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Reviews – August 2017

B-Ball Joints Blue Boy Joints LP (PRR! PRR!)
The PRR! PRR! label is my go-to for top-notch techno tricksters… last year’s Battle Break “compilation” was a stone-cold killer of hardcore techno absurdity, and the An Ultimate DJ 12″ from two years ago melded riotous banging with an acoustic guitar cover of “Wicked Game” to glorious results. So now B-Ball Joints (which I believe to be another of one Low Jack’s aliases) gets their own album, delivering the same sort of cartoonish menace that made Battle Break so strangely pleasing. There’s a ton of tracks here, and they go all over the place, from aggressive EBM to choppy breaks to techno you’d expect to accompany the Power Rangers into battle. It can be pretty cheesy, but that’s the point, riotous techno with a ’90s aesthetic, the sort of thing you’re supposed to blast while eating five bowls of sugary cereal on a Saturday morning. The vocals (of which there are a bunch inserted within) sound more like characters from He-Man’s Evil Horde than human beings, and the intensity is not unlike a small child physically threatening an adult twice their size. If Cobra Commander ever gets the DJ residency at Berghain that he’s been pushing for, I’d imagine he’d be packing Blue Boy Joints in his titanium-reinforced flight case.

Mark Cone Now Showing LP (Neck Chop)
The name “Mark Cone” had me a little confused at first: this solo synth-punk provocateur isn’t Mark Winter of the Coneheads, but actually Jackie McDermott of Urochromes. Is this some sort of intra-scene potshot, or just a strange coincidence? Whatever the case, I’ve enjoyed spending my time with Mark Cone, who behaves like Geza X on the set of a Roger Waters film, throwing around cheap props and rattling his drum machine until its AAA batteries fall out. If he doesn’t sport one of those waxed twisty moustaches and a rumpled suit while playing his aggressive punk songs on a vintage karaoke machine, he should understand that this project affords him the circumstances to do so, just like the man with the pained grimace on the cover (or could that be him?). Very manic and aggressive delivery for something that is guitar-less and driven only by pre-set keyboard sounds and carnivalesque rhythms, but McDermott sells it hard. He even reduces the music to a single repetitive plink on “Intermission (If The Cone Fits)”, but his intense confidence makes it a standout cut, displaying his microphone mastery on a song that would surely falter for a lesser vocalist, recalling vintage Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. Now Mark Winter just needs to start a project called Jacky Chrome and the circle may be complete.

Arve Henriksen Towards Language LP (Rune Grammofon)
I try to move a little slower in the sweltering summer months, so a record like Towards Language by Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen has really been hitting the spot. He’s some sort of vanguard experimental jazz trumpeter, and I’m sheepish to admit this is the first I’ve heard of him (I don’t want word getting around that I’m not up on exceptional Norwegian experimental trumpeters), but it’s a very easy record to like, no learning curve needed. Towards Language features nine tracks of sedated and smooth motifs, all locating different points on the emotional spectrum: pensive, ebullient, playful, remorseful and inquisitive. Electronics, guitar, bass and sampler all provide the understated framework that Henriksen’s trumpet fills with color, at times reaching a gratifying sound that has me imaging a particularly tender Chet Baker sessioning with Jóhann Jóhannsson. It’s a record that rewards close listening with its various tics and strange forces, but you can just as easily toss it on while napping a small child or toasting your morning bagel and feel nourished by its sound. What good is experimental jazz if it’s not versatile? Oh, and the vinyl edition comes with a CD, which reminds me of that Mitch Hedberg bit where someone handing you a flyer might as well be saying “hey, can you throw this out for me?”

Intensive Care Voyeurism 12″ (Anthems Of The Undesirable / Divergent Series)
No sooner had I assumed I wouldn’t encounter any more harsh-noise-laced power-violence this year than Intensive Care show up with Voyeurism. Like a great deal of the hardcore records that are being released these days, it’s mastered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air, and if you’re a particularly observant nerd, you know that he’s also in No Faith, the other recent noise-infused grindcore group I’ve reviewed. I have to say, while I admire Intensive Care for pursuing such a noble form of music, Voyeurism isn’t quite cutting it for me. They’re a bass/drums duo, and historically those have a tough time reaching the level of brutality that the style demands (I’m looking at you, Godstomper and No Comply, although both of you had your moments). Intensive Care are victims to this peril as well – their riffs aren’t strong enough, nor is the sole bass heavy enough to carry these songs, reminiscent in song-form to Phobia at their most straightforward and Black Army Jacket at their shiftiest. The noise is the best part, various harsh collages and effects looping around and through some of the tracks (not unlike Gasp), but it’s not enough to save Voyeurism from the discount hardcore bin full of other solid close-calls with greatness.

Joint D≠ مخابرات / Intelligence LP (Sorry State)
Been a while since the last Joint D≠ album (four years to be precise), so Sorry State corrected that deficiency by releasing last year’s Scavenger Of Death tape on vinyl. I’m not sure if Joint D≠ are still a “real band” or a studio project or on hiatus or what, but they’ve certainly amassed a righteous discography, merging familiar hardcore/punk influences into a sound that distinctly sounds like them. Like prior records, this one sounds like a mix of The FU’s and Code Of Honor with subtle garage-rock tendencies and the manic, no-breaks delivery of classic Japanese hardcore. I’ll be honest, I haven’t spun any of the earlier Joint D≠ records in a while, so I can’t comment with too much authority on any subtle stylistic shifts, but as far as I can remember this is what Joint D≠ has always sounded like, and they do it well here too. The record seems to be centered around the current global and political chaos, taking shots at the 1% and miserable tyrants controlling our lives, but I will never understand why bands put their lyrics in tiny-printed continuous blocks of text, as if they want to make it as difficult as possible to actually read what they have to say. Images of Ronald Reagan, military planes and a burning copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged make for a provocative design, but I wanna know what you’re really saying without having to fetch my magnifying glass.

Leda Gitarrmusik III-X LP (Förlag För Fri Musik)
As I’m always clamoring for more Neutral, I was pleased as punch to see that Leda, Sophie Herner’s solo venture, released a new LP. Took a little finagling to obtain a copy (shout out to the Australian shop Albert’s Basement for sourcing a copy of this Swedish record), but it was worth any financial or logistical struggles I may have faced. The title pretty much sums it up, as this album features eight tracks of “guitar music” (that’s the English translation care of yours truly). Leda usually fires up some sort of looping rhythmic structure, and either piles more sound on it or plays within its vicinity. I’m reminded of solo guitar slingers like Tetuzi Akiyama and Oren Ambarchi, but there’s something about Herner’s playing that feels distinctly PSF, like High Rise’s deconstructed rhythms are in her head and she’s clanging right along (“Gitarrmusik VI” has a particularly psychedelic stoner groove). Other tracks carry the industrial sludge of Hunting Lodge or Laibach to splendid effect. On the whole though, Gitarrmusik III-X unsurprisingly sounds more than a little like Neutral, merely with the colorful and atmospheric haze of electronics and voice stripped away. For a guitar noise record, it sure is entrancing and entertaining, about as easily digestible as this sort of thing can get while still retaining a degraded and tarnished sound. Recommended!

Long Knife Sewers Of Babylon 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Portland, OR’s Long Knife return after a couple years, now with the addition of Keith Testerman of Lebenden Toten on drums. Don’t you wish your inactive punk band could just come back to life with Lebenden Toten’s drummer? Move to Portland, I guess! Anyway, I’m sure they wouldn’t want to hear it, but there’s something about this five-track EP that has me imagining an alternate reality where Fucked Up never released any LPs and just got more and more into Poison Idea, pushing their tempos, raging guitar solos and Motörhead moves into overdrive. (Isn’t Sewers Of Babylon kind of a Fucked Up-y title, too?) I’m generally not a big fan of hardcore where you can understand every word in spite of the singer screaming, but vocalist Colin Jarrell really has the right voice for the job, even adding a welcome touch of melody (in the loosest sense of the word) to “Only A Reflection”, my personal fave of the bunch. It’s really all top notch stuff though, to the point where I was almost kind of surprised at how great Sewers Of Babylon is, even though Beach Impediment is already well established as a Hardcore Label You Can Trust.

The Mad Doctors No Waves, Just Sharks LP (King Pizza)
Brooklyn’s Mad Doctors are so familiarly garage-punk, it’s practically comforting in a time of such global uncertainty. Their album title paints a picture of pulpy beach violence, their band name conjures kooks in lab-coats and goggles, and their label name gleefully reveres garage-punk’s favorite food. It’s like they exist in a choose-your-own-adventure Ramones song, and for what it’s worth, they do the genre no disrespect. They’ve got their Ty Segall, Shannon & The Clams and Nobunny riffs down pat, and if someone isn’t spilling canned domestic beer while crowdsurfing in ripped jeans, something has gone terribly awry. There are a few moments on No Waves, Just Sharks that shake up the formula a little, if not lyrically but musically, like the strange, kinda classic-rocky sway of “Shit Hawks At Blood Beach”. The imposing monotone speakerbox voice works quite well in this setting, and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual blurry, middle-of-the-mix garage-punk holler. I’m probably the only sober geek paying attention to stuff like that, though, as the music of The Mad Doctors is clearly built for unscrupulous partying, not sonic theorizing. Screw it, I’m gonna drop my laptop on the floor, put on one of those human-sized hot dog costumes and see if The Mad Doctors need a roadie.

The Modern Institute The Modern Institute 12″ (Night School)
Sometimes I think I’ve had enough sci-fi synth-punk irritation in my life, and yet I keep buying it – even records like The Modern Institute, where I know the clear PVC sleeve’s toxic properties will eventually wreak havoc on the vinyl itself (if I ever get cancer, I’m blaming my picture disc collection). There’s something about the combination of a bitter electronic pulse and a person’s heavily-affected droll voice that I will always enjoy, and that’s exactly what The Modern Institute are offering, a Glasgow-based group featuring at least one fellow from the righteous Golden Teacher. These electronics are clinical and strict, mostly mid-range or high-pitched tones, twitching like state-of-the-art hospital equipment with a voice so echoed that I can’t even pick up the Scottish accent. Feels pretty American really, calling to mind other pessimistic synth-wavers like German Shepherds (without the depravity) and Voice Farm (without the pop aspirations), although The Normal surely factor in as well. The Modern Institute come across like a group of scientists dismayed that their research funding has been cut, with lyrics like “the universe is meaningless” sprinkled within syrupy synapses and sharp oxide puffs. Guess I’ll follow their lead and use disposable latex gloves to handle this record moving forward.

Nag No Flag 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
One cool thing about modern punk is that if I hear a new band and like them, they probably have three other records coming out soon or already available. Feels like I’m still settling into Nag’s perplexing and cool Total Punk 7″ and they’re already offering another new EP. No complaints, just observing! “No Flag” opens this one with a nice unorthodox strut – it has me imagining a world where Mayyors traveled back in time to 1978 in an attempt to influence The Urinals. Heavy snare, snotty vocals somewhere in the hiss, very pleasing all around. We get two more cuts on the flip: “Patterns” plays a little straighter, with an on-trend oom-pah punk beat, one that they play in a fiercely punk manner. Think Reatards more than Dawn Of Humans, although things get pretty slimy. “Walls” is last, a big-mouthed bop that calls to mind Cheap Time if they enlisted Shin Takayama of Framtid for drum duties (and spiritual guidance). Definitely cool, but each track hits quickly, like three little blips on your beach-side metal detector. I can only hope that when it comes to live shows, Nag pull an OFF! and play fifty songs in a standard eighty-minute set.

Natural Causes Natural Causes LP (Sorry State)
Natural Causes aren’t simply my preferred form of death, they’re a synth-friendly garage-punk band out of Carrboro, NC. Both of their prior records (a debut LP and a 7″ single) have been reviewed here, so let’s make it three for three, shall we? This new one comes on the respected Sorry State label, and maybe I’ve just been smacked with a bunch of really superior and distinct punk lately, but Natural Causes isn’t doing a heck of a lot for me. Nothing about the album sucks, they just seem to tiptoe through their songs with caution, like they’re still trying on a new outfit and aren’t entirely sure it’s a proper fit. They’re clearly aiming for territory similar to Ausmuteants and Total Control, but they lack the memorable absurdity of the former and the razor-sharp hooks of the latter. A track like “Like It Should” feels like a Total Control song at 80% strength. They opt for stranger, post-punky tunes here as well (much of their previously noisy atmosphere has been cleaned up this time around), and while it’s perfectly fine, I can’t help but think how a contemporary group like Whatever Brains excels at the same sort of unhinged delirium that Natural Causes seem to be shooting for. There’s plenty of potential here, Natural Causes just need to figure out what makes them special and amplify it.

Newworldaquarium Chubby Knuckles EP 12″ (NWAQ)
Newworldaquarium’s The Dead Bears was one of the first techno full-lengths I really got into, so he’ll always have a soft spot in my heart. But casting nostalgic devotion aside, Jochem Peteri (the man behind Newworldaquarium) keeps kicking butt, like this new EP on his own label. “Chubby Knuckles” is essentially a loop that slowly arrives, hangs and then leaves, but it’s not about the intricacy or difficulty that makes deep-house great, it’s the ability to locate a godlike loop and let it hang in suspension, just as Newworldaquarium does with this one. Jungle flutes, stomping disco kicks, bongos taken out of DJ Fett Burger’s rucksack, funk bass and a two-note guitar additive make “Chubby Knuckles” an immediately satisfying cut, each element locking together to form a Voltron-esque dance imperative. I hate to flip it, but I’ll do it for the sake of “42”, a long cut of sunbleached dub-techno hypnosis that slowly lifts up and dissipates, like fog on a lake. And if that wasn’t chill enough for your tastes, “42 (Yoga Outro)” closes the EP, to ensure all muscles are properly stretched and cramping is avoided. Meet you for green smoothies later?

Niagara Comboios 7″ (Ascender)
Niagara are easily one of the coolest groups going worldwide, and now that I’m hip to them I’m trying to snag all their new EPs, which seem to come at a brisk clip. This new one is on the moving-toward-sad-obsolescence 7″ format, and it’s great. “Ida” is the a-side cut and it’s a rainy-day dub of drum machine patter and either an ancient melodica or an affected harmonica (maybe all that Davy Kehoe listening is getting to me). It’s airy and meditative, a lonesome Portuguese reggae. “Volta” pumps up the beat on the flip with bass guitar, one-two drum kicks, unquestionable harmonica and a stuttered vocal snip, and “Calor” brings it home with a collage of sounds you might hear down by the harbor on holiday: drinks being poured, stomachs growling, waves crashing and the faint hint of last night’s dance party. There seems to be a sonic kinship with the freewheeling dance eclecticism of Dublin’s Wah Wah Wino crew, but Niagara are especially organic, at times recalling what Mi Ami might sound like if they still existed and pushed beyond their comfort levels of experimentation. Crisp and beautiful 7″ EP, it only has me wanting more.

Molly Nilsson Imaginations LP (Night School / Dark Skies Association)
Molly Nilsson hit my radar last year via 2015’s Zenith and I was immediately hooked – her music felt so fresh, catchy and strange, it was as if moody synth-pop didn’t exist before her. And to my delight, she had a reservoir of previous albums (five prior to 2015!), so I slowly submerged myself in her world, one of amazing consistency, aesthetic uniformity and of course her unique voice, androgynous and soulful and slightly inhuman, the Gollum to Nico’s Smeagol. I was quick to grab Imaginations upon release, and for whatever reason, it didn’t immediately grab me like her previous records, so I’ve spent some time with it, listening mid-day, at night, while checking my phone and while laying on the floor, eyes closed in concentration. The sounds are all in place: Caribbean moonlit grooves, Eastern Europe karaoke-machine beats, pensive melodies and Nilsson’s distinctly captivating voice, just as I’d hoped. I guess I’m just not picking up the same hooks, or disarming wordplay I’ve come to relish – a song like “Let’s Talk About Privileges” is a great concept that hits a little too bluntly, and “Not Today Satan” overtly borrows from RuPaul’s Drag Race in a way that feels more like a musical meme than classically beguiling Nilsson verse. Imaginations is a grower for sure, and it’s growing on me, but with so much Molly Nilsson to choose from (even her recent 7″ of album outtakes is catchier and more immediately gratifying), I can’t offer Imaginations monogamy.

Bill Orcutt Bill Orcutt LP (Palilalia)
Here’s a crappy game-show I’d love to watch: Bill Orcutt interprets Top 40 hits on his guitar and contestants have to buzz in to guess. That’s kind of what he’s doing here on this self-titled album, the latest in his heavy string of releases since his return to the scene in 2009. His obsession with the Great American Songbook has popped up on other releases and continues here, what is somehow his first solo electric guitar record, and also one of his most somber, tender and somnambulant. He takes traditionals like “Ol Man River”, “White Christmas”, “Over The Rainbow” and “When You Wish Upon A Star” as starting points for the unique journeys his brain likes to carve out, offering a familiar chord change within sparkling clusters of notes and string-based conversations of his own creation. These tracks are slow-burning and moody, yet serene and occasionally joyous – I can’t help but imagine Orcutt having his “I’m having a fucking moment here!” outburst at any given point through the record, like he’s so damn in love with his guitar that he’ll fight you for disturbing it even slightly (search YouTube for “Bill Orcutt having a moment” and revel in its glory). If Bill Orcutt wasn’t already positioned alongside John Fahey, Loren Connors and Jack Rose in the pantheon of iconoclast guitarists, Bill Orcutt should certainly nudge him into such a noble and elite group.

Parris Your Kiss Is Sour 12″ (Hemlock Recordings)
I don’t just enjoy listening to techno, I enjoy reading about it too, which is how I first came across Parris. Articles and reviews made him out to be this future-techno visionary, juxtaposing strange styles into a vibrant new hybrid all his own, and well, what was I waiting for? This new 12″ on Hemlock seemed like a fine place to start, and I have to say, the music threw me for a loop. Not because it was even more forward-thinking than I had imagined, but because it’s so sparse and practically empty, to the point where it almost feels like he’s putting us on. “Your Kiss Is Sour” feels like a mid ’10s Hessle Audio production with the majority of its stems muted: you get one wavy loop, a strange vocal here or there, maybe a florescent drip into a koi pond, and they just move throughout the room for six minutes. “Flowering In Three’s” is next, the only track with a functioning beat, although it’s as rudimentary as they come, augmented by crashing waves, electronic droplets and a couple other foreign synthetic tones. By the time “My Beautiful Fantasy” is reached, one can’t help but wonder if the actual music is still coming later and this is all a ruse, but it’s just as fractured and empty as the rest, coming across like an Actress cut through a stereo with the left speaker unplugged. Listening to Parris is like looking at a painting that was abandoned halfway through completion: kind of annoying at first, but if you can get past your initial disappointment, there’s a certain twisted beauty to be discovered.

Perverts Again My Accident / My Embarrassment 7″ (Total Punk)
Just when I was certain I had finally reached my quota of intentionally-demented Cleveland punk, this 7″ by Perverts Again lands in my lap and I feel like I’m ready to go another ten rounds. “My Accident” kicks it off just right: smooth, subtle, groovy punk, like Flipper with a fistful of Cheetos instead of acid and heroin. The vocalist has a great delivery, too – not overly kooky, no fake accident, but rather a well-enunciated delivery that jives with his strange tale of a doctor’s visit gone wrong. “My Embarrassment” has the same basic deal – floor toms and snare driving a mid-paced beat, with down-picked guitar/bass and the vocalist’s conversational tone, this time with the solid hook of “underneath your clothes you’re not naked”, with “naked” given the high-pitch treatment, a weird-punk calling card that never fails to please. Seriously considering crowd-sourcing the funds to cover a fancy dinner attended by the members of Bad Noids, Folded Shirt, Wet Brain, Perverts Again and Bulsch, just to sit in and listen to these guys actually speak to each other and carry on conversation. Or do they just erupt into a food fight immediately?

Piece War Apathy 12″ (Square One Again)
Good friends Tina Pihema and Barbara Rocha lived in Auckland, NZ back in 2014, and decided to do a band. Intriguingly titled “Piece War”, they recorded a few tunes and released a 10″ lathe cut (limited to thirty copies, as lathe cuts often are), now rescued from the deepest depths of obscurity by Square One Again (to what will surely be a slightly more elevated level of obscurity). They’ve got a good thing going here, which makes the reissue understandable: Pihema and Rocha play a stripped-down form of rock music that splits the difference between forlorn indie-rock and jagged post-punk. There’s just one guitar along with the drums, but it never feels empty or lacking, as though additional guitar or bass would simply crowd things. I’m picking up moments that recall Red Monkey, The Courtneys and even The Make-Up through Apathy, but Piece War are clearly just doing their own thing, with poignant and thoughtful lyrics (that I mostly had to read to understand, thanks to the guitar’s up-front jangle) capping it off nicely. Kind of bittersweet that this is probably the only thing we’ll ever hear from Piece War, but I’m trying to learn to appreciate what I already have rather than endlessly wish for more.

Pinch Water Bomb / Cold New Worlds 12″ (Cold Recordings)
When it comes to quality, non-corny dubstep, Pinch is always there (in a pinch?) to make your next crossfit playlist extra ‘eavy. I have probably taken him for granted over the years, but this new 12″ is a refreshing wake up call, reminding me just how satisfying that big, hairy-chested dubstep aggression can be. There’s really no better way to describe “Water Bomb” than its title, which truly sounds like either giant explosive-laced aquariums crashing on the street, or those spiked floating mines blowing up underwater (are those real, or a Super Mario creation?). It’s such a great sound, I’m surprised he didn’t craft an entire album around it. “Cold New Worlds” on the b-side feels like an industrial-strength, steroid-abusing remix of Girl Unit’s “IRL”, like you brought in your Chevy Lumina for a tire rotation and when you came back it was a canary-yellow Polaris Slingshot. If someone in your household hates loud video game noises, they’re going to ask you to turn this one down (or more likely, off entirely), but you can always wait until they leave to work on your solo dubstep moshing, right?

Powell New Beta Vol. 1 12″ (Diagonal)
Without sufficient warning, Powell recently dropped a new 12″ “mini-album” on his own Diagonal label following last year’s high profile XL release. I’m a huge fan so I snatched it with the quickness, although it’s taken me a few weeks of listening and processing to really get a handle on it. Time will tell if this is a random divergence from the usual Powell sound or if he’s making stylistic moves, but most of what I recognize in Powell’s music is absent here: odd post-punk / no-wave samples, lurching drums, fat acid squiggles as bass, repetitive vocal snippets snatched from an early Rough Trade 45. Powell really built up his own form through multiple 12″s and culminating with 2016’s Sport, but New Beta Vol. 1 follows an alternate evolutionary path. Rather, these tracks are mostly rudimentary drum-machine workouts, bolstered by antsy synth arpeggios and rapid rhythms. I’m reminded of the “deconstructed ’90s trance” style of Lorenzo Senni at times, in the way that this EP seems to toy with early rave sounds, trying to stunt them into a modern form, indebted to ’90s pirate radio jungle sessions instead of early industrial and electro. At first I was disappointed, but now I’m appreciative of these tunes, although I’d still take Club Music or Sport over New Beta Vol. 1 any day. Maybe, as the title implies, Powell’s just working out some bugs.

Rat Columns Candle Power LP (Upset The Rhythm)
Been thinking I should change the name of Yellow Green Red to David West New Release Update Center. Doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way, but it’s more fitting, as beloved Aussie musician David West just keeps on churning them out: new records by Liberation and Rank/Xerox are still fresh, there’s a substantial (and great) album under his own name from last year, and rumors of a new Total Control record in the near future, too. And this is only what I’m aware of! It’s a blessing that he finds himself in the studio setting so frequently, as this new LP by his group Rat Columns is great, the sort of thing I didn’t know I needed until it arrived. He moves away from emo-rock to pastoral indie bliss on this one, delivering the scotchy scent of Belle & Sebastian, with humming organs buffering the billowy guitars and West’s soft vocal delivery leading the way. I haven’t kept up with Belle & Sebastian, but aren’t they a disco group now? Regardless, Rat Columns beat them at that game with “Blinded By The Shadow”, the album’s catchy pinnacle, which feels like the holy consummation of Young Marble Giants and ABBA (yes, there’s a brief violin solo), with lyrics that the Gallagher brothers only wish they wrote: “I was blinded by the shadow that you cast”. I can only hope West finds the time to take the show on the road at some point, perhaps some sort of greatest hits extravaganza spanning all his groups. I can already picture Mikey Young in a sequined tuxedo, somewhere toward the back of the stage, holding down rhythm guitar with a smile on his face.

The Rememberables The Rememberables LP (Adagio830)
I’d love to tell you all about this record, but I really can’t recall a thing about it. Just kidding! The Rememberables appears to be DC-centric hardcore dudes trying out commercial guitar-rock, a divergence that makes sense to me. There are only so many songs a band like Coke Bust can write, and the allure of putting together a collection of pop hooks better than the pros pulls at any musician who’s toured a bit and wondered what it’d be like to play the main stage instead of the basement below. I have to say, The Rememberables came out of the box well formed, perfectly mixing Weezer’s quiet / loud guitars and thick sound with the vaguely serious emo-isms of early Foo Fighters. It’s not a distinct sound, but it certainly gets the job done: a track like “If You Should” could’ve been a Killers single before they discovered Bruce Springsteen. There’s just enough pre-mainstream emo-pop to keep it from sounding too bland (some Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World-inspired melodies here), and a laid-back vocal delivery that falls somewhere between Merchandise’s Carson Cox and Sponge’s Vinnie Dombroski (just check “Walk” and see if you aren’t picking up those vibes). My instinct was to write The Rememberables off as a ‘mersh vanity project, but I can’t deny a solid set of pop hooks when I hear them, and this concise debut has plenty.

Roll The Dice Born To Ruin LP (The New Black)
Seems like Peder Mannerfelt’s been leaving his Swedish fingerprints all over the electronic underground lately, remixing, producing and releasing a dazzling array of projects. Roll The Dice is his long-running duo with Malcolm Pardon, and this new one is glorious, hyper-focused and sinister. Songs vary wildly in tempo, but all come with a sense of intense concentration, focusing on repetitive rhythms and dark, shadowy tones. What makes it stand out is the frequent addition of Per Johansson’s saxophone, released in staccato bursts that punctuate the rhythms like exclamation points. The maddening repetitive qualities and violent horn assault often has me thinking of Swans circa Children Of God mixed with Wolfgang Voigt’s Freiland Klaviermusik – the opener “The Derailed” is a fine example of this comparison, and also why Born To Ruin sounds so good. They also behave like some sort of cyber-punk reimagination of The Stooges with a cut like “Cannonball”, although that may be pushing it, and drop a mighty piano plonk on a particularly aggressive sax line with “Bright Lights, Dark Hearts”. For such a clear set of rules, Roll The Dice express a wide range of ideas within its confines, all of which I’ve been happy to spend time exploring.

Ben Schumacher & Eric Schmid Vienna Acid 7″ (FQW)
The Fusetron description for this one pulled me right in: “Ben and Eric mock each and their careers other over a crap techno song.” Sounded like the sort of thing I’d enjoy, and as that Los Tres Pericos album still gets plenty of play around my parlor, I thought my new thing might be Musical Side-Projects Of Serious Contemporary Artists. And yet, while that brief description is a spot-on explanation for what happens here, I’ve come to regret this purchase. The a-side is an acapella version (no music, just two male voices, seemingly taken from voicemail recordings, possibly in exaggerated accents, occasionally edited with minor effects), and as I let it spin, I slowly felt the desire to slather my face in grease makeup, so that I might resemble the clown I knew I had become. I love garbled nonsense, but nothing about the a-side pulled me in, or gave me any sense beyond “yep, this is a recording of hard-to-decipher inside jokes and complaints between two dudes I don’t personally know”. The b-side slightly makes up for it, as it does indeed come with an acid-house track, spacious and lonely and amateurish, like someone’s first attempt at copying Tin Man using free software, while the exact same vocals are laid over top. Far more tolerable, but still fairly unsatisfying. Of course, the more I research the FQW label’s offerings (acapella covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “talking (German / English)”, and “an improvised audio drama”), I feel a strong urge to purchase them in spite of myself. Somebody scramble the password to my PayPal account, quick!

Sick Thoughts Songs About People You Hate LP (Neck Chop)
Just when I thought Sick Thoughts’ Drew Owen might have turned a new page and opened up his heart to joy and happiness, I checked the album title… Songs About People You Hate. What an irrepressible rapscallion! There’s probably no accurate classification, but I get the impression that Sick Things is his “main” project, maybe because it’s released the most records and the fidelity is on the higher end of the basement-fi spectrum. As far as snot-nosed leather-jacket pop-punk is concerned, Songs About People You Hate is pretty undeniable. The riffs are simplistic and familiar, the drumming is steady and mean, and Owen’s voice is ripe for the job, as if an alternate reality existed where Wavves never learned how to skate and make friends. Buck Biloxi seems like the strongest spiritual figure for Owens, though, as the majority of Sick Thoughts songs discuss their disgust, hatred, annoyance or boredom in crude and convincing fashion, with music that veers between the poppy garage-punk of Rip Off Records and classic Killed By Death standards. Not really music to truly hate yourself by, as much as songs like “Young And Suicidal” and “Wasting My Youth” seem to hope, but rather music through which you might enjoy the idea of hating yourself.

Soft Shoulder Songs & Intermissions LP (Gilgongo)
Songs & Intermissions is one of two new LPs by Soft Shoulder, both released by Soft Shoulder leader James Fella’s Gilgongo label. Gilgongo seems more and more like a clearing house for his personal work, a vinyl-based catalog of events, and if he doesn’t mind financing it, why not? The other one that came out, Repeat #4, features two long and drawn-out takes of the same track (again I say: why not?), but Songs & Intermissions is more substantial and diverse, as well as to my liking. They’ve really got a strong handle on disjointed, DIY, no-wave-inspired punk, which is explored in depth here. Echoes of Urinals, Mars, A Frames and Ex-Models persist throughout, as well as the noisy and gruff post-punk of pre-No Age group Wives. The neo-no-wave renaissance is certainly passe at this point, but that’s part of why Soft Shoulder are so satisfying – this is clearly a group making a turbulent racket because it’s a form of music they sincerely believe in, not because it’s what everyone is supposed to play this year. Things move fast and with purpose, from a crash n’ bash punk stomper to a percussion-free post-punk droner, all fitting together and generating a sense of discovery and excitement. Looks like there are at least a dozen rotating members of Soft Shoulder… I wonder if I could just sneak in to a practice someday without anyone noticing.

Taiwan Housing Project Veblen Death Mask LP (Kill Rock Stars)
Taiwan Housing Project’s debut 7″ EP was really good, and they’re a fantastic live force, but I still wasn’t prepared for Veblen Death Mask, the Philadelphia group’s first full-length. I think most sensible people would file Taiwan Housing Project under “no-wave”, but to me, no-wave infers some sort of anti-groove, a nervous and unavoidable tick that ensures rapid irritation. Taiwan Housing Project smell like that, but man do they groove, locking into these mean motorik formations as though they don’t realize every siren is wailing and their house is about implode. It’s as if you applied the chunky stomp of A Frames or The Stooges’ “Fun House” to the entire Lust/Unlust discography (played quadraphonically). And not only do Taiwan Housing Project fall deep in the pocket on many of these tracks, they’ve put together some memorable hits as well – if it takes more than two listens of “Multidimensional Spectrum” and you’re still not singing along to the chorus, I have to wonder what is seriously ailing you. It’s a special and satisfying thing, to find music that buzzes with disjointed noise while simultaneously locking your butt into a beat, so hats off to ’em!

Talker Battle Standards 12″ (Standards & Practices)
Talker is one of the mightiest units operating in the crowded realm of industrial techno – they don’t do anything particularly unique, they simply do it bigger and better. This new EP is the debut for a label run by Talker’s Jon Krohn, and it’s a great way to kick things off, complete with bold and visually-oppressive artwork to match the hard-hitting techno within. “Battle Standard” turns at 45 on the a-side, and it’s a populist take on their sound, replete with a pendulously swinging beat, a moaning wave of mid-range drone and a bass kick to knock the wind from your lungs. It’s a little faster than I feel like Talker usually runs, BPM-wise, but it’s a good fit for peak-time rave antics. “(Gold) Standard” opens the flip with a simplistic punch, dropping a hammer onto steel with a wobbling bass effect and an eventual choir of horns to announce the return of the wolves to the throne room. “Snub Nose” wraps it with a speed-bag workout that shucks and jives, a bit more nimble than the other two but nearly as bludgeoning. Back in 2014, Talker really figured out how to make Sandwell-inspired greyscale techno that is basic and elegant without being generic, and Battle Standards maintains their mastery.

Trans FX Gaslit LP (Jokes Got A Posse)
Trans FX cannot be stopped, following last year’s The Clearing with Gaslit, released on the bafflingly-named Jokers Got A Posse label (which also put out a Trans FX tape, of course). This time around, Trans FX set their sights on the post-rave Brit-pop of the ’90s, with sweeping melodic gestures, layers of keys, booming artificial drums and a vocal that slowly melts over top. They’re going hard on The Verve, The Stone Roses, definitely Spiritualized, music made by mop-topped white boys too drugged to care about anything besides love and loss and the next bag of drugs. Gaslit definitely verges on historical re-enactment at times, really trying to soak every sense in a 1992 issue of NME, right down to the trip-hop beat in “Jest Sane” that has me forcibly containing myself from shouting “you’re unbelievable!” along with it, EMF-style. I guess it’s the atmospheric strangeness, the neon-lit rain of a big city via the endlessly-cloudy home of Trans FX, Olympia, that saves the album from coming across entirely as an homage, but rather their own visualized creative expression. Or maybe Sneaker Pimps recorded an album for 4AD back in the day and Trans FX stole the tapes and slapped their name on it.

USA/Mexico Laredo LP (12XU)
Often, a new group consisting of notable ex-membership doesn’t stack up to its predecessors, but I’m here to tell you that USA/Mexico, the Austin, TX trio consisting of Craig Clouse (Shit & Shine), King Coffey (Butthole Surfers) and Nate Cross (Expensive Shit) exceeds whatever lofty expectation those toilet-centric names might inspire. Laredo is gloriously molten sludge-punk; it’s heavy as hell, just the right amount of dumb, and injects its own personality in each tune, even the Bullets For Pussy and Fall covers. That character comes in the form of rippling digital distortion, which often seems like it’s snapping the songs’ essential tendons, and a strange vocal effect, as though the voice is run through Macronympha’s noise processors or a child’s toy Yak Bak (I’m reminded of the chorus of Dr. Dooom’s “You Live At Home With Your Mom” more than once). USA/Mexico have most in common with Rusted Shut, but they utilize actual riffs more often than not (and never spiral out into ten-minute jam territory), calling to mind Kilslug, Quttinirpaaq and one of those over-fried Stickmen With Rayguns live sessions. I have faith in our youth to surpass the sonic brutality of my musical generation, but I’m wondering if anyone alive today can surpass the elder statesmen of USA/Mexico when it comes to igneous, putrid noise-rock.

Violence Creeps Ease The Seed Bag 7″ (Drunken Sailor)
Let’s say you’re Violence Creeps, and some British label sends you an email, asking to put out a single. What are you gonna say, no? Of course not, you’re going to dig up some random tracks and send it over, and make a 7″ EP like Ease The Seed Bag. The a-side features a Wormhole “variant” of “Sex Dwarf” (additional cowbell and chorus pedal?) and an “underwater edition” of “Amber Alert”. Both songs were previously released here or there, and these two versions are less direct than the Violence Creeps I’m used to hearing – I’ll take it! The b-side has two more tracks, both new as far as I can tell: “Backhand” alternates between fuzzy bass and static-cling guitar as vocalist Amber Feigel berates them both, then “Gentle” steps in like a sassy punk who just got a fresh mohawk, like something I’d expect out of Rik & The Pigs. Not the first Violence Creeps record I’d tell you to buy, but let’s be real, eventually I’d recommend that you buy them all.

Wiccans Sailing A Crazy Ship LP (Dull Tools)
Brooklyn’s Dull Tools are here to remind you that they also like hardcore-punk, care of the newest LP by Austin, TX’s Wiccans. It’s been five years since we last heard from Wiccans, but I can assure you they had no musical epiphanies since they last checked in, no maturation, no growth, no newfound appreciation of Father John Misty. For as strange and conflicting as their concept can be (they’re called Wiccans, the back cover offers a sci-fi Armageddon backstory, songs are titled “Medusa 3000” and “Sword Of Heaven”, etc.), they play a very straight-forward form of hardcore-punk, one that displays a reverence for all-forms of Black Flag without coming across as a pastiche. What’s impressive is that they take these basic, tried-and-true hardcore moves and stretch them to songs in the three-minute range without losing any intensity or urgency. As this group is a side-project in a realm of side-projects (Wiccans feature members of Video, Bad Sports, Institute and Radioactivity among surely others), it’s no surprise that they have the skill-set to craft sturdy and respectable hardcore-punk without bringing in strange sonic influences or “experimenting”. The experiment happened in 1981, the result being that hardcore was already perfect.

Xylitol Is Toxic To Pigs?? 7″ (Thrilling Living / Total Negativity)
Cretinous and radical punk is on order care of Olympia’s Xylitol, the latest Thrilling Living offering. They’ve got a distinctly modern hardcore-punk style: simplistic and speedy pogo-punk drumming, ugly mutated-street-punk riffs, moshy breakdowns and vocals that emanate from some sort of mythical forest creature (of the Grimm’s fairytale variety that tricks and eats misbehaving children). However, they also offer proof that greatness can be derived from this popular style by sheer force, as well as the ability to go bonkers as a form of catharsis (with just a smidge of nihilism). Vocalist “Mr. Meat” really conjures the heinous stink of evil spirits with her voice, like the Crazy Spirit guy on helium with the suave seductive abilities of the titular creatures in Gremlins. Plus, somehow, these songs simply stick to the inside of my skull more than others: it only took one lyric sheet follow-along for the first verse of “Bisquick” to be permanently stored in my memory, all prepped and ready to sing along (I’d print the lyrics here but they are far too obscene for this unrated website). If the cops are smart, they’ll let Xylitol walk with merely a warning, as who knows what sort of damage they’d do to the inside of a police cruiser.

Horrendous New Wave compilation LP (Fish)
The concept of the “fake punk compilation” has delighted me for years, and I’m not alone: Fat Day more or less did this with Killed By Death #11 (or maybe The Frothy Shakes truly existed at some point?), and Fucked Up did it with their David’s Town LP. There’s something about inhabiting an alternate punk reality that is infinitely exciting and aesthetically freeing, and I am fairly certain that’s what is happening here, care of Lumpy Records (although actually released by “Fish Records”) and various members of “real” bands like Rik & The Pigs, Glitter, Ausmuteants, Janitor Scum, Nosferatu and Trauma Harness, or so I’m told. It’s a pretty apt title, as these various, hilariously-named groups contribute punk-wave nervousness, sloppy synths, hilariously unfunny in-jokes, meaty rock moves and whatever tickles their fancy. You’ve got Dequantize doing a soft instrumental called “Quantize”, Knob Noster Band offering “Butthole Flag On Parade”, Sexual Christians with “Spiritual Headlock” and probably my favorite band name / song title combo, Duty Toot and “Bit By Bozo”. I should also make it clear that while the concept is hilarious and eccentric, the execution is what makes Horrendous New Wave a keeper, as each one of these semi-fictional bands are either very good or extremely great. I can only hope Lumpy and crew are programming a virtual reality headset so that I might get a chance to inhabit the universe where the artists of Fish Records live and play.

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Reviews – December 2016

Oren Ambarchi Hubris LP (Editions Mego)
I was overdue to check back in with the work of Australia’s busiest avant-garde guitarist, Oren Ambarchi, who seems to collaborate with an interesting array of characters with a frequency similar to how often I go through a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (we’re talking weekly). This new “solo” album, Hubris, features a big-band jam to include Arto Lindsay, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Ricardo Villalobos (it’s Villalobos’s presence that had me particularly excited), so I picked up a copy and am mighty pleased I did. Hubris comes in three parts: the first is Ambarchi by himself, interlocking synth-sounding guitars to create a fabric as impenetrable and ingenious as Kevlar. Briefly opening the b-side, “Part 2” has Ambarchi and Jim O’Rourke offering a soothing little snippet of guitar and “six string bass” interplay, but it’s “Part 3” that steals the show. It shares the basic framework of “Part 1”, confidently churning with the perpetual motion of Manuel Göttsching, but it’s blown out with layer upon layer of synths, guitars, live drums, edited percussion and anything else that sticks. At times, it approaches an overloaded mess, but what a mess to make! Everyone is playing off each other and having a grand old time; Ambarchi’s fuzz-baked guitar ripples through the mix while the rest of the crew follows the collective spirit. It ends with an abrupt robot voice saying “stop”, and each time I’ve listened I’ve felt disappointed that it isn’t longer than the sixteen minutes it already is. I certainly wouldn’t mind a touring act based on “Part 3”, would you?

Ancient Filth Earth Brains 7″ flexi (no label)
The one-sided 7″ flexi-disc continues to provide a budget-friendly way to get some tracks pressed on the increasingly-expensive 7″ format. All things considered, it sounds decent, looks cool (although why can’t any of these companies take the extra step to cut them into circles?), and gives a band like Ancient Filth another commodity to put out on their merch table that you listen to rather than wear. Their 2012 7″ EP was reviewed in these pages, and I’ve seen them perform live, so I can confidently confirm their status as a fun, inclusive hardcore-punk group. I wanna call them “posi-crust”, as they’ve got the fast, frantic mid-’00s hardcore sound for fans of Deathreat, What Happens Next? and The Rites and inject it with a well-wishing, optimistic world view. They’re one of those bands that probably do a lot of reading and really try to think about how they participate in the world on a socio-economic level, yet even with all that knowledge, they still fail to shower on a routine basis. Funny how that can be. It’s a good vibe to carry (if not necessarily to whiff), and these three concise songs offer good reason why you should invite Ancient Filth to play your next punk benefit fest.

Bad Noids It’s A Doggie Bag World 7″ (Feel It)
I must be hanging in the wrong circles, because I rarely hear Bad Noids come up in conversation, but they remain one of the best and gnarliest hardcore-punk bands around. My guess is that anyone who makes hardcore music this unhinged and gross must be uncomfortable to be around, and it seems as though so much of today’s hardcore popularity comes from not only one’s music but the social networks their members exist within – I can imagine Bad Noids are sending out friend requests and getting denied, their social status a poorly-updated page of broken links and blurry prank videos. “Into The Future” is the a-side and it’s a doozy, a raucous cut of rock n’ roll with a vocal delivery that has me thinking of fellow Ohioan Ron House with one of GG Allin’s most obscure backing bands behind him (haven’t we all stumbled across random bootlegs of “GG Allin and the Malibu Butt-Touchers” and wondered to ourselves?). “12 Years Old” kicks off the b-side with a speedy kick that sounds like Gordon Solie Motherfuckers on 45 instead of 33 (the Ohio connections continue!) and “My Friend Greg” feels like Electric Eels covering Angry Samoans. Three fantastic tracks here, performed so recklessly that I can’t help but imagine Bad Noids are the type of band that leave for a six-week tour with two pairs of socks, another dirty t-shirt and a deflated football. Time to see if the Bad Noids Facebook group will grant me with administrator status so I can really get their career moving.

Bib Pop 7″ (Deranged)
I chuckled when I first saw there was a modern hardcore band calling themselves “Bib” – truly all the cool words are taken at this point, I suppose. Maybe they should do a split with Pampers? Anyway, they’re from Omaha, and pretty much right on schedule for this noisy, down-tuned, moshable-yet-echo-laced hardcore sound in that they are arriving three to four years after it took over New York and Boston’s respective hardcore-punk scenes. Lots of speedy fist-pumpers on here, heavy on the toms, with barked vocals slathered in prerequisite cavernous reverb, a sound that’s admittedly cool but comes with diminishing returns each time I hear a new band play it. I think Bib’s vocalist wears black leather gloves while performing (also prominently displayed on the cover), and I dunno, maybe I am paying too close of attention to modern hardcore to be able to carelessly enjoy it, but it pains me to see trends being so clearly adhered to in a scene wherein I admire creativity and uniqueness over solid, strictly-by-the-books efforts. That said, Bib are certainly fine for the genre, and I would argue that every city, large or small, should have at least one up-to-date hardcore band playing in its basements and fire-halls, so why not Omaha, and why not Bib?

Botany Deepak Verbera LP (Western Vinyl)
I don’t know about you, but I sure could use as many escapes from reality as possible these days… fantasy-themed metal is nice (maybe it’s finally time to get deep into The Lord Weird Slough Feg), but I often gravitate toward psychedelic sonic spa treatments like this new LP from Austin, TX’s Botany, Deepak Verbera. As every other conceivable form of underground music that was once played by bands is now the careful craft of single people with studio access (or a decent bedroom laptop setup) as well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that spiritual and psychedelic jazz can be the work of one person (in this case, Spencer Stephenson). What does surprise me though is how good this sounds. Stephenson melds free-jazz drumming with electronic programming and a dozen other instruments, from those as organic and pure as flutes and zithers to the modern technology of samplers and synthesizers, and he does so in a way that it seems unfathomable to think they haven’t been commingling for years. I’m imagining Boards Of Canada remixes of Brainticket and Joe McPhee, where inorganic blips casually brush past the strings of a harp into a sampled guitar with intoxicating results. But really, it’s most fun to glaze over a bit while Deepak Verbera spins and forget about picking out what instrumentation you’re hearing at any given moment, allowing the record’s graceful ambiance and peaceful clarity to transport one’s self to an existence far beyond this troubling planet.

Brando’s Island Duplicaat / Natural Order 7″ (Million Dollar)
The world’s leading xylophone-based punk band returns with a new two-song single, and it’s as fine a time as one can have lugging a concert xylophone into a cruddy basement. “Duplicaat” is built on drums and synth with the xylophone peppering in a little pumpkin spice here and there, and it’s kind of a lurching dirge until halfway through when the drummer starts playing a disco-punk beat and everyone wakes up a little. Nice! “Natural Order” is a bit more abstract, but still pretty rocking – imagine if Eddy Current had to cover a track from one of the first couple Liars albums using only the instruments found in a prep school’s band room, and you’re in the ballpark of Brando’s Island’s particular post-punk flavor. It’s an impressive feat to do a punk band that sounds like a punk band without guitar or bass, but Brando’s Island make it seem as though stringed instruments are optional when it comes to punk rock. Good on ’em!

Breakdown The ’87 Demo LP (Painkiller / 540)
2016 is nearly over and the appreciation for ’80s NYHC style is at an all-time high. Who would’ve guessed? From boutique street-wear labels to exclusivity-valuing underground punk bands and numerous spots between, it seems like everyone wants to pose with their crew as if they were invited to contribute tracks to the New Breed tape comp, and while I can’t deny the staying-power of this particular style and era of American hardcore, it’s still a little surprising. This probably helps explain the fact that Breakdown now has two fully-furnished LP releases of archival demo and radio show material, complete with thoughtfully-considered liner notes and copious flyer reproductions (which very well might be the greatest aspect of NYHC). I didn’t realize the ’87 demo, previously released on 7″, was hard to come by, but I got mine in the ’90s and haven’t really searched for it since, so my awareness is probably horribly outdated. There’s no denying the greatness of a track like “Sick People”, with its very un-Cappo-esque chestnut “my only release is when I get smashed”, but if I already have Breakdown’s Runnin’ Scared reissue, which compiles their WNYU “Crucial Chaos” set from March 10, 1989, do I need this demo reissue, which includes their WNYU “Crucial Chaos” set from August 6, 1987? By even asking the question, I have revealed my non-lifer NYHC poseur status, although if it’s any consolation, I’d champion a No Redeeming Social Value live/outtakes/demos box-set the moment one of these selfless hardcore archivists steps up to the plate.

Marie Davidson Adieux Au Dancefloor LP (Cititrax)
Marie Davidson is half of Canadian synth-wave duo Essaie Pas, but she’s been cutting cool tracks on her own for just as long. I greatly enjoy both, and this new solo LP is what I’d consider one of her finest works yet. She may be kissing off the clubs with this title, but Adieux Au Dancefloor is still full of energetic drum programming and somewhat traditional EDM / acid techno, not unlike Factory Floor (or at least how I remember them as I haven’t kept up with the last record or two) or the gritty simplicity of Levon Vincent. It’s impossible to deny the infectious funk of a track like “Good Vibes (Mocking Birds)” by the instrumental alone, but Davidson’s power lies with her vocals, a confident spoken-word delivery that displays restlessness, wit and style. At times, listening to Adieux Au Dancefloor feels like watching a DVD with the director’s commentary on, enriching the album in a unique way. I’m reminded of the abstract poetry of AGF, Christabelle’s fantastic collaboration with Lindstrøm Real Life Is No Cool and Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s effortless self-assurance, but Davidson taps into the foolish trappings of modern society with an ease all her own. With the combined presence of her efficient beats and entertaining vocals, I am immediately suspicious of anyone who doesn’t find some sort of satisfaction in listening to Adieux Au Dancefloor.

Exploded View Exploded View LP (Sacred Bones)
I was caught by surprise by this Exploded View album – I had seen the name around, but until recently I failed to make the connection that it’s Annika Henderson’s newest group! She’s the voice behind Anika, whose debut album from a few years ago is still on frequent rotation in my household, so I was psyched to get more of her gauzy, Nico-esque voice in my life. Exploded View is Henderson with three people she met in Mexico City, initially as some sort of loose backing band but now a fully-formed unit, and this self-titled album is great. Henderson’s voice dominates, sauntering around the songs like a gracious host, but the music is quite nice as well and more diverse than Anika. The heavy inflection of dub and its sonic properties that guided Anika are mostly absent here, replaced by a cooler-than-cool form of laid-back, no-wave-inspired post-punk – imagine if Jonathan Fire*Eater auditioned for No New York and you’ve got the idea. The drums generally maintain some sort of slick off-disco beat and the guitar and bass fill in the color, with a synth either coasting above it all or thickening the groove. The songs are diverse enough that Exploded View never lags, yet Henderson’s imposing presence unifies the self-titled debut as an album that stands strongly on its own. So glad I caught on!

Haan Sing Praises 12″ (Kaos Kontrol)
Nope, Haan isn’t a solo project (get it?), it’s a Brooklyn band taking their heavy metal music with utter seriousness. Like anyone in 2016 with a penchant for heavy guitars and pummeling drums, they’ve surely devoured a wide range of works, from Pantera to Swans to Sleep to Baroness to Deadguy et al., and they smooth it out into an easily-digestible four-track 12″ EP. It works pretty well – they’re clearly capable musicians, shaking up the time signature just enough to have you smirk at its ingenuity but not so much that you lose the ability to steadily bang your head. Vocalist Chuck Berrett showcases a wide range of vocals in this fairly compact set of songs, calling to mind Alabama Thunderpussy’s Kyle Thomas, Cavity’s Rene Barge and Josh Homme at his most throat-veined. There isn’t a clear distinction to Haan’s sound, but that probably works in their favor, as I could see Tool-worshiping mall-goths, Neurosis-hoodie tattoo artists and nerds who notate Dillinger Escape Plan tablature enjoying Haan in unison. It just might be a while before they become anyone’s favorite band, so much as highly-satisfactory filler between favorites.

Heavy Lids We Believe In The Night LP (Pelican Pow Wow / Backhaus)
Heavy Lids are a New Orleans punk quartet, and like many other Southern garage-punk bands, the lingering shadow of Jay Reatard is palpable. In the case of Heavy Lids, they favor speedy hi-hats, simple Killed By Death-ready song titles like “Stab Your Face”, purposely-bad attitudes and the continuous space-fuzz of an electric organ. Prime for a one-sided Rip Off Records single in 1997, but without the slight pop-punk influence – if anything Heavy Lids are spending more of their time with classic Mountain and Free LPs while cooking their beans on the stove than The Zodiac Killers or Registrators, but there’s also enough of that out-of-control-party vibe that The Mummies perfected as well. If you’re waiting for a clear and present hit, you won’t find it here – the songs are basic, which is good, but lack a sharp, unflinching dose of personality to really push it over the top. There’s no one aspect of Heavy Lids that goes above and beyond the call of duty, but if you’re looking for a budget-rock punk band to act as your current excuse to get drunk, Heavy Lids will gladly pass you the bottle opener.

Horse Lords Interventions LP (Northern Spy)
The question of whether or not these guys are lords with domain over horses or horses who rule over a specific entity is just the sort of pointless syntax exercise one can enjoy while listening to their fancy, intricate music. I’ve seen their name around but never checked them out previous to Interventions, and it’s a nice example of how complex algorithmic music can occasionally make for fun entertainment. The instrumentation isn’t listed, but I’m hearing live drums, guitars, bass, strings, horns, computer bloops and other elements that escape my keen ears, often working out some sort of complex equation for the sake of everyone’s good time, well beyond our mere-mortal 4/4 time signature. I’m reminded of the earliest Zs material, if they had a penchant for ZZ Top and krautrock, or perhaps some breezy form of dance-punk if you infused it with the buzzwords “just intonation”, “microtonal” and “Glenn Branca”. It’s undoubtedly intellectual music, but with more than enough cowbell to go around, and plenty of songs that make me want to bop side to side buffered by shorter pieces that offer welcome breaks to the otherwise joyous energy Horse Lords invoke. Who knew music requiring such a severe level of intellect to perform could be so dumbly engaging to listen to?

Graham Lambkin Community LP (Kye)
In a time of such tumult and uncertainty, who could resist the chance to have Graham Lambkin shuffle their deck a bit with another one of his non-musical serenades? I was eager to get my hands on this one, and it delivers, as Community immediately thrusts you into Lambkin’s distinct world of unloved and obscure sound. This one is fairly heavy on the vocals, complete with printed lyrics so the truly eager among us can study and eventually mumble alongside Lambkin. There’s a bit of violin too, played in the traditional sense, as if it was a family member entertaining relatives after a holiday meal with some classics. Most insidiously, Lambkin injects nearly all of Community with extended annoying high-pitch frequencies, as if someone is rubbing the moistened rim of a wine glass throughout, the sort of sound that eventually becomes so numbing, you notice its absence more than its presence once the grooves eventually run out. Community isn’t Lambkin’s busiest material, nor is it his most minimal – each track has plenty of grip, even as they float by in a semi-conscious state, like final transmissions of The Shadow Ring located on a hard drive that was previously thought to be erased. Hoping this is the start of a theme and Lambkin’s follow-up Parks & Recreation is up next.

Lanark Artefax Glasz EP 12″ (UIQ)
While I love electronic music for the fact that it is constantly pushing toward an unknown future and away from the confines of traditional rules of thumb, I have to say that I’m already getting a little restless with all the post-Arca avant-garde malware that is showing up these days. Like the debut EP from Lanark Artefax, for instance – there’s plenty of intricate, unpredictable and ostentatious sound engineering, surely the meticulous work of a bleary-eyed laptop master, but after you listen through once, how many more times do you need to hear it? Drum machines will pop off indiscriminately, synths are just as likely to fizzle and smoke as deluge the screen with long soothing drones, and the ghosts of grime and dubstep occasionally appear to form a functional beat or two, at least until you turn on the lights and everything scatters. I really enjoy this sort of thing if the artist has demonstrated a constantly-morphing sonic trajectory (Arca and Lee Gamble) or crafted a deeply unique universe of sound (Brood Ma) or incorporated the feel of hyper-modern luxury architecture into their tracks (Egyptrixx) but when Lanark Artefax is just firing off cool patches and pads without any notable substance beyond it, I start to question my love of progress and wonder if Lanark Artefax shouldn’t have just picked up a guitar and learned some Ramones covers with his friends instead. I’d check that out too.

Brad Laner Micro-Awakenings 2xLP (Drawing Room)
This one’s a doozy – two LPs filled with as much music as possible from Brad Laner, he of ’90s shoegazers Medicine. Apparently he recorded these sixty-one tracks from 2003-2009, originally offered as a free download on the Mutant Sounds blog (those were the days), and now they’re gussied up and properly presented on two slabs of 180-gram virgin vinyl (clearly nothing less would be acceptable). If you’ve heard Medicine before, forget it, as Laner’s solo work has as much to do with shoegaze as a pair of shoes. Rather, the music within Micro-Awakenings runs the gamut of instrumental composition, from math-rock to Muzak to drone to Badalamenti-esque soundtracking to baroque composition to Elephant 6-ish pop-rock, breathlessly edited without breaks. It’s essentially the best possible result one could have from tuning into WFMU at like 2:00 AM on a Wednesday: a jumble of melodic compositions that seemingly have nothing in common with each other, played out with the frantic speed of a demented genius. I’d say the album feels an epic collage, but the word “collage” seems to betray the fact that the music here is very much music indeed – nearly every track is thoughtfully composed with an ear for melodic twists and pop chord changes, songs that Laner’s brain quickly whipped up that other actual bands would be happy to call their own. There are more notes played here than a hundred Orthrelm records, which has me feeling exhausted by its end but ultimately glad I made it through. They should sell this one with complimentary sippy-pouches of Gatorade gel, lest the exhaustion lawsuits start piling up.

Levitations Dust LP (Adagio830)
Modern dreary post-punk is a brew so tantalizing to artists, creatives, punks and former punks that it only makes sense a good portion of it would be coming out of Berlin, a city bursting at the seams with bored artistic youth. Dust is Levitations’ debut album, and it certainly fits the genre well – cloudy riffs, a tonic of distortion and echo, gothy motifs – although that’s mostly all it does. I’ve spun it a few times, hoping that if I squeeze hard enough Levitations’ inherent charm will reveal itself to me, but nothing here really sticks out. The riffs fall in the unmemorable chasm between shoegaze and garage-y post-punk, the drumming is awkward and amateurish (and I usually love unpolished and awkward drumming more than any other drumming out there), and the vocals keep time with little excitement or intrigue. This is starting to sound harsher than I want it to be, because of course Levitations are a perfectly acceptable gothy post-punk group, it’s just that passing-grade genre exercises of exhumed ’80s and ’90s rock tropes are often my least favorite sounds being made, and Levitations have yet to offer any sort of personal stamp on their work.

Liquids E.P. 7″ (Yeah You!)
Over the last year, Liquids have taken the lead from Coneheads as the most active NWI punk group, scattering their self-released tapes in person or on YouTube with total disregard for the preexisting standard way punk bands are supposed to share their recordings. And much like Coneheads thumbed their nose at traditional distribution channels, Liquids vinyl debut is on a Brazilian label with shipping costs so extreme, only a guy who runs a middling music blog could afford to order it. What can I say, I’ve been following their random tape-comp contributions on YouTube and was psyched to grab their first vinyl platter. Thankfully, the music makes it worthwhile – they’re like a less-wavey, snottier version of Coneheads, which certainly works for me. They share Coneheads’ distinct recording sound: clean and punchy bass that sounds like it was recorded direct to four-track, dollar-store guitar fuzz and ultra-precise drum fills, which ends up sounding like Back To Samoa played on 45. It’s poppy but not pop-punk and occasionally rockin’ but never garage, just classic-sounding basement punk the way most of us wish we could make it. I’m holding my copy dear, unless of course a Brazilian who missed out has some old Sarcofago they’d be willing to swap.

Peder Mannerfelt Black Homes, Or How We Lost Solidarity 12″ (Hinge Finger)
Hinge Finger is a subtle techno imprint run by Joy Orbison, and it’s one of those spots where artists seem to push their own boundaries and achieve greatness while doing so: see the fantastic CO/R EP from earlier this year, or perhaps the best hard-techno 12″ of the ’10s, Blawan’s His He She & She. Case in point is this new EP from Peder Mannerfelt, who I’ve been keeping up with but neglect to review half the time – his music often falls in the category of “music I dig but forgot that I listened to”… perhaps you can relate. I won’t be forgetting Black Holes, Or How We Lost Solidarity, though, as it’s a monster four-track EP of aggressive house warfare. Opener “Cry To Your Soul” clears the air immediately, with rapid-fire electronic artillery and a stuttering house groove, as if Shake Shakir was suddenly dropped into a Call Of Duty mission to assassinate Objekt. It’s followed by “Clear Eyes, Full Heart”, which is easily the best Friday Night Lights-themed techno banger I’ve heard, coming through like a silkier take on Blawan’s Hinge Finger EP. The techno abstraction continues on the second side, with “Savvy” busting from its cage like a rabid iteration of Sistol’s techno conservatism, and “The Great Attractor” sounding as though Metroid got caught in one of Kerridge’s industrial-techno prisons during a riot lockdown. Each track is great, but combined it’s one of the most interesting takes on hard-nosed techno I’ve heard this year and my favorite Mannerfelt since The Swedish Congo Record.

Minor Science Whities 008 12″ (Whities)
I’m still playing Avalon Emerson’s Whities EP practically daily, but I’ve been sneaking this newer Whities EP care of Minor Science a whole bunch too. The a-side “Naturally Spineless” is immediate – it chimes like light dappling through a prism, resulting in a feeling of weightlessness, at least until the melody is cut and harsh jabs of bass whiz by like a crew of mean dudes on tricked-out Ninjas. Of course, Minor Science (a British man named Angus Finlayson) is too kind to withhold those synthetic chimes for too long, and soon enough both the Ninjas and the melody are holding hands and dancing, eventually finding a perfect spot on the beach to unwind. “Underripe” is the other cut and it’s nearly as nice – I’m reminded of Egyptrixx’s detailed sound constructions with the body-moving heft of Pearson Sound or Pangaea, resulting in something I’d seamlessly mix with one of those great recent Bruce cuts to the delight of a few thousand inebriated party-goers if I ever decide to get my DJ career off the ground. I’ve already installed the Whities app on my phone, so that a sharp bolt of electricity shoots into the pocket of my pants the moment a new 12″ is released – I can’t afford to change my setting to vibrate, lest I even slightly delay in snagging another edition from this fantastic label.

Mope City Petri Dish LP (Tenth Court)
Ah, Mope City, a place that’s always cloudy, filled with closed stores and chain coffee shops where everyone sits by themselves. It’s also a group from Sydney who channel the comfort of ’90s indie-rock misery with precision and grace. At their calmest, they recall the quiet slow-core of Duster or Low, and at their most raucous I’m reminded of Kitchen’s Floor, but mostly they work somewhere in-between, strongly calling to mind Pavement as so many have before them. The main vocalist sure has a Malkmusian tongue, but he makes good with it, rendering a track like “Incessant & Dull” catchy and heartfelt while still sounding a whole hell of a lot like one of the most famous ’90s indie-rock groups. You can’t avoid catching a whiff of the throwback, but Mope City come at it earnestly, with solid tunes and plenty of messy bangs in their faces, too indifferent and lazy to toss them aside. Makes me want to put on an old moth-eaten sweater and cobble together a zine about my failed relationships.

Oh Boland Spilt Milk LP (Volar)
Coming from the sleepy municipality of Tuam, Ireland, Oh Boland are disturbing the neighbors with their raucous, affable form of poppy garage-punk. This is their first piece of vinyl, and it’s a nice summation of a lot of what’s good about melodic punk in the late 2010s. Think Eddy Current’s catchy harmlessness, The Marked Men’s slick upcycling of the Good Vibrations Records catalog, and Ty Segall’s breezy riffs and fuzzed vocals. Oh Boland do a fine job of tailoring it together to suit their needs, confident in a post-Burger Records world and acting as Irish ambassadors to all the more popular bands from more popular countries that make their way through (Oh Boland have opened for Sheer Mag, Protomartyr and Speedy Ortiz if their one-sheet is to be trusted). I didn’t pick up any super-sized hooks on Spilt Milk, and the vocals are often a little too distorted to really stick to my ribs, but they’ve got a good foundation to work from. Worth peeping, particularly if you’ve wanted to hear a garage-y power-pop band authentically sing the word “garage” as though it rhymes with “carriage” – that always hits the spot for me.

Pauwels / Uns U.P. LP (October Tone)
Took me a while to decipher this one, as both sides of the silkscreened cover say “Pauwels” and “Uns” in wild type, and those aren’t exactly two words my brain is used to picking out. The fact that they’re both French bands might explain things a little bit, and after some Googling (and deciphering which band is which, as the center labels aren’t a huge help), I can finally tell you about not just their packaging efforts but their musical ones as well. Pauwels are stridently math-rock, complete with frantic drumming, unexpected stops and starts, extended effects-droning and whatever other pieces usually fit into this sort of puzzle. Imagine A Minor Forest and Growing tossing off a collaborative LP for Troubleman in 2004, if you may. Sonically, Uns are a fine pairing for Pauwels, as they are also an instrumental math-rock group, although they offer up a few more epic rock moves, calling to mind a time when you’d hear the name “Isis” and the first thought to enter your brain is of 8″ records on six colored-vinyl variants. Never realized I’d miss those days as much as I do right now. The simple description I’ll give them is “Don Caballero aiming for a Constellation Records contract”, which I think works well enough. Can’t say I’m feeling this one much – maybe if they opted for a frantic crackly-voiced emo singer ala Jasmine or Fingerprint I’d have a little more fun. Perhaps I’ll just do the screaming myself.

Pleasure Gallows Positivity + 2 7″ (Pelican Pow Wow)
Seems like there’s a lot of fantasy-filth punk bands kicking around these days, like Pleasure Gallows for instance – the front cover depicts a futuristic porn-dungeon that would make “Mad” Marc Rude blush, with a photograph of the band on the back to reveal three dudes who look like they interned for the Mentors in 1985 before being abandoned on tour. I can take or leave this vibe, but when you’ve got a couple songs as totaled and rotten as these, I don’t care if you wear baggy khaki shorts with a drooping chain wallet on stage, I’ll lend you my support. “Positivity” is a great one – picture the mundane anguish of Section Urbane with worse guitars volleying two “chords” for under two minutes and the Aflac duck on backing vocals and you’ll start to comprehend this punk perfection. “Beer” and “Find” are a bit more traditional, kind of knowingly-corny like a particularly suburban Killed By Death group (think Meaty Buys) down in the gutter behind Max’s Kansas City trying to huff Johnny Thunders’ leather trousers. They almost play together like one track called “Beer Find” which might work even better. Not much more I could ask for from this one – even the black-and-white print job of the sleeve seems to be fading already, as if the very ink that was printed on the record’s sleeve wants to stop being associated with this project.

Purling Hiss High Bias LP (Drag City)
Damn – this is Purling Hiss’s eighth album! Feels like only yesterday Mike Polizze’s debut under the Purling Hiss guise was peeling the skin off my speakers, and now he’s got a robust discography under his belt, both solo and fully-banded. High Bias is somewhat of a new direction for the group, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a welcome shift, keeping things fresh while still catchy and full of inhuman guitar theatrics. They’re in power trio form here, and tend to operate in two general styles within that realm: classic, sun-bleached Americana rock ala The Lemonheads or The Replacements and manic, British-inspired post-punk, not unlike Wire or Public Image Ltd. I’m actually kind of blown away at the similarity between Polizze’s voice and John Lydon’s on these tracks – he pronounces the word “fire” with two Cockneyed syllables and all of “Pulsations” is nearly Sex Pistolian in its fury. Polizze delivers it so well, particularly over a bed of up-tempo and manic post-punk (“3000 AD”‘s riff sounds like it came from an unreleased In Utero cut) to the point where I’m wondering if I should finally go and check out that PiL comeback album from a year or two ago. Mix all that with the breezy pop finesse of “Follow You Around” and “Fever” (and, the tried-and-true lengthy album-ending freakout “Everybody In The USA”) and you’ve got a rock record worthy of top shelf placement.

Reckonwrong Whities 009 12″ (Whities)
I’m truly tempted to put this entire review in bold, because we’ve got a “single of the year” contender right here! I was researching the Whities label (I’m obsessed) when I saw that they just released this single by the new-to-me Reckonwrong, so I loaded it up and “The Passions Of Pez” spoke to me immediately, like a thunderbolt from God. I highly recommend you locate the YouTube video for a-side cut “The Passions Of Pez”, as the song is improved by the fantastic video of who I believe to be Reckonwrong himself dancing with various instruments and singing along to his own song. In case you haven’t rushed off to do that, allow me to describe it in hopes of tantalizing you further – elastic synths come in close contact with clip-cloppy percussion, swaying back and forth like a Mirko Loko remix of Matthew Dear, and when the vocals come in, it’s all over. A dear friend described it to me as “Dan Melchior singing over Nicolas Jaar”, and I’d say he’s onto something – the vocal is pitched in all sorts of disorienting ways, with lyrics that are as numbskulled and pathetic as a failed fart joke – needless to say, I am completely enamored. “Getting Warmer (Hot Mix)” is the flip and it’s a wonderful instrumental of clunky techno-funk, the sort of thing I’d expect Beatrice Dillon to turn in for a Perlon release, but to be quite honest, I’ve only ever listened to it in the emotional wake of “The Passions Of Pez”, using it more as a soothing comedown than a piece of music that holds its own weight. Great cover art with a cool textured sleeve, too – have you seriously not picked this up yet? Email me when this task is completed, please.

Spahn Ranch Back To The Wood LP (Dais)
Surely the gothiest of all salad dressings, Spahn Ranch were an unheralded death-rock group out of Detroit in the late ’80s, and the sharp curators over at Dais brought this collection of archival recordings to life after all those forgotten years. Many tracks here overlap with their sole 1987 album Thickly Settled (love that title), and it displays a band that clearly operated in the midst of industrial music’s turbulent integration with college rock and the last vestiges of new wave. The insert shows them as the opening group for Swans, Sonic Youth , Psychic TV and The Jesus And Mary Chain, and they certainly sound like a suitable opener for all four – martial, tom-heavy drumming, thorny guitars and a tension that can only come from reading too many texts of the occult. They clearly were aware of The Birthday Party and Xmal Deutschland, trying their best to not sound American, but there’s something happening here that reveals their origins as dudes from Detroit. While I enjoy Back To The Wood, I can’t help but shake the sense that Spahn Ranch were cast into obscurity not entirely without reason, perhaps because they sound more like a collection of influences than a unique group, and there are no breakaway tracks hidden here by any means, but I’m glad Dais continues to unearth all manner of dark and sullen underground sounds.

Uniform Ghosthouse 12″ (Sacred Bones)
Not only is Ghosthouse my favorite Scooby Doo episode, it’s the newest EP by Brooklyn’s industrial-metal duo Uniform. As far as I’m concerned, at their worst they’re just okay and at their best they achieve a level of digital-metal fierceness to exceed their forebears, and this new EP falls on the higher end of their spectrum. The a-side title-track is based on a molten shoegaze riff that seems to be played through the blades of a battle-copter, churning incessantly with a fullness that many metal quintets wish they could wield. Vocalist Michael Berdan’s snarl, not unlike that of an agitated goose, sifts through the heaviness and boom, that’s a solid Uniform track. Flip it for “Waiting Period”, a righteous metal dirge with a thin Metal Urbain drum machine leading into something Youth Code would program if they finally got that slot opening for Mastodon on tour. Kinda reminds me of a digital-hardcore version of Stick Men With Ray Guns’ “Kill The Innocent”, which is just the sort of thing I want to be hearing these days. They wrap it with a headbanger in a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe”, primed and ready to be edited next to “Jesus Built My Hotrod” in my exercise playlist. The only bummer is that I know for a fact that neither of the guys in Uniform have long stringy black hair, but there’s nothing stopping them from growing it.

Violence Creeps The Gift Of Music 12″ (Total Punk)
You want to be a lawless and unruly punk band? Here’s how you do it: release two 12″ records in close tandem, and basically break up at the same time! That’s apparently how it’s going down with Violence Creeps, a quick implosion after solid stretches of West Coast gigging (which I sadly never witnessed), but thankfully Total Punk is there to provide us with The Gift Of Music. There are six tracks here, and Violence Creeps are as disgruntled as ever, stomping mud holes as they push these tunes forward. The guitarist seems to pick up and start playing his guitar with whatever distortion and tone settings the person he’s borrowing his amp from initially chose, the bassist has an inexplicable urge to produce these frantic melodic runs (was he bitten by a Flea?) and vocalist Amber Feigel seems to truly inhabit the persona of a “Violence Creep”, be it directed internally or toward anyone in punching range. All this and the fact that The Gift Of Music was recorded and mixed by Bart Thurber at House Of Faith, who is responsible for nearly all of my favorite Agents Of Satan and Plutocracy records. Buy a copy if this sounds appealing, although I get the strong impression that Violence Creeps are already extremely dissatisfied with your behavior.

David West Peace Or Love LP (Tough Love)
Global citizen David West is never too far from a recording setup, be it portable or permanent, and he’s delivered what I consider to be one of his finest musical statements yet with Peace Or Love. You might know him from Liberation (reviewed here like a month ago), Rat Columns, Lace Curtain, Rank/Xerox or the occasional Total Control stint, but this album goes under his birth name, either because there is a deeper personal level to these songs or he simply ran out of band names. Or maybe it’s because he wrote and composed all these tracks, which cover a wide range of underground and sub-underground rock styles – hazy collages, Sebadoh-y lo-fi pop, Bruno Mars funk (“Dream On Dreamer”), Flying Nun-esque jangle, yachy-rock sleaze and No Alternative-ready buzz-binners. The only constant is his sleepy, quiet croon, as if the main guy from Belle & Sebastian forgot to sing with his British accent. Peace Or Love moves nimbly between styles, to the point where a noise squall recalling the File Under Pop 7″ feels perfectly appropriate next to the Balearic “Au Contraire” and an instrumental violin concerto, West’s parents dabbing their eyes with pride as they look on at the beauty their son created. There’s so much peace and love here; it’s truly wicked that West forces us to choose.

Worse Rubber Burner LP (Deranged)
Worse (not to be confused with The Worst or Even Worse) are a fairly new noise-rock trio out of Brooklyn, finding a home with Canada’s Deranged Records. They stick to a pretty standard formula, with heavy and jagged riffs that range from slow to speedy, booming drums and distorted vocals that never quite burble up above the mix. Thankfully, Worse’s aesthetic seems to be closer to METZ’s vague negativity than the unfortunate Brainbombs worship so many other bands are tempted by – there are no allusions to S&M nightmares or serial killing to be found in Rubber Burner, you’ll be relieved to know. Their sound falls somewhere between the aforementioned one-two grunge-punch of METZ and early Clockcleaner (particularly notable in the churning groove of “Slow Drip”), with plenty of space for guitarist / vocalist Robert Davis to one-handedly clutch his guitar against his body, delivering squealing feedback in tandem with his pained howl. The sticker says “for fans of Flipper, Harvey Milk and Cows” but you won’t find any acid-tripped pop nihilism or old-man tech-metal abuse that the first two offer, just the noise-rock drudgery of the latter. Worse don’t offer any strong sense of personality, just some workable post-hardcore songs, so I’ll let you decide if that’s enough to satisfy.