Reviews – November 2021

Anz OTMI001 12″ (OTMI)
Had a recent realization that I need more fresh electronic dance music in my life… been feeling malnourished in that department. Good thing there’s Anz then, coming through with this highly satisfying two-track EP. “Unravel In The Designated Zone” is the a-side, and it’s the hit for sure, a smooth-yet-bouncy cut that you’ll want to call back immediately. Try to imagine if Drexciya were from the West Coast and linked up with Too $hort’s Dangerous Crew in a heady beat-making session – I swear this cut sounds as fabulous as the hypothetical I just laid out. When that leading synth hook hits, it feel as good as a swished three-pointer, and it hits frequently! Reminds me a bit of those Silkie 12″s I loved like ten years ago too, back when he was trying to call his genre of music “purple”, a move I still support. “Morphing Into Brighter” is the flip, and it blends funky drum breaks with a supple 808 kick, an intrepid mix of ’90s rave and ’90s electro updated and rebooted for our immediate future. Good driving music, and excellent dancing music, though I can’t imagine any situation that wouldn’t be enhanced by the inclusion of “Unravel”‘s impeccable synth-work. A+ for Anz!

Sofie Birch & Johan Carøe Repair Techniques LP (Stroom)
There are two things I love, record covers with pictures of people underwater (from Nevermind to Batteaux’s self-titled album) and new-agey techno bliss, and this new record on Stroom offers both. Apparently Sofie Birch and Johan Carøe had a significant pile of Moog and Roland equipment at their disposal during a residency at Sweden’s Andersabo last summer, and they made good use of it with these cozy and inviting tracks. Much of it shares the warmly-melancholy feeling I’d associate with the Giegling label, but Repair Techniques mostly avoids beats; it has the feel of techno without any sort of powerful kick or rhythmic propulsion. This of course allows their swooping chords, chiming leads and soft ambient drones to flutter and expand in all directions, like rich drops of watercolor paint on cotton paper. Interestingly, instruments like cello, pump organ, clarinet and chimes are also credited, but even at its most acoustic Repair Techniques resembles ambient electronic music more than anything organic in nature. Like much of the Stroom catalog, many of these sounds could successfully soundtrack early ’90s Lifetime movies, but it never feels like a throwback so much as a tastefully modern interpretation of emotionally-poignant instrumental mood setting. The most hygge record of the month, no doubt!

Tim Bruniges, Julian Day & Matt McGuigan Very Fast & Very Far 12″ (Hospital Hill)
How many sound artists does it take to tweak big wooshing noises out of a synth? The answer here is “three” apparently, care of this new 12″ on Sydney, Australia’s Hospital Hill label. With the accompanying text from Julian Day, Very Fast & Very Far can feel more like someone’s post-grad thesis than a 12″ single meant for public enjoyment, but I suppose there’s always going to be a sanitized whiff of academia on records like this. Which is to say, this is a record of little more than widescreen synth drones, which come in a variety of shapes and colors. It can sound like Thanos clutching the Infinity Stones for the first time, or air leaking out of a punctured tire, or the Northern Lights if they could speak; very much in the spirit of twentieth-century electronic composers and the GRM. Kinda crazy to think that major labels once funded this sort of heady electronic sound exploration, which is now about as well-funded as meme research. There will forever be an interest in pushing high-powered synths to their highest heights and lowest lows, however, and though I cannot account for specifically whose thumbs and forefingers did the majority of the knob twiddling recorded here, Bruniges, Day and McGuigan offer another fine glimpse into the limitless electronic void.

Claypipe Sky Wells LP (C/Site Recordings)
I recently read a comment from C/Site head honcho Stefan Christensen that he took great inspiration from Twisted Village, specifically the way in which the label fostered a local scene while peppering in some international communiques as well. Twisted Village looked to New Zealand on occasion, with artists like A Handful Of Dust and The Garbage And The Flowers, and now C/Site has its own inscrutable New Zealand lo-fi unit with Claypipe. I hadn’t heard of them before, but like any home-recording duo from that charming island, they have a handful of cassettes, CD-rs and lathes under their belts, delivered sporadically and without the slightest hint of professional aspirations. Sky Wells certainly sounds how you might expect it to sound after reading all that: acoustic guitars playing nothing in particular; the airy hiss of the rooms that these songs were recorded in; an inexplicable piercing tone that wanders in for a full song; murmured vocals that border on useless. Maybe I haven’t been in the right mood whenever I’ve put this one on, but rather than being charmed by the sound of errant strings being stretched while the motor of a car recedes down the block, I find myself kind of listless and wondering why the spark of magic that makes Maxine Funke or Gate so special is lacking in what I’m hearing from Claypipe. Maybe you just have to be really, really into hermetic New Zealand DIY pastoral noise-folk to fully appreciate this one, whereas I’m not quite on that evangelical level.

Cold Cave Fate In Seven Lessons LP (Heartworm Press)
Cold Cave has shifted its shape throughout the years, though always firmly ensconced in black leather, opaque sunglasses and a shadowy heart. Now with Fate In Seven Lessons, it seems bandleader Wes Eisold has entered the domesticated-and-in-love phase of his life, and following so many years of beautiful despondence and poetic misery, it’s a shift that suits Cold Cave well! What better time for a goth king to be happy than the most depressing era most of us have ever known. These songs are poppy and befitting the cover’s alluring bouquet, with dark synths lines bouncing in the glaring spirit of Depeche Mode and New Order (see “Night Light” and of course the cover art) and bass-guitar recalling a cowboy-hatted Sisters Of Mercy lost in the desert on their way to Vegas. Very classically goth stuff here, far removed from the cold-wave noise of Cold Cave’s early years and pretty distant from the bombastic maximalist emo-goth of Cherish The Light Years, which the group recently performed in its entirety. These songs seem to be written for goth fest headlining slots, to be one of the few traditional synth-pop goth bands to get their name in a decent-sized font that didn’t release their first record before 1990. Who better than Cold Cave?

Deck In The Pit In A Lane 10″ (Tropical Cancer Rort)
Curious name, Deck In The Pit, but it makes sense (in a way) once you learn that it was a short-lived project from one of Brisbane’s most interesting punks, Glen Schenau. Apparently Deck In The Pit came about after Per Purpose but before his current solo career, and it certainly fits right in, a power-trio of angular circuitry, guitar skronk and early no-wave moves. I’m reminded of artists as distant as Captain Beefheart and DNA and as close as The Pink Noise, the way in which these songs cycle through their wonky riffs… they roll onward, but with the curvature of an egg or a football. Lotta twang on the guitar, as is Schenau’s consistent style, and he rants and raves at seemingly random intervals over these songs, as if Television were panicking inside a stalled elevator. On paper, it’s right up my alley, and in practice I like it even better, as Deck In The Pit are excessively charming for a musical style that generally clears at least some substantial portion of the audience out of the room. Will there be a more satisfying post-punk ten-inch to be released this year?

Exek Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet LP (Lulus Sonic Disc Club)
“Reliable” might not be the trait most post-punk bands look to achieve, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t suit Melbourne’s Exek. Four albums in six years, all solid, all sticking to the same basic template with just enough wiggle room to keep things interesting. If you’re not familiar, their sound is a narcoleptic sort of dub-centric post-punk. No agitation, no angularity, but rather a devotion to deep melodic bass and hazy guitars and a drum set that sounds soaking wet, so precise is its reverb-laden recording. Still reminds me of that great first Anika album, though at this point Exek have earned the right to claim this sound as their own. For such a simple execution, things move around nicely here, with melodies and progressions that defy standard one-two one-two post-punk without feeling pretentious or overly complicated… the band has clearly grown into, rather than grown out of, their established aesthetic. Which is why the extended dual guitar leads of “The Plot” work so well in a musical context that would generally find itself unwelcoming to such musical feats.

Fake Nudes Post Cinnamon World 7″ (Chunklet Industries)
Seems like everybody loves Honey Radar, a band I should spend more time with myself, and now I’ve learned that there’s also Fake Nudes, featuring Armen Knox of Honey Radar (and Nina Scotto of another Philly indie band, Queen Of Jeans). Much like Honey Radar’s scattered discography of small runs and limited editions, this 7″ is one of those Chunklet lathe cuts limited to a scant fifty copies, but MP3s are free and everywhere, so it’s not like you can’t hear it if you really want to. Anyway, about Fake Nudes: they’ve got a low-budget, pop-centric garage sound, reminding me of the recording quality of the first Purling Hiss records and the songwriting of the studio-recorded Purling Hiss albums. Or maybe Dinosaur Jr. as translated through one of those static-laced live Velvet Underground bootlegs that populate the finer Philadelphia record shops? Post Cinnamon World sounds kind of anonymous, or at least lots of bands are doing this same sort of thing in probably a very similar block radius even, but that doesn’t mean the unkempt guitar soloing of “Better Billy Joel” doesn’t bring a smile to my face whenever I hear it. If they don’t have a tape on Petty Bunco by the end of next spring I’ll eat my hat!

Flowertown Time Trials LP (Paisley Shirt)
New San Franciscan duo Flowertown named their vinyl debut Time Trials, but don’t expect any speedy strum or structural brevity from these two. If anything, this record seems to go as slowly as possible; it’s easy to picture Flowertown as two kids who intentionally walked the mile in gym class, unconcerned with obtaining the Presidential Fitness award. (Am I dating myself here? Does gym class still exist?) They consist of a member of Cindy (Karina Gill) and a member of Tony Jay (Mike Ramos) and Flowertown exists along that same musical spectrum, though perhaps quieter, softer and more intimate. At times, I’m reminded of the earliest Dum Dum Girls bedroom recordings, Floating Di Morel, Crystal Stilts with tears in their eyes, Sandra Bell through a boombox down the hall or any other roundabout way of describing this understated brand of lo-fi Velvets-inspired primitive jangle-pop. This music feels precarious and lightweight, as if the slightest change in the wind’s direction could knock over their amps and send Flowertown home for the day. It might be a little too soft in that regard for my finnicky tastes, particularly as they seem to favor mood and aesthetic over more traditional pop attributes (audible lyrics, earworm hooks or melodies, etc.), but there seems to be a big audience these days for lonely-in-the-city-on-a-rainy-day DIY indie-pop such as this and I’m certain that Flowertown will find it.

Full Of Hell Garden Of Burning Apparitions LP (Relapse)
I love grindcore, but I’ve shied away from much of the current generation – the kids have kind of gotten too good at it, which dampens my experience listening to it, you know? All those pro ‘tudes and Olympic feats of musical dexterity can kill the heart and soul, if you ask me. After that Insect Warfare album dropped in 2007, it almost felt like there was nowhere else for grindcore to go, so righteous and extreme was that album. I hadn’t heard Full Of Hell before, a band I understand that plays big metal festivals and whose t-shirts sell really well, two qualities I don’t look for in my grind. But I’m checking them out now, and I dunno, for as precise and overloaded as these songs are, there’s really no denying the powerful and wretched sounds they’ve got going on here. I’m imagining modern Pig Destroyer collaborating with Sickness or Bloodyminded, as Full Of Hell twist from pummeling metallic grind to impenetrable walls of junk-noise with ease. They’re far from the first act to meld grind and noise, but they mix the styles expertly, allowing the songs to blast with the furious technicality of Devourment while the noise interludes gargle blacktop and defecate broken glass with the quality and craftsmanship of The Rita. Even though a slickness persists in spite of all the harsh and heavy sonics, I don’t find myself minding it… either I’m loosening up, or Full Of Hell are too sick to deny.

Goldblum Of Feathers And Bones LP ((K-RAA-K)³)
No, not Jeff, wiseguy! This Goldblum is comprised of Michiel Klein of Lewsberg and Marijn Verbiesen (aka Red Brut), so if you’re thinking this might be an oddly-catchy form of experimental sound-collage, you hit the nail on the head! It’s certainly got me smiling, as this vinyl debut is often charming, occasionally harsh and always entertaining. Most tracks comprise of some sort of loop, and “A Face Appeared” might be my favorite of those, sporting a heat-warped soft-rock loop ala early Daughn Gibson. A few tracks later, “Fata Morgana” moves from wheezing harmonicas to full-on tape destruction not unlike the master Aaron Dilloway, and that’s followed by another richly down-pitched loop, the self-explanatory “Alpha & The Omega”. Of Feathers And Bones shares partial sonic fingerprints with artists like Neutral, Dirty Beaches, O$VMV$M, Severed Heads, Monokultur and Glands Of External Secretion, which is the sort of fantasy playlist that might finally lure me to Spotify if I knew they were offering it over there. Goldblum have graced us with another twisted exploration of old music made new and new noise that sounds old, and it’s a stellar specimen at that.

Gotou Gotou LP (Inu Wan Wan)
Hot post-punk alert! Or perhaps extremely cold post-punk alert is more appropriate, as I can practically see my breath indoors while spinning Gotou’s debut. They’re a trio from Sapporo, Japan, and their sound is both very cool and very cold, but not because of any aesthetically goth signaling so much as the tone, shape and delivery of their songs. Bass usually grounds any rock group, but here’s it’s often the only thing you can hang onto, which works well through their bluntly hypnotic melodies, often little more than a short slide up or down the neck. The drums are rigid and sinewy, the guitar scrapes like a skeleton’s hand across a window, and the vocals are appropriately disaffected and urgent – sung mostly in their native Japanese, I may not understand a word but I certainly feel what they’re trying to communicate. The label references Mania D and Malaria! as bearers of similar sounds, and while I agree with that assessment, I’m also reminded of The Xx (it’s that spacial distance between guitar and bass used to create the groove) and the early ’80s Japanese no-wave / experimental punk scene. Gotou certainly would’ve fit in amongst RNA Organism, Mad Tea Party and Salariedman Club on the Awa 沫 Foam compilation, which is not to say that they sound like a retro act so much as that their spindly post-punk sounds as fresh today as those luminary post-punk artists still do. Great stuff!

Jean-Luc Guionnet & Will Guthrie Electric Rag LP (Ali Buh Baeh / Editions Memoire)
Yikes! That was my first reaction to the opening moments of Electric Rag by improvisers Jean-Luc Guionnet and Will Guthrie, and incredibly, that sentiment has sustained itself throughout the entirety of this record. This is absolutely magnificent percussion/noise improv, a scalding bath of atonal abrasion and rhythmic dexterity. I truly love it! I’m reminded at times of Aufgehoben’s use of jazzy time signatures deployed via in-the-red explosions, Sightings playing at Orthrelm speed, or Bill Nace if he were attempting to claw his way out of a psychotic grid. Guthrie is the “drummer” and he locks into dazzling patterns of raw and cantankerous percussion, what sounds like crusty bells and shopping carts ramming into each other more than any traditional trap kit. Guionnet plays organs, electronics and saxophone, which is incredible since it often sounds like Hijokaidan’s guitars or walkie-talkie transmissions from the inside of a jet engine. For as harsh and intense as these tracks are, they’re equally as intricate and fascinating and distinctive. An easy year-end top-tenner for me, no doubt about it.

Iris Speah LP (Tax Free)
Gonna air my pet peeve on this one first: I have had it with records that are completely devoid of information on the cover! White-label dubplates aside, if you’re printing a cover, do you just expect it to never be sold in an actual physical record store when you neglect to legibly share the band name, album name, label name or literally anything at all on the cover? I blame Ulla for being the most popular underground artist committing this crime today. Anyway, this one comes from Iris, a project of presumably European origin that I know nothing about, but as far as the music is concerned, it’s a deeply satisfying trip. This group (or person?) goes in a deeply bent, organic krautrock improv mode and the resulting series of tracks are tickling my eardrums nicely. I’m hearing plenty of Mike Cooper’s exotica-ambient (there are a variety of acoustic-sounding guitars here), the freak-folk outer-zone of artists like Jackie O Motherfucker and No Neck Blues Band, and the most uncommercial Conny Plank endeavors (there are enough weird synthetic bubbles popping to conjure images of Moebius and Plank giggling behind a massive mixing board). Can-like rhythms pop up from time to time as well, though I feel like, for better or worse, Speah answers the question of “what if there was an instrumental Animal Collective record that was really really good?”. I’m simply full of gripes, yet Speah continues to choogle my blues away.

King Woman Celestial Blues LP (Relapse)
It’s a striking image on the cover of Celestial Blues: King Woman bandleader Kristina Esfandiari alone in a black void with long fetish gloves, a lit cigarette and bloody wounds from the presumed removal of her angel wings. If you told me in 2001 that this was a new rival character to be introduced in the next season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I would believe you, which I dig! However, that sort of over-the-top camp doesn’t extend to the music of Celestial Blues, which sticks pretty close to the understood intersection of doom-metal and shoegaze. Picture Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” as performed by Asunder, coat it in the brooding emotional murk of heavy shoegaze and voila. It’s a trusty aesthetic with lots of eager fans, no doubt. The personality of the cover shot offers a splash of colorful camp to what is otherwise kind of a monotonous sound, no matter if the band is rolling through an aggressive denouement or slowly strumming an acoustic guitar as the smoke clears – the mood remains static throughout. If it seemed like King Woman truly believed vampires and angels and demogorgons existed, and they wrote their music accordingly, I’d probably find myself fully committed, but for now they’re just alright.

J. Lansdowne J. Lansdowne LP (AD)
Y’all like stoner rock? If so, I can’t imagine you’ll have any problems with J. Lansdowne’s debut; in fact, I think you might find it to be a suitable trip through the storied land of weed smoke and blues riffs. This is highly simplistic and highly satisfying music, strongly reminiscent of Nebula’s slower material, Purling Hiss at their most Black Sabbath-on-Vertigo sounding, and Flower Travellin’ Band lying down on the couch. Lansdowne and pals (he’s got a drummer and an occasional second guitarist as he handles guitar, bass and vocals) laid this one down on a Tascam 388 and it sounds positively crispy. Each instrument thuds along with the factory grime of Crushed Butler, and the guitar solos are extended, plentiful and never too out of control… there are moments where it feels like Lansdowne may have contemplated rocketing into High Rise’s orbit but it never reaches that level of wanton speaker assault. Honestly, these riffs must’ve been played a million times by a million people by now, but I’ll be damned if they don’t sound exceptionally good, right here right now, played by little ol’ J. Lansdowne down there in Atlanta.

Low Hey What LP (Sub Pop)
Seems like everyone and their mother loves Low these days, doesn’t it? I haven’t peeped these “slow-core” legends since the early ’00s or so; I was kinda turned off by the whole Christian thing (let’s face it, Low would be notably cooler as a Satanic band), but I could no longer deny the praise heaped upon them and peeped Hey What. Turns out everyone wasn’t wrong – this is a cool album! Definitely a weird one, too… the guitars are massive, and edited in such interesting and weird ways, big throbs of guitar looped or reversed or chopped up in brutalist fashion, heavy and melodic and an unusually appropriate base for Low’s gospel-esque vocal harmonizing. So much post-rock feels rote and ho-hum, but Hey What strikes me as an album that truly fits the genre tag, as Low’s music transcends genre tropes into highly original territory without the expense of becoming inscrutably experimental or unlistenable. If you played me a snippet of this album back in 2001 and told me this is what radio rock was going to sound like twenty years in the future, I would’ve believed you, as this album is both accessible and artistic, like the best possible result one might get from searching “interesting new music” on Totally appreciate what they’re doing, even if I can’t help but think they’d sound so much sicker if they switched out their church-like vocals for some gnarly Layne Staley impersonator instead. Maybe their next record? Maybe I am he?

Roadhouse Supernatural XS LP (Sophomore Lounge)
A-ha! I figured out that Roadhouse is none other than Sophomore Lounge head honcho Ryan Davis, which explains why this is the second Roadhouse album on the label in as many months to cross my desk. More labels should sign record deals with themselves! Anyway, the first Roadhouse album was more of a beat-driven affair, albeit one clearly crafted in the woodshed out back, and Supernatural XS follows with even less dedication to what anyone could rightfully call “dance music”. This plays out more like a curious romp through Davis’s hearty selection of gear, moving from synthesized beats to sample-collages and straight-up freaky keyboard plinking – “Nude Descending A Fire Escape” sounds like something that’d soundtrack a crude Looney Tunes short, for instance. I prefer the tracks that seem to have taken a little more effort, as Roadhouse displays a knack for folding loops on top of each other like a tasty submarine sandwich, each layer complimenting the other. The eventual acid squiggle that appears in “Bangin’ With The Ancients”, for example, has me imagining Jamal Moss writing music for release on Load Records. Who knows what next month’s Roadhouse LP will be like!

Tara Clerkin Trio In Spring 12″ (World Of Echo)
In Spring is such a classic jazz album title, one that fits this sprightly four-song EP of Bristol’s finest avant-jazz-pop purveyors. Their 2019 debut was a sweet revelation of art-pop composition through today’s post-everything lens, and these four songs follow nicely, piano-led minimalist groves of sound. Understated looping locks “Done Before” into motion; low-temp cello and unfurling woodwinds are reminiscent of both Steve Reich and Arthur Russell without feeling out of place next to The Raincoats or fellow younger-generation Wire magazine darlings Still House Plants as well. Very talented players at work here, as clearly evidenced by the inventive piano lines, trip-hop beats and dubbed vocals of “Night Steps”, which feels like a collision of Portishead and This Heat onto a pile of pillows. It has the same dreary British feel found in Burial and Young Echo, but sunlight is bursting through these cracks, mostly in the form of Clerkin’s soft and floaty vocals. They seem to really push their music forward, experimental in the sense of “strikingly interesting new musical combinations delivered by skillful musicians” rather than “crazy weirdness for crazy weirdness’s sake”. Recommended!

Terminal Bliss Brute Err/ata 12″ (Relapse)
In case you were wondering what the guys in Page 99 and City Of Caterpillar were up to, I’m sure some of them are craft-beer-loving dads on the couch at this point, but not all of them! Four of them comprise Richmond’s Terminal Bliss, who debut on Relapse with Brute Err/ata, sounding very much like a spastic hardcore band who knows what the hell they’re doing. It’s a frantic maelstrom of riffs, breakdowns, feedback-y interludes and throaty screams, as wild and fast-moving as Failures and Repos at their most energetic. I’d imagine there’s plenty here to be enjoyed by fans of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Converge as well, not because Terminal Bliss particularly resemble those other groups musically (they’re definitely dirtier/punker) but because they deliver their songs in a similar fashion: the moment you think you can slap your thigh along to a hardcore gallop, they’ve dropped to a quarter-time doom dirge, and before you can fully extend your arms in riff appreciation, they crack into a three second chaotic breakdown before the song is over. Pretty cool that these guys are almost certainly in their 40s, but playing crazier hardcore than they did in their 20s. Let this be a lesson to us all – there is a path to old age in underground music that doesn’t involve buying synths!

Vains You May Not Believe In Vains But You Cannot Deny Terror 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
At first, I thought the fine folks at Dirty Knobby were making up for the fact that they missed my birthday this year and sent me an original copy of the Vains 7″, a Seattle Killed By Death classic. Sadly not, but they did reissue the sucker in true-to-form fashion, a move as normalized in this era as releasing new punk records. Not a bad choice though, I’ll say that: Vains were snotty teenage punks to the max, and they deliver their frustrated delinquency with panache – if you are into local-level first-wave punk, this sole Vains single should either be on your want list or your shelf. Plus, it’s cool that guitarist/vocalist Criss Crass went on to drum for The Muffs, and dare-I-say cooler that the bassist was none other than Duff McKagan, who famously went on to play bass for The Fartz a year later. Then he apparently wrote a memoir, but how much is there to really say about The Fartz? Guess I’ll steal it from Barnes and Noble and find out… it’s what Vains would have wanted.

Variát I Can See Everything From Here LP (Prostir)
Perfect for the autumnal season, here comes the Ukrainian artist Dmytro Fedorenko and his Variát project. It’s kinda like dungeon-synth without the synth, if that makes sense? In place of any obvious keyboards comes bass guitar in an extremely heavyweight form, often bristling at the edges with digital distortion and speakers vibrating beyond their capacity. They’re not riffs so much as sustained brutal notes, somewhat in the school of Swans, though I’m also reminded of Leda’s avant heavy metal repetition and the rich depths of sonic sludge that Black Mayonnaise liked to trawl through. I think there’s also some sort of occult vibe happening with I Can See Everything From Here – that sure is one scary eyeball on the cover – but I’m generally kind of oblivious to the mystical dark arts or black magic or whatever. In a horror movie, I’d probably be the first one to go, that random non-believer who disappears before things barely get started. When it comes the deep ominous drift and poisonous klang of Variát, however, I’m happy to stay put for the full duration.

Warmer Milks Soft Walks 2xLP (Sophomore Lounge)
It’s a trip, being around for both the initial and subsequent-reissue phase of certain bands and scenes, such as this, Warmer Milk’s sprawling 2008 Soft Walks now on double LP with an attractive gatefold sleeve. Warmer Milks were an outlier among outliers, operating loosely in the noise scene but certainly not sounding like Mouthus or Double Leopards or Mammal, whose Animal Disguise label first released Soft Walks on compact disc. They were undoubtedly doing their own thing at the time, a thing that has only gotten progressively trendier since 2008, one where indie-rockers take their time through extended Americana jams with nods to The Grateful Dead and The Burrito Brothers instead of Pavement and Guided By Voices. One could easily point toward Neil Young or Will Oldham in Warmer Milks’ sound here, but unlike so many of the one-guy-in-a-cowboy-hat bands that have followed them, Warmer Milks seem to be deep in a world of their own discovery, as opposed to rehashing classic Crazy Horse moves for the appreciation of younger generations. They’ll throw a stately rock groove up against a swirly sitar experiment (or the eventual manic computer noise that arrives halfway through “The Turth” (sic)), and not because a good portion of their audience was also buying Prurient records but because that’s simply how they felt like doing it in the fertile valleys of Kentucky.

Z.B. Aids Gestalt LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
Yup, “Z.B. Aids”… your guess is as good as mine with that! This artist has multiple other aliases, some human sounding and others clearly not, but the one thing I’ve been able to confirm is that they used to be in Minitel, a French deconstructed noise-rock group who released a 7” on Bruit Direct what seems like a lifetime ago. (I loved that record!) So chalk this one up to French synth solo-project weirdness, presumably working with one of those inscrutable live tabletop setups of tiny fancy synths, rudimentary boxes of electronics and a guitar that stays unplugged for basically the whole duration. Patterns emerge in Gestalt, but rarely in any sort of organized formula… a warbling chase-scene arpeggio might drown out a ring-tone, only to have some other warped transmission butt up to the front of the speakers, and then, what do you know, the whole thing devolves/evolves into a fairly rudimentary acid-house track, if only for a few minutes. This sort of electronics-derived techno-noise has been filling my record shelves for years now, and while I continue to enjoy it, the standouts have become fewer and further between, as things usually tend to go. I’m perfectly content listening to Z.B. Aids’s aimless, semi-psychotic experimental electronic music this very night, but I’m not certain I’ll recall it in the morning.

Reviews – October 2021

The Bug Fire 2xLP (Ninja Tune)
Crazy to think that I was first blown away by The Bug’s mega-heavy dancehall back in 2003 with Pressure, and now some eighteen years later, his music has grown even more exciting and ferocious. Impressive! I hadn’t checked out The Bug for an album or two, and maybe the breather is responsible for some of the impact Fire is leaving on me now, or maybe it’s simply that exceptional. I’m leaning to the latter, as his beats here behave like lead-plated thermal detonations, like a fifty-pound dumbbell dropping on an ant (and you’re the ant). At times I’m reminded of the doom-laden industrial-techno of artists like Kerridge and Emptyset, but The Bug is always clearly The Bug, thanks to a host of incredible guest vocalists. They all sound unhinged and hungry and like they’re having the time of their lives, and I hope they’re getting paid handsomely for it! The post-apocalyptic theme is exceptional (though things veer into weed-centric themes on a few tracks), and the beats exceed expectations. On “Vexed”, the usually even-tempered and prophetic Moor Mother goes absolutely buck, threatening to kill you while gnashing her teeth. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Container Creamer 12″ (Drone)
Has it really been five years since the last Container EP? In the beginning, I was suspicious of this noise-rocker-turned-techno artist, but that was really only in the very beginning – I am happy to declare that Container has been a distinctive and downright brutal participant in American techno for a decade now with some downright magnificent recordings under his belt (not to mention countless sweat-soaked live gigs across the globe). This new four-track EP reminds me of how great his music can be, finding another way to push acid-techno deep into the molten red without sacrificing nuance and texture. These four songs are different but the same, each lined up with powerhouse beats and absolutely stinging acid lines. You’ll want to handle these tracks with rubber gloves, so destructive and potent are his synths. The secret’s gotta be in the pedals he runs things through, right? I don’t know of any keyboards that are halfway as demented and violent-sounding on their own as the ones Container is using here, which he uses to surprisingly propulsive measure. Recommended!

Equipment Pointed Ankh Without Human Permission LP (Astral Editions / Sophomore Lounge)
If I’m understanding this right, the memorably-named Equipment Pointed Ankh started off as a side-project for the freakier, less rock-based musical ideas of Tropical Trash’s Jim Marlowe alongside a few friendly conspirators. Not sure if their priorities have shifted in the last couple years (or if, under current circumstances, “being in a band” is anyone’s priority at all), but Without Human Permission is a bold and ear-catching album, a colorful smack upside the head. They create a variety of intricate pieces here, seemingly leaving room for improvisation but often so finely performed that I can’t quite be sure of their compositional basis (“Chrome Run” is particularly dazzling). I’m hearing Blues Control and Rastakraut Pasta at one point, and Terry Riley and Harry Partch the next; Equipment Pointed Ankh weave through all sorts of intriguing sounds in pleasantly beguiling manners, never resting on any instrumental or melodic motif for too long. Honestly, the instrumentation as a whole is a bit of a mystery to me – did they rig up some of Harry Bertoia’s old sound sculptures; is someone using the dog-bark sound effects from Mario Paint? – but whatever they’re doing, the varied pieces of their puzzle fit snugly. Often this sort of “punk guys moving towards a semi-krauty avant-garde sound” thing can feel like a temporary form of cosplay, but the oddball tunes of Without Human Permission flow as naturally and intuitively as a game of catch.

Eugh The Most Brilliant Man Alive 7″ (Svart Ljud Rekords / Savage)
Time for your monthly dose of beep-beep honk-honk punk, this time coming from Melbourne’s Eugh. Overloaded synths and too-fast drumming are the name of Eugh’s game, very much in line with Erik Nervous, Count Vertigo, Schizos, Coneheads, Cereal Killer… yet another player in a genre that’s gotta be standing-room-only at this point. What else can one expect from punk’s modern era, where the ability to self-record one’s music and the desire for it to sound raw (read: crappy) have intersected so powerfully? I’ve certainly grown a little weary of this particular sound, if that isn’t already evident by my grumbling, but I don’t want to hold Eugh to the fire. They do DEVO vocals and melodic bass-runs and sci-fi noise as well (or as badly) as anyone else in the game, and I’d much rather their music be filling up what precious quantities of polyvinyl chloride are currently available. Songs like “Irritating Song” and “Galactic Terror” deserve it far more than whatever dumb Record Store Day-branded Pokémon soundtracks are currently clogging up record pressing plants worldwide.

Fashion Pimps & The Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP (Feel It)
I instantly recognized the handwriting of Steve Peffer on the cover of this new Feel It release, which is precisely the sort of can’t-be-taught critical expertise you’ve come to expect from this blog. I’m presuming he’s also the “Steve Chainsaw” credited with bass-guitar and vocals here, and speaking of the credits, I was delighted to see that Noah Anthony (whose work as Profligate I strongly endorse) plays synth! Fashion Pimps & The Glamazons certainly seems to be a lark for these fellas, as serious of an investment as the band’s name would imply. They’ve definitely got that modern Ohio punk sound, with a tweaked guitar tone, inane lyrics and a mellow straight-facedness in the general delivery. Very much in line with Perverts Again and Knowso, who were probably influenced by Peffer’s earlier bands… the circle of life continues. Reminds me a bit of Folded Shirt too, another group he’s in, though Jazz 4 Johnny prefers to sputter and bop rather than wheeze and contort. I love the ease with which that Cleveland crowd churns out these projects, even if it seems like they forget about and move on from their own bands quicker than their fans like you and me.

Friendly Boyfriend Pick Up! 7″ (Happiest Place)
I love that Happiest Place shares a love of both harsh noisy experimentation and simplistic guitar pop, of which Friendly Boyfriend is the latter. They appear to be either married or brother and sister, or if not, it’s fascinating to think that two unrelated people named Tyra Hasselrot Uksila and Vihtori Hasselrot Uksila found each other. Anyway, four tracks here, one of which is a Clean cover, and also a decent reference point to start with when examining their sound. It’s filled with chiming guitars, buzzing keys and harmonious vocals, but the whole thing is recorded with such extreme tape warble that it almost sounds like the recording is falling apart in real time, twee-pop meeting The Disintegration Loops or something. The Clean always managed to record themselves with some level of clarity if not a glossy big-budget sound, but Friendly Boyfriend remind me more of Pumice or Flying Saucer Attack in the way that tape hiss and room noise are as inherent to their sound as the melodies themselves. Makes me want to pick a flower and then photocopy it over and over until the resulting image is only a coarse grey-black outline of its natural beauty.

HTRK Rhinestones LP (N&J Blueberries)
One cool thing about bands is that it’s impossible to hear them all. Case in point, Australian duo HTRK. They’ve garnered a substantial cult following that gobbles up their records even if they aren’t limited edition, playing what I understood to be a downbeat minimal electro-wave style that I usually find appealing, and yet I hadn’t heard them until now. I’d love to talk to some HTRK fans, because Rhinestones isn’t what I had expected, considering the album is mostly acoustic guitar and vocals. They weren’t always like this, right? Anyway, my expectations dashed, it took me a minute to settle into the soft and dare-I-say-ethereal sounds here, as intimately solemn as the final flickers of a candle. It’s a classically 4AD sound, like Hope Sandoval quietly sussing out her feelings alongside an acoustic guitar and Slowdive’s shoegaze production, or The Xx taking a staunch stance against mainstream pop. It’s not until the fifth track “Fast Friend” where any sort of percussion appears, a dubby electronic heartbeat alongside delayed guitars and vocalist Jonnine Standish’s bedside lamentations. Nothing about Rhinestones jumps out – this is a record that waits for you to come around, inspect it, and raise the volume loud enough so that its seductive qualities might reveal themselves. A few listens in and I’ve developed a fondness for the understated artful sophistication at work here, though I may have to dig into some of their earlier stuff to hopefully find that minimal synth-wave I was initially looking for.

Al Karpenter Music From A Private Hell LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
Al Karpenter arrived on the scene with a blistering, almost too blistering garage-noise EP in 2017, and followed it with an Ever/Never album that dissected noisy post-punk into patterns befitting a fractured iPhone screen. I’m still not sure “Al Karpenter” is a real person and not simply another Mattin alias (Mattin himself is credited here with various instruments, production, mixing and design), but I suppose that doesn’t matter in the end… it feels as if Al Karpenter (the person) is never meant to be known in any real sense, and I am willing to go along with that. So what does Music From A Private Hell sound like? Well, it’s pretty great! Lonely post-industrial weirdness is the name of the game, with Karpenter muttering over digital bass, twinkling pianos, acoustic bass, a host of electronics and even some guitar (often delivered one note at a time). The title is stark, and Karpenter lives up to it with these songs, really pushing for a zone of rich inner turmoil and musical cacophony that avoids feeling like your run-of-the-mill musical cacophony. I’m reminded of Alexis Marshall’s solo debut from earlier this year, in the way both men plaintively choke out their bluesy words in seeming obliviousness to the harsh or dreary soundscapes that accompany them, and in both cases, it works effectively. Though of course, one of the two is very popular and posts black and white photos of Blixa Bargeld and Nick Cave on his Instagram page and the other very well might not be a real person at all.

Lore City Participation Mystique LP (Lore City Music)
Normally, when a band I’ve never heard of sends in a record and they have a professional-looking promo sheet that features a long list of positive critical quotes from websites I’ve also never heard of, it’s a red flag. Are there really sites called Destroy//Exist, POST-PUNK and MangoWave that are offering worthwhile critical evaluation? (They’re probably saying the same thing about Yellow Green Red, of course.) Anyway, my guard was up, but Portland duo Lore City quickly eased my tension with their pulsing, drone-y, psych-y grooves. Art-school-tribal, we could call it? They remind me a bit of Fabulous Diamonds (though they tend to fill up more of the available sonic space), or perhaps a softer Rakta? I prefer when the drums are programmed in a krautrock manner over the ritualistic tom patterns, but it all works for what Lore City seem to be going for, which would be an approachably-witchy take on repetitive drone-rock grooves. I’m not certain that my chunky amethyst necklace would start to glow if I saw them live, but at the same time I’m not ready to rule it out entirely.

Mujeres Podridas Muerte En Paraiso LP (Beach Impediment)
Glad to see this new grip of Beach Impediment releases, as the Richmond label was surely, umm, impedimented by the same vinyl production delays as every other indie label over the last year. Anyway, this one comes from Austin, what seems to be a not-quite-full-time punk group featuring members of Criaturas and Vaaska (among others). They play a darkly jangly, moderately aggressive form of classic hardcore-punk, in ways reminiscent of groups like Gorilla Angreb, Kalashnikov, Cola Freaks, The Stalin and probably a good thirty percent of the P.E.A.C.E. compilation. I’ve been seeing people excited about this record on the internet, and I certainly don’t want to ruin anyone’s good time, but this strikes me as one of Beach Impediment’s weaker recent releases. There’s nothing wrong with Muerte En Paraíso, I just don’t find it particularly exciting, what with its tame tempos, infrequent hooks or riffs of distinction, and general gloomy vibe. They kind of sound like a Chicago punk band to me, which, let’s face it, is not on the top of anyone’s list. I’m sure they’re very cool people who have surely kicked ass in various ways both personally and musically throughout the years, so I offer them not only my respect but my honesty, too.

Neutral Live PÃ¥ Autodidaktik LP (Happiest Place)
There have been many times over the past few years that I took note of the fact that I never heard Live PÃ¥ Autodidaktik, a live tape by one of my favorite current acts, Sweden’s Neutral. Thanks to Happiest Place and this stately vinyl reissue, I no longer have to wonder! As a big fan of the group, I’m hungry for new material; normally a live set from any group’s earliest days wouldn’t be my first choice, but I have to say, this rips pretty hard. Neutral always seemed to be fully formed from the get-go, and that case is supported here: bong-ripping riffs (played on antiquated keyboards) are drenched, smothered and ignited with tape experimentation and harsh(ish) noise, often met with the commanding-yet-murky vocals of Sofie Herner. It feels like Nocturnal Emissions in their Sterile Records phase had they summoned the melodic doom of Black Sabbath from deep within, if you’re not already familiar with Neutral’s fantastic sound. Some of these tracks I’ve never heard before, while others come from their first two albums (though, as expected, are far from exact replicas). Excellent stuff! And while we’re on the subject of Neutral vinyl reissues, can one of you fine Swedes step up and press Neutral’s contribution to the On Corrosion ten-cassette compilation box-set? I’m ready when you are!

Orchid Spangiafora + Glands Of External Secretion Couscous Bizarre LP (Feeding Tube)
The live performance I witnessed of Orchid Spangiaflora and Glands Of External Secretion very well may have been the most entertaining show I caught in 2019, its flyer replicated in full color on the back of Couscous Bizarre. Thus, I couldn’t help but jump on this new album that features collaborations from that same general moment. While witnessing the two regular-looking old men chuckle on their stools as they whizzed through an unthinkable collection of sampled dialogue was the absolute best, this album is an excellent document for posterity as well. The gist is this: these two guys must’ve spent countless hours sampling bits and pieces of radio shows, documentaries, news reports, reality shows, podcasts, etc. etc. and so on, and loaded them up on their Neil Young Ponos or whatever, playing them back and forth in a seemingly improvised fashion. And yet, there is a clear constitution to these pieces – these guys lay out their samples in unexpectedly poignant, hilarious and connectable ways. It reminds me of those refrigerator magnets with various phrases or letters that you can put together in some novel new way, except instead of casually piecing together one nonsensical sentence, Orchid and Glands have put together enormous and fascinating verbal collages. Sometimes it helps to have our culture slightly rearranged to be reminded of how utterly mad and disturbing it all is, of which Couscous Bizarre is a potent example.

Ponys Auf Pump Wirt Schon Wieder LP (Phantom)
What does “Berlin punk” mean to you? To me, it doesn’t come loaded with any overbearing stereotypes, at least in my narrow view, which is kind of a nice setting to exist: no baggage. So here comes Ponys Auf Pump with their full-length vinyl debut, and I can safely say it hasn’t uprooted my notions of Berlin punk and what it can or cannot be. They’ve got a fairly well-traveled sound going, reminiscent of a groovier Gorilla Angreb, a non-gothy Subtonix or many of the vaguely garage-y, vaguely dancey punk bands that were around at the dawn of the ’00s. They seem to be having fun, but I can’t say I’m feeling much inspiration when Wirt Schon Wieder spins here, familiar as I am with the many bands who’ve done a similar thing in catchier or livelier ways over the past three decades. Not trying to be a curmudgeon – I would never begrudge a punk band their existence – but I can’t imagine much happening here would floor anyone who chooses the garage-punk bands they listen to with selectivity and discrimination.

Rat Heart Rat Heart LP (Shotta Tapes)
Exceptionally British-sounding mutant techno here from Rat Heart, a new alias bandied by one Tom Boogizm (is it pronounced “boo-gizm” or “boog-izm”, I wonder?). It’s a vinyl record, but the album feels more like a dusty cassette dub, or perhaps even more accurately, a late-night pirate radio show of which you happen to be the sole listener. Grubby beats, rickety drum machines and DIY dub effects stitch together nicely, all with Boogizm’s seemingly improvised toasting over top (which usually consists of the phrase “rat heart” over and over). It’s an oddly soothing pair of syllables when coming out of Boogizm’s mouth, a breathy rah-TAHH punctuating drowsy or frenetic grooves reminiscent of MF Doom’s Special Herbs & Spices series, O$VMV$M and Omar S at his most unhinged. The fourth track (they’re all annoyingly untitled) is a good example, with crackling hi-hats, tickled keys and a single guttural howl crudely interjected – there’s an inherent fun to this music, fully aware of its built-in obscurity and not giving an F. Grimy house is a certified style at this point, but Rat Heart has enough of its own playful energy to stand out.

Rearranged Face A Rare Caged Fern 12″ (Tomothy)
LA label and recording studio Tomothy has quickly established their lane, which is DIY neo-no-wave post-punk. Not a bad place to be! I appreciate that they continue to offer a platform to local acts that aren’t putting out records elsewhere, and recording it in their own studio for a real communally DIY (perhaps “do it together” is more appropriate?) feel. Rearranged Face are spastic and fun, file-able as a punk band but also a fine purveyor of borrowed disco beats, keyboard squiggles and vocals that sound like they’re delivered by a person wearing a pantsuit three sizes too small. I’m hearing Ex-Models, Uranium Club and Guerilla Toss here, certainly in line with the rest of the Tomothy roster of energetic and freaky punk bands (which of course includes a band called The Freakees). Is it possible that Los Angeles is really this fun, in a sincere no-frills DIY punk way? I want to believe it’s true.

Jacques Renault Sky Island 12″ (Let’s Play House)
Don’t close up the grill just yet, Brooklyn’s Jacques Renault is here to soundtrack the remainder of your summer parties, even the ones that are awkwardly masked or distanced. Not sure how I hadn’t encountered his music before, as he seems to run in similar social circles as a lot of DJs whose work I enjoy, but I’m glad I “discovered” him now because Sky Island is great. It’s a playful, non-stop selection of disco edits, house jams, roller-rink pop and convivial dance styles, reminding me of Tensnake, Daphni’s remix of Paradise’s “Sizzling” and The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, which is probably like comparing any given hardcore record to Minor Threat but what can I say, I hear it in there. Great live bass-lines, vocal hooks, funky drums, sound effects, party claps and melodic bluster really push this collection over the top, and at twenty-three tracks in less than half an hour, Renault keeps the party moving in a way that reminds me of Edan’s Echo Party mix. Now that pumpkin-spice-everything is back, I might have to tuck Sky Island away for a few months, but it’ll be back next summer alongside my inflatable pineapple-shaped raft.

Répéter Bad Twang LP (Bokeh Versions)
Props to the Bokeh Versions label for consistently doing the best, most difficult thing a label can do: provide music I didn’t know I wanted to hear. That’s certainly the case with this album from Austria’s Répéter, who had the good sense to combine surf guitar instrumentals with dub sound-system grooves. Sure, most things can be successfully mixed with dub – it’s like the garlic of the music world – but this mix of subdued dub grooves and active guitar twang hits particularly nicely. Each track is kind of the same, but the realms of dub and surf are broad enough that it feels fresh and interesting throughout… either that or I just really enjoy the combination. Don’t be scared, go straight to the track “Corpse In The Attic” for a tight percussive hook, a nimble Dick Dale-inspired riff and the sense that James Bond is about to stumble upon a crucial clue to push his mission forward.

Roadhouse Aladdin Sales LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Is that supposed to be a riff on Aladdin Sane, do you think? I’d assume so, but it’s still kind of baffling, which I suppose is an attribute most weirdo home-recording artists find appealing. Such is the case of southern Indiana’s Roadhouse, presumably a single person who spent some quality time in their music room editing beats, loops, samples and rhythms into easily-parsed tracks. The beats are usually a little cluttered, or at least frazzled sounding, reminding me of early cLOUDDEAD, Babel Fishh, Snakepiss, the Los Tres Pericos LP and at least a few things coming from the Radical Documents label. You know, unorthodox-sounding samples and instrumentation resulting in dance music that no one has ever actually danced to. Not exactly what I’d expect from someone called Roadhouse on Sophomore Lounge, but I dig it! I think I prefer when it reminds me more of lunatic early post-punk (see “Ballad Of Oberhansley”), sounding more like a precursor to what Beau Wanzer does than a noisy hip-hop instrumental. Not sure this record is a particular standout in the very crowded field of folks making random beats by themselves for fun, but I stand in solidarity with anyone out there who partakes in the age-old craft of making random beats by themselves for fun, Roadhouse included.

Rommel (ロンメル) セクシー スマイル b​/​w 甘いキッス 7″ (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Good Lord, I thought Bitter Lake had already outdone itself in the realm of underground Japanese archaeology but this single by the unfortunately-named Rommel takes the cake: it was released at a sole 1978 gig in a scant edition of one-hundred copies, fifty sold and fifty given to friends (though I doubt anyone counted the specific breakdown). What’s next, a reissue of a song a guy thought about once in Sakai in 1980 and forgot immediately thereafter?? Anyway, this one departs from the usual punk-or-electronic Bitter Lake aesthetic, offering up two well-polished power-pop gems. This is power-pop without any punk influence, closer to Bay City Rollers or Jefferson Starship than The Jam or 20/20. That’s not a detriment, though, as Rommel swing and bop through these two feel-good pop songs with precision and flair, if perhaps lacking in unique distinction. And now, decades later, what was all but forgotten is available once more (and without pandering to Western audiences, as the band name and song titles appear only in Japanese on the cover and center labels).

Jana Rush Painful Enlightenment 2xLP (Planet Mu)
So often, footwork is a musical style that I appreciate more in theory than practice, but whatever is lacking in either my understanding or the music itself, Jana Rush’s Painful Enlightenment is knocking my socks off. Perhaps it simply goes harder than many of the other records I’ve heard? And not hard in the sense of macho physicality, but in the intense selection of sounds she uses. Rush digs deep to find the strangest combinations of sounds, from gloriously bleating horns (opener “Moanin'” is a gorgeous shock) to raunchy porn sounds (“G-Spot” has a surreal, almost mournful flow that is usurped by some decontextualized, well, moanin’). I was reading an interview with Rush, where she talks about butting heads with her radio director during her time as a radio DJ who wanted her to play more palatable, pop-friendly tracks, and her dedication to the uniquely raw is on full display here. Like many records that will be coming out over the next year, there’s a depressing serenity to some of these tracks, very much an isolated Covid state of mind, but there’s also rambunctious joy, hilarity, and wisdom to be found within Painful Enlightenment. And it slaps tremendously.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back The Night 7″ (Feel It)
At first spin, I was thinking goddamn, these New Orleans bands are getting so incredibly good at aping classic punk-wave that it’s scary! And then I realized that, at least in this case, The Soul Patrol were a short-lived Louisiana act from back in 1979 and this single was originally released back then. I blame the cover art, which is very much in line with today’s graphic aesthetic (I swear it looks like it should be some new project featuring members of Public Acid or Warthog), for duping me for those first five minutes. Anyway, kudos to Feel It for rescuing this one from total obscurity, as both tunes here hit that sweet spot between proto-punk and proto-heavy metal. “Mara” sounds like Joey Ramone back when he still wore his wizard costume singing with friends in his teenage neighbor’s basement all fueled on cigarettes and detention slips. “Take Back The Night” stomps even harder, recalling White Boy And The Average Rat Band if they removed their aviator sunglasses. Both tunes seem to be the product of bandleader Buckshot Coxe, an impossibly cool name of a man who is sadly no longer with us today. I hope to one day follow his lead!

Terrine Les Problèmes Urbains LP (Bruit Direct Disques / Tanzprocesz)
Listening to Terrine’s newest album for Bruit Direct and Tanzprocesz, you’d have no idea Covid ever happened – hers is a gloriously warped, carefree and social vision of the world. I heartily enjoyed her previous album on the label, and I’m happily cackling at Les Problèmes Urbains too. You know how some artists throw everything at the wall to see what’ll stick? It seems as though everything hurled by Terrine sticks firmly, from sputtering drum machines to cartoonishly gloomy synths to piano/horn improvisations to clips of French men raucously clapping and singing at a bar. Her mind moves fast, but pleasantly so – I never entirely forget where I am while listening to Terrine, but often it feels like she’s gripping my wrist as she pulls me through a crowded and bustling Parisian piazza. Fans of Ekoplekz, Jac Berrocal, The Residents, Nina Harker and Luc Ferrari might wish to stay a while if they ever find themselves in the company of Terrine’s Les Problèmes Urbains.

Li Yilei 之 / OF LP (Métron)
Métron seems to have made their name on the music of Japanese modern-ambient master Meitei, among some other fine releases, so Meitei fans similar to myself may have found themselves peeping this new one from China-born, London-based sound artist Li Yilei. If you’re hoping for soothing synth drones, blissfully cascading tones and bird song, your order’s up! On one hand, a lot of this stuff has become so predictable and formulaic that engaging with a new record of soft “experimental” ambient can feel as reliable and unexciting as tying my shoes, but at the same time, if it sounds good, who cares how many times it’s been done and how many people are currently doing it? The sound of rushing water, Tangerine Dream-y arpeggios and digitally-manipulated string instruments are a trustworthy balm for my ears in this time of so much mental turbulence, and 之 / OF provides a bouquet of delicate comforts. Am I sad that I missed the limited version that came with a ceramic xun (a xun being a “globular vessel flute” dating back hundreds of years in Chinese culture)? Sadder with every passing day.

Spasmes Du Hasard compilation LP (SDZ)
A label-centric compilation LP is pretty rare these days, but one where the artists involved all seemed to give the best they’ve got for it? Downright impossible to find, yet that’s how I’d qualify SDZ’s Spasmes Du Hasard. SDZ is a quality underground French label that has apparently been around for twenty-one years now, hence the basis for this compilation. It showcases a somewhat wide range of underground indie / post-punk / experimental music, though certain qualities are a constant throughout: a detached coolness, a slightly nihilistic streak of humor, and raw guitar sounds. I’d hope you are familiar with personal faves like Exek and The Rebel, and they’re in good company alongside Nathan Roche, Pierre & Bastien and Rose Mercie (whose wobbly, skeletal “Marie Toi De Moi” might be my favorite cut here). Rose Mercie’s post-punk goes nicely with Marie Mathématique’s “Holopherne” following it, a charming drum-machine indie-pop tune with a whistled chorus. See what I mean? SDZ knows what they like, and I like it too.