Cured Pink Current Climate CD

Upon the first listen, and a quick look at their Bandcamp page, I thought this was some NYC hipster shit (New York label), but upon investigation and eventually hearing it in their vocals, they are from Brisbane, for what it’s worth. There’s lots of different instrumentation throughout: horns, synths, samples, and otherwise led by bass and drums giving it a dub vibe. This isn’t really my bag, but if you’re looking to feel obscure, it may make some nice background music. If this is your thing, they’ve been making music for a decade, and this release comes in front of the lead’s new band, WITNESS K.

Cyanide Tooth Midnight Climax Operation cassette

If I were to create the Cold War-era industrial subgenre, then New York’s CYANIDE TOOTH would be the flagship act. Dark, disorienting sounds treated with newsreel voice-overs, aural assemblages that predate the world of laptop-push-a-button “noise” in both approach and execution. And ultimately, it’s the execution here that sets Midnight Climax Operation apart. The climax (wordplay intended) of the tape is the churning repetition of the absolutely filthy burner “Techno Animus,” and the entire B side is taken up by a 25-minute disorienting collection of sounds and samples that leaves you exhausted as it whirrs to a halt. I wrote years ago that CYANIDE TOOTH would become a force when their vision was fully realized, and that time has come.

Jim Shepard Heavy Action 3xLP

JIM SHEPARD, who committed suicide in 1998, produced an enormous body of work, much of it excellent and challenging, in his 44 years on earth. The musician and poet from Columbus, Ohio, was best known for his bands EGO SUMMIT, V-3, and VERTICAL SLIT, but he recorded and released music prolifically under his own name, though all of it is currently out of print. Heavy Action covers a wide swath of his career, encompassing live and unreleased material, scraps of spoken words, voicemails, tributes from the likes of DENNIS CALLACI, ROBERT POLLARD, DON HOWLAND, and NUDGE SQUIDFISH, and covers of BOB DYLAN, the GUN CLUB, and LEONARD COHEN. Shepard’s oeuvre is shot through with a red-hot fury—both lyrically and sonically—and this collection is heavy on the darkness with songs like “Loaded Gun” and “Star Power.” Listening to three LPs of his music at once was emotionally overwhelming, and I don’t think this is a great starting point for someone unfamiliar with his work (that would be V-3’s 1992 CD-only album Negotiate Nothing), but considering the scarcity of his numerous tapes and CDs and records, this is a place to start. Nicely packaged with liner notes by Tom Lax of Siltbreeze.

Obnox Savage Raygun 2xLP

Pretty rare to complete a calendar year without a new record by OBNOX—a.k.a. Bim Thomas, formally known as Lamont Thomas, formerly known as a drummer for bands including the BASSHOLES and PUFFY AREOLAS—but that’s what we got, or rather didn’t get, in 2019. Dude is back in a big way here though, with a blazing 20-song double-LP that zips by to the degree where the running time isn’t any kind of drag. There are more boom-bap hip hop beats than on any previous OBNOX release, with Thomas showcasing his MC skills with justifiable confidence, but these jams are never any kind of purist anything, with bolts of reassuringly raw garage guitar setting multiple midpaced bumpers aflame. Conversely, psych-punk melters like “Catbird” and “She (Was About That Life)” are bolstered by sick headnodder funk backbeats, and there’s even a NEIL YOUNG homage in the form of “Young Neezy,” not that you’d imagine Neil’s fanbase would much approve.

Obnox Savage Raygun 2xLP

A wildly schizophrenic album for a tremendously fucked up year. My mind has been working overtime since the beginning of 2020 and it seems that LAMONT THOMAS’s brain has been, too. Fortunately, he got some of those thoughts down on vinyl. The sounds OBNOX presents on this double LP take a while to digest. So take your time with it. Try listening at different times of day and in different settings. Use headphones or blast it out of a crappy boombox. There are psychedelically mellow guitars, whispered vocals, receptive drum machine beats, chaotic noise and funky bass parts. The record does not stop giving. For me the simple one-two-three shot of “Heaven,” “Misery” and “Return Fire” just about sums up my 2020 (lack of) thought process.

Patois Counselors The Optimal Seat LP

I loved the last LP from these art damaged miscreants; its wild snarl and catchy slump brought to mind strange adventures in anyone-can-do-it-core, a lineage of SWELL MAPS-ian slither. This one moves with a different feeling, sort of less imminent collapse pop rambunctiousness and more a tense architecture of synth and guitar scrawl that maybe matches our unnerving era, relentless horror mapped out in a series of flatlining rhythms. It somehow reminds me of the RAINCOATS Kitchen Tapes meets TOTAL CONTROL?! Something about it is less immediately compelling to my mind—the sort of collapse in on itself pop fervour of the first record was a fever dream whereas this one is much more spectral somehow?! It’s a great record, but feels more distant music from the room next door than the immediate savage hammer to my mind of the first. I think this will become a record I return to relentlessly but right now it’s more of a question mark.

Preening Dragged Through the Garden 12″

PREENING didn’t invent any of the sounds, or combinations of sounds, you hear on this nine-song EP, but at this point they have fully slapped their own stamp on things, and they were decently distinctive before. The snaky saxophone and juddery bass calls back to early ’80s UK post-punk’s jazzier cats—frequently thinking BLURT, sometimes the POP GROUP—and it’s notable that Max Nordile, on the former listed instrument, plays like an actual jazzer as opposed to a punk who realised the sax’s din-making potential. (Check the slow’n’low “Red Red Lava” for evidence, or for that matter some of Max’s truly wild solo tapes.) His spluttering vox, frequently twinned with the slightly more insouciant tones of bassist Alejandra Alcala, lend a noisier, more abrasive angle to the band, not light years away from TRUMAN’S WATER or someone. Andy Human, PREENING compadre from their weird-punk Bay Area scene and Alejandra’s NAKED ROOMMATE bandmate, pops up at the end of Dragged Through the Garden with a creepy dub remix of “Extortion,” although if there is an original version it appears to be unreleased at present.

Richard Papiercuts Twisting the Night 12″

Anyone who needs to read a review in order to determine whether to purchase this record almost certainly hasn’t heard 2015’s IF, the best LP of that year in my estimation, and probably one of the greatest of this dismal decade. This four-song 12″ EP continues in the tradition of that record, which is to say it’s wonderful. RICHARD PAPIERCUTS easily gives lie to the common punk fallacy that the best music is always made by those who don’t know what they’re doing—it frequently is, of course, but PAPIERCUTS proves it’s possible to use an encyclopedic knowledge of music to create something unique, rather than cresting the wave of whatever flavor of nostalgia is in vogue this month. This is all to say that while I’m sure there are specific reference points on this record, it’s hard to point them out because it’s all melding into something of its own (and because they’re probably largely bands I’ve never even heard of!). I can say that this record’s got a more ’80s pop lean to it than the last one: big sounds and big hooks and danceable rhythms. I can drop a reference to TEARS FOR FEARS or maybe even like PET SHOP BOYS or something (that one spoken line in “A Place to Stay”!). Or, just as impossibly, I can try to describe how this record makes me feel: peaceful, energized, optimistic—in a word, buoyant. But either approach is inadequate in conveying the beauty of Twisting the Night, a record that deserves to not just be heard, but to be listened to with focus and intent.

Rider/Horse Select Trials LP

I don’t know what blend of psychedelics and speed these Ever/Never people are taking, but the last record I reviewed from them, CURED PINK’s Current Climate, was in a similar vein of experimentation. Here, on RIDER/HORSE’s debut, you hear a noise-heavy drum machine wasteland, filled with repetitive, jabby guitar riffs that yield to ambient synth breaks and dramatic, spoken lyrics. While the pandemic gave them a break from other projects, such as SPRAY PAINT, this duo was able to give this electric-drama their all, and it shows in the production. Personally, I’m sort of over this Vin Diesel-club-scene-music, but maybe you’re ready to get after it.

Spiritual Mafia Al Fresco LP

Real Rorschach blot test music, this: I feel like one person could listen to SPIRITUAL MAFIA’s debut album and hear bleak, glazed-eye noise rock drudgery, and someone else could take in the exact same 32 minutes and walk away having experienced transcendent psych/Kraut heat damage. The pointedly mundane, repetitive lyrics thoroughly underscore this too, especially on Al Fresco’s opening and closing cuts, “Lunch” and “Bath Boy”—the latter of which runs past ten minutes, cycles through all manner of delicious dub manoeuvres and treats the act of jumping in the tub as a solipsist’s charter. “Hybrid Animal,” no one-pump chump itself at nearly nine minutes, is kinda HAWKWIND guitar frazzle with BIG BLACK subject matter (reputedly based on the time a friend’s neighbour called round, in the nude, to inform him she was pregnant with her three-legged dog’s offspring) and sounds like someone’s playing pool in the background at one point. “Smiles” and “Poolside” are shorter, thuddier arch-rockers that feel most emblematic of the Melbourne swamp SPIRITUAL MAFIA come from, thinking here of CONSTANT MONGREL and VOICE IMITATOR’s most recent releases. This one was a slowburner but I’m all about it now.

Staffers In the Pigeon Hole cassette

STAFFERS play lo-fi poppy rock. The rhythms are quirky and sound like they are off-balance. The contemplative lyrics are enthusiastically spoke-sung. It’s part outsider rock, part straightforward indie rock. It’s odd, yet familiar.

Staffers In the Pigeon Hole cassette

This band mostly sticks to a post-punk influence that also straddles a line between power pop and indie rock, though they pull it off well. I’ve heard plenty of bands that try to shoehorn a medley of genres into a single record and it ends up being a soundtrack for nightmares. These songs never stray too far from a common root sound which definitely helps. But then “Fuck the Brixton” is folky Americana with a slight country twang in the guitar, so there is a curveball thrown into the mix. For the most part, the songs are mid-tempo with drawn out dual vocals. I’d almost describe it as sleepy, but you’ve also just chugged a cup of coffee. It drones on in a lot of places, though they also do real weird soundscapes full of horns, electric piano, distortion pedals, and whatever instruments inspire anxiety attacks. It’s a strange, yet cool, collection of sounds. I do this a lot, but there are some similarities to the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB. Somewhere in my brain they became my go-to weirdo tunes comparison. Listen to both.

Taiwan Housing Project Sub-Language Trustees LP

I really loved their first 7″, but the last LP sorta lost me a bit, had a circus punk veneer in my mind I couldn’t get past. This record is more what I wanted outta that! Incandescent noise fuck sounds from HARRY PUSSY and LITTLE CLAW past-lifers, this is a total and true sound, savage and unreal, destruction and love, lost in a dream. It’s intoxicating and also catchy, has an otherworldly quality, like watching something burn in a dream. Kilynn has an incredible voice…if you have vague TEENAGE JESUS-as-the-world-ends inclinations and seek out sound ideas that are A Totality, then this might scratch an itch.