Violator EP [CS; NO!]
Drekka and Dylan. This is going electric; this is Woodstock babies pregnant with babies. Bloomington, Indiana’s big guns delivery a hefty, sexless child into the world. Where the joint moniker Dry Socket fits into such an analogy…I’d rather not pain the women readers. Regardless, this creation from Michael Anderson and Dylan Ettinger seems a long time coming just by virtue of their standing within the college community that harbors (well, not Dylan anymore) them. But nothing else about this is very collegiate or bro-ish or even underground. Both sides play with the idea of industrial’s humble beginnings while also giving a nudge and a wink to Depeche Mode. Though neither are Gahan, both do retell a fascinating story through their own no-holds-barred prism of cool noises and rudimentary melody. The A side is the bouncing, blushing newborn being heaped with unheralded praise; the B side angry and inconsolable in the middle of night for no other reason than because. When you’re a parent, you learn to love the extremes. So goes Violator. You can’t have the happy lasting memories without the growing pains.Links: Dry Socket - NO!
Fog and Other Memories [CS; Already Dead Tapes]
One of the best projects happening in the world right now is called Tereshkova, and it comes from the mind of Portlander Jeff Lane. Hot on the heels of last year’s outstanding Intergalactic Letdown tape, Lane’s new work keeps all the project’s soul-swallowing qualities – the oceans of reverb, the flipping and twisting electronic effects, and yards of delaying tape. But there’s something about this new album that gives even further access into the true genius of Tereshkova. There’s a sharper attack of melody and rhythm, picked guitars, plucked synths, and the drums just groove. But the important thing is that you really hear it all out in front this time, unburied, slicing through the fogs and ahead of the clouds of color left behind. Before I was thinking along twee lines, but now I’m getting straight psych pop, the kind Dave Fridmann loves to get his hands on. In either case, Tereshkova’s knack here is for that big symphonic sound, hurling the arranging prowess of people like Brian Wilson into the world of pedal power and monster amplifiers, and doing it with really pretty, understated songs. Lane builds little worlds of drifting, pastoral choral harmonies from his wash of guitar and synth; Some of the tunes, as they slip and strip their complications, blossom and bloom out into full on hymns resulting in some of the most massive music to hit a cassette yet this year. It’s all happening at the bottom of the Grand Canyon; a quiet, private and lonely moment, shouted up through the miles of earth and out into the heavens.
I do want to take a second to talk about the vocals. One issue is that it’d be tough to pick out even a handful of real words he’s actually singing, there’s just barely anything human left from the time the voice enters the mic to get out on the other end of a speaker. Trust, it’s a really great treated sound, and definitely the right amount of fucked-up for the music that surrounds it. It’s properly mixed in the bath, and Lane’s delivery also has the right attitude in its nasally sneer. But with the intonation a little eschewed, sometimes it gives a pale, irregular sort of feeling. This is almost more like a precautionary description here, there’s a lot of people that actually prefer words are delivered that way (and admittedly I’m one of them at times, here especially). Still, you gotta wonder what an angel might do with that kind of sonic real estate.Links: Tereshkova - Already Dead Tapes
Karoshi [CS; Drone Warfare]
I got to thinking about industrial music the other evening. I happened upon the video for Filter’s “Hey Man Nice Shot,” and though not the gritty, acidic version of industrial still celebrated by a few, it was at the height of the genre’s recognition. By proxy, I began to think of the equally toxic noises that the last decade has produced by mutating synthesizers and electronics into a futuristic obelisk firmly planted in an alternative past. What this has to do with Richard Riggs is largely based on my projection of taste onto his sound, but Riggs happens to hit the sweet spot where industrial may have found itself had NIN, Front 242, Filter, Stabbing Westward and a host of slightly popular acts not been identified with the Hot Topic darkness of industrial pop. Karoshi certainly has its bright moments via identifiable melody structures. Yet there’s a corrosive agent eating away the sparkling flesh as the tape degrades with each passing play-through. The heavy bass and snapping snares have long been eroded; the anonymous hand gracing the cover serving as the pulsating slab of heartbeat substitution. But the drones! Oh, those spiky, spiteful drones that sink further into the tar pits. Riggs truly explores both totems of a greatly fractured (and perhaps relabeled) genre. This won’t fit firmly in the old confines of industrial music but that’s the beauty of it! Genres are dead and industrial has long been dormant in its most pertinent public applications. Karoshi stands as testimony that industrial lives on, no matter the name or association.Links: Drone Warfare
Destroyah [CS; Deathbomb Arc]
Deathbomb Arc seem enamored with unknown forms of hip-hop lately and that’s an amazing development, particularly in the case of Viper Venom, a unit tighter than a lizard’s twat and messier than Madvillain (or at least that’s what they should be claimin’). I’m all over this fuckin’ shit. Destroyah is right up there with clipping. material when it comes to enlightening developments in hip-hop, though the two couldn’t be further apart in terms of style and temperament. VV peddle poison, poised to propagate pure pitch-bent piss at the prop-happy punters. I always imagined Heltah Skeltah would sound like this and they always let me down; a lot of the Anticon groups seemed headed in this direction for awhile too. No more; Viper Venom got the block locked when it comes to horrific, barely contained rage raps. Again: I’m all over this shit, and you should be too. Just give it a chance…Links: Deathbomb Arc
DS3 [CS; Adhesive Sounds]
Daniel Leznoff does anything but as Demonstration Synthesis. DS3 is rather the work of a professional schooling a bunch of amateurs during the height of sweeps with an entire generation as his viewing audience. Agape are mouths and drooping are chins at the magnetic waves of synthesizer washing over them in equal parts academic study and flawless execution. Whether to applaud, remain silent, or get up to dance at the symmetrical stylings of Leznoff are just part of the participatory process. However you react, it’s that action that registers loudest. No amount of Nielsen ratings or entertainment rag gossip will eclipse this high or spoil this outcome. Each time it’s different, though the overnights always remain high. One by one we are drawn to our stereos, ratings on the rise. And each time we press play we become another diehard. Fan fiction begins to crop up, message boards dedicated to what’s next, and major motion picture deals float in our heads. But Leznoff is a man of integrity, working his craft for a love of the unconventional. In that calm, he finds what keeps bringing us back. What’s next? There is no time to worry for we’re still enamored with what’s now. DS3, oh how you’ve captured the heart of an entire nation, just not everyone is aware of it yet.Links: Adhesive Sounds
Stay At Home Dads
Break Fast [CS; Self-Released]
Do not be turned off by the banal name or pun of the band’s cassette. See past your scrunched nose (if you can open your eyes from the initial horror shock). What lies inside Break Fast may be the rudimentary first steps of a band on the cusp of some feverish attempt at Endless Boogie (or at the very least Vietnam) jams. Everything about Stay At Home Dads is stonewashed and Nag Champa scented. It’s a carefully maintained and carelessly driven Z-Roc. There’s a sense of pride in each low fidelity trip and though the room for improvement is about as spacious as the backseat of the Z-Roc, that’s still room for growth for a band. Stay At Home Dads are a good production job and a pruning of their ’70s arena rock collection away from something worth near-worship. As it currently stands, Break Fast is the kill time between roach hits and play dates. The bones are sturdy but the meat isn’t fleshy. In the meantime, live vicariously through this Brooklyn band before they blow up and you are left holding the scraps.Links: Stay At Home Dads
Technopoly [CS; Signapore Sling Tapes]
If retro-futurism be your thing, look no further than this Henri Claudel person otherwise known as Mother Ganga (an artist I was first introduced to from one of Huckleberry Friend’s recent mixtapes on… wait wait, I’m losing you). I guess the who or why doesn’t matter as much as the WHAT. And THAT just so happens to be this amazing 7-song (not nearly enough songs, by the way) collection of silicon-skyway Depeche Mode-dance proto/whatever-wave pocket calculator pop music that is blissfully beautiful and incredibly strong. It’s the kind of cheeseball style you might expect to hear in an old, lame, teeny-bopper type of movie involving nerds, but instead of being cheeseball or lame or old, Technopoly is quite fresh and new and just really, really good (and still just a little bit teeny-bopper and also slightly nerdy). It’s real and it’s honest and sincere, too, and that’s why I am of the mind that Henri Claudel, although certainly a pseudonym, isn’t so much a joke character as it is a sturdy vehicle for whoever this person actually is to produce some really terrific songs. They start with great melodies and lyrics that skirt dance club politics/love stories via thought-provoking philosophies (“Peer into my disco ball” is an easy favorite), and each unfurls with firing squads of synthetic syncopation, fluttering arpeggio flourishes, and a locomotive pace that just will not quit. The voice, deep, reverberant and sexy, is the icing on top of this delicious cassette cake. Fucking Singapore Sling, guys. Every damn time. Starting to get a little tired of telling you, but I just gotta.Links: Henri Claudel - Signapore Sling Tapes
Sings the Blues [LP; VHF]
Usui takes one step more toward a true reveal. Once a member of pivotal (well, to particular American audiences) Japanese groups such as Ghost and Fushitsusha, Usui’s legend was entrenched early among a growing avant garde by its slow emergence from passed around magazines toward the end of the 90s. As L, Usui began blending traditional Japanese folk with not-so traditional techniques and applications that produced the heavy (in spirit) Holy Letters. Collaborating with Ben Chasny, Usui clung to the rawer sounds of his oeuvre while also giving more of himself to his partner and audience.
Sings the Blues, which boasts most of Usui’s given name, goes further. Some of these tunes were offered to Chasny for a long anticipated follow-up to August Born’s first LP, but these confessional strands are best kept as Usui revelations. It’s a stark gamut, with much of the album a practice in solitude. Usui strums or beats a pattern, often offering up a spoken glimpse (language barrier aside) of what encompasses each blues inspired piece. Though there isn’t a 12-bar variety to be found, it’s the feeling of isolation and abandonment that has long held all disparate ideas of blues together that is truly universal. Be damned the method or lyric, if you’ve had real problems you can relate to Usui’s bared soul. Sings the Blues isn’t all pity, with a pair of songs titled “A Fake Blues” providing more playful melodies that speak to the haunted passageways of Americana’s twisted Southern twang. Truth is, no matter the source these are powerful tunes that speak to the essence of existence. That they are the product of Usui means much more because rarely does even the most forthright artist give so much of themselves and their creations openly.Links: VHF
Pressing Schedule [CS; Standard Issue]
The interrupting solitude of Zach Bodtorf’s alter ego is a continued ear punch. Shimmering guitar melodies are dissected by angry buzzing; an idyllic summer picnic being infested with wasps hungry for jello and ants picking at the meaty corpse between two slices of bread. Pressing Schedule’s title hearken to the constant tug of daily perfection with the struggle to measure up to the status quo. We all want to have our time in the sun but the steamroller of expectation (work, commitment, time) is always pressing down on our few moments of peace. As Bodtorf escapes the city life for the country, the album distances itself from its earlier horrors and blossoms into zen. Rather than a metaphor, it allows us to live in that picture inside our head. But the cassette’s finale serves as an ominous reminder that behind every rock and around every trunk is our dread waiting to reclaim us. Enjoy the weekend because the weekdays are ganging up.Links: Standard Issue
Liz Allbee / Hans Grüsel
Strategies For Failure / Zuckerkrieg [LP; Resipiscent]
Liz Allbee’s side of this magical LP, Strategies for Failure, to me rings closest to Edward Ka-Spel’s mellower solo material, when he’s letting a bass throb ride out as he spells out his talking points (often actually talking them). But that’s only the beginning. We’re jolted from our narcotized jaunt by a blast of noise so pure and jagged it leaves tracks, then we’re treated to a minimalistic expanse of what sounds like cornet (she invents instruments so my guesses are just that), piano, and the sands of time pouring through a skull-shaped hourglass. Or at least that’s how I like to imagine it. It’s the contrast between Allbee’s many moods — from jazz-den to improv to flat-out dronnoise — that jumps out at you like a 3D jump-kick; that and the tender touch of the xylophone and disorienting, electro-acoustic-y bobble of the electronix. Hans Grüsel exhibits a keen interest in bassery as well, dipping into the low end of the pool as the cold waters wash over slowly but violently to form the crust/crux of Zuckerkrieg. Once he gets rolling you’d be hard-pressed to find an underground musician with a firmer hold on the dark-yet-dreamy side of post-noise, his compositions churning up the earth beneath them viciously even when only wind and other trace elements are telling the story. You’d never think the creek of a cellar door could get creepier than when you first hear it in real life, but try listening to it over and over again, like some sick fucker is doing it just to yank yr crank. Those who ensure that every Emego release sells out should be ashamed of themselves for not snatching Strategies For Failure / Zuckerkrieg up by now. I’m truly smitten, if you must know, and at 250 copies it’s high time you OH YOU GET THE POINT, SHIT; STOP BEING CHEAP AND BUY MORE RECORDS BEFORE THEY GO AWAY.Links: Liz Allbee / Hans Grüsel - Resipiscent