There’s a poetic beauty in the fact that the inventor of the blastbeat — that blazing, ridiculously aggressive machine gun drum style that came to spur entire genres of extreme metal — later went on to create some of the most chill beats known to man. In addition to Harris’ essential heavy dub Scorn project, which pretty much was dubstep before dubstep became a one dimensional punchline of IDM culture, his solo work explores spacious, minimal expanses tied together with massive beats in an even more reductive way. This double CD release collects a series of 12″ singles he did for Canada’s Hed Nod label, offering an appropriately expansive runtime that allows a deep slide into the zone at nearly 2 and a half hours long. No matter where you stand on Harris’ work, from the inhumanly fast, dense blurs of sound in Napalm Death, to the wide open spaces propelled by relentless, sickened beats of Scorn and these solo recordings, you’ve got to give the guy props for being at the forefront of both the grindcore and dubstep genres.
Archive for the ‘2000s’ Category
All The Kids Are Gonna Fuck You Up 7″
Smooch Records, 2001
The cover says it all. This gnarly ripper from the early 2000s has that electric x-factor that edges all its noisy aggressive racket into truly inspired territory. Even the tinny, crackling production can’t stop the force of nature captured within the grooves of this glitter-infused slab of clear vinyl. Fitting somewhere within the Gravity Records/Gold Standard Labs/Three One G universe of noisy and abrasive postpunk, complete with screamy dual vocals ala The Locust or Blood Brothers, Sparkles should be widely known as a fine specimen of screamo hardcore.
Sparkles – All The Kids Are Gonna Fuck You Up (14.7mb ZIP file)
It’s been a month since the Memphis garage maestro died and I’m still recalling all the raging records he left behind. I remember the first time I heard The Reatards, blown away by the intensity and freshness he brought to the safe, conventional confines of the garage punk scene. Jay really took it to the next level and influenced a whole generation of in-the-red ragers as a mere teenager. He continued to evolve and was never afraid to push into new territory, as demonstrated with the darkwave synthpunk of the Lost Sounds, or the jerky, angular postpunk of Nervous Patterns and Angry Angles. Even his last solo release, Watch Me Fail, the most polished and commercial album of his career, his masterful combination of KBD-style primitive punk and classic pop tweaked convention enough to make his music his own distinct beast. It’s ridiculous how many quality releases the guy had under his belt. It may have seemed like overkill at the time, but ya gotta be thankful for the massive back catalog he left behind without even reaching 30. Here are a few of my favorites…
Sacred Bones Records, 2009
Sprouting from the same Seattle weirdpunk nexus that bloomed The Intelligence, A-Frames, and AFCGT comes one of the most mysterious and puzzling bands currently rearranging the sonic DNA of noisenerd earholes worldwide. Pulling together sounds pioneered by early synthpunk groups like Chrome and The Units, and tweaking them with a dose of tranced-out Can and Faust-style krautrock, every element of Factums music is a couple steps removed from normal. I recently picked up the special edition version of their latest LP on the stellar Sacred Bones label, Flowers, and have been trying to decode it for the last week or so. Far more focused than the sputtering soundtrack of A Primitive Future and their early Spells & Charms LP, Flowers kicks out 22 tracks worth of weird jamz with hardly a lull. They didn’t eliminate the blippy experimentation and random cut and paste aesthetic found in their earlier releases, but with Flowers—constructed from recording sessions dating back to 2006 and 2007—they’ve trimmed these excursions just enough to keep the album flowing and interesting. Last year’s LP, The Sistrum, made the NFZ Best of 2008 list and this release at first take seems to be even more finely constructed and dazzling. It’s one of the better releases you’ll hear this year…
I saw this Canadian trio a few weeks ago and thought they were okay, but at the time I was more smitten with Statues, my other new favorite band from Ontario. It took a little research and a thorough background check before I could totally get on board with White Wires because my suds-soaked noggin dismissed them as being too conventional for ears. Fortunately I’ve come to appreciate their laid back, stripped-down, fuzzy garage pop, which falls somewhere between the axis of The Velvet Underground, Testors, and Chuck Berry. With small nods to classic R&B and an unbridled enthusiasm for what they do — and the good sense to cover The Wipers’ “Messenger” — they’ve completely won me over. Be sure to check ‘em out at Goner Fest if you’re lucky enough to be in Memphis later this month…
Year Future 12″ EP
Gold Standard Laboratories, 2003
The sadly defunct GSL label had an amazing streak in the early 2000s, cranking out landmark releases with a diverse roster of the era’s best bands including The Locust, Mars Volta, !!!, Chromatics, GoGoGo Airheart, I Am Spoonbender, Sunshine, The Vanishing, and many more — many of which will likely be featured here sometime in future. The GSL aesthetic was ever-shifting and adventurous, from lush prog rock to icy neo-goth to hip-hip and weirdo noise, all somehow capturing the anarchic spirit of punk before punk became a commodified cultural trinket to be consumed at your local Hot Topic. Label head Sonny Kay’s good taste always warranted consideration, so after a string of notable bands featuring him as a member, like Angel Hair and my faves, The VSS (who’s essential Nervous Circuits album recently got a deluxe re-issue treatment on the Hydra Head label), I was primed to hear his latest band, Year Future. Their debut is probably the best representation of the band’s potential, along with their Hidden Hand 7″ released about a year later. And as much as I love these two releases, their debut album, First World Fever was a tedious mess I can barely listen to, a huge disappointment full of clumsy lyrics mixed front and center, dully spouted for 40-some minutes in Sonny’s whiny monotone shout. His “singing” style can be grating on the earlier releases as well, but there they were at least buried in the mix and work as an oppressive force without drowning out the band’s interesting and dense swirl of echoey guitar and synth. At their best, Year Future connected the dots between proto post-punk groups like Warsaw-era Joy Division, Public Image Limited, The Birthday Party, and Killing Joke, to the jaded Gravity Records-era post-hardcore bands like The VSS, Clikitat Ikatowi, Antioch Arrow, and Heroin. Check out some of Year Future’s finest recorded moments from a pair of tracks from their 4-song debut EP below…
Dead Beat Records, 2008
I was sold on The Daily Void from the git go, being the twisted, sci-fried mutation of Chicago’s blistering Functional Blackouts. And after picking up their raging HoZac and Florida’s Dying 7″ singles, I knew that an album’s worth of their Crime-damaged paranoia punk would be A+ essential listening for modern noise mutants. With stabbing stereo shards of guitar piercing a tightly-wound rhythm section and snotty, robotic vox sneering songs with titles like “(You’re Not A Man) You’re An Insect”, “You’ve Been Erased”, and “The Man Without A Face”, The Daily Void give their apocalyptic primal punk sound a modern cybernoid edge that reveals an Orwellian view to life in the age of Twitter.
Skin Graft, 2007
Yikes! It’s been over a month since my last post, which sort of fits today’s post, “Epic Fits” by the UK uber spazzpunks PRE. I’d nabbed a few tracks (see below) from the Skin Graft website and thought about picking up the album for quite some time, but sort of wrote ‘em off as covering the same ground as other high-tension no wave spazzoids like Melt-Banana, Dmonstrations, and Xerobot. And while they’re definitely in the same league, PRE has their own chops and more wound up energy than they seem to know what to do with, pushing each jabbing guitar burst and shriek past any sensible limit, skillfully crafting a sonic intensity that’s comparable to electrocution. It’s ridiculously confrontational, yet ridiculously fun too with unexpected twists and turns, like the extended lock groove that takes over “Scenes from A 1963 Los Angeles Love In,” stamping the riff into the ground relentlessly before it stops on a dime and snaps back to form. Then there’s the noisy, horn-assisted leitmotif of “Popping Showers” which keeps the track interesting as it sprawls: it’s the second song on the album to hover around the 4-minute mark, which is an epic amount of time for such an overamped genre. The title fits perfectly. Anyway, I’m kicking myself for not getting around to buying “Epic Fits” until now and for letting this blog go without a posting for so long. I’m anxious to redeem myself by jumping on their upcoming “Hope Freaks” album when it’s released this summer, and by kickin’ the NFZ postings into high gear in the next few weeks…
Cheveu – Cheveu LP (S-S Records/Born Bad Records)
I knew Cheveu would be a band to watch in 2008, after their catchy Dog 7″ and split 7″ with Tyvek went into heavy rotation in 2007. But damn, this record really blew me away. It comes at you from so many unexpected and weird angles; simultaneously aggro and laid back, lo-fi and textured, tense and loose. Tweaking and warping punk rock like The Intelligence, and in league with the French weirdo artpunk explosion that includes Volt, Frustration, Crash Normal, and A.H. Kraken, Cheveu now sits atop the heap.
Indian Jewelry – Free Gold! LP (We Are Free/Deleted Art)
Here’s another winner that I fell in love with instantly, and it’s still sounding great after many spins. There’s been a void in my music diet since the demise of the Pain Teens in the late 1990s for dark, beat-heavy sinister noise, but Indian Jewelry really hits the spot. Check out this earlier post to see what I mean…
Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. 2xLP (kranky)
You may be wary of this record, since there’s no doubt that it was one of the most anticipated records of 2008. But you can’t really say it’s overhyped if it delivers the goods. Like many, 2007′s Cryptograms became a favorite of mine, so when the October release date was announced I was as guilty and giddy as anyone to see what Deerhunter was capable of in 2008, and it really exceeded my overanxious expectations. My biggest fear, especially when it was announced that Microcastle would be paired with a whole new Weird Era Cont. album, was that most of the tracks would be throwaway ambient doodling, like a few of the lesser tracks on Cryptograms. Instead, they delivered two solid records.
Black Angels – Directions to See A Ghost LP (Light in the Attic)
I’m a huge sucker for tranced out psych and the Black Angels’ sophomore album builds a thick, hazy atmosphere on top of the sound they established on their debut album, Passover. So in addition to steady, seductive Velvet Underground drone and churn, there are layers and layers of texture from their 3-guitar/organ/sitar/drone machine lineup. In lesser hands this would amount to nothing more than overkill, but the Angels know how to harness all that sound to pull in and bury the listener in a reverbed hive of buzz.
Portishead – Third LP (Mercury)
Here’s another highly anticipated record that lived up to the hype in 2008. Portishead’s fanbase had slowly grown over their 10-year hiatus as a result of their unique position as a band that had crossover appeal from a variety of genres ranging from trip-hop to alt rock to electronica to goth. Amazingly, instead of picking up where they left off, Portishead managed to completely reinvent themselves while also keeping their distinctly recognizable sound. There’s a contemporary simplicity, sparseness and sophistication to this record that makes it feel modern, while also pulling elements from vintage krautrock and the rough edges of early experimental electronic music. The song “The Rip” has the Moog-ed charm of Stereolab while “We Carry On” sounds like a Silver Apples loop with ’90s dissonance guitar samples grafted to Beth Gibbons’ ethereal vocals. And “Plastic” utilizes the stereo effect as heavy-handedly as a hi-fi demo disc from the 1960s as it gurgles backmasked studio blips and bleeps that could only come from a post-electronica age.
Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1 (Century Media)
It’s always interesting to genre-hop and delve into a scene to see what, if anything, stands out. Black metal has been a scene to watch for a while now, what with all the Norwegian drama and the recent crop of one man isolationist black metal bands like Leviathan, Striborg and Xasthur taking brilliant steps to out weird and out cult each other. Nachtmystium is a Chicago-based group that’s taken the risk of isolating itself from the rigid, cult-like (okay, make that totally cult) expectations of its fans by meddling with the genre and bringing in some early Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelic twists. (The album title is a reference to Pink Floyd’s 1971 Meddle album.) So not only will you get your snarling death metal howls, blast beats, and guitar buzzwork, you’ll also get a little Santana-esque fusion guitar noodling and — get this — saxophone, in your black metal miasma. It’s one of the most majestic and well-crafted black metal records since Emperor‘s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.
Night Marchers – See You In Magic LP (Vagrant)
The debut long player from John Reis’ newest band? Hell yeah, I’ll be in line for that, no doubt about it. Being a fan of Pitchfork, then Drive Like Jehu, then Rocket from the Crypt, the The Sultans, then Hot Snakes, how could I not automatically love this record? I suppose it’s always possible for a John Reis project to suck — I never was wild about Back Off Cupids (was anyone?) — but it’s safe to say the odds are that it’s going to rule in a razor-sharp punk-n-roll way. This record bursts with classic, walloping Reis riffs and some late ’70s-style punk harmonies and melodies, while also dipping into Reis’ professed influence of the Wipers. While at times it’s almost conventional, See You in Magic hits hard and leaves a mark that stick with you and have you humming its tunes for years to come.
Factums – The Sistrum LP+7″ (Sacred Bones)
A project containing members of the The Fruit Bats and The Intelligence that gets compared to Chrome will most definitely pique my interest, and of the Factums releases I’ve heard so far, which include Spells & Charms and A Primitive Future, this is the most exciting. While not as DNA-scrambling and brilliant as some of Chrome’s finer (ie; records with Damon Edge and Helios Creed) work, the comparison is accurate in the sense that Factums have mutated rock music to a degree that makes it almost unrecognizable. Guitar lines are blown out with heavy effects at in-the-red levels, while the vocals and thin drums come from a room two doors down the hall as a pulsating bass line threatens to rumble everything into the ground. It’s an engrossing and bizarre document revealing how far rock music can be bent.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours LP (Goner)
Using only primitive garage punk sound essentials, this Australian band constructs songs with the relaxed delivery and I-could-give-fuck swagger of The Fall covering the Stooges. Nothing’s flashy, unusual, or out of place. And while that convention would normally turn me off, this album has rooted itself deep into my skull through the sheer understated simplicity and ambiguous heart of a rock solid rock album.
Beck – Modern Guilt LP (Interscope)
Pairing the hip-pop mutations of Beck with the mix mastery of Danger Mouse was bound to yield good results. Danger Mouse’s propensity for ’60s pop and soul, as evidenced in his work with C-Lo Green in Gnarls Barkley creates the perfect setting for Beck’s folk pop superstar songsmithing. It felt like a classic the first time I heard it and I suspect it will retain its charm, as other Beck albums with A-team collaborators, like the Dust Brothers-produced Odelay and Guero.
Ad Astra Per Aspera – Danger Bird Blues / RRRIP-IT-UP 7″ (Love Garden)
Since its first 2003 release, this Lawrence, Kansas group has always brewed a heady mix of experimental noise with indie rock hooks that never fails to sound fresh. This latest installment, the first of two 7-inches to be released by the primo Love Garden store label, showcases how perfectly wired this group has become over the years. Catchy, creative, and expertly drenched in feedback and squall, both songs on this well-crafted 45 are flawless.
AFCGT – AFCGT 10″ EP (Dirty Knobby)
Some have said that this group sounds like a mix of its components, which if you haven’t figured out from the acronym, is a supergroup of sorts combining two of Seattle’s more interesting bands, the A Frames and Climax Golden Twins. I’m more prone to say that this mixture is an entirely new concoction that exists somewhere in the realm of art-spastic improv groups like Factums or the Sun City Girls. Nowhere is the A Frames rigid and mechanical aesthetic or Climax Golden Twins drifting and composed songs found on this wired and kinetic EP. Hopefully we’ll hear more from all parties in 2009—and if we’re lucky, perhaps there’ll be a re-release of their very-limited debut CD-R.
Scorn – Super Mantis Pt. 1 12″ (Combat Recordings)
I’m not sure Mick Harris will ever get full credit or recognition for drafting the blueprint of the dubstep sound with 1995′s release of the Gyral LP. Now that dubstep DJs are all the rage in the club music world, he might just get his due, especially since he’s still pumping out sinister heavy dub with the darkest ambient aura you’ll find on wax. If you’re a fan of current dubstep superstars like Burial, Distance, Pinch, or the excellent Soul Jazz Box of Dub compilations, you owe it to yourself to dig deep into this ex-Napalm Death drummer’s decade-plus Scorn catalog.
Fag Cop – Fag Cop 7″ (Milk n Herpes)
Another Lawrence band foisted a great 7″ in 2008 in the form of a blown out, raw-ass garage trash rocker. Taking the way-in-the-red aggropunk of The Reatards to new, sick extremes, while also retaining a faint trace of ’60s garage punk form in the manner of the most obscure Crypt Records gem, the antagonistic Fag Cop plop down four songs of midwest fury.
ADULT. – Let’s Feel Bad Together EP (Ersatz Audio)
This Detroit duo gets more unhinged with each release, and this digital-only EP only affirms that fact with 4 songs that take their typically nervy synthpunk to volatile levels with overamped beats, randomly tuneless blurts, and Nicola Kuperus’ Siouxsie Sioux vocals spun into dizzying, channel-bouncing extremes. Besides songs that were included with a $350 art photography project by Kuperus, these tracks are what was available in 2008 from one of the most interesting bands in America.
Kim Phuc – Freak Out The Squares / Wormwood Star 7″ (Criminal IQ)
Kim Phuc (the name of the napalm-scarred Vietnamese girl in that famously unsettling photo) draws together the roughneck thuggery of a no-frills town like Pittsburgh while also flourishing their hardcore attack with the wit of that city’s brainiac powerbase in Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. It’s tough guy music made by hardcore geeks.
Box Elders – Box Elders 7″ EP (Grotto)
The vinyl debut of Omaha’s kings of “cave pop” puts this trio at the top of the garage punk pile; a pile that’s more than a little oversaturated with mediocre bands poorly aping the classic ’60s punk sound. Whereas the typical modern day garage punk group is happy to blithely lift a few riffs from their Back to the Grave forefathers and string them into a few lazy songs, the Box Elders take inspiration from the past and distill it into perfectly scrappy little protopunk pop nuggets that rival and outshine the much ballyhooed Black Lips. This 4-song EP, with the soon-to-be-classic song “One Foot in Front of the Other,” will no doubt become one of the high-water marks of this enduring genre.
Disappears – Old Friend / Magics 7″ (Self Released)
Here’s two tracks of great, atmospheric psych from Chicago, that falls somewhere within the worlds inhabited by Suicide, Roky Erikson, and Spacemen 3, or the more contemporary wave of psychedelia found in The Black Angels or Wooden Shjips. But Disappears plays with the cool precision of Joy Division and sound more like grad students than stoner burnouts, with a finely tuned and crafted heady sound.
Double Negative – Raw Energy 7″ (Sorry State)
Aptly titled, Raw Energy delivers three songs of ripping thrash that harkens back to late ’80s greats like Attitude Adjustment, early Corrosion of Conformity, Accüsed, Poison Idea, and Christ on Parade with speedy 1-2-1-2 drumming and guitars that only slow down enough to wind themselves up, poised to strike again with another round of blisteringly aggressive distortion hits. The sleeve is extra cool, printed in a metallic silver ink with the Double Negative logo perforated, so you could truly subtract it from the sleeve and use it as a stencil.
Dead Luke – Jumping Jack Flash Drive / Not Tonight 7″ (Sacred Bones)
The second of three Dead Luke records released in 2008, this release perfectly highlights the psych-synth genius of this Milwaukee bedroom recorder with a massively damaged and reinvented cover of The Rolling Stones’ classic, “Jumping Jack Flash.” Taking the cold elements of early 2000s neogoth/darkwave/synthpunk/whatever groups like The Vanishing, Sixteens, Black Ice, then pairing with the song-savvy electropop of Gary Numan and warming it up with some lo-fi Sebadoh guitar accents and deadpan vocals drenched in reverb, Dead Luke manages to pull you into a world that’s both cooly distant and warmly sincere.
Loop – Fade Out 2xLP (Reactor)
I had to prowl eBay for a copy a few years ago when it seemed certain that nobody but me remembered this absolutely essential spaced out trance rock beast. It was puzzling that you’d still hear Spacemen 3 peppered all over college radio and as a reference point in 3.6 gazillion record reviews, and yet nearly no one knew about Loop, a contemporary of Spacemen 3 who in my opinion, offer a little more depth and focus.
Skullflower – IIIrd Gatekeeper (Crucial Blast)
My favorite of Skullflower’s prolific discography, remixed by metal maestro Scott Hull of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Pig Destroyer. Essential for any fan of supreme heaviness.
Gore – Mean Man’s Dream / Hard Gore 2xLP (Southern Lord)
Gore was an odd, Dutch instrumental group that sounded like Celtic Frost‘s sickly de-tuned guitar metal infused with Don Caballero‘s chunky math rock. This reissue compiles their first two albums into a typically beautiful Southern Lord gatefold package.
Wooden Shjips – Vol. 1 CD (Holy Mountain)
This disc compiles all the notoriously scarce Shjips material from their limited edition 7″ and 10″ releases. If you’re a fan of the repetitive psych drone the likes of Neu!, Loop, or Spacemen 3, you’ll want to pick this up as well as their excellent self-titled debut LP and Sub-Pop Loose Lips 7.”
Adrenaline O.D. – Wacky Hijinx of… CD (Chunksaah)
A.O.D. (as we called ‘em back in the day) was a staple of the speed-crazed hardcore legions in the mid-1980s, and no thrasher’s mix tape would be complete without a few raging, good humored tracks from this New Jersey band. Technically, they were masters of the slow/fast, start/stop on a dime hardcore groups and were a huge influence on the crossover metal scene that hardcore would merge with in the late ’80s. Essential!
The Better Beatles – Mercy Beat LP (Hook or Crook)
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, about 45 minutes from Omaha, where four very brave art damaged souls decided to make music by deconstructing and re-animating songs by one of the most popular rock groups of all time, The Beatles. The fact that I’d never heard of them wasn’t surprising, but the fact that one of the better garage punk labels around was able to sniff this anomaly out and find enough unreleased material to properly document this band 28 years after the fact is simply amazing. Beatles fans needn’t be offended, since the Better Beatles have stripped all but a ghostly trace of the original songs, forming a minimalist shell of synthesized rock music. It’s puzzling, haunting, and strangely alluring.
Brainbombs – Obey CD (Armageddon)
This is one of the most notorious and sick noise/rock punishments ever pressed. Ruthless, tasteless, and barely musical, these sick Swedes bludgeon you with drugged out half-riffs that repeat in an endless lock groove while a rambling sociopath slurs about murder and mayhem and topics that’d make Ed Gein blush. It’s hard to justify such ugliness, but even harder to resist it.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Jukebox Explosion (In The Red)
The JSBX schtick may feel a little played out these days, but In The Red wants to remind you of how smokin’ they were when they pumped out their plain-label jukebox series singles in the early ’90s. Some of their best songs, including my favorite, “Latch On” — a sputtering skronk stomp that focuses the clamor of Pussy Galore into a cranked spasms — are collected here as a parody of a Crypt Records Back from the Grave compilation.
Sic Alps – A Long Way Around to A Shortcut CD (Animal Disguise)
Like the Wooden Shjips compilation mentioned above, this CD collects some hard to find 7″, 12″, cassette, and CD-R releases from 2006-2007. Their noisy freak pop has a sloppy and intoxicating Guided By Voices/Pavement/Dead C charm that’s easy to find in songs like “Message from the Law” and the hypnotic “Bells.”
Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff Deluxe Edition 2xCD (Sub-Pop)
You know you’re getting old when the music of your teen years hits the 20-year mark and gets the fancy reissue treatment. Yeesh. Anyway, this packs in the classic headburning Superfuzz Bigmuff EP, plus their classic early Sub-Pop 45s and a second disc with tons of smokin’ live tracks.
Free Gold! LP
Deleted Art/We Are Free, 2008
Although I bit on their early 7″ on On/On Switch records in 2005, and 2006′s Invasive Exotics steadily became one of my most-listened-to albums in 2007, it wasn’t until this year’s Free Gold! LP that Indian Jewelry really became a top shelf band for me. In a layered, hazy psychedelic fog, Indian Jewelry not so much create songs as create buzzing, soothing atmospheres strung together with effects-heavy beats and ethereal vocals. They continue the sinister lineage of fellow Houstonians The Pain Teens, whose dark and heavy noise rock pounded through the late ’80s and early ’90s, while also exhibiting the cold darkwave synthpulse of late ’90s/early 2000 Bay Area group The Vanishing — both great bands that will no doubt be mentioned in future Noise for Zeros entries.