Reviews 4.18.10

First off, much apologies for the tardiness of this update. Massive life changes hit the editorial staff over the last six months to a year and we are just starting to dig out. The reviews below are a bit dated and we have a big back log of stuff sent to us that we need to go through. With the backlog, we are gonna review what we normally would have regardless of release date. We will also be working in more recent releases. Hopefully the updates will come sooner, even if it is only two or three releases at a time. We also restarted work on issue four. I don't want to promise a release date right now, but we are writing! ---SS

Collage Forty Seven Minutes Four Seconds CD (Wool)
A collection of material made by this Estonian group, from 1971 to 1977, excerpting three albums. The group evolved from the work of three academic institutes operating in Soviet controlled Estonia, and working with Estonian Television. The sounds are a hybrid of sunshine pop vocals, jazz and Estonian folk music. At it's best Collage sounds like a funky, ethnic Free Design doing Morricone pop and it's best is very good stuff. However, the best also tends to be based on one or two different folk melodies. At it's worse, Collage dives into jazz vocals with the grating (but talented) flair of Manhattan Transfer. Fortunately those moments are few. --SS

Mako Sica Mayday at Strobe LP (Permanent)
A live album documenting an open studio recording by three piece Mako Sica. Here they do two long songs, "W" and "Red Rivers." While both songs have different construction, they draw from the same sounds: 100 Flowers/Human Hands-style post punk, Bowie/Eno's Low, Spaghetti western soundtracks... The guitar is heavy on delay, but for the most part it adds rather than hinders the performance. There are several moments at which Mako Sica edges toward the predictable and then take a surprising turn. They are even able to climb out of introspective, delicate passages without straining, something which is damn difficult to do. Good record that would have sound at home on Blackvelvetfuckere. 120 copies so scramble! --SS

Lonnie Eugene Methe Hey Jack 7" (Unread)
Methe has a long history of playing with other folks (Mountain Goats, Simon Joyner, Ed Gray) and on a few thousand cassette only releases (Naturaliste, Arnoux, under his own name), but this is his first record under his name. It has gotten lots of spins, and that might be no big deal to you, but, considering this is "singer/songwriter" stuff, it is a big deal to me. Simple, understated songs done with mostly just guitar or piano and hushed voice, Hey Jack reminds me a bit of Johnny Thunders' Hurt Me album. As good? Nah, Hurt Me is a fucking classic. Still, Hey Jack keep returning to the record player and it has me eager to hear more. --SS

Plexi 3 Tides of Change CD (Certified PR)
If this is change, I'd say the tide coming in pretty damn slow. Plexi 3 listen like a B-grade punk band from '79 - Diodes, Bizzaros, PVC - which is not a bad thing. But if your ears are tuned to more than that era of punk sounds, you won't find much here other than competance. --SS

Purling Hiss s/t LP (Permanent)
A fucking wretched waste of time. Mundane, cliche-ridden wah wah psych, which relies on grinding a single riff from banality to boredom. The guitar solos show that the guy can play, but are as dull as the background. There is absolutely no originality here, just wanking by numbers. Even worse is the recording and mix. Be prepared to crank the bass on your stereo, as this was mixed for those who enjoy that crackling, treble-drenched AM sound. Perhaps the only real accomplishment here is making the drums sound so damn muddy under all the tint. There are vocals but they are an afterthought at best. Useless garbage from an otherwise reliable label. --SS

Rank Xerox s/t 7" (Mongo Bongo)
The sleeve suggests some kinda Rough Trade/Fast Records outing. And there is some post punk here. The first side is speedy, early 80s style stuff that reminds me of when hardcore bands got bored with playing as fast as they could and matched velocity with Gang of Four. Rank Xerox do it fine, but I've heard too many bands do the same. The B-side, "Masking/Confessions" starts off as textbook Ameri-post punk ala Monorchid, but midway shifts into a weirdo synth/rock pulse, which begs the question "Why not build the sound on this foundation?" Hopefully, this departure from standard (post) punk convention is more than just a song twist. Good record, but not essential. --SS

Dead At Twenty-Four Blast Off Motherfucker! LP (Ride the Snake)
The back story on this beast is similar to that of the Robot Assassins, that angular Bay Area art-agitator outfit of the mid-90s that disappeared w/o much of a trace, much to the head-shaking disgust of our orbiting Alien Observers. “Oh well, another missed chance for this race to advance, but we cannot intervene in their development…” Well, in the case of Dead At Twenty-Four someone at orbiting Mission Control must’ve finally got fed up with “the rules”and beamed a sizable enough shot of violet energy into the sleeping, but fevered, brains of the creeps behind this label to stimulate this ten-years-too-late release. This stuff is absolutely top shelf art punk, pulling off all the tricks that keep people listening at 3am after they get back from the bars and/or clubs, namely a restlessly dour whine leavened with great guitar noise. But they had songs, kids, really angular, plotted-out songs. That this stuff could’ve been created in the depths of 1998 (where the real kicks were mainly in the KBD-worshipping garage punk vein) is nothing short of a miracle, and it’s also faint praise to say this “could have come out last week”. The only drawback is the live fidelity, which leaves you pining for a proper studio jobbe, but this will have to do. It’ll do. Buy it. –RW

Druid Perfume Other Worlds/Weird Wally Wigwam 45 (M’lady/Italy)
Man I hate to rip on Alice Donut again (no, I don’t really) but this is the sound those creeps were really shooting for and missing time and again; a churning, burly, scattershot free-jizz rock attack that calls to mind the Magic Band, or the Birthday Party at their most far-flung. This is especially true on the flipside, which also sounds like a more human-scale Jesus Lizard sans all the flaming hoops and scab parade (and scab-suckin’ fellow travellers). I wonder though, about putting this out as a 45. It’s not like someone wants to dip their toes into something this brutal, it’s not like it’s catchy or something. It’s kind of like watching video of your Dad’s funeral over and over. It’s powerful ‘n such, but… -RW

Fergus & Geronimo Blind Muslim Girl/Powerful Lovin’ 45 (Tic Tac Totally)
Snappy two-piece rock ‘n roll powerpop with some goddamn brains for once, both in the concept and the execution. Wow, what a full sound, let me look at that sleeve again…just two nerds hiding in those bushes, yup! “Blind Muslim Girl” is the fast one and it’s a toe-shredding tapper alright, with a good strong rhythm going that “should please dance enthusiasts”, except for those stone-faced jerks who refuse to remove their hands from their pockets at shows, why are you here then? The flip is soulful and tender and well-sung. Yes, sung. This group is a living challenge to the grumps and blowsy cynics who have no use for anything that smacks of the pop impulse. It could all go horribly wrong very soon, but here is an effort that stays on the rails. -RW

Flight Feels So Good/In the Morning Night 45 (Hozac)
Sometimes my deliberately maintained ignorance of band members’ provenance can be a blessing instead of a curse. This band has “someone” innit, but damn if I care. How are the songs? Well, the a-side is a snore that tries to coast on some watery-sounding computer effects on the vocals but the song is lacking any momentum or compulsion so it neither pushed my broom nor emptied my ashtray. Dry as a bone afterwards. The flip picks up the game considerably, they drop the gimmicks and just write an effective plodding head-nodder that I’ll wager is even better live than here, that being said because no one can really master 45s properly in 2010 anymore, nothing personal against nobody, but this song could warp floorboards if it were louder. Another 50-50 loser/winner single. –RW

Sandwitches Back to the Sea/Beatle Screams 45 (Southpaw)
Man, I can’t remember the last time I heard a single as thoroughly enjoyable as this one that hung on a more fragile, gossamer thread of a conceit. You’ve got a band that sounds like they are playing the trade-that-instrument-and-hit-record game, and the playground-styled vocals are being made up on the spot, I’m sure, but the whole mess teeter-totters on the edge of cloying nausea and pop genius and manages to slop itself 90% on the right side of that razor’s edge. It’s the Happy Accident school of song creation, and the vast majority of the time this stuff belonged on the tape comps that used to be their permanent homes, but whoops! It works here in spades and earns vinyl immortality. –RW

Work / Piles Split LP (Rad Key)
A split full-length by two current San Francisco bands, Work and Piles. I wouldn't be surprised if Siltbreeze hasn't already moved on Work- loud (kinda) melodic DIY art-punk, WITH Ohio ties (Columbus ex-pat Sarah Bernat of 16 Bitch Pile-up). Top shelf stuff, kinda like a nastier Finally Punk. The Piles side reminds me a bit of The USA Is a Monster, but simpler and without the Native American business. Not quite as strong of a statement as their colleagues, but memorable enough to keep both sides of this sleeper in heavy rotation for a couple of months. -SW

Life Partners
- Men Are Talking LP (Ride The Snake)
Interesting collision between light Yo La Tengo-style indie pop and hardcore punk, with a plenty of prog thrown in to keep the pot from boiling over and making a mess of kitchen. It took me the full 6-minute length of the opener to settle in to their unique sound, which is comprised of Flying V, drums and a trumpet. The singer runs wild with the music, largely escaping the Faith No More-ness expected when melodic singing turns aggressive. I have a lot of respect for bands willing to commit to their ideas with little worry about how taboo the outcome of their experiments may be, especially when the end result is an inspired album which opens itsefl up with each listen. -SW

Various Just a Little Bit of Milvia Son Reccords EP (Milvia Son)
Bad Drumlin Grass Live at Timber Cove LP (Milvia Son)
The handwritten post-script plea to "get high" before listening to this crap was enough reason to trash the one-sheet and throw these in the dark end of the review pile reserved for the never ending stream of Bipolar Bear promos. I eventually felt bad about throwing these Milvia Son records in with such bad company without even giving them a fair listen - I'll start with the label comp: two instrumentals, bookended by two vocal songs, the first is a love song about Carl Sagan roughly to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "The Angel", the second sounds like Van Morrison (now, not then) singing roughly to the tune of Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit". Not bad, actually, but the instrumentals were formless and left no real lasting impression.
The LP by Bad Drumlin Grass (who were responsible for one of those instrumentals) is the other record of the Milvia Son Records care package. One song per side, both similarly sparse and atmospheric with synths, guitar, pedals - not a whole of character which distinguishes Bad Drumlin Grass from the weaker half of the Not Not Fun roster, but in all, makes for a relaxing half-hour in an otherwise busy day. -SW

Uke of Spaces Corners Flowers In the Night LP (Turned Word)
This is my first taste of UoSC, and makes for a nice winter companion. Spaced folk music along the same trajectory as The Holy Modal Rounders and The Cherry Blossoms. The nasally M/F harmonies are in the foreground, while the accompanying music simply colors their voices with a drone of intricate acoustic instrumentation. Very enjoyable, and enough motivation to get me to check out some of that back-catalog. -SW

Back to Basics In The Cloud EP (Fine Tuning)
First Alert might be merely an also-ran for Japanese 90s punk fans, but for my money, there wasn't a band with mod-punk tendencies that could touch them during their lifespan. Back To Basics is the singer's new outfit, and predictably, it's much softer than First Alert. I suppose this is more comparable to Brightliner than it is to Firestarter in terms of 90s Japanese punks making a go of it in the 2000s. If that doesn't make sense to you, then this is "shitty" instead of "great". Back To Basics finds these mod-punks in "Setting Sons" territory, which might not be terrible, but certainly lacks the immediacy and (sorry) balls I was hoping for. You can go your entire life without hearing this and you'd be just fucking fine. -MC

The Black Jaspers S/T LP (In The Red)
King Khan pairs up with Euro punker Jasper Hood (of the occasionally impressive Moorat Fingers), for another famed one-off LP of scuzzy, dumb-as-hell punk rock of the Killed By Death school. While that premise would normally equate to something I'd probably really enjoy, the actual record leaves me more annoyed than anything else, and that's coming from someone who loves inept punk rock bullshit more than just about anyone. This record, like most Khan projects not featuring The Shrines or Mark Sultan, is just too half-assed to get excited about. It isn't completely devoid of merit ("Long'n'Wavy" and "Born In '77" are actually really good, gross punk rock tunes), but it's all more of a joke than exciting (dumb) punk. It might go against all logic to say this, but if you're gonna set out to make a dumb punk record, why not try to make a GREAT dumb punk record? I'm all for being a callow and ridiculous rocker, but how many more of these records do we need outta Khan? -MC

Fever B The Lonely Sailor Sessions 12" (Burger)
This one seems to have gone under the radar for some unfathomable reason, but I suppose the same could be said for just about everything this guy's been associated with (Fevers, Donny Denim, Sweet Faces, Retardos). I've always felt that this previous work was of the sleeper classic variety, growing more potent and awesome as the years go by. I'd return to those records happily if I were able to pry this one off the turntable. Yup, this debut solo outing is easily the most immediately likable of the bunch. Mid-fi with the guitar right up front, the 5 songs featured here are just perfect, unapologetic power-pop. What really wins you over is that the entire record is equal parts sincerity and piss-take. How could it not be with a tune like "Pop Punk Love"??? This delivery just makes things feel all the more...authentic. There's a scant few around today that I'd trust with this stuff and Fever B is at the tip-top of the list. Hands down, the best pure power-pop record since the first Gentleman Jesse single. -MC

The Horribly Wrong C'mon And Bleed With... LP (Eradicator/Shit In Can)
Oh, where have you gone, Demolition Derby Records? Where art thou, Casting Couch Records? Where and why did 007 Records vanish? 15 years ago, the above-mentioned labels and their fellow fifth-tier compadres would've been chomping at the bit for a Horribly Wrong single. We're talking a singles barrage of Morning Shakes-ian levels! This LP, all 18 (overkill?) tunes, is a time-warp record made in that sound, perhaps with those exact motivations. Let us return to a time when the human brain couldn't simply call punk like it was and had to call it "garage punk". Midwestern, fast, drunken, cruddily-recorded punk, complete with not one but TWO songs about blood. Perhaps a tad too tuff at times (hence their imaginary Scooch Pooch double 7" from '96), but not enough to ruin it for the purists. Of course this doesn't hit it like, I dunno, The Brides, but it's a fairly decent attempt. For those of us out there unwilling to let go of this warts-and-all 90s style, here ya go. -MC

Louder Idiot Mind/No Way 45 (Louder)
Yet another new Japanese punker signaling the end of power-pop's stranglehold on the country (further proof can be found on singles by Perfectform, Erazer and Slowmotions). Rooted in the same mine the current crop of retro Danes are drilling (80s SoCal punk), Louder's debut features 2 tunes, both of which are based around this semi-metallic guitar that conjures some cliche-ridden middle ground between Agent Orange and Johnny Thunders. The trouble is that it actually works, especially against a totally spiky Japanese HC delivery lurking underneath. On par with Erazer and Slowmotions in that (A) it's capital-p PUNK and (B) the chances of finding the records state-side are nearly impossible. Bonus points for the spray-painted cloth sleeve. -MC

Predator S/T EP (Rob's House)
I'm a sucker for anything produced by this particular sect of Atlanta punks, and this debut Predator EP is no different. All three of the songs here rule, each managing to be simple and anthemic amidst some darker tension. And not a tweener-core record like some of the predecessor bands: all punk here. Perfectly executed and one of the handful of great debut punkers for 2009. -MC

Spencey Dude & the Doodles S/T EP (Rob's House)
Annoying, smarmy and cutesy pop-punk. This is music for stoned girls. -MC

Tandoori Knights Pretty Please/Bucketful 45 (Norton)
A "world garage" one-off from King Khan and Bloodshot Bill. "Pretty Please" is a not-funny-but-trying attempt on some kinda Hindu rock, the result being exactly the kind of totally grating soundtrack choice someone like Jim Jarmusch or Wes Anderson might select. I'm sure a moped would be involved in the scene too. "Bucketful", by comparison, goes down much easier, rocking with an up-tempo Bo Diddley beat and the appropriate...no, expected amount of gusto. A one-sided single good enough for, ohhhhhh, three solid spins before filing away. -MC

Useless Eaters Hear/See EP (Shattered)
Useless Eaters Sucked In EP (Goner)
Six tunes spread across four 45rpm sides, each and every one a short, fantastically crafted punker. While it's a given to link them to some mythical Killed By Death influence, that notion can't possibly outshine just how interesting these singles are. Translation: None of the songs unfold how you would expect them to. The guitars range from awkwardly surfy to full thrift store gutter-buzz, oftentimes shifting between sounds mid-song. The arrangement on, for example, "Sucked In", begins with Wire-ish choppiness, descends briefly into a noise spiral and finishes off totally unhinged. "Just A Person", off the Shattered EP, features a more melodic approach, yet still manages to be sinister, immediate and mean. Flirtations with vaguely Cold Wave sounds are even present and pulled off flawlessly. This is just far too crafty to be an act of accidental genius, so let's just call it like it is. It's tough to ask for more out of a contemporary true-blue punk single than what's found on these EPs. Pick one or both up to round out your best-of list for '09. Great goddamn stuff. -MC

Diskad The Answers 7” (DF)
Tell me that there’s a trace on a Brainbombs’ fingerprint on something and I’m gonna be all over it. Even when these mighty Swedes leave a mark bellow their usual high standard, their spuzz is more enjoyable than most bands’ flagship product. The entity known as Diskad is a solo outing by Brainbombs drummer Drajan Bryngelsson. This debut release on Mr. B’s new DF imprint finds the man hammering away unmercilessly amidst a sea of feedback. I gotta think that the between song interludes of a live Brainbombs set aren’t too far a field from about half of the tracks on this record. The other half possesses enough form to conjure the thought that they exist as the “songs” that punctuate the interludes of a Diskad set. If you’re expecting the rhythmic bombast and recursive grind of the Brainbombs, then be forewarned that this little slice of degeneracy is a much freer affair. If you’ve ever wondered what Adris Hoyos was up to when Bill Orcutt left his guitar leaning against his amp while he stepped out of the practice room for a Skittles break, then this Diskad record may just provide the fly-on-the-wall perspective you never knew you needed. – MT

Dragsters Desert Race one-sided LP (8mm)
Italy’s 8mm label is famous for releasing super limited records by somewhat known and completely unknown bands whose vinyl platters seem to vanish in a matter of hours. This Dragsters one-sided LP in an edition of 113 copies is a prime example of such an artifact that fewer people than are currently standing in your local unemployment line will ever get a chance to experience. Dragsters is yet another incarnation of Italy’s Neokarma Jooklo ensemble, an ever-changing constellation of musicians who play all manner of cosmic and wastoid musics in the higher key stylee, and who have released records on labels such as Qbico, Troglosound, Conspiracy and others. Dragsters features Maurizio Abate on electric guitar, David Vanzan on drums, Virginia Genta on saxophone and Luca Massolin on electric bass. The four tracks on this disc push a helluva lot of air with their acid, dub n’ funk-fueled psych moves that make me think of a boogiefied Bardo Pond were those Philadelphians ever to attempt a run through of the Funkadelic songbook. These Dragsters strut and bounce like nobody’s business, lemme tell you. Of course, their use of 100% pure uncut distortion will forever prevent Dragsters from getting spun at all but the most rarified of block parties where gin n’ juice would most definitely give way to hops n’ herb. I’d be lying if I told you I couldn’t use another few dozen records like this one propped up next to the stereo, but I suppose it’s the scarcity of such treasures that truly makes one appreciate a record like this one when it lands on your doorstep. Consider me grateful. – MT

Frozen Cloak s/t LP (private)
In the musical lineage of Bellingham, Washington’s Frozen Cloak lies a connection to the sadly underheralded Reeks and the Wrecks in the form of drummer Jason Sands. Beyond this I know not. Yet let’s not let this lack of biographical information tarnish the enjoyment of this outstanding record. As the band’s name might imply, there is some overt cloaking going on here via the limited presentation of information anywhere on the record’s sleeve except for band name and song titles. To this end, the labelless clear vinyl record tucked inside seems only apropos. Frozen Cloak let loose with a massive, kraut-inspired, Stoogoid take on instrumental rock that brings an ear-to-ear smile to my face. I think it’s the band’s use of thug rock pummel to support their kosmiche excursions that places Frozen Cloak’s music head and shoulders above that of a similar-minded traveler such as Nudity. Frozen Cloak inhabits territory navigated by the likes of Tivol, Heavy Winged, and Circle (all at their jamming best) over both sides of this album. I’ll even toss Earthless into that comparison (minus Isaiah Mitchell’s guitar acrobatics). Frozen Cloak’s music has an ageless feel and sounds like it could have been recorded at any time over the past couple of decades. To me, this represents staying power and a relevance that will serve repeated listens well into the future. If ever there was an instrumental rock universe out there that encompassed everything from The Process of Weeding Out to the latest Expo 70 record, I gotta think that Frozen Cloak’s orb would provide key gravitational forces that would keep all the planets in their proper alignment. Ladies and gentlemen, around these parts this is what we call a keeper. – MT

No Balls No/Balls 7” (DF)
The Brainbombs’ Drajan Bryngelsson is on a bit of a roll with a second release on his DF label in about as many months. No Balls adds a healthy dose of rhythmic swagger and repeato riffage to the Diskad blueprint to create a brand of rockist bludgeon that any Brainbombs fan would have no trouble identifying as progeny from the loins of a certain Swedish patriarch. I have no idea if No Balls is again a solo effort on the part of Mr. Bryngelsson, or if he’s joined by another human or two. I can say that whoever is letting loose with the riffs is a well-studied acolyte of the Ginn-cum-Jaworzyn school of string bending. It almost goes without saying that this type of pummel isn’t well served by the physical limitations of the limited groove length afforded by seven inches of wax. No Balls needs some space to extend the jamz. Fortunately, the band will get exactly this on an upcoming long player on the Release The Bats label. I have no hesitation in stating that you needed this little gem in your collection three months ago, and if you wait too long, the 187 copies of this up for grabs won’t be easy to come by. – MT

Sex Church Dead End/Let Down 7” (Sweet Rot)
There’s no need to tug with much force on a hook in my mouth that reads, “Influenced in equal parts by Cheater Slicks and Spacemen 3 …”. In fact, skip the tugging and allow me to swallow the thing on my own accord. Said tagline has been used by the folks at Sweet Rot to prompt more than just window shopping of this new release by ex/current members of Catholic Boys, Defektors, Ladies Night, and Vapid. This Vancouver, BC troupe lives up to the comparison, although I’d say the mix is three parts Cheaters and one part Spacemen. Take the better elements of today’s garage music, infuse them with a 60’s songwriting sensibility, subtract a modicum of punk tarnish, add just the right amount of hypnotic keyboards, and you’ll be approximating what Sex Church delivers on the disc. Having only these two songs as examples, I’m going to wager that Sex Church favors the groove over the hook. I will also speculate that seeing these folks perform live is where their music really catches fire. This single is a fine debut and another feather in Sweet Rot’s cap. If you’re looking for something a little left of center in the garage rock arena, Sex Church might just be your house of worship. – MT

Billy Bao May '08 LP (Parts Unknown)
Please, Billy, stop yelling at me. Please, I feel sick, I'm nauseated. I can't stop shaking my head. Do you know why? Of course you do. What's that sound? What are you doing in there? What's that noise, Billy? How are you doing that? How are you making those noises . . . and why? Where are they coming from? No, no: I don't mean literally. I mean where do they come from in you? I think you need to talk to someone about this, Billy. I think these episodes point to a serious problem, especially that 15-minute one at the end. Was that a saxophone I heard somewhere in there? I'm glad you're trying new things, but--why do you keep screaming at me? It's making me feel bad about the world. -FSS

él-g Tout Ploie LP (S.S.)
Acoustic guitar up front, fuzzy lead guitars around back, organs in the middle, male/female vocals right in your ear, just enough bass and percussion (here and there) and tons of atmosphere (mostly gloomy)--with some subtler electronics and sideways tape tricks and ambients sewn in for a touch of cold warp to balance all the au naturel warmth . . . welcome to Maison Tout Ploie, and thanks to ambassadors él-g for the lift. (Watch where you step.) Ask yourself: Why would S.S. would want to re-release this LP (300 copies originally put out in 2008 by Belgian label KRAAK) when there are plenty of unknown/unreleased records to be debuted all over the world? Now buy a copy and figure it out on your own: I can't do everything for you. Anyway, regardless of how you (or I) feel about re-releases, and whatever else you (or I) want to say about this or that record, you (and I) have to admit the topography of S.S.'s discography gets more interesting with every outing. (By the time SS050 comes along rap-metal may be the only unexplored area. Then again...?) Truth: I've never been crazy about the "weird-folk" craze--which (with the addition of the hyphenate "SUPER-FRENCH") is how I would describe él-g, were I asked to give a totally unfair and superficial description--but even I can recognize that Tout Ploie deserves to be heard, and not just by 495 Europeans and some import-savvy US beards. Especially for the proper songs, which are shuffled with little interludes that are nice and surreal but inessential and ultimately disappointing in a half-way-there kind of way, actually; the longer, fuller songs are straightup mesmerizing, and they deserve attention if only for their ability to stand so firm on one conventional and one outré foot--but by my count there are only four such songs on the record, and that does leave me wishing they had dropped a couple of the miniatures for more of the stick-to-your-brains verse/chorus numbers. Everything less than 3 minutes comes up a little short, literally, and the two songs that go beyond 5 minutes are the best on the record . . . these are not meaningless numbers! "Du Beurre" is like the accidental discovery of an underground Parisian stargate back-linking Smiley Smile and Pet Sounds in a multiverse where the Beach Boys may or may not have ever been. -FSS

Sikhara Anduni CD (Urck)
I was expecting "INDUSTRIAL GAMELAN" after the label's description on the little cover sticker ("Post-Asiatic/Extreme Ethnic...") and the band's name, the look of the packaging, etc.--but I'd consider it unethical to call this anything but "INDUSTRIAL PLAIN VANILLA." Sure, there are some "worldly" sounds along the way (tribal-ish drums, sampled wailing, creepy chanting), and a few fleeting moments of effectively simple eerie drones and groans--but god, I'm bored right now even thinking about it, and if I had just emerged from a fifty-year hibernation session I could easily guess that this has been done a million times over. The only track that grabs at all is "Anduni," thanks to an operatic singer grooving on a nice mournful melody while martial drums and a bassoon or something swirl the air--but I assume it's a sample and either way I can only give so much credit for such a tiny grain of goodness in what's otherwise a mound of bland sand. Like mid-period Der Blutharsch without the extreme military/fascist fetish and never quite hitting any of the high or low points. And really, what kind of fun is that? -FSS

Omar Souleyman Highway to Hassake 2xLP (Sublime Frequencies)
I'm not going to pretend that the way IN to this collection by Syrian sensation Omar S was as easy for me to find as it was on those amazing African guitar group records that were my introduction to the (sublime) Sublime Frequencies label back in 2007. I'd be lying. I mean, let's be real here: those records perfectly fulfilled what I was audio-visualizing after hearing about tripped-out Africans backed by family and friends playing super-raw, generator-powered psychedelic electric guitar grooves. Is there anyone who didn't immediately backflip for that stuff? Omar's sound does have a few things in common with groups Doueh/Bombino/Inerane, like banshee trills, phase-shifting lo-tech recordings, Easterly melodies, etc.--but mostly this is different terrain (for me), largely uncharted and largely electronic--and by "electronic" I mean synthesized, digitized, computerized (not just amplified)--with spinning keyboard leads, relentless dance beats, samples'n'loops and heavily delayed vocals mixed with traditional-sounding stringed instruments and percussion and, most important, a definite party vibe (Syrian Domicile-Style). And when Omar drops the BPM and gets really loose on songs like "Atabat" you can't deny the sudden heaviness of the situation: wake up, you’re having your mind blown by something very, very true. My guess is that most ZG readers will have to adjust the reception on their ears a little to get past the "Arab Techno" aspect (that was my experience, and I’ve actually been known to listen to techno)--but give the four sides of this 2xLP a few go-rounds and tell me you're not starting to reconsider: Ahaah, my friend, you're only falling under the trance-spell of the enchanter Souleyman . . . a wonderful way to be. . . . -FSS

Various The Dead Hand: Human Machines CS (Damage Rituals)
So tapes are officially the new CDrs. The circle comes full-cycle, I guess. I bet the population of people who still have their tape decks probably includes like 90% of the group interested in the kind of music that gets released on tapes and CDrs these days anyway, so why not--except you can't buy quality blank tapes at Radio Shack or Rite Aid anymore, but that's what tapes.com is for. This is actually a printed, well-mastered compilation of mostly unreleased material from 27 bands, nice cardstock cover with art, band info, etc.--in other words, way more than can be said for most of the 60million CDr "releases" I've ended up with over the past eight years, so E for effort on presentation. Now--the other theory/suspicion of mine confirmed/supported by this little comp (and this one's a bit more controversial) is that nobody wants to acknowledge that we care about genres anymore, and eclecticism/all-inclusiveness is becoming this kind of perceived authenticity badge or something, like people are saying, You can't pin me down, maaan, I'm into Drunkdriver AND free jazz AND proggy emo stuff!! Which is great for a live show (I love shows like that, though I usually sit out the sucky bands) and fine for tastes in general (more power to you: my tastes are nothing if not allovertheplace)--and it arguably might even work for a label (see S.S. records, where there's a little bit of almost everything off-radar, hand-picked with some of the most precise and controlled eclecticism I've seen)--but within the bounds of a single compilation or album I find there's a limit to how much genre-clash I can take, and I quickly start to get annoyed, then pissed (and, soonafter, twatted). Maybe I'm simply reacting badly to the stuff I don't like, which is mainly "math-rock" with distinctly "screamo" tendencies--but then it's interspersed with great stuff like Burmese (still so mean--and they mean it!!) and good stuff like Weasel Walter Trio (drums/bass/trumpet free-blast) and Zs (noisy, with a sax) and Dan Friel (new to me, cool electronic distorted rhythm stuff). And of course all the decent cuts are super short while the terrible ones go on forever. . . . So it goes. I suppose a comp like this could be pulled off, but it would have to be really, really well put together, track-wise, and not just stacked up like this. (And the 4:1 bad/good ratio would have to be improved upon.) There is one thing I can say about the proggy/mathy bands that are patently way outside my realm of interest: most of them at least bother to sing, which makes them sound even worse but makes me dislike them a little less because they're acknowledging that winding, proggy all-over-the-place instrumental music has been done to done to done to DEATH--and if you think about it, they're getting the ball rolling on playing out the next variation: winding, proggy all-over-the-place music with vocals. Might as well get that over with. -FSS