Archive for December, 2021

Best of 2021

Top Singles of 2021
1. Blawan Woke Up Right Handed 12″
2. Horrendous 3D The Gov. And Corps. Are Using Psycho-Electronic Weaponry To Manipulate You And Me… 7″
3. Sweepsculp Sweepsculp 12″
4. Electric Chair Social Capital 7″
5. Game Legerdemain 12″
6. C.I.A. Débutante Music For Small Rooms 12″
7. Gombeen & Doygen D’Americana / Auto-Lies 12″
8. Tara Clerkin Trio In Spring 12″
9. Bunzinelli Godspeed 12″
10. Fairytale Fairytale 7″
11. Container Creamer 12″
12. The Tubs Names EP 7″
13. Omar S feat. John FM Music For Hot Babes Only! 12″
14. Public Trust Dirt In My Eye 7″
15. Blawan Soft Waahls 12″
16. Al Wootton Maenads 12″
17. Cousin Drumtalk / Toad 7″
18. CZN Luxury Variations 12″
19. TVO Alive! 7″
20. Deck In The Pit In A Lane 10″

Honorable Mention:
Alpha Maid Chuckle 12″
C.I.A. Débutante Pier 7″
Burial Chemz / Dolphinz 12″
Child’s Pose Eyes To The Right 7″
Jürgen Ratan Ringtones 7″

Top Albums of 2020
1. Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You
2. Monokultur Ormens Väg
3. Sam Gendel Fresh Bread
4. Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt Lucy & Aaron
5. Jean-Luc Guionnet & Will Guthrie Electric Rag
6. MMM On The Edge
7. Natural Information Society with Evan Parker Descension (Out Of Our Constrictions)
8. Anne Gillis <<...>>
9. Quarantine Agony
10. Gotou Gotou
11. Lavender Hex Bunch Of Flowers
12. Jana Rush Painful Enlightenment
13. Emily Robb How To Moonwalk
14. The Reds, Pinks & Purples Uncommon Weather
15. Rosali No Medium
16. Decha La Vida Te Busca
17. Eli Keszler Icons
18. Ulla Limitless Frame
19. Yu Su Yellow River Blue
20. GFOTY Femmedorm

Honorable Mention:
Andy Stott Never The Right Time
Goldblum Of Feathers And Bones
Vacant Gardens Obscene
Maxine Funke Seance
M Ax Noi Mach American Evil

Trying my absolute hardest to come through with any sort of positive spin on today’s state of affairs. Was anything good this year at all? In any way? See there I go, I’ve practiced writing this little intro like three times and I still can’t help myself. Anyway, I continue to listen to music all day every day, and it remains a joy even on my crappiest days. Unfortunately, even moreso than last year, it’s quite evident that the current social climate has taken a profound toll on artists, from the logistics (records are drastically more expensive to make and riddled with delays each step of the way) to the emotions involved (no explanation needed). Though YGR is basically a vinyl-only endeavor, I really don’t blame anyone moving away from vinyl records in the coming months and years. It’s costly, particularly in an industry where even our middle-aged population is used to years of enjoying any and all music for free. Never has the “love” been put to a greater test in the phrase “labor of love” than right now when it comes to running an underground label. Still, I sincerely love buying and playing records, I love their little art and purposefully listening to them and giving them my time, and I’m going to keep doing that as long as people I appreciate keep making them.

On a different and more positive note, I figured I should mention that I started a separate Substack newsletter earlier this year for talking about other stuff (how’s that for a sales pitch? “Ooh, he talks about other stuff, this I gotta see!”) called This Not That. Kind of on a hiatus with it right now, but if you haven’t already peeped there are a decent number of entries to check out. And speaking of writing, I should give a quick shout-out to my two favorite newsletters I’ve discovered this year. The first is Snake America by Sam Reiss, and it’s a joyous collision of hardcore, furniture design, weightlifting and vintage clothes. Sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but Reiss puts it all together seamlessly, and does so with a calming sense of care and sharp subtle humor. The other is the Joint Custody Record Freak Newsletter, written by the friendly and knowledgeable staff of the DC record shop Joint Custody. While I’m nauseated by the $499 South Park t-shirts they inexplicably peddle, their weekly newsletter discusses records they’re selling from a deeply personal and loving perspective, and it is always such a good read. Makes me wish I was hanging out with that crew, discussing Cannonball Adderley and Side By Side with equal enthusiasm and nuance. If you like this website I’m almost certain you’ll enjoy both of those. And lastly, while I discuss my favorite releases of the year below, I need to include the brief caveat that my actual favorite “new to me” record of the year is without a doubt Frigate’s Dreams Of The Deep, an ultra-obscure 1977 release recently reissued. I refuse to ever become a Reissue Guy but goodness gracious, the absolutely narcoleptic, barely-hanging-on-by-a-thread grooves they laid down resulted in the perfect soundtrack to my 2021. Highest recommendation!

Blawan Woke Up Right Handed (XL)
Terrible year for everyone else, but a helluva year for Blawan! He started the year with the speedy and playful Make A Goose EP, continued with the dazzling studio tour of Soft Waahls and ended it triumphantly with Woke Up Right Handed. A relaxed (or non-existent) live schedule surely resulted in more time puttering around the home studio, and I’m thankful for it. The five tracks of Woke Up Right Handed are the finest Blawan’s made since the immortal His He She & She EP, exhibiting his particular brand of corrosive crunch, dark humor and a willingness to explore any unconventional combination of sounds and effects. Opener “Blika” sounds like ants crawling over hi-hats paired with a Beau Wanzer-esque monster vocal – a real stunner – and it’s followed by the woozy carnival funk of “Under Belly”, perhaps the highlight of an EP of highlights. If Insane Clown Posse dared to drop some bars on this one, it’d be their biggest hit, of that I am positive. Perhaps closer “No Rabbit No Life” deserves the spotlight, filled with more ear-tickling techno static, a lurching slug of an acid bass-line and the creeping sense that the club is about to cave in. Truly, you’ll have to hear them all.

Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You (Feel It)
Starting to feel like a Feel It shill, seeing as my favorite album from last year was their Sweeping Promises debut, but it’s not my fault they keep releasing the best punk around! I swear it’s a coincidence. Now I’m putting my eggs in Waste Man’s basket, a group I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else get particularly excited about. What gives? Sometimes punk is perfect, and while I wasn’t expecting that sort of perfection to come from a band called Waste Man (though I’m not surprised such perfection is borne of New Orleans), they came pretty damn close with this full-length debut. At this point, I’m exhausted by punk that relies on irony or costume or some combination of the two, bands who come out of the gate daring you to hate them more than they already clearly hate themselves, or bands whose total lack of effort is worn as a badge of honor, a race to the bottom to see who can use the worst pencil drawing as a cover. Waste Man are the opposite of all that, writing songs with sincerity and fire, but also cynicism and snark and a slight dash of nihilism (as our times demand). And some truly crafty, stunning hooks. They sound like Saccharine Trust covering Rites Of Spring covering Shattered Faith (or Bruce Springsteen performing the American Youth Report compilation), and they do so in a way that feels effortless yet thoughtful. It’s a record that has failed to elicit social-media buzz because its merit is within the songs themselves, not cheap gimmicks built to elicit strong internet-comment engagement. Let’s all get back to that, I beg you.

Reviews – December 2021

Aska Út Við Sundin Grá LP (Galakthorrö)
Praise be, another gloomy dispatch from Galakthorrö, the globe’s finest purveyor of gothic industrial electronics. This one comes from a new artist, Iceland’s Aska, whose Discogs bio describes the solo project as “obscure electronics”. I’m not sure that the gear Aska uses is particularly hard to find, as the sounds he makes are direct genetic matches to the rest of the Galakthorrö roster. I’d be much more inclined to describe these electronics as “lonely” – seriously, these songs sound like tear-stained transmissions from the farthest ends of the Earth, the final pleas of the final human, who in this case happens to be a pale goth man with a pageboy haircut. In case it wasn’t clear, I love this stuff – Aska’s synths churn slowly and provocatively, as though they are on one-percent battery life and trying to conserve all remaining energy. It’s all very much in line with the bleary, hopeless romance of November Növelet, if perhaps less likely to ever verge on traditional synth-pop. On the insert, Aska’s thanks-list is simply “thanks to the people in my life for understanding”, as if him being Aska is some sort of shameful affliction that cannot be resolved any other way than by devoting himself fully to miserable cold-wave music. I like that.

Blawan Soft Waahls 2×12″ (Ternesc)
Now that it’s officially dark out constantly, there’s no better time to dig into a hefty new double EP from British techno royalty Blawan! As long as he keeps releasing records, I’ll keep checking them out, and while some hit harder than others, Soft Waahls is a worthy addition. These six new tunes scan like a tour of Blawan’s studio, full of the crispy hi-end percussion cracks and grotty low-end kicks I’ve come to expect and cherish. I can easily picture Blawan giving us a casual tour of his various synths and hardware configurations, pointing out which bass tones leave the deepest welts and which vintage synths add those unexpected squiggles of color that he loves to toss in unexpectedly. As a whole, Soft Waahls carries that relaxed sense of sonic brutality, as if these tracks flowed naturally from his fingers in real-time as opposed to being meticulously picked apart in a software program over the course of days. My favorite is the opener “Justa”, in no small part to the distorted spoken-vocal line that repeats – Blawan is a master of many aspects of his trade, and ear-grabbing vocal samples is surely one of them.

Bridge Of Flowers A Soft Day’s Night LP (ESP Disk)
Yup, that ESP Disk! Crazy to me that the label still exists somehow, but crazy in a cool way, particularly as they aren’t simply coasting on their legacy with endless reissues and instead have chosen to release hard-to-file freaks like Pittsfield, MA’s Bridge Of Flowers. This is definitely modern-day loitering-hippie music, a rock band where it seems like only half of its members have verifiable employment at any given time. Reminds me of Meat Puppets at their most gratefully dead, or Eat Skull covering Flipper, which I am fairly certain has actually happened. Kind of New Zealand-y too, in the way that these shambolic rock songs seem to have no particular place to go and don’t seem to mind the aimlessness one bit. For as much as I also enjoy hanging around and playing hackysack (I’ve got an incredible Statute Of Liberty shoulder-stall move), A Soft Day’s Night doesn’t really grab me all that strongly, but that doesn’t seem to be its intention anyway. Why aspire for big-time success when you can just chill with your friends and enjoy each other’s company for free?

Bunzinelli Godspeed 12″ (La Rama)
Vienna’s Neubau label is a buy-on-sight situation for me, so when I saw that they had a 12″ in the works for someone named Bunzinelli, I had to investigate. Turns out he’s a producer out of Montreal, and just released this fresh new EP, so I picked it up and yep, Neubau’s endorsement continues to pay dividends. If you aren’t familiar, that label deals almost exclusively in low-BPM techno of a greasy industrial vein, and Bunzinelli fits right in. These four tracks are at the slow end of the dance spectrum, a sweet spot that lends EBM synths and propulsive techno grooves a relaxed allure. “Call In Blue” drops a vocal snippet with hypnotic aplomb; it’s as if Magazine 60’s Italo-disco classic “Don Quichotte” was redesigned for a secret dance party in one of Montreal’s underground tunnels. There’s nothing about b-side opener “Nova” that particularly signifies goth or BDSM or whatever through its chosen sounds, but when robust techno grooves are deployed at such a slow speed, they can’t help but take on sleazy and sensual qualities your average 130 BPM track does not. Been jamming this one a whole bunch around the house, so taken am I with Bunzinelli’s grooves. Can’t wait for the Neubau release!

C.I.A. Débutante Music For Small Rooms 12″ (Ever/Never)
Most bands can’t get any record out without an eight-month wait, and here’s C.I.A. Débutante releasing two of them at the same time: a new album for Siltbreeze and this 12″ EP for Ever/Never. Makes one wonder if they don’t have an insider connection to some sort of nefarious government agency! Anyway, don’t chalk that up as a complaint, as I am particularly endeared to their low-hanging murk, a mostly-guitarless rendering of post-punk that lingers in the shadows once populated by the early formations of Cabaret Voltaire, Severed Heads, Clock DVA and of course Throbbing Gristle. Synths burble like tarpits, drum machines take an egg-shaped orbit and the mild-mannered vocals of Nathan Roche are seemingly impervious to it all. Roche often sounds like a man in a suit lost in a hall of mirrors, though apparently unbothered by his psychic defeat – it’s a nice fit for these warbly synthetic backdrops. Six tracks here, all of which are excellent, but “Sinkhole” is probably my favorite, answering the question of what Suicide would’ve sounded like if they had access to acid-house in 1976.

The Dents 1979/80 LP (HoZac)
Man, how many weird punk bands did Ohio have during its first wave? A million? HoZac recently unearthed these two soundboard live sets from Cincinnati’s The Dents, a band who apparently had no records released in their day. Judging from these sets, I’m surprised they didn’t, as their jumpy new-wave punk certainly could’ve worked well with Clone, Gulcher or any given Midwestern punk label run out of a shoebox back then. The songs themselves are fine, kind of middle of the road for first-wave punk, but it’s the way they play them that really catches my ear. The Dents are clearly well rehearsed, not only in playing their songs but in rocking the crowd, a skill that I hope hasn’t fallen out of favor with our current “bedroom project that doesn’t play shows” musical environment. The lyrics are frequently meant to agitate, talking about sex and masturbation, insulting someone’s smell and working a song title like “You Burn Me Up (I’m A Cigarette)” with glee. There’s just no way this crowd isn’t sweaty, drunk and falling into each other while The Dents hold them by their shirt collars, as far as I can tell. I miss great shows, and I bet The Dents do too!

Dridge Curing LP (W.G.M.)
One thing I’ve wondered, is in this era of an apparent band-name shortage, why don’t more bands make up new words entirely? Why be the second notable hardcore band named Fury or replace a W with two Vs when you can just call yourself Dridge? It’s making me think of dirges, bridges, and dredging a river, all of which seem to fit the group’s sound either directly or abstractly. The cover’s one-eyed swamp monster (courtesy of artist Perry Shall) seems to understand this as well! And as for their sound, it’s an interesting one, borrowing plenty from the ’90s but not the same ’90s artists everyone else is borrowing from. I’m reminded of groove-heavy subversives like Helmet, Big Black and The Melvins, but it’s no direct rip. It almost seems as if Dridge took Nirvana’s Bleach as their starting point and completely moved away from any semblance of pop toward a weirder, very West Philly-sounding zone, the sort of style that is both crusty and punk but never quite crust-punk (and also vaguely black-metalish). Big kick drum, Metal Zone pedal with Crate amplification (or at least a reasonably similar sound) and evil screamed vocals that are enunciated enough to be intelligible. If Amphetamine Reptile was more interested in pursuing new bands to further the label’s legacy than endless batches of limited Melvins collectibles, Dridge would be well suited to carry their banner.

The Embarrassment Death Travels West 12″ (Last Laugh)
Last Laugh continues their series of Embarrassment reissues with Death Travels West, and I’m not mad at ’em! This band is truly great, as I’m sure many of you know, and this 12″ EP, their third and final release during their brief existence, makes me wish they stuck it out a little longer. Relaxing into mid-tempos, The Embarrassment were as wily and slick as ever, resulting in an energetic and memorable dash of proto-indie rock. Their form of talky, melodic post-punk still sounds fresh, reminding me of the very heralded Parquet Courts, another band who takes an economical approach to guitar-pop songwriting and has no shortage of grievances to air in their words. Kinda crazy to me that original copies of Death Travels West aren’t three-figure affairs just yet, but I suppose the same can be said for certain classics from Mission Of Burma and The Feelies as well, two other indie pioneers I’d feel comfortable placing The Embarrassment alongside. And this faithful, handsome reissue is cheaper still!

James Fella & Gabriella Isaac CCTK Music LP (Gilgongo)
I found myself immediately endeared to this new LP when looking at a picture of the album cover on the promo sheet, which is a cell-phone shot of someone holding up the red cover, their hand and face clearly reflected in the pic. Is it wrong that I find this blatant amateurism appealing? I want to listen to records by artists, not skilled promotional designers! Anyway, this one comes from Gilgongo head honcho James Fella alongside laptop noisemaker Gabriella Isaac, and it’s a satisfying sonic decongestant. The a-side features a real-time collaboration, with searing metallic tones, fuzzy scrapes and general harsh-noise components grazing into each other. It’s all but impossible to determine where Fella’s tapes and Isaac’s laptop begin or end, which is how I like my collaborative scalding noise baths. The b-side is a collage of six reference lacquers of the a-side, and I think I like it even more, opening with a Dilloway-esque sewer stench before wandering into a corridor of unsafe working conditions, with chlorine and bleach splashing up against tarnished scrap metal, or so the sounds would lead me to believe.

First Boy On The Moon First Boy On The Moon LP (Manic)
When Malmö, Sweden’s First Boy On The Moon sent in their debut single, I was picking up the scent of The Killers, but on their full-length debut, it’s become clear who I’m really hearing: U2! Singer/songwriter David Pedroza is giving off severe Bono vibes throughout this record, and while I realize that it’s probably a controversial position to enjoy the vocals of Bono (I personally do) and even more controversial to not mind those whose voices bear overwhelming relation to Bono, I find it to be pretty charming here. Maybe it’s the fact that this seems to be a self-released, labor-of-love sorta thing, which leads me to believe that Pedroza and company are doing this because they love it and mean it and not because they aspire to squeeze between Cage The Elephant and Maroon 5 on some robotic IHeartRadio playlist. While a few songs aim for a vague emotional bombast in league with U2 and Coldplay, they mostly dwell closer to Earth, with subdued grooves that recall Spoon or The New Pornographers. Yes, it’s all very overground underground styles, and perhaps First Boy On The Moon won’t be the First Boy On Spotify’s New Rock Playlist, but I remain happy to have heard them.

Future Kill Mind Tasters Floor Wasters LP (Big Neck)
There’s never a wrong time for mutated garage-y noise-punk, but the current atmosphere feels particularly apropos. Good thing then that Fresh Kill recently formed, hailing from Salt Lake City with a clown car’s worth of auxiliary band members scattered around. This debut is a bubbling pot of future-primitive noise, songs that slosh back and forth like barf on a school bus. The biggest reference is surely Chrome, the way in which Future Kill lock into stoner riffs and blast them to smithereens in post-production, covering everything in distortion and effects. Mind Tasters Floor Wasters has me envisioning Timmy’s Organism without the arena-rock bombast, Kilslug on acid, man and FNU Ronnies covering The Cramps, which comes further into focus upon realizing that FNU’s Jim Veil is apparently a Future Kill band member credited only with “various, fun maker”. There’s also a studded punk rocker named Kevin Neal on sax, and two different members named Jon Boi and Mikey Blackhurst who, by virtue of their band photos, appear to be the same person. Very peculiar, but in a way that is perfectly suited to this oily, trippy batch of gruesome proto-punk slogs.

Dave Graw Abandon Hope LP (Syncro System)
Years from now, if someone asks me what the general tenor of the adult-oriented musical underground was like in 2021, I could do far worse than to pass them a copy of Dave Graw’s Abandon Hope. Check it out: an album of hazy ambient tone-float and smoothly-groovy kraut-rock recorded at home in the throes of the pandemic. In a time of such terribleness as this, I can’t blame neither listener nor artist for wanting to sonically retreat into the womb a bit, to seek a calming sense of warmth that much of Abandon Hope provides, title be damned. When Graw’s friend Josh Machniak plays bass-guitar on certain tunes, I’m picking up a Spiritualized / Sonic Boom vibe – angelic rock n’ roll glory that extends for miles, whereas the lighter tracks have a delicate new-age vibe strongly redolent of the Music From Memory label. This seems to be where many talented un(der)paid musicians have set their aesthetic sights in the past couple years, and while I’m sure the expiration date on this sound is forthcoming much like it is on a pint of artisanal oatmilk, Graw’s clearly got a knack for pulsing harmonies and melancholic melodies. We’ve all gotta deal with real problems at some point, but for now I’m going to let Graw convince me that I’m actually Nicolas Jaar flying Sigur Rós’s plane high above the clouds.

Will Guthrie & James Rushford Real Real World LP (Black Truffle)
Happy to share that I discovered two great percussionists this year, Valentina Magaletti and Will Guthrie. As Guthrie blew my barn door open with his recent Electric Rag album with Jean-Luc Guionnet, I peeped his solo People Pleaser Pt. II online (and loved it too) and picked up this attractive duo outing with James Rushford while I was at it. I saw it in a physical record shop, and had almost forgotten how thrilling a random unexpected purchase in real time can be! Anyway, Real Real World is a lovely outing of free improvisation, though also my least favorite of his records I’ve heard thus far (the others are simply too sick). I suppose I enjoy it most when Guthrie is at his most unhinged, utilizing speed and intensity over caution and delicateness, and Real Real World is more of a pensive, quiet-time noise record. That said, it’s still pretty damn great – Guthrie conjures a wide range of textures and timbres, and Rushford flushes the room with quizzical sounds of a presumed live nature alongside hazy notes that drone and wheeze. At times, it sounds like they’re rolling pens and pencils across a tile floor as a nearby furnace chokes on its own smoke, but very much in an FMP sort of way, as though it’s consistently a playful non-verbal dialogue between the players. Han Bennink would surely approve. And though the majority of the album is consumed by lurking tonal drift and slow-moving sonic detritus, Guthrie fires up his kit on “Slakes” before settling back into the creeping marsh gas of “Blue-eyed Boy”. Wolf Eyes would surely approve, too!

Heavy Metal Live At The Gas Station Fighting The Devil LP (Total Punk)
Since their inception, Berlin’s Heavy Metal have come across as a punk band full of nihilist humor that refuses to allow the listener to laugh along with them. Riddled with in-jokes and delivered with insouciance – this isn’t a live record, for example – I have difficulty determining where the piss-taking starts and the sincerity ends, or if they aren’t somehow managing to be both snide and earnest at the same time. In lesser hands, it could fall apart in a meaningless pile of snark, but Heavy Metal’s abilities as a punk band make for a pretty desirable concoction. While their sound has veered all over the place in the past, from pub-rock to electro-punk to early punk to Residents-style sketch comedy, Live At The Gas Station mostly sticks to a traditional path, running through classic punk moves ala Cockney Rejects, Johnny Thunders, The Users and The Rezillos. That said, the vocals continue to walk that fine line between serious and ridiculous, and of course they’ve also included a track like “Centipede Venom (In My Eye)” which is closer to Men’s Recovery Project than anything on Raw Records (and a welcome change from the trad-sounding punk that bookend it). Sometimes the punkest thing of all is not playing punk, and sometimes the punkest thing of all is playing punk, and Heavy Metal continue to offer us both.

Hyrrokkin X Merzbow Faltered Pursuit 12″ (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Merzbow is cool as hell, we all know this, but one of my favorite things about him is that he’s this decades-long legend that is also probably down to collaborate with anyone, no influential cred required. Just send him an email! I mean, no offense to experimental post-rock trio Hyrrokkin, but this band from Yellow Springs, OH isn’t an underground icon on par with Merzbow, yet here they are, violently jamming with the Japanese noise master. With the addition of Chuck Bettis (of All Scars and Meta-Matics) on “throat and electronics”, the two a-side cuts are massive and relentless, with frantic free drumming resulting in some sort of avant grindcore not unlike an arrhythmic Black Pus. I think I like “The New Economy “Seemed” Suddenly To Dissipate Overnight” best, as the instrumentation is a little more pronounced – the dizzying bassline reminds me of Sightings while the rest of the band behaves with the same heavy noise improv feel of White Suns, all while Merzbow lurks somewhere, twisting his knobs with furious mischief. Rob Mazurek blows things to smithereens on his b-side remix, a furious discombobulation of sound that calls to mind the rapid cuts and throw-it-all-into-a-blender style that Merzbow has employed throughout the years. My salutations to all parties involved!

Laughing Gear Freak Lemons LP (Heavy Machinery)
Doesn’t seem like the vinyl shortage has really hit the Australian market the same way it has here in the States, but regardless of the struggle (or lack thereof) experienced by Melbourne’s Heavy Machinery, I’m pleased they’ve shared Laughing Gear with us. They’re a new duo, featuring one guy from the underrated (and xylophone-centric) Brando’s Island, and they’ve got an aggressive dark-wave thing going on. Nothing romantic or gothic here, these electronics are moody and aggro and the vocals of Bryce Sweatman strongly remind me of Uniform’s Michael Berdan, as they share a pained exhaustion delivered with a smidge of echo and distortion. I appreciate that, in spite of their analog electronics and drum machines, Laughing Gear feel more like a gloomy punk band, as though they have more of a spiritual connection to Flux Of Pink Indians than Ceramic Hello, and perhaps help bridge that gap. Certainly similar to High-Functioning Flesh, or perhaps if DAF were mortal enemies of each other instead of best friends and/or lovers. My favorite cut is probably “In A Tank”, because Sweatman repeatedly explains that he’s in a tank and a messy guitar “solo” brings it on home.

Men & Health Heroin On Reality TV 7″ (Levande Begravd)
In the spirit of so much antagonistic punk for antagonistic punk’s sake, Copenhagen’s Men & Health open their EP with “Heroin On Reality TV”, a lunkheaded anthem that repeats the lyrics “they should give heroin to people on reality TV” over and over. File next to The Rotters’ “Sink The Whales, Buy Japanese Goods”, any given Taco Leg single and The Queers’ “Kicked Out Of The Webelos”, assuming you file your dumb n’ mean punk obscurities separately. The rest of this EP isn’t quite as directly stupid, but it comes close, with songs about getting up at noon (“Getting Up At Noon”) and cold temperatures (“Freezing Cold”), the latter of which reminds me of Folded Shirt or Knowso in its simplistic twang. As a trio comprised of two guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum machine, Men & Health’s sound splits the difference between full band and solo project… rather than sounding like one guy in his bedroom, this sounds like three guys crammed into a bedroom, which is cool. And by cool I of course mean stupid.

Moritz Van Oswald Trio Dissent (Chapter 1-10) 2xLP (Modern Recordings)
Quick recap: I loved the first Moritz Von Oswald Trio album for its graceful and understated live-action dub-techno, thought the second was cool if mostly more of the same, and kind of fell off paying attention until I heard that Laurel Halo joined the trio for this new one. Halo’s Dust is sincerely one of my favorite electronic albums of the last decade, so her mixing it up with the German techno maestro Moritz Von Oswald was something I had to hear. Unfortunately, Dissent has come up short as far as my personal hopes and expectations are concerned. It certainly fits the default MVO3 mode – feathery electro/jazz/dub fusion – but there’s very little to grab onto here. Were I to hear this album playing in a leather-seated sushi restaurant in a downtown metropolitan area, I’d tear into my edamame with pleasure, but that’s because this album feels more like sonic wallpaper befitting an overpriced restaurant last remodeled in the late ’90s than forward-thinking transmissions from the upper vanguard of modern electronic music. I’m sure Halo was simply following Von Oswald’s lead here, but each of their discographies has literally hours of groundbreaking and essential music; this one comes in low on the list.

Quarantine Agony LP (Damage United)
I still can’t get over the fact that the band Quarantine started in late 2019, and somehow played their first show like a week before Covid officially hit. What did they know and when did they know it?? I’m not much for conspiracy theories but when it comes to this band, I’m pretty sure the truth is out there. And while I’m asking questions, how did they get to be this killer so quickly, and during a global pandemic no less? I guess it’s clear that this isn’t the members of Quarantine’s first rodeo (they feature personnel from Chain Rank, Twerps and Bad Side with the almighty Chris Ulsh on skins), but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the most potent and devastating hunk of ‘core these guys have ever produced. Reminds me of early Corrosion Of Conformity, The Boston Strangler, Poison Idea and The FU’s with a vocalist reminiscent of John Brannon circa-now on vocals (which are somehow, paradoxically, intelligible). Absolutely pummeling drums (not that you’d expect anything less from Ulsh) with bloodthirsty vocals and songs that constantly threaten to boil over into chaos, like a snarling Rottweiler on a leather leash that’s about to rip. They verge on manic Scandi-crust d-beat at times but pretty much always sound like an American hardcore band, ie. clearly a band who has never experienced universal health care and never will. All this and they use a live band photo on the cover, a classic practice that more bands should opt for instead of skulls (though there are also twenty-five skulls on the cover, proving that Quarantine really is a hardcore band that has it all).

Emily Robb How To Moonwalk LP (Petty Bunco)
Next time I see Emily Robb on the street somewhere, I’m gonna subtly check out her fingertips to see if they’re as burnt-to-a-crisp as the music of her solo debut How To Moonwalk has led me to believe. This record is one fuzzed-out lava slide of guitar, sounding as if my stereo isn’t merely replicating what came out of her amps but rather is trapped deep inside them. No vocals here, no additional instrumentation (beyond a couple layered guitar tracks here and there and the occasional percussive thud), just free-range guitar jamming to and fro. It certainly has a sound ripe for Petty Bunco’s picking, a pre-colonoscopy cleanse of classic hard rock riffage and soloing delivered without irony or consideration of sensitive ears. I’d file it next to fellow Petty Bunco family member King Blood, as well as Tetuzi Akiyama’s essential Don’t Forget To Boogie, though Robb seems more interested in Chuck Berry and Greg Ginn than ZZ Top (not that the leap between those three is prohibitively wide). Bill Nace helped record and mix the album, and while he’s not the type to lay down too many riffs, Robb seems to share his interest in sustained anti-harmonies and the use of guitars as primitive weaponry. Next time I need a guitar assassin, I know who to hire!

Schizos Come Back With A Warrant 7″ (Sweet Time)
Opening with a burp, the new EP from Nashville’s Schizos features a Lynyrd Skynyrd parody cover and includes a poster that advertises the band on a pack of cigarettes, which comes pretty close to summing up their general demeanor. As for the music, this ain’t no classic Southern rock – Schizos play garage-punk with the fury and aggression of hardcore. I’m strongly reminded of Easy Action, or perhaps New Bombs Turks if they were ever recorded in a basement with their tails on fire. If singer Dale Schizo doesn’t choke himself out while rolling around on the filthy floor at least once per show, I want my money back. Pretty solid stuff, if not necessarily revealing a unique distinction within Schizos – there have surely been hundreds if not thousands of bands of sweaty men screaming into drunken punk rock oblivion before, during and presumably after Schizos’ existence, and I’m not certain that they have developed their own signature within the field. That said, if you want to see a band chase the pop-country hopefuls off their barstools and out of a Nashville saloon within the first song, I can think of no better choice than Schizos.

Soursob Soursob 12″ (HoZac)
Grouchy and rigid, this Scottish post-punk band is not the sort of thing I’d normally equate with the HoZac aesthetic, but who can resist such a style? Alongside semi-recent bands like Good Throb, Sniffany & The Nits, Scrap Brain and surely dozens more, the UK knows how to deliver dour and simplistic post-punk, bands that sound like it’s their first time ever being in a band (and all the better for it). Soursob certainly fit the MO as well, with bile-spat vocals, struggling drums and slow-paced punk riffs. At times, I find that their energy dips pretty low; as a listener, it’s contagious, and I wonder if they might’ve benefited from a more aggressive playing style, or at least some sense of urgency. That said, some of these songs are amusing in what must be a mean-spirited way… the chorus of “Shoegaze” goes “shoegaze is not a joke, this is serious” and the chorus of “Berlin” goes “this is not Berlin”, delivered as if they’re reading some lame band’s Facebook comments back in their face. How can you not love that? Sadly there isn’t a lyric sheet, so I’ll just have to listen closely to see if the less-than-favorable parts of this review ever make it into a song, spat back at me too.

Steve Summers Generation Loss 2xLP (L.I.E.S.)
There’s a longstanding quality to the music of Steve Summers (aka Jason Letkiewicz) that I appreciate in particular: he’s been pursuing the same general aesthetic for so many years now that a track from 2011 can sound as fresh or distinctive as something from 2021. The same can be said about another American techno fave of mine, Beau Wanzer, who records with Letkiewicz as Mutant Beat Dance, because these guys aren’t ones to sit idly by and not collaborate. But anyway, Generation Loss is his first album as Steve Summers, and its tracks span various years, not that I could pick up on that by listening. Rather, this is all expert lo-fi (but not too lo-fi) Chicago house music, analog hardware pumping out grooves that provide universal dance-floor satisfaction with crispy hi-hats, rugged kicks and squirrely leads. If you listen to enough techno and house, you can learn to differentiate what it sounds like when someone is making their first few dance tracks, and when they are making their ten-thousandth, and the cuts picked for Generation Loss are clearly the latter. These dozen tracks were surely plucked from a larger selection, the cream of Summers’ crop from X number of years cranking out these unfadeable hardware-guided bangers.

Urin Afekt 7″ (Iron Lung)
“Completely fucking mental raw D-beat” is Iron Lung’s description of Urin’s second EP, and while the bar for completely fucking mental raw D-beat has been set incredibly high by Horrendous 3D earlier this year, Berlin’s Urin are no slouches either! Essentially what they do is take the practice of songwriting out of the equation; hell they practically remove guitar riffs from the equation as well, leaving only a wild caterwauling echo chamber of noise, distortion and feedback. The drums dutifully stick to the D-beat script, but otherwise things fly off the handle quickly, much to my delight. Opener “Uwaga” sets the stage nicely with a messy hardcore-punk song that replaces what would normally be a guitar solo with what sounds like a riding mower run through a Kaoss Pad. Why even try to sound like you’re playing tuned string instruments when the purpose of your band is to replicate the eventual nuclear fallout society is screaming towards? It’s very much Lebenden Toten in that nature, though not quite as otherworldly (or as unabashedly trebly)… tweaked as Afekt may be, no punk worth their salt would deny Urin their props.

Sasha Vinogradova & Alina Anufrienko Oko LP (Hidden Harmony)
Starting to feel like I’m surrounded by experimental-ambient field-recording albums these days, and I can’t tell if The Algorithm has simply figured me out to a T, or if there simply aren’t as many intriguing records of other styles being physically released, or if I’m simply acclimating to my newfound state as an old codger. Whatever the case, I’m not mad at all the weirdly palliative electronic music that’s coming out, even if the import price-tags continue to make my eyes pop out of my head. So anyway, let’s get to Oko from electronic musician and vocalist Sasha Vinogradova and cellist Alina Anufrienko. It’s lovely, kind of dreary yet soothing… there’s a Constellation Records vibe in the way that it sounds like old abandoned factories merging back into nature once again, but with a distinctly Russian bent (okay, it’s the Russian vocals that give it that). Tracks take their time, and are generally more musically-inclined than much of the “soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist” music that comes from similarly-minded artists. Makes me want to find a patch of bright green moss tucked away in some frost-covered Soviet hinterland, take off my boots and rest my bones for a spell.

Why Bother? A Year Of Mutations LP (Feel It)
One cool aspect of many of the original Killed By Death-comped bands is the various dart-on-a-map towns they lived in… I’m thinking of random municipalities and townships that barely had electronic traffic lights, let alone punk shows. It follows suit then that decades later, Why Bother? share a similar punk aesthetic (wonky synths, lobotomized vocals, vaguely trashy sci-fi themes) and a similar unheralded locale of Mason City, Iowa. I love picturing these outcasts wandering past endless acres of farmland, carrying their snare drum and practice amps to play a “show” booked by their friend with the biggest barn. Of course, it’s quite possible Why Bother? don’t wear the neon-green leather jackets and ostentatious sunglasses I’m envisioning, but these songs certainly invoke images of anti-social pariahs who have no choice but to wish death on their enemies through punk rock songs. I’m reminded of The Spits and The Child Molesters in particular, though there’s an undeniable Midwestern quality at play here close to Dow Jones & The Industrials, The Gizmos and basically any band that ever called themselves The Rejects (or The Rejektx) or The Defects (or The D-Feks) and lived at least twelve hours from any given beach. Truly classic stuff, too classic to ever go out of (or in) fashion. Why Bother? wear it well!