Mosurock and Co. wrap up their last update of 2012 with several seals of approval and a few final screeds, including assessments of Daughn Gibson, Mike Rep and Uranium Orchard.
Still Single: Vol. 8, No. 4
Welcome to what will be the final Still Single update on Dusted for 2012.
Frankly, if you follow this work, it would be weird if you didn’t notice the changes that have taken place this year. I have a baby daughter, six months old now, and it’s changed my relationship to writing and music in general. Life just keeps moving on. Records, on the other hand, are another constant. Over the summer, such a glut of releases came through that trying to chip away at it proved fruitless – flip past one great record and there were ten more in the box, and about three times as many that didn’t rate or were otherwise unknown. I also didn’t have the time to pack up huge boxes of records for my contributors, though that particular impasse has since been resolved.
Currently my review box is at a manageable size, and time permitting, I will finish it up by the end of this year. If I don’t have it, it’s probably in the hands of Andrew Earles, or Elizabeth Murphy, or Talya Cooper, or Joe Gross, or Bill Meyer, or Adam MacGregor way over in China. I trust these people to write truthfully about what’s been sent in, and like me, they’ll get to the records when they get to them – Still Single is still unpaid, done for the love and the vinyl (and the love of the vinyl). I’m also not-so-secretly compiling a book out of all the Still Single reviews – publishers, get in touch (ha!) – which cuts into even more of the little time I have to devote to this work.
Some bloggers want firsties so badly, as if it’s all they have to keep them from expiration into irrelevance. For us, it’s not worth it anymore. The bulk of limited edition records remain in print for long enough that you can obtain them without too much hassle. Even selling 300 records seems to be an obstacle that many artists can no longer easily overcome.
But we are still here, and we are still accepting your new music on vinyl for review. CD-R copies of records continue to be thrown directly in the trash at the post office; digital downloads offered in lieu of physical media are deleted each day. The records are what matter: how they sound, how they’re presented, what they represent, even as that notion changes with each passing year. We are proud and happy to let you know about what’s happening down close to the surface, are unafraid to tell you what’s up, and appreciate your trust and support over the past eight years. We are still making every effort to cover everything that’s been sent in, even though it proves difficult to impossible given our present circumstances.
This update should cover everything published on the Still Single Tumblr since late July, and there are records covered there that are not featured in these updates. Have fun reading through it; it’s been a blast discovering all of this music. Keep sending in the records to the proper addresses (nothing should be going to Washington DC anymore).
Alarms & Controls
“Reanimus Cataract” b/w “Kirtland’s Warbler” 7”
I’d like to say that Alarms & Controls – featuring veterans Chris Hamley (guitarist in Circus Lupus and The Monorchid) and Vin Novara (drummer of The Crownhate Ruin and 1.6 Band) – welcomes back the style of jazzy, buttoned-up-til-it-buttons-down prog-pop to the Washington, DC metro area. But has it really ever left? Continuing in the tradition of mid-Atlantic likeminds such as Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet, and Jettison Charlie, A&C offers up two swift songs with crack musicianship and a light touch, sci-fi themed lyrics, and internal logic that tugs them this way and that. Hamley slept on my couch a few times when The Monorchid came to town, and was constantly singing or wheedling on the guitar, so I’m glad to hear that side of him ably reflected in a new band. It’s a cool throwback to earlier times, when DC had a little more visibility in a national independent music scene, and I welcome a full-length. Vinyl comes with a download card that includes two bonus tracks.
The Weak & The Wounded 12” EP
(Moment of Collapse/Dwyer)
Alaskan is a three-piece from Ottawa, and they give the world something that has attracted such terminology as “atmospheric sludge” and appears to have brought that rusty old argument-starter “post-metal” out of retirement. That’s all I have to say about that. At the end of the day, I got nothing bad to say about the vinyl version of Alaskan’s second demo tape. In fact, each of these four tracks is introduced by a sound bite (one closes the EP, too) from the 1999 horror head-fuck Session 9 … easily one of my favorite modern (as in…the last 20 years or so) examples of its genre. Not only does that cinch the deal and put a gag on any negative sentiments, it also makes me want to send Alaskan (or a member thereof) an e-mail in an attempt to express mutual appreciation and complementary camaraderie (or what is called a “bro-down” by resentful, condescending girlfriends and wives). I should get back to the lurching riffs and screaming and everything else that makes up these four songs, which amounts to a more smoothed-out Converge as much as it does a slowed-down Torche. Hard to say bad things about Alaskan based on what is essentially their second statement of purpose (issued more than two years ago), yet finding great things to say is even less of a cakewalk. Truthfully, it’s REALLY hard to say anything further seeing as how I am not familiar with the 2011 full-length that followed this EP. How about this: They have potential, and this may or may not have come to fruition on a record I’ve never heard. Fans of this stuff will hear or maybe even buy and keep this EP and guess what? They will still be fans of this stuff. I take my heaviness a little different, but this isn’t categorically out of place in our record collection (the one with the keepers in it). Hey, check out this short novella of a URL you have to visit in order to get a new copy of The Weak and the Wounded! In truth, what I’m about to do is totally unnecessary.
Official Waste LP
Bedroom/cellar-born synth duo (and life partners, I believe?) Ancestral Diet hit the Goth and neo-folk tropes hard, comes out winning. Took a few months to settle into this one, because it was too hot of a summer to think about casting spells, but they reach for an aesthetic that borrows from, yet almost vehemently opposes, various religions and systems of life in favor of a pointedly Anglophilic view of witchery and Earth magick. Even with some kinda corny Black Metal style incantations on the hypnotic “Water Buries,” Clare Hubbard (Caethua, Sports) and Andy Neubauer (Impractical Cockpit) push their vision beyond theatrics – it kind of feels like something has been stumbled upon that cannot be easily forgotten. Musically they totally nail the somber, ‘80s cassette-only-release ambiance, peppering solid musicianship and simple, sturdy arrangements with intensely personal touches, like if Coil had hailed from the outcasts’ high school lunch table somewhere in Maine instead oft of the debauchery of Throbbing Gristle. Yellow vinyl, paste-on sleeve, and from their collage-based, deeply colorful artwork, even the imagery you’d expect to see alongside something like this, save for one sigil drawn on the insert, makes it look closer to a peace-punk/political activist stance, instead of the woodcuts of skeletons and devils you might expect to see. It makes Official Waste seem more like a threat, something built to haunt and linger. Anyone going after the Pre-Cert label releases might like to check this out.
One-man (Volahn, member of much-murmured-about Los Angeleno Black Metal/drug-enjoying collective, Black Twilight Circle) band that never deviates from the Left-Hand Path (not an Entombed reference…) and will hopefully find fans of Destroyer 666, really early-Sepultura and if it existed, a quite fidelity-challenged Absu, as they will be tickled giddy at the sounds that feverishly-claw out of this LP. Oh, throw “better-recorded Darkthrone” into that mix, too. If Fenriz hasn’t hammered his seal of approval all over this thing by the time you read this, it’s only a matter of time or circumstance (red vinyl pressing has already vamoosed). Travels cult-ish thrash w/acoustic blink-and-miss-its and rocks high-register (aka “Blackened”_____) vocals. Song structures are stretched so that only three proper tracks are included within; giving things a proggy feel, too. We won’t be thanking God, but let’s thank something that this wasn’t done at 33-1/3 RPM. Fans of Hell’s Headbangers, NWN! Productions limited editions and the associated Crepusculo Negro Label are finding this and snapping it up – a fate it well deserves, so get this if you just read anything that would normally pull out the “need!” list. Oh, and Axeman blew brains apart at this year’s Chaos in Tejas, so the whisperings go.
Weight Of A Color LP
A random needle drop on this LP might create the impression that this is a compilation LP, and that the compilers have excellent taste in guitar tones and really dire lapses in judgment when it comes to vocals. Play it all the way through and both opinions regress towards the mean; this is a pretty solid record, but it could have been better. Turns out that Axis:sovA is really one guy named Brett Sova, a Chicago resident who has played guitar and bass for Chandeliers and Mass Shivers, and if I needed a guy who could strum a tune sweetly and wail licks as fluid and sun-blotting as the ones that Robert Fripp used to float over his loops back in the days when he played them on a reel-to-reel tape deck, I’d have him play for me too. He also has a talent for programming simple drum machine programs and ladling just the right amount of echo on top. Somewhere behind the echo looms some honest to goodness hooks, too, ones worth dropping your own line into the swirl in hopes of snagging. Also lurking in the background is some singing, which is game but so woozy that it makes Cameron Stallones sound like a model of sober projection by comparison. (http://killshaman.com)
Drowsy acoustic guitar BS with velvety vocals from a candy-colored guitar school clown. Check this out if you’re trying to conserve your Ambien. Actually, are those OTC in Canada? Nevermind, then. No other Americans will hear this. Further points deducted for sneaking the Void logo into the cover art. Please don’t let it fool you into thinking this will be an intense and worthy listen.
Blanche Blanche Blanche
Wink With Both Eyes LP
Papas Proof LP
(La Station Radar)
I don’t know what I might have thought of these records if I hadn’t gotten to the Ryan Power LP on NNA Tapes first. More than anything, listening to these Blanche3 albums made me think about connections implicit/intentional/otherwise between artists in relative isolation and in one another’s orbits. This is at least the third whimsical, eccentric pop band I’ve heard from Vermont this year, the others being Power’s sublime I Don’t Want To Die and Chris Weisman’s vinyl reissue of Fresh Sip. Weisman plays on Blanche records and is a member of the band Happy Birthday, whose Sub Pop album Power co-produced. There’s a King Tuff connection in there, and another to Feathers a little more ways back. So it isn’t a surprise that these B-B-Blanche releases sound like a rough, fractious, lo-fi version of the thematically cohesive and compositionally deft prog-pop Ryan Power makes, leavened a bit against Weisman’s more grounded, harmony-riddled take on the same style. There isn’t a lot of panache to these efforts, which shoot all over the place in some attempt for establishing a baseline weirdness but never quite coalesces into something more memorable than annoying. Maybe that ties into this group having felt the need to release four albums this year; maybe they need to work out the kinks before dropping world peace on us all. But it’s a fairly trying process to listen to them try to get there.
“White Math” b/w “Polymorph” 12”
One of the dudes from Fuck Buttons strikes out on his own with a new project called Blanck Mass, determined to introduce the languid, insistent concepts of Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 to a new generation of house-dwellers. I’d give more of a shit if this were at all exciting. What we have here are two long (10+ minute) excursions into arpeggiated synth leads and warm, cozy beats, which, on some level, deliver where they’ll need to. Pulling back out of the frame, though, you have to wonder where there’s room for more of this when guys like Andy Stott are breaking down the frame and throwing it into a fire barrel. Too predictable for its length, and just OK altogether. Sorry boutcha. 1000 numbered copies.
Double Natural LP
Envision a record where every song sounds good on its own, but as an album it falls apart. That’s probably the best way to describe how Boomgates’ Double Natural flops along to its conclusion. As on their past few singles for R.I.P. Society and SmartGuy, there is beguiling pop to be had, sunny and winsome and warm even when it feels like a darker sentiment might be lingering in the background, but riffs aside, the performances are so non-committal that every song sounds like it could be the end of the record. On a 7”, that works out fine; as an album, it displays a lack of agency that makes it very difficult to connect with. The Boomgates full-length comes as vocalist Brendan Huntley’s other band, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, is indefinitely furloughed, and I hope this record isn’t some sort of consolation prize of that happening. He’s more of a vocalist than most because, let’s face it, the guy can’t sing in a traditional manner at all, and while it worked for ECSR (hey, it’s working hard for him these days, vis a vis that AT&T commercial, during football broadcasts even), there isn’t enough of a presence for the female vocalist Steph Hughes this time around to balance him out. But then again, if you write songs that all sound like you’re breaking up with someone over and over again, would it sound different? Maybe if you’re an asshole it would. The people in Boomgates really do not strike me as assholes. Why would they? But the way they went about this record didn’t work. Not everything does.
A long, involved ways off from this artist’s disturbing and claustrophobic EP from a few years back, Cairo Pythian returns with a broadened Goth/glam/dark electronic approach, bestowed with confidence met by pathos, and a significant amount of flair. The impurities that came before are internalized in favor of better songcraft and improved presentation. This debut album positions him as a troubadour, whether in the icy confines of lockstep minimal synth dirge, amidst the gossamer strands of a ballad like “Matthew Churchill” (which recalls David Tibet as much as Neil Tennant), or through harrowing tales of sex worker philosophy and life-threatening danger in “Naked Under Suede,” recalling the Bowie/Lou Reed era. That’s reinforced with the grape lipgloss guitars of a track like “White Wicker,” which threatens to smash the fragile binaries that came before into pails of filigree. C.P. lays it all out there in a collection of tales that understand both mastery and heartache. Its sequencing is a bit obtuse when it needs to be deliberate, but getting over that bump (and placing the strongest tracks right in the middle) leaves you less focused on the meta-concept behind these songs, and on the greatness of the songs themselves.
“Faceless Kiss” b/w “Blut Monde” 7”
The sixth entry in Emerald Cocoon’s Alone Together series of solo singles is a definite step up from its predecessor, Pete Swanson’s misguided melody-strip-job on a couple of estimable kiwi tunes. Cantu-Ledesma isn’t eyeing green fruit, but larger and brighter circular shapes. The tunes and the very nicely colored sleeve are apt accompaniments to your next psychedelic sunset, that moment when you lean back, hold a prism up to the fading sunlight, and ask yourself – well what if Kevin Shields jammed down with Vangelis? No, don’t laugh man, I mean it … Consider the question answered here. His blown-out guitars bump atop a beat that could have been culled from a demo for the Chariots Of Fire soundtrack, imparting a woozy buzz one might otherwise associate with sweetened rum drinks. No need to be a pirate just yet, there are 300 of these to go around.
Stephen Chai and the No-Nation Orchestra
More More More 12” EP
(No Baloney Music)
Grating white-boy indie-dance-funk with a serious ooga-booga Paul Simon’sGraceland-style slumming agenda and the potential to go huge if there’s an unused ticket to the same hype convention attended previously by the likes of Yeasayer (quite possibly the worst music ever made), MGMT and other purveyors of post-2008 jam-band quirk. About as “underground” and forward-thinking as Steve Harvey. Keep your friends and acquaintances away from shit like this, because it can contaminate closer to home than you may think. Edition of 225 copies on blue vinyl. Probably out of print, due to the world’s tendency to intensely suck every now and again.
Anne-James Chaton/Andy Moor
Transfer/4: Inbound/Outbound 7”
The fourth and final installment in French text artist Anne-James Chaton and Ex guitarist Andy Moor’s Transfer series of 7” singles deals, like its predecessors, in the concepts of transportation and transition. “Metro” features seven voices besides Chaton’s, all from cities that have a commuter rail system. While each guest declaims the name of a station, Chaton identifies a direction and the businesses nearby; public transport, it seems, isn’t a way to get where you want to go, but where someone else wants you to spend your money. Moor’s guitar is terse and restrained throughout, building a tension that never resolves. On the B-side, “Not Guilty” takes the outbound theme quite literally. Chaton lists killers from Agatha Christie novels, along with their preferred methods of dispatch. Moor’s squelchy synths are miles from The Ex’s raw-edged attack, but they act like pinball flippers to keep you from leaving Chaton’s stern recital. The sleeve folds out into a dozen panels of images and texts whose themes of evidence and surveillance reinforce the music’s essential queasiness; just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. Comes with a download coupon so you can listen on your mp3 player while you take a train to the shopping center.
Pass the Information 2xLP
This is some Dust Brothers hanger-on who began to epitomize the just-because-everyone-can-doesn’t-mean-everyone-should maxim in 2003 by self-releasing some truly tired and horrible crap on vinyl. He even goes by the name “Cheeba” If you thought this was going to be one of those “despite the band name and everything else hitting me upside the fucking head, this is sort of good!” moments, I must ask one question: “How could the band name and little bit of already-written evidence produce a sum that even approaches that of ‘Should Exist’?” So what if it’s Mr. Cheeba and a gazillion of his friends coming together to make live-band versions of dog-shit that DJ Food wouldn’t even glance at during the lowest moment of his late-90’s, turntablists-casualty career? Mr. I Chose The Dumbest Slang For Weed As A Performing/Creative-Outlet Moniker actually has bio content with credits like “cleaning out bongs” and “editing tape together” when he spent his days undoubtedly bugging the shit out of the brothers Dust. Guess what? Given that information, this two-LP set sounds exactly like it should! Jam-band people probably laugh at the existence of Pass The Information, just like they did at Mr. Cheeba’s TWO PREVIOUS full-length vinyl releases. Godawful music that shouldn’t have been awarded the resources of a pressing plant and printing facility? Yes! It happens way outside of the Weird Vibes domain, too! On black vinyl. In an edition of 500, which is 500 too many.
Brian M. Clark
Songs From The Empty Places Where People Killed Themselves 12” EP
This is an exercise in program music – four instrumental songs crafted to impart thematic intent upon the listener. I don’t know how they did this back in the golden days of orchestra, in the pit/pre-pit, but the exposition found on this EP leaves little room for error. The track list on Songs contains even more explicit subtext. For example, “Suburban Bedroom (A Pretty Young Girl Swallows A Bottle Of Pills For Reasons That Would Have Seemed Stupid In Retrospect, Had She Lived)”. I want to frame the declamatory nature of this with “Death of the Author” and the assertive naiveté of abstract painting, but again, the margins here are narrow, even for my esoteric criticism (itty-bitty). Moreover, considering the source, this record is more genuine, more direct, than a didactic monolith for darkness’s sake. Suicide is a rote walk in contention park next to Brian M. Clark’s oeuvre of overtly deviant-themed artwork, anti-books, and nihilistic sucker punches. He is Boyd Rice’s biographer, a Modern Drunkard and, as evident in the smack he laid down on Henry Rollins in the Denver Syntax, and his skepticism at large, possibly the closest thing to the counter-alternative that Peter Schjeldahl promised us in 1978. Maybe it is just the lighting (or, the critical thinking I pine for) but it renders this EP an anachronistic head-scratcher nonetheless. I cannot conjure vignettes of disparaging fools while listening to this album, even with the complimentary lines of mind fluffer. If anything, it’s Heck Harvey’s “Carnival of Souls,” minus the machinations of vertigo, until the “cafeteria” portion of “High School Library, Gymnasium and Cafeteria (A Fat Nerd Finally Brings His Guns To School),” and it becomes more like “why was he fucking around on a church organ this whole time when he can play guitar like that?” Clearly, the concept does not cater to how an immersive listener typically experiences music. But in this culturally bankrupt landscape in which we find ourselves, consumers are the most broke of all. Interpretation? They accept donations. It all checks out. And here I thought the record was gonna wavy-bowl itself! (Like, put itself in the oven… give us the ol’ bell jar…SYLVIA PLATH KILLED HERSELF.)
s/t 12” EP
So much to answer for, Chicago … hideous, gross caricatures of punk abound here, the kind of no-scuff sleaze major labels used to try to dress up as new wave back in the early ‘80s. You don’t hear much about most of the bands that fell for that shit, and you won’t hear much from these clods, who come at “bad person” music from the window Clockcleaner broke and pissed on, extrapolated to its worst position (rhyming “Fugazi” with “Nazi” on opener “Another Saturday Night”) by a guy who sounds like he’s trying out to play Jacko in a new round of Energizer battery commercials. Oi! Ugly looking record, too. There are better bands than this in Chicago, but the evidence of this crap trying to pick up where things left off like 3-4 years ago, before the whole Hozac thing poisoned a genre of music for years to come, is off-putting, and makes everyone there look bad.
Loren Connors & Suzanne Langille
I Wish I Didn’t Dream 7”
Suzanne Langille has been adding her voice to Loren Connors’ guitar laments since the late 80s, but they’ve never done anything like side one of this yellow vinyl incantation. She enunciates like Patti Smith at her witchiest on “Cease To Do Evil,” a recitation of an Irish poem that is just occasionally lashed by Connors’ pedal-swaddled guitar. But where Smith cuts a shamanic figure, dancing outside of society even when she’s leading thousands, Langille is a stern preacher admonishing the wayward. Misbehave at your peril, the consequences are likely severe. I suspect that “Shenandoah” on the flip side is a continuation of the same performance. Connors’ playing is more forward here, tracing an atonal trajectory that brings to mind the blues as composed by George Crumb. Langille hums a melody with chilling confidence; it’s just the sound you don’t want to hear when you’re whistling past the graveyard and you still have many yards to walk before the next lockable door. The colored vinyl pops, but there’s also a download coupon. Comes in a transparent plastic sleeve that holds a strip of paper shaded by artist M P Landis.
Your Body Got A Land LP
French Ty Segall this time around for the entity that puts out records as Crash Normal. The reverb-tolerance levels have increased so much that I can hear it coating each of the public-domain structures in their garage, but I can’t feel it, or more importantly, it doesn’t pull an ounce of concern out of my emotions. It struggles to fill the room. I don’t even think I can muster the energy to get worked up over why this exists in this day and age. What if you dreamt the alarm clock was going off, then dreamt that you got up to hit the ‘snooze’ button, the radio was tuned to a station that only played an amalgam of sounds the programmers referred to as “Hozac: The Last Five Years” and then you woke to find that the alarm wasn’t going off at all? These songs drove me to write that. Unsurprisingly, there’s a dude named “Seb” in this band and an A Frames cover within this selection of tracks.
s/t 12” EP
Probably great live but just not heavy enough for my tastes. Probably heavy live, too, now that I’ve started things off on the wrong foot with this record. Features a member of Natural Law and the mind behind Katorga Records, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same dude. It is what it says it is … specifically, this LP is a take on late-80’s hardcore of the Boston variety (these guys are from NYC), and I should make it paramount to mention the exclusion of any and all metal from this affair, as per the creators, I’m sure.
Family Evil LP
You gotta figure these guys beat the ridiculous naming trend by a few decades. Crystal Syphon’s LP is a collection of demos and live recordings from the Fillmore, capturing this unsigned Merced, CA roots-rock band in its prime, ca. 1967-68. Rural rock sounds from the Byrds to CCR, the Dead, and Country Joe & The Fish (the latter three of which these guys used to play with around California) were just getting off the ground, and Crystal Syphon attempted to make their mark, somehow anticipating long, endless sides of AOR/early ‘70s FM radio calibration. Not a lot here sticks out, the surface being a little too even as well as devoid of memorable hooks, but the playing is legitimate and honest, and their dive into obscurity seems well-earned. Ugly Things readers, take note.
The Undressed 12” EP
This self-released EP comes after two albums on Sony Music Entertainment – two failed attempts at latching onto temporal paths to success through emo-gone-bro electro party music in JUSTACRASH (2008), and the socio-political sentimentality of what I propose to describe as “neuticle metal” in 2010’s The End is Near. The latter has a pregnant belly on the cover and features the worst of the worst “I Wanna Be Your Dog” cover of all time. But let’s move forward, as Cyanna, hailing from the capitol of the dangerously overleveraged country of Greece, has attempted to do with their national economic narrative in tow. The Undressed EP finds them “stripped down,” and if that translates to switching off their synth, and sounding absolutely nothing like the band in previous albums, I’ll buy it.
It seems the recession did them a small artistic favor, as this EP is one rung above a lateral move stylistically; still, it has deposited them at bad Nick Cave or the only kind of Tom Waits, with strip-mall circus slummer alt country Americana. Absent are any girl problems or references to modernity. The only sign of the times is how squarely any of these four songs would befit network original series theme music: namely, Longmire, Breaking Bad or Boardwalk Empire. We should all hope these avenues reach out to them, not only because the music is so categorically that, but for all the money they would get, and how tidy an industry peripeteia it would make. Limited to 500 copies.
s/t 12” EP
This first popped up about a year ago but this 12” may or may not have resulted in a signing to A389 for these Pacific Northwest geniuses of … wait for it … Atmospheric Power-Violence. And the A-word is not meant to imply some lack of impact or anything else that has defined the PV genre over the last quarter-century or so. Instead, this record is really creepy and NO BULLSHIT. One entire side of this 12” is made up of a one-two punch via some of the longest PV I’ve ever heard (at least 4 to 5 minutes per track), and some of the weirdest as well, in the best and truest of creatively-unconscious senses. Who woulda thunk that running the drum track backwards, along with what may be more tracks, could produce some of the moodiest, best and most forward-thinking heavy music to reach ears in the last 24 months? This is not dunderheaded stuff, here people … this is thinking-man’s discontent, best served up in long-EP/short-LP format due to its intensity and ability to fill every sonic space with exactly what was planned. Highly recommended, but not for the power-violence curious (for whom I recommend repeated turns with T.G.’s “Hamburger Lady”) or anyone with scream/bellow/growl allergies. On what the label calls “bark/bone” vinyl, but what I call white and rusty-brown … done up all pretty and such.
Temporary Sanctuary LP
Intoxicating and strange collage of art-rock, progressive/New Age/Carpenter sdtrk burn, solemn ‘90s indie/slowcore, experimental overtones, and compositional balance from a solo-ish project out of northeast Pennsylvania. Daywand (musician Dylan Anderko and a few friends helping out here and there) manages to weave a passel of influences and stylistic nods together in a way that creates a tangible universe out of it all. I’ve heard some other records from, like, music school grads that acknowledge a great deal less of that universal sound, and it comes across as a limiting and self-satisfying experience. That is not what’s happening here. Temporary Sanctuary is a carefully constructed work, smaller song-fragments overlapping into one another as the album plows through fields of genre, guided by a disembodied electronic voice. After a short musical interlude (a polka, it would seem), the anxiety starts to mount, with side A closer “Hawk River” and side B opener “Infinite Energy Mode” using tape loops and ominously-chorded drones to recall the death march shambles that closed This Heat’s first album, but with two armfuls of synthesizers to extend the dread into pliable, taffy-like pulls. There is power in there, somehow, and it’s used to sit on the left-hand keys and drill through a hazy, dub-inflected beat with a pronounced glare that makes it seem as if the music is trying to cope with the unbearable sonic atmosphere bearing down on it, before turning into something more stern and foreboding. Anderko yanks out all the stops, but the ambition evident behind Temporary Sanctuary is matched at every turn by some new idea that totally fits into the heavy, claustrophobic meandering that presses down on the listener. This is bold music that positions itself at a crossroads between diversity and focus, and never lets one overtake the other, great ideas coming out of some seriously taxed surge protectors, and the virtues of patient neighbors and basement practice spaces. As unique and mystifying as the Nocht the Only Ghouls LP on this same label is, Daywand’s album might be even better.
s/t 12” EP
Well, Vic Bondi can still sound unhinged at the front of a band. And drummer from Alkaline Trio and guitarist from Rise Against shouldn’t be defined by what puts dinner on the table, clearly, as this EP is not embarrassing in any way shape or form. Truthfully, this is sort of timeless, and impressive as fuck considering what could have happened here. Sure as shit beats five songs by OFF! any hour of any day of any week. Carries with it the traditions of Chicago HC in sound and feeling, namely in the guitar melodies … and the final two tracks could be a burlier Pegboy (who were fucking top-notch in case you missed that boat) with, uh, Vic Bondi on the mic. I listened to that Articles of Faith LP on Reflex Records quite a bit, three or four years ago, when I was writing a book about the band who founded said label, and that thing held up better than a lot of what was supposed to. Oh, I have a great story about interviewing the main guy in Rise Against for a popular/hip glossy magazine; a story that comes out in favor of my interview subject while proving how bonkers the music industry has become in the past five years. Where is all of this going? To a point, and that point is that reputations and high-exposure breadwinners are awarded way too much power when it comes to judging the creative relevance of the players at hand. If you need to blindfold taste-test this 12” then so be it…just check it out because it doesn’t deserve any negative fallout based on the reputations or primary concerns of the four men who made it. On black vinyl and pressed in an edition of plenty.
Sweaty Hands LP
(Negative Guest List)
The family man’s id comes to life in a band that marries the Birthday Party’s menacing, acidic attack with the psychotic heft and slow tempos of My War, side two. Pretty gross all around, and that’s the point – frontman Tim Scott works for the nodules growing on his vocal cords, the band behind him letting out a horrifying sound that works despite the easy influence trainspot and overall lunkheadedness of the endeavor. Based in NYC, they seem to only play offbeat venues (anywhere with a floor and a PA, really) and do not draw attention to themselves, down to there being no song titles or other information listed on this thing (Discogs straightens it out if you care). Follows up the crude/rude cartoon on their first LP Bottom Feeder with an equally poor rendering of what may be a Group Goatse. These records are hard to find, apparently.
Demokrati Eller Diktatur? 7” EP
Clear, precise, confident, blistering d-beat. Two of these guys played in Mob 47 and Protes Bengt, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve ever slowed down. Jesus, this thing hits hard, about as straightforward as you want, but with enough crag in the guitar to break a tooth on. They come off as a totally earnest, HC-for-the-HC group, and nowhere is that more evident than in opening track “Bandlogga,” which the liner notes describe as a plea for reason with naming your band something crazy and making a logo complex enough to require a Magic Eye Painting level of attention. They slow down once on “Sveriges Största Ljugarbänk,” which dresses down the whole of Swedish Parliament, and they do it on the next to last of these six songs, which is exactly where you’d wanna put it. Totally raging!
“Boundless Love” b/w “Halogen Credenzas (Live)” 7”
The wait since Kevin Parme’s last effort as Dimples has been long enough to stoke concern. Here’s music from a guy who understands rock music as both the iron fist and the velvet glove, and how to apply both. That he has not been given more of an opportunity to display these talents is borderline criminal. “Boundless Love” is the most straight-ahead thing he’s done, perhaps, and it wouldn’t be out of line to think it’d belong on the back end of one of those later Ramones records, like one of those “we’ve come so far” type determination rockers that lingers before the finale. It’s a damn good one at that, and if you listen closely enough you can hear the struggle behind those sentiments, its heart pounding in time. The live track on the B-side is back towards familiar territory, the scenic route that Mr. Parme also provided on his Council Bluffs LP and single for Mexican Summer in play once more. Such a sophisticated, bluesy riff, man, nicotine-stained nails keepin’ it a little too real. Maybe only the Dirty Faces understood rock the way Dimples does. Them and Boz Scaggs. Great, great music. 300 numbered copies.
California Babylon LP
Superior Viaduct continues to do a fine job of pulling the barnacles off of San Francisco’s punk and post-punk history, this time with both LPs by Factrix. If you know much at all about industrial music from the past 30-40 years, then these records are part of the curriculum, the first of which, 1980’s Scheintot, is deeply embedded in the canon. Easy comparisons to Throbbing Gristle could be made, but that group’s utter sonic smearing was approximated by Factrix as a quality not dissimilar from film noir, a milky, subdued, song-based sound, all surface tension and narcotic, debauched mindset derived from guitar, bass, synths, and the somnambulant power of Cole Palme’s vocals, with additional instrumentation added as the group saw fit. Theirs was an exceptionally dark slink into deep-mind dreaming, a record that should only be played between the hours of midnight and six, bending the duties behind a switch flipped on to their will. Somehow their collaboration with Monte Cazzaza, 1981’s live album California Babylon, now seems more ambitious and less focused, with harsher sounds providing a divisive element distinctly separate from the cool mystery of death they’d learned how to reveal to perfection, and a boomy, roomy recording swallowing up elements of the sound that might’ve gotten better play in a studio. And anyone looking for an example for when punk/fringe acts began to use samples of Evangelical preachers to prove a point, it starts here. Still, it’s an entirely different set of material in the same style. Plenty of guests show up here as well, and it’s cool hearing Z’ev’s metal grinder on percussion during “Nancy’s Little Gun.” For a group with so little output, it’s worth it for those who don’t already own these records to explore them, both works being hypnotic, repetitive ruminations on death and the romantic allusions that lure you into the rocks.
Man Feelings LP
Chicagoans doing what they’re known for, dusting off the Midwest tool & die math/noise/boogie rock motif for a new year, decades away from the prime cut of that sound (Jesus Lizard, Tar, Shorty) but investing vigor, non-cruel laffs, and weirdness into the fray in a manner that most current practitioners are too serious (or just not good enough) to muster. Recorded at Electrical and featuring one of its employees, Fake Limbs put on the bulk required to bust through the walls of convention in a flailing tangle of Speedos and chest hair. I think recognizing the inherent idiocy in this sort of music is the only way to overcome its limitations, because you find ways to capitalize on something that is truly, uniquely dumb fun, and can dial down the unpleasant attitudes of this music’s historical fanbase, throwing it right back in their faces and making them enjoy being cut down (“Balding But Angry,” “Your Comments Are Atrocious”). I like this type of thing when a band knows this and can act on it, because I’ve seen the other side of things – largely relegated to the piss-trough of most garage punk in this day and age, and do not want to see it spill over into something I care for yet again. Fake Limbs passes the test. 300 copies.
It’s 1983 Grow Up! LP
(Black Tent Press)
Got pretty stoked on records coming out of the territory of Alberta for a bit there, and this album from Lethbridge’s Fist City is bringing me back around. Good energy, good sound, a nice flexibility to the guitars and keyboard (that’s a keyboard, right?), kinda leaning towards the inexplicable surf-rock fixation Canadians seem to have but tempered by good-time, collar-grabbing rock motion, somewhere in the direction of a lighter, springier Hot Snakes. Some of the folks responsible for this have been sending me records that I really need to cover. Sorry about that, team Canada. Look, what else is there to say about this? The record hustles along in 26 minutes’ time, boosted up to 45rpm to overclock your caffeine-addled mind a little further. Good song titles (“Fuck,” “Burn Burn Burn Burn,” “Wet Freaks”), good album title. Not going to sensationalize anything else about Fist City (others can do that), as the band’s music kicks the gears out of the grandfather clock and delights in the ruin of the Faulknerian stoppage of time. That is more than enough. 500 numbered copies.
Two Songs From Fiver 7”
Hangdog, lady-fronted, Can-Con country rock. Well-played, long songs that have the chance to drift around a bit more than expected, and singer Simone Schmidt finds the creaky, weathered spot between Stevie Nicks (the fantasy) and the actor Melissa Leo (the reality), which she instills with all the hopes and all the desperation such comparisons should yield. Nothing here that’s really gonna peel back your scalp, but it’s alright. Sure, why not.
“Lite Me Up” b/w “The Mark Of A Man” 7”
Dull Knife Inc. gets in on the ground floor. Sub Pop signing announcement this week was a pretty big deal for this humble, strapping sample-crooner. “Lite Me Up” is weirder, giddier, and loopier (in the compositional sense) than anything on All Hell, and Gibson sounds like he can’t stop smiling throughout, which throws it charmingly off balance. It reminds me of another sampler-based artist, Solex. Because it’s a love song, and because the samples are of the strange and uneven variety, assembled to make the song rather than building off of a pre-recorded melody and cruising from there, it reminds me of Solex’s “Randy Costanza” single. The two songs don’t sound alike, but that piano loop in serves the same purpose as that song’s four-note guitar line and music hall cascade as the main “riff.” “The Mark Of A Man” is closer to the DG songs that have gotten around, very durable, dark-night-of-the-soul computer blues. Now that he’s working for the West Coast organization, I expect that people who aren’t residents of Seattle (or bloggers) can claim to have heard the music of Tiny Vipers (because he cut it into his new track). Nothing wrong with this one. I could listen to “Lite Me Up” all day. It might be his best song so far. There are a few sleeve variants – this one is in the “songwriter series” cardboard box, numbered edition of 100. Cram it.
Red 7” EP
After getting through a pile of poorly-realized garage/noise/punk singles, this Giglinger single straight up slapped me in the face. Not because the music was any great shakes – seems this Finnish band has been around for decades, releasing a 7” every few years and otherwise managing a quiet existence, and this latest offering comes off past sojourns into faster, more industrial sounding fare (an earlier EP set such expectations by advertising that all songs were at 200 beats per minute, which, when you use a drum machine as these folks do, you can make happen). Actually, the music is decent, Euro-minded post-punk, but this fucker is LOUD. Really clear, biting layers of guitar, played with force and determination, drove this one right into my skull. Once there, not much else happens, but it’s nice to hear a band that has some semblance of control over what they want to be, and doesn’t seem to have any aspirations beyond releasing records. Red paper sleeve mounted in a black die-cut one. A tiny bit more info is available at the following URL:
Gnaw Their Tongues/Corephallism
Yeah, I get it. The world is a fucked-up and dark and dangerous and unforgiving place and silly shit like this exists as a product and documenter of these things. Seriously, a Japanese bondage photo on your cover IN TWO THOUSAND AND FUCKING TWELVE?!? That shit was laughable when Painkiller did it back in the daddy Bush administration, and it doesn’t work as a retro-influence tribute to the past trend in question, either. Gnaw Their Tongues gives doom metal, to which he (it’s one dude) has a tenuous relationship, a really bad name. Plus, he’s probably older than I am, or at least old enough to know better. That side is one track titled “A Moral Guide to Self-Castration and Necrophilia” and it is standard-issue power-noise with black metal vocals. How scary and intense! The Corephallism side is titled, get this, “Rapes of Convenience” and features samples of Daniel Tosh’s stand-up comedy set to brutal power-noise. I kid, it’s actually just some brutal (as in “boring”) static/feedback, and no different in feel, execution or emotion from the mounds upon mounds of useless nonsense spewed out by likeminded shut-ins over the last two decades. If this release does one thing, it reminds me why I promptly and almost entirely lost faith in the noise genre … OVER TWO DECADES AGO. The two most brutal, negative and intensely depraved things about this record are the fact that someone actually saw fit to have it materialize in physical form and the subsequent charge of $10 to have it shipped to or enter one’s home via brick-and-mortar institutions. Still in print and that is appropriate.
The Golden Awesome
This Wellington, New Zealand quartet’s LP isn’t bad, just pointless. They go adhere to the shoegazer stylistic template with a devotion that is almost, but not quite, impressive. They’ve got the thick, tidal guitars, the sluggish tempos, and listless female voices of their chief influence – My Bloody Valentine –down so well that one has to wonder why they didn’t just work up a set of Loveless and Tremelo and leave it at that? For a prank, they could advertise that they’re doing just that, but play the material from Autumn,and see if anyone notices. On the bright side, Warren Defever’s mastering job gives them more sonic definition than a lot of shoegaze fare, and LP sleeve is as yellow as The Beatles’ submarine.
Stone Street LP
Billed as “indie folk” but really more of a sonic rugrat squeezed out by ‘80s L.A. cow-punk merchants like Green on Red, mid-period X, and The Blasters, and I’d rather listen to this than any of those mayors and city councilmen in that desolate village made up of the collective discount bins the world over. There’s a purity to, and a vague set of balls behind, making this sort of “beer, regrets, western-wear and urban surroundings” roots-rock in real-time 2012, if not a respectable aroma of not-giving-a-fuck. If this is your occasional or full-time cup of whatever, chances are this will be right up your alley-cat. “Tri-splatter green vinyl” is limited to 200 copies, though more are available on black.
Kevin Greenspon + Nicole Kidman
Already Dead 7”
Detour into pop-punk style komputer/noise klash by Greenspon and friend Jon Barba, who’ve plied their talents to harsher ends elsewhere. These four tracks sound like they were created in an environment without air, which actually helps (and is kind of accurate, as Greenspon’s long and thoughtful note explains the cramped conditions in which this music was made). Some Atom/Matt-sans-Kim vocal stylings are the weak spot here, but the triumphant, scorched transistor sounds that comprise the music save the affair from catastrophe. I’d like to hear more from these guys in a more fleshed-out manner, as they both seem to be more than capable of generating pain, and ultimately liberation, through noise. Good looking full-color sleeve. 550 copies.
s/t 12” EP
Came along with a passive-aggressive note addressing my review of member Nicolas Murer’s previous release as Drosofile. Murer will be happy to know that I enjoy this work of his much more, and am since divorced of any desire to comment on his life or schooling. Speaking of divorced, these seven songs are separated almost completely from emotions, Murer and bandmate Regis Trapeau trading off on guitars, bass, drums and vocals, keeping all but one of the tracks in a lockstep, almost demonstrative bluster. It sounds mindless, but in the hypnotic way that works to make music interesting, not the stupid, poorly considered choices that would amount to a mistake. It’s like they’ve freed themselves from attention to anyone but each other, and pound those instruments like machines (with the exception of “Grenoble Pour Toujous,” limping along with a single-note bassline and low energy, and positioned second on the EP, so you are forced to notice it). Hey, sometimes the static approach works. This would be one of those times.
(Red Hour/Smog Veil)
Out of all the archival hardcore digging you can do, you might not come across a more primal, striking example (stuffed inside a regional compilation, no less) than “I’m Not Right” by The Guns. The Cleveland band, began as a two-piece while primary members, drummer David Araca and singer-guitarist Scott Eakin were in middle school, surfaced right as hardcore started to worm its way throughout the country, having grown up on Scott’s older brother’s (Tom Dark’s) record collection and figuring out the rest for themselves. They had a really mean, almost jock-like sound that can be derived directly from Damaged, from Eakin’s guitar Ginn-centives right down to his throaty, Rollins-esque bark. Apart from an appearance on the semi-legendary comp The New Hope, and another rager called “Your Mistake” on the They Pelted Us With Rocks And Garbage comp (great record) marked the end of the Guns’ recorded output, after a 14-song LP was shelved. They played for years after in various incarnations as crossover started to make inroads into what was left of USHC, but none of this work bore fruit, though bassist Sean Saley ended up drumming for Government Issue before their break from HC, and now backs Bobby Liebling in the revamped Pentagram. The band is now the subject of this exhaustive collection, serving both as a full view of their sound throughout the years, as well as a memorial for Araca, who passed away in 1994, and for Eakin, in 2007. The dropoff between studio and live recordings is felt as the sessions are split up unevenly over four sides of vinyl. There’s some real Edison canister shit on here for sure, as you listen to the band bust out of the carapace of hardcore after 1983, where metal begot thrash and bands started slappin’ and poppin’ the bass and the drummer showed up with a double-kick. Only the brave will make it to the end – Smog Veil’s New Hope reissue from last year is a much more valuable document of what hardcore and punk were in northern Ohio – but that’s not really the point. For a handful of people, that this exists is an incredible thing, and there’s gotta be a few hundred more who agree. Gatefold sleeve, crammed with liner notes and scans of Guns ephemera, with a DL code. 500 copies.
Together We Didn’t LP
Who I believe to be three younger kids in San Francisco – where Skrot Up lives now, apparently – do their best impression of music made while they were infants at best. No point in getting down on nostalgia, otherwise we’d throw out like 95% of the records that come in for review. But I will say that there is a lot more focus on how to get it right from the ‘90s to the ‘70s, in the music that lumped in with grunge, for the simple reason that there was less static, less congestion between those eras, its artifacts physically available for pennies on the dollar, its motives less open to interpretation. In the ‘10s, emulating the ‘90s might just sound like sour grapes from a guy who’s seen this exact thing go down, right to the parts-catalog power moves that blast through these eight songs. Something starts to get weird when you make a copy of a copy, andTogether We Didn’t is very strong evidence of that miscalculation. This is grunge pastiche, made even more bitter and unpalatable by the boomy studio prowess these three guys seem to have harnessed. There are big sounds on here, the guitars and bass mixed into mud a la some of the Karp records, the vocals triple-tracks and sneered like Cobain before the voice crack, every riff brazenly lifted from somewhere else but reassembled in a way that saps them of their power. They even do those quiet interludes like that shitty nu-gaze band Whirr, and at least one blogger has seen this as a positive thing, so you know their sell-by date is next Tuesday. Sounds like a big mess, a bunch of ideas that don’t necessarily translate into good songs thrown together in such a way that you will be reminded of a greater glory in the past. But this one isn’t it. Even that California X single sounded more legit than this steamer. 300 copies, silkscreened sleeves which I’ve only read about, as the label sent out this one coverless.
Hissey Miyake/Terrible Truths
split 7” EP
Two two-ladies/one-man trios from Still Single‘s favorite continent, Oceania, share this 7”. Hissey Miyake go the hyper-minimal New York-late-’70s route, with one-note guitar lines, Bush Tetras-esque dance beats, and lyrics that tread a line between deadpan and cliché. They execute the form well, tight and energized, but devoid of notable originality. Terrible Truths tend more towards the British point of post-punk geography. Their closer, “No Wind, No Waves,” proves the record’s highlight; the song builds to a peak of nervous intensity, powered by skittering beat alongside back-and-forth vocals that veer between harmony and call-and-response. The other Terrible Truths song here, “Don Juan,” has already seen US release on the band’s 7” on Mexican Summer.
“Hot Sand” b/w “Shapeshifter” 7”
The ladies (and gentleman) in Hollows wear their affectation for Phil Spector arrangements on their sleeves, albeit carving his wall of sound into a more manageable garage-size pair of morsels. Sidle up for “Hot Sand’s” helping of hollowbodied guitar twang and sugary three-part vocal harmony set to bouncy surf rock beats. “Shapeshifter” employs a farfisa and parallel vocal harmonies during the chorus to a great vintage B-52s effect. The one-sheet mentions a “punk-informed aesthetic” (not really evident) and an endorsement from some guy in the Black Lips, if that means anything to you. And it shouldn’t because this stands well enough on its own, thanks.
Worms & Dirt 12” EP
Arms-crossed, pining-for-a-parking-lot-beatdown hardcore with a Kerry King fixation. Not nearly as interesting as other A389 fare, though some of the riffs get by in that you can fit eight tiny ones in the spaces between these big ones when the band decides to get all abstract and slowed down, which is about 30% of the time. Usually, it’s dawgs bellowing/screaming/roaring (standard fare you might even hear in your sleep) for each second or two of silence punctuating the palm-jobbed chunk-a-chug. Read some blurbage comparing this to Integrity, but that’s impulsive referencing based on surface listening. Integrity is good and interesting because of the two-decades of seasoning and singular metal appropriation at hand, though it takes more than a cursory toe-dip to hear that stuff. Homewrecker is devoid of those goods, but something tells me a bad review is all it takes to get one’s home wrecked by these tough guys, rather than the drive to make a better album next time. Too bad.
Split battle between two leaders of the electronic-telephonic jumble-step movement, one which is going at about 150 members strong (worldwide). These two examples do their part to break free of any academic posturing and encourage you to move. Horaflora’s “Glibbertonne” sounds like a bunch of outboard gear being washed in a laundry tray, gasping for breath. “Squelchy” doesn’t even cover what’s happening here; it could make some of you sick, and probably will intrigue a small handful as well. I’m more interested in Bromp Treb, whose “Readinessmax” plays as more jittery and piecemeal-sounding, but also somehow more together, united by a huge bass drop that I didn’t know a 7” single could handle so well. You might even be able to dance to this half. Others have. Cool looking, weird little split, in a die-cut, letterpressed sleeve that you’ll have to turn sideways to read. Stamped labels, also includes a cutout from National Geographic.
Triple 7” Collection 3x7” box set
This came in after I trashed the Keep On Dancin’s 12” put out by Merenoise, and holy shit – it’s even worse. It’s the work of an Australian supergroup of sorts – all players in a very peculiar part of Brisbane’s garage “Scene B,” the part that thinks this music should sound like the unfortunate progeny of goddamn assneck revivalists like the Detroit Cobras crossed with a Vegas show band. There are fucking horns all over this thing and combined with the weak vocals, tinny production, and total arrangement butchering of good songs, all accompanied by written justification and a list of influences that totally upstage anything on here. Somehow I think they must believe they are pushing towards the horrifying realness of Ike & Tina’s Soul Revue but they are very off-base. They brass up Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” extract all of its toughness, and leave it this double-time, over-exerted slop that made me regret knowing what they might have done to it. Over here we’d throw you in jail for that sort of thing. In the next life they will have to taste all the Rev. Horton Heat’s food to see if he’s been poisoned (because in that life, people are trying to poison him all the time). It’s a low point for rock music released this year, and a waste of resources. White vinyl and a download code.
Melodies From a Dead Radio LP
“Dawn Soundz” from the top dog Jeff Barsky, on his debut long-player. Ashra style tone float guitar/drone/loop tracks coming from a clear conscience and the visions it can afford. One of the two longer tracks (“Radio Forecast”) really makes it, evolving through brushes of between-channel static from a solitary, seaside signal, melded into an urbane, blues-minded chord at about the six-minute mark, to something buzzing with tense vibes and mitigated through insistent chiming clusters of melody on the guitar once things have reached their peak. Dawn Soundz. The ones on the flip are more like waveform-based, though they get into tighter oscillation patters towards the end and make the stationery drones a bit more conversational, which keeps the interest level where it needs to be. Wake up, praise the morning, praise jah, take a shower, work your body. Dawn Soundz. Time to start anew. Most of the liner notes are dedicated to URLs of socially progressive/justice-seeking nonprofit organizations. 5 A.M., watch the sun comin’ up. DAWN SOUNDZ. Right here. 500 copies.
Juju & Jordash
Jewsex 12” EP
Juju & Jordash originated in Israel and are now running the table all over Europe, and have a sense of humor when it comes to hamantaschen and fornication through a sheet. Not sure what this synthy, Moroder-with-house-breaks-and-epic-builds throbber has to do with Jewish people having sex. Really it sounds like something that could come from either half of Zombi (Steve Moore or Majeure, the Moore-l Majeur-ity). B-sides “Clubsex” and “Dubsex” get all monolithic and Matrix-esque, and space echo-loopy in that order. Not feeling it as much as their Unleash the Golem 12” on this very same label, but I’m not going out dancing much these days so wtf do I know? Crank it, papi. White label edition of 160 copies.
“Rawsonville” b/w “The Mask” 7”
Someone once explained the nuances of the term “buttrock” to me, which I think comes from the Midwest or Chicago, and means less “basic” than music that grabs your collar and shouts drunkenly in your face, “THIS IS ROCKIN!” while you are maybe trying to order a beer, have a conversation, pretend not to know the party in question, etc. Michiganders K9 Sniffies fall into this fake subgenre. Assuming the accuracy of the picture in the insert, they have six members, and consequently play very loudly, shredding guitar and noise guitar and organ and all. The A side sounds kind of desert rock while the B side has a Murder City Devils-via-Cramps-but-with-crunchier-guitars thing. I imagine their live show is deafening.
Guitars From Agadez, Vol. 5 7”
Side project times happen even in the universe of guitar outfits from Niger. Here the need to take a new direction befalls members of Group Inerane, most noticeably guitarist Bibi Ahmed, taking dual horseman status with guitarist-vocalist Koudede, with a recharged and revitalized rhythm section in bassist Koutana and drummer Lalo. Apart from the phrasing of the guitars, this sounds like real change, as close to a Western garage-psych band as these folks have ever come, with a crispness and swing in the drumming and insistent, catchy riffage that places these two tracks squarely in the Nuggets camp in terms of presence and memorability. Recorded live in Lyon, France, this sounds hotter than almost any other SF “guitars” series release, the product of men from an embattled world finding the ability to push aside their pain and loss, enjoying the power that comes with being able to rip the skies apart in a rock band. Outstanding efforts from a series that just keeps getting hotter. 600 copies.
Gregg Kowalsky with Jozef Van Wissem
Movements In Marble And Stone split LP
Despite the dual billing, this is predominately a Gregg Kowalsky release; Dutch lutenist Jozef Van Wissem only appears on side B. It upholds the quality of a lineage that also includes Tape Chants (Kranky) and Battery Townsley (Senufo Editions). Kowalsky, who is based in the Bay area, is an analog partisan with a penchant for using old sound producing technology to make one conscious of a space’s sonic qualities. This poses a real problem when making a record; you hear its sounds at home, probably coming out of just two speakers, rather than coming out of hand-placed cassette players strategically placed throughout a large and acoustically idiosyncratic place. Having experienced one of Kowalsky’s performances, I can say that the records don’t do the mobile surround sound experience justice. But he’s not playing a lot away from the coasts these days, so unless you are geographically advantaged, a record is all you get.
However, the sounds themselves are pretty swell, so spinning an LP does not feel like making do. “Electronic Music For Square And Sine Waves” was recorded at The Lab in San Francisco. It opens with the wavering presence of between-channels AM radio noise, which dances and shimmers mirage-like before yielding the foreground to the sound waves that he first generates, then recycles with contact mics scattered throughout the space. Though it may have yielded the rich sounds, the process itself isn’t terribly audible; after the first minute or so, all evidence of the space disappears, and that’s more than enough. Desert vision gives way to dream state suspension; if you slip from trance into sleep while this thing is playing, that’d be a compliment to its gravitational pull. But waking listeners will still find much to appreciate in the music’s gradual unfurling.
New York’s Issue Project Room is a more assertive space than The Lab, sonically speaking. The amplified echoes of moved gear punctuates “For Baroque Lute, Tapes And Resonant Space,” and a spatial aura surrounds Van Wissem’s lute playing like phosphorescence around a ship’s mast. The Dutchman sails serenely on, playing a piece from his A Priori album entitled “How The Soul Arrives At Understanding Of Her Nothingness.” Kowalsky adds layers of hiss and undulating drones that move around the lute like ocean currents circling an island, and they exert a similar force; you can easily get carried away by them and forget that land is nigh.
This is the fourth volume in Amish Records’ Required Wreckers series, and like its predecessors it comes with packaging designed to make you glad you can still hold records in your hand. Wade Guyton’s sleeve image suggests a daguerreotype image of either blinds or old wallpaper, nicely extending the lineage of the antique implements that Van Wissem and Kowalsky use to make their music.
Lilacs & Champagne
This is the “production team” from Grails (“two dudes from Grails”) and perhaps and what they are attempting here is an avant-deviation of Ashford & Simpson or Gamble & Huff by the utilization of weird ambient soundscapes and samples. Or rather, the samples sound like either of those ‘70s soft-soul entities on the other side of a mild windstorm … sometimes. Other times it locks into what the Avalanches’ Since I Left You might have sounded like if covered by high-school kids with West Nile Disease. The concept, when read about prior to putting on the record, made me think about Milk Cult (look it up if you need to), but I’m only mentioning this as a warning in case the same thing happens to any potential listeners. I’m now realizing, after coming to grips with how negative this review really is, that some of you might be into this, because in no way is the music therein painful, tedious, or even boring. My assessment of this record has everything to do with disappointment at what could have worked but doesn’t to these ears. This LP is a perfectly pleasant soundtrack to doing anything but paying attention to or trying to enjoy what is coming out of the stereo, if that makes sense. Already out of print (hey, either this found an audience or the Grails’ stamp of unit-moving action worked) but used copies are around for not-so-out-of-print prices.
LFY (Lust For Youth)/WAR
The Glass House Etiquette split 7”
That’s Lust For Youth on one side, and WAR (now known as VÄR, the electronic side project of Iceage’s singer, Elias) on the other. Coulda fooled me though. Both sides are interchangeable, low-ambition, grating synth anthems that get by on repetition unearned and influence tarnished by lack of ambition. Then again, what else are you gonna send in as the contents of a split 7”? Keepers? Worthwhile tracks? Discography filler by at least one act that’s done better (the WAR 7” on Sacred Bonz was decent). Little value here, though.
“My Two Kids” b/w “I’m Not Coming Here” 7”
Is it OK to feign interest in a record that sounds like the very performers on it are feigning interest in why they’re performing? This new single by Australian drifters Mad Nanna plays as their most engaged effort to date, though merely by that amount of effort (full-color sleeve though its depiction of aging and hair loss is certainly as dire as the others, songs that have some sort of melodic imperative) it may put off fans who’ve gotten accustomed to the dishwater grey qualities that endeared them to the band. “My Two Kids” is the most upbeat song of theirs I’ve heard – kinda reminds me of a band learning how to play a Pixies song. There’s sort of a flyblown Fall-ish demeanor to the flip “I’m Not Coming Here,” the common thread being Michael Zulicki’s barely-interested vocalizing and repetitive guitar klang, chiming on through the indifference. These songs sound like live versions, complementing a single with the same two songs, recorded in different versions, on the Unwucht label. Forward progress of sorts by a band that has me asking “why?” into the prevailing winds.
Man … Or Astro-Man?
Analog Series Vol. 1 7” EP
You read correctly, that’s a brand new MOAM? EP. They’ve reassembled, past their beyond-surf period, past the clone band tours, past whatever jobs they’ve held and things they’ve done since the ‘90s ended. You’ll remember at the end of that decade how the boys voluntarily let go of the surf/Dick Dale worship thing and moved into a jerky, keyed-up wavo style that actually held a little more appeal, the sign of a band working out the next move with grace. When they disappeared, though, I don’t think anyone was surprised – they’d taken it as far as “it” could go, possibly to the detriment of their adult lives and overall health. But it’s hard to drop it sometimes, and I have to say this is in many ways a welcome return. The surf/drag roots come back on these songs, even though the first two (“Defcon 5” and “Anti-Matter Man”) force them to coexist with the sort of ripped neon cool of Goo-era Sonic Youth, and there’s accordion on the closer “Dr. Space.” It’s the sound of success, of knuckles cracking and muscles limbering up. If they continue along this path, the greater rewards that missed them may just turn up after all. Die-cut, printed chipboard sleeve with yellow acetate window insert, and sealed with a foil sticker. Not bad!
The Max Block
Air Ache In The Belly Of The Leech LP
Kiwidiscovery. There, I’ve gone and made you upset. Kiwidiscovery. That’s a word I just made up. It’s awful! Not many copies of the Max Block’s lone 12” EP on Flying Nun made it out of New Zealand, but those that did seemed to have found a permanent home wherever they are, as it rarely turns up. Fronted by Brian Crook, who played guitar and sang here in between Scorched Earth Policy and the Terminals (my personal favorite band of that entire era), the Max Block sound is one degrees more off-kilter than either, a rollicking shambles of cheap electric guitars, maniacal circus organ and at-times riotous drumming. The songs hold together throughout, though some by obviously-strained bits of cellotape ready to come loose, placing them somewhere between Beefheart and sea shanties, only envision them on a pontoon boat headed back to the docks of a workingmans’ island paradise, fully loaded and cognizant of the advantages to partying on land. Siltbreeze’s reissue combines the 1986 EP with remaining studio and live recordings from when the Max Block and the Terminals coexisted, and though the track ordering between the album and the label seems to be in conflict, there is definitely a lot more to chew on here than their EP ever hinted at. Crook and his partner Maryrose continue along to this day in the Renderers, and his solo album Bathysphere was just issued on vinyl by the MEDS label out of Portland. And this is quite a lovely release, and worth … kiwidiscovering.
Meager Sunlight/Skeleton Warrior
Seasons Of Nudity split LP
(More Records/Roofless/Hot Releases/Good God Energy Chronicles)
Meager Sunlight is the Hot Release that sounds closest to that KILLER Ashrae Fax LP put out on the label earlier this year/end of last … which, come to think of it, is when this one came in too. Hey, consider this review an extension of this record’s long tail, as much as it is in truth of one of its benefactors, as their side does indeed constitute a Hot Release. Synth-pop is the game to play here, but trading in A. Fax’s ethereal whims and eccentricities for something a bit more germane to the body music of the past few years, as both Nite Jewel and Austra come to mind when these two long tracks play. The group is from Providence and has a Lazy Magnet connection, which is probably how it found its way to this noise label/“everybody chip in” sort of mentality that saw its release. Their side is unimpeachable, and moreover this should’ve been a 12” of its own – plenty of good ideas at play, songs have a chance to stretch out and explore different moods without losing its identity. Dark freestyle winds it up and wins this day. Tampa’s Skeleton Warrior shows competence this time, at least (last thing I remember was a Roofless split 7” with Preaux Breaux Gold that barely registered), but the nigh-dismissive description of their music on Hot Releases’ label page does it all the justice it can muster. The group plays synth-pop as well, with lots of affected lyrics and left turns that ground it in intentional weirdness. At least we get to walk away with a win here, as Meager Sunlight is strong enough to carry the whole record.
Charlie Megira & The Modern Dance Club
Love Police 2xLP
(Guitars and Bongos)
Confounding! Guitar virtuoso Charlie Megira’s identity is couched in ‘50s greaser/surf nostalgia, rounded out with an Elvis fixation. Half of the material on the double album Love Police is in debt to this, while the other half is a near-comprehensive skirting of the rock genres that have followed: ‘60s garage, ‘70s punk, tongue-in-cheek nods to No Wave, ‘60s heavy/hard rock, ‘80s and ‘90s re-interpretations of the same. It is all done with unnerving verisimilitude. Megira’s ability to deftly transition between styles, in form and historical scope, self-aggrandizes above all else. It creates a kiss-off element, and with “No Wave Exercise” and “Another No Wave Exercise,” he makes sure we know he knows (we know). They are what they claim, yet the album contains at least seven other tracks, without smart-aleck signifiers, that also tread my-kid-could-do-that waters via backwards tracking, radio roulette and some goddamn convincing hazardous Dead C.-esque guitar noise. Love Police begs to be compartmentalized, and aims to be all inclusive with one-offs like “Existence” (hard rock), “Here Comes Your Mama” (country, swing), “Je Ne Parle Pas Francais” (new wave), and even “Dead Girl Blues” tacked onto the end, although the plug is pulled after 48 seconds (dude, we know you are not serious).
The entirety of the double album would be easy to tack up as to astute post-modern posturing, if it weren’t for a batch of not-so-obvious songs that are actually great. “(used to be…) Psychic Youth” bolsters authentic strain andchilling guitar licks. The heaviness in “Existence” slays any vanity of forbearance, “Valley of Tears” is a wholesome paste-up and “Freak Junior” nearly matches masters like Dinosaur Jr and The Cure. Shame on him if he is having another laugh, and it doesn’t look good – the Psychic Youth branding abruptly ends the most gripping of the bunch with a chuckle, and with slightly melodramatic vocals in light of everything else. I guess he just nailed my brand here, hence why the album is so frustrating. It is not like there is a wealth of smart, effective rock music right now and it’s not like retromania hasn’t already saturated the market. Megira is skilled enough to reproduce any part of it, but seems petrified of authenticity. Paradoxically, the most recognizably manufactured sound on the record, the ‘50s greaser/rocker/surf paraphernalia,is roundabout the most authentic.
A chiasmus of understanding through alterity is drawn once you realize this band is from Israel. In a display of simplistic brilliance, when Ice-T had to defend Body Count to rap purists, he plainly enlightened them to the people’s history of rock and roll; i.e., it was taken from black culture in the first place. Although from where I am standing, where appropriating surf music is about as culturally pointless as covering “Happy Birthday,” Charlie Megira & The Love Police can claim the Body Count defense due to American surf music’s Arabic roots. To top this off, put Love Police against the-only-American-surf-band-to-survive-the-British-invasion’s album of this same year, and it’s clear who should retain the rights. Where is the Dead Sea again?
Reissue of (relatively) ancient works from noise master Masami Akita, well before the power electronics phase. These three long tracks come from a cassette issued in 1983 – under his “Lowest Form Of Arts” phase, in duo with Kiyoshi Mizutani – and feature actual instrumentation (guitar, drums, synths), but the output is every bit as grating as you might expect, the need to innovate quickly outpacing their modes of expression by the time this was made. The tracks definitely have more of an organically psychedelic feel about them, and one of them is straight up hard rock improv, with Akita punishing the drums against curtains of shredding guitar and acid synth. The sidelong piece on side 2 sounds almost like a template for the Dead C., sprawling and rhythmic instrumental abuse, but where the Dead C. would end a song by collapsing in the expected notions of human exhaustion, each turn of Kibbutz becomes far more sinister and intense. Those of you with the Merzbox probably have this already, but if you feel like supporting the European noise scene by purchasing this, do it quickly – only 199 numbered copies of this thing exist, on white vinyl in an acetate sleeve loaded up with dust, grime, and excelsior from the vinyl-manufacturing process.
L. Eugene Methe
Calendar Work LP
(Grapefruit Record Club)
Grapefruit Record Club (a partnership between Simon Joyner and Ba Da Bing Records’ Ben Goldberg) might be the best-kept secret in subscription series releases I’ve found in a while. There’s no junk in the titles I’ve heard, which have been lovingly assembled and presented, and the high price tag actually reflects the money that’s going back to these artists. You can still purchase both years of the set (year two is still in progress, with a stunning LP by the Baird Sisters), and they’ll fill gaps in your collection that you never knew you had, like this album-length debut by Omaha’s Lonnie Eugene Methe, a record that generates unbridled, crystalline despair at every turn. Methe’s voice is clear and leans towards the angelic, every syllable coaxed out in fear that the next might be the last. He’s assembled a crack team of musicians (incl. Joyner, back from hiatus and teamed up with Methe in the group Spiritual Rags), working through a dead leaf strewn, abandoned shed full of human sorrow and wind-bitten determination. Apart from a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll anger in “Mudslide Rocking Chair,” Methe and co. keep the spirits subdued, frozen for examination and given the chance to reflect upon past mistakes. Yet Calendar Work is rarely melancholy; there is a peace to these songs that takes the focus off of the sadness, displaying the very reasons why a record like this works so well, where something like Midlake’s tepid The Courage of Others drowned in its sorrow and lost its way. Those of you out there looking for the truth in a singer-songwriter effort should find this as soon as you can. 325 copies.
Strange Loop 7” EP
(Trash King Productions)
Trash King jumps from the edge of Mob Mentality to the outright druglust of Satan’s Satyrs and the heavy acid-downer phasing of MIND, a group of Cali longhairs pursuing the ultimate high. Not very psychedelic, despite what the cover art or a Poppy Family cover (“Where Evil Grows”), duded up almost to the point of departure, would tell you – this is hard rock with a yellin’ guy, one foot in Danzig s/t and the other on the tail of the dragon that all rock bands and fans chase. NOT BAD. Ex-Never Healed (or maybe current when this was made in 2009), so all that rockin’ hard makes a bit more sense now. White vinyl.
s/t 7” EP
(Trash King Productions)
I ordered this from Trash King along with the Satan’s Satyrs LP because why not? Great handwritten layout and Kinko’s job, framing respectable, somewhat conservative straight-edge hardcore from the DC/MD/VA area. Tight enough, crappy-scrappy gear and recording, everyone involved has a band-sanctioned name (“Street Gang,” etc.), and they run through eight songs with little to no difficulty or compunction over taste. Slower than I’d hoped, too, but that’s fine. “2 Fast” is my pick from this. Again, NOT BAD.
If you’ve followed the various permutations of Music For Saharan Cell Phones, you’ve already heard Mdou Moctar. He is the artist formerly known as “Autotune,” named for his favorite outboard effect, which is apparently as trendy in the North African desert as it is on North American urban radio. Moctar transcends novelty by two ways; by pairing his robot croon and programmed camel-stride groove with a bracingly dry acoustic guitar played in the style that made you fall in love with Ali Farka Toure and/or Tinariwen in the first place, and by applying them to melodies so indelible, you couldn’t erase their stain from your ear bones with a rinse of sulfuric acid. This song comes from the second cassette volume of Music For Saharan Cell Phones, which is currently being readied for a vinyl roll-out as soon as Kickstarter dollars can be converted to vinyl. Moctar shares the record with Portland’s Brainstorm, who have rewritten the song with English lyrics that hew exactly to Moctar’s melody and bulked the arrangement up with synth, real drums, and a delightfully lilting electric guitar that sounds rather south-of-the-Sahel and not at all north-of-the-redwoods. Unfortunately their decision to Auto-Tune their own singing only goes to prove that some things sound better in Arabic than they do in English. Three color fold-over sleeve, black vinyl, 500 copies.
s/t 7” EP
Like most worthwhile bands of the 2010s, Mole House comes from Australia, and shares members with the similarly stripped-down Mad Nanna, but bears little resemblance to anything else I’ve heard from that scene. Jangly acoustic guitars played with a persistent up-and-down-stroke, one-note leads and willfully amateur drums evoke the gentle bummer-vibe of early ‘90s K records, and even at times Tower Recordings or Un. The title track specifically brings to mind Tara Jane O’Neil’s Retsin project, which relied heavily on not-quite-major chords and acoustic drones. As tempting as describing this record as “unpretentious” might be, “human” seems more accurate. It bears the marks of its making upfront without preciousness. The instant of silence on the wistful “Coming Back and Coming Back Over” that sounds pretty much like the tape they recorded on just cut out for a sec indexes the “fidelity” part of lo-fi.
Spectrum of Death LP
The other type of crossover, or rather, the lesser-publicized confusion that thrash metal bands went through during the first wave of real death metal. This is Morbid Saint’s one LP and Relapse reissue-treatment means it’s a classic in appropriate circles. It’s that one-step beyond the heaviest/fastest of phase-one Kreator, Destruction or even the first Dark Angel album, yet it isn’t death metal. For the late-’80s (1988 for our purposes) this is insanely blurred and heavy as fuck when stacked against those names and it makes hilarity out of bullshit like Meliah Rage or some other major-label cash-in thrash tardiness courtesy of the very brief wakeup call thrash metal served to most of the major labels. But Spectrum of Death is thrash through and through … the vocals are high-register and very much influenced by the Kraut-scream of that country’s big-three, and no matter how many riffs are packed into each track (clearly some world-record constituted the prize in someone’s eyes on this album), the melodies that make good thrash great are all here, along with some new, as yet unheard of palm-hooks. I’ll never forget the first time I really, really REALLY listened to, processed, therefore understood the greatness of Seasons In The Abyss, Kreator’s Terrible Certainty or Destruction’s Infernal Overkill and Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss (along with a handful of other LP s that made this experience a whole). It was a feeling … or the feel of those albums. Yeah, no shit … those are great albums and peeps have been spewing similar sentiments forever, but something intangible spoke volumes to my ears, and Spectrum of Death comes absurdly close to being the next entry into that personally-exalted realm. If “a reissue that makes sense!” could be any more of an understatement … Pressed in an edition of 1,000 on black vinyl. Should be around for a little bit. Highly recommended, as if I needed to clarify.
“Die Alone” b/w “Validation” 7”
Latest foray from Lawrence’s Replay Records, a house label of longtime venue and pinball bar the Replay Lounge. Unlike the Up The Academy 7” they sent in (which is just OK), this one wasn’t screenprinted on the backs of disused PBR cardboard cases, a novel conceit which I hope they pick up again. Also unlike that record, this band features the legend, Brad Shanks, on guitar. That was enough to get me to listen – anyone witness to Brad’s antics in NYC over the previous decade, or with his sister Courtney in their band Blood On The Wall, should have a great deal of respect for the man and his work in getting people to have a good time. Mouthbreathers seem pretty average if I try to describe them to you, but both of these songs work against the clichés, in sort of a snotty, lightly dirty, fully intellectual way, a la Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. “Die Alone” has a nice, slow burn to it that finally lets go into something faster in its final moments. “Validation” works well as a B-side, the lyrics and delivery of same on both sides getting up the requisite amount of dander to captivate even those about to kick off some multiball. Cool Chrysalis Records knockoff on the label, too. Look for a full-length soon on In The Red.
NASA Space Universe
NSU 12” EP
Excellent Los Angeles hardcore act here, following up a previous LP and a couple of singles with its finest representation on vinyl thus far, a 12” EP pressed up for their U.S. tour from a few months back. The group hews a bit towards the type of antics that can be found in the Y.B. Normal Novelty Catalog, and along the way comes close to wacky thrash, but rights its course along this quick, blinding set. They rage hard in any event, finding ways to push the panicked, overstated mania of early Die Kreuzen in against the raucous subversion of a group like Behead The Prophet No Lord Shall Live, or maybe Wrangler Brutes (whose attack bears some of the same elements found here). With a name like that, how could they make totally serious music? They don’t, and they know they don’t (making them somewhat of the current day punk/HC equivalent of the TV show Workaholics), and sometimes knowing is all it takes. Record fucking kicks ass, dogg. Would you rather not hear it? Come on. 300 copies.
Find the Flock LP
I’ve said it before, and I will take it to my grave as a repeated mantra: Hardcore is like HoZaC/Termbo/Weird Vibes Pop at this point on the same timeline … it sure as shit better pack something ultra-special to keep it away from the slush pile of musical detritus that has long ago surpassed Guinness Book status in size and width, a pile no one should ever reach into on a random whim. Like CREEM, with which a member or two is shared and a label is associated, this is most likely TOTALLY WORTH YOUR TIME LIVE, but it’s having a little trouble punching me in the face via recorded sounds. Not to come out with some strong declarations a la “bad record” or “look elsewhere”…oh no no no. This is perfectly suitable for the chosen HC direction (see CREEM), and it’s perhaps unfair of me to even venture into negative-ninnyland considering these ears tend to drool over stuff like Mind Eraser on the heavy end of the spectrum, and Face the Rails in the thinner corner (also home to both CREEM and Natural Law), so maybe this is like The Oh Sees or Sic Alps or Groove Armada in that IT ISN’T MADE FOR ME. Or maybe I’m missing something that everyone else is hearing. You already know if youare going to allow this record into your house, or it’s already there … meaning, I’m feeling a little useless right this second.
Last Point Of Radiation LP
Respectable, definitely better-than-expected take on the whole psychedelic desert traveler sort of rock thing. Whoever wrote the one-sheet on this record might not have ever heard Echo & the Bunnymen before, because that’s where this thing should’ve been pushed: on people who like death rock, big UK goth-pomp rock (The Cult, The Mission UK), and even Paisley Underground mopin’ – this is just a slightly heavier version of all that, and these guys do what needs to be done to make it work (whereas another Atlanta group in a similar vein, All the Saints, shit this bed some years back). It’s a good blend of detached and degraded, with some searing guitar flash, and though the pressing is quiet and the mastering over-compressed due to length, these songs feel like they’d have a decent life of their own in a Soundcloud somewhere. 300 copies (100 black, 200 clear).
Discotheque Deathbed 12” EP
Yet another outlet for the ultra-prolific David Vassalotti of Merchandise and Cult Ritual. Seems like he and the crew are starting to close up shop on some of these projects, with Neon Blud said to have been shuttered after this release. Can’t say as I followed them all the way through, but this is a far cry from their Whipps single on Fan Death, as the band has gone full-on late ‘90s death disco for these final five tracks. Compromised/slightly blown out production pushes everything into the red, intensifying the striations of noise guitar and pumping/brooding bass, and keeping the rhythms to the disco playbook, with lots of tension-building hi-hat rides and trash-can-lid-in-the-storage-unit sort of blowout headroom. Whoever is singing is doing his best to cover up the words into deadpan utterings with little shape. It’s cool, though – way cool, the kind of record you would have found on, like, GSL or Hand Held Heart some 12-15 years ago, when the kids were spocking their hair black and rocking Sta-Prest and white belts, when soul/mod night stood in as the replacement for all the legit dance music now made by people who came from that scene. As the sparse black and red silkscreened cover might hint, Discotheque Deathbed is a moody record, and somewhat formal in its strict approach to punk-informed dancefloor rules. Maybe think of it as a messier Balaclavas, with simpler solutions to their problems (all can be solved by reverb and feedback). This review may not sound positive, but the record has put me in somewhat of a self-reflective phase, thinking about where I came from and what/how music has worked into that. Nobody’s really looking at that era we just started feeling nostalgic for again, between 1996 and 2003, when lots that we know about music and the world changed for good, and the factors by which we were all able to operate seem like crazy made-up tales in modern times. It was a hell of a time to be a young dude. And this record’s throbbing Goth Night dirges have brought me back.
For Ostland LP
(Lo Bit Landscapes)
I disliked this guy’s previous EP so much that I removed it from the to-review pile, so when I got this one with our current stack, I felt like some poetic justice was unconsciously appearing on my plate. But I did something that often comes back to bite me in the ass: research. I read the guy’s Altered Zones guest post from last year, and while he attempts to rock a metal knowledge and should have kept quiet on that front (Napalm Death did not turn into a self-parody in the ‘90s … those records can be fairly fascinating and sporadically great), he does seem to be fired up about the history of noisy or left-field techno (Napalm Death begat Scorn … that’s how he got from point to point) from the same era, and its development, influence, and inspiration post-Y2K. Once again, here we are at the crossroads of Giving Someone Too Much Credit For An Attribute For Which They Should Not Be Applauded (in this case, it’s simply having a sense of history) and The Musical Climate That Allows For Such Critical/Aesthetic Awards. Oh well, For Ostland is good for some rather dense electronic with pulsating beats and vocal prettiness. Problem is, I wonder if Mr. Nihiti is aware of Flying Saucer Attack’s overlooked masterpiece New Lands (1997) or the first half of the Labradford discography, because this is a warmed-over version of those milestones and less a contribution to the progression of topical avant-techno than a tracing over of what’s already been accomplished. (http://lobitlandscapes.org)
Part of the small handful of this year’s best records released in miniscule editions. Novick plays guitar in the band San Francisco Water Cooler, who have moments of greatness in them, but this solo effort plays as one more focused and serene, even through some athletic early Dinosaur/Sebadoh style 12-string acoustic churn on earlier tracks, which eventually burn down to the serene, drifting “Ashtray,” perhaps inadvertently giving birth to Flying Saucer Attack Pt. II if he were to keep up this direction. That sort of private psych feeling is not one often come by in any era; Kurt Vile came close to that sort of desolation on Constant Hitmaker but the whole vibe here is properly narcotized for maximum brain tickle. Only seven songs here, but I’d say five of them are contenders, and Novick will soon find his stock rising along with them. Anyone in thrall of the Great Smoke should be falling over themselves to obtain this wonder. 100 copies in sleeves thick with paint. One of the dankest nugs out there right now.
So Bad, So Sad LP
Extraordinarily acceptable for late-’70s, recently-unearthed power-pop and will please those who most assuredly purchased it upon release earlier this year. This is a second LP of studio tracks from yet another no-longer-long-lost Hyped-to-Death/Teenline-style concern that hailed from New Orleans. The retro-stroke campaign for The Normals began with a reissued 7” last year, and ears that I trust claim it had a bit of Dictators pop-metal mixed in with its otherwise expected sound, but this LP is nicely-accomplished power-pop with energy/punk-rock edge, all of which makes for the perfect sonic ground for the addition of great big, unforgettable hooks, yet that never happens on So Bad, So Sad. The knuckle-draggers who operate as brainwashed disciples of this sort of stuff, as well as the new bands that ape it and add nothing of worth, will talk really loudly, in social situations or at record stores, of their unmovable opinion that The Normals are super-catchy and badass in that way or this way, but all I ask is for folks to be honest about what’s entering their ears and ask themselves if this needs to be added to the 1,945,923 examples of identical affairs that constitutes their record collections.
For Any Inconvenience LP
Another notch in the belt of New Jersey/NYC pop group Nova Social, having long given up the indie rock for a bunch of synths and computers, trying to become an East Coast analogue to the Pet Shop Boys. Lyrics are a little too coy to make it work, and though these tracks are full-sounding and obviously made with some level of care, the color palette doesn’t really extend beyond the deep red crushed velvet dimly lit environment. Story of an also-ran here, showing us all exactly why: they get it all down except for the soul these songs need, and not like in soul music but in some – any – manner of empathy being delivered through the music, right down to their Five Below-grade knock off of the Knife’s “Heartbeats” in their “The Star,” which misses completely the point of that song and that band in favor of these boring old tales of fame that almost hinge on jealousy. The confidence on display behind this music feels rehearsed and false, the result of making oneself believe that they are destined to make it in the music biz on a big scale, much like how all that technology and artifice can’t bring these cold, empty songs and jaded tales to life. Worst of all, this is a band that sounds like its members would stamp on the floor impatiently until everyone in the room was paying attention to them. Listening to all of For Any Inconvenience even once more would probably sting less than cracking open an ampoule of Axe body spray and dumping the whole shot into your eyes, but really you wouldn’t want to do either. Only 250 copies, but the footprint of this thing on Bandcamp and iTunes and the like will linger for long after anyone really cares. (http://novasocial.bigcartel.com)
One Hour Naps
Encrypted Code LP
(In From Weehawken)
Co-worker approved neo-psychedelic pop debut from Chicago. Obviously a product of legitimate listenership, their influences are diffuse, yet contained. It splits the difference between your average New Zealand bar band, Phish Record Store Day re-issues and fourth generation Television Personalities stripped of cultural agendas and proper nouns – except girl’s names. Naps have girls’ names like The Mice/Bill Fox has girls’ names … from a distance. And Naps’ “Melody” looks a lot like Fox’s “Brittany” up close too. This record has hobby feel to it. These guys probably play live in socks. Not bad really.
Cambridge, MA artist Glenna Van Nostrand (relation to Dr. Martin Van Nostrand? Sorry, I’m on a Seinfeld bender) delivers an a capella record with a very rigid concept: all of the vocals are sung through telephone receivers and processed through radios. I’d imagine there was some manner of software in there as well, as the loops and delay on the backing vocals would indicate, but there’s talk of Van Nostrand’s live performance as to where you would best experience the concept of this record – especially since there are no liner notes, and your random listener could put this on blind and have no idea of its process. Omnivore’s music is compelling enough to evade its origins, though, because it all boils down to Van Nostrand’s voice, able to project an inviting, breathy jazz/torch style that would stand alone regardless of the technology used to deliver it. It’s rare that a record would be instilled with such a sense of discovery, and it adds a layer to the music that drives the listener to find out more, without drawing attention to itself. Very impressive work on every level.
Bullseye of Being LP
It’s not ironic, but more along the lines of “fitting,” that this act shares its name with an active ‘60s rock tribute band that plays corporate functions in the more tropical-leaning states of America. Named after the most pedestrian of LSD slang (because it was actually a type of acid ingested before I was born, and I’m fucking old), THIS is the Dutch outfit that sounds like something Man’s Ruin would be putting out if the label was still around and had followed a downward spiral of lessening quality over the last 12 or so years. So, that means it’s packed from point A to point B with the type of “stoner rock” (not much “metal” here) that stoners wouldn’t have pissed on back in the day, even if it were on the side of the road engulfed in flames. Tepid stuff with deliberate addition of insult-to-injury with the opener: A “Sunshine of Your Love” cover. Really? That song? Godawful cover art, too. On one end of the spectrum, you have Electric Wizard, older Boris ventures, Greenmachine and Saint Vitus. On the other end you have garbage such as this, and barring one song (“Badge”), Cream is some overrated bullshit no matter what anyone thinks or says. On white vinyl in an edition of 500. Regular root beer-colored vinyl is pressed in an ample edition, so go buy that if you like to clutter your record collection with examples of how not to do things. Damn, this label can’t win for losin’.
Padang Food Tigers
Ready Country Nimbus LP
Further works from Spencer Grady (former Dusted scribe) and Stephen Lewis, both formerly of drone trio Rameses III. Short sketches of bite-size genteel folk explorations on guitar, banjo, piano and Asian stringed instruments, all acoustic, often married with field recordings that take some of the implied power away from it all. Previous works from these guys have shown talent to spare, as does their playing here, but the approach here is confusing – the pre-recorded portion of this makes the music nearly impossible to take seriously. All I keep thinking about when I listen to this is Chris O’Dowd’s character on Girls, the neo-financier Williamsburg loft dweller “DJ” who remixes “Steal My Sunshine” by Len by adding the sound of children playing.
Theme For Castration 7” flexi
(Radical Punks Never Die)
Seething crust-thrash from the Bay Area, knives out and ready to carve their initials in the buttcheeks of the system. Some hard circle pitters, some blast beats, some stadium crust heft a la Tragedy, but the throaty shriek of vocalist/MRR scribe Mariam pushes this into the red, despite the compromised volume that cramming a loud seven-song demo onto a flexi would inevitably result in. Members of In Disgust. Boot down on your throat, right here. 250 copies, sold out from the label.
“Warburton” b/w “Business” 7”
Third record for this Brisbane trio, finding a way around the formal lesson in post-punk from their debut single and the wiry, tense ‘90s avant-thrash of their 12” from last year. Here they come off as a pop-punk band that wears their experience on the outside, akin to Jawbreaker at their most dynamic, but with vocals that do not engender the same sort of experience. There seems to be an effort this time around to focus and nail down the elements of melody that had eluded them in the past, and it seems like their recent history serves them well, as they learn how to hone their jagged technique and play it to a wider audience. Solid works from a group that seems to be in eternal transition.
La Piramide De Sangue
(Boring Machines/Sound of Cobra)
Dark, complex, emotional rock music from a seven-piece band out of Italy, somewhere between Slint and Swans and Salem, meets its untimely demise with the presence of a clarinet in place of a lead vocalist. Seriously. Didn’t we learn this lesson already? Very difficult to get around if you don’t enjoy that clarinet (and I don’t). This is like trying to fuck up a job interview type shit. Red vinyl, lots of texts, a pyramid-shaped insert. If someone threw a garbage bag full of bacon egg and cheese bagels into the Body Actualized Center, this is probably the sound that would happen soon after.
Sun Damage 12” EP
(Puzzle Pieces/Feeble Minds/Ride The Snake)
Wow, this is terrific. Four young women from Northampton, MA just rockin’ as hard as they please, hoisting forth punky pop songs that reclaim the urgency of like-minded bands from years past. Really hooky songs played with a lot of confidence and panache, and a great deal of roaring-engine guitar all over it. Singer-guitarist Abby has a somewhat deadpan voice that plays as great counterpoint to the tight, focused drumming and the smear of noise beneath it, the bass often anchoring these songs with another melody. Dinosaur Jr comes off as a local shadow possibly too big for these people to ignore, but that’s alright, and when you factor in the time Donna Dresch spent in that band replacing Lou Barlow on bass, before heading off to Team Dresch and making records that seems a very obvious influence to the goings-on here, little unintentional inferences start to pop up, ones that connect some faraway dots in ways that seem like they’ve always made sense. I also hear a little bit of Shoppers in here (and Josh Smith, late of that band/now of California X, runs one of the labels that helped to release this), plus – and I mean this in the best way possible – a little ‘90s pop-emo, a la the Get Up Kids, in some of the bridges. It’s just so nice to hear a band coming at things sounding so fully-formed and together these days. That really shouldn’t be as rare as it is these days, but there’s the hope that a band like this can show everyone wondering how to do it just how it’s done.
Practice (no I’m not going to waste time putting the X’s in your band’s name) plays off-kilter prog-core dirge, here culled from some demos recorded by the band. Any band who’s cutting a demo that has enough sway to get the Tasmanian Devil himself in on vocals must be going somewhere, but the wacky, Y. B. Normal tendencies on display here get the best of whatever traction they might have found. I’m getting the sense that the Alex Hubbard here is the artist of the same name, and he offers up a parody of inept community radio, followed by a coda of single piano notes. 100% is firmly embedded in the art/dandy/waste community, having published a good amount of printed matter leading up to this ugly, useless single, which means you’ll be able to find this release in stores like Opening Ceremony and Colette. After listening, all I can wonder is “does 100% accept returns?”
Mike Rep & the Quotas
“Rocket To Nowhere” b/w “Quasar” 7”
(Mighty Mouth Music)
Harry H. drops the hammer with an exact reissue of this Midwestern proto-punk scuzzbomb, the record that fully introduced whatever parts of the world could listen to the divine truths of Mike “Rep” Hummel. “Rocket To Nowhere” is the song that helped to propel central/southern Ohio to the same noxious heights as had been experienced by Cleveland’s then-burgeoning rock & roll underground, kind of a reconfigured “Search & Destroy” best played on handheld tape recorders and transistor radios. If this one doesn’t furrow your brow, try hitting the Whip-Its like the gentleman on the cover. “Quasar” provides an unstructured blast of feedback, noise, and gain that would tell the wiser among us that Rep didn’t have anything to match the full-on blast of his A-side, but that’s fine. Better this way, in fact. Look, most of you don’t own this record in any format, so here’s a good chance to rectify this wrong.
Rock the Light
Giving Up Never Felt So Good LP
Odd and kinda moldy mix of engine revving alternarock with old-industry AOR rock standards to the album’s structure and runtime. Charles Albright is in this band and he’s a good guitarist, but I think this may only really appeal to people in Sacramento, where the band is from – not that it’s the Sacramento Sound or whatever, just referring to the bond that people can have with local bands. That must be it, because I wasn’t feeling this pomp, which falls several rungs down the ladder from a band like The Darkness. I recognize how much great punk and pop music has come out of Sacramento but a band like Rock the Light might’ve been best kept a local secret. Features a picture of a ‘70s model Cylon on front for some reason.
“Bulls Eye” b/w “Hope Diamond” 7”
New “band swap” action from Sydney, with Angela from Circle Pit and Straight Arrows and Nic from Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys and the R.I.P. Society label. Listened once and wasn’t feeling it, then came back to it today and changed my tune, though they hadn’t theirs – very decent, hook-filled, noisy lo-fi rock with a punk edge, channeling Detroit ‘75 on “Bulls Eye” and Los Angeles ‘79 on “Hope Diamond.” Pretty full-sounding for a two-piece, though this has since been expanded to a full band version for tour with the excellent Constant Mongrel. The vocals are just a little bit too bored/jaded to animate these songs any more than they already are, but sometimes a dull knife cuts far more severely than a sharp one. Respectable work from a label that is almost always on these days.
Down On My Knees 2xLP
Trying to sound all “vintage” like Witchcraft but stopping a little short in that department. The cover art isn’t going to set anyone’s radar on “reissue” but the sounds are a satisfactory stab at AC/DC stretched out to drug-appropriate lengths. A novel thing, now that it’s sinking in, really. Had someone asked me “Hey, would you like to hear Lord Sutch or AC/DC done up through a heavy Krautrock filter?” before I actually heard it, the answer would have been some form of slightly-enthusiastic affirmative. Some of this works, like when these Dutch dirtballs give in and let the riff take over (like on the title track), though revisiting my earlier feelings with more clarity will give anyone reading this a very simple summation: Down On My Knees could have been a better-than-average single LP. Beats the shit out of that Orange Sunshine applesauce … that’s for certain.
Wild Beyond Belief LP
(Trash King Productions)
Let’s not fuck about here: Satan’s Satyrs are the most interesting and definitely the most intense band I’ve ever heard from Reston, VA. I’ve been there, sadly. Hell on Earth. Suburban clusterfuck, anchored by a mall, tethered to the DC metro area and lined with strip malls and four-way intersections. If you lived there alone, you would never meet another person outside of a retail environment. And you would probably never know that a band this intense could come out of there, though you’d expect this sort of hell-raising excitement to grow out of the festering resentment a place like this breeds. Kind of like how Void sprung up in Columbia, MD, so do Satan’s Satyrs reclaim their discontent, and warp it into something toxic and demanding – young dudes, by my estimation, not even of legal drinking age – decked out in bellbottoms and drunk on red wine and power. Their influences cut straight down an imposing path (Electric Wizard, Damaged, Davie Allan and the Arrows), crawling out of a basement covered in fiberglass insulation, drywall dust and spilled cough syrup. For once an overlong mastering job and cruddy recording, which cuts the volume this should ideally play at down to an unfortunate size, actually works in the band’s favor, as these songs sound like they’ve been down there a long time, getting ready to terrorize the world at their reach. Do these guys hang out at Video Vault? It would make sense if so, as their aesthetic touches, as applied to feverish rock-infused metallic hardcore punk, are completely spot on with the cult movie imagery and references they have pulled together. By all reports they are a kick-ass live band, and this record is the only thing I would hold near that Impalers demo 7” from earlier this year as the nth coming of new heavy music. 100% recommended, throw your lives at their feet. 500 pressed (200 red, 300 black), with poster, sold out at the source.
“Amahashin Amawe” b/w “Reshin Noma” 7”
OK so I’m probably not your go-to source for describing Peruvian cumbia or rating its authenticity. But here goes anyway. The differences between Sensación Shipibo and some Putumayo world music CD sold at Starbucks go deeper than the music, though to my ears the end product is not too dissimilar, in terms of the melodies found on these two tracks, but label owner Michael Pigott explains the differences in the liner notes. To say there is extra stank on Shipibo’s hanglow would be putting it mildly; Pigott speaks of intense ayahuasca rituals that the band, who were captured live in a club during the midst of a heavy rainstorm, are said to partake in before each performance. There is a good amount of reverb on the vocals, which are whooped and shook up a bit more than you might expect, so maybe this is akin to 2009 hardcore bands like Destino Final dropping the delay pedal on the singer’s output. Some intense neck-climbing guitar work and heavy percussion backs up the skeletal drum machine setting the pace, but the joy in the music is fully present and comes through, which is probably what was hoped for all along. Raw cumbia for sure, and I’m sure very few of you have anything like this in your 7” box, so maybe it’s time to step up. Side 2 is definitely the wilder of the two trips. Stamped white label 45.
Mike Shiflet/Pete Swanson
The fifth installment in Amish’s Required Wreckers series is a three-way split. Mike Shiflet and Pete Swanson each get a side of the black vinyl LP, and the duo of Miranda Lichtenstein and Cameron Martin handle the sleeve and accompanying booklet. According to the label, all three entities trade in blasted pastoralism, but each balances these elements so differently that the package feels more like a three objects who are tenuously related than a unified statement.
Machine sounds persist throughout Shiflet’s side-long piece “Bedside,” but it lacks the implacable mechanized vibe of his recent Type LPs, and it’s far more languid than the live performances I’ve caught in Chicago over the last couple years. He seems to be running factory and environmental sounds simultaneously with a meandering acoustic guitar performance; the effect is a bit like three videos been screened side by side on the same wall, with one larger than the others. The foregrounded presence of the guitar makes it feel like “music” even though the bulk of the piece is non-played and even a bit chaotic; one could go so far as to subtitle it “Portrait of a Noise Artist as a Mellow Dude.” If you are in the mood to drift, this is your raft.
Give thanks for the separation afforded by having each piece of music on the opposite side of a piece of vinyl; if you drifted directly from side A to side B of this LP, you might feel like someone had smacked you in the face. Like Shiflet, Swanson has a noise background. Lately he’s gravitated to dance beats, and his side opens with a blast of kick drum, synthetic sirens, and pixelated treble that’ll sting your face like sand blown off the beach by a winter storm. After about four minutes the beats drop out and the blast throttles back to make way for a synth melody that is as wistful as Shiflet’s guitar playing on “Bedside.” The beats eventually return, and everything gets distant. The music feels like a representation of a memory of time spent on the dance floor followed by a post-hoofing retreat to a quiet corner of the bar.
Like Shiflet and Swanson, Lichtenstein and Martin are contemporary artists who rely on contemporary electronics to get the job done. Their photos of Chinese scholar rocks draw attention to the fact that they have been digitally manipulated, which could also be taken as a comment upon the non-natural accompaniment of Shiflet’s guitar playing. But mostly, this LP gets me wondering — how has Amish managed to persuade fairly accomplished visual artists to put their work on LP sleeves and booklets that go for less than your average exhibit catalog?
Piece of Ache LP
Herky-jerky Danish post-punk with clean guitar jabs, funky rhythms and a singer who sounds just like the guy in The Ex. Not only have you heard innumerable examples of this same thing, beginning around, oh, I don’t know, nineteen-ninety fucking four or so, but most of them have probably made you sit up and think, “Really? Still?!? We haven’t moved on from this shit?!?” This falls into the latter mega-category and made me think about the “post-post-punk” or “new-post-punk” article I contributed to back in 2001. I had to interview that band that lost their drummer to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I can’t remember that band’s name, and I won’t remember this band’s songs in approximately 30 seconds. Shocking White is only shocking in its sheer ability to exist right now. But who knows … maybe there’s someone out there pining for a mediocre take on The Fire Engines. If so, stay away from my house.
Shooting Guns/Cult Of Dom Keller
One of the first records I think I’ve received from Saskatchewan, which is strange since there have been so many submissions from Winnipeg, bands from all over Alberta, etc. Sadly I can’t recommend the Canadian offering here by Shooting Guns, as its nondescript heavy instrumental rock doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything to move the listener. Showing up isn’t enough anymore, and someone really ought to tell that to Cult Of Dom Keller, a British band on the other side of this split that wallows in the whole “fake psych” meme. At this point, “heavy vibes” need to be earned, and no amount of effects pedals or hair length will fill the gap between the talkers and the doers. By the end, their track turns out just south of OK, which is a little better than expected, but still far from acceptable. There’s nothing on either side here that you couldn’t find better someplace else. 300 copies. Keep trying, Saskatoon.
Forty-one (count ‘em) really short heaves of severe destructo-blargh from longtime free noise dude John Wiese and Corydon Ronnau with new collaborators Lasse Marhaung of Jazkamer and Will Strangeland of Tearist and Silver Daggers “fame.” Lotta crashin’ ‘n’ screamin’ and maybe-those-are-drums and tape overload and flesh rendering electronics that are surely blowing some noise-geek college kid’s mind right now as he opens his first Mickey’s, tears open a bag of pork cracklins and fishes in his pocket for a Camel (newly acquired taste). Nothing cuts through anything else, it’s full on-miasma-core, dense and oblique and as turned inward as it is expressionistic like a grand mal and raw like a shark attack. I’ve always held a perhaps irrational dislike of bands named after Actual Famous Humans. It was eye-rolling when Charles Bronson did it and it’s eye-rolling here, but that might be the old fart in me blowing his nose. I spread mucus on the name, but enjoyed the last-word-in-noisecore shtick, all nine minutes of it. This would make a great Squidbillies soundtrack or something.
Rave Cave LP
(Negative Guest List)
This one came through with a lot of other records, and all signs pointed to me to leave it go, but with Negative Guest List showing attention to Australian doldrums seekers Sky Needle (whose singles I punted to other reviewers), how bad could it have been? This bad: bass, clarinet or sax (not gonna bother to find out which), metal percussion and a woman chanting nonsense. Every track sounds like a fit, and this clashing, aimless, repetitive collection of sounds never gets any more appealing at any point in the runtime. Can’t really tell what they’re going for, and to be honest I’m surprised they have enough of an attention span to see an entire album through, Sounds like free, dumb rock to me. Turn it down, please.
Sopors Sopors Sopors 7” EP
This record’s stereo split sounds so wonderfully fucked that this reviewer found herself tinkering with the wires on the back of her receiver to ascertain what had gone awry. Oakland-based Sopors should earn some kind of plaque from whatever eBay store sold the band’s friend’s friend (or whoever) the 8-track that they used to record their music and its attendant miasma of hiss. The good-bad recording quality and its attendant excesses--detuned guitars and drums, fragments of instrumentation that pop loudly and recede into the background--tie together the 7”s songs, each of which tends toward any number of genres. The record closer, “No Solution,” has a sweet mid-60s pop melody, replete with climatic vocals processed through a shitty Leslie speaker-type effect. “Germ Attack” features a Urinals-esque juxtaposition of speed and jangle and its antecedent “Creation Inch By Inch” lurches into psychedelia. Their singularity only stands out after repeat listens: a quick, inattentive run through the brief “Repetition” could have a listener dismissing it as garage, when it’s that but also a bunch of other things at the same time, or maybe still just garage—but, nonetheless, that makes it stand out within this record’s brief, weird context. Fittingly, Sopors adorned the record sleeve with an elaborate line drawing of a hideous man-beast with claws and teats, and have broken up, with frontman Matt Bleyle now playing in Violent Change.
“Silver and Gold” b/w “Don’t Cry No Tears” 7”
Fuck this Blanche Blanche Blanche shit, how about Angela Angela Angela? That’s as in Bermuda, standing at the center of the storm that is (was?) Circle Pit, rockin’ hard in the Straight Arrows and Ruined Fortune, and stepping into the wind tunnel with Harriet Hudson of Ratsak for some two-guitar/no-drum steel-eyed staredown. Rock Music can exist without percussion, particularly when all the ambient room sound and peals of reverberated distortion coming out of their amps fill in the blanks for you. Anyone looking for that King Blood/Dum Dum Girls collab that never happened may get their insane wish here. Plus they gently push the Neil Young cover to its limit, with some seriously echoed-out soloing that punches a hole right in the horizon and sweeps upward. For me, right now, this record is perfect. Silkscreened looking panel covers, 265 copies.
Deep Thuds LP
Pitchfork ran with this one months ago, and hey, if you’re them and needed to find something really cool right then, this fit the bill. It’s Jason Killinger, who plays in Birds of Maya alongside Purling Hiss’s Mike Polizze, with a new band behind him. Big, sweet, dirty hard rock radio riffs and psychedelic/bush temple exploration from a heavy rock band that knows well enough to keep those two hemispheres of their sound separate, using only the eternal rhythm of “Sister Ray” as guideposts. No fusion here, just bouncing madly between head trips and curb stomps. Imagine this band using your skull as a bong. You can do it. First press is sold out, second press just about ready, and featuring new cover art so as not to disturb the copyrights present should anyone mistake Spacin’ for “The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band” (though it’s 2012, and there really is not much Mick & Keef can show us anymore, other than the occasional self-reflexive TV appearance or yet another haul-out of their back catalog … these guys are bones and dust). Short on words here, but someone else can tell you about this one by now. All I’m gonna say is that it’ll roast your lobes no matter where you are.
Spencey Dude and the Doodles
Night Problems LP
A lot better than their 7” which invaded my home in 2009 (sorry, dogg – Ed.), but that’s like saying that worrying about cancer for six months only to become convinced of silliness and hypochondria, is a lot better than worrying about it for three then having a camera go up your butthole so a doctor can tell you, out loud and in front of your mother (who has to drive your drugged ass home), that you wiped a hemorrhoid too hard with really cheap TP. Right now, I’m doing that “which hand is holding the heavier weight” gesticulation like I’m impersonating the cover art of the Metallica record I used to like a lot until its lack of bass truly hit home (way too late). Do you subscribe to the “sad is bad” school? Do you songs armed with melodies that strike the threshold between public-domain catchiness and actual hooks? Do you own more than one title on Burger Records? This is yours. Now go make an unfunny joke about Zima or comic-irony dream-catchers or some shit.
New Germany 12” EP
Spike Wolters released a series of home recordings on LP in his native Holland throughout the early ‘80s, mostly of him playing guitar with some bass and synth; music so static and one-dimensional that he outsourced the rhythm tracks to a transcription-by-mail service known as DrumDrops. Within that one dimension, though, is one of the essences of a No Ordinary Monkey/DJ Harvey set – a lucidity achieved through a pseudo-tropical sonic landscape, the kind you might expect from Mark Knopfler (or Bela Fleck with a soul), and the drifty, dreamy qualities therein make these tracks more than a curiosity. This 12” includes one selection apiece from Spike’s third and fourth albums, the rigid bass groove and synth-driven wander of “New Germany” against the easy-going guitar threnody of “Apollo 4.” The nature of these tracks is so sparse that they are, in essence, stems themselves, so DJ Nature does his best to house up a remix of “New Germany” with deeper bass and a more consistent beat. Spike’s records are like the kind of things you’d find at the Utrecht Record Fair, and would purchase on looks alone. This is the second Spike 12” on Golf Channel and it seems as if a full album retrospective is on the way. Definitely interested in that. White label edition of 160 copies.
s/t 7” EP
Staring Problem’s EP opens with a carefully picked minor key phrase that slides up and down the guitar neck. The tone and technique ape the young Robert Smith’s style impeccably. Although, from there, the band’s sound opens up—they sound fuller and more spacious than something as restrained as, say “A Forest”—that first riff’s mimicry lingers in the mind. Staring Problem may have new visions for goth-rock and certainly execute it well, but, on this 7”, they never cast a long enough shadow of their own to diminish their influences’ stature in a listener’s mind. That said, singer Lauren Owen’s voice—strong, assured, with minimal quaver—fits this context perfectly, with its unsettled calm set against the anxious instrumentation. (http://blvdrecords.com)
The Syncopated Elevators Legacy 2xLP
Archival works from electronic musician Stevens (Acid Kirk, Drifting Bears Collective/South Of No North), and I had to check the dates to confirm that the IDM slice-chop editing wasn’t some sort of comeback; turns out it wasn’t, as these tracks come from the late ‘90s/early ‘00s era, while Stevens had stepped away from techno and started to make inroads into the modular synth/new age/post-rock things happening in then-modern music, under the name Syncopated Elevators Legacy. Every track here sounds composed, though to different levels – we go from warm analog wash to harsh, composed buzzing to loose, improvised tracks with drums and guitars, but everything stays in the realm of the cut-n-paste. The amount of synth/ambient product out there right now is large and wearying, but Stevens made good on these, all of the tracks with an adequate amount of adventurous spirit guiding them along. The second album consists of remixes by folks like Leyland Kirby, Fennesz, My Cat Is An Alien and Burning Star Core, who gets the most mileage out of his cut by making a mutant techno/pensive jungle pounder out of Stevens’ “Disguised Telescopes OnTheir Way To Planet Bottle.” Those of you who like to wear movement clothes and have a brain may want to get in on this.
First 2 Singles 7” EP
Straight Arrows’ full-length It’s Happening wasn’t the cleanest-sounding record (and come to think of it, sounds a good bit like the template for the way Owen Penglis produced the Royal Headache album), but the singles which came before it threaten to break the stylus and eat through the turntable, so corroded are they with blown-out, room-mic’d splay. If 2007 taught you anything, it should have been that crazy dimestore saturated recordings don’t cover up the bar band stink beneath, but there’s something about those who are so utterly ENTHUSED about the process that breaks through the layers of dead skin and crust to the spine of punk rock, and gives it a good hard squeeze. The Hospitals got there, Eat Skull got there, and the Straight Arrows got there on these records, a standalone 45 and a split 7” with the Creeteens from as many years back, the sweet SA songs from both comped on this #’d-to-300 reissue. “Can’t Count 1-22” is so fucked it was hard to tell if it was even on the right speed. Holy shit this record. #1 In Noise, plus bonus points for having a song called “Jeepster” that’s not a cover.
Crimes of Dispassion LP
Massive-sounding – and massively pissed-off – neo-crust thrashola from North Carolina. RIYL: black Ts, record collecting, vegan food, hating injustice, Infest, what it means to record a hardcore record “really well,” screaming like Brannon, the idea of East Coast, Southern punk being inherently awesome. Hardcore, man … Is it a beginner’s music inherently or can you work in it as a form over a long period of time? Is it a form with rules that we reward for getting bent or adhered to? Is it a gateway drug or its own reward? What is its role (social/musical/etc.) in 2012 versus 1982? Versus 1992? Versus 2002? Is it less a pop culture or a folk culture? Is it a circle jerk? A ceremony? A waiting room? Crimes of Dispassion plays like part of a folk culture, but it’s refined and well-considered – thinking has gone into all of these songs, which dance with cliché before shoving it into the pit. Here the riffs surge into songs and the songs abide, which means a record that you can return to rather than use as a mark on your calendar or souvenir from a show. This is structured, dynamic stuff, owing as much to Infest as, well, Cro-Mags (the part of Cro-Mags’s music that, say, Hoax left behind).
Man, whatever happened to the random punk instrumental? “Brendan #1?” “Locomotivelung” That shit needs to come back. I had high hopes “Reversal of Fortune” was gonna be that on this slab, but no (good song, though). Word has it they have already engaged in that oddest of band past-times: Attempting to replace the singer. Given just how many bands will be ripping this stunner off in 12 months’ time, the audition line should be long.
Infinite Teeth LP
(The Ghost Is Clear)
I wanted to like if not love this record based on the greatness of the opening track (“The Archivist”), where this band’s major flaw is not the in-your-face problem it is elsewhere throughout this album. Additionally, upon examining the goods before hearing the not-so-goods, it was revealed that this band titled a song “Tortoise Goes to Burning Man” but didn’t write lyrics about the implied hypothetical situation, so the imagined hilarity lasts exactly as long as it takes for one to come across the song’s lyrics … a hybrid of self-hate plus friend/lover-hate with a side order of world/society-hate that could fit on a D-beat, death metal or grindcore record. And that brings us to that flaw I’ve allowed to become the elephant in the room for most of this review so far. Infinite Teeth is obviously informed by a few ‘90s not-quite-Slint bands, while the band wants to be informed by Slint (they pretty much say so in the one-sheet). I’m talking June of 44 on down. This is all fine and good. If I had the right June of 44 record within arm’s reach at this very moment, I’d probably listen to two or three songs I used to sufficiently enjoy. The problem, or more accurately, what knocks you over the head as a failed marriage on a lot of these songs, is using crust-core roaring and howling on songs that owe all of their remaining parts to, say, the weakest song on the Hoover LP. It’s hard to properly explain how this vocal choice so efficiently lays a great big dump all over something that might have otherwise worked. Or might not have upon the consideration of another issue that requires copious tissues: Tigon is the sound of wanting to be influenced by the post-hardcore and post-rock of the mid-to-late ‘90s without actually being naturally influenced by the movement(s) through the retroactive discovery, immersive obsession from countless listens, requisite love and understanding of the source content, then finally, the uncontrollable creation of their own music as a logical end result. It’s the “something missing” that is turning up more and more in newer bands. Sad, but not tragic. Black vinyl.
“Oahspe” b/w “Tennessee Blues” 7”
Don’t put William Tyler in that solo acoustic guitar box; he just won’t fit. This 33 RPM 7” is all about not fitting, really; the b-side runs over 8 minutes. On both sides Tyler is plugged in and back by a band, and he even sings on “Tennessee Blues” – which is really more of a slow death waltz – with a nasal intonation that tells you that while the label may think that Nashville is dead, it lives in his voice. But his playing is moves well beyond twang, into a slow feedback overload that’s more like something Eleventh Dream Day or first iteration Dream Syndicate might have done back in the day if they’d settled south of the muddy Ohio and adapted to that Southern pace. 500 have been pressed on black vinyl, and while the sleeve is pretty generic, you can’t beat this one for value with a total playing time of 13 minutes. (http://nashvillesdead.com)
There is a pile of records here that is taller than it is wide, and within that pile lies very few genuine surprises. When one is found, it is cause to discuss it at length, maybe find a motive behind it. So little music is worth the discussion/deconstruction; we don’t go to town on dissecting Radar Eyes’ chord structures or trying to determine the aesthetic motives of 7” singles released by the same label in groups of three or four. There just isn’t a point; even acknowledging some of this stuff does nothing more than alert the world that it exists. But there must be caution exercised in not over-recommending things that are good, just because so many other things are bad.
So I have no issues telling you about Uranium Orchard’s self-titled debut album. A rock trio with samples, the group features guitarist Jordan Darby and bassist Drew Wardlaw from perplexing punk/HC outfit, Dry-Rot. Uranium Orchard unites some concepts I suspected were at play in that band, sticks a fuse in it and lights it in confidence, blowing the stack of aggression and energy outwards. Riffs form and dissipate around a rhythm section that runs forth, Heisman-style, into a new era of confidence and understanding for gifted musicians playing beneath their stations. Studio recordings snap into live tracks, samples inform us of alternate philosophies (the “underworlds” concept outlined on side B being the most fascinating of them), vocals shift from a Cobain-style croon to phased-out wandering, intriguing in what they say but staying on the right side of the weirdness threshold. This record is plenty weird, mind you, but not in a way that asks the listener to sit through difficult, dry conceptual work, or that would otherwise obscure the great strides they make in the compositional space, as the trio forces through dozens of great ideas that balance one another out and bring you back to the music at hand, stunned and caught unaware of what they did or how it happened. This record is never boring, a rich seam once tapped by California groups like Creedle or Trumans Water, but refined at an intercellular level into something far more valid. If asked I would tell you that I couldn’t remember a record that pushed as many buttons as this one here, nor could I think of such an attempt being as satisfying, coming from completely different signposts than the groups that took a swing at a unified art rock theory before them. I’d also say that nothing ever sounded so dissimilar to MX-80 Sound in practice but touched upon all of that group’s theories and subversive art through rock and noise as completely as does this record. My only qualms is that it starts to run out of steam in the last stretch of songs, but what comes before pushes it across, and will bring you back to the beginning to try and determine where on the path you stopped paying attention to the mechanics of the ride and started being their passenger. And guess what! Only 100 copies exist for the present day. Hand-stickered sleeve with inserts included. An incredible find – thanks Steve Lowenthal for bringing this to my attention.
Book Of Ghosts LP
The output from David Vassalotti that’s come to Still Single has been an enjoyable thing to discover, be it something in the more traditional HC/punk mold, or Merchandise, or the weekday night ‘99 goth/post/punk beats of the last Neon Blud EP. Unlike the records by the aforementioned bands, the solo debut Book Of Ghosts doesn’t stick to any one particular sound or concept, as Florida’s busiest musician pushes out a whole new frond in his exploratory singer-songwriter mode. Triangulated at least some distance apart from any of his works, the ten songs here are mostly ensconced in intimacy that buffers the starkness of post-adolescent romantic determinism with attempts at Xpressway-meets-Mtn Goats style bookish, dissipated roil, the sound of an upset, educated young man who, like the narrator W. Marchendese in Children Of Desire, is stymied at the disconnect between academic pragmatism and, like, maintaining a romantic relationship, looking in the wrong places for answers to lessons that might have already been learned. There are two longer pieces which define Book Of Ghosts: “Mirror,” which sounds like the first Merchandise LP, and “That Misery Of Yours…,” which sounds like the same rustbucket mekano that spiked Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. Both are long and crushing in distinct and separate ways, the former oozing the sort of cool, older-brother confidence Merchandise does so well, and the latter showing serious ambition in the face of makeshift recording conditions and limited returns on work completed. Vassalotti would get called into the high school psychologist on the basis of his lyrics for sure, but the rest of this works well, and even these macabre statements are read off with such innocence and are couched in a musical background that lessens the blow. Anyone following the Merchandise story by now should love this, and the rest of you are just going to have to be late to the table yet again. 550 copies.
“Have A Nice Day” b/w “Let’s Cancel The Future” 7”
Some would argue that the messages present on this new (!) Victims Family single have been present in the band’s vituperative prog-punk screeds since the outset, nearly 30 years prior. But the “They Live” style artwork and general “WHAAAAAT?” vibes on this return are really, really hard to take. Don’t trust anyone over 50, unless they’re stoned. Woof. “Let’s Cancel The Future” is like having warm water gently splashed on your junk, only to realize that an evil clown is pissing on you. I’d argue that there are much less effective ways of telling the kids they’re doomed than to put them in front of this band. No mas!
“Electric Eyes” b/w “Swamp Thing” 7”
(All Hands Electric)
Sophisticated, night-people synth pop from NYC, from some folks in Zachary Cale’s orbit, specifically vocalist Alfra Martini (she made the Princess Teacup record on AHE, and sang on Cale’s last solo LP Noise of Welcome). Some people would raise an eyebrow to a band that borrows its name from Roxy Music, not to mention part of the chorus to one of their best-known songs, but from the look of the Un Chien Andalou-inspired cover art, the band is literally raising it for you. There’s no “in on the joke” because thankfully, no jokes are here, only two electro-cabaret songs with big, full arrangements and deep roots in the after-after party dramatics of Bryan Ferry and co. Martini keeps things on ice (so nice), because you can’t expect the party to keep going if the drinks get warm. You know where it goes from here. Would like to check out more by this group, as this is a promising start.
William Cody Watson
Bill Murray LP
Looped incidental music; the kind played to induce calm when you get a colonic or bikini wax. Your kooky buddy has a Buddha Box that he named Bill Murray (doesn’t make sense! So funny!). This record includes an insert that simply states, “They Will Never Believe You”, which is (allegedly) what Bill Murray said to some guy after temporarily blinding him before passing him on the street. It turns out Bill Murray was incorrect: Everyone believes him. The story would not be so widely disseminated otherwise, yet it is only due to Murray’s reflexive supposition that the incident is worth retelling in the first place. That is called situational irony. This record, sonically nondescript and nonrepresentational, is an underscore to an anecdote.
No Future LP
This record has been staring at me for months now. I think the Wax Idols single on Hozac gave me false hope, otherwise I’d been beaten down with a sack of average records (seriously the worst, and hardest to qualify in a review – music that doesn’t set to change your mood or do much but to keep a game of telephone started a few months before in play). Not sure what made me think so highly of the 7”, but maybe everything else around then sucked shit. There is nothing harmful or odious about Hether Fortune’s path here, and by the end of this plait of garage rock, dented only slightly by the ennui of what sounds like an actual drug comedown, you actually start to feel whatever hell was going on behind the creative process. I’m told that Fortune has reconfigured this band so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next record is an unqualified success, but this one … no, no it’s not. There’s a point where her Wire cover kicks in and you get a little angry that other people know about Wire.
We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves
Make A Mess Of Sacred Ground LP
The Smiths are a band that generated so much fervent fandom, it grew legs and became a thing in itself. Artist Mark Van Fleet (Sword Heaven, Cum Daemon) referenced this thing-in-itself in 2003 with a piece entitled “Sing with Morrissey.” Banking on audience participation, he set up a video camera and, provided with the complete Smiths discography on CD, a Discman and headphones, visitors were encouraged to sing along to their favorite songs for the camera. The fact that renditions were captured a capella and without a vocal monitor or lyric source did little to deter a following.
Associative exhibitionism is irresistible. From the harmless and pedestrian compulsion to air drum when a favored song enters communal airwaves, to conspicuous genre solidarity amongst more serious heads, we see this play out with varying degrees of absurdity across an even more wavering line of intent. When one is say, bragging about how their favorite song for fucking is by Napalm Death, everyone needs to take a step back and listen to what they are really saying.
What is We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves saying with Make A Mess Of Sacred Ground? With eight unabashed rip-offs, perhaps it is to tell us that they have a business card from Girl Talk’s lawyer. Not even bothering to change the name of Morrissey’s protagonists (re: William), Make A Mess of Sacred Ground shamelessly lifts every tone, motif and structural element of The Smiths, with the only clue to an awareness of this in the album’s name. Inert matter tenuously attached to something with a pulse, composed of the same DNA but wholly unnecessary, this album is like afterbirth. Morrissey fans would find it sacrilegious, and those that don’t like Morrissey sure won’t like this. Recommended only if you birthed these boys yourself. Four copies sold, maybe.
Fresh Sip 2xLP
Weisman is a bandmate of King Tuff’s in Happy Birthday, and this double album was originally released as one, maybe two cassettes. That might explain why Weisman seems to be in no particular hurry to come up with a pulse or a strategy; this is song after song, laid bare, in mostly the same style of cautiously eloquent singer-songwriter rock, a la Dump at his longest and softest. Decent record, though the inundation of mostly quality solo/hometaper pop music coming from Vermont right now (this, Ryan Power, the four albums this year by Blanche Blanche Blanche) shows a little scene brewing, which is always hopeful.
Field II LP
Pretty good HC record from multi-headed Texas outfit in which most of the same guys play in different bands across different subgenres of punk (Wax Museums, Video, Silver Shampoo). For all the occult imagery on this record, their sound is mostly upbeat, kind of coming off in burly Katorga Krunch fashion a la Fucked Up but with more direct nods to Greg Ginn/Flag and some overtly psychedelic moves. I doubt these guys are going to morph into Iron Age or anything like that, but what if they did? They seem like they are one album and about 9-12 months away from a major shift in their sound, and in this case, the chase is about as good as the hunt. You know if you need one of these by now.
There’s always at least a little bit of consumer-watchdog responsible for one of the two types of reviews I write for Still Single and other outlets, especially when a record has liberated scratch from my life sound unheard. Also, Decibel awarded a lead review and grade of ‘9’ to Legend, Witchcraft’s fourth album, and that and only that motivated me to give this band another chance.
Am I the only one that gets irritated at Witchcraft’s clinical effort to sound like an Akarma reissue? Am I the only one out there who thinks that by trying so hard to do so, they ultimately failed? That’s not really the main issue here, as Legend scraps some of the previous records’ singular-sonic ‘70s buttrock focus. The real issue here is that Witchcraft are fake-heavy. They know how to put the building blocks of heavy together to create a paper lion of heaviness, but they don’t UNDERSTAND how to be heavy. Hell, they sound like the fucking Kings of Convenience next to a band like Electric Wizard. Legend approaches the heavy during approximately 3% of this double LP’s running time, just like all three of the other Witchcraft albums.
Let’s close with the more maddening belief that this band is about the “songwriting” and that’s what elevates them above the need to rock. Yep, they’re about the songwriting alright … the writing of songs that are insufferably boring and that would never be carried around all day in one’s head. It’s no surprise that Side D contains a single track because these bands like to include the token epic on their stretched-out albums, nor is it mind-blowing that this plodding, forgettable procession of mediocre riff after mediocre riff ends went from point A to point A while I waited for it to do something it was never going to do, and that “something” was just, well, ANYTHING. Like Graveyard, Witchcraft is not simply the Sha Na Na of doom metal … it’s worse than that. Legend may have dialed-down the retro-robot bullshit a tad, but it remains a throwback to a fantasy that a lot of folks entertain about ‘70s proto-metal. I guess I wasn’t surprised when presented with the overrated garbage on records by Bloodrock and any Blue Cheer record that isn’t New! Improved!, and being robbed of surprise is being robbed of surprise, no matter how you cut it. Don’t believe the hype. My copy was on yellow/black splatter vinyl, and that means it is a US pressing that doesn’t have the poster, which can also be translated as “Probably not worth holding onto for its rapid appreciation in value” by way of lacking any other form of worth.
New sport/prog/aggro duo of husband Nick Sakes (vocalist of the long-gone, legendary Dazzlingkillmen, also of formerly Colossamite and Sicbay) on gtr and vocals, and wife Chrissy Rossettie (late of The Hex and My Name Is Rar-Rar) on drums and synth. Their name fits nicely on a stencil. They do an admirable job of filling the space with spiky, staccato guitar, scornful pronouncements, prog-minded drumming and sprays of synth/electronic effects. If you were to tell me that the masters for Counterclockwork fell behind the shelf in the storage unit Skin Graft operates out of, and not something from 2012, I wouldn’t have any trouble believing you – Xaddax very steeped in the “ideas-are-songs” attitude of the ‘90s and early ‘00s, and definitely gets its licks in there, with force and a wider scope than you’d expect from a two-piece. “Hit Cancel,” with its hanging bridges of loose guitar and synth swarm, and a steadily increasing attack in the verses, is my favorite here, and the whole album ensures that the Skin Graft aesthetic cannot/will not bend, not for the times, not for favors, not for anything. They remain the flagship for manic, comic intensity in post-punk, a ballsack in your beer, dipped in only to gauge your reaction. It may not be popular, but it’s noble and in a way, comforting, even amidst all that noise and stray pube.
Cities On Flame LP
(Little Big Chief)
Took a look at the back cover “art” on this LP and thought to myself that someone was trying to outdo xNOBBQx in terms of sheer crudity. A little research revealed that the same guy in that group, Australian Matt Earle (father to the Breakdance Til Dawn tape label), was also behind Xwave, and I shuddered. I hear they’re not teaching penmanship in schools anymore and some people I work with say they’re embarrassed of how poorly their kids’ handwriting is. But that was far xNOBBQx’s only problem. Turns out all things awful in improvised, lo-fi rock music might have been contained to that project, at least as far as this one is concerned. They even double the value of their art, from $5 to $10, on the front cover. How confident. There’s some klingklang rock on side A, of which some would point to the Dead C., and others to less-known/off-base purveyors of noise muck as signposts of influence and dialogue. The first four songs smack of dudes really fighting to stay awake through whatever it was they took before getting into the “studio.” It’s decent enough rock stumble, the sound of a rudimentary skill set pushed to its limits yet unaware of its boundaries. But you’ve heard that elsewhere, and better. The real prize is the sidelong title-ish track “Citie On Flame,” a long, watery, cistern-deep blues bordered by high, whining feedback throughout, but enough lucid, glazed-over wander to evoke a really primitive retelling of On the Beach, side two. Dude went to the radio interview and stood alone by the microphone, and all these tears that fell down throughout collected and froze into one of the more soulful explorations of this caliber you’ll find this year. Normally I’d say fuck it for a record that doesn’t give its all, but this track is good enough that you may find yourself picking through every last bone in Earle’s discography. 250 numbered copies.
Love Song for the Dead C LP
Burgeoning through a capricious gaze in the late ‘80s, the Dead C.’s tempered rise to legacy is currently testing the glass ceiling of the underground. If you, as I, were also born with the moon in post-punk, early Dead C. records were beyond the pale by the time you came of age. However, recent years have offered respite in reissue format, with the exception of Operation of the Sonne, a title which I happen to covet. In the spirit of the popular opinion garnering interest, whittled on down to cliché, if I had a penny for every time the Dead C. was referenced, the price of this original pressing would increase in tandem and still no transaction would transpire. Good thing I thought that one through first. Guess who didn’t?
How do I explain Yek Koo? You know how people like to say, “Blondie is a band”? Well, Yek Koo is a sucks. And Love Song for the Dead C is an exceptional example of the inevitable meretricious collateral seen in the long program of new waves and their wakes. At best, this album was a prepaid party favor at a particular online fundraiser’s end game – the mixed-message installation art show, “Touching Them Touching Me – A Love Song for the Dead C.,” by artist Helga Fassonaki, who performs as Yek Koo. In addition to funding the album, contributions went to a hyperreal reconstruction of Empire Tavern, a bar in New Zealand in which the Dead C. played early shows, and the acquisition of a ping-pong table (not sure why). The closing was a separate event; three nights of bands billed as a “three day performance series,” with a subtitle I will drop as gently as possible, “Trapdoor Fucking Exit,” lifting its namesake from a Dead C. live recording, well-known at least within the confines of the group’s history. Three enviable nights transpired regardless, as the Charalambides and notable kiwi émigrés Brian and Maryrose Crook of the Renderers played. I could have grabbed a smoke during the “drunkenly stumbling,” lackadaisical, free-form guitar with occasional percussive gestures and bathtub chanting that is the basis of the recording I am supposed to focus on here, as previously captured with a Dictaphone to vinyl.
As tributes go, Love Song for the Dead C fails diametrically. If meant to honor the band in form, it does so by picking up tenets of their sound at the surface: improvisation, a guitar, not using a recording studio, applying them with the cadence of a narcoleptic doing homework. Surely uncomplimentary to a band that finds even Yo La Tengo’s cover of “Bad Politics,” the Dead C.’s most accessible song, subpar. If we view Fassonaki’s work, the album and installation in total, with the pretense of the Dead C.’s philosophies at hand, refractions of mimicry and idolatry overwhelm, which couldn’t be farther from the group’s ultimate endorsement of a new musical language. The only thing that keeps Love Song for the Dead C from being a complete wash is its bookends, two versions of a traditional Persian love song, first in Farsi, then in English, and we have to agree that they are love songs because they are love songs. But it’s a cheap device, and ultimately an undermining one, because it provides the final nail in the radical contingency of the naming coffin. The identity of the work is in the identification. Trapdoor Fucking Exit … a tautological misstep.
In a statement of the artist’s intent, Fassonaki is compared to the role of a hagiographer, that she is depicting the lives of saints, here with the Dead C., in part one of a consecrated (God forbid) series. For good measure, it is also offered that she is commenting on delusions implicit in fandom. This choose-your-own-adventure style thesis is as damning to the popular opinion of contemporary artists as her album is to a working understanding of the subculture it aims to endorse, or critique, or worship, or emulate, or whatever. Yet we find the sublimated motive to forge a link between herself and the band tenuously achieved. Installation photographs depict Fassonaki with a seat at the bar she commissioned, the exacerbated double of the Empire Tavern. Although the program text available online fails to mention this, it is where the Dead C. recorded the closing side to Operation of the Sonne. I hope it is not too self-serving to suggest that there may have been more effective means to an end here. 288 copies, still very much available after months in release.
(La Station Radar)
Unsung 7” EP
Lo-fi synth/random nonsense from Matthew Ford (Love Tan, Factums, Evening Meetings). Has a real “just for me” sort of feel to it, be it a record of 2006 recordings (the 7”) or a vinyl reissue of a cassette from 2011, both under the same name (which is unlisted on both releases), which is pretty busted. All of this stuff could have been recorded at the same time, Jandek-style, though the 7” tracks at least try to bring us closer to a weirded-out pop sound that we can understand. If you squeezed out the essence of those Factrix reissues until all that was left was the equipment and gave the stems to someone who recently got a card to buy medical marijuana, you’d be approaching the level of carelessness and lack of wisdom found here. Not fun to listen to at all, more like work. And I got a job already, so fuck that. LP on red vinyl, 7” came with some clippings from old issues of National Geographic. The black sleeve on the LP ruined another one of my records. Both the color red and the existence of ancient print media are more fun than the things you’ll hear on these records.
(Slow Gold Zebra)
At least one single or split by 1-800-BAND has come through here, and was met with favorably. This album of theirs was a bright spot in an otherwise trying day. These folks – three of them being the woman and the two tall guys from Crimson Sweet, an NYC bar/punk band that slogged it out until they got good – have set their sights towards power pop, or more to the point, the sort of thing you might have found on a major, or great regional examples of, back between 1978-81, somewhere on the shelf between The Beat and The Cars. These eight songs are pretty great, well-considered, and allow their imperfections to shine, which for once, is something I can find a respectable quality in a band. Here, the band sounds so comfortable in this sound, so off-handedly expert, that it makes any legit power-pop/specific past revivalist outfits look like last night’s erection. Sure, 1-800-BAND might have more “by the book” aspects to their sound rather than their songs, or vice-versa, but a record like this is the sort of thing NYC has been missing for a while: a really solid, seedy-seeming bar band coming at this sort of music on its own terms. If I wanted to listen to a Tom Petty record, I would put one on, right?
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By Dusted Magazine