Maria Bertel & Nina Garcia Knækket Smil LP (Kraak)
No, the garbage truck outside your apartment hasn’t tumbled into an open lava flow, that’s just me blasting this incredible new guitar/trombone improv record a little too loud! Nina Garcia is on guitar and Maria Bertel is on the trombone, and it’s a filthy, chunky set of unapproachable post-no-wave noise-improv of the finest caliber. Nina Garcia makes her guitar swallow its own tongue, in proximity to Mark Morgan’s early work in Sightings, Arto Lindsay’s work with DNA and Gary Smith’s concrete-mixer guitar-tone in Aufgehoben. Maria Bertel’s trombone is the highlight, though, as it sounds absolutely nothing like any trombone I’ve ever heard before. It scrapes, glugs and churns, calling to mind things that don’t exist, like violent balloons or molasses-powered engines. While each of these eight tracks are immediate room-clearers, the one or two people left behind might pick up on the variety of motifs and sensations rendered by these two – I find the title track particularly appealing, sounding like two monster trucks with dead batteries arguing with each other over who’s at fault. As I’m blasting it this very moment, a car alarm just started blaring outside my window, and I can’t help but assume it felt compelled to join the grotesque cacophony of these two fearsome players.

Cartoon Nyuck Nyuck Boing! LP (Human Headstone Presents)
It feels like I’m going to have to dispel some of the pre-conceived notions one might have about a band called Cartoon and their Nyuck Nyuck Boing! album. They packed a lot of youthful silliness in there, but the music they’re making, while playful and prone to bouts of high-spirited mania, is no joke, not even a funny one. Featuring the inspired drumming of Carnivorous Bells’s Leo Suarez, Cartoon combine elements of post-punk, jazz-fusion and avant-rock in a way that manages to avoid feeling stuffy or pompous. Okay, maybe the whole name thing helps diffuse any accusations of pretentiousness, but the music is way too much fun for the level of musicianship on display no matter if they went by a stuffy, academic list of their last names instead of “Cartoon”. These songs are firmly orchestrated but explode within their confines, each player getting a chance to express themselves with flair. I don’t want to mention Frank Zappa in this review (though I realize I just did): think more of the invigorating physicality of Laddio Bolocko applied to the virtuosic compositions of Mahavishnu Orchestra, but crafted by guys who show up in their work clothes to the dumpy practice space where they rehearse, inspired by whatever kraut-rock and mid-’80s SST releases they were able to find for under twenty bucks at the Philadelphia Record Exchange.

Chimes Of Bayonets Replicator LP (Peterwalkee)
The packaging for Replicator is artsy and probably a pain to put together, as the standard LP jacket is surrounded by a screened plastic sleeve, sealed in traditional ’90s emo fashion with an actual postage stamp. It hearkens to a time when putting out your record was more or less the dominant form of communication available towards the rest of the hardcore scene, so you gave it your all, the opposite of today’s hermetic design (you’d be surprised at how many albums come through here with absolutely zero words on the covers or sleeves, knowing fully well they’ll only ever be purchased on Bandcamp). Anyway, good for Chimes Of Bayonets for caring about what they’re doing, though the music they’re offering up here doesn’t elevate the twisty, stop-start form of ’90s post-hardcore emo so much as simply keeping it going. That’s not to say it’s bad – had Chimes Of Bayonets earned a spot on an Ebullition or Revelation compilation in 1996, I’d have heartily enjoyed it – but nothing particularly new or noteworthy is being brought with the form, even if some of the jagged rock riffs recall The Party Of Helicopters (one of my personal faves). Like most styles of rock music, often the singer can carry (or sink) the group, and the vocals here are just kind of there, an appropriate post-Fugazi shout-sing that neither offends nor grabs the ear. Seems like they’re a dedicated group, clearly passionate about their band, so maybe that passion is already translating to their live performance, or will result in more interesting sonic territory on their next recording.

Choncy 20X Multiplier LP (Feel It)
Go on, try to be a cool punk band in Cincinnati and not receive the support and engagement of Feel It Records – you cannot! Choncy are a young band, both in physical appearance and length of their existence, and they utilize the energy that exists solely within actual youth well here on their second album (and first on vinyl), 20X Multiplier. From the guitar tone, raw-ish recording and vocal production, the sound of these songs could easily be classified as garage with an egg-punk twist, but the manner in which they belt them out can only be associated with hardcore. It’s a satisfying combination! “Parked In” flails like METZ in full-body spasm, for example, though I prefer when they keep the energy high and temper it with some form of melodic hook. The homemade video for “Dead Meat” is charming, vocalist Liam Shaw and his bandmates shouting into their iPhones, yelling at their bosses or landlords or random rich jerks (sadly, no lyric insert is provided so the exact aim of their ire remains a mystery); I can’t imagine they’re all still standing upright after blasting through the infectious punk tantrum of “Cover Letter”. “Jacked” might be my overall favorite cut on the album though, with the catchiest (and dumbest) sing-along chorus, more fantastic, inspired drumming and that same tippy-toe energy that characterizes this fine vinyl slab.

Cindy Standard Candle Demos LP (Sloth Mate)
For the first few weeks I possessed this record, I assumed the group was called Standard Candle… perhaps I can be forgiven for such an error, since the band name Cindy is nowhere to be found anywhere on the vinyl or sleeve. I guess you’re just expected to have internet access these days and figure it out, huh?? Anyway, this is Cindy, one of the preeminent Bay Area lo-fi guitar-pop groups, also one of the few that I haven’t previously heard. I’m guessing this demos collection isn’t the place to start, as it consists solely of soft, foggy vocals and room-echoed guitar, though I understand Cindy to be a traditional rock band usually consisting of four (or more?) members. These songs really do come across like blurry sketches, pencil-on-pad songs whose forms are basic and ready to be rendered in full-color by a group of musicians, too slight to make me feel much of anything in any direction. I find myself thinking about those dainty Green Day demos from before they recorded Dookie, though I have the benefit of recognizing the final appearance of those, and it could just be the Bay Area connection putting them together in my mind. I’m sure there are some eager completists and lo-fi pop diehards eager to hear the Standard Candle Demos, and well, I’m happy to give you this copy if we are hanging out together anytime soon.

Collateral We Still Know 7″ (Scheme / Fortress)
How long has it been since we’ve had some Florida hardcore in these pages? Collateral are young and scrappy and proudly advertise themselves as from “Broward County”, the sort of thing that might mean a lot to their fellow Floridians but probably not many others. Which is cool! I love when hardcore bands keep a fiercely local scope, which is probably a product of being fresh out of childhood, where it feels like an adventure to drive to a Wendy’s two towns over. I remember that feeling, and I remember the excitement that Collateral are thriving in with this feisty five-song EP. They’re firmly in the capital-H hardcore camp, those legions of unranked Hate5Six bands vying for an opening fest slot, but rather than appeal to the basest of beatdown dummies, Collateral mostly just rip. The first Madball EP seems to factor heavily into their sound, Raw Deal and Underdog too, though they are surely as likely to be inspired by their peers who are also inspired by those seminal NYHC acts as the OGs. I appreciate that the songs are short and more fast than mosh, though there are plenty of moments appropriate for imprinting the sole of your Nikes onto your best friend’s face. EP closer “Play To Win” is a fun one, offering an appealing requisite breakdown with the lines “turn that shit out” and “get off your ass” ruthlessly delivered. The vocalist has kind of a schoolyard-bully vibe the whole time too, though one respective of your preferred pronouns. As Rick Ta Life plainly stated some many years ago: hardcore rules!

The Conformists Midwestless LP (Computer Students)
St. Louis’s The Conformists get the deluxe Computer Students treatment – gatefold sleeve, poster, glossy promo picture, probably a sticker or something else, all tucked into the chemtrail-proofed aluminum foil outer bag, which can be repurposed to keep a dozen Pringles fresh (you just have to lay them side by side in rows, rather than stack them). Like the rest of the Computer Students roster, The Conformists are gleefully mathematic in their post-hardcore, post-emo, post-noise presentation. I’ll give you one guess which famous poker player recorded the album! Operating with a bare-bones guitar/bass/drums lineup, their riffs and patterns follow their own secret morse code, never audacious or glitzy, always technical and tricky. Overall it’s pleasantly subdued, particularly in a genre stuffed with groups that love to force you to witness how crazy they are. Vocals appear as well, often more as a character in the play that is “The Conformists” than as a typical singer, which of course works well considering there’s no easily natural vocal rhythm that could be applied to these tunes. Whereas the Drose and Cheval De Frise albums released by Computer Students really push the Slint- and Shellac-oriented math-rock form to new and unexpected ends, Midwestless is perhaps more typical genre fare, if perhaps more calmly repetitive and introverted. No matter what, they must love playing this stuff, because the idea of rehearsing these songs until they’re tight and not loving the hell out of it is absolutely crazy.

Mike Cooper & Pierre Bastien Aquapelagos Vol. 2 Indico LP (Keroxen)
Following their initial 2022 encounter, here’s the second volume of the Aquapelagos series from renowned British psych-exotica guitarist Mike Cooper and French multi-instrumentalist prankster Pierre Bastien. That’s over one hundred and fifty years of combined life experience coming into play here! They really show the kids (aka anyone under sixty) how it’s done here on these four loopy, soupy tracks. Cooper’s guitar is especially refracted, elasticated and pretzeled here, a guitar by name only. It makes plenty of room for Bastien’s tropicalia-industrial mechanical processes, with extensively affected trumpet, his “musical robots” and whatever-else, resulting in humid sound-baths, organic murmuring and the sort of naturally sinister vibe one encounters having washed up on a jungle shore. What a great atmosphere for Cooper to set up his little hammock in, twisting his twangy guitar into little letters in bottles and casting them out into the deep. I feel like Wolf Eyes may have ventured into something similar to this not too long ago in one of their less aggressive forays into paranoid psychedelia, though by the time a choir of riotous thumb-pianos are deployed in opener “Return To Chagos”, it’s clear that this fascinating sonic territory can be claimed by Cooper and Bastien alone.

Jordan Darby Through The Intercession LP (Hissing Objects)
Jordan Darby goes on my short-list of punks who followed their unique musical journeys with such resolute determination that I can’t help but blush when I think about my own interest in “selling records” or what have you. You might remember him from the scattershot weiro-core of Dry Rot, or the dazzlingly unpredictable post-hardcore of Uranium Orchard – on his own here, he offers an advanced acoustic-guitar performance alongside tunefully sung vocals. His playing is dextrous and limber, so even at his most restless the songs are fluid and precise. His vocals are direct, a well-enunciated tenor with lyrics that are nearly hymnal and unabashedly spiritual. Robbie Basho meets Pedro The Lion? Darby gets into the weeds of his morality and digs around from start to finish, trying to find some purpose or understanding, presumably with some sort of Christian background acting as the guiding beacon. It’s a little cryptic, of course, but the religiousness of these songs is hard to deny, even for a lapsed Satan-worshipper like me. It’s a captivating package, with such a bold intent and delivery that all these bands who sing about nothing and have no purpose besides sounding like a specific genre should feel at least a little embarrassed. The back cover photo might be the most clever guitarist portrait I’ve seen in forever, but I don’t want to spoil it – I think he’s actually giving these albums away rather than selling them (I told you, he’s one of a kind), so go, uhh, ask him for one?

Deep Heavy Fear Doorway 12″ (no label)
The debut Deep Heavy Fear single hit me like a ton of tulips, a funky-cool post-disco act from Berlin who released their hook-laden record themselves (and charged a surprisingly low price, ingratiating themselves even further to a thrifty guy like me). Cool to see they’re at it once more, again using all twelve inches of vinyl for roughly eight minutes of music, again in a handsomely silkscreened (and painted!) chipboard sleeve. “Doorway” immediately gives me visions of Washed Out: a hiccuping drum machine breaks out over sweet-n-sour synths and a male vocal sings a melody somewhere between indie-pop and R&B. It’s like the music that plays over TikTok videos that tour luxury AirBNBs, only much cooler, and made by real people. “Cherries” opens on kind of a Blue Nile tip, with an adult-oriented bass-line and guitars that linger like the steam of the night, thought the vocals remain passive and indie-soft. Kinda wish they’d have found a dashing Berliner to bust out their best Bryan Ferry impression over this formalwear groove, but alas. Cool tunes, although neither surpasses the unexpected quality of their debut, which remains a discount steal on the secondary market. Score one now and thank the poor taste of the masses for the bargain!

Exit Hippies Niu LP (SPHC)
At some point I was tempted to change the name of this website to Exit Hippies Fan Club Zone, and while alienating anyone who isn’t an Exit Hippies fan is fine by me, it was simply too much work to put into practice. Thankfully there’s a new album from this essential Japanese noise-core / acid-techno entourage, or should I say Niu album, offering a beautifully dusky color palate on the cover in blatant Neu! homage. If you aren’t already familiar, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, as this unhinged group likes to pair the most ear-piercing of lo-fi crust-noise with mind-melting acid-trance techno, occasionally even combining the two for particularly unstable results. This time around, however, Exit Hippies eschew the boiling d-beat drums and screeching guitars entirely. You get thirteen tracks of smudgy techno, full of plagiarized loops and far-out echoey effects. They borrow or “remix” obvious Crystal Waters and Geto Boys cuts amidst their own authentic 3:00 AM techno, fully divorced from even the slightest sonic semblance to Disclose. Punks may be disappointed, but it’s a diverse and compellingly odd set of short techno cuts for the modern raver. I don’t think anyone else has tried to emulate this aesthetic, but even if some brave soul did, there could only ever be one Exit Hippies.

Flower Festival Age LP (Moone / Anxiety Blanket)
Clearly there’s no mosh potential in an artist that goes by “Flower Festival”, but it leaves open the possibility of blissfully swaying in place, arms softly flapping as if guided by invisible waves. It seems that Flower Festival has released a couple small nuggets before – two tapes in editions that total a scant forty-five copies worldwide – and Age is the formal introduction. I appreciate any artist that opts for a lengthy gestation period, taking the time to locate their authentic selves before blasting their social-media feeds with whatever they just did, and it seems that Flower Festival is finally ready to share their gleefully hazy alt-pop with the world. It’s psychedelic in a very “indie” way, with high-pitched vocals, groovy runs on the bass-guitar, simple drumming and continuous effects. Gives me vibes of a pre-cancelled Ariel Pink, a coke-boogerless King Tuff happily gliding on a mushroom trip, or if Animal Collective were a local hippie band in Portland, ME who never got the attention of anyone besides their close friends. No bad or heavy times here, just the pleasant sensation of strolling through a flower festival and taking in the colorful sights and smells.

Grazia In Poor Taste 7″ (Feel It)
Some punk bands lead with distortion or aggression, but new London duo Grazia enters the room personality-first. It’s driven by vocalist Heather Dunlop, who brings the trashy camp as though she were John Waters’ precocious British niece. Fetish-wear and condiment stains commingle in opener “Cheap”, which establishes Grazia’s basic parameters: anyone-can-do-it guitar chords, beach-party bass and disinterested vocals, all played at comfortable (or downright lackadaisical) speeds. Let the toxically-masculine boys compete in the louder faster harder department – Grazia are out here reading old fashion mags and eating fast food while their boyfriends paint their toenails (even if said boyfriend is the other half of the band). There’s a history of cool femme British punk like this, of course, most recently calling to mind the late great Primetime, although Grazia are gentler and notably less sweaty, for better or worse. “Stupid Paradise” revels in the group’s own ignorance, and while I’m not convinced the self-lobotomy route they celebrate is the right choice for me, I have been chewing gum with my mouth open more after listening to it.

Joker Juggernaut / S Wave 12″ (Kapsize)
Been about six years since we last heard from Bristol’s Joker (which equates to roughly six hundred years in the world of techno music), but I always found the laidback bounce of his dubstep (and post-dubstep) to be charmingly and cool. He even self-defined his particular genre of music as “purple”, which is oddly spot-on. Listening to his big-room bass-heavy swing, my brain makes the disparate connections between Prince’s wardrobe, Southern rap with codeine in the cup, and this Bristolian dubstep. “Juggernaut” operates as if it was still 2010, with trap hi-hats, a thuggish melodic lead and brash, bullying horns, recalling the intimidating swagger of Girl Unit’s early singles. “S Wave” is even more juiced up, working some knife-edged synths and below-the-belt bass in a manner that leaves me wanting to lecture my punk friends about the greatness of early Skream and Benga (as they quickly make up excuses as to why they have to go). When the synths cut out and it’s just the aggro strings, kick and snare, it makes me wish I was watching a Victor Wembanyama highlight reel, straight-up pulling the ball out of other people’s hands while flatfooted, so full of braggadocio and toughness is this track. I suppose, in our technologically-advanced world, I could do that right now.

Lès Modernos Ciutats LP (Bruit Direct)
Even by Bruit Direct’s standards, this album from Lès Modernos is a particularly slippery fish. Though formally represented as nine tracks, these two sides of twelve-inch vinyl play out in the form of zonked-out audio collage. Crackly, errant noises turn into loops, skipping CDs bleed into live recordings of the radio, or maybe a band, or maybe a street? It’s a wild mess. When, exactly, is the right moment in one’s life to sit down and listen to such a deliberately maddening hodgepodge of sound is up to each individual, though I can’t imagine it’s a fun listen in the car, or with friends, or in the morning, or while doing the dishes. Maybe late at night when everyone else is asleep and you’re fully sober and want to feel wasted, or vice versa? Imagine Seymour Glass, Mattin and Eric Copeland hard at work trying to impress each other with the most twisted sounds they can find, blended smoothie-style into a dark purple slush even though none of them brought any açai. If there’s any sort of logic to these tracks, it’s lost on me, but you know what? I can go take a community-college algebra class if it’s logic I’m after. Lès Modernos pick at the scabs of the profound, and yes, it’s gross.

Lupo Cittá Lupo Cittá LP (12XU)
Guitarist Chris Brokaw pulls the cool move of doing a new band while avoiding any sort of spotlight for it. He’s got nothing to prove and clearly knows it, and just seems like a guy who, given the chance, would play guitar with every other cool person on earth for the next hundred years. Lupo Cittá are Boston-based though well-traveled, and it feels guided by Jenn Gori, who holds down the perverse dual role of drummer and lead vocalist (as well as a full-time job as a, you guessed it, gene-editing research scientist!). Their songs are low-stakes, feel-good garage-indie material, certainly befitting their general age range (older than me), the sorta thing that fans of contemporary Mudhoney and Yo La Tengo albums would also appreciate. For all of Brokaw’s varied musical abilities, he goes easy on us, with classic Fender combo-amp heat and the basic riff formula any rock apprentice should have studied. They’re not here to conquer the world with their rock n’ roll – Lupo Cittá are good-natured and easy to enjoy, as domestic as Coors Light and equally as reliable.

Lysol Down The Street 7″ (Feel It)
I saw Lysol last month and the singer, looking like an undead bondage-doll extra in Suburbia, immediately brained an unsuspecting audience member with a traffic cone, hard. Ouch! It’s not a great way to gain new fans, but Lysol seem content in maintaining an insular punk social network rather than appealing to the masses for approval. They also sounded a lot more first-wave West Coast hardcore-punk than I remembered from prior material, and that style is apparent on this new four-song EP on the righteous Feel It label. These riffs give a mean, unfriendly spin on surf and country in the same way that Dead Kennedys and Adolescents did, with the muscularity of Dead Boys and the snarl of The Cheifs (whose name still sends a chill down my spine any time I type it). All the tunes are tight, though the creepy-crawl of “15MG” might be my favorite, calling to mind visions of Sick Pleasure sneaking into my bedroom at night and cutting me up with their razor-sharp nails. It’s a punk rock nightmare, and Lysol are directing the action.

Memotone Tollard LP (The Trilogy Tapes)
Memotone (aka William Yates) has constructed a fascinating world of sound on Tollard, my first experience with the Bristolian performer. From the size of his discography, I’ve clearly got some catching up to do, especially if previous work is on par with Tollard. He has an omnivorous take on all forms of outsider musics, from folk to drone to avant-garde to noise, which of course is kind of standard practice for most “experimental” artists these days, but it’s the way in which Yates synthesizes these elements that stands out. Really what he does is compose fully-functional songs from his toolkit; sure, some of them push the limit of what you might consider “song”, but it’s there. “Munday’s Pond” feels like if Volcano The Bear were on Thrill Jockey in 1994; opener “The Marionette” winds a clunky metallic gear into a moody noir piece care of smooth-as-silk horns; “Laughing Grass” pulls a banjo from the back of the room only to suffocate it in swirling sunbeam melodies. My brain spins with half-correct call-backs to Gastr Del Sol, Arthur Russell, Graham Lambkin, the moody dub-techno of Sébastien Casanova, Luc Ferrari, that incredible double album by Ippei Matsui & Aki Tsuyuko that was reissued a couple years ago… there’s so much happening here, but none of it feels forced or pastiche for pastiche’s sake. Yates clearly has a vast reservoir of sonic inspiration to draw from, condensed down into a richly rewarding listening experience over and over again. Of all the records this month, I think I’ve listened to Tollard the most!

MPU101 MPU104 LP (Ilian Tape)
You ever get the chance to sit down in front of some fancy synthesizer and maybe program a basic modulation or two, hold down some keys and just soak up the brilliantly warm analog sound? Well, MPU104 is the best possible outcome of that sort of situation, a collection of rich pulses, blissful melodic echoes, celestial chords and even a tasteful form of low-lit dub techno. I sense a kinship with other lonely explorers of the outer-realms of synth music like Black Merlin and TM404 (can’t deny that similar naming convention) in the way that MPU101 will present a sonic motif, be it a twinkling melody or a fuzzy, droning chord, and let it repeat or hover for a few minutes before moving on to the next track. One idea per track, but with the way his ARP sounds (or whatever boutique synths he’s programming), it’s so nice to experience these sounds uncluttered and up front. “TrailerparkBeauty” is a bouquet of shimmering lights; “doepfARP” is eight solid minutes of the same uplifting progression; “BLOCK-1_2AREA666” lands the mothership on a fat analog drone. Beautiful, stately simplicity from Ilian Tape’s most scientific synthesist.

Paradise Next Paradise Next 2xLP (Industry Standards)
Isolation and loneliness are two of the defining traits of our post-Covid era, so it makes sense to see an uptick in not only bedroom-based solo-projects but stoic outlaw troubadours as well. Paradise Next is one such solitary man, Anthony Boruch-Comstock, based out of San Francisco and a member of Swanox. He begins his solo career as Paradise Next with a double-LP opus, twenty-two songs recorded from December 2021 through October 2022. While accompanied by lead Mystic 100 Alex Coxen on bass for a track, the rest is loner acoustic guitar and his tender, heartfelt voice. The sound is strongly redolent of Bill Callahan (were he of the millennial generation), a King Dude / King Darves hybrid, and Nick Drake if he made his way to the American west coast and found an uneasy peace there. The playing is staunchly traditional in the doom-y, blues-y Americana tradition, but not in an NPR way – Paradise Next doesn’t make friendly concessions like that. He clearly approaches the project as all punks do: from a punk perspective. (See the inner layout design redolent of the Youth Attack label and those Milk Music records, or the song “Punk Time” for further clues.) Paradise Next is doing an old thing, but in search of new vistas, even quoting one of Richard Brautigan’s lighthearted poems on the insert, another clue as to his artistic impulse.

Part Time Filth Full Time Filth LP (No Sabes)
There comes a time when you have to make a decision: are you going to clean up your act, or commit wholly to your filthiness? It seems that Tennessee’s Part Time Filth have chosen their path, one proud in its defiance of good taste, cleanliness, sexual abstinence and sober living. Though they rep the fake town of “Pigfuck, TN” as their home, this isn’t really noise-rock of the same sub-genre name. Rather, Part Time Filth play speedy, rough-around-the-edges garage-rock indebted to early ’90s GG Allin, The Spits, Nashville Pussy, or any sort of rudely childish, staunchly-inebriated punk of that ilk. For example, there’s a song here called “Fuckin’ In The U.S.A.”, which opens with a mocking interpretation of the national anthem before ripping into a crisply distorted groove, raving about all the gloriously nasty sex that’s in Part Time Filth’s future. Do I need to explain what “DUI In My UFO” is about? Full Time Filth is filled with the sorta thing that would make any delinquent 9th grader squeal with naughty joy, and seeing as there is a large (mostly male) portion of our population who really haven’t progressed past that point, it’s not a shock to hear fully-grown men play songs like this. The filth, after all, is the point.

Perc The Cut Off 2xLP (Perc Trax)
My first encounter with London techno heavyweight Perc came in his 2015 EP Gob, whose back cover displays the producer face-down in a bowl of gruel. That’s more or less the sensation I’ve gotten from listening to his music, like I’m slammed in some dark and sticky place and it’s going to take moment to recalibrate once I pull myself out. Albums are tricky territory for techno, especially that of such a mono-directional style as this, but Perc keeps it lively, loose and wild, though perhaps a bit much if taken in one dose. It’s populist hard-techno, always locked into a brazen 4/4 thud, the sort of thing that, if pumping in the main room of a club you just entered, ensures a proper night out. Opener “Can You Imagine?” teases an airy trance motif before dropping the absolute heaviest chisel-on-steel beat, a full-body bludgeoning sure to leave noses bloodied and eyes rolled all the way back. There’s the intensity of gabber without the extreme tempos and the hair-raising soft/hard contrasts of dubstep without feeling dated or trendy… Perc is an expert convoy of his dance-floor regime and clearly relishes his role as puppet-master, unconsciously controlling our limbs. What are you gonna do when the acid line in “Cold Snap” unexpectedly kicks in, not dance??

Persher Sleep Well LP (Thrill Jockey)
Feeling particularly tickled by the existence of Persher, comprised of Jamie Roberts and Arthur Cayzer. They’re both prominent techno producers and have been for a while – Roberts records solo as Blawan, responsible for some of my favorite techno ever – and they actually make scratchy-yet-brutal beats together as Karenn. Persher, on the other hand, is mutated digital crust-core, an almost diametric opposite of electronic dance music. I love when people from certain scenes approach a totally different style with their own unique musical baggage and curiosity, and it works out excellently as Persher. It’s warped, in-the-red, crushed and heavily distorted, with (presumably electronic) d-beat drums, choked-out grindcore vocals reminiscent of Agents Of Satan and guitars that are processed to sound like anything but. Why haven’t regular hardcore/metal guys ever tried anything as demented and unusual? Persher’s music appears as songs, but they don’t follow the usual verse/chorus template, so much as just slop around in and out of various parts. Surely there’s some surgical studio editing at play here, rather than the typical live-in-a-room hardcore take, but that just makes it more interesting. “Medieval Soup From The Milkbar” is where I’ll send you first, an absolutely wretched stomp-down filled with unnatural guitar textures and guttural vocals… it’s a fine continuation of the imaginative bloody chaos that Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror stirred up in Persher’s home country some forty years ago.

Public Acid Deadly Struggle 12″ (Beach Impediment)
Oddly enough, it seems fitting that the hot new twelve-inch from one of the finest American hardcore bands active today sounds overtly non-American. We all hate this place, and seeing as we have a full generation of hardcore kids who simply dialed up the music of Kohu-63 and Winterswijx Chaos Front for free rather than undergoing the obligatory scarcity-based listening of mid-period 7 Seconds, DOA and MDC, they’re going to make music based on their experience. I enjoyed the previous Public Acid EPs and Deadly Struggle feels like the culmination of their mightiness. Across eight dense songs, they rage in reverent homage to the early Swedish d-beat classics (and obscurities) and manage to integrate overtly metallic influences without feeling like anything less than pure hardcore (I wouldn’t even consider it a crossover record). You need the speed, and it’s routinely delivered here, but the hefty metallic riffage of, say, “Ignorance” is a welcome headbanger’s delight, a friendly reminder that Power Trip were the biggest band in the hardcore scene for a couple of recent years there. There’s even some frantic, Kerry King soloing to be found sprinkled in here, albeit with a brevity appropriate for hardcore. With nary a false move or wasted opportunity, Deadly Struggle is hardcore for the moment, one where ear-bleeding rarities rule and any American bands not named Poison Idea can be willfully ignored. Who needs ’em when you’re making noise like this?

Richard Ramirez Distant, Fading LP (Tall Texan)
I love when noise arrives with a clever artistic prompt. In the case of veteran American noise artist Richard Ramirez (for the record that’s his legal name, folks), Distant, Fading apparently answers the question of what would happen if Ramirez shaped his aesthetic into something resembling shoegaze. Tik Tok virality, here he comes! Just kidding, of course – while shoegaze has unexpectedly captured the zeitgeist, I can’t imagine these two lengthy cuts soundtracking anything cute, funny or heartwarming… maybe one of those accounts that shows industrial machinery churning in Siberia, or shots of squids deploying their ink at one tenths’ speed? Ramirez opts for some deep, syrupy drones on each side, not harsh so much as all-enveloping and full of low-end churn. Could be some actual guitar in there, but it’s more likely his proficient hardware-electronics setup responsible for the primordial groan of b-side “Knowing When”, as if Kevin Shields replaced his guitar with a violin stringed up by Kevin Drumm. With frequencies generally avoiding the higher end of the spectrum, the mood is satisfyingly muddled and opaque, kind of “easy listening” by Ramirez’s standards, though still utterly petrifying under certain listening conditions. That’s always been my main complaint with shoegaze – it could be way, way scarier!

Shackleton The Scandal Of Time LP (Woe To The Septic Heart!)
Painful admission time: I realized I’ve started to take Shackleton for granted. This intrepid producer makes music only classifiable in relation to himself, and he sure makes a lot of it, releasing all sorts of collaborative efforts, double LPs, one-offs, EPs, a glorious abundance of music that can be easy to gloss over. I’ll admit, a number of his more cerebral, drone-based works didn’t really pull me in the way so much of his mid-period work has (Man On A String Part 1 And 2 / Bastard Spirit is one of the few times you’ll see me use the word “iconic”), but I’m not going to take The Scandal Of Time for granted. It rules! It’s also kind of a return to form for Shackleton, settling back into his mystical rhythms full of uncharted artificial/natural percussive elements without repeating prior material. These songs are languorous, trippy and danked-out, vast and roomy but full of activity. There’s always been an England’s Hidden Reverse aspect to the tradition of what Shackleton is doing, and I almost see a corollary here to Coil’s post-Y2K works, as both artists worked furiously, unbound by any fan expectations – certainly unbound by genre or studio limitations, too. No one else could’ve come close to making The Scandal Of Time, and similar to the Ligne Roset Togo sofa, it becomes increasingly challenging to remove yourself from it the longer you’re in its clutches.

Taku Sugimoto Since 2016 LP (Full Spectrum)
Restless cello/guitar/mandolin/etc. improviser/composer Taku Sugimoto is rarely idle, with a discography full of collaborators from Kevin Drumm to close compatriot Tetuzi Akiyama. I can’t say I’m overly familiar with his previous work – how many stacks of unlistenable improv CDs can one man be expected to keep in his study? – but this new one, the mysteriously titled Since 2016, is as delicate as an orchid from Whole Foods. Accompanied by vocalist Minami Saeki, Sugimoto takes his sweet time between plucks and strums, kind of like the slow-motion, Khanate equivalent of extremely soft acoustic improv. With street sounds filtering in through some of these songs, I can’t help but picture Sugimoto and Saeki at the opposite end of a child’s playground, Sugimoto taking deep breaths between each note as Saeki sings along, almost guessing which note to shoot for. Music doesn’t get much more dainty and sparse than this… I wouldn’t be surprised if Sugimoto was actually strumming the spiderweb on a large green leaf instead of a formal string instrument. If I owned a cute little used bookshop, I’d put this on the stereo to shake things up, though the sound of my own heart beating might eventually interfere with Since 2016‘s sparse and tiny frequencies.

Tractorman Tractorman 12″ (Kitschy Spirit)
It’s always fun to discover the secret dirtbag-punk pasts of esteemed underground artists. Tractorman is a good example, as it features the frantic and gloriously messy drumming of Indra Dunis (later of Numbers and then Peaking Lights), resurrected from a 1996 cassette release and splayed out on one side of twelve-inch vinyl. They were apparently a Madison, WI band back in their day, and man they must’ve had the Boris The Sprinkler fans running for the hills with their rambunctious, youthful punk. Dunis’s drumming is really key here, as she never stays on any beat for too long. Pogo-punk parts will quickly erupt into full-scale flailing, like some unholy mix of The Yah Mos, Quincy Punx and Fat Day. I pity the high school teachers responsible for keeping them well behaved! It’s wild, unhindered stuff, really in your face and playfully nasty in the way that only young people can pull off. It’s also very much a historical artifact – if I can’t have Tractorman jump all over me in a VFW hall, it’s not the full experience – but I’m still feeling pretty revved up listening to this collection of ten songs that feel more like thirty, tumbling out of my speakers like hot coals from a toppled grill.

Women’s Hour Women’s Hour LP (L.I.E.S.)
L.I.E.S. continues to put in the work, long after the hype-wave of “lo-fi techno” came and went. The label is kind of wilder than ever, and the loss is entirely yours if you’ve moved on to whatever other techno thing is taking up the headlines in our rapidly-diminishing underground music media. I love the infrequent moments when L.I.E.S. drifts away from dance music entirely, and this debut from Glasgow’s Women’s Hour absolutely rules; it’s menacing, claustrophobic post-punk that clatters and stalks. There’s bass guitar, drum machines and/or loops, scattered effects, synths and multi-gendered Scottish vocals that veer from apathetic to incensed. Women’s Hour take these elements and deftly derive songs from them. “Deliberate Insult” is like Leslie Winer forced into the cauldron of Avon Terror Corps; “Blindly” is disarmingly soft and pulsating, dwelling in some crevice on the path from Lemon Kittens to The Cure; “Born In The North” recalls Asda’s blown-out-drum-machine spoken-word. For what could be considered a crude sonic approach, Women’s Hour pull out each of these twelve tracks in unique directions, not simply unhindered by their limited means but thriving in the grimy little cavities where music isn’t meant to grow. Recommended!

Wrecked Lightship Antiposition LP (Peak Oil)
For those curious what Appleblim has been up to recently, he’s got this new duo going with Adam Winchester. The project’s name sounds like it should be a popular manga series, and the music (and cover image) kind of fits that bill too, these tracks bursting with moments well suited to a cinematic hacker montage, our hero transferring all the data to a memory chip right before the villain’s thugs burst through the door. Wrecked Lightship’s sound is not on the cutting edge, and I appreciate that they’re following their hearts rather than up-to-the-minute trends. Antiposition is certainly in line with Appleblim’s solo material (as well as choice cuts from his Apple Pips label), utilizing stuttering drum n’ bass loops, a rich sense of murky, dubby ambient atmosphere, and cone-popping bass, often ping-ponging away from the percussive elements. It’s post-dubstep in that way, not particularly gritty or earthbound so much as intergalactic and fantastical. Retro-futurist in a manner befitting 2010’s techno tastemakers, but free-thinking and energized – I’m particularly drawn to “Diminished Ark”, with its cyber-didgeridoo loop, hop-skip rhythm, plunging bass pulls and wave-form distortion delivered as if it were a record scratch. Recommended if you like reading Ursula Le Guin in a flotation tank under a canopy of flashing LED lights.