Saturday, May 8, 2021

Album Review: Fievel Is Glauque - God's Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess

I usually don't like to give too much credit to the title of their album when it comes to understanding and interpreting the specifics themes expressed through their music. I usually like to think of such monikers as separate, if complementary elements, of their over all presentation. However, when it comes to Fievel Is Glauque and their debut album God's Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess, I think collapsing their name, album title, and sound into a single discussion is warranted. Fievel Is Glauque is organized around the central performances of multi-instrumentalist Zach Phillips and vocalist Marie-Amélie Clément-Bollée. For their debut, they've collaborated with around thirty musicians, during five separate recordings sessions that literally span the globe. The assembled masterpiece is a messy mosaic of jazz, French mid-century pop, and soul that is beautiful and comfortingly familiar, and yet manages to tumble into the clasp of uncanny. 

When listening to God's Trashmen, you'll want to forgive yourself for receiving the impression that you've heard these songs before. Like they were somehow part of your childhood, or like they are erupting from the memory of a past life. A lot of these sounds have not found purchase with the broader culture since France Gall and Scott Walker were marque-worthy pop stars. Through Fievel Is Glauque, we find these sounds the recapitulation with a kind of jazz fusion, ripped from a different timeline, performed in the haze of a loving derangement that echos the sense of fungible reality that can be found swirling within the iris of Wayne Coyne's or Roky Erickson artistic visions. This is the essence of the overlap between album title and sound. Fievel Is Glauque takes abandoned forms of previously chic and culturally relevant pop music, uproots them from the post-war consensus from which they flowered, and repots them in the rancid blood and batter acid-rich soil of the twenty-first century, and then fertilizes these struggling dandies with a couple of handfuls of no-wave miracle gro pilfered from Neu!'s grave. There was a time back in the '60s when people truly believed that if you unleashed people's emotions and allowed them to feel without inhibitions or analysis of their motives, that the problems of the world would essentially solve themselves. Love would win, as you still so often hear. But that world made this world possible, and I think few would argue that our present reality is the one that past idealists hoped to one day realize.

Fievel Is Glauque literally take the trash of these past civilizational efforts and dumps them all over the floor of your living room.  They then invite you to sit with them in the middle of the heap to sort through it all of this stinking detritus to figure out where all this junk came from and talk about where this landslide of debris is leading us. Listening to God's Trashmen feels like buying a ticket to a classic Disney feature film presented in its original aspect ratio and resolution, but upon wandering into the cinema, finding yourself in an operating theater, now with a front-row seat to a horrifying surgical error and act of malpractice. Fievel Is Glauque will show you all the dead ends of our culture and its costly miscarriages. It's up to you to figure out what to do with the information for which you are now the woefully the trustee.

Get a copy of God's Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess here. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Interview: Clariloops

Ruby Lulham is a Melbourn-based composer and classically trained clarinet player. She is also the one woman orchestra known as Clariloops. By capturing the sounds of her original performances and running them through a pedalboard, she is able to accomplish as a single musician what would normally only possible as an assemble, while creating a live, multi-track performance where she plays as her own accompaniment, often expanding the tonal capabilities of her clarinet's sound in the process. The melodies she produces on her debut album Sun//Rain are so fluid and beautiful that they have kept me entranced while continuing to shelter at home since the album dropped a few months ago. Chicago is not a place to be outside before May and with a pandemic still raging, public spaces remain somewhat precarious. Listening to Ruby's performances these past few weeks has helped me to feel less pent up, and generally in a better all-around state of mind. I've been so thoroughly fascinated (and frankly thankful) to Ruby for this album that I reached out to her to see if she would be open to an interview. Thankfully she agreed and you can read the transcript of our correspondence below. Her answers are full of insights into her processes while providing a unique vantage point into her world and the inspirations behind Sun//Rain.

Hit play on the player below and let the sonerous melodies of Clariloops keep you company while you read the interview. 


Interview conducted on May 5, 2021 via email. 

What is your musical background?
I started playing clarinet at the age of 9. During my time at school I learned from a couple of different classical teachers who I prepared for musical exams with, as well as a jazz teacher who introduced me to improvisation and a more exploratory way of practicing my instrument. During my final year of high school, I met one of the clarinet teachers at Monash University which aided my decision in choosing a music degree over a science degree. I completed a Bachelor of Music with Honours in 2017 and since then have been performing and teaching as a classical clarinetist in orchestras and wind bands in Melbourne.

How does Clariloops represent a break from your training and career?
Classical musicians work really hard to make a very specific sound. During our music degrees, most of us play similar music by all the same composers and we get taught to interpret music that other people have written in a unique way that still suits the context of the piece. We get taught to feel the music that we are performing but in the end, we’re trained to be a vessel for a composer’s musical idea and to play at a consistently high standard under pressure. I think it was at the end of 2019 that I started to feel a bit worn out by all this. I wasn’t really enjoying practicing as much as I had in the past, I didn’t really feel that I loved classical music as much as I “should” as a classical musician and, to be honest, I was feeling kind of unfulfilled but trapped in this field of work with a very specific skill. So, Clariloops was absolutely a break for me. I hadn’t met anyone else from a classical background trying to use electronics in a performance or composition setting and I thought it would be a great way to spend some time making something new and exploring a completely different side of music with the instrument I love.

Do you feel like your current approach is a break from classical and neoclassical composition and performance, and if so how?
The way I use my effects pedals and my electronic equipment to produce a polyphonic sound from a monophonic source is definitely a break from classical composition and performance. Neoclassical composition is an ever-evolving field that is always exploring new sounds so I don’t necessarily think my approach breaks from the neoclassical tradition at all. In the end, I am a classically trained player using a distinctly classical instrument to make my music.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has yet to listen to your music?
I make music using clarinet, effects pedals and synthesized sound that is driven by loops. It is simple in melodic and harmonic material making it quite relaxing to listen to. This project is the exploration of how the pure sound of the clarinet can work with electronically produced sound to create something unique yet familiar, music that can be the background to your thoughts.

Do you find that running your clarinet through a pedalboard helps to liberate your sound? And if so, how?
Liberating my sound as a composer and explorer of sound, absolutely. Some days I find new sounds on my pedalboard and it really feels like I’ve created a whole new instrument with the setup that I use. It’s so exciting! I’ve always enjoyed making up musical patterns and practicing them in every key. Now I can use that practice technique to create my own music with effects such as reverb, delay and granular sampling, and then put it all in my loop pedal and continue improvising from there. Running my clarinet through my pedalboard to create my own distinct sound is definitely liberating, as I don’t feel confined to this notion of “this is how a classical clarinet player should sound”.

Do you feel like your current approach to music lends itself to collaboration well, or can it feel isolating?
I haven’t found it isolating yet. Working full time means that when I do get a chance to sit down and relax with my pedalboard, I really cherish the alone time that I carve out for myself. I have also collaborated on a few short works with people I’ve met online. It’s really affirming to have people contact me to ask if I can put my distinct sound into one of their compositions. Having everything I need to record the sounds I want to produce makes collaborating online very easy. I think it’s easier to get my head around than collaborating in person at the moment!

In your opinion, what is a good place/time/environment to enjoy your new LP, Sun// Rain?
On the day of its release, I listened to the whole album in bed with the sun streaming through the window. I hadn’t listened to any of it for about 6 weeks and it felt like the perfect place to listen to it on its first day out in the world. I think this album can be enjoyed anywhere you can feel a breeze or see the sky. The whole album is inspired by nature and is written to evoke certain weather elements. I’d be interested to hear where people are enjoying this album most.

How and where was Sun//Rain recorded?
I recorded a lot of the clarinet parts as minute-long sketches in and August and September of 2020 on my computer. I challenged myself to write and record something very short each day and ended up combining most of these sketches using my loop pedal at a later date to devise the tracks on the album. All of the music I write starts as layers and layers of loops on my pedalboard. I then record each individual part in my music studio at home and mix from there. A lot of the synthesizer parts on the album were recorded outside of my music studio, thanks to my portable setup that I’m quite proud of. I most fondly remember adding the synthesizer parts to ‘Evaporate’ in Castlemaine, Victoria where my parents have a weekender. It’s a beautifully quiet country town that always inspires me to spend time outside, soaking up the sun on the verandah.

Would you consider Sun//Rain and ambient record?
I describe the album as a neoclassical electronic record despite having ambient elements and inspirations. I don’t think I would describe it as ambient because it’s mostly driven by rhythm which ambient music doesn’t really do. I would potentially describe track 6, Solace, as an ambient track. I treated it as a reprieve on the album, a complete rest from the consistent forms and rhythms of the tracks either side.

How would you define ambient music? How do you see Sun//Rain fitting into that world?
For me, really good ambient music has this sense that it always existed, it just took a special person to find it and share it with us. I am in awe of ambient producers who can create something beautiful from thin air. Something that doesn’t have a form or a musical structure that the human brain enjoys so much, and yet it can just wash over you and make you float. Sun//Rain is meditative, the whole album tells a story, each track flowing into the next to create a mindful experience. The purity of the clarinet tone also evokes that sense of floating as all the melodies I play on the album float over the top of the movement below. While I wouldn’t describe the record as ambient, it definitely fits into that world. It has ambient elements and it endeavors to evoke similar feelings in listeners.

Your new album has an incredibly strong sense of melody, who are some of your inspirations in writing such flowing progression?
In my final year of University, I really fell in love with impressionist composers of the 20th century. In my final year, I performed Claude Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie, Julian Menendez’s Introduccion, Andante Y Danza and Arthur Benjamin’s Le Tombeau de Ravel. All these pieces have the most amazing melodies in them that float over the top of some really interesting moving lines. These composers definitely had a lasting impact on how I write music.

What is next for the Clariloop project?
I’ve got a few collaborations I’m working on which is very exciting! I’m also exploring some new gear I’ve recently obtained, so I’m deep in the exploration cave at the moment. I’m sure I’ll emerge with a new album somewhere down the track.

Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for these wonderful thought-provoking questions!

Album Review: Yōkai - Nostalgicated

"Yōkai is an LA-based hardcore band who have hit the pavement like a deranged pitbull. This beast has broken free from the enclosure of their chicken-wire prison to eat trash, kick open hydrants, flip over cars like box turtles, and generally be as much of a menace to society as their name would imply." - That's how my review of Yōkai's Nostalgicated starts out. Want more? Well, you can have it! Links below: 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Album Review: Psymon Spine - Charismatic Megafauna

Psymon Spine might sound like the name of a barely above-the-radar grunge band who somehow had a Billboard-charting single in 1992 before dissolving while on tour to promote their debut album— likely citing "creative differences" (read. coke and delusions of grandeur). However, if you are looking for their sophomore album Charismatic Megafauna in the rock section of your local record store's second-hand racks, your seemingly out of luck. For several reasons, really. Chief among them being the fact that Charismatic Megafauna is really good, and people who get their hands on a copy are going to be unlikely to want to give it up. But also, it's not that old of an album, having dropped in February of this year, and further, it's an album thorough saturated sweat and seedy-glamour of the neon-flooded, disco-dives of NYC's mid-70's. 

Many of the sounds that Psymon Spine extracts beats and rhythms from in order to fill out the managery of wild, dangerous and danceable jams on their latest record, also happened to infuse early Sugar Hill Gang hits with their distinctive character and would eventually be diverted to power '90s house and techno. This is especially true of the bouncy wrinkle of the echo-wrapped "Modmed," and the rubber-synthed snap-back "Jacket." Other tracks fuel up to take you on a motorik mood smoother like closer "Unwound," while still others, like "Channels," simply go full-on Chic, exploding into star-shaking shouts and glittery grooves, presented with a sticky undercoat of LCD Soundsystem to juice up the vocals and rhythm with a punk edge. The absolute highlight though, is the dodgy, city-dweller anthem and "Rapture" resurrector "Jump Rope," with its splashy, leaping beats, bumpy-funk bass-lines, back-talking guitars, and spiral-descent vocal progression, sounding like a grown-up Chandra Oppenheim intoning the parrels of the big city while backed by Mother's Finest, freshly returned from a round trip to Mars.

As far as late-20th century dance revival records go, I'm hard-pressed to find many as charming as the beast that Psymon Spine has unleashed on Charismatic Megafauna

Album Review: Really From - Really From

I wrote a review for the brilliant new record from Boston's Really From for New Noise today. Emo jazz, it's the future baby! 

Read review of Really From's self-titled album here. 

Get a copy of the record from Topshelf Records here. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Album Review: Hey, Ily! - Digital Breath

"The internet makes some weird and terrific things possible. Case in point, Hey, ily!’s new EP, Internet Breath. For starters, the title is perfect. It really does feel like the best parts of the DIY scene that had to migrate online during COVID all exhaling at the same time, with their collective expiration mingling into a digital, cotton-candy cloud of vibes and exploding LED lights." - This is the intro to my review of Hey, Ily!'s Digital Breath. You can read the whole thing over at New Noise. Could this be one of the best albums of the year? You'll never know if you don't read my review!

Read review of Digital Breath.

Buy Digital Breath.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Album Review: Кальк - Олень на вершине холма

Even though we've had three distinct waves (some would say more!) of emo in the US since the start of the Twenty-First Century, its noisier, more damaged cousin (Screamo, if you couldn't tell where I was going there) continues to languish in the attic of our collective consciousness. Rarely, if ever, venturing forth from its tomb of boxed up holiday decorations and shadows in order to snatch as little as a breath of fresh, non-cobwebby, air or a scarf a snack at the 7/11. For good reason too. Paler than Gerard Way, and no longer meant to inhabit this world. If it out of its enclosure for more than a couple of minutes, and in direct sunlight, it starts to smoke like a microwavable burrito left to spin and irradiate in the nuke box for nine minutes longer than it should have. It sometimes feels like the closest thing we have to a genuine, new screamo band that can go toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with the likes of Pg.99 or City of Caterpillar is For Your Health. But even then you're basically talking about a hardcore band who gets the vibe right. For a taste of that real old school revival stuff, you're going to have to charter a ship for the port in Kiel, Germany. 

Кальк, as you may have surmised, is a Germany screamo band. For some inscrutable reason their name, and song and album titles are all written using cyrillic characters. It's doesn't really matter though. You don't have to read anything to get what this band is all about. You just have to listen. And what you'll hear is a delicious sonic buffet of hot, roiling anger, marinated in bitter disappointment. From what I can gather, most of the subject matter of the album deals with the waste and excess of capitalist production and the habits that the system forces consumers into. There also seems to be a fair amount of rage directed towards plain, old, card-carrying sexism. Which is always fine in my book. The day you can't write a song seething over disparate treatment and male entitlement, is the day that punk rock dies. 

Initially, I mistook Кальк for a post-crust band, primarily due to the raspy, strained and gnashing performance that erupts out of their vocalist, as well as some of the rusty, buzz-saw riffs they use to cut through space and time and come knocking at the entrance of your ear canal. It took me a couple of listens to pick up on the heavy-hearted slam riffs and ebullient, climbing highs that the guitar melodies can reach. Heights that the songs reach after long comfortable periods where the band is just belly-gliding around like a lachrymose seal on a frozen pond of despair. It's really the manic mood twists that clued me in to what the band was going for on this album and what their influences might be. Part of the magic of Кальк is that they make these extreme transitions so smoothly, and so completely, that you'll sometimes forget that you're listening to a single song, instead of two or three that have been daisy-chained together. That is until the chorus hits, at which the backdrop of whatever dreamy detour you were on fall away and you're pulled back into the room you started in. It's a pretty good trick, and one that doesn't get old, no matter how many times they play it on you. 

If I haven't made this point clear already, Кальк's Олень на вершине холма is an excellent screamo record that I would highly recommend to anyone still pining for the pang of that old school screech and holler. It's wasn't distributed in the US outside of Bandcamp, but it's worth the effort to seek it out. 

Get a copy from I.Corrupt.Records. 

Interview: Colonial Wound

Had the chance to talk with Florida hardcore band Colonial Wound for New Noise this week. They have a new record out on New Morality Zine called Degradation. It's about the moment in late capitalism that we find ourselves in and it has a lot to say. Superb old-school metalcore revival stuff. I love! 

Read the interview with Colonial Wound here. 

Get a copy of Degradation here. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Album Review: Sofia Kourtesis - Fresia Magdalena

Berlin-based Peruvian house producer Sofia Kourtesis has a unique relationship with sound and rhythm. Most producers view sounds and samples like clay. Inert objects that you scoop, scrape, mold and manipulate until they take the shape that you desire. Sofia's techniques are distinguishable from those of her peers in that she appears to have a real bond with the sounds that she expresses her self through, training beats and grooves to seek a certain end and then allowing them to lead her there. The specificity of this collaboration with sound is owed in part to the aspects of her identity with which she concerts to consummate each track. Sofia's latest EP Fresia Magdalena is named for both her mother (Frasia) as well as the district in Peru where she is from (Magdalena), and, like her previous EP, also features the visage of Sarita Colonia, her country's, uncanonized, patron saint of the poor. With how much of herself she puts into her music, it's no wonder that it manages to feel like it doesn't just reflect the contents of a life, but that it has one of its own. Most of the samples on the album were solicited by Sofia in Lima, and the textures and beats they serve to inform supply a breath and a quiet bellow to Fresia Magdalena that does more than simply move your feet; it moves your soul as well. 

Get a copy of Fresia Magdalena here. 

Album Review: Minor Moon - Tethers

Wrote a review of Chicago country-pop artist Minor Moon's new album Tethers for New Noise today. It's a lovely, carefully constructed and recorded album that is sticking the right chord for me today as the weather improves and my thoughts turn to the summer days that lay ahead.

Read my review of Tethers. 

Get a copy of Tethers here. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Album Review: Fimber Bravo - Lunar Tredd

It's hard to know where to start when discussing the famed steel drum player Fimbre Bravo. The Trinidad-born, London-based musician first learned to coax and persuade a melody out of the deceptively nuanced percussive implement in his native country, where it became instrumental (no pun intended) in the black power movement of the '60s following the former colony's declaration of independence from Great Britain. Through the early part of the twentieth century, the steel drum, or pan as it is better known, was banned by the colonial authorities, with players often facing jail time for performing in public. Even after such prohibitions were lifted, scrutiny of the instrument's public profile was intense, with many players, including Bravo, learning to play classic European standards on the pan to help dissuade further reprisal by the occupying colonists. 

While performing a recognizable rendition of Tchaikovsky on a percussive instrument, even one as melodious as the pan, might sound impressive, Bravo felt himself chuffed by the restriction on his repertoire. He longed to perform original songs from his heart, like the compositionally complex jazz performers and the militantly humanistic reggae artists he admired. Artists he saw as heroes. Not only for their music but also for the role they played in seeking to alleviate oppression in their own countries. Once Bravo began writing for himself though, his influence became inescapable. 

Bravo would make his Western debut on a British TV talent series called New Faces in 1975. While the band he played with, 20th Century Steel Band, would disband shortly after their final televised performance, their song "Heaven and Hell Is on Earth" would famously give life to Grandmaster Flash's "Fastest Man Alive," as well as somewhat more recent mega-hits such as Gwen Stafani's "Hollaback Girl.While inspiration and imitation are flattering, nothing quite compares to Bravo's originals, of which his most recent LP, Lunar Tredd, is chock full. 

Lunar Tredd is the follow up to Bravo's 2013 album Con-Fusion (also released on Moshi Moshi Records) and begins with two declarative tracks that fit hand in glove, "Can't Control We" and "Can't Control Me." Like each finger forms a member of your hand, each individual is always a member of a community, and their identity and expression flow through each, and augments the spirit and the form of the other. These songs are an explicit reference to the history of Bravo's pan; how it was once repressed, along with his people, but then returned, much like his people, with its cupping tones and ricocheting melodies leading them on their march towards freedom. These introductory tracks are relatively simple in their make-up, allowing Bravo's pan to do most of the talking when he isn't. This serves to not only introduce the uniquely sonorous and articular qualities of his instrument but also to drain it of its exoticism. It is not an object of alien allure or a novelty to amuse tourists, but a powerful tool of expression; much like the paintbrush is to the painter or the pen to the poet. While much of Lunar Tredd's excellent, future-forward dance and distinctly tropical disco music serves to disentangle the pan from its problematic associations in the Western imagination, the album is not without its points of familiar charm and enticing enchantment. 

As previously mentioned, Lunar Tredd is a dance album at heart, and a modern one too, with the pan pulling double duty as both harmonizing element and percussion. This is especially evident on the sultry, Caribian rinse "Santana's Daughter" which feels thoughtful in all the ways that it suggests that you move your body like a drapery, softly rolling on a breeze as it courses through an open window overlooking a length of beach. "F Pan Landing" has a grainy quality to its production, sounding like it was discovered half-buried on the shore during low-tide, its sandy textures tossing a much-needed handful of terra ferma into the nebulous chambers and cosmic channels of this minor, motorik masterpiece. "Coming Home" follows with a galloping rhythm that kicks like the spring of a pogo-stick, directing you towards the cushioned embrace of loving abode, bobbing the whole way like a jubilant kangaroo. Closer "Woonya Waa" begins with a rhythmic chant that later coasts on a whirl-pool-like exchange of afrobeat drums and twittering Eastern chords. More subdued pieces include, the sequenced drizzle and sonic cleansing shower of the title track, and the relaxed reggae-inflected ramble of "Caribbean Bluez (In The Shadow Of Windrush)." It's hard to find albums that are this rhythmically innovative while remaining both carefree and irrepressibly exciting. Lunar Tredd accomplishes this feat in a way that I think sets it outside any other dance record I've heard this year, and for that alone, it earns my recommendation as well as my praise. 

Get a copy of Lunar Tredd from Moshi Moshi Records here.

Album Review: Fastbacks - Mural Amphitheater, Seattle, WA August 25, 1986

Indulged my love for Fastbacks over at New Noise today. Probably one of the most earnest, down-to-earth, and relatable punk bands that ever existed. The fact that they have always been below the radar of, or seemed unworthy of consideration by the punk tastemakers of the past four decades makes me love them that much more. They have a new live album out and it really captures what made the punk scene of yesteryear different from the one of today. At least in the North West, there was an emphasis on authenticity and relaxed, self-expression, that would be problematized in future generations by the alternative rock explosion and the weird way that punk's conception of itself evolved in parallel with the culture it claimed to be rebelling against. It wasn't necessarily a better scene or time, but it was a period that has a certain charm and idealism to it that I think is worth revisiting from time to time.  

Read my write-up of Fastbacks's live album recorded at the Mural Amphitheater back in 1986. 

Buy the album here. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Interview: Thee Sacred Souls

Had an awesome conversation with rare soul revivalists Thee Sacred Souls this week for CHIRP Radio's Artist Interview Series. These guys seriously sound amazing and I'm stoked to present to you our conversation. 

Check out the interview with Thee Sacred Souls on CHIRP Radio. 

Buy Thee Sacred Soul's singles from Penrose Records. 

Album Review: KRGA - Moi St.

Chicago's KRGA keep it old school and you can check out my review of their debut LP Moi St. over on New Noise now. Great midwest power pop to listen to while you dream about all those house shows you'll be checking in a near-future world where the vaccine rollout goes according to plan (figures crossed!). 

Read review of Moi St.

Buy Moi St. 

Interview: Hideous Divinity

I had a really cool chat with Enrico of Italian death metal band Hideous Divinity about his new EP LV-426 and some of its themes for New Noise today. My write-up includes a little review of the new EP because it's badass and I couldn't help myself. 

Read interview with Enrico of Hideous Diviiuty here. 

Grab a copy of LV-426 via Century Media here. 

Album Review: Revolted Masses - Rise

These days when it comes to death metal, we're spoiled for choice. First, there is just the sheer number of bands dedicated to faithfully personifying humanity's destructive potential, hubris, and ire through sound. Second, there is an astounding number of flavors. Are you looking to encounter the full extent of humankind's brutal animal nature? Cannibal Corpse will strip your carcass of its casing and leave your bones to bleach in the sun. What if you want something that reflects humanity's intellect and ingenuity, but which can still snape limbs and pulverize muscle into play-doh? In that case, you could do worse than Gojira. What about music that is as suitably angry at the continued betrayal of the public interest by politicians? I mean, take your pick, from Terminal Nation all the way back to Kreator, there is no end to the contempt directed at those who will turn you out to please their corporate masters. But what if you just want to rock to some badass, heavy riffs? Then go, my child, with the grace of Lamb of God. At least the last three of these sensational categories combine in the aesthetics and themes of Greece's Revolted Masses. 

Their latest LP Rise sees the band enmeshed in the ranks of heart-pumping, groove metal and mosh-rock, geared towards collapsing every stadium around the Mediterranean, one circle-pit at a time. The previously cited Lamb of God and Gojira are easily the best analogs for their sound, especially on the mechanistic, hell-fire breathing, furnace of dismay "Drown in Apathy," although they do have other influences. If you don't pick up on the Trivium tempering on "Moral Panic," you should probably get your ears checked, and the Bay-Area thrash spill of the opening part of "Stand In Line" is certainly worthy of Testament or Death Angel's recent shred-craft. 

My favorite track on this album continues to be the opener though, there is just something so sad and anguished about the guitar work and the way that the vocals trade punches with the grooves on it. Still, it never feels like it gives up or loses its resolve. Eventually, it breaks through the apathy and entropy to seize hold of the golden strands of a new day, riding off into the horizon on the hooves of some brisk leads and stony percussion. Rise is a surprisingly vibrant death metal album that will hopefully help you arise the occasion, whatever it may be. 

Get a copy of Rise here.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Album Review: Extinguish - S/T 7"

I knew I was going to like Extinguish's debut 7" just from looking at the cover. A tilting scrum and mass of human pain and violence. It's absolutely heinous and ambivalent towards any measure of aesthetic constraints. This is the best way to get your foot in the door when it comes to a hardcore record, as far as I'm concerned. Some people like to be shocked into amusement, and I'm one of them! Give me some music with bad taste and an even badder attitude and I will wallow in it, obscenely, like Carole Laure bathing in chocolate during that one scene from Dušan Makavejev's Sweet Movie (I'm not going to link to it, you know what I'm talking about).

Extinguish has gained some favorable, side-by-side comparisons to Scalp and Sunami as of late. Not at all surprising as they're regional cousins with Sunami and label mates with Scalp on Creator-Destructor Records. San Francisco, as you may have heard, is like a breeding pen for prize-winning, dog-toothed metallic hardcore at the moment, and Extinguish rises to the occasion of the region's growing reputation on their self-titled 7".

Pardon me while I gush over the way that the death-grooves of opener "Unconquered" constrict and coil like they're encircling sleeping prey before the lead guitar melody strikes with spine-severing lethality. "Blood Runs Cold" is a classic beatdown track where the grooves hit like a hammer while you're trapped inside a punching bag, wondering if the next volley is going to put your lights out. "Final Sin" begins with a fakeout crossover-thrash overture before taking off its flipped-brim trucker hat and putting on a soot-smeared, iron death-mask to commence whipping you with a chain. "Illusion of Power" finds a genuine fissure of thrash metal in which to spill a toxic dreg of turbulent chords and a flesh-dissolving, bubble of popping grooves. The final hammer throw comes with the punishing whirl and pivot groove stomp of "The Judge," which will mulch you into fertilizer before the gavel has a chance to fall and deliver the proclamation of your death sentence. Put this beast on and it's lights out!  

Get a copy of Extinguish's 7" on vinyl here. 

Album Review: The Battlebeats - Search and Destory

I wrote a review of the debut album from Indonesian garage rockers The Battlebeats for New Noise today. Search and Destroy is a killer rock record, the likes of which has been missing from my life for some time. 

Read review of Search and Destroy. 

Buy Search and Destroy from Berlin's Alian Snatch! Records. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Interview: Topshelf Records

I got to talk with Mack from Topshelf Records for New Noise this week. I can't even hide how happy I am about this fact. Topshelf really tries to do the right thing in everything that they do and is passionate about supporting artists. I really do hope this interview inspires you to dig into their catalog if you were not planning to do so already. 

Interview with Mack of Topshelf Records. 

Topshelf Record's site. 

Interview: Ultra Deluxe

Chiptune infused hardcore act Ultra Deluxe dropped an epic space opera-themed album this week called A Call To Arms. It completely rules and you should check it out. You should also check out my conversation with the band over on New Noise. Links below: 


Buy A Call To Arms here:

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Album Review: Red Idle Rejects - Ink and Nicotine

"Red Idle Rejects is the product of both abrupt ends and new beginnings. The lead singer and songwriter of the group, Steve Bowling, was apparently once in another band called the Red Idles, but when he tried to convince his bandmates that they should embrace a more alternative country sound, he was roundly rejected." - Great alt. country coming out of Ohio these days. The into of my review of Red Idel Reject's latest album is above and you can read the whole things at the links below: 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Album Review: Nansarunai - Ultimul Rege

It usually doesn't matter to me where raw, atmospheric black metal comes slithering from, so long as it is convincingly evil. Which solo, Indonesia black metal project Nansarunai absolutely does. Nansarunai sounds like a vampire crying in the depths of a partially submerged cave, half-starved and begging for death, but too cowardly to step forward into the sun and snuff out its miserable existence, so it resigns itself to survive on rotten fish and the stray, foolish child who happen to wander into its layer. Nansarunai is named for a fallen city-state located somewhere in present-day Borneo, and is a suitable mantel for the project, as it embodying the cries of a dead civilization and the murmurs of a living graveyard. The title of their debut album Ultimul Rege which translates to The Last King in English, a concept focused by the visage of a rather regal gentleman presented on the cover. An animate relic whose last breath will be the conclusive breath of the culture for which he is the final failing vessel. In a classic move culled from the crypts of cult cinema, the connective cords of the album are all spidery, cold melodies that would seem better suited for the organs and ragged strings of Hammer horror soundtracks, performed here through sharp, blood-letting tremolos. This aspect lends Ultimul Rege a dismal dynamism and makes the sour second-wave sigil spells that shape the rest of the album all the more cursed sounding. The production quality further augments this blighted quality of Nansarunai's aesthetic, almost tipping over into an anti-fidelity, sounding warped, uneven, and badly burnt, as if the tape it was recorded on had just barely been salvaged from the smoldering debris of a house of worship that a fire had consumed under mysterious and ominous circumstances. Ultimul Rege is an onerous and ghastly calling from a world that lies in ruin, deep within the spleen of the earth, waiting to vent its sorrow and pain directly into the cavity of your soul.  

Get the vinyl from Death Kvlt Productions and cassettes from Banner of Blood

Album Review: Magneto - Requiem pour Satana

"Magneto is a a Polish jazz-rock trio consisting of Hubert Zemler, Piotr Domagalski, and Bartek Tyciński. They’ve been pigeonholed as essentially an instrumental surf rock band (which is partially their own doing) but there is so much more to the band and their sound than simply a more technically savvy reimagining of Dick Dale’s repertoire." - That's the intro of my review of Magneto's debut record. Read the whole thing on New Noise.


Get the Album:

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Album Review: lojii - lo&behold

Philadelphia rapper lojii released his latest LP lo&behold a year and three months ago and I've been listening to it on and off since. The album was created in part during a series of therapeutic studio sessions where he shaped beats into smooth, spheres of sound. Delicately, rhythmically turning over lyrics and vibes likes stones in his mind or a pair of iron balls in his palm, all while contemplating the loss of his friends, Nipsey Hussle and producer Ras G. Both of whom influenced his sound. The former of whom you can hear illuminating the source of his strengths and triumphs on the opening track "patience." I probably wouldn't have covered this one if it weren't for the fact that it's as relevant today as it was fifteen months ago. But truth be told, it hits differently at this moment. lo&behold is an album about recovering from loss and learning to live, trust, and persevere despite the forces arrayed against you, in a world where justice is elusive and victories that are all the more fleeting the harder that they are won. What helps this message sink in is how relaxed the vibe is. Despite its seriousness mindedness, maturity, and the importance of their subject matter, the tracks on lo&behold manage to convey a sense of calm. Opener "patience" is a good example of this, with drippy sounding hooks and snare and a deep exhaling flow, where you can feel the tension leaving your body more with each bar. Things pick up a little with the psyche-soul infused title-track, produced by long time collaborator Swarvy, a track that bobs and bops with a calm, sun-kissed clarity so earnest it makes Anderson .Paak seems downright spazzy in comparison. There is a good amount of variety on the album that keeps things interesting while remaining steadfastly in a perfect and perpetual reclining position. "Trippin'" has its say with a soft-lipped pucker, while the Swarvy produced "uhoh(whereyoho@?" spices things up with a bit of an Atlanta indebted flow over sifting, spirit-raising jazz samples. The ruffle and shuffle of the Absent Avery produced "over&over / round&round" also solicits jazz honed beats to find its way around life's sharp corners, and closers "myself" and "wisdomlude" ride a single persistent snare cuff like a rail line chartered through an egress to enlightenment. Take a moment to light up, lean back, and give lo&behold a spin. You might now have another chance to feel this chill and centered again for a while. 

Get a copy of lo&behold here. 

Album Review: Whipstriker / Ice War Split

"Together these punk-metal mutants have blown the doors off of their respective crypts to meet in the middle of a sawtoothed split that will herald an abrupt end to your daily doldrums (and possibly your life as well)." - There you go, an expert of my review of the new Whipstriker and Ice War Split. It's out now via Helldprod and you can read the full review on New Noise. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Album Review: DJ Black Low - Uwami

I try to cover material outside of the United States as much as possible, but there is so much out there that it is next to impossible to keep up. This is even true for artists and genres that are extremely popular in relatively accessible parts of the world such as South Africa. This is a roundabout way of saying that I have not encountered the electronic dance music style amapiano before checking out DJ Black Low's debut album Uwami. But what an introduction it is! At first blush, amapiano, as DJ Black Low (aka Sam Austin Radebe) presents it, is definitely some variety of house music, although not like any I've heard out of Chicago or elsewhere in the continental US. It's extremely wet but thin sounding, with a restrained sense of momentum. Sometimes the beats sound like a viper darting around a steel drum attempting to catch a frog, bounding off the rim and doubling back, narrowly missing its quarry again and again. At other times, it sounds like a Can exploring disco's more commercial lane, attempting to make wedding music that will flex your frontal lobe as much as your hips. The style is apparently a combination of various African house genres with jazz, set to the tune and tempo of a kwaito lifestyle and approach to making and enjoying music. Again, amapiano is apparently very popular in the townships of South Africa and I'm excited to learn that such an evocative art form such as this can be viable anywhere. I can't speak with a deep knowledge of what I'm hearing, but what I've found on Uwami, I like a whole lot. It's really scratched an itch that's been prickling on the inside of my skull. Uwami is a promising debut for DJ Black Low and I'm looking forward to hearing more from him (and more amapiano in general!) in the coming weeks, months, and years. 

Get a copy of Uwami on vinyl here. 

Album Review: Chain Gang Grave - Cement Mind

I wrote about the new album from NYC's Chain Gang Grave for New Noise today. Fucking fantastic record. One of my favorites of the year so far. Links below: 

Read review of Chain Gang Grave's Cement Mind here. 

Buy Cement Mind here.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Interview: Show Me the Body

I had a conversation with Julian and Harlan of Show Me the Body for New Noise and you can read the full transcript on the magazine's website now. We talked about self-defense, community resources, and the future of punk. It was an amazing conversation that I hope you'll enjoy! 

Read the full interview with Show Me the Body here. 

Get a copy of the band's new EP Survive here. 

Album Review: Noods - Blush

 I did a review of the debut LP from indie punks Noods for New Noise today. The band really liked this one. Bands are not obligated to like the things I write about them, but sometimes it's cool when they do. I like them. They like me. It's copacetic, ya know? 

Read my full review of Nood's Blush here. 

Get a copy of Blush from Get Better Records here. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Album Review: Gabriel Stern - #gabecore

There is experimental music, and then there is gabecore! The semi-eponymous, semi-genre defining/establishing, and hashtag beknighted #gabecore is the debut album from electronic composer Gabriel Stern. He's only seventy-seven years young and brimming with ambition, filling his first outing so full of ideas that it surprises me that the surface tension of his mind was enough to contain his imagination long enough to get all of it recorded. If it hadn't, I could imagine his creativity simply selling like a psychic tidal wave and flooding the world in a techno-flavored surge biblical proportions. While Gabriel was initially trained as a pianist and a cellist, he transitioned to jazz flute and saxophone after moving to New York in the '70s. His interest in electronic music was evident early on though, as rumor has it that he developed an electronic saxophone in 1977 (no word on whether it was ever patented)! I'm sure the reasons that his debut LP dropped in December of 2020, instead of, say 1978, are legion upon legion. However, I'm positive that at least part of the explanation is that technology needed to catch up with the disco-dancing diablo that runs the dance floor in his head. #gabecore is extremely frenetic, cycling through themes and sonic motifs from the '70s through the '90s much in the way that contemporary hyper-pop artists do, with a slight analog twist. A lot of the texturing of these songs appear to be the by-product of layering old film reels with found sounds, promulgating a chaos that is comforting in its peculiar familiarity and infectiousness. At times it feels like the grandfather 100 Gecs never had, and at others, the danceable descendent of Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. These comparisons may be misleading though as #gabecore doesn't seem to have any direct musical linage that I can trace. Whatever tree Gabriel fell from, he rolled well into the next county before taking root. It doesn't get much more original than this. 

Album Review: Okrütnik - Legion Antychrysta

Polish death-thrash. I've read some review trashing this one. None of them are informative or good or written by informed people with good brains. All you need to know is that this album rules! 

Read my review of Okrütnik's Legion Antychrysta over on New Noise. 

Get a copy of Legion Antychrysta here. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Album Review: Little Priest - USA is on Fire

Feeling antsy? Set adrift and jittery? Maybe a little depressed? Are you cramming junk food with one hand and drowning yourself with cheap beer with the other? Do you lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, attempting to will the planet's orbit into a direct collision course with the sun? Yeah, that sounds totally normal. Welcome to adulthood. There is no cure. The closest thing we got to that is rock and roll. Scientifically proven to release endorphins into your brain and make you feel less like diverting the entire human race into an atom-smasher out in space to avoid having to spend all day tomorrow filling numbers into a spreadsheet or giving a presentation to your boss, and her boss, and your office's regional manager. Blast away those anxious feels with a dose of Boston's Little Preist. Their most recent EP USA is on Fire is a dumb, ugly, fuzzy, stinking mess, much your neighbor's dog, or an early Ty Segall demo. What I like about these tracks, in particular, is their use of drum machines. Programmed beats are a seriously under-explored tool in rock n roll that can provide a song with the momentum it needs while adding an otherwordly texture. And if you use it right, it will still yield the spotlight to the guitar work, which it certainly does here. Shawnie Brando and Chris Lemy quite/LOUD, clam/chaotic guitar exchanges are really what furnishes these tracks with their delightfully combustible character. Let the chord rip on opener "Love's the Only Crown" with its Castle Face rumble riffs, and brittle, pop-psychedelia swashes, and then take the no wave, rubber-necked, blister-popper "USA is on Fire" out for a spin, and forget everything else that matters for the next ten minutes of your unfortunate existence.  

Get a copy of USA is on Fire here. 

Album Review: Tone Chop & Frost Gamble - underestimated

"They don’t make hip hop like they used to… unless you’re MC Tone Chop and DJ Frost Gamble, in which case you make it EXACTLY like they used to. NYC-based Tone Chop and self-described “sample-head” producer Frost Gamble are now close to thirty years into their collaboration where they continue to revive and keep vital the sounds of Golden Age hip hop and hard-beat boom-bap." - Here is a little bit of my review of the new Tone Chop & Frost Gamble collab album. Read the whole thing over on New Noise! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Album Review: Sharkula x Mukqs - Take Caution On The Beach


Take Caution On The Beach opens with the line, "Hip Hop is about struggle, and I know struggle." The album is a collaboration between street-level MC and producer Brian Wharton, better known as Sharkula, and infrequently known, but still known, as Thigahmahjiggee, and founding member of Chicago-local and genre-ambivalent label Hausu Mountain Records, Maxwell Allison, or as he is known to you and me, Mukqs. This is far from their first collaboration, but it does feel like their most vital. Brian is an artist who makes his living through pure hustle. Most of his record sales come from individual interactions he has with people on Chicago's West and North Side. Actual conversations and connections between free, human actors that sometimes end in the sale of a CD or a piece of one of a kind street art. These types of vital interactions and chance meetings have been impossible for the better part of a year, which has not been easy for Brian. 

More than that, though, the release feels vital as a reminder of the street life of the city. Something that has noticeably evaporated with time and faded into memory. A process that began long before the pandemic, but which has progressed to a point that seems almost irreversible now. Folks go from their condo or apartment to their car to a restaurant or store then back to their car and back to their abode without lingering for a conversation. Public transit has all but been abandoned. It's next to impossible for two people of differing economic and social backgrounds to have a chance encounter now and the city is genuinely more impoverished for it. 

Brian's poetry is a reminder of the world that exists outside of the walls of your chosen enclosure. His uninhibited flow and spur-of-thought-and-mood inflection always feel like an exact impression of the mind in the moment of utterance. Compound, parallel, and mutually annihilating successions of thought converging in a single phrase and giving voice to the multiplicity of motivations and doublecross diamond interchanges of values that drive the will of an autonomous human being. Maxwell's beats are equally as intractable and irruducable, arising out of the torpor of nostalgia that remains sluggishly tucked amongst the grout and lobes of your brain, reifying this corrupted mix of '90s PC soundcard backfires, acid polished RnB, and hijacked Pure Moods bridges into something that feels more reflective of the future than it is of yesterday or today. 

What these two are doing makes more sense to me than the strange justifications offered by the people responsible for running the City of Chicago for its inoperability and hostility towards its most vulnerable. In fact, why don't we just put these two in charge. Brian at least knows the City better than most, and I'm positive that things would improve under his watch. Or at least, press conferences will be more interesting (insightful as well). 

Sharkula and Mukqs for Mayor, 2023. 

Get a copy of Take Caution On The Beach on cassette and CD from Hausu Mountain Records. 

You can give Sharkula some money directly here.