Balta Rendszerszintű Agybasz​á​s 7″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The “noise not music” school of hardcore-punk is an approach that thrills upon initial encounters and lessens with repeated impact, yet here I am moshing into my potted plants as I spin Balta’s debut EP. They’re not the first punk band in recent times to opt for wild flapping distortion over coherent melody, yet there’s something about their particular approach that I find irresistible. Perhaps it’s that many blown-out ‘core units stick to a sort of d-beat-based, Japanese-inspired (or authentically Japanese) crust style, whereas native Hungarians Balta sound more like Lärm trapped in the eyewall of a hurricane (that’s the worst part of the hurricane for any non-meteorologist readers). Or maybe something closer to the Crapscrapers seven-inch with Framtid’s Shin Takayama on drums… a mix of filthy fidelity and extraordinary human conviction. The songs on Rendszerszintű Agybasz​á​s all bleed into each other, giving it the feel of one intense take, all the power of a live performance without a cluster of cider-drenched dreadlocks whipping you in the face. Maybe it’s because I was listening to the first Raw Power album earlier today, but Balta deliver an almost Italian sense of chaos here, as if the songs are being pushed beyond their natural limits (a distinctly different form of hardcore chaos than a screamo floor-roll or Cleveland fireworks-in-the-pit moment). The cover guarantees “100% punk, 0% csend”, though only a fool would doubt them for a second.

The Chisel / Mess split 7″ (Beach Impediment)
It seems like every traditional old-skinhead-punk-guy-who-hasn’t-listened-to-a-new-band-since-1997’s favorite punk band is The Chisel these days, and I for one don’t question why. They deliver the most authentic and righteous British Oi sound, concentrated for extra strength and packed with shout-along hooks. No jokes or silliness, no terrible puns or sketchy behavior… as with their proven track record, The Chisel deliver their immaculate style on these two tracks here. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is the sing-along pub blaster, but both tracks provide further proof of this group’s modern dominance. Mess hail from Guadalajara, and while there’s absolutely zero reason to accuse this Mexican group of being white supremacists in even the slightest of ways, I have to wonder what would compel any modern skinhead band to write a song called “I Don’t Like You”. It’s kind of already notoriously taken, you know? It’s like starting a hardcore band and writing a song called “Filler”, although even that would be kinda okay because Minor Threat didn’t turn out to be such terrible people. It’s a minor misgiving though, as Mess are clearly a ripe match for The Chisel, performing a strikingly similar form of classic mid-paced Oi with coarsely tuneful vocals. Not as much personality immediately evident with these Mess songs, though, as they come across as a bit more of a traditional exercise (though at least they’ve chosen a style where it’s perfectly reasonable to write typical songs). This just makes The Chisel’s existence all the more staggering, writing songs as fresh as they are traditionally-inspired.

Curleys Curleys LP (Total Punk)
Total Punk released Curleys’ debut single back in 2019, a contagious jolt of garage snot that may have been overshadowed by some of their Total Punk cohorts at the time (the lineup has always been strong!). Now they’re back with their first twelve-inch platter, and I’m reminded of why I held onto their single. I really appreciate the repeated imagery of these wavy-skull replicants on their record covers, as hairless as Anthony Carrigan and looking for trouble. Can’t help but imagine those humanoids are responsible for playing this music, which is extremely stompy garage-punk, distorted not from guitar pedals so much as their irresponsibly loud volume. Vocalist Tim Chandler gobbles and squawks like a defiant turkey being brought to slaughter, and the riffs ping pong in stressful patterns, knocking the sweet spots of “frantic” and “primitive” back and forth like a pinball. The last few moments of “James” is so manically repetitive that I’m reminded of Japanese noise-crusters Zyanose; though drastically different in sound, the same uncomfortable staring-contest sensation is achieved. Curleys is thrillingly too-much, like guzzling the flavored syrup that’s supposed to be mixed with carbonated water to make soda. What a great way to get sick to your stomach!

Tristan Dahn Housekeeping LP (Waste MGMT Music)
Hard not to get a little misty-eyed at the concept behind Tristan Dahn’s Housekeeping album: after Dahn’s mother died in May 2020, he spent the summer living at her house, going through her (and his) old stuff. In tribute, he made an album out of his time there, using the old instruments he found around the house and mixing in some field-recordings of the grounds for texture. You’ll recognize acoustic guitars, squeaky organ keys and makeshift percussion, which generally fall into their own cyclical, loosely-improvised patterns between the hum of washer/dryers and the distant chirps of nature. (A buzzing mosquito gets its own solo performance towards the end of the first side.) Reminds me a bit of the “New Weird America” sound of the mid ’00s, like Sunburned Hand Of The Man or No Neck Blues Band in the way that typical folk instrumentation is warped in a noisy DIY form, though this is the work of one person layered on top of itself (unless he somehow played both percussion and keys in real-time). A tasteful tribute to the loss of a loved one, not an elegy for the departed so much as an appreciation of the life that’s still here.

Kate Ferencz You Will Love Again LP (no label)
Not sure if Kate Ferencz’s metal band Evil Sword is still kicking, but it appears she’s been focusing on her own thing lately, culminating in her first full-length record, You Will Love Again. It’s a pretty DIY affair with all the trappings that such a tag entails: an artistic single-mindedness, a budget that allows for home-recording and not much else, and a will to make it all happen. These songs sound like they were recorded in a small room on a cheap mic, which adds to the scrappy personal touch, for better or worse. Big-stage pop songs these ain’t! The lyrics aim for a sort of confessional / devotional / inspirational angle, and Ferencz’s sincerity and commitment make it work. Usually driven by a bass guitar (or reasonable facsimile thereof), these songs bounce around like basement demo freakouts that don’t necessarily aspire to sound like Fiona Apple, US Girls and Mica Levi but remind me of all three nonetheless. I’m also reminded of that great Just The Right Height album from 2018, though Ferencz’s music is more traditionally structured (if equally enthusiastic). Some people just can’t contain their art, it’s like a gas bubble that has to escape one way or another, and Ferencz is likely one of ’em, making songs and videos and pictures because the alternative (not making songs, videos and pictures) is simply not an option.

Graven Image Studio Sessions: 82-83 LP (Beach Impediment)
Just last month I was goofin’ about the existence of an exhaustive Sluggo retrospective and now we’ve got one from an equally obscure smaller-city hardcore-punk group from the early ’80s, Richmond’s Graven Image. They only really made it to a split tape and a seven-inch EP back in their day, and Studio Sessions: 82-83 consists of both alongside some extra unreleased cuts and comp tracks. The cover design and title is a near duplicate of Void’s 2011 retrospective, and while the music of Graven Image clearly isn’t going to be Void-level (what is?), I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Their form of hardcore was abrupt, spastic and unhinged, very much in the DRI / Corrosion Of Conformity camp with a touch of early Dischord / early Touch & Go, too. They actually made it to the seminal We Got Power compilation in their time, and they fit right in with the frantic teenage sound produced by contemporaries like White Cross, Ill Repute and No Labels (the latter of whom has yet to receive a carefully-considered retrospective collection – maybe they’re next on the list?). I enjoy all of it, though a track like “Vote For Me” sounds like a competent Chemotherapy, which might be the greatest form hardcore-punk could assume. The accompanying booklet (there’s always a booklet) is irresistible too, as the lyrics for “Social Shitz” ensure that I’ll be able to sing along accurately and with a single tear in my eye, as they’re as poignant now as the day they were written: “everyone stares at me / they think I’m really strange / why can’t they see / that I don’t wanna change”.

Guppy 777antasy LP (Gimmie)
I appreciate any record that confounds me, for better or worse… it gets boring listening to music with a familiar context, songs where you can tell what’s going to happen next without having heard it before, that sorta thing. God bless Brisbane’s Guppy then, because from the sound of the awkwardly-named 777antasy they don’t have the slightest idea what they’re doing and I’m here for it. The artwork has a Gen Z hyper-pop aesthetic, but the band plays these oddly deconstructed grunge(?) alt-rock(??) songs, if you want to call them songs. Often, it sounds like each member is playing a different song at the same time, and even weirder than that, they opted out of guitars entirely. The vocalist reminds me of Goat Girl (at least when she isn’t screaming), the bass vacillates between stoner, alt-funk and nonsense riffs, and oh yeah, there’s a saxophone going pretty much non-stop, filling the remaining space with wild scattered flights. Told you it’s unusual! I’m reminded a bit of Royal Trux in the way that Guppy refuse to let a lack of professionalism get in the way of a good time, though I wouldn’t say there are any oddball hits in the mix here, not even any real attempts at memorable choruses or hooks from what I can tell. Still haven’t decided if it’s good or bad (or neither), but I applaud any band who consciously or unconsciously discards the rock n’ roll rulebook. It appears Guppy has torn their copy to shreds.

Helena Hauff Living With Ladybirds 12″ (Fabric Originals)
There was a time in the mid ’00s when I didn’t think industrial acid-house could get any rawer than Helena Hauff. Her early singles display a mastery in corrosive and blistering techno moves, an in-the-red production style that never compromises on power, and it felt like time to check in with her again care of this new EP on Fabric London’s new in-house label. I suppose it’s not a big surprise when considering the nature of her live sets, but the tracks on Living With Ladybirds aren’t noisy at all; rather, they’re fairly basic instrumental EBM grooves, mid-paced and analog and somewhat typical for the style. The ping-ponging melodic lead on “Jonas” is cool, but the three chords of “Your Turn To Fly” are entry-level (though the synth lead is active and fun). The rest of the EP plays out like this, more of a basic take on electro/techno with updated reflections on ’90s motifs, and certainly not the scalding techno of Hauff’s previous productions. Not bad, just nothing particularly flavorful or exciting. If anything, Living With Ladybirds reminded me how sick earlier singles like Shatter Cone and Return To Disorder were; think I’ll go fire those up right now and see if my aging speakers can still handle them.

GG King Evoker Tape LP (Whispering South Wind)
C’mere, youngin… some day, once you’re a little older, you’ll grow up from the Evoker tape you are now into a big strong Evoker vinyl record. Apparently these seven songs accompanied a limited number of GG King’s Remain Intact album, but rather than let them languish in near-total obscurity, it’s now pressed up on vinyl for a slightly less obscure existence. I’ve written about GG King’s records many times in these pages, so I’d hope you’re familiar with this Atlanta punker’s many musical faces, as he busts out a bunch of them here. On the first side alone, you get a noisy, kinda almost psychedelic collage, some dub effects, then ripping black metal into morose punk rock that ends on a country Western riff (complete with exaggerated “wahoo!”s in cartoon cowboy fashion). Whew! Even these days where everyone likes everything, I can’t think of another artist reaching into so many different musical bags and throwing it together like this. Fucked Up, maybe? But GG King always feels raw and underground, no matter the style. There’s even a Television Personalities cover on the second side! Evoker Tape is like an uncontrollably fast drive down a winding road: the driver’s having a blast while some passengers get sick and others soak up the thrills. Hitch a ride wisely!

Lelee Čuka Bije Pumpa LP (Moonlee / Ill In The Head)
When you think of a regional strain of indie-pop, “Slovenia” might not be the first place to come to mind. I can see that changing, though, with bands like Lelee and Rush To Relax (reviewed below!) putting together such charming and confident records. Though Lelee appear to be somewhat new, Čuka Bije Pumpa comes out the gate fully formed, redolent of the more stately sounds of ’90s indie royalty like Spoon, Built To Spill and The Hold Steady. Sometimes the guitars chime in a manner that reminds me of Imperial Teen and Vampire Weekend, and the vocals (which are shared by at least a couple members) shift and soothe like Flasher. If this is starting to sound like a “Now That’s What I Call Indie!” compilation CD, that’s because Lelee’s music is deeply bound to that tradition, even if they’re oceans away from classic American clubs like Maxwell’s in Hoboken and Bottom Of The Hill in San Francisco. With such a typical sound comes a lack of standing out – Lelee’s Slovenian lyrics are their biggest deviation from a fairly standard American style, which they play competently and true to form. There should be a band exchange program, just how there are exchange students in high school – I’m sure Lelee would marvel at Philadelphia’s trash-filled streets and insane driving, and I’d develop killer calves from riding a bike around Ljubljana during my daily shift as flower delivery person. Let’s do this!

Map.ache So Oder So 12″ (Giegling)
It’s rare that I can resist any new Giegling offering, but a candy-cane-themed EP around the holidays? Sign me up immediately! Leipzig’s Map.ache has been with the label for a few years now, and his wistful, romantic techno is a perfect fit. This EP excites me more than his previous albums I’ve heard, as is often the case with techno EPs versus full-lengths, and it’s a perfect way to ring in the new year. These five tracks offer a range of dance motifs, from the Melchior Productions-esque minimal tech-house of “Tabac” to the break-beat / field-recording melange of “4kon” and the nimbly melodic house of “Love (S.O.S.)”, which dances in step with the overly emotional techno of occasional labelmate DJ Healer/Traumprinz. I love that sweet, sentimental techno style, surely under the sweeping influence of Burial but allowing streaks of sunlight to penetrate the cloudy skies under which Map.ache operates. “Leftovers” wraps things with twinkling bells and a brief German voice memo before wispy filters announce a teary-eyed trance meltdown, like a rosy-cheeked Christkindl tucking you into sleep. Only two Giegling releases in 2022, but they made ’em count!

Mononegatives Kill Mono 7″ flexi (Feral Kid)
If you include this one-sided flexidisc, Mononegatives released four seven-inches in 2022! They need to hold a TED talk on how that’s possible in this day and age, what with vinyl plants being perpetually backed up and in permanent servitude to Record Store Day. Anyway, I’m open to appreciating a one-sided one-song flexi, particularly if it comes from a feisty synth-punk act such as Mononegatives. “Kill Mono” stutters forward with the grace of farm machinery, a richly echoed synthetic snare keeping pace among one keyboard with keys mashed and another bleeping out a three-note melody easily playable by a single finger. The lyrics are in the A Frames school of scientific opacity, either pushing for progression or the very end of their own band. Cool! Their side of last year’s split with Mystery Girls was a touch more plainly punk than this unfriendly robotic transmission, the latter of which is more to my personal preference. Wonder how much wax (or plastic) we can expect from them in the coming year!

New Buck Biloxi Cellular Automaton LP (Total Punk)
My love for Buck Biloxi solidified back when he put out that record with a football being delated by a knife on the cover, and after a brief intermission, he’s back with a new band as New Buck Biloxi. The name change cracks me up (though the Nervous Breakdown cover homage feels a bit beneath him), and the style (though a bit less lo-fi raw than previous outings) more or less remains the same: rudimentary three-chord punk outta the garage with an unwavering bad attitude streak. The riffs can easily be played with two fingers or less, and Biloxi’s band makes the very most of it, thanks in part to my new favorite band member name on one of the guitars, Non-Biological Beyonce. Very simple but very effective, as was the case with (old) Buck Biloxi. There’s an amusing break between sides care of some extremely amateurish film dialogue, the perfect little nip twist before New Buck Biloxi kicks into the catchy misanthropy of “My Hole”, kicking garbage around the room with the rest of these tracks. Biloxi’s coming up on ten years of doing the same sorta thing, and I applaud his lack of maturity or progression – there’s a lesson to be learned from starting punk and staying punk, even if it’s increasingly harder to get out of bed than it used to be.

Objekt Objekt #5 12″ (Objekt)
Following Objekt’s 2018 album Cocoon Crush, things had gone quiet from Berlin’s Objekt. He always had an alternative point of view on both the post-dubstep scene from which he came up and Pan’s artsy experimental techno enclave from where he last left us, and this new two-track EP goes to a separate new third place entirely. Dare I say it’s far and away my favorite thing he’s ever done! “Bad Apples” comes first and is an absolute monster cut, the sorta beast that’ll test your room’s structural integrity. Described as a “slow banger” on his Bandcamp, that feels coyly accurate, although there’s an outrageous evilness to this track, from the nu-metal bass-guitar that pins it to the otherworldly sonic interference that constantly agitates throughout. Imagine the best possible outcome of the phrase “black-metal Reggaeton”, and allow me to confirm that it’s actually even better than that. Play it loud enough and you’ll start sensing parts of your skull you never knew you had! Extremely hard cut to follow, but “Ballast” continues the Satanic dancehall feel with aplomb. Replete with bludgeoning body-blows reminiscent of my favorite Skream tracks, the violent ragga of Vessel and a rich atmosphere of menace, it’s one of the few productions that could lead Blawan’s most recent material to a bloody draw. Highly recommended!

Padkarosda S​ö​t​é​t V​é​gek LP (World Gone Mad)
Woah, first time two unrelated Hungarian artists are reviewed here in the same month? Things are clearly happening there, and while the scalding noise-core of Balta is directly up my alley, this gloomy, hardcore-derived post-punk from Padkarosda is fine as well. With big boomy drumming and stinging, chorused-to-hell guitars, Padkarosda follow the modern genre guidelines to a tee, but there’s a sense of urgency and aggression to their songs that interests my ears more than your average American third-tier goth-wave festival band (of which there seem to be at least a few hundred currently operational). Somewhere in the very back, there’s a darkened alley that acts as a pathway between melodic-punk and gothic crust, and Padkarosda seem to have spent some time hanging out back there, learning how to slip between the two zones without getting caught in either. Philadelphia’s World Gone Mad has done a solid job releasing far-off (from Philadelphia) international punk records, and while some of them I appreciate more in theory than practice (every village, no matter how big or small, deserves its own contingent of rabble-rousing punks), S​ö​t​é​t V​é​gek holds up well against goth-punk from anywhere else on the planet. Even Transylvania.

Rider/Horse Feed ‘Em Salt LP (Ever/Never)
Rider/Horse dropped their debut in 2021 and their inspiration clearly hasn’t waned in the ensuing months, as they quickly follow it up with Feed ‘Em Salt. The duo of (Spray Paint’s) Cory Plump and (Les Savy Fav’s) Chris Turco could easily settle into their prior forms, a comfortable sort of garage-y / dance-y post-punk, and while that’s not entirely inaccurate with regard to Rider/Horse there’s something about their music here that transcends an easy genre exercise. Maybe it’s the songs themselves, which find new pathways to express disgust and monotony, two themes I appreciate when conveyed musically. For example, a groove like “Great Innings” has me wondering what LCD Soundsystem would’ve sounded like if absolutely no one cared and James Murphy retreated into his hole, this recording unearthed years after his passing. The guitars do interesting things without being obnoxious or ardently anti-guitarlike; I’d place some of their guitar styles alongside Low or US Maple, not in sonic similarity but in a shared adventurousness towards the form. I heard it on their debut, and I’m hearing a bit of Trans Am here as well; extended and imposing musical grids from some sort of bleak alter-reality. I appreciate that Rider/Horse seem completely uninterested in holding anyone’s hand: either you’re down for their cause, occasionally frustrating as it may be, or you get out of their way.

Rush To Relax Misli LP (Pop Depresija / Hidden Bay / Look Back And Laugh)
It’s gotta be an Eddy Current reference, right? Maybe it’s a common phrase elsewhere (perhaps Eddy Current’s Melbourne, or Rush To Relax’s native Slovenia?), but I get the feeling this charming group of young men were inspired by the casual-cool of Eddy Current Suppression Ring without necessarily copying it. These songs are quite soft and sweet actually, no real semblance of garage or punk to be found here. Rush To Relax keep the guitars lightly chiming, the rhythms upbeat without overexerting, vocals hushed yet bright (and sung in their native Slovenian). As I listen to Misli, I don’t really detect any specific personality quirks or distinctions to their sound, so much as an extremely competent indie-pop band staying well within genre lines. Seeing as cordial indie-pop isn’t really the sound I’m generally seeking out on a personal level, I probably won’t be throwing Misli on all that often, but if I ever found myself wandering the streets of Ljubljana and heard Rush To Relax were playing that night, I’d be rushing to relax to their pleasant music for sure. International indie-pop genre enthusiasts, take note!

Sklitakling Vi Har Hørt Det Før (Del 1) 7″ (Back To Beat)
Here in the States, there’s a thirteen month back-up if you wanna press a seven-inch and hope to sell it for no less than ten bucks to break even, but over there in Europe punk bands are still doing that thing where they spread a recording session across two separate seven-inch single releases simply because they can. The Euro might have dropped in value but their greater quality of life has never been clearer. Anyway, Sklitakling are a volatile melodic punk band outta Oslo and just released two singles under the shared title of Vi Har Hørt Det Før (translated in English to “we’ve heard it before”), this being the first part. “Naturlig” is a moody ripper, somewhere in the Wipers school of punk with a darkness I’d associate with Nog Watt and a sheen I’d compare to Masshysteri, though there’s no real sense of hardcore happening here. The guitars sound cool, like Sklitakling pushed The Strokes’ amps down a flight of stairs and then plugged them in. “Søster” is a little more anonymous, headed to the same sorta garage sound as The Saints and riding in circles for a while, causing minor trouble. They probably could’ve fit all four of the songs onto one of these seven-inch records, but that’s just my austere American brain talking. Wearing leather jackets in the snow, living in Norway and pressing up one record for every two songs you’ve got sounds like a pretty sweet existence.

Sorry Eric The Problem With Fun LP (Happy Families)
Is the problem with fun, or graphic design? For such a snarky and entertaining album, Sorry Eric went extremely bleak and basic for their album cover (and matching massive newsprint poster insert). It looks like a funeral announcement designed in Microsoft Word, but don’t judge The Problem With Fun by its cover (like I just did) – this Ohioan trio offer a worthy take on the tried n’ true indie-rock style. I’m hearing something close to Quasi with a touch of Paul Banks in bandleader Eric Dietrich’s voice, scrappy American indie-rock that could slip between Superchunk and Modest Mouse in your CD tower without arousing suspicion. Their songs are inherently poppy but skewed – the opening title track provides a good example, as they manage to turn the phrase “you stupid fuck” into a sing-along refrain. Reminds me a bit of ’00s Philly indie-rockers The Trouble With Sweeney, as the names of both groups reference the names of their sardonic singer-songwriter leads and both groups tweak their pop melodies with tinges of lyrical darkness, though The Trouble With Sweeney leans in more of a Wilco direction (another one of indie-rock’s magnetic poles). Sorry Eric are at their best on a track like “May His Bones Be Crushed”, with a swaying, catchy melody and lyrics befitting a Relapse doom-metal outfit, almost in winking defiance of the mischievous rock they’re playing. It can be a messy puzzle but Sorry Eric put it together nicely.

Spiral Wave Nomads Magnetic Sky LP (Twin Lakes / Feeding Tube)
I don’t think Spiral Wave Nomads would take offense to this comment (and certainly none is intended), but I’ll be damned if this isn’t my favorite laundry-folding album form 2022. I sit down with a big pile of clean clothes, throw on Magnetic Sky and the next thing I know, it’s all folded and ready to go! Albany’s Spiral Wave Nomads have a way of playing with time, so cushy and weightless are their psych-rock improvisational grooves, that their music is the perfect semi-focused distraction for mundane household chores. Of course, you can focus on Magnetic Sky as well – there’s plenty happening in opener “Dissolving Into Shape”, for example – but I prefer ambiently listening. As this is their third full-length outing, they try out a few new things beyond the standard guitar/bass/drums formation of their past. I enjoy their galaxy-minded synths, often sounding like Klaus Schulze recording for a Man’s Ruin release (ie. those trippy instrumental Nebula tracks), but I still prefer the ‘Nomads when they’re planted firmly in the rock zone, however muted and warm they may be… just like my folded cotton whites.

Wes Tirey No Winners In The Blues LP (Full Spectrum)
Sad men have been singing while playing guitar for what, over a hundred years now? There’s a good chance your great-great grandparents heard someone do it in their day, and I can only see it continuing into our uncertain future, so alluring is the instrument. Wes Tirey is one such man, and he does a nice job of sounding both traditionally authentic and honest… No Winners In The Blues doesn’t feel retro, nor does it feel like a dramatic modern reinvention of the form. I guess that’s a long way of saying it sounds sincere? Accompanied by the fluttering tones of Shane Parish’s electric guitar, Tirey fingerpicks his somber, mournful and occasionally funny songs, a leisurely and expansive outing of glistening folk-song. His lyrics are of a conversationally-poetic nature, and his voice is firm and proud, somewhere in the Townes Van Zandt register albeit a little croakier. When he extends certain vowels, Tirey’s voice takes on the sonic properties of a goat’s friendly bleat, which seems fitting for the rocky rural musical styling. Seems like there are lots of fingerpicking assassins out there on acoustic guitars these days, so it’s nice that Tirey doesn’t compete for technical victories so much as craft modern folk songs ready to soundtrack the next Cormac McCarthy film adaptation or at least a productive fireside whittling session.

Jensen Tjhung & Tom Lyngcoln Escapist Blues LP (Solar/Sonar)
You might know Jensen Tjhung from Deaf Wish or Exhaustion, and Tom Lyngcoln’s put in time with Harmony and Down Under, but Escapist Blues is fully devoid of rocking out (or even rocking in). This album sounds depleted, worn down by the days and unable to sleep through the nights, and it seems to revel in that artistically-intentional mire. Tjhung reads his poetry through crackly tape interference and Lyngcoln provides the morbid soundscapes, usually in the form of a repeating guitar motif alongside sloppy chunks of grayscale analog noise. Feels like it could’ve been a part of the extended Godspeed You! Black Emperor universe – a solitary man ranting incoherently at the precipice of oblivion – though there are no grand crescendos or emotional string-pulling here. Maybe it’s closer to Alan Bishop’s Uncle Jim character, though Escapist Blues takes place on some lonely Australian plain full of wrecked vehicles, not in the back of Uncle Jim’s dilapidated jazz lounge. Guest players sparingly provide saxophone, drums and flute as well, all in full service of the troubling mood Lyngcoln conjures alongside Tjhung’s withdrawn delivery. After putting in the time to create this dreary, fitful drift, it’ll take a shot of something strong to get them back in a rocking mood.

Wasteland Jazz Ensemble Wasteland Jazz Ensemble 2xLP (Gilgongo)
I feel bad for any noise outfits gearing up for release on the Gilgongo label, as from this point onward your work will be held in comparison to Wastleland Jazz Ensemble. This septet seems to be centered in Ohio (and based around the Wasteland Jazz Unit duo of Jon Lorenz and John Rich), though I probably need to pull up Google maps and look for a mile-wide crater in the Buckeye state to determine the exact location of where this went down. With guitars, reeds, electronics and percussion, they absolutely wail without respite for four satisfying sides, the throttle either pushed to the floor or broken off entirely. Really taken aback at how righteously brutal of a long-player they dropped! I’ll concede that anyone can make a racket, but Wasteland Jazz Ensemble push it so hard here that it goes far beyond the realm of “anyone can do this”. Sure, most able-bodied people can go for a jog too, but what Wasteland Jazz Ensemble do here is run a marathon barefoot while puffing a mouthful of Tatuaje cigars. I love me some Hijokaidan and Borbetomagus, and much of Wasteland Jazz Ensemble sounds like Hijokaidan playing alongside Borbetomagus in a tangle of sweat and fury. The musical equivalent of mixing every flavor soda at the fountain, sure to disgust the majority of the population and deeply satisfy the few of us freaks.

Whippets Whippets 7″ (Goodbye Boozy)
You’d think a band called Whippets on the Goodbye Boozy label would be felonious garage-punk of the rudest order, something on par with The Candy Snatchers or Grabbies or something, and yet you’d be wrong! This new trio, featuring Bobby Hussy on guitar and vocals (and who I’m somewhat sheepish to admit I recognized on face alone – kind of a young J Mascis, really) play a restrained form of punk, leaning more towards the prefix “post” than “garage”. Their Discogs bio describes them as “grungegaze”, and I’m assuming they wrote that there because who else would? I don’t necessarily hear either of those conjoined styles, though I guess I get where they’re coming from – in spite of what might’ve been their intention, these four songs feel more like Jay Reatard playing the catalog of like, Gas Huffer or Seaweed or something a little slower and grumpier like that. So maybe that is kinda grungy after all? Certainly less raucous than the Goodbye Boozy sound I’ve come to expect, although it’s understandable that after over twenty-five(!) years in the biz, they can’t just keep releasing the same exact garage-punk single over and over. This might not be Goodbye Boozy’s Love Buzz b/w Big Cheese, but there’s a chance it’ll end up its Daisy b/w Ritual Device.

Whitney K Hard To Be A God 12″ (Maple Death)
Canadian troubadour Whitney K hitched his horse to the fence and came in for a drink or three, fingering his Stetson plaintively as he hands us Hard To Be A God with a wink. His new five-song EP does a nice job of fusing a few unrelated-yet-compatible strains of American folk-song, ripe for the urban desperado turned organic homesteader in your life (or on your Instagram feed). Vocally, I’m reminded of the sing-speak of John Prine alongside the speak-sing of Lou Reed, and the music often vacillates between the metropolitan strum of The Velvet Underground and something a little more relaxed and Grateful, like Steve Gunn perhaps. If John Mayer had any interest in attracting some underground appeal these days, he’d probably try to make a record that sounds like this (and let’s be honest, he’d probably beat most of these underground fellas at their own game). Tender while asserting a traditionally masculine presence, Whitney K is comfortable and confident enough in his own shoes, which makes this sorta thing come to life instead of wilt away. Maybe not a surpassing of his collective influences, but a fine arrangement nonetheless.