Friday, March 28, 2014

Kippi's-Semplice Come Nuvole LP (Sick Room, 2014)

This blog mostly features horrible, shrieking noise that's either unlistenable yet good, or unlistenable, pure and simple. Yet contrary to popular belief I do indeed enjoy music that's complex and weird (like this guy). Some of this complex and weird music is also music of the sort that regular humans might enjoy. Hence Turin's Kippi's, composed of a Chinese teacher, a gravedigger, and the proud owner of a funeral home.*

Their press release says that they sound like Slint and Unwound, which is pretty accurate (lazy readers can stop reading here and go straight to the band's bandcamp page). I was busy listening to Wu-Tang around when everyone re-discovered Spiderland, though, so I still don't know what that comparison means. Therefore, here's my lunkheaded description: Kippi's is a band for the last installment of a long night of drinking, drugging, and sex. The sun is finally rising and you're still drunk enough that the headache hasn't kicked in. This also means that you don't yet regret all the weird shit you did several hours ago, so you're in an ambivalent-bordering-on-content mood. No doubt you're not at home, maybe you're at an apartment with a balcony, and the sun is cresting over the hills in a way that's decidedly pretty. Hell, birds are singing! Kippi's is that sorta weird feeling.

Or: if chamber-pop is now a genre, Kippi's plays chamber punk. Most of the songs on this album begin in hushed, almost somnolent tones. Daniel has a compressed, breathless vocal styling perfect for setting Italian lyrics to an off-kilter post-punk beat. Eventually, though, Kippi's usually does lurch into punk rock spazz-out. But in a really restrained sorta way. In fact this LP is a testament to how it pays off to not freak out completely. "Festina Lente" is tops partly as a showcase of the Kippi's sound, partly 'cause it's a nod to one of the early modern papacy's favorite sayings: "Hasten slowly." Playing off the dynamic tension between bass and guitar, the song rumbles and stumbles along at mid-tempo, with the drums being let out to play occasionally.

Most of the Italian music I listen to consists of Partisan songs and Paolo Pietrangeli. Kippi's ain't that good (what is, these days?), but they're pretty fuckin' good. You can preview the songs on bandcamp. LPs can be purchased care of Sick Room Records.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rizoma-s/t EP (2013)

New in the "less talk more rock" category, Rizoma is Madrid's answer to Chicago's bratnoise outfit Birth Deformities. Succinctly stated, if you've been mourning the demise of Government Warning as much as I have, you'll love Rizoma. On their debut, Rizoma shouts, strums, bangs, and kicks their way through six mid-tempo shout-along bits of bratpunk, tailor made for those of you still living with your parents. Which is half of the Europeans between 18-29 reading this, apparently, according to the Guardian.

If I had any experience in said subject, I would heartily agree with the proposition of the second song: "It feels so good to kill my neighbors while listening to the Stooges." As it happens, I only have experience getting blackout drunk and throwing bottles at them while "Death Trip" blares from my bedroom window, but whatever.

Point is, as March's winds usher in the pissant spring downpours of April, why don't you download Rizoma's debut EP and let your miscreant misanthrope misery burble over like fine wine? You know you want to. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Der Tanz-Vatta LP (2014)

Well, between the whole Crimean debacle and the Front National sweeping local elections in France two days ago, it looks like 2014 is shaping up to be just about as shitty as 2013 was.* So Der Tanz, in their roundabout way, is just as relevant as ever. Like I said in my review of their debut LP, Der Tanz isn't "conscious" or "political" or any such wanna-be-Crass-type jazz, and that is what makes them so brilliantly of their moment.

The production quality is better (that is to say, there is any) on round two, but the band has preserved what made their debut so good. That would be: a grinding, tormented duel between guitar and rhythm section; stentorian, Nick-Cave-on-a-good-day singing; and a knack for stop-on-the-dime soft-loud dynamics. Taken altogether, Der Tanz sounds like a great kraken battling through geological sedimentation on the bottom of some paleolithic sea, the Pangean, like as not.

But that isn't to equate them with wanky post-metal acts like Isis. Rather, Der Tanz conjures up more depth and darkness in a single song than most (post-)punk bands manage their entire careers. Take "Slow Tilt," for example: originating in seething, churning bass chords of doom, the song gradually broadens into an artillery barrage of improvised drumming and hollered vocals. Midway through, the song crystallizes into an agonizing, gradually increasing misery index before plunging back into a pool of squalling, hissing feedback as  the singer numbly intones that"god is a scarecrow". Whatever that means."Elvis has left the Building" is almost nothing but fingersnaps and vocals; somehow it works. The album's closer, "Tatra," is remarkable even by Der Tanz's standards. From piddling synth percussion, to menacing repetition of "in for a pound," to the dessicated insect hum of a few, solitary guitar notes, it's impressive how much this band squeezes out of minimal hissing and squawking.

Hell, I haven't even bothered discussing the best of this album. Just do the shimmyshammy over to Der Tanz's bandcamp page, where you can listen to and buy this thing, before I puke up beer all over you for being tonedeaf. Ha!

*Also that knife attack in China, atrocities in the Central African Republic, et. al. Although Fred Phelps finally died, so at least we don't have to hear from that vile puddle of puke anymore.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Feral Future-Haematic LP (Western Medical, 2014)

Six reasons to buy the new Feral Future LP:

1. This is the best American punk rock I've heard since Crooked Bangs' 2012 debut LP. As it happens, Crooked Bangs and Feral Future are on the same label, Western Medical Records.

2. If you thought all Austin, Texass bands were carbon-copy Discharge rip-offs, you're wrong: FF dishes out heavy, brazen punk that ditches the d-beat and goes straight for the throat with massive riffs rising above a wall of sound.

3. Feral Future's singer can actually sing real notes, instead of howling. This gets them pretty far in the category of "worth more than one or two listens."

4. Sooner or later this band will catch on with the Pitchfork dweebs, upon which time their shows won't be fun to go to. Catch 'em while they're still a punks-only thing.

5. "Hostile" cops a riff from The Clean, and is almost as good as that song. No mean feat in 2014.

6. Feral Future rocks out the way Bikini Kill would have, if BK had been a band instead of sonic terrorists and the cheerleaders for 3rd-wave feminism.

That's about it; go to the Western Medical site and buy the LP! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rest in Peace: Jason Molina, 1973-2013

So Jason Molina died about a year or so ago (give or take 2 days) today. My guess would be that he'll be forgotten within 5 years, re-discovered in 20, forgotten in 22, and then lionized as a "long-forgotten" member of the canon of great American folk singers 40 or so years down the line.

I don't really give a shit if that prediction comes true or not. The point was that Molina's work was brilliant, it made sense, because so few people were interested in it. That's not to say that great art is only great because the few cognoscenti appreciate it or understand it (they don't, especially when they say they do). Rather, most people who are willing to look into the abyss of failure, misery, frustration and the inability to communicate that makes up about 75% (if not 85% and upward) of human existence will, simply, never be embraced by the rest of the human community.
Just watch the video of "Back on the Top" that I posted. While the whole production may seem a bit stilted-I won't argue with you there; fundamentally, these were just Midwestern dudes forced to make a music video-the lack of pretension is marvellous. Molina and his co-conspirators never did anything they didn't believe in. That sets them apart from about 95% of the competition. It also earned them reams of shit from the jackals who read and write for pissant rags catering to people too stupid to listen to music they love, instead of music that will get them plaudits at their university's Theater Department parties. I still remember listening to kids, back when I was a young'un, lambasting Songs:Ohia albums as somehow boring, overly melodramatic and soforth.

Looking back on those years, as an adult with real problems, all I can say is that, if anything, that was a mark of Songs:Ohia's enduring value as musicians, and Jason Molina's enduring brilliance as a lyricist. This was a band (in its many permutations) that simply made music you wanted to listen to (or didn't), and sang of problems most of us who stay alive long enough will experience. Completely and utterly humdrum, yes. Boring? Never.

Blahlbha, none of this has done anything to explain to you, the reader, why Jason Molina's memory should remain evergreen in yr youthful(?) mind. He wasn't a pathfinder, he wasn't audacious, he simply was what he was*: a depressed, even despondent, lonely, and very, very gifted guy from the Midwest of the USA in a time that did not value intelligence or earnestness, especially if it came from somewhere west of the Appalachians and east of the Sierra Nevadas.

In any case, here's one of Songs:Ohia's eternal classics, "Captain Badass." The song goes on long enough that I can imagine it accompanying most any human activity besides writing a thorough-going demolition of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. For the most part, though, it's simply a beautiful, spartan bit of Americana sung in the darkness.

Love him and the bands he led or not, I, for one, will miss Jason Molina and would like to bid him a fond farewell transmission on this, the first anniversary of his death.

*Of course, I never met the guy. People who in fact knew Molina are welcome to tell me I'm full of shit. I'm simply extrapolating based on lyrics, interviews, and what I've seen of the Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. live footage.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nnevteiga-New Codes of the Unfun CS (Tendresse, 2014)

So the other day, some jerk was giving the Wizard a hard time for having nice things to say about most of the records he reviews, even if they're abrasive and/or boring. Apparently it never crossed the kid's mind that the Wizard MAY ACTUALLY ENJOY painful, abrasive noise and in fact SAYS WHAT HE MEANS AND MEANS WHAT HE SAYS when he raves about music that most humans find completely unlistenable. As longtime readers know, the same goes for me: most of what I like is what most people hate, and often the more miserable a record is, the more enthusiastic I am about it. On that note:

Blame it on the recession or blame it on the numbing dominance of the European Union's ruling class, Brussels' Nnevteiga excels at droning, hypnotic noise that digs into your psyche like toothpicks to yr fingernails. Their second cassette-LP finds these Belgians digging deeper into the carrion pit of misery they began excavating on last year's self-titled debut. There's the same mix of grinding monotony, sheer brattiness, and a knack for hummable beats buried beneath sludge.

"Cold You and I" epitomises the band's sound: squalling feedback yields to a moronic metronome and the singer gulping, gurgling, and intoning beneath the grey film of choleric bathwater (that would be the synthesizers, I suppose). There's a delightfully numb-yet-tuneful bassline, added layers of vituperative noise gunk, and still that fucking gurgling bloody mess called singing.

I could continue this review, but that would be like describing my mental state: you can guess what the rest of the record is like without me spelling it out for you, right kids?

Sure you can. So hurry yr asses over to Nnevteiga's bandcamp page. There you can blow out your eardrums in style, before BUYING THE FUCKING THING. Which you should do; the artwork is gorgeous and the good folks at Tendresse Records send you weird 3D cards when you order copies of the tape. Said cards are really fun to waste hours staring at when you're cracked out of your mind on cheap beer, Varnelli, and whatever drugs you managed to scrounge from your longsuffering housemates.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mirrorism-s/t LP (2014)

Everyone's favorite Ferrarese really pulled it all together for this LP. 2012's Fly Eye EP was a bundle of messy ideas; this LP is a single idea developed over nine individual tracks. The band traverses a good amount of ground here, from dub to squalling proto-grunge, without sounding derivative.

"I Cracked" bounces and rattles its way through a song structure dangerously close to jam band territory. Never fear though: halfway through it slams into aggro jitterrock worthy of The Ex. In fact, the Ex are a good reference point for where Mirrorism is at now: they're not ripping off the Ex, but they have the same talent at mixing genres in an abrasive way all their own. "Again" floats in and out of focus, the guitar a razor-thin line on the horizon, while "Nihilistic Pillow" is caustic cretin hop worthy of the No New York knuckleheads. "Exciting" is the stand out track of the LP: opening with mid-tempo bass sputter that gradually widens into something Sonic Youth coulda done during the Daydream Nation era, complete with talk-sung Thurston Moore-isms. It's a beautiful song for springtime, somewhere between grunge irony and emo (real emo, i.e. Rites of Spring) earnestness.

Apparently Mirrorism is on hiatus for the time being, which is unfortunate since their sound crystallized on this LP. In any case, you should check it out!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alone & Forsaken XX: The Secret History of British Post-Punk, 1977-83

Well, there's nothing very secret about most of these bands, but that's my title and I'm sticking to it. All of you will know some of these bands, some of you will know all of them, but you will not all know all of them, hence my justification for this mix. That and really, who doesn't need more weird British music in their lives? Anyways, I read Simon Reynolds' history of UK post-punk recently and man that thing is fun.

So here's a slew of great tunes by great and not-so-great bands. Enjoy!

1. Elveesh Kawstello-Benvenuto alla working week
2. Television Personalities-I Was a Mod Before You Was a Mod (short version)
3. Warsaw-Warsaw
4.Girls at Our Best-It's Fashion
5. Buzzkawks-Lipstick
6. Wire-It's So Obvious
7. Swell Maps-New York
8. Scrotum Poles-Helicopter Honeymoon
9. Marine Girls-Tonight?
10. Josef K-Citizens
11. the Pop Group-Kiss the Book
12. The Slits-I Heard it Through the Grapevine
13. the Raincoats-Dancing in my Head
14. Bauhaus-God in an Alcove (flexi version)
15. Gang of Four-5:45
16. Blitz-New Age

Get it HERE!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Red Traces-Once Were EP (2013)

March is prime Old Sad Bastard Music time: y'know, music that isn't exactly depressed, in the way that Joy Division is, but rather bummed out. Bummed out the way a cranky record store clerk is. Bummed out the way the characters in High Fidelity were-the book from which I stole that catchphrase, as it happens.

L.A.'s Red Traces is just such Old Sad Bastard Music. These two songs shimmer in and out of focus like a mirage in the desert surrounding the band's hometown. Slightly downcast, "Once Were" is fueled by somber keyboard notes, an exquisitely slow drumbeat, and the singer's morose intonations. Sorta like if Tindersticks weren't so damn dramatic, and instead were simply sad. I kept waiting for Red Traces to slam into a heavy part, but it never happened: it's just bittersweet pop in a blue tone. Same with "Nothing South": Red Traces has a knack for writing tunes that are maudlin without being boring.

Check out Red Traces here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Middle Class-Homeland LP (1982)

 Top contenders for the pointless title of "the first American hardcore band," Santa Ana's Middle Class was miles ahead of their peers in every sense. In 1978, while most American bands were still ripping off "Anarchy in the UK" and "White Riot," they were cranking out true blitzkrieg bop, frantic enough to put the Ramones to shame. By the time everyone else was stealing from Greg Ginn and Dr. Know around 1980, Middle Class  had slowed down and grooved out, leaving the hardcore goon squad eating their dust.**

Between 1980's Scavenged Luxury EP and 1982's Homeland, the band slowed down and developed a sense of rhythm: dark, even somber, but rhythmic, almost funky at times. Widely reviled by hardcore kids when it was first released, this LP has slowly been making the internet rounds and the band's finally (I hope) getting their due as unsung path-breakers in the move away from hardcore punk and towards something more considered and intelligent. Mission of Burma are usually held up as the standardbearers of U.S. art punk, along with the No Wave crowd, but Middle Class' musical progression is quite impressive: hailing from a suburban backwater, they defied the nullnode, idiotic simplicity of the California punk scene to jump straight in the deep end of UK-style post-punk with this LP.

The LP opens with "The Call": a glacial piece of postpunk framed by an ominous bassline and distant, lumbering drumwork. Jeff Atta's voice has done a 180" from 1979's Out of Vogue: there, he hollered and shouted over the impossibly rapid guitar, trying to keep up with the rhythm section. Here, Atta's presence is funereal, almost sepulchral: his voice echoes in and around the instrumentation, speaking allegorically and obliquely of frigidity, miscommunication, tension. There's anxiety everywhere, a sense of imminent crisis. "A Skeleton at the Feast" ratchets up the tension  a notch, as Mike Patton slams out a bit of cold riddim. The chorus injects a bit of light, with cymbals crashing over Atta's injunction to "split the night right open/see all the secrets there...."

One of the strange coincidences of post-punk is that Middle Class was slowing down and grooving out while Gang of Four, comparatively at least, started rocking out on 1981's Solid Gold. "Mosque" is midway between the jerky post-punk of early Gang and the solemnity of Homeland's darker tracks: an ambiguous tale of revolution in the Islamic world ("sins of all the fathers/visited upon the sons....a plague of liberation, a plague of liberation"), the music is jerky, writhing within a tightly controlled framework. "Ritual and Deceit," with its effects-laden, gothic opening, marks the beginning of the end, marking time until the majestically sparten closer, "Everything."

It's fitting that this was the band's last recording. There's a sense of finality here, that the Middle Class had come full circle from the impassioned savagery of Out of Vogue to the glacial reserve of Homeland. From the tentative, groping basslines of "The Call" to the chanted chorus of the closer, "Everything" ("I've got a lot to learn/about the price of dreams/I've got a lot to lose/I've got everything...."), this LP is the sounds of doors slamming, people dancing nervously as night falls, of lights going out everywhere.

To conclude an overly long review: this is one of the (heretofore) forgotten classics of the U.S. underground of the 1980s. If you don't believe me, download the LP and find out for yourself. As far as I know, no one has re-pressed the LP.

You should, however, buy the benefit LP that Frontier Records recently released; proceeds go to Mike Atta's cancer fund. Help the dude out, he helped found hardcore, kiddies!

*EDIT, 4.2.14: I fixed the link, the file should work now.*

*None of this is to besmirch the Bad Brains, who were equally adept at breaking out of the hardcore ghetto, besides being about a million times more talented, musically, than 99.99% of all other musicians of the 1980s; throw on I Against I if you dunno what I'm talkin' about, punk!