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Still Single: No. 6, Vol. 15

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Doug Mosurock and his Still Single team cover four dozen or so new records, including hits by The Young, Joshua Abrams and Pregnant.

Still Single: No. 6, Vol. 15

Joshua Abrams
Natural Information LP

Seasoned Chicago musician Joshua Abrams (Town & Country) takes off on his own, building a solo album around the guimbri (a three-stringed African cowhide bass) and flights of fancy with a sampler, harmonium, hand percussion, and a dulcimer. He’s joined in trio by guitarist Emmett Kelly, drummers Frank Rosaly and Noritaka Tanaka, and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes in the creation of super-deep pulse pounders that skirt jazz but bear down on the spiritual explorations that ought to lie within. Rigorous musicianship flows out of this ensemble like warm, unfiltered honey sliders with the occasional stinger left in; barbed, mellifluous expression that tunes towards the heart of the sun in a living, worshipful, vibrant flow of ideas and feeling. Though the music feels improvisational at points, the emphasis placed on rhythm should not be overlooked, and the label’s own comparisons to Don Cherry’s Brown Rice and certain Can records is as apt as any of us could maintain; the tempered, involved rambling of “Abide in Sunset” also speaks to the Saharan majesties of latter-day Sublime Frequencies vinyl editions. I get the sense that many musicians make this sort of attempt often, in that they’d like to be a bit more profound but don’t have the language necessary to get there, even if their skills suffice. Abrams has created a rare and wonderful thing, a whirling, warm-blooded extension of the cosmic traveler’s inner consciousness, filled with surprise and steadiness instead of apprehension and fear; a world where we all ought to try to live. Fans of raga, psychedelic rock, jazz and world music are in for a real treat with these six offerings. Easily one of the best records 2010 will see. 550 copies. (http://eremite.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Ale Mania
“Robust Universe” b/w “Bay View 7”
(Hell, Yes!)

This is a worthwhile 7” from San Diego band Ale Mania. What makes this record interesting is that, to my ears, Ale Mania seem to be mining a very specific era of Scottish post-punk. This record brings to mind the ‘82-’84 era when post-punk began to slide into new pop. Records like the last slick Fire Engines Big Gold Dream 12”, the post-Fire Engines band Win, the Scars’ Author! Author! LP, Boots for Dancing, or Altered Images without the female vocalist. Clunky Korg synth bass lines, flanged guitars and sequencers are the order of the day. I’m not sure if Ale Mania decided to pursue this sound on purpose, or if it was a happy accident, but this 7” is worthy of investigation. (http://hellyeshellyeshellyes.bigcartel.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Bob Bellerue/Jarrett Silberman
Amplified Piano Duets one-sided 12”/CD-R

Without giving much of a clue as to process or instrumentation, there’s still a bit more at stake between this duo collaboration and other PE/noise experiments of its type. There doesn’t seem to be any mixer/source abuse here; we’re led, from the title, to believe that this is a capturing of treated piano, though it doesn’t sound much like it. Excepting the possibility that the piano strings have been mic’d and processed, one normally doesn’t get this much sustain out of a piano, even if they hold down the damper pedal. What surfaces is this noisy, yet warm and somehow harmonic buzzing drone, and if I had to say what it reminds me of, it would be the sound of a tractor with a lawn-mower attachment and vacuum bagger, cutting the grass of my parents’ backyard. More than any other noise recordings, this one throws off a late-summer afternoon ambiance, with the sun dying down and dinner being readied, when my dad was rounding the back corners, and was therefore further away from my bedroom window. It shares the same consistency and tonal qualities, and sounds like it could run forever. With these memories in tow, this becomes an exceptional and meaningful piece of music, though I’m not sure if many people would agree with me on this, or could see the suburban P.O.V. from where I’m coming. One cut on the vinyl meets two more on the included CD-R. 200 copies. (http://anarchymoon.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Zachary Cale
“Come Quietly” b/w “The Wedding Party” 7”
(All Hands Electric)

This is an extremely pleasant and well done indie psych folk single from a young Olympia-to-Brooklyn transplant. Cale’s voice has a sardonic and cutting edge to it that brings to mind Current 93’s David Tibet or Comus’ Roger Wootton, which stops the well-constructed melodies of these two from being merely pretty and floating off into the clouds. Very grave, but memorable music. This 7” (which follows two solo full-lengths, as well as work with his band Illuminations, reviewed here earlier) brings to mind Sister Lovers-era Alex Chilton, Tim Hardin, and even the more depressing moments of Robyn Hitchcock. One of the best things about doing these reviews is when a great record by someone who you never would have paid attention to otherwise rolls in -- this is one of those records. Great stuff. (http://www.allhandselectric.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Lonesome Berlin LP

Very, very cold and very, very alienated-sounding bedroom minimal synth project from France. Drum pads tap along simple 4/4 beats, vintage synths provide simple and repetitive bass lines, and the vocals alternate between sounding like they were programmed into a speak-and-spell or they were provided by someone locked in a closet with a pillow shoved in his mouth. Although CCCandy recalls the classic private-press synth records of Ohio enigma John Bender, these songs mostly sound very of-the-moment, and don’t do much to stand out from the pack. The only people who need to own this record are the people who already own the entire Blank Dogs and Pink Noise discographies, and that just isn’t enough for them. (http://www.myspace.com/avantrecords)
(Chris Strunk)

Charles the Osprey
Consider LP

Two guys reinvent calculus in an unfinished Grand Rapids basement with a guitar and a drumkit. There’s enough finger tapping, tropical post-rockism, and playing-along-with-the-dialup-modem-sound interruptus to remind anyone of Don Caballero circa American Don, and plenty of testy Midwestern math-metal spirit to wash all that down. This music exists in a void, despite support from a fanbase that keeps pushing against the genre’s glass ceiling and restrictive ethos. It seems that the more technical skill exhibited, even at the illusory enhancement of earworm/melodic principles (notice how professional this sort of talk gets when off-kilter time signatures and fretboard tricks are at play!), the further away the music – and regular people who aren’t necessarily engaged by progressive rock – steps from any sort of resolution. It’s too busy to be fun, unless your idea of fun lies within its busy nature itself; the music lends itself an “RDRR” joke that only the mathletes get, leaving the Bart Simpsons of the world with glazed eyeballs and waning interest. 1/x, for realz. And yet Charles the Osprey has as good of a time as they can here, winking at chunky stripclub metal, breezy polyrhythms, abrupt starts and stops, and the general A/V club sense of humor about song titles and artwork that depicts violent struggle against a figurative enemy. That the group can have as much fun with this music as they seem to be having is what carries this to a rung just below half-step innovators like Battles, and I suppose we can be thankful of that; it’s a constantly-joking, fancifully complex tribute to all who came before. 500 copies, half on safety orange vinyl, the other half on military green, housed in a silkscreened chipboard gatefold. (http://www.frictionrecords.net)
(Doug Mosurock)

Chicago Thrash Ensemble
s/t one-sided 12” EP
(Plastic Airlines)

According to most underground metal elitists, in order to be of “the true,” one must fall from the womb clutching an original copy of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends on vinyl (ouch!), or do more time in the woods than in school between the ages of 13 and 16. “True” folks love to bemoan its underrated status. “True” folks will probably not like the Chicago Thrash Ensemble, but fuck those lonely assholes; this is exactly the type of record that metal needs. That’s right, metal needs a one-sided, 45 rpm interpretation of thrash metal by a bunch of dudes that cut their teeth in ‘90s hardcore bands. And as for the current thrash revival? This stomps the life out of all but 10 percent of that ridiculous cause.

Obviously, the charm of this record is not in the ground that it breaks, which falls somewhere between “none” and “nil.” Zach Petrusa and Mike Heerboth, the two guitarists at work here, should be applauded for their complete dismissal of solos and embrace of riffs, riffs, riffs, a pick-squeal here or there, and even more riffage on top of that. A lack of technical know-how? No … thrash stores its hooks, its heart, its feeling, and its general catchiness in RIFFS, not in all that dumbass shredification. This probable one-off is spawned directly from the wiseasses behind Hewhocorrupts, Kung Fu Rick and Iron Reminders, as well as a hundred additional hardcore and fine-grind bands, not to mention its indirect relation to the same Chicago scene that can be thanked for Tusk, Pelican, Russian Circles, and 7000 Dying Rats. The vocals, courtesy of Jimmy Dunn (with everyone else contributing backing or side-bellows/screams), are rooted firmly in the higher register area of ‘90s crust…an identifying factor right out of the gate. Still, dude sounds like he means it, and this is galaxies better than any of that crossed-arm boys-club-boo-foo nonsense that the NYHC scene has poisoned heavy music with over the last two decades. The Chicago Thrash Ensemble’s LP is the eighth release by Plastic Airlines Records, (a label with a tendency towards great packaging and limited editions – only 100 of last year’s wonderful Iron Reminder LP), and is available via a pressing of around 335. The other side of the record is screened, as is the fold-over cover, and the package comes with a laminated sheet of nine baseball cards wherein six are professionally-made representations of the band members (in team garb with stats on the reverse), two are seemingly random choices of real cards (I got the Cardinals’ Willie McGee and the Reds’ Tom Browning), and one is the record’s actual liner notes. Nice. While this one took a few spins to win me over, the cover of The Fighters’ “Motor Man” is one of the more intense and perfectly-executed moments in metal circa 2010 (thus worth the price of admission). A keepuh!! (http://www.plasticairlines.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Wild Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire
s/t 12” EP

Never has there been a better example of adoration for the idea of a personality over enjoyment of the music made by said personality. The early power-pop/DIY shamble by Mr. Billy Childish can be brilliant in spots, as can the sporadic one-off in the years since. But this EP rests under the umbrella of faux-genius retro-robot hoodwink with 90 percent of the artist’s output. Knowing jack-shit about visual art (thus making me the perfect critic in Childish’s worldview, you’d think), I will state with absolutely no authority that Childish is most likely a genius when it comes to that particular medium. Writer, thinker, art and literature provocateur? Color me no less than knocked-out with a lot of that, too. But musically, I must quote session guitarist stalwart and Toto founder Steve Luthaker after he accidentally heard Agathocles for the first and last time: “I don’t fucking get it.”

Before I was even gifted with my first thoughts of music criticism, back when I was feeling this whole thing out and building a frame of reference (late teens, to be precise), it was understood in my world that Billy Childish was untouchable, and therefore automatically “brilliant,” regardless of what moniker his music was released under. For this, I blame an ongoing combination of: confusing prolificacy, lifestyle exposure (he’s lived on the dole since age two or some similarly romantic existence), bullying or untouchable label choices (Crypt, in particular), safe but attention-getting dissent (slagging Hendrix in an album title … OH NO HE DIDN’T!!) – all equally executed as attention-attracting intellectualism-through-anti-intellectualism (better known as “dumbing-down”), and the ‘90s garage-revival scene – the 3rd or 4th movement of its type in the history of rock – and its on-its-knees desire for their very own Tom Waits. Oh, I forgot about the early-to-mid ‘90s brainwashing that took place around the idea of minimalism as applied to that era’s take on said movement. If it’s stripped-down to almost nothing and the drummer is standing up then it must be real. If a couple of retro-robots can’t hide behind a “fake” and “evil” sheen, and all that’s left is some skeletal, primal, “caveman” thud … well, surely this must be the real deal. If the band only eats BBQ, greasy greens, and baked beans served on a rusty hubcap through a hole in a wall … well, therein lies one of the major problems with Billy Childish’s music, and its pillars of support for over 30 years. Childish rocks an unquestionable level of authenticity re: his day-to-day, no doubt, but his music is so frequently stripped of hooks and so utterly predictable (or one of 200 varieties of predictable), that the minions that call him a messiah are bound to make even WORSE music. I got no beef with authenticity, if one is, you know, authentic, but in this one case, I believe some rehab might be in order for garage-rock’s King Luddite. Oh, and what’s so damn minimal about housing a four-song 12” in a big, pretty gatefold cover? Is Childish mistakenly alluding to a closet Hydra Head or Southern Lord influence?

As a leading general in The Culture Wars of 2013, I will make it my duty to see that Billy Childish finishes a Ludd-centric rehabilitation program, of which he will be made an example. He’ll be forced to buy a brand new Casio G-Shock watch, and wear it 24/7, under penalty of law, like a house-arrest anklet. He’ll then have to set and maintain that gadget, so that the correct MONTH, DAY and YEAR are clearly visible at all times. He also has to use a court-appointed iPhone, from which he is to author no less than twenty Tweets PER HOUR. He is also to be given a nice, clean WordPress blog, in which no less than three posts are to be made per day, all with a word-count minimum of 100. These brand new forms of electronic presentation are to be joined by Facebook and Formspring accounts, of which each question on the latter, no matter how vile or stupid, must be answered by Mr. Childish himself. And that’s not all. Childish must retro-culturally learn and maintain Friendster and MySpace accounts, and must care for a Tamagotchi, keeping it from dying for an entire calendar year. Finally, the subject will be required to do a minimum of 20 hours of pro-bono web design work per week, and before 2010 comes to a close, he is to have reached the end of every Grand Theft Auto video game. Future tasks will be doled out as required. (http://www.smartguyrecords.com)
(Andrew Earles)

The Chinese Restaurants
River of Shit 7” EP

S-S Records has put out many wonderful releases that I return to very often, but I can’t say that this is one of the great ones. What we have here is three tracks of just “kind of there” dissonant trashy noise rock with some electronic meddling from Mattin, who is credited as producer. The most interesting thing about the record is Mattin’s electronic processing of the band. There are some nice jarring moments where the sound quality suddenly changes, and the Obama samples all over the A-side are interesting. However, these contributions aren’t enough to cover up the fact that the songs on this record are just kind of pedestrian. Chinese Restaurants do recall the late ‘80s brand of NYC area “scum rock” such as Reverb Motherfuckers, Unholy Swill and Billy Syndrome, but they don’t really kick up enough dust with the sound with the sound to make it interesting. 300 copies. (http://www.s-srecords.com)
(Chris Strunk)

Opening of the Dawn LP
(Honeymoon Music)

With artwork promising loner walks towards ever-receding lunar horizons, you may have a hunch you’re in for the spectral on Enumclaw’s Opening of the Dawn. The title track opener finds you in a rising Riley goop, pulsing Arp tone clusters played off against lilting fronds of tremolo. On the flip, “Harmonic Convergence” begins with a groaning heap of ‘rural raga’ detritus MV+EE may have left behind on their last trip through greater Fishtown, but resolves into a shimmering droning singularity, like a Richter thrust suddenly into focus. With the allowable exception of the post-dinner hour hand drums on “Evening’s Empire,” this is an unadorned achievement of timeless music. (http://www.honeymoonmusic.com)
(Evan Woodward)

Exiles from Clowntown
“Around the Corner” b/w “Whistling Assassin” 7”

More sluggish thuds from the Aussie department of corrections (and true to form, someone with the key to the office supplies cabinet made off with the hole punch and had their way with all 200 of the dust sleeves of yet another Greatdividing release) – simple, effective bass guitar workouts that go round and round. “Around the Corner” never even breaks one chord, and “Whistling Assassin” plays with some tremolo guitar and a low, slow bassline. I get why this exists, and I’m happy that it does, but perhaps we can just make a monument to this sort of non-committal rock, and maybe place it next to that legendary Iggy Pop statue that exists somewhere in Australia, write it to historical memory, and move forward? 200 seems like a decent number of these to press, as there’s probably 150 people in the world who care enough to listen to some anonymous band’s practice sessions. I don’t hate it, but I wouldn’t have paid for it – if we all had the time to make our own food, but all restaurants cooked up to or beneath our own culinary abilities, what would be the point of going out? ANYONE picking up guitar, bass and drums could make this exact record, and that’s sort of the same problem I had with fellow countrydwellers like xNOBBQx (remember them? No? Just as well). Greatdividing’s compilation, reviewed here recently, showed a number of aimless rock bands doing SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Sadly, this can’t even muster up the strength to match that. And none of them could match up to that Todd Rundgren ref dropped up there (sorry) but that’s not the point. This one is the equator, the meniscus of modern hometaper rock music. I implore you to rise above to the ether or sink to the juice and corrosives below. Stuck in the middle ain’t no fun. (http://www.greatdividing.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“Dead Weight” b/w “When” 7”

And the “Least Likely To Attend Jessica Hopper’s Next Potluck” Award goes to … Fecalove! These two sides of power-electronics are very much on the super-harsh side of the spectrum, and the thickly Euro-accented spoken vocals overdubbed in different pitches are very much on the silly side of said spectrum, so long as one doesn’t eat pot brownies ahead of time or generally think too hard about how this shit actually SOUNDS. That shouldn’t be a problem, actually. Printed on the back sleeve, as well as perfectly understandable if/when consumed via ear-hole, this is very literally a recorded story of oral-rape, with the additional subtext of an old-guy/young-girl dynamic. Wait a second, my secretary is calling with some info I requested before I started writing this review. OK, it turns out that, much to my surprise, that grown adults are behind this. While the depravity does beat the listener over the head, it does so with a Nerf Bat. And some will most assuredly find the subject matter to be inappropriate, and this isn’t EXTREME in the bright green, sports soft drink sense of the word; my biggest issue is the blatant stupidity of the whole package. Check, please! 200 numbered copies, pink vinyl. (http://bloodlust.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Marco Fusinato
Ambianxe LP
(The Spring Press)

Visual artist Fusinato returns after an outing on No Fun, with his guitar and all the busted circuitry connecting it to the outside world. Electronically-processed six-string punishment runs through the full complement of static abuse, engine-generated progress and unfortunate industrial accidents. The polite applause that ends side one of this filter-clogging monster might have been the most shocking thing of all – that people withstood this in some form of live performance. Alas, side two pulls that Billy Bao trick where most of the record is completely blank, apart from a few minutes-long bursts of the same. That applause returns here, quite possibly as a put-on – anyone sitting through 15 minutes of silence, only to receive more torture, is a more patient human than myself, particularly when import pricing is at stake. The artist has chosen not to put his name anywhere on this release whatsoever, so maybe you can surprise your wealthy grandparents who put you through art school this holiday season with your very own record album, and explain to them the process by which you created the music therein (go on, make something up … that’s what you went to college for, right?) I guarantee you they will meet the end product with polite, unsure applause as well. 250 copies. (http://www.thespringpress.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Gape Attack!
Burn This City 7” EP
(FDH/Skrot Up)

First song is reminiscent of the Cure circa Pornography or Faith, but that may be the “Forest”-like guitar that anchors the catchy little number. Newbies doing a toe-dip into the coldwave waters would be turned off by this, if this second pressing of 300 were to make it into the homes of dabblers, which it probably won’t. Too much noise and fidelity-fog covering the admittedly great hooks -- hooks strong enough for these ears so that any genre-baggage brought along is scrapped -- but this is just too anti-social for the kitty kat beach-duffle beej-behind-the-dunes crew. Both opposing movements need this 7”, however; one for a much-needed increase in credibility, the other for a lesson in catchy songwriting by way of a long overdue bum-out. (http://www.fdhmusic.com) (http://skrotup.blogspot.com)
(Andrew Earles)

Ghost to Falco
Exotic Believers LP
(Infinite Front/Cape & Chalice)

Featuring a cast of 30 musicians but essentially the work of Portland’s Eric Crespo, Exotic Believers is as diverse as its roster (including members of Castanets, Parenthetical Girls and Jackie-O Motherfucker). Crespo augments a set of noisy rock songs in the Steve Albini tradition with various side trips ranging from Castanets-style cinematic instrumentals to out-and-out noise - luckily, the more accessible moments are so solid that the detours are almost unnecessary. The lyrics and melodies recall folk music despite the generally heavy instrumentation, with the album closer “Lords of The High Country” being the high point. “Lords…” feels like The Ex took inspiration from rural England instead of Africa on Dizzy Spells, with pounding, angular bass and drums under Crespo’s rough-yet-reedy voice. The songs can occasionally run a bit long, but you can be sure that a new twist is always right around the corner. (http://www.infinitefront.com) (http://www.capeandchalice.com)
(Patrick O’Donnell)

Ensnared in Dismal Blasphemies 7”

A random distro purchase that delivered in ways I hadn’t imagined … Swedish death metal purists with some intense BM leads cough up two blood-flecked chunks of late ‘80s style assault. Neither side really lets up, though “Eminent Impurity” definitely toploads it, while “Abhorrent Emanations” holds itself in check for a brutal finish. I gotta say, I miss death metal as it exists here. I miss the basement sound, the intensity, the thousands of words describing rotting corpses and human sacrifice. Black metal will never go as far for me. I think it’s a joke for the most part, something for the suburban punters. You can’t fake this sort of atmosphere with death metal the way these grad student lawn sprinkler repair boys do with black metal (so throw me out of the room, I’ll admit poseurdom now and in the future), such a huge sound erupting out of the root cellar, throat-peeling vocals, blazing lead guitars, the whole shot. 500 copies. (http://www.detestrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

His Electro Blue Voice
“Wolf” b/w “Worm” 12”

The boys from Lake Como return after a bit of an absence, which some might guess was self-imposed. Who knows? One thing I can tell you is that the HEBV template of somewhat gothy, aggressive rock has flattened a bit with this release, sometimes to their benefit, sometimes against it. The 12” single gives them more of a chance than ever to stretch out, which they have decided to take along the same dark roads that the Wipers drove back in the early ‘80s. Neither “Wolf” nor “Worm” has the same length or impact of a “Youth of America” or “Romeo,” but that’s the closest touchpoint, right down the flutophone solo on the former. I prefer “Worm” – it’s a little slower, a good bit noisier, maybe sounds like one of those endless droning Swell Maps outtakes that ended up on one of their reissues. One thing’s for certain, though – these songs don’t have traditional beginnings and ends, per se; they just start, then burn on at a certain volume and pace until they simply gas out, collapsing into quiet instrumental codas. And who knows, maybe that’s what you want. It certainly doesn’t seem like anything I’d call a musical progression in any sense, but it is a solid record by a band with a decent history behind it. Hopefully they throw some more left turns in the mix on the next outing. (http://www.holidaysrecords.it)
(Doug Mosurock)

Ice Nine
Nobody’s Son 7” EP

I remember Ice Nine from the back page of HeartattaCk, countless distro boxes at the hardcore fests of my youth, and … and that’s about it. Never took the plunge, though from the way Ken Prank talks, their records never aged, never went out of favor with a small but loyal following. Now the band I missed is back at it, with three intense new songs. I need to get off the slack ass and spend the $2 on stock copies of their old shit. One thing I miss about the ‘90s and hardcore bands of a certain stripe was the need to do things differently; to not try to recreate an existing sound but to use their skill to make something their own. So we have complex guitar parts, blast beats that come out of a black metal chasm, snarling vocals, and music that can’t sit still, yet never sounds too disjointed or strays very far from the premise. Two of the songs deal directly with the band/scene/life as it existed in their first time around, and I really urge anyone who likes to “oldmancloud” to jump in and scream along with “SPDGAF,” all about the struggle for existence in some shit town where you lived, and decided to fall into punk, let it define you, and fight its battles, only to turn around a decade later and see all the things you stood for commodified and used as an excerpt in somebody else’s profile. Shit is raw, life sucks, Indianapolis breeds winners like Ice Nine. This record will rip you a new one. 500 copies, first press on white vinyl. (http://www.prankrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Impractical Cockpit
Facilidad? LP
(Turned Word)

Junk rock so impervious to fidelity or sense, so resolutely incoherent, it has the clarity of purpose of The Feeding of the 5000. When I saw this quartet years ago in a Chicago basement (a restrained if muscular affair, I recall, lowercase music in rec-specs), they claimed NOLA residency, but the information here pegs them at times in Minneapolis and in Belfast, Maine. Luckily, they’ve not yet rooted down in NYC: there is not a programmed drum fill, phased vocal sample, or “dubstep-inspired” beat in the house here. “Opus Magenta Dixieland” would appear to be the group’s dirgy paean to the deep south, a squealing skree about “piggies floating atop the Mississippi.” The slurring, staggering carnival swirl of “Turn Off Tone Deaf Fallout 2000” thumps its way into the Michael Morley detunistry of “Beyond Gourmet” with twisted ease. Engineering-wise, here is a proud defense of the finer aspects of the acoustics of a bathtub in an abandoned double-wide. I don’t think I’ve heard a finer screed against the soul-churn of materialism this year. (http://www.turnedword.com)
(Evan Woodward)

s/t 12” EP

Källarbarnen is a noise rock duo from Gothenburg, Sweden, who vomit forth three tracks of sludgy guitar churn, with very occasional drumming that manages to be rigid and arrhythmic at the same time, some vocal moaning buried deep in the mix, and loads of feedback. It is very reminiscent of the Dead C’s more outré mid-period tracks like “Driver UFO,” or perhaps other free noise Kiwi sludgemakers such as Armpit and 1/3 Octave Band. After listening to this record multiple times, I can say it’s not bad, but easily becomes background music. Limited to 275 copies. Note to Swedes: Please put the name of your band on your records. (http://www.nattmaran.se)
(Chris Strunk)

King Blood
Eyewash Silver LP
(Ignorant Gore)

Little anonymous fuzz guitar rudiment blowdown from ex-Snake Apartment guitarist Ryland Wharton (also the man behind the excellent Skulltones and Twonicorn labels). As King Blood, he lays down eight instrumental 4-trackers rendered over a three-year period, nothing but guitar, bass and cymbal to keep time. In that space, the artist gets real, with simple themes repeated in a noisy, low-rent, yet meditative space. For as thick as these vibes get, the music itself is not necessarily aggressive, which is why these big, billowing songs sound gentle and bluesy and introspective, even in the overblown treatment most of them receive. Early Wooden Shjips or the Purling Hiss LP (and above all, Les Rallizes Denudes) would be good signposts for this album, but without the obvious psych moves like wah-solos and acid burn motifs, or the heavy drumming to keep time; King Blood wants to get you down by volume, and in that it is a drifting, uncompromising, diffuse and very loud success. 100 copies for this world, in paste-on sleeves – a few contain a silkscreened design on Stonehenge paper that was allegedly runoff from a gallery exhibition held earlier this summer. Those are signed and numbered as well. (availability? ask the angels…)
(Doug Mosurock)

Heather Leigh
Jailhouse Rock LP
(Not Not Fun)

Wax reissue of 2006 cassette what originally appeared on Fag Tapes from this former Texan, partner in Scorces and Ash Castles on the Ghost Coast and gal behind the half-helpful/half-eye-rolling Volcanic Tongue, the site where absolutely everything involving one note played on one string and one keyboard fed through one pedal in a bedsit is awesome all the time. But enough about the company she keeps: Here, hear a single voice, ghostlike, as if through a hallway in house empty for many years, unsure if it should drift or pierce. Then rising sounds, cloud-guitar like a trumpet holding many long notes at once gathering. Then the storm. A wide sheet, the sound of the sky the color of television tuned to a dead channel, as St. Gibson put it. B-side is a prettier version of same – everything is more gentle but just as determined (very relative word, that), extended note holding that resolves into wide-angle swirls. How high, said Meth and Red? So high that I can kiss the sky. How sick? Uh, probably not as sick as it seems when you are sky-kissing. Edition of 400. (http://www.notnotfun.com)
(Joe Gross)

Little Gold
“Completely Fucked!” b/w “Chainsaw” 7”
(Heart Break Beat)

MUCH more like it – ex-Meneguar/Woods guitarist Christian DeRoeck brings back his Little Gold project from the mopey pits of despair and recovery, and with a trio lineup solidified, bangs out two super-catchy jangle pop winners. The lazy drawl to his voice recalls J Mascis, but the band is all barroom shitkicker action, and in turn sounds a lot happier and more guided than on the previous LP, while retaining some of the more sorrowful and thankful sentiments therein. “Chainsaw” is a little more downbeat, while “Completely Fucked!” is the closest DeRoeck has come to older glories in this endeavor. Sweet jammer. Gold vinyl. (http://www.heartbreakbeatrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Majnoons
“Mono Mono” b/w “Boudoir” 7”

I wonder which publicity firm sent this to Still Single? Do they check to see what kind of records zines cover before they mail them out? Can we be taken off their mailing list? Although the band may claim the influences of AC/DC and Prince, they kind of end up sounding a bit like Black Eyed Peas or Crazytown taking a stab at rave-era Primal Scream. Did the Majnoons think that releasing their music on vinyl will increase their street cred? (http://www.dlcrecords.co.uk)
(Chris Strunk)

With Teeth as Sharp as Old Friends LP

The last few years have seen such an influx of former and current punk types trying their hand at acoustic material that it’s become a bit cliché. Chicago’s Aaron Ross is apparently a veteran of several punk & hardcore bands, but his project Maribelle’s new LP is far removed from the strum-und-drang stridency of the No Idea/Plan-It-X crowd – in fact, it’s much closer to indie mainstays like Jose Gonzales or Elliott Smith. Ross seems to be handling all of the relatively spare instrumentation aside from percussion, with guitar dominating and accordion making an occasional appearance. Ross’ guitar playing is deft and clearly in the tradition of Nick Drake and the aforementioned Gonzales, while his voice occasionally takes on the theatrical air of Rufus Wainwright despite not having pipes in the same league. Ultimately this could appeal to fans of any of the artists mentioned, but it’s a little too restrained for its own good. For some reason, the two tracks that deviate the most from the formula are each placed at the end of a side, and while ending on a high note is generally a good idea, a few more songs like this would break up the relentless tastefulness of the rest of the album. I’m also left wondering if the anonymous, generic nature of the album packaging is intentional – this is a record that’s not trying to fight for your attention, and while that’s respectable, it’s also unfortunate given that Ross seems to have some real talent. (http://www.myspace.com/ohmaribelle)
(Patrick O’Donnell)

Native Cats
Always On LP
(Ride the Snake)

Just when new jack indiepop seems reduced to the tawdry symbolism of a truck stop drug rug, a group emerges from the aether to remind there are still intelligent and talented people creating inventive pop songs without hiding behind cheap effects and sunglasses (no dis to ZZ Top). In this case, the record had to come from Tasmania, where the Native Cats duo hang their thinking feller’s caps. These guys undoubtedly live near amazing beaches, but you won’t get any affected sandy jingles or middle-school poetry over easy reverb strum-bumming here. The Native Cats approach is airtight and erudite, decidedly urban and structurally supported by architecture as artfully efficient as the buildings repro’d as their covert art. They use bass and drum machine, which warrants Young Marble Giants comparisons (or, as a real stretch, Big Black without the ear trauma). Layered on top are transient keyboards and enough percussive kling-klangs to invoke a slice with This Heat-style immediate/jarring toppings. Certainly a kind of “Rough Trade lost classic” vibe abounds. Bass lines can be sparse and even heavy, but the songs themselves unfold to be surprisingly maximal, as the gripping lyrics and delivery of vocalist Peter Escott take their sound from merely clever to striking, emotionally charged and resonant. He’s truly a great singer, perhaps most evident on “Be Your Healer.” The lyrics contain peculiar narratives to puzzle over, a prevailing sense of ennui perhaps spiked with malice, but as with any good writer, it’s not always obvious if they are Escott’s own or those liberated from a found dictaphone loaded with personal missives meant to be taped over. The Native Cats have mastered a mode of deadpan tension that is fully their own, and those who can hang with such a subtly rewarding sound will find this LP to be a real keeper. Always On was released in Australia on CD in 2009, along with an excellent stateside companion 7” on White Denim. It would be a great, though likely overlooked record in any of the past three decades, and it’s great in 2010. (http://www.ridethesnakerecords.com)
(Andy Tefft)

No Kids
“Cherry Trees” b/w “An Afternoon at the Pendleton’s” 7” picture disk

Chirpy pop pap from Vancouver’s Nick Krgovich, offering up the old soft shoe and stuffed animal boogie – he even conned Rose Melberg into singing backup vocals for more felt-covered feelin’. “An Afternoon…” works despite the insulin shock of “Cherry Trees” trying to squash it, probably because of its subdued nature, and maybe a little luck courtesy of Phil Elverum guesting on clarinet or woodblock or whatever the fuck’s going down here. I don’t know … there’s not enough here to make much of an impression other than “oh, another indie-pop kid … great.” More troubling is that it’s starting to feel like I’m never going to see those promised Mika Miko and No Age picture disk singles, which were the reason I subscribed to this label’s stupid 7” picture disk club in the first place. I don’t even think this one was sent to me proper, and I certainly don’t feel like I got my money’s worth out of this series (kinda like when those kids in Texas took my $35 for a cassette club for bands covering Oneida’s Each One Teach One, then shrugged their shoulders when I confronted them in person and asked for a refund for the five tapes I paid for and didn’t get). Guess that’s my fault for believing in the kids, huh? (http://www.aagoo.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Pestilence & Joy LP
(Evolving Ear)

Warm, huggable improv-drone with one freak-out (last track on side….well, one of the sides) and seven or eight gently seasick pieces rooted firmly in the Excepter/Yellow Swans/Mouthus school of free-rock that mostly remains safe for G/W.I.T.R. (Girlfriend/Wife In The Room) play. Pestilence & Joy is this trio’s seventh LP since forming in 2002 (prolific in any other genre) and first since splitting a double-LP opus with fellow NY’ers Talibam, a release schedule that’s practically Scott Walker-like relative to the sub-genre at hand. Maybe it has something to do with Peeesseye’s tendency to skip room-clearing depravity, a la Wolf Eyes, Black Cheer Blue Sabbath and any of the millions of glance-at-watch-then-exhale outfits that seem to honestly believe in their respective abilities to “shock,” or have Weasel Walter listed somewhere in the liners, as some precedent to credibility. And that, in turn, has something to do with Peeesseye being three grown men with an appreciation for the subtler things in life. Like editing. All of these tracks are brilliantly glued together with some serious skill, and that works rather nicely with Peeesseye’s habit of front-loading the overtly-melodic stretches of each workout (if the track is to have an overtly-melodic stretch, mind you). While unlikely to pull out a “Your Far Church” (the heart-stopping opener on Mouthus’ Saw A Halo LP) on unsuspecting noiseniks, Peeesseye nonetheless seem to be tapping the right place for inspiration. (http://www.evolvingear.com)
(Andrew Earles)

s/t LP
(Burn Books)

Caffeinated, straining rock ‘n’ roll from a Brooklyn trio who are shooting for a Hot Snakes type sound, but whose pop-punk leanings and way with a catchy hook points them more in the direction of 1993 or so, when there were a good number of Superchunk clones huddling around Tascams and SM57s in American garages (and we were better off for it). All 10 songs on this short debut LP are very good, with some that are really great; the chord change in “Help!” is worth whatever you need to pay for one of the 300 copies available. For once the cover art accurately reflects the quality of the recording; kinda blurry, monochromatic, silkscreened images reflect a somewhat muddy mix and room mic’d rhythm section, sounding displaced and a little swallowed up. That’s really the only problem here, though. With a more dynamic recording and a better sense of sound, this band will go as far as this excellent material and their unclouded minds will take them. (http://burnbooks.org)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Reactors
“The Seduction Clinic” b/w “I Want Sex” 7”
(Last Laugh)

Exact repro of a true rarity … only 100 copies of the Reactors NYC punk 45 were made way back in 1979, and only 80 survived a flooded basement. Frantic punk that sounds very much of the time/place, and man, were these guys ever horny. You don’t get much more punk than “I Want Sex,” two blazing minutes of 30-knuckle shuffle which races out of the opening siren and keeps pumping away, hoping for that second wind after the initial spurt. “The Seduction Clinic” is good too, but after “I Want Sex” you won’t want to listen to it much. A KBD classic, now repressed and available again. 500 copies this time around. Harry’s got the hits. (http://www.myspace.com/lastlaughrecs)
(Doug Mosurock)

Rubbish Throwers
s/t 7” EP
(Endless Melt)

Grinding, circular noise rock action from a one-amongst many Australian project belonging to one Duncan Blachford (ex-Witch Hats, if you remember them from touring Stateside), dating back to 2007 but released in recent months. The wait on these things perplexes me, particularly as this brand of tense, vertiginous brand of down-under underpants rugby has been going strong for a good 30 years or so with no sell-by date in sight – the throbbing bass, the vague vocals, the triple tracked noise guitar can be drawn directly back to Southern hemisphere allstars like the Gordons or King Snake Roost, and yet here we are. Anyway, all the questions are answered on the insert, removing any of the mystery within this black slab of gunk. My sole complaint is a technical one: the two longer songs on side A (there’s four in total) shouldn’t occupy the same side of a single, particularly when two really short ones space out on the flip. Maximum fidelity is not achieved because of this, and something tells me that both “Tapeworms” and “Weak Eyelids” would benefit from a somewhat louder output. But yeah, crazy shit right here, and a fun, raucous time altogether. (http://www.endlessmelt.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Bruce Russell
Antikythera Mechanism LP
(The Spring Press)

Turbine rattle, heavy saddled noiseguitar improvisation, and an incredible, 20+ minute eyelash roaster of controlled/chaotic electroacoustic scrabbling from our man in the Dead C., and a personal hero, Bruce Russell. Antikythera Mechanism is his first solo album since a 2007 omnibus of tape experiments, and shows the artist reawakening into traditional and treated brands of improvised music. The two longish tracks on the A-side work both sides of the guitar innovator set: the abstract (Russell’s instrument is buffeted by a storm of heavy industrial noisecloud, courtesy of Marco Fusinato, on “West Space Two”) and the traditional (solo hammer-on and extendo-drone creep on “West Space One”). Using some sort of synthesizer on sidelong “Unanimity” – really, it sounds like my old, dying ARP 2600 – Russell runs his guitar source into the electronic randomizer, and pulls out long, bleeding strands of harsh buzzing, ring-mod destruction, and tonal alacrity, eventually winnowing away into minimal strokes and silence. As I wait patiently for a VINYL review copy of his bandmate Michael Morley’s new Gate LP (from about three subway stops away from where I currently sit), industrious folk from the other side of the Earth are spending real money to send in actual LPs of their works in for review, just like we have always needed over here to get the job done. 250 copies, white vinyl. (http://www.thespringpress.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

“A Salty Sea” b/w “Shepherd to Sheep” 7”
(Dirty Knobby)

Shuffling the lineups once more, here’s people who claim service in the Popular Shapes and the Intelligence among them, an oddball garage-popper wade with purposefully obtuse arrangements. The overall headspace screams Last Splash-era Breeders but without the polish or the energy, shanties with two too many s’s in the song titles that beckon out beyond the dock in the lakeside night. There’s a little bit of a thud in parts, maybe reclamation of the angles that the A Frames dropped, because they’re from Seattle and that seems to be the Jaycees-sponsored, Kiwanis-backed template for rock up there (and how!) Anyhow, not bad, you got this one figured out by now, and they’re one among many, but who knows? (http://www.dirtyknobby.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

Tusk Lord
s/t 7” EP
(Mind Cure/Dear Skull)

Tusk Lord is Mike Kasunic (also of Slices) but this isn’t heavy, noisy, or extreme in the sense you may have been expecting, and maybe not anymore. He’s run this name through a number of different solo projects and somehow it’s come out the other side as sad bastard music with a solid foundation. Members of Harangue and Centipede Eest help out with three songs of dignified (see: use of piano) and defeated male exhalations, like the recession’s take on the Walkmen or something. The songs are pretty good, but Kasunic has a little issue with vocals, choosing to perform them in a droll monotone and stepping away from real singing altogether. It works when it does. Either way, a pretty interesting downer here, carefully crafted to bring you down and with a few flashes of melodic competence that will probably grow into something. 200 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/mindcurerecords)
(Doug Mosurock)

Unknown Brain
s/t LP

Bit late to the party on here … had to do a turntable swap, as this one showed up warped … last year. Yeah. Anyway, Tom Ardolino of NRBQ recorded these songs as a 17-year-old somewhere in America around 1972, using a home stereo reel-to-reel recorder with primitive two-tracking abilities. He farts around on guitar, clavinet, church organ, and the instrument he’d be known for, the drums, working his way through a load of songs, fragments, covers and ideas. All of it is pretty noisy and charmingly oddball, and Ardolino never sounds like he’s holding back, which is why it all somehow works. He manages to get some sort of synthesizer tones out of the tape deck using stereo feedback, adding to the weirdness, and there’s some early cut-up/loop experiments that sound as if they were borne out of experimentation. There’s 28 songs here, culled from an earlier CD issue that crammed in around 50, so I’m assuming that this is the best it got. Probably not something you’d want to put on every day, but when you need inspiration, sometimes you gotta turn to a guy loaded with a demented glee, a guy who has nothing to lose, and let him roll with it, lest you get rolled yourself. And with 40 years’ hindsight, Ardolino manages to roll just about every lo-fi chumpo in the biz today – plenty of the crop today could only dream of having this much energy and this much need to invent. 500 numbered copies, silkscreened sleeve. (http://www.myspace.com/mrtreetrain)
(Doug Mosurock)

Human Hatred 7” EP

Four gentlemen who embrace a life free of drugs or alcohol tell you what’s up, in ten songs that run just over four minutes total. The constraints inherent in this method of operation are obvious: Vaccine wants tell you how fucked up things are, in as brief and violent a way as is possible. Open the poster sleeve and you are presented with the phrases “NO FUCKING HOPE” and “HUMANS ARE VILE.” A-doy! Ever read the comments section of any online newspaper? Yeah? Awesome, you feel me. And you might be feeling Vaccine as well, crushing edge blast verging on PV borders, with big mosh parts that end as soon as they start. Kinda makes you think how many people you can get away with punching in 20 seconds. And that’s fine. Maybe things are worth getting this worked up about. The tiny bursts of it are what probably make it tolerable; Human Hatred is the counterpart to an inverse Noothgrush varsity jacket covered in blood of the unjust (not of animals), if such a thing were to exist. Perhaps my favorite part about this is that I bought a limited edition red vinyl copy of this, and found inside the lyrics to their own song, “Limited Edition,” which barks at me, “GODDAMN DRONE /YOU’LL BUY ANYTHING /STUPID FUCKING TOOL /YOU’RE WORTHLESS /USELESS.” Surely they’re not talking about moi?!? Of course this is taken out of context – it’s spit in the eye of eBay jackals, who ripped through Vaccine’s earlier release on Youth Attack for the 90 seconds it was made available for sale. Plenty of hot button issues here, addressed with the same ferocious “FUCK YOU.” You get what you pay for! Anyway, that red vinyl is ironically long gone, and the rest of the pressing is not long for this world. You already know if you need to have this record. I did! (http://www.painkillerrecords.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

The Young
Voyagers of Legend LP
(Mexican Summer)

Until very recently, I was content with believing that I’d never hear a record like this debut album by Austin, TX’s The Young, ever again, for as long as I continue to take up space on this planet. There is hope; therefore, this will be a very difficult review to write.

Voyagers of Legend
‘s opening tracks “Captive Chains” and “Quintana the Killer” set expectations at a mid-to-high level, certainly enough to keep the non-reviewer listening. Those expectations are then shattered and lost to amnesia, right about the time the vocals start in “Phoebis Cluster.” That’s not to say that the first two are filler; the opener flattens both of the Sub Pop Comets on Fire LPs (whoa – Ed.), and the follow-up is obviously a partial idea and perhaps an idea of what this band used to sound like…a better-than-competent punk-pop band unashamedly leaning on garage structure as a vehicle. But the rest of this record … Christ on a crutch, there hasn’t been a full-length this spot-on with mood and 1%’er hooks in years. YEARS. Inspirational stuff, and while I assure the readership of this journal that I don’t plan on starting a band – ever – this effort reminds me of hearing certain landmark indie rock titles for the first time, a long, long time ago, and deciding that whatever was coming out of the speakers was going to both run and ruin the rest of my life (this action already in progress, as planned).

The beauty of Voyagers of Legend, and the difference between first-exposure moments with, say, the first Dinosaur record or Vampire on Titus or The Mother of All Saints, is that I’m not hearing a new style of music in the process of being established or invented. What I’m hearing is sonic familiarity in four or five styles mashed together, one or two of which have had the life beaten out of them by the mediocrity of product farted out in the past three years. This record isn’t a special one behind inventiveness; rather, this record is a masterpiece of exhumation that uses once-dead sonic vehicles to communicate uncalculated, uncontrollable soul, inspiration, sadness, and what can only be called “real shit,” through first-thing-in-the-morning-to-last-thing-before-bed HOOKS and unbelievably expressive (sometimes single-note) guitar solos, leads, riffs, rave-ups, etc. If I were to list the bands that are trying to do this or that would give their firstborn to do this, you would be reading along as this record review transformed into a novella-length roll-call.

This is the type of record that you think about all day and can’t wait to get home and listen to. This is the type of record that becomes an evening closer that you look forward to more than any other portion of the night … romantic train wrecks included. What about songs other than the three mentioned above? What about side 2? Is that some whining I detect? That you still have no idea what this band sounds like, or the genres in which they tread? What exactly do you need spelled out? Make this go out of print. Like most Mexican Summer releases, there are 1000 of these. They’re still around. Pick it up. Buy the next single or album by The Young, sound unheard, and do what you can to see and support this band, because if they break up or go away, we’ll then be presented with proof that music (the people who make it, the people who write about it, and most of all the people who need it to live a happy life) is indeed fucked beyond repair. (http://www.mexicansummer.com)
(Andrew Earles)


Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. We 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.

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.

Submissions can be sent to:

Doug Mosurock
PO Box 3087
New York, NY 10185-3087

Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.

Keep sending in submissions, please!

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