The Casual Dots The Casual Dots LP / Sanguine Truth LP

Of all of the fruits borne from the DC/Olympia punk alliance that flourished in the riot grrrl era, the CASUAL DOTS were definitely one of the sweetest. Christina Billotte (of AUTOCLAVE, SLANT 6, and QUIX*O*TIC), Kathi Wilcox (of BIKINI KILL and the FRUMPIES), and Steve Dore (of DEEP LUST) formed the band somewhat spontaneously to play Ladyfest DC in 2002, put out a full-length on Kill Rock Stars two years later, and then went completely silent—Sanguine Truth is the trio’s first new recording in eighteen years, and the out-of-print debut album has been brought out of early ’00s CD-only purgatory along with it. Starting off with a surfy instrumental (“Derailing”), The Casual Dots rides on Billotte and Wilcox’s intersecting twin guitar interplay, darting between points with a plotted rhythmic precision (no need for bass) over Dore’s stripped-down beats. “Evil Operations Classified” reignites SLANT 6’s wiry and needling econo-punk spark, the knotted and woozy “Flowers” recalls what Billiotte’s AUTOCLAVE bandmate Mary Timony went on to do in HELIUM, “Mama’s Gonna Bake Us a Cake” is a hip-shaking, bare-bones garage stomper in a GOSSIP-ish mold, and the inspiration from vintage soul and R&B is laid out even more directly in the choice of great early ’60s covers that bookend Side B (“I’ll Dry My Tears” by ETTA JAMES and LAVERN BAKER’s “Bumblebee”). In comparison, the new Sanguine Truth LP has a more meditative and introspective air about it, smoothing out some of the punky raucousness of the self-titled record into ten smart, subtly spiky pop songs for uncertain futures. Christina’s trademark dissonant spy theme guitar lines build an anxious tension in the extended intro of “High Speed Chase” that’s completely countered by the too-cool calm of her vocals when they finally cut in, while “Live For Yourself” could pass as a lost ’60s girl group tear-jerker with its slow dance drumming and doo wop harmonines, and the haunting “Descending” reaches YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS-worthy levels of stark, minimalist beauty. More than worth the almost two-decade wait.