Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 11
One side is called “Headphones,” and the other “Speakers.” The sleeve notes detail performers Brad Butler and Karen Mirza’s “attempt to confuse inside and out.” Really, though, it’s minimal dark ambient rumbling with hardly enough runtime to get going anywhere. Probably the least essential of the Touch singles so far, which is a shame, as all of the others have been fairly outstanding. Oh well.
Andrew Barranca & Dave Easlick
Clearinghouse tracks for Barranca and Easlick, two journeymen musicians who seem to be living everywhere at once – Maine, Frisco, South Carolina, you name it. On the lam, perhaps? Don’t run from this single though. While the two tracks on side A don’t necessarily hold up against, say, any Shrimper cassette you’re likely to find in a dusty box in your closet, there’s some lo-fi(re) on the B-side: a sweet melody and bravely chunky sound in “Indigo Boyz,” and some gang yellin’ and micro-hard riff struttin’ in “South Cakalaki.” Accordion and sax get in the mix, without a tuning pedal in sight. Vomit-colored silkscreen sleeve notwithstanding, this is way better than it looks.
Philly kids doing what kids have always done – play heart-on-sleeve in the style of the time. Unfortunately for us, that style is lo-fi. Not that there’s much wrong with anyone who knows what’s going on to be mucking around in the wilds with a Tascam 4-track, but I’ve mentioned this before, as have others: there’s no way to disguise sloppy musicianship and chintzy melodic indie rock with muffled sound and an overextended mastering job. This single is unusually long, and suffers from heavy compression to fit it all in the grooves. There’s five songs here, linked up by static, and though they have some decent riffs, you’ve heard it done before, and better. Packaged in a silkscreened cloth pouch.
BMSR shoots for a fairly busy, forceful push on “Zodiac Girls,” with a muscular bass line and authoritative drumming somewhat reminiscent of Trans Am, but with a pop sensibility in the second half that rounds out the track with the group’s signature vocoded Mellotronia. “The Fields Are Breathing” is as wispy as the full title suggests, nothing but gentle acoustic guitar and robotic vocals. Hinting at a more experienced songwriting from this group, it’s a solid follow-up to their Dandelion Gum album. I’ll bet this bunch saw WALL-E two or three times already. 2000 copies, clear vinyl, but for some reason the one I got is numbered out of 200. I win?
Four British gents working the Dap-Kings/Band of Bees soul revival vibe as hard as they can. “Freedom Soul Dance” is a winner, straight up Impressions-meets-Northern soul dance floor filler, hustlin’ with the same sort of energy Dexy’s once threw at this sort of revival, albeit a bit more close to the cuff. “Havana Club” is an instrumental filler, typical B-side rhumba with a flatulent tenor sax lead. That one can stay there, but “Freedom Soul Dance” storms it and makes this single worth having. It’s definitely going into my next DJ set.
Confused, useless rock ideas laid out on vinyl – like most in-jokes, it’s gotta be funny to someone, somewhere. Uncomfortable merging of wacky indie rock a la Les Savy Fav and some unfortunate sequencer/electronic misuse. From the geniuses who brought you A Place to Bury Strangers and one of the most unpleasant makeshift music venues Brooklyn has seen. Poorly silkscreened cover. 550 copies.
Ambient washed out tinklings of little to no import. Seriously, this is the worst batch of K singles I’ve ever heard. What happened? Why can’t the McTells reunite and save this sinking, stinking steamer?
Last gasp Chicago indie rockers, fronted by Brian Case of 90 Day Men and stocked with a fashionable assortment of local musicians. Case either can’t or won’t sing, leaving the vocals disdainfully flat and lifeless, and the ideas they work out aren’t much of champs either – nothing but circular, Anglophilic turnabouts. “Needs” is long and somewhat lacking, but “Hearing Things” kicks the tempo up a bit and wears that guitar halo riff until it’s able to walk around on its own (much like the gym shorts I never took home to be washed once in 7th grade). If they’re in the Interpol sweepstakes, they might be a little too late, but the band makes like they could have some interesting doings somewhere down the line. Too bad the single doesn’t really make this all too evident until its final seconds.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring
Didn’t expect this at all – Eddy Current picking up steam at a ridiculous rate (new album Primary Colours building nicely off the debut), showcasing their control over their rather plain, chunky, flat-faced sound in extended repetition. “Demon’s Demands” waltzes along at bruising speed for over six minutes, and “I’m Guilty” stays close to the floor for five, both invoking Stooge-like spiritual intensity. These Australian gents really put their foot into punk’s corpse, returning the cool rhythmic imperative of that nation’s rock legacy all on their own. This single showcases the band’s ownership of said act, and captures a game of how far they can let it hang out; more importantly, it’s the sound of a good band getting great. 500 numbered copies – email below to inquire about getting one sooner than later.
“Year of the Pig” b/w “Mustaa Lunta” 7”
The various edits of the 18-minute “Year of the Pig” aren’t necessarily Fucked Up’s best or most interesting moments; the original is still readily available, and in fact featured on the CD version, which includes all of the B-sides. But you’re not here to read about CDs, so here goes: “Anorak City” is an Another Sunny Day cover, and aside from Damian’s screaming, their performance could have easily be swapped out for x number of twee popsters. “Mustaa Lunta” is an original and easily the best of the three flipsides to this series, in no small part that it actually sounds like Fucked Up. And what does Fucked Up sound like? They sound like this song most of the time, but without the keyboards.
Three from the business end of Andrew Barranca. Gaybomb is his noise/electronic outlet/release flooder. Some traction is gained on the Hentai Lacerator split, bombed-out 8-bit bass wrestles with squelch and rewind and gets stuck in the mud. Quite the opposite is going on with Hentai Lacerator, some wired, yowling arty-screamo thing that is somehow even less talented than the dreck that preceded it back in the ‘90s. Painful to digest this sort of shit a decade after the steam dissipated. No bass, thorough waste. There’s tons of bass to spare on the Occasional Detroit Gaybomb EP, though, filtering Southern rap bass, electro crud, jazz swing, and the Residents through their personalized weirdness filters. Then it’s back to overmodulated/accident/noise ram squallin’ on the Ironing split. As for Ironing, well, it’s war, boys – hell of echoes and sound violence reverberating back to the seeds and stems. For the prices they’re asking, you may have to ask yourself if you can afford this. Limited editions, no use getting into numbers.
Incomprehensible outsider music, jittering with instrumentation and chintz, and hovering somewhere between performance poetry and something off of “Dr. Demento.” Where is that guy, anyway? I think this was supposed to go to him instead. Pretty hard to take. Gold vinyl on the first 100 copies, but zero times zero equals zero, so who cares.
Shoulda stuck with Black Anger, Calvin. You got AntiKon’d.
Hey, a band on K that plays like Beat Happening and kinda sings like ‘em too, except out of the single octave baritone. Simple-minded, primitive, and too self-aware to make it count. Unremarkable in every sense.
Two sides of intimidating, low-pitched noise. References include crumbling office parks, depleted uranium, divorce, and the USSR. There’s a consistency within both pieces that’s welcome, with longform treatment given to the sounds of demise and torment. Humid, heavy terror – some of the darkest rumblings I’ve heard in a long time. Comes w/ poster.
Another act blurs the line between the acceptable shit-life garage punk stance of today and the ragged 4-track elegance of New Zealand pop from decades past. This time it’s French/Canadians (including members of the Fatals and Demon’s Claws) gunning for that same long-cherished strain of grimy sincerity, with “San Francisco” straight out of the depths of an imaginary Xpressway release (or maybe a lost B-side to that Shayne Carter/Peter Jefferies single on Flying Nun) while “Ponytail” adopts a slightly more countrified feel – maybe a bit reminiscent of the Renderers. Whether or not these guys are aware of these comparisons is another story, but in a sea of releases in which just about every corner of the past is being unceremoniously dug up (and not necessarily for the betterment of anyone involved), it’s refreshing to hear bands on the right track. 500 copies, black vinyl.
Two more from this creepy sweater-rubber, cashing out all of the curious outsider goodwill from earlier releases in favor of Calvin Johnson’s steady guiding hand. Basic to the point where I’m wondering who exactly this guy’s target audience is. “Moonbeam Window,” from an earlier single, is pretty much ruined here by the studio treatment; stripped of its Casio synth plinking and forlorn echo chamber moan, it’s run through with Dub Narc precision, and ruins any mystique he might have had. Boy-toy pinup photos, as always, are included. Truly useless music.
Three-year-old tracks, presumably from the recording session for LFD’s album Bandana Thrash Bloopers. To quote Troy McClure, “if this is what they cut out, then the rest must be pure comedy gold!” Unfinished, lo-fi sounding tracks of minor import from this NYC area garage punk outfit, poorly mastered and sounding like mud. I will sympathize with “Not Gonna Go To Niagara” – fuck, I don’t want to go there myself.
I was never too quick on the draw for any of those SSLD singles, or for that matter most modern garage, so I suppose I’ve missed out on the estimable output of one Lover! (a/k/a Rich Crook, former Reatard and Lost Sound). My mistake – this guy is great. Transitional T. Rex style glam of the “Ride a White Swan” stripe meets jaunty, sardonic Medway boot party on “Man in the Woods,” just strollin’ down the lane to the village, kicking every ass in sight. “Foxhole Madness” is a little more mellow, and for a while it seems like Crook’s reedy voice might get the best of his music, but never quite sours. A rollicking, well-planned good time. 500 copies, sold out.
New vinyl edition of a 2006 EP by this Bay Area shoegaze outfit, sounding pretty much identical to many of the American gazers of the early ‘90s (Lilys, Black Tambourine, Swirlies), and moving into ethereal/Bedazzled label terrain by the last track. Kevin Shields hard-on threatens to bust through the sleeve, and I doubt anyone involved would deny that. It’s nice to hear this sort of thing every once in a while, and a little scary to think about people for whom this sound was a be-all, end-all world crusher, hiding their true love from co-workers and passers by. I like it; it’s not groundbreaking but it’s fun to listen to. Mine came on fluorescent yellow vinyl.
You’d probably do better going back and re/discovering Tom T. Hall (who’s covered here) or Antonio Carlos Jobim (who influenced “Forest”) than bothering with this smooth, formless puddle of adult-contempo pop. Tucker Martine and Karl Blau are like the Doublé of their generation. Making yacht rock for the soundtrack to someone’s lit thesis isn’t exactly valid unless you love hearing the sound of your own voice. Cookie-mouthed inanity; nearly worthless.
Music Go Music
Second single from this mystery mersh project. Where their first EP was firmly in the ABBA camp (and how – this is MOR to the hilt, produced and extruded like the plastic it’s pressed on), “Reach Out” takes a darker, even somewhat metallic vibe, like a big Pop Factory/Broadway musical representation of “Autonomy” by the Buzzcocks. It’s very listenable but, as with anything that puts on such a front, kind of cynical in its blind worship of the Top 40 formula of yore. Disciples of “The Manual,” perhaps? Time will tell, but Gala Webb (if that is the lady singing) does a good Susan Jacks impersonation on “Goodbye, Everybody.” And yes, “Just Me” sounds ridiculous, just like ABBA. Winner takes it all, gang.
Night Wounds continue to squat the psychic property of ’82 Sonic Youth, though I’m under the impression that these are posthumous recordings. One intense one and one slower one with spoken vocals. Thee is free, you get it. But Mutators continue to impress – definitely not for everyday use, but really going for some crimson tide/moon worship screamin’, if you follow me. Harsh nein-wave squalor with a youngin’ on vocals doing her best Kat Bjelland impersonation. Babes in Toyland cleared through about 70,000 copies of Spanking Machine, yet this bunch will do the same work for pennies; the downside of globalism screeches across their three offerings presented here. Badmaster continues to follow its own jagged trajectory on a self-made map, bulldozing through the Brotherly Shove like city workers on the MOVE compound. 500 copies, 200 of those on purple, and an intense silkscreened sleeve for all.
Second single in as many months from this new Houston punk band (ex-Insect Warfare). Where the first record was local, dealing with cops cracking punk skull in and around town, this one takes a global focus, muddying the sound on their first recording to a suitably reddened, thuggish pallor. Future KBD anthems in the making, especially “Fear the CIA” – a real slugger, all squalling guitars, chugging bass, drum thus and gruff vocals. Not for lightweights. 250 pressed, pretty much gone. Crucial single, though, so grab one if you see it.
The O tackles the Dead, just like they were doing live a few years back. “Cream Puff War” and “Cold Rain and Snow” are the two covers chosen, and since it’s not that much of a stretch to link the Grateful Dead’s first album to the Oneidan gestalt, you shouldn’t be surprised that they’d have chosen these. All the same, great record, noisy and raging and stampeding all over the folds of your mind. And with the tense, taut interplay that belies previous efforts on the new album Preteen Weaponry, you can take your pick at how you want to continue to appreciate this grand band. 600 numbered copies, 300 each on red and blue splatter vinyl (get the blue one, seriously, it’s beautiful), available only from the URL below, Insound, and from the band’s merch table.
Four more muffled missives by this Canadian blankdogger, hammering triumphant Casio chords with cooljerk vocals and an assortment of drum instructions (“Soda Jerk” nicks the Rhythm Ace beat from Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together,” f’rxample). Interchangeable songcraft with an emotionless reading as this shouldn’t really register, but the treatments given to all of the Pink Noise tracks I’ve heard have this illusion of depth that’s hard to pin down, one which is most likely a direct result of how detached the performer seems to be from his material. Doing one thing and doing it right isn’t such a bad way to go out. 300 copies, sold out.
Nitro-burnin’ cowpunk from out PDX way, slammin’ it in with two high-speed rock & roll burners that stay on the tolerable, noisy side of rockabilly to be enjoyable, and two good-time grungefied gutbombs. “You Got to Bro Up to Bro Down” and “The Boss” are going to be getting a lot of spins over here. Goofy, limber dashes to the finish line. Great little record here from a new band that’s got a lot of potential. Gold vinyl for the first hundred or so copies.
Second split single of mid-line nu-soul (Dem Suite) and mellow, vocal housey bump (Spinnerty), reaching for the unattainable in a white dust sleeve. Average tracks, not necessarily the jam.
Seemingly clever, referential indie rock from Toronto, fronted by music critic Stuart Berman. In some way I think they’re going for a Hold Steady/Lifter Puller sort of thing – balding rock with wordy lyrics pulling from pop culture, though they’re nowhere near as together of an act. Berman has a hipster doofus thing going on that is kind of hard to take on record, though I’m sure this opening-strength outfit would be just fine live while you were waiting for some other band to hit the stage. Really, though, it’s his lyrics and delivery that take this effort from average to forgettable. Silkscreened sleeve parodies the old Peel Session releases with the fake band name connector game. Eh.
Uke of Spaces Corners/Justin C. Rhody
Uke and co. (Dan Beckman of Impractical Cockpit with a host of others) chug along amicably on their side of this split single – “Knowing Well” mines a poppy parlor folk melody, sweet as the contents of a hummingbird feeder and repeating itself into a dazed, ramshackle coda. Mr. Rhody offers up four disarming sketches on the flip, little songs that go nowhere but fulfill some manner of purpose for the artist; his statement about his age and performance faults in the third of his unnamed tracks almost serves as a disclaimer against heightened hopes. His songs aren’t memorable but maybe someday this bird will fly. 225 numbered copies.
Pieces of expansive, frigid death ambient from experimental composer and musician Watkiss, recorded in Sweden and the U.S. “Ancestor” plays as a theme to score underwater salvage, exposing listeners to the untold dangers of the deep using feedback, tape collage, and what sounds like bowed metal. Similar themes play out on the B-side, where clinical performance aligns with a sense of darkness and mystery. 500 copies, black vinyl, full color sleeve.
3 A.M. moanin’ in the cornfield from Raccoo-oo-oon’s Shawn Reed, poised to join the whole of youth waste in psychedelia and drone but sidestepping catastrophe by a wide enough margin to rank inside the canon of quality and non-bullshit mood alteration. All it really takes is an interesting set of sounds and the ability to organize them into something deep. Reed gets most of the way there, simply by letting his sources meander – tinkling piano runs off, bass morphs into listless drum banging, booming/faded low foundational tones remain a constant. Not gonna destroy your mind or anything, but there’s a lot worse to listen to, and if you read this column, you’re already well aware of that. Clear vinyl, silkscreened pattern on the B-side. Looks and sounds nice.
Rote Michigan noise-electro, probably should have been called Bad Penny from the sound of things. Distorted bass grooves, crusty 8-bit drum program and shady vocals make up tracks with pretty dumb titles (“I Touched Her Twice,” “Another Girl Dies,” “Strap On Im [sic] a Man”). The vibe stays constantly harsh and trite throughout. Pretty tiring to listen to one end to another; funny, as I never really had that problem with any Mammal records on this label, of which this is a comically pronounced relation. Also my copy came warped just to the verge of being unplayable. All this change is bad. 500 copies.
Debut album by Sean Ragon, following a strong single and other very limited releases. This thing is a beaut, inside and out – really, for me, it doesn’t really open up until near the end of the first side, past some well-trod neofolk material into a trance-like instrumental called “Torch of Man.” From here on out, Ragon seems intent on bending neofolkisms to his will, beyond acoustic powerstrum and visceral vocal barking into material at turns both lighter (“We Will Rise”), more melodic (“Brick by Brick”), and more atmospheric (“A Question of Will” and collage piece “To the Floor!”). There’s a real sense of depth to this work that is usually bestowed upon the quality of the artist – think deep, haunting voice or murky recording – instead of his desire to exhibit flexibility within the genre. 500 numbered copies in foil-stamped gatefold sleeves. Three releases out, and Dais is already accomplishing what most labels in their position could not; their focus on new artists and archival material are quickly making them one of the most exciting new imprints in years.
Goofy, gender-bent electro-novelties; see Ssion or Gravy Train!!!! for a more accomplished example. A whole album of this sort of thing, without the humor necessary to make such songs palatable, just seems uncomfortable – like wearing spandex every day. Horrid synth strings all over the place.
One motherfucker of a debut album by Austin two-piece Harlem, cramming dozens of worthwhile rock tropes across these twelve tracks. I don’t know what they did to make it work, but I’m a firm believer in, well … belief, and if you’re going to lead a rock and roll life, singing about girls and drugs and booze, maybe all that it takes is confidence to sell it. Well, that and being able to play, and to that end Harlem are definitely at the level of their material, storming through this set with love for the Ramones and the Stones, the Broke Revue and Viva L’American Death Ray Music, too. Excitable vocals from both members come off like a non-angsty Isaac Brock, all excited to be out on the road, pullin’ tail and singin’ love songs to girls they just met. Another great rock record in a year that’s been surprisingly full of great rock records, and one you won’t regret checking out. Harlem is on a US tour all month long, so check ‘em out if you can. 500 copies, silkscreened sleeve (white on white, no biggie).
Canadian take on the Low Down Dirty D.A.W.G.S., likely having some sort of relationship with that comedy/nuisance act Canned Hamm. Anyway, cutesy novelty Southern rock, country ballads and muted weirdness all throughout; Ween did this several times, and better, so I’m not sure why you’d bother with this. Maybe it was funny to make. 500 copies, comes with a small booklet.
DLMG = BRKCR. Pretty noisy and not necessarily the full-frontal attack a lot of breakcore nerds would take, which is welcome, as your attention is pulled away from the overall ridiculousness of the genre. Mincemeat or Tenspeed works off of a similar fried/bent electronic axis, starting out with a pulsing tone that gets more and more in the red until the whole Lightning Bolt-style circuit noise warp kicks in. I’ll have to spend some more time with these artists, or maybe not, but I can say that there’s a lot more going on with the music here than most of the examples sent in to the column.
Vinyl reissue of a cassette from 2007, detailing a 20 minute trip with pilots Monosov and Swirnoff at the helm. It’s a transition, to be sure, definitely not as together as the Chocolate Gasoline EP reviewed in the last column but finding its center all the same. If anything, the fumigated vocalisms, heavy organ abuse, snarling guitar ching, and steady drum machine beat recalls of some darkened cross between early Chrome and early Cabaret Voltaire, certainly a destination that many of you would find worthwhile. Side B captures a live ritual in collaboration with Little Howlin’ Wolf and percussionist Peter Barry, seemingly an attempt to capture both a series of rhythms in orbit of one another with a heavy mystic air, plowing head first into an all you can eat Indian buffet. I’ll have seconds! Edition of 500.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
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 is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
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By Doug Mosurock