Antler Joe & The Accidents Go Commercial! 7″ (Feral Kid) (Last Laugh)
Damn! Here’s a random and unfortunate punk-reissue coincidence: Feral Kid and Last Laugh reissued the same obscure punk EP independently of each other at basically the exact same time! Unfortunate for the labels, that is, seeing as I’m sure they both put in plenty of effort, time and money to make it happen (each of whom, it’s my understanding, were in direct contact with either family or surviving members of the band, independently of each other), and some other label went and did the exact same thing. Not unfortunate for us connoisseurs of extraordinary classic punk music, though, as original copies of Go Commercial!‘s 1981 Killer Sheep Records release command horror prices, and these songs deserve a wider audience than the papered collector elite. Hailing from Florida, “Antler Joe & The Accidents” certainly sounds like it’s the name of a joke band, but these songs are obnoxious-teen punk rock from the top shelf, on par with The Authorities, The Lewd, Nervous Eaters and The Eat. “Dogshit” is my pick, but the party-rock vibes of “Who Needs A Woman Like You”, alongside its gratuitous saxophone soloing, is a gift to the ears as well. I’m not sure if Antler Joe is one of the surviving members of the group or not, but I cannot imagine he envisioned two boutique labels eagerly reissuing his rude punk songs some 41 years after hitting the studio. Annoying his neighbors and “everyone in Ft. Myers” was probably satisfying enough. Both reissues are true to the original with cover art, lyric insert and sonic quality, so you can’t go wrong with either, you can only go wrong without.

Avvitagalli None Corsa LP (Horn Of Plenty)
New Valentina Magaletti alert! Under the Avvitagalli name, she’s teamed up with Pino Montecalvo for a deep suite of exploratory improv, and Magaletti’s seal of quality remains firmly intact. Unlike her varied other projects that focus on rhythmic churn or complexity, the percussion here is free and unrestrained, used more for color and shape than structural integrity, or sometimes not utilized at all in favor of anti-musical motifs. It helps that the pair seem to have a wild variety of instruments at their disposal: alongside drums and keyboards, these two dabble with marimbas, keys, voice, piano, tapes and radio, and usually utilize only a small handful of sonic elements per track (most of which are fairly short, between one and three minutes). The results end up sounding like This Heat improvising for the FMP label, or one of those early ’80s Igloo Records releases I’ve never heard because no YouTube clips exist and I can’t bring myself to pay $150 on Discogs to find out. (That might be the biggest stretch of a musical comparison I’ve ever laid down in these pages, but I refuse to be silenced.) The second side of the album is inhabited entirely by “The Last Shiny Bones Of The Duno Ghost”, a richly psychedelic offering that switches modes throughout – the haunted grand piano is a nice touch, surrounded by scratchy field recordings, looped samples of previous lives, and Magaletti’s unmistakable percussive vocabulary. Great stuff all around.

Barry Neolithic Homosex / No More Boys 7″ (Related)
What is it about the name “Barry” that’s ripe for artistic incorporation? There’s the HBO show, there’s this charmingly queer indie-pop group out of London, and if there were to be a Barry cereal or a Barry fashion line, I’d probably enjoy those too. This quick two-song single is some serious fun in the sun – don’t let the somewhat intimidating title of “Neolithic Homosex” fool you, this song is as cheery and upbeat as The Vaselines on bank holiday. Groovy bassline, chant-along chorus (which is also the song title), it reminds me that pop-conscious underground rock n’ roll is a timeless, glorious thing. “No More Boys” is quaint and equally charming, right in line for fans of Go Sailor, Jonathan Richman, K Records and The Reds, Pinks And Purples, crisp indie-pop that’s as simplistic and homespun as it is satisfying. And if this somehow wasn’t appealing enough, the record comes with a crossword puzzle insert and a self-directed band interview complete with the Barry folks answering all the questions you were too shy to ask.

Blod Pilgrimssånger LP (Discreet Music)
Discreet Music is responsible for some incredibly great, incredibly weird Swedish music, but Gustaf Dicksson’s Blod project might be the strangest of them all. Rather than pursuing increasingly familiar combinations of noise, folk and field recordings, his releases starkly ruminate on specific themes or concepts, focused on presenting a concise idea or memory of one. That’s what made 2020’s Tusen Bitar such a distinguished slab of bucolic loner folk, and now Blod has changed his focus once more with Pilgrimssånger, which goes deep into, uhh, “Swedish Christian parish culture”. I’m not picking up any irony or pointed criticism toward the Christian church here, so much as a spirited exercise of playing church-y music and singing church-y songs. I’d say Blod succeeds on that level, but on the less universal level of “is this something I personally enjoy listening to”, it falls short. I dunno, I went to church as a kid and was bored by its ridiculous pointlessness and alternating standing/sitting/kneeling, so perhaps I’m not the target audience for a Swedish guy with fairly rudimentary singing abilities ruminating on his favorite hymns with acoustic campfire accompaniment. Pilgrimssånger definitely sounds like hippies playing church songs inside some quaint little Swedish church (maybe with a Swedish Santa passing out candy acorns to smiling children or however they do it over there), but it’s a record I’d rather think about than sit and listen to again.

Crisis Man Asleep In America LP (Digital Regress)
To the staunch purists who continue to pine for Ceremony’s purely hardcore era, I have news for you: Crisis Man exists! They seem to be an on-again, off-again hardcore band featuring Ross Farrar (of Ceremony) on vocals alongside friends from Acrylics and Smirk, and if you ever wished Ceremony followed Rohnert Park in a stridently hardcore-punk direction, Asleep In America is just the ticket. I fancy myself a big Rohnert Park fan, and while this is very much the work of a different band and set of songwriters, Farrar’s voice is at its perfect mix of gravelly/nasally, almost kinda fake-British if I wasn’t aware that this is simply how he’s pretty much always sounded. The songs he gets to sing on here are great, very by-the-books but full of an infectious energy and enthusiasm, feeling like they mean it more than many full-time hardcore bands. Maybe that’s part of the fun, that they get together as Crisis Man only once in a while, and when they do, it’s a wild and fun treat to play together versus the obligatory thing they do every week? Knowing the ways in which Acrylics and Smirk have managed to craft dynamic and inventive hardcore/punk songs, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but the thrill of hearing it is particularly strong in the combined form of Crisis Man.

Delivery Personal Effects / The Topic 7″ (Feel It / Spoilsport)
More Melbourne punk from Feel It in the form of an increasingly-rare seven-inch single, teamed up with Melbourne’s Spoilsport for convenient global distribution. I hadn’t heard Delivery before, but it seems they’re fairly new, a post-pandemic group who must’ve had adequate time to formulate their sound as these two songs are winners right out of the gate. “Personal Effects” is a boozy strut down main street, sauntering ever forward on very-cool guitars, effortless drums and, in its boldest move, a horn section hook. Feels akin to Rik & The Pigs, Parquet Courts, Suburban Lawns, hell maybe even buzzbin all-stars Wet Leg… a brightly-colored new-wave post-punk tune that has a personality you want to be around. “The Topic” is far more agitated, squirming in its chair with an even more demented horn/synth(?) stab that keeps on attacking – I’m picturing Liliput having a mellow band practice while Voodoo Glow Skulls are banging on the shared wall. Cool tunes indeed, the sorta thing that feels in-step with today’s trends without obviously aping any specific one thing. There’s surely an album already in the works (what Aussie punk band doesn’t make it to a full-length?) and I’m eager to hear how they follow this one up.

The D-Vices Adequate / Modern Boy 7″ (Celluloid Lunch)
I’ve been assured that Montreal’s Celluloid Lunch is “not becoming a reissue label”, and while I appreciate the sworn oath, I kinda don’t mind if they’ve got more proto-punk gold to unearth like The D-Vices! Recorded in 1980, this single predates The D-Vices evolution in becoming a band called American Devices, and while I can assure you I’ve never heard of them either, I’m going to correct that on the strength of these two tunes. “Adequate” is a cool-as-ice punk rock groove, as hearty as The Voidoids and The Heartbreakers but with better odds of their diploma coming from an art school as opposed to the School of Hard Knocks. Great vocals that wander around, played slick and loose the way it should be. “Modern Boy” brings a little funk too, with some lively guitar abuse and a taunting, sarcastic vocal, the sort of band you see on stage and can’t decide whether you want to make out with them or throw your beer at their heads. Kind of like The Rotters or Vom in that regard, a disinterested punk antagonism that hits a real sweet spot in my ears. If Celluloid Lunch are sitting on more D-Vices archival recordings, it’s downright impolite to not release those too.

Ever Ending Kicks Small LP (Moone)
Paul Frunzi is a Pacific Northwest musician who’s worked with Lake and Mount Eerie in the past, but Ever Ending Kicks is his baby. Small is the group’s fourth album in ten years, a relaxed schedule that comes across as a beloved pet project rather than an attempt at indie-rock “making it”. This is some severely hushed, soft and perhaps-wimpy indie-pop, so unyielding in its tweeness that a pair of horn-rimmed glasses materialized on my face as I listened. I’m reminded a bit of Eric Chenaux’s recent Say Laura album in the way that fleece-soft melodies bubble up to the surface alongside hints of modern R&B, electronic music and an immaculately alto voice, but Ever Ending Kicks play it a bit straighter than Chenaux, working with a traditional bass/guitar/drums lineup even if they make a solid point of absolutely never rocking out. Kinda close to Death Cab For Cutie and Pedro The Lion as well, but I could see Death Cab existing in the same solar system as Agnostic Front, whereas Ever Ending Kicks are galaxies away. As you might’ve surmised, not really the sort of music I spend much time with, but I have no qualms with tender, muted, emo-inflected post-rock pop (phew) such as this, and can certainly see the appeal for bookish types who are thoughtful about their emotions and openly celebrate their friends with homemade cards and warm hugs. For me, I still barely grunt my acknowledgement towards friends when we meet up, so hopefully Small will help me along the way.

Gaia Tones Dream 12″ (Gaia Tones)
Wow, record of the month right here! This new Gaia Tones twelve-inch is precisely how I want to glide into the warmer months, on a blissed-out and deeply reflective sonic excursion through the humid mist and golden rays of sun. Gaia Tones are a British duo, and this is their fifth EP on their self-titled imprint, and it’s a doozy. The a-side track (they both appear to be named “Dream”, that is if they technically have any names at all) is a wide-sweeping dub with loose percussive limbs, airy tones and a meditative headspace. Imagine if one of those hypnotic, perpetual grooves off the Natural Information Society’s Mandatory Reality was given a proper dub washing, its instrumentation drifting away without fully disintegrating. I swear one of the recurrent sounds on this cut is a wooden boat calmly knocking against the dock, and this track offers a similar sense of calm contemplation and natural beauty. The b-side cut finds a more solid rhythmic footing, with a raw bass pulse, skittering percussion and echoed vocal snippets, and it’s the perfect foil to the meandering delicacy of the a-side. Imagine one of Graham Dunning’s mechanical techno devices joined by Robert Ashley for a record on Demdike Stare’s label and you’re close, or Earthen Sea as remixed by Beatrice Dillon and you might even be closer, but Gaia Tones’ Dream surpasses mere recommended-if-you-like comparisons. Not to be missed!

Sam Gendel & Antonia Cytrynowicz Live A Little LP (Psychic Hotline)
Oh, so you’re telling me your girlfriend is really impressed by you? Well did you record a full-length album with her little sister?? Sam Gendel is out here making the rest of us devoted partners look lazy, as in his seemingly round-the-clock recording schedule he found the space to make Live A Little, an album of electronics, synths, sax and guitar accompanied by the voice of his girlfriend’s eleven-year-old sister, Antonia Cytrynowicz. I feel like I still haven’t fully digested Gendel’s massive Fresh Bread from last year, but I couldn’t resist picking up Live A Little; much like the rest of his records, it’s a fresh lil stunner. Amazingly, these aren’t improvisations or rough sketches so much as actual songs, with Cytronowicz singing her sweet lyrics over low-key beats, plucked strings, melodic synths, digital squiggles and Gendel’s ebullient sax, both dry and heavily processed. Cytronowicz apparently isn’t a singer, but you could’ve fooled me, as her voice is emotive and tuneful (and kinda sorta Björk-ish?), following her own melodic path as only children can do. If you want a quick taste, I’d direct you to “Wondering, Waiting”, a cute and inviting coffeehouse groove that’ll shoo away any approaching storm clouds, though I’d imagine you’ll want to hear more than that.

Tim Goss Afterfly LP (Penultimate Press)
With the reassessment and canonization of The Shadow Ring in the last decade or so, much of the spotlight has fell on presumed bandleader Graham Lambkin. Understandably so, but Tim Goss was a crucial partner in the group as well, and his recent-ish work as Call Back The Giants has made it clear what a singular and confounding artist he is in his own right. And now, we’ve got the first album under his own name, and it’s a doozy! These are some deep, deep explorations of the synth, but not in the traditional “cosmic” or “industrial” methods. Goss’s songs are rigidly structured and richly melodic, and they offer a strange feeling of domestic unease, weird narratives that remain unresolved or travel in-between realities. Maybe I’d liken it to Idea Fire Company with a beating human heart? Unlike Idea Fire Company, Goss’s vocals do occasionally appear, as if they’ve wandered in off the wrong bus. It often feels like watching a movie of monsters and witches battling, only to have the camera pan and reveal that they’re actually just plastic toys being handled by children in a basement den. It can get pretty groggy, but there are enough lights twinkling through Goss’s fog to maintain a sense of groundedness throughout. I suppose this is all my fancy way of saying this is some supremely weird synth music, not particularly in tune with anything else happening out there, and highly worth checking out.

Kiki Kudo Profile Eterna 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
Each time I peep a record on The Trilogy Tapes, I wonder why I don’t seek out this label more often… they’ve got a varied stylistic imprint, guided more by a restlessness of spirit (yet always in the electronic domain) than any particular sub-genre allegiance. This new one from Kiki Kudo is a fresh splash of skin toner to the face, two lengthy tracks (twelve and fifteen minutes each, respectively) that offer a contemplative sandbar between the churning ocean waves of techno and post-dubstep-whatever. “Plotlined” is richly melodic and quick-moving, riding a stutter-step beat across a kaleidoscope of chimes and warm melodic pitch. It has me envisioning Upsammy remixing “E2-E4”, or the sort of thing you accidentally stumble upon on a random NTS show and realize it’s what your life has always been missing. “Space Planar” takes the flip, and it’s slower to reveal itself; opening with a twitchy rhythm and only the slight semblance of other keyboards at play, I’m thinking of Dopplereffekt’s more esoteric tracks, as its clinical aesthetic feels like robots making love in an abandoned airport terminal, which is always a nice place for avant techno to land. The bleeps and bloops arrive about halfway in, followed by some chattering digital maracas and some ingeniously intricate thumping, little sonic rewards for those willing to stick with Kudo’s enigmatic style. Restless, gripping music that is somehow well-suited to calm self-reflection, such is its curious bliss.

Living World World 7″ (Iron Lung)
Wild to think that back in the ’00s, I would’ve struggled to name more than a couple sincerely-great Pittsburgh hardcore bands, and now it seems like one in three great new hardcore bands is based out of the Steel City. Go figure! It’s a beautifully ugly town – I think you can still smoke in bars there, for example – so it makes sense that, with hardcore’s de-localized sonic trends, it’s the perfect breeding ground for burly and unrepentant hardcore-punk such as Living World. They’ve got a rugged sound ripe for Iron Lung’s picking, playing anxiety-riddled hardcore akin to classics like United Mutation, Die Kreuzen and Poison Idea, but with a slightly metallic Euro edge that reminds me of S.H.I.T. and Warthog, too. The distorted vocals add to the off-kilter vibe, resulting in the type of band I’d expect to read a tantalizing description of in a Puszone column in a 1984 issue of Thrasher. EP closer “Ubuntu” is my favorite of the bunch, which opens with a verbal tirade in the spirit of Crucifix before descending into unhinged hardcore slop that sounds like Siege re-interpreting the first Snuky Tate EP.

David Nance Pulverized And Slightly Peaced LP (Petty Bunco)
So I might be getting part of this wrong (it was initially explained to me while I was driving and I keep my focus on the road), but back in 2017 David Nance recorded an album at home in Omaha and then shelved it, as a slicker re-recording of the same songs came out in the form of the Trouble In Mind full-length Peaced And Slightly Pulverized. Years later, with all the dust settled, Petty Bunco is shedding light on that initial recording, released with the understandably-confusing title of Pulverized And Slightly Peaced. A diligent reviewer would probably spend some time with that Trouble In Mind release and take notes comparing the two, but I’ve only got so many hours in the day I can set aside for any given rock n’ roller, and honestly I can’t see how slicker studio versions of these songs would offer me a higher form of enjoyment than what Nance is throwing down here. I know he has a million releases out at this point (and I’ve only heard a small handful), but this recording goes a long way to explain why so many cool underground rock labels have been clamoring for a piece of the action. He’s not doing any one thing here so much as leaving his Midwestern mark across a wide swath of rock’s holiest paths: charming indie-rock, zippy garage-rock, zoned-out psych (the sprawling b-side encompassing “Amethyst”), loose Americana, even a little nervous proto-punk action for good measure. He clearly knows his Stooges and Neil Young records, but they’re merely the start of Nance’s conversation, not a stylistic dead-end. Can we get a petition going to team him up with the equally-beloved guitar impresario whose name his is often confused with, Bill Nace, for the duo record of the year? I think we’re ready.

ÖPNV Deutsch Funk Revolte LP (Phantom)
Surely I’m not the only one who sees that band name and immediately thinks Op Ivy, right? It’s such a pleasant association for me that I was willing to allow ÖPNV a little ska-punk if they wanted, but this Berlin post-punk group clearly have no interest in any form of skanking. Theirs is a very sour and ostentatious form of robotic post-punk, delightfully free from guitars or any sort of traditional rock behavior. Rather, Deutsch Funk Revolte is equal parts disturbed and disturbing, minimal and unhinged, very much in the tradition of Nervous Gender, Kosmonautentraum, Palais Schaumburg and Cabaret Voltaire. Most songs are comprised of thuddy drumming, dubby bass, electronic bleeps/squelches and vocals acting as a disaffected tour guide to the proceedings. Pretty classic conceit, but it’s a style I personally relish, especially when performed with as much artful grit as ÖPNV display here. They’re willing to try interesting things with the form (unusual bass-lines, playful dub properties and so on) without feeling either too musical or polished. If they’re not already friends with Lavender Hex, a similarly (if further out-there) experimental dub-minded post-punk group from Berlin, they out to consider sending a congenial DM and making that connection.

Pitva S/T LP (Static Age Musik)
Static Age has been a reliable source for provocative punk and punk-related music over the last few years – Berlin’s answer to La Vida Es Un Mus, let’s say – and seeing as I still haven’t gotten the metallic taste of that Urin single out of my mouth, I figured I’d check out Vienna’s Pitva and their full-length debut. Pitva do that funny thing that I really enjoy, which is when a band doesn’t simply use their own name as the title, they actually go ahead and put “self titled” or “S/T” on the cover. Gloriously unnecessary! Pitva aren’t remotely as hardcore-sounding as Urin, but they are certainly filthy and wretched all the same – this is music that sounds like it remained undisturbed in a dingy attic for years, covered in dust, and now that it’s been discovered it’s going to possess you all the way to hell. Reminds me of the first Iceage album were it completely devoid of tunefulness, Trop Tard’s 1988 album played at double speed, and Rudimentary Peni if they fully embraced the haunted-house vibe while writing the simplest songs they could muster. Feeble, noisy songs that would snap under any stress but are still more unsettling and menacing than any given mosh-core band in hockey jerseys.

Rigorous Institution Cainsmarsh LP (Black Water)
Is it weird that of all the strains of underground punk to currently exist, anarcho-crust seems to be having a collective moment of creative greatness? Straw Man Army, Tower 7 and Horrendous 3D sound nothing alike, but they come to represent a similar outlook on the usefulness of punk in our current era, and I’m adding Portland’s Rigorous Institution to the list as well. I dug their debut EP, but Cainsmarsh is even better, a righteous, unique form of fog-enshrouded stench-core that goes all out for its entirety. It’s a darkly dramatic album, reveling in anguish and misery, presented as a fantasy epic but based firmly in reality. The riffs are purposely plodding and dour, synths thicken the atmosphere, and the vocalist doesn’t sound like a human being so much as an ancient wizard, gleefully foretelling our collective doom with a wave of his knotted staff. My description sounds a little cosplay-friendly, I’m sure, but this album hits so good, and makes me wonder how mad Southern Lord is to not have a band as authentically, boldly crust-metal as Rigorous Institution on their roster. If the Cryptkeeper had a guest column in Maximumrocknroll, I’m certain he’d sing the praises of Cainsmarch, and if I ever get to witness this band perform “Laughter” live, I’m gonna push-pit so hard that my hair entangles into the crust-punk’s next to me, a veritable rat-king of punk aggression. Just you wait!

Skid City Greetings From Skid City LP (Shipping Steel)
Sweet young Skids ain’t Skids no more: this Melbourne rock unit has changed their name from The Skids to Skid City, in case you were under the misunderstanding that they played rock music with the suburbs in mind. Following a couple singles, their formula has mostly stayed the same, which is boots-on-the-ground, hard-rockin’ garage-punk with minimal frills. Don’t even expect much in the way of guitar solos, and there isn’t a keyboard in sight; Skid City churn out tune after tune of driving, gruff rock music in the vein of Turbonegro, Murder City Devils and Cosmic Psychos. Makes me imagine a non-existent timeline wherein Headache Records existed during CBGB’s first wave of underground rock. The energy is there, but not in an unrestrained way, as this music is better suited to sitting at a bar and occasionally pumping a fist than circle pits and stage dives. From the sound of vocalist Zeke’s voice, he’s too run down and strained to do much more than stand in place anyway, so gravelly is his tone. I don’t care how many techno producers in floppy pastel shirts Australia produces, it’s a rock n’ roll country first and foremost and Skid City have located their sliver of land within it.

Spread Joy II LP (Feel It)
It’s been about a year since Chicago’s Spread Joy established their high-energy post-punk with their debut, and now they’ve returned (maybe a dozen shows later) with II, continuing right where they left off. “Dancy post-punk” has been a crowded field since James Murphy first DJed a Liquid Liquid twelve-inch in 2001, which makes it a particularly tricky style to distinguish oneself within, and if Spread Joy hadn’t fully done so after their appreciable debut, II firmly establishes their top American standing. The drums carve their own little initials into each song, a commendable mix of taut and spicy; the bass is a constant flurry of funk and groove; the guitar understands it’s the least important part (which is often the hardest part, knowing guitarists), and the singer is an absolute loon, shaming all the singers who have half as much fun in front of a mic. Some songs lean heavily in a Contortions anti-groove, others flail like some of Lumpy Records’ dancier offerings, and at least two songs nod pretty distinctly towards Blur’s “Song 2”, a nice little curveball of catchiness in an otherwise strictly-underground affair. Most importantly for this style, Spread Joy sound like they’re truly being themselves and having a ball in the process, really embracing their chosen moniker in a time when it seems like everything is being spread besides joy. It’s appreciated!

The Submissives Wanna Be Your Thing LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
Kind of ironic that when I’m listening to records on a broken, off-time turntable, I hate it, but when I’m listening to records that sound like they’re being played on a broken, off-time turntable, I love it! Case in point is this album from The Submissives (aka Montreal’s Deb Edison), who apparently recorded and produced Wanna Be Your Thing all on her lonesome. File under shambolic, K Records-indebted indie-pop, but I’ll be damned if Edison’s guitars aren’t gloriously out of whack, vacillating between in-tune and out-of-tune often in the same singular chord that’s struck. Brilliant! The guitars (both strummed and tickled) are sour-sweet throughout, as if they stepped in buckets of The Velvet Underground, The Shaggs and Tori Kudo and tracked them all over the carpet. Transport Sarah Mary Chadwick to the Fuck Off Records scene of Instant Automatons and The Door & The Window and it might result in a similarly pleasing DIY pop confection as Wanna Be Your Thing. I can’t tell if The Submissives are unhinged or sincere or horny or taking the piss, and it’s therein that the magic lies. Every time I start grumbling about solo projects usurping the focus from multi-membered bands, a record like this comes along to make me realize some artists are best left to themselves, wild and uncompromised.

TSVI & Loraine James 053 12″ (AD 93)
Back when the AD 93 label was calling itself Whities, I was scooping up every new release with enthusiasm and wonderment, but somewhere after the name change to AD 93 I found myself drifting… the creative, wandering minds the label had gravitated towards often were a little too esoteric or high-minded for my tastes. Gimme the inventive and straight-up catchy beats, you know? I never stopped respecting the label, though, and maybe there’s some re-investigation to be done, as this new collaboration between the London producers TSVI and Loraine James is a pleasing display of sonic contrasts. I can’t rightly say who is contributing what, but across these five tracks, languid melodic keys and uplifting ambient drift are pelted with scattershot snippets of jungle rhythms and IDM beats, resulting in a sort of sunshower effect – the beats scuff you up a bit, but the weather conditions are so optimal that it feels like a perk rather than punishment. Their minds shift from the choral, Jay Glass Dubs-esque “Awaiting” to the unfocused techno thwop of “Eternal” with ease, and as a listener I’m right there with them. The effervescence found within 053 is a constant, no matter which beats (if any) are deployed, with an almost new-age sort of presence (sans the yoga pants or herbal tea). You know how some of those bougie botanical probiotic seltzers are crap, and some are actually worth the exorbitant price tag? 053 is worth every penny.

Valley Of Weights Valley Of Weights 2xLP (Skell / Sool Recordings)
Upstate New York, Connecticut, western Massachusetts.. they just sit around playing guitar all day up there, don’t they? I love big cities, but the idea of having some crusty barn to set up all your gear with your friends and leisurely hammer away at rock music sounds pretty darn appealing. Valley Of Weights are one such project, apparently hailing from upstate New York and featuring personnel from groups like Burnt Hills, Sky Furrows and even a Vatican Commando! They decided to enter the underground conversation with a debut double LP, full of loosely scripted rock songs and deeper forays into improvised psych-rock burnouts. Pretty straightforward and by-the-books, and certainly age-appropriate (Gen Z they ain’t), like the type of upstanding local band that gets to open for Mission Of Burma, Dinosaur Jr or Mudhoney once or twice a year. No wild freakouts, no unlikely combination of effects pedals or uncommon percussive devices, just moderately energetic, ’90s style indie-rock that cuts to the core of the matter. We could all be so lucky to find ourselves in Valley Of Weights’ shoes someday.

Ricardo Villalobos & Samuel Rohrer Microgestures 2×12″ (Arjunamusic)
For as much as I profess to love Ricardo Villalobos (once every evening before bed as I stare into my bathroom mirror), I am sheepish to admit that it’s been a couple years since I seriously peeped any of his newer records. He kinda lost me after Empirical House, or perhaps I felt I had already such a staggering wealth of his material to lose myself in, but I saw that he had this new double EP with Samuel Rohrer (not their first collaborative effort, apparently) and decided to check back in. I was prepared for some richly refracted soundscaping and technologically-advanced processing with rhythms beyond the cognitive powers of my feeble brain, but much to my delight, these four side-long tracks are glitchy and minimal tech-house straight out of Villalobos’s early ’00s playbook. Not bad! Tiny warm-sounding drum machines cycle forward, and the slightest and subtlest shards of electronic interference, synthetic manipulations and indeterminate effects grow in the cracks. At a distance, it’s mostly repetitive skeletal rhythms and electronic gurgling, but if you dare lean over the edge into these tracks, there’s a rich world of activity and color to be enjoyed, much like a drop of pond water under a classroom microscope. Thrilling to know Villalobos and friends are still out there making the music they are compelled to make, trends or cultural shifts be damned. I love it.

Niklas Wandt I Wandt To Believe 12″ (Animals Dancing)
Who said Germans have no sense of humor? I’ve been keeping an eye out for Niklas Wandt ever since his fantastic collab with Wolf Müller dropped in 2018, and this new four-track EP with a dumb pun for a title seemed like the perfect place to check in. His taste in dance music is clearly omnivorous, as these tracks run the gamut of lighthearted dance music, from vocodered sleaze-pop to sunshine-y stepping house and cosmic, retro electro. While kind of all over the place, it never feels like he’s reaching too far, or losing sight of the ultimate goal: an infectious eternal groove to shake butts and elevate minds. “Im Verborgenen” is probably my favorite cut of the bunch, and also the slowest, grinding hard on an EBM groove with lasers firing from all angles and deadpan German vocals. Considering the glaring dearth of in-person parties, social events and general good vibes of recent times, it’s reassuring to be kissed with Wandt’s playful and expansive dance tracks, honoring a world where communal fun and ebullient grooves are granted top priority.