Cleta Patra

Blue Dolphin Robert’s Lafitte LP

Robert’s Laffite rounds up three small-run cassettes and a few previously unreleased tracks from this Houston/Austin quartet, who existed for a short spell (2016–2017) around its members’ stints in big-deal ’10s DIY sensations like MYSTIC INANE, PATSY, INSTITUTE, C.C.T.V., CHRONOPHAGE, etc. (and that’s just the abridged list). Vocalist Sarah Sissy’s delivery has a blasé, almost Su Tissue-ish edge, standing strong as the eye of the storm while the rest of the band spirals into wild, detuned abandon with the pointed primitivism of the URINALS, some MINUTEMEN-inspired trebly breakneck grooves, and a sheet of blotter paper worth of sun-baked eccentricity à la early MEAT PUPPETS—the freewheeling art-punk scramble of “Cindy” and “Ida” melts down into the dusty twang-pop of “Buying Time” and “Virginal Mystery,” with tracks like “Emerald Cherry” and “Licking & Kissing” left to gallop in the spaces in between, presaging (just barely) Houston’s fellow blink-and-you-missed-them Keats Rides a Harley resurrectionists VIVIENNE STYG. The recordings are emphatically lo-fi, buried deep in layers of tape hiss and analog warble, and listening to Robert’s Laffite is an almost voyeuristic experience of picking out distinct forms from little more than shadows and light, but rewarding one at that.

Chronophage Prolog for Tomorrow LP

I’m horrifically late writing this review. I’ve been putting it off because I’m so afraid I won’t be able to do justice to this brilliant, unique, compelling debut LP by Austin’s CHRONOPHAGE, one of the best and most interesting bands in the world right now. This record sounds like everything I want when I see the tag “DIY” applied to a band: it’s chaotic but confident, it’s off-kilter but unbelievably catchy, and it sounds like it could have been made only by them. They’ll probably get a lot of comparisons to the Messthetics compilations, and that’s fair (although I think the Homework series would be more apt, since CHRONOPHAGE sounds unmistakably American to my ears), but it’s also frustrating. CHRONOPHAGE doesn’t sound like the past; they sound like the future. Or at least they sound like the future that I want to live in. Prolog for Tomorrow gets my strongest possible recommendation.

Chronophage Th’ Pig Kiss’d Album LP

CHRONOPHAGE’s 2018 debut LP Prolog for Tomorrow skillfully synthesized a whole host of outsider pop influences from the past half-century (New Zealand’s Flying Nun/Xpressway scenes, scratchy UK post-punk, the weirder strains of vintage college rock, ’90s lo-fi indie, etc.) without it ever falling into a haphazard pastiche, and its follow-up Th’ Pig Kiss’d Album only further refines that kitchen-sink approach—a band clearly operating on a contemporary DIY punk wavelength and all that goes along with that, but sounding more like a deep cut from the late ’80s Homestead roster alongside SALEM 66 and MY DAD IS DEAD or something. “Absurdity” and “Any Junkyard Dreams” tilt toward brittle and skittish art-punk, with bassist Sarah’s soft-but-deadpan vocals drifting out over of squeals of damaged keys, “Talking Android” and “Siren Far Away” are slightly twangier Texan takes on the HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s wiry ’60s garage/’80s post-punk duality, and “Heartstone” starts out in hyper-minimalist YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS/MARINE GIRLS territory and ends up (not far away) in the K Records-adjacent early ’90s pop underground. If you spent your formative years staying up all night to obsessively record tapes of college radio shows and/or 120 Minutes episodes (or if you imagine that you had, if you’re not of a certain age), it all makes perfect sense.

Mystic Inane Natural Beauty EP

MYSTIC INANE give us a posthumous collection of four songs that were recorded prior to them disbanding a few years ago. If you are late to this group of New Orleans weirdos, they sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI meets SACCHARINE TRUST in a dumpster. Their essential EP’s of M/I collection is always in rotation around these parts. This EP fits in perfectly with their three previous 7″ releases of off-kilter outsider hardcore. The basement spy riffs are here, as are the deranged, always slightly off-beat vocals that make this band so recognizable and endearing. “Death of Disco Spiv” starts off slowly with a beginner’s level guitar line that is met about 30 seconds later with full-band hardcore stomp. “My Life as a Fish” reminds me of their previous trash anthem “I Believe in UFOs” with a similar vocal delivery in the chorus of “I’m a fish, and I want sleep” (at least, I think that’s what he says). “Mystic Ignorance” is as good an introduction to the band as it gets, and we even get a brief guitar solo! Generous! “Peckerwood Nero” has such a catchy repeated vocal line and bouncy bass melody that it could be a new wave hit in a freakier universe. The final track fades out and then slowly comes back in, creating a fitting parting gift from a great punk band. My expectations were exceeded, and I was bummed when it ended.