May 13th, 2013

A mini-slice of guitar magic, from verifiable guitar wizard JESSE GALLAGHER (DA BURDZ, APOLLO SUNSHINE, that guy @ LILYPAD). Strolling through the rolling fields of internet I came square up, face to face with this deal. From last year, but still a moment full of beauty and mystery.

“Why Jesse, I thought, why have you hidden this away?”

It was on his bandcamp, there for the taking, but I didn’t know. I just didn’t know or I would have approached earlier. And while “May 13th, 2013″ is slight, it offers a bit of what Jesse has to offer. A guy I wish would record more for sure. I do believe that he performs in one fashion or another each wednesday night over at Lilypad.

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Midwest hardcore has always perplexed and floored me – those bands have an awe-inspiring capacity for weirdness, a beautiful gift for laying down tracks that make you scrunch up your face a little bit and whisper “Damn…that’s gross”. And that’s exactly the type of tunes that Big Zit has collected on this demo tape: lightning-fast jams saturated with grit and frenzy. At first the singer’s vocals reminded me of Bad Brains’ brays, but they get even more obscure as the tape progresses (imagine a man-sized baby whining through a mouthful of mashed peas and drool). And the band sets up the perfect platform for that slippery crooning with spastic, off-kilter d-beats and freakout riffage reminiscent of the Rotcore crews of the late 2000s. And it’s the little jokey flourishes that keep me hooked on this tape: the third track’s fall into a Shepard Tone of self-advertisement; the nightmarish vortex of wailing (or chanting?) that guides the first track into that peppy guitar lick and onwards to the chugging finale; the molten, foot-possessing syncopation of “Yer Moshing” and those step-wise heavy slides. Keep an eye out for this slimey setup, stream the demo tape below, and snag a download here.

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Crystal Pyramids

IN HEAT is a three-pronged alliance of unholy shredders based out of Providence, featuring members of other PVD noise terrorists like TINSEL TEETH and SIRE. They’ve been kicking around for a bit now and have two great demos under their belt, but their recent full length tape from the homeys at Bufu Records takes things to a whole new level.

Recorded with help from Kellzo of the almighty BUGS AND RATS, The Ghost Is Clear gives us IN HEAT at their very best. Tempos shift from blast beats to plodding, MAN IS THE BASTARD-style low end riffage with all the creamy middles in between that you could possibly ask for. The unconventional and decidedly non-dance-oriented use of a Roland sampler brings an unexpected depth and uneasiness to their heavy, grind-influenced distorted bass and drums attack. Throw some absolutely throat-shredding guy and girl vocals on top and what you have is some truly sick shit. The Ghost Is Clear is a release that finally comes as close as possible to matching the unhinged fury of the group’s live performances. You’ll rage, you’ll cry, you’ll probably break some shit. Get into it.

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No One Knows

This one was released earlier in the year, and is another record that I’ve listened to a ton, but just hadn’t gotten around to writing up for reasons x, y, or z. Time to put that behind me. Austin’s BETH ISRAEL have, in their latest album DENTAL DENIAL, released one of the year’s best. I can safely say that this record of theirs, an amalgamation of discordant and weird chord 90s indie rock/pop & psychedelic pop, will withstand the onslaught of releases for the rest of the year and be among the group @ the end of the year that I talking about for a second time. This band and this album creeps into your brain.

A duo with only a s/t cassette to their name prior to this release, their music vibes homemade concoction far more than studio product. I don’t know where the recording work was done, but a 4-track collage feel snakes throughout the entirety of DENTAL DENIAL. This is no song after song deal. Instead each song (there’s 11 here) comes across as a hand crafted and labored over composition. Certainly this is rock music, so please don’t be turned away by my use of the C-word, it’s just that these are not mere rock songs. Songs rock. Songs feel spacious. Songs reek of experimentation. Synthesizers flow. “Dead Bodies” is one of the standouts on this record (unlike most records this one has a good handful, which we’ll get to). Bass and guitar lead the way, telling us we’re in for a jangle pop rock number, but then a hook laden synth pushes its way in, and directs this thing toward a whole indie rock with synths thing that many (myself included) young people jumped up and down for mid-90s. So great. Dark jangle synth pop (I don’t write those words out, in that sequence, very often). Vocals recall Boston underground heroes of the recent past KID ROMANCE.

“Living End” is a more high energy tune, brushing up against a punk or garage rock feel, until you get to the chorus and are treated to an ENO pop high, and then guitar theatrics for the close, and it’s seamless, and sounds timeless, and I am enthused again at this band’s ability to weave together different rock approaches into a singular new plan called BETH ISRAEL. “Family” is yet another standout. What a great record. Psychedelia creeps into the mix on this one with the guitars dripping from the solid (drum machine?) back beat. This track conjures for me direct memories of why I loved the DEVIN, GARY & ROSS record from earlier this year so much. It’s the vocals and the guitar sounds that drive me toward this connection. Another great song yes.

Then we get to “Statue In The Car” and all hell breaks loose. The guitar riff melody is one of my tops of the year it must be said. The interplay between drums, bass, and guitar during these riff sections is some kind of sublime. Easy going, but with enough forward momentum to keep em boppin’. What does this remind me of? I can’t put my finger on it right at the moment, but I know it’s of a classic indie rock nature and that I love it. That doesn’t do too much to help you get get a grip on the track, I know, but literally this song is a straight classic out of the gate. I have played this one for my little baby boy Zachary several times, and you know what? I’m going to continue to do so cuz he loves it. Big time repeat pressing motivation. LOOK BELOW! LISTEN YOURSELF!

DULL TOOLS releases DENTAL DENIAL. The label is run by folks from PARQUET COURTS and they are doing a phenomenal job as far as I’m concerned (check their upcoming release by PC WORSHIP). Our doors @ the Hassle are open to you BETH ISRAEL, in fact we even have a hospital named after you here already, so you’ll be right @ home. Come visit. The rest of you? Check this record out! Jeez

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New Name Blues

A lot has happened to Dick Diver, keepers of the jangle-sound flame, since ARK’S UP their stellar first release on Melbourne’s Chapter Music. On their latest 7”, NEW NAME BLUES out on Fruits and Flowers Records, they’ve traded in their slack minimalism for orchestral grandeur in a move out of the ‘Mats’ PLEASED TO MEET ME playbook. The track opens with a saxophone hook and light piano tinkle to deliver a few lines that lament the tides of Australian politics, while retaining an opaque impressionist approach. Singer Al Montfort has proven himself to be a true rock ‘n roll chameleon in the last three years with his output ranging as a guitarist in the bleak post-punk of Total Control to the smirking punk of UV Race and the hushed, soulful folk of Lower Plenty. If you can expect anything from him, it’s that shouldn’t expect one sound. They’ve left the realms of the early Dunedin sound, for some NIXON-era Lambchop vibes that are a perfect match for their familial and homegrown spirit.
Pick it up on wax here.

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Available now on their West Coast tour and soon from Katorga Works, the second LP from NYC’s Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Stay Home!, on the essential Toxic State Records. The album builds on the garage punk groundwork of 2012’s debut LP, Go Home!, but features a better recording courtesy of Boston’s Side Two. The cleaner organ tone juxtaposed with the gruff vocals and plodding drums create something hypnotic, dynamic, and immediately enjoyable. While much of the grime of earlier releases is lost, the Hank Wood songs stand out more than ever before and show them at their best and most mature (no chicken were harmed in the making of this album cover!). Stay Home! stands out from its predecessor with its improved hooks, catchy-as-hell riffs, and percussive embellishments. Much like Crazy Spirit’s Demo 2014, the music works within the band’s existing framework but shows a strong progression from earlier material and an example of why both bands remain at the forefront of NYC’s incredibly productive punk scene. Keep your eyes peeled, these will go fast. MP3s available below, thanks to icoulddietomorrow. Check out their set from this year’s New York’s Alright.

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Broken Arrow

As an anxious, dweeby teen-zoid, few bands seemed more empathetic to my cause than The Rakes, the shamelessly nerdy neo-post-punk band who seemed to me the harbingers of a man-made doomsday. But if The Rakes were heralding the ultimate scientific cataclysm, then London (via Portsmouth), UK’s Code BMUs are the direct result of it. With a cacophony of dissonant instruments, high, monotone vocals and forewarning lyrics on each track, it sounds like their Strike Now EP was literally recorded in Hell.

The irony in all of this? Strike Now was released almost 33 years ago (and about 20 years before The Rakes came about) in 1981. This isn’t a modern band paying homage to music history– not that there would anything wrong with that–nor a modern band trying using a tried-and-true musical aesthetic to cope with 21st century problems. Nah, this is real, raw, eighties post-punk, people.

Check out the band’s tumblr for an interesting and kind of adorable story of the band’s genesis and the release of the Strike Now EP, which was originally released only on cassette. Recently rediscovered, Strike Now is now getting its first vinyl pressing ever from ever/never Records NY for a new generation of fans to enjoy. Check it out.

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Toothless Skull

Everyone’s favorite Kentucky redneck band is back with their best release to date, on the killer SPHC. “Napalm Zeppelin Raids” EP takes the bands mix of thrashcore/fastcore and classic rock further than ever before. Hard rock and thrash blend together and alternate seamlessly, and at a moment’s notice. The EP’s title gives you an idea of the band’s influences, ranging from bands like NunSlaughter to Blue Oyster Cult, but the only real comparison that comes to mind is the eclectic and confrontational punk of Antiseen – who Brody’s Militia’s The Gooch currently drums for. The five tracks are well worth the weight, from a record that’s been highly anticipated. Aside from Brody’s Militia, the Backwoods Butcher crew have been busy with new releases from the death metal act Funerary Box and Doug Long’s noisecore project, Erectile Dementia, both of which putting out splits with Dutch cosmic noisecore legends CSMD.

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It’s hard to predict the direction of each new album by White Fence, the psych-rock solo project of Cali’s Tim Presley. His latest LP, the Drag City-released For the Recently Found Innocent, retains the delicate touch that gave previous efforts such a richly textured sound, but dulls their experimental edge, with the result that this album has more emphasis on warm and gentle tones reminiscent of 60’s sunshine pop and psychedelia- right down to an affected English accent. While it’s sad to see some of the tried-and-true White Fence weirdness go away, it has the upshot of displaying Presley’s deftness at subtle guitar arrangements, a mixture of acoustic and electric, and ever-rising skill as a songwriter.
As mentioned before, White Fence’s compositions have always had a delicate sort-of quality, and For The Recently Found Innocent is no different, relying as it does on the emergent hazy vibe of various clean instrumental and vocal parts intertwining, rather than relying on heavy-hitting guitar fuzz or an abundance of studio effects (those things are here too, but in understated roles). The tracks here also employ a carefully balanced range of styles and motifs, containing nods to classic acts like The Kinks and late-era Beatles. White Fence’s track “Fear” is somewhat reminiscent of the George Harrison-composed “Blue Jay Way” from Magical Mystery Tour. Elsewhere, on tracks like “The Light” and album closer “Paranoid Bait,” Presley lets loose with some heavier, more punk rock guitar, but only in relatively brief spurts, and nowhere close to the volume or level of distortion found on, say, Twins, by frequent collaborator Ty Segall (who co-produced and provides drums on For The Recently Found Innocent). Other tracks have a tastefully executed country-rock twang, like on “Hard Water,” where Presley also plays slide guitar.
No doubt some listeners might feel exasperated at the plethora of retro sounding psych-rock coming out these days, but at the same time, White Fence’s songs have always had an intangible quality that goes beyond genre pigeon-holes or technical skill, a sort of indulgence in sheer aesthetic bliss. And in that respect, the mysterious murmurs of For The Recently Found Innocent are no less evocative than his other recordings.

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OOIOO - Atatawa

OOIOO never fail to surprise, every album in their prolific repertoire takes its own unexpected twist. With “Gamel” the band took inspiration from gamelan, a music ensemble that is part of the traditional music of the Indonesian islands. The backbone of this album is the medley of percussion instruments that make up a gamelan, which range from familiar instruments like the xylophone to the lesser known, like the saron. As a band known for their experimentation with odd, offbeat rhythms, the gamelan instruments are a seamless addition to the bands sound. Even more so, the tones of these instruments, which are loaded with ancient tradition, add a new tone and spirit to the music. Intertwined with the percussion instruments are the eccentric vocals of vocalist Yoshimi, which both come in bursts or are stretched through the background. In many of these songs, these vocals become another percussion instrument, another part of the spotty rhythms. The album, filled with all these bizarre qualities, is incredibly colorful. Every song is intricate, and has something to offer when picked apart. There are definite feelings and moods that every song conveys. The songs on this release may not make meaning the way that classic songs do with classic structures, but it is a captivating listen nonetheless. The album is available on Chicago record label Thrill Jockey Records.

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Head Of The Witch

It takes just a few seconds of the first song on Thighmaster’s latest release to draw you in. The Australian band seems to specialize in hooks, and every song boasts its own catchy guitar part. The euphoric jangling of the guitar welcomes the listener to the small party that is created inside these three songs. “Head of the Witch”, the title song, starts with this distinct guitar sound in an intro that quickly tumbles into a frenzy of fuzz. There it finds the drawling vocals, which are tinged with Australian accent and have an effortless punk quality to them. These vocals have a somewhat nostalgic feel, giving a retro nod to the songs of the punk past. Between the snarky, vintage tone of the vocals and the grungy instruments, the band creates a perfect slacker vibe. These songs seem that they would be most at home performed in a garage, ducking out of the Australian sunshine. That is not to say that they are not at all polished, as with their whizzing guitar parts and melodic baselines, they are as infectious as could be. Thigh Master do a lot with a little on this 7’’, and in the short span of the release prove that they are a band that knows their sound, their vibe, and how to write an addicting tune.

The album can be found on Tenth Court, a label dedicated to finding all the best and the grungiest bands based out of Thigh Master’s homeland of Brisbane, Australia.

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Side A

White Reeves, a partnership between Pittsburgh sound collage artists Ryan Emmett and Micah Pacileo (who also go under the moniker Hunted Creatures) just released a tape entitled OURO BORUS out on Mistake by the Lake Records. The release notes describe the duo’s concept behind their approach to the album as an attempt to “re-use and [recycle] recordings of archived recordings to create original compositions to challenge the idea of both blunt appropriation and the intellectual/creative waste left in the wake of an increasingly rapid search for the ‘new’.” Their method emphasizes the notion of discovery in experimental music, where the end is not in sight at the outset of the creative process. The palette they have chosen involves throbbing bass arpeggios ceaselessly undulating below industrial whirrings, metallic scrapes, and synth squelch. Their lexicon is stark enough to dissociate the listener from the tides of pop styles to open our ears to the mechanical tunes of the everyday. This approach bears two results in the course of the record. One result produces moments of beauty where the squalls of reverb and crust of tape loop illuminate the hum of mundane life in a spiritual light. Other times the tone shifts to something more sinister, reminding us of the soulless drones of the assembly line, the wind through shells of abandoned housing projects, and other anxieties of the techno-capitalist society that we live in. Grip the tape here.

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This new release of Tplay by SND, the classic Sheffield duo of Mark Fell and Mat Steel is a re-mastered and expanded version of the very first SND release from 1998. Since the original release, the group has reached somewhat of a legendary status within the circle of modern experimental electronic music, as they were among the first to bridge the gap between European avant-garde electronic music and more urban forms of Detroit derivative techno and London two-step. Eventually, SND (and Fell particularly) would become an integral part of an early 2000s movement in electronic music, along with other artists such as Ryoji Ikeda, Pan sonic, Frank Bretschneider, and Alva Noto, among others, who made a very particular brand of intellectually rhythmic electronic music. Extended to include five tracks of unreleased material from the sessions that produced the original release of Tplay, this 70 minute double LP reveals that this is an early stage in the group’s development, as this sounds more like Carl Craig and Robert Hood than it does Ikeda, though hints of the group’s future esthetic are clearly present. While this is more of a straight techno record than the more brainy “glitch” style characteristic of SND’s later work and Mark Fell’s solo ventures, these tracks certainly posses intellectual design, and what they lack in conceptual obliqueness they compensate for in subtle nuance. Fans of Fell and SND should definitely grip this, and those who own the original release will be delighted to hear the unreleased material.

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