Still Single: Vol. 5, No. 2
Still whittling down the review pile with this latest installment. Hopefully I will clear it all out soon, so those of you waiting patiently for months can see if we kissed it or dissed it. Keep sending in your new records, or else this thing dies a death.
As a reminder, you should sign up for the Still Single Twitter, in which I tweet to you news on new vinyl releases, so you can grip ‘em before they end up on the eBay machine. That’s at www.twitter.com/stillsingle-- didn’t really consider it at the time, but I’ve been getting followed, likely via Twitter spiders and spambots, by a bunch of dating sites and lonely moms who wanna have fun. You can keep those sloppy seconds, I’m good. I run a clean ship over here!
Look for another podcast in two weeks. I’m spent. Off we go…
Bleak, black drone-n-moan from Sweden. Everything that works in the favor of, say, an Expo 70 is worn through here, sounding like a haunted house effects record at times. Dreary melodic tones and croaking vocal samples fill the space with high school goth gloom and washed out ‘70s horror soundtrack-isms, showing its hand immediately. None too exciting.
Five labels are proud to release seven hateful rants and practice-quality metal riffage that dabbles in blues boogie. Songs about about how some dude is a fag with "lyrics too brutal to print" and a checkerboard 2color screen printed logo of a big middle finger standing proud to flash devil locks. Long hair, big muscles a bearded drummer and Nig Nambler on "throat"… Remind you to play this record at MAXIMUM VOLUME…. And that it is recorded on ½" tape. A terrible inside joke on sincerity that distorts every possible sign of a DIY record into parody. (Josh Figgleman)
Brooding, spare, bass-heavy dark rock trio from Houston, TX, definitely with a post-punk feel that borders on danceable in spots. Far more subtle than most bands working this sort of sound over the past few years, Balaclavas are fronted by a legit singer craning to reach some high and reedy notes in the male range. He’s never at odds with the band, whose best moments find more in less, holding back to a sinister hum on “Black Light Trap” amid discordant, muted bass vibrations. Public Image Ltd. circa Metal Box comes to mind, but these ideas are helped by time and a pop sensibility, and don’t range on forever. A Gothic foil to Mi Ami, or maybe a dubbed-out Live Skull, would be a more apt comparison. Either way, I’m in – it’s nice to hear a band that’s willing to attack such ideas with confidence rather than most others’ lazy attempts to bore through isolation, or trying to be all things to everyone who’s listening. Beautiful silkscreened sleeves and insert; numbered edition of 300 copies.
Awe-inspiring drone/chop pieces by Marc Richter, a biorhythmic chorus of milky heartbeat percussion oozing under multifaceted layers of sound – synths, vocal samples, and field recordings get supercollided into shimmering worlds of new sound. A labor-intensive process I’m sure, even in our age of technology, and it’s produced a grand end result, swarming and beautiful. 600 copies.
It’s been a long wait, but finally some new Blues Control material has surfaced, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a holiday-themed record, if the sleigh bells on “Paul’s Winter Solstice” or the slight riff on “Jingle Bells” in “Snow Day” have anything to say about it, but even though winter will soon be over, these two songs fit squarely into BC’s expansive M.O., a striking balance between melody and ambience, showcasing a creative process that produces some of the most fulfilling and challenging sounds of our day. They’re my favorite band in NYC, and one of the few outfits who have never disappointed me in the live setting. Simply gorgeous, relaxed, sounds that float in and out, blowing lungfuls of green smoke on the lines between pop and art. 1500 copies, baby blue vinyl. Sub Pop Singles Club series – check eBay for yours.
I don’t know what it will take to make me a Circle fan. I don’t have the time nor the wherewithal to sort through their two dozen LP releases, nor do I possess the patience to listen to them run through whatever technical/aggressive/ambient whim they might be feeling today. That said, if I didn’t know who the perps of this single were, I might be a bit more surprised. “Odottamaton” is spindly, high-register metal with sleazoid Finnish vocals that eventually breaks down into a dirge; “Harmaat Linut” rolls on some Mod Lovers/Krautrock riff with more of the strained vocals and some musical theater singing moments that I liked better when they belonged to Blue Oyster Cult. Still unimpressed by this bunch, and I’m sure I’ll find a way to dislike any primer you can throw at me – I’m more impressed with their first 7” than I am this direction. 1500 copies, silver marbled vinyl. Singles Club edition.
Unusually twangy and gritty for Eddy Current Suppression Ring, who have staked their sound around a far stricter punk ethos than this. Recorded in between the two LPs, the garage-borne grit of this one makes this great outfit seem a bit more ordinary. Whether that is something you want out of them or not depends on how you felt about Primary Colours, I suppose, but I think that this one sort of takes away from the band that I grew to love a bit. Australian import. Maybe a few more listens will win me over, but this one sounds a lot less inspired than their other records.
My first exposures to Expo 70 here – can’t cop all the CD-Rs and tapes and such, nor would I have the time to listen to ‘em all – but I understand the praise now, and think it goes beyond people trying to put records in your hand. The duo lays down a full, expansive bed of drone, allowing it to recede when necessary (nice ebbs in “Life Sucking Panther Blood,” from the split LP), and giving it enough time to grow and wither before adding simple, effective melodies on guitar, bass, synth, etc. All three of these sides are keepers, with the 7” tracks being a little more insistent given the brief runtime of a 45 single, and the LP offering finding a comfortable pace of development over an entire side. Rahdunes are a trio, featuring Indra Dunis of Numbers, but the herkajerk analog pain of that group is all but gone here, replaced by a languorous, deep groove, punctuated by hand percussion/drum machine and made all the more tripsidelic by extensive use of reverb, fading vocals, and coils of guitar sliding skyward. I find this maybe a bit less deep than the Expo 70 side, but far more listenable and engaging. Fast, loose rhythmic shuffles shimmy through loops of effects and earworm note patterns, in a style fairly similar to Blues Control’s. Definitely want to hear more. Nice silkscreeen job on the LP, too. Very strong object value overall.
“Spring” b/w “Katmai” 7”
Blurry fast, heavy, crashing hardcore/noise rock that throws the listener all around the room. Impeccably recorded, with every element standing out clearly amidst an oppressive din, Herds throws in all they’ve got, pushing big blocks of air through full stacks. The five-song EP on Fashionable Idiots works a bit more with some stock Midwestern cornfed moves, but the two-songer on Deer Healer trumps it somewhat, possibly because singer Mike Priehs released it himself, and thus kept the best material. “Spring” is a fast basher, and “Katmai” is the heavy mid-tempo steamroller. Fanfuckintastic efforts here. Both are limited, both are likely sold out, so hit the stores and get to diggin’. Heavy chipboard silkscreened sleeve on the EP, stock Deer Healer sleeve design for the single.
French garage/dirt-dog dents that’re so oddly rendered that they become something else entirely. Growlin, yellin’ vocals and the bass take up the entire middle of the recording, and push the guitars and organ back up to the corners. Things sound a bit more traditional on “Moody,” the slower B-side, but both “Blues Cranks” and “I Don’t Mind” are rampant and unorthodox, as the ‘60s backing gets ground up in the obscene attack of those vocals. Highly recommended to anyone looking for the far edge of the genre.
Pig Heart Transplant
Jon Kortland of Iron Lung flexing his noise muscle here, and it is strong. Less abstract than the last single I heard from this guy, here he’s moving into a heavy industrial direction, screaming himself raw over Swans-style thud and heavy, reverbed percussion. “Nature” is slow, but “Nurture” is even slower, and way heavier. August Alston from Walls takes over on vocals here, as Kortland grabs his bass and squeezes out glacial, torturous lines as guitars feed back and crash into minor chords and sickly anthemic leads scrape themselves into the undulating muck below. Not what I was expecting, but very welcome. Grinds your life under its heel. Not very many copies and quite possibly sold out.
Wooden Shjips tackle Neil Young by way of the Index or maybe ? and the Mysterians, ramblin’ across “Vampire Blues” in a style that starts to break away from the ground these longhairs have covered already. It’s a successful reinvention of the bluesy downer from On the Beach, carrying none of that record’s bad times along with it – it’s almost as if the Shjips don’t have the blues at all, and are content to walk among us in the vampiric world. “I Hear the Vibrations” is a bit more focused towards the sounds you expect from these guys. Heavy groovin’ with squalls of fuzz-wah guitar and a persistent organ rollin’ along in the back. Vocals on this one too – muddy, hazy mise en scene here reminiscent of Dispersion-era High Rise. Don’t know why these guys stopped sending these records to me, but I guess they’ve got new friends. This is a UK tour single that’s been here and gone for a long time now. Shows you how backed up I’ve been with respect to writing these reviews…
Modest, mostly acoustic spookabilly by a guy who sings in that peculiar, affected country/early R&R way (think Charlie Feathers, though not able to sell it as well). Not really too outstanding, but solid – when the band, or just Andy, can play in time.
Breathing exercises by Loren Chasse and Glenn Donaldson, cast into the ether fumes of their sunroom and bunker, where these five pieces were recorded. Long pieces of acoustic drone and ossified folk build and decay, envelop and swallow. Careful and a bit precious, including a piece based on themes from Genesis’ prog-era “Trespass.”
Long-delayed second album by Olympia-to-NYC singer-songwriter Zachary Cale, recorded in pro fashion at Bearsville Studios in 2005; the late date of release and the album’s title might give the story away. Playing solo and with full band accompaniment, this loner/Leonard Cohen acolyte plays an accomplished guitar and writes serious lyrics with poetic depth. He’s able to pull it off extraordinarily well, too, at times recalling the Mark Fry LP none of had heard until recently. The graveness of some of this music might hold Cale back from greater acceptance, but it’s not necessarily the lightest of us that’s going to remembered on down the line. Cold, chilly folk for dark times. 400 copies (CD version’s only 300 copies).
Every Country Teasers release is essential if you’re a fan, and you know you’re a fan from the very first moment you’ve heard them. This side of 12 tracks, recorded in 2006, was done “W.O.A.R.” – without Alastair and Robert – and pushes the trio of Ben Wallers, Sophie Politowicz, and Leighton Crook into territory uncharted to the CT’s proper. This is the most experimental, risk-taking record of the band to date, and they’re the better off for it, rising up from a self-recorded, lo-fi murk into dust-draped corners of their sound, simple patterns that sound improvised twisting about across a variety of textures. It’s gentle by the band’s otherwise crass, forehead-thumping standards, content to putter about with primitive piano melodies, low-rent synth/drum machine clatter and curious guitar colorings, and for them, this time, it works. Wallers has had several releases which build upon this experimental nature by the Rebel and the Company over the past few years, and as one of the few underground figures around who I feel has the license to release as much material as he feels necessary, this is another welcome surprise. Ezee Tiger, a Denver solo artist and transplant in the Bay Area, offers up two lengthy pieces on his side. The first, “The End (From All of a Sudden)” leans hard into a four-chord progression over and over, and seems like it’s going to kick off into something great. Sadly, we end up mired in “Crush Medley (a stupid rock opera kinda)” which is this big seething mass of unfinished ideas, from the painfully obvious (Pixies-style riffing) to the unrehearsed, as farty synths and slowed-down vocals pushing a few strains of melody to the limits of interest. Reminds me of Japanther at times, something I hoped I’d never have to write anywhere.
Album #5 or 6 for Fat Day (I’ve lost track) finds them pretty much treading the same water as they did on Burrega!, their second album and finest moment to date. So if you liked them in their foil-wearing, musical-helmeted, trampoline-jumping prime, you’ll probably enjoy this massive effort. The group’s standard 60-second prog-punk freakouts are punctuated with intervals of orchestral music, recorded for the album and not just sampled in. There seems to be a bit of a turn towards the metallic, making itself heard in cleaner production and somewhat improved technique. They also do a song called “Wangler Bwoots” which seems a bit out of date, as it takes to task Sam McPheeters’ commitment to music and creating a legacy in what appears to be as reductive and open-ended a criticism as could be crafted by this bunch. No real surprises here; Fat Day records work on a consistency-as-quality basis, and this is a nice return to form. However, it was recorded in 2005, and seeing as it’s being released in 2009, I’m pretty certain they may not be a functional unit anymore. Tuff guys of Boston can heave a sigh of relief, I suppose, until the next teabagging session courtesy of Life Partners.
Handmade, homemade double-album of solo recordings by mystery artist GC, ostensibly made somewhere in Bushwick. Lots of surface textures across these home studio recordings, all of which serve to define whoever made this. There’s a lot of material here, too, much of it rejiggered and sampled and rolled back over onto itself. GC can’t sit still; from some righteous late night psych treamtnets to nerdy vocoded Timbuk 3 style groaners, it becomes clear that this guy would have filled a third LP if he could have. Obsessions on the songwriting end seem to be Ween, Sebadoh, John Lennon, and Elvis Costello, which make for either a great time or a less-than great one, though to be certain there’s more full-fledged songs on here than mere ideas. Completely random artifact I located at Other Music (for cheap -- $8.99 for a double album), bedecked in paste-on sleeves, and hand-stamped and written labels. Back cover track list slop extensively lists everything used to make this record, giving even more of a semblance of identity without revealing anything. No idea how or where to locate this one, sorry.
New album of expansive, expressive space rock by drummer Adam Kriney’s psychedelic outpost. This guy plays in a number of outfits (Owl Xounds being the one you’ve probably heard the most of) but La Otracina is the most instantly enjoyable of the lot; rounded out by guitarist Ninni Morgia – hot shit if I ever heard it – and bassist Evan Sobel, the five tracks presented here jibe with one another thematically, and build upon the past without necessarily sounding much like it. There’s a lot of Krautrock in Kriney’s drumming, and a great deal of finesse through these five instrumental passages, but these folks have managed to develop a voice within the genre, one which pushes beyond mere imitation into delicate, needling guitar passages, confident soloing, and heavy, non-traditional rhythmic bias. Plenty of ideological left turns enhance a rather traditional, familiar listening experience into something memorable.
In one ear and right out the other, any of the charm that was earned on Love Tan’s Sweet Rot 7” is squandered here. Lazy, occasionally tuneful lo-fi riffage is cast against noise, or poorly executed vocals, or first-thought song construction, or some other damaging element. I think the secret to this music is to reduce by half whatever ambitions you think you’re going to bring across on a cruddy four-track recording. Ambitious and anxious and wound up, which might be the problem.
Clangin’, abradin’, post-punkin’ rock from Australia, featuring the guitarist of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Great record here, dialing things down a bit from their previous single to a respectably twangy, ornery simmer, the kind practiced by the Country Teasers or the Fall ca. Grotesque. Not a whole lot to say about it; this isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means, but it’s scrappy and well-done, and there’s no reason why you should be deterred from checking it out. Excellent artwork on a gatefold sleeve. Aarght! as an imprint can seem to do no wrong.
Winning collection of live tracks, covers, and the occasional studio piece by the last lineup of Psychic TV, celebrating thee life of Lady Jaye Breyer in modes both somber and ecstatic. If you had any questions as to Gen’s presence in the documentary DIG!, these tracks should answer it, finding the new incarnation of PTV in consort with the best moments and feelings that the Brian Jonestown Massacre can create. The Stones, Syd Barrett, the Velvets, and Roky Erickson all fall under their jeweled blade, with guest spots by Gibby Haynes and Michael Gira. Special music, made to help you forget about pain of the past and just be. 500 copies, one LP on red marbled vinyl, the other on black with white streaks. Excellent package here.
Ratas del Vaticano
23 bashers by a scrappy Mexican punk outfit with loose ties to Los Llamarada (guitarist Violeta appeared on their Take the Sky LP). An objective, comfortless no-fi romp through life in despondency. The four-piece swings and slashes through the monotony with rumblin’, garage-like abandon, with monotone vocals shouted over top – kind of a real-world equivalent of Teenage Panzerkorps, or any number of Messthetically charged bands of the past. Not a lot to say about this one; you can almost tell what you’re getting into from the looks of the cover and the Siltbreeze name on the back, and if you’re like me, that’s business to which you need to attend. 700 copies.
Talibam’s sidelong “The Geometric Mophometrics of P.P.P.P.P. McNasticals” recalls the abstract naming conventions of drummer Kevin Shea’s former outfit Storm&Stress, but the similarities, aside from Shea’s fall-apart drumming, have dissipated. Matt Mottel’s vocal rants and synth pressure are mere coloring for Shea’s eight-armed attack. I’ve heard better out of this outfit, but maybe nothing more “punk.” Also it’s nice to hear Shea lock into a rhythm now and again, which he seemed incapable of doing in S&S. Wasteland Jazz Unit is a duo of Jon Lorenz on sax and John Rich on clarinet, amplified and extended into a feedback-laden blowout. Their two tracks could peel rust off of chrome, and probably your sanity as well.
SF garage/surf/striped-shirt combo, featuring Ty Segall up front, digging into that area’s rich historical traditions in those areas. The Mummies, Supercharger, maybe a bit of Phantom Surfers in there, and the overall urge to wreck shit are the first things you’ll hear. Segall’s out solo now and some of that work rubs into TF jammers (“Get Off My Back”) but this is basically what it is – covers of thee Headcoats’ “Davey Crockett” and Redd Kross’s “Kill Someone You Hate” should tell you exactly where this one is pointed at: right into the dirt. Pretty great times, and the band’s logo is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Couple hundred copies, white vinyl.
Hometaping husband-and-wife electro-pop duo out of North Carolina with a good thing going. Normally I’d be averse to this sort of action, as the familiarity that marriage breeds doesn’t often make for stimulating sounds. Not so here! Waumiss originated in Florida out of the same camp that produced endlessly inventive outfits like Home (and one of Andrew Deutsch’s Disbelief St. songs is covered here, which caught my attention). Bustling rhythms, ebullient synths, groovin’ guttural bass, and a restless, cheerful pop spirit covers both sides of the LP, spanning eras and genres, frugging madly across the divide, smiling ear to ear. Excellent, inventive times. Fans of whatever lo-fi shit gets spat out onto Myspace should do themselves the service of checking this one out, and everyone else should join in. It’s rare to find a completely unknown record that is fulfills any and all expectations.
Brooklyn psychedelic long player content to sit in the garage with the engine running. Over the course of two sides, these pieces never go anywhere, content to hover around some simplistic ideas and a stone groove (provided by Kid Millions of Oneida, one of the few bright spots here). I kept waiting for either of these tracks to do anything other than establish mood, and I was sorely disappointed. White Hills shone on their Hawkwind covers 7” (see the last Still Single) but here they flatline. Not the best way to get started. 333 copies, paste-on sleeves. I have a spare and would consider a low-wattage trade for it.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. 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 is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
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