Anxiety Wild Life 7″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Anxiety’s debut LP whipped me around the room like a mini tornado, so I jumped on this new 7″ EP, also released by the praiseworthy La Vida Es Un Mus label. It’s four more songs of their potent stew of rigorous hardcore-punk and molten atmospherics, and exactly what we all needed. My favorite is probably the opener “Pegasus (I Feel Nothing)”, as it employs a sick slithering bass groove and atonal guitar noise in tandem, the sort of thing that invites the listener to creep around the pit and then wonder the next morning why one of their ears isn’t working. Closer “Lizard Lads Under A Rock” is probably my second fave, as it employs various disruptive motifs throughout (fast monkey-beat drumming, stompy Victims-esque riffs, a mosh breakdown reminiscent of Hoax, the general paranoia of Rudimentary Peni, aneurysmal panting to end the track). The other two cuts are shorter, meaner blasts of hardcore not unlike Dawn Of Humans at their peak, but I like it best when Anxiety allow their songs to fully match the freakiness of their overall band personality, with psychosis taking precedence to brutality. Any well-maintained 7″ bin would file Wild Life directly behind Anti-Cimex and Antidote, and I can’t help but think this isn’t entirely an alphabetical coincidence.

Benni I & II LP (Goner)
We’re truly living in a musical landscape where genre is meaningless, and everyone listens to radio-pop, free jazz, kraut-rock and mid-century country & western with equal enthusiasm. It’s a little weird, right? Kinda makes me miss the purist metal-heads of the ’80s who smashed anything that wasn’t specifically metal. I bring this up because Benni is the solo project of Benny Divine (of Gary Wrong Group and Wizzard Sleeve, among others), and it’s an instrumental ’80s synth-wave throwback affair, through and through. Released on the venerable garage-rock label Goner, of course. There’s really no reason to be surprised at this point, both by the fact that it even exists, and by my opinion that it’s a perfectly enjoyable genre exercise. Think Klaus Schulze, Giorgio Moroder (although I bet Benni has gotten wasted with Giorgio Murderer on more than one occasion), the Airwolf theme, any Jan Hammer records currently buried under a pile of mottled stuffed animals at your local Good Shepherd Thrift Shop, one out of every three records on 100% Silk… Benni knows the drill. Neither I nor II offer any new revelations on the genre, or even predict the eventual rise of Daft Punk, but they’re perfectly entertaining just the same, with titles like “Night Theme Reprise”, “Ard’rain’s Theme” and “Stardance” (which features a nice vocoder performance). You may not need a copy to continue living, but those greasy New Orleans punks deserve to drunkenly dance to ’80s cheese just as much as the rest of us, for which Benni has provided the winning original soundtrack.

Blue Chemise The Music Lesson / Watcher At The Window 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Fresh transmission here from the I Dischi camp, this one coming from Blue Chemise, an artist that my recon has confirmed is either Australian or merely pretends to be. “The Music Lesson” is pretty sharp, and carries the quality I’ve come to expect from the label. Featherweight strings drone back and forth through the track’s duration, embellished with a crackly, microscopic field recording, tuned metal percussion (or so it sounds) and probably one or two things that I either cannot place or am only subconsciously hearing. To some ears, it’s probably quite creepy, but I find it as soothing as a spa pedicure – maybe we can split the difference and say it sounds like one of those creepy pedicures where little fish eat the dead skin off your toes. “Watcher At The Window” pushes those same little bells from the a-side to the forefront, repeating a cautious melody while some old guy sitting under a single bulb tears up his movie script, crumples it into a ball and tosses it into a wastebasket before lighting another cigarette. Very cool stuff… I could easily go for an album of this material, which is serendipitous because Blue Chemise recently did an LP too. Just gotta make sure I clear out my pre-World War II doll collection from the room while listening, lest their eyelids to start flutter and they begin appearing throughout my house in places I never put them.

Tracy Bryant Parachute / Protect Your Head 7″ (Volar)
Tracy Bryant used to front the group Corners but he’s been on his own for a few years now. It makes sense, as the music on this 7″ single sounds exactly like the music a guy makes after leaving a punk band for a more mature direction under his own name. “Parachute” is nestled somewhere between the waning years of power-pop and the earliest beginnings of college-rock, a vulnerable jangler that I’d expect to have come out of a college town suburb in 1985. “Protect Your Head” reveals that the gap between the aforementioned ’80s post-new-wave rock and Interpol is less than one might expect, pushing straight ahead with a wiry guitar lead, the sort of thing that would make as much sense on a budget-priced Enigma Records label sampler as a Nissan commercial aimed at millenials. I appreciate that both songs are fairly upbeat, and Bryant’s wounded yelp meshes smoothly, adding a dose of emotional nuance to these tunes. LA is probably overstuffed with guys who look and play music like this, but for whatever reason I find that to be an oddly comforting thought.

The Bug Humbug; Or, So Many Awful Things 7″ (Not Normal Tapes / IFB)
Right off the bat, I didn’t want to check out The Bug because I am not a fan of new bands using names that are already well known, like c’mon, can’t these punks do a quick Google and notice that there’s already a “The Bug” who makes kick-ass hardcore electronic music and jams with Earth? I get the feeling that the members of The Bug would laugh at my complaint, and probably start a band called Earth just to spite me, and after listening to this absolutely scorching 7″ EP, I’d have to say they’re in the right. They’re from somewhere in or near Chicago, and they somehow found a way for hardcore-punk to be unhinged and on the verge of total collapse while still firmly remaining a hardcore-punk group, not screamo or noise or whatever else. Much of that comes from the guitar playing, which recalls one of those crazy Antioch Arrow live videos where everyone immediately flails to the ground, or perhaps grainy video footage of YDI at Love Hall in 1983. I can’t remember the last hardcore band I heard that was so raw and primal, they reminded me not of other bands’ records but their third-generation video footage. The guitar really makes Humbug, but the rest of the band delivers these songs with the unstable fury of Nine Shocks Terror or Mukilteo Fairies, as if the songs were not being played but rather exploding out of their bodies. All this, plus what is probably the best punk song title of the year (“Late Lunch Sogged With Grease”) and a booklet full of lyrics and lyrical explanations, taking a righteous and aggravated stance against injustice and misery in a way that is both direct and distinct. A good bud of mine is already calling it the hardcore 7″ of the year, and I’m not about to argue.

Stefan Christensen Shake Off The Village LP (C/Site Recordings)
Shake Off The Village is Stefan Christensen’s first vinyl full-length, and his third record reviewed here, the first two released by Ever/Never and I Dischi Del Barone, two labels dutifully providing a necessary service for the international underground. Both of those were fairly recent, but somehow it feels like I’ve been enjoying Christensen’s music for much longer, across more records – it must be that his personal strain of lived-in guitar noise and experimental indie-rock feels like home. If I had to lead you toward only one of his songs, in hopes that it might encapsulate all that he does, I’d go with “Over Scrawl”, the second track here – it’s got a buzzing guitar melody to recall Great Plains or some late ’80s pre-grunge college-rockers, utterly scalding noise that I’d expect from an early Sightings record, mumbled vocals not unlike something on Xpressway, and a tuneful, mysterious coda that eventually dissipates like a lingering butt in the tray. Exceptional! I’m hearing plenty of sounds, noises and melodies reminiscent of Flying Saucer Attack, Gate, Hood, Drunk Elk and Alastair Galbraith, but I get the impression that Christensen is simply doing his own thing – he could’ve been listening exclusively to Seasons In The Abyss and The Age of Quarrel prior to recording Shake Off The Village and I wouldn’t find it peculiar. Although, if he hasn’t been, I certainly recommend he try it for album number two.

Citric Dummies Tearing Out My Nails LP (Fashionable Idiots)
Fashionable Idiots has really been neglecting the fashionable and honing in on the idiots lately, and I’m all for it. Check our Citric Dummies for instance – what a name, right? They’ve got great cover-art care of Nathan Ward, great song titles (“Someone’s Living In The Bathroom”, “Kill Everyone Who Drives”, “Hooked On Pie”, etc.) and really nail the carefree bozo punk vibe. The music is very much of the snotty early-hardcore scene that emanated from California in 1982 – I’m hearing Circle Jerks, Red Cross (not Redd Kross), Vom and semi-recent updates on the sound like Clorox Girls, too. Faster than standard-issue punk, but still beholden to memorable choruses, silly hooks and lyrics that immediately connect (the aforementioned “Someone’s Living In The Bathroom” is a key piece of evidence). It’s not a new style, but Citric Dummies inject their own personal acidic flavor in every aspect of Tearing Out My Nails, making for an incredibly pleasant way to dumb down your afternoon. Apparently they’ve already got another album slated for later this year, tentatively titled The Kids Are Alt-Right, so anyone looking to come up with a hilarious album-title pun better step their game up.

The Cowboy The Cowboy Album LP (Fashionable Idiots)
The Cowboy is a new group out of Cleveland, proudly sporting two Homostupids and one of the Pleasure Leftists (although isn’t there at least one Homostupid that’s also a ‘Leftist? How does that change the tally?). If that’s not confusing enough, allow me to clarify that The Cowboy has nothing to do with The Cowboys, a current garage-y punk rock band on Lumpy Records. It’s like all these bands know that the internet makes it too easy to know everything, so they go out of their way to make simple things difficult. I guess I respect that. Anyway, The Cowboy are pretty cool – the riffs seem to come from the same mind as Homostupids, winding downward like a helicopter that ran out of gas, but the recording is significantly cleaned up, reverb essentially absent from the equation. That lo-fi hiss was a big part of the ‘Stupids experience, so The Cowboy offer a different approach, a bit more straightforward, less caterwauling and more low end. A song like “Smaller Rider” gives me some Eddy Current vibes even, quite tasteful punk, at least until you follow the lyrics on the back cover. Certainly fits in well with contemporaries / buddies like Watery Love and labelmates Citric Dummies, bands of smart guys whose only reaction to this messed-up world is to act stupidly. Who can blame them, really – if you can’t quote some Derrida while shooting a bottle rocket out of your butt, it’s time to learn.

Dauwd Theory Of Colours LP (Technicolour)
Dauwd Al Hilali is a British house producer / DJ who simply goes by his first name on records, and can you blame him? Cool name; fun to say. Theory Of Colours is his first full-length and my first exposure to his music, and while the concept of “the house music full-length” can be quite troubling (and in almost all cases, the wrong entry point for any given producer’s work), Dauwd really nails it here. By normal house standards, Theory Of Colours is a quiet record, one prone to stretching out on a couch even as your feet stay planted to the ground, tapping along. It has such an alluring and enjoyable feel that I wonder why more producers don’t also tone things down a bit, allowing subtle details to emerge. Through these seven tracks, I’m reminded of Kyle Hall at his most cuddly-soft, Boards Of Canada’s psychedelic nostalgia and Nicolar Jaar’s most active house cuts (the rippling bass and pristine chords of “Unconscious” evoke all three artists simultaneously). The title track isn’t too far from a Postal Service instrumental, and while that might be a turn-off for some, its uplifting bass is like a sunrise after an evening of sophisticated pleasure and powerful introspection, like The Field if unbounded by rigid 4/4 loop patterns. Second only to Kettenkarussell for down-tempo house album of the year, don’t @ me!

Edward Giigoog 12″ (Giegling)
Edward’s Shufflehead is still on hot rotation here, but I couldn’t resist checking out this even-newer 12″ on the Giegling label. It’s called Giigoog, a title that I’m still waiting on the right time to say out loud, and just as Shufflehead was a diverse cluster of forward-thinking dance/etc., Giigoog takes us on an exploration to three other sumptuous and strange worlds. “Bebe” opens the 12″, and while I was hoping for a touching celebration of one of the mall’s most glamorous shops, it’s something entirely different. Much like Newworldaquarium’s recent 12″, “Bebe” is essentially one sixteen-bar loop for twelve-plus minutes – but what a loop! It’s like the peak of a Moroccan street festival party, right as dusk is setting in and someone just rolled up with a fresh keg of ice-cold almond milk. There are subtle shifting details, but ultimately the track’s success is due to that perfectly-sourced loop. “Io Io” follows, clapping like Joe or Untold until another perfect vocal loop comes in, recalling Luciano’s Tribute To The Sun in its soothing burst of energy. Fairly sure it’s Spanish, but it could be Greek? Either way I want to move to this track’s homeland immediately. At this point, I don’t even need a third cut, but Edward finishes the 12″ with “Bongo Herbaoe”, a more traditional slice of evocative tribal-house that ebbs and flows rather than attaining Perfect Loop status and holding position. Edward’s got so many great ideas, I just hope I’m able to process and savor them at the rate he’s churning them out!

Enhet För Fri Musik Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig LP (Omlott)
Omlott could close shop today and I’d still be praising them for years thanks to the two monumental Neutral albums they released into the wild, but their fingers continue to actively dip in other bowls of Swedish strangeness. They just delivered a new one from Enhet För Fri Musik, replete with the full heavy-duty glossy gatefold treatment, and it’s a satisfying venture into private sound. This group features both Dan Johansson and Sofie Herner of Neutral alongside I Dischi Del Barone mastermind Matthias Andersson and a couple other friends who probably drink coffee at each others’ homes and take long bicycle trips through the forest together. Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig doesn’t feel like a group recording so much as a culmination of various solo pieces – maybe Herner drones on an old Wurlitzer on one track, then Andersson picks up an acoustic guitar and it’s his turn for two minutes of improvised fingerpicking. Field recordings, horns, ’60s pop tropes, even the slight residue of harsh noise contribute to this motley collection of songs. I’m reminded of Finnish avant-noise hippies Avarus in the ebullient kitchen-sink approach shown here, as both groups make music that brings the listener in… it’s as if there’s an open chair waiting for you and all contributions are welcomed. Any one track of Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig won’t quite do it – you have to sit down with the whole thing to truly understand, but it’s a time worth taking.

En Kernaghan Band Divine Body Care 7″ (Ever/Never)
So my understanding, from this 7″ and the previous En Kernaghan Band 12″ release, is that En Kernaghan Band is the musical project of Ethan Kernaghan, an Australian teenage skinhead Krishna devotee who loves explicit garage-rock. I’m sure at least two of those details are outdated or incorrect, but if I asked Ever/Never for specifics I’d probably be even more confused by their answer. Like many of Kernaghan’s rebellious and drunken garage-punk peers, he’s matured a little, pulling back on the fuzz and grease and taking a deep dive into his parents’ record collection instead. Why is there so much of that these days? Don’t we all have a friend who used to wrestle with garbage cans outside of the bar years ago, who now spends his time talking your ear off about which Neil Young and Grateful Dead live boots are the best? Enough already. Anyway, let’s finally get to the record at hand. “Divine Body Care” is a devotional chant, presumably about something more important than soaping one’s crack, but my brain wanders each time I’m sitting through it. “Things Are Constantly Changing” perks me up a bit, with brushes on the drums, sunglasses-down guitar solos and a great chorus breakdown, as if En Kernaghan Band were in a van on the way to Woodstock when they tragically caught a flat and never made it to the big time. I’m glad “Things Are Constantly Changing” made it into my life, even at the cost of all this other crazy information my brain insists on storing. I can spell “Kernaghan” without having to look it up, for crying out loud!

Exit Hippies Dance Maniac LP (SPHC)
I literally gasped when I opened the record mailer and saw a brand-new Exit Hippies album staring back at me. What joy! It comes in a 12″ DJ sleeve, with center stickers that parody the classic Dance Mania label, and I couldn’t get it on my turntable fast enough. I think it’s safe to say that with Dance Maniac, Exit Hippies have reached a new level of greatness – whereas previous efforts commingled noise-core and acid-house, Dance Maniac is their complete sonic fusion. Certain tracks have me imagining a world where Justice remixed Sore Throat (which, no surprise of course, are fantastic), whereas others seem to use the guitars and drums of the early Earache catalog as the sound-bank for their particular brand of jacking house music. And lucky me, it’s not just a split 7″, but a robust full-length with eight sizeable tracks. Maybe if Atari Teenage Riot was an actual recording of teenagers rioting with Ataris it would sound like this? Or if the Boredoms didn’t just share the Lollapalooza stage with Ministry in 1994, but actually genetically spawned with them (and then immediately caught a serious round of food poisoning), or perhaps the Principe discography retrieved from the crevasses of a highway underpass. I’ve been listening to Dance Maniac a whole bunch, and there’s still so much freakery and pleasure to unpack within these tunes. I might cry.

Glue Glue LP (540)
Unlike many of their hardcore-punk contemporaries, Glue have been active participants in the North American hardcore scene without much in the way of recorded output – since 2012, just a 7″ and a few tapes of varying provenance (I still hold it against Sex/Vid for ushering in the “live hardcore tape” trend). Glue are easily placed as a hardcore group of the 2010s, and not just because of the live tapes: they’ve got poorly-sketched mutant creatures in their artwork, angry lyrics frequently directed at “you”, riotous and ragged hardcore tunes with subtle Oi! and butt-rock influences, and a vocalist with a cartoonish snarl. That said, they’re quite good! The vocalist reminds of the guy from Men’s Interest (how I wish that band didn’t burn out so quickly), and Glue’s songs clearly reap the reward of having been written and refined over a decent period of time – it’s clear that these eight songs are their strongest offerings, not just another batch quickly churned out to the pressing plant. Even among similar artists like Warthog and S.H.I.T., there’s a distinctive playfulness in Glue’s approach, but not to the point where anything could be written off as a joke. One can only hope they continue to stick together.

Laurel Halo Dust LP (Hyperdub)
Laurel Halo is one of my favorite Hyperdub artists – both prior albums, Quarantine and Chance Of Rain, receive enduring plays in my abode. They’re quite different from each other, and I feel like Dust is Halo bridging that gap for even greater bounties, synthesizing her varied talents into one complete and enthralling whole. Which is to say, Dust is basically a wild reconfiguration of ’90s glitch, Cadenza-style tech-house, spiritual ethno-jazz, modern-radio EDM and dubstep experimentation. Instrumentals would be more than enough, but Halo sings throughout, putting her vocal and production talents to use in stunning combination. Her voice alone is quite expressive, but put through her various filters and effects, a new realm of emotion is explored. Check “Moontalk” to see what I mean – it’s a wholly unique mutation of Italo, Caribbean and Cambodian musicology with gorgeous pop hooks, sweet melodies and an expertly-utilized “disconnected number” dial-tone. Not all of Dust is as streamlined, but I’m just as content to wander through the hazy paths of “Like An L” (almost Mike Cooper-esque in its druggy exotica) as I am to shuffle along to one of her “Fela Kuti meets Pharoah Sanders in Luciano’s Ibizan tent” moments.

Andy Human & The Reptoids Refrigerator 7″ (Total Punk)
If I had to choose only one TP to live with for the rest of my life – the records of Total Punk, or toilet paper – I’d probably pick the former. I’d rather scavenge leaves in my time of need than give up this fine label’s multitude of music! Andy Human has passed through these pages before, and he always registered as passing-grade garage-punk of the day (usually tipped over toward the pop end of things), but backed by the Reptoids here he’s all business, ready to behave as if groups like Le Jonathan Reilly and Fergus & Geronimo never existed. “Refrigerator” is a big-time winner, a menacing punk hop that ticks all the right boxes. I’m reminded of Vox Pop, Video and Guinea Worms, three bands I’d get tattooed on my left arm if I were into such decoration. “You Don’t Even Know” carries that same toughness to a proto-punk rocker, reminiscent of White Boy And The Average Rat Band, The Rotters or any of the aforementioned groups. Both tunes are quite catchy, the sort of expletive-free punk I’d pack for my next radio program if I were into such broadcasting. Turns out Human and his Reptoids did an album together a couple years back, do I need that one too?

Impalers Cellar Dweller LP (540)
Hardcore is one of those genres where the many groups in a specific scene can be suddenly rendered obsolete by the supreme greatness of one of their peers; such has been the case for Impalers. They’re consistently head and shoulders above all the other bands who perform a violent mix of classic American ’82 hardcore and early Swedish d-beat, and somehow keep getting better. I wouldn’t be surprised if Impalers started walking around smirking like Steph Curry, fully aware of their peerlessness, but thankfully nothing about Impalers is annoying. Psychedelic Snutskallar was their previous high mark, but Cellar Dweller steps it up by maintaining that same sense of over-boiling energy and heft while cutting it up into memorable songs (the trickiest aspect for this form of hardcore is in crafting memorable songs as opposed to succinct clusters of riffs). They fuse in Burning Spirits-style Japanese hardcore buzz-cuts and glimmers of early NWOBHM / thrash through these tunes, always well-considered and tasteful and utterly ferocious. And as if the music doesn’t already go big enough, Cellar Dweller comes with a full-color wall-sized poster with artwork outlining each tune, mostly standard punk topics (anti-cop, anti-yuppie, anti-Nazi, anti-nuclear war, etc.) but done with a panache and vigor that makes me feel like I’m hearing this discourse for the first time. They may be dwelling in the cellar but they’ve set the bar impossibly high.

Al Karpenter The Chosen One 7″ (Munster)
Another one from the camp of Mattin – call him what you want, just don’t call him lazy! It blows my mind a bit that Munster has developed a relationship with him, as it’s a label I still associate with ’90s pop-punk (they released my favorite Sicko album and at least one live Mr. T Experience 7″), but I am coming to terms with the fact that anything goes in 2017, musically or otherwise. So, Al Karpenter: I can’t say with certainty that he’s not a fictitious person, but his trio (including Mattin on guitar and drums) sounds a lot like Billy Bao, back when that project resembled punk music (in the blurriest way possible). Instruments are played seemingly independent of each other – the bass might riff for a bit, then cut out, Karpenter might scream at a wall for a second or two, someone’s guitar is strummed with a tortilla chip until there’s merely crumbs on the floor. Very deconstructed and cuckoo, as if one of Fushitsusha’s psychic jams was condensed into a couple minutes of indigestion. So long as this means we’re one step closer to Mattin producing a comeback Mr. T Experience album, I’m all for the indulgences displayed here.

GG King Another Dimension 7″ (Scavenger Of Death)
The First King Of Punk is back on home turf with the Scavenger Of Death label for this entertaining 7″ EP. “Another Dimension” is probably the impetus for the EP’s release, and rightfully so – it’s a perfect slice of overcast punk, cut from the same cloth as Shattered Faith and The Adolescents, memorable from the get-go. They still allow smoking inside of bars and clubs in Atlanta, so it makes sense GG King would come up with a tune like this. It’s followed by the madcap “Make A Movie (Dub Edit)”, a blast of audio verité not unlike Cock ESP. I’ll take it! At this point, I was prepared for anything on the flip (fingers crossed for a cover-song medley), but King switches back to semi-serious punk mode with “Gilliam Park”, another downer punk tune on the slower end of mid-paced, not far from The Wipers with an extended shout-along chorus that gives a strong nod to “Kids In America”. Very solid EP, another modern take on classic punk sounds. Wonder if this means he’s saving all his black metal tunes for the next album?

Richard H. Kirk Dasein 2xLP (Intone)
I’ve been loving the early Cabaret Voltaire records for years and years, keystones of my personal growth as a fan of diabolical synth-y post-punk, so why I never checked out Richard H. Kirk’s solo material until now is beyond me. Chalk it up to ageism and foolishness, I suppose. Anyway, this new one is just the sort of thing I want to hear, industrial-synth comfort food, so to speak. Each of the nine tracks here follows a linear path, usually guided by a rapidly-bleeping arpeggio or rudimentary drum pattern, upon which a dizzying array of buzzing electronics, heavyweight synths and various other nocturnal elements (is that a guitar?) are lovingly distributed. Imagine Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” given an industrial makeover, or the primitive electro of Rabih Beaini’s Ra.H material stretched to fit Front 242’s gear, with just enough Kraftwerk-ian sunlight poking through the clouds. Some of the tracks here are downright Soulcycle-worthy, but they never lose the icy, distant menace that is key to Richard H. Kirk’s aesthetic. The only question remaining is do I start going through Mr. Kirk’s discography from the early ’80s on up or 2017 on down?

Charles Manier Luxus Steroid Abamita 2xLP (Bopside)
Charles Manier is merely one of Tadd Mullinix’s aliases (which is odd because “Tadd Mullinix” is his birth name and by far his most exotic moniker). Mullinix makes R&B-infected house as Dabrye, acid techno as James T. Cotton and, by far my favorite, sensual and idiosyncratic EBM / pop-industrial as Charles Manier. Luxus Steroid Abamita is my first Manier experience, and it’s right up my alley, a rollicking suite of strange effects, horny beats, crystallized synths and elastic rhythms. If Matthew Dear dressed up like Drab Majesty, I’d expect his music to sound like this: distinct and well-rounded beats with various processes and melodies seething around, capped off by Manier’s disassociated vocals, sometimes processed to oblivion, other times directly whispered into your ear. Certain instrumental passages remind me of that great and slippery EP by The Modern Institute that I reviewed last month, but there’s far too much cosmic funk in Luxus Steroid Abamita for it to be neatly filed under “minimal synth”, alongside an “anything goes” playfulness that I find highly appealing (check the ten-second hardcore-punk snippet that closes “Plenary Psychic Automatism” for no conceivable reason). Manier hits a lot of switches here, but they result in the perfect combination, a veritable Konami-code of outsider industrial funk.

Ornament A Lion Is A Lion 12″ (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Ornament is the name that Joe Denardo, one half of Olympia-to-Brooklyn dronesters Growing, has chosen for his solo work. This 12″ EP is his debut, and I already like it, just from the magnified 8-bit art, as if my nose were pressed against the glass of a vintage Galaga console. If you’re familiar with Growing (and I hope you are), you’re probably expecting heavy electronic music that operates at a relaxed pace, and while that’s still pretty true here, Ornament’s music is always active, even if the rhythm (or distinct lack thereof) crawls along. As I listen, I’m imagining Fennesz an an American roots artist, plucked from a state-funded European symphony hall and dropped onto a front porch in some flyover red state. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been spending a bit of time with that new Stefan Christensen record, but there are some clear similarities to that one too, as Ornament’s music has a like-minded homespun feel, albeit with any trace of rock n’ roll scrubbed clean. Pastoral industrial, let’s say. As more and more Brooklyn artists and musicians get priced out of their apartments and practice spaces and try to start fresh upstate in Beacon, Kingston, Woodstock, etc., I have to wonder if experimental noise will be taking a turn for the rustic. I mean hell, Amps For Christ is touring again right now!

Plasmalab Love/Life LP (Bruised Tongue)
Plasmalab are a Toronto-based trio, utilizing that traditional rock formation to snub their nose at societal convention. They’ve got a “dark side of the ’90s” vibe going on, somewhere between Hole and Cows in their discordant, noisy delivery. It’s kind of a popular style these days – Plasmalab would fit in well with bands like Heaven’s Gate and Pill, bands whose definition of feminism includes rolling around the floor of a basement show in a patched-up denim jacket because there’s absolutely no reason only boys should engage in such ecstatic idiocy. While it certainly seems as though Plasmalab are having fun, don’t expect any happy riffs, as all melodies here are dirge-like; punk rock as funeral procession. There’s definitely a distinct personality at play here (the label-described “meme-punk” tag might be onto something) but their songs don’t quite match, crafted from familiar progressions and often played with a sagging energy level (which of course is probably intentional). I’ll keep an eye on Plasmalab though, because if they get bored playing the songs on Love/Life and decide to write nuttier music to match their general outlook on life, it could be magical.

Porter Ricks Anguilla Electrica 2xLP (Tresor)
Porter Ricks is a German dub-techno duo that first materialized in the ’90s, dissolved before the ’00s and returned in 2016 with an EP and now again this year with Anguilla Electrica. They’re right up there with Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound when German dub-techno is discussed (which I’d hope is at least weekly in any decent reader’s household), and this new one is fantastic, not just a return to form but a refined mastery of such. Much like other Germans, Porter Ricks seems to approach their techno not as a form of music but a life philosophy, led by a sense of exploration and curiosity but grounded by firm behavioral boundaries. Anguilla Electrica doesn’t so much sound like the work of synths but highly-advanced robotic beings that are right on the cusp of synthesizing various human voices, gastrointestinal processes and trombones, not unlike T++’s finest productions. Or maybe it’s more like a poltergeist trying to fly out of your laptop, prevented only by an up-to-date copy of Norton Anti-Virus Essentials. Part of me assumes this is what those reunited Throbbing Gristle albums sound like (I need to get around to hearing those!), but of course Porter Ricks has far more Detroit funk and minimal-techno snap in its DNA than improvised noise. The more I listen, the more it feels like this is the only form of music my body needs.

Preening Beeters 7″ (Digital Regress)
Here we go, hot new Oakland trio comprised of Max Nordile (ex-Violent Creeps), Sam Lefebvre (fantastic music critic, plus he’s got that cool tongue-twisty last name) and Alejandra Alcala (I don’t know the first thing about her but should probably acclimate myself). They have a very San Fran-styled approach to guitarless no-wave, and rightfully so, as they’re tripping on the same cracked pavement as Factrix and Erase Errata did when stepping outside for an It’s It. Lefebvre tries to pin down Alcala’s slippery bass with his drums, as if each little beat is another net that he’s tossing seconds too late – Nordile, on the other hand, lets the skronk out on his sax when he’s not convulsing out some lyrics I wish I better understood, delivered in the manic, walking-on-hot-coals style of Ex-Models’ Shahin Motia with a touch more “demented street poet” to his cadence. Having a general sense of two of Preening’s members’ musical tastes, I’m a little surprised Preening isn’t somewhat harsher or more aggressive, either via a rougher recording or punker riffage; more than anyone else, Preening remind me of DC’s The Cranium, due to the minimal instrumentation and general (occasionally funky) delivery. Cool EP for sure, with apparently an Ever/Never follow-up EP on the way because that label has an infinite wellspring of liquid assets that I hope to someday grasp. Tax scam?

Regler Regel #9 (Blues) LP (At War With False Noise)
My heart sank as I opened the box that this Regler LP came in the moment I saw the Regler name at the top. The last Regler release that came through here was one of my least-favorite Mattin projects, a big empty 12″ with the lingering sense of disappointment, but I did my duty and dropped Regel #9 (Blues) on my turntable anyway, maintaining my impressive dedication to properly informing my readership. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that this newest “Regel” is pretty intense and discomfiting and raw, a concept that really delivers. The music consists of bass-guitar and drums, maintaining a monotonous two-note dirge beat (across both sides of the LP) while Mattin layers various recordings of social and political discontent: street riots, protest violence, loud arguing, people screaming over each other. These samples are slowly dispersed throughout, occasionally coming together in a deluge that truly recreates the panicked, fearful state of the first world, one guided by anger and resentment and hopelessness. Certain samples really stress me out, probably because this isn’t some sort of dystopian fantasy but all too real, and being reminded of it via Regler’s oppressive repetition can be a bit too much. I get the impression that “a bit too much” is exactly what Mattin was going for with this iteration of his Regler project, though. It’s the sort of audio document that stings right now but will be a valuable document for future generations to unearth and evaluate.

Rivener Rivener LP (These Are Not / Twin Lakes)
Rivener is a male duo out of Connecticut, and they certainly like to improvise: Paul Belbusti on guitar, keyboard and percussion, Michael Kiefer on the drums. I’m reminded of two scenes as I listen: the jazz-informed post-rock underground that was happening in Chicago around the turn of the century, and the heady improv scene up in Massachusetts, players like Chris Corsano, Bill Nace and Paul Flaherty and the general orbit of the Ecstatic Peace label. There’s a wide range of personalities in those two times and places, and I haven’t quite put a finger on Rivener’s attitude or demeanor just yet – not sure if they are mischievous, humble, berserk or what. The recording is notably clean; it’s certainly a studio endeavor where the emphasis is on what is being played, not the room it’s being played in or the gear on which it’s being recorded, and while I appreciate that, I’m not sure there is enough distinction in Rivener’s sound, clear as it may be. Belbusti’s guitar mostly sounds like a guitar, rambling through deconstructed blues chords, partial space-ragas and moments of unobstructed release (certainly following a path set by Keiji Haino and Loren Mazzacane Connors), and Kiefer taps along in the traditional free-jazz style, generally matching the guitar’s frenetic energy or sullen calm. Can’t go wrong with that, but I also can’t help wish they went a little more “out” with this one. When it comes to free guitar/drums, Rivener is nothing if not “in”.

Sacrificio Pulidores De Tumbas LP (SPHC)
I need to figure out where SPHC sources LP jackets like this, the same style they used for the Era Del Vacio album a couple years ago – they’re made out of some sort of ancient and textured cardboard parchment, a perfect texture for the raging hardcore-punk that resides within. Sacrificio are a Mexico City trio (and, just like Rick Ta Life, they look great on horseback, as seen on the insert), and Pulidores De Tumbas is fourteen tracks of solid, by-the-books hardcore with thrash and grind leanings. I’m partial to the faster stuff myself, recalling Capitalist Casualties, E-150, Stapled Shut and Cop Out, and there’s plenty of it on offer here. Pulidores has the vibe of hardcore-punk bands who just played as fast as they could so they ended up into grindcore territory, as opposed to a group coming from a metal perspective that wanted to incorporate blast-beats. They’re by no means the fastest, tightest, most memorable or distinct group to deliver such a sound, but the drummer is sick (sounds like he’s got half a dozen different cymbals set up and he’s not afraid to use ’em), the vocalist has a righteously phlegmy shout, and like I said, they look cool on horses. What more would it take to please you?

Science Project Basement Blues 7″ (Neck Chop)
Egregious cover art error here for Nova Scotia’s Science Project, using the same Manson photo that Negative FX turned into classic hardcore iconography back in 1985. I have a feeling it was an unintentional coincidence, and that they wouldn’t care anyway, but it also makes little sense in the aesthetic scheme of Science Project, the solo project of a one Cody Googoo, who also performs in Booji Boys (among others). How many bands does one person need to prove their allegiance to Devo? I may never know, as Science Project goes full-on geek-punk, with prerequisite nasal vocals, sci-fi synth effects and rigid rhythms. Basement Blues contains six songs, compiled from two previous cassettes, and I’m not sure why it didn’t remain as such. At best, there’s a nerdy menace that recalls Count Vertigo, but for the most part this sounds like anyone’s Devo-inspired punk solo project, neither good nor bad, as if anyone could buy the “Devo-inspired solo project” instruction manual and follow these simple steps. At least the lyrical sentiments occasionally veer out of the “I’m a depraved robot / you are a mutant” vein, instead offering bored-in-the-scene social concerns, with songs railing against “Discogs sellouts”, “Tumblr punks” and “mysterious guy hardcore” – serious issues indeed. For every Neck Chop release that I enjoy, there’s at least one that I can’t help but wonder why it was deemed worthy of existence – did they truly think this science project deserved greater than a C+?

Sex Snobs Emotional Stuffing LP (High Dive)
Oklahoma City’s Sex Snobs return with their third LP. Their first came through here, which I recall as being a solid entry in the Drive Like Jehu / Wipers category of underground rock, but Emotional Stuffing is far more poppy. Took me a moment to adjust, but I think I prefer it! Opener “Ritalin” sounds like Purling Hiss mixed with whoever sang that “Teenage Dirtbag” song, and the next few songs have me thinking of a more alt-rock Get Up Kids, or if Harvey Danger never made it to MTV and just opened for The Murder City Devils on multiple tours before calling it quits. In melody and lighthearted snark, I’m also reminded of major label pop-punkers The Ultimate Facebook – there’s even an ironic song about going to the mall. I’m a fan of this style, and Sex Snobs unexpectedly do it justice, no doubt about it. If Hollywood ever decides to re-boot 1995’s Angus, I’m nominating Sex Snobs for top billing on the OST!

The Snails Demos 7″ (Neck Chop)
Here’s another tape-to-vinyl upgrade care of Neck Chop, this time coming from The Snails, a hard-to-Google group that I believe hails from California somewhere (it’s a big state). Six songs here from two prior tapes, and they make for a solid sampling of contemporary snot-nosed punk. The Angry Samoans are the direct descendant of this style: speedy drumming, simple-but-catchy melodies, and teenaged vocals are on order, both then and now. The recording is punk and muffled, sounding as if the kick drum and snare are actually just a large cardboard box and a smaller cardboard box, but it works for The Snails, even if it doesn’t quite allow the songs to lodge themselves in my brain in the same way as the aforementioned ‘Samoans have. Bands like The Liquids (and dare I say The Coneheads) are probably more than a little inspiring for The Snails and their general presentation (barely-there crappy art, basic titles like “I Become” and “Shit”), but they’re all just little splashes in the infinite stream of juvenile punk rock, one that is far deeper and wider than even the biggest fan will ever fully experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and The Snails certainly contributed their part.

Trampoline Team Drug Culture / I Don’t Play Games 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
Space Taker’s only other release thus far is a recent Nag 7″, which goes hand-in-hand with the speedball punk of Trampoline Team. Both songs here are classic punk in the Dangerhouse tradition, picked downward and tuneful and mean-spirited, the sort of thing that’d fit right in with The Nuns and The Randoms. Both choruses involve shouting the song title in a stompable rhythm, and they flow downhill with the ease of Steve Caballero in Future Primitive. Kind of picking up some Goner vibes too, in the more punk / less garage end of their spectrum, like Nots’ first album. There isn’t much of a pronounced sound or voice going on with Trampoline Team, but it’s a genre I enjoy well enough that I don’t particularly mind their lack of invention. Maybe they can invest in some actual on-stage trampolines if they need to add a gimmick while maintaining a rudimentary musical approach – it’s high time trampolines retained the punk edge that Weezer unlawfully removed from them.

Yass Night Wire LP (X-Mist)
How is there gonna be a group called “Yass” and it’s not a Broad City spin-off? I was all set for a modern update of Le Tigre with Abbi and Ilana on vocals and Hannibal Buress on electronics. Much to my chagrin, Yass are an all-male German duo who insist on subjecting noise-rock guitars and vocals to a dance-pop makeover. I’m hearing plenty of Death From Above 1979, or perhaps what would result from Steve Aoki remixing Metz, or Young Widows squeezing themselves into some DFA skinny jeans. I’ll go on record as having no issues whatsoever with discordant, harsh guitars as well as populist disco beats, and Yass combine them quite smoothly, as if these rhythms were the only suitable framework for heavy guitars run through half a dozen effects. Sounds pretty good, but Yass would benefit greatly from a standout vocalist – a self-assured hipster ala James Murphy or otherworldly creature like Pixeltan’s Mika Yoneta might push these tunes to the next level. The sounds are there, Night Wire just flows more like a series of like-minded ideas more than a set of distinct songs. That said, if you’re dancing hard enough, as some inevitably are, nothing else really matters.