Best Singles/EPs of 2012

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

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.

Caffiend / Filter

November 30th, 2012

Split 7″
Station Eight, 1994

As much as one can explore the music underground, there will always be treasures buried in time and obscurity. Entire scenes that barely blip on the most thorough subterranean radar may only yield utterly forgettable dreck, but every now and then a snapshot appears that gives depth to a scene that warrants more inspection. Here’s a an example of one such snapshot, this rare split between two Lincoln, Nebraska hardcore bands that captures two overlooked bands doing some interesting stuff at a time you wouldn’t expect this type of noise to be rumbling in a midwestern college town. Judging from the all-lowercase cover art and inside action shot of clean cut kids in band tees, you’d expect Caffiend to be some sort of straight-edge or proto-Emo band akin to Boys Life, Braid, or the Saddle Creek scene that’d soon follow. Instead, their track “Runaway” is an pent up burst of rambling noise skronk accented with intense blurts from a horn section and samples. The flipside by Filter (most definitely not the “Hey Man Nice Shot” Filter) offers more sample-driven chuggage with an even darker, metal sound that Neurosis was perfecting at the time. Both tracks make you wonder what else was going on around these bands and where to hear some more…


Posting at


Caffiend – “Runaway”
Filter – “Skinned Knees”

Dark Ambient Delights

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.


September 30th, 2012

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)

Three Legged Dog

August 30th, 2012

Loaded LP
Bomp!, 1990

Like other small college towns across the midwest, Columbia, Missouri has had its history of raging bands that flame out and disappear before fully putting their town on the map. This trio knocked me over at an Outhouse show in Lawrence before this LP came out and it was years before I finally managed to pick it up. I couldn’t recall what they sounded like and even now it’s hard to pin ’em down. There’s the loose Black Lips garagey tracks that fit along with the Bomp! Records imprint, but there’s also crazed dirges that come out of left field like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, sounding like Tales of Terror on a bender. Throw in some thrashy riffs that could hang with the best of the emerging crossover metal bands of the era and you’ve got a noteworthy slab of vinyl that defies easy classification or dismissal.


Three Legged Dog – “Fast Bent”
Three Legged Dog – “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”
Three Legged Dog – “Triplets”


July 30th, 2012

Beloved Dean of Magic LP
Foolproof Projects

It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes some improvisational groups click while others fall flat. How can you describe that transcendent, sweaty, intense wave that sweeps you away as a song fires on all cylinders, keeping your undivided attention, moving beyond music into pure experience. This sprawling LP from Brighton UK’s Kellar, the first of 3 releases so far this year including March’s Smokescreen EP and the upcoming August release Cell Divides, is the definition of great improv noise rock. While the concept of improv noise rock is rightfully suspect — most groups of this ilk end up being little more than an exercise in endurance — Kellar demonstrates an uncanny knack for whipping up a magical racket with enough texture and volume to bloom new growth from the seeds planted by groups like Sonic Youth and Skullflower. The tracks on Beloved Dean of Magic are loose and free, unstructured enough to remain fresh after multiple spins, yet driven and forceful enough to demand your attention. It’s a deliriously stunning debut from one of 2012’s best new bands.


Kellar on Bandcamp

Stream Kellar’s Beloved Dean of Magic


June 29th, 2012

Madhouse EP, 1985
Fountain of Youth Records

Picked up this gem solely based on the label and was pleasantly surprised to find a Siouxsie & The Banshees-influenced take on early Revolution Summer-style DC postpunk. While the cover art looks totally aggro and the Fountain of Youth label was best known for releasing a slew of Government Issue records, this anomaly takes a chilly, almost gothic path into female-male harmonizing, sounding like X if they were from suburban DC instead of LA. Lead singer Monica Richards was a staple of the early DC hardcore scene as a member of Hate from Ignorance and was part of the first wave of HC kids disenfranchised by the codification of hardcore, spurring the Revolution Summer of 1985. Madhouse could be considered part of this Revolution, ushering in the bouncing, melodic mid-tempo sound popularized by groups like Soulside, Ignition, Rites of Spring and Embrace. Check out this solid EP (and their sole 7″) they released before fading into obscurity.


Madhouse – Madhouse EP (31.5mb ZIP file)


Madhouse’s Mecca 7″ on Discogs

Slaves (UK)

May 23rd, 2012

2012 Demos

With their latest demo track “White Knuckle Ride” posted just over a week ago, it’s official that the Kent duo known as Slaves will be stomping their way into the upper volumes of the garage punk lexicon. As proof, check out these two snarling rave ups served up Billy Childish-on-crank-style with a raw edge that pushes them well past the mundane. The spacious fidelity conjured up by the sparseness of their drum-guitar-voice setup is perfectly packed to deliver a forceful punch that hits as hard as any quartet of amplified dimwits. Check out these two tracks and be sure to keep tabs on them through their SoundCloud page.


Slaves (UK) – “Cease Fire”
Slaves (UK) – “Wishing Well”


Slaves (UK) on SoundCloud

Crimson Scarlet

April 21st, 2012

Sanctuary 7″
Cool Summer Records, 2011

It’s been a while since a decent wave of goth-tinged punk has circulated, so this succulent swipe of darkwave punk from Santa Barbara was a welcome surprise. While cheesy, costumed goth groups are as common and dull as your local Hot Topic, it’s a rare treat to find groups or scenes that really do it well and avoid being a formulaic, melodramatic joke. The amazing stuff coming out of the Bay Area at the turn of the century comes to mind, exemplified by bands like the Phantom Limbs, The Vanishing, Sixteens, and Black Ice. They had theatrics, but it wasn’t their focus and there was an earnestness to what they did that made their music so compelling. Most of all, they never veered into the comicbook tones of horror punk, which certainly isn’t a bad thing — just not as rare or powerful. Crimson Scarlet’s music eschews the synthpunk of those scenes and pulls its inspiration from the deeper goth veins of Siouxsie & The Banshees and mixes it with punch of SoCal deathpunk like TSOL and 45 Grave, bringing a straightfaced and sincere take on this form into a contemporary setting. You can check out the two killer tracks on this 7″ on their Bandcamp page or pickup the beautifully packaged crimson scarlet-colored vinyl from Cool Summer Records.


Crimson Scarlet on Bandcamp
Buy Sanctuary at Cool Summer Records