Algae & Tentacles The Mouth Is A Resonant Field LP (Twenty One Eighty Two)
With a title like that, I was expecting all sorts of cakehole-based sounds ala Jaap Blonk, but the noise of Algae & Tentacles leans more in the Justice Yeldham direction (if I may reference another orally-fixated experimentalist), blending fields of feedback with crunchy potholes of distortion. “Voice and electronics” are credited to John Melillo (he being the complete and total personnel of Algae & Tentacles), and the end result is a vibrant, homespun noise record, something you’d hope to find in the distro boxes of Carbon Records or RRRecords fifteen years ago. The whole affair sounds like it’s happening live in front of you… there’s a delineated track listing, but each side flows from start to finish as fully-integrated suites, albeit suites that jump, scatter and swirl about. I prefer the more cut-up, rapid-fire noise jolts to the malfunctioning vacuum-cleaner drones, but there’s a nice balance between the two. For fans of Twig Harper, Cotton Museum, Bill Nace, pretty much any agreeable noiser with silkscreen-ink stains on their hoodies and a tableau of daisy-chained gear splayed out on the dirty basement floor.

Salar Ansari Feelings From The Future 12″ (Moozikeh Analog Room)
I missed the recent Movement techno festival but rolled through Detroit about a week later, the festival’s richly positive vibes still emanating off the architecture. That’s how I stumbled up this promo-stamped EP from Salar Ansari, a Movement-based release stocked at the very-fine People’s Records shop. It has the techno vibe I was looking for, one bursting with punchy uptempo bass-lines, rollicking auxiliary percussion and cosmic overtones. The a-side opener opts for lush chords and a female robot voice straight out of Benny Benassi’s Hypnotica playbook, which is a pleasant way to set things off. It’s tried and true tech-house ready to light up any sound system, be it a portable box or fine-tuned club setup. None of these four cuts seem to be titled (the info on the screened piece of paper accompanying the vinyl offers little more than a name and email address), but it’s the second b-side cut that hits strongest for me, a rapid bassline darting up through the skyscrapers like Spider-Man hot on the trail of Dr. Octopus with a suitably shuffling drum loop in tow. Sounds great on my modest home system, but I wish I got to hear it blasting from a makeshift setup outside Conant Gardens Party Store while Omar S details his mustang convertible in the adjoining parking lot. Maybe next year!

Eric Angelo Bessel Visitation LP (Lore City Music)
Solo outing here from Lore City’s Eric Angelo Bessel, whose name is almost maybe nearly an anagram for Angelo Badalamenti. Lore City are the traditional ethereal cold-wave shoegaze project – a duo with his wife Laura Mariposa Williams – and Visitation is Bessel’s solo synth project, because if you’ve got all that gear sitting around, why not? It sounds kind of predictable, perhaps even ho-hum, and while I can’t say it isn’t, I’m also finding plenty to enjoy within Visitation, probably even more so than the work of Lore City. His melodies float through a layer of clouds, with no rhythmic elements to anchor them, drifting like an entry in the Pop Ambient series without any semblance of dance-floor behavior. Basic, but in a non-pejorative sense. I think I find it appealing because Bessel isn’t trying to do anything or be anyone here; this is nothing more than a humble presentation of soft, swirling melodies, the sort of thing you can sit back into and simply appreciate without any sort of pretense or overbearing aesthetic. Keyboards can sound pretty lovely, especially when coated in infinite reverb and delay, which Visitation offers up with care.

Big Clown Beatdown 7″ (Swimming Faith)
At first glance, I thought that the band was actually called Big Clown Beatdown, a name I wholeheartedly endorse, but as you can see, the band is actually called Big Clown and the EP’s titled Beatdown. Not quite as good, but that’s alright. I also assumed Swimming Faith was a label that solely existed in service of label-owner John Toohill’s varied projects, but Big Clown are a Memphis group far from the snowy plains of Buffalo, NY. Cool of Swimming Faith to get Big Clown on wax, then, as they’ve got an interesting mish-mash of modern sounds happening here. Think of Big Business fronted by Olivia Gibb of Warm Bodies, those thick syrupy riffs colliding with wild squeaky warbling, and you’re on the right track. As far as I’m concerned, beefy, stoner-adjacent riffs sound great with pretty much anything – Big Clown could’ve gotten away with an amateur turntablist instead of any singer at all and I’d probably still dig it – but the mix of loopy, over-the-top singing, concise songwriting (there are eight tracks here!), firm rhythms and dense tone is particularly piquant. Pair all that with some Cleveland-styled elementary-school pencil art and you’ve got a winner, even if the name isn’t actually Big Clown Beatdown. I guess only a band actually from Cleveland would take it that far.

Blawan Dismantled Into Juice 12″ (XL Recordings)
Good god… every year a new Blawan EP seems to arrive from the near future to reconfigure my senses, and I’m starting to feel silly about it. Is it really that good, or am I somehow hypnotized by this guy, unable to rationally process what I’m hearing? I’ve sat with Dismantled Into Juice for almost a month now, and I don’t care if he’s Criss Angeling me, I’m absolutely enthralled by tis extraordinarily bad-ass cyborgian techno, this new one a standout even among the other standouts. The word “techno” can imply some sort of grid-based beat programming, whereas these songs eschew formality for something entirely fresh and demented. It’s extremely heavy and yet the 4/4 kick is more or less absent, preferring to follow bass-lines as thick and disruptive as an oil pipeline, sloppy-wet high-end slaps and soaring metallic savagery. Of the five stellar tracks here, two feature the vocals of Monstera Black, whose Rihanna-esque club-moan might very well be some sort of AI sonic hologram, which would certainly fit the sexually-appealing techno-dystopia that Dismantled Into Juice conjures. “Toast” is the highlight for me, leaving me feeling like I’m getting Three Stooges-slapped in fast-motion, but the whole thing is truly next-level, a term I don’t think I’ve ever felt compelled to use when describing any piece of music on here before. If there’s a more exciting and ingenious electronic EP released in 2023, I’m not sure my delicate heart will be able to handle it.

Bono / Burattini Suono In Un Tempo Transfigurato LP (Maple Death)
Sorry, it’s not that Bono! My hopes were up that Maple Death somehow coaxed the billionaire liberal into a one-off duo release, but this is probably a better result: Francesca Bono on a trusty Juno 60 synth and Vittoria Burattini on drums. It’s a fairly stripped down setup, yet these songs are recorded with power and gusto, filling the room with the synth’s meaty chords and the propulsion of the drums, even when the songs call for a moody atmosphere and restrained tempo. In the spirit of Goblin and Silver Apples, but streamlined care of the modern production and slick recording. The hype sticker references library music, and while I can see that too, the duo are clearly writing for their own pleasure, not commercial-grade production… there’s a piano in there too, and when they layer it over the Juno’s bass-lines and the swing of the drums, I find myself transported to an Italian movie filled with reprehensible protagonists and a bottle of J&B prominent in every scene. If the more popular Bono accidentally wandered onto the screen, you know he’d get tossed through a closed window within seconds!

Ben Carey Metastability LP (Hospital Hill)
From deep within a pile of colorful patch cords lies Ben Carey, a young wizard of ancient modular synthesizers which require the assistance of a U-Haul to transport. On his second vinyl full-length for Hospital Hill, Metastability, Carey digs into the electronic guts of a 1975 La Tribe Serge ‘Paperface’, which I assume to be like the Lamborghini Countach of synthesizers. The literal creator of this particular synth, Serge Tcherepnin, weighs in on the cover’s hype sticker even, stating that when it comes to synths, Carey “doesn’t play with them. He plays them.” High praise! From my vantage point over here, with only a vinyl recording to judge, I have no reason to disagree with Tcherepnin’s statement, as both lengthy sides of Metastability are lively and inspired, bustling with fabricated sounds like some sort of, umm, alien ant farm? But not like Alien Ant Farm. It still sounds like one person manipulating a large and elderly modular synth, but Carey coaxes more than just electronic burbles and wheezes from it, he puts together some sort of elaborate and compelling narrative through its wide spectrum of sonic possibility. Even if it remains an elusive mystery to all but him and Tcherepnin.

Civilistjävel! Fyra Platser 12″ (Felt)
Back when Civilistjävel! first hit the scene (those halcyon days of 2018), they piqued my interest with their subtly occult electronics and grayscale ritualistic techno moves, as well as the allegations of being a long-lost ’90s project, which of course ended up being not true. Instead they released a ton of immediately-expensive records in the following years, and along with the exclamation point at the end of the name, the whole vibe left me prematurely satiated, but I figured it was time to check back in with this mysterious Swedish producer and see what’s up. And now, seeing as gothic industrial-techno has kind of faded out of fashion, Fyra Platser is a refreshing dose of the dark-ambient electronic style. I’d say it comes closer to the last few Andy Stott albums than anything else, as there’s a certain poise and elegance to Fyra Platser, if perhaps a lot more straightforward overall and a little more Ant-Zen than Stott’s adventurous productions. “Louhivesi” is the clear standout, featuring the commanding vocals of Cucina Povera, whose radiant and cavernous voice commands like the ghost of Nico on an enchanted misty isle. Even without her voice, these songs opt-out of muscular bravado or showy feats of testosterone, preferring to emanate grace and control, or at least the level of control a person can maintain at a midnight seance in the forest.

Da-Sein Sore LP (Galakthorrö)
Couldn’t resist the non-Arafna-related releases in the new Galakthorrö drop, Da-Sein’s third album Sore being one of them. I own their first two full-lengths, and while it’s perfectly entertaining dark-wave industrial (as it has always been), they could’ve just repackaged one of the duo’s earlier albums and I’d probably never realize it, I’m sheepish to admit. Da-Sein fits so seamlessly within the Galakthorrö universe, even looking like a younger version of Mr. and Mrs. Arafna, that it’s almost too on-the-nose, an uncanny reflection of the core Galakthorrö artists, but when it sounds as sensually sadistic and spiritually bereft as Sore, what’s not to like? Da-Sein do a fine job of weaving the cold-wave-presenting mortuary synths and low-key electro pulses with the boiler-room clangor of heavy industrial, certainly leaning closer to the cold-wave side of the equation but always with the appropriate level of tortured artistry. For such an intentionally numbing and despondent style, I still find myself getting excited by the static-y creep of a track like “Master Of His Own”, even if the aesthetic intent is to reduce me to some comatose form drifting down an underground canal. I’d wonder if they intended to mortify my flesh with this release, but of course they did – there’s a song here literally titled “Mortify Your Flesh”. Another reliable and fully-committed work from my favorite source for gloomy analog electronics.

FACS Still Life In Decay LP (Trouble In Mind)
Anytime I’ve seen the FACS name it’s been in the form of someone praising the Chicagoan trio, and now I’m finally peeping this group care of their fifth studio album, Still Life In Decay. It’s very Chicago-sounding in that sort of Y2K Touch & Go way; how can it not be, when you’re an arty math-rock combo recording at Electrical Audio? They’ve got that dry and icy presentation and sound, but FACS aren’t another cookie-cutter noisy/mathy post-punk group. Far from it! Their songs are patient, spacious and often hauntingly beautiful without the faintest whiff of corniness. While the drums are insistently taut and inflexible (which is a great way for these drums to behave), the guitars are pleasantly textural throughout, surprisingly soft and soothing at times. I’m thinking of those great Drose records without all the emotional spasming, Microwaves on sedatives, Slint furbished with today’s extended reverb studio techniques, or the music of New Brutalism as interpreted by those Ex Machina humanoids. The b-side gets particularly gauzy, content to let the essence of song fade out of form, reduced to luxuriously rich tones that shift like sand. It’s those two lengthy b-side tracks that resonate with me most, as FACS are most fascinating and sensual at their calmest – the guitar solo on “New Flag” falls in and out of consciousness in the most gorgeous way and I’m right there with it the whole time.

Fairytale Shooting Star LP (Quality Control HC / Toxic State)
Top-shelf Euro-sounding American hardcore is a hot commodity and Brooklyn’s Fairytale are one of today’s finest purveyors. I loved their 2021 debut EP and Shooting Star builds on that nicely, jumping right to the full-length format without sacrificing any of the intensity of a hardcore EP. Part of the trick has got to be the recording, coming from the D4MT Labs crew and really dialing in the perfect mix of power and crispness with an authentic crust-punk vibe. The songs never stray far from the d-beat, but they use that as an artistic starting point rather than the full and final concept. It’s a sick beat, perfect for fist-pumping splashes of basement beer, but Fairytale find ways to modify the style, whether its through a wretchedly acidic guitar tone, manic cymbal-work (“Possible To Grow”) or, on the song titled “Fairytale”, a beyond-extended instrumental d-beat passage which draws into focus the music’s hypnotic properties, twisting time in their fist. Must’ve been wild to play, and it’s certainly wild to listen to, all with a singer whose banshee wail falls somewhere between Nog Watt and Detente. No state but a toxic one!

Greymouth Parked Up LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Parked Up is the first vinyl full-length from Greymouth following a number of singles and I want to be friends with anyone who eagerly awaited it. Music as unfettered and frantic as theirs fits any format, from a split five-inch to a USB duct-taped to the ceiling of a convenience store bathroom, so it’s just nice to hear so much undiluted Greymouth here, all in a row. For those not hip to their style, the band is a duo of guys (both named Mark) who more or less utilize guitar (electric and acoustic), percussion and voice, but it’s all completely ramshackle and at the mercy of what seems to be rudimentary/haphazard recording techniques, with plenty of unidentified noises passing through. I swear, some of these songs might have other Greymouth songs playing quietly in the background, as if they were listening to themselves while recording, or the remnants of an old song bled through the four-track tape. Imagine The Shadow Ring as interpreted by Fat Day, or Instant Automatons if they were actually a Dead C side-project? As I understand it, this duo is New Zealand-raised but stationed in Japan, which sounds like a pretty fun overall existence, if an occasionally destabilizing one. Fun and destabilizing, that’s how I’d describe these wacked-out songs too!

The Hammer Party Earth Abides 12″ (Psychic Static)
I met a couple of the guys who played on this record when I got it, both of whom independently were like “yeah, I played on that piece of crap” when referring to Earth Abides. I’d say they were being unreasonably hard on themselves, although the negative mindset was probably advantageous when slamming down these four heavy noise-rock tracks. Like The Hammer Party’s full-length, their songs follow a somewhat traditional path with explosive bursts, back-and-forth riffing and pendulous rhythms. It’s a somewhat native trait, as this Rhode Island group features Dan St. Jaques of noise-rock visionaries Landed on vocals (and Six Finger Satellite’s Pelletier lends his sax to “Walk The Walk”). Whereas Landed’s songs toed the lines between frustrating reality and unfettered fantasy, Earth Abides is fully grounded in the drudgery of the real world, with “Flat Earth” taking conspiracy theorists to task and “Federal Reserve Blues” managing to summon the low-level misery of tax day through only a small handful of words. St. Jacques’ voice is croakier than ever here, downright Beefheartian at times! His weathered throat ably suits the tunes, which operate in the same general territory that Shellac, Lubricated Goat and Teenage Jesus have all been spotted at various times through the years. Hate to argue with the members of The Hammer Party, but Earth Abides ain’t half bad!

Haus Arafna Dunkelheit Bleibt 7″ (Galakthorrö)
Arafna Cultura Forever! I don’t think goth-tinged German electro-industrial music gets any better than Haus Arafna, the long-running project of, umm, Mr. and Mrs. Arafna, released consistently and exclusively on their in-house Galakthorrö label since 1995. Curiously, this is their first release entirely in German, and while I’ve always enjoyed their intriguingly dark English lyrics, I don’t need to understand their words to get the message. “Dunkelheit Bleibt” is a stiff industrial march, the rhythm pounded out by not traditional percussion but some sort of commercial-grade metallic malfunction. Eerie synths creep at chain’s length while Mr. Arafna barks his orders. As they say in Germany: bravo! “Welt Verzicht” uses the same palate (hell, they kinda always use the same palate) but at a slower pace, more agony than anger as oxidized metal clangs through a dim basement hallway. You can tell that Haus Arafna really labor over the fine details, content to make sure every aspect is perfectly in order and unconcerned if it takes a number of years between releases to get it right. They’re not one of these cold-wave fest-circuit groups churning out constant “content” in an attempt to stay relevant – they’re the damn masters.

Klon Dump Let’s All Be Influenced By The Same Things At The Same Time 12″ (Klon Dump)
Klon Dump hooked me in with 2021’s Klon001 and this new one, what with its shade-throwing title and funny center-label faces, wasn’t going to pass me by. I’m not sure what he’s on about exactly but I find his vibe appealing, and for as explicitly mocking as this EP’s title is, these two club cuts are pure inclusive fun. “Let’s All Be Influenced” is a high-energy house bop, with some sugar-free acid lurking under the shiny chord changes. Reminds me of Steven Julien when he gets on a disco tip, energetic dance music for roller-rinks and breakdance routines. “By The Same Things At The Same Time” (see what he did with the titles there?) is a little more mysterious, working ’90s trance and Cybotron’s retro-futurism into something that could’ve conceivably made it to Perlon’s desk, as the whole thing is still elastic and minimal tech-house (even including the robot vocal). It breaks down entirely about three and a half minutes in, locating an entirely new bass-line punctuated by buoyant acid swells. Taken as a whole, the track feels like a pleasant space-shuttle between terrestrial planets with Tin Man as concierge offering light refreshments and mood lighting. It seems likely that I’ll go wherever Klon Dump wants to take me.

Christian Mirande Beautiful One Day, Perfect The Next LP (Regional Bears)
Shout-out to the All Night Flight record shop newsletter, as their almost-comically effusive praise for this Christian Mirande album made it irresistible. It’s funny that it took a wildly exuberant British guy to hip me to the work of an experimental musician in the same lil’ city where I live, but that’s how life sometimes works in this globalized era. Anyway, onto Beautiful One Day – it’s a weird one! The first side is comprised of nine brief, deeply strange pieces, mostly consisting of tweaked sinewaves, silence, interference, some talking… and not much else. Very Cage-ian in its approach to sound (and lack thereof), to the point where I started wondering if I was duped, the victim of some obscure hype that none of my loved ones would ever understand. Mercifully, Mirande balances his Subotnick- / Docstader- / Idea Fire Company-inspired modular experiments with the flowing title track, encompassing all of the second side of the record (though listed as four parts). This side is clearly, surprisingly music, opening with some drifting tones overlaid with a playful field-recording and expanding into a slow-burning jazz-funk groove, replete with live drums and bass. It’s a true dazzler; as the track dissolves into sustained organic plucking like a drop of food coloring in a glass of water, it imparts an unexpected comfort, like your personal favorite Radiohead b-side or Aguirre Records release that no one seems to know but you. Taken with the knowledge that some Mancunian music enthusiast is absolutely freaking the hell out over it, Beautiful One Day, Perfect The Next is an audacious and tender ray of sunshine.

Nusidm The Last Temptation Of Thrill LP (Bruit Direct)
Just when I thought Nusidm and the various works of its creator Glen Schenau were too uncompromisingly eccentric to find a label to call home, the mighty Bruit Direct steps up in what is undoubtedly an appropriate pairing. Nusidm’s 2021 album was a righteous entry in the crowded field of post-punk no-wave, cutting its own choppy path as what I thought might be the first “free-dirge” record, and The Last Temptation Of Thrill is a stellar follow-up, a sharpening of Schenau’s warped blade. Nusidm remains a fully deconstructed rock group here, with songs that have me picturing motorized limbs flailing without bodies, the sort of thing you’d expect to find lingering in Boston Scientific’s dumpsters. From the warbly bass-guitar to the clattering drums and steel-wool guitar, each instrument behaves in only loose accordance with each other, pushing onward to somehow form a song in spite of themselves. I’m still hearing the most out-there moments in the Slugfuckers’s brief discography, or perhaps The Pop Group drained of all funk (imagine if you can!), or Mars deprived of air (just like Mars the planet), though the language of Nusidm is ultimately more feral and cracked. “Run To The Shops”, for example, opens with a couple minutes of the drums all by themselves, clanking contentedly while the rest of the band goes on smoko. Is there even a band, or is it four Glen Schenaus wandering around the room?

Obituary Dying Of Everything LP (Relapse)
Congrats to Obituary on their twelfth studio album! I’m not even going to pretend to be familiar with half of their full-lengths (I’m a The End Complete and Slowly We Rot guy), but judging from the gruesome cover paintings and violent album titles that span their lengthy discography, it would appear that this long-running Florida death metal group has yet to waiver from their death-metal mission in nigh thirty-five years of existence, or even center-parted long hair for that matter. Theirs must be a fairly unique reality, one that is so dedicated to essentially the same thing for such a significant amount of time, and one that I presume will only come to an end in the event of, ironically enough, their deaths. (Though, with two prior members already sadly deceased, it may take even more than death to halt Obituary.) Anyway, Dying Of Everything is here now, and it sounds almost precisely as I’d hope and expect: grinding mid-paced grooves, heavy blasts, evil-yet-intelligible vocals in the Tom Araya vein, a production as slick and precise as it is thunderous and imposing. A track like “Without A Conscience” is pure metal comfort food, with exquisite bass-drum placement and grooves as beholden to ’90s Deicide as ’80s Crumbsuckers. It’s followed by a rumbling intro filled with literal gunfire for the appropriately titled “War”, a grotesque mosh perfectly suited for the entrance theme of an occult-based pro-wrestler. You’ll have better luck knocking off Jason Bourne than putting an end to Obituary.

Bill Orcutt The Anxiety Of Symmetry LP (Fake Estates)
We all love Bill Orcutt, the true American treasure that he is, and rightfully so! He blew our wigs off with Harry Pussy and glued them back on with his numerous solo guitar outings, but I want to call attention to what might be my favorite version of solo Bill Orcutt: computer software mode. He did it with A Mechanical Joey a year or two ago, editing a Joey Ramone count-off into a vivid cascade of sound, and he’s doing it again with The Anxiety Of Symmetry. This time around, Orcutt takes six female voices singing the corresponding six notes in a scale and whips it into a dazzling vocal orchestra. Very much in the spirit of Philip Glass and Roberto Cacciapaglia, but also similar in atmosphere and tone as like, Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and Howard Hello’s Don’t Drink His Blood, two lightly IDM-infused emo masterpieces of the Y2K era. Throw a pillowy kick under it, get Ben Gibbard to whine a pleasant melody and boom, new Postal Service album! I kid (slightly), but only because The Anxiety Of Symmetry is such a gorgeous and deeply pleasant album, too complex for my brain to fully comprehend but effortlessly easy to enjoy.

Post Moves Recall The Dream Breath LP (Moone)
No known relation to Post Malone, Post Moves is a Western Mass guitarist who takes a collage-y approach to composition. By the mainstream’s standards, it’s weird, but within our little Yellow Green Red world there seems to be a number of folks messing around in similar ways these days: turn the buzz of a guitar into a drone care of some effects pedals; layer a field-recording of children playing; fingerpick on an acoustic in a lightly jazzy manner; stack various twinkly melodies until the whole thing is bursting with color. Whereas many of these artists like to conjure tropical beaches or intergalactic vistas with their guitars, Post Moves renders images of faded barns, fields of clover and chicory and creaky rocking chairs on a front porch with his music – I’m pretty sure I heard some banjo in there, for example. Imagine a faded old stack of VG-/G ECM records in a bin marked “free” outside a bookstore/health-food co-op in some sleepy mountain town… that seems to be the vibe Post Moves is seeking (or seeking to tastefully update) here, even if the colorful artwork and graphic design elements reveal Recall The Dream Breath as the work not of a hippie boomer but an art-schooler born in the ’90s. The perfect soundtrack for the curvy, tree-lined drive from Northampton to MassMOCA, one I’d assume Post Moves has made countless times himself.

SG Rilla Mane My Cadillac 7″ (Wah Wah Wino)
Lots of labels profess to do whatever they want, but Dublin’s Wah Wah Wino professes nothing while displaying fully dedication to their own unique internal logic. Case in point is this new seven-inch single from Houston rapper SG Rilla Mane (aka Slim Guerilla), a gorgeously syrupy cut of authentic Texas rap. I’m certainly pleased to make SG Rilla Mane’s acquaintance here, as “My Cadillac” is an instant hit. The beat is out of this world, based on a sampled slice of new-age jazz guitar(?) that’s as pristine as a white leather couch straight from the factory line. It’s just too good, sounding like something James Ferraro would’ve sourced for a new vaporwave project, but instead the sample is laced up with a rich low-end and an indifferent beat for Southern hip-hop perfection. It’s nice to own on a seven-inch, but I wish I had this on a scratched-up CD-r and a 2005 Honda Accord with subwoofers in the trunk from which to blast it. The b-side is a Morgan Buckley remix, which chops and speeds-up the original into a pile of noodles; it’s fun, but there’s really no way to improve upon the original, and Buckley wisely doesn’t seem to try. “My Cadillac” is a stunner regardless of how it’s presented, though, and further proof of the wide-ranging tastes and voracious musical appetite of the Wah Wah Wino crew.

The Sheaves Excess Death Cult Time LP (Minimum Table Stacks)
Not sure where all the wacked-out DIY post-punk record labels have gone in the last few years. I realize it’s a harsh financial environment (tapes are so much easier and safer, not to mention digital), but damn it feels good that Minimum Table Stacks is dropping a surprisingly thick stack of vinyl since its inception last year, and it’s all worth hearing. The Sheaves’ debut album Excess Death Cult Time was a cassette-only affair care of Moone last year, and now I’m uncomfortably blasting it on the format it deserves. Weird band, this: from Arizona (and featuring personnel from Soft Shoulder and Humiliation), The Sheaves play a brittle, ramshackle form of traditional 1979 British DIY. The album sounds like they all met at a Fall show in some university hall and decided they could do it too, even though they aren’t teenagers and are baking in the American desert, not soaking in a Cardiff bog. Fans of Shoes This High, Homosexuals and Puritan Guitars take note! The drums are dry, the guitars sound like their strings haven’t been changed since being purchased second-hand and, most compellingly, the vocalist has a voice entirely his own. I’ve come up short figuring out which member is the singer via online sleuthing, but it’s gotta be whichever one has yellowish-green skin and is wearing a deteriorated funeral suit, as the vocalist sounds like an actual zombie, only partially aware of his presence as the singer in a rock n’ roll band. It’s just the right amount of ludicrous and enhances these already-cool tunes into a modern post-punk gem.

Staubitz & Waterhouse Out And About LP (Gertrude Tapes)
The experimental bonafides of Mary Staubitz and Russ Waterhouse are undeniable, she as the inventive Donna Parker and he as half of the inimitable Blues Control to mention but one detail each. They’re a duo in life and music, and as a recording project they’ve turned their focus to field recordings, of which Out And About is their vinyl debut. It’s an overcrowded field with a very low barrier of entry, the field-recording biz, which makes the peculiar joy of Out And About that much more exceptional. These recordings generally speak for themselves; any editing is tasteful and minimized, allowing the richly human scenes they stumbled upon to shine uninterrupted and with startling clarity. “Jazz Conversation” is self-evident by its title – a heated discussion of jazz superiority over the clinking of glasses and ringing of phones, like a Sopranos outtake but real – whereas “No Recess” documents some antsy faculty members trying to quiet a school cafeteria with the mixed results we’d expect from our youth. Track titles give us some clues, but certain sounds will forever be unplaceable (what was that ungodly buzz a few seconds into “Night Sweats”?) to anyone besides Staubitz, Waterhouse and those who experienced them firsthand. Much like skilled photographers manage to render exceptional images from the banal, Staubitz & Waterhouse reflect the sounds of our world back to us in fascinating and unexpected ways.

Terrine Standing Abs LP (Bruit Direct)
Seven new tracks here from playful French experimental producer Terrine, whose work has always toed the line between the absurd and the serious (before falling over into the absurd). Standing Abs is no exception, and the first time I’m picking up on the aesthetic correlation between herself and another of my favorite European post-techno provocateurs, Lolina. They both operate in a simultaneously po-faced and hilarious mode, toying with their electronics in inventive new ways while never fully revealing their intentions. Warped synths, shuddering electronic beats and a vague sense of inside-joking are all key to the process. They both frequently use song titles as punchlines too, and with “Carrageenan Do Dad Jokes” and “Bâton XXL Will Make A Record One Day” on here, that tradition is maintained. Whereas earlier Terrine records took on more of a collage approach, using scraps of found-sound along side a wide range of instrumentation, Standing Abs feels more unified in its software/hardware, somewhat tightened up and more focused, at least relative to prior albums, with acoustic piano improvisations providing the heart and soul. I loved those early, extra-messy approaches to album-building, and I love this one too, sounding like Misha Mengelberg trapped inside a cell shaped like the Aphex Twin logo.

Terry Call Me Terry LP (Anti Fade / Upset The Rhythm)
Melbourne’s Terry keep things Terry-centric with their fourth full-length, Call Me Terry. I understand them as kind of an indie-pop cousin to Total Control, though with four albums and a significant stash of singles and EPs under their collective belt, they’ve certainly carved their own niche. In a Mikey Young-based or tangentially-related constellation of bands, The UV Race always felt like the spastic little brother who leaves plastic toys on the floor, whereas Terry are the cool older sister, wearing a beret and reading French philosophy at the breakfast table. Call me crazy but that seems to fit the vibe of Call Me Terry, which goes fuzzy and simplistically-poppy while still maintaining an undeniable level of cool. Reminds me a bit of Dan Melchior’s many garage-pop endeavors, but the shiny-happy subversiveness of “Gold Duck” feels like it could’ve worked on that last wonderfully-weird Total Control record too, if I may repeatedly bring up a different band in this review. While not the sole project of many of its members, Terry is without a doubt its own distinctive group, somewhere between the obscure pop beauty of The Bats and the charming insouciance of Swell Maps, replete with customized melodies, clever song-play and the breezy confidence that only comes with knowing you’re a really good band.

Water Damage 2 Songs LP (12XU)
Nice follow-up here from Austin-based perpetual groove machine Water Damage. If you weren’t already sucked down the cosmic drain by their debut, allow me to provide some basic info: they are a drum-centered octet featuring members of Spray Paint, Black Eyes and Marriage alongside the Texas rose Thor Harris himself, and they improvise lengthy curls of instrumental drone-rock. They find a note, hold it, and crush it like a beer-can on their forehead, all while the multiple drummers lock in on some simplistically spacey groove and the rest of the crew hums along. Very much in the manner of Tony Conrad with Faust and France (who, if you haven’t heard, you gotta check out France), the type of music that’s probably easy and satisfying to perform with the same spiritual gratification extending to the listener. The first side drones confidently over a patient break-beat, sounding like a family of air conditioners crossing the river Styx without incident. The b-side is immediately more psychedelic, as the beat is mostly the same (if sweetly dubbed out) and someone found a set of triangles or something, unleashing some chiming metallic tones over another supremely dank groove. Once the keys come in, it feels like MF Doom could unleash an otherworldly verse, though “killer cut to rap on” probably wasn’t a consequence Water Damage foresaw. Seems like Water Damage can conjure these infinite jams at will, only limited by the length of the tape… heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were jamming out a new one right this very moment. Makes you think.

Water From Your Eyes Everyone’s Crushed LP (Matador)
Refreshingly quirky experimental pop (but not hyper-pop) here from Brooklyn’s Water From Your Eyes. They seem to delight in messing with their prospective audience – I mean come on, their name is just a clunky way to say “tears” – and to be honest, it’s a delight to be messed with by them! They seem to come from the ’90s indie lineage of Stereolab, Broadcast and Pram, but they also kind of up-end it in a playfully modern way, using the full capabilities of digital editing to warp the mix in ways not reasonably possible in the ’90s. It’s like these songs want to be upbeat indie-pop in their heart of hearts, but there’s a Daniel Lopatin-esque dissolution happening all the time, where voices melt, samples override the melody, rhythms arrive from left-field… basically anything to shake things up. I’m reminded a bit of Katie Alice Greer’s solo debut, in the way both artists insist on pairing catchy melodies with absolutely mangled instrumentation / experimental non-instrumentation, but Everyone’s Crushed is shiny and polished even in its roughest moments, as if the Empire Records soundtrack was forced into one of those elastic latex bodysuits Arca has laying around. I like it when they go completely inaccessible, but tracks like “True Life” and “Barley” bring the restless energy of Erase Errata to the populist bop of like, a Moby remix. Recommended from top to bottom!