Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 6
Demo recording versions of two tracks from Mountain Battles. “We’re Gonna Rise” sounds a little warmer and less sharp than the album version, though it’s such a slow, quiet song that the changes seem negligible. “German Demonstration” replaces the album’s “German Studies,” nothing but Kim and Kelley Deal singing German lyrics in colliding harmony over a taped-down Farfisa key. Great if you absolutely love the new album and need alternate takes.
Look, there’s probably a bunch of you who don’t need a review of this but that’s cool, here it comes anyway: I’m glad Owen Ashworth is changing it up a bit but I think I’ve been off of this ride for some years – pretty much always fascinated me more in how worked up he got an audience of kids who I never saw at any other shows, just to watch this guy wheeze his way through some ballads hunched over a milkcrate full of thrift-store keyboards. You’d guess from the response that it was some form of communication that only those who align with only the most misunderstood could understand. But hey, if he wants to jam this cart into Magnetic Fields territory, then that’s cool. It seems like the next logical step, anyway, and to that end he’s got guest vocalists handling most of the singing on these two tracks – a slightly more elegant, Al Stewart-esque presence on the synthy “Old Panda Days,” and a female Owen, right down to the delivery, on the flip. Like I said, enough of you don’t really need a review or commentary on this guy, and will run out and grab anything he releases. He fills a niche; knows where he’s at. Limited picture disc that’s part one in a six-single set featuring artwork from photographer David Horvitz.
Cut-up spoken word drone, the result of Dalek and Oddatee teaming up with Destructo Swarmbots to make their own Last Poets record or something. Heavy production eliminates rhythm completely and focuses on layers of obscured and sometimes clashing organs and sampler against the internal stanzas of the lyric recital. Feels as if the musicianship clearly overshadows the wordplay, so it’s great that this is mostly instrumental – when the lyrics cease, some fine, bottomless, barely-breathing examples of experiments in hip-hop production turn up, ejected out of the airlock and left to drift in the vast, cold entity of space. Pretty great overall, even with the concessions made towards hip-hop, ones that in the case of these deep ambient collages feels like an afterthought, especially as “What I Knew Then” slowly drops to an eventual end. Beautiful picture disk artwork by Paul Romano, who did some cover art for Mastodon.
180 degrees from the spastic output of this label in general, here are two lovely campfire sojourns by France’s El-G. Sung in French by both a guy with a classic sounding voice (“Rendez-vous”) and two schoolgirls cooing instructively on “Armelle.” Welcoming, simple, plain ukulele strumming and a little fingerpicking, brought to life with a calming patience nicked from American country blues ballads. The last match in the box, for sure. Use it to torch CocoRosie and keep this record around instead. 300 copies.
Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck refashion the music of Charles Matthews (who joins them in the trio Spire), in particular a recording of Matthews at the grand pipe organ at York Minister Church – the formidable wall of tooled metal and wooden cabinetry depicted on the front cover. Fennesz’s treatment grows from solemnity with a mid-track series of melodic counterpoints to the piece’s apex, adding a pitch of desperation and longing to the constancy of the source instrument. By comparison, Jeck’s composition is heavily processed, feeding back a shifting set of monolithic timbres atop the organ itself, transforming its sound almost completely, and reminiscent of the treachery on display in some Tangerine Dream soundtracks (spiritually I’d line this one up against Sorcerer). Great offering in a series that continues to do unexpected, worthwhile things with the seven-inch single.
One sidelong cut of SUPER righteous interaction, trumpet meets percussion, steadily morphing bass, and a huge bed of synthesizer stratus reverberating inside the walls of the UFO floating above Kilimanjaro, and one side of BUGGED OUT uncanny electronic reinterpretation of the very same jam. Some real Sun God eternal rhythm here, immense and aligned with the cosmos. Massive end of the night bonfire sounds. This was one of the last records I reviewed and I am so relieved that it was as the experience it turned out to be. Silkscreened sleeve, few hundred copies. Run.
Kids on TV
Indie dance cuts that no club night you or I would go to would play. “You ain’t never heard a remix like this one!” OK dude. Pink vinyl.
Noisy, authentically shitty-sounding, yet kinda raging Swedish hardcore. It’s the product of the Boyracer guy and a gentleman from Swedish group the Javelins beating the waterproofing out of a basement practice studio. Some d-beat, some thuggier Oi-sounding stuff, but it’s got all the excellently squashed, anaerobic dynamics of a Crass record, so if that’s not your thing, step aside and let someone else in on this. 300 numbered copies.
Driving, new wavey punk band from Austin, TX. “Mirrors” is the most intense of the three tracks here, plowing away relentlessly with a guitar slash and claustrophobic presence of the VSS one decade back. More of a traditional, yet still informed take on a garage/wavo hybrid on the two B-sides. Somewhat like the Royal Chains 7” reviewed below, but getting by more on mood and, importantly, what they don’t play rather than what they would otherwise try to overcorrect for. Broody, moody statements lashing out from the core of man. 500 copies, first 100 on white.
Sacramento rolling fortress manned by Chris Woodhouse and John Pritchard, along with two others. Thematically it’s a far cry from Woodhouse’s work in FM Knives, but he plays guitar the same way – lots of fast downpicking and a dominating musical presence. Mayyors are working the AmRep/Blackjack/Bovine Records slums really hard here, scratching out two untitled songs that remind me a lot of a more fucked up, effects-happy Hammerhead than much else. Heavy noise factor, especially at the break on side B, lends somewhat of a psychedelic/rock acid Butthole Surfers dimension to it. Certainly not the first of its kind, but the most decent example of this kind of punishment since the Ludlow single. 300 copies, black sleeve, black matte board cover, black vinyl. Pretty much entirely gone by now, the victim of a pressing shortage. Pick up a copy of the Karate Party LP on S-S for a stronger dose of a very similar thing.
Two sides of improv-based clatter with a focus you don’t often come by anymore in this realm. It’s good to hear that they dynamics of a “noise” scene ultimately hasn’t torn down an avenue for clean, forward-thinking sketches like in these four pieces, half flying coach in free technique, the other half grounded in structured interplay. Thankfully the nods towards crime jazz and soundtrack work aren’t overbearing and don’t really overextend the reach of the other tracks; they’re more Jerry Goldsmith than John Zorn, but bent enough to throw off the norms all the same. Guitar, sax, and drums trio from Baltimore, occasionally switching out the reeds for xylophone, as is done on the final offering here. 300 copies, mint green vinyl, comes in a silkscreened poly bag with a full-color sleeve.
Simple, bashing, melodic garage rock from Montreal. This review can write itself. Definitely on the pre-conceived side of things, but catchy and really fast and athletic-sounding, maybe like Tyvek covering the Rezillos. Laziest review ever, but I dunno – definitely seems to be a lot of bands like this, with only a slight difference between one another. Wirier than most garage, though, which is an interesting merit, one which we’ll hopefully see play out towards less conventional sounds in coming releases. 500 copies.
“Spike” is like top five for these guys, easily one of their best songs to date. Could have fallen out of Bill Fox’s songbook, all misty-eyed WLIR tribute, hardwired with beautiful construction and a big, sweeping chorus; it’s like their “Allentown” and they treat it with that sort of even-keeled respect. “Bloopers” is cut through with some yakety sax and provides more of the off-balance, bookish jangle they’ve offered on all of their records since the outset. Grip it fast because there’s 500 pressed (first 100 on creamsicle orange vinyl).
Pains of Being Pure at Heart! GUYS! Great, great little fuzzy pop song here, built along a single note that rings in key with all the melody and chord changes throughout their track, “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan.” That’s a pretty ballsy thing to call a song, but they rise to the challenge with metronomic, forward-bounding aggression, and aiming at the royalty of noisy indie pop. Parallelograms are even noisier, simpler, but with an even more rambunctious approach (from England … god, I’m hoping), aiming towards music hall dominance. Two songs from them, and a nice complement to the Pains track. 300 numbered copies, far too few. Great single. This and the Pocketbooks single both come with little zines, too.
Pretty OK indie pop contestants from England, shooting maybe for Belle & Sebastian but instead investing more energy into hustling Northern Soul type rhythms, and ending up coming off like a more twee, less edgy Comet Gain. “Cross the Line” is the grandiose statement, with three or four melodies unveiled in succession, while “Every Good Time” zeroes in more on a speedy performance and a winning hook in the chorus. There’s hope for us all yet. 400 numbered copies.
Restless minor-chord dark punk sound gone emo, maybe like Agent Orange really trying to put it out there. I am into it, despite the concessions made to some sounds (hiccupping mall pop from guys with eyeliner and odd haircuts) that I generally think perform too much alike to bother with. Twin guitar leads pull “Crime Scene” forward into some pretty rad, bent solo that’s lashing out hard enough to lose the grip on the surging riff beneath it. It’s a nice effect, even if the band sounds a little too wound up, but they have a lot of tension to answer for in the music, and it sort of leavens any notions of a more glommy preconception of how they might think they should sound. Even the cheerier power pop of “No Love in Your Punches” carries along a certain sadness that’s not normally present in this music, though the desperate longing that makes early rock ‘n’ roll so great is out in force. Nice one. 200 numbered on red vinyl, the rest on black.
Yeah I really shouldn’t but so what. It’s not even the point anyway, because a lot of people want to evaluate Cody Ceeeeee on the basis of music, and are straight up missing how motherfucking funny this guy is. One time after he came down with Bell’s Palsy and half his face went numb, he sent me this picture of himself where he drew a mustache and all this runny shit down the slack side. He can make fun of himself, and just really sells it to you, because when you get down to it, you need some humility to do the things he’s doing. Here we have this song, sleazing around this minimal Eurodisco groove and right in the middle of it, Cody and the rest of the track starts to laugh at you for listening. Waiting for the world to come around with me on this one. History will prove me right. Also, never thought I would say this, but hey: really good Glass Candy remix.
TF is a band chasing to refine itself somehow, anyhow, from rougher and more anonymous edges of past singles to this, the next outfit to fuse glam to Voidoids-esque chatter in a grand and complete gesture. Vue did this a while back, Viva L’American Death Ray came apart midair trying to swing it, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre pretty much perfected it, so where does this leave these kids? In the here and now as a holder of hearts, as I’m sure there will be enough interest in a band that can put this sort of thing up to this level of “togetherness,” today, might have something to offer the latest wave of singles-only bands ready to pull out of the basement. These guys are just fine and likely somebody’s new favorite band. They’re not mine, though. I think it’s kind of slavish and giftwrapped to be playing around with the sort of baggage this role will ultimately require its owners to carry. 500 pressed, first 100 on some color.
Vampire Belt/Magik Markers
Vampire Belt (RIP guys?) wail away with some free rock flail that really captures some pent-up male ego aggression speak through violent, yet almost conversational blasts of guitar strangulatorio. Magik Markers step up with some soupy keyboard drone and acid guitar pullin’ called “Tango & Cash,” and I’ve definitely heard a lot of Markers material that’s worse than this. We’ll call it a deal – first really solid split in this series thus far, but personally it’s made the purchase of this year’s Bored Fortress subscription worth it.
Brief but interesting look inside a new all-ladies group from Brooklyn, a rock trio jangling and reverbing itself into the skies. Sounds a lot like an early Harriet or Slumberland single, crossed up with the “Flowers in the Attic” ambiance of Quix*o*tic. Took a few listens to sink in, but it was worth it. First 200 numbered on clear vinyl out of a 500 copy pressing (repress on the way). Looking forward to checking this band out.
Two generations of Connecticut hardcore collide. Strident, melodic, no-frills, fast old West Coast hardcore sound and at times its ‘90s counterpart. As with Kim Phuc’s single, I’m reminded of new punk bands with a singer older by a generation, and just how angry these guys sound. This one, Donnii, also has somewhat of a Jello Biafra quality to his voice … wait, what am I saying, he’s almost imitative at points … but whatever, you know by now if you need it. I think it’s pretty decent. 300 copies, white vinyl.
Beautiful, moving folk instrumentals by guitarist Smith, a guy who plays like he’s manipulating folk to his own ends. Said ends lie somewhere in between folk, pop, and soundtrack work, with lots of repeated themes that resonate with emotion. He’s nuanced, but mannered in his style of play, as well, up until the first track on side B, “Holly,” where he can’t keep it in his pants any longer and makes like sloppy Yaphet Kotto. After this, though, the record gets even better, darker, almost apologetic for that outburst. Pretty good if you cut out that one song. 300 copies, silkscreened sleeve.
One man alone on vocals, drum kit, and guitar, presumably all at once or at least with the help of delay and looping pedals (the guitar lies across the snare, and is plucked and struck, the sticks no doubt accounting for a lot of the fret tapping and slide effects). The thought to make this a more traditional-sounding effort actually takes away some of its power – lots of screaming, spare/dry/spastic musicianship gives it a sort of Shellac-like, male feel to the proceedings; where this could have gotten a bit more creative in its approach, the tendency to stick to known forms shows the limitations that having bandmates, or just about anyone to bounce ideas off of, can alleviate. Silkscreened, recycled sleeves.
Matador’s recent Mission of Burma reissues are something to behold. Rarely do labels in the independent realm seem to lavish the sort of attention paid to their new, gorgeous versions of Signals, Calls & Marches, Vs. and The Horrible Truth About Burma; all three have been expanded to double-LP format, in thick, textured gatefold sleeves, complete with 16-page full-color booklets (blown up to 12”x12” for more presence), and including the live DVDs that were issued with their CD counterparts. Signals in particular is worth mentioning, not only for unearthing two unreleased tracks from the “Academy Fight Song” recording sessions, but for cutting said tracks and the “Academy”/”Max Ernst” single onto two sides of one 12” record, the grooves so wide they could almost be sightread. Impeccable mastering and a real sense of care for these classic records make these must-owns, even if you’re holding onto originals; the DVDs trump any live footage that’s surfaced up until now. Burma’s on fire live, so unless you’re among that strange minority that doesn’t “get” the band, you should probably see them as often as you can … Anazitisi Records of Greece has two titles out now that are well worth your attention; a vinyl repro of the Anopheles reissue of Homestead & Wolfe’s Our Times and a gorgeous reissue of the third Socrates Drank the Conium album, On the Wings. H&W operated briefly in the mid-70s, an idealistic, somewhat secular light psych-pop outfit with a church group pedigree, a staunch anti-war message (“See the Children Die,” “You’re Freedom’s in Question”), and an highly polished studio sound manned by Hal Blaine’s Wrecking Crew. Only two of the bonus tracks from the CD made it to the vinyl, but they’re some of the best they cut (the moody “Mary Jane” and the righteous folk-funk of “Beat of the Drum”). The Socrates album is my favorite of theirs, and one of the most sure-footed, pure of intent, and freedom-struck of all ‘70s hard rock bonzers. Somebody ruined it a bit for me by saying that the singer sounds like Eddie Vedder when he’s really trying to get it out there, but I’ll deal with that in exchange for the solid dual-guitar interplay and unobtrusive progressive touches on these tracks. This reissue comes in a classy silkscreened gatefold art stock unipak sleeve, and both editions include posters for the release. … Been looking, passively, for the first Sly and the Family Stone album A Whole New Thing since I first started digging, but it’s been that one record that’s eluded me. I gave up, and figured I’d jump on this round of Sundazed reissues while they’re still hot. Nothing out of the ordinary; just a really beautiful, simple, and legit 180 gram vinyl reissue, in a full repro sleeve.
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.
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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!
By Doug Mosurock