Monday, August 3, 2020

Interview: Steve Von Till

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

Album Review: Insight – Neura

New Noise is running my review of the debut album from Chilian speed metal band Insight. The title is Neura and it is a blast of straight ahead, no-fucking around heavy metal. Check out my review here, and grab a copy from Australis Records here.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Album Review: Pyrrhon - Abscess Time

My review of the new album Abscess Time from the NYC death metal and free jazz, duel wielding worries Pyrrhon is up over on Post-Trash today. It's a startling and technically adept exploration of the worldwide malady that is Capital through disjointed poly-rhythms and lung-emptying howls. You can check out my review here, and grab a copy of Abscess Time form Willowtip Records, here.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Album Review: 박혜진 Park Hye Jin - How Can I EP

Korean dance and pop have been making honest inroads into the popular consciousness of US music fans in the past decade. By way of example, earlier this year, I spoke with a woman for two hours at my office about her daughter's obsession with Black Pink (it was less grueling than it sounds). It reminded me of the way that parents used to marvel over my generation's obsession with the Spice Girls and later N'Sync. If you want my opinion (and if you're reading this, you presumably do) the chart incursions by Asian pop stars are long overdue. Their success is predicated on the fact that most of their songs take some legitimate and clearly recognizable talent to write and perform. Aaaaaaaaand you can actually freaking dance to most of them! These are compliments that I literally can not pay to any popular US performing or recording artist who comes to mind at the moment (and yes, this includes the ones you're thinking of as well).

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.

Grab a copy of How Can I from Ninja Tune here

Album Review: Anteloper - Tour Beats Vol. 1

Critical Rotation is back on the CHIRP Blog! This week I checked out an experimental album from electronic jazz duo, Anteloper. Their Tour Beats Vol. 1 used to be a cassette-only release, available only at the merch table during their 2019 N.American tour. Thank you International Anthem for reviving the album and giving it the full vinyl/digital release treatment! Part jazz fusion, part sound art, it's a transportive little album that has helped me escape the mind-trap of social media and the increasingly claustrophobic confines of my apartment a few nights this week, for which I am eternally grateful. Check out my review of Tour Beats Vol. 1 here, and grab a copy from International Anthem, here

Album Review: Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience - To Know Without Knowing

The latest edition of Critical Rotation is up on the CHIRP Blog! This week I took a look at the latest album from the father of Ethio-Jazz in his long-standing collaboration with the Melbourn based Black Jesus Experience. The album is called To Know Without Knowing and it is a triumph for all involved, updating familiar rhythms with hip-hop and funk, its a pretty transformative experience, one that makes you feel honestly more connected to your fellow creatures. Check out my review here, and grab a copy of To Know Without Knowing from Agogo Records here.

Album Review: Special Interest - The Passion Of

I have a review of the absolutely brilliant new album The Passion Of form NOLA punk band Special Interest up over on New Noise today. It's a dark and pulsing synthesis of no wave, glam rock, and industrial dance that takes aim at the many of the social and political diseaes that plague our society. Check out my review here, and grab a copy of the album from Thrilling Living here

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Album Review: Old Ghosts - Crow

I've got a review of the second LP form Buffalo melodic hardcore band Old Ghosts up over on Scene Point Blank. Crow is easily the tightest and best-realized version of the band's sound to date and should make a welcome addition to the record collections of fans of American Nightmare and The Suicide File. Check out my review here, and grab a copy of Crow from State of Mind Records here

Album Review: Cassowary - Cassowary

Cassowary are a species of large ratites, or fighting birds, native to the deep forests of Papua New Guinea, northeastern Australia, and various small islands throughout the South Pacific region. They feed mostly on fruit, grass, and fungi, but as omnivores, they will occasionally eat smaller animals and insects. The turkey-sized animals, while generally shy, do have dagger-like toe claws and can be extremely dangerous when provoked. It is generally advisable to avoid confronting Cassowary when encountering them in the wild as they can….

*checks notes*

*shuffles papers*

*audible sigh*

*frantic shuffling*

*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. 

Cassowary borrows more from the freely perspiring rock sensibilities of funk freaks like Thunder Cat than the controlled existential scholasticism of Miles Davis, but still retains the meticulous concern for structure, characteristic of many modern works of jazz that must live in the shadow of the giants of the genre who arose during the previous century. This tight but ruddy formula Shannon has stirred up on his debut is an intoxicating cocktail which lends a refreshing quality of approachable refinement to the scratchy, twinkling R’nB of tracks like “Starlight” and the clean, spiritual fusion of “Moth.” Disco influences make their presence known as well, especially on the hard-funk, piano-lead bobble of “Cyclical” and the Thunder Cat-esque thump of “She Funked Me.” Shannon has not forgotten those who he owes his love of jazz to and pays this debt forward with the affinity seeking and slippery polyrhythmic, bass-and-sax helix “Roach,” a tribute to the late jazz drummer Max Roach. Cassowary an impressive debut from a young player, securely stretching his compositional skills in riveting and revealing ways.

Grab a copy of Cassowary from Fat Possum here

Monday, July 27, 2020

Album Review: Burial - Satanic Upheaval

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

Album Review: SpiritWorld - Pagan Rhythms

My first review for New Noise is live! The debut LP from Las Vegas's SpiritWorld is an entirely fucked up configuration of Satanism, hardcore punk, death metal, and alternative country, and it absolutely rips! Hitch up your belt buckle and head on over to New Noise read my review. You can grab a copy of Pagan Rhythmshere

Monday, July 20, 2020

Album Review: Sanctifying Ritual - Sanctifying Ritual

I've got a review of Sanctifying Ritual's debut LP up over on Scene Point Blank. The self-titled album is a decade in the making and worth the wait for fans of German death-thrash. It's an incredibly ugly and brash album sure to raise hair follicles and dampen spirits in its putrid, swelling rage. Check out my review here, and grab a copy of the LP from Iron Bonehead Records here

Album Review: Asher Gamedze - Dialectic Soul

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

Album Review: Skeleton - Skeleton

I've got a review of the new Skeleton self-titled record from Texas rippers Skeleton over on Scene Point Blank. It's pretty rare to see this kind of dark and brooding hardcore get any kind of press, but they've been getting a lot of positive attention lately and they fucking deserve it! Check out my review here, and grab a copy of Skeleton's debut from 20 Buck Spin Records, here

Monday, July 13, 2020

Album Review: Maria BC - Devil's Rain

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

Album Review: Thiago Nassif - Mente

What’s real? What’s in your head? When will you be honest with yourself? Or, are you honest all the time, in a world that runs on lies? Thiago Nassif can’t answer these questions for you (at least not definitively), but he can provide you some esteemed listening while you probe the machinations of your mind. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Nassif has been one of Brazil's best-kept secrets in the world of art rock (at least here in the United States, apparently he has more of a following in England). His fourth album Mente, translates to “mind” in English, and maybe more concerningly, also “to lie,”and is produced by Arto Lindsay, a fellow traveler from another era who also produced Nassif’s third album from 2018 Três. Mente sees Nassif embracing a more fluid approach to his live-wire, wave-denying tropicalia and dry, dyspeptic bossa nova. This new lush and lugubrious approach is achieved by leaning into the funk undertones of Nassif’s sound and allowing svelte but bawdy basslines to form a thin layer of connective tissue that binds constituent, acerbic apexes. This is certainly true of “Plastico,” which slinks out from under the shade and foliage of a looming, rag-barked tree to offer you a fresh sip of slightly sour mango juice, blended with scratching synth notes and neon electric pulp. A similarly cagy funk groove burps its way through the moist and conductive, suck and swallow swap of “Transparente.” However, the potential of Nassif’s experiments in no wave and funk exchanges is best exhibited at the outset, on opening track “Soar Estranho” which feels like a genuine successor to David Bowie’s Berlin-era forays into American soul and R’nB, caressing these familiar sounds with his electrifying grace and imbuing them with maverick charm. Next, “Pele De Leopardo” oscillates and percolates with motorik run-off, a signal that is intermittently jammed with spectrum-bleeding smooth jazz. More traditional Brazilian musical forms take shape on “Vóz Única Foto Sem Calçinha” and “Feral Fox,” ablate with cryptic, side-winding distortion and a seedy Tom Waitsian vocal delivery on the former, and formidable, stalking feedback as a contra point to the yé-yé naiveté of the melodious vocal performance of Ana Frango Elétrico on the former. Brittle rubber grooves, tropical tones blanched by the persistent pour of desiccating sunlight, passion and desire slickened, beaten to a froth, and then slowly dried to a milky resin. Strange and conflicting flavors. Familiar comforts made obtuse. Thiago Nassif’s latest album is not mental vacation and will give you more to ponder than maybe what you’ve bargained for.

Grab a copy of Mente from Gearbox Records here

Friday, July 10, 2020

Album Review: Lucifer - Lucifer III

Not everyone probably believes we need a Coven revival in 2020, but those people need to step out, because I absolutely do, and it is one of the reasons I am stoked about the third album from German doom metalers, Lucifer. The band formed in 2014 under the dark, bewitching gaze of Johanna Sadonis. Lucifer were initially a more straightforward doom metal band, sort of in the vein of Castle, but took a turn toward ‘70s psych and downer rock with their second album following Nicke Andersson (of Entombed and Hellacopters fame) joining the group. Their third release is a melding of these two aspects of their career. The occult doom with the ‘70s dower blues bacchanal, and the results are as sexy as they are evil. Things kick off promisingly with the leather-clad firewalk of opener “Ghost” with the sultry slither of its coffin-crawling grooves and the sonorous witchy-purr of Sadonis’s vocal melodies, heightened by torch-lit, séance priming solos. “Ghost” has that classic, pulp horror, literally-in-love-with-Satan vibe, a flame that is taken up on numerous tracks on III, including the very Coven-esque dissent into shadowy, maddening passion “Leather Demon,” the Motoheaded, wrench-wielding, high-way robber soul of the eponymously titled “Lucifer,” and the hot and heavy blues prowler “Midnight Phantom.” “Flanked by Snakes” has a Heart meets Deep Purple in a pit of vipers feels, while “Coffin Fever” keeps things heated with sensual doomy guitar stirs and spirit-lifting acid rock, and the willful “Stay Astray” can lead you through a haunted woods unearthly delights if you let it. Heavy, brooding party rock to help you exercise your inner sexual demons, in both senses of the phrase.

Grab a copy of Lucifer III from Century Media, here, and check out the video for "Leather Demon" below. 

Album Review: Internal Rot - Grieving Birth

Australian vomit wallowing wretches Internal Rot have emerged once again from the swill of embryonic bile they’ve claimed squatter’s rights over to regurgitate a second full-length LP into the basements of the outback. Grieving Birth is very much in the style of their earlier material, meaning it is red-eyed, tempo-agnostic, grindcore that will strip epidermis off any exterminator foolhardy enough to spray for the Insect Warfare-infestation that they neighbors have been complaining about. The vocals flow over the mic like blood and offal disgorged from a slaughtering plant into a rotting slurry pond, the guitars bite like a hack saw compressing and cleaving its way through mossy worm-eaten wood, and the blast-beat percussion hits like a heart attack. There is very little hardcore punk aesthetic to grab on to for those accustomed to the more Napalm Death side of grind. Instead, Internal Rot plays around in the sloppier, noise fueled side of Regurgitate, but without the restraints of death metal chord-progressions, or Excruciating Terror, minus the crossover whir, while managing to be more dynamic than many of their peers in this exacting space within the heavy music spectrum. The crushing slide guitars on “Unnegotiable Impact” will absolutely sweep you off your feet like you were standing before a damn as it bursts, while the pinching and rending quality of the chord progressions on “Eaten By Crabs” will leave you with the sense that you’ve been transformed into a buffet for tiny, knife handed crustacean. “Failed Organum” is a concrete to head, skull fracturing, tumble out a twelve-story window, while “Gorge On Abuse” will tenderize your supple human meat with piston grooves in a suffocating cyclone of odium. As their label says on the groups Bandcamp page, “Do you grind? Because this fucking grinds(!)” (emphasis mine).

Grab a copy of Grieving Birth from Iron Lung Records, here.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Album Review: Céu - APKÁ!

This week for Critical Rotation I've written a review of the fifth album from Brazilian singer/songwriter Céu. The album is titled APKA! for a favorite phrase of her young son and sees her continued departure from the tropicalia tinted neo-soul of her early work. It's still there but it's barrier under a good deal of extremely interesting and minimalist synth-pop. No complaints from me. I think it's great! Check out my review of APKA! on the CHIRP Blog here, and grab a copy of the album from Six Degrees Records, here.  

Album Review: Keleketla! - Keleketla!

This week for Critical Rotation I covered the new album from Keleketla! a community sound project orchestrated by the Keleketla Library and the non-profit In Place of War. It's an incredible journey through the permeable membranes of global jazz, funk, and soul in an exhibition of radical human solidarity. We all have the same needs, so why can't we work together to meet them? It's a question that the album wrestles with. The album doesn't present a definitive answer but if hopefully brings us closer to where that answer lies. Check out my review on the CHIRP Blog here, and grab a copy of Keleketla!'s debut from Ahead of Our Time Records, here

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Album Review: Punitive Damage - We Don't Forget EP

If you miss the fastcore flush of Punch and if the knuckle-to-jaw-line, melee of Judge grazing your ears reminds you of summer, than buckle up, because have I got a record for you. Punitive Damage hail for the Pacific Northwest and play a cathartic, kick-in-the-guts style of hardcore, that will careen around your head-space, devil-may-care fashion, like a car about to jump the barricades at a demotion derby, and their debut EP We Don’t Forget leaves a lasting impression from its outset. The first track “Baited” opens with an ominous feedback pool that feels like its just waiting of Mike Ferraro to cannon ball into it with a bellicose splash, but instead singer Steph emerges with a growling shriek like Bloody Marry from a bathroom mirror to skin your face like an overripe orange. In the tradition of many great hardcore bands before them, the next track “Smug Rat” rages against scene police and self-appointed gatekeepers, with a slamming mosh-missile groove and crossover-tipped breakdowns. “Imposter” is a clawed machete wildcat, shimmying up a brick wall to snatch it's suspecting dinner out a fifth-story window. “Nothing” looks to shake some sense into you with whiplash grooves and roadrash-peel percussion, a combination that lures you into the ravaging grip of “No Compromise.” The EP ends on a high note with “Enough” winding up the energy into a sputtering picket of adrenaline and exhausted, sweaty angst. Getting your ass kicked never felt so good.

Get a copy of We Don't Forget from Convulse Records, here

Monday, July 6, 2020

Interview: Helen Money

I'm excited to premier my interview with Alison Chesley aka Helen Money today for the final episode of CHIRP's limited series, Shelter in Sound. It was absolutely delightful speaking with such a thoughtful and insightful avant-garde musician, with a foot in both the classical and the metal world, about how she is coping in the COVID era, how she got into heavy music, and her fantastic new album, Atomic. You can listen to our conversation below or on CHIPR's site here. Atomic is out via Thrill Jockey and you can get a copy here. My review of Atomic for Chicago Crowd Surfer can be found here.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Album Review: Holy Grinder - Divine Extinction

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.

Album Review: Hitter - Hard Enough

I have never wanted to own a motorcycle more than while listening to Hitter’s debut LP, Hard Enough. As soon as I hit play on the sneering, Deep Purple peel of “Out for Blood,” my mind departs on a cross-country coast, side-by-side with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, rocketing down a desert freeway towards that slowly-setting sun, atop seven-hundred pounds of fire and steel. Such is the power of these Midwestern chopper rockers!

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

Grab a copy of Hard Enough from Hitter's Bandcamp page, here

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Album Review: Chicago Crowd Surfer Round Up - May & June

Chicago Crowd Surfer is running a handful of my reviews from earlier this spring. You can find links to each below. 

Helen Money - Atomic 

Helen Money is a treasure and Chicago is very lucky to have her call it her home. Epic and penetrating string arrangments and heavy metal atmosphere. You can check out my review of her latest album Atomic here, and grab a copy from Thrill Jockey here.  

Mako Sica & Hamid Drake - Balancing Tear

Local jazz-rockers Mako Sica have teamed up with the marvelous Hamid Drake for an incredibly evocative album that they have titled Balancing Tear. Check out my review here, and grab a copy of the album from Astral Spirits, here

L.T.F. - Rehabilitation Process

Chicago Research continues to release solid electronic dance music faster than I can realistically keep up. I'm not complaining, I'm just outing myself as having a job and responsibilities, and I can't listen to everything that I want to, to the extent that I want to, all the time. Oh well! Of the releases that I have been able to check out, L.T.F.'s Rehabilitation really jumped out at me. You can read my review here, and grab a copy from Chicago Research, here

The Hyss - Extraterrestrial

Chicago stoner /sludge rockers The Hyss have a new release and it's pretty fun. Kind of X-Files themed. Sort of a pulp-horror / Rob Zombie-cinematic universe vib going on as well. Check out the review here, and grab a copy here

Album Review: Xibalba - Años en Infierno

Scene Point Blank is running my review of the new Xibalba album, Años en Infierno or "Years in Hell." It's a perfectly titled hardcore album for 2020. Xibalba has always sounded malicious but they've really stepped up their game for this release. You can read my review here, and grab a copy of Años en Infierno from Southern Lord, here

Monday, June 29, 2020

Album Review: Tithe - Penance

There are a lot of metal bands who have come to embrace the void-walker motif. The vision of a robed, often faceless figure, possessed of arcane knowledge and doomed to live a deathless existence while experiencing physical, bodily decay befitting a corpse. I get why they do this. People tend to drudge through their days, heavy with the knowledge of their inertness and mortality. Getting on with their day-to-day, with no ability to change their surroundings. Failing to connect with other humans who share their plight. Being a conscious creature under such conditions can feel like a kind of languid living death. While most metal bands choose to embrace the figure of the void-walker for a variety of relatable reasons, Portland's Tithe manages to embody the existential estrangement and ego-death represented by this cultural form with a savage and satisfying alacrity on their latest LP, Penance.

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.

Grab a copy of Penance from Tartarus Records, here

Album Review: Muzzle - Demo

Rough, raw, and aggressive. Muzzle is a sizzling pan of grease-fire distortion and rail-jumping, roller-coasting, garage rock grooves. I hardly listen to hardcore that doesn’t, at least tacitly, acknowledge the existence of Incantation, even though I realize that this causes me to miss out on a lot of stuff I know I’d otherwise fall chucks over chapeau for. Muzzle’s debut demo is one such record that I'm thankful I tore myself away from the latest Kruelty EP long enough to check out. The release consists of three tracks of manic, basement quality-recording punk, with tainted Poison Idea riffs unspooling all of the floor, terminally infected with a psychedelic fungus that spreads willfully like an infection in an open wound. The mad dog howl of the vocal performances sounds like a man being tortured for information, metal clamps sinking their teeth into some soft, unmentionable part of his body, with copper wires running out the back and around the contact points of a car battery. It might sound painful, but he's clearly loving every second of it. Opening track, “In the Frame” begins with a squall of feedback before laying into a groove that sounds like what an old school, no-seatbelt, sans-airbag, demolisher derby feels like. “Muzzle” will hit the gas on your adrenal gland and not let go until it presses out every last drop of juice under its boot. And lastly, “Decrepit Bag” takes you on a detour of badly distended Black Flag waving riffs that weave and chide before striking for the kill.

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.

Want to buy a digital copy of Muzzle's demo, grab a copy from SPHC's Bandcamp, here.

Album Review: Ripped to Shreds - 亂

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! 

Grab a copy of 亂 from Pulverized Records, here

Friday, June 26, 2020

Album Review: Krv - Krv

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.

Upon a cursory listen, there are a couple things that leap out at me immediately, two of which are the songwriting and production. Despite how raw a lot of these tracks sound and the relentless energy they exhibit, they’re all tightly composed while managing to sound incredibly clean and well balanced. This should not be surprising given the fact that Lambert is also the master-composer behind the dark, pop-bombast of DDENT’s post-doom and twisted-angelism. What didn’t realize until possible my third listen, was that the drum work, which outside of the acoustic portions performed by Renaud Lemaitre, is largely programmed. As I mentioned, this was hardly noticeable on my first listen, an undeniable mercy as electronic beats in black metal can be about as much fun as having toothpicks jammed under your eyelids. As interesting as I find Mysticum, the desaturated quality of their sequences can make me feel like I’m trapped in a sensory deprivation chamber at times, my tolerance for their choice of percussion is low to non-existent. I’ll take a firm tom slap and gritty bass pummel on a live drum kit any day of the week.

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.

Grab a copy of Krv's debut from Chien Noir Records' Bandcamp here

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Album Review: Buscabulla - Regresa

I have a new column running on CHIRP Radio's blog. We're calling it Critical Rotation! Twice a month I dive into two albums that are in the station's rotation that I really like. Hopefully my little write-ups encourage you to give these albums a go.

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.

Album Review: Nick Hakim - Will This Make Me Good

I have a new column running on CHIRP Radio's blog. We're calling it Critical Rotation! Twice a month I dive into two albums that are in the station's rotation that I really like. Hopefully my little write-ups encourage you to give these albums a go.

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. 

You can check out my review here, and grab a copy of Will This Make Me Good from ATO here

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Album Review: Sweet Spirit - Trinidad

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.

Album Review: Dan Drohan - You’re a Crusher / drocan!

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.

Get a copy of You’re a Crusher / drocan! from Drohan's Bandcamp here

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Album Review: Died - Less Life

Scene Point Blank is running my review of the new Died record Less Life today. The band has really changed their sound for this release and Less Life is not, I repeat, it is absolutely NOT Anonymized Internal Criminals,* but I still found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Review can be read here, you can get the record from Died's Bandcamp here.

*Much to my disappointment.

Album Review: Yawners - Just Calm Down

Sometimes to find really great pop-punk you've got to go abroad. I've got a review of last year's sweet and sunny, tender emo-core inspired LP from Spain's Yawners, titled Just Calm Down ready for your reading pleasure. I liked this record so much that I felt compelled to write a review for it even though it dropped back in 2019. You can check out my write up over at Post-Trash here, and get a copy of Just Calm Down from La Castanya here

Monday, June 22, 2020

Interview: Bev Rage

Photo Credit: Bev Rage

For the latest edition of CHIRP's Shelter in Sound series, I sat down with Bev Rage of Bev Rage and the Drinks to talk about what he's been up to while sheltering in place and hear his take on how the drag community has been coping with the disruptions caused by COVID 19. You can listen to our conversation below or over at CHIRP Radio's site, here

Friday, June 19, 2020

Album Review - clipping. - Chapter 319 Single

This Juneteenth LA noise and hip-hop artists clipping. have released their single Chapter 319 via Bandcamp. It is one of the most immediate pieces of media that I have heard this year. The single addresses the circumstances of America’s intransigent issues of police brutality and racial violence, the fight against which has recently overflowed into mass street actions catalyzed by the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Since the protests of these needless and evil slayings became the subject of national news, many similar killings have occurred at the hands of law enforcement, further illustrating the dramatic need for systemic change to the dynamic between black people, property, and enforcement of the law by the state. These slayings include the murder of Rayshard Brooks for the crime of sleeping in his car, and the shooting of David McAtee, a beloved Louisville business owner, for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are others too. Literally too many to name. Which brings us back to clipping.’s single. If you don’t know what’s happening at this point, if you don't comprehend how disparate treatment of communities based on the color of their skin can have life or death consequences for average Americans attempting to live their lives, then it is not merely a lack of education, but an act of willful neglect which informs your world view. The clipping. says as much at one point in the single and further identifies the fact that voting for Donald Trump in November is an overt act aimed at perpetuating white supremacy. There isn’t any other way to interpret such an action in the group's mind, and there isn't in mine either. With characteristically back-breaking, blown-out bass, territory-claiming electronic chatter, and a rolling, pull-no-punches flow, clipping. make their intentions clear. They are not here to threaten anyone. They are not here to plead for recognition or respect. The dignity of one is not a detriment to another in a free society, and black people do not require concessions or permission to do what needs to be done in order to grasp the unburdened mantel freedom and respect for their lives which should be the inheritance of every citizen of the United States. "Chapter 319" is packaged with “Knees on the Ground” a disorienting, psychological play that unfolds through air-stealing electronics and rattling piston-clapping beats, depicting a fatal encounter by a young black man with a police officer. It was previously released on Soundcloud, and it is extremely difficult to listen to. Not because of its harsh aesthetic qualities but due to the directness with which it portrays someone’s death and the grim, daily reality that it reflect. Of all the music made in this moment, there are few examples that I can think of more prescient than what clipping. has released here.

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.

Buy this single via Bandcamp here