Friday, November 27, 2015


Bleak starts their Winter tour across the states today! Work off them post-Thanksgiving feasting weight gain with some negative music. OR, turn your local music venue into a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale stampede. Both work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Can I just put it out there that I have been incredibly busy lately?  Like not a minute to spare sort of busy.  Life throws you some lemons from time to time and it's generally right after you get really great news.  Between the end of summer and early fall I was on a roll, things just going great, staying busy in good way, all that shit.  And the whole time I kept wondering, 'ok, when does the bad stuff start because this can't last forever'.  And, of course, now I got some difficulties. But that's the way things go- ebbs and flows, strikes and gutters.  So I'm doing my best to take it all in stride and if there's ever one constant to carry me through the good and the bad it's the music that I am exposed to.  That being said (and before the inevitable 'end of the year' list that will be coming your way probably the end of the year (duh)), here's some stuff that's been carrying me the last month or two.

BATTLES, “La Di Da Di”
I have been in awe of John Stanier’s drumming since I was a wee teen, when he was killing it in Helmet.  I knew Battles was a big departure, and I kind of had an idea of what they did, but it wasn’t until “Gloss Drop” had been out for some time that I actually explored it for myself.  And holy shit, that record is balls out wild.  I asked myself why I would be so drawn to this music, which relied heavily on electronics and synths to create a danceable stew of loops, blips, and all sorts of other sounds that pedal nerds lose their shit over.  And it occurred to me that, in a way, Battles is sort of like Tortoise for this generation (even though Tortoise is are still kicking it quite hard).  In, again, my strange deviation from my usual listening habits, I have also been digging Tortoise for a good 20 years.  So, yeah, Battles returns on this double LP with more wild electronics, building up bit upon textured/effect-driven bit until this giant mosaic comes into view and explodes forth in wild array of percussion, synth, guitar and bass that more often than not, does not sound like a guitar or bass.  Stanier’s drumming pulls everything into a ‘rock’ direction, but remains solid, anchoring all the wild shit the other two members of this group want to play with.  The whole thing is instrumental.  I’d say this doesn’t experiment as much as “Gloss Drop”, what with its various guest vocalists and ridiculously catchy oddities, but this one is growing on me nicely.  It remains a bit more consistent overall, which doesn’t add up to being as adventurous.  But it’s still going to take me months to deconstruct exactly what they are doing here, and that’s cool too.  (Warp)

It’s kind of hard to nail down what Chron Turbine are exactly, and that’s fine because easily –identifiable bands can often be boring.  This one song here deviates pretty strongly from their debut LP from a year or so ago.  It’s basically one cool riff repeated for a few minutes, instrumental, with various leads coasting on top of it.  It’s kinda mean and dirty, but has a garage-y sense of fun going on over it.  So take that as you will.  I kind of like their vocals though, so the absence of them on this song was a minor let down.  Violent Bullshit are basically exactly what you think they would be.  If you’re going to give your band that name you’d better be willing to drink piss out of a jar while purposefully playing a song out of tune and encouraging the audience to spit at you.  Their song on this split is all anti-authority punk rock n’ roll.  There is no need for further explanation.  Comes in a weird silkscreened sorta-Void rip-off cover.  (Peterwalkee)

DEPARTMENT, “Aporia” 7”
In the ‘things I forgot to review over the summer’…  uh…  department (pun really not intended) this 7” from Syracuse’s own Department flourishes like the complicated rock n’ roll flower that it is.  For starters I ought to point out that I play in a band with one of these guys, so, ya know, conflict of interest and yadda yadda.  Either way, things begin on this record sounding a lot like Braid in their heyday and that’s just fine by me.  It’s really energetic and high-end noodly rock with exceptionally sung vocals.  But I feel with the two songs on this (an extra two tracks on the download) they go a little unnecessarily long and lose a good chunk of that momentum as it gets a bit self-involved with displaying just how complex the musicians here can play.  If you’re a fan of technicality than this will probably rock yr socks.  My somewhat short attention span has a little trouble keeping up but I will say some parts are really great while others didn’t do it for me.  I really like the semi-homemade feel of the record artwork though.  It looks real sharp.  (LRS Records)

Here it is.  Why this is only available digitally is beyond me.  Toronto’s best-kept secret unleashes their new full length and it furthers the pop-sludge direction they have slowly been hinting at with each new record.  Older material veered on a lot of slow and stompy riffing, while vocalist and guitarist Mike Simpson offered up some very well-sung vocals to differentiate it from the slew of other sludge rock bands out there. This new material keeps that low-tuned dirge, but pushes the hooks further.  They instantly seep into your brain and keep you humming.  Think Melvins with more uplifting anthems, some of the feel-good sludge of Torche, or even a more accessible band like Jawbox tuned exceptionally low.   “Save It” opens up with the big anthem, a perfect opener, while “Long Night” starts with ‘ooohs’ sung over a chunky riff that would be out of place on a Kiss record played at 16 rpms.  “Piss On Gardens” is a faster, more relentless stalker of a song, probably the most overtly aggressive song on the recording.  “Remiss” begins with a pretty melodic guitar riff and a quiet sung vocal pine before slow, molten sludge takes over the song, crushing anything left standing.  The record closes with “Magpie”, another upbeat rocking anthem that was probably the obvious choice for a closing track as it climaxes into a wild soaring lead that fades out with the song.  If this band played in standard tuning they’d probably be packing arenas.  But seeing as their choice of musical delivery rests heavily on distortion and low-tuning we get to keep them for our own little secret, perfect band.  Check this at all costs (or no costs because it’s pay what you want on their bandcamp).  (Godstopper)

MEATWOUND, “Addio” 12”
I picked this up for a couple reasons, all rather superficial.  First off, this has some ex-Combatwoundedvetern members and anything related to them generally means really awesome artwork is part of the deal.  I’d say it’s fairly successful.  Not Earth-shattering awesome, but pretty cool.  Next, this was described as heavy noise rock.  That always piques my interest and I’d say that’s right on the money.  This is indeed very lumbering, very dirty, very sludgy noise rock.  It’s Coalesce in a blender minus most of the wild time changes and the dense sludginess of Kiss It Goodbye minus the frantic insanity.  Lyrically, there are some heavy themes, which don’t always go hand-in-hand with the whole noise rock thing.  But I’m happy to see this band addressing some interesting stuff in a fairly poetic way.  If there is a complaint to be made it might be that some of these songs go on a little long as they don’t always seem to have a solid direction and seem like they keep going, searching for that direction, but not quite finding it.  It’s a work in progress.  Or maybe it’s a band that just thought about maybe laying down some gross-as-fuck noise sludge, saying ‘fuck it’ and pressing record.  Either way, you could do a lot worse.  (MagicBullet)

NOISEM, “Blossoming Decay”
I’ll admit, my knowledge of metal is fairly limited.  There are plenty of bands that I like that lean on metal, or pay homage to it.  But I don’t typically find myself fully committing to music that is wholeheartedly METAL.  Noisem are very much metal.  They play incredibly fast.  Thrash and grind elements enter strongly into their sound, as well as classic death metal.  They whip out ridiculous solos quicker than the Waco Kid can draw on you, and they’re really young too (which means none of the members will probably get the reference I just made in that last sentence).  Regardless, there’s an urgency that I really enjoy about them and it led me to picking this record up.  Actually, it was the incredibly awesome package this came in (crazy die-cut cover held together by string) to be honest…  and the fact that I caught a listen of their previous record on a road trip.  So, ya know, it wasn’t just by chance.  Sometimes I think young bands act as if they’re re-inventing the wheel when they’re just doing a very poor imitation of it, or they’re just completely ignorant of tired-ass shit that has already been done to death.  And sometimes a band like Noisem comes around that completely pays respect to what came before and just pushes it to an awesome new extreme.  So yeah, thumbs up for legit brutalizing metal played at warp speed.  (A389 Recordings)

PIGS, “Wronger”
I imagine this band might be sick of all the Unsane comparisons they get, but when one of your members is in Unsane, and the bass player records most of Unsane’s material…  well, that writing style may seep in a bit.  And that’s totally OK.  And let’s be clear- Pigs are their own band.  Dave Curran trades in his bass to play guitar in this group and some of the songs that he lays down for this group are a bit more upbeat and fun…  in a very dirty, filthy sort of way.  “Wronger”, on the whole, feels a little more nuanced than their debut LP, “You Ruin Everything”, which was grimey and mean all the way through.  On this record they throw a banjo in on one song, play around with some interesting melodies here and there, and rope Julie Christmas into singing a track (which sounds like they pulled her out of a dumpster after chain-smoking fiberglass-laced cigars… it’s pretty rough in a great way).  The grit is ever-present, but it’s easy to see that this band has some other ideas they want to toy around with as well which serve them well.  (Solar Flare)

Continuing their trend of putting less songs on each record they do Spraypaint return with their second LP in one year, this time with 8 songs (“Punters On the Barge”, released in the Spring had 10 tracks).  To be fair, a few of these songs are considerably longer than most Spraypaint songs, which tend to often be in the 2 minute range.  Three of the tracks stretch between 4 and 6 minutes, so I guess that counts for something.  Also strange is that this material was recorded in 2014, but not released until just now while “Punters…” was recorded in early 2015 and released just a few short months later.  Nerdy fact-dropping aside, the band continue to try new things, adding bass to a couple songs here (they operate as a two guitars and drums trio), creepy synth on a couple more, and one track that is an exercise in headphone-geared soundscapes intended to put the listener at complete unease.  While they show up with some new tricks Spraypaint is all nervous anxiety and frayed nerves displayed with heavy reverb guitars, herky-jerky beats, and dulled vocals describing all aspects of hick/white trash life.  If Spraypaint were the soundtrack to a horror film the script would begin as follows, “Somewhere an axe murderer lies in wait behind a remote Texas 7-11”.  Take that as you will.  (Monofonous Press)

It’s been a few years since we checked in with Sweet Cobra.  After the death of their other guitarist Matt Arluck it was uncertain if this Chicago group would continue to lay down their brand of riffy stoner-rock fury.  But they have soldiered on and come up with something very evolved from their often heavy approach.  And it might be the best thing they have done to date.  While I found the heaviness of previous Sweet Cobra outings to my liking there was always something missing that typically led to many of their songs not sticking in my memory.  On “Earth” the band have consciously added much more in the way of crooned/sung vocals paired with effect-driven harmonies that bear a strong resemblance to Queens of the Stone Age (particularly on “Jealous Of Drugs” and “Complaints”), or the rambling heavy rock of “Perfect Pitch Black”-era Cave-In (see “Blue Rose” or “Future Ghosts” for reference).  And in some spots they deviate heavily from past work (“Repo” wouldn’t be out of place as a B-side from the first Interpol LP).  To me it’s a great showing from a long-running band that has always taken their time with producing output.  And they had some serious life events in the last few years to contribute to the task of creating this seriously awesome record.  (Magic Bullet)

WHY+THE+WIRES, “Flame Failures”
An Ithaca group that will never quit as far as I can tell.  They have released 4 LPs in almost as many years, most of which were on their own.  They don’t tour, and rarely play outside their own town.  Yet this group of mostly dads, in their hidden corner of upstate NY, manages to continually crank out thoughtful and interesting indie/punk rock.  Their hybrid of mid-to-late 90’s styled post-hardcore rock leans heavy on the Chicago/Champaign scene of the era, as I remember it, and bands such as Sweep the Leg Johnny, Braid, and Dianogah figure into their sound, while like-minded bands such as (early) Karate and even a bit of Drive Like Jehu show up as well.  The most notable aspect of Why+the+Wires sound comes from the use of saxophone or accordion in almost every song, done so in a tasteful way that adds a lot of texture to the music.  It sounds a little weird to read, but it works really well in the music.  It’s also a nice looking record, so if that doesn’t finally tip you in the direction of checking it out I’m not sure what will.  (JetsamFlotsam Records/ One Percent Press)