Through Your Head [CS; Serenity Now]
I’m not going to lie and tell you I know anything about or even listen to much punk music. Hell, I don’t even really know if “punk” is the right thing to label this cassette. There seems to be endless narrow, cultish, and very specific sub-genres spawning from deep within the internet and I like to be careful. My ears and my gut is telling me this is punk, so I’ll agree and barrel forward trying not to be too jejune about the whole affair.
Now, working from our supposition that this is punk music, it appears to have been cross-contaminated by Metal, which is good, this is a tasty cross-contamination. Over the ten-odd minute length of this EP we get a sprinkling of gloomy depth; a hint of black void behind the sweat, spittle and smashing drums. To my ears this elevates it bit out of the morass and combined with the incensed female vocals across the viciously short tracks it leaves me scouring the web for more. Death Vacation has snuck around the carefully constructed wall I made between myself and the genre whose name I am tired of typing out. It won me over, I surrender.
Good Cop [CS; Eternal Laser]
Vienna played patron to the birth of classical music. Good Cop is not classical, but certainly classic. Blending punk in its many iterations from across multiple generations, the group from Vienna play with expectations similarly to their compatriots from hundreds of years ago. This is not Mozart cracking fart jokes, but rather Hunx chilling the fuck out with some rad European dudes. Just a little bit of pop, a little bit of slop and a lot of bop. And when Good Cop really go off the beaten path (“O.C.B.T,” “Ex Pavement”), the cassette becomes more interesting and breaks the rules of what punk is as a modern entity trapped in a Wiki definition. In fact, it becomes more compositionally playful. Not quite Schubert but certainly Johansen.Links: Eternal Laser
Blue Seventeen: Headache [CS; Blue Tapes]
I have to admit that it’s been a while since a rock band was able to give me that real “woah” factor without resorting to completely deconstructing everything altogether. That’s not to say Polish quartet Trupa Trupa doesn’t break away from form, or experiment with style by any means. But instead of crumpling our old pal rock and roll into its palm, the band circles around concrete songs, stretching and plying them into dazzling displays of sonic architecture that immediately stopped me in my tracks. Somewhere between Radiohead, Faust, Pink Floyd, and maybe a few more of your favorites from your favorite bygone eras, Trupa Trupa’s songs sketch the portrait of a band in something of a genre-fluid state that is nonetheless fully-formed and consistent in its generally downcast and stormy trajectory. Solid foundations are laid out for each tune to mold into tempered explosions, drawing climaxes out with patience and precision, engulfing the psyche with monsoons of noise while subconsciously shocking the neuron in your brain in charge of throwing up the horns to life – this all before any given tune could drop off the edge of the cliff into the calming, cooling pools of beautiful coda below. There’s a healthy bout of straight rockers and humbling ballads alike here to give Headache its welcome sense of variety. But that would mean little if the group didn’t commit as they do to each number, every song a new arena for the members to flex their very capable instrumental muscles – completely solid work across the board, from studious and atmospheric organ playing, drums deep in the pocket of plodding tempo, buzzsaw bass tearing the mix in half, silvery guitars slipping through the sluice, all the way to that pitch-perfect vocal ringing out over it all. It’s 2015, everyone, and did you hear? Bands are back in a big way, and Trupa Trupa is hands-down among the very best of them.Links: Trupa Trupa - Blue Tapes
Chindia Tower Impalements [CS; Hospital Productions]
“An inexorably haunted landscape” best sums up the three hours of noise on these cassettes. If field-recordings of the history that surrounded Chindia Tower were folded and layered into 180 minutes of sound this would be the result. See, Chindia Tower’s construction began under the direction of Vlad III, who is primarily famous these days for his penchant for impaling his enemies. So many that sometimes chunks of Wallachia (the place he was prince of) looked like a forest of rotting carcasses held aloft by a pointy pillar of wood up their backside.
The music that Âmes Sanglantes created as perhaps a sort of eulogy for this particular tract of history is unrelenting: constant, damaged, oscillating noise is layered with paralyzing drones, yelping vocalizations and animalistic howls. There is a distinct sense of being overwhelmed; of being driven at break-neck speed down a horrific path of discovery or rediscovery. Within the blacked confines of these tapes history is treated as a stain that cannot be washed out, that cannot be bleached from memory. It fades over time, but every glimpse of it brings the twisting incorporeal stab of something we wish we could forget and know we should not.Links: Âmes Sanglantes - Hospital Productions
Elegy For The Victors [CS; Posh Isolation]
Ennui has always been fashionable to one degree or another, but boy is strong right now. Internationzale is one of a handful of bands whose modus operandi is a kind of semi-tumescent, electronic-based industrial that lends itself well to extended afternoon moping sessions. Those grey, endless hours of waiting for night to roll around and clubs to open need a soundtrack too, so bring it on.
Here is the pattern: very limited cassette run, artwork that heavily uses images of opulence (jewelry, pools, statues), combined with naked fashion models, text clipped from other sources (magazines, porn, advertisements) and track titles that make Trent Reznor get a litigious itch. Put that in a blender with half a pack of cigarettes and the remnants of last night’s string of over-priced gin and tonics and one of these depressive-episode-via-cassette gems will pop into existence.
I love all of that. It captures the feeling of a hung-over goth with bed-head, leaning against a graffiti covered wall, sweating through their black t-shirt as the sun heats the late afternoon air. It should be ridiculous to anyone over 17 but dammit we all have part of us tucked away that this speaks right to.Links: Posh Isolation
Sister Nature [CS; Noumenal Loom]
Look, not gonna lie, I’ve been sitting on this one a little too long. Sorry and everything, but hey, we are dealing with really good music here, not something I can take lightly for these scant little bursts of thought-splurge/ego-splays I get with the old Cerberus. Moreover, Sumbu Dunia did not make my job especially easy – Sister Nature is an album that slips and slides its way through so many different styles, samples, and sections, it’s tough to remember what happened just a minute ago, and thus, relate those experiences to you, dear reader. Maybe it’s best to start with the big picture rather than the millions of micro-minutae details we’re dealt with: This is new music from the Joana Francisco, who did Lace Bows, which was among Hooker Vision’s best output in the olden tape times (which was, uh…, like, three years ago). Here as Sumbu Dunia, she’s in a mode that’s as impatient as it is a dose of smooth, relaxing refreshment. A collage-composition that’s swift in its shifts but steady as she lands softly into each section, defined by finite mixes of textures both sampled and performed (to the best my ears can discern - I could be way off, who the hell knows how this really comes together ultimately). The results have both the manic feel of Seth Graham’s dizzying mind-scrables, and the humbling meditative medians of stasis that Ahnnu consistently displays. So Sister Nature is both a constant brain-teaser while also being an open window, a site of sheer reflection and relaxation. Glittery synths sink into sands of color, bask in rays of sunshine peeking through the webbed shadows of tree branches, or bob along a 1/2-step Celtic stomp in stupifying stereo. Disparate sounds come together into hymnal prayers, as much about their spiritual efficacy as they are exquisite examples of textural balance, timbral diversity, and harmonic complexity. Both sides split the difference between simmering swathes of moody ambience, indigenous-alien shaman chant circles, and liquid jazz, and the album’s marked unpredictability makes each spin a series of subtle surprises that nonetheless keeps the listener in a familiar place.Links: Sumbu Dunia - Noumenal Loom
Les Sorciers du Theil
Polyte Deshaies [12-inch; Tamed]
The repetition of psychedelia has long been the keystone to modern interpretations. It’s how repetition is achieved and to what end that separates pretenders from contenders. The second release from Les Sorciers du Theil is all heavyweight. Nothing is overwrought or overstays its welcome. These are four sleek emotes of psychedelic fervor that do not shy away from breaking away from the norm. Odd instruments and bombastic drums dot the melodies, providing an almost heavy metal sheen. Yet there is a lot of hippie and cult-like mystery surrounding the music, teasing something more sinister than just an appearance. The EP takes its name from the band’s namesake home (Le Theil) and though Jimmy Page is a bit jealous at the lengths Les Sorciers go to embrace their own wizard lore, it’s authentic in sound and stage. A robust exploration of repetition, as if a magic spell is being cast to bring back Deshaies. LOOK BEHIND YOU!Links: Tamed
Laundromat [CS; Summersteps]
If ever a label was appropriately named.
Summersteps brings back those comforting sounds of youthful summers, where there is nothing to do but boredom rarely sets in. Days spent riding bikes, playing video games and staying up late to watch absolutely nothing. The summer heat means nothing except the ability to wear shorts and swim whenever a pool is available. Laundromat from Cold Coffee fits snug into the summertime routine and Summersteps vibe. A bit of roguish rock and roll from our immediate past and the future we hope to pass onto a new generation of reckless youth. It’s the sort of loose and fun rock and roll that follows you throughout your day. Maybe you hear some people starting their own garage band or banging to the classics, but that summer music follows you wherever you go. Not the manufactured radio hits, just the vibes of the season that naturally occur. This is Laundromat. It’s just a good time and we’re all in need of it, whether it’s for a nostalgic pick-me-up or a new soundtrack to the changing weather.Links: Summersteps
Decadence and Paranoids [CS; Faux-Pas]
NYC trio Arklight is one of those bands you didn’t know you needed until you already had them. And actually, it may even taken a little longer than that – the band’s bowlegged footing and shy delivery doesn’t exactly pull you by the hair. But after some time and about a billion listens (or something like that, I lost count), these serpentine songs start to slither their way through the twisting patterns of your brain matter, infiltrating and filling up all those little canyons and caves with wondrous music. None of this is meant as a dig at them, because to be honest, Decadence and Paranoids is easily one of my favorite pop records of the year so far. It’s just that the molecular makeup here – a lot of guitar/bass/drums/vocals arrangements with the occasional synth inflection – seems pretty straight forward at face-value, and the music is executed with the flair of a not-quite-beginner, definitely-not-prodigious group of players. So disguised as a middle of the road indie rock band, Arklight really sneaks up on you with its writing, which is quite interesting from a lyrical, structural, melodic and harmonic standpoint. It’s the total package, poetic words arranged in hypnotizing cycles, informing melodic paths to the heavens as minstrel guitar strums tether the listener to the ground, a style perfectly encapsulated on the beautiful A-side closer “A Rebellious Angel”. A lot of the record takes me back to my early days with Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand, and as an overall aesthetic I think that works as a starting point for getting into their sound. But Arklight is also so much darker, brooding, has a bit of a Country twang, and is sort of goth about the way it handles its songs. A bummed-out bounty that’s not actually as much of a bummer as you might think it should be. Shoulders drooped, pale-skinned, a sad smirk haunting its face, Arklight paradoxically casts a bright beacon on the dim ballads of lamenting vampires.Links: Faux-Pas
Only Bangers [CS; Hanged Man]
More #tits. Of course I giggle because as an older gentleman, my mind still resides in the same filthy gutter it did when I was 15. And 25. I mean, men are the dirt worst and the stork brought me a girl as a clear sign to mind my P’s and Q’s. I’m mature now, though I do laugh along with the kid when she makes a fart in the bathtub.
But then there is #tits, whose BFFs put me – and a large swatch of adolescents in adult’s clothing – in our place. No more snickering when Kate and Rachel put the lash to their guitars. No more belly full of jellies when bubbles permeate the bath water’s surface. And though I’ve been to plenty of concerts where women who wail on guitars immediately become sexpots no matter the desired emotion from the music, somehow #tits moves past it by putting it directly in our face. There I go again with this bout of stupid giggles (my maturity comes and goes). But that’s the point, to make us giggle so much that eventually it becomes normal to see two proficient and clever women doing something that society (see: noise blogs and our patriarchal society) have told us for so long was the plaything of men. #tits aren’t standing on a soap box with Only Bangers, largely because they are breaking it, smashing it, destroying it relentlessly over the course of two sides of this cassette. When “Be Prepared to Defend Yourself” hits its high pitched caterwaul, you know you’ve lost your battle. I’m no longer laughing, but that’s because my jaw had to be picked up off the ground. Thankfully I have a daughter who can do that and much more. Thankfully the parents of Rachel and Kate had them, because – and I promise I’m not even smiling as I type this – I want more #tits. I want them to continue to prove all of us wrong, even those of us somehow hiding behind a sly truth. But most of all, I want this sort of guttural guitar noise that is both melodic and prophetic.Links: #tits - Hanged Man