Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 8
The three-day weekend reminded me that I had some extra time on my hands, and the stack of big records (as opposed to small records) wasn’t getting any tinier. So this edition is dedicated to clearing out all the 12”s and LPs that have been piling up. I’ll be back next week to clean out the 7”s and 10”s.
Ateleia and Benjamin Curtis
Long-form, cyclical, propulsive instrumental with a great feel. Opening salvo features a lot of booming bass drum hits, but I’m partial to the long, drone-oriented fade-out, where the guitars are free to spiral and click outwards to infinite, pulsing space. Clear vinyl, same Sav X etching as on the Collections of Colonies of Bees 12”.
The most mopey, most derivative sad sack indie poop/Godspeed knockoff to float down the pike in a while. Includes a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone cover, which is the most upbeat thing here. Absolutely unessential. Green vinyl, silkscreened on the blank side. Retire from music with college loans in hand.
Probably the least memorable of any Cloudland Canyon recordings yet to be released, the sidelong “Harvest Hunt” finds the duo of Kip Uhlhorn and Simon Wojan treading ambient waters, floating in a space that is lazily out of step with their other tracks, and meanders aimlessly to a drawn-out conclusion. Similarly, the darkness and depth of the Mythical Beast demos I heard a few years back is mostly jettisoned here, the only real strength being the arresting vocalisms, throaty and powerful, which provide most of the substance for their two offerings. Quality control is slipping at the NNF house, as evidenced in most of the releases presented this time around.
Collections of Colonies of Bees
Title dictates behavior, as this track that slowly builds up from a drone to a sublime, strumming hive of six guitars, all in tune and tone with one another. It’s a really satisfying, inspirational piece, the 36 strings adding all the percussive elements and erectile bliss you could want, without giving into pettiness like key or chord changes. Powerful and uplifting sounds. Clear vinyl, with a B-side etching by Savage Pencil.
More sci-fi pop/punk wreckage from these Clevelanders. Great first song about John Titor, then some material about Bigfoot, flu shots, and anti-gravity. All of it’s up to the standards set on their previous releases, all fun, all sugar crash. You don’t look to the Darvocets for innovative modern composition; this is, however, a fun band to get fucked up to, so go ahead and do it. 625 copies in assorted sleeve variants. 150 on blue vinyl. Not a long record.
That storm you hear at the outset is a warning for the ferocity to follow. Madrid’s Invasion stick the three-chord approach to hardcore with so many left turns – so much reverb on the vocals that it sounds like the singer is attacking himself, long pauses for ambience, non-instrument noises, and unsteady percussion that rapidly shifts upgear – that their take on the genre sounds both as it should (a tornado of masonry, heading towards unprotected bodies) and as they will it. Poor, crackly mastering somehow adds to the obfuscated desperation present in their sound, and amplifies the desperation and anger roaming through their sound and politic. Dirty and mean and unforgiving. Packaged in an oversized, screened cardboard sleeve.
Raucous jazz composition for quartet of reeds, guitar, and drums, blasting off with the same intensity as the Luttenbachers of yore (and fuggit, of today as well). Contemporary to Zs, but with the discipline of that ensemble all but gone. They’re not unmannered, just wild. Nice to hear the youngins still blasting out the Styrofoam in the crate. Shapes up nicely in the runtime allotted. Cool Mick Barr artwork as well.
Backing away from the dance rhythms of more recent efforts, Paul Dickow takes the subtle route here, plying dubular essence against a variety of analog synths and frequency generators, creating that ‘70s Miles feeling we all crave from time to time. More mood-enhancing that mood-establishing, this isn’t peak Strategy, but a pleasant, if slightly trifling diversion. Three tracks, all getting to the same point in due time.
OH GREAT, BREAKCORE. LIKE TODAY CAN’T GET ANY WORSE. 250 copies, gold vinyl.
Jens Lekman contributes and compiles this brief collection of Arthur Russell covers compliant to his image of the artist. Russell deserves better, but only Lekman, with “A Little Lost,” comes close to the alluring vocal mannerisms of the late, great artist. Vera November (Verity Susman from the wildly overrated Electrelane) dicks around with a piano and surfaces a difficult cover of “Our Last Night Together.” Taken By Trees goes the jazz/chamber route with “Make 1, 2” and Joel Gibb, with El Perro del Mar, John Denver-s up “That’s Us/Wild Combination.” Sincerity really can’t carry it, even though Russell’s influence can clearly be felt across these offerings; you might be better off discovering (or re-discovering) the very much available originals.
Outsider jams from the Chilean underground, smuggled through layers and layers of blankets and other readymade insulation before cut to record. Recorded using understandably primitive technology, La Banda’s becomes quite difficult to divine from the outset, documenting what might have been a spirited free-folk tumble from a few rooms away. You can hear Casios and pump organs, muffled vocals, sometimes a repetitive guitar line where the rhythm part is truly that – subjugated to the percussion spectrum, and augmented by what sounds like someone playing a shoebox. I’m not getting at the lack of originality or the message that’s not here; I’m certain it is. The problem is that you really can’t tell what’s going on, and the entire effort, recorded in various spaces over the past five years, doesn’t really document the music so much as the difficult circumstances it took to realize it. 500 copies.
Slow, doped-up doom/folk/drone/haze laments. Heavy at times, derivative most others, but uncharacteristically lazy and unambitious throughout. I guess it’d suck to find out that those Valet records stared a hole through your façade in the past year without doing anything more than learning how to breathe differently. Through your eyelids, btw – that’s how we’re doing it these days. Makes so little effort to redeem or even identify itself that it’ll be forgotten by the time it rolls to a finish. White vinyl, but is wearing beige to the wedding. Constructs a temple of ideas, but ultimately that temple is empty.
Growling, putrid black sputum from the bowels of an insane, immense, hostile beast not of this world. Don’t forget to wipe. 327 copies, silkscreened sleeve.
Contaminators return with the first full-length out of their Bakersfield garage punk/power pop empire. What a frustrating band. They’re completely impossible to gauge these guys from release to release. I end up with a single that sounds great and raw, then another that sounds rote and boring. This album sadly falls into the latter camp. Musically, it’s competent but not exciting, but the asthmatic vocals are so out of place, and mostly mixed low enough to become an afterthought. Why do this to yourselves, guys? It’s like putting pictures of girls on your records who aren’t in your band. You’re teasing yourselves and baiting the public.
Glacial long-form psych rehearsals, burning the j at both ends. Shifting, surging tracks that highlight repetition and mantra-like patience as the jams develop. Practice space-quality recording doesn’t really add anything to these tracks, though it does obscure some of the missing subtleties; you’re here to groove, not stress, man. “Transcendence” does get worked up pretty nicely, while “Emerald Forest of Peace” lulls between active and passive modes of tripadelic bliss. A decent effort, played to the level of talent, though there’s a lot out there that sounds just like this. No big deal.
Ex-Cocaine returns with more of their peaceful, big sky, bongo-straddling bearded wanderings, one original and one Meat Puppets cover (“Sexy Music”). They’re from Montana, whaddaya want? Pretty long on both counts, and extends to the level of your patience, at which point you make the call. Yellow Swans disappear into the ether with “Comedy Hypnosis,” more liturgical drone/noise from the root. Put this one with the others. Grey vinyl.
I have been tough but, I think, rather fair, with the label that put this record out. The bulk of Gilgongo’s releases have veered towards the personal, but in my opinion have overlooked the qualities that make music timeless for that very reason. It’s seemed more of a social endeavor than anything else, and if you are not necessarily a willing participant in the soft scene they traffic in, you’re essentially out on your ass. This French Quarter album is possibly the first release I’ve heard off the label that transcends these qualities solely on the strength of the material within. It’s acoustic folk-pop, done in a style you may be all too familiar with, but its maker, one Stephen Steinbrink of Phoenix, AZ, has a control over the pop form that is enviably rich. He’s a great songwriter without relying on deception or style, and his best songs are instantly memorable, follow an internal logic that’s not hard to pick apart but nearly impossible to knock, and plays to his own strengths as a musician. Some people have it, and others don’t, but friendship will only carry your talents so far. This guy doesn’t need the help; he’s already there, and the plaintive sadness in his material builds upon warmly regarded traditions in the genre, from Simon & Garfunkel to Neil Young to Doug Martsch, and speaks to the universal truths about how this brand of music has always affected us. Ten short offerings from an unimpeachable young talent. Outstanding. Includes a CD version.
Unrestrained drum circulars from which bolts of self-generated electricity (and very little restraint) emerge. Kind of the opposite vibe of a Niagara record, but also non-secular, obviating a Crash Worship comparison as well. Not cool at all, rather hot, actually, as Smurfette and the three bearded wise men (culled from Friends Forever and Gang Wizard) race towards a collective aneurysm and a lifetime of paralysis. Every bad dream you ever had about screamo, costumes in rock music, bad smells of humanity, squalor, musical tantrums, and the failure of the California public school system comes rushing to the foreground, ready to smother you with its novelty concept of a lawless land. The first track here, “Urination,” urges the listener to piss wherever and wherever is convenient. NIMBY, motherfuckers.
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffft. Sad computers are BACK.
Indigestible experiments in spontaneous music (“tests”) geared towards arrhythmia and uneasiness, albeit with a markedly limited kit of sounds (scrape, thump, rattle) on side one. The same vocabulary tests the group’s ability to play while standing on side two, which somehow encourages the inclusion of melody and structure. I went to college with some of these guys and while I applaud their insistence on breaking form for conventional rock-based music (as they did on college radio and in earlier works), I have to remark on the overall limited appeal of what they’re doing, and offer it as a warning to anyone approaching their material. There’s enough of this sort of fucking around on the lo-fi, uneducated side of things, but their clarified approach to like-minded pursuits does nothing but meet their bizarro counterparts at the double yellow line for a staring contest.
Ponderous, striking work of mixed audio structure, as field recordings are layered against minimal audio touchup via piano, voice and synthesizer. Succeeds where most of the preemie noise/electronic/improv recordings listed in this column have absolutely failed, simply by creating a non-conflicting atmosphere in which the listener can truly get lost. Well-deep selections of nature sounds tempered with only the most fitting additions. Features Graham Lambkin of the Shadow Ring. 500 copies, 180g vinyl, comes with a personal essay printed on card stock in an envelope that’s worth reading.
Clattering, percussive improv plays against ominous, droning improv in a quest for relevance. Results are inconclusive! Keszler’s personal touches don’t amount to much more than flavoring of pre-established modes of solo musical conduct, and he’s got neither the tone language of the Bill Dixon record he’d love to make, nor the headspace required to bring his four works presented here to the level beyond practice recording. More of a collage than a complete thought. 300 copies, silkscreened sleeve.
Hey hey, another rock duo wailing away at the withering wall of guitar/metal/prog semantics – though Knife World, from Minneapolis, might possess what it takes to knock this hackneyed structure down. There’s great deal of technique in here, and not the sanded-down, ‘80s thrash-sphere thrown at you by the Fucking Champs, but the sort of wildman ‘70s base jumpin’ meth-blues you might hear on any number of champion live records from the era. Lack of much/any low end is a disappointment, but these guys (guitarist Jon Nielsen and drummer Josh Heinz) are more than capable despite their handicap, shooting off wheedlin’ screeds in every direction and wailing in the vein of the singing drummer of Sir Lord Baltimore crossed with Halford at the end of “Tyrant”; maybe the Danava dude is a more apt comparison. For those less impressed by the music, the artwork on this thing, designed by Brett and Erin Smith (remember these two), is unlike anything I’ve ever seen – a lascivious, truly mental diorama graces the 3-D gatefold sleeve, and for the coup de grace, the manufacturing process has somehow allowed for the mounting of polarized lenses on the center label of the record, via two nickel-sized holes drilled into the dead wax on either side of the spindle hole. I’m surprised the vinyl survived this process, and I’m certain it was time-consuming, but the end result is a record I am not gonna forget for a good long while, even if the gimmickry matches the winking of the music within.
Metzger’s furious banjo virtuoso returns for another perplexing, yet rewarding set of avant-tantrums. Taking on percussive qualities as well as sounding like a mutation of sitar, steel acoustic, and banjo just, he’s restrung and modified his instrument to take on tasks it was never designed for, so his composition accounts for what he’s allowed himself to do as much as where his head is to bring it across. Since nobody else has ever written for this variation of the instrument before, a lot of what you hear on Metzger’s recordings takes this innovation into account, tempering clawhammer playing styles with what he’s been able to create outside of it, applying an atonal, clashing chord structure across prickly rhythmic playing. Use of space seems to be frowned upon, and few notes are allowed to ring out as Metzger thrashes away at his monstrosity, playing in uncharted territory and shaking up the audience in the process. Engaging but quite uneasy.
Projected sonic imagery of “innocence” via childlike vocals, guitar, flutophone, drum machine, and other tools of escape. Chanteuse Wednesday Knutsen elects to sing only in French, caterwauling and mewling behind a musical accompaniment that ranges from cloyingly innocent to stumble-prov. Falling to the laziness of waltz tempos by the second track, Pigeons are clearly trying to break free from the constraints presented within a survey of musics by mocking them – and in doing so manage to squeeze out a few inspired moments – but in essence trap themselves an impenetrable wall of difficulty, a wall they built themselves. It pains me to remark that this might be one of the first bands that’s tried to take the CocoRosie formula and really run with it. No, no, no. 500 copies/
Building off of a perceived Sacred Bones aesthetic (at least based off of the Blank Dogs 12” and Factums album), Toronto’s Pink Noise fits right in: “dude” vocals, sunglasses at night, martial drum machine, barking guitar, and a preponderance of synthesizers which swarm all over the proceedings. Suicide comes to mind, but so do countless ‘80s minimal synth hometapers that have vanished into discarded RAM. Wavo as all get out, but maintains high levels of respect due to the completeness of the sounds at hand. Pop-obsessed and drowned in sub-optimal fidelity, this record has opened up some doors upon repeat listens. 900 copies in regular silkscreened sleeves + 100 “limited editions”. Glad I got two.
Trading in their headdresses for dreadlocks, here comes the “dub” Pocahaunted record you didn’t really ask for. Their name has kept those of you with common sense away for this long. You were wise. How I suffer. Following a promising opener, which rolls along a moderately successful Krautrock foundation, things quickly fall to shit: basic drum programming, traditionally “stuck” reggae rhythms that fall flat against the moaning and general goth-as-Eastern-mysticism jank that a couple of bands took to embarrassing measures in the ‘90s, and telling titles like “Ghetto Ballet,” “Riddim Queen” and “Follow I.” Makes it abundantly clear that they have no consideration towards the past, towards history, conventional wisdom, experience, etc., and are going to do what they want, when they want, which might be the most damning trait of all. Pointedly mediocre and dull in every aspect, from the misbegotten ideas of cultural miscegenation to the slop-handed execution, finally carrying the concept of dub into the beige abyss of new age/smooth music. Bad in ways you can’t even fathom, though of course, like Raccoo-oo-oon, there’s one acceptable track that keeps things from being 100% abysmal. Still, if you’re going to buy a record for one song, why would it be this one? A recording of Bill Laswell passing gas would sound more ethnic, depending on what he ate. 500 copies, gold vinyl.
Intense carpets of swirling digital noise, guitar armies of sublimated drone, and tape cut-up choral patches for one epic release. So big it’s got credits like a film (and really, who knows who was actually on this) but a good third of the prime movers in today’s noise scene are name-checked in here, so Raglani’s at least got the connections to “make the myths,” as an out-of-touch old man once said. Pulverizing.
Low-profile/high-anxiety dirges from North Jersey, refashioning the portmanteau of “manfeelings” (thanks again, Layla!) and walloping post-hardcore for our current recession. The lesser dude would draw comparisons to Pissed Jeans, Rollins Band or Rye Coalition, but RSO makes long strides towards detailing the mud-caked intricacies of this music’s narrow history. Fluttering sax treatments (and accordion on closer “You Too”) bubble up all over heavily distorted momentum, calling to mind the Cows; the whole shaken-to-pieces minor chord repetition references Trumans Water’s seasick skullcrack, and really the whole drunken, misanthropic locker room presence of the AmRep ideology hangs comfortably within RSO’s palette. There’s too many bands out there now getting defensive over varying levels of historical ignorance – guys claiming to have never heard or liked the Jesus Lizard, yet making music with near-identical approach – and while I don’t know RSO, they embrace so many aspects of how this sort of scene turned out in the ‘90s that I really hope they are the types who can man up to such accusations. For they play with ownership; these are their blues, they’re not trivial or evasive, and as they sink into ten-minute mantras that slash back against defeat, nothing is held back from the pain and suffering they let loose. Outstanding debut. Bonus CD comes with two extra tracks. 500 copies.
Russian Tsarlag = ponderous, atonal bedroom mope, starved of daylight and positive attention. Pain for you. Blue Shift = primitive violin scrape and experiments in patience. Impossible to parse or appreciate in any conventional sense. A really, really hard time, materialized into a green vinyl artifact for aborted generations. Includes a zine.
Wandering, complex folk instrumentals. Not particularly engaging, but they at least follow somewhat of a narrative path, albeit an obscured one. Doesn’t really stimulate the senses as much as it ought to. 500 copies, silkscreened sleeve.
Light, less-than-substantial pop with ambient and twee leanings, made by people in the noise outfit Tusco Terror. Touches of tape flutter layered over the mannerisms of indie pop do not innovation make, and the poetry flaunting as lyrics doesn’t exactly sell it either, but I’m sure there’s an audience for this sort of music – just not in this house. An uneasy, synthetic warble through other peoples’ ideas. 500 copies, silkscreened reversed sleeves, comes w/ a CD version.
Pretty decent-sounding HC/crust, blastin’ and grindin’ away. Side B slows it down a little, which is good because side A was starting to fold in on itself with sameness. Lyrics … well, they’re political, aren’t they. Hella competent! 100 or so on clear, the rest on black, and the CD version tacks on two OOP 7”ers. Yooooooooooooo.
Seven unreleased tracks and a repeat from an earlier release (the School of the Seven Bells 12”) comprise this sampler from the Table of the Elements rock imprint. Everything here is worthwhile and hardly leftovers, from an inspiring small ensemble piece by Rhys Chatham, recorded live in 1986, to Megafaun’s busy-handed Middle Eastern sashay, to Neptune’s industrial scrape, and more. Also includes works by Paul Duncan, Ateleia, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and Jonathan Kane’s February. A very “together” compilation, detailing the signings of a label that has curated a very specific sound. White vinyl, includes a poster for a Radium festival in Salem, NY this July.
REISSUES … Rough Trade US now sits under the Matador/Beggars Group umbrella, and a smart, early order of business in this relationship has been to press up the Scritti Politti singles compilation, Early, as a double LP. Some of the most vital music of Rough Trade mk. 1, once again available on vinyl – please don’t let it slip by you again … French new wave/disco/punk/electro comps have been happening for some time, with BIPPP being an early highlight, but the IVG Vol. 1: Futur Anterieur France 75-85 collection on Poutre Apparente really takes it; some truly crazed punk and minimal synth in a direct descending path from Metal Urbain gets notice here, centered by Ruth’s “Mon Pote,” which predicts the Dead C. by about a decade and provides a brutal foil to their/his new classic “Polaroid-Roman-Photo” – absolutely essential … Sublime Frequencies returns to their limited run vinyl series with Shadow Music of Thailand, collected by Porest’s Mark Gergis. A wild assortment of Thai guitar/lounge chillers, the comp outlines a Western influence felt in the Japanese “group sounds” movement, with delightful results … Never thought I’d ever get a chance to see legendary Japanese hardcore outfit Systematic Death, least of all in 2008, but the group reunited for a brief run of coastal US dates with Tragedy (NYC, Providence, and Portland, OR) and I’m stoked to have been there. They went from fast to faster, a confident and bracing burst of first-wave hardcore from a movement most Americans know little about – select appearances on world hardcore collections like Welcome to 1984, Pusmort’s 1987 Thrash Til Death comp, and a handful of CD boots from the ‘90s were all that most had to go on, until now: Partners in Crime has issued two double-LP volumes (and two CDs) of the entire discography of the group in Systemania Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, replete with a detailed history of the band … Amish Records has pressed up the 1999 debut by Hall of Fame, entitled First Came Love, Then Came the Tree…, on vinyl. The trio of Samara Lubelski, Dan Brown, and Theo Angell has diversified since then, so now’s a great time to revisit their gentle, spacey beginnings in the proper format.
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.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
Submissions can be sent to:
Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.
Keep sending in submissions, please!
By Doug Mosurock