***Don’t forget, the Graham Dunning LP is still available! Info here!***

Alien Nosejob Death Of The Vinyl Boom 7″ (no label)
It’s a holy moment when a punk group is able to create something both gimmicky and undeniably great – such is the case with this self-released 7″ EP from Clunes, Australia’s Alien Nosejob. The packaging is a hilarious take on the time-tested “anti-collectible-record collectible record” style, complete with a smashed piece of vinyl glued to the front and a variety of selling points on the back. (“Will increase in value!”, “over the top Aussie accent inside!” and “not completely a joke” are all potent advertisements.) I’m already entertained, but these are some truly fine punk songs they’ve got here, clearly well-studied on the classics with their own twist – I’m picking up the same mechanical lurch of The Normal’s “TV OD” in “Caffeine OD”, whereas the backing vocal melody on “Fly Blown” recalls the peculiar punk send-up of Helen Keller. These tunes would fit in nicely alongside any mix that already includes Vom, The Victims, Ice 9, Weirdos, The Chosen Few, or The Feederz… basically any indispensable punk act whose three-figure first-pressing 7″ is worth every penny. Death Of The Vinyl Boom only costs like ten bucks or less (plus shipping), so don’t delay!

Oren Ambarchi, Konrad Sprenger & Phillip Sollmann Panama / Suez 12″ (A-TON)
Oren Ambarchi is the Aussie who never sleeps, even if his music is often quite conducive to such behavior. This new two-track 12″ follows the repetitive trance-state of 2016’s fantastic Hubris album with two new lengthy explorations of cyclical rhythms that slowly widen in scope and emotion. “Panama” chugs with an insistent krautrock groove, consisting of what sounds like a twinkling system of synths and perhaps even an electric guitar. I’m picturing Ambarchi, Sprenger and Sollmann all hunched over different stations at NASA headquarters, turning knobs and patching cords to ensure the utmost sonic quality, imperfections be damned. “Suez” opens with some lightweight percussive patterns that eventually blossom in full color, care of what must be Ambarchi’s extended guitar performance (in his distinctive style) and whatever a guy named Konrad Sprenger does… program some classic ENIAC algorithms into his modified Apple watch? “Suez” has a little more tension than the ear-to-ear smile of “Panama”, but they’re both nearly as deep and majestic as the canals that inspired them. All excellent feats of human ingenuity, to be sure.

Amnesia Scanner Another Life LP (PAN)
Album of the month right here! This Finnish duo have been kicking around for a bit now with their hyper-modern, art-installation-ready digital releases. It’s clearly the sort of project that is ripe for a deal with the technologically-advanced PAN label, but Another Life is its own fascinating beast entirely, and surely the finest experimental electronic album to feature sneakers on the cover since Lorenzo Senni’s Quantum Jelly. Amnesia Scanner essentially apply the digitally-microscopic sonic editing style of Arca to aggressive dancehall beats, all of which are mutated beyond any human recognition in the spirit of energetic industrial noise. Maybe if Sean Paul and Genesis P-Orridge became a singular pandrogyne (s)he’d make music like this? What’s most incredible is how Amnesia Scanner are able to wring such massive pop hooks out of their twisted sonic debris – tracks like “AS A.W.O.L.” and “AS Chaos” play out like DJ Khaled mingling with Vessel’s heavy-duty artillery, and they provide immediately memorable (and danceable) results. Labelmate Pan Daijing provides some great vocals on a couple tracks, as does a proprietary computer-voice called “The Oracle”, just in case you were worried this album wasn’t over the top enough. “AS Too Wrong” is my favorite, a ridiculous banger that has me moshing, but the whole record is more or less essential to surviving today’s tech-cloud hellscape with a cynical wink.

Baczkowski / Padmanabha Mastoid Process 7″ (Iron Lung)
Iron Lung is really pushing to see how far their audience is willing to follow them with the release of this blistering free-jazz single… there’s no hardcore to be found within miles of this record, unless of course you consider it in terms of the sheer physicality these two players exert. It’s Steve Baczkowski on sax and Ravi Padmanabha on drums, and they go full-tilt for the duration of these two pieces. Padmanabha cascades across his kit, executing his extravagant rolls in a manner befitting Chris Corsano or Milford Graves, while Baczkowski squeals like a fire alarm and gutturally bellows like an elephant in labor (with twins). I’ve seen Baczkowski perform live, playing a saxophone roughly the size of a canoe and blasting a seemingly infinite cache of air through various reeds and metallic equipment. There’s a rodent-like scuttering at the end of b-side “Trachea”, but this is mostly a pants-on-fire affair, a free-jazz assault that’ll scald you if handled without insulated gloves. Could this be Iron Lung (the band) testing the water for a free-jazz release of their own???

Beta Boys Late Nite Acts LP (Feel It)
Like a troubled teen bouncing from high school to high school, Beta Boys have put out singles on a variety of today’s busiest American punk purveyors: Digital Regress, Neck Chop and Total Punk, to be precise. The ‘Boys convinced Feel It to handle the full-length duties, and Late Nite Acts is a nice summation of Beta Boys’ talent (or lack thereof). Bolstered by a mid-fi recording, they deliver basic hardcore-punk with a guitar slathered in chorus or flange (or probably both) and a vocalist who is constantly volleying between accurate impersonations of Bobby Soxx and Darby Crash. If you’ve gotta pick two classic punk singers to ape, I can’t think of a better duo! The Bobby Soxx styling is particularly notable (just listen to the way he pronounces “urban decay” on “L’Appel Du Vide”), and I can’t tell if he’s naturally blessed or sought formal training to sound like Texas’s greatest punk frontman of all time, but I guess it doesn’t really matter either way. Pretty cool overall, and surprisingly with-it for a band that previously seemed content to release error-laden, “direct to laptop”-sounding nonsense – even their cartoon scribbling seems to have improved, if only by a little. They even end with a dirge, which is about as by-the-books as a hardcore-punk LP can get, and the song is about some sort of drug-ridden sex nightmare, which has quickly become one of modern punk’s favorite topics. The Beta Boys might want us to think they don’t really give a fuck, but I suspect that they do, at least by now.

Cement Shoes A Peace Product Of The USA 7″ (Feel It)
Feel It Records has quickly become a reliable dealer of modern hardcore-punk, and seeing as Richmond has a continual supply of new hardcore-punk bands, it’s no big surprise that newcomers Cement Shoes linked up with the label for their debut 7″ single. “Fruity Funhouse” is the a-side and it leans toward the Sorry State brand of hardcore, you know, one that involves songs with four parts or more, goes after a studio-grade recording and is generally played fast or slightly slower than fast. This track reminds me of a snottier, scragglier version of the Fetish 7″ that recently came out on Beach Impediment, but with the guy from Street Trash singing. Not bad! “I Saw The Devil Again (Last Night)” isn’t a song title off Danzig’s newest record, it’s the b-side here, and it rocks a little looser, with runs up the neck of the bass and some leathery guitar moves, certainly nodding toward Poison Idea (“you can feel the darkness” is a lyric) even as the vocalist sneers like he’s trying to do shots with Nashville Pussy after the gig (or maybe during the instrumental outro?). As a bonus, each cover is hand-painted over the printed design, ensuring you contributed to the main Feel It guy’s carpal tunnel syndrome with your purchase.

Charnel Ground Charnel Ground LP (12XU)
Can you get down with the concept of minor indie-rock legends wylin’ out on their respective instruments? If so, this debut Charnel Ground album might be up your alley. This group features Kid Millions (from Oneida, but also known for just being Kid Millions) on drums, Codeine’s Chris Brokaw on guitar and Yo La Tengo’s third wheel, James McNew, on bass. They tackle a variety of styles with aplomb, from the frantic Flying Luttenbachers-esque tune-up of “Jimmy” to the ten minutes of Psychic Paramount-y road-burner “The High Price” alongside a couple softer, indie-er grooves that seem to extrapolate Pavement riffs into oblivion. They really space out on the b-side encompassing title track, over seventeen minutes of McNew’s precise single-note delivery and Millions’ variations on motorik beats while Brokaw deeply contemplates the meaning of life through his guitar. It’s quite possible they just came up with the idea and let it rip, knowing that Millions and McNew had the endurance to maintain an airtight beat and that Brokaw has an infinite stream of color ready to pour from his guitar. They’re like three Dave Grohls that still have to work for a living… how long until Charnel Ground gets its own HBO limited series professing the life-altering power of rock n’ roll?

C. Memi & Neo Matisse No Chocolate / Dream’s Dream 7″ (Bitter Lake Recordings)
Following their reissue of C. Memi’s Heavenly Peace EP, Bitter Lake rounds it out with C. Memi’s only other recording, a collaborative 7″ single with Neo Matisse. These are some obscure-ass names I’m throwing around here, even to yours truly, but Bitter Lake are seemingly all about unearthing the most unknown Japanese rock/wave/electro music from the early ’80s, and I tip my hat to such an intent. This one is pretty cool, and dare I say preferable to Heavenly Peace on the whole. “No Chocolate” starts with a wild scream of the title (could there be a worse fate than no chocolate?), and alongside a stomping piano and full backing band, C. Memi summons the swagger of New York Dolls and Roxy Music for a proto-punk art-rock declaration. It even gets messy and threatens to fall apart, thanks in no small part to the blustery piano. “Dream’s Dream” goes a little deeper into the electronics – various 8-bit helicopters are circling above the polite melodic vocals and the sunglasses-on cool of the bass/drums. You can tell that this crew had no interest in obtaining a copy of rock’s rulebook – if they did, they probably would’ve just tossed it out the window. Bizarre and tantalizing sounds, lovingly recreated for modern consumption.

Cold Fish Cold Fish 7″ (Tropical Cancer)
I wonder if the gimp mask industry has seen an increase in sales due to underground hardcore-punk’s recent fascination? Are all these bands actually buying them, or just using pics of them to appear more subversively deranged and sexually unstable? I would ask Cold Fish directly, but there’s always the chance that they actually are psychotic dungeon-masters looking to toss me in a sex cage, so I don’t want to risk it. Their style isn’t necessarily generic, but it’s what one might expect: severe Darby Crash-style groaning over repetitive Brainbombs-esque guitar licks, often enhanced with punchy hardcore drumming and a drunken demeanor. Song titles include “Flickr” and “Arsehole Fetish”, to be sure you know where this Brisbane group is coming from. Do they actually love anuses and fill their personal Flickr accounts with images of them? Only Cold Fish’s internet service providers know for sure.

Cold Leather Smart Moves LP (Adagio830)
Cold Leather are a new punk group out of Berlin, and they quickly hop through nine songs on Smart Moves, their full-length debut. They play a very specific form of melodic punk, one that seems to nod toward classic ’77 punk, but in a decidedly 21st Century way. I’m thinking of bands like The Vicious, Murder City Devils, Pretty Girls Make Graves, No Hope For The Kids… punk rock for conventionally attractive people, maybe? It’s music that sounds like its wearing freshly-printed Nasty Facts and Guilty Razors t-shirts, if that makes any sense. As for Cold Leather’s take on it, they do quite fine, mixing tempos while maintaining a peppy energy (even a moody downer like “Stunned” packs a punch). I’d say it’s a little too clean-cut and harmless for my tastes, but a song like the title track is undeniable as far as cleaned-up DIY punk goes, with its cruising Tony Lombardo-style bass-line and spunky delivery. Give Cold Leather a chance and they might impress you!

Conduit Drowning World LP (Kitschy Spirit)
Kid you not, I’d been wondering what was up with the Twin Stumps fellas recently. I enjoyed their extra-brittle, hiss-filled form of noise-rock, and it turns out two of them got together with a guy from White Suns and another pal to form Conduit. I’d say Conduit picks up right where Twin Stumps left off, delivering a sticky grey blast in the form of Drowning World. Whereas Twin Stumps seemed particularly interested in pursuing some of the more avant-garde, musically-intolerable ends of the noise-rock spectrum, Conduit get more or less straight to the point, bashing through these sideways-swaying dirges of murky bass, deliberate drum patterns, snarled vocals and damaged guitar. Ben Greenberg’s recording is a perfect match, providing space for each instrument while still coming through as hot as the tailpipe of an idling Chevrolet – you can hear what’s happening, and it’s vicious. Kinda classic sounding too, as if the miserable art-pummel of Swans circa Filth was applied to the tuneful guitar strangulations of early Black Flag and delivered with the bleary-eyed grace of Landed. If you want a copy for yourself, look elsewhere – I’m holding onto this one!

The Cosmic Sand Dollars Let’s Go Nuclear Woody! LP (Old Comet)
The last thing I saw from the Cold Vomit posse was a Uranium Orchard LP that was actually just a piece of pegboard fashioned into the shape of an LP, so just when I thought there was nothing they could do to pleasantly surprise me, they offer up this LP by The Cosmic Sand Dollars (on sister label “Old Comet”, get it?). I’m assuming this group is some (if not all?) of Uranium Orchard, but they’ve really found something special here in a seemingly unintentional way, like someone accidentally tripping backward over a duffel bag full of cash. The general premise is “surf music”, but The Cosmic Sand Dollars enhance it, fudge it and drag it over various electronic sound effects and beats, content to casually flow with the tide instead of riding the ripcurl. It’s perfectly mellow surf guitar with a dirty twist, and Let’s Go Nuclear Woody! ends up in the sonic neighborhood of Young Marble Giants’ sleepiest instrumentals, a particularly cosmic Dan Melchior outing or Francisco Franco’s lazy-day library music, but ultimately exists solely within its own unique dimension. Very, very weird stuff, in the best way possible of course, and it even comes with a Risograph-printed zine of nuclear surf art that’s probably going to be worth thousands of dollars some day. In my mind, it already is.

Death Commando Pattern Nightmares LP (Going Home)
Whereas the first Death Commando album was attributed to an Alan Hurst, Jason Letkiewicz reveals himself as the Death Commando puppet-master for the sophomore album Pattern Nightmares. Letkiewicz has left a sprawling trail of releases under his belt (Innergaze, Two Dogs In A House and Mutant Beat Dance are a few of my personal faves), but he really seems to be having fun as Death Commando. This project is deeply indebted to sleazy VHS culture – gore, sex, car chases, aliens, terrorists, fantasy warlords, demonic possession, anything that involves lots of red-dyed carob syrup and rubber prosthetics and was only available in the back of your Shop Rite or Stop N’ Shop’s VHS rental counter circa 1987. A lot of people are chasing this vibe, but Death Commando seems to hit it right between the eyes – these tracks conjure Metal Gear‘s Snake trying to break a code while surrounded by sleeping guards, a child hiding in a dark closet while a werewolf ravages their parents, maybe even a possessed cheerleader bowling with her math teacher’s skull. All moods are explored within Pattern Nightmares, unified by a slightly unclean sensation, as though Death Commando has a stricter parental rating than you are permitted to enjoy (but the babysitter doesn’t know!). “Into The Ground” is particularly chilling, but you’re gonna want to hear the whole thing!

DJ Residue 211 Circles Of Rushing Water 12″ (The Trilogy Tapes)
DJ Residue is the result of techno iconoclast Gunnar Wendel (aka Kassem Mosse) spending five days cramped in a hot apartment in New York City. For most people of Wendel’s generation, that would involve lots of take-out, Netflix and weed, but he took the opportunity to record these nine tracks of dark, minimal electronics. He only had a Moog and a couple of cymbals, and 211 Circles Of Rushing Water is proof positive that severe limitations can often yield terrific results. These tracks bleep and churn with only the slightest sense of melody; they feel more like nagging internal processes that our brains have learned to tune out, like the rhythmic thud of laundry machines or idling diesel engines outside the window. At times I’m reminded of Actress in the way that Wendel amplifies his microscopic sounds, but DJ Residue is far more rudimentary and blunt – yes, that’s a Zildjian cymbal he’s rubbing and smacking on “Shallow Bowl”. It’s like a non-menacing, fragile take on dungeon synth – AirBNB synth, maybe?

DJ Richard Dies Iræ Xerox 2xLP (Dial)
As the second most seductively mysterious member of the White Material crew (the first is Galcher Lustwerk, of course), DJ Richard has delivered some knockout punches in his day (“Nailed To The Floor”) and some records that went in one ear and out the other (his debut album Grind). Still, I couldn’t resist peeping Dies Iræ Xerox – the scribbled, barely perceptible demon face on the cover was calling to me like Pennywise through a sewer grate. I’m glad I checked in again, because this record is DJ Richard at his most insidious, filling the room with a slightly poisonous mist as the tracks unfold. If I can point you in one specific direction, it’s the second track, “Pitfall”. It rolls in on a narcoleptic beat and is quickly joined by one of the most seductively serpentine synth-lines I’ve heard this year – it’s as evenly tailored to soundtrack some sort of horror movie sex scene as a Warren G freestyle. When I find myself able to take “Pitfall” off repeat, I’m enjoying the smoky, deliberate pacing of the rest of the album, buffering unfriendly mid-paced techno jams like “In Broad Daylight” with foreboding ambient cloud-patterns, such as the Huerco S.-ish “Old Winter’s Way”. It’s grueling in the best sense of the term, as if we are thrust into DJ Richard’s sexy nightmare and forced to confront it, lest he ensnare us forever. If he wants to ensnare me just a little bit longer, though, I’m cool with that.

Filthy Grin Saturn In The Mirror LP (Gilgongo)
Life is more hectic than ever, so why not give yourself a moment to queue up some Filthy Grin and focus on nothing but the sweet decomposing tones? This Vancouver-based artist (but apparently previously a one-time member of Phoenix noise-rockers Pigeon Religion) is all about the sustained crumbly drone, patiently hunched over his digital gear in what is surely a dilapidated industrial art-space of some sort, be it an old mattress factory, abandoned schoolhouse or, worst case scenario, parents’ basement. Saturn In The Mirror is comprised of two long tracks – the a-side kicks off with the sound of Filthy Grin walking through some detritus before launching into a sustained melodic melt, not unlike something William Basinski might offer. The b-side is a little more sparse, with tones reverberating into silence, a morose soliloquy of industrial decay with plenty of open air ripe for contemplation. This sorta thing rarely works for me live – at a show, I want to socialize and exchange energy with the artist in some way or another; I don’t want to have to worry I’m stepping on a squeaky floorboard during a quiet part or focus on staying supremely motionless. Thankfully, this Filthy Grin material comes as a publicly-available vinyl LP that I am free to enjoy privately.

Maxine Funke Eternity 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
New Zealander Maxine Funke came onto my radar care of a great interview in a recent Dynamite Hemorrhage issue (one of the finest DIY zines still on the market), and while I didn’t yet hear her music, tempting as it was to blow $250 on one of her coveted and elusive LPs, I knew that I wanted to. Thankfully I Dischi Del Barone made it possible with this new four-track 7″ EP, sure to delight her cult fanbase as well as newcomers. I’m not sure how I Dischi coaxed this material out of Funke, seeing as she seems to live life first and record songs second, but it’s quite charming music… I can clearly understand the hype and fascination. Three of these tracks are acoustic guitar with vocal accompaniment, calling to mind Nick Drake or Meg Baird, not so much as an imitator of either but one of their peers. Her songs effortlessly unfold, and her voice is as mysterious and knowing as one could hope from high-grade outsider folk. The odd-track-out is “Sandhopper”, a sort of rhythm-box noise interlude, which of course only makes the EP that much more appealing. I recommend you do what you can to find a copy of this single before it becomes another pricey gem!

Goat Girl Goat Girl LP (Rough Trade)
Without any radical new advances in musical technology since the turn of the century (we’re all just waiting on virtual reality-based music now, right?), a large number of guitar-based groups who desire to be more than a simple retro act end up combining influences in new and unexpected ways. London’s Goat Girl are a great example of this, as they mix the deviant rockabilly of Country Teasers with the subdued and distant warmth of Hope Sandoval. It’s not an equation I would’ve imagined, but Goat Girl render it as naturally congruous as crust and grind. With it comes the huge hit “The Man”, a rock gem that could’ve ransacked the pop charts in any decade but this one – it’s infectious and silly and sexy, with a rallying chorus that’ll even get the incels moshing. There are a number of other entertaining tunes here too, songs like “Cracker Drool” that really push the Country Teasers side of the equation (not to mention what appears to be a direct homage in the track “Country Sleaze”) and “Burn The Stake”. Perhaps the weirdest thing about Goat Girl’s self-titled debut is the fact that it’s a whopping nineteen songs, many of which appear to be tossed-off instrumental sketches rather than fully-formed tunes. I’m not sure why they did this, as attention spans are at an all-time low, and I find my mind wandering as well, waiting for another “real” song during some of the many interludes. A little editing would’ve cut Goat Girl down to a svelte fighting weight, but these cool women are clearly just doing whatever they want, so who am I to complain.

Helena Hauff Qualm 2xLP (Ninja Tune)
Helena Hauff entered my consciousness as a gnarly analog-techno DJ, the type of person who puts out ugly-looking 12″s packed with red-lining beats care of antique drum machines. While she is still very much that same person, she’s managed to raise her profile considerably over the past few years, bringing her aggressive and blown-out techno to large crowds and festivals, not to mention the highly credible Ninja Tune label. I consider her first album Discreet Desires to be a modern masterpiece, fusing in various industrial, cold-wave and acid influences, but Qualm is far more blunt and singularly-minded – this record is here to pummel and burn and leave it at that. She tours constantly now (what other London-based, German-raised DJ has played Philadelphia more than once in the past couple years?), so I’m not sure if she didn’t have the same amount of studio time to put Qualm together as her debut, but it certainly feels like a “first thought, best thought” record, as though she just plugged in, worked up a few rugged beats, pushed the levels until the speakers became audibly uncomfortable, and called it a wrap. It’s both positive and negative, in that regard: these aggressive tunes are fun and exactly what one might expect from Hauff, but they offer no surprises or even slight deviations from her signature style. I’d ponder things further, but my ears are starting to ring.

Petre Inspirescu Murgullll 12″ (Mule Musiq)
Petre Inspirescu’s recent full-lengths have drifted away from the dance-floor upon which he built his rep and beamed toward headier locales. Last year’s Vîntul Prin Salcii is a modern post-classical album filled with melancholic electronics and seamlessly interwoven field-recordings / instrumentation, and while it’s beautiful, I’m also glad to see him getting back to club basics on this two-track 12″. “Murgullll” is indebted to the Ricardo Villalobos school of early ’00s tech-house, no doubt. A slippery bassline swerves between lanes as light percussion and static pops sprinkle the tune like seeds on an everything bagel. The same is more or less true of “Cumva” on the flip, which solidifies things with a 4/4 thump and some interesting blips and bleeps – it sounds like some sort of biological process amplified through a stethoscope, like a packet of air-bubbles slowly rising from stomach to esophagus. A pensive little bass-line eventually appears, but “Cumva” is more for sneaking through darkened corridors than a warehouse packed with ravers. Cool, unassuming tracks that certainly aren’t kowtowing to modern trends… I get the feeling Inspirescu needs to get this sort of thing out of his system every few years, and for that I’m thankful.

IV IV 7″ (Total Punk)
While so many Total Punk groups seem to revel in childishly crude artwork and brash attitudes, they all pretty much have their own Bandcamp pages, or at least some sort of basic info on the insert. Not so for IV, a mysteriously unrepresented group within the world of Total Punk or the internet in general – I’m not even sure if I should be calling them “Four” like the Roman numeral or “eye-vee” like the drip. Gonna go with the drip, and hope that I eventually get to learn more about this group, as they’re particularly vicious and above-average compared against a label roster that’s already above-average. They’re delivering straightforward, hot-tempered punk rock across these four succinct tunes, with what’s either double-tracked vocals or multiple singers shouting through tuneful-yet-unrefined melodies – I’m reminded of The Love Triangle with less hardcore speed and more punk sneer, maybe Video without any kitschy camp, or perhaps the most blown-out Cheap Time single scrubbed clean of any garage-pop aspirations. It’s all within the standard punk playbook, but IV deliver their music with such gusto and attitude that I can’t help but sit up straight and take notice.

The Lopez Like A Prayer / Throwin’ Shade 7″ (no label)
So not only did The Lopez release this 7″ single on “cat puke”-colored vinyl, they shelled out the cash to print up cat-puke shaped stickers advertising such, proudly slapped on the cover. That’s dedication one has to admire, and the silly fun continues with “Like A Prayer”: a fuzzy bass-line grooves with electro-pop drums as the room turns into a swirling ’90s party, where The Go-Gos, Len, RuPaul, Deee-Lite and The Apples In Stereo catch Pee-wee Herman as he dives off the kitchen counter. Simple and fun, upbeat and carefree, it would do us all some good to pretend we’re this happy once in a while. “Throwin’ Shade” carries the same neon color scheme but in a more muted design, recalling an electronically-programmed version of The Courtneys (the vocals in particular are quite similar here). The Lopez aren’t re-writing the indie-pop handbook, but they’re having plenty of fun following its instructions, on what will surely be the friendliest barf-themed record you come across this fall.

Nathan Micay Whities 017 12″ (Whities)
I love me some Whities – it’s a modern techno label you can trust! This new one comes from Nathan Micay, who used to produce music under the name of Bwana, this being the first under his given name. He can call himself whatever he wants as far as I’m concerned (except maybe like, Speed Hitler 2000), because this new EP is a beautiful selection of delicate, futuristic techno. “First Casualty” thumps with the best of ’em, and it prominently features a careful little melody, as if Micay convinced the ARP synth from The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to hum a lullaby over cascading chords and a trusted, sturdy beat. A great mix of tender and tough, no doubt. I’m already satisfied, but “Beginning Ballads” carries a similarly uplifting feeling, as if propulsive techno can be used as a meteorological force to part the clouds. This one squeals into the highest corners of the room in tandem with its unflagging pulse, quite similar to Avalon Emerson’s Whities record and deserving of similar praise. The great cover art seals the deal, a colorful collage of overloaded information.

Preening Nice Dice 7″ (Fine Concepts)
In an effort to ensure that as few people hear them as possible, Preening continue to stick with 7″ EP releases. This new one comes on the Nice Concept label, another Oakland-based entity strictly in service to the underground, and it features four more songs of Preening’s mangled, sax-guided post-punk. I’m not sure which member of the group is singing on this one, but they’re going all in, red-veined hollering over the sparse drums and bass and room noise, calling to mind Tropical Trash or Landed even as the music is closer in wave-form to Mecca Normal or Delta 5. Zachary Watkins is credited as a guest guitarist, but I can’t tell if that’s a gag or not since I don’t hear any guitar – maybe he’s simply holding it, in some sort of sustained feat of minimalism? Regardless, these songs are quite cool, as spindly and irritating as anything else in Preening’s discography, with perhaps a bit more spittle on the edges of their lips and sweat upon their brows. It was a hot summer, after all.

Pumice Platelets 7″ (Soft Abuse)
An endearing figure in the realm of underground New Zealand noisy nonsense for decades now, it’s clear that Pumice’s Stefan Neville will need to be physically forced to cease all musical operations in order for him to do so. His discography dates back to the mid-’90s – he was releasing weirdo lathe-cuts back when I was excited for the first edition of the Hellcat Records Give ‘Em The Boot CD sampler. Hell, the last Pumice 7″ on Soft Abuse came out some nine years ago now! Anyway, let’s talk about this one: “Haemochromatosis Bring A Plate” is the a-side and it’s a curious organism of accordion, violin, keyboard and maybe something else? No vocals, just a rickety and mournful sway. “Real Blood Is Cheaper Than Fake Blood” picks up the mood with the hyper-crumbly guitar-work one might normally associate with Pumice, whereas “Its More Realistic Too” picks at its own melodic scab, both tracks finding the midpoint between a fractured Deerhoof melody and the Menstruation Sisters’ no-fidelity genius. What with the great state of New Zealand healthcare, we’re probably in for a few more decades of Pumice at least, so buckle up!

Puppy & The Hand Jobs I Eat Abortions 7″ (Black Gladiator / Slovenly)
It’s a little discomfiting to realize that childish shock-jock punk will outlive me, probably long after I’m gone in fact. Two hundred years from now, when any memory of my existence is lost, there will still be guys wearing panties and silly sunglasses singing about poop and pee. Take Phoenix’s Puppy & The Hand Jobs for example, a new group where guitarist/vocalist “Puppy” wears a diaper and the other two members dress as, wait for it… Ward and June Cleaver. Yup! They play crude and insulting punk in the classic style of The Child Molesters, Puke Spit And Guts and of course the patron saint of offensive punk schlock, Kevin Michael “GG” Allin. If that style appeals to you, along with song titles like “I Eat Abortions”, “Trash Rock-N-Roll” and “I Think I’m Gay” (which has its own video on Pornhub Gay – did you faint from disbelief yet???), you may be wondering where Puppy & The Hand Jobs rank, to which I tell you that these songs will not disappoint those looking to receive a hearty dose of yesteryear’s shock-punk. May God judge you kindly.

Ragtime Frank & The Drivers I Know Said The King 12″ (Ever/Never)
Sporting a black turtleneck, white Zorro-style mask, a flapless ushanka cap and a friendly pet cat, it’s clear that Ragtime Frank is the kind of self-assured guitar-playing non-conformist that Ever/Never is drawn toward. He was one of the main forces behind The Lost Domain, who shared an interest in crudely-deconstructed blues and rock n’ roll, one that is strongly demonstrated through these four songs. The Drivers that back him up are two apparently-simultaneous drummers, offering their mostly-aligned take on the Bo Diddley beat while Ragtime Frank rips distorted, bluesy chunks of sound from his guitar with the possessed hollerin’ to match. It strikes me as spiritually akin to Bill Orcutt, although Orcutt is clearly an innovative master of his own unique playing style and Ragtime Frank just kinda slams it around like anyone’s drunk uncle who used to play in garage bands might. They’re both grey-haired white guys who sit down while emitting a cacophonous frenzy of old-timey-induced mania, so there’s that, right? Ragtime Frank takes joy in pushing the limits of rhythm n’ blues, knowing full well that they’ll never break, no matter how spastic and tunelessly he insists on playing.

Sissy Spacek Blear LP (Gilgongo)
Whereas so many of his No Fun Fest peers have moved on from harsh noise, John Wiese continues to embrace it, both under his own name and with his long-running Sissy Spacek project. I’ve always known Sissy Spacek to provide a form of cut-up grindcore that somehow exists outside of the grind scene – maybe he’s just too arty, or his band logos are far too legible. Apparently there’s a new Sissy Spacek album out now on Nuclear War Now!, which should certainly open him up to more traditional audiences, but the rapid-fire splicing and editing that goes into Sissy Spacek always struck me as in step with outsiders like Aunt Mary or Fear Of God’s Dave Phillips. I need to hear that other new Sissy Spacek album, but Blear is cool, if an entirely different beast. The grindcore is fully absent here, replaced by long-form demolition work, be it digitized, live or a synthesis of the two. I’m strongly reminded of The Haters (not to mention Hanatarash) in the way that the rumbling harsh noise blends into live-action destruction, the sound of metal beams tossed errantly among broken bottles and decayed furniture inside some abandoned and cavernous warehouse. There are five “tracks” here, but the destruction is somewhat uniform; tracks are delineated by brief breaks in the mayhem, although there was clearly some production added after the initial recording (I’m particularly partial to the sloshing swipes that close “Garbage Matte”). He’s still got it!

The Unholy Two The Pleasure To End All Pleasures LP (12XU)
One might hope that The Unholy Two would be kind enough to explain specifically what the titular pleasure is, but they’re keeping it private for now. Drinking a milkshake while going down a waterslide, maybe? It’s an odd choice of title for this, their third vinyl full-length, as it’s an album that pushes even further from their previous endeavors in noise-rock toward pure noise, far from what any respectable citizen might consider enjoyable. I’m kind of impressed by how little this album rocks – whatever sense of garage-rock aesthetics The Unholy Two might’ve mildly displayed in the past are fully eradicated now, with at least half a dozen forms of incessant guitar noise and feedback slathering every tune on here. Some of them don’t even really seem to have any rhythm, more like Skullflower-style endurance tests, but a couple of them do reveal some semblance of percussion, usually dirge-like and miserable. It’s practically a harsh noise record at times, similar to guitar-wielding assailants like Hijokaidan or Ramleh, but it’s probably a friendly coincidence, not a direct inspiration. I always assumed this ugly form of music couldn’t get any more despondent and misanthropic than Rusted Shut, but some of these cuts make Rusted Shut look like a Rush cover band by comparison.

Violence Creeps Nephew Melting 7″ (Total Punk)
Allow me to take us back to 2015, when Violence Creeps’ debut 45 On My Turf arrived and scuffed up everything in its path. It was a brash, fun, volatile statement of amateur-style hardcore-punk that seemed built to burn out quickly, and yet here we are, three years later, and they’ve amassed a formal LP, a 12″ EP and three other 7″s, not to mention a small Target bag’s worth of cassettes. It would be practically impossible to do all that without shifting stylistically at least a little bit, which they do here on “Nephew Melting”, a dare-I-say angular-sounding tune, driven by boppy drums and a tipsy little bass-line. Vocalist Amber Feigel insults mustaches in two separate lines of lyrics on this one, pissed-off even by her standard of always being pissed-off. “Ford Go Bikes” is a punk dirge brain-drain in the style of Flipper, or perhaps more accurately Total Punk label-mates Gary Wrong Group, shifting between two unfriendly notes as Feigel’s vocal paranoia is enhanced with echo. Violence Creeps aren’t rookies anymore!