Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 14
Still Single is trying to share a little truth about a lot of music. Thanks to everyone who contributes and supports. To others: DEAL WITH IT.
There are certain things that will apparently never quite vanish, in spite of obvious realities. Ska, the clap, helmet-less motorcycle riders, parents that refuse to vaccinate their kids, that sort of thing. Add to this bands that think they sound like the New York Dolls without having any of what made them the New York Dolls. Another Saturday Night seems to be in this category. Five members, twice as many songs. Not an interesting idea between ‘em. If you squint hard enough, and do some serious imagining that yr a Viet vet doing odd jobs in Cleveland between crushing beer cans against your head just to make the voices stop, this sort of faux-authentic, post-Stones, quasi-Thunders pop-rock crunch might be acceptable. But you’re not. And it’s not.
Genre-defining dark ambient blob from our homeboy M.B. Both sides of Endometrio are certain to slime you good. The oddly organic sensibilities in these soundscapes is unnervingly creepy, and effective in ways that most kids with a computer and some time on their hands can’t seem to emulate. For as deep as this gets, the sounds never present themselves as layered, which I feel is a big part of its success, and really what separates this from most modern records that attempt to stir this pot. Horrible, single-source, hive mind things going on underwater, through the hull of a doomed submarine. Raw bottom of the earth terror oozes up; like “You Can’t Do That On Television Small-Press Vinyl!” meets “Event Horizon,” with Bianchi in the role of Barth, serving up boneless skinless Sam Neill for all you Alastairs out there. “Whaddaya think’s in the burgers?” 500 copies, sold out immediately. One of the most insane artist descriptions I’ve ever read graces the insert. Must-own if you really like noise.
I don’t get all the Black Time hatred. Gloriously wrecked, soulful garage-pop that mashes girl-group chord changes with the Electric Eels will get a pass from me whenever, and I don’t care if the drummer can’t keep the beat or that people shunned by the big soulie/modspock/Sta-Prest dress-off of the late ‘90s would still harbor a grudge. I love that this band can squeeze off so many brilliant records, and have yet to hear a bad one, despite the rotations of membership. They’re kinda like Comet Gain in their adherence to form and prolific output, but with the standards and guidelines slightly revised (they don’t normally crap the pool table on their full-lengths, for starters, but they don’t care about perfection, either). Here’s six more, complete with motorcycle sound affects, barked vocals and jaunty songs for all the isolated youth and their sympathizers, playing dress-up at home with nowhere to go. This band is the most fun you can have alone on a Saturday night without telling anyone about it.
Hazy, thick reverb strum with female vocals. That’s what’s on the outside – that and a really unfortunate bandname. This one almost cancels itself out with a song title like “Urinal Cakes” but you know what, this is a really decent pop record. Both songs part the haze with riffs that stick out, and a sultry vocalist trying out for “So You Think You Can RaTX” (can you?) In the live setting this project involves two of the people from the Whines. Several notches above most of the beach/strum contingent, if only because these kids don’t seem to grasp the concept of decorum, and take this little beater all the way up the mountain, while doing neutral drops on the ride down. However many of the regular version, and 200 of the gold edition, as usual.
Centipede Eest (the band dropped the apostrophe, it seems) has grown out of the cantankerous properties that stung their earlier records, and has instead chosen to focus its formidable musicianship on its true niche, which seems to have been making a really strong progressive rock record all along. On its third album, Resonator, the Pittsburgh band explores complex arrangements that swell to stadium-sized intensity (“Forks at Kudatheda” is officially their best song, like Alex Harvey and that mime dude Zal Cleminson filling out the Flaming Lips), without succumbing to overambitious tendencies, and their former attempts to shoehorn very distinct world music elements into long-form rock. What used to be just kind of odd and charming is now a really serious, forceful band in control of its sound. Adding a fifth member didn’t hurt either. Seriously worth your time and examination, because there’s very few bands pulling off anything this accomplished. You don’t hear much about these guys, but it’s possible that Resonator could fix that. 500 copies.
A confusing, collaborative stew of improvisational musicians who have the energy and pacing of a good rock or folk outfit, the feel of a Pacific Rim thundergod orchestra, and the chops and sense of timing one only finds in free jazz. The London-via-Sheffield duo, here expanded to a four-piece lineup, creates a heady, expressive environment, scuttling dishpans in the rain and whatnot, or sculpting a narcotic, high-pitched drone … you get the picture. Chora isn’t out to play anyone else’s games but their own, and the greater implications of that logic spells out an audacious template for rewriting a generation out of the bald old men corners of UK free music, and into something that sounds as fresh as the codgers did back in ‘67 or so. Ecstasy and rapture fuel this sesh, so get near and feel the vibes comin’ off of this minibus. 250 copies.
Straight up industrial busters from Chicago, courtesy of Sanford Parker (Minsk, burgeoning record producer) and Bruce Lamont of Yakuza. It’s not weird to expect this, seeing as these guys are from Chicago, and industrial music was the local music for some time. So while it’s interesting to see what these guys do with these sounds all grown up, the results are really mixed. Ministry they ain’t, and they don’t have the sensibilities to make this music come alive the way it needs to. Sounds like demo quality cage-rattling, with a quick and abrasive remix by Justin Broadrick, and a slow, creepy demo of Bad Seeds-style lament. I hope these guys figure it out, that repetition of turgid themes doesn’t necessarily create excitement. 550 copies, disco sleeve.
Ripping debut from this Copenhagen band, with intense female vocals and a forceful energy that positions themselves as to the Birthday Party what Liars were to, like, Gang of Four back in 2001. There is a lot of noise here to one-up the grampas and graveriders who toughened up cowboys and evil with the mannerisms of punk rock. “Gun Down Lovers” on side one is a particularly great example of this one-track-mindedness, blowing up a steadily building intro to severe, head-crackingly stubborn riffage and intensity. It gets even better on the sidelong “In My Mind,” which breaks down after several engaging minutes of late-period Live Skull type thrills into a massive surge of feedback and destruction not heard since the outro to Steel Pole Bath Tub’s “Christina.” A mouse just died in our bedroom wall and this is as fitting and filthy a sound as could be hoped for, given the smells we’re experiencing over here. 250 numbered copies, looks nice.
Pressed up in support of their performances at the recent 25th anniversary of Current 93 in London, modern drone outfit Rameses III gets sandwiched in between psych-folk deities of the early 1970s. Having had their careers revitalized in decades worth of intrigued rediscovery, Comus offers up a live version of “Diana,” taken from a Swedish music festival in 2008. Loss of the sickly green youthfulness that permeated the original does not dilute their sound and intent – age has made this one a little more regal but every bit as twisted. Simon Finn, a bent, primal folkie whose laser-eyebeam intense “Jerusalem” (from an early 70s rarity called Pass the Distance) shook with an anxiety that busted itself right off the record. His more-recent turn here finds the artist revisiting the same simplicity found in his earlier work, his voice still holding up forty years later, a very personal and moving work that outpaces its brevity with Finn’s glowing, humane voice. Ramases III (ta) offer up one cleansing blast of minimal drone, guitars droning on in a symphony of shifting sands. 300 copies, purple vinyl, and you’ll forgive Finn’s first-time Photoshop user artwork.
Sort-of sometimes label that defined post-hardcore aesthetics for me and many others returns from the dead with one more release, co-released with Colin Tappe’s Life’s a Rape imprint. Crime Desire has been slumming around San Diego for most of the past decade, and has apparently called it quits. Every one of their records approaches a limited set of influences from a different standpoint, from miserably squeaky insane-core to a really violent and rewarding single (In Lucifer’s Grip … get that shit), and then to late ‘80s dramatics (Danzig, Honor Role) done to muted satisfaction. These last four songs toughen up on riffs and give off a more metallic/lone wolf sort of direction that the last record was headed in. “Eye of Balor” closes off with a quiet section and female vocals, a really classy move for this alleged grand finale before launching back into the thrash. And then it’s over. I kind of wish there were more songs here, as the new direction doesn’t reveal itself as well as it did over the course of earlier records. Still though, better than nothing, and a real rager all along. Sad to see them go, but if it’s any consolation, one of these guys has had a career REBOUND as chillwave sensation “Corona Lite.” Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
Cavernous, aware, unfathomably deep Nyabinghi soul sesh spearheaded by Ras Michael in Kingston, 1974, well beyond last call. Dub technique is played down, but a massive sound is accomplished all the same The four extended tracks here just keep going, getting past the initial, often mournful verses of the song and stretching them out to a foundation of bass wall anchor and gentle, mysterious, emotionally resonant journeys in the dust as the musicians disappear into the night. Undeniably heavy and rich, and if the grapevine is any indicator, it is receiving a warm welcome all over the place this summer, like a gift being passed on to one another; the kind of thing you want to drift off by, or listen to as the sun rises. A knockout every time, and seems to get more rewarding with repeat listens. Someone out there has already mistaken Peace and Love for the new Om record, so you can probably guess where it goes from here.
Most straightforward (and therefore, best) Daily Void record to date, from “local goth label” Sacred Bonz – stressful dark punk, sounding like the Weirdos into the Screamers at points, but forged in the art-industrial core of Chicago instead of late ‘70s LA. That these folks (ex-Functional Blackouts) have made something that isn’t another trudge through bleak, exhausting, go-nowhere post-punk is noteworthy, but not too original or forward-thinking. Wear all black, why dont’cha. Like, if it took this group so many years to make a decent punk record, imagine how long it’ll be before they make something really inventive.
Following his departure from DNA (complaints that the music was getting stale), Robin Crutchfield started up Dark Day, a group that aligned more closely to his artistic sensibilities. I say this from empirical data only, as Dark Day’s earlier efforts have eluded me to this day. This version of the group teamed Crutchfield with Bill Sack, a music school grad working at the Strand bookstore, who specialized in toy instruments, the only musical gear in his price range while living the life of a poor artist in early ‘80s NYC. Between the tricked-out Bee Gees brand drum machine, the consumer-grade keyboards, and Crutchfield’s gently chilling vocals, this album fits in well with the other minimal synth reissues on Dark Entries. Window was scheduled for release on the Lust/Unlust label, but when things went south for that seminal NYC no wave imprint, the tapes were pulled from the studio by the distributor and pressed up, without fanfare, on the Plexus imprint, making this release a rarity from the get-go. This reissue contains a newsprint zine, packaged in an austere silkscreened sleeve, that chronicles Crutchfield’s entire history as an artist, which should sweeten the deal. 500 numbered copies.
Electric Bunnies is a band that’s hard to pin down: inside one of the most elaborate packaging jobs of late (featuring a playable board game inside the gatefold, including sheets of perforated playing pieces) is a record that’s oddly undistinguished if not ambitious for its scene. The Bunnies play Spacemen 3/JAMC-indebted garage broken up by blasts of noisy punk, and notably the Spacemen 3 comparison is apt for once - when they shift into that gear they ease up on the aggression a bit, although things get a bit spikier on the b-side. In the end, the fact that it’s easy to name their influences kind of damns this to “sounds like…” territory, but based on their visual aesthetic these guys have a unique worldview and that bodes well for future releases.
I was promised a deep listening experience, and it’s what I got. Big marble slabs of immense, chilling ambiance, like a really deliberate, dyed-black version of the Idea Fire Company. Chamber elements collude with a substantial layer of drone and other predictably weighty elements. After listening to the M.B. reissue, things like this really show their spots more than they would otherwise, as the clarity of the recording removes some of the mystery. That’s not to say this isn’t totally massive and redeeming, though, because it is. Typically swank Amish attention to detail, including a wordless book of grayscale imagery, and a hand-assembled obi strip. 500 copies.
Four more songs from Flight’s fuzz reliquary, located in a Mississippi lean-to somewhere. Kinda cool, in a Lost Sounds-meets-Wire sorta way, and the B-side songs trump the A-side’s restless energy. I’m led to understand this is a one-man project, though it’s got a good deal more going for it than your typical modern garage-bro shenanigans – well-delivered verse/chorus/verse structure, some thought as to how to successfully augment vocals with technology, solid chord progressions and memorable songs. It’s not up to the level of the Sweet Rot single but it’s pretty close.
Living, low-wattage rumble from the mouthpiece of a trumpet and treated guitar, in a sort of Emanem Records-inspired tunemuck. Heavy Euro style discomfort, like watching people get off on that fetish where girls sit in cakes and pop balloons. That means HOT STUFF COMIN’ THROUGH. It must be love.
“nnn-chik nnn-chik nnn-chik QUACK QUACK QUACK.” There you have it, Philly’s Form a Log playing with concepts and displaying obvious neon tendencies (the label behind this is from Baltimore, where this sort of motorik art weirdness flies, no problem) around the concept of a robo-duck. Many words are spilled on the paper-bag sleeve in some manner of artist statement, and some playful, abstract Kaz-style drawings break down this concept even further; you may not know what a Digital Duck is, and this record exists to link those words with a sound and an image. Bizarre and energetic all around, though the remix is sort of a joke, taking the vigorous pulse of the original and turning it inside out, the words “di-gi-tal-DUCK” looped backwards throughout. I’ve formed a log or two in my day, and while I wouldn’t show them to anyone, I’d understand if someone thought theirs were special enough to show the world, too – organic, smelly by-products of intellectual consumption and obsession with imagery. Put that on your floor and symbolize it. 500 copies in silkscreened kraft paper bag sleeves, sure to be damaged all too easily.
Genuine dorks top to bottom, and they are better for it – NYC’s German Measles plays it loose and silly here, between the dreamy “Color Vibration” and the rambunctious “I Don’t Like Your Friends” – sure to be the band’s calling card from here on out (I was told that this was a potential Cause Co-Motion song that certain members of the band refused to play). Classic mid-’80s college radio innocence fumes coming off of this. Big Dipper and a 40 oz. You got me. Proceeds go directly to the Vivian Girls.
Featuring a cast of 30 musicians but essentially the work of Portland’s Eric Crespo, Exotic Believers is as diverse as its roster (including members of Castanets, Parenthetical Girls and Jackie-O Motherfucker). Crespo augments a set of noisy rock songs in the Steve Albini tradition with various side trips ranging from Castanets-style cinematic instrumentals to out-and-out noise - luckily, the more accessible moments are so solid that the detours are almost unnecessary. The lyrics and melodies recall folk music despite the generally heavy instrumentation, with the album closer “Lords of The High Country” being the high point. “Lords...” feels like The Ex took inspiration from rural England instead of Africa on Dizzy Spells, with pounding, angular bass and drums under Crespo’s rough-yet-reedy voice. The songs can occasionally run a bit long, but you can be sure that a new twist is always right around the corner.
A heaping helping of more worm-ridden filth than you’ll ever need, Sorcerers of Madness collects 22 tracks recorded over a nine year period and spread over two thick slabs that run the gamut from sludgy riff-raff to toothy cowpunk, with equal doses of scuzz and proficiency, excitement and boredom. Unlike some of their lo-fi minded bretheren, the Worms (aka Will Foster and “the usual gang of idiots”) adhere to fairly traditional structures and ride their laconic basement jam seshes well into the sunset. There’s a wealth of material here with a lot of redeeming qualities, unfortunately the cream of the crap comes during the outro of the last song on the last side of the second record. The coda of “Lafayette” sounds like something Tom Petty would’ve killed for in 1985: a perfect chord progression, great female (?) backing vox, and a madman carrying on over top. That one could’ve been a contender if only Foster & co. reached for the stars and thought the polish their turds with a little more of a spit shine. There’s plenty of other ear candy scattered across these two discs; the faux reggae of “Afterhour Party” giving way to a great rip of “867-5309” (complete with blurting sax), the stumbling over/under hook of “Sex Against a Wall,” and the oompah fart party of “B.T.K,” to name a few of my favorites. My beef is that there’s too much slush to slog. A few too many dire go nowhere jams that easily could have been excised, jokey junior-high level lyrics that sound like they were improvised on the spot, practice tape snoozers that drone on interminably. Yet strewn across the wise-assery and skronk a few gems shine through. “Greater” is a brief instrumental acoustic guitar piece that shows more restraint than the rest of this overstuffed platter combined, and the above-mentioned “Lafayette” is going on the next mix tape I make for George Thorogood’s son. With some judicious editing, Sorcerers could be a more enjoyable thorough listen, but as is, it’s an overlong artifact for diehard completists and friends of Foster. And Foster’s foster family.
Neofolk that takes on the mantle of apocalyptic noise destruction and the mantras of safety that keep the occupants of their embattled land safe from disaster. The Norman Invasion all over again, but hey, this time we at least know about metal and trance rock! Full, tantric observations on ritual and substance, with an icy, dirty sound that haunts and troubles. You win this round, Hellvete.
I get a bad sense from the Homopolice – unless these guys have actually figured out that they are indeed gay, there is some real minstrelsy going on in their presentation. Musically it’s all heavy, industrial-sounding free-dum rock in the tradition of the Brainbombs getting choked out with a spreader bar, kinda the same way that forgotten shit like Zeigenbock Kopf could exist on the unfortunate border of parody. Black Leather Jesus is harsh noise, and if you make the mistake of looking them up you are probably gonna be upset or offended. Honestly, there’s only 103 of these things, and even if the low number of these things out there will greatly decrease your chances of ever coming in contact with it, you can this record them apart from other records by the cartoon of two cops sodomizing themselves pasted to the front cover. Curiously enough, it’s an act that within Texas, where these bands call home, may earn you a $500 fine.
An earlier report from this Olympia punk snot factory bore promise, and it’s come to term – interestingly enough, about nine months later, with this anonymous-looking record. No URL on the back sleeve, no insert or lyric sheet, and you’d better recognize the logo above. Inside you get your head knocked around by basement punk and hardcore, delivered with plenty of spit and a really nasty disposition. Sample if you will: “SUICIDE/HOMICIDE /SUICIDE/HOMICIDE /WHAT SHOULD I DO? WHAT SHOULD I DO?” Guitar is relentless, riffing and hammering no matter how clunky the tempo, and the vocals and attitude are front and center, the sentiments hopeless and apathetic yet urgent and. You’ve felt this angry before, and I’ll bet you it’s happened in the last month – spend the 15 minutes or less it’ll take you to rip through these 15 songs and clench your fists. I think it’ll help. For fans of Joy Ride-era GI, early Die Kreuzen, Red Cross, Sex Pistols, and maybe the idea of the Faith, before you actually heard them and had the fantasy ruined. Perennial keeps its stock label Spirograph design for a third release, but defers to a monochromatic color scheme. It’s the most civilized thing about this record. Best of luck to you.
Astral Social Club meets the mysterious High Wolf for some orgiastic trance. The cyclical rhythm of ASC’s cosmic dance beats makes a good base for whatever the fuck High Wolf is doing (sounds like digital delay and processing abuse, but it helps to bring this jam out of the cold water flats it was borne in and back down to Burning Man territory). I could actually see these guys out on the playa, coated in silver bodypaint. Sunworshippers and hedonists, have at it. Four quality tracks; fans of the Boredoms’ fascination with numbers, etc., here’s your ticket.
Two sides of vintage Belgian post-punk squatting. One side’s bigger, louder anthems, in more of a protest-oriented, robotic Delta 5 kinda way, and another side with shorter songs that are completely locked down in a grid of stiff musicianship and space-filling maneuvers. Interestingly enough, this side of it is where my attention has drifted to, the sound of anxiety that new wave often tried to stifle. Won’t rock your world or anything, but it’s cool and feminist and kind of intense. Big foldout sleeve.
Kind of a step away for Dekorder to go for a pop band with actual songs that fit into a current trend, but KKDD aren’t your average Animal Collective rip-off, nor are they content to drink downstream from those fucking art school Juggalos in Man Man, with whom they share a city. In the ways that they break noisy pop down into pieces and parts that explode into mirthful beauty – all without taking away from the elements that started the songs – they’ve created a really joyous sound, musically challenging and instrumentally dense, like that one last awesome Teenage Filmstars record that never got made. Very impressive work.
I have to admit that I avoided playing this one for a while due to the disturbing, sexually graphic and “shocking” back cover art but I’m pleased to say that the debauchery contained on Amerikanische Poesie und Alkoholismus doesn’t particularly reflect that image. The back of the LP lays out the contents in broken but fairly clear English: one side is two tracks of Mama Baer singing over manipulated field recordings, and the other is a complete side of sound/concrete poetry cut up by the husband-and-wife duo. Most people will know if this is their bag based on that last sentence, but both sides are solid examples of their particular forms. Amerikanische Poesie is particularly intriguing; Hjuler’s editing technique is fascinatingly crude for a man who supposedly has over 300 recordings to his name. Using what sounds like simple “play” and “stop”-button pushing to create a vaguely rhythmic series of repetitions, the track manages to hypnotize until a new twist arrives to startle.
Solo works from one Theresa Smith, currently playing guitar in Home Blitz. Using goody-two-shoes ‘60s pop and the DIY strum of a Dolly Mixture or Shop Assistants, she prances her way – guitar, uke, and drum machine in town – through four songs of pinched, victrola-quality sound, bubby through a tintype rendering that squeezes the entire dynamic range down to a shrill, ugly chirp. Not sure too many people trolling for indie pop would recognize the name Will Killinsgworth on the sleeve credits, but he’s responsible for taping this music to the ceiling of a closet and recording it through the door, which is kind of curious (Killingsworth is currently in Failures and Vaccine, played guitar in Orchid, and has committed dozens of supremely heavy/crushing acts to record, so one must wonder why these techniques were used on a lighter, gentler style of music). While it stands out from a lot of similarly-minded records in this regard, it also makes for a shrill and occasionally painful listen. Fans of the genre won’t want to miss it, regardless of how it was rendered. 300 copies, yellow vinyl, nice sleeve, from the label that brought you the Matt Wilga single (he was also a member of Failures, tying this whole thing together).
There’s enough moody modern rock out there in the vein of Interpol or the Ocean Blue or the Van Pelt, but Man Benu seems confident enough to scale that mountain with The Kindling. The trio has enough buttoned-up classiness to put a prep school spin on long-in-the-tooth emotioneering such as is displayed on the six songs. Good songs with motion and melancholy in focus, though some may dither about Bentley Anderson’s asthmatic vocals and limited range in that area. I think it lends a seriousness to these songs that is needed to keep from veering out into teenybopper land. Nice work.
Ever come across a crossword puzzle that somebody else has already completed? Kinda weird feeling, especially if you know the person – it’s a deep-enough stare into their own intellect, and what their thought processes are like. You know who you’re dealing with when it comes to a real crossword. For the kiddie-style, “oh let’s be creative with our track listing” type deal that is emblazoned on Man Made Hill’s first LP, it just belabors the point. We’re dealing with an imitator of an imitator of an imitator here, and the broken-photocopier look of this whole project only serves to enforce that sad fact. Hey, you already have all those early Human League records, right? Keep ‘em – then you’ll never need this example of amateur, sing-songy electrocrud again. White vinyl, 300 copies. Canadian bacon indeed.
The last few years have seen an such an influx of former and current punk types trying their hand at acoustic material that it’s become a bit cliché. Chicagoan Aaron Ross is apparently a veteran of several punk & hardcore bands, but his project Maribelle’s new LP is far removed from the strum-und-drang stridency of the No Idea/Plan-It-X crowd – in fact, it’s much closer to indie mainstays like Jose Gonzales or Elliot Smith. Ross seems to be handling all of the relatively spare instrumentation aside from percussion, with guitar dominating and accordion making an occasional appearance. Ross’ guitar playing is deft and clearly in the tradition of Nick Drake and the aforementioned Gonzales, while his voice occasionally takes on the theatrical air of Rufus Wainwright despite not having pipes in the same league. Ultimately this could appeal to fans of any of the artists mentioned, but it’s ultimately a little too restrained for its own good. For some reason the two tracks that deviate the most from the formula are each placed at the end of a side, and while ending on a high note is generally a good idea a few more songs like this would break up the relentless tastefulness of the rest of the album. I’m also left wondering if the anonymous, generic nature of the album packaging is intentional – this is a record that’s not trying to fight for your attention, and while that’s respectable it’s also unfortunate given that Ross seems to have some real talent.
Paste-on cover, first-take graphic design … none of these things point to the facts, that this is a pretty great one-man psych record, with a big sound and an idea of what to do with all those ideas. Recorded at home in scenic Scranton, PA, Jeff Gilotti does a fine job of making very decent, meat-and-potatoes psychedelic product, with a bitter/blotter everyman feel to it that pushes it somewhat more in Jim Shepard or Brother JT territory. For one guy, this is pretty good, and as with the Feeling of Love record from earlier this year, I really dig the dark internal monologue track “The Healing Ray.” Worthwhile efforts from the backfields. 100 numbered copies.
Minneapolis has two string-led, female-fronted trios, it seems (Mother of Fire – two ladies, lead violin, and Brute Heart, viola/guitar/drums, all ladies, and reviewed quite favorably in these pages). I think that’s cool. Do these bands know each other? Are they friendly? From the first track, it’s clear that, though the instrumentation and locale may be close, the end result is a little different. Mother of Fire plays the heavy Eastern psych trip spiel pretty hard, with familiar success: cross Siouxsie and the Banshees circa Juju up with Savage Republic (hey, coulda happened), and you’ll approach the fullness of what this album has to offer. As things keep moving, you’ll get the occasional renaissance fair-meets-Roma vibe from this bunch that won’t sit well with some of you, but it’s offset by the sheer movement of each piece, huge bass moving these songs along. I dunno … what are your feeling about the moon? Do you think it has special powers? If yes, find this record now!
Buoyant, irresistible pop music! My Teenage Stride has been the primary songwriting outlet of one Jed Smith since the early ‘00s, and it’s morphed from more obvious, exploratory examples of brainy, slightly depressed strum-n-drum into the very example of what this sort of thing out to sound like today. Joy wells up from the corners of both tracks, recalling the wide-open sound of similarly challenged outfits (The Clean, Magnetic Fields), gripping tightly to convention but not beneath playing to a general level of contentedness and strong vibes. Both songs are completely stupendous, well-realized examples in the genre, possessing their own sound in the wake of Smith’s direct influences. Kinda nice to see this level of quality being insisted upon by the people who make and consume this kind of music. Lovin’ it more and more. Also this label put out the last Oxford Collapse LP on vinyl when Sub Pop didn’t want to, so yeah, total heroes. 500 copies.
Nü Sensae/Okie Dokie
Not a “nü song” by Vancouver’s excellent Nü Sensae – it sounded really familiar; turns out it is the first song on their LP TV, Death and the Devil, reviewed here not too long ago. Good band. LA’s Okie Dokie is a harder pill to swallow – had heard good things about them from friends who’d seen them play in Los Angeles or some such shit. Technofile chaos punk, with drum machine set to “youth rally” and a precision that both works for and against the band. You want a guitarist and bassist who can play up to the level of the machines you invite into your band, because that’s kind of the point. The vocalist sees the need to lock into the speed and precision with wordy, amateur conspiracy theorist-meets-peace crust-meets-Skinny Puppy. Change the formula around and this barking Doberman could be fronting a rap group, a Rage Against the Machine clone, or Aus-Rotten. For as much effort as is put into those vocals, it sounds a little corny and forced. Pretty punk, though, and I’m sure the live setting might open up a new dimension to this hostile, nagging sound. 333 numbered copies, light blue vinyl, packaged inside a printed paper bag.
Big, lumbering, dirge-ridden metal with lots of diabolical, mournful chordery, and a shitload of changes in each of the six tracks presented here. Portland’s Nux Vomica lines up death metal with a little commercial BM counterparts and some thrash and d-beat elements to play this game where they keep switching it up in longform, plenty heavy epics. I know that the length of these songs is probably appealing to their fans, and if they could convince someone to release a beautiful gatefold sleeve and double splatter vinyl for them, I’m sure those fans exist. They get some Isis/early Pelican tribal moments going on in their instrumental “Walk Through the Ashes,” but the metal comes back and the band does not let you forget why they do what they do. Nice package, includes a booklet and very pretty colored vinyl.
Low-skill, primitive indie pop meets “the scene” with this Philly band, which combines two things that city is known for: lo-fi, by the book psychedelic pop, and lots of undergrad-level social behavior. It’s not hard to see why this band wouldn’t just materialize anywhere upon some kids seeing … I dunno, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Crystal Stilts. Thankfully, their just-barely-competent musicianship works in their favor, with the second side of this long, four-song single getting into some cool areas – the trepanning pound and mindlessness of “D.A.F.H.B.” and the beachy, suburban bounce of “Piano Vache” point toward an eventual brilliance, somewhere, where these people are concerned. Way better than a band called The Party Photographers would ever have a right to be, for sure.
“Instant composition” electronic beats and uptempo, public access channel music beds from Silk Flowers’ Peter Schuette. It’s pretty lush, billowing material, full of elastic computer bass and some creative, “Risky Business” style synth leads (sounds like Jeff Mills got hold of some Tangerine Dream soundtracks, to be honest…) Schuette has the sounds down and a good attitude, but the problems in potentially disruptive songcraft – as seen through the somewhat random key changes and drop-ins – which kind of wrecks the flow of these tracks. And while that may be the point, it doesn’t necessarily make for effective house music.
The best songs yet out of this Brooklyn metal/hardcore/punk hybrid can be found on ®SMUT. Pollution had a somewhat amorphous, but definitely scalding and evil sound to start, reflected in a bunch of wild-pitch tapes and singles, where they wandered around and lashed out on a bunch of slightly different variations on a core outpouring of anger, and it was the latter which was much more interesting. In a little over a year they have figured out how to pull together all of these elements into one chunky hunk of livid, thrilling music (the blasts in the middle of “Signal Control” totally come out of nowhere and are ridiculously exciting). A dingy, somewhat muddy recording can’t really hide the mix of weird time sigs, hard-charging rock, and blasts of furor jumping out of this material. 500 copies that will soon be gone.
Psychedelic exuberance from some East Bay travelers, on a journey which you should consider joining. Having excused themselves from roles in Residual Echoes, David Novick and Jerry Encoe are now filled out to proper rock trio status by one Andy Pastalaniec. The earlier duo’s first effort, a striking, yet uneven LP released by radio station KDVS (home of the beloved DJ Rick), is met here by consistency, if you can call it that – there are real songs here, and more of them, loaded with bowl-stoking melodies, a rambunctious “punx-is-hippies” lo-fi presence, and a lack of conceptual understanding that works in their favor. It’s as disciplined as this sort of music should be, which is to say, almost just enough, their former tendencies to flail around in unstructured feedback now having big, Paisley Underground-meets-Britpop melodies roaring under them. No one in this band is much of a singer, which might put some folks off, but I love the discordant, unhinged nature that quality brings about . If you ever wished Sic Alps’ songs were about four times as long, or longed for a return to open-air fuzz worship along the lines of the Summer Hits, early Flying Saucer Attack, or even Black Tambourine, you’ll be as impressed as I am by listening to these guys discover, and enjoy, their collective language. 500 copies.
If you liked any of the earlier twisted country on offer from this long-running Denver ensemble, get ready for seconds. Buried Behind the Barn, as its title suggests, is a collection of outtakes and forgotten tracks dating back to the beginning of the last decade. It’s about on the level that you’d expect – the same distrustful lyrics, the same proficiency in their craft. Not my thing but certainly not terrible.
Smooth jazz with post-Tortoise style chops by a Pittsburgh quintet, shooting for the manna to be found in late ‘70s/early ‘80s session jazz, sort of in a Creed Taylor bag but a little more pronounced (weird fuzzy synth on one song, rock-style rhythm guitar strut and upfront snare on the B-side). Two long, untitled tracks have strong central melodies that stay with you, but don’t be mistaken – this is total Weather Channel/library music idolatry, and your enjoyment of such is going to depend on the stylistic concerns they adhere to so closely. They all seem like pretty strong players, which definitely helps their case. Includes the artist who is known as DJ Buscrates (who had the first release on this label). It’s casual.
More pissing and moaning from two of these here hypnagogic ensembles. Street Drinkers do miserable drone and some black metal screaming; utterly pointless. Skeppet is a two-guitar and cheap drum machine outfit that fares better, but just by a slight margin. There seems to be no end to the madness of music-not-music clogging up the bins. I’d like to see the chumps that fall for this one. Not many copies, pressed, thankfully.
Austere, personal sounds from an American ex-pat electronic musician who’s been making a name for himself in the world of dubstep – eight songs of altered, filtered warmth from the depths of the computersoul. Scared doesn’t have as much of the drive as Tin Man exhibited on his last EP, Wasteland, and maybe that’s for the better. I think this guy takes this sound out of its definition, deferring on the machismo that sometimes comes with trailblazing in music. He’s got a relatively simple technique, and can turn it into more personal, universal themes – big, yet hushed, cavernous and resonant, melodies hiding in the substrata of all that bass, and with total control of the music’s emotional center with no more than the sound of his voice. Moreover it’s nice for an artist such as this to break out of the hidden world of import dance 12”s. There really isn’t an obvious community for music like this, but everyone ought to get involved. Tin Man has the depth of Arthur Russell and Alcachofa-era Villalobos, and the heart-rending cold of Mark Hollis and late-period Talk Talk, and the skills to reconfigure them for the digital age.
I remember meeting these guys at a meet-n-greet at my first SXSW, in the Driskill Hotel. Members of my party availed the open bar party of its excess liquor, grabbing full bottles of tequila and whiskey and vodka before making a quick escape. Moments later, a member of my party decided to go after a member of Wax Fang for something he said or did. Then it got real – real funny, watching a big prank unfold right in front of a guy who wanted anything but to be fucked with. Later that weekend, through some sort of miracle, I spotted friends from back home just walking around after having waited 90 minutes for a cab that never showed up. I went to a house party and saw Midnite Snake jamming out on a patio at like 2 in the morning to a dozen dazed attendees and a bunch of homeless people. I crashed in Wax Fang’s vacated hotel room that night after meeting up with Midnite Snake, and I saw that bottle of tequila we boosted. This was a pretty cool time, and if you were gonna tell me that Wax Fang were some sort of generic, fuck-with-your-emotions style alternative pop band with aspirations to be the next Arcade Fire or My Morning Jacket but with a distinct influence of Ed Kowalczyk and Live, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I wouldn’t care, because they seem to be decent dudes who can take a punch. I wish them luck but wouldn’t listen further. I think one of these guys had a band in Pittsburgh called Shopping, which everybody seemed to like. Needless to say, he doesn’t live there anymore.
Sidelong tribute to Mind Eraser’s Conscious/Unconscious, with burrito filling instead of the metal elegies. Destroy thyself in the pit. “Observer” does a little better with the riffage, monstrous and slow, though the mud shit slide tone they chug on is kind of off-putting. Still, I wanna send these guys to the new Mexican place down the street, and show them how to make nachos. I got some recently and there was about four pounds of cheese on that shit, a total disgrace. Balance is needed in life. Remember that. 550 copies.
Sourced from a cassette, here’s another two long sides by John Twells a/k/a Xela, in a more meditative frame of mind than in the past. Heavy, cloudy ambient with insistent, high tones in the mix, building counter-melodies and diffusing the sound into something ethereal and inert. Beauty is wherever you can find it these days.
Greatdividing came to my attention earlier this year, via two oddly-packaged singles from Australia, completed in no hurry, and filled with a limited and head-scratching set of sounds. A Range of Greatdividing was included with that package as a CD-R, but my patience with those was too limited to bother. Thankfully an Austrian label has started up to press it onto vinyl as their first release. This wider berth allows us to see the whole of their worldview, and said outlook is indifferent basement rock destruction of mid-to-high quality. Tracks span the past two decades and then some, and I’d assume there are only a few participants across most of these projects. I like the acoustic strum doom march of Deep Brain Thrombosis, and the experimental, humorous oddball cynics behind the awesomely-named Rock Boycott, but we also get some Fall references through Shoptoprockers, muted whaling rock crush by feedtime-related project 3 Toed Sloth, and some crumbling jamm-o smegmo by Exiles from Clowntown. 300 pressed, in specially cut, silkscreened sleeves.
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By Dusted Magazine