ATM Inglewood Tapes Vol. 3 LP (Radical Documents)
If it wasn’t clear, this is the third vinyl installment of Inglewood’s ATM, another varied assortment of DIY beats and keys. Like the ones before it, this is a collection of chintzy beats, lo-fi G-funk grooves, silly electro and basement-wave pranks. I’m reminded of the nostalgic tape hiss funk of Delroy Edwards, as well as the absurdist electro of PFFR on the vocal tracks here, which sometimes play out more like hysterical sketches than songs. This third volume finds the trio a little tamed compared to the previous two, with longer stretches of innocuous and breezy instrumentals and less of a frazzled atmosphere (though the one-two punch of “Titty” and “Brown Expensive” is a caffeinated antidote to album’s otherwise blunted nature). Pretty enjoyable stuff, even if some of these beats seem purposely disposable, or at least very easily rendered. Doesn’t seem like ATM thought too hard about many these tracks, and for the highest possible level of enjoyment, I recommend that you don’t either!

Bicep Isles 2xLP (Ninja Tune)
Weird time for dance music, considering how the very nature of the style depends upon social participation. Bicep were some of the reigning marquee DJs of the pre-Covid era, their breakbeat-inflected tech-house well-tailored for the enjoyment of the club-going populaces, so what are they supposed to do now? I’m not sure anyone knows, but on Isles, Bicep decide to continue onward making big-room techno music, albeit slightly morose and lonely-sounding. “Apricots” is an isolated house anthem, slowly building up into a laser light show care of mournful chords and an insistent vocal hook. Emo trance, let’s call it! Even the tracks with vocal guests, like “Saku” (featuring Clara La San), sound less like celebratory affirmations and more like plaintive calls for connection. Opening cut “Atlas” is probably my favorite of the bunch, a stellar cut of divine electronica with a very Aphex-like melodic hook, a pounding drum break and some sort of spiritual enchantress’s wordless vocal beckoning you to the other side. It sounds like a completely empty 4000-capacity club with the smoke machines and LED screens going full tilt, a stunning and imposing achievement that desperately needs human bodies to be complete. We can’t communally vibe to Isles, but Bicep’s tender acknowledgement of our shared isolation in their music fills me with more hope than loss.

Bipolar Bipolar 7″ (Slovenly)
Slovenly goes domestic for a change with the 7″ debut of New York City’s Bipolar, the band most likely to resemble Turbonegro’s coke dealers reviewed here this month. Sorry to say that I really don’t care for this one! This is extremely entry-level party-punk, featuring band members in wacky costumes and clown makeup playing generic and fuzzy punk songs. “Depression” is the most basic “I’m depressed” song I’ve heard in forever, “Virus” opts for the uninspired chorus of “I’m a virus”… I dunno, there’s really not much to salvage here, at least musically speaking. They do seem like fun people to be around though, even more particularly fun people to photograph, especially if you’re impressed by costumes and drugs and out-of-control life in the big city. Presuming it one day returns, every Trans Pecos punk show is going to need a local opener for which Bipolar would be a suitable fit, but in the absence of live shows and only this four-song 7” EP to go on, this band is nearly memorable in their unmemorableness. Nearly, but not quite!

Collate Medicine / Genesis Fatigue 7″ (Domestic Departure)
Domestic Departure continues to deliver the DIY post-punk with this new 45 single from Portland’s Collate. Like others from the Pacific Northwest, they deliver a scratchy, home-made sound, a sort of “Kill Rock Stars no-wave” vibe that never goes out of style. “Medicine” is low-key funky, working discordant guitar, disco drums and geeky attitude in a way that reminds me of Emergency (their Archigramophone LP remains an underrated gem!) or perhaps San Francisco’s Preening (if Preening could sit down and just calm down for a few minutes). “Genesis Fatigue” goes a little more aggro, an art-school spazz-out that would’ve fit perfectly between The Crainium and Black Eyes in a Washington DC house show circa 2002. I can practically feel the itchy combination of polyester thrift-store button-ups and body sweat as “Genesis Fatigue” whoops it up, hopefully taking Phil Collins to task – no lyric sheet is provided, and the vocals are a gobbled blur, so your guess is as good as mine. If you enjoyed the Neutrals 7″ that Domestic Departure released last year, and I know many of you did, this new one from Collate is its perfectly hairy little cousin.

Frank & The Hurricanes Love Ya Love Ya LP (Sophomore Lounge / Feeding Tube)
It might not be hacky-sack weather yet around these parts, but the bare-feet music of Frank & The Hurricanes seems impervious to snow, rain or The Man. Frank Hurricane and his trio play a very gregarious form of folksy rock n’ roll, one unashamed to not only sing the word “alcohol” as “alkeehol” but to spell it that way on the lyric sheet, too. Modern bell-bottom beer-drinking music no doubt, sure to tickle the fancies of free-spirits enamored by Meat Puppets, CCR, Souled American and of course The Grateful Dead. One can almost picture Frank and his friends, sunburned and floating in inner-tubes down a shaded creek, as these tunes outwardly unwind. Not a care in the world for these boys! Play it for your grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary, play it for your kid’s 5th birthday party, Love Ya Love Ya will politely entertain either crowd with humility and grace. That said, it’s probably Frank & The Hurricanes’ supreme universality that has me feeling somewhat indifferent to their tunes, personally speaking. Absolutely nothing wrong with what they’re offering here, but it’s so damn regular-sounding to my ears that it fails to leave a significant impression. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t split a Taco Bell cravings pack with them outside of the bar before their gig, though. Hell, I’m buying!

Freak Genes Power Station LP (Feel It)
The foil-embossed cover art had me worried Feel It was reissuing some long-lost Synergy side-project or some other form of electronic music completely devoid of punk qualities, but thankfully that’s not (quite) the case. Freak Genes are a punk duo (whose members previously did time in Hipshakes and Proto Idiot) who have fully synthesized their punk in a manner not unlike Nervous Gender, The Normal, Units and so forth. Gone are the buzzsaw guitars and thrashy drums of classic punk rock, replaced instead by their digitized counterparts. Charlie Murphy and Andrew Anderson sing as though there was an actual punk band behind them, and it feels somewhat natural considering that the rhythms and melodies of these songs could easily be translated by a live rock band. They do add in some guitars here and there, but it’s mostly a synthetic affair that hews pretty close to the classic synth-punk tradition, albeit one that prefers bouncy, nervous sounds to anything that might be considered cold-wave or minimal-synth. This is the duo’s fourth album, but the first to fully embrace an electronic sound, which makes sense as there is nary a more addictive gateway drug in the world of underground music than the synth – do you know anyone who’s bought only one and managed to stop there? I sure don’t.

The Hammer Party Smashed Hits LP (Psychic Static)
Some serious highs and lows as I settled into this album from Providence noise-rockers The Hammer Party. At first, I was delighted to realize that Dan St. Jacques (of Landed infamy) is the singer, but I was quickly saddened to learn that their guitarist Andy Newman passed away last November. Way too many of us dying! Regardless of whether or not The Hammer Party decide to move forward, Smashed Hits is a solid slab of ornery, blue-collar noise-rock, as gristly as the cover’s collage of torn flesh and broken glass. Their songs are repetitive and punchy, with primitive rhythms that replace groove with staccato bashing. There’s no denying the presence of early Swans in this sort of equation, but it reminds me even more of Landed’s later work (the less improvised, more song-based stuff) or fellow Providence scum-jockeys Snake Apartment. It’s certainly the perfect framework for St. Jacques’ mostly-human vocalizing – he sounds more and more like the monkey-troll-man he has tattooed on his chest, the sort of filthy creature who catches you after dark and forces you to answer a riddle about class politics before letting you pass. “Russian Collusion” is the one for me, with Newman’s guitar playing recalling both Andy Gill and Greg Ginn while St. Jacques tells it like it is in rhyming couplets. Friends and family of Newman should most certainly be proud.

Jane Doe Ensemble Pink Liquor / Respect 7″ (no label)
“New York City indie-rock” wasn’t always a phrase to run and hide from – it used to refer to bands that were just as ignored and unheralded as from any college town, weirdos who found each other and held on for dear life. That’s the vibe I’m getting from Jane Doe Ensemble, a guitar/drums/keyboards vocal trio whose two songs here are pleasantly messy and unresolved. “Pink Liquor” has a Joan Of Arc sort of discombobulation going on, moving from a lighthearted jangle to a more frazzled ending. Toward the end of the track, the keyboard is stuck on the “buzzing fly” setting and I want to reach into my speakers and swat it, which is a nice touch. “Respect” reminds me of one of Modest Mouse’s self-medicated slow dances, with lyrics like “sometimes I think about the gun inside the house” sung sweeter than such lines might normally allow. Kind of pretty, but with a subversiveness that Jane Doe Ensemble are unable to conceal, not that it seems like they’d want to anyway. The sleeve features two sets of delightfully unflattering portraits of each band member, looking on the front like they haven’t slept in years and then abstracted to bad-trip nightmares on the back. It suits them well!

Jensen Interceptor Master Control Program EP 12″ (Unknown To The Unknown)
The ever-reliable Jensen Interceptor is at it again with this succinct and effective new EP on Unknown To The Unknown. If Jensen Interceptor is unknown to you too, he’s Berlin-via-Sydney’s premier acid-house producer, consistently pumping out singles in a strictly-defined acid style. Master Control Program offers no surprises, simply more of that body-moving acid electro that only a mannequin could remain stoic within earshot. “Sweat” is the main jam, featuring ghetto-house legend DJ Deeon repeating the track’s title to intoxicating effect. It’s like a pumped-up acid Egyptian Lover groove, what’s not to love? “MCP (Swallowed My Tab Remix)” is another true-to-form banger, taking Kraftwerk’s distinct sound effects and dropping them into an 8-bit cyber-grid chase scene, whereas “Ridin'” twists some funky arpeggios into a perspiration-fogged club setting. I haven’t tested my theory yet, but I’m convinced I could do twice as many crunches at a higher speed if I plugged any given Jensen Interceptor track into my gym mix, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the responsibility of having a six-pack. There are a variety of reasons why a person might choose to sweat, and Master Control Program serves as a proper soundtrack for all of them.

Kiwi Jr. Cooler Returns LP (Sub Pop)
There’s something to be said for a band that isn’t hard to figure out. Kiwi Jr. are very much an indie-rock group in the classic sense, which is to say they’re four dudes with guitars and collared shirts paying direct musical homage to The Clean and the many bands that followed in their wake. They’re called Kiwi Jr. for chrissakes! Vocalist Jeremy Gaudet sings in a manner that reminds me of David Kilgour, where any given syllable is likely to be raised in pitch for no apparent reason other than its fun to do so. His lyrics are usually casually wry observations with plenty of chuckle-worthy lines that make the Pavement comparisons a no-brainer, too. They even have a song about getting a haircut (“Only Here For A Haircut”) that sounds like something off Terror Twilight – for chrissakes, again I say! That said, while their reference points are clear as day, Kiwi Jr. do them justice with these pleasantly upbeat indie rock tunes. They’re energetic and rowdy and deliver the goods without ever feeling too silly (or too serious), occasionally recalling the more modern style of The Shifters and Uranium Club, too. It’s a dying breed, the “four nerdy white guys with guitars” format, and I’m not going to stop anyone from celebrating its decline (maybe it’s time for, I dunno, some other types of people to find quick and easy paths to musical success?), but I still like it when it sounds good, and Cooler Returns sounds pretty alright.

Loma Don’t Shy Away LP (Sub Pop)
Alright, I’ll admit that I initially wrote off Loma with the sort of prejudice I reserve for big bland indie-rock music, assuming that they were to be filed amongst other indie artists whose main audiences want their music to behave like wallpaper. Wrong I was! This group is great, very much adult-oriented in sound and presentation, but that’s not a bad thing when done artfully and beautifully, as is the case with Don’t Shy Away. I’d consider it folksy slow-core krautrock, a widely encompassing style where each sound (be it a booming bass-guitar, a synthetic hand clap, a rolling snare drum or a breathy vocal) is delivered with a richness of clarity and purpose. It’s a sound that would appeal to fans of Portishead and Nils Frahm, Tamaryn and Duster, Nicolas Jaar and Bedhead… moody grooves with beautiful vocals and songs that verge on soundscapes. The accidental techno-pop of “Given A Sign” might be my favorite track here, recalling Austra’s angelic synth-pop, but the pounding “Ocotillo” is reminiscent of Earth’s country-western phase and features the most beautiful pronunciation of the word “creosote”, so I’m torn. See what I mean? A lot of good ideas happening here, all of which are expertly rendered – even Brian Eno came on board to produce album closer “Homing”, and you know he doesn’t roll out of bed for just anyone!

Modessa Modessa 7″ (Jabs)
I love when some new piece of history reveals itself to me in an area where I already thought I knew it all. I’m talking about the short-lived project Modessa (May 13th, 1999 to May 31st, 1999 to be precise), featuring Ethan Swan of Emergency, Helen White of Petty Crime and Amy Heneveld of Meltdown, a veritable who’s who of obscure late ’90s no-wave players who somehow ended up in Portland together (impressive seeing as Meltdown were from DC and Petty Crime from Brighton, England!). The Bandcamp description notes that they were all “influenced by each other’s bands”, which certainly seems to be the case through these five tracks. Spindly guitar lines, rudimentary drumming and bass-guitar that seems to be off in its own world are the name of the game, with sporadic, lightly-shouted vocals, as was the normal behavior of the time. Sounds a lot like a classic no-budget UK DIY single, though there’s an undeniable air of post-riot grrrl underground happening here too, before sass-rock become codified with disco beats and white belts. Definitely more of a curio than a formative document of that scene, but that doesn’t mean I’m not cherishing my copy!

Pipyu Pipyu LP & 7″ (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Logically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before Bitter Lake runs out of Japanese obscurities worth reissuing (or the quality of the material being reissued declines significantly), but that time is not yet upon us! Pipyu released but one cassette in 1985 and a split 7″ flexi in 1988, so I can surely be forgiven for learning about them care of this attractive new reissue. Unlike some of the wave-ier material Bitter Lake has put forth, Pipyu are firmly hardcore-punk, albeit an incredibly digital-sounding take on the genre. I’m almost certain the drums are entirely synthetic, and the guitar has that fizzy “direct to soundboard” tone that purists tend to avoid, but the songs are mostly mid-paced hardcore-punk in spirit and the result is pretty great. I could picture The Stalin playing these riffs a few years earlier, but Pipyu approach them with their own distinct sound and attitude. Plus, Pipyu’s sartorial style was closer to Crime & The City Solution or even Stone Roses than Confuse or Lipcream (so many cool hats and baggy jumpers). The accompanying 7″ features two songs from a 1990 recording that are less hard-hitting, but “墜落天使” and “その花は笑わない” are gloriously sweaty teenage hardcore tunes that Mutha would’ve released had Pipyu went to West Long Branch Senior High School in 1984.

Pódium Pódium LP (Slovenly)
Okay, everyone wants a psychedelic record cover, but the black and white lines on Pódium’s debut are truly straining my eyeballs – well done! They’re a new punk band from Valencia, and they pack in plenty of music on this, their first full-length. They opt for a fast down-picked style for most of the album, with the hi-hat generally maintaining 16th notes and the bass matching its pace on one or two (but rarely three) different notes. I’d say it sounds like Downtown Boys covering The Ramones, minus the horn section and plus a ’90s noise-rock guitar tone. It’s a combination I find appealing, although Pódium locks into the same general pacing and sound over and over again here, to the point where I feel completely satiated after one side of the record. “El Pozo” is a cool tune, for example, but as its surrounded by an abundance of music that sound like lesser variations on it, the overall impact is lessened. I’d rather be left wanting more than exhausted by excess, but Pódium are free to do whatever they want, particularly after harnessing the brain-warping power of this cover design.

Public Trust Dirt In My Eye 7″ (Active-8)
After releasing two modern-quintessential Boston hardcore albums, I had wondered what The Boston Strangler was up to. Turns out vocalist Ban Reilly has a new band going by the name of Public Trust, and if you are wondering if maybe he softened up a bit, or perhaps found a little kindness in his heart to at least reconsider openly celebrating murderers, think again my friend! Dirt In My Eye is Public Trust’s second self-released 7″, and Reilly takes his sound in more of a “collectible-punk” direction, though it suits him well. His booming, Choke-like voice remains the same, but this music caters more to delinquent behavior outside of a midnight movie than edge-minded hardcore pitting. The lyrics seem to pointedly echo the poetry of GG Allin, making it perfectly clear that he wants sex, he doesn’t like diarrhea during sex, he wants to cannibalize his lover (that’d be “Cannibal Love”), and he is impressed by the gruesome result of a disfiguring car crash. It’s crass, it’s crude, and I dunno, it practically feels wholesome at this point, as kids today have normalized face tattoos and turned online self-degradation into an Olympic sport, and over here we’ve got a grown-up Ban Reilly talking dirty about sex. Much of the record reminds me of The Freeze at their earliest and best – “Eyes Without A Face” in particular – and I can hear strains of The Misfits in “Dirt In My Eye”, though Reilly’s voice ensures Public Trust’s distinction, homage though it may be. It even comes with one of those “not for sale to minors” stickers that used to grace GG’s singles back in the day, a quaint reminder that parents actually used to care about their children.

Reymour Leviosa LP (Knekelhuis)
Knekelhuis starts their new year right with Swiss synth-wavers Reymour, feeling chilly, hopeful and refreshed. Leviosa is probably the sweetest release I’ve heard from the label thus far, though it still has that “foreigner in a foreign land” vibe that seems to run through the majority of the label’s signees, a sense of displacement and mystery which often results in some intriguing musical combinations. Reymour are somewhat straightforward in their approach, but it hits nicely – theirs is a soft and steamy reflection of minimal-wave pop, strongly reminiscent of the great BIPPP compilation, Antena’s Camino Del Sol, the short-lived Russian duo Private Entertainment and, yes, a smidge of Young Marble Giants (if they had thin mustaches, wore berets and drank red wine). It’s wearily romantic music, but with enough of its own style to avoid being tagged “goth”… I can’t help but feel that this is music to be enjoyed in head-to-toe Emilio Pucci, not Rick Owens. Reymour are sad about the futility of love, but it’s because they just seduced the pool boy next door while simultaneously having an affair with the lawyer’s wife, not because they hang out in cemeteries at night.

Soft Shoulder Copy Machine Fall Down 7″ (Gilgongo)
Soft Shoulder has always kind of been Gilgongo’s James Fella and whatever friends he can recruit at any given time, as opposed to a solidly formed band, now that I think about it. On this new two-song single, he’s got two different and formidable crews, who make it one of my favorite Soft Shoulder releases to date. “Touchless Display” is noisy indie-punk with a semi-functional reggaeton beat and a vocalist doing his best syllabic recreation of Mark E. Smith. This leads to a sound not unlike a bargain-basement Von Südenfed, or The Mae Shi meeting Pixeltan outside of Liars’ practice space circa 2001, which probably happened. Soft Shoulder were a trio there, and they inflate to a quintet on “Treat For Samson”, including Deerhoof’s John Dieterich, and it’s a gloriously scattered free-improv jam. It’s elastic and limber, like a yoga session where you actually do turn into a pretzel, complete with plenty of fluttering horns and Derek Bailey-informed guitars. It’s over six minutes, and while I’m hesitant to say I wish it was twice as long, I’ve found myself playing it repeatedly, happy to inhabit its woozy shuffle and involuntary spasms. I’d have to put in a little research to be certain, but I’m thinking this 7″ might be the best Soft Shoulder have ever sounded!

Speed Week Hey Hey It’s Speed Week 12″ (Legless)
Don’t let the Saved By The Bell-stylized art keep you away from the debut of this Melbourne punk group – Speed Week deliver the goods! Rather than try to enhance their straightforward punk with weirdness or some sort of attention-grabbing gimmickry, Speed Week write basic-yet-forceful punk songs, anthem-ready tunes that stand up for themselves. Think of a slightly faster Eddy Current with a less friendly attitude, or maybe The Chats if they graduated primary school. (Which isn’t to say that The Chats would benefit from higher education, or that Speed Week’s brains are bigger, just that Speed Week’s lyrics reflect a particularly thoughtful evaluation of modern society’s miseries and pitfalls.) I want to point your attention directly toward the song “Echo Chamber” here, a glorious ripper with a chorus I found myself singing along to by the end of the first time I heard it. The whole record is great, but that’s the ace! Speed Week paired a timeless sound with contemporary topics of concern, which is an excellent combination for any punk band of any era. There’s such beauty in fast post-punk simplicity such as this, a difficult feat that looks easy when Speed Week’s at it. I always assumed the graphic design was the easiest part of doing a punk band, but as I look at Speed Week’s Matchbox-parody logo, I’m realizing it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Styrofoam Winos Styrofoam Winos LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Sophomore Lounge is open to a variety of sounds, but generally has been giving the bulk of its attention to pleasantly hippie-fied indie-rock, as is the case with this debut record from Styrofoam Winos. They’re a “Nashville songwriting super-unit” according to the press release, yet don’t expect any top-down-on-a-dirt-road pop-country radio slickness; this is a group that would surely be more comfortable tucked into a loading zone at Cropped Out than at an IHeartRadio tailgate party. The three of them trade instruments and songwriting duties throughout, which explains the fairly broad range of styles displayed here, from nervous post-punk recalling DEVO and Pere Ubu to folksy Wilco strums, potent Yo La Tengo-esque indie jams and even some forays into what sounds like Christian indie-country or something (the softly shimmering “Once” in particular has me thinking of Drive-Thru Records hopefuls Steel Train). No complaints here, but I also haven’t heard any particular songs on Styrofoam Winos that made me stand up and/or shout. It’s probably a bit too plain for my particular tastes? One of those records that is perfectly pleasant listening, guaranteed to not offend even the most out-of-touch of boomer parents, and well, I suppose I’d rather run that risk.

Tin Foil 2 LP (Almost Ready)
Detroit’s Tin Foil make music beholden to an era when you could absolutely title your second album “2” and it would be a pretty big deal, because only a tiny sliver of the population ever got to be in a band that made a record, let alone two. They play fairly charming throwback rock, definitely the sorta thing that would tickle the ears of that one uncle who’s subscribed to Record Collector for the past twenty years, as well as the younger leather-jacketed cousins who never understood why anyone would care about Daft Punk in the first place. A little Stooges, a little Bubble Puppy, a little Cream, some Dust, and maybe (okay, definitely) a pinch of Pavement in there, too… road-tested rock music that has no pretensions as to its purpose or attitude. You sit at the bar and drink beer, you stand outside and smoke cigarettes, and when you want to hear some music, 2 is a perfectly suitable slab. It’s an old sound they’re working with, but not a “retro” one, if such a designation can be made? I mean to say that Tin Foil seem to be playing the music that naturally comes to them, not out of a desire to be liked or cool but simply to share who they are and what they’ve got.

Voice Imitator Plaza LP (12XU)
Interesting debut here from the seasoned Aussie rockers who comprise Voice Imitator. They’ve got personnel from Lakes, Exhaustion, True Radical Miracle and so on (an ex Ooga Booga, too!), and from that somewhat varied selection of underground names, I’d say that Voice Imitator come closest to the motorik noise-rock grooves of Exhaustion. This music is generally based on repetition, hammering a specific (and not particularly elaborate) progression until it’s six feet under, guided by the propulsive beats of drummer Per Byström. Kind of a typical thing for adult men who used to be in punk bands to do, but Voice Imitator manage to do their own weird things within this context – see “Vetting The Best”, for example, which takes a typical heavy metal riff, elongates it, deprives it of heavy metal drumming, and forces it to walk in a circle until it’s left a deep trench in the dirt. These songs can be aggressive, but Voice Imitator are constantly exercising restraint, as if they leashed these songs to a post instead of letting them run wild. They even dabble in some ASMR, or at least aren’t afraid to get kinda quiet for dramatic effect. No one has ever asked “what would’ve Neu! sounded like if they were a dirtbag band signed to Treehouse Records in 1990?”, but I think we may have found the answer.

White Suns The Lower Way LP (Decoherence)
White Suns emerged about a decade ago, right at the height of the blown-out improv noise-rock trend that has seemingly fallen out of favor in the past few years. They’ve always seemed like kind of an outlier though, operating on their own weird tip, probably unaware of what is or isn’t popular and simply following their nose toward their own sound. On The Lower Way, it’s inquisitive and playful, but still molten and caustic. If I can go by the live photo on the insert, it seems that they’re working with a couple guitars and three separate piles of electronics this time around. The guitars tweak and strain in a manner that can recall Otomo Yoshihide one moment and Justin Broadrick the next, and the electronic percussion delivers mangled trap beats or thermal-detonator-style booms that eviscerate all the lingering debris. Maybe a little like later Sightings in this regard, a sort of re-purposing of no-wave’s concepts via brutal noise-rock pummel, though White Suns’ vocals have me thinking of turn-of-the-century emo-core, a very direct and unmodified murmur/shout that grounds the proceedings. Those whose love of rock-inspired noise and noise-inspired rock has never wavered will surely approve of The Lower Way – I know I do!

Wolf Eyes / Blank Hellscape Winter Sunday / Concrete Walls LP (12XU)
There are seemingly an endless amount of crazy aspects to Wolf Eyes – their various lineups and side-projects, their immeasurably vast body of work, their meme popularity, their decades-long existence – but perhaps most stunning to me is that now, operating as the duo of Nate Young and John Olson, they’re at the top of their game. “Winter Sunday” is a great, lengthy excursion from these living legends, sounding unmistakably like Wolf Eyes through its murky horror electronics, decayed vocals and reed instruments from beyond the grave. As a duo, they leave plenty of space, unhurriedly deploying each element, but even at its most narcoleptic “Winter Sunday” is always lurching forward, new sounds bubbling up as though there’s a nasty clog deep in the Wolf Eyes drain. It’s beautiful! Blank Hellscape are new to me, but the pairing is fitting, as they pursue a similarly-fried form of circuit-broken electronics, corroded tapes and disembodied vocals. They must be thrilled to share a twelve-inch with the undisputed masters, as “Concrete Walls” is clearly indebted to the path Wolf Eyes paved. It’s a little more grayscale and Broken Flag-ish in its sonic palette compared to the toxic psychedelia of Wolf Eyes’ a-side cut, though its staggering rhythmic stumble and proliferation of junk-shop electronics is probably grounds enough for Blank Hellscape to owe Wolf Eyes royalties. Double-up on your masks if you plan on taking this record for a ride, as noise like this is impervious to all vaccinations!

Al Wootton Maenads 12″ (Trule)
Al Wootton seems to have retired his prior moniker of Deadboy, preferring to release music under the name his parents gave him. Makes sense, since it’s kind of an immature name, and the music Wootton has been making lately is refined, heady stuff, not something you could ever mistake for a Deadmau5 side project. “Baccata” opens this four-track EP nicely, with sparse and choppy percussion and some unusual sounds lurking beneath. You’ll have to turn it up to fully appreciate the weird interior plumbing sounds that lurk beneath the rigid and staccato percussion, but it’s worth doing so. “Alder” follows with more sparse, dubbed out percussion over a fast-twitching groove, kind of as if dubstep never learned about bass wobbling and instead focused on the half-timed rhythmic patterns that can become deeply hypnotic (as is the case here). The title track continues the theme of “no real bass”, but plenty of echoed percussive motifs, sometimes as fast as machinery and other times paced like a stone skillfully skipped across a lake. Probably in a similar wheelhouse as recent productions by Peder Mannerfelt, Donato Dozzy or Joy O, as far as impactful post-dubstep, post-industrial, post-drum-and-bass techno is concerned. Personally, I find these four tracks to be distinctly pleasurable, honing in on a specific vibe (presumably rendered with the same set of tools) that’s at once frenetic and calmly drifting.

Yu Su Yellow River Blue LP (Music From Memory)
Wasted no time procuring a copy of Yu Su’s debut LP, as I am a big fan of this Vancouver experimental-dub-techno producer and, well, I don’t have much else really going on to keep me from sitting around buying things online. Her music has continually located the sweet spot between downtempo house, wellness-ambient and fourth world exotica, and Yellow River Blue, her first full-length, continues as expected. “Xiu” is an interesting opener, surprisingly upbeat and soothing with springy bass and a plucked melody that makes it sound like The Cure on the receiving end of a house remix or something. “Futuro” is a low-slung dub workout, whereas “Touch-Me-Not” behaves like krautrock aromatherapy. It’s “Gleam”, the last track on the first side, that most resembles my favorite Yu Su material, the Roll With The Punches EP; slow and sensual house with luscious melodies and an aquatic sense of motion. That same sensation is explored on “Melaleuca”, another upbeat groove with melodic nods to her Chinese heritage. For a fan such as myself, Yellow River Blue is a fine new installment of Yu Su’s charismatic and elusive music, and for someone unfamiliar with her work, it’s a great place to start.