Music Features
Oct 16, 2008, 09:31


Summertime…and the livin' is…well, I don't know what it is. Living's never easy when you're broke. Thankfully, I got most of this music for free. Let's go.

 Sic Alps - U.S. EZ

 Fabulous Diamonds - 7 Songs

 Eat Skull - Sick to Death

OK, I realize that this is just getting embarrassing now, but I just hafta tell you that U.S. EZ, the new Sic Alps album on Siltbreeze is easily their definitive work; More on this next month, and probably every month here on after. But speaking of Siltbreeze, dude's been on a roll lately. To be quite honest, I was starting to wonder a bit after a run of fairly mediocre albums by xNo BBQx and the inexplicably fawned-over Psychedelic Horseshit, but three recent releases in particular have confirmed that Siltbreeze is still the greatest indie since, err…Zapple? Fabulous Diamonds are a frisky guy/ girl duo from Melbourne, Australia playing skeletal drone pop reminiscent of long forgotten greats like Beyond The Implode or perhaps a more ‘screwed and chopped' Palais Schaumburg. The absence of guitars in lieu of all manner of percussion, dubby synth stabs,

and saxophone, makes the band distinctive enough, while the bratty playground taunts that pass for vocals will certainly make fans of anyone who digs Lilliput, ESG, or Julie Ruin. Very brief (but not too brief), this eponymous album manages to encapsulate the gloomy stoicism of no-wave without that genre's predictable ‘confrontational' bent. Good job. Naked on the Vague, on paper, sound like a sister band to Fabulous Diamonds—also co-ed, also from Australia (this troop from Sydney), also working within the parameters of ‘space dub' and largely ignoring rock and roll's favored instrument—but Naked on the Vague, on their debut LP The Blood Pressure Sessions, possess a more sinister, apocalyptic edge that likens them more to Young Marble Giants or something Andrew Eldritch might have recorded had he horded Messthetics comps. I also give

them the slight edge because Naked On The Vague essentially do what Fabulous Diamonds do, but then take things even further into the ether. For instance, “The Horse, He's Sick,” all woozy synths and chanted vocals, would fit comfortably on Fabulous Diamonds LP, but only until the creepy, gear-changing chorus. Also especially great is “Mother's Footsteps,” which simultaneously reminds me of Huggy Bear, Crass, The Knife, and Sonic Youth. Oh yeah, and Naked on the Vague writes great lyrics: “I know nothing of God or the devil / And I know nothing of heaven or hell / All I know is that I wake up breathing...” Post-post-punk? Lastly, Eat Skull follows two massive singles with Sick To Death , a snottily canorous journey into the psyches of these creeps, who also play in The Hospitals (see Sewers #13). As for the sound, pre-sheen Guided By Voices is an obvious touchstone, as on “Survivable Spaces” which conjures GBV anthems like “Quality of Armor,” while the

pensive, melancholy “Fade To Smoke” could pass for an outtake from Alien Lanes. Don't mistake this for Magnet fodder, though—the band alternately rawks as ferociously as Electric Eels on tracks like the fittingly titled “Punk Trips,” and the Count Dracula cackle that concludes “Puker Corpse” is the best chorus-that-isn't-a-chorus since I don't know when. While Sick To Death is certainly something Trouser Press would call ‘lo-fi,' there is a clarity and attention to detail here that makes it lo-fi like Kriminella Gitarrer and not lo-fi like, say, Sentridoh. Stellar.

  Graveyard - Graveyard

Another doom-y band from Sweden ‘resurrecting the sounds of 70s psychedelic rock,' you say? Yawn. Well, give Graveyard's s/t debut (Tee Pee) a chance anyway—while definitely Witchcraft have the market cornered on post-Pentagram

suicide blues, Graveyard's sound is more reminiscent of throatier fishtank-gazers like Leaf Hound. Vocally, Joakim Nelson's voice sits comfortably between Glenn Danzig and Steve Marriott, and while nearly as adept as either, it definitely serves the material. Opener “Evil Ways” lays out the plan, but it's midway through the album, on tunes like “Don't Take Us For Fools” and the “Blue Soul” that the band really carves out their own identity. Neato.

 Ya Ho Wa 13 - Penetration, an Aquarian Symphony

 Children Of The Sixth Root Race - Songs from the Source

Looks like Father Yod will be this year's Jandek—a once beloved underground figure, now exhumed for the blogs and message boards to pick apart as if they'd known about it all along. Perhaps luckily, the good Father isn't around to play any shows with Tortoise backing him up, and though Drag City's reissue campaign will likely do more harm than good to the esteemed legacy

of all involved, it's nice to see Cold Sweat's proper CD reissue of the excellent Penetration: An Aquarium Symphony (credited to Yahowa 13¨) that can exist outside the increasingly expensive God and Hair box set on Captain Trip. This is the Family at their spikiest, and contains some of the best long-form recordings the band ever released. The recently ‘found' live recording Songs From The Source by Yod's shape shifting band, here known for the first time as Children of the Sixth Root Race, is a 12 song ‘lost' live recording dating back to 1973 when the band played the Whisky, and might have benefited from remaining lost. The sounds here will give even the most open-minded Father Yod apologist pause. This is a far different beast from anything on the box set, or released anywhere else for that matter. Songs From The Source is heavy on the female R&B vocals, ‘fusion rhythms' and over the top (even for this crew) pronouncements of joy. It's definitely worth a listen

for the curious, but certainly one of the Family's least essential albums. All will be forgiven if Drag City would reissue the much-hated but totally killer All or Nothing At All LP.

 Dead Child - Attack

I kinda gave Dead Child a pass when I reviewed their debut EP in Sewers #2. I stand by my review—the EP showed a very capable, if somewhat generic, thrash metal band who was reminiscent enough of early Anthrax for me to spin it multiple times. Unfortunately, Attack , their full length debut on Quarterstick, does not fare as well. The recording here is flat, the playing occasionally lifeless, and the songs mediocre. The inclusion of re-recorded songs from the EP seems pointless, as they are hardly

an improvement on the originals. Attack is not to be passed up on because you think it's somehow ‘hipster metal'—it isn't, and if David Pajo wasn't in the band, no one would even think to throw such an insult this band's way—but pass on it because there are about a million releases on Combat, Earache, Roadracer and Nuclear Blast you haven't heard yet, you insufferable hipster. Suicide IS an alternative.

 Endless Boogie - Focus Level

I've been waiting for an ‘official' Endless Boogie LP since deciding several years ago, after hearing their pair of self-released LPs, that the band was the only worthy precursor to the throne of Trad Gras Och Stenar and Parsson Sound. Focus Level (No Quarter) is an appropriate title, as the grime of their previous LPs is mostly absent, and the overall presentation is less shrouded

in mystery, but this is not to say Endless Boogie have ‘cleaned up.' Focus Level is a monstrous double LP of huge Krautrock riffs, growled-through-whiskey vocals, and good old fashioned garage rock minimalism. The shorter songs in particular, like “Bad River,” are surprisingly the strongest, though macho workouts like “The Manly Vibe” and “Steak Rock” are as troglo-dynamite as their titles imply.

 Ascend - Ample Fire Within

Ascend is a collaboration between Greg Anderson (Sunn0))), Goatsnake, Engine Kid) and Gentry Densley (Iceburn) and Ample Fire Within (Southern Lord) is one of the finest in-house Southern Lord albums in some time. It begins predictably

enough, with lumbering, monolithic riffs that sound like the soundtrack to a glacier melting in the sun. Things begin to get interesting on the title track, where multiple tracks of Densley's vocals—one gruff and one clean—begin alternating and overlapping over a heavy funeral doom riff. It is not until midway through the album, however, that Ascend proves out to be a cut above your standard Southern Lord offshoot. ”V.O.G” is a beautiful, mesmerizing slab of heaviosity featuring guest guitar by Kim Thayil of Soundgarden and Bubba Dupree of Void. Built around a backwards guitar riff and featuring dual vocals and squealing guitar feedback, the song is perfect for those stoners who wish Om would just cut loose and bust a squealing guitar solo once in a while. This is what it's all about.

 Cavity - Laid Insignificant

Cavity was one of Florida's most promising and overlooked bands of the power violence / metalcore scene, and the tortured sludge of Laid Insignificant (Hydra Head) pre-dates the Sabbath-worship of most of their stoner rock contemporaries by about ten years. Who knew there were stoners in the hardcore scene? All the guys I knew ate tofu and drank Banana Casablanca. Anyway, of all the Cavity albums to be reissued, this is the most perplexing, mostly due to the record's troubled second half, which sounds like a band in the midst of an identity crisis. The faster tempos and reliance of blastbeats slightly short change a band that was way ahead of their time, but fans of My War-circa Black Flag and Eyehategod should already have all this band's t-shirts, as well as their stellar 1995 LP Human Abjection, a stone cold classic in some circles.

 Wold - Stratification

 Wold - Screech Owl

Saskatchewan's Wold are on a very short list of my favorite metal band of the past ten years, and their latest, Stratification (The Left Hand Path), is, in their own words, their ‘most strict release,' and I'd have to agree. While 2007's Screech Owl edges it out by a nose—I mean, Screech Owl is just about the best album ever if you're keeping score—Wold (Fortress Crookedjaw

contributes voices, guitars, electronics, devices and poetry while Obey handles “scourge guitar”) reduces their particular brand of metal to its basic ingredients—scorched earth white noise, and dry, shrieking vocals that sound as if they're being transmitted from an EVP sample captured on an outer space radio. Gone are the melodic textures of past releases (which occasionally sounded like black metal's answer to Disintegration Loops) and most of the structure that went with them. “Wintertime,” for instance, is little more than the sound of a cavalry of horses stampeding closer and closer over snow while someone sharpens a machete in the near distance. This track is nearly seven-minutes long. Like most of Stratification, this track has more in common with modern noiseniks like Prurient and Hive Mind than it does with Mayhem or Emperor. While the winter-themed album (one song is titled “Sleigh Ride”) conforms to Wold's noise nihilist aesthetic, it is also informed by a new interest in 19th century opera (most evident on “Elektra” and Woman Without A Shadow”). Elsewhere, ethereal songs about the ‘wrath of winter' shove up against songs like the propulsive “the Frozen Field,” which sets an overblown Casio beat against storming percussion and desperate vocals. This music is not merely depressive—it is depression incarnate. Free of gimmicks, free of corpse paint—they even have short hair fer goodness sakes—Wold continue to make the most imaginative, genre-defying and adventurous dark music in the world. Fuck shoegaze and shitgaze—help yourself to some HELLGAZE!! Record of the month.  Next month—New Howling Hex, the Cheveu LP (as well as lots of other vinyl), and, as always, more discussion on quantum mathematics, handloading, and “shabby chic.” Stay tuned.

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