Still Single: Vol. 5, No. 8
Thanks again to Joe, Herbie, Andrew, Strunk, Justin, Billy, Ms. Sauna, and as always, KBJ for the assists. Keep ‘em comin’.
Arthur & Yu
The whole loss-leader mentality of a singles club where you have to sign up for Arthur & Yu in order to get Tyvek or Black Lips or Blues Control is such a travesty. I make it a point not to buy any pseudo-Dylan/sleepy unplugged Jonathan Fire*Eater records on purpose. Can we just call this one an accident and hand it over for something of value? No? Fuck. 1500 copies, peach vinyl. (http://www.subpop.com)
Awesome New Republic
Though it starts off with some promising blast-beats, this EP reveals itself seconds later as nth-tier “indie”-dance-pop. It’s gimmicky and corny to an unbelievable level. There are some traces of more interesting sources here and the dense agit-electro-pop of several Ghostly International artists comes to mind, but that may be giving this Miami two-piece too much credit. It seems like Awesome New Republic is just grasping at straws, hoping to find something that sticks to, well, anything, whether it be a top-selling ringtone or the theme song to an equally awful reality TV show. The chopped-up claps, thumping bass, processed acoustic guitars, and soaring Timberlake-style vocals combine together to form something that is ultimately safe and boring. Really, these songs just sound like limp Flight of the Conchords outtakes. There’s tongue-in-cheek soulfulness, cheek-to-cheek sexuality, and enough familiar techniques to make Top 40 listeners feel comfortable. No song titles to be found and this was released in 2005, so I’m not really sure what it’s doing here now. Bush league. (www.myspace.com/awesomenewrepublic)
Big Fun 4Ever is a Milwaukee dance pop 4 piece whose bent synths, guitar and drums manage to twist their quirks at just the right moments. It’s small, sweet, and shockingly doesn’t sicken me like I would expect it to, and I have a natural negative reaction to disco beats. Most of the weight is lifted by singer India Lathon. She’s got a great bouncy pleasant voice with more than enough range to elevate the lo-fi back up band. But I beg you: shelve the Iron Maiden/other ironic fonts, and abandon the bad Photoshop color vomit aesthetic. It’s hollow and cheap. Be real. (www.viciouspoprecords.com)
Brian Chippendale has his snare drum tuned and mic’d to the extent that it sounds like a four square ball hitting the asphalt. It’s one of the defining sounds of his band Lightning Bolt, and it is one of the most distinct on these Black Pus recordings. There’s plenty similar between the two projects in terms of the excited presentation and the range of piercing sound flash coming off of these two tracks, but a whole lot different in the presentation. Using vocals, samples, bass and a handful of other tricks, Chippendale gives this music a bounce normally absent from Lightning Bolt’s anaerobic crush, and a tribal ambiance that recalls acid cases like the Butthole Surfers when their weirdness was most proudly on display. Didn’t expect to like this as much as I do. 500 copies, nine-color silkscreened sleeves which push the price point up a bit on this one, but it’s a beautiful job. (www.corleonerecords.com) (http://skulltones.com)
It seems like half the records being released today are reissues of nth tier 70s working man rock, or current stabs at UK postpunk. You won’t have to wait for Holy Mountain 2035’s reissue to grab this latest effort in real-time recycling of the Jesus & Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Flying Nun back catalog. If you still hunger for jangle and shamble amidst all this revivalism, then Los Angeles’ Blue Jungle is ready to give you their mopey best. With the original bands, the basic formula is a sparseness of arrangement, but depth of sound. It’s one I love, but much of it is a slight of hand built on boutique gear and recording technique. Blue Jungle manage a nice dry, reverb soaked guitar tone (which seems to be the only benchmark to cite the reference), but thrifty production and singer Lately BluBlu’s tripping between keys comes up short everywhere else. Great songwriting, especially in post-punk, is often marked by an economy of words. Simple terms say a lot in the right hands, but there’s a line between plain spoken and dopey. “Los Angeles’” “I want to move to Los Angeles/I want to be a rockstar” and “Blue Sapphire”’s “Bombay baby blue/you make me feel happy/you make me feel sad” has a soft headed simplicity when, combined with BluBlu not quite hitting the post, makes her more Shaggs than Ian Curtis. There is only so much that can hide behind reverb. It’s the only thing they’ll need to hide, because I get the impression that people will overlook the flaws for BluBlu’s amateur porn style sex appeal, so while they lack a certain musical savvy they truly understand the genre’s value of artifice. (www.myspace.com/antifiesta)
Paeans to the excessive, ridiculous nature of stoner culture, a band from England calling itself Bong pairs up with an isolated, prolonged torture session of Sunn 0)))-style BM drone from Quittinirpaaq. You don’t need a slide rule to figure out what’s at stake here, both bands ultimately fighting a battle that cannot be won. Quittinirpaaq (P.S. I hate your name) decorates his side with lurches of insistent feedback, stumbling “Eric Clapton Shreds” moments on guitar, and a really unpleasant, unwelcoming outpour of man’s self-doubt, coming to a peaceful, meditative end that feels like a run through the range of negative human emotion for the show of it. Too macho for me. Bong spills out a side-long jam sesh with a swingin’ drummer, a favorite key (things don’t stray far out of it), and dueling guitar and electric sitar interplay. As stylists, sure, this stuff is fine. There’s lots of it, particularly in the wake of bands like Kyuss, so here’s one more for the pile. Which means there’s an audience that really, really likes just this one kind of thing. I’m good friends with someone who subscribes to this notion, and out of it I hear a lot of people enthusiastically throwing themselves at a wall, where ideas don’t more forth and everyone’s content to jam, like, Grand Funk and Fu Manchu records from here on out. Probably pretty rare (Aquarius wrote this one up recently) and likely out of print. However, there’s another Blackest Rainbow LP out by one Cam Deas, a folk guitarist in the James Blackshaw micro-tradition, which you should pay closer attention to (more on that one soon). As for this, 300 copies, paste-on sleeve. (www.myspace.com/landbong)
Dannibal is an understated outing for Mr. Kidwell. Two Cex traits you won’t find here: retarded sexuality and ridiculous swagger. The middle-finger by way of uncleared samples has been conspicuously dialed-down as well, unless he’s built Dannibal with Boards of Canada samples as a primary source, and Kidwell has definitely made a conscious decision to put the vocals in the backseat. The focus seems to be on repetition, groove, and accessibility; not one second of Dannibal falls into the realm of “noise” and halfway through “Hotso” (side 1, track 2), a handful of notes are repeated for so long that I checked for a locked-groove. Don’t read me wrong, things get dense and layered throughout the album, but Dannibal is never a BUSY record. New listeners coming to Cex through misguided Girl Talk comparisons are simply scheduling a future disappointment. This is not a party record, nor is it track-after-track of pop songs made out of pieces of pop songs. It’s a mood, and by extension of achieving such, a success. (wildfirewildfire.com)
There are two types of first-gen post-punk: The bands/artists who continue (somehow) to influence new, young bands/artists and whose reissued vinyl can be ordered alongside a doves-in-flight/Commodore 64/neon-bars-shooting-out-of-an-elk’s-ass collage t-shirt, and the bands/artists that would clear an Urban Outfitters if played through the overhead system. Circle X is one of the latter. Always more of a passionately antagonistic OG noise outfit than quasi-Communist punks that want to sound like The Gap Band, Circle X formed in the no-longer-all-that-unlikely city of Louiseville, KY in 1978, after the city’s two punk rock bands dissolved. After relocating to France, Circle X played their first-ever live show, the recordings of which make up most of this 30th anniversary 10” EP (it’s buttressed by a few more recent recordings, as the band is still somewhat an active concern). Equal parts anyone-can-do-it attitude, antagonistic No-Wave experimentation, and disjointed messiness slicing in all directions, Dijon ‘79 makes Gang of Four sound like Joe Jackson with ease and even neutralizes no-wave contemporaries DNA, Lydia, and The Contortions. Circle X deserves a big nod for lasting three decades on their own terms, through the death of a member and extreme (but invited) obscurity, though the curious should start with the studio works or at the very least, have an idea of what they’re getting into. (www.fractal-records.com)
Consensus on these guys? Great band! Most entertaining and humorous live show I’ve seen in some time (they could take some tips from the Walkmen, perhaps the old-timey saloon theme restaurant waiters’ outfits), various varieties of showgoer onstage throwing down for the Velvets and the JAMC in the most not-so-subtle ridiculous yet righteous manner possible. They wanted to look cool while playing, and they did look cool while playing. They put off everyone I came to the show with and then some, which is where the hilarity plays in. I’m still chuckling over this, and unsurprised that I have a good time doing so. The Assman is in this band! How can you hate them? I lost my sunglasses today – really bummed about that – but if I were the singer of C. Stilts this wouldn’t have happened BECAUSE I’D HAVE FUCKING LEFT THEM ON. I groove out hard to both of these jams, and appreciate the somnambulant, crossing-over-the-median organ of “Sugar Baby” more than I do that cloying, recycled guitar riff in “Love is a Wave” (really the only thing these kids do that I don’t like is when they nerd out) but this is a minor complaint. Crystal Stilts have improved far beyond the fragile mope of early shows. This band used to be the worst, now they’re good. More could stand to follow in their entrepreneurial paths; sure beats working. (www.slumberlandrecords.com)
Remember, youth, that there was a time WAY before “Just Like Heaven” or “Lovesong” (or even their second album) where the Cure must have seemed like a slightly less arty Wire, a version of the Wire that might have been more social, less concerned with feats of reinvention. I would be pretty surprised if the members of the Cultural Decay hadn’t ever heard Three Imaginary Boys before putting together their outfit, barely competent yet damn entertaining. These cats lasted from 1980 to 1982 (yes, when the underground on this side of the pond was getting all hot ‘n’ bothered for Rollins and Stabb and Brannon and Biafra, much of Europe was still off being AS EUROPEAN AS POSSIBLE), knocking out a single and a two-track 12” of, well, barely competent stuff that people are, for reasons that pass understanding, calling “coldwave” as opposed to “Stuff that from the title track shows Belgium was totally blown away by Joy Division.” (OK, maybe “coldwave: has its uses.) Note for note, “Brave New World/End of the Corridor” does split the difference twixt Robert Smith and Ian Curtis nicely. Synth drone, flickering guitar (the vocal trade offs are pure Gang of Four). Gotta love the oops-the-tape-ran-out ending on the A-side. “End of the Corridor” again goes for Cure guitar and J.D. Demo synths. The title track and “Thin Rope” both demo in strangle-fidelity, gives you a nice taste of their ramble live. “Thin Rope.” The two-track 12” is WAY more semi-pro J.D. - rolling, rumbling drums, melodic bass, guitar-as-effect but by ‘82, even Minor Threat was digging melodic basslines and rolling drums (what’s up, “Salad Days?”) Luc Van Acker (later to be in the Revolting Cocks) is on this one somewhere, and is responsible for production. This is wonderful stuff to have around the house, especially with its lovely full size booklet, detailing a sharp band memoir with plenty of photos that remind you of how great all this stuff looks in black and white. The LP has seven songs, the CD version has 12. (www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
There is a sticker on the sleeve that says “features members of Beat Beat Beat, The Carbonas, and the Heart Attacks.” Do I really need to add anything else or does the sticker have it covered? It’s a perfect blend of the first two bands, and they left the Ron Wood hair fanfiction of The Heart Attacks out. Vocalist Stephen has a touch of Frankie Stubbs’ gravel in the voice, which helps keep them out of the pop-punk territory that modern garage has made some moves on. If you like this sort of thing, Customers’ debut gives out three big anthems with strong melodies that nail the sweet spot. Just don’t rush the LP, dudes. (www.robshouserecords.com)
Sacramento’s Ganglians are a bit of a mixed bag. Much has already been said about the very obvious influence of the Beach Boys on their music, with other press throwing around descriptions such as “summer pop” to describe their sound. For the most part, these notions are a hindrance since they don’t really possess the vocal chops to pull off the harmonies they attempt; some painfully off-key accidents are the result. When Ganglians play down (or mix down) the harmonies and Mike Love-inspired “ba ba ba” backing, they are capable dreamy psychedelic pop that is well worth listening to. Their song here, entitled “Voodoo”, is a blissful chugging guitar pop song with a great chorus hook and is probably their best song. Since it has a better recording here than on their Monster Head Room LP, if you only wanted to own one Ganglians track, this might be it. On the other side of this record, Eat Skull laya down two more tracks of Xpressway Records inspired lo fi trash pop very much in the vein of this year’s excellent Wild and Inside LP. Overall, a well above average example of the much maligned split 7” format. Only 400 copies and most likely sold out. (yakamashirecords.net)
Ecstatic Sunshine/Lucky Dragons
Not completely sure why you would press a split single on vinyl heavy enough to eat a BLT off of then put in the dishwasher (I gotta try that sometime) but here we are. Part of the Friendship/Trip series of Baltimore pop experimentalists, and if the Lucky Dragons side (“Take Turns”) is any indication, they are going in a fairly tight circle of electronic frippery. Is that thumb piano? Vocal swirls, shaker … I blame Animal Collective. Ecstatic Sunshine’s “Easy is Right” fares a bit better, guitar rendered glitchy but not obtuse by the outfit’s sole constant, Matthew Papich, who is now rockin’ a lovely guitar shimmer not unlike an American response to Vini Reilly. It’s drifty and pleasant, then it deconstructs itself with honor. I quote: “Packaged in limited edition of 500, 180-gram vinyl in reverse matte sleeves that are lightly embossed by Verlag Gottlund.” So yeah, it’s lovely looking, but two abstract tracks get this treatment? Really? I’ve seen this thing retail anywhere from $7.50 to $12 and I would like whoever buys one to maybe pay for the next round of drinks, wherever they are. They can clearly afford it. (www.wildfirewildfire.com)
Trafficking in “cabin kraut” up in Ontario, Electroluminescent shows promise on Measures, the group’s first vinyl release. Ryan Ferguson, the band’s sole member, stretches out some blissful drones across this seven-track full length. Extended, psychedelic pieces like “3AM Rutherford’s Rock” drag the strip mine floor to locate similar territory to jamming brethren like Surface of Eceyon or Landing. “Rattle Around the Corner” peaks sparkly analog synths above the bass and percussion surface. Like the best kraut rockers, Ferguson knows the right amount of variety to throw into the mix, augmenting held passages with new tones intermittently. “Road Behind” introduces some nice distortion and pulsating rhythm behind the track and to a nice effect. There’s nothing groundbreaking here (or even too original for that matter) but it’s just pleasant. Measures breezes over the listener like the summer wind, offering a sound that is new yet comforting. Limited to 500, you could do much worse than look this up. (www.blackmountaindistribution.com)
It seems like only a few months ago freak folk/freemo was the rising star of underground music, but the kids quickly learned a thing or two about digital recording and descended into the world of weird punk. Zola Jesus’s brother Max Elliot turns back the clock with three brooding tales of loss, soulless doom, and woe that, for all its minimalism, manages to convey more sound and idea than much of today’s bedroom psyche warblers. That family must have some demons. Dark folk, with the barest instrumentation: just an acoustic guitar for melody and percussive rhythm. His voice is smoky and raw; on “The Nature o’ Nature” he has a touch of an unrefined Greg Cartwright’s midrange drawl, whereas the B-sides are shorter and have an increased urgency. The 45 is a perfect medium for this type of sound, and he manages to vary tempo and tone that would be difficult to maintain across a longer release. (www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
The sole release by Florida’s Ghost Aquarium made it to my PO Box by way of two closely-related things I haven’t done in ages: Purchased a record through an advertisement in Maximum Rock ‘n Roll, and making that decision based on the description contained therein. In my late-teens, a single Dinosaur Jr namedrop was all it took to liberate cash from my tenuous finances, and I simply wanted to revisit this era of mail-order success and disappointment. Thankfully, “Light Cannot Escape” does what a song should do when a band anchors a sound with Eugene Mascis’ handiwork: It feels like early Dinosaur Jr. The way every part of the song – chorus, verse, intro, etc – serves as a stand-alone hook, and the quasi-metal chug of the guitars is, well, also a big hook … a band can either do this right or do it horribly wrong, and Ghost Aquarium do it so well that I would purchase their debut album (if one ever pops up), content unheard. I’ll even continue to overlook the “Ghost” part of their moniker. (www.myspace.com/rippingrecords)
Just like the cover photo of an infant wearing adult’s eyeglasses, the music on this 7” isn’t witty, clever, memorable, or cute. That would be less of an issue if Ghost Hospital didn’t believe they invented those four attributes. It would still be bad, but it wouldn’t be bad AND irritating. Underneath an equally tedious sub-genre that won’t be named or discussed in this review, there exists a micro-genre of early-to-mid 20-somethings that worship at the altar of faux-naiveté and wide-eyed kiddie quirkiness like late-period (read: “godawful”) Jonathan Richman, Daniel Johnston, the worst of the Irrelevant 6 bands (care to join the Music Tapes on an onstage trampoline? Anyone?), the altogether separate exploits of Of Montreal, or the Pacific Northwest (the part without a literal and figurative set of balls) never happened. Yes, navel-gazing has enjoyed yet another resurgence; this one fueled by AAO (the Arrogance of Assumed Originality). Ghost Hospital is acoustic-based pop set at half-spazz; grating nonsense that settles for public-domain melodies (like what a child would hum, or the random notes in a commercial jingle) over the task of writing REAL HOOKS. So, if your thing is obnoxious LA! LA! LA!’s on top of sub-par Violent Femmes/Dead Milkmen/Beat Happening shamble-crap courtesy of art-school manwafers that haven’t heard one or all of those bands and proudly say things like “I don’t own a TV,” and if the word “Ghost” in a band name or “Teen Ape” as a label name doesn’t send red flags crashing through the roof of your skull, suit-up in your stinky and wrinkled middle-management/horse-track-parking-lot-bum duds and please wreck that overpriced single-speed on the way to the record store. Now, if these guys didn’t believe that they invented witty, clever, memorable, or cute, I’m going to feel terrible. (www.teenaperecords.com)
I hope these guys sent a promo copy of …And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe to Mike Patton or whoever it is that decides the future Ipecac release schedule. Theirs is a very specific, near-tribute approach to early/mid-90’s noise-rock love: clean singing/yelling, organ, pristine production, nonsensical chord-progressions, loads of drama. Sort of a throwback to yesterday’s artsy-aggro that WANTED to be on a major label, like Ethyl Meatplow, Therapy?, Gallon Drunk, Cop Shoot Cop, and especially Claw Hammer. Not exactly a bunch of bands beating the reissue offers off with a stick, but what’re you gonna do? As far as contemporary acts go, I’m drawing a bit of a blank. Racebannon with a lot less Racebannon? Just imagine a boardroom creation by the aforementioned Ipecac label, if they did that kind of thing. Side A is dubbed the “Crushing Side” while B is the “Carnage Side,” and I hear no discernable thematic difference between either half. I can tell you that Grappling Hook’s music is neither “crushing” nor violent, but rather a very loud post-avant-aggro, but not very distorted, nor very thick, nor very guitar-based post…hold on a sec, did I just write “post-avant-aggro”? The organ makes the riffs on …And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe, not a guitar, so inherent heaviness is replaced by forced heaviness. This is going to blow some listeners away, really; there are tons of people out there that would give their firstborn to this band after hearing this album. I, however, take my aggro-revival with a side of subtlety, and this is one subtlety-allergic band. (Facebook)
Full-forward agitpunk, circa the late ‘90s dream, is the agenda for San Francisco’s High Castle, a bright and spastic shove from behind into churning, machine-like, attenuated pummel. Drums pound on every beat, cemented in by buzzing blankets of guitar and bass, punctuated by defiant, sing-shouted vocals. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, it’s cool to hear a post-punk band giving this much thought to the whys, and not just the hows. Plus they ask the tough questions, like “Are Fixed Gear Tricksters the New Rollerbladers?” The answer is YES. Sounds great on vinyl as well, short songs given the bolster of 45 RPMs. About 500 pressed, intricate two-color silkscreened sleeves wrap it all up. (www.zumonline.com)
Monotonous practice-space midtempo punk rock, bandied about by at least one person as sounding like Pissed Jeans. I’m here to tell you the aforementioned statement is a very tangential claim at best, but I have a couple of questions for the British populace that I’d like to have answered, and this is just for the guys. Do you have any fun growing up? Or is it some situation where you have to walk around in constant fear of getting beaten up or stabbed or having your ear gnawed off by some psychopath? This question stands for anyone born or raised in the UK, a/k/a if Philadelphia was a country. Hoping to start a dialogue on this and help you all remember that you need to do your part for rock and roll. Not like this. 250 pressed. (www.myspace.com/sexisdisgustingrecords)
See Saw is the best album I’ve reviewed for Still Single, hands-down. There, that’s out of the way. (Ed. HA!) NYC’s Illuminations choose to be a part of the CollageCore (I made that up…it’s mine!) movement, a trend guilty of visual rather than sonic homogeny. It’s true that, upon processing See Saw‘s neon stencil cover art, I expended to hear yet another band wholly-unburdened with songwriting skills and flaunting a calculated lack of fidelity. I was wrong on both counts…embarrassingly so. As in, it was quite surprising to hear at least three AMAZING pop songs before the record was flipped. Stylistically, don’t expect to be knocked silly by invention. Expect countrified indie-pop and psych lite, recorded clean and efficiently. But the fucking hooks on this one … wow, it makes writing about a good hook ten times harder than it usually is. Wilco wasn’t the American Radiohead (figuratively) during the first half of its career because no song was positively devastating or uplifting, and Illuminations has assembled a whole album of what the world wants old Wilco to sound like. You think it’s easy to operate within the confines of Americana/roots-rock/alt-country without coming off as insufferable slummers or instantly-forgettable rural action figures? It isn’t, but Illuminations do this … perfectly. As a closing clarifier, See Saw dabbles in enough Elephant Six-isms and dressed-down indie rock to carry a wide appeal. If this band sticks to it, they will be huge. You know … in a good way. (www.allhandselectric.com)
Beautiful fuschia vinyl gives these Geordies a wonderfully spinning psychedelic placemat on which they can scrape, bow, and drone away. And while on other recordings they’ve found the ecstatic pulse of cheap Casios and bowed electric guitars, here they leave things to simmer. The same instrumentation is present, but tracks like “A Grieving Vision Broken” proceed in their own circular logic, arriving back at the starting gates despite the appearance of some lovely piano straying. “Fishing Trip” stumbles around in a distinctly British post-drone ambience, though cold temperature minimalism and clanging sounds. The lengthiest track, “Tower of the Sunset Eye,” ascends to the occasional heights of past greatness through a simple repetitive figure, ringing Tibetan Bowls, and the thickening charms of dictaphone afterimages. The title and collage-based cover art suggest earthen monuments and misty dawn, though I hear the sawing menace of night instead. (www.spiritoforr.com)
Despite mild attention for his debut 12”, New Orleans’ Walter Jones has merely been a part of the background with regard to the deep house and neo-disco scenes during the last several years; one of those producers that you remember liking, but then slips through the cracks of your consciousness and subsequently, your record bag. To make matters slightly more complex, the aforementioned single, 2003’s “All God’s Children” was actually a pair of remixes of Jones’ original version of the track, which didn’t see the light of day until five years after the fact. A curious trajectory, speckled with a couple of releases here or there, none of which match up to the artist’s new single for the DFA. “I’ll Keep On Loving You” sounds like sleazy and slow Eurodisco of the ‘80s, trying to replicate the sound of American R&B records of the same era. The uplifting pads and echoey vocal licks, which sound like they are disappearing down the rabbit hole, keep the track mysterious without completely handing it over to the dark and brooding side of things. “Living Without Your Love” is the true standout here, though. A straight forward mid-paced, soulful track, worshipful of the Paradise Garage, it’s complete with sultry female vocals repeating the track’s title, some guitar accents here, some fancy keyboard acrobatics there, and a nice key change to bring it all together. Sensible dancefloors seem to love this one. An instrumental version appears as well. (www.dfarecords.com)
The Juan MacLean’s new 12” is a telling view of what fans have come to appreciate from the band’s live shows over the course of the last year or two. The new songs, which are collected on the recently released The Future Will Come, are bright, catchy and make clever use of all of Juan’s influences; classic disco, Chicago house, early Detroit techno, post-punk and 80’s synth pop, without trouncing all over them or over using any one to the point of saturation. Well done, guys. “One Day” fits perfectly into this tapestry and does not fall far from the typical DFA template of hook-laden, danceable electro-rock. The synthesized string arrangements take the track to another level and are arranged perfectly around MacLean and Nancy Whang’s vocal patterns and melodies. Once again, the ‘right’ remixers were chosen for the project, with techno stalwart Mark Romboy’s mix coasting into an easy first place position. Romboy strips the track down to its bare elements and unleashes a techy stomper that will not alienate a fickle dancefloor. Emperor Machine comes up a bit short, darkening what should be left as an uplifting late night journey, but might appeal to the pickier DJs afraid to admit they still pack DFA releases. The much-hyped Surkin thankfully moves away from the electro-squelch he is known for and turns the track into a big room house anthem, taking the vibe of the original and force-feeding it a 50-bag. This will stay in many crates for a while. (www.dfarecords.com)
Returning from an early college class years ago, I found myself alone in a hallway with a single large box Rice Krispies, top open. Clearly, there was only one option: kick it as hard as possible and rejoice as it tumbles like a cereal-spraying pinwheel. This Juiceboxxx 7” is my musical box of Rice Krispies, an embarrassing nightmare on paper and in practice. A scrawny twentysomething white kid with a squeaky voice, dressed like off-brand Andrew WK, delivers trite ‘90s party rap a la MC Chris or Frontalot without the nerd themes. Let’s call it “friend rap.” “Thunder Jam #5” sounds like he jacked the drums and at one point vocal meter from OPP. He probably doesn’t have to worry about Treach hearing it though. “Thunder Jam #6” is some other garbage and the whole thing sounds like rappin’ Atom & His Package for 2009 people with low standards. (www.viciouspoprecords.com)
Tired synth-punk, nth level Lost Sounds retread. Two songs that swirl and snarl but stay put in the garage, door open, engine running, not sure where to go tonight. Naked chick on the cover, to keep with the usual Pac-NW seediness. Music out of ‘99, artwork out of ‘89. Blue marble vinyl on my copy.
Trying to play catch-up with some very well-deserving titles that for some reason slipped through the cracks over here … L’ocelle Mare is one Thomas Bonvalet, an acoustic guitarist playing solo in various spaces around Europe with a tight seal around the concepts of structured improvisation. What you might think would be dry and stuffy instead comes across with a manner of restlessness, cramming melody and mood into complex and sometimes violent chord structures. There’s a little percussion looped in and a stunning control over rhythms that, at 45 RPMs, threatens to jump right off the turntable. Recorded in 2006 and released earlier this year, these untitled works seize opportunities to dazzle, melding Derek Bailey-style improve with touches of flamenco and the sort of dashed-off melodies you remember from Gastr del Sol. Bonvalet, a Frenchman, is one to watch, sharp and dexterous with his instrument, and capable of building fiery moods that rip the strings right out. Incredible, moving, and probably long gone – only 222 copies were pressed. Hit the label up and see if you can still score one; non-thinkers needn’t apply. (www.minorityrecords.com)
Pouty-lipped but resilient, SF’s Mantles are working classic cars, Everly Brothers-style pleasantness, and syrup-sticky guitar lines back into the modern vernacular. Following a rough-hewn debut single comes these two pleasant little numbers, “Don’t Lie” gently scolding over sweet Silvertone strum while “Secret Heart” gets a little stormier, with some crumbling fuzz guitar and a slightly more difficult path to follow. Nothing new here, but what’s done is done well. 300 copies, silkscreened sleeves. Look for an LP on Siltbreeze someday. (mtstmtn.com)
Making significant progress towards a more song-based form from their debut album, Matta Llama manages to give a commanding, memorable argument for the appreciation of prog-rock jammers in the modern era. The formless wander of their first album (on James Jackson Toth’s tragically flawed label Mad Monk) has been replaced with the imperative to walk some kind-headed ideas around long-form, fluid playing, carpeted with tasteful harmonies and wilding out on acid guitar. The stance they take reflects upon itself, not unlike the hazy insistence of fellow smoke stylists Religious Knives, but with a wider palette from which to draw: excited electric violin, loping drums, vocal mantras fading to the din. Nobody overplays; there isn’t any gimmickry in the choice of lead instruments or the directions taken. There’s molten heaviness and the potential for greatness within this mix; so much of the better rock/improv out there stems from these improbable, but within the reins of Black Dirt Studios (Witch Channel being a gratis recording job during the studio’s “soft launch,” to which the band got to enjoy a professional recording environment, as well as the time to unwind within it, in exchange for being the operation’s lab rats), Matta Llama finds ways to clarify the countenance of its muse, without overdoing it. It’s as good as most jazz/rock/prog records from the early ‘70s as you’re likely to find – Agitation Free comes to mind – and best of all, it showcases musicians making new from old, with few concessions for today. 500 copies, silkscreened sleeves. (www.blackdirtmusic.com)
Slashing, buzzsaw goth-punk trio from Vancouver, continuing in a never-ending hot streak that the city thankfully engenders. They’re a femme fatale/lip ring wearing combo, indebted to the Pack and the Banshees with a snaggletoothed, ripping presence, blasting out of these grooves like the kind of post-Bikini Kill record Kill Rock Stars hung up in favor of grad students and artsy nonsense, setting personal speed records in the dark. Miki (or Nikki) does the vocalizing, and this is where it’s all in a name: a band with “Creatures” in its moniker donning Siouxsie Sioux’s steezy-steez. Gothy dress up is “in” right now (see Tamaryn or Religious to Damn), so it’s nice to hear a group that’s hasn’t tired of punk rock yet, and is willing to merge the two instead of trying to shoehorn their place into the past-present. This stuff shoots straight down the line, not getting anywhere near calmed down until halfway through the second side, until the paranoia kicks back in. Been listening to this one for a while and it’s grown on me. Keep it up, kids. (www.myspace.com/grotesquemodern)
Side proj act-ch from Ripley of Wooden Shjips, presented in the same anonymous-style package as that group’s earliest releases. Moon Duo follows the same simplistic patterns of the Shjips, but from the sound of these two extended tracks, it’s going to take a little bit more to make this project work. “Love on the Sea” is a one-chord wonder for sure, but it’s really thin despite its length. Firing off in a manner that leverages Krautrock with something less beguiling/more accidental, the track never jells, and at over ten minutes long, that’s a critical flaw. If a band like Wooden Shjips fades into the background for you, this one is even less substantial, and it took a good four listens before I was able to concentrate on what little was happening out of the murk. “E-Z Street Ext” works out of two-note organ drone, fuzz guitar and more fuzz guitar atop a drum machine, and covers even less ground, ending with a hi-hat ride into a locked groove. I’m scratching my head as to what Brohann Sebastian Bach was trying to get at here, and while I won’t write this project off just yet, I’d have to say that anyone coming into these with even the slightest expectation, or who has experience in the sounds this guy normally rolls in, is going to be let down. Almost on cue, another release has already been announced on Sacred Bones. Should’ve seen that coming. (www.myspace.com/moonduo)
Some three or four decades ago, there walked a 100% to-the-core idiot, a man so asinine and irrational that he was homeless because of stupidity rather than financial woes. Additionally, this pathetic soul suffered from a very, very rare affliction that causes one to uncontrollably cram potting soil and cat litter into their ears. But this human mistake held sway over a handful of sycophantic disciples, and they would spread his ass-backwards, senseless murmurings across the land. One day, our über-moron stumbled upon the first Tom Waits album and immediately forced his minions to preach the greatness of this Waits character. “Everyone should soak up and revere the music and more importantly, the IDEA of Tom Waits!” Soon, the dunce (with an oddly ample vocabulary) and his followers had ticked an alarming number of music “fans” into believing they genuinely enjoyed the music of Tom Waits. On a related but unrelated note, this is also how tomatoes became part of a food group. Back in the ‘00s, a number of young, attention-starved musicians saw Tom Waits as the perfect escape from the far-too-demanding world of timeless songwriting and big hooks. On top of the Tom Waits blueprint, even more charlatan-bait was piled…some gypsy poppycock here and there, some gross misunderstandings in the name of torch songs, etc. Italian bands Movie Star Junkies, a band that should be ignored based on name alone, and Vermillion Sands (I like that name), both toil here in this aural ghetto, a micro-genre that is hopefully on its way out if there is any goodness at all in the world. (It should be said, though, that the bands are covering each other’s material here, and in both songwriting and execution, the Movie Star Junkies are clearly the corrupting influence here. –Ed.) Listening to this 7” brought me back to, well, a couple of months ago when I had to review that Man Man 7”. I did not want to visit this part of the past. (www.myspace.com/rijapovrecords)
It isn’t too promising when the main focus of a press release is that the band members got married and had kids between albums. This one is pretty straight-on hard rock. We’ve got some riffs here, a faux-deranged singer, some blues tinges, and an overall club rock sound to boot. Maybe the bar is set lower in Canada? One reviewer called this “weird punk” but I can’t think of anything more normal. I think this is what Buckcherry sounds like. “Crowd Control” sounds like it could be a 90s alternagrunge killer with its slightly angular bassline and soaring radio-rock vocals. The singer assures the listener that “Everything’s alright/I can tell the difference between black and white.” Another song bemoans “plastic people in their model homes.” It’s pretty hard to top the lyrical triteness that packs the cracks of this LP. There’s 500 of these in the world and that’s way too many. The flimsy cover-stock doesn’t help things either. Hang your head. (www.latidarecords.com)
Houston bear punk trio No Talk (see also Insect Warfare and Homopolice) spits out records that number in the very low hundreds. One might assume why is because they don’t care about making records and wouldn’t interest anyone outside of a handful of people in their hometown and a slightly bigger handful on the Internet. They live on in a tradition of KBD shockers, where some band makes some really raw record and its low quantities and poor distribution gets them in the hands of the few for big money. Given today’s conditions, though, I’m unsure how anyone would be able to find these records to flip, since the band pretty much knows who bought each copy for most of the pressing. Why am I writing about this? Because this is kind of the least substantial of their four so far, sounding like the outtakes from the sessions that bore the first three which they self-released. Also, I wanted to fill up space. Second one is the best, closely followed by the others, if you ever see copies around. Kinda pissed because it cost me $15 to get it from Denmark, since I didn’t want to accidentally give money to Skankin’ Harold and the Skalograms. 150 copies, maybe two and a half minutes of music. (www.myspace.com/notalktexas)
Nodzzz are such sweet, righteous kids who’ve shown an ability to refine beyond a catchy, garage-y stroke of genius to a careful, joyous pop outfit with a couple of great records. This fits in nicely, the trio exhibiting what I’d call giddy politeness across two pleasant, brief tracks that find the group becoming more mannered and opening up their melodic sensibilities to bands like the Clean or the Go-Betweens. “True to Life” works off a lopsided guitar melody, several tempo shifts, and an exuberance that’s defined all of their records thus far. “Good Times Crowd” is yet another friendly, welcoming song by this lot, blending in well with the rest of their discography. Nothing has topped their first single, but they seem to be moving in a calmer direction than that, anyway, so might as well go with it. Bonus points for the band never overstaying its welcome. What a treat. (whatsyourrupture.bigcartel.com)
Up for the role of Reatard’s kid brother we have Jefrrey Novak; having grown tired of the Tennessee trash sounds of his One Man Band and the Rat Traps, he’s set his musical sights on England’s past. Jay laid claim to The Adverts, and Novak has gone full on British Invasion. While the goal might be a Kinks/Hollies sound, the results are more cartoonish and flouncy, reaching Herman’s Hermit’s “Henry the 8th” level of irritation. “One of a Kind” (funny name in context) picks up a nice little Animals psyche sound in the guitar and organ slides, but the vocals are grating and border on parody. “Short Trip Home” is like a bad kid’s tune that you might hear in the background of “The Young Ones” or “Father Ted’s” walking sequence. Nice textured/cut sleeve, but the music is comically derivative. (www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
Nobody sent by a copy of any of the recent Pink Noise records aside from this one, which is a bummer. They’re one of the few in the class of Blankdoggers to which I’d offer a free pass, simply because they intrigue without being too obvious. At one point I read a list of all the releases this band had been planning, promising way too many albums and singles and tapes to way too many eye-rolling imprints; really, one out of every five or six Sacred Bones releases is worth a shit, and I don’t even think Mr. Bonz could listen to everything he’s put out. And yet, the Pink Noise – the most unlikely act he’s worked with, non-musicians working with squelchy synths and a generally unpleasant murk, all the way from Toronto – breaks all these conventions that have bored us into staring into our drinks for the past year or so. The key to their success, outside of being able to write a memorable song, is that they don’t let their detachment get in the way of the fun, android Fonzie posturing they put forth. I expect these guys to be weirdos, the same way I’d expect trying to hang with Cabaret Voltaire or The Future in the mid-to-late ‘70s. “Gold Light” bops along Holiday Road with fuzzy guitar, bongos, and pleasingly farty synths, Heartbeeps High School Sadie Hawkins dance styley. “Prince Charlies Revenge” gets a little meaner but essentially rejiggers the same elements into an impetuous little stomper. Comes with a ponytail holder. (www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
Is this the first rumblings of a Digital Hardcore revival? The Ramjac’s self released 7” ep sounds a lot like Land of Rape and Honey-era Ministry and Atari Teenage Riot with a budget recording. Martial drum machine beats, processed vocals, and trebly, distorted to shit guitars are the order of the day. Shades of Wolf Eyes creep into the picture, and the bass line from Big Black’s “Jordan, Minnesota” is briefly quoted on the B side, and it seems possible that the Ramjac were trying to evoke a sound similar to Steve Albini and crew, but ended up somewhere else. This record wins points for mining a whole range of influences that seem to be maligned by most, but it doesn’t seem quite there yet. With time and the right recording, the Ramjac might be capable of churning out face melting drum machine noise rock. We’ll just have to see where they go with it. This record comes with a cd-r of the 7” and a photocopied lyric booklet. (www.myspace.com/theramjac)
Matt Korvette, of the band Pissed Jeans, the label White Denim, the blog Yellow Green Red, and a reasonably firm handshake, debuts his electronic/rhythm-based project in an interesting way: the single is available through his label, but is not for sale. Rather, it’s given away with a mailorder for $10 or more (I recommend the T-shirt), or for whatever trade for goods and services he deems worth it. Speaking of worth it, so is this record; “He Wants to Meet Me” is nothing but a slowly mutating, industrial table tap coupled with ambient synths and slowed down vocals, but its compelling, bare-boned drive will make you wish this was on a 12” and about ten minutes long. On the B-side is the strobing “City Lament,” which is just that, and one worthy of Mens Recovery Project or No Trend. A recitation of gripes about urban living amidst the perils of gentrification and societal status is as much a commentary on the human cost of a posh lifestyle as it is an apology for succumbing to its ways, and, through humor, highlights the dichotomy between material wants and social irritants. “So Hot” sounds like neither, with full, bassy synths and the suggestion of vocals taking precedence over the beat. I think this project is going to net Mr. K something interesting. Cover art not available here, but sports an unhealthy Tory Burch fixation. (whitedenim.com)
Screamo kids working through influences worthy of some merit, despite how hard some of us make ourselves out to be – I’m hearing Orchid, Converge ca. Jane Doe, Cursed; essentially the good stuff, right up to the line when it became impossible to work in this field. Everything’s all over the place at once, yowling vocals by singer/band artist Matthew Adis, whose 20-page booklet of lyrics and artwork calls to mind a time-hardened Edward Gorey, using the sharpest and finest brushes juvie hall would allow. It’s a storm of heavy rock moves and even heavier hardcore-modeled assault, given that extra layer of filth from producer Will Killingsworth. Lyrics are worthy of some Rolling nightmare out of Get in the Van (“a wall of soul” … uhhhhhh yeah) and gives off this crazy PTSD response that pushes these guys, at moments, towards mid-tempo sludgers like Pissed Jeans or Clockcleaner. Looks nice, as do most Youth Attack releases; this one’s just a slab of unlabeled lavender vinyl, which has an impressive presence on the turntable. Also the self-sealing sleeve holding this thing together is way too tight, and I had to tear it to get mine open (noticing that I destroyed a sticker that was heretofore invisible, decreasing the value). But I can really relate to these kids’ stance, particularly the title. I’ve let out some unforgiving wind in my time, and I’d imagine any of the tracks here would be a chaotic, hurt, and perfectly valid response to anyone having to smell any of it. (www.ihateyouthattack.com)
All sorts of questions are raised by this debut single (the first of which is “how did Yoda get here?”) Does college radio, the natural spot for these sorts of good vibes, even still exist? Is Canadian twang (or more appropriately, Pac-NW twang) a subgenre? Hard not to think of the almighty Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet when hearing the opening guitar on “Broken Arm,” a severely pleasant slice of indie pop which wouldn’t be outta place in the early ‘90s TeenBeat or K Records rosters; I’m picturing a few gigs with Blast Off Country Style and whatever Mark Robinson was doing that week, probably still Unrest or something involving a bake sale in Olympia. The A-side is an ode to getting your arm in a cast and not caring about it, the B-side is the cheeriest funeral you’re ever going to hear. Clearly the band is glad this person is dead. I don’t think I was ever this happy. (www.myspace.com/sweetrotrecords)
Somewhere between classic NYC Disco-Not-Disco-styled schizophrenia and Trax Records lies Marcus Lambkin’s newest single under the Shit Robot moniker. Employing Washington DC’s ever-present Ian Svenonius to regale us with the harsh realities of everyday life (“You found someone you wanted / It was great / Now things are complicated / You got bills to pay / You gotta go to school / You gotta work everyday / Well, that’s hard”), Lambkin adds to DFA’s recent high batting average with an absolute killer. There is a bit more Chicago house than artsy NYC swagger, but the Spiv puts the right touch on this one and is one of those uncanny fits for what would normally be preconceived as a stretch for him. Flip it over for pitch-perfect remix work by Scandinavian disco don Todd Terje, who steers away from the obvious nu-disco romp you might expect. Terje does away with the Spiv, starting out with a tech-house foundation which slowly builds into a disco-influenced stormer, complete with subtle acid house squelches, and snare accents that take the track from a solid house record to a hands-in-the-air anthem. Not recommended for DJs who like to mix out of records within three minutes; you gotta see this one from start to finish. Buyer beware, though: the first version of this single scheduled for release has a Serge Santiago remix on the flip. The Terje mix seems to be headed down the pipeline though, so hold tight. This is easily the cream of the new DFA crop. (www.dfarecords.com)
Gotta wonder what’s making people lean towards starting a minimal synth project in 2009. My stance is that so long as the music holds up, I have no complaints, but the seed cause is just as intriguing. Are we feeling anxiety and isolation from prolonged exposure to the Internet and smart phones? Is the general mindset of today’s world so close to the late ‘70s/early ‘80s turmoil that birthed these sounds forcing the creative into a corner? Has the effort to reissue every last scrap of tape from that era crowded our collective headspace? Must everyone try their hand at ‘doggin it? Silk Flowers provides no answers but three middling-to-great tracks of stern vocalizing, drum machine, and primary melodies. Ex-members of Soiled Mattress and the Springs (best high school jazz band ever) and the Bad Form, this NYC area trio stiffens up on the title track, but blooms where the need for lyrics fades away. The instrumental “Chance of Showers” on the B-side builds nicely from a sequenced melody into something warm and shimmering. Seeing how far they can push this direction and back away from the monotone delivery will likely be the true test of how far this revival can go. Seen copies in stores recently, but this one is sold out from the source – was not exactly quick on the draw in reviewing it, but that’s how it goes with the records I have to buy. Full-length out now on PPM. (silksilkflowers.blogspot.com)
Not much to “get” or “not get” on here, really – it’s solo synthesizer warble by one Christelle Gualdi. Analog, modular, stays more or less in key. Two sidelong pieces. Once the drone elements lay off a bit and a mood is established, she lets “The Oracle” get into some deep, meditative Laserium quality wander up and down the scales. For such a slight approach, it’s mystifying. On the flip, “The Sky Pilot,” she’s joined by NNCKer Dave Nuss on drums, keeping things at a low simmer and turning its gaze over to doom/blues/stoner aspirations with very little effort. Not all that obvious, but it holds up, Gualdi playing her instrument with the improvisational breadth of a woodwind, transposed to the clinical difficulty of electronics. After a few bumpy initial releases I’d like to say that I’m on board with Black Dirt, both as a studio (check that new Blues Control) and as a label. 300 copies. (www.blackdirtmusic.com)
Talibam! with Daniel Carter
The synth and percussion duet of Talibam! is is well-served by the addition of reedsman Daniel Carter, a fixture of the NYC free jazz scene. Suprisingly, his flute and trumpet and sax don’t give the record much more of a jazz flavor, but instead balances out the sludgier keyboards with fluid, agile movement. The two side-long improvisations here are highly busy recordings, with Kevin Shea’s clattery percussion carrying much of the momentum (much like his recordings with Storm&Stress). The first side moves like a rocketship, occasionally lurching, but ultimately exploding into a million flaming pieces. The second side (whose title references both Dick Hyman and Art Tatum) begins with a significantly more emotive circus of notes from Carter and Matt Mottel, though it doesn’t take long to fall into a stomping pattern. Melodies shoot in every direction but for as free as it is, it’s expertly guided and adheres to a viscous vision. (www.roaratorio.com)
Hoo boy, something stinks! Thought Teepee was onto something from the first single, but the aggressiveness is pumped up to a comical level on these three songs, pushing towards the sort of one-man disaster nobody wanted. Digital distortion and crusty, overmodulated “production,” even an amateur Albini/My Dad is Dead kinda vibe can’t mask the weak material that showed up here. The chorus “She’s not for sale!” on a track called “Pin-Up” is the most cringeworthy, voice-of-the-voiceless ploys I’ve heard since the mid ‘90s. Not raging. Side project of Electric Bunnies’ Eric Lopez, a guy who I thought knew better. 500 copies, 100 on white vinyl with silkscreened patch (will definitely trade). (www.floridasdying.com)
The name really does say it all, and will haunt these guys forever – it’s harmless and catchy synth pop, taking more than just a cue from New Order. These Frenchmen have nailed it for a new generation of naïve youngsters. The title track features the most Hook and Sumner-oriented moments and maps out where the rest of this EP is going. Despite some compelling moments in “American Skies”, most informed listeners will use this record as a nod to the past and spin their copy of Low-life again. I suspect the bloghouse world will run with this and remix the fuck out of it for no reason at all. Welcome to 2009. The wax is limited to 500, so if you are gambling on these guys to make it big, snag a copy soon. (www.shelflife.com)
Sacred Bones, the first label we can thank for slowing underground pop/rock-based progress to a dead halt by participating in the first Blank Dogs onslaught, has now reissued a wildly-inoffensive early-80’s post-punk band that carbon-copied Entertainment! so blatantly that I wouldn’t be surprised if some barristers were put on retainer … if that’s indeed what Brits do with their lawyers. Is the 652nd revival of angular post-punk on the horizon? If Sacred Bones can get over ten people excited about a garage-rocker pulling a Jandek on a lo-fi version of what The Killers and Hot Hot Heat do, then perhaps they’re blazing a trail and have no idea that when Henry Rollins reissued the worthy Gang of Four albums fifteen or so years ago, he was selling great songs by a (very) temporarily-great band whose one-and-a-half album’s worth of amazing material actually broke ground in the late-70’s, and had yet to be trampled to the earth’s core by imitators. The mindset here could be the horribly-wrong good-by-default-of-being-really-obscure way of thinking, as the 13th Chime were unremarkable IN THEIR DAY, which today makes them about as exciting as a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am with high miles. (www.sacredbonesrecords.com)
Not sure what to make of this Ini.Itu label – that Blindhaed record made me think it was all about super conceptual sound art/new minimalism, but then this record fits more into the IDM category, if such a thing still exists. Twinkle^3 use some traditional instruments (such as a shakuhachi) but they’re employed more as dressing on an electronic salad. Bubbles of synthesized stones pop out in every direction, sometimes threatening to sound like a novelty record but generally forming the momentum of these nine compositions. The electroacoustic textures shimmer and the whole thing is so impeccably recorded that it’s hard not to smile at the pure serotonin rush caused by wonderful bright synthetic sound. It’s not electronica you can dance to but it’s not boring either; if anything you could probably see this as a throwback to the non-rave electronic underground of days past. If you’ve read a few books by David Toop, chances are you’ll understand this too. (www.iniitu.net)
Not too much going on upstairs with this bunch on this new single. The flammable noise blues groove they laid down before is somewhat absent as they tap through a mindless rocker in “Altamont” to get to about 15 seconds worth of the feedback/undertone action this outfit does best. “Beirut” doesn’t even get that far, just keeps hitting snooze on the blooze. Not sure where the riffs went. Hopefully they’ll return. 250 copies, Singles Club release. (www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
Have to admit, I’d not kept up with Japanese psychedelic rock in earnest since the earlier part of this decade. Ghost is still stunning. High Rise appears to be inactive. Acid Mothers Temple continues to do very little for me, and the gloom of LSD-March overshadows the times when they’re flipping out. On this micro-edition LP, pressed in Italy on red vinyl with a silkscreened jacket, and limited to 200 copies, Up-Tight delivers in a more rock/surf direction than I had anticipated, at points crossing the reverb of Dick Dale’s blazing across with dubbed-out snare hits and doomy, brooding bass hulk on the title track and closer of this four-song wander. Opener “Our Own Portrait” is the winner here, over ten minutes of tribal thunder and reverbed shaker, where Spacemen 3 meets the sandbar, big drum/solo break inclusive. One of you can do something with this. Of the other two, shorter offerings, the volcanic-galactic tuning of “The Destruction” acts as a buffer between the enormous final cut and the perplexing shoegaze folk of “A Song For Your Pain,” which threatens to derail the record with bare-chested emote, closer to maybe the Projekt catalogue or a Cranes record than the blowout guitar-on-fire I demand for this kind of scratch. Second pressing’s sold out too. Three out of four here. Crazy label, 8MM, putting out all manners of extremely limited releases from across the spectrum of Wire-approved noisemakers. (www.8mmrecs.com)
The smoke is clearing from the spate of releases and the signing to Matador, and I respect both Skulltones as a label and Mr. Vile for any closet-cleaning he has left before stardom approaches … that said I really am not seeing the appeal of this one. It’s not that his voice has changed, or any elements of his other recordings don’t exist here, but this one feels phoned in. Five tracks, the longest of which (“Subliminal Message”) is nothing more than Vile crooning over a delay riff that stops at the right point, then has the nerve to keep on keepin’ on. Lots of tossed-off, minute-long sketches here that might have made great songs of their own, but given the hurried, hometaped approach (like the moody synth snippet “Crystal Crowns”, which really should be longer) don’t have enough room to grow. Make no mistake, this guy has formidable talents which are about to unfold towards the world, but you won’t see much of it here. Think of it as a minor slip up in an otherwise spotless career for artist and label alike. 400 numbered copies. (skulltones.com)
Hard to hate on Woods, despite their precious packaging; they deliver in the songwriting department, where it counts. Born out of Woodsist/Fuck It Tapes/Meneguar/Vanishing Voice membership, and with somewhat of a fluid lineup, they’ve managed to maintain both songwriting prowess and gain a corner of this amorphous pile of old-is-new music for their own. Woods are one of the few outfits that, through a relationship with the Shrimper label, has bridged ‘90s lo-fi folk/weird burnout sounds with those of today. Plenty of talent in this band, shining through scattered clouds on “Sunlit” and creating something a little more lasting and a lot more wistful on the excellent flipside, “The Dark.” The vocals take a bit of getting used to, but if you can surmount that you’re in for some enjoyable times. (www.myspace.com/capturedtracks)
This is more like it. XYX, a bass-drums duo from Monterrey, Mexico, burst onto turntables and the blogosphere last year with a hectic debut EP on S-S, trippin’ balls on heavy postpunk groove and maniacal rhythms in a way that recalled both Melt-Banana and Teenage Jesus, without leaning too hard in any one direction. They killed it live down at Chaos in Tejas, and now follow things up with a new 7”, three more songs of sporty, well-executed prog-punk rumble. Anhelo shouts through delay and reverb pedals, augmenting her screams with digital processing and disorienting interstitials, all the while ripping holy hell out of a big Firebird Epiphone bass. Mou is somewhat of a monster behind the kit, flopping around a machine-tightened approach to drumming that can lock in and get open with equally confident strides. On the flip we have the short, violent blast of “Circo, TX” and the steadily building stretch of “Neptunia,” growing into a snarling menace by the end. There’ve been other bands like XYX, but having seen them play it’s obvious, at least to me, that they’re trying to distance themselves from the sort of band you think of when you think of their setup (Lightning Bolt, godheadSilo), and it’s working for the better. Here’s a band that needs all the support you can muster. They are worth it. 400 numbered copies. (skulltones.com)
Mixtape-level tracks from bands that people scramble over, all from Seattle, and marking the fifth installment of this series – the first one since 1993. Worth it for an unreleased Spider track. Also includes the Intelligence (no more reviews until they stop releasing material in bulk), Love Tan (pretty good, at least as good as the 7”) and AFCGT (will never be as great as either the A Frames or Climax Golden Twins on their own, but that will have to do for now). Long gone. Maroon marbled vinyl on my copy.
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.
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By Dusted Magazine