A+A 060 12″ (AD 93)
The Whities label brought me happiness in the form of their initial EPs from Avalon Emerson and Anunaku a few years ago, and now that the label has evolved into AD 93, I had to check out this new collab between the two of them. Previously, Avalon Emerson swept me away in her blissful synth-work and commanding melodic leads, whereas Anunaku rearranged my brainpan with his dazzling feats of percussion, and while their respective styles are evident in 060, the aesthetic here leans closer to Emerson’s domain. Works for me! Opening cut “Eternal September” sounds like a lost Avalon Emerson cut from the mid ’10s, a pink-hued sunset with deftly layered synths and a lightweight house beat, a precious track that could be swept off course from even a modest breeze. The rest of the EP follows suit, twinkling like a metropolitan skyline from a utopian future, pollution-free light-rail transit systems operating efficiently from bird’s eye view. I suppose you can dance to these tracks – tech-house beats are present for all of them, with “North Star” the mightiest of the bunch – but something about the effervescent lightness of these proceedings overshadows A+A’s existence as “dance music”, resulting in more of a tender trance style. After all, what kinda dancing can you really do when you’re floating ten feet off the ground, blissfully drifting to A+A?

Ace Of Spit Ace Of Spit LP (Sophomore Lounge)
The band is called Ace Of Spit, and there’s a cool old-looking pic of a teenaged punk holding a guitar on the cover… you’ve got my attention, boys! I was hoping that teenager was the Ace Of Spit himself, but this is a dual-guitared quartet outta St. Louis, not a single kid. Even if these songs do not specifically involve the cover star, they pay his image proper respect with Ace Of Spit. The group plays a clearly understandable form of garage-rock, more punk by the way in which these songs are played (aggressively, sometimes noisily, always with attitude) than in the riffs themselves. Take some Link Wray and Cramps moves, put your cigarette out on ’em and leave the room without saying a word. There’s a bit of the plucky angle I associate with the early years of Planet Pimp Records here (bands like The Phantom Surfers and The Mummies and their various off-shoots), though Ace Of Spit aren’t silly at all; they seem to be solely interested in slamming out the raucous Fender energy like the countless Midwestern outcasts before them, no concessions or gimmicks. A traditional style for sure, so while your mind might not be blown apart by new musical concepts here, it will be reassured that gritty rock played by human beings in the company of each other endures like a hardy weed, refusing to die no matter the unfriendly circumstances.

Blemish Blemish 12″ (Not For The Weak)
I’ve come to accept Not For The Weak as a hardcore label on the burlier side of things, generally releasing music meant to knock me on my can rather than pick me back up, so Blemish’s vinyl debut took me by surprise. This is tunefully sullen melodic punk, reminiscent of the early punk bands who continued through hardcore’s emergence, paying some homage to the louder/faster rules of the day while still insisting on a dark melodic edge missing from most adolescent hardcore. Bands like D.O.A., X and CH3 come to mind while listening to this twelve-inch, as does early UK anarcho stuff like Conflict and Alternative, as does the ’90s pop-punk iteration of that same aesthetic ala A.P.P.L.E. and Naked Aggression. Much as is the case with pizza, you’ve gotta get a good crust ratio with your downcast melodic punk, and Blemish have located that sweet spot. The group leads with the vocals, which slice through many of the important topics of our time: violence, the police state, doomed romance, financial insecurity and paranoia (the opening cut is appropriately enough called “Paranoia”). This sort of mid-paced, not-entirely-aggressive sound isn’t normally what I reach for, but I’ve spun Blemish a few times and I’m enjoying its increasing familiarity.

Burial Streetlands 12″ (Hyperdub)
It’s always a treat when the (bi-)yearly Burial EP arrives unannounced, this new one clocking in with three tracks at a little over half an hour. I’d like to maintain my stance that Burial absolutely rules, one of the most deeply inventive and influential artists of the last couple decades – whatever he’s up to, I will proudly celebrate, or at least listen contentedly if it’s not one of my favorites. Recent EPs found him venturing into beatless territory more often than not, and as a master of the evocative soundscape, it’s a solid place for his imagination to roam. That said, these tracks are slight, shy and subtle, perhaps his least gripping material yet. Opener “Hospital Chapel” barely does anything at all for eight minutes, so when the title track actually rustles through vaporous synth leads, chirpy vocals, lingering drones and sporadic crackles, it at least feels like there’s activity out there, rather than staking out a haunted house all night where nothing happens. Burial basically created the “sounds of a rave ringing in your head as you take the bus home at 4 AM” vibe, but Streetlands is even further from the faint remnants of a club sound; this is more akin to remembering you went to the club over the weekend, then came home and played Final Fantasy XVIII for a few hours, just wandering dark alleys and windswept cliffs instead of fighting any monsters. Gonna go spin one of the other seven Burial records on my shelf right now and remind myself why he’s the greatest.

Shanti Celeste Cutie / Shimmer 12″ (Hessle Audio)
Crazy to think it’s been fourteen years since I first started picking up Hessle Audio twelve-inches, and even crazier that the pleasure in which I derive from them remains unabated. This British label releases uniform-looking electronic EPs, generally inexpensively (which is appreciated), with artists both familiar and new, a sense of community both closely knit and globalized. This new one from Chilean-born, London-based Shanti Celeste is a pair of uplifting bangers, making me wish it was summer again even though I only turned the air conditioner off like two weeks ago. “Cutie” is the hit, a warm and robust house / UK garage hybrid that rides an unquestionably cute vocal hook across a sea of smiles. There’s such an art to putting together a weird choppy vocal hook – you want it to be catchy but not plain, weird but not entirely alienating – and “Cutie” crushes it, a perfect reminder of how fun tech-house can be. “Shimmer” is a little more nighttime-oriented, synths twinkling like headlights on a dark highway, vocal snippet punctuating the beat and a pleasantly kinetic feel throughout. Feels akin to Deadboy, Cosmin TRG, Overmono and even a little Silkie; cool dance music that envelops the room in a glorious confection of highs, lows and mids. Both cuts are excellent, rekindling my deep appreciation for all things Hessle Audio.

Cheval De Frise Cheval De Frise 2xLP (Computer Students)
Really impressed by the extravagance Computer Students puts into their releases: from bespoke “radiant aluminum foil bag” packaging (on top of already-handsome cardstock sleeves) to their own proprietary cardboard record mailers (probably necessary to accommodate that extra-large aluminum bag), it doesn’t appear they leave any detail unconsidered. With a roster of artists like Big’n, Oxes and Drose, it’s clear that they trade primarily in audacious math-rock, so it’s the perfect home for a lavish double twelve-inch vinyl reissue of French math-rock duo Cheval De Frise’s 2000 debut. I was unaware of the group while they were active, but they would’ve fit in nicely next to the Hella and Don Caballero CDs in my Case Logic car visor. As a guitar-drums duo, Cheval De Frise had to rely heavily on each other, but they’re clearly two virtuosos up for the task. The drum patterns are explosive in a proggy screamo sort of way – no issues there – but Cheval De Frise really shine thanks to Thomas Bonvalet’s electro-acoustic guitar. Without distortion or effects, his frenetic playing dazzles, calling to mind Pat Metheny, traditional Flamenco, Derek Bailey and David Pajo, sometimes in the course of a single song. Listening now, I’m recalling the fevered push around the turn of the millennium to push mathy post-hardcore to its furthest limits, and Cheval De Frise were clearly a favored competitor. And now they’ve got an attractive vinyl reissue to commemorate it, dressed up in its own little spacesuit.

Elbis Rever Happy Birthday LP (no label)
Don’t think we’ve ever had a band come through here before claiming a dual residence of Hong Kong and Bilbao, but Elbis Rever apparently aren’t other bands! I have no idea how that works logistically, but seeing as their music is electronics/beats-oriented with dual vocals credited to “Natalia y Alba”, perhaps it’s digitally portable in a way that rock bands aren’t. Lots of mystery that I’ll surely never unravel within Elbis Rever, and it suits their music, which comes across like electro new-wave karaoke from a Lynchian alternate universe. These tracks vary in energy-level and sentiment, but are mostly quite moody and hazy, even when covering ABBA as they do here (“Lay All Your Love On Me”). Reminds me a good bit of Maria Minerva’s Not Not Fun run, or Lena Platonos, particularly on the loopy “Blue”, which sounds like a telanovela swirling down an Autotuned drain. Strange stuff, both in the music’s origin and how surprisingly smooth some of these tracks can be. Elbis Rever seem to think they’re simply playing “pop music”, which I suppose is true, but then they’ve also got Al Karpenter weirdly warbling a spoken-word accompaniment on “Nothing”, which sounds both DIY and ready to soundtrack a sexy big-budget sci-fi thriller. Nice to know some artists are still completely unqualified to cleanly reside in any pre-existing box, fame or glory be damned.

Glitterer Fantasy Four 7″ (Lockin’ Out)
If you’re at all a fan of this website you’re reading right now (or, by some perverse chance, a hater seeking other modern music writing to despise), you’ve gotta sign up for Joint Custody’s “Record Freak” newsletter. I’m not even sure how you do it – there’s probably a link on their site, but I had trouble finding it in the past – but each week, the lovable crew of this DC record shop spins highly thoughtful and conversational takes on music both old and new. I’ve only briefly met Ned(d) Russin, who edits and consistently contributes to that newsletter, a couple times in the past, but he’s started to feel like an old friend just from reading his thoughts on a weekly basis, so I decided to peep the newest EP from his solo project Glitterer. It’s pretty nice! I saw Glitterer perform in upbeat-karoke format a few years ago, like an emo (err, more emo) John Maus, but Fantasy Four is sensitive slacker grunge-pop through and through, much like the kids seem to be enjoying these days. Fuzzy guitars are strummed casually, live drums keep the pace of a riding mower and Russin extends each syllable in strained (but in-tune) emo cadence. The Promise Ring meets Narrow Head, kinda? I appreciate that these songs are kinda understated and easy, and at four of ’em in eight minutes, they feel like sweet sketches from the back of his notepad come to life in Will Yip’s trademark studio.

Katie Alice Greer Barbarism LP (FourFour)
It’s never easy for punks (or in the case of Priests, don’t-call-us-punks) to embark on a solo project after attaining notoriety in a band – nothing checks the ego like having to start from scratch under your own name. And yet, Priests’ Katie Alice Greer did precisely that, essentially learning how to do it all herself in the process, from playing instruments to producing and mixing. Phew! That alone is an accomplishment, but the fact that Barbarism is so damn good is another success entirely. Priests were always a deeply weird band constrained by their mostly not-weird rock band formation, and Greer lets her freak flag fly with this one, digging deep into sounds that wouldn’t have found a home anywhere else and forming catchy little songs out of them. She utilizes loops, live instruments, lo-fi mystery sounds, samples, pretty much anything that can be performed into a microphone or dragged across a laptop screen, and she cobbled together a stunning suite of modern-day reclamations/lamentations. Check “Fake Nostalgia” for starters: riding on a rickety graveyard loop is an absolute earworm of a vocal hook, as if Russian techno-industrialist Pavel Milyakov collided with Taylor Swift in a double-booked studio. It’s that weird/good! The rest of the album dips into Broadcast-y ghost-dance, lo-fi political trip-hop, and there’s “Dreamt I Talk To Horses”, which sounds like pre-“Loser” Beck and Jenny Hval drunk-dancing in the street together. The benefit of doing it all from scratch yourself is that there’s a solid chance you won’t sound like anyone else; Katie Alice Greer is on her own powerful, beautiful trip here.

Indre Krig Destroyer 7″ (Adult Crash)
Unfair judgment alert: I never checked out anything on the Danish Adult Crash label before, solely due to the obvious Minor Threat reference in their name. I understand that an overwhelming percentage of hardcore after, I dunno, 1985?, has looked backwards for inspiration, but Minor Threat are a little too on the nose for me. Am I wrong? I could be wrong, but I also wouldn’t chase down a record by a band called Damaged or Frankenchrist, either… it just seems like aspiring to entry-level homage rather than something hopefully fresh and personal. Unreasonably long rant aside, let’s finally look past such trivialities and peep Indre Krig’s vinyl debut following their 2021 demo, Destroyer. Surely the members of the band previously played in other hardcore-punk bands, as Destroyer is way too polished and lean to be a first-run attempt. Opener “Destroyer” unfurls with the glossy ‘core production of Good Riddance or Strike Anywhere, but the hardcore drum patterns and rapid performance are unmistakeably non-commercial in nature. Certainly in the neighborhood of modern hardcore acts like Punch and Slant and older Euro-core like Demon System 13 and Electric Deads, though Indre Krig’s recording quality is far more produced, full and clean than any of those other bands. With production being so crucial to how hardcore-punk connects to the listener, and me being someone who’d rather listen to Solger than Have Heart, I’d probably prefer something rawer to Indre Krig’s smooth precision, though I respect their approach and recognize Destroyer as the real-deal hardcore-punk it is.

Lady Neptune Noz 12″ (Night School)
In case you didn’t already know – no city parties quite like Glasgow. I didn’t know it until I went there myself, but that population, no matter the style of music or personal aesthetic, really understands how to collectively give yourself over to the night, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Thus, it comes as little surprise that Lady Neptune hails from such a locale, her live shows allegedly featuring “foam guns” and “tequila pistols”(?), lots of sweaty skin and bodies flailing like it’s Murphy’s Law at CBGB. She plays a frantic form of gabber techno, with machine-gun style kicks and rave synths that leap across the keyboard. It’s a sound that suits her cover image, eyes rolled back in her head and smiling in a string bikini of some sort, presenting like a new Dollskill x Aphex Twin collaboration. What’s not to love? If anything, I was a bit surprised by how commonplace Noz sounds, utilizing a familiar set of drum sounds and synth pre-sets rather than injecting these tracks with something unexpected, weird or deeply personal. It’s cool stuff for sure, but the music has less distinguishing personality than say, Disciples Of Annihilation, Rob Gee or Nasenbluten. Most likely, the concept of calmly listening to these tracks by myself in my room is far secondary to their primary nature, which is blasting out of a well-worn PA system in the basement of some grimy Glasgow pub, creeps and lovers headbutting the speakers until the sun comes out.

Long Knife Curb Stomp Earth LP (Beach Impediment / Black Water)
There’s no questioning the punk bonafides of Portland’s Long Knife – hell, their second release was a split with Forward, whom they toured the US with back in 2014. You come out the other end of that either hardened and invincible or you’re never heard from again, but Long Knife are clearly thriving, now with the release of their epic third album, Curb Stomp Earth. This is driving hardcore-punk through a diesel-and-black-leather filter, the sort of thing that unites fans of Motörhead and Severed Heads Of State (not that it’s been a difficult bridge to gap in recent years). You could probably win over your stubborn uncle who only listens to Suicidal Tendencies and Pantera with a track like “The Curse” as well, such is the diplomatic nature of these tunes. I can’t help but hear a bit of Fucked Up in Long Knife’s sound (check “Trip To The River” and tell me I’m not crazy), but a friend of mine who spends more time on this side of the ‘core spectrum insists that I’m off the mark. Wouldn’t be the first time! Maybe it’s just the wide-screen delivery of Curb Stomp Earth that gives it that larger-than-life feel, not to mention the inspired choral flourishes (and horn section on “Uncle Phil”, which is just a skip and a jump away from Voodoo Glow Skulls territory, which isn’t a complaint!). Long Knife know that if you wanna go big with hardcore, you have to fully commit – these songs are fully confident and impervious, steamrolling any wishy-washy listeners and uniting the rest of us.

Mai Mai Mai Rimorso 2xLP (Maple Death)
Couldn’t get it out of my head that Italian industrial producer Mai Mai Mai was somehow tied up with Avarus and the Finnish freak-folk scene, at least until I realized I was thinking of their Lal Lal Lal label. This is the type of talk I spare my friends and loved ones from and deliver unto you instead, dear reader! So, it turns out I didn’t know Mai Mai Mai at all, but after spending some time with the rich and expansive Rimorso, his eighth full-length if Discogs is to be believed, I’m a fan. It’s a pretty easy form of rhythmic industrial music to like, with heavy throbbing bass tones, mysterious percussive loops and, as the star of the show, various guest vocals. Mai Mai Mai must’ve been thrilled when he got the raw vocals provided by Maria Violenza Vera Di Lecce, Youmna Saba and Nziria, as they add a level of haunting humanity to these otherwise frigid soundscapes.”Nostalgia” sounds like Diamanda Galas working with Demdike Stare, a perfect goth-industrial combination of dim light and pitch black, whereas other tracks recall the ghouls-night-out playfulness of Ectoplasm Girls or the brooding antagonism of classic Throbbing Gristle. I prefer the rawer moments myself – the choral vocals sometimes get a little too dramatized for my tastes – but Rimorso flows well because of the various ways the listener is pushed and pulled. There are many ways to enter the abyss, and Mai Mai Mai explores them with respect and awareness.

Microwaves Discomfiture Atlas LP (Three.One.G)
Over twenty years of Pittsburgh’s Microwaves! Throughout their history, their approach has stayed mostly the same: Melvins-sized riff-bludgeoning with the pesky buzz of Arab On Radar and an overdose of extemporaneous electronics misfiring throughout. A great formula indeed, and while it doesn’t pack the same WTF punch that it did back in 2002, Microwaves continue to display their mastery of their own particular form on Discomfiture Atlas. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these songs are more tangled and intricate than ever, as most bands tend to write more elaborate songs the longer they exist, but whereas your average hardcore band’s “maturation” often results in unlistenable pap, complex riffs and off-kilter timing fit Microwaves like a latex glove. They’ll take a tense Fugazi-style guitar lick and blast it into the sort of punishing metal-core associated with Converge or Botch, and then flip that on its skull in some sort of mean-spirited Captain Beefheart impression. It really works! My favorite cut of the bunch might be “New Strategies”, which encapsulates all of what is good about Microwaves right down to the demented Speak & Spell voiceover. Can’t even imagine what these guys’ll sound like in another twenty years!

Mister Water Wet Significant Soil LP (West Mineral Ltd.)
Lots of activity from West Mineral Ltd. since its founding by Huerco S. in 2017, often with artists equally new or newer. They trade in a lot of Midwestern artists with global social connections, Mister Water Wet fitting the bill for nearly all the traits I’ve listed thus far. His debut album came out on the label in 2019, and Significant Soil is his solo follow-up, another stoned-to-the-bone adventure of richly unquantized laptop tricks, tropical confusion and what used to be called IDM before everyone realized it’s a horrible genre tag. It smells like Autechre, trip-hop, Nicholas Malkin, Kid606 and Milan W., all sloshing around in a Nutribullet as the various flavors compete for prominence. It’s a style that could be either incredibly difficult or incredibly easy to create; depending on who is arguing, I could be convinced that Significant Soil was created over a weekend or as the product of two years’ of writing and editing. The real question is whether or not it sounds good, and while this particular style of kitchen-sink ambient is quickly becoming standard par for the course, Significant Soil is a pleasant ride from start to finish, no matter if you’re jostling over a rocky patch or gliding across one of its many glossy membranes.

More Klementines Who Remembers Light LP (Feeding Tube / Twin Lakes)
Meanwhile, over in rural Connecticut: there is no war, no inflation, no technocratic oppression, no sadness, just dogs on a lake, organic vegetable stir-fry, warm friends and endless jams. At least, that’s the impression the Northeastern psych-rock scene has been transmitting for at least half a decade now, from Western Mass to New Haven, CT and Hudson, NY, chock full of good tidings and peaceful connections. This new one from More Klementines follows a path of heady rock tranquility as well, the trio comfortably stretching their legs out on the deck. Bass and drums don’t fully lock-in so much as casually converse while the guitars spiral skyward, not unlike Bardo Pond or the geographically-similar Headroom. These tracks feel improvised, or at least are loose enough around the collar to instill a similar feeling of unhurried psych-rock exploration; a single tone will float for seemingly minutes as someone swipes their hands across bar chimes (as if the music didn’t already conjure images of kindly wizards). “Key Of Caesar” takes a folksy turn, the shortest track and only to feature vocals, which sound like they’re coming from some Neil Young lookalike who welcomes you into his roadside cafe for a quick bite, the last stop before you reach your mountaintop camping destination. Can’t say I know the names of anyone in More Klementines, but I leave Who Remembers Light feeling like friendly companions.

Overcalc Fruits Of The Decision Tree LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Overcalc blew me away with his unassuming debut back in 2019, and I thought I was the only one who cared, at least until now that I see Sleeping Giant Glossolalia has released album number two. It’s still great! In case you don’t recall (and I get the impression many of you failed to peep in the first place), Overcalc essentially merges guitar-hero histrionics with perplexing drum machine grids and a krautrock sensibility. Imagine an extended durational meeting between Manuel Göttsching and Mick Barr and you’re on the right track, or perhaps Champs as remixed by Black Dice, or Iron Maiden, had they been produced by Conny Plank for a 1976 Brain Records release??? These songs open up plenty of space for wild fantasies, further proof that heavy-metal guitar showboating can be applied to essentially any musical template with solid-to-exceptional results. Granted, this sort of idea could easily fall apart in incapable hands, but Overcalc (the solo work of Baltimore’s Nick Skrobisz) is inspired in its performance and construction; Skrobisz runs through counterpointed riffs and strict musical delineations with flair and technicality, taking on the role of a mad scientist more than a home-recording guitarist. He’s certainly found a shining form of musical alchemy here, and while I probably can’t convince every one of you to pick up this record, most of y’all should check this out.

Roméo Poirier Living Room LP (Faitiche)
Yes, this is another bleep-bloop gauzy-loop domestic-ambient artist, and if you’re getting a little sick of those I don’t blame you, but for those of us with continued capacity for this style, Roméo Poirier’s newest is a cut above the rest. His previous album (2020’s Hotel Nota) garnered some attention for its lazy, languid trips, electronic ambient music somewhere between sunburnt and sunkissed, and this new one feels equally beachfront, albeit a beach on an entirely different planet. I’m reminded a lot of Mike Cooper’s tiki-tronica, though there aren’t any guitars here, really – this music moves on a subtle current of synths and passive fourth-world percussion, like coconuts clanking together overhead while violins, a snoring puppy and a neighbor watering their garden are slip-slided through a catacomb of reverb and dub effects. Compared to many contemporaries reviewed in these very pages, Living Room is more active and attention-grabbing than most, a humanized form of pop-ambient electronic music that relies more on sweet melodic twists and memorable sounds than extended field-recordings, drone or spoken-word. Rather than a purposely passive background music, Living Room bristles with life and activity, chock full of sonic vignettes that promise, if not an entirely better world, at least a very believable illusion of one.

Radiation Risks Welcome To Bad Boy City 7″ (Swimming Faith)
Buffalo’s Radiation Risks made the most of their couple years on this planet, moving from demo tape to Lumpy Records single to self-released album in the span of a couple years. Delays and hold-ups have become part of the record business landscape, so I’m not totally surprised that Welcome To Bad Boy City comes out some four years after the groups’ demise, and after spinning it, I can see why Swimming Faith insisted on getting it out to the public. This is some cool, frantic hardcore-punk! Their hardcore essentially pushes garage-punk to unhinged speeds, yet they manage to keep it tethered down – they allegedly toured the hell out of the years they were around, and these songs sound like they’re extremely well-rehearsed. I’m reminded of Brown Sugar (maybe they even share a member, who can say) in the way that the music tumbles forward without sacrificing creativity or weirdness. For example, someone in the band decided these songs needed the noodling of a clean guitar here and there and what do you know, it really works. Fans of The Rites, S.N.O.T. and even The Dwarves will dig in to this one immediately, a rowdy hardcore climax right through the cowboy-fied Dead Kennedys’ style of the final track, “Prescription Pest”.

R.M.F.C. Access 7″ (Anti Fade)
No, not R.F.T.C., this is Rock Music Fan Club, the bedroom punk project that comes from an Australian named Buz Clatworthy, whom I insist on believing was named that at birth. This is some “sounds too fast at 45 RPM but is actually to be played at 45 RPM” punk, and I’m still a little suspicious – are his drum rolls and guitar licks really that fast? Let’s assume that “Access” is a real song, because it’s a hot little number in the crowded field of weird-punk. The guitar whizzes out a confident little riff with aplomb, and the drums punch it into the floor, like The Embarrassment’s early stuff (but faster) or a more, umm, mature progression of the Coneheads sound. No keyboard bleeps or impossibly-nasal vocals, just some extremely cool guitar work and a song shaped out of it. “Air Conditioning” is allegedly a cover of The Lillettes, but seeing as I’m suspicious of everything else about this record, I wasn’t certain they were a real band until I took a look at Discogs and confirmed that such a band existed in Australia between 1979 and 1981. A shame they never made it to vinyl in their day, as “Air Conditioning” is a gratifying post-punk bop, going static-robot on the verse and strumming coolly on the chorus, or at least that’s how R.M.F.C. decided to spin it. In a scene of punks trying to out-weird each other, R.M.F.C. did the weirdest thing of all by offering up some damned understated brilliance on both sides of this single!

Coby Sey Conduit LP (AD 93)
The cultural temperature of London has always been best assessed by the music coming out of it, at least for as long as I’ve been alive. Much like where I live, that city seems buzzing and teetering on the edge of revolt right now, as evidenced by the melancholic grey skies of Burial, the street-level psycho-drama of Blackhaine, the febrile tension of Moin and the dizzying spoken-word industrial of Coby Sey’s Conduit. Conduit is constantly on the move, shark-like I’d say, from staccato blasts of static interference to downtempo illbient (“Permeated Secrets” being a nice example of the latter). Sey raps, speaks, and intones spools of lyrics throughout, and while a comparison to Moor Mother isn’t entirely unwarranted, Sey’s personality is far more relaxed, casual and, well, British. He’s not speaking on generational trauma or alternate realities so much as the people he bumps shoulders with on the tube, paper cups of coffee on the bus, personal hopes and communal longings. It works well with the wide variety of rhythms and sonic approaches, touching on grime and footwork and noise without planting roots in any one territory. For example, “Night Ride” starts off like Rrose or something, stark industrial-techno that abruptly gives way to pitched vocal tracks you’d never hear on a Rrose track. Conduit isn’t an obvious fit for AD 93, or any other label at all really, simply because there isn’t much else out there right now that sounds like this.

Smelly Feet Smelly Neu Pollution LP (Minimum Table Stacks)
Minimum Table Stacks makes the admiral jump from a blog that champions old neglected weirdo lo-fi music to a record label that releases the very same! Their inaugural release is this discography of sorts from Auckland’s Smelly Feet, the solo project of one Brent Hayward. If you’re not familiar, please google his band Shoes This High and listen to their sole EP (dare-I-say a top ten post-punk single), and once you’ve experienced that thrill, we can talk about his acoustic solo project that followed it, Smelly Feet. Bold name for a project, but according to the loving liner notes from Stuart Page and The Dead C’s Bruce Russell, Hayward walked his own freaky walk in an era where punk existed far outside the mainstream. Smelly Neu Pollution collects the two Smelly Feet seven-inch EPs along with some cassette tracks – all the Smelly Feet any reasonable person could require – and it’s a fun and rambunctious display of his personality. Some songs are silly, others are remarkably vulnerable and forthright, but they all come from Hayward’s effusive heart and his beat-up acoustic guitar, a true free-thinking oddball who followed his nose and no one else’s. For fans of tweaky Kiwi post-punk, The Fall, Beyond The Implode, and so on…

Sumerlands Dreamkiller LP (Relapse)
Gratuitous heavy metal bliss! I loved the first Sumerlands record, the brainchild of metal wunderkind Arthur Rizk, but this new one takes his metal kingdom to even higher heights. You might know Rizk from producing basically every metal and metal-adjacent album you loved in the past ten years (from Trapped Under Ice to Kreator and back), but Sumerlands is a richly traditional affair, staunchly ’80s in its formulation and approach. Intricate, pitch-perfect guitar solos are guaranteed, and new vocalist Brendan Radigan (of Magic Circle) fills Phil Swanson’s leather boots and then some. Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark At The Moon often comes to mind as I listen, though the power ballads “The Savior’s Lie” and “Night Ride” call to mind Journey at their most brooding (which I love), and the righteous “Force Of A Storm” reminds me of Gamma Ray’s mix of introspection and technically impeccable riffage. They don’t just nail the sound and style (though they absolutely do that) – Sumerlands crafted an album of brand-new heirs to the classic heavy-metal canon, sing-along rippers that should be blasting out of FM radios in mechanic garages during the day and pizza shops at night. The best metal transports you elsewhere while solidifying a sense of self and connecting you to likeminded souls, and Dreamkiller takes me away every single time.

Aki Tsuyuko Leo LP (Enban)
Lucky for Aki Tsuyuko, her music became inextricably linked in my heart to a couple of heavy Christmas present-wrapping sessions I had back in late 2020. I had picked up her album with Ippei Matsui a couple weeks prior and it was the perfect soundtrack for the task at hand, modest keyboard miniatures for warm thoughts of family while still in stressful isolation. Tsuyuko is a lifelong musician, seemingly less interested in proper releases than simply enjoying her keyboards and the spaces in which she can play them, so I’m glad that Leo is now here. It features her KAWAI Dreamatone organ, a keyboard she’s played for so many years that it’s apparently on its way out, which adds a sweet sadness to the humble melodies found on this record. Field recordings are used to roughen-up or contextualize the proceedings, as has quickly become a common custom of the underground. Sounds like she’s walking through a thicket at one point on the side-long a-side track, or maybe opening a packet of crackers? A key unlocks a door as the Dreamatone warms up, cozier than a weighted blanket with a sleeping cat on top. Would’ve been a perfect contribution to the sweet nappytime sounds on that Labyrinth Of Memories compilation, but it seems that Tsuyuko has been working in longer form lately as opposed to brief vignettes. I’ve enjoyed Leo both passively and actively, either way wishing it would kinda just go on forever.

V-3 Hit Dead Center With My Disease LP (Bravecloud)
As our interest in the future declines and we seek further comfort in the past, it’s been working out nicely for the world of underground reissues. No less than three full-length V-3 albums were released without warning at the same time, all on the Nudge Squidfish-related Bravecloud label, all of which offer previously-unreleased material from Squidfish’s V-3 “vault”. The tracks span a number of years, and are sequenced here in non-linear order – a weird tossed-off post-punk explosion from 1990 might back into a somber groove from years earlier, culled from a variety of studio sessions and live shows. I’m reviewing Hit Dead Center With My Disease here, but on The Enemy Within, one track goes back as far as 1980! Interesting choice to issue three separate albums rather than a sole boxset, but it’s kinda cool they did it this way, as you can check out as much as you want without the commitment of a big purchase (a single LP is a big enough purchase these days anyway). What’s crazy to me is how, in the scheme of sub-underground American rock deviancy, a strong case could be made for the essentiality of all three of these new V-3 albums! Helmed by the late great Jim Shepherd, V-3 shifted between emotions, energy levels and instrumentation with the grace and proficiency of an Olympic dancer. On Hit Dead Center, they seem to predict the existence of various future underground trends (warped collage, spazzy freak-outs, simmering post-punk, blazing Americana, drum machines) while reveling in a post-Velvets post-punk haze at a time when few others could grasp it. Shephard, Squidfish and the rest of their crew proved an inspired team, surely under-appreciated in their day. The world seems to be catching up to them, though, these three reissues perfectly timed for dreary autumnal accompaniment.

YNV Cosmic Cult EP 12″ (Neubau)
Vienna’s Neubau label always garners my attention, as their dedication to slow and seductive techno in the form of stark twelve-inch EPs is deeply aligned with my personal interests. This new one comes from YNV, who tows the company line appropriately with these three songs. He certainly got the BPM memo: the first two tracks shuffle at like 80 BPM or something, pulsing with ominous presence and old-school techno sound effects. “Cosmic Cult” is the perfect soundtrack to a man in a tailored black suit carrying a mysterious briefcase through Cairo’s streets after dark, whereas “Chasing The Oracle”, the final cut, reveals that he was simply hand-delivering refreshments to a hookah lounge on a penthouse floor. Cool stuff for sure, but when weighed against Neubau personal faves like Gil.Barte, AngstLust and Tassilo Vanhöfen, YNV has less of a distinctive personality, more of a placeholder sound than a breakthrough moment. Nothing wrong with that, especially if your Neubau levels are low, but it probably won’t be too long before I hide my YNV tab and refresh my Gil.Barte one for updates. New Gil.Barte record when??