Still Single: Vol. 5, No. 10
Back at it with a ton more reviews. Look for more soon, as I’ve restocked the staff with boxes of random vinyl, apart from everything I’ve got on this side. By the end of 2009, the box will be emptied out, ready to leave this decade behind, ready to clean the slate.
Please remember to use the new Still Single address when sending in submissions to us! Forwarding is almost dried up from the current location, and then that’ll be that. Do you want your records to sit in the dead letter office? No? Good, then. Here’s where they go:
Hopefully we’ll have one more column to go before year’s end. If not, you can always keep up with us at http://still-single.tumblr.com.
On with it…
Five tracks of rounded, atavistic melodies and drones by this French duo of Julie Normal and Cheveu’s Olivier 2mo. Where many practitioners these days go the laptop/effects route, and dress up their compositions in effects that are meant to represent dread or fear, Accident du Travail get a leg up by playing real synths, human imperfections left whole, and let the tones speak for themselves, somewhere between the lilting decay of Discreet Music and the disorientating phantom flirt of Maryanne Amacher’s Sound Characters (Making the Third Ear). Not to paint this group into a religious corner, but there is a peace and balance within these compositions that we don’t normally find in latter-day electronic music that brushes against what’s accomplished here. Bits of percussion and rattle phase their ways into the most straightforward release yet on this label, which turns down the dissonance significantly and focuses more on the journey itself. It’s an impressive, subdued work, and anyone looking to end their evening on a restful comedown should look within.
A new Animals & Men record would’ve gone totally unheard unless an accident happened or the album ended up in the review queue. I blindly dismiss any and all reunions of “once-seminal”, “once-great”, or simply “discovered” bands initially active over twenty years ago. Save for Mission of Burma (who are clearly from another planet) and bits and pieces of the current Dinosaur Jr. incarnation, 99% of the time my instincts are correct. Imagine my surprise when this EP made it to the keeper end of my personal collection! This EP gets me out of a negative headspace, I forget that no completely-undiscovered gems actually remain in the KBD/DIY/post-punk era, and I rejoice that this squashes most of what’s going to surround it in smaller record collections. “New Material” is never something I want to read regarding a band this old, but this little fighter makes me forget that momentarily unshakable gun-in-mouth feeling that took over after hearing a new ESG record. Animals & Men enter the late-00’s sweepstakes with a sound uncanny in its similarity to the likeminded and seemingly forgotten Feedtime, not to mention the younger but defunct A Frames. So yes, there’s some thud-rock heavily influenced by The Fall and courtesy of guys who probably bought Live at The Witch Trials out of a headshop’s import bin in 1979.
Starting off with a wall of sound bang, heavy and momentous drumming builds up a thick layer of sonic noise drone, possibly as a big band orchestra might execute. Sliced up dense electronic deconstructions compliment these far-reaching percussive bass sessions with sparingly added free-jazz influence. A very dynamic release for such a small format and run; it’s almost as if a 7” single was too small to contain it. Limited to 300 numbered copies on orange marbled vinyl.
So the Axemen finally make it to the United States to tour, and one of the local weeklies lists them as “Axeman.” Figures, right? Nobody who’s in a position to know has influence enough to care. Tom Lax coulda bought a very decent used car with the ca$hola he’s sunken into this beyond-insane reissue program for New Zealand’s most divisive band – even so far as to have dug up two never-heard-’em cassettes for the introductory offers, guaranteed to chase away even seasoned listeners. Lifting up out of the muck that was Big Cheap Motel, this four-sider thankfully doesn’t give way to clarity, though some would claim it’d give birth to Blankdoggin’, as few of the ‘90s lo-fi oligarchy would have touched a synth or a sampler, let alone subjected them to the levels of abuse that Stevie McCabe offers up all over here. Approximately 150 people will hear a serious Dirty Faces connection to the flotsam here; more will liken it to Royal Trux in their scum/disassociative phase, and that’s fine. Here was – and is – a band that is continually in protest mode, against common sense if not a social or political cause … fuck, one of their auxiliary members drove his ride into the glass doors of the Kiwi tax office, and from all accounts, he’s free to walk on American soil as I write this. Does anyone in New Zealand want to swap places with me? I’ve heard too many good things and am ready to throw away my life in the USA. This 1989 release is nothing but endless ur-jammin’ on some rudimentary melody, jive talkin’ monologue, screechin’ and sneerin’, occasionally stumbling onto a higher truth and really just content to slag off anyone that comes near it. You don’t have to like it, or even respect it, because it was made to chase you and everybody else away. I respect that Lax puts out a pop record the likes of the Mantles or Eat Skull, but isn’t afraid to keep truckin’ in the weirdness like this charcoal nug. Still waiting on Three Virgins, and more eloquent thoughts from Wood Beez.
Is it possible to tell a good drone record from a bad drone record? It’s hard to put a finger on, but these records either have “it” or don’t. A good drone record will seem to fill up the room you are in with sound and hypnotize you if you concentrate on it. This one just kind of sits on the turntable. It’s not necessarily a bad record, but it’s also not as compelling as the best records of this genre. Side A is a higher pitched drone that may be played on a synth (no instrument credits on this record that I could find) and either bells or kitchen ware being clanked together can be detected in the background if you listen hard enough. Side B starts off with ringing bells, which get covered over in the same synth drone from side A, and then after about ten minutes there is a synth glissando and then the record ends. For what it’s worth, the textured record cover by artist Aaron Winters is gorgeous. If you’re the type of person who really keeps up with minimalist drone records, this is an enjoyable record, but it doesn’t really rank up there with Folke Rabe’s What?? or anything. 400 copies, black vinyl.
Bird by Snow is a grocery list of things, aesthetic and musical, that lesser bands have ruined…dramatic vocals, string arrangements, widescreen pop, the naturalist movement, apocalyptic overtones, and general eccentricity. Think back when Godspeed! You Black Emperor first happened, when their “thing” was a little more interesting tiresome crusty punk concerns packaged in Tindersticks’ chops. Then, jump a year or two to the first time A Silver Mt. Zion filled your shitty apartment with the “Godspeed! With Heart!” feel still used by said band to make better-than-boring albums. Though there is a tangible quality here and there, Bird by Snow is not all that similar on paper to the Constellation crowd, but we’re not peddling “tangible” here, we’re interested in “feel” and charm, two things on the 3rd Bird by Snow album alternately used as tools and outputted to the listener as intangible goodness. To put it another way: If Arcade Fire had lived up to ¼ of their INITIAL hype/promise, before anyone had actually heard the band, instead of becoming an excuse to over-intellectualize The Hooters, it might’ve hinted at the accomplishments found on Songbread/Another Ocean. Occasionally, nothing is more refreshing than hearing a band totally ace the “Everything Irritating … Done Right!” hat trick.
More French garage from the LDS crew, who’ve been on a hot streak since conception. This won’t necessarily extinguish it, but it’s starting to feel a little retread-like; stompy, noisy, loutish drunk garage duo that owes a debt to the Country Teasers (side A) and the Oblivions (side B). Both songs fall just shy of memorable, but fanatics will certainly wanna grab onto its horns. 300 copies, silkscreened artwork of the Pope.
The final six songs released (for the time being) from these Brooklyn junkshop-pop purveyors were seemingly beamed in straight from where the crossroads of Olympia and Glasgow in the summer of 1991 (or is that summer of 1983? 1986?). They came, they saw, the released a bunch of singles of cardigan-n-thrift-skirt indie-thrum with lots of reverb. Look for roomy vocals, the world’s most random cymbal smacks, songs that more or less hang together and a vibe that puts the librarian-lookin’ gals up front doing the well-meaning shimmy and the guys head-nodding in the back. The beats are happening (sans rockabilly) and I haven’t heard a guitar sound this strum-scrappy since, I dunno, Blast Off Country Style, maybe? Suddenly I pine for my mid-Atlantic youth and autumn days in the low 60s and the weird warmth of early Clinton-era college radio. From the website: “All copies come in really nice jacket: hand-painted with silkscreen overlay. Each one totally unique!” Seems correct to me.
This French trio has a lot of things going for it: they work from minimal, economic ends (guitar, keyboard/drum computer and vocals, most of which could fit into a suitcase), and constantly find ways to break through these self-imposed sanctions; they have continued to surprise and invent throughout a series of near-flawless releases over the past few years; they understand rock ‘n’ roll as a blues-based form, no matter how hard they beat against it with idiosyncratic glee, and have no problems bringing that across in their music. Their sound represents a big part of what separated Metal Urbain from Cabaret Voltaire, the continent from the empire. That latter trait is a constant with much of their country’s revivalist set in this decade. It’s ground up like foie gras, but all of it’s in there; those Gene Vincent imports paid off. So when you find yourself holding a Cheveu LP that should have been an inconsequential CD-R (and probably was, at one point), you have to wonder what it’s all about, why these guys would be willing to blow it on a handful of cruddy, home-recorded tracks that sound like they were written on the spot. There is barely any effort aside from hitting the record button, so chalk it up to Cheveu’s resourcefulness and wisdom that there’s almost half a record’s worth of quality material here, enough for one of any number of the modern rudderless to hang onto in hopes of reinvention, or maybe invention just. There’s more atmosphere within “Psyx” alone than in any of their previous releases, which speaks both sides of why this album does and doesn’t work. Cheveau shows us what Cheveu can do with one facet of their sound, and here, that’s their best Fall/Country Teasers cash ‘n’ carry. In doing so, however, the band sounds uninspired and tired, right down to the mysteriously creepy cut-n-paste artwork, which mangles their debut album’s record cover in simply but unwholesome ways. Doing something like this tells me that the band is embarrassed of its past, which really seems like a mistake, but diehard fans will find some amount of inspiration here. Not very many copies pressed, and actually awaiting a repress right now.
Seven tracks of spacey garage-punk played by decommissioned military androids who have memorized Grotesque (After the Gramme) but have no idea how to crank it out like real little boys, bless their mechanical hearts. Being real is kinda overrated anyway, But French rock is not. As if to redeem themselves from countrymen who actually say things like “I don’t get the beeg deel about Elvees, Eet ees zhust like Zhonny Halliday, no?” (true story), France has been generating more than its fair share of form-destroying art punk and metal, even if some of us think Crash Normal’s choice in covering a Country Teasers song (“Hair Wine 2”) is a bit like genuflecting to Elvis by covering Mr. Halliday. They also have a song called “Chrome Cranks” which honestly wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Back from the Grave Vol. 345 as lovingly fucked with by Jim Thirwell. Drum machines can be pretty fun when you use them correctly. 600 copies, two sleeve variants of monster cartoony goodness.
Experimental noise legends Thomas Dimuzio and Joseph Hammer collaborate once again on this daunting release, compiling four separate live sets (showcased individually on each side) to display their joint effort of atmospheric sound interference. The first set, entitled “Sky Wire,” is well situated in the realm of electro-noise, cleaned up and fed back into itself. “Sun Dog” starts off as an almost nod to William Basinski, with ever-so-slight build of hush drone that mounts itself over and over to create a doorway for allowing interruptions by various wave form distortions, all to end just the way it started. The second LP goes completely ambient while attempting to maintain a steady theme of quiet builds, pitch-perfect sequencing, and lucid placement of static and sound, each side picking up seamlessly where the last side ended. Blissful ambient noise for late night meditations.
Solo noise and treatments from a young Italian kid who’d like you to believe that the blood in the sink on the front cover was somehow ingested by him. It’s a small amount, and the dude’s teeth have a little on it. I don’t know what to believe, but I do appreciate the inscriptions on the inner sleeve: “Love Your Friends, Die Laughing,” and a shout out to “the one who give me the light.” With that Misfits title in play, you might expect something a little heavier than Ducktails-style straight-to-video soundtrack that gets dark on the A-side, or the standard overmodulated heavy breather with effects and mechanical percussives on the flip. All the same, for some reason, I’m drawn to this one. Anyone – and I mean anyone – could have made this record, but it coasts by on the charm of a youth who rightfully believes that he can do anything he wants, and in that, the personality and the sound blends into a believable, even satisfying whole. Creepin’ rhetoric that eats your toenail clippings and lives in the hamper. 200 numbered copies.
The best noise/heavy rock collaboration, from a time in history where power electronics and rock bands were not often commonplace, from an Alchemy Records compilation entitled Arijigoku Battle Royal that, at one point, finds Subvert Blaze flanked by Hijokaidan for a live cover of “21st Century Schizoid Man.” At the time change, it sounds like someone is being electrocuted, and this noise persists throughout most of the rest of the track; a brutal derailment but a miracle to watch as it crashes. One would figure more bands would try this, but most realize that it’s difficult to harness one in the service of the other, and the noise usually wins out anyway. These two releases celebrate modern success within this endeavor, something that has been simmering in the collective consciousness of the hyper-aware for some time and is finally bearing sick, gray, rotted fruit.
Public Humiliation captures a one-night-only collaborative set from improvised explosive devices Iron Lung and its members’ other outlets – drummer Jensen Ward plays in Walls, whose commitment to dark, early ‘90s screamers like Johnboy or the Unsane (s/t LP era) has not gone unnoticed, while guitarist Jon Kortland moonlights as noise/apocalypse artist Pig Heart Transplant. All three groups are credited to the album, and perform different arrangements of material from each of their bands, along with some originals, and a cover of Big Black’s “L Dopa.” Recorded live from the board at a Halloween 2008 show in Seattle, some clever editing has removed or muted most of the audience response in the effort of menacing ambiance, and it works – songs screech all over the place, coming to halts in mires of dirge and rising up from the middle of the floor, laying into it with such fervor that the careful, mid-tempo plod of this record’s core is dutifully reinforced. It sounds outstanding for a live record, which further confuses why these guys wouldn’t consider taking this lineup out at a later date.
Throughout late last year and early into this one, Brooklyn’s Drunkdriver had temporarily shacked up with conceptual musician Mattin (responsible for those Billy Bao records), who had manipulated the band somewhat in their work together. I’ve never seen their shows be more violent or full of darkness as when Mattin joined them, be it smearing his blood on audience members, or watching Berdan separate all the muscles from his shoulder to chest from jumping up on a PA column. The rock approach to Kristy Greene’s guitar playing had been subsumed by uglified black waves of churn and it felt like the ground was going to open up under them. The bad vibes are more cleanly merged on A List of Profound Insecurities, a 20-minute exploration which finds the band more locked in than ever, and skirting around volume shifts, laptop noise explosion, and guitar piercing through it. There is a little more method here than may need to be, but it’s so goddamn bleak and nihilistic, loaded with good parts scattered Chrome-like all over the record, that it’s hard to ignore something so disturbed. Not much else out there sounds like these two right now, and if there are, they probably can’t play as well as either of them.
Attempting to release an intentionally obscure genre record in 2009 (or even late 2008) that someone behind the scenes, secretly, wanted everybody to love is and was nearly impossible, but maybe there isn’t anyone you might know from elsewhere in Ean Eraser, so the heat cooled out on them. Until I found out that this is yet another Mike Sniper faux-anonymous band! Just kidding. Am I, though? At any rate, this is another great record from this year that you couldn’t get hold of if you tried. And you should try, though I can’t point you to where you could buy one, and this thing doesn’t even have a label or address – just type on blue labels (songs credited to an M. Ford and an M. Griffin) and a hand-stamped white sleeve. It’s straight out of 1979 power pop, with “Illegitimate Love” playing the Rodney on the ROQ side of the coin, while “It Does Not Matter To Me” punks it up a little bit more, driving away at a slashing beat and cool-dad vocals. Love this record; it shoots straight down the teen line. (???)
The third installment in Dull Knife’s singer-songwriter series (dunno what else to call it; it’s part of a limited series of EPs, in identical packaging – Arigato pak printed cardboard pockets with color photos hand-mounted to the back, truly a striking and labor-intensive process, and part of the Dull Knife process, along with razor-sharp curation … possibly the only label of its size really taking chances with what it’s putting out, irrespective of genre or domain … fuck, what a digression) rules. It’s the best; it shatters them all. They’ve basically coaxed out a Deadly Snakes reunion (principles Matt Carlson, Max McCabe and Andrew Moszynski all turn up), fronted by one of that band’s frontmen, Andre Ethier (not the ball player), who’s running on a hot streak from two of the finest examples of a certain time-and-place songsmith. His graceful turn from Porcella‘s swinging, polarized, slightly Gothic and thoroughly misunderstood/advanced demeanor into the after-hours hang suite of On Blue Fog and the mercurial, mature, strikingly orchestrated ascent of Born on Blue Fog, both released silently in the past few years, have led into this stopgap release (a third Blue Fog release is forthcoming, at which point the label may or may not press up all three into a vinyl box set). Here, Ethier and the band push off in their most straightforwardly rocking moments in his solo career. “The Running of the Bulls” presents one of the best cases for Ethier as the underdog performer of this decade – seems like, outside of Toronto, nobody’s heard this guy – through an insistent, triumphant, satisfyingly progressive pop song. He sings in a variety of styles, but is really holding onto a certain characterization of Neil Diamond that steels the song with a passionate read of well-thought lyrics that are far from obvious (“I am not fit to stand alone/On the auction block”), and that woodwind section that stumbles in around the second half gives the organ and piano riffs something to pull themselves around, from the tune’s throttled machinery into a swelling and glorious finale. I haven’t heard a finer song this year, and neither have you. “Gibraltar Rock” settles its sights a little bit lower, swinging a deadpan Lou Reed vocal delivery to a pleasant, galloping early R&B-meets-Memphis soul vamp. Lyrics intertwine with the A-side at spots, but the intensity of that track is matched with the good-time-charliness of the whole affair (“I carved my name in a hash pipe/And I smoked about an ounce of weed,” and High Times sparks up in red-eyed support). It’s up to smart people like yourselves to get where this guy’s coming from, and give him the respect and adoration he so richly deserves. 300 copies, go out there and dig ‘em up, because Dull Knife is fresh out.
I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to self-proclaim on your record’s insert that your band is “RAW AS PISS,” you’re either right, or you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about and should probably just give up. Fortunately for Extortion, a Perth, Australia hardcore band that’s been pushing at it for some years, this claim is backed with force. This latest EP is bar none the most withering hardcore record I’ve heard all year; ten tracks of practice room demolition, rendered to four-track in a melee of well-balanced and white-knuckled blastbeat crush. Lo-fi ain’t got fuckall to do with this; Extortion have made studio recordings in the past with similar results, but the rough rendering of this material, the ugliness of the final product (complete with samples of a violent smackdown at the intro of “Just a Matter of Time,” and a spat out “FUCK” at the end of “Cornered,” all of which frost this shitpuck with clotted blood) push this one well over the top. Drop ‘em and cough, life is not good anymore, and if you need a reminder that’ll just as soon boot you in the skull as sympathize with having to cope amidst the world’s worst, “Worthless Life” and “Cut Short” will serve you better than most. Best played at top volume when the cops have surrounded your residence of place of work. Show ‘em who’s boss.
When approaching anything Homostupids related, you typically know what you are getting into. Factorymen seems to be the exception to that rule. Completely schizophrenic in the best possible way, in the same way the Sun City Girls jumped across the genre map. Tracks float some primitive synth-pop gems over to art rock hysteria, andon the flip, songs like “Black Dream” make you wonder what drugs were floating around these recording sessions, going from lo-fi damaged punk into lounge sonatas. Sedated ramblings repeated over and over are woven into some very surreal compositions. After all of that, one would assume that this has to be very loose and borderline unlistenable … but quite the opposite is true. The Fmen have this weird stew of music down to a science, extremely tight, natural and well executed.
No record was given the chance that this one was given…all year, and maybe most of last year. I’ve never tried to like a record like I’ve tried to like this one. It’s spun continuously over the past five days and sadly it will forever remain classified in a mental compartment I like to call “Similar to First Over-The-Jeans Handjob”, next to other mental compartments with names like “Local Rock Feel” and “Post-Good.” For one, I require my topical hardcore to be heavy, to bulldoze, to move air, and not necessarily in the metallic sense, either. This is not heavy, though I realize that’s not the point. Also, at the time of this writing, Failures have been discussed into the ground, usually behind their super-group status. It’s hard to approach this without the members’ former bands in mind; like a new hardcore record by a band I know nothing about, but it falls short on both levels. The self-importance by way of self-deprecation, self-awareness (Band Name = We Know We’re Too Old To Be Doing This), and vague packaging (no credits…so that people DO absorb this like a band they know nothing about), has overshadowed (in an ill-advised positive way) the average nature of the recording. Someone please tell me why each and every contemporary of this band manages to come off as more honest and more sonically-propulsive. Please…
Another two-sided killer from this flashy-trashy French outfit. “Waiting for the Cheerleaders to Get Drunk” actually steps away from the frantic blues revivalism of earlier releases and onto strummier, poppier times – from Doo Rag and the Blooz Explosion to the Feelies (or more appropriately, countrymates Bosom Divine). There’s a new focus on fidelity here too, missing from their body of work until now. “What’s Your Name” hipchecks the Zombies into the cereal aisle and lets loose the dogs of hard, gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. These guys haven’t made too many mistakes and actually seem to be growing as a band, out of genre and stepping into, well, something. Can’t wait to see where they go next. 500 copies.
Hailing from Mississippi (and guessing that they’re right over the border from Memphis), Flight keeps it slow and big, and have figured out the way to write a hook with minimal effort that’ll hang around with you for the day. The drumming is rudimentary and simple, and sets up some pretty big riffin’ on both these tracks. “Flowers” is the jammer here, couching an enormous alterna-hook into a menacing, slow beat that bridges a gap between Times New Viking and one of Wire’s groundballs (“Lowdown” or “Pink Flag”). Nothing wrong with “Johnny’s Mixed Up” either, or the sturdy Velvets-style foundation from which they drape their scuzz. Four new Sweet Rot singles and they’re all good. I was hoping this moment would come… hoping that Flight has some more in them, for now.
The story goes that J. Edgar Hoover forbade that his limo ever make a left turn. Weasel Walter seems to have done something similar with his career as an improvising musician since moving to San Francisco. In contrast with the slow, maddening slide into frustration that marked his last years in Chicago, when he started running out of people to play with, things now move only uphill – Peter Evans, Henry Kaiser, Evan Parker, Marshall Allen, Damon Smith, and Mary Halvorson are just some of the talents with whom he’s collaborated. But this LP, made with two young unknowns, stands up to anything he’s done with the veterans. Weasel knew he would play with saxophonist Mike Forbes and bassist Andrew Scott Young before he knew what they sounded like; the first time they talked, Weasel asked what musicians he liked and Forbes said “no one.” Anyone familiar with early Flying Luttenbachers knows how that statement resonated with WW’s own youthful nihilism. “Red,” which covers all of side one, sounds like a good old-fashioned ESP free-for-all from a distance, all squalling sax and pummeling drums and barely-there bass. Get close and the details emerge – Forbes’ preference for short, gut-punching phrases over anything that might be mistaken for a tune, or Walters’ penchant for double-kickdrum barrages direct from the land of burning churches – that make the difference between “sounds like” and “our own sound.” On the flipside, “Yellow” and Blue” admit enough space into the mix for Young to pull out his bow and eviscerate a few oxen. Edition of 300, heavy paper sleeve, excellent clean black vinyl. (http://www.ugexplode.com)
Makes sense to not get to something like this to review until it’s fallen out of print, but them’s the breaks. Anyway, say goodbye to Gas, an archival project of three Christchurch musicians (Ian Blenkinsop, Gene-Pool Belmondo, and Mick Elborado, without whom the Terminals, Scorched Earth Policy, Axemen, the Shallows, etc., etc.), recorded in the mid-’90s and thrown in a box somewhere for TJ “the Dragon” Lax to unearth for the few. Some records sound better on the shitty ION USB portable turntable than they do the 1210s or on the Rega. This is one of them. Listening on any moderately decent system, with its long runtime and compromised recording quality, will send H. Montgomery Audiophile into conniption fits, so bang this one out on something that’s a little more cassette deck quality if you’re gonna do it at all. And you might as well, because the whole New Zealand-to-Ohio thing others have mentioned about this thing is definitely in play, a new group of elegantly wasted closet geniuses methodically pushing their remaining brain cells through a tight sieve so that they may propagate parthogenetically into more efficient, smaller organs. With all that extra room they make for very wily drug mules. Show me a better place to hide a few ounces of smoke than within your cranial cavity… and stick around for the music cuz the music is a pleasant little trip, three to four adult males workin’ it out in a practice room with fake drums, fifty-cent words, and a blind, unknowing allegiance to the rust belt of the soul. 300 copies were pressed and there may be a tiny repress coming up soon, so maybe writing this wasn’t really for naught. I do know one bro who absolutely hates this record and thinks it to be complete bullshit. I can see why he thinks that, but I don’t agree. Not to be confused with Wolfgang Voigt’s primordial drug/dancescapes or the Japanese hardcore band, though anyone who knows about either of those wouldn’t need to listen to this to understand that.
The German Measles
Another decent release to flush out the Mr. Blank Dogs curatorial canon. Fun-loving garage punk which brings back the goofball times of The Dead Milkmen. Silly and fun rock n’roll, complimenting any random late night loft party fun.
When did Hasil Adkins join the musique concrete ranks? A truly bizarre & playful gem brings together visual artist Martin Klapper and sound tinkering duo Glöggerne, both known for their stunning exhibitions and unique use of found object sounded blended with improvised electronics, with the legendary Eugene Chadbourne. What starts off as electroacoustic scratching and pawing only serves as the backdrop to back porch hillbilly ballads not uncommon of anything found by Alan Lomax. Songs about getting drunk, love lost and foolin’ around all played over a backdrop of clumsy glitches and accidental pongs. One could easily see these tracks finding new interest on one of those Ellipsis Arts compilations if this was from 20 years ago. Limited to 500 copies.
A diamond in the late ‘00s roughs, SF’s Grass Widow is like a modern-day analogue to early Throwing Muses, Glass Eye, Salem 66, maybe even Scrawl – a band with ideas about structure and clarity that has bypassed much of the past few years of intentional grounding of aesthetics. Without necessarily bowing down to the concessions of defeat, there’s a sense that these women have something bigger going on, sort of a unifying theory between sweet sugar pop and a little something more to chew on. Here’s three great originals and a Urinals cover, by a band which has fully awakened to its abilities. No obvious turns are taken in their songwriting, and the spaces in them are kept busy by a lot of interesting, cool-sounding things springing up from each corner. If nothing else, they have a melodic inventiveness that should keep everyone entertained, but there’s more here, and it’ll be exciting to hear what exactly that may be. Full-length forthcoming on Slumberland.
Yôko Higashi’s hamaYôko project is calculated musique concrete and electroacoustic clutter that defies any easy categorization. There’s a kitchen sink approach to sound sources and recording techniques, often juxtaposing very clear sounds of mangled voices or sharp, percussive tones against more distant background mystery. Higashi avoids easy imagery but occasionally at the expense of coherence. There are elegant surrealist gestures (as would be expected from a label called Entr’acte) but other moments that hang in a tension between exploratory sound construction and expressiveness. This perhaps achieves pure “electroacoustic” status, feeling equal parts electronic and acoustic. There’s nothing earthy or organic about the sound sources but SHASO - train window- is warm and inviting. It’s clear that her approach is very focused, as these pieces sound like the product of careful editing rather than accidents and luck – though I wonder if chance elements might provide a bit of distinction. 250 copies.
Minimal pop alias project of Asmus Tietchens in which himself (and all other members involved) present their names as anagrams of his own name. Aroma Club Paradox makes for a pleasantly sublime addition to Dekorder’s diverse roster of releases, filling the space with simple electronics shuffles, composed side by side with easily-digested synth organs. Unlike his more formal works (done under his proper name), Aroma Club Paradox has a friendly sense of play and pleasure associated with it, tossing aside experimentation and free-form improvisation to allow for his relationship of rhythm to shine through. It’s almost as if Tietchens rallied sounds of his vacation into a fun and enjoyable grouping of sensible pop gems.
Burnished, somewhat lonesome lo-fi tape plugging from Times New Viking’s Beth Murphy and Eat Skull/Hospitals member Rob Enbom. Largely recorded in Ohio some years back, this LP reissues the project’s sole cassette, adding in two extra tracks from more recent times and one from 2005. To some amazement, it sounds little like any of those bands except in character, the duo paddling in chilly folk and subdued pop stretched across prairie fields, old and new material matching tightly with one another. Moments where noise and recorder crud take things over are kept to a minimum, leaving a thoughtful and possibly personal affair to the four winds, and a document of tidy, meaningful music behind to us. 500 copies, still around. (http://www.exiledrecords.com)
Experimental visual artist Hoor-paar-Kraat keeps up his prolific streak by assembling another audio anomaly. Side A consists of a single composition of bassy drone, filled with percussive chatter. Silenced gongs struck at random and left to reverberate into the ether. The flipside piece consists of a well-done improvisational sound collage giving proper nods to Fluxus sound pioneers before him. Hiss drone set to the sounds of scratching and scraping against various metallic objects create the illusion of desperation and despair.
Hoor-paar-Kraat /Drowning the Virgin Silence
Experimental musician /painter Anthony Mangicapra a.k.a Hoor-paar-Kraat offers up another selection of the surreal sound with this split release with obscure experimental outfit Drowning The Virgin Silence. Hoor-paar-Kraat side is a sound collage piece structured from what seems to be the distorted sound of children’s tin toys, falling apart and mangled to the point of an absolute nightmare. Reminicent sound of early-era Nurse With Wound or Etant Donnes, creating a haunting atmosphere of decay and despair. Drowning The Virgin Silence side changes gears into bizarre absurdist pop. A catchy number called Soft White Fur starts off instantly with the line of “Do You Like Rabbits?” which goes on forever throughout the whole jingle. Infectious, ridiculous and screwy, this song is only simple drum machine beat of twinkly synch effects thrown to the jabbering of someone professing their love of rabbits to which possibly someone else agrees. As preposterous as that all sounds, it has to be one of the best pop songs I’ve heard in recent months. Highly recommended!
That’s Hipster Piss Party to you. Side A consists of a batch of nameless, almost tuneless, but no less effective boneheaded punk rock dust-off huffer anthems, with a guy (who I believe is Dillan from trebly OlyWA band Sisters, late of a full-length on Parts Unknown) hollering about “bringing back the Bronze Age” and shit like that. Side B, recorded this past summer, seems a little more concise, the band restraining itself from pushing all of its buttons at once, and here’s where we get to hear a bit of development against the novelty of irritation wears off. It’s good stuff, and since we won’t be hearing as much from Sex Vid anymore, it’s cool that their Pac-NW non-garage/non-twee buddies are picking up the slack. At first listen I was strongly reminded of Worst Case Scenario, and there’s very little wrong with that. (email to email@example.com)
From the label that brought us a black metal guy’s interpretation of the Dead C (Mrtyu) comes two long tracks of guitar improvisation of the noisy & warm rather than noisy & painful type. Either through effects or multi-tracking or both, there’s a few layers here that are normally absent from such one-dimensional endeavors. This record is really going to do it for the 100 people worldwide that probably already own a copy, especially if their gold standard of guitar-improv was achieved way back in the 90’s, like Alan Licht’s Siltbreeze cutout-bin clogger or any number of Keiji Haino solo efforts. As stated, there’s a warmth to this that removes any antagonistic attributes, putting it a few notches to the left of Fennesz, for instance, if Fennesz was purely interested in improvisation via a single guitar + effects board set-up. One can almost picture Li Jianhong’s grandiose foot-forward (or foot –on-the-monitor) stance as he wails away in the live setting…in front of 100,000 fans, because China is ridiculously ahead of the curve and this record is probably in their fucking Top 40 or something.
Hey, want to hear a whiny, squeaky dude rap over some house music presets on a cheap Radio Shack keyboard? No? Me either. K Records thinks somebody must, as this record exists. I’m guessing the audience is his friends. The beats are rock-bottom generic house music and Joey’s voice is annoying. If such music is tediously familiar to me, it has to be exhausting to somebody who actually cares about dance music, and sort of the crux of this junk’s failure. Is it dance music for the punk set? It doesn’t do more than offer up the most obvious corny elements in a straight ahead manner. If I were the clubbing type, I’d want to hear somebody doing it right, or at least strike retro fare in a fresh way. You should hunt down the Right Thant 7” on White Denim for an interesting take on minimal house, done on small format vinyl.
Lo-fi as it gets. Innocent pop rock jams that flow together pretty nicely. Primitive garage banging to predictable riffs over and over. Simple off-key vocals going on/off from various members reminiscent of all those old throw away no-name K Records singles from years ago that we still hold onto for some strange reason.
Tony Paterra unleashes his debut solo effort as Majeure, three side-long excursions (and a calculus-influenced etching) into analog synth/drum sci-fi prog horizons not that dissimilar from what he does as one-half of Zombi. These are tracks that establish a pattern, ride it for a while, then shift into a change, be it subtle or slightly less so. And that’s fine, given that there may not be another Zombi record for a while. Dude is a pro, though, and following in the footsteps of fellow Pittsburgher Damon Che, and labelmate/human metronome Jerry Fuchs (Maserati, the Juan MacLean), in becoming the kind of percussionist who fills seats through the strength of his seated fills. He also matches the solo aspirations of his bandmate Steve Moore, who’s been hitting the boards both as a solo artist and in his own synth/dance project, Lovelock. If you appreciated the Zombi dance single “Sapphire,” and stuck around for the rhythmic imperative of its tracks, then Majeure is going to be right up your straße, particularly in the end rungs of the 18-minute title track. But a lot of the muscle of the last Zombi record was born of collaboration, and it’s not necessarily on display in these shiny, tunnel-visioned Glen A. Larson productions. First 200 mailorder copies on colored vinyl.
Weird, seasonal, oversize rinky dink organ grinder action from this chance meeting of a Black Moth Super Rainbow member (I think it’s the girl?), along with unspecified personnel from Casket Girls, Dreamend and the motherfucking Appleseed Cast. Both tracks are bookended by haunted house sounds and, at one point, a phased-out female blues style singer. Rest assured, it’s not an Indian Summer revival … at least I hope not … but rather four musicians on the outside rungs having a little bit of a hang in the hopes for some licensing money from a commercial. Gets a little steamy on “Shrieks,” though “Creaks,” particularly near the end, sounds like the Halloween Where She Finally Dumps You. Whatever, man, this is fine, I have no real feelings towards records like this, but it does have a (marginally) glow-in-the-dark sleeve, and comes on a hypnotic swirl picture disk, appointed with minimal branding, so at least you can make a clock out of it somewhere down the line. Hell, best looking record this month. 500 copies. First 96 came with a bag of crap.
A-side of the year, hands-down. Heavy, prog-ish rock (not metal) with shit-hot playing and shit-hot hooks. A little mid-90’s aggro thrown in and hope for interesting new bands seems far from dashed (for the moment). The b-side is an instrumental rave-up that recalls Major Stars at their most succinct, and after a few spins, it’s as amazing as the a-side. This isn’t the easiest 7” to find, it being self-released and all, but do go out of your way, as it does what a single should do: gets those tongues a-draggin’ the floor for a future full-length. Another reason to find this 7”, see this band, and buy a full-length upon its (hopeful) release: Mass Shivers almost died in a one-van accident a few weeks ago, but emerged relatively unscathed. The ruling forces want them to go on, and so should you.
Legitimate minimal synth gets recorded, and the tapes are left to melt in a hot car like a Snickers. That’s the figurative M.O. of Rex Marshall, as Mattress – genuine weirdness, besmirched by these times of shitty lo-fi crap, but coming out as its own thing. Marshall employs that sort of vocal blandishment like Jon Glaser on TV’s “Delocated,” which informs the martial, clampdown synthesizer in long, arduous strokes, and plays more like one in a long line of isolationist innovators, from the Xex people to John Bender and Neil Hamburger. There’s a little bit of sleaziness to the whole thing, like it could slip into some seedy, non-existent cocktail lounge or the middle of a Ween record, that really helps you notice that Marshall has written real songs and is not just dicking around with spontaneous, uninspired notions. Favorites are “Gone to Waste,” a hipgrinder out of DEVO Corporate Headquarters, and “Roll Roll Roll,” which sounds like a Cars record baked into one of those record bowls from, like, Readymade magazine, and gets satisfyingly crunchy at the end. Bottom line is that the songs are great, and the delivery funny and weird, but with confidence. Put down the Digital Leather records and step to the real. 500 copies, clear vinyl.
The cover certainly had me expecting the worst, like ska-punk worst, though the colorful imagery gave way to hard naked black bodies and fat devils with hard ons. Ohhh, Apples and Bananas, get it? Musically, it is even more of a pleasant surprise; jumped up, clattering and a bit cacophonous, just drum and guitar with a palpably seamy underbelly. It sounds like Pink Reason taking a proto-punk shot at Pixies or Guided By Voices style pop, maybe a touch of recorded in garbage can with good acoustics. Songs trying to put the best face on fucking tweakers amidst other pitfalls of being young and gay. Compelling and catchy.
From what starts off as a worst case scenario of a terrible Turbonegro knock-off only gets worse as this tape hammers along. Milk Music seem to hail from Seattle and nod Sex Vid in their liners, but none of these promising indicators seem to rub off on this band. Unrehearsed “hard rock” being an understatement, these songs start off as boring jock rock and completely disintegrate to the sounds of a band who just stopped trying. Extremely poor production (unintentionally) with little to no effort on all fronts. (no contact)
From the ethno-psych collage artwork on the simple 12” DJ sleeve, I was very puzzled as to what exactly was in store on this latest Holy Mountain slab. Starts off instantly into some bizarre space tribal not far off from later-era United Dairies style output if put through the Japanese psych grinder. This record however seems to only get more interesting, catching you off guard with random blips and bops … see-sawing from rhythmic noise over to moon man calypso. Certain parts get repetitive but enough found sound sources are added in to break it up a bit. A simple EP that’s a prime example of one’s own title …”new music”.
This is my first exposure to R. Stevie Moore and it’s a very positive experience! I’ve been curious about his music for years, but there is a lot of music to wade though and I never got to him. Since 1966, Moore has been obsessively writing and recording songs at home. The result of all this home recording is a long running and massive discography and a small cult following. For decades, he’s operated the R. Stevie Moore Tape Club (400+ releases and counting!), where, for a small fee, he will mail his fans a cd-r of his latest songs once a month. Not sure if the songs on this EP are new or from the archives, but they are solid sturdy pop songs with memorable hooks and some interesting twists and turns in the song structures. What is most striking about these songs is that, although the production is very lo-fi and cheap, they could have emerged from almost any era of rock music since the mid-60s. The falsetto vocals in the lead off track, “UR True,” recall the late 70s DIY post punk of the Homosexuals and Steve Treatment. “Oh Pat” has a mournful popsike feel that resembles Kevin Ayers or Village Green-era Ray Davies. Flashes of homebound Shrimper Records style indie pop shine through here and there. No one with a discography this massive could be firing on all cylinders all the time, but I’m very curious to dive into the world of R. Stevie Moore and hear more.
A split single in which the MSJ side is typical garage tedium and one of the dumbest band names in a genre marred by dumb band names … these were the only reference points going in. Once again, the power of pleasant surprise is a good feeling. It helped with forgetting how obnoxious it is when a band this old releases a rarities & rejects comp of material that’s not even five years old. Thank god this one pulls a Singles Going Steady, winning the blindfolded taste test (against nothing in particular) as a proper and consistent body of song. Not really garage punk per se, but garage post-punk with sax, which is nothing new, duh, but the heaviness is nice and the energy is there … most of the time. They’re from Italy (I think), so the thematic offenses and arrogant statement of format can be partially overlooked as long as the record is playing. If the Intelligence traded The Fall/Urinals fixation for the Gun Club or Birthday Party (huge presence here) and more contemporarily, Cheater Slicks and Oblivians, then this is absolutely not what would happen, because Intelligence would have to live in Italy and make all kinds of cute presentation mistakes, but the point has been made (yet again).
Mudlark isn’t terribly powerful – yet – but has displayed immense promise on this debut LP, the downplayed charms of which have grown on me after only a few listens. Raised up on the first Dinosaur LP, Meat Puppets (and lots of the hayseed end of the SST catalog), perhaps Dead Moon or Roky and the Aliens, or most astutely the old Washington state band Gravel, here’s a power trio that doesn’t rely on guitar solos (and doesn’t do it that well when the opportunity arises), that wallows in the earth, sounding like the rhythmic rudiments of such an operation were favored over the technical details of recent contemporaries like Pontiak or Pearls & Brass. And yet they stand out for the path they’ve chosen, firing palm-muted dirt bullets into the leaf-strewn fields and kicking off a heavy flannel/hoodie/autumnal vibe, harmonious with their Western Mass lineage. Some listeners might feel a little shortchanged, but the transitional elements at play in these eight songs open up a number of directions that they could take, which is a little more exciting than these bands that have it all sewn up, then stagnate over a stretch of albums with diminishing returns. Reverse the curse. 500 copies.
Nation of Hate
Resurrected from a beat-up cassette tape, here’s the only audio document of Vermont’s first hardcore band. Nation of Hate formed in 1982 after some of its members saw one of the first Black Flag shows with Rollins down in Boston. Coupled with Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll (then fairly new, and what really got hardcore into the groundwater), the town’s youth saw an entrance, and took it. Having played shows with Deep Wound and the Outpatients, the ferocity of those bands seemed to have rubbed off on Nation of Hate. Seven songs with gruff vocals and really great drumming plow away at political concerns (“Red Ronnie”), social injustices (“Cop Shop”), and mainstream media (“Fuck the Jedi,” relevant for its release date) – they’re pretty fast, but then again, it was 1983, and bands elsewhere were already starting to figure out what to do with it next. You may not be kicking yourself for missing this scant offering of 110 hand-numbered copies, but historians of the music will want to seek this out, particularly for Spencer Crispe’s detailed liner notes and an insert featuring articles about the scene in Vermont. (contact Spencer Crispe, PO Box 556, Brattleboro, VT 05402-0428)
Tough, melodic hardcore ripper with angry dragon vocals courtesy of Casey Watson (Look Back and Laugh). With repeated spins this has sunken in well beneath the skin and I’d have to become a cutter to get it out. Not gonna mince words on this one; they have the big clean pro sound, are tight as fuck, wrote two songs that’ll stay with you, and do enough to sicken up sports/jock inflected hardcore, enough to get you to raise your glass with whatever’s in it and bang your head to these two. It’ll put hair on your chest, or rip it out (your choice). Light-footed but heavy, rousing without the bearded burliness that sinks comparable projects. Limited number of copies on red vinyl, likely gone, but the black version is still in print.
Fan Death brings this monster out of the closet six years after its initial release on the Human Conduct label in 2003. Powerful and abrasive hardcore rock, shifting vocal style in the vein of bands like Coalesce or Undertow but with the singer’s voice adapting to the pace of each track perfectly. The New Flesh brings forward a brutal musical rock sound a lot like Harry Pussy. No predictable guitar riffs and no corny breakdowns, just pure, raw energy on this, which I assume are only amplified in their live show (from what I gathered this band is still around and playing out). A great release that holds up years later the same way that classic Black Flag albums still sound relevant.
On Various Days
Jangly shoegaze heroin rock with proper nods to Spaceman 3, My Bloody Valentine and Brian Jonestown Massacre (Methadrone-era) from this bedroom project of Brain Handle’s Andy Mulkerin. Slow and repetitive style but keeps up with selective drumming, everything seeming to be in synch with each other. Hopefully as this band develops more attention will be paid to diversity in songwriting and style, but still has a lot of promise. No one is reinventing the wheel in this genre, but On Various Days (named after a This Kind of Punishment track) make for some decent rock songs where so many are failing miserably. (email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
I want to put this record into the ground and watch it grow. I want to freeze this record in a block of ice in case of emergency. I want to melt this record into the most exquisite figurine man has ever laid its eyes upon. I want to sneak into a lovenest and put this record on while people fuck. I want to give this record to new parents so that their babies can sleep through the night. Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis were last seen in Rahdunes (and Dunis goes back to drumming and shouting in Numbers) but the two put their beautiful heads together here, technology cradled like an orchid, relying more on oscillations than drum machines to pulse forth the lifebeat of delayed, long-strung psychedelia from a far world. A long record, originally issued as a cassette on Not Not Fun, this one sat at the end of my review box untouched for months. When I finally put it on, words did fail and jaw did clench – closest modern reference I can think of is Blues Control, as Peaking Lights have absorbed all of their influences thusly, and push them out as a duo in similarly innovative/backwards ways, like a giant green arm reaching out to place a resin thumbprint on your forehead. Imagine Stereolab being as good as you thought they were before you heard Neu!, then just kinda forgetting about it and living your life and discovering what works for you and what doesn’t, and being of the mind to read this for whatever reason. Guess what, this record was made for you. The crumbling insistence of “New News,” worn down from whatever abuse to which the master tape was subjected, and having that discrete melody pop up and hit you. Are you ready for something this beautiful? Record of the year, easily. It’s a good place to be. And it’s still available for you to get nice around.
Jolly good-time garage pop from SF/Oakland returns with another blaster, bubblegum that’s melted into the asphalt at Magic Mountain, missing the trash can by a good bit and waiting to get matted into the soles of your shoe. That description makes this band sound more annoying than cool, and Photobooth very well could be that band for a lot of folks, but their pudgy, heart-on-sleeve songsmithery does quite well for itself. Ten of the Bay Area’s most attractive ladies pose on their cover. Jason Patrone of FM Knives handles half of the vocal duties. Three songs in toto, the best of which has gotta be “Pretty Baby,” where the police on their back show off against Greg Ashley’s reverb tanks. Like most Raw Deluxe product, it’s pressed in the 500s or so, and never to be seen again, so if mud pop appeals to you, by all means, run after it. Personally I felt more of an attachment to their Daggerman 7” but this is just fine as well.
Wow, if there’s one thing the Pillow Queens are experts at, it’s memorizing a script. They do not improvise or deliver any surprises, as they’re well aware that surprise is unacceptable to the nebulous What Matters Shot-Calling Committee in power during the second half of this decade. Another big “no-no” is displaying too wide a sonic palette within the boundaries posed by a single album. You don’t want listeners asking themselves “Is this the same band?” after every second or third track gets half-a-minute in and you want them to be comfortable with vocals that go beyond inspiration and straight into the loving arms of plagiarism. Once again, The Pillow Queens score high, as the vocalist, (most assuredly a ‘Zach’ or ‘Ryan’ or ‘Joel’) does get a little wild with the decision to copy Isaac Brock and then simply skip that middleman to copy Frank Black, though Zach-Ryan-Joel never does this in the same song. The world can only handle one Mike Patton! Now that everyone is wondering what currently-approved, safe-and-easy style The Pillow Queens chose as the sonic recipe…the ready-in-five-minutes instrumental hand that the Queens hope to play and win with…I should just bring the review to a grinding halt, concluding in five words or less that You Are Going To Like It! Not ‘Love it’, but ‘like it’, because ‘loving’ a band’s chosen direction implies that the target audience listens to their respective guts with a genuine affinity for certain artists or that they rock personal tastes as yet untarnished by what’s heard on some marketing department-programmed satellite channel (named “The Indie Way” or “Left of Boring” or something) or inside of an Urban Outfitters. The Pillow Queens are three Zachs/Ryans/Joels and one probable Rachel, Bekah, or Lindsey that really, really, really hope you like their spazzy-but-not-too-spazzy song structures and approachable guitar histrionics and yelp-yelp-rated-PG-13 vocals, because they really hope it wasn’t a bad idea to drop out of college and spend a ton of money on the Warmed-Over & Loaded w/Quirkiness Early Modest Mouse package, especially since everyone seemed perfectly comfortable and ready to go with the 100% Heart-Free Shoegaze w/Co-Ed Vocals Mixed Way-Up-Front deal.
This is the best Psychedelic Horseshit record, and the one that you should check out if you might have been turned off by some of their other releases. It’s also going to be one of the hardest to find, as it’s the last release in the 2008-09 season of the Columbus Discount Singles Club, limited to just 250 copies, and completely spoken for, down to the band personalizing the copies with each member’s own name. Matt Horseshit displays some serious idol worship here; opener “Endless Fascination” is like “Teen Age Riot” to a generation that’s being offered markedly diminished returns on life itself, and unfazed as to the likeness to the source material – this guy is applying for that “voice of a generation” title, and the generalizations and angst are by far the most unattractive element of the band. The humor wears off too quickly when you realize how serious he is about all of this. But across these ten songs Mr. Horseshit and company put up a noble offering to men in Ohio rock music who’ve walked before him, and shakes out great folk-protest-pop with outstanding, catchy melody throughout. He’s not shy about his intentions, and ultimately, in his ability to present each song as if he threw an entire studio of busted equipment and campfire samples against each one, the ornaments gleaming off each crag in the surface of these restless melodies and wry humor (check out how the guitar overdub cuts out in “Let Down (and Hanging Around)” for an example of how bands haven’t bashed around in tunefulness this carelessly in around 15-20 years). It sounds like Pigpen looks, but all that dissonance comes together in surprising and smartass ways. Columbus Discount pumped out about 8 or 9 must-have records in its first singles club, somehow cajoling A-list material out of just about all its participants. By comparison, Sub Pop had about two, with a few nice-to-haves and a bunch of schnoozers. There’s a handful of subscription slots left for CDR Year Two, and if the Puffy Areolas single is any indicator, they’re going to repeat.
The button-down mind of Stefan Neville rears up and strikes again, with two recent singles more concerned with other peoples’ music than his own. Persevere contains the only Pumice original between these two releases, one very much in line with his very fine most recent full-length, Quo. “The Dawn Chorus of Kina” traipses along a wiry line of surf-studded nylon string riffage before coasting into a peaceful and copacetic coda, as if it was destined to comb a beach under gray skies all day long. He covers Snock (“Open Up”) and the Axemen (“Pacific Ocean”) on the flip, making good of the plangent, candlelit, rough-hewn sound of past releases. But did you also know that Neville was an underground comic book artist? His Oats Comics imprint, co-run with Glen Frenzy, has been churning them out since the very early ‘90s, and wouldn’t you know it, Gfrenzy plays music as well, which has been rendered out by Neville on thee biggest piece of shit recording device you could hope for – the Matsushita National Magnedisk, an early Japanese home recording unit from the ‘40s, and meant for dictation. Those who have grown accustomed to lo-fi sounds may want to brace themselves for the warbling pitch, troublesome interference and generally fuckity-fucked sound that comes out of here, but it also makes Neville’s takes on Glen’s songs that much more lost in a sea of bourbon and ash. These might not be the best examples for which one should consider diving into Pumice’s growing body of work, but they do keep him earmarked as a the extension of the Xpressway dream. 500 copies on each of these.
I just wanted to say that I am really goddamn glad this record got reissued (though in the Kurt Cobain-funded-reissues-of-their-catalog-in-the-’90s sequencing). The electric violin on “Fairytale in the Supermarket” is firmly on some slashing Simon House-type abstractions, making that song and the ones that follow the most organically heavy of post-punk’s first wave. From the first Soft Machine album, through High Tide, up through the Kinks (whose “Lola” they so casually tousle), and a general digestion of both Slapp Happy and reggae, the record would stand out as the most soulful of the era. They sound as if they are having the most fun ever, even on the downers like “The Void.” This sort of thing was a great time when I first heard it back in high school, but it’s the kind of music that we sorely lack in this day and age, and we need it now. Throw out all your Clash records (if you haven’t already) and replace them with this; should be spinning in every dorm room in America for the next few years.
Regional scenes have withered the last few years as record stores falter, and the Internet becomes the de facto, decentralized point of musical contact. Specific sounds are obsessed over and replicated. We’ve got dozens of Black Lips, Crystal Stilts, and Lebenden Totens (and even more of actual popular music), but the spatial disconnect means kids have been slow to make much of it besides reproduce these sonic markers and take pictures of themselves. Hope is not lost though, for something exciting is going on in Vancouver, and hometown labels Nominal Records and Grotesque Modern have done a bang up job documenting a thriving scene that effectively ties together several of the strongest elements of the past decade. Grotesque Modern label head’s one-man/two-mannequin project Random Cuts offer a triumphant triumvirate of 7”s, drawing many influences from their Seattle neighbors but incorporating elements of modern noisy post punk like his previous band, Mutators. Try as I might to avoid the comparison, there is a strong Nirvana element in Justin’s groaned howl and bass driven fuzz, though it’s the aspect of Nirvana that was trying to channel the Wipers, and none of the histrionic tantrums, or the self inflicted bass injuries. All three records have spot-on production, raw but huge. The guitars sound fantastic and varied, thick smooth fuzz, chiming rhythm riffs, and layered dissonant harmonized leads that remind me of the early Sonic Youth LPs. Hollow, thunking bass lines propel it all along. All three records are worth your time, but I’d start with “Sleep” 7”, one of the best singles I’ve heard this year; a sing along anthem opening with a wall of fuzz riff and tweaky noisy guitar bursts. “Make Damage” is second best, a further evolution of the concept, and its flipside, “Pigeon Park,” works a Bull in the Heather vibe. Three 7”s in three months and I want more. Approx. 540 copies of each on colored vinyl, with download codes.
Four tracks of uneasy listening courtesy of the confounding Country Teasers front man: Ben Wallers. A great repurposed sleeve gives way to repurposed sounds as The Rebel meanders through this mini-suite of benzo’d tunes.” Aiming Low, Getting High” begins with a deep synth driven dirge and triggered punches, with a stack of shifted and effected voices intoning the title in recursive nursery rhyme fashion with a distinctly British melody. Next, “The Spot” is a horror-themed instrumental creep fest of plunks and gurgled synth. “Back Out Yellow Boy” is a 40-second foray into chiptune burbles and 8-bit gunshots, before closing with the short-form epic “Riding Into the Sun.” A slightly sweeter dirge plays over a reading of some WW2 passages regarding Himmler & “The Origin of the Jews,” cascading to a bright finale. I’m not sure what to make of the racial overtones here, or the modified swastikas adorning the modified sleeve and label, though it doesn’t seem nefarious so much as it lets us gaze into that ugly mirror. “The Spot” is from a forthcoming, album, and judging by the explosion of ideas here, it should be an adventure.
Second single for this Baltimore thing. Removing the skeleton from shoegaze and leaving the flabby remnants to drape over the surface in both interesting and perfectly ordinary ways, the group goes a lot further towards establishing a mood than most who straddle the labels of band and “project.” It takes a few listens for its charms to unfold, but there are several here, with a little more clarity than on their debut single. Not bad. 300 numbered copies.
From the label that earlier brought us must-own records by mail art legend “Blaster” Al Ackerman and avant composer Ian Nagoski comes outsider sound collagists Sejayno. Typically at home on Shinkoyo, the more well-known factory for NYC based art collective turned musical anomaly Skeletons, the members of Sejayno have branched out from their nest and wrangled the ears of free-jazz improvisor Leif Shackelford and production of Nautical Almanac’s Twig James Harper to help give birth to this peculiar record. Very murky and drudgy, moving along slowly through bizarre poetry recitations laid on top of fanatic noise pop walking the fence of absurdity and genius. Sparse horn instrumentations throw in for good measure all but remind one of the Residents.
Vancouver kids rocket down the side of a rickety skein of Gothic/trash punk aesthetics. “Dead End” lurches around in this uptight double-time/half-time rhythm (“The Purdie Shuffle” for the tight black sweater set, maybe), buffeted by snotty vocals and three whole chords for a good while before breaking into this tight, early JD/JAMC coda – and believe me, this JAMC thing is starting to become a problem here, but these dudes sound like they’re coming at it simply by banging two ascending notes together really triumphantly, not like they’re swapping out their ‘99 Spock for gaunt ‘80s fashion junkie. Sex Church wins by not being complicated, and riding a beaten-dead formula back under the lights, winning almost entirely on vibes alone. “Let Down” does pretty well for itself too, a snarling dirge of trebly bummer vibes and end of the line lyrics (“I just can’t get out of bed”) that casts coffin shadows toward the great punk downers (like “All White” or “Living in Darkness”). Vancouver has shit on lock these days, and seems to have for a while now. Rarely do I get a record out of there that isn’t great; then again, this one shares members of the late lamented Catholic Boys, Defektors, and Vapid, which have all proven to be pretty great bands.
Snake Flower (1) was the project of Mathew Melton, a bedroom psych noodler who cut his teeth in some second string bands from Memphis’s first tier players. In the wake of a botched tour featuring his bandmate/lover running off with another man, he found solace in the desert, burned down those wimpy childish dreams, and burst forth with one of the best records I’ve heard this year. Nothing like a little heartbreak to make a boy a man; gone are the small gestures, improv, and tinny recording quality. Renegade Daydream blazes forth, sprawling, driven, and loud. A great road record conveys a strong sense of motion, and Snake Flower 2’s sun-baked tunes get moving, marrying Detroit garage muscle with grind, fuzz, and Telecaster scrape. Much of power comes from bandmates Donnelle and Will, turning in massive efforts on the rhythmic front that creates a solid wall for the guitars to play off of. While Snake Flower 2 does employ its fair share of reverb and tremolo (hello, year of one-man bedroom strokin’), the band rarely strays far from a pounding central rhythm, always in control. The grind stops only briefly in the final track, “Not This Time,” as Melton bids farewell to one who’s done him wrong before tearing off again. He’s better off for it.
After a few years, Boston’s Social Circkle finally steps up with a full-length, possibly waiting for that “diagonal line HC” tag they received to fade a bit. Whatever that shit meant (possibly a UK or Swedish influence, fashion that wasn’t there, etc.), it’s more stringently enforced here than in the singles; the record is pretty much fast-into-faster hardcore with a very slight rock/garage bent, meaning they play like the Hives at their speediest, and then a little bit even more sped up – precise and slashing and cleanly produced. Singer Christian Pedro barks at you, passing judgment on drugs, alcohol, cops, and not being cool, putting the appropriate proto-conservative spin back into early edge (no songs about guns being OK though). I might have had enough of these guys, but this is a fun time, fleet of foot and bracing ideals, and a pretty solid place to get off the bus. I did like them better around the time of their demo, which slugged along in a Sorry/Burma sorta way. “Drunk Cop,” from that tape, made it to this record; compare the two and you’ll probably agree. 200 were on some color of vinyl I missed out on.
Improv/real-life trio Son of Earth (featuring Matt Krefting, whose I Couldn’t Love You More album of covers was a high point of my summer) clatters away at ground wires, phantom blues, clatter, and breathing exercises on this second full-length, following a spate of CD-Rs. It’s a heavy, first-floor kind of ambiance projected here, and the utter quietude of the proceedings forces microscopic listening. I’ve lived in buildings that made more sound than Son of Earth, but that’s not really the point. While doing chores, it was tough to notice that side A had even finished; the kind of record that is so unassuming and matter-of-fact that even its run-out groove has character, Improvements demands more than many readers of this column are willing to give, but that small percentage of you who appreciate a left-field work of quality will likely get pulled into its orbit. 500 copies, tip-on sleeve, quality pressing, nice 16-page B&W book of photos, and a two-piece obi strip certainly dress it up well.
The teen narcissism vehicle rolls on, prefacing yet another quality album with scraps that their generation is already trying to tell itself that it’s over. “Move to California” is The Big Single and shows growth and strength in all the good places. “City on Drugs” hearkens back to the innocence of earlier jams, put to tape by Home’s Andrew Deutsch last year, but it’s the harmonies you’ll remember. 2009 has been kind of a shitty year and nowhere in this realm is that more realized than in the farty, lethargic closer “Teen Spirit in Hell.” Fuck this decade, throw it to the starving dogs. Let’s just forget the whole thing ever happened and reset the clocks to awesome o’clock. Let Times New Viking write the national anthem for the Ohio-to-New Zealand land bridge that all these swazi-loving dipshits stuck to the tails side of the American coin will die trying to build. I roll with the winners, and TNV are just that. Comes with hilarious insert featuring e-mail rant from disgruntled patron of their June show in Brooklyn with the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. Anyone who was anyone had hightailed it outta there in time to catch Blues Control at the Shank, anyway. This is the kind of band you party with, not see, then write drunken 4am hate mail to their label over. Then again, maybe 1995 is on the horizon once more.
Turned Word can’t be accused of having “a sound” but it can be accused of lacking discriminating release practices. What they do have is the ability to cater to a particular micro-sub-set of photo-collagecore, the one in which Load Records is seen as a sort of Matador Records, if you will (or won’t). Let’s say the aforementioned scene needs its very own Nickel Creek. Enter this band with the name that’s friendly to word-counts everywhere. Flowers in the Night is rural free-pop/folk with a lot of small stringed instruments and high-pitched man-child Danielson-style vocals, but no hooks or atmosphere to save the day. That’s pretty much the album in a rusty hubcap. Caroliner would eat this crap for breakfast. Comprised of folks (literally, they wished) that are not finished with the whole animals-doing-things/amateur-naturalists angle, Uke of Spaces Corners include a hand-screened card in each LP that shows such determination. This copy came with the image of a single-antlered, deer-headed humanoid (or sentient deer) preparing to boo-foo a bird-headed humanoid wearing a onesie. Funny how this is the perfect visual manifestation of the album’s Animal Collective-gone-all-Appalachian-hill-country-amateur-hour, because I don’t want to hear or see any of this again.
VOM fanatics from Australia get better, because there’s no getting around it if you’re gonna be in a band and continue to play and try to impress people. There’s enough piss-poor music coming out of there lately that the good stuff has to float to the top sooner or later. Pretty silly throughout, there’s a song with the sounds of sickness called “Malaria,” one about the TV show “M*A*S*H,” one about money, and one about space. The band has tightened itself up while still sounding like a chaotic mess – it’s all in the drums, really; they tie everything together. Reminiscent of very early Swell Maps, not so much Eddy Current. I guess that’s good. Bands coming into their own and all. Look for a new full-length out now on Aarght! 500 copies of this ‘un.
Avant-garde label Dekorder brings forth the first full-length by Danish sound artist Voks, who previously only released small run CD singles in the past six years. He delivers noodly electro pop with an almost “day at the circus” vibe attached to it. Going back and forth into a endless waltz of synthesizer mumbling, the songs tend to not really go anywhere, recycling the same pipe organ/whistle synth demo effect over and over ad nauseum; nothing but simple keyboard hammering and the sounds of someone rehearsing their new Casio find. While there is nothing really bad about this record, I am having trouble figuring out what took him so long to put together in the first place. (http://www.dekorder.com)
This is Ambition, baby – a North Carolina project whipping up serious cross-genre steam, trying to connect that anthemic huff of that scene’s prospects of past (big Archers of Loaf thing happening in “What Happened to All the Destructionaries?,” so sure of itself that it’s inventing words) with the unified child’s choir theory of bands that are popular with the blissfully unaware of today (Animal Collective, Polyphonic Spree, The Arcade Fire) with a common catalyst of gated Pixies-style chug. The songs did stick with me though, so they did it right. Electronics spackle in the cracks between strummin’ hard and table-sweeping gestures all over the frenetic “Eli Porter, Class of 2005” and no less throttled title track, and give the songs sort of a cell phone static quality, akin to the digital victrola that these records have become. One non-veiled hope to ending this recession is the possibility of one of these bands doing an Albini recording so we can hear what they’re really made of. Until then, bottoms up. Really nice job here; a lot of people will like this.
Loose punk/hardcore fused with heavy brood rock is what seems to be the style in which White Boss calls home. Picks and up slows down, struggled vocals reminding me of the early 90’s wave of upstate hardcore bands at which time started blending in a more art rock style into their music (a style I kind of miss). Recording quality goes all over the place, each song having a far different approach than the last but all around a decent attempt. (email to email@example.com)
From Providence, RI, the Mecca of costume rock, comes White Load’s debut one-sider, wearing an un-mask of its own. Sometimes a little bit of concept can go a long way. In most towns there’s a group of local do-nothings, mashing out no-talent three-note hardcore (the kind you’d have to endure before 9 Shocks played back in the day), and these guys dress it up in their no-concept concept to let you know that they just do not give a fuck and recorded some records to prove it. The first song, “Talk,” is like Cult Ritual taking a stab at some Casualties-style shitpunk, and it’s a slack jawed slide downhill from there. This shit is rudimentary, and sort of works for it. The EP is all guitar feedback (as is the parlance of our time), shredded vocals, and first timer bonk-bap-bonk-bonk-bap drumming. All the noise and apathy wind up being on the right side of compelling, partially due to its word of mouth and their “couldn’t give a shit” aesthetic. Listen now, I got your number, you can fool some people some part of the tiii-iime.
Dustin Wong is a member of Ponytail (you’re forgiven if now tempted to skip ahead) and this is an entire LP’s worth of his instrumental home-recordings. According to various promo/bio works written in Wong’s best interest (or by Wong himself), actual hand-held instruments were played and recorded using the internal microphone on Wong’s computer. “These songs are really not performable … if I do [perform them], I would need about seven to nine people to help me out and that would be too ambitious and I would feel weird about that,” Wong blurts out in the liners. Help him out? He can’t place a chair and a small table on a stage? Elsewhere the claim is made that this album was six years in the making. Wow … I wonder how many missing person’s reports have been filed after Wong was sent to the corner with a four-item grocery list? Seasons (each quarter of the record correlates to a particular season, despite no audible difference in mood or dynamic throughout the entire LP) has less going on than the most tedious of late ‘90s IDM/laptronica mishaps, and could easily be mistaken for more complex pre-programmed cell phone rings or the tunes that come loaded into any $49.99 Casio.
The race is on for Austin’s Woven Bones, who seem poised to be one of the bands that does a little bit better than others in terms of receiving recognition for slapping a couple primary modes of rock expression together, firing off some low-flying garage-punk stiffness, twitchy and tight but playing it cool. They bop along on “Your Sorcery” like a dirty American scum version of the Raveonettes, and by the time they lay into the groove on “Howlin Woof,” you’re nodding along, not really noticing that in this past decade we’ve done little else but try to look cool, as we know the world’s eyes are on us all. On the far more subdued split, released earlier this year and long gone, the Bones do more with less, mitigating Mary Chain with Memphis and coming out with not much of anything in “Grown Crazy,” but still towering over a nylon-stringed paean to fucking Brian Jonestown Massacre as is evidenced on Jacuzzi Boys’ “The Countess.” Count my ass.
Peter Wright is a New Zealand expatriate based in London. Since the mid ‘90s, Wright has been releasing a steady stream of blissful washed out guitar drone recordings via labels such as Pseudoarcana, Last Visible Dog, Digitalis, Students of Decay, and his own Apoplexy imprint. Unlike other artists working similar territory, he never falls into mere prettiness. Although Wright’s recordings could be called pretty, or even beautiful, there is always a sense of underlying tension usually brought about usually by the interjection of field recordings or a slight shift into dissonance that prevent his music from just drifting off into the clouds and this tension makes for compelling listening. This 7” is as good as any of his best material and it’s notable that he can be just as interesting when restricted to the five to six minute range that a seven inch record allows for than he is on the ten to twenty minute tracks that make up his CD and CD-R releases. Side A starts with a blast of noise and then settles into a gradually decaying drone. Side B starts with a scatter shot bit of acoustic guitar improv and then settles into about five minutes worth of static guitar bliss for the cosmos. Great stuff as usual.
This is the result of Carter Thornton (aka Zashiki-Warashi, name taken from a certain type of mythological Japanese demon) collaborating, via mail, with a variety of artists from the experimental/noise/whatever underground. The presentation is simple (and it’s nicely adorned with some actual one- and two-cent stamps) and the resulting LP feels very cohesive and complete, as opposed to feeling like a compilation. Some names (Marcia Bassett, Burning Star Core) are more well-known than others, but all of the sounds are damaged, distorted, or otherwise fucked up in some way. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much of what you hear is Thornton’s own hand and how much comes from the collaborators; since most of these other artists work with similarly deconstructed sounds, it’s anybody’s guess really. Careful attention is paid to sequencing; Kuwayama Kiyoharu’s violin opens things up like a screaming Easter sunrise and side two begins with Smith Harrison’s odd film trailer voiceover pastiche. Throughout, the peaks and valleys are interspersed; there are some great bits of space with appropriate reverb in the surrealist fashion and other dense sections. The LP is unbanded, so I’m not completely sure what is what; the partially complete recording credits do little to help. I like the slowly reverberating parts, but it’s really the juxtapositions that make this a winner, placing it in the LAFMS school but through a distinctly contemporary megaphone.
Surprisingly amazing 4-way split ten inch named after a subsidy of parent label Release The Bats documenting the first year of its experimental output. Each group contributed one song and from the back layout design seems to suggest that the members are interchangeable within each group. Street Drinkers start off the record with a drone pop medley that would be at home in the ranks of Ding Dong Tapes of the early ‘80s. Källarbarnen and White stick to a more repetitious and cathartic sounds, humming up the influence of Frech coldwave groups such as Trop Tard. Ättestupa ends this one on a high note of brooding minimal synth mixed with blown-out marshal style drumming. All set the tone with neo-folk vocal styles and lost keyboard sounds of bands like 18:e Oktober. This release really turned me onto the entire Utmarken scene (if such a scene exists) and makes me curious to hear more.
By Dusted Magazine