Search results for: bow & spear

Reviews – May 2015

Joey Anderson 1974 12″ (Dekmantel)
Been on the hunt for more Joey Anderson ever since his Head Down Arms Buddha Position 12″ ruffled my feathers earlier this year, and this new one on Dekmantel is a delight all its own. Gotta say, I’m absolutely infatuated with the cover art for no good reason – it looks like some weird Happy Hardcore bootleg CD, really a nice visual, and it suits these three tracks nicely. The title track is over ten minutes of methodical electronics: heavy Manuel Göttsching E2-E4 vibes but with the jilted techno acumen of Kassem Mosse. “Under Water” is like watching an 8-bit sunset slowly consumed by darkness, with a warm layer of fuzz touching all synths and a Morphosis-esque improv solo toward the end. “Back Draft” finishes off the 12″ with poison spears of various sizes aiming straight for flesh, all while a basic clap and hi-hat give the green light to the dancers waiting on the sidelines. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the many records this fine producer has under his belt, and I’m jubilant just thinking about it.

Asda Three Tracks 10″ (FuckPunk)
Is anyone else paying attention to the fantastic FuckPunk label? This new one is a 10″ (in what appears to be an 11″ bag, although I didn’t have a ruler handy), with a couple random pieces of paper stashed inside the it. No paper sleeve for the vinyl, but it comes with some info hand-taped to the b-side center sticker and ferocious post-techno, post-grime nonsense music within the grooves. Asda (whose name comes from what I believe is the English equivalent to Walmart) is Seb Gainsborough (Vessel himself) and his chum Chester Giles. The a-side features two crusty, melody-free beats, somewhere between industrial and drum n’ bass, with Giles calmly ranting about consumption and the anomie of modern life, like an alternate version of Sleaford Mods who only ever released a tape on Hospital Productions. The b-side track comparatively floats, a few corroded hi-hats clipping through a mournfully descending melody and Giles reciting a brief and glum homily. The music is great, feeling kind of tossed-off but in a way that still seems potent and crucial. Top that off with the purposely-horrible packaging (and another limited pressing – 325 copies of this one, or so I’ve read), and I will continue to proudly ride the FuckPunk train.

Blaxxx For No Apparent Reason 12″ (12XU)
As if he wasn’t busy enough with Obnox (and the semi-functioning Bassholes and This Moment In Black History), Lamont Thomas has put together Blaxxx, teamed up with the esteemed Orville Bateman Neeley III (of OBN IIIs fame) and Tom Triplett (I don’t know his deal). I’d imagine Blaxxx is more of an occasional deal, though, as Neeley and Thomas live states away (if my stalking skills are accurate). It certainly feels like a side-project, but not in a bad way, as this trio lets loose on some in-the-red rock damage, like High Rise courting a Third Man Records contract. The guitar sounds like a rocket taking off, an echoed vocal cuts through the smoke, and the bass and drums remain permanently locked in chastity together, all build and no release. Some sweet soloing on the part of Thomas too, even more impressive assuming that they probably just talked about these songs for a few minutes before letting it rip onto tape. It’s only a matter of time before Dave Grohl steps down as American Ambassador of Rock and Lamont Thomas is rightfully appointed.

Chris Brokaw The Periscope Twins 2xLP (12XU)
Chris Brokaw has as respectable of an indie-rock guitarist’s career as one can have, playing with Come and Codeine among other groups that probably would’ve reunited at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival were that company still in working order. This lengthy double-album is taken from a friends-only cassette of the same title, two uninterrupted sides of a 90-minute tape edited down into four sides of vinyl. The first two sides consist of “The Periscope Kids Are Out On the Skids, My Love”, which is basically an extended fuzzy ripple, like a fart capable of circular breathing or a distorted kazoo left to wander into outer space. I kept waiting for something to happen, and at one point on the second side it sputters out for a second – a move that normally wouldn’t be noteworthy but felt like a shock in this context. Reminds me a bit of the strange drone minimalists Nmperign, as far as content, delivery and lengthy song titles are concerned. The second LP is a bit more musical: the two tracks on sides C and D (whose combined titles would be as long as most of my reviews) are fragile and intimate sessions of chords, finger-pickings, musical phrases and wanderings, Brokaw’s guitar smouldering like an ancient candle that refuses to burn out entirely. Honestly, nothing really ever happens on the last two sides either (the extended title track is a real patience-tester), so this is one to be enjoyed in the way you might go through a sketchbook in an artist’s home studio rather than view their finished work on a gallery wall. I’m more of a gallery guy myself, but I can still appreciate this glimpse into Brokaw’s artistic process and use of spare time.

Broken Prayer Misanthropocentric A.K.A. Droid’s Blood LP (Sorry State)
For as much as I love Chicago as a city (I’ll even go to bat for deep-dish, and I say that as a born New Yorker), I’ve only truly loved a couple dozen or so of the hardcore bands to have come out of it. Broken Prayer are a newer group, and while I appreciate that they put effort into their records (this one comes with a nice book of mostly-legible lyrics) and poke little holes in the somewhat regimented hardcore aesthetic, I dunno… it’s just okay. They remind me of a cleanly-recorded Brown Sugar with synths instead of horns – stumbling, time-changing hardcore with a vocalist who pays no mind to the beat, ranting and raving as his mood dictates. I usually like when hardcore bands are total messes, but this isn’t that – Broken Prayer clearly spent time writing these songs, organizing parts, penning lyrics and deciding which synth settings to flatulate, but none of it really congeals into anything with lasting appeal. Probably fun live though, so maybe one day I’ll catch them and it’ll make perfect sense. Or, just as likely, not.

CCR Headcleaner Cokesmoker LP (Pollen Season / Stale Heat)
I’ve enjoyed the music of CCR Headcleaner since first checking out their 7″ on Caesar Cuts, where I knew them as an unhinged, acid-fried hardcore group. They’ve moved into a new realm on the subtly-titled Cokesmoker, essentially splitting the difference between two of my favorite Californian ex-punk bands, Los Cincos and (early) Comets On Fire. Through this record, they bash through classic garage tropes like a drunken chaperone at the high school dance, viciously shred their guitars as though trying to start a forest fire, and generally cause a self-righteous ruckus of which I wish I could’ve taken part. Things get a little more chaotic on the b-side, venturing into improvisation, extended audio samples and even a little acid squelch, and I honestly love every minute of it. There’s something about CCR Headcleaner’s delivery that makes it feel as though every member of the band is fully on-board with what they’re delivering, that there is zero hesitation or concern that what they’re doing might be a little too out-there or unlistenable, so I applaud these folks for finding each other and releasing this cosmic gem.

Davidians Night Terrors 7″ (Sorry State)
This Davidians 7″ is part of the Sorry State Records “North Carolina Singles Series”, which of course means uniform/generic 45 sleeves/center stickers. Not sure a singles club really suits hardcore, particularly with such a limited focus (no offense to North Carolina, as I can’t think of many states that could really sustain a hardcore 7″ singles series), but this Davidians record is cool enough for what it is. “Night Terrors” goes through a number of different parts, all of which are pretty frantic. The bass-line jabs all over the place, the guitar winds through a few different effects and the singer manages to make sense of it all. The b-side song is named “Gimme All Yo’ Dope” and it has the same general sound as the a-side, although it slithers more than skanks. The vocalist reminds me of some ’90s pop-punk band I can’t recall (30 Foot Fall, maybe? Falling Sickness?), and while that might be a red flag for most of the hardcore intelligentsia, it fits Davidians nicely.

Dogs On Acid Dogs On Acid 7″ (Ranch)
Dogs On Acid sounds like it should be some new anonymous techno release on L.I.E.S., but it’s actually a poppy, punky Philadelphian group, its members fresh from time in Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing (both also poppy and punky). Clearly, these folks know what they’re doing when it comes to good-time, post-collegiate indie-punk, as these two songs are both expertly crafted and easy to enjoy. “Make It Easy” has traces of later Pavement, hints of earlier Whatever Brains and the ghosts of Dogs On Acid’s previous bands wandering the halls, and “Waiting For You To Come Home” comes across like a punk band pretending to be Better Than Ezra for a Halloween basement gig. I’m impressed at how good it all sounds – Dogs On Acid borrow from all sorts of historical alt-rock articles and breezily spin it into something I want to hear all over again. The simple-yet-attractive packaging has me hoping people still buy 7″s and not just Bandcamp downloads these days, as this is one you won’t be shy to leave around the house.

Future Punx I’m So Inspired EP 12″ (Dull Tools)
Perhaps appropriately so, I’ve been hearing about Future Punx via the internet, and while photos of their live show never look quite as 2029 as I’d hope (I’d give their personal style a 2017 at best), lots of people seem to be sincerely enjoying this Brooklyn indie-punk group, which isn’t always the case with Brooklyn indie-punk groups. The “Ford & Lopatin trapped in the Matrix” cover art had me expecting Future Punx to sound like the Svedka vodka robot doing Blondie covers, and while I suppose I can still see it, this record mostly just sounds like classic 99 Records worship care of DFA and its affiliates circa 2002. I’m picturing Thomas Dolby fronting Liquid Liquid, The Stick Men on sedatives, The Faint if they never tried to hide their dorkiness (particularly in the lead vocal), or DEVO with a New York groove – live dance music to nerd out to, if not necessarily something worthy of the self-proclaimed “Punx” moniker. There’s at least one Ferris Bueller chase scene on here (I’ll give it to “Plus Side”), some funk guitar to round it out, and a vibe as fun as it is retro, like when you’re absolutely craving an Oreo milkshake for no good reason and end up parking next to a Johnny Rocket’s. If they work hard enough at it and tour, I could see Future Punx becoming the !!! of their generation, and there are far worse things to be.

Gay Kiss Preservation Measures LP (Sorry State)
Last autumn, I saw Gay Kiss perform in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. They came out, wearing mostly black and looking supremely pissed, and after the singer announced “we are The Gay Kiss” into the mic, a lone voice in the back of the crowd let out a “Ha-ha!”, Nelson-style, injecting their tense and negative demeanor with a splash of idiotic levity. There’s no knuckleheaded humor to be found within Preservation Measures, however, as the cover-art, resembling one of Mark McCoy’s fever dreams, ushers in a dark, menacing album. The riffs are ugly, the vocalist never goes below a full-on scream (or gurgle), and the liberal use of noise/samples/guitar effects goes a long way in distinguishing Gay Kiss from the pack. At times, it feels like Hoax if they intended to be artsy, or perhaps one of Will Dandy’s hardcore groups (Ritual Mess? Bucket Full Of Teeth?) after a particularly nasty breakup. Elements of Gravity-style screamo, Swans worship and the Youth Attack aesthetic all rear their heads at times, but it’s a sturdy and practical hardcore album through and through, the sort of record where blood, sweat and tears mix into one clear pink liquid (you can only hope it comes out in the wash).

Helmer Roccale 12″ (Valcrond Video)
Helmer’s debut EP shook me with its savagely fudgy bass-lines and sophisticated grit, and my enthusiasm continues through his second EP, this one for the upstanding Valcrond Video label (owned and operated by Mr. Torn Hawk himself). “You Say I For Me” is the a-side track, and the bass revs like an engine, calling to mind a patient, seductive Blawan mix, although this track swings through different peaks and valleys far more than an original Blawan production ever would. It’s like you can tell Helmer would love to make some crazy Aphex Twin-inspired soundwork but he loves a solid 4/4 too much, and as a sometimes-DJ myself, I love that I could just let this track play and stand there doing nothing but looking cool, knowing that Helmer already did all the work. “Corrib Chun Mask” opens the flip-side with the Knight Rider theme caught in Helmer’s helicopter blades, like a car chase across the Al-Jafr desert between two sexy cybernetic beings. “spry->Env” has the most Autechre-y name and wraps things up in a slightly different fashion, with warped Middle Eastern strings giving way to a muffled beat that could have as easily been born in Vessel’s laboratory as Black Rain’s dungeon. Bravo!

Home Blitz Foremost + Fair LP (Richie)
Daniel DiMaggio’s Home Blitz seems to be the last-man-standing from the mid-’00s weird-punk explosion, and on Foremost + Fair, he’s not standing around with his hands in his pockets so much as striding in on an armored stallion fresh from slaying a dragon or two. I don’t know how he does it, but there has been a continual and constant rate of improvement among Home Blitz records, consistently getting stranger and more unique. This one is particularly crazy (and decidedly hi-fi) – DiMaggio injects his pop-rock with a healthy dose of keyboards (pianos, synths, it seems like anything with black and white keys was played here) and an unexpected Medieval Renaissance vibe, like he’s been kicking around New York City with both Tom Verlaine and Robin Hood. Some of these tracks (“I’m That Key” in particular) almost have an emo-pop vibe, calling to mind The Anniversary and the first-wave of Vagrant Records-styled emo-punk, whereas others feel like they were written by John Renbourn after a Monty Python binge. Crazy, right? And through all this (and another minute-too-long field recording track), Foremost + Fair is his most enjoyable, complex and user-friendly record yet, mastered loud as hell to boot. I love it and you’d be crazy not to.

The Insults Stiff Love 7″ (Last Laugh)
Last Laugh already provided us with a faithful reissue of The Insults’ Population Zero EP, and they’re back again with Stiff Love, the other 7″ The Insults released back in 1979. I feel like I am just following a script with these reviews of obscure-classic punk 7″s, as the band hasn’t existed in decades and these songs (like the vast majority of Last Laugh’s reissues) are unassailable punk rock stupidity. The other Insults 7″ had a song about loving zombies, and on this one the love they describe is far more X-rated (I’ll leave it to your imagination). Speedy, jangly guitars, vocals that must’ve been recorded with a clothespin attached to the singer’s nose (no voice is that naturally nasal), safety pins and razor blades, it’s all here for your proto-pogo-punk enjoyment, forever and ever amen. These reissues might feel like a formality at times, but it doesn’t take away from The Insults’ appeal.

Jam City Dream A Garden LP (Night Slugs)
Jack Latham gave his project Jam City a pretty generic name, almost impossibly generic, and it knowingly betrayed the sheer outlandishness of Classical Curves, the debut album under this moniker. I absolutely love that record – it’s like it was composed purely out of sounds other producers discarded (dribbled basketballs, Polaroid cameras, asthmatic breathing), those unloved ingredients alchemized into a music so futuristic and singular it still sounds fresh if I put it on today. Not one to duplicate himself, Latham has changed his style dramatically for Dream A Garden, an album that leans heavily on ’80s roller-rink pop and prominently features his singing voice. I’ve listened to it a bunch, and while there still are plenty of unexpected, discordant moments, it does two things I’m not crazy about. One, it looks to the past in a way that countless other chill-wave / retro-futuristic / trendy artists have been doing for a few years now, and two, his voice (which has sort of a passive Toro Y Moi / Washed Out sheen) reminds me that this is music made by some indoor-dwelling nerd guy, rather than a sentient malware program making music as an ironic joke before it destroys society’s infrastructure (which is what I assume was responsible for Classical Curves). I want to like Lathan crooning on “Black Friday”, and I do, but I can’t help but think about how much I’d rather be listening to Classical Curves, again and again.

Kappa Chow Jump / SBTD 7″ (Kiss The World)
Look at Kappa Chow, all bundled up and ready to shovel some snow on the cover of this, their second 7″. Just like the first, it comes in a slightly-oversized sleeve with cool hand-drawn art, but musically, Kappa Chow seem to have calmed their hyperactivity, preferring a reserved cool over manic carousing. “Jump” is a gutsy title to roll with, standing in Van Halen’s shadow and all, but it’s a pretty nice tune, pairing a sassy bass-line with pop-ambient horns, scraggly guitar and a confident vocal (all leading to a solid hook, where they yell, you guessed it, “Jump!”). “SBTD” stands for “Something Better To Do”, and it’s another fun slice of peppy indie-punk, taking cues from Tyvek, The Clean and Protomartyr without losing any sincerity or naiveté in the process. If something feels slightly off when you are listening to Kappa Chow, allow me to remind you that they’re Canadian and it’ll all make sense.

Mad Virgins I Am A Computer 7″ (No Good)
The obsession with classic Killed By Death / Bloodstains 7″ reissues isn’t exclusively an American one, as the No Good label is reissuing a few choice cuts from Belgium’s Romantik Records, arguably that country’s first foray into punk rock. It’s not always the case with reissues like this one, but I am already deeply versed in the glory of this Mad Virgins 7″, as they aren’t just another quality punk band, but rather an entity that exists without contemporaries. The drummer is entirely foreign to the idea of modern rhythm, and it somehow propels the two-note riff of “I Am A Computer” and Crackerjack’s barely-post-pubescent vocal sneer, like Sid Vicious fresh out of the 6th grade. It’s easily one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard, and I mean that sincerely. “Fuck & Suck” is the b-side and it’s a beaut as well, although it mostly just makes me sad that these are the only two studio-recorded songs that exist from Mad Virgins’ punkest moment (by 1981 they sounded like a polished mix of Bay City Rollers and The Undertones). I’m not one to promote reissue vinyl, but we all need Mad Virgins in our homes, one way or another.

Melchior Productions Meditations 4-6 12″ (Perlon)
I missed Meditations 1-3, and while I have no valid excuse, allow me to divert by saying that I’m digging hard on four through six, collected here. “Meditation 4” is the long one, a solid twelve minutes of an extended vocal moan and Thomas Melchior’s trademarked percussion: snares and hats and claps that sound like tiny air puffs, delicate and crunchy. The twists and turns are subtle, but each rapidly-echoed vocal clip is like a fresh fluffing of my pillow. “Meditation 5” had me thinking it was gonna be full-on ambient until the scissor-y hi-hats kicked in and I realized I was actually at an after-hours club in Barcelona where whiskey sodas are fifteen Euro. “Meditation 6” mixes random radio-scanned vocals much like certain tracks on Ricardo Villalobos’ Sei Es Drum, all with the incessant minimal-techno snap that puts my body into motion. Probably not a game-changing EP for me or you, but Melchior Productions has provided me with so many great moments (No Disco Future was a game-changer for me and “Different Places” is a personal top-ten dance track) that I’m happy to settle into this one like a leather couch still warm from the body of its previous inhabitant.

Mystic Inane Eggs Onna Plate 7″ (Lumpy)
Mystic Inane’s name has been popping up on my radar over the past year or two, but through a variety of errors this 7″ is the first time I’m hearing them. And I couldn’t be happier! This is exactly the sort of slimed-out sludge-punk I need in my diet, operating from the Flipper / Bobby Soxx axis with just the right amount of Mutha Records-informed suburban angst. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the a-side for good reason, a simple and effective mosh part dosed in bacteria and left out in the sun, with the singer ranting off-time about eggs (on a plate, as it were). “Polite Society” is a mid-tempo punk banger, somewhere between Bad Noids, early TSOL and The Mad, complete with a grunt-based chorus, and “Manhood” continues to increase the tempo over the shortest cut on the EP. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the clear and present anthem, the sort of song I hope is played while my casket (or decorative urn) is carried to my final resting place, but the b-side cuts don’t slouch around either. Thanks a lot, Mystic Inane – it’s late, but now I’m hungry!

No Love Dogs//Wolves / Bad Things 7″ (Sorry State)
This No Love 7″ comes care of Sorry State’s “North Carolina Singles Series”, and while I was hoping to find out that they’re a So Much Hate tribute band, I was reasonably pleased with their actual aesthetic, a tuneful and speedy, rock-oriented punk sound. “Dogs//Wolves” feels like the halfway point between the classic-punk infatuation of No Hope For The Kids or The Vicious and the modern streamlined poppy-punk of Big Eyes. “Bad Things” reminds me of White Lung, the drums running overtime while cascading riffs and a disinterested vocal snarl hurry by. No Love certainly put effort into writing these songs, with multiple guitar parts, at least ten changes per track and some form of soloing. It goes down noticeably smooth, perfect for the easy-going hardcore-punk fan who may not sport an Off! hat but likes them just the same.

OD / MB Shplittin’ The Shtones LP (no label)
Record of the month right here! This one pits my new favorite Morgan Buckley alongside his friend Olmo Devin, hence the OD and MB in the title (these folks don’t make it easy for us, do they). According to some credits I’ve found, Buckley plays on at least one of Devin’s tracks, so I’m not sure if this is a traditional split or a collaborative effort or what, but I’m going to stop worrying about how to categorize this record and allow its utter beauty to wash over me. Both sides carry the essence of Morgan Buckley’s 12″ debut, as they casually blend Arthur Russell, Deodato, Blues Control and La Düsseldorf into something entirely new, relevant and stunning. OD’s side tends toward the glossier, groove-based side of their spectrum, dropping rocks (or shall we say “shtones”) into Brian Eno’s pond and letting them ripple in beautiful rings, both controlled and wild, whereas MB’s side leans experimental, chopping up a spoken vocal, teasing various noises over a stoic beat or vibing out on backwards loops. Something about Shplittin’ The Stones is just so perfect for me, as it manages to be calm and hypnotic and brash and weird all at the same time, all effortlessly so. I’m crazy about it!

Person Of Interest Person Of Interest 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Stepping up from the L.I.E.S. minor-leagues of Russian Torrent Versions and L.I.E.S. white-label editions, Person Of Interest steps it up with an official L.I.E.S. 12″, replete with actual cover art (and it’s cool – a blurry image of a dude somehow performing a fade-away dunk). The music has a decent dose of character too: “What You Think You Want” isn’t just another anonymous basement-techno jam, as it rides a wiggly arpeggio over a well-worn house beat and a Beau Wanzer-esque vocal (is that a Yak Bak he’s using?). “Keep It Moving” kicks off the flip with a similar punchy vibe, presided by a seasick theremin and a swinging low-end. I’d guess that “My 97’s” refers to sneakers (as opposed to the Old variety), and it’s the slowest of the three, sounding nicely tweaked as it pairs a stern string section with an 8-bit squeak, like Actress sneaking onto the set of Dr. Who. A keeper for sure, and while I enjoy the plain uniformity of L.I.E.S.’s black DJ sleeves, this Person Of Interest 12″ makes me want to hit the courts and vigorously box people out.

Pinkwash Cancer Money 7″ (Sister Polygon)
Pinkwash are a mighty new Philadelphia duo, sporting drums, guitar through a big mess of amps and vocals with just the right layer of spittle. I hadn’t really heard them before, but I trust Sister Polygon to place only the sweetest sounds on vinyl, and there’s no disappointment here. “Cancer Money” is so revved-up, beefy and KARP-like that I swear the singer Joey was going to go into that “ding dong I’m fucking with your head” line from KARP’s “Bastard Of Disguise”, but instead he repeats a couple of his own angry lines over steamroller drums and methodical two-note riffing. “Skin” opens with a soothing tone-poem before entering a slowed form of rock catharsis, summoning a rhythmic progression somewhere between Rush and Sleep before riding out on a couple thick notes ala the title track. Both tracks showcase a nice confluence of beauty and brawn, and with a Pinkwash album in the planning stages (or so I hope), I plan on enthusiastically enjoying Cancer Money while waiting on more.

Quttinirpaaq Dead September LP (Rural Isolation Project)
Upon opening this one up, my first thought was, “I love the first two Quttinirpaag LPs, but do I really need a third one, particularly so quickly?” I hate to admit that now, as all it took was two seconds of listening to Dead September to realize that I need as much Quttinirpaaq in my life as possible. It opens with a killer Nine Inch Nails / Guns N’ Roses “You Could Be Mine” drumbeat and doesn’t quit, even as layers of guitar feedback and sonic irritants are splattered all over it. And then the next track feels like Suicide trapped inside Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which should make your brows perk up upon reading if you are at all a fan of this website. The rest of the record is just as heavy, relentless and captivating, veering into Vatican Shadow-esque techno, Ramleh-esque noise guitar and Con-Dom-esque power-electronics with equal amounts of dedication and glee. I’ve never had the urge to carve anyone’s name into my body, but I’m starting to think a “Quttinirpaaq” logo in Old English lettering across my stomach might be an attractive first tattoo.

Sex Snobs Lonely LP (no label)
Was hoping for a Sex/Vid collaboration with The Snobs here, but sadly the chances of that happening are slim. Rather, this is an Oklahoma City-based group (someone cool’s gotta live there, right?), and while I was expecting hardcore of some sort (they even go the Old English band-name-font route), this is chugging, groovy, heavy rock music. I’m quickly reminded of Halo Of Flies, Drive Like Jehu, or any band that once played a show with Big Drill Car. They’re really pushing the negative vibes here, with songs like “Sick As A Dog”, “Pissin’ The Bed” and “The Idiot Room”, which boasts the lyrics “I am a professional at making people frown”. Definitely the type of band with guys who say stuff like “we bummed everyone out, it was so great” as though it were some sort of accomplishment. I for one am not bummed out by Lonely, though, as Sex Snobs have proved to be quite capable with their driving, beefy rock songs, favoring tuneful mean-spirited rock over hissing feedback and distortion.

Soft Shoulder Fabric 7″ (Alien Summer)
Holy Moses, Gilgongo continues to run up their credit card bill with three new Soft Shoulder 7″s, each released on hilarious fake-label names (this being an Alien Summer release). I’m a Soft Shoulder fan, so I liked checking these out, although the superfluousness of multiple short 7″s released at once by the same artist does seem a little silly, even to a fan of the format like me. “Fabric” is a good way to kick things off, chugging along like Black Time or Tyvek trying out for a Troubleman Unlimited contract. There are two tracks and an interlude on the flip, sounding like a paper-thin A Frames (“Set It Down”), a quiet jazz practice tune-up (the aforementioned interlude) and then another tom-heavy lo-fi punk stomp (“Set It Down”). Good band for sure, and I hope at least someone out there is filing these Soft Shoulder 7″s next to that Rancid forty-six 7″ box-set.

Soft Shoulder Stair 7″ (Weird Machine)
Here’s the second of the three Soft Shoulder 7″s that just came out, and I’m not gonna write about the third one (it’s cool too) simply because no band deserves three reviews in a single month. This one is also really good, some more tuneless punk crunch on the a-side, flowing into an even crunchier “interlude” and then a slowed-down version with horns (“Stair” appears twice on the a-side). It’s a gnarly enough riff that I’m down to hear it at two different speeds, so why not? Flip it for “Wyld Parrots” which is a Wounded Lion cover (remember them?) but through sonic texturalization it sounds like any other Soft Shoulder track, and the EP wraps up with “Happy Birthday, Iggy”, a personalized tune that is dear to my heart as I also know a delightful young boy named Iggy. Clearly Soft Shoulder had some tracks in the basement that needed clearing out, and it’s been one yard sale I’m glad I stopped by.

The Spirit Of The Beehive The Spirit Of The Beehive LP (Ice Age / Ranch)
The Spirit Of The Beehive’s self-titled debut album is covered in adorable childhood photos, images of cute trick-or-treaters and birthday-cake-eaters who presumably make up some of the membership of this group. Throw on the record and these images are quickly framed in a nostalgic gloom, care of the layered guitar tracks, stacked effects and despondent melodies that fill it up. Generally, modern shoegaze-pop isn’t my bag, but something about The Spirit Of The Beehive seems so carefully considered that I fall into its dusty beanbag chair quite easily. Occasional moments of Weezer and Radiohead (especially Radiohead) fandom pop up, but the album’s flow is orchestrated in such a way that the falsetto-vocal woe-is-me moments crop up right when they have the most impact, just as the occasional power-chord hooks do. I’m not sure if The Spirit Of The Beehive is depressed or delighted when they look back at these old photos, but it’s been fun trying to figure it out.

Talker Talker LP (Downwards)
The mysterious Talker is back, following his/her/its/their debut 12″ with a full-length on the formidable Downwards label. It’s more of the same, but in a good way, as this self-titled album (also called “Hari” in some locales) is a solid mix of techno-derived industrial music. Demdike’s endlessly rippling ride cymbal is present, alongside Raime’s glacial pacing and Concrete Fence’s penchant for noise, leading to a decidedly modern and referential industrial-techno record. One of my favorite tracks is the Kerridge-produced “Meniscus” (which also features his now-trademarked rusty-bullhorn vocals), not just because it’s simple, spacious and monotonously heavy, but because I like to imagine that all these foreboding, shadowy producers hang out together, showing off new runes they found near the river’s mouth and discussing cryptic hand tattoos they’re thinking about getting. The beautiful packaging sets this one off too, and while I may be a sucker at some point, I’m too busy enjoying the world of Talker to care.

Timeghost Cellular LP (Load)
I can’t help but associate Providence, RI (and Load Records in particular) with crazy hand-made artwork – besides the Wolf Eyes crew, this is the town that gave birth to the “CD-r packaged in six different hand-screened paper inserts” vibe that left such a mark on the ’00s underground. Anyway, this Timeghost LP really ups the ante with some of the most attractive LP packaging I’ve seen in a while, a screened and die-cut outer sleeve with bizarre printed insert beneath, and it’s the perfect home for this set of outside-the-box electronic experiments. It’s a hard record to place, which I dig – the music is often frantic in nature, what sounds like homemade noise-boxes and modified VCRs transmitting gobbledegook and alien morse code. I’m reminded of Irr. App. (Ext.), Panicsville and Ultra, but you could just as easily file this one under “IDM” or “Dark Ambient” (as evident on Cellular‘s Discogs page) and I would have little room to argue. While listening, I often feel like I’m inside a busy bus terminal, although the terminal is actually just the magnified inside of a microchip, and then Timeghost starts up with his unhurried whisper of a vocal (it’s as if he’s right over your shoulder) and the discomfort suddenly becomes all too real. Load’s still got it, no doubt about that!

The Zoltars The Zoltars LP (Happenin)
Third Zoltars album in four years, and while statistically my interest should decline in this mellow, wounded indie-rock band (the uniformly drab cover art doesn’t exactly shock the senses), they just keep getting better (and I enjoyed them from the start). On this self-titled record, they pick up the pace a bit, as if vocalist Jared Leibowich finally changed out of the clothes he slept in and ventured outside, even if it’s just to sit at a coffee shop for a few hours. Leibowich still sounds like he’s calling out from the inside of a locker some jock just stuffed him in, and it provides his simplistic-yet-thoughtful lyrics with a depth some normal-voiced guy would be unable to attain. It works well with the simplistic garage-rock tropes on display here (light-hearted Monks riffs, 13th Floor Elevators progressions, that sort of thing), pushing The Zoltars into a more listener-friendly direction without compromising their eccentricity. It’s like they finally got a date, resulting in an artistically-appealing cocktail of confidence and awkwardness.

Hardcore: Gimme Some More compilation 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Gotta give it up for Beach Impediment going with a 7″ compilation EP release, the likes of which are pushed further and further into obsolescence due to the internet making any/all music instantly available for listening (not to mention the slow death of the 7″ as a format people are actually willing to purchase). I was raised on hardcore compilations, so the very concept touches my heart, not to mention the funny title and fittingly prerequisite “random photo of destruction” cover art. There are six bands on this one, probably all Chaos In Tejas alumni: S.H.I.T., Peacebreakers, Mercenary, Impalers, Violent End and Ajax. Great lineup for this EP, as none of the bands turn in throwaways (and you may already know I’ve got much love for Impalers and Ajax in particular), and aesthetically it’s a winner, as all six bands have a very similar mindset for what works in hardcore and what doesn’t. If it wasn’t for the vocalists, this could be the work of one single band, and for raging modern hardcore, it works perfectly.

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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″ (Electronique.it)
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 Electronique.it 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!