Still Single, Vol. 1, No. 10
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.
ANY genre of music will do – don’t hesitate to send punk, hardcore, metal, goth, pop, rock, country, hip hop, electronic, experimental, dub and reggae … all genres accepted and welcome.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
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Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise
This column runs the last week of every month on Dusted (give or take). Its success depends on you sending in singles for review.
With this installment, we’re officially changing over the numbering scheme to Volume 1, Number 10. Also, we’re expanding our focus to limited edition vinyl-only full-length releases, and pre-releases to a possible CD issue, in addition to singles of all size and shape. It’s part of an effort to stay timely, provide as big and as schizophrenic a picture as possible, and to help you to keep abreast of limited edition titles that by virtue of quantity, demand, distribution being how it is, and the like, you wouldn’t otherwise find in a store near you.
Please continue to send awesome records to Still Single, regardless of the genre. If it’s good, we can recognize it.
New new super heavy abstrakt minimal dub joints from Japan, unlike anything out on the techno/ambient horizon right now, and a completely crushing debut for Amerika Ruby. They call it “cosmic,” and that is fitting. “Alt” is the template; almost nothing but a drum track, some organ stabs, and random effects bubbled through. It’s a four-beat skank with the second downbeat missing and the second upbeat all but depleted; a steady p-POUND-d, p-POUND-d, p-POUND-d for the duration, until an orchestral snippet of “Angels We Have Heard on High” rounds off the end. Silence is the missing beat; you wait for it. Since any tones in the track either float by glitch-like or immediately echo off the beat, it can get disorienting, but lock into it and you enter the bizarro Black Ark. “Cosmic New” keeps the pace slow and burrows through the thick bone in your head with simple, unfettered Casio drill beats and some chopping in between, but no tones aside from what the rhythm provides. “Northern Light” is the busiest this EP gets, a waterlogged warble through an octave or two of subfrequencies and some stoned-out riddim to ride with it. Not since Pole hit the scene has minimal meant so much or been felt so deeply. Amerika Ruby’s taken the roots out of dub and pointed them upwards into space to transmit to the cosmos. Here is the result, garnering the most high of recommendations.
Freedom Summer Live 4-20-05 12” LP
(Kitty Play Records)
Kitchen-sink spazzmodicum dork music by seven people who can’t tell when enough is enough. Chaotic to a fault; ironic to the degree that the irony turns in on itself and pukes on its seven hosts. Sounds you’ve heard, assembled in ways you never wanted to know about. Nearly impossible to listen to all the way through, unless you’re a fan, in which case, stay away from me. That these guys have figured out how to play as a band has dragged them across the line from inept into boring – circus spazz metal for people really impressed by Mike Patton. If you huff the gas at the filling station you work at, this might be your new favorite jam. Thankfully small press run of 300 copies, on red marble vinyl in a silkscreened sleeve. Oh yeah, I get the joke about the recording date. I’m trying to remember if I was at this show to see Oxford Collapse. I think I was. They were good.
Let’s Not Have a Party 7” EP
Second single by these stiff French retro-punkers, featuring members of the No-Talents and Frustration. Uptight, catchy, purist-minded ’77 punk rock style jams, reminiscent of the Fall, Warsaw, and Wire circa “Pink Flag,” and also Gen X and the Adverts, with needling guitars, barked vocals (in French and English), and very fitting lo-fi production. Gets faster and more insistent as it goes on, which is a bonus. Four songs here, all of which are winners, esp. “Cars” and the title track. A very cool little record here. Fans of Le Shok should be suitably impressed, and should definitely put on some clothes that fit. In that tight t-shirt, you look like a busted condom. Edition of 500, red vinyl.
Lifetime Shitlist 12” LP
(Ramen Factory Records)
They’re gone now, but what a pile they made. Bathtub Shitter was a Japanese grindcore band that championed sticky riffs, blast beats, supreme heaviness, Cookie Monster vocal growls and shrieks. Also, every song of theirs was about the act of defecation. I don’t know how the bathtub fits into it, and the amazing lyric reproductions (a sample: “Dash into a toilet and refresh/Escapism to shit with detonation,” or perhaps a song like “Control of Own Hole” or “Hot Shit Hits Maximum”) only confound matters, but make this a very worthwhile addition to anyone into hardcore punk, fart jokes, or even scat. They were a fairly accomplished group; their songs are well-written and they play the shit out of them *cough*, and they seem to derive endless joy from emptying their own bowels, and encouraging you to do likewise. On diarrhea-splatter vinyl, numbered edition of 100. Excellent Witchfinder General cover on here, too.
Belegost/The Sea, Like Lead
split 12” EP
(Hardtravelin’/The Electric Human Project)
Western and Eastern Pennsylvania bands lock horns in the epic instrumental rock battle on this split album. Longer in form than you’ve heard in a while … both sides exceed 20 minutes, and take their time in spilling the guts. Philly’s Belegost are a three-guitar, six-headed instrumental army of beards and peace, working away from the field recording samples and endless builds of their contemporaries by a bit less than they should, but still coming through with an engaging and heartfelt grand scheme. Their contribution here, “Nightwalker/Deergod”, is made up of parts you’ll recognize and hopefully will enjoy in execution; references include Slint, Still Life, Tarentel, Godspeed, etc., but with a sense of direction other than up and back down. Maybe some blues influence too, which steers the track away from obvious references. Ex-Virginia Black Lung and Io, so expect the chaos; just not all at once. Pittsburgh’s The Sea, Like Lead hedges the formation by half, removes the bass entirely, and rages almost twice as hard. Their two selections easily fill up the side with a more triumphant, less orchestrated sound. These guys take cues from similar yet distinct sources (Bitch Magnet, Hum, American shoegaze and Swervedriver) and provide a very satisfying flip on post-rock grandeur; “Anticline/Syncline’s” guitarring fully recognizes the scope of its power and basks proudly in its heat, while “Twilight of the Gods” builds to its absolute breaking point and caves in under double-bass destruction and digital delay. 24 inches of whoopass in a 12” record. Edition of 500; CD version also available for wimps.
“Who Wants to Kill the President?” b/w “Electrocute Your Cock” 7”
(High Density Headache)
Provocative titles (only one of which belongs to the band) and cheap tinny rock-based noise thrills are all that’s really going on with Big Nurse, if this single is any indication. “President” goes on and on and on with no real relief in sight. He may die of boredom. They do a good job on the Vom cover though, capturing a lot of that track’s ur-stupidity and nihilistic good times.
Outlander Sessions 12” LP
(New World of Sound)
The young man blues. Zachary Cale is a twentysomething Olympia-to-Harlem transplant who recorded these 11 songs in the winter of 2003 on a four-track. Mostly acoustic strum with some electric touches, Cale (no relation to John or J.J. from what I gather) comes across on the straightahead folk-stone tip, languishing in the lazy glow of coal heat against cold skin. He’s a good guitarist, a fine songwriter somewhere between a Doug Martsch type and a heartbroken Tim Hardin, and the songs work just so. Edition of 400 in a silkscreened jacket; CD issue forthcoming eventually. On the long-dormant, always excellent New World of Sound label.
“Deafness Becomes Me” + 2 7” EP
Between the collective output of the Books, Tunng, and the Fridge/Four Tet/Adem axis, perhaps there have been limits set to what one can do with an acoustic guitar and an MPC. UK trio Chin Chin breaks little if any new ground in these three contemplative, lulling, fruitless excursions, at times sounding as if they’re ready to fall asleep. That makes two of us. Plodding beats, fragile vocals, the expected delay and time-shifting of various musical ingredients … it’s all here, it’s been done, it’s not novel anymore. Copies a copy of a copy enough times that the original text is barely legible. Edition of 500 in letterpress sleeves.
“Simulator” b/w “Dance ‘til Death” 7”
Pulling out the big city card sucks when trying to weigh in on the merits and setbacks of cultural experience. But it’s unavoidable here: I’ve heard so much lousy new wave throwback music in the past five years and seen enough dummies go ape over it that I can’t bear any more. Not even as a joke, which Digital Leather might be. It’s former or past members of the Reatards, Destruction Unit, the Wongs and Tokyo Electron – all garage punk headfucks in their own right – playing primitive, synthy, steady-beat goth/synth rock of nominal worth. The songs go nowhere other than maybe staring into a mirror and thinking about Bauhaus … only those guys were great songwriters, where these kids work repetitive, simple grooves into the ground quickly, then sit on them. It baffles me how so many bands miss the boat on crafting good music and just lean on the style and attitude, hoping that it’ll all turn out OK. It won’t. For people who don’t bore easily; everybody else, go check out an A Frames record. Edition of 500, clear vinyl, already sold out from the label’s end. Some distros still have it around if you’re curious.
Glue 12” EP
Mostly contemplative, spacious German techno with an ear for sustain, echo and grooveriding. “Hypnotize” is the nicest cut on here, a breezy, island-inflected riddim touched by almost inaudible, modal bass frequencies that give way to the pealing of choir bells. The slight funk of “Koto 125” is more than welcome; the busy, falling-over-on-itself remix of “Delicate” somewhat less so. Douglas Greed (a/k/a Mario Willms) does best when his hand isn’t being forced and the sounds he captures are allowed to ring out. Very nice overall.
split 12” EP
(Kitty Play Records)
Two tracks by Drumm, and three by 2673. Drumm wins this battle for putting down one memorable, albeit untitled cut of authoritative, powerfully damaged guitar overamplification and LoopStation abuse. It is LOUD. It stands out. The rest of the record isn’t all that distinguishable from itself, or from the myriad of similar amp abusers out there. Feedback, samples, delay, and not a damn thing to show for it than another record. Oh, well. Packaged alongside a big chunk of spraypainted cardboard. We always seem to get at least one record a month like that.
“Music Machine” b/w “Jesus” 7”
Happy-go-lucky parlor pop from Lexington, Kentucky that has Elephant 6 written all over it, even though this particular record may not (Robert Schneider from Apples in Stereo has worked with these guys in the past). Every aspect of this record has that whole shambling sunshiney, “what’s a job? we play outside every day” feel to it, from the watercolor artwork to the gentle sounds within. “Music Machines” waltzes over the business of show, and “Jesus” seems to weigh in the plusses and minuses of that pesky Messiah. Nice, safe, sugar-free songs.
Dirt Dealership 7” EP
Emperor X showed up at a party I was at recently, started some argument about a temporary employment agency, and handed me a copy of this single. It’s about as frenetic as his argument, and in all honesty a lot more ambitious and at times poignant and beautiful. In layman’s terms, this is a good Mountain Goats-esque style of singer/songwriterdom and ambitious four-track composition, mostly acoustic with banjo, makeshift percussion, and lots of vocal tracks and backmasking. Six songs altogether, with standouts being “Petroleum Caliphate” (sounds like it would be at home on a tape of This Heat demos and side projects) and “Island Long Dirt Dealership,” coming off like some sort of avant-garde John Sebastian pop clap. He can sing, he can play, he can arrange. Engaging sounds from a total stranger; very winning and memorable, and his goals never seem to outstrip his musical abilities. Edition of 300 in handstamped manila sleeves.
Where’s the Wire? 10” EP
(Make or Break)
Eight songs of ragged pop strum with some nice co-ed vocalizing, vaguely approaching some sort of Black Francis/Kim Deal dynamic, only the guy sounds more like Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, and the songs have a sort of open-air sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on their earlier records – though to be sure, Fellow Project is a lot less ambitious about it, choosing to fall into a Pixies/Violent Femmes style of ingredienty songwriting quirk. They write good songs, but for every time I cringed at where they were derived from, I heard a touch that surprised me … a handful of both good and bad, really. Black jellybeans mixed in with the tasty ones, if you will. If they got better at covering up the seams, and stopped showing their hand so much, they could get really good. As it is, this shows more promise than expected, and was a very nice surprise that some of you may very much want to check out. Grown up sounds.
s/t 7” EP
Ramshackle home-taped garage pop blowouts courtesy of one Daniel DiMaggio, of New Jersey spastic rock band Great Excape. Hits all the right reference points for this type of music (Electric Eels for the scuzz and the gigantic innocence, Modern Lovers for the heart on sleeve, Jad Fair for the naivete and recklessness, early Silver Jews for the tunesmithery). One of those kinds of records that guys who collect secretly fiend for, as fine an example of outsider DIY four-track brilliance as can be imagined. Only 200 copies exist, so hurry up.
WMD 12” EP
On “WMD,” Oakland producer Jel lays it out pretty much like you’d expect to hear it. Guy’s scared and pissed off at the state of the world, and by proxy the state of hip hop. He digs up Wise Intellect of Poor Righteous Teachers (remember them?) to weigh in. Remixer Joe Quixx even drops a few bars of “War Pigs.” The beat is on point, in particular the remix, a more slender and streetwise affair. “All Around” subverts the hip hop paradigm altogether, leaving the beats for Ms. John Soda’s Stefanie Böhm to sing plaintively over. “1938” is the bonus beat, tightening up over a lean funk and subdued hook. Anticon is a mixed bag sometimes; see my Why? review below … this one squeaks by on artifice and a solid foundation of well-constructed beats.
Let Me Die 12” LP
Crustified dibbs of circuit-bent, busted bassline buzzing along primitive rhythms and torturing output devices. Mammal has always been a hair more interesting to these ears than his/its noisenik compatriots, solely on the insistence of craft and its summary execution. These tracks are long and go absolutely nowhere, but in this case it provides a hypnotic, almost soothing effect as they degrade into the sea of low expectations, used fast food containers and squalor. An answer to a lot of worthless techno; a bizarre dance fever death march rattler. If you like punishment, this one will tie you up to the bed and leave for a few hours. Edition of 500 copies.
Up To You 12” EP
(KHY Suomen Musiikki Oy)
Chiseled, handsome Finish electro-pop from the kind of club I’d rather not frequent. Being a spectator is fun sometimes, though, and it’s good that these guys will be able to take the fair shot I’ll throw them … this is totally mershed out music, but not without charm or style. The title track suffers from the flat, treated vocals, but musically it’s on the level somewhere between Daft Punk’s all-in ‘80s good time electro throwdowns, and the Cure’s sensibility for darkness and nervousness in pop music. It’s catchy, almost jangly, and fairly memorable. “Delirious” also wins, merging Kiki’s last album for BPitch, all darkwave disco and polish on the Lipps Inc. express to Funkytown. The remix of “Up To You” on the flip totally misses the point and amplifies what’s wrong with Euro club music. Way too obvious. “I Will Stay” tries to get upbeat and loses us, too. But the good tracks show a lot of potential, and hopefully these guys will be able to keep it interesting down that long and twisting commercial path.
“Co-Op Shmo-Op”/”Catholic Cookie Cutters” 7”
(Hot Dog City)
Mountain High is a six-man, double-drummer group of Philly rock shitkickers, boasting ex-members of Excelsior, Fracture, Ink & Dagger and the Vexers. From that lineage, one would expect the sweaty Southern rock to overpower as it should, especially given what an asskicker of a band Excelsior was in its prime. I really don’t wanna judge based on one record, but this is a bit of a letdown – potentially good songs are marred by a really flat recording, with a bad vocal mix and nothing really standing out, making it pretty hard to listen to. They have a split 12” coming out on Wantage that will hopefully rectify all the wrongs here. Weird, abstract silkscreened sleeve; both songs repeat on each side.
(Last Gang Records)
Fucking scum disco remix team tries to ape Alan Braxe, Thomas Bangalter, etc. Fails. Hard. Overreliance on the vocoder is weak. Their own song is bad enough; hairspray douche jam abusing presets and violating all measures of quality. SKDK, for sure. Unsurprisingly, their remix of Metric is even worse. If you haven’t heard them and were wondering what was up, just forget about it. There’s something so horribly wrong with that band; they’re probably the worse thing around lately at that level of notoriety, running neck-and-neck with Morningwood. Giving them the runway treatment with any remix attention, even one as halfassed as this, is like rubbing a turd in a sweet poodle’s coif. I hope Bathtub Shitter reforms and takes a massive dump on these dildos ... or the Drunkness Monster from the Len CD will sodomize everyone responsible for this execrable music. Total filth; degrades without meaning, without prejudice. Comes in a typically awful, too-busy-to-have-substance Seripop sleeve.
Mental Violence II: Diamond City 12”
(The Social Registry)
A stepping stone on the path to their stellar debut album Dins, Psychic Ills had added a drummer for this release, showing great strides to shape their lost, rhythm-box era into a more cohesive, band-oriented whole. The druggy vibe is still present, the hazy songwriting lilts into corner dirges and repetitive feedback. Featuring a swaggering remix of the title track by Sonic Boom, and a nice mk. 1 stumble called “4 A.M.,” making those Spacemen 3 and Loop comparisons they’re getting now more understandable. Pretty good, but in no way indicative of the sublime pleasures of their album. Numbered edition of 1000, and very nearly gone.
the Ridiculous Trio
“No Fun” b/w “Down on the Street” 7”
Now here’s something that in now way could I describe to you and make you buy it as valid, as anything more than a novelty, but hear me out. The Ridiculous Trio is a project of some free jazz/improv guys from Chicago – Mike Hagedorn on trombone, Rob Pleshar on tuba, and Shannon Morrow on drums – playing Stooges covers. That a label which releases mostly garage singles would back these guys should be pretty telling, but if you need it spelled out for you, this thing totally fucking ROCKS. The trio exhibits complete respect for the material and one of the most creative headscratchers to drop on 7” since that Herb Alpert meets Public Enemy jam. These guys play the fuck out these songs, with reverence and in the proper sonic headspace. They don’t gussy up the material or try to get creative with it, because to succeed with these tracks, really all that’s needed is the swagger and the attitude to match the musical competence that the Stooges had. Tuba replaces bass, trombone covers the vocals, both fill in the guitar parts, and the drummer hits really hard. It’s all distorted just enough to replicate the heat of the original Funhouse recordings. In a crowded room with a lot of background noise, there’s very little way to tell that these are brass band renditions of the songs, but they don’t have that corny marching band sound you’d expect at all. Tough, righteous, rockin’ and superior. Burn all your other records, breathe in the fumes, and go die. This is where it’s at.
“Animals Are Beautiful People” b/w “Mercury Retrograde” 7”
When a track’s intro is the best thing going for it, there’s a sure sign of failure. Run Return phased an engaging percussive slam sesh into pat chill-out grooves in a matter of time; you can hear the blood and air rushing out of “Animals are Beautiful People” as it unfolds into the most tepid amalgamation of chilled-out Tortoise grooves and DJ Shadow instrumental drama you knew better than to ever imagine – only it’s here, ready to ruin your life. “Mercury Retrograde” doesn’t even start good; it just stays in that goateed no man’s land of hip hop beats for the incapable. God help whatever bozo tries to rhyme over these; maybe his soy mocha latte is cold or something. Piss yellow vinyl; even one copy is too many.
Unsacred Hearts/Man in Grey
These two groups play on the various available stages throughout NYC, running through some unseen circle of the Inferno with about three or four dozen other competent bands just south of original. They’re as harmless as they are ubiquitous, but that’s the problem; all it takes are a bunch of their coworkers to come out and it’s a good night for them. They define adequacy; the kind of groups that can get enough heads in on a Tuesday night to keep a space open, but also become a crutch to promoters who lack vision and initiative. Unsacred Hearts borrow a lot of songwriting moves from Rocket from the Crypt, and yet still make a two-minute song feel a lot longer than it should. Their singer’s forced, affected Southern drawl and freshman-level lyrics (about “spy movies being groovy” and loaded with Bukowski references) generate all the pain. Man in Grey have a lot more to answer for; lumpy pop pushed through a post-ska Save Ferris strainer makes for two songs of less-than-tolerable pap, where girly shrieks and limited songwriting prowess beg for accolades like “angular” and “cathartic” and “infectious,” but which really ring out staid, boring, and forgettable. Reminds me a lot of the atypical anonymous single that would drop about ten years ago, the kinds that were pressed in ridiculous quantities and would puncture the fabric of independent record distribution with returns, dust, and regret – the reason lots of stores don’t even stock singles anymore. Ugh. Get it away.
Choking Doberman 7”
(Kitty Play Records)
“Rock” trio of noise guys, including Dominick Fernow of Prurient on guitar. Side A sounds better from a distance and off of headphones, where some semblance of structure congeals. It’s a hectic, looping, dense sound, coming off like dramatic Alan Parsons Project-esque sports highlight reel instrumentals as conceived by young noiseniks. There’s structure in there, but it’s forgotten as soon as it’s played, so take that for what you will. Side B is more of a stomp, dynamically plateaued as to provide little if any breathing space. Cheaply done, poorly recorded, nominally documented. Live this might be interesting, but on record it’s the kind of incapable rock you’d expect from noise musicians, forced through the sieve of annoyance and anti-listenability. For fans of BDSM and serial killers. Edition of 500, white vinyl.
“Dumb Hummer” + 2 7” EP
The Anticon label has taken the concept of “abstract” in certain genres and extrapolated it to every fiber of its meaning, from hip hop that’s as far from hard, as far from the streets it was born on as one could imagine to some of the mushier, more divisive instrumental offerings produced in recent years. And it’s not about what hip hop is or isn’t (and in the case of Why?, it’s unfair to even label it hip hop at all), but moreover what the works they release do to expand or contract the present headspace of the genre and music related to it at any given time. I didn’t know what to expect with this new Why? single, but I think I got it all out OK, and personally I thought it was great, a real eye opener into an artist that I would have gleefully ignored by association with others I don’t care for. This is pop music with folk’s spinal cord fused to its back, real protest songs and tales of the road internalized and spat out with dirty eloquence and even temperament, without the concessions to race, class, upbringing, and the other misnomers that the label’s detractors often like to throw at them. It’s far too easy to say that life is unfair, that the haves are fucking the shit out of the have nots, that sometimes we express ourselves in ways that could be derided by others. It’s just the way that those sentiments are expressed here – in sort of a free-associative monotone on the two short tracks from the B-side, and in a lush, memorable, flowing, gleefully wrecked fashion as “Dumb Hummer,” probably the best creative description of bullshit material yuppiedom I’ve heard in ages – that make it all poignant, that make it count. Every expectation I had of Why? has been clobbered. This is fucking genius, and would appeal to anyone who looks upwards and sees the blue sky obscured, by barriers either real or imagined.
Woods is a side project of NYC indie rock band Meneguar, featuring all of its members at some point or another. The music has more to do with the member they share with Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice, all acoustic rolling strum and pounding drums punctuating a mountainous folk music sound. “Woods Children” is a hissy field recording of kids with a sickly detuned group playing beneath, and the other two tracks are more studio-oriented. Not quite a standout, though other songs from the session may bear more fruit. In any event, Meneguar is where it’s at, so definitely check them out. Edition of 1000 on white vinyl.
“Gough (Starter Home)” b/w “Flushed” 7”
“Gough” plays around with one riff for a long time in first and second gear, explores it from every angle, goes into nooks and crannies, stops … then picks it up again. Not much of an adventure, but those who are accustomed to ‘90s indie rock may hear it and give pause. “Flushed” rips out the stops the A-side held in, flying off the handle with a short, brusque, muscular burst of guitar chug and shouted, under-the-mix vocals. I remember when more records used to be like this. Not really enough to go on, but a pleasant start and a somewhat engaging way to spend a few minutes. Would certainly like to hear more. Nice looking silkscreen sleeve, too.
By Doug Mosurock