Monday, August 3, 2020
I was able to rope Steve Von Till of Neurosis into appearing on the CHIRP Radio Podcast a few weeks ago and you can now hear our conversation over on the station's site. We talked about his new record, No Wilderness Deep Enough, his new book of poetry, and challenges teaching his fourth-graders through distance earning. Steve's new album is out via Neurot Recordings and his book is out via Astrophil.
Friday, July 31, 2020
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Korean bedroom producer and composer Park Hye Jin is, of course, nothing like the artists who chart, either in the US or in Korea (or both). No, she belongs to the variety of electric-pop artists who still thrives in what's left of the blogosphere (and all those substacks in terminal need of editorial oversight). Park has thankfully been able to parlay the positive press she's received from these lonely parts of the web into some high profile gigs with Jamie XX and others. And you know what? You get after it girl! You do not want to peak as the passing object of someone's affection, where they gush momentarily over your EP in an issue of an e-newsletter that will go directly into my trash folder upon receipt. Park deserves better, and let me tell you why.
Park's first EP (or as she describes it, "mini-album") If You Want It was a dream-like cataract of heavy beats and lo-fi house maneuvers that you could vogue the night away to. Her follow up, How Can I, is significantly more adventurous in its approach, almost to a fault. The opening track "Like This" claps and wiggles like a cut off her previous album, complete with cool, rejuvenating washes of sound, glistening beats, and softly prodding vocal performances. It's on the following track, though, that things start to get interesting. "Can You" begins with the same glossy, polish and rinsing recital, but with an increased tempo that gives it a discernable edge, the passing bite of which is deepened by the push and pull of the lyrics, repeating, "I love you / And I fucking hate you" in quick, delirious succession. On "How Can I," Park emerges from behind the mixing-board and allows her voice to carry the melody of the track in a subtle ringing of emotions. It's a great way to break up this short album's flow and provides an excellent bridge to the more acidic production and peppering of impatient percussion on "NO," which ends with Park repeating the lyric "Shut the fuck up" as a kind of unsettling mantra. The EP ends with the lightly footwork influenced (more juke imbued really), up-tempo and infectious tug of "How Come" and the tightly sequenced, prattle and pounce of "Beautiful." There are parts of How Can I that compare unfavorably to its predecessor, but as far as leaps from one's comfort zone are concerned, I'd say Park has pretty much stuck the landing.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
*throat clearing noise*
Cassowary is the new jazz-funk project from LA saxophonist Miles Shannon. Shannon picked up the sax in order to walk in the footsteps of Miles Davis after being bit by the jazz fly in his teens. Learning that Davis actually played the trumpet did not deter him from mastering the instrument though, learning how to manipulate and speak through it under the tutelage of Walter Smith III in high school. Shannon spent some time on the jazz circuit in New York but quickly returned home after feeling that he had learned all he could from the maverick gods who populate the east coast. Back in LA, he was able to reconnect with his childhood friend Thebe Kgositsile, aka Earl Sweatshirt, one of the break-out stars of the infamous Odd Future rap collective. This revived friendship resulted in Shannon providing live backing instrumentation for Kgositsile’s critically acclaimed I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Observing Kgositsile writing and crafting an album caused the gears to turn in Shannon’s own mind and led him to begin working to translate his talent into a concise artistic statement. Five years later, we finally get to hear the album whose seeds were planted by friendship and watered ambition.
Monday, July 27, 2020
With summer almost over and the death cycle of the seasons in full rotation, I'm looking forward to having some more damp frigid weather to match my mood. Summer is fine and all but you really can't beat a moonless night when the ground is covered in a glass-like sheet of ice or walk in the woods when the wind whips through the trees like a chilled scythe, cutting through your jacket and reminding you how futile your attempts to guard your vulnerable flesh against the indifferent arc of nature's moods truly is. Winter is coming my friends and to prepare I've been listening to the third album from Manchester black metal band Burial. The album is titled Satanic Upheaval, and if ever there was a time that an album with this title should manifest it would be in this moment of absolute turmoil, when dark forces have conspired to stack bodies as a monument to social miscarriages and a withered invisible hand exerts its might to squeeze blood from labors in order to water the gardens of cannibal kings. An upheaval is needed at this time. And if it will not come from above, then it must well up from below. The howl of "Encircled By Wolves" is the sound of the world finally meeting a deserved end under a suffocating storm of hail and cold-burning hatred. "Hellish Reaping Screams" begins with a small deep gash that progressively yawns ever wider, exhaling the hot breath of hell, blanching your hair and eyebrows before disgorging a river of fire to roast the meat off your bones. "Barren Lands" passing like a benign shadow across the room before you, a spine-tingling encounter with a cold apparition who pities you more than you could ever bare to know. Burials Immortal-esque ice dance is bleak and penetrating, as it should be, but when the band wells up and unleashes a deadly obsidian deluge on tracks like "Beneath the Filth" or "Devour Your Soul" any safe harbors in your mind and spirit will be overwhelmed, and you will be given over to the Burials putrid excess, like a spider trapped in a rain gutter during a storm. As the wheel of Ka does turn, so shall you surrender your will to this upheaval.
Grab a copy of Satanic Upheaval from Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recording here.
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Monday, July 20, 2020
Drawing from the soil of time and propelled forward by the waves of history's oceanic flow, South African drummer Asher Gamedze has crafted an album that speaks to his home country's post-colonial aftermath and its continued struggles against neo-liberal imperialism on his debut album Dialectic Soul. My first introduction to Gamedze's spiritually charged, inquisitive and ecumenical style of percussion was on his guest appearance on Angel Bat Dawid's "Capetown" off of her remarkably transcendent 2019 album The Oracle (you can read my review over on Chicago Crowd Surfer here). Dialectic Soul continues in this tradition of collaboration by teaming-up with Thembinkosi Mavimbela on bass, Robin Fassie-Kock on trumpet, tenor saxophonist Buddy Wells, and the smooth, elegant purr of singer Nono Nkoane to reify the critical, creative, and conformational ethos and sounds of the American free and spiritual jazz movements that arose as resistance to racial exclusion at home and the immoral infiltration by the capitalist state in south-east Asia abroad. The opening three tracks, titled in succession, "state of emergency suite.," "thesis," "antithesis," and "synthesis," deal with the incursion of colonialist powers into South Africa, the rising consciousness of the people of that nation and the eventual expulsion of the apartheid state, and the yet to be fulfilled future liberation of the African people from imperialist chains and the ushering in of a new free global society. It is a story told through the interplay of rolling snares, hollering saxophones and brash, subversive trumpet trills, all reminiscent of John Coltrane's highly visual, liberatory compositions and convention twisting, note freeing modes. The tryptic culminates in the breathy and ponderous "siyabulela," an enlightened march of semi-regal grandeur led by dusky-toned ceremonial horns, the hugging sway of Fassie-Kock's bass and the petaly, drift of Nkoane's melodious vocals. A triumphant procession of the human spirit over oppression as the sun rises on a day when all of humankind is bathed in the absolutely light and truth in recognition of their inherent dignity and equality. I have barely scratched the surface here, and there is a lot that Dialectic Soul has to offer the listener who is open to its message. It is an album that will certainly be sticking with me for many years to come.
Grab a copy of Dialectic Soul from On the Cornor Records here.
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
Despite the fearsome title, the debut EP from Maria BC, Devil’s Rain, is about as soothing as they come. A flowing raft of ambient, chorale laced evanescence. Five tracks of cool, minor symphonics, captured in a rarified state of ephemeral bloom. Recorded quietly in their apartment’s bathroom so as not to desorb their roommates, the emotional quality of Maria’s vocals and their dream-walking arrangements can hardly be constrained to a single cracked-tile room. The title track “Devil’s Run” has a slightly revelatory stillness to it, like the leaves and branches of a very old tree, gently rippling with the wind in a Grouper-esque study of poise and patience. “Unmaker” borrows the aching undertow of Circuit des Yeux and the buoyant minimalism of Like a Villain to craft an exfoliating balm to draw out and expel the troubles of your mind. While much of these tracks appear to be aimed at cultivating a mood or a capturing a sense of presence and existential occupancy of space, the melodiously pop-oriented “Adelaide” serves additionally as a vehicle for more traditional songwriting, with lovingly, soft and folky hooks and trilling harmonies that recall the stealthy power of the eternal architypes Enya or Sinead O’Connor even at their most subdued. A beautiful and captivating effort from a young artist who has much to share with the world.
Grab a copy of Devil's Rain from their Bandcamp here.
Friday, July 10, 2020
Grab a copy of Grieving Birth from Iron Lung Records, here.
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Monday, July 6, 2020
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Sometimes all I need is an injection of a savage fucking racket into my ears to help calm your nerves, and if you’re reading this, I bet you feel some kind of way similar. Toronto’s noise-grind heathens Holy Grinder and their new record Divine Extinction is the booster of blast-beats I need today as I contemplate the state of the world. Divine Extinction once again sees the band partnering with Topn Das of Fuck the Facts to unfurl twelve sacrilegious shocks of purling, fizzling grindcore heat, in a meditation on the defeat of fascism and state authority. The band continues to hone their songwriting chops, as evidenced by the slapping double-time pulse of “Heretic” and the steamroller, malice-go-round “Disgusting Trash People.” The two tracks fold into each other to create a feeling of inversion. like the sidewalk under your feet has simply jumped out from underneath you, and you are now plummeting upwards into a raging cyclone of demonic energy. “Vile Hymn” and “Unholy Grinder” take a more death metal approach to their structure with decaying, corpulent grooves and tempo changes that allow you to feel the force and impact of each incoming change up as it broadsides your head. There is even a little bit of Full of Hell’s obsidian wormhole hiss on tracks like “Vile Hymn” and “Mental Terrorist.” Holy Grinder’s Divine Extinction is a slippery work of vital violence that seeks to plug nails through the frock of legitimacy, which authoritarian elements dress their maleficence and sadism in. Ripping these garments down from around their shoulders, it seeks to expose the vampiric flesh beneath, causing the benighted wretch to wither in a cleansing shower of daylight— a necessary purge of anti-human commitments from the halls of power accomplished with a flush of ear-puckering noise.
Grab a copy of Divine Extinction from Jean Scene Creamers, here.
Without sacrificing the punky thrall of their rightfully lauded 2018 demo, Hitter have managed to narrow down the range of their sound and hone their skill to make them the perfect embodiment of the slick and sleazy, hot and hair-brained, hard rock and metal that every working-class kid feels coursing through the synapses of their brain, even before they hear one sweaty note off Kiss’s Destroyer. “Motorcycle Psycho” starts with a tab of acid-dosed blues, which dissolves into a brooding, bloodletting tear down a road paved with bad intentions, and more than a glint of Motorheaded malice in the reflection of its aviators. “Reach Out” rolls on some fat, Thin Lizzy grooves before dropping the listener onto the doormat of “Funeral” for a memorial service of Misfits-esque malevolence and beat-‘um up Budgie grooves. Hard Enough won't let you leave just yet though, as “Glowin’ Up” grabs you by the hair and pulls you back into Deep Purple’s den of frantic, fuzzy R’nB backed by boney, broken piano passes and searing, whip-lash guitars.
Through the combined might and ability of guitarist Adam Luksetich, drummer Ryan Wizniak, and vocalist Hanna Johnson, Hitter have tapped into a long-dormant vein of hot-blooded riffs and perspiration-lubed grooves that made city living feel like less of a chore, and more like... well, living! Their sound will take you back to the days when metal was still a menace to the sanctimonious charlatans of the moral majority. When the mere presence, a Plasmatics or Venom record on a turntable at home could cause the president of the local school board to begin prematurely bolding. The unholy alliance of punk and lion-maned heavy metal that gifted us the great god of thunder Thor, and the spider tamers Cirith Ungol, has once again birthed a heat-seeking, hell-raiser into the cradle of Chicago’s drowsy, de-industrialized, gentry-gratifying malaise. If ever there was a band who were born to shock this town out of its sleepwalking stooper, it’s Hitter
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Monday, June 29, 2020
Tithe took shape after vocalist and guitarist of Matt Eiseman and drummer Kevin Swartz hit pause on their grindcore project Infinite Waste and moving up from Oakland to Portland. Sounding like a pagan, mongrel hardcore punk hybrid of sludge and ‘90s death metal, Tithe shriek into the whirling, emptiness of the sky, demanding that the universe offer answers for their regrettable existence. What works so well thematically on Penance, is how Tithe incorporates sources of tangible pain in the world into a sound that feels like it's baying against the fabric of reality itself. The sources for any spiritual and psychological crisis are always going to be material and social in nature, with your subjective experience extending outward as a world-altering, cosmic force. These themes are clearly illuminated by the trudging dirge of “Scum” which begins with a clip of dialogue from Todd Solondz’ "comedy" Happiness before diving into a cold pool of lightless Dead Congregation-esque grooves, dragged further into the mire by a ripping tow of blast beats and lung-filling sludge guitars. “Apostasy” and opener “A Single Rose” similarly prove space for the band to lash out at their sorrows, weaponizing their disillusionment to tear down false idols. Elsewhere, deranged experiments with LSD and cruel psychiatric treatments are examined and morally eviscerated through wheeling, bucking guitar melodies and light-extinguishing, arid howls on “Psychedelic Neurogenesis” and “Lullaby,” both interspersed with disturbing clips of conversations pulled from news broadcasts on the topics.
Ultimately though, it's the track “Palindrome” where everything comes together, a tight and visceral framing of a gnawed and gnarled mind, with rushing sweeps of Autopsy-grind beats and frantic, sawing guitar chords which tear at the tracks innards as if it were performing its own vivisection, prying open the cavity of its chest to peer inside the hollow of its trunk to glimpse the depthless lacuna inside, with lyrics depicting the death presaged by every birth.
We are all tiptoeing on the rim of annihilation, unable to pull ourselves back, and unwilling to throw ourselves in. The war each of us wages against the mind and the world it must inhabit is an endless squabble of pitched battles and ceaseless losses. Each day we rise, a part of us dies and leaves another hole. And yet we continue to live knowing full well that someday there will be nothing left of us but the pain that passed through these holes, like wind whistling through the gaps and cracks of an old pane of glass.
SPHC usually donates its digital sales to the Baltimore Transgender Alliance, but for the remainder of June they will be remitting all of these digital sales from this release the Minnesota Freedom Fund (today is the 29th, you still have time!). You can learn more about Baltimore Transgender Alliance, a qualified non-profit, here, and the Minnesota Freedom Fund, here.
California's death and grind gladiator Andrew Lee sounds more cohesive and masterful than ever before on his latest LP with Ripped to Shreds, somewhat ironically, titled 亂 (Luan)- a character which translates to “chaos” in English. The title is not necessarily self-referential (although applicable) and appears to stem from an outward examination of the world and human history. The character 亂 can also mean warfare and destruction, and you may remember it from the poster art of Akira Kurosawa’s exploration of human hubris, Ran. Given that context, the themes of the album come into sharper focus. The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries for much of the world has been a ceaseless wheel of horrors and destabilizing events. The past four years (especially the past six months!) have required many of us in the United States to take stock of the role that our country has played in seeding this disorder. A reflection that becomes all the more necessary as the bounty many Americans once deemed their birthright (the product of colonialism, capitalist imperialism, and good old fashioned racism) has been revealed by COVID-19 to be little more than a mound of rotten fruit. But bandleader and musical marshal Lee is not content to let 亂 wallow in the shallows of guilt that have presently overtaken the American political consciousness. No, he has much older scores to that he ios looking to settle.
The cover art depicts the Lugou Bridge Incident, a battle between the invading army of Imperial Japan and China’s National Revolutionary Army in July 1937. It involved the Japanese army’s attempt to locate a missing soldier in a Chinese town and quickly escalate into a brutal showdown between opposing forces, which some historians credit as the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (and World War II proper). The entire Incident is depicted in the first single from the album, “Opening Salvo” a maddening crush of crater making grooves and pulverizing percussion that will leave you scrambling for cover as the deadly heat of the Phil Tougas's guitar work rains down around your ears. Through the twisted marauderism of tracks like “Righteous Fist to the Teeth of the Wicked,” Lee delves into the inciting sentiments of the Boxer Rebellion, while the wild cry and merciless hack-saw push of the doomy “Throes of a Dying Age” tells of the war’s grisly, bitter conclusion.
Not all of the tracks off 亂 are mired in the grim history of colonial warfare, though. The album sees Lee taking the time to explore Chinese mythology as well. Although these detours inexorably lead the listener down a bloody path that parallels the real-life horrors depicted elsewhere. The Entombed-Thrower sputter and rip of “Eight Immortals Feast” shutters with blathering cries that have all but lost their human qualities as the lyrics depict a butcher shop that reduces luckless souls to moist delicacies for the culinary satisfaction of immortal beings. Later, the listener is greeted by an equally grisly depiction of King Zhou Xin and Queen Daji of the Shang Dynasty’s debauched parties on a lake of wine on the track “Ripped to Shreds,” a stranglehold of unyielding pressure and galloping, skull-cleaving grooves, abated only by the writhing shriek of a frenetic guitar solo’s outburst.
If you’re looking for a refreshing, modern take on Swe-grind that will occupy your ears as well as your mind, leading you down Wiki-rabbit holes of myth and true-life tales of mayhem (and really, why wouldn’t you), then Ripped to Shreds's 亂 is here for you when you're ready to set your senses and psyche ablaze!
Friday, June 26, 2020
Krv is a French black metal band with some pretty shameless dance-metal influences, comprised of vocalist Nicolas Zivkovich and multi-instrumentalist Louise Lambert. Krv’s name translates to “blood” in Serbian and their sound combines various second and third-wave influences like Dark Throne and Empire, with industrial dance a la Godflesh, and the more heretical sounds of Behemoth and, because I’m feeling particularly sassy at the moment, let’s say, Cradle of Filth.
Back to the matter at hand, you’re probably wondering how Krv’s debut self-titled stacks up at this point. Well, I'd say it stacks pretty highly in my estimation. The first track “Motherless Abyss” gets things started with a classic dark Finnish tremolo before introducing a break-beat and sliding into a howling, goth-industrial march through what feels like an abandoned coal-town, where the fires from a century-old mining accident still burn violently below. The following track “Forlorn” increases the BPM as well as the desperation with forceful acerbic guitars, sharp grating grooves, and dry vocal deliveries that come to resemble a parched Jaz Coleman. There isn’t a single track on Krv's self-titled that isn’t worth taking note of: “Flamme Noire” is a dark-house and crust-inferno, “Open Your Temple Unto Him” borrows a middle-eastern melody and heightens it with haunting atmospherics as if taking a page of out Mamaleek’s playbook, “Hécatombe” lands like a cinder block on a crystal vase with murky, crust-punk grooves and devastating artillery-volley percussion, “Autarcie Spirituelle” is an intense, bone-wrecking, mechanical melee, while closer “Transcendence Through Death” feeds the triumphalism of Enslaved through the abattoir of early Kvelertak’s party-killing, lawless punk flay, with the relentless wedge of industrial blast-beats pushing the track ever closer to the edge until it finally topples over into the abyss. Few, if any other, bands can spill as much blood on the dance floor, with as much nihilistic flair and intensity as Krv has on their debut.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
For the first edition, I picked up the new album from Buscabulla, a musical married couple living, thriving, and surviving in post-Maria Puerto Rico, and singing about ongoing damages and consequences of continual colonial rule over the island over the United States. It's a gorgeous pop album that is well worth your time and attention.
Check out my review here and grab a copy of Regresa from Ribbon Music here.
For June, I picked out the new album from Nick Hakim, Will This Make Me Good. The title refers to growing up with "behavioral problems" that require corrective doses of medication. Meds can save your life. And sometimes they do more harm than good. Either way, they can't "solve" problems that aren't the product of a chemical imbalance.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Sweet Spirit is a band modeled after the last great American rock band.* However reminiscent their sound may be of other bands who have contributed to the American songbook over the years, they are singularly a group with style all their own- brash, slick, beaded with sweat and sex appeal. The sextet is led by guitar-hook galaxy-head Andrew Cashen and human panther Sabrina Ellis and their sound applies body-moving logic to shimmering pop-R’nB guitars, syrupy ye-ye melody revivals, and wire funk grooves, presented with neon light-tinted production that assumes the rushing dance floor lights spinning overhead are the harbingers of a new, more hopeful dawn. Their third LP Trinidad is named after Ellis’s great-grandmother as well as an implicit celebration of their Mexican American heritage. While retaining the youthful, cock-eyed swagger of their previous releases, Trinidad is also more varied in its approach, electing to elevate somber moments over the mischievous, disco carnival of previous releases. For comparison's sake, and in the spirit of ‘80s nostalgia, which the band often leans into, if 2017’s St. Mojo is Blues Brothers, then Trinidad is Big. More mature, a little bittersweet, but still a hell of a good time. The stage is set by opener “Behold” which features a very cinematic sort of “curtain-pull” progression at the outset before allowing Ellis’s voice to take off, soaring amongst the stars, tailed by a seltzery tremolo and crisscrossing downstroking guitars. Soon after, the breathy, black-top pounding R’nB of “No Dancing” percolates into your ears with fizzy soul grooves occasionally punctuated by a canon-fire bass drum. Next, you'll want to check out the krauty, circuit slide ‘n glide of “Y2K,” and the crying, electric cowgirl soul of “Only Love.” When it’s finally safe to bridge the social distance that currently resides between us,** you’re all invited to my place for a barbeque and we are spinning Trinidad until the sun comes winking at us over the horizon.
*In case you were curious, the last great American rock band imho is Ellis’s and Cashen’s other group A Giant Dog, and also, depending on my mood, King Kahn & BBQ Show.
**Which exists for health and safety reasons due to COVID-19, and which we should only disregard once we know it is entirely safe to do so.
Get a copy of Trinidad from Merge Records here.
Dan Drohan is a talented and versatile performer, probably best knows for providing beats and production expertise to various outfits within NYC’s dream-pop community. He has a penchant for Velvet inspired psyche-rock as well, which has made him an ideal drummer for the dream-decoder R’nB of Nick Hakim. After spending his career giving other people's projects form and momentum, Drohan is finally stepping out from behind his kit to produce an album of his own original material (which, of course, involves him stepping back behind the kit, because, drummer). You’re a Crusher / drocan! Is a double mini-LP, released in two parts, then slammed back together into a whole, like the two sides of a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. The first half, You’re a Crusher, was recorded with the help of his bandmates in the band élan as a series of demos that Drohan than tweaked and finessed on the road and while waiting for planes over the course of several years. A protracted, labor of love to say the least. In contrast, drocan!, was tracked over the course of month with the aid of multi-instrumentalist Mike Cantor. If you are listening to both halves of the album in a single sitting, you’re going feel the difference. You’re a Crusher has stronger hip-hop influence, that folds elements of jazz and funk together into cacophonous pudding back of congealed body-popping noise. Tracks like “Leave it Loading” feature a brain messaging, firm, fingery bass line, that weaves around resonate road-spikes on a black-ice of Dilla inspired beats, while the other stand out from the first LP, “We Like To See (Earth)” clatters and hums while pulled along by tight drum loops and a scrambled FM radio signal. The second LP feels more tightly composed and focused in comparison while accommodating various tangential mutations. “Tokyo” has more than a little Wayne Coyne DNA under its fingernails, painting a Dan Deacon-esque fusion-jazz portrait of some delightfully viby flora, while “Passwords” stumbles through an eastern-inspired melody, in a chopped and sorted tumble of airy, electronic melodies, tickling harp-sounds, and an inquisitive but purposive beat. While there are times when I find myself wishing that You’re a Crusher / drocan! was leaner and more focused, I don’t know how it could become more streamlined without losing the restless dream sequence qualities that I like about it. While a little uneven in places, and undercooked in other, Drohan’s debut solo effort still makes for a rather substantial snack.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Monday, June 22, 2020
|Photo Credit: Bev Rage|
Friday, June 19, 2020
Today (June 19, 2020) clipping. will split its portion of all Bandcamp sales of their Chapter 319 single between the GoFundMe for George Floyd’s daughter (the Official Gianna Floyd Fund), People’s Breakfast Oakland, The Okra Project, and Afrorack. For its part Bancamp will be donating all of its proceeds from today to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. On all days thereafter, sales of these two tracks will be periodically collected and donated to organizations dedicated to racial justice.