Doug Mosurock and friends run through more than 80 7"s, 12"s and LPs, including new stuff from Perennial Records, Whatever Brains and Tar.
Still Single: Vol. 8, No. 3
Albanian Mob Murder
“Memphi$” b/w “Drugs” 7”
Can a person lose their Ohio privileges? How about a whole band? Albanian Mob Murder takes the low road in trying to sneak into the steam room with whatever magic has been happening in Columbus over the past few years taking the form of caked-on grime and dryer lint, and maybe some pills (but not the good kind, rather the kind you need to prevent catastrophe from happening). This is basic trainhopper country sojourning, driven mad with the lo-fi tendencies they think they should have. We’ve discussed the possibility that crappy, distorted production continues to not be the means to an end; that there’s a band underneath all that, and they’d sound mighty awkward if you took it away. Both tracks here might just disintegrate altogether. No chance for this bunch.
Amps For Christ
(Turned Word/Water Wing)
Reissue of an unheralded classic, the most robust, song-based offering in the AfC catalogue. Originally released on CD by Vermiform and lost amidst the detritus of the late ‘90s, Circuits is a collection of mostly traditional folk songs given the full treatment of homemade “caveman” electronics and acoustic instrumentation, pitched into the red and blown out ever so slightly. The filter provided by this creaky handmade equipment buzzing and bearing down on something like “The Grey Funnel Line” provides an interesting counterpoint to the gentle, sweeping, humanely resonant versions of these songs recorded elsewhere, especially as Tara Tavi’s plaintive vocals hug the berm of those takes. I’ve been coming back to this album since some time in the middle of the last decade, and a quick blast of “Sweet William and Lady Margaret” has always been able to right me when I feel a bit off. That something like this could mutate out of Man Is The Bastard is the righteous reward for those remaining faithful to the skull. Water Wing’s reissue tacks on a side of live tracks from the era, featuring Erika Anderson from EMA among others. 1000 copies, gatefold sleeve, first time on vinyl.
“Boys To Men” b/w “Brat Poison” flexi
It’s A Motherfuckin’ Flexi. And it sounds a lot better than the other flexis I’ve been getting now and again, probably because it’s a legit Eva-Tone flexi. This one holds two songs from a Boston pop act, indebted to bands like Real Estate that have conquered the suburban pastoral on “Boys To Men” (the violin at the end, that tears it), and interscene sibling squabbling on “Brat Poison.” Does this really have any place on a record? Guess you have to be there. Boston!
Black Bear Combo/Wild Jesus and the Devil’s Lettuce
So you have this friend, and he’s great to have around — the life of the party, always brings some beer, never goes through your medicine cabinet to check your prescriptions. But your friend has a friend who’s not nearly so much fun; their jokes aren’t funny, and they always ask for the wrong song when you’re putting on a record. They’re a matched set, so you can’t see one without the other. What do you do?
It’s easier if you’re dealing with a split LP; you just play one side. That’s certainly the solution when confronted with this record. Wild Jesus and the Devil’s Lettuce’s music isn’t as horrible as their name, but not much is. They’re an eight-piece R&B band with a warbly singer, a rhythm section that wants to slink like the Stooges but never will, and horn players who probably have good taste in skronkety jazz, but just can’t kick any life into these five songs.
Black Bear Combo, on the other hand, transcend their tiny niche market – they’re Chicago’s only frequently-gigging Balkan brass band – to commandeer any playing field where you’d care to meet them. Serbian restaurants, street parades, dance studios, the White House Halloween party (yes, this happened); they’ve played there and ruled. Credit goes to the rhythm section of parade drummer (yup, they do this on their feet) Dersu Burrows and tuba player Rob Pleshar (also of the Ridiculous Trio) for this music’s marvelously bulbous swagger, but it’s the rippling, idiomatically faithful horns that you’ll want to sing along with. Hand screened sleeve, pressing of 300, psychedelic yellow vinyl.
Seaside & Sedmikrásky 12”
On the heels of their second album Tempest comes a new EP by Olympia’s steadfast ‘90s reinterpreters Broken Water. Two long songs here, drawn from the same session as Tempest, and Kickstarted for release by the band themselves (scratched-out Hardly Art matrix numbers may have been included for effect). “Seaside” features a cellist, and was performed at some length during the show I caught of theirs earlier this year. It’s not a real rousing one, kind of in the long and meandering direction of Unwound ca. Leaves Turn Inside You, though over its 15-minute runtime it’ll wear you down into acceptance, and builds up a decent amount of power for a song that sounds like it can’t get out of bed. “Sedmikrásky” is some manner of live improvisation, allegedly recorded while the band members were hallucinating. If it’s 2012’s answer to “Cliff Dweller Society,” we can at least be fortunate that the jazz leanings of that track are never followed through here. I can’t even begin to tell you why this works, but for something that is based on the riotous Czech New Wave film Daisies, there is a fair amount of trio interplay towards the second half that shows inspiration and togetherness rising up out of discord and tomfoolery. This wouldn’t be my go-to Broken Water record for unfamiliar listeners (just go straight to their Peripheral Star EP), but it does show a side of them that might not otherwise have been revealed. (http://www.discogs.com/Broken-Water-Seaside-And-Sedmikr%C3%A1sky/release/3603929)
… The Worse The Better LP
In an apparent concession to the scarcity of umlauts in England, Peter Brötzmann has presented his name in Anglicized fashion (“Broetzmann”) on the cover of this LP, the inaugural release by a label associated with the London venue Café OTO. But that’s the only concession you’ll find on this set. Braving the British damp 401 days shy of his 70th birthday, PB comes out punching on this impressively well-recorded trio outing, and he’s still standing at the end of side two. So are his associates — John Edwards, the UK’s first call improvising bassist, and Steve Noble, a percussionist whose footing is equally secure in Steven O’Malley’s gloom trio Æthenor and the felicitous organ combo Decoy. CVs don’t count for much on a bandstand, especially when Brötzmann’s also standing on it, but Noble and Edwards bring it where it matters most. This record won’t tell you much you don’t already know about Brötzmann; he’s still a force of nature, blowing figures by turns magnificent and grotesque through an armful of reed instruments, and he’s in rip-roaring form here. His partners recognize that your choices when he’s around are at once limited and limitless. You can either blow as hard as he does, disrupt what he’s doing, or be crushed, but you can perform your chosen duty anyway you choose. Initially Edwards opts for pure propulsion, noble for a bit of navigational drag; the former is the screw, the latter the rudder, Brötzmann the icebreaking prow. By the time side two starts, they’re ready to reconnoiter the territory they’ve taken, and the pace slows. Edwards proves he can thwack his big box of wood as forcefully and compellingly as Nobel can his rims and skins, and evoke gothic terror as harrowingly as that old man on the reeds. Where’s an umlaut when you need it? The label wants you to know that the cover image, which appears to be a silkscreen of a woodcut by Brötzmann, is printed on acid-free archival card stock, so the sleeve will probably outlive you. 180 gram virgin vinyl, Dubplates & Mastering pressing, and the music measures up to the deluxe treatment.
“PISS SCENE” 7” EP
How aggravating is it when you send someone a very comprehensive text message and their response is, “what?” JUST READ IT AGAIN. Wait, do I have to send it again? Compelled to re-send the original message is how Diltz Barrett of Catatonic Youth must feel, because I will be goddammed if the two A-siders found here, “I’ve Had It” and “Out of Control”, aren’t the same … a man, a bedroom, a drum machine … songs on the FUCK JAZZ CD-R (ltd. ed. 30) from 2007. Save an additional song on the B-side (culled from The World’s Lousy With Ideas Vol. 5 comp –Ed.), it is the exact same 7” the condiment-barons at Hozac got their grubby hands on in 2008, which remains the mustard (mmmmm) of the label’s catalog. And that’s it: four years, four songs. I’d like to liken the re-re-release of these songs to the senior thesis of a sneaky Situationist art school devil behind the curtains, because when the affliction of a particular low-income refurb cottage industry is that it all sounds the same, and you are the proprietor of two consummate examples working within the limits of the genre, how hilarious is it to RE-RELEASE THE SAME TWO SONGS OVER AND OVER? Call it over-thinking-man’s lo-fi, but seriously … Catatonic Youth? The devil drawing on the cover and label?“PISS SCENE”? Which is actually printed on the cover in quotes, acknowledging the incredulity of its own existence. Here we are, four years later and “PISS SCENE” remains the shit-shine specimen of what one man with a four-track mind and a bladder full of piss and vinegar can do. That is legitimate urgency you’re hearing folks! How did he do it? Locked in his bedroom, he literally had to take a piss.
At The Point Where The Rivers Crossed, We Drew Our Knives LP
Performed with a nylon string guitar, a resonated snare and a bone-whistle, the A-side of this Emperor-Wears-No-Clothes style of noise album sounds like two contact mics inside any running household appliance of one’s choosing, a couple of pedals, and an overloaded practice amp. And that’s it. No creepy or emoting feel from a minimal two or three tone-notes underneath the caterwaul, no feel at all, really…just the same sound that barfed out of what seems like hundreds of small-press LP’s that flew in and out of my life pre-1998 or so, when I was trying to navigate that era’s noise scene in a quest to find music that made me FEEL something, anything….anything at all. More-or-less a failed quest, survived by a handful of artists I revere to this day, it was one that I have no desire to recall. When a record makes me do so, I just get that gesticulating energy and repeat “THIS IS STILL HAPPENING?!?” until my fit wears out its welcome around the house. One of the two tracks on the B-side of At the Point… was commissioned and performed by the University of Mary Washington Wind Ensemble, adding that ever-so-crafty shield of officialdom provided by an academic association…nothing a bullshit-detector set on ‘3’ can’t slice right through, though. Pressed in an addition of 200. Out of print, which defies logic, but if any used copy is demanding over $5, someone needs to be arrested.
Eugene Chadbourne and the Dropouts
Zupa Dupa Kupa LP
Eugene Chadbourne has always been a frustrating figure. His omnivorous taste (the guy knows his jazz, improv, country, and psychedelic rock), excellent chops on banjo and guitar, and laudable refusal to be bounded by genre, politics, or poverty tend to get canceled out by his tendencies towards shtick, self-righteousness, and shoddiness. So I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but for once, his perversity wins out. After all, if you’re going to make a really well put-together album with empathetic backing, listenable recording, and an unusually high percentage of decent songs, what are you going to do – give it to a label in Poland whose discography features the likes of Lionel Marchetti, Magda Mayas, and Michael Vorfeld? Way to hide your good stuff where no one’s looking, man. Or even if they are, how many people will spring for the trans-Atlantic postage? Hopefully someone will, because this is one of Chadbourne’s best latter-day works, for all the aforementioned reasons, which are sufficiently in evidence to balance out the still-present simplistic snark. “Pod’s” Luddite goes down much easier with a bulbous tuba in the background, and “Hendrix Buried In Tacoma” sounds persuasively Experienced, if you like. Chadbourne reins his tendency to stomp all over song structures, which makes it seem like an artistic strategy rather than mere carelessness when he steps outside of them.
Yeah, buddy. God, there used to be a TON of this shit everywhere. AmReppy, post-Jesus Lizard noise rock, four dudes (almost always dudes) guitar, bass, drums, vox, putting the pieces together in riffy, Bonham-esque shapes without being Bonham, a few cock rock moments sneaking in there. The opener “Shiuvist” is the most Surgery-sounding song anyone has waxed since that group’s tragic demise almost two decades ago, in no way a bad thing when you know what made them fun. Side two of this thing especially, the singer gets more cock rocky as it goes on, as if they’re like, “hey, we really could have some brash Oasis-via-Yow-and-even-Cornell action in here. Now, if only we knew some girls …”) Which, after enjoying these eight rock solid songs of careening rock, serves to better illustrate the path ahead of this band: one in which they hone the riffs, steer the careen, sharpen and get more jagged; the other in which they could turn into Rye Coalition after the first couple of albums. Nobody wants that. (Record/band should in no way be confused with the totally amazing pre-harDCore Nation’s Capital no wave outfit the Chumps, whose EP is a lost classic of the genre and whose CD The Problem With Saxophones can still be purchased from Dischord’s website. You should listen to that one also.)
Voices of Packaged Souls LP
Experimental electronic composer/groundbreaker Ciani gets Votel’d, first with a collection of her more accessible works and now with a straight reissue of this nightmare, recorded in 1970 for a gallery opening in Belgium and released in an edition of 50. As someone with early and constant access to modular synthesizers, Susan (as she’s credited on the scrawly silkscreened cover) was enabled, driven to push them to their limit, and that she does at key points throughout this work. Each cut is given a spoken title in treated English and French – simultaneously and creepily – before the synth (or other recording/sound source, or both) is unleashed. The pieces for “Heat” and “Cold” come early on and are some of the more punishing the record has to offer, Ciani twisting the dials and sitting on the keys to build up a high-pitched, discomforting analog whine that builds in intensity and mania as the tracks progress. I was made to feel very, very anxious by “Sound of An Eye Tearing” (that’s ripping, not crying), which is the filtered and muddled sound of an infant in some distress. The track never pays off, thankfully, but having heard similar cries at home in the past two months, it made all the hairs on my arms stand up in fear. Side 2 doesn’t pack nearly as hard of a punch, particularly with one track featuring the sound of what we’d believe is an old man masturbating, but by that point, Ciani has done her damage, and it’s a fine, if perfunctory, cocktail of then-new sounds and disorienting presentation. Those who found a wide and considerate selection of sounds from her recent Lixiviation comp on Finders Keepers will end up with a real beast on their hands if they seek this one out. I guess it’s also good that the crate-digging within Andy Votel’s purview has not slowed down, and has opened itself to a number of non-musical, non-beat-oriented confusers such as this one. 700 copies, foil-wrapped sleeve.
Group Home Haircut 7” EP
The most important thing here is that Chris Thomson is out fronting a punk band again. Normally this would be given to mean that anyone who’s ever liked any of the earlier bands he’s been in, particularly as a vocalist (Circus Lupus, Las Mordidas, the Monorchid, Skull Kontrol, Red Eyed Legends), would need to check out any new music he’s involved with – come on, you signed the pact, I saw some of your names on it. Three songs here, and they’re all spectacular, especially “Group Home Haircut,” which caught my attention from their Soundcloud page last year, and made my Top 10 singles without even having really existed in a physical format. It’s probably the most straightforward thing I’ve ever heard him in front of, but that’s why it rules – his voice contains the best angry Anglo snarl since ‘77, a combination of Cockney guv’ner and Southern rustbucket coughing up bales of tawny, oxidized wire mesh, and instantly makes any band he’s with that much more intense. His enunciation isn’t all that far off from Mark E. Smith’s but it is the animosity in how he delivers a line that really clinches it. The song itself is somewhat of a departure, not trying to blind us with prog studdastep or baste us in hickory-smoked BBQ sauce, but the sort of even-handed, downpicked postpunk rocker you might hear out of Hot Snakes or Obits, who got it from the Wipers, who probably thought of it around the same time Wire made Pink Flag, so … yeah. For once it seems like a band of his can see what’s on the other side of this kind of music, when done correctly, and while it might take some of the surprise out of it (there’s nothing on the scale of, like, “New Tricks” or “I Always Thought You Were An Asshole” on here, at least not yet), it does seem like a more secure position to operate from after years of bands that split up too soon. I put this record on and end up playing it over and over, as I have listened to their live set on Epitonic through many a morning commute – knowing this sort of thing is happening again gets me pumped up for the day ahead. Still stationed in Chicago, Thomson teams up with a number of the more reliable musicians in that town (Ryan Weinstein, late of Cavity and others on guitar; Chay Lawrence on bass; Jeff Rice on drums) and they just lay these three out so well, giving the tracks on the B-side enough speed to make a passed-out drunk snap to attention. 300 copies, get ‘em fast, these won’t last.
John Wesley Coleman & Morgan Coy
Nightmare on Silly Street LP
I know that people put out JWC records because they love the guy’s music (and probably the guy himself). I’ve had a tough time entering the space required to get me to where they are, but the first side of Nightmare on Silly Street is the closest I’ve come, a bare and personal statement by an artist who lets you look deep inside his head, despite the dangers of that the outside world can bring to that kind of open space. Where previous efforts like Little Miss Keith Richardssounded like wild and spontaneous stabs into medicated, whiskey-saturated nothingness, there is real heart and a fragility to songs like “Psychiatrist” that transfers onto the artist himself. Side A is all Coleman’s finished originals, probably enough of this for one sitting, while side B is comprised of re-edited versions of each song by Morgan Coy, sourced from the four-track cassette recordings used to make these songs, and enough for two leftovers. It’s an interesting treatment for sure, but not necessarily one that makes it any more clear as to where exactly Wes is coming from. At least half of this record is recommended. (http://monofonuspress.com)
Everything Goes Wrong LP
(R.I.P. Society / 80/81)
More like CONSTANT RIPPER – Australian punk/post-punk trio, full of spite and anger (the furthest thing I’d expect from any band that shares a member with Woollen Kits), slashes through six menacing originals, a cover of X_X/Electric Eels jammer “No Nonsense,” and a slow-burn title track that takes up most of side 2. The group comes off like the Swell Maps with a massive grudge against everyone/everything around it, not limited to the hairy bugger from Fabulous Diamonds calling them out as somewhat less than the excellent band they are, and getting his comeuppance on the excellent “B. Crystal.” Here you can listen to the freedom of letting go and telling off the people around you without any ill effects on your own understanding of the social contract. A couple of nincompoops have stated that Constant Mongrel is short on ideas. Fuck that noise. This is exactly what it needs to be to have lasting impact on the “scene at large,” the kind of record that damages friendships, pries apart lovers and makes problems worse. Keep a handful of copies on hand in case you need to explain to anyone in needlessly difficult terms that you don’t want to see them anymore. Part of a cross-continental label exchange program that so far has beaten the piss out of most records from either land this year.
The Pleasance & The Purchase 7” EP
Search for images of the lads who comprise Coppice and you will find that they look remarkably like slightly better-scrubbed direct descendants of the squeezebox player on the cover of Killing Capitalism With Kindness. Spin the 45, though, and a different picture emerges. They mine their squeezebox (shruti box, actually) for wheeze, whistle, and most of all clatter, not notes. The results are more like field recordings of debris being moved or surreptitious activities in a workshop than the blessedly begrimed tunes on that old Xpressway box. I suspect, though, that if this stuff were made in New Zealand in 1990 rather than Chicago in 2010, it would have stood an excellent chance of finding its way onto the box. If you need less obscure coordinates, Can made ethnographic forgeries – these guys craft fictional locations. Although Giuseppe Ielasi’s name appears nowhere on the record, it’s his label, and his attention to sonic detail is evidenced by sounds that seem to take shape in air after the stylus sucks them off the vinyl and passes them through the speakers. It comes in a lovely black and white sleeve in a numbered edition of 200.
Two guys, presumably from the Philly area, do a full album of slightly lo-fi shoegazey earworms, and to everyone’s surprise, it works. There ain’t nothin’ here seasoned listeners haven’t heard elsewhere, and maybe better, but I don’t know – Cough Cool has a way about them, a way to keep interest buzzing even at the length of an endless album that bookended an endless day for me not too long ago. Lots of shorter songs, lots of ideas, all of them at least a bit worthwhile. If they can get out of mood-setting and into rock-making, there’ll be a bright future ahead for them.
s/t 7” EP
The better-bet when it comes to the two types of bands left in Jay Reatard’s wake. No synth listed next to any of the first names on the back cover, but there’s a happy dark-wave, synth-friendly bleed-through on these three tracks and you know exactly what I’m trying to articulate here: phaser is the new reverb. Want me to use more hyphens? Enjoy complaining about my over-usage of them (there goes one now!!)? Well, check this shit out: My copious use of them is usually an indicator that a record is digging deeper that already bottomless trench down the middle of the road, but that’s not the story with this EP, dears. For the Screamers-plus-the-’00s angle studied on this record, this is about as good as it gets. Very catchy guitar action and serviceably-catchy tunes overall. The full-length will be reviewed by this household sooner than later, and I’m putting some faith in the bitch being partways to burner status (that’s good), but we’ll see.
Cold Thought 12” EP
Like the healthy toddler assigned lifelong “living miracle” status by virtue of being born with knotted intestines or a kidney lodged in its sinus cavity, Criminal Code are an amazing band blazing forward in defiance of their musical DNA. It’s true that the stylistic attack by way of cherry-picked forefathers that defines Criminal Code would be some high-mileage, acutely-exhausted tedium in lesser hands, but it should be noted that “in lesser hands” happens to be the only place to currently find these building blocks; sonic vanilla worn smooth by years of HoZaC/Termbo herd-mentality and the paint-by-numbers thievery that some incorrectly see as “influence”. Influence is impossible when the historical shopping spree is limited to a picked-over end-cap with the same five or six touchstones to choose from. That isn’t influence; it’s playing by a set of rules no one has had the motivation to challenge.
But Criminal Code have grabbed a huge chunk of Screamers and filled in the gaps with what sounds like a hardcore past and an immersion in Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions. If I still need to spell it out for you, I will: under normal circumstances, the musical affair that calls for a profound Screamers angle to be in bed with attempted yet tragically-fumbled golden-moment Reatard … well, this grand idea could be face down in the highway median, engulfed in flames while being sodomized by a yeti, and my foot wouldn’t so much as hover over the brake pedal. And that goes for each and every band that still rides this terminally-flogged horse … EXCEPT Criminal Code.
Oh, I forgot to mention the Metal Circus-perfect Mould guitar sound achieved on this EP, which was unfair of me due to its relative scarcity compared to how the aforementioned attributes are scattered across the shitscape we continue to romanticize as some form of underground. This greases the gears to push the reality of Cold Thought right up in our ears: Criminal Code have released a 7” and an EP that both belong in the upper echelon of all things rock, and they did it with broken tools and an engine that, 99.9% of the time, fails to turn over. This small record of bursting energy and huge hooks is as great as it gets, and Criminal Code have spewed a great deal of integrity, unknowingly of course, by remaining in an aesthetic/sonic ghetto that needs an ass-load of help. Recommended. Highly.
s/t 7” EP
This punk rock band should be called The Scones because this feels like a chore and they aren’t even French. Someone should tell them they don’t have to do this. Here is my review:
“This is some bratty pop punk. Short songs, quick execution and minimal lyrics. Four songs straight out of the RAMONES play book. All that is missing is the 1-2-3-4 count before each song.” -Maximum Rock N Roll
“Trashy pop punk of the highest order is what you get from this Sacramento three-piece. Lo-fi and DIY, these Croissants are filled with distorted guitars and snotty, sneering vocals. These numbers are also incredibly peppy and catchy, with lots of “Oh Yeah” choruses. Reatards and/or Nobunny fans will rejoice with this little gem of a record” -Razorcake Magazine
(Make A Mess)
I do my level best to stay far, far away from anything that ever could be described as meat-and-potatoes hardcore. Indeed, I have no fucking idea what that would sound like, such is my avoidance, but I kind of imagine something kind of this, straight forward hardcore punk (straight outta San Francisco) of a classic cast, songs that could have been on “Flex Your Head” or “This is Boston…” But, oddly, a couple of things save this from the anonymity so richly deserved by folks working in the form. Guitar has surprisingly little distortion on it – we’re not at Minutemen levels of treble or anything, but there is a thin quality that adds to the frantic-rather-than-crushing sound – dude knows his way around a riff or three, the “wait, what was that again?”/take the needle back kind. The singer’s degree of throat-rip is genuinely exciting in spots. Not Finnish/Japanese/d-beat tribute, but firmly in the real-person camp, albeit a real person who is very angry indeed and may have just sliced his head open on a pipe on the too-low ceiling of whatever dank basement this was recorded in. Speaking of, live takes on exceptionally shitty-n-impressive, lo-fi recording here (four-track cassette?) adds to the vigor (or “vigah” if it’s an SSD lick) add to the thrills. Urge to skate … RISING.
Bottom Feeder LP
(Negative Guest List)
Either this thing is missing an insert or I am really impressed by the complete lack of info about this slab, including band members, song titles, etc. Is it more of a mystery or are you just expected to Google all that stuff now? Anyway, here is New York noise thud of a very Australian demeanor (frontman Tim Evans was in Sea Scouts and Birdblobs before coming to the States and continuing on with Bogan Dust and Coconuts), one of the better such hunks of buzz from last year, released on one of the better labels of our weak and simpering age, an organization which doesn’t exist anymore due to the untimely passing last year of its founder. These puds sound like they can barely move, or at least barely move their hands., The guitarist whangs away at a solo here and there, as if he faded to presence long enough to try to reply the murky, knotty riff he heard in his head or maybe just writing the notes in the puke on the floor will work. Evans finds this weird spot between shitty Mark Smith worship and sounding really hammered. While my taste in this sort of gunk usually runs to the slightly more shall-we-say nimble, there is always room in my heart for sludge-rake as “touched” all fronts as this. I am sure your heart works similarly.
“Pick A Line” b/w “No Accent” 7”
I’ll resist the urge to call Berlin’s DIÄT “efficient” – that’s for somebody else to embarrass themselves with. But this trio (two Australians and a German), said to have contacted the Iron Lung guys because they wanted to open for Total Control over there, seems to have a lot in common with some of the traditions in indie rock Germany has been known for: precision, power trios (18th Dye!!!), a fascination with the mechanics of Midwestern AmRep/T&G style grind. All of these qualities are put to the test across these two short, blinding fast little rippers, which marry pogo dynamics across super tight bass/drum interplay and the vague, minimal blueprint of postpunk. They sound like a meatier version of that band Prosaics, if any of you remember them from their Sunday Styles spread. They were a really great, dry live band and one time I manned their merch booth where they were selling a distressed t-shirt for $80. “No Accent” is the colder of the two, and maybe the better song, though both are working OK for me today. Not sure what they’re getting at with the futuristic knife logo atop vintage lesbian erotica on the cover, but the pocket sleeve it’s printed on is nice. Iceage bebs might dig this as well. Cool stuff. (http://ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)
Now we’re talkin’! About what, I’m not sure, but that’s gotta be the beauty with this beauty. This will be the one VERY SPECIAL RECORD in this 10 – 20 title review-run; a record that the house should shelter forever. Not that rising value will ever tempt, as this band is too good and smart for these 500 copies to transcend $5 used-bin purgatory in the next decade or decade-and-a-half. That’s when the world will catch up to Dichroics; a band that have chosen the perfect name so as to make anyone and everyone sound stupid upon imperfect pronunciation in mixed company. See, that won’t happen, either, as only the four band members and perhaps Mr. Jason Loewenstein (how is it that Sebadoh can contain both the most difficult interview subjects and the easiest in all of rockdom!?!) actually know how to properly say “Dichroics” and I’m afraid that no one, certainly not myself, can properly write about them. Their music is akin to prime-era Trumans Water if that were to happen right here, right now, right in what I like to call our current musical landscape when feeling optimistic: The Seismic Shift-Change. But who is equipped to predict what that might be like? Real words from a real random fratboy doorman in 1993 when declining my colleague’s non-license-carrying ass entry to the basement of a shitty dance club where Trumans Water were set to perform to exactly seven people: “Art rock?!?! Dude, I heard their sound-check…more like SHIT ROCK. I can’t letcha in, but trust me, you ain’t missin’ dick.” Like the words a cable TV ad will soon end with: “Don’t miss dick” I’d like to hereby apologize to this band for reviewing their completely excellent and beautifully-inspired album nine months after it was released…released, I might add, on a Saturday (Sept 10th, 2011). Dichroics can do whatever they want to do. Oh, they sound almost NOTHING like Trumans Water (to discriminating ears …). Hear this fucking record, posthaste.
The Dreebs The Dream LP
The Dreebs are a trio from Brooklyn of prepared guitar, violin, drums, and vocals. This is an experimental rock record, but it is in no way a “free rock” record. This band is incredibly tight and its compositions are very precise. The Dreebs’ songs seem to work by the prepared guitar setting up a metallic drone in front which the drums and violin lock in to patterns that gradually build into climaxes, but this band doesn’t fall into the trap of only playing crescendos that a lot of improvised rock and post rock bands do. The dynamics are very important in this band and are used in a very refreshing ways. The vocals range from whispers and shrieks and come in at just the right times to heighten the tension. The prepared guitar sounds particularly great and adds a tangible, alien quality to the band. I’ve really never heard anything like it. An excellent record. It comes with a beautiful silk screened cover to boot. (http://thedreebs.blogspot.com)
Sample Based Beats LP
Came with a sad, hand-written one-sheet about sending out review copies so that cuz’s closet or basement could enjoy some added storage space, but a 250-count pressing can’t take up that much space, especially when said handwritten note was penned over a year ago. This is considered, probably due to other False Tropics albums and origin of the sole creative force, to be “underground hip-hop” and was most-likely constructed in a manner similar to that of Panda Bear while holding true (knowingly or otherwise) to a strict ‘90s electronica feel like the best of the organic-band-gone-sample-happy-for-one-album detours of that decade, and approaches a scruffy Boards of Canada on some tracks. Totally pleasant, and while nowhere near the high-quality of something like The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, it is nonetheless a great, as Mr. Mosurock might say, daytime record.
Ferocious Fucking Teeth
A debut that hints of future promise by a band who might be known as ‘FFT’ sooner than later because this band’s name will become tiresome to the members themselves, who don’t seem to reside on the thoughtful end of the brospectrum. Way more Young Widows than Melvins or Big Business (to counter those one-sheet references), and armed with a baritone guitar instead of a bass to ascent the double-drumming that just sounds like one extremely well-recorded kit. Only a tiny handful of bands get double-drumming right on record, so FFT can’t really be faulted for that. They get the vocals right for this sort of thing that baritone guitar is a monster…think the exact opposite of how a baritone gave The Cure that distinctive “thangle”. All in all, roughly half this record falls under the banner of inspired goodness, and while this is heavy, they will share bills with such and would probably be bouncing off the walls if Hydra Head approached them about doing a record (they could and should), this is the non-metallic realm of noise-rock. 300 pressed. Black vinyl. Worth watching. (http://safetymeeting.bandcamp.com)
Blank Entertainment LP
“Everything has been done” has been done. The hard kernel at the center of punk ideology has been mimicked ad infinitum itself, but it is easy to discern those using it as affectation, and those really feeling its effect. Above any redundancy of love, mimeographed joy or remembrance at odds with the day it is this – the nihilistic constraints that exist when you are just four guys toting guitar, drums, bass and vox – that Final Club are waxing passionate about. Like molasses, writhing tunefulness folds over this record’s austere packaging and signifiers, encasing a quality that sneaks in with a grade A “banger” or whatever in “Tragic World”. But more than this song running laps around your average flappy garage disavowal is that it’s a gatekeeper, ushering in the masses with an innocuous party invite. Are you listening? This is meant only for you. “Buy Into It” pulls in lyrically before turning its lilting nostalgia into a portable welt distributor that services the rest of the album; making turns and drawing corners at odd, exciting moments. Alternate universes are revealed in slight, then SIKE! A tangible chorus. Hair-raising, but tangible. Bite-size psychedelic asides begot catchy pop, and vice-versa. The methods all seem so coherent but they swell; see “Wizard Wells”, the return to zero song – the song that makes you want to listen to the whole album again at once. And a note on the guitar: Holy shit. Diverse and demanding of your attention: think Polvo. Also demanding are the lyrics. They poke out with bleak awareness, yet this all ends without infecting emptiness. For the dose was a placebo, all you felt was real; this is no empty gesture. Now we all know one can be too smart for their own good. Intelligence can compromise integrity, especially as one gets older and it becomes laced with anxiety. If this record has propriety on any finitude, it’s in its specificity. Captured on Blank Entertainment is the result of precise amounts of self-awareness, musical ability and youthful energy; all operating on the exact frequencies needed for it to happen.
Too Big To Fail 2x7”
Four new songs from an Austin trio that overcomes their nomenclatural handicap by actually knowing how to rock. They’re good musicians who challenge themselves a bit over the course of these tracks, wielding all sorts of specific influences without allowing themselves to succumb to caricature. If they have any fault, it is that they are slightly overbuilt, and at least one of these songs has the tendency to go on far too long, introducing a second chorus that adds nothing but a title, and feels like a political comedy blog come to life. That said, there are two other good tracks on here, and a third, “Flashback to the Majestic,” that is completely great, folding the nascent New Zealand singer-songwriter rediscovery over onto Texan party punk, hooks and energy colliding on one another to make something unique. More like that and these guys might have to change their name out of respect for their songs, to say nothing of the vibrating sex pouch that their current handle disappears beneath. 3/4 recommended, maybe even 7/8ths.
Rolling, howling noise rock of a very fine flavor for people who put on Al Green or “Pony” at moments of coitus but whose brains turn to white noise during the act itself. Again, the full on revival of this style does a body good, especially bodies that cut teeth on T&G, AmRep, Noiseville, the time when kids remembered that hideous distortion was more fun than figuring out how to rewrite Pet Sounds and imagining what would have happened if Void had gotten into Throbbing Gristle and not metal. The Baltimore zip code and solid CVs (see also The New Flesh, Pfisters) match well to the dunderheaded riffs, played with dedication to their own dunderheadedness and a singer who sweats by yelling. Inspirational Verse (from the sprawling “Least Offensive Option”): “Yeah…..aw yeah, yeah, aw fuck yeah.” Yes.
s/t 7” EP
As per usual, this 7” spun some as the record and packaging were examined here in our listening, writing and creating laboratory at home before the requisite amount of related online information was processed (for future fact-checking needs at the very least). It’s no surprise, perhaps, that my immediate guess about Full Toilet was that this might be a one-off courtesy of people from disparate or better-known concerns. Punk rock or hardcore did not hit me as reference points at all, as they later would when lobbed by other writers and whoever is behind the promo-text on the Sub Pop site. Not even noise-rock came easy, or I should state, not noise-rock in its enjoyable, rhythmically-adept guise over the last 20 or more years. In fact, this band could be anything but what comes out of the speakers when taken in a live context, or a succeeding-this-release context. Billed as something that crawled from some corner of hardcore, and billed as young and socially-unacceptable (especially regarding the ringleader’s behavior or “opinion” of his band mates), Full Toilet are supposed to be very hard to deal with. There’s an expectation of the band as something of the past by this point, I’m feeling. Too bad that when I want to call this dynamic-free slop “nihilist” I have a hard time believing Full Toilet deserve the smidgen of sophistication that might imply. Too bad their “hard to deal with” party-line extends to the record being played in my home. Too bad it’s “hard to deal with” because it really, really sucks, and it sucks beyond the whole “but it’s supposed to suck” agenda invariably at work here. I like my share of music that categorically, more-or-less, sucks, but Full Toilet sucks at being a band that is supposed to suck. Imagine if the Strangulated Beatoffs, Happy Flowers and the Butthole Surfers all had a meeting and said, “Let’s make a 7” that represents a 9th-rate version of some stuff that is so worthless it almost doesn’t exist on an aural level.” Is Full Toilet supposed to suck that bad? No, but now they are, I’m sure. A band that names a song “Keys, Wallet, Phone, Gun” should be able to make me write something different from what you just read. On purple vinyl and still in print as of Summer 2012.
“Funny Insurance” b/w “Sounds Famous” 7”
Sacramento-based punk band, makin’ moves hither and yon. Their music is very poppy and melodic, but is played as strained and ragged as possible. Why sing in your regular voice when the high register sits there? Why not make it a little tough on yourself in order to force a more memorable, if not necessarily better, performance? The folks in G.Green take that chance and it works out in their favor. “Funny Insurance” is played at what you can tell is their speed limit for a song like this, and though it may sound like it’s about to fall apart like that cop car in “Freebie and the Bean,” it is precisely the quality that makes it work. Ditto for “Sounds Famous,” which is a bit slower and catchier, and features singer Andrew Henderson trying to cave in his own chest in reaching for those high notes. It’s scrappy, but fun. Not bad!
The Decline Effect 2xLP
(The Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Picture your body floating miles below the ocean surface, in an enormous, sunken hull, the pressure of the water coupled with the vastness of the deep. You’ve just entered this masterful drone/dark ambient work by sound artist Haynes. His motto is apparently “I rust things,” and within that context, he creates impossibly large resonant spaces, the clutter of ambient noises, treated samples, field recordings, and stray patches of barely-heard melodic statements serving as the elements of decay. I think the big difference here from most records in the purely ambient headspace is that Haynes isn’t looking to make music, but instead create experiential sound compositions a la Nurse W/ Wound. He turns the time spent in this environment into another presence in the room, as it applies pressure and uncertainty on the listener and taking on disturbing sentient qualities. Four sidelong pieces, absolutely terrifying with the lights out – parts of this are the closest I’ve heard to M.B. in terms of process and just how goddamned unctuous this all sounds. So when you find a sea urchin down in that hull the size of EPCOT Center, it casually impales you on one of its tines and slurps you down as your corporeal form dissolves, and your spirit is locked inside the blob of flesh and organ that comprises its insides, you won’t be as surprised because you’ll know what it sounds like for that to happen. Well-designed matte gatefold, 350 copies.
s/t (Second) 7” EP
s/t (Third) 7” EP
Western Mass hardcore/dirge/scum outfit HOAX has so much more going for it than their live show would have you believe, but for now it seems to help them get their point across. There, three dudes play barbarian treehouse wars, flinging the proverbial horse chestnuts and monkeyballs behind a skinny, scabby frontman who wears filthy, torn rags and has a propensity to bash his head in with the microphone until he starts bleeding. He looks like he’s been rolling around in a briar patch, and the most curious thing about it is that the violence in their sound is totally directed inwards, yet every audience they get in front of takes it as a cue to destroy one another. I’ve seen this act a few times and it is very hard for me to separate my feelings towards their music (which is great, like face-of-HC-in-2012 great) from this unsettling, troublesome shtick, one which I hope said dude moves away from before he contracts a flesh-eating virus or something. Hey, it seems genuine, and all of these guys are meant to be solid dudes with teaching certificates and whatnot. What I’m saying is, if you see them play, you might do them a favor by filling up a balloon with hydrogen peroxide and lofting it towards their singer – you might be saving a life. After you’ve done this, get over to the merch table and grab whatever you can – these two new singles are worth whatever they will set you back and then some. Even there, you’ll notice the packaging of these things goes way over the top – the Painkiller single tucks a visually maniacal fold-out poster inside a three-panel sleeve, while the Youth Attack one, with a die-cut gatefold pocket sleeve opens to depict a pile of rocks with a German military cap on top, with individuals rappelling from its base, all invoked in glorious, glossy black-and-white, is surely the most elaborate sleeve you’ll find on any punk record this year, and justifying the $10-12 it’ll cost you to own. Things like these details, and the live show, make it seem like the band has got something to hide musically, but that couldn’t be further from the reality – these are exceptional records, moving far away from the gimmicky button-push of their first single and into primal, fear-studded expression. HOAX has found ways to take the template of pissed-off, edge-violent Boston HC even further into the spiral of madness, slowing things down for additional punch, the breakdown on “Suicide Pact” from the second EP in particular showing the ability these guys have to get to the rain-soaked, miserable center of negativity inherent in the style they follow. Even if these records came in plain white sleeves, they’d still knock down like 98% of current outfits in the same space in terms of energy, feeling and delivery, leaving that 2% for margin of error that lots of folks seem to forget about. One wonders how long these guys can keep at it, because the intensity they’re throwing at this band could burn out anyone trying to take this out on the road the way they’ve been doing it, well before their time. That, plus they’re already in the top tier of American hardcore bands going today, and all the extra window dressing and abuse seems as much the product of these guys expressing themselves as it does the very nature of overcompensation for something that’s already great as it is. But we’re living in the now, and these are some of the best hardcore records you’re going to find these days, so celebrate them while you can.
Not I’ll Not LP
Horsebladder is the stage name of musician, poet, and Western Massachusetts resident Elaine Kahn. Searching around online for other reviews of this record made it seem as it was just released into a void and no one noticed. This is a shame, as Not I’ll Not is one of the most captivating LPs I’ve heard so far in 2012. Over six songs, Kahn constructs quiet and unsettling soundfields using ghostly vocals, minimal quiet percussion, and what sound like consumer-grade keyboards and tape loops. The instrument tones are all plastic-like and processed sounding. These tracks hover somewhere between being dark pop songs and sound art. Melodic keyboard riffs and tape loops appear and disappear over the course of each track, but nothing close to a verse, chorus, or conventional song structure ever happens. What Not I’ll Not offers to listeners is a ghostly and foreboding atmosphere to plunge into – and unlike a lot of ambient records of late, the more time that is spent with this music, the more details emerge. On the cover of this LP there is a picture of a creepy boarded up house with a baby doll in front of it and some rusty bicycles lying on the lawn. The music within is what you could imagine the inside of the house sounds like. Don’t let this record pass you by.
Meaning To These Maps 7” EP
Jangly indie pop/folk wordsmithery from a British duo of guitar/vocals and drums. Four songs here, all of a piece with one another, from twee to tuff twee. Seems to be as much an outlet for lyrics as for the music itself, which serves as a vehicle for provincial, queer-friendly tales of bonding with people and places. Decent enough!
Demo 7” EP
(Beach Impediment/No Way)
Walked in on these guys at Chaos in Tejas a few years ago and was floored – maniacally heavy thrash with rock riffs, kind of in the same ballpark as early Venom or those Hellhammer demos, but worked out to a slightly more accessible but no less intense plateau. Maybe Motörhead with some of the directness swapped out for more confusion and flying bodies. Mammoth Grinder and Hatred Surge members collude to bring forth this formidable puck, originally released in 2010 as a cassette. Five tracks that step down on your throat, hard. 200 red vinyl, 800 black.
In Love With the Light 2xLP
(UFO Factory/Burger/Cass/X!/Italy/Life Like)
Wow, this one must’ve hurt coming out, huh? Six labels? Don’t even know where to go with that low-hanging fruit of a joke. There isn’t anything short about In Love With the Light, except this review. Some known-within-city-limits types from Detroit got Warn Defever wrapped up in their motor-city version of a faux-Father Yod hippie dream-team and recorded four sides of Godspell/Rocky Horror rehearsal, crammed into a tight jar with someone’s appropriation of mid-’70s Judas Priest. It’s hard to fuck up mid-’70s Judas Priest, but this record is surely a one-way ticket to said dead end. Also contains the main dude in former Jack White-associated band, The Go, along with three hundred other people. This is a band that exists so that people can say they are in it. Unlike similar concerns like Polyphonic Spree, this one isn’t going to spit out a St. Vincent any time soon, and that’s neither a dig nor a direct order … it just is … isn’t. On black vinyl. In time, Infinity People have released another 2xLP that might confuse folks away from this one, but caring as a pre-requisite for confusion often requires care. Therein lies the ruuuuuuuub.
Strike Gently LP
Big brash melodic hardcore with some really powerful moments, comparable to Fucked Up without the concepts (or number of people) bogging it down. The name here bears striking resemblance to Brain F≠, with whom Joint D≠ shares at least one member, Nick Goode, and features contributions from most of the band, but this is a more focused effort that trades in some of the stranger ambitions of that band for zinc alloy riffs and intense drumming. The band’s name was originally Joint Damage, but they were sued by a Juggalo band from Providence, RI, who got to it first. I didn’t realize those types were so litigious, but at least these Carolina dudes got some mileage out of the joke. Pretty good one, also dug the Harvest Records parody on the labels.
Eli Keszler/Keith Fullerton Whitman
When you see the word Tapes in a label name, it’s fair to wonder, will they do right by vinyl? A well-made record is a beautiful thing, but man, they’re easy to fuck up. Starting with the outside and working our way in, NNA did just fine with the sleeve, and even better with its colorful inner counterpart. Both feature a side of complex images, computer-generated I suppose, by percussionist Eli Keszler that contrast strikingly with the use of clear text and empty space on the other side. If holding and staring at sleeves is your thing, they’ve got your back.
And the record? A few pops aside, the black vinyl sounds clean, and the mastering job renders the music with marvelous fidelity. This is especially important because each sound Keszler selects is so important that the slightest distortion would feel like an insult. Keszler’s side is called “Mired,” but there’s nothing stuck-sounding about it. It’s a primer, or maybe a manifesto, summing up just what the man does. If, like me, you’d written him off after an encounter with his ESP release, the clarity with which he articulates his sense of proportion here might change your mind like it did mine. If he strikes one drum or strokes one cymbal, the enormity of sound within that single act unfolds; if he sets a system in motion, its various rapidly moving components all work together with addling precision. He’s all about the careful marshaling and arrangement of complex information. It’s music as brain food, and it’s mighty tasty.
Electronic musician Keith Fullerton Whitman is no stranger to complicated systems, and in recent years he’s used a couple as frameworks for a series of live performances. Keszler’s playing inspired a new one, and you can hear its first realization here. Fullerton watched Keszler play, and determined to devise an analog synth patch that would use randomly generated sounds to set in motion a sequence of digitally managed interventions that would attain a similar level of event density and rhythmic elaboration. Simply put, he tried to make his synths and computer act like a free jazz drummer. If Keszler’s specificity and simultaneity are the standards he was aiming for, he succeeded. This version of “Occlusion” is so simpatico with Keszler’s playing that you can, if you have either two records or access to a webpage set up for the occasion (as Whitman has done at his Mimaroglu Music Sales site), play them together. But it’s pretty swell on its own, too. If you’re eager to see how it varies, Whitman’s already released two more versions on another LP, but that’s a story for another review.
Vengeance, Man 12” EP
The cool thing about doing a solo project as your main project? Hell’s other peoples, guy. Other people fuck up your pure visions and inhibit your ability to get ‘em out the way you want. The specific visions of Ryland Wharton have been well-established in earlier solo projects (Showers), and through the always-consistent output of the record and tape labels that he runs. That he’s able to make the recent strain of heavy blowout psych not only palatable, but in a sense reborn, is the sort of wake up call needed to shake up the level of complacency that’s been a part of that whole area (Wooden Shjips/Moon Duo, White Hills) for some time now. Wharton plays all the instruments again, and drags us through six varied, distinguished beaters – three rockers on side A, and three mellow burners “for the return trip.” This material has more than the stuff on Eyewash Silver, as well as a little more definition – much of this approaches genres known to man, but still manages to out-weird all of the competition while doing so. The celestial cakewalk of “Dead Meet” builds out of a bouncy, bluesy polygon that gets kicked around and fried into panic mode by the end, where it abruptly cuts out, Vatican Shadow-style, and launches into the cosmic surgery facilitation station of “Wheels Across the Night,” already in progress and burning out the eyes of everyone who dare travel near. Wharton keeps this one on the short side, making it all too tempting to just flip it over once it’s done and take the ride again. If any of this is making sense, you should probably go and get it right now. 320 copies or some ridiculously low number, silkscreened sleeve – looks like the Navajo shit they’re wearing at the end of Dumb & Dumber.
Dungeon Doo-Wop 7”
Maybe these tracks need a full album next to them to shine – certainly the more questionable moments of the past two King Dude LPs benefitted from the workspace of ideas good and bad around them – but I’m having a hard time finding a way into this single, a teaser for TJ Cowgill’s forthcoming Dais albumBurning Daylight. Here is an artist who’s done all he could to inject the blackened, sketchy background of neo-folk by foregrounding pop balladry and traditional romantic gestures, and it’s worked before (and most likely will again) but I’m having a hard time with the choice of slow, sappy “You Can Break My Heart” in the traditional notion of a single. “Devil’s Tail” sounds like a subdued take on the “other” category of King Dude songs, the ones that focus on some sort of spiritual endpoint for meaning/scares. This’ll be gone before you know it, though, so no worries. Catch him when he drops the album. 300 numbered copies.
We Will Raise Your Child LP
Like most folks in the same predicament, when my father woke up after suffering a major stroke in his sleep, he found himself unable to read the printed word. He actually walked into the kitchen holding the newspaper upside down and said, “I can’t read this.” Hey, admitting you have a problem is the first step, they say. My father wasn’t a writer, and didn’t have the best taste in pre-stroke recreational reading materials, so I’ve always feared that if I were to weather a similar situation, it would not liberate me of my literacy, but would forever make me write in the style of the liner notes to Knock Knock’s album We Will Raise Your Children. I’ll spare you most of the details, but they refer to themselves more than once as “a band that is here to make hits,” and a central character referred to over and over as “a rocker” (“He is, after all, a rocker.”) Their bio treads on even thinner ice, and if you printed it out, you might have to dispose of it in the OUTSIDE garbage.
Something else about my dad: He was pre-rock. Meaning, he was eighteen years older than my mom, was a fighter-pilot and bomber in both WWII and Korea. Dawg was born in NINETEEN TWENTY-FUCKING-THREE. He did not understand rock music when he heard it, and he started to hear a lot of it, in several variations, before succumbing to some form of life-snatcher two years after the aforementioned brain attack. He complained of its repetition as the most irritating aural quality … something I have yet to understand, even to this day. I am convinced, however, that if I were to travel back in time to that morning in 1992 when he was getting all Jerry Lewis with the fucking newspaper and shit … if I were to jet back there with the ya’llternative stylings of Knock Knock in tow, and if he was to immediately listen to it from start to finish (hey, bathroom breaks were instantly WHENEVER and WHEREVER …very presciently-slacker ‘90s of him, actually), his response would be, “I was alive for it yet don’t even know what early ‘70s glam-rock was all about, but I know that these pussies suck at it. And why is that guy dressed like a fake chimney-sweep? What is he going to do, hit me with that shovel? Why are they so fucking happy? Why is the other one dressed like a fake car mechanic and holding a firearm he most likely has no idea how to discharge? Rest of the band looks like a ten-year-old girl watching a fat Frenchman attack Alex Chilton.”
Then he’d turn to me and ask, “Did you write that one-sheet? I can’t even fucking read right now and you come back from 2012 with a poor excuse for wasting two refrigerator magnets? Twenty years and you write like a fishwife’s dullard offspring with walking pneumonia.”
And I’d spend the rest of my time-traveling tokens trying to explain that I didn’t write the one-sheet and that, truthfully, the record sounds like failed Ganglians, which is the last thing the world needs right now. And how all of this is because of an abomination known as King Tuff, which is a whole ‘nother can of crap … “That’s fascinating…now go back to 2012 or shed some light on what the fuck happened to me last night … I’m not doing this with the paper to be funny, boy.”
See, I wouldn’t treat this record like this band would raise people’s children, because all I want to do is leave it in a hot car with the windows rolled up.
Long Distance Poison
Signals To A Habitable Zone LP
I know it’s in poor taste to speculate about it in such a prolonged global economic contraction, but perhaps your city has a planetarium it’s looking to unload to a motivated buyer? Turn that shit into a concert venue – beyond some “Laser Floyd” sort of proposition, but prepared visuals by up and coming artists set to the pulsing drone of today’s modern synthesizer revivalists. Long Distance Poison would be a cinch to play there sometime, at top, bowel-shaking volume. The Brooklyn trio invents subtly shifting patterns in and out of a sinuous drone. The record’s one-sheet focuses on the group’s celestial focus, and discusses the methods by which they accomplish their drone frequencies, and what they all mean, and so while this is a very decent example of the genre, it’s like most drone/space records in that the common points between them and other practitioners aren’t exactly elaborated upon, so you’re left wondering if it’s really something that clicks with you. Still, eat a tab, go down to the Planetarium Rock Venue, watch a presentation, and get lifted. This is music that fetishizes space travel, and provides a keen backdrop for you to float away on. Clear vinyl, with big foldout blueprint poster insert, and numbered in “invisible ink” (yah rite). Also includes a DVD with band-approved visuals, though this copy did not.
Looks Like Miaou
So is it still cute when French people get all into our cultural castoffs? Oh, shut the Ford tailgate … so who out there believes that I just spent over thirty minutes trying to think of a funny way of putting the fourth (and therefore…really shitty) Alan Vega solo album (I don’t even know if there is a fourth Alan Vega solo album…and don’t care) in the same league as Jay Leno would put Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke, all out of disdain for reading some online bio crap that I remember as “they combine ‘90s fuzzed-out guitars with Suicide!” If this was from the States, it would be the worst US Maple karaoke band to ever breathe air after a severe beating and six months of spinal meningitis (for all members) … or just some contrived, ultra-pretentious Xiu Xiu-style mishap trying to pass itself off as “outsider” rock. Reviewing bad records comes with the reading of bad music writing as an occupational hazard, in the name of research, and the fact that I had to make that final point means that now I have shape-shifted into a shitty music writer (my people are reassuring me that it is a temporary ailment) in the name of giving this hilarious miscarriage about 200 more words than “Looks like Miaou (whatever the hell that is)? Sounds like [enter reader-blindsiding nastiness exhumed from handy copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes #5]!!” Bon voyage, indeed … er …
Walk On Heads 7” EP
As the core readership of Still Single gets younger and younger, I struggle with the kneejerk criticism that I was able to float seven years ago, like the kind of review that says “this is a blatant knock on [insert band name here] and what makes this so goddamned special anyway.” We are far enough away from the times in which I grew up – and further still from the years which I missed, and so desperately tried to catch up on, when I made the decision to entrench myself in the music that led up to what is the basis of my critical node. It seems even more disingenuous to single out people who likely weren’t yet born into the times when the music that seems to inspire their own bands was originally released. Lower is a newer Copenhagen outfit staffed with young youth who are buds with Iceage. I met one of them last summer and he definitely seemed to be in the under-21 age group. But where Iceage was preternaturally able to inject the punk/post-punk of their debut New Brigade with the sort of vitality that made it sound like they had created the genre anew, Lower is content to farm in a fallow field. I wouldn’t compare them to Fields Lay Fallow (ha!), more like mks. 1 & 2 emo, particularly of mid-to-late ‘80s Mid-Atlantic descent – Moss Icon, Reptile House, Soul Side, all good enough places to start. They don’t lean on the “epic” sides those bands could sometimes generate either, more like the two-minute punkers with bass chords and unpoliced energy that filled in the gaps between the bigger moments. Opener “Craver” is the best thing here and the rest just kinda hangs out, definitely fun and maybe even revelatory if you didn’t spend years in the ‘90s sorting through distro catalogs or merch boxes at shows past every Plunger or William Martyr 17 record that remained unsold show after show. I’m sure such references would earn me little more than a “Cool Story, Bro” from any number of random little shits. What fails to be taken away from that argument is the basis that history is here on display for us to repeat. When we as a culture, irrespective of age, fail to learn the lessons we’ve been provided with, we wind up stuck with retreads of dormant culture, which is exactly what’s happening here. If Lower’s music makes you feel something, that’s cool. But their messages are handed down and vague, and the soil they want to dig into is desiccated and choked with weeds left untended from the last harvest. At least with Iceage no one can seem to agree on which bands they take influence from, whereas there are at least two dozen records of years past that bear more than a passing resemblance to the music here. Perhaps on future releases they will find a way to break out of the pack and quell this dismissive spirit growing within their ranks. Or maybe they won’t, because that’s a tall order for young dudes. 300 copies, 1st press green sleeve, 2nd press brown sleeve; domestic edition coming eventually on Blind Prophet.
Hard Rubbish LP
(Easter Bilby/Special Award)
Lower Plenty (mems. UV Race, Deaf Wish, The Focus, and I think Total Control, to some extent) seem to know what they’ve got, and aren’t quite sure what to do with the rest, on this maddeningly uneven debut. The group works around quiet, organized downer rock/folk, featuring acoustic guitar at the forefront for most of the nine brief tracks here. The first three cuts are utterly brilliant, some of the best music that’s come out of the new Australian band uprising, and completely worth your attention. They hover somewhere between the stern, hangdog, empty-vessel sound of Lee Hazlewood’s darkest pieces and earlier, depressed Cat Power stare-through-concrete determination, a combo that works so well I’m surprised no one else has figured it out yet. The tension mounts on the first two (particularly “Strange Beast,” the album’s best selection) then comes to a head with the third track, “Dirty Flowers,” which adds some potent Dead C.-style electric guitar squall to the proceedings. Best of all, none of these songs overplay their hand. The songs are short and tightly crafted, spare without being minimal, and make the most of distinct vocal styles and a light, manageable lineup. Then the record sits on autopilot for the duration, perfectly serviceable takes on the same sound, but nowhere near the level of what’s come before (and that goes double for their tepid cover of Bad Brains’ “How Low Can A Punk Get”), until the finale “Close Enough” reminds us why we stuck around in the first place. None of the songs in question stray from the formula, but rather make the happenstance/ambition that drove those early cuts feel like accidents. I’ve spun this thing about a dozen times since it showed up, and it’s an unavoidable gap. Bands can’t really afford to be doing this sort of thing anymore, and it makes things all the more maddening when you think of how great Lower Plenty has shown itself to be, but I’d say pick this up anyway just because of the quality, and hope their next one figures out the missteps and corrects them. You shouldn’t miss their best material – if this were a 7” with just the four songs I mentioned, I’d buy half the pressing.
Eldorado 12” EP
Bedroom rockabilly, or what a sober Jim Morrison would be doing if he had continued to partake full-steam ahead until around Y2K. Eldorado is classic DDIY (literally – this is a vinyl reissue of his first CD-R, dating back to 2006), effects keyboard-reliant song type things with vocals that seem to be making fun of Danzig and Alan Vega, or touched people. It’s the local art guy that incidentally chose music as his medium. His thesis is to incessantly create and his inspiration is the perpetual lack of any coherent fan base. There is at least one in every town, with their yearly message board diatribes bent on uncloaking the secret society of those in town that can “get shows.” Stillborn zinger factories and purveyors of inoperable puns (underground rappers do this too), they implement phrasememes and malapropisms in vain, as they operate on only one level.
Hey, not all dorks are smart, some are just dorks. But it is all about context. Hypothetically, if I was on a grueling, ill-attended month-long US tour with my, say, mid-to-low level indie rock band and Mattress were opening for us in Eureka, California, it is a safe bet that there would be some R. Stevie Moore inspired rhetoric surrounding his performance in a very drunk van on the way to the hotel. And with that said, what really makes this much different than a John Maus, other than Mattress not understanding the value in lo-fi swashbuckling? Maybe it is who you know. But don’t worry Mattress, you will get yours. I would be ahead of my time to give Eldorado an unabashedly glowing review in the present. This is not the music people like in real time, but rather the music people will be digging up in 30 years, vying for the rights to reissue it.
“Adidas Tracksuit” b/w “Bored@Ric’s” 7”
John McKeering from the Onyas and Cosmic Psychos offers up this little blemish of hard, tough, heavy punk rock and garish graphic design. One semi-anthemic blunderer in “Adidas Tracksuit” (the pronunciation of “Adidas” raising one eyebrow over here), and one AmRep-ready bulldozer mid-tempo crusher in “Bored@Ric’s.” Big, full sound. Check it if this is your sort of thing. Not a hip-hop record! (http://swashbucklinghobo.blogspot.com)
I Made Blood Better LP
(Negative Guest List)
“If I Don’t Sleep Tonight” b/w “Untitled” 7”
“I Hit A Wall” b/w “Untitled” 7”
Listing, listless spew from a Tasmanian rock band that flops around like that goldfish at the end of the Faith No More video. I’ve been wrestling with this group’s LP and a handful of singles (all of which are featured in some other version, barely discernible from one another, on the full-length, and given some rehearsal-space jangle on B-sides that don’t bear names) for months now, and what they are intensely great at is the reveal; the build from listening to something so flatlined and deconstructed that it subverts the form. US Maple was good at this, too, and Mad Nanna sounds nothing like US Maple did at any point, so it’s not who you know, it’s what you know. That lack of enthusiasm in music would come off as a plus, that the band itself is more memorable than any one song of theirs … those are qualities that take some getting used to, due to their short supply. Maybe these guys have figured out how to make something out of nothing, in which case, these records would sit on a shelf with some very rarefied company. Not for everyone, but those few who will find inspiration in these words will love them.
Isolation 12” EP
Crasher/cracker crust from Gainesville, FL is what’s on the plate here. With a name like Mauser, you kinda sit through this one wondering when they’re gonna get shoved into the Blue Oyster Bar from Police Academy 2, or when someone replaces their shampoo with Krazy Glue. But this is a decent, if not wholly original effort, though it can be used as a profiling tool to figure out Who Cares About Punk Enough. Seriously, we live in a world where Disclose existed, Framtid existed, D-Clone exists, Perdition exists, and there are multiple Germ Attak LPs … how many more examples of this sort of noise can you take? If you’re not from the Southeast and/or way into punk/going to shows at DIY venues, there’s not a great deal of promise here, just a bunch of semi-exciting, crud-caked bombast, with lots of song titles that end in “-tion.” The riffing is mean enough, if not completely inspired, but it meets and occasionally exceeds the requirements for the genre, as do the panicked, throaty vocals. Only raw punx need apply, though. The differences between Mauser and other active bands in their narrow classification, to say nothing of the form’s masters, don’t add up to the currency one would expect to spend on a Loud Night. (http://www.vinylrites.bigcartel.com)
“Box of Wine” b/w “Feel Good” 7”
(Negative Guest List)
It’d be easy for a lot of people coming at this record to deify it; the only sliver of output to make it out from a flat out brilliant writer who totally got it, who also died far too young and under far too unfortunate of circumstances. Do yourself a favor: don’t read into these Meat Thump songs. They’re not about Brendon’s demise, and the fact that it happened could not have influenced these songs, anyway, which were the product of a working band, with a pretty good concept of what rock music is/what life is, and from the sound of these two last call reminiscences from the bottom of the glass, just figuring out its sound. You get two mid-tempo Velvets/Jim Shepard style stumblers here, one seeking solace in the bag inside the box, the other bemoaning the universal truth “if it doesn’t feel good/why do I do it?” A tough question, for sure, and that someone so young would be asking it shows the type of thinker we were dealing with here – a profound one, with the common touch and the good sense to not rely on it. I hope that more Meat Thump recordings surface. 300 copies.
Fan club reissue of a private-press rarity from a mid-’70s Houston, TX glam outfit. If any part of that phrase strikes your match, you’ll want to knock people over to get at this LP, which despite its flaws is very well-played and expertly captured in the studio. The group was the brainchild of one John Metzler, who disappeared from the Houston music scene sometime in the ‘80s. As to what else he may have left behind, that’s anyone’s guess, but this is a worthwhile effort built on what I can only surmise was a deep admiration for Mott the Hoople, and quite possibly Cockney Rebel’s The Psychomodo as well. Production-wise, this nails Mott’s sound, tough exterior riffs framed around honky-tonk instrumentation that’s been set on fire. Metzler himself does a great job at copping an Ian Hunter-Steve Harley style vocal presence, and there’s lots of studio-honed talent behind whoever made this thing. Nearly every track wears out its welcome about a minute or two before the end, though, and it’s the sort of thing a good producer would have sussed out. For as finished and slick as much of this sounds, it’s clear that some songs aren’t exactly finished, a few in dire need of a solid bridge (or at least a fadeout) instead of the same thing repeated over and over. What’s great is that even in the context of figuring all this stuff out, Metz got one over on its own simplicity through some arranging ingenuity, and a few songs (particularly on the second side, like “It’s Miss Adventure Herself,” wisely handed over to the backup singers) work in that sort of Stooge/VU style bulldozer monotony as well as anyone on the outside could hope to achieve. There’s even a bit of Steve Mackay style earsplitting sax here and there, and none of it feels out of place. Maybe not the most essential reissue out there (and if you found an OG, you could probably turn it into $1000 or more within a week), but when it becomes impossible to track down the artist, and the pump has already been primed – see this record’s inclusion in the vaunted Acid Archives – this is how things have to be.
Moon Pool & Dead Band
“Patsy” b/w “Patsy (Jack Ruby Version)” 7”
Patti Smith said a few years back that New York City had closed itself off to the young and the struggling, and that they should make their art elsewhere. Her two recommendations were Detroit and Poughkeepsie, NY. I haven’t heard a lot of great music out of Poughkeepsie (actually I can’t recall that I’ve heard anymusic made there by locals), so what is Detroit’s excuse, continuing to grind out shitty, historically indoctrinated modern music of interest only to the people within its crumbling walls? There’s a downside to being able to have a lot of space for cheap: there’s little motivation to improve, and with a few exceptions (obviously the city’s rich history of dance music, which keeps growing and changing, and the occasional awesome record, not really much lately outside of the second Frustrations LP or Tyvek’s Nothing Fits, and just because, how about the Dirtbombs), there is little sign of the rampant creativity that this relaxed, contracted economy is meant to stoke. Moon Pool & Dead Band is a dance music project started up by Nate Young of Wolf Eyes, along with David Shettler from power pop band the Sights; they have an innate understanding of monotony in music (check out Young’s LP on NNA Tapes), and transfer it to beats that sound, well, dead. Dead, cheap, obscured by hiss and buried in history long since told, over and over. “Patsy” gets about as far as Lee Harvey Oswald did, and the remix on the flip barely changes it up. Young has conquered the dead machines motif (not to be confused with his Wolf Eyes bandmate John Olson’s side project Dead Machines, though it is understandable to get them mixed up), but the problem with resurrecting a dead circuit is that it can’t tell you anything new about where it’s been – it just keeps grinding on, with no soul or ability to flex. Putting this up against the traditions of Detroit techno is kind of a joke, so don’t do it, okay?
Spaces Tangled LP
(Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Sporty heavy-indie/noise rock action from a Baltimore trio arisen from the damp, urine-scented embers of the sludgy, sluggish band Ladypiss. This new band is a big step ahead, even if that step puts them tongue-in-groove with the sort of records that came out on Touch & Go in the ‘90s (or more like all the regional bands that were playing along those lines … the bass playng on this, in particular, reminds me of some of those Speedking 7”s). Big time Nirvana worship going on here, but played on the mathrock axis, which is dangerous if a band can’t get their discordant tendencies across with some decent riffs. Multicult need not worry about that; they make the whole post-Shellac school of thought a place where one might consider visiting again, detached until they scream, hitting their marks with casual precision. Cool stuff that I’m sure some of you still long for, especially when done this well. Alongside Roomrunner, they are making a case for the concept of Baltimore as a time machine.
People Live Everywhere 12” EP
Note from an old man: The four-to-seven song EP is a format as crucial as the 22-minute sitcom, the 60,000 word adventure novel or the sestina and for a spell there, it was looking like a goddamn lost art. It used to be the summation of The Whole Thing. But times change and CD happened and the EP became defiled as the CD-5 (much in the same way the perfect 40 minute album got turned into the idiotic 70-minute album). As the vinyl-as-medium-for-those-who-give-a-fuck has kinda returned, the EP is slowly reasserting itself. This slab is five songs at 45rpm, which is a good start even thought I am not sure I would make something of this nature this thick (seriously, not all of this stuff has to be180 grams, nobody really cares) but it’s still a better use of wax than, say, any give Doxy/Jazz Art/Euro public domain/mastered-from-CD import LP you find at Half Price Books – those should be melted forthwith. Anyhoo, this is thing, hailing from Chicago, is emo as fuck. Not an insult – bit of Dischord ‘89-’93 worship going on here and, like unhinged noise rock coming back from the dead, what sounded dated in 1997 sounds downright welcome 15 years later, and ain’t that always the way? Mathed-out riffs, dead-room drums, the bits of “Repeater” that had nothing to do with Public Enemy or go-go (especially “Fresnel Lens”). Well done, guys; please do not wear a backpack to a show. $10 cheap. 300 copies.
Masonic Reducer 7” EP
Obnox is the solo project of long time Ohio underground rock stalwart Lamont Thomas, who has spent time in the Puffy Areolas, This Moment in Black History, and the great Bassholes. This four song 7” is crammed full of heavy, near-classic rock style riffs, harmonies, multiple moments of Greg Ginn style guitar shredding, and on “Leaving Cleveland,” hip hop samples. It may sound crazy, but the Obnox mix of of heavy riffs, soulful harmonies, and occasional guitar shred recalls the proto-punk sounds of recently unearthed Detroit rock band Death, but Obnox is filtering all that sound through the modern garage rock shit-fi filter – a high compliment. Speaking of high, “Dr. Dank vs. Dr. Middle” crashes out of the gate on side A with a high volume guitar shred wipe out, but to counter that “Sleeping Redux” and “(Original) Home” are slow burners that ride those riffs almost into the ground before reaching their conclusions. “Leaving Cleveland” Is mostly just a vocal call and response over a drum pattern, which is a great change of pace. A good time will be had by all who purchase and listen to this 7”.
Brian Turner recently posted on Facebook that WFMU had received singles from three bands with eliminatory monikers. One was called Butt Problems (guys, send me your 7”, for real) and another was Pampers. As a new dad, I am all too aware of the need for diapers, but I don’t think we ever used that brand outside of the ones the hospital gave us. “Guts” is a decent punker but “Rathole” and especially “Lies” remind the listener that the A Frames need never reunite; there are plenty of other bands that do their thing for them. 322 numbered copies.
Killer Dreams 7” EP
The unfortunate single by a band that has 10% good ideas and 10% decent inspiration, yet goes all wrong for the rest of it. Caterwauling crust-folkie vocals beg for a shoe or tin can to be thrown at them, until that brief verse when dude sounds like Chris D. in the Flesh Eaters and you’re all “why wasn’t he doing this the whole time?” Music is of little consequence – punk, trying to be something more, reaching towards that whole unfortunate bike-punk/Against Me! side of the swimmin’ hole – kinda like the area of Barton Springs past the fence, where people bring boa constrictors out and skids wash their dogs and drink downstream. Not the record you reach for every day; I for one won’t be touching this again.
A Sudden Shift LP
Interesting, strange rock project from someone in New York who seems to want to remain anonymous, though from the looks of the credits on this LP, has aligned himself with noise artist Mattin, and members of the bands Talibam!, Ultrabunny, Pop. 1280, and Chinese Restaurants (he’s their drummer, it seems) – mixed company for sure, though they are effective in helping him get these messages across. Sounds of inner city emotional turmoil are put forth by a guy whose voice sounds like a towel full of human tears being wrung out, sort of a Scott Walker style croon at first that soon devolves into a nerve-wracked, affected night on the town of carousing, which in turn devolves into serious drinking and what some people would call “sin.” Would say that it has a downtown quality to it, only who lives down there anymore? I picture a dress shirt with a banded collar on whoever Rick may be, and his screeds and tales of people doing wrong and alienation are met with some decent musical ideas, mostly ranging from an art-rock perspective (think Pere Ubu, maybe), of an era gone by. There’s an alignment of sorts with the works of Michael Gira, and these songs turn out to be an exorcism of sorts, even as the sentiments in them turn sour (not sure why he had to yell “faggot” at one point, but I’m sure there’s a lot of explanation to endure on that note). I picked out clear references to Joy Division and less-clear ones to Mighty Baby, so whoever this is has good taste. Not something to reach for every day, but if the subway breaks down, and the sketchy guy in your neighborhood with the clipboard makes a move for your wallet, you might find yourself on the ledge with Mr. P. over here.
Peak Twins/Scott & Charlene’s Wedding
Australian bands get a foothold in tiny American economies (this is the first of a proposed split release series between Bedroom Suck and Night-People), and I’m reminded of that episode of “The Simpsons” where Bart sneaks that toad down under and it destroys the ecosystem. I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, and almost every record that comes in from that far away seems to shine on its own power, and this one is decent enough but this one doesn’t quite get there. Peak Twins are two people fixated on the reverb tanks in their guitar amps, playing moody, twangy death-pop, shackled to the Wall of Sound (that cover of “Needles and Pins” doesn’t really say different). Scott & Charlene’s Wedding appears to be a bunch of ex-pats and perhaps one American (this guy Ian, who I think is the same dude who played in Hominid, who nobody remembers), living in New York somewhere. From what I understand, it’s the group of one Craig Dermody, backed by whoever’s around at the time. They are a bit better, doing a jangly but proper sort of guitar pop, verbose and a little mealy but generally OK. My favorite thing about them is the hand-adorned cover of their LP that precedes this one, which I look at from time to time when I need a laugh. Nice enough, but still I am a bit unruffled; both projects need a little more gravity. To paraphrase said episode, Pobody’s Nerfect in Australia.
s/t 12” EP
Conceptual electroboogie-step from some French folks, focusing on process and allowing it to dictate easier-to-fathom results. One really farty synth and one sequencer/drum computer build up both some startingly hot floor-fillers and some regrettable verbal diarrhea over tracks that don’t quite get there. It’s both exciting and frustrating, because you know they are about 10 feet in either direction from success or willful obscurity, and think it’s funny to play chicken with our expectations. They don’t get too far out of the pen they’ve built around themselves, those specific ingredients to their sound dictating how good of a time you will have checking this out. For fans of their Animal Collective remix, I guess.
Wrapped In The Flame Of Illusion, Masked In The Clay Of Behavior 2x7”
Never really followed Prurient that much for reasons I’ve discussed here recently, in that it’s hard to drill down on one of these artists who has tons of releases, and loads of side projects, when you’ve got all the other records that are coming in to give some attention to. I’m meant to understand that D. Fernow’s work as Prurient took somewhat of a bend with his last one Bermuda Drain, crystallizing a number of his farflung noise/torture escapades into jackhammering New Romantic industrial moves, or something like that. I still don’t have the time to check it all out, but this double 7” crossed my doorstep so it’s gotta go first. Genesis P-Orridge did the artwork and it’s suitable for framing, particularly if you like seeing someone bind up their own genitals and pose for however long they could hold it. Musically this doesn’t reach such extremes, the four tracks here playing as some sort of whimpering defeat in the light of celebrities dying (two center labels are full-color snips from tabloid and womens’ magazines about the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson). “God Is Truth And Light His Shadow” is a solemn drone with submerged vocals, at odds with an interrupting tape recording of a pre-teen girl, ring tone noises, and a smattering of other common electronic sounds. “God Is True And Every Man A Liar” is a little bit lighter, with obscured vocals hiding behind a sheet of despair, shimmering and frosty. “God Is The Truth, The Way, And The Light” presents a racing rhythm, possibly lost in the religious fervor these tracks have hinted at in title, but probably not. Low dronescapes and a guitar halo round it out. “Judgement To The World” closes this EP off with a Thurston-style strum pattern and synth patch hullabaloo, wobbling unsteadily but attractively to a vocal drone/moan at the end. One purple record, one gold record. It is what it is, and not enough of a look to really allow anyone inside, but as an expression of isolation in a highly complicated social paradigm, you know, it can’t be beat. 500 copies.
This is my favorite Pumice record, and he’s made a few great ones at this point so you know this one has to be special. Stefan Neville has made a variety of records for tastes both discerning and completely shattered, to the point where it is hard to know what to anticipate on each, apart from a festering production quality. Every known varietal of Pumice song is here, Neville sprouting appendages to tie together the Xpressway catalog to the myriad points of folk/noise/squelching bioluminescence in his musical outlook. Thanks to Soft Abuse for issuing this one on vinyl – it’s a good bit after the fact – four years and change, to be precise, but it should take the awful taste that the latest Pumice record Puny will leave in your mouths. 300 copies.
We Are You There 3xLP
Back in my college radio days, we used to get in these wild batches of promos from a company called Want A.D.D.S., which was run out of Los Angeles by a guy named Chuck Arnold, and primarily handled releases by bands and labels from California. Some of these records were so exceptional that they’ve stuck in my head for a long time – the first Comet Gain LP, for example, licensed by a tiny LA label called X-Mas Records (that’d go on to comp the Summer Hits singles on Beaches and Canyons). But the one that eluded me was by a San Francisco outfit called Rrope. The sleeve artwork and lack of much description – even proper song titles – concealed in plain sight a truly massive, churning guitar rock band, the work of guys who’d digested the oeuvre of Sonic Youth up through about 1993 and decided to start building from those parts on their own. “West Tone Song” and especially “OK Nic” were played on the air by me over and over, even after the single left our admittedly loose rotation. There weren’t the resources we have now, even though the Internet was definitely in place, so unless you found someone who knew these guys and was willing to talk to you about them, or you stumbled upon a winning description in some zine, that was basically it. I couldn’t find a copy of this thing, and was even more perplexed when a self-titled CD followed that seemed to give up on form so often that only “OK Nic,” reprised there, proved it to be the work of the same band.
And that was the last I heard from Rrope, until I got an email from Deathbomb Arc earlier this year regarding this release. We Are You There collects all of Rrope’s output – one full-length, one 7”, one split 7”, one double 7”, one comp track, and one EP, with a smattering of live material from the group’s final show, opening for Sonic Youth at the Fillmore in San Francisco, May 1998. Putting this thing together seems like no small effort, and with a 300 copy pressing, three LPs and a digital download automatically qualifies as a labor of love – that’s money which will most likely never be reclaimed. Not that it’s a bad or misguided thing to do; far from it, and we honestly don’t see enough work done in service of dead/forgotten bands that no one has really been clamoring for anymore. It’s just that Rrope satisfies both the side of ‘90s indie rock that was schooled in an orthodoxy of exciting dissonance, and the side that says you don’t need a riff all the time, or a song that holds together and does what we all believe songs should do, now that we’re in an age when the effort it takes to absorb something this big and specific to a time/place the listener may not have experienced is shortened to a blip on the continuum.
Featuring Crawling With Tarts guitarist Michael Gendreau, and a cast of Bay Area guys who have but a handful of musical credits between then, Rrope set out to experiment first, and let any roots of melody and tunefulness creep through the floor of that experiment on their own. For every “OK Nic,” there’s two blasts of tense, unstuck activity that would sound in place on one of those Swell Maps outtakes records, and We Are You There front-loads the listening experience with some of the band’s most difficult material, from their CD and the Mahagonny EP. These tracks reward as they see fit, but in the greater story of the band, they make more sense the more often you attack this collection start to finish; moreover, they unlock what separates them from contemporaries like the Thinking Fellers, whose power held sway to some degree here, and extended to their use of Greg Freeman for some of their recordings. By the time you get to the tracks from 1996’s A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever double 7”, you notice a detour into the kind of back-door, appreciated-only-out-of-time sentiments of wonder you’d find when, say, attacking the Slovenly/Overpass catalog. What Rrope really seemed to be reaching for was that elixir which would allow everyone to have a greater appreciation of the bands in the Bay that thrived on mystery and tragic turmoil, like the Sleepers or the Toiling Midgets, and give those ideas a rebirth into a new world where they’re treated with the reverence deserving of the forward-thinking artisans who made them. It may take some of you a lot more than you’re willing to put into the act of listening to a record to meet Rrope on their terms, but if you do, the inspiration and rewards just don’t stop. If this music can recalibrate any black metal wanker or straight-to-Bandcamp hometapin’ shoegazer who’s about to mess with Pro Tools and forever taint their musical upbringing in the process, then the work is done. No one wants to hear about history, but if it was from a source largely ignored and purposefully anonymous in their own time, what could it hurt? Besides, don’t you need a band that you don’t have to share with anyone else? Why shouldn’t it be this one? They were custom-made for that very purpose!
Tom James Scott
Lush but insipid processed string rake/chord clusters ring out over field recordings of the sea at Walney Island serve as a prelude to a sidelong static drone, interwoven with scales and textures in an attempt to add depth (which, on some level, is achieved) but about as interesting as inspecting poultry. If you’ve ever been to a spa, you’ve heard something like this. 350 copies, clear vinyl.
“Sex Boy” b/w “Forming” 7”
This kind of record keeps things interesting. Sex Boyz, if we are to believe Ultra Eczema’s outrageous press organ, is a duo of two young male escorts dug in somewhere in Europe, who found the time to knock out a tribute to the alpha vector of punk in between blowjobs. I’m not sure what makes that detail relevant in the course of the music, unless we’re to infer that they, like the Germs before them at the time of recording their first single, had no real clue what they were doing. Lightning strikes twice, then – these covers of the two songs from that release are just as gleefully, woefully monged as the original, but in the dimension of electronics and samplers. Ineptitude wins the day, with an emotionless read reminiscent of the Flying Lizards covering James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” A glorious mess that you could listen to over and over, especially if you nail it down to the turntable. Ultra Eczema’s high price barrier here in America downgrades this monstrosity from “must-own” to “should consider,” but if you’re having any problems with that decision, know that the answer’s already been decided for you: 150 copies for the world. Act now (yesterday would have been better).
The word “merciless” is often used as a synonym for “cruel,” but Mike Shiflet has something more literal in mind. There’s no denying this music’s presence, and yet absence is its essence. It lacks mercy, or empathy, or any other owned emotion, just as your camera or tape recorder lack emotional states. There is no overt passion of any sort in Shiflet’s extreme close-ups of harsh textures, no drama in the churning, processed strings, no sentiment in the long pans over softer-textured aural surfaces, just as there is no emotion in the beautifully rendered close-ups of somebody’s palms on the front and back sleeves. The feeling in the music is, like any of its other qualities, something to be regarded, noted, and represented, but neither endorsed nor celebrated. This isn’t the record you’re going to put on for catharsis, but its acute representations of grime, motion, and distortion are a tonic for the senses in a way that reminds me of the way I feel after listening to AMM. Great stuff.
Sitar Outreach Ministry
Groove Attack a/k/a Crucible of Mutants LP
With a name like that, it’s almost a dare: Do you risk letting a record ruin your day? I’ve been burned recently. Reached into the box and it bit my hand, some sort of Jamiroquai-meets-Ben Harper sounding shit in a fucking zine from the communal band of a progressive living space way far out in the outer boroughs. In the zine, an artist flagellates himself for accepting what was apparently big money to paint murals in the style of “Jean-Michelle [sic] Basquiat.” I can accept such foolishness on the Internet, but not in my hands. Shit like that, you can’t un-read or un-hear.
Sitar Outreach Ministry is nothing like that. It’s a large-form ensemble from Bloomington, IN (featuring Sonny and Seth from Apache Dropout) playing not-quite-raga jams that wed cosmic American folk, with stern, tuneful underpinnings, with two sitars. And they do a really great job of it. Rest assured that there is nothing quite resembling an attack spawned by grooves here – shit gets deep, but is also somewhat humble and reverent of the sounds being produced by the lead instrument. It sounds like a great time was had making this record, what with the conversations that abut some of the tracks, and it’s very easy to listen to and soak up. Some listeners might peace out at their version of “You Are My Sunshine,” but I sing that song to my daughter, and I was surprised that finding it here didn’t get me all choked up. This isn’t heavy psych and it’s not out to blow your mind, which is maybe why I like it as much as I do. Ingenious design work as well, borne out of necessity: the sleeves are silkscreened in small batches over surplus Music Go Music jackets copped from Secretly Canadian, and the styles mesh together well. Magnetic South Has A Posse.
Get Used To It 7” EP
Australian bands! So many, and most of them are pretty great. Here’s another one, Stag, a quartet of women who play like they are just figuring all of this out – which is welcome, as the magic they have to offer is directly in that lesson. They’re not as focused as, say, Terrible Truths on one particular direction, working through a tangled pile of primitive post-punk, insect-brain dance instruction, and on one song, nothing but caterwauling against bass and drums. Yet none of the songs here sound flat or photocopied from another time; there’s always something in each that makes the song do what you wouldn’t expect. It’s an excellent snapshot of where they are now, showing all the facets of where they’ve come from thus far. We should all like to hear more from them. Cool collage cover of food items, too. Reminds me of the Yoke & Yohs 7” for that reason.
“Caroline” b/w “Marcy” 7”
(Les Disques Steak)
Kelley Stoltz has been moving closer to the median where classic songwriting talent wanders into the zone of No Commercial Viability. This isn’t a terrible thing; Mr. Stoltz is very green-minded and records his music with no carbon footprint, so it’s fair to say that his music really isn’t hurting anyone. Besides, it’s (mostly) fabulous bubblegum/doe-eyed early ‘70s proto-power pop, so no harm done whatsoever. The songs here are subtitled “Two Imaginary Girls,” and he remarks lyrically about how many songs have been sung to Caroline, though his upbeat, goodtime pop song is certainly welcome in the running. “Marcy” is the ballad, a little bit of a downer but with an authentic, hard-to-fake sweetness is felt throughout.
“I’m Not Lazy” b/w “I’m Not Nervous” 7”
Man, you hope for the best in taking these random dives into the review box. Sometimes it feels like a snare you’re reaching into, with the hope that it won’t snap shut and take off a few fingers. Square People, from Nashville, at least have the decency to soak the arms of the trap in novocaine before springing it, but you’re gonna get hurt all the same. This is smoothed-out, meandering early ‘80s wavo/college rock failure, with trumpet and flute throughout, to the point where you’re wondering why you ever got into music in the first place. We live in troubled times. Silkscreened sleeve.
Printed Gold 7” EP
Skint, threadbare cagerattle from some Australian boys who’d shown up with an earlier single on Fan Death, released at the insistence of the band Clockcleaner. This ain’t much like them, even in the attitude you might expect, but it is decent, rudimentary postpunk. Single-note guitar, thumping drums, and deadpan vocals explain the concerns of the title track in a way that makes it almost matter, and they do a fun little read of Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In.” Richie is one of those labels you should be buying everything released from, so what is your excuse? (http://testostertunes.blogspot.com)
“Feel This” b/w “Hell’s Bells” 7”
Tar bowed out around the time of my freshman year of college, and left behind a musical legacy that no one deemed worthy of preservation. Seventeen years away from their output, this all sounds strange, but everyone works in their own way, and history has written much of what Tar tried to accomplish out of the pantheon of rock music. For a good seven years or so – good ones, too (‘88 through ‘95) – it was hardly uncommon to see guys in Tar t-shirts grinding rails outside high schools and college campuses, at least where I grew up.
The band, skaters themselves who’d grown out of a suburban Chicago punk outfit called Blatant Dissent, worked in the medium of architecturally loud songs, deceptively simple indictments with repetitive, cryptic lyrics, and chords, and fine-tuned precision – no solos – arranged to fortify and abrade the central riffs they conjured up with a stoic, architectural counterpoint. Seeing them play live could easily confuse those who came for punk, or David Yow’s nutsack, and didn’t get how their treatment of the three-chord shuffle figured in to a veritable micro-evolution of rock music. That segment of the populace who DID get it, all knew their own version of the secret between those chords, and celebrated all the idiosyncracies of this band: short hair; guitars and basses made from airplane aluminum, with incredible, Veleno-style sustain; a dry sense of humor, with the occasional foray into three-man slingshot territory (witness the cover of this posthumous release, timed to match the band’s first reunion in all these years, as they wing a “snifter” of Nutella into the black expanse of the Hoover Dam at night); their choreographed dance moves, somewhere between an ollie and a boot party. They had more than a few ways to dress up their style of rock, but if you weren’t then, you probably aren’t now, so to speak. Not a lot of their live material was big on the YouTube wayback machine anyway, and some of the records are a little too clinical for younger listeners to understand. Like, Tar was the only band I can think of that cut a substantial set of releases for both Amphetamine Reptile and Touch & Go, but really, what does that all mean now? All that it reminds me of is that we have no real manufacturing base in this country anymore, and therefore it’s less likely that the ka-CHUNK of light-to-moderate industry isn’t informing the ambient lifesounds of the young anymore, that’s what. Many dead end jobs are gone, replaced with nothing.
Tar’s disappearance from the world of early ‘90s noise rock aggression came off like a product of the times, and how smart actors in this world knew when to jump off the train. Some of them got married and had kids, and those whose bands broke up in the mid-’90s could have easily been swayed into the security of the tech boom, and the stability that competitive salaries and endless promise brought to them outweighed having to sell themselves on the next generation of kids that came along. Maybe they just got tired of it; maybe they ran out of ideas, and after eight years of road-dogging it, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. This 7” comes on the eve of the band’s reunion, and since they skipped out on the T&G 25th soiree, it must be pretty serious for them to be getting back to it. These two tracks were leftovers from the Over and Out sessions. “Feel This” is glorious, with bright major chords and a big chorus with an even bigger bridge that could fit on a Superchunk record of any era. In that, it’s a fairly un-Tar like song, and since it wouldn’t fit on any of their other records, using it on the last one could have closed out that album/their career in a more hopeful direction. Their cover of “Hell’s Bells” seems like the perfect AC/DC song for them to interpret, and it seems like this might have been cut for one of those Skin Graft “Sides” comps that never came out. It’s not as good as it could be, particularly because someone other than John is singing it, and it doesn’t sound enough like Tar, but rather some band recording a cover at the eleventh hour of studio time. So far removed from any of their earlier releases, this may only appeal to Tar fans, many of whom attended their gig in Chicago at the end of June, 2012. For them, for myself, and for a lot of people who are probably no longer following music, this is Big News, and with luck (luckyj?), it’ll cause some folks to go back and revisit their catalog, one of the sturdiest of the day, and a great surprise for anyone looking for a direction in rock music that builds upwards and inwards all at once. 300 copies w/ download code.
Tav Falco & The Panther Burns
She’s The One To Blame 7” EP
The reissue train keeps a-rollin’ for Harry H. and his burgeoning empire of record label archaeology, with this close-to-exact repro of the debut Panther Burns EP from 1979. Tremendously unpopular in their hometown of Memphis in the punk era and just beyond – despite the presence of Alex Chilton on guitar, whose (big) star would have to wait for recognition by new wave and rock-crit weaned audiences in the years to follow – the group played the sort of early rock & roll that was still being looked down in the flyover states as a symbol of darker times, but pickled in booze and rolled in filth. These songs sound barely together, like the Cramps splitting a bottle of phenolbarbitol and waking up in the remnants of a dried-out lake, but Panther Burns succeeded in a way few other punk/garage participants at the time were able to. There is an understanding of the leering, unpredictable emotions belonging to the worst elements of this music, and that quality is put square at the forefront of their sound, daring you to look away even as the band shambles, unprofessionally, towards whatever was their Babylon. Time and future releases would secure their name in the sidebars of rock history, but the germ of the real ugly shit they became known is all right here. Packaged in a silkscreened envelope.
Bobb Trimble & The Kidds
“Take Me Home Vienna” b/w “Selling Me Short While Stringing Me Long” 7”
(Mighty Mouth Music)
Two tracks from Trimble’s second album Harvest of Dreams, presented in the way the artist might well have intended: with a backing band of pre-teens, excised from much of the record for legal and parental reasons. These aren’t appreciably different versions than the ones you may have heard, except that “The Kidds” provide a number of overdubbed vocals and auxiliary instrumentation. Songs are great one way or another, and if you’ve come this far with Trimble, might as well grab this single, a reissue of a promo pressed up to drum up label interest on an ill-fated trip to NYC way back when.
Fear of Suffering 7” EP
Boasting one or more members from Sapat, this newish Louisville band makes a striking vinyl debut, with enough enthusiasm and wild, successful ideas to have come out of an earlier era. Several songs on this thing, ranging from skewed, agitated indie rock of both the Polvo and Trumans Water varieties, black metal, jazz (yeah, jazz) and far-flung aggression. The words “weird” and “awesome” come to mind, words I rarely find the occasion to use together anymore. Excellent combination of thrashing energy and solid ideas that break apart and recombine in novel, tuneful ways. The best Sophomore Lounge release to date. 200 copies, white vinyl.
s/t 7” EP
Glam-rooted hard rock from Vancouver circa 1973, with the morbid death wish of Alice Cooper folded in as a last-ditch attempt for notoriety. I’ll take the booklet author’s word for it that these guys were some of the wildest in the Northwest in the first half of the ‘70s – these tracks, collected from two self-released 45s on this reissue, really work in the ways that they need to, and offer a moment of pause to look at a band that was musically ahead of its time, and was likely pushing things along to some degree. The A-side tracks are somewhat of a piece with one another: menacing, brooding, simple yet memorable downers, with a penchant for mean riffs and body paint. I have a Post-It note covering their picture on the front sleeve, the members of the group done up like some bootleg Sid & Marty Krofft villains who have eaten LSD, or Christianity, whichever it is. The drummer guy with the mustache half-painted black, the other half white, with his throat being slashed by the guitarist is a little too reminiscent of Dr. Tobias Fünke, but I haven’t heard many songs of the era, apart from maybe Bloodrock, that come as close to cutting the last working artery. Flip side showcases the band in a different bag, the paranoid pop of “Sweet Thursday” boasting the harmonies and arrangements of the late ‘60s, coupled with the terror of something like “Timothy” by the Buoys or “Wait A Million Years” by the Grass Roots, and the novelty “Country Tune,” which breaks into a legit solid rock jammer by the end. Strange, but effective, and interesting enough to merit closer inspection by aficionados of both the era and the underground rock history of western Canada.
(Hot Releases/More Records)
Over the past year or so, there has been a paradigm shift in US basement level noise/improv scene, where many people involved in noise music, having spent the last decade or so rewiring effects pedals, wearing papier-mache costumes, abusing four track recorders, and making drones have turned all those electronics to a new purpose: making beat oriented dance music. I would guess that the reasons for this would be that harsh feedback/static/noise tropes, the Fort Thunder/Wham City-inspired neon aesthetic, and “new weird America” had all run themselves into the ground around the same time, and a lot of people were looking around for a new direction, all while mind blowing 12”s by UK experimental techno masters Shackleton, Demdike Stare, and Andy Stott came out alongside Drexcitya reissues, and pointed people in a beat/club direction through all the murk. This isn’t in itself a bad thing. I think that I would rather go to a basement noise show and dance than be yelled at by a guy wearing devil horns, but this class of US noise-turned-“outsider techno” has a lot of catching up to do with their counterparts overseas, where producers have been honing their craft for years and years. Instead, new tape and vinyl releases from this crowd are likened to watching the artists grow up in public, as they teach themselves the fundamentals of what makes a good techno track just that. This split LP by Container and Unicorn Hard-On is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Container is Nashville-based musician Ren Schofield, who used to play noise under the name God Willing, and is also in the wonderful four-track improv trio Form A Log, who I prefer to Container. Here he turns in one long slowly mutating but fairly static beat oriented piece called “Cauterize.” It’s perfectly enjoyable, but compared to the new Shackleton box set, it sounds like baby steps. Unicorn Hard-On is the stage name of Val Martino, who has been playing beat oriented noise music for a few years now, and was definitely ahead of this particular curve. Her side fares better than Container’s, with the addition of her ghostly phased vocals that make her beats she makes things a bit more interesting. This isn’t a bad record by any means, and certainly lights up the path for a stronger and more relevant domestic techno doctrine, but it sounds like the first steps of two artists who will hopefully turn out some experimental classics if they keep honing their craft. Some recent US techno releases by Outmode, Lazy Magnet, and even some tracks on the “outsider techno” tape compilation called Forced Sound Routine Volume Two released on Schofield’s own I Just Live Here imprint, have been really great, but until everyone involved catches up a bit, we’re in for a bunch of music that is, at best, mildly enjoyable.
The Mission 12” EP
I still stand behind my belief that in current initiation, or in the near future, the next historically-important movement or mini-movement in underground music will come via heavy-music/heavy-metal. Well, Venomous Maximus illustrate the other side of that coin. Whatever it is that makes Red Fang or The Sword relevant and somewhat special; that occasionally ineffable thing becomes the opposite by virtue of its screaming absence across these four songs. If it means anything at all (it should), the decision not to turn in a single-word review (“ABORT!”) did not come easy. On green marbled vinyl. From Houston, TX … which makes total sense.
“Tragic Pote” b/w “Jerusalem Stone” 7”
The next member of Silk Flowers to unveil a solo project (Ethan Swan is probably cliff diving or something incredible like that). This comes from Aviram Cohen, the group’s vocalist, and right away “Tragic Pote” gives off the feel of which parts of that group were his ideas. Nothing but synth programming and vocals, in a way that I wouldn’t call minimal, so much as it is simultaneously sparse and spacious, sad at the cellular level and learning how to cope through humble beauty. “Jerusalem Stone” is an instrumental but leverages the same amount of pathos, and none of it is overdone, even as it is boilerplate melancholy in its delivery. This pitches more towards a New Wave era lost singer-songwriter obsessed with dance music but unable to dance himself out of the deep seat. Really great record here.
s/t 12” EP
Following up a killer demo and 7”, Olympia’s Weird TV goes long(er) with six new songs that showcase strong musical development and renewed charisma, the kind of music that stares you down even from the comfort of your own home. In a refreshing role reversal, the men in the band are relegated to the rhythm section, while the women handle vocals and guitar, shredding as hard as the situations warrant. Lyrics are once again in Spanish, and the band’s respect for and inspiration from Latino punk, particularly its history in Southern California, is vetted in full solely by way of deed. I got a test pressing, so no lyrics (or song titles, for that matter) are evident, but in the tradition of their previous single, Weird TV has a way of making your classic Pac-NW feminist punk sound more vicious and hectoring than almost anything else in the past 10-15 years, to the point where a few of these songs sound like a curse bestowed upon the unjust who happen to stumble upon this release – these people will make you pay.
s/t (2012) LP
Less than a year after their first album saw the (belated) light of day, Whatever Brains reclaim lost time while addressing the issues that blunted that earlier release. This new second self-titled – either they like Royal Trux, or are trying to write the first one out of existence … maybe both? – recaptures much of the energy found on this North Carolina combo’s earlier singles, and they bring back the excitement in turn. They still run along the same influences, still push the same sound, but they got their wood back in a big way over the past few months, tempering every weird desire they push forth with a supportive cloud of hiss, muscular rhythmic pummel, or sarcastic bon mot. Lyrics are interpreted for you this time, and it’s a pleasure to read what these guys wrote, because they are thinkers and doers, not just one or the other- these crass, slick, sick eruptions of strange, YBN-style artrockpunk rank as their finest moment to date. Pray that more notice, and try to understand where Whatever Brains is coming from. It would be a shame if they cut themselves down in protest. I’ll back The Clot for real.
Menarchy 7” EP
Abrasive howl from a feminist noise rock trio out of Providence. Sock-hop drumming lays down the backbone for hellish vocals and dominant, effects-plagued guitar across three tracks (bass player not included). There’s a confrontation in every moment on this record, which is very aggressive in how it sublimates parts of no-wave, crust, and bits of melody, like a structuralist Babes in Toyland. No jokes – absolutely vicious, and the insert provides a reading list to better understand where they are coming from. Silkscreened sleeve contains music so harsh you might want to hold it with gloves on.
Moving To Disneyland 7” EP
You’ve all heard about the one where you look into the void and the void looks back at you, right? How about the part when you see beyond the void and realize that it’s your bedroom wall, or your bag, or the sidewalk beneath you? Discovering this single was a lot like that, a lucid, longing jaunt fully within the context of reality, a hard stare into one’s own ideas of the human mind versus the mind itself. The artist is Lauren Likely, now living in NYC, who provided a role in developing the visual style of Olympia, WA bands as we know them from recent years (her work has been utilized by Sex Vid, Gun Outfit, Son Skull, Milk Music and others; see that really loopy, painted script on many Perennial releases or issues of NUTS! Fanzine and you’re looking at her work). Wooden Kimono is her musical sidebar, four minimal, moody pieces that sound like reading someone’s diary. Her voice is shaky but resolute, held up by a simple drum machine, her guitar playing all heavy scrape and phaser drills, feeding back into a karaoke machine on the verge of burning out. You don’t hear a lot of records like this anymore because it is very easy to be heard by others, and because of it, people are suspicious and careful. They follow genre conventions, while Wooden Kimono exists for just long enough to make these very personal reflections on pain and loss, coping with difficulties and social dynamics swaying in the face of utopia, despite all the hope and promise that land is meant to bring. These sounds sound as if they were hidden for you to find. Really, who’s going after something this inconspicuous when everyone else is yelling louder? Look beneath the surface – you will be blinded by the simple agony of this material, which, conspicuously or not, owes a debt to the hometaper boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s as it converged with the explosion of women reclaiming punk as their own, music that had to come out by whatever means. Once upon a time you had the ability to mail away for a K Records catalog and more readily find something like this (or the Heavens to Betsy cassette, or a Mecca Normal LP) which could destroy you with repeated listens if you let it, the sounds of being let down and lashed out in quiet, injured solace. Five-panel foldout cross sleeve w/ sketchbook renderings, vellum painting and an obi strip hold this miracle in place. My favorite release on Perennial yet, and an incredible comedown/bringdown record for this or any generation.
Stay Asleep: Regression Vol. 2 LP
Once Wolf Eyes stopped being a party band, and stopped dragging Danse Asshole around with them, I found it remarkably easy to tune out. I’m not a Rollins type trying to close out an entire discography or anything, and the last time I saw these dudes in all their jean-jacketed splendor, all I really remember was Grux and Rubber-O-Cement getting intense in spider costumes, and not whatever disaffected gray brick of nihilism with saxophone they were hurling my way. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate what they were doing, it’s that it wasn’t to my taste, and any interaction I could have with them and their music was going to meet with that fact first. A Nate Young solo record which sounds like him pounding on a hot water heater, followed by some decaying synth peal, is not going to do much to change my opinion. I was surprised to learn that at 33rpm (wrong) or 45rpm (correct), this sounds almost exactly the same; no amount of pitch or timbre changes could alter the reality of this single-minded, lifeless release.
Dabke: Sounds Of The Syrian Houran LP
Some might say that this collection of Dabke music from the southern part of Syria is, like those psychedelic Asian rock compilations, a warped representation of the style that simultaneously caters to Western notions of the exotic and serves up sounds not too far from certain things that record collectors already want to hear. I’ll go a step further; this record represents the sick taste of one man, Mark Gergis, and he has my ear. I’m not sure, given what I’ve been told by people of my acquaintance who know Middle Eastern pop culture much better than I do, that I’d enjoy a record that shows dabke (which you most likely know from the recordings of Omar Souleyman) the way its mainstream fans see it, any more than I would want to hear most mainstream rock and roll. Give me the fucked up shit every time. Some of the tunes on this LP, like Abu Sultan’s lovelorn “Your Love Will Make My Head Hurt,” sound like more frantic, banging versions of stuff you could hear in any Middle Eastern restaurant, the kind that makes you look up from your meal. But then there’s a song like Mohamed Al Ali’s “Mili Alay (Sway With Me),” with its vocals that operate like DJ Screw in reverse. They’re so sped up that they sound like a little kid hollered them in over a speakerphone; I can’t imagine they sound any straighter to Syrian ears that they do to mine. At least, I hope not. Limited pressing of 1000; set your priorities accordingly.
Eat The Dream: Gnawa Music From Essouaria LP
The Gnawa are a brotherhood of North African musicians with West African roots whose music has exerted a focused attraction on Westerners. For decades, artists like Paul Bowles, Brian Jones, Randy Weston, Brion Gysin, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Lee Ranaldo, and Bill Laswell have all taken turns trying to convey the primal spiritual power of this hypnotic music. The ones who have done best are generally the ones who don’t try to insert themselves into it. Producer Tucker Martine headed to Morocco in 1994, recording gear in hand, and put together a CD of the results in 1996. Tinder, the label that first issued Eat The Dream: Moroccan Reveries, is long gone, and last I checked the CD changes hands for about $90. But Martine has a long-standing relationship with Sublime Frequencies, so it’s back, on heavy black vinyl — with a nice tip-on sleeve and a slick insert to boot — for the first time. It’s not easy to capture the hypnotic vibe of Gnawa music on record. The magic tends to evaporate when presented as a long, distantly recorded field recording, and it takes a beating when someone like Brian Jones tried to insert himself into the action. Eat The Dream isn’t my favorite representation of Gnawa music; for a swell primer, I’d point you first to a compilation called Ouled Bambara, since it includes video as well as audio recording, and it’s in print. But this one has a lot going for it. Martine mixes closely recorded and thoughtfully edited performances by members of the Ghania family with collages of radio and street sounds that acknowledge his presence as a participatory listener without making it the point. His trip becomes yours, and it’s one worth taking.
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By Dusted Magazine