Archive for August, 2021

Discogs Cheapos: Summer Slowdown 2021

As you may have noticed, fewer records are rolling through these pages in recent months. Chalk it up to a variety of reasons: record prices going up (how many thirty-dollar LPs can I possibly fit into my budget?), records caught in endless plant delays, labels focusing on digital and cassettes in order to release music in a timely fashion, and so on. It’s not the best time to try to release a record, seeing as if you press two- or three-hundred copies, you’re guaranteed to either sell out immediately and watch as they sell for a hundred bucks a pop two weeks later (and fans yell at you for it), or barely sell a dozen and sit on the rest forever. It’s hard and only getting harder! So, now that I’ve outlined a particularly bleak vinyl landscape, allow me to remind you, fellow music enthusiast, that there are still millions of old records that rule, sitting out there in bargain bins (and, of course, on Discogs) waiting to be snatched up for pennies on the dollar. Fill up your cart with these!

Envy Envy 7″ (New Direction, 1995)
Let’s kick this off with some distinctive… generic youth-crew hardcore?? Bear with me on this one: Envy were a straight-edge hardcore band from Buffalo in the mid ’90s, strongly indebted to the Revelation Records scene that broke out while they were in middle school. The cover photo is an almost exact rip of the shot used on Youth Of Today’s Disengage 7″, which has a song called, you guessed it, “Envy”. The label, which was probably run by someone in Envy, takes its name from the opening Gorilla Biscuits song on their album, of whom a substantial portion of Envy’s riffs are indebted; I could go on but you get the picture. Extreme youth-crew homage done less than a decade from its initial source, which arrived right when I was a teenager eager to discover positive mosh music. Extremely generic (yet enjoyable) stuff here, with the exception of one crucial aspect: the drums. This drummer must’ve had absolutely no idea what he was doing, so in an inexplicable twist, he does a push-beat (where you hit the snare on the one instead of the two) for all of these songs, giving them a bizarre energy all their own. Can you even mosh in a standard youth-crew style to this rhythm? Vocalist Larry Ransom is perfectly squeaky and impassioned about skating and friends and the edge, and paired with the world’s worst hardcore drumming, you’ve got a two-dollar hardcore single that’s as hysterical as it is typical.

Last Few Days Too Much Is Not Enough 12″ (Touch, 1986)
Okay, so that Envy record definitely won’t be for everyone, especially those of you who (insert eye-roll emoji) only like good music, but this Last Few Days record comes with the highest possible recommendation across the board – if you remotely like the music I champion on here, you need a copy of this. I know little of this European post-punk group, mostly just that they toured with Laibach, kept an extremely low profile and had cool show posters (of which I desperately need to obtain). Somehow, they got on Touch way back in 1985 – yes, the same high-minded electronic composition label that continues to this day – and released this absolute monster of an industrial post-punk tune. I’m referring to the title track, and oh my god, put it on now! It’s a gnarly rhythmic force, little more than live drums and pulsing bass peppered with the occasional confrontational vocal. Imagine Emptyset remixing Black Eyes, Coil remixing Rema Rema, or something Troubleman Unlimited would’ve released between the years of 1999 and 2005 (and would’ve been their best release of the year). “Solemn Warnings” is an eerie tape experiment of horns and sounds, and “If The Bonds Are Not To Burst” is a foreboding organ drone with shouted vocals, adding to the ominous industrial vibe. Fans of Test Dept and SPK need to scoop this immediately, before some hip retrospective compilation drops with “Too Much Is Not Enough” prominently featured and this record starts to command a collector’s price.

The Musical Janeens Sell Out LP (Plurex, 1980)
Truly stumped as to why this one remains a five-dollar cheapo. We’re talking about noisy post-punk from 1980 on the Plurex label, an imprint I hold dearly in my heart for releasing such all-time punk classics as Filth’s Don’t Hide Your Hate and Tits’ Daddy Is My Pusher, both of which command three figures (and are worth every penny). Featuring one member who would later join The Human League, The Musical Janeens played rambunctiously amateur post-punk, favoring improvisational freakery and dub aesthetics to punk’s speedy rock n’ roll formula. Imagine The Door & The Window trying to replicate Public Image Ltd’s dub style to befuddled live audiences across Europe, which is also precisely in front of whom Sell Out was recorded. It would’ve fit in nicely alongside the Fuck Off Records catalog, presumably excluded from Johan Kugelberg’s Top 100 DIY singles on the simple fact that this is an album, not a single. I absolutely love this defiant, early Rough Trade sound, and I know I’m not alone in that opinion, so it continues to mystify me why The Musical Janeens are unheralded and underpriced. How long until the lavish Vinyl On Demand reissue treatment?

Ryuichi Sakamoto featuring Thomas Dolby ‎Field Work 12″ (10, 1985)
Did you know that these two ’80s synth-pop pioneers got together to make some tracks way back when? I only found out a couple years ago but I’ve been spinning my copy of Field Work religiously ever since. While most collaborations are often less than the sum of their parts, “Field Work” is a monster banger, like an evolved strain of city-pop based in the cyber-metropolitan zone that Sonic the Hedgehog might run through. What a tune! It’s so fast yet tidy, giving me visions of Japanese bullet trains with Thomas Dolby waving goodbye from the window, his perfectly weird lyrics lodging themselves in your brain (is he supposed to be, like, an archaeologist in love or something?). How come of all the millions of artists making synth-pop today, none of them come close to this? The b-side is a solo Sakamoto outing, and on an entirely different tip: it’s a beautifully bent tone poem that pre-dates the Mille Plateaux IDM scene by at least ten years while still sounding fresh today. Pretty essential electronic listening on both sides, and due to the various domestic and international pressings back in 1985, you can own one for like three bucks plus shipping.

Ziamaluch Ziamaluch 12″ (Flipped Out, 1996)
Fans of Bill Orcutt, take note! He might be the most notable guitarist to spew unhinged blues chords today, but there was also at least Ziamaluch doing it in the ’90s too, the moniker used by one Jackson Wingate. He ran the Flipped Out label that released this, and he christened its discography appropriately with this self-titled one-sided LP in a limited run of two-hundred copies all with repurposed LP sleeves. Wingate absolutely shreds through this one, very much in line with the first run of Bill Orcutt solo records as well as the great Demo Moe album and Jeph Jerman’s Blowhole project, except this is a solo guitar record through and through. 1996 is not a year known for excellent improvised guitar noise, which makes this one stand out even stronger in my humble opinion. I kinda love how emboldened and out-of-time the upstate NY noisy underground has been from the early ’90s through to the present, clearly in love with their own work and the work of their friends rather than concerning themselves with popularity, social standing or, ugh, “making it”. Next time I need my ears cleaned out, I’m gonna lay down on a tarp and crank Ziamaluch to eleven.

Reviews – August 2021

Agents Of Satan The Final Set LP (Rescued From Life / Nuclear Ass / 625 Thrashcore / Rotten Scum / Carnalismo)
Praise the dark master below (and the five labels responsible) for pressing up Agents Of Satan’s final live performance, a KFJC radio set from November 2011. Were Agents really still active as late as 2011? I had no idea, but considering the fact that this West Bay grind band lives in my heart eternally, actual marked time doesn’t seem too important of a concept. Whatever the case, they sound pretty great here, running through classics like “Goat Core”, “Red Impulse”, “Crust = Glam” and perhaps my favorite if I had to pick, “Vomit Tar”. Lord Balsakk’s vocals are as juicy as ever, and Ramon Salcido’s bass playing is particularly inspired, with aggro runs recalling the power-violence godfather himself, Eric Wood. Interestingly, they even added the same samples that attended the studio recordings of these songs to The Final Set, perhaps more integral to the Agents Of Satan listening experience than I would’ve thought. Probably a pretty niche record for an already niche band (’90s power-violence adjacent Satanic dirge/grind)… I’m not sure what it would be like to hear them for the first time in 2021, but they were always one of my favorite first-wave 625 bands, and their character is well preserved here.

Anika Change LP (Sacred Bones)
Sacred Bones offers many examples of the various things that irk me about the modern indie-label industry, but they did the absolute right thing here by signing Anika and putting out her new album! Kudos for that. British-German singer Anika has one of the most distinctive singing voices of the previous decade, and her disaffected (yet passionately engaged) post-punk dub is top shelf, no doubt. This new one has her more or less on her own (or rather, without Beak> as her backing band once more), which results in a wider range of sounds, from pulsing dark electro to the trap-kit dub of her debut. I still prefer Anika at her most pessimistically cool, doing a stripped-down post-punk requiem as opposed to some of the upbeat electronic new-wave tunes here, but it’s clear that her oddly-commanding voice could unify even the most disparate of styles. She even goes in kind of a indie-folk direction (but only kind of) with album-closer “Wait For Something”, which has me thinking she shouldn’t exclusively dwell at the vanguard of dour post-punk; she is equally as suited to leading the Fleetwood Mac sound-alike revival and blowing all those empty-headed indie pretenders out of the water.

Hélène Barbier Regulus LP (Celluloid Lunch)
Another new transmission from Montreal’s Celluloid Lunch label, who once again keep things local in scope and punk in spirit if not in sound. Hélène Barbier is new to my ears, though her sound is pleasant and familiar, hearkening back to the earliest post-punk artists who tried to write pop music, even if it didn’t necessarily work out that way. These songs are naturally wonky though they go down smooth, like a non-funky take on Lizzy Mercier-Descloux’s Press Color or three parts Marine Girls’ Beach Party, one part Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. I feel like most artists who mine this sort of vaguely seductive, even more vaguely goth, and overtly-weird underground pop music opt for synths and electronics as the music’s driving force, so it’s cool that Barbier opted for a rock band instead, playing mostly all the instruments herself (and aided by a small crew of auxiliary musicians to provide keyboards, additional percussion and backing vocals where necessary). If you’re looking to sample, I’d start with “Get A Grip” and “Carpet” (available on Bandcamp of course because where else would it be), two of Miss Barbier’s finer moods.

Beex The Early Years: 1979-1982 LP (Beach Impediment)
Beex’s debut single Beat Beat is one of those great punk singles that always managed to fly under the collector-scum market somehow, a killer two-song picture-sleeve 7″ that could be obtained for twenty bucks or less. I just took a look out of curiosity and that seems to still be the case, which warms my heart, though the smart shoppers out there might want to take that twenty and throw it towards The Early Years: 1979-1982, a nice little compilation of Beex’s first two studio sessions, instead. “Beat Beat” remains a must-hear punk single, a stellar combination of first-wave punk, pub-rock tendencies and the casual cool of The Anemic Boyfriends, the sort of tune Iggy Pop would crawl like a dog towards while passing through town. Though undisuptedly not as strong as “Beat Beat”, the rest of these tracks kick plenty of butt too – “Butch” honestly sounds a lot like recent underground faves Vivienne Styg, except Beex were toiling it out in Richmond forty years earlier, before the myriad sub-genres of punk were dissected and categorized. Guitars ring out and solo frantically, vocalist Christine Gibson is tough as nails, and the rhythm section maintains just enough structural integrity to push the party forward. Punk is an attitude, sure, but it’s also a hell of a sound, which Beex demonstrate here.

Blank Gloss Melt LP (Kompakt)
Surely there have been one or two other Kompakt artists to prominently feature traditional guitars in their music, but even if it was a guitar-centric label, new signees Blank Gloss would still stick out. It’s a good fit, as Blank Gloss scratches that Pop Ambient itch with distinction, a very soundtrack-y style with light-as-a-feather ambient drift and guitars that unfurl in slow motion. I enjoyed Blank Gloss’s debut from last year, and I like this one more, as it carves out a more distinctive slot in the crowded field of peaceful ambient music. Tangerine Dream is an obvious reference (in particular their early ’80s soundtrack run), as is Gaussian Curve, Suzanne Kraft, Bill Connors’s solo albums from the ’80s and so forth. I really enjoy the way Blank Gloss do it though, teetering on the edge between tasteful guitar/synth improvisation and soft-throbbing ambient without fully giving way to either side. There are even some moments on here that recall the subliminal spaces within Dark Side Of The Moon, though I’m a little hesitant to pull that one up and check. No need to suffer through bloated rock-opera cheese when Blank Gloss gets right to the good stuff.

Canal Irreal Canal Irreal LP (Beach Impediment)
If you had to point to a single person as a means of summing up all that is good and noble about punk, Martin Sorrondeguy would be a wise choice. As vocalist of the equally legendary Los Crudos and Limp Wrist, his dedication to and enthusiasm for hardcore-punk hasn’t wavered for decades, plus he just seems like a really nice guy. He’s also the singer of new Chicago band Canal Irreal, and I have to admit that his presence in this group strongly colors the way I hear it… which is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that I like the band more because it’s Martin Crudo singing. They play hardcore-punk with a clear death-rock influence (you know precisely the guitar tone I’m talking about), lurking in the mid-tempo range with chipped black nail-polish and a semi-functional fog machine puffing fat clouds intermittently. Not a whole lot for me to get especially excited about (or turned off by) here, though to be fair I personally don’t find goth-y hardcore-punk to be as exciting as, well, pretty much any other version of hardcore-punk. I am excited, however, to know that Sorrondeguy continues to build hardcore community well beyond “hardcore kid” age, pushing forward as opposed to recycling former glories, a trap so many other living hardcore legends fall into. Can you say that you started your first goth-core band in your mid 50s?

Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt Lucy & Aaron LP (Hanson)
Incredibly satisfying duo collab here from the needs-no-introduction Aaron Dilloway and Colombian sound-artist / vocalist Lucrecia Dalt. Dilloway’s tape loops are about as good as gnarly analog noise can get, both as a stunning visual performance and a downright gruesome sonic experience. Kings of the noise scene as they are, Wolf Eyes have never really been the same without him! Anyway, Dilloway’s loops are rightly gurgling and hiss-filed here, and aided in their motion by the severely-modified vocals of Lucrecia Dalt. Often playing out like a haunted house at the bottom of a swamp, the mix of vile tape manipulation, groggy synths and inhuman/non-human/human vocals (which often provide unexpectedly melodic hooks) is deliriously good. I’d probably have enjoyed it if they opted for two side-long explorations, but I definitely prefer that there are twelve individual tracks here, each of which investigates its own particular nook of the Lucy & Aaron universe. It keeps things lively and fresh, even if many of these tracks emulate backed-up sewer drains rupturing from compacted gas. Which rules.

Dom & The Wizards The Australian Cyclone Intensity Scale LP (Tenth Court / Walking Bird)
You ever have to participate in like, “funny hat day” at your school or place of employment or whatever, and wonder who actually enjoys this? I don’t know Dom or his Wizards personally, but I bet my lunch money that they relish any sort of opportunity to show up in a light-up fedora or feathered tricorn, as their jovial, mildly-zany tunes have led me to believe. Their music recalls bands who took The Beatles’ cheery psychedelia as a jumping-off point for sillier and perhaps more inebriated versions of that sound, like Dr. Hook for example. I’ve gone this long without having to hear King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but maybe there’s some similarity there too, both being Aussie bands with “wizard” in the name and all? At its best, I’m reminded of a chunky mix of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Psychedelic Horseshit (“Outlaws & The Cops”, for example), but nine times out of ten music this unabashedly child-like and goofy isn’t for me, which I’d say is the percentage here. Of course, if you are someone who owns at least two of the three following items – a top hat, devil sticks, a unicycle – Dom & The Wizards might deliver the sonic potion you’ve been seeking.

Sam Gendel Fresh Bread 2xLP (Leaving)
Sam Gendel keeps my summer bright with not only his still-fresh Josiah Steinbrick collaboration but this new double album of odds and sods. Honestly, this might be how I enjoy him the most, dipping into his big bag of wild ideas, jams, loops and improvisations and condensing the best of the bunch into a reasonably tidy double album (especially when considering the digital version of Fresh Bread is a whopping fifty-two tracks clocking in at over three hours). Electronic arpeggios encountering jazzy bass-guitar brush up against live session ensemble jams, kosmische ambient and wonky home-edited loops, all with Gendel’s sax either colorfully in the forefront or obscured through his distinctive set of effects. I love the drum machines he uses, sounding tiny and weird, and I love when a vocal unexpectedly pops up, like on the unsurprisingly feel-good “Sometimes I Feel So Good”. So many angles and positions are employed here, all presented with a personal, diaristic feel that I find particularly alluring in the hands of Mr. Gendel. Consistently playful and richly melodic, even the wrong notes feel like right ones on Fresh Bread.

Jivestreet Revival First 7″ (Slackersound)
After hearing and enjoying Jivestreet Revival’s debut album, and now listening to this pretty killer new 7″ EP, you’d think I might be able to get past the name, but nope… it’s on the level of “Steakdaddy 6” when it comes to a wince-worthy band name. Which is kind of a shame, but also kind of cool, considering how much I dig their tunes – maybe they know it’s bad and are simply too bad-ass to care! Heavy duty sleaze-rock riffs are beaten and bruised by this German group, to be nestled somewhere between Black Flag and St. Vitus in SST’s 1986 catalog. Unfakeable mean-spirited hard rock that also has me thinking of L7 and Fang, real bad-news blues for stolen guitars. Speaking of, the guitar really takes center stage, an unhurried chug that seems like the sort of thing that would be playing in the background while Kilslug’s living room gets raided by the FBI. On second thought, maybe “Jivestreet Revival” is meant to signify that this group really don’t give a you-know-what about anything, rather than just another regrettable moniker? On the strength of these stanked-out tunes, I’m willing to consider it.

Eli Keszler Icons 2xLP (LuckyMe)
It should be evident that I love a good percussionist, and Brooklyn’s Eli Keszler is in the upper echelon of that category right now. I loved 2018’s Stadium for its mix of cascading-yet-dry drum patterns over thick clouds of chords, and this new one delivers in a similar fashion without offering a simple replay of past events. Though the approach feels a bit more varied this time around, Icons is still a prime-time showcase of Keszler’s brilliant trap-kit wizardry, enhanced by deeply resonant sound fields of seemingly acoustic origin. I enjoy it best when he’s running through virtuosically-precise fills at hyper speed over the chimes of pianos, vibraphones and a Fender Rhodes, and while there’s a good bit of that here, Keszler seems less interested in technical razzle-dazzle this time around and more intent on establishing heavy, heady moods. The B-side of this double LP is probably my favorite quarter, opening with flashy runs on the kit, then moving towards a blurry disorientation of sound, a peaceful elegy and finally some sort of pretty (yet undeniably creeping) jazz. This is music that understands that the dystopia isn’t coming, it’s already upon us, but it manages to find meaning and artistry in the wreckage, complete with unexpected (to me) liner notes from Keszler’s girlfriend and noted online political agitator Anna Khachiyan. It makes one wonder, where do New York’s jazz buskers go now that the subway is constantly flooded?

Moin Moot! LP (AD 93)
There’s a seemingly infinite number of ex-hardcore kids making techno, and while that can work out alright a lot of the time, I’m particularly intrigued by the rarer inverse: techno kids who try to rock. That’s the confusing case of Moin, who were initially just UK experimental duo Raime under a different moniker, now joined by genius percussionist Valentina Magaletti. I want to play this record for all my rock-minded friends so they can also marvel at what a weird production it is too. Imagine all the slow parts of bands like Fugazi, Hoover, UOA, Shellac, hell even 311 and Incubus – the parts before the bombastic choruses kick in – and extend them, with vocals replaced by spoken-word samples, for four or five minutes, no payoff to the build-up. “An Utter Stink”, for example, sounds like the isolated guitar and drums tracks from any given mid-’90s Snapcase song. Weird, right? To Moin’s credit, their sound is pretty unique no matter what the scene. Emo bands would never maintain this sort of tension without a release, and no other avant-electronic heads are touching post-hardcore emo, that’s for sure. And while it took a little bit of mental processing and adjusting, even after already being familiar with earlier Moin records, I think I kinda love Moot!, someway somehow.

Mope City Within The Walls LP (Tenth Court)
Much like The Psychos and Death, Mope City are a band whose sonic imprint perfectly suits their name. This Australian group likes their rock songs to be loose, moody and rainy, basement indie-rock for when you can’t go outside. Thankfully, they’ve clearly got a self-awareness of their mopery – their debut EP was titled Boo Fukin’ Hoo, after all – and the songs of Within The Walls are comfortable to be themselves. Which, to my ears, results in a sound somewhere amongst Bedhead, Pavement, Pink Reason and Arab Strap. Mope City don’t inject much energy into these songs, and it works in their favor, adding a sense of stupefied hypnosis (particularly in the drain-circling “Within The Walls / My Advice”). Reminds me of something Kurt Cobain would’ve listened to at the height of his terrible fame, some unheard K Records band that broke up way too quickly because as we all know, that’s what the greatest bands do. With this being their third album, Mope City have already existed for too long, but let’s face it, a crucial unspoken element of moping is perseverance.

Psico Galera Le Stanze Della Mente LP (Beach Impediment)
Jonah Falco is really one of the unsung workers of modern hardcore. He’s pulled the power move of being in a popular band the underground hardcore scene has long since dismissed (Fucked Up) while still somewhat quietly popping up in all sorts of undeniably great (and undeniably underground) bands and recording sessions, from London’s Game, his solo project Mad Men and now, drumming for this new and otherwise-Italian group called Psico Galera. (I’m still not convinced that he’s not a member of Chubby & The Gang, too.) Anyway, to no one’s surprise, Psico Galera’s debut long-player is a rotten ripper of its own right! Not sure if it’s because I knew their nationality before listening or what, but they certainly sound Italian, recalling the underappreciated 1985 Indigesti album, the horror-core of Nerorgasmo and the fist-pumping fury of early Raw Power. It’s fast but not out of control, preferring rather to bob and weave through these grimy riffs like a rat finding its way back to the sewer. The cover really seals the deal, with a variety of robotic limbs offering fresh pepper to the shirtless lobotomized stooge who appears to be moments from consuming a miniature version of himself in a fresh bowl of soup. Abbondanza!

Research Reactor Corp Live! At Future Techlabs LP (Sweet Time)
Lots of punks these days try to emulate the punksploitation society-menaces that get gratuitously murdered in Robocop or Repo Man or something, and I don’t know, I can’t blame them? We all are feeling the weight of society being held together by frayed threads at this point, so why not wear a Predator mask while riding nude from the waist down on a stolen motorcycle blasting Chronic Sick. Anyway, Research Reactor Corp deliver that vibe excellently with songs that offer a particularly unhinged take on ’80s delinquent punk. I’m reminded of GG Allin once he started barking instead of singing, Chain Gang, Buck Biloxi, The Child Molesters, and a lil’ Lumpy & The Dumpers when it gets particularly frothy (though Research Reactor Corp remain firmly punk, not hardcore, to my sensitive ears). This was apparently recorded live in December of 2020, but more of a “live in the studio with occasional banter” thing, as December 2020 was very much still the heart of the pandemic (and not even mutated punk monsters like Research Reactor Corp were willing to stoop to the level of bringing in a live audience for deathly viral transmissions). There are a number of players in this strain of punk, but Research Reactor Corp do it so well that I was thinking less about the crowdedness of the scene and more about how satisfying it can be to blast rabid unruly punk music out of my stereo.

Rexxx Pure Pleasure II LP (Big Neck)
Based on the name and glitzy cover font, I was preemptively wincing that “Rexxx” was going to be some sort of jokey ladies’ man persona, another party-punk Har Mar Superstar that no one asked for. Fear not, though, as Rexxx is apparently just the name of this Milwaukee band, whose upbeat and classically-molded power-pop songs are more or less fun for the whole family. Kind of amazed at how nonexistent hand-claps are on this record, considering that every bop-along chorus is ripe for a hearty clap along. The melodies are about as typical as they can get, but honestly I don’t want to be dazzled by a new tuning configuration by a band like this, I want to hear mid-paced glammy pop-punk with “whoa-oh”s over the choruses and verses that lead right back into ’em. On a micro level, there’s nothing particularly special about Pure Pleasure II, which could reasonably be described as a less nuanced and more pedestrian take on The Exploding Hearts, but if we’re looking for something to blast in the background while we do flips into our friend’s above-ground pool as the sun slowly goes down, there’s no denying this album’s appropriateness.

Ripatti Fun Is Not A Straight Line LP (Planet Mu)
I first saw Sasu Ripatti’s new album described as relating to hip-hop at the same high and groundbreaking level that his classic deep-house album Vocalcity (under his Luomo alias) related to house, so sign me the hell up! That’s a bold comparison to make, and sadly, it falls incredibly flat for me here. Rather, I’d say that Fun Is Not A Straight Line is simply Ripatti’s footwork record, a genre that Planet Mu has both promoted and gentrified since first releasing DJ Nate and DJ Rashad back in 2010. This is an album full of way-too-fast pads and chopped-up-and-chipmunked vocal samples, the same general concepts used by footwork’s originators quickly rendered once more. Nothing new is gleaned, and without the surrounding footwork culture relative to that scene’s active participants, I find myself disconnected, bored and even sometimes irritable while listening to this. It’s a shame, seeing how Ripatti is responsible for some of my favorite electronic music ever created (from the aforementioned Luomo to Vladislav Delay and even his earlier EPs under the Ripatti name), but it would also be weird or at least a little suspicious if I loved everything any artist with decades of activity under their belt has ever done. It’s strange to hear Ripatti sample Rick Ross’s “Hustlin'”, and not in a good way.

Claire Rousay & More Eaze An Afternoon Whine LP (Ecstatic)
Been meaning to pick up something by avant-oddball / free-percussionist Claire Rousay, but her discography seems to be riddled with tricks and traps. I’ll hear one incredible minimalist percussion improvisation of hers somewhere, but then it turns out that was only on a sold-out split tape or something, and her new LP that I’m considering buying is a computer voice reading her emails instead (and it costs like thirty bucks, of course). I appreciate and applaud the way in which she’s carving out her own niche, reflecting the contemporary frazzled/sick/maddened times through barely-there sound art and conceptual trickery, and I think this collaboration with More Eaze is the perfect solution for me wanting something of substance alongside Rousay’s playful non-musical imagination. No instrumentation is credited to either artist here, of course, but I can’t help but assume More Eaze played a not-insignificant role in establishing the musicality of An Afternoon Whine, fractured though it may be. Indeterminate desktop rustling, snippets of conversation and room sound are filled in with synths, a hefty supply of overtly AutoTuned vocals and even some shoegaze-ready guitar. It sometimes feels like a new song made from only the memories of old songs, like a conversation about a Slowdive tape that your car stereo ate while driving through a windstorm. I feel like Rousay can be a proud patience-tester when it comes to her recordings, but An Afternoon Whine is engaging, pleasant, oddly emotional and compelling the whole way through, so maybe she will need to counteract this with a record that’s the sound of her rice boiling recorded on iPhone Voice Memo from across the kitchen. Which I’m already considering buying.

Strapping Fieldhands Across The Susquehanna LP (Petty Bunco)
Normally I’d sling a phrase like “jolly minstrels” pejoratively, but when it comes to the ever-enduring Strapping Fieldhands, it feels like praise. This Philadelphia institution are around even when they’re not around, and their recent recording activity has been a welcome respite from the city’s grim-reality-based non-psychedelic music. If you’re willing to let the Fieldhands guide you, Across The Susquehanna is a sweetly sleepy trip, replete with cello, flute, keys, sax, harmonica, and plenty of sideways guitars. Reminiscent of the Elephant Six Collective’s weirdo peak were it geared toward a mature, beer-drinking working-class, let’s say. Apparently down to a duo for this recording, this album does feel a bit more intimate and relaxed, a musical sensation similar to watching your oars disappear into the lake below, realizing you have no choice but to float around until someone else passes by. Crazy to think the Fieldhands did a split 7″ with Mudhoney in the latter’s stadium-filling heyday, yet they somehow seem to be having even more fun twenty-five years later. What better fate!

Thought Control Shock To The System 7″ (Not For The Weak)
Sorry to any weaklings who may be reading this, as this new 7″ EP from New Jersey’s Thought Control simply isn’t for you. Shock To The System originally received a cassette release last year, but these five songs sure seem ripe for the vinyl documentation that takes place here. I presume this is a new group (it’s their first release), but they’ve clearly got a handle on what makes hardcore work: unfailing energy, aggressive delivery, relevant social commentary. By my ears, they remind me most of the vastly underappreciated Philly group Leather, as both bands play raging American hardcore of the early ’80s variety with a clear Age Of Quarrel influence (through both the excitable vocal delivery and stage-crashing mosh breakdowns). I can hear John Joseph’s voice (and mercifully, not his personal views) in “Clorox In The Water”, and the title track pays off all that speedy riffing with a breakdown that will have you slugging your best friend in the side of the head if they come within range. Been wondering which band will receive the honor of my first post-pandemic mosh, and Thought Control, through raging tunes and geographical proximity, are a contender.

Ulla Limitless Frame LP (Motion Ward)
Mysterious Boomkat sensation Ulla follows last year’s full-length vinyl debut with Limitless Frame, a most suitable companion. Similar to Tumbling Towards A Wall but by no means a rerun, Limitless Frame expands Ulla’s bed of instrumentation in unexpectedly natural ways, while still maintaining an impenetrable veil of mystery. (Ulla is allegedly a Philadelphia resident yet I don’t know a single person who’s ever seen her or met her, and judging from the otherworldliness of her music, I’ve often wondered if she is even a real human being at all). The a-side is full of gaseous ambient drift, a dub-techno with the spacial behavior of dub and the absence of, well, techno. Just dip into this sonorous sound-bath and forget literally everything, I say! It’s on the b-side where things take a turn, with tracks that feature untreated pianos and horns, plaintive “illbient” vibes perfect for rainy windowsills and still-lifes of undisturbed bowls of fruit in low natural light. If Ulla is actually playing the piano and horns herself, I’m doubly impressed, but part of Ulla’s talents lie in their unknowability, the manner in which what is real and what is imagined and even the slightest shred of narrative all alluringly obscured. It’s a simple trick, to include absolutely zero text on your record sleeve and center labels, but Ulla’s mastered the art of it.

Vacant Gardens Obscene LP (Tall Texan)
Never one to rest on his laurels, Glenn Donaldson somehow squeezes in a sophomore Vacant Gardens album amongst so much activity with The Reds, Pinks & Purples. I’m so glad he did! Along with vocalist Jem Fanvu, it’s safe to call Vacant Gardens his shoegaze project, but that seems like an unfairly flat way of describing Obscene. I mean, it is indeed very much a Cocteau Twins-inspired dream-pop shoegaze record, there’s no denying that, but they absolutely nail it, bullseye after bullseye. The recording quality manages to find a way to be rough and personal without sacrificing the wide, room-filling sound necessary for any given shoegaze record to truly connect. And Fanvu’s vocals, mostly unintelligible behind the wall of guitars and plodding beats, shine like a lighthouse, the perfect foil to Donaldson’s soft sonic upholstery. Very, very Cocteau-esque, as if the Twins put together a hidden demo recording with Billy Corgan sitting in on occasional guitar solos fresh from Siamese Dream. Maybe that’s the “dream” that goes into dream-pop? No matter how inventive or traditional we decide to declare Obscene, it’s a deeply soothing album from which I wish to never wake.