Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 3
Pretty thick-sounding metal-progressive tech grind action. Drums are mixed all the way up, with plenty of guitar stacked up over the bass and vocals, burning away in such a great, tantrum-like manner that they get ground up in the gears of the instruments. I like this type of grind to be really choppy and mathy, of which Defeatist is definitely both, a singular wave of malice riding across the depleted architecture of death metal. Would listen to again, maybe punch a wall or something afterwards. If you’re Barb, my landlord, and you’re reading this, I’m not really gonna punch one of your walls, so don’t freak out on me.
Legitimate, artist-authorized repress of this, one of the grails of midwestern American hardcore. Die Kreuzen were one of the first bands to try to make hardcore “weird,” to keep its speed and aggression but temper them with dark/death rock moves, proto-thrash time changes, and metallic reasoning of melodies and more than three chords. They remained firmly in punk/HC for a few years, though, realizing it as a stylistic cross to bear rather than something with which to color their music. They’d forget all about it by October File, but this and their first LP are weird, depressive trips down the drain, lashing out at all the scum on the way in.
Mid-tempo dark punk (what is it with dark punk in this column? Are we gonna live 2008 in a cloud of hairspray?) from Portland, which is steady and very attentive to some basic sounds, including a slightly phased guitar and bass, maybe like a less manic Effigies crossed up with a bit of Girls Against Boys’ presence. Both singles sound exactly alike, with longish songs that wander all over the place and keep the snot firmly up both nostrils. Pretty good. 150 of the Green Noise one on blue vinyl (mailorder only).
This is pretty cool – dark punk, spraypainted Goth black, slams away at downer riffs and crazy percussive patterns that call to mind the Butthole Surfers, if that band only did one thing. Those fumes are all over this frantic, threatened thing; when the synths kick in and the rest of the band starts to leave the atmosphere behind, it sounds like a great idea, not one that’s overloaded with the burden of stacking the decks a little too high. With a name like Kount Fistula, you can’t really be sure, but they’re pretty bizarre, in a good way.
Martial, mantra-like experimental pop, bent over in subservience in the granite corner occupied by post-post-postpunk, breathing the same shallow gasps of minimalist air as did the People in Control, and newly roboticized John Foxx. The talkbox vocal recitations and overall submerged murk of the recording itself (ably handled by Charles Burst, a guy who seems to capture a heady extreme in every piece of tape he lays down) are matched in a synergistic coma of tension and foreboding. Pretty excellent little record here.
Three Italian kids go way back to the heart-on-sleeve country R&B twang of Carl Perkins or Jerry Lee Lewis, then let it tear out with some bright, up-front cheer. I’d liken it to a more obvious, but very effective, take on the way the Goodnight Loving is developing their sound: with roots firmly in place, starry-eyed and reverent to their ideas and the history that precludes them. Pretty exciting, and stuck with me after a few listens.
Another single of throwback HC from these Cali kids, doin’ it way bigger than the last one. Frank discussions that decry rape (figurative/literal), war, shit talk, violence towards women, and police brutality, with one direct “stabbed in the fucking back” quote. Hardcore belongs to every generation from here on out, should they choose to participate. Here’s proof, a record as strong as most, full of rage and directed at the status quo. Doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it before, here it is again. Great, tense recording with barely any room for breath.
Four sides of radio static with Conet-style vocal recitations peppering the mix. The real TV ghosts; captured sounds of electromagnetic haunt from out of nowhere. One Tom Mulligan is responsible for this offering. It’s something you either know you must own, or will never need to hear. Locked grooves on some, maybe all of the sides. Good right before bed, when you’re so tired you don’t know what’s up. Classy silkscreened sleeve.
Skull-crushing hardcore, worthy of remembrance and repeat spins. A large step forward from their first 12”. Eight songs that get more intense and locked in as the record moves on. “Clouds are useless things.” Yes, they are. Gotta see this bunch live, as my head is too pointy and I think they could probably fix that. Artillery-strength rhythm section, ripping guitar, vocals of horrific strength. Punk, so tough guys can get the fuck out. 1000 copies; 80 on tan vinyl, 20 on gray. Great textured sleeve with rounded corners too. Classy but brutal, shows young people the way.
Definitely an improvement on their turgid debut, but still working in a common, heavily-traded demeanor, taking all the metal out of Isis, channeling the vocals through some Get Up Kids-esque earnestness into Explosions in the Sky-style grandeur. Really piecemeal approach overall, though they seem to know what to do with it, much like the wanderings of this music’s predecessors (Hurl, Engine Kid, and Hum’s final album come to mind). Solid representation of a genre I don’t really care about, but can’t deny a notice that it’s been done correctly.
Whitman’s kinda worthless if you’ve ever heard early Sebadoh before, maybe just proof of concept is all that’s going on here, or a test to ensure that the artist’s 4-track works OK. Either way, steer clear. Alas Alak Alaska is some lady folk of minor interest. Some drug refs pop up, kinda cool. The earth belches forth these “next big things” and what are you gonna do about it? Ignore. There’s only so much you can get done in a day. Only 300 copies!
Side project of Bardo Pond. Three long, slow slogs into a bluesy, ambling, somewhat sinister headspace. For men who live alone, and who know that living alone is a state of mind which sometimes includes roommates, friends, co-workers, and family, and who understand resentment and the way that life’s opportunities slip through one’s fingers. Yeah, it’s that kind of party tonight. Watch everyone you know walk out the door while this one crawls across the turntable. Good evening. 1000 copies.
A smashing example of a genre so in decline that it’s all but forgotten, Conversions aim to right the many wrongs of ’90s political hardcore that time has layered upon that most browbeaten of genres. Harsh, throat-scraping female vocals in front of gear-jamming, complex, burly DC-influenced hardcore might not be anyone’s idea of a good time anymore, but that hardly matters when taken at the value of where this Boston four-piece is coming from: one of sincerity, understanding, positivity, and overall of importance, in a time when it seems like the fight has been beaten out of activism as a whole. Featuring hardcore favorite Chris Strunk (ex-Sleeper Cell/Crucial Unit) on drums, and, man, does he tear it up.
Composer Kowalsky transposed one of his electronic compositions for the 25-piece Contemporary Performance Ensemble at Mills College, led by Fred Frith on violin, as part of his Masters’ thesis. Here’s the result, a somnambulant wander through a descending four-note theme, female vocal sliding down the ever-shifting base of acoustic instruments. It sounds at once settled and vibrant, a profound modern classical work of beauty but also a strong semblance underpinning the affair, one that demonstrates how the influence of 20th/21st century classical has crept into the media. Eno might be proud. Paste-on sleeve, not a whole lot of copies to go around.
Tall, dark curtains of dronium harmonium and this time the curtains match the carpet. Highlights from nearly an hour of oscillating punishment, served up in avant-garde-meets-the-people style. I’m sure there is a place in this world you can stand – likely in New Jersey, in proximity to a record collector’s exit hatch – where such sounds are naturally occurring. In the meantime, Nagoski’s digest is upon you. Pleasing to the ear, but somewhat anonymous sounding escapades into the ambient dreamworld, where green turns to brown.
One of the things I always feared about psychedelic music coming back into vogue is that pat mersh bullshit like this wanders into the frame. Self-released on vinyl to no small expense, Society of Rockets seems to be the outlet for yet another lazy singer-songwriter, one who smears it up with Laurel Canyon excess and ideas borrowed from Pablo Cruise and Beck, from rank British indie coming to terms with growing up, and useless, nameless sloe-eyed also-rans and never-weres. There’s a visible line between bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and even the Black Angels when compared to this manner of pro-slop twaddle. Longwave fans, your new favorite 10-piece band has arrived. That it took so many people to make calls to mind a tax scam. Lawyers, mount. Thick gatefold, two gushing press releases included if you’re lucky.
It took me several spins to get into the TV Ghost single, and I don’t have the same amount of time to dedicate to this nine-track LP. What these kids do with their music, they do so right that it’s almost to a fault that they can’t bury their influences any deeper than this. I’ll chalk that up to life experience and cultural exposure thus far, as TV Ghost seems to be no more than a filter, a clearinghouse for how ideas translate in this advanced human era. Their music likens itself to having most of the music made in the past 43 years readily available, and speaks to the despondency of that event’s ultimate reality. We’ve got neither the time nor the energy to process it all, but if we did, would it sound as discordant and mushy as these guys make it out to be? Their name is very apropos, evincing a double-image that follows its original pattern around like a displaced shadow of static, making it impossible to determine if they’re processing sounds from an entirely new and dangerous position, cutting corners and evading any obvious glances, or simply dumping everything they know into their increasingly despondent, grating output. Cramps, Country Teasers, Suicide (who they cover), the Fall, loft-era Sonic Youth, the Birthday Party, plus all the new lo-fi bands they’ve played with, for better or worse, all ground up into a mealy paste. Barely a riff worth remembering within, but still the songs pierce the forehead with psychotic angst. It speaks to a disappointment of real time, like the image of what you might have thought a strip club was like when you were a teenager versus the depressing, end-of-the-line reality; the sort of thoughts we try to banish from our conscious moments. Thanks, guys. If this is truly worth picking through to decipher the mysteries within, I suppose time will sort it out for us. Unfortunately, you don’t have that choice. “Limited edition,” the bearer of some truly embarrassing press vis-à-vis the NME. They called it “shitgaze” and people are actually using that term. Makes me feel like giving up, but then who else would call this out for what it is? And really, what is it, but a record as confusing and confused as this review? Either the code is cracked, or it’s not.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) 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.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
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.
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By Doug Mosurock