Reviews – June 2023

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Body/Head Come On EP 2×7″ (Three Lobed / Open Mouth)
You should know by now that I love the double seven-inch format: so rich with possibility while constrained by time, it’s perhaps the perfect format for concise experimentation that also demands concentrated listener attention. Body/Head are a versatile noise-guitar duo, as capable of putting together a coherent and diversified album as they are writing a “single”, and this new four-track EP is an excellent addition to their portfolio. If you’re new to the group, they’re Kim Gordon on guitar and vocals and Bill Nace on mostly guitar, though the b-side “Get Lost” integrates a throbbing pulse. It’s an unusual ingredient in the typical Body/Head framework but an appealing new complement to Nace’s warbling lines and Gordon’s intermittent vocals. No sign of that pulse to be found on the c-side’s “Tripping”, which cracks open more space for Gordon’s train-of-thought vocalizing and the rumbly tickle of their guitars, eventually purring like hungry kittens. All four tracks offer faith without tidy resolution care of the fractured melodies that swing in and out of focus, culminating in the Roy Montgomery-esque strum of “Bites Her Tender Mind”. Warms my heart to see that they actually pressed 550 copies of this (all numbered on the back), to think that our underground vinyl community might support the ability to shift half a thousand pieces to open-minded consumers who appreciate the strange and patient sounds of Body/Head. Come On, people!

K. Campbell Smoke 7″ (Poison Moon)
It’d be nice if more unsigned bands followed K. Campbell’s lathe-release model. I’m sure it’s significantly more work than just uploading WAV files to Bandcamp, but if you saw how attractive Campbell’s seven-inch singles presented (and how surprisingly good they sound), you’d want to make one too! I’m a little surprised this Houston singer/songwriter hasn’t joined forces with a label – maybe it’s by choice – because his music is perfectly pleasant emo-leaning indie-pop, guitars strumming to the sounds of flowers blooming and romance sparking. “Smoke” cuts the difference between The Promise Ring and Teenage Fanclub, kinda subdued and smooth with some twinkly Jimmy Eat World-ish keys and none other than a tasteful saxophone lead. Who doesn’t want to hear a song like this? “Somebody Else” has more of a swing to it, calling to mind later Weston with hushed vocals and lyrics describing a tender defeat of the heart. The plastic slab upon which the songs were cut is appropriately firm and real-feeling, although there’s a weird little bass-y wooshing noise on the b-side (which, as far as I’m concerned, enhances the listening experience). There are still ways to circumvent the miserable music industry’s machinations if you try hard enough, as these Poison Moon lathes (and well-designed hand-glued sleeves) display.

Da Slyme If There’s No Rubble, You Haven’t Played: Collected Recordings 1977-89 LP (Celluloid Lunch)
Wild reissue here from the proudly Canadian Celluloid Lunch label, collecting recordings of the hyper-obscure (and hyper-Canadian) proto-punk squad Da Slyme. I love this early form of punk, the one where it’s played by guys who look like Captain Beefheart and Dr. John because it wasn’t yet clarified that they were supposed to look like Billy Idol, who push the amateurish idiocy angle to its furthest lengths. (Did Da Slyme bring their own toilet on stage with them, for example? You betcha!) It’s PG-rated cute in this day and age, but I’m sure songs like “I Wanna Pick My Nose” and “Lick Linoleum” had some uptight audience members bolting for the door back in ’78. Many of these tunes (of which there are no less than twenty-six!) have me imagining a teenage “Weird” Al as a member of Puke, Spit & Guts, the very earliest Electric Eels rehearsals and certain Killed By Death hallmarks (Child Molesters for sure) without the shock-value Nazi regalia. There are also lots of fake(?) radio-ad spots made by the band that aren’t a far leap from what Howard Stern was getting into at the time; I’m sure Dr. Demento inspired everyone I’ve mentioned thus far. I have zero interest in listening to any broadcast tapes of Dr. Demento at this stage in my life (or any stage, for that matter), but would I want to blast Da Slyme’s electronic-interferenced mongo stomp “Radio Junkie” over and over at full volume? Without a doubt!

Debt Rag Lost To The Fantasy LP (Post Present Medium)
I recently learned that the SST group Trotsky Icepick initially intended to change their band name for each album release while using the same album title over and over again, a hilariously self-sabotaging move that feels in the same spirit as Debt Rag. The trio of Lillian Maring, Marissa Magic and Max Nordile previously released records under the name Wet Drag, and it’s a funny little switch that reminds me of MDC changing their acronym or Die Monitor Bats insisting on a different spelling with each new release. Debt Rag’s aspirations seem to exist far from any form of conventional “success”, happy to shoot themselves in the foot for a good joke rather than pander for likes and digital playlist inclusions, and I’m a big supporter of that kind of attitude! Their music follows suit as well, a defiantly guitar-less trio of drums, bass, keys and hollering, certainly in line with Nordile’s work in Preening and Magic’s in girlSperm, if slightly more abstract. Lost To The Fantasy shares the spirit of other Bay Area post-no-wave freaks like Numbers and Inflatable Boy Clams, somewhere in that unique sweet-spot where the contrasting aesthetics of the avant-garde, Riot Grrrrl and Subterranean Records intersect. Much like the cover art, they don’t rip it up in order to start again, they simply leave the lumps and slather it in another thick coat of Pepto-Bismol-colored paint.

Delco MF’s The March Of The MF’s 7″ (MF)
The March Of The MF’s? Don’t tell me this Philly hardcore unit has gone crossover! Thankfully that’s not the case, and if anything, Delco MF’s have turned up the intensity following their excellent debut, popping whatever blood vessels remained intact after the first go around. It’s only a few seconds into the fifth track, when vocalist Jim Shomo shouts “go fuck yourself”, that it feels like anyone in the group finally took a breath, such is their unrelenting hardcore-punk speed and intensity. Their songs carry the frantic haste of DRI and Deep Wound with a Midwestern backbone and a caustic vocal approach, as sandpapery as Steve Peffer in his 9 Shocks Terror days. Even the title track refuses to move at a pace remotely resembling a march, a violent pogo sure to rip some tiles off the ceiling. They could’ve easily fit another six songs on this seven-inch, so briskly does it rip, but the point isn’t to write a lengthy saga, it’s to burn off our eyebrows and speed away in the MF-mobile before we realize what’s happened.

Dream_Mega Last Glacial Maximum LP (Post Present Medium)
The promotional material for Dream_Mega’s debut full-length likens it to “Terry Riley doing Cro-Mags covers”, and while I don’t hear that in the slightest, I applaud the Post Present Medium promotional squad for going big! Dream_Mega is the solo project of Joel Kyack, whose groups Landed and Six Finger Satellite never went any less than big, and while I don’t hear even the faintest of transmogrified NYHC riffs here, it’s a compellingly weird listen all its own. If anything, I’m reminded of Excepter in the way that Dream_Mega disassembles slow-motion electronic grooves and pushes the pieces around, dipping in between quantized and unquantized realms, sober one moment and blackout-drunk the next while always gazing towards the skies (or electrical wiring). Dream_Mega’s beats are slow, towering and weird, as if Thrones entered the Swishahouse and was never seen again, and they take their sweet time to roll through, giving the proceedings a vaguely mystic feel, like staring at Scientology’s Flag Land Base and finding secret patterns in its geometry. Vocals (when applicable) are used more for oddball purposes than anything that could be connected to pop music, certainly in the prankish realm of Six Finger Satellite though not a “joke” per se, which has me wondering what it’d be like if Black Moth Super Rainbow ever made a record for Southern Lord. (I just checked and they haven’t… yet.)

Avalon Emerson & The Charm LP (Another Dove)
Very cool pivot here for meticulous techno producer Avalon Emerson, seemingly a natural shift while also impeccably on-trend. The story is that she got sick of endless travel / late nights DJing and retreated to a London studio with a friend or two, trying her hand at vocal pop. Much like her success with trance-infected house and techno, this indie-Balearic pop sound is a perfect fit. Opener “Sandrail Silhouette” is an excellent place to start, shimmering and easy-going pop that swings like Madchester in the chill-out room, complete with an earworm violin hook that would make Richard Ashcroft drop his martini. The rest of the album tries out various related outfits, all suited to Emerson’s lightweight vocals and exquisite programming, culling from contemporary R&B-infused pop, Kate Bush, Jessy Lanza, Phoenix; there’s even an extremely John Mayer-esque soft-rock guitar solo on “Entombed In Ice”. I almost expect him to start crooning some backing vocals as the track fades, but maybe Emerson’s saving him for the sophomore effort. The pieces are all firmly in place, but Emerson succeeds by allowing her own personality to shine through, singing songs that matter at least a little bit more than the inoffensive playlist-fodder of certain contemporaries. The funky, retro soft-pop of “Astrology Poisoning” sounds like Grimes if she married Vampire Weekend instead of Elon Musk, complete with what seems to be a funny swipe at the Goop lifestyle and more of that sweet, sweet Mayer-styled guitar. Complete with a fantastic cover design, & The Charm is gonna live near my stereo for a while.

Eyes Of The Amaryllis Lunchtime On Earth 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Been a minute since I’d been properly Barone-d, but this one comes from just over the bridge, care of southern New Jersey (we call it “South Jersey”) quartet Eyes Of The Amaryllis. It’s a pretty communal affair, rough around the edges in a friendly way, and includes Jesse Dewlow aka People Skills. Much like Eyes Of The Amaryllis’s vinyl full-length debut, Lunchtime On Earth features four fractured folk ditties, recorded and mixed in an appealingly disorienting way: one guitar sounds like it’s in your ear and the other down the hall, and why is some of the percussion so far away while certain hits jump out of the speaker? Imagine Garbage & The Flowers given the Graham Lambkin treatment and you’re in the ballpark of these sounds, although this sounds like a real-time, temporal affair, not the work of handy editing so much as an unorthodox mix. “The Straw In Your Head” is a fine example, with guitars scraped, plucked and popped more than strummed and an unintelligible vocal warbling through some sort of effect. Makes me think of Mad Nanna too, this quiet and unarmed DIY folk that borrows from the free-form approach of noise without any of the harsh electronics or atonal feedback, though Mad Nanna’s recordings sound like Quincy Jones productions compared to this. Which, of course, is half the fun.

Hands Up Who Wants To Die Nil All LP (Fonoradar / Human Worth / Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Lots to live up to if you’re going to be a noise-rock band named after one of the coolest things Nick Cave ever yelled, but Ireland’s Hands Up Who Wants To Die give the old crooner something to respect. Nil All is their newest, and while many of these sour, knotty songs sound like the territory of anguished men in sweaty three-piece suits, pictures of the band show them in white undershirts with their heads in their hands; the music sounds like a terrible celebration while their delivery is very much based in the morning-after. I’m sure they get compared to the other notably seething Irish noise-rock group, Gilla Band – I’m doing it now, in fact – but Hands Up are more traditionally masculine-disgruntled, mostly sticking with traditional rock instrumentation. Of course, the bass-guitar sounds as if it’s only got one string (with only a few available notes on that string), the guitars are richly affected and a piano adds some lounge-y flavor to Rory O’Brien’s vocals, so they’ve got their own bag of tricks. O’Brien falls somewhere in the lineage of Tom Waits, Eugene Robinson and of course Mr. Cave as he fully commits to every line, be they a whisper or a scream. Might also be his dry (and wet?) heaving that introduces “Nausea”, but one of the benefits of listening to records is that you’re protected against any unexpected fluid exchange, at least until Third Man invents the necessary technology.

Homozeen The Void LP (SuperFi)
RIP Frank Kozik, not just for his art but because without his underground contributions the sound of a band like Hozomeen might’ve never gotten its due. I guess I shouldn’t say “band”, as Hozomeen is the solo project of one Graham Thompson, whose resumé boasts a long list of groups, the only one of which I’m personally familiar being Ultra Shit Inferno (thanks to a split single with the ever-outrageous Sloth). Hozomeen sure sounds like a band though, as these songs take stoner riffs and drag ’em through the noise-rock mud, like Tar or Cows covering Orange Goblin and Queens Of The Stone Age. Like I said, tried and true Kozik rock, the sort of thing that should have an eye-popping Satan daddy rolling flaming dice on the cover, but somehow in a way that actually seems cool. Thompson makes the right choice and lets his tunes breathe (along with a toned-down design aesthetic), often loitering on a repetitive instrumental groove, his distorted shouts taking a back seat to the power of the down-tuned Sabbathian riff. “Lack”, for example, seems to have all of one note, and is all the better for its patient rhythmic deployment of such. No wheels reinvented here, only polished on one of those ’70s custom vans that you park at the beach and hotbox until it’s time to get, I dunno, some really good tacos or something.

Idle Ray Corridors Of Summer 7″ (Tall Texan)
Never hurts to have a fresh indie-pop song about the summer that also arrives just in time for the summer! In the hands of perpetual indie song-machine Fred Thomas and his Idle Ray group, you can rest assured “Corridors Of Summer” is worth your time. Don’t expect an upbeat and beachy jingle, though – “Corridors Of Summer” is sleepy and resigned, with bandmate Frances on vocal duties, intoning as though she’s in wistful remembrance of summers past. Makes you want to grab an acoustic and strum along from the comfort of your couch, the song all too welcoming the listener to sing along to its private little melody. “Unremarkable Things” is the flip, with Thomas on plaintive lead vocals, and it feels like it’s gonna be an even more somber affair than the a-side until the instrumental crescendo kicks in with electrified guitar soloing and unchained drums, reminiscent of how Tony Molina ends basically 90% of his songs (a path more bands should consider following). Only a dash of light cutting through Idle Ray’s clouds, but just enough to make you look up. I know Thomas has a million projects, many of which I’ve followed off and on for years, but this is my first encounter with Idle Ray and I’m thinking I need to go back and see what 2021’s self-titled full-length is all about.

Jeromes Dream The Gray In Between LP (Iodine)
Skipping out on nearly all of the ’00s and ’10s, Jeromes Dream are seemingly back in full swing. The first time around, I appreciated their commitment to over-the-top characteristics (beehive Spock hair, screaming sans microphone, drummer on verge of crying at all times) as well as their messy, tantrum-laden songwriting approach to emotional hardcore. Their songs sounded like Orchid run through a briar patch, covered in little welts and scratches, far superior to Midwest no-fi cousins Usurp Synapse and less jocularly bro-ish than Neil Perry. Of course back then, all these bands existed on cheap webpages and in photocopied zines, and now the ones who still play screamo with any level of success seem more like hip brand marketers, closer in DNA to Liquid Death than the crusty punks loitering in front of a DIY house venue. Rest assured there are multiple limited vinyl “colorways” for The Gray In Between, and while I get that it’s a game that has to be played as a matter of survival in 2023, I still pine for the time when the priorities of being a screamo band felt different, more punk. Musically, the necessary parts are firmly in place here, filled with sharply breaking rhythms, chirping feedback between hits and ominous acoustic strumming (compare “Often Oceans” here to the tail-end of one of my favorite Jeromes Dream tracks, “Its More Like A Message To You”), though not as much rabid blasting as before, and a subtle lean towards Explosions In The Sky-oriented grandeur in the riffs. The fragile magic, fleeting as it may be, is still there too, if somewhat dulled by time and the state of new vinyl in 2023.

Jesus Piece …So Unknown LP (Century Media)
It’s cool when a metal record opens with a big long ominous intro, but you know what’s even cooler? When it directly kicks in with a full-scale bludgeoning, the whole band attacking in unison from the very first millisecond onward. That’s pretty much how …So Unknown rolls for its duration, the Philly group’s sophomore effort and first for big-time metal label Century Media. They’ve had a cool thing going from the start, an over-the-top beatdown aesthetic delivered with death-metal vocals, violent metal-core riffs, crowd-killing mosh parts and a muscular technicality… probably the meanest modern band that will find its way into the YouTube algorithms of teenage Turnstile fans. Like previous releases, Jesus Piece continue to wield downtuned riffs redolent of Crowbar and his majesty Dimebag Darrell, though it’s all tuned to a hardcore pitch, or at least close enough. Long hair or short hair, either way you’re catching an accidental sneaker to the back of the skull when Jesus Piece are on stage! Rather than try to make any big stylistic shifts (rest assured, no one even attempts to melodically sing here), Jesus Piece offer a beefier version of their sound, with subtle and tasteful moments of the eerie anguished calm one might associate with Korn and plenty of painful breakdowns sure to help you max your reps at the gym. Wrapped up with cover art befitting a late ’90s Euro-import Morbid Angel bootleg, I don’t see how …So Unknown could’ve worked out any better for Jesus Piece.

The Lavender Flu Assorted Promenades 12″ (Mind Meld)
Been digging the output of Total Punk sub-label Mind Meld Records lately, not only because Total Punk respects their name enough to not release semi-punk records under their banner but also because their taste in Not Quite Total Punk has been stellar thus far! That Glittering Insects album rules, and this new one from Oregon’s Lavender Flu is a gloriously ramshackle guitar-pop spectacle. I’ve enjoyed this band ever since they kind of morphed out of The Hospitals and their brain-numbing Hairdryer Peace album, and while Assorted Promenades is still full of haywired electronic bursts and slippery tape distortion, it’s also a meticulous outsider pop record. Reminds me of that last and criminally-overlooked Psychedelic Horseshit album, the way in which head ‘Flu-man Chris Gunn grabs at all sorts of wonky bargain-bin sounds and effects to create his own hand-glued Pet Sounds, and how surprisingly listenable it ends up being. It’s like if Ariel Pink got into Flying Nun instead of MAGA, or if Beachwood Sparks signed to Siltbreeze instead of Sub Pop, though of course The Lavender Flu has been fine tuning their sound over multiple albums and years. Somewhere in here, there’s a Moby Grape cover, but I’ve always fared poorly at Moby Grape trivia, and all of these tunes sound right on par with each other, swirled like one of those comically over-sized lollipops you see spoiled kids with pigtails and bowties licking in cartoons.

Mandy, Indiana I’ve Seen A Way LP (Fire Talk)
I’ve Seen A Way is the compelling full-length debut from Manchester’s Mandy, Indiana. Don’t let the screamo-y name fool you – while the music of this group is often jagged, turbulent and susceptible to uncontrolled spasms, their inspiration seems to come from the post-9/11 dance-punk and electroclash scenes, not Witching Hour or Hydra Head. There are occasionally guitars in there somewhere, strongly reminiscent of when Liars broke off the disco-punk rails and started integrating experimental electronics into their fold, but oddball sleazy electro-dance such as Mu’s incredible Afro Finger And Gel is even more aesthetically prominent. Living in Manchester you’re only a stone’s throw from a puke-bellied dance floor, and it’s clear that Mandy, Indiana have it in their blood – it comes as no surprise that Giant Swan’s Robin Stewart provided some help on the mixing board. Thus, they flip from a SURVIVE-styled arpeggio into waves of electronic distortion over a club-friendly 4/4 snap the way a hardcore band goes from a fast gallop to a split-second cut and mosh breakdown. The precise production is compelling enough on his own, but the manic and consistently French vocals of Valentine Caulfield push a track like “Pinking Shears” from notable to inspired.

Montel Palmer Südstadt 7″ (South Of North)
Confusing German electro unit Montel Palmer are at it again, this time in the form of a handsome seven-inch single. I fell in love with their five-track one-sided flexi-disc last year and backtracked to their most recent album, Catastropheland, which revealed an anomalous group with endless musical pathways. On this new single, things are relatively relatable and laid-back, calling to mind the solipsistic house of Rat Heart and the self-amusing studio hijinks of the Wah Wah Wino crew (the duo of Gombeen & Doygen in particular). “Südstadt” rides sullen chords over a persistent electro kit, with murmured vocals puttering in and out, as if the mic was left recording in the studio when the janitor came in to clean up Montel Palmer’s mess after they left. It’s not particularly dance music, and the b-side “Gammy Eyes” is even less so, slowing the pace and serving up some bilious guitar, like a private-press R&B instrumental that started to grow mold after days without refrigeration. That same vocalist appears again too, resulting in a track that feels like Mike Cooper melting Torn Hawk with a giant magnifying glass in the tropical sun. Freaky easy-listening, the sort of thing you’d want to pair with a cocktail that sounds absolutely disgusting but a friend insists is good. Wasabi carrot mimosas all around!

Nico Motte The Missing Person LP (Antinote)
Antinote remains my go-to for worldly chill-out dance vibes, as if the rest of the globe is a turbulent gray sea and Antinote is this tiny white-sand island with thriving palm trees and a baby-blue lagoon. If you’re not sure what I mean, you might as well throw on The Missing Person by Nico Motte and watch as your disgusting work coffee turns into a frozen piña colada before your very eyes. Motte’s tracks are languid and sensual, soft and sugary bouquets that call to mind Miami waterfront hotels and Mediterranean small-plates… easy-going house for bare-feet patrons. There’s an undeniable whiff of late ’80s soft-core cinema sleaze too, but Motte never lays it on too thick – nothing is over-the-top or ironically corny. A track like the appropriately-named “Slow Burner”, for instance, is serious fun, vintage synths shuffling over a digi-riddim layered with fresh melodic leads and the pleasant sense of stress leaving the body. Motte even makes the squeaks of a newborn baby sound reasonable in a nightclub context with “The Burning Sets”, perfectly comfortable alongside his synthesized pan-flutes and vibraphones. If some time spent with The Missing Person doesn’t improve your life, you’re already too well off.

Painted Faces Normal Street LP (ESP-Disk’)
I can’t pretend to understand the internal processes leading to contemporary noise-rock weirdoes landing on the same legendary label that brought us Albert Ayler and Patty Waters, but it’s cool that it ended up that way! Painted Faces is the work of one David Drucker, a Brooklyn-based home-recorder who has a prior ESP-Disk’ album to his name alongside a wobbly stack of DIY CD-rs and cassettes (as would any noise artist worth their salt). From the sound of things, Drucker has a whole host of oddball gear and fangled instruments and he takes them on a hairy ride of sonic exploration here. They don’t sound like collages – at least by my pedestrian ears, things seem to be happening in real-time – but I’m not sure I’d call some of these tracks “songs”, either. “Pieces” sounds too formal for what’s happening too, so I dunno, let’s just call it music! (But wait, is the atonal moaning/feedback duet of “Playing The Field: The Ambassador Prowls” music? Ahh…) Things definitely seem to come from a LAFMS or Crank Sturgeon mindset, these scattered and belligerent sonic sketches where a sense of outlandish comedy never seems too far away, teetering on the edge where one accidentally-unplugged pedal could cause the whole thing to come crashing down. I’m not sure what Henry Grimes or Paul Bley would make of it, but I bet they’d at least crack a smile.

Planet On A Chain Boxed In LP (Revelation)
Man, you’re gonna go ahead and come up with a dope hardcore band-name like “Planet On A Chain” but have it say “POAC” on the cover instead? Imagine if labelmates Sick Of It All went with “SOIA” on the cover of Blood, Sweat And No Tears instead of their cool-ass name on full display? Just wouldn’t be the same. Anyway, let’s move on from that minescule gripe and get to Boxed In, the debut LP from this group of life-long hardcore punkers – they’re ex-members of Tear It Up, Dead And Gone and Look Back And Laugh to name but three prior projects. I’m pleased to confirm that the musical tastes and personal approach of these four folks has not evolved or “matured” in the past two decades, as they still play a rowdy and tight form of hardcore-punk that melds first-wave Southern Cali hardcore-punk and the Y2K “bandana thrash” revival with precision. Definitely sounds like a band that could’ve shared the stage with Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Paint It Black, Deathreat and Life’s Halt, and I’m almost certain that its collective band members have already done so over the years. I also find it cool that Revelation decided to release it, as Planet On A Chain and their accompanying live photographs from Rob Coons (speaking of hardcore lifers) are a bit crustier/punker than the clean-cut Nike SB Dunk style I’d tend to associate with the label, but sonically as true to the ‘core as can be. Good work, everyone!

PRC Elastic Time LP (Blue Mind)
Intriguingly scant information is to be found on PRC’s Elastic Time on the world wide web. I understand they’re a Detroit trio and am semi-intelligently-guessing that this is their debut. As it’s recorded by Fred Thomas and engineered by XV’s Shelley Salant, they’re clearly clued into some cool likeminded folks, and who knows, they might even share personnel elsewhere! It’s not uncommon, you know. In listening to Elastic Time, such a connection makes sense, as their songs are rough and vaguely esoteric garage-inspired indie-rock. The bare-bones recording is traditional and appropriate, the sort of sound that if PRC was to record a music video, it’d be them playing in some plain room with a swirling eye hovering over them and modest analog effects. Reminds me of Great Plains, Cheater Slicks and V-3 at times, or at least if you take those groups as a sort of jumping-off point into the darker indie-rock of the ’90s like Un and Come; had PRC existed in 1995, they would’ve certainly found a favorable home with Siltbreeze, let’s say. They might even in 2023 if they keep at it! The way the vocals are delivered over impatient scraggly guitars makes it feel like each member is staring right at me without blinking, which I appreciate, and they mix it up enough to keep things interesting – check the hopeless slow-burner “Mellow” and savor the way that buzzing one-note synth keeps creeping up. Detroit bands have an uncanny knack for sounding like Detroit bands and PRC is no exception.

The Purge Of Tomorrow The Other Side Of Devastation 12″ (Modern Obscure Music)
Never a dull moment in Shackleton’s laboratory, and this new one under this also-new The Purge Of Tomorrow moniker is particularly exceptional. It’s Shackleton himself, and while I can see the appeal of picking new names for new projects, The Other Side Of Devastation sounds like Shackleton even if it doesn’t quite behave like a typical Shackleton production, should such a thing exist. These two side-long pieces are extravagant and hypnotic, calmly rhythmic and richly layered, with every little particle sounding perfectly polished and in place, like a gothic antique store filled to the brim with sparklingly creepy rings and jewels. I’m reminded a bit of Shackleton’s epic Music For The Quiet Hour release, as dance BPMs are entirely forgone in service to moods both trippy and occult, various voices passing through the glistening sound-field as if on their way to another world. Very much in the spirit of Coil, Nurse With Wound and even David Lynch, but so distinctly Shackleton. I see this release is tagged as “dark ambient” on Discogs, and while I can acknowledge that The Other Side Of Devastation would work well on the sound-system of a new-age body-piercing salon, there’s a blissful lightness to both of these tracks that feels apropos for a sensory-deprivation floatation tank. Either way, this is some sublime body music.

Pyrex Pyrex LP (Total Punk)
Pyrex are a trio hailing from Atlanta and Australia who wound up together in Brooklyn, three locales rich with vaguely dirt-baggy dudes making aggressive noisy post-punk clatter. Though their quaint kitchen-accessory name has kind of an egg-punk feel, these guys are well-oiled and raring to go with nary a bloopy keyboard or kooky vocal in sight, stomping through tom-heavy beats, repetitive down-picked chords and hoarse vocals. Imagine if Metz had their sights set on signing to Goner, or if Spray Paint and Lamps got together to try and play the closest thing they could to hardcore-punk. It’s a pretty no-frills, music-first affair, from the almost non-existent artwork, one- or two-word song titles (sans lyric sheet) and only three black-and-white live pics of each member on the insert. I dunno, I tend to appreciate punk bands that opt out of artifice and pomp, who just lay the music out and let you decide, but the simplicity of the music, aesthetic and delivery here is all so streamlined and/or non-applicable that I find myself wishing Pyrex would let us know at least a little something about themselves. What makes Pyrex Pyrex instead of a hundred other similar bands, you know? Total Punk is a label stuffed with garish weirdos who want to leave a strong impression and Pyrex seem sweet and shy by comparison.

Science Man Mince’s Cane 12″ (Swimming Faith)
Much like science itself, there is simply no slowing the progress of Buffalo’s Science Man, an ostensible solo project from John Toohill of Alpha Hopper (among his numerous other projects). The endlessly-busy punker has a steady stream of releases on his Swimming Faith label, many of which have recently bared the Science Man name, like this new seven-song EP (the program repeating on both sides). Science Man seems to start from a point of garage-punk and pushes the intensity into a realm befitting grindy hardcore (if that isn’t necessarily the final outcome). The vocals are unintelligible screams, the guitars are bouncing into the red and the drums, which I believe used to be the work of a drum machine, sound like a real kit this time around (though it’s all so buried in the distortion that my investigation has stalled). Kinda sounds like something Toxic State would’ve released in 2014, and it’s just as covered in stamped ink and screened cardstock as Toxic State likes to do it. These are definitely songs, but they come at you so overblown and frantic that it kind of just blends into a sound, perhaps too frantic for its own good if you’re the type of person who wants to experience some sort of memorable rock moment. If you just want your paint-peeled a bit, however, Science Man has a firehose of this stuff, ready to aim directly at your face.

Spitting Image Full Sun LP (Slovenly)
When I think of Slovenly Records, I think of retro-inspired international garage-rock, and when I see an album titled Full Sun and described as “High Desert psychedelic punk” on the front sticker, I’m thinking of Meat Puppets and Destruction Unit. That’s a lot of thinking for one person, and I’m pleased to confirm that my expectations were fully upended by this sharp full-length debut. Reno’s Spitting Image have been at it for over ten years, yet Full Sun is their first vinyl album, and I have to say, I deeply appreciate bands that don’t rush things. In their case, they got to put together a dynamic and interesting collection of moody post-punk / hard-indie tunes, utilizing the tuneful shout-alongs of DC’s first wave of emo, melodic grunge riffing and American downer post-punk bootstrapping. I’m reminded quite a bit of Waste Man, another scrappy group who synthesize a variety of underground motifs and sensations into a potent and modern brew, as much of Full Sun also has me hallucinating Guy Picciotto playing in a Wipers cover band with the guy who does Smirk, or Deaf Wish loosely re-interpreting the Gun Club catalog. Years ago, Full Sun would’ve been one of those hidden gems with a Dutch East India logo on the back, stuffed in a dollar bin and scoffing at all the uninformed browsers who passed it by. As for now, it’s immediately listenable on Bandcamp, at least until the company that owns the company that owns Bandcamp decides to downsize and scrapes it from the internet. At that point, back to the dollar bins we go!

Timmy’s Organism Lone Lizard LP (Sweet Time)
It’s way too easy to take tripped-out punk lifer Timmy Vulgar for granted. Much like the Doordash delivery guy, he’s out there sweating through the grunt-work to make life better for the rest of us (or at least less monotonous), in his case by hitting the road with various freak-rock outfits and producing a constant stream of stellar recordings. Timmy’s Organism has been his main pursuit for a good number of years now (though some of his records with Human Eye remain personal favorites), and seeing as he never quit making music, it can be easy to pass one or two albums over, thinking you’ll just catch the next one. I know I have! But I’ve got Lone Lizard here with me now, and it’s a pleasant reminder of what this man can do. It’s a hard-rock record through and through, though the punkness lies in the approach: hammered-out riffs, noisy psychedelia, a sloppy thrill that meets the people on their own terms. These songs are more crafted than some of the appealingly-warped acid sploodge he’s provided in the past, landing somewhere between Hawkwind, Dust and Buffalo, hairy-chest rock n’ roll that’ll knock Jack White’s top hat sideways. If anyone can combine the seemingly incongruent states of spiked leather and psychedelic-print polyester scarfs, or bald and long hair, it’s Mr. Vulgar, truly a lone lizard for our times.

Al Usher The Evenings / The Visitors 12″ (Misericord)
Hot damn, best funky Balaeric dance single of 2023 thus far! “The Evenings” is right up there with Pender Street Steppers, M83, Tensnake, Alek Lee, all my favorite smooth-as-silk downtempo electro-pop, perfectly teetering on the edge of silly/serious with some severely sumptuous leads and snappy Nile Rodgers-inspired bass licks. Al Usher’s partner in love, “Jeanette”, provides the vocals here, with a sophisticated and vaguely European enunciation ala Ann Steel that seems to be about parenthood, but in a completely non-cloying way? All the pieces are weird and yet they fit together perfectly. “The Visitors” steps up the energy ala Lindstrøm & Christabelle, like a DJ night on a yacht that projects Jane Fonda workout tapes on a white wall next to the complimentary chardonnay station. I could listen to tunes like this day and night. As the Misericord folks surely know what a winner they’ve got here, the flip contains a tasteful Ewan Pearson edit of “The Evenings”, leaving all the winning parts in place, as well as an instrumental if you want to try your hand at Jeanette karaoke. No one sings the phrase “functioning alcoholic” like she does, but it sure is fun to try!

Weak Signal War & War LP (12XU)
This is the first record I’ve seen that is “reissued” by a new label after being “released” “digitally” by a different label. You don’t have to call me old-fashioned – I know I am, to a fault perhaps – but the idea of digital-only labels stumps me a little; can’t you just do it yourself at that point? Bandcamp is where it’s gonna end up, and Bandcamp is free! Actually, I took a look and maybe the original label also released a highly-limited CD version with an accompanying book? Hmm… anyway, I’m glad that someone (namely 12XU) found War & War worthy of a big twelve-inch black vinyl slab, because that’s how it found its way to me and it’s a cool one indeed. The first thing I noticed is the overall sound they’ve got going on, as if the lows are maxed out on everything, from the guitars to the drums to the vocals, not so much a heavy record as a consistently booming one. It’s a cool feel, kinda lo-fi but mostly just deep sounding in a Mary Chain way, and it’s an interesting fit for their garage-y, downer-twee indie-pop. Sounds like Crystal Stilts if you were listening to them play with your head in the kick drum, but I was never big on Crystal Stilts and I really dig War & War, so go figure? Kinda has a soft, almost indifferent K Records vibe as well, and each song carries its own weight, from upbeat fuzzy jams to slower meandering grooves. Times New Viking on ketamine, maybe? All I know is that I haven’t gotten “Poor People” out of my head since I first heard it, which is a pleasantly troubling state of affairs.

Why Bother? A City Of Unsolved Miseries LP (Feel It)
Much like the novel coronavirus, Why Bother? have evolved quickly in their short existence, starting off as kind of a monster-movie punk outfit and becoming something more bleakly human and developed. A City Of Unsolved Miseries is their newest and most melodic, still calling to mind The Spits, but a Spits with black eyeliner smoking outside the party, not in the kitchen doing kegstands. Some songs are very much in that Midwestern Killed By Death spirit, but others (like “The Quiet One”) have a home-recorded 4AD style, recalling the very best that Blank Dogs had to offer. It might sound tricky to reconcile the contrasting punk approaches of silly and serious, jumpy and morose, but Why Bother? make it feel like a natural meshing, calling to mind the brief time when Buzzcocks and Joy Division shared club stages and social scenes, or out-of-place one-of-a-kinds like Debris and The Gizmos. It’s fun when punk bands side-step codification and just kinda exist on their own, not worried about making sense so much as honestly expressing their inner freak. You could follow the pre-established aesthetic guidelines that make listeners comfortable, but, uh, why bother?

Wirecutter Little Faith LP (Boomslang)
Gnarly debut effort here from Berlin improv duo Wirecutter. Micha Hoppe is on the drums and Sid Werner is on the diddley bow (plus both touch some synths) and the vibe is like 75 Dollar Bill reimagined as a black-metal group, or Will Guthrie collaborating with Tongue Depressor, or Aufgehoben tasked with scoring a new Mandalorian soundtrack. It’s gloriously wretched stuff, Hoppe’s drums sounding like they are being beaten out of shape and Werner’s endlessly deep squall evoking some form of primal flatulence, as if the Earth itself groaned from a case of irritable bowels. Certain moments of fury call to mind Lightning Bolt at their most feral, but Wirecutter quickly stray from full-scale assault to tonal exploration, the diddley bow consistently pushed to its heaviest pitches, teetering on the edge of what could be considered “tuned”. I love when free improv conjures sweltering swamp dungeons crusted in years of filth – Wolf Eyes ostensibly the masters of the technique – and Wirecutter are immediately up there with Little Faith, or should I say down below.

Reviews – May 2023

Quick note: As is the nature of our changing world, I decided to join Substack for the purpose of these monthly record reviews (and whatever else occasionally shows up in these pages). Nothing will be changing here at good ol’, but people seem to dig reading Substacks, and if it gets my humble words in front of more eyes, why not, right? The same content will be available here and Plus, if you’d simply prefer to receive an email digest rather than having to remember to check out this page, now you have the option, and commenting is a thing over there too, if you ever wanted to flame me publicly. If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns, please shoot me an email. Word of mouth: we depend on it!

Abscess Political Vomit LP (Hard Art)
Next time you want to impress some strangers at a party, why not inform them unprompted that Abscess was Iowa’s first hardcore band? Prior to encountering Political Vomit, I couldn’t have told you who was first (or second, or third…), but thanks to Hard Art they are now formally documented on twelve-inch vinyl for generations to come. If you have a hardcore-tuned ear, I’m sure you could estimate a fairly accurate guess as to what they sounded like: ramshackle, mid-paced to speedy, egregiously amateurish and bursting with stochastic teenage energy. They started off as a band of teenagers covering Sex Pistols and Ramones songs, and they certainly sound like it here, somewhere in the musical league of Necros, Ill Repute and Circle Jerks (although notably less distinctive than any of those three). My favorite part is that even though this session was properly recorded in a studio, there are still multiple notable flubs in their performance, from missed drum hits to wrong notes (some of which aren’t even close). It’s beautiful! I can practically picture the scene as it unfolded: 1983 in Ames, Iowa, uptight studio engineer shaking his head as Abscess bashed through these ten songs with careless abandon. It’s a glorious thing, hardcore-punk sprouting up all across our terrible country that wanted no part of it, and I’m glad the story of Abscess is no longer exclusively relegated to a moldy cardboard box in some Iowan attic.

Dead Horses Sunny Days LP (Maple Death)
Sunny Days is the first vinyl full-length from Italian blues-punkers Dead Horses, though if they’re excited at the prospect you wouldn’t know it from the music. These songs arrive in various shades of agitation and disinterest, from groaning apathy to vein-popping fury, all performed loosely and without strict adherence to formal technique. Too High To Die-era Meat Puppets feels like a reasonable reference point, but infused with the mean-spirited garage of the Goodbye Boozy label and The Men’s technique of throwing a bunch of varied styles against the wall to see what sticks. Various members moan and howl in a manner that reminds me of Circle Pit and Royal Trux, and while there’s a bit of that willful inebriation happening in Sunny Days, I feel like they might see themselves more in the tradition of Dead Moon than any sort of art-minded punk. More likely, Dead Horses haven’t thought about anything too strategically, preferring to simply strum a beat-up guitar, pound a tom and a snare and see what shakes out.

De Leon De Leon LP (Mana)
De Leon’s 2018 debut was a big record for me, kind of crystallizing the moment where experimental techno entrepreneurs dug deep into patient minimalist gamelan-inspired (or gamelan-thieving) grooves. De Leon was exactly that, an inscrutable suite of pleasantly refined percussion-based tracks, and now the artist (whoever exactly they(?) are) is back with a follow-up full-length, also self-titled and also on Mana. Whereas the 2018 release stuck to the rhythmic grid in an appealingly collegiate way, this new one ventures out all over the landscape, clinging to a sense of time-keeping on some but not all of the tracks. This one is more about the tones, the rich and durable pitched-metal sounds of what are probably bells struck in accordance with some system either too elaborate or too improvised for my brain to predict. Chimes are both distant and in the foreground, some coming direct and others given a healthy dub rinsing, resulting in a sweetly disorienting listen. By the time we hit “B2”, the groove is in full gear, hypnosis complete. After my first few runs, I was a little disappointed that De Leon sacrificed a total dedication to the cyclical groove in the name of open exploration, but I’m quickly coming around to their new approach, sounding as if Vladislav Delay was tasked with lightly reworking Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient series.

Disintegration Time Moves For Me 12″ (Feel It)
Pretty sick debut here from Cleveland’s Disintegration, featuring Haley Himiko of Pleasure Leftists, Noah Anthony of Profligate and Christopher Brown of Cloud Nothings. Pleasure Leftists always struck me as underrated (and Profligate, extremely underrated), and while the world will probably continue to mostly exist as it has before Disintegration’s debut EP dropped, it’s the world’s loss, not mine! I loved Profligate’s late turn towards a noir-ish cold-wave pop sound, and Himiko was a standout vocalist for punk-adjacent goth music of the 2010s, so it’s much to my delight that their powers combine excellently here, really working off each other to achieve something special. Time Moves For Me is a pretty damn evolved debut for any group, sounding more like a well-oiled synthetic/organic hybrid than a first attempt. There’s an electronic element to all of these songs, but a human one too, like I can almost picture the mud-soaked members of Nine Inch Nails on that Woodstock stage playing these upbeat and sophisticated synth-pop songs even if I know that it’s actually four plainclothes Ohioans doing the work. And that’s not to say that it sounds like Nine Inch Nails at all – Disintegration is on far more of a Depeche Mode tip – but these songs are lively and robust in a way that Reznor would surely approve, leagues beyond typical synth presets and, thanks in no small part to Himiko’s powerful voice, catchy as hell too. She out-Bonos Bono on triumphant closer “Make A Wish”, my only disappointment being that there isn’t immediately more songs to enjoy. Recommended!

Divorcer Espionage 7″ (Domestic Departure)
Domestic Departure keeps the post-punk party rolling with this vinyl debut from Vancouver’s Divorcer, who feature a member of the great Flex TMG (I’m still wearing out the grooves on that one). There’s no disco in Divorcer’s equation though, which looks towards the spunky first wave of post-punk for inspiration, calling to mind Y Pants and The Petticoats through the music’s skeletal simplicity and vibrant personality. But unlike late ’70s DIY, Espionage is the result of a clean digital recording, giving it more of a modern indie sound, not entirely different from Priests’ last record and Flasher’s first one. And like all the groups mentioned, this feels like a true gang effort – multiple members sing, both in unison and call-and-response, and the instruments make plenty of space for each other, like the laid-back and guitar-less groove of “Crying”, for example (which, don’t kill me, has kind of a Vampire Weekend vibe?). A lot of DIY post-punk acts can coast by on charm alone, but it’s clear that these songs were crafted by musically-minded folks, not merely well-intentioned novices. With only this four-song debut EP, Divorcer are a smart, charming, weird, playful and serious post-punk band, all at the same time.

Dubamine Cool & Relax 12″ (Dub-Stuy)
Extremely excited for open-window season here, and with that comes the need for fresh tunes to fill the ventilated spaces within them. Glad to have stumbled upon this new EP from Dubamine, then, an American producer who snagged the mighty Nazamba for “Cool & Relax”. Nazamba died way too young last July, but his rich and weathered voice pushes Dubamine’s digi-reggae into a drifting zone of lysergic bliss. When he repeats “cool… relax… easy”, life’s daily troubles are unable to occupy my consciousness for even a second, and at a meager four minutes, you’re gonna wanna play it a few times in a row. “Nature’s Dub” is a worthy flip, a deeply rinsed reggae-goes-dubstep affair that’s as slow as it is cavernous. Whatever it is, it’s just about the slowest BPM one can reasonably be expected to head-bob along with, which is a personal sweet spot for me. Might be slightly off-putting to some that it’s a white guy from Santa Cruz (Dubamine) responsible for such heady Rasta music, but Nazamba chose to collaborate with this talented producer, and the last thing I’m gonna do is pass my uninvolved judgment on Nazamba’s choices, particularly when it’s a track as soulful and calming as “Cool & Relax”.

Electric Chair Act Of Aggression LP (Iron Lung)
Electric Chair are one of my favorite current hardcore bands, not least because of the world they’ve built around themselves. Rather than following the motions, checking the hardcore boxes and coming up with a pre-approved adjective-noun band-name (Crucial Damage, Mutant Unit, Negative Mind, how long ’til you all exist?), Electric Chair offer their view of the world in a manner that merges the absurd, the dead-serious and the absolutely raging. Plus, they seem to be having the time of their lives doing it, a point that so often seems to get lost in the shuffle of social-media likes, high-visibility destination fest billings and everything else that sucks. The album opens with an unfriendly bass-line redolent of Die Kreuzen and rolls from there, steamrolling henceforth through the final fade-out crashes of “Palm Of My Hand”. One can trace a lot of this back to the DNA of Poison Idea, Koro and Mecht Mensch, but I also hear the tradition of over-the-top, energy-bursting Pacific Northwest hardcore-punk like The Fartz, Dayglo Abortions and even some Tales Of Terror in Electric Chair’s sound, if not a note-for-note match but a shared spirit of wild abandon. Electric Chair’s form of punk doesn’t quietly integrate with normal society, it freaks people out at the grocery store, and I love them for it.

5AM Pre Zz LP (Thinner Groove)
Credit where it’s due: I discovered 5AM’s Pre Zz from a brief-yet-ecstatic Joint Custody write-up, and while it was enough to get me to take a peep, I was ill-prepared for how much I’d end up digging it! 5AM is a Japanese trio consisting of techno producer Powder, half of the house duo Cos/Mes and a clothing designer, and if that sounds like a potentially stylish and chill combination, allow me to assure you that it is extremely stylish and chill. As 5AM, they made fun little songs that are downtempo without being boring, and even kind of sprightly in their own way. Imagine a dubby and distinctly Japanese take on Playstation 2 sound-font / vaporwave / trip-hop, one less reliant on gauzy ambient drones and more likely to pop and snap into microscopic action. I hear a little bit of Phew’s self-titled album with Conny Plank’s production and plenty of the Wah Wah Wino crew’s left-field electro mutations here, but mostly I’m hearing 5AM’s unique perspective, apparently making music for the oddest hours of the day, somewhere between not enough sleep and way too much sleep. The vocals are great too, groggy but poppy, and the songs fade and shift between sunny pop and closed-curtain smoke sessions, often in the same track. “Today” sounds like the best possible result of Gorillaz working with Stone’s Throw in 1998; “HOT !” sounds like a mysterious track you’d hear on a mix between Stereolab and DJ Spooky that you spend the rest of your adult life trying to track down. In the case of Pre Zz, it’s probably going to involve some painful international shipping costs, but it’s worth every penny!

Glittering Insects Glittering Insects LP (Mind Meld)
Seems like lots of punks have recently been wondering what it’d be like if the 1984-1988 years of SST Records were reconfigured into something palatable today, and while I can’t say for sure that that’s what happened with Glittering Insects, I can’t rule it out either. They’re a new group from some old names – GG King alongside members of Wymyns Prysyn and Predator – and while the atmosphere here certainly carries that anything-goes feel of GG King, Glittering Insects are honing in on something else entirely. It’s noise-rock without the aggression, indie-rock without the wimpiness, art-rock without the wackiness, post-punk without being formulaic. Cool stuff! These songs move in all sorts of directions, but I’m reminded of Spike In Vain, Sonic Youth, Saccharine Trust, Pink Reason, 3 Teens Kill 4, maybe a little My Dad Is Dead and No Trend at their most tuneful? It’s certainly more than a collection of influences though, and all the better for it. Glittering Insects never forsake a good hook for a noisy blowout; King and company have always had a knack for writing memorably melodic choruses (how good is Predator, or the GG King song “Joyless Masturbation”?) and that talent is refined here, given room to be playful and creepy and revel in its many unsettling moods.

Ky Power Is The Pharmacy LP (Constellation)
Ky Brooks plays in a noise-punk group called Lungbutter, which apparently did not fully satiate their need to create wild and peculiar music. Thus, now they have this solo album, created (in a very Canadian fashion) with no fewer than eight other musicians. Not unlike Kee Avil’s Constellation album last year, Power Is The Pharmacy is conceptual and loosely committed to song-form, closer to something that would debut in a gallery than on the stage in the back of a bar. Brooks sings, speaks and chops it up like Laurie Anderson (or maybe even the video art of Martha Rosler) as their co-conspirators conjure the drifting synth-scapes and restless ambient pieces that act as sonic backdrops. I like it best when Brooks leans into the musicality of things, voices and tones dancing in the sunlight together, but I get the impression they’re having the most fun on the stuff that’s harder to digest, like the annoying-on-purpose repetition of “Work That Superficially Looks Like Leisure”. Lots of intense (or at least aspiring to be intense) ideas here, and since it’s all Canadian, you know the government threw them some bucks to dig as deep into their own navel as they wanted. Which, in Ky’s case, feels like there’s still plenty deeper to go.

L4b L4b LP (Relaxin)
I’ve been on a serious Lolina kick for the past few years, gobbling up all of her weird, contextless albums and savoring them; it follows then that I was pleased to discover L4b’s debut. It’s one of her new projects, a duo with someone named Brandon Juhans who apparently resides in North Carolina(?). No matter what Juhans is all about, Lolina’s personal stamp is all over L4b, two long passages of chaotic and rickety turntablism, or at least that’s how my ears are interpreting it. These two lengthy collages rapidly deploy scratching, pitch-shifting and live beat sampling, at times sounding like Oval remixing JJ Fad or John Wiese given free range to edit an Invisibl Skratch Piklz session, but there’s also a sense of considered pacing here, with loops that actually settle in and provide some form of coherent rhythm or phrasing. Lolina’s voice occasionally pokes out too, on the chance we needed the reminder that these crooked beats were the work of human execution and not entirely software-derived. I want to say it’s not super far from the work of Aaron Dilloway or Twig Harper as well, that sorta hands-on American junk-noise sound, although L4b’s reliance on hip-hop’s sound-bank and dub properties provides this record’s unique distinction.

Lynx Lynx 2xLP (Computer Students)
The extremely bespoke math-rock reissue label Computer Students now sets its sights on Boston’s Lynx, whom I accidentally confused with Olympia’s Lync for a couple minutes at first. I missed this group on the first go-around, which I think is fair considering they only seemed to release two small CDs in 1998 and 1999, but Computer Students is constantly on the lookout for unheralded math-rock and this fits their MO perfectly. The music of Lynx is kind of what I hear in my head if I start chanting the phrase “math rock” to myself: locked-in drums and bass-guitar with stop-on-a-dime cymbal-grabs; academic time signatures; dextrous and vaguely-jazzy guitar work; a dry and direct studio recording; absolutely no vocals. These songs are dynamic and interesting, if kind of generic when viewed through 2023’s lens. I’m sure Don Caballero were an influence, and while there’s plenty of similarities between the two groups, Lynx are less antagonistic, more trying to perfect the form than subvert anyone’s expectations of it. As always, the lavish Computer Students presentation – in this case, two attractive printed LPs in a “heat-sealed aluminum” outer bag with poster insert – treats Lynx’s recordings (both the original album and an unreleased session) with a classy, formal reverence that encourages the listener to give it a serious and focused listen. I know I did!

Frank Marchi Lonely Fire LP (Funeria)
Relentless creative activity from West Bay stalwart Frank Marchi (of Agents Of Satan, Plutocracy, Empty People and half a dozen other impressive projects), following last year’s solo excursion with another, Lonely Fire. He recorded this over the winter of 2022 into 2023, and the wax itself feels more like a dubplate than a mass-produced vinyl record (which would also explain the fast turnaround time). While undeniably a bassist of hardcore pedigree, myriad other sounds and styles filtered into his personal taste (and that of his crew’s), so it’s not a big surprise that much of Lonely Fire is downright funky, utilizing crate-dug loops as a bedrock for his active bass-playing. Certain tracks remind me of MF Doom’s Special Herbs instrumental series, as raw and immediate as their grooves are. There’s also some space-rock happening here, somewhere between Parliment’s mothership and Hawkwind’s orgone accumulator but operating on a very DIY, home-recorded level. Charming and chill, Marchi clearly just wants to vibe out playing his bass all day, and in a just society, he’d be provided with the comfortable lifestyle to do so. As far as our particular reality is concerned, you can at least send him money and receive his records in return.

Mystic 100’s On A Micro Diet 2xLP (Listening House)
When you’re as polarizing an underground rock band as Mystic 100’s (née Milk Music), one thing’s for sure: a lot of people are gonna talk about you! Being talked about is essentially the most pursued form of currency available to musical artists these days (since commutable money is more or less out of the question), and these guys have had the underground buzzing since their exceptional fuzzed-out Milk Music debut, Beyond Living, first for coming out of nowhere as the premier Sex/Vid-approved Dinosaur Jr.-worship band, and then for continually upending expectations in their transition to off-the-grid acid-gobbling hippie freaks. I’m sure there is some aspect of intentional trolling going on here with On A Micro Diet, but I believe Mystic 100’s are being their true selves (and whose true selves don’t include a little bit of trolling anyway?). This double album is stuffed with aimless rock noodling, somewhere in the ballpark of the final Blue Cheer album, that masterfully narcoleptic Frigate album, the last two minutes of a half-hour live Moss Icon improvisation, a Ween CD-only bonus track and maybe the sentiment of the lone Fuckin’ Flyin’ A-Heads single? Stoned to the bone nonsense to the core, no doubt. They’re a fun group to talk about, seeing as they seem unburdened by the expectations of normality that so many other “weirdos” all still abide by, but On A Micro Diet is an entertaining listen on its own, so long as you don’t value decorum and good taste over outlandishness and personality.

Bill Nace & Chik White Off Motion LP (Open Mouth)
A lotta records by Bill Nace and/or Open Mouth Records pass through these digital pages, and while I probably can’t convince all of you to buy all of them, I’m hoping to convince most of you to pick this one up! It’s the most melodically satisfying release from Mr. Nace in a while, due in no small part to the tuneful buzz of Chik White’s jaw harp. White’s jaw harp is easily the most prominent sonic aspect, and he really makes that thing buzz or howl (under the influence of jaw?). Warped jaw harp emissions are frequently looped throughout, providing the perfect sonic canvas for Nace to scribble over, with ticklish pops of feedback, sheets of greyscale noise, electric raspberries and at least half a dozen sounds I couldn’t place within a few guesses. It’s an improvised noise record I suppose, but it really hops and bops with glee, such is the nature of the funny Looney Tunes sound-effect quality inherent in Chik White’s chosen instrument and the way in which these two sonic explorers decided to shape things around it. Kinda sounds like one of those hand-pasted LAFMS records from the late ’70s that I dream of someday paying a few hundred bucks to own, but you can get this right now, somewhere I’m sure, for a reasonable retail price!

Max Nordile Copper In The Arts LP (Gilgongo)
In a review of one of Max Nordile’s many other recent releases, Byron Coley described him as “operating in a lot of odd fields”, which cracked me up in its accuracy. I’ve seen some of his zines and art before, and much like his music (when not reigned in somewhat by bandmates), Nordile’s work seems to delight in the unrefined. You could draw a picture with a crayon, but Nordile seems more likely to wildly mash the crayon into the paper under the force of his body until a pile of colored wax rips a hole right through it. That technique (or lack thereof?) seems to apply to Copper In The Arts, a new solo lathe that features two side-long pieces. “Copper In The Arts” sounds like a microphone placed inside an industrial rock sorter, or hail in the form of scrap metal raining down on an old shack in the woods. Turns out it’s actually rain on a drum head over a tape recorder, so I was close! “Rats Are The Souls Of Dead Landlords” leaves a few amps running while Nordile improvises on anything within grabbing distance, making a racket similar to what I’d expect would come from an elephant left unsupervised in the same space. The rain piece is great, certainly in the spirit of Philip Corner, and the other is nice as well, two additional forms of unwanted sonic detritus infused with Nordile’s personal magic.

Oxbow & Peter Brötzmann An Eternal Reminder Of Not Today / Live At Moers 2xLP (Trost / Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Quite the summit here between two long-standing titans of aggro noisy musics, Oxbow and Peter Brötzmann on stage together for one night in Moers, Germany. If you’re familiar with either artist, you’d probably be curious to check this out, and if you dig both I can’t imagine you’d want to miss it. As for me, I haven’t spent much time with Oxbow beyond their seminal Fuck Fest album, and I love all the Brötzmann I’ve heard (though there’s a vast catalog of recordings I haven’t yet). Both artists signify a kind of non-toxic masculinity, grappling with their chosen forms of art with careful consideration and a willingness to extend beyond the realm of safety, so while their respective styles of explosive, bluesy art-rock and torrential improvised sax differ, they meld together impressively well here. Oxbow’s repertoire here leans on slow-burning and spacious grooves, flickering like cigarettes in the dark and equally as smokey. Rhythms circulate, build and play on each other, leaving plenty of room for vocalist Eugene Robinson’s hostile spoken-word and Brötzmann’s punctuated bleats. The biggest surprise here for me is Brötzmann’s approach, far more melodic and sultry than anything I’ve heard come from his saxophone before. Atonal skronk wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, and it shows that Brötzmann, ever the busy collaborator, understood the assignment perfectly, dousing Oxbow’s combustible tunes in his strong amber liquor in anticipation of Robinson’s lit match.

People’s Temple I’m With The People’s Temple 7″ (Roachleg)
More of this, please! It’s cool that hardcore-punk bands can flawlessly ape d-beat, crust, Negative Approach, all that stuff, but man I’ve been hankering for a band to sound like they were ripped directly from the seminal Not So Quiet On The Western Front compilation and that’s exactly what’s happening with Brooklyn’s People’s Temple. They sound like Rebel Truth covering Intensified Chaos with American Dream’s vocalist, pure California ripped-bandana-over-the-knees melodic hardcore-punk that never sacrifices speed for catchiness or vice versa. I kinda can’t believe this is the work of three guys in Brooklyn and not like, high schoolers from San Jose who ripped Jello’s shirt off his back at a show in 1982 that was shut down by the cops. The vocals are perfectly tunefully hoarse, and the songs skip all over, as antsy and irritated as the best hardcore-punk always is. I don’t know if they sit around daydreaming while blasting MIA and Naked Lady Wrestlers like I do, but I’m thrilled they seemed to have come to similar sonic conclusions. Hot stuff!

Poison Ruïn Härvest LP (Relapse)
If you were to dangle me off a bridge and force me to name my favorite hometown punk band in this very moment, I’d find it a pretty extreme measure just to confirm that I’m going with Poison Ruïn! There are plenty of great Philly hardcore-punk bands (I need more Delco MF’s and Quarantine), and I’m sure Zorn are probably exceptional (though my gut reaction has been to avoid them entirely due to the whole Spirit Halloween presentation), but Poison Ruïn have created a cold reality unto themselves, one that sets a pretty clear aesthetic in place while allowing plenty of space to move within it. The visual vibe is Medieval Gothic, moving past the spiked gauntlets of black metal towards chain mail and scythes, closer to Robin Hood than Vlad the Impaler. It’s fun, first and foremost, but also an interesting lens through which to view our contemporary dystopia, as Poison Ruïn’s songs reflect the here and now. As for the music, it’s proudly crust-punk with skinhead ambitions and never veers too far into straight-up hardcore, instead calling to mind ’90s punk classics like Defiance and Aus Rotten, the dungeon-toiling qualities of labelmates Raspberry Bulbs, the downer-melodic vibes of early Philly punkers Ruin and the rhythmic marching orders of British street-punk (there’s gotta be at least one Blitz fan in the band). I swear, there was one song in here that had me thinking of Billy Idol fronting Amebix, but now I’m listening again and can’t quite find it. Such is the world of Poison Ruïn: appealingly crusty and mysterious.

Revelation Man Medieval Massage 7″ (FuckPunk)
Not sure how I fell off with the FuckPunk label, considering they released some of the weirdest and gnarliest records to be loosely associated with Bristol’s post-dubstep scene, but I’m glad I remembered to check back in time to catch the debut single from Revelation Man. Like other FuckPunk records, the packaging is purposely non-existent/janky and there’s a good chance the artist is fake (or at least not entirely real), but unlike the corrosive grooves and blown-out dubs of other FuckPunk releases, Revelation Man is a deadpan Italo project through and through. You kinda have to watch the video for “Medieval Massage” to really get it, but I strongly recommend you do as it’s a track worth getting! Revelation Man dances, sings and lightly hams it up in full Renaissance garb, his emotionally deadpan vocals calling to mind Italo disco favorites like Joe Yellow and Decadence. Revelation Man forebodingly explains that we will learn “the meaning of massage”, and I have to admit, his song makes me more than a little curious! Label-head DJ Oa$is contributes a lightly-dubbed version on the flip, about as remixed as your average ZYX Records b-side, very true to the spirit of the genre. The only thing missing is Revelation Man sensually eating a turkey leg with his bare hands, but there’s no reason us listeners can’t take that necessary step ourselves.

Shitstorm Demonic Alien 7″ (Do What?)
Shitstorm is the kind of band name that one would expect to sound like an actual shitstorm… I’m reminded of a different Shitstorm and their split seven-inch with Sloth that fits the bill nicely: turbulent and imprecise grindcore. This Shitstorm, however, takes a different route, even if they recorded this EP at a place appropriately called “The Sinkhole”. This St. Louis group plays a ragged and bouncy garage-punk style, like some sort of animated kid sibling of Dead Moon, just dying to get out on the road for three months with little more than an old toothbrush and a couple extra T-shirts. While garage at heart, some of these songs verge into pre-mainstream grunge (“Frustrate” is sixty seconds of Sub Pop 100 groove), and the closing track “Get It Right” sounds like Gary Wrong Group covering Sonic Youth or some such basement-level approximation. Basically any form of dirtbag indie can apply here, jeans ripped in weird spots and band shirts of the band they played with the night before. You may not need to hear Demonic Alien this very instant, but you should be comforted that it exists.

Sloth Fist Bombs Away LP (Mindpower)
I’ve always had a little soft-spot for old-guy punk, and considering that basically no bands have stayed broken up, there’s a lot more old-guy punk out there these days, isn’t there? Sloth Fist are a relatively new group, yet Bombs Away is already their sophomore album. They’re old-guy punk for sure – don’t take my word for it, check out “Too Old To Rock” – and they play a gritty form of traditional ’90s-esque pop-punk. You know the type, where the singer kinda screams like he’s in a metal-core band but the other members follow the wide path worn by The Replacements, The Ramones and Rancid, to name a few R-based touchstones of the style. Sloth Fist are from Dallas, but this stuff sounds like it could’ve been local to me here in Southeastern PA circa 1996, ripe for a VFW hall show with a punk band, a ska band and a beatdown hardcore band simply because they were the only bands around, not out of any intentional push for diversity. Not sure if y’all remember Limecell (and seeing as they wrote the anthem “You’re Not Punk, You’re Dirty” in 1994, I pray they have even slightly righteous politics in 2023), but Sloth Fish give me kind of a Limecell vibe, like there’s one guy in the band who works as a licensed contractor, one who always wears hockey jerseys and one who inexplicably has all the early Dischord, Touch & Go and Misfits singles in pristine condition. I regret not checking all three of those boxes myself, but as inspired by Sloth Fist, maybe I still have time.

Tee Vee Repairmann What’s On TV? LP (Total Punk / Computer Human)
Seems like there’s always some up-and-coming punk who writes and releases a million songs in a year, and lately that role has been filled by Sydney’s Ishka Edmeades. If you don’t know him as Tee Vee Repairmann, perhaps you’ve heard his guitar playing in Goner Records’ recording artist Gee Tee, or as part of Research Reactor Corporation or The Satanic Togas… I can’t imagine a day has gone by in the past couple years where Edmeades hasn’t held a guitar in his hands and done something punk with it. What’s On TV? is his newest solo collection, and it’s a fine collection of feel-good garage-punk bops, filled with beach-party riffs, amiable snot and tasteful keyboard accompaniment. The attitude is far more playful than mean, like a mid-tempo Jay Reatard without the pathos or face-punching. At times, it can seem like Edmeades is trying to summon a nostalgic vibe (all the TV talk is reminiscent of first-wave punk rather than the actual world we currently inhabit), as if he’s “being a punk guy” instead of just naturally being a punk guy, but it mostly just matters if the songs sound nice or not, and his are perfectly fine for the job. There’s not a lot of Total Punk you could bring home to meet your mom, but Tee Vee Repairmann is the perfect mix of non-threatening and charming… just don’t mention The Satanic Togas.

The Toms The Toms 2xLP (Feel It)
Nope, that’s not a laminated roadside diner menu, it’s the new reissue of The Toms’ debut LP! Feel It already provided us with a collection of 1979 recordings from New Jersey’s Thomas Marolda, and now they’re giving us a formal reissue of The Toms’ debut with a bonus second LP of almost entirely other songs, all of which are apparently separate from the first reissue. That’s some extreme songwriting power right there, especially when you consider the quality of Marolda’s output. These songs fit right in with power-pop knockouts like The Shoes, Boyfriends and The Plimsouls, with plenty of inspirational credit surely due to The Beatles and Kinks as well. Lots of singing to an unspecified “girl” over pitch-perfect melodies, upbeat swinging rhythms and happy guitars. I love this kind of sound, especially when crafted as masterfully and sweetly as The Toms; I wish this sound was always playing at least quietly in my background. I guess back in the tumultuous late ’70s, young adults had no choice but to sit around crafting the best possible songs they could on their guitars instead of aimlessly scrolling on their phones? Sure, it’s cool that Marolda has these timeless pop tunes (and a Grammy nomination?) under his belt, but you should see the incredible collection of poorly-rendered memes I’ve got stored on my phone!

Vidro Glöd LP (Beach Impediment)
Globetrotting hardcore is a fairly modern phenomenon (Chaos In Tejas being ground zero?), to the point where we have the band Vidro, whose members apparently reside in Brazil, the United States and Sweden. I’m guessing they don’t have the casual intimacy of practicing in the basement every week, but rather meet up in efficient bursts, of which Glöd is a result. It was released by Germany’s Kink Records last year, now with an American pressing care of the perpetually clued-in Beach Impediment label. I don’t know what member is from where, but this certainly sounds like an international hardcore record, with Zero Boys’ guitar tone, an agile Swedish d-beat songwriting style, the astringent delivery of Raw Power and, to top it off, an ex-member of the freakin’ Headcleaners(!). I swear I can hear a Brazilian hardcore influence too, but they don’t shoot for Olho Seco levels of aggression – Vidro are mostly kinda mid-paced by hardcore-punk standards, sounding like they should’ve gotten a track on the P.E.A.C.E. comp and had a picture of a mushroom cloud on their page of the newsprint insert. Absolutely nothing groundbreaking, but proficient and raging enough that Vidro’s long-distance flights weren’t spent in vain.

Witness K Witness K LP (Ever/Never)
Ever/Never is responsible for some of my favorite “where’d this come from?” releases of the past few years, and I’d file the self-titled debut from Sydney’s Witness K under that header. This is dimly-lit, far-from-punk post-punk that conjures rich moods of intrigue and deceit and compassion (or manipulation under the guise of compassion?), as much song as sonic surroundings. Bass-lines stir like a spoon in black coffee, vocals murmur on the outskirts of the recording (were they captured accidentally?) and a variety of strings and keys filter through the blinds, all plodding along together. It’s not simply the Australian connection that has me thinking about CS + Kreme while listening to Witness K – both groups conjure strange, elusive atmospheres through semi-traditional instrumentation and slow electronic rhythms (see “How Do We Count Your Poses”), though Witness K lands closer to the Cold Storage / early ’80s Rough Trade bullpen (think Virginia Astley) than CS + Kreme’s vaguely techno inclinations. Witness K’s instrumentation skews kind of “indie”, though the delivery and presentation are far too stark and unusual to find a home in even the tiniest print on one of those weekend indie festivals. Feels like something Blackest Ever Black would be releasing if the label still existed in 2023, but we have Ever/Never out here doing the thankless work instead. So, uh, thanks!

XV On The Creekbeds On The Thrones LP (Ginkgo)
Michigan’s XV are one of the most singular post-punk bands going today, and it’s because of something that can’t be gained via virtuosity, hard work, money or social status. It’s better than all that: this trio actually seems to be really close friends with each other! It’s the sort of psychic connection that can only arrive organically and over time, and XV thrive within this rich interpersonal comfort, making music that is wholly their own. It’s all over On The Creekbeds On The Thrones, their second full-length (third if you count Basement Tapes), this playful dialogue between all three members and the way they manage to turn it into songs. I don’t know if they switch instruments between songs, but the drumming varies wildly, multiple members sing (or speak, as it were), and the whole thing plays out like various conversations, from the mundane to the serious to the ridiculous, bass-lines generally guiding the ship. A couple tracks remind me of that great Them, Themselves Or They single from years ago (it’s the vocal echo / stoner bass-line combo), and certain moments call to mind the basement skronk of Puppet Wipes or the stoner-punk of Vivienne Styg, but those are incidental findings, not direct correlations. Occasionally tagged as “free punk” (meant in a “free jazz” way), XV don’t wildly thumb their instruments without purpose but rather approach song as a place to share, explore, and most importantly, have a really good time.

Yfory Yfory 7″ (Static Age Musik)
Can’t think of any punk as globally active as Bryony Beynon – I first encountered her in London with the god-level Good Throb, then she was playing in BB & The Blips in Australia, and now she’s fronting Yfory in Berlin (and singing in Welsh, for good measure). And here I am, feeling like I accomplished an epic journey whenever I get dinner in a different neighborhood! Unlike the absolutely scalding menace of Good Throb and the snotty pogo of The Blips, Yfory is sophisticated and cool, closer to Animals & Men and The Raincoats than any sort of mosh-minded music. Gotta say, it really works! The guitar lines are interesting, kind of aloof but in a charming way, and Beynon’s vocal range (from spoken to chirped) are a fitting match, equally detached but dead-stare focused. Definitely a classic stripped-down post-punk sound, but imbued with enough of Yfory’s own character to make it stick. I wonder what’ll happen next, if they’ll become an ongoing concern and develop their sound further, or if this is already the last we’ll hear of Yfory, Beynon uprooting to Brazil or Iceland to start a skinhead or crust band. Either way, I’ll be happily following along!