Yellow Green Red - Reviews January 2024
Adulkt Life There Is No Desire LP (Jabs / Our Voltage)
Adulkt Life are the hottest typoed band this side of Wooden Shjips, and I was eager to check them out following so many rave reviews of their 2020 debut album. Huggy Bear’s Chris Rowley is at the helm here, and seeing as Adulkt Life have been described as post-punk, I was expecting something in the Huggy Bear fashion: scrappy and punk-centric, with plenty of treble, dance-y drum beats and skeletal guitar work, let’s say. Adulkt Life check none of those boxes! Much to my surprise, this group opts for a pensive, brooding attitude, with thick guitars more in line with mainstream alt-emo than anything Gravity ever released. And rather than delivering any sort of sassed-up sing-along vocal, Rowley sounds weary and kind of unintentionally creepy, like he’s moaning his lyrics to you through the ductwork from a separate room. Not at all what I expected! Even an upbeat rocker like “Future Cops” feels more in line with Thursday or Sparta than anything I’d associate with “UK post-punk”, which I suppose is refreshing in its unexpectedness even if it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice. So many bands fall into their predetermined genre roles, especially as they get older, but it’s clear that Adulkt Life are not interested in fulfilling anyone’s expectations other than their own.
Pierre Bastien & Michel Banabila Baba Soirée LP (Pingipung)
Been seeing a few of these dream-team experimental pairings lately – Anla Courtis and Vomir, for example – and now this one featuring French junk-drawer electronicist Pierre Bastien and Dutch new-age experimentalist Michel Banabila. Both of these guys have LPs on my shelves already, and while the playfully unhinged manner of Bastien’s work might not immediately seem compatible with Banabila’s soothing fourth-world atmospheres, the sonic consensus they’ve reached here is lush, sensual and strange. As expected, there’s really no telling who is doing what… a rickety rhythm box might be Bastien’s, and a looped didgeridoo might’ve been pulled from Banabila’s closet, but their cohesion is surprisingly consistent throughout, and never bogged down by too many ingredients at the same time. Samplers, synths, loops, horns, flutes, percussive instruments and at least one guitar (“Roto Motor (Erbil Mix)”), there’s just a cornucopia of instrumentation here, most of which is performed in exploratory or non-traditional ways. Even their unlikeliest of instrumental combinations work well here, a testament to the keen ears these guys have developed over their many decades in the game. Much of Baba Soirée can call to mind the self-guided wonder of Ghédalia Tazartès and the alternate realms of Jon Hassell, but Bastien and Banabila were peers of those guys, traversing similar sonic territories of unknown origin at roughly the same time. Nice to see that they’re still out there in the thick of it, teaming up, and at the top of their respective games, no less.
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Carrier Fathom 12″ (Felt)
A simultaneously hypnotizing / brutalizing affair here from Alexander Lewis in his Carrier guise. You might remember Lewis from his Blackest Ever Black album a decade ago, and while that remains a solid entry in the noise-infected industrial-techno realm, Fathom is exponentially more vigorous. Opener “Fathom” is the one, a cascading assault of greyscale breakbeats unlike many other. Somehow it doesn’t feel like the cut-up drill-n-bass of Venetian Snares and the like, but rather the serpentine techno of T++ or Surgeon with newfound superpowers, even at its extreme speed. If Silent Servant simmers, “Fathom” is a rolling boil! “The Cusp” cools off a bit, but that same sense of rapid movement is there… it pulls off the trick of being so fast that your brain can simply follow along at half- or quarter-time, the internal “rhythm” appropriate for a relaxed head-bob. “Markers” brings an imposing low-end to the forefront, and “Trooper” plays with pitch, but the general approach is the same throughout: a precise frenzy of thuds, slaps and snaps. The tracks move horizontally but the sounds themselves are constantly shifting and changing shape, providing a similar presentation to time-lapse videos of massive ant colonies at work. Really impressive, aggressive techno for both mind and body (your soul will have to find nourishment elsewhere).
Dank Goblins Fruity Cigars LP (Iron Lung)
Iron Lung knows what’s up: when some of the West Bay’s power-violence pioneers want to release an album of trunk music, you get the record-pressing plant on the phone immediately! You might recognize DJ Eons One from his time in the legendary Spazz and Frank Marchi from the (to me, even more) legendary Agents Of Satan, and with the help of a couple friends they put together this dank-heavy instrumental full-length. No hardcore here, just stoned-to-the-bone bass-lines, laid-back drum loops and trippy samples, a universally-appreciable form of hip-hop meant to be blasted from cars (preferably a fully tinted Crown Victoria) with smoke pouring out of the cracked windows. DJ Eons has been at it for more than a minute, mostly relegating his home-cooked grooves to small-run tapes and tracks for friends, so it’s nice to get a full collection here, heady boom-bap instrumentals that, in another world, could easily accommodate bars from Nas or Ghostface. As an LP, it’s a beautiful thing, but I don’t think Fruity Cigars will have reached its final form until I have a burned/scratched CD-r copy with the name tagged in Sharpie, blasting from an old Jetta, upgraded rims more expensive than the car itself, idling in a convenience store parking lot across from my high school. That’s how I first listened to Spazz and Agents Of Satan, after all.
Equipment Pointed Ankh Downtown! LP (Torn Light)
Like a true krautrock troupe from the ’70s, Louisville’s Equipment Pointed Ankh deliver a second top-quality full-length in under a year, this following their standout From Inside The House. It’s rare that I mentally memorize instrumental music, but as I’ve been spinning From Inside The House enough to unintentionally do so, it’s nice to have this new platter, as gloriously zonked as From Inside if perhaps a bit more playful overall. They’ve got some seriously merry melodies happening here, tracks that sound like the last Blues Control album if it was bent into the form of a Sid and Marty Krofft TV theme. These instrumentals are vivid and probing, lots of keys being tickled, resonant surfaces getting thwacked and strings plucked. Reminds me of the candy aisle in the way that so many vibrant color combinations are competing for your eye’s attention, but in a way that feels exciting and fun, not sickening (that feeling is reserved for post candy-consumption). There’s a bit of a post-punky dance element to some of these tracks as well: see the hypno-throb of “Olympics IV” or the show-stealing funk of “Steppers’ Block”, which calls to mind an evening collision of Stevie Wonder and Conny Plank at the craft service table. As previously proven, Equipment Pointed Ankh wield their impressive chops in the name of light-hearted exploration, one of the few groups who can reasonably pump out two excellent albums a year, each with their own rich rewards.
Gob Psychic How Can Anyone Be So Lucky? 12″ (Le Cèpe / Beast)
The rambunctious six-song twelve-inch debut from Danish garage-punks Gob Psychic has me remembering what it was like when Amdi Petersen’s Armé showed up and immediately became the best “old-school” hardcore-punk band back in 2000 or whatever. Only in this case, instead of making us Americans look bad, Gob Psychic put together a bouncy EP to rival the best of Australia’s garage-y post-punk scene, bands like Ausmuteants, Alien Nosejob, R.M.F.C. and the like. How Can Anyone Be So Lucky? isn’t speedy so much as lively; while surely recorded in a studio setting, I can only image how much Gob Psychic bopped around while playing these songs, headphones falling off and cords tangling into knots. Their singer has a vibrant sneer, and he recites his lyrics in the manner that Johnny Rotten shouted his “England’s dreaming!” line, drawn out and full of bite. They manage to play their songs tightly without feeling remotely professional about it, a good part of that due to the singer’s wobbly delivery, at times hitting the anthemic qualities that Shame and Fat White Family seek out while still sounding punk, not “indie” or whatever. What’s not to like?
Golpe Assuefazione Quotidiana 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Props to Italy’s Golpe for bringing hardcore to the masses in 2023… I must’ve seen at least a hundred different flyers with their name on it in the last year, floating around in my various digital dwelling holes. If the live members of Golpe somehow managed to not get Covid like a dozen times thus far, they need to release their vitamin intake regimen so the rest of us can follow suit. Anyway, this five-song seven-inch is a blast of meaty fast-core, presumably influenced by the popular contemporary set of influences (Poison Idea, Discharge, Hoax’s “Down”, pogo drumming) in a way not entirely dissimilar to Warthog, S.H.I.T. and Electric Chair. The d-beat is prominent but not all-encompassing, with riffs and breakdowns that allow the pit to move both sideways as well as counterclockwise. I was wondering if Golpe might sound overtly Italian – y’know, maybe some of that sweet Wretched / Indigesti sauce – but their sound, as fashionable as it is, could really come from anywhere on the globe right now, from Trenton, NJ to Timbuktu. Apparently all the instruments are played by one Tadzio Pederzolli, and while the proliferation of the hardcore-punk solo-project is certainly a sign of the times, so is writing raging songs and playing them proficiently, of which Pederzolli is also guilty.
Gruuel Elite Controller / Softness On The Other Side 7″ (Deviations)
Gruuel’s debut seven-inch is still warm and we’ve already got this tasty follow-up! Now expanded to the trio of Beau Wanzer, James Vinciguerra and Tarquin Manek (whose new solo album as Static Cleaner Lost Reward I need to check out), these two songs offer a more dynamic approach to warped post-punk dub. “Elite Controller” chugs along zombie-like, the dubby bass-line and mechanically-clattering rhythm held together with tape while the manipulated vocals (must be Vinciguerra again) sounds like Gollum if he were an Elf On The Shelf (do they have that miserable thing in Australia?). “Softness On The Other Side” is ear-deep in the quicksand, Wanzer’s rhythms taking a backseat to the various clarinets, synths and noises, an imp-like swarm around the unexpectedly measured spoken-word vocals. The first Gruuel single was primitive and gross, whereas this one is flamboyant and vivid, rambling down candy-colored hills as opposed to chained away in a greyscale cellar. Both singles are great, but this one’s my instant fave; imaginative tunes from three minds that don’t think the way the rest of us do.
The Haxan Cloak N/Y 12″ (Archaic Devies)
The Haxan Cloak was a strong competitor in the 2012 Industrial Techno Olympics, poised for some sort of industry success outside the realm of little websites like this one. I’m not sure what happened – maybe he became a star and I had no idea? – but whatever the case, he now returns to putting out records, even if it’s simply this one-song clear-vinyl twelve-inch. “N/Y” is very cool though, kind of Lebron James-like in that it’s physically larger than most of the competition yet lithe and fast; a real all-star prospect. The jackhammer techno ballistics of Kerridge and Objekt are working hot and fast here, with an HD sound design befitting Ben Frost at his most butch. If I never heard any music before and someone explained moshing to me, I’d assume it would mostly be done to tracks like this, particularly during the overloaded crescendo complete with body-blows, air-raid sirens and fiery crackle. If four minutes of music for like twenty bucks (plus shipping) is something you can justify, this might be the way you’d want to spend it.
John Heaven Nouminimal 12″ (Public Possession)
Love a good techno record with the guy’s face unflatteringly large on the cover, a true Aphex-ism that never goes out of style. Mr. Heaven here is from Barcelona, and he’s a lively DJ whose own productions are in the Perlon school of minimalist tech-house: playful and bright with a subtle subversiveness running through it all. Extremely minimal by design, these tracks primarily consist of synthesized drum-machines – electronic snaps, clicks, thuds, kicks and cracks – with repeated spoken phrases throughout. Simple to the point where it’s almost silly, Nouminimal makes a strong case that melody isn’t necessary so long as the beat is wound-up tight and there’s a memorable vocal moment or two. Reminds me of Errorsmith’s mischievous approach to tech-house, or perhaps the seventeenth minute of a Ricardo Villalobos edit, long after the melodic leads and synths have left the club. Glorious, ridiculous club music, particularly as the breathy vocals of “El Baile Sensual” get progressively more delirious. I wonder if DJ Hell would ever play this, or if the conflict of interest is too strong.
The Hell The Hell 12″ (Not For The Weak)
Indestructible Cleveland hardcore debut from The Hell, featuring members of at least a couple other Cleveland hardcore bands (Woodstock ’99, Cruelster and that general gang of goofballs). Whereas I usually associate Cleveland hardcore (and Cleveland punk-related music in general) with outrageous humor both zany and deadpan, The Hell play it pretty straightforward, from the humble grid on the album cover to their overall sound and style. It’s all ripping first-wave hardcore, in league with Necros, Government Issue, Circle Jerks, Germs and the like, bands whose t-shirts adorned skateboarding miscreants in small towns and big cities across the United States in those seminal early ’80s. No moshy breakdowns, no gang vocals, just classic American hardcore-punk (with punk and hardcore equally represented), not even the faintest trace of metal or new-wave. Even though it’s clearly authentic, no-frills stuff, I kept waiting for there to be some hidden punchline or gag, just from the nature of the people performing it, but the gag seems to be that there’s no gag, just aggro pant-splitting punk. No need to be overtly wacky when lyrics like “you failed your whole life but now you’ve found your place / a toilet bowl of power and a badge that you embrace” make their intentions perfectly clear.
Michel Henritzi Flowers Of Romance LP (Bruit Direct)
Look back through the last few decades of harsh avant-garde music and you might find Michel Henritzi lurking nearby: collaborating with Junko, Kathy Acker, Tetuzi Akiyama as well as a member of noise action-unit Nox. He clearly enjoys collaboration, but Flowers Of Romance spotlights Henritzi by his lonesome, armed with a lap-steel and various effects with which to process it. The album comes in the form of two side-long live pieces, each one full of squealing feedback, physical aggression, faint traces of rhythm and hypnotic drift, like garbage cans on their sides rolling back and forth in the wind. He even shreds a bit on the second side, his mean-mugging slide splitting the difference between Macronympha and White Zombie. Harsh throughout, Flowers Of Romance is in constant motion, both hands active and probably a foot or two clicking down on the various effects-pedals that help render such a sick and muddied sound. Sewer Surfin’ might’ve made for a more appropriate title, but I can’t deny anyone a little Public Image Ltd. appropriation.
Hulubalang Bunyi Bunyi Tumbal LP (Drowned By Locals)
Hard not to get a little excited by the discovery of the Drowned By Locals label. First of all, that incredible name, along with the fact that it’s doling out otherwise-unheard experimental electronics, and based in Jordan, no less? We’ve already got one to watch, and this LP from Indonesia’s Hulubalang is a great place for us (or maybe just me) to start. Hulubalang is one Aditya Surya Taruna (aka half of Gabber Modus Operandi) and while his group is cool, Bunyi Bunyi Tumbal is even more to my liking, a desperate and unfriendly album of razor-sharp electronics, heavy synths and fiendish rhythms. These tracks are as imposing and impenetrable as one of those giant modern video-game bosses whose only weak spot is a tiny flashing red light that opens up every thirty seconds. These tracks recall the serpentine beats of Vessel’s Punish, Honey, Emptyset at their most hostile and Tzusing’s sword-sharpening avant EBM, all with the jump-scare production of early Arca. Should maybe come as no surprise then that Taruna actually provided beats for Björk (and joined her on tour in Japan), though Bunyi Bunyi Tumbal allows for only the faintest cracks of light through its granite/steel/rainforest composite exterior. Any sense of melody or uplifting inspiration would’ve been immediately killed and eaten in Hulubalang’s world.
Lexicon Poison Head 7″ (Iron Lung)
Seattle doesn’t have an abundance of great hardcore-punk bands, but when it does, they’re always particularly gnarly. Take Lexicon, for instance, who snarl like chained dogs, or at least behave like they are being yanked by tight collars choking their throats. They’ve got a sound that isn’t particularly hard to find these days – burly d-beat hardcore with noise-not-music aesthetics – but there’s something about this particular suite of songs that does it for me. The drums go hard without overextending themselves, like there’s still some sort of a rugged American aspect to these tunes, and while the guitar is a filthy buzzsaw cutting through septic pipes, the overall sound is as heavy as Public Acid or Quarantine. The vocalist is in full-on scalded demon mode (“demon” being one of the more underrated genders), which certainly fits the overall vibe, a realm where punks have been replaced by winged skeletons. Crasher-crust excellence for sure – even though I’ve heard the chord progression to b-side closer “Zero Sum Game” countless times before, Lexicon spruce it up with flashes of napalm guitar and a plodding insistence, a harsh admonition that it’s your choice, peace or annihilation.
Mattin Seize The Means Of Complexity LP (Xing)
Ever the sonic provocateur, Mattin’s newest solo piece is a difficult listen, even by his uncompromising standards. Seize The Means Of Complexity is a stark album, one that does a fine job of examining the experience of living in 2023; it’s probably better utilized as a time capsule for future generations to dissect than you or me to sit and listen to right now. Across two twenty-minute sides, there are long stretches of chattering electronic interference and gut-soothing bass tones, and equally long stretches of chopped-up pop detritus. Familiar (yet warped) bits of Taylor Swift, Shakira and Soulja Boy songs cascade forward, as if you’re stuck in an infinite TikTok scroll with a battery at one percent that never shuts down. For many noise artists through the years, inflicting pain upon the listener has been a stated goal, and I can’t think of a better way to accomplish that right now than the sounds of a soul-sucking digital-pop slideshow (at least until noise artists start harnessing those secret CIA noise cannons that cause vision loss and evacuated bowels). Honestly, when the clips of pop-music surrender to the void of choppy arhythmic noise for a few minutes in the middle of the second side, it’s a relief. Only Mattin could offer harsh electronics as a welcome respite to whatever else he’s serving up.
Money Money 12″ (Beach Impediment)
Authentic bad vibes emanating from this twelve-inch by Texas’s Money – I’m afraid if I leave it around the house long enough, someone’s pet will die, or I’ll start having sleep paralysis or something. They’re a hardcore band who apparently revel in the darker elements – drugs, mostly – seemingly aware of their eventual downfall but giggling in the reaper’s face anyway. Their music takes a similar stance, each song feeling like it has the potential to be someone’s final ride. The drums are a steady, potent d-beat (fills are rare), the guitars behave like blackened thrash and the vocalist, mostly obscured by the sonic muck surrounding him, barks like a wounded hound. Money collects both a demo and a cassette EP (originally packaged in a sealed plastic bag – just like drugs!), the latter tracks taking on black-metal motifs with the bottled violence of hardcore. I suppose metal guys could dig it, but Money’s whole atmosphere isn’t necrowolves howling from frostbitten cliffs, it’s about surviving the streets, or at least glorifying the terror they can entail. I like Money in hardcore mode, but their metallic stuff is even more fun – “No Cut” hits especially hard, like Exodus if they only listened to Framtid for inspiration. I know what’s good for me, so I won’t be messing with Texas anytime soon!
Multiplex Segway Cops 12″ (Not For The Weak)
Bremen’s Multiplex pack a dose of levity with their fiery squat-punk style. After all, when the tables finally turn, even the Paul Blarts of the world will get marched off a cliff with the rest of the pigs. Multiplex have a ragged sound to go with their anti-authority sentiment, classically crusty and pogo-laden in that typical modern way, all with shout-along choruses and plenty of energy. The dual-gendered vocals remind me of Fleas N’ Lice, or at least the general punk demeanor of Profane Existence’s Skuld Releases counterpart… I’m already picturing a German crowd mingling in faded black band-shirts (with disintegrated armpits), cooking a giant vat of vegan stew before the gig. It’s gross, but you get used to it! Songs like “Cyberpunk” and “Bored Society” are perfect for sloshing around after the dinner, elbowing your new best friend in chest as you angle your way to the front. Good news, Klaus is hitching a train early tomorrow morning, so there’s an empty bunk in the communal sleeping area! Stay as long as you like.
Bill Nace / Emily Robb split LP (Open Mouth)
This split LP between Philly Phavorites Bill Nace and Emily Robb is an impressive memento of their June 2022 tour. Recorded earlier that year, they both contribute side-long pieces showcasing their instrument du jour. In Bill Nace’s case, it’s the taishōgoto, a sort of Japanese spin on the pedal-steel, a laptop stringed instrument that, in Nace’s hands, unleashes cascades of harmonic fuzz. This is apparently his first publicly-available recording of the taishōgoto, and it’s glorious, like Kevin Shields endlessly riffing on Terry Riley’s In C, or Oren Ambarchi trying to hit a thousand notes per minute. I realize it’s only his first recorded attempt, but it already feels kind of definitive, at least from a solo taishōgoto perspective. Emily Robb is a red-blooded guitarist, and stretches her legs out mightily here, on what might be my favorite track I’ve heard from her yet! Over a humming loop, she extends and hyperextends her blues scales, like Les Rallizes on the last spaceship to Mars. I haven’t seen video, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she fashioned her guitar neck into a pretzel by the time the tape ran out here. Might be hard to believe that anyone would grant their most inspired material to a split LP in this day and age, but this one right here is a prized document of Philadelphia’s finest string-slingers. Vigorously recommended!
Nina Harker Nina Harker LP (Aguirre / El Muelle 1931 / La République Des Granges / Animal Biscuit / All Night Flight / Be Coq)
Nina Harker arrived on the scene and immediately claimed the title of “freakiest French duo”, a status they maintain with this, their second self-titled vinyl full-length. A lot of weird music comes through these pages – weird in all sorts of ways, too – but Nina Harker truly manage to sound like no one else. I wonder if they even sound like themselves? There are elements of DIY post-punk, what with drum machines, effected voices and errant noise, but there’s also plenty of classical acoustic guitar, soft keys, sung vocals and a ghostly folk presence. It’s really the way in which Nina Harker combine these elements that is so unique: there’s no telling where any track will go, so idiosyncratic and mercurial is their song-craft. Opener “Le Pont à Voiles” is a good example, as they pair repetitive European acoustic guitar with cut-up tapes of squealing humans, resulting in something that sounds like Devendra Banhart choking on his own vomit. The track then takes a soft turn to chanson, leading into the next track, “De Dos Il Fuit”, which sounds like Lolina experimenting with a trance dial-tone. As separate tracks, they’re charmingly fascinating, but taken as a whole, Nina Harker unspools like a loony art-house masterpiece, full of little girls in corpse-paint, pianos floating in the open sea and poodles chainsmoking cigarettes. Oui oui!
Onyon Last Days On Earth LP (Trouble In Mind)
Last Days On Earth opens with a series of wrong notes, an excellent first impression for Germany’s Onyon. They’ve got that morose floor-tom post-punk thing happening, as disaffected and over-it as the countless many who came before. And while I appreciate the guitar/synth playing, particularly just how off or out of tune it sounds, the songs themselves are pretty average for the course. Onyon certainly sound like a new band (they are) as well as a first band (I have no idea), and while I love bands comprised of people who are still figuring out their instruments, Onyon’s songwriting is plain and predictable, two traits that leave me weary when it comes to a genre where really, you can do whatever you want at any skill level. Not bad by any means – if you like plodding, primitive post-punk guitar rock, it’s exactly what they do – but I suppose at this stage in my life as a listener, I need it to do more than simply exist for me to purposely put it on more than once or twice. I hate writing reviews like this, because I bid no ill will to Onyon, who are surely fine people having fun playing in a band, but what am I supposed to do, heap praise onto every record out of an obligation to be nice? My loyalty lies with you, dear reader!
Ovef Ow Vs. The Worm LP (What’s For Breakfast? / Oort Cloud)
Got a good first impression from Chicago’s Ovef Ow – the bold, airbrushed cover art was striking, and the band name, looking as if “Oxbow” degraded over time, was appealingly irksome. I’m sad to report then that the music is, well, just okay. They’ve got a dance-y post-punk thing going, though the energy is never bursting and the songs lack the hooks necessary to make this sound jump out of the speakers and into your heart. Feels like they’ve got a lot of ideas – there are slow songs, weird metallic guitar tones, vocal harmonies, airy synths – but it never quite comes together for me. I’m picking up on moves and motifs reminiscent of Sweeping Promises, Priests, Mocket and Yeah Yeah Yeahs even, but you might be disappointed if you picked up Vs. The Worm expecting a lively mixture of those four. Maybe they’ll hook me in next time, or they’ll simply lean into the potential obnoxiousness that comes with their band name (which, according to their Bandcamp, rhymes with “Whoa, Jeff, Wow!”) and their next record will lean into some sort of terrifying amalgam of Fat Worm Of Error and Teenage Jesus. Wouldn’t that be something!
Paint It Black Famine 12″ (Revelation)
No matter how far Revelation Records might wander from New York City circa 1988, there’s something about that yellow R-in-a-star logo that can never be tarnished; it looks particularly nice slapped on the back of the furious and sincere hardcore of Philadelphia lifers Paint It Black here in the mid 2020s, too. Paint It Black has long been Dan Yemin’s most aggro band, he of Lifetime and Kid Dynamite fame, though his trademarked aggravated tunefulness runs through Famine, even as he tries to bite your head off. These songs push and pull in the way that great emotive hardcore does, music that doesn’t cater to moshing and diving so much as it tries to shake the listener into action, or at least some form of movement. I’m certain that multiple people have found themselves slammed in the pit at a Paint It Black show without realizing how they got there, so commanding is Dr. Dan’s oratory presence. As is the case with their earlier material (which somehow spans twenty years now!), there are some fist-in-the-air sing-alongs (“Safe” being the immediate standout), though I’m struck by the overall quality and strength of Yemin’s lyrics throughout. I don’t think I paid close attention before – maybe he’s always been this good – but his words here are consistently righteous, insightful, vulnerable and empowering, and they get there in novel and eloquent ways, far from the corny platitudes found in many “good guy” hardcore bands. Yemin would rather blow up the White House than be the president, which is why he’s getting my vote.
Parking Lot My Life Is A Mess LP (Phantom)
There’s been a certain strain of garage-punk in recent years that pushes self-deprecation to new levels, a sense of “isn’t it interesting that I’m a deplorable loser?” as if recognition of this sorry state of affairs is of itself noteworthy. I mean, Sub Pop made those LOSER shirts decades ago, Beck’s breakthrough hit is due for its thirtieth anniversary this year… it’s a tale as old as time at this point, and German group Parking Lot are adding to the ketchup-stained, couch-sleeping genre with My Life Is A Mess. I assumed this particular fascination with personal failure was an American thing, but I can understand its universal appeal, especially as a general lyrical motif to accompany an indie-punk sound, even as it’s not what I’m overly interested in hearing. Parking Lot’s style is garage-y and agile in a way I’d align with Vintage Crop and early Parquet Courts… a little Ty Segall when they get particularly rowdy (“Chicken Wings”) and a little Cake when they try to get funky (“Elevator Man”). It’s hard to feel sympathetic to songs about trying and failing to buy beer, or the first-person narrator of “Old Piece Of Shit” who eats potato chips and farts, but I get the impression that Parking Lot aims for these cheap laughs over anything more substantial.
Zach Rowden No Middle Without The Beginning LP (Torn Light)
Some real cabin-in-the-woods noise here from Zach Rowden, the handy instrumentalist you may know from Crazy Doberman or Tongue Depressor. These two sides are full of repetitive creaks, (super)natural groans and blistering distortion, very much in the tape-loop domain of Aaron Dilloway. The first side simmers a bit, and I have to wonder if Rowden isn’t running a bow across some strings, as the corroded, half-limping loops recall Samara Lubelski’s work given a proper cheese-grating. The b-side gets a little more traditional in the realm of slow-building chopped-up noise textures. Each side clocks in somewhere under twenty minutes, which is a nice length for stretching out into the rotten stew that Rowden has stirred up, oddly hypnotic for how car-crashingly Merzbow-esque some of these sounds can be. Fans of Rowden’s other projects will surely enjoy him out on his own here, whittling away a mean old pile of metallic splinters in some isolated shed.
Secretors Comparing Missile Size Vol. 1 7″ (Roachleg)
“The unofficial Roachleg house band” drop their first hard piece of wax, appropriately on that very label, and if you’re expecting anything less than corpse-chugging hardcore-punk miscreancy, you better get your head checked! Perhaps a side band of sorts, Secretors features personnel from Warthog, Urchin, Institute & Glue, though I get the impression that Secretors have been playing more shows than the rest of them as of late. I certainly need to catch them myself, as this is the kind of renegade hardcore I need in my life, as burly as it is uncompromising. The specter of early, metallic-influenced Japanese hardcore looms throughout, with hints of the earliest Nightmare and Bastard material, though Secretors doesn’t come across like a surface-level tribute. It seems more that they understood the best possible sounds for a hardcore EP titled Comparing Missile Size Vol. 1 and they assembled it perfectly, powerful yet constantly at the mercy of chaos. Six songs, all perfect little prayers for the hasty passing of the mass-murderers that try to pass themselves off as “world leaders”.
Spllit Infinite Hatch LP (Feel It)
New Orleans post-punkers Spllit took a different approach from the rest of the pack on their debut, egg-punky but open to extramural ideas, and this sophomore follow-up pushes things outward in a way that I find particularly appealing. These songs are constantly on the move, as quick to stop-start as Pig Destroyer or Botch, except Spllit utilize DEVO-esque synth zoinks and Deerhoof-ish guitar licks instead of metallic grind. Infinite Hatch brings oddly-angled funk and Addied dance-punk in and out of focus, calling to mind the whizz-bang approach of Guerilla Toss and the art-nerd attitude of Suburban Lawns. At first, it’s almost disorienting how quickly these songs shift, but after a few listens I find myself able to make some sense of it all, even if it’s the unexpected five-second cow-punk bridge in “Growth Hacking”, the detuned xylophone of “Shine Sheen” or the “hidden MIDI” within “Bevy Slew”. They’re clearly talented musicians, but it seems that Spllit went particularly wild with the digital recording methods available to them on this one, much to the listener’s benefit. Sometimes sonic adventuring leads you to a dead-end, but Spllit discovered a variety of gloriously weird new paths here, as playfully disconcerting as the two Ls in their name.
The Sundae Painters Sundae Painters LP (Leather Jacket)
Some of my friends could probably write biographies of the New Zealand indie-rock underground, so deep is their knowledge and appreciation, whereas it still feels vast and unwieldy to me, a person who is probably more invested in DIY music than whoever’s in front of you in line for coffee. I kinda just dip in at random, obsessing over certain bands and straight-up whiffing on others, but one thing I do know is that one can’t go wrong with the late, beloved Hamish Kilgour. He was in The Clean of course, among many other celebrated/unknown acts, and he played in this new-ish group, The Sundae Painters, alongside members of Toy Love, The Bats and Tall Dwarfs. Consistency has always been one of this scene’s honorable qualities, and Sundae Painters comes correct with that signature New Zealand strum. This time, however, these players stretch their legs on motorik drum beats and a downright kraut-y churn, songs conjured out of the ether rather than rigidly assembled. This loose fit works well for their scrappy jangling, with guitars given the chance to solo (and they do) and vocalist Kaye Woodward getting downright groovy at times – is that sitar in the opening cut “Hollow Way”? It’s the kind of record that might lead my mind to play tricks on me, this spiritual possession of Agitation Free and Guru Guru in some “farm shed in the South Island” as their bio explains.
Thollem | Riley | Cline The Light Is Real LP (Other Minds)
There’s something about old weirdos that I find particularly inspiring: clear evidence that you don’t have to shrink into quiet mellowness as an artist, even as you enter the age of Medicare and Social Security. The eternal Terry Riley joins up here with the mononymous Thollem and Nels Cline, and my god it’s tied with Nina Harker for weirdest record of the month. I guess it’s mostly Thollem and Riley at the helm here, both of whom are busy making a consistent babbling-brook of mouth noises. Pure unbridled gibberish, and multiple overlaying tracks of it! The vocals are gloriously ridiculous, as if Riley and Thollem are competing in a contest to see who can make the other laugh first with neither side giving in. Cline adds some very soft guitar touches throughout, occasionally lingering on a melody or scrabbling out some light improvisations, and combined with the lively vocalizing, The Light Is Real feels quite otherworldly at times, the first side sounding like a couple grumpy gods arguing in their holy language, the second side more like the snores of their passed-out angels after a particularly raucous bacchanal. It’s inspired improv at the outer limits, a testament to the liveliness of these eternal eccentrics.
Tojo Yamamoto 山本東条 10″ (Forbidden Place)
Most bands, if they’re lucky, have one or two interesting aspects to their existence, and yet here’s Tojo Yamamoto racking up the notable details: they’re a wrestling-themed, blown-out rock band featuring members of Nine Pound Hammer and ZZ Top! Yes, that ZZ Top, as if there could ever be more than one. Elwood Francis replaced Dusty Hill after he passed, and he handles guitar duties on Tojo Yamamoto’s debut. Musically, this is blown-out, grooving noise-rock in the Am Rep tradition, not too far from The Hammer Party (or the more locked-in riffage of Landed) and Cows. It’s not excessively noisy, but the primitive, laid-back riffing and caustic guitar tones are all redolent of the traditional noise-rock formula, punk rock’s greasy, sluggish offspring. Larry Joe Treadway is a capable vocalist and deserving of his two first names, sounding like he’s crashed at least one car that he was able to walk away from without a scratch. All that, and the lyrics are mostly referencing various old-timey bad-ass wrestlers, the guys whose Dark Side Of The Ring episodes were more about shooting pistols at bloodthirsty fans than wasting away on pills. If none of these various attributes strike you as intriguing, well you must be a far more sophisticated person than I.
Violent Change Starcastle LP (Sloth Mate)
My favorite psych-rock group named after a Minor Threat song returns with LP number four, perhaps their most refined and comprehensible yet. On previous records, Violent Change boggled my mind with their recording fidelity, mixed in such wild ways that it became a defining quality of the band. One guitar would be in your face, the other out the door, the drums sound like wet paper except for the ride cymbal… it could be so superbly confusing and disorienting at times. I could also understand it turning off any but the most intrepid of listeners, though, and I feel like Starcastle does a fine job of splitting the difference between psych-pop pleasures and avant home-taper experimentation. Recorded between January 2017 and January 2023, Violent Change give us the best of their past few years, with moody, low-lit psych numbers, power-pop jangle and deep-fried synths/tapes. The one-two combo of “Conduction Wire” (tensely tuneful post-punk) and “Batman” (American Tapes-styled harsh collage) is particularly alluring. Starcastle calls to mind The Olivia Tremor Control, The Scrotum Poles and The Lavender Flu at times, all groups who reached their psych-pop outcomes through uncommonly warped means, though Violent Change’s casual crusade against indie-rock decency is entirely their own.
Wet Dip Smell Of Money LP (Feel It)
Cool confrontational debut album here from Austin’s Wet Dip, a trio of two sisters (Sylvia and Erica Rodriguez) and Daniel Doyle, guitar and bass swapped between members. The group seems interested in punk as a means of direct communication, a shout-in-the-face inches from the crowd, not propped up on a stage. Their disregard for “the way things are done” leads to some interesting decisions, as certain songs are noisy post-punk with a vocal sneer, whereas others allow for long periods of Sylvia Rodriguez’s softly-sung acapella vocals. Anything seems to go, and go it does! I’m most intrigued by the loosely-structured bash-fests: “Finale” and “Train Wreck” remind me of the gleeful patience-testing of Psycho Sin, both songs reliant upon stick-clicks and first-attempt guitar noise. With Wet Dip, it’s no guarantee that all three members will be playing their instruments at the same time, and even if they are, the chance of them all playing the same melody or rhythm is unlikely. How about a rendition of The Pixies’ “Silver” played in the style of Cyanamid, except with sweetly-sung vocals? You’ve got it here! Wet Dip don’t think twice about blowing up the rulebook, and if you don’t find it at least a little refreshing, it may be worth examining your allegiance to hardcore-punk orthodoxy.
XpoemsX / Photon Band The Birth & Death Of The Historical Buddha LP (Jabs / Easy Subculture)
Two cool split LPs in the same month?? A guy could get used to this! This one comes from the heady pastoral enclave of Eric DeJesus and his Easy Subculture freedom squad, an extremely DIY imprint he’s run from various Northeastern dwellings over the course of like, four decades now? And yet if you saw him, you’d swear he’s a newly-turned thirty year-old himself… such is the youthful effect of staying punk. XpoemsX is DeJesus himself looping a couple acoustic/electric guitars alongside some spoken word in his trademark “red-wine emo” style. It’s soft, hypnotic and heartfelt, as if the guitars of Ash Ra Tempel, Spiritualized and Nagisa Nite were finely ground into a smokeable powder distributed in certain copies of the Breathing Walker demo. I was expecting Photon Band to immediately bring the hammer down with their long-running downtown garage-psych, but was pleasantly surprised by the looser, stranger moves they’re sharing here. They’re incredibly breezy and lugubrious here, with some fuzz-mangled guitar, interstitial vocals and tender psych-folk songwriting, all bouncing off each other like little bacterium in a petri dish. Very “home recorded” sounding in the best of ways, the sort of thing Blackbean & Plancenta would’ve begged to release back in 1997. (I’d say it sounds like something Darla Records would’ve released back then too, but that’s actually the case, seeing as Photon Band released four albums with the label.) I love Photon Band in this messy presentation, what sounds like various tapes being popped in and out of a dusty deck to reveal a band in constant conversation with itself. So nice that after all these years, these life-long friends and collaborators can get together for such a fresh and vibrant split.
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