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#28    JANUARY 2009 - APRIL 2010     "IT'S ABOUT THE MUSIC"

by Dolman & Dolman

D: Alright, let's do this. Oh shit. Look, I am literally the biggest Deadhead that I know, except maybe Collins, but I do NOT want to listen to this. Nothing ruins a D&D session like a big fat 7 or 29 minute [Grateful] Dead song right in the middle.
D: C'mon, you have 3.8 days worth of the Dead on this thing! They're gonna come up a lot!
D: Change it.
D: Okay, okay, we can change it...... if you can guess the year this show is from.
D: Oh, man.
D: And if you can't guess the year, correctly, then we have to listen to this whole show.
D: There goes D&D tonight. You gonna come over tomorrow for a makeup session?
D: No, no makeup. We have to transcribe everything we say during this entire show and PUBLISH IT.
D: How many chances do I have, is it like three strikes and I'm out?
D: Two strikes and you're out.
D: I think I might need three.
D: We'll see how the first two go.
D: Alright. Could possibly be the 80s... that's a long shot, but I don't wanna rule out the 80s... don't think that's Mydland though... if it's the 70s, it's gotta be post-'75, probably '77. So yeah, first guess: 1977.
D: Ha ha...
D: Oh man, I think I hear Donna, which would make this almost absolutely 1977. I mean it could be '78... I think she quit in '78...
D: That's okay, you got it. It's 1977.
D: Like I said, I'm the biggest Deadhead I know. Which isn't saying much. And see, this sounds really good. A very laid-back "Bertha"... just a little slower than usual... we can listen for a minute, see what they play next...
D: They're pulling you back in.
D: Man, I'm always in. That's why sometimes I have to just refuse to listen to it. It's the only way I can pretend that I'm not in. Oh, next song is "Me and my Uncle." I do love the song, for such a first-set cliche, but let's get on with the shuffle. Damn, this "Uncle" is pretty laid-back too, also a little slower than usual.
D: It was a slow night for the band. In a good way!

D: "In a good way" is the new "That's what she said." Alright, I'm moving on with the shuffle. And the next record is... Hatewave.
D: You weren't supposed to see it. You're supposed to guess.
D: Oh yeah... I was just scrolling ahead to get through the Dead show.
D: You should've just restarted shuffle.
D: Right, that would've been less clicks.
D: Exactly.
D: Actually I wanna listen to this whole [Hatewave] album. It's only like 11 minutes long. This is, uh,
Sexual Healing 2, which is early recordings, from 1992.
D: You were saying this was good.
D: Well yeah, I was listening to it that day. I enjoyed it.
D: It's alright.
D: Oh, sorry Frank, are you worried that it might be false metal or something?
D: Well it's obviously false metal.
D: Yeah, well at least it's not boring like all new "true" metal is. What do you think this is, hipster metal? Wicker Park metal? Well this is clearly Humboldt Park metal, which is much better.
D: Yeah, there would be a difference.
D: Especially in '92, when this was recorded. I mean Humboldt Park is a crappy neighborhood right now, imagine what it was like in '92. And it was coming from Humboldt and the dark side of Wicker Park in the freezing northern winter. One thing about the Chicago No Wave scene, it really was like a frozen hatewave. The music was like, absurdly angry and pissy. If I was living in Humboldt Park in 1992 and it was wintertime, I'd be pissed too.
D: This is definitely really raw.
D: And it's definitely false metal, because Nondor Nevai, who is playing drums on this, even ends the liner notes by saying "Fuck metal." Anyway, Nondor left the band not long after, and they became less false metal.
D: They became a little bit truer.
D: Yeah, truer metal. Not quite true metal, but truer. I think they were really good. It was this same guy singing here, Sasha Tai, on guitar and vocals, Marc Rueker on second guitar, and Weasel Walter on drums, and he would play dressed as a corpse.
D: Which is true metal. To dress as a corpse.
D: It's false metal if the corpse has short hair.
D: Hmm.
D: Because as you know Weasel Walter had short hair.
D: But with the spike things...
D: Oh shit, I can't remember if he still did the spike things in his hair when he was dressed as a corpse... anyway, he had short hair and he wore a suit, like a 1920s, like business suit that someone would be buried in. It was more like comedy or vaudeville or something, so even though he truly shreds on the drums, it gives you this feeling of, you know, that 1990s Chicago school of dry satire. Like some dude from The Baffler was playing satirical death metal.
D: Okay. Let me ask you this: if Weasel had just been himself, Weasel Walter, as the drummer of Hatewave, would it have been true metal?
D: What, like dressed in street clothes? Why am I the one suddenly defending how true a certain metal band is? I started this by saying that Hatewave -- early Hatewave -- were indeed false metal and that I liked it just fine. You were the one defending true metal. For being most true. So I ask you, if Weasel had been on the album cover as himself, with no corpse paint, would you think the band would be more true? Or less true?
D: Less.
D: Less than the corpse?
D: Yeah, corpses are truer metal by default, even a slightly wack corpse. And the singer dude looked good in his corpsepaint. Also with short hair.
D: But he's not wearing a goddamn business suit! That's the part that's very not metal, wearing a suit and tie. There's no way to be metal in a suit and tie, just no way.
D: Whatever.
D: It's been enlightening. You know, a real State of the Metal panel discussion.
D: It's been real. And it's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun.

You decide, you deicidal maniac! Click on the image to see HATEWAVE mach 2 live in '98

D: Alright, let's start this shuffle for real. And I'm not looking. [New song starts.] Okay, this is Dylan, I wasn't sure with just the piano. But of course I know this song, from New Morning... this is the song that goes "catch some rainbow trout/that must be what it's all about." I don't think I remember the name of it.
D: "Sign on the Window."
D: Yeah. Okay, okay, this part right here is some of the greatest soul singing of the 20th Century. I've always been amazed by the way his voice breaks on this section... which is the bridge, I guess. The middle eight. And then it goes into this...
D: Is that a... violin?
D: Or some sort of old organ... squeezebox... I don't know.
D: Celestina...
D: I think it's an optigon...
D: A balalaika....
D: A Mercedes Benz....
D: "My other car is a Buick."
D: Oh man, the band coming back in... I am serious when I say that this is one of the very best rock & soul performances of the last 40 years. This album is fairly well-regarded but . . . not enough! Here he goes: "Build me a cabin in Utah.... Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout.... Have a bunch o'kids who call me 'Pa'.... That must be what it's all about.... that must be what it's all about....."

I have no idea who this is, yet. It's some weird punk, but I don't know if it's weird-punk.
D: I know what you mean.
D: Is this that J.T. record? J.T. IV, to be exact?
D: No, you're thinking of Hank IV.
D: No, you're thinking of the Four Tops.
D: No, you're thinking of the Four Freshman.
D: Are you sure it isn't the 39 Clocks?
D: Ha, that record took off about as good as the 13th Chime did!
D: Yeah, two-and-a-half days of effusive blog praise and then on to the next middle-of-the-road new and/or archival release of fair to mild interest. Anyway, this J.T. IV is fantastic. It is definitely weird, and it's punk, so I don't see what's wrong with using that phrase. I mean punk is 35 years old so of course someone is gonna throw an adjective in there now and then, to give it some zing. Like "trash punk," or "sci-fi punk."
D: Or Rick James and his philosophy of "punk funk."
D: I mean, punk was inherently weird to begin with, in 1975 or 1976, I mean The Ramones were the least weird punk band and they were pretty goddamn weird. But then that weirdness eventually arrives at its own status quo, like retro garage punk, where everybody wears leather jackets and so what, and classic punk, where people actually wear safety pins, and so the truly weird stuff has to be called weird.
D: But is it truly weird?
D: I don't know, I think Pink Reason is pretty weird. Or the FNU Ronnies. You know, on back to Mars and Chrome. That's the weird stuff.
D: This song is great.
D: Yes,"The Monitors." This is one of my favorite songs on here. There are 3 or 4 tracks on here that are just, like, the most perfect driving raw machine punk. Absolutely right up there with Chrome.

Holy shit, this is crushing! This is the Beastie Boys. You have to admit that reggae introduction was the bomb. And this jam is much better than Big Chief.
D: "Better than Big Chief." That's the legacy left by the Beastie Boys funk instrumental period, except that album where they all wore the suits, that was actually worse than Big Chief.
D: I have yet to hear one note from that album.
D: Me either! Well, maybe a YouTube once or twice. Half of a YouTube at work.
D: Yeah, I might've too.
D: Something completely uninteresting.
D: It was no "Ricky's Theme," that's for sure. Well this jam was pretty classic. Not bad at all. I believe it's from the Ill Communication album. What's it called, again?
D: "Futterman's Rule."
D: Yes, which was "When two are served, all may eat." I read that in Grand Royal #2. Which I think is a great rule, but I can't ever get my dining partners to go along with it. They always have to wait for everyone to be served....

Anyway, here's some real reggae. I won't even try to name this, just kick back and listen, cleanly, while you play a brand new musical biscuit.... oh god, listen to how good this is. Those voices singing together... like family voices.... [both listen for a good minute-and-a-half] I can't believe the voices just dropped out... is this a dub?? Or just a live instrumental where the voices only appear for one chorus?
D: The mix is definitely a dub mix. Overpowering the tape, putting some instruments in the red but keeping others low.
D: Holy shit... I'm just realizing that the problem with most psychedelic music nowadays is that... they keep pushing everything into the red, instead of what you just said, just putting some of it in the red, so the rest hangs back, or stands out, or contrasts...
D: Yeah, that's it in a nutshell. Today's psychedelic music doesn't learn the lesson of dub, which is background/foreground. This shit you're talking about puts everything in the foreground. You're thinking of stuff like Waaves, or Wavves, or whatever his name is.
D: Waaaaves. As in "boo hoo."
D: I can't believe how easy that guy is to make fun of. It's almost boring.
D: It's almost as boring as his music. But yeah, exactly, his recordings and more importantly, his songwriting itself, are 100% foreground. There's no thought of a background. It's what the guy from Psychedelic Horseshit was talking about in that interview. "Hiding behind static." The mix is always all the way in the red on all channels, which is then used as a screen, a wall, and get this, it's not a smokescreen, because a smokescreen actually billows, and has movement, and it can dissipate. It moves and evolves, but this Waaves stuff is a completely static piece of drywall that's just set up and left there, and its purpose is strictly to muffle the voice. Because the voice is not singing a real song, and if it's not muffled that will become painfully obvious. But I mean, even if you have foreground/background, you've still got to have a real song. This is a real song, even though it's a dub, I mean there's no verses... it's called "Enemy Version," by Super Sleepy & Sound... something. I guess we'll have to google it to get the full name, because it's cut off by the iPod. Okay.... [googling] It's Super Sleepy & Soundemension... "sound dimension" is all one word, spelled funny....
D: Oh, is this one of those Coxsone 7-inches, from that Juju is Magic blog... We've gotta hear the A-side then...
D: That would be "Enemy."
D: Find that one. Break shuffle.
D: This might be one of the first dubs, one of the first versions... I'll get a year here... actually, I'm not finding a year yet...
D: Well yeah, it's a version, because Coxsone was totally pre-dub. What he did was the first versions, and versions came before dub. Every dub is a version, but not every version is a dub. I mean all versions were to begin with was the B side instrumental. Same tune, maybe a different take, maybe not, with the vocal tracks mixed out. That's it, and they were used by DJs to MC over at a sound system dance. And as they started cutting all these versions in the studio, they started playing around with the EQs a little bit, and started leaving in some of the vocals, maybe dropping in the song's hook every now and then, just for a line or two... and that's how versioning evolved into dub, when they started really playing around with the EQs, and dropping in all kinds of bombs.
D: Yeah, yeah...
D: But still, I mean, right up to this day, versioning is going on that has nothing to do with dub. The version will never die, because most of the time, it's just some hardcore dancehall rap song.
D: It's intense. The Jamaican music scene.
D: Yes it is.
D: Okay, so this is Super & Sleepy, not Super Sleepy. And that's for the A side, "Enemy." The B side, the version, is listed as Super, Sleepy & Soundemension... so that's Super comma, Sleepy and Soundemension. Soundemension was the Coxsone studio band, led by Jackie Mittoo.
D: I don't even know what instrument Jackie Mittoo played, I am not a true head.
D: You can't even speak a convincing Jamaican patois.
D: Sure I can rude boy!
D: Oh god. Still haven't gotten a year on this.
D: How about what instrument Jackie Mittoo played?
D: "Jamaican keyboardist."
D: Hmm. Sorry to all the reggae heads out there for our lack of knowledge, we're still learning.
D: Still haven't gotten a year... I could deduct one from Mittoo's wikipedia page... hmm, it could be 1960s but it's unclear. It's surprising how sketchy reggae info still is on the web...
D: Well, "Enemy" is over.

This sounds even better, what's this?
D: The shuffle gave us more reggae, this is Aquarius.
D: Oh yeah, the Aquarius Dub album. This is sounding real nice. Again, not really any echo. Or even much reverb. This is like... live dub. Played really dry. It still qualifies as dub because of the minimalism. No vocals at all, for example, not even any single choruses or hook stabs.

D: "Your Amuckness" by Sun City Girls.
D: You're not supposed to look at it.
D: I know, again, I just found myself looking right at it. I might not've gotten this, actually, even though I know the Sun City Girls very well.
D: It's a 2-minute free jazz improv with no vocals.
D: Yeah, kinda hard to pin down. I mean I might've guessed Sun City Girls, but without any vocals there's a chance I might not've.

"Lies" by the Knickerbockers... from Nuggets. That was weird, it sounded like a commercial when it came on, like a DJ was going to start talking over it. [1960s DJ voice] Be sure to catch Mod Mockerson & the Smoking Arrows..." This kind of post-British Invasion rock and roll always sounds like that with all the classic rock commercials out there. One band from Lincoln [Nebraska] that ripped the hell out of this song was Shit Hook. You saw them, right?
D: Oh hell yeah, that was the live karaoke band you took me to.
D: Oh yeah, like at least 10 years ago, you did go to a couple. And they always opened with their own set, where they did some originals and covers, and they always played "Lies," and if you remember they also did a great version of "Ghosts" by Roky Erikson...
D: Yes!
D: Good band. I mean, that was Phil Shoemaker from The Boys. He also played with Charlie Burton & the Hiccups, but the Boys, man. He's a great soundman and music dude in general in Lincoln. Helps out a lot of bands. An elder, ha ha. [At refrigerator.] Let's see, what can I get you? Um, water, and.... water. No beer, sorry. How about some tea?
D: Some tea would be killer. You got peppermint, by chance?
D: Indeed I do. How about I throw a bag of kava in there too?
D: Okay... now does that have caffeine?
D: I don't think kava is considered caffeine. It's like that one... fuck, I can't remember the name... that one kind of tea that you drink out of gourds, bombillas I think they call 'em...
D: Uh yeah, what is that shit called? I tried it for awhile, to see if I could replace caffeine.
D: Ha, you keep dreaming. I tried it too, didn't even come close.
D: I think you have to brew like 5 tea bags per cup.
D: Why can't either of us think what it's called? Fuck it, I'll google "bombilla"... it's Mate!
D: Yes, Yerba Mate. It's got that kind of unpleasant smoky flavor.
D: Yeah, that too... needs a lot of sweetener.

I've been thinking about this band a lot. Man, Perfect Prescription.
D: Oh yeah. This is Taking Drugs To Make Music actually.
D: Yeah, Perfect Prescription is like an MOR record compared to this. The greatest MOR record of all time, of course...
D: Oh man, bar none.
D: Okay, what the fuck does that mean?
D: What, MOR?
D: No, that means "middle of the road." What does bar none mean?
D: Barring none. It's the best album, even if you bar none of the competition.
D: Of course. It just sounded funny when you said it.
D: Maybe I just say it funny.

SB: "In 1986, all I wanna do is fly/All I want for you to do is reach out to the sky/Well, well, well, come down easy."
D: Incredible.
B: "Lord I'm gonna shake it/Lord I'm gonna make it/Sure I'm gonna take it/Cuz I feel alright."
D: Fuck yes.
D: With some bass vibrations there.
D: Indeed!
[both listen for a good minute]
SB: "In 1986, all I wanna do is get stoned/All I want for you to do is take my body home/Well well weeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllll, come down easy."
D & D: [speechless]
SB: "Meet me children, meet me/Meet me at the top of the sky/All I want for you to do/Is take yourself a little higher/Well well weeeeeeeeeeeellllll, come down easy."
D & D: [still speechless]
D and D: [absolutely speechless] [the name of the band is the Spacemen 3]

D: Bob Dylan radio show. "Theme Time Radiourrrrr". Oh sweet, visiting the Rivers of Babylon. With the Melodions??
D: I've only heard the version on Harder They Come.
D: Of course, we're white guys from the 1990s. Oh wait, this is the one on Harder They Come.
D: Gotta be.
D: [getting up] Is the CD of Harder They Come over here? Oh yeah, here it is. [Pulls it out and two other CDRs and loose paper CDR sleeves spill out.] Oh lord, right in the cat dish. Sorry, Paul Harrison. That's who the CDRs are by. Okay... yep, it's the Melodions. Same version.

Oh fuck, no way am I listening to all of this right now. It's too hilarious.
D: Oh yeah. Just Farr A Laugh. This is so good. Haven't listened to it in a long time.
D: Go ahead and hit shuffle, we'll try to stick to music right now.

D: Oh my god! "Fine wiiiine." That was funky as hell.
D: Talk about live hip-hop. It wasn't invented by The Roots.
D: Oh yeah, the drums are totally live, of course.
D: They were live up until Rick Rubin.
D: No.
D: I have no idea what I'm talking about.
D: We'd have to research that.
D: Yeah, but that's just it, you're not sure! You need to research it! Ha ha, maybe it was Rick Rubin!
D: I have no idea. Well, it was Grandmaster Flash, of course.
D: Okay, okay. He invented what I mean by the Rick Rubin style. What Rick Rubin copped a few years later. Songs completely created by cutting actual records together, and using a drumbox to augment it.
D: I'd say Rick Rubin really turned up the drumbox, and put the records in the background. Used 'em just for scratches and stabs.
I guess that was like 1980 or 1981. [Wikipedia-ing.] Oh man, Flash was born in Barbados. In 1958. He was 22 in 1980. Started cutting records in.... it doesn't say. It just says he started cutting records, influenced by Kool Herc. Let look's at Herc real quick.... hmm, he was born in Jamaica.
D: Hip hop is a Caribbean phenomenon.
D: Afro-Caribbean. He started cutting records in 1972! It says Grandmaster Flash started cutting records in 1975, and was selling out clubs with the Furious Five in 1976.
D: Huh, but the so-called "first rap record" was by Kurtis Blow in 1979.
D: This song is 1980. I'm guessing hip hop went unrecorded for quite awhile.
D: Who the hell is this, by the way?
D: "Santa's Rap Party" by Super J.
D: Super J, huh?
D: I don't know him. Except listening to this right now. This is part of the Ego Trip Greatest Hip-Hop Singles of All Time.
D: Oh yeah, I think I downloaded all of 'em. It took weeks for me to do it. They include like 40 tracks from each year, like from 1978 to like 1998. Literally ever year, so it's like... 800 songs, I guess, and I have all of them on the iPod.
D: I don't know if that's awesome or disgusting.
D: It's definitely ill.
D: Man, this track is getting pretty ill. They're just.... ongoing.
D: Past the five minute mark. This girl is amazing, where did she come from? Right at the end. Live piano solos, flowin'. Anyway, what I'm saying is, most of these early Ego Trip compilations, the first two or three years, seem like live hip-hop, session musician stuff like this. Live drums and percussion, with the DJ not doing anything. These were rap records more than they were hip hop. I guess it took awhile for hip hop to be recorded, and then it took even longer for the DJ himself to be recorded...
D: Even though he was literally the band! The entire instrumentation of the band being recorded!
D: Yeah, it would literally be like Robert Plant going to the studio, and the producer would be like, "Okay, Jimmy, John Paul, Bonzo... you three can go home now and we'll have Robert sing with these three studio musicians Dudley, Dave, and Chad."
D: I guess they figured that if it's live it's with the DJ, but in the studio, you use the studio band.
D: I wish I had a copy of that Jeff Chang book laying around here.

This would be the Mary Halvorson Trio. I've been really impressed by this album. It's straight up jazz guitar... although it does I guess follow out of the aggro avant indie rock days... but in this kind of confident and relaxed way that I think not enough bands can get to.
D: A lot of those bands are too nervous and hectic. Trying too hard to prove themselves.
D: Yeah... Mary Halvorson is like a little wiser... maybe older, maybe not, but definitely wiser... wise enough to keep the aggro, not to throw it out, to keep it at all times in fact, but at a lower temper.
D: Yes.
D: Even loud and aggressive music can be played in a relaxed way. I'm thinking of some of the huge wall noise people, some of that music is very relaxed in a way. It's super loud but it doesn't vary, in that sense there's no aggression, just stillness. It can just sit there and relax, really, because it knows its huge. Doesn't have to prove it. Damion Romero comes to mind. Anyway... not that this is loud and aggressive.
D: No. It has tons of space, and even pretty chords...
D: It's a nice mix of approaches.
D: Well speak of the devil, she just stepped on the distortion...
D: Wow! Yeah, it does make me think of the Nels Cline Trio, another trio... similar guitar style, agitated in a post-punk way but still with this overall... jazz breeziness. also breezy and quieter
D: Wow.
D: You know, like an ECM album.
D: Nels Cline actually used to be on ECM.
D: Yeah... no, I think it was Enja.
D: Yeah, that might be right.
D: That fact may no longer be in my brain. Which is understandable, really.
D: Wow, listen to this!
D: Yeah! It actually reminds me of the Daily Dance album I listened to this morning... working those thick blocks of atonal distorto chords back and forth.... ooh, nice change back to the clean tone. Y'know, I think she plays with Weasel Walter... he'd be great in this band, in the trio itself... he'd be a great Gerry Hemingway to her Anthony Braxton.

Oh my god. This is The Dead. I just downloaded this, a live show from... three weeks ago, maybe. Brand new recent show. I wanna say it's a Philadelphia show...
D: Washington D.C. April 14, 2009.
D: Okay, about a month ago. Yeah, I think I saw a set list for Philadelphia and it was just insane. Like 10 or 15 classics. The set I saw here last week [Chicago 2009-05-04] was TERRIBLE on paper, there was maybe 2 songs that I would've actually wanted them to play beforehand. Literally two at the most. Maybe even zero. I mean, they played "Box of Rain," which I love the studio version of, but I never really like it live. They did play some good covers, like "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." There was this one song, like "California Desolation" or something, "Ventura Getaway," something like that...
D: Not "Alabama Getaway". Or "Estimated Prophet"?
D: No, that's what I'm saying, I think it was from Built to Last or something. [The song in question is "West L.A. Fadeaway," a 6:39 semi-burner from In The Dark (1987) -- ed. Blair Jackson.] But it was actually one of the best songs of the night, it was this really slow deep kinda pressure cooker ballad. Almost like a War thing, for Christ's sake. I loved the show, but I think Dead shows are probably always lovable because the audience is in such a good mood, and no matter what songs they play, they always play deep music. But they were playing stuff like "Built to Last," the title track! And some song called "Liberty," I think, also from the 80s. That stuff was actually not deep at all. They didn't play any real burners, at all... I mean "Iko Iko" was literally the deepest burner they played. That was their longest cut.
D: "Iko" fucking "Iko"?!
D: I didn't think it was possible but it was actually really good. It fit really nicely into the "Not Fade Away" slot.
D: Okay, okay...
D: They actually opened with "China Cat Sunflower"...
D: Oh yeah?
D: That was their opening song! But, it was not a burner. They really made a mess out of it, somewhat redeemed by going into "Born Cross-Eyed" of all things.
D: They played that?
D: Yeah, pretty good quarterback move by Weir. The "China Cat" was really not going too well... it sounded great for the first like 30 seconds, before the drums came in, but after that it just did not sink into a groove. And then going into "Born Cross-Eyed" instead of "I Know You Rider," it was almost like a Hail Mary, like desperately trying to rocket out of this classic rock failure. I actually saw Bob Weir call it, as they were getting into transition time, he was yelling something out to the band, and they really abruptly went right into "Born Cross Eyed." That was pretty cool, actually, and after that it was really pretty great all the way through. A few Warren Haynes duds, but you gotta pee some time. I mean this that we're listening to is just terrible. I should take a pee right now...... ON THIS MP3!
D: Hahahhahahahah...
D: This is like the worst first-set country rock throwaway song the Dead ever did, except it's even worse because it's Warren Haynes. I'd one thousand times rather listen to Bob Weir trifle than Warren Haynes trifle.
D: This is bar rock. Straight up spring break bar rock.
D: This is like a Tribute to Seger played on the state fair circuit in 1991. You can just smell the canned light beer in the air.
D: The keyboard player is not helping.
D: Yeah. He was fine at the show. He was as good as Brent, I thought. His tones are actually better, and he can really hit a solo that brings the crowd and band up. He knew how to surge with his solos. He doesn't sound good here, but really, this is a super-corny song, including when Jerry sings it.
D: They might be getting somewhere with this solo.
D: Yeah, it's long enough. Haynes can actually hold his own in the Garcia spot. He'll never be that lyrical, but he knows how to solo and hang back into the mesh, like Jerry did.
D: Back into the latticework.
D: I actually had this vision of the Dead while I was driving last night... the way they mesh as a band. I had a vision of them as a big tall sails ship, and everyone in the band, especially Lesh and the drummers, but also Weir and whoever is on keyboard, are the hull of the boat. They're the crew that works the boat, sure, but they're also the hull of the boat itself, the wood, the sturdiness. And Garcia, are you ready, is the tall sails. Or, you could say, he's the captain, and the breeze, all at once. His uses his guitar notes and phrases to sort of tune the hull, this mass of bass/guitar/drums rhythm music, so that it can sail in the breeze.
D: Sure, man. I think it's been said before, but maybe not quite as, um, passionately.
D: No, I know, I think I did read that somewhere, where someone wrote that Garcia was the sail. But whoever wrote that did not point out what I figured out last night: that Garcia is the sail, but the rest of the band is the hull, the foundation.
D: And what's the water?
D: Silence.
D: Okay.

D: Now what is this? This is almost as corny as "Alabama Getaway." But it's not bad, there's something likable about the redneck rock, the Nascar vibes. I'm not sure what this is, even though I know I just put it on here... I can almost remember... it sounds like that Weird Owl album that I had on here, and also this, like, Georgia Satellites tune that I also have on here, which is from another Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour. I think it's actually a solo tune by the guy from Georgia Satellites, what was his name? The lead singer rhythm guitarist from the Georgia Satellites?
D: Dan....
D: Yeah.
D: Bitney.
D: That's the guy from Tortoise.
D: And the Tar Babies! Anyway, Dan Something. Dan Baird?!
D: I think so, actually.
D: Anyway, it's this kind of Brendan O'Brien production, do I have his name right?
D: Yeah, I think that's right too...
D: That super-dry redneck rock sound?
D: What is Brendan O'Brien's deal? He's an actual super-producer, right?
D: Yes, that's right, he's officially a super-producer.
D: Now that I realize it, he's a total 2nd Rick Rubin. Super-dry redneck-rock super-producer.
D: Oh wait, this is actually Giant Sand. That's who this is. This is pretty cool. His vocals and lyrics are good, he knows how to sit in the pocket. Once again, that vital ability to hang back and blend in instead of having it all be about him. Although it could be about him, the crowd wouldn't mind, because he's a confident singer and his lyrics are interesting.
D: Do you know which album this is? Y'know, this reminds me that I had a Giant Sand album for a long time and I don't anymore. It was called Slam or Slug or something one-word like that.
D: That sounds familiar. Um, this is Center of the Universe, I believe.
D: I don't know that one.
D: I really don't know much about this band, although I did see them back Vic Chesnutt once, when Vic played in Tuscon.
D: You were in Tuscon?
D: On tour, I was in [the opening band]. Howe Gelb played guitar, but he did not sing. Actually, I think Giant Sand backed up Vic Chesnutt on a studio album or two, I guess they were doing those tunes. Not Calexico, but Giant Sand. Pre-Calexico!

Oh my god, another Warren Haynes song by The Dead. We've gotta get this off of the Recently Added playlist. See, now this is terrible too. I don't mean to pick on the guy, because I think he's getting the job done on guitar, and the band seems like they're having fun, but this is just the worst cheesy bar rock of the last 20 years and it's being played by fucking Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bobby Weir and Mickey Hart -- I mean, these guys have been monsters for 40 years! And they're doing this Bud Light commercial shit? Honestly, I'm disappointed in them for going along with it. What the hell song is this?
D: "Glory Road."
D: Are you kidding me!? That even sounds like a fake beer commercial Bruce Springsteen Bob Seger knockoff!
D: Um, doesn't Springsteen have a song called "Glory Road"?
D: "Thunder Road." You're thinking of "Glory Days." In the blink of a young man's eye.
D: Yeah yeah.
D: Anyway, thank god they didn't play this in Chicago. See now, here that he's stopped singing it sounds just fine. Lovely, even. Put some aching Phil Lesh vocals on here and I am set. Just don't let ol' "Like A Rock" Haynes over there sing it. He makes Brent Mydland sound like... Bill Fay.
D: Ha! I was wondering if you were gonna think of someone.
D: Fred Neil. He makes Mydland sound like Fred Neil. I'd rather hear Vince Welnick sing five songs per set.

by Larry Dolman

A MIDDLE SEX / TEMPERATURES Unclean Yawn / Bifurcation split LP (CARNIVALS) Nice to have underknown UK band Temperatures back after being blown away by their edition-of-100 Ymir LP a couple years back... their side here might be even better, just a lurching, grinding mutant 16-minute thing with plenty of rock swagger. This band should be huge... at least with this split LP they're up to an edition of 300. Maybe next one will be 500 and they'll reach that Billy Bao level of popularity! A Middle Sex is another UK band, and their shit is cool too... some sort of galloping drum-driven avant-pop whatsis... they pick up the This Heat torch and run with it, but they've had so much caffeine and/or LSD that they keep dropping it and staring directly into the sun and/or the pretty swaying trees. Then they remember what they were doing and pick up that torch and run again... only to get sidetracked completely by a pleasant stream... and so on... and it all flows much better than that, you know, like a good rock band would.

ABSINTHE MINDS The Song of Returning Light CS (NOT NOT FUN) Yet another underwritten psych jam album on Not Not Fun, but for some reason I don't find it annoying. Maybe it's because this band is from Wisconsin and not California, but I don't want to get into some regional oneupsmanship, knowing that the L.A. scene has a genuinely active and positive thing going among themselves and apparently many appreciative listeners worldwide. Absinthe Minds is kind of an Wisconsin all-scar lineup, featuring that Dead Luke guy (he's released a few records), Max Elliott (who recently released a pretty good 7-inch under his name on the Sacred Bones label), and Zola Jesus herself shows up to jam too -- according to some article I read she and Elliott are brother and sister, so this band is a real Madison family affair. Together they lay down some good psych burn, with playing that actually moves a little bit... of course the moaning vocals never seem to say anything at all, wordless or otherwise. Normally this increasingly prevalent fail-safe earns a thumbs-down, but again, it doesn't quite bother me here... Ms. Jesus in particular has an excellent track record at using notable vocal talent to elevate form over content.

AFCGT s/t LP (SUB POP) As is so often the case with rock supergroups, this band name is an acronym... you know, like how Hagar/Schon/Aaronson/Schrieve are much better known as HSAS. In this case, AFCGT stands for the A Frames and the Climax Golden Twins, two Seattle bands collaborating as a single unit. I've tried to get into the A Frames a couple times, and for some reason it just didn't take, though I do remember some cool aggressive mechanic motorik madness, and they are pretty damn heavy for a 2000s Sub Pop signing (2nd only to Wolf Eyes?), but maybe there was just something a little cold and removed and overly tightened about it, which may explain why this collaboration band works better for me -- I think the Climax Golden Twins bring some warmth and looseness into the proceedings. You've still got those great pummeling motorik grooves, but the structures of the songs and the timbre of the chords have loosened up, allowing in more screwy surprises and extended hardcore improvisation. But hell, maybe the A Frames always did stuff like that too... this album makes me want to reinvestigate.

ILYAS AHMED Goner CD (ROOT STRATA) This guy seems intriguing and has made a few records that I never caught up with, so I hoped this new one Goner would make a good introduction. I mean, it looks nice (par for the Root Strata course), but on first listen all I heard were a few samey, murky, muddily grooving midtempo rock ballads, with zero song recall at disc's end. Second-through-fifth listens via shuffle have got me appreciating it more, how the songs sometimes crawl up past the 7 or 9 minute mark with little more than a grimy two-chord groove to hold 'em together... it's actually comparable to the Hunchback EP by Kurt Vile & the Violators and its (three-chord?) "Hunchback/Hunchy's Back" jam, only in a slower, groggier, less cleanly recorded style, and without hooks anywhere near KV's laser-precise level; even just 2 or 3 hooks of that quality, spread across eight vaguely jammy tracks, could help this album's staying power quite a bit. Last track "Exit Twilight" does nail a glowing Grouper-worthy wash-of-sound ballad feel... and track 8, an instrumental, is one of the best tracks on here. Overall, it is a haunter -- that murky groove is too damn somnolently distinctive for me to throw it in the sell pile just yet.

ANCIENT SKY s/t LP (THE PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE) This Richmond-based label sent along two records for review, with the other being a more standard 90s screamo type band, so I was surprised when this record kicked off with some kind of lumbering heavy soul rock that almost sounded like it was coming straight from those years where mid-60s good-time pub-rock dance musc mutated into slower and depressive early-70s boogie metal, when your Young Rascals slowed down into your Vanilla Fudges. Led by electric piano and confident vocals, backed by a heavy rhythm section, stoked by a fiery guitarist, this band is not bad at all, and maybe just two or three good hooks short of excellent.

THEO ANGELL First Recordings CS (REALLY COASTAL) Been digging Theo Angell's solo albums, especially the excellent Auraplinth and the more recent Tenebrae, but I just couldn't get into this tape. It's a lot of instrumental/experimental type stuff, no singing that I remember, and there are certainly some interesting sounds but it's a very long and not too strikingly sequenced tape... I'm not even sure I made it through Side A.

THEO ANGELL Tenebrae CD (AMISH) Angell's terrific Auraplinth album, which came out in 2008, had one immediate grabber of a song after another, hook-filled but still old-worldly, a Holy Modal bluegrass/psychedelic/pop/upper/downer hybrid. On Tenebrae, there are less overt hooks and the songs are slower-developing, longer, more progressive. If I was chomping a cigar and running his record label, I'd say "Where's the single?" In fact, I can't think of one tune on here right now, but I still recommend it. There's something insinuating about listening to the album all the way through, the way the music slowly unwinds, and how that effective singing voice is used to progressively deeper emotional ends.

AROB/SOOTTYB b/w SOOTTYB split 7" (GREAT DIVIDING) Got that straight, One side is a collaboration between Arob and Soottyb, and the other side is Soottyb solo. Simple, right? It may help that the two sides are quite a bit different musically. The collaborative side is experimental/improv/field recording drone, what I thought this Great Dividing label was gonna sound like to begin with (see Exiles in Clowntown review for more), while the Soottyb solo side is a mutant new wave synth pop kinda thing, refreshingly off-kilter and weird for that increasingly safe underground strain. Two good 7-inches so far from Great Dividing.

ASHES Dissolve C20 (AFTER DEATH) "Dude from Arlington, TX. Loud and live bass tones grind away." Those were the notes I took a few months ago when I listened to this last. I remember liking it alright, and not disliking it, but that was a few months ago and I don't remember exactly what it sounded like. You might say, "Well then, do your damn job and dig it out so you can listen to it some more before you write about it," but the After Death label also sent a Werewolf Jerusalem tape, which I listened to the same day as I did the Ashes tape, and I still distinctly remember what it sounded like, so...

ATTESTUPA 1867 45RPM 12" (DNT) The title 1867 refers to the year that a great famine devastated Sweden, and the music on this album, by this current Swedish band, is supposed to depict the suffering with noisy, buzzing, thick and saturated downer rock. It's oppressive enough, sure, maybe a little too much, the guitars and/or keyboards and/or whatever they have overdriving through the boxes. Too full and dominant, the band given no choice but to plod along, no room for moves. It's corny but it's true of literally all good music -- there is room to move. Also mumbled/buried vocals alert, though they seem to at least have some melodic aspiration. Side B starts with queasy noise/drone improv (no rhythm section in sight) that sounds suitable enough for starving to death in the middle of the night stranded on frozen plains where ghosts dart and howl among the nearest trees. Then, the band kicks in for a good solid dirge jam... it's a fairly cool record, I just wish it was recorded better, and you could hear the vocals better. I don't mean understand the words, which might be in Swedish if there are any, I just mean hear the character of the vocals better.

AUDACITY Power Drowning CD (RECESS/BURGER) "Sloppy-raw teenage punk" band from Orange County, California. I like the one-sheet, it has this timeline of the band: "2001 - Met in Fullerton, CA. Formed in 6th grade. 2002-2003 - Heard Todd Rundgren's A Wizard/A True Star." Okay, you mentioned A Wizard/A True Star, I'll listen. The next one is funny: "2004-2005. Discovered the Modern Lovers & The Stooges." It blows my mind a little that someone is still discovering The Stooges in 2004, but I guess that's the way it works, huh? New people coming along all the time... that's why I do what I do... that's why critics should remember that no reference is too obvious.... ANYWAY, how about The Audacity? Well, it's got a real in-the-red ballistic playing and recording style, funny post-Brit pop hooks flying all over the room amongst the guitar shrapnel... "Dicks Hate Police" cover... I think their sound is a little more exciting than the songs themselves, but they are a charming enough band, and as long as this 15-song disc clocks in at well under 40 minutes I'll give it a thumbs up (just checked and it's 34:43 so they pass!)... I'd certainly play it on any underground radio station...

BAD DRUMLIN GRASS Live At The Timber Cove LP (MILVIA SON) These guys made a good weird-jammy psych-noise debut record in 2008 and their follow-up from late 2009 is better still. Two jams, one on each side, that take the guitar-led skronky ramblings of the first album and focus them into extended dream-drone dark/sun improvisations. The first one, mastered at 45 RPM and "about ten minutes" is really impressive. Side B is more rudimentary and unsettling, eventually doing pretty great things with patient playful menace brought to you by a near-horrific intermittent sample of demonic laughter. The sleeve implies that it was recorded live in some forested area near the ocean on the edges of San Francisco, which is cool. Funny though, when I reviewed their first record I criticized their lame font choices, and on this new record the fonts are even worse!

BELUGA Pet 7" (NO LABEL) Fashionable multi-cultural and presumably metrosexual New Yorkers playing "the brand of lo-fi rock and roll they always wanted to play." In fact, they recorded these two songs in one take in their practice space. They've been compared to the "Bangels" [sic] and the "X-Ray Specs" [sic], and while the voice of "their Brazilian front woman Isabel Ibsen" does cut with some real sass, the songs are pretty run-of-the-rockin'-mill. It's appropriate that their one-sheet talks about how the band has drawn "the attention of press and marketing teams alike," and even lists some of the ad campaigns they've already been featured in (K-Swiss!), because this really does sound like the punk rock you'd hear in a mainstream media commercial.

BIRD NAMES Sings The Browns CS (REALLY COASTAL) Been hearing about this Chicago band for awhile but this is my first time hearing 'em. And they're good. I've gotta mention the Thinking Fellers right off the bat, as Bird Names play a similar mix of complex and folky, avant and whimsy, noisy and delicate, nervous and serene. Even some of the same goofy singing voices are used. But dare I say Bird Names are a more delicate, subtle, and extendo-capable band, very rarely playing the (SCG-inspired?) aggro card that made TFUL282 an unpredictably dicier proposition?

BIRD NAMES live in... Manchester? From this myspace blog.

BLAST AND THE DETERGENTS Blast Blast Blast EP (NO CLEAR RECORDS) I kept this self-released 6-song EP in the player for awhile, as this unknown-to-me moody and slightly proggy Florida punk band seems to have no hip scene and/or microlabel attachments, and more importantly, plays with a dark veering sound that can easily and adeptly break into chaotic noise sections and somehow still make the tactic surprising. Problem is, no tunes ever attached themselves to me, even after these repeated plays. Still, promise shown, let it be known, you can go to to check 'em out.

BLUES CONTROL Local Flavor CD/LP (SILTBREEZE) Even in these days of the boutique CDR and cassette release, in which all artists can easily release page after page after sketchbook page, Blues Control seem to be operating on the tried-and-true 'one full length per year at most' plan. And this, their brand new album and fairly long-awaited Siltbreeze Records debut Local Flavor, only clocks in at under 35 minutes, but believe me, it's quality over quantity all the way. In what is something of a Blues Control tradition, the album starts with upbeat cheese rock that quickly reveals an escape hatch into other dimensions, here tripped open by a sharp mid-song horn chart, played by none other than Kurt Vile (on trumpet, apparently he didn't dump it) and Jesse Trbovich (Vile's bandmate in the Violators, on sax). These two stick around for the next track "Rest on Water," which indeed sets us all the way down onto deep tranquil seas for 6 minutes that seem like 12 and are still over way too soon... Vile switches to acoustic guitar and Trbovich plays sweet sax that gently ponders a page out of a hymnal from the Church of Anthrax. Track three "Tangier" turns the motor back on and continues the deep travel trance, this time for a full 8 minutes, which brings us closer to the true submersion demanded by side two, a side-long 16-minute prog suite called "On Through The Night." The more I listen to it, I still can't believe how it moves from giant chromium butterfly wings gently flapping back and forth in deep space into laid-back deserter-orc hip-hop instrumentalism into what sounds like the Cale & Riley tune again, except grand finale style, with an entire imaginary orchestra gently joining in. The whole record is really something, light and pleasant on the surface, deep and rich underneath, and I can't stop listening to it.

BRILLIANT COLORS Highly Evolved 7" (CAPTURED TRACKS) This sounds so much like a Rough Trade/Raincoats/UK kind of thing, winsome artsy rainy-day girl-sung punk with pleasant melodies and chiming/clanging guitars, and it's so honestly enjoyable that I can't even get mad at them for being derivative. "Highly Evolved" is one of my most-hummed A-sides of the last 5 years, easily.

BROKEN WATER Boyfriend Hole 7" (SELF-RELEASED), s/t CDR (SELF-RELEASED) 2/3rds of this band were in the Olympia, WA group Sisters, who put out a record on Parts Unknown a couple years ago that I haven't heard but it sure looks like a straight Sonic Youth tribute album, from the band-name itself right down to the way it's written on the cover, to where I wouldn't be surprised if the word "EVOL" appears right on the back or something. That influence seems to be downplayed here, as the one-sheet promises sludge and dreampop, a combo I will always take a listen to, especially with Captain Trips production as on the 7" here (he's recorded most or maybe all of the Sex Vid stuff)... and hey, the tunes are good. The songs are indeed sludgy and dreamy but they still move, have melodies, and aren't overly drowned in hip distortion. Ah, but SY alert on the CDR demo... around track 4 or 5 (the track names and numbers are more or less written on the back cover but I can't make out the one in question) there's an uptempo male-sung song that is a dead ringer for something Thurston-sung from Evol-Daydream-Goo. Kinda distracting, but I'll check out more of the slowed-down lady-sung sludge-pop songs.

BUSHMAN'S REVENGE You Lost Me At Hello CD (RUNE GRAMMOFON) When you (or your press) say your guitar/bass/drums power trio is influenced by a mix of Ayler, Coleman, Sabbath, and Hendrix you had better be ready to throw down, and no worries, this guitar/bass/drums power trio from Norway really throws down. I mean, it's a hybrid that everyone from mid-late SST to Bill Laswell have certainly tried to nail, but I'm going to go on record saying that none of them have achieved the combination of hammer-down heaviness and wild extrapolation that Bushman's Revenge do. They're just taking their instruments and playing the shit out of 'em, and really, if you want to know what it sounds like: Ayler, Coleman, Sabbath and Hendrix!

CAETHUA Village of the Damned CD (BLUESANCT) There really is a new 2000s wave of post-punk post-noise female solo artists, and I think it's even actually been called the Crimson Wave... see Zola Jesus, Circuit Des Yeux, or how about just the whole xxcellent Xxperiments comp 12" on Die Stasi. Then there's stuff like Grouper, just as epic but a little warmer, a little folkier... or Beru, more artsy and diffuse, and to the side of that still, someone like Caethua. She was involved with the weird Bloomington, IN Friends & Relatives sub-scene, and is now based in rural Maine and making her own place in that increasingly spacious territory where folk music blends with post-industrial. Two earlier cassettes had their moments, and do have their supporters, but my recommendation is this more recent Village of the Damned album, given a mere CDR release by the Bluesanct label. In fact, it's one of my Top 10 or 20 albums of the year and definitely one of my Top 5 most overlooked albums of the year. Her most precise and least noticeably theatrical songwriting yet, and there are a couple really sweet instrumental soundscapes on here too.

CAREERERS Those Who Don't Do Don't LP (CAREERERS) Blastitude #14 cover stars No Doctors called it quits sometime in 2008, but CansaFis and drummer Mr. Brian have already got some vinyl out with this new outfit, and it's kind of a monster. I mean if people like punk that is weird and rock that is heavy, this quartet is fitting the bill on both. The back cover/credits/songlisting/etc art (it's the background image of their MySpace page) is so convoluted and fractured I have no idea what these tunes are called, but I like the way it starts with this odd minute-or-two amp-noise jam, then segues perfectly into a stomping hard-rock shouter that practically sounds like Gene Simmons fronting Bachman Turner Overdrive.... in a good way, and is followed by a winsome minor-key rocker on which CansaFis's sax chugs along like he was backing up the Human Beinz on crew-cut sock-hop night in '66. Kind of following along a trail blazed by their Bay Area neighbors Hank IV. They also seem to make a video for just about every single song they record, which could be annoying, but not when you're doing funny, ambitious and creative goofball stuff like the vids for "After Dinner Divorce" [youtube] and "Beach Coma" [youtube].

THE CATALYST Swallow Your Teeth LP (PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE) Richmond, VA hardcore band. I really don't know enough about this stuff but I guess this would be a continuation of the 90's explodo-emo style that I couldn't bear to keep paying attention to around 1998 at the latest. Having not investigated the style in a while, this record does reacquaint me with the sheer power it could bring; this band plays very hard, and are very adept at tortuous riffs and screaming song construction. They are tight and powerful, I just think they're working in a played-out style, and aren't loose or risky enough to play their own way out of it. A slightly jazzy instrumental jam on side A seems like it may be on the verge of revealing a potential escape route... but instead of using it as such they call it "Incidental Music (sonic interlude)" and then go back to the standard... and then I read in the liners that they've been a band for seven years, so I guess if they were gonna try out some escape routes they would've done it by now.

CHEER-ACCIDENT Fear Draws Misfortune CD (CUNEIFORM) This Chicago band has been operating for 27 years, in which time they've predated, been associated with, and outlived such regional movements as Chicago No Wave and Chicago Math Rock, all while being nothing less than real-deal modern-day epic pop-prog masters. They were recently the deserving cover stars of Signal to Noise magazine and have signed with a real-deal modern-day prog-rock label, Cuneiform, that has been a working entity for as long as they have. Their first record for the label is this one, out now, and it's a good one. No one song stands out, but a suite feel comes through instead, in which interchangeably playful and classically prog-melodic male/female vocal melodies circle and glide over cycling and pounding riffs that have a heavy Magma/Udu Wudu bounce. Fans pick it up now, and for newcomers it's an excellent place to start.

CLOUDLAND CANYON Silver-Tongued Sisyphus 12" (HOLY MOUNTAIN) Wow, one of the better contempo krautrock-inspired releases I've heard, in a Cluster/Schulze synth/dream style that uses layered synths to create rhythmic and melodic interest on the A side, and changes it up on the B side with a nervous/insistent/long vocal number, sung in German, almost a nervous-punk paranoia chant.

COACH FINGERS One Jack Shy Of A Cycle LP (BLACK DIRT) The cover art is just horribly funky looking but the music by this Black Dirt Studios house band is pretty ear-turning. Traditional rock instrumentation and a lot of traditional chord changes and song forms and harmony vocals too, but it's all put together in a genuinely weird way. After hearing an earlier 7-inch and this full-length, I'm a little closer to getting their brand of country-prog quirk-pop barn-rock, somewhere between one of the only worthy heirs to the Strapping Fieldhands and a less slick, less swinging Little Feat. But how to explain the haunting extended musique concrete interlude ("One Jack Shy") right after the first song? Or the quasi-Eastern mandolin number "Bamborging the Borg"? Or my gnawing fear that at least one band member is a big fan of XTC and/or Elvis Costello? Like I said, weird band. Edition of 500.

CORTEZ / LANGUAGE OF LIGHT split LP (ANTI-CLOCK) The Cortez side is some choice gossamer/ethereal solo guitar dreamscaping, taking a lovely sound and then actually doing something with it, subtle and slowly evolving compositional shifts in tone and intensity. The performer is Scott Cortez from the band Loveliescrushing, who I may have to check out after hearing this. Language of Light are the Stillwater, Oklahoma based proprieters of the Anti-Clock label, and I had been looking forward to more material from them after the band and label debuted nicely last year on a split 7" with Crow Tongue. What they offer here is a bit of a place-holder, however... more gossamer-styled lovely and delicate instrumental music, soft and inquisitive... not drone/ambient, more like sparse chamber-folk. Definitely nice stuff, but they sang on the 7-inch, and I was hoping to hear more of that.

THE CYSTS Destroy Masters CS (SELF-RELEASED) Cool looking C9 from the Portland, Oregon-based Below PDX axis... I believe that's James Squeaky (Argumentix, Sex With Girls, etc) on vocals. I'm used to getting vocal-based noise from this guy but this is four songs of neo-hardcore in the trending late-00s 'mutant/VOID/raging' style, with lyrics included, like "Reprimand direct this sergeant! Spit to his face. Carve out his skull, a waste of flesh. TEAR IT OFF." It's pretty raging and good enough to keep the style afloat for a few more months, but listening to Void a shitload of times doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to be in a mutant hardcore band yourself. You never know what might be missing from the approach... could it be sufficient low end? Guitar fluency, however malignant? How about good old-fashioned hooks? Like for example spitting "Who are you, why am I here?" several times in a row like tight flurries of punches? All the great raging hardcore bands had hooks, you know...

DIALING IN The Islamic Problem LP (MUSIC FELLOWSHIP) One Seattle woman doing some field recordings/loops/pedals/vocals overlays with a wild dark atmosphere, powerful and interesting but also kind of all over the place and confusing. For example, I'd like to tell you the name of one good track that has this grinding looping low-end, and I think it's on side B, but the sides don't have any text on the labels, or even "A" and "B" in the run-out etchings, and both sides appear to have 3 tracks (judging from banding) but there are 7 titles listed on the sleeve... so I really don't know what the track is... that's what I mean by confusing. And I don't know what she means by the album title, even though I've read that she lived in Pakistan for awhile and a lot of field recordings from there are used on this album. But it may all be 'good confusing' enough that I'll want to listen again. (Though it's now six months later and I can't say that I have.)

DIAMONDHEAD Fickle Woman CS (UNREAD) This is the 2nd tape release I know of by this Austin-based newish project involving Lonnie Methe, formerly of the Omaha-based Naturaliste band. Obviously they stole the name of one of the Top 5 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time, but seeing how they made it one word instead of two, I'll let it slide. As for the music, I've always dug a lot of Lonnie's stuff (like the Plays LVD31 album on LVD and the Battered & Bruised 7"), but find Diamondhead to be somewhat frustrating. The band plays a gross, jammy, and bluesy kind of free improv, a refracted and messed-up take on the kind of 1970s macho AOR rock that a title like "Fickle Woman" channels nicely. At least two or three times per side, they lock into an awesome detuned & wrecked riff that really grooves, for at least a minute.... and then melts away. The non-groove stuff can be pretty interesting too, but there's too much of it... to paraphrase Blue Oyster Cult, all of you post-noise jam/improv bands of the day: don't fear the groove! (Or the reaper.)

DIMINISHED MEN s/t LP (ABDUCTION) I was underwhelmed on my first two listens but on my third it's really getting somewhere. Sure, this Seattle band plays a sort of avant-MOR soundtrack-collector surf instrumentalism that would seem polite enough to work as a commercial bumper to just about any arts & entertainment reporting on your actual local NPR station, but, because their overall presentation is contained and controlled and stays well within the bounds of Randall Dunn's high-quality production aura, it's only now that I'm realizing that they play these themes rather ferociously, and that the stuff in between the themes is actually pretty out there. "Sutures In" is basically a solo synth noise jam and would probably never be an NPR bumper.

DINOSAUR JR. Farm (JAGJAGUWAR) This album caused a little flurry of excitement when it came out in mid-2009, I think mainly because the cover of a giant gentle green foliage beast is awesome, especially if you are high. But sure, it was also because the original Mascis/Barlow/Murph lineup of Dinosaur was back together making heavy music again. Unfortunately, the result may sound like a Dinosaur Jr. album, and may even sound like a GOOD Dinosaur Jr. album, but it just isn't that good, a collection of songs that amble by making little impression. It's all gesture, the thunderous classic rock chord progressions, the triumphant guitar solos on cue, the drawling whatever-isms, the single Lou Barlow track (a pretty cool tune called "Your Weather"), the happy upbeat songs, the yearning mid-tempo songs.... I don't know, if you're an upbeat positive person you'll probably enjoy this album just fine (the one or two times you play it before it starts gathering dust) but if you're kinda picky and bored like me it'll just go in one ear and out the other and even the cover won't make you wanna keep it around.

DISGUISES Post-Mortem Depression LP (WINTAGE) I believe some guy from Canada operating more or less as a solo act sent along this edition-of-300 LP. The press sheet mentioned the Hair Police, and by golly, he actually lives up to that kind of gusto, with that hoary and loose psych-noise rock-and-roll approach that Wolf Eyes and Hair Police infected the cultural underbelly with back in 2001-2003. It's one of the more in-that-tradition results I've heard, truly wrecked music that seems unaffected by a lot of the more staid 'friend-noise' approaches that came in the Wolf Eyes wake.

DRAGGING AN OX THROUGH WATER The Tropics of Phenomenon CD (FREEDOM TO SPEND) Reissue of 2008 vinyl LP on the elusive Awesome Vistas label. "Junk acoustic," "country rock," and "home-built electronics" say various accurate descriptions of this essentially unclassifiable solo twee-whatsis. The names of Mayo Thompson and Arthur Russell are also put out there, and that's fair too, especially Russell's distinct blend of acoustic, electronic, and true emo, but Mr. Dragging's songs are a little more whimsical and diffuse, probably mostly due to the wild and surprising electronics that flutter all around and through them. Actually, the Mayo Thompson comparison doesn't really work for me at all, as this is nowhere near as direct and story-oriented as Corky's Debt.

DRIPHOUSE Sewer Mist CS (GEL) I was not into former Iowa City band Raccoo-oo-oon but things are looking up with two current post-band projects I've heard, Iowa City-based keyboards/drums duo Wet Hair and this NYC-based solo act Driphouse that creates excellent kosmische electronic ambience (with occasional 2000s gnarl). Tracks are never too long, never unfocused, and the cassette packaging is top-notch.

DRUNJUS Enceladus CDR (PEASANT MAJIK) This is a dude/project that comes out of the Wisconsin-based Davenport family, who were always a cut above the pack with their noise/drone/experimental music because a) they seemed to appreciate the sounds and smells of the earth and b) they seemed to be able to play actual traditional music if they wanted/needed. And how's this for earthy: this limited-to-100 CDR with a nice stoner cover and leaf-rubbing adorned inlay paper starts with a good two or three minutes of pond life chirping (you know, a field recording). That may sound like not much to you, but these days I'd much rather listen to pond life chirping than bros droning. At about the three minute mark there is a drone entering the picture, but it's chilled and minimal, not 'social' at all. (Seriously, social bro drone is the most annoying genre to me right now, can you tell?) Side B opens the drone up quite a bit, with mournful chord organ tones moving over the top while a chilled worm-drone burrows underneath. It's well done.

EAT SKULL Wild And Inside CD (SILTBREEZE) Their first LP was a nice blast when it came out, but already the follow-up effort Wild and Inside sounds two or three times as good, really a big leap. Yes, they are taking steps away from lo-fi, with playing and recording aesthetics that are cleaner and more dynamic, but that alone doesn't guarantee better music -- like a certain Mr. Horseshit has already reminded us, you can't just turn down the distorto without tuning up the songwriting first. I think that's why someone like Wavves will probably never really be able to turn down, because he doesn't seem to have the actual quieter songwriting moves that are required to pull it off. And "quieter" doesn't simply mean quiet, because there's a whole lot of new room to move and dynamics to negotiate if you get even 20% quieter than the oppressive wall-of-static these lofi/shitgaze/whatever artists get stuck behind. Eat Skull isn't afraid of this new territory at all and in fact have plenty to say within it. Sure, they still spend some of this album in the 80-100% volume range, with a few upbeat, skiffly, somewhat Beatlesque numbers like "Cooking A Way To Be Happy," and a couple obvious ragers like the overt hardcore nod that is "Nuke Mecca," but it's when they get into the 40-80% range that the album really shines and glows with a winsome but heavy melancholic dream-pop folk-punk genius that takes great words and melodies and swirls them into earned colors like Misfits black'n'blue, Flying Nun/Xpressway grey, and the Hospitals' technicolor wind-tunnel brown (coupla Eat Skullers play on Hairdryer Peace but you probably already know that). And then there's a stunner like the particularly quiet "Talkin' Bro In The Wall Blues," which may get compared to the Blank Dogs with its synthetic drumbeat and lost bedroom feel, but as cool as the Blank Dogs can sound, I always get the uneasy feeling that if his drum-machine got shut off, or his vocal FX got unplugged, he wouldn't be able to continue the song. "Talkin' Bro" is so much more than a drum program with cool/empty sounds layered on top -- it's got true melody, real words, depth, space, and varied colors. And it's not even the best downtempo song on the album -- that would be "Dawn In The Face," with a great melody and perfect female backing vocals. Seriously, this is the best cave pop album I've heard yet in the 2000s, and I think you should check it out.

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING Rush To Relax (GONER) Australia's most famous new punk (pub?) band is growing and changing on their third album, not drastically, but in small and interesting ways, like when first song "Anxiety" breaks down at the 2-minute mark and a goofy synthy tone on the bass guitar is revealed for the first time. Or when the third song "Turning Out" clocks in at over 6 minutes long... it even includes a drifting noise feedback solo! Of course when you have a rhythm section this exacting, almost nothing is excessive... there's a 7-minute track on side two ("Second Guessing"), and it's even better. The band is still clean and mean, sharp and punchy, but not only are the running times getting more extended, the tempos are also getting just a little slower, the riffs a little more gutbucket, soul music gone real twangy, with vocals that are even more like a drawling maybe-drunken talking blues... check out "I Can Be A Jerk" and "Burn" and really, just check out the whole thing.

ELECTRIC BUNNIES / PINK REASON split 7" (DIE STASI) Never heard the Electric Bunnies before this, and their two songs on Side A here sound like two different bands, which worries me a little, even though they're both pretty good. First is some soulful electro dream whimsey, with really nice and expressive vocals. Second track is nervy upbeat brittle-guitar aggro, also done well, but what's the next track gonna sound like? I know I could go to MySpace and probably hear another one or more, but I hardly ever do because I feel like I should stick to releases. Pink Reason turn in two new ones as well -- the first is one of their goofiest and most upbeat rockin' tracks, with what sounds to me like an actual ska-punk undercurrent. I still like it, but second song is more my style, dirging out with a more familiar Pink Reason approach, complete with the quality hooks that he always seems to come up with. It ends just as I'm getting into it, which is a hook in itself.

ENUMCLAW Opening of the Dawn LP (HONEYMOON MUSIC) A member of the Philly synth/kosmische band Niagara Falls playing solo. His LP, like the parent band, is extremely faithful to its inspiration, which is 1970s synth-based German cosmic music, no more, no less. So still no points for originality, but the album does get some for beauty, with long tracks that sit in a nice simple compositional space that's a little more tranquil, direct, and memorable than the most recent Niagara Falls LP, Sequence of Prophets.

ESKIMO KING / AFTERNOON PENIS split LP (ABANDON SHIP) After releasing a big slew of cassettes and CDRs over the last couple years, the Abandon Ship label's first full-length vinyl venture is a concept record; a Mouthus record that is not a Mouthus record, but a split LP between the main solo music alter egos of the two members of said band, Brian Sullivan (recording as Eskimo King) and Nate Nelson (recording as Afternoon Penis). I just listened to the whole Eskimo King side without being sure which of the two it was, and I've gotta say I started out thinking it was Afternoon Penis, as it moved across a blasted landscape that incorporated some sort of buried-deep folk song, but as one improbable machine lurch-groove burrowed into another one, the whole (including the song) recorded in some sort of horrible nether-buzz, I started to peg it as the work of Mr. Sullivan, which it is. This leaves me with no idea what to expect from Afternoon Penis, and it starts from within the same sort of buzzing murk that most Mouthus albums also seem to live in, but uses a sweet and unique trance drum rhythm to make it's way into a vaguely No Age-sounding bit of dream-punk that might just be a fractured cover of or homage to Dylan's "Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." (Oh, I guess it is called "...Jack of Hearts" and the credits say "Words And Chords © 1974 Ram's Head Music / Everything Else by Afternoon Penis, 2009.") Actually, the more I listen to it (and I've been listening to it a lot), it's sounding like a dead-on dream-cover that just happens to leave out 92% of the words. It's good shit; Mouthus is a good band. I can't imagine anyone collecting every record they've ever done together and apart, but almost any of the records you do pick up are going to be sonically powerful and interesting. (See also Divisionals, reviewed this issue.... and I still maintain that if you're only gonna get one, make it Saw A Halo, 2007, Load Records.)

EXILES FROM CLOWNTOWN 7" (GREAT DIVIDING) From a new (?) Australian label come a couple singles in similar generic packaging... I figured they were by the same artist, someone or something called Great Dividing, and was expecting something noisy and experimental so it was refreshing to hear some rangy and roaming mildly avant instrumental guitar/bass/drums rock coming out of the speakers. I guess it would be fairly noisy and experimental to some, but to me it has a rather delicate 80s underground rock vintage, what they used to call "college rock," somewhere in that Flying Nun to fIREHOSE range. On Side B they do a pretty spot-on Dead C impersonation, right down to the in-the-pocket backbeat and what could almost be guest vocals by Michael Morley himself. Anyway, turns out that Great Dividing is the label, and the artist is an on-and-off Australia band called Exiles From Clowntown. (The other 7" is a split between the artists Arob and SoottyB, so check for their review alphabetically, if you feel up to it. Hint: it's under A.)

EXUSAMWA Please Allow Me To Induce Myself 3" CD (100% BREAKFAST) A high-energy punk-noise riff-blasting can be a great thing, and it can even be reason enough for a band to exist, but when the blasting is continuous and the band has no other approaches, the results are as dull and samey as any engineered washed-out mass-market radio pop. You can't just blast, you've got to hold the blasts until you set them up perfectly, with silence, and strategy, and the ability to be fluent in more than one setting. The reason I say all this is that Exusamwa, from Boston, knows how to set up the blasts. Hell, their album is only 13 minutes long, and it's a full-length. Need I say more? Well, I'll go ahead and tell you that a guy from Fat Day themselves is in the band, and so is Angela from Weirdo Records, so you know some veterans are at work here.... also cool is that it's a 3" CD but it's got an extra 2 inches of see-through plastic on it so it handles like a real 5" CD.

FACTORYMEN Shitman LP (RICHIE) What is this, a Homostupids side project? I've heard both bands/projects, and neither one gives me any real special sense that songs are being written, but both do cool shit, and the cool shit Factorymen do on this album seems like the coolest to come from this camp yet. There are some weird quasi-songs, melancholy drum machine, great use of samples (from a baby crying to Blue Oyster Cult to some suave crooner owning "Both Sides Now"), some instrumental jam-outs, and scattered vocal rant apotheoses backed with somber piano interludes (or are they codas?)... it's a fun and consistently surprising record, especially as side 2 seems to gently give way into complete delirium.

CHRIS FORSYTH & NATE WOOLEY The Duchess of Oysterville CD (CD CREATIVE SOURCES) I've had this album for like four years. During the first year, I played it at normal volume a couple times and really didn't even hear it. During the second and third years, I didn't play it at all. This year I pulled it out and played it loud and it was crazy human harsh noise made by acoustic trumpet and electric guitar. At least 15 or 20 percent of it, anyway, while the rest remains relentlessly unhearable, at almost any volume. Forsyth was/is in the formidable Peeesseye ensemble that cut two or three good records back in the mid-00s (and may have cut more since then... Forsyth has cut a fine solo record just this year called Dreams, which has yet to get its own review this time), and Wooley has played with the Graveyards 'rhythm section' among some others...

NANCY GARCIA Be The Climb CD (ECSTATIC PEACE) Ms. Garcia is/was a member of long-running Miami/Brooklyn group Monotract and, as that group seems to play together less and less over the years, she has continued to make solo & collaborative music, often in conjuction with her own dance pieces, other art installations, etcetera. For example, close readers of the Blastwitude livefeed may have already clicked on a recently posted link to download some excellent tracks she recorded in collaboration with Jessie Gold, called Grotto Dances, that were part of a video installation. With all this interesting work, Nancy has definitely been due for some sort of solo album, and now Ecstatic Peace has released one called Be The Climb. And just to throw us all off, it starts with a goofy/mean new wave rock'n'roll number in which she sounds a little like her sometime label-mate Elisa Ambrogio of Magik Markers, with lines like "Take off your shoes / Take off your fucking shoes / It's the only way you'll feel my ass / While you kick it." But from there things shift around, with more weird punk tunes that are quite a bit more aggro, as well as the big and bad-ass electronic soundscapes that have marked a lot of her dance/installation music. A real good and loud 'debut' record.

GARY WAR Horribles Parade LP/CD (SACRED BONES) I've listened to this a bunch but I guess I don't really have a review, just a couple tweets... how 2010 of me... they are as follows: "upbeat/nervous/dense underwater new-wave/pop stylings w/absurdly submerged bubble-vocals...coral reef rock? more like coral REEFER rock) 8:26 AM Jul 22nd, 2009 via web," which is kinda funny, and then almost a month later, "new Gary War on Sacred Bones is very obscure on songwriting but the sonics & style are so out of control that I'm really enjoying it anyway 12:20 AM Aug 17th, 2009 via web." That second one held true for awhile, but it came up on the iPod shuffle just last week, first time I'd spun it in a long time, and I had to take it off halfway through. The songs really do all sound the same to me, at least the same hurried tempo and quick pop/rock chord changes, and that bubble-vocal effect is more non-stop than Tommy Hall's electric jug! Too many bubbles!

GEORGE STEELTOE ENSEMBLE Comtrails Over Carolina 3" CDR (PRIMECUTS) Another salvo from this Lexington, Kentucky (?) bred and NYC (?) based large-ensemble jazz group (here an octet, recording in Winston-Salem, NC). As with the excellent Church of Yuh LP from 2006 or 2007, they continue to blend harsh noise electronics with free jazz instrumentation and approach, here for one 20-minute jam.

GOLIATH BIRD EATER/SASQROTCH split 10" (NOT NOT FUN) I have to admit I'm worried about this record with its cheerfully weird and colorful hand-drawn cover images that are pointlessly psychedelic with no real thematic heft to speak of at all.. same goes for the band names.... AND, most unforgivably, it's a 10-inch single. This is probably on Not Not Fun aaaaaaannnnnddddd.... lemme check.... yep, it is. So let's play it. Actually, I do remember liking the only other Goliath Bird Eater track I've heard, the one on the same label's Siked Psych CD comp, I believe... and having played a few minutes of their side of the 10", I like it too, a heavy track that holds mean low-end instrumental riffs, jumping off from the Melvins into something a little new and not bad at all. Sasqrotch start out with a murky mess that I think is supposed to be black metal, and might even be black metal if I didn't suspect at least two loyal Weezer fans in the band. Sorry to the youth of today... you are all remarkably cool dudes and dudines, but you are not Abruptum, and Abruptum weren't even that good! Eventually they get into a serviceable stoner groove, better than some (again, an actual rhythm section is present and noted), but I don't really think it's worth the wait to get there... oh yeah, and their name is Sasqrotch, thumbs down!

HANDGLOPS Ronk Ng Rool CD (GULCHER) I like noise, and I like songs, but when you combine the two in the most basic way possible, when one isn't coming organically out of the other... it just sounds like something's wrong with your recording setup. That said, first track here "The Weekend" has a rather menacing dance-beat and starts like a leadoff single. Second track "The Show" is a sunny upbeat wall-of-noise pop strummer that is actually pretty good, better than Wavves at least.... but from there it all just kind of becomes a muddy mix of buried songs and too-loud distortion. Maybe shoulda started with a 7" or two.

HOLLYWOOD SQUARETETS Nice Tets CD (ROULADE) 52 minutes of "Free-Punk-Comedy-Jazz" from L.A., in a style that has indeed been very Hollywood for some time, rooted in the open mic and post-punk improvisation scene (although probable founders and long-running masters of the Open-Mic-Tuesdays Free-Punk Comedy-Jazz genre Sun City Girls happened to develop their art in Phoenix, Arizona). Kenny Kawamura on sax (he's good, light, subtle), Joe Baiza on gtr (you know him, right?), Todd Homer on bass (Angry Samoans and Mooseheart Faith!) .... and Larry Copcar on drums and ranting vocals. The aggro comedy at least immediately abducts it out of the staid and stifling realms of standard free jazz improv, but on the mic he's no Charles Gocher... good drummer though, and the band has a refreshingly skeletal and low-key group-sound that I'm sure would get it out of the staid and stifling realms anyway, without the repeated shouts of "Welcome to the Fuck You Lounge!"

HORDE OF TWO Guitar & Bass Actions CD (SMARTEN UP! & GET TO THE POINT) Much like you can tell from the band name and album title, this is an instrumental guitar and bass duo. The guitarist is David Lester, whom you might know from Mecca Normal, and I feel like I should encourage the Jean Smith-sensitive Mecca Normal non-fans out there to listen to this album, because on it David Lester plays in a Mecca Normal style, but without a vocalist. I'm okay with Jean Smith myself, but this is a nice listen too, with Wendy Atkinson playing a different role entirely, this one non-vocal on the calm and foundational bass guitar. Recommended if you like the Mike Watt/Kira Roessler duo Dos (and if you've heard 'em you probably do). Lester is unfailingly solid on the guitar, total stoic folky-electric pop sense, kinda makes me think of a warmer Young Marble Giants. Atkinson is the one that leads the tunes if they go anywhere (they don't have to when they're already somewhere to begin with), via mellow melodic lines and calm shifts into moves like whalespeak feedback. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing envelope-pushing, but a good song-based listen.

THE JAGUAR Primal Dimension CS (SKY-FI) In an enclosed letter, the label said this unknown from Wisconsin had a sound somewhere between Gate and Wild Man Fischer, and that's pretty accurate, fortunately leaning a little heavier on the Gate side, particularly with the 2nd and 3rd tracks on here, "Infinite Power Groove" and "Useless Cube Factory." One fast and one slow, both fine dunted electric guitar solo-jam-over-imitation-tape-loop repetition. The Jaguar's self-proclaimed style of music is "trash blues," which makes sense... on two self-released CDRs I listened to before this tape he gets into loud electric guitar flail with more Fischer-esque vocals and it really comes from an unhinged and screaming place, but this cassette is my favorite. All the spacy weirdness is there, but the vocals are backgrounded (without being excised) and the tones and grooves are more hinged, resulting in a somewhat tranced-out sweet spot.

TOM KARLSSON Pojknacke LP (LYSTRING) Not sure where this LP is from, but it came fairly anonymously, in a stark white gatefold sleeve adorned with meticulously repellent hand-drawn artwork, at least on the inside sleeve and the labels, and I kind of wanted to listen to it once and get it out of the house... but the music is excellent. Having lost the one-sheet, I was thinking it was an album by sort of mysterious harsh industrial/power electronics band or project called Pojknacke, but the internet tells me that Pojknacke is the title, and the artist (musical and presumably visual) is actually Tom Karlsson. Hey, at least he was helpful enough to draw "A" and "B" as part of his label art, no one does that anymore! (And his name is on the spine, along with title and label, I just hadn't checked yet.) Anyway, this really is some sort of early-style harsh industrial album, but with a welcome profusion of quiet space, room for some jarring off-kilter samples, obscure but agitated European speaking voices that may even be samples themselves but mostly probably not... eventually some serious subtle (on side B not so subtle) heavy avant-rock improvisational jamming... a couple out-and-out tunes with goofy ranting punk vocals... it doesn't all work equally well, and it's maybe 10 minutes too long, but it's still really good.

KINIT HER Glyms or Beame of Radicall Truthes CD (HINTERZIMMER) Three nerds from Wisconsin make a rather absurd album of over-the-top black metal theatre folk music. They seem to have recruited an actual evil faerie witch to record the vocals, or at least done some crazy things with ProTools that I don't understand. I guess this is what it takes to do something original with black metal these days... on first listen I was going to throw it out the window, but after it was over it almost literally haunted me. Now, on second listen, I kind of like it. The quality of recording and playing really is impeccable and otherworldly, and there isn't much else quite like it. Wisconsin, man....

KOREAN BLACK EYES s/t CS (PLUS TAPES) Early 1970s all-girl Korean band... or is it? The original 45 RPM 7" record that makes up selected tracks on this tape seems to have been made entirely in Portugal. Whoever the band is, they are rocking, and ladies are singing, doing rock'n'roll and R&B covers like "Who's Making Love" and "Burning Love," and honestly the group sound sometimes makes me think of MC5's High Time, except more punk. Side B changes it up with epic near-schmaltz moves like "Nights In White Satin" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," also pretty great. Edition of 100, pink tapes, cover drawing by Plastic Crimewave.


KRAUS Golden Treasury CDR (NO LABEL) This guy is from New Zealand and he seems to be a real scene of one, sketching out home-recorded DIY miniatures that take a non-kitsch soundtrack/lounge/retro feel and blast it with the destroyed rock moves that his countrymen are known for. It's some pretty singular stuff and if you go to and contact Kraus it seems that you can get a free copy of this album. He also put a fine tape out on the Dreamtime Taped Sounds label, but it's probably hard to get at this point.

KREAMY 'LECTRIC SANTA Operation Spacetime Cynderblock: "Four Riddles of the Spheres" LP (STARCLEANER RECORDS) When you take this LP out of the sleeve, a buncha surprise stuff falls out too, like punk stickers and a bonus CDR. And that's what their music is like too. On the surface they sound like a basic snotty college punk band, Dead Milkmen with more broken equipment, but the songs leave all kinds of sonic detritus in their wake, like noise & tapes collages that happen for near-minutes at a time, or the spot-on progressive death metal intro of the second song "Everything....?" (if I'm getting it right, it's usually hard to tell with a Kreamy 'Lectric Santa track listing), or the Eastern/progressive/Canterbury flourishes on the track after it, "Like Friggin Gone." (Is that CansaFis Foote himself on sax?) I gotta say, this is my favorite record by the band so far, living up to the promise shown by the two excellent 7-inches they put out previously. It's a lot to take in, but worth the effort... just as damaged as the Hospitals' Hairdryer Peace, and a lot more listenable.

LANDED Liver + Lungs CD (CORLEONE) Within minutes it is clear that a higher power is at work. It's the same gutter-trance that has always been their M.O., but the production is next-level; a brilliant skittering drum-beat with a kick that booms and rings out in a way that almost has to be room-tone... eerie post-punk noise guitar that sits low in the mix... vocals that have the same old 'CB radio' effect but still breathe and pause... somehow Landed remain an unpinnable band. It seems like every album of theirs I come across is made up of both previously released and previously unreleased tracks, recorded anywhere from 2 to 12 years ago, and not sequenced in any order, chronological or otherwise, or given any credits that would reflect it as such. In fact, according to something I read somewhere and now can't find again, Liver + Lungs is the second release in some sort of retrospective trilogy, which started with the excellent How Little Will It Take CD on Load, and is going to be followed by some third confusingly all-over-the-place retrospective release at some point in the near or not-so-near future. Liver + Lungs does concentrate primarily on releases from the last few years, in which time the band seems to have developed new varied techniques, as described above, that employ more space and calmer tones, and somehow they've done it without diluting any of their music's ugliness. They're just now even more adept at playing ugly gutter-rock as a sleek techno machine... most of the six songs on here are well over 10 minutes long, and never once does the band even flinch...

LIFE ON EARTH! A Space Water Loop CD (SUBLIMINAL SOUNDS) This is some new album by some psychedelic collective apparently headed by some guy from Dungen... every time I've listened to Dungen, I thought it sounded great and then found myself bored two minutes later. It's absolutely perfect psychedelic classic rock with absolutely no depth or heft. Wallpaper music, and this cosmic indie/poppy feel-good prog-rock has a similar effect. It's bubbly and has a lot of movement, and sometimes while listening I think, "Wow, this might be amazing if it sounded like actual humans were actually playing this music in a room with real instruments." Unfortunately, it's just a bunch of frothy Pro-Tools fantasia.

LIQUORBALL w/STEVE MACKAY Evolutionary Squalor LP (ROCKETSHIP) As a big fan of their 90s album Liquorball Fucks The Sky, I'll admit that I had initial concerns with this ten-years-later release. The B&W solarized 'avant jazz' live shot on the cover made me ask, "Do I really wanna hear them (ten years later) jamming with a guy on sax? Even if it is the guy who played sax on Funhouse?" Well, it turns out that the answer is "Yes, of course I do." This is a recording of an April, 2008 live gig (written about and even titled here) at guitarist Grady Runyon's record store and Liquorball showed up ready, laying down sinuous and mean uptempo hard-driving thug-psych grooves that slide and insinuate in ways that sound like they've spent the last 10 years doing a lot of playing and/or growing, and duh, of course Mackay is great. Just like on Funhouse, he knows that job #1 is to riff with the band, and as such his solos never wear out their welcome, and most importantly he knows how to hang back and blend in. Hell, there's a guest harmonica duel somewhere on side one and even that's okay, and in fact excellent, because the groove kills throughout. No monstrous/hilarious vocals this time, just the sound of tough, confident, older/wiser psych jam burn.

LOCRIAN Drenched Lands CD (AT WAR WITH FALSE NOISE / SMALL DOSES) For Locrian's "first full-length studio recording of all new material," the ingredients may remain the same (metal, noise, drone, power electronics), but they are presented in their most confident and seamless blend yet. This duo can actually play music on their instruments, and use this ability to create extended compositions. Therefore, there's no need to hide behind drone and distortion, allowing these tactics to be used as weapons, and only when necessary. The result is a mostly quiet album that is still more brutal than a lot of today's amps-on-11 extreme music yawnfests.

LOCRIAN Territories (AT WAR WITH FALSE NOISE / BASSES FREQUENCIES / BLOODLUST! / SMALL DOSES) Showing a continued intent to develop and reinvent themselves, Locrian augment their duo lineup with various key guests from Chicago's metal, experimental, and experimental/metal scenes. The result is as solid and satisfying as all of Locrian's releases have been, but given several fresh twists, which we hear right off the bat on "Inverted Ruins," featuring Mark Solotroff of Bloodyminded doing a killer job singing bleak lyrics and Andrew Scherer of Velnias playing kit drums, I believe a first for Locrian. Other temporary members include Bruce Lamont of Yakuza on vocals and saxophone, and perhaps most notably Blake Judd of Nachtmystium on guitars and vocals. All four of these ringers appear throughout the album, in different combinations, but not on every track... though only one track ("Antediluvian Territory") is by the original Locrian duo lineup, there is also only one track ("Procession of Ancestral Brutalism") that features all six musicians. Not surprisingly, it explodes out of the middle of the album as the most raging and traditionally black metal sounding track on here, though I might prefer the nearly 10-minute Solotroff/Locrian trio cut "Ring Road."

LONG-LEGGED WOMAN Drugs Don't Last Forever CS (PSYCHIC SNERTS) Well, they started as a good noise/psych/folk band and then jumped on the weird-punk bandwagon with their first 7". Now they've put out this cassette EP which continues the weird-punk styles, and, like the 7", does it well enough not to be dismissed. In fact, I really like the second song on here, in which folky distorto verses are alternated with double-time thrash choruses. It reminds me of that year or two pre-Nirvana when post-punk was becoming grunge all on its own, without any mass media assistance or major label money. A good ratty low budget sound. All five of the tunes on side one are like that, really. Side two is a single noise piece that hearkens back to their original style, more solid than it is mindblowing, but still a nice bookend to a good tape.

LONG-LEGGED WOMAN Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere LP (POLLEN SEASON) Okay, these guys have been threatening to do something pretty huge for awhile now, and this album is pretty huge. Really huge, even. Here they were genre-hopping from psych noise to psych folk to weird punk, and doing it all surprisingly well, but who knew that what they really had in 'em was burnt/raging 1990s psych grunge? This album just roars out of the gate with a yearning heartland/blues/noise feel that immediately surges up to (one hundred and) 11 and just never lets up. Raging guitars and drumming, vocals yowling from the guts and heart in a style not heard since prime Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du, et al. They self-released it, it got praised (by others, not just me), and then they broke up.

MAGIC LANTERNS High Beams LP (NOT NOT FUN) Stonery trudge from overly jammy L.A. scene. Riffs that will make you think of Sabbath and Hawkwind until a couple minutes in when you realize that, unlike those bands, this band doesn't really have much to say. It's initially exciting because they have an actual rhythm section and are actually playing a riff, but simply repeating one riff in itself isn't reason enough to simply repeat one riff. It doesn't even make you "minimalist," not when there's always at least one or two other guitars soloing away indifferently over the top of each other and everything else, a recipe for unseasoned psychedelic mush.

MAGIK MARKERS Balf Quarry LP/CD (DRAG CITY) I can't tell you how much their 2007 album Boss knocked me sideways. The songs on that album still haunt me; I can think of several right now and get the chills. A few people seemed to agree, but it hasn't been talked about as much as I expected. Right when it came out, people who wanted to be snarky kept saying it was "a Sonic Youth tribute album" (pretty sure I saw that line in at least two different places). Because they wanted to be snarky, they gave the album a superficial listen and then just wrote that because the album was on Ecstatic Peace and produced by Lee Ranaldo. Anyway, it took a couple years but here's the followup, Balf Quarry, which continues to work the rugged grunged-out dream-pop vein unveiled on Boss. Elisa's words and ideas take front center, remaining more composed and less improvised, and her guitar riffs are more strict, while Pete's drumming and general multi-instrumentalism continues to ground it all. The extended improvisational jam freakouts of the band's early days were downplayed on Boss, and even more so here. It's definitely a good and solid album, and newcomers should like it, but after three or four listens no one song is haunting me like all of those Boss songs did except one: the 11-minute album closer "Shells," in which Elisa sings a haunting melody over an even more haunting church organ type backing.

MANPACK VARIANT Put It In CDR (CHOCOLATE MONK) The curiously named Manpack Variant is a duo of one Chris Peck and Jaime Fennelly (of PeeEssEye, solo stuff, maybe more). They are accomplished musicians who are conversant in a lot of different experimental/noise sub-styles, and on this album they move around among them, remaining unpinnable and unpredictable. There's blown-out organ playing (including actual musical phrases!) on the 11-minute "The King is Gone," rather intense industrial/gamelan style workouts, other rhythmic things, noisy things, atmospheric things, a 10-minute track late in the game that is like a very serious take on blown-out No Pussyfooting type harsh noise blissout... the disc is 60 minutes long but manages to stay interesting throughout, always a rare compliment among the post-90s experimental/noise flotsam and jetsam.

MANY ARMS Ocean of Snakes 3" CDR (MAJMUA MUSIC) I fell for the Mahavishnu meets Black Flag hype on the one-sheet, but Mahavishnu already met Black Flag, and it was called Black Flag, and this is more Mahavishnu than it is Flag, which is to say the guitarist plays more notes and he plays them cleaner. In fact, the guitarist is maybe a little too good at his instrument. The drummer and bassist may be too but I can tolerate it more with those instruments. That said, I'm enjoying track 4 "Zilla (Jungle Cats)"... even though the guitar is quite wanky, the band is really going for it, all on the same page.

MATHS BALANCE VOLUME Lower Forms LP (SELF-RELEASED) After a few CDR releases, finally some wax from these deep underground Mankato MN miscreant tape/electronics/microphones/weirdness jammers, self-released, down and dirty, B&W paste-on style. Even better, they've used the 12" format to hone their long-form space-out jamming into weird shorter song-forms. There's seven tracks on here, anyway, and most of them have what just might be an actual lead vocalist, and a female one at that. If that's her on the cover along with the two creepy dudes in the window (who I'm assuming are the two dudes in Maths Balance Volume), then I'm a little freaked out.

MATTA LLAMA The Witch Channel LP (BLACK DIRT) Except for one fine track a few years ago on the great Space Is No Place comp, where they were billed as Mountains of Mata Llama, this is my first time hearing them and I am digging it. Recorded in 2006, this was the first session to happen in the then new Black Dirt Studio, and it consists of a few extended improvisational rock/psych jammers that put the "mental" in instrumental, in the vein of early and raw Ash Ra Tempel but with drums that are a little less mega-driving (if not altogether absent) than those of Klaus Schulze. Matta Llama ponders the dusty/dark/sandy side of krautrock and it gives them a distinct sound among legions of peers.

ROB MAZUREK QUINTET Sound Is CD (DELMARK) It's become rare for me to get an actual jazz album in the mail for review, but look at this thing, it's by an actual "quintet," it's got a picture of an actual bandleader holding an actual instrument on the cover, and it's got actual liner notes that get heady and deep on the subject of the actual music within... what is this, the early 1960s?? It is on Delmark Records, the Chicago label that put out several important jazz albums in the 1960s, and has continued putting out worthwhile records ever since, such as a lot of quality Rob Mazurek stuff, perhaps most notably his work with the Chicago Underground Trio. Now they've put out this new album Sound Is, and while it's very long (over 70 minutes) and doesn't necessarily work as a through-listen, it is filled to the brim with adventurous and often terrific music that can be traditional, futuristic, lovely, aggressive, and a lot of other things, and always definitely jazz. Mazurek plays cornet, synth, and piano, and has put together a very good band here, names that should be familiar to anyone who follows the Chicago scene: John Herndon on drums, Matthew Lux on bass guitar, Josh Abrams on acoustic bass and piano, and Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone.

R.MILLIS 120 CD (ETUDE) Field recordings, scratchy 78s... footsteps in a hallway, intangible stretched-out dream tone... alien insects, time put on hold and extended, desert guitar codas. R. Millis is a member of the Climax Golden Twins, and this first solo full-length under his own name may not be exactly what you expect... but then again it might make perfect sense. One of the records of the year for me... very engaging, haunting, and deep music that I wouldn't hesitate to call beautiful.

MARK MCGUIRE Tidings II CS (SELF-RELEASED) Man, this is straight up emo new-age post-rock cheese. And that is not a compliment (I know it's hard to tell these days). I mean, at least McGuire does know how to actually play music on his instrument, I respect him for that, and when his band Emeralds really hit the mark, it is often because of the way his delicate and subtly melodic guitar playing will gently surge into the mix before you even know it's there. He really knows how to blend with that band, but on his own his playing skill just kind of turns into washed-out pleasantry, and I've tried like five of his non-stop solo releases now... how can I help it, they're always downloadable for free on every blog and message board I look at, usually with all these 'best ever' and 'soooooo goooood' kudos plastered up and down.

MARK MCGUIRE Let Us Be The Way We Were CDR (WAGON) Man, this is a straight up excellent album. Everyone's always making baseball jokes with this guy, but McGuire has definitely knocked one out of the park here, and I have a feeling that performance enhancement drugs were involved. The reason I like it so much is the way it goes from the pleasant drift I've heard on his last 5-10 releases into something more like pleasant beat-oriented work, spreading out over a single 25-minute opus. I wouldn't call it danceable at all, but it is definitely more beat-oriented, and the real capper is the way he uses occasional real-life salt-of-the-midwest interview/documentary snippets as a framing device, putting the whole thing on an unexpectedly poignant level.

DAN MELCHIOR UND DAS MENACE 'Thankyou very much' 2LP (S-S) Double albums are certainly common enough in today's rock underground, but it seems like they usually get there through at least one or two (if not four) side-long jams and/or experimental suites... sometimes even just Side 4 etchings. Not 'Thankyou very much', on which the already-prolific Melchior offers up 16 songs, 4 per side. It's a double but it's fast-moving, with each 4-song side playing like a football drive, Melchior plowing ahead from song to song like a tough option-running quarterback. With song four he squeezes out another first down, and you flip to the next side. The first song "O! Anxiety" is especially goony/catchy, with some sweet drumbreaks, fat guitar riffs, and chanting vocals that even contain the phrase "ants in my pants." And there's a lot of good moody midtempo stuff on here too, like "Blue Tentacles" with its weird watery-vocal "how do you feel?" chorus hook and gutsy guitar soloing. "Williamsburg, Brooklyn" is almost embarrasingly straightforward with it's 'angry at gentrification' theme (the chorus goes "All these painters who don't paint any pictures/All these musicians who don't write any songs/Let's relocate them to ghettos in the city/The Starbucks will pop up before long"), but I like the backbeat and reverbed guitar hooks, and I can't say he doesn't have a point. Anyway, a lot of people have said "too many releases" recently about Melchior, and I agree with them, but this is still a good one to get if you wanna hear his songs.

THE MEN We Are The Men 12" EP (NO LABEL) Brooklyn band with a self-released 4-song 45RPM 12". Side A starts with some heavy hammer-down Am Rep style riffing, really locked-in and chugging... it's not the most original idea in this day and age but it's executed well. Unfortunately, from there the tune and really the whole record kind of gets lost in guitar solos, overly distorted recording and screaming, and general lack of hooks. The last song is called "Sketchy Pussy," which doesn't sound like something I really want to hear about, but by the time I get to it my brain & ears have checked out anyway.

MERZBOW Microkosmos Volume 1 LP (BLOSSOMING NOISE) First of all, after literally 100 CDs by the guy, it's strange and exciting to come across a Merzbow LP. Second of all.... drums! Live drums, in fact, played by the man himself. Heavy free-form trap kit playing supporting the thick layer of guaranteed noise assault. Apparently he's been doing this for a couple albums now, and I'd say it's a pretty exciting approach, almost like a Heldon album, with Mr. Akita playing the role of both Pinhas and Auger.

MOON DUO Killing Time 12" EP (SACRED BONES) I wasn't expecting too much out of Wooden Shjips subset band Moon Duo, the same way I don't expect much more out of Wooden Shjips than a one-chord rock groove repeated over and over, maybe with some vague rock shouting in the background, and that's pretty much what's here, with more or less the same overall dynamics, the debt to Spacemen 3 and Suicide maybe even more explicit. The thing with Wooden Shjips is that even though you don't expect much, they can still be pretty good, and that's true of Moon Duo as well. Now I did say "pretty good," not "great," but as far as a cool-sounding and underwritten record from Sacred Bones goes, I'll always take a spaced-out 9-minute drony jam that barely pretends to be songwriting over some 3-minute 80s-worshipping non-song that actually acts like a song (to the point where people on internet forums commend the artist for his or her "excellent songwriting"). My advice has long been that if you can't write anything too special, try to get good at jamming instead... and Wooden Shjips & Moon Duo have gotten pretty good at it.

MOUTHUS Divisionals LP (ECSTATIC PEACE) I just glanced over the Mouthus discography posted at, and at rough count they've released somewhere between twelve and fourteen full-lengths and counting. That's really too many records, and it would be by almost anyone, and in Mouthus's case they all kind of superficially sound the same... you know, no songs necessary, just some extended song structures, blasted-out guitar playing, distant moaning, and strange electronics, and you've got yourself another album. It is no doubt a powerful sound, but after you get their 2007 masterpiece Saw A Halo you only need a couple more. Thing is, it could be any two that they've released, and not in a bad way... they don't all sound alike, exactly, but they all sort of serve the same purpose, with an assured level of consistency. Every time I listen to a new one (and I have listened to a good 7 of 'em) I go through the same process: on the first listen I think, "Okay, just another burrowing murky Mouthus album with a few long drony tracks." Then, on second listen, I realize "But no one else really does noise-ambient improvised stoner metal better than these guys." This new Divisionals album is a perfect example. On one hand it sounds like yet another Mouthus album, but on the other hand, compared to the last three or four turgid stoner metal drone improv records I've listened to (including the GOOD ones), their creative energy is astounding.

MUDBOY Mort Aux Vaches CD (STAALPLAAT) To these ears this is the most solid Mudboy long-player yet. It doesn't come across as a solo keyboard album quite as much as This Is Folk Music did, but yet still hits hard with plenty of heavy solo organ. A couple quirk-threatening 'carnival' moments, or at least one early on, but he stays the course with focused material, does some interestingly evil-sounding things with heavy vocal breathing, and then builds that bridge from the 1960s to the 2000s with pulsing celestial monochord zone-out for most of the last half of the album. Comes in an tri-hinge plywood deal. (Oh, I guess Mort Aux Vaches is a series Staalplaat releases in collaboration with the Dutch radio station VPRO. The name is French for "Death to Cows," which is the French equivalent to "Fuck the Pigs" and it comes from May 1968.)

NAKED ON THE VAGUE “Chitty Chat” b/w “Goodbye Dear Cliche” 7" (SACRED BONES) An atmospheric avant-punk male/female synth/drumbox/guitar/vocals duo from Australia, and one of the few Sacred Bones bands I've heard before, thanks to their 2008 full-length on Siltbreeze. I wanted to like that one, and I tried several times, but it just never stuck with me, the obtuse atmospheric groaning electronics and reverb-swaddled vocals combining to trigger the old "one ear/other" syndrome. This new 7" on the other hand sticks pretty hard. Side A "Chitty Chat" is a short pounding and arresting rave-up, while Side B "Goodbye Dear Cliche" slows it down and zones it out like something that might've been on Siltbreeze in the 1990s instead of the 2000s, and may have even been called "haunting space rock" in an actual zine published on paper. I'd say it's the best Sacred Bones 7" out of both batches, not because it's musically spectacular... it's too short and abstract for that... but because it forgoes all the barking Ian Curtis vocals and electro dance templates and just sounds like a band simply being real with themselves and you.

NICE FACE Mnemonic Device 7" (SACRED BONES) The A side here struck me, on first listen, as yet more inexplicable cheese-intentional synth-wave worship from in particular Sacred Bones and in general the whole Brooklyn synth underground. Dance-punky 80s stuff that could almost pass for Ethyl Meatplow or something. Side B, however, is a guitar-heavier hard-driving punk tune that picks things up a good amount, thanks mostly to some truly ripping guitar solos. But it's still too little, too late when it comes to making this record a keeper.

NOMMO OGO Across Time And Space (RECORD LABEL RECORDS) A band from Alaska and the one-sheet led me to expect some sort of rugged electronic tribal psych band, here presenting a studio-reworked mix of live recordings from recent worldwide touring, and I really wanted this to be like Gong with Steve Hillage, and would've even settled for some Ozric Tentacles action, but it doesn't really gel for me. I mean, it never even sounds like a full band (i.e. doesn't seem to be a rhythm section anywhere in sight), just electronic glitch that could be by any one guy with a laptop... .

OBITS "I Can't Lose" b/w "Military Madness" 7" (SUB POP) I've never been a Froberg-is-G*d guy myself, but Yank Crime is definitely a great record.... and I'll take whatever he's doing over Rocket From The Crypt any day. This shit is cool, almost like a laconic/incisive/twangy Tom Petty songwriting take but backed with exacting post-90s Shellac-style riffing.

OFEGE Try And Love LP (ACADEMY) Reissue of a 1973 rock album by some Nigerian high-schoolers. It isn't quite the raw/chill stunner that my all-time gold standard Amanaz Africa is, but it is a really good album, very solid sun-dappled mid-tempo rock balladry, with some piercing psychedelic lead guitar that, together with an elastic percussive style, keeps the tunes at a deceptively high simmer. Also, it's really a beautiful sleeve by Academy, complete with a nice insert that has a recent interview with the album's producer. BTW, am I reading this interview right -- did Berkley Jones, the guitarist of BLO, "play all the guitar tracks in the absence of the band members"??

ONNA s/t CD (HOLY MOUNTAIN) Attention, fans of the Onna 7" that came out on Holy Mountain this year, you may very well want this CD edition too. Not only does it look great in an LP-style gatefold sleeve, it comes with extensive autobiographical liner notes by Onna main-man Keizo Miyanish, repros of some of his unsettling manga artwork, as well as old flyers and live photos and, most importantly of course, over an hour's worth of quality bonus tracks. The two tracks from the 7" are first, sounding just as addictive, ethereal, and punk/new wave/psychedelic as they do on vinyl. I really can't believe how entrancing these songs are... I love the way the second one, though clearly a different song, still seems to be an extension/variation of the first one, and when Miyanish or whoever/whatever does that bird-call at the end of it, I always get incredibly stoked. Track 3 is an outtake from the same sessions, and it has the same guitar/drumbox instrumentation and the same haunted eerie near-childlike vocals, but with a notably faster tempo. For the next two tracks we jump ahead 24 years to 2007. These tracks don't necessarily sound more contemporary than the older Onna material, but the approach has certainly changed; the first sounds like a more traditional and PSF-friendly take on jammy outsider rock, the second has an odd blues strut to it, and both have vocals in a less hypnotized/haunted/waved style than the 7". The next four tracks are from a live performance in 1983, the same year as the 7" material, and will be of particular interest to many, as Miyanish is joined in a duo by Michio Kurihara, the brilliant guitarist who went on to the better known bands Ghost and White Heaven. When the 7" came out a couple months ago, it had no personnel credits, and it was easy to imagine that the swooping, surging, and sometimes gently melodic guitar playing on the record was indeed Kurihara -- in the liner notes, Miyanish himself writes "Even now I can still feel his guitar soar within me" -- but the CD has credits, which reveal that guitarist as one Hiroki Mafuyu. On these live cuts with Kurihara, the band sounds surprisingly starker and sparser, like gagaku on Mars (the band, not the planet), just two guitars and voice playing skeletal spooked ritualistic songs, the last one a good 15 minutes long. The disc is rounded out by one more, described as "a solo piece from an obscure cassette release," with no year given. It's another long piece in which Miyanish hammers away on his guitar and sings, again with an ancient ritualistic feel that contrasts the sleek machine trance of the 7". Either way, I can't stop listening to the whole thing... I suggest that instead of going out for dinner tonight, you give that $20 to Holy Mountain instead, it'll get both the 7" and the CD shipped to you postpaid...

OUT LIKE LAMBS s/t CD (NO LABEL) From some of the same people that brought us last year's Harmonize Most High CD (mystical free jazz from the Jersey shore, on the Ruby Red label) comes this related project, which is more of a folk/pop/improvised hybrid. Four songs here, all with vocals, clocking in at around 25 minutes. It leans heavier on the folk/pop side, wistful cracked-voice balladry with a melancholy 1970s feel that (probably unintentionally) almost has a contemporary emo/pop lean to it. I like it better than that though, and yes, it does help that the songs are accompanied by some capable improvisers/disrupters who really work at the cracks, pulling the tunes apart a little bit and weaving them back together on instruments like cello and violin.

PANOPTICON EYELIDS Glitter Vomit CS (ABANDON SHIP) Kind of a Tom Waits thing going on at first... not the heartfelt show-tune fake-lounge bullshit, but the Harry Partch junkyard gremlin percussion side, which is also bullshit, but rather intriguing here because it's done by someone who isn't Tom Waits... then the jam pushes into some slightly twisted space-rockin' full-band w/electronics material that works quite well. Apparently some weirdos from Montreal, that's all I know.

PAPER HATS Deseret Canyon CD (SEBASTIAN SPEAKS) I'm afraid this is another review where all I've got is a tweet, but the album really is a good solid listen, so here goes: "Lambchop & Silver Jews sideman lays down alb of Fahey-ist dream-schmaltz & it works well 3:46 PM Jul 13th, 2009 via web". The guy's name is William Tyler, and I just found this webpage where you can hear some of the album right away, it's a nice little page, see if it still works:

STEFANO PILIA Last Days Vol. II 7" (PRESTO?!) This guy from Italy has put out records on various psych/rock/experimental labels like Last Visible Dog, Time-Lag, Sedimental, Die Schachtel, 8mm... this 7" is on Italian label Presto?!, who put out the excellent John Wiese LP called Zombie last year. It was recorded while Pilia was living in New York City, and side one has a Loren Connors feel, the sad solo minor chord arpeggios style, while side two has even more of a Loren Connors feel, the sad lead guitar wailing over minor chords style. The playing and recording do have a good dark desperate sound, and this would be a fine record for the listener who has never heard a single note by Loren Connors.

RICHARD PINHAS AND MERZBOW Keio Line 2CD (CUNEIFORM) This collaboration sounds exactly like you would think it would sound, just like every Merzbow album sounds exactly like a Merzbow album, and, whether it's the 1st one or the 50th, they all sound good. Really, his pulsing white noise is the perfect foil for Pinhas to sink his endless cycling synth-scapes into, giving him just the bite I think a lot of his recent work has been missing, at least in comparison to his work from 1974 to 1979 with the utterly biting (not to mention crushing, demolishing, detonating, etc) Heldon. And, at two chock-full discs, there is tons to dig in here... it just lasts forever, and sometimes that's a good thing.

PLASTO BETON s/t 7" EP (SDZ) I've heard of the label, it's from France, right? I bet the band is too, probably something fairly snotty and glammy, maybe even wearing leather pants, and it is indeed a pretty nasty 4 song EP, with heated vocals and a hard drum-machine/synth attack that really grooves... last song is called "Hard To Kill" which sounds like a trendy Brainbombs-esque title but Plasto Beton are their own beast.

PREDATOR VISION / SUN ARAW split LP (NOT NOT FUN) Oh man. First Magic Lanterns, now this. I just can't stop being down on Not Not Fun, and I'm sorry about that. But once again it seems like these bands are hiding... on a large scale they're hiding behind 'noise' and 'drone' and 'psych,' and on a smaller scale they're hiding behind 'reverb' and 'wah-wah' and 'distortion.' All of these things are employed to hide the fact that they don't have a message to say nor music to play, just a genre to bro down with. And genres alone do not make music or tell stories. I listened to the Sun Araw side first and it just bugged me. That said, there is at least more going on with it than usual... a good driving bassline over an interesting spare drum track, with some actual words (I think) being sung behind all the distortion. But it's all bathed and buried in an indifferent taped-down keyboad drone, tons of pointless wah-wah guitar soloing, distortion applied to every nook and cranny, no breathing room. I definitely prefer the Predator Vision side, simply because they are musical, with melodic jammy guitar soloing, a rhythm section that doesn't overbear, some actual room to breathe and move. Still bathed in a little too much indistinct reverb and still never amounts to anything memorable at all, but pleasant while it's on.

PUERTO RICO FLOWERS 4 12" (FAN DEATH) Ex-Clockcleaner (and Ex-USA, as Still Single put it) band delivers very slow and very serious gothic new wave pop songs. My very first response was that, at least genre-wise, this record is as inherently and intentionally corny as Blank Dogs or whatever 1980s act from the 2010s is currently recording somber new wave electro pop. My next response is that the record is a clear cut above all that, and it's because of the clean simplicity with which the songs are performed and recorded -- the band has an actual bassist and drummer, and no one's hiding behind any fuzz, hiss, screech, or vocal-obscuring FX. The lyrics are straightforward, heartfelt, and easy to understand. Sure, they could be taken as a sarcastic joke (every Clockcleaner-aware review will say this), but the completely unguardedly slow tempos (if I had a speed faster than 45 I would have tried it) and the clean and clear delivery lends them an air of honesty and gravity. (This just in: all instruments played by Clockcleaner vocalist/guitarist John Sharkey.)

PUMICE Persevere 7" (SOFT ABUSE) My favorite full-length Pumice record is Yeahnahvienna, from 2006 and also on Soft Abuse, but this 7" is just kinda perfect, even if two of the three songs are covers. Side A is a rumbling then reflective anthemic epic surf instrumental called "The Dawn Chorus of Kina" and it's a real head turner, especially at 45RPM, which I keep playing it at, but I don't think it's correct, because Side B seems to be 33, featuring a drowsy version of Michael Hurley's awesome "Open Up" ("eternal lips and swallow me"), followed by an Axemen cover, "Pacific Ocean," and after the surf rumblings of Side A and ocean-themed closer on Side B I'm starting to feel like the three songs are the wistful daydream of an aging ex-surfer, broke and sunburned, laying on the couch in his small apartment 4 blocks from the beach nursing a 12-pack on his day off. Persevere, indeed...

PURLING HISS s/t LP (PERMANENT) A new solo recording by Philly-based Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze. He plays everything on this one (guitars, bass, and drums), and the results are just as wildly psych-bluesy, if not more so, as the Birds, though maybe a little cleaner and slightly less raw practice-space than that band's Volume 1. Add in some serious extended lead guitar fluency (see the 10-minute-plus instrumentals "Montage Mountain" and "Purple Hiss"), as well as some intermittent chunky-riff and vocal-chorus garage-punk hooks, which are excellent as well (see opening track "Almost Washed My Hair"), and you've got a real good listen. About the only thing missing is that band feel, the way a band like the Birds of Maya can breathe in and out together, relax the tempo or make it surge. Now I'm really looking forward to the Birds of Maya double-LP follow-up to Volume 1, rumored/scheduled for release sometime in 2010 by Richie Records...

PURPLE RHINESTONE EAGLE Amorum Tali 45RPM 12" (EOLIAN) I'm definitely interested in the idea of an all-female retro-doom bell-bottomed power trio, and on this record the reality does a nice job channeling the dream. In other words: they've got good riffs, with some surprising but ultimately sly prog leanings. The band is from Philadelphia but has relocated to Portland (OR). You can hear the 90s/00s indie-rock roots in the lead vocals, but generally it all blends into the (pleasantly) foggy recording vibe and the galloping/somber/crude classical-metal riffing. This is a CDR promo but I hear the 12" packaging is nice.

RICE CORPSE Mrs Rice CD (DUAL PLOVER) Interesting one here in which Lucas Abela, the Australian dude who plays amplified broken glass with his mouth, travelled to China for a ten-city tour, starting with a stay in Beijing in which he formed a one-off improvisational trio with members of a crazy-sounding Chinese band called Mafeisan. The instrumentation supplied by the Mafeisan members is piano and drums, and they really make the music work here. Apparently pianist Li Zenghui is normally a saxophonist, and he supplies a great unschooled robotic trance-pulse here that frees up the "maniacal clown" drummer Yang Yang to really go off and deconstruct the jams as much as he drives them. In the meantime Abela grinds along like some sort of mutant homemade guitar, adding powerful vocalizations and roars to the flowing noise... he really is the Ian Anderson of broken glass.

LOU RONE Guitar Slinger CD (GULCHER) I thought the Gulcher Records label was cheap with their slimline CDs, but yo, they just sent me this new Lou Rone album in a sandwich bag! Regardless, I still like a very high percentage of Gulcher releases. I mean, the slimline series packaging may be disappointing, but the releases have mostly been excellent... Joshua Jugband 5, Magik Markers, Crawlspace, 12 Cent Donkey, Home Blitz, Kurt Vile, Meercaz, Gays in the Military... seriously, I'm hanging on to each one of those records, and the Kurt Vile was my record of the year for 2008. I even liked Lou Rone's Alone when it came out a few years ago (in an actual jewel case!)... it worked well in that mild-industrial sci-fi electronic-insect kind of instrumental rock scenario, especially after learning that he played with people like Rudolph Grey and Von Lmo in the 70s/80s. But ultimately, despite a good amount of effective drum-machine post-punk atmospheres, Rone's licks were just a little too 'shredding,' a little too 1980s Shrapnel Records (the fellow childhood Yngwie fans will know what I mean). This new one Guitar Slinger is similar but the fire has cooled even more.

RTFO BANDWAGON Dums Will Survive LP (DULL KNIFE) My intro to this band, and I didn't know what to expect (lo-fi, Columbus, dare I say shitgaze?)..... but this?? A band that sounds like one or two totally accomplished smart and cutting singer/songwriters with plenty of hooks and a crack backing band from say Nashville circa 1974 that has time-jumped just four or five years forward, just enough to know about The Fall and general post-punk guitar damage? And they only caught a brief glimpse of it, too, a very brief glimpse.... I really don't know what else to say but this LP has invaded my life with its completely well-done songwriting, casually adept musicianship, and sweet male/female vocals... I mean what's up with "Between the Ears" being such a C&W ballad masterpiece (the pedal steel guitar by Larry Marotta himself certainly helps a lot)? What's up with the stately soul of "Like A Bridge Over Dan Shearer," and the inzayne production on its piano overdubs? What's up with the album ending with like a 7-minute damaged-guitar instrumental reprise of the title track? What's up with the cover, the insert, the "dums" album concept? I don't know, you figure it out, I'll be happy listening...

RUSTED SHUT Dead CD (LOAD) I used google to figure out how to write the html code for that album-title cross-out, but if you go to the record store, just ask for "Dead." Pounding overblown snarling wasteoid punk-lifer dirge for middle-aged and soon-to-be middle-aged humans. A real summertime album; it sounds perfect while creeping and crawling down congested city streets in a hot car (after all these guys are from Houston, TX). This is more-or-less their first full-length album since the masterful Rehab came out 5 years ago, and it's a little more diffuse in its verbal aggression and full-band punch (perhaps because it's drawn from 12 years worth of recordings), but it still slays. There's a reason Rusted Shut take 5 years to put together a new album, and it's not really any of the tangential reasons you're thinking of: it's so that they can be sure to deliver a Rusted Shut album. They've done it again and fans won't be disappointed.

SANTAFIS Who Ate Santa Claus? CDR (NO LABEL); SANTAFRIENDS Give 'Em Elves CDR (NO LABEL) Hmmm, two Christmas-themed albums by the same artist, one released in late 2008 and one in late 2009, both reviewed in the same 'up-to-the-minute' column that I've clearly been working on for over a year now. Not very timely with my journalistic coverage, but whatever. At least I get to review both at once in a handy 'compare and contrast' style! The artist is CansaFis Foote, late of No Doctors, now of Careerers, and lately during the holiday season he's been calling himself SantaFis and recording some really weird versions of Christmas chestnuts. And the most immediate compare-and-contrast chestnut I can give you, the reader, is that the 2008 edition sounds more solo, electronic, and Ralph-y, while the 2009 edition sounds more full-band/collective and proggy, almost like Andy Mackay jamming with the session guys during some Roxy studio downtime, in a looser and wackier post-2000 confusion style. CansaFis seems to be getting more and more fluent on the saxophone, which lends well to that barrelhouse prog air. Pick to click is a tranced-out "12 Days of Christmas." (Oh duh, I just saw that the first one is by SantaFis, and the second one is by SantaFriends. So yeah, 2008 solo, 2009 band.)

SCRIBBLER My Old Lady 7" (STUMPARUMPER) The only band I know of from New Brunswick, Canada. First song "My Old Lady" is a fine haunted bit of Neil Young worship, and frankly these upstarts from the hinterlands out-Woods Woods with it. From there 5 more tracks crawl out from the vinyl, and things get louder, messier, and more punk, but also not as good. Not very well played and recorded in general.... you know, like a sketchbook, filled with... scribbles. I don't know though, I always root for underdogs, and mainly due to the lumbering Side B opener "Ocean Floor" I could see 'em pulling a Long Legged Woman and making a pretty killer album out of raw beginnings. Actually a "My Old Lady" b/w "Ocean Floor" 7-inch might've gotten a solid thumbs up...

SERVILE SECT Stratospheric Passenger LP (ECSTATIC PEACE!) I still want it to work, this whole black metal-meets-shoegaze pitch, but it just never really does. Maybe because the best black metal is already shoegaze, seriously... just listen to how inward and zoned-out early Burzum and mid-period Darkthrone are. The problem with "shoegaze" as a descriptor is that it makes younger supposedly dark metal bands of today feel like it's OK to use egregious dream-pop melodies and, even worse, chord progressions from 90's emo (see: Alcest, who use both to embarrassing extent, at least on their Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde album, which sounds like the Sundays, the Cranberries, and the Smashing Pumpkins, except the Pumpkins are much heavier). Servile Sect does not make these mistakes. It may not be a great album, but it's a notably good one for a very dodgy genre. Maybe it's because they're from Humboldt County.

SEYJANO s/t LP (EHSE) Very weird zoned/noise/cabaret songs sung over improbable electronic backings and fields by a small collective of Baltimoreans including synth/instrument/circuit builder Peter B, who had an epicly strange release on the Resipiscent label a couple years ago. You could call Seyjano "pop" but only in a lineage that starts with the Residents and detours a little to break off a chunk of the post-1993 output of Scott Walker before landing right in the middle of all the punk circuit-bending that young people of today were starting to do right as the 90s gave way to the 21st Century. To wit, Twig Harper is also involved, and indeed Seyjano sounds not unlike Harper's long-time weird band Nautical Almanac if they had gotten a new male lead singer and started twisting their raw noise materials into large shambling crooned pop songs.

SHADOW DRIFTER Old White CS (PLUS TAPES) Even if you're familiar with the Shadow Drifter (aka Little Howling Wolf aka Deacon Blue aka James Pobeiga of Justice, Illinois) from the 20 or 30 7" singles he self-released throughout the 1970s and 1980s, or his weirdo Twig Harper-produced 2005 future-caveman blues LP Brave Nu World on Ehse Records (hey, weren't we just talking about all of these people?), you still won't be ready for this tape, which is just the Wolf and an acoustic guitar singing six epic minimalist cowboy folk songs, one take solo. What's more, the leadoff title track is 14 minutes long, filled with non-stop verses and choruses, and there are two more versions of it, just as long, on Side B... not to mention that Side A is rounded out by two consecutive versions of a different 10-minute song. I don't know how often I'm going to devote an hour of my time to this thing, but these are damn good songs by the Wolf, and the tape is a moving, hypnotic, and heartfelt listen.

MIKE SHIFLET/RYAN JEWELL split CS (TEEN ACTION) Man, I listened to this once about two months ago and I guarantee you, it was REALLY GOOD. I think Shiflet does some kind of piercing high computer tones, very well composed, not annoying at all in fact, and Jewell... I can't remember. I wanna say it was a 15 minute drum solo, because I saw a picture of him playing drums once in the Married Life zine, but I think it was noise, and GOOD NOISE at that. Sorry about the caps, but I'm being a little defensive because it's hard to recommend an album that you can't even remember, and can't find anywhere in your apartment for a re-listen. (No cassette organization system whatsoever around here, sheez, I tell ya...)

SIKHARA Anduni CD (URCK) A "tribal percussion outfit" on an "extreme ethnic label" and the output is a lot like what that would suggest, though surprisingly low-key and distant. Heavy pounding rhythms with eerie quasi-industrial loops and tones floating over/around/through. Can't help but think of Crash Worship when I listen to it, at least that band's less Dionysian moments, when their beats were still pounding but their engine was idling... Sikhara has a similar sound, presumably without all the bonfires, drunkedness, nude sword swallowing, mandatory communal genital piercing, etc. In fact, their music as presented here may be a little too idle and distant to really connect, even when crazy post-industrial yelling is going on in its background.

SILENTIST s/t LP (CELESTIAL GANG) When this band's first record, a CD EP called Nightingales, came out a few years ago it looked and almost sounded a lot like a black metal record, and hence I've always thought of them as some weird US black metal band, even as they've gone on to play a sound that is more like some sort of electronic gothic hyper-prog with piano as the main instrument. Their records usually look good, and this is no exception with its cold B&W art, and there are some powerful tracks on it. But it just never kicks in as an overall album... maybe it's down to a few mis-steps in sequencing, or a few songs that were indistinctly written? Good EP band? Live photos look cool, listen to single tracks at

SKELETON WARRIOR/PRO BRO GOLD split 7" (ROOFLESS/CEPHIA'S TREAT) I seem to remember Skeleton Warrior being an actual excessive prog band a year or two ago (I should search my blog), but their song here reveals that they've since taken the blankdog bait with 1980s drum machine dance pop and blank dude vocals. Couldn't remember the song the second it was over (it's partly my memory, so easily blankdogged). Despite the band name I like the Pro Bro Gold side better... his Joy Division debt is even more egregious than most, and his synth parts are practically New Romantic, but the beats and bass are slammin' enough for it to be OK, especially with the extra-long breakdown in the middle.

SOLAR FIRE TRIO Hand To Mouth CDR (SKY-FI) New free jazz group from the UK. Tenor sax, alto sax, and drums. At first I feel like they aren't going to break out of the old 3 F's (flail, fumble, and/or fire), but on the longer track three "Stoney Ground" the drums trance out and the group uses the extended groove to dig into some music. Y'know, it's OKAY to swing, it's okay to groove, it's okay to play a melody, it doesn't mean you're soft. These guys know that, the last track "Savage Grace" is pretty musical too (although a bit overlong at nearly 18 minutes, including the now-forbidden 'dying a slow death WAIT they're still alive' denouement). Edition of 75, cool hand-made covers.

SONNY & THE SUNSETS The Hypnotist 7" (FUTURE STRESS) Four songs from a Bay Area playwright/author/singer/songwriter/other named Sonny Smith, with a chill backing band called the Sunsets (including Shayde Sartin of Flying Canyon, Skygreen Leopards, Giant Skyflower Band, Kelley Stolz, the Fresh & Onlys, and even more). The press materials call this "busted beach-pop," and even though the "beach" descriptor is starting to mean lame music, this time it feels right, like I would want beach-pop to sound, more like a new American Kevin Ayers or something than this whole Wavves debacle. Which is to say this guy sings soft, gentle, just slightly somber tunes with lines like "Life is like a Mondrian/spare and square and simple." Full-length coming this year on Soft Abuse. I might add that my copy of this 7" came with a great little comic book by Sonny himself about the travails of a fictional musician named Zig Speck.

SPERM Shh! Heinäsirkat LP (DE STIJL) Awesome reissue of a wild LP by a controversial sound/art/composition group from the Helsinki underground of Finland in 1970. This was on the Nurse With Wound list, and it's easy to see why, with slow-developing deep passages of almost-rock instrument/tape/reverb confusion and obtusion, as if they were doing a version of Xhol Caravan's Motherfuckers GMBH (recorded the same year) where all the parts requiring jazz chops were left out completely, and that includes the track they call "Jazz Jazz."

STATE CHAMPION Stale Champagne LP (SOPHOMORE LOUNGE) Take it out of the mailer and it immediately hits you with rather extravagant packaging. I mean, with today's grimy silkscreened editions of 300 to 500, a gatefold sleeve alone is extravagant, and how about a gatefold that is full color on both sides, on nice thick paper, and just to have a basically pointless big blurry digital camera photo of some trees taking up the entire inside spread. Now that's money to burn! Take the record out and it's on pointlessly clear vinyl, with pointlessly cryptic photos on the middle labels, sleeved inside yet another two-sided four-color print job, with lyrics on one side and a maybe wannabe Jandek photo of maybe the artist on the other side (a kid maybe graduating from high school, wearing a nice shirt and tie, posing under a nice suburban tree on a grey day while wearing a Santa Claus hat and a cryptic smile). Really, too much imagery, and that includes the way the band name, the album name, and the label name all kind of sound alike in a small tangle of pointless adjective/noun images. Anyway, if we're talking about orchestral singer-songwriter folk-rock albums recorded in Kentucky in the last two years with Paul Oldham somewhere in the credits, Warmer Milks did it a lot better with their 2008 album Soft Walks, and with much more economical and aesthetically pointed packaging.

STELLAR OM SOURCE Rise in Planes LP (BLACK DIRT) This is a lady named Christelle Gualdi, I think from the Netherlands, who is an "electronic musician and visionary artist." I've seen some live stuff by her on YouTube, if I remember right a collaboration with Warmer Milks, and it seems like I've heard another track or two on some unknown compilation(s), none of which prepared me for Side A of this, a superb piece of solo mind-dive synth improv jamming. For Side B she lays down a much thicker and monochordal drone, with vocals that eventually may or may not float distantly over the top, all with a steady dazed drum-kit backbeat by David Nuss. Really good cosmic music, nice funky private-press packaging.

SUETTA Olympic Stain (1994-1996) LP (SUMMERSTEPS) Flashback to the Lollapalooza generation and some rural Pennsylvania highschoolers under the influence of Dirty and the dark side of 120 Minutes are bashing out some demos. 15 years later one of the band members puts it on vinyl (100 copies), and I can see why. This is awkward, rough, and derivative music but it has a wild-eyed youthful born-in-isolation exuberance that most do not achieve. It also has that early-90s Homestead Records indie-rock drug-damage down surprisingly cold, although it's possible that these kids were getting it all second-hand, without actual Homestead Records and maybe even without actual drugs. Side B is a mock live show in a house that the parents had moved out of.... it's not as musically worthwhile as Side A but still has time capsule value.

SUN CITY GIRLS Fruit of the Womb/Polite Deception 2LP (ECLIPSE) Hey, the Cloaven Cassettes reissue project is back, still on Eclipse Records, here with #5, the first volume in four or five years. The idea is a projected ten double-vinyl releases, each one reissuing/reimagining two of the 20-plus cassettes that Sun City Girls cluster-bombed the scene with between the years of 1987 and 1990. Fruit of the Womb was "recorded 1984–85 between the first and second Sun City Girls LPs," and it features a lot of raw, scorching, glowing, go-for-broke versions of songs that are known ("Damcar," "Blue Mamba," "Trippin' on Krupa," "Rappin' Head," "Jokers on a Waltz") and songs that will always be unknown (such as Side B, the 25-minute diehards-only "When the Jewels Roll out of Your Eyes"). As for Polite Deception, it originally came out on the heels of Womb and, according to, "side one is a continuation of the previous tape listed." And, the flip features "Gulf Con '79," an impressive early long-form "industrial Mesopotamian Environmental piece," which proves that these guys could go 'industrial/dark ambient' with the best of the '80s crop. Edition of 950, gatefold sleeve, rad live photos, etc.

SUN WATCHER Two And A Half Men CDR (WAGON) Now this is more like it. New young psych improv music that actually breathes. Sun Watcher is a duo of Mark McGuire (of Emeralds and about 16 solo cassette releases in the last 17 months) and Shane Mackenzie (of Lambsbread). If you ever saw Lambsbread live, you know that Mackenzie played his ass off every time... here he shows a lighter and more meditative side that complements McGuire's explorations very well. It may not be Sandy Bull & Billy Higgins "Electric Blend" but it's possibly closer than anyone else has dared in the last 15 or 20 years.

TALIBAM! / WASTELAND JAZZ UNIT Ecstatic Jazz Duos split LP (THOR'S RUBBER HAMMER) Didn't play this one right away because of Talibam! These guys always scare me away, let me count the ways... one, the joke name and its de rigeur exclamation point... two, conspicuous facial hair and neon stage-wear... three, and most effectively, their always-clattery all-the-time 'tantrum' approach to improvisation. There's no doubt that they can play their instruments powerfully, I just wish they'd play some MUSIC together instead of merely rapidly accumulating tantrum-notes together. Wasteland Jazz Unit is the reason I finally put this one on, after being scorched by one of their CDR releases. They're a sax and clarinet duo from Cincinnati, and seriously, I've said it before, but these two guys overload their instruments with breath and amplification and lay down long sustained fields of desolation that only Borbetomagus has gotten to. Having them on vinyl alone makes this worth the pick-up... I'm thinking of it as a 'one-sided' LP.

THE TELEPHONE CALLERS s/t CS (NO LABEL) Crumbling decrepit thrashy punk-pop ineptitude from Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a long tape with a good 30 or 40 songs on it, but even though it's a total mess to get through I think this band could probably make a good 6-song 7" or something like that. They can actually play some melodic hooks and singing phrases on their guitars (and bass, and... piano?) and even if their tones and recording quality are horrible, they have enough skills and verve to create songs that actually move and vary musically, at best verging on a '1st Meat Puppets' kind of crashing yowl. They also remind me of that current teenage Cali band Audacity (see review elsewhere), in that they are also a noisy band that actually knows how to play minor chords, major 7th chords, maybe even a sus4 here and there...

TIMMY'S ORGANISM 2x7" (SACRED BONES) A double 7" in a sweet gatefold sleeve by Timmy's Organism, which is solo recordings by Timmy Vulgar, the lead singer of Detroit cult avant-garage punk band Human Eye. Because of the eccentric wildness of Vulgar's main band, I figured this stuff would surely stand out from the late 2000's Blankwash, but to be honest, at first it didn't. It still sounded like one guy in a bedroom with electronic equipment singing in a deep voice kinda like Ian Curtis. However, I think I had just gotten my ears Blanked out from listening to a bunch of Sacred Bones records in a row, because on a couple more listens it starts nosing above the pack. Vulgar's got a real singing voice and he writes real lyrics... the distortion on his guitars and bass or whatever is way over the top, nothing timid about it... and all of these records use 'sci-fi' sounds, but Vulgar uses ABSURD sci-fi sounds, the aforementioned over-the-top distortion, constant electro/synth whooshes and whistles that sound genuinely extraterrestrial... his guitar solos sound like space opera laser battles. Anyway, there's five tracks on these two records, and they're all real songs... still not reinventing the wheel but it's a fun listen and the final track "No Hassle" is an excellent driving zone-out rave-up.

TIN MAN Wasteland 45RPM 12" (GLOBAL A) This is a mysterious guy who makes your basic excellent dreamy 'minimal' techno, but he also sings, in the most deadpan voice of the 21st century so far, which makes this work as a really strange pop record too. You've gotta hear him sing "Just relax, man.... if you still can," it's perfect. Produced by Rashad Becker, which really adds to the mystique (and high quality sound).

TOUGH SHITS Pretty Wild 7" (RAMO) I want to like this label for its colorful 1970s rock glamor, although with their last batch the tunes just never quite cut it. Actually this A side by the Tough Shits is better than I expected, good enough sparse rockabilly choogle, not without a certain bearded heaviness. Hmm, B side isn't bad either, what works for them is a certain downtempo melancholy you might not expect from their band name, and it includes good harmony singing and decent hooks.

TYVEK s/t LP/CD (SILTBREEZE) Wow, I haven't heard this band since their acclaimed debut 7" in 2006... did they always have a flute? They certainly do on the first track here, and it works, which is a nice symbol for the way this whole album works, which is that Tyvek, who are most commonly and simply described as a "punk" and even "pop-punk" band, are in reality conversant in a few more musical languages than that, some only tangentially related: post-Beefheartian avant/angular, 70s/80s post-punk DIY sketch, 80s/90s indie/twee/pop, 60s/90s psych-rock, 70s/80s/90s/00s krautrock motor city drive, and yes, even hippie stuff like flute & bongos. It is an intentionally convoluted album, in which near-great new-punk mini-anthems come and go in a thicket of interludes, mini-jams, & rough riff-sketches that mostly barely clock in at a minute. But just listen to tracks 2, 3, and 4 for a perfect example of why I recommend this album... if you're playing at the aesthetic poker table that is the post-punk garage/home/DIY movement, now in its 33rd year of gambling, you know that tracks 2-4 is a great place to lay down your good cards (because track 1 can always be either an ante or a bluff), and boy do they do it here with "Summer Things" (a just-plain-great new-punk mini-anthem, never heard the Euro tour 7" B-side version, don't know if this is the same or a re-recording, don't care), a sweet little desert-guitar interlude called "Sonora," and then another great nervous/sweet/wistful/fast/twee song about a girl called "Hey Uma."

UKE OF SPACES CORNERS Flowers in the Night CD (CORLEONE) You might remember this group from their 2007 debut vinyl LP (reissued on CD in 2008 by Corleone). Since then, I'd say they've gotten more sure-handed and elaborate in the songwriting department, with eight longish songs (opener is 6:15, and there's a 5:22, 4:43, a 4:09, shortest is 3:37) that spread out for a fairly immersive effect, filled with surprise vocal hooks and melodic nooks and crannies over a sort of baroque country indie folk approach. There's a few excellent songs on here. Thing is, I think I liked the rawness of the first album better, the fact that it had time for diversions like an 8-minute Sun Ra cover/jam/homage... and finally, though they do remind me of Souled American at times, I ultimately feel too much 'campfire show singalong' in their quirky/exuberant leanings to fully sink in. I find myself yearning instead for the sheer chasmic balefulness of a Souled American or a U.S. Saucer.

U.S. GIRLS Me & Yoko 7" (NOT NOT FUN) U.S. Girls is a one-woman band and I think I listened to her debut LP on Siltbreeze, but it didn't make too much of an impression other than a vague, dare I say, moan-waviness? I need to spin it again, especially after hearing this 7". The A side is an outright song, and a good somewhat anthemic one, complete with an actual guitar riff. The B side, "Rise & Go," is moan-wavier, but still with plenty of raw post-Spacemen 3 soul, especially in the last-half chorus extensions. Good music, good artwork, good record, which is something I've been saying less about Not Not Fun as they seem to have over-discovered marijuana and are releasing a lot of 'rad sounds/no songs' full-length jam sessions these days... or maybe I'm just thinking of the career of Sun Araw.

UTON Unexplained Objects LP (DEKORDER) Maybe I've listened to one too many neo noisy ritual drone albums tonight, or maybe it's just that the neo noisy ritual drone album I happened to listen to right before this one was Bad Drumlin Grass's Live At Timber Cove, which is a pretty tough neo noisy ritual drone act to follow -- either way, I'm having a hard time focusing on or being drawn into the neo noisy ritual drone moves on this record. I know this guy is from Finland, and there was good stuff on a 3-CD set that Last Visible Dog put out by him a few years ago. Good stuff here too, and it has a musical feel to it (instead of mere genre/style), but, as with the LVD set, I find myself losing focus on through-listens.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Ars Magna Vol. 3 No. 6 (BEZOAR FORMATIONS) Compilation of 5 or 6 long underground psych/noise tracks in 22 minutes is a good listen. Credits are a little vague but tape features Canopy, John Shaw from Son of Earth (nice solo gtr piece), Ducktails, and I think one more that I don't remember. Label is from the Bay Area.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Just A Little Bit Of Milvia Son Records 7" (MILVIA SON) Jeez, what a veritable flood of set-aside 7's I finally have toppling onto my brain right now... so many bands, so much time... to wit, next up is a four-artist compilation 45 on Milvia Son Records called Just A Little Bit Of Milvia Son Records. First track is by Bob Frankford which does a nice enough job at warbly loner dream folk, though it may be a little too warbly. I can't believe he sings "O Carl, you laid out the stars" at the beginning. Jaki Jakizawa follows it with a good and bold if slightly obnoxious solo synth noise jam, called "Now You Hate The Swedes" after a sampled line at the end by a famous television actor I can't quite place. Side B holds interest, starting in a creditably blasted and fluent Dead C style with "Day Nudes" by Bad Drumlin Grass (more TV samples, these work really well), and ending with the best song of the lot, "Little Bit" by Petomane, who seems to be a one-name one-guy deal, you know, like Jandek, complete with lonesome cracked singing style, but Petomane has got a different kind of toughness. I can't believe he sings "just a little bit of your warm biscuit/just a little bit of your twinkies & cream" in the second verse. (I also can't believe that I just now realized that said line must've inspired this record's rather horrendous cover art!)

VARIOUS ARTISTS A Range Of GreatDividing CS (GREATDIVIDING) You might know of Australian label GreatDividing from a couple of 7-inches that were released earlier in 2009, reviewed by Siltblog, Still Single (of course), me (in this very column), and maybe no one else. Well they are back with a nice label sampler cassette release, about 30 minutes long, with the chronological range being 1989 to 2009. First track is by someone called the Shoptoprockers, "recorded above two shops by two blokes"... the year is 1991, and the melancholy slide-guitar folk/skiffle/punk bounce sure sounds like these Australians were catching that easterly breeze coming off the Tasman Sea from Flying Nun and Xpressway. Next track, by Exiles in Clowntown (who released one of the aforementioned 7-inchers), starts out with what the label describes as "white boy blues (yuk)" but it sounds like good ol' post-punk skeletal guitar dirge to me, which may very well be the white boy blues, no yuk necessary. From there it gets into more instrumental dirge by the legendary-to-some 3 Toed Sloth, another good one by the Shoptoprockers, a wonderful bit of Kilgour/Barrett grunge-whimsy by Rock Boycott called "Life Like," and quite a bit more. It all flows very nicely with ongoing natural post-punk true-grunge fluency and confidence, to where the difference between a track from this decade and the previous decade is not especially noticeable, or especially important.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Shiftless Decay: New Sounds of Detroit LP/CD (X!) "...a slice of the sounds that defined Detroit between roughly 2005-2009." Sometimes comps come along that just feel right, and this is one of them. I was paying attention to some of this stuff as it initially came out here and there on 7-inches and kinda pegged it as more merely decent retro garage, but having it all together in one place, with excellent context-supplying liner notes by label head Scott Dunkerley, and, no joke, the loud presence of digital mastering for CD (much like the Monoshock CD from 2004) really elevates the material. X! basically has one foot in today's standard-bearer In The Red style garage and the other in the avant garage of Load. The latter puts the former on a knife edge that not all labels/movements can or may even want to muster. Tentacle Lizardo start things off with a high-speed chromium burner called "Haunted Closet" and then Human Eye tear right into "Fix Me First Universe Nurse" which sounds like an aesthetic anthem on title alone, and then bands like the Frustrations, Terrible Twos, Fontana (all three sounding great and better to me than they did on vinyl), Tyvek, and others I know less about like Heroes & Villains and The Mahonies. Surprise highlights are a vaguely rockabilly number by the Johnny III Band (that's ILL, as in sick, not "the Johnny the Third Band" as this Helvetica type would have you believe) and what is definitely the best Little Claw track I've heard so far, the stomping "Feeding You Your New Home". Odd Clouds close it out with a pretty sweet 5-minute psych/jazz jam. And hey, the whole thing clocks in at like 34 minutes, so you know it's gonna be pretty punchy.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Solo Guitar 3xC20 BOX (WINEBOX PRESS) This is pretty massive, "Six solo guitar players from America and blighty: Tom Carter, M. Valentine, Tom Settle (Serfs), Jon Collin, Ross Parfitt, and Infinite Light. Edition of 64 made from an old bed." I guess various parts of the bed were used to make a winebox for the cassettes, because mine come in a rough little cassette-sized wooden box with a hinged lid, stuffed with hand-designed cassettes that come out like a gentle puzzle. Not surprisingly, this is one of those comps where the energy of the presentation infuses the act of listening to the music, to the point where none of the musicians seem to hit a wrong note. (The 6CD Elegy Box on Last Visible Dog also comes to mind.) "Solo guitar" is the theme, but not a single imitation-Fahey rut is fallen into as the music goes from sparsely humming urgency (Parfitt) to chiming delay-pedal bliss-out (Carter) to spaced electro-acoustic rhapsody (Matt "MV" Valentine) to steel guitar magma (Settle) to dreamy minimalism (Collin) to mangled heavy ballad deconstruction (Infinite Light). I find it very easy and fulfilling to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, one side right after another.

VIBES Psychic 7" (NOT NOT FUN) Some sort of Not Not Fun supergroup (i.e. overly stoned jam session) with members of those inveterate record-releasers Pocahaunted and maybe even Sun Araw himself. After listening to the last couple Pocahaunted albums and anything by Mr. Araw, I would expect these vibes to harsh me, but after reading a rave review in Z Gun I'll give it a shot... 4 songs at 33 revolutions per minute... and you know what, it is pretty excellent. They've definitely made up these songs very recently, as the girl singing hasn't really written anything in advance except titular chants, but as long as she can come up with melodic/phrasing hooks like the funky ones in 2nd song "Dead Horses," for one example, I'm cool with it. Meanwhile, the band comes off like a somewhat cruder West Coast answer to Baltimore's always-cooking Crazy Dreams Band, sick and sizzling nerd funk. Side B does fine too, with what may be a "Mushroom" rethink followed by a sassy closer with a New No Wave hook that goes "I'm not happy/I'm not happy/I'm not happy anymore more moar moar." This and the U.S. Girls 7" are definitely my favorite NNF records in some time.

KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS The Hunchback EP 12" (RICHIE/TESTOSTERTUNES) Mr. Vile's 'official' debut album Constant Hitmaker was Blastitude's favorite album of 2008, but on this brand new follow-up he kinda sidesteps away from the one-man constant hitmaking... now he's got a backing band and they casually throw down a few loud machine-trance workouts, getting into a cool urban grind, a little more grim this time. On the first album there was a fair amount of sun breaking out of the haze, but now it's definitely night-time. Also, this EP doesn't use any of the spaced-out solo fingerpicking styles that are on the first album, and while on first spin that was slightly disconcerting, on second, third, and now fourth, I don't mind at all. I don't even mind that four out of the six cuts are instrumentals, or that the record is over way too fast... makes it that much easier to play it again...

KURT VILE Childish Prodigy LP/CD (MATADOR) So far I've loved every one of his records immediately, but I was quiet about this one when it came out... as his Matador debut, I initially felt that it was a decent but not hype-commensurate record... and now I have no idea why I felt that because I saw him play a great live show, and have listened to this album a good 20 times now, and I think it's extremely good, each song a delight, from the slow, bellowing new version of "Hunchback" that opens it (including the lines "slither up just like a snake upon a spiral staircase," borrowed from another Kurt song "Beach on the Moon," which is itself a melancholy solo reworking of Kurt klassik "Freeway"... what kind of fractured mosaic is this guy putting together?), to the weird fingerpicking shouter "Dead Alive" that follows it ("You tell me a good man is hard to find, what was that??! YOU BETTER REWIND!!!!") to the lovely "Overnite Religion" and it's Jimmy Page undercurrent (an overcurrent in this performance), to the epic trance anthem live favorite (and debut video!) "Freak Train," to another Zeppelin III style solo ballad called "Blackberry Song," to the rather gloriously shoegazey Dim Stars cover "Monkey" (never heard the Dim Stars, always thought they'd be more aggro than this), to "Heart Attack" which opened said live show so well, to "Amplifier" (more Zep III, this time with some of that trumpet he didn't dump), and then the key late-album head-turner, the 6-minute plus "Inside Lookin' Out," which floats the album home on a Bo Diddley-beat magic carpet, powered by Trbovich's spacey harmonica and Vile's serious blues shouting. The way he sings "GOT THE BLUES SO BAD!!!!!" and how well it works makes me wonder how Vice Magazine could call this album "blues rock" as an insult.

VIV Sea Shell Listening CD (PEBBLE) This is a group from the Brighton, England area... they sent a 3" CDR two or three years ago (under the name of Vole) and it was good and fresh-sounding improvised music, essentially free jazz but with a strong folk and prog undercurrent, a distinctive group tone that has come even further to the fore on this superb new full-length. Standard instruments like saxophones and drumkit mix uniquely with marimba, tapes & electronics, folk-style acoustic guitar, and other intangibles for big long tunes that are in fact mostly swells of dynamics and tone, certainly as close as anyone else has gotten to late-period Talk Talk playing the sound of strong flower petals breathing quietly after a thunderstorm.....

ZACH WALLACE Glass Armonica CD (ROOT STRATA) Guy in Michigan builds a hand-cranked machine to rub wine-glass rims and play music, here's a CD of it. Really nice release, typically sharp Root Strata packaging and a sweet listen. When it comes to drone/dream music, sometimes machines do it best.

WASTELAND JAZZ UNIT Absence Pact CDR (OUTFALL CHANNEL) Wow, I haven't heard people start from an improvised/jazz basis and just scorch like this for a long time. I mean, there's the Heat Retention label, which has definitely been working a noise/jazz hybrid in the last few years, heavier than most... there's stuff on the Pendu Sound label that comes to mind, like Ghost Moth with Daniel Carter or the Getting Rid of the Glue comp LP... but after listening to the blistering first couple minutes of this disc, I was a little shocked when I looked at the credits and saw that it was just two dudes, one on sax and one on clarinet. I thought for sure there was a guitar in there, some electronics, more than two people, that sort of thing. Not only does this duo sound like the trio lineup of Borbetomagus, it sounds like the trio lineup of Borbetomagus WITH VOICE CRACK. Do you know what I am saying? 3 tracks, 25 minutes or so, 'stained' canvas digipak, good record.

WEREWOLF JERUSALEM The Reincarnation of Isabel CS (AFTER DEATH) Hey, a tape by Richard Ramirez -- I remember him being interviewed in Muckraker magazine, when was that again, 35 years ago? I certainly remember his memorable name, but I don't really remember his music, so this tape might as well be my intro to the guy. Side A "She Was Buried Alive" has some nice warm and crunchy direct static that just sits there and calmly burls. Sounds like "she" is no longer trying to claw her way out. Side B is called "Rita Calderoni"... maybe that's who Isabel got reincarnated as. If so, she must be a real piece of work because this side is a bit of a rager in a wall style. Did I use "wall style" correctly? I really don't know, but I do know that this is just how I like a noise tape to sound, 10 minutes or less per side, with no woopsy-daisy loud-soft stop-start antics, just direct and full-on, absorbing and mesmerizing.

JOHN WIESE Zombie LP (PRESTO!?) Sturdy new LP by modern experimental composer John Wiese on Italian label Presto!? Actually he's a "noise musician" but this LP is done up complete with composer photo, extensive performance notes, the actual score for one track included as an insert, and some effective conceptual heft about loop usage and the nature of the revolving vinyl record. First track is a lock groover, to be played for 21 minutes... you have to do the timing and take it off yourself, or you'll never get to track two, which is a noise piece that stretches out a section of a live performance by Wiese's grind/screamo band Sissy Spacek for a good 12 minutes. And then, side two, the star attraction, Wiese's version/edit/remix/loop of the song "Zombie" by Drunks With Guns. He uses the version from 1992, when their lead singer was "Melissa," and her 14-year-old vocals pierce through the air somewhere between a horrific child-soldier war-cry and an incredible slapstick comedy joke. (Also, Drunks With Guns, Sissy Spacek, and Wiese himself are all from in and around the city of St. Louis, Missouri, midwestern regionalism becoming another layer of conceptual glue for this record.)

WOODEN VEIL s/t CD (DEKORDER) Strange Berlin-based collective that seems to dress up and even build theatrical sets to perform their music, which is some pretty intense industrial weird folk. A few tracks in and I'm thinking about throwing a "Comus-meets-Neubauten" at ya... and if this was 20 years ago I might even throw in an "on acid" at the end of it...

WOODS Songs of Shame CD (SHRIMPER/WOODSIST) The singer's high folky voice seems to be Termbro kryptonite (I guess I'm just thinking of the review in Z Gun #3), and their bearded woodsy urban folkie milieu would indeed seem to be potentially played out in these late 00's, but against these odds Woods have made another fine album, maybe not quite as good as last year's Family Creeps, but close enough for my enjoyment. In fact, what makes Songs of Shame is the same thing that makes Family Creeps; both albums have a rad 7-minute-or-so instrumental psych jam (this one with Pete Nolan on guest guitar) somewhere in the middle that separates and paces out a nice shambly set of midtempo ballads and mild rockers that somehow just avoid the Pitchfork-approvable ProTools production washout that most otherwise-heartfelt neo-beards seem to get stuck in (I'm thinking of bands like Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, and Grizzly Bear, but I've never even heard those bands so what do I know).

YOGA Megafauna CD (HOLY MOUNTAIN) I'm trying to get into this album... I've listened to it several times, it's on one of my favorite labels, it's got some sort of rad Mothman on the cover, it's supposed to be some sort of avant-garde black metal, and, lord knows, for some reason, I still have not given up on black metal, or even avant-garde black metal, BUT.... it just goes in one ear and out the other. I'm afraid it's another case of rad soundz no songz, because the sounds are certainly rad, with all kinds of avant/noise/folk/drone moves cropping up throughout, catching my ears and sparking excitement each time they hit the wall, but none of it sticks, just slumps down to the floor, out of view until next time. It's like all the ingredients are there but the riffs are missing, which means there's no architecture to the tracks; the sounds are cool but it's all just constant design without foundations. The label compares Yoga to black metal Throbbing Gristle, but TG was/is seriously architectural -- their tracks have very strict foundations. Someone else on the internet described Yoga as a black metal James Ferraro, which is more accurate, because Ferraro's music also tends to be constant design without foundations. Rad jams, no songs. You can do worse if you want to listen to something, because "rad" is still in the description, but the lack of songs do not make it one for the ages.

ZAIMPH Metal Machine Music CD (HEAVY BLOSSOM) Solo music by Marcia Bassett of Double Leopards. I raved about her 2007 LP Mirage of the Other when it came out, as it seemed like such an effectively hushed and glowing amplification of some small and suddenly mysterious part of the room, but this new CD isn't really doing it for me. Is it because it's CD and not vinyl? Is it because my ears have changed in the interim and they are no longer as perked by increasingly proliferate ambient metal shoegaze noise drone stylings?

ZOLA JESUS The Spoils LP/CD (SACRED BONES) It took me a little bit to come around to this Wisconsin chanteuse, simply because I assumed that she was like most of her synth-wave peers, rushing out some cool sounds without having it together in the songwriting department. But now, listening to the CD version of her new album The Spoils, which tacks her first two seven-inches on at the end, I realize that she actually started out writing tighter more classically keyboard-driven songs and is only now evolving into something where the individual songs are not as important, at least not driven by their component parts (phrases, chords, hooks, instrumentation) so much as an overall bellowing and swirling movement, more like sustained rhythmic weather patterns, sometimes gusting, sometimes calmer. The rather harsh power electronics edge that she has always brought is both more pronounced and more submerged into the overall character of the music. And yet, now that I've listened several times, I'm starting to hear hooks bigger than anything in else this whole 80s-pop resurgence I would consider Ms. Jesus part of... "Clay Bodies" for example. That said, my favorite songs are the intense, seemingly wordless arias like "Sinfonia and the Stew," "Lullaby in Tongues," and the particularly stormy "Tell It To The Willow."

ZOLA JESUS Stridulum EP 45RPM 12" (SACRED BONES) Sorry to all you avowed family haters, I know you're out there by the hundreds, but I had to let my 4-year-old daughter help me review this new Zola Jesus EP. Y'see, earlier tonight we were playing this thrift store record called Theme Music For The Film 2001 A Space Odyssey And Other Great Movie Themes on the living room hi-fi, and when Aram Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" brought it to a stirring finish she got a little excited and asked, "What kind of music is this even, CASTLE MUSIC??" Her brother Phil and I thought that was pretty funny... and astute! Next, I put on said new Zola Jesus EP Stridulum for the third time in two days because I was trying to like it better. Right from the first time I played it, I thought it sounded great; definitely her cleanest recording and tightest songwriting, but I just wasn't getting any memorable tunes from it, nor any of the powerful forces I got from her previous album The Spoils. The six new songs all sounded very accomplished in that dark-but-triumphant formula that she has basically mastered, but where The Spoils swept me around from highs to lows, this just kinda plodded along in the mainstream-ready middle of the road. Anyway, this time, with the kids listening, it did sound better, that upbeat poppiness that really could make her a star standing out more undeniably, and Phil asks Claire with a sly grin in his voice, "So is this castle music too?," and without missing a beat she says, "Yes. Now the queen is singing." You can't front on that.

(Some got reviewed above, some didn't, here's a rough Year End Top 20, more or less in order of favoritude)

Blues Control Local Flavor (Siltbreeze)
Kurt Vile Childish Prodigy (Matador), The Hunchback EP (Richie), God Is Saying This To You (Mexican Summer)
Moritz Von Oswald Trio Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's)
Peaking Lights Imaginary Falcons (Night People)
Polvo In Prism (Merge)
Bill Orcutt A New Way To Pay Old Debts (Palalalia)
Jack Rose & The Black Twig Pickers s/t (VHF)
R. Millis 120 (Etude)
Long Legged Woman Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere (Pollen Season)
Eat Skull Wild And Inside (Siltbreeze)
Mi Ami Watersports (Quarterstick)
Sir Richard Bishop The Freak Of Araby (Drag City)
Magas Violent Arp (Punch)
RTFO Bandwagon Dums Will Survive (Dull Knife)
Group Bombino Guitars From Agadez Vol. 2 (Sublime Frequencies)
Cheer-Accident Fear Draws Misfortune (Cuneiform)
Caethua Village Of The Damned (Bluesanct)
Zola Jesus The Spoils (Sacred Bones)
Tyvek s/t (Siltbreeze)
Implodes s/t (Plustapes)
Lightning Bolt Earthly Delights (Load)

I remain a predictably huge fan of both Blues Control and Kurt Vile, but trust me, it's only because they keep releasing fantastic albums. The Moritz Von Oswald Trio took the dubbed-out electro-chillness of Von Oswald's Basic Channel era into masterful live-band improvisational territory. Peaking Lights emerged from the 'rad soundz/no songz/did I mention something about weed yet' Not Not Fun/Night People scene with a genuinely stunning album of entrancing songs and rhythms, highly recommended. In a decade marked by constant festival-circuit indie-rock reunions that usually result in no new music, Polvo got together after 11 or 12 years apart and recorded one of the heaviest, boldest, and most expansive heavy/weird rock albums of their whole career, all new material. Harry Pussy founder/guitarist Bill Orcutt also emerged from a sabbatical that covered almost the exact same years, roughly 1997 to 2009, with a blistering raw weird blues album somehow recorded on a 4-string acoustic guitar. Why didn't Fat Possum pick up this album instead of Wavves? A similar question could be asked about the next album on the list -- when Jack Rose unexpectedly passed away late in the year, he was making some of the best solo acoustic music of his career, but I thought his real '09 masterpiece was the album he cut with the Virginia-based post-Pelt Black Twig Pickers. Not too many people these days know how to play roots music at all, let alone root music that swings like hell, and even if they do, the odds of them wearing old-timey brimmed hats and some sort of cute suspenders are just too great to face. Rose & the Twigs don't dress for it, they just do it, and the result is a blast to listen to. Justin Farrar can tell you all about it in this definitive band profile/travelogue, also published in Yeti #7. The solo CD by R. Millis called 120 may not show up on too many year-end lists, I don't know, but it's a heavy album, and if you're interested in any of the above, you should maybe just check it out first. He's perhaps better known as a member of the Climax Golden Twins, who could almost pass for a guitar band, but this CD is a haunting suite of jarring samples from old records stretched into long-form extended atmosphere, dream presence and subliminal placement. Shit, I'm gonna put it on right now. Long Legged Woman was another one of the year's out-of-nowhere surprises... after a few decent-to-quite good releases, on which they tried a few different styles with varying degrees of success, with this LP they somehow locked in on a furious and howling proto-grunge sound that sounded like it was coming straight out of 1987, sort of like how when you look at a star burning right in front of you in the sky you're actually looking at something that actually happened a couple hundred light years ago. (Bear with me, I'm working towards a definition of the rockwriting cliches "primordial" and "timeless.") Eat Skull emerged from the occasionally too-hastily dismissed shitgaze movement to remind us that even in allegedly played-out genres actual songwriting will still result in an excellent album, as opposed to mere stylewriting, which is much easier, far more common, and employed by artists who can make sounds but have nothing in particular to say. The "Dawn In The Face" and "Oregon Dreaming" close still haunts me, right now, but then so does the relatively joyful "Stick To The Formula" and "Cooking A Way To Be Happy" open, not to mention most of the songs in between. I almost forgot about the Mi Ami album because it came out waaaaay back in January on some defunct label called Touch & Go/Quarterstick, but its mixture of driving frenetic post-punk shock-attack with dubbed-out tranced-out deep stillness definitely keeps it on this list. The Sir Richard Bishop album is such a stately affair, loving versions of and homages to traditional Middle Eastern tunes, that it didn't even really register with me as the extremely effective Arabic/cowboy/surf/punk/shred hybrid that it is until I saw him play the songs live in Iowa City back in June. When I got home the next day I played the album five times in a row, and it has since become a household staple. Magas continues to hone a sound that could be described as 'post-techno' back into something that is more primally and timelessly rock & roll, and Violent Arp may be his definitive statement thus far. Underneath the driving synth and drumbox madness, a tune like "Whiskey Nights" sounds as much like 1959 psychobilly as it does 2009 electro. RTFO Bandwagon surprised me with a very ambitious album that adorns a basic lo-fi Ohio singer/songwriter sound with totally legit and heartfelt country, soul, and orchestral moves, without letting the avant-noise undercurrent dry out either. For the last 5 or 6 years, every time I do a year-end list I always have one spot that just says "everything Sublime Frequencies released" and that's pretty much true this year too, with special mention for their Siamese Soul and Singapore A Go Go comps, but if I had to pick just one of their releases from this year it would be the entrancing acoustic and electric desert-blues Tuareg-rock LP by Group Bombino. This year, one of Chicago's greatest and longest-running bands Cheer-Accident found a perfect label home with venerable prog institution Cuneiform, and appropriately released one of the most straight-ahead albums of epic heavy-prog mastery of their 27-year career. Caethua is a one-woman project currently based somewhere in distant Maine... she's released a few cassettes and CDRs of promising eerie folk songs but it all came together for me on her Village of the Damned release, her most memorable songs yet, interspersed with very effective drone/ambient atmospheres, all informed by "the village where I grew up called Dryden, where a long string of murders (dating back to when the village was founded) cursed the land." A lot of people seem to be messing around with some sort of mix of 80s pop, goth, synth, and drum machine would-be darkness these days, and usually it strikes me as kind of unimportant, but Zola Jesus also broke the mold this year with her album The Spoils. The songs still aren't necessarily what stands out ("Clay Bodies" notwithstanding) so much as the way the overall album rises and falls like heavy weather and other natural forces. The self-titled Tyvek album on Siltbreeze got some criticism for its sketchbooky odds-and-sods nature, but I'm putting it on here for tracks 2 through 5 alone, driving-anthem-of-the-year "Summer Things," a distinctive 50-second interlude called "Sonora," a jumpy poppy punk love song called "Hey Una," and a definitive manifesto "Frustration Rock." Hey, they've always been a singles band, but I still found this, their first release longer than 10 minutes, to work very well as a through-listen, as the band is fluent in quite a few more styles than it might initially seem (DIY, pop, twee, kraut, psych, and more). Another record that I found myself playing over and over this year was the self-titled cassette by Chicago group Implodes, sometimes to try and dig in and see what was going on underneath the treacherous wind-blown exterior, other times just to let go and drift in that heavy, bleak, and morose outer layer. Either way they are a band that plays songs, and that remains crucial. Lightning Bolt has long been a favorite band at Blastitude HQ, and they did not disappoint with their first album in 4 years, the epic Earthly Delights. Just as they are pushing the envelope further than ever when it comes to insane riffs and psychotronic production, they somehow seem more rooted than ever in 1970s holy-grail hard-rock. One of the definitive bands of the decade, for sure. (Speaking of which, stay tuned for a Best Records of the Decade list that we've started to put together... hopefully we'll have that nailed down by, oh, 2015 or so...) 


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