Reviews

Mangel

Coins Parallèles Démo cassette

Montreal post-punque pour toi. I breathe a heavy sigh listening to this, as I wonder how many new minimal post-punk bands we need? How has this style survived the pandemic? To be fair, I get the allure for bands that play this kind of music, much like the spikeys glom to D-beat. It’s a recognizable sound, it has a defined aesthetic, and it’s usually a surefire ticket to a built-in audience. But at this point, the style is so minimal that it’s become deeply generic and overdone. Listening to this demo is akin to opening my lunch and seeing that it’s peanut butter again. But I will say there are some textures on this that I liked, and the lead guitar has some occasionally inverted, diagonal-sounding passages that contrast with the hard parallel lines and 90-degree angles that the songs are drafted with. My biggest complaint with this (as with most bands of their ilk) is that the rhythms are so stiff and uptight. Their drummer’s neck and shoulders must be so sore from playing like this! How the hell do you make a cowbell sound so damn unfunky? I just wanna get them a massage, some beers, and a plate of poutine, let them loosen up a little before going back to the studio. Groove is in the heart, but this sounds like music for Lego-men to dance to, and I’m sorry to tell you, Lego-men have got no heart.

Crime of Passing 2017–2020 cassette

Welcome to the synth/noise-laden post-punk world of CRIME OF PASSING; a combination of members from the DRIN and the SERFS. Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, CRIME OF PASSING occasionally calls to mind fellow Ohioan MY DEAD IS DEAD. The amount of synth packed into this cassette is deep: drone tones, electronic drums, and harmonious keyboard runs. The song “Eleventh Hour” manages to squeeze in some saxophone, which only encourages the feeling of bummed-out gloom. “Dancing Prick” has a very CURE-ish riff and vocal delivery, if you’re into that. Towards the end of the cassette, “Don’t Turn” kicks off with a lo-fi drum machine beat that initially reminded me of HE SAID, but when the vocals kick in, it’s an ireful delivery more reminiscent of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. If you’re a fan of dark-spectrumed post-punk with a barrage of electronic instruments, then I highly recommend this cassette.

Die Verlierer Die Verlierer LP

We’re only halfway through this latest trip around the sun, but I have no doubt that this debut will rate as one of the best punk records of 2022. There’s an appealing sleaze emanating from DIE VERLIERER. They wear suits like cooler-than-thou continental types, but they rock the fuck out like gutter-dwelling amphetamine enthusiasts. Debonair, but damaged. “Die Zeit” kicks off with thrilling, dark energy like SODS on Minutes to Go. This smashing opener is backed up by “Die Verlierer” (“The Losers”), which pulls a similar trick by effortlessly channeling Dagger & Guitar-era SORT SOL. But let’s not paint DIE VERLIERER into a Denmark-shaped corner—I’m just trying to establish the rarified atmosphere that we are floating in. A slashing guitar tears into “Intrige und Libido” and ratchets the tension up as the bass lands every punch it throws, and the barely-in-control singing is like DIETER MEIER at his incandescent early peak. I’ve probably listened to this song at least a hundred times in the last few months. Absolute punk perfection. “Plastic Life” is like the encore of a gloriously shambolic STRANGLERS gig; I can almost hear the crowd singing along like a chorus of shithoused angels. DIE VERLIERER can actually swing, and this skill alone sets them apart from a vast landscape of indistinguishable simulation rockers. “Mann im Mond” is the CURE reincarnated as street toughs; fierce romantics, sensitive brawlers. “Nichts Funktioniert” is desperate and flailing punk that demonstrates true mastery of the form. This is the kind of song to inspire hordes of punks to treat desolate urban sprawl as the adult playground it surely is. Structures, after all, are just objects to bounce ideas off; bodies too. Just keep your eye out for the cops. That’s when “X Ray Vision” comes in handy. “Deadgirl” is the kind of love song no one writes anymore. That could be a positive development—from a certain point of view—but hey, fatalism is hot, and always will be. Listen, I don’t make the rules. Speaking of which, “Into A” is an epic last gasp that shamelessly nicks the BIRTHDAY PARTY’s “Deep in the Woods.” If you’re gonna steal, do it from the best, and yeah, add some phased vocals to the funeral proceedings and drag that sucker out like a corpse ‘til it’s six feet under. Hell of a record here.

Double Job Ohne Tanzen Planen LP

Stupendous post-punk agitation from this group, some of whom are in other excellent bands like MARAUDEUR. Nothing here sounds radically different from the currently abundant, similar-minded European outfits, but it’s as good as anything the new crop has produced thus far. Much ground is covered in a short span of time, and all sorts of sharp-angled tactics are deployed. Recalling bands like THINKING FELLERS UNION LOCAL 282, DEERHOOF, and CRACK UND ULTRA ECZEMA, DOUBLE JOB certainly earns its keep. “Aujourd’hui” throws dance punk and a toaster into the bath together, while “Decouverte” sounds like off-kilter ’90s noise rock, that kind that retains the hooks, like LAURELS or an ultra-scrappy 18TH DYE. “Nous Courrons” nails a fucked-up stutter-dub groove that could’ve gone on for three more minutes, but I appreciate the brevity. “Yes” is a late entry into best-in-album contention, rocking some kinda weird early MEKONS groove, an addictive ramble/wrangle with slathers of digital scrum. “Empfangsspiele” makes it seem like this scene looks at HANS-A-PLAST like Yanks look at SUBURBAN LAWNS, and that might be the best news I’ve heard in years.

Ex-White This is Future LP

If you had told me this band came from the late ’80s/early ’90s Chicago punk scene, I wouldn’t have doubted you for a second. Hailing from Germany, EX-WHITE’S first full-length ranges from dance-driven post-punk to raw, Midwestern melodic hardcore similar to NAKED RAYGUN and LEATHERFACE. Very much in line with some of the classic No Idea bands. I can’t lie, there’s a little bit of AC/DC thrown in here as well, especially on the titular track. Catchy as all hell, and released at the right time. This is a summer jam right here, folks. Give it a spin, you won’t be disappointed.

Go Lamborghini Go Low 12″

Debut EP from this unfortunately named Berlin post-punk sextet. Apparently, the six tracks that make up Low were totally improvised, with only the vocals being written and added later. It certainly gives the EP a loose, jammy vibe. But the extended grooves the band locks into also serve as a nice reminder of the role funk has always played in post-punk. In fact, this record kind of feels like a survey of post-punk. “Repetition of High” sounds like a mix of early GANG OF FOUR and Remain in Light-era TALKING HEADS, “Truce” is an atmospheric goth-rock number that sounds an awful lot like the CURE, and “I’m Exhausted” has the same type of bass-driven melody you’d find on a JOY DIVISION track. It’s all very easy to listen to (aside from the minute-plus blast of noise that makes up “Cheap”) and really makes you wonder what they’d cook up were they to actually sit down and write some songs. Definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re a fan of the post-punky garage of EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING or the garage-y post-punk of INSTITUTE.

Klapper Klapper cassette

More minimal grooves spawned from Berlin’s new wave of Neue Deutsche Welle, this time courtesy of the drum machine-abetted duo KLAPPER. Like hometown peers AUS and OSTSEETRAUM, KLAPPER is upholding the German tradition of disaffected, synthesized post-punk, but they’ve added some spacious, dub-inspired turns that both play into the starkness of that particular sound and moderate the overall severity of it. The reductive electro-punk rhythms of “Exciting Life” are paired with beyond-impersonal vocals chronicling the rote tasks of modern life (work, phone calls, trips to the post office, consuming food for sustenance) before ultimately landing on an ice-cold command to “be happy and satisfied” that cuts straight to the bone, while the similarly deadpan lyrical focus of “Success” (“Life is about success / And I have success”) hits a little differently against a white funk bounce of busy bass and writhing guitar. When KLAPPER descends into seedy synth-wave—really just on the instrumentals “Rattle Stork” and “Crane”—it’s not quite as compelling, but I’ll take the rest of it (that downer-ESG throb of “Born to Obey”!) in a heartbeat.

Liiek One Two EP

Berlin’s post-punk underground is absolutely one of the best localized scenes going right now, and it delivers yet again with the most recent release from the Allee Der Kosmonauten collective-affiliated trio LIIEK, who dish out three propulsive, bass-centered cuts on this EP that are dry enough to be cause for concern with the start of wildfire season just around the corner. “One Two” nicks a bit from GANG OF FOUR with an airtight combo of rubbery bass/Swiss watch-precise beats and quick cuts of trebly guitar, while the sternly shouted vocals from barely unclenched jaws and the darker, slightly anarcho-tinged direction of “Fog” and “Fitted and Lost” largely abandon any sort of rigid funk for the no-hope, 21st century (post-)industrial repetitive paranoia of bands like RANK/XEROX and DIÄT. Full-on Brutalist bunker sounds.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum cassette

Gloriously minimal German synth-driven new wave. Stark, cold and mature, OSTSEETRAUM conjures sounds of homemade tapes recorded and duplicated in dark apartments to be distributed by hand in early ’80s Berlin, and they make those sounds feel relevant and unattainable. Stripped NDW bands like STRATIS clashing with Voice of America-era CABARET VOLTAIRE, sonic robotics delivered with a calculated and intentional calm. Nine cuts here, a stellar debut.

Ostseetraum Mondmenschen EP

On their 2020 debut cassette (later turned LP), Berlin’s OSTSEETRAUM cruised straight down the coldwave Autobahn with rigid drum machine beats, percolating synth, sparse strokes of guitar and bass, expressionless German voice-overs, and ample negative space left between those elements—an aesthetic that’s obviously restrained by design, but it often tipped into almost being too clinical. With the follow-up Mondmeschen EP, they’ve finally passed the Voight-Kampff test, and the added human energy really benefits these five songs. The bass is at the forefront this time around, snaking through “Du Siehst Mich Nicht” and “Du Bist Gefangen” in a way that’s borderline funky (a little more Factory/Rough Trade than their usual steady diet of Zickzack), and locking into the sparse, spin-cycle tom rhythm that pushes “Kein Inhalt” precariously forward. Even “Mondmeschen,” the EP’s most straight electro offering, is more cyber-dub than minimal synth, all liquid delay and rattling, echoed beats under woozy space-age keys; a soft glow radiating through cracked steel.

Pigeon Permanent Quest / Riged 7″

Post-punk, noise-y PIGEON puts out this single, after their Deny All Knowledge of Complicity LP from last year. “Permanent Quest” sounds like a more typical punk rock song structure, while the shouted lyrics find their noise/start-and-stop-instrumentation on “Riged.” I also hear snotty UK DIY influences like GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS.

Plexi Stad Siren Dance EP

Antwerp’s PLEXI STAD reinvented themselves so quickly and dramatically in the time since their debut EP last year that it’s a little whiplash-inducing. 2023’s Probation Baby was a fairly nondescript and generic mishmash of loose garage strut and post-egg angularity (think early URANIUM CLUB after a caffeine crash), but if the lean mutant funk of Siren Dance is any indication, these guys must have just recently discovered the CONTORTIONS and seen the light. There’s still remnants of PLEXI STAD version 1.0 in “Returning,” which throws in a few disco beats but otherwise travels in a fairly straight line paralleling dozens of contempo scraggly/shouty bands caught between post-punk and garage (and who are more likely than not based in Australia), but otherwise the tone has changed sharply—“Your Parade” is like a sax-free rewrite of “Contort Yourself,” with some particularly unhinged James Chance-style vocal exhortations and a furiously staccato rhythm, “Stand-By (Stuck On)” is all chicken scratch guitar, elastic bass lines, and rigid beats modeled after prime GANG OF FOUR, and the menacing, elliptical groove of “Siren Dance” echoes caustic Benelux greats like the EX and COÏTUS INT. Hopefully they’ll sit down and stay here a while, rather than it being just another stopover on the way to their next sound.

Stinkhole Mold Encrusted Egg EP

Behold STINKHOLE, the unwanted baby of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and MYSTIC INANE, left behind in a Berlin dumpster. This is some of the slimiest slime-punk around, with seven tracks of noisy, rudimentary outsider hardcore with a vocal delivery that sounds like a choke/slur/vomit combination. I honestly don’t know if the lyrics are in English or not because the dry heave singing is pretty hard to crack. This EP sounds like it was recorded in the basement of the building next door and is so lo-fi that it seems like the band taped over a random mixtape. Snippets of woozy easy listening and jazz sounds bookend some of these audio scabs. It’s not all just gross-out punk though: I distinctly heard a synth once on “Orange Juice,” and the credits list a trumpet. Final track “Slippin’ on Slug Slime” (let’s pause for a moment and appreciate the poetry of that title) has a cool one-bent-note guitar lead that gives it just the slightest amount of post-punk spice. I loved it. Just make sure to sanitize your hands after playing.

The Drin Down River in the Distance LP

I reviewed the last DRIN release, and when the opportunity came up to review this one, I was interested in hearing what this mysterious project has come up with next. Down River in the Distance cranks up the murk and expands the bleak, dubby spaciousness. The drums take a big step forward in the mix, the bass providing more of a felt frequency. The prettier strummed chords and more melancholy minors are replaced with fuzz-fracked brittle guitars that crackle as if coming from a shortwave radio. It’s psychedelic, but with a color palette that’s only swirling with muddy grays.