Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 14
With uninspired, apathetic plagiarism and incorrectly-assumed entitlement befouling the spectrum of new releases/new bands, I sincerely hope that as many people as possible get to hear the debut, self-released Arctic Flowers 7", and I hope those people appreciate the care, songwriting attention, production quality, and playing that went into this record. A.F. features Stan Wright (Signal Lost, Deathreat) on guitar, and he also engineered this 7" at his Buzz or Howl Studios in Portland. 50/50 gender-split with vocals going to the ladies, this 4-piece comes from hardcore but sonically tackles Team Dresch, The Au Pairs, Fugazi, Amebix, Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain, and 154-era Wire with skill and an obvious love and knowledge of their inspirations. The exclusivity and stylistic straightjacket plaguing a certain degree of ‘90s/’00s hardcore is nowhere to be heard or seen regarding this strong, memorable bolt from the gates. (http://www.myspace.com/arcticflowerspdx)
Why aren’t we in a Detroit hardcore renaissance, anyway? If there was ever a region that could evoke some hard feeling, Detroit is it. Bill Bondsmen, like their hometown, have been wallowing in misery for over a decade, largely out of the public’s eye. Their fifth record is a dark and gnarly single which marks a continued growth in the fast/loud hardcore path. Later Die Kreuzen is used as a frequent reference point, as "Disaster Prone" takes a sped up "Man in the Trees"-style riff, effectively building tension to an explosive release in an anthemic, singles-era Fucked Up-style chorus. The drumming is frenetic, although it also leads to my only complaint; a heavier/boomier drum sound would have pushed the grime factor way up. That piccolo snare isn’t cutting it, and in general they’d benefit from a more thoughtful recording. The flip is a slow burner, with a moodier New Model Army sound, which is shorthand for "leans on the bass." I like the direction the band is moving, and hopefully they can dig down and build something greater from the ruins. (http://www.localcross.com)
Parting shot from an RI/MA interstate garage rock ‘n’ roll outfit, who remedies some poorly-conceived earlier efforts with four belters. The big, loud gutpunch recording is by none other than Wayne Rogers. He doesn’t do a lot of work outside of his own projects – the last non-Twisted Village record I remember him having any involvement with was that "lo-fi" version of Thee Speaking Canaries’ double album. The drums pound, big mallet chops in front of the guitar and bass and Wildman carryin’ on that pervades these four tracks. As far as a wired-up Cheater Slicks sound is concerned, these guys have got it down – bleeding raw guitars, excitable vocalist, and haulassitude enough to make one wonder why these folks have stayed relatively anonymous. Really good, wild, severe rockin’. Nice silkscreened covers (no slop). 300 copies. (http://www.facebook.com/ridethesnakerecords)
B.M. (hah hah) is one Mike Duncan of Akron, Ohio. Dude’s been futzing around with a four-track and such for nearly 20 years, pinching out the occasional tape, CD, or split whatever. The low end hash-sludge from his last album on Emperor Jones has been tweaked into a spacier vibe over these three long-ass songs – not as much flesh-of-God drum machine thrum-and-groan, a lot more gurgle and bubble and middle-distance drum crashes, doom-metal style. "Radiation" is a side-long symphony of sliding faders, gurping synths and effects spizzle that will recall all sorts of trips – good, bad and to your dealer. It never really leaves the basement, but neither does its target audience. Side 2’s closer "Our Senses Are Mysteries to Us and We Are Mysteries to Ourselves" amps up the doomy vibe – the sound of the ship hitting the heart of the sun well after the controls have been set – before shifting into an echoed-out banjo-splatter (the astronauts are dying and recalling the music Pa used to play on the porch). Nice twist As there is an onanistic element that can’t ever be fully scrubbed from this sort of (inner-)space flight, one wishes that more porn was soundtracked thusly. 300 copies on vinyl the color of boiled, green bongwater. (http://www.fedoracorpse.com)
Offshoot of fairly worthwhile Philadelphia-borne outfit FNU Ronnies, here’s the debut Chickens single, following a tape on Fan Death (not too great) and a track on Siltbreeze’s Skulls Without Borders 10" from last year (great track). Where the Ronnies get more interesting when they reach towards steel-girder riffs of the old AmRep forges, the Chickens take the low road, throwing on layers of reverb, distortion and vocal obfuscation. This might be "street" but it’s also an exhausted conceit, a bunch of chunky machine beats and transistor guitar that kick up the same old clouds of dust. They could get better, but by that point the Ronnies album will be done. (http://www.siltbreezerecords.com)
Originally released in 2003, Misanthropic Generation is Disfear’s fourth full-length release É on paper. This album is the line of demarcation between Swedish D-beat band and Swedish D-beat band fronted by Tomas Lindberg with 50% of the guitar duties going to Uffe Cederlund of The Entombed. These two additions hijacked a perfectly decent band and immediately transformed it into a vehicle for a very special type of rock and roll, one that pushes the form’s components against the threshold of what can still be identified as part of the genre. Misanthropic Generation is the first of the band’s two-album final word statements on d-beat. If made to follow Disfear in a listening sequence, forefathers like Discharge sound like a band of 400-lb slobs with brain-melting fevers, and the music of Motorhead becomes silence. 2008’s Live the Storm (Relapse) is Disfear’s perfection of vision – literally one of the heaviest, loudest, and most aggressive examples of rock and roll to emerge. As proven by this limited edition, German reissue of Misanthropic Generation, the vision was always within reach. A very slight warning: Those rightfully enamored with Kurt Ballou’s production on Live the Storm need to be aware that the sonic dynamism of that album is absent from Misanthropic Generation, but hardly an issue in this particular summit of excellence. This reissue is still fairly easy to come by, despite being released in early 2009. Don’t fuck this up, people. (http://www.lafamiliareleases.com/temporary/index.html)
Oh, good god. Steamy neo-flapperisms at the start of "Don’t Eat ‘Em They’re Poison" are a surefire sign of bad vibes. The ladies sing a few couplets, and then things REALLY get bad, with a drunken, lurching frontman barking nonsense about wanting to eat mistletoe berries, then answering himself with the reminder not to do it. Personally I think he should go all the way, to spare us from the detuned, collapsing jazz-cabaret ineptitude plunking along behind him. Right when you want it to end, the atonal pound of detuned woodwinds and junk piano come marching back through. I’m all for free rock, but the package as Druid perfume presents it veers far too close to first-LP Mr. Bungle, shirts ordered in earnest from the back of High Times, and gluing computer chips to your leather jacket. Might as well shave your head, grow a purple, knotted beard and try out for a System of a Down cover band. Hard Spencer Gifts vibes within. I was OK with Beefheart when he invented this shit, but it’s a bit too late to keep this torch lit. "Honk Your Horn" cuts the song length in half, and sort of sounds like the Cows teamed up with a high school marching band, with a very unfortunate bridge of sing-song buffoonery. Great, the circus has run into town. Michigan’s Senators should use this single as an example when requests are made for more federal funds, representative of a part of America that most people don’t want to understand. (http://www.x-recs.com)
Non-LP tracks from both of these recent Sub Pop signings. DD Dee Dee ddooeess a jjaamm called "Pay for Me" which struts along with a strong hook and powerful chorus, but a hollow sound that works on the LP, though not here. Singles need to be more exciting and punchier, and this one isn’t quite there. Male Bonding are some UK kids trying hard to be dudes/Wavves surfers, and their "Before It’s Gone" satisfies to a degree, with sugar-sprung basement guitar attack and a positive feel, but again the hollowness of sound and conceit threaten to ground the whole enterprise. Definitely has a "two strikes" kind of appeal, like both outfits had better figure out what to do next, and fast. Record Store Day jobber, 1500 were pressed in custom, die-cut/stamped factory sleeves and an MP3 code. (http://www.subpop.com)
Possibly posthumous rager (they’re missing a drummer that can play like the guy on this record) from a Pittsburgh youth rock trio, steeped in grunge and the indifference that leads to chaotic-good chopbusting noise. Lots of chunky palm-mute guitar, lots of explosive drumming, lots of locking in on simple themes, and really, that is all this sort of music needs to qualify as a success. They get a lot of mileage out of two notes and some tension ("Dry Skin," seemingly about two friends who used to get high together, and the other one just kept on going while our narrator moved on), recalling of-that-moment bands like Nirvana B-sides (still the standard-bearer for this type of shit), Kittens, earlier Soundgarden (their "Kate" is a polite, thankful sendup of "Full On Kevin’s Mom," stripped down to 55 seconds), and Helmet. You don’t think about this kind of music; you just get into it and get out. Which is probably all the Fitt expects of you. Let’s hope they reform and continue to slam it out as soon as possible. Not many of these to go around, so step lively. White vinyl, lurid sleeve. (http://thefitt.blogspot.com)
From the other side of punk/KBD reissues comes this H-bomb 1980, a bunch of guys in Hawaii for one reason or another (Army, I’m guessing) who conjure up a pre-Butthole Surfers inversion of punk rock and psychedelic blues sesh. Fuzz leads bump against bass feedback and acid brown rumble. Drums pound away somewhere in the distance. Vocalist Eric "Sep" Ishii rants about holes in his back and "Charlie’s Angels." The band sounds like they’re drowning, as instruments drop in and out of the mix, and blasts of thick, bassy feedback cut through the proceedings at random. A roiling stain bubbling up from under the carpet, their sound is fully saturated yet behaves like it’s projected out of a battleship’s hull, a large container which it has no problem filling. Predates entire strains of music that would employ a similarly fetid approach, from Drunks with Guns to High Rise to Sightings. A minor legend, resurfaced for your discomfort. Exact repro, with some additional info on the insert. (http://destijlrecs.com)
Two guys play instrumental guitar and drum duo rock songs, across two sides of fast 12" vinyl, no banding, no nothing. It would be a bit more interesting if it sounded as if they were doing this for anyone other than themselves – it’s more of a test for proficiency in the basics than anything in the way of originality, and it’ll be hard for them to keep much attention on themselves if they don’t find the rest of their band, and soon. Letterpressed sleeves look nice, but disappointment is found within, so don’t bring your expectations; this is about as straight up and anonymous of a demonstration of drumming and guitar playing as you can find. (http://www.myspace.com/gamingcommission)
Two longish, smartass rock strutters from a Detroit band that has taken it upon themselves to plan out the next direction of where a handful of chords, shitty amp & guitar, sunglasses and a tight t-shirt will get you. Gardens takes it to a backbreaking, up-front rhythm guitar approach, bouncing through a few post-punk influenced chords with machine-tightened strum and tool & die bass. Though mechanical at points, the band gives it the muscle that pale, gaunt, turtlenecked bald dudes tried to take away. It’s sour, but no Kraut. Both "Alive in 5-D" and "Maze Time" strut around like Mick Jagger in "Let’s Spend the Night Together," operating on a sturdy foundation of harmony. The Hives came to mind as well, but Gardens are a little more cynical, probably because they’re looking at the big picture in terms of where this sort of sound should be taken. Staying well out of the reverb tank is a hard thing to ask for these days, and I’m glad that they heed that warning, and just go straight for the big finish instead. This is their second single. Sounds like they’re going places. Would love to hear more things like this for the next few months AT LEAST. 500 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/justforthehellofitrecords)
Sacred Bones’ new slab from the enigmatic Gary War contains a couple of tracks that sound like more than a few songs being played at once; in essence, you’re really getting your money’s worth. On "Reality Protest," a funktastic bassline pops beneath a swirling morass of gits, synths, and heavily processed vox, and while it may not be the most focused song I’ve ever heard, there’s a distinct melodicism oozing through that is made all the more evident on repeated listens. B-side "Hollow Futures" mines a similar vein, and wins my pick for song of the 7". Little pockets of distortion, an echo-laden half-time beat, shimmering laser blasts that devolves into a Blade Runner-esque malaise with a face only a mother could love (confession: I have no idea what these guys look like). It’s very Dr. Who type shizz, so I know all you losers are gonna love it. (http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
Really annoying but somehow kind of decent crazy-man rock band outta Denver, rising out of the execrable Planes Mistaken for Stars. Everything about the first few songs on this, their second album – atonal chord progressions and tiring, overwhelming presence. Then a strange thing happens: they figure it out. This is straight up math/noise aggression, with really unhinged vocals by Luke Fairchild, which sound like Stephen Ratter from Slug with Jon Wahl’s hounddog drawl at the end. He’s trying out for the lead in the "Operaman" movie via Bobcat Goldthwait in Police Academy 2, which is a really hard sell. I’m still not sure if he made it work, but the band is at ease rockin’ between Jehu-style stress strum and amazingcore hammering, and has no compunction about riding the hairpin curves between both. The beginning and the end aren’t so great, but the middle chunk, a breathless 10-12 song stretch, depending on your tastes, is a ripper, the sort of cohesive/aggressive sort of thing that contemporaries like White Drugs (see below) have difficulty with. Planes may have just been a terrible band with talented members, and in Git Some, they’re given a chance to flourish. (http://www.alternativetentacles.com)
It’s the King Tuff guy, tamping down the Ramones worship of that project and pointing things in a friendlier, more accessible pop direction. Harp-like guitar strumming and a busy, playful rhythm help to carry "Alien" over into somewhat of a crossover, but it’s "Shampoo" that breaks forth with a shameless rhythm guitar pigeon-neck, bursts and waves of taffy synthesizers, cute falsetto vocals, and a restless energy that’s quite winning. Sounds like someone got hold of Dick Hyman’s Moogs and transposed them into internet/2-D beach pop, which works well for Happy Birthday, given the possibilities indicating otherwise. This was a Record Store Day release, meaning that it’s either nowhere to be found, or there’s like 10 copies at your local store. 1500 were pressed in custom, die-cut/stamped factory sleeves and an MP3 code. (http://www.subpop.com)
Guitar pop trio that has decided to go at it from the most basic of means and chord-heavy of approaches, strumming away with fury and purpose in a murky, austere environment. Again in this edition I’ll have to bring up Oxford Collapse, since Heater are taking a lot of liberties with that band’s earlier approach, making it a bit more winning in the process. Southern summertime rockin’, the Mitch Easter songbook if you will, given the latter-day lo-fi perspective of one of that scene’s better bands, Times New Viking. We’ll see if people buy into it eight years after another band owned this sound. Jeremy Freeze from Jerusalem and the Starbaskets participates, with two other guys in the CAVE/Sneakers/California Raisins orbit that Permanent has continued to support. CAVE is way too slavish an imitation of its influences, so it’s nice to hear these guys jamming in more of an introspective direction, with simple tools to box themselves in. Pretty good, and abstract in meaningful ways. 500 copies, first 100 on red vinyl. (http://www.permanentrecordschicago.com)
This sounds like the result of two guys reading David Keenan’s hypnagogic pop writing, realizing they already had a bunch of musical instruments on hand, then bought like an ounce of weed and threw it into the trash barrel at their squat, lit it on fire, closed all the windows, and suffocated in the sweetest way they could imagine. The music made before these gents went down recalls the sort of lunatic melodies one gets stuck in their head while on a sesh, but would never think to capture. Its murky faade can’t make up for a lack of solid ideas, outside of a generic sound of a sound. Not raging at all, and if you’re that baked you probably won’t get up off the couch to find this and slap it on the turntable, anyway. (http://destijlrecs.com)
Jazz/minimalist/loop composer Ielasi has been caning Still Single with many releases lately. I have to admit, I kind of thought twice at Joel Hunt’s determination, from these pages, that the artist wasn’t performing in accordance with the time frame in which the artists who might have been his contemporaries years back have either moved on, or dropped out. I wouldn’t say this guy is behind the times one whit, but in a way Joel is correct, as I am a bit puzzled how the whole spare, bass-tone-drop electronics with random violin plucking and such has survived so long, which is exactly what’s going on for about half of this record. The other half (tracks are numbered, not named) look towards creating something that repeats, and hanging onto its soul; "9" sounds like a fitting send-off to the late Bill Dixon, as the marine-layer trumpet drones on atop a bass run chopped and strung together. Parts remind me of Pole, deep filter dynamics that leak coolant for the cool. I tended to drift off at parts of this record, which may have been the intended effect. Interesting but probably non-essential. 400 copies. (http://www.minorityrecords.com)
First recordings in nearly three decades from this moody, cold electronic project, helmed by three original members, Stuart Argabright (Death Comet Crew, the Dominatrix), Kenny Compton and Michael Diekmann. Virtually nothing of their initial approach – best heard on their LP for Factory, or more likely a compilation released by the Acute label in 2006 – has changed in that time. Busy, pinging electronic percussion races through the night, while thick bass guitar, atmospheric synth and subdued, sometimes whispered vocals work to project insular, knowing visions of things to come. There’s a brief nod to house piano near the beginning of "Oshima Cassette" and some pulsating kick drum programming in "Citiesglit" that may not have been available to this group in their earlier days, but that seems to be the only concession the reunited outfit has made to acknowledge all that has occurred in music from 1983 to the present day. Then again, when you make music from the future, no one is going to challenge the notion of now or then; rather, we should be thinking of "soon." Two new tracks and two remixes are featured here, both of those being a part of a dark ambient/evening blizzard variety that adds mood to the record, though I could have done with two more originals instead. Fans of latter-day dubstep-oriented outfits like Tin Man should flock to this. 250 numbered copies, and only available online through the label’s website. (http://www.phisteria.com)
So I throw this thing on the portable Ion (left or right of the primary laptop – whichever side isn’t the glorified abacus/previous laptop before it took a hit of lightning up through the power cord and became a "research" computer) and imagine my surprise when I soon reach the conclusion that this is among the heaviest bands I’ve ever heard. I’m decently versed in heavy, but more importantly, I’m trudging through my mid-30s that way because it’s always been about the two H’s for me: the Hook and Heavy. Dark Worship is so heavy that it matters very little that no hook comes within 50 miles of this fucker. The band’s articulate moniker and legible logo both mean exactly what some in the metal community don’t want: Next level shit. Aww, so sorry we can’t keep it duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmb. What little promo-scrawl there is about this record seems to rely on the nonsense that this resembles early-’90s elitist 20-count fan-base style death metal like Convulse. Well, this sounds NOTHING like Convulse. If my poseur ears are to be considered (humor me), this recalls prime Bolt Thrower but only in the riffing, which is 98% of B.T., sure, but it was the first thing that popped into my head re: its similarity to the general act of fucking up over it being too hard to resist comparing one band to another band, and so on. This is a WALL of the heaviest, moodiest, and most powerful metal to come along É ever. For the ninnies: The vocals are waaaay understated. For the hair-splitters: This is a project of Mind Eraser’s singer, Justin Detore. For the good ones: This is highly recommended. (http://www.painkillerrecords.com)
Younger kids in Brooklyn making a serious attempt at setting new lows in boredom. Tepid, luxuriant melodies come just short of memorable, as they’re smothered by sleepytime male/female vocals and dreary, forlorn piano plunking. Pianos really bring out the worst in last call ballads, and their slow-then-slower approach, hall-wide reverb and blindly allegiant percussive shuffles recall the worst part of "folk mass," that Sunday night Catholic service for the guilty and possibly stoned who were out living their lives too hard to make it in the morning. Church for loafers. You’d fall asleep there, you’ll probably drift off listening to Inoculist as well. Caught this band opening for Balaclavas earlier this year, and not only did they start late, they also played an extra-long set. Or so it seemed. Not into that sort of attitude, or this sort of band, at all. (http://www.heartbreakbeatrecords.com)
First there were too many bands like Kid Icarus, but now there probably aren’t enough. Curiously enough, this project was started as a hometaper solo affair by founding member Eric Schlittler. After five years of relative inactivity, he returns here with a full band and a batch of super-earnest jangle rock, evoking the much-missed Meneguar, Oxford Collapse, and the Van Pelt. The rhythm section borrows liberally from R.E.M.’s back pages, while Schlittler drips sincerity from the front. Very sturdy musicianship, but also very earnest, so those who need more cynicism in their purview will not be happy with what’s found here. Pretty OK band, though, at least from arm’s length. 250 copies. (http://summerstepsrecords.com)
Third or maybe fourth single for this killer Pittsburgh outfit, comfortably in the top ten American punk bands of the present day. Live, they’re devastating – participating across three generations of a local scene, they play strong, harrowing downers from the perspective of the paranoid and the rudderless. There’s compassion and judgment in these portrayals, courtesy of newly-svelte singer Rob Henry, but on this single we get no such comfort. "Weird Skies" plays with UFO conspiracies and the solitary men who subscribe to them, while "Suicide Circle" romanticizes death and violence with cold, Gothic lyrics and stern, methodical playing – lots of downward chord progressions, dark passages and forceful execution that finds a middle ground between Jehu/Obits and Crisis or Killing Joke. Their full-length, and a responsible label to release it, can’t come quickly enough. Only a few hundred copies, mostly distributed locally. If in town, check the new record shop Mind Cure, where copies are sure to be for sale. (http://www.myspace.com/dearskullrecords)
Trio of Mary Halvorson on guitar, Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion, and Reuben Radding on bass, who also produced this session. Radding also serves as an anchor of sorts, mostly, across three sides of clattery, premeditative improv that occasionally breaks into a rudiment ("A Medicine for Melancholy") but isn’t fearful of throwing all the pots & pans down the steps, either. I’d read a bit about Halvorson’s guitar playing, but this was actually my first opportunity to hear her play – there is a methodical, grounded approach to her playing, even when indulging in tight, speedy note clustering; her spindly, string raking style of play is cut with a sense of melody, and a lightness which some would attribute directly to jazz guitar, but in this sense gives her the room and range to move all up and down the scale, carving her name into the fretboard as well as the hegemony of jazz music altogether. Nakatani provides the velocity. Simple as that. Three sides of music, the fourth of which is an etching of fishscales; when you take into consideration the sheer presence of these 180g discs and the heavy-gauge gatefold sleeve, it makes sense: Ghostface told us that "a kilo is 1000 grams, it’s easy to remember." Slingin’ mad weight indeed. (http://www.taigarecords.com)
Two new songs from a mostly-dormant Marked Men, the band’s principles now living across the world from one another. This single was pressed up for their Chaos in Tejas appearance but it’s otherwise available, at least at this moment, and definitely should be sought out. The band doesn’t have too many slower ones, which makes "On," its teenline anarchy ache and maxed-out hooks per square inch, a very welcome addition to a 100% solid discography. "The Other Side" picks things back up to the expected tempos, a low-to-the-ground beater just as great as any the Marked Men have been legging out for years. A traditional corrective to right a lot of what’s wrong with the stigmas of pop punk and power pop. 500 copies, artwork by Tim Kerr. (look around, no label info out there)
Hideous monster of a hardcore/’90s noise rock/’85 Flag outfit, a project band staffed with Massachusetts HC participants from Mind Eraser and Waste Management, and Cold Sweat/Repercussions singer Shaun Dean. Six substantial no-name songs, compressed into one 7" single (this shoulda been a double, or maybe a 12"), project a burly, menacing demeanor, thrown over the top by Dean’s screeching, aggressive vocals. Runs all over the place, from blasting speed to midtempo grapplers and all the unlit places in between. Seriously heavy and mean, with many of the same elements that give another current outfit operating along these lines – NYC’s Pollution – some competition. (http://mysterypunk.com)
A most welcome reissue of ‘90s indiepop from an Australian cult favorite that should please fans of anything related to the Flying Nun/Dunedin sound, and all those folks from those other nearby islands. The Moles were a rather young and ramshackle band when these songs were recorded in 1990 Sydney, but they crafted an uncanny sound of their own. The band was shortlived, spanning from a 1989 single through this LP and a few other EPs and a brief move to London before their breakup in 1993. Bandleader Richard Davies would move to the U.S., release the LP Instinct (still using The Moles moniker), form Cardinal with Eric Matthews, and collaborate with mid-’90s Flaming Lips personnel on his own solo material, but his songwriting and soundscaping talents are quite distinctive on Untune The Sky. It only takes a listen to the leadoff track "Bury Me Happy" to get a sense of one angle of their sound: a mile-wide epic jangler of a riff gives way to a sweetly sparse arrangement with understated vocals and some light organ of unspecific make and model. The song, along with "Rebecca" and "Europe By Car" and like those greats by The Bats and The Chills, is an instant mood adjuster, giving you the sensation of coasting towards your favorite sandbar. The poppier, beach-ready songs would be at home on any indiepop mix tape, but as the entire album takes shape one can appreciate the full range of their sound. Untune the Sky is full of twists and turns in tempo, mood, texture and instrumentation, which has led fans to qualify them as "psychedelic" or "chamber" pop, or at least call them masters of oddball pop, which they certainly were. The guitars don’t just strum and jangle; heavy distortion is layered on a number of tracks, such as "Wires" which takes a bagpipe drone and weaves it into a Spacemen 3/MBV tremolo’d out guitar smear. "Nailing Jesus to the Cross" is noisy and dissonant enough to get The Dead C. headnodding along, then "Accidental Saint" is a righteous return to the jangle zone. They also had a penchant for peculiar, woozy synth lines and the occasional brass or piano, but above all Davies’ voice is a calm and alluring constant, in a winning sequence of unique pop songs, some light and some dark, that will soon become old favorites and reward repeat visits. For those keeping score, this edition replicates the artwork of the original 1992 LP with the 18-track sequence of the expanded CD reissue (the tracks from the 1992 CD version plus the "Double Singles" EP from 1991) on Flydaddy from 1999. There are 500 copies of this, and the other versions are long gone, so go get it already. (http://www.killshaman.com)
Apparently this band thinks so little of their original songs that they had to record and press upon vinyl TWO slightly different covers of ONE Bowie song. In summary, that’s the same cover, twice, on both sides. Money to burn, I guess. (http://www.myspace.com/lensrecords)
So I’m about four years behind on turning in this review but I’m still dancing around in the Internetherworld doing a little of the dead art known as "research" when I come across the Sacred Bones site. Imagine how proud I was to find, among the promotional text written to peddle this full-length album, this passage: "locks Blank Dogs in the pound, erases ‘Psychedelic’ from Psychedelic Horseshit, makes purses and boots out of Crocodiles, and, oh I don’t know É makes a puddle out of Wavves?" This was quoted from my previous review of the Nice Face 7" for Still Single. Sure, if someone wants to punch up their promo copy with an "-ism" pulled from a review that I wrote, have at it, but please try to remember that my name is ANDREW EARLES, not "one writer prone to curmudgeonly ranting" and I don’t understand why anyone would want to use "curmudgeonly ranting" in their promo text, especially when the passage is followed by the claim, "we think this is the cheesiest sentence ever written, even if it was intended as a compliment." Let me get this straight: If I put out some records, and I’m trying to win over potential listeners – you know, get the Paypal gears a ‘turnin – I should go out and find the cheesiest sentence ever written and blurb it in my descriptive text? This greases the mechanism that separates people from their money? Should I make sure that the comment was written by a reviewer that I clearly disagree with? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but rants written by curmudgeons É shouldn’t they read a little differently than lighthearted 27-word descriptions that indicate the writer is CLEARLY FUCKING AROUND? Caleb, do you need a mailing address to direct my W-2 towards? Figured I might get a little kick back or something, seeing as how my writing and the subject of my writing are seemingly worthy enough to take up at least a fourth of the one-sheet for this LP. Tell you what, if you end up releasing the follow-up to this record, I’ll make it much easier for you when it comes time to write the one-sheet. Ok, ready? [Left click] "There is no such thing as a phoned in, uninspired, hook-free version of latter-period Jay Reatard, but if for some unknown reason, listeners are curious as to what that might have sounded like, look no further than Immer Etwas." [Right click] [Right click] (http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
Danish pop rarity from the ‘60s, of which its creators are probably banking on some sort of major rediscovery. It’s interesting enough but we’ll have to see. Poul S¿rensen released this album in 1968, after having been part of several Danish beat bands (Panters, the Blue Stars É yeah, I don’t know ‘em either). He’s got a Buddy Holly sort of thing going on with his voice, and the music – early rock, played with a proper, subdued feel – is catchy but quite demure, evidencing a fragility that pushes this into psychedelic concerns. A few tracks feature heavy fuzz bass, way in the back, giving them a primitive feel that the heads will appreciate. Will take a few more listens to sink in but there are definitely a handful of winners on here that the obscure psych crowd will cherish. (http://mastermindrec.com)
Bedroom blood from the streets of New Haven, this is the debut release from a modest xx/xy recording partnership who are also stoked that the JAMC/Black Tambourine sound is back again to blow the childrens’ minds. Who cares if the drum machine snare sounds like someone punching a plastic bag? Honestly I like it. I must still be crazy for that lo-fi whir, and it is indeed blown-out yet elusively catchy, as well as charmingly low-key in pursuit of this sound. How about: Vivian Girls in a washing machine? They have a song called "Slut Fossil." I’d also be happy with the results if I recorded this at home one night. You could take a chance on much worse. 500 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/sixteentambourinesrecords)
Chan Marshall worship through Hippie Goddesses fandom, in ACTION: the Sandwitches play the lonesome twang, female vocals burning off in the evening air as acoustic guitars gently drift in folk-ish patterns and spectral temperaments. I’m not sure I was expecting to hear anyone cover "Baby Mine" from Disney’s "Dumbo" anytime this year, and now that I have (and it sounds as if it was made by White Magic after ingesting a handful of Klonopin É them or you, maybe not both because who would remember it?) I’m probably just going to keep on living. That said, their own claim of spookiness and lullabies is easily met, so if that’s what you’re looking for, here’s some of it. (http://www.endlessnest.com)
New mindless electro minimalism from France, part of the whole crew with the logo (I suppose it is called "La Grande Triple Alliance Internationale de l’Est," an umbrella operation for A.H. Kraken, the Anals, the Feeling of Love and related parties). It took a few listens to grok whether this duo was taking the piss, but there is a method here, even if it’s one that sets the drum pattern apart from the speed of the notes played on the synth, either to disorient, or to show the listener that they don’t know/don’t care how to make it work like everybody else. That little difference is what makes "Roma Violente," a long-ish, static disco-minimal melody into the serious track that it is. Examples on the flipside are more spare and with somewhat of an industrial bend – "Mi Pute Mi Soumise" marches along with distortion and death in tow, while "Ich Kann Nicht" delivers the Germanic, stark yelling and murderous shocks you might expect from such a title. Another great record from B-D that doesn’t fit neatly into any one style or category. 500 copies. (http://bruit-direct.org)
First release for the Perennial label, which is laying the foundation for a resurrected Pac-NW punk scene that stands proud outside of easily-defined areas, as it reclaims definitions given up on by two or more generations. Sonskull are a messy-sounding, yet extremely urgent punk band from Olympia, with a hoarse-sounding female singer, and an identity fractured somewhere between SST-informed punk/HC, the anok crowd, and towering screamo logistics, so there’s something here that will get the hair standing on quite a few necks for sure. There are some epic, chest-beating moments on here that more than a few modern punk/HC fanatics who might not have been around in their original day might find to be trite – they’re wrong. We’ve gone too far down very obvious, very well-traveled paths, and I find it exciting that people are saying "fuck that" and moving on in whatever directions they find in their hearts. Passionate music for sure, most of these songs have a power that’s not often wielded anymore. I’m glad to hear such ambitions being reclaimed – the force and emotion with which tracks like "Housing" and "Ryan & Crystal" are delivered has been missing from the contemporary dialogue. Sonskull shares a member with White Boss, and between them great things are destined to happen. 500 copies. (http://www.perennialdeath.com)
Dark Entries seems to be taking some of the slack from Europe for minimal synth-oriented reissues, and that’s probably a good thing. Most of the players responsible for curating what we are given to hear are known for shaking down the dozens of Belgians responsible for the tapes that make up the excavation efforts, but too often the effort embitters those on the hunt, and we end up with the colder, bleaker side of that music. So a hats off to the prevailing sentiment of releasing music where raw enthusiasm matches technique, to make something special, instead of another bleak, arid staredown with the void. Those Attractive Magnets was the multi-year project of Rikk Quay, hailing from Tamworth in the English Midlands. While the liner notes explain that Quay’s drive to make synth pop may have come from wanting to challenge the notion of traditional rock & roll in technology’s first blow against the fat, longhaired hegemony that punk stood up against. These songs are very busy, with lots of worthwhile interplay and impassioned singing – not hard to see these guys in suits, though from the photos present on the insert, Quay and company look mostly like ordinary guys. There’s a distinct Human League influence at play – both sides of that influence, in fact – that helps the process of creating something at once danceable, gripping, and present-day appropriate. My favorites are the dark mechanics of "Love Crimes," and the collection’s closer "Radio Weeps, Television Cries," which subs out the Rhythm Ace for a live drummer, playing for his life against a sequencer set to "chest pains." That track in particular threw me for a loop, and it’s a wonder why there aren’t many bands mining a similar lineup today. Sounds like Agent Orange if they traded in their guitars for calculators, really great. 500 numbered copies, and I like a few of these tracks so much that I’m going to see about getting the warps taken out of this copy, and report back on how that whole process works out. Cross-country LP mailing in the summer tacos records if you’re not careful. (http://www.darkentriesrecords.com)
Cajoling out (at least, here) improvised rockish music of a reasonably high order, the Uphill Gardeners kicked around the mid-’90s Los Angeles scene, playing with roughly eight billion bands at places such as the Smell, Jabberjaw, that one warehouse space you all liked, etc. The instrumental trio left a mess of lo-rez, no-ish wave urk-motion sitting around— more than ten years after they hung it up, here is some of it, in an album cover we will politely call functional. Mercifully, this improv isn’t "free" in the fucking-around-and-you-call-it-art sense (if it was, Volcanic Tongue would already be sold out – heyo!) – patterns rise and rumble ("Boner Music"), or zoom around the room in tighter circles that you first thought possible ("Goldenrod Sunrise" – an ode to morning wood?) "I’ve Got to Stop Getting Pregnant," a title they really should lease out to Morrissey, creepy-crawls in the finest LA underbelly traditions. The flip holds two longer pieces that take a bit to develop. On "Diet Experiment," it becomes crystal clear how one of ‘em headed off to the For Carnation (note: not a knock). Members also went on to haunt clubs in Young People, Get Hustle, Liars, Polar Goldie Cats, Goliath Birdeater and Godzik Pink. Those were not quite different times, but we miss them nonetheless. (http://www.killshaman.com) (http://www.myspace.com/olfactoryrecords)
First release from a new label, run by Cult of Youth’s Sean Ragon out of his Greenpoint storefront. The Philly/NYC synth duo Void Vision certainly doesn’t earn the "minimal" prefix here; most computer-driven pop of this vintage is skeletal by nature, and Void Vision are certainly headed in that path, but the sequencing on both "In 20 Years" and "Black and White" races along to the beat, layering well-considered melodies around one another. Vocalist Shari provides most of the mystique here, which works very well in this genre, allowing the human aspects of the lineup to generate the most emotion from the most limiting factor of the music: the self. I hear the Fad Gadget comparison and might throw in an OMD one as well, as Void Vision looks to the stage for action instead of the bedroom. Exhibitionism for sure. 500 numbered copies. (http://www.blindprophetrecords.com)
Its cover exudes a bearded post-hippie return-to-nature aesthetic, but Vancouver’s Weathered Pines is pretty straight up country-rock (in this case, a lotta country, a little bit rock ‘n roll), in a high waisted jean/teased bang/bargain basement Mary Chapin Carpenter wannabe sucking on a Bud waiting for her turn at the open mic night down at Frank’s Place on a Wednesday night kinda way. Marissa Johnson affects velvety, fragile Parsons-isms that sound about as authentic as Demi Moore did in One Crazy Summer, but it works nevertheless. The backing players’ progressions and instrumentation feel well-worn and comfortable, as if they’ve been playing the same chords long after the last paying customers have left for the night. You’ve heard it all before, but this is one genre where breaking new ground isn’t always a recipe for interesting music. If down-home country styling is your thing, you’ll find a lot to like on The Sky Between the Buildings. (http://recordsnominal.com/dejlig.php)
Swampy, primordial punk/post-HC stew from Olympia, Washington, slugging it out with lofty introductions, long songs, and a mysterious drive that places them among very few bands of the day. They have a burly, trailblazing attack, but the songs all hang up on some weightier ideas left over from the decade before last. There’s a level of musicianship here, and of experience that acts as a luthier straightening the neck of screamo facility, something muting the hysterics that somehow escaped through the mid-’90s, and replaced it with a ponderous, just-behind-the-beat sensibility that escapes simple classification. The songs are loud, heavy and with consequence as a result, but not afraid to go running off on some other tangent, be it locking down on one chord, trudging upwards through a muddy dirge, or simply reclaiming the act of doing what you want with music, and letting the volume and intensity lure in an audience. It’s about time some band with strong ideas came back to reclaim this lost area of music. This is part of a story you’ll want to keep following; people who were into Heroin (the band) or Unwound should take notice, as this is one of the few things since those band’s peaks which have carried a notion of hardcore to a place where its makers could bend it into something of its own. 500 copies. (http://www.perennialdeath.com)
So weird to be typing out the above. And whose idea was it to put Grayson Currin on the cover? JK bud. White Drugs, brash men from Denton, TX, kicks out mean-spirited noise rock, macho as fuck, ladies nowhere near this action. The band takes the Skynyrd hook-as-violent rhythmic pattern meme, opened up by Mule and Shellac in the early ‘90s, then was visible from every notable nth gen band of this stripe thereafter – bands that understood the galvanizing value of things like curt strumming, lots of organization, and twin lead guitars playing the same thing. White Drugs (ugh, that nameÉ) is to these bands what McLusky was to the Lizard, Nirvana and the Pixies’ more vicious moments, a dusting off of Caucasian irresponsibility and reinforced menace. The results were good enough for Hazelmyer to dust off the label as well, after a few not-quite-ever-for-sale singles over the past year or two. In a way, these guys are the perfect Amrep band, especially for today; there’s a feeling of greatest-hitsism at play here that is undeniable fun to experience, if one is so inclined. Opener "DMT" doesn’t really have any of the effects of that powerful hallucinogen, but it’s a skull-buster of a song, which the rest of the record can’t really live up to. I like some of the more thoughtful moments of crisp, mechanical interlocken (there’s a song on side A that reminds me of 18th Dye, even), but their inadvised Wildman party tendencies, the songs where they hew closely to the unwanted antics of a Les Savy Fav – of which there are too many – are a real pain in the ass. White Drugs covers so many bases on the jockstrap side of rock music that there’s definitely something on here you will like and might even like a lot, but getting through 12 songs of this, that all run together, was an exhausting chore – was definitely looking at the clock even through some of the shorter songs here. 350 numbered copies, with "irregular" handmade collage inserts. (http://www.amphetaminereptile.com) (http://kunstwaffe.com)
In the time of Imperial China, from the Five Dynasties and just beyond, landscapes were considered a form of painting held in such high regard that they supplanted the format and medium altogether. Masters reproduced fields and looming mountains in heavy calligraphic style for three hundred years. Flash forward a half-century, and Mao Tse Cold Cave unleashes an inverse Cultural Revolution, shining the harsh light of the culturally bourgeoisie on the faithful, happily toiling in the People’s square wave mines.
It has been said that there is no scene more navel gazing than minimal synth, so if you’re a true believer expecting me to pick up on the subtleties and musical reference, I can promise you I did NOT. But I did totally enjoy these re-issues created by one year old Dark Entries label out of San Francisco.
Zwischenfall’s Heute is a reissue of the German group’s 1983 debut 12" plus two demo tracks, and it has all the signifiers that carried throughout the genre, while retaining a number of elements of the post punk their sound grew out of. They employ some acoustic instruments, like some wild trumpet and human played bass, and these qualities as well as the analog glissandi give the music a cinematic, Goblin-esque sheen. It’s mechanical and Teutonically impersonal, but the human touches, and Iben & Martin’s vocals, are rich enough to foster a bold, loud set of sounds that aren’t all that "minimal." Their "Tausend Jahre" is a party starter.
Second Decay’s LP is a reissue from 1987, and represents a codification of those sounds. If Zwischenfall used their synths and machines to try and create a robust warm sound, Second Decay sculpts a frozen monument to their machines and the parameter of genre. Their gear is listed by brand and model in the liner notes, and the music doesn’t stray far from the expectations such classifiers tend to set. While ostensibly dance music, it’s bleak and burbling, punctuated with stern German lyrics and vocal delivery. The songs are stripped down, usually built around a handful of tones, drum programming, bass and lead synths, and vocals, occasionally embellished with robotic effects, used to great effect on "Chromatic."
Both LPs are hand numbered editions of 500, and have a great sound courtesy of George Horn. Heute sounds particularly good and comes with a booklet of reviews (in German) and a bio. Dark Entries opens strong and I hope they can maintain this level of curatorial insight. The label and these releases are well worth your time. (http://www.darkentriesrecords.com)
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By Dusted Magazine