Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 14
Terror electronics, one of the most saturated-in-bleakness sounds I’ve had the cause to come across. Unrelenting razor-wire blasts of white noise are punctuated by a slow cycle of bass guitar thud, just enough to unnerve you even further. Humming, swarming, electrocuted terror. That’s all I can place here – a full, scarring outcry against the inhumanity of our times. Earlier efforts didn’t amount to a lot, but this one stays with you. 250 copies white vinyl.
First new music from Brain Handle in a really long time, and it’s not nearly enough, but what can you do – two fast, short ones, with “Smiling” being the one to rock here. It opens up a mist into a room and quickly fills up with blinding smoke, to which the band stumbles around and somehow ends up playing even faster. That mist starts to dissipate in “Smiling Again,” which carries a heavy Flag influence, and will take more listens to sink in. White Flag, that is. Just kidding. I like Eddie’s snotty, barking vocals and the way the guitars are presented, bending taut riffs at right angles. 500 numbered copies in green dust sleeves.
Danish duo of sax and trombone, on the same label as put out the Kirsten Ketsjer LP and the Johns Lunds 12”. Actually, Johannes Lund (same guy) is a member of the group, which translates to “God is Female” – God’s apparently a big free jazz fan as well, as these two weave through circular breathing exercises, conversational skronk, and well-received Euro-free busyness. One side is recorded acoustically, and the other “electric” – guessing that they mic’d their brass and sent it through distortion pedals. The result is a buzzing, sustained tonal feedback, which can really only be manipulated through steady, prolonged notes. It’s not as heavy as I would have hoped, though it is plenty noisy. All in all, the kind of effort we don’t see enough of, and packaged between two rounds of silkscreened felt, sewn shut; you have to cut the back open to get the record out. Five colorways and probably not too many to go around.
Married in Berdichev
Solo female vocal accompanied by drone or primitive clatter seems to be an operative mode of kids haunted by a lifetime of violence and fucked up living situations. This one plugs along not so much in the folk/proper way those L’Animaux Tryst singles seemed to, but more in the vein of buzzing noise and lots of delay. Mecca Normal used to do this, and better. You have to be really careful when trying to apply superheroic screamo/emo/Avey Tare + Panda Bear bang on dumpster improv to a valid and truthful musical response. Just this side of too tacky for it to work as well as cleaner, less jerked-around examples. 300 copies. Silkscreened sleeves of Stonehenge paper, looks like something I’ve seen before.
L.A. Guyz. Joel Kyack from Landed is here on drums, back in a more rock mode. The others drag ponderous knuckle over Dazzlingkillmen-style knife’s edge prog, but with bellowing, D. Boon style ranting. It’s cool, definitely more nimble than recent thugged-out examples by Mayyors, but kind of wallowing in a late ‘90s holding pattern. Copies ordered directly from the label include a CDR of MGFKRS recordings as well, can’t beat that.
Melchior’s transformation from the blistering head of an under-recognized garage rock miracle into bent British singer-songwriter genius has been an eventful ride so far, with at least one year-end favorite in Christmas for the Crows. These two point back more towards the rock direction than the album’s internal chemistry, “Certainly 14th St” feeling like the B-side it is, but “She’s So Blank” exudes his weird wit in a slow, sultry diss track. Just one more piece in a body of work that’s beginning to define itself.
Second single from CC, and it’s better than the last one. Converging on hardcore, ‘80s thrash, and early industrial qualities, this is specific-sounding to the borders of obsession, saturated mid-tempo noise rock that borrows from Big Black and Killing Joke in the sentiment, with a little bit of Misfits/tuff guy chorus in “Bloodfeast.” The songs and choruses are memorable, and you get the sense that anyone who can convey this much authority over a sound shouldn’t have to worry too much.
Second 12” by this SF trio, ex-Black Eyes … hell, ex-Rapture too. Heavy bass/dub vibes all over this one, screeching vocals rolling over top of processed guitar and very real, in-your-lap rhythms. Definitely prefer the dub version, as they get impossibly deep in the space provided, pitting double-time drums against half-time bass. Self-released and I really hope these fellas don’t drown; they’ve probably got the most exciting approach to outside-looking-in On-U/jazz-based rhythm roll experiments since Tortoise, and more people really need to be rockin’ their records from the dance music perspective. Edition of 400, silkscreened sleeves.
Teeny emo, it would seem, who attempt to fuse big-chorus mall emo with chunky nu-wave and dark “metal” influence. The result is the unfortunate, flatulent middle ground you really hoped you wouldn’t find; round, Van Halen preset keyboard patches are coupled with a militaristic beat, vocals barked like a drill sergeant when they’re not being Vocoded. Took me a minute, but I realized that this too was a solo project. Anyway, here’s the negative side of that mentality, Guitar Center style. 300 copies in nine numbered color variants.
Night of Pleasure have had some records out on Columbus Discount, and after some synthesizer fuckery, they have another one – standing up, hairs on end, lo-fi to the point of damage to their sound. “Hipster Downgrade” makes these guys seem like observational comics, but aside from the distored yawp of the singer’s voice, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the deal is with hipsters. What is their deal, anyway? If you have a band that sounds like Jawbreaker recorded through pinned outs in a busted 4-track, does that make you a hipster? By the end of Day Creeper’s first song I started getting that sinking feeling that everybody’s into making pop music now. And while this wouldn’t sound so much like the Ohio these folks live in, steeped in the climate of having Times New Viking pretty much around and having succeeded in their own way. And I was getting bummed out, but then “My Blue Screen” came on, and showed Day Creeper leaning hard on rhythm, doing really interesting things like leaning on one key of an orgam for the length of a “solo,” and the general chop that the production leaves all over the chorus, and you start to remember why bands from Ohio are always more interesting than the rest of what’s going on. One out of four, no doubt, but that one is exciting enough to warrant the whole record. 300 copies, hand-stamped sleeves.
Solo recordings from A Frames frontman Erin Sullivan, and quite different from that outfit. Here lie two quiet, surf-inspired instrumentals, minimal and mannered throughout, with careful construction and an intentional weathering of textures. It’s like Combustible Edison going down the Friends of Dean Martinez path, and the tools of minimal synth isolation, used to make the two songs here, become frilly and antiquated in their deployment. Nice times, good atmosphere.
Live Sex Vid single, recorded almost entirely through the vocal mic, which shorts out at a few points. Like throwing a hot dog down a hallway the few times it cuts out, but when it’s on and distorting this thing to noise dork levels, it’s like the Kool-Aid Man, full of bongwater, comes crashing through your wall, keels over at impact, and empties its entire contents into your home. Edition of 500, and rightfully so. Good record though, and will tide us over until the 12” comes out.
I wish the macho studs I know who really follow every crevice of power pop and garage revivalism had the vocabulary to point out the difference between bands like So Cow and every dork in a bunny costume with a guitar. They’re not bad songwriters, but are a bit unfocused; I’m sure if/when indie pop hears them, they’ll claim them – extremely hooky, clean guitars, but to the point where some of the hooks get lost due to overcrowding. The guys can sing, but in this really fey, unappealing tone that points not so much towards righteous US/UK power pop from the peak era, but the knowing, lazier counterpart that flooded college radio in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. It’s hard to get excited about this kind of thing right now, though; maybe I should hear more. Either way, there’s 500 of these, and 100 on white, so if you want to make your mind up you’d better hurry. Reminds me of that movie “Once.”
Three old Tyvek songs which a lot of people heard on that Fast Metabolism CDR. Closet’s cleaned out now, guys, time to make a new record. 500 copies, going fast or maybe gone already.
Cleaner production makes this new Unnatural Helpers record less Ohio and definitely more Seattle. It’s there, especially in the snotty vocals on the title track and “Connecting,” um, connecting them to old Nirvana singles and maybe even Harvey Danger or the Shitty City Devils in the war whoopin’. Man, Spiv was right about that band. Total boner killer. These two songs, however, aren’t, and maybe they should have just laid this thing down with two short ones and called it a day. Unfortunately, the B-side’s two tracks lean into dirty, dumb rock, on the bad side of the grunge equation. Part of the Sub Pop Singles Club, so 1500 of you now own this on green vinyl, like it or not. I’d map out the grunge equation, but I gotta move on.
Last seen on a split with the O Voids, this Montreal band continues to sound nervous and frustrated, sloppily delivering their songs to what seems to be the best of their abilities. Lucky for them, the angst works somewhat in their favor, and recall Sebadoh around Bubble & Scrape, when they were just starting to figure out what they wanted to do as a band. They have it enough together to play a traditional-sounding ethnic rock stomp in “Wizardship Star Destroyer” way up at the top of the neck, like a mandolin. Not sure where they’re going with all of this, but it’s been fun following along.
I’d been playing this one pretty constantly since I got it, so credit where it’s due – my ladyfriend walked back into my office and asked me if I was listening to Imperial Teen. I did a little investigation, and sure enough, Wounded Lion’s “Carol Cloud” sounded like a slowed-down, cough-syrupy take on Imperial Teen’s “Baby” – not 100% like it, but maybe 80%, enough that I’m kind of shocked to play these two side by side. And I like both songs, too, but this is somewhat of a shocker, and while I don’t want to rattle anyone’s cage or discount that two or more people can have a very similar idea, even down to basing a song on a one-note riff, I have to say that plagiarism is not so cool, even with benefit of the doubt given. That said, I still like Wounded Lion, a sloppy, slightly arty pop band from Los Angeles, fusing scruffy college-rock ideas with earnest, even sincere make-believe lyrics. It sounds like it could be the music on one of those SNL Digital Shorts, or maybe something from “Flight of the Conchords” (particularly on “Pony People,” which is about what you’d expect) but has enough going for it that it doesn’t have to rely on comics or gimmickry. 600 copies.
Scuzzy lo-lo-fi power pop, built around ‘90s pop-punk dynamics and chord changes in a way that makes it seems terribly modern for what it is, much the same way the Exploding Hearts and the Marked Men operated. Features members of Army of Jesus, who wouldn’t leave my motel room during SXSW, and that guy Jug who runs Sound on Sound, one of the better record stores in Austin. It’s a cool one, these guys all pushing air around with gleeful dexterity. 500 copies, 100 on white, all in hand-stamped sleeves. On tour now, so go see them and don’t let them starve.
New ambient drone/folk/raga split on this New Age-oriented imprint. Russia’s Gultskra Artikler kind of strikes out with two sonorous, soggy droners to start, but redeems himself with “Berezka, Take 2,” a very mellow, gentle dive into pillowy, Boards of Canada-esque warble and pleasant downer acoustic guitar. The shifting melody and period-specific sounds within are top-notch, and make me wish Artikler would have continued in this direction. England’s Lanters fare far better on the flip, with twolonger tracks. “Snake Ice” builds off of similar sounds and ideas from “Berezka,” albeit smoothed out with Space Echo and cast skyward with hopes. “Dir Tup” removes the electronic menace altogether, opting instead for sunny folk fingerpick and violin screech across a verdant field of bird chirps and light winds. Gray marbled vinyl and a finished CD copy complete the package, a release far more exciting than that last thing these folks sent. Can’t even remember it.
Screechy, emotionally conflicted hardcore soot, featuring one Peppermint Patty lady vocalist, and a screaming male punk behind her. Kinda like third-world Signal Lost, diving into the crust dumpster at times, hyper-political and accusatory. They were from Montreal, but split up before this album could be released. You’re not exactly missing a lot here.
Actual document of an actual Brainbombs live performance, to which non-Swedish parts of the world (Paris and NYC, specifically) may get to experience later on this year. Anyone looking for the heft and bile ejaculating from their studio efforts might be stymied by this tinny, nondescript recording that admittedly has more in common with the flyblown desecration of the Dead C. than “Ass Fucking Murder” or “Lipstick on My Dick.” Nevertheless, the band trudges on, introducing a caterwaul of trumpet to the proceedings. Bleak and miserable, like it’s supposed to be. You break it, you bought it. 300 copies.
Best fusion of powerviolence brutality and stoner riffs since Gasp. A+.
Excellent undersea drone/doom tension from a New Zealand trio featuring Antony Milton. Extra large, echoing studio dynamics sink the listener into the depths of the hull outside the cabin, pleading to be let back in. Muted strings brood, bowed metal and gongs and chains clatter and splash, and there’s a strain of super-screechy viola, distorted and tortured, cutting through the din. Dark like you wouldn’t believe, and actually benefits from the dense, multi-instrumental approach; they’re not hiding anything, but rather outlining the tension. Red vinyl, screened chipboard sleeve. Just about gone, too (can’t be more than a few hundred).
Young scruffy folk-emo out of Florida, which holds up well across an entire album – cloudy anthems about pulling through and knowing when to let go. Is this what Against ME! sounds like? Probably meant for an audience much younger than guys like me, but hey, there’s nothing offensive or upsetting here – just sounds like a bunch of guys trying to get through the bullshit and tell us about how they came to feel the way they do. Lyrics, particularly towards the end, get cynical and somewhat protest-like, but again, that’s to be expected. Got a lotta heart, and while I doubt I’ll be listening to this all too much, you might have a younger sibling, niece or nephew who’s really appreciate this. Gray vinyl, edition of a few hundred.
Second LP of elderthrash from Oakland’s JFC (ex-members of Neurosis, the Rickets, Deadly Weapons and Pitch Black in the trio), and thankfully it’s what you would hope for out of such an effort: fast, perturbed, downwardly-mobile hardcore with Bay thrash leanings, kinda like Aus Rotten with nods to Exodus. Eight songs, and they do get a bit long, but I wasn’t looking at my watch while these songs were playing. I don’t even own a watch!
New from the S-S braintrust is a somewhat unlikely contender, a mostly mannered and tactful outfit from Berlin called Krysmopompas. Heute Schlafen collects the group’s last two full-length CDs onto vinyl. Think of them as you might regard a downmarket version of next-big-thing countrymen Blumfeld. Remember them? Sprightly, noisy indie pop-rock with talkin’ Deutsche vocals? Kinda like 18th Dye and Wuhling in ways? Krysmopompas utilize a very similar approach, minus of course the gloss and desperate stylistic changes, but this particular path they follow lends itself to the matte-finish guitar bite, crisp drumming, woozy synth, and German oration. The claustrophobia in their sound gives the same paranoid, nightsweat feel of MX-80, but with its necktie loosened; cascading chords ring out in mood-setting pallor, as the speeches continue. Very unassuming at first, but as you get through four sides of this group, you’ll begin to appreciate just how much they accomplish within such a strict sound, pushing at the walls around them with increased vigor and restlessness. 600 copies.
Part of the nth-gen No Wave movement, which crazily enough has survived this long, from a few dozen people milling about downtown New York in the very late ‘70s and very early ‘80s, into the same, and often even smaller, numbers in various patches of youth around the globe. Canada in particular houses a lot of these types of bands, some better than others, and some just not good at all. Mutators, from Vancouver, buck this trend, kids who take this sound from a predominantly punk/agitated perspective, and who don’t rely on weirdness, antics, or obtuse musicianship. They get their punk from geographic proclivities, the guitars, synths, and caffeinated drumming all hand-me-downs from Olympia riot peeps of the ‘90s (everything from Heavens to Betsy’s seasick protests to Unwound’s SY-detuned detournments is accounted for on Secret Life, album #1 following a healthy dose of singles and splits). But the most noticeable aspect of their sound is the harsh, screamy attack of vocalist Lief Hall, who can go from stormy art-school chanteuse to slasher victim like she’s flipping a switch. Those vocals can sometimes overpower the music, and have been a barrier of entry on previous efforts, but here things manage to blend in more successfully, due in no small part to the band learning more about how to groove, and finding joys in syncopation, not just dissonance and squalor. Really good stuff from a band that keeps getting better. Less than 1000 copies pressed, roughly half on red vinyl and the other half on blue.
Serious duo. One poet, one musician. You like Patti Smith? Want her to steer more towards issues of cultural identity? Have I got a record for you. This release seems to cull several tracks from Winter Family’s double CD on Sub Rosa, and adds a few not found there. Over backing of piano, drone, and electronics, poet Ruth Rosenthal reads and mumbles and cracks her voice across tales of pain and endurance. Heavy in a way like Xiu Xiu stepping on your head, so if that is your idea of fun, get on this train – it costs 15 euro and includes a DVD with two short films.
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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Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.
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By Doug Mosurock