Black Abba Feel Good 7″ (Ken Rock)
The irreverently-named Black Abba are back with another quick 7″ EP, this time on Swedish garage-punk mainstay Ken Rock Records. “Feel Good” really ups the ante for what this band seems to be trying to accomplish, which is to become the most sarcastic, least enthusiastic synth-punk band around. I should probably put synth in scare-quotes because it’s barely greater than a monotone bleep here, and Black Abba step up their nihilistic lack of interest as the downpicked mono-riff slowly drifts off time from the plodding drums. Magnificent! “Let’s Fight” is far more professional (they actually play some ordered music notes) but it has the same mean-mugging attitude thanks to a group-shouted chorus of “let’s fight let’s fight / let me play with your knife”. Seems like they might be joking about it but I don’t want to take the risk. “Mike” ends on a poppier note, but the whole thing is an unabashedly misanthropic take on lo-fi punk (and life in general), in a wonderful way of course. I’ve read that there has been some membership overlap with Buck Biloxi over the years and man, these New Orleans punks know how to let the bad times roll.

Bobby Funk Avocado Stains 7″ (Autonomonster / TNS / Krautpop!)
You’ve been asking for it, now you’ve got it: a green “avocado-shaped” vinyl record. The grooves are about seven inches or so, but the rest of the fruit extends beyond, hence Avocado Stains being issued in a standard 12″ sleeve. That’s dedication! It’s an attention-grabbing record for sure, and even if the gimmick outshines the music (which I’d say is the case here), it’s still undeniably fun. Bobby Funk are an overtly British melodic punk group – their first two EPs were titled Pasty Blagger and Piss, for crying out loud, and there’s a song on here called “Johnny Wanker” that goes down a list of people who are all, you guessed it, wankers. I’m reminded of the punk rock I used to enjoy on those mid-’90s CD comps that would be crammed to capacity with music, like the Punk Uprisings series or one of those Fat Wreck Chords or Lookout! budget samplers. Silly, stupid fun is the name of the game, and Bobby Funk remind me of Blanks 77 or Blatz. Can’t really go wrong with that, although I don’t think you can really go right with it, either. I wonder where Bobby Funk falls on the “avocado toast” debate? They probably think both sides are wankers.

Bocksrucker SixSixSix 12″ (Neubau)
Alongside the killer Gil.Barte EP on Neubau (gushed about at length below), I snagged a copy of Bocksrucker’s SixSixSix EP. It srucks serious bock, no doubt about it! These three tracks are rugged and funereal, like what I’d imagine Jeff Hanneman’s wake was like (a mosh pit breaking out in Slumber Room B, black roses on polished mahogany, bloody tears, etc.). The beats are huge, grayscale noise is a constant texture (but used sparingly, not overpoweringly), and each track features samples of some old Satanic art film, tying the EP together with its title. The samples are deployed well, adding a dramatic, cultish flair to Bocksrucker’s menacing tracks that flit between industrial, techno and EBM. I’m picturing Beau Wanzer finally getting his ears pierced for goth night, Orphyx and Winterkälte updated for the late ’10s, or Shadowlust wearing Slipknot tees. Neubau’s aesthetic, which seems to reimagine early ’90s noise label aesthetics (think Tesco Organization or Cold Meat Industry) as DJ-ready dance 12″s is a home run in my book, Bocksrucker clearly the most nefarious offering yet.

Boothroyd Pure Country LP (Fnord Communications)
I love a good concept, and Peter Boothroyd’s debut album Pure Country is just that. Picture the pulsing EDM build-ups of Tiesto and Calvin Harris left to idle on repeat (no beat drops) with cornball guitars and harmonicas adding an out-of-place “country” touch. I saw the harmonica sound described as “Roseanne-style” and while that cracked me up, it’s sharply accurate – just peep “Blue” and tell me you can’t picture the family gathering around the table, passing plates of food with Moby setting up his CDJs in the corner. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it’d be such a winning combination, and perhaps in lesser hands it would quickly crumble, but Boothroyd knows how to scale things back just right, so that the combination of twangy acoustic guitar and broad sketches of mainstream electro-pop feel like a natural pair rather than something to dismiss. Besides that ridiculous harmonica, I haven’t laughed at Pure Country at all, rather finding myself drifting into his alternate reality of pop music, one where Yelawolf is a household name and Frank Ocean boot-scoots onto the stage. I’m convinced anything could happen at this point.

Boy Harsher Pain II 12″ (Nude Club)
Okay, so I do this blog to tell y’all about cool stuff, so why didn’t any of you return the favor and let me know that my Boy Harsher coverage was sorely lacking? I feel like a dope for only recently finding out about this group, who I’d say are pretty clearly at the tip top of the “male/female gothy industrial synth-wave duo” genre, a crowded field if there ever was one. Thankfully Boy Harsher are making their vinyl ever so slightly easier to obtain with this new 12″ pressing, featuring the previously-released “Pain” alongside a remix by The Soft Moon on the flip. Normally I’d think this is kind of a throwaway release for any band, but I’d have to cash in my 401k if I want to afford a copy of the original Pain EP, and this song is so instantly infectious that it deserves the repeated attention. “Pain” is a modern classic and I don’t say that lightly – every aspect is perfectly assembled and delivered, resulting in the sort of magic every artist hopes to one day attain. On the back of its simplistic and recognizable melodic arpeggio, Boy Harsher layer startlingly confident whisper-moan vocals, catchy little sonic additives and a chorus that simply refuses to stop ringing in my skull. The Soft Moon adds some electrified debris and tries to coax a Rammstein-esque mosh pit into existence on his remix, which works for me, but the original is this priceless artifact that I feel blessed to be able to spin whenever I want. Which apparently is always.

The Child Molesters 1978 Hound Dog Recordings 12″ (Ace & Duce / Negative Jazz)
Seminal shock-rock punkers The Child Molesters have been high on sweaty-palmed record collectors’ want-lists for at least a couple decades, and in “celebration” of the 40th anniversary of this early recording session, these four songs are presented on a 12″ EP. If you haven’t heard ’em, these cuts are certainly top-notch Killed By Death crap-rock – “I’m Gonna Punch You (In The Face)” in particular is wildly charming and so catchy that I almost want to get punched in the face while hearing it. The Child Molesters were clearly coming from a musical background of Alice Cooper and The Stooges, desperate to flick their noses at proper social behavior and at their happiest when all nearby feathers are ruffled beyond repair. That said, I still feel a little strange seeing a new record in 2018 that features swastikas on both the cover and insert; there’s a brief disclaimer in the insert that directly states the group is not Nazis nor actual child molesters (what a relief), but it comes across preemptively defensive, as if you’re just a wimpy baby if you don’t also enjoy pretending to be a Nazi to offend the neighbors and that no discussion is to be had regarding punks who sport fascist imagery. Surely there are other archival punk recordings waiting to be reissued that aren’t covered with the stuff, especially seeing as these Hound Dog Recordings have been released numerous times through the years already? (Not to mention that the original Wholesale Murder 7″ was released to coincide with Hitler’s birthday, as prominently noted on the insert?) As a punk rock artifact, The Child Molesters are noteworthy of more than just a footnote, but perhaps the mindset with which they are presented could use an update from 1978.

DJ Healer Nothing 2 Loose 3xLP (All Possible Worlds)
DJ Healer (real name unknown?) is one of the most fascinating and creative techno producers today, not just creating different sounds through his various aliases (Prince Of Denmark, DJ Metatron, Traumprinz, etc.) but building up entire worlds around them. Not one for subtlety, he recently released two triple 12″s under two new monikers, Prime Minister Of Doom and DJ Healer, and in case you are thinking you don’t need six more 12″s following his somewhat recent octuple- and triple-LP releases under the Prince Of Denmark name, think again – you do! It seems as if he realized he can do no wrong, so he lets things run wild without over-editing or the slightest consideration of brevity. I already love these two new ones dearly, but DJ Healer is probably my favorite as it is particularly evocative, utilizing ambient techno and dramatic samples as a storytelling device. One track might be little more than mildly rustling wind and a faint electronic pulse, and the next might snap a beat into action with sampled vocals providing the emotional resonance (is that Nico on “2 The Dark”?). I’m reminded of the intros/outros of Burial’s more cinematic material, but DJ Healer allows things to unfurl slowly, unhurried by the constraints of a single 12″ side. It’s touching, spellbinding, lush, and just a little bit corny, my fondness growing stronger with each new listen.

DJ Marcelle / Another Nice Mess Psalm Tree 12″ (Jahmoni Music)
Amsterdam’s DJ Marcelle is a constant presence throughout Europe’s underground scene, often using three turntables simultaneously in a sort of live mash-up spectacle. Another Nice Mess is the name of her radio show, and apparently her records are under both names, which I’m finally no longer confused by. This new one is pretty great: comedic industrial techno, let’s say? The opener pairs a distorted rhythm with outrageously warbling human voice tones (not entirely unlike what Errorsmith deployed on his last album) with a sample of someone saying “constipation” over and over again. It’s as if Regis remixed a particularly hilarious People Like Us collage for the dressed-in-black club set, and while it’s directly up my alley, I’m impressed by how natural and smooth DJ Marcelle makes it all seem. The opener is my favorite for sure, but the rest of the EP deploys choppy, impolite percussion with well-mannered samples (“Psalm 3, Verse 3: Walking Around Aimlessly” is rhythmic fuzz and reversed bass blips paired with old-timey whistling), highly creative and lacking a direct similarity with the work of any contemporary producers, even the weird ones. The last track even pushes into some sort of troll-driven footwork, which I realize doesn’t make much sense, but DJ Marcelle is interested in making wild new sounds, not sense.

Graham Dunning Way Too Much Time 12″ (AD AAD AT)
Fantastic vinyl debut here from one of London’s most ingenious sonic experimenters, Graham Dunning. This 12″ collects four cuts made by his “mechanical techno machine”, which should be read quite literally: Dunning has devised a wild spinning column of live-action effects and tricks that are used to create snappy minimal techno. He’s a viral sensation on YouTube, and rightfully so, as the concept behind this music (you really should just go search his name on YouTube rather than sit here while I try to explain it) is wildly inventive and fun to watch. Of course, on a record, you have nothing to watch, but thankfully his machine’s results are just as pleasant to the ears without the visual. Through these four tracks, I’m reminded of Wolfgang Voigt’s Studio 1 EPs, or Donato Dozzy at his most essential, but there’s a strange humanity granted to these tracks that the garden variety hands-off techno doesn’t include. I’d say there are also touches of the live-action electronic frippery of Leprechaun Catering or Ekoplekz, but Dunning never veers from techno’s 4/4 grid, even as his equipment may be longing to do so. Couldn’t love this more if I tried!

Fetish Take The Knife / A House Is Not A Motel 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Seems pretty clear that Fetish’s primary fetish is guitarists – this hardcore supergroup has no less than three of them! Do you think they’d mind if I joined in on fourth guitar? I don’t care if they turned my amp to Vinnie Stigma’s levels, I just wanna stand on stage with these burly dudes. Anyway, back to the matter at hand: Fetish is comprised of 75% of Long Knife and two members of Poison Idea (War All The Time era), and while that sort of background gives them a permanent pass to do whatever they want in these later years (rockabilly, ska, ska-punk, ska-abilly, etc.), the men in Fetish are sticking with raging powerhouse hardcore. “Take The Knife” arrives on an explosive intro before kicking into its upbeat hardcore riffing and an explosive, moshworthy breakdown (is that double-bass I hear coming from the drum kit?), all with an extra serving of blazing guitar solos. Finely crafted for sure. “A House Is Not A Motel” is a Love cover, but don’t take off your moshing sneakers just yet – Fetish coat the moody psych-garage melody in lead paint and use their collective amplification to shred anyone left standing. Admiring their band photo on the insert, I can’t help but wonder what the inside of their van smells like. Maybe I’m the one with the fetish.

Gil.Barte Ssjip EP 12″ (Neubau)
What’s great about techno is that there is simply an endless expanse of it, with more being created at roughly the same rate the universe is expanding (I’ve confirmed with leading physicists on the matter), so there is always a new favorite waiting to be discovered out there. This debut 12″ by Gil.Barte is certainly one of them, as its a prime example of exactly what I’m hoping to hear: basement electronics, lo-fi industrial, mid-’80s Esplendor Geometrico and seductive New Beat grooves all tidily scraped together. “Sssjp” is reminiscent of ugly American electro like Patricia and Beau Wanzer but has a personality all its own, with various voices appearing behind curtains as the potent groove stalks through a digital grid, as if the original Wolfenstein 3D video game was based on distributing drugs in a basement rave, not murdering Nazis. (Although if you wanted to murder some Nazis to “Sssjp” I wouldn’t hold it against you.) “Myaso” follows, and it’s a moody requiem that feels both intolerably claustrophobic and transcendent, like laying in an MRI tube that simultaneously provides a deep tissue massage. “Kemang” is the last cut and may be my favorite of the three, as it features quite possibly the best electro-vibraslap effect I’ve ever heard, traversing a weirdly pitched bass-line as it encounters various spoken transmissions, slowly increasing in mania. I really can’t believe how great Sssjp is, and have already started throwing my money at the other recent Neubau releases as they seem to follow similar aesthetic aspirations. Highest recommendation, to be sure!

Peggy Gou Once 12″ (Ninja Tune)
If there’s a more universal form of music than house, I’ve yet to hear it – every populated continent on Earth has hundreds of people making it and thousands of people dancing to it (and I bet I could find at least one or two producers from Antarctica on Soundcloud). Peggy Gou is South Korean but she calls Berlin her home, and her effervescent, poppy house is a delight. “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” gives disco drums a space-station makeover care of a cuddly acid line, bongos and a vibraphone, with Peggy Gou’s own vocals providing the tune with a sense of sleek sophistication. “Hundres Times” is more traditional house in the vein of Omar S at his most ebullient, arpeggios intertwining in colorful displays. Meanwhile, “Han Jan” sources the elastic funk of Zapp and Mantronix and whips up another retro-futurist groove (complete with rapping!), as if Stereolab remixed Dopplereffekt to celebrate the opening of a boutique vape shop. I should probably stop listening to this so much because my interest in inhaling artificially-flavored high-density mists grows stronger with every spin.

Hogg Self-Extinguishing Emission LP (Scrapes)
For some reason I had just assumed that Hogg’s last record, Solar Phallic Lion, would be their last… both the group and the music they made just seemed so volatile, as if it was a random lucky chance that everything converged on a moment where they were able to record an album and have someone put it out. Much to my delight, they’re sticking around for a bit longer, and Self-Extinguishing Emission reveals some interesting growth, though I don’t mean growth as in “cleaned up fidelity with newfound pop aspirations”, so much as the giant weeds that sprout out of an abandoned building. This sounds like a band who understand what works best and they twist the knife in that exact spot (industrial percussion, hysterical vocals, wet throbbing bass), sounding like a feminine Coil signed to Subterranean. “Black Into Dirt” in particular showcases their talents: a swampy sound-effect merges with a punchy drum machine and drooping bass-line while moaned vocals crisscross each other, a guitar stabs out of nowhere and someone does a brief vocal imitation of Abruptum’s It. The Throbbing Gristle resemblance remains particularly striking, not just in sound but in the confidence of their decisions, as if making music any other way would be a waste of time. Self-Extinguishing Emission certainly seems like the logical answer to many of life’s burning questions.

Human Adult Band Sonic Enlightenment LP (Third Uncle)
Don’t let anyone tell you that New Jersey ain’t freaky, as Human Adult Band and their Princeton / New Brunswick associates have been keeping it real for quite some time now. On this new one, the confidently-titled Sonic Enlightenment, they’ve got a couple of styles at their disposal and they make good with all of it. The a-side is fully inhabited by “Easton Ave Laundromat”, a slow-burning jam that offers further evidence that Neil Young retroactively became a hero to the contemporary lo-fi guitar/noise scene. It loosely weaves through various sticks of incense until disintegrating completely (but not before some mystical flute joins the tune). Human Adult Band balances their epic a-side with six cuts on the flip; they seem to play “This Will Happen Again In A Year & A Half” backwards but in real time, and grind through various other forms of uninhibited noise-rock blues, calling to mind Universal Indians, Bullet In The Head, No Trend’s weirder side and maybe The Dead C, were they an American group raised in the ’90s on Mountain Dew and Mad magazine. Vocals are rare, although I get the impression that someone is always singing at least a little bit, even if it’s not into a microphone. I’d proffer that Sonic Enlightenment will be the most prestigious release on Third Uncle Records this year, unless they plan on releasing another Honey Radar 5″ lathe-cut.

Intensive Care Everything Has Its Price 7″ (Iron Lung)
Intensive Care’s debut album Voyeurism struck me as the output of a group with aspirations of working with Iron Lung Records but not quite up to par with the label’s standard of quality. Either they’ve really stepped up their game or I need to re-visit Voyeurism, because this new 7″ EP is pretty sick. For a bass/drums hardcore duo operating with power-violence and power-electronics influences, they deliver precisely what I’d want to hear. The bass tone is utterly massive, like two Cavity records playing through Bongzilla’s rig, and they churn out the aggressive blast-beat / stop-start / fast-slow riffing with panache. Their noise interludes work well, hearkening back to Gasp and Volume 11’s brutal-psych atmospheres, but really the bass tone is just so monstrous and gnarly that everything else defers to it, and rightfully so. They certainly aren’t reinventing heavy hardcore riffing, but it works undeniably well alongside the more esoteric sounds and enraged-gorilla vocals. Perhaps it’s the fact that Intensive Care decided to embrace Ted Dibiase’s personal philosophy, “Everything Has Its Price“, that led to this smashing success.

Tom Lyngcoln Doming Home LP (Solar/Sonar)
“11 Pieces For Voice & Guitar” is the subtitle of Tom Lyngcoln’s solo debut and while it’s technically accurate, I think it could use a little finessing. First of all, I’d call them “songs” as opposed to “pieces” (avant-garde neo-classical this is not), and while there is nothing else to be found on Doming Home besides Lyngcoln’s voice and his amplified (but non-distorted) electric guitar, these songs feel like little bits of his soul being offered to the public at his own peril. He’s not shy with his singing, belting out his lyrics somewhere between The Housemartins’ P.D. Heaton and Joe Strummer, but often warbling on the verge of emotional collapse as well, as though he inadvertently backed into an early Bright Eyes record. The guitar calmly follows his voice or underpins it with some sort of melodic housing, not unlike how Cat Power or Will Oldham used to do it, although Lyngcoln’s passion is always teetering on high. Just check “Out Of Time” and imagine the shared discomfort of witnessing him perform it in the corner of a coffee shop to a small seated crowd. Lyngcoln looks kinda big and mean on the cover, like he’s ready to dunk your head as if it were an Aussie Rules football, but Doming Home reveals he’s a fragile softy like the rest of us.

Miss Destiny Ice Queen / Randy 7″ (Shipping Steel)
Shipping Steel is a very new Melbourne-based label, but they’re making their mission statement clear: black leather, red meat, white powder punk rock (n’ roll). Miss Destiny are a smart fit in that regard, following their debut LP on R.I.P. Society with these two cuts of traditional hard-rocking punk, as if the macho fantasy of heavy metal remained forever entwined with the sneering cynicism of punk. “Ice Queen” cruises like The Dead Boys on a Saturday night, and “Randy” more or less does the same thing with a melodic lead vocal. This record was produced by Jack Farley (of the great Scott & Charlene’s Wedding) and I think at least one member of Miss Destiny named Harriet (there are multiple) plays in Southern Comfort, revealing yet another set of connections in Melbourne punk’s massive and tangled family tree. Miss Destiny are on the raunchier end of that tree, smoking out back while listening to live Guns N’ Roses bootlegs, a necessary element of any thriving punk habitat.

Nag / Lip split 7″ (Space Taker Sounds)
At first glance I thought this was a new 7″ by Nag called Lip, but nope, that’s a band too! You’d think there’s some registrar that charges bands by the letter or something, but these two groups simply appreciate brevity, both in band name and song form. Nag’s first tune “Eye Level” is a slower stomp than what I’m used to hearing from them, at least until someone sticks a match under its rear and they go careening off a cliff. “Surfer” is their second and maintains the early-but-fast punk feel, reminiscent of the great and overlooked Vial 7″ from a couple years ago as well as the not-overlooked output of The Randoms and The Urinals. Lip’s music has a similar urgency, a little more bass-driven than Nag, with a variety of vocals careening in and out for a cool disorienting effect (while still clearly punk, not psych or anything else). Their tune “Control” is particularly memorable and mixtape-worthy (or perhaps more to today’s style, internet radio station play-worthy?) whereas “Road” is less distinctive. Still, four cool songs by two cool punk bands, so why not?

Physique Punk Life Is Shit 12″ (Iron Lung)
Most of the labels that repeatedly turn up on this webpage demonstrate a sincere love for the music they release, but I can’t help but think that the folks at Iron Lung really, really lust over noisy buzzsaw hardcore-punk. Like even if the rest of the world moved on and stopped buying records, Iron Lung would be pressing up the latest current ear-piercing hardcore band, no matter if the records were destined to remain on their basement shelves. This new one comes from Olympia’s Physique, who bear a standard resemblance to Disclose, Framtid, Totalitär, and of course, Discharge. Physique come in on the heavier end of things (think Framtid without the superhuman drum fills), with enough vocal echo to fill a nuclear fallout shelter, riotous guitar leads and a satisfying sense of familiarity for anyone who ever sewed a black denim patch onto the back of their black denim vest. Physique offer nothing remotely new, but this record has a cool title (I’ve thought it back to myself multiple times since first encountering it), the blank b-side has a great skeleton etching (because what else are you gonna etch?), and if that’s not good enough for you, maybe it’s time you moved on to rare Soviet prog reissues or something.

Retirement Retirement 7″ (Iron Lung)
A bit of an ironic band name for Iron Lung, as if these folks are ever gonna quit it with the raging, noisy hardcore! Retirement are a fairly new group, developed from a solo project into a fully-staffed live outfit (as is so often the case these days), and they certainly deliver the goods on this debut EP. Which, in this case, is raw hardcore-punk with subtle garage-punk and industrial-noise inclinations, as if they borrowed some of Jay Reatard’s earliest, ugliest riffs and applied them to the sonic templates of Cold Sweat and Vile Gash. The guitars are never silent, and might even be at their most ear-splitting when nothing is happening (gotta love the piercing feedback that opens a tune), although a song like “Yours Is Mine” is purely hardcore, operating on the same platform as DYS and Toxic Reasons, just recorded through the scorching acid bath we’ve come to expect from today’s repugnant hardcore music. Maybe it’s because Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With Wound have been fully accepted by the hardcore masses as valid forms of aggressive music that today’s traditional hardcore bands are eager to embrace weird and harsh noise, but Retirement are a fine example of the success such a mindset can deliver. Let’s hope they’ve got a good enough pension to keep the hits coming.

Ritualz Doom LP (Artoffact)
Finding it hard to not be a hater while listening to Ritualz’s Doom album, the Mexico City artist’s sophomore full-length. There’s just a lot going on here that I find unappealing: first of all, the name Ritualz can also be “stylized as †‡†” (I thought that sorta nonsense was buried alongside witch-house?), and the music on this album is all blustery melodramatic synthwork and spooky vocals that miss any sense of provocative beauty or gothy darkness, instead coming across like the Hot Topic repackaging of such. Doom has me imagining Blink 182 putting together a dark-wave side project (I can already picture Travis Barker in Kat Von D’s signature eyeliner), although to their credit there’d probably at least be some memorable hooks to be found in that. Ritualz seems more about the aesthetic sense (streetwear goth that crosses over with A$AP Rocky, body-mod Tumblrs, horror-rap, Dimmu Borgir, etc.), and the music itself is merely another extension of the style, rather than something that received much consideration or effort. A previous EP was titled Ghetto Ass Witch, and I dunno, I’m either gonna go full Juggalo or no Juggalo, whereas Ritualz inhabits a specific territory in between that I do not care to revisit anytime soon.

John Roberts Spill 12″ (Brunette Editions)
Quietly one of techno’s most intrepid explorers, John Roberts has been infusing his house and techno with jazz and avant-garde experimentation for about a decade. His release as Body Four remains one of my personal favorites (imagine Arthur Russell doing a noise tape for Broken Flag in 1987), but Spill is right up there too, a stark new fusion of modern electronic processing and post-modern composition for double-bass and trumpet. “Spill” is the a-side and it’s a declaration of interdisciplinary strangeness, with horns tooting alongside violent electronic squiggles and mournful strings. I’m reminded of Vessel’s fantastic Punish, Honey in the way that maximal industrial-techno sounds are forced to mesh with natural and softer sonic elements, but “Spill” is more of a multi-directional collage than something that could ever get airtime in a club. “Wrecked” on the flip is a purely electronic cut of syrupy pirouettes, but “Fluid” brings back Evans on the trumpet, echoing through the courtyard at Roberts’ behest as a lush drone signals the sun to set. I have to say, I’m all for this recent micro-trend of horn-based techno – from Sebastien Casanova to Beatrice Dillon, it’s a sonic pairing that has yet to do me wrong.

Ruby Karinto Ruby Karinto LP (HoZac)
I don’t care if you aren’t ready for it, here’s some upbeat no-wave pop from British Columbia! I realize “no-wave” can be taken practically as many ways as “hardcore”, so let me clarify that Ruby Karinto are operating in the vein of ESG and Liquid Liquid as opposed to Teenage Jesus or Glenn Branca, relying heavily on funked-out drums and slippery bass guitar to guide their songs. They do a fine job of it, too – it’s easy to fall into pre-fab disco beats and dance riffs but Ruby Karinto deliver their own vision throughout this squirmy album. I’m particularly partial to “Chikotan”, which feels like a Sightings rhythm given a sparkly makeover by Pixeltan or Polysics, vocals sung (and chanted) in Japanese and synths bleeping and blooping out into the atmosphere. As bizarre as they may be, Ruby Karinto never seem weird for weird’s sake, and even the strangest moments are locked into rhythms that would properly realign Kid Creole’s spine. No guitars on this record, and with all of Ruby Karinto’s irresistibly disjointed action, who needs em anyway?

Somewhen AFL 12″ (Ostgut Ton)
Hailed as part of “Berlin’s new techno generation”, it’s somewhat of a relief to know that Somewhen basically sounds like Berlin’s old techno generation, or at least Ostgut Ton’s signature style. I try to check in with Ostgut Ton at least every couple months, and I went with this Somewhen 12″, which delivers just what I was hoping for: sexy, dark, serpentine techno that doesn’t beat around the bush. Knight Rider synths are given a hefty modern software upgrade for these cuts, and Somewhen puts his particular stamp on things by the smooth integration of vocals – they’re generally chopped and buried in the mix, somewhere between a subliminal message and someone attempting to talk to you in the middle of the dance-floor. At times Somewhen can practically verge on pop (“Undress” sounds like Nine Inch Nails remixed for a Fabric CD), and that’s a net positive for me, as seductive grooves such as these are often enhanced with a taste of pop’s lasting hooks. I’m pleased that Somewhen put the image of Shed and Kobosil flirting with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult in my head – if I accidentally jam “AFL” a little too long, my erotic fan-fiction career might finally begin.

Space Afrika Somewhere Decent To Live LP (Sferic)
If you’re gonna call your dub-ambient project “Space Afrika”, it better not suck, so thankfully this Mancunian duo do right by it. Somewhere Decent To Live is a fantastic record, one that maintains a sense of self while still subsuming the environment with thick fogs, both those that get you high and those that do not. Space Afrika take it slow, gradually building these tracks into some semblance of song, if only recognizable by repeated samples or rhythmic clicks and hits. An echoed female voice provides the feeling of an empty airport terminal, all flights grounded due to extreme atmospheric mists of course, but swooping synth chords float you where you want to go for free. This one sits well next to other avant-ambient producers like Pendant and Gas, but Space Afrika tell a different story through their lush pads and dreary-yet-hopeful melodies. It’s as though you can see the crowded city and oily streets that surround you, but the metropolitan clatter is reduced to a soothing hum, a space for meditation and subtle grace. In other words, somewhere decent to live.

Stella Career Suicide LP (no label)
Stella are a Cincinnati-based group that apparently likes to brace for their own failure: just check the title of this self-released album, following their 2016 cassette Planned Obsolescence. It’s like they’re trying to insult themselves before giving anyone else the chance to do so, and my advice to them is to let their guard down a bit – they’re not bad at all! Besides the alarming similarities between their cover art and the Pepe The Frog meme, they’ve got a good thing going – noisy indie-pop with no-wave leanings. Their grooves are jittery and cautious, like Ex-Models or perhaps an overly caffeinated Deerhoof, and the vocals are frequently overloaded with sass, like Ian Svenonius or James Chance trying to wiggle themselves out of a particularly awkward social moment. Like any band that splatters their music outward, some of it will stick and some of it won’t, but on the whole I enjoy what Stella are serving… “Drill Your Skull” in particular is a fine mix of catchy/irritating vocal repetition and deconstructed noise-punk grooves. See, Stella, at least someone likes you!

Subsonics Flesh-Colored Paint LP (Slovenly)
Slovenly must’ve had a connecting flight in Atlanta while scouring the globe for garage-punk, because they picked up Subsonics and Flesh-Colored Paint, the group’s eighth full-length (and fourth for Slovenly). This is a staunchly garage-sounding trio who’ve been putting out records since 1992, and at a pretty continuous pace to boot. They’re still posing with big-hole 45s next to jukeboxes, still holding onto the hairstyles of their youth… and they’re really quite good! Vocalist “Rockin’ Clay Reed” has a great voice for the job, like Iggy Pop clutching a helium balloon, and their riffs (cribbed from The Cramps, Bo Diddley, Velvet Underground, Elvis Presley, etc.) really come to life behind him. As a form of music, this style is reaching retirement age, but Flesh-Colored Paint is like a five-pound Cialis pill for the genre, an album full of sharp silliness, enjoyable hooks and contagious fun. You can tell that they simply don’t care about outside opinion or popular trends; this is a group that loves what they love (3D glasses, Back From The Grave comps, monster movies, Mick Jagger’s butt) and they love to craft their own take on it, too.

Susan TV Girls 7″ (Volar)
The cover photograph of a longhaired person playing two basses had me hoping Susan’s newest EP was inspired by Thundercat or Primus, but those dreams will have to wait. Instead, Susan are all smiles with “TV Girls”, a Beach Boys-inspired indie-pop jangler that recalls the sunshine-y days of Go Sailor and The Hi-Fives. “Little Notes” mixes up the mood, recalling Dum Dum Girls in their full-band lineup. Pretty simple music, and it might fall apart if the vocalists were less confident or generic, but whichever member(s) are singing (I think it’s two of them at the same time for the most part?) really elevate these tunes to something special. Really all you need with this style is basic major-key chord changes and a great vocalist to ensure success, and Susan check both boxes easily. They end with a cover of Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her In My Arms”, and while I’m unfamiliar with the original, Susan rip through it with such joy I immediately ran to my window, opened it, stuck my head out and smiled toward the sky, arms outstretched. I have no idea what Susan are so happy about, but it sure is contagious!

Thieving Bastards Complete Musical Disasters EP 7″ (SPHC)
It feels all too rare that I get to say “this band sounds like Lärm” on here, and I can’t tell if that’s simply a personal failing or society’s as a whole. Whatever the case, I’m glad SPHC released the debut EP from Manchester’s Thieving Bastards, which probably never would’ve made it to vinyl otherwise. It’s tuneless, semi-comedic fast-core delivered hastily, with a vocalist who more often numbly recites his words than screams them (hence the Lärm comparison). Complete Musical Disasters feels like a practice session put to tape, with at least a couple takes of certain songs (“In My Garden” is played twice in a row) and various brief discussion among band members between tunes. Certainly the type of stuff that would’ve come out on a 70-song Dutch hardcore compilation cassette in 1985, wedged between Jetset and Massagraf. Sixteen tracks in all, and while that might seem like a lot, I assure you that it’s barely a warm up – I could personally go for at least double that. Other titles include “I Was Born”, “Elephant Song”, “Secret Pizza Eater” and “I Love My Mum”, so if you haven’t already located a verified web-retailer stocking Complete Musical Disasters, I can’t help but question your life pursuits.

Tim & The Boys Growing LP (Meatspin)
Interesting amalgam of artistic approaches here on the debut album by Sydney, Australia’s Tim & The Boys. They’ve got that silly name, Mat Brinkman-esque masks on the cover (which I believe they wear more often than just this one photo-shoot), kind of a Lumpy Records-esque feigned-stupid detachment (plus the shared interested in masks), a sense of wokeness (I get the impression that the song “White Guys” isn’t a sincere celebration, plus it’s distributed in the US by the highly discerning Thrilling Living label), and perhaps the most pleasant and least grating take on synth/drum-machine punk I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s definitely still punk – the rhythms are driving, the chord progressions are simplistic and sharp, and the vocals shouted – but they move at a leisurely pace, with a strong sense of melody and a notable lack of feedback or lo-fi crunch. I’m reminded of the earliest Devo singles before the synths took over, or maybe a shared songwriting approach to fellow Aussie punks Ausmuteants. I almost kinda wish they’d go off the rails a bit, and maybe push things closer to the absurd, just to see what that’d be like, but Tim & The Boys do a fine job staying in their chosen lane, where drum machines coast alongside tuneful guitars and chanted vocals. Punk, but different.

Witchtrial Demo 2017 12″ (Beach Impediment)
The band name itself, the band name written in a pointy medieval font, the blood red logo featuring a winged inverted cross, the photo of the band standing in a graveyard at dusk… my, what could this group possibly sound like? If you guessed “ex- and current hardcore dudes playing metal heavily influenced by Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory”, well my friend, you should be writing your own reviews too! I can’t tell if “cvlt” metal is having another hardcore-punk underground moment, or if its last moment never really went away, but it makes sense to me, as this style is pretty timeless and indisputable. Raging metallic leads, mid-paced dungeon stompers and high-speed motorcycle chases in hell, tortured screams and double bass-drum pedals, who can argue with any of that? Even though it’s their first demo, Witchtrial demonstrate a firm understanding of the genre, what works best and what to leave on the shelf, and these four songs (with titles like “Speak To Evil” and “R’n’R Hellfire”) don’t waste anyone’s time. Considering how massive Power Trip have become, it only makes sense that new bands start sprouting up with a shared aesthetic sensibility, although I will miss slightly confounding bills (Power Trip and Sheer Mag?) if metal eventually grabs a majority share.