Cairo Pythian are too) that I can overlook the homogenous art styling. For as basic as Tropic Of Cancer are, they’ve managed to develop a signature sound, and it’s one that I enjoy listening to – gothic electro-pop slowed to Grief’s pace. Some of these songs are so slow that it feels like the music is on life-support, where it looks like it might be smiling but it’s actually just comatose. The vocals are so airy and echoed that they might as well just be another keyboard, and the guitars sound like a Sunn O))) remix of The Cure, ringing out for all eternity. All of that’s probably enough for me to enjoy, but the drum programming definitely comes with that Sandwell District touch; they’re very physical, slightly poisonous and equipped for full club potential. It’s the mix of beautiful goth-rock drift and menacing, snail’s-pace beats has me constantly venturing off into the Tropic Of Cancer, no doubt.

UBT Ego Orientation LP (Psychic Handshake)
I’ll admit, I’m generally not too keen on Psychic Handshake releases, as they seem to usually hit on a certain brand of lo-fi psychedelic rock music that just doesn’t rev my engine. I wasn’t expecting much from whoever UBT are, but that just worked to my advantage, as I was pleased to discover a fantastic album of exuberant pop-rock that is hard to classify but easy to enjoy. Musically, I’m reminded of anything from Royal Trux to The Apples In Stereo to King Tuff to Phoenix, as they are not afraid of a stadium-sized rock hook but insist on scuffing it up before putting it on display. It kind of fits into today’s “hold your cell phone at the band to take a crummy video instead of actually living in the moment” indie-rock world, but UBT just sound like they are absolutely delighted to be playing these songs, not like a bedroom project that accidentally got a Pitchfork “Best New Music” and then suddenly had to scramble to form a real band and play shows. There are bold guitar riffs, random flutes, at least a synth or two, a song called “I Feel Like I’m Alive” and the big-time party groove to back it up. Maybe all upper-echelon indie-rock sounds like this these days and I’m just not paying attention, but Ego Orientation is a really fun album with a high repeat-listen factor, rendering this tricky music simple and infectious.

Vaaska / Skizophrenia split 7″ (540 / Todo Destruido)
The pairing of 540 and Todo Destruido continues, scouring the globe for backpatch-worthy hardcore music. This one comes in the slowly-becoming-obsolete format of the split 7″, giving Austin, TX’s Vaaska even time with Skizophrenia (who are from somewhere in Japan – pardon my poor Googling). I figured with a name like Vaaska, these guys would be a mix of Kaaos and Totalitär (or some other hardcore band that comes from a country where moose are native animals), but it’s not any sort of homage, just sort of plain meat-and-potatoes hardcore. Not particularly strong material… somewhere between Limp Wrist and Discharge, but cleanly recorded? Skizophrenia are more my speed, mostly because the drummer is just playing these intense, super-fast rolls on what sounds like cardboard boxes of various sizes. The singer is a fairly insigificant player, if not a suitably snotty loudmouth, and the songs themselves veer somewhere between ’90s pogo-punk and say, Kikeiji or The Stalin. I tend to forget about anything besides this crazy-ass drummer though, who should probably join Dawn Of Humans and elevate them to “greatest band in the history of the universe” status. Overall, nothing to really fault on this split, which is probably the kiss of death in a musical landscape where you gotta be either really great or really atrocious to get anyone’s attention…

Veiled Veiled LP (Blind Prophet)
Veiled’s debut LP was on my mind for a while this year, after feeling the duo’s nocturnal funk through multiple live gigs. If you don’t know, Veiled is Rob Francisco (of M Ax Noi Mach and Francisco Franco) and Arnau Sala (of Vactor and the Ozonokids label), a bi-continental trip through dank club basements. This album certainly delivers the Veiled sound – imagine Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France” if it was a tour of S&M dungeons, or Giorgio Moroder slowly trying to pull off a pair of skin-tight leather pants (if you’re like me, you know how painfully time-consuming this can sometimes be). The BPM generally dips in around 100 (although faster on some of the acid tracks), making for a poor bowling score and a suitable pace for grind-bumping and bump-grinding. There’s really no evidence that the men of Veiled are “noise guys” at all on here, as Veiled is full of slinky, slimy beats and the feel of a windowless room with all the lights off, more indebted to dollar-bin New Beat 12″ singles and bad perfume than delay pedals and feedback. My only regret is that much of the material here is a couple years old, and I know from a recent live show that their songs have improved in both sophistication and catchiness. You won’t be sorry if you grab Veiled, though – I just know their best is yet to come.

Wildhoney Wildhoney 7″ (Nostalgium Directive)
Baltimore is one of those cities I just wanna root for, knowing how much under-appreciated cool crap has come out of there in the past ten years or so. Wildhoney are another recent export, and this 7″ is cool – it opens with “Like Me”, a fuzz-pop jangler that feels a grunge-free Helium, but with this weird layered effect where it feels like it’s playing on FM radio and the dial is sliding between stations. Kind of disorienting, but it’s nice to know that it’s not just electronic artists that are jacking up pop hooks these days. The rest of the EP has a similar swing, rocking in an echoing cavern, or perhaps like Belly if they were a Sarah Records artist. The recording feels deliberately woozy, but not lo-fi – there’s plenty of low end to grab onto, even as the shoegaze guitars try to pull you into space. Many bands are treading similar ground, but there’s something about Wildhoney’s particular vibe here that has me thinking they could deliver a fine album, that they are interesting and talented enough to write eight to ten songs that could keep my attention and avoid feeling too generic. I suppose there’s only one way to really know for sure though, and I hope the opportunity eventually presents itself!

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Reviews – August 2011

Anita Fix & Bam Bam Run For Joy / 20 Second Bugs 7″ (Ride The Snake)
If you remember the recent and cool Dead At 24 retrospective album that Ride The Snake put out, Anita Fix & Bam Bam is the band that followed, who I believe are still performing in some capacity, or maybe not. I hope they are, because this single is like a more distilled, punky, not-as-’90s version of Dead At 24, which means it’s pretty great. “Run For Joy” could be a KBD rocker if it didn’t get so arty… reminds me of The Girls’ “Jeffrey I Hear You” or something by Raymilland, like a new-wave group that was too punk for the pop crowd but too smart for the punk crowd. “20 Second Bugs” sounds like the live recording that it is, albeit a good one, played with a nervous energy to a crowd who seemed riled up about something other than Anita Fix. Kinda rubs me like a Moss Icon song, if Moss Icon read books that made them wiseguys instead of hippies. I don’t know, I can see this one getting lost in the shuffle (Anita Fix is probably the least self-promoting drag queen I’ve ever known), but those who stumble upon it (or discover it in the back of a singles bin ten years from now) will probably wonder the same thing: “How come I never hear anyone talk about this band?”

Atelier Méditerranée Méditerranée 7″ (Bruit Direct Disques)
Not exactly sure why some messy splatters of electro-junk are so much more palatable than others, but this wacky single by France’s Atelier Méditerranée (who appear to be more of a “workshop” for kids than an actual musical group) is the type of freakout I heartily enjoy. “Méditerranée” is the sound of sticky keyboards poking at schoolchildren until the kids erupt into moans of agony, as if Slugfuckers left the rhythm section at home and just blasted their gear after a particularly lousy day at the factory. “Flunch” is a sad and woozy tribute to the French chain restaurant of the same name, followed by “Artena”, which must be French for “half breakdown, half freakout”. Atelier Méditerranée make me think of a Reynols / Leprechaun Catering collaboration, just another fantasy of mine that’ll never happen. I’ve got this 7″ though, and that’s more than good enough.

James Blake Order / Pan 12″ (Hemlock)
By this point, nearly everyone interested in popular underground techno has taken notice of British wunderkind James Blake. The dude’s not just crafting a unique style of melodic R&B-infused dubstep, he’s got a mean set of pipes to boot, putting it all together and crafting something great. I’m certainly not alone in loving it, or awaiting his next move, so while this new Hemlock EP is far from what I’d imagine to be his next progression, it’s still a cool piece of the puzzle. Don’t expect any of his soul-tugging vocals here – both tracks are cut from the same cloth: a computer-morphed jazz kit, completely instrumental in nature. This is what I’d imagine it will sound like when my great-grandkids dig through my record collection and throw on a Pearson Sound 12″ that they found uncovered in the attic, mired with decades of dust and dander. Both “Order” and “Pan” have that out of focus patina to them, like an archaeologist had to chisel this one out of the granite to play it. Certainly not geared for the dancefloor, or the pop set, but for the “heads” who want another peek inside Blake’s studio to see what he’s been tinkering with. I can’t really recommend it for casual listeners, but I’ve uncovered more curiosities out of this one each time I spin it.

B-Lines B-Lines 12″ (Deranged / Nominal)
I was at a show in Vancouver a couple years ago, on the tail-end of a trip and completely burnt-out on music, when some young local punk band took the stage and belted out what seemed like thirty songs in fifteen minutes, rifling through their set as if their parents were due to show up at any minute and pull the plug. They didn’t announce themselves, so I had to ask around to determine that it was the B-Lines I had witnessed. It was an energizing moment, one that carries onto this nine-song 12″ EP. It’s kind of like garage-punk, if you take away the leather-jacket posturing and just let the manic energy of youth grab the reins. Kind of ’77-ish, in that modern Jay Reatard way, and nearly as hooky, but you can still skate to it. I don’t know, they’re kind of a generic band on paper, but these songs really jump off the vinyl, resulting in that same “who is this???” feeling I had watching them play. B-Lines have definitely graduated with honors from Nominal University.

Bone Awl Bowing Heads / Sunless Xyggos LP (Iron Tyrant)
Been waiting on some new Bone Awl vinyl, and here it is – this one compiles the recent Bowing Heads tape and their material off the split with The Rita. These Bowing Heads tracks are killer, showcasing a particularly clean recording (by Bone Awl standards) and classic punk guitar tone; “That Awful Voice” seriously sounds like a song off The Victims’ No Thanks To The Human Turd EP, just with a black metal troll on vocals. Not sure if this is a happy accident or what, but this guitar sound, mixed with the requisite oom-pah drumming and unrelenting intensity, is sure to appeal to anyone into angry aggressive guitar music. The Sunless Xyggos stuff, recorded in 2006, shows how little Bone Awl have progressed in their time as a band, and just how little they needed to. Still, it’s slightly messier, and heavier, and more metallic, and instrumental, too; a nice companion to the a-side. Those who already claim Bone Awl allegiance will be thrilled, but Bowing Heads / Sunless Xyggos makes for a great introduction for those previously uninitiated as well. Come for the raw strumming of the a-side and stay for the metallic crunch on the flip.

Christmas Island / Meth Teeth split 2×7″ (Sacred Bones)
I’m one of the few people who will rally behind the concept of a 2×7″, particularly when it comes to punk or indie records. The act of flipping sides is a physically intensive one, providing a record with the natural breaks it was meant to have. That said, I’m not entirely crazy about a double split 7″, as it’s an almost certainty that most people wouldn’t have bought both singles together if they were given a choice, leading to the sad condition known as Record Resentment. (Haven’t we all suffered enough? Anyone who owns the Teengenerate / Bum split knows what I’m talking about.) Still, I think this pairing is ultimately a fair one, two groups in the same league (minor) and billing (mid-card), cooperating rather than competing. Christmas Island are pleasant enough jangle-pop, like the shy younger brother of high school drop-out Nerve City and state college Dean’s Lister, Fresh & Onlys. I prefer the speedy b-side “Drawing Skulls”, but that might just be because “beach” isn’t in the title. Meth Teeth are a little grittier, as if Christmas Island locked themselves in the bathroom with a handful of Pink Reason records before entering the studio (presuming a studio was involved here). Kind of a Kurt Vile vibe here too, if you pitched Vile’s vocals down to a drooling stupor. Neither band has compelled me to check them out further, but I’d rather wake up in the back of Christmas Island’s van, as they seem like they’d be the type of band to always have a designated driver and a GPS system running. Really though, I could’ve just used that Circle Pit EP that Sacred Bones has been teasing us with for months.

Jon Convex Convexations 12″ (3024)
Never a boring label, Martyn’s 3024 imprint quietly released Jon Convex’s debut EP, Convexations. So glad it didn’t pass me by, as this is a monster EP of tech-house that manages to be both gritty and vibrant the same time, like a city street with a massive iridescent mural hanging over it. Convex works a killer 4/4 thump on “Convexations”, as if Marcel Dettmann exchanged his greyscale atmosphere for a technicolor one, in which Convex twirls this freaky little girl vocal, sounding like a spiritually-possessed thirteen year-old pop-star. “Falling Again” chops the vocals like Ramadanman in the kitchen, grabs the rhythm by its tail and hops down a wonderfully glitchy path. It’s really great, and while these tracks sound like they belong in 2011’s electronic vernacular, I can’t necessarily place Jon Convex in any of the many micro-micro-genres currently in vogue. There’s a “digital only” bonus track that I had to seek out, and that’s just as good, taking things in an acidic direction, like Audion on a particularly sadistic trip. Don’t make us wait much longer for more, Jon!

Crazy Spirit Remastered Demo 12″ (Quality Control HQ)
Crazy Spirit are this year’s scramble-to-buy hardcore band. Their records pop in and out of Big Cartel webstores like a phantom in the night; even the band itself runs out of copies at gigs, and everyone involved develops carpal tunnel syndrome folding, gluing and screening every available surface of their records. I enjoy the effort that they put into their records, and I enjoy the effort I have to put in to actually own a copy, mostly because their dingy, raging hardcore is gnarly, distinct and worth my troubles. Closest references would be the Filth’s side of the Shit Split, Quincy Punx, GG Allin with The Jabbers, or any sort of grime-encrusted punk with a melodic backbone and angry weasel on the mic. I never heard the previously mastered demo, but it comes through thick and raw here, even if the samples sound like they were recorded from a microphone aimed at the TV. Didn’t know about their tendency to bust out hobo-acoustically either, but it works well in the course of this fast-moving EP. Love the slowed down version of “Cool Death”, too. Throw in the fact that the LP sleeve is so thick and painty that it seems like there’s a record in there even when there’s not, and this is about as essential of a punk rock record that 2011 could hope to offer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go track down a copy of their I’m Dead 7″, hopefully secured by the time this review is published. (Editor’s Note: It was.)

Cuffs Privilege / Archer 7″ (Ride The Snake)
Sorry Oi! fans, it’s not that Cuffs. No, this is a band of studious, Boston-area indie-rockers stepping out with two pleasant tunes. If Vampire Weekend are straight-up Burberry at this point, Cuffs are the J Crew cardigans you found at the flea market, subtly worn-in and eventually indispensable in chillier weather. Kinda reminds me of Brown Recluse in their bookish manner, even if the music of Cuffs rocks more like Ted Leo did when he first stepped out solo. I understand that the indie-pop scene is booming, what with various localized festivals, and the Slumberland label infiltrating dorm rooms the world over, but it’s never really hooked me in. (I’ll admit it, I was disappointed when I found out that 14 Iced Bears were merely a three-piece.) Still, Cuffs make for pleasant summer listening, and at two nicely formulated tracks, my tolerance is never tested.

Deadboy Here 12″ (Numbers)
There are dubstep/funky guys out there who like to impress the home-listening crowd with their more inventive, unusual creations, and then there is Deadboy, a guy whose efforts are almost exclusively tailored to the dancefloor. He’s been pretty good with mocking-up American radio R&B into a British, dance-ready frame, which is pretty much what he does on Here, probably his most formal release to date. “Wish U Were Here” is tech-house for the mainstream set, what with its repetitive diva hooks and incessant groove, the sort of thing you could squeeze between Haddaway’s “What Is Love” and a Tiesto Britney Spears remix without disturbing the bank tellers and actuaries from their Friday night hedonism. “Here 4 U” is a little cooler, closer to the Night Slugs’ thuggish rave vibe, even if it works in a similar manner. “Ain’t Gonna Lie” closes the set with a pretty cool percussion loop that seems to be built out of ping-pong balls, an understated counterweight to the gorgeous vocal hook (choice of vocalist has always been one of Deadboy’s strong suits). I like Deadboy, and this is a cool 12″, even if it’s probably as far from a game-changer as any electronic record I’ve searched out in the past year. Simple-minded music, maybe, but something like “Ain’t Gonna Lie” always hits me in a very sweet spot.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat Rats / This Is My Sermon 7″ (Load)
I’d imagine my first experience with Ed Schrader mimics that of many others: you walk into a house show on the wrong part of town, ten unlisted bands on the bill, and as you enter the basement, there’s one guy going absolutely nuts on a floor tom, screaming until the veins in his neck reach full capacity. “Who is this guy?” Well, he’s Ed Schrader, and while this sort of thing can easily fall into “look at me” art-school posturing, Schrader’s got the vocal cords, determination and chutzpah to pull it off, throbbing as if the Coughs were consolidated into a one-man-band. Without the live visual, though, I realize just how no-wavey Ed Schrader’s Music Beat is, true to the screechy-yet-minimal bashings of Theoretical Girls or Teenage Jesus, particularly in their way of channeling a primal force to communicate all musical ideas. These two cuts go by quick (just like most of my favorite Lust/Unlust releases), and set me up in anticipation of Schrader’s upcoming Load full-length. If he ever buys himself a cymbal, who knows what the hell could happen.

Ekoplekz Live At Dubloaded LP (Further)
Along with Ekoplekz’s Wire feature a couple months back, the fact that Further Records decided to release a “live” techno record was curious enough that I couldn’t resist picking up a copy. Ekoplekz’s deal is that he’s another future-bass / minimal-techno guy from England, but he creates all his music in real-time, no Ableton allowed. Pop “Ekoplekz live” into Google Image Search and enjoy a photo of the guy with what looks like a never-ending pasta bowl of sound cables and small metal boxes before him, probably the only person on Earth who knows precisely how to operate such a mess. It’s a cool trick, even if it’s one that has comprised dozens of solo noise performances we’ve all seen before, but it only really matters if it sounds good, which thankfully Ekoplekz takes into serious consideration. You can hear him starting up tracks, testing out loops and sine-waves until they are precisely aimed at the right angle, before conjuring up a groove ripe with experimentation. Sounds come together so effortlessly and nice that it comes across like those cooking shows where they throw the ingredients in a bowl and then pull out a final version of the dish due to time constraints. It’s almost like a mix of the mellower end of the Skull Disco catalog (Live At Dubloaded isn’t too bass-heavy, really) and the electronic pleasantries of Conrad Schnitzler, Vangelis or any long-winded electronic composer (with a capital “C”). Now tell me that doesn’t sound appealing.

Exit Hippies / Filth Militia split 7″ (No Real Music)
Gotta be honest: I have no idea which side of this record is which, as the center stickers feature the same minimal design, and the grooves on this green vinyl 7″ reveal no discernible tracks (the scruffy liner notes aren’t much better). If there was ever a split where the sides don’t matter, it’s this one, as both halves are pure sonic depravity from the most psychotropical crust-punks the world has ever known. I will never not buy whatever Exit Hippies end up releasing, and apparently Filth Militia are their “other” band, so there you go. One side seems to be awful noise-core crust, while the other sounds like the violent practice session that preceded it. Are you familiar with the alarming sound of an errant needle scraping the side of your turntable, or off the grooves and onto the record’s center sticker? This is basically that without the damage (psychological and audible notwithstanding). Records like these are such a good time that I often wonder why I bother with anything else.

The Feeling Of Love Dissolve Me LP (Kill Shaman / Born Bad)
I’m not sure what French city The Feeling Of Love hail from, but it can’t be far from that place where the naked ladies dance. I loved their Avant Records single from last year, just well-played post-punk indie with a charmingly drunken swagger, like that guy with bad breath at the bar who always has a beautiful date in spite of his glaring faults. They’ve got a ton of records out now, Dissolve Me being their newest full-length, and while it’s still got that familiar charm, there’s no “Waiting For The Cheerleaders To Get Drunk” smash hits, either. If anything, The Feeling Of Love seem to have calmed down a bit here: there’s really no noise or awkward moments, just bass- and organ-led grooves, falling somewhere in the super-sized Velvets / Pavement / The Fall triangle, of which much of the world’s good rock-music supply has originated. It’s a good listen, and while the pace never seems to get too excited, I don’t find myself drifting off or wondering what other things I could be doing as I wander through Dissolve Me. My advice: pick up their single on Avant Records, and if you can’t get enough, this album is right here waiting for you.

Gas Chamber Corpse With Levity 7″ (Warm Bath Label)
My turntable is probably creeped out by the large number of all-black-everything, provocatively-named hardcore bands I slap on it. I try to make a point of listening to Apples In Stereo and Chixdiggit records just so it doesn’t think I’m some sort of sociopath. Anyway, here’s Gas Chamber, who end up suffering from their somewhat unique sound (at least for the genre they operate in). Really loud, flanger- (or maybe phaser-) effected bass is the first thing that sticks out, giving the record a weird early ’90s feel, like Kito or Helmet or something, even if the music thrashes in the way that Heroin and Civil Dissident did. I suppose if the songwriting was monstrous or nasty, or if they played through Kriegshög’s rig, it would work in some marvelous new way, but Gas Chamber don’t have the chops to lure me in. Who knows though, maybe there just aren’t enough effects, and Gas Chamber would sound insanely great if every instrument was phased and flanged to an obscene degree. I’m up for hearing it, at least.

Gas Chamber Untitled 7″ flexi (Warm Bath Label)
Apparently Gas Chamber had some extra studio time after recording their Corpse With Levity single, so they opted to jam out all forest-dronelike and press the results onto a clear vinyl square flexi, a format I’ve been seeing more and more of lately. Much like the band in hardcore mode, this slow-shifting mass of ambient unease ultimately misses the mark. It definitely has the feel of a “hey, let’s quickly try something” recording, one where a few keys are held down for a few minutes, resulting in tones that rise and fall in an uninspired way. The effects are all so familiar that the untitled track offers no weight or resonance, just a quick float through swampy terrain we’ve all traveled before (and often with sharper detail or more startling results). I don’t know, I appreciate what Gas Chamber are trying to do, and the minimal presentation of this flexi is cool, but for now I can’t imagine anyone outside of their hometown getting very excited about their existence.

The Haxan Cloak Observatory EP 12″ (Aurora Borealis)
Just when I assumed I had my fill of gothy British techno, here comes The Haxan Cloak to rattle me to my core all over again. This one is closer to the techno side of things than Raime or Demdike Stare though, and manages to work a lingering sense of dread into the tendons of the music, so as to have a bit more color than the grainy beats of Sandwell District. “Observatory” is what I’d expect would happen if Theo Parrish tried his hand at a Bauhaus edit; a looping, meditative cascade of chiming loops and electronic pulse. I was hoping this record would be good, I paid for it sound unheard, but I didn’t expect it to be this great. “Hounfour (Temple)” is the “all hands on deck!” call-to-arms for all ghosts and ghouls to head directly to the dancefloor and dance like they’re on the set of Cats. Starts with a nice bass boom that leads to something that, were it to continue to grow past ten or fifteen minutes, Kate Bush would probably start to sing over. Really killer stuff, pretty dead-on as far as home-listening techno that verges on both ambient and danceable but never quite reaches either side. Limited to 200, and probably hard to find, but most certainly worth it to those who do so.

Iron Hand Liquid Assets 7″ (Safety Meeting)
There’s gotta be a scarier economic phrase to use for one’s crust-punk 7″ than Liquid Assets, but that’s what Iron Hand went with… I’m sure Hewhocorrupts already used all the good ones anyway. As for Iron Hand’s sound, it’s not as metallic as their logo might imply – this is fist-pumping American crust, hardcore colored a brownish shade of grey due to lack of personal hygiene. State Of Fear and Tragedy have tread this path well, and come to mind while listening to Liquid Assets. Iron Hand cover The Screamers’ “122 Hours Of Fear” to wrap it up, an odd choice (and one that worked better for Le Shok), even though I appreciate Iron Hand stepping outside of their stylistic guidelines for inspiration (man cannot live on Disclose alone). Iron Hand certainly don’t disgrace their genre, and even if these songs are ultimately unremarkable, they have proven themselves patchworthy.

Kid Romance Scared Of Outside LP (Skrot Up)
More spooky-goofball home recordings from the Skrot Up label, this one from a group that seemed to go quiet shortly after the first Blank Dog wave crested. Chances are they were just saving up for Scared Of Outside, as it’s an LP packed with bedroom anxieties and plenty of cheapo keyboard rhythms. You don’t need a Musician’s Friend catalog to dissect what’s going on here, a quick trip to Walmart could probably supply you with Kid Romance’s gear list. This is definitely “Always Low Prices” music, proudly beating you in the face with sloppy strumming, pitchless singing, pre-set techno, unanticipated feedback and frequently awful mix-downs, the band wearing their mistakes like merit badges. I’d prefer another Dharma album, or maybe even another Grave Babies single, before taking this Kid Romance album into my record family, but Scared Of Outside is still enjoyably tweaked, even if obviously flawed; I’m just not sure how often I need to hear it. Those of you who still haven’t gotten over how great it was that Ariel Pink originally made the drum sounds with his mouth may want to saddle up to this one, though.

La Ligne Claire Cheri 12″ (Bruit Direct Disques)
Bruit Direct has been on a roll lately, nicely stocking the “Euro-WTF” racks of any decent record shop. Those who enjoy guitars played with the opposite hands and drummers who only own one stick will deeply dig La Ligne Claire’s Cheri, a messy six-song EP that bridges the gap between the Messthetics, no-wave and art gallery scenes through a stunning lack of dexterity and single-minded determination. It’s slow-moving, off-key and gracious, like a drunk relative trying to pretend they aren’t as they stumble toward the fridge. I’m reminded of Menstruation Sisters’ quieter moments, Reynols interpreting the Velvet Underground catalog, or The Foams, had they grown up in a barn. Somehow, in spite of the looseness, there is an undeniable link between the players (and occasional vocalists), as if they were sealed off in soundproof rooms while recording, maintaining some sort of psychic link to keep the songs together. Some of the best worst music I’ve heard this year, that’s for sure.

Love Cuts Love Cuts 7″ (Nominal)
For supposed Love Cuts, these aren’t lustful jugular slashes, more like accidental papercuts from a “do you like me check yes or no” note. This Vancouver trio relies on simplicity through the five songs on their debut EP, frequently emphasizing their lack of chops (whether real or feigned, I can’t tell) and surplus of whimsy. “Lone Wolf” and “Mimes” remind me of Go Sailor in the bass tone and through their wistful melodies, but never quite deliver that same tender touch. I don’t know, Love Cuts have an alright sound, but it seems like they purposely hold back; I get that it’s punk to play sloppily, but I think Love Cuts are the type of band who would sound better with more rehearsal, not worse. The lyrics are fun though, songs about being mimes and befriending the moon, memorable enough that if the music ever catches up, Love Cuts could become a good band instead of just okay.

Mental Powers Homoh LP (Badminton Bandit)
If The UV Race’s Homo wasn’t enough, please enjoy Mental Powers’ Homoh. Maybe these bands are playing a game of musical H.O.R.S.E., or Australia just really likes that word, but here you go. If you are familiar with the kling-klangy, restricted-improv stylings of Mental Powers, this record won’t shock you, and if you give it a spin, you might even agree that these four lengthy cuts are some of their best work yet. The a-side has a seedy, tempered tune-up that proceeds into a rhythmic jam most notable for its electronics, like a DIY, jam-band take on minimal-techno phrasing. Cool stuff. “Hamneck” opens the flip like a kraut-rock train made of paper-mache and coathangers, crisp and feeble as it rolls down the rail – and someone sings! Maybe if Trans Am were a ramshackle bedroom outfit they’d have sounded like this at some point. It ends on a wild note with “Boogaknee”, their guitars seemingly involved in a community pool splash-fight that results in multiple ejections. Only 150 copies pressed, so if you can’t locate a copy, you might as well email the label and tell them to make a couple hundred more. Just look at their discography, they clearly have nothing better to do than continually inflict Mental Powers on the world anyway.

Prurient Bermuda Drain LP (Hydra Head)
Bermuda Drain, just another spoken-word / noise / tropical-horror / techno record from Prurient… wait, what? That’s right, this is a perplexing, frequently-hilarious and consistently great new album from Prurient, a guy who pursues new ideas and personal musical freedom with disregard toward the personal feelings of the stodgy noise conservatives out there (who wants to appease those dorks anyway?). I haven’t followed everything Prurient has done, but I’ve been a fan for a number of years now, as no matter how goofy or awesome his ideas may be, there’s always a level of thoughtfulness and precision most other prolific noise artists can’t match. This one’s a pretty big step, even for him – the endless feedback textures and gutteral vocals are significantly reduced, making way for his spoken voice in stunning clarity, usually describing some eerie island crime or punishment (he even mentions “rotten plantains”), backed with synthetic atmospheres and analog loops. Sure, there’s the Cradle of Filth-via-Mortal Kombat-soundtrack cut “A Meal Can Be Made”, but it’s an anomaly that fits well within Bermuda Drain, offering a weird high-point of emotion early on. “Palm Tree Corpse” is probably my favorite, thanks to the ridiculous lyrics (you’ll have to check it out for yourself, no spoilers), but the album works so well as a solitary statement that I have trouble starting anywhere but the beginning and finishing anywhere but the end. It’s still harsh, and discomforting, and oddly poetic, like all good Prurient material, but it’s also a strange departure from anything he’s done before. I feel sorry for anyone too intent on upholding the noise status quo to avoid swirling into the Bermuda Drain.

Puce Mary & LR The Closed Room LP (Posh Isolation)
Posh Isolation have certainly developed a clear aesthetic, probably the closest modern stylistic successor to Broken Flag. Hospital Productions comes close, but Posh Isolation are just so damn grim and industrial in a specifically European way, oozing a particularly crushed, spiritless vibe that Americans can never truly muster. What better demonstration of such than this collaboration between Puce Mary and LR, two Danish downers that create crude, imposing industrial dirges, particularly while working together. Lights flicker here and there, but most of The Closed Room is just that, a bleak and windowless drywall prison where fingernails are the only means of escape. It’s so airless and distraught that much of this record makes Damien Dubrovnik’s Europa Diary seem melodic by comparison. For a proper full-body experience, turn off the air conditioning and blast the side-long “Iron Tulip”, as the stuffiness and discomfort of your space will align with the music’s Maurizio Bianchi-esque anguish like Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wizard Of Oz. These Posh Isolation LPs aren’t cheap here in the US, but I’m starting to get concerned that I may need to own them all.

San Francisco Water Cooler Five Song EP 7″ (Sun Sneeze)
San Francisco Water Cooler improve upon their debut album with these new five cuts, all ripe for a buzz bin that sadly no longer exists (petition your local cable provider to create Guitar Entertainment Network). I remember their album as kind of a hippie, sun-bleached take on lo-fi psych-rock, but these songs come from a more business-minded perspective, cutting right to the hooks and ripping into their guitar solos around the sixty-second mark. The riffs take on classic power-pop forms here and there, but it’s still fairly blown out and wild, two things for which the buttoned collars of classic power-pop never allowed. If there were a Purling Hiss, Milk Music and San Francisco Water Cooler tour package, these guys would play first, but it’d be an exciting night for anyone who longs for the days when guitars were allowed to be guitars, segregated from synthesizers and non-denim trousers.

Screen Vinyl Image Siberian Eclipse 7″ (Fan Death)
Screen Vinyl Image follow-up their Fan Death album with a quick two-song single. I like looking at the two of them on the cover, as they make for a pretty attractive shoegaze duo – there’s an ice queen in black lace looking kinda pissed next to a guy who obscures his face with shades and long hair, not quite gaunt enough to be a junkie. I can just picture them moodily grooving on “Siberian Eclipse”, firing up the Portishead-esque drum beat and letting their pedal chains launch their guitars into melodic infinity. “New Visions” starts with the sound of Mars’ ocean tide (before it dried up a million years ago) before it congeals into a happy little groove; it’s like a mix of Spiritualized and Hooverphonic, right as the sun comes up. Neither songs will flip your eyelids inside out, but Screen Vinyl Image have a pretty good handle on what they want to do, and they do more of that here. If not for the introspective pedal-heads amongst us, the Fan Death completists.

Sopors Golden Era #267 LP (Mongo Bongo Top Ten Hits)
Sopors kick off their album with “It Turns Me On”, a track that you’ll swear is Home Blitz, from the ADD guitar-jangle and vocals that sound like they are being sung an inch from your face (if your face were a Radio Shack microphone). The rest of the album, while still sounding a lot like Home Blitz’s west coast embassy, is a fun way to spend twenty-some minutes. I doubt these guys actively imitated Home Blitz, but instead arrived at the same conclusion through a fairly sharp template – polite and classic melodies played with the sloppy confidence of a boy genius in a jelly-stained polo. Kind of noisy, kind of Lookout! pop-punky, kind of something The Jam would’ve, uhh, jammed. Wasn’t totally sure at first, but by now I’m a good dozen listens deep and am eager to hear what they put together next.

Terrible Feelings Impending Doom 7″ (Sabotage / Lack Of Sleep)
I wonder what specific feelings these Swedes are dealing with… restless leg syndrome? One plate too many at Old Country Buffet? Whatever the case, I don’t think many people could use “terrible” to describe their sound, as it’s polished, angsty guitar rock that falls somewhere between Murder City Devils and Sleater Kinney. Their press sheet talks about playing shows with Cheap Time and Tyvek, but Terrible Feelings don’t really fit that snotty basement vibe; this is pro-gear underground rock performed capably well. This sort of good music isn’t generally my style, or at least I don’t spend much time with this sort of thing, but plenty of well-adjusted people out there do enjoy slightly melancholy, angsty garage-rock such as this. I guess if you still pull out your The Pattern records and wear your nicest pearl-snap flannel when you’ve got a dinner date, Terrible Feelings could only enrich your life further. There’s nothing wrong with that.

White Lung / Nu Sensae Clown Life 7″ (Deranged / Nominal)
White Lung and Nu Sensae are two bands I really want to like. They’re punk, they seem cool, and from what I’ve heard, both bands killed it when they came through Philadelphia. I missed it, and I don’t know, as much as I truly want to dig these bands, I haven’t found the right record just yet. White Lung are my favorite of the two, though: Their song is called “Aristocrat” and it’s a driving, LA-ish punk song, something with the musicality of the Dangerhouse scene and the energy of an early Maximumrocknroll compilation. Good, but no particular hook of which to speak. Nu Sensae are slightly less traditional, a bass/drums duo that seem to mash hardcore and ’90s Olympia. Not a bad idea, but from their album, and “Eat Your Mind” on here, I haven’t heard a single song I can particularly recall or specifically want to hear again. Maybe it’s the mediocre vocals, or just the songwriting, but I can’t get into this group, hard as I try. Maybe if both groups stick at it, they will knock it out of the park, and I certainly hope that they do, but this split remains some of the least thrilling punk music I’ve heard this year.

Wiccans Skullduggery LP (Katorga Works)
I’ll admit, I was disappointed to learn that Wiccans aren’t actually a hardcore band comprised of wiccans, instead just your usual selection of dudes in black band t-shirts and flannels. Whatever, I will keep hope alive that eventually such a band will exist, and in the meantime enjoy the hardcore punk of Wiccans. It’s no-frills, speedy, and aggressive, not far from Double Negative for a modern reference, and maybe 86 Mentality or Tear It Up if you want to go old-school. Kidding! It’s pretty good stuff, and the vocalist at least has his own sound (like he’s in the middle of a yawn while screaming his lyrics), but so much hardcore is good these days that I haven’t found the je ne sais quoi to keep Skullduggery fresh on my brain. Now watch as it turns out these dudes really are wiccans and my limbs slowly start to atrophy for typing this.

Zomby Dedication 2xLP (4AD)
Anonymous dubstep joker Zomby (not to be confused with the pseudonymous dubstep artist Joker) steps onto the big stage with his 4AD album debut. I’ve always enjoyed Zomby, but never to the degree that I obsess over many of his contemporaries, like Ramadanman, Burial or Cosmin TRG… something about Zomby’s material always seemed like it came from a sketch book, rather than a gallery wall. His only other full-length, Where Were U In ’92? was a cool retro experiment that exhausted one specific idea (in a good way), but everything else has been good, if fleeting. Dedication seems to step up the quality all around, but it’s not without that same ADD production style, where most tracks wrap up under four minutes (or half that), bouncing from idea to idea before anything has a chance to really marinate. It starts off great, though: the skittering, water-torture hi-hat on “Witch Hunt” sets the tone nicely, followed by “Natalia’s Song”, an above-average cut of vocal-based dubstep, wherein the lead vocal hook is chopped and splattered like the finest Hessle Audio single. After that, the tracks don’t particularly stand out from each other, but Zomby manages to assemble the record as if he was invited to put together his own Fabric mix. It bumps with a constant momentum, like it was a playlist for a club filled with elite, gear-minded techno aficionados, rather than inebriated party-goers. While Dedication may not be on the forefront of my mind in a few months, it also might be, as I’ve been spinning it a lot more than I expected, finding that its unusual twinkles and cunning beats have snuck their way further into my brain than I had originally planned.

Brutal Supremacy compilation 2×7″ (Painkiller)
As obvious fans and supporters of power-violence, I bet the Painkiller crew got sick of compilations that featured like six great bands and fourteen crappy ones… I know I have! They trimmed the fat for Brutal Supremacy until only the top four remained, all experts of the genre: Iron Lung, Mind Eraser, Hatred Surge and Scapegoat. Each band has a track called “Brutal Supremacy” (Iron Lung even went so far as to bestow that name on all three of theirs), and each band blasts with a level of quality that rivals their full-length efforts. Hatred Surge and Mind Eraser are sick as ever, but Iron Lung particularly impress me, as I love those guys personally but never totally connected with their music. (they have a guitarist now, right? Maybe that’s it.) Scapegoat are probably most notable here, though, in that their seven tracks are so specifically indebted to Crossed Out that it takes on an eerie, Single White Female vibe… the snare drum is identical, the vocals an exact replication, and they even go so far as the copy the extra-long silences between tracks that accidentally made the original Crossed Out single so distinctly intense. I mean, if you have to copy any band, Crossed Out are as worthwhile a goal as any, but the impression here is borderline tribute. If you like grindcore, I would expect that you probably own this one already anyway, keeping those Painkiller guys on a shuttle to and from the post office. If not, you’re missing out on some of the most vital music this scene has to offer.

Princess Nicotine: Folk And Pop Sounds Of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 1 compilation LP (Sublime Frequencies)
Armchair ethnomusicologists rejoice, Sublime Frequencies have reissued on vinyl the somewhat ground-breaking Princess Nicotine compilation, at least in the way it started the shift of this sort of international curation out of the hands of stuffy old white people and into the hands of, umm, weirdo crazy people. Unlike the other recent compilation reissue, Folk And Pop Sounds Of Sumatra, this is almost entirely insane music; wild, virtuosic clatter that will humble any budding Yngwie in seconds. It’s enticing stuff, music that jumps with life and color and makes No New York seem like not that big a deal. Through most of these nine tracks, I have no idea what I’m hearing (percussion is a big part of the equation, at least), but it’s not about figuring out what is happening so much as immersing one’s self in this foreign, astounding atmosphere. I love it.