Music Reviews

Ex-Models/Seconds, the [coll] – [My Pal God Records]

Max Level   1/4/2006   7-inch, A Library

Ex-Models are from NY, and if what I’ve read is accurate, The Seconds are pretty much the same guys playing under a different name for some reason. The two bands are similar in that they both play short, bizarre songs that pummel the listener with crazed nonsense vocals, violent changes, and unexpected jolts. As a reference point, both bands have been favorably compared to Melt Banana. The second song on Side 2 by The Seconds is a bit different; not as hyper-wacko as the other three tracks, it has an actual repeating riff, and is within spitting distance of being funky. However, for these guys frantic is a better fit.

Found [coll] – [Found Magazine]

Max Level   1/4/2006   7-inch, A Library

The groovy folks at FOUND magazine enlisted a few artists to contribute pieces of music based on found objects. All tracks are in the 1 to 3 minute range and all are strangely moving. A1: TRS-80 assembles a jungle-ish track with mixed-in snippets from a pre-teen’s 1960s audio diary. A2: Claudine Coule combines melancholy ambience with phrases from a tape found inside a broken telephone answering machine. B1: The Victrolas concoct a country-fried tale of longing and heartbreak from nothing more than a found playing card with someone’s first name written on it. B2: Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Bros, etc) sets to music a tragic note found in a hotel room bible. Also a tiny untitled audio blurb at the end of Side B. Sure hope FOUND releases more such collections in the future; there must be thousands of great finds in the world waiting to be set to music.

Screamers, the – ” ” – [Meeuw Muzak]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

LA’s legendary synthpunk godfathers (1977-81) blast their way through two songs live at the Whiskey in 1978. The formula: ugly, aggressive keyboards, car-crash drumming, and snarling/ranting vocals by theatrical front man Tomata Du Plenty. Like if Kraftwerk jammed with the Stooges. If you weren’t there then, be there now.

Lee, Ben / Pony Up! [coll] – [Dim Mak Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Side A: the busy –and evidently much more famous that I thought– Ben Lee covers a Modest Mouse song. “Float On” is a gentle dreamy thing, likely in a minor key although I didn’t verify that, with an optimistic message. Side B: this year’s perfect summer single by Pony Up!, Montreal’s freshest new quintet of cutie pie beer-drinking boy-crazy female pop rockers. “I Heard You Got Action” is the name of the song, and check out vocalist Laura’s lusty tale about taking a handsome guy named Neil home, where they proceed to grind hot jams on the floor, whatever that means. The call-and-response with fellow vocalist Camilla is amusing, and the extremely catchy chorus is full of baseball references, Fun fun fun!

California Lightening – “Penitentiary ” – [Sound on Sound]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

East Bay duo keeps busy with this project while also comprising half of the quartet Erase Errata. Jenny provides distinctive female vocals and busy guitar strumming, while partner Bianca nails it all down with powerful drumming. The two songs on Side A are nice slices of TeenBeat style guitar pop, melodic and strong. Uplifting. The song on Side B is blurry no-wave monotone noise-pop, much different from the songs on the other side. The whole thing could have been better recorded, but for a local lo-fi rock/pop project it works just fine. I’d love to hear more from this duo. This 7″ dates from summer 2000. And yeah, there’s an “e” in Lightening.

Msbr/Government Alpha [coll] – [Rrrecords]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Two extreme Japanese noisemakers wreak havoc. MSBR (Koji Tano) generates groaning, whistling noise for 5:30. Sometimes harsh, but varies in intensity over the course of the piece. We hear the sound of an appreciative audience. False start and false ending on this side. On the flipside, Government Alpha (Yasutoshi Yoshida) attempts to kill everything within range, as usual. No relief anywhere in his 6:36 wall of noise. Cuts off cold, no need for applause, etc.

Rapture, the – “House of Jealous Lovers ” – [Dfa Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

Two dancey little numbers with sparse guitar/bass/drums arrangements recalling Gang Of Four. The male vocals are high-pitched and semi-yelling, not exactly my favorite style, but whatever. “House?” doesn’t have a whole lot of lyrics other than repeating the song’s title over and over. That track was also on the band’s 2001 full-length; not sure why a “radio edit” is out now, two years later. “Alabama?” is a bit more artsy, starting off with a quote from Captain Sensible’s “Wot”; after that, I can’t really tell what the singer is on about. Raw funk from white boys with a Telecaster. Not Bad.

Total Shutdown – “Broadcast Performances ” – [Life Is Abuse]

Max Level   1/2/2006   7-inch, A Library

The “thank you” list inside says it all: shout outs to Black Dice, Burmese, Coachwhips, Flying Luttenbachers, Lightning Bolt, and many more. Horns and a broken Casio compete to be heard above the maelstrom of guitar/bass/drums. There is also some screaming. Short jagged pieces of jazz-damaged noise catharsis, and then quiet sections while the band figures out where to go next. Tracks range from :20 to 2:10. “Fighting Witches” is my favorite here. Noisy, scary fun.

Fourtet/Hella [split] – [Ache Records]

Max Level   12/30/2005   7-inch, A Library

Ache is putting out a series of split 7-inchers, calling it the “Divorce” series (split = divorce, get it?). Here it’s Fourtet, a solo project by Kieran Hebden, on one side, giving us a slow instrumental full of blippy keyboards and random drumming. On the other side, the duo known as Hella bring us their usual spazzy madness; chaotic keyboards and samples atop some pretty incredible drumming. I think Ache’s idea with each of these splits is to bring together two artists who aren’t normally linked, but who work in similar fashion. These two tracks aren’t particularly similar sounding, but both feature keyboards/samples and live drumming. A cool release.

Dr. Ragtime – “Buckdancer’s Choice ” – [Sacred Harp Library]

Thurston Hunger   12/30/2005   7-inch, A Library

A Rose by any other name (Jack) would sound as sweet. With more pluck and swagger and a fellow Pelt banjo carpetbagger (Mike Gangloff) the title track feels like a strut around the chicken coup without stepping in any poop. Steel strings smiling chicken wire.

The mood darkens and drops about six feet on the flip side…the good doctor is dispatched alone to cover “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.” Taking a bluesy scalpel to slide and slice up his guitar, this thing moves with the slow purpose of a drop of sweat down Harry Stanton’s back in “Paris, Texas.” Blind Willie Johnson is turning in his grave, only so’s he can get an ear as close to the sound as is post-humously possible.

Two done the right way, for pickers and sinners alike.

Also this is the firstborn for a fine new label too, with a package near as purty as the sound purveyed therein.

Orchid – “S/T ” – [Hand Held Heart]

Max Level   12/25/2005   7-inch, A Library

This little gem with the blank black labels contains five perfect blasts of concentrated hardcore, ranging from :55 to 2:30, and not one second of downtime. Shred, blister, and annihilate are words that come to my mind when trying to describe Orchid’s instrumental approach. Minimal lyrics describe everyday situations and abuses. The words are emotion-packed, and only the most tormented yelling will do to get the point across. This music is in some ways insane, but there is something so beautiful and pure about it.

Sikhara/Umkra/Drk/Ript [coll] – [Marasm]

Max Level   12/23/2005   7-inch, A Library

The Marasm label (French, I think) brings us four under-underground artists, all of whom are in the noise/glitch/loop business. Not a lot of info available on this release, but the artist lineup appears to be as follows: Sikhara – manipulated jungle-type ritual music, chanting and drumming, also electronic noises. Umkra – loud, dirty glitch-mania. DRK – dark landscapes give way a couple of times to a messed-up beat loop, plus crashes and howling voices. Ripit – more noisy glitches. Are those voices in there? Noticeable surface noise on this pic-disc, adding somewhat overall to the cornucopia of weird noises.

Deerhoof/Sicbay Split [coll] – [Modern Radio]

Hunter Gatherer   12/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

7″ single split between Deerhoof and Sicbay containing three songs, released in Sept 2004. Even the label is split because it’s a co-release of Modern Radio Record Label and Sawtooth (Nick Sakes from Sicbay‘s label). The first 600 have this fancy handscreened cover designed by Amy Jo Hendrickson.

Deerhoof, San Francisco’s musical darling geniuses, take the A-side with two songs not available anywhere else:

A1: Insist – Instrumental. It starts off with some bass noodling, then some noisy stabs, then groups of noisy stabs, then pandemonium breaks loose. Excellent.

A2: United He-Ho Brothers – Singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki sings words that aren’t quite words. Something like ‘He-ho! He-ho! Na-na-na.’ There is a false stop, then driving guitars and drums.

Sicbay, a power noise pop trio from Minneapolis with a very clever name, fill up their whole B side with one song.

B1: The Rise Of Phantom White – Described on their own website as one of their few ‘deliberate pop songs,? it’s somewhere between The Monkees and Sebadoh. I am told that it is about the approach of winter, something every Minnesotan must dread, but the only lyrics I could make out were fits like a blanket and ten feet off the turnpike.
–Hunter Gatherer

As Mercenarias – “4 Demos / Bonus Single ” – [Soul Jazz Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/23/2005   7-inch, A Library

Bonus single of early demos for this Sao Paolo gang of wow,
hyping the rock solid full length comp. This was recorded
back around the early 80’s and evidently poised for a
regrouping now. The original group offered jittery power,
trashy guitar snarls, a raw-throated diatribing from Rosalia
Munhoz on vocals. Each of these four songs are little
shredders. Gone in a flash, but power kegs of angst rock. The
lurching stop/star of “Oh Oh” is nicely mated with some
alien fembot background vocals. “Honra” allegedly has the line
“the honor of a man is in his ass.”
Which could be flipping the sexism mirror, or just dealing
with more macho shit. Or hell, maybe they’re talking about
burros?’ Even without a translation, you can taste the
irritation and exuberation here, feminist more in its own
celebration, than in battling off the threat of us cursed
Y-chomosome zombies. This doesn’t pull a punch, and connects
repeatedly. This. Is. Rock. Every bit as immediate now as
it was 25 years ago!

21.PERON – “Anlatamiyorum ” – [Arkaplan]

Thurston Hunger   10/23/2005   7-inch, A Library

Turkish troupe from the 70’s, adding this as a teaser to a
more sweeping full-length to be added to KFJC’s arsenal soon.
Here’s we’ve got a pretty straight forward peppy pop tune
on the first side, followed by violin leading a bass line
though a forest of synthesized mushrooms sprouting up. The
violin gives it a bit of a bumpkin feel, but the synth is
prog rock do its very squishy Keith Emerson soul. Then in
races the little competing fuzzed out guitar line in
contra-melody to the violin. Never quite breaks the
atmosphere to galactic crossings, but has a nice ride in
the stratosphere side to it. I found the full-length more
compelling, even more Byzantine one could say, and for that
we now go to our reporter, Pete Dixon…

Kervorkian – “Who Is Who ” – [Day After Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/15/2005   7-inch, A Library

Czech mating of eastern european ire and english lyrics. A
loud and proud “FUCKING” is going to save the best track for
the DJ’s of the night. That track “Pink Panther” opens the
B-side with a whispering witch’s brew of incantation and bass
before the drums start to whip the piece towards the edge of
a cliff, guitar scraping along the way. Excellent stop/start
dynamics and very precise percussion keep this one on edge.
A quick breather and then a short slugfest with lyrics that
get lost in the mirrors of mind. On the A-side, “Who is Who”
takes a nice crooked drum solo into a bridge out of a pretty
straight-forward straight-edge number. “The Magic Box” has a
Detroit, Rock City kinda swagger. Not a lethal injection, but
a good enough reason to live… Which I’m not sure this band
did, this came out back in 1999 and I haven’t found much
further evidence of survival.

Rogers Sisters, the – “Les Fantaisies Sont Bien ” – [Troubleman Unlimited]

Thurston Hunger   9/22/2005   7-inch, A Library

Well this petit nombre was un hit fantastique back when they
sung in Uh-merican. It gets French kissed this time around
(although their still screaming in English). That same great
riff, the saxamoan swirl…the talky bits (albeit coated in
francaise sauce…).

On the flip, “45 Prayers” (like its Angli-kin also found on
the most recent “Three Fingers”), is served for strangers
in strange lands, this time Miyuki Furtado Japanslates
the number…though it retains its heavy breathing beat
texture as well.

The Rogers Sisters were born on turntables, (Daddy owned
a record store) long may they spin… I sure look forward
to their next record…

Haiku Review:
Fantasies are nice
Nicer still through french kissed lips
Foreign exchange fun

Iso 68 – “Reihenhausmusik 3 ” – [Haus Musik]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

I *think* this is the third in the Reihenhausmusik
series, which label leader Wolfgang Petters
launched to focus on unsigned bands. Iso 68
is either a synthetic oil or maybe even a metal
screw (which might be more appropro) here Iso 68
are Thomas Goebbel and Florian Zimmer, and this
is some gorgeous “lab rock.” I like the suspense
of this (especially at 33), and they even work in
some acoustic guitar. Nice and dark and evolving.

Microphones, the – “Bass Drum Dream ” – [Up Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

The Microphones consist of Phil Elvrum and..well..
..no one else. He kicks up some pretty scrappy pop
(lot’s o dynamics) here, he’s also involved in
projects D+, the Polar Bears and the damn fine
Old Time Relijun, if I may evangelize for ’em.
A-side “Bass Drum Dream…then the storm”
Lot’s of starts and stops and changes in
this single (and the flip side too!). The
storm is the sound of microphone getting blown
B-side “Where It’s Hotter (Parts 1, 2, 3)”
Again like a snake spliced out of segments
from other snakes, this keeps your attention in
a very lo-fi, rattling guitar and splotchy drums
way. Elvrum’s voice has a nice nervous quality,
a splendid 7″

Rebound Volume I I I [coll] – [Secretly Canadian]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   7-inch, A Library

Six-shooter e.p. 5 parts pop, one part beats
1) swearing at motorists – sounding nearly as
good as the band they did sound for.
See track 3 below. NOTE : false ending.
2) Marmoset – geeky with a faint hint of dub?
3) Guided By Voices – from the vaults straight
to the top of the charts. Why isn’t GbV
bigger than the Who. Why? InstAnthem.
4) To Rococo Rot – For me this sounds like
the sound bed for a Devo cover of Gloria
5) Bill Ding – A lanky number with acoustic
guitar harmonics for the self-doubter in
us all. Too bad Bill Ding collapsed.
6) Hood – More rain-streaked bleak too-weak-
-to-speak sad pop. A gem, complete with
the sound of the singer’s girlfriend’s
train pulling away as she leaves him
All ready for plenty of plays

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