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Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 1

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Doug Mosurock & Co. return with over 100 vinyl assessments, including some big thumbs up for new records by Cheater Slicks, Jesu and Twin Stumps.

Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 1

While everyone took time off in December, Still Single cranked out over a hundred reviews. For best results, print these pages out, staple them together and take them into the bathroom to read. This one may take a while to get through. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Keep sending in the records. Here’s where they go:

Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

Frank Alpine
“Night Tripper” b/w “Another Land” 7”

Frank Alpine (better known as Rich Bitch) used to play drums in the band New Collapse (barely remembered over here). Now he farts around on a synthesizer, sending audition tapes to the past so that the producers of horror anthology TV programs like “Monsters” or “Tales from the Darkside” might hire him. Creepy, dark, minimal synth had a bit more value when the best place to hear it was movies. Now that the stigma of electronic music has lifted, it’s going to take a bit more than recreating the heavy telephone breather vibe to make it. 300 numbered copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Bad Drumlin Grass
Live At Timber Cove LP
(Milvia Son)

Picture perfect photo collages of rockets and cats in weird stage sets, framed with the worst color & font choices one could make, could cast this one off into the bin of anonymity for good. But after listening to this record for just a few minutes I was in awe of how truly original and bizarre it was. Bad Drumlin Grass goes right into the A side with a dark, heavy electro-drone mood piece, not uncommon sounds for the likes of current Emeralds releases or Oneohtrix Point Never; “The Expanding Universe” offers up some seriously blazing electronics. The back side slows it down to 33 with a track called “DMT Elf Blues,” which is a total TG worship piece … garbled voice effects thrown around over oscillators and muted drone, with the only difference from their industrial predecessors being the sparing use of hushed, refined guitar. Grab at this for your next cybernetic acid psych out. (http://milviason.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Beautiful Swimmers
“Swimmers Groove” b/w “O Yea” 12”
(Future Times)

BIG CHOONS from DC duo of killer KILLER DJs Ari Goldman and Andrew Field-Pickering (Food For Animals), cutting together the situation of fat, parping synths, palm-muted guitar leads, and hot summer sunsets into an extended instrumental on “Swimmers Groove” that has perfect hair, a Nautica windbreaker and a hint of Joop. The Polo-Rican in all of us can get down to this, a colossal mash note to 1986-1990, and the desire to turn your love around. “O Yea” slows it down and brings the big shotgun drum machine up into the front. Very T’Pau of them, or maybe even more Wang Chung, as this has that pink stucco, live-in-a-factory, sleep-under-neon-lights and carry-a-gun vibe of “To Live and Die in L.A.” Choppy, Fairlight-style vocal samples walk about in Nu Shooz while the beat goes on. To those looking for top-flight Jan Hammerisms, here you are. Hope to catch these guys again soon, because there was one night where their sets ripped my mind apart. Almost OOP, this is a hot label so keep an eye out when new shizz drops. (http://www.futuretimes.org)
(Doug Mosurock)

David Bernabo + Assembly
Happener Magicker LP
(Sort Of)

Happener Magicker is a tasteful hodgepodge of jazzy, proggy rock songs that twist and turn and sneak down different avenues, but never completely lose their way or wind up with heads in their asses (well, maybe just a bit at the end of Side 2). There are horns and strings and all sorts of things in these numbers; some go straight for the jugular while others meander into bedroom backwards-tape free-jazz at times. For all of the bases David Bernabo tries to cover, however, he doesn’t sacrifice the essential elements of what makes a song “pop;” these are catchy and hummable tunes regardless of what genre they’re in. He’s a Yinzer on a mission – there’s some kind of anarchist collective bent here that thankfully doesn’t overshadow the music – and he’s assembled some of PGH’s best to assist him. On “Mahler Box,” he sounds like Street Legal-era Dylan while the track bops along like forgotten Boston non-punx Men & Volts. That’s a good thing, Jack. Limited to a certain number copies that will ultimately help free Mumia or some shit. (http://sortofrecords.com)
(Mike Pace)

Big Nurse
American Waste LP
(High-Density Headache)

It may not be obvious to you lucky people who live on either coast and can walk/run/take public transportation to whatever good record store you happen to live by, but living in a flyover state, much less a red state, can be rough, music-wise. For every gem-in-the-rough such as Big Nurse one might uncover, one still has to endure a fair amount of friends who still want to express how “cutting edge” Vampire Weekend is. Whatever. Anyway, Big Nurse is the real deal. They’re a four-piece, underground rock racket from Nashville, and from what I hear on American Waste, they might probably be the pick of the current lo-fi litter. Seriously, this record smokes in a way that only twentysomethings with no hope of ever being heard can smoke. Humorless record nerds all across the Midwest will want to figure out how they can get a copy, once they figure out years from now that the shambolic retard-rock bordering on Kraut-style bliss in these grooves is pure genius. Did I mention that the ridiculously over-the-top super-long first side is entitled “Runnin’ With the Devil”? Well now I did. Limited edition of 200. (http://highdensityheadache.blogspot.com) (http://www.myspace.com/bignurse)
(Joel Hunt)

Bipolar Bear
Manbase 7” EP

LA’s Bipolar Bear continue to churn out the releases at a breakneck clip. Their brand of dissonant riffage and catchy vocals sounds better with each successive play. It’s hard to even mind something that could be considered cookie monster grindcore vocals when they are followed by something as catchy as “Bangers and Mash,” an evil, droning song with snaking guitar lines that is surprisingly very danceable. “Tiny Desert Tree” hobbles along with an uneasy, seasick beat, briefly stopping along the way for some guitar acrobatics and a drum and bass-beating breakdown before launching back into a final burst of discord. The finale “Dead Lunch” is the least compelling song out of the four here, but otherwise it is a success of an EP. Bipolar Bear are traveling along a path that has been cut by many others in the not so distant past. In the interest of full disclosure, they have included current bands like Antelope and A-Frames in their handy list of influences. Many other bands might not be as willing to show their hand. This small gesture illustrates the group’s transparency and earnestness, which is impressive. It’s apparent that they really love what they’re doing in a genuine way and that’s hard not to like. Limited to 350 and very cheap for an import (and generously comes with a 45 insert), snag it on the band’s Myspace page. (http://www.myspace.com/bipolarbear)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Black Math
s/t 7" EP
(Lost Space)

I remember interviewing Ed Hall about six years ago, right before they played a reunion show at Room 710 in Austin – of course, it ruled. Gary Chester talked a bit about putting the band together and how they were completely terrified of sounding like anyone else, a concern which is tough to believe is lower on the list in u-ground punk/hardcore in 2010. Which is to say this Chicago trio does its level best to capture some of the darkish, post-punk guitars-as-synths/synths-as-rhythm vibe that powered the usual suspects (Cure, Gary Numan, Siouxsie), laying bare four songs of…”plainclothes goth,” perhaps? Bands like this always seem to forget the menace when they strip, say, Christian Death or 45 Grave for parts. (Except for Clockclean_er. They totally got it.) Bauhaus were fucking creepy, guys – well, up through Mask, maybe … Christ, Pornography was weirder than this. The songs are fine, and don’t preclude the possibility of growing a bit, especially if I saw them live, but it’s probably not a great sign that all I could think of three quarters of the way through is how much better they would sound (that is, the direction their aesthetic would shift) if this band was called Black Meth. (http://lostspacerecords.com)
(Joe Gross)

Blue Sabbath Black Cheer
Dead Death, Death Dead LP
(Troubleman Unlimited/Gnarled Forest)

The hardest working band in all of noise has graced us with another great LP this week to add to their prolific discography. While the past few BSBC releases have been more on the harsh noise side, this LP shows a bit of a shift into unleashed terror soundtracks mixed with elements of industrial doom metal. Both sides are comprised of separate live sets which surprisingly sound like studio recordings. The first side pulls no punches, going straight into a pretty intense set of heavily processed vocals, slugged through the rectum of a banshee, and blown out oscillator drone stacked on top of itself, creating brutal feedback noise. Throughout it all, they achieve an industrial rhythm that most who would attempt would embarrass themselves over. Muffled guitar with regular feedback recalls more recent works by Sunn O))), crossed up with Second Annual Report, though noise ekes out a victory over metal. The backside utilizes a bit more control, with tape loops messing up the scenery over screams and sounds of havoc, added for texture, creating a monster of sludge, warped every way it can be through the lowest end of the spectrum. BSBC is best when their placement of feedback and manipulation of dark atmosphere dominates their work, and that’s precisely what’s going on here. For a band who puts out as much material as these guys do, they never seem to disappoint. An inspiring industrial work that will ruin your day. (http://www.enterruption.com/bluesabbathblackcheer.htm)
(Ryan Martin)

Buckshot Facelift
Anchors of the Armless Gods one-sided 12”

There’s something so unavoidably positive about band dude sending this LP, complete with a hand-written note, to a music writer who, to the best of that music writer’s knowledge, is not a known quantity in the sub-field of grind/death metal/power-violence journalism. I don’t need a map to navigate the territory, and can claim the loud/heavy/riff-oriented of what is commonly known as “extreme music” as about 85% of my pleasure listening these days. There are only a few hundred of these things (colorways broken down on their Myspace page), therefore I will not be the writer wasting $12 of Buckshot Facelift’s band fund. This is not because I’m afraid of a fate similar to the metaphorically-absent band name (remember…nice handwritten note included), it’s just that there’s only a few hundred of these things and … well, you get it. A final note on the band name: If the song titles and on-the-tip-‘o-the-brain movie samples are any indication, “Buckshot Facelift” was chosen for the same reason “Weekend Nachos” or “Asshole Ronald McDonald” were chosen by those bands … a weird and nebulous line between serious and seriously fucking hilarious (intentionally so). On those movie samples: Buckshot Facelift is no Graf Orlock, but no band is Graf Orlock (if you are unfamiliar with your future saviors in all things both aesthetic and HEAVY, get crackin’). Even so, humor is alive inside these otherwise violent 12 tracks, as is a desire to expand beyond the tight constraints of the grind-informed metalcore style (as opposed to the Swedish DM-informed style still quizzically populated by bands who’s names all sound like a Lifetime Movie-Of-The-Week) and aspire to be something other than Converge, rather than be a lesser Converge. 12 tracks on one side … it says it all: Just enough breathing room to hear a weird riff-melody pop up, a trad-crust shitstorm lock-in for over a minute, or an almost AmRep-ish blizzard of aggro blazing to be heard for a few seconds. Basically, this record (their second) isn’t going to have the seasoned grind or “deathcore” (the first and last time I ever type that word) heads lifting a finger to check out the Buckshot Facelift tour itinerary, nor is it going to remain underneath 60 other records until time to hit the store for credit. Getting past the good-critter/bad-critter vocals is not only something listeners will instinctively do here, it’s something the band might even do in the future, among other moves away from the genre glut this album can’t quite get out of (B+ effort notwithstanding). Seriously, shit could be (and is … my god) worse. Way worse. (http://www.myspace.com/buckshotfacelift100)
(Andrew Earles)

Colony Collapse Disorder 10” picture disk EP
(Rock Is Hell)

Been a while since we’ve checked in with Burmese … honestly I think the last time I saw them was Dwyer’s last show, when he tried to pick up the drums and throw them at the crowd at the 996 Club in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now a successful rotisserie chicken establishment). The enervating, laborious screaming I heard that night, nearly ten years ago, is still here, but fortified with a power they could have only imagined back then. Now, two drummers flank the core of dual electric basses and hellacious death metal vocal belch. They’re rhythmically sound, alright – two rhythm sections locked into one another, pushing these eleven assaults on your personage into remarkably thoughtful structures, tough enough to withstand the drop-C punishment lashed to them. Colony Collapse Disorder is the group’s first standalone release since 2005, and the years in between have only concentrated the reflection of evil generated back upon itself, a Moebius loop of corrosive chemicals and everything you’ve tried to throw away, anchored to flypaper and stuck to your skin. Surging, bilious, and loathsome, these songs would have ruined your day, if life wasn’t bad enough already for listeners to find the strength in them; that said, there is a lot more going on in these tracks than most who’d give a band that’s simply trying to sound evil would expect. Lessons have been learned within, but the world continues to transgress human decency, so with that fact as fuel, I hope that Burmese continues to trepane us all, even with Weasel Walter’s migration out East (sup, Weas, let’s hang out soon). Though my disdain for picture discs is palpable, this one looks pretty great, and comes housed in a yellow litho foldover sleeve, and includes an envelope with song titles printed on two black-backed cards. You may not be able to discern the difference, but maybe that’s not the point. 300 copies. (http://rockishell.bigcartel.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Capputtini I’Lignu
s/t 7” EP
(Shit Music for Shit People)

The imprint’s standard-issue garage-rock “Look at us! We’re all a bunch of morally-deficient dirtbags” moniker (which I seem to remember as an older label….this is ‘shit #01’) does not mesh with the beautiful packaging (elaborate band logo, screened onto parchment paper envelopes…all done in a nice and bright red). But it fits like a bad habit once the first few chords are smacked out of what must be an appropriately-crappy, 30-year-old guitar. Home-recorded in Rome by Seb Normal (The Feeling of Love, Cheveu, just about every worthwhile French garage/noise outfit), who is one-half of this claustrophobic trash-bash experiment in extreme audio compression, this is a sous vide, ultra-trebly affair that leaves very little breathing room, sure to tickle the tits out of anyone bemoaning the diminished profile of Bob Log III. (http://www.myspace.com/shitmusicforshitpeople)
(Andrew Earles)

Cheater Slicks
“Erotic Woman” b/w “Can’t You Hear (My Heart Beat)” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

A record like this made membership into the first CD-R singles series such a winner – Cheater Slicks, back in full-on manic garage depression, away from the thousand yard stares their albums have become, or the disassociation of its primal elements on that Bats in the Dead Trees record. No further need to know if they can still shove an innocent down the stairs; “Erotic Woman” is all rock, all danger, a handful of chords racing off the cliff. Anybody can make this kind of music, but to put this sort of anxiety, heat and stink behind it requires a little bit more than mere possession of limbs, guitars and drums. The past decade of retaliation from this group showed them falling backwards into regional hands which were ready to grab hold, and allow these guys to do whatever it is that they want. They’re the rock band of Columbus, Ohio, which puts them in top 5 for the entire country. Deece cover of the Outcry’s local hit on the back, the guitars sounding like they’re being vibrated out of the bodies of junked cars. 400 copies, green vinyl. I actually misplaced this record and finally found it today, hence the lateness of the review. That covers just about all of year one (see also Little Claw, below). (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Christian Mistress
“Mother of Mercy” b/w “The Hereafter” 7”

Whoa! Didn’t expect this – heavy ‘80s style metal strut from Olympia, rendered with class by Capt. Trips. Five-piece combo with dual guitars and a raspy female vocalist, chugging along at the tough exterior of metallic outfits gone by. Ripped denim and smoke machines for all, adding a little bit of peace/crust (think Crass, maybe Signal Lost) to an otherwise faithful reconstruction of mirror scrape. Both songs are on the long side but fly past, a true sign of worthiness. Great sounds. This label sent out a pretty odd electroqueer record by Cairo Pythian earlier in the year, and claims to be funded by an anonymous arts guild out of Norway. Hey, however you gotta get into the mix … currently looking for an anonymous critics’ guild to back me up. Will accept any reasonable offer! 500 copies. (http://nsjnl.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Tim Cohen
The Two Sides of Tim Cohen LP
(Empty Cellar Records)

The songs on The Two Sides of Tim Cohen alternate between morose college-folkie-in-the-dorm aural Ambien and dreary minimalist post-punk-cum-darkwave tomfoolery, and often contain elements of both. Said tomfoolery includes “Burn My Martyr,” which I kinda dig because it’s trying to be eerie and succeeds, sounding sort of like a low-rent “In the Air Tonight,” except without the huge spotlight to shine on the guy in the crowd who just sat there while his best friend drowned. Fresh & Onlys frontman Cohen’s got this strained wail of a voice that isn’t exactly – how you say – “good.” Sadly it’s not that interesting either, and neither are the bulk of these songs. Most of them manage to be both wispy and plodding, which might be the world’s deadliest combo since Tango & Cash. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel when Cohen finally decides to introduce some pretty melodies on the album’s last two tracks that I would have welcomed, like my own kin coming back from the Great War unscathed, much earlier on the album. Neither side of Tim Cohen is particularly fun, and while maybe some of it sounds like some forgotten private-press psych-folk masterpiece recorded on used one-track 1/8” tape held together by resin scrapings that then sat in a crawlspace for 35 years (and that’s a wishful “maybe”), that doesn’t mean I want to listen to this again. 250 copies, 100 on white vinyl. (http://www.endlessnest.com)
(Mike Pace)

Cortez/Language of Light
split 12”

I wasn’t sure what side of this record I listened to first, but I am sure that it will remain in mint condition for the duration of its time under this roof. Let me get this straight: it’s 2009 and I just spent 20+ minutes paying close attention to something that makes Stars of the Lid sound like Meshuggah? Was it a field recording of the Labradford practice space circa ‘96, after the band accidently left some things on while they went to grab dinner? Was it an unearthed, previously-unreleased Eno recording titled Music for Dilettantes? No, it was Cortez, or it was 20-minutes of affirmation that you too can cobble together that $500 burning a hole in your pants and strut on into Guitar Center then strut on out with whatever you need to replicate this side. Language of Light can put more than two notes together in a melancholic manner and end it with a locked-groove, a talent that makes their side of the record feel like Dream Theater crammed into a clown car with Dillinger Escape Plan. This isn’t so much a poor-man’s version of Boards of Canada or what Seefeel devolved into (think Ch-Vox for the latter), it’s a living-under-the-overpass-with-chiggers-in-your-colon-man’s version of what they devolved into. (http://www.anticlock.net)
(Andrew Earles)

Damage Pants
s/t LP
(Bombay Cove)

When two-pieces are interviewed, readers can always count on the “two people communicate better musically” excuse from the band, which can be read as “two people get paid more” or “it’s still a prop that audiences find entertaining.” And writers love to lean on the “it sounds like a full band” crutch, so one both parties get a back-scratching. Ever stop to think that “it sounds like a full band” because the duo is trying to cover up various weaknesses? Why is it that at some unimportant career juncture, pop/rock/garage-angled two-pieces feel as though they needed to release recordings with the overdubbed, multi-tracked density of Spiritualized or Mercury Rev, while the metal-angled duos behave SLIGHTLY better but still overcompensate into Melvins or stock four-piece crust/doom territory? Because they can’t make this record. When Death from Above 1979 got momentarily famous by dumbing-down godHeadsilo and C/Average for the masses, they were probably hoping to sound something like Damage Pants’ debut LP. They failed, but now the successful heir to the 90’s duo-thud, proto-indie-metal trailblazers is here, steadily blowing one mind at a time since the album was released all the way back in June. This band is great, so no Dubious Hype Machine was called in to attempt media saturation. The Termbo/HoZac/Goner Army overlooks or dismisses Damage Pants because they operate outside the acceptance boundaries dictated by some nebulous power, or perhaps it’s simply because neither one of these guys was in a shitty plural-noun band before forming the pinnacle of two-man rock-pummel superiority. This record is big and loud but never belies the two-piece instrumental engine at its core. Vocals are yelped or screamed or quivered yet the songs contain good instro-hooks that keep the affair from easy “noise-rock” classification. Not only is this record refreshing, it’s also comforting … everything’s not completely screwed. People can still make albums like this. (http://www.bombaycove.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Dzerzhinsk-B LP

Half of this duo is Ivan Pavlov, a.k.a COH, who is better known for currently formulating Soisong with Sleazy Christopherson of Coil. The other half is Andrej Kolesov, a relatively unknown and obscure electronic improviser. One would think that this type of pedigree would amount to something groundbreaking and different … but no, just two out of touch electro-whiz masters rambling off track after track of dated electronic music, shelved in 1996 after its initial recording (where it should have stayed), and released to a modern audience that couldn’t possibly find it relevant or appealing. Every song seems to act as a parody of the one previous, starting on mediocre trance out Ibiza style mix match which meanders on far too long, leading into your obligatory ambient introduction which takes form – into more of the same lackluster electronica meandering with grating beats, corny use of analog samples and milquetoast composition. The reverse gets no better, losing all sense of experimentation in favor of the worst possible synthesizer modes, complimenting cheesy music that could only come out of some past-dwelling raver manboy. (http://www.touretterecords.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Dark Lingo
Little Black Glasses 7” EP
(Dear Skull)

Dark Lingo is a duo of Sandy Patton, of Memphis, Tennessee’s Wet Labia (who I’m not familiar with) and Nick Patton of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Centipede Eest (who I am), and what we have here is the rare single which actually sounds kinda fun. An art product germinated in the much-ballyhooed creative class crater that is Braddock, PA, they market themselves as some manner of “ESG meets Hawkwind” blather, but what I hear is more early-1990s quirkiness (Thinking Fellers, Trumans Water, etc.) stripped down to bass, drums, and vocal basics. Lo-fi, no frills, no frivolous attempts to mask the fact that it’s a duo playing, and hardly much treble or midrange at all, which is fine with me. Lyrics on the A-side, “Little Black Glasses,” even made me chuckle once or twice. (http://www.myspace.com/dearskullrecords)
(Joel Hunt)

The Deadnotes
Orange Trumpet LP
(Soft Abuse)

The Deadnotes are a great and very original band from Brisbane, Australia who are hard to get a handle on, but are a rewarding listen once you unlock the band’s unique musical language. The instrumentation is brushed drums, trumpet, guitar, clarinet, and Casio. At times the sound is out-of-tune Blue Note-varietals of jazz; at other times the synth drones; there’s a bit of some wordless chanting and crashing and banging; at other times, the energy level picks up and enters ‘60s ESP-Disk free jazz territory. Every track is very short and compact, and none overstay their welcome, which is probably the key to this record’s success. The only comparisons I can think of for this band is the Slivers (the Minutemen’s bouncy jazzbo side project), and the detuned ur-Jazz of Smithsonian/Folkways’ Music From the South: Country Brass Bands album. The Deadnotes sound like is a group of non musicians who picked up instruments and developed their own idiosyncratic way of making music, which is usually a great thing to hear. I’m not sure if I could call this record an essential purchase for everyone, but I would recommend it if anything I’ve written sounds interesting to you, as this record has worked its way into my regular listening rotation. (http://www.softabuse.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Dialing In
The Islamic Bomb LP
(Music Fellowship)

There’s something about this release by Dialing In, the solo moniker of one Reita Piecuch of Seattle, which rubs me the wrong way, and it’s not just the semi-offensive title. Basically, the album is a collage consisting of street sounds from a trip Piecuch took to Pakistan, cut up and made into her own brutally tough music. However, the methodology isn’t the problem: it’s the end result, which ultimately isn’t that pleasant to listen to. It’s not unpleasant in the sense that most noise music strives to be (and usually isn’t), but rather it’s unpleasant in that Piecuch’s finished compositions don’t seem to add very much to the found material. Instead of illuminating that material by extrapolating, say, a strange melody out of some anonymous voice, Piecuch instead adds layers of expressive, yet empty sonic murk on top of what otherwise might be pretty interesting field recordings. Jade green vinyl, limited to 500 copies. (http://www.musicfellowship.com)
(Joel Hunt)

The Dictaphone
s/t 7” EP
(Sweet Rot)

Six songs from a French combo, fitting comfortably in line with the state mandate of above-average to excellent punk/glam/rock-roll understanding. These guys dick around a little too much for my tastes, though, coming across as their nation’s response to a band like the Intelligence, too concerned with the style to worry about the substance. Your brattily strummed guitars and inexact melodies from the Fall and the Yummy Fur are here too, and so is the disinterested vocal howl and reliance on moronic repetition (guess we have hit the bottom of this particular corner of punk music, really) – only the drummer shows up for work, doing the best he can to animate this clashing, deflated sound. (http://www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Diminished Men
Shadow Instrumentals LP

Attention middle-aged males: Do you still own the entire Sun City Girls discography? Did you spend the ‘90s with air travel-negating girth, oblivious to your wood-warping, paint-peeling, lunch-reversing, HAZMAT suit-necessitating body-odor? Were you afflicted with a mysterious ailment known only as “cobweb crotch”? Abduction is here to help. Put on this record. The professionally-executed surf-jazz-post-rock NPR-bait filling the room is none other than a conceptual project created by Abduction (at one time, or still run by one or both of the Sun City Girls) for the sole purpose of assisting male Sun City Girls fans in the acquisition of living and breathing strange. There’s nothing like the smoky, faux-sultry sounds of Morphine and Calexico when it comes to attracting Pilates instructors with sub-boob chests, bodies like one big piece of rope, and serious delusions of sexiness. Throw open the windows and blast this aural lube into the neighborhood; there’s bound to be one of these exercise-addicted wenches power-walking down the street. Remember…show restraint with the rest of your record collection! “Live From Planet Boomerang” will make her brain melt from her ears. (http://www.suncitygirls.com/abduction)
(Andrew Earles)

DMPH (a/k/a Derek Monypeny Parties Hard)
“Oakland” b/w “Sacramento” 7”
(Weird Forest)

Well, they don’t improv very hard. This 7” is two sides of trio-style, sax-included skree that wants to be Borbetomagus but leaves an aftertaste of less-studied folly. People OWN records like this; they don’t play records like this. Maybe one other male owns a record like this, for that mutual nudge-nudge, though it’s virtually impossible for even the most dedicated noisenik to be moved by a free jazz 7” that sounds worse than a flood-damaged Shrimper cassette. If there’s more than two minutes of play on each side, most honest listeners will need a stopwatch to prove that more than 30-seconds just passed. Wild, wailing abandon? Not even in theory. (http://www.weirdforest.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Dogmatics
“Gimme the Shakes” b/w “20 Flight Rock” 7”

This is a reissue of the Dogmatics’ first and sole 7” from 1984, preceding their full LP on Homestead. This largely unknown player in the mid-80’s Boston post-punk sweepstakes leaned heavily on psych and garage revival tendencies (see also included the Neats and the Lyres) without letting it become an overwhelming crutch. “Gimme the Shakes” is as great as anything in the Lyres discography, probably better, but The Dogmatics sound a lot different today after a listener has weathered 25 years of willfully unsophisticated and blindly-uninspired Nuggets-ninnies beating the usefulness out of a once-ballsy move in the garage/punk game. It’s plausible that purchasing this 7” in 1984 with no preconceived idea of what was in store produced an end result of satisfying heights, as the A-side is more infectious and wound up tighter than anything in the Estrus catalog. The Eddie Cochran hit on the B-side is done in respectful tribute to the original, but won’t bring any new recruits over to the rockabilly-revival side of the fence. They need to cut the grass and take out the trash over there, anyway. (http://www.myspace.com/ramorecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Ricardo Donoso
Zerovinteum 7” EP
(Semata Productions)

Taking a step back from his usual drumming chores from his current industrial project Ehnahre, Ricardo Donoso tries his hand at a solo single. Structured perfectly to fit into the mood of desolation and loneliness, Donoso used a clever balance of tone generated drone along with various guitar effects to ebb back and forth through his new medium of minimalist composition. Each piece uses hush backgrounds somewhat familiar to comparable artists like Andrew Chalk or Taiga Remains, but where Donoso bends it is in his deliberate use of amplified hum to create something tragically bleak instead of generally atmospheric, the ideal New England winter soundtrack. Limited to 300 copies. (http://www.semataproductions.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Peter Downsbrough
And That LP
(Sub Rosa)

Sub Rosa sets forth with its ongoing presentations of high-brow recordings with another incredible work, showcasing a collaboration by world renowned visual artist Peter Downsbrough with the talents of Xavier Garcia-Bardon and Benjamin Franklin, both of the improv collective Buffle. Blending simple lucid sound structure in your usual minimalist fashion but cutting them in and out without warning, all set to the backdrop of Lucier-style voice poetry. Each piece tells fragments of an ongoing story by using basic phrases that are carried along with use of delicate synthesizers and guitar loops ranging from ambient to musique concrète. Every piece on this record fits like a puzzle piece with the next; quiet mood pieces set to meditative voice gently informing the audience which direction your listening experience should follow. (http://www.subrosa.net/index_fr.htm)
(Ryan Martin)

The Drastics featuring MC Zulu
“Love is War” b/w “Dub is War” 7”
(Happy As a Lark)

Uh, yeah … this is a ska record. This is Still Single. Still Skankin’ is somewhere else! Complete with reggae vocalist and two-piece horn section, hopping on the silkscreen abuse train (this thing looks worse than a Submission Hold record), here’s some vaguely activist-oriented jam, sounding like half the band could play funk if it wanted to, and the other half taking direct influence from the bumper music on “The Daily Show.” Drummer Anthony Abbinanti contributes the version by isolating some of the instruments and generally doing a lot less than what you’d expect out of the dub track. They seem proud of their song, and maybe a little too attached to it, to really make a difference – someone outside of the band should have done this mix. Mi Ami is the band I’ll take over this sort of side-street action, any day. Gray marbled vinyl, heavily-tattooed Arigato Pak sleeve. (http://www.thedrastics.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Duchess Says/Red Mass
split 7”

Split single of two weird/garage bands from Montreal. How is it that the two Canadian coasts could produce such punk rock music of differing quality is stunning and hard to comprehend. Both Duchess Says and Red Mass are outlets of a guy named Ray “Choyce” Vucino, who played in unexciting “crazy guy” band CPC Gangbangs. Duchess Says tries to toughen up Pere Ubu’s on-the-fritz vibes with their track, “Fire Baptised Species,” focusing on the weird vocals and synthesizer and leaving the rest of the instrumentation in the tensed-up millstone of a “dangerous” band. They sound try-hardish and unpleasant. Red Mass is a little easier to understand, moving into a stoner-rock template, and away from the impoverished land Jay Reatard (R.I.P.) was trying to till last year. Vucino has a sort of David Lee Roth thing going on with his voice, which a lot of people will find unbearable. Me, I’m just confused by this bottom-heavy, hollowed out hull of a rock & roll cul de sac, going nowhere and building nothing. (http://www.alien8.ca)
(Doug Mosurock)

Edie Sedgwick/Aran Epochal
split 7”
(Silver Rocket)

Somewhere along the line, Edie Sedgwick turned the corner from the strange Antelope/Supersystem side project to “oh, that’s just Edie.” Spitting in the face of historicity, Edie now exists just like she did up until 1971. It’s just a fact. On “Who’s That Knocking on My Door (Blacula Mix),” she creates something that is in effect what I would expect El Guapo (et al) to sound like eight years later. That’s not an insult; rather, it’s an interesting trajectory to consider. There are close recorded, very clean drums and bass with minor flourishes of guitar and keys. It’s funky and would be easily termed “electro” except that it was recorded all with real instruments, something that is pretty rare for “dance” music these days. Ms. Sedgwick truly gets it, and if the strength of this single is any indication, her albums must be sought out. Silver Rocket is a Czech label, so that’s why strange Czech electro-funk group Aran Epochal on the b-side. The deep, sexy vocals conjure the image of a fat, Mediterranean playboy in a Kangol but it turns out that the group is just five unfortunately boring-looking white people. The tune is not much to speak of: a bass riff, drum machine, some textural flourishes and vocals that I can’t understand. Available in the US from Dischord. (http://www.silver-rocket.org)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

El Jesus de Magico
Klip Aught 7” EP
(Columbus Discount)

EJDM’s Scalping the Guru was one weird record, but we’ve got a new single on the realz, and the group is getting back on track. Is it as good as their CDR Singles Club Year One offering? Probably not, because here they lose the sense of drunken majesty to hang back in pre-arranged roles, moping around the early ‘90s a la Galaxie 500 (then) or the Whines (now), reflecting on the Joy Division rhythm section with lost ‘n’ lonely Velveteen blues. Only the oddly titled “Rapey Guys 2” breaks out of the mire, but I don’t mind any of these tracks – they’re warm and familiar, and display a side of alt/indie musical history that’s unusually still, given all the lo-fi reinterpreters of late. Any way, if you’ve enjoyed them before, you will enjoy them now. 500 copies, 100 of ‘em on colored vinyl, and silkscreened sleeves. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Electric Tickle Machine
Blew It Again LP
(Make It Happen Foundation)

During my time reviewing records for this particular outlet, I don’t think I’ve harbored a pre-listen hatred for a record like I did for this one. Since I’m in the habit of quoting my editor (because I’ve been really slow on the uptake), Mosurock referred to this as “the one with the boobs,” and I had to ask if he happened to notice the dudes on the back cover. It’s a photo of the band, showing four impossibly handsome fucking-machines (think Jude Law in “A.I.” – Ed.), two of which have looks of inappropriate approval re: the front cover. The front cover is, well, it’s right up there, and it made Vice’s “Album Cover of the Month” an issue or two back. A close look reveals that the quasi-tween’s shirt isn’t just raised to show lower-cleavage, but is snagged on a half-exposed, half-erect nipple. The fortuitously-anonymous young lady in question apparently celebrated her 18th birthday with a photo session. I think I actually said, “Look at these fucking douchebags” aloud, in my apartment, to no one but the cats before the record was placed on the turntable. Of course, it’s a pretty good record. No, that’s not fair. There are a couple of golden pop songs done up in the music biz’s current idea of indie rock (what a bigger label will no doubt market this as). The professionalism was a little arresting first time around, then that changed to “refreshing” once the Generation [Insert Unflattering and Unfair Phrase Here] climate put this into a sad context. I’ll be honest, I prefer tits to what this album could have been packaged in: a collage of rearranged clippings from old issues of Popular Science, clipped-cord electronics from the thrift shop, and found family photo albums. And what’s wrong with having a good time and partying and fucking everything in sight? Just because it’s a lifestyle no longer fancied doesn’t mean that I have a right to pull down my pants and take a big dump on someone else’s salad days. The rock-solid power-pop on this record helps to encourage this positive turn, that’s for sure. If it turned out to resemble Hunx and His Punx or Grizzly Bore or any of the uncountable insults to the idea of “underground rock” assaulting open earholes right now, I’d be on the news tonight. (http://electricticklemachine.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Eleh/Nana April Jun
Observations & Momentum split LP

For the first three, maybe four years of this decade, the Touch label couldn’t really do wrong when it came to releasing some spare-ass music. From the first non-Mego Fennesz releases, to Ryoji Ikeda’s primary forays outside of Japan, to a million other fantastic yet stereotypically dry recordings, Touch seemingly had the finger on the pulse of post-academic, post-minimalist electronic music. However, there are only so many austere-yet-expensive imports of relatively minimalist stuff one can own. Catching back up with the label, this release, one of a series of split LPs, renews faith that Touch, while not really releasing records that are that different from each other, might still be worth investigating. Though the liners namedrop La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, and Charlemagne Palestine, what the Eleh side really seems like is homage to an important ‘90s contribution to the minimalist oeuvre, Thomas Koner’s Permafrost. The Nana April Jun side is more of the same bleak winter sounds, but instead of being stuck under ice, you’re stuck on the side of a mountain, enveloped in a blizzard. Either way, it’s hopeless, so just give in. (http://www.touchmusic.org.uk)
(Joel Hunt)

Eleven Pond
Bas Relief LP
(Dark Entries)

Genteel, as-is reissue of a dark synth/New Romantic band from Rochester, NY. Eleven Pond sprung to life with this full-length around 1986, and it’s pretty easy to pick apart their bases of influence: A Flock of Seagulls, the Cure, early R.E.M., the roots of EBM, Aztec Camera; ostensibly a clearinghouse of what all the devastatingly handsome, isolated people skulking around college campuses and high school art classrooms were checking out. The band had a lithe, supple sound that weaves a unified personality out of all these styles, despite the trainhopping at play here. Their lack of a live drummer and the preponderance of FM synths and flanged guitars support these chameleon-like tendencies, at the expense of whatever edge these gents might have been cultivating. When they’re at their best, they are brooding and looking downwards (closer “Ask (Jealousy),” with its noble acoustic guitar lead and cloud-cover bass beds, is an example of that success), and it’s in these moments, about a quarter of the overall record, where Eleven Pond showed a bit more promise outside of being what was likely RIT’s only Goth band. First release on the Dark Entries label, and its hand-numbered, silkscreened sleeve suggests this release as a passion project for someone, but more likely an ideal debut release for a reissue label that’d put stock in something like this. (http://www.darkentriesrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Estrogen Highs
“Echo” b/w “They Told Me I Was Everything” 7”
(Never Heard Of It)

More of trash-rock’s marginal solidarity as communicated through a self-deprecating imprint name, and more music that’s next-to-impossible to write about because it doesn’t do anything. It’s that simple. The most fascinating musical development in one’s frame of reference will become a tiresome writing venture at some point, but this innocuous effort (that could be one of a gazillion bands operating between the years 1992 and 2010) puts the brakes on the review process before the gate is barely opened. Does it matter if a band is good at what they do if what they do is the opposite of good? At least the Estrogen Highs explore the scope afforded a band that puts up-tempo garage-psych on one side and mid-tempo quasi-balladry on the other; their conclusion being to make sure each track is properly ORGAN-DRENCHED because a common-denominator is always needed to tie everything together in that motionless world. (http://www.myspace.com/neverheardofitrecords)
(Andrew Earles)

Explode Into Colors
“Coffins” b/w “Sharpen the Knife” 7”

Sleater-Kinney (or maybe Karen O) meets “Drumline,” with baritone guitar contributing to the flip. I don’t know. Seriously, three ladies play drums while one of them sings, and that’s their record … wow. I hate to piss on anyone’s parade, but I feel like we’ve come a bit too far to accept something like this. Features a one-time member of Japanther (bummer x 1000). The recording sounds pretty great but this is a snoozer and a stinker, though maybe perfect for a “Music Minus One” record where you play interesting things on guitar over top. Their first single, in an all-white embossed sleeve. This M’Lady’s kid has got some dap, but hopefully he does more with it than sit in the starting blocks with these “new” and “innovative” sounds. (http://www.mladysrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Facehugger/Pleasure Cruise
split 7” EP
(Army of Bad Luck)

Army of Bad Luck (ABL) has some winners in their back catalog and this is another good one. The label’s native Atlanta is once again under the spotlight with vinyl debuts from both Facehugger and Pleasure Cruise. Facehugger creates something very noisy and fascinating on their two tracks. Maybe someone from the dearly departed SIDS. plays with them? Hard to tell, but both groups have a similar, gothy synth vibe butting up against songs that somehow, despite themselves and their discordant guitars, end up working out into Cabaret Voltaire-style grooves. While there are similar aspects, Pleasure Cruise is a whole different beast. Two very attractive Atlantans (Sunni J and Rad Ross) play out their Hollywood fantasies via drum-machine fuck-punk. Honestly, their bio and Myspace page are much more interesting than their music. Electro-punk is a very hard ghetto to escape, and the group’s project of examining the emotional and sexual ennui of the celebrity-class unfortunately slips into schlocky kitsch a little too easily. “Anna Nicole” assumes its target easy enough with samples and shouted lyrics but the song is not as satisfying as the idea of the song. Still, it’s a worthy project, and hopefully the group (which is less than a year old) hones its aesthetics into the great release that they have the potential for. The overall package has great artwork, a CD version with a few bonus songs by both bands, blue vinyl, and is a pressing of 300. (http://www.armyofbadluck.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

James Ferraro

Some pretty strange stuff on this mishmash of a double album from James Ferraro, who you may also know as one-half of Skaters. The first album, subtitled Left Behind: Postremo Mundus Techno-Symposium (and previously released elsewhere), is some sort of meditation on the creepy Christian Left Behind series of books and movies, Kirk Cameron, tribal tattoos, homoeroticism, one-world order conspiracy theories, and some other nonsense. Music-wise, the first LP is filled with the sort of warped noisy kling-klang you’d expect (unfortunately beset with some strange moans and groans), oblivious to whatever the underlying concept may be. The second album of the set, subtitled Wired Tribe/Liquid Metal Excerpt I, is musically more straightforward, but less satisfying, as Side C begins with some throbbing industrial noise, quickly giving way to what sounds like bleed-through from someone listening to a 1980s porn soundtrack in another room. As the side progresses the cheese continues, as some very 1980s electro-ish sounds filtered through cheap equipment dominate the proceedings, occasionally interspersed with jarring edits, and then rounded out at the end by some more moaning. Finally, the last side is made up of two recordings Ferraro previously released under his Liquid Metal moniker, and these are also filled with some twisted ‘80s cheese, much like the side before them. Frankly, it’s a bit of a mystery why these pretty disparate projects were lumped together in one release. (http://www.arborinfinity.com)
(Joel Hunt)

Follow That Bird
s/t one-sided 10” EP
(Monofonus Press)

Austin’s Follow That Bird is a fine band; opening-strength, female-led rock ‘n’ roll with smoky, Stevie Nicks-acolyte vocals. These two ladies and a gentleman are way stronger than they let on, as several listens to this record revealed a casual durability to what would otherwise be a formulaic run through occupied territory. What makes it is their attitude – it’s very easy to envision this band playing on an East Side patio bar, ripping it up for fun. I hope I get to see them sometime; this is the sort of throwback that’s in many ways necessary, a humble band giving an existing idea a shot of outsized yet cool personality, and growing wilder as the record reaches a close. Interesting one-sided affair, manufactured with a 10” wide color sticker affixed to the B-side in lieu of the bummer world that is picture disks. Silkscreened cardboard flat, download card, and insert included. (http://monofonuspress.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Fungi Girls
Seafaring Pyramids LP
(Play Pinball! Records)

The Fungi Girls may only know three chords, but they’re the right three chords. This record brims with an amateur enthusiasm that feels legit (no whiffs of “shit-fi” posturing here) just a bunch of teenage i’jots inspired by their limitations and making no bones about their love for the Jesus and Mary Chain and summer vacation. Bursting out the gate, “Pacifica Nostalgia” is the feel good tune of ‘95, a sunny major key anthem that sounds like the best song the Breeders never wrote, recorded on Home Blitz’s budget (yet somehow sounding as loud as Dinosaur). “Into the Cosmos” keeps on chooglin’; it’s loud, catchy and fuzzy but never snotty or overflowing with ‘tude. In fact the vocals overall are uniformly pleasant (not that this guy has the world’s most distinct voice, but he knows how to use it and it’s well placed in the mix). “Dream of Oz” starts with the familiar “Be My Baby” beat but eventually launches into a double-time blast of punk rock heat that kicks the song into interstellar overdrive and ends before it wears out its welcome. The first side of this slab is great, and only during a couple of out-of-place snoozers on side two do the Girls sound bored. Thankfully the gang picks up the pace and hit one out of the park with two-chord closer “Crystal Roads.” Seafaring Pyramids sounds crummy enough for the in-crowd, but not at the expense of the songs themselves. There’s a familiarity here that’s welcoming and begs for repeat listens. Ultimately our ears start to hurt from listening to too much “innovation”; we don’t want to listen to the Animal Collection all day. Give me C, G, and F and some searing, borderline-inept guitar solos and I’ll sleep like a baby tonight. (http://www.myspace.com/playpinball)
(Mike Pace)

Gay Beast
Multi-Purpose Anti-Form 7” EP

More from this Minneapolis science trio, having produced two albums’ worth of digitally informed prog-punk, roboticizing and distorting their voices, allowing the thick, squalling tones of synthesizers to replace the bass guitar, adding saxophone and jamming against jarring shifts in time sig and effects switches hit. Here we have one of their catchiest songs to date in the title track, a dirge set against racing rhythms and buzzing instrumental counterpoint, and the sort of progressive, jazz-minded articulate jumble that’ll probably get them looked at by Ipecac or something – they give way to abrasion just before rockers’ minds drift off. 500 copies, silkscreened sleeve. (http://www.gilgongorecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Girls at Dawn
“Never Enough” b/w “Every Night” 7”

I can’t believe I would ever say this, but I miss politics in music. I miss Fugazi. I miss Sleater-Kinney. I was never too into them but I miss His Hero is Gone. I’d even take Rage Against the Machine. I miss idealism, and people who feel like they can do something about the world they live in, instead of making the most bland, most frivolous music of 2009 this side of the Black Eyed Peas. (http://www.horizontalaction.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Gummy Stumps
“Cameo” b/w “Plea Rejected” 7”
(La Station Radar)

A presumably large and angry man with a thick brogue shouts declarative statements about absolutely nothing over an intentionally tuneless (though not entirely mind-numbing) post-punk din, and I lose it as I envision one of Mike Myers’ hilarious Scottish caricatures singing these songs. Sorry boss, if it makes you feel better I couldn’t listen to Fucked Up the same way again after I realized that guy sounds just like Dickey Barrett from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Side 2 is almost instrumental and it would have been better off had they gone all the way. The noise is competent, but the unintentionally pixilated artwork and the locked groove reek of bush league. Limited to 300 copies, although I’m sure you could get one very easily. (http://www.myspace.com/thegummystumps)
(Mike Pace)

Soundtrack 2xLP
(Youth Attack)

The Troy McClure style intro: You might know Hallow mainman Mark McCoy from such ‘90s and ‘00s noisemakers as Charles Bronson, Das Oath, and Ancestors. He runs Youth Attack, takes photos in the blurry, kinda porny, are-those-Polaroids-or-what school of enough-already and his collages would scan as half-transgressive half-RRR Records covers if there was anything left to transgress. But his drawings are gorgeous, creepy stuff; houses and trees collapsing as if folded in a tesseract, sewing together the obsessive hyper-detail of a Nick Blinko and the deft chops of an architecture student who never talks to anyone but the kids in the design studio. No idea what the scene politics of this gent might be, but his jeans are likely very tight indeed. This is double LP is the soundtrack to a drawing exhibition at the Hope Gallery in Los Angeles (a booklet of some images is included). The first LP is blackened hardcore, more or less – black metal’s fuzz and screams are there, but the screaming breakneck style is more rapid punk. But fuck, the lines are awfully blurred and it feels six-of-one. Also, you have to listen very closely for triumphant riffs, like having to cut through a body to find the coke in the tummy. The second album is two side-long tracks of obtuse noise, feedback and doomy pedal abuse on the A, chaotic, flickering anti-beats on the B. The two records compliment and bump into each other, like both halves of a brain deciding whether the noose or the pills would be a “better” exit. Your choice. Second pressing (200 copies, white vinyl) now available. (http://ihateyouthattack.com)
(Joe Gross)

The Load LP

Gangly, loud, and operating from the brain stem only. Cleveland’s same-shtoops piledrive their way through a second full-length, gritting up a handful of tracks from singles into the tumultuous rip of a record, leveraging the technical skills they’ve picked up over the past few releases into a free-for-all, ungoverned and ridiculous. Tracks like “The Glow” surge forward at the insistence of the tape reels, which are manipulated throughout the track to warp the very structure they’ve been working towards; “The Edge” winds down with a lullaby played out of some children’s toy; “Therapist” freezes up on some primitive synth dimension, surfing the cosmos with General Zod. Elsewhere they’re still on the same vertiginous tear as always, with a bit more cohesion due to the album format. Sharp edges, jock-squad determination and lots of yelling cut this music to the chase as quickly as possible. Every time I’ve seen this band, they’ve been so drunk that it’s been tough to even get through a full 15-20 minute set, but the records – where sounds and phrasing can actually be parsed out – qualify in the ever-developing diorama that is Skull Music. 500 copies in either LP or CD. (http://www.loadrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Jana Hunter/Inoculist
split 7”
(Heart Break Beat)

A family jam of a split 7”, this single features the music of siblings Jana and John Hunter, both of whom used to play together as Matty & Mossy. Jana Hunter has been birthing minimal, haunting tunes for at least five years now, seemingly with less recognition that many of her comparatively sub-par contemporaries. Here she pairs prickly guitars with an even pricklier title: “Two Cocks Waving Wildly at Each Other across a Vast Open Space, a Dark, Icy Tundra.” Hunter lets the song unfold itself for a while before singing, creating a chilling atmosphere that is actually true to the title. Apparently this is the last Jana Hunter release, as she will now be playing with a full band under a new name. Inoculist is John Hunter and friends, here playing some bass-heavy indie-folk. It’s somewhat baroque but very simple at the same time, like a stripped-down Espers. The male and female harmonies are a very nice touch and this song (“Provenance”) makes me want to hear more. Limited to 350 copies. (http://www.heartbreakbeatrecords.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Hunters, Run!
"If I Had Half a Chance" b/w "Simple and Calming" 7”
(Battle Standard Recordings/At Arms Records)

Hunters, Run! is a band named after an exclusive gated community on the North Shore of Long Island and it sounds like it: vanilla and safe. No feather ruffling here, hands on 10 and 2, aiming straight for the middle of the road. If you want surprises, I would suggest ordering the fettuccini alfredo at Denny’s. The recording is crisp and the band’s performance is a solid though ultimately workman-like stab at mainstream “modern” rock (the attempt at a catchy chorus and coda of “If I Had Half a Chance” didn’t go unnoticed and is applauded). The singer has a pro set of pipes, but it’s not clear who’s handling the vox since, sigh, the band is inexplicably using pseudonyms. There’s a hint of Peter Gabriel in “Simple and Calming,” but nowhere do their “RIYL” bands (Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Husker Du??? C’mon, guys!) come to mind. What else can I say? If you like music, maybe you’ll like Hunters, Run! Limited to 200 on white vinyl (limit two per household … sigh - Ed.) (http://atarmsnyc.com)
(Mike Pace)

I Heart Lung/DWMTG
Ecstatic Jazz Duos split 12” EP
(Thor’s Rubber Hammer)

Three tracks per side/band, with each band deciding to lock onto some fun and rocking structure for a few minutes of What-Post-Rock-Should-Have-Been (skuzzy and…well, rocking?) This action, approximating 15% or 20% of the entire record, elevates it above a tough-to-swallow reality; that there’s a decades-old, perpetually-confusing landfill of similar releases hiding the good stuff, and showing some breadth by detouring into the forbidden (rock) side of the tracks is enough to push this split into the better-than-average realm. Too bad “average” is as relative a term as they come. And too bad that both bands are identifiable from one another when this record is taken between Electric Wizard and The Softies, but in the middle of some guy’s out-jazz college radio show … that’s when it disappears amongst all of the other records he’s going to sell on eBay within the next three years. (http://thorsrubberhammer.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Iron Reminders
s/t LP
(Plastic Airline)

Iron Reminders makes the “This DOESN’T sound like _____” device an obligatory one when it comes time to give a solid (if not sporadically great) band a proper review. That’s because they operate within a musical realm to which an unfortunate classification is assigned. That could be any number of terms, but for our intents and purposes, it’s the cursed “melodic hardcore” tag. Well, it’s what they do, and it’s what they do right. They can’t be blamed for the alleged “hardcore” bands traveling the country in motorized luxury condos; bands in which the financially-necessitated act of an interview means recording empty rhetoric like “I’d like to think we get our message to more people now that we’re on a major” or Mr. Confused Socialist who can’t concentrate on my questions cuz he’s too busy trying to text “You forgot to hit the mute button” to the middle-aged label handler who’s supposed to be covertly making sure I don’t ask something like “So, you’re a Socialist band. Does that mean your record collection is the People’s record collection?” but is instead yelling her lunch order to a co-worker. No, I’m not telling who, cuz dude was at least super nice. His band sucked though, and they peddled the widely-understood version of “melodic hardcore.” The widely-misunderstood version of melodic hardcore can also contain any number of detours around or exits out of hardcore, but in the Iron Reminders’ case, it happens to be exactly what their one-sheet (one of those labored promo exercises obviously written by a really friendly guy that drew the short straw) implies with the “people say we sound like Shotmaker, but you’ll have to listen and decide for yourself…” (or similar) sentiment. The vocalist is pedigreed through past involvements with Kungfu Rick, a revered HC band I can’t sonically place at the moment, but remember plenty of revered murmurings from the wanna-be crusties around town, back in the era of the wanna-be crustie (AKA “better times than the present”). Every song has a big fat (and REAL…not public-domain melody) hook in that certain teetering-on-the-edge-of-not-being-a-hook way. The album is short, ‘natch, and meshes well with high volume and driving the car with the windows up. One after the other … they keep coming. Bam, bam, bam … and here’s the bad news: It’s limited to 100 copies, and that creates a thought I’m not proud of: If this record is still in print, I’m going to lose a little bit more hope in, well, everything. Great shit. (http://www.myspace.com/ironreminders)
(Andrew Earles)

Etienne Jaumet
Entropy 12” EP

From the cover alone I had thought that Klaus Schulze was sending out review copies of a new project (and that is a compliment), but lo and behold, it is the new-ish electro-house single by Etienne Jaumet of Zombie-Zombie. Mr. Jaumet mixes up a solid mesh of basic minimal synth beats, the kind you’d find easily found on old Stem Band or L’an III tapes (Easily?!? – Ed.), remixed by someone hiding out in the M_Nus bunker. The hybrid of Berlin-centric downbeat tech house and Belgian style synthesizers is only the basic sense, as Jaumet seems to have a slight bit of Krautrock influence in tracks like “Entropy.” Minimal techno meets analog synth and Moebius, making a marriage in electronic heaven. A surprisingly upbeat record that could make for a easy DJ fallback in case of a pinch. (http://versatilerecords.blogspot.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Opiate Sun 12” EP
(Caldo Verde)

I remember chiding an old friend (who hasn’t spoken to me in a while, come to think of it …) who was raving about Jesu circa Conqueror, telling him it reminded me of Hydra Head’s answer to Richard Marx. So glibly I dismissed Broadrick’s day job, more appealing to me in its earlier, more amorphous stages at time of comment, but I’m glad I’ve persisted, and been so selective in that persistence. I’m not sure what made me pick this one up, but it’s become my favorite single/EP type thing of the year. Gone are the drum machines and the hayzi fantayzee of the nascent shoegaze revivalism going on at times, leaving the calming, throbbing drift of time-extended melody as the basis for some heavy, heavy worship. It’s like 1992 all over again, bands trying to figure out how to slowcore as good as Codeine or Red House Painters were able to – hell, Kozelek put out this record – with two advantages: one, it’s 2009, no more bullshittin’ around in an established formula; two, it’s motherfucking Justin Broadrick. That tells me it’s going to have some weight to it (which it does), and that I’ll be surprised by some aspect of it. And I was – full band configuration, even if it’s just him alone in the studio, with live drums that really push these songs past where other Jesu successes have landed. I enjoy Conqueror now, and this is the closest thing I’ve heard to it in terms of the quality of the songs and singlemindedness of the approach. Melancholy, yet rarely minor-tuned riffage that just plows through the atmosphere, thick and full, yet balanced (heavy drum shots in the quiet parts do a hell of a lot to establish equilibrium) in how those unassuming, sturdy hooks come crashing in. An improvement on the past in several ways, and for personal reasons, totally my #1. (http://www.caldoverderecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Gesa” b/w “Volker 7”

Krysmopompas is a four piece post punk band from Berlin who came to the attention of most Americans via their Heute Schlafen-Morgan Aufwachen double album on S-S last year, which compiled their two self released CD-Rs. They claimed the influences of Ionesco and Fassbinder, but what’s here is a hefty dose of 154 era Wire, and NDW bands like Die Tödliche Doris and F.S.K. if they had deadpan, spoken vocals in German (instead of hostile, shouted vocals in German). The shambling, DIY rock feel of some of the tracks on the 2xLP is absent from both sides here, leaning a bit heavier on the casio here, but they are of the same high level of quality. This is one of the best bands mining the post punk style these days, and if two albums’ worth of material seemed like too much to deal with, by all means, dig in here. Great record. (http://www.myspace.com/avantrecords)
(Chris Strunk)

Anne Laplantaine
s/t 7” EP
(Tona Serenad)

Four-track EP, heavily inspired by Miranda July and Kate Bush. Solo female vocals and electronics from Laplantaine, a French artist who plinks and plonks gentle electronic folk music outside the scope of most of the things that’d come through to Still Single. I appreciate the challenge, and though it would seem that this isn’t a record I’d be playing a lot (because I don’t live in a giant mushroom and wear shirts made of spider silk and fill a big basket with fresh figs every day, and listening to it will make me feel something about this predicament), I’m sure there’s a number of people for whom this would be a very winning and rewarding experience in small art consumption. Laplantaine certainly knows her way around her private universe, and has created welcoming, plangent harmonies against the slow shuffling muffle of her fur-lined klingklang. 300 numbered copies. (http://www.tonaserenad.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Last Rapes of Mr. Teach
s/t 7” EP
(Les Disques Steak)

Yes! Here’s proof that no matter how saturated, over-exposed, or unsavory the genre, there will always be the special participants that call the top-shelf home and transcend the nest to stand on their own. These Frenchmen close out a garage/trash-rock and punk gauntlet with chops so good they sound inborn and unavoidable. It’s always nice to discover a band so adept at sounding fantastic that their fuck-ups are keepers. The first incendiary factor of their arsenal is speed, a musical muscle flexed on the first track … with refreshing returns. Elsewhere, the LRs of MTs run through three different attacks on the sonic common thread that binds all of garage revivalism together. It’s obvious after one go-thru that they’re giving everything an admirable, heartfelt shot, something that cannot be said for an alarming number of their contemporaries who are way too concerned that every step be approved by whoever reps garage punk on the nefarious taste-programmers’ board of directors. (http://www.myspace.com/disquessteak)
(Andrew Earles)

Lesson Lesson Lessen Relearn/Russian Tsarlag
split 7”
(West Palm Beotch)

Outsider mix-up of two close friends leading parallel lives in some dark bizarro underbelly. Lesson Lesson Lessen Relearn is the found object synth sampler outfit of What’s Yr Damage? member Nelson Hallonquist, plying distorted sound collage with piles of analog synth hums, various delay effects and oscillations, accompanied by fucked tape swirls from the ether, containing random nonsensical dialogue. Russian Tsarlag keeps the vibe consistent but use a more lo-fi rock aesthetic to get the same point across. Primate percussion sets the tone with unwavering, monotone vocals blown out through reverb. Very interesting effort.
(Ryan Martin)

Life Partners
Men Are Talking LP
(Ride the Snake)

I imagine Life Partners’ live show is a hot tub full of dogpiles, spilled beer, brass blurts, microphone-less screaming, irritated sound guys, kids hanging from the rafters and copious amounts of male nudity; a general “BMX Bandits” (the movie not the band) foam party vibe. This group exists in a world where even that one guy’s questionable pink glasses make sense; that is to say, on the stage (and one not far from Boston). Judging from the band photos that adorn the sleeve of Men Are Talking, I’d say these guys are born entertainers, pranksters looking to stroke the cock of good humor until it ejaculates one-liners, puns and in-jokes. Life Partners don’t take themselves too seriously and are plenty goofy (, but they’re not a joke band. They’re a “good times party band” and I think that’s probably the best way to experience them. The songs themselves are not bad, — the oddly-titled “Rapist Gets Off,” in particular, has a mellow, catchy melody that is thankfully devoid of the screaming and thudding that permeates much of the album. But Men Are Talking mostly sounds like the trumpet player of Chicago lost a bet to a singer who rants about girls putting makeup on their ugly faces. Five of the seven cuts here are over six minutes, which is a test of patience for even the most learned sage, but ingested the right way, live, in a basement with 30 other sweaty idiots pouring beer in their underwear and stepping on each other’s boat shoes, is probably nothing short of euphoria. (http://www.ridethesnakerecords.com)
(Mike Pace)

Little Claw
"Prickly Pear" b/w "Crawl Around Inside" 7"

(Columbus Discount)

If you’re going to teeter on the edge of falling apart, there had better be some charm to the flimsy glue holding things together. Tuneless, obnoxious caterwaul may pass for charm while the garage-punk scene finally makes it around to exporting/appropriating poorly-executed femme-folk-”damage” with a major focus on trying way too hard or cultivating aggressive leg hair rather than accomplishing the most rudimentary of songwriting skills. But the reasonable among us must hope that this won’t pass for anything but a semi-hearty laugh one, maybe two, years down the road. Like Nobunny, this is another entity that makes me feel as though I just found the box of sunglasses in “They Live.” What’s “catchy” and “brilliant” or “hilarious” is little more than sub-skiffle TV-jingle melodies coming from a guy in his underwear and a rabbit mask with mid-‘90s rejected-by-Estrus, eyeball-poppin’/boner-pants Fake Daddy Roth cover art. With Little Claw, I’m going to guess with a measure of confidence that lofty accolades are reserved for what’s really the ghost-of-Dame Darcy-past envisioned by a CocoRosie fan holding Joanna Newsom hostage and forcing her to play an out-of-tune acoustic bass with her knees and elbows while a contact mic is stuck in the throat of a really fat housecat as it’s being slowly bathed. Cream yellow vinyl, edition of 250, Columbus Discount Singles Club Year One release. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

split 7”
(Hewhocorrupts, Inc.)

Locrian has sent in several releases to Still Single in a duo formation. Adding a drummer seems to have forced the Chicago dark ambient/black metal firmly into the forest of despair. With “Ancestral Brutalism,” they have snapped into full-on mournful black metal with gigantic drums that eventually break out of the blast beat into martial bursts of punctuation under a veil of atomized gray asphalt. The track ends much in the direction most of their work takes, in a scenario of industrial burnoff and ruined emotions. They want to have it both ways, which is perfectly acceptable so long as it works. Here, it works. Harpoon, apparently also from Chicago, plays beard-havin’ corn-core, fast-then-slow riffin’ and a goddamn drum machine with burly manjuice over top. No nuance or subtlety here, just flashy, sub-Dillinger Escape Plan-style playing and demeanor. Sounds like a band where the singer likes Fucked Up, and the other band members are simply fucked up on their own. Anyway, it’s not so good; too serious for its sound and yet not mature, and we’re forced to weigh the desired effects of dragging metal down to this fairly unpopulated level against any perceived benefit to the contrary, outside of a band that simply exists to spit out a number of things you’ve heard elsewhere, all together and at once. Locrian’s music is of a different class than Harpoon’s, and this regional split is wholly tilted in Locrian’s favor. Green marbled vinyl, letter-pressed sleeve, 300 copies. (http://www.hewhocorruptsinc.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Love Collector
“My Baby Goes Waaah” b/w “Tell Me Come Back” 7”
(Big Action)

Generic Fonzie garage is the hardest music to review. Do people really care to split hairs whether this sounds like The Infections or The Motards? It’s snotty, the guitars go “NaNaNaNaNaNa” and overall, this doesn’t exceed mid-period Rip Off catalog quality, except “My Baby Goes Waaaah (Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah)” is pretty irritating the first time, and it’s repeated over and over throughout the track. They get a little crude, but ultimately it’s not quite catchy or depraved enough to rise above the din. Here are some people who mostly likely aren’t giving a fuck. Ex-Dirty Sweets if that sweetens the deal for you. (http://www.bigactionrecords.net)

Love Is All
Last Choice 12" EP
(What’s Your Rupture?)

How you feel about this record is going to depend on how you feel about affected cutesiness in music. There is a lot of twee going on here, especially in the female singer’s vocals. How do you feel the thought of kittens hugging in a dewy meadow? What about while a young couple in anoraks holds hands while skipping through rainy Glasgow town on their way to a secret picnic spot? What about anthropomorphic bunnies riding bikes with banana seats and bells while sucking lollipops in the sunshine? If the thought of any of those things fills your heart with joy, this is a great indie guitar pop record – just for you! – that has hints of Kleenex/Liliput (the sax) and disco. All six songs here are really well constructed and arranged and have chorus hooks for the ages. Once the twee first impression of this record passes, it’s clear that life isn’t all sunshine with Love Is All . There is a threat of physical violence towards a friend’s abusive ex-boyfriend that crops up in the title on the title track and a lot of loneliness hinted at all over the record, and if you give it time it’s clear that this is a very mature collection of songs, all about romance gone wrong. The strongest track here is the closing “Vans Vans Vans,” which has a great descending melody line, and might make it into a top 30 indie pop songs of all time list (if I was making one). I was not expecting to like this record this much and I’m glad I gave it the time it deserved to sink in. A keeper. (http://www.whatsyourrupture.com)
(Chris Strunk)

The Mantles
“Bad Design” b/w “Rachel” 7”
(I Wish I Was a Slumber-Tone Record)

Not sure if there’s anything I can say about this new Mantles single that I haven’t said about the two before it. In the interim they recorded a very excellent LP for Siltbreeze, Kiwi-by-proxy pop that trawls the underside of bright pop, bringing the really weird aquatic life topside. Apologies to those of you who would otherwise digest that as a Wes Anderson/Steve Zissou reference – to me, that’s no problem, but I don’t want any of you to start writing letters any more than you already do. So we’ll leave it at this: the Mantles are just dirty sounding enough to warrant exclusion from any of that ‘80s psych revivalism, though they’re not all that far off from a handful of Three O’Clock songs. And really, nothing is wrong with that at all. I love that they came to this sound in the ways they said they did – by design, not by research – and I have to believe them. It’s like Santa is totally real if you want him to be. Now I’m sounding way, WAY too twee for my own good. Backed into a corner, I say that both of these tracks are as good as anything they’ve put out, with “Rachel” being one of the best. 300 copies, mail-order only, putty colored vinyl and I’ll just shut up now… (http://www.slumberlandrecords.com) (http://www.yakamashirecords.net)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Mayfair Set
“Already Warm” b/w “Desert Fun” 7”
(Captured Tracks)

Dee Dee Dum Dum and Mike Sniper. Somebody got the better end of this deal. I’d rather hear her sing than Sniper, and based on past releases it sounds like she got more of herself in “Desert Fun” than “Already Warm,” so I’ll hang over there. I’d describe it further, but would you care? Was late on the draw with reviewing this, but I like one of the songs so I decided to get in the grind. Probably still in print, either as a single or on that Woodsist comp. (http://capturedtracks.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Dean McPhee
Brown Bear 12” EP
(Hood Faire)

Despite my initial skepticism towards Young Britons doing their take on Americana (though truth be told, some UK residents such as Ben Reynolds do it quite well), Dean McPhee’s solo 12” is a fairly decent take on late, reverb-soaked Fahey, or perhaps Loren Mazzacane Connors. That is, it’s certainly pleasant, though not particularly aggressive; perhaps polite in that oh-so-peculiar manner we Colonials expect. No rough guitar instrumentals akin to Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack, instead we get two short pieces on the first side, and a side-long piece on the second. And it’s over there where the politeness melds into a bit of sobering boredom, wherein McPhee smothers his once-again decent ability in typical guy-with-a-Line6 territory. However, if you like post-Fahey instrumental guitar, there’s enough here to at least point to some promising future releases. (http://www.hoodfaire.co.uk)
(Joel Hunt)

Meah!/Phantom Family Halo
split 7” EP
(Sophomore Lounge)

As obnoxious as they wanna be, Meah! is from the Truman’s Water/Thinking Fellers school only without the tact of the latter or ferociousness of the former. Annoying “bleeorrg” skatting baby meets whiskey-soaked, world-weary Waitsian (but more likely Man Man)-inspired vocals ruin any chance of these “weird but not too weird” songs being played again. My quota for cringe-worthy bratty shit like this was met long along. With a pedigree that includes some of Louisville’s heavy hitters (The For Carnation, Dead Child, Sapat) the Phantom Family Halo fare better with their cover of the Red Crayola’s “Hurricane Fighter Plane” if only because they don’t try as hard. In fact, it sounds like they’re barely trying at all (Alien Sex Fiend’s take owns this). PFH’s version has a laconic creepiness of its own, however; one of their guitars sounds like a bong hit being ripped and the song is better off for it. Limited to 500 copies on translucent ice-blue vinyl. (http://www.sophomoreloungerecords.com)
(Mike Pace)

Medicine and Duty
The Imperial Black Fracture 7” EP
(Foolproof Projects)

“The Imperial Black Fracture” is a pretty cool stab at industrial-strength This Heat worship funneled through a machine shop where androids actually do dream of electric sheep. You know those warehouse factories that exist solely in horror/sci-fi movies and music videos, where the main export seems to be fire and sparks? This record is the soundtrack for the robotic worker drones in those factories. They listen to songs like “Zero Double Zero” when they’re raging against the machine (aka their boss, a big Robby the Robot looking muthafucka who wears a tie with LED lights on it). Lots of percussion, drums, sirens, bleeps and bloops that might have some Aa neo-primitivist vibe to it that I’m totally missing. Medicine and Doody have some talent. Someone at Vestron should hook these guys up with some film scoring work. (http://www.myspace.com/medicineandduty)
(Mike Pace)

Mi Ami
Techno 1.1 12”

Early ‘80s Tangerine Dream soundtrack pulsing instro-pop infused with G. Moroder and first appropriated by Trans Am and ilk … was this ever a THING that WENT AWAY so as to be reevaluated a decade later? No, so we can remove the Trans Am part just to show that I’m not going to start submitting color-coded timelines and flowcharts when editors ask for reviews with actual words combined to make actual sentences that say something about actual music. Still, it’s next to impossible to personally erase the image of a woman being chased through a parking garage or a mish-mash of scenes from Michael Mann’s “Thief,” De Palma’s (drill-through-the) “Body Double,” and Paul bless-his-heart Schrader’s “American Gigolo.” Like the latter, these instrumental electro-workouts are a lot better than they should be. (http://www.hossrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Nocturnal Feeding
“Cathy’s Motorcycle”/”Hong Kong Year 3” 7” EP
(Green Tape)

Has an old homemade Mountain Goats(e) feel to it. I like it, although next time you might want to clearly label sides “A” and “B,” because as of now I can’t tell if my favorite song is “Mutilated Teenage Bodies” or “Rooms Filled with Toxic Chlorine Gas.” Hey kid, you write some catchy tunes (your voice is gawky and tuneless, like a one-balled Big Bird, but I think we can work with that); here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: Get a couple of scabs to back you up on bass and skins, double-track your voice, overdub a couple of lead guitar lines, and write yourself the ticket to Hollywood Records, as I believe they’re still rolling in dough from all the Seaweed and Sacred Reich albums they’ve sold. (http://www.freewebs.com/greentape)
(Mike Pace)

Nu Sensae
Three Dreams 7” EP
(Critiscum Internationale)

First move in a while from this Vancouver duo, taking a firm stance in punk, moreover grunge, fuzz bass and pounding drums bouncing off one another with rope-climbing determination. Andrea Lukic barks like Kim Gordon on a particularly stressful day, and gets off a couple of memorable phrases, launched off with some forethought about how to sound menacing. Way more thought out than their debut, which focused more on abrasion against the slightly more streamlined style in which they play now, these four songs grabbed me over time and buckled me into accepting the blame for something I didn’t even do. Eat shit and fold! 500 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/nusensae)
(Doug Mosurock)

Oneohtrix Point Never
Zones Without People LP

Oneohtrix Point Never is a project by Daniel Lopatin, who seems to be upping the ante in the retro-synth sweepstakes. Zones Without People begins as a pretty fantastic set of deceptively-simple melodic pieces set somewhere between the futurism of early ‘70s Cluster or Tangerine Dream, the pastoralism of Boards of Canada (without the beats), and the looking-backwards-yet-forward sensibilities of current peers such as Emeralds. On the second side, Oneohtrix Point Never shifts further into overdrive, as the melodies are occasionally dispersed with shrill stabs and ominous minor-key rumblings. Whether you’re into music as blatant about its influences is up to you, but personally I can’t get enough of well-done synthesizer music, which Zones Without People most certainly is. Limited to 500, first edition already out of print. (http://www.arborinfinity.com)
(Joel Hunt)

Bill Orcutt
A New Way to Pay Old Debts LP

Harry Pussy guitarist Orcutt resurfaces after over a decade of absence, found in the kitchen of a San Francisco, CA apartment, recording the death throes of his four-string Kay guitar as he works on it with a hacksaw. Mangled folk, out of the Fahey/Derek Bailey scrimmage, ensues; Orcutt’s demeanor and tone, coupled with the odd vocal yelp, text message received, or street sound, makes for an ice-veined experience here, his playing and tone rendered with a violent aggression almost completely missing from the genre. Such is the artist’s determination across these eight tracks that the sounds created here register differently than on any other folk/improv record I’ve ever heard. With the loss of Jack Rose, he’s the other side of the coin, playing in a completely self-owned style that ratchets up the stakes for stringed instruments and their players everywhere. From what I understand, it’s a Kay acoustic with a neckjob that allowed it to be tuned lower, it’s a and D strings absent, and a pickup found in the street in the ‘80s. Chance made this instrument, and in turn made itself a master. Those looking for the relaxing side of meditative music might want to steer clear, as Orcutt is playing with murderous intent. Everyone else who wants to have their ears opened as we exit this decade of misery, to find what will happen next, here’s some clues. 500 copies, second pressing now available, and apparently he’s going to perform live in the new year. (http://palilalia.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Holykyle LP
(Sort of Records)

Judging by the black sleeve, weird pseudo-Olde English font, the name Pairdown, and song titles like “Soon You Will Flourish as a Caterer,” I was hunkering down for some dank basement-brewed caustic backwoods sludge. Imagine my surprise to discover that this is actually very gentle open-tuned acoustic folk that owes way more to Leo Kottke than Eyehategod. David Leicht and Raymond Morin are from Pittsburgh and both play guitars and sing. Sometimes they’re backed by bass and drums, as on the Kottke-esque “Spotted Eye,” but mostly the songs spotlight their dual-guitar interplay. The gorgeously simple “Three Coat” is one high point, the boys’ acoustics bouncing off one another in harmony. The afore-mentioned “Caterer” reminds me of an Americanized Richard Thompson, not bad by half. Occasionally they veer into “sensitive folkie playing guitar in the stairway in Animal House“ territory, but I don’t feel the need to pull a Belushi brainbuster on their Martins. Instead, put this on and watch the light refract through the dusty windows of your barn right before the sun sets. Vinyl is limited to 315 copies. (http://sortofrecords.com)
(Mike Pace)

Jen Paul/Jeans Wilder
split LP
(La Station Radar)

Jen Paul phones in some heavy reverb guitar, with occasional singing and percussion – that is whenever he/they bother to write a song that lasts longer than 30 seconds. Nothing special, at least nothing that you haven’t heard tried in the past decade or two since Loveless. The Jeans Wilder side is some poorly played, out-of-tune, lower-than-lo-fi grit that even Kurt Vile wouldn’t release as a b-side on some sub-sub-sub-”hip” label. Wait, did I write that? Limited edition of 300. (http://lastationradar.com)
(Joel Hunt)

PC Worship
NYC Stone Age LP

Weirdo loose knit freak happening from Justin Frye (Gary War, Teeth Mountain) – plenty of detuned harmonizing, loosely thrown together to the backdrop of random off-beat drums, fumbled bass lines, freeform sax and the occasional synth bump for good measure. People may check this out being a fan of the more “in tune” jams of their regular bands, but don’t go looking to this release for any structure or sense of purpose – PC Worship are strictly improv. Still, they haven’t forgotten the purpose of the sounds they create and haven’t lost sight of the song, creating a whimsical work of modern psychedelic spontaneity. Limited to 300 copies. (http://shdwplyrecords.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Lunettes 7” EP
(Soft Abuse)

More post-Vivian Girls jingle-jangle and cooey female vocals smothered in layers of fuzz and reverb. Somehow, it’s surprising to me that this style is so in vogue these days. If you had a time machine, you could go back twenty-five years, play someone this record, throw a paisley shirt on, suddenly you’d be transformed into a 50 year-old dude from Los Angeles that nobody cares about. But I suppose if I could predict when musical trends would crop up decades later, I’d be running a record label. Not sure why this sort of skilled-yet-not ineptitude is so prevalent, or why this band with NNCK connections (as I discovered from Google just now) exists, but there you have it. (http://www.softabuse.com)
(Joel Hunt)

Benoît Pioulard
Flocks 7”
(Blue Flea)

By age 25, Thomas Meluch has amassed a notable reputation for blending home field recordings into his own strain of shoegazer folk using the pseudonym of Benoît Pioulard. He’s released a handful of DIY CD-Rs and cassettes, as well as full lengths for Kranky and his own Ghostly International imprint. Pioulard’s latest single showcases the perfect example of the dynamic contrast in his music and use of sound. Side A is a simple folk pop ballad with easy to digest repetition and a lo-fi swing interplayed with various field samples found along the way – nothing special, but and very listener friendly. Turn it over to the flipside to unravel an opposite, yet far superior, lengthy drone piece, done with layers of echoed doom on top of various knob twisting composition. Still a bit puzzled as to how these two songs are supposed to correlate but maybe these types of things are better left unexplained. (http://www.stormyrecords.com)
(Ryan Martin)

N.S. Drugs 7” EP

When I was below drinking age, we had bands like Pollution everywhere you looked: loading in gear, salting Coke machines, opening for Meatjack, delivering food or bike messengering for meager pay, ripping off Kinko’s, copying cassettes out of a dual deck, furtively leering around the edges of the dating puddle. This was before everyone was in a band, and the countercultural shift of the ‘90s was still taking time to settle in, so it meant that, if you were in a small town, rednecks would be looking to kick your ass, even though you pretty much looked the same, except with different hairstyles. It meant that when you told people you were in a band, there was literally no way to bridge what that meant into what you played. It also meant you really had to know your shit, as there wasn’t as much room for gimmicks – if you were gonna play heavy, it was worth your time to actually figure out how based on what you could do, physically, rather than banking on Guitar Center and Pro Tools to save your ass. Time has thinned their ranks, and with history and nostalgia being what it is, I’m thankful for a band like Pollution – heshers and longhairs (except for the one guy) who have been deposited in NYC by circumstance/choice, and tangled up their personal roots into a low-strung jumble of hardcore, metal, and Midwestern mechanics. Like their 12”, this single is a reissue of a self-released cassette, and it’s bursting with a ferocious sound and the know-how to fuse genre classifications into a disturbing whole. So it’s not so weird when they shift from basement BM drainage issues (“D-IX”) to racquetball court thrash (“Black Commune”) to nervy sludge (“Fuck Hope”). And just like the ‘90s, this record features one of those novice mistakes, the label having crammed three longish songs on the flip, creating a disparity in playback volume and dynamic range between the two sides. It’s kind of charming, though it makes me wish this was a 12” at 45rpm, pressed up loud. Hopefully a full-length is forthcoming. 100 copies on clear vinyl, and 300 on black. (http://myspace.com/desensitizedrecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Pop. 1280
“Bedbugs” b/w “Times Square” 7”

In case you weren’t sure from the song titles, this band is from Da Apple. Also, evidence suggests they have spent many an hour with the collected works of Nicholas Edward Cave and Roland Stuart Howard. But since riffing on them two is better than pretty much anything, say, Grizzly Bear is doing with its time, we grade on a curve. And since we’re all idiot box addic-, um, critics here at Chez Gross and we don’t give a shit what happens on the F train half a country away, we find it pretty well impossible to think of bedbugs these days without picturing Alec Baldwin scratchin’ himself like a horny chimp in front of a grossed-out Tina Fey. Probably not the image these guys have in mind. But they do have the rolling brass balls to name themselves after a Jim Thompson novel. The B-side – which really does sound like a Junkyard outtake – gets a point added for mentioning a squeegee man and a point subtracted for mentioning “my lover.” Cover is old-school video tape-capture stills ‘88 stylee. Brand new you’re retro. (http://www.myspace.com/population1280)
(Joe Gross)

Prunalogsusan Pentagram
23 7” EP
(Trigger on the Dutendoo)

Prunalogsusan Pentagram must be some kind of inside joke. These are recordings from fall 2008 in the group’s native Wisconsin. It sounds like this was rendered in Windows 95 sound recorder, Walkman-taped off of the speakers, and ripped back into someone’s laptop in Real Audio format. Pretty impressive. The tracks (17 of them, to be exact) range from grindcore with pitch-shifted vocals, amateur humorcore, to just pointless nothingness. The artwork is completely ugly and lazy. And for some reason they thank F.O.D. Limited to 300, and why does this exist again? (trigger.on.the.dutendoo@gmail.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Puffy Areolas
“Lutzko Lives” b/w “Bowel Movements (It’s All About)” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

The name is off putting and the title to the B-side … well, fuck it. Still, glad this trigger was pulled – if the rest of this long-touring, little-producing Toledo, OH band comes anywhere close to the racket splayed out on “Lutzko Lives,” I’m on board. Massive, speedy, High Rise-esque guitar freakout, bouncing off the walls and shocking itself alive. Brash, snotty vocals and a respectable mix keeps the hard-pounding drums in good places. The flip is a loose, formless jam (speaking of the subject matter) with a guest appearance by Raven, that guy who made a private press monster back in the ‘70s. The A-side is good enough for both halves, and if you have the means to acquire (seeing as it’s the first missive from Year 2 of the Columbus Discount Singles Club, you had a chance), you should. Supposedly someone quit Tyvek to join this band. I would have too. 400 copies. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Purling Hiss
s/t LP

The trouble with year-end lists: records like this one, which come out quietly and without fanfare, and run the table on all of the others you’ve chosen. Had this record, the solo debut of Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze, as Purling Hiss, crossed my path even a few weeks earlier, it would have completely dominated. As such, this gets my highest recommendation: extremely thick, dense, wilded-out psychedelic hard rock, Polizze tackling all of the instruments alone. Releases of recent years (Wooden Shjips, and Birds of Maya’s debut LP spring to mind) speak to the absolutely fucked vibes on offer here, but don’t quite take it to the resin-coated peaks of Purling Hiss’s fight with the world. Many of the better ramen shops I’ve been to employ this tactic of taking a blowtorch to the charshu before serving it, making sure the fat caramelizes and the edges of the pork singe in blackened completion. It’s a trick – the meat is fully cooked; this just gives it a little more character and some additional levels of flavor – but it enhances the presentation most of all. That same logic can be applied to Purling Hiss, and it pays off. There’s vocals, but like the drums, they’re pushed to near the back of the mix, to make way for layer upon layer of excoriating guitar slash, noise upon noise, lead over lead, dense but particulate with every stripe of psych maelstrom chaos flame-kissing the walls. There’s three long tracks and three short ones, but it all blends together – my favorite is “Montage Mountain,” which sounds like Les Rallizes Denudes finally cutting “I Will Follow Him” out of their set and replacing it with Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special.” It’s the finest moment of rock music in 2009, and if you hurry, you can be part of it – it’s as good as we’re gonna get until Birds of Maya’s three-song double album comes out. It doesn’t hurt that Polizze is a shredder of elite proportions, and it sounds like he’s having a blast. 300 odd copies, with 100 or so of them on purple vinyl, going so quickly that they’ll be gone by the new year. Fans of the heavy swirl (High Rise, early Comets on Fire, Puffy Areolas) – do not wait. (http://www.permanentrecordschicago.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Pygmy Shrews
“Lord Got Busted” b/w “Kill Yourself” 7”
(Fan Death)

A supergroup for people who do nothing but look for Cherubs’ Heroin Man on vinyl (you find it, you call me), Pygmy Shrews embody the New Wave of American Noise Rock as well or better than anyone taking up space in Brooklyn. Guitarist Ben Greenberg (Zs, the Fugue) bass-abuser Tia Vincent (the Fugue, FACE!), and drummer Jeremy Villalobos (Drunkdriver, Whip and the Body) pound something into submission on “Lord Got Busted,” mostly because Jeremy’s thor’s-hammer work slows down from its Drunkdriver shimmy – but never loses its lurch – and Tia’s yell reminds you that once upon a time, Lydia Lunch didn’t make lounge music. The Pussy Galore cover on the flip suggests that maybe covering a band by your genre’s godfathers, especially if that godfather knows its way around riffs and choruses a bit better than you do, is brave, like jumping onto a wrought-iron fence is brave. Time it wrong, and you lose a ball. They just squeak by, but their pants are ripped to pieces. Still, it’s goddamn thrilling that crap like this is back on the block. (http://www.fandeathrecords.com)
(Joe Gross)

Cathedral with No Eyes 12” EP

Having had the pleasure of seeing Railcars perform in a burnt-out post-apocalyptic jerry-rigged lean-to somewhere in the middle of the Black Forest in Germany, I can attest to a memorable live performance replete with projections of glitchy graphix, shiny lights and an overwhelming sense of “having gone to plaid.” Unfortunately I can’t remember much of what they sounded like. Cathedral with No Eyes doesn’t make as lasting of an impression as the live show, but that’s not to say the record is not without merit (the record’s artwork, which looked like something the Hamburglar vomited up, is another story). Treading much of the same ground as other bargain-basement noiseniks, the songs on the first slide of this eight song EP blend together in a morass of tape degradation, vocals buried under waves of distortion, overblown synthesized drumbeats, and superfluous noise that intentionally masks (but doesn’t exactly ruin) the potential strengths of a song like “Castles,” which at its core is a simple pop tune based around a catchy organ melody. I think this one could work naked without all of these excess layers of shit, but Stephen Stills’ Manassas was my favorite record of ‘09, so what do I know? I’m partial to the songs on side two, as they poke out with big bittersweet melodies that convey more than the corroded cosmic slop they’re bathed in, and vocals that are more pronounced but still incomprehensible. There’s a blueprint here for what might be some truly engaging recorded material someday. It’s a difficult balancing act, using noise with purpose, versus using it to cover up a lack of fleshed-out ideas aren’t ready to stand on their own. There’s your Music Theory 101 lesson for today, now please get out of my classroom to I can rip this massive fart I’ve been holding in for the last 50 minutes. 1000 copies. (http://stumparumper.com)
(Mike Pace)

Whispering Gallery 12" EP

Rale is the moniker of Bill Huston, a man who seems to dwell in the low-end frequency of noise drone. This record slowly builds throughout each side, creating a damaging effect on the sounds he is manipulating. Both sides start off almost in a hushed ambient style, but soon get consumed by crunching feedback that would normally be punishing to your average listener, but in this case act as a leavening agent. Very textured noise with a almost Kluster-like ambiance mixed with a heavy lull, similar to the likes of Emaciator or Pedestrian Deposit. Another great notch in the Arbor belt. 400 copies pressed. (http://www.arborinfinity.com)
(Ryan Martin)

s/t 7” EP
(Mongo Bongo/Top Ten Hits)

The guitar has bite, the vocals have that spoken-sung urgency, and the beat is relentless at first, but reduces to a thick, martial pound when required. Rank/Xerox has a lot in common with the punkier, noisier bands of today, but probably would have fit in during the GSL/31G boom of 1999. I wish I could find more to say, but really, they just nail it – a lotta people (alright, two people) have been saying there’s a strong Zounds influence in the guitars, which I get, but they steer far away from peace punk and align themselves with the kind of restless, noisy, young band with synthesizers and effects pedals, screaming and thrashing into a blur of young XY energy. Great, great, great new single from a San Francisco band that’s been making the rounds with the kids (and who blew out of a split cassette with the different but equally intriguing Grass Widow earlier in the year). Woulda made my year-end top 10 but I can’t budge what’s there. Aside from the music (all three songs are champs), my favorite thing about this release has gotta be the insert, in which member Jon Shade takes a moment to rip his old man a new asshole. “Ketchup guzzler” indeed… David West also performs as Frank & the Can I Speaklys, whose split single was reviewed in these very pages a few months ago. 500 copies, sure to move fast. Seems like some of these guys are involved in a video webzine about life in their city, which is also pretty cool. Go, Youth. Go. (http://mondovision.tv/mongobongo)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Real Ones
Ekko (Instrumental Opus I) LP
(Warner Music Norway)

If bands like Darkthrone and Enslaved get whatever they call a lifetime achievement award in Norway, at whatever they call The Grammies over there, what does a band like Real Ones get? Killed? Of course not! It’s just that I win a Ford Focus if I’m the 10,000th music critic to joke about the contrast between Norway’s sleek, ultra-tame bands and their blackened (or formerly blackened) countrymen. Like the album title states, this is an instrumental record. Like the 80-year-old homeless guy down the street would assume, post-rock can be heard at the core of these tracks. Everything is noticeably more upbeat, and has that pinch of charm that so many likeminded bands disregard (or simply cannot muster), though this matters little when these fairly-tight and busy songs lack hooks. To do the instro route these days, it takes more than a conversation-starting country of origin to get people’s attention. The Real Ones boys know this and elected to shove both a banjo AND a viola up to the top of the mix for the majority of Ekko. The band’s home with The Bunny suggest a past or present affiliation with a bank or car commercial, or it’s quite plausible that Real Ones are Real Famous in Norway, with a taste for the iconic (literal album titles, and approachable, positive-feel instrumental drivers with a distinct salute to Kraftwerk, Moroder and late period Tangerine Dream). Otherwise, the banjo gives one track a hint of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, though the album’s innocuous undercurrent erases the urge for repeated listens. (http://www.warnermusic.no)
(Andrew Earles)

Saw Fist Tree
s/t 12” EP

Outside of having one of the worst names I’ve heard lately (what happened guys, did you each pick random words out of Webster’s?), Saw Fist Tree’s debut 12” is an entirely not-too-bad slab of post Tortoise navel gazing, jaunty acoustic Ichabod Crane-style hootenanny and some other psychedelic horseshit. My ears perked up at “Antebellum Estate,” which starts off as the world’s first frat-dub cut, sounding something like the Swingin’ Medallions by way of King Tubby, before devolving into a more garagey Oasis (right?) before coming ‘round full-circle. The rest of the record veers towards snoozy sleepytime pleasantries that go down smoother than an ice-cold Bartles & Jaymes, but are somehow less refreshing. Limited to 250 copies, packaged in an ugly brown paper bag colored chipboard jacket. (http://sawfisttree.com)
(Mike Pace)

The School/George Washington Brown
Searching for the Now Vol. 6 split 7”

Back in my day we called these split 7”s, but you get some of that Pains of Being Pure at Heart juice, and I guess it’s a comp. Searching For The Now Vol. 6 starts off with un-Googleable Welsh band The School, and its sumptuous cover of The Left Banke’s “And Suddenly.” It’s rich, booming, and smoky, and sounds exactly like an outtake from Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career. We can wave some Phil Spector flags around, but that’s what it is and it’s great for it. unless you’re the kind of person that demands originality, in which case why are you buying girl group records in 2009? George Washington Brown brings it a little weirder, with two songs that sound like somebody tried to make good on the promise of all those Hozac records. Thin distorted guitars, and a whirligig of semi-random synth swells and blooping get organized with a good dose of melodic vision into a nice early Superchunk meets Harriet the Spy. GWB’s other material from what I can tell sounds nothing like this, but I hope the band keeps moving in this direction. Slumberland certainly knows its audience, and if this record is a preview of what’s coming down the fuzz pop pipe, the fans won’t be disappointed. One time press of swirly vinyl and some with handmade sleeves. (http://www.slumberlandrecords.com)

Sentence Diagrams
“Always Try Your Best at Stuff” b/w “Diamonds & References” 7”

Sentence Diagrams play very upbeat, anthemic power pop. To be clear, this is not rooster-haircut and Italian boots power pop; it seems more like the perfect soundtrack for a bored kid with a bobo Walkman whose summer job is to clean up puke at Six Flags. The double-tracked vocals soar and beat against loose but furious drumming. “Always Try Your Best at Stuff” is a smoker that incorporates some piano low in the mix and has a dozen great lines like “So I started tasting both kinds of chips.” It’s a freak’s anthem that is very conducive to multiple plays. On the flip, “Diamonds & References” is a start-and-stop stomper that obliquely pairs lovelorn lyrics with a story about trick or treating (“going to get some Twix”). Shredding leads abound. After doing some sleuthing, I found out it is the project of a former live member of Home Blitz. The single is a winner and completely worth seeking out. This would sell hundreds of copies if it was on Woodsist. Instead, they settle for the quiet life with only 47 Myspace friends. What a world. (http://www.myspace.com/sentencediagrams)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Shannon and the Clams
Hunk Hunt 7” EP
(Weird Hug)

Shannon and the Clams is Oakland, CA’s garage party band from every ‘50s monster vs. teens movie. It could be kitschy, but Shannon Shaw’s huge smoky deep voice is a force to be reckoned with and carries the songs well, distorting the recording when she leans into it. Deep, reverb’d drums boom, and slinky tremolo’d surf guitars wind throughout the four songs here, two fast and two slow. Against conventional wisdom, the woozy ballads are the stronger pair, largely by featuring Shaw’s big voice. The title track “Hunk Hunt” is infectious, but lands just on the wrong side of irritating for me. 500 copies, already sold out by the time you see this, so go see them and party like white people. (http://www.weirdhugrecords.bigcartel.com)

Sissy Spacek
Epistasis 7” EP
(A Dear Girl Called Wendy Productions)

There’s a good chance that many readers will never hear this 17-track EP, as it’s limited to 200 copies, so let’s cut to the chase: it’s tempting to award Sissy Spacek/this particular release the distinction of providing a logical end to the grind/noise marriage. The recording itself is so bad that differentiating between the power electronics and guitar/bass loses out to uncontrollable giggling at the world’s most inept blast-beats. Two vocal styles (each reader has one guess as to which two styles) manage to kind of stay out of each other’s way, but that’s where the search for dynamics comes to an abrupt end. So as not to let a fine-tuned talent for accurate and fun reference-point coining go to waste, this might sound like Bill from Harry Pussy after a lost weekend with the Nasum boxed-set if listeners can suspend reality for a few minutes, or at least forget that the liners reveal Sissy Spacek to be a three-person band. Maybe one is the money guy … it cost serious scratch these days to make a record sound this bad. (http://wendyprodz.altervista.org)
(Andrew Earles)

Sissy Spacek
Fortune b/w The Eyes of Men 7” EP

As far as deconstructionist hardcore/BM goes, there is an interesting, subverted dynamic at play here: across 26 tracks, evenly split and banded on sides that play like a live set, with few breaks, Corydon Ronnau’s vocals are completely manipulated and obscured by John Wiese’s electronics, and flattened so that Charlie Mumma’s drumming (single-minded in every sense, the same blast beat against barely varying tempos) can sound like pieces of flash against the static and gnarled forms of the noise. Any personal dynamics in this band are viewable only in their mechanics: dominant (noise, amorphous power), submissive (voice, human weakness), voyeur (drums, engaged occupant). Musically there is little to gain from listening at any speed, but in the perspective of game logic and hand signals, employed by improvisers in the post-bop era – and, for that matter, Crom-Tech – it is rare and of note to hear anyone playing within the realms of hardcore acknowledging the possibility of getting it right on some entire other level. Anything that divisive is at least worth knowing about, because somewhere down the line, someone is going to make some adjustments to an approach like this, and shatter the world. And since Wiese’s been at this Sissy Spacek project for ten years and running, it could still be him who does it. (http://www.gilgongorecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Smokers Please
“Flensing” b/w “Grey Christmas” 7”
(Yoko Ono Tribute Weekend)

Noisy one-man-band squall over viola drone and guitar fuckery on the A-side, which may or may not excite you. Having heard plenty of records by A Handful of Dust, I wasn’t particularly excited, frankly. The label says to play at 33, but 45 sorta sounded better. B-side goes into “quiet, please” territory, and I’m not sure that’s much more of a thrill, either. This single left not much of an impression at all, and if the label didn’t have such a goofy name, I’d probably forget it in the middle of writing this review. Further research reveals that it’s a product of a New Zealander (Ben Spiers, of Glory Fckn Sun – Ed.) 250 copies. (http://www.yokoonotributeweekend.com)
(Joel Hunt)

Songs For Moms
I Used to Believe in the West LP

Songs For Moms does not fit in with their SF/Oakland brethren, who’ve all contracted the same set of aesthetic sensibilities (among them REVERB and ATTITUDE) – rather, I Used to Believe in the West, the band’s second album, is pure 1997. Groups like Cub, Rizzo and even the Muffs come to mind; the rhythms are shaky but the songs are performed with conviction, and the players have a great command over their style. At times the music almost slips into basement show folk-punk (especially “For Shaky Hands”) but the band thankfully never winds up too far into wingnut territory. And while the songs mostly sound similar, some nice variation comes in the song “In the West,” a tender ballad that examines one’s love/hate relationship with his or her home. It’s the album’s high point but there are other standout tracks like “Kill Coyotes,” an energetic pop-punk tune with sweet harmonies and an irresistible chorus. Comes with a nice silkscreened cover and a self-addressed postcard that you can cut out of the insert and send to the band. Overall, I Used to Believe in the West is a very nice surprise and shows a band ahead of the curve on the 90s DIY punk revival (which may, but probably will never come). 500 copies. (http://www.thrillhouserecords.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Spider Bags
“Teenage Eyes” b/w “Eileen” 7”

With this great single, which expands on the promise of their debut LP, ex-DC Snipers outfit the Spider Bags sound a bit more comfortable, having relocated to Chapel Hill, NC, done a whirl around the Northeast with the Golden Boys, and absorbing all of those environmental changes into their approach. “Teenage Eyes,” the fast one, opens with some clean guitar, boogie piano, and big hooks throughout, before crashing into screaming feedback in the end – a good party starter. “Eileen,” the B-side, succeeds at hitting Whiskey Flower-esque, bent alt-country ambiance better than the Golden Boys themselves have on their last two records. 500 copies. (http://www.odessarecords.com)

Got Nuffin 12” EP

A confusing EP by a seemingly polarizing band that I’ve always had a soft spot for since Britt Daniel was feeling his way around distortion and loud/quiet dynamics during the … Shiite Militia! … the decade before the last decade?!?! Is that possible?!?! No use dwelling on THAT guaranteed recipe for the inability to get out of bed all day. It’s worth noting that the B-side (either one or three tracks…it’s really hard to tell…and the back cover lists two B-side tracks…my brain hurts) may actually resurrect some scrapped ‘90s endeavors that Daniel “found during a recent move.” That or he’s been rocking a lot of Brise-Glace, if “rocking” is the correct terminology. And “Got Nuffin” – spread loud and proud across fat 45 RPM grooves on the A-side – has enough scratchy guitar and hoarse painkiller-high vocals to be from twelve years ago. Hey there, B.D., I feel ya! Been clipping coupons and listening to New Radiant Storm King while wearing pajama pants (all day) emblazoned with cartoon pizza slices? OK, OK … there’s no need for that language, I realize that personal ring of hell is mine and mine alone. Four gazillion copies pressed on black vinyl. Focus song is now track 9 on the Transference full length (released this month on Merge… in an edition of four gazillion). Did I mention that it’s right-on-the-money relative to what makes Spoon great? Meaning, it’s so catchy I can remember it when lesser faux-pop is vying for my attention. (http://www.mergerecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Mirror of Purification split 7”
(Semata Productions)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve checked out what Prurient’s Dominick Fernow’s been up to, whether that’s a function as now living in a flyover red state whose major city eschews noise (but they love it in Lexington, apparently), or being fully domesticated, I’m not sure. However, I’m glad I did, if only to hear something completely different from what I’m used to. The Stillbirth track, “The View Untangled,” has some nice mysterious computer sounds, almost akin to a chance meeting between Pita (the laptopper), the Caretaker (the V/VM-related weirdo), and pita (the bread) on a delicatessen tray. Fernow’s side isn’t much different, aesthetically, from Stillbirth, as processed synth and percussion sounds meld with some surprisingly suppressed spoken phrases I can’t quite make out, with a moan here and there. If anything, both tracks are too short, because by the time they’ve finished I’m still stuck wondering what’s going on. That’s not a bad thing. Grey marble vinyl, limited to 500. (http://semataproductions.com)
(Joel Hunt)

Stone Breath
The Shepherdess and the Bone-White Bird LP

Simple throwback revivalists and paeans to UK psych-folk yesteryears, Stone Breath keep things crisp and quaint with their string-based melodies, churning up the spirits of early Incredible String Band and Pentangle. The duo does well enough by the instrumentation, but leave a bit left to work on with vocals. The songs are allowed to develop as things get warned up, adding in touches of mandolin and duet vocals. Unfortunately, Stone Breath seems to have spent all their energy on a recording and let the ball drop on design, the album cover artwork being a bit amateurish, misrepresenting the songs within, alongside further sleeve fumbles. They also didn’t even bother with center labels (yet pressed this up on heavy-duty, high grade vinyl?) and the worst sin with record packaging…throwing in a CD booklet as their “insert.” Hopefully these guys pull off the full shebang next time. (http://www.darkhollerarts.com)
(Ryan Martin)

“Crossed Wires” b/w “Blinders (Fast Version)” 7”

One year shy of its 21st birthday, Superchunk kicks out one of the best singles of their career, just a step down from “Slack Motherfucker” but easily the equal of “Breadman” or “Ribbon,” which makes some of us wonder: why were they holding out on us with balladry and ambiguity? Happier times haven’t been heard at Merge HQ in some time, what with their anniversary, their biography, Arcade Fire putting braces on kids’ teeth … that and Polvo getting back together to make the album they should have cut years back, and enough hot local challengers in the Triangle scene that maybe the band felt they were pushed to make two fast pop songs in the same template as their greatest successes. None of these things are bad; quite the contrary, as much of this work is Superchunk’s making. And they are making it here, though these two tracks managed to get crossed up in my head for a while, the result of some subconscious insertion of the chorus to “Blinders” into “Crossed Wires.” Can’t blame me, though; both (fiery, uptempo, maniacally catchy) tracks are just that good, the band sounding born again hyped, and ready to capitalize on past successes. There’s a little bit of synth in “Blinders,” too, not a sound I expect out of this band, but it’s not necessarily unwelcome. What is unfortunate is that since the summer, the band hasn’t been able to move 1000 copies of this record. Yep, it’s still around, one of 2009’s finest singles, and if you’re Stateside, it’s like $5 postpaid, direct from the source. Put down those fries for a day or two and it can be yours. Clear vinyl. (http://www.mergerecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Taco Leg
“Freemason’s Hall” b/w “Sunbathing in Squalor” 7”
(Fan Death)

Fumbling, primitive broken string bash from the musical beginners of Perth, Australia. Both songs take that whole two-note approach and lay into the rudiments with refreshing, if well-trodden enthusiasm. It’s rickety, wacky-shack DIY punk like it’s always been, which is part of the problem, but what the fuck else is there to do in Perth, other than surf? I’m well fascinated by this city, and hope I can visit someday. Maybe by then Taco Leg will have figured out chords, though that’s kind of not the point, and we all know that. It’s fun but doesn’t really stand out – hopefully they get pissed up and decide to become the Yummy Fur part deux-deux. 300 copies, green marbled vinyl. (http://www.fandeathrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

s/t 3x7” EP
(self released)

This box mysteriously showed up at the record store I used to work at, a nice purple thing with a sticker reading “Limited Edition of 100” over the opening. Upon further review after purchase, it turns out to be a new project by Louisville punk rock pioneers Steve “Chili” Rigot (of the legendary Endtables) and Michael O’Bannon (of Blinders and Antman, among many other projects), aided and abetted by young whippersnappers Sandy and Van Campbell (the latter the drummer of the Black Diamond Heavies). However, if you’re expecting some fast, futuristic tunes, 1069 (named after the address of Louisville’s first “punk house” – whose lot is now occupied by a Taco Bell) will bound to disappoint: laconic, slow-chooglin’ yet tender country rock (with more emphasis on country than rock) is the order of the day here, which immediately brings to mind the first couple of Palace Brothers recordings – back when nobody outside of Louisville knew who Will Oldham was. Unfortunately, though the tunes are fine, it seems like every single old dude from the punk scene in Louisville has already “gone country.” While Rigot and O’Bannon’s take is more tolerable than some of their peers, at this point I’m a little over it. Still, if you like finding out where-they-are-now (as I certainly do), you’ll enjoy 1069. Just not sure where the hell you’ll be able to find this, since it’s self-released. Maybe try calling Ear X-tacy in Louisville to see if they have any copies left? Limited to 100.
(Joel Hunt)

The Tobacconists
“The Dark Secrets of Doctor Perati Prometheus” 7”
(Plinkety Plonk/Swill Radio)

Duo found sound/synth textures from the duo of Frans de Waard (Kapotte Muziek, Beequeen) and Scott Foust (Idea Fire Company), rolling through two sides of dissected radio theatre. Sounds drift in and out in sequence, from percussive, cyclical rattling to choral snippets, building up and out of a deep, bassy, cosmic synth bed. Those recent Idea Fire Company releases made tell of Foust’s mastery over the synthesizer, and it’s put to good use here, de Waard wailing for his life on creaky-door sax against the dominating rumble. Two-sided affair, unnamed tracks; the flip (the “Prometheus” side) sounds like that old TV commercial for Sominex, the sleeping pill that rocks back and forth like a metronome, assaulted with windscreen abuse and disruptive, shocking rumblings of noise and force. Pretty cool. 200 copies, silkscreened sleeve, hand-stamped labels. (http://www.anti-naturals.org/swill)
(Doug Mosurock)

Total Control
“Retiree” b/w “Meds II” 7”
(Iron Lung)

More records from Australia! What got into them? No beef, just curious. They’re taking over, many of the things that pass by here, from there, of a consistency not found in the digital dumps of American counterparts. This is a side project of a guy named Mikey, who plays guitar in Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and DX from the UV Race/Stained Circles record label. I haven’t heard the first Total Control single, but am told this is a far cry from that effort, marching along like a proud boytato in the midnight sun. They’ve scrapped the instruments for a crusty drum machine and synthesizer, plied his vocals with effects, and shot down into the synth-punk nethers. “Retiree” seems to be about the stingy benefits of a life spent working, racing along with a mechanical backbeat and a full spectrum of electronic buzzing and monotone vocal delivery. It’s a one-chord wonder for the most part, but never gets boring (and at just over two minutes, there’s no reason it should). “Meds II” lays the creep on a little thicker, decrying psychoactive medication into quiet, furtive menace. Points at the poppier side of Australia’s rich electronic/industrial history (S.P.K., Severed Heads) while keeping punk in the rear view. It’s good. 500 hand-numbered copies in a stamped dust sleeve. There’s also an Australian pressing on Fifth Column with alternate sleeve and label artwork. (http://www.myspace.com/lifeironlungdeath)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Tunnels
“No Love” b/w “Pretty Things” 7”
(Super Secret)

The Tunnels give the world their first two songs on this 7” (with artwork by the unfortunate, but appropriately titled, Bland Design). This Austin group deals in hazy, woozy, organ-tinged psychedelia. The A-side, “No Love,” sounds pleasantly familiar, crash-landing somewhere around the Spacemen 3/13th Floor Elevators axis. It’s a fine tune, but too by-the-books; we’ve heard it already many times over. The sonics of both Chris Catalena’s and Rachel Stagg’s vocals are undeniably golden, and the most rewarding part of the song which ultimately feels long even at three minutes. “Pretty Things” is twice the length with a long intro, but is much more interesting. Here the group pairs their garage influences with psych-pop in a strong way. Again, the highlight is the harmonies, but the wall of guitar in the later moments of the song is also impressive. The big difference between the Tunnels and a group like Crystal Stilts (who have many two- or three-chord songs and a similar set of influences) is that the latter’s sound is highly stylized and the production emphasizes those unique aspects. Here the music simply seems captured, rather than enhanced by the production (or perhaps the mastering as well). And that can make a world of difference when yours is just one of a sea of 7”s out there. But as debuts go, this is not a bad start. There is much room for improvement and growth that could potentially make The Tunnels into something exciting and unique. Limited to 300. (http://www.supersecretrecords.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

TV Torso
“Black Mask” b/w “The Eye in the Pyramid” 7”

Two members of Austin’s major label also-rans Sound Team get back to basics on this dark, but sweet single. They’ve ditched the dance numbers and wall of guitars for an upbeat melancholy that despite an effort to avoid the comparison sounds a bit like a subdued Tom Petty. The recording has a pleasant, dusky, organic warmth, with gorgeous stripped down, overdriven guitar ring, smooth infectious melodies with a little vocal harmony. Despite its somewhat clean, professional sound, I keep coming back to this record. I could see either song popping up on a darker network drama. TV Torso released a companion “white” single, and its songs are a more upbeat. Hopefully they focus on the “Black Mask” sounds in the future, and find a shade more bite. (http://www.tvtorso.com)

Twin Stumps
s/t LP

This is how it’s done. Period. An album that perfectly illustrates what every new-ish band should aspire to, regardless of genre … you take what you love, you allow it to inspire you, then you add so much to it that a new standard is created, if not a new sub-genre. That’s right, Twin Stumps may have actually created a new sub-genre underneath the umbrella of noise-rock. It’s called “The Real Shit for a Change.” They took an idea and pushed everything abso-fucking-lutely beyond established and accepted limits, but not in a cloying, try-hardish way. Same goes for thresholds, here beaten back to the point where sounds approach something other than structured rock. Twin Stumps lowers its drawers and does the stinky-business on the entire discographies of Load, AmRep, Bulb, early Trance, Glitterhouse, Treehouse … it could keep going if it didn’t involve proverbial dump-taking. Just get settled in with this one truth: The ultimate noise-rock album has now been made; guys, in the event of a day-ruining screamer-weeper with the girlfriend that ends in break-up or hiatus, will feel its importance. Later in the day or month, when she shows up to return his key – using it one last time to enter without knocking – this album MUST be playing. LOUD. Several beneficial messages can be communicated to your fragile ex. There’s the venerable and fortuitous “I make him want to listen to something like this?” greasing the wheels of forgiveness. But the most likely response is “I was having second thoughts on the way over, but now I’m convinced this is the best decision.” 300 numbered copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

(Twin Stumps bassist Michael Yaniro was attacked last month, badly beaten, and without medical insurance. To help, visit http://mikeyanirofund.wordpress.com. -Ed.)

s/t 7” EP

Univox are a band from Philadelphia that plays nondescript ROCK that is pretty hard to categorize. It doesn’t necessarily sound like anything, but that’s not to say it’s really original. It somehow makes perfect sense they are on ROIR. Anyway, you can pretty much imagine what’s going on here: some aggro guitars, 1-2-3-4 countoffs, a song with the word “fuck” in the title, and so on. “Pi” is the best of the three songs, having a somewhat memorable and catchy guitar riff but with unfortunately petulant lyrics. Produced by Bill Moriarty (Man Man, Dr. Dog, Make a Rising), the three tracks here aren’t that bad, but they’re of a sort of no-frills variety that doesn’t give the listener much to hold onto. But what is really offensive is the band’s bio, which pledges that they will “take ‘pop’ back from all the unbearable crybabies glutting the charts and airwaves,” a cliché that so many failed bands have spouted off before them. Maybe Univox will make it into the Billboard Top 40 one day, but probably not. In that case, it seems like their whole project will be for naught. Here’s a preemptive “sorry boutcha.” (http://www.roir-usa.com)
(Herbie Shellenberger)

Unnatural Helpers/The Intelligence
split 7” EP
(Dirty Knobby Industries)

Oh good, just what I needed, a split 7” that happens to be another Intelligence record. This must be the fifth batch of unremarkable four-track warble junk they’ve belched out this year. Dudes need an editor, and this split doesn’t break the pattern. Unnatural Helpers are also forgettable blah blah, but more de-tuned and squelchy noisy. Both bands share members. Can’t stop this train. Wait a second. They’re covering each others’ songs? Seriously? I’m supposed to recognize an Intelligence cover? They’re both mining the same threadbare no-voice, home taper, unremarkable modern garage territory, though I guess the concept has moved more to the bedroom than garage now. If you think every note played ought to be released than this record is for you. Hopefully they’ve all started working on an Oh Sees tribute record! (Killedbyjeff)

Not much more to add, other than when I screened this before KBJ intercepted it, I was kind of stoked to be enjoying the Intelligence side way more than any of their other recent efforts. Then I learned they were covering Unnatural Helpers, whose side, by contact, lays there like refuse from a rendering plant. Bad pfennig. (Doug Mosurock)

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth
Jandek Cat 7”

Not only does it sport the best cover art of 2009, but this single by Austin art-punk noise makers When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth backs it up with stellar yet chaotic results, dealing heavy dual drumming against unrelenting vocals, and drunk rock riffs going over the same familiar ground as their drug-addled predecessors before them. Slivers of their Texas psychedelic roots shine through these two songs, but they run over piles of sludged-out, damaged rock along the way, giving the impression of how much of a genius train wreck music can be sometimes. 300 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/lildinos)
(Ryan Martin)

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth/Batwings
split 7”
(Us Two)

From a new Dallas, TX label whose mission statement is to press up limited edition split 7”s … hmm … comes a new wave of the same sorta thing we’ve been passing around as rock-no-roll since the ‘90s. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is from Austin, where there’s such a surplus of musicians that they feature seven guys trying to sound like four, but on their contribution “Houston Voice” they do a pretty admirable Butthole Pavement Surfers’ slacker pop buzzer, with a wiry, theremin-like lead and no-nonsense 2/4 drumming over a load of looped, crazy-guy chaos that eventually takes over the song. It seems as if they had two songs and no bridge, and no way to end either of them (there’s no verse/chorus structure, and there doesn’t have to be, but … yeah). Ten years ago, you would have had no problem pegging Batwings as a San Diego band; seems like the hectic “toilet-stall” sound has never completely rinsed out of the townsfolk’s hair. The band looks to be a bit on the young side, perhaps too young to have absorbed experienced both the Camera Obscura (my old downstairs neighbor’s band … sup Duane!)/Kill Me Tomorrow-style melodic-cum-weird, energetic pop thing, and the whole Blood Brothers/Locust axis of emotional torpor/looking for drugs in person, but perhaps through legend and understanding from afar, they attempt to merge the two on “Dr. Ohm vs. The Exploding Amp,” with some metal moves over a synthesizer rumba, shouted and undermixed vocals, and plodding drumming that breaks down into a dirge. Texas wins out here by a good amount. The label’s Myspace site claims that 500 were pressed, though mine’s hand-numbered out of 150, in a printed vellum sleeve. Various colors of splatter vinyl in variants of black, red, and silver exist; seems like no two are alike, except that this sort of music is just sort of a lazy extension to a past that hasn’t necessarily cooled off yet. If you’re still excited about finding the next Les Savy Fav but you saw last year’s Jesus Lizard reunion, you might have something to answer for… (http://www.myspace.com/ustworecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Jason Willett/Jason Urick
split 7”
(Wildfire Wildfire)

I’ve met Jason Urick, and though I never thought there’d ever be an occasion for me to look at a naked baby picture of his (above), here we are. I’ve never met Jason Willett (Leprechaun Catering, many others), but again, there’s his toddler dick. Hopefully neither of the two ever decides to run for office, though from the sound of Willett’s heavily-processed brocade of sampled and sliced rhythms, guitar punishment, and vaguely R&B beats on “Late Night Moisturizer,” the public will have a tough time crossing his doorstep. Urick handily delivers one of the best tracks this slightly smarmy label has or maybe ever will produce in “Se Na Min,” a deep and dominant loop of jazz, Brazilian, and Indian music, strung together under a dub bassline and a slow, sultry backbeat. Definitely a late-nite burner, and it may find its way into one of my mixes in short order. 500 copies on bullet-resistant vinyl. (http://www.wildfirewildfire.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

split LP
(Rad Key)

Took a minute to get to this one as it showed up damn near taco’d in summer heat. Having sat beneath heavy books for some time, it’s in playable shape. Two SF/Oakland-area duos lay into it on this split, both bringing members along from key noise, punk, and offbeat outfits (Work is comprised of Erin Allen from High Castle and Sarah Bernat of 16 Bitch Pile-Up; Piles features Eric Landmark of Numbers and Xerobot) and some of the runoff from other lines of effort. In Work’s case, they’re not too far off from High Castle, as far as spiky, rumbly two-pieces go; think of them as somewhere between Nu Sensae and Heavens to Betsy’s first tapes, leaning toward casual heaviness and martial pounders (they close their side with NON’s “Total War,” a song I will always find to be hilarious and awesome no matter who’s playing it). Piles does the same thing but different; guitar is replaced with Landmark’s Moog, while Amelia Radtke’s drumming and vocals, though a bit more Crass-inflected on both counts, could easily be slotted in for Allen’s work in Work. However, they’re capable of a wider range of sounds by design, and the low-end grinding of Landmark’s synth creates a swarming, almost hypnotic effect in spots, and adds Krautlike dimensions in others. Neither forget about pop music or melody, no matter how crude the rendering. 500 copies, silkscreened sleeves, go for it. (http://www.myspace.com/pilessf)
(Doug Mosurock)

Myrmidon LP

The New York Times reported Dec. 15 on a symposium on black metal that took place in Brooklyn the previous week. The jokes that arise from that image kinda make their own gravy, so we’re not gonna bother supplying what you can think up yourself, except to say that a) there was, in the article, a distinct lack of context regarding BM’s let’s-call-it-checkered political history and b) one can see WRNLRD fitting right in with the American bands discussed. (Except for Nachmystium; not sure why they were lumped in with Krallice). This slab is loner USBM but, especially on this very odd hive of buzz, this scans as black-metal-as-grammar rather than steadfast ideology or even lifestyle choice. (Read: other humans played things.) You can see WRNLRD taking off his black metal pants and heading to work in the morning and anyone who thinks this isn’t troo enough probably owns stock in a white facepaint company. The songs stagger around the basement, drunk on Everclear, banging on the pipes to get the heat working. But they never completely careen out of control – this is composed stuff, thought through, the fuzz overtop of weird outcroppings of harmonica, piano, horns and the vocals of someone named Buccinator. And you know, as long as someone named Buccinator is around, you aren’t quite in danger of completely disappearing up your own pucker, a place way too much black metal is familiar with. (http://www.flingcosound.com)
(Joe Gross)

We Better Boil Soup of the Grown Ups 7" EP

Rough record. Zea is a one man band from Amsterdam, who plays starry-eyed, happy-sounding acoustic indie pop over busy, low-rent glitch beats. The beats themselves sound overly busy and clumsy, and he’s not much of a pop song-smith either. He’s at his best when he leaves the beats alone and just sticks to singing and playing guitar and singing, but he has a way to go before he writes anything with a memorable hook. The second song on side A of this 7” is a parody cover of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” about being a computer file who wishes to no longer exist called “I Wanna Be Deleted,” so painfully obvious that it makes me want to put Weird Al on a plane to Amsterdam so he can teach Zea a lesson. The best thing about this record is the press pack that came with it that features pictures of Zea playing in Ethiopia. Pass. (http://www.zea.dds.nl)
(Chris Strunk)

Andrew Zealley
Themes & Variations LP
(Tourette/How To Explain Silence To A Dead Hare)

A beautiful collection has finally surfaced of composer Andrew Zealley’s serene soundtracks all put side by side. This record collects various pieces culled from four years (2005-2009) of selected video, film installations and performance music showcases in galleries and museums across the globe. The first few tracks were the original rough draft and complete compositions to be used in a video work by artist Scott Treleaven, documenting the pandrogeny project of Genesis & Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. These pieces elegantly correspond to the visuals, using a soft ambient feel to convey specific images of counterculture, esoteric homo-occultism and gender bending debate. Zealley is well versed in the use of quiet, string based drone with soft electronics that prevent the work from becoming dull or repetitive, utilizing various synthesizer chords delayed over and over, with what sound like futurist melodica interludes. Attempts to break up the understood traditional rules of composition are handily smashed. The other pieces play on this same theme, but tinker with the human voice, not so much for accompaniment but as a precise and necessary instrument, written specifically to compliment the works of artists Joey Medaglia, Luis Jacob, and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay. (http://www.touretterecords.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Various Artists
Just a Little Bit of Milvia Son Records 7” EP
(Milvia Son)

Milvia Son is a West Coast label, rooted in the existence of the duo known as Bad Drumlin Grass, guys who take ideas borne by This Heat and the Sun City Girls and smoke them out of a zong. Their own music is pretty astounding as far as two stoned men are concerned, seething, enthalpic arguments littered with bad ideas (like samples from movies and TV) but, when focused, open new doors in the back alleys of improvisational rock. Their cut here, “Day Nudes,” exemplifies their cool ying and shitty yang all at once. Since this is a label comp, you’re treated to the warbling of Bob Frankford, red-eyed lounge crooning by Petomane, and a very heavy synth experiment by Jaki Jakizawa. This stuff is cool, but you have to be in the right mood for it, and I wish these guys would pay a bit more attention to designing a record that people aren’t embarrassed to own. The cover of this one, a pile of Twinkies slathered in marshmallow fluff, and Photoshop-distressed font sadness all over, is a really hard time. (http://milviason.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Various Artists
Over/Bored LP
(Cephia’s Treat/Roofless)

A great regional compilation is a beautiful but rare thing. With MP3s rendering the compilation’s utility as a way to hear a bunch of unknown bands all but obsolete, this is a format that is rarely successful, especially nowadays. The Emergency Room compilation from Vancouver that came out a few years ago is the only great one I can think of from this decade. Over/Bored, on the other hand, is very much not. Here’s 26 bands from Tampa and Sarasota, Florida, with names like Ant Parade, No Arms No Legs, Pharaoh Faucett, Cash Monee Boulder Roxx, and Wrash. Pretty much every style of underground music is represented, from indie pop, to harsh noise, to power violence, to electro beats, to lo-fi home recorded meandering, bleeding into one another as only a mismatched, mediocre mess can. All of the tracks have the same muddy recording quality, to the point where if it turned out this record was the work of two or three people who made up a bunch of different band names, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s always interesting to hear what people in different locales are up to, but there is no reason for anyone outside of Tampa or Sarasota to buy this because no one – even the people who participate in this scene – could listen to it more than once. I sincerely hope this LP serves as a good souvenir for the people on this record’s time spent in underground music and I mean that, but you may want to think twice before consuming it. (http://www.cephiastreat.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Various Artists
Skulls Without Borders 10” EP

Here’s an odds-n-sods collection of six sounds attracted to the porchlight at Roland Woodbe’s uncle’s cabin out in the sticks. They all threaten to eat you alive. First (and best) is the Chickins – same band as the Chickens, one of those sub-normals from FNU Ronnies – with a stutterin’, skankin’ short jitter called “Chickins Den.” Sounds French – deadpan vocals, scratch guitar, drums in the rhumba of a guy who’s done some stimulants; either way, it lords over their odd, weak cassette on Fan Death. Great, great track. Dan Melchior offers up something similar in mood but more drawn out in approach, overcast bass and drums with dual-tracked guitar skree and the most patient of vocal delivery. This guy rarely writes bad songs, and often creates good ones; this belongs with the latter. Puffy Areolas preface their long-in-the-making Siltbreeze LP with “El Jita,” extending the frantic rock crush of their recent CDR single – sounds like Chrome at their most direct, or Bailter Space deciding to muss their hair and undo their pants. Flip it over and you fall asleep: Tommy Jay, who can do wrong, warbles and dodders with “Bug Men,” Sic Alps offer up another beachfront real estate scam on Kevin Ayers’ “Clarence” (really starting to lose the script on these guys), and Kurt Vile & the Violators drift off into Interzone with two lazy, longhaired chords on the fitting closer “Denial.” Comps are a cool way of finding out about new bands, and Skulls Without Borders mixes the new with the established in a largely successful way, but so do MP3 blogs. Still, don’t you want the storage problem that is a 10” vinyl compilation, saturated with so much black-on-black silkscreen ink that merely handling a copy will make your friends assume that times are so tough you’ve resorted to delivering newspapers? 300 copies, all gone from the source. (http://www.siltbreeze.com)
(Doug Mosurock)


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:

Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

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!

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