Atlantic Thrills Atlantic Thrills LP (Almost Ready)
Blow up those beach balls and dust off your Coleman cooler, it’s nearly summer and Atlantic Thrills are lighting up the tiki torches as I type. Following their cool 7″ (featuring the image-declaring “Day At The Beach”, also included here), Atlantic Thrills are making a case for the Almost Ready clan to pay attention to bands in 2014, not just 1978. Stylistically, Atlantic Thrills go from jangly, wimpy power-pop to scorching garage-rock to proto-punk glam to generic sock-hop schmutz. If you love all of those styles, it leads to a diverse and pleasing album, but I am only interested in about half of the ideas Atlantic Thrills are working with – I really have no idea what compels a band to write a ’50s slow-dance like “Foreign Lands”, like what specific enjoyment they reap from such a tune, but it’s here, and they wrote it. They fare better when they fall somewhere between The Rolling Stones and a Powerpearls compilation, rocking like an illegal frat party in 1965 (you know, before you could catch a terminal illness from having sex). More than me saying this album isn’t great, I’ll say that it’s not for me – I know there are guys out there who subscribe to Guitar Player and can rattle off every band lineup Eric Clapton and Ray Davies ever had, and if they were to hear Atlantic Thrills, they might think modern rock bands (besides Jack White, of course) aren’t so bad after all.

Back To Back Narcissist 7″ (540)
540 never goes long between doses of grizzled Texas hardcore, this attractive new Back To Back single being their latest. I dug the debut Back To Back 7″, as they managed to mix modern-day Hoax-inspired hardcore with more traditional influences, and this new one is cool too, even if it feels like more of a cry for Youth Attack’s attention than I might have hoped. The cover art has a die-cut cover with grainy black and white smears and suicide-letter typeface on the back, and the song “Narcissist” feels more Hoax-y than ever – from the Hellhammer-turned-punk riff to the cadence of the barked vocals, this one just reminds me that it’s been a few weeks since I threw on the Hoax album and should probably do that again (does anyone know for sure if they broke up, anyway?). It’s cool, and manages to change riffs enough that its side-long presence is justified, it just doesn’t seem very original. Neither does the b-side, “Ignore Me” – at this point, someone could put out a triple LP compilation of fast-hardcore-bands’ dirge songs (note to self: not a bad idea), and this one sounds fine. Although complete with “wild” guitar soloing, it’s just as predictable as Vile Gash writing lyrics with the word “shit” in them. And I get that Back To Back are trying to be mentally unstable and sociopathic with this one, but the lyrics are simply “ignore me / I’m not your friend” over and over again, which is kind of just funny if you think about it. I still like Back To Back, I just wish they didn’t check so many boxes on the modern-day post-mysterious hardcore checklist, but what can you do? Apparently they’re not my friend anyway.

Balcanes Plataforma / Autopista 7″ (Discos Humeantes)
From looks alone, this record had all the makings of something I’d dig – crappy black-and-white photo of random trash in a yard, Spanish import, seems punk… it’s gotta be good, right? Well, I listened, and it’s just okay, not the “Billy Bao fronting Drunks With Guns covering Anti-Cimex” I had envisioned in my head. I get that they are going for a heavy noise-rock thing, but the riff they chose for “Plataforma” is in Korn’s neighborhood, not Flipper’s, all down-tuned and generically-groovy with some barked, echoed vocals over top. “Autopista” is a little more my speed, as it sounds like they’re strumming without holding any of the strings down as the drums do something Swans might’ve tried back on Filth (and ends up kinda sounding like Sword Heaven in the process). I bet this band is fun to see live, particularly if they stick with the grim and hopeless vibe “Autopista” offers. Spain’s unemployment rate is nearly 30% – how can their punk bands not sound like this?

Barnett + Coloccia Retrieval LP (Blackest Ever Black)
Faith Coloccia and Alex Barnett are the duo behind this noisy, drone-y electronic project, with a project name that implies a sort of art-gallery seriousness rather than something that would’ve come in a spray-painted cassette limited to 28. It’s my understanding that these two both have a variety of other projects going on, none of which I am familiar with, but if I had the skills to cook up the deep electronic storm-clouds or rumbling, grievous bass they offer here, I’d probably be working on like five different projects too. Retrieval is kind of all over the place, at least when it comes to the underground dark-ambient arts: some tracks drift on extended blissful tones ala Tor Lundvall, at least one cut creeps around like John Carpenter’s Attack On Precinct 13, a couple have a sort of gothic Demdike streak in the way the bass puffs out like smoke, and others just kinda stagnate beautifully like something off of Aagoo Records’ modern composers series. There’s even one track that uses a very Regis-esque rotary motor rhythm, although the pounding techno thump is noticeably absent. It’s pretty cool, if not mandatory, and maybe a little more academic-sounding than anyone intended – or maybe it’s just that I’ve been listening to too much pop-punk lately. Worth a shot if there’s a ghost making all sorts of noises in your attic and you want to lure the sucker out for capture, at the very least.

Big Richard Insect Big Richard Insect 7″ (Major Crimes)
Hailing from Australia with a band name that sounds like a Birthday Party song, I was ready for Big Richard Insect to drag me through the back-alley filth on their debut 7″, but not so – this is a rock band who steps over puddles, not into them. Over these four tracks, they go from confident, sneering post-punk garage to flailing garage-punk, generally keeping their cool and enjoying the party without blacking out drunk. I’m reminded of the chooglin’ swing of Unnatural Helpers or the more rock-based Intelligence tracks here, with maybe a touch of the Ausmuteants’ shuffle. The first track, “Cop Out” is probably my favorite, as it’s the one that they’re most likely to wear sunglasses while performing, and in the case of Big Richard Insect, they sound best when maintaining their composure. All in all, this one ends up in the middle of the pack for me, neither outstanding nor awful, but if and when Big Richard Insect come forward with another musical offering in the future, I’ll gladly take a peek. Who can refuse a name like that?

Bronze World Arena LP (Not Not Fun)
Interesting album from Bronze, a group whose very name implies “we are worthy of third place”. I am at the point where I figure mostly everything from Not Not Fun is some form of inverted dance music, and while Bronze certainly know how to groove, I’d classify World Arena as traditionally psychedelic new-age “world” music – it’s heady home listening, not party jams. They’ve got a live drummer who is never short on fills, and another guy who plays synthesizers or generates rippling electronic tones to add to the groove. At times, it’s not too far from Silver Apples or The Soft Machine, particularly with the way the vocalist intones his lyrics as though he learned to sing from attending Catholic mass in the suburbs, stretching each syllable to a heavenly cadence. Actually, the singer kinds reminds me of the Balaclavas / Subsonic Voices guy, which is nice enough. Personally, I never quite fall too deeply into any of Bronze’s grooves, they’re just never heavy or trance-like enough for me (there’s that lingering feeling that these guys spend more time listening to Art Bears than Basic Channel), but it’s a cool outing nonetheless, and nice to know that hip underground artsy folk are still using live instruments, if only for a few final fleeting moments.

Brutal Truth / Bastard Noise The Axiom Of Post Inhumanity LP (Relapse)
Here’s a split made in power-violence heaven, two of the most formidable (or at least two of the oldest) groups to come out of that Slap A Ham / Bovine / Deep Six / 625 Productions axis of power. I know Bastard Noise are at the top of their game, and I’m always down for some Brutal Truth (even with the acknowledgment that their tracks are frequently “in one ear and out the other”), so it was with subtle amusement that I first received The Axiom Of Post Inhumanity‘s vague transmission. Let’s start with Brutal Truth: forget what you know about this group here, as their track is a quiet rumble of radio interference, crumbly bass-tone and distant feedback. It’s so subtle, lifeless and mild, I swear it makes Niellerade Fallibilisthorstar sound like Bruno Mars. I almost kind of love it; it’s just such a pointless curveball that the name “Brutal Truth” almost seems like false advertising. I had hopes for a pummeling set of evil-prog detonations from Bastard Noise, but that wasn’t meant to be, either – their trademarked Serpent and Orangutan vocals are in full effect over some harrowing electric squelch and cavernous atmosphere. It’s just as slow-moving and stagnant as Brutal Truth’s side, but vibrant, intense and scary too, unlike Brutal Truth’s dull hum of death. By all means, a throwaway release, but an interesting one? We all serve the skull in mysterious ways, I suppose.

Call Me Lightning Human Hell LP (25 Diamonds)
Up until I threw Human Hell on my turntable, I thought Call Me Lightning were the Erase Errata side-project I heard many years ago, but nope – that’s California Lightening! While I can usually go for some two-piece art-school no-wave, the peppy, ebullient punk of Call Me Lightning is pretty cool too. I’m getting kind of a scrubbed-clean Thermals vibe from these tracks, maybe with a touch of Ted Leo’s buttoned-up shirt and Plow United’s unbridled punkitude. And there’s this underlying mod-ish power-pop aftertaste I can’t quite pinpoint – maybe the vocals? It’s poppy punk, not pop-punk, the sort of distinction between young adults who care about the taste of their beer and the all-ages section in front of them just dying for a drip of anything that’ll get them wasted. Call Me Lightning are pretty good at it, and as this is like their fourth album (although the first I’ve heard), I can only imagine they’ve taken the past few years to hone their sound into the bouncy punk-rock fun I’m listening to right now. I’m just gonna forget the picture I saw of Call Me Lightning where they have long hair and beards, though – as far as I’m concerned, music that sounds like this can only be played by people in unlaundered band t-shirts and spiky bleached hair.

Coke Bust Confined LP (Grave Mistake)
Coke Bust just keep on bustin’ – I’m always impressed at thrashy, grindy hardcore bands who manage to put out like five 7″s, a few splits and a couple albums without breaking up or falling apart. It’s hard to maintain the intensity over that many songs and years, staying true to the band’s initial sound without simply writing the same song over and over, and clearly Coke Bust are one of the groups able to do so. So, on this 45 rpm 12″, there are another nine songs of fast, occasionally-moshable straight-edge hardcore, fitting perfectly between Government Warning and Low Threat Profile tracks on any podcast or radio show named after a Minor Threat song. I’m not sure there’s really anything about Confined that particularly stands out, besides being another good modern hardcore record with Olde English band-name lettering and vaguely-political imagery. They’re above local-band status, as far as the songwriting and energy is concerned, but I kinda need a little something more, some sort of indefinable spark that makes me want to locate Coke Bust’s set time on one of those twelve-band DC hardcore fests. Maybe once the guitar is revealed to be an undercover DEA officer responsible for shutting down Maryland’s largest cocaine ring, I’ll really start to take note. It’s time they lived up to that stupid name of theirs.

Day Creeper Hell Is Real LP (Tic Tac Totally)
Cut those jeans into jean-shorts and follow Day Creeper into a punk house filled with cheap beer, dirty couches and slacker-rock power-pop music. I remember hearing a Day Creeper single I thought was cool, and Hell Is Real unenthusiastically confirms it – this trio doesn’t have much power, but they wear their meager strength well. I’m envisioning a less-strange Home Blitz meeting up with J. Mascis for a trip through the Lookout! Records warehouse when it comes to the Day Creeper sound, one where the band is little more than a delightful hobby and the guitarist ended up being the lead singer simply because no one else wanted a mic near their face. Their songs might not redefine rock music, but for a band that’s indie-rock power-pop, they never bore me either, which is a testament to the enjoyability and wry ‘tude Day Creeper emote. You’re probably like me and not particularly interested in Day Creeper, but you’ve probably also got that one friend that lives with like six roommates, delivers pizza, plays in four different bands and is the happiest person you know, so you might as well tell them about Day Creeper the next time you text them trying to buy weed.

Drekka Ekki Gera Fikniefnum LP (Dais)
If you’re like me, there’s probably been some point in your life when you played a death metal record for someone and they were like “I don’t get it”, and you realized your tolerance for extreme music was higher than the average layperson. Well, this Drekka album is the type of record that forces even the most extreme avant-garde non-music lover to scratch their head in confusion – it takes “I don’t get it” to a new level, which is surely at least part of the point. Ekki Gera Fikniefnum opens with a big wide sprawl of choral vocals, really quite beautiful in a non-denominationally religious way, and that slowly disintegrates into looped radio static, which eventually removes its mask to reveal it’s just a videotape-rewinding machine that fell in the bathtub. Flip it over, and it seems like the music’s missing, until you realize that the faint rumble you’ve been hearing for the past five minutes is actually Drekka, not a wet quilt in the washing machine downstairs. The whole thing has the sort of creepy, mysterious and anything-goes vibe of irr. app. (ext.) or Stilluppsteypa, music that clearly comes from a creative mind that no one else will ever understand. Did I mention there’s a guy yodeling in a bird mask at the dinner table on the cover? It’s just one of those delightful anomalies, where you give up trying to figure anything out and just let it twist and massage your brain for half an hour or so.

Drug Store Deathwork / Surface 7″ (no label)
So one night a couple weeks ago I opened my front door and this Drug Store 7″ was laying there. No postage, mind you – someone in the band came to my house and just left if there. Kind of a perfectly creepy way for this 7″ to arrive… never before has a band left me feeling so exposed and weirded out! This sensation was amplified by the fact that after I threw it on, I realized I didn’t like their music at all, and was going to have to publicly declare this, as I am now. I really hope this doesn’t result in a dead squirrel stuffed in my mailbox, or a picture of me covered in blood taped to my screen door, but these songs just aren’t very good. “Deathwork” feels like it’s seven minutes long, alternating between soft verse and heavy chorus like a really budget-basement Helmet at their least innovative, and “Surface” is the same but slower, and kind of reaches a point of lousiness that it almost feels like one of the worst thug-core demo tapes that Back Ta Basics would’ve released in 1993. I really appreciate this band taking the time to pass me a single, I sincerely mean it, but I just as sincerely did not enjoy either of these two tunes. If I go missing in a few weeks, can one of you please email the Philadelphia homicide unit this review?

Father Murphy Pain Is On Our Side Now 2×10″ (Aagoo / Boring Machines)
This is the second Father Murphy release to pass through the Yellow Green Red estate, and while I recall the first as a sort of non-committal, carnival folk-noise, dis-ambient experimental thing, this right here is the record I’m going to remember. First off, it’s a gatefold double 10″, but both records are one sided. Why not just release a single 10″ and make a YouTube video of yourself throwing $700 off a cliff? This is an exceptional waste of money, and I don’t want these two fine labels to think it went unnoticed. It also helps that the music on Pain Is On Our Side Now sticks with me more now, too – it falls somewhere between the spell-binding freak-show oeuvres of Daniel Higgs and Steven Stapleton (two masters if there ever were), and there’s enough space to the tunes without ever getting boring (whatever plot Father Murphy put together here is excellent). You’re trapped in a confessional booth with a spaghetti-western guitar one moment and hiding in Ben Frost’s attic the next, ripe with mystery and ill at ease. If you only buy one double-one-sided 10″ gatefold this year, well…

Marcel Fengler Fokus 2xLP (Ostgut Ton)
As a huge fan of Marcel Fengler’s various EPs, remixes and associated productions, I was excited for him to step into the album format with all his creativity and powerhouse techno in tow. After a few listens through Fokus, I can tell you that the creativity is certainly still there, but Fengler seems to have opted for a more cinematic and graceful foray into the long-playing format, leaving his wall-busting techno chops behind. It’s kind of a bummer, honestly – Fengler was able to take a Radiohead sample and turn it into aggressive, memorable Ostgut-style tech-house. He always had his own unique little stamp on his dance-floor monsters, but this album moves away from aggression to a land of contemplation, beauty and, well, occasional boredom. There’s still a sleek craftsmanship at work here, but none of these tracks seem geared toward explosive human interaction, so much as chin-scratching and toe-tapping in the lobby of a beautiful space-age hotel. Perhaps once I get accustomed to Marcel Fengler’s lighter side, I’ll really be able to dig into Fokus for the thoughtful, lush album it is, but for now I’m still mildly lamenting what it isn’t.

Hashman Deejay Tangerine / Orbis Tertius 12″ (Future Times)
Future Times are probably one of the most unique and established American dance labels at the moment, so it’s only fitting they start releasing strange one-off 12″s with aliases that are probably just someone from one of their core groups getting a little wild. Right? I mean maybe Hashman Deejay is some stranger who showed up with a demo, but when I’m blasting “Tangerine”, it feels very much like one of Protect U’s more serene (and less busy) moments. There’s one synth chord that is held down for the entirety of the track, initially acting as a soft cushion to rest your head and eventually knocking the listener out of equilibrium with its impending sway. Fairly minimal, unobtrusive track, and I dig it. “Orbis Tertius” has the more scientific title, and it’s a little freakier – he’s more like Hashman Delay here, sending all sorts of pings and pongs out of orbit, like Newworldaquarium on a headier trip or something by Reboot (or some other mid-card Cadenza act). Nothing to really rave about (pun intended), but I have certainly enjoyed spinning both of these tracks on numerous occasions. Perhaps eventually I will unlock the Hashman’s secret, just like all those other Mega Man bosses.

Russell Haswell 37 Minute Workout LP (Diagonal)
I’ve been reading about Russell Haswell for years. Whether he likes it not, he is basically the “I love acid rave and Carcass!” guy, which isn’t that bad of a title to hold, really. He’s like the aggro-mosher who was somehow allowed into the stuffy halls of musical avant-garde academia, and he seems like a fun enough guy to pal around with. Anyway, 37 Minute Workout is my first musical encounter with him – this LP is advertised as a decent summary of his musical exploits, and it looks nice enough that I had to give it a go. It’s kind of what I expected, but also not: Haswell clearly revels in torturing break-beat jungle rhythms, pushing them until every speaker is either blown or smoking. It’s like the earliest Venetian Snares albums thrown on the floor by Aufgehoben, and while it’s not an everyday listen, it hits the spot nicely when the mood is right. A good half of 37 Minute Workout is even more extreme, though – Haswell will isolate one particular sound, be it a distorted hand-clap, a wet slurp or a firecracker explosion, and he will just plug away at that one particular effect until everyone has cleared the room. I don’t quite “get” the point of it, beyond direct and intended annoyance, but it’s kind of fun to listen to a pack of firecrackers endlessly going off and imagine Haswell’s cheeky smirk from the booth. Regardless, it all comes together for a manic, wild dose of hardcore electronics, and I look forward to future encounters.

Heavy Chains Heavy Chains 7″ (Bruised Tongue)
Heavy Chains is two thirds Nü Sensae and one fourth White Lung, the sort of Canadian punk rock pedigree that should lead to something interesting if not necessarily great. I’ve spun my way through this Heavy Chains single a few times, and while I definitely don’t get the point of it (nor would I consider myself a fan), it’s interesting, at the very least! They open with a basic driving instrumental intro (with unexpected bass-soloing grabbing the spotlight), and cut into a fairly uninspired G.I.S.M. cover, with vocals distorted six ways ’til Sunday (I’m reminded of the vocals on the Entropy 7″ on 625 Productions – too obscure a reference, I know, but it’s all I can think about). The creepy naked cult art had me expecting at least one gnarly dirge, and I got it on the b-side with “No Law, No Crime”, which is neither heavy enough or noisy enough to have any sort of impact (and the gurgly vocal yawn doesn’t add much, either). I can’t tell if this band is trying to be normal or crazy (or crazy because they’re so normal), but they seem to miss the mark at being either, just kinda dipping their toes in the water instead of committing to anything I’d want to gush to you about. Oh well!

Herz Jühning Paradise 7″ (Galakthorrö)
Had to grab the new Herz Jühning single, of course, as he’s part of the Galakthorrö family to whom I have already pledged my allegiance. While I dug most of his album Miasma, something about its tenor seemed a little too shock-jock for my tastes (I don’t need to hear any more power-electronics tracks that feature sampled tortured shrieks of women), so it was a pleasure to receive Paradise, what I’d say is a much more refined, mature and interesting release. Opening with the vocals of one “Khristiane N.”, it’s clear that Herz is looking for more than just harsh blasts of static and violent male vocals, and it’s appreciated. “To The Stars” is particularly pleasing – it’s heading up the on-ramp to minimal techno, but still tweaked and wave-y enough (thanks to those classic Haus Arafna-style deadpan vocals) that no dance venue would allow it access. The two b-side tracks have the patented “futuristic vision of a horrible German fable” vibe I’ve come to love from Galakthorrö, as if you went to the dentist only to realize it’s Baba Yaga who is preparing to drill your cavities. It’s a miserably bleak EP from the folks that do that sort of thing best, and I’m warning you now: don’t read the lyrics to “Road To Paradise” unless you’ve got a recipe that calls for human tears.

Jackals No Solution LP (Hardware)
Depending on the time of day, I either love or hate just how self-referential and standardized hardcore has become. Not only are Jackals another Olde English-font hardcore band with a black-and-white collage-art album cover (featuring armed soldiers, of course), but at least four of their song titles are the names of other hardcore bands or hardcore bands’ album titles (“Manipulation”, “Sorry Excuse”, “Pulled Under” and “No Solution”). And if there isn’t already a band called “Violent Suppression”, I am sure we won’t have to wait much longer. On one hand, I can listen to Jackals’ No Solution and enjoy it for the raging Celtic Frost heaviness and Die Kreuzen speed which it contains (imagine a mix of Destino Final and Hoax with some slight X-Claim! leanings), and on the other, I can bemoan the fact that there are dozens of bands doing this very exact same thing at this very exact same moment (there’s even a “creepy” slow song with echoed vocals, a hallmark of 2010s hardcore). Jackals are certainly good, but the problem is that almost all of the bands doing this thing are good – it’s almost like we are due for a series of awful, clueless, uncool hardcore bands to arrive out of nowhere and shake things up out of our current retro-mania, this world where every bassist wears a freshly-bootlegged Void t-shirt and every singer has a Tumblr named after a G.I.S.M. track. Can someone please shut down the internet for a year so this has a chance of happening?

Stefan Jaworzyn Drained Of Connotation LP (Blackest Ever Black)
Blackest Ever Black goes Pinkest Ever Pink on this fine archaeological find care of Stefan Jaworzyn’s closet. Who knows what other fantastic Skullflower and Whitehouse oddities lurk in there, but as far as my particular tastes (which frequently happen to align with Blackest Ever Black’s), Drained Of Connotation hits a very sweet spot. This album consists entirely of barely-functioning, ultra simplistic drum machine / synth-noise interplay, the sort of thing where Jaworzyn could’ve easily taken multiple smoke breaks as these songs played out and we’d be none the wiser. The drum machine will pump out some crude Neu!-style one-two one-two, or something even far less than that, as a Korg MS10 (or 20) continually squiggles over top. I suppose there are technically seven tracks here, but it all feels like one singular idea, and not a very conceptual or complex idea at that – this is really just a recording of a man pressing buttons and turning knobs with a maximum of two fingers, and it falls in the musical zone of solitary pointlessness that I find utterly entrancing. I kind of get the feeling that by its release, Jaworzyn is just showing off that he was doing cool stuff back when today’s tech-noise all-stars were in diapers, but who cares if this album is one big showboat – it’s a wonderful waste of time.

Karlist Skins Off / Hexagonal 12″ (Russian Torrent Versions)
Been meaning to pick up one of these Russian Torrent Versions 12″s for a little bit now – I think it’s a funny idea for a fake bootleg label, and the artists involved are usually on the heavier, monolithic side of the L.I.E.S. camp (and I presume there is some direct correlation between these labels, too). Never heard of Karlist before, but this is some cool banging techno, about as simple and easy as it gets, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. “Skins Off” is all flailing morse-code percussion and snippy hi-hats, the sort of linear song that feels like it’s heading downhill rather than straight across the horizon, taking out all manner of debris and unsecured structures along the way. “Hexagonal” is a little more hands-on, riding a big bass swell with all sorts of rhythm boxes contributing to the anxiety and speed the track provides, a real dance-floor rush of slightly-uneasy euphoria. There is absolutely nothing new here, and I bet Jeff Mills has external hard-drives filled with hours of hard techno just as simplistic and great as this 12″, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed Karlist any less. Part of the beauty of techno is that there is an infinite, constantly-expanding supply of it, so since I’m never going to hear it all (or even 5% of it), I’ll take whatever records I do stumble upon and cherish them as my own.

Lilacs & Champagne Midnight Features Vol. 1: Shower Scene 12″ (Mexican Summer)
There’s a lot of info to chew on just between the artist name and record title, isn’t there? I guess these folks really want to set the scene, and I suppose it’s fitting, as there is a sense of glorious ’80s soft-core excess befitting a dog-eared Danielle Steel novel. It opens with a cut-and-paste groove that could’ve come from Daughn Gibson or Madlib, all coked-up and waiting for the limo to arrive, and it quickly moves toward a pensive “Charles Bronson pondering his daughter’s disappearance in the rain” scene with live-in-the-studio guitars and a mustachioed wink toward Steely Dan. It sounds cool in theory and practice, but Lilacs & Champagne take this fairly trendy template and give it a post-rock twist, of all things, as the b-side features guitar leads out of one of those long and winding Magma live LPs, or maybe even something Mogwai would’ve fiddled with? It’s kind of a weird mesh, but it works for Lilacs & Champagne. I just hope some Hollywood music supervisor stumbles onto them, as a movie featuring a Lilacs & Champagne soundtrack and Jason Statham driving a nuclear-armed convertible is nothing less than box office gold.

Ron Morelli Periscope Blues LP (Hospital Productions)
Morelli’s Hospital debut, Spit, really stuck with me in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for. It’s an album filled with grimy drum machines and “anyone could do this” loops, nothing special on paper, but it’s like every specific loop or rhythm he chose to work with was just so perfectly vulgar or destitute that I found myself obsessed. I actually skipped the Backpages follow-up – it could be fantastic, but all the advertising made it seem kind of superfluous (wasn’t its centerpiece just another version of a track from Spit?), and I’ve got to be at least somewhat smart with my money (I try to keep at least $500 in the Demdike Stare Emergency Release Fund at all times). So now here I am with Periscope Blues, and the beatless, new-age-basement drift of opener “Alone On The Beach (Beach Mix)” has me wondering if I shouldn’t have held off here, too. The rest of the record is nearly as minimal – I’m talking one machine per track, be it the keyboard creep of “Shredder” or the analog sound-box tweaking of “Island Bore”. My favorite is probably “Director Of (A Cappella)”, a concise collage of backwards speaking that could’ve worked for Lemon Kittens or Coil in their earliest days. Periscope Blues is growing on me, now that I’ve become accustomed to what it is (and what it ain’t), but only the most willing participants need apply – no amount of colorful explanation will coerce your well-adjusted dance-music-dabbling indie-rock friend into enjoying this.

Johnny Noise The Day Is Coming LP (Siltbreeze)
Los Llamarada were one of the most singular and interesting groups to come out of the mid-’00s Siltbreeze melee, and while their records contained some actual great (yet distorted) rock tunes, I always found their side-projects to be even more curious – what the hell was that The Love Is So Fast EP about anyway? And there was a Madonna cover on it? Sheesh. Anyway, Johnny Noise is another Llamarada alumni, and this album is one long, dreary slog through a sweltering lo-fi apartment complex. It almost feels like Mr. Noise is bemoaning the loss of his band here, just kinda grinding out these tuneless tunes all by his lonesome. So you have a better idea of what I’m talking about, The Day Is Coming sounds like the two existing Fuckin’ Flyin’ A-Heads tunes stretched out further than their chemical makeup could handle, with the Der TPK guy mumbling along and tapping his feet off-time to a guitar that is playing its own off-time riff. This album feels inappropriately long, a toiling drudge that makes you wish Mr. Noise had more friends or longer hours at work or something. But in a good way! It’s not often I keep playing a record that feels too long to me, but I’ve already spent at least a couple hours of my life listening to Johnny Noise whittle away at nothing. It beats going to the movies.

Permanent Ruin San Jose 7″ (Not Normal Tapes)
Not Normal Tapes? I’ll say! This thing’s a record! Along with the overwhelming hardcore consensus, I loved the first two Permanent Ruin 7″s, but to be honest, I kinda thought my quota was full after that – Permanent Ruin hit that “perfect grindy thrash-core” spot right away, and there’s kinda nowhere to go from there but to burn out in a flash. Then I saw Permanent Ruin live, and whatever smouldering fire I had was back up in flames. The drummer was a visual blur that has me convinced there’s an octopus in his heritage; the singer routinely disappeared into the sea of front-row bodies only to come out unscathed time and time again; the bassist was set on vibrate-mode; and the guitarist managed to fold his guitar over his head in some sort of weird Rocky pose while playing their intense and frantic hardcore music. Permanent Ruin songs are so tight and tricky (without ever feeling technical or mathy), so I wouldn’t have held it against the band to just stand still and concentrate, but these folks exploded themselves, and it was experienced vicariously by all in attendance. Now, I blast San Jose to relive that fix, and it comes pretty damn close.

The Phantom Family Halo Raven Town Witch LP (Sophomore Lounge)
It’s a shame ICP ruined the term “The Dark Carnival”, because it would’ve otherwise been a perfect fit for The Phantom Family Halo’s Raven Town Witch. This group has been cool for a while now, and while I probably preferred the semi-lucid VHS synth nightmares of their previous Sophomore Lounge album (weirder and freakier for sure), this one sounds good too. They’re certainly in full band mode, and feeling a bit psychedelic – where they once were kraut-like in their repetitive grooves, The Phantom Family Halo have jingle-jangled and Farfisa-d themselves into an ominous corner of the original Woodstock festival, one where daylight cannot penetrate the purple velvet glued over their van’s windows. Very hippy-dippy, but with a morbid fascination and a modern knowledge of grooves that hold up, kinda like a more studied and less-posturing Far Out Fangtooth (or perhaps even closer to the solo work of Mr. Fangtooth himself, Joe Kusy). Pretty nice overall, still creepy enough that the kindergarten-book “dead pet” painting on the back cover is even spookier than that description sounds. I might not learn to juggle fire while listening to this LP, but I’d wax my mustache as it plays, sure.

Powerblessings Quick Guide To Heart Attacks LP (Manhattan Chemical And Electronic)
A full-color, heavy duty tip-on sleeve is always a nice way for an LP to make a first impression, which is the case with this Powerblessings album. I recall hearing a 7″ of theirs before, and rating it a fine-if-unexceptional Hot Snakes-style rock affair. Now, gussied up in this attractive package, I’d say my initial assessment stands partly true – either I am paying closer attention now or they’ve become poppier this time around. Poppy is relative though, and I’m talking in the Dillinger Four sense – bearded, beer-blasted and getting older (and wiser). Not entirely far from Avail either, except a guy that just skanks on stage would never fit in the straight-line rock trajectory of most Powerblessings tunes. This isn’t really a style of music I want to hear too often (impassioned post-hardcore with rock riffing and punk fury), but Powerblessings have succeeded with Quick Guide To Heart Attacks – at the very least, they spent a hell of a lot on record sleeves.

Rapturous Grief Ficcion Corporativa 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
While most people with an eye for modern hardcore trends are watching labels like Toxic State and Katorga Works, I swear, Scavenger Of Death is continually pumping out the raging nuclear hardcore hits with little to no fanfare. Or maybe I’m just hanging out in the wrong places! This Rapturous Grief EP is some fantastic thrashy, grindy hardcore, that’s for sure. It’s got a Shitlickers speed and intensity, the mind-boggling energy of Imagen, and the distortion-singed recording quality of Hoax. They’ll do some flailing d-beat track that lasts twenty seconds, then bust into some grindcore cut before breaking it down for a quick circular mosh. There are ten tracks here, and I forgot how much I missed ten-song hardcore EPs until Rapturous Grief started spanking me all over the room. Sure, they use a distressed Old English font for their band name like every other band today, but if there’s one group that deserves full ownership of that font, it’s these folks. Blast this one between the first E-150 7″ and No Comment’s Downsided and if anyone complains, remove them from your apartment immediately.

Red Dons Notes On The Underground 7″ (Grave Mistake)
Do you think that anyone has ever responded to the question “hey, you wanna write some punk songs?” with the answer “sure, do you mean songs that are four to five minutes in length?”? And yet the Red Dons are clearly a punk group, offering two lengthy tracks of moody melodic punk. It’s pretty good – I’m reminded of a depressed Marked Men, a bouncy No Hope For The Kids, or a pop-punk-infused Adverts as I spin these tunes. They get it pretty much right, from the well-sung vocals to the two-note “police siren” guitar solo that occurs over a moody, incessant bass-line. Clearly these songs took time to put together, and while that may fly in the face of punk’s other definitions, Red Dons are a good example of why rehearsal and forethought can occasionally work for a punk rock band.

Red Monkey How We Learned To Live Like A Bomb LP (Our Voltage)
I’ve probably thumbed past an entire pressing’s worth of Red Monkey records in the used bins over the years, and now those singles are collected on one full-length LP. Gotta say, I was never a fan of this band – they were the one Troubleman band in the label’s heyday (2000-2004) I never really got. The riffs were just too boring, the vocals too purposely-tuneless, and I dunno, I’d rather just spend some time with The Party Of Helicopters or Orthrelm than these folks. Hell, I’d even consider myself a big Milky Wimpshake fan, who I believe share Red Monkey membership, so it’s not any sort of personal vendetta or inability to understand their music… I just never wanted to hear them again after the first few times. In spinning How We Learned To Live Like A Bomb, my personal history remains intact, as they are as uninteresting and boring to me now as they were a decade ago. And this album feels inescapably long, too. But, if you’re a fan of the band, you can now buy this shiny new album rather than scrounging the dollar-bin for the original singles – I just won’t be there with you.

Sacred Product Wastex 2×7″ (Quemada)
Allow me to get you caught up on your Australian underground bedroom indie-noise gossip – the magnificent Satanic Rockers broke up after a 7″ and the LP with the outrageous cover, but the main guy in the band (Lynton Denovan, if you really care) is also doing a thing called Sacred Product on the side, although it seems like it started back when Satanic Rockers were going strong (and one of these tracks was actually recorded back in 2001). Phew! I’m a huge Satanic Rockers fan, and an even bigger fan of double 7″ EPs (seriously, I love these things, particularly as they become less and less economically viable), so I was psyched to get my mitts on this one. I’ll go ahead and presume you’re familiar with the sludgy, seated-on-the-couch rock moves of Satanic Rockers, and I’ll tell you that Sacred Product seem to move away from the blues / metal riff as their songwriting backbone and closer to something more post-punk in nature. I guess Denovan is playing these songs by himself, and besides the more frantic instrumental from 2001 (“Sonic Country”), these songs kinda play out somewhere between the morose sparseness of The Native Cats, the bumpkin swing of Swell Maps, the upside-down rock interpretation of The Lost Domain and the sleepy-eyed vocalization of Ziggy Stardust Band. I might not be quite as into these tracks if I didn’t already love Satanic Rockers, because some of these songs are astonishingly normal – “Tram And Train” almost feels like some random new-wave band that would’ve opened for The Ramones in 1983, like The dB’s or something. I really do dig Sacred Product though, and can only hope to obtain the full-length album that apparently also exists.

Select Sex Select Sex 7″ (Our Voltage)
Sometimes I just pull out a new record and throw it on before so much as looking at the sleeve – it’s nice to just hear music with little more than a band name once in a while. That’s what I did with this Select Sex 7″, a band I had previously never heard of, and as I was sitting there tapping my knees to the distorted, roughed-up art-punk, I was thinking “man, this singer is giving off a strong Behead The Prophet vibe”. Lo and behold, it is the Behead The Prophet guy singing! Joshua Plague has such a distinct voice that whatever band he’s currently in, he’s the guiding force. I loved Behead The Prophet, was lukewarm on Lords Of Lightspeed, savored the Mukilteo Fairies EP, and was disappointed that Warm Streams ended so abruptly, and while I am just spouting off my personal Plague List, I can say that Select Sex are pretty sweet too. Definitely less hardcore here, and more something that hits in the Gravity / Three One G intersection, where Drive Like Jehu and The VSS commingle as the worthy influences they are. If there’s a cure for this Plague, I hope they never find it!

Streetwalker Ooze 12″ (Diagonal)
I know very little about Streetwalker, and I am happy to keep it that way – music this tweaked doesn’t need a backstory or glossy promo photo. It’s on Diagonal, a fairly new label carving out its own little nook in the world of modern-avant / blasted electronics, and I’m glad I picked it up! “Ooze” is a long one, taking full reign of the twelve available inches it’s been allotted, and I’m glad that’s the case – it’s a really enjoyable cut of analog basement un-techno, a light trot of a groove that’s always subtly shifting and coated with some sort of space goo (Predator blood, maybe?). You ever watch an ’80s movie that features an alien that doesn’t talk, only makes sounds? There’s a lot of that sort of synthy garble bubbling through the stock groove here, and it’s a delight. Even better, there’s a Silent Servant remix on the flip, which injects the track with some sort of X-Men steroids, boosting the kick to dance-floor quality and intensifying the main synth-worm until it threatens to kill us all. Almost feels like a demonic phantom-twin of something that Mr. Oizo would’ve done in 2009, which of course is high praise from me. Hoping to hear more music like this from both of these weirdos!

Subsonic Voices Primitive Shambles 12″ (Dull Knife)
Subsonic Voices are “the new Balaclavas band”, a Houston-based industrial/post-punk group that never quite seemed to get their due. I’ve been spinning this debut EP for a few weeks now, and I have come up with a pretty sharp comparison (if I say so myself) that I’m pretty sure the band will hate, but I gotta go with it – Subsonic Voices is the Mars Volta to Balaclavas’ At The Drive-In. Many of the same musical signifiers are in place: bass-heavy grooves, electronics woven into the guitar-based mix, bold and distinct singing. It’s just that now, Subsonic Voices seem to have moved from the basement club to the theater hall, bringing new levels of bombast, synthetic doom and vocals that float higher and flashier than ever before. I’ve been thinking about that comparison so much that Primitive Shambles actually started to sound like Mars Volta (or at least just their first EP), as the vocals aren’t too far apart really, and if you told me the band’s intent was to meld The VSS, Pink Floyd and Bauhaus for a release on Wax Trax, I wouldn’t doubt your sincerity. They’ve got something cool going on and I hope there’s more to come.

Te/DIS Comatic Drift LP (Galakthorrö)
For a label that has released basically like seven different artists over the course of 20+ years, it’s always interesting to me when Galakthorrö picks up someone new. Te/DIS (apparently short for Tempted Dissident?) started with a 7″ single last year, and they’ve quickly graduated to the full-length form in the lavish, darkly seductive Galakthorrö standard. I’d love to love it, and it certainly wasn’t cheap, but I don’t know – Te/DIS have all the right parts, but it just doesn’t click for me the way essentially every other Galakthorrö artist does. Musically, it’s somewhere on the November Növelet side of things, morbidly melodic and with hints of synth-wave and -pop rather than blustery electronic noise. I guess it’s probably the vocals – they have that sort of Laibach / Silk Flowers tone, where it seems like they are purposely being extended deeper than the vocalist’s natural range, resulting in a sort of unintended cheesiness. It’s not jarring or weird – plenty of guys sing with this same gothic Eeyore voice, it’s just that compared to how beautiful or strange or jarring the vocals of most other Galakthorrö artists are, Te/DIS falls a little short (and on a label as distinct and curated as this, it’s impossible not to directly compare). It’s still a cool album though, and as I trust Galakthorrö with both heart and wallet, I will pull it out again a few months from now on a particularly rainy night and see if a candle or two doesn’t mysteriously blow out.

Torn Hawk We Burst Time 12″ (Valcrond Video)
I’ll admit, I always feel a slight tinge of betrayal when an American electronic producer has their records exclusively distributed in Europe – what about your fans back home! I kinda understand the logistics behind it though, and after Torn Hawk’s L.I.E.S. 12″ nearly spun my head right off my shoulders, I decided I needed to do whatever it took to get the rest of his vinyl. This one comes with a cool A/V-smear cover design (surely of Torn Hawk’s own hand) and these two long cuts fit nicely into what I’ve come to expect while still pushing to the unknown. “We Burnt Time” is hard to describe – it has the audio sensations of an Actress or Oneohtrix Point Never track (that is to say, garbled, static-laced nostalgia sounds with an underlying new-age taste), but it plays out more like something John Carpenter or Kraftwerk would have put together – very linear and rigid; constantly chugging along toward the end like the red bar on a YouTube clip. Kind of soothing, but slightly disorienting, like sitting in one of those robotic massage chairs that you are certain is going to malfunction and cut your spine in half. “Throb & Ruin” continues that sensation, but with a stronger sense of urgency and a more powerful synth surge – I probably prefer it of the two, but both sides are excellent cuts of a sub-genre of electronic music yet to be classified (and run into the ground with formulaic copycats). If only the newest Torn Hawk “album” wasn’t cassette only! But if there’s one artist who can force me to reach past my limits, it’s this guy.

Dan Trevitt The Missing 12″ (Great Circles)
I’m happy to follow darkly mysterious techno to a burnt-out Russian basement, a warehouse in the Hague or up a foggy Spanish mountain, but I never expected to find anything cool within walking distance – great electronic music just isn’t supposed to happen in Philadelphia. Well, in spite of my disbelief, the Great Circles label exists, and is pumping out the sort of music I gladly pay import shipping costs for. It’s a wonderful feeling! This Dan Trevitt EP is fantastic – it’s not out of line with the Sandwell District scene and its many acolytes, but Trevitt isn’t afraid to spruce up a churning industrial rhythm with a chemical sting or lace it with some alien electronics I’d expect to find in an early T++ cut. Reminds me a bit of that last Morphosis album too, in the way Trevitt massages noisy frequencies into head-bobbable loops, and I guess it’s no surprise that Morphosis made a bunch of friends while he was here last summer and is currently devoting his label to documenting the legacy of Charles Cohen. Is the American techno renaissance upon us?

Watery Love Decorative Feeding LP (In The Red)
After waiting what seemed like an eternity, the Watery Love album is finally upon us. Whatever hype I built up in my head over months of anticipation has been dwarfed by the actual greatness of Decorative Feeding – here’s a band that started as an extreme piss-take on entertaining rock music, and they pulled the ultimate prank by progressively getting better and better until becoming a legitimately great band. The knuckle-dragging Cheater Slicks / Action Swingers-style tunes are still here (their anthem “I’m A Skull” makes a reappearance), and vocalist / guitarist Richie Charles sometimes sounds closer to the blabbermouth in Cyanamid than he might have intended, but it’s a beautiful sound to behold. There’s a definite Drunks With Guns vibe in the form of nonchalant misanthropy too, but it’s prime Mike Doskocil stuff, none of that splinter-band nonsense. The angry working-class “drunk at the kitchen table under a single light-bulb” vibe is still in full effect, but there are also these emotionally complex, moodier tracks like “Piece Of Piss”, “Only Love” and “Face The Door” that allow the burden of too-smart-for-his-own-good, blue-collar misery to be highlighted in fresh and interesting ways. Charles welcomes death (unlike his loser friends) and resents his girlfriend’s preference to her dog over him (or so the lyrics I can make out lead me to believe), often doing so in a speaking voice rather than a shout, and it’s this strange finesse that makes the record just as fascinating as it is kick-ass. I know these guys are proud of this record, and I’m proud of them too!

Richard Youngs Stolen 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
The Man Of A Thousand Releases hits the always-enjoyable Dirty Knobby label for a new 7″, so why not? You never know if Youngs is going to read you a bedtime story or drop a Hefty bag of pots and pans on your head, which is a big part of the fun. This single is right up my alley, actually – it’s buzzing, maniacal and silly, like some classic UK DIY repurposed for a Monty Python short. Both “A Stolen Ringbuoy” and “A Stolen Life” work a similar template – fast-forward drum loops, tuneless guitar wanderings, goofy sound-effects and upper-register vocals that seem blissfully unaware of the clown-shoe cacophony happening all around them. It has the feel of a few different insect species crawling all over each other, like a busy ant farm and a buzzing beehive placed in similiar territory and filmed for National Geographic. I don’t really keep up with Richard Youngs, there’s just so much constantly being pumped out, but this one is a winner. I wonder if Dirty Knobby are as surprised as I am, or if they specifically chose these tracks? The world may never know.