Sunday 31 January 2016

Hits From The Box #121 - January Headaches Past and Present

Last day of January - the most miserable month of the year. Normally a celebration. Instead I have a migraine, it's raining...but at least I have these sounds to keep the shits at bay until tomorrow. February is always better, right? 

Melbourne trio Daytime are a post-punk outfit flying somewhat under the radar - they only have a couple songs on Soundcloud and that's about it. Creating in a velvet vacuum, both 'Everyone's So Nice' and 'Flounder' are cavernous yet suffocating, an insidious rhythm propelling tracks that are somehow both warm and cold to the touch. In my personal opinion, Daytime should be getting the 2016 accolades that Gold Class were getting in 2015 - based on this small amount of output, they are already leagues ahead.

Let's head to Sydney for some grizzled, guzzled psych rock blasts with Grinding Eyes. Their new 7" is out through Tyms Records (Heavy Blanket, Earthless). They supported Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Moon Duo before Xmas, and you can see the connection - their 'So Clear' in particular inexorably slides into overblown, hedonistic Black Angels territory (that pummelling drum comes from Cec Condon of The Mess Hall; and the guitar tone and organ is sublime. This sonic space is made possible courtesy of Straight Arrows' Owen Penglis on mixing duties and none other than the Dirtbombs' Jim Diamond mastering it). You can grab the record here.

Still in Sydney we have a solo outing from Food Court's Cristian Campano. The plaintive song 'What You're Doing To Me' is a fair sidestep from the crunchy 90s indie vibe his day band dish out, a track with sweeping strings, emotive balladry, and Flamenco guitar - a highly ambitious and beautiful offering indeed, if somewhat maudlin in content. It is great to see some Australian artists offering lush, interesting arrangements in their music - put Campano next to Lehmann B Smith as guys to watch out for this year.

Back down to Melbourne now, and department. is a band that comes out of the back pocket of the guitarist of bad-arse punks Bad Vision. They have released a 7” One & One that perfectly showcases their rusted-yet-shimmering garage rock, not far removed from the depraved booze party vibes that many of the Slovenly/Hozac stable master. Whether this is a more than a passing concern is anyone's guess - but the 7" surely means dirty business...

A squalling downtown shakedown  with vocalist John Sharkey III lending an Interpol-droll timbre left echoing over the top, Vicious Romance b/w Delco Runts marks Philly band Dark Blue’s first appearance on 12XU Records (home of Obnox, Manateees, Exhaustion and Sweet Talk amongst many more). Both ‘Vicious Romance’ (a love song about discovering that the dream (of love, of equality, of hope) may be dead) and ‘Delco Runts’ (a droll call-out to the negative influences that permeate Delaware County) come from the blue collar milieu in a monochrome-rinsed dark pop mantra that is resonant and kitchen-sink heartrending. The success of this band hinges on their tightrope suspension of prosperity in a bleak world, even if at a merely idealistic level.

And we finish up back in the UK, with Bristol's Velcro Hooks promising their debut album is rising up out of Howling Owl Records in April. The two cuts thus far are opposite ends of the hooked spectrum - 'Severin The Mind' is a squalling Krautrock cesspit of deafening destruction, while 'Mid of May' is a wonky yet warm psych-folk trip, bristling with vintage fuzz and ephemeral fizz. Looking forward to hearing this later in the year.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday 29 January 2016

Don't You Leave Tyrannamen

Melbourne rock troglodytes Tyrannamen is one of those bands I have heard about so often I assume I have seen them. I haven't. I assumed they had a plethora of scuzzy albums littered around the backwaters. They don't. This self-titled record is their first. And it is great - a cantankerous brand of punk RnR soul that the older roughnuts (think Coloured Balls and the sharpies movement) to the newer generation (Royal Headache and Oblivians being the most immediate punk peers) should all get behind. It's rough around the edges but riddled with hooks, harmonies and heart. Tyrannamen may have been five years in the making, but the result is electric - five guys thrashing out and about, grins plastered, beer spattered, and ready to grab the world by the scruff of the neck. Will it be a kiss? Will it be a headbutt to the bridge of the nose? Either way, the visceral connection is timeless. You can get Tyrannamen through Cool Death Records here.

Thursday 28 January 2016

The Hydromedusa That Could

It's a case of the hairy monster Adelaide band that could - many-headed rockers Hydromedusa brought out their self-titled album through Tyms Records, and the fucker keeps selling out! It first came online back in April of last year, and word of mouth spat fire on its brilliance, but every time I rustled the cash for it, it was gone. Now into its third pressing, with behemoths Tee Pee Records pushing its wares around the US, Hydromedusa is only going to get bigger, more gargantuan, more debauched, more raw power. Now in split black/purple vinyl, the record is sexier as well! I won't miss out on their pumped-up 70s metal extravaganza (with Sleep injections, just to keep you on your toes) this time - and neither should you.

Steady Teething

The Steady As She Goes continued to roil in the deep dark night, a behemoth breaking the surface in slow motion, the spiked moonlight  sparking off its glistening carapace. The one-man Gothic doomsayer scorches the (E)arth on 'Kindred', the sepulchral opener to new release Teeth Dreams, before the Man In Black saunters through the smoke, a haunted gunslinger looking for his 'Throne Of Want'. I know that Tal will hate me for some of this - but I felt like I was trapped in a vacuum with three speakers spewing forth Tangerine Dream, Ennio Morricone and Pink Floyd in an unholy triumvirate of textured sound. I personally absolutely love it - it has become my soundtrack to my current spate of late-night writings. 'You Don't' is more in the scheduled TSASG vein, a slow-grinding leviathan of heaving waves of expectation and expulsion, before the nightmare crawl of 'Toluca' takes into the delicious darkness. The Steady As She Goes is one of the best things about the Brisbane music scene in my opinion - defiantly dark, dense, idiosyncratic and intense, a solo journey to the centre of the earth with no promise of return. More please - always fucking more.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Being With Brat Farrar That Night

Brat Farrar continues to deal in rock subterfuge, delivering Being With You That Night seemingly under the cover of darkness (possibly in a coffin, if the rad Bela Lugosi cover is anything to go by). Brat (AKA Sam Agostino of Digger & the Pussycats) continues to mine various seams of rock tangents, kicking off with the fuzz-punk-glam w/ drum machine mania of the title track, before delving into more bubblegum rock circa Ratcat via a Bolan-led Laid Thenardier (check em out) in 'Let It Go'. He finishes out this fun 7" with 'Feel This Way', going widescreen with the guitar buzz, a perfect palate cleanser before starting all over again. Pick it up here.

Skeleton Bent Around Moontown

Brisbane's bent trio Bent are following up debut release Non Soon with a self-titled 7" on Moontown Records - and they have totally upped the ante. Four jagged shards of post-punk, keen on atonality, brevity, and cheeky chaos. 'Skeleton Man' has more bristling intent than past sounds, courtesy of Glen Schenau's nerve-wracking frayed fretwork and Skye McNicol's octopi-in-tantra drumming. The focus is still Heidi Cutlack's broken vocals, roping around in cut-glass whispers and banshee wails, the bass thick and unwieldy yet intent on providing a sinuous frog-march to the edge - the cracked laughter pushing things over. 'Where's The Fire' simple in its tightly-coiled implosion - no need for smoke when the intensity is burning within. 'Sock Holes' is reined in, a quiet moment of wasted sweatbox ennui, with bruises, stains, holes and tears along the seam. When Bent are so broken, why fix it? Grab Bent here.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Taping Chastity Down

I only heard Tape on the weekend, the EP from Canada's Chastity, but it's an earworm that just won't quit. Taking living on the outside and feeding that unease with heady doses of  Cloud Nothings imploring aggression, the four "demos" here are incredibly accomplished. Starting out with the tempered anguish of 'You're Scary Now', things get incrementally more caustic - 'Manning Hill' takes the 90s guitar rock thrash route, while 'Saliva' blasts forth in a more frenetic fashion. This unleashing of anguished aggression subsides on closer 'Nevermind, Lucifer', a lo-fi ruminative echo, ghosting the tail end like an EVP, capturing the melancholic chagrin of a kid too tired to argue anymore. Tape is impressive in how deep each side of the melodic punk rock seam Chastity mines. I missed their shows back in December - I won't make the same mistake a second time.

Seeing Soft Pink

Belfast trio Sea Pinks have always been an interesting band that has thus far failed to fully arrest – to provide that pivotal epiphany moment where time stops, even for the briefest breath of a moment, and everything aligns. Soft Days is almost that moment – it’s an album of sonic subterfuge, that stuns and muddies the water from the get-go. ‘(I Don’t Feel Like) Giving In’ starts with a slow, stark feedback-flecked drone, before opening into a jumped-up tempo 60s monochrome number, both Stones pop and Van Morrison-led Them snarl-lite. It must be noted that Neil Brogan used to be in Girls Names, if only to state that it’s interesting to see two Irish bands from the same gene pool growing in confidence, albeit in a different way. Both send parting glances to bands of yesteryear – but while Girls Names lathers themselves in Joy Division ennui, manicured style and substance excess, Soft Days is all about marrying Flying Nun guitar pop majesty with 70s power pop standard bearers, with the occasional Dando-Richman inflection slipping in the back door (such as in the excellent ‘Cold Reading’). People say it is strange that such buoyant fare should come from such a notoriously wet and “miserable” place – but two things stand in the face of this. Even if you think that opposites often emanate from the wellspring, it’s hard to dissuade me from the idea that such ebullient hooks transcend geography. There are moments of darker rock touches – ‘Down Dog’ and the slight fuzz fadeout of the closing title track – yet while I love noise, it’s just as warm staying in this golden bubble. The last few months have seen a strong push for jangle-centric pop records (Salad Boys, Pete Astor, Nap Eyes), and Soft Days puts Sea Pinks right up in the mix. The record is out through CF Records – get it here.

Monday 25 January 2016

Chunklets Of Honey Salad

Here's a couple of Chunklet Records releases for a Sunday listen. First up is Scarce Tracks, a four-track 7" from New Zealand's Salad Boys. 'Eighteen Forty Four' is a languid countrifried instrumental jam; 'Devotion' is a woozy buzz; 'Best Kept Secret' a perfectly calibrated slowburner; 'My Uniform' a mixture of the two. It's a 90s centric bliss bomb of a release - these guys are the real deal. You can grab a copy here - there are a couple of these left in blue vinyl too.

Not so lucky if you want to get Giraffe, the new EP from prolific Philly band Honey Radar - it's all out. Four tracks of backwards-looking-forwards 60s influenced psych folk, from the burnished Beatles and veiled Velvets groove of 'Kangaroo Court' to the English pagan hippy rock experiment 'A Trip To Belmoor Cottage', it's a weirdly wonderful meandering trip.

Sunday 24 January 2016

They Don't Make Nosferatu D2s Like They Used To

Another day, another weird pun-named band. But the ubiquitously-monikered Nosferatu D2 came about some eleven years ago, and disbanded two years later, so your chance to herald or heckle the duo for their choice of title has truly come and gone. But you can prick your ears on what they sounded like thanks to the reissuing madness of Audio Antihero (who put out physical copies of Frog’s last two releases - and I am about to head out to Jazz Servant Quarters tonight to see 'em). Basically AA was started in 2009 to release the band’s “lost” LP, We're Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise, on cassette. It is surprising just how well the album still holds up today. The sibling duo have everything that should have made them massive in their 2006 heyday - you can hear Los Campesinos!, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and Danananackroyd here. There are the spiked and verbose lyrics, spiked and virile instrumentation that is tightly coiled and leaping in tangential sonic corridors at the drop of a hat, spiked and hilarious song titles (such as 'We'll Play "The Power of Love" By Frankie Goes to Hollywood A Thousand Times Tonight' and 'The Kids From Fame' on the subsequent Older, Sadder, Wiser EP) - acerbic, tangled, nervous energy abounds. Darkly emotional, acridly bitter, snarkily serrated - Nosferatu D2 should have been so, so much more. At least we have this legacy to latch on to...

Mugstar As Magnetic As Ever

Liverpool legends Mugstar are prepping to launch new record Magnetic Seasons through Rock Action Records (Mogwai's seminal label) in March, and have announced some shows (on at Electrowerkz in Feb that I will see you all at, right?) and a new track, 'Flemish Weave'. It is everything that makes Mugstar great - elegant space rock flamboyance burning away into a harder-edged motorik psych mantra.

Magnetic Seasons is available to pre-order here.

Mugstar play at London's Electrowerkz on February 26, Brighton's Green Door Store on April 1 and the Raw Power Festival in London on May 28-29.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Woodboot's Doing The Crime Time

Seriously, can Woodboot get any more diseased? Since the Brisbane band started out some years ago as a passing concern, the core duo of Dan and Julien cranking out scuzzed out garage punk, they have grown like an Akira homunculus, sucking in Sam McKenzie (Sulphur Lights/Occults) on second axe bludgeoner duties and Donnie Miller (No Anchor/Roku Music/Forevr) eschewing guitars and smashing the kit like the reprobate Troglodyte that he is. Crime Time is the fetid result. Each song is all about brevity with a mainline blast of fuck-you punk, tearing viscera through their serrated sawing and heckling howls. Songs like ‘Trash Dump’ is the kind of punk we hear a lot of around Brisbane parts, from the 70s punch of The Leftovers to the cartoonish chaos of Undead Apes and everything in between, but then you get to the killer slack-jawed, legs-splayed power punk of ‘Prison Planet’, all jagged edges and dripping Neanderthal fangs, that the transmogrified remnants of the likes of Hank Wood, Circle Jerks and the Spits are ripping through the entrails of the four-piece, a chest-burster showing the diseased intent within. ‘Gut You’ is fucking feral, all blood-vessel searing feedback and three-chord torture, throats being shredded almost out of psychopathic glee. ‘I’m Gonna Push You In Front Of The Bus’ is, despite of its name, a more “pop-oriented” punk blast, a Ramones template lynched and dragged along the bitumen behind a busted-up V8, some semblance of attractive melody showing beneath the blood and gashes. I can even hear ‘Return Of The Rat’ in Crime Time’s insistence that there should be rhythm underneath the sledgehammer-and-kerosene debris, if somewhat used and abused.

I’m proud to know Woodboot – I'll do time for them for sure.

Friday 22 January 2016

Friday Cankun Gold

Here is a Friday night fry-out for you. I think this actually came out in 2014 (or at the latest early 2015) but Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, from Vincent Caylet’s electronic sultan outlet Cankun, is a bursting blast of hypnotic bliss. I picked it up from French label Hands In The Dark a little in the New Year binge (when looking to buy Housewives’ brilliant record Work – a much belated review soon, seeing as it was one of my fave albums of 2015). There is a sonorous drone ever-present in Cankun’s music, which can either send off psych fumes of hedonism and galactic excess (‘System’), or delve into a more intoxicated RnB spiralled drawl (‘Tyreu’). But there is a maudlin side to these woozy sojourns, a wistful stasis of weighed-down chagrin, that punctures some of the more upbeat (albeit laid-out) jams. ‘Moyit’ seems intent to lurk in the murkier shadows of melancholy before breaking out into a disco shudder; ‘Cuts’ uses its first minute for a sepulchral buzz and incongrouous hustled beat before the sunlight breaks the surface. The truest change in direction for me is penultimate ‘Trezz’, an oscillating rumination with gentle piano and languid, ricocheting guitar warbles with looped feedback drowning in the ether – it’s like listening to a yacht rock groove caught in a submarine marooned in a Bermuda Triangle of buzzing disparate parts. An unexpectedly febrile find, you can pick up Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold here – see off the week in a phaser blaze.

Killing With A Choke Chain

I am listening to this Choke Chains record in my lunch hour before I head back into the heady pit of hell that is high school teaching. A fellow teacher (one that is on the right side of nihilism in that she does a great job in front of the class and vents like a Banshee at the end of it) came in and said “Jesus, are you OK? This is aggressive shit, you aren’t going to do anything are you?” She was only half-joking…

Michigan has a lot of reasons why furious pummelling punk would be a perfect outlet, and Choke Chains latches onto the lot, a vise like grip on avarice and puerile pestilence (why else call songs ‘Let’s Try Suicide’ or ‘Rock Paper Rapist’? You aren’t going to name soft ballads such provocative titles without backing them the fuck up). And of course there is a background to such devilishly demented mayhem – members of Dirtbombs and No Bails litter the stage. You can hear both in the mix – the ballsy, bluesy, party rock vibe of the former, and the hardened snot punk of the latter. So sure, Choke Chains could induce wanton acts of atrocities on most-likely-deserving teenagers – the gnashing of teeth can be heard just over the crushing of glass and gouging of skin, but… – actually, yeah, I need a “safe word”. Grab Choke Chains through Slovenly here.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Baby Birds Don't Eat Burritos

I’ve been bewitched by the beguiling cerebral charm of Kansas-via-New York band Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk before, especially 2013's Think Tone. The band are back with their fourth album, Burritos. For some reason, with a title like that I expect something much more in the vein of Wavves or Black Lips to pour out of the speakers – but the pastoral Animal Collective-meets-Akron/Family-meets-Fleet Foxes on a spectral bender aesthetics at play here are far more mesmeric. Opening track ‘Kid Margot’ floats in and around you, a percolating miasma of cavernous echo and flow. There is hazed acoustic strums, silken guitar washes, haunting-yet-inviting choral vocals, with lots of aural quirks flitting in the shadows, like insects pinging off the window on a tepid summer evening. This is somehow much lighter and freer than previous BBDDM releases, yet just as arresting in its joyous expanse.

Fire Talk are bringing out Burritos in March – you can pre-order it here.

Alpha Sublime

Want something a little cracked and warped with your coffee and cigarettes this morning? London hard-to-define trio Alpha Maid follow up the excellent 'Body Chores' with 'Sublime', a seedy, heady slice of lurching electronic punk that manages to be abrasive, ambient and angular, all in a three minute surge of pent-up panic. Starting with a narcolept dub shudder, Leisha Thomas's vocals spear through the cerebellum, a tightrope, a speared drawl, both languid and louche, a stuttering robotic percussion interspersed with crunching guitars that go into overdrive in the final third. It's mental, anarchic, and spiked fun - yep, "you're gonna be a star".

Tuesday 19 January 2016

It's A Brown Death Seance

I have revamped my record player - finally - and have broken it in with back to back John Carpenter - his Sacred Bones-released Lost Themes of last year, and his score for They Live, a clear-vinyl reissue put out by Death Waltz Records, one of my favourite labels. I don't own many of their records, because they are expensive, but it is the attention to detail in their tactile end products that make such prices more than reasonable. They have been stepping out of the horror score to do more contemporaneous works of late, such as the Blanck Mass' curated reimagining of the score to The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears. I'm excited to see that another of their efforts is from an Aussie source - Miles Brown (The Night Terrors)'s debut solo album, Seance Fiction.

It is co-released by Australia's it Records. Brown's signature Theremin is still front and centre, as you would expect, but the songs here are more focused on scrolling through experimental synth badlands in all their garish, Gothic or gauche glories. Opener 'Space Cadet' is the best primer of this - starting like a crackling VHS score for the imagined early 70s precursor to Hardware, it morphs into a early-console dancefloor marauder. 'Electrics' sees Brown's vocals come to the fore, and with lyrics like "it’s just a case of unexpected electricity" the unpredictability of lightness continues. We see touchstones more mainstream than you might expect, with the likes of Depeche Mode and Ultravox colouring the edges. Don't worry, the dark flourishes that have always informed Brown's work is at play elsewhere. Closer 'Feeder' takes a more ruminative march into the netherworld. But Seance Fiction is Brown having "fun" in this synthmorphic realm. You can grab this album in ectoplasmic green !) here.

Monday 18 January 2016

Badaboum In The Vacant Valley

Happy New Year! Thought I would do the whole two birds/one stone thing on the first day of 2016 and talk about Vacant Valley and Bruit Direct Disques releases...

Let's start with Bruit. I posted about some previous releases the other week (The Frightening Lights and Wonderfuls), but the current release is the 1st LP from French all-girl outfit Badaboum. It's a hard one to describe without getting your ears dirty and diving right in. It's eerie - high-pitched, elongated, distorted vocals that play with and subvert several languages, mournful B-movie organ, percussion that goes from wind-chime irregularity to tropical punk insistence, deliberately swerving from any given holding pattern. Imagine if Trash Kit took a bunch of sweltering Quaaludes while holed up in an Alpine chalet against their will, listening to the B-52s while listening to a cassette language translator on a Walkman with the batteries dying, with dwindling food and water - and maybe Badaboum would be the result...maybe.  The bizarre thing? The shifting veils of madness are hypnotic and ultimately a lot of fun. I'm getting my head around it - you should too.

Australian champions of the damaged sonic underworld, Vacant Valley, are priming for another large, eccentric year, so before we unveil their undertakings in the upcoming months, I thought I would shine a sickly light on three of last year’s releases that deserve further scrutiny (and you can get all three here).

In chronological order, we have Melbourne solo artist Squirrel Pancake (AKA Jen Tait of Go Genre Everything amongst other acts). She has taken a fuzz-fucked approach to askew song structures, giving semblances of convention before blasting it with overzealous strumming, flailing distortion that is shaking under its own dereliction, and capsizing the ship with bolts of guitar shredding in the more literal sense. Every song seems to have been edited to frustrate – the long songs far too long, the shorter tracks dissipating before they really dig in. In some ways this is the charm – a fever dream that traces over and eradicates the skeleton, a double-vision of perceived and actual happenstance. Deconstruction as destruction. ‘Wigs & Ruffles’ sits best with me – this is no-wave meltdown, 80s Gordon/Moore style – but the rest sits precariously in that nether region between art and artifice. It stays on the right track almost by sheer will – Squirrel Pancake maintains an obtuse animosity that manages to perturb, staving off the apathy enough to be something worthwhile, even if it’s in your dreams/nightmares.

Brisbane has had some garrulous member in the VV stable (Per Purpose, Psy Ants, Cured Pink), and Bad Intentions now joins them. Everybody’s Doing It showcases the warping talents of Nicola Morton (Club Sound Witches, ) and Rebecca Hlodich. The cassette is made up of recordings from two performances at the sadly now defunct Real Bad Music space (which Morton co-ran), one of the last bastions of outlier music left in Brisbane, back in 2013, and it is two sides of a sonically fractious coin. ‘She’s Onto It’ is a metallic industrial lullaby, distorted lyrics coming through a distorted Dynamike (so it sounds), astral projection into the very outer limits, that invariably starts to fray and unravel, spluttering to many false stops before sifting the corrosive layers away, leaving low-level murmuring (from the crowd) to slowly replace the space. ‘Don’t Take It Personally’ is even less constructed in some ways (a misnomer as both sets seem to be largely improvised), guitar and drumming so out of sync (not just with each other but what equates to actually playing) that what starts out like two musically-base children strapping into instruments at Allen’s Music for an eighteen minute flurry of hands and feet, making noise because, becomes a little more – almost an epiphany just before it fully forms, a realisation dawning – the Moorooka Mile equivalent of the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, perhaps? It’s something that doesn’t hang as well as the first half, but posits that the physical experience would have been far more rewarding.

Finally we have Kompact Development. It seems Adelaide bands don’t like their C’s (another band from this crowd is Kash Konverters). The outlet for Freya Adele (from the aforementioned band as well as Theta and Botox) ​is both the most abrasive and cohesive of the three releases, an industrial Commodore-64 space battle within the blood. What? ‘Harr’ opens up and stretches for over twenty minutes, spraying a trancelike sonic adhesive over you, captivating in its stuttering remnants of a synthesised kosmiche march, tape-coiled bleeps and Cold-War computer code rolling forth in two-dimensional industrial theatricality. It manages to sound like the beats are the only constant, traversing time, space and variable technologies, warped and manipulated wherever it lands before scurrying through another wormhole to another time/head space. I actually thought this was brilliant – and seeing as the month has been top-loaded with (admittedly excellent) guitar pop for me, such a jolt of decomposing electricity was a pleasant shock. The other three, much more digestible yet still cold and anarchic tracks follow in its stead – ‘Cole’ is a robotic Goth Wave shudder, crudely executed, the vocals called spectrally forth with deadpan ice; ‘Diet’ is a metallic, eye-popping nightmare, a hyper-industrial fever with Pazuzu appearing in blocked, excruciating increments; ‘Nore’ a dot-matrix-and-internet-dial-up annihilation of nerve endings.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Kal Marks 4 Mankind

After the bruised brood of the opening gambit of 'Dorothy' from Bostonians Kal Marks' upcoming record Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies, you could be excused that the fire might have tempered. 'Mankind' throws that idea onto said fire and incites an inferno. The premise is about helping your fellow man - it's surprising how hard it is for people to get along, so you may as well get royally fucked off about it. Nothing like death-gripping the world into acquiescence. Why can't we just get along? Get furious to get happy; join forces to raze the rabble and rise into a New (and friendlier) World Order. I'll get behind it.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Working On Time Well Spent

Nothing like a bit of humanitarianism with your post-hardcore. Florida band Frameworks are releasing a new 7” EP, Time Spent, in three different versions – clear with black smoke, white, and translucent gold. The clear/black smoke variation will have a $1 from each donated to the UN Refugee Agency to help with the crisis in Syria. The music itself is as typically asymmetrical as always, offering a melodic thrum before an explosion of razor-edged noise. There is a further industrial element underscoring Framework’s aesthetics though, a sign that Time Spent has been time spent expanding and reframing. ‘Time Spent’ spools out violently with moments of sepulchral calm – Nothing or a Jason Reece-led …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead comes to mind here. Frameworks are priming an album for later in the year – this is the perfect precursor. You can grab it here.

Up In The National Parks

Brooklyn's Big Ups keep amping the excitement factor for their incoming record Before A Million Universes. New off the ranks is 'National Parks', sonically feeling like a brooding Slint bender that explodes in a punk howl fury. The anger rises, the power multiplies, the noise amplifies. Their voice only grows louder, more disenchanted with what the have's are handing down to us, constantly blindsided by expectation and reality, but refusing to lie down and take this confusing fucked-up world in a cage of confusion. Can't tell you how much I am looking forward to this one. You can pre-order Before A Million Universes from Tough Love/Exploding In Sound here.

Friday 15 January 2016

Friday Cover Up - Gino Lets His Goons Go

Florida swamp punks Gino & the Goons brought out a rad 7” last year that was a slurred party started, thumping forth like troglodyte and liquor meltdown buzz. The new 7” (out through Slovenly Records now) isn’t as likely to light up rather than pound through the wall. ‘Check This Out’ has the gloves off, brows furrowed in an inebriated storm, damaged and threatening to imploded, darkness infiltrating even as the drunken moans evoke a bottle-in-the-hand choral sway around a junkyard fire. The B-side, as with their last release, is a cover – this one of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Let Go’, and the 70s paced punk rock is breakneck fun. As always Gino et al brings along fellow goons to smash things up – in this case Memphis loose cannons NOTS and New Orleans punk tyro Buck Biloxi, along with Sarah No Mas (Pelican Pow Wow Records). You get what you expect with Check This Out/Let Go – you would be a fool not to indulge.

Disintegrating Explosions In The Wilderness

Texas gods Explosions In The Sky are releasing a new album! The Wilderness is the follow-up to 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (although they have been involved in soundtracks for the films Lone Survivor, Prince Avalanche and Manglehorn). Having received a ticket to see them play at Royal Albert Hall in April for Christmas, this news is spiking my excitement exponentially. That said, it looks like some EITS preconceptions may have to be left at the door. The first track from it, ‘Disintegration Anxiety’, is a much more tetchy, synthetically-washed beast than anything the four-piece have put together before. Words such as “ambitious” and “aggressive” have been bandied about on press releases, and there is a ominous foreboding that permeates this song. Still, the trademark shimmering orchestration and guitar interplay is, as would be expected, central to the piece. When I listened to it the first time, I enjoyed it but wasn’t transcended the way I usually am when I listen to these guys. I have listened to this song in excess of eighteen times today – and it’s a kneejerk reaction, an impulsive need to hit replay. There is definitely something lurking underneath the surface here that has latched on and won’t let me go – bodes very well for the rest of the album – a hypnotic narcotic to add to the rest of this amazing band’s history. Pre-order The Wilderness here (with limited edition red and maroon etched vinyl - always looking out for you...)

Thursday 14 January 2016

Rolling Thoughts With Nap Eyes

I spoke rather warmly about Gun Outfit’s new LP Dream All Over yesterday. The second album that has been smashed the past month (the others being Pete Astor’s Spilt Milk and the debut album from Chorusgirl) is Thought Rock Fish Scale from Nova Scotians Nap Eyes. The followup to last year’s Whine of the Mystics, this record is even more laidback and rustic than Gun Outfit’s offering, but just as rapt in verbose spurts of wry cynicism and astral derring-do. It is so pared back and relaxed that every track has been recorded live to tape, with no overdubs discernible in the mix.

Take ‘Stargazer’, for example – a relatively simplistic bassline, a cyclical guitar riff, with a light marching drumbeat keeping everything on its track – and the space behind it all as deafening as a wall-of-noise amp-breaker. It shuffles amiably along, even as Nigel Chapman sings lyrics like ‘I venomously crown myself serpent king of my sins’ and ‘I looked myself in the mirror and wondered where could my dream have gone wrong?’ The sometimes-cryptic, sometime-plaintive storytelling is as much a drawcard as the pastoral pluck of the instrumentation, a wonderfully crystalline distillation of juxtaposed thoughts and sounds. There will be a lot of Flying Nun related acts that can be put side by side to Nap Eyes in this regard. There seems to be a lot of self-doubt and concerns about mortality here – but there is no pity and loathing, either.

And I feel that is as much the key as anything else – Thought Rock Fish Scale is a colourful story about one man’s journey through life, spouting half-truth and misdemeanours with the cordial air of someone committed to the cause, albeit one that leads to inevitable impermanence, without a worry or care in the world. It takes til the second last song, ‘Roll It’, before things move above a rustic ramble, with closer ‘Trust’ blowing out the hazed introspection, a deliberate move to get up and walk out in the sunshine.

It too is out through Paradise of Bachelors (two smash hits there fellas) – get it here.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Gun Outfit's Dream Far From Over

Dream All Over, Olympia-bred Gun Outfit’s 4th album, came out October last year, but I thought it was worth a revisit seeing as they tour the UK next month. I have had this album for months on the work computer, but only really embraced it over the Christmas break, the subtly rambling record becoming a staple of early morning hazed malaise (it was a gooood holiday). Which I didn’t expect. I expected to like it, but because of what Gun Outfit was – their last three records more burnished, burnt, bent out of shape, a delightful cacophonous mess of post-punk malapropisms (especially Possession Sound).

Dream All Over follows a rebirth not that dissimilar to The War On Drugs or The Men – although neither wasted garage psych or bristling hardcore, all three bands found their equilibrium in blues-inflected hues, finding space and hushed tones a freedom rather than stifling inertia. For the uninitiated – Dream All Over isn’t a gear change more than a total overhaul. There is the spectre of Low hovering over the sparse, balalaika-infused ‘Angelino’, sung with haunting elegy by Carrie Keith (her touches throughout the album are always stunning); the Yo La Tengo breeze blowing through ‘Blue Hour’ and ‘Legends Of My Own’; Neil Young in a cracked, silent bathysphere on ‘Came To Be’; a Jason Molina-meets-Conor Oberst-meets-Lee Ranaldo manicured desert shambolism in ‘In Orbit’. ‘Matters To A Head’ has a rustic, flannel-in-the-Appalachians undercurrent, imparted through both Dylan Sharp’s slightly more curled vocals and humble yet bruised lyrics.

There is a measured, assured elegance that permeates every track here – although nothing approaches fever pitch, the seams of warm pastoral riches more than makes up for it. I can imagine these songs scoring a night under the stars in the desert; driving into the sunset through the desert; the sun tipping its head as it pierces the desert horizon…

OK so I am leaning heavily on that well-worn “desert” descriptor. But it is so apt here, as is one description I read of it being “canyon-cult blues”. Again, the shift to LA seems to have had a profound effect on Gun Outfit. To be honest, the new direction fits like a glove. Dream All Over works best on the periphery of reality, of consciousness, in locales and dimensions that are slightly skewed and wild. This echoes with the ghosts of Laurel Canyon and the Mansons killing the Age of Aquarius, Neil Young steering the ship, the consummate folklore punk. Dream All Over sounds like a reimagining; Gun Outfit are on the beach, in the sun, burnishing with wry chagrin that belies a ramshackle energy. You really should get this record (out through Paradise of Bachelors here). Gun outfit play The Lexington Friday February 12 - see you there.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Hits From The Box #120 - Tree Building

(NOTE - I wrote this weeks ago, while drinking White Russians).

I just put up my first Xmas tree. At 34. While listening to this.

The Red Cords kick us off with their breakneck garage punk. Vile Guy is six tracks of smashed out riffs, dirty red-lined vocals, and a drum racket that echoes from the annals of the booziest, spikiest punk history. Delivered with a snarl and a twinkle in the eye, Vile Guy leaves nothing left, everything expended and spent, sweat soaked and bludgeoned, cracked teeth gleaming from a maniacal smile.

Holy shit. Lyon's Herr Geisha & the Boobs are not what you expect. Book Of Mutations is a one track album of brutal rock, taking the harder edges of Shellac, Slint and Sleep and smashing it against a brick wall, a Necronomicon of noise and nihilism, fraying the fabric of sanity. A mutation in every sense, the trio manage to shapeshift into garage rock mavens for a few minutes here, doom soothsayers for a few minutes there, always maintaining a tightly-coiled focus on manipulated menace. Big, brave, brutal, brilliant.


Operator is a krautrock-worshipping wunderkind four-piece from Brooklyn whose swirling EP Puzzletronics I is breathtaking in its sinuous dexterity and distorted force. Their insidious rhythms aren't built to lull and beguile - they are set to destroy. The effects that permeate these five tracks seem designed to tap into your core energies and send them haywire, a hypnotic maelstrom that connotes both chaos and cool assurance. Even when things get technicolour and weird, like Raincoats-esque closer 'EE UNSH', the band never let go. Dara Hirsch mutters on 'Requirements', "Whose side are you on at the end of the day?" I don't think I have a choice - Operator are in control. 

Over to Toronto now and Fresh Snow. They released their latest EP Won through Hand Drawn Dracula a few months ago, and while I love their instrumental take on dissonant melody and noise as movement (baring similarities to Canadian contemporaries Holy Fuck),  I have been sucked in by their collaboration with Pink Eye AKA Daniel Abrahams from Fucked Up. The title alone drags me in - 'Don't Fuck A Gift Horse In The Mouth' - a slow-building motorik behemoth then bursts forth, mesmeric before the obligatory Pink Eye howl. The entire EP is breathtaking too, elegiac in places, loudly insistent in most others. Great stuff.

Now for some light jangle from Melbourne's Grandstands. 'Stranger (In A Sense)' is a precursor to their upcoming album coming out on Whalesmouth. Sundappled yacht amble from the 'burbs, the track oozes languid sun-drunk blase - no absolutes. They aren't even assertive in their song title! Relax and forget about it.

I used to live and work in a small country town in Australia called Roma. Weird. aren't from that Roma, but the infinitely cooler Italian namesake of Rome in Italy. Yet the name of their album, A Long Period of Blindness, taps into my experiences there - whether it be through inanity or long bouts of drinking to get through said inanity. This album is not inane, though -  it's a monster of dark psych, showering shoegaze and pummelling rhythms that washes over you like a black tide. It is also eloquent - there is a delicateness that underscores the gloss and reverb that penetrates. There are obvious touchstones to Swervedriver and Slowdive in the likes of 'Infinite Decay' and the knowing 'Gaze' respectively, and as the sweeping ominous closer 'Swans' hits, the lyric 'Why do I drown?' is both poignant and heart-rending. 


Human Ottoman is a Portland trio who specialise in making beautiful, chaotic noise - but not the way you might expect. There is a drumkit, a cello and a vibraphone, a bunch of effects - and that's it. Farang doesn't put that into perspective - the percussion sounds like a choir of cavemen mauling the monolith, basslines that thrum in the chest but cease to exist, the graceful strings that can shudder and be torn asunder at the drop of sanity. Penned as "polyrhythmic world-metal", the album manages to cross borders, join boundaries, blur cultural touchstones, to create something strange and intoxicating. Again I use the word chaos in a review - but that is what Farang is. Elegant, calibrated, and wondrous, sure - but chaos nonetheless. Like Tortoise and A Silver Mt Zion decided to band together to make a pop album, a free jazz album and a mainstream rock album, then gave up and threw clippings of all three efforts into one congealed mess. Fascinating stuff.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday 9 January 2016

Buoyed By Human Oxygen

Hailing from Perth, Human Buoy floats into psych-pop view on a cloud of 'Oxygen'. Apparently there is a degree of "mouth drumming" on this track - whatever that is, the stoner equivalent of beatboxing? - and it's provided by none other than Ariel Pink. There is a degree of otherworldly outsider pop to this track that would appeal to the Prince of Parallel-Universe Pop. A lysergic sun bubble, yet with an effervescence of a bubble in sunkissed champagne than a globule within a lava lamp pyramid. There is even an 8-bit-esque flourish for a second around the 1:50 mark that made me think of Sonic The Hedgehog. Man, this oxygen is intoxicating... Human Buoy is bringing out an album, Animation Station, sometime this year - definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Friday 8 January 2016

See The Fortress?

Not that you need to hear it from me - but Thee Oh Sees is still one of the most consistently breathtaking live acts on the planet. Not only carving a sweaty swathe across the globe at regular intervals, but John Dwyer and co are continually bringing out new material. Now 'Fortress' has been out since before Xmas, but I need to melt my face off to keep warm this Friday night, and knowing that pals Blank Realm and Kitchens Floor played with them in Brisbane last night (this afternoon for us UKens), the start of their Australian tour as over the course the month they traipse across the Great Southern Land doing show with mates White Lodge and Straight Arrows as well as UV Race, Terrible Truths, Power and Tyrannamen - so bummed! So I'm building a fortress with endless TOS records and beers - it should see me through, right? 'Fortress' will feature on a 7" out on Dwyer's Castle Face Records next month.

Waking Up Running

Chicago's Running are one of my favourite bands, that I have never seen, because as far as I know they barely tour out of their hometown, let alone come near where I'm hanging out. Their scorched-earth noise brand of garage punk is abrasive, dark yet hilarious. Their album Vaguely Ethnic was one of my fave albums of 2013, and I've been eagerly awaiting their follow-up, Wake Up Applauding, for at least a year. It was meant to be out this week through Castle Face Records - but no word! Anyone help me here? Anyway, here are two tastes from it. It takes the modern garage rock mould and hurls it into the fire, stomping on its smoldering remains before popping the coals on their slathering tongues with maniacal glee. It's hard to explain exactly how Running are better than most other bands out there - in essence they have much of what makes Thee Oh Sees and their ilk a constant source of energetic enjoyment, and garage bands are legion - they just simply are.

Wash Pet Rocks With Healing Crystals, Get Drunk, Eat Sun, Figure It Out

A ridiculously long title, me marrying up the band's first three cuts from their album...ah well. It;s the first week of 2016, and already there's an Exploding In Sound roster album to look forward to. Brooklyn duo Washer are finally prepped to bring out their debut LP, Here Comes Washer, in the latter stages of this month (you can pre-order limited edition orange vinyl here). Like many of the excellent albums on EIS, Washer specialise in grunged out guitar rock that cracked, bent, cryptic, hilarious, garrulous, gritty. The instrumentation and Mike Quigley's vocal delivery immediately evokes Pile, EIS' flagship band (in my opinion anyway). the new one, 'Got Drunk And Ate The Sun', has been launched on Stereogum today, and the other two are below. Look at the plain, naive art weirdness of the cover art too - if you haven't taken in how this is already pushing to be a big album around these here parts, listen harder.