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Still Single: Vol. 7, No. 8

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Dusted Features

Mosurock notches the 1000th hole in our features belt with a two-months-in-the-making roundup, including new sides from Richard Youngs, Zombi’s Steve Moore, and Boston’s Life Partners, who have recorded this column’s Song Of The Year.

Still Single: Vol. 7, No. 8

Acid Birds
Acid Birds III LP
(Blackest Rainbow)

Until now, it’s been possible to pigeonhole what Acid Birds do as free jazz meets drone. That’s the lineage, anyway; Charles Waters (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Andrew Barker (drums, percussion, cello) have explored the former element from every possible direction in the Gold Sparkle Band, while Jaime Fennelly has proved to be no slouch at moving masses of wall-to-wall continuous sound when circumstances demand in Peeesseye and and doing so full time with his marvelous Mind Over Mirrors project. But while free jazz and drone are still components of Acid Birds’ sound, they’re just that – parts. I also hear hints of horror movie sound design and pure noise, but those feel like inadequate characterizations of a music that deploys corroded electronics, elaborately kinetic metallic sculptures, and hungry raptor cries according to its own laws with sure timing and maximum emotional/physical effect. The ridiculously small pressing sizes of earlier Acid Birds releases was a crime against the forces of cultural uplift; this record comes in an edition of 500 on flawless 140 gram black vinyl. (http://www.blackest-rainbow.moonfruit.com)
(Bill Meyer)

Arctic Flowers
Reveries 12” EP

In many ways, Arctic Flowers is the kind of punk band that ably fills a void until the next one of its kind comes along. Toe-holds in a consistent narrative across a genre of music are not necessarily bad things, and in this case it’s coming directly from the last link in the chain (Signal Lost guitarist Stan Wright, formerly of Deathreat and Talk is Poison and now an accomplished audio engineer in Portland, keeps the lineage going). Arctic Flowers plays insistent, cold punk with ‘core leanings, anthemic female vocals reporting on the struggle, and have the sound and attitude of a tough, crust-ish “dark punk” band down to a science. None of these songs necessarily got me too excited but they are consistent and well-heeled, and make for a strong enough entry into the canon of music for the young and angry. (http://www.inimical.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Brendan Benson/Ben Blackwell
“Last Night in Detroit” b/w “Bury My Body in Elmwood” split 7”

Raconteur (and estimable solo artist) Brendan Benson sings a last call downer about leaving Detroit. He sings that he’s “not sorry/that tonight will be my last” and I kinda believe him. Moving out of a town, even in song, can take a lot of emotions, and not all of them have to be positive or whimsical. I’ll bet he had a good reason to kick this one along. Cass guy and man-at-hand Dirtbombs drummer Ben Blackwell kicks down the practice space door on his side, ranting about dead Detroit notables, and claims that “in 80 years” he wants to be buried there. From the bedroom I just heard, “Hey, I like Rage Against the Machine, too” and realized that Blackwell’s trying to wrap Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” in two tons of jagged steel and bellowing exhaust. He’s got the fire for sure, but outside of Michigan-oriented direction of these two songs, they couldn’t be more different. Esquire magazine commissioned these songs, so they really aren’t for anyone punk, but I don’t think it really matters. Just makes it more strange, really. (http://www.cassrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Lost My Head for Drink LP
(Dirty Knobby)

For those of you born when I was in high school: Bloodloss started as an import-only style Australian rock band, steeped in the Stooges and sleaze, that existed in spurts of activity throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Out of mutual respect and touring friendship, Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm became a member of Bloodloss circa Get My Way (Bloodloss drummer Martin Bland played on Arm’s side project, The Monkeywrench; bassist Guy Maddison took over for Matt Lukin in Mudhoney) and helped to get the project going again on a major label. The group recorded a few albums in that timeframe, including Lost My Head For Drink, recorded in 1997 and hampered what the liner notes described as “a gray filter of sickness, mental illness and general hopelessness.” Unfinished until now, this is one hell of a rock record, mean and snarling and just sarcastic enough to put it in a class far removed from most of the hackwork we’ve been bludgeoned with over the past decade or so. The presence of saxophone by itself raised a red flag, and they even make that work. It’s of the nightmare punk mentality you’d find prevalent in Aussie bands, from the Birthday Party and the Scientists onward. They spin a menacing tale and have enough versatility and forward thinking direction to carve out their own chunk of cadaver, one which nobody will try to steal. The sax really elevates this thing into a party record, but E.J. Renestair’s debonair yarns bring it back down to a raw earth where bands like Killdozer once roamed. “Chocolate Cake Factory Blues” might be the best work/fear ballad that’s sat on a shelf for longer than I’ve held a college degree. What am I gonna do with that anyway, when I’m stuck with the misery and monotony of working in a factory making “goddamn stupid-ass piece of shit motherfuckin’ chocolate cakes” in my head from here on out? I think this is gonna surprise a number of people for its sophistication and great songwriting. It’s like a party for getting fired, and every bit as cynical. “Bones of My Ass” is also about as close as I’d care to be in Tom Waits territory, and they remain heedful of that throughout (how thoughtful of them). Basically this thing is a hard stonker of bad vibes and torment, a night of decadence eaten away by resentment and toxic feelings. It’s also a late reminder that the powers that be could not completely kill rock ‘n’ roll in the late ‘90s. You should check it out. 1000 copies. (http://www.dirtyknobby.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Christina Carter
“Obelisk” b/w “Tholos” 7”
(Emerald Cocoon)

Emerald Cocoon, which is run by Helga Fassonaki and Andrew Scott of Metal Rouge, has undertaken a series of singles that mull over the nexus of solitude and communion that occurs when someone spins a record with music made by one other person. The first volume of Alone/Together goes to Christina Carter, whose fearless undertaking of the most intimate expressions on her own, with Charalambides, and in various other collaborations make her an apt participant. She’s indubitably alone, at least musically speaking, cooing wordless shapes over cautiously shaken bells. It feels like you’re peaking in on someone praying, interrupting a moment you have no right to witness. And yet she captured it herself, gave it to other people to hear and press, and they’ve gone on to share it with 300 more (at least that’s how many copies have been pressed). The nice color cover and a glossy paper insert with a black and white reproduction of one of Carter’s watercolors only sweeten the deal, which is quite real. (http://emeraldcocoon.com)
(Bill Meyer)

ChuCha Santamaria y Usted
s/t LP
(Young Cubs)

Bilingual synth/club pop that really works, when it works. Vocalist Sofia Cordova and producer Matthew Kirkland work out of Oakland, CA, parsing out a varied mix of Latin freestyle and gamey electronic production, akin to the earliest M.I.A. efforts, but with more nuanced songwriting. A couple tracks really stand out, either due to their sultriness or the inventiveness of the melodies themselves, but one gets the sense we’re going to be hearing a good deal more of this sort of electronic diva/Italians Do It Better framework in the coming months, that Drive sdtrk. being a suitable yardstick for such shenanigans. Totally glad this exists, but I think their next one has a chance to be great. Clear vinyl. (http://isaythisisyoungcubs.tumblr.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Collection of the Late Howell Bend
Beasts For While 11” LP

That’s right, an 11”. Longform, thoroughly haunted, bewitched chamber creepers for synth, piano and voice. I was a bit cheesed of at the preciousness of another recent Ownness release that probably featured some of the players on this here record. I gotta blame the dude, because these women are holding it down hard, finding the dark gray void between ultra-low-budg soundtrack work and the palpable fear of everyday life. This is a supreme downer, and it curls up against the edges of the kind of stuff I don’t really wanna hear (Pocahaunted, Coco Rosie), but keeps the séance going with nothing but determination to raise a demon out of bare Earth. I love how these four songs walk right up to the line, though. Bugged out and horrifying release here. Let’s scare _______ to death. Very gnarly artwork, red vinyl. It’s in a 12” sleeve so you won’t have to start some new filing scheme with your Dropdead discography. (http://ownness.org)
(Doug Mosurock)

Colour Bük
Licht Dinger LP
(Wir Wollen Wulle)

Guys from the German part of Long Island get pseudo-profound in the male-as-victim noise rock carport, with cavemanlike instrumental gestures and a vocalist who prefers to say a song’s title over and over again. Provocative by default only, these dudes get out there and bash away at it in momentarily pleasing patterns, but the premise of an entire album of this Brainbombs/Twin Stumps-style repetitive murk is too daunting for most people to face. After the first track “I Am a Philosopher,” which consists of dirge rock with those words said in increasingly agitated circles, I was convinced that I’d found the anthem for anyone who just got out of college holding a B.A. in philosophy and was hoping to figure it out from there. That’s funny to me, and that’s the sort of thing I was hoping for in this LP. I did get a good laugh at the lyrics to the grinding “The Fall Suck” (they’re “The Fall suck/DIY sucks,” and depending on how you’re feeling today, that could be half-right). The rest of this shitbox, including the weirdness that side B devolves into, is in the fuckin’ gulag of manfeelings, with that never-wash-your-hands sorta inward gaze that acts like a nerve agent which drives all women away. You know what’s sadder than 10 guys in a dark room watching Adult Swim on mushrooms? Two guys in a dark room watching Adult Swim on mushrooms. Party on, boyz. 100 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeve. (http://wirwollen.tumblr.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t 12” EP

I think I figured out the Freelovinganarchists deal – they are behind the Pink Playground LP just out on Mexican Summer, and have sent in records in the past, both for their label/blog/mixtape collection and I think also for the Skrot Up label. I’m also enjoying their Discogs page, particularly the sales description “Played once, then shelved.” I hear you on that, FLA. These people are doing good work and sticking closely to a sound and lifestyle motif that is quite alluring. This new release by Colours, a one-man Australian project, rips it hard. Whoever this guy is has a song in his heart, and the most pleasing characteristics of his homeland’s pop output in the ‘80s and ‘90s in mind. Like Pink Playground and others, Colours plies shoegazer wash and drum machine hiss to build a cocoon of ambient noise, pop hooks and guitar-led reveries from the Creation/4AD/Sarah catalogues. I’d like to hang out wherever this is playing, and like-minded others have gathered. Each of the four songs here rolls on for a good five or six minutes, and they don’t run out of steam. Sometimes the best you can hope for in records these days is that whoever’s making the music can back up their enthusiasm with the real skills needed to make good pop music. I am happy to know this is out there, and wouldn’t doubt this guy gets picked up for a bigger release than the 210 copies of this EP for the known world. White vinyl. (http://freelovinganarchists.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Cop City/Chill Pillars
Held Hostage on Planet Chill LP
(Florida’s Dying)

You’d have to be an insane person to expect anything great from a record that looks like this, but little could be further from the truth: this is one supremely weird, engrossing bedroom surf/twang/take me 2 yr dealer trip, nailed to the kush bush like Beardo on the Mount. Cop City/Chill Pillars (Christ, that name!) hail from Lake Worth, Florida, just north of Palm Beach, and I am having a hard time figuring out how people who live there would be making music like this, but you know, it makes perfect sense. It’s simple, strummy wrong-chord sort of stumble, caked with synths and treated of voice, but it makes for some fine, slightly off kling klang post punk in line with the Fall or the Country Teasers. But unlike a lot of impostors out there, CC/CP is completely single-minded of purpose, to the point where their curious production choices and relentless thud put them square within the mastery of their own sonic domain. No matter how strange and alienated things get, there’s always the brain stem firing dutifully underneath. Totally terrific. It’s great fun to figure out where they’re going next, and you’ll be surprised when you find out that they don’t wear out their welcome. Find you one. Need you one. (http://www.floridasdying.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dark Ages
Can America Survive? 12” EP
(Sorry State)

If it means bands like Dark Ages get a pass, then I hope not. Pretty dry, stale early ‘80s HC retread out of this Kansas City outfit, leaning heavily on their imagery to remind listeners of times gone by, and the political turmoil against the poor and middle class that we suffered both then and now. Sadly, it’s not compelling at all this time: bone-dry fast hardcore with a barking singer and no sense of direction other than the map that’s been set upon them to follow. They oughta put on Civil War uniforms and be done with it. Purple vinyl, door-sized poster included. (http://sorrystaterecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dog Day
Deformer LP

Pleasant ramblings and surprise profundity flank both sides of this husband/wife duo’s new LP. I remember a single from a while back that didn’t make much of an impression, and for chunks of its runtime, Deformer plays more as a collection of songs cast against human error rather than the sound of any one band, both to detriment and happy accident (this is total Etsy-core in many ways, no sharp edges or unvarnished tones), but now and again these two lay into a melody so soft and hurting that it shuffles everything out of the room except you and the music. They’ll appeal to a wide range of indie pop-centric tastes, and there’s one song where they can’t help harmonizing like John and Exene, but that’s sort of endearing and not a bit weird. Silkscreened cover completes the personal feel within this one. Pretty nice. (http://fundog.bandcamp.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“You Paid For It” b/w “Deepwater, PA” 7”
(Psychic Handshake)

Drainolith (Alex Moskos of the band AIDS Wolf, for whom I have little worth saying) seems to be locked in on ‘80s xpr tape trade sounds, which can be fun, especially when found at random out of a big box of 7”s I’m going to get reviewed right away, yessir. On “You Paid For It,” guitar, synth, tuned drums and maybe a bass show up and start playing repetitive patterns with no rhythm, making for an aggregated cloud of discomforting and disorganized sound. These elements get more dense as a set of chanted, bored vocals come in and recite some ominous phrases. For most of the record I was kind of bummed that some dude decided to dick around so hard on a record, but when everything started coming together, a sort of intensity started to pop up, making me think there was a little bit of theory behind this. “Deepwater, PA” attempts to play the blues via toothy synth wave and lazy tom bounce, while a vocoded narrative drones over top. I know it’s blues because of the electronics solo that rises up from the din. Experimental in delivery, if not necessarily in theory, this just about gets a pass. It’s a weird little record, and sometimes weirdness is enough. (http://psychichandshake.bigcartel.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The George-Edwards Group
Archives LP
(Galactic Zoo Dossier / Drag City)

When you take away the allure of rarity, a lot of collector-psych turns out to be pretty thin gruel, The George-Edwards Group’s 38:38 was an exception; it was tuneful, tweaked, and totally out of step with both its originating milieu (‘70s Detroit) and any other time/location you can name. The fact that it was originally pressed privately in a run of 100 might have added mystique, but it didn’t really matter. After GZD/DC’s resurrected 38:38 blew threw a couple of pressings in 2009, Ed Balian and Ray George found enough tape reels in the cupboard to put together another LP. Side one matches its predecessor’s underfed but accomplished tunesmithery and beats it for sheer oddity. Keep in mind that these guys weren’t learning their weirdness from LPs with JEM Imports stickers permanently affixed to the front and pictures of hairy Germans on the back; psychedelic Beatles and Pink Floyd was about as far out as their personal collections got. So the playful oddity of “Once Upon a Mood,” with its muscular yet jangly guitar and synth hijacked from ELP’s “Lucky Man,” the kill-you-with-my-raygun malevolence of “You’re Gone,” and the chopped-tape salad of “Walrus Waltz” spring from some inner frequency that no other earthly antenna could pull. In the wrong hands “Shattered Heart” could have been a big, ugly AOR rave-up, but the slightly imprecise tempos and unfeigned earnestness of the delivery keep it winningly human. But flip the record over and it’s another, much sadder story. Sandwiched in between a couple short but nifty synth instrumentals are some sub-Todd Rundgren ballads so dreadfully corny and stultifyingly wrong that the part where the duo sings “Oh Baby” is as good as it gets. Just remember that the same record that gave us “Revolution #9” and “Yer Blues” also gave us “Rocky Raccoon,” and keep playing side one. The sleeve and pressing are a bit nicer than they would have been if George-Edwards had pressed this thing up in ‘85, but that’s quite all right with me. (http://www.dragcity.com)
(Bill Meyer)

Glöm Da!/Makabert Fynd
split LP
(Sorry State)

Two fairly short sides by two Swedish crustbomb droppers, so maybe it’s more of a split 12”, but split hairs over such a distinction would be like trying to evaluate these bands against one another. To the untrained ear, both Makabert Fynd and Glöm Da! sound a lot alike. It’s funny that I am so drawn to one particular drum tone on the Glöm Da! side, which reminds me of a punchball balloon and is literally all I can focus on in the course of the tracks in which it can be heard. The group plays raging D-beat HC, which I wouldn’t go as far as to call “raw” or even “somewhat cooked” – there’s polish and flourish in there, mostly on the metallic side of things. Makabert Fynd have a better name, twice as many singers (two separate vocalists), more songs, and a longer side. Quantitatively they are the superior band, and they win the battle of this split because of it; with faster songs, more aggression, they provide a better experience overall. But the kind of punk who’d buy a record like this wouldn’t really care. They feature a member of Totalitär on vocals too. Gatefold sleeve, heavy gauge vinyl. Hm. (http://www.sorrystaterecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Grown Ups
Stopped Caring LP
(Modern Documents)

Husband + wife + friend rock trio from Calgary plows through 12 quick pop songs that sound bundled up for winter even as they sweat through the layers, playing hard and trying to get stuck in your teeth with rock candy crunch riffage and a dutiful energy. Pushin’ air around is totally fun, and I can see where this is going as well as where it’ll end. Bashin’ smashin’ pop-punk with a better ear for melody than most, and a couple of really catchy ones amidst some generally OK seatfillers. They’re at opening strength right now, but with songs like the winsome acoustic/electric strummer “Bad Poetry” they could be movin’ on up pretty soon. White vinyl, #’d out of 300. (http://www.moderndocuments.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Michael Hurley
Fatboy Spring LP
(Secret Seven/Mississippi)

Usually itinerant, singer-guitarist Michael Hurley seems to have found a home on Mississippi Records as he closes in on his 70th birthday. Fatboy Spring is his fourth platter that the label/shop, which sips the same Portland water as does Doc Snock, has put out in recent years, and the second of previously unreleased stuff. For good measure, it’s jointly issued by Secret Seven, another label that has recently published an eight-track edition of Hurley’s Blue Navigator. Enough about the business; this material dates from the mid-’70s, a time when Hurley was between business associations. His two fabulous LPs for Raccoon were (very) slowly seeping into the American subconscious, and his alliance with the Holy Modal Rounders was still in the future. Fatboy Spring documents Hurley’s effort to go rock and roll. Well, sort of; this is a guy who has never done anything with alacrity, and the men who back him here played Vermont’s ski lodge and farm town circuit. Nonetheless this combo, which went by the name of the Fatboys, were game for action, Snock style. They tried to live up to their moniker by putting pillows under their shirts. They played Hank Williams songs at a rate sufficiently relaxed that if they were boxcars, you wouldn’t break a sweat hopping them. The seven Hurley tunes that sit beside “Move It on Over” and “Singing Waterfall” include nascent versions of songs he sang with the Rounders on Have Moicy, but here they’re done with slowed-down Scotty Moore leads and shish-boom beat apt for dancing with two full bags of groceries in your arms. Seriously antique in its time, it’s just right for now. The record comes sheathed in sleeve with a typically fanciful Hurley painting, and there’s a fold-over pamphlet inside devoted to reminiscences of his good times with the Fatboys. (http://www.secretsevenrecords.typepad.com)
(Bill Meyer)

Idea Fire Company
Music from the Impossible Salon LP

No one expects the Idea Fire Company, who’ve retreated from their former stance (field recordings and plangent synths) to a piano/vs. duo of Karla Borecky and Scott Foust. Most tracks consist of Borecky repeating melodic/discordant chord clusters against whatever Foust is holding onto – a trombone, a radio, and a synthesizer, which add minimalistic counterpart to the plagued desperation of the piano leads. Perfect music for the end of your life.
(Doug Mosurock)

Insect Factory/RST
split 7”
(Insect Fields)

Insect Factory hails from the DC area and RST from New Zealand, and the main things they have in common besides being one-man bands is a penchant for making lon- form music utterly unsuited to the 7” format. Jeff Barsky is Insect Factory, and the very thought of that name conjures up music that teems with active detail. But it won’t bite you; rather, it’s like brightly dyed water in a hot tub, and the record ends just as you’re getting comfortable and growing accustomed to seeing your body turn pink beneath the bubbles. Who wants to get out of the tub to change a record? RST is Andrew Moon, who has recorded long players for Ecstatic Peace, Corpus Hermeticum, Last Visible Dog, and Utech. In another musical life, he drummed for Goblin Mix, who added a bit of necessary heaviness to the mid-80s Flying Nun line-up. “Burnout’s” title likely refers to what you’ll do to your eyeballs if you squint at the sun in the ozone-free southern skies all day, and that’s exactly what this stuff sounds like; a long, slow, austere hum swathed in overtones. It’s so lovely that if it was the sun, you wouldn’t even want to blink. As it stands, the side ends way too soon, dealing you no permanent harm but plenty of frustration. (http://www.insectfields.org)
(Bill Meyer)

Kid Icarus
American Ghosts LP
(Big School)

Other Kid Icarus records have passed through here and my description of those is now tempered by the band’s ambition, which seems to be to make big ‘90s rock product in an N-scale universe. Eric Schlittler is still a good songwriter but the longer this project continues, the more it starts to sound like the kind of music bands like his once rebelled against. The dirt has been washed out of its hair, but it still looks unclean. I dunno, emos unite or something. White vinyl. (http://bigschoolrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Kid Romance
Scared of Outside LP
(Skrot Up)

Almost-there rock clatter and brain-damaged armpit farts from this Boston area group, last seen on a Captured Tracks single a while back. In “real song” mode they have an inept charm, but when they regress into full-diaper early Sebadoh/undisciplined savant Shadow Ring directions, it becomes much more embarrassing and time-wasting to endure. There is a method here, which I understand but will not reveal to you as it’s probably wrong and not worth it, but I’m not sure you’ll want to figure it out. Kid Romance confuses eccentricity with creativity, which is still possible to do even though few want to admit it. (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Beneath the Wheel LP

Been a while since such a slab passed this way – completely heartfelt, punk-influenced rock with zero pretense, lots of melody, and blood-stained shirtsleeves from where the band members’ hearts were resting while they played. Landlord hails from Bloomington, Indiana and plays on the pop-punk (and possibly bike punk) circuit, but they’re one of a handful of bands that reaches a cut or two above the standards of that genre. If there’s one problem here, it’s that there’s not much to sell; these twelve songs are pretty wonderful but also unadorned, electric rock & roll felt out with substance but little of the flash some people need to pay attention. It’s hard to bank on one’s honest, sincere image in music and let it stand on that anymore. But, on the other hand, this is quite a nice record from a band that’s likely going to improve by leaps and bounds in the near future. If you like the college rock of the ‘80s, here’s your men. (http://www.recessrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Best of Laurice, Vol. 1 LP
(Mighty Mouth Music)

Do you know who Laurice is? If your answer is yes, are you Canadian? This singularly named pop star jumped all across the map in search of commercial success; the contents of this collection represent the years where he was trying to break through as a leather daddy. Almost Ready/Last Laugh/now Mighty Mouth label guy Harry Howes assembles this lost corner of Laurice’s career, studded with openly gay glam-pop and a great deal of campy delivery, even on songs with names like “I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In.” Laurice was trafficking heavily in Lou Reed’s mid-’70s image and most likely the kind of clubs depicted in Friedkin’s “Cruising” – side B goes way off the scale with four lewd burners like the self-explanatory “Rock Hard” and the master/slave love song “Born to Serve.” Laurice pitched his tent at the corner where glam met disco, guitars raged, poppers spilled into rags, and everything got loose. And it’s a fun record to boot, with serious riffs in tracks like “Shy Baby.” You’ll find the novelty fades and the rock ‘n’ roll and wild party energy surge forward, even from the start. What you’ll find at Laurice’s website seems more like an infomercial than the representation of a musical artist who’s been active for decades. And it makes what you’ll hear on Best of Laurice, Vol. 1 that much more bizarre. (http://mightymouthmusic.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Anthony Levin-Decanini
Pairings/Birth Plan LP

Some manner of electronic/percussive pad, various controllers, strings, contact mics, and perhaps some sheet metal went into Chicago improviser Anthony Levin-Decanini’s latest album, a winning case of inventiveness trumping form. He dedicates this work “for my family” and its titles would indicate the time between courtship and family planning (here, the second half of 2008). Tracks are composed of rhythmic pulses, some organized, others spontaneous, playing with hum, echo and recoil along with the aching buzz of connection between cable and source, the vicious howl of overloaded signals, and the heat of electrical transmission. The artist has arranged these pulses in ways that feel earthy and human despite their mechanical sources. If you’re down for a whole album of this type of invention, there’s no way you can go wrong. (http://brokenresearch.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Life Partners
Music is Hard LP
(Ride the Snake)

“Music is Hard” = best song of 2011, 2010, and I’m adopting it as the official theme song of Still Single. You should just listen to it right now. There are no words now that this song exists. The rest of it is sublime, vacillating between confessional-style divorce pop (in this case, a divorce from liquor, as far as the story of “I Didn’t Get the Joke” is concerned), played straight in the way Ween might do it, but with a more obscurant sense of humor. There’s a reverence here for late ‘70s and early ‘80s MOR, and no one is ashamed. Life Partners’ ballads could’ve come from some heartbroken dudes in 1977 Halifax, but the pokerfaces they hold up to transgressions of sentiment on this album makes them somehow funnier through the sincerity, sketch comedy that’s really as truthful as it is funny. On the flip side, they do these KISS-style bar brawlers with completely literal and ridiculous sentiments (“Lyrics” for instance … Jesus, that song). Frontman Dave Dougan just calls ‘em like he sees ‘em, I suppose, from the frontlines of (the city) Boston’s live-in-a-dive musical mortuary. But the end result is massively entertaining, like (the band) Boston’s second album. Recorded with a muffled thud by working genius Wayne Rogers. “Music is hard. But it seems so much harder for you!” Truer words, amigos. 175 copies pressed, and free downloads at the link above. (http://www.ridethesnakerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Lord Foul
Killing Raping Burning/The Devil’s Advocate one-sided 12” LP

Archival demo tapes from an early ‘90s American black metal project with Agents of Satan connections. The sound is suitably dingy and grim, ugly grunts from a diseased mindset in the blender with nasty distorted guitars and fall-down-the-stairs drumming. Gets mighty relentless in spots and the whole thing is such a quick and brutal listen you’ll be left wondering what hit you. Excellent pentagram etching on the B-side, foil-stamped sleeves, edition of 500. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Magical Beautiful
Here Come the Wild Waves LP
(I Hear A New World)

College-trained keyboardist Tyson Torstenson (also of Ga’an, who I’ve not yet heard) takes us, and a few bandmates boasting stage credentials with Wilco and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (fuck … I’m sold) on a sometimes fanciful, mostly disjointed song cycle that factors in Chicago’s seasons and EthNOmusicological slummage to build an assault of ideas too weak to stand on their own and which just make for confusion later. The whole banjo-meets-synth crossover crowd may disagree with me, but I find Magical Beautiful to be neither. It sounds like a bunch of contrived concepts strung together to make two continuous sides of music with several parts, with a musical theater vibe that undermines any manner of respect it could have generated for itself. Look at that zany cover art! Imagine the vocals of My Dad Is Dead going on a “Jumanji”-style safari with wavo overtures! Or, you know, DON’T. It’ll be easy to forget this one exists; it is patently uninteresting, a failed attempt to string together a bunch of other peoples’ ideas into a coherent statement on anything. I’ve got a theory that any artist who’s self-compared to anything Brian Eno has done is kidding themselves, with this LP as mounting evidence. Just because it was done doesn’t mean it should have happened. (http://www.ihearanewworld.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Malcolm Mooney and the Tenth Planet
InCANtations LP
(Milvia Son)

Malcolm Mooney is my preferred Can vocalist. He doesn’t have the expansive array of ideas that Damo Suzuki did on those ‘70s records (and hell, probably now, benefit of the doubt), but he does have the timing that put the formative days of the band into a proper focus. He sounds so cool on those records, and he performs on most of my favorite Can songs, leavening the band’s bearded brew with the sort of vibe that kept their more soulful tendencies in the forefront. Given where the band goes in their respected run of ‘70s albums, it is reassuring for me to know that they were just a really limber, killer rock band at the outset. Going back to Monster Movie and Delay 1968 from there is like discovering how to uncook food, and that version of “Little Star of Bethlehem” on the Radio Waves boot straight up destroys. Mooney is in fine form here, projecting the same sort of jazz-inflected, character-rich tone as he did back in the day. His support band includes members of Negativland and MX-80 Sound – this is a Bay Area based project – and they more or less get it, bringing a bit of loose, strummy brightness to songs that can be played in such conditions. Drummer Marc Weinstein in particular plays with the same sort of feel as the young Jaki Liebezeit, with a stance of a jazz drummer really turning on to the natural laws of rock. These are all live recordings, so the booming percussion really bolsters the areas that lack so much depth. But it’s not to take away from Mooney’s control over these eight tracks, all from the earliest days of Can. They steer away from “Yoo Doo Right” but knock out some great ones like “Uphill” and “She Brings the Rain,” and especially the groover “Fall of Another Year,” which is the song I use to shake off annual New Year’s Eve melancholy. Pretty righteous effort here. Blue marble vinyl, 400 copies. (http://milviasun.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Volume IV: This is Folk Music LP
(Weird Forest)

Solo synth explorations from a guy who likes it outside. CD trays with grass and shit in them are gross and bum me out, and it’s a little presumptuous for the artist to slap a large picture of this album on CD up as the cover art for the vinyl. Needless to say, Mr. Boy has his work cut out for him, and to his credit, IV is a wonderful little record, full of church organ-intuned electronic experiments and repetitive phrasing. Every once in a while it jars you out of the hypnotic, nature-inspired keypunchin’, but Mudboy has more in common with a coolly restrained ‘70s prog rock keyboardist than with the MicroKorg scrubs of today. These are balanced works with harmonically vibrant underpinnings, and while it’s not something I could see myself listening to regularly, it sounds as if it would be a wonderful dream for nbetween last call and slumber, after you’ve ushered everyone out the front door. (http://weirdforest.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Muscle Drum
Fog Hag LP
(Break Up)

The one-sheet for Rob Spector’s new band reads more like a rap sheet (Bronze? Really.) but this debut solo project, Muscle Drum, is OK. Sounds like dude got caught up in all the lo-fi pop music happening around him in the Bay, and decided to do his own one-against-the-world take on it, applying those severe pronouncements of groups like Tuxedomoon or Factrix against quick-n-filthy four track distort grime rock. Synths are present. It’s not too distinguishable from all the lesser Sic Alps or Oh Sees, apart from Spector’s dramatic delivery and the occasional synth drags. Just right there in the middle, maybe a bit better. (http://break-up.us)
(Doug Mosurock)

Night Birds
The Other Side of Darkness LP
(Grave Mistake)

Second LP of surf-stung, dour pop punk from this New Jersey combo, featuring shredmaster Mike Hunchback on guitar. I heard an early 7” by these guys and was not quite wowed, but a funny thing happened this year at Chaos in Tejas when my pal Jess said it would be a good idea if I attended the pop punk showcase on Sunday at the Mohawk. I wasn’t really expecting to like anything there (and Toys That Kill actually made me want to jump off the second story balcony over and over until something broke), but Night Birds destroyed, really one of the most energetic bands of their kind I’ve seen, with serious guitar chops and pissy, nervous punk demeanor spraying all over the stage and beyond. This record comes pretty close to the onslaught of that set, lots of snotty vocals, lyrics about the typical concerns (end of the world, recaps of exploitation movies, etc.) and plenty of rippage. I like that “coastal” can sometimes eclipse East and West Coasts in terms of beach music and its more positive mutations. These guys deserve a medal or something. Great times, and a great looking record too. (http://www.gravemistakerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Normals
Vacation to Nowhere LP
(Last Laugh)

The Normals earned their place in punk history with their rock-infused classic single “Almost Ready,” a woulda/coulda/shoulda sort of record that should have propelled them to stardom. The band’s trek from New Orleans to NYC in order to “make it” resulted in the crushed dreams usually associated with such moves, but moreover it may have prevented these LP sessions, recorded in Memphis in 1979, from seeing the light until now. The Ramones had made more of an impact on these guys in the time between the single and these recordings, and while you won’t find anything here with the total impact of “Almost Ready,” there are quite a few songs, deeper in the record, that come very close: the skittering “Everyday” jumps all over a supercharged riff and breakneck speed in their best Jam impression, and there are about three or four others that have the combination of hooks and drive that move it along past a small pondful of local band dreamers from their era. Almost sold out, so if you’re a little bit curious about some scrubby but undeniably rockin’ punkles from near the crash site of ‘77, it’s a good one to grip (http://www.myspace.com/lastlaughrecs)
(Doug Mosurock)

Omma Cobba
s/t LP
(Sweet Rot)

Nova Scotian dude (from an earlier band called Omon Ra, which I’m sure I’ve seen mentioned somewhere) hits the stoned wave with a hazy, reverberating hippie folk-pop sound in the Sic Alps/Brightblack Morning Light mode of shambling, slurred guitar slack and obfuscated sentiments. My eyes rolled pretty hard when the needle dropped on this debut full-length, but truth be told, it’s a good effort, if painfully derivative of a few modern directions. “Policeman,” which was originally released as a single and repeated here, might justify checking this out altogether, where Dan Miller and his drumming compatriot line up the right chords, the proper chorus (an exhausted “Whoo-oo-oooh”), and the perfect attitude to bash this one and a couple of others here out of the rut so many who adhere to lo-fi tenets have faced. These eight songs were recorded around Europe during a tour, and sound pleasantly bedraggled, Spicoli-toasted, and generally better than expected. Give it time and you’ll enjoy this one as much as I do. 300 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t 7” EP
(Catholic Guilt)

You may have seen this bandname bandied about the Aquarius mailorder updates, particularly as Andee Connors released an Ovens CD on his tUMULt label a little while back. They appear to be a well-loved Bay Area band/mini-institution that mints harmonic pop with metallic crunch, and keeps those two in semi-perfect balance for about 30-90 seconds at a time. Imagine a slightly more metallic Weezer playing shorter songs with three times the hooks and you’re like 99% of the way there. There’s eight songs here, as opposed to 44 on the CD, and you’re bound to enjoy one or two of them (my picks would be “Let Down” and “Losin’” on side B. This will appeal to a wide variety of people who only need listen to understand. You’re probably among them. Good example of a band taking a limited approach and making it work well for themselves. (http://catholicguiltrecords.bigcartel.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Ashley Paul
“Hidden Face” b/w “Leave Mine” 7”
(Emerald Cocoon)

Ashley Paul is not the first person to seek reconciliation between the soundworld of free improv and the overt expressiveness of the song; Gastr Del Sol and The Magic I.D. are two particularly successful examples that come to mind. By comparison, Ms. Paul’s efforts rate just a notch above just OK. There’s a lot to like about her slithery, just out of reach guitar and sax playing, but that not quite there-ness does her singing fewer favors. For the visually inclined, the attractive fold-over color sleeve and inserts offer some compensation. This is the second entry in Emerald Cocoon’s Alone/Together series of solo performances, and like all of the series it is pressed in an edition of 300 copies. (http://emeraldcocoon.com)
(Bill Meyer)

Psychic Ills
Telesthetic Tape LP
(Skrot Up)

Practice jams from the entire run of this Philly-to-NYC psych/improv group’s existence, cut together to influence the vibes in the space around you. This is some deep, heavy wander, both long and short, and the musicians are wise enough to keep the audience at arms’ length as they play behind the basement walls. There is a long, Muslingauze-esque track (at least in the sense that it has a tabla rolling beneath it) and sticky strands of ectoplasm coating most of the sounds here, the sound of a band working in the night and not being able to find its way back home. If you’re looking for some more listenable, moody, dawnbreaking drone rock, please seek out their new Sacred Bones LP Hazed Dream. 220 copies on this one, paste-on sleeve. (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Asconema LP

Live recordings of religious-grade lysergic spiritual forest jazz ensemble Shiggajon, from Denmark, with guest Kelly Jones (Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides) on flute. This is a large and active ensemble, a wild, orgone-loaded reach from guitars, electronics, winds and percussion, though you might strain to hear the first two in the mix, out of a roomy recording captured live in Sheffield. What you will find ever present across both side-long movements is a need to transcend with this music; a howling imperative spoken in the group’s tone language, reeds pressurizing the floorboards and the ceiling beams until the room threatens to burst open in glorious worship to the complex, beautiful fronds that precede the singularity. Similar feelings were made known on the Chora album released by Chironex, and they’re present here again, a communion with the earth and stars, and the bodies in between. I thought it would take quite a bit to get me interested in free jazz again but as this group (and Chora) has fed into a development outside the framework of what I’d been tired of in the genre, extending out into more exploratory and world-bound phrasing into something awe-inspiring and fresh. The group’s name is an amalgam of spiritual and religious names and terms: “Sh as in shinto, i as in imaam, gga as in Gandhi j as in Jesu, on as in Zion.” Depending on how you look at it, they managed to squeeze GG in there too. Don’t let this deter you from discovering this intense and powerful work. The comedown on side B flattened my dome. 250 copies, of which I have a sneaking suspicion will all be gone very soon. (http://www.chironexrecords.bigcartel.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Sore Eros
Just Fuzz 12” EP

Sore Eros explores some of their more recessive traits (long songs, quietude, syrupy momentum) on this new five-song EP, following their full-length from last year, and no doubt a little more. Their stance is so fragile and mellow, yet rooted in this sturdy post-Beatles zone – can’t help but think about late-period John Lennon when I hear these songs, even though these treatments couldn’t be less direct. Lots of pain in these songs, especially the sorrowful “Waves Foaming,” but it’s earned through strong songwriting and self-awareness. Diggin’ it for sure, and the ‘60s psych flourishes on “Sunset Eyes” don’t hurt their cause. Despite the title, however, there’s not much fuzz at all on here. Just buds, just tunes, just beauty. (http://www.blackburnrecordings.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Hell is Other People LP
(Minor Bird)

Thrashy, technically-minded metal from Portland, with a sound forged from the used CD bins of pre-collapse America. There’s a lotta Neurosis, a little Hammerhead (which is cool, and surprising), some outwardly crustaceous stances, and the design aesthetics that go along with this sort of mystic wolfpunk narrative. Just so you know what you’re getting here. (http://minorbirdrecords.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Metallic Diseases LP
(Holy Mountain/Tlon Uqbar)

Holy Mountain digs this turn-of-the-’90s Italian grebo nug out from under the sofa. Prior to Starfuckers’ avant-garde reawakening, they were churning out dingy, grungy rock sleaze like this, heavily indebted to American cuss words, as well as to Iggy and proto-punk/scuzzlords like him. Vague Drunks with Guns quality afoot here, mainly in how disassociated things can get within the context of dumb/greaselunk rock, and in the hissy, lopped-off recording, sounding as if it was mastered from a cassette. I’m sure there aren’t too many of the originals creepin’ around and this reissue will probably enlighten the tens who missed it when it first came around (and probably a couple more), but you know what else happened in the intervening 20+ years? Everyone heard the Stooges. Seriously, every man, woman and child. They know from Mr. Pop now and even if the guitars on this middler do crank a few notches into extremity, it’s a very shallow circle these guys were treading. For fans of being a young dude in 1990 (no girls allowed). (http://www.holymountain.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Stoned Ambassadors
Bring You Down 12” EP
(Labor of Love)

Boston HC guys (Failures, et al.) move it down to Brooklyn and play grebo. When I hear music like this I’m reminded of, like, major label cut-out bins circa the late ‘80s/early ‘90s (Thee Hypnotics, anyone?), and then Oasis, who were able to dodge that fate and steer the conversation for a while. There aren’t enough strengths to the songwriting on their three originals, and their version of Who brooder “The Good’s Gone” reminds me of the Damn Personals, not exactly a flattering thing. Not into the thuggy, one-octave vocal range on the singer either. This is probably a lot of fun for these guys to play and they seem to have a lot of people talking about them (never a bad thing, really) but I wish they’d find ways to break ground here, like Failures figured out how to mutate hardcore into a confusing blur but still be able to hold sway. As it stands this is like nth-level BJM/Dandy Warhol rivalry sound, and it’s definitely brought me down. (http://laboroflove.tumblr.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Ghédalia Tazartès
Diasporas LP

If you wanted to own a record of music that is absolutely different from almost anything you’ve known or heard, snap to it: Dais’ reissue of the NWW List-approved vocal melee by Parisian pyrrhic warbler Ghédalia Tazartès is instantly one of the most difficult records of my nearly 35 years aboard this dying mudball. Calls to prayer meets calls of strangulation, calls of possession, a spiritual intifada from the darkest corners of the cabarets to the recording studio to the vastness of the desert’s sprawl, all channeled through Tazartès’ extreme styles, going from soaring wails to multi-toned throat singing, sometimes in the same track. This is nightmare music that’ll make you feel unclean and weird, designed to break your concentration and focus on it and it alone. And if you can deal with it, you’re tougher than me. 500 numbered copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Trashies
Space Jam LP
(Minor Bird)

The Trashies sent in an album long ago with a fine song on it called “In the Gutter Together.” We go through al lot of records over here, so to remember one specific song so fondly is a rarity, Now comes a new album with nothing nearly so profound or lasting. At its best, Space Jam plays like a low-rent Lifter Puller fronted by High Pitch Erik. This is straight killing me to get through. It doesn’t improve or brighten, apart from the mild Nomeansno knockoff “Destroy.” It sucks when you hear a band that’s done better, doing worse. Yellow/red splotch vinyl. (http://minorbirdrecords.blogspot.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Mike Weis
Loop Current/Raft LP
(Barge Recordings)

Too often when songwriters write about their kids, quality control takes flight and sentimentality rules the roost. But a more complex set of forces comes into play when a drummer makes music in response to a new nipper. Sure, they can look ahead to bonding over the beating of kitchenware, but before that day comes are months when you have to be around, but you also have to be quiet. How many drummers do you know who are up for that? Mike Weis, who plays with Zelienople and Scott Tuma, turned the mandate to not wake the baby into the impetus for his first solo album. His beats on this LP’s two side-long pieces are muted, the metallic percussion and home-made plank guitar he uses to ornament them gently stroked. The electronics and field recordings that he’s woven in and out of the layered, reverberant sounds seem to sit at a distance, waiting to be discovered rather than demanding your attention. The whole album seems to hover. Its titles refer to the worst-case scenario proposed after that BP rig started pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico; that the oil would futz with the flow of the Gulf Stream and turn the world’s weather patterns upside down. That hasn’t happened, but it just goes to show, there’s nothing like parenthood to make you care about what happens in the world. White cardboard sleeves with pasted-on color images, 250 copies on black vinyl. (http://www.bargerecordings.com)
(Bill Meyer)

White Life
s/t LP

Imagine a synth-laden Sea & Cake style band playing both sides of the ‘80s pop ballad: the mysterious, impassioned guysong and the bulletproof ladies’ vocal electrohopsong. Making up words is easier than listing the bands these people sound like, but they do have something going for them that few of their Baltimore retro/weird/YBN contemps have: great songs. In terms of delivery and historical imperative, they ably build the missing links between Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (all of it). I’m sure Ariel Pink devotees have heard this sort of thing forwards and backwards by now, but again, the songs are strong enough to sidestep irony, and retro-sounding enough to embolden them with authenticity. (http://www.ehserecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Folk Twain one-sided 12” EP
(Sophomore Lounge)

Rubbery noise rock from a Chicago tool & die shop that is in need of some recalibration. The cloest these spaznosticators get to a specific sound is Rye Coalition, but in a trio, and with the rhythm section going for their best Watt/Hurley manjam, the result will make you want to not make eye contact with any one of these guys for the rest of their lives. Mars Williams comes in and blows some raw sax over one of the five songs, and that provides the most excitement here. Really tough to take. I miss the days when Chicago could foster a band like Mount Shasta into multiple albums and some sort of career longevity (even if it’s on a bar’s draft list). I had a Gumballhead and it was pretty good. If you’ve ever tried a Sixpoint Brownstoner Ale, there is a definite resemblance. Anyway, maybe these guys can take some pointers from Womankind, reviewed directly below. (http://sophomoreloungerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t 12” EP

Nominal is keeping the identity of this band somewhat obscured (if you’re not now, you never were, I guess) but it’s safe to say they’re Vancouver dudes who claim this to be their last band. The band isn’t over or anything just yet, so “last” could be a while – and from the strength of this EP, which cherrypicks the toothiest elements from a history of American noise rock starting with the Jesus Lizard and Unsane and ending up with Les Savy Fav and Rye Coalition. There’s appreciable skill and wit in the songs, neither quality upstaging the front-wheel drive of the rhythm section, and the well-rehearsed, tight-til-it’s-loose performance aesthetics really help this one to transcend. 324 copies. (http://www.recordsnominal.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Xander Harris
Urban Gothic LP
(Not Not Fun)

This guy’s name is easily the best thing about this record. Dude had one legit funny thought, maybe ever, and he ran with it – hide behind the name of one of the characters from “Buffy,” let that connotate the synth/horror VHS soundtrack vibe to the shallow end. Essentially this is library music, about the same grade as cable providers that would slot into public access programming for little to no cost. It’s oh so spooky scary, with stalk-and-kill song titles, one-dimensional synth tropes, presets, and all the atmosphere of being trapped in the Phantom Zone (and both General Zod and Non have really hot, heinous chicken/egg/garlic farts). In what might be the ultimate stroke of insensitivity, a close-up of a woman’s face with her mouth taped shut is splayed across the front cover. Couple that loaded sentiment with the disposable nature of the content within – a veritable tribute to Z-grade horror movies some punisher in your dorm wouldn’t shut up about – and you have a tribute to abuse, made at last call from the floor of the Hideously Untalented Saloon. (http://www.notnotfun.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
(Psychic Handshake)

Medium-sized Canadian ensemble goes for the big Eastern spectacle, the sort of progressive noise pop shenanigans you might find lurking about an anime forum somewhere. The spine of the record itself brands YT//ST as “NOH WAVE OPERA FROM THE BEAST ASIAN DIASPORE,” and OK, they can have that. Like any project with so much ambition and so little request for the outcome of ambition’s efforts, this is a formidable work that requires you to meet whatever the group is doing at least halfway. They really push the Japanese motif at the outset, and not in an entirely reassuring way. But there’s a nice, muscular 5/8 thrash Valhalla jammer on here in “A Star Over Pureland” that made me take notice – haven’t heard any Canadian bands hit it this hard in the form since Superconductor. The good times continue on to the end of the record, a back-heavy experience with a bit too much theatre for my taste at the outset. It sounds like the Deerhoof-loving part of the ensemble got to run the table on side A, and on the flip they turned it over to the Psychic Paramount fans who sat patiently through to get to side B. Not really sure what to make of this outfit, nor do I understand the group’s motives, but this is probably the best Psychic Handshake release to date. White vinyl. (http://www.myspace.com/psychichandshake)
(Doug Mosurock)

Yek Koo
“Oh Woman” b/w “Flame Creation” 7”
(Emerald Cocoon)

The third volume of Emerald Cocoon’s Alone/Together series is an in-house affair. Helga Fassonaki, who handles the untutored steel guitar and untethered vocalizing in Metal Rouge, offers a solo turn that never feels too solitary. With its layers of fx-laden guitar and urgent/eerie singing, “Oh Woman” sounds like it was made at the tail end of a serious Dome binge. That’s no bad thing. “Flame Creation” was recorded live, although the profusion of sounds at play — clattering percussion loop, inchoate utterances bouncing off the walls, and what sounds like a guitar trying to knock them down — suggests that a fair bit of pre-game prepared was involved. Gothic in the best possible sense, which means that it’s bleak and spooky but doesn’t feel like the make-up’s more important than the music. Like the rest of the series, there are 300 copies on black vinyl enclosed in colorful fold-over sleeves. (http://emeraldcocoon.com)
(Bill Meyer)

Richard Youngs
“I Dream of Mezzanine” b/w “Cloudplanes” 12”
(The Spring Press)

Two sidelong works of wonder like you’d expect from a genius like Richard Youngs. “I Dream of Mezzanine” sounds like he found the pulse inside two-way cellular communication, then harnessed it through puffs of air and buttoned-up chant singing. It’ll be a challenge for some but most of us will find it revelatory the way he weaves through abrasive fragments, third world electronics, complex rhythmic reflection and 8-bit refraction into avant-garde pop music that feels as if it’s ready to sublimate into the atmosphere – no mean feat for anyone except Youngs, who probably didn’t even think too much about this one. The extended coda features a few piercing noises to keep you alert, but maintains the hypnotic ascent delivered at the start of the track. “Cloudplanes” advances in several parts, with the beginning of the piece shrouding Youngs’ crooning and chanting against tentative, surfacing electronics and tones, and ends with his voice, wordlessly multitracked against itself in transcendental ecstasy. It’s all over the place but somehow manages to find its center through the vocal tracks that provide a backbone for the drum programming and disruptions to cling to. Youngs is simply on that level, and he gets better the longer he plays the game. 300 copies of this, beautiful presentation (full-color sleeve with gold foil embossing, heavy vinyl). (http://www.thespringpress.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Escape Velocity LP

Steve Moore
“Zero Point Field” b/w “Frigia” 12”
Primitive Neural Pathways LP
(Static Caravan)

Gianni Rossi
Gutterballs OST LP
Star Vehicle OST LP
(Permanent Vacation)

Been picking up quite a few new releases involving Steve Moore, whose work has received much appreciation from these corners for several years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since his band Zombi got started, but the presence of that two-man instrumental prog/synth can be felt all across several fault lines emanating from the schism of electronic music between recent generations.

It’s not as if Zombi wasn’t at first somewhat indebted to the music of groups like Goblin, nor were they the first to recognize the strange influence of Goblin’s work – almost exclusively within the realm of Italian horror and sci-fi movies, the films themselves a challenge to the once-durable notion of traditional narratives within an established, commercial medium. The music for these films often combined state-of-the-art synthesizer technology when they were composed in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, amplifying the experience and its capacity to unsettle. Merely hearing any one of those soundtracks takes me back to the time and place where I first saw the film in which it was featured (and it was never that easy to do so, either), to the point where a lot of my memories of this kind of music are inextricably tied to those of horror/exploitation cinema, and the oft-loathsome content within. But both Moore and drummer Tony Paterra realized the risks of pigeonholing themselves early on, and Zombi’s sound started to move away from such specific corners of music and out into the crowd, and then eventually to the dance floor, where guys with this much practical talent and musicianship ought to be.

It’s a relief to hear someone playing a synthesizer that actually knows how it works and what its limits are, but it’s a bigger relief when that someone has decided to evolve their music outside of its initial limitations. Escape Velocity is Zombi’s fourth full-length, and like each of their albums, it is a result of their growth as performers. When Moore and Paterra decided to open their sound to more possibilities on the dancefloor, it opened the two of them up to a much wider audience, European label interest, and solo careers (Paterra as Majeure, Moore under a variety of projects, some of which we’ll get to in a bit). Velocity seems to be the saturation point for such developments away from rock music; this is the the only Zombi full-length where Steve Moore abandons the bass guitar. As such, the prog-rock stampede of their last album Spirit Animal is replaced with arpeggiated, sleek synth lines and a more layered approach to programming that helps them to put up their best set in years. The hurried, dramatic hustle of Paterra’s “DE3” rides a jumpy synth lead along powerful live drumming to a sweeping flourish of a finale, while Moore’s “Shrunken Heads,” with its clean, minimal punch and gradual build into and back out of 2 A.M. rave chase scene, may mark the first time metal label Relapse released some house music. It’s about time!

Performing as Steve Moore on two recent solo releases, you get to see some of that breakaway from the source material at Zombi’s core that I mentioned above. These couldn’t be more different. On a 12” single for Ron Morelli’s impeccable Long Island Electrical Systems imprint, Moore follows the “Shrunken Heads” motif to more severe means, with the expected 4/4 pound fractioned off by synth bass lines that occupy the gaps in the beats. “Zero-Point Field” turns up the tension through breathless speed, while “Frigia” trades in the immediacy for a mellower burn and a more significant time signature clash at the fore. These tracks are classy and well-executed, and Moore finds ways to make the notions behind the music he’s making seem new and exciting. Over on 2010’s Primitive Neural Pathways, there’s a much more relaxed mood, and the five songs on the album become a bit more profound and anthemic in exchange for their energy. Space chords float beneath the surface, and nods to jazz percussion come about, but mostly this one is for the Hearts of Space crowd, looking to get profound in front of a vaporizer than to anyone trying to play records in a club. Smooth sailor “Feel the Difference” stands out from the wanderlust on display here.

Moore has also made records under several pseudonyms – Lovelock, Miracle, and also Gianni Rossi, the name on two somewhat recent soundtrack albums for horror director Ryan Nicholson, Gutterballs and Star Vehicle. These ones do pretty much what you’d expect, and they do it better and more competently than your Umbertos or Xander Harrises out there. Moreover, they’re for actual movies (albeit ones that celebrate some of the worst presumptions in modern cinema, the outlandish/inhuman sort of shit that gets more and more difficult to watch with any sort of regularity as I get older). It’s smart of Moore to put this sort of work, which Zombi has done in the past, under a different name, because these are fun, pulse-pounding albums of stock music, that represent far darker, occasionally hateful subtexts. A record cover with a man brandishing a knife while choking a woman belongs to the movie itself; its placement here makes an explicit connection between this sort of music and that kind of movie. The sly nods to Pino Donaggio’s scores for DePalma, Moore’s “Beat It” style guitar licks, and the overall energy of these offerings across both records make for a satisfying listen in any context.
(Doug Mosurock)


Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. We will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.

ANY genre of music is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.

Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.

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Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.

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