Joshua Abrams Excavations 1 LP (Feeding Tube)
If you’ve ever played in a punk band, you’re probably familiar with the mix of disgust and confusion that comes from your family’s reaction upon hearing your music. I can only imagine, then, what the parents, children, cousins and relatives of Joshua Abrams must think when they hear Excavations 1, an uncompromisingly irritating solo acoustic bass album that eschews even the faintest sense of tolerable musical behavior. He can’t be allowed to play this stuff in the house, not even in the basement, can he? This is an album of deliberately creaky squeaks, aggressive shuddering, atonal chalkboard scrapes and furious acoustic raspberries, all laid out in a single line across seven lengthy tracks (no overdubs or post-production effects). He plays his bass with a bow (and what must be some sort of hand-held drill at one point?), so if you’ve got an ear for the most extremely unpleasant pitches audible by the human ear (and I certainly do), Excavations 1 is an advanced-level excursion into such territory. Parts of “Buzzards” almost recall Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck in its severe state of panic – if a stand-up bass could dry heave, this is what it’d sound like. It’s a very bold and brutal album… I can think of only maybe one or two of my friends that would tolerate Excavations 1 for more than a minute, so I should probably get them together for a mighty listening session.

The Art Gray Noizz Quintet A Call To You / Won’t Say it To My Face 7″ (Robellion Music)
The Art Gray in question here is Stuart Gray, whom you may have enjoyed in such knuckle-dragging Aussie noise-rock units as Lubricated Goat and Beasts Of Bourbon. I wasn’t sure what he’d be up to today (it’s not uncommon for rockers of a certain age to be charmed by old-timey blues or rockabilly motifs, as we all sadly know), but I’m pleased to announce that his Noizz Quintet are stomping mud-holes with the vigor of a pimply-faced teen. “A Call To You” is a prime chunk of gothy noise-punk, which strongly calls to mind the mean n’ spooky sonics of TV Ghost (who were, as it turns out, actual teenagers for much of their career), and it’s Captain Gray at the helm, speaking with a voice that’s saltier than any sea dog I know. The sharp dual-guitar interplay is executed perfectly, too – excellent track indeed! Gray’s voice is even frothier on “Won’t Say It To My Face”, which feels like a classic Cramps song infused with Birthday Party guitars and Stooges chug – if that sounds enticing, that’s because it is! I think there’s one guy in the Noizz Quintet who mostly just plays tambourine or cowbell with his shirt off, too – if you’re not currently scrambling over to Stubhub to pick up tickets to see these guys live, I implore you to re-read this review.

Blawan Wet Will Always Dry 2xLP (Ternesc)
Let’s face it, Blawan made probably the best hard techno track of the decade with “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”, and it’s been hard for me to reconcile that with his ensuing 12″s over the past few years, as he’s since opted for a more textural and grittier sound at the expense of hooks. I appreciate that his style is always evolving, though, and I’m glad I checked in with this, his debut long-player. It rules! His synths have progressively gotten heavier, and the sounds he utilizes here are domineering, as though he’s equipped with the hardware needed to assemble a thousand-foot steel suspension bridge while his contemporaries are merely fashioning metal folding chairs. Though his sonic pressure is extreme, Blawan leads a path to memorable hooks in the form of his voice throughout Wet Will Always Dry; they’re either sung or noisily deconstructed, and it’s a nice touch, adding some vague sense of humanity to his Terminator: Salvation hellscape. Much of the material fits in well with the most commandeering works of T++ and Kerridge (“Kalosi” and “Stell” both feature a particularly T++-esque cyborg swing), although the snappy, flickering snare/kick rhythms are entirely his own, a signature that runs through the majority of his work. In case Blawan is taking stylistic suggestions, a pal of mine was hoping he try singing like Tom Delonge over his beats, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a path worth exploring.

Citric Dummies The Kids Are Alt-Right LP (Erste Theke Tonträger)
Feeling some sympathy for Citric Dummies here, as no sooner did they release this album than Bad Religion released a song called “The Kids Are Alt-Right”. It’d be like if my aunt opened an Etsy store for her embroidery and called it Yellow Green Red. Anyway, I really enjoyed Citric Dummies’ debut LP last year, and this next one is stupidly sharp and sharply stupid too. They play a speedy and melodic form of early hardcore-punk, in line with seminal groups like Really Red and Angry Samoans, and they seem to be a little more tuneful here than last year’s Tearing Out My Nails, albeit in a good way (there’s nothing aspirationally commercial here in the slightest). I’m also reminded of the grotesque childish joy exhibited by The A.G’s, an underappreciated proto-nerd-punk group if there ever was one, but Citric Dummies are savvier than “I Like Boobs” or “Fudge Pack”… if only slightly. It’s Citric Dummies’s wit that sets them apart, straight-facing themselves through various jokey song titles that they somehow elaborate into full songs (“We Don’t Care Who We Sound Like”, “I Made Love To The Internet”, “Kill Everyone (Who Dies)”, and “I Am Going To Suck Your Dick” to name a handful). I don’t think Circle Jerks or Code Of Honor would’ve ever written a song boasting that they are going to win the Super Bowl, but Citric Dummies make it seem as naturally punk as tossing a brick through a cop’s windshield.

Cold Meat Pork Sword Fever 7″ (Static Shock / Helta Skelta)
Excellent news, a new Cold Meat 7″! They’re one of Perth’s finest punk bands, and I’m pleased to report that their sonic sophistication and technical abilities have made no leaps since their 2016 debut. Their agitated punk rock continues to plod mightily, recalling Good Throb’s vinegar-soaked attitude and the pogo sensibility of Vice Squad or Abrasive Wheels. One of the natural bonuses of being born and raised in Australia is that when you shout, you sound kinda British, which is pretty much the best way for this style of punk to sound. I’m a sucker for angry Riot City-style punk-core where the song title gets repeated four times in a row as the chorus (ala “Lazy Anarchy” here) – it’s a rudimentary songwriting method that simply cannot be denied. Rather than singing about boots and braces, however, Cold Meat opt for a prescient misandry – I’m not sure any other band could write a song like “Maternity Stomp” and have it succeed on levels both stupid and profound. Might be the best track here too – if they offered instructions, I would gladly maternity-stomp along with ’em.

Counter Intuits Vietnamese Lighter / Edge 7″ (Total Punk)
Total Punk has covered a lot of stylistic ground under in its day, but I wouldn’t have guessed to see Counter Intuits join their ranks – they strike me as too old and too competent. Kudos to both of them for agreeing to work together on this new 7″ single then, as I’ve been waiting on some new Counter Intuits material and these two songs are a nice little taste. “Vietnamese Lighter” hangs around with a bad attitude, meandering around the room until one of the hosts asks the song to leave. I was hoping the b-side was a tribute to everyone’s favorite Irish guitarist, but it doesn’t seem to be… I guess the Homostupids’ The Edge EP will have to suffice for my Ohio punk U2 worship. Anyway, “Edge” is another slower tune, marching along with a memorable chorus and the various lo-fi production glitches that come part and parcel with any Counter Intuits recording. Kinda surprised they didn’t blast through a couple fast tunes on here, in Total Punk fashion, but Counter Intuits are nothing if not contrarian, which of course is the punkest way to be anyway.

The Dead C On The Outbreak Of Civil War / Good Consul Is Punished 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
I love The Dead C as much as the next guy, but I have to wonder, do we really need more Dead C records? There are already more out there than any one person has heard, and if that one person does finally hear them all, well they’ve got a whole new challenge in the form of tapes, CD-rs and lathe-cuts, and don’t even get me started on side projects! Still, I’ll happily spin any Dead C within walking distance, and this new 7″ is unmistakably them. “On The Outbreak Of Civil War” goes through a few emotions in its brief run time, from a noisy rhythmic jam to morose tones overrun by some sort of electro-phased space pistol. “Good Consul” opens with a frazzled tantrum and then dips into a zombie march that is sustained through the rest of the track, with at least one guitar imitating Marduk in case you thought they were slipping. I’d like to revise my previous statement and clarify that okay, maybe after this one we’ll have enough Dead C records.

De Leon De Leon LP (Mana)
This De Leon album has been a real summertime treat, the sort of thing that sounds just as good alongside a shaded mid-day breeze as a humid midnight drive. Not sure who “De Leon” is, or even how I came across it to begin with, but I can’t keep it off the turntable. De Leon certainly fits in closely with Beatrice Dillon and Rupert Clervaux’s Studies I-XVII For Samplers And Percussion, another album I absolutely adore, as it’s an entirely percussive record, but a calm and tuneful one at that. It’s essentially gamelan edited and constructed with the sterile touch of techno, with any sense of drama or cultural significance scrubbed away in the name of minimalism. So what you get are circular rhythms played on melodic percussive instruments that drift in for a few minutes before drifting out. No filler, although I suppose the entire record could be considered filler to less patient ears. I’m also reminded of Joe Mubare’s work with One Tongue, or even the various modern artists following in Jon Hassell’s “4th World” footsteps, but De Leon is so refined and single-minded that it really only generates six variations on one specific theme, and does so beautifully, might I add. Recommended!

Devious Ones Plainview Nights LP Hold Fast / No Front Teeth)
The vibe of Detroit’s Devious Ones is summed up pretty adequately by their Discogs promo photo: three guys hamming it up (including the use of props) and one guy in a pork pie hat slugging a bottle a beer. They are here for fun and good times, like the sort of good times people had in the ’90s, proudly sitting on a couch just like you or I would do. You might be wondering what they sound like, which is poppy, upbeat punk with an emphasis on melody and groove, not unlike Marked Men, The Hi-Fives, Ted Leo and maybe let’s say the UK Subs. They’re pretty good, and clearly just doing it for the fun – don’t expect any overt seriousness or professionalism, as a carefree and smiley attitude permeates every crevice of Plainview Nights. My favorite cut here is “Djarum Summers”, which is a slight bummer since I already heard it on last year’s 7″ of the same name, but that shouldn’t dampen the experience for anyone not already familiar. Pop-punk has always been an effective tool for transforming suburban ennui into zany, neighbor-rattling fun, and Devious Ones continue in that proud tradition.

Dirty And His Fists Demo 2016 7″ (Negative Jazz)
The debut Dirty And His Fists 7″ was a hit around here, a top-notch slab of scabby-knee Cali punk, so unlike most demos pressed to 7″, I was excited to check this one out and see what Dirty And Co. were up to back in 2016. 2016… seems like a lifetime away, before our spirits were collectively broken, doesn’t it? Anyway, turns out Dirty And His Fists were ready to rumble right from the start, as this doesn’t sound like a rough demonstration of newly-formed songs so much as six pressurized punk torpedoes ready for launch. It’s tuneful but aggro, certainly in that Adolescents or TSOL frame of mind, but not entirely removed from the present day. They don’t rep chains or eggs, just general discontent, unfocused aggression, frustration and a short fuse – timeless punk feelings like that. I don’t think Demo 2016 is quite as good as their self-titled debut, but it’s all superb thus far, the work of a group who understands what needs to be done and has the proper facilities to do it.

Edward Fortune Teller 3xLP (Giegling)
Really, truly can’t get enough of these triple-LP releases coming from the Giegling camp and its satellite players. Edward has been one of my faves over the past couple years, so I eagerly dug into this ten-track collection and it’s hitting all the right spots. Using my keen sense of observation, I can’t help but pick up on the similarities between Ricardo Villalobos circa 2007-2010 and Edward circa now: they both favor richly detailed synthetic textures and apply them to elastic tech-house grooves, pulling from all sorts of unexpected sources, like Brazilian folk, British soccer chants, bored socialites mumbling at a party, cosmic krautrock, Latin percussion, and so on. Villalobos has since ventured off to sonic realms that are notably more esoteric and less grounded, and while I appreciate his forward-thinking abilities with regard to sonic architecture and cutting-edge software, Edward really hits the sweet spot of funky tech-house with full kitchen-sink accessorizing. These tracks cover lots of different sounds and styles, from lively rainforest jams to cruise-controlled forays into modular synthesis, and while the sounds aren’t uniform, Edward’s sense of adventure and sharp sonic curation ensures a particularly high quality. It’s a rare techno artist that can deliver a triple 12″ set and have me immediately ready for three more, but I’m already stashing all spare change in a jar labeled “EDWARD” next to my bed.

Evol Ideal Acid 12″ (iDEAL)
Evol have been deconstructing acid techno for a number of years now, usually in the most maddening ways possible. My first exposure was with 2015’s Flapper That 12″ on Diagonal (which was easily the most room-clearing, “please take this off immediately” record of the year), but I think they’ve reached a new peak with Ideal Acid. Like all Evol records, there’s a concept, and here’s what’s happening here: snippets of varied acid loops glued together across two sides of vinyl. They dug deep in their archives, sampling 303 records (that’s a quantity, not a description), letting each record run for one to four bars. The result is dizzying, as your brain is forced to follow the bouncing ball in constantly changing but deliberate patterns, never sure of what is coming next, only that it is coming. It only takes one side of this 12″ to fully exhaust me, but in a great way, as if I speed-read a novel and somehow retained it all. The whole thing is quantized too, so you could throw it on at a party, make a bunch of quick hand motions behind the DJ booth and trick your friends into thinking you’re the next Jazzy Jeff. Plus, if you actually have the ability to think while listening, you might find yourself marveling at the infinite musical possibilities the Roland 303 synthesizer has provided. Great concept, great execution, and without a doubt the greatest new record with which to annoy your friends and neighbors.

Holiday Inn Torbido LP (Maple Death / Avant!)
Ever since Throbbing Gristle decided to title an album Twenty Jazz-Funk Greats, there has been an underground post-punk fascination with repurposing harmless and ubiquitous names into something sinister and malevolent. Like this Italian duo calling themselves Holiday Inn, for instance – I’m honestly wondering how long until I see a harsh power-electronics tape by a group called Denny’s. Holiday Inn seem to fall under the “industrial” tag, and while their use of a rudimentary drum machine and buzzing synth as the extent of their instrumentation certainly comes with industrial roots, Holiday Inn recall the ’00s garage-punk fascination with noisy synths more than anything else. I’m reminded of Black Bug, Cheveu at their most electronic, Scorpion Violente, the Catatonic Youth 7″ and perhaps most strongly, Sewn Leather. It’s a style that I inherently find appealing, and Holiday Inn do a fine job of it, never taking themselves too seriously, nor do they not take themselves not seriously enough. I appreciate that the vocals are sung, not screamed, but in a perfectly annoying pitch, in case you were concerned these songs were insufficiently irritating. Kinda surprised they didn’t go with the name Ibis instead, though: you haven’t seen a miserably bare-bones hotel room until you’ve stayed in an Ibis. The half-size bed basically buffers up against the shower drain!

Kid Chrome I’ve Had It 7″ (Neck Chop)
Kid Chrome is the solo work of Chad Bucklew, he of Lysol and Freak Vibe (and surely many others). I have to wonder, is he holding out the good stuff for Kid Chrome, or is this the material that the rest of his bands refused to play? I’ll never know, but I will bob my head along to these simple, upbeat rockers. “I’ve Had It” has a hard bop not unlike Hank Wood, with a greasy little guitar lick riding on top… not your typical drum-machine-punk, for sure. That same attitude and sound carries over to “Pall Mall 100’s” (a possible Milk Music beef, if I’m interpreting the lyrics right?) and “Don’t Walk”, more slobbery vocals and slobbery guitar over a punchy beat, presenting the good times that hard rock has to offer in a punk context. The repurposed cartoon imagery cements I’ve Had It‘s presence in the contemporary punk realm, and while these three cuts are quite enjoyable, they’re lacking the distinctive qualities that would be necessary to elevate Kid Chrome above the legions of punk Mickey Mouses, punk Felix The Cats, punk Family Circuses and punk Garfields. Maybe if he went with a punk Beetle Bailey I’d be more apt to remember.

Kinski Old Gold / Loved By You 7″ (These Are Not)
There’s gotta be a band called Herzog at this point, and if so, these two should link up for a split! Kinski are a long-running psych-rock / indie-rock sorta band out of Seattle, and they are taking it so easy this time around that they didn’t even bother to write their own tunes. Rather, “Old Gold” is a Love As Laughter song, and “Loved By You” was written by David Kilgour for his band Stephen. As far as being a cool obscure cover band, Kinski do a fine job with it. “Old Gold” chugs with a fuzzy quality not unlike Mudhoney’s last decade of work, and “Loved By You” has a sun-streaked jangle to recall The Lemonheads. Apparently both tracks were digital-only bonuses that came with Kinski’s most recent album (back in 2015), so These Are Not Records quite literally turned what was not a record into one. There you have it!

Alek Lee Colors 12″ (Antinote)
Alek Lee’s Sfarot 12″ was my favorite EP of 2017, so I jumped off my chaise lounge the moment I discovered he had a new 12″ for sale and purchased it immediately. Colors isn’t as stunning or unique (honestly, how could it be), but now that I’ve settled into these four songs a bit, it’s really hitting the spot as summer gets into swing. Whereas “Sfarot” was a slow-motion cinematic strut, much of this EP is easier to categorize: deep house with live instrumentation, lush melodies and Mediterranean breezes. “Time” is a high-quality house groove with zipping bass and sparkling vibes, music suitable for island resorts but only really forward-thinking ones. That’s as energetic as it really gets, as “Kesef” slips into a downtempo mode, with an airy melody, suavely shuffling drums and an unhurried path to romance care of dub effects and a slurred vocal. “Colors” is closest in attitude to Lee’s debut EP, a hypnotic bongo-based stride with more ‘tude than Garfield in sunglasses. “Dark Colors” concludes the record with a little more techno energy but essentially as a direct continuation of “Colors”, same pace and presence with a different suite of melodic overtones. If you’re exclusively a beer drinker who scoffs at bay breezes and mai tais, this might be the record that changes your perspective.

Erik Nervous Assorted Anxieties LP (Neck Chop / Drunken Sailor)
After polluting the underground with a handful of cassettes and vinyl EPs, Erik Nervous worked with the fine folks at Neck Chop and Drunken Sailor to collect all of it onto one full-length LP. That’s what Assorted Anxieties is! Nervous’s home-recorded punk music seems specifically built for the enjoyment of obscurity-craving punk obsessives, so I’d have to assume his fans must already own at least some of this material on their previously-released formats, but maybe he’s breaking through, and everyone seems to hate 7″s these days (shame on all of you), so maybe there actually are a few hundred people planning to buy this. Considering his traditional setup of guitar/bass/drums/vocals, Nervous manages to mix things up, from Coneheads-styled speedballs to herky-jerky no-wave to stately power-pop. None of it sucks, but nothing really stands out to my ears as a “you gotta hear this” moment, either – maybe it’s because his vocals are merely there, as if they are a placeholder for a more charismatic singer to replace at a later time. Still, if you are absolutely hard-up for some modern bedroom punk that doesn’t bludgeon you with neon colors, cartoon scribbles and an intentional void of songwriting, Erik Nervous welcomes you to join him on his journey.

O$VNV$M O$VMV$M LP (Idle Hands)
This is the third self-titled LP by O$VMV$M, and I really hope it’s a trilogy in the way that The Fast And The Furious is a trilogy, meaning there are actually endless iterations released on a steady schedule. Bristol-based Amos Childs and Sam Barrett are part of the Young Echo crew (and most certainly contributed to that big Young Echo collection a few months back), and their productions as O$VMV$M are a big part of why I liked that release. This new album features more of what I’ve come to expect from them, but their aesthetic covers such broad territory that it feels like they’ll never run out of fresh ideas. These instrumental productions play like brief vignettes into fascinating alternate timelines – a warped slice of Stranger Things-esque tension will follow a crusty break that could’ve been plucked from MF Doom’s dank-smelling tote, or a ghostly Tri Angle-style séance might buffer a lonesome digi-reggae beat or a dramatically-slowed jazz loop. That sense of insulated, cozy withdrawal (along with a strong weed scent) permeates most of the album, moving with the same crisp efficiency of DAF’s 1979 debut. Sometimes I wish I had access to extended versions of these tracks, or that some rapper or vocalist would give them a run, but that might negate some of the intimacy that O$VMV$M have instilled in their music, so I quickly let that thought pass.

Outer Spacist Illness Is Creepin’ On A Come-Up LP (Heel Turn)
That’s some title, right? I generally applaud anything that makes me think about Bone Thugs, so Outer Spacist are in my good graces right off the bat. I recognize their name as one of the many bands that were part of Columbus Discount Records’ burst of activity around the mid-to-late ’00s, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard them until this album. I’ve spun this record a few times now, and while it’s not my cup of tea, they seem to be having plenty of fun – I mean if you’re naming your album that, how could you not? They play a pretty agreeable form of indie-rock, one heavily informed by late ’70s proto-punk – I’d expect to see records by Rocket From The Tombs, Love, Pere Ubu, The Stranglers and 13th Floor Elevators crammed into a cardboard box next to their turntable. Guitars and keyboards weave with a hard-edged psychedelia as the vocalist pleads and moans like an imprisoned Mark Arm. They’re quite capable, but I’m not hearing any hits, and they never get heavy or weird enough for my liking, always just kinda teetering on normal acceptable bar-band rock music, which of course lots of people enjoy. Maybe the Bone Thugs reference actually worked against them, prompting unreasonably high expectations.

Parquet Courts Wide Awake LP (Rough Trade)
Prior to Wide Awake I’d only heard Parquet Courts in passing, but I’ve admired their ability to exist as a fairly plain and unobtrusive indie post-punk group without a slick command of social media or some blatant gimmick and still somehow sell tens of thousands of records, significantly more than any of their sonic peers. I am baffled as to why that is, and also fascinated by it – why is Parquet Courts selling out thousand-cap venues across the US and appearing on Ellen but Tyvek are lucky to sell 500 copies of an album over a few years’ time? Let’s face it, these guys aren’t notably handsome or cunning or outrageous, three boxes I thought you needed to check if you wanted to live off your rock music in 2018. After spending some time with Wide Awake, I think I’ve come up with some answers to my questions. First off, the art here (made by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Savage) is spectacular – the funky-swinging bodies, the bold color palette, the hand-written text, the sweet gatefold that opens into a dazzling lyric-book – it all builds a distinct world, one that enhances the listening experience, taking it from 2D to 3D. The music seems streamlined for enjoyment, too – these songs run a gamut of moods, from excited and spastic to solemn and stoned, but they all belong to the same universe, often held together by Savage’s cool voice, simultaneously big-mouthed and well-enunciated. They clearly realize the importance of not wasting a moment. There’s a hit (the titular dance-punk earworm), plenty of silly-but-smart garage ala Jonathan Richman or the first wave of Sire Records punk bands, and forays into soft-edged pop-rock that explain the Beatles and Sublime fans I saw in their live audience. I’ve now determined that they’re a great band, and this is a pretty great album, but that can’t be the secret to their success, can it?

SabaSaba SabaSaba LP (Maple Death)
There’s an evil cave-dwelling invertebrate apparition on the cover of SabaSaba’s debut LP, and it’s an appropriate advertisement for the music within. This Italian duo go full creep throughout this self-titled album, dipping their ritual candles into early British industrial music, ’90s dark-ambient drone and probably a Demdike Stare 12″ or two. These songs are slower than slow, as viscous and dark as molasses and all the more satisfying because of it. A synth pulse will throb at the lowest pre-set tempo, vocals will ominously infer, a mysterious stringed instrument will be plucked as a prayer bowl is rubbed and a djembe tapped… if this is your kinda zone, SabaSaba do right by it. They manage to pick and choose their influences wisely (think of Current 93’s most psychedelic rhythmic maelstroms without any of the Ren Faire corniness), with just a hint of left-field dub grounding the proceedings. I can’t imagine a Coil fan would sneeze at SabaSaba either, unless sneezing is part of the magic spell they’re trying to cast. Alongside recent personal discoveries of A.T.R.O.X. and FP & The Doubling Riders, Italians are proving themselves to be a lot weirder than I ever imagined.

Seraphim Rytm Prayers By The Lake 12″ (Mirae Arts)
Does the genre of “Ansel Adams techno” exist yet? If so, I’d like to file this 12″ by Seraphim Rytm under it. This Belgian techno producer gravitates toward somber and moving images of mountain ranges and foggy fields for his art and internet presence, and his music, soothingly repetitive techno, is the perfect backdrop for extended contemplation of these images. These four tracks sparkle with the same sort of texture I’ve come to associate with Donato Dozzy, and not just because Dozzy has a project called Voices From The Lake, quite similar to the title of this EP. These tracks feel effervescent and weightless, but there’s a gravitational pull at hand to ensure a steady and secure orbit. Not far from some of my favorite Zadig productions too, although there are probably dozens if not hundreds of people trading in this sort of meditative techno sound. It’s been quite a while since I prayed, let alone by a lake, but these four elliptical tracks make it a tempting proposition.

S.H.I.T. What Do You Stand For? LP (Iron Lung / La Vida Es Un Mus)
The first thing you’ll notice about S.H.I.T.’s debut LP is the extravagance (or wastefulness, depending on your point of view) of the cover – a pro-printed color jacket is wrapped in a black-and-white OBI strip that’s as wide as the jacket itself. Not sure what’s going on there, but it’s a bold move, and a bold move is just what this absolutely ripping hardcore LP deserves. I’d heard S.H.I.T. before and never thought a whole lot about them (they seemed to be standard-issue faceless hardcore-punk at first), but What Do You Stand For? is really special. I’m not sure how they did it, but the recording is phenomenal, harnessing that intense mid-section heaviness that I thought only Japanese crushers like Crow and Nightmare were able to attain. Everything kinda merges into one solid column of sound (only the hi-hats and crash cymbals cut through for the drums) but it works in S.H.I.T.’s favor, particularly as they seem to be playing these songs with an intense level of energy and a speed that’s slightly faster than everyone else. Vocalist Ryan Tong has the perfectly pained caterwaul for the job, and at 45 RPM this album is in and out fast, with nary a dirge or outro or moment of introspection, just steamrolling megaton hardcore. Impalers are the only other modern group to lay forth such a mighty hardcore sound – I’m surprised that feeble capitalist politicians haven’t already put forth a law prohibiting these groups from playing the same gig, lest society be fractured beyond repair.

Parrish Smith Sex, Suicide & Speed Metal 12″ (Dekmantel UFO Series)
Sometimes I’ll get folks who tell me they like reading my reviews (I’m blushing just remembering those moments), but they don’t really “get” the techno that’s discussed here, or why I’m into it. This new EP by Parrish Smith is a great example of why! Parrish Smith has previously put out some excellent dungeon-level industrial-techno (his L.I.E.S. EP is a real bondage scorcher), and then he comes out with this, a new EP on the hip Dutch techno label Dekmantel, only to open it with “Sex, Suicide & Speed Metal”. Just listen to this track – it’s a slow-motion sex affair with truly outrageous guitar soloing, as if Slash stepped off the set of an after-hours Cinemax movie and got down n’ dirty with a wah pedal. Truly ludicrous music, and yet this is how Parrish Smith sets things off! See, rock music is great, but even new sounds quickly become formulaic, whereas with techno freaks such as Smith, it’s always about moving on to the next insane idea, pushing yourself to some hitherto unexplored realm without stylistic limitation. “Mute” and “Fall Into Sin” follow the mind-boggling opener, two enjoyable varieties of throwback electro fist-pumper (Nine Inch Nails fans take note), chains swinging and black PVC pants sticking together as we walk through the rave’s entrance tunnel. “Skin” wraps it up with another mid-tempo cobwebby banger, but it’s really the title track that has blown my mind; I can’t get over Smith’s audacity to do something so inappropriate and great. May all artists and musicians share that sense of unbounded freedom!

Suck Lords New Lords Music 7″ (Stucco)
Yet another cool new hardcore band that understands how to do it right – I’m talking about Portland (Oregon)’s Suck Lords! Following their 2016 demo, this five-song EP is a delight for anyone who ever found themselves moving in the opposite direction of the circle pit and loving it. It’s my understanding that at least one member of the defunct NASA Space Universe is in Suck Lords, and I’m not surprised, as both bands understand the visceral nature of hardcore. Whereas NASA Space Universe would get a little out there at times (not in a bad way), Suck Lords are straight to the point, even if their point follows a fierce and jagged path, not unlike a human body falling down a rocky mountain slope. Poison Idea, Wrangler Brutes, The Bug and Neos all come to mind for various reasons, but Suck Lords are on their own trip, looking to add their own distorted tag to The Bathroom Of Hardcore rather than simply aping the greats. Not pretentious enough for Youth Attack, a little too weird for Painkiller, too anti-social to join up with Iron Lung, and perfect for you and me!

Table Sugar Collected Acknowledgements 12″ (Stucco)
The breadth of Olympia’s underground music scene is infinitely expanding, and I’m all for it, particularly as it has enabled Table Sugar and their debut 12″ EP to exist. They’re a sincerely classic-sounding post-punk group: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and it sounds like they’ve been comfortably playing this form of music with each other for years. These seven quick songs are charming, nervous, pretty, catchy and just a little spazzy, calling to mind The Raincoats and Rosa Yemen at their most economical. I’m honestly stunned at how British Collected Acknowledgements sounds – I’m not sure which member is singing, but her voice has the same natural timbre as what I’ve come to expect from the United Kingdom (definitely picking up a Petticoats vibe), which leaves me a little confounded. She’s clearly not trying to sound British… maybe was born there and just moved to Olympia? No one “from Olympia” is actually from Olympia anyway. Regardless, I’ll have to get over my incredulity, and continue to enjoy these playful, skittish post-punk tunes in all their early Rough Trade glory. I’ve heard they share a member with Gen Pop, whose vocals occasionally sound Australian, so clearly anything is possible at this point.

Tongue Party Looking For A Painful Death LP (Learning Curve)
This November, I’ll be casting a write-in ballot for the Tongue Party! They’re from Minneapolis (seems like a large number of bands are these days) and while I’ve enjoyed their aggressive post-hardcore previously, this album is a nice step up. They basically take the sonic sludge of Floor or Cavity and play it at KARP-like speeds, as if they’re racing through their songs before the cops come to shut things down. It’s a decades-old rock tradition at this point, but Tongue Party really cut to the chase, so if you find this style appealing, there is scant filler to wade through here. I’m particularly partial to a back-and-forth burner like “Service Please”, which I swear recalls Korn and System Of A Down in a way that the underground would tolerate (as would fans of Tile and Metz). Looking For A Painful Death is definitely an album that, when blasted, will increase your ollie height by at least six inches. For full effect, I need to transfer Looking For A Painful Death to a blank TDK 90 for playback in my Reliant K, parked but idling in some empty township parking lot while me and my buddies grind a waxed curb.

Tough Customer Darlene 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Sweet Rot has been a reliably off-kilter punk label for a number of years now, never getting bogged down in any one particular trend and content to release just one or two records a year (or none at all?) unless they’ve gotten their mitts on something special. Tough Customer’s debut 7″ EP certainly fits the bill there, a cool Canadian post-punk group who work a lovely dislocated dance sound. They have the peppy attitude of Delta 5 or Kleenex, with minimalist drums and only-when-necessary bass bringing the funk, but the guitarists seem to operate on a different level. Rather than replicating punk or post-punk, they seem to be playing various folk and classic-rock melodies, as if they sought inspiration from The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers instead of The Slits and The Mekons. All these elements together make for a great combination, recalling a more manic Household, a more sophisticated Holy Balm, or more likely, something fresh and original entirely. Like, “Mash” could be a Sea & Cake song, but it’s clearly post-punk, so who knows. Recommended, even when taking Canadian postage rates into consideration!

Trash Knife / Dumb Vision split 7″ (Kitschy Spirit)
I literally chuckled out loud when I picked up this split 7″ and saw the band names – I can’t think of a clearer case of punk names made up from random punk adjectives and nouns pulled at random than these two. Trash Knife? What does that even mean? Dumb Vision? Like, as in you need to wear glasses? I’m truly fascinated by the lack of purpose or thought in these band names. Musically, it’s pretty par-for-the-course modern punk from these two, which I guess is to be expected from those names. Trash Knife are snotty hardcore-punk, captured in low fidelity and with an odd lead guitarist who just kinda noodles over these solid if typical tunes. Dumb Vision are pretty similar, maybe a little fuzzier and more melodic – less basement slime and more skateboard rash, probably more likely to secretly own a Screeching Weasel record than anyone in Trash Knife (who probably just listen to punk YouTubes on a phone with a cracked screen). I think I prefer Dumb Vision of the two, but they’re both perfectly competent lo-fi punk rock bands, ripe for inclusion on a comp with bands named Negative Piss, Sick Minds, Crimson Boys and The Shit Wires.

Aaron Troyer Lone Offender LP (no label)
First thing I noticed about Aaron Troyer’s Lone Offender album is how much I liked the cover print of a house falling off a cliff – turns out Troyer is a teacher by trade, and designed it himself! Lucky kids, whoever is getting his instruction. He also decided to release an LP of his own music, a tantalizing proposition for any musician, big or small, and here it is. Troyer’s music is pretty basic, low-risk rock, nodding to classic ’80s new-wave rockers like Elvis Costello or Tom Verlaine, you know, nervous white guys in skinny ties who skipped the prom to hug their guitars in their basements instead. I’m reminded of Home Blitz too, from the way that Troyer appropriates some grand rock moves for his humble aesthetic, but his work is far more by the books than anything Dan DiMaggio ever left his fingerprints on. “Operational Deal” is particularly charming in its vintage bridge (and cool guitar non-solo), certainly the track I keep coming back to. Lone Offender is a pleasantly harmless record, surely to be enhanced if Troyer were to come over and teach me how to draw while we sat together listening to it. Just saying.

Wax Chattels Wax Chattels LP (Captured Tracks / Flying Nun)
First thing’s first: I caught New Zealand’s Wax Chattels live a couple weeks ago, and I’m going on record right now that it was the best rock band I’ve seen this year! Just absolutely pummeling and unfathomably tight, with inventive songs, memorable hooks and a cool manic intensity, each member committed to playing their instrument faster than legal limits. It was like a godly mix of Psychic Paramount, Shellac and Clikatat Ikatowi (no kidding), so I had to grab the album from their merch table. Listening at home now is a nice experience, but it pales in comparison to their mighty on-stage performance. The songs are all played a tad slower here, and with less energy, which of course makes sense, but after giving me a taste of that transcendent live show, I’m still adjusting to this lesser dose. It’s nice to hear their songs again though, that’s for sure: on drums (barely half a normal kit), a keyboard and a bass-guitar, Wax Chattels craft some expressive and thrashy post-punk, akin to early no-wave as well as the more experimental side of ’90s Gravity Records (I swear the drummer is an Antioch Arrow fan). They navigate a variety of moods with panache, from spacey explorations to rapid-fire morse-code blasts, in a way that I thought only This Heat would ever be able. Very cool album, but I worry what my life will be like if I don’t get to witness them live again soon – I’m still recovering.

Milan W. Envelope LP (Ekster)
In case you’re wondering, the W stands for Warmoeskerken, so Milan W. can be forgiven for going with the shortened moniker. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon his music, but I’m certainly glad I did, as Envelope is a rich and cunning album of low-key Belgian electronics. Discogs categorizes it as “Ambient”, but there’s far too many moving parts and processes going at any given moment for that label to really stick, as far as I’m concerned. Honestly, “Electronica” is probably what I’d file it under, if such a genre still exists – Milan W. seems to be working in the spirit of Autechre and the Mille Plateaux label, but there’s a particular warmth at play here that belies the cold, clinical aesthetic one might associate with those two. I think the secret’s in the melodies – even though the sounds are coming from state-of-the-art software with tones twisted and altered, there seems to be the old ghosts of folk-song or jazz-standard melody buried within, revealing some sign of tenderness under the indeterminate electronics. Regardless of how you’ll file it in your make-believe record shop, Envelope is a highly pleasurable experience, no matter what distance you’re listening from.

Wolves Of The Dry Ravine Play With Matches Near The Powder Keg LP (Stepdads)
First the wolves got into the throne room, and now you’re telling me they made it into the dry ravine? It’s an epidemic! Wolves Of The Dry Ravine are from Washington, DC, and I swear I could’ve told you that just by looking at the typefaces and design of Play With Matches Near The Powder Keg – something about it strongly smacks of Fugazi or Bluetip or Dag Nasty or something. I’m sure they’d love to be on Dischord (who wouldn’t?), and their upbeat, punchy punk comes close to something I would’ve expected from that label ten years or so ago. Their songs are no-nonsense and lightweight, not unlike Ted Leo, Milk N’ Cookies or The Pointed Sticks – expect a cutesy little organ, tambourine and spirited hand-claps sprinkled throughout. The thing about Ted Leo though is that he has that inimitable voice and presence, which is really what any mod-inspired power-pop punk requires to rise to the top, and while Wolves Of The Dry Ravine make a good go of it, they’re lacking that special something to really make their music stick. Maybe a slight foray into psycho-jazz would do the trick?

Wound Man Prehistory 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here we go, a 7″ EP of doomsday-prepper power-violence care of New Bedford, MA’s Wound Man. Hardcore dudes in the New Bedford and Boston scenes have been stridently refining their approach to classic power-violence since the mid ’00s or so, and Wound Man are the latest distillation of such (featuring at least one ex-member of Breathing Fire). Now they’re all bearded and grizzly, wearing the same tattered t-shirt for days, and that sort of anti-social distance permeates these nine tracks – I’m a little surprised they haven’t written their own manifesto yet. Prehistory follows Crossed Out’s fine use of unexpected blast-beat stops/starts, the stoner-y dirge segues utilized by Infest and Neanderthal (maybe a little taste of Noothgrush in there too?), and the manic frustration of Despise You. There’s even one part during a respite between blasts on opener “Dive” where the vocalist (possibly the guest listed as “The Torturer”) sounds like Rick Ta Life with his dreads on fire. It’s pretty much a textbook replication of power-violence, but if that’s what you want to hear (and I certainly do), allow Wound Man to set things straight in their severely negative way.