Amnesia Scanner Tearless LP (Pan)
Amnesia Scanner’s Another Life was one of my top picks of 2018, a twisted anomaly of cybernetic pop with plenty of underlying psychosis to really make it snap. Last year brought a collaborative album with Pan founder Bill Kouligas, which was basically a divergent noise record (not a particularly enthralling listen but everyone’s gotta exorcise their noise demons once in a while), and now here’s Tearless, what is basically the true follow-up to Another Life. Another Life is a tough act to follow, and as the initial shock of hearing Amnesia Scanner for the first time has worn off, it’s not entirely unexpected that Tearless hasn’t moved me in the same way. The parts that made them great are all still in place – mutilated global pop sounds with (sometimes literally) inhuman vocals – but these songs don’t grab my ears with the same force. If you’ve been wondering what kinda musical project the alien baby of Grimes and Elon Musk will have by the time they’re a teenager, Tearless certainly fits the bill, but I prefer the vocals of Pan Daijing (found on the first album) to the more homogeneous club-pop voice of Lalita, who appears here. There’s at least one track here that sounds like gross-out breakcore producer Otto Von Schirach remixing Die Antwoord, but somehow it’s not as catchy as I wish it was. Theirs is still a startlingly distinct and unique sound, but some of the edges appear to be sanded off this time around, or maybe the hooks simply aren’t as strong. I will keep listening, though, because once the singularity hits I’m going to need Amnesia Scanner on my side.

Carrom Alter-Destinies / Prehistories LP (Branch Dradivian)
Guitarist, improviser and songwriter Chandan Narayan has been using his Carrom project to perform and record instrumental rock tunes, mostly winding up on Bandcamp. On this 12″ LP, he’s collected a new “EP” alongside an older one as a sort of best-of introduction to the group. I say group, but apparently it’s almost all at the direction of Narayan, who teaches his friends to play his songs often the same day they’re recorded – that’s one way to keep things feeling fresh! It’s mostly pretty pleasant, jammy stuff, closer to alternative prog-rock than psychedelia (although the sampled “historical recordings” between tracks are a nice touch). I’m reminded of what Jeff Buckley’s Grace would’ve sounded like as instrumental record, Steven R. Smith’s more jubilant material (like Ulaan Khol), or maybe even the mid-’80s Meat Puppets, whose “Up On the Sun” is covered here. There’s really no pretense here, no sign of purposeful obfuscation or deliberate annoyingness… these songs are as straightforward as studio-recorded instrumental alt-rock / post-hardcore can be. Nothing particularly groundbreaking or notable to be discovered in these tunes, just a noble form of musical self-expression with the aid of friends.

Julion De’Angelo / Viola Klein We 12″ (Meakusma / Ominira)
Beautiful split twelve here from two highly capable producers, Detroit’s Julion De’Angelo and Berlin’s Viola Klein. De’Angelo busts out of the gate with “N’aie Pas Peur (Exchange Mix)”, eight minutes of tumbling drums and a soothing vocal that seems to emulate a ferry’s horn, as if these gloriously crusty beats are about to dock on shore. “Don’t Be Scurred” maintains the vibe but increases the funk, with a pleasant bass nudge, piano and more crispy drums, very much in the school of Theo Parrish but with the playful attitude of Kyle Hall. Sumptuous tunes that I just wanna lounge around all day in. Flip it over for Viola Klein, whose name I’ve seen connected to Kassem Mosse (whose Ominira label co-released this record), and her Senegalese-inspired tech-house is a welcome pairing. “We (Part One)” sets the tone with a cyclical percussive loop, preparing the ears to hear that sound a whole lot more through “We (Part Two)”. Accompanied by Whodat, Klein punches it up with some fast techno kicks and the queasiest bass melody I’ve heard in a while – if anyone in the crowd ends up hurling when this one hits, you really can’t blame them. “We (Another Part)” really lets things fly, those drums sounding like a giant box of fireworks accidentally exploding into what appears to be a discernible rhythm. Certainly has the same forward-pushing mentality and gratifying results as much of Beatrice Dillon’s work, with a sense that any idea can be pursued and pushed further than one’s predecessors. Certainly glad Klein and De’Angelo are sharing their music with us!

Sandy Ewen You Win LP (Gilgongo)
As someone who has collaborated with Weasel Walter numerous times, Sandy Ewen is clearly a person of unshakeable fortitude. If you didn’t know, she’s mostly a guitarist of the improvised-noise variety, and she comfortably stretches out across the two long sides of the cleverly titled You Win. Her guitar comes in slow fits and swells here, periods of mostly-silence (or the occasional transient feedback tone) giving way to various low-res sounds: certain passages sound like the last inch of a Wendy’s Frosty being sucked through a straw, others recall the alien sound-effects used by Jimi Hendrix on Axis: Bold As Love, and there are some moments that have me imagining the loneliest Dead C practice session. I’m also reminded of Bill Nace, in the way that Ewen will play her guitar tabletop style in order to locate every crunchy moan that resides within it – I had to see if the two of them ever crossed paths, and the existence of a collaborative lathe between the two (from just last year) confirms it. In the right hands, the sound of a guitar’s input jack being mercilessly tortured can make for a satisfying soundtrack, a skill that Ewen has clearly spent a sizeable chunk of her time pursuing.

Flower Crime Kalte Fliesen 12″ (Elin Edits)
Been trying to find the right balance between maintaining a ground-level focus on reality and a desperate need to escape the prison of my own mind, so thankfully there’s Flower Crime’s Kalte Fliesen to aid the latter! They’re a new name to me, but these two tracks (well, four, seeing as both cut is supplemented by its instrumental version) are minimal trance bangers sure to roll your eyes deep into the back of your skull. “Kalte Fliesen” sounds too fast at first, but once acclimated to its overheated tempo, its an infectious rave pounder. Melodic leads beautifully intertwine, and a sensuously muttered vocal in a language I do not understand (which I’m ashamed to admit is mostly anything besides English) provides the track with a satisfying contrast of sleekness and grit – something to surely satisfy the separate audiences of both L.I.E.S. and Benny Benassi. “Flower Crime” is the b-side cut and I like this one even more. Its syncopated leads absolutely soar, full on Knight Rider bliss down a gravity-bending tunnel not unlike Petar Dundov’s most imposing cuts but stripped-down and cooler (let us never forget the importance of coolness). And the vocals on this one are in English, as if Flower Crime took my previous comment regarding their vocals as a complaint. Recommended!

Kiss Boom Bah Out Of Our Tree 7″ (Sweet Time)
Fitting that the cover art features a cheer squad of Crimson Ghosts, as that’s basically what this sounds like – raucous and retro pep-rally music for garage-rockers and muscle-car enthusiasts. “Out Of Our Tree” bips and bops via keys, drums and guitar, with the zesty organ right up front in the mix. Simple and old-fashioned, but easily enjoyed by anyone with a predilection for slightly-spooky garage-rock fun. If I haven’t adequately described the vibe of Kiss Boom Bah yet, allow me to inform you that the b-side is called “Marilyn A Go-Go”, which should do the trick. It’s a comfortable slice of fuzz-surf, mostly instrumental (save for the gang-shouted chorus), surely inspired by The Mummies, or at least inspired by the same stuff that inspired The Mummies. I had never heard of this group until this 7″ arrived, and it turns out they’re also based here in Philadelphia – gonna give them a call and see if they can commit to performing at my eventual funeral, they’d probably be the perfect group for the job.

Lewsberg In This House LP (no label)
You really have to hand it to The Velvet Underground – there are only a tiny handful of groups whose poorly-skilled and/or shameless imitators sound great, and VU might have the largest number of those to claim. Rotterdam’s Lewsberg are certainly one of them, and In This House might be the new album I’ve spun the most this month – it’s really fantastic! They take that “Sweet Jane” / “Run Run Run” template and apply it to their music with unwavering dedication, economical-to-the-point-of-absurdity guitar solos and a great Messthetics‘ sorta “don’t care” attitude that comes across sincere, not a pose. You don’t have to look at a picture of vocalist Arie van Vliet to know that he’s wearing glasses – van Vliet sounds as if Lou Reed pursued a career in the library sciences, his words delivered as though he were reading a particularly vulnerable shopping list. It’s certainly the perfect voice to go with these plain-as-day tunes, as if the band has no front-person, only a side-person on vocals. Almost feels unfair, what with so many bands trying to write original material and sucking, whereas Lewsberg have unabashedly tapped direct from the source and hit it big.

Lithics Tower Of Age LP (Trouble In Mind)
I haven’t stopped enjoying Lithics’ recent vinyl issue of their Wendy Kraemer demo/outtake sessions, but I’d been just as eager to hear what they’re up to now. Tower Of Age, their third full-length, seems right in line with what I’d expect – somewhat cleaned-up and more musically advanced, but in a way that I find appealing rather than off-putting (which is often the case with post-punk bands who aspire to technical greatness). They’re still playing herky-jerk post-punk with a cool sense of detachment, but the songs here strike me as more nuanced, that they must’ve taken quite a bit of work to create or finalize. Lithics expertly weave through verse-chorus dance-punk beats into wider, stranger territory that allows for extended guitar solos (in a very Television-y manner), sound effects wielded as non-sequiturs or splashes of color, bleary-eyed repetition and anything else they can comfortably stuff into their blender. “The Symptom”, for example, doesn’t sound like a song that one person can write and teach their bandmates to play – this is music that can only be figured out through strong musical relationships between a group’s members, the sum greater than its parts. Tower Of Age feels like a record made by a band that has been playing together for a number of years and has reached a high level of amenity, perhaps that peak moment in a band’s existence where the creative ideas and ease at which to create them are at their strongest. Please act accordingly when talking to your friends about this record – it’s not an old skyscraper, it’s a tower of age.

Kawaguchi Masami’s New Rock Syndicate & Kryssi Battalene Kawaguchi Masami’s New Rock Syndicate & Kryssi Battalene LP (C/Site Recordings)
Ah, I can distantly recall the days of flying somewhere for the sake of adventure and fun, which is what Kryssi Battalene (fixture of the New Haven psych-rock scene) did back in 2018. She flew to Tokyo and hooked up with Kawaguchi Masami, known best for his work with LSD March and Broom Dusters, spending what must’ve been an incredibly satisfying time jamming with Masami and his New Rock Syndicate. Who better to remind us that music, like, transcends boundaries, man, than two powerful pillars of psych-rock excellence? After getting somewhat acquainted, they hit the studio for this album, which covers a bit of stylistic ground within the general assumed frame: downhill molten jams recalling early Purling Hiss, nimble garage-rock grooves ala The Original Sins and sun-scorched stoner-rock ala Kyuss. They also bring it down considerably on the breezy psych-rock flotation device of “Sunday Afternoon”, aided by sitar in a move that has me thinking of Nebula at their most spiritual over softly cascading riffs that certainly hearken back to Battalene’s Headroom group. I like it best when she sings, although Masami generally commandeers the mic for most of the session. I can safely say I prefer the Headroom and Mountain Movers records to this collaboration (and that Broom Dusters LP is undeniably glorious as well), but this album makes for a fine commemoration of this bi-cultural scene summit all the same.

Mass Arrest Power LP (Iron Lung)
The stately black-on-black cover of Power has kind of a Metallica “black album” vibe, providing a stark seriousness that fits the mood. Power is the debut of Oakland’s Mass Arrest, and they strike me as one of the more necessary hardcore bands operating today, in terms of subject matter and the passionate articulation with which its tackled. The singer is named Boo Boo, and he discusses systemic violence, the police state and racism from his direct vantage point. Whereas pictures of nuclear bombs and tanks crushing skulls as means of saying “war is bad” are cool and all, they doesn’t necessarily offer much nuance or perspective. Boo Boo is speaking from the heart, of lived experience, and apparently crawls all over your face while doing so, as evidenced by the insert’s live photos. Musically, Mass Arrest certainly have a bit of that Bay Area sound (this certainly sounds like a band who is friendly with Replica, No Statik and Look Back And Laugh), but they frequently tone it down into a more anthem-minded street-punk fracas, reminding me more of Fucked Up circa Hidden World than anything else. Requisite hardcore-punk for these pivotal times.

Metal Preyers Metal Preyers LP (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Absolutely killer debut from Metal Preyers, a collaboration between London’s Jesse Hackett and Chicago’s Mariano Chavez. They worked directly with Ugandan musicians Otim Alpha, Lawrence Okello, Omutaba, and Ocen, who provided the source material that they then lovingly torched, sculpted and morphed. The sounds of drums, Amadinda xylophones, Ndingidi fiddles and vocals are surely interesting enough, but in the hands of Metal Preyers they become heavy and treacherous industrial musics, sludgy ballads that don’t sound like traditional gloomy industrial by any stretch. I’m reminded a bit of the slo-mo industrial funk of Gil.Barte and the Neubau label, although Metal Preyers tracks don’t follow such a linear structure – if DJs had difficulty finding a spot for Gil.Barte in their playlist, the struggle will surely increase here. It’s more like Throbbing Gristle had they ever collaborated with Kevin Martin, along with the dreary and sullen blues of O$VMV$M and the crafty editing of the associated Young Echo posse. That’s kind of a long way of saying that Metal Preyers doesn’t really sound much like anything besides itself while still being easily digestible – this record hits a sweet spot pretty much immediately. Enthusiastic listeners of experimental industrial purveyors like Coil, Brood Ma and even Craig Leon will surely find much to savor here.

Pavel Milyakov Masse Métal 2xLP (The Trilogy Tapes)
If the name is unfamiliar, it’s because Pavel Milyakov has spent the past five years unloading music under the questionable guise of Buttechno, whose Badtrip album was one of my favorite hard techno records of last year. That’s what inspired me to check out this new record under his own name, and wow, I really love this too! A lot. Milyakov isn’t making techno here, so much as raw and immediate experimental-industrial. Masse Métal lives up to its title by sounding as if it was recorded in a 20th Century Soviet steel mill severely lacking in safety precautions – metal clangs are persistent, locomotive percussion juts in and out and men holler to each other across the assembly line. There are tracks that utilize beats, usually in the same corrosive manner favored by Beau Wanzer, but Milyakov’s productions generally avoid repetitive grooves here (as opposed to the rigid grids favored by Buttechno). A sludgy synth might repeatedly skulk across the factory floor, but it’s hard to lean into the groove when rapid-fire, ASMR-esque crackling threatens to drive you mad, or a dying siren erupts at random. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Masse Métal initially debuted as part of an audiovisual project at Berlin Atonal last year, although these tracks are so viscerally stunning that no visual is needed to feel fully enveloped by Milyakov’s crumbling world. Definitely an album that could sit alongside weirdo industrial greats like Swans’ Filth, Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats and Einstürzende Neubauten’s Kollaps, in so far as how it revels in its own particular and captivating sonic dystopia.

Bill Nace Both LP (Drag City)
It’s about damn time Bill Nace stopped hiding behind his collaborators and stepped out on his own! I kid, but I’ve also been curious to know what it’d be like for him to record a purely solo album, one where his actions and decisions are based solely on his own moods and whims rather than in reaction to other players. Based on the cacophonous whirlwind he often kicks up in the company of folks like Chris Corsano and Paul Flaherty, I was interested to learn that this is a fairly pleasant record, at least by free-improvised electric guitar standards. Loops slowly burn and simmer like an extinguished cigarette or the final moment of a sunset, discordant but undeniably soothing (okay, maybe someone could validly deny the palliative nature of these compositions but they’re probably not reading this review). “Part 8” warbles in a way that has me expecting to hear the wounded groans of Jandek on top, whereas “Part 6” has the sensation of waiting on the tarmac in a rainstorm before taking off through the ill-tempered cloud cover, calling to mind Fennesz without the aid of computer processing. There’s almost always some sort of tone being sustained, but never in a static way… Nace is a master of guitar movement, creating meditative space through a busy map of turbulent and ever-morphing sounds. Why not have Both?

Neutrals Rent / Your House EP 7″ (Domestic Departure)
Gonna go on record that this is probably the most British sounding punk band out of Oakland ever? Their music is deeply indebted to the UK post-punk boom circa 1979 or so, and I’m not mad at that, as they do a fine job of jumping off from there into their own original tunes. “Rent / Your House” is full of Andy Gill-styled guitar stabs and features the lyric “I can see through your marriage”, probably one of my favorite punk lyrics this year in all its weird adult directness. The rest of the tunes are giving me vibes akin to early Mekons or the less-friendly Milky Wimpshake songs (the minority of their catalog, to be fair), complete with lyrics like “we are living in the modern world” which are not nearly as unique but certainly fit the style. Poppy, direct-to-the-point and upbeat, one could be forgiven for believing they had stumbled upon an unheralded gem on Chiswick or Fast Product upon hearing these songs on 7″ vinyl, but this is actually a group playing around today featuring at least one Maximumrocknroll contributor. Proceeds from the sale of this 7″ go to RAICES and Border Angels, two noble organizations, but are there actually ever proceeds from releasing a 7″ in 2020 or is that also a throwback to 1979?

Rank/Xerox Servants In Heaven 7″ (Iron Lung)
Rank/Xerox are about as understated as a quality current post-punk band can be – it took less than a blink to miss this 7″ single that came out around the winter holidays last year. Thankfully we’ve all got nothing but time to catch up on the past, living as we are in this suspended present, so I was happy to dig in. “Servants In Heaven” is a gloomy doomy synth-popper, calling to mind a suicidal OMD, Section 25’s The Key Of Dreams or perhaps Total Control if they stared blankly into the void instead of playfully meandering around it. Before completely soaking my satin pillow with tears, b-side “Cradle Of Life” slaps the taste out of my mouth. Think of Gang Of Four covering Crisis or Blitz’s Second Empire Justice, as icy as it is militant. Best part is that they opt for some sort of percussion solo where a guitar solo normally would be, reminding me of something The Pop Group would’ve tried to pull in 1980. Will Rank/Xerox play any shows once shows return to the realm of possibility, or will they even communicate anything to us at all? The answer is unclear, but if @rankxerox is their official Instagram handle, they’ve sure got some explaining to do.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples I Should Have Helped You 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
I’m starting to get mad at Glenn Donaldson – how can you have this many great projects? You should be allowed to have lots of decent bands or one very good one, but Donaldson continues to ignore my rules with his relatively new project The Reds, Pinks & Purples. This one is pure Sarah Records-styled indie-pop, with tear-stained vocals and uplifting chord progressions. Very much in the spirit of C86, and while these songs are certainly a genre exercise, they are so tender and beautiful and compelling that it doesn’t transcend the genre so much as demonstrate why so many people fell in love with it in the first place. The title track is my favorite, reminiscent of Another Sunny Day and The Smiths but nothing that could be considered outright copycatting. Wish I had a lyric sheet so I could sing along to “Unrequited” while drinking herbal tea in bed, but Donaldson loves instilling a protective distance to his music, and that’s no different here. I assumed at this point that I Dischi was going to focus on releasing the sounds of broken air conditioners and shaken cutlery drawers, but these catchy forlorn indie-poppers are undeniable in any context.

Regis Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss 2xLP (Downwards)
Somehow this is the first Regis album in nineteen years, but I can’t think of a better time to be bludgeoned senseless by some heavy-duty techno. Thankfully, that’s pretty much exactly what the preciously-titled Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss delivers, albeit with technique, grace and a smart sense of pacing. Of the four sides of vinyl, each one has at least one trademark Regis body-slam, similar in delivery to Surgeon or, well, much of Regis’s prior body of work. He loves to wallop on the first of four beats, giving the music a powerful circular thrust… a feeling similar to standing next to a carousel wherein the same kid repeatedly kicks you in the stomach while whizzing past, or so I’d think. It’s not all bruising thuds, however – producer Boris Wilsdorf (best know for his work with Einstürzende Neubauten) has surely helped sculpt the sonic nuances that make Hidden In This so satisfying after repeat listens – take the end of “The Sun Rose Pure”, for example, wherein rhythmic industrial noise gives way to an organ-led jam-out befitting Can or Agitation Free. There’s plenty of sonic detail to be discovered here – you can hear the furnace turning on and chains being dragged across concrete if you squint your ears hard enough, no matter how towering the bass kicks and violently pulsating the rhythms may be. Go on, listen to Hidden In This and see if you can remember what you had intended to do before you put it on.

Glen Schenau Jhumble / Jearnest 7″ (no label)
Thanks heavens for Brisbane’s Glen Schenau. If you’re wondering who that is, fair enough: he’s played in bands like Kitchen’s Floor, Psy Ants, Cured Pink, and Bent (whose 2017 EP Mattress Springs is a Discogs dollar-bin must-have), but I think I like him best when he’s steering the ship entirely. The artwork on this new self-released 7″ is plenty to take in on its own, full of possibly-legible squiggles, with every bare surface hand-printed and a detailed insert cut with special crafting scissors, because why not. I’m already entertained, but the music here is really something else. “Jhumble” somehow utilizes flailing no-wave guitar akin to Arab On Radar as a base, then cuts the tempo in half care of the fumbly drums and plunging bass. And then he makes it some sort of alt-pop blitz by singing like Julian Casablancas over top! It’s giving me visions of an alternate reality where Roxy Music and No New York collided head-on. “Jearnest” is a sinewy post-punk creeper, calling to mind Patois Counselors if they were the most popular buzz-bin clip on MTV circa 1996. At least that’s the case for the first half of the song, before it disassembles into a greasy stain resembling Kilslug after The Killers ran them over with their tour bus. Seems like every Australian band gets their own album without much delay, so I have to ask: where the hell is Glen Schenau’s?!

Sleeparchive Trust 2xLP (Tresor)
Big month for techno figureheads dropping albums for the first time in years: Trust might be Sleeparchive’s first vinyl full-length in his career! Pretty nuts, but I’m thankful we’re getting such heavyweight slabs of techno to dig into in these trying times. Trust, for example, is like a weighted blanket: it’s comforting, therapeutic and unrelentingly heavy. At times, Trust is a mind-numbing thrill of repetitive grinding, the sort of thing that will either propel you to greatness or to run off the nearest cliff in frustration. I for one love it, though, as each track is so perfectly refined for its purpose – many attempt to make grueling techno music but it takes a surprising level of careful finesse to fill out each frequency the way Sleeparchive does here. “Concrete” is appropriately titled, as Sleeparchive works his way through various jackhammers, whereas “Glass” refracts light in a manner redolent of its namesake. Stare hard enough into “Dust” and I swear a vocal hook starts to emerge from deep within… or is it simply the machines playing a trick on me? Y’all can spend your aimless summer hours playing Animal Crossing or lighting discount fireworks, I’ll be in my bunker with the lights out letting Trust rip on repeat.

Smut First Kiss 12″ (Iron Lung)
If there’s a more reliable source for modern West Coast hardcore-punk than Iron Lung, I am sadly unaware of it. Smut are a relative new group out of LA, and they utilize various contemporary signifiers alongside their classic and crude hardcore-punk. What are those signifiers, you ask? Alternating fits of pogo-punk and d-beat drumming, an extra layer of echo-y distortion on everything (the vocals especially), tucked-in t-shirts (which probably feature either hyper-obscure Swedish hardcore bands who never made t-shirts in their own day and/or hand-scrawled pornographic images and/or Mickey Mouse), and a singer who gets naked and bleeds, sometimes at the same time. Lyrically, Smut seem to view sexuality as a disturbing hall of mirrors through which self-degradation is the only release, which I suppose is more intriguing than the more typical and well-trodden hardcore-punk topics, if at least for one 12″ EP. Certainly seems like these guys were impressed by Hoax and Gag, and rightfully so – those are two killer bands – but I can’t quite tell if Smut will one day carve out their own particular niche or if they will reside solely in the shadows of their peers that arrived a few years earlier. Whatever the case, I’m sure these guys have freaked out their fair share of norms on the street, which is good enough for me.

Sniffany & The Nits The Greatest Nits 7″ (Thrilling Living)
‘Tis the season for more maniacal Brit-punk, although truth be told, when is it not the season? Sniffany & The Nits are a new group, splitting membership between Brighton and London (and featuring some ex-personnel of the beloved Joanna Gruesome), and they get straight to the point on these four tracks. A Good Throb comparison is probably inevitable, but that’s not a bad thing, since every punk band should aspire to sound like Good Throb. It helps that Sniffany is also an English punk whose voice drips sarcasm and disgust. It’s a thick and viscous slime, the sort of snot that lives in the deepest realms of the throat, and she delivers her lines with drama and flair, recalling Poison Girls at their most direct. The Nits generally hammer away at their instruments, with one-two-one-two drumming that has just enough of that “marching band from Hell” Crass Records-style to really bring it home (it’s those snare-rolls on opener “Girl Factory” that make their intentions clear). The fast tunes are cool, but I enjoy Sniff and crew most when they’re gleeful beckoning destruction in the form of “Spider Husband”, a spooky two-speed tremor that ensures that Sniffany and her Nits will haunt your dreams as well as your stereo.

Sunwatchers Oh Yeah? LP (Trouble In Mind)
Been hearing a lot about Sunwatchers in recent months (okay, primarily all from Tony Rettman in various places – did the group float him a sizable QuickChek gift card or something?), so it was only a matter of time before my ears became acquainted with this busy New York quartet. The label’s hype sticker categorizes them as “free-rock”, but Demo Moe or Blowhole this is not – Sunwatchers strike me as incredibly, deliriously locked-into their songs, which surely requires the hyper-focus of all its members. It’s gonna take some masterful playing to make this lofty form of music work, but thankfully for Sunwatchers they are up to the task. These long instrumentals feature almost continual guitar and sax soloing, often at the same time, careening through patterns befitting both jazz fusion and math-rock, both of which I suppose Sunwatchers could be filed under. When the songs are fast (like the careening “Thee Worm Store”) they remind me of Magma by-way-of Comets On Fire, and when they are slightly softer, I’m imagining one of those big-band 75 Dollar Bill lineups obsessing over “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. A little strange that this group are aligned with ostensibly garage-punk imprints like Castle Face and Trouble In Mind (although no one’s a purist anymore, of course)… seems like Sunwatchers should’ve linked up with their northern neighbors C/Site, or perhaps talked their way into being the one “loud” band on Paradise Of Bachelors’ roster, considering the sophistication of the goods they’re delivering. But that’s just me, treating underground music like fantasy sports because I have little else with which to busy myself.

Total Rejects Total Rejects LP (Slovenly)
Throw on the self-titled full-length debut from the generically-named Total Rejects and you might not be particularly impressed by their blown-out garage-punk noise. Take into consideration that they’re from Moscow, a city generally not revered for its underground garage-punk, however, and your interest might be piqued. Mine was! It’s cool to know that the raucous, belligerent sounds of The Reatards, The Oblivians and Supercharger have provided inspiration in the heart of Russia, played by guys named Vlad, Igor, Vasily and Ilya in what appears to be the same sort of grungy dive-bars a similar band would play in Oshkosh, WI or Buffalo, NY. They definitely have the sound and attitude down pat, full of scattered anger and frustration and complete with songs titled “I Hate”, “My Frustration” and “No Brains”. Interestingly, Total Rejects cover both The Creteens and The Fatals here, two noisy garage-punk groups out of France, so maybe that’s the scene and region most responsible for inspiring their sonic and aesthetic sensibilities? Music is a beautiful thing when you think about it.

Troth Garland And Gauze / On The Door 7″ (Altered States Tapes)
I love when labels dedicated to tapes put out records. It’s like watching a straight-edge person drink their first Long Island Iced Tea: you feel a little improper about the whole thing but you also know they’re going to have a great time. Altered States kinda split the difference here with a limited 7″ that seems to be somewhere between a dub-plate and a lathe cut, at least in how the vinyl looks and feels, because the sound quality is on par with factory-pressed wax. Troth is the duo of Cooper Bowman and Amelia Besseny, and they’re getting all lush and steamy on this single. “Garland And Gauze” sounds like its title: soft, slow-motion kicks open into a room filled with pink smoke and incense, more of an ambient stasis than any sort of groove. If Fabulous Diamonds released a drone record on Not Not Fun it might offer a similar result. “On The Door” carries a similar sense of lightness in the dark, although it progresses with a back and forth between a roomy percussive chug and a three-note piano melody. Bowman is talking underneath it all, in confused/confusing Shadow Ring fashion, which helps give the whole thing the lightweight industrial obfuscation of a later-period Blackest Ever Black release. Both tracks come and go fairly quickly; “On The Door” in particular feels like it’s winding down just as it’s getting started. I suppose if I wanted to hear more, that’s what all their cassettes are for. Well played, Altered States!

Hessel Veldman Eigen Boezem LP (STROOM)
Of all the reissue labels out there, STROOM is probably the wettest, wildest and weirdest, excavating scenes that I truly never knew existed – I’m talking 90’s Polish chill-wave, Belgian disco and however you want to label the music of Ingus BauÅ¡Ä·enieks… Latvian sitcom pop? Anyway, I caught wind of Hessel Veldman care of a great 7″ EP last year, bizarre synth-wave that sounds like John Maus trapped in a Soviet simulacrum, so I had to step up for this collection of Veldman’s early ’80s productions. Seeing as he never made it to vinyl in his ’80s heyday, and the cassettes he was releasing (under his own name as well as the Y Create and Forbidden Photographs monikers) were traded to friends rather than commercially available, Eigen Boezem seemed like something I needed. It’s pretty great – these songs are strange, roughly-hewn and unmanicured. You can’t help but get the sense that Veldman is navigating these nocturnal and hazy songs with as much curiosity as the listener. Much of it is slow-motion synth-pop that seems to operate just below the surface, reminiscent of Fred A. (whose material was also recently reissued on STROOM), but there’s a queasy industrial murk that often overpowers these tunes. Veldman was a member of Fluxus improvisation group Gorgonzola Legs (of course they were called Gorgonzola Legs), and his penchant for DIY sound sculpting, trial-and-error home taping methods and synthetic experiments are rich in the folds of Eigen Boezem as well. Those concerned that this might be a little too pretentious, have no fear – the title translates to “My Own Boobs” in English, which explains the cover portraits of Veldman fondling his chest in satin opera gloves.

Whipping Post Cheating The War Game LP (Donor)
Here’s some angry hardcore-punk outta Leeds: Whipping Post’s sophomore album! Back in my day, I cheated the war game by using the Konami code, but I get the impression Whipping Post have something else in mind. Musically, they seem to have Black Flag circa Slip It In on their mind, as these songs follow that same sort of menacing mid-paced tempo that the ‘Flag beat their audience with back in ’84 and ’85. Very “Black Coffee” in sound and spirit. Plenty of Ginn-y guitar too, chugging on one or two notes for the majority of the riff and weaseling around the fret board in the brief open space between chugs. Vocalist Andrew Jones is less provocative and more strained than Rollins, as though each new line of lyrics requires the passing of a kidney stone – “You’re…” is a good example in particular. Whipping Post certainly seem comfortable with their speed and presentation, with a natural gritty ‘core vibe that ensures these songs resonate as hardcore-punk even as their rhythms and speeds could’ve led these songs into post-hardcore territory. Leeds could do, and surely has done, far worse!