Still Single, Vol. 8
Yours must be a single pressed on any size of vinyl. CD-Rs of singles will not be reviewed; they will be destroyed. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Singles must be postmarked by the 15th of each month to qualify for the next installment of this column.
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This column runs the last week of every month on Dusted (give or take). Its success depends on you sending in singles for review.
Exciting Afrobeat/world funk fusion tracks that are unlike anything Still Single has yet received. The Web is surprisingly lax on info for this group, but they sure know how to break it down with what seems like dozens of instruments. Aside from some digital processing on “The Soli,” it could have easily been snuck onto an Ethiopiques comp and none would be the wiser. Somewhat loose, languid, but busy African shakedowns featuring a full horn section (heavy on the winds), all types of percussion, stumbly piano lines, ric-tic electric bass and tough, biting guitar work. On the flip, “The Npanlogo” stretches out with a sinewy acoustic string instrument, more piano banging, and a tight, wonderfully spare break comprised of electric bass and cowbell. Pretty major, totally engaging. Too bad there’s virtually no information about these folks anywhere online – I’m dying to learn more. Comes in a white sleeve, no artwork.
BMSR hail from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, hardly ever play live, and from the looks of things are awaiting the world to beat a path to their door. Thing is, maybe the world should, or at least these kids can meet us all halfway, because this, their third release, is a really strong combination of live and manipulated drum beats, Moogy acid-psych soak, and Vocoded ruminations that deserves a wider audience. The sound and atmosphere they create are instant and unmistakable right from the start – this is electronic music, to be sure, played like rock music and nipping good ideas from Can, Broadcast and Boards of Canada combined, which they make their own. Sprawling and ambitious, and very much enjoyable to listen to no matter what your musical proclivity. Edition of 500 copies.
A mystery at hand: what little info could be dug up from this release points to it being from NYC, and the group having had a split 7” with Boss Hog back in 1995. That’s about it though; whoever is behind Bodega System’s 5 A.M. post-party downtempo lo-fi chill out symphonies is keeping quiet. Even the label this was released on is anonymous. Does DJ Spooky really need to hide his identity like this? Kidding aside, I was fairly won over by the hazy, dubular gurgle of electronic meanderings and lazy beats, as I was by song titles such as “Victor Agro” (a play on words tribute to the dearly departed character actor). It’s a sweet ride back to the mid-90s, when there were more folks pursuing these paths. Cool silkscreened sleeve and hot artwork. I can’t tell you anything more.
Six shots to the dome from this ridiculously right-on and upset hardcore band from St. Louis. The Breaks have every reason to be angry, and they let loose on this single on the state of the world around them – the signs of depression on all fronts throughout this country’s middle are finally fueling hardcore the way that they did back in the 80s. That said, the band tears through this material with tightness, precision, and clenched-fish fury, from the religious right (“Breaking the Bible Belt,” with the near-perfect lyric “I wanna behead every Jesus fish/And smash the fucking cross”) to thugs in the scene (“Shaved Like an Asshole”) to the eventual crippling loss of social security. This is a bleak time to be alive, and the Breaks are willing to point out everything wrong and condemn it. The singer’s got an excellently snotty style, too. Man. Fuck EVERYTHING but get this.
I gotta pay more attention to underground hip-hop, maybe. I forgot all about Busdriver, all those Project Blowed comps and releases I had back in the day, and here he comes to smack the fuck outta me with these three cuts from his Fear of a Black Tangent album and suitable remixes. The man rhymes so fast it’s kind of insane. Out of the originals, “Avantcore” (built around the piano loop from Can’s “Turtles have Short Legs”) is the winner, a treatise on life when you perform outside your peer group, eschew the thug life, and take shit for it. On the remix tip, I have to recognize, the jazzy, adult-contempo styles of the oft-on point Prefuse 73, and Nobody’s gritty bounce on “Unemployed Black Astronaut.’ A legitimate surprise, and I have to backpedal to this guys’ album, pronto.
Cline (g), Corsano (d), Giffoni (elec.) Recorded live in Brooklyn in 2003. Two sidelong tracks here, a “stock” version and a “custom” mix. The stock cut was performed live in front of an audience – it’s about 20 minutes worth of uncompromising, jagged free improv pummel, with Cline’s guitar shards and Giffoni’s electronics weaving indistinguishable through one another, kept afloat by Corsano’s unstoppable barrage of beats and crashes. The custom cut seems to be a wholly re-envisioned remix of the original track, courtesy of Giffoni – he cuts it to pieces and regurgitates a digital nightmare of the already terrifying proceedings. Very hot sesh. Nice silkscreened cover with art by Meerk Puffy.
British kids who are so twee you might get diabetes from listening to them. “Felt Pen” is kind of unbearable, in circus rhythm and with fairly nonsensical lyrics. Signifying nothing. “Saturday Girl in Bedworld,” on the other hand, is very nice, almost in a Sarah Records meets Velocity Girl sort of way. Acoustic guitar, tasteful synth, and very apropos daydream lyrics. Red vinyl, UK import. Pretty awful cartoon artwork. Eh, they got half a good record, which is more than some.
The music of cLOUDDEAD has honestly never appealed to me, and still doesn’t – they’re being too purposely abstruse and “weird” for anyone who doesn’t wear sandals or live in a college dorm, or thinks that dreadlocks express their inner soul. I’d rather play hacky sack with dogshit than kick it with their music, so their original track here is not so welcome. Likewise, the murky instrumental “Mulholland” doesn’t entirely wash. It takes a Boards of Canada remix to at least partially save “Dead Dogs Two,” an overall unpleasant vocal clarified by the duo’s technical knowhow and playful arrangements.
I guess the ‘90s well and truly are back. The Everlasting Arms have planted themselves in the dreaded “post-rock” territory and are busy trying to build something in the salted earth left by ass-bandits like June of 44. Through sheer force of will or some minor miracle, they succeed most of the way, as the Bay Area trio swings really hard and sparsely on these songs, don’t abuse tempo or volume swells, and concentrate on playing a very roomy blues-dub that takes the quieter moments of Fugazi and infuses them with the paranoia and uneasiness found in early 90 Day Men material. They got a good sound and are mostly in control of their own destiny. Cutting out the disco beats would be a good start; they sound best when lean and raw. Record’s on yellow/white marbled vinyl, in a silkscreened cardboard sleeve, and comes with a CDR of the record for the vinyl-impaired. Nicer than it had a right to be, and they’re probably getting better as you read this.
Percussion apocalypse from the Los Angeles area featuring several well-mic’d drum kits and the men and women behind them. Similar to earlier efforts by Brooklyn band Aa, but with less structure and a wilder, more insane streak. Seriously, this is nothing but drums hit hard and often slightly out of time and people yelling. And on that note, it’s fairly refreshing and liberating to hear (and I’m sure to see – and smell). Lyrics skitz over many unrelated topics at once, and they earn points for titling a song “Where Ever the Fuck Arnold Schwarzenegger’s From” and screaming about worms becoming God. Also includes a remix by Pete Swanson of D Yellow Swans. Packaged in between two thick sheets of silkscreened cardboard, or in a box filled with yard clippings and other crap (your choice!) – white vinyl for all.
This review could be a treatise on finding an original sound, or at least working with an existing one that said artists could at least show up for. It could be but I haven’t heard the album yet and don’t want to misjudge this latest Gossip effort as a total change in direction, but if this latest single is the case, it’s time to write these kids off. “Standing in the Way of Control” is a disco diva anthem that’s part Franz Ferdinand, part Gloria Gaynor and wholly unoriginal, despite expectedly confident lyrics from Beth Ditto that outline the struggle in which we live our lives. It’s so easy to drop the disco beat anymore. We’re about four years out from “House of Jealous Lovers” and the prime movers still haven’t learned anything from the past, aren’t brave enough to experiment or color outside the lines. This will go down easy on the dancefloor, which I suppose is the best place to hear it, but it’s going to severely bum out anyone wanting more garage rock out of the Gossip, who may have unfortunately painted themselves into a corner here. The flipside remix by Le Tigre is just awful and lazy; a quantized and generic effort that supplements the original with weak, canned beats and the occasional horn stab. At least the Gossip’s version has urgency; theirs just sounds like dance music for people who are offended by guitars. Unremarkable.
Tense, misanthropic No Fun-style noise skree from these two bands. And I use that No Fun term legitimately, as these acts seem to be on the budget/cheap thrills side of the noise/experimental paradigm. Detroit’s Haunted Castle seems to be the more mannered of the two, with pensive noise ‘lectronix ‘n’ synth modulations that open up eventually to a piercing, overdriven assault, albeit one you noise folks have undoubtedly heard something similar to before. Grey Skull does a lot better, punishing contact mics with the skill of a Hair Police or Air Conditioning and sounding like wild, unfocused, overmodulated noise rock. This record will appeal to a lot of kids, no doubt. Comes packaged in this ridiculous die-cut screened skull-shaped sleeve that leaves the record vulnerable to the elements, plus it has that fake polyester Halloween cobwebbing wrapped all over it, and a plastic spider. What the fuck?
Something about this band’s website – no, let’s face it, EVERYTHING about it – smacked of unbearable pretension. True to form, the one song they spit out on this release, barely hitting the two-minute mark, is presented in English and French. Why bother when you can’t hear the words over the din of the band? And why sell a silkscreened cover edition for $7 when the other one costs $4 and the artwork itself is not any great shakes? These questions will haunt me, doubly so because this one song is a legitimate garage noise rager, insistent of rhythm and steadily building into Stoogely chaos by the end. They get so much mileage out of one note, it’s somewhat astounding. It’s a freakout, blinding rock chaos that’s worth sharing. So kids, drop the big ideas and get down to what it is that you are. Edition of 500 copies.
Regression’s gotta hold of these three. Regression – gotta break free – and in this case, it’s breaking free from a largely played-out Heavens to Betsy style shrillness of tone and one-dimensional grrrl-punk existence. Little Claw’s record is irritating and anger-inducing, is fairly bereft of original ideas and doesn’t handle the ones it’s got in its hands too well, making me wonder why it exists. I don’t want to fault anyone in a band doing what they want, but next time show up for your 12”. Plenty of bands with less skill have done better. Produced by Warn Defever for all you HNIA completists out there. Green vinyl, green spraypainted sleeve, limited edition. On Saturday Looks Good to Me’s label. Whoopee.
Jersey’s YPR label is doing pretty good at running with the collectable shit-fi garage punk pack. New outta the gate is Live Fast Die, who perform in both reckless Reatards type punk mode and in straightahead Ramones territory (see “Forged in Flames (1776),” the best track here). The music is short, scuzzed out, and blaring in your face, just as it should be. Nice scratchy cover art too. Oh hell yes this is recommended.
New Sacramento power-trio action consisting of Jason Patrone and Ed Carroll (ex-FM Knives, one of the finest pop-punk bands of the last 10 years) and Tristan Tozer of Pretty Girls. Though they play one unreleased Knives song, this is a slightly different flavor of animal, leaning towards less frantic, more composed Brit-punk sounds a la Chisel, Supergrass or the Jam, but with all the noise and chaos you’d expect intact. Determined instead of frantic, and somewhat more polished than expected, this is a winner, esp. the anthemic “(I’m Not Livin’ in the) USA (No More).” Proof that northern California is still the hotbed for great genre music, maybe more so than any other city in America. Edition of 500 (100 clear vinyl copies for mailorder only – check with the label for availability).
The Strange Lights folks wanted to make sure we mentioned that Man from Uranus is American, so there you go. He also put eight songs on this 7”, some tiny and some less tiny. It’s a one-man affair, and as the EP’s title suggests, it’s largely composed on analog synths and arranged as living things might do it, meaning quirks and goofiness and strange sounds. I don’t fully appreciate the silliness of this release, but when the guy gets moving in an exploratory, pronounced Perry & Kingsley/Bell Labs labcoat sort of sound (as on “Astrological Black Ice,” one of two cuts that is titled in tribute to Sun Ra), things pick up significantly. Another nice release from a label that’s getting a lot better. Clear sleeve.
New-ish electronic duo from the DC area cuts loose on their debut vinyl, having shook asses nationally with Q and Not U in concert venues. These three tracks are made for the house party, run at about the same tempo, and espouse the bleepiness and thick, cold computerized production of early ‘90s technoid rhythms. MPC jams that are packed wall to wall with tones and beats, holding down all the buttons and letting all the lights flash. I can see Euro snobs holding their nose at this, but that’s not the point – these tracks are built for you to get hot and sweaty over. The only real problem with the record is that there aren’t too many others around that most people could suitably fit this into a set with. Outside of that, a good job, and leaves evidence for a strong future in rhythm.
New Greek label debuts with this split single of heavy ambience. Mescalinaeden is a solo project of drummer Luca Robba, and he’s got this locked down pretty well, combining digital wash with shoegaze ambience and found sounds that evoke a dense and natural spiral of whirling tones and inside-out percussion. Eventless Plot is a project from Greece that starts out their track with a massive groundswell cavity of drone, calling to mind Legendary Pink Dots. The track builds in intensity until finally a very clichéd drum machine break jumps in and mars the entire song’s atmosphere to a degree. Perhaps more control will evidence itself on future releases.
Collection of two identical 12” records in a gatefold sleeve with lots of classified manifestos and paraphernalia, masking the sheer joy this set of beats, found sound, spoken word, experimental skree and locked grooves can provide. There are many ways that this can be used, but it seems that the side interlock in the same time period, so you could start with two turntables and a mixer by cueing up precisely to the first moment on each record and letting them rip. Once you figure out how yellow and blue make green, experiment even further. Numbered edition of 100 copies. Intriguing and unique.
Ohio post-punk electronic squiggle rock that Mark E. Smith would have every right to run from. Despite the presence of lively drums and a righteously repetitive guitar riff, this cut of Fall worship feels half-baked, largely due to the “sexy” femme soul strut vocalisms, going against type when a stereotype of a more fitting nature would have done so nicely. “I Love Cinnamon” is more frantic and atonal, and loses the script almost immediately. I found myself wishing I were listening to the Ssion or Glass Candy. Anyway, this is a numbered edition of 500 and comes in a silkscreened sleeve.
HMMMM… so this is punk rock. Yup. Sure is. *twiddles thumbs* Personally, I don’t know. I had heard really good things about these Chicago kids, and the songs are mostly there, their style is a little undercooked, the vocals are good in a sorta early Rollins kind of way, but yeah. It’s punk, it’s snotty, it’s loud, some of the hooks are interesting, but overall Futureshock sounds interchangeable with a lot of third-string punk rock out there. You could give this to your little brother or sister if you’d like to wean them off of Fat Wreck Chords type shit, but it would take many listens and/or extreme boredom for any aficionados who didn’t know this band personally to find much that’s entirely awesome or interesting about them.
Part one of a planned three-EP series on this label. Pellarin traffics in fizzy, minimal techno that’s so small at points you need a microscope to hear it. Nevertheless, the clarity and arrangement of the bass pulses, ambient rush and top-line electro squiggles is professional and feels classier than most. Not necessarily for the club, unless the club is on the microhouse tip. And how many of those exist?
Second LP-length release from this Swedish punk outfit in 2005 – they play in an old-school West Coast kind of mimicry vibe, as if they were Agent Orange or early Black Flag or maybe the Dils. Right down to the production, they nail the style; the vaguely surfy reverb on the lead guitar, the closeness of bass and drum in the sonic space, the snot-packed give-a-shit vocalisms. Their songs are catchy and focused and they rarely make a misstep. Electric Guitar consists of seven new songs on side A, and the band’s first two 7”s from 2003 on the flip, and the crazy thing is you really can’t tell them apart; it could all be from the same session. If they have landlocked themselves, that’s a shame, but if they keep churning out releases this good, more power to them. They destroyed America on tour with Career Suicide in late 2005, and here’s hoping they come back soon.
That EP’s name’s not a misnomer. Sarandon is a London band that’s quite proud of bragging about their influences – the Minutemen, Yummy Fur, and of course Big Flame. Meaning their songs are short, the guitar sounds trebly, the rhythm section tight, the lyrics decidedly pointed, and everything is contained in one single. Seven songs here, and while none of them really meet the levels of abrasion of their influences and suffer from a bit of self-awareness, are largely fun and enjoyable. It’s nice to hear a bunch of folks who know better doing just that: knowing they’re better and proving it. Recommended!
Winning, innocent power pop lullabies from Chicago that prove beyond all doubts that the genre never died. “Stranded” is the more classic of the two, every note aching for release and with the time-honored arranging styles of past masters such as the Raspberries. It’s a beautiful song, one worth repeating. On the other side, “Julianna Convince Me” rolls along with the confident swagger and loads of guitar noise that Sloan or the Brian Jonestown Massacre are better known for. Shows great promise! Clear vinyl and it came with a nice little 1” badge. Excellent.
Scape One Presents Tone Cluster
VERY straightforward techno sounds. Presets! All the once-popular styles of beats are represented. That this was made in 2005 is almost laughable, but there’s solace in a somewhat early Warp label sound on the final cut, “The Penultimate Truth” – it’s soothing where the rest of this is hairless and lubed up. White vinyl, limited to 500 copies. Uhh, yeah.
“Masters of Deception” is straight-up ‘80s Reagan protest music, repurposed for the dire political situation of today. It’s weak and countrified, deathbed dealings from an undisclosed satellite. Another Skyrider jam (“No Good”) is repurposed by the often-good Odd Nosdam on the flip, and I’m starting to get frustrated by this guy’s unwillingness to let a beat ride out for once before getting lazy and rolling into anonymous ambience.
A superfine example of a new band taking an old medium and injecting it with life. Soviet Valves hail all the way from Perth, Australia, and perhaps that geographical distance from so many other things have given them a focus on restyling punk rock that their contemporaries lack. There are some standard power moves that are returned to – boilerplate Clash/Buzzcockian first-gen sounds that remind you you’re listening to a punk band – but wait, there’s no bass player, so both guitarists would have to be adept at playing leads. Thankfully they are, and this provides some of the most interesting twin-axe interplay this side of Sleater-Kinney. They like to fuck with the paradigm, and in doing so they create really interesting modern touches and establish a distinct sound of their own. Add a wildman drummer and a deadpan singer who sounds like Vic Godard and you have drop-dead fantastic rock and roll. Four songs, edition of 500 (100 copies on green vinyl) and an iTunes version with two extra songs. Highly recommended!
Pleasant surprise here – private-press modern psych-folk with significant ties to the underground, at least on the Story’s behalf. That group, a duo from Sommerset, England, is a father and son affair of Tom and Martin Welham. Significant enough, indeed, as Martin was a member of somewhat legendary UK folk outfit the Forest back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He’s taught his son well, and it’s probably the case that his son saw relevance in his dad’s music to the times and tastes of today. True enough, the group’s five song contribution to this split sound clean, panoptic in scope and fairly timeless, interjecting frills and fantasy elements into solid, warm musicianship. Listening to a winner like “Floating Box” makes me wonder what it would be like if I could smoke pot with my dad. Actually, scratch that thought – just enjoy it with no such thoughts. The multi-party outfit known as Whysp fills their side with sounds somewhat more adventurous than the Story, and largely is as successful in shrinking down to three apples tall and dancing with faeries in the morning dew. Strident and dense musicianship frames their time-traveling ambitions with Californian lysergic bliss that could be mistaken for British properness. Highlights are the odyssey of “Clouds of Eiderdown” and a very direct, big-sounding cover of Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream.” No pressing info available, but there can’t possibly be too many copies of this around. Comes in a very nice full-color sleeve.
Dusted’s already covered the story of Times New Viking, and how their existence reignited the Siltbreeze label, one of the most crucial underground record imprints of the ‘90s. What’s more important is that these kids from Columbus are carrying the torch for smart, passionate DIY pop/rock for the Midwest and thusly for all of us – geographically, they are running with strands dropped by Guided by Voices, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, V-3 and Gaunt, and musically they understand the same passion that fueled early Wire and Mission of Burma, and the innate coolness of the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers. Persistent organ lines and high-performance hooks frame lyrics that are heartfelt and inspire freedom of the soul (“The summer won’t be long/so let your hair grow long,” they rhyme precociously in “Love”). One of the best singles of 2005, and a band you’re going to wish you were aware of early on. Mailorder edition available on red vinyl.
Chicagoland loud boy brood band whose weaknesses – namely an overtly emotional and somewhat generic outpouring of emotion on “Doublespeak” (as there really is no drama in yelling “what you said/what you did” over and over) – are largely compensated for by significant anthemic elements. Anthems with a capital A. Riffs non-stop, incredibly liberating to hear and which will pull your fist into the air. They show up on the second half of “Sonic Who” and they pulled me in for sure. Silkscreened sleeve is nice, and when you buy this single you can unlock access to these songs and two more at the band’s website. But still. Anthems. Heroics. These are cherishable concepts. Good enough.
We have been getting in so many of these white label 12” techno promos in here, and a lot of them, admittedly, don’t pass muster. Not that we’re being polite; there’s a lot of good to find in the tracks, and not all electronic dance music is created equal. With that out of the way, here’s a big FUCK YEAH to Stewart Walker for dropping “Spend the Day Frozen,” going against the emo typeface and artwork presented here and banging out loud and on point. Not minimal at all – this is a full side of whiplash dancefloor headbang, building properly and raging to ceaseless climax. Really strong stuff, and some of the best that’s come through these offices. The two cuts on the flip don’t measure up, but when you have a track as strong as the lead-off, it’s somewhat of a moot point. Really terrific.
Witchcraft return from their second album with its lead-off track, “Chylde of Fire” – one for the Heep, for sure, with a roundabout, sprightly arrangement, Tull-style flute, and an overall more delicate, Wicker Man-esque vibe than what was found on their heavy, murky debut. They still sound purely evil, so that helps. Circulus are a newer Rise Above doom discovery, here playing off a rock-solid riff into high energy doom rock on “Miri It Is (Moog up mix)”. Really strong stuff, kind of like a hyperactive evil twin to Dungen’s florid psych pop. Edition of 500 copies, Franklin Mint style. Lots of fun!
By Doug Mosurock