Acrylics Despair / Reassurance 7″ (Iron Lung)
Acrylics’ debut tape-turned-12″ came through here not too long ago and I thought it was good-not-great hardcore-leaning noise-rock, so I was pleased to see the Southern Californian group make the jump into Iron Lung’s domain, a label I greatly appreciate and respect. Two songs here, in and out quicker than your microwavable burrito, and I can see why Iron Lung took a shine to these young men, as the songs they’re offering fit right in: spastic, tough and a little weird. “Despair” sounds like a mosh breakdown Septic Death would’ve considered before it flips into double-time hardcore action. “Reassurance”, on the other hand, is pure speed, fitting snugly next to NASA Space Universe and Double Negative in the way that it has the base-level feel of Die Kreuzen but the guitars insist on flailing in all directions at once, with unexpected tone (it’s not just buzz-saw distortion) and the song’s structure jumping all over the place, ending with another sideways mosh pattern. Rumor has it that Acrylics are dreadfully loud live, and if they’re playing songs like this, it’s a winning combination to be sure.

Angry Skeletons Angry Skeletons 7″ (no label)
I’m quick to bemoan the many ways in which punk and hardcore bands are formulaic or generic, but I don’t want to give off the impression that it’s invariably a negative trait. Look at Copenhagen’s Angry Skeletons, for instance: their band name has me wondering how it wasn’t already taken a dozen times over, but it’s almost so overly generic as to be skipped over, a sort of generic sweet-spot. Musically, while the rest of the Copenhagen underground is trading in their black-metal post-punk tapes for experimental techno 12″s, Angry Skeletons sound like a mix of The Sex Pistols and The Vines, with pleasingly basic Chuck Berry riffs and the whiny sneer to match. Angry Skeletons are so perfectly out of step with the current punk trends that their lack of distinctiveness is what ends up making them so distinctive, brandishing their proudly-rote garage-punk without a care in the world. I’m not sure I’ll end up listening to this self-released 7″ all that much (although it’s an enjoyable spin when I do), but I’m glad to see three young punk dudes acting on their own behalf without concern for underground trends, follows or likes.

David Arvedon & The Psychopaths The White Album 2xLP (Mighty Mouth)
Do you like chocolate chip cookies? Here, eat 70 of them. I feel like that’s the MO of the Mighty Mouth / Last Laugh / Almost Ready label empire: not just digging up a moderate selection of cool garage, punk or associated obscurities (both old and new), but making sure every last inch of material is fully excavated and pressed to vinyl. Take the not-quite-a-household-name of David Arvedon, for example: The White Album follows three LP-sized volumes of material recently issued by Mighty Mouth. That’s five LPs total – I don’t even need to own five Black Sabbath albums, let’s be real! Perhaps pressing records can be just as severe an addiction as collecting them. I get the impression this double album is recently recorded and not an unearthed artifact from decades prior, and it’s right on par with those other albums, measurable time be damned. Arvedon is a quirky, kooky singer-songwriter who clearly savors bubblegum pop, acid-fried garage and proto-punk grooves, giving it all a Zappa-esque nose tweak and using phrases like “that would be peachy fine” in a song about getting turned down for a date. It’s pretty entertaining for the most part, so long as you’re not too uptight about corny goofball rock – I can’t help but picture the Muppet band playing these songs. I just wanna meet the freaks who need five LPs of this stuff!

Batu Murmur EP 12″ (Timedance)
Timedance is a quality spot for modern British techno practice, a space for dudes like Lurka (and personal favorite Bruce) to drop all sorts of forward-thinking club music engineered for professional system playback. Batu has been kicking around a bit, so I figured Murmur would be a nice way to check in on both camps. The title track holds down the a-side with a glorious set of thumps: morse code is transformed into dance-floor artillery here, a nervous and skittery track with a great set of alien drums adding a melodic element to the workout. “Groundwork” opens the flip, violently wobbling as the bass kick leaves a sinkhole deep enough to claim a Honda Civic, while “Whisper”, the longest cut here, slowly teases the beat with a mighty donk as hats and synths chop above like a helicopter awaiting lift off. Batu really has the knack for crafting music that feels paradoxically dense and light, in motion and paused in stasis… it’s a strange and sublime sensation. If I had the slightest clue how to make my own music like this, I’d be doing it round the clock, I swear to you.

Stefan Christensen Open Day 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Guitar-slinger Stefan Christensen returns after his Ever/Never 12″ EP with a single on the always intriguing I Dischi Del Barone label, a label for which I would’ve expected Christensen’s inherent tunefulness to immediately disqualify his participation. Shows what I know! Much like his recent 12″, Christensen fills this 7″ with five tracks of introspective guitar work; songs that sound like they’re yearning for a real band to find them, and instrumental passages that linger on the most basic appealing aspects of amplified, distorted guitar. I’m reminded of The Dead C at times, in the way that Christensen consistently approaches his guitar as if no one else is watching – I can’t help but feel like a voyeur to whatever his little recording setup is (it has to be little), bearing witness as he locks himself in a moody pattern of chords or flickers some magnetic tape over top. An easy-listening EP for individuals who favor difficult listening, to be sure.

Cube My Cube LP (Left Hand Path)
Cube’s debut album has been out for a few months now, and I’m kicking myself for not finding out about it sooner – or rather, I should be kicking anyone who was already jamming it and neglecting to tell me (I know you’re out there). It’s the solo project of Adam Keith, he also of the great San Francisco neo-no-wave unit Mansion, and Cube is even more to my liking: demented basement electronics that fuse the worlds of techno, noise, synth-punk and any suitable repulsive nonsense. Imagine if Beau Wanzer, Siobhan and other noisy American techno artists approached their beats from a distinctly punk point of view, or if the antagonistic synth experiments of early Severed Heads and Scattered Order gave subtle acknowledgement to the dynamics of a club, and you’re close to what My Cube is all about. It opens with a Harry Pussy-esque squall of distortion but doesn’t stay there too long, as there are thirteen tracks here and Cube never lets an idea linger too long. Cube’s music isn’t geared for locking into an extended, gritty groove anyway – his music feels more like “songs” than “tracks”, often replete with vocals, and are more befitting a Subterranean Records compilation circa 1983 than a L.I.E.S. 12″ (although my mind wouldn’t be blown if that were to happen in the future). I’m really quite amazed at the varied successes of My Cube, with nary a misstep or wasted moment, just a bunch of corrosive electro-punk noise that I’m so glad I’ve heard and get to share with you.

Dark Blue Start Of The World LP (12XU)
To a certain quantity of punks, John Sharkey (the third) will forever be defined as the destructive, improprietous leader of ’00s noise-rockers Clockcleaner, but his post-‘Cleaner projects Puerto Rico Flowers and Dark Blue have gone on for just as long, if not longer, than the entirety of Clockcleaner’s existence. He’s been steadily cleaning up his act ever since, or at least sharpening goofy insults and violence into cunning wit and cynical observation, and Dark Blue’s second album, Start Of The World, is his most tuneful offering yet. Dark Blue seemed to start as a rough concept, an attempt to answer the question “what would sad skinheads listen to on Valentine’s Day?”, and that basic template is richly developed here, easily the group’s most dynamic offering. Sure, the tempos are still slower than you’d expect anyone associated with punk to choose, and Sharkey continues to intone bitterness and disgust in his expressive baritone, but Start Of The World is full of a confidence and swagger that I haven’t heard from him since Clockcleaner wrote “Vomiting Mirrors”. Not only do Dark Blue get away with a piano ballad and a song that opts out of guitar entirely, they’re two of the hottest cuts on the record, tackling political misery-fatigue and human suffering with a nuance I didn’t know was possible, let alone from these seppos. And I swear, opener “Union Of Buffoons” is rich with the feel of Oasis, not just in guitar tone and vocal delivery but in its sense of conviction and unassailable pride. Fred Perry would be wise to start sending Dark Blue promotional garments while they still can.

Da-Sein Death Is The Most Certain Possibility LP (Galakthorrö)
Fresh for Spring, a new Galakthorrö batch! It’s irresistible as always, even if nothing new from Haus Arafna and November Növelet this time around, the bread and butter (or steak and red wine) of the label. I’ve been a fan of the label for a number of years now, probably reviewing everything they’ve released since, I don’t know, 2010, and yet if you were to play me Death Is The Most Certain Possibility sight unseen and tell me it’s actually a new album by November Növelet, I wouldn’t bat a shadowed eye. Go figure: when a hardcore label is run by a band and only puts out other bands that sounds like the label’s founding artist, it’s maddening, but I find Galakthorrö’s striking lack of sonic diversity to be something closer to aesthetic pureness, a trait to be praised. It doesn’t hurt that this Da-Sein album, judged alone, sounds great: the bookish, passive synths and pitter-patter drum programming of Fernando O. Paino lead the way for the morbid, near-catatonic vocals of Kas Visions (and just like November Növelet, Da-Sein is a tragically beautiful male / female duo). The music is soothing and alluring in its subtlety, each song operating with little more than a basic skeleton and the vital organs necessary to sustain a pulse, and they’re armed with a pile of romantic and morbid lyrics (a quick sample: “We are entering the ghost town / Only one step from the joy / And It’s staring at our souls / All the shadows of the past”). I’d say “buy or die!”, but there’s probably a good portion of Galakthorrö’s audience that are already dead, so I don’t want to discriminate.

Feral Ohms Feral Ohms LP (Silver Current)
Those still mourning the loss of Comets On Fire, I bring you hope: Ethan Miller’s Feral Ohms. Sure, Heron Oblivion are way cool, but they’re a far cry from the amphetamine-fueled guitar-rock explosion of Comets On Fire’s first couple albums, of which Miller, founding member of Comets (and also Heron Oblivion), brings us here. Feral Ohms’ self-titled debut album (not counting last year’s live record) is a callback to the earliest Comets On Fire days, where ZZ Top riffs were pushed to a High Rise state of mind, resulting in a raucous garage-rock sound (and burning wire smell). Feral Ohms are pure id, with every song boasting frantic guitar solos, kinetic drumming and Miller’s familiar yowl, somehow still in top form. The crusty haze (and live echo effects) of Comets On Fire has been scraped off, resulting in a leaner, more discernible recording, probably even more energetic and certainly tighter. “Teenage God Born To Die” is my personal favorite: a guitar typhoon, wild drum fills and a central riff that recalls The MC5 at their most incendiary combine forces with one of the coolest song titles I’ve heard in a while for an immediate rock gem. I think they’re gigging over on the East Coast this summer, I’ll see you there!

Gary Wrong Group Gary Wrong Group 2xLP (12XU)
I know that 12XU “gets it”, but this double-LP singles/EPs compilation of Gary Wrong Group proves that they really get it. I’ve been extolling the virtues of Gary Wrong Group on here for a while now (even did an interview a couple years back, check the links!), but his audience certainly seemed limited to basement-dwelling punk mutants, even though his music deserves the legitimacy that a label like 12XU inherently brings. Although I’m already familiar with the majority of the tracks here, listening to two LPs’ worth of Gary Wrong Group reveals a depth to their work that I didn’t realize was there, at least consciously – Gary Wrong Group travel from Hawkwind- and Chrome-based space exploration to the filthy carpeted basements of the Total Punk label and the synth-y grease of Quintron (which makes sense as Quintron is a frequent if not permanent member of the ‘Group). It all fits within the cult-y horror aesthetic of Gary Wrong Group, so that the eerie jangle of “Dream Smasher” and the inebriated shuffle of “Knights Of Misery” flow seamlessly into the Stick Men With Ray Guns-styled “Setting Fire To Your Loft”. I’ll pretend to understand what it’s like to not already have snatched up all the various Gary Wrong Group records and assume you’ll check this package out, lest I start admonishing at will.

Hawks No Cash Value LP (Rejuvenation / Learning Curve)
No Cash Value is the fifth and final album from Atlanta’s Hawks (heh, I didn’t make the basketball connection until typing it out now), and I can’t blame a group for calling it quits after five albums – how much tense n’ groovy post-hardcore noise-rock can any group of four men be expected to produce? Can’t say I’m overly familiar with their prior output, but I’ll assume they’re going out on top as this is a fine album (or if it’s actually their worst record, I need to check out the rest ASAP). Ten tracks here (including three short noise-based instrumentals) and they offer a proud display of all the noise-rock emotions: disgust, inebriation, cruelty, obsession and anger. So many groups of Hawks’ ilk get stuck in a tempo or song structure, but Hawks do a fine job of keeping things lively without any sense of forced eclecticism. I’m picking up plenty of Jesus Lizard and Cherubs (particularly a link to that nice and unexpected recent Cherubs record), but also the stoner-sludge of the Man’s Ruin label and maybe even just a touch of tasteful nu-metal (if such a thing exists). Vocalist Michael Keenan has a great throat for the job, simultaneously shredded but intelligible, calling to mind Iron Monkey’s Johnny Morrow (RIP) and Bloodyminded’s Mark Solotroff (may he live forever). Sad I never got to see Hawks, but I get the feeling guys like them can’t stay away from beer-stained stages and loud amps for too long, one way or another.

James Arthur’s Manhunt Staring At The Sun / Cherry Red 7″ (Spacecase)
This ain’t your mama’s manhunt! Nope, it belongs to James Arthur, and he’s following last year’s 12XU album with a fine two-song single, more agitated hard rock with nods to both punk and psych. “Staring At The Sun” repeats a three-note progression through passages of tense quiet and raging energy, the tried-and-true “soft/loud, soft/loud” template that remains irresistible. I like what the Manhunt do with it here! “Cherry Red” is a Groundhogs cover, and while I’m not overly familiar with the original, they certainly make it sound like a James Arthur’s Manhunt song, in the way that a steadfast rock pulse underpins various explosions of guitar-based joy, thanks in no small part to the frantic and tight drumming of Mr. Orville Bateman Neeley. The riff is righteously simple, but when you’ve got a drummer losing his mind over it, a tasteful amount of Wah pedal and Arthur’s cool-but-wild vocals, it’s an easy bet. They play this sort of stuff over the intercom when your plane lands in Austin, don’t they?

Jepeto Solutions Jepeto Solutions 7″ (Nicey)
Jepeto Solutions seems to be the newest version of CE Schneider Topical, which was also closely related to Blanche Blanche Blanche, and by default, half of the OSR Tapes scene. I like the name, as if Pinocchio’s master opened a corporate call center or something, and as is the usual case with CE Schneider and her crew, there’s no less than six members credited to this 7″, all with varying contributions meticulously spelled out on the back cover (God forbid that Derek Baron not receive proper percussive credit on track three). Musically, Jepeto Solutions is a logical continuation of the CE Schneider Topical model, although it remains so distinct and idiosyncratic – I don’t know of anyone else making music as oddly tuneful and scatterbrained. It seems like each band member is playing a separate song half the time, but they all interlock perfectly… it’s like they discovered the melodic link between an early Apples In Stereo seven-inch and the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood theme, so they drank a bunch of coffee and laid their discoveries to tape. Even the errant electric-guitar solo on “Little Women” feels perfectly appropriate, like a living room filled with thrift store junk that still maintains excellent feng shui. I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Jepeto Solutions, which is probably why I’ve been sleeping so well at night.

Alek Lee Sfartot 12″ (Antinote)
Wow, I’ve had “Sfartot” on repeat since I first heard it, and not just because of the subliminal fart reference – this will be one of my favorite tracks of the year, no doubt! Alek Lee is new to me (and as it’s apparently his first vinyl release, probably you too), but it is a stone-cold, bad-news Balearic rocker, thick with a wild hook, bongos and a rude ‘tude. Lee plays nearly all the instruments here (with a little help on the bass, electric sitar and clarinet from some friends), and while this is pristine and exacting dance music, it also feels like it could be performed by the world’s coolest band. “Sfartot” has a slow roll, coasting in manual over a mean melody, but it’s all over when Lee drops in some children chanting – I’m reminded of Ricardo Villalobos’ “Enfants (Chants)” in the best of ways, like this crew of undead children are slowly coming to smoke you out. I don’t want the groove to end, but thankfully the b-side opens with “Sfarot Dub”, which extends the groove sans children for many more blissful minutes. (It’s also not a typo when I say “Sfarot Dub” – wonder why it’s not “Sfartot Dub”? This is a mere glimpse into my level of obsession with this record.) The EP wraps with “Harabait”, which makes the finest work of a finger sliding across a bass’s fretboard I’ve ever heard and continues to probe the moodiest, slowest form of dance music to which Tel Aviv (the home of Alek Lee) or any other populated city could rightfully claim responsibility. Truly fantastic and unique music that I can’t recommend strongly enough!

Life Stinks Hanging From The Ceiling 7″ (Total Punk)
What better than a new Life Stinks single, and who better to deliver it than Total Punk! The band ups the ante on Total Punk cover art here, brandishing a few chain links hastily photocopied and nothing more. Musically, they continue their distinctive approach to classically-styled unfriendly punk on these two tidy tracks. “Hanging From The Ceiling” starts with a nice percussive blast before settling into a pretty standard mid-tempo tune, to be filed next to The Dogs (think “Teen Slime”) and The Eat (think “Communist Radio”). “Shadow Chilling On The Sidewalk” kicks up a bit more dirt, sounding far more like early Hank-era Black Flag than I ever thought Life Stinks to be capable, although the group never pushes things outside their comfort zone – don’t even think about requesting a Ginn-styled solo, Life Stinks don’t play those games. I’ve come to expect smart-stupid hooks out of Life Stinks, who have written some great ones in their day, but these two tracks restrain the pop memorability in pursuit of punk purity, and I know better than to tell Life Stinks and Total Punk how to do their jobs.

Los Tres Pericos Los Tres Pericos LP (no label)
Here’s a fun obscurity coming from a different angle than most fun obscurities that pass through Yellow Green Red, the debut LP by Los Tres Pericos. They appear to be a loose collective of Los Angeles-based artists / musicians / non-musicians, at least one of whom is involved in the capital-A art world (a quick Google search reveals more art galleries selling Los Tres Pericos than record shops / distros). I’m not sure which one of these folks is the artiste, but it doesn’t make much of a difference to me what these people are doing outside of the band as it’s a glorious jumble of DIY rock, mutant R&B, screwball basement experiments and druggy grooves. I’m hearing the cut-up, experimental nature and jagged wit of artists like John Watermann and The Family Fodder alongside the early days of Not Not Fun’s gleeful amateurism and, maybe it’s just the inherent nature of Southern California synth music, the sense that this could just as easily all be a giant in-joke from Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib (although I assure you it’s not). Think Dam Funk entering (and quickly leaving) a closet-sized studio where Angus Andrew was taping some Liars demos circa 2004, all broken down into bite-size tracks (there are eighteen here). And it’s not even on Discogs! Adventurous seekers of the strange will leave satisfied, it’s my promise to you.

Milk Music Mystic 100’s LP (Dom America)
Part of the fun of Milk Music is comparing your take on their particular brand of rock music with your friends’ – they manage to do one of the most difficult things a rock band full of stoner-y dudes can accomplish in 2017, which is provoke strong opinions from listeners, both adoring and scorning. To update you on mine, I found Beyond Living to be an enjoyable quick-fix of indie-grunge, and thought Cruise Your Illusion was a bloated example of uncompelling rock excess (although the endless and poorly-scripted guitar solos were great fun to torture my talented-guitarist friends with, in the similar way that it was great to bring those friends to go see Iceage for their disgusted reactions). I was anxious and skeptical to hear Mystic 100’s, and I’m not entirely confident that it was Milk Music who changed rather than myself, but I love it! Maybe it was the extended time between releases, their various life changes, etc., but they put together an LP that is far more relaxed, colorful and charismatic than anything they’d done before. I mean, within the first two minutes, there’s a sample of canned applause and a drum machine – this is a record that was meant to amuse and entertain themselves first and foremost, rather than fill a role as today’s scruffy Neil Young-but-punk desert acolytes. They’ve got long ones, slow ones, chill meandering, Mountain Cult-esque buffoonery, a krautrock pulse brimming through much of it (which works quite well) and lyrics that are occasionally actually quite resonant. You probably already bought one, hoping to join the conversation yourself – no matter what side of the fence you’re on, Milk Music made it a fun one to have.

Natural Causes Deirdre / Fashion Device 7″ (Acid Etch Recordings)
Got this one in the mail and upon first glance I was thinking “techno”, maybe from the lack of picture sleeve and label name (it has me thinking of Tin Man and his Acid Test series). I guess I was half right, as Natural Causes are a synthy punk band by nature who also aren’t afraid to engage in dance remixes. “Deirdre” is their tune entirely, with plenty of rolling toms, alien-abduction synths, lobotomized geek vocals and a sprinkling of additional percussion to really get the pit moving in some sort of oval shape. Cool tune, reminds me of Pop. 1280 if they fetishized Devo instead of Marilyn Manson, or perhaps some sort of ex-screamo synth-wave that got caught up in a Birthday Party fascination (in a good way). The flip is credited to Natural Causes but noted as a “Sponge Bath version”, which I take not as the style in which the tune was remixed but the artist responsible (someone calling themselves Sponge Bath). It reminds me of when GSL and Three.One.G got into remixes, in the way that the song isn’t much more than a fairly basic acid-house beat and an echoed snippet of the vocal hook – I swear I have some I Am Spoonbender, Black Cat #13 and Sunshine 12″s deep within my record vault that have tracks that sound like this. I won’t be leading off my NTS radio mix with it, but if this is how Natural Causes and crew like to party, more power to ’em.

Nearly Dead Weathered Meat LP (Geriatric)
Nearly Dead’s self-titled debut LP came through here in 2014, and I gave it a big thumb’s down back then, writing it off as pointless and uninspired Brainbombs worship. They released a follow-up in 2016, whose song titles lead me to believe a similar aesthetic was pursued, and they continue down this unlikely path on Weathered Meat. I really don’t want to hate it, particularly as they were kind enough to send an email inquiry about sending this one in (I said sure, send it in for a review), and Canadian postage for an LP isn’t cheap, but man… it’s more of the same, and I cannot abide. Weathered Meat continues the theme of elderly-based diagnoses as modern horror (incontinence, Alzheimer’s, reliance on medications, etc.) with the exact musical MO of Brainbombs: one heavy Stooges-esque riff per song, thick guitars, vocals that read a script rather than follow any sort of structured cadence, and a trumpet pronouncing a couple of sustained notes throughout. I’m trying to imagine the willingness of any small group of individuals to pursue this specific and scatological aesthetic for one full album, let alone three (and in such a humorless fashion, wherein the narrator is a disgusting elderly creep with ill intentions), but Nearly Dead remain committed to what seems to be a mean-spirited mockery / ironic celebration of old people who pee themselves via monotonous noise-punk. I sincerely enjoy a lot of stupid crap, no doubt, but I’ll be forever scratching my noggin over Nearly Dead.

Nurse Nurse 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
Atlanta’s Nurse are back with their second self-titled / untitled 7″ on Scavenger Of Death (although the insert has “II” at the top of one side, and as they acknowledge the Japanese Nurse who came before them, perhaps this is some sort of homage?). I liked the first Nurse EP a lot, and this new one is probably better, or at least more in-your-face, as I’m sitting and blasting it this very moment. They’ve got four tracks here, and they steamroll through all four with a classic, menace-filled sound. Mecht Mensch and Die Kreuzen are undeniable influences, and I mean if you decide to play hardcore in 2017, why wouldn’t you go there? The riffs are mostly evil and the vocals verge on black-metal larynx torture, but the drumming ensures that this is purely a hardcore concern – they’re always cruising just a little faster than comfortable, throwing fills or extraneous rolls in the tiniest of crevasses and ensuring that each song is punchy and frantic. The recording is fuzzy but thick with power, a balance that is usually tipped one way or the other, but Nurse bolster both attributes to great success. When is everyone gonna care about the raging Atlanta hardcore scene, once they all move to Brooklyn or LA?

Orion Orion LP (Cool Death)
I’m always a little wary of albums that have foil-embossing on the cover… it instantly calls to mind “collector’s item”-style X-Men comics from the early ’90s, fancy packaging used to trick consumers into buying something sparkly that ultimately lacks substance. I won’t hold it against Orion, though, as their decidedly retro, new-romantic synth-pop stands on its own, foil be damned. They appear to be a bunch of punks (a couple ex-members of Oily Boys are in Orion, and one band member sports a Sadistik Exekution tee on the poster insert), but the music offered here is the sort of thing that scoffed at punk rock back in 1985, instead obsessing over The Cure, The Durutti Column, Tears For Fears and OMD as the music of the future. Electronic drums, bass run through vintage flange, chiming guitar and the light dusting of a synth make up the music, as vocalist Yuta Matsumura swings between iconic new-wave vocal stylings, going from Bernard Sumner to Morrissey sometimes in the same song (check “After Day”, which comes sauntering down the alley with a Smiths-y shake). These songs are moody and introspective without ever feeling generically gothy, and while my tolerance for new takes on this old style is running thin, Orion add to the enduring legacy of pop-minded new-wave rather than help wear it out.

Pharmakon Contact LP (Sacred Bones)
Pharmakon has been spoiling us with albums since 2013 – this is her third, and her reign as American power-electronics master remains firm. It seems as though Pharmakon’s general sonic approach to noise hasn’t changed since Bestial Burden, and that’s fine with me. Through Contact, she favors plodding electronic pulses, synth tones that slowly shift their pitch higher or lower (but always with a sense of dread or unease), the occasional rusty chain unfurling upon sheet metal, and a thick, sludgy feedback that doesn’t coat things so much as suffocate them entirely. The music of Contact is slow and deliberate, a nice change of pace for a genre that has so often been enamored with the fast, cut-up, throw-everything-on-everything style of Merzbow or Macronympha. Pharmakon is not only a keen sonic auteur, but her self-penned album statements send the otherwise noise-unfriendly indie-music press into a tizzy, happy to have an artistic philosophical explanation for harsh industrial noise – it’s clear that some people need to ruminate on the anguish of the corporeal form or humanity’s animal instincts in order to appreciate the sonic side of Pharmakon. Not me, though! I love when power-electronics are harsh, slow, refined, well-considered, and replete with a variety of throat-slicing vocal terror – Pharmakon’s next album could be a sonic exposition on catching all the Pokémon, I’d still buy the fancy limited version and righteously clench my fists to it.

Claude Rodap Bélétronic 12″ (Rush Hour)
Claude Rodap is a French Caribbean producer who dropped an album in 1982 and little else until Rush Hour put together this fantastic three-track EP, collecting recordings from the late ’90s and 2000. I’m sure he was quite busy, refining his synthesized dance-pop and zouk over the decades, and I can’t blame him for not trying to reach American or European audiences in that time: who cares what mainland people think? I’m glad Rush Hour put this together though, and I’m glad I took the chance, as I can practically smell the freshly machete-chopped coconuts while Bélétronic spins. All three tracks are dressed with cushion-soft synth rhythms, boozy leads and a technical prowess I thought was reserved for prog-rock. It’s interesting that they were recorded at the turn of the century, as I would’ve guessed 2016 or 1982 instead: Rodap’s sound is essentially timeless, as his zouk grooves are instantly affecting and untethered to any specific era of history. “Zouk Love” might be my favorite, recalling Mr. Raoul K’s most tender house moments with a Balearic sensuality, the sort of emotion that the Secrets resort chain was founded upon. The only problem is that these three tracks fly by (the first two are barely over three minutes a piece) – time for a full-on retrospective, Rush Hour guys!

Schizos Fuck Iggy Pop 7″ (Neck Chop)
First thing’s first, I want to support the sentiment behind Schizos’ new EP. Whatever happened to punk bands spitting on the graves of rock idols, even cool ones? I could compile a hundred great punk songs celebrating the death of merely Elvis, Jerry Garcia and Sid Vicious alone, but nowadays punks are likely to DJ David Bowie and Prince tribute nights in full sincere admiration. What gives? Thankfully, there are still some punk bands filled with terrible people, even if their numbers are fewer, like Schizos, for example. Their music is pretty fittingly terrible, too! Josh sings, Kevin plays a synth on its gassiest setting and Bill plays the drums, and they all share the last name Schizo. The lack of guitar comes through painfully clear, leaving plenty of room for good punk rock were it ever to decide to join the group. Instead, Fuck Iggy Pop is filled with fumbly horsing around, with a sonic link to Neon Hunk, Let’s Put The X In Sex and the true masters of the genre, Pillow Talk (can’t believe their sole Columbus Discount single isn’t a punk-rock holy grail just yet). I won’t be listening to this Schizos 7″ much more, if ever again, but am I with them in spirit? Absolutely.

Coby Sey Whities 010 10″ (Whities)
The Whities label has my full attention, and when it comes forward with a new beautifully-packaged 10″ by an unfamiliar name, I’m all over it – one of the main things I look for from Whities is to be introduced to the vanguard of the new. Coby Sey seems to be new on the scene, but he certainly fits right in with the rest of the hip young British beatmakers riding the tube everyday. His music fits in on the “experimental” side of things, which means he works with unusual sounds (pops, clicks, fuzz and other forms of sonic flora) just as much as bass-lines and snares. The tapping of a wine glass might lead way into a field recording of neighborhood traffic while a Microkorg slurps a bowl of noodles on any given track. What’s most unusual is that Sey opted to rap over the whole thing, laying down vocals and rhymes over rickety, half-imagined beats, tracks that any average rapper would slowly back away from. He’s confident and compelling though, although the vocal mix (and his British accent) ensure I only understand half of what he’s saying at best. The closer “Ticket” is my favorite, a melancholy dub somewhere between Mount Kimbie and Nicolas Jaar (and perhaps tellingly, it’s an instrumental). Sey’s combination of avant-garde electronic textures and steady-stream rapping certainly sets him apart, and lends a pop functionality to music that is otherwise expected to be rendered deep within a Young Echo radio show and far from the consumption habits of unadventurous music listeners. Plus, it’s a 10″, the bastard child of vinyl formats. It may not be my favorite Whities release, but I urge you to stay fresh and acclimate yourself.

Te/DIS Interrogation Gloom LP (Galakthorrö)
Alongside Da-Sein, Te/DIS come correct with their sophomore full-length for Galakthorrö. Unlike Da-Sein, Te/DIS (short for “Tempted Dissident”) is not the work of a duo of ambiguous romantic status, but one guy on his own, tweaking knobs and holding keys while also intoning his stern voice. Also unlike Da-Sein (sorry but I can’t help but compare the Galakthorrö b-team), Te/DIS does not bear an uncannily close sonic relation to Haus Arafna and/or November Növelet, although musically and aesthetically Interrogation Gloom is perfectly suited to Galakthorrö’s haunted corridor. Te/DIS’s tracks have a bit more motion in them, either by more complex drum programming (or at least far less one-two one-two simplicity), as well as varying temperatures of synth, not just ice cold. The vocals are probably my least favorite part, though: he’s clearly a German native singing in English, with a sonorous quaver not unlike Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, although a little more cartoony goth and limited in range. Still, I give Galakthorrö a wide berth when it comes to accepting extravagant and sometimes over-the-top gothiness, I just need to find a particularly dark and cobwebby portion of my record shelves to slip Interrogation Gloom into.

Tropical Trash Decisions’ Empty Nest 7″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Big RIP to Load Records, who released Tropical Trash’s sole vinyl LP a couple years ago. Thankfully there will always be new, younger freaks to carry the torch of bothersome and noisy rock music, like the suspiciously successful Sophomore Lounge label. This new Tropical Trash 7″ is a real treat – I’ve always enjoyed the group, but this three-track EP is psychotic noise-punk perfection. “Early Wish” is the a-side, and it comes on a bucking motorik beat, guitars (and synths? who knows?) tunneling a hole in the earth while the vocalist wields the stuttered delivery of Landed’s Dan St. Jacques with the toxic mutation processing of FNU Clone. “Early Wish” actually continues on the flip side, pulling itself out of quicksand for a final gasp of life. “Exit Dust” comes next, sort of splitting the difference between the garage-rock menace of Six Finger Satellite and the rogue behavior of Landed (if I may continue with the Load references), and “Trouble Shot” closes the set, certainly the easiest track to mosh to on the EP and another disgruntled resignation from civilian life. The b-side tracks are nearly all about 90 seconds long, which is essentially the perfect length of time for any musical idea to begin, develop and conclude. A tropical smash is more like it!

US Weekly US Weekly LP (Night Moves)
US Weekly’s debut album brought to light a grammatical error I may have been guilty of for some time now: it’s gotta be US, as in “United States”, not Us, as in “me and you”, yet I’ve been calling the mag Us Weekly all along. Whoops! It seems as though throwing back in our faces our own reliance on modern-day depressive conveniences might be one of US Weekly’s main aims, at least lyrically: a wide variety of brand names are mentioned through these songs, from Snapchat to Subway to Percocet to sourcing lyrics from “found poems via Google image search”. Ultra-specific real things is a worthy lyrical device, albeit one that can be overdone, and while I think US Weekly might be on the verge of naming products we use as a means to profoundly shame us a little too frequently, it still works overall. I should probably mention the music too, but it’s fun when there’s a punk band who actually writes lyrics with intent; I got a little overly excited. Vocalist Christopher Nordahl has a phlegm-y yelp – I’d put him in good crust-punk company with Filth and Crucifix, although the music of US Weekly would never be caught in a patch-covered ass-flap. They come from an aggro school of post-punk that verges on hardcore-punk, meshing early antagonistic SST punk with the groove of The Fall and the ghosts of Texas punk doing donuts in the parking lot (imagine Parquet Courts covering / disemboweling Really Red’s Teaching You The Fear). Great album, although if they really wanted to get some attention, Night Moves would be selling this for $2.98 at your grocer’s checkout aisle.

Warm Bodies My Burning Love 7″ (Thrilling Living)
Warm Bodies continue to stake out their territory in punk’s rowdy pen with a new 7″ EP on the watch-listed Thrilling Living label. They’ve got four songs here that speak to modern hardcore-punk’s penchant for frantic rhythms as well as classic youthful snot, and it’s quite good indeed! Not too far from Thrilling Living’s recent Lemonade EP, as far as the general approach to hardcore as an art (or a fart, maybe), but Warm Bodies can’t resist pushing away from the standard downhill path with stranger guitar textures, lower levels of distortion and a curious sense of disgust that at times recalls the earliest no-wave groups. “Stinky” sounds like a Suburban Lawns track played on one of Christian Marclay’s intentionally-damaged turntables, for instance, and vocalist Olivia Gibb sings each line with a sense of stupefied horror, as if a surprise birthday party entered the vocal booth. They’re still a dirty basement punk band, though, the sort of status you either naturally inhabit or clearly are faking. To quote my old pal Eric Adams, Warm Bodies want to rock, not pose!

Wishgift Wishgift LP (Sophomore Lounge / Lake Paradise)
Wishgift are a Chicago-based trio, and I don’t know about you but I always take some bit of pleasure when bands sound like where they’re from – in an age of borderless, internet-rendered homogeny, I appreciate local flavor. This is Wishgift’s debut LP, and it has all the markings of a Chicago-based proggy noise-punk group, as if Wishgift was snatched from the hands of Skin Graft at the final second. Their songs generally have a million parts each, give or take, and while the riffing can be quite fast, this is a band where their fret-working hands develop Carpal Tunnel far quicker than the picking ones. Musically, I find myself reminded of Dazzling Killmen, Melt Banana, KARP, maybe even a little Scissor Girls and a dash of Crom Tech too – I’m starting to sound like a Troubleman sampler, but I don’t have a problem with that if you don’t. All three members are credited with vocals, but it seems to mostly be one guy, who shouts with an appropriate level of toughness, as if anyone got the wrong idea that all their shifting riffs and intricate changes meant they were to be messed with. It’s all a little too dizzying for me – I prefer one really good idea per song instead of half a dozen motifs set to skill level “difficult” in a single track, but I’m not here to tell Wishgift how to live their lives.