Chris Abrahams, Clayton Thomas, Miles Thomas Words Fail 2xLP (Hospital Hill)
Very fine long-form improv here from Chris Abrahams (of The Necks fame) and Clayton and Miles Thomas (who apparently decided against billing themselves as “The Thomas Twins” or “Thomas 2.0”). Abrahams is on the piano, while Clayton handles the bass and Miles the drums, and they whip up a frenzied clatter here that occasionally verges on the spectacular. Favoring manic sustained repetition on all their assigned duties, this trio ventures somewhere in the post-rock and free-improv territories, and they do so with a firm confidence and headstrong attitude. Abrahams’s playing jumps from finger-jamming patterns to high-speed tonal splatter not unlike the great Cecil Taylor, and the two Thomases back him mightily, with drumming to recall an overheating industrial press and bass (alongside “preparations”) that swirls like a stick in a gallon of paint. At times, I’m imagining what Mosquitoes might sound like with some sort of conservatory pedigree; a track like “Insisting On The By Now” keenly interprets the mental state of a businessman who suddenly realized his hedge fund evaporated overnight. They squeeze in a few serene, contemplative moments too, but I’m celebrating this trio’s nerve-eroding blast extensions, of which Words Fail has plenty.

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP (Anti Fade / Feel It)
I go back and forth with the numerous prolific punk solo-projects out there, Alien Nosejob being one of them (and one of the more revered). It’s great that Jake Robertson (of Ausmuteants and Leather Towel) is able to deliver at least two records a year as Alien Nosejob, wherein he plays all the instruments and sings, and it’s cool that they vary from snot-nosed punk to campy Italo disco, but I dunno… I’m not feeling very enthusiastic for Paint It Clear. That’s on me of course, but I am in much greater awe of the Gauze method (release an album once every six years for decades) than any artist that churns out record after record without taking a breath. You may differ! I’d surely change my tune if Paint It Clear was filled with undeniable hit after hit, but I’m not really sure what Robertson is going after here, besides writing new songs and releasing them. Some of the tracks favor an indie post-punk delivery, others are electro and Human League-ish in nature, and then there’s stuff like “The Butcher”, schmaltzy pop that owes more to Nilsson than Buzzcocks. It’s that and the ever-present synth, which is usually left on some sort of “basic keyboard” setting, the pre-set sound that loads when you turn the keyboard on, that prevents me from connecting. There are a couple Alien Nosejob records I sincerely love, but this isn’t one of them.

Félicia Atkinson & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Un Hiver En Plein Été LP (Shelter Press)
There’s nary a more potent modern experimental / ambient-classical duo than Félicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. I don’t keep up with all of their work, either together or separate, but I can’t help but assume they save the really good stuff for their vinyl full-lengths – I know I would! Had to check in then with this new one, which pursues similar emotional wavelengths as their prior work – pensiveness, muddled clarity, sensual intrigue, hope and hopelessness – albeit in longer form. Like their Limpid As The Solitudes album, this one features fewer tracks at more expansive lengths, and they unfurl slowly and confidently, from incidental room noise and hushed speaking tones to stately piano motifs all by their lonesome. If I had to choose, I kind of prefer the short vignettes they’ve put together in the past, brief snapshots of ambient domestic life, but I find myself sinking deeply into the velvety folds of these pieces, especially with repeated listens. With friends guesting on wind instruments throughout, this one often feels more like an orchestra warming up than a collage of field-recordings, though both elements are surely present, like the subway train that softly emerges through the warm drones at the end of “Septembers”. While some of their records make me go hmmm, this one makes me go mmmm.

Michel Banabila Echo Transformations LP (Knekelhuis)
Pretty incredible that not only was Michel Banabila at the forefront of the experimental-ambient sound way back in the early ’80s, he’s been a constant force in the decades since, offering between one or six new albums per year. It’s cool to see a sonic forefather link up with Knekelhuis, a label that I’d consider to be on the forefront of forward-thinking contemporary electronic music, proof that age ain’t nothing but a number. Of course, with the rest of the world catching up to Banabila at this point, the fourth-world percussion and improvised bird-calls of “Balafon Dub” sounds less like an inconceivable style of the future and more like what everyone else is currently doing, but it still sounds mighty nice, and besides, he damn near started it. Alongside jazzy dub like “Balafon Dub”, Banabila cycles through formless electronic bliss, lengthy passages of radio-transmission static or dusty piano loops (“The Three Stages Of Endurance” and “Cassette Loops (KH042 Mix)”) and upbeat electro-folk-song grooves like “MltVz 5”, which sounds like Aïsha Devi collaborating with Donato Dozzy (a fantasy pairing I’m sad doesn’t already exist). Not a disappointed Knekelhuis fan in the house who spends some time with Echo Transformations, of that I’m certain!

Kath Bloom Long Way To Go Home 7″ (C/Site Recordings)
Kath Bloom is familiar to me as one of Loren Connors’ earliest counterparts, but a passing familiarity at best, I’m shy to admit. Glad to know she’s still out there charming folks with her voice and guitar, and still tethered to a thoughtful underground, teaming up with guitarist David Shapiro here for a trio of tunes. “Long Way To Go Home” is a tear-stained folk song for sure, the sort of thing that reminds me of the end of Old Yeller – a rural sadness in its purest form. Her voice wavers with emotion that can only be found in someone as experienced and well-aged as Bloom. The flip showcases a tender dual-guitar instrumental upon which a flute dances in tandem, and wraps with “Baby I’m The Dream”, which somehow feels even more vulnerable and naked than the title track. I can only assume that Bloom sings with such a vibrato on purpose, but it comes out more like a natural function of her voice, as though each word had its own corresponding tear ready to drip from the eye, even when the words themselves are smiling.

Body/Dilloway/Head Body/Dilloway/Head LP (Three Lobed)
I’m convinced you could stick Dilloway in the middle of any established duo and it’d pretty much rule. Gimme Hall & Dilloway & Oates! This is a particularly apropos collab, however, as the mucked-up tape loops of Aaron Dilloway are an easy fit for the experimental noise-guitar abstractions of Body/Head, the beloved duo of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace. My understanding is that Body/Dilloway/Head is the result of Dilloway mixing, editing and splicing raw recordings sent to him from Gordon and Nace, more of a “remix” situation than a three-way dance, but that is fine with me. Dilloway’s talents shine at the mixing desk stage, and he gives Body/Head a thorough haranguing on the a-side cut “Body/Erase”, whose title seems to hint at the process. Through a cloud of lifeless air, vocals are warbled beyond recognition, ever so slowly increasing in size until guitars eventually appear, buzzing and howling (under the influence of heat?). The two b-side cuts offer a lower barrier of entry, with Dilloway’s presence less immediately sensed as the Body/Head guitars encircle various zones of dilapidation and neglect. “Goin’ Down” is nearly pretty at times, at least in the same way that seagulls eating garbage on a frozen boardwalk can be.

Cousin Drumtalk / Toad 7″ (Moonshoe)
Very exciting single here from Sydney’s Cousin. If you’ve been reading these pages for a while, you might recall that Hessle Audio artist Joe is one of my personal faves, and I’ve never heard anyone else really remind me of his music until I threw on “Drumtalk” by Cousin. Snappy acoustic percussion is given a heady computer-edit rinse, taking what sounds like timpanis and wood blocks and shakers and piecing them together into an air-tight groove with just the right dub effervescence. If I was making a mix right now (I’m not), “Drumtalk” would receive a prime slot – it’s a cut I want to help share with the world. “Toad” is a little more psychedelic, layering what must be some honking toads with fluttering rhythms and more sweet percussive floor-work. A rich drone persists as well, sort of ringing up a “deep jungle at dusk” vibe which I am happy to speculatively conjure as the groove rolls on. Looks like there are a couple of older Cousin records out there so I guess I’ll spend my holiday break investigating those instead of hugging friends and family.

Game Legerdemain 12″ (Quality Control HQ)
It’s generally understood that metal exists in a realm of powerful fantasy and punk in stark reality, and London’s Game are one of the few groups that manage to pull off both simultaneously. This new 12″ is massive, a heavy metal pounder that recalls medieval warriors storming the castle gates as much as greedy plutocrats pressing down on the big red nuclear button. Game blew me away with their debut LP, and this follow-up is no slouch, once again recalling the most thunderous moments of Hirax, Sacrilege and Crumbsuckers without feeling retro. I’ll note that Legerdemain in particular skews even further into spiky metal territory than hardcore-punk, perhaps the M.A.N. to their LP’s Detestation if you catch my drift. It absolutely rules though, with particularly bone-crunching riffs and the multilingual vocals of Ola Herbich, who continues to sound like some sort of occult demigod who finally destroyed the X-Men once and for all. Exceptional!

Grouper Shade LP (Kranky)
Chances are you already know there’s a new Grouper album out, seeing as she seems to be one of the most universally-beloved American experimental musicians around these days (and understandably so). I was waiting until my vinyl copy showed up, as I prefer an “intimate” listening experience with Grouper’s music, at least at first and until I’m familiar with the tunes. This new one feels quite intimate indeed, often little more than her voice and acoustic guitar, though it’s never quite that simple. Her recording techniques always seem to allow ghosts to wander in and out, trailing her voice or vibrating on some other level entirely. I love when Grouper piles on the noise, as though there’s a tiny ancient piano buried deep below a silty riverbed, but I’m enamored with the simple songs on offer here as well, sounding as sad, hopeful and beautiful as ever. To complete my intimate experience, I sprung for the limited hand-pressed version of Shade, and am startled to notice that as of the date of this review’s publication, no one has tried to flip a copy on Discogs for big bucks – such is a testament to the quality of her music that no one wants to give this up, not even for an easy profit. At least not immediately.

Hits Cielo Nublado LP (Paisley Shirt)
Sometimes it feels like more punk bands would be more comfortable calling themselves Duds than Hits, so good on Hits for owning the fact that, at least on some playful level, they think highly of themselves. I’ve heard nice things about this Oakland indie-pop trio, and Cielo Nublado confirms that they were well-founded. They’ve got a spunky, jangly sound, one that calls to mind Tiger Trap, Another Sunny Day, Dolly Mixture and The Field Mice, though Hits don’t always take the straightforward route. Sweet and soft as these tunes are, some of them sputter, drift and wander in weird ways, an aspect that I find appealing. There are always verses and choruses, but I like a band that is happy to spiral off on their own accord. Wait, I just realized that Max Nordile is in this band, so the subtle lack of conformity makes plenty of sense knowing his musical track record. I’d tell you that my favorite tune here is the opener “Static Drizz” for the way that bandleader Jen Weisberg sings about salads spinning, but it’s probably “Alan Vega”, the love song I can’t believe hadn’t already been written. Who can’t relate to loving Alan Vega?

Jay Glass Dubs x Laura Agnusdei Jungle Shuffle 12″ (The Wormhole)
Very cool 12″ here on multiple fronts. I’ll start with the front, in fact, as there are four different hand-printed variants each with its own quote; figured I’d share the one I’ve got here. Of course, a good cover alone does not a good record make, but this Jay Glass Dubs “rework” of a track from Laura Agnusdei’s 2019 debut is richly hypnotic, perfectly toeing the intersection of goth-occult, dub-techno and experimental composition. I haven’t heard Agnusdei’s original, but my interest is certainly piqued by Jay Glass Dub’s swirling remix, with flute, clarinet, trumpet, alto and tenor sax all invoking the siren’s call and chattering albatrosses. Stellar cut! The flipside is the “beatless” version, and true to form, the stuttering drum-break of the a-side is absent, allowing the horns to simmer in their own juices as a blood-red mist hovers low to the surface. Feels like something Current 93 would’ve tried to make in 1988 if the technology was there, but it also feels like something Shackleton would sneak onto a mix. Yum!

C Joynes Poor Boy On The Wire LP (Cardinal Fuzz / Sophomore Lounge)
For as technologically sped-up as the world seems lately, there sure are a lot of folks out there who maintain deep, complex and monogamous relationships with their guitars, and I for one applaud that. You can add C Joynes to the list, an English guitarist whose playing is steeped in the American Primitive tradition. With this unadorned electric guitar, Joynes traverses a jaunty plain. It’s probably like comparing any punk record to the Sex Pistols, but the spirit of John Fahey feels alive in some of these tracks, particularly the more lyrical melodies (see “Mapperly Park To Atlow Moat To Leamoor Derby Road”). Certain songs almost seem to beg for an emotionally-equivalent vocalist to join in, but maybe that’s just the pop music fan in me – Joynes is more than fine on his own with his fingers doing all the talking. The playing is refined, but the pleasure of listening is simple.

J.R.C.G. Ajo Sunshine LP (Castle Face)
Castle Face is one of those few American guitar-rock labels that seems to successfully sell lots of records, and yet I rarely pay any attention. Chalk it up to my disinterest in The Oh Sees and prejudice toward King Gizzard (surely you can understand), but from a quick scan it seems like they actually release some cool (if possibly superfluous) records by bands like Feral Ohms and Uranium Club, and any label putting out solo Mikey Young records gets an automatic thumbs up. Add this new album from Dreamdecay’s Justin R. Cruz Gallego to the pluses list too! When hardcore/punk dudes do solo records they usually are either replicating a regular band by playing all the instruments or drifting off on a synth-based excursion, but Ajo Sunshine takes a different path. Not sure how J.R.C.G. pieced it all together, but this is a heady collection of heavy-psych tunes informed by krautrock, noise, drone and rock. At times I’m recalling the psychedelic push-pull of Agitation Free, at others I’m reminded of Black Dice’s Beaches & Canyons. While decades apart, both of those references offer a warmth within their repetitive rhythms and slinky grooves which is shared by Ajo Sunshine. Even when he puts on his moon boots and stomps through the Hawkwind-on-ludes-ish title track, it feels down to earth and personable, not cold and spacey. I tell ya: drummers, man! Leave ’em alone for a little while and they’ll come up with the wildest stuff.

John Laux Quarantine Party LP (no label)
John Laux’s solo debut Quarantine Party certainly sounds like a quarantine party: no one’s there! This is some desolate and morose anti-folk music, sounding as though it was prepared with whatever instrumentation was laying around, even that rusty-stringed acoustic guitar an old roommate forgot to take when they moved out. Played at a relaxed pace suitable for someone currently testing positive with the Coronavirus, these songs smear a picture of loneliness, boredom and fear, an emotional cocktail I’m sure we’re all familiar with at this point. Reminds me of Eugene Chadbourne on his deathbed, Chris Durham’s Church Shuttle project or, get ready for this, Jandek covering Ween. Laux is generally a noisy rocker – besides playing in Tractor Sex Fatality and Musk, he’s responsible for the great sludgy noise-punk of Slicing Grandpa – but this one is mostly free from heavy distortion, a more direct viewing of the man and artist, albeit through smudged lenses. Good for him for making an album out of our current mess, and rendering his name in a death metal design on the cover.

Low Life From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life LP (Goner / Lulus Sonic Disc Club)
Is there a band around today more impressed by themselves than Low Life? On one hand, I admire their eternal chutzpah, their brazen self-appreciation in the form of a lengthy explanation on how to listen to this new album of theirs (check the Bandcamp), but on the other, it’s a bit much, right? Plus, they seem to be enamored by the way in which they are failures by society’s standards, obsessed with drugs and unclean housing and the things that cease to titillate most people who mature into adulthood. And yet, it is alluring, especially when done by a group as confident as Low Life. While vastly different on a sonic level, they remind me of Salem in their knack for captivating an audience with crude imagery, a basic or unsophisticated level of songwriting and grandiose self-mythologizing. So, maybe I should get on with talking about the music! Much like their previous album, this is shoegaze dream-pop with an occasional hard edge or post-punk agitation, sort of finding its grey place between Stone Roses, Nothing and that last Constant Mongrel album. It’s fine, but also the least interesting aspect of the group. I’ve listened to all their albums, and the most memorable tune is still the one where they chant “you know who the fuck we are” (“RBB” from Downer Edn), a testament to how proud Low Life are of being Low Life.

Bill Nace & Paul Flaherty Touchless 7″ (Open Mouth)
Bill Nace digs deep into his archive for this 2009 studio session, paired up with the disarmingly gregarious Paul Flaherty on his alto sax. Now it’s a seven-inch limited to 150 copies on his Open Mouth label. What’s not to like? “End Or No End” opens with Nace’s seasick strings, the sonic equivalent to when you open a Tupperware of chopped veggies that looked fresh but immediately inform your nose that they are not. The swaying strings meet some sort of pulsing tremor right as Flaherty’s big gusts come through, like goats skipping down a mountain sideways at full speed. And just when it reaches a dual fever pitch, they simultaneously stop on a dime. I’m surprised Flaherty was able to suppress a hearty laugh at the sharp timing! “Based On Letters Written To Their Children” is the flip, and this time Flaherty opens it with his quick-fingered licks, though it’s not long before he’s joined by some truly caustic, ear-popping static from Nace. Nace’s guitar seems unwilling to let even a piece of paper slide beneath it, but Flaherty eventually finds an opening, like a mouse that only needs a dime-sized hole to penetrate a kitchen cabinet. Two very refreshing blasts, nice on 45 though I find myself longing for more.

Power Supply In The Time Of The Sabre-toothed Tiger LP (Anti Fade / Goner)
It appears that The Ooga Boogas changed their name to the title of a Budgie album. Or is it a “new band”, only one that happens to have the exact same personnel and formation as Ooga Boogas? Regardless, I’m thrilled that these upstanding Australian gents have a new one for us (including the illustrious Mikey Young on guitar). I’d hope you as a dear reader are familiar with the first Ooga Boogas album, a masterpiece of loutish adult-male rock n’ roll, and I’m pleased to say that In The Time Of The Sabre-toothed Tiger is a worthwhile new chapter for the boys. Much like the second Ooga Boogas album, this one has mellowed considerably; these songs are relaxed and downright pleasant, without a doubt the closest to Pavement’s later years any of these guys have ever gotten with one of their bands. Leon Stackpole’s vocals are charming, descriptive and more fantastical than ever before… has someone stumbled upon some psychedelics? Big personality on display here, from the words to the music that surrounds it, a stupid and celebratory sense of fun that no group of middle-aged men deserve to be having right now.

Jürgen Ratan Ringtones 7″ (Tax Free)
Tax Free released the weird n’ wonderful Iris album a few months ago, so when I saw they just put out an EP of “ringtones” by someone named Jürgen Ratan, I couldn’t resist peeping. Ratan slaps seven tracks on this seven-inch record, and while I was prepared for possible trickery or musical sleight of hand, this is kind of what it says it is: seven appealingly inoffensive electronic ringtones for your battery-depleted Samsung Galaxy. Ratan seems to have accessed the same digital software packs utilized by any given corporate call center, and he puts together some pleasantly inoffensive loops here, ripe for Apple or Microsoft’s sound labs circa 2010. Much like “real” ringtones, these songs vaguely gesture towards electro-pop, techno and library music, resulting in sound effects that would cause zero commotion if broadcast from a stranger’s pocket in an elevator or on the bus. My faves are “Stauferpark”, with its funky back-beat and quizzical melodies, and “Jan Min-Soek” for its oddly-pitched percussion (think Jon Hassell in a bite-sized chunk), but the whole EP is a pleasingly playful reflection upon the sounds and devices of our time.

Refedex The Top Of Off LP (Tropical Cancer Rort)
Do you think the name refers to the act of sending a FedEx package back to its origin? Probably not, but I’m content to imagine so as I listen to this group’s debut album. It’s on Tropical Cancer Rort, a Brisbane-based label that focuses on the noisier end of underground Aussie rock, and Refedex’s surly, sidewinding songs fit right in. They’re like a grungy post-punk band that sounds mature for their age (whatever their ages may be), opening with the almost Swans-like “Hard Yakka”, though understand that this isn’t remotely industrial or experimental in nature. Refedex sounds like a band that isn’t afraid of the big spider that caused the other roommates to run out screaming; in fact, they’ll squash it with their bare hands without a second thought. While the music moves like The Gordons or Deaf Wish – darkened discordant indie-rock, let’s say – the vocals are so distraught and inflamed that the songs end up hitting more like the emo-core of Merel or Econochrist. The energy of these songs prefers to simmer rather than splash, however, which provides Refedex with their own distinctive sense of aggressive unease. Nice!

Rider/Horse Select Trials LP (Ever/Never)
Spray Paint was always one of the busier garage-y post-punk bands of the prior decade, releasing a slew of albums, singles and even some curious collaborations. I couldn’t figure out if they were living in Austin or Australia or both, but ex-member Cory Plump has allegedly relocated to Kingston, NY, where he started Rider/Horse with Chris Turco (who has done time in Trans Am and Les Savy Fav). Now there’s doing Rider/Horse together, and it certainly sounds like a record from two grown men well-versed in what the (post-)hardcore scene has had to offer over the last twenty years and keenly aware of what they’d like to contribute to it now. In this case, it’s a lean and mechanical form of downer post-punk. As a two-piece who presumably had some decent studio access (even if it’s just one of their homes), they clearly had time to play around with things and massage these tracks into more than simple-sounding live takes: drums appear to be cut-up and looped at times and live at others, and the guitars take on a variety of forms, from discordant chemical peels to chiming melodic leads. Reminds me of Psychic Graveyard, Big Black and Exhaustion, as well as Spray Paint and Trans Am to an extent, though Rider/Horse like to leave a little breathing room in their music. Though what exactly it is they’re breathing up in Kingston remains unclear.

Silicon Heartbeat Silicon Heartbeat 7″ (It’s Trash!)
A lotta punk bands these days that seem to be infatuated with retro-dystopian sci-fi aesthetics, bands who apparently dream of the day that a Terminator bursts into their bedroom and obliterates them on sight. Could be because Misfits records are seemingly more popular now than ever, or because we truly seem to be living in a Robocop-esque nightmare hellscape, but whatever the case, you can add Michigan’s Silicon Heartbeat to the stack, what appears to be (yet another) solo project. This one follows the rulebook pretty squarely, but that’s not necessarily a complaint – sometimes I want my scuzzy synth-laced bedroom punk to be nothing more and nothing less than that. Songs like “Galaxy Invaders” and “(I’m A) Void” sound like a syrup-drunk Spits, played mid-tempo or slow-mid-tempo with plenty of digital crunch to the guitars and a synthesizer consistently howling a single note in the background. My favorite aspect is probably the vocals, which are delivered in a monotone speaking voice and lightly distorted, not merely singing about outer-space digital horror but vocally inhabiting one of the heartless scientists you might find aboard your spacecraft prison. If they don’t blast this sorta thing in the Facebook Meta virtual-reality world, they’re messing up!

Smirk E.P. 12″ (Total Punk)
Smirk has earned the right to smirk after the last year, when they (er, he) greeted the scene with an album of high-quality, high-anxiety punk. I believe that by now, Smirk has played a show or two as an actual band, but they seem to mostly be the studio project of one Nic Vicario (of Ceremony-related hardcore group Crisis Man). He clearly knows his way around a classic-sounding punk tune, and puts it into action on these seven tracks, which shift from cool-aloof to nervous-manic and back again. Reminds me of the rock-inspired, sunglasses-wearing first-wavers like Plugz, Catholic Discipline and Crime, and at least a little of contemporary youthful underdogs Institute. For a punk solo project, Vicario makes the effort to switch things up while maintaining a theme – I swear, he uses a different guitar (or at least different amps or pedals or different something) on each of these tracks, from fuzzy garage tones to the more elegant chime of “Lost Cities” (which wins the award for “most Strokes-sounding song ever released by Total Punk”). However you slice it, this is very cool stuff, classic in execution but modern in its paranoid fear of tomorrow.

Socio La Difekta Kreski 7″ (Beach Impediment)
So you’re telling me the best European crust-core seven-inch I’ve heard this year came from… Japan?? I suppose that checks out, and not because Euros are slacking but because Japanese hardcore is forever willing to emulate the sounds of other countries in an extreme fashion. Socio La Difekta play it fast and crusty, certainly in deference to Discharge, but also recalling Masskontroll, Disrupt, Hiatus and even Fleas & Lice in the vocal interplay. Classic crust, but mostly faster than they did it in the ’90s, and clearly unafraid of blatant homage: the opening cut “Polico Fikas Aĉulon” translates to “Police Fucking Bastard”, in what appears to be a direct nod to Doom. (Notably and unusually, all of Socio La Difekta’s songs and lyrics are in Esperanto, though the insert handily provides both Japanese and English translations.) Kind of a curve-ball from Beach Impediment, who tend to favor meat-and-potatoes style hardcore-punk, though the boiled cabbage and lentils of Kreski are equally filling, and probably more cost-effective and socially responsible, too.

Tower 7 …Peace On Earth? LP (Roachleg / D4MT Labs Inc Neurosonic Research)
Damn! This is some scalding-hot metalli-crust for the true heads… and I suppose also people like me who insist on washing their micro-fleece bedsheets once a week, because I love it too. I’m fairly certain “Tower 7” is a 9/11 reference, and seeing as this group is from New York (and closely tied to the Kaleidoscope / Straw Man Army crew), this is pretty much exactly the band I want to hear scream about 9/11. It doesn’t hurt that their songs are absolutely vicious – the riffing is almost entirely metallic in nature, but the drums are played in a fast psycho-hardcore style ala Deep Wound and Mecht Mensch, and the recording is exceptionally gritty and deep in the D4MT tradition. The vocalist has a hoarse scream-from-the-grave style with proper enunciation so you can understand what he’s so anguished by, which I appreciate. Reminds me of Rorschach at twice the speed, or Citizen’s Arrest covering Amebix; it has that ABC No Rio feel while avoiding the white-guy dreadlocks / Choking Victim aspects of that scene, definitely a best case scenario situation for NYC metallic crust-core. Filthy sounding music, even if the squats have all but evaporated in a sanitized haze of Duane Reades and Chipotles.

Trip Shrubb Trewwer, Leud Un Danz LP (Faitische)
Fans of ultra-minimal (I’m talking min-i-mal) electronic loops, take note – here’s a very cool barely-there transmission for your entertainment. Trip Shrubb is the moniker (or is it supposed to be a first and last name?) used by Michael Beckett, whom I recognize best as KPT.Michi.Gan, whose experimental IDM records piqued my interest some twenty years ago. For this project, Beckett looks to Harry Smith’s 1950s Folkways recordings and uses them as the initial sound source of Trewwer, Leud Un Danz. Don’t expect to hear any blown jugs or strummed fiddles, though – he reduces the initial sounds to extreme base-level sinewaves and loops them with very little deviation. “Wach Up, Jakob”, for example, sounds like a micro-snippet of any given Maurizio track looped into the void. Most people out there will not enjoy this, or perhaps even consider it music, and while I wouldn’t attempt to argue the musicality of this work, I am extremely partial to dub techniques applied to murky, bare-bones loops of low-end tones, and that’s basically all that this one is. I’d say that Harry Smith might be rolling in his grave if he knew his recordings ended up like this, but on reflection, this album is probably what it sounds like to roll in one’s grave.

Urwelt Distant Galaxies Collide LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Everything about this record is in aesthetic harmony with itself. From the cover of an imposing primitive tunnel (reminds me of that one the Christian Bale Batman had to train in and escape from) to the album title to the artist name to the sounds within, a singular vibe of vast cosmic oppression is successfully conjured and maintained. I almost wonder if I opened my dictionary and located “Urwelt”, would its definition be “an instance of distant galaxies colliding”? This sort of rich industrial droning shouldn’t come as a surprise from this duo, one of whom is Ramleh member Anthony Di Franco. As Urwelt, he teams with Kevin Laska for these four ominous tracks of sustained electronic bass-tones and cyclical noise interference. For as vivid as our universe can be, at least through high-powered telescope photography, Distant Galaxies Collide promotes an absence of color; these tracks rumble endlessly as if trapped inside a churning cement truck. It’s harsh, but not in any sort of traditional macho power-electronics way – their endlessly rippling low-end is almost calming, at least in the sense that we are merely tiny blips on a tiny blip inside a tiny blip.

Wristwatch Wristwatch LP (FDH)
I’m telling you, I sincerely want to like a Bobby Hussy record. He seems like a swell guy: he’s deeply involved in the garage-punk scene, putting out records and recording bands and generally just a positive addition to the underground. Wristwatch appears to be his 2020 quarantine project – he plays guitar, sings, plays bass and programs the drums here – and, like all his other records, this one falls pretty flat for me. It’s mid-tempo poppy punk with a drum machine and exaggeratedly warbly vocals that distinctly recall Jay Reatard. Perfectly acceptable stuff, no harm no foul, but in this bounteous era of music, particularly poppy garage-punk with subtle synth-leanings, Wristwatch falls smack in the bottom-middle of the pack, buffered by hundreds of bands that do it better and dozens of bands that do it worse. He’s clearly passionate about music, but the music here feels anonymous and basic. The lyrics generally moan and groan about dealing with fake people, fake friends, real jerks, anxiety and doubt, but not in any sort of compelling way, nor are they delivered with a must-hear hook. Can’t say I’ll be spinning this one again anytime soon, but knowing Bobby Hussy, he’s probably waiting for his next record to come back from the plant now anyway – maybe that’ll finally be the one for me!