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Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 2

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Doug Mosurock and his team did not let those 100-plus reviews we published last week slow them down. Here are 21 new missives, including takes on Cold Cave, Led Er Est and Six Finger Satellite.

Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 2

Weekly installments of Still Single seem to be a much more manageable solution than we’ve been attempting, so here you go. Thanks to all of the participants, as always. Keep that music coming.

Footpaths and Trade Routes LP

Third album of ritualistic drone from microtonal sound artist Kraig Grady, under his performance name (and self-declared nation) of Anaphoria. This record easily appeals to listeners of minimalist composers such as Lou Harrison and Harry Partch, but takes on a more modern primitive approach by using synchronized chimes and lightly touched dulcimers, organs and bells, which will please followers of all those amazing Nonesuch Explorers compilations. This record seemed to take on the sound of an audio sigil that one would use to embody sounds that conjure up a building rally of haunting surrealism and modernist folklore. Each side contains very diverse instrumentation, yet the album as a whole is very quiet and sparse. Anaphoria could easily follow alongside contemporaries such as LaMonte Young or even John Cage at his most tribal if he keeps this up. Limited to 250 copies. (http://www.iniitu.net)
(Ryan Martin)

Bipolar Bear
Harlem Pripyat LP
(Mexican Summer)

In spite of a band name so execrable the inclusion of a Hacky Sack with purchase (or the chance to throat punch the band for charity) is not just expected but paradoxically desireable, these kids’ non-awful brand of mid-fi, semi-frantic chaos-pop drives well-considered riffs and reverbed vox into and out of ditches without letting the car flip. Easy to see them straightening out a little bit after the ink is dry on a hypothetical deal with, say, Sub Pop for a first quarter 2011 release, but their sense of songcraft seems together enough that I can’t say such a move would be an altogether bad idea; nor would a bit more fidelity. But the ‘90s vintage scum fuck basslines are welcome, even though there is only so much one should ever lift from anyone that someone could trace back to the Pixies, for any reason, ever. (Those “whoos” on “Cherokee Fan Club” are looking a little suspect.) Points add for nine quick-fire songs mastered at 45 rpm, also known as The Almighty Rotation or God’s Own Speed. Can seem them drawing hipster-hard at SXSW, and it’s hard not to think of some of this as No Age’s fault. And Jesus God, that name is awful. This is from L.A., right? Thought so. Edition of 500. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
(Joe Gross)

Cave Bears/ID M Theft Able
split LP
(Feeding Tube)

While I can appreciate and respect the concept of anti-music, music by non-musicians, etc., it is with bands like the Cave Bears where I reach my limit. Seems someone came along and told them that anyone can do experimental music and be avant-garde without even trying. Nothing could be more wrong; their effort is little more than pointless bullshit, unable to digest influences correctly and making a mockery of them in the process. A short, incomplete blip of noise followed up by a punishing live set in which the band bring back the Fort Thunder vibe of mid-90’s Providence actually provides the opposite effect, like it was expelled from the ass of that time and place. When taken at face value, it is just a pile of unnecessary rambling pawned off as vocals accompanied by random drum chops with no rhythm or know-how. ID M Theft Able does a much better job at coordinating interesting jams, with tortured turntable loops sliced up on top of random sound grunts a heavy emphasis on the Christian Marclay influence. You can hear all the uneasiness that went into this piece. Each section of this track was obviously done with careful ideas of how to place found object noise against each other, and how to use absurdity as an instrument (unlike their neighbors on the other side). Their track develops slowly from just warbled noise loops into a more concrete improvisation with more emphasis on voice and structure. Limited to 450 copies with silkscreen cover art by Matthew Thurber. (http://www.feedingtuberecords.com)
(Ryan Martin)

Cold Cave
Death Comes Close 12” EP
(Matador/Heartworm Press)

Radio Shack money in hand, the fashion Cave closes on another EP. “Love Comes Close” you’ve heard before, but out of the four tracks here, you’ll be most rewarded with the aerobicized bounce on both B-sides: “Theme from Tomorrowland” (motorik, brazen, intense) and “Now That I’m In the Future” (disorienting tumble through gloomy synth-pop past, with extra noise). Don’t know that there’s much more anyone needs to say about them right now. They make good records. (http://www.matadorrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Death Domain
“Ethidium Bromide” b/w “Programmed Cell Death” 7”
(Dark Entries)

If I gotta jam some coldwave synth minimalism, I tend to like it like this: fast, severe, robotic. Solo project of one Adam Stroupe, formerly of Atlanta synth-punk band SIDS. I never liked SIDS too much, and still don’t, but these aren’t very much alike. Both tracks sound human in name only, processed words that read like if a science textbook could become sentient and write poetry, and breakneck tempos. Frigid and sterile, paranoid of germs … slip this golden goose in and watch partygoers contract frostbite. 400 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeve. (http://www.darkentriesrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Ex Wives
Fucking Dutch 7” EP
(Radio Is Down)

These guys, at this moment in their lives, probably think that they have found the be-all, end-all of music, and that’s what they’re gonna play. I dunno, lately I just get embarrassed when I hear a Bastro/Shellac clone this brazen. A decade’s worth of oddly-timed, aggressively funky rock, presented yet again. 300 numbered copies, white vinyl. If you name a song “every Woman Loves a Fascist,” congratulations – you know nothing about women. Hope nobody gets too mad over this one, especially because this label is doing a Broken Water record that I wouldn’t mind hearing. (http://www.radioisdown.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

General Interest
Right by the Beach 12” EP
(Ride the Snake)

Short and sweet debut doozy from Boston’s General Interest, on the excellent Ride the Snake Records, and the first thing that jumps out is that it’s immediately Minutemen-esque. No point avoiding the obvious right? The important distinction, and one that really makes it work for me, is that it’s never wah-wah funky. The music is twisty and spindly, propelled by Wendy’s bass, in a way that evokes the hallmarks of the SST catalog, particularly Stephen Egerton’s Descedents songs, occasionally dissonant and what the pros call it – “angular” – but still tightly organized, a real aggressive driver. The music is well served by the Idiot Child’s clever and manic exhortations, balancing postmodern political observances with screeds on nuking the ocean and illicit cop romances. From the first line – “You’re a freegan,” it’s hard not laugh a little. I appreciate the wit, and desire to say something, which has become sadly rare for punk bands. Highly recommended. (http://www.ridethesnakerecords.com)

Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones
“Smuggler’s Choice” b/w “Familiar Pop” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

Best record I’ve heard yet from this long-running rock ‘n’ roll band from Algoma, Wisconsin. HB’s JOs (sorry, couldn’t resist) take solitary man-rock and give it those sort of clever bends that Devo did to standard/futurist pop music for an overwhelming sense of Midwestern-ness, a quality which they use as a platform to make things sound just a little too real. “Smuggler’s Choice” is one of the best tracks I’ve heard from them, an intriguing proposition – what happens when you mix weird, surfy, mildly trippy chord bash up against a really straight-laced, harmonically balanced ride back down the frets? By the time they break out of the slow, bluesy bridge, they’re hitting this thing with all they’ve got, and it makes for an exciting five-minute ride. “Familiar Pop” cools things off a bit tempo-wise, with a series of chiming chord changes and the repetitive logic that Polvo did (and do) best. A very compelling argument to see where they take this next, for sure. Red vinyl, 400 copies. Columbus Discount Singles Club Year 2 release. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Hunx & His Punx
Gay Singles LP
(True Panther Sounds)

If any or many Termboners missed the five minute feeding frenzy, True Panther sounds has got your back, having compiled the five instantly OOP Hunx & His Punx singles in one hard-to-take, George Tabb-pleasing LP. The line on this seems to be “a gay garage take on 50s girl groups” but that seems like a song and dance to avoid the obvious. If you don’t remember the ‘90s, but dig nth tier pop punk versions of late-period Ramones, Lookout Records released 400 records just like this, from the Mr. T. Experience on down. Following the precepts of modern bedroom garage it’s thinner, buzzy, and more cloying. Bay Area bands love costumes and gimmicks; with Hunx being ex-Gravy Train!!!!, shtick was a foregone conclusion. A giant plastic phone is featured prominently on the insert, a record sleeve, mentioned in at least 30% of the songs, and 2 mid-song phone call skits telling some young men to kiss off. Dude doesn’t really need it as he’s got the only monster prop he’ll need clearly showcased on the cover of the You Don’t Like Rock n’ Roll 7”. No dismissive review can take that away. (http://www.truepanther.com)

Led Er Est
Dust on Common LP

No one really owns this whole new burst of soon-to-be-embarrassingly-nicknamed confluence of Gothic/dark/minimal synth/cold/wave music that’s been brewing for several years and finally rearing up from its pallor in these grim days of 20xx. Rather, it owns its participants; it holds them accountable for sticking to the plan, and seems to reward them for doing so. Genre revivalism is now dictated directly by its interests, and the audience wants mystery and smoke, intrigue and emotion, but through an attention to detail that borders on historical re-enactment. Artists can only be as good as their material and their sense for design. And in that case, Led Er Est are one of the first sticking points that this drafty era can claim. Easily as interesting as (and often more than) Cold Cave, this NYC trio creates thin, staticky atmosphere from a variety of synths and guitar processing, layered and sulking, yet alert and aware. Vocalist Samuel Kklovenhoof (really now … how do you say that? Like K.K. Downing? Or like McLovin?) adds a degree of randomness, a stone wall of male indifference as passed through a raspy, not necessarily musical pitch. He gives these nine tracks much-needed anima, the sandstorm weathering these not-so-pristine surfaces. Both their moody soundscape tracks and the more obvious pop/ballad moments play well off one another, marking Led Er Est’s awareness of the truth in its roots. “CC Exit” in particular offers up a sultriness not often considered in this sort of work. I’m left shocked and amazed. (http://www.wierdrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Mach II
s/t LP

Faithful, historical re-enactment metal, this time of the late ‘70s American/British variety (Riot, early Maiden, Priest, Dirty Tricks, Scorps). Terence Hanchin and Jamie Walters were the guitarist and bassist of Boulder, a Cleveland band that carried the torch for this sort of action long before it became fashionable to rock, roughly from the beginnings of Monster Magnet up through to Wolfmother’s first record. There’s way more boogie and a lot of refinements to Mach II’s sound than Boulder’s out-of-control metal thrash, so if you think of these guys building their muscles there, it’s here that they flex. I know plenty of people who would groan in boredom if they had heard something like this. I am not one of those people. Bring this blue-collar shit on. I grew up in the day of the Trans Am, but I don’t remember a lot of metal being this good back then. Mach II’s figured out the level of polish required to really bring this to life, and producer Paul Hamann has been recording bands like this for years. Professional hard rock from people who can see through irony to extend the life of parent-defying, night-driving metal. 500 copies. (http://www.outlawrecordings.net)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Native Cats
“Catspaw” b/w “Lemon Juice” 7”
(White Denim)

Nothing but crunchin’ drum machine and bass guitar at the outset of “Catspaw” sounds like nothing else other than “The Model” as performed by Big Black. It goes down a different path, to be sure – vocalist Peter Escott sings his way through some manner of lifestyle espionage like he’s Simon Le Bon, while bassist Julian Teakle holds down a firm, even, hypnotic bass line. The make-believe vibes are out in force here, but these guys seem to be in control; Escott is quite the classy lyricist, and this may have more in common with the Young Marble Giants school of pop minimalism than anyone would admit. Still, there’s very little around like this, and ratchets up their Tasmanian homeland as a training ground for interesting bands (Ninetynine, Sea Scouts). Another finely appointed accessory in the White Denim wardrobe. 370 copies. (http://whitedenim.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Love Theme From Necropolis” b/w “No Tongue, No Talking” 7”
(Columbus Discount)

Continuing their development, Necropolis nears the Mendoza line for their basis of influence, and lucky for us all, they’ve decided to push outwards. Particularly given the organ and drums interplay, this sounds a lot like Oneida, circa 2001-2003, furiously swinging away on both sides. From where I sit, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – it’s been my experience that even if most bands would want to follow that burning path, few are physically able to. So hats off to these folks for all their hard work. Keep moving! 400 copies, part of the Year 2 CDR Singles Club. (http://www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Old Yeller & the Pigbites
Songs for Nadine LP
(Milvia Son)

First brush with something off Milvia Son that isn’t related to the label owner’s own Bad Drumlin Grass project and it couldn’t be a further departure – here we have some detuned outsider freak folk with a bit of humor/parody lacing. While bands like Wigwam previously pulled this off in the past, this record seems to fall a bit flat of just the same nonsense over and over like a Jandek cover gone totally awry. Not to say it is a bad record, but you really have to be in the mood for this or are just a weirdo folkie always looking for the next acoustic rarity. Old Yeller (a.k.a. Bob Frankford) has moments where he pulls some of the great rural rock tricks out of his felt hat, but soon falls apart shortly thereafter. Some of the more interesting moments on this album occur when Frankford ceases with the acoustic guitar pleasantries and starts to develop into experimental noise and feedback, but these moments of interest are sporadic. Somewhere along the line, this record stopped making sense. Limited to 300 copies. (http://milviason.com/)
(Ryan Martin)

Puerto Rico Flowers
4 12” EP
(Fan Death)

Post-Clockcleaner, and really, post-America action from the outback’s John Sharkey, offering up four songs of heavy, slow Gothic rock. He wrote and recorded this alone, and this phase of the project (two live sets and a lot of talk) is apparently complete. Clockcleaner’s posthumous recordings are outright Goth/death rock, like nothing they’d done before, and this record showcases a refinement of that sound. Likewise, this material is good enough to sustain a departure to wherever he might want to take this next – sung vocals, bass but no guitars, spare but effective use of synths, and live drums provide a sturdy framework for last-call staredowns like “Let’s Make Friends.” Unsettled, stern dark rock bands like the Comsat Angels and Crispy Ambulance factor greatly into this product, one among many in the Great Coldwave Freezeout of 2010, but certainly one of the most memorable. (http://www.fandeathrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Royal Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland
START! The KREV National Anthem #6 7”
(Ash International)

Elgaland-Vargaland is already a giant conceptual in-joke, but kudos to its creators for seeing their ideas actually come to fruition. This is the sixth version of their national anthem, this time performed by an ensemble of Portuguese musicians in an abandoned Porto shopping mall. I haven’t heard the other entries in the series (which include Klezmer, Mariachi, and Afrobeat versions) but I’ll assume the melody performed on the first side of this record is actually the same across the board. Not that it really matters, because you’d listen to this to partake in the deconstruction of genre identity as well as to marvel at the electronic processing, which is balanced well with the very large ensemble who perform the music. It fades into the distance but then re-emerges, sounding like the symphony of urban border-crossing it’s supposed to represent. Side two is a bit sparser, with some flutes trilling around; it feels relaxed, as if the musicians are exploring the acoustic space of the mall. I always appreciate when computer-based electroacoustic processing is transparent; there aren’t any obtrusive digital artefacts to date this music. This one is supervised by Michael Harding and Heitor Alvelos, so I don’t think Elggren or von Hausswolff have any hand in it. (http://www.ashinternational.com)
(Lynn Sauna)

The Scrotum Poles
Auchmithie Forever LP

The ability to witness a group of idealistic musicians growing together should be something that anyone who cares about rock ‘n’ roll would want to share in. Across Auchmithie Forever, which captures Scottish students the Scrotum Poles throughout their existence throughout 1979 and 1980. These are interesting years for their time and place, when it would make historical sense to rethink the Velvet Underground’s formula a bit – the Feelies would be doing the same in New Jersey around this time, too – from shambling, strummy folk pop to chord-crazy Undertones acolytes, and finally into a somewhat aggressive punkish rock band, but keeping these influences together in a cumulative, lessons-learned approach. Any more styles jammed into one band and they’d burst (see Mr. Bungle for evidence) but the delirium of joy that scrags out of this record is no longer too good to be true. The tracks come from three cassette releases which preceded the one and only Scrotum Poles record, 1980’s Revelation EP on Rightback, their most professional sounding release, and their last. Ripe for analysis, one can’t help but think of how these ideas came through and burned these guys out so quickly, but such is life. As for now, it’s a pleasure to listen to any music that sounds as personally invested as it was for these kids. They sound into it and genuinely psyched, and you’ll wonder why that quality has faded from contemporary music of almost all genres. 500 copies. (http://www.yakamashirecords.net)
(Doug Mosurock)

Six Finger Satellite
A Good Year for Hardness LP
(Anchor Brain)

Successful, idiomatically correct approaches on how to be Six Finger Satellite over a decade after its defining work Severe Exposure, and the dissolution of the original band overall (guitarist John MacLean has migrated to other successes as The Juan MacLean, for example) are as follows: Get the rhythm section right – here that’s done by Dan St. Jacques of Landed with a guy named Brian Dufresne, apparently, but they have the same icy, slightly processed feel of Rick Pelletier and James Apt). Pelletier is … playing guitar? Synths? Doesn’t say, but J. Ryan is still the vocalist, and still holds the keys to this group’s most recognizable success. Particularly with the cool flatness of the B-side’s main stretch of “Swamp Wanda,” “Broken Brain,” and “Hearts and Rocks,” mitigating the minimal blues strut of ZZ Top with the precision of a robotic arm, there’s a renewed interest in process at stake here, and it’s reallyfuckingcool to listen to how far they’ve come with it. Six Finger is a better proposition when it’s got a really lean sound, and they’ve pretty much perfected that element here. That the rest of the record vacillates between harder, sharper rock (“Wilson P.,” “Half Life”) and some midlife cockstruttery (“Midnight Rails”) is evidence that there are a few kinks left to be worked out, but if these guys batten down the hatches and make a perfect steel box of rock & roll hatred on their next one, all will be forgiven. Nice, tasteful silkscreened sleeve on the vinyl copies. (http://www.anchorbrain.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Soft Speaker
Conditions 12” EP

"Mercury Park", the leadoff song from Soft Speaker’s six-song EP, jumps out of the speakers with a crunchy, guitar-driven buzz. The first impressions recall late ‘80s/early ‘90s approaches; capital-I Indie rock such as My Dad is Dead, Prisonshake, and Silkworm. But once the singing starts, Soft Speaker’s mastery of pastiche is revealed to be far deeper. A bit of warm sentimentality, some mild vocal harmonies, and a little guitar jangle creeps in. Songwriting and lead vocal duties are split between Nick Rocchio and Paul Foreman (ex-The Saturday Nights); Foreman’s songs have the tendency to be slightly more elliptical, though “Barbershop Quintet” has a wistful Burrito Brothers feel that absolutely aches between the steel guitar lines. There are some throwbacks to ‘60s classics as well as the guitar-driven indie they were certainly raised on. Double-tracked guitar solos occasionally fail to inspire but for the most part, Conditions is an undeniably likeable slab of white wax. (http://www.softspeaker.com)
(Justin Wunsch)

The Wicked Awesomes
Punk Holograms LP
(Psychic Handshake)

Edmonton, Alberta’s the Wicked Awesomes have produced a decent LP of lo-fi rock here. At the same time, they also sound like an amalgamation of other currently existing bands. I can pick out the influences of the recent output of the Columbus Discount stable, the rock side of recent Siltbreeze output, and the rawer end of In the Red records. The fidelity in the same league as the early Times New Viking records, and while I can’t say that this record will bowl you over with its innovation, enough attention has been paid to songwriting that it sticks here and there. Some trimming down of the track list may have helped. The real stand out is the last song on side A, "Hen’s Teeth," which has a great riff and an unexpected coda at the end of the song. It would have made a great A-side of a 7”. While listenable and decent overall, I can’t strongly recommend Punk Holograms. (http://www.myspace.com/psychichandshake)
(Chris Strunk)

Various Artists
Err On the Good Side LP
(Three Four)

Most compilations I’ve come across in recent years always have more clunkers than stand-out tracks, so I avoid them. It always came across that a lot of these collections were the burial ground for unfinished music, worthless demos and sub-par recordings. So it was to my surprise to find a comp where every track was perfectly composed and sequenced, and were of album quality structure and sound. No cliché themes or guidelines, just a batch of songs by composers, songwriters and arrangers culled from their own personal archives to be showcased for the listeners. Very haunting and beautiful, a majority of the tracks on here are elegant folk ballads using acoustic guitar with sparse arrangements, whether it be through strings or droney electronics. Tracks by Sir Richard Bishop and Mike Wexler are prime examples of amazing folk out-takes done in their respective styles. Danish weirdo-folkies el-g, sus et jakob bring on a early Banhart influence with a trippy psych-out, hashing out some freak style jams. Things get more noisy and experimental with contributions by Liberez, who using some low-end bass device over radio station vocal feedback reminding me of my favorite Muslimgauze records. Similarly, the piece composed by Duane Pitre releases an ensemble for sine wave study, to be reproduced in various methods such as various volume levels, different room sizes and various loudspeakers (Duane was my old downstairs neighbor, and I heard days’ worth of this action through the floor … it’s all good, sup Duane? – Ed.). More traditional piano minimalist pieces follow, by contributor Ilitch, entitled “Chambre 1”; Thierry Muller plays Arvo Part-esque minimalist modified piano through various filters, recounting earlier endeavors by Stockhausen and Penderecki. (http://www.three-four.net)
(Ryan Martin)


Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. We 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.

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.

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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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