Eve Adams In Hell LP (Soft Office)
I love the band Lewsberg, yet it was news to me that members of the group run a label called Soft Office. I’m curious as to what they’re doing both musically and curatorially, so I was intrigued by this vinyl edition of a 2017 cassette album from Los Angeles-based singer Eve Adams, who was also new to me. I’m learning all sorts of things! Adams has a lonesome Californian vibe going on here, not so much the busy off-ramps of Los Angeles as the endless expanse of inhospitable desert and the various roadside shacks that pepper it. She plays amplified guitar softly, sings in beautifully hushed tones, and inhabits that sort of “ghost of girl groups” vibe that has captivated both artists and audiences in the past few years (the original 2017 release year sounds about right). At her most tuneful, I’m reminded of Hope Sandoval’s solo material, at her dustiest I’m recalling the haunted pop songs of Cindy Lee, and at her most freaky I’m picturing some sort of feminine Devendra Banhart tripping deep within Joshua Tree. Very Lynchian, no doubt, right down to the sparse and eerie cover of The Crystals’ classic “He Hit Me”. Wonder what Adams has been up to since, or if there’s a final-chapter twist wherein we discover that Eve Adams never really existed in the first place.

Anadol Felicita LP (Pingipung)
Anadol’s debut album Uzun Havalar blew me away a couple years ago – it was my second favorite of the year, in fact, and is still a constant turntable presence in my household. I acknowledged the possibility that it might be a singular lightning-strike of sonic greatness, a fully realized debut that combined various strains of music to stunning effect that will never be duplicated or continued. I’ve been hankering for a follow-up ever since, and amazingly, Felicita manages to mine the same general aesthetic territory while remaining on high par with the debut, at least from my point of view. If you’re not already familiar, you’re in for a treat: Anadol is essentially one Gözen Atila, a Turkish musician / “sound artist” who employs a talented small crew of local musicians to fully realize her ideas. This results in a stunning swath of cosmic krautrock, Turkish melodies, minimal-synth noir and mystical pop, seamlessly devised and completely entrancing. I’m envisioning dreamlike pairings of Agitation Free with Richard Schneider Jr., Lena Platonos with Roberto Cacciapaglia, or Pascal Comelade alongside Jac Berrocal while Felicita spins, but those are merely beacons that Anadol glides past. What a beautiful, perplexing and incredible second album!

Axe Rash Contemporary Ass 7″ (Not For The Weak)
Here’s an example of why I prefer punk bands to punk solo projects: in this particular case, I get to enjoy the fact that no fewer than four people agreed to naming their own band’s new EP “Contemporary Ass”. Sure, any one person can come up with a ridiculous title, but the fact that four friends found each other and were fully on board with Contemporary Ass warms my little heart. Seeing as the name Axe Rash isn’t too far removed from Assrash (one of my favorite ’90s Minneapolis drunk crust units), I wonder if that connection was intentional? Anyway, before I get even further off track, let me get to the music of Sweden’s Axe Rash, who drop a rowdy bunch of hardcore tracks here. The debt to Totalitär is obvious in the predominant riff structures and drum patterns, but I’m also reminded of Public Acid at times, and there’s even a couple moments clearly indebted to Crazy Spirit and the Toxic State oom-pah punk drumbeat that has raged like wildfire in underground hardcore-punk over the last ten years. Cool stuff, but my favorite part might be the easily-read lyric sheet – the inclusion of the line “fuck a vegan!” is an intriguing surprise at the end of “Gig Life”, and “False Pictures” is what seems to be an indictment of Instagram (though I just checked and the band does have one, oh well). Gonna need to get myself some axe ointment before I start to peel!

Brain Tourniquet Brain Tourniquet 7″ (Iron Lung)
Yo! This is what I want from Iron Lung: brutal fast-core from a band who named themselves after a Man Is The Bastard song. There are so many great Man Is The Bastard song titles, and so few of them have already been taken for band names! This group hails from Washington DC, featuring members of lots of other DC hardcore bands, and they do the style right with gnarly black-and-white photos of physical harm and/or murderers. Skulls are too oblique for their version of power-violence-styled hardcore; like Crossed Out and No Comment before them, Brain Tourniquet are interested in harsh realities not harsh fantasies. They blast with Lack Of Interest precision, stop on a dime like the aforementioned No Comment and stomp out the doomy parts in an ugly-yet-heavy manner that reminds me of third-wave power-violence unit Scapegoat. Zero frills or fresh commentary on the genre, just pure menacing hardcore brutality delivered intensely and succinctly, right down to the traditional EP-ending dirge that’s three times as long as any of the other tracks. Another Iron Lung slam dunk!

Rudolf Eb.er & Will Guthrie Hilt LP (Fragment Factory)
Wow, fascinating pairing here between two distinctive avant-noise gents whom I wholeheartedly endorse. Didn’t think they ran in any of the same circles, but for better or worse, we live in a time where anything is possible, including a collaboration between grotesque sonic “aktionist” Rudolf Eb.er from Sweden and frisky avant percussionist Will Guthrie from Australia. I was aware of this record’s existence for a week before it was released, which gave me ample time to construct a fantasy in my head of what Hilt might sound like, and I’m glad to say that the actual album doesn’t disappoint. It’s a frequent case of having no idea who does what – hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Eb.er took over on percussion just to mess with us – but that sort of disorientation is key to the experience. Across two twenty-minute sides, they locate various moods, dig deep into them, and then adjust course abruptly. The crackling of a fire (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) builds over eerie tones, airwave static and murmured voices; a repetitive rhythm is tapped out on scrap-metal and detritus; a passive smoke break is interrupted with the acidic shriek of scraped metal so visceral it sounds like it’s actually happening in the room with you. I presume Hilt was rendered via long-distance file sharing, but who knows, or who cares? No matter how they did it, eight minutes into the second side it sounds like I’m tumbling down a mountain amidst pebbles, rocks and dust, wondering if I’ll retain consciousness when my body finally comes to a halt.

Front De Cadeaux Sad Is Fashion 12″ (Antinote / Agnès B.)
Antinote is responsible for some of my favorite dance tracks of the past few years, always kind of under the radar but top-notch in their consistency. Took a chance on this new one from Euro duo Front De Cadeaux (Hugo Sanchez out of Rome and DJ Athome from Brussels), and it’s a proper banger! I have learned that this sub-genre of techno is called “beatdown”, which is based on a slow BPM (between 90 and 100) and hard-hitting basslines and kicks. Works for me! The a-side is “Trans Émois” and it kicks big juicy butt: simple bassline, heavy kicks, little chirpy melody and an affected male vocal repeating the track title. Not much else I could find myself wanting for. “Sad Is Fashion” is even slower, paced and constructed like my favorite Neubau bangers from Gil.Barte and AngstLust but without any sense of menace or industrial vibes. There’s an even sleepier, deeper vocal on this one too, placing this track in that nether zone between arousal and unconsciousness. So good. All this and it comes as a split release with the venerated French fashion designer Agnès B., who apparently also puts out records from time to time?! There are so many little spots of greatness in this world if you choose to seek them out.

John, Paul, George, Ringo & Richard Das Ist Die Zukunft, Aber Nicht Deine! LP (Phantom)
Okay, sometimes a dumb band name hits just right, which I’d say is happening here with John, Paul, George, Ringo & Richard. File next to Duran Duran Duran for artist parody names that receive a hearty chuckle the first time around (unlike, let’s say, the sonically-impressive Joanna Gruesome). Anyway, now that we’ve appreciated the name, we can move onto the music, which is a fittingly impish form of rudimentary electronic post-punk. Reminds me of Les Georges Leningrad, Factorymen, Metal Urbain, Die Tödliche Doris and the multitudes of post-punk pranksters who’ve viewed the song format as a canvas for irritation, silliness and bewilderment. Guitars dip in and out when necessary, various voices appear in various guises, and there’s at least one theremin whirling in the background, presumably handled by John, Ringo or some sort of Scooby-Doo Frankenstein ghoul from the sound of it. Stupid fun for punks who appreciate that sort of thing.

M. Klein & Steffan De Turck A New City LP (Het Generiek)
I’m unwilling to let just anyone guide me down the unknown path of field-recording sound collage, but when two strangers by the names of M. Klein and Steffan De Turck invite me on a blindfolded trip through their slice of the world, how can I resist? This LP features two pieces of edited, layered field-recordings and minor keyboard accompaniment. They move at a brisk but not frenetic pace, hopping from crowded social spaces to secluded loitering zones as though passing them on foot. The jingle of a passerby’s phone game pops up among the rustle of air on microphone, footsteps down marble hallways escalate out of the frame, and a somber keyboard melody adds intrigue to the crickets buzzing at dusk. What feels like a paddleboat ride might actually be a Japanese speed train – who can say besides Klein and De Turck? Reminds me of Luc Ferrari’s charming Presque Rien in the way that both natural and artificial surroundings are blended with surreal electronics to create an alternate yet recognizable reality… “A New City” indeed.

Los Lichis Small Mole & The Flavor Trio 12″ (Ever/Never)
For as polished and seemingly “serious” as Ever/Never has gotten over the last few years, I love that the label still can’t resist sinking money into brutally non-commercial projects once or twice (or thrice) a year. Maximum Ernst and Hand Of Food come to mind, and now you can throw Mexico City’s Los Lichis on the stack as well. They’re a trio of a confounding nature, offering two lengthy cuts of what is by my estimation loosely-improvised drone rock, described as a “Mexican raga” in the promotional materials and certainly a befitting classification. These tracks have me thinking of Tony Conrad with Faust trapped in a cave rather than a studio, one of those interminable drone songs that Reynols would insert into the track list of one of their lengthy CD releases, or the reverberations that slowly fade after a Rakta practice session. One could hear this and evaluate it to be heady devotional music of some primordial order, but then the art that accompanies Small Mole & The Flavor Trio is mostly weird jokey imagery that owes more to Tim and Eric’s sensibility than Current 93 or Popol Vuh. Are Los Lichis serious about their maudlin psych-rock drones or not? If it’s their aim to keep us from ever knowing, this EP is a success.

Marc Matter Could Change LP (Futura Resistenza)
Marc Matter is a member of Institut Für Feinmotorik, an avant turntable-based group known for deep investigation of the most peculiar sonic qualities of the turntable, so it’s not entirely surprising that his solo album is similarly prankster-y and erudite. Matter employs a simple yet effective trick here: he loops a split-second vocal clip at slowly-shifting intervals, the computerized voice’s phrasing mutating between syllables both intelligible and gibberish. If it sounds annoying, it most certainly is, but it’s so expertly executed and hypnotic as well. “Annoying” is an underrated musical concept, anyway! I would place Could Change next to vocal sound-artists like Anne Gillis and Blackhumour, both of whom are also fascinated with the ways in which incessant looping snippets of human speech can transcend their simple ingredients towards something oddly profound. Bill Orcutt’s recent A Mechanical Joey is a similarly effective (yet different) work, sharing with Could Change a desire for nearly imperceptible shifting over extended time, very much in the Alvin Lucier school of thought. Meditatively non-meditative music here, a delight for those of us willing to be delighted and a chorus of “turn that off right now!” from everyone else.

Mercenary Demos Collection LP (Beach Impediment)
Grisly images of skele-reapers, deadly armed forces and Olde English band-name fonts greet the audience of Mercenary’s full recorded works, Demos Collection. “Sounds like they probably play ferocious Scandi and Japanese-inspired d-beat-centric brutal hardcore”, you might say, and after spinning a few times, I’m happy to concur, astute reader! Mercenary existed in the mid ’10s in Atlanta, and while they never made it to wax beyond a track on a Beach Impediment compilation seven-inch back in 2014, this is a fine collection of satisfyingly raging hardcore. My experience with Mercenary was enhanced greatly by Ryan Bell’s accompanying liner notes, as he puts Mercenary in the context of the Atlanta hardcore scene (meager but often very good) and explains how and why the band existed. It also provides a fitting tribute to vocalist Michael “Ruby” Rubenstein, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in April 2021, a man clearly larger than life and beloved by punks far and wide. Xerox-burnt skeleton warriors and mushroom clouds are cool and all, but it’s Bell’s thoughtful writing that provided the context to helped me truly connect with Mercenary’s music.

Model Zero Little Crystal / Leather Trap 7″ (Sweet Time)
New two-song single here from what has to be Memphis’s grooviest punk rockers, Model Zero. Sharing what I believe to be at least one or two members with Ex-Cult and The Sheiks, Model Zero continue to refine their charismatic post-punk sleaze on “Little Crystal”, whose only lyrics I can clearly make out are the words “hot stuff”. Melodic and cool, this song bridges the gap between the art-punk of Pere Ubu with the buttoned-collar indie-rock of Spoon, but of course played by a bunch of nobodies from nowhere (which is forever the coolest way to be). A song that wouldn’t be out of place on a sleeveless Ork Records 45 from 1977, that’s for sure. “Leather Trap” sounds like the name of a band supporting Limp Wrist on tour, but it’s actually a punched-up rocker that reminds me of The Shifters at their most energetic, or I dunno, if that one very best local band, the one who refuses to get their act together, ran through a medley of Pulp and Eno covers in the basement just for kicks. Model Zero very well may have their act fully together, but they play their songs like a cool band who doesn’t care if they ever make it anywhere.

Moral Panic White Knuckles 7″ (Robellion Music)
We’ve got the first seven-inch single following two albums from New York punk-core trio Moral Panic on our hands here. Theirs is a fitting name, not because the band members have any particular clash of morality so much as it sounds like a classic hardcore band name from like 1982 or something, and seeing as they more or less sound like that, it works. Plus, they appear to be gentlemen of aged experience, who very well may have been around for hardcore in the ’80s, or at least the ’90s for sure, and their sound fits in with members of that first (or first-and-a-half) generation of hardcore punk, bands like Social Unrest and Youth Brigade and TSOL and so on. Nothing fancy or groundbreaking, or even particularly trendy, just trustworthy tuneful hardcore-punk they way it’s always been done. As a possible curveball, they cover Big Black’s “Colombian Necktie” here, which ends up sounding a hell of a lot like Austin punkers Video, whose Leather Leather album is one of my personal punk faves of the previous decade. Everyone involved ought to be pleased with themselves!

Richard Papiercuts Reunion LP (Ever/Never)
Peanut butter is back! That’s what Richard Papiercuts told us back in 2015, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Now Papiercuts is back as well, this time with a six-song album performed entirely by himself. In a way, I’m seeing parallels between Papiercuts and John Sharkey, as they were both brash, outspoken youths, all meanstreak and sarcasm, who have since mellowed out as middle-aged dads (and produced some of their finest music following that transition). Papiercuts ventures even further into a k-hole of adult-oriented pop this time around, dancing in the streets as opposed to moping in the sheets like many of the “Covid quarantine” records we’ve gotten from other artists. Opener “Judgment” is silky and emotive in a way that reminds me of The Blue Nile, and it’s followed by “Reunion”, which sounds like Scott Walker singing a Peter Gabriel song (and is as honestly as good in reality as you’re imagining in your head). Papiercuts celebrates and deforms the blockbuster pop of the late ’80s and early ’90s, clearly thinking of Phil Collins and George Michael (and on “Alma”, perhaps more Billy Joel than he bargained for), and only a pop-averse curmudgeon could avoid smiling during the proceedings. I can’t tell if Papiercuts would get into a fistfight with Alex Cameron or become fast friends if they ever met, but I get the impression there would be no middle ground.

Peace Decay Death Is Only… 12″ (Beach Impediment)
Featuring personnel from Severed Head Of State, Vaaska and Guerra Final, Death Is Only… is the debut EP from Austin’s Peace Decay. If they were crustier they’d probably go by Peace DK, and if they were moshier they’d probably be Piece Dekay, but they play a very athletic form of epic crust, guitars bringing high drama and vocals establishing a sense of cosmic doom. It’s certainly in line with bands like Tragedy, Forward and Selfish, a genre occasionally maligned as “stadium crust” which I’d say Peace Decay mostly avoid. They come across as deadly sincere here, and their drum sound is heavy and rugged as opposed to polished in the production style of NOFX – I’d file Peace Decay closer to Skitsystem than Coliseum. Themes of death, misery and annihilation fill these five songs, and while they might’ve come across as more of a heavy-metal fantasy a decade or two ago, Peace Decay’s role as harbinger of extinction feels uncomfortably apt today.

Rot TV Tales Of Torment LP (Tee Pee)
No sooner has the beer dried on Rot TV’s 2019 debut EP than their full-length debut arrived, reeking of cigarettes from the night before. If you don’t like hard living and its various consequences, this Melbourne rock unit has a finger in the air for ya! Tales Of Torment builds on their debut, collectively summoning the various modes of bad-news rock n’ roll that have captivated delinquent kids for some forty years now. I’m hearing epic pounders ala Turbonegro, petty-crime punk ala The Damned, the backstreet punk-pop of Vanity and just a sprinkling of top-flight guitar licks redolent of Heart or Thin Lizzy. That’s enough patches to fill a modest denim vest, and you may want to save a prime spot for Rot TV once you give this debut a spin. Vocalist Harriet Hudson-Clise is confident without overdoing it, and her husband Graham might not want to admit it, but there seems to be a poly thing going on between the two of them and his guitar. For the type of exhaust-stained rock music Tee Pee trades in, Tales Of Torment is a suitable fit.

Sad Eyed Beatniks Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver LP (Meritorio)
First vinyl appearance for Kevin Linn’s Sad Eyed Beatniks project following numerous tapes over the past few years. With most of those cassettes on the Paisley Shirt label, Sad Eyed Beatniks fits the bill as a mostly acoustic, semi downcast indie-pop affair, played with a “first take best take” / amateurs-only aesthetic. Simplistic music at its core, no doubt, but who really wants intricate, sonically-dazzling versions of this stuff anyway? The music of Sad Eyed Beatniks was meant to live on fuzzy cassettes passed around between friends. There’s plenty of room for various approaches within this fragile indie-pop framework anyway, and Linn tries out most of them, from solo acoustic songs to rock-quartet instrumentation (though I can’t figure out if he’s actually joined by other people, as the credits state “all music by K Linn” but the thanks list says “thank you Mike, Karina and Kati for helping with these songs”). In softer moments I’m reminded of The American Analog Set and The Zoltars – any twee-pop that can be traced back to the Velvets, really – but there are some starker moments throughout as well, reminiscent of the anguished strum of Drunk Elk and This Kind Of Punishment. For as long as they continue to produce horn-rimmed glasses, those who wear them will continue to make music like this, I’m pleased to say.

Schisms Break Apart The Idea Of Separation LP (Bergpolder)
Fans of rank ugly noise “rock” rejoice, I’m here to tell you about the new full-length from the UK’s Schisms. Featuring Bridget Hayden, whose work I enjoy both solo and as a part of the glorious Vibracathedral Orchestra, this trio is all sorts of murky, stomping out extended anti-melodic jams in a crude and efficiently lo-fi manner. I’m reminded of a bit of Neutral in the way that occasional rock moves will bubble up to the surface of an industrial waste pit, and at rare moments when the trio appears to be locked-in in a manner that resembles how normal bands behave, I’m reminded of the late great Air Conditioning. Sightings’s Michigan Haters is similar in sonic spirit as well. One of the Schisms is on guitar, wielded in a caustic and atonal form not unlike much of Bill Nace’s work, and along with some other sound effects and what might actually be some form of percussion (which gets downright jazzy at the end of the record!), the show stealer is an absolutely farty synth bass that dominates the mix. It might be a stretch to call this music “dub” in any form, but what other term should be invoked when huge puffy bass tones are twice as prominent as any other aspect of the performance? Whoever is in charge of that bass is confident and bold here, pushing this freaky sonic maelstrom onward with their own unique approach.

Star Party Meadow Flower LP (Feel It)
Cool “quarantine project” turned semi-real band here from Carolyn Brennan and Gen Pop’s Ian Corrigan, who was also the secret-weapon bass-player of Vexx. (Come to think of it, ever single member of Vexx was a secret weapon in their own right. God I miss that band!) Star Party is of course punk, but follows its own path, one that tempers high-tempo wall-of-sound riffing with the hazy fuzz of British indie and twee. Shop Assistants are referenced as direct inspiration, which certainly rings true by my ears, and I’m also hearing The Raveonettes, Dum Dum Girls and Go Sailor as sonic touchstones for what Star Party are after. They utilize a drum machine in lieu of a human drummer, but it never gets in the way or shouts “I’m a drum machine!” as these songs whizz or flutter by. There’s an urgency to many of these tunes, and a willingness to acknowledge the existence of slam-pitting, if not outright endorsing such behavior, that gives Star Party its own particular flavor. “Shot Down” provides a solid example of this, as the song itself could’ve worked well in the hands of both The Queers and Vivian Girls but doesn’t particularly sound like either.

Sworn Virgins Strangers Hands 12″ (Deewee)
I like to think there is still some room for sleaze and filth in today’s musical underground. If you ask me, the key is to focus on having fun with it, to express one’s self as opposed to focusing on getting a reaction; be a party that people want to join, as opposed to a spectacle based on provoking others, let’s say. London’s Sworn Virgins are an overtly sexualized electro duo, as if the pixelated porn shot on the cover (and my little intro) didn’t already clue you in, and as far as I’m concerned they’ve got the right attitude for the job. They’re not a “joke”, but as I listen to this four-song EP, I can picture Bobby Moynihan and Bill Hader performing some sort of satirical Daft Punk sketch more than the arrogant, self-serious sex pests Sworn Virgins might simulate. These songs slap like Matthew Dear circa Her Fantasy, but the weird little intros and over-the-top vocals of “Searching For Hiro” (the top track here) has me thinking of a new Kroll Show character, or “Tight Ferrari” by Sean Yeaton and Joel Ford (which, if you haven’t heard, go and Google right now). Certainly in line with the peak years of Ed Banger, if ultimately more innocent-sounding… I always assumed the Ed Banger crew actually was traversing Paris by neon-lit yachts, whereas Sworn Virgins are probably shy graphic designers or legal assistants by day whose dreams are filled with aviator shades and smoke machines. They’ve got a song called “Male Man” here, are you seriously not gonna smile at that?

Tilth Rock Music LP (Round Bale Recordings)
Post-rock duo Tilth, now split between Colorado and upstate New York, come forward with their third album, Rock Music. As one might reasonably expect the title to be a sly upending of expectations, the press release confirms that the group wants to “strip rock music down to the bare essentials”. As I listen to Rock Music, however, I can’t help but think, are these really the essential parts of rock music that captivate Tilth? These songs are made of softly drifting guitar chords, reverberating drones rich in warm melody and subtle sonic details. It sounds like extrapolations on the indie post-rock of Duster, Kepler and Bedhead, sleepytime indie-rock for eggheads in big cities in the ’90s. A touch of Earth’s The Bees Made Honey in the nods to Americana guitar as well, but nothing that remotely captures the spirit of rock music as far as I can tell, not even in an oblique or far-fetched way. When it comes to distilling Hendrix solos and Led Zeppelin stomp in an infinitely extended microsecond, I’ll turn to my Merzbow records, but divorced from the concept, Rock Music is pleasantly unremarkable and comforting, like the second best blanket on the couch.

Treasury Of Puppies Mitt Stora Nu LP (Discreet Music)
If you aren’t already familiar with Treasury Of Puppies, you’re probably thinking “what the hell kinda band calls themselves Treasury Of Puppies?”, but if you are familiar, you’re probably thrilled that they’ve got a new, not-instantly-sold-out album available. And you’ve probably gotten past the name, or find it appealing for the manner in which such a cutesy, children’s book sort of name is applied to this very homespun and minimalist duo. They’re currently one of the centerpieces of the “contemporary homemade music from Sweden” scene that I personally can’t get enough of, as loosely described on the Discreet Music insert that accompanied my copy of Mitt Stora Nu. I’d hope you’re familiar with one of the other cornerstones of this scene, Neutral, and I can’t help but compare Treasury Of Puppies to them. Both groups are male/female duos making inscrutably personal music (almost always in Swedish, too), but whereas Neutral find consolation in the brittle, crackling darkness and feedback-laden wasteland, Treasury Of Puppies walk on the sunnier side of the street, even if it’s still filled with cracks and debris. They’ll fit the occasional soft post-punk tune in amongst tape experimentation, humming, chimes, wandering pianos, spoken word, crude nature recordings and whatever else is at their disposal, resulting in an entrancing suite of early-morning experimentalism, as warm and welcoming as a breakfast of Upplandskubb and paté. Highly recommended!

Troth Oak Corridor LP (Knekelhuis)
Cool deal for Newcastle, Australia’s Troth to link up with Amsterdam’s Knekelhuis, a suitable if not obvious pairing. Knekelhuis loves to think to the future with their alien-sounding electronics, whereas Troth have always been a bit more pastoral and hushed, if undeniably synth-centric in nature. This new one is their finest distillation yet, a record that feels both icy and warm at the same time, like some ingenious new room at the spa that manages to maintain fresh snow at one hundred degrees. Drum machines sputter out the slightest of rhythms, keys sound “bedroom”-ish and private, and the enchanting vocals of Amelia Besseny shine not like a lighthouse on a rocky cliff but a flashlight under the covers. Good luck making out a single word, but her voice, somewhere between Grimes and Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, conveys a wonderment and hopefulness that pulls these moody, occasionally-somber synth patterns up from the fog. Next time I spin Oak Corridor, I’m going to distribute my collection of precious gemstones around the turntable and see if any of them glow – I’m betting I can get a slight shine out of my rose quartz!

Uwalmassa Malar LP (Mana)
Psychedelic post-techno percussion records are de rigueur these days, but it’s refreshing to witness Indonesia’s Uwalmassa, who might be a little closer to the root source of the technique than random dudes from Bristol or Brooklyn. Don’t expect anything resembling a Nonesuch gamelan compilation, though, as Malar is as much a weird minimalist electronic album as it is a hypnotic display of tuned metal percussion. These tracks are sparse and brooding, sometimes locking into patterns and sometimes tapping out alien morse-code or simply testing the capabilities of their setup. Reminds me a bit of Raime’s earlier material, as it has a slight “basketballs being dribbled in an empty gymnasium” feel at times, though there’s also a track like “Putung”, which is more reminiscent of one of Ricardo Villalobos’s abstract productions (ala Vasco or Empirical House). There’s no 4/4 thump, and Uwalmassa dance around that concept metaphorically (and presumably literally), skittering around the absence of rhythm with lightly clanking cymbals, suspicious bells and intricate blocks. The deeper you go into Malar, the greater the reward – I’ve been swimming in it for a few weeks now and still haven’t touched the bottom.

White Stains Blood On The Beach 7″ (Neon Taste)
That great Pittsburgh scene comp LP from a couple years ago is still ringing in my ears, upon which White Stains supplied a fine cut, “Let’s Die”. I hadn’t previously checked out the band further (something about the implied “we’re referring to jizz!” in the band name kept me at arm’s length), but this new EP comes with a sharp Vains cover homage and it’s not like I have anything else to do besides check out new hardcore records anyway. Unlike many of their Pittsburgh peers (and members’ previous bands), White Stains go a very early hardcore route, reminiscent of Sick Pleasure, Teen Idles and Circle Jerks… hardcore to be sure, but in the formative style long before it was co-opted by athletes and honor students. As a vocalist, Keith Caves sounds supremely disinterested in the music his bandmates are playing, and his languid, over-it vocals are a nice foil to the rough n’ tumbly hardcore-punk the rest of the ‘Stains have to offer. I’m not sure what the title track is all about – what beach is there in Pittsburgh? – but “2021” is an appropriate pulse-check on our pointless miserable lives, as nuclear-fearing and taken-advantage-of as the rotten teens who first played this style some forty years ago.