Saturday, November 26, 2016

LAST ROUND OF REVIEWS FOR THIS YEAR!

One last bunch of reviews to get out of the way before I throw up some end of the year list thing.  I kept it (relatively) short this time around because that Tribe review took up so much space, deservedly.
Enjoy these in whichever form that takes, get something out of the webstore, or bandcamp, as I'm donating to various charities depending on what you purchase, and then make it yr business to be in Syracuse Dec. 30th and 31st for the Hex Fest shindig!
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A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”
In early November the nation was thrown into a weird and uncertain place due to the election.  Myself and most people I know were befuddled by the results and frankly, terrified and unhappy.  And then, a few days later, A Tribe Called Quest releases their first album in 18 years and suddenly this dark world got a lot brighter.
            It’s a bittersweet release though as it comes on the heels of founding member Phife Dawg’s untimely death.  And hearing him lay down his trademark verses early on in the record makes it all that much more difficult because this is by far one of the best things the group has ever done and it would have been beautiful to see him be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  It’s not some half-hearted reunion record where members are trying to relive some sense of nostalgia from their crappy adult lives.  It’s the sound of newfound energy, of people who never stopped being creative.  They just chose to pursue those endeavors individually for a long time rather than collectively and, as Phife puts it, “the nucleus is here now”.  Yes, they definitely are.
            I had read some press about this record and the process behind it and consistently Q-Tip discusses how they wanted to “keep the thread, but push it forward”, meaning they aimed to keep the spirit and the style of Quest from the past, but not re-hash old material.  They wanted to do something new.  And they have succeeded greatly in my humble opinion.  Admittedly, I am not one to have a good sense of what is, or isn’t, good hip-hop these days.  Much of it has been uninteresting to me for 20 years now.  It’s not on my radar so if critics want to consider me stuck in the past in regards to this record they are probably right.  But something tells me I’m of the popular opinion that this is some truly forward-moving stuff.
            The samples and instrumentation are in line with what you might expect from Quest, piling layers on top of one another without it sounding too busy or overcrowded.  It all fits together just right.  “We the People” is the standout single, and shows ATCQ going in a more subtle, yet political direction than in the past (which is actually a theme throughout the record).  Of course, there are tracks here that could fit well on older releases such as “Black Spasmodic”, “The Donald”, “Ego”, and “Conrad Tokyo” (possibly my favorite track overall?), while some other songs take some very interesting turns like the Elton John/ piano samples in “Solid Wall Of Sound” and the killer sex jam “Enough!”, which sounds like a companion piece to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”.
            Oh, and can we talk about Jarobi?  Holy shit.  Barely a peep on “People’s Instinctive Travels”, leaves the group for a couple decades, comes back and has some of the hardest verses on the whole record!  Who knew he could rap?  He gets the gold star on this one.  Cameos by a host of other people fill out the record, including Busta Rhymes all over the place and a handful of others who clearly were influenced by Tribe and are now doing their own thing like Talib Kweli, Kanye, Andre 3000, and Kendrick Lamar.
            In all seriousness, I couldn’t be happier.  This is an incredible moment.  From someone who got into this group when they first started as a young teen, and holding their records as some of my favorite pieces of music ever since then it’s a great thing to see this happen.  And we all need it now.  We need that ray of sunshine that creativity, positivity, and a powerful sense of determination lives on.  Quest has done it, above and beyond expectation. (Epic)

ARKLESS, s/t 12”
These Brits debut with a record of chill, un-distorted emo the likes of which could harken back to Amber Inn, Still Life, Braid, or early Promise Ring.  Like, imagine a record full of “My Firetower Flame” and you get an idea.  Vocals have that sort of off-key, serious/spoken quality and the music moves at a steady pace while keeping it emotional with no big loud parts that some of the referenced bands threw in here and there.  This remains relatively calm throughout I guess.  It’s pretty and melodic.  (Ruined Smile)

DISREPAIR demo
Buffalo has always had it’s own particular brand of meaty, metallic hardcore that only comes from being in the heart of the rust belt.  It’s the sound of thousands of laid off factory workers, cold-ass winters, and lots of knuckleheads who constantly have a grudge against…  something.  Disrepair sounds like that.  This quick two song demo tunes really low, plays pretty fast, and doesn’t make the breakdowns predictably obvious. They just churn it out.  I detect a hint of melody that closes out the second song, adding a little unique style to the chunky riffing.  Not too bad. (Disrepair)

HELL MARY, 12”
Yes, yes, yes.  OK, all you weird pinheads out there who enjoy ripping fast and ridiculously aggressive hardcore, but just aren’t swayed by what’s being peddled for the most part- this is for you.  Not only is this one heck of a cool looking record (clear vinyl with crazy screen printed B side), but it sounds pretty great too.  Hell Mary unfortunately have to deal with being from New Jersey and all the awful driving and lack of places to actually turn around that come with it.  But they do draw from a rich musical landscape that has produced oh so many wonderful bands over the years, and maybe they’ll end up joining those ranks if they keep up what they’re doing here.  A good place to start for this group would be the speedy and chaotic violence that Converge are oh so god at churning out.  Add to that a good dose of the topical and emotional bent, coupled with the churning heaviness, of 108.  That’s really the best I can come up with.  I mean, that really ought to be enough to sway you right there.  If not I guess we just don’t really need to know each other anymore and we’re all friends here right?  Do what’s right.  Check this out.  (Dropping Bombs)

MALLWALKERS, “Dial ‘M’ For…”
This very part-time Buffalo collective has released a second (to my knowledge) LP full of a mish-mash of various influences that somehow work together pretty well into their own unique stew.  Consisting of about 9 people Mallwalkers gather sporadically, creating manifestos of danceable, social upheaval full of repetitive chords, blaring horns, multiple vocalists, and shaking asses.  Pull a bit of MC5’s explosive rebellion rock, add a taste of Fugazi’s use of odd chords and twangs that peck at their steady rhythm, and give a full-on high five to current rabble rousers Downtown Boys in regards to that horn blaring and ‘we’re here to fuck your system up’ protesting in the streets goodness, and you get an idea of what Mallwalkers are presenting.  There’s a feeling of that DC/Dischord ‘we’re nerdy white punks, but we can get funky too’ thing happening, along with a distinctly Western New York rust belt vibe that isn’t Tuffalo hardcore (you have to kind of be from around here to know exactly what I mean), but it is punk and it’s angry, and I’m OK with all of it.  So get your feel on if this description does anything for you.  (Peterwalkee Records)

ORDINARY LIVES s/t 7”
It’s a not-unlikely collection of people creating an unlikely sound.  So take a couple guys from Off Minor, Saetia, and Bridge & Tunnel and you would probably think it’s going to be thoughtful, complex, and, at times chaotic, emo/screamo stuff, right?  Nope.  And if that horrifying thought is firmly dismissed allow me to inform you that this is way better, at least to a guy like me.  Instead think riffy/stoner post-hardcore, which is awesome.  OK, sure it harkens to a sort of late 90’s vibe (Syracuse people- think Farthest Man) and I am fine with that.  You know what this really sounds like, a lot?  Cutman.  Ya know, Gainesville, Kiss Of Death Records?  No?  Fine, fuck off.  Go listen to Farthest Man, Cutman, watch some Chico and the Man, and then go listen to this, and feel satisfied.  Start a push pit and wear flannel.  Get off my lawn.  Released by 37 different labels.  (Square Of Opposition/ Tor Johnson/ State Of Mind)

RED FANG, “Only Ghosts”
I haven’t listened to this band is quite a long time.  I see they are still playing burly beard-man rock, but the songs on this album, for the most part, seem to cater a little more to the average rock fan.  Simply put, it’s overall not as heavy as previous outings from what I remember.  They still manage to keep things fairly creative though, and I’d rather listen to this than radio rock any day of the week.  And much like past efforts Red Fang spare no quarter when it comes to creating beautiful cover art for their releases- this one a simple trance-inducing wave pattern, which seems to go against the rumbling riff rock ever-present throughout the album.  I guess if Clutch has been veering a bit too bluesy for you, but Mastodon is still somewhat extreme (OK, maybe not current Mastodon), Red Fang might be a good mid-ground to explore.  (Relapse)

WHORES., “Gold”
You are hard pressed to find a more rowdy three-piece band in the live setting than Whores, not to mention one with a ridiculously dialed-in mammoth tone.  It’s insane how incredibly heavy and loud their sound is.  It’s awesome.  You’re also going to have a heck of a tough time googling their name and not coming up with results that probably don’t mesh with what you’re looking for (or maybe you are, I won’t judge).  However, much like their previous two EPs this first full length doesn’t completely hit at all times.  I understand it’s good to break things up a little bit- a part that’s just bass and vocals here, a quick reprieve that is just guitar- but Whores totally excel when they’re just going full throttle, one smashing riff after another and truckloads of feedback.  Opening track “Playing Poor” does a fine job of this.  And as they roll right into the next track, “Baby Teeth”, you get the impression it’s going to go the same way as it lumbers along with a dumptruck-heavy slower rhythmic jackhammering.  But the verse, with just the drums and vocals, kind of throws it off for me.  I just want these dudes to smash all their guitar pedals at once (they’re going to need a lot of feet for that) and pound one ridiculous riff after another into my skull while worshipping at the alter of AmRep.  By and large they deliver.  To me, though, the impact is lost just a little when they go into parts not involving everything going all at once.  For some bands it’s great, for Whores I’d say space is not the place.  Smash everything.  (eOne)

Bonus Round:

FARSIDE, “Rigged”
When I was just getting into punk and hardcore music it was primarily through skateboarding.  So publications like Thrasher and mailorder catalogs like Sessions informed me quite a bit about what was out there musically that was in line with skateboarding culture.  At the time Revelation was one of the bigger punk rock record labels (still is!), but when I got into punk music they were beginning to take a turn away from the youth crew style that they are most infamously known for.  Of course, what was happening was that a lot of the musicians they had been working with in the past that had all those infamous bands were growing up a little and starting new bands that tried new things aside from just NYHC, and that led to groups like Burn, Supertouch, and Into Another to take hardcore music in bizarre new directions.  Well, this was all new to me.  So whatever Revelation was putting out around ’93-’95 was really appealing to me because there was so much variety!  One of the bands that, in a way, sprung out of this new style (except on the West Coast) was Farside.
            To a young person hearing Farside, and especially this record, for the first time they might mistake it for mainstream radio rock.  Admittedly, it does have that feel.  However, when it was released they were a really engaging and exciting band to me.  They possessed a lot of the melodic, upbeat style of Fat Wreck bands like Strung Out or Face To Face.  However, they were also incredibly great musicians that were not afraid to take a post-hardcore bent and write songs that might stretch 5 minutes to go with their quick tempos and thoughtful lyrics.  I know some may disagree, but when I think of Farside I think ‘skate rock’.
            I truly adore this record, and the emotional weight it carries amongst the energetic tempos.  “Kill Me” kind of comes off as the fastest, most aggressive song before it breaks into a sung chorus of “I’ll just wait/ Here in broken arms”, while “Silver Anniversary” is much slower and somber, but equally as poignant as it deals with (as far as I have gathered over the years) divorce.
            A big part of how well this record comes across is vocalist/guitarist Michael “Popeye” Vogelsang’s gruff but heartfelt vocals.  He sings in a way that hardcore bands of the day might have scoffed at for not completely shredding his throat. But the emotion is sincere and true.  When he gets at dealing with procrastination in “Wait For Monday”, stating that “I keep on lowering my expectations!” or going on about moping around and being alone on “Audience” before a big melodic breakdown it’s like getting punched in the chest.  I get those same feelings listening to this record 20+ years later.  (Revelation)

Friday, November 18, 2016

HOLIDAY CHARITY 'SALE'!


As the holidays loom closer and the non-stop barrage of Black Friday and X-Mas sales projectile vomit their way into everyone's faces we thought we would do something different this year. Instead of items being on sale certain records and packages will have a portion of the sale go to various charities for the next 30 days. Each band participating (as well as yours truly) chose a different charity they would like portions of their sale to go to. So every time you purchase an Ed Gein record Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York Action Fund will get $2. For each Bleak record/CD sold $2 goes to Casey's Place (respite care for teens with disabilities). Each Dialysis record sold will have $2 go to CNY Cat Coalition. And I'll personally sell you a short stack of LPs so a piece can go to the ACLU Nationwide. This goes for digital bandcamp sales but you'll find more items in the webstore. More details on each of these charities in the comments with links. Please spread this far and wide! Get something for the holiday (for someone else, or yourself, I won't judge) and give a little something back! http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/products

* Look for the items with 'CHARITY!' in the product listing  for ways to give!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

HALLOWEEN- A TIME FOR REVIEWS

Trick or treat fuckers!  Here's some treats!  OK, most of these reviews are not about anything spooky.  I guess you could relate some of the art in Bat Butt zine to things of a Halloween/horror nature, and perhaps the cold, synth-y spazzcore of this month's Bonus Round pick The VSS to some spooky sort of realm.  But otherwise there's just a lot of good stuff here, and not much horror business.  So get to it.  And for the love of Pete, you'd better be reading these in costume!
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BAT BUTT zine #3
I had no clue that this was an international zine based out of South Africa!  I had simply assumed, by a couple of the artists featured that I enjoyed (and the primary reason for me purchasing this) that is was an American publication.  But this art zine features artists from all over the world.  And that’s really all it is-  just black and white art, with no central theme, by lots and lots of contributors.  Mine came with all these cool stickers and prints from some of the artists, so it was well worth it.  Of note is the centerfold and stickers by regional artist Ryan Besch/Your Cinema.  Also entertaining was Alice Edy’s four-page story “Heavy Things”, as are the numerous mutated contributions from Florian Snyman (including the cover).  For those into oddball art/Juxtapoz style, but on amore DIY level this is a pretty cool thing to check out.  (Bat Butt)

BRAIN TENTACLES s/t
At this point I think the Relapse catalog is comprised of about 50% projects by both Bruce Lamont and Dave Witte.  Both these highly prolific individuals have so many bands between the both of them it was inevitable that they eventually teamed up to give birth to the super bizarre freak that is Brain Tentacles.  Rounded out by bassist extraordinaire Aaron Dallison (Keelhaul) this mega-beast sounds like the result of King Crimson getting schwifty with Morphine after huffing glue in a filthy alley.  Here you get a whole album of horns (mostly saxophone) melding with drums and bass guitar, and not much in the way of vocals conjuring up a lot of low-end proggy weirdness, yet with enough interesting parts and beefy riffs (can a saxophone create a ‘riff’?  In this case, yes) to keep even the simplest 3-chord purist bobbing their head.  It’s weird stuff, man.  But it’s really great to have some out-f-this-world variety amongst all the heaviness Relapse tends to be known for.  This is still real heavy, just in a super odd sort of way and I can roll with that.  (Relapse)

BURN, “From the Ashes” 7”
This is the first ‘new’ material that Burn has released since 2001, which was the last time that they did some reunion stuff.  Before originally disbanding in the early 90’s Burn had released a lone EP, but had a whole album’s worth of material that made it’s way onto a couple bootlegs that floated around throughout the last couple decades.  A few of those songs surfaced as proper recordings between “Last Great Sea” and “Cleanse”, material they released in their brief 2001 reunion.  On “From the Ashes” two more of those older songs get proper recordings and you can tell it’s from an older Burn era as they are faster, and more in line with the proto-post-hardcore that they helped invent.  The lone brand new song here, “Novelist (Drums Of War)” has a slower, groovier feel, mixed with some more complex riffs and passages indicative of “Cleanse”-era stuff, as well as guitarist/riff architect Gavin Van Vleck’s riffy/noisecore act Die 116 that he was a part of after Burn’s initial run.  The youngin’ in me loves the faster, raw hardcore songs.  The noisenik in me is intrigued by the chunky, off-kilter heaviness of how they write now.  The overall recording on this release leaves something to be desired as it sort of doesn’t feel finished, like they skipped something along the way between mixing and mastering.  But I digress.  It’s good to see a band like Burn not only writing some creative new music (even if it’s only one song thus far), but still incredibly engaging in the live setting.  Hopefully the LP they have planned can respectfully continue their legacy.  (Bridge 9)

EVERY TIME I DIE, “Low Teens”
When a band gets both Tim Singer (Deadguy, Kiss It Goodbye, No Escape) and the character from Panic At the Disco to do guest vocals on your record you know they draw from a pretty wide palette.  Such is the case on the new ETID record, a band that consistently knows how to absolutely wreck your life.  So many bands from the time they got their start completely fell off the map, disbanded, or just flat out suck shit now.  Many have rightfully/unfortunately carried the tag ‘metalcore’ like the flaccid, tired, shriveled penis that it has become.  Yet Every Time I Die has succeeded big time and still sort of held onto that tag.  They write some of the most engaging pile driving riffs, with some of the most well-written lyrics one can imagine on every record.  They do not disappoint.  They are consistently the sound of a raging party and a violent tornado smashed together all the time.  They are, by far, one of the best live bands you will ever see.  And on “Low Teens” they move the needle yet again in an evolved direction by throwing in some new things and a few curveballs.  Like opener “Fear and Trembling” with it’s slow and disjointed riff both hammering at your skull and confusing the listener all at once.  “It Remembers” is the most ‘rock’ song on the record, and while I feel it ventures a little too much into bro-rock country I can’t help but enjoy it (I used to feel the same about “Revival Mode” and now it’s one of my favorite songs of theirs).  “Awful Lot” plays with Torche-level tuning and city-leveling riffs (as well as one of my favorite vocal breaks on the record- “Acknowledge me you motherfuckers!”).  New drummer Daniel Davison lets loose basically any opportunity he gets, which really works well for this group regularly sounding like they’re headed off the rails anyway.  This is most noticeable on the ridiculously aggressive “Petal” and “The Coin Has a Say” (with, again, a choice lyric: “I can’t go back to what I was/ Metallica without the drugs”).  It’s only on closer “Map Change” where it feels ETID get a little too caught up with being kind of all over the place and the song ends up being a sort of riff salad.  However, for the speed freak in you there’s plenty here to draw from in terms of breakneck pummeling like “1977”, “Glitches” and “I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway”.  For ungodly heavy music that is well-written and smart, but encourages listeners to get unbelievably stupid you can’t really get any better than ETID.  (Epitaph)

GATECREEPER, “Sonoran Depravation”
I am hardly the man to go to if you are seeking a well-rounded opinion on death metal.  I have nothing against it.  I generally find much of it to be decent (minus gurgle vocals), sometimes impressive.  But I don’t spend much time really delving into it.  That being said, Gatecreeper plays pretty decent death metal.  It hardly raises the bar, but it knows how to make HM-2 style riffs collide with moshy beats and a lot of double-picking between the slow parts to easily spin many a bored, basement dwelling hessian into a furious drywall-punching freak.  Basically, they get the job done.  Nothing fancy, good name, heavy riffs, lots of metal, and no over thinking it.  Sacrifice your out-of-shape gut to the dancefloor Goatlord.  (Relapse)

SIGH DOWN ONE, “Memory Is Short Longing”
I’m not sure how this got on to my radar, but I assume it had something to do with getting lost in some internet musical rabbit hole.  Before I knew it I had stumbled across this French-Canadian group and I thought it was worth talking about.  Anyways, what you get here is an album’s worth of songs that have an equal split between atmospheric shoegaze with accompanying soothing vocals, old Sonic Youth’s clattering noise rock, and some lo-fi punk nihilism.  For me, it makes for a wonderful mix that keeps things moving at a good clip with just enough negative vibes to even out the flighty mellow ones.  The washy-note-bending may open up a song, but is eventually kicked to the side by more aggressive, distorted guitar abuse, all the while the vocals tend to remain on the soft and airy side of things.  Nowhere is this more present than later in the album on “Nothing In Return” which would be a perfect place to start for those just looking for an idea of this group’s sound. (L'Oeil du Tigre Records)

SUPER UNISON, “Auto”
The quick progress of one of the East Bay area’s most exciting new bands, Super Unison, may lead some to believe they might not be ready for a full length album just yet.  But this trio works as if they have been playing together for a long time.  While each member has musical backgrounds with other bands Super Unison is quite different from the ultra-hyper and aggressive Punch that vocalist/bassist Meaghan O’Neill Pennie emerged from, or the noodly indie/emo style of Snowing that drummer Juntin Renniger cut his teeth in.  And while O’Neill Pennie’s vocals are quite a bit different than the ferocious shriek (one of the best, in my opinion!) that she displayed in her previous band she offers a wide range of different styles in this band, going from an almost cooing in the beginning of “Keeper” to that well-worn throat shredding by the first chorus, and into an almost snarky Bratmobile riot grrl vibe in the bridge.  In fact, I think it might be my favorite song on the record just because it accurately conveys the most well-rounded representation of the band.  That’s not to say the rest of this record doesn’t rip.  It’s quite fantastic.  I’m thoroughly enjoying their rough and tumble punk blasts, peppered with post-hardcore melodies and occasional haunting guitars (like on the chorus of “You Don’t Tell Me”).  Much of the music here, if I were to make a couple comparisons, kind of reminds me of old Superchunk or Garden Variety, but darker and a bit more aggressive on the whole.  Anyway, enough hyperbole from me, just get to listening to this.  It’s one of the better releases I’ve heard all year and one that I have been very much looking forward to.  (Deathwish)

TURNSTILE, “Move Thru Me” 7”
Side A has a Bad Brains “Supertouch”/”Shitfit” 1-2 punch style of crazy fast and aggressively catchy followed by gonzo heavy and mean, and evokes a similar feel to the DC legends.  Side B has the title track, which is much more in line with what people are coming to know from Turnstile.  That is, it could have been on “Non-Stop Feeling” and no one would know the difference.  So yeah, it’s a good song.  Then they drop a Give cover, which is weird not only because that song is only a couple years old and that band is still very much active, but Give is a considerably different kind of band than Turnstile.  However, both bands are very much doing their own unique thing so I guess there is common ground in that respect.  Plus, they probably hang out, so why the fuck not, right?  Either way, this is a very excellent 7” from a band that I would never expect to enjoy.  But let it be known my guilty pleasure is now very much public.  Turnstile is pretty fucking great.  There, I said it.  Please get out of my way now so I can mosh and sing along like an idiot.  (Pop Wig)

Bonus Round:

THE V.S.S., “21:51” and “Nervous Circuits”
I’m not going to bother with a single album from this band, I’m going with their full discography.  They were short-lived and churned out a handful of 7”s (collected as “21:51”) and one full length.  Some may recall a few months ago when I reviewed the Angelhair discography.  Well, after that group split most of the members came back as The VSS.  The approach was still spastic and chaotic, except they were adding elements that were (at the time) lost to the punk scene, that being primarily cold and jagged   The result is this manic barrage of otherworldly, dystopian noisecore.  It’s very difficult for me to decide which of these records I like better.  “21:51” is the sound of the band working out ideas, still a bit clingy with that off-the-wall Angelhair sound, but the meshing of synths and distorted vocals forcing it’s way in for tremendous effect.  “The Fist and Fingers” is a lumbering, bouncy chunk of heaviness, punctuated by disorienting doubled-up vocals and spooky feedback, while “I Cut My Teeth” has a bit more of a stop-go punk vibe and Sonny Kay’s outer space vocals that breaks into an almost minimalist synth and guitar bit before exploding into full-on chaos as the whole thing collapses.  The collection closes with “Response”- an alien transmission of a far off drum coda that could either be an exit, or an indication of things to come. 
post-punk riffs and banks of strange, alien synths.
“Nervous Circuits” is the band’s lone full length that came together not too long after the group’s initial spate of singles.  It’s a much more bold affair.  The recording is far superior and the band is far more confident in their approach.  Part of me wishes it sounded as odd and cold as the 7” stuff, but it’s a great undertaking.  The compositions are more in line with post-punk offerings like Echo and the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, early Joy Division, but with a deft weight to them indicative of a punk/hardcore band.  Even so, after Kay closes the opening track with the sudden howl of “I eat the body and drink the blood” they launch immediately into “In Miniature”, which sounds like the keyboardist mashing one set of keys back and forth until it breaks.  There’s a bit more variety on this record- “Sibling Ascending”s post-hardcore march, “Effigy”s ultra-slow piano coda, the upbeat and catchy synth-driven “What Kind Of Ticks?”, and the swinging mania of “Swift Kicks” (one of the best on the record).  All of these songs are carried by vocalist/effects operator Sonny Kay, whose unpredictable, manic howl not only is a harrowing complement to the dizzying music, but he remains one of my favorite lyricists weaving stream of conscious associations that come together to paint a weird portrait of things that may or may not be related.  I sadly never witnessed this band.  They made one East Coast jaunt to my knowledge back in 1996, or ’97 and news moved slow then.  If I had known I would have traveled anything short of 400 miles to witness the live spectacle they created.  But I guess I’ll have to settle for this stuff here to keep me warm.  Over the years both Hydrahead and Sargent House re-issued “Nervous Circuits” in different formats, so it’s not very difficult to track down.  (VSS)

Monday, October 24, 2016

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEX FEST!



HEX FEST (AKA 'two awesome shows)
December 30th and 31st, 2016
The Vault, Syracuse, NY


Friday, December 30th
Doors at 6PM
ACHILLES (fresh off a 4-year hiatus of relocating, business starting, and child-rearing)
PSYCHIC TEENS (Philly 3-piece feedback, gothy-post-punk-y, whatever)
BLOOD SUN CIRCLE (owners and makers of gear beyond compare)
+ a couple more
_________

Saturday, December 31st

Doors at 6PM
ED GEIN (crush, kill, destroy)
BLEAK (kill, crush, destroy)
GRIZZLOR (destroy, crush, kill)
DIALYSIS (kill, screw, marry?)
+ one more I guess

TICKETS
Day One here: http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/product/hex-fest-day-1-dec-30th
Day Two here: http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/product/hex-fest-day-2-9dec-31st
BOTH DAYS: http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/product/hex-fest-both-days


Event page (to keep up with all the gory details..):  https://www.facebook.com/events/1781116372167516/?action_history=null

Monday, October 17, 2016

PSYCHIC TEENS RELEASING A RECORD THROUGH HEX!


As you probably suspected, Philly's own Psychic Teens will be releasing an EP through Hex Records in early 2017! The band is currently recording the release, set to be released on 12" and digital, at Red Planet Sound with Joe Smiley at the controls. Keep an eye peeled for the band playing around the region through the rest of the year and for the record to come out in early 2017!
In the meantime, you can check out their music over at http://www.psychicteensnetwork.com
You can pick up their previous releases through SRA Records and Reptilian Records
 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

SUMMER'S DONE. READ REVIEWS AND GET OVER IT.

As the season comes to a close I realize I was just bum-rushed with a plethora of awesome records.  So much stuff that is really right up my alley in terms of what I tend to dig the most.  And a bunch of it shows up here is this review block.  So get cozy, read on, and really give some attention to a bunch of groups that are excelling at making my ears happy.
Oh yeah, Hex Fest is really happening at the end of the year.  You saw the thing about Achilles playing here, right (ahem, look)?  Yeah, stay tuned because in a few more days I'm going to give a few more details on things.  Don't be stupid, keep an ear to the ground, or an eye to the sky because I only advertise using subsonic thumping transmissions and smoke signals.


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ALPHA HOPPER, “Last Chance Power Drive”
What the heck did I just listen to?  How many weird subgenres and odd reference points can I shoehorn in here to attempt to describe Alpha Hopper?  You got a vocalist that sounds like Polly Styrene mixed with Yasuko from Melt-Banana.  Musically things bounce from post-punk weirdness with creepy leads, and clunky post-hardcore (think a somewhat more aggressive Unwound at times) to very 90’s riot grrl style, and more modern spazzcore stuff.  It’s a weird stew, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  If you’re feeling a bit adventurous I’d suggest you do the same.  (One Percent Press/Radical Empathy)

DOWNTOWN BOYS s/t
So this Providence-based band is kind of everywhere now, seemingly blowing up out of nowhere.  The thing is, though, they have been around for a bit and this LP (which is essentially a demo from a few years back) shows them in an embryonic sort of form.  It shows a group displaying their now-trademark blend of punk chords, deep saxophone flavor, and shouted vocals in both English and Spanish.  But it’s a band that hadn’t quite found it’s footing just yet.  Things don’t mesh as perfectly as they do now.  The ideas are there, no doubt, but the vocals are a little more random and off-rhythm (they still are, to a point, but it works effectively these days to command attention).  The saxophone is a little more present as well, also vying for attention when sometimes restraint makes more of a lasting impression.  I don’t want to knock it because what Downtown Boys are doing now (especially on the excellent “Full Communism” from last year) is so good, and this record just shows what they were working towards.  I guess if you prefer the revolution to come off as a bit more scrappy this is a pretty good place to catch some of that fire.  (One Percent Press/ Radical Empathy)

HELMS ALEE, “Stillicide”
The opening track on Helms Alees’ new record starts with the piano coda that closes out their very first LP, “Night Terrors”, before it mutates into a maelstrom of swirling distortion and thunder.  They have had two records between these two, so it’s kind of interesting the Seattle trio recall a tidbit from their first LP on their fourth long player.  I guess it shows that since that time they have remained a strange, bewildering beast, but have grown in many ways as well.  It’s that touchstone from the past opening a door to reflection, yet showing what’s new.  What remains consistent is how Helms Alee is the bewildering sound of hiking through the redwoods on a foggy morning before reaching a beach in the Pacific Northwest.  You look in one direction and there’s the water- calm and cool.  You look behind you and trees rise up like skyscrapers.  And in front of you are some of the most majestic mountains you’ll see.  It’s at once mesmerizing and beautiful, but you also realize the hugeness of all these things, how little you are, and it’s sort of terrifying and weird.  That’s the sound of Helms Alee.  They can twist and turn with odd rhythms, sinewy melodies, harmonized and haunting female vocals.  But they can quickly hit the distortion and come off as the most thunderous sasquatch of a beast you’ll ever hear between drummer Hozi Matheson Magullis’ polyrhythmic tom rolls, Dana James crushing low end and Ben Verellens howling baritone.  Whether it’s the continuous crush of the title track and “Galloping Mind Fuk” (sic), or the long, slow burn meandering of “Creeping You Company”, to a perfect combination of all their styles (melodic, weird, and pretty to beefy and mean) on “Andromenous” this new LP is really an excellent addition to an already stellar catalog from a great band.  (Sargent House)

KINDLING, “Everywhere Else”
It sure is popular now for bands to do the whole shoegaze thing.  For the most part I’m fairly pleased with the current tidal wave of bands copping this style.  I’m sort of wondering how many of these bands are ex-members of NeurIsis worship bands?  Kindling, to their credit, spring forth from totally chaotic spastic hardcore band lineage.  But that’s not important.  What is important is that Kindling is a good listen.  This is their first LP after a cool little EP last year and it’s filled with upbeat, punk-informed walls of guitars and atmospheric female vocals that bring to mind both the fairly obvious My Bloody Valentine, as well as the sounds of Lush.  They’re not re-inventing the shoegaze wheel by any means, but they certainly do it quite well, keeping things energetic, loud, occasionally heavy, and fun.  Definitely recommended.  (No Idea)

MULTICULT, “Position Remote”
Multicult would probably wholeheartedly agree that they share quite a bit in common, sound-wise, with the revered Jesus Lizard- snarled and howled vocals, knotty and intricate guitar lines, and one of the best damn bass tones you’ll ever hear.  But where Jesus Lizard were all proficient musicians that gave the illusion that all their music was careening off the rails at all times, Multicult present no illusions to how calculated and precise their somewhat misnomered categorization of ‘noise rock’ really is.  Every note, riff, grating guitar scree, or gnarled bass dirge has been fine-tuned to sound exactly as it is intended.  You will hear no difference whatsoever between this record- excellently recorded and engineered- and their live show, aside from a very loud ringing in your ears once they are through since they play so fucking loud.  So yeah, The Jesus Lizard can be master magicians at making you think they’re just being fucking awesome off the cuff.  Multicult offer a very similar level of talent, as well as a strikingly similar sound, but with an air of astounding determination and intention.  This is easily their best sounding record yet and the songs are pretty dang good too.  (Reptilian)


NIGHTWATCH zine #12
This is the metal issue.  Oh, maybe I should back up.  Night Watch is an art zine featuring loads of artists contributing work towards a theme (hence, ‘the metal issue’) and a couple interviews with some of the artists.  They have had many of the same contributors throughout their run, but have added some excellent new ones as well.  They may as well have titled this the Lemmy memorial issue because he shows up in many of the pieces throughout this zine.  The stand-outs include the Motorhead board game of Life spread, Phil Guys ‘What Me Worry’ Lemmy, Edward Justin Wright’s indecipherable metal guy diagram, and especially Ryan Besch’ Dan Clowes-meets-Charles Burns “Sin Town” piece.  This whole thing is wrapped up in a wildly detailed metallic ink cover.  Fun times.  (Night Watch)


POWDER ROOM, “Lucky”
For whatever reason I thought this band was going to be heavier and noisier than they were when I gave their last LP, “Curtains” a cursory spin and sort of dismissed it.  The thing is, this band is really good.  It just takes a little while for their music to sink in.  At least on this new record they very much nailed it, as they say.  Taking the attention to detail, allowing space for songs to breathe, and a similar heaviness and direction of Young Widows, and couple that with some of the pedal board love and rocking nature of a group like Roomrunner I’d say Powder Room have a good thing going on.  There is a bit of confusion with this record as the liner notes allude to all 11 songs being on the record, and in a particular order, when in fact a song from each side is missing and instead show up as a bonus 7” that comes with the LP (probably due to time constraints).  It’s a minor concern though as it all works out in the end.  I especially enjoy when these guys are moving slow, particularly on the creepy and ungodly heavy “Black Dress” (which happens to have a very catchy and sing-along-able chorus) and the bluesy “Workaround” (which also happens to have a great harmonica section that could only be topped by Unsanes’ “Alleged”, but in a far less scummy, far more positive, yet equally heavy sort of way).  Even though the slow and heavy comes off better on this record, opening track “Vanburner” has an alarming urgency that draws you right in with it’s repeated bleeps and galloping rhythm. (Learning Curve Records)

TRUE WIDOW, “AVVOLGERE”
I was quite vocal about this Texas band’s last LP, “Circumambulation” and how I just wasn’t into it really.  I mean, compared to their first two LPs it was kind of a downer, and not in the way that this band kind of pride themselves on being.  I thought, with time, I’d re-visit it and see if things changed.  Nope.  It’s still pretty dull.  So I have to say that it’s very good to know that on their fourth LP True Widow have once again found some of that magic that made their first two records so excellent, but in a sort of different way.  On the first pair of LPs they dished out True Widow really excelled at doing a loud-quiet-loud thing to give their somber shoegaze/stoner rock some great dynamics.  With “Circumambulation” they seemed to mostly give up on that loud-quiet-loud thing and went for somewhat flat versions of their overall style.  “AVVOLGERE” (whatever that hell that means or stands for) continues to sort of abandon the loud-quiet-loud thing, which is sort of disappointing, but they have made the majority of songs here a bit more upbeat and added a considerable amount of hooks in the riffs to keep things interesting.  It’s the small changes with this band that make the difference.  A casual listener might not be able to notice, but it’s at least what I’m picking up, for what it’s worth.  Whatever it is, I’m into it and knew I’d enjoy this record right from the start of the first song, “Back Shredder” once I started humming it for the rest of the day after one listen.  Glad to see they’re back on their game and doing cool stuff.  (Relapse)

VINCAS, “Deep In the Well”
This Georgia three-piece lays out some dirty, greasy rock that both reminds me of Cows in it’s repetitive and wild noisiness, but also of The Birthday Party in it’s stark, creeping evil.  It’s not quite what I had expected, but I’m into it.  Maybe there’s a hint of goth to it, due to the low, baritone vocals and cold post-punk elements.  But it’s a little too loose and erratic to start wearing black nail polish and lighting candles to.  So, I guess I’m getting a bit of a Jesus Lizard vibe too.  But TJL borrowed heavily from The Birthday Party.  So, yeah, kind of back to square one with my references.  Hell, the dudes in Psychic Teens ought to meet up with these characters.  They’d probably really get along well.  Fuck around with this for a bit while watching “Scorpio Rising” and then wander out in the desert for a couple weeks and let the concepts of death and weirdness sink in.  (Learning Curve Records)

Bonus Round:

THE FAREWELL BEND, “In Passing”
I’ve made a big to-do about Dischord-related type bands through these older reviews, particularly from the short-lived Slowdime label (Kerosene 454, Regulator Watts, etc).  The label may have been based in DC, and distributed by Dischord, but the bands weren’t relegated to just being from DC.  Case in point, the post-Boys Life/Giants Chair off-shoot Farewell Bend.  The group hailed from that vast expanse of nothingness known as the Midwest and featured the exceptionally unique nasally vocals of Boys Life frontman Brandon Butler, the extra-tight snappy drumming of Giants Chair alum Paul Ackerman, and bassist John Rejba, also of Boys Life.  From the rolling, almost post-hardcore rhythm of “The Pen Ran Out Of Ink” to the more upbeat and anthemic feel of “Go Easy” there’s no doubt that vibe of other mid/late 90’s Midwest emo bands of the Caulfield Records roster is quite present here.  Think more early Jimmy Eat World, the less weird/more rocking aspects of Drive Like Jehu, a good bit of Superchunk, and for a more modern example Boston’s Krill.  A lot of people tend to think the epitome of 90’s Midwest emo might be The Get Up Kids or Braid, but this is pretty far removed from Braid’s poppy technicality or Get Up Kids lowest-common-denominator pop rock, even though if Farewell Bend were to have played with either of those bands (and I imagine they probably did at one time or another) it would work out just fine.  I feel like what they were doing was a great example of indie/emo of the region for the time.  They got a great big room-y recording out this, their lone full length, with a bunch of great rocking songs with substance (even being able to create a great sing-along part out of the line “A little too much time spent fucking around”).  Yet it’s the longest, and most out-of-place song on the record, “St. Christopher” that is easily my favorite.  It’s slow and steady repetition through most of the song of “Help is on it’s way/ Gotta head to the freeway/ Help is on it’s way/ In the Western sky” before it breaks into a very upbeat section, followed by the stop/start crescendo with the chorus of “They say I waste my life/ Maybe they’re right”.  It’s a heck of a song I tell ya.  Currently not too sure of what the individual members are up to aside from Brandon Butler, who played some shows as part of a briefly reunited Boys Life earlier this year and has a very part time band going with Ryan Patterson of Coliseum called Six Bells.  But this here, this is easily my favorite project he has been involved in, even though it’s not the most known.  (Slowdime Records)