Paul Arambula Submarine 7″ (Gilgongo)
Paul Arambula (a member of both the defunct Vegetable featuring the great Anna Nasty and Soft Shoulder) clearly has the sort of musical pedigree that James Fella often seeks out for artists on his label – that is to say, someone who is either named James Fella or plays music with James Fella. Clearly there’s a tight little scene of weirdos lurking around Phoenix, Arambula and Fella included, and it can be nice to get a dose of what they’re up to, even if it’s not something I will be returning to all that frequently. “Submarine” is a laid-back slice of art-punk; think of a very homespun take on the pathways between early Jonathan Richman and Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel”. Flip it over for… a different and supremely concise version of the same song, clocking in at a whopping nineteen seconds, originally utilized in a video collage Arambula put together based on multiple nineteen-second snippets. Supremely superfluous stuff, which is often how I like my DIY post-punk, but I’m not sure my memory is strong enough to recall the existence of this micro “Submarine” a week or two from now. Perhaps to make up for it, this 7″ single includes a CD-r featuring roughly an hour of on-the-street interviews and the spontaneous sounds that surround them, presumably conducted by Arambula, but I don’t have a CD player handy and am not tantalized enough to go locate one. Gilgongo has prodded me into listening to a lot of unpleasant sounds through the years, but it’s yet to find a way to convince me to listen to a compact disc.

The Archaeas Rock N Roll 7″ (Total Punk)
Heard rumors that Total Punk will be shuttering its doors shortly, and while it’s a sad thought indeed, I’d rather focus on all the great records they bestowed upon us, not to mention their unwavering dedication to the endangered 7″ format. Kudos! They have such a knack for finding these bands, like The Archaeas for instance, yet another scrappy new punk band probably from some Southeastern region of the United States who are stomping in the same musical mudholes as generations of punk forebearers. Kind of a bold move to start off your debut 7″ single with a song title as gloriously generic as “Rock N Roll”, but that’s the sort of gutsy move I’ve come to expect from this label. As far as this specific track is concerned, it sounds perfectly fine, not too raw nor too melodic, somewhat reminiscent of the more upbeat punk tunes on Tyvek’s debut full-length (I’m thinking “Frustration Rock” with a little more low-end). “Replica” is ever so slightly more refined, coasting downward on a chorus of “your brains / fell out”, which works for me. Not sure where bands like The Archaeas will look to get their vinyl EP starts once Total Punk folds, but I hope someone else steps up to provide this valuable and necessary service.

Black Merlin SFORMATOR 2 12″ (Pinkman)
I’m still adjusting to being a fan of someone who goes by “Black Merlin”, but after the twinkling darkness of last year’s Kode EP and the industrial power-surge of this EP right here, I’m pretty much hooked. He’s got quite a deep discography I’ll have to dig into at some point in my life, so I can’t rightly say what is or isn’t his normal production style, but unlike the repetitive minimal techno found on Kode, these three tracks are heavy industrial techno akin to aggressive Function cuts or Rrose in their most bleary-eyed form. The construction is fairly uniform to these three tracks, which vary in BPM from an easy-going strut to energetic dance-floor power. A simple, unwavering beat underscores a variety of bone-chilling additives, be it nails-on-chalkboard synthetic scraping or vocals processed beyond recognition, imitating what it might sound like if a computer virus were able to suck its victims directly into the screen. I suppose it’s pretty basic for the genre, and there aren’t any new or stunning sonic heights reached, but it’s just so good as far as unfriendly industrial-techno music is concerned, cutting away any extemporaneous bits or gaudy atmosphere and getting straight to the goods. Simple and highly effective.

Brannten Schnüre Ei, Wir Tun Dir Nichts Zuleide! 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
There’s been a fair amount of hype in recent years over German pastoral-industrial duo Brannten Schnüre, and for good reason if you ask me – they’re truly a cut above the dark-folk pack. I think it’s because they have a knack for making music that feels earthy and rich, as if it came from the soil rather than a goth-club catwalk, and that resonates with listeners who rank substance over fashion. These songs waft in with samples of acoustic and orchestral folk (is the first song on the b-side borrowing from the Bambi soundtrack?), ancient violins, jet-plane noise and cavernous bass, and the fairly continual presence of hauntingly soft German vocals. Certainly within the aesthetic neighborhood of Hypnotic Sleep, F Ingers and Caroline K, let’s say, but their own distinct participant. It feels as though you’re as likely to hear a guitar being strummed as an oar pushing through a lake in the music of Brannten Schnüre, and they combine these various sensations cohesively and without any awkwardness. If you’re new to their sound, this new 7″ on I Dischi is a great place to start, as it basically features six short vignettes, a sampler of their various approaches (and a great example of how keenly it all fits together). I get the feeling this one will probably sell out fast, so be decisive!

Contractions Demain Est Annulé LP (Adagio 830 / Purepainsugar)
I’ve come to associate a specific form of hardcore-punk with Germany’s Adagio 830: screamy post-hardcore, crusty emo, gritty punk, basically anything that can be aesthetically traced back to the pages of HeartattaCk – so this Contractions album is a bit of a swerve. This French group plays a slicked-out style of alt-rock that reminds me of the jangling melodies of the Gin Blossoms with the smirking pluck of The Replacements. Nothing wrong with it, but also nothing I’d particularly want to draw your attention to… just kinda sounds like another rock band among all the others. I have to wonder, is this really where Adagio 830’s heart is at these days, this sort of low-stakes indie-alternative, music that is perfectly fine yet uninspired? Could it be that there just aren’t a lot of exciting hardcore-punk bands in Europe actively writing new material and going for it these days, so they’ve gotta work with what’s out there? I hate to think that’s the case, but it really does seem like everyone is playing synth-wave or grunge-y shoegaze, to the detriment of hardcore. I appreciate that Adagio 830 continues to act as a sounding board for the Euro underground, I just hope they can locate more of the underground that’s worth raising up.

Doronco Gumo Oldtribe LP (Selection)
When I caught wind of (not one but) two of my staunchly rock-centric friends heaping praise upon the decidedly non-rocking Oldtribe, I raised a brow, but when I learned that it features an ex-member of Les Rallizes Denudes, well folks I simply had to investigate for myself. The duo of Doronco Gumo have been releasing weird semi-improvised psych/rock/avant discs for a few years now, but apparently Oldtribe is a left turn even for these guys who have made nothing but left turns during their respective musical careers – it features little more than a Korg Monotribe rhythm box played by Hiiragi Fukuda and the groggy mumblings of Kiyohiro Takada (the one who was in Les Rallizes Denudes). To be fair I think Takada might actually also play a little harmonica here, and come to think of it, “little” is probably a great descriptor for the whole album – everything about this music is small. The Monotribe emits simple crawling patterns and Takada speaks softly with seemingly little consideration of the music he’s paired with. I suppose it could fit in with an artist like Phew, or some of the more deconstructed techno-pop that Vanity was pushing in the early ’80s (Sympathy Nervous and R.N.A. Organism), but it also fits in by not really sounding much like anything else, which is a key characteristic of those artists as well. Some of the VCO/VCF patterns almost recall the morbid pulsations of Haus Arafna, but there’s nothing remotely gothic about Doronco Gumo, seemingly closer in spirit to a decades-long creative wanderer like Tori Kudo. Perhaps most impressive is that as of this writing, not a single track of Oldtribe exists online for your freeloading perusal, and the label’s website (which is all over the packaging here) leads to one of those expired domain pirate pages. Doronco Gumo are valiantly obscure both in method and practice.

Facility Men It’s Fun To Disappear LP (Big Neck)
My brain keeps reading the name as “Faculty Men”, but that’s the wrong name as well as the wrong vibe for this Buffalo group, whose music is better suited to some hopeless warehouse complex than the hallowed halls of learning. They play a garage-y form of post-hardcore that reminds me of groups like Laughing Hyenas and Flesh Eaters, bands who lashed out at the narrow confines of punk and hardcore even though their blood remained full of the stuff. Facility Men are a little cleaner and tighter than either of those two though, probably taking more of a structural queue from bands one might associate with Electrical Audio and Steve Albini’s handiwork (which is to say, they might like to get down n’ dirty, but at least one song-contributing member surely must admire Fugazi and At The Drive-In’s seminal contributions). They’ve got the sound down pat, but It’s Fun To Disappear doesn’t have much in the way of any standout moments or “must hear” tunes, which of course is tricky for any group, new or old, who attempts to create music in this decades-old manner (although last year’s Hash Redactor album traverses somewhat-similar sonic territory to a smashing success). A solid if not particularly remarkable showing, if you’re asking for my opinion.

Fitness Womxn New Age Record LP (Sorry State)
This is the least Sorry State-looking Sorry State release I’ve ever seen – nary a skull in sight, North Carolina’s Fitness Womxn utilize angular shapes in shimmering gold, looking like a still-life from Liberace’s smoking lounge or something. They seem to approach their music with those same bold colors and acute angles, performing a decidedly minimal and herky-jerky form of no-wave derived post-punk. Whereas a normal punk bass-line involves eighth-notes, Fitness Womxn barely deploy two or three in any given bar, while the drums (heavy on the toms and hi-hat) skitter past, keyboards plink, guitars pluck and voices sneer. Reminds me of a refracted Erase Errata, or Scissor Girls with more of a retro-modern outlook, as if they palled around with Klaus Nomi instead of Lake Of Dracula. These songs get so pointy that at times it can be a little difficult to fully connect as a listener, like trying to hug a pile of elbows or something, but that seems to be by design, Fitness Womxn happy to keep anyone at bay who cannot (or is unwilling to) penetrate their icy-cool veneer. I suspect that their name is a tongue-in-cheek reference against societal expectations, as I can’t load New Age Record (the title also presumably at least 50% sarcastic) into my Peloton without getting an error message. Gonna have to find another way to break a sweat to this album, I suppose.

F.U.P. Noise And Chaos LP (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Oh, so you think you’ve got the consummate Sapporo City hardcore collection? Not without this F.U.P. compilation, pal! Bitter Lake continue to impress with the specificity and breadth of their pickings with this retrospective LP from late ’80s / early ’90s hardcore-punks F.U.P., collecting tracks from their demos and compilation appearances. The layout makes it fairly difficult to establish what comes from where, but I’m not going to be teaching a class on this stuff, so I might as well sit back and enjoy without precise formal knowledge of the subject. F.U.P.’s hardcore is stiff and unpolished, thick with distorted mids and gravelly vocals, perhaps inspired by the noise of Confuse and the propulsion of Gauze but tempering both impulses for something a little more subdued. Certainly the bread and butter sound of MCR Company during those early ’90s years, if a little on the rawer end of things (and thus sounding better by today’s accepted standards). I like the songs toward the end of the second side best, as the drummer ferociously sings through a veil of distortion, adding a little more character to these tunes (which progressively display more finesse and metallic leanings as the LP plays on). Certainly worth peeping if this is of remote interest, which should be the absolute lowest level of interest in obscure Japanese hardcore any readers of this page are allowed to have.

Gossiwor Domestic Saga 12″ (5 Gate Temple)
John T. Gast is nothing if not one of the most inscrutable British producers of our time. He’s got a ton of discs out there under his own name, mostly with little or no information and staunchly hermetic designs (good luck even seeing his name written anywhere on the packaging), EPs with the equally puzzling Inga Copeland, and various projects under different monikers – surely some that he still hasn’t revealed as his own. Gossiwor is a new-ish collaboration between Gast and someone named Asger Hartvig (of course they’re named Asger Hartvig), and it’s truly out-there stuff, occult music for the crumbling societies of today. These three lengthy tracks utilize what sounds like live stringed instruments, thickened out by synths and electronics both meditative and menacing. The classical instrumentation used alongside ominous keyboards recalls Current 93’s early experiments, tapping into that same sort of “scary old mystical occult England” vibe, whereas the texture and flow reminds me of some of the recent Shackleton collaborations (although I find Gossiwor to be significantly more palatable than those). Domestic Saga fits in an odd spot, as likely to be released by Blackest Ever Black as remixed for a grime MC to rap over, honestly. It would certainly appeal to the Dungeons & Dragons / Kye Records crossover crowd, who I suspect is larger than one might think. Final track “Thank You Lord” is the one to peep first, a mournful elegy with flip-phone chirps and suspicious spoken-word, somehow conjuring an entirely new world that is eerily like our own.

Dr. Pete Larson And His Cycotoxic Nyatiti Band Misiginebig LP (Dagoretti)
Pete Larson has been an infamous figure on the Midwestern sub-underground for decades now, an imposing beacon of demented rock/noise deconstruction via 25 Suaves, Couch, Danse Asshole and of course the almighty Prehensile Monkey-Tailed Skink (who remain long overdue for a retrospective reissue). He’s worn lots of different suits in his career, but I can’t say I saw this one coming: obsessive promoter and player of Kenyan folk music. I’ve now discovered that he started the label Dagoretti mostly in service to Kenyan artists, but seeing as he’s forever unsatisfied to merely stand on the sidelines, Larson has taken to the stage with a few friends to emulate these decidedly African psychedelic sounds. Larson and his players pretty much smoke these lengthy jams, which surprised me a little (dexterous technical mastery was never quite Larson’s forte), but they really rip through their music here as though it was destined to be. It’s fast and frenetic instrumental music, a dazzling swirl of African strings and a joy to hear. That said, it’s always at least a little unsettling when a group of white first-worlders directly lift musical cultures whose originators are often relegated to the “world music” bins, but the fact that Larson is actively working with Kenyan artists and promoting their music makes this feel like more of a cooperative celebration and less of a crass cultural appropriation.

Lolina Who Is Experimental Music? 12″ (no label)
Incredible new EP here from one of the shining beacons of inexplicable electronic trickery, Lolina. I got into her inexcusably late (in 2018 with The Smoke), and have been voraciously scooping up whatever I can find since then, which includes this new five-track EP. In a way, Lolina reminds me of To Live And Shave In LA, simply for the fact that each new record is unexpected and fresh and somewhat unprecedented, the product of a restlessly creative mind that operates without any sort of acknowledgment of the reigning underground trends. I certainly didn’t expect to hear what I’m hearing on Who Is Experimental Music?, which is an extended rhythmic study of double-helixing beatbox shrapnel? I realize that doesn’t really make any sense, so let me try again – it sounds as if the verbal spew of Jaap Blonk and the beatboxing prowess of Doug E. Fresh were sampled by Kraftwerk for some sort of sequel to “Tour de France”, whose master tape accidentally shredded into ribbons and was stitched back together in some sort of loop-based Frankenstein. It’s occasionally funky (there’s a moment in “Skipping” that slaps like Edan’s Echo Party) and frequently maddening, but consistently compelling, at least if you’ve got a brain like mine that is desperate to be dazzled by weird rhythms and unexpected sonic treachery. The answer to the titular question has never been clearer: it’s Lolina!

Lot Lizard Lot Lizard LP (Different Folk / Total Drag)
Next time someone wagers that there simply isn’t any moody post-punk coming out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, toss this Lot Lizard album in their face and collect your winnings! They’re a relatively new group from what I gather, coming together from various other Sioux Falls punk and indie groups, and if their music is any indication, it seems as though the dull despair and gloom that’s taken over the rest of the United States has made its way to Sioux Falls as well. Lot Lizard’s songs are mostly morose – even the upbeat ones coast in on grey clouds – and wear the frayed edges of goth, although the lack of keyboards or melodrama ensures that Lot Lizard exist in the realm of punk, not goth (or at least closer to the punk border in mutually-occupied territory). The singer comes across like an American-accented version of Elias from Iceage, slurring his moans and moaning his slurs, and he does it with such commitment that I don’t really mind that this is probably the millionth Joy Division-inspired group I’ve heard in my adult life. Plus, it was released by Total Drag, their local record label-slash-shop that doubles as a DIY show space, and I’ll get behind that sort of community-driven effort over publicist-led Brooklyn/LA goth-rock pros any day of the week.

Magnesium Crest Of Red / Metal Soldier [Demo] 7″ (Bitter Lake Recordings)
So here’s how I think it happened: all the serious hardcore-punk record collectors ran out of rare hardcore-punk records to collect, so they moved onto the closest available genre, one rife with little-known DIY obscurities waiting to be dug up: heavy metal. It’s not particularly exciting to buy the same Minor Threat 7″ over and over again, so why not start digging for Mithrandir and Jaguar 7″s? I certainly don’t share the same affinity for heavy metal that I do for hardcore-punk (although both claim space in my heart), but I can understand the need to seek out unknown realms of music that prominently feature distorted guitars and screams, so I’m preparing myself for the continued excavation and reissuing of heavy metal’s mysterious rarities by punk-raised labels… which takes us to this 7″ by Japanese heavy metal group Magnesium. From what I can gather, although the group has been around since the ’90s (with barely any recorded activity until the ’00s), this highly-limited 7″ features two songs originally released on their 2007 album Magnesium Lady Bites Mad Metal Men, this time performed in their entirety by member Shinji Tachi. He dances up and down the frets of his guitars over a programmed drum track on these two tunes, singing in a fairly restrained (by metal standards) voice. “Crest Of Red” is fairly tuneful, its melody and fill-laden drumming nearly power-pop in their construction, whereas “Metal Soldier” lives up to its title with a rugged riff that recalls Manowar circa Battle Hymns. It’s not particularly thrilling music by my estimation, but it’s limited to a scant 100 copies and probably already sold out, so the record-collecting masses have overruled this one guy’s opinion, at least for today.

Magnetic Ghost Pixels LP (Magnetic Ghost / Round Bale)
Pixels opens with the cyclical chimes of a finely-tuned guitar, the sort of sound that I find inherently relaxing and capable of taking a song to a variety of places. Then the voice kicks in, and everything is immediately explained: this group likes Radiohead! I’ve never spent much time with the band myself – I’m sure they have some great cuts, and are worthy of at least some of the praise that has been heaped upon them over the past thirty years, but I dunno… other people can have Radiohead, I’d rather listen to The Party Of Helicopters or Fear Of God if I wanna hear white guys do cool stuff with guitars. Anyway, back to Magnetic Ghost: Radiohead is a good starting point for categorizing their sound, but their post-rock is closer to post than rock. These songs have slow-core roots but are made over with rich harmonies and electronic synthesis, which has me imagining Ian William Craig composing for Mogwai with Fennesz on the mixing deck. Not really the sort of thing I’d find myself reaching for – believe it or not, I’d prefer something a little more traditionally emo like Kepler or Very Secretary, or something purely electronic and instrumental, not the fusion that Magnetic Ghost demonstrate – but the longer Pixels spins, the more comfortable I get with their particular style. Certainly worth investigating if you’ve ever gotten heated over a discussion of Kid A versus OK Computer.

Nicholas Malkin A Typical Night In The Pit LP (Soda Gong)
It’s title of Nicholas Malkin’s new album that got my attention – I knew it wasn’t gonna sound like Pantera or Cro-Mags, but still… what if it did? This LA-based composer/DJ must’ve had a different pit in mind, as this record is full of soft, cautious and playful jazz-tronica, enhanced by today’s finest technological production tricks and created by a small group of talented players (including none other than M. Geddes Gengras on modular synth). The cover artwork by Whities in-house designer Alex McCullough is distinctively his style, and certainly places Malkin in league with the Whities vanguard, although his music skews closer to live-action ensemble than pure software manipulation (although there’s certainly some of that here, too). These smoky, rainy vignettes remind me most of Bristol’s O$VMV$M, although Malkin allows his compositions to spread their wings a bit, untethered to quantized looping. A track like “Secondhand Identity” seems ripe for D’Angelo’s sultry croon, quite a distance away from the abstract, Autechre-styled bleats and puffs of “Estacionamiento Privado”, although the soothing sax and keys of “Perfect Terminal” bridges the two comfortably, not that it particularly matters in this time of disintegrated genre boundaries. I’m not sure if I should wear my rave jumper or jazz beret while spinning A Typical Night In The Pit, but it’s a most pleasurable experience regardless of dress.

The Native Cats Two Creation Myths 7″ (Rough Skies)
Going out on a limb here and declaring The Native Cats to be the finest cultural export ever to come from Hobart, Tasmania. They’ve lasted longer than your average post-punk duo (eleven years and counting!) and continue to find ways to twist their basic premise (vocals, bass guitar, programmed rhythms) into all sorts of interesting shapes: mournful, solemn, manic, silly, poetic, and dark, to name a few. The a-side of this single, “Run With The Roses”, is my favorite thing they’ve done in a while, perhaps their heaviest and punkest tune to date. The bass seems to be emulating a DYS mosh progression and the drums follow suit, but no moshing ever happens, just the stunning verse of Chloe Escott. Will an underground vocalist shout a better line than “I’ve felt my body happening to people on the street” in 2020? Doubtful! You can go deep into Escott’s words or simply marvel at their poetic fury, and the music (nearly a sort of anti-music here, really) follows suit. The b-side is a sharp contrast, then, floating on a melodic, synth-y haze redolent of Public Image Ltd.’s Album with the benefit of Escott’s lyrics. It feels meditative and assured after the a-side’s fury, but don’t mistake its kindness for weakness… really great stuff. “Run With The Roses” is the anthem here, albeit an anthem of thoughts and feelings that remain unfiltered and undefined. The Native Cats offer no easy explanations and we’re all the better for it.

Oso El Roto Pop De Cuchillo LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
Bruit Direct is often a conduit for bizarre underground sounds that I haven’t otherwise encountered, which is impressive since I spend most of my days actively seeking out bizarre underground sounds. Case in point is Chile-born, France-stationed maniac David Loayza aka Oso El Roto, who has been cranking out frazzled lo-fi noise / rap / weirdness since the ’90s. Pop De Cuchillo is my first encounter with the man, and it feels like the sonic equivalent to a giant tangled nest of electrical cords, a wild pile of knots that will take dedicated time to even begin to unravel. Everything seems to go into the Oso El Roto blender, from cruddy hip-hop beats to Flamenco guitar, indiscriminate field-recordings, rudimentary keyboards, vocals slathered in Autotune, you name it and it’s probably bubbling somewhere in this hot stew. He sings (and raps) in Spanish over beats that are loose and sloppy, chugging forward until some of the duct-tape rips and the song falls into a tender keyboard ballad, ceremonial dance or drunken rant. The beats tend to remind me of noise-affiliated Load Records act Hawd Gankstuh Rappuhs Emsees Wid Ghatz, and the whole thing kinda has that “’00s CD-r noise culture” vibe to it, and not simply because Oso El Roto has previously collaborated with junk-noise paragon Crank Sturgeon. My favorite cut is probably the one that involves rapid-fire rapping, intermittent beats and what seems to be a warped snippet of the lead riff from “Sweet Child O Mine”, to give you more of a feel for what’s happening here. This album comes with a pro-printed jacket, but it has the aura of a record packaged with recycled cardboard scraps and still-wet paint.

Pop. 1280 Way Station LP (Weyrd Son)
Brooklyn’s Pop. 1280 released some of the finest noise-rock mutations between 2010-2011 or so – “Step Into The Grid” might make it on my list of best songs of the decade, were I to compile one (have no fear – I will not). Somewhere after that point they must’ve been huffing from whatever cans were laying around at the headquarters of their former label Sacred Bones and got more and more into the synth-wave / industrial-goth du jour, and I found myself progressively less interested, if only because I loved what they first sounded like the most. Now they’re on a new label for their fourth full-length, and it continues in an overwhelmingly electronic direction, the group slimmed to a trio with a synth in front of each member. While vocalist Chris Bug’s hoarse moan continues to stand firm over whatever the rest of the group is doing, and his lyrics remain vivid and descriptive, these songs are content to meander through cobwebbed hallways rather than thump the crowd from on stage. What might’ve seemed like a Birthday Party / Big Black fascination in their early years has given way to a weird sort of Marilyn Manson vibe, albeit one that lacks Manson’s sleazy brain-dead hooks… Way Station is mostly just sleazy instead. It certainly suits them, and these songs do feel like a reasonable progression for this aggrieved industrial post-punk group, but I can’t help but long to feel the cold hard smack of their early sound once more.

Puppy And The Hand Jobs I Hate Everything 7″ (Black Gladiator / Slovenly)
This is the second Puppy And The Hand Jobs single to pass through these pages, and I feel as though both have rendered me stupider than I was before hearing them. That’s probably exactly as they’ve intended, but I fear that any further encounters with this band will render me illiterate and unable to continue. Anyway, as the name proudly broadcasts, they’re trying to be offensive in the dumbest ways possible, and while it’s not exactly a major achievement to string together some inappropriate language suited for bathroom walls over lo-fi punk, I can’t deny that Puppy And The Hand Jobs have a firm grasp on the matter at had. To no one’s surprise, these songs recall the early GG Allin singles, The Spits, Buck Biloxi and Loli & The Chones, but Puppy and Co. clearly try harder than the rest of ’em, desperate to be noticed in an era where attention spans are exponentially smaller than back when GG was flinging poo across the Northeast. Honestly, if they toned down the shock-jock aspect, I might enjoy these tunes a little more, as the bizarre mixing of “Cocksucker” deserves multiple spins, not because of but in spite of the fact that it’s a grown man in a novelty diaper singing it.

S S S S Walls, Corridors, Baffles LP (Präsens Editionen)
What’s nice about communicating with you via text instead of in person is I never have to say any of these artist names out loud. How do you think you say this one, is “S” spoken four times in equally-spaced repetition, or hissed like a snake, or something else entirely? We may never know. Anyway, I had the itch for some experimental industrial-techno abstractions, and this recent full-length from this Swiss (or should I say “Swissss”) producer is hitting that nail firmly on the head. The sound palate reminds me of Lucy, Emptyset and Kerridge, but S S S S is constantly mucking about with it, pulling some sounds like taffy and strangling the life out of others. It’s a bleary-eyed form of sound design, redolent of Ben Frost for sure, but rather than going fully cinematic, the chopping helicopter blades, laser blasts and poisonous drones were crafted for the sake of the tracks themselves, not in service to any supplementary media. It’s an aggressive record, even when the percussion is somewhere off to the side as cavernous echo and steam combustion rip through the speakers, and it’s just that sort of restless hostility that does the trick for me. As soon as someone finally figures out how to mosh to this stuff, no club will be safe.

Tenshun / Maunarc split 7″ (Divergent Series)
Always nice to have a fresh offering from the Divergent Series label, this one in the form of a white vinyl 7″ (which is apparently the worst color of vinyl when it comes to audio fidelity, not that I’ve ever personally noticed). Tenshun came through these pages way back in 2011 for another split, and while I cannot recall much about it besides the phonetically-spelled name, this track’s got my attention! It’s an absolutely crazed drill n’ bass massacre, utilizing a crusty kit over some lingering tones. It almost feels like digi-dub as far as the sonic atmosphere, but the percussion is rippling like peak Planet Mu break-core circa the turn of the century (and Tenshun was around back then as well, making similar tunes). Maunarc is also spelled like it sounds, and in the five minutes I spent trying to figure out the person(s) responsible for it, I came up empty. It actually sounds like a tremendously slowed-down version of Tenshun’s cut, as if Tenshun was a 78 and this is the same record on 33, although the beat here is locked in place, moaning vocals waft in and out, and it staggers like a drunk wandering through a haunted house. Nice pairing of fast and slow, demonstrating why out-of-control speed and stoned-out wobbling are excellent aesthetic choices for underground electronic music of this caliber.

Yamaneko Spirals Heaven Wide LP (Local Action)
If you’re gonna name your album Spirals Heaven Wide, it damn sure better be beautiful, but thankfully London producer Yamaneko is up to the task. You can stick this one under “power ambient”, or if you opt for a more esoteric filing system, in between the rainclouds that seem to follow Burial everywhere he goes. These songs certainly share that same “echoes of the club on your 4 AM walk home through rain-slicked cobblestone alleys” vibe that Burial essentially invented, but Yamaneko is less filmic about it and a little more direct, opting for large sweeping chords and uplifting melodies. (The album even ends on what sounds to be an old-timey music box melody, the sort of thing you’d find in your great-grandmother’s attic after learning she was once a beautiful ballerina.) Thus, these tracks often feel like the spellbinding builds before some massive trance drop, although in Yamaneko’s case the drop never arrives, content instead to hover, sail and drift through these curiously soothing electronic vistas. Titles like “You Envied The Stars Their Height” might call to mind grandiose post-rockers like Explosions In The Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and while there’s certainly a shared sense of classical magnificence, I find Spirals Heaven Wide to be deeply engrossing and mood-altering, whereas your average Mogwai copycats have me running to the nearest exit.