Feature - Still Single: Vol. 3, No. 9
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. CD-Rs of singles will not be reviewed; they will be destroyed. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
ANY genre of music will do - don't hesitate to send punk, hardcore, metal, goth, pop, rock, country, hip hop, electronic, experimental, dub and reggae … all genres accepted and welcome.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
Submissions can be sent to:
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!
Wow, what a difference a new place makes. Finally all set up over here at the new Still Single HQ, in a room that is made for such high-pressure, manual-dexterity-requirin' reviewing. Thanks to everyone who submitted, and if you didn't, well, there's always a next time.
Pos-Load: Nihilsurrealisme one-sided 12”
Yet another ridiculously limited release by Anakrid, this one going out to all the bug chasers in the world. Chris Bickel and someone under the name K. E. Revis (hah) apply old-school tape collage, Japanese power electronics worship, and legitimately hard, paranoid “emo violence” to this one, and the result is the most intense Anakrid release to date. If you have been longing for the visceral noise side of Bickel's legendary hardcore act In/Humanity (the “trilogy” from their second album comes to mind), you'll find its spirit here, amid a nearly impenetrable wall of panic. Miles away from the opaque drones of the last few records, this one's a statement of outrage, and I know of more than one sordid little online communities to which you could couple this up with a nauseating read. I won't trouble you with those details, though. Best not to ruin another life. Numbered edition of 100 copies, in the same style of spraypainted, textured sleeve that the last one came in.
Pig City Life one-sided 7” EP
(Punks Before Profits)
Really fast, really clean-sounding hardcore from Italy, covering a lot o' ground: the psychotic hostility of the Outpatients and the “Stripes”-esque military precision of Flag on Damaged. Very enjoyable times.
“Bastards of Light” b/w “Thirteen Walls” 12”
Black Mountain has done a stellar job at keeping their fanbase on hold over the past few years, as side projects of a lesser caliber trickled out their wares - nothing but a 7” single to stem the tide, even though they've been playing songs from their forthcoming In the Future live for some time now. I've heard that one, and while judgment on its merits is still pending, we've got another one here for the patient of mind. Two mew ones, exclusive to this release, and only available on their current tour, touch off a languid Paisley Underground feeling that previous records only hinted at. “Thirteen Walls” sashays out into territory previously charted by Fleetwood Mac and (wait for it) Jefferson Starship, estimated by how well they juggle and smooth out a good deal of instrumentation into a living, breathing moodpiece. “Bastards of Light” keeps the pot on simmer, and demonstrates what this band is best at: creating the slow burn and maintaining it across entire albums, sets, what have you. One of the few bands in the heavy/hippie revival that understands exactly why the pieces they borrowed from the storied, stonied '70s past fit together, and if that's all they choose to focus on anymore, that's fine by me. Comes with a coupon good for an MP3 sampler of the new album, effective in mid-November.
Bored to Death
s/t 7” EP
Japanese kids emulating poppy '80s thrash, and they really get the balance of riffs, rage, and humor where it needs to be for this sound to work. A few songs spike it up a bit with some metallic parts, but mostly just bop along to weather-beaten early DC hardcore, all smiles. Excellent Engrish lyrics that are full of rad thoughts and laffs (“Pose As a Skate” rules the hardest: “Ready for the skating/Realize that/I hate sports”).
Petroleum Man 7” EP
Turgid, beefy hardcore from St. Louis (ex-Cardiac Arrest dudes). If you lived around there, you might be this angry too! Takes the scene and the world to task ably enough. Waiting for another record to really form an opinion, as I figured this one might stand out a little more.
Ancient Rites 7” EP
I am to understand this is the final Cross Laws record. They can almost call themselves the Crossover Laws at this point. AMIRITE??? (Sup, Earles. Had to bite that style.) Thoroughly catchy and raging hardcore, benefitting from a fairly hot recording and an aim to change it up a bit. They came a long way.
Rattled 7” EP
Kids from North Carolina who play in hardcore bands (one dude here was in Cross Laws), applying the breathless, verbose emo template to raging basement pop-charged hardcore. In some ways their snotty sound lends itself to the current crop of bands playing power-pop like a punk band (Marked Men, etc.) but they're really aiming for the angsty melody of a group like the Observers (or now, I guess, the Red Dons). The lo-fi sound works against a band this busy-sounding, but song-wise I'm pretty into it; just ignore the scene-baiting lyrics. 500 copies.
Death Comet Crew
“One on Ones” b/w “The Taking of Pelham DCC” 7”
Bangin' new tracks from DCC, who have elected to go this one alone. Ominous synths and guitars lurk and snarl beneath a barrage of breaks and scratchin' on “One on Ones,” while whispered vocals slip past in the night. “Pelham” applies a slower break and a somewhat Mo'Wax style crime/jazz/trip hop approach, which works out less NYC than the A-side but more urban in general. It's a brisk return to form from some folks who have put in overtime and rarely got their due.
Digger and the Pussycats/Magnetix
split 10” EP
(Every Night is a Saturday Night)
Two guitar/drums duos from overseas split up this 10” EP. These aren't typically the sort of lineups that suggest subtlety; moreover, you'll notice that a common path for the two-piece is to d louder than typical trios or four-pieces. As an aesthetic choice, it certainly provides for the pair of performers the rare opportunity to punish listeners with long, thick gouts of abrasive noise and primal stance. Surely both of these groups take advantage of this stereotype, but it really works for both of them. Australia's Digger and the Pussycats put forth some excellent, thuggish garage punk that comes close to the wide-open, dead-eyed staredown of Boys from Nowhere, crossed up with the desperation of their country's own God. Their songs actually get better as their side progresses, too. The Magnetix, from France, slop on buckets of black tar over layers of noise, nearly suffocating the reverb-soaked speed-Cramps action they've got going on underneath. The two do a great job of keeping things balanced, though; blasts of sickly organ push back against their clean strumming and bright, basic melodies in such a way that it's easy to focus on both. Very exciting to hear anyone looking back to the '80s garage scene, when its participants were mostly creeps and loners by trade. Edition of 500 numbered copies.
s/t 7” EP
Second single by these Michigan dudes, who stumble around in paint fumes and streetlight halos and manage to play some garage-sounding drug rock in that state. Really messy execution, “Exploding Mind” continuing to lurch into an alternate rhythm and vocal moaning instead of its punked up start. They cover “Freedom of choice” by DEVO and while it's always nice to hear a cover of a great song, there's something said at the very end that is sort of embarrassing, a shoulder-shrugged “response” to the song itself that needs not be said. Closer “Evil Twin” at least plays around with its B-side status, mounting a quiet groove for a good while before the actual song gets started. Just sounding weird still isn't enough.
Hundreds and Thousands
s/t 10” EP
(Heart Break Beat)
Three dudes from L.A. with a serious Minutemen fixation, trying to transcend that sound into something newer. The singer even sounds like D. Boon! Like Giant Haystacks, they try and build off of the foundations laid down by that group, though the innovations they bring to the formula. With songs longer and with more parts than almost any Minutemen song, and moreover, a compression of their swing into Anglicized death-rock urgency, H&T's dark, dirge-like chords match up with a martial stomp that pulls the jazzbo notions of the Minutemen away from the central rhythm. Really makes for some strenuous-sounding, back-breaking musicianship. It's really impressive to hear a familiar band reworked to this level, though one has to start wondering when these guys will be ready to divorce themselves from certain similarities and become their own band, rather than an amalgam of a couple pre-existing ones. Some real head-turning moments, like “We Ourselves,” hold this thing up high, though. If your tastes reside strictly in between Mission of Burma and Shellac, this is likely going to be your new favorite band. Comes with a free CD copy.
s/t 12” EP
Denmark's Yoyo Oyoy label continues to surprise, from the gentle pop of Kirsten Ketsjer and the electrosquiggle of Frisk Frugt to the pushy grind of Yoke & Yohs, to this one, which is definitely far more displaced than any of those releases. Johns Lunds is a man, and this is his avenue of expression: mostly chipped-tooth noise of variable intensity, some brief snippets of melody, even a sax solo all on its lonesome. A quirky and baffling release with no real core, just extremes pointing in polar opposite directions, and attempting to pull the listener along with them. Didn't sink in on the first few listens, but we'll see about later. Comes in a full-color poster sleeve.
This being my first exposure to KTL, a death-ambient collaboration between Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg, I held the kneejerk skepticism of such a project close to my ears. But I was shocked and pleased at the fragility of the evil and darkness that poured out of this record. Expecting the full-on assault of some tracks from the group's various online presences, as well as the blunt trauma of Sunn 0))), the twisting, malevolent timbres of careful sonic manipulation were instead in effect, squealing quietly as a thunder of ominous drone and sundry electronic manipulations crept around like ivy. The first, shorter piece on this record (“Loud Game”) was commissioned for a theatrical performance; the longer one, “Sunday,” rests on its own blackened powers, metallic flakes falling off of its threatening, perfectly-still frame. I'm wholly impressed, and now feel the need to check out the rest of KTL's output; if 3 is any indication, this may well be one of the most satisfying projects of O'Malley's canon. Edition of 2000 in a tip-on sleeve, with a gnarly Savage Pencil etching on the B-side, and a sealed inner sleeve. Be careful you don't rip yours like I did mine.
“The Very Next Moment” b/w “I'm Sorry” 7”
Los Llamarada's LP from earlier this year, The Exploding Now, didn't really prepare me for the heat they'd bring to this new single. These are studio recordings that unmask their murk, revealing a downright surly ownership of the blues. “The Very Next Moment” dribbles poison ink over a dominant, plundering, beaten-mean countenance, speeding up just enough at the end to recall Catholic Discipline with a more contained vocal presence, or the Fall or Country Teasers at their most misanthropic. Bad politics, baby. The loose banging out of Peggy Lee's “I'm Sorry” caps this perfect - yes, perfect - single off with a breathless female vocal rant, purposed above a ramshackle, gleefully scattered two-chord tumble. Part of the “new sound” you've been hearing. This world is a great place for a few minutes. Edition of 600 - up there with this year's best.
Kill What's Inside 12” EP
(Love the Music Hate the Scene)
Decent/”pro” sounding West Philly d-beat hardcore, mashing it up in an invigorating, if familiar, manner. A spattering of guitar solos makes me think Bastard, but this is nowhere near as warlike or monstrous, though fine in its own right. Ten songs, all dealing with politics meant to open the crusty eyes of group house dwellers - certainly nothing here breaks the skin, but it's fast and now without power, and a pretty good time on the turntable, as I'd imagine they would be live.
s/t one-sided 12”
(Gaffer/Steak au Zoo/Down Boy)
Harsh, anaerobic avant-thrash from France. Sort of like Melt-Banana, but with absolutely no room to breathe. The combination of guitar tone, vocal barking, and sharp, mid-fi recording make this one just about unbearable, no matter who you are. Kids' tantrums. Sounds like early Black Dice with the hardcore aesthetic already washed out. Not the jam. Numbered edition of 300 in a foldover, silkscreened sleeve.
“Bush Babies” 7”
G. Lucas Crane and Jeremy Earl (participants in the Vanishing Voice, Non-Horse, Woods and Meneguar between them), after a brief warm-up, lock into tribal drumming and a ghost orchestra of reeds, drone, and delay. No vocals or anything that dicks up the purity of the concept at stake. Could have come out as some NYC-based art loft 12” (actually huffs the same Holland Tunnel fumes as imPLOG, methinks) and would qualify as really, really leftfield disco. Pretty goddamn rad l'il record. 500 copies, sold out, repress forthcoming.
Auto [repeat] 7” EP
(Architecture of Sound)
Hard, yet completely sterile 808 jams from Canada. One features really unfortunate Pet Shop Boys-esque vocals. Only “Effexor Redux” gets up enough hustle to make an impression. The sound of someone's inheritance going down the drain.
Sound of Singles - Sings Seger 7"
(7 & T)
More like “Sound of a Solitary Man,” as one Gerald J. Schoenherr attacks two Bob Seger hits with a beard, an acoustic, and a determination to recast the Silver Bullet Band in his image. I'm no Seger hater, but I don't think either “Turn the Page” or “Beautiful Loser” needed any further fleshing out than in their original versions. Plodding and morose. Edition of 300 numbered copies in letterpressed sleeves.
Sex Pig 7” EP
Fuckin' crazy, Wildman hardcore from Austin, TX. One of these guys is in that band Best Fwends. My respect for him has grown! Here are some guys who can see over “the crew” of '82 hardcore and get weird with it. Riffs shoot diagonally to the skies, vocals jam the measures with pained yowling, rhythm section rides completely off the rails. You'll be hearing from this bunch. Colored vinyl copies are gone, I think.
“Fire” b/w “Beachgaze Rendered” 7”
(Burnt Brown Sounds)
Man, what did I say about the Paisley Underground? Honey Owens is Valet and she could be the reincarnation of Kendra Smith (or even better, that lady from Dadamah, who have at least a vague sonic connection to Hollywood '83). Rambling, acid-twinged guitar bends and shimmies in the golden sunlight behind her. “Beachgaze Rendered” proves to be gorgeous, spacious, outdoor drone, tape loops chirping amidst the crests and slides. 500 copies, gold vinyl, really takes me back.
“Yuki” b/w “Forever the Optimist” 7”
British guys getting deep. Emotionally deep, with digital delay and big windmills of stone-faced guitar crescendo. I'm old enough to remember when bands like Mineral and Ethel Meserve and Hurl were around. Are these guys? Either side seems like it'd fit on one of those HBO trailers where they present a montage of clips from all their shows, with really stirring accompaniment (as opposed to the gabbagoul shlop they were used to in The Sopranos' heyday). Well, anyway. Here's to licensing!
Introducing the Yolks 7” EP
Appealing, brutally simple garage strummin' from some guys in Chicago who have the right idea about this stuff. Four songs, two of which stay in the sugary-smooth confines of the late '50s malt shop, and two which come closer to approximating the Medway Sound. In both instances, the Yolks establish ownership of the sound through innocence and flawless repetition. Might take a couple of listens for it to sink in, but it shouldn't - that second one, “My Baby Ain't High Class,” with the organ is really sweet. Give 'em a look.
Live destruction from a Japanese wrecking crew of two guitars and drums. The sticker on the sleeve boasts “vicious psychedelic no-wave from start to finish” and that's part of it; as the disc rolls on, the sort of tear-your-head-off moments give way to what I'd presume is the band's preferred track of communication, namely rock-solid Japanese psych with a violent, broken/”off” approach to starting, playing and finishing songs, rounded by excitable, off-time drumming, crazy vocals, and a yellowed, corroded guitar tone that gets meaner and more dominant with each passing moment. Ainotamenishis seems to have a lot of “character,” so to speak. They definitely carry that certain something which puts off those who insist that the music play through musicians, rather than the music reflect off of/come out of them. fine, so they have personality and so does their music? I'll take that. Their songs are all capped off by a unified approach, and the album doesn't play as if they're working through any purely improvisational elements. Rather, their orbit mimics that of the Dead C. or the Magik Markers, playing through themes more deliberate than the former, and far less scattered than the latter. But really, such navel-gazing is tough to reconcile when you're faced with a monster. And this one's definitely in that camp: truly gone, blazed, fucked, jammed out, undiluted hard fractured blues psych with as few concessions to good nature as it has apologies for ruined eardrums or cracked foreheads. They even get into a beautiful l'il folk-psych mode for a couple of tracks, proof that they've got all the control they need. One to watch, folks.
Bad Drumlin Grass
The Invigorating Scent of Bad Drumlin Grass LP
Five extrapolations on musical themes by two guys who are just getting out there, trying to find an opening for their particular brand of musical conversation. The group sounds largely improvised, with that loose and comfortable presence enjoyed by the Sun City Girls, as was reflected in their '90s ramp-up of Majora releases - nothing too labor intensive, just guitar/bass/synths playing off of drums in a relaxed, open atmosphere. There were a few moments where the effort applied was a bit too overwhelming (opening track was that sort of letdown) but once these men found a groove and settled in, my attention was all theirs. “Moon Trek” in particular caught on big, sounding like a breezy cover of Kraftwerk's “Vom Himmel Hoch.” The last track, with a title too bulky to type out at this late hour, also provided stable musical respite from a long day of reviewing. And in the end, respite's all we want, right? 300 copies, paste-on sleeves. Good sounds. Jam onnnnnnnnn.
No Solution LP
Second LP of liberating street punk from this Portland, OR side project, fronted by Paul Burdette of Tragedy. No Solution is missing the urgency of their debut, leaning away from UK street punk a bit and digging into some more esoteric forms (“WWIII” sounds a lot like early Wipers, f'r instance). Sadly, this comes at a cost - the simplicity of their debut was what made some of its best tracks even better, but things sound a little muddled this time, the band tied up emotionally in a political stance that rings true but doesn't suit the monochromatic numbskullitude of the real thing. Also, this one was recorded for $0 as opposed to $67 for their debut, and - somebody's gotta say it - you can really hear the money in the first one. This sort of sounds like a demo-quality recording. Noble, and not without merit, but not a great follow-up, either.
Alien Native LP
Vinyl pressing of the Factums CDR from a few years back. Very glad this has seen the light of day; this is a lengthy and winning debut from a Seattle group playing music for the underside of tables and theater seats, champions of visible filth and degradation and the banishment of effort. I keep thinking of that guy from pre-Human League outfit The Future saying “all we needed to do was push a button.” I get that sense here, one of early electronic forays into punk (Cab Volt, the aforementioned Sheffield acts, Severed Heads) and the dock-hardened genius of the Fall, drying out under a red sun. While lots of minimal synth practitioners try to make things as clean and boxed off as they can, Factums roll around in the muck, but don't overpower their songs with so much crud that the crud becomes the song. Editon of 500 copies in nicely oversaturated silkscreened sleeves.
Filth of Mankind
The Final Chapter LP
Absolutely ripping Polish metalcore with big doom and black metal elements lurking behind. I live in a predominantly Polish neighborhood, but all I ever hear blasting out of cars is really shitty Euro club music, or what amounts to Eminem (or one of his eastern bloc protégés). Why never bands like this, then? Sounds like a thicker, angrier take on German bands of a decade past - ABC Diabolo comes to mind, particularly in … well I can't really figure out what exactly the title is, but you're with me, right? Also the vocals are of a particularly gruff, throaty caliber; none of that ball-pinching of the '90s. Great sound, impeccable approach, brutal as hell. Some limited edition copies come with a silkscreened wraparound sleeve and colored vinyl, but I haven't seen the stats. All's I can tell you is that this was a really worthwhile surprise.
There are too many bands out there futzing around with progressive rock, with “no wave”/”now wave” tropes, with neon-colored wackiness; bands that aren't putting the music out front; bands that have slid down the slope of being “off” (a slope which descends into Mike Patton's open mouth). Gay Beast, a guitar/synth/drums trio from Minneapolis, is not one of these bands, yet they play with all those parts in full swing, a real platespinning act of dynamics, abrasion, and genuine melodic innovation. All mistakes are studiously avoided and pratfalls are timed for maximum effect. All comedic qualities of the band are insular and intrinsic. Their attack is vicious and weird, processing their robotic fortunes under sheets of electronic duress, but their balance is impeccable. Bands like Gay Beast used to get me excited, but none have had such a gloriously bent and creative batch of songs to match up with the innovation. If handled correctly, Gay beast should tap into, then later usurp, the whacking off of outfits like Hella or Lightning Bolt or Deerhoof, or at least play in the same league. Very, very exciting stuff here, which hides its hand with masterful skill, and which plays down that which could easily wreck a less-capable band. Vinyl edition of 500 numbered copies in a silkscreened sleeve.
The Hidden Twin
Asleep in the Valley LP
Second solo effort from Phil Boyd of the Modey Lemon, playing around with a handful of folk and pop idioms, from protest song and stormy ballad to sunny British folk, or something approximating Elliott Smith. He's a commendable guitar player who can work wrong notes and subtle left turns into his playing, but he doesn't sound so incredibly attached to the music insomuch as the styles. A great record is going to come out of Phil soon (and with the Modeys, already has) but this isn't exactly the one. It's a bit too bright and innocent for these times, and for his proven abilities within both psych and garage, a little too simple.
(Heartworm Press/Free News Projects)
Double-vinyl reissue of two CDs by this Japanese trio, all ladies, trying to get open in a rock trio setup. It'd be easier to group this band with psychedelia than progressive rock; their brand of strict, rhythmic long-form jamming doesn't budge too hard from its origins, stretching out a canvas for guitars to scrape and bass to rumble over. They're really good about getting into that groove, which saves a lot of the looser suggestions across this set (in particular tracks like “Pop Group” or “This Heat” or “Sonic Youth,” which borrow sounds if not ideas from these outfits), and I'm sure they could work this to their advantage in the live setting. It's good, it's mind-expansive, and it's trancelike, and it's also working off of those punch-in-the-stomach flecks of shrapnel that fall out of a band like Lightning Bolt, so it's definitely not good for quiet time. It doesn't have the sort of hustle that would suggest they would try to reinvent themselves, though. Brought to you in part by a big legal settlement between Fall Out Boy and that dude from American Nightmare. 500 copies, white vinyl, gatefold sleeve.
Black Bile LP
Winnipeg hardcore coming off neck and neck with earlier Fucked Up, carrying a big chip on its shoulder and a clean, machine-tightened studio sound. I'd imagine this music is better suited to the live venue, as the record doesn't have the sort of dirty punch that'd put it over the top. But there's definitely a couple of winners in here (“Whip and Rein” puts a flying chokehold on Slip It In-era Flag, while “The Last” emulates side 2 of My War a good deal), and it's worth a unforced listen.
Exhausting free guitar/drum pound crap from New Zealand, low on ideas and really dropping the entry level down to where, truly, anyone can play this stuff, musical skills be damned. Might be labeled by some as an outcropping to the bathroom function of Menstruation Sisters, only with that project the actual instruments are pretty well obscured in the mix. Here you get to hear every scrape, every buzz, and the effect is somewhat lost. I'm not above primitive non-music by any means, but this one stalls out early on and never picks itself back up. Edition of 500 in silkscreened sleeves; a blemish on Siltbreeze's otherwise spotless resurgence period. I think this record is a test to make sure people are actually listening and not just talking about bands.
By Doug Mosurock