Арлекин Извор на главоболките LP (Опачина)
Let’s kick off the month of May the best way I know how: with some steaming hot Macedonian noise-rock! Surely there must be some common link to the disgruntled working men of both America’s metropolitan outskirts and northern Macedonia, as the nauseous, knuckle-dragging thud of Арлекин is perfectly in step with bands like Kilslug, Eyehategod and Cows. These songs carry a veneer of intentional ugliness, but when you peel that away there’s a sincere ugliness at their core as well, from the loping basslines that snub their nose at melody to the varied levels of vocal constipation. Reminds me of the earliest Billy Bao records, those few moments when they were willing to commit to something as simple as a song, or Upsidedown Cross if they worked their day-jobs in a forest instead of a factory. Or, Unsane if they used still images from Impractical Jokers on their record covers instead of crime scene photos. Enjoyable tunes, but my favorite part might actually be the large comic book that acts as the record’s insert, a twisted and wordless tale of some cretinous superhero’s entire lifespan from birth to death and beyond, with lots of meticulously-penciled private-parts and drugs along the way. Worthy of a proper Fantagraphics coffee-table release, I’d say. It’s all illustrated by Bruno of Арлекин, who has a bright future in comics if this whole rock band thing ever fizzles out.

Bunzinelli Atacama 12″ (Neubau)
Always an exciting time when a new Neubau twelve-inch makes its way to my household, and as I had already prepped for Bunzinelli’s arrival by peeping his other 2021 single, I was fully primed for Atacama. I love the Neubau sound, a slowed-down techno lurch that leans in industrial, synth-pop and house directions depending on the particular artist’s predilection, and “Atacama” fits in perfectly. Its slow, black-lit groove uncoils like a snake in a dungeon, and the ritualistic percussion loop lends the vibe a “Knight Rider uncovers a cult sacrifice in progress” angle. “Anxiety Attack” is just as lugubrious and sour, and not like any anxiety attack I’ve ever witnessed – this melange of occult industrial sounds and sampled vocal recitation has me imagining Kerridge recording a track for Galakthorrö. The Montreal producer ends the EP with “Ladakh”, a continuation of the mood established with “Anxiety Attack” retooled with a New Beat acid groove and an actual dance-floor presence, morbid though it may be. No upcoming Neubau releases are being advertised at the moment, but I can’t wait for whatever’s next.

Employee Hold Music Vol. 2 LP (Beatbude)
Tipped off to Employee by a friend after a lively conversation discussing the merits of Gerry Franke’s new album, as Employee bears some (real or imagined?) familial relation to Franke. Whereas Franke’s music dabbles in cheese with precaution, Employee straight-up cannonballs into the nacho dip with Hold Music Vol. 2. These instrumentals were clearly crafted with corporate hold music in mind, and if that’s the assignment given, he gets an A+. I’m reminded of certain Donkey Kong Country themes, the soundtrack to any given Andy Sidaris action-thriller, and in the case of “Romantic Relax”, a beat Too Short would’ve used on his Cocktails album. Probably some debt is owed to James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual as well, although Ferraro imagines an alternate corporate reality whereas Employee has pieced together a shockingly accurate and loving recreation of the business Muzak of our present time and place. I think we’re all so far beyond irony-poisoned at this point that intentionally groan-inducing corniness such as this doesn’t have any unsettling effects, allowing music like this to be judged on its own merits. This might be why I find Hold Music Vol. 2 to be a soothing and engaging album, especially knowing that listening is my own personal choice, not a situation I’m forced into as I wait for my health insurance company to pick up the line.

Exek Advertise Here LP (Castle Face)
Finally, for their fifth album, Melbourne’s Exek signed with Castle Face and delivered the prog-metal opus we’ve been waiting for. Just kidding! Advertise Here sounds as much like Exek as any of the Exek records that preceded it, a comforting sensation if not a particularly mindblowing one. They found their specific lane early on – softshell indie post-punk drenched in dub properties – and continue to stick with it, refining the songwriting, tuning up the rhythm section, working on improving the little details and expanding ever so slightly while remaining firmly within their standard aesthetic guidelines. I’m certainly a fan, and while I might have a little difficulty placing any given Exek song to its respective album, I’d be able to pick out any given Exek song among dozens of their post-punk peers. Bandleader/vocalist Albert Wolski’s voice is immediately recognizable, somewhere in the tradition of Mark E. Smith and Stephen Malkmus but distinctly Australian and bashful. He often sings as if he’s asking you to dance but afraid to make direct eye contact while doing so, and as his vocals are usually double-tracked, it can feel like a creepy set of twins doing the asking. If you haven’t checked out Exek already, you’re really overdue, but if you are already two or four albums deep, no need to hurry over to Advertise Here – it’ll be ready when you are.

The False Berries The False Berries 12″ (Sloth Mate)
The False… Berries? You know what, screw it, any band wants to call themselves The False Berries, more power to ’em. Definitely the mark of a band on their entirely own trip, which I’ve confirmed to be the case after spinning this debut EP. I’m guessing there is some sort of connection with Violent Change (the only other artist to be released by Sloth Mate), and there’s an adventurousness to the music here that Violent Change share, a direct upending of reasonable conventions while still kind of playing somewhat conventional music. In the case of The False Berries, they split the material here between homespun ambient techno and softhearted indie-pop. This means that cloud-parting pop-ambient sounds reminiscent of DJ Healer are nuzzled up against subtle guitar songs befitting Howard Hello or Heatmiser. Weird combo, but perhaps not weird, since the emotional tone of the record is fairly constant, one of melancholic anticipation, the sort of thing they should pump into hospital waiting rooms to temper the excitement of newborns and ease the pain of loss. Some of these tracks fall closer to sketches than songs, but that’s kind of what makes The False Berries so appealing – they seem to follow their hearts, even if it means allowing synth chords to ripple over and over without any sense of destination (see “The False Berries”). Like the name implies, they appear juicy and ripe even if they’re made of plastic.

Gerry Franke Found Myself Or Just I’m Dead LP (Tax Free)
Tax Free is officially on my radar, following a couple of hot ones from Jürgen Ratan and Iris, so I saw no reason not to check out Gerry Franke’s new album. He’s got a couple of prior full-lengths on the Tax Free label, but the strikingly titled Found Myself Or Just I’m Dead is my first encounter. I’m not sure what I was expecting – something closer to noise or techno, perhaps – but while these songs are not what I had in mind, they’re as exceptional as I had hoped. Franke seems to be armed with a variety of guitars and basses and synths, and at least one trusty sampler through which he layers and loops various little snippets of live instrumentation. I’m immediately reminded of the freaky Wah Wah Wino crew in the way that adventurous krautrock experimentation is applied to today’s accessible recording technologies, resulting in a humble, dubby and dare-I-say visionary work. Anyone can throw a couple of lopsided loops together (and there’s a solid chance I’ll at least somewhat enjoy it if they do), but Franke is clearly displaying a level of excellence with the form here. From the intricate and peculiar melodic lines (check the weird strings of “Al Hamra” and “Cada Dia”) to the constantly dazzling and obscure percussion throughout, this might be my favorite Tax Free release yet!

Green/Blue Offering LP (HoZac)
Jim Blaha played in The Blind Shake with his brother Mike Blaha. Mike called his solo project Blaha, because that’s just one of those weirdly inexplicable last names that only a lucky few will ever have, so Jim had to call his new band Green/Blue (what kinda person names their thing after a few random basic colors??). This is Green/Blue’s second album (and the second to pass through these digital pages), and it’s an efficient and pleasant entry into the crowded punky fuzz-pop field. I can’t tell if enough time has passed since the first inescapable wave of this stuff took over fifteen years ago or if Green/Blue are particularly adept at it. A lot of records that sounded like this one came out on HoZac or Captured Tracks back in 2007 and I found the majority of them to be fairly unappealing, but here I am now, tapping my foot to the Matthew Sweet-ish strum of “Same Waste Of Time”. Blaha coos and sighs his vocals tunefully, the band stomps and shuffles as if Flying Nun just offered them a record deal, and everyone involved is pleasantly satiated. Peaceful yet not without urgency, Offering is a sweet little trip indeed, Blahahaha Blohohoho Blehehehe…

Honey Radar / Violent Change split 7″ (Chunklet Industries)
Is it finally time to swap out my crusty contact lenses for new ones, or is this a new split seven-inch release?? I realize that our digital era has relegated actual vinyl records to mostly token souvenirs, but I was raised on the excitement and promise of split EPs, and appreciate that these two fine American indie groups came together to remind me of the slower, more peaceful world that used to exist. Philadelphia’s Honey Radar have a seemingly endless supply of songs, contributing three to their side of this EP. It’s a particularly lo-fi affair this time around, moving from the bedroom for “Consult The Napkin” to the front porch for “Dawn Chew” to the basement for “Big Justice”. Naturally, they all move quick, and it helps to take them in a single dose, Honey Radar happily embodying a nervous DIY energy captured in a limited fidelity recording. San Francisco’s Violent Change are kind of the kings of limited fidelity indie-pop, almost turning the genre on its head through their bold “studio” techniques, but “Garden Of Luxury” and “What Have They Done” are about as intelligible as I know them to get, relatively speaking. “Garden Of Luxury” reminds me of those unruly Julian Casablancas & The Voidz albums; “What Have They Done” hits like the one good song on some beat-up private-press soft-rock LP you discovered at a local thrift. A cool pair of songs for Violent Change, and an even cooler pair of bands for Chunklet!

Isotope Soap In Need Of Systematic Energy LP (Push My Buttons)
On previous records, Isotope Soap was a synth-punk band that still seemed to be driven by the sound and style of punk, but on In Need Of Systematic Energy, it feels like this Swedish project has passed the point of no return. It reminds me of horror sci-fi movies where the main character has finally been entirely consumed by the evil computer virus or demon spirit that started slowly infecting them at the start of the film. Isotope Soap is more machine than man this time around, with vocals pushed to the brink of reasonable taste, sometimes sounding more like a Minion than a human, or that one baritone-voiced Gremlin who wears sunglasses. The music jumps around considerably as well, song-based in nature but recalling Factrix, Red Asphalt, The Residents, Screamers and such… the first-wave art-school post-punk pranksters who liked to reflect society’s ugliest features through rudimentary synthetic means. It’s weird and aggressive and imposing, but unlike say FNU Clone or Timmy’s Organism, Isotope Soap rarely utilize noise or feedback to shape the outlines of their techno hellscape. Definitely the type of group I’d expect to write a concept album about planet-destroying digital black-market currency, if that wasn’t already a real and popular thing that sports stadiums are being named after!

Lime Crush Timewaster 7″ (Fettkakao)
Vienna’s Lime Crush showed up unannounced with a gloriously primitive post-punk 7″ back in 2015, and I had more or less forgotten about them until just now, thanks to the relentless Bandcamp promotional emails that stuff all our inboxes. Glad to see they’re still causally out there being a cool band, and while not as immediately affecting of an experience as listening to the first Lime Crush 7″, this one is charming nonetheless. “Timewaster” sounds like an alternate-reality Kids In The Hall intro theme with a little bit of Art Brut (remember them?) and a little bit of Dolly Mixture. “Téléphone” sounds like The Make Up fronted by Kim Gordon, were she a French-speaking twenty-something. “Park” is last and probably my favorite track here, care of the endearing spoken intro (wherein the vocalist refers to the bedroom as “the sleeping room” – is that a Swiss thing?) and the song’s punkier instincts, what with the drums bashing around and the non-distorted guitar strummed with pizazz. Much like their debut EP, this one is over and out in a fizzy blip, a choice that’s rarely wrong in the realm of post-punk.

The Monsters Du Hesch Cläss, Ig Bi Träsch LP (Slovenly / Mondo Mongo)
Even if all I did was listen to in-the-red garage-punk all day long, I’d still never run out of new material to discover. There’s a staggering amount of bands who’ve played this sort of thing over the past half a century (yikes), with seemingly new ones entering the fray every day. This is part of the reason why I can’t help but applaud The Monsters, out of Bern, Switzerland, for being so boldly, wildly generic that their sheer simplicity, and their clear devotion to it, propels them ever forward. They don’t write songs so much as communicate the majesty of amps-to-eleven blues riffs, caveman drumming and shouted/screamed lyrics, often little more than a repeated phrase. They truly wail away at it with such compassion for the sound that the lack of noteworthy songs or hooks is a minor issue; if you want the sound of wild rock n’ roll, you simply can’t go wrong here. (Unless of course you need a dramatic reinvention of the garage-rock wheel, in which case, I send you my thoughts and prayers.) This is the music that surely plays inside Jack White’s head when he sees that his Amazon packages were delivered, and it’s fixing to be the same for me, too.

M//R Anxious Meditation 12″ (Enmossed)
This new EP from Philadelphia’s M//R comes with a dilemma: a center label that reads “33 or 45 RPM”. It’s a brutal withholding of musical information if you ask me, the sort of thing you shouldn’t be legally allowed to do unless you’re Vomir or Government Alpha or some other harsh noise project where it might truly not make a sonic difference. Luckily I bugged M//R for the truth, which is that Anxious Meditation was mastered at 45 but “better at 33”, and well, maybe I just need to follow the artist’s lead and stop caring about the time-space continuum and let the heady spacial vibes of his music take over. These tracks are deep lurches into space, in line with producers like Pearson Sound, Mala and the Deep Medi Musik label, just without the dubstep beats and the conceptual stank that comes with it. The rhythms are paced for contemplation as opposed to dancing – certainly more meditative than anxious – in line with Earthen Sea’s unconventional rhythmic approach though differently applied. On 45 it’s a flickering trip through a pot-leaf-shaped space station, on 33 it’s like those early Space Afrika records with the sentimentality of a Sven Weisemann dub. I’m tempted to try it on 78, but I will respect M//R’s wishes and stick with the authorized revolutions-per-minute.

Dan Nicholls Mattering And Meaning LP (We Jazz)
Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m controlling what I enjoy or if what I enjoy is controlling me. Do I really want to hear smudgy post-production jazz loops, or is some grand algorithm feeding them to me subliminally and I am defenseless to resist? Dan Nicholls’ Mattering And Meaning sure seems tailor-crafted to entertain a fella like me, and entertain it does, a relaxed and drifting suite of meandering jazz piano, domestic drones and ambient field-recordings. Very much of the times, but if it makes me feel this good, who cares how where or why it arrived? Reminds me quite a bit of personal faves O$VMV$M, the way in which the fractured melodies linger in the air like plumes of burnt sage, but Nicholls’s practice isn’t informed by dance-floor rhythm, grooves or anything tangentially related to raving. These tracks navigate their pathways like streams down a mountain, simply following the pull of gravity and taking whatever awkward turns or abrupt drops come along the way. His piano is loose and contemplative, clusters of notes and clinking high keys engaged in an ongoing conversation as the digitally-processed air, background chatter and modern auditory distractions try to wiggle their way in. “Breathe” is a particularly stellar moment, with Nicholls flying fast and free on his piano as the rest of his stoic little world inhales and exhales all around. Mmmm!

Picture Metric EP 12″ (Kalahari Oyster Cult)
God, I love these European techno producers who seem completely disinterested in providing any sort of visual or lyrical aesthetic, focusing solely on the sounds they produce as the extent of their commentary with the world. Take for example the plainly-monikered DJ Central, who for some reason decided to go by “Picture” on this new four-track EP called “Metric”… he’s clearly just picking meaningless words out of a hat, a pesty yet necessary vessel in order to deliver the sonic goods. Makes sense to me here, as these four tunes are transcendent slices of deep house which require no window dressing. Spotless and hypnotic, these cuts ride a little faster than I’d expect from DJ Central, but I could use the exercise. The flittering cymbal clicks of “Silke” are practically ASMR, coasting on trance-like chords and pads; dance-floor psychedelia for endless Euro nights. Nothing particularly new happening here, I think it’s safe to say, but Picture so impeccably crafts these tracks that lush and buoyant house music suddenly feels like a grand new concept in his hands. Hope to one day hear these tracks on a proper sound system, but for now they’re causing me to splash around my kitchen as I do the nightly dishes while listening.

Prurient Son Of Sam Of Mice And Men 7″ (Hospital Productions)
Kinda wild to think that Dom Fernow has been Prurient for like a quarter of a century now. There are perhaps a few dozen noise artists who’ve been going that long, but I appreciate the various twists and turns that Prurient has taken through the years while staying true to his general mood and spirit. From gutter noise to Mortal Kombat soundtrack imitation to towers of rickety practice amps feeding back, it’s been a fun journey to follow, if often confounding and or cringeworthy (perhaps on purpose – who knows?). Cool to see he’s still releasing singles on his own label with sensational and confusing titles, and this new seven-inch is a worthy addition to his already vast discography. “Deer That Come To Drink In The Dark” is built on a mournful synth melody, clanging metal and what sounds like a bowling strike, devolving into sickening radiator hum, the squeal of tires and a menacing dog barking at the end of a chain-link alley. As with all Prurient material, there is probably a very specific theme at play here but it’s all too inscrutable to ever unwrap. “Mannequin In Bulletproof Car” is the b-side track, another evocative title enhanced by the cinematic ebb and flow of sinister buzzing, distant hardcore screams and echoing feedback in the proud Broken Flag tradition. Curious as ever to see what Prurient’s next twenty-five years will produce.

Tha Retail Simps Reverberant Scratch: 9 Shots In Tha Dark LP (Total Punk)
My main gripe with LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” is a simple one: where exactly is the actual party rock? They allege it’s in the house tonight, yet as I listen, it’s nowhere to be found. Good thing then that Tha Retail Simps have since formed, as this nine-song debut is full of the party rock I’d been longing for. They play their songs as if time stopped in 1976, the styles and trends frozen from that point forward, teens still smoking unfiltered cigarettes in suede bellbottoms but ready and willing to have their little ears blown away by punk rock. Tha ‘Simps embody this vibe, presenting as hippies who hate hippies, or punk rockers before the stereotypical image was fully formulated. Definitely the sorta thing that would’ve been approved by both Richard Meltzer and Allen Ginsberg. I’m reminded of The Gizmos and The Penetrators while listening to these nine shots in the dark… maybe the first Home Blitz records too, if they were written and performed by delinquents instead of an honor-roll student. This is rock music as a rude social experiment, by outcasts for outcasts, including an Unnatural Axe cover that sounds like they wrote it themselves. Makes me think of what Joey Ramone looked like before he started calling himself Joey Ramone and it puts a big ol’ smile on my face.

Romero Turn It On! LP (Feel It)
Sometimes I worry it’s a little too overstated here, my unabashed love and appreciation of the Feel It Records label, Australian bands and the power-pop genre, but they all truly bring me joy! Seems like I’d be the precise demographic for Romero’s debut then, seeing as they’re a new Australian power-pop group on Feel It, but after a few spins, this one misses me almost entirely. We’re entering “unfair judgment” territory here, but something about it feels too formulated and artificial, their sound similar to a rock band assembled by a board-room of ad execs who need an edgy-but-not-too-edgy band to do rock poses in front of the camera and write proficient and inoffensive rock songs while advertising the newest iPhone or whatever. Romero borrow heavily from The Strokes (circa First Impressions Of Earth), Royal Headache and Sheer Mag, quite distinctively and specifically throughout. They open with a Royal Headache-style groove, and follow it with a Strokes-y one, and while they certainly have the chops, it often feels like a clinical exercise, a band trying to make it big rather than revel in their own unique chemistry. By the time the dual guitar attack and cowbell hipshake of the title track hits, their brazenly Sheer Maggiest track on the record, I’m ready to tap out. There’s a very good chance Romero are cool sincere people doing this band solely for the love of playing in a band, but Turn It On! sounds like a band trying to be a cleaned-up, Instagram-ready version of other established bands and I can’t get into it.

The Shifters Open Vault 2xLP (Insolito / Adagio 830)
In the panicked time of the no-foreseeable-gigs pandemic era, The Shifters did what many bands did and dumped a big pile of unreleased tracks on Bandcamp in hopes that fans might send a few much-needed bucks their way. This apparently caught the attention of Insolito and Adagio 830, and now we have a sharp double-LP edition in the form of Open Vault. I’m not certain that I needed two full LPs of The Shifters’ random outtakes and demo recordings, but at the same time, I’m not certain that I didn’t need them, either. I’m a fan of the group, and seeing as shambolic and homespun lo-fi post-punk indie is very much their vibe, this has been a treat to listen to. Plenty of random tracks I’m unfamiliar with, and hits like “Work/Life Gym Etc” offered up in pleasantly roughed-up form here. More than a few GarageBand tracks too, recorded solely through their Macbook’s built-in mic, and I have to say, they could’ve done an album of just these tracks and I’d be more than content. “Year After Year” and “Faux American History 101” are two of these home recordings and they’re real charmers, akin to the finest untrained musicians copying The Fall on limited singles back in 1979 (like Horrible Nurds, Thin Yoghurts, Four Plugz and the like). I don’t want to encourage everybody to dump their outtakes on Bandcamp in hopes of a record deal, but in this case it worked out nicely.

Straw Man Army SOS LP (D4MT Labs Inc / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Straw Man Army’s 2020 debut album Age Of Exile was one of the freshest punk debuts I’d heard in years, distinctly on its own trip without being anything other than punk (or post-punk). It’s a hard work to follow, but Straw Man Army succeed once more with SOS. If you’re not familiar, you’re in for a treat: this New York group (featuring members of Kaleidoscope) plays an urgent and distressed form of post-punk, with tight and unique rhythms, rapid-fire spoken vocals and a permeating peace-punk gloom without adhering to generic peace-punk signifiers. Guitars are brittle and mostly undistorted, the drumming is precise and full of wild rolls and tumbles, and these songs act as small flickers of candlelight against the pitch-black backdrop of capitalism, infinite war and inequality. While listening, I’m picturing what Uranium Club would sound like if they were dead serious and signed to Crass Records, or those spoken-word Propagandhi songs if they were rendered artistically and beyond the smelly reach of Fat Mike, but really those aren’t accurate comparisons so much as fleeting thoughts – Straw Man Army are as singular a punk band as I can recall. There’s less feral energy on SOS than their debut, which leads to more of a refined and sophisticated musical statement; normally I’d be against that, but Straw Man Army are so masterful and talented that it works in their favor. Even the melodies themselves sound ill at ease and suspicious, so skillful are Straw Man Army in infecting every inch of their music with a barren dread. Strongly recommended!

Tapes Meets Nikolaienko Sunda School II 7″ (Porridge Bullet)
I know we’ve got some fans of rickety bleeps and watery bloops reading these pages, so please, direct your attention to this new seven-inch EP from Tapes Meets Nikolaienko on the Estonian Porridge Bullet label. This is top-shelf electronic dub artistry on a homespun personal level from Jackson “Tapes” Bailey and Dmytro Nikolaienko, who apparently both used an organ to create these tasty electro vignettes. Throw a pensive, disaffected vocal over top and I’d compare it to the minimal-synth post-punk of artists like Essendon Airport and Young Marble Giants, or hotbox these tunes in the weed-smoking room and I’d compare it to Morgan Buckley and Sam Gendel, but Tapes and Nikolaienko keep to their own trip here, loops coasting along and four hands busily attending to them. Very much in that “leftfield” zone that I find myself frequently gravitating towards as a listener, but more as a natural consequence of this duo’s inquisitive mindset and melodic behavior than any sort of intentional desire to sound strange. Not sure I am ready to accept the fifteen-dollar seven-inch as a standard matter of course, but I can’t imagine any seekers of humbly psychedelic electronics dropping that much on Sunda School II and feeling as though they’ve been cheated.

Wow Falene LP (Maple Death)
Italian quartet Wow do kind of a cool thing here, moving in multiple directions but minimally-so. A restless collection of pared-down ideas, I feel that while Falene is around half an hour long, I am less close to understanding anything about this group as when I first read the little promo sticker on the sealed polyethylene bag and decided to slide it open. Falene opens with some investigative drones, seemingly the work of a couple knobs and only one hand, and they follow it with a smoke-filled indie-goth boudoir, the sort of thing that The Black Heart Procession and Slaves messed around with back in the day when hardcore kids were wearing JNCOs the first time around. Length is no object to Wow, as the aforementioned goth song is nine minutes long; I dunno, are you gonna tell them to stop? My favorite cut is probably the b-side opening remix from Hugo Sanchez, which takes a painfully slow beat and walks it in a circle until the floorboards are worn down… reminds me of a Neubau release with live drums, chunky bass and little else, which pleases me greatly. That track wraps with a field recording of nature, which isn’t particularly revelatory at this point, and then Falene closes with a relatively brief paisley-psych ditty redolent of Sébastien Tellier or fellow Italians Jennifer Gentle, because Wow clearly threw the rulebook away without cracking it open once. Probably gonna take at least four more albums for me to start to get a grasp on this group, so I wonder which one of us will tap out first?

XV Basement Tapes LP (Half A Million)
XV’s self-titled, self-released debut lit the post-punk underground on fire back in 2019, one hundred copies tantalizingly out of reach to anyone who found out about it five minutes too late. A much needed repressing arrived last year, and now we’ve got a prim vinyl issue of their Basement Tapes cassette, collecting home recordings from 2018 and 2019 (and originally released in 2020). This one is significantly looser than their self-titled debut, very much reveling in the territory of a band messing around with each other, practicing songs and breaking songs down and completely disinterested in hitting all the right notes or following traditional rock protocol. The thing I find most striking about Basement Tapes is how incredibly comfortable this trio is with each other; they display a camaraderie and closeness that most bands couldn’t even begin to fake. “Please Stop Talking” is some sort of inside-joke vocal game, the end of “Lights In The Woods” devolves into an accapella group rendition of Madonna’s “Get Into The Groove”, and closer “Goodnight” is a truly weird whisper-zone, ASMR weaponized for DIY post-punk. You simply can’t behave this way with bandmates you’re merely cool or on good terms with – XV display such a hilarious and intuitive rapport with each other that, as a listener, I almost start to feel like the secret fourth member of the band by proximity, or at least wish I was.