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Reviews – August 2020

Big Laugh Manic Revision 7″ (11 PM)
Remember the muscular skinhead on the cover of the Abused 7″? Turns out he’s still hanging out in front of that same brick wall, but now he’s using a rope to strangle someone who looks just like him! Nice of Milwaukee’s Big Laugh to continue the tale through the cover of their Manic Revision EP. It’s their debut 7″, and they’re offering four hardcore songs clearly influenced by late ’80s NYHC, more on the emotional (but not emo) tip, right before things fully codified over into the youth crew aesthetic. Pretty New Breed inspired with an appropriate level of grit and heavy chug, even when it’s fast – think Absolution, Pressure Release or Beyond if you’re wondering what kind of pit Big Laugh are looking to start. Personally speaking, it wouldn’t be my first choice if I was looking to play traditional hardcore, but I suppose it’s as fine an era of hardcore as any from which to take inspiration, and at least it’s not a painfully trendy one right now. Nothing particularly new is sonically explored or invented here, nor is this EP a game-changer for hardcore circa 2020, but Milwaukee’s gotta mosh too, so mosh they shall.

Blawan Immulsion EP 12″ (Ternesc)
My love affair with the music of Blawan is nearly a decade long at this point, and like any lengthy relationship, it’s had its ups and downs. I was feeling like I had my fill following his sole full-length from 2018, but then Immulsion showed up and reminded me that I will always need new Blawan tracks in my life. It could also be that this is an exceptional EP, far superior to the last few releases on his Ternesc label. It opens with “40 Spiral”, which does all the things I want Blawan to do: pound out a rhythm with ugly kicks and claps, and supplement it with weird alien sound-effects. This cut has what seems to be a human voice straining to make itself heard (one of my favorite industrial-techno conceits) and it barely relents, all without the aid of any sort of bass melody. “Immulsion (Come To Me In Full Mix)” is next, and might be my favorite here – oddly enough, it has the minimalist thwack of late ’00s Ricardo Villalobos, as if Villalobos attempted to produce a track for the Downwards label and failed beautifully. Skeletal and creepy, with faint background sounds that recall adhesive tape being slowly pulled off a shiny surface, it’s an electric haunted house in which I’d love to perpetually hide away. “Rain” is more urgent, with another cool vocal hook and the grinding gears I’ve come to expect from Blawan’s side-group Karenn, and the EP wraps with “Immulsion (That Kind Of Kink Mix)”, kind of a subdued groove highlighting the glorious sounds of electrical interference. Perfect place to start if you’re a newcomer to Blawan’s music, and the perfect place to resume if you loved his iconic His He She & She EP and haven’t checked in recently!

Bokeh Lenses Dances LP (Mirae Arts)
When I see the word “Bokeh” in the context of electronic music, my mind immediately goes to the great Bokeh Versions label. This, however, is the entirely-unrelated duo of Katsunori Sawa and Martin Heinze, although judging by the wonky and cavernous techno they’re made here, there has to be at least a couple social connections in common. Bokeh’s techno has a spring-loaded pulse that reminds me of a softer Female, although they also roam into deeper dub territories that recall classic Maurizio or the spaced-out bliss of Rod Modell’s last album. Even when reclined into dub position, though, there’s a certain restlessness that seeps through, perhaps a tweaked-out siren in the distance or a peculiar rhythmic pattern that slowly enters the fold and reminds you that all is not at ease. Still, I’d say that Lenses Dances is fairly typical and momentarily satisfying if not overly memorable or significant. What stood out most to me is the super-dated cover art, which seems like it should grace some late ’90s electronica compilation CD. Turns out it was designed by Paul Nicholson, most famous for creating the iconic Aphex Twin logo! Can’t deny that sort of authenticity, but it’s not quite my style.

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters Hammered LP (Beast)
You want a name? “Jackson Reid Briggs”, now that’s a name! Sounds like every cast member of Friday Night Lights combined or something, and yet Mr. Briggs isn’t Texan, he’s Australian, which I guess is kinda like the Texas of the southern hemisphere. Anyway, this is a band that sounds like they lay blacktop for a living, drinking cheap cold beers with calloused hands, tired but tough. They’re four albums in at this point, and Hammered displays Briggs and his Heaters in fine condition, stomping out their hard-nosed rock n’ roll with boots, not sneakers. Sonic resemblances to Cosmic Psychos, The Saints, Rocket From The Crypt and OBN III’s are easy to sniff out, and certainly make sense in the scheme of what Briggs & Co. are offering. His vocals offer more passion than tunefulness, the sort of delivery that leads a vocalist to lose their voice one week into a four-week tour, but what are you gonna do, mumble instead? The band sounds suitably big, the riffs are better than average, and the attitude is pissed-but-welcoming. All they need now is Taylor Kitsch to star in their music video and they’re all set.

Cadenaxo Lenguas Pordidas LP (11 PM)
I’m not sure if there’s more hardcore-punk coming out of Mexico now than ever before, or if it’s simply being promoted and released in the United States better than ever? Probably a little bit of both, but whatever the case it feels like there’s a solid new Mexican hardcore group appearing monthly if not weekly these days. Mexico City’s Cadenaxo have been around since 2014, but this is their first vinyl full-length, coming from Richmond’s 11 PM upstart. Ten tracks on 45 RPM, Lenguas Pordidas delivers a dependable slab of fired-up hardcore. Rudimentary in design and delivery, I’d compare Cadenaxo to American ‘core heroes Necros and N.O.T.A. as well as the unpolished delights of the Attack Punk label (I’m talking about Underage and MG 15). Angry hardcore-punk, and rightfully so, of course. Sitting here listening to Lenguas Pordidas is fun, but I’d imagine that Cadenaxo commanding a packed Mexico City warehouse venue with punks climbing every nailed-down surface is the finest way to experience this group. Time to add that to my post-Covid to-do list!

C.H.E.W. In Due Time 7″ (Iron Lung)
Can Haters End (the) Whining? Pretty sure that must be the current definition of C.H.E.W., a Chicago hardcore group who continue to grow more maniacal and unhinged with every new release. I was lukewarm on the band at first (maybe even one of the aforementioned haters?), but their 2018 debut full-length is a corker, and this new five-song EP is even a cut above that. The riffs are fast and ugly without feeling heavy or metallic, closer to vintage Poison Idea, Brown Sugar and perhaps Impalers when they’re at their least Scandinavian. Vocalist Doris Carroll offers an inspired performance, somewhere between Tony Erba’s tenure in Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Die Kreuzen’s Dan Kubinski and Sara Abruna fronting the short-lived JJ Doll. Phlegmy and snarling, she cuts through the seemingly endless array of riffs, riffs that could easily swallow up a lesser frontperson. In fact, I’m not sure how you could mosh to this with any sort of rhythmic pacing, seeing as the songs twist and turn quicker than one’s brain could reasonably expect. Any physical response to In Due Time would have to involve spasmodic and randomized flailing, which of course is an acceptable response in these times.

The Cool Greenhouse The Cool Greenhouse LP (Melodic)
The Cool Greenhouse entered my life with last year’s Crap Cardboard Pet EP, a real strike of ridiculous post-punk genius. Seemed like a surefire one-hit-wonder, so what’s amazing about The Cool Greenhouse’s full-length debut (and first outing as a full-band rather than a solo recording project) is that it’s still a one-hit-wonder, and still completely great! If you’re not already familiar, they play an ultra-repetitive form of groove-based post-punk with vocalist and orchestrator Tom Greenhouse calmly ranting in a form clearly guided by Mark E. Smith. Now performing as a band, there’s a bit more heft to these grooves: bass plunks the same two notes, guitar follows with one-finger chords, a keyboard chirps and sputzes and live drums energize the sound in the way that a programmed Casio cannot. The difference is easily discerned via “Cardboard Man”, which appeared on the previous EP as well as here, sounding like this full-band version could’ve found its way onto an adventurous 120 Minutes playlist back in 1993. Endlessly cyclical riffs, occasionally to the point of madness, but that’s the point! This self-titled album is sure to appeal to fans of Parquet Courts, Patois Counselors, LCD Soundsystem, probably even Viagra Boys and certainly The Fall. Silly-smart and unpretentious post-punk you can shake a leg to, recorded in an old potato-packing warehouse in Nottingham, lest you forget for a second this is a solidly English affair.

Dark Thoughts Do You Dream 7″ (Peterwalkee)
Superfluous 7″ here from a most necessary punk band. This is a two-track single from Philadelphia’s Dark Thoughts, and it’s presented in classic “first wave punk rock on Sire Records” fashion, taking a song off their newest album Must Be Nice and pairing it with an exclusive b-side. Cool idea, and while the music is great, boy does it go by fast. Like, really fast – it seems as though “Do You Dream” is barely thirty seconds, but maybe that’s a byproduct of the manic energy and fist-pumping speed the band has given it. A glorious track for sure, unabashed in its Ramones worship but so fun and catchy that any sense of nostalgic homage is brushed off by Dark Thoughts’ winning enthusiasm and attitude. Kinda wish they would’ve just pressed this song three or four times in a row on the a-side – it would’ve saved the trouble of getting up as soon as I’d sat down, feeling more like an exercise program than a record listening session. “It’s Too Late” is a formidable b-side, like a DIY basement version of the hyper-pop Chixdiggit were peddling back in the mid ’90s, but this one moves quickly too. Certainly can’t blame anyone for being a Dark Thoughts completist, as they’ve undeniably attained high-ranking status in the contemporary pop-punk playing field, but for the rest of us who need a fix, might as well follow the advertisement on the back of this 7″ and pick up their newest album instead.

Dendrons Dendrons LP (Earth Libraries)
It’s gotta be extra tricky to be a new band during a global plague, particularly one that seems eager to do all the things a band needs to do in order to get popular: put out an album, promote it, tour on it, socially mediate it. That’s the upward climb that Dendrons are facing, but they’ve got this album out now, so that’s pretty good at least, right? They’re from Chicago and they play an overtly melodic and lush form of propulsive indie-rock. I’m hearing a lot of The Dismemberment Plan here, in the brooding arrangements, broadly-sweeping gestures and emo-ish backdrop. The vocals here are more universally palatable though, soft, thick and kind of plain, certainly none of the “Eddie Vedder on helium” that made you either love or hate The Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison. Dendrons could probably attract some Snow Patrol or Muse fans with these songs, although I’m not sure how you reach them besides opening for either group on a European tour. Dendrons are certainly capable and well-polished right out of the gate, so who knows what their future holds, presuming there is still a future for any of us.

DJ Central Passion 12″ (NES)
DJ Central’s “Drive” was my hands-down house anthem of 2017, a truly magical moment brimming with sentimentality. I’ve been chasing that dragon from him ever since, and mostly kinda let down (although last year’s full-length Om Dans has some truly sweet moves – not sure how I forgot to write that one up). Anyway, any prior contentions are forgiven thanks to Passion, a pitch-perfect four-song EP of Danish tech-house. “How” is the perfect opener, as it feels like the early morning hours after a restful night’s sleep. The butterflies are in the backyard, coffee’s on the stove, and DJ Central is getting his gear setup for a productive day. “TGTBT” is appropriately funky and lush, recalling Move D’s successful collaborations with Benjamin Brunn. When “Passion” hits, though, it’s all over – Central found the perfect vocal sample in the two syllables that make up its title, recalling Luomo at peak Vocalcity prowess. I love this cut! Makes me want to drive a factory-fresh Hyundai Sonata through an empty highway tunnel late at night. “Promise” wraps things up, but at this point I’m already completely satiated, and DJ Central seems to have anticipated this, as this final track diddles and dawdles into a soft after-hours formation. After all, the best DJs know what you want before you even know you want it.

Doldrey Invocation Of Doom 12″ (Iron Lung)
No matter what the extreme underground genre Iron Lung is peddling, there’s usually some sort of twist involved: maybe it’s harsher than anything out there, or weirder, or coming from some angle unique to that particular artist’s point of view. I was waiting to locate Doldrey’s distinctive traits, but after spinning this one a few times, it’s almost intensely typical hardcore-tinged death-metal. You’ve got a goat-demon presiding over a horde of skeletons on the cover (attributed to an artist named “Necfrost”), and song titles as basic as “Void”, “Harbinger Of Death” and “Eternal Oblivion”. The music falls comfortably between Possessed, Innumerable Forms and the stompy breakdowns of Hoax, with a big roomy recording that provides an expansive sound at the expense of its overall heaviness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly passable death-core, but we’re all spoiled with exceptionally great bands here in 2020 and Doldrey, while perfectly good, are not one of the ones I’d call great. They’re from Singapore, which certainly casts their music in a different light (bustling hub of underground metal it is not) – it’s gotta be harder to gather a crew of death-metal-loving conspirators there than in any major (or minor) American, European or South American city. Kudos to them for making it happen, but I think I’m gonna pass over Invocation Of Doom in favor of Iron Lung’s other recent slabs.

France Far-Out Far-West LP (Standard In-Fi / Mental Groove)
Vive le France! This drone-rock trio continue their quest to release as many live records as possible; Far-Out Far-West documents a 2008 show in Bordeaux. Theirs is a consistency you can rely on: much like all the other France records I’ve heard, this one is a plodding bass/drums groove (as much as a single note can really groove) with slowly heightening hurdy-gurdy wailing and churning over top. Completely devoted to the “Faust with Tony Conrad” school of drone-rock hypnosis, this record is one-sided, with the full thirty-three minute performance (only one “song” if you wanna call it that) playing from the inside out. While there are highs and lows here, the pacing and tenor of this performance is quite steady, a jam to slowly slide down into, like a hot-tub without the initial temperature shock. I can’t rightly say you need this one if you’ve got any other France records (their OTT double-album is probably the one I’d recommend), but it’s absolutely imperative that you own at least one of these France records. I’ll leave the specifics up to you.

The Futurians Atuan 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
I’ve always been fascinated by the type of underground groups who perform rough and unscripted music (err, for the sake of argument let’s call it “music”) and insist on documenting and releasing every last drop of it. It’s like they’re more of a production facility, screening sleeves, copying CD-rs, dubbing tapes and occasionally sending their music out for professional duplication, than they are musical entities focused on the sounds they produce. Fascinating. Dunedin, New Zealand’s The Futurians are certainly one of these outfits, with a dazzling array of releases surely only heard by a select couple dozen humans total, and now they have what might be their highest-profile release to date: a 7″ single on I Dischi Del Barone. Don’t expect any Kiwi-pop hooks here – “Atuan Part One” is a dizzying flurry of atonal bashing, with every effect turned all the way up on whatever the synth, guitar and vocals are running through. “Atuan Part Two” goes further into the unknown with percussive call-and-response that bends my ear in a similar manner to Crash Worship, Foot Village and Menstruation Sisters. Nothing particularly exciting, but I’m not gonna turn down a good lo-fi crash n’ smash for at least a couple go-arounds. Can you believe that they don’t even have Covid in New Zealand anymore? They have lots of Futurians CD-rs instead.

Gulch Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress LP (Closed Casket Activities)
It’s rare in these days of the musical long tail that three unconnected friends mention loving the same new record in a short period of time. It’s even rarer when it’s a hardcore-grind album, which is the case with Gulch’s full-length debut. They’re from southern California, power-violence’s fertile homeland, and they’ve put together a heavy, formidable, moshworthy debut. My scientific analysis has located equal parts Despise You, Napalm Death, Trapped Under Ice and Morbid Angel, a hard-hitting formula that is just unique enough to avoid listener fatigue while also solemnly adhering to traditional hardcore-grind behavior. The vocalist has a raw squawk (not too high-pitched, with the right level of esophagal masochism), and the songs move quick and abruptly but with a sense of cohesion, not just stacks of parts deployed at random. Definitely sounds like the type of band who could share the stage with Xibalba, Healer, Turnstile, Power Trip or Jesus Piece and possibly show them up, depending on the crowd’s mood. And much like the rest of that lineup, even in today’s pitiful economy, these guys know how to shift units: unless my eyes are deceiving me, they sold out of the 1,500 vinyl copies of Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress in a week. Who does that anymore, besides Bruno Mars, David Bowie and The Beatles?

Hero Dishonest Maailma Palaa Taas LP (Peterwalkee / If Society / TrujÄ…ca Fala)
Eighth album from the indefatigable Finnish hardcore-punk unit Hero Dishonest. Where do you go for your eighth album as a hardcore band? Hero Dishonest’s answer seems to be the exact same place they’ve always been, melding ’90s melodic punk with “old-school” American hardcore-punk and Japanese hardcore thrash. They’re past the point of having any chance at being cool, comfortably settled into middle-age and playing music initially crafted for teenage enjoyment, so they just keep doing their own thing exactly in the way that they like to do it. The plus side is that no one could ever accuse Hero Dishonest of being trendy, but the downside is that their music isn’t quite what I’m personally looking for, either. It reminds me at times of SNFU, Kill Your Idols and Judgement, with a lingering sense that they listen to far more Fat Wreck Chords discs (let’s say No Use For A Name, Strung Out and Good Riddance) than the currently-revered hardcore influences (United Mutation, Void, G.I.S.M., Sick Pleasure, you get the picture). Peterwalkee pressed this version specifically for American customers in an edition of one hundred copies, so surely there are ninety-nine of my fellow citizens willing to give Maailma Palaa Taas a welcoming home, right?

Jäverling Meets Ganjaman_72 Chasing Dub / Insane Pissapes 7″ (Höga Nord)
I know what you’re thinking: “Jäverling encountering Ganjaman_72 in the studio? Not in my lifetime!”. Well, much like many other things that seemed utterly preposterous prior to this year, Jäverling did indeed meet up with Ganjaman_72 for a 7″ single, and it’s a beautiful dubbed-out excursion. Like a lazy river ride for your stereo, these two cuts are deep and charming left-field dubs. “Chasing Dub” utilizes what appears to be live bass-guitar and it pushes it through a prismatic lens of effects, percussion rattling off into infinite reverberations. The b-side track title sounds like it should be a new side project of Wolf Eyes and Crazy Doberman, but “Insane Pissapes” is another heavyweight vibe. Digi-dub bass meets clanky percussion meets a rising synth arpeggio that has me feeling like I’m at least a couple inches off the ground, even if I’m lying down. If I had any sort of human social contact planned, I’d be queuing up “Insane Pissapes” to immediately set the mood. Stoned-out Swedish dub is here to stay!

Kong Kong Raw And Primitive 7″ (Gorilla City)
Can you believe this is the first ape-themed Swedish oi record to be reviewed in these pages? It feels long overdue, I’ll tell you that. I can’t quite tell from the record itself the level of gimmickry this band is going for – do they wear ape suits and stuff, or are they merely content with calling their band Kong Kong and going by pseudonyms like B.B. Kong (guitarist) and Megaprimatus Kong (bass)? I may never know. Anyway, they’ve got four songs on here, which sound like 80% Dropkick Murphys and 20% Fucked Up. Bouncy and anthemic, this is oi for ex-skinheads who collect Funko Pops with their children and have more of a nostalgic rather than active connection to punk. Nothing wrong with that – it’s honestly a little unnerving when angry numbskull skinhead teens stay that way into their 40s and 50s – so if there are people looking for some harmless street-punk fun with a wacky gimmick, and they happen to live in Sweden, they’ve probably already ordered a limited Kong Kong t-shirt and 7″ bundle, and I am not one to begrudge anyone for that.

Landing / Headroom split LP (Red Scroll)
If there’s one thing I won’t accept from fans of CT guitar sorceress Kryssi Battalene, it’s complaining that there isn’t anything new to hear – just wait a few minutes and I promise you, some new recording featuring her signature smoldering guitar will materialize. I had never heard Landing before (due to an unfair personal grudge based on the occasional confusion I’d suffer when seeing their name and thinking it said Landed instead), but their music here is a keen fit. Lovely long-term-married-couple indie-psych ambience, like Labradford on a chill-wave diet, or Windy & Carl if they allowed a little trip-hop to seep beneath the blurry tapestry of soothing chords (both guitar-based and synthesizer-derived). If you weren’t relaxed before the record started, you certainly are now, and Battalene’s Headroom maintain your horizontal position with three elegiac psych-rock movements. I have to wonder if they’re showing their hand a little bit by pumping out so much content… their music is soothing and extended, like a drip of sweat on the tip of Neil Young’s nose, but by releasing so much of it at such a furious clip, is it basically as though Headroom And Co. are saying “this is all much too easy for us”? They could at least pretend that some level of frustration and trial-and-error went into their tunes, so that it feels like a special moment of success, like some secret one-of-a-kind gem we must tenderly hold. Chances are that it’s both easy and special, though, and as long as the CT Psych-Rock Association continues to have such a productive run, I hope their faucet remains wide open.

Loss Prevention Shoot To Kill 7″ (11 PM)
Kansas City’s Loss Prevention got together back in November 2019 – what a lucky time to be a new hardcore band! They managed to squeak out this debut 7″ EP with the quickness, and it’s a nice opening statement of immature and youthful hardcore-punk. Theirs is probably the millionth hardcore song with the title of “Vicious Cycle”, but they were bold enough to spell it “Viscious Cycle” on the back cover – why don’t more hardcore bands throw proper spelling out the window? Even bolder, lyrics are included for this song but I swear the singer is only yelling “cycle / cycle / cycle / vicious cycle” for the song’s duration. Why don’t more hardcore bands only sing the title of the song with no other lyrics, too? Loss Prevention is stirring up all sorts of questions in me. These four tunes are in and out fast – they could’ve easily fit on one side of a 7″ – and they stick with a fast, aggro delivery, recalling if not quite emulating aspects of Urban Waste and Headcleaners. No mosh breakdowns, just hardcore speed with a singer who seems to be content screaming as few words as possible. Works for me, and it should work for you, too.

Samara Lubelski Partial Infinite Sequence LP (Open Mouth)
Samara Lubelski continues her journey to the cosmic center of the violin with this new solo album, Partial Infinite Sequence. She’s clearly zoned in for its full (or should I say partial) duration, doling out a hypnotic otherworldly transmission that swells like the tide. In a way, I’d say her technique here resembles early electronic music, as she manages to finagle the same frazzled frequencies Tod Dockstader would’ve used to soundtrack a cartoon character seeing stars after an anvil fell on its head. You can tell it’s violin though, from the wheezing scrapes that lap each other and the physicality of her performance, reminiscent of those great Agencement albums (although far, far less maddening – there’s a definite healing property to Lubelski’s enforced hypnosis here). Towards the end of the second side, it starts to sound like the violin is trying to form words, as though it’s attempting to share some urgent warning from another dimension. It’s definitely out-there stuff, which of course means its appropriate company for the rest of the Open Mouth roster. Partial Infinite Sequence will aid you in your quest to lose or find your mind, depending on exactly what you’re looking for.

Minor Science Second Language LP (Whities)
About six years ago, music critic Angus Finlayson put his money where his mouth is and started making his own music instead of just writing about others. Bold move, although I guess it’s bolder if you suck, because Finlayson’s Minor Science moniker has brought some serious hits over the past few years: peep “Volumes” off Whities 012 and see if you don’t catch your pelvis twitching to the rhythm. Now he’s got his own album, and while it hasn’t been as compelling as prior singles (as is often the case with techno full-lengths), there’s a lot to love here. It’s sophisticated stuff, clearly well-versed in sound design while simultaneously beholden to the power of a sick beat. Finlayson packs a lot into these tunes, often upending tracks (see the full-stop in “Polyglottal”) with a curiosity that’s contagious. It’s like he wants to look under the hood of post-dubstep techno and futz around with things until something new is happening. Very much in line with artists like Joy O, Overmono, Nathan Micay and Batu (not to mention the rest of the ever-growing Whities family), but with his own particular set of predilections. Minor Science likes to rave hard (the pulse-pounding “Gone Rouge” makes me want to hop up to one of those pedestals above the dance-floor and really show off my stuff) while still ensuring there’s no easy read on where the track is headed or by what methods it plans on traveling. High caliber techno that makes you move without holding your hand through the process.

Psychic Graveyard A Bluebird Vacation LP (Deathbomb Arc)
What a nice surprise! I love(d) Arab On Radar, from their bee-in-your-bonnet guitars and frazzled rhythms to their perverse and grumpy demeanor, but I hadn’t done much recently to keep up with the new bands that sprung from their ashes. Made In Mexico were alright if kind of a letdown, and the little I heard from Doomsday Student and The Chinese Stars didn’t stick. I decided on a whim to peep A Bluebird Vacation, this relatively-new group’s second album in two years, and wow, it’s an absolute joy! Scuzzy, pounding noise-rock that’s still very much noise-rock even though I can’t hear any guitars? Live drums, what sounds like three or four menacing oscillators and synths bleating on and off, and the firmly-spoken voice of Eric Paul, down a few registers from his days in Arab On Radar. It’s heavy, gruesome music, recalling my favorite moments of Six Finger Satellite and Pop. 1280 without remotely copying either. Actually, A Bluebird Vacation feels very similar in mood and delivery (a sort of post-screamo minimalist industrial?) to Daughters (with whom they share producer Seth Manchester), and it makes me wonder why Daughters blew up and I haven’t heard anyone I know mention Psychic Graveyard once. Is it because Daughters’ vocalist Alexis Marshall is sexy and Eric Paul decidedly is not? As far as I’m concerned, Paul could write circles around Marshall – his lyrics here are particularly curious, memorable and darkly amusing, and they seem to flow naturally from him, as they always have. Daughters’ endless touring schedule surely plays a significant factor, whereas I get the impression that Psychic Graveyard are more of a hobby, less of a “going for it” affair. Now that we can’t go out anywhere anymore though, perhaps the odds are slowly tipping in favor of Psychic Graveyard.

R.M.F.C. Reader 7″ (Anti Fade)
From the cover art, I had assumed the band was actually called “R.M.F.C. Reader”, which seems excessive as far as band names go, but worry not – it’s just R.M.F.C., and it stands for Rock Music Fan Club. It’s on Anti Fade, so I knew it had to have some cool guitars and feature at least one person lurking within New South Wales, Australia, and I was right on both counts. It’s apparently the solo project of a teenager named Buz Clatworthy (please let that be the real name his parents stuck him with), and I’m impressed, seeing as all the instruments are performed with confidence and skill. “Reader” starts off with a nod to the nerd-pogo mania of Liquids or Erik Nervous, but the verses cool down with a taut groove that has me thinking someone slipped Young Clatworthy a Total Control disc during his freshman year. Certainly fits right in with the stuff Neck Chop and Digital Regress are peddling, and as worthy of your ear as any Ammerican act that home-records their solo-project punk rock. “Faux Freaks” is on the flip, and it’s a little more traditionally first-wave punk sounding, as if The Vibrators or The Adverts were actually just one lonely teenage boy surrounded by people on their phones all day. Unlike many of the other lo-fi solo punk records I’ve been hearing, there’s a subtle sophistication in the songwriting here that has me curious what else might come from the R.M.F.C. once they are allowed out past midnight.

Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb Fake Nature LP (Big Neck)
So we’ve got one member in a gold snake-print bodysuit, two in funny animal masks, and a third in a bunny mask, who’s pictured while gnawing a studded carrot (?) in multiple images. You’ve got my attention… do go on! Unfortunately, the slapdash costuming is where the fun ends for me with Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb’s sophomore album, Fake Nature. Is there still an audience for this stuff? It’s like, semi-jokey pop-punk with a serious deficiency of memorable hooks, riffs, choruses, or anything else that makes pop-punk fun and catchy. It sounds like the early ’00s albums by bands like The Queers and Screeching Weasel – everyone’s least favorite albums by those once celebrated, now disgraced acts – with maybe a subtle splash of flame-tattoo garage-y attitude. It doesn’t even strike me as particularly fun music, and they’re all wearing wacky masks for chrissakes! Even so, I suppose I was fine to tolerate Fake Nature, that is until the chorus of “Perverse Mortgage” hit, featuring the most egregious Fat Mike vocal imitation I’ve heard in forever. I’d say it’s like nails on a chalkboard, but I could actually go for a recording of nails on a chalkboard, whereas corny pop-punk by adults who should know better is what truly gets me shuddering in anguish.

Ulla Tumbling Towards A Wall LP (Experiences Ltd.)
I’m not immune to curiosity over the most hyped underground electronic record of the year, particularly in a year when there is little else to do besides listen to music at home. Ulla’s Tumbling Towards A Wall has been out for a few months now, but scarce to come by, at least until somewhat recently, presumably due to a repress (although like pretty much everything about Ulla, confirmed details are scant). Gotta say, this one lives up to the internet thirst, as it’s a captivating album of nuanced electronics, rich with healing properties amid plenty of left-field sound construction, forever to remain mostly unidentified. The equation here seems to be one part Autechre, a dash of Mille Plateaux’s seminal soundscaping, a pinch of Pendant’s skyward lo-fi drones, a hefty spoonful of Mike Cooper’s ambient-exotica and a Pop Ambient finishing glaze. Very hazy, mysterious sounds, delivered with both rhythmic pulses and beatless drifting. The flow here is pretty perfect, as drone-y moments give way to slow-motion grooves and back again; Ulla expertly weaves organic and synthetic sounds until it becomes impossible to tell which is which. “Leaves And Wish” is a particularly sumptuous groove: dystopian Balaeric, perhaps? It’s mixed for maximum impact, with swells of bass that strike at just the right frequency; jealousy from any average dub-techno unit is certainly warranted. I’m far from the first person to say it, but Tumbling Towards A Wall is a year-end contender, on my list and probably yours, too.

Upsammy Zoom 2xLP (Dekmantel)
Upsammy rocked my world with her Words R Inert EP back in 2018 (can you remember 2018, because I cannot). I’ve been chasing that thrill with her music ever since, and she hasn’t skimped on sharing it – since then she’s dropped another 12″, a full-length, and now another full-length, this one titled in homage to the only way we can see friends anymore: Zoom. Across these two 12″s, Upsammy doles out more of her warm, percussive IDM. She continues to craft effervescent pads and chiming tones with precision engineering here, very much in line with Aphex Twin’s Syro if a little less dense and a little more restrained. “Subsoil” is a pretty good example of the Upsammy sound, wielding beats straight out of Drexciya’s aquatic dreamworld, the bleepy-bloops of some classic Warp Records IDM and a tender melodic groove. At times, it’s as if Upsammy figured out a way to harness the split-second moment of an ice-cold can of flavored seltzer (coconut-lime, I’m thinking) being cracked open, using that refreshing crack as the center of her rhythms. Other moments get even warmer and fuzzier, with kindhearted synths that recall some of Dekmantel’s cozier artists like Fatima Yamaha and even Juju & Jordash. Not saying this one will change your outlook on life, but it’s a refreshing, energizing album with all the healing benefits that prismatic breakbeat techno can offer.

Vladislav Delay, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare 500-Push-Up LP (Sub Rosa)
Helluva 2020 for Vladislav Delay – he drops his first solo album in a number of years and it ends up being a harsh power-electronics divergence from the presumed Vladislav Delay sound, and now he’s got a new collaborative album with legendary dub duo Sly & Robbie. For this one (it’s not the first time Vladislav Delay has worked with Sly & Robbie), he went to Kingston and acted as a fly on the wall for a handful of the legendary production duo’s jam sessions, recording not only the drums, bass and vocals but the conversations between takes and the room itself. He then took the tapes back to Finland and gave them the expected Vladislav Delay treatment, warping these dub riddims with wild effects, misty dub echos and various tricky mixing techniques to which I’m not privy. I was reading a recent interview with Vladislav Delay, in which he shared his dislike of repetitive, locked-in-place loops, and from the sound of 500-Push-Up I’d confirm that he means it – these tracks bop and lurch themselves forward, but never in a rigid groove or synthetically looped format. Even when digitally altered and transformed, the playful humanity of Sly & Robbie’s production shines through, organic and genial.

Days Of A Quiet Sun compilation LP (Feel It)
At first glance, I was dismayed to think that Feel It has gotten into the old-guy-reissue game, music meant for ex-punks, balding and bearded and sitting in their recliner listening to the music of their parents’ generation. I looked a little closer, though, and I think I get it: they’ve always had a sharp sense of regional pride, and this compilation is a selection of remastered cuts produced by Richmond, VA’s Martin Gary between 1966 and 1968. It also doesn’t hurt that these tracks are all pretty darn palatable, ranging in styles similar to The 13th Floor Elevators, The MC5, Motown, The Doors, Northern Soul… it seems most counter-cultural rock sounds of the late ’60s passed through Gary’s studio. I’m assuming that like me, you haven’t heard any of this stuff, from what must’ve been one of the dozens of groups named The Barracudas in the previous century to The Hazards and Duck Baker. “Hippie Queen” by The Bosom Blues Band is a particularly refreshing blues-rock jam, threatening to knock your Mount Carmel records off the shelf. As it turns out, Days Of A Quiet Sun does a great job showcasing some of the forgotten history of late ’60s garage-bands in the vicinity of Richmond, DC and their countless suburbs. Try as I might, there’s no way to hate on this one!

Search results for: bow & spear

Reviews – May 2015

Joey Anderson 1974 12″ (Dekmantel)
Been on the hunt for more Joey Anderson ever since his Head Down Arms Buddha Position 12″ ruffled my feathers earlier this year, and this new one on Dekmantel is a delight all its own. Gotta say, I’m absolutely infatuated with the cover art for no good reason – it looks like some weird Happy Hardcore bootleg CD, really a nice visual, and it suits these three tracks nicely. The title track is over ten minutes of methodical electronics: heavy Manuel Göttsching E2-E4 vibes but with the jilted techno acumen of Kassem Mosse. “Under Water” is like watching an 8-bit sunset slowly consumed by darkness, with a warm layer of fuzz touching all synths and a Morphosis-esque improv solo toward the end. “Back Draft” finishes off the 12″ with poison spears of various sizes aiming straight for flesh, all while a basic clap and hi-hat give the green light to the dancers waiting on the sidelines. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the many records this fine producer has under his belt, and I’m jubilant just thinking about it.

Asda Three Tracks 10″ (FuckPunk)
Is anyone else paying attention to the fantastic FuckPunk label? This new one is a 10″ (in what appears to be an 11″ bag, although I didn’t have a ruler handy), with a couple random pieces of paper stashed inside the it. No paper sleeve for the vinyl, but it comes with some info hand-taped to the b-side center sticker and ferocious post-techno, post-grime nonsense music within the grooves. Asda (whose name comes from what I believe is the English equivalent to Walmart) is Seb Gainsborough (Vessel himself) and his chum Chester Giles. The a-side features two crusty, melody-free beats, somewhere between industrial and drum n’ bass, with Giles calmly ranting about consumption and the anomie of modern life, like an alternate version of Sleaford Mods who only ever released a tape on Hospital Productions. The b-side track comparatively floats, a few corroded hi-hats clipping through a mournfully descending melody and Giles reciting a brief and glum homily. The music is great, feeling kind of tossed-off but in a way that still seems potent and crucial. Top that off with the purposely-horrible packaging (and another limited pressing – 325 copies of this one, or so I’ve read), and I will continue to proudly ride the FuckPunk train.

Blaxxx For No Apparent Reason 12″ (12XU)
As if he wasn’t busy enough with Obnox (and the semi-functioning Bassholes and This Moment In Black History), Lamont Thomas has put together Blaxxx, teamed up with the esteemed Orville Bateman Neeley III (of OBN IIIs fame) and Tom Triplett (I don’t know his deal). I’d imagine Blaxxx is more of an occasional deal, though, as Neeley and Thomas live states away (if my stalking skills are accurate). It certainly feels like a side-project, but not in a bad way, as this trio lets loose on some in-the-red rock damage, like High Rise courting a Third Man Records contract. The guitar sounds like a rocket taking off, an echoed vocal cuts through the smoke, and the bass and drums remain permanently locked in chastity together, all build and no release. Some sweet soloing on the part of Thomas too, even more impressive assuming that they probably just talked about these songs for a few minutes before letting it rip onto tape. It’s only a matter of time before Dave Grohl steps down as American Ambassador of Rock and Lamont Thomas is rightfully appointed.

Chris Brokaw The Periscope Twins 2xLP (12XU)
Chris Brokaw has as respectable of an indie-rock guitarist’s career as one can have, playing with Come and Codeine among other groups that probably would’ve reunited at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival were that company still in working order. This lengthy double-album is taken from a friends-only cassette of the same title, two uninterrupted sides of a 90-minute tape edited down into four sides of vinyl. The first two sides consist of “The Periscope Kids Are Out On the Skids, My Love”, which is basically an extended fuzzy ripple, like a fart capable of circular breathing or a distorted kazoo left to wander into outer space. I kept waiting for something to happen, and at one point on the second side it sputters out for a second – a move that normally wouldn’t be noteworthy but felt like a shock in this context. Reminds me a bit of the strange drone minimalists Nmperign, as far as content, delivery and lengthy song titles are concerned. The second LP is a bit more musical: the two tracks on sides C and D (whose combined titles would be as long as most of my reviews) are fragile and intimate sessions of chords, finger-pickings, musical phrases and wanderings, Brokaw’s guitar smouldering like an ancient candle that refuses to burn out entirely. Honestly, nothing really ever happens on the last two sides either (the extended title track is a real patience-tester), so this is one to be enjoyed in the way you might go through a sketchbook in an artist’s home studio rather than view their finished work on a gallery wall. I’m more of a gallery guy myself, but I can still appreciate this glimpse into Brokaw’s artistic process and use of spare time.

Broken Prayer Misanthropocentric A.K.A. Droid’s Blood LP (Sorry State)
For as much as I love Chicago as a city (I’ll even go to bat for deep-dish, and I say that as a born New Yorker), I’ve only truly loved a couple dozen or so of the hardcore bands to have come out of it. Broken Prayer are a newer group, and while I appreciate that they put effort into their records (this one comes with a nice book of mostly-legible lyrics) and poke little holes in the somewhat regimented hardcore aesthetic, I dunno… it’s just okay. They remind me of a cleanly-recorded Brown Sugar with synths instead of horns – stumbling, time-changing hardcore with a vocalist who pays no mind to the beat, ranting and raving as his mood dictates. I usually like when hardcore bands are total messes, but this isn’t that – Broken Prayer clearly spent time writing these songs, organizing parts, penning lyrics and deciding which synth settings to flatulate, but none of it really congeals into anything with lasting appeal. Probably fun live though, so maybe one day I’ll catch them and it’ll make perfect sense. Or, just as likely, not.

CCR Headcleaner Cokesmoker LP (Pollen Season / Stale Heat)
I’ve enjoyed the music of CCR Headcleaner since first checking out their 7″ on Caesar Cuts, where I knew them as an unhinged, acid-fried hardcore group. They’ve moved into a new realm on the subtly-titled Cokesmoker, essentially splitting the difference between two of my favorite Californian ex-punk bands, Los Cincos and (early) Comets On Fire. Through this record, they bash through classic garage tropes like a drunken chaperone at the high school dance, viciously shred their guitars as though trying to start a forest fire, and generally cause a self-righteous ruckus of which I wish I could’ve taken part. Things get a little more chaotic on the b-side, venturing into improvisation, extended audio samples and even a little acid squelch, and I honestly love every minute of it. There’s something about CCR Headcleaner’s delivery that makes it feel as though every member of the band is fully on-board with what they’re delivering, that there is zero hesitation or concern that what they’re doing might be a little too out-there or unlistenable, so I applaud these folks for finding each other and releasing this cosmic gem.

Davidians Night Terrors 7″ (Sorry State)
This Davidians 7″ is part of the Sorry State Records “North Carolina Singles Series”, which of course means uniform/generic 45 sleeves/center stickers. Not sure a singles club really suits hardcore, particularly with such a limited focus (no offense to North Carolina, as I can’t think of many states that could really sustain a hardcore 7″ singles series), but this Davidians record is cool enough for what it is. “Night Terrors” goes through a number of different parts, all of which are pretty frantic. The bass-line jabs all over the place, the guitar winds through a few different effects and the singer manages to make sense of it all. The b-side song is named “Gimme All Yo’ Dope” and it has the same general sound as the a-side, although it slithers more than skanks. The vocalist reminds me of some ’90s pop-punk band I can’t recall (30 Foot Fall, maybe? Falling Sickness?), and while that might be a red flag for most of the hardcore intelligentsia, it fits Davidians nicely.

Dogs On Acid Dogs On Acid 7″ (Ranch)
Dogs On Acid sounds like it should be some new anonymous techno release on L.I.E.S., but it’s actually a poppy, punky Philadelphian group, its members fresh from time in Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing (both also poppy and punky). Clearly, these folks know what they’re doing when it comes to good-time, post-collegiate indie-punk, as these two songs are both expertly crafted and easy to enjoy. “Make It Easy” has traces of later Pavement, hints of earlier Whatever Brains and the ghosts of Dogs On Acid’s previous bands wandering the halls, and “Waiting For You To Come Home” comes across like a punk band pretending to be Better Than Ezra for a Halloween basement gig. I’m impressed at how good it all sounds – Dogs On Acid borrow from all sorts of historical alt-rock articles and breezily spin it into something I want to hear all over again. The simple-yet-attractive packaging has me hoping people still buy 7″s and not just Bandcamp downloads these days, as this is one you won’t be shy to leave around the house.

Future Punx I’m So Inspired EP 12″ (Dull Tools)
Perhaps appropriately so, I’ve been hearing about Future Punx via the internet, and while photos of their live show never look quite as 2029 as I’d hope (I’d give their personal style a 2017 at best), lots of people seem to be sincerely enjoying this Brooklyn indie-punk group, which isn’t always the case with Brooklyn indie-punk groups. The “Ford & Lopatin trapped in the Matrix” cover art had me expecting Future Punx to sound like the Svedka vodka robot doing Blondie covers, and while I suppose I can still see it, this record mostly just sounds like classic 99 Records worship care of DFA and its affiliates circa 2002. I’m picturing Thomas Dolby fronting Liquid Liquid, The Stick Men on sedatives, The Faint if they never tried to hide their dorkiness (particularly in the lead vocal), or DEVO with a New York groove – live dance music to nerd out to, if not necessarily something worthy of the self-proclaimed “Punx” moniker. There’s at least one Ferris Bueller chase scene on here (I’ll give it to “Plus Side”), some funk guitar to round it out, and a vibe as fun as it is retro, like when you’re absolutely craving an Oreo milkshake for no good reason and end up parking next to a Johnny Rocket’s. If they work hard enough at it and tour, I could see Future Punx becoming the !!! of their generation, and there are far worse things to be.

Gay Kiss Preservation Measures LP (Sorry State)
Last autumn, I saw Gay Kiss perform in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. They came out, wearing mostly black and looking supremely pissed, and after the singer announced “we are The Gay Kiss” into the mic, a lone voice in the back of the crowd let out a “Ha-ha!”, Nelson-style, injecting their tense and negative demeanor with a splash of idiotic levity. There’s no knuckleheaded humor to be found within Preservation Measures, however, as the cover-art, resembling one of Mark McCoy’s fever dreams, ushers in a dark, menacing album. The riffs are ugly, the vocalist never goes below a full-on scream (or gurgle), and the liberal use of noise/samples/guitar effects goes a long way in distinguishing Gay Kiss from the pack. At times, it feels like Hoax if they intended to be artsy, or perhaps one of Will Dandy’s hardcore groups (Ritual Mess? Bucket Full Of Teeth?) after a particularly nasty breakup. Elements of Gravity-style screamo, Swans worship and the Youth Attack aesthetic all rear their heads at times, but it’s a sturdy and practical hardcore album through and through, the sort of record where blood, sweat and tears mix into one clear pink liquid (you can only hope it comes out in the wash).

Helmer Roccale 12″ (Valcrond Video)
Helmer’s debut EP shook me with its savagely fudgy bass-lines and sophisticated grit, and my enthusiasm continues through his second EP, this one for the upstanding Valcrond Video label (owned and operated by Mr. Torn Hawk himself). “You Say I For Me” is the a-side track, and the bass revs like an engine, calling to mind a patient, seductive Blawan mix, although this track swings through different peaks and valleys far more than an original Blawan production ever would. It’s like you can tell Helmer would love to make some crazy Aphex Twin-inspired soundwork but he loves a solid 4/4 too much, and as a sometimes-DJ myself, I love that I could just let this track play and stand there doing nothing but looking cool, knowing that Helmer already did all the work. “Corrib Chun Mask” opens the flip-side with the Knight Rider theme caught in Helmer’s helicopter blades, like a car chase across the Al-Jafr desert between two sexy cybernetic beings. “spry->Env” has the most Autechre-y name and wraps things up in a slightly different fashion, with warped Middle Eastern strings giving way to a muffled beat that could have as easily been born in Vessel’s laboratory as Black Rain’s dungeon. Bravo!

Home Blitz Foremost + Fair LP (Richie)
Daniel DiMaggio’s Home Blitz seems to be the last-man-standing from the mid-’00s weird-punk explosion, and on Foremost + Fair, he’s not standing around with his hands in his pockets so much as striding in on an armored stallion fresh from slaying a dragon or two. I don’t know how he does it, but there has been a continual and constant rate of improvement among Home Blitz records, consistently getting stranger and more unique. This one is particularly crazy (and decidedly hi-fi) – DiMaggio injects his pop-rock with a healthy dose of keyboards (pianos, synths, it seems like anything with black and white keys was played here) and an unexpected Medieval Renaissance vibe, like he’s been kicking around New York City with both Tom Verlaine and Robin Hood. Some of these tracks (“I’m That Key” in particular) almost have an emo-pop vibe, calling to mind The Anniversary and the first-wave of Vagrant Records-styled emo-punk, whereas others feel like they were written by John Renbourn after a Monty Python binge. Crazy, right? And through all this (and another minute-too-long field recording track), Foremost + Fair is his most enjoyable, complex and user-friendly record yet, mastered loud as hell to boot. I love it and you’d be crazy not to.

The Insults Stiff Love 7″ (Last Laugh)
Last Laugh already provided us with a faithful reissue of The Insults’ Population Zero EP, and they’re back again with Stiff Love, the other 7″ The Insults released back in 1979. I feel like I am just following a script with these reviews of obscure-classic punk 7″s, as the band hasn’t existed in decades and these songs (like the vast majority of Last Laugh’s reissues) are unassailable punk rock stupidity. The other Insults 7″ had a song about loving zombies, and on this one the love they describe is far more X-rated (I’ll leave it to your imagination). Speedy, jangly guitars, vocals that must’ve been recorded with a clothespin attached to the singer’s nose (no voice is that naturally nasal), safety pins and razor blades, it’s all here for your proto-pogo-punk enjoyment, forever and ever amen. These reissues might feel like a formality at times, but it doesn’t take away from The Insults’ appeal.

Jam City Dream A Garden LP (Night Slugs)
Jack Latham gave his project Jam City a pretty generic name, almost impossibly generic, and it knowingly betrayed the sheer outlandishness of Classical Curves, the debut album under this moniker. I absolutely love that record – it’s like it was composed purely out of sounds other producers discarded (dribbled basketballs, Polaroid cameras, asthmatic breathing), those unloved ingredients alchemized into a music so futuristic and singular it still sounds fresh if I put it on today. Not one to duplicate himself, Latham has changed his style dramatically for Dream A Garden, an album that leans heavily on ’80s roller-rink pop and prominently features his singing voice. I’ve listened to it a bunch, and while there still are plenty of unexpected, discordant moments, it does two things I’m not crazy about. One, it looks to the past in a way that countless other chill-wave / retro-futuristic / trendy artists have been doing for a few years now, and two, his voice (which has sort of a passive Toro Y Moi / Washed Out sheen) reminds me that this is music made by some indoor-dwelling nerd guy, rather than a sentient malware program making music as an ironic joke before it destroys society’s infrastructure (which is what I assume was responsible for Classical Curves). I want to like Lathan crooning on “Black Friday”, and I do, but I can’t help but think about how much I’d rather be listening to Classical Curves, again and again.

Kappa Chow Jump / SBTD 7″ (Kiss The World)
Look at Kappa Chow, all bundled up and ready to shovel some snow on the cover of this, their second 7″. Just like the first, it comes in a slightly-oversized sleeve with cool hand-drawn art, but musically, Kappa Chow seem to have calmed their hyperactivity, preferring a reserved cool over manic carousing. “Jump” is a gutsy title to roll with, standing in Van Halen’s shadow and all, but it’s a pretty nice tune, pairing a sassy bass-line with pop-ambient horns, scraggly guitar and a confident vocal (all leading to a solid hook, where they yell, you guessed it, “Jump!”). “SBTD” stands for “Something Better To Do”, and it’s another fun slice of peppy indie-punk, taking cues from Tyvek, The Clean and Protomartyr without losing any sincerity or naiveté in the process. If something feels slightly off when you are listening to Kappa Chow, allow me to remind you that they’re Canadian and it’ll all make sense.

Mad Virgins I Am A Computer 7″ (No Good)
The obsession with classic Killed By Death / Bloodstains 7″ reissues isn’t exclusively an American one, as the No Good label is reissuing a few choice cuts from Belgium’s Romantik Records, arguably that country’s first foray into punk rock. It’s not always the case with reissues like this one, but I am already deeply versed in the glory of this Mad Virgins 7″, as they aren’t just another quality punk band, but rather an entity that exists without contemporaries. The drummer is entirely foreign to the idea of modern rhythm, and it somehow propels the two-note riff of “I Am A Computer” and Crackerjack’s barely-post-pubescent vocal sneer, like Sid Vicious fresh out of the 6th grade. It’s easily one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard, and I mean that sincerely. “Fuck & Suck” is the b-side and it’s a beaut as well, although it mostly just makes me sad that these are the only two studio-recorded songs that exist from Mad Virgins’ punkest moment (by 1981 they sounded like a polished mix of Bay City Rollers and The Undertones). I’m not one to promote reissue vinyl, but we all need Mad Virgins in our homes, one way or another.

Melchior Productions Meditations 4-6 12″ (Perlon)
I missed Meditations 1-3, and while I have no valid excuse, allow me to divert by saying that I’m digging hard on four through six, collected here. “Meditation 4” is the long one, a solid twelve minutes of an extended vocal moan and Thomas Melchior’s trademarked percussion: snares and hats and claps that sound like tiny air puffs, delicate and crunchy. The twists and turns are subtle, but each rapidly-echoed vocal clip is like a fresh fluffing of my pillow. “Meditation 5” had me thinking it was gonna be full-on ambient until the scissor-y hi-hats kicked in and I realized I was actually at an after-hours club in Barcelona where whiskey sodas are fifteen Euro. “Meditation 6” mixes random radio-scanned vocals much like certain tracks on Ricardo Villalobos’ Sei Es Drum, all with the incessant minimal-techno snap that puts my body into motion. Probably not a game-changing EP for me or you, but Melchior Productions has provided me with so many great moments (No Disco Future was a game-changer for me and “Different Places” is a personal top-ten dance track) that I’m happy to settle into this one like a leather couch still warm from the body of its previous inhabitant.

Mystic Inane Eggs Onna Plate 7″ (Lumpy)
Mystic Inane’s name has been popping up on my radar over the past year or two, but through a variety of errors this 7″ is the first time I’m hearing them. And I couldn’t be happier! This is exactly the sort of slimed-out sludge-punk I need in my diet, operating from the Flipper / Bobby Soxx axis with just the right amount of Mutha Records-informed suburban angst. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the a-side for good reason, a simple and effective mosh part dosed in bacteria and left out in the sun, with the singer ranting off-time about eggs (on a plate, as it were). “Polite Society” is a mid-tempo punk banger, somewhere between Bad Noids, early TSOL and The Mad, complete with a grunt-based chorus, and “Manhood” continues to increase the tempo over the shortest cut on the EP. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the clear and present anthem, the sort of song I hope is played while my casket (or decorative urn) is carried to my final resting place, but the b-side cuts don’t slouch around either. Thanks a lot, Mystic Inane – it’s late, but now I’m hungry!

No Love Dogs//Wolves / Bad Things 7″ (Sorry State)
This No Love 7″ comes care of Sorry State’s “North Carolina Singles Series”, and while I was hoping to find out that they’re a So Much Hate tribute band, I was reasonably pleased with their actual aesthetic, a tuneful and speedy, rock-oriented punk sound. “Dogs//Wolves” feels like the halfway point between the classic-punk infatuation of No Hope For The Kids or The Vicious and the modern streamlined poppy-punk of Big Eyes. “Bad Things” reminds me of White Lung, the drums running overtime while cascading riffs and a disinterested vocal snarl hurry by. No Love certainly put effort into writing these songs, with multiple guitar parts, at least ten changes per track and some form of soloing. It goes down noticeably smooth, perfect for the easy-going hardcore-punk fan who may not sport an Off! hat but likes them just the same.

OD / MB Shplittin’ The Shtones LP (no label)
Record of the month right here! This one pits my new favorite Morgan Buckley alongside his friend Olmo Devin, hence the OD and MB in the title (these folks don’t make it easy for us, do they). According to some credits I’ve found, Buckley plays on at least one of Devin’s tracks, so I’m not sure if this is a traditional split or a collaborative effort or what, but I’m going to stop worrying about how to categorize this record and allow its utter beauty to wash over me. Both sides carry the essence of Morgan Buckley’s 12″ debut, as they casually blend Arthur Russell, Deodato, Blues Control and La Düsseldorf into something entirely new, relevant and stunning. OD’s side tends toward the glossier, groove-based side of their spectrum, dropping rocks (or shall we say “shtones”) into Brian Eno’s pond and letting them ripple in beautiful rings, both controlled and wild, whereas MB’s side leans experimental, chopping up a spoken vocal, teasing various noises over a stoic beat or vibing out on backwards loops. Something about Shplittin’ The Stones is just so perfect for me, as it manages to be calm and hypnotic and brash and weird all at the same time, all effortlessly so. I’m crazy about it!

Person Of Interest Person Of Interest 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Stepping up from the L.I.E.S. minor-leagues of Russian Torrent Versions and L.I.E.S. white-label editions, Person Of Interest steps it up with an official L.I.E.S. 12″, replete with actual cover art (and it’s cool – a blurry image of a dude somehow performing a fade-away dunk). The music has a decent dose of character too: “What You Think You Want” isn’t just another anonymous basement-techno jam, as it rides a wiggly arpeggio over a well-worn house beat and a Beau Wanzer-esque vocal (is that a Yak Bak he’s using?). “Keep It Moving” kicks off the flip with a similar punchy vibe, presided by a seasick theremin and a swinging low-end. I’d guess that “My 97’s” refers to sneakers (as opposed to the Old variety), and it’s the slowest of the three, sounding nicely tweaked as it pairs a stern string section with an 8-bit squeak, like Actress sneaking onto the set of Dr. Who. A keeper for sure, and while I enjoy the plain uniformity of L.I.E.S.’s black DJ sleeves, this Person Of Interest 12″ makes me want to hit the courts and vigorously box people out.

Pinkwash Cancer Money 7″ (Sister Polygon)
Pinkwash are a mighty new Philadelphia duo, sporting drums, guitar through a big mess of amps and vocals with just the right layer of spittle. I hadn’t really heard them before, but I trust Sister Polygon to place only the sweetest sounds on vinyl, and there’s no disappointment here. “Cancer Money” is so revved-up, beefy and KARP-like that I swear the singer Joey was going to go into that “ding dong I’m fucking with your head” line from KARP’s “Bastard Of Disguise”, but instead he repeats a couple of his own angry lines over steamroller drums and methodical two-note riffing. “Skin” opens with a soothing tone-poem before entering a slowed form of rock catharsis, summoning a rhythmic progression somewhere between Rush and Sleep before riding out on a couple thick notes ala the title track. Both tracks showcase a nice confluence of beauty and brawn, and with a Pinkwash album in the planning stages (or so I hope), I plan on enthusiastically enjoying Cancer Money while waiting on more.

Quttinirpaaq Dead September LP (Rural Isolation Project)
Upon opening this one up, my first thought was, “I love the first two Quttinirpaag LPs, but do I really need a third one, particularly so quickly?” I hate to admit that now, as all it took was two seconds of listening to Dead September to realize that I need as much Quttinirpaaq in my life as possible. It opens with a killer Nine Inch Nails / Guns N’ Roses “You Could Be Mine” drumbeat and doesn’t quit, even as layers of guitar feedback and sonic irritants are splattered all over it. And then the next track feels like Suicide trapped inside Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which should make your brows perk up upon reading if you are at all a fan of this website. The rest of the record is just as heavy, relentless and captivating, veering into Vatican Shadow-esque techno, Ramleh-esque noise guitar and Con-Dom-esque power-electronics with equal amounts of dedication and glee. I’ve never had the urge to carve anyone’s name into my body, but I’m starting to think a “Quttinirpaaq” logo in Old English lettering across my stomach might be an attractive first tattoo.

Sex Snobs Lonely LP (no label)
Was hoping for a Sex/Vid collaboration with The Snobs here, but sadly the chances of that happening are slim. Rather, this is an Oklahoma City-based group (someone cool’s gotta live there, right?), and while I was expecting hardcore of some sort (they even go the Old English band-name-font route), this is chugging, groovy, heavy rock music. I’m quickly reminded of Halo Of Flies, Drive Like Jehu, or any band that once played a show with Big Drill Car. They’re really pushing the negative vibes here, with songs like “Sick As A Dog”, “Pissin’ The Bed” and “The Idiot Room”, which boasts the lyrics “I am a professional at making people frown”. Definitely the type of band with guys who say stuff like “we bummed everyone out, it was so great” as though it were some sort of accomplishment. I for one am not bummed out by Lonely, though, as Sex Snobs have proved to be quite capable with their driving, beefy rock songs, favoring tuneful mean-spirited rock over hissing feedback and distortion.

Soft Shoulder Fabric 7″ (Alien Summer)
Holy Moses, Gilgongo continues to run up their credit card bill with three new Soft Shoulder 7″s, each released on hilarious fake-label names (this being an Alien Summer release). I’m a Soft Shoulder fan, so I liked checking these out, although the superfluousness of multiple short 7″s released at once by the same artist does seem a little silly, even to a fan of the format like me. “Fabric” is a good way to kick things off, chugging along like Black Time or Tyvek trying out for a Troubleman Unlimited contract. There are two tracks and an interlude on the flip, sounding like a paper-thin A Frames (“Set It Down”), a quiet jazz practice tune-up (the aforementioned interlude) and then another tom-heavy lo-fi punk stomp (“Set It Down”). Good band for sure, and I hope at least someone out there is filing these Soft Shoulder 7″s next to that Rancid forty-six 7″ box-set.

Soft Shoulder Stair 7″ (Weird Machine)
Here’s the second of the three Soft Shoulder 7″s that just came out, and I’m not gonna write about the third one (it’s cool too) simply because no band deserves three reviews in a single month. This one is also really good, some more tuneless punk crunch on the a-side, flowing into an even crunchier “interlude” and then a slowed-down version with horns (“Stair” appears twice on the a-side). It’s a gnarly enough riff that I’m down to hear it at two different speeds, so why not? Flip it for “Wyld Parrots” which is a Wounded Lion cover (remember them?) but through sonic texturalization it sounds like any other Soft Shoulder track, and the EP wraps up with “Happy Birthday, Iggy”, a personalized tune that is dear to my heart as I also know a delightful young boy named Iggy. Clearly Soft Shoulder had some tracks in the basement that needed clearing out, and it’s been one yard sale I’m glad I stopped by.

The Spirit Of The Beehive The Spirit Of The Beehive LP (Ice Age / Ranch)
The Spirit Of The Beehive’s self-titled debut album is covered in adorable childhood photos, images of cute trick-or-treaters and birthday-cake-eaters who presumably make up some of the membership of this group. Throw on the record and these images are quickly framed in a nostalgic gloom, care of the layered guitar tracks, stacked effects and despondent melodies that fill it up. Generally, modern shoegaze-pop isn’t my bag, but something about The Spirit Of The Beehive seems so carefully considered that I fall into its dusty beanbag chair quite easily. Occasional moments of Weezer and Radiohead (especially Radiohead) fandom pop up, but the album’s flow is orchestrated in such a way that the falsetto-vocal woe-is-me moments crop up right when they have the most impact, just as the occasional power-chord hooks do. I’m not sure if The Spirit Of The Beehive is depressed or delighted when they look back at these old photos, but it’s been fun trying to figure it out.

Talker Talker LP (Downwards)
The mysterious Talker is back, following his/her/its/their debut 12″ with a full-length on the formidable Downwards label. It’s more of the same, but in a good way, as this self-titled album (also called “Hari” in some locales) is a solid mix of techno-derived industrial music. Demdike’s endlessly rippling ride cymbal is present, alongside Raime’s glacial pacing and Concrete Fence’s penchant for noise, leading to a decidedly modern and referential industrial-techno record. One of my favorite tracks is the Kerridge-produced “Meniscus” (which also features his now-trademarked rusty-bullhorn vocals), not just because it’s simple, spacious and monotonously heavy, but because I like to imagine that all these foreboding, shadowy producers hang out together, showing off new runes they found near the river’s mouth and discussing cryptic hand tattoos they’re thinking about getting. The beautiful packaging sets this one off too, and while I may be a sucker at some point, I’m too busy enjoying the world of Talker to care.

Timeghost Cellular LP (Load)
I can’t help but associate Providence, RI (and Load Records in particular) with crazy hand-made artwork – besides the Wolf Eyes crew, this is the town that gave birth to the “CD-r packaged in six different hand-screened paper inserts” vibe that left such a mark on the ’00s underground. Anyway, this Timeghost LP really ups the ante with some of the most attractive LP packaging I’ve seen in a while, a screened and die-cut outer sleeve with bizarre printed insert beneath, and it’s the perfect home for this set of outside-the-box electronic experiments. It’s a hard record to place, which I dig – the music is often frantic in nature, what sounds like homemade noise-boxes and modified VCRs transmitting gobbledegook and alien morse code. I’m reminded of Irr. App. (Ext.), Panicsville and Ultra, but you could just as easily file this one under “IDM” or “Dark Ambient” (as evident on Cellular‘s Discogs page) and I would have little room to argue. While listening, I often feel like I’m inside a busy bus terminal, although the terminal is actually just the magnified inside of a microchip, and then Timeghost starts up with his unhurried whisper of a vocal (it’s as if he’s right over your shoulder) and the discomfort suddenly becomes all too real. Load’s still got it, no doubt about that!

The Zoltars The Zoltars LP (Happenin)
Third Zoltars album in four years, and while statistically my interest should decline in this mellow, wounded indie-rock band (the uniformly drab cover art doesn’t exactly shock the senses), they just keep getting better (and I enjoyed them from the start). On this self-titled record, they pick up the pace a bit, as if vocalist Jared Leibowich finally changed out of the clothes he slept in and ventured outside, even if it’s just to sit at a coffee shop for a few hours. Leibowich still sounds like he’s calling out from the inside of a locker some jock just stuffed him in, and it provides his simplistic-yet-thoughtful lyrics with a depth some normal-voiced guy would be unable to attain. It works well with the simplistic garage-rock tropes on display here (light-hearted Monks riffs, 13th Floor Elevators progressions, that sort of thing), pushing The Zoltars into a more listener-friendly direction without compromising their eccentricity. It’s like they finally got a date, resulting in an artistically-appealing cocktail of confidence and awkwardness.

Hardcore: Gimme Some More compilation 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Gotta give it up for Beach Impediment going with a 7″ compilation EP release, the likes of which are pushed further and further into obsolescence due to the internet making any/all music instantly available for listening (not to mention the slow death of the 7″ as a format people are actually willing to purchase). I was raised on hardcore compilations, so the very concept touches my heart, not to mention the funny title and fittingly prerequisite “random photo of destruction” cover art. There are six bands on this one, probably all Chaos In Tejas alumni: S.H.I.T., Peacebreakers, Mercenary, Impalers, Violent End and Ajax. Great lineup for this EP, as none of the bands turn in throwaways (and you may already know I’ve got much love for Impalers and Ajax in particular), and aesthetically it’s a winner, as all six bands have a very similar mindset for what works in hardcore and what doesn’t. If it wasn’t for the vocalists, this could be the work of one single band, and for raging modern hardcore, it works perfectly.