Being from Baltimore, you get used to the same conversational points of reference. Crab cakes. The Ravens. The Wire. Occasionally, someone who’s done their reading will astutely mention that the indie gods of Animal Collective went to school in the area or that Tupac actually attended the Baltimore School of the Arts (alongside Jada Pinkett-Smith, just in case you were wondering). But Charm City probably isn’t going to come up in a conversation about killer up-and-coming punk bands. That is, until now.
Dope Body is the best noise rock outfit representing Baltimore right now, and possibly one of the best things to come out of the area since Dan Deacon’s trippy electronics. “Weird Mirror,” from their upcoming punk salvo Natural History (out May 22 on Drag City), is proof of that: you’ve got your ripping, chugging riffs; lyrics about cigarette hypocrites; and a feverish, Mission of Burma-esque feel throughout. It’s a tune metalheads and fist-pumping lacrosse bros (for whatever reason, two of Maryland’s largest musical constituencies) can come together and rock out to — and that’s how you know it’s great.
Padang Food Tigers
Ready Country Nimbus [album stream]
Now this is how I like my folk: not closed-off in some stuffy studio, but outside getting some fresh air. The sound of Ready Country Nimbus, the latest LP from the London ambient-folk duo, is steeped in nature: rain, bird chirps, and waterfalls permeate the fog of droney acoustics, with flourishes of bells and banjos. The taut two- to three-minute running times keep the relaxing mood from veering into the purgatory of monotony, and the absence of vocals allows the lush instrumentation to seep into every last crevasse of your skull. Put this on, slip two cucumber slices over your eyes, and get ready for one of the best musical relaxation experiences to be had.
This treepunk shit is chaining itself up, ain’t it? I mean, totally in a good way. It’s super jovial and serious-mustache-face all at once. Like how T-buggs blends cute pop with grime. Are Alphabets leading a new craze? Hopefully not. Hopefully they can solely make it they’s own thing. For awhile now, I’ve had this idea that modern literature is defined in and of itself. Thus, something is only considered literature if it has to be adapted into another form of art, opposed to just copy and pasting. Maybe. But this applies to music too. Lil B got his corner of hip-hop. Lieven is poppin’ off his own style of field recording. Alex be drippin’ them mixes. Alphabets, please keep it leafy and punky in a fashion that nobody will dare try repeating, please.
• Alphabets: http://alphabets.bandcamp.com
Astro Nautico, the label responsible for putting out solid releases by howse, Time Wharp, Kuhn, Obey City, and Paul Jones, recently dropped Atlantics: Vol. 2, a beastly (and free) 41-track compilation of bass-heavy dance tracks, suffocated hip-hop, and ethereal bathdub constructions. Each morning this week, I’ll pick one of my favorite tracks, so you can start your day off astronautically.
My first pick? Time Wharp’s “Busy G.” I love this song with a passion. Hell, I love Time Wharp with a passion. It’s pretty much all sunshine here with “Busy G,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not without the kind of rhythmic complexity that’ll permanently damage the brains of kids aged 0-6 . Listen to it. Think about it. Do something to it.
I love that Markus Popp, a.k.a. Oval, is making music again. After a lengthy hiatus, Popp returned a couple years ago and has already released well over a hundred songs, spread across two full-lengths (O, OvalDNA) and two EPs (Oh!, Oval/Liturgy split). His latest release is called Sophioko, a four-track EP that continues his meticulous, stuttering electronic explorations, made available for free this morning via SoundCloud. No embed, but you can stream the entire EP here.
“She” / “Part of Solution”
The Beijing trio Snapline formed in 2005, when they were studying science and engineering at the city’s most elite universities. They initially grouped themselves with Carsick Cars, The Gar, and White into the “No Beijing” movement, cribbing the influential New York no-wave LP title for a 2CD compilation and short tour that year. While their peers went on to buff the most abrasive elements of their sound into more or less palatable forms of noise rock and post-punk, Snapline earned a reputation for uncompromising, often alienating live shows. Their 2007 debut, Party Is Over, Pornostar, showcases a brazen mix of minor-chord melodies, industrial fuzz waves, motorik drum machine propulsion and percussive guitar shreds, all backgrounded by vocalist Chen Xi’s surreal lyrics ontologically probing the bleak postmodern Beijing landscape.
Snapline recorded a follow-up LP with PiL drummer Martin Atkins, who became enamored with the band during a 2006 trip to Beijing. Dissatisfied with the result, the band re-recorded the songs from scratch with a much more minimal approach in mind. The finished effort, Phenomena, is a study in musical economy: a single synth provides bassline, beat, and stripped-down melody; a single guitar yields rhythm and lead. Chen Xi’s vocals straddle the sound like some kind of dystopic computer-brain commandant (in fact, he has a degree in Nuclear Energy and is a senior Microsoft engineer).
Two tracks from the yet-unreleased album have snaked their way online, accompanying “unofficial” video collages from Beijing-based videographer and frequent band collaborator S. Dummy. Dummy’s re-appropriation of retro-futuristic classics Metropolis and Solaris suits Snapline’s soundtrack perfectly. Check out “She” above and “Part of Solution” here:
Phenomena will be released on June 2 from Maybe Mars Records.