An Ultimate DJ An Ultimate DJ? 12″ (PRR! PRR!)
As far as crazy musical nations go, Belgium is often overlooked, might you agree? They don’t have nearly as much flair as say, the Japanese or French, but any country that spawned Dennis Tyfus is alright by me, not to mention whoever the weirdos behind An Ultimate DJ are (a trio of DDDJ Coquelin, Maoupa Mazzocchetti, PD Cloarec, of course). This 12″ is pretty much exactly what I want to hear right now: completely numbskulled, hardware-based techno primitivism… antagonistic dance music of limited means and vibrant personality. A-side “Sondages” is like a European answer to Beau Wanzer’s “Balls Of Steel”, as it is little more than a gritty analog-house workout with multiple interruptions from a man speaking a language I do not understand. Simple and aggressive, and yet instantly recognizable to my ears. The flip is entitled “GO NUTS!” and amazingly opens with a couple minutes of someone loosely covering Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” on acoustic guitar (that’s right) before giving way to a wobbly hard-techno track with overloaded bass, rapid-fire hits and a BPM that excludes sober people from dancing. If I owned a record store, I’d make sure to stock it full of nothing but records like this.

Billy Bao The Lagos Sessions 2xLP (Munster)
Adding to the Billy Bao pile of sonic confusion, here’s his newest album, recorded in Lagos with locally-sourced musicians and released by a Spanish garage-rock label. Only Mr. Bao could do this, I tell ya! Much like his other recent release, the Communisation EP, this one grabs from all of Mattin’s musical interests and splices it all together – you get free-range field recordings, cavernous drums emanating from some dark corner, radio interference, and of course, blistering noise-rock. Just when the barely-there blips that close the A-side have you questioning your listening habits, the B-side opens with a Brainbombs-esque slammer that will wake the neighbors, which abruptly transitions into a street interview. It’s clearly Billy Bao’s form of a sonic postcard, revealing his days and nights in Lagos and the alienation, fear, excitement and vigor that came out of them. I’ll admit that I assumed Billy Bao’s relevance in my life had essentially expired, but these new records (Lagos Sessions in particular) are entertaining and discomforting in the way that only Billy Bao knows how.

Blood Pressure Need To Control LP (Beach Impediment)
I just took a quick tally, and at least 50% of all Beach Impediment releases feature some sort of evil skull or demon-monster on the cover. Bravo! There’s a psychotic reaper on the cover of Need To Control, and he is the harbinger of the punchy, rapid-fire hardcore that is Blood Pressure’s MO. They have a new singer now (the enigmatic Ed Steck off writing poetry in some warmer climate I believe), replaced by a guy who sounds almost exactly like Ban Reilly in his Boston Strangler guise – it’s really an uncanny similarity, which I suppose isn’t too uncommon among classic-sounding hardcore vocalists. The music, however, is indebted to no region in particular, stomping through New York, Boston and Detroit circa 1982 with brief layovers in the UK and Sweden for good measure. These songs are complex but never overbearing, and the only guitar solo arrives as a hive of noise while the vocalist repeats “you’re full of shit” (I for one can’t help but believe his sincerity there). Blood Pressure really stepped their game up here, as Need To Control works not only as a filler-free 45 RPM hardcore LP, it’s a distillation of hardcore’s most infallible sounds – if there was ever a case to be made for creativity not being an integral component of modern hardcore music, Need To Control would be exhibit A.

Julian Casablancas & Jehnny Beth Boy/Girl 7″ (Cult)
Who exactly is supposed to buy this $18 one-song 7″ by Julian Casablancas and Jehnny Beth? Wait, I guess it’s me! Totally stupid record here, but I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t heartily enjoy it. Together they sing Sort Sol’s “Boy/Girl”, with Beth and her beau Johnny Hostile (who is inexplicably not a mid-’90s WCW under-card wrestler) handling the bass, drums and vocals. Casablancas sounds less like himself than ever here, mumbling through the track not unlike Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, and Beth seems to be purposely singing the wrong notes, with half the intensity of any given Savages tune. Clearly they knew how to handle this song, as it sounds great, just goofy and punk and glorious. The b-side is a “Johnny Hostile remix” (how many times do I have to keep typing this guy’s name) which pulls the live band for a recently-thawed electroclash costume change (and amazingly has a mere 21 views on YouTube as I type this, which is probably less views than the photo montage from your grandma’s 80th birthday). I get the feeling I am the only person listening to this music, let alone enjoying it, and yes, I do feel a little smug about it.

Counter Intuits Monosyllabilly LP (Pyramid Scheme)
Much like the debut Counter Intuits album, this one arrived pretty perfectly – I heard vague murmurs that an album was on its way, and then a week or two later it’s here, fresh and ready to be enjoyed. While this one lacks the hilarious Pyramid Scheme discography advertisement, it’s a strong reminder that Ron House and Jared Phillips have that natural Ohio blood in their veins, where rock n’ roll isn’t a destination so much as a journey that is constantly undertaken. I should probably go back to their debut for a side-by-side comparison, but Monosyllabilly strikes me as even less interested in melodies and chords – most of these songs get by on a rotten jangle that offers no sense of harmony or tunefulness, just rhythmic guitar sounds. It’s as if they removed the music notes in post-production, although we all know that isn’t the case (and the production is naturally quite minimal and decidedly hands-off). My favorite tune is “Password (Is Password)”, and it’s actually got a catchy little skip to it, as House announces his login information to anyone within earshot. His lyrics are as sharp and directed as ever, casually skewering Record Store Day and anything else that sticks in his craw. Unlike one of those freaks that waits in line for eight hours to get a 4×10″ box-set of acoustic Soundgarden outtakes, I will cherish my Counter Intuits records regardless of its eBay value.

Ian William Craig Cradle For The Wanting LP (Recital)
This isn’t a trio of dudes named Ian, William and Craig, this is one man with three first names operating all by his lonesome. He works exclusively with the human voice (his own) and a reel-to-reel tape machine with which to process it, and the results are really quite marvelous. Imagine William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops in song-size portions, with a gorgeous choral of voices as the original sound source, slowly folding over themselves like an origami master handling a fleece blanket. Craig’s voice appears to have some sort of classical training, as his melodies recall faintly-recognizable church hymns; devotional chants that express loss, longing and tenderness without an understandable word. I might place his vocal tone somewhere between Jeff Mangum, Antony Hegarty and Jamie Stewart, but that’s a wide chasm I’ve just opened up, and his voice bears no trace of indie-rock – I just don’t know a lot of choral singers whom I can reference. Craig does with his voice what Fennesz did with his guitar on Endless Summer, warping its known qualities and bending the way your ear processes a familiar sound, but with a warm, loving touch and a beautiful sense of freedom. Much like myself, Cradle For The Wanting is gorgeous.

Den Sorte Skole Indians & Cowboys 2xLP (no label)
Never in my life have I dug around record crates searching for samples or beats or whatever else producers like to use, but I admire those who really have a talent for making something entirely new and exciting out of old, forgotten parts. Den Sorte Skole are a German duo who build their music entirely from samples, and the world they’ve created within Indians & Cowboys is entirely their own. They really run the gamut on this dense album, cramming a few dozen samples per track (ranging from Yoko Ono to This Heat to Speed, Glue & Shinki to Conrad Schnitzler, etc.) with dazzling results. The album opens with a huge post-dubstep slam paired with an in-the-red guitar blast, and from there travels through realms that have me imagining the Hessle Audio team remixing kraut-rock classics, or a busier Nicolas Jaar trying out his own personal Avalanches technique (particularly when a buttery-smooth blues singer arrives over a glitchy beat as sitars and synths sputter by). Or perhaps, Den Sorte Skole are the inverse Girl Talk, expertly splicing tracks you’ve never heard into something that doesn’t resemble any of the originals in the first place and quite possibly transcends them all. Just take a look at the lengthy sample annotation on their Discogs page, download the album for free off their site if you don’t want to shell for the already-collectible vinyl edition and prepare to be transported.

En Kernaghan Band En Kernaghan Band LP (Ever/Never)
Ever/Never digs deep into Australia’s rotten crevasses for this one, a reissue of a highly-limited demo tape from 2014 by a young man named Ethan Kernaghan. How they came across this one is beyond me – maybe one of the Yankees at Ever/Never got a job teaching American English at a suburban Australian high school? – but this fits right within the label’s MO, as this is a prime slice of disregarded, ragged rock music that snubs its nose at punk just as much as it seeks entry into its canon. The one-sheet (which very well might just be an elaborate joke – I can never tell anymore) explains that En Kernaghan Band is covering Cramps and Pussy Galore songs here, surely among some originals, and I’m willing to believe it, as this is some raw, gristly honky-tonk punk befitting those names. The ostensible four-track recording is quite perfect for the sound En Kernaghan Band is after, with a nice sense of analog fuzz and humble means, and the vision of one-person / two-person noisy garage-blooze remains intact. Of course, I should also mention that many of these songs come with Krishna-devotional lyrics (quite possibly sincere?) and the main guy in the band, featured on front and back covers, looks like a teenage Iceage fan. Truly a confusing personality and record, but that’s just the way Ever/Never likes ’em… hoping they find an ex-NYHC youth-crew guy who makes digital reggae with his estranged daughter next.

Kobosil We Grow, You Decline 2xLP (Ostgut Ton)
Young Max Kobosil is primarily a working DJ, from what my research tells me – if he’s not entertaining club crowds in Amsterdam, Lithuania, Belgium and Georgia this week, he’s probably in his hometown of Berlin at Panorama Bar or Berghain, where he is primarily stationed. The man clearly spends more hours a week with loud throbbing PA systems and electronic synths than your average office worker does their email, and while you might think that sort of first-hand experience and knowledge would lead to an album of unrepentant peak-time bangers, Kobosil treats We Grow, You Decline more as a solitary sketch pad or reflective retreat. I’m kind of surprised at how little this album bangs, quite honestly, but after settling myself in for that slight disappointment, I’ve found plenty to enjoy here. It’s a fairly quick album, at only nine tracks (some of which are three minutes or less), but Kobosil seems content to skulk in the low tide, where undertows are frequent and tsunamis are rare. “When I Speak” is hypnotically stoic, like a puzzle game on the most difficult setting, and my favorite cut “You Answered With Love” pairs a curious two-note melody with an antagonistic ghost-in-the-machine to excellent effect. An understated record for sure, one that shares its amusing and thoughtful personality if you stick around long enough to get to know it.

Laurice G.A.Y.D.A.R. LP (Mighty Mouth Music)
Mighty Mouth did us all a great service by bringing the music of Laurice to the limelight with two retrospective LP collections full of insanely infectious glam-rock psychedelia (and I say this as someone who only wears glitter a couple times a year, max), and now they are taking things even further with a new album of Laurice studio material. Naturally, I was hoping for Laurice’s Darkstar, but he opted for an album of raunchy novelty songs instead. Go figure! G.A.Y.D.A.R. was apparently initially written to be performed by “a gay punk artist”, but I presume they declined, and I can’t blame that unnamed artist, as these songs are decidedly corny and kitsch, like the worst moments of Wesley Willis, Tim & Eric and Bruce Haack combined with Blowfly’s lyrical aesthetic. I have to say, I appreciate that Laurice side-steps the obvious double entendres and dirty metaphors and usually just goes straight to the carnal, with lyrics clearly outlining his admiration of someone’s big dick, or in the case of “Busted”, “Down at the local bar / had raunchy sex with James / in the backroom on the downlow”. The blatantly direct lyrics matched with Jerry Lee Lewis riffs played on a hand-held Casio aren’t without their charm, but when it comes to the actual songwriting at hand, Laurice has traded in his epic, instantly-gripping prowess for kinky laffs, and I suppose he has earned that right.

Leon Leon 7″ (SmartGuy)
There are but a few modern-day rockers who can tie their track-jacket over their shoulders and wear it with flair, Leon Stackpole being one of them. You might know him best as vocalist of Ooga Boogas (I certainly do), and it’s nice to hear him step out on his own here, four humble tracks that offer no pretense, just some sharply-tailored good times. They are charmingly small songs, which remind me of Mark Perry at his most regal, or perhaps Harry Nilsson, had he lived a previous life as a garage-punk hooligan. The Ooga Boogas’ tune “Sentimental Stranger” is rebooted here with “Sentimental Stranger II”, breezier and less inclined to sit up than ever before. I generally don’t get that excited about music that sounds like it’s deciding whether it should take a nap now or ten minutes from now, but Leon is the type of charmer who will have me sleeping with my sunglasses on after serving me some of the best sangria I’ve ever tasted, and I need at least one musician in my life like that at all times.

Alec Livaditis Clear And Cloud LP (Kye)
In this era where every artist, new or old, is available to be heard at any moment’s notice, free of charge, there’s nothing I value more than actual curation – I want to find entities I can trust, those who are connected locally and/or digging deep in the trenches of the internet, corresponding with interesting people, and putting together sounds and ideas they find truly exceptional. I can’t think of a better example today than Kye, whose roster seems tied together only by their sonic fearlessness and the peculiar taste of the man behind it… I love that I can check in with any new record, almost surely by someone or something I’ve never heard of, and find myself transported to a strange new place. It’s like locating a new closet or hallway in your own home. Anyway, Alec Livaditis is a great example, he being a cellist playing around the Athens, GA area with other like-minded folks, and this, his debut album, features two side-long live recordings. He’s joined by a guitarist on “Clear And Cloud”, which plays out like a conversation between skittish strings, plaintive moans and atonal feedback. It’s a colorful banter, naturally resulting in more questions than answers, particularly as the other folks in the room chatter incessantly, seemingly immune to the music that surrounds them. “Through The Open Window” pairs Livaditis’ cello with clarinet, bass clarinet and violin, and it’s more beautiful and soothing than the former, with an equally unhurried pace and vivid phrasing. It’s one of those records I had no idea would impact my life as greatly as it did until I heard it, which is why I keep buying records, in search of the fleeting sensation that fills Clear And Cloud.

M//R No Tag No Food 12″ (Details Sound)
There’s no easier way to make a sick first impression than to sport a bold hat, which is certainly the case with this recent M//R 12″ on Details Sound. Once that hat hooks you in, these four tracks keep you in place, be it sinking into a beanbag chair while high or in the middle of a commercially-zoned warehouse turned illegal-rave long after midnight. “No Tag No Food” has me thinking of Westov Temple or M Ax Noi Mach in the way the beat casually bludgeons, but it’s quickly infused with various chemtrails and disembodied vocals, building to something on the lower end of the techno BPM scale and more satisfying because of it. “Grimy Window” sounds like an investigator digging through the charred remnants of an acid-techno track in search of clues, definitely the sort of track you’d expect Bones and Booth to get intimate with (I’ll save the rest for my erotic fan-fic blog). “Canto” is the sound of poisonous bubbles popping in the sky while you scamper without an umbrella, and “Idyll” is the icy outro, specters gliding past your body as you search for the one unlocked door that will get you back outside. No Tag No Food is certainly rooted in today’s “forward” techno scene, while still dancing with its own expressive signature, and it’s my favorite M//R outing to date.

No Parole No Parole 7″ (Mad At The World)
Proudly working-class street-punk here from No Parole, five guys who follow the tried-and-true tradition of standing in front of a brick wall for their band photo. Four songs here, all of which recall the more melodic-punk edge of Headache Records or Vulture Rock. They play slower than most punk bands, and the vocalist’s belligerent bellow had me wondering if maybe I wasn’t playing it on the wrong speed, but I suppose that sluggishness lends itself well to a band whose message seems to be “I’m exhausted and life sucks”. Definitely the sort of band I would’ve expected to see as the local opener for The Unseen or The Wretched Ones back in 1998 or something, and it’s nice to know this style hasn’t died out entirely. Really could’ve done without the naked Sailor Jerry-esque woman on the insert posing as the No Parole logo, though – alongside chain wallets and baggy plaid shorts, nudie tattoo-guy art is a tasteless relic that should’ve been long since retired.

Not Waving Animals 2xLP (Diagonal)
While I sit here patiently awaiting the debut Powell album (your guess on its release date is as good as mine), I figure I might as well check out Not Waving’s new album, seeing as Powell is wholeheartedly putting himself behind this release and the Diagonal label has yet to drop a stinker. Wasn’t sure what to expect (and the name has to be a This Heat homage, right?), but Animals is a great snapshot of Diagonal-style techno circa 2016. Which is to say, it often sounds like a more populist Powell, a Powell that isn’t afraid to adhere to Ableton’s 4/4 grid while still integrating bizarre spoken-word snippets and acoustic instruments. A track like “Tomorrow We Will Kill You” exemplifies this, with a slow-motion EBM backbone laced with an electric bass squiggle reminiscent of Powell’s no-wave sampling habits. Opener “Believe” practically feels like a pitched-down outtake from Powell’s Club Music in the way the main pulse and drums collaborate somewhere between late ’70s Sky Records-esque kraut-rock and moody Belgian EDM (picked up faster on “I Know I Know I Know”). Somehow though, I wouldn’t accuse Not Waving of copying Powell, so much as arriving at a similar destination through his own means, one where the day-glo MS Paint vomit of the cover speaks as much toward the future as it does a nostalgic past. Powell’s probably on to some new sound entirely by this point anyway, so it’s nice to hear more of it now, no matter what the source.

Nuel Hyperboreal LP (Further)
Further certainly has its share of techno iconoclasts, one of my favorites being Italy’s Nuel. His debut album Trance Mutation was almost shocking in its refusal to partake in the industrial techno workouts with which he first made his name, opting instead for a subtle, slow-burning suite of acoustic meditations, not entirely unlike a “world music” CD you’d find on the counter of your local free-trade coffeehouse. I wasn’t expecting him to repeat himself here, and he certainly doesn’t: on Hyperboreal, Nuel sits down with his friend Neel’s Ekdahl Polygamist (that’s a synth) and busts out these six tracks in a few hours. Moving past the fact that a techno guy who goes by Nuel is close friends with a techno guy who goes by Neel, this album exists on an alternate course from the rest of modern electronic music, much to my delight. Each track sees multiple processes traveling outward, sometimes forecasting a conflict that never arrives (“Steppin’ Stone”), other times a digitally-rendered aviary (“Polaris”) or the oppressive weather systems of our sister planet Venus (“Hyperboreal”). It’s ambient music for inhospitable terrain, like a particularly beautiful amino acid that would melt your skin upon contact. After a few listens, you’ll either build up some newly found tolerance and bask in its glow or suffer from a strange and mild form of mental stress, and I implore you to take the chance.

Patsy Eat It / Insidious Kind 7″ (Total Punk)
If there’s a punk band that can steal one of “Weird” Al’s most popular song titles and run with it, it’s gotta be Patsy, who commit two more songs off their 2015 demo to vinyl care of Total Punk. “Eat It” is a rollicking number, careening around familiar curves while vocalist Candace repeats the title with little respect to the rhythm of the music. Pretty sure she has a few other non-“eat it!” lyrics in here too, but who’s to say for sure? “Insidious Kind” is both faster and shorter, with Victims-esque guitar surgically conjoined to a modern hardcore-leaning sound, which of course works wonderfully. Very simple, bread-and-butter punk here, but in the best possible way, songs that seem obvious and familiar because they are great and unadorned. I’m hoping Patsy finds it in themselves to do a little touring soon, as I know of a handful of quality basements near me that could benefit from a Patsy performance.

PCPC Ramsgate LP (Dull Tools)
I’ll admit I was hoping for a Primitive Calculators / PC Music collaboration here, but I’ll take one from Parquet Courts and PC Worship just the same. These two groups apparently joined forces at Ramsgate Music Hall back on November 24th, 2014 (excuse me, 24th November, 2014) and ended up with a clear, smartly-mixed recording of the session, resulting in the LP I hold before me. As Parquet Courts seem to have made it their mission to annoy as many of the fans they’ve gained through their palatable indie-rock albums Sunbathing Animal and Light Up Gold as possible, this record supports their endeavors, comfortably switching gears from extended Velvets-y big-band stoner groove to skronky freakouts within the same set. The b-side opener “Lost In The Drain” almost feels like an indie-rock version of Landed, in the way a rudimentary guitar lunge is slowly beaten into the dirt, which of course I appreciate. Half of Ramsgate feels composed, half loosely improvised (“I’ll repeat this riff and everyone can follow along” vibes), but their inherent skill at both methods results in a cohesive sound, like a secret show at an exclusive small-cap venue where only cool things happen (if at least one band member wasn’t wearing sunglasses, my mental image is off). Ending on a “Born To Be Wild” cover, it’s nice to know that indie-rock bands can still enter the hype vortex and come out the other end with their enthusiasm and wonder toward playing music undiminished.

Piñén EP 2015 7″ (Hurricane)
You won’t often hear me extolling the virtues of raw hardcore-punk that eschews the guitar / bass guitar / drums format without good reason, but Piñén make a good case for hardcore minimalism. From what I can decipher, they’ve got one guitarist, a drummer and vocalist (who may or may not play one of those instruments) and they stack up with the best standard-issue lineups thanks to a seemingly unending well of rage and energy. Musically, they sound very “now”, with slowly descending stop-start riffs and sped-up street-punk pogo drumming (there truly is an oompah-beat renaissance in hardcore right there now), with strained vocals that seem desperate to not be drowned out in the mix. Very crude presentation, which of course is what makes Piñén so good, as their crude sound seems like the only logical conclusion for this band, not a self-stylized product to keep up with the times. It’s in the details, like the single cymbal hit punctuating each bar in “Antítesis”, and while I could try to intellectualize this music further (probably a huge mistake), I’ll simply reiterate that Piñén is a shining example of the excitement and spirit that a direct and unsophisticated punk band can create.

Soda Without A Head 12″ (Dull Tools)
The band is called Soda, a substance that I suffer a tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship with (I’ll have a crappy Sierra Mist and swear the stuff off, then a bottle of Cheerwine makes its way into my hand and I’m back at square one), and their music suits my frustration well. This isn’t effervescent sugary pop, so much as the queasy caffeination that comes with a Coca Cola bender, rock music that sounds both out of its head and trying not to scream. Maybe it’s all that flange on the guitar? I’m reminded of the broody indie-punk vibes of labelmates Heaven’s Gate here, as well as some sort of meeting point between the 4AD and Homestead Records catalogs circa 1987, when everyone was getting into poetry and REM and goth and slower songs without realizing what would eventually come of it. Soda is from Florida, and knowing that, I hear some of the more noisy-sad music of Florida’s modern underground here too, like I can picture Merchandise’s David Vassalotti laying down guitar tracks on Without A Head after writing a sad paragraph in his personal diary. “T.V.” might be my favorite track here, and that’s because it feels like Collective Soul’s “December” bent over and spanked, which is what we all want to do with that horrible band. Drink up!

The Soda Boys Burgers And Fries / Dog House 7″ (Total Punk)
The Soda Boys “Burgers And Fries” is essentially an American meal no one can rightfully take umbrage with, so right off the bat I’m willing to hear what these four guys (all with corporate-soda-based punk names) have put together for us. “Burgers And Fries” is a pretty basic, upbeat garage-rock number both in music and lyrical tone, basically the theme of an Archie comic given a leather jacket with smartly-chosen pins. “Dog House” opens with a guitar solo that just barely rips before jumping into another entry-level punk tune, not entirely unlike The Oblivians, Live Fast Die or The Time Flys, just with any of those artists’ personal uniqueness subbed out for soda-based lyrics. About as disposable a punk single as they come, although that seems to be part of the point, and the fact that their little insert advertises that you can “send $4 for the 2nd pressing of the demo tape” warms my heart far more than any Bandcamp URL. These guys have nothing to do but think about soda and write slightly different versions of basic garage-punk songs that have been written a thousand times over, and it remains a far better option than playing organized sports with adult coaches, now and forever.

The Sprawl E.P. 1 12″ (Death Of Rave)
The Sprawl is a new collaboration between Mumdance, Logos and Shapednoise, Shapednoise being the odd man out in this crew of club-minded, bass-banging bros. I can’t tell if he is guiding The Sprawl, or merely part of the excuse for the other two guys to get full on post-post-modern, into the realm of beatless, off-the-grid sonic flora. Imagine Arca as the sound of shopping mall Muzak in 2099, and The Sprawl is what you hear in the subterranean custodial areas beneath, where giant drains sift out waste from waste-water, WiFi hubs overheat with radiation and drones produce scripted social-media advertising. This record is very much about the sounds, their shapes and frequencies and presentation, and evaluated on that level it’s an entertaining EP; I love wondering if these guys were trying to emulate the inside of a hornets’ nest or a German-engineered dishwasher (or the former inside the latter). Personally, it never really does much for me to see this sort of thing performed live, as there is little in the way of performance, and I am too busy watching other peoples’ reactions to non-musical music to concentrate on it myself. That’s why a product like this is key, so that I may lay on my rug sideways, stare at the ceiling and let The Sprawl sonically interpret the internet.

Whatever Brains Whatever Brains LP (Sorry State)
Whatever Brains are seemingly doing all it takes to remain an overlooked gem within the underground punk landscape: they don’t seem to tour much, their PR is non-existent (at least within the side of the internet I click on), and this is their fourth self-titled album on Sorry State Records, a label generally associated with straight-forward, reverent hardcore-punk. Meanwhile, Whatever Brains have been slowly carving out their own little tunnel under the street, integrating electronics into their off-kilter post-punk as though it was the only way things could be. I feel like I say this every time, but this new one is probably their best yet – their downer, dryly-sarcastic, Fall-indebted moves are still intact, but expanded to new realms that recall the effects-based rock approach of Girl Band, the queasy stumble of The Rebel and hell, even a foray into Mi Ami’s percussive no-wave. A lesser band could make this into a mess that no one would want to clean up, but Whatever Brains almost have a This Heat-ian ability to make you feel as though the strange ideas they’ve forged have been there all along, waiting for you to listen. I swear they even borrow one of Vessel’s homemade synths on “Let’s Find A Cop”, a tune that sounds fresh from Pop. 1280’s playbook. I can’t imagine lots of people are thanking Sorry State for sticking with this weird-ass, vaguely-unpopular band for so many years, so allow me to publicly express my gratitude as I give this album yet another spin.

JT Whitfield JT Whitfield LP (Rural Isolation Project)
JT Whitfield is serving some carefully-crafted domestic sludge here on his or her debut album on the Rural Isolation Project label. Theirs is wide-open, caustic bass tones and industrial murk, slowly leaning toward the disaffected sounds laid down by Kerridge, Talker, Grebenstein and many other Downwards-associated acts and their spookier aliases. A few years ago, this sort of thing would tail into the mechanical lurch and scrape of Wolf Eyes ala “Stabbed In The Face”, but now it’s 2016 and bass-centric industrial-noise leans toward an eventual or supposed 4/4 kick, not so much a beat to dance to but a pulse by which to survive. The Rural Isolation Project label has only released Quttinirpaaq albums thus far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that Whitfield was a member of the group, as they both reside in Austin, TX and Whitfield’s toxic tones often feel like they would fit comfortably within one of Quttinirpaaq’s molten grooves. You be the judge!

untitled compilation 7″ (D.I.H.D. / Nostorca / Logcabinrecordings)
This record has pained me for a couple weeks now, like seriously caused me legitimate anguish… because it’s a compilation with no title. How was I supposed to list it? List all four band names, and then use their four band names again as the title? Couldn’t one of the people involved come up with something, like maybe New Brunswick Art Supply or New Jerseys’ Still Kinda Got It I Think? These four groups are all on the cool side of lo-fi arty, they all reside around New Brunswick, NJ and they all sound similar but different, and it’s a fine sampling of one of New Jersey’s best locations for sandwiches that consider french fries to be a valid condiment. Shadow Band kicks it off with a gorgeous Nico-esque sunrise, the sort of thing Espers would’ve listened to while cooking breakfast, and they’re followed by King Darves, whose album on De Stijl was a fine example of booming-baritone folk (which his track here continues to demonstrate). Things get a little more chaotic on the flip, with the lowercase-adamant quit starting it off with a barely-alive dual-guitar and drums jam; Human Adult Band wrap it up with a hearty groove that has me imagining a failed genetic splicing of Sonic Youth and Tad. Would make for an excellent four-band gig for sure, and until that caravan tour happens this compilation is an excellent consolation prize, at least if you can figure out a proper way to file it.