Aardvarck Choice CD (Eat Concrete)
I bought Aardvarck’s Choice on 12 a couple months ago, only to learn it wasn’t the new full-length so much as a shortened “sampler” of it. Disappointing, but Choice is finally out, and after witnessing the size and scale of this album, it made a little sense why the CD format might be preferred to vinyl (as much as it pains me to say). The ‘Varck crams 22 tracks onto Choice, and while some barely scratch three minutes, there’s a ton of music here. Really, it can be such a stressful listen that it’s hard to digest in one sitting: Aardvarck rarely bludgeons the listener here, instead preferring to sneak up slowly and scare him or her from behind. Some of the gnarly bass music I enjoy punches straight in the gut, whereas Aardvarck is more like a stomach virus you had no idea you contracted until 3:00 am on a Tuesday night and you’re hovering your head over the toilet ’til the sun comes up. If you ignore the creepy Gaslamp Killer shout-out that opens the album, Choice starts pretty softly; both “Lucky Shot” and “Gestolen” are nearly ambient in a Sven Weissman way, with eerie noises and sullen piano guiding the listener through a darkened hallway. It’s really only until “Breaking Bad” that I feel instigated by Aardvarck, with the Atari explosions guiding a slow-motion R&B cut away from the witch house dungeon. I’ve spun this one a few times now, and still find myself surprised by Aardvarck’s ability to intimidate with a gentle hand. Choice will certainly please fans of both Madlib and Otto Von Schirach, which isn’t something I can say very often.

Anworth Kirk Anworth Kirk LP (Pre-Cert Home Entertainment)
Apparently Pre-Cert is a new Demdike Stare-related label, an homage to the dusty bins of VHS tapes they love so much. Anworth Kirk is a guy in their crew (and knowing Demdike Stare and the name’s Wicker Man connection, presumably an alias of some sort), and he has put together a curious and thoughtful mix of audio detritus with this self-titled debut. ‘Kirk works with unusual sounds, mysterious rhythms, and samples that leave out the important parts, making you wish you had some sort of background as to what happened before or after the old lady calmly talked about taking a piss. This sort of Mutter Museum music always reminds me of Nurse With Wound to a degree, but Anworth Kirk must spend enough time in Demdike Stare’s studio to know that a deep punch of bass or tribal percussion loop can make for the perfect segue between freak shows. If you dug Demdike Stare’s mixes, but wish you could spend more time inside their late ’70s velvet caverns, eavesdropping on seances and watching the butler hide the bloody knife, there is hardly a better way to treat yourself than Anworth Kirk.

Art Abscons Der Verborgene Gott LP (Blind Prophet)
Looking like a young adult Der Blutharsch record, the debut LP by German group Art Abscons fits the image: it’s like a gateway music to induct children into the subversive world of Current 93 and Death in June. Very strange stuff here, as Art Abscons don’t hide their Ren Faire sound, instead brandishing it proudly and inviting you to break bread with them. There’s a Stephen Merritt-pitched singer, and some overdubbed whispering, all in German (although who really knows for sure), and a creepy playfulness to the music that brings to mind Comus’ First Utterance. Europe has so many disturbing and scary children’s stories, the sort of morbid tales American parents have replaced with Pixar movies; Art Abscons seem to revel in that world, where every action bears serious consequence, and the treats you were given might just be an attempt to fatten your tasty little bones. Der Verborgene Gott is a weird-ass record, and one that you can’t just put on at any time and expect to enjoy, but it entertains in a unique and satisfying way. Certainly the most curiously entertaining group I’ve come across in a while.

Blank Realm Deja What? LP (Bedroom Suck)
Bedroom Suck have delivered a small slew of releases recently, mostly of bands I hadn’t previously heard, and mostly great. Blank Realm falls somewhere in the tail-end of the pack, as they play a trance-y, modern psychedelic style that neither blows me away nor blows. Clearly someone is importing Sacred Bones onto Australian soil, as Blank Realm ride a very similar wave to the more rock-end of the Sac-Bon spectrum, like a quieter Moon Duo, or the Amen Dunes live set I caught last weekend (more sparse and song-based than their 12″ release). You probably get what I’m getting at: repetitive two-note grooves, some guitarrhea over top, maybe a plinky keyboard or two, rafting a river to nowhere. I could just as easily find myself grooving to something like Deja What? as I could nod off, it just depends on the time of day and weather, really. Some tracks come with a higher energy level, but that seems to work against them, as their humble setup is more equipped for single-finger riffing and indian-style seating, not the disco beat and jerky strumming of “My Nativity”. Not necessarily bad, but I’d recommend you save your money on this one and buy a Kitchen’s Floor t-shirt instead.

Blue Water White Death Blue Water White Death CD (Graveface)
We have collectively reached a point where any possible utterance of Xiu Xiu leader Jamie Stewart is considered worthy of public release – and people are concerned with the economy! I’m not ashamed of my casual Xiu Xiu fan status, if such a thing can exist; most of Knife Play and the following Fabulous Muscles is as jarring now as when those albums first came out. Something like “I Broke Up” really had no indie precedence, as far as I can tell, and deserves some sort of recognition in the darker halls of the indie canon. Seems like following that initial success, Stewart really took the persona that the indie media bestowed upon him and became it, a quivering maniac who constantly tells it like it is (often at the cost of his own dignity). I can get down with that some of the time, and I’d consider going to see Xiu Xiu the next time they roll through town, but something like Blue Water White Death, his new side-project with Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg, is wholly unnecessary and unforgivable. It’s basically a clearinghouse of what I don’t like about Xiu Xiu: the self-consciously wacky song titles (“This Is the Scrunchyface of My Dreams” and “Rendering the Juggalos”, for example), the tuneless yelping that begs the listener to confirm Stewart’s intentional weirdness, and the meandering songs that act as little more than a light dressing to his vocal carnival act. I recognize Stewart’s previous successes, but that doesn’t mean I have to approve of some random finger-picked acoustic guitar and mellow drones while he tries to twist strange behavior out of himself like water from a drying dishrag. There’s one part where he quickly recites the “there’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance” limerick, which is also the exact moment that I completely tuned out of this stupid crap. I wonder if Stewart secretly wishes he could reveal a different side of himself, one where he doesn’t have to constantly be “on” and acting like a fool, but he’s just too far down the critically-acclaimed rabbit hole to make that move.

Boomgates Bright Idea / Cameo 7″ (R.I.P. Society)
Probably for as long as Boomgates exist, they will be known as Brendan Suppression’s indie-rock side project, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, these two cuts are certainly strong enough that Boomgates don’t need the Eddy Current affiliation to garner positive attention. “Bright Idea” is an elegant little chimer, and probably not too far from Eddy Current’s more pop-oriented material. Brendan sings in a pop-cadence / less erratic style here, and it really works, focusing less on his own character and more on the simple delivery of the hook. “Cameo” is softer and probably my favorite, working a nice mod bassline and an even sweeter melody; guitarist Steph Hughes’ beautiful voice is the perfect foil for Brendan’s adorably neurotic ramble. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest sucker for indie-pop, but Boomgates do it so comfortably and with the right amount of pep that I’m hooked on these two songs. Amazing how these Aussies just toss out new groups like this, with the ease of a paper airplane.

Dads Hat Creek 7″ (Katorga Works)
The Stupid of the Month award goes to Dads, a Tampa band that seems to put the same amount of time into their crude drawings as they do their music (which is to say, not very much). “Hat Creek” is a pretty standard indie-rocker, at least until the ridiculous Terry Schiavo vocals come in, barely awake and drooling. I’ll admit, I’m pretty amused to think that a handful of people signed off on that decision. Dads quickly wake up though, as “Banana Twinz” thrashes about violently for a minute or so, and “Sex Theft” does the same, almost reaching Lightning Bolt temperatures (and the highlight of this EP). The flip is “Dub Creek”, ostensibly a dub version of “Hat Creek”, and it manages to offend the roots of dub reggae to their very core, essentially destroying decades of peaceful Jamaican / American relations with crappo keyboards and piss-take delivery. It comes with an insert, wherein “lyrics” is misspelled “lericks” on purpose, and the rest of the artwork features various E.T.-faced people showing off their genitalia and wearing wigs. There’s also a patch that is stuck to the inside of the record jacket, presumably stuffed before fully dry. I’ll never listen to this one again, but at the same time, I can’t deny that I feel some level of admiration towards dopes like Dads.

Daily Life Necessary and Pathetic LP (Load)
Try to imagine, for a moment, a synth-pop album on Load Records. You’re probably conjuring thoughts of Fat Worm of Error with a techno pulse, or Six Finger Satellite on synth overload, or that Alec Empire remix of Brainbombs if you really want to stretch it. Sounds alright to me, but that couldn’t be farther from what Daily Life bring to the table: a moody and semi-sinister album of straight-up cold-wave, offering little of the radiation rash normally associated with Load. Christopher Forgues, notable for his dayglo noise fumblings as Kites, is at the helm here, and he seems to have left behind all the scattered sounds and irritating feedback of his Kites past, instead putting together what is a pretty fantastic album of demented pop. I hear Gary Numan in “Virgin Pilgrim”, and Bruce Haack in “Arousal and Dreams”, but Daily Life comes across like less of a historical re-enactment than some of their Wierd peers, taking the creepy notions behind Kites and Mark Lord and churning them into something palatable and borderline pop. The songs are all well structured too, crafted with the sort of time and effort that makes Daily Life a serious group ala Innergaze or Ceramic Hello, not just a “project”. Necessary and Pathetic comes with a full, thick recording, and the grandiose attitude to keep it planted firmly on my turntable.

AG Davis & Jamison Williams May 6, 1937 7″ (Skrot Up)
Here’s a fine product of our globalized market: a couple of North Florida maniacs doing their best to put the onk in skronk, made possible by an obscure Danish label that reminds one of the word “scrotum”. Only a hundred of these 7″s exist, and rightfully so – there are probably fifty people out there who want to hear Davis and Williams going at it like they do, and another fifty people who deserve to be punished by May 6, 1937. A far more cost-effective penalty than running repeat offenders through the system: why not just blast this 7″ in their faces and scare them straight once and for all? Williams plays his alto sax in the expected painful amateur-improv style throughout the record, while Davis does his best Tazmanian Devil impression on the a-side and jams up some rusty electronics on the flip. I can almost always go for a dose of this nonsense, especially in the succinct 7″ single format, and the fact that so few of these exist makes me appreciate it more, as if these two psychos made May 6, 1937 especially with me in mind. Pretty much the musical equivalent of those fake cans of beans that snakes pop out of, a classic prank indeed.

Demdike Stare Industrial Desert CD (no label)
As a Demdike Stare mega-fan, I’ve found myself addicted to their thick and menacing sound, and as dealers of such, the Demdike boys have made it pretty easy to get a fix. Not only have we received two killer 12″ EPs in the past few months, but they’ve also offered a couple CD mixes for public consumption, Industrial Desert being the most recent of the two. Sixty minutes of music here, and if you checked out their last mix, Osmosis, you know exactly what’s in-store: tribal fusion future jazz ethno-musique techno soundtrack ambient dread dub. It’s cool that these guys are as likely to mix John Coltrane as Nate Young’s Demons project – I have always admired that their musical horizon is wider than most of their peers. When they were visiting Philadelphia earlier this year, they wanted to find some rare Schoolly D 12″s, you know what I mean? So you get that breadth of sound with Industrial Desert, including a good four minutes of trunk-shaking bass squelch and a raga that could’ve been comped on The Funky Sixteen Corners, two of my favorite moments here. It’s good, but I will always greatly prefer Demdike Stare’s original material, and if you snagged Osmosis, there really isn’t a lot to differentiate the two mixes. And from a personal peeve standpoint, I wish they’d break the mix into tracks, rather than just one long one, as it makes it difficult to jump to that killer Coltrane part forty minutes deep. If you really need multiple Demdike Stare mixes, this will do the trick, but you’re better off spending your money on multiple copies of Forest of Love and Symbiosis and passing them out to friends instead. It’s like heroin without the weight loss.

Eleven Tigers Clouds Are Mountains CD (Soul Motive)
Here’s a pretty emo-looking disc from Eleven Tigers, a newish London electronic artist. Seems like the label wants to file this one under “dubstep”, and that’s not entirely inappropriate, but something about Clouds Are Mountains doesn’t fit that tag; most glaringly, there’s a light and crisp feel to the music that belies dubstep’s heavy swagger. True to the title, I sense both clouds and mountains here, like an expensive helicopter ride through a tropical island, and while it’s a beat-driven sound, it’s hard to feel like my feet are planted firmly on soil while listening. Eleven Tigers has clearly put in some hours crafting these tunes, as the layers of effects and processed samples change constantly. Really, the closest comparison that comes to mind is the work of Dwayne Sodahberk, or Stars As Eyes, or any of the less jokey Tigerbeat6 artists to come around earlier this millennium. IDM as emotional therapy, that sort of thing. It’s not totally my bag, a little too wistfully atmospheric for my tastes, but I can’t fault Eleven Tigers for doing what he’s doing.

Esben and the Witch Marching Song 12″ (Matador)
Seems like every major city’s got a hipster goth night going these days, and I can’t think of a better climate for the arrival of Esben and the Witch. The band name sounds like one of Aesop’s fables, and it’s probably not entirely a coincidence, as Esben and the Witch have an “ancient tragic tale” vibe about them. It’s the type of goth that looks into humanity’s dark past for inspiration, not just the 1980s… think of an indentured servant lost in the forest, or a Greek princess who never found true love, that sort of thing. There will probably be a lot of Tamaryn comparisons, and the similarities are strong (they both wear the “beautiful barren landscape” artwork well), but Esben and the Witch favor a more cunning and atmospheric approach to their music, dabbling in drone and thunder and extended instrumental bliss, whereas Tamaryn steps a little further out from the aether to write songs and sing them. So far, I’m only hearing a sound from Esben and the Witch, and it’s a good one indeed, but they’re probably gonna need some songs too.

Girl Unit Wut 12″ (Night Slugs)
Been digging Girl Unit since his entrance onto the scene with I.R.L, and he’s continuing that irresistible electro-swagger with Wut, single-handedly helping me to accept internet-speak as a viable language. “Wut” is the a-side for a reason: it’s a massive club-thumper, a heavy and banging cut that I can hear playing while the kids in their Supreme gear and limited edition Nikes spray PBR from the balcony onto the yupsters grinding below (and everyone is cool with it). Really, the name Girl Unit is a fitting one for this project: “Wut” could easily be 50 Cent’s newest hit (does he still have those?), but the playful style and pop-awareness (thanks in no small part to the infectious vocal hook) display a sort of friendly inclusiveness that make it great. The two cuts on the flip are super too, filling out this EP of US-influenced UK club music. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Lil Wayne turns off ESPN long enough to hear about Girl Unit – I better start practicing to dance with my hands above my head, so that when that collaboration comes, I’ll be ready.

Glasser Ring LP (True Panther Sounds)
I’ve really been digging the current crop of solo indie-divas, Glasser being the latest to catch my ear. If Tamaryn and Zola Jesus hold down goth in its various veils, and La Roux reigns over one of the few redeeming aspects of modern pop, Glasser is clearly in charge of the Anthropologie lifestyle – music for delicate, expensive sundresses modeled inside mysterious barns. I think it’s the appropriated ethnic-culture bent of Glasser’s music that gives Ring this flair of intentional patina, nodding to groups like Animal Collective and TV on the Radio with these safely-eclectic sounds (see: steel drums, African percussion, wooden xylophones, funny horns). Glasser is kind of a modern and sane take on Kate Bush, and while there is nothing on Ring that comes close to anything from Hounds of Love, Glasser has a strong enough voice to lift the project off the ground. There’s no poetry here, probably because I can hardly understand a word she says, but I’m comfortable not straining to gain some greater truth, instead content to have Glasser lead me through the thick grass to a koi pond under a willow. Very precious, and possibly shallow, but all pleasures need not be deep.

Hornet Leg Still Life LP (Stankhouse)
Nice idea for a cover here: a big and inky newsprint poster of a frightened hipster-gypsy folded onto a standard LP jacket, giving you the flavor of a hand-spun craft with the structural integrity of American cardboard. Sadly, the music of Hornet Leg doesn’t maintain the coolness of the cover, playing what I’d describe as open-mic-night indie. The guitar, bass and drums are quaintly modest, working chords you’ve heard before without any particular spark or direction, so it’s up to the singer to either sink or swim Hornet Leg. Unfortunately, vocalist Chris Sutton is no Dean Martin; rather, he’s your average “I started this as a solo project and now it’s a band” guy who can carry a Malkmus-ian tune to no place in particular. I’ll give him credit for not being one of those “look at how crazy I am” indie vocalists, preferring to play it cool with a partially-talky style, but then he throws in an acapella like “Cold Water”, which needs a voice like Jack White or Jeff Buckley to make it anything more than the minor embarrassment it is. If you told me Hornet Leg were from Mitchell, South Dakota, maybe I wouldn’t be so demanding, but this band is from Portland, Oregon, where I know for a fact dozens of cool musics are being played at any given moment. There’s no excuse for this sort of thing.

Emmanuel Jal Kuar EP 12″ (Innervisions)
Emmanuel Jal is a former Sudanese child soldier turned musician, whose life stories would blow away even the most eclectic dinner party. From the English lyrics in “Kuar”, the pro-voting sentiment is strong, and coming from Jal, they leave a pretty powerful impression. It’s a heck of a track to work with here, both in groove and emotional weight, and that’s what Henrik Schwarz and Olof Dreijer do, as this Innervisions 12″ features both of their remixes. Schwarz’s remix highlights the punchy bass and impassioned vocals, amidst the obsessive tweaks and subtle shifts that identify this as the work of a seasoned German producer. Really fantastic, and moving in more way than one. Dreijer’s mix feels more like a remix than the a-side, as he prefers to pick and dissect parts of the original, rather than sticking with a more regimented song format. It’s cool, and with some of the more interesting vocal parts on “Kuar”, I’d be tempted to play with them too, but it’s really the Schwarz remix that provides the most inspiration here. Fans of Mr. Raoul K or afrobeat in a house music template will cherish this one, as do I.

Kitchen’s Floor Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress LP (Bedroom Suck / R.I.P. Society)
Before ever hearing Kitchen’s Floor, I read their Negative Guest List tour diary, filled with mildly amusing drunken anecdotes and the long periods of boredom punctuated by excitement that frame any DIY punk tour. It’s a nice thing to have in the back of my mind while spinning Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress, as I can picture these songs getting pounded out of crappy amps to basement audiences, and in this particular case, how I’d like to be a part of that crowd. The Kitchen’s Floor sound isn’t too far off from some modern American signposts, like the Columbus Discount roster, but they stomp out their songs with an infectious vigor, as if their instruments need to be tightly squeezed to properly emit sound. You ever meet a really skinny kid who inexplicably beat everyone else in arm wrestling? That’s what Kitchen’s Floor are like. Their songs generally clock in under two minutes a piece, a nice technique that lends itself to repeated spins, and the drummer is a delightfully robotic metronome, clearly no stranger to the mechanical rhythms of the A Frames. Once again, an Australian punk band has more than justified the import price.

Kitty Little / Scientific Maps split 7″ (Peterwalkee)
I remember seeing Kitty Little play a gig a long time ago, wondering what the hell this garbage pop-punk band was doing with ex-Devoid of Faith members. As a dismissive young punk, I took that sort of thing seriously! Now with a calmer demeanor and less youthful arrogance, I am listening to Kitty Little about a decade later… and I still can’t get into it. Kind of a Superchunk vibe to their melodic pop-punk, and while Kitty Little don’t suck, they are utterly unremarkable. Kind of amazing they are still at it and putting out records; it’s clearly some sort of testament to the enduring enjoyment that comes with playing in a rock band. Scientific Maps round out this split, reminding me that for as mediocre as Kitty Little are, I still prefer sprightly and inoffensive melodic punk to this more popular and modern style of quirky indie rock that Scientific Maps deliver. I’d imagine the members of this band like to organize their CD collections alphabetically, even if their Belle and Sebastian and Arcade Fire discs spend most of their time on the coffee table, right where They Might Be Giants and Polaris laid a couple years earlier. I like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah as much as the next chump (really, I do), but them and their peers have too many bands like Scientific Maps to answer for, with song titles like “Oh, You’d Like To Think So” and an utter limpness of sound. Really hope the ‘Maps open for Kitty Little, and not vice versa.

Las Nurses Just So Pretty 12″ (Rococo)
It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover when there are records like Just So Pretty. You’ve got a bright green background with randomly positioned splotches of pink, crude groups of triangles and for no apparent reason, a big lobster and a guy gutting a dead animal. Basically, your average “crazy cluster of visual noise and colorful scribblings” cover art, which says to me, “herky-jerky post-punk in the vein of The Intelligence, Bipolar Bear and the dozens of other bands who do the exact same thing”. And that’s exactly what Las Nurses deliver. Las Nurses ain’t bad, and are in fact perfectly competent in their preferred rock method, where the bass and drums lock in on some uptight rhythm, and the guitar picks at its scabs over top, all with a vocalist who is essentially just there, somewhere. It’s just that there is nothing remotely intriguing or exclusive to Las Nurses that would make this record worthwhile for anyone who isn’t totally enamored by the world of post-Monorchid, post-GSL garage punk. It’s almost as if Las Nurses know this themselves, and are saving us the trouble of having to remember them by choosing a name as bland as “Las Nurses”. They are probably cool for their native Spain, a country that hasn’t necessarily been deluged with this style, but I listen to records from all over the world and need to feel excitement from music, not like I’m participating in a tedious routine.

The Mantles Pink Information 12″ (Mexican Summer)
The Mantles’ Siltbreeze album was one of the few Siltbreeze titles I missed in the past year or so, but I’m catching up with them now on this new EP, courtesy of the budget-busting Mexican Summer label. Those artsy hands on the cover are making some decent dog heads, but they could just as easily be a peace sign and a hang loose, as The Mantles have all the makings of a very pleasant band: chiming guitars, rhythms that shift both waists and feet, and a friendly disposition. Even so, there’s an emotional depth to these songs that bands like The Fresh & Onlys or Thee Oh Sees seem to lack, as if The Mantles are able to sincerely smile because of the tears they’ve shed in the past, not because they just want to talk about flowers and pizza. There’s no big breakout hit here, although “Lily Never Married” probably comes closest, and a hit is usually what I look for with this sort of act, but The Mantles carry themselves with such a confident demeanor that I’m content to just groove along to Pink Information and forget about the rest of the world for a few minutes. Good rock n’ roll will help you do that.

Merchandise (Strange Songs) in the Dark LP (Katorga Works / Drugged Conscience)
Can’t remember the last time a rock record came along and blew me away unexpectedly like (Strange Songs) in the Dark. I knew of Merchandise as a Cult Ritual side project, so I was geared up for some sort of lo-fi homage to Sonic Youth or Bone Awl, but was instead treated to one of the finest and most realized rock albums to arise from our post-noise landscape. Two guys, making the kind of disenchanted, melodic downer-pop that I wish No Age sounded like – Merchandise are unafraid to layer treated guitars and shoegaze distortion like a lasagna, all with a sharp melodic ear and knack for memorable phrasing (if not full-on hooks), elevating these songs so far above the rest of the pack that they look like ants below. That elevation falls heavily on the singer, whose vocals recall both Julian Casablancas and Brandon Flowers at their distinctive peaks; it’s an odd pairing for such a rough sound, but after listening, I wouldn’t want it any other way. “I Locked the Door” is like Flying Saucer Attack backing the aforementioned Killers singer, with the melodic phrasing of The Shins’ James Mercer at the helm. I know I’m throwing around some big names, but this is still a gritty record, the type of album that will find as much appeal with the warehouse-punk contingent as with their siblings who have real jobs and in-house laundry machines. Kind of has a DIY Dykehouse vibe to it too, in that “lonely man on a windy cliff beautifully sings his suicide note” sort of way. The MP3s are available for free from the label, which would be a gutsy move, if the music weren’t so addicting that a vinyl purchase becomes inevitable. I’m not entirely opposed to hoarding good music from the masses, in some sort of pathetic manuever to maintain elitism, but I can’t help but want to spread the good word about Merchandise.

Nu Sensae TV, Death and the Devil LP (Nominal)
I watch TV, enjoy both bands named Death, and appreciate the Devil as a notorious folk character, so I might as well enjoy this Nu Sensae album, right? While Nominal Records and its surrounding scene have never done me wrong, I would probably direct someone to Defektors or Vapid before Nu Sensae; bass/drums/vocals duos have never been a personal favorite, and Nu Sensae do little to break out of the standard approach. They’re both good players, but the record moves forward with the same low-mid range bass sound, noticeably lacking guitars or oscillators or saxophones (at least more than the ten seconds at the end of the last track) or any little extra something to really grab my attention. The vocalist does a pretty standard shout/scream, and none of the songs offer any sort of massive hook or memorable moments, just a fairly reliable and uniform sound. Surely some people crave this sound, the nervous sort of post-punk that has been opening for Lightning Bolt around the globe for the past decade or so, but it just isn’t enough to keep me engaged. Seems like Nu Sensae put a lot of effort into things though, just take a look at the enormous poster that comes with the LP, so hopefully they’ll surprise me down the road.

Pinch Croydon House / Elements 12″ (Swamp81)
If you pay any attention to the many dubstep reviews here on Yellow Green Red, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that most of it is totally great, due to the large percentage of favorable (and often gushing) reviews. I love the stuff, but there’s a whole lot of it hitting the digital shelves every week, with plenty of artists whose names and tunes are as faceless and unremarkable as the blank DJ sleeves that contain their vinyl. Pinch has always been one of the more average producers in my opinion; never bad, but never great, just kind of there, filling up space amongst the rest of the flock. I even recently confirmed this opinion with Pinch’s “Get Up”, a fairly blasé vocal cut that doesn’t burst with the energy it needs. That said, Swamp81 has been on a massive tear this year, possibly dubstep’s smartest active curation, and the cover art is cool, so I gave Pinch another shot. Essentially, he exceeds my low expectations – “Croydon House” is a pretty perfect distillation of the classic dubstep style, with a heavy, lurching rhythm and downpitched ninja sound-effects acting as percussion. Good stuff, but undoubtedly done similarly and better by T++ or even Skream on his Swamp81 contribution earlier this year. “Elements” uses almost the exact same set of sounds, which could be a cool aesthetic move, but here it just results in a diminishing listener focus. I’ve planned on collecting all Swamp81 records, and while Pinch’s effort isn’t the most crucial piece of music, it’s just good enough that I can keep the streak alive.

Purple Rhinestone Eagle The Great Return LP (Stankhouse)
Just as the name might tip you off, Purple Rhinestone Eagle are a power-trio of stoner proportions, clearly in service to the giant glowing pot-leaf in the sky. With only the finest of Sleep and Black Sabbath riffs (which I guess are essentially the same thing), they blast off right into “No Space Nukes”, and pretty much remain in orbit for the duration of the record. It’s pretty good, the sort of stoner affair that Man’s Ruin made a living churning out: big riffs, vintage ’70s imagery, pretty much anything simple and satisfying that heavy rock can provide. Purple Rhinestone Eagle get down with the other side of the stoner coin too, thanks to a few quieter passages of moody and meditative space-rock, the sort of tribal jams that Nebula and Orange Goblin used to close out their records with. My only complaint is that the recording itself doesn’t come with the thick, heavy punch that The Great Return needs… it’s mastered or recorded at such a soft level that I really had to crank my stereo to get into the zone. Not sure if it’s Purple Rhinestone Eagle who haven’t purchased the proper gear yet, or if their engineer didn’t know how to make their cabs properly burst, or what, but The Great Return sounds like an indie-rock record, when it should be turning khaki to denim upon exposure. So long as these ladies figure out a way to harness not just the vibes of their predecessors, but the massive sound as well, I see a bright and smoke-filled future for Purple Rhinestone Eagle.

Red Mass Split Brain Experiment 10″ (Rococo)
While Red Mass have a bunch of records out, I’ve heard none of them until Split Brain Experiment. As they say: when in doubt, start with the 10″! Four songs here, each of which could’ve come from entirely different bands, and judging from my research, which reveals Red Mass as a band that can “range in size from three to sixteen people” (thanks RollingStone.com), they very well may. The title track starts things off on a lame note, as if your uncle’s bar-rock band heard you liked punk, so they tried to do a Cramps cover and failed. Thankfully, things pick up with “Blood”, a ragged little stomper akin to Cheveu making fun of the White Stripes. “Pig” is the weird-punker: various amps wheeze and cough while the singer (presumably someone named “Choyce”) throws around insults until “The End of the World” takes over, a fairly tame garage number that Charm City Suicides would’ve made great. Not the best punk rock I’ve heard this month, but it’s intriguing enough that I’d like to hear some more.

Scorpion Violente Uberschleiss LP (Avant!)
Turns out I didn’t have to do all that brainstorming earlier, as Uberschleiss is exactly the type of synth record I’d expect Load Records to release, and a pretty solid follow-up to Daily Life’s Necessary and Pathetic on any lonely 3:00 am playlist. Unlike Daily Life’s harmonic and thoughtfully-constructed tunes, Scorpion Violente set a few simple loops on auto-play and try their best to intimidate the listener right out of the room. It usually works, too: their second-hand synths all carry with them a sour, frustrated energy, like they are plugged with the wrong batteries and in pain because of it. The rudimentary rhythms border on the industrial at times, and work well with Scorpion Violente’s lousy attitude and intentionally creepy vibe, probably because I truly believe that these two guys (each posed with a child on the back cover, ostensibly their individual offspring) are the degenerates they portray themselves as. Lyrics like “you smell like my sister” and “I’m waiting ’round the corner for my teenage doll” would fall flat in the hands of a college-age Youth Attack hardcore band, but thetwo men of Scorpion Violente seem incapable of making “art” any other way, like they probably don’t even understand why people would be offended by what they are saying and doing. Pair that with their corroded beats and buzzing synths and I can’t think of a better record by which to electrocute yourself.

Subtle Turnhips Terd Album LP (Hozac)
The best thing about keeping an open mind towards new garage punk is the occasional pleasant surprise, in this case Subtle Turnhips’ Terd Album. I don’t understand the band name, but after a few spins of Terd Album, it’s a fittingly incongruous moniker to their utilitarian, single-minded punk rock. I know pretty much nothing about this group, and I think I’ll keep it that way – I don’t need a Subtle Turnhips Behind the Music to enjoy their vibe. Seems like there’s about fifty songs here, but it works, as each song just pounds away on some primitive idea for a couple minutes and then gets out of the way, in the classic manner of the Ramones or Loli and the Chones. There’s a weird semi-British accent going on with the vocals, which is only evident when they rise through the din, and a general disregard towards good taste and valid songwriting that I really appreciate. Kind of like a non-Australian, less goofy UV Race, as if some bitter group of people really took the DIY insubordination of Fuck Off Records to heart. Great stuff.

Bjørn Torske Kokning CD (Smalltown Supersound)
Has the grey cloud of fearful discontent not yet reached Norway? I thought that’s where black metal started? While most of the rest of the electronic music population is either wallowing in a dark, gothy pessimism or too heavily medicated to be depressed, some of these Smalltown Supersound acts, like Lindstrøm and Bjørn Torske, seem to live in a world where everyone gets along, no one is sick, and Michael Jackson never died. I don’t understand it, but I’m not complaining, either – Kokning is a fun escape to a soft and squishy world of clear skies littered with rainbows, as if Katamari Damacy’s landscapes were real. Something like “Gullfjellet” is perfect for watching morning dew drip from your petunias, or holding a cup of hot chocolate under your nose, thanks to its repetitive guitar arpeggios and persistent groove. Think Jim O’Rourke on an Ambien trip inspired by Yo Gabba Gabba and Richard Schneider Jr’s Dream-like Land. “Langt Fra Afrika” changes the pace, adding a little Macarena to your daily dance routine, and “Bergensere” is an adorable cut of modern disco. Probably too happy and G-rated of a krauty dance record to garner many frequent spins in my household, but that might change after the arrival of my first child gets me thinking about my own mortality.

Traversable Wormhole Traversable Wormhole Vol. 01-05 CD (CLR)
It’s probably possible to keep up on every anonymous techno producer that discreetly pumps out white-label 12″s, but for the sake of a modest social life and time spent with family, my free time dictates that I pick and choose who I check out. That’s my excuse for not paying any attention to Traversable Wormhole in the past, which is thankfully reconciled with Traversable Wormhole Vol. 01-05, a self-explanatory collection of his first five EPs. Traversable Wormhole’s MO is industrial-tinged techno of the highest caliber, the sort of relentless, hard-edged dance music that makes Berghain a menacing club. These ten tracks are often both beautiful and asphyxiating, like a horror movie set in space, and they are put together as one continuous mix, an approach that I normally wouldn’t want but ends up working perfectly here. None of the tracks are that far from each other mood-wise, yet Traversable Wormhole’s impenetrable structure never leaves me restless and bored, either. Perfect for converting the Skinny Puppy fan in your life to a techno diet. Oh, and it turns out the man behind the Traversable Wormhole name is DJ/producer Adam X – sounds like a guy that would’ve been in Crucial Youth or something.

Tyvek Nothing Fits LP (In the Red)
I can’t blame anyone who’s felt exhausted by Tyvek’s recorded output. Starting off hot with the Mary Ellen Claims single and What’s Your Rupture? double 7″ (my personal favorite), Tyvek then proceeded to dribble out re-recordings, demo out-takes and muffled instrumentals, the type of anti-quality control that almost seemed like a deliberately offensive gesture. Like, “Oh, you like us? Well then see if you like this, jerks!” Their Siltbreeze debut was met with the lukewarm response I thought it earned, and if it wasn’t for recommendation from more than one pal of mine, I probably would’ve skipped Nothing Fits myself. Glad I checked it out though, as it’s the most concise and exciting record Tyvek have made in years, thanks especially to the higher (though not high) recording quality and Five Hour energy level. I can’t remember Tyvek ever sounding this frantic and pissed: I kept waiting for the moody slow jam or noodly art-piece, but it never came, only cut after cut of two-chord punk designed for punching out drop-ceiling tiles at house shows. Forget those Messthetics references, Nothing Fits sounds like my favorite early Queers tunes, like “This Place Sucks” or “Kicked Out of the Webelos”, simplistic and snotty punk rock with one-handed riffs and a substitute teacher hollering through a dying walkie-talkie. The only previously released track here is “Future Junk”, which I always enjoyed anyway, and stuff like “4312” and “Underwater 1” are likely to replace my old Tyvek favorites too. Whatever fans Tyvek hasn’t already scared away are in for a treat.

Jamie Woon Night Air 12″ (Candent Songs)
I love when pop-music bliss comes from unlikely sources, a somewhat frequent and satisfying by-product of England’s diverse and weird electronic underground. With Ramadanman and his group of friends, you’re as likely to get some abstract percussion experiment as you are a future-house gem like “Night Air”. I’ll get to the Ramadanman “refix” in a minute, but the star of the show here is undoubtedly Jamie Woon himself, a fresh-faced Londonite with a beautiful voice, like Babyface if he still had something to prove, or Robin Thicke with a better fashion sense. Woon’s voice is the crux of “Night Air”, and producer Burial gets that, as his trademarked minimal melancholy is a perfect fit, coolly mixed while the beat rolls at a balearic pace. The lyrics are more thoughtful than the entirety of Justin Timberlake’s discography, written in the same sort of fascinating, loose-English manner as Luomo. I was expecting to come to Night Air for Ramadanman’s version, but it’s really more of an afterthought here, an even hazier take on the original with some modest percussion tricks and a thicker ambiance. I sincerely hope there’s more to be expected from Jamie Woon and Burial, as “Night Air” has quickly become an obsession of mine, teasing me with the promise of more.

Zola Jesus Valusia EP 12″ (Sacred Bones)
I’ve barely found time to peel Stridulum off my turntable, and here’s Valusia. Valusia is kind of like the airy, cloudbursting twin of Stridulum, taking in the sunrise rather than reveling in the “Night”, so to speak. Kicking off with “Poor Animal”, the 4/4 beat is begging to be remixed, as it’s probably the most easily enjoyable tune on this EP and also one of Danilova’s most optimistic. “Tower” is the slow groove, with some heavy piano guiding the light, perfect for a post-revenge celebration wherein the underdog walks away slowly from a burning warehouse. I could tell you about my other dream scenes conjured by the last two tracks on Valusia, but it’s probably more fun to make up your own. “Sea Talk” is another blockbuster hit, too; this EP maintains Zola Jesus’s continued increase in quality and is as crucial a purchase as Stridulum. She’s found her voice, and now the music world has hell to pay. I’m like twice her size, but I’d quickly move out of her way if I saw her coming, no second thought.

Zond Zond LP (R.I.P. Society)
There’s no denying my affinity for a lot of Australian bands, but thankfully something like Zond comes along every now and then to confirm that I don’t just fall for any piece of music from the land down under. As judged by the Hydra Head-esque graphic design, Zond aren’t your average punked-out garage band, like so many of their R.I.P. Society labelmates. No, this is pure heavy shoegaze, the type of band that keeps Musician’s Friend in business. Four players, each with their own long list of effects (even the drummer!), all making their strings violently weep in an attempt to channel the recently-resurrected ghost of My Bloody Valentine (and sounding a bit more like the late ’90s San Diego band Camera Obscura in the process). Don’t expect songs from Zond, just some technically impeccable drum beats, guitars on top of guitars, and droning vocals, all of which mix to sound like your mother blowdrying her hair while your father runs the vacuum. This sort of stuff is alright, I even pull out the first Jesu EP fairly regularly, but Zond deliver on the sound without any meaningful substance to discern themselves. The grey blur of a cover pretty much sums up their sound perfectly, as it’s the sort of art that invokes a calming expanse which fills you more with indifference than wonder.