Barn Sour Horses Fucked Over The Head With Bricks 7″ (Careful Catalog)
Careful Catalog is really asserting itself as one of the top American purveyors of experimental WTF nonsense. If you like sound art with infinitely more questions than answers, Careful Catalog’s got what you need, like this 7″ single from Barn Sour, whoever they might be. What do you file this under, agricultural comedic noir? I’d like to see what other records are in that bin. The a-side is about four minutes of forced laughter over a pulsing drone that slowly increases in volume and some ambiguous, distressed physical sounds, as if a magician were attempting to free themselves from a straightjacket made of plastic Target shopping bags. Does anyone know why she’s laughing, or if any horses were actually harmed in the making of this audio recording? It ends abruptly, and the b-side offers no clues – rather, multiple frothy voices argue in gibberish over some resonant piano, like Michael Pisaro walking into a wordless argument between Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil. Kind of reminds me of Menstruation Sisters through the use of absolutely intolerable human voice, but the moody piano and fluttering drones add a mournfulness that sets Barn Sour apart from most other experimental noise acts. What scares me most isn’t that these completely bizarre and confounding recordings exist, but that somewhere out there, there might actually be someone who can make sense of it all.

Beauty Hunters Muscle Memory LP (Dirty Knobby)
Everybody loves Mudhoney, but it’s worth pointing out how cool their modern-age bassist Guy Maddison is. The guy can recite DRI lyrics at the drop of a hat, save a life using his EMT skills, and probably just as easily end a life using his rippling Aussie physique. Turns out he’s keeping busy during Mudhoney downtime with some synths and friends, operating under the name of Beauty Hunters, now with a debut album of three long-form cosmic synth excursions to their name. Alongside Sean Hollowell and “video editor” Curt Buchberger, these men drift deep into the outer reaches with murmuring arpeggios, galactic rumbling and a meditative patience suited for this musical practice. The a-side is the longest, reminiscent of Klaus Schulze under a cloud of black smog, and the b-side’s two cuts follow similar compositional patterns, with the final track (the appealingly titled “Fried Eggs For Everyone”) appropriating some cinematic dialogue deep in its murk. I’d place it somewhere between Tangerine Dream and Black Mayonnaise, or a Death Waltz soundtrack for a movie based on a killer oil spill that murders its victims very, very slowly. I didn’t know Maddison had this in him, but I’m delighted to know that he does!

El Conjunto De Su Tio El Conjunto De Su Tio 7″ (Musica Desechable)
Not interested in instrumental rocksteady ska? How about some Venezuelan instrumental rocksteady ska on a Mexican lathe cut 7″? I for one love that the Musica Desechable label exists to help promote underground South American music on their own modest scale (I can only find a scant Soundcloud page online), and that they’re doing so in their own weird way. On this presumably-quite-limited lathe-cut single, El Conjunto De Su Tio plays two songs of easygoing first-wave ska, lead by a meandering organ that might appeal to fans of Quintron’s exotica. Certainly fans of scratchy 2 Tone 45s in their company sleeves will find it to be a pleasant outing. Far, far from the chain-walleted reaches of ska’s third wave, these songs hearken to an earlier era, of suits and ties and skanking as a form of courtship. Nice to know that it’s currently happening in Caracas, that’s for sure.

Eroders Eroders LP (Outer Limits Lounge)
Trusty Detroit rockers Eroders follow up their smattering of singles and EPs with their debut self-titled full-length on Outer Limits Lounge. Rather than expand on their basic garage-rock / American post-punk template, they deliver more of the same, satisfying comfort food for fans of the genre and probably confoundingly boring to YouTube vlogging teens. I’m hearing echoes of the usual suspects in these tunes – Wipers, Los Angeles’s X and Gun Club – with an energy and occasional vocal delivery that calls to mind the earliest At The Drive-In 7″s, back when garage-rock was one of their main stylistic points of reference. Pretty basic stuff, but they jazz it up with tasteful Farfisa, riled-up backing vocals and the strange decision to cut the Violent Femmes-y “16” in half, ending the a-side and starting the b-side with it. Why not, I guess? Doesn’t seem likely that Eroders will change anyone’s mind about anything, but as for a fresh slice of dependable and tuneful garage-punk, it’s available for anyone to dig right in.

Eyes And Flys Eyes And Flys / Fall Asleep With The TV On 7″ (no label)
New solo thing here from Buffalo’s Eyes And Flys, a solo project from a guy named Pat Shanahan who may or may not have been a member of Facility Men (and surely some other Buffalo punk and hardcore groups over the past decade). He’s trying his hands at one of these “one person plays all the instruments so it sounds like a regular band” deals, which results in some pretty pleasant-if-unremarkable garage-y post-punk. The title track repeats the group’s name four times in a row for the chorus over a floor-tom-led groove and down-picked guitars, like an early, bluesy Hot Snakes practice tape, were such a thing to exist. The cool thing about this song is that Shanahan could easily license it to artisanal Brooklyn comfort-food specialists Pies ‘n’ Thighs with a quick change of lyrics. Why don’t more non-corporate restaurants have their own theme songs, anyway? “Fall Asleep With The TV On” is slower and trippier, utilizing tambourine for percussive time-keeping and delivered in a bleary monotone, presumably aware of the existence of Brooklyn’s Kaleidoscope. These two songs together have me thinking that Eyes And Flys might appeal to fans of Ty Segall and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, but the vinyl for this self-released 7″ single is black, not neon lava-lamp colored. I’m still hung up on that Pies ‘n’ Thighs idea, honestly.

Yan Hart-Lemonnier Le Partages Des Griefs LP (AD AAD AT)
If my name was Yan Hart-Lemonnier, you better believe that I’d be picking up a sweet pile of synths with which to compose some lush and peculiar electronic music! This French producer has put out numerous albums over the past few years, and Le Partages Des Griefs is his second for London’s AD AAD AT. Much is explored over the album’s eight tracks, from blissful power-ambient surges to wistful IDM, all with a consistent mix of synthetic versions of natural sounds and synthetic versions of synthetic sounds. I’m imagining the electrical cords of Kid 606, DJ Scotch Egg, Arca and Eats Tapes all tangled together while listening to Hart-Lemonnier’s music, although any particular sonic similarity proves to be quickly fleeting, as his creative spirit seems restless indeed. I like it best when it veers to the cinematic – much of the first side puts together sonic characters with such depth and distinction that they easily come to life in the mind’s eye of a focused listener. If our future robot overlords sound like this, maybe it won’t be so bad?

Huevos II III 12″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Huevos II is a new laid-back, no-pressure rock group featuring Ma Turner (whose Warmer Milks project I’ve always enjoyed) and two other friends with less peculiar names, John McGuigan and Patrick Borezo. Noting Turner’s involvement, I kept waiting for some subversive secret to reveal itself as I listened to these five simplistically sweet indie-rock tunes. Were they actually playing all the instruments upside down? Did they play these songs backwards, and then flip the tape forward? It appears the answer is “nope”… Huevos II are just a regular indie-rock band like countless others before, although the pencil drawing of a phallus-nosed Mickey Mouse on the b-side label is a little unnerving, thankfully. III falls into that sort of collegiate ’90s Matador vein, perfectly poised to open for Calexico, Chavez and Pavement whenever they roll through town. The song “Memories” actually reminds me of Purling Hiss in their prettiest pop mode (sans any scorching solos), and the rest of it has me thinking of Pavement circa Shady Lane or Spit On A Stranger (which is my favorite Pavement, and at odds with the popular opinion, for whatever either of those things are worth). A friendly and familiar sound, but not one that offers much in the way of its own sonic distinction or character. Maybe that’s the point?

Jivestreet Revival Jivestreet Revival LP (Slackersound)
Oof… that name. It should be your goofy uncle’s blues band, or some boring street fair with overpriced fried cheese curds, or anything besides the belligerent German scum-rock band that it actually is. I’ll chalk it up to cultural miscommunication, so if you’ve actually taken the plunge to read this review about a group called “Jivestreet Revival”, you’ll be one of the lucky ones to know that they’ve got a decent handle on seedy punk that calls to mind Fang and Kilslug. The songs are on the verge of becoming metallic but never quite reach that, instead pulling punk in its sleaziest sonic direction, all with a vocalist who sounds recently disturbed from his uneasy sleep before stepping to the mic. The tunes move quick, and the more I sit and soak up their Lubricated Goat-ish riffing and damaged demeanor, the more I think I might really get behind this group if they were named something, anything else (even “The Cheese Nerdz” or “Flapjacks Unlimited” would be steps up). I suppose true low-level druggie-rock such as this doesn’t really concern itself with aesthetic perfection, though.

Kopy / Tentenko Super Mild LP (TAL)
I read that Lena Willikens is a big fan of Osaka’s Kopy and Tokyo’s Tentenko, often including their tracks in her live sets, and when Lena Willikens talks, I listen! I’m glad to have discovered the work of these two Japanese producers, and while I am unsure if they are friends or collaborators or more than just two separate artists brought together on a split LP, their styles are quite complimentary and similar. Kopy’s sound is loose and exploratory, somewhere between the earliest raw house experiments of Kyle Hall and the industrial boogie of Jasss. Rhythmic patterns are given a light kick in the pants, and the tempo drops to a crawl on “Carl”, which is certainly in Williken’s wheelhouse. Tetenko’s sounds are similarly rough around the edges, invoking tribal drums and aggressive pads as well as sampled voices on nearly every track. The brittle pulse of “Super Soggy” is probably my favorite, a claustrophobic throb suitable for any disagreeable Downwards mix. Of the two, I’m not sure I can easily pick a winner, as both Kopy and Tentenko are making some cool n’ rugged techno-industrial, and not everything has to be a competition, right? Sometimes I catch myself simply enjoying music without rating it, like right now.

Lithics Wendy Kraemer EP 12″ (Moone)
Without any good reason, I’ve been sleeping on Lithics… I know, what am I doing not checking out this cool post-punk band released by labels like Thrilling Living and Kill Rock Stars, but there are only so many hours in the day, alright? In the immortal words of Ray Of Today: “get – off – my – back!” Anyway, here I am finally checking them out in the form of this vinyl-reissued cassette of practice demos and improvisations that eventually morphed into their album Mating Surfaces. I’m afraid that if I am to eventually hear that album, I won’t like it as much as this 12″ EP, because this rough (but not too rough) collection of tunes is right up my alley! These songs are all elbows and knees, poking out and knocking into each other in a crammed backseat. I’m reminded of my favorite parts of Erase Errata (the weirdest parts), the unfeasibly-workable guitar interplay of Arab On Radar (just without any fuzz), and the enchantingly hushed mathematics of Et At It, all with a strong spiritual connection to Suburban Lawns (there’s no track listing anywhere, but the second side opening tune is exemplary). I love that they’re able to eschew the drums entirely for one song, and have them lead the next – for a tossed-off tour tape, Wendy Kraemer has a marvelous flow, right down to the random found-sound snippets and no-wavey gems. Recommended!

Galcher Lustwerk Information LP (Ghostly International)
Seems like a pretty solid deal for both respective parties here: Galcher Lustwerk gets the boost of a larger label and its inherent seal of approval, and Ghostly gains the cache of a staggeringly cool producer like Galcher Lustwerk into their fold. This is an artist who found his lane early on and has stuck with it, and it’s been a pleasure following along. Unlike previous records, Information mixes up the percussive sound a bit – for the first time, Lustwerk samples a live drum kit instead of purely electronic hits and kicks. It’s not a drastic left-turn for low-key deep house such as this, but it lends a different feeling to these songs; it still sounds like nighttime, just a different form of nighttime. In addition, he slows the pace frequently throughout – I’m not sure “Cig Angel” counts as a slow jam so much as weightless house music geared for La-Z-Boy recliners and sleepy head-bobbing. As always, Lustwerk’s distinct, hushed vocals emboss these tracks with his signature sound, and the synths mostly remain the same: lush tones that slowly swirl outside your luxury SUV as it cruises down a coastal highway at 3 AM. Information is more of a mood-setter than a collection of party anthems (such as previous cuts “I Neva Seen” and “Parlay”), and while it’s fun to move one’s body to the music of Galcher Lustwerk, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather set my mood.

Sam Mallet Wetlands LP (Recurring Dream / Musique Plastique)
This posthumous collection of cassette-only and previously-unreleased material from Australian artist Sam Mallet is so on-trend for today’s electronic music underground that I’m checking my watch for the backlash, but you won’t be getting any of that from me – I really love this kinda stuff. The jury’s out on whether or not I’m simply another trendy robot, but these tunes, full of semi-ambient beauty and vaguely non-spiritual new-age soundscapes, do the trick. Crazy to think that there were so many unheralded artists such as Mallet doing this stuff in the mid ’80s, surely inspired by My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, personal synthesizer ownership, ECM jazz and the advent of computers as musical tools. Wetlands collects some nice moments from his tape releases as well as some unreleased gems, to include lounge-jazz trumpet and standup bass alongside the sound of cars driving past (“Amber”) and circuit-bent Cabaret Voltaire-inspired exotica (the lovely titled “Skateboard Terrains”). Beautiful sonic artistry on a DIY level… it’s truly a shame that Mallet isn’t here to appreciate that the world has finally caught up to what he was doing.

Messrs Messrs LP (Heel Turn)
I always found the genre title “pigfuck” to be unappealing… it’s distasteful, for starters, and not a reasonable description of the music to which it applies. I think it’d work for Messrs, though, not simply because they play a snarling and loose form of ’90s-inspired noise-rock, but because the cover art features the remnants of some unfortunate swine, blood and goop and intestinal bits splattered about. Not sure what their relation with that particular pig is (I hope it came from an ethically-sourced butcher and not one of the band members’ extracurricular hobbies or something), but their music here is thicker and gooier than their Savage Quality 7″ EP that rolled through these pages back in 2016. The singer certainly sounds as though he is wearing a soaking-wet button-up shirt, either from perspiration, spilled cocktails or some mixture of the two, slurring and swinging wildly at the cops who are tossing him in the back of the patrol car. The songs are mostly chaotic mid-tempo noise-rock slams, akin to a de-tightened Jesus Lizard or a punker Tar, with very little of the garage-punk scuzz that I heard from Messrs before. They speed it up on occasion as well, recalling the fury of Condominium without the manic stamina. If this description sounds appealing, I’m going to assume you’ve already heard plenty of other groups who sound similar to Messrs, but if you insist on seeking out more ugly and inebriated noise-rock, rest assured that Messrs are not even remotely plant-based.

Midnite Snaxxx Music Inside LP (Slovenly)
Kind of a rare offering here from Slovenly: a group that I’ve actually heard mentioned by friends and acquaintances! That might sound like a diss, but well-praised (or even vaguely acknowledged) bands are often overrated, you know? Midnite Snaxxx is a group who seem to have developed a following among various crowds, from the MRR posse to Total Punk to the internet and beyond. You might as well lump me in there too, because they’ve got a good thing going! Music Inside displays the group’s comfort with numerous punk styles, from spindly post-punk ala The Raincoats to primitive proto-punk reminiscent of Glass Candy’s first album, numbskull pop-punk akin to Clorox Girls and an unrefined take on Exploding Hearts’ ’77-inspired power-pop. No matter if they’re pogoing out a drunken anthem or hip-shaking to some taut post-punk rhythms, it all sounds like Midnite Snaxxx, thanks to an enthusiastic vocal delivery and consistent energy, as if playing these punk songs is first and foremost a matter of fun, not business or social status or any other nefarious reasons. A song like “Gold Chains” sounds like it should be a cover, as though it’s some catchy Vibrators song I forgot about, but nope, Midnite Snaxxx have the knack for making the new sound old in a new way.

Mooey Moobau Powder, And All That Store-Bought Hair 12″ (Related)
Mooey Moobau is the tender child of a guy named Joseph Tepperman, one of the many unsigned, unrepresented artists who make life slightly more interesting for those who encounter them. He’s certainly got his own style down, one of Dada-inspired verbal gymnastics, quiet freakiness and loosely structured live-band instrumentation. Reminds me a bit of Xiu Xiu without the electronics, sexual hysteria or emo tantrums, or maybe Bryan Lewis Saunders on a proper schedule of anti-depressants and a newfound love of The Decemberists. This one-sided 12″ veers into solo musical theater at times, which is sure to test most listeners’ patience, although his use of his live vocals alongside his own pre-taped vocals is fairly novel and entertaining for at least a few go-arounds. Not much technical talent to be found here, but who needs that when you’ve got the overwhelming confidence and chutzpah that pours out of Mooey Moobau’s music. Related Records is from Phoenix, so I have to wonder if they haven’t crossed paths with the Gilgongo crew throughout the years, as Powder shares a similar feeling of unschooled and under-financed high-art by folks who more closely identify with punks than gallerists. In a different time and place, this would be one of those classic love-it-or-hate-it K Records releases from the late ’90s, but it’s 2020 now and the world is somehow significantly bigger and lonelier.

Mosquitoes Emergences / Resurgences 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
While certainly their own thing, I can’t help but see Mosquitoes as carrying the torch left by the dissolution of Sightings. Both groups gleefully deconstruct rock music through methods of noise, no-wave and experimentation, and both do a fine job of making it interesting, weird and worth replaying. Mosquitoes differ in that they seem to have more of an avant-garde jazz influence than the primordial garage-rock that initially fueled Sightings, and they make keen use of that sense of timing and engagement on these two cuts. “Emergences” fumbles fat fingers across a bass, mumbles and flutters percussion and voice, and stirs up some guitar that sounds like curdled milk. The bass-line (or relative resemblance of a bass-line) almost feels like a distant relative to pop music, albeit severely disfigured. “Resurgences” is notably heavier, with the guitar droning like a factory out across a decrepit parking lot, a more resonant bass sound and the drummer putting a little muscle into his trap kit. It ends up sounding like the last jazz bassist and jazz drummer in the world, improvising until an incoming tsunami obliterates them. Excellent stuff, and an urgent reminder to pull out Mosquitoes’ great 12″ from 2018 as I’m left wanting more.

NightFreak Blade Of The Knife 7″ (What’s For Breakfast?)
New Chicago power-trio here, sporting a flying-V guitar, a spray-painted bed-sheet banner and a song called “Blade Of The Knife”, which to be fair is one of the more obvious blades out there. They make use of that title for a hard-edged riff out of Judas Priest’s playbook and perform it with the gusto of traditional Chicagoan punk rock. “The Holler” stays the course, perhaps splitting the difference between Thin Lizzy and Nashville Pussy, with vocalist/guitarist Steve Henderson screaming out of a throat that’s clearly experienced its share of unfiltered cigarettes. The energy increases on “Shitting Bricks”, as does the level of sloppiness, but what can be expected of punks playing NWOBHM licks and having some messy, beer-soaked fun whilst doing so? They’re not called NightNormalPerson, for chrissakes.

Parashi Tape From Oort Cloud LP (Sedimental / Skell)
One of the cool things about writing these reviews is the random connections that sometimes occur. I recently wrote about the collaborative Spykes / Parashi 7″ single, and Mike Griffin (that’s Parashi) noticed and decided to send me this new LP! Not bad at all. Free from the infernal squawking of Spykes, and given twelve inches instead of seven to spread out upon, Parashi’s deep electronic murmuring conjures some sort of rocketship-as-dungeon imagery (engines off, drifting further and further away from humanity). Fitting title then, invoking the Oort Cloud through these four deep and hopeless electronic excursions. I’m actually kind of reminded of those late-period Hair Police albums that sounded like a dead body in the basement of a castle slowly rotting away, but instead of a harsh, lo-fi recording suitable for ’00s noise, Parashi locates these same feelings of avant-garde despair through what must be one or two fancy vintage keyboards. Very supple, rich bass tones, giving my modest speakers a healthy workout in a way that many other “solo synth project” records do not. It ends with some warmly resonant tones, almost enough to make me think Parashi’s glass is half full, at least once in a while.

Luiso Ponce Nuevas Emociones 7″ (Musica Desechable)
The other Musica Desechable lathe-cut single is about as far as one can get from traditional ska while remaining on the dancefloor – acid techno! Luiso Ponce is a Guatemalan artist whom the label states “comes from the hardcore scene”, and it’s kind of reassuring to know that hardcore kids turning to electronic dance music is a worldwide phenomenon at this point. He’s got two tracks of rigorous and bleak techno here, both of which are fairly rudimentary in design and execution. Certainly feels like a “first attempt” sorta thing, or something close to it, and while I generally enjoy first-attempts when it comes to punk and hardcore more than that of electronic music, how can I possibly hate on this, seriously. The lathe-cut properties also add a gritty layer of distance between my ears and the music, and its interesting in an accidental Christian Marclay way, not a carefully conscripted Burial sorta thing. I prefer the fluttering tones of one of the two tracks (I can’t tell you which because neither side is labeled and the matrix is blank) – it probably sounds transcendent played live at a Guatemalan post-hardcore rave, but for now I’ll just have to lean in close to my speakers and try to imagine such a scene while it spins.

Donovan Quinn Absalom LP (Soft Abuse)
Donovan Quinn is a pretty great name, if you ask me – it’s equally suited for NFL quarterbacks as bookish indie troubadours. Let me make it clear, then, that this particular Donovan Quinn isn’t the type to throw any game-winning touchdowns, but rather one who’ll craft humbly thoughtful indie-folk. His voice is like 60% Bob Dylan and 40% Home Blitz’s Daniel DiMaggio when he whisper-sings, and it sits comfortably upon the orchestral backdrop of his songs, arranged around acoustic guitars, strings, pianos, keyboards, bells, and so on. There’s a seeming abundance of precocious and charming instrumentation, as if Quinn raided Belle & Sebastian’s storage closet, but it all feels integral to these songs, never overstuffed or cluttered. A Dylan-esque wordsmith over baroque indie-pop is surely a polarizing sound for the readers of this webpage, and Quinn won’t be changing any minds on that (even if he charmingly drops f-bombs into his melodic choruses like on “Satanic Summer Nights”), but if a world-weary member of The Skygreen Leopards in a J Crew button-up singing smart and soft songs sounds palatable, Absalom is just what the doctor ordered.

Reek Minds Reek Minds 7″ (Edger)
Here’s some hardcore-punk that’ll fix your posture! Portland, OR’s Reek Minds follow last year’s demo with this fantastic eight-song EP on Edger. It’s a vibrant mixture of violent early hardcore (Mecht Mensch, United Mutation) and the speedy blasts perfected by No Comment and Lack Of Interest. Certainly feels like something that 625 Productions would’ve released around the turn of the century (and would’ve been their finest release of the year), but nasty and unhinged enough to appeal to today’s Void-repping hardcore kids who were born after Saves The Day released their first album. Pretty sure the No Comment similarities here aren’t a coincidence, seeing as there’s a song called “Dead Stare”, perhaps a nod to No Comment’s untouchable “Dead Stare For Life”. Their Portland residence had me noting Reek Minds’ sonic similarities to Suck Lords as well, and what do you know, they apparently share some members. When the power of hardcore-punk compels you, truly compels you as it does these fine gentlemen, there’s no reason to stop at just one band! How long until Iron Lung comes sniffing around these Reek Minds?

Soft Shoulder Aerosol Can Stand 7″ (Gilgongo)
James Fella’s Gilgongo continues to release James Fella’s Soft Shoulder, and why not? Ever heard of D.I.Y.?? Unlike all the other Soft Shoulder records I’ve heard, which take classic no-wave ideas as a jumping off point for modern noise-rock / improv freakery, Aerosol Can Stand features two pretty normal indie post-punk tunes. Again I say: sure, why not? “Thin Red Straw (High Tension)” rides on its purposeful bass-line as Fella does his best Mark E. Smith impression on the mic, which is surely a fun thing to do. “Wellness Line (Move A New Way)” follows the same template but injects a little shoe-moving energy, answering the question of “what would Moss Icon sound like re-imagined as one of the lesser Y2K dance-punk groups?”. Is there an audience out there beyond friends and neighbors of the group, willingly purchasing these records and paying attention to the stylistic shifts of Soft Shoulder? I do not know. If there is, one thing’s for sure: Gilgongo never leaves ’em hanging for too long.

Sore Points Not Alright EP 7″ (Slovenly)
The Sore Points! You know, like what you get after running a half-marathon without a soft protective undershirt. My hilariously irreverent humor aside, this trio comes from Vancouver and they’ve certainly earned the pins on their denim and leather jackets, as they play their traditionally-classic punk rock with gusto and confidence. The recording is thick and fuzzed-out, clearly recorded at a studio that knows what to do for punk bands who use random grid patterns on their artwork. When playing music as stylistically outlined as Sore Points’ is, it sure helps to get a powerful-yet-dirty recording such as this! Fans of Night Birds, Radioactivity and even The Viletones will surely summon the strength to slam n’ worm to these four tunes, as they strike out in a similar sonic direction. You’ve heard it countless times before, but if you like punk rock at its most atomic level, what fault could you find with Not Alright?

Thigh Master Now For Example LP (Goner)
My excitement for mild-manned Australian indie-punk has waned over the past year or two, as documented in these very pages, but that doesn’t mean I’m in full-on hate mode, just getting a little restless with the large quantity of same-old same-old. Thigh Master certainly fit the basic description, but there’s no listener-fatigue to be had with Now For Example, the Brisbane-based group’s sophomore album. I’ve been trying to figure out why, exactly, but my enjoyment of Thigh Master comes down to some of the hard-to-describe intangibles, the little sparks that make me want to listen to a band over and over instead of politely filing away. The main vocalist has a great voice for the job (although I’m not sure who it is, as all four members are credited with vocals), on-key while also being aloof with a slight touch of nasal sourness; that’s certainly part of their appeal. The band also plays these songs with a zesty energy that I don’t find in most similar-sounding acts; it’s as if Thigh Master are truly overjoyed to be playing music together, rather than doing it mostly as a means of social activity. “Entity” is a pretty good example of that, with punchy drums played slightly faster than other bands would and an upbeat groove that could light up any modern indie-rock playlist, or even better, my turntable!

Steven Warwick Moi LP (Pan)
Steven Warwick used to record under the name Heatsick, releasing one of my favorite left-of-center electro-pop albums of the past decade (2013’s Re-Engineering), and as of the past year or so he’s moved toward recording under his own name. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to signify a “more personal” shift or whatever, but it sounds a heck of a lot like Heatsick, and this new one, Moi, totally rules. Perhaps he’s going under his own name now that his lyrics are more prominent than ever, singing (or rather, speaking) over the whole album and rarely repeating his words in traditional pop music fashion. His personality is incredibly vivid and hilarious and disarming throughout Moi, his voice resembling that of a droll custodian of records in a cardigan and glasses, even though he looks ready to walk the runway for Walter Van Beirendonck on the cover. It’s a great voice, instantly recognizable and surprisingly flexible, and he lends it to these colorful little electro grooves that reside somewhere in the middle of the miles-wide chasm between The Normal and PC Music. If you’re curious, check out “Kaleidoscope”, a busy lightweight groove that swerves and twists like a pinball machine, or “Open Fire Hydrant”, which pairs witty spoken-word over what sounds like a loop of Super Mario powering up. They’re my two favorite cuts here, but the whole thing delivers the unique form of calm-but-crazy, funny-but-serious electro-eleganza that Warwick has perfected.

Richard Youngs & Raül Refree All Hands Around The Moment LP (Soft Abuse)
There is nary a wilder wild-card persistently operating in the musical underground today than Richard Youngs. I’m not really a fan of when most artists try on different aesthetic suits, but Youngs never seems to fail, be it “Richard Youngs makes techno” or “Richard Youngs makes d-beat crust” or “Richard Youngs makes mutant disco”. I came into All Hands Around The Moment not knowing what kind of art Raül Refree likes to make, so I was prepared for anything. Lo and behold, it’s a tasteful suite of haunting, cyclical folk. I’ll take it! The specific instruments aren’t credited, but these four lengthy songs utilize intricate and repetitive acoustic guitar lines, deep resonant cello(?) and Youngs’ own vocals, sung in a disarmingly traditional manner. I’m thinking of Pentangle or Fairport Convention, although Youngs and Refree update things ever so slightly, pushing the dial away from bell-bottoms and flowers and closer toward some form of quiet introspection. Lots of lyrics too, filled with indirect queries and oblique ruminations, which gives these sprawling songs the grandeur of some old epic poem. It’s so pretty and delicate, I may need “Richard Youngs plays Vomir” next, just to clear my system.

Nobody Knows This Is Somewhere compilation 12″ (C/Site)
Clever title here for the latest transmission from Connecticut’s psychedelic hub, New Haven. Must be something in the pizza that has this crew so attuned to each other’s varied-but-complimentary vibes, and while it seems like all these folks already play in each other’s bands, there’s something about regional comps that I will always love and admire. With only Headroom, Stefan Christensen, Alexander and Mountain Movers featured here, each artist gets plenty of room to stretch out, and seeing as part of the New Haven psych-rock vibe is a commitment to unhurried stretching, it’s an excellent glimpse into the C/Site scene. Headroom opens with a posi two-chord progression and three wild guitars sparring in an act of friendship, not combat. Headroom member (and by my determination, the scene’s shining beacon) Stefan Christensen follows with a solo construction that drips some plinky piano over a hypnotic guitar drone and distorted spoken-word detritus before rumbling out into some Dead C-style ring outs. Certainly the most Shadow Ring-y thing I’ve heard from Christensen thus far and a nice contrast to the soothing sprawl of Headroom. Alexander is the gang’s premier fingerpicker, so I was surprised that his piece here involves few fingers and even fewer pickings – it’s a two-level drone excursion from electric guitar feedback and organ. I suppose it’s fine for what it is, but it isn’t really much, particularly in the context of the other offerings here, and his talents as an acoustic assassin are surprisingly undisclosed. The Mountain Movers (whose members Kryssi Battalene and Ross Menze overlap with Headroom) bring it home with a softer rock-band-jam featuring a cool propulsive drum pattern and more of that swirling, steamy guitar that this crew has on lock. If you can have this much fun with your friends, who cares if anyone knows about it?