Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Best Albums of 2015

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Andy Human and the Reptoids
Andy Human and the Reptoids – Andy Human and the Reptoids (S-S)

No other album had the ability to get under your skin quite like this debut from the Bay Area’s finest export. With a timeless sound that draws inspiration from, but doesn’t directly ape the gurgling glops of glam and protopunk (Brian Eno, Pere Ubu, Devo) that spouted them, this band’s exceptional songcraft has given this LP a high rate of return and listenability. Soon all the references to classics will fade as this records has all the indicators of a classic in and of itself.

The Chewers - Dead Dads
The Chewers –
Dead Dads (Self Released)

There are weirdos and then there are people trying to be weirdos. These freaks from Nashville couldn’t be normal if they tried and their musical output benefits from this tragic anomaly in that they’ve been able to create a truly unique body of work that allows more adventurous listeners a glimpse into a world that’s more fascinating, frightening, and funny than nearly any other band you’ll hear. Truly unique and truly weird. Read more about it here.

Dan Melchior's Broke Review - Lords of the Manor
Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue –
Lords of the Manor (In The Red)

Dan’s prolific discography of solo records and records with Das Menace have been a steady source of brilliant ramshackle rock n’ roll on par with other masters of the form, like Billy Childish, Jay Reatard or Jon Dwyer. As great as that gravy train has been with multiple releases hitting the vinyl bins year after year, I have to admit that when I heard the Broke Revue moniker was being tossed out for a new record, the first since the band’s last recordings in 2004, I was more than a little amped, being that Oldtime-Futureshock, Heavy Dirt and Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn still sit high on my list of all-time favorites. Lord of the Manor has all the rickety hooks and stomp of those earlier records, but now wraps it in a detached psychedelic swirl that darkly spins off into fractured Chrome solos or relentlessly heads down krautrock. The new Broke Revue is an entirely new beast and one I hope rears its ugly head again sometime soon.

Killing Joke - Pylon
Killing Joke
Pylon 2xLP (Spinefarm)

After 35 years, you might expect the legendary UK postpunk pounders to loose a little steam and/or piss and vinegar, but so far they’ve kept right at it and have continued to make killer records decade after decade. From the masterpiece of their eponymous debut LP through 1983’s percussive Fire Dances, even through their weaker new-wavy late ‘80s records on to the more metallic Pandemonium in 1994 and through the 2000s, there’s been enough trace amounts of their original fire in all their releases to make ‘em worth paying attention to. And this double whopper again shows how malleable their sound can be by pleasing not only lovers of metal, industrial, dub, EDM, punk, and all points in between, but by demonstration how their unique vision has influenced underground music overall. The tracks on Pylon span from drifting hypnotic anthems to bombastic marches, all roaring or at least gurgling with layers of texture and Geordie Walker’s unrivaled minor key guitar swells. Needless to say, Pylon is an epic addition to an already epic discography.

Male Gaze - Gale Maze
Male Gaze
Gale Maze LP (Castle Face)

Delivering on the promise of their 7”, Gale Maze reels in the noise a wee bit and serves up a cool slab of postpunk built with commanding gothy vocals and thick fuzzy bass-driven songs that channel the frenetic dark energy of Tones on Tail or the coldwave songcraft of Total Control. It’s instantly catchy and will wrap itself deep into the folds of your brain as it also rumbles in your gut. Body music for the brain or brain music for the body?

Mick Futures - Banned from the Future
Mick Futures
Banned from the Future (Telephone Explosion)

Only the Andy Human record earlier this year got as many plays as this surprise treat from Canada’s Mitch Houle. Endlessly listenable pop damage for mutants of all ages, Banned from the Future pulls you in with hooks in the form of synthetically-enhanced punk so catchy that you’ll finally be able to put something new between all those classic Chrome, Devo, and Roxy Music records you’ve spun into oblivion.

Shadow in the Cracks
Shadow in the Cracks
Shadow in the Cracks (Goner)

What could be seen as a side project of Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake, this 9-song convulsive devotional deserves some credit for discovering a new space in the well travelled garage punk sound continuum. They exist in a plane where tranced out shamanistic krautrock mingles in the open, singular spaces Wire discovered on Pink Flag, while getting scorched by the burning, grizzled fire of Dead Moon. One of the freshest records the garage canon has seen in a long time.

Sleaford Mods - Key Markets
Sleaford Mods
Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)

If you consider the mountains of halfwit shitass punk bands out there clogging the bins and clubs with formulaic and conventional tripe, you have to wonder how it is that two Brits armed with nothing more than minimal beats and primitive bass lines can lay waste to all of it with 12 cuts of spittin’ working class rage. Key Markets is what the The Fall would’ve sounded like if Mark E. Smith grew up listening to Crass and Wu Tang Clan instead of Can and The Seeds.

The Soupcans - Soft Party
The Soupcans
Soft Party (Telephone Explosion)

Toronto spazzoids The Soupcans are back with 13 hits of Grade A ass-whooping garage punk jolts. Their tantalizing 7” EP, Parasite Brain, from 2013 left a thirst for these lads brand of huh that can finally be quenched, with pleasantly deranged bangers like “Hairicide” and “Razorface”, full of tales about who the fuck knows what. They even put up a splash of quasi black metal blast beats and howls with the punishing track “Murder Parade“ that shows a wild new angle on the Soupcans sound. They’ve managed to both hone their sound and push it even further too. Absolutely as essential as their previous LP.

Ufomammut - Ecate
Ecate (Neurot)

As the various branches of metal continue to mutate and push into new territory, it’s always rewarding to slog through a few tons of tedious metal clones to find records as remarkable as this monster from Italy’s finest metal trio. The riffs on Ecate are unforgivingly heavy and relentless, textured with mysterious samples, buried vocals, and vicious electronics that pound you into putty while also giving what’s left of your brain a psychedelic treat on a trajectory as convoluted as its retina frying cover art. It’s a sublime sludge stew to fuel 45 minutes of infinite astrological exploration.

Sweet Shops

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Record Store Day 2014

After the 7th year of Record Store Day and reading a few intriguing if not wholly accurate lists from the likes of BuzzfeedLA WeeklyPastePitchfork and Spin, I reminisced about all the music meccas my addiction to noise has led me to over the years and assembled a list of my own. There’s no better way to experience a new city than hunting down what audio treasures it has to offer. Some of these shops I visited decades ago but most are still kickin’ and hopefully as mindblowing now as they were when I first stepped into ’em. Each shop offered the all-circuits-are-busy overload a kid in a candy store experiences, stocked with so many killer slabs of wax that it required some tough improv decisions to edit my stack down to a (semi) affordable stack of jams. I look forward to some day hitting some other legendary spots like End of an Ear (Austin), Goner (Memphis), Mississippi (Portland),  Other (NYC), Waterloo (Austin) and others I hope you’ll be compelled to share in the comments section. Until then, make note of these sweet shops…

AmoebaSan Francisco, California
I’ve yet to visit Amoeba’s newest store in Hollywood — the world’s largest indie record store — and I can’t fathom how massive that place is. Can’t wait to hit it, but I have sincere concerns about choking in the face of so much vinyl. I’ve nearly had that experience at their S.F. store, where there was so much awesome music at my fingertips that I couldn’t begin to decide where to start. My want list went out the door as I just jumped in and improvised, stumbling across more heavily desired records than I could carry. It is hands down the best place I’ve been in the U.S. for buying records. Sweet finds: the first Red Monkey 7″, Striborg Embittered Darkness, and Fushitsusha Allegorical Misunderstanding.

The Antiquarium (RIP)Omaha, Nebraska
Before moving out of its original location, which shared a 4-story building with a used bookstore, comic book store and art gallery, you’d have to walk past reading groups to descend down the staircase into the record shop. It offered you a quick scan of the ample selection of quality goods that were offered at ridiculously low prices. Most used vinyl was in the $4 range and there were tons of thing you’d see here and no where else. Their last location wasn’t as funky, but it still offered a more than healthy selection of indie punk garage jams, with lots of local product. Sweet finds: the first Box Elders 7″, Halo of Flies Garbage Rock, High Rise 2, For Against Echelons, Whitehouse Great White Death.

Aquarius Records San Francisco, California
If you aren’t on their email newsletter, loaded with contagious fandom for all things weird and outré, do yourself a favor and sign up. Every week you’ll be exposed to dozens of reviews by obsessed audiofreaks with encyclopedic knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm, plus sound samples to back it up. With an eclectic mix of “….indierock, punk, metal (black, doom, sludge and all things in between), reggae, sixties psych, seventies proto-metal, international music, experimental electronic music, hip hop, field recordings, found sounds, country and bluegrass and avant garde music of all types,” this densely packed shop in SF’s Mission District is always worth a visit. Sweet finds and discoveries: Urfaust, F/i reissues, Skull Disco imports, Bohren and Der Club of Gore, the Russkie Wig Out! compilation.

Love GardenLawrence, Kansas
Now celebrating 24 years in this college town about 40 miles west of Kansas City, this Mass Street mecca is always stocked with a heap of great used vinyl, local treasures, and a wide swath of genres to satisfy pretty much any sound craving. While the original second floor location had the charms of a magical stairwell adorned with hundreds of album sleeves and a creaking wood floor, their new street level digs have added character to a shopping district that’s done fairly well defending against the encroachment of corporate retail. Sweet finds: first Slug 7″, Pitchfork CD discography in limited-edition Monkey Army screen print cover, first Unsane LP, Fag Cop 7″s, Helios Creed The Warming 7″, Savage Republic Tragic Figures LP.

Permanent RecordsChicago, Illinois
Like Aquarius, the refined tastes of the PR staff is reflected in a weekly email newsletter that drips with a palpable fervor for weird and wild sounds. Unlike some big shops with loads of less-than-interesting filler, the quality of stock cultivated at this tiny West Town shop is unparalleled, offering a focused degree of browsing that’s highly efficient and highly rewarding. In addition to this shop, they’re now operating a store in LA as well as a super clued-in record label. Sweet scores: Haunted George’s Pile O’ Meat, Bitchin’ Bajas/Moon Duo split 7″, Steel Pole Bath Tub Unlistenable, Cheveu Cheveau.

Record Collector – Iowa City, Iowa
Now at its third location within the handful of blocks that constitute downtown Iowa City, this college town mainstay has outlasted dozens of other shops with a small but well considered stock that reflects a clued-in group of buyers with sharp ears for sharp sounds. The original location that I grew to love was up two flights of stairs lined with flyers and not much bigger than the size of a bedroom, but it was absolutely bursting, stacked floor to ceiling with the detritus of indie punk weirdodom, stocked with a dazzling assortment of zines like Your Flesh, Bananafish, Bad Vibe, You Could Do Worse and more, plus more vinyl and CDs than you could imagine possible is such a small space. Sweet scores: Harry Pussy Zéro De Conduite double 7″, bottledog Hot Dolphin Terror @ Chirpgobble, Los Marauders Every Song We Fuckin’ Know, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 Tangle.

Rotate This Toronto, Ontario
This Queen Street honey hole houses a heap of vinyl with a healthy cross section of any genre worth dropping a few loonies on. With a healthy assortment of stock that’s heavy in the punk and garage department, it’s the place to go if you’re sniffin’ around for all stuff underground Canada. Their used section is bountiful and priced well, so if you’re able to make it there be sure to wear some good shoes and prepare to walk out with a sizable stack of wax. Sweet scores: The World’s Lousy with Ideas Vol. 2, The Intelligence Boredom and Terror, Pink Noise Memory Box.

Singles Going Steady – Seattle, Washington
Specializing in punk, as the Buzzcocks-inspired name implies, this scuzzy jewel of the northwest is a riotous shop crammed with quality jams in 7″, 10″ and 12″ varieties. What’s great about SGS is unlike other shops that specialize in punk that feel more like a t-shirt/lifestyle accessory shop with a few records, this is an actual vinyl junkie utopia with loads and loads of rare vinyl both new and used. As someone fairly well versed in punk, I felt like a noob novice digging deep into the crates here with tons of crusty punk, thrash, doom and grind that was completely foreign to my eyes. It’s a great immersion point going deep into scenes yet to be discovered.
Sweet scores, A Frames 1 & 2, Spits 7″s, Night Kings 7″.

Twist and Shout Denver, Colorado
While it may not live up to the legend of Wax Trax records in it’s heyday, Twist and Shout has become the go-to spot for all things vinyl in the mile high city. Their current space is a healthy sized space on Colfax that houses not only a deep collection of vinyl, but lots of DVDs and other stuff too. A trip to one of their earlier locations was amazingly fruitful, when they had a storefront across the street from the main shop that housed all the vinyl. At the time CDs were still the main business of the day and iPods had just begun turning things digital. While the main shop was hoppin, the vinyl shop had a much more focused feel and an huge amount of wish list material. Sweet scores: Faction Epitaph, Killing Joke Almost Red 12″, Coyote Insides, Destruction Unit Self-Destruction of a Man.

Zulu Records – Vancouver, British Columbia
Zulu retains the feel of an ’80s record shop, harkening to its 1981 opening date and the wide gamut of genres it expertly serves. If you remember digging in ‘import’ sections, where releases and labels that fell outside the main channels of music distribution, Zulu caters to any and everything, well stocked in punk classics as well as bleeding edge experimentalism and electronica. And, not surprisingly, they have a righteous selection of actual UK imports including some rather hard to find stateside electronic plates. Sweet scores: Scorn Plan B, Mick Harris Hednod Sessions.

Other fine shops of note:

Atomic RecordsMilwaukee, Wisconsin (RIP)
Brave New WorldPittsburgh, Pennsylvania (RIP)
Drastic PlasticOmaha, Nebraska
Vintage Vinyl St. Louis, Missouri
Wax TraxDenver, Colorado (RIP)

Best Singles/EPs of 2013

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Cop City / Chill Pillars
Gift Shop 7″ (Hozac)
The oddball vibe within the grooves of this 45 instantly pull you into a bizarro world where warbling effects-laden guitar and chanted vocals might be considered acceptable entertainment. Living up to the weirdness of their moniker, these wack Floridians continue to amaze.

Endless Bummer
Ripper Current EP 7″ (In The Red)
Four bare knuckled blasts from the most excellent Permanent Records folks and a Spit. This LA band with the ultimate SoCal name offers up a version of bitter garage punk that’s no fun and fun at the same time, perfectly wrapped up with a funny/not funny cover.

Life Stinks
Shadow on the Wall 7″ (Total Punk)
Stripped down no-frills downer punk with a less-than-positive attitude. Their snarl is evident, yet they don’t give a fuck about getting overly worked up about it. Endlessly inspiring negativity in two parts. Brilliant.

Magic Shadows
Sunburned Mind 7″ (Magic Shadows)
The wave of punk-infused psychedelia continues. Sex Church, Destruction Unit, Human Eye, etc — there’s no shortage of killer bands swirling loud tranced out guitar around mind expanding riffs. And if that sort of thing is your bag, you gotta check out these Canadians’ echoey barrage of scorching guitar stomp. Read more here.

Optional Body
Surviving Avalanches 7″ (25 Diamond)
As a huge fan of The VSS and the first few Year Future records, my ears have been craving some Sonny Kay-style jams for a number of years now. This killer pair of songs has his distinct yelp over a wash of doomed postpunk guitar — the ingredients of a classic.

Mercurial 7″ (Hozac)
The second the needle hits this record, a wave of atmospheric synth washes over you — a thrilling mix of ghostly vocals flowing over sustained chillwave and thin beats. A Flock of Seagulls from hell. This Italian duo’s second LP (out soon on Hozac) will be on the must-hear list for 2014.

Scorpion Violente
The Rapist 12″ EP (Teenage Menopause)
Similar to The Dreams, another French duo with repetitive, droning vocals and noise over cheap drum machines, Scorpion Violente ups the menace with minimalist disco dirges that are seedier than a Tijuana back alley at 3am —something like what a Brainbombs dance album might sound like. Their cover of The Sonics’ “Strychnine” on this record is mystifying and fascinating at the same time. Even the sleeve is morbidly unsettling and a brilliantly provocative image for setting a scene.

The Soupcans
– Parasite Brain 7″ EP (Telephone Explosion/JKSHK)
If you aren’t acquainted with Toronto’s Soupcans yet, grab this 6-song EP and prepare to be atomized. Breathing new spastic life into noise punk, their brand of racket is as warped and wild as it gets. If you’ve subjected yourself to last year’s killer Good Feelings record, get ready for more righteous shocks to the system.

Straight Arrows
Never Enough 7″ (Hozac)
A-side drops bigger than life rubbery riffs that pull you in with a surge of buzzsaw guitar, while the B-side rounds out the fun with a catchy garage punk punch to the face. These Aussies have been making big waves stateside and here are two more great reasons why.

– Excommunion 7″ EP (Found Dead)
Trve to form, the 4 songs of black metal delight on this Montreal band’s vinyl debut are recorded thinly and tinny, but even that slipshod production can’t keep the fury of Veglas from shining through. Mixing the pained shrieks and buzz of standard issue isolationist black metal with the articulation of D-beat hardcore and galloping thrash metal makes this band a pleasantly aggressive anomaly in an oversaturated musical form.

Best Albums of 2013

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Black BugReflecting the Light (Hozac)
The only mark against this album is that many of the songs have already been released as singles. That said, you can’t deny the unstoppable force that is Black Bug. Their essential debut LP may go a couple clicks further in aggression, but Reflecting the Light is every bit as nasty, scuzzed out and terrifying as anything they’ve ever done. Any punk purists that still scoff at synthesizers need to have this monster blasted at their face. The tone is hard and overamped to oblivion, and shreds in a cool detached manner that only the French can muster. Think of it as Metal Urbain 2.0 — which roughly translates to “required listening ” in NFZ English.

BloodbirdsPsychic Surgery  (Self Released)
Made up from some folks with a long line of notable punk/indie/hardcore/avant groups that have kept the KC/Lawrence music scene interesting for over a decade, Bloodbirds is guitar rock built on a sturdy foundation of dialed-in songwriting and the good sense to keep the edges frayed a little with some masterfully applied effects, feedback and squall. The first track “Divorce Sea” alone is enough to make this record an essential part of your sonic diet.

Dan MelchiorCCDE Music (Little Big Chief)
With such a prolific amount of recordings out there it’s easy to overlook some of Mr. Melchior’s efforts. That said, it’s good to remember that he’s never been one to rest on his laurels. Even though he’s definitely got his own sound, he’s constantly tweaking and bending it into new directions — just check out the cut up avant blues of 2011’s Assemblage Blues for instance. The most striking thing about CCDE Music is the lack of Dan’s trademark yelp. Only two songs include his distinct vocals, while the others offer up processed tapes and clips, making this a mostly instrumental record. Shifting the focus from lyrics and vocal delivery allows him to flex his musical muscle here with an outstanding collection of guitar and noise interplay over hypnotic krautrock beats. Definitely one of his best yet. If you think you’ve got enough Melchior records in your collection, think again.

FrustrationUncivilized (Born Bad)
This Parisian band’s aesthetic has become more and more defined over the span of its career, and Uncivilized is the most realized version of their darkwave postpunk oeuvre. Channeling a perfectly balanced stream of their influences like early Devo, Joy Division, and Wire, Frustration has perfected their uniquely severe sound with songs structured enough to be coldly stark, but fleshed out with loosely planted synth flourishes and electronics. The LP version comes with a bonus 7″ that’s got a catchy track “I Can’t Forget You” and an intro B-side.

Indian JewelryPeel It (Reverberation Appreciation Society)
Indian Jewelry has an amazing track record for putting out highly listenable records and 2013’s offering is yet another gift from the psych gods. Read more about them here. As with their other releases, Peel It lets the freak flag fly (the first track “Freak Pride” makes that more than clear) with layers and layers of psych drone and fuzz, this time with a slight lean towards Chrome-like effects and tribal drums versus the pounding Pain Teens punch of records like Free Gold. You’ll dig it if you’re searching for something between the headspace of Peaking Lights and the druggy sludge of Wizzard Sleeve.

Nails Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
In 2013, your band has to be relentless if you want to be relevant in hardcore punk or grindcore metal circles. Bands are constantly upping the ante with insane tempo shifts, stops and blistering speed. Of the dozens (maybe hundreds) of hardcore/grindcore releases put out this year, the 10 tracks from Nails’ second album clip along in only 17 minutes, but it’s enough time to be filled with enough full throttled D-beat riffs, breakdowns and blastbeats to keep any listener on their heels. An unrelenting mix of Coalesce precision and internsity, Pig Destroyer complexity and Napalm Death speed make this a new watermark for extreme music.

Oranssi Pazuzu Olen Aukaissut Uuden Silmän (20 Buck Spin)
There were a ton of great metal records put out in 2013 and the one that really stood out from the pack was this Finnish black metal psych band’s third album. Its buzzing mix of hypnotic synth over churning guitar crescendos and possessed vocals have a composed, confident way that pulls you into their world, sounding something like Hawkwind channeling Emperor. It’s unique in that it doesn’t try too hard. It makes a statement through its deliberate and inventive use of the black metal sonic palette.

PharmakonAbandon – (Sacred Bones)
It’s been a while since something interesting has come from the noise scene, and knowing the quality of output from the Sacred Bones label, I knew it’d be worth checking out. The power electronics and possessed vocals Margaret Chardiet serves up are both harsh and captivating, and best of all masterfully composed to deliver maximum impact. Be sure to track down the 5-track special edition with the 27 minute bonus track “Sour Sap” — a terrifyingly brute example of the Pharmakon sound, which shifts from Merzbow wails to waves of Whitehouse throb and hissing black metal shrieks.

Spray Paint Rodeo Songs (S.S. Records)
After a pair of killer 7 inches in 2012, Spray Paint released a pair of killer LPs in 2013. While their debut LP was closer in form and sound to their 7 inches, Rodeo Songs adds some depth and space to their short, sharp angular guitar attack. Overall, it’s not as loud. Heavy echo and reverb separating the dual guitars and cleaner production helping balance and distinguish the vocals and drum sounds. Rodeo Songs better captures the sonic textures and punch of the band’s live show. You won’t often hear me praising cleaner production, but in this case it really enhances the Spray Paint experience. Just turn it up!

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin (Castleface)
You’d think with their prolific amount of output over the last few years, there’d be a lesser album from Dwyer and crew at some point, but here comes yet another set of 10 killer tunes that made 2013 that much better. And like the last couple LPs they continue to push their sound into new spaces and tempos, like the fuzzy slo-mo glaze of “Toe Cutter” and “Night Crawler” or the sweet pull of the spacious closing track “Minotaur,” enhanced with a string section Breeders-esque background vocals. These mixed with a handful of classic Oh Sees rave ups make this essential listening for 2013 and beyond.

Best Reissues of 2012

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Aphex Twin
Selected Ambient Works Volume II 3xLP – (1972)
This high water mark of ’90s electronica gets a triple vinyl edition worthy of the genre-bursting expanse of sonic trancendence it birthed in 1994.

Catatonic Youth
Piss Scene 7″ (Perrenial)
This primo slab of wax initially released in 2008 by the almighty Hozac label quickly disappeared but lived on in the form of illegitimate MP3s, spreading its essential frayed lo-fi noise pop to the deranged masses. Now you can own it on vinyl with a righteous bonus cut “Control My Gun.”

Hate Them 2xCD (Peaceville)
Darkthrone has existed on a fascinating plane that placed them at the genesis of the infamous Norwegian black metal scene through more than two decades and 16 albums that’ve covered territory that includes thrash, death metal, and of course black metal. This 2003 album gets the reissue treatment complete with a making-of commentary disc that reveals the lighter side to an otherwise heavy album.

– Liquid Swords 2xCD – (Get On Down)
Hands-down one of the best hip-hop records ever. This debut solo record from Wu-Tang Clan member GZA heavily samples from the twisted ’80s electrosynth film soundtrack  from Shogun Assassin, which is enough to at least warrant a sample spin. After that, its brilliantly paced, masterfully composed beats beneath GZA’s forceful flow will keep you coming back to this must-have hip-hop classic.

The Marvel World of Icarus LP – (Acme)
Sure it’s a novelty and sure, it’s beyond cheesy, but it’s hard to resist this 1971 prog rock odyssey. Earnestly belted out tunes, each dedicated to a particular Marvel Comics super hero over a fuzz-drenched ’70s hard rock haze — it’s simply too marvelous to resist.

Moss Icon
Discography 3xLP (Temporary Residence)
Moss Icon’s racket from the late ’80s to early ’90s wasn’t completely ignored, but the full weight of its impact has only been proven over the course of time, and that weight can literally be felt in this comprehensive 3 LP collection from Temporary Residence. Tangled webs both abstract and direct, raging and subdued, a lot of ground is covered here as an in-depth immersion into one of the most interesting bands of the time.

The Prefab Messiahs
Peace, Love and Alienation LP (Fixed Identity)
Unearthed and overlooked Massachusetts postpunk recordings circa 1982-1983 get pressed to wax 30 years later, sounding as inventive and relevant as ever. Read more here.

Rat at Rat R
Ameri$ide CD – (Ektro)
Not sure why it’s taken almost 30 years for this crucial NYC no wave to get the reissue treatment, or why it’s on the Finnish Ektro label (home of the amazing Circle), but finally, these long out of print tracks are getting some respect. Fitting somewhere between the sonic space of Sonic Youth skronk and Swans’ severity, Rat At Rat R’s music was more deliberate and composed than it’s contemporaries, but no less threatening. If you have any interest in this era you need this document of one of it’s essential groups.

Ty Segall
Singles 2007-2010 2xlp (Goner)
As prolific as Ty Segall has been in the last 5 years, and as many 45s of his I’d tracked down in those 5 years, I’d figured I’d heard most of his fuzzy garage gems, but this blazing comp proves that I’d only scratched the surface. Many thanks to the Goner label for gathering this essential material into one amazing LP.

Live at Surf City 7″ (Rerun Records)
The 1978 KBD punk classic from pre-Angry Samoans trashmeisters VOM (short for Vomit) gets a legit reissue remastered from the original tapes. Reminisce with such classics as “I’m in Love with Your Mom” and “Electrocute Your Cock.”

Best Singles/EPs of 2012

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Anomalys – Retox 7″ (Slovenly)
You might be accurate calling this Dutch treat a psychobilly band, but to me that speaks more to style and doesn’t really emphasize the ‘psycho’ factor this trio delivers. Their melding of rockabilly tools and Motorhead ferocity is as revved up and essential as you’ll ever need. A classic in the making.

Cindy Sisters – She’s Burning Inside 7″ (Hozac)
A blissful fuzz trance that starts in a realm  founded by Spacemen 3 or Loop and pushes into the gnarled swagger of contemporary geniuses Sex Church, the droning pair of tracks on this debut release fully satisfy the urge to detach and drop out.

Coffin Pricks – Group Home Haircut 7″ (Stationary Heart)
It’s amazing how Chris Thomson pops up every few years in a new band with a loosely similar sound built around his distinctive, snotty snarl. Fans of Circus Lupus, Monorchid, Skull Kontrol, and Red Eyed Legends take note.

Crimson Scarlet
Sanctuary 7″ (Cool Summer Records)
You may not think of Santa Barbara as a death rock mecca, but here’s a proof of a killer group based there that’s in league with some of the best goth-tinged punk ever committed to vinyl. Read more here and snatch up this gem on deep maroon wax if your record collection includes Siouxsie & The Banshees, 45 Grave, The Phantom Limbs or The Vanishing.

Double Negative
– Hits 7″ (Sorry State)
This North Carolina HC machine has a great track record of slashing hardcore records in sharp packaging. This 3-punch 7″ positively continues this trend.

GG King – Joyless Masturbation 7″ (Total Punk)
One of the catchiest tunes of 2012, guaranteed to rattle around in your head seconds after dropping the needle on the record, is the stomper “Joyless Masturbation” by ex-Carbonas’ GG King. A speedy B-side rounds out the best punk 45 of 2012. Cheap, nasty, and totally essential.

Sex Church – Sonambulist 12″ EP (Instant Pleasure/Psychic Handshake)
Last year’s debut LP from this Vancouver riff-churn team, Growing Over, was barely nudged out of NFZ’s top 10 LPs list in 2011, but this release firmly plants them at the top of the pile along side their epic Dead End 7″ from 2009. Dense, warped and weirdly narcotic, this 3-song 12″ reestablishes Sex Church as one of the best bands going.

Spray Paint – Spray Paint 7″ – (S.S. Records)
The first of a pair of 7-inches released in 2012, Spray Paint’s vinyl debut is a jagged 3-song stab of postpunk that takes the best elements of A Frames severity and focus, and pumps a sick dose of noisy ruckus ala no-wave greats Lake of Dracula. “Psychic Doug” is my jam.

TV Ghost
– Phantasm 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Further demonstrating the superior taste of the Vancouver Sweet Rot label, the latest 7″ from Indiana’s TV Ghost ranks right up there along side the band’s best material from their In The Red LPs. Two tracks of on-edge, sinister echo-laden darkwave punk with enough texture and mystery to warrant many spins on the turntable.

Up the Academy
– Gimme Gimme 7″ (Replay Records)
Their track on the Cheap Beer compilation from 2011 set the high expectations that their debut  7″ delivers with a 2-song punch of earnest punk and righteously thick riffs. Check out the hilarious “Gimme Gimme” video for proof.

Best Albums of 2012

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The Chewers – Chuckle Change and Also (Art Pushers)
There’s weird and then there’s weird. Some bands try so hard to subvert normalcy by throwing a barrage of randomness and/or silliness at the listener in hopes to defy easy classification but in the end they sound like the cheap gimmicks they are. The Chewers couldn’t be normal if they tried, and the 22 tracks on Chuckle Change deliver on the promise of their great debut album from 2011, with a twisted version of swampy art-damaged blues.

Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
You may tire of the Converge aesthetic — it is exhausting and deliberately obnoxious — but you gotta give this band credit for doing what they do at the level they do for  20+ years. Another classic in the making.

Evening Meetings – Evening Meetings (Sweet Rot)
I try not to get caught up in pedigree and press before deeming a record good, but the all the criteria needed to confirm the greatness of this album from is affirmed from the first listen. With members from some of the Pacific Northwest’s most interesting bands (A Frames, Factums, AFCGT, Love Tan, etc) and best labels, this 10-song pounder hits with AmRep gnarl shaped with the sophistication of Television.

Fag Cop – Whimpers from the Pantheon (Rank Toy)
Here’s another record with a lot going for it on paper: a slew of blown-out killer trash singles leading up to this one-sided, 13-track jizzwave fuzzbomb that completely slays. No weak shit here,  no B-side necessary.

Guinea Worms – Smiles (Columbus Discount)
The only problem with Smiles is that it’s only an LP. After the massive (and essential) Sorcerers of Madness (4rd Year in A Row) double LP, which continues to befuddle, entertain and amuse since it’s release in 2010, only getting 8 songs leaves you wanting more.

Kellar – Beloved Dean of Magic (Foolproof Projects)
This Brighton UK improv trio dropped three releases in 2012 and any of them could’ve made this list, but this one was the first and has had the most time to embed its propulsive web of noise tangle into my skull. It reveals new surprises and becomes more interesting with each listen.

Lamps – Under the Water Under the Ground (In The Red)
This long-running LA trio has had a number of noteworthy releases in its history, but none of them have been as compelling document of their genius as this one. If you’ve ever experienced the visceral punch their knuckle-dragging primate punk in a live setting, you’ll know that their recordings have never quite captured the intensity of their sound. This is the closest so far to doing so. And while their other albums have been too one-dimensional to hold up over many listens, Under the Water continues to thrill.

Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven– (Swami)
Looking at this list and and the overall universe where Noise for Zeros dwells, there’s really no explanation how something as poppy and sunny and Mrs. Magician’s debut LP finds a place here. There’s more than enough jangly college/alt pop in the world, but few match the clever bite (check out song titles like “I’m Gonna Hangout with the Lesbians Next Door & Drop Acid” and the lyrics to “Actual Pain”) and magical way these songs lodge themselves in your ear and sound sweeter with every listen.

Pop. 1280 – The Horror (Sacred Bones)
As much as their previous releases set the trajectory for The Horror, it was impossible to expect the severity of the snarling noir stomp that Pop. 1280 was to unleash in 2012. This record’s relentless venom and synthetically-enhanced sonic density thrusts the urban grit of CopShootCop into the 21st century.

Soupcans – Good Feelings (Telephone Explosion)
It’s a rare treat to hear a band breathe life into punk. Like hearing Flipper or the Butthole Surfers for the first time. The wild frontier where crazy dudes spazz out and let the freak flag fly high. If you had the pleasure of hearing the awesome Erotic Nightmares EP from these crazed Canadians, know that every track on this LP is even more amped up with better production and focus.

Dark Ambient Delights

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

It’s that haunting time of year and as mentioned in the Horror Punk 101 posting a while back, Halloween’s the perfect time to dig up some frightening tracks to set the mood. And while horror punk is all murder, all guts, all fun, according to Samhain, if you’re looking for music that’s truly creepy and unflinchingly dialed directly into the human psyche, you can’t go wrong with these free-flowing, sinister sounds. Completely detached from conventional music constraints, dark ambient artists (typically the pure vision of isolated souls) are able to craft sound art that’s as clear a view into the human psyche as your ever likely to hear. With the tracks on this list, you’ll be blanketed by the darkest, most unsettling sounds ever created — play it for the neighborhood trick or treaters if you want to scare the piss out of them and keep your candy.


Dark Ambient Delights (95.7mb Zip file)

1. Anenzephalia – “Nohaem 3” (2003)
Any track from this psyche-warping monster would be a fitting start to this list, but track number three from Noehaem is a stunning example of the endlessly expansive possibilities of dark ambient music. With a monotonous beat so slow that the space inbetween beats fills in with waves of sound, emulating the sensation of sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss.

2. Coil – “His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite” (1990)
This group with roots in industrial, noise and experimental scenes encompasses and transcends all those genres, often leading into territory that could later be defined as dark ambient. For example, check out this unnerving track from their Unnatural History collection that’s built from growling sound collage that somehow manages to continually build for 3+ minutes. Also check out their Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser disc which is every bit as chilling, but excluded from this list as it’s too conventionally composed to be considered ambient.

3. Schloss Tegal – “Anthropophagy” (1993)
In case you didn’t have a dictionary, the title of this track is a clinical term for cannibalism — par the course for one of America’s (now based in Berlin) darkest dark ambient groups. This track from their Grand Guignol CD is one of the most ominous tracks on this list, with deep bass textures that build and transform into an ever-evolving mix of menace and calm.

4. Temple of Not – “The Sunken Houses of Sleep” (2005)
This track from a split Rex Ex Ordine Throni LP with black metal band Nightbringer makes the perfect slow motion compliment to the blistering cacophony on the flipside. This side project from two Nightbringer members manages to overshadow the excellent, but somewhat standardized black metal of their main band. You’ll find a much more immersive sonic experience in the waves of cool, Bladerunner-esque tones in this track.

5. Lull – “Moment 1” (1998)
The initial track from this brilliantly conceived CD (99 ambient tracks that can be played at random for a unique experience every time you listen) is a gently-formed sound cloud for the ultimate chill. Mick Harris (aka Lull) knows extremes, going from drumming blastbeats in Napalm Death to freeform ambient in his Lull project.

6. Rapoon – “Groundswell” (1998)
Zoviet France co-founder Robin Storey made a name for himself in the industrial and noise circles of the 1980s, and continues to be an active soundscape artist with more than two dozen solo releases under then Rapoon moniker. This enveloping track from the The Fires of the Borderlands CD drifts from shifting drones and eerie siren songs into minimal drone. Positively haunting.

7. Crepuscule – “Created” (1997)
From the Music for Decay CD, this ghostly creeper  is ambient sound design at its organic best. En Lewellyn (aka Crepuscule) is a mortician by day and dark ambient sound artist by night, existing in a space some between light and dark, life and death, a fitting title for a project called Crepuscule, a word meaning twilight or the period of darkness before or at the end of the day.

8. Lustmord – “Heresy Part III” (1990)
Often credited with starting the dark ambient genre with his Heresy LP, Brian Williams (aka Lustmord) made notable field recordings in slaughterhouses, crypts and caves that capture an unearthly cocoon of sound that are as sinister and frightening as anything you’ll ever hear. His contributions as sound designer for commercials, video games and film cement his reputation as the godfather of the genre, along with recordings throughout the ’80s that pushed industrial/experimental music into darker, abstract worlds.

9. Vidna Obmana – “Flesh Reaper” (2001)
Another long time ambient artist with releases dating back to 1990, Dirk Serries (aka Vidna Obmana) knows his way around isolationist tones and rich, atmospheric soundscapes. “Flesh Reaper” from the Tremor CD is lush with shifting echoed ambience and distant acoustic drums.

10. K-Group/Omit – “Slow Movement Toward the Abyss” (1998)
One of the most haunting and masterful examples of dark ambient drone comes from the B-side of this 7″ collaboration between New Zealand’s Clinton Williams (aka Omit) and Paul Toohey (aka K-Group) released on the US label Colorful Clouds for Acoustics. Also be sure to check out their Storage LP.

11. Omit – “Uniselector” (2002)
Utilizing oscillators and other analog sources, Clinton Williams masterfully crafts hypnotic, polyrhythmic tracks so stark and spacious that you can’t help but be sucked in by their mysterious gravity. There’s almost a warmth to the cool, minimalist tones. From the stellar Rejector CD.

12. Greater Than One – “Trust (Excerpt)”  (1990)
Don’t bother looking up the rest of Greater Than One’s tepid discography. Nothing else they did matches the depth and atmosphere of this extended 12″ single which was released as a one-off diversion from their otherwise forgettable goofy industrial funk. What possessed or inspired them to craft this release is anyone’s guess, but what is known is that it’s every bit as moving and brilliant as any other release on this list.

13. Aphex Twin – “Tassels” (1994)
One of the best known artists on this list also put out one of the best dark ambient releases ever. While this techno/acid house king may not lay claim to the genre, there’s no denying the staggering depth and genius of Richard D. James’ (aka Aphex Twin) landmark Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 double LP, which continues to gather new followers with yet another rerelease this year.

Best Reissues/Comps. of 2012

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Buzzov*en – Revelation: Sick Again – (HydraHead)
When they were around, these North Carolina freaks were the band at the far end of sludgy, heavy, underground metal. New Orleans’ Eyehategod were more visible and hyped as the South’s heaviest, but for me, Buzzov*en was the real deal. Grim, fucked up and plagued by an existence as extreme as the low-end punch of their music, this band existed (tenuously) in a league of its own. Here’s an official reissue of their swansong LP in all its glory, complete with tons of movie sample lead ins and unrelenting, time-perfected heavosity.

Chalk Circle
Reflection – (Mississippi/Post Present Medium)
Deep from the depths of the early ’80s DC punk scene comes this postpunk shock that’s forceful, amazing and way ahead of its time. Kudos to Mississippi and PPM for compiling these tracks and bringing Chalk Circle to light. The recording quality and playing varies a lot, but the spirit of their scrappy, earnest sound can’t be dampened.

Cheap Beer
– Various Artists – (Replay Records)
It’s easy to bag on local scene compilations since they generally end up being about 80% crap. And I can name a handful of Lawrence/KC comps that fit that exact description. With that said, you can really appreciate the exceptional quality of this LP put out from the punkrock tastemakers at the Replay Lounge. If you question the state of Kansas punk in the year 2011, just check out some of the killer tracks captured here from bands like The Mouthbreathers, Spook Lights, Fag Cop, Nature Boys, Dark Ages, Up The Academy, Muscle Worship, Jabberjosh, This Is My Condition and more.

Give Them Rope – (Relapse)
When this monster was originally released in 1997, I’d pretty much chalked up Coalesce as some sort of nu metal band. A colossally stupid assessment, for sure, almost as colossal as the mighty riffs found on this, their much-touted debut LP. And while I still prefer some of their later releases, it’s great to get the definitive package that includes the controversial remixed version (read more about that here) along with the original version that redefined heavy.

Short, Fast & Loud #24
10″ compilation (Six Weeks)
Although a good percentage of this comp is unmemorable and indistinguishable from leagues of like-minded bands across the globe, the sheer spirit and continued inertia of the SF&L scene is always worth a listen. With a mix of long-running outfits like Brutal Truth and Lack of Interest to some of the more recent heros of speedcore like Extortion and Wasteoid, this blazing 10″ lives up to its namesake, while the zine documents of how this scene has practically become its own genre.

– Carved Into Roses/Infinityland/Singles 3xCD- (VHF)
A massive 3-CD Skullflower reissue collecting the squalling range of mid-1990s releases that transition from freeform noise to chugging hypno-drone. The history of Skullflower is well documented with dozens of CD and LP releases that range from essential to mildly interesting. This collection captures one of the band’s more interesting periods in a completist’s snapshot with some harder-to-find singles on one disc, and 2 of their LPs from this period on the other discs.

– Spits – (Slovenly)
With their fifth eponymous LP out in 2011, it was about time their 2000 debut got reissued. Looking back, it’s amazing how fully developed The Spits sound was straight out of the gate. They were born weird and have remained weird. Classic stuff from a band that’s anything but classic.

Terror Visions
World of Shit – (FDH)
Although this Jay Reatard project was ultimately treated as a footnote along with his other Screamers/synthpunk influenced groups (Nervous Patterns, Angry Angles, etc), Terror Visions did carry some clout as evidenced by this reissue, inserting the overamped, way out of control energy of The Reatards into the synthpunk realm. I never saw Lost Sounds as a new wave band, despite the tag always being thrown at them, but compared to Terror Visions they were.

Best Singles/EPs of 2011

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Black Bug
– Police Helicopter 7″ (Hozac)
After cranking out one of the best LPs in 2010 (now reissued on CD on the tUMULt label) Black Bug serves up another slab of overdriven electroshock punk. With killer male/female tradeoff vocals and a frantic energy that’s akin to chomping on live wires, the 3 tracks on Police Helicopter are yet a another demonstration of this Swedish group’s best-in-class chops.

Double Negative
– Hardcore Confusion Vol. 1 – (Sorry State)
This longtime NCHC group’s first two in a series of four 7″ releases came out in 2011. Of course both volumes are shredders, but this first installment has some of their tightest songs yet, especially “Writhe” which takes the roar of their debut LP and channels it into the crafted, churning song structures of their second LP. Can’t wait for the next volumes.

The Dreams
– Body of Michael 7″ – (To Roccoco Rot)
This 3-song tour 7″ continues The Dreams’ track record of delivering quality jams. Like their digital singles and the excellent Morbido album, this single features their peculiar brand of psycho dub weirdo jams including the chillicious “Afrikaner Dub.”

2 – (Sorry State)
A year wouldn’t be complete without at least one totally ripping hardcore 7″ and thanks to Sorry State records we’ve got one of the most raging ones right here. Like their first 7″, this one goes for the throat with a relentless barrage of escalating riffs and maniacal vocals.

– Anxiety – (In The Red)
Killer garage punk with a huge guitar sound, turned up to eleven and crackling raw electricity. Players include dudez from Rooftop Vigilantes and Blood on the Wall. Loud, brash, catchy, and perfect for drunken singalongs, it’s hard to keep this one off the turntable.

The Nature Boys
– Rabies 7″ – (San Huevos)
The debut release from these Kansas punks flows with the rollicking ease of The Minutemen and the raw intensity of The Alley Cats’ male/female vocals. The Nature Boys take early SoCal punk as a starting point and ramp it up into a frenzy that’s too much fun to ignore or forget.

Pop. 1280
– Thirteen Steps – (Blind Prophet Records)
Each Pop. 1280 release gets nastier and more primitive, but not in the way you may expect. Instead of amped up volume and distortion, Pop. 1280’s songs recoil into monotonous, riffless dirges that taunt more than roar. Even with the texture and artsy elements stripped from the sound of their killer Grid EP, Pop. 1280 ups the ante with this solid 2-song single.

Soft Moon
– Total Decay 12″ EP – (Captured Tracks)
If you love Luis Vasquez’s ultra-atmospheric darkwave, you’ll be pleased to know that 2011’s Soft Moon offering measures up to the tidal wave of amazing records he put out in 2010. As a reader of this blog, you’ll also be pleased to know that he veers into noisier territory on Total Decay — a fitting title that hints at the restrained squall that adds interesting texture to his enveloping and seductive sound.

Ty Segall
Spiders 7″ – (Drag City)
Not only is Ty Segall prolific, but his output is always top notch. And even better, he’s never afraid to venture into new territories, like the heavy slow-mo sonic burn of this awesome 45. The sludgy buzzsaw guitar is so slow in fact that I had to be sure that my turntable was at the right speed. Chalk up another golden single to the staggeringly awesome Ty Segall discography.