Alien Nosejob Buffet Of Love 12″ (Aarght!)
I thought Alien Nosejob were a punk band, at least they certainly seemed like one, but that definition continues to fail them as they branch further out into various non-punk styles. Buffet Of Love is their biggest divergence yet, a purely electronic dance EP. Inspiration is attributed to Fancy, Black Devil’s Disco Club, Alexander Robotnick and Decadance on the back cover, and while I appreciate the willingness to be frank about one’s influences, this particular musical frontier is not Alien Nosejob’s strong suit. It’s no easy feat, embodying Black Devil’s psychotic effects or Alexander Robotnick’s impeccably memorable hooks, so I’m not entirely surprised that these four tracks sound more like close calls with The Human League, Depeche Mode or Cold Cave than the stated inspiration. As is often the case with this style, the vocals could make or break it, and the vocals here are like semi-comfortable, not-entirely-tuneful karaoke attempts – passable, but passable isn’t really good enough for this sorta thing, especially when there are so many artists knocking this sort of retro synth-pop sound out of the ballpark right now. I’m sure it was fun to make these tunes, and there’s no denying that Alien Nosejob has wide ranging musical talents, but if I’m being selfish, I’d like them (or is it just a “him”?) to get back to the sardonic and sticky punk rock they were churning out a year or two ago. Like Jon Bon Jovi told us: who says you can’t go home?

Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas Lexachast LP (Pan)
Amnesia Scanner rocked my 2018 with Another Life, so I was thrilled to see this new album hot on its heels, even if I knew better than to expect more of the same. It’s not like Pan founder Bill Kouligas is known for his personal pop sensibility! Together on Lexachast, it seems as though they took a couple dozen terabytes of electronic dance music and mulched it down into a fine slurry, then sifted through the remains with curious intentions. The opener “Lexachast I” (all nine tracks are numbered Lexachasts) is what I’d imagine power-electronics using Spotify R&B instead of white noise and feedback to sound like, and from there the trio’s tempers cool. The alien-baby vocals that I loved so much on Amnesia Scanner’s Another Life are back on “Lexachast IV”, and they seem to be singing in that Sigur Rós language this time, or something similar. The rest of the album slowly invokes various subtle and repetitive motifs, not unlike Arca’s Xen at its most sparse and uninhabited, with the sense that deep consideration went into every sweeping sonic gesture or dramatic synth stab. A cool curio no doubt (especially when witnessed with the world’s most disturbing screensaver that visually accompanies the album, care of director Harm van den Dorpel), and a friendly reminder that Amnesia Scanner are probably watching me in my sleep, harvesting my shadow-data and cyber-metrics. It would be a scary thought if I didn’t dig their vibe so much!

Ausmuteants The World In Handcuffs LP (Anti Fade)
It’s been three years or so since the last Ausmuteants album, which in garage-punk years is a lifetime, and they come back with this curve-ball: a satirical cop-themed album! And not only that, its ten tracks appear twice on this vinyl record: once on the a-side with police-themed skits between each tune, and then again on the b-side without skits (and inexplicably in an entirely different order). I love creativity that I don’t fully grasp, of which The World In Handcuffs is exemplary. Musically, the ‘Muteants are in top form, playing aggressive garage-punk with proto-hardcore leanings (and plenty of DEVO-esque kooky keyboard), and they seem more at ease with their craft than ever. As for the lyrics, I dunno, I fully appreciate the satirical concept and their commitment to it, but there’s something about the vocalist maintaining the character of an assholish cop for the entirety of ten songs that grows a little unpleasant, at least for me. Maybe if American cops were lighthearted clumsy crossing-guards instead of a legalized gang of racist thugs I could find more a(us)musement in the whole package, but some of the miserable behavior lampooned here hits too close to home. That’s just me though, and the songs are great (and clearly Ausmuteants are saying ACAB in their own sarcastic way, don’t get me wrong). I do recommend hearing the side with the skits at least once – they’re about as stilted and awkwardly hilarious as ’80s porno dialogue.

Brandy Clown Pain / Rent Quest 7″ (Total Punk)
If there’s a band alive today that I want telling me about clown pain, it’s New York’s Brandy – they’re like the Impractical Jokers of punk, and I’m here for it. After the igneous post-punk klang of their debut LP, I was ready for more, but “Clown Pain” slows the pace down a bit, a confident strut versus a supermarket sweep… it’s oddly anthemic, using one of those public-domain three-chord progressions, but it feels glorious, either in spite of or because of its genericness. “Rent Quest” is less friendly, and more in line with the demeanor of their album, splitting the difference between Mayyors and Urinals in both fidelity and monotonous riffing, with reverb-laden vocals that burn a hole in the song like a red laser beam through a bank safe. I like that they were able to get a little happier on the feel-good punk tip of “Clown Pain”, but it’s reassuring to see them go back to their mean-mugging, no-fills / no-choruses style of aggressive post-punk on the flip. I like knowing Brandy can be happy sometimes, but I don’t want them to be too happy.

Bruised Arrow Of Disease + Psychic Stain 7″ (Randy)
Cool debut 7″ single here from Chicago’s Bruised: two songs, no fuss! “Arrow Of Disease” has the dead stare of early Cali punk ala The Dils, with plenty of open hi-hat splashing around everything else. The recording is great, in that it’s clearly lo-fi but in all the right ways, capturing this punk band in their natural raw state – the perfect sound for a song with a chorus of “destroy-oy-oy”, which happens to be the case with “Arrow Of Disease”. “Psychic Stain” is unable to maintain the same composure, thrashing and bopping like a crowd of angry runaway teens at The Masque. The melodic progressions remind me of Bags or The Dogs, whereas the pesky bass-line and energy have me thinking of The Urinals. I can’t say that Bruised transcend or are even on par with the other bands mentioned here (and to be clear, basically no modern bands are), but they certainly exude many of the same sonic qualities that made those bands so special, so for a debut 7″ EP on the Randy Records label, what else could you ask for?

Stefan Christensen & Friends Unknown Fortune LP (C/Site)
I have to wonder, does Stefan Christensen even have any friends who aren’t musicians? He probably has one friend who’s a painter or sculptor, but besides that, it seems like everyone in his orbit keeps some sort of musical instrument on hand, ready to jam at a moment’s notice. He’s gathered a nice selection of them here, on an album that maintains a sort of hazy introspection no matter if there are multiple soaring guitars or it’s something more stripped down. Unknown Fortune has a very New Zealand feel to its proceedings, with slow rumblings of guitar, patient interactions and a elegiac feel to nearly every track, no matter if it’s cruising at a nice altitude or softly murmuring below. I’m reminded of Dadamah and some of the earliest, most meandering Red House Painters records, but by now Christensen (and Headroom, and Mountain Movers, and etc. etc.) have put together a large enough body of work where it sounds most familiar to himself. I like it most when they throw structural integrity out the window, whipping up a turbulent boil of guitars and percussion (see the b-side opening “Illustration I”), but the more traditional tunes (complete with Christensen’s vocals) balance it out reasonably. Is it too much to ask for a “Stefan Christensen & Enemies” record next? I’m picturing him jamming with members of Antiseen and Psycho and I’m ready to smash that pre-order button.

Chrome Skulls The Metal Skull 7″ (Vanilla Box)
What was the first upgrade I made to the bike I got in 6th grade? You guessed it, chrome skull valve caps! Chrome skulls will make anything a good 25% more bad-ass, and this New Jersey hardcore band clearly respected that when choosing the name. They play a powerful form of d-beat hardcore that reminds me of Krömosom, Kriegshög, Anti-Cimex, and more than anyone, Framtid. Okay, so the Chrome Skulls drummer isn’t playing endless sick fills (as is the Framtid standard), but the vocalist really takes time to strain and enunciate every screamed word, as if his throat is constipated and he truly has to squeeze with all his might to get words like “war stories” into the mic. The sonic influences are obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful when properly executed, as is the case here. There’s a song called “Public Animal”, and I was initially hoping for an unexpected GG cover, but then I remember that his is #1, whereas the Chrome Skulls “Public Animal” remains unranked. Probably best that they leave the covers to sleazier, slimier punk bands and continue with their raw d-beat assault.

Clever Hangin Egg LP (Tropical Cancer Rort)
From my outsider vantage point, it seems like Brisbane punks carry their own particular cynical chip on their shoulder, at least in comparison to those in Melbourne and Sydney, and it’s an attitude that I find mostly pretty appealing! I’ve been unable to verify if Clever are from Brisbane proper (at the very least, Tropical Cancer Rort is), but they certainly carry that same swagger, the stuff that made Kitchen’s Floor and Meat Thump come across as slightly intimidating, even when they’re shaking your hand and patting you on the shoulder. It helps that Clever are good at what they do, too, which is slamming out some disjointed noise-punk. Closest, basest comparison would be The Jesus Lizard with Darby Crash on vocals, and while I stand by it, Clever don’t strike me as a mere imitation. They’ve got some cool riffs for sure, often swinging side to side like Slint or Shellac but with a basement-punk perspective, not any sort of technical-challenge masculinity test. It helps that the vocalist is prone to violent babbling and scrawny hollering, which plays well off the group who remain pretty locked-in for most of these tunes. I can already picture the hordes of drunken University of Queensland students wandering between bars and clubs on a Friday night, and Clever watching it unfold from their windows, sneering and seething and writing new songs in retaliation.

Condor Singles 2017-2018 LP (Beach Impediment)
You can’t spell “oui, oui!” without “oi!”, which is perhaps why oi from France is such a natural fit. Condor is the solo project of Maxime Smadja, who plays drums for beloved French oi group Rixe (and is apparently also the mastermind behind those humorous synth-pop covers of classic punk songs under the Digital Octopus alias), and I guess Rixe wasn’t operating at an acceptable pace or something, so Smadja started doing Condor on his own. This 12″ collects two cassette singles, and it certainly sounds like an accomplished street-punk band, not one guy manning all the instruments on his own. These songs cruise without feeling too slick, and they’re melodic without verging on the melodies of, I dunno, Lagwagon or some other pop-punk that I often accidentally hear when listening to modern oi. I like a sparing amount of street-punk oi, and I generally either want it super amateurish ala Skin Deep and Iron Cross or raw and frightening like early Combat 84 or Blitz, but although Condor falls in neither camp, I find myself tapping my oxbloods and snapping my suspenders with righteous authority while listening to the seven quick tunes across this 12″ record. It can be tricky territory for some, but Condor’s tunefully driving oi-punk is a considerable success.

Da-Sein Mirror Touch LP (Galakthorrö)
It’s ironic how the fathomless misery of Galakthorrö’s output brings me such joy. Maybe I’m only happy when it rains? This new album from Madrid’s Da-Sein is an excellent case in point, as it is stridently on course with Galakthorrö’s general aesthetic (morbid and gothic industrial power-electronics) and an incredibly pleasurable listening experience just the same. Much like Haus Arafna, Da-Sein is a male/female duo of presumed romantic involvement (and remarkably similar in appearance, with both groups featuring a bald man and a blonde-haired woman), and they harbor the same ill intent for their static-laced oscillators and harsh analog electronics. These tracks are mostly dreary dirges or pulsing throbs of white noise, enhanced by the chillingly calm vocals of Kas Visions. One could describe this as “funeral music”, but to me it’s more like deathbed music, suited for a comatose lover slowly drifting into the afterlife from their rickety hospital bed, the thrum of their heart monitor pumping out a doleful rhythm. It seems like Da-Sein understand and embrace this as well, as their lyrics are more elegantly macabre than anything I’m writing here – the lyrics to “King Ov Pain” eloquently display their morbid fascinations far better than I could. Personally, I’m absolutely horrified of dying, but listening to Mirror Touch alleviates my fear… if death is half as sexy as Da-Sein make it out to be, I’m more accepting of my eventual fate.

Dollar Band Permanently Reduced LP (Tall Texan)
Put on your faded denim and meet me by the quarry – Dollar Band’s self-released 2017 cassette is now on vinyl! It comes care of the new Tall Texan label (which comes from the ashes of the Dull Knife label, if my intel is correct), and since I’m doing some explaining, I’ll mention that Dollar Band is a part-time rock trio featuring Dylan Sharp and Daniel Swire of Gun Outfit and Steven Urgo of The Solar Motel Band. Thus, the urban hippie vibe is strong with Permanently Reduced, and they deliver on their well-versed skill sets through these nine thoughtful tracks. This sorta stuff isn’t my area of expertise, which is my excuse for why I’ll say it reminds me a hell of a lot of Steve Gunn at his most rambling (both Paradise Of Bachelors albums, let’s say), which probably means most other people will be reminded of The Grateful Dead. Sharp’s vocals are direct with a slight matter-of-fact drawl, in the same neighborhood as Kurt Vile and State Champion’s Ryan Davis. Their tempos are either easy or breezy, their playing is loose with a firm sense of security, and their outlook appears to be cautiously optimistic. Not sure if Dollar Band is a project with legs, or a one-time meeting of some like-minded heads, but it’s a gratifying rural-rock document just the same.

Eliza B.C. Eliza B.C. LP (Chained Library)
Here’s an attitude that I find particularly endearing: so you’re an experimental electronic artist who occasionally releases cassettes to tiny audiences (probably a big chunk of which are personal friends or like-minded artists), and rather than try and promote yourself or get on social media to stir up a buzz or even take the basic steps to be recognized by someone online or anywhere, you change your moniker from Elizabethan Collar to Eliza B.C., you know, just because. I truly appreciate artists who operate with a proud indifference to the rest of the world’s reaction, and as is the case with much of Chained Library’s roster, that seems to be what’s happening with Eliza B.C., whoever they might be. This self-titled album offers five repetitive tracks of reductionist techno – no bass-lines, no percussive elements, certainly no vocals, just five different rhythmic arpeggios which maintain course for a few minutes (with subtle and occasional variation) and then move out of the way for the next one. The closing track simultaneously chugs and twinkles like something I’d expect Petar Dundov to make into a full-scale dance cut, but Eliza B.C. is content to leave it alone, as though it were suspended in gravity-less space. The opener’s rubbery pings are cool too, like some sort of acid take on Morse code, elongating itself over a couple of minutes as it waits for a beat that never arrives. I’m a fan, but I love patience-testing and monotonous electronic music, so be forewarned that if you need to hear music where stuff actually happens, Eliza B.C. probably isn’t for you. I doubt Eliza B.C. cares much either way!

Ero Guro No Nansensu 7″ (Belly Button / Ronny Rex)
Second single from this Belgian punk group, and I question the sincerity of the title: there seems to be plenty of nonsense happening here. They play a rascally form of crunchy lo-fi punk, mostly mid-paced so no one has to worry too hard about playing their respective instruments perfectly. I’m reminded of the earliest singles by Wavves and Home Blitz, French garage-punk of the early ’00s like Cheeraks and The Feeling Of Love, and the punker end of the Columbus Discount Records discography. “Male Pornstars” is the hit (with the incongruous chorus of “running outta wisecracks”), but the rest of these six songs chug along just fine, unconcerned with changing your life. Ero Guro just wanna have fun living theirs, and if their 7″s to date are any indication, they’re doing just that.

Észlelés Középtempó Radikále 7″ (MegvetÅ‘ Kiadó)
The Hungarian hardcore onslaught continues with Észlelés and their cool-as-hell eight-track 7″ EP. This one also appears as though it might actually be a lathe-cut, or some odd plastic material between lathes and pressed vinyl, but it sounds better than your average Peter King limited edition, so who knows? Clearly lathe technology has improved in recent years. Anyway, Észlelés play a rowdy and noisy form of insubordinate hardcore-punk, and it’s really hitting the spot for me. I’m reminded of No Trend circa Too Many Humans and the noisier hardcore repped by Iron Lung Records (Cold Sweat, Mutant Video, Control Test, etc etc) with maybe a touch of Dawn Of Humans-style splatter-crust. They seem to be a hardcore-punk band firmly disgusted by the general hardcore-punk consensus, and eager to provoke close-minded ears (which, for those of us who get it, is a delight). The bassist occasionally goes into trippy Eric Wood mode, and there’s saxophone more than once on here, which blatantly rips the breakdown of Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters Theme” for good measure. Freaky hardcore-punk for freaky punk rock freaks!

Felchers Felchers LP (General Speech)
First off, I had to look up what “felching” is, and lemme just say that if this group used it as their name because they thought it sounded cool and not because they actually enjoy felching, I’m giving then a thumbs down! Assuming they are tried and true felchers, however, let us continue with the review of this Kentucky hardcore-punk group’s debut album. Theirs is a juvenile, tantrum-prone form of sneering and amateurish hardcore, sharing a spirit with crude offenders like Nihilistics, The Inmates and Chronic Sick, if not necessarily sharing an abundance of sonic similarities. The vocalist often reaches Doc Dart levels of maniacal bleating, whereas the band plays an aggressive but not heavy form of hardcore akin to Feederz, Angry Samoans and Mentally Ill, captured with what sounds like a rehearsal-room recording. Is there a place in modern hardcore for bands writing songs like the self-evident “Who’s Gonna Fuck Your Mother When I’m Gone”? I like to think so, as puerile behavior and inexcusable rudeness are core elements of what’s commonly defined as punk rock. I just hope these southern pranksters are putting their money where there mouth is and felching the night away.

Golden Pelicans Grinding For Gruel LP (12XU)
Glad to see Orlando’s persistently-agitated Golden Pelicans continue to put out records and do their thing. 2015’s Oldest Ride Longest Line impressed me, and this new one on the venerable 12XU label does the same, reminding me that there will always be a place for male American pissed-off rock n’ roll in my life, at least so long as it’s of this high caliber. This time around, Golden Pelicans seem to have found some inspiration in the music favored by guys that would’ve beaten up punks in the early ’80s, bands like Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest and the like, but the ‘Pelicans are still playing these tunes with the bitter barfly frustration one might expect to find on any given Cheater Slicks album or Headache Records release. It really works for them, but I get the feeling Golden Pelicans could rightfully tackle any hallowed loud rock tradition and make it their own. As was the case before, a good bit of this credit goes to vocalist Erik Grincewicz, who sounds like he’s shouting every line through gritted, bile-crusted teeth, but whereas a regular Joe like you or I would immediately start coughing or need a sip of water, he seems to only grow stronger with every gravelly scream. Truly the perfect set of pipes for these working-class-rebel songs – I bet the polyps in his throat have polyps of their own! So long as Grincewicz can continue his righteous croak, their mighty marriage of garage-punk attitude and heavy metal riffage need never cease.

Hoover1 Hoover 1-2 12″ (Hoover)
A little confused if the artist here is actually Hoover, or Hoover1, as I’ve seen both used, but that sort of obfuscation (or perhaps more likely, total lack of caring) on the part of the artist is something I find undeniably charming. In any case, this isn’t the old Dischord emo-core band, it’s René Pawlowitz, who you probably know best as Shed or Head High. Hoover1 sounds a bit like the difference split between Shed and Head High, as these tracks feature the air-tight rigidity of the finest Shed techno, but they deploy classic jungle break-beats and raved-up vocal samples, of which Head High’s discography is packed. I’m digging it! “Hoover1-2A2” is about as tidy and efficient as throwback jungle can get, each little piece perfectly operating and doing nothing beyond that – I’m sure Pawlowitz’s ancestors were German cuckoo clock makers, as his music shares that sort of technical precision. “Hoover1-2B1” is cool… a bit more skittish, with retro synth-stabs to recall an 8-bit motorcycle racing game, almost like a proto-footwork from the post-footwork era, if that’s not too time-bending. I prefer “Hoover1-2B2”, however, which is the exact same as “Hoover1-2B2” (literally) but it features the addition of a time-stretched British politician vocal sample, providing this sharp throwback exercise with a colorful splash of WTF. Sitting here listening to “Hoover1-2B2” as I finish writing this review, I find myself feeling sympathetic and sorry for anyone who doesn’t love techno music. Their loss!

Karenn Kind Of Green 12″ (Voam)
Always nice to receive a new transmission from the duo of Blawan and Pariah, known to you and I as Karenn. Their early twelves were some of my favorite slabs of non-gothic industrial-techno of the early ’10s – no romance, no drama, no emotion, just hard-hitting percussion and a heavy and warbly synth line to match, with a diffused cloud of radiation surrounding it all. It’s impressive how, years later, the Karenn template really hasn’t changed, but if you’ve got a good thing going (merciless dance-floor artillery), why mess with it? “Salz” is probably my favorite, or it’s at least the heaviest banger here, but there’s something to be said for the “malfunctioning space station” aura of “Newt”, operating at an unhurried BPM with what sounds like a supercomputer desperately attempting to replicate human language (but failing) as a hi-hat ticks down the seconds til implosion. It’s funny, even before I heard Kind Of Green I had a fairly accurate guess of what it would sound like, but rather than turn me off by its predictability, it’s making me want to pull out those other Karenn 12″s from a few years ago and revisit their efficient and minimalist aggression. May they never stop!

Khidja In The Middle Of The Night 12″ (DFA)
I khidja not – Khidja released a 12″ EP on DFA! This Romanian duo seems to be everywhere these days, so while I’m surprised to see them working with DFA, I’m also not surprised at all. And I’m also not surprised at the fact that these four tracks smoke! “Don’t Feed The Animals (Hiding In Your Room)” opens the EP, and for good reason – this is the one you’ll want to play in front of party crowds, family gatherings, whatever, really. This one has a super-cool descending bass riff over a 4/4 disco pulse (very DFA of them) and garbled vocals trying to warn us before it’s too late. It’s a corker! “Devil Dance” is sneakier and slightly less spooky, pads careening over each other like a helicopter traversing mountain ranges at low altitude. I’m already satiated, but there are two more cuts on the b-side – “I Can Never Relax” is as twitchy and distracted as the title might lead one to believe (complete with some “Robots”-style Kraftwerk vocals), but “I’m So Bored” is anything but boring, working a rubbery bass-line and patterns of congas into something I’d expect Matthew Dear’s name to be associated with. Each cut is great, with flecks of John Carpenter and Sis and The Juan MacLean sprinkled throughout, but ultimately all very Khidja-esque. Which is great, because I love Khidja!

Meitei Komachi LP (Métron)
Métron Records ‎is a German label with an exclusive distro deal through Toronto’s carefully-curated Séance Centre, and Meitei is a Japanese artist fairly new on the scene. Isn’t it nice when things come together on an international scale such as this? It’s especially nice when a debut album comes along like Komachi, as it’s a beautifully refined suite of abstract sonic miniatures. From what I gather, Meitei is searching for Japan’s ancient soul, one where patience, harmony and a search for understanding are guiding principles both philosophically as well as his approach to making music. I’m assuming these tracks are mostly sample-based, but I don’t know if it’s Meitei’s own piano compositions and personal field-recordings he’s manipulating or if these sounds come from times and places long ago. Wherever they originated from, Meitei loops and shuffles them with the tenderness one uses to swaddle an infant. Rustling water bumps up against delicate piano keys, Japanese percussion loops over crackling static and electronic warbles… I’m reminded strongly of O$VMV$M, although the oil-stained midnight alleys of O$VMV$M’s Bristol are replaced by Meitei’s contemplative rivulets and hushed forests. Some of these cuts bear subtle grooves, to the point where the addition of a drum loop would have me hearing echoes of J Dilla, but Meitei never gets rowdy enough for rapping. This is experimental lullaby music, and I plan to continue to set aside undisturbed time for Komachi‘s soothing tunes. Self-care y’all!

Metro Crowd Planning: LP (Maple Death)
London’s Maple Death has been a busy conduit for the Italian rock underground for a handful of years now, and I might go ahead and dare to say that Metro Crowd’s Planning: is their finest offering to date. This group is from Rome, where the tourism surely makes them sick, and they mash a number of trendy and previously-stylish techniques into their own potent entree. They’ve got the queasy mechanical lurch of Throbbing Gristle and the like, the languid post-punk simmer of contemporaries such as Exek or Shopping, and the spastic screamy hardcore of groups like The VSS or Jaks, all with vocals that are distorted beyond recognition. That’s a lot to throw in one pot, but Metro Crowd sift out the bits and pieces worth saving, and write some great tunes, like “Student”, whose supple rhythm allows for a wide range of dancing, from tantrum-moshing to jiggly swaying. It often feels like the best case scenario of Y2K Spock-haircut sass-rock, one that pursues dance-punk rhythms while maintaining a wildly ugly demeanor, as liable to bite into your throat as co-DJ your after-party. Planning: doesn’t retread the same ideas, nor does it lash out in conflicting directions, which makes for a highly entertaining listen, both for chin-scratching critics and those looking to have a little noisy brain-dead fun. Pencil me in for both, please!

Nots 3 LP (Goner)
Writing one great garage-punk album can be tricky, writing a second is even tougher, and a third? Well, you better be that incredibly rare minority that can maintain the excitement of that initial spark of activity across three records, or more likely, you’ve found a way to grow and mutate your sound to keep it fresh. The latter is the case for Nots, who are down to a trio here, with vocalist Natalie Hoffmann handling both guitar and synth duties. It tends to result in a starker sound, particularly as she seems to be playing the synth and guitar in real-time, so if the song relies on wooshing outer-space sound effects, there’s a good chance the guitar will be mostly absent. Their songs are also moodier and ever-so-slightly slower this time around, embracing their lyrical themes of paranoia, isolation and surveillance with tense drumming and fundamental bass-lines locked in unison. There’s still plenty of rapid-fire floor-tom destruction care of the indefatigable Charlotte Watson, much to my delight, but some of these songs feel a little too sparse for my personal tastes – I guess I still enjoy garage-punk most when the guitars are out of control and blaring in my face, and that happens notably less here than on previous Nots records. On “In Glass”, for example, the guitar is conspicuous by its absence, particularly considering the raging temperament of the tune. Nots seem to be moving towards something else here though, a more neurotic and tightly-wound form of spastic post-punk that doesn’t rely on the sizzle of electric guitars, and while 3 isn’t my favorite of their discography to date, it points to intriguing future territories.

Nun The Dome LP (HoZac)
A wise man once said “nuns have no fun”, and who am I to argue? This Melbourne-based synth-wave group don’t seem to deny it either with The Dome, their shadowy sophomore album. Nun play a fairly by-the-books version of moody synth-pop – no guitars, just a trunkload of keyboards and modular synths and electronic percussion – and if your lifestyle is based around this form of music, Nun make for a welcome addition. One could file them in a lineup with Adult. and Xeno & Oaklander without aesthetic interruption, but Nun haven’t quite hit the whiplash electro-highs of Adult. nor do they possess the clinical precision of Xeno & Oaklander. “Another Year” is probably my favorite cut here, strongly reminiscent of Ceramic Hello care of the drum rolls and bilious synths, but much of The Dome feels like a basic genre exercise, for better or worse. Maybe it’s the song lengths? Almost half of these tracks coast past the five minute mark (and the rest are just under), but they don’t quite have the substance or variety to warrant such spans of time… expect to hear verses and choruses a good four or five times per track. I’d probably develop a greater affinity for album opener “Wake In Fright”, for example, if they whittled it down to under three minutes, as opposed to its 5:28 running time. I could chalk it up to my adult ADD, but then that doesn’t explain why I’m happily sitting through 45 minutes of a single Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society track… but enough about me, all music is free online now, so you can be the judge!

Rakta Falha Comum LP (Iron Lung / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Rakta have been a reliably gloomy, reverb-y post-punk band for a few years now, so it’s only a matter of course that the two artists I’m reminded of most on their sophomore album Falha Comum are… Magma and Hawkwind?! It’s crazy but it’s true, and what’s even more crazy is that it still sounds like the Rakta I became familiar with over the past few years. Falha Comum uses essentially the same ingredients they’ve always had – heavy ceremonial drumming, booming bass, cavernous vocals careening off every hard surface – but this time they’re playing as if their lives depended on it, trading in a sullen gloom for a fervid presence. It works especially well on “Flor Da Pele” and “笑笑”, both of which call to mind the possessed visions of Magma; I could listen to “笑笑”‘s heavy piano loop all day. “Fim Do Mundo”, on the other hand, is a perfect example of Rakta’s scorched-earth take on Hawkwind’s astral chug, eventually switching to a dance-punk beat over a cavalcade of echoed vocals, guitars and synths (while the single-note bass keeps the train on its track). Much like fellow Brazilian noisemakers (and European tourmates) Deafkids threw out the rule-book for heavy metallic crust, Rakta have expanded their post-punk beyond expectations and it’s thrilling to behold.

Sleeper And Snake Junction & High LP (Aarght!)
Hey, are you into bands? Amy Hill and Al Montfort sure are! Hill is in Constant Mongrel, School Of Radiant Living and Terry, and Montfort is in Terry too, plus Total Control, Dick Diver, Lower Plenty, and on and on. My head is spinning just imagining their weekly band practice regimens. Does Montfort ever get on stage for a Lower Plenty gig and accidentally play Straightjacket Nation songs (another band he’s in?)? It boggles the mind! And now, these two Terry musicians have their own duo album as Sleeper And Snake (she’s the sleeper, he’s the snake), and they found a way to make it great, too. The songs here alternate between tender twee-pop (I’m reminded of Elf Power or Olivia Tremor Control, as well as the softer side of Terry) and free-form experiments in cheap electronics, horns, keys and whatever else is lying around the garage. It’s a surprisingly smooth combination, and reminds me of the endless creative energy that orbited the Homosexuals camp in their heyday (I’m thinking of records by George Harrasment and Sara Goes Pop). Before the tweaked whizzing drones of “Royal Filth” have a chance to overstay their welcome, the sleepy summer swing of “Wisdom Vermin” takes over; Hill and Montfort harmonize the lyrics “gonna be a hot one” over a twinkly keyboard solo, stately bass-guitar and a time-keeping acoustic strum. If you think that sounds nice, but wonder why they don’t end the tune with a harmonica solo, have no fear – Sleeper And Snake have got you covered.

Small Cruel Party La Chrestomathie Du Désespoir 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
Seemingly unstoppable by all the factors that are rendering vinyl 7″ records obsolete and financially ruinous to labels, I Dischi Del Barone marches on with the first new Small Cruel Party record in over a decade! I don’t know if it’s archival material or something new, but who really cares, the noisy avant-garde sounds of Small Cruel Party are more or less divorced from time. It was a small cruel move for I Dischi to not list the RPM on this one (though I’m fairly certain it’s a 33), but these tracks are wonderfully evocative and probably work at a variety of speeds. “Titania: Il Passagio Al Bosco Come Un Atto Di Libertà Nella Catastrofe” (that’s the a-side) sounds like some sort of long-extinct pulley system being worked – I’m picturing old rope and rusty axles pulling buckets of wine down a winding cobblestone path, some sort of steam-punk fantasy that’s actually magnificent and beautiful. “νεκυįα: La Nostalgie De La Lumière Comme La Nostalgie De La Conscience” is a consistent stream of tapping laden with squeaks and yanks – this time, I’m picturing someone trying to stretch a buffalo hide over a frame of copper pipes while an old man sits cross-legged nearby, nervously tapping on his Mason jar (directly next to the microphone that captured this recording). I love noise records like this, ones that create their own vivid mental scenes, and I thank I Dischi Del Barone for keeping the ‘Party going.

Soft Issues Soft Issues LP (Opal Tapes)
When I think of Opal Tapes, I think of avant- and/or lo-fi techno cassettes, but Soft Issues is neither of that! It’s the vinyl debut of this Leeds duo, who are intent on bludgeoning the listener with harsh, digital power-electronics. They’re far from the first British duo to take this aggressive approach to noise music, but Soft Issues are quite adept at it, forcing drum machines to convulse on the floor, overloading power supplies and screaming until the microphone cuts out. I’m reminded of Bloodyminded, Sissy Spacek and Consumer Electronics, or perhaps some red-eyed mix of the three, with quick cuts, potent blasts of electronic noise and percussion utilized as weaponry (or vice versa). The short track lengths help too, as over eleven tracks Soft Issues get in, pummel, and get out, with more of an economical approach to sonic construction than your average harsh noise act. And while some of the song titles have a very Swans-y aftertaste (“Crawl Backwards”, “Personal Sewer”), I get the impression that Soft Issues are exploring inward issues of distress and frustration, as opposed to the overdone power-electronics tropes of sexual perversion and serial killers. Maybe those count as hard issues?

Suck Lords True Lords Music 7″ (Edger)
Surely you know Marie Kondo’s “does it spark joy” test by now, right? I have a similar but slightly different test I like to apply to music: would it spark joy in Beavis and Butt-Head? I like to think that Portland’s Suck Lords would delight those two losers to no end, and after spending time with their two ripping 7″ EPs, they delight me too. At first, I thought this was some sort of repackaged repress of their debut, but that one is called New Lords Music, so rest assured if you decide to pick this one up, you’re treating yourself to eight new tracks of unrelenting hardcore thrash. They absolute plow through these songs, reminding me of the first Sex/Vid EP, or perhaps an American version of Olho Seco, or maybe Neos if they shared Poison Idea’s domineering physicality. Their vibe reminds me of post-Y2K Clevo-core, similar to Upstab or Bad Noids in the way that Suck Lords present themselves as rude and unsupervised punks causing trouble for trouble’s sake, but Suck Lords play faster than anything out of Cleveland probably ever. The songs are fantastic (and interesting and technical without being off putting), and the “Getting to know the Lords” side of the insert is one of the funniest hardcore-punk liner notes I’ve seen since In/Humanity’s The Nutty Anti-Christ fake t-shirt order form. I’m already sending in my money orders for Blue Lords Music and Screw Lords Music.

Justin Sweatt Say Your Goodbyes LP (Night Rhythms)
Scene trend prediction time: the Italians Do It Better-style neon-wave disco-house du jour is on its way out, and the private-press computer-folksy Weather Channel ambient-synth is on its way in. Take Justin Sweatt for example, who used to release electro-house synth-wave stuff under the Xander Harris moniker (and probably still does, seeing as the last Xander Harris album came out last year), but he’s trying something different here under his own name. Gotta say, I’m enjoying it! This music is wistful and restrained, moody and downcast, and precisely the sort of composed electronic filler you hear while waiting for an actual human Verizon employee to pick up your call. Say Your Goodbyes also falls in line nicely with rare and expensive gems by Leon Lowman, Doug Snyder and G.B. Beckers, stuff that the underground zeitgeist pushed aside for thirty years until realizing that hey, putting aside Kitaro and Vangelis, some of this new-age synth-jazz is actually pretty sweet. Sweatt certainly understands that when doing this sorta thing, less is more – he is able to locate a simple groove or a cozy-soft chord change (I give myself a little hug each time “Chasing Paper” comes on) and stay there, resisting the urge to inflate it with big sounds or attention-grabbing additives. No acoustic guitar or flute solos just yet, but if Sweatt keeps this up, he may want to start working on his embouchure.

Thought Broadcast Abduction LP (Chained Library)
Bleak times call for uplifting music, but Ravi Binning doesn’t care – his new album under his Thought Broadcast moniker, Abduction, is bleak as hell! The New York-based Binning seems to be one of those noise artists that other noise artists name-check, and I’m not surprised, as this album of submerged chunky loops, grinding industrial processes and dystopian ambient shift is of fine distinction. I’m honestly curious where and how these sounds are sourced – they sound too organic and analog to be entirely synthetic, but they unfurl in careful patterns and shapes, negating any chance of pure field-recording origins. I’m hearing smokestacks oozing black silt, locomotive engines straining with friction, the run-out grooves of an ancient 10″ acetate, toxic smoke softly filtering out of an abandoned air duct… the fruitless sounds of human-derived wreckage, on full display. If that Chernobyl series wasn’t already expertly soundtracked, Abduction would’ve done the trick masterfully, as these tracks embody a similarly passive horror; this isn’t a monster coming to get you, so much as an interminable, insentient process that lacks any awareness of the damage it reaps. If you’re a fan of mechanical post-industrial noise, Abduction is eager to take you there.

Upsammy Wild Chamber LP (Nous’klaer Audio)
Are you down with Upsammy? I surely am! Last year’s Words R Inert was at the top of my 2018 singles chart, so I snagged a copy of this album the moment I realized it existed. What I loved most about Words R Inert was the unique way Upsammy marries propulsive percussion to glossy synths, but that’s not necessarily the focus here. She’s still got that gear on hand – “Screaming Colours” displays a similar percussive palate – but these songs are less vigorous and pumping. In fact, I’d file Wild Chamber under “IDM” as opposed to “electro” or “techno”, as these songs drift in a sickly harmonious way that recalls Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album or maybe even Autechre’s Confield, with a forlorn ambiance reminiscent of Milan W.’s recent work. Late ’90s / early ’00s experimental electronic music seems to be the main sonic reference point, although Upsammy is more fascinated with the tweaked tones and busy sonic environments her gear can render than cut-up breaks or anything remotely drum n’ bass affiliated. It’s certainly not what I was expecting, although it’s not a drastic departure, either – her synths were always clinical and spotless, but without a muscular beat behind them, these songs focus on twinkling arpeggios, delicate melodies and mysterious little chambers of sound, a style one might associate with the heyday of Mille Plateaux. Throwback or not, Wild Chamber is a highly pleasant album of rarefied electronic gestures… but I’m hoping she brings back the wallop of Words R Inert sometime soon, too.

YC-CY Béton Brut LP (X-Mist / Order05)
Swiss noise-rockers entertained me with their 2017 album Todestanz, and they’re sounding even better this time around on their third full-length, Béton Brut. As before, they seem to approach their sound from the noisy, arty hardcore side of things (as opposed to the riff-centered, gear-head side), and they manage to make that sound their own; YC-CY do not appear afraid to write weirder songs or, if not veer entirely off course, at least wobble a bit. At their ugliest, I’m reminded of White Suns and Twin Stumps, but there’s still plenty to be enjoyed by a plainclothes Metz fan looking to head-bang and get floated. It would probably go over well with fans of that latest Daughters record too (there are some clear similarities in the shrill, overtly-synthetic guitar tones), but YC-CY aren’t particularly looking for regal artistic perfection – they wanna smash n’ crash around the room like any bunch of spastic hardcore fools, it’s just that they’re tighter and musically more interesting than artists cut from a similar cloth. I’d say YC-CY are ready to break into the North American market with a record on Three.One.G or GSL, but sadly I don’t think either of those labels are really operational anymore, which doesn’t bode well for my Bottlenekk credit slip.

Yu Su Roll With The Punches 12″ (Second Circle)
Not sure this Yu Su is the best record I’m writing about this month, but it’s certainly the one I’ve listened to most! This is one of those records that goes well at any time, in pretty much any situation: doing the dishes, driving to a show, morning exercise, evening time-wasting on the internet, you name it. I really enjoyed last year’s Preparations For Departure EP, but whereas that one had more of a somber, reflective tone, Roll With The Punches is a rejuvenating sponge-bath of electro rhythms, new-age chords and left-field electronics. “Little Birds; Moonbath” could just as easily have been titled “Little Moon; Birdbath”, as both scenes are conjured through its meditative synths and hop-skip percussion, with the soothing vocals of Michelle Helene Mackenzie baked in the middle of the mix. It’s great, but all five tracks are great, a small abundance that has me wondering if this isn’t more of a “mini-LP” than a 12″ EP, but that’s some grossly nerdy territory I do not wish to pursue any further. “Tipu’s Tiger” feels like a funky corollary to Meitei’s recent album, but my favorite cut is “The Ultimate Which Manages The World”, which utilizes a sprawling reggae downstroke and finely chopped vocals to explore some new blissful form of sunbaked dub-techno, as if it existed for centuries on some remote island untainted and Yu Su somehow discovered it. Actually, who am I kidding, this is definitely my record of the month!