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Des_Ark stnnng Triclops Rob Crow Marked Men Damezumari die Hoffnung

The New Scheme { Issue Sixteen }

Editor : Stuart Anderson Contributors : Chelsea Bashford, Ryan Canavan, Nick Cox, Justin Crowe, Pat Dixon, Michael Flatt, Tom Loftus, Andre Medrano, Stirling Myles, Sam Sousa, Jason Zabby

Worth Mentioning : All Contents are © 2007, New Scheme Industries

(Except all photographs, which are © by their respective creators)

The New Scheme is published quarterly. All letters and subscription inquiries may be directed to the address below. Feedback is encouraged, though letters will rarely, if ever be printed. Contribution and subscription information is available on the website. Thank you for picking this up (or downloading it).

Policies : Current & full advertising & review material submission deadlines & information available on the website. We accept all records, books, publications and dvd’s for review in the next possible issue. Not all material that is sent is reviewed.

Help Wanted : We are currently looking to add new members to the staff in the following areas: - interview/feature writers - record reviewers - columnists - photography We are also always looking for people interested in helping with distribution. There is more information on all of the above on the website, or you can e-mail with any questions.

Contact : New Scheme Publishing Concern P.O. Box 7542 Boulder, CO 80306-7542


C : Scott Russell

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Editor’s Notes

Milestones in my life, (big and small) have never really been dictated by this magazine. Instead, the magazine tends to be dictated more by what is going on in my life outside of it. Usually, this is tends to affect everything New Scheme-related a negative way. Work, school and just about everything have seemed to take precedent over magazine work for most of the six years I’ve been doing it. This struggle to make time for something that I continue to have the energy, but not always the time for is always frustrating. Then, I always end up putting together every issue in one or two aggravating late night orgies of editing and layout. These bursts of productivity tend to happen at least a month after every issue was supposed to be done. Everything gets done in a half-assed way, though I don’t usually have too much choice. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me as of a few days from now. In a classic stroke of bad timing, I’m scrambling to finish these editor’s notes so I can send this issue to the printer. It’s Monday morning, and I have to get this to the printer in the next half hour. On top of that, I have no less than three final papers I should be writing for school. The good news? This is the last goddamn time I will ever have to juggle this, or anything else with school. For the last four (alright, four and a half ) years, I’ve been muddling my way through college. To this day, I’m not sure exactly why I went, though I’m glad that it’s over. Maybe someday I will be glad I have that political science degree. Maybe someday I will pay of my tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. But regardless, in just over 48 hours I will be done spending any of my precious time on schoolwork. Being finished with school means a few things for me, and all of them are good. I will be able to work enough to actually support myself and still have free time. I can finally move away from Boulder in a couple months and away from Colorado not too long after that. But more immediately, I will be able to put an adequate amount of time into everything New Scheme-related. This will mean a few things. First and foremost, I am accelerating the schedule that new issues will come out. I have always aimed to put out an issue every three months, though it ends up being every four or almost five months. Now, I can actually stick to a schedule. Next issue will be out in just under three months. After that, I will be doing a strict quarterly schedule, or possibly moving to something bi-monthly if it seems feasible after that. Also, since I won’t be scrambling to finish every issue at the last minute, the whole magazine will be redesigned from the ground up. This will start with the next issue, though I’m not sure exactly what form it will take. Some things will look very similar, others will look way different. I will also be focusing a bit more on the digital version, embedding much more content into the PDF file. This will originally be expanded use of the web links already included, though there will be sound files beginning with the next issue as well. In short, a lot is going on: I’m done with school, getting a long-overdue change of scenery and finding the time to dedicate to this on a regular basis.

Fucking finally.

-See you August 1st (for real).

Ryan Canavan Open Your Eyes and Take a Look Around With all the stressors of daily life for most people it becomes hard to concern oneself with what’s going on outside the immediate sphere of work, home, family, and friends. And most folks probably just don’t want to deal with the reality of a world plagued by problems. But I personally cannot understand how most people can simply remain complacent, or not be upset when they read the paper, or see the news. It’s such an easy thing to simply explore what’s happening at home and in the world, and question what is causing all this trouble. And it’s easy to get angry too. It should not be too much of a task to ask any person to subscribe to these emotions. Getting mad at the world doesn’t take much effort. The difficult part comes in what to do with that anger. Because, once again, it is easy to read about something, get angry, and then just sit on one’s laurels and forget about it all. Taking action is so difficult for most, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you realize you’re working for a multinational corporation that promotes slave labor in third world countries. You could always quit your job, though for a lot of people that might not be an option because everyone has to get by somehow. But you can always use your awareness of the companies policies and spread that info to people and organizations that can expose this, hopefully promoting some change. You can witness footage of innocent people eating our bombs over in Iraq and get upset about it. What can you do about that? It might be kind of hard to jump on a plane headed to Baghdad and stand in the path of a cruise missile. But something as simple as donating to a group like Voices In the Wilderness, who illegally venture into Iraq and provide medicine to children and families suffering in the wake of imperialism’s iron fist, isn’t a bad start. And, most importantly, the best way to affect change (and sometimes the easiest) is on the local level. You may not be able to stop the factory farm argribusiness monstrosity, but inviting your meat-mouth friend over for an awesome vegan dinner may open their mind to the benefits of a cruelty-free lifestyle. And alone you can’t keep that Wal-Mart from opening in your town. But rallying local business owners (who would otherwise see their doors close for good in the wake of another ‘big box’ opening) will result in hundreds, if not thousands, of sympathetic locals supporting the cause and overflowing town hall meetings with a plethora of ‘no’ votes against these corporations. Change can happen. Things can get better. It just takes a minute amount of effort and a little anger. At this point I’d like to present a small list of things that hopefully will get you angry, as well as an accompanying list of resources for taking action against these injustices. 1.) Wal-Mart lobbies Congress to keep the minimum wage lower while thousands of their employees are forced to go on welfare (due to not being able to afford the cost of living) at Wal-Mart’s urging, and at the cost of taxpayers. Also, the White House recently appointed a lawyer who represented Wal-Mart in the nations largest class-action lawsuit in history to head up the wage and hour division of the Department Of Labor. What can you do? Go to to get an encyclopedia’s worth of info and counter-tactics to use against the corporate giant. Also, watch Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price ( 2.) Factory farms are local ecosystems’ biggest polluters (surpassing industrial factories). One hog farm in North Carolina produces as much waste as all of Manhattan. The waste gets into local water systems that cause fish to die, bacterial growth (which can cause human infections), as well as the introduction of agribiotics (used to sustain animals on these farms) into local water systems. These, in turn, lead to more resistant forms of food-borne pathogens affecting humans.

What can you do? Go vegan. Stop this inhumane treatment of other creatures and stop treating your own body like shit with the disgusting food you fill it with. At the very least, check into where your food comes from. Read labels, buy organic instead of processed foods if you can afford it. Contrary to popular opinion a healthy vegan diet can be a lot cheaper, as well as really good for you. 3.) Over 100 Iraqi civilians die each day, as (to date) over 40,000 civilians have died since the U.S. invasion in 2003. This doesn’t even count the over 500,000 children and adults who died as a direct result of U.S. sanctions between 1991 and 2001 (that deprived people of basic needs like first aid). They die for no reason other than for an empire based on greed and control. What can you do? Check Voices In the Wilderness ( and to see how you can directly help suffering children and adults in this region. Additionally, and if this is up your alley, become a war resister. How? It is the taxes we pay from our jobs on a daily basis that go towards building more bombs. Quit your job, or take a job that pays ‘under the table’. It’s not terribly realistic for most, but for some of the more frugal amongst us, it is. The less money the government gets from us the less the war machine rolls forth. And if you want to get really pissed... I mean more pissed about a connection between a national tragedy and a lot of bombs dropping in the Middle East go to It certainly raises some interesting questions. Then, contact any local government officials (your representative or senator), expressing your displeasure with U.S. involvement overseas, attach the info you read on this site, and um... get no reply. Haha. Hey, they can’t ignore 1,000 of these messages can they? 4.) That coffee you drink is shitty. Due to the great minds that brought on NAFTA comes CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), which claims to benefit all nations with better trade opportunities. In fact, it simply gives U.S. companies corporate rights over poor nations, trumping human rights, worker rights, fair trade, and basic human rights in the name of profits to them and loss of jobs for Americans. What can you do? Buy fair trade coffee always. It’s more ethical and tastes a hell of a lot better too. Oh yeah, and don’t get mislead -- Starbucks does NOT promote fair trade coffee. About 1% of the coffee they buy is fair trade and just mixed in with the regular stuff, but this way they can market it as ‘fair trade’. Fuck these bozos and don’t support their shitty business. Their business is the business of monopolizing and causing small local business to go OUT of business. Additionally, buy locally. Support local farmers... or try growing your own garden! Check for more info on this. OK, so hopefully you’re good and pissed now. And hopefully you’ll think twice about your actions because every dollar spent is a vote. Remember that. Think about who you’re buying from. Think about your day-to-day interactions. Keep in mind that governments and the corporate entities that use them rely on disinterested and complacent people to keep them in power. If you’re asking questions and exercising freedom of choice than it’s already a good start. And if enough people are questioning and sharing these revelations than the greedy and the evil will suffer, and will realize the folly of their ways.

Music: Deftones, Saturday Night Wrist Fucked Up, Hidden World Devo, Freedom Of Choice Capital, Signal Corps Trap Them, Sleepwell Deconstructor Challenge me:

Sam Sousa Notes from the Lost and found The old man walked by with his missing teeth and ratty grey hair holding up the picture disc with the Mammy chasing the Sambo in circles ingrained in vinyl. “Hey you guys lookin’ for a racist record?” and then he smirked and laughed to himself opening his mouth a little wider and exposing us to the decay of his pathetic existence. He’s a common feature on the record collecting scene, and the one feature that shoots chills down my spine. It’s not the racist aspect, although believe me that carves out its own fear, especially for a dumb white guy like myself looking for jazz records. It’s the so lost in collecting mindset that you forget about music that shakes the shit out of me. Collecting isn’t really about music for many of these guys; it’s about owning something that other people don’t own. That’s why I flip through $1 to $5 bins and see amazing records like “American Beauty” or “Nilsson Schmilsson” kept in crap condition, they don’t give a damn about one note being played, only about how rare it is or how much money it can make them. That’s how these guys go from collecting Elvis merchandise to Soul 45’s to Blues 78’s to black face memorabilia. Believe me there’s a short distance between owning an old Sonny Boy Williamson single and owning a picture disc with a “Coon” cartoon etched in it. A week before at another show in Orange County and I found several punk vendors schlepping classic records for an insurmountable amount of money (Oddly enough the guy hawking surf records had a copy of the In/Humanity album buried in the back). They’re asking for the kind of cash that makes Strummer turn rotisserie in his casket. Don’t get me wrong Sham 69’s “If the Kids are United” is an awesome song, arguably one of the best punk songs written, but $30 for the forty-five, well that’s divisive capitalism if I’ve ever seen it. But somebody bought it along with a $20 Business single and a $14 Mad Parade record I recognized from my youth. This is the kind of crap I would come across in a $1 bin, look & laugh at, then feel pity for, and finally pass up all together. Maybe that doesn’t make me punk and maybe it even makes me a little bit of an asshole, but the bottom line is bad music is bad music. For a leather-clad dude though, this is the find; he’s just entered a punk vinyl heaven, where terrible three-chord songs are fifty bucks a dozen. Can I knock him? Yes. Should I? Maybe not, maybe some people have to pay an exorbitant amount so I know not to.

My point is this: I used to be obsessed with collecting Locust vinyl, getting all the colors and all the shapes possible. Then one day I woke-up and realized I don’t like this band, I never really did, and I never really will. So I sold them in super lot for forty bucks across the pond and now I only buy records I will listen to. Not records that look good in a collection or give me some sort of non-existent advantage/credibility over another moronic consumer. I buy Palatka records because they’re thrashtastic, I buy everything Molina because it sounds good, I’m bidding on Young Pioneers records because the music is undeniable & they’ll look good in my collection. I don’t own a limited version of the Swing Kids record because they were some trendsetting hardcore act or because only 1,999 other idiots have it. I own it because the music is mind blowing and every time I set the needle down I want to start a pit.

I’ve been listening to: Anton Bordman, Neil Young, Fucked Up, The Arcade Fire, and The Gossip lately, so should you.

Reach me at:

des_ark by: nick cox

Have you ever gone to a show of a singer/songwriter and sat in the audience and really just gotten it? Did you ever feel like you knew the person so well based on their lyrics, or the small details like the way they put their capo on or their between-song banter that you had no choice but to fall in love with them? Maybe you took it one step further and imagined that you had so much in common with this person that they, too, would fall in love with you? Of course you have. We all have. But this is the difficult part: Have you ever found out what kind of person they were and been devastated when they fell from the impossibly high pedestal you put them on?

Aimée (pronounced eh-MAY) Argote finds herself squarely between these two ideas, having often been the target of pining fans, and having lived the disappointment of the latter circumstance, she tells me by phone in the car on the way to work. And ultimately, we agreed, she’s the ideal target for this type of projection. Her new record, Battle of the Beards, a split with Ben Davis & the Jets, shows off a vulnerable side that is difficult not to want to try and relate to more intimately. There’s an emotive aspect to her half of the split (five songs of her own and vocals on the last two, which are collaborative pieces) that is so raw that it almost begs to be decrypted, understood, or otherwise figured out. It is, in this sense, a seductively telling portrait that Argote paints of herself across her tracks, manifested strikingly by her voice that is at once vulnerable and full of southern twang and charm. Yet, she says, that is an impossibly difficult position to be put in as an artist. She describes the moment of being approached at a show and being faced with this responsibility. “It’s somewhat difficult to deal with sometimes when you’ve written something that feels personal and close to you and you really just want people to understand what you’re trying to say...and someone comes up to you and they’ve got it all wrong. And you really still want them to understand what you’re trying to say. Do I let them have that experience or do I try to tell them what I really meant?” We considered this together in discussing the school of art criticism that argues that a piece of art no longer belongs to the artist when they put it on display. By this logic, any person’s personal interpretation of it is thus necessarily correct. Yet what do you do as an artist when you’re trying both to be understood and to keep a piece of yourself only for you to own? You’d have to imagine that as specific as some of the stories on this recent release are, because they deal with emotions that are not specific to the particular plot. Thus, they’re bound to be related to in an unintended way. Indeed, it’s hard not to relate to the picture she describes; the nostalgia, heartbreak, and anger found on the record are nothing if not universal, especially in the way they appear. In short, the catharsis on the album is palpable: “Music is a way that I get everything out,” she says. “All of the demons, not just the ones that show themselves to other people.” This emotive aspect, as well as the swooning rhythms, give Des Ark its riveting quality.

Battle Of The Beards is available from: Lovitt Records Contact des_ark directly:

“I tell you,” she warns on “The Fall of the Skorts,” “love can be a hurtful thing.” The moment that this lyric appears on the record is indicative of everything captivating about Argote’s songwriting: perfectly placed between piano notes and a string swell, her voice, whose rich yet vulnerable tones are nearly buried in the mix, betrays the fact that she’s lived all she sings about in such a genuine way. Perhaps it’s the sentimental complexity of the subject matter and her relationship to it that makes it all the more compelling. While you might think that her pouring herself into her music would leave her with no emotional barriers left intact, she is still manages to maintain her emotional mystique. “Sometimes, I feel even more distant from people,” she admits, speaking to her recorded expressiveness. “I feel like after you write [songs like those], it feels like a really big workout for your heart. I just feel even more exhausted from it...Sometimes, [when] I realize what I’ve done, in that I’ve put out all these emotions that I feel inside and all of these people have access to them, it makes me feel even more closed up.” In other words, like she sings in “The Subtleties of Chores and Unlocked Doors,” “You can hold my hand, but you can never hold my heart.” As she said this, though it seemed hard to believe she’d have the emotional energy left to maintain a healthy distance between herself and her listeners, she digressed. “But sometimes when someone tells you at a show that they can’t express how it’s made them feel but they just feel really affected by it, you realize you’re not alone, and that’s a really wonderful thing, too.” In the end, it is with this dichotomy; vocals full of bravado, yet exposed, feeling detachment and solidarity. It’s with songs at once heartbroken and full of hope that Argote reels you in. This juxtaposition is present in the opening lyric of “Skorts”: “We cannot change without some hurt.” And it was as clear through our conversation as it is through her words and music that she is one of those few but important artists who is defined by this change, both personally and musically embracing distance and intimacy, love and isolation, pain and optimism.


C : Shannon Corr

During the 25 minutes that comprise Triclops’ debut EP Cafeteria Brutalia, the band sounds completely nostalgic and futuristic at the exact same time. This is especially obvious in the ten-minute epic “Bug Bomb.” Heavy-handed, but still technically savvy rhythm section work collides with shouted vocals and frantic guitar lines. The result is completely choppy one moment and equally bouncy the next. It’s hard to tell whether the band is shaking your hand or kneeing you in the crotch. But after a couple listens, it’s obvious: they’re doing both at the same time. Triclops originally formed in 2004 when guitarist Christian Beaulieu (Bottles and Skulls) and singer John Geek (The Fleshies) grew tired of their current bands’ inactivity. After working out a number of songs, they got serious about finding a rhythm section. By early in 2006, the full band was in place and Cafeteria Brutalia was born. By the time these four songs were released, they had already announced plans for a full length later this year on G.S.L. as well as a trip to SXSW with David Yow’s new project (QUI). This is fitting on more than one level; Triclops have way more going on, even over the course of their first four songs than just nods to Jesus Lizard (though there are a few of those as well). Everything on the EP combines the best things about the edgy, analog era of post-hardcore. But it finds new, immediately satisfying and legitimately acrobatic ways of putting everything together. The energy and execution make for an incendiary entry into, and almost immediately beyond any subgenre. This interview was conducted, via e-mail with Beaulieu and Geek as they were getting ready to leave the Bay Area for Austin to knock the free beer out of everyone’s pint glasses at South By Southwest.

By: Stuart Anderson // Photos: Shannon Corr

How did Triclops first meet, and form? (Christian) 3/4 of the future members of Triclops! had known each other and toured together in their previous bands. The original songwriting core of (vocalist) John and (guitarist) me was hell bent on pursuing a broader, more ridiculous and uninhibited musical outlet. Also we were reaching back into our early 90’s influences, and leaving the mental limitations sometimes placed upon an artist while trying to maintain group democracy to our other bands. In creating a new music without boundaries, we discovered that we would need a gnarly rhythm section that shared this ideology. We found it in (bassist) Larry, and (drummer) Phil. How has everyone’s experience in other bands affected the process for Triclops, musically and otherwise? (Johnny) We’re all pretty much lifers, and at this point we aren’t really in

this just to get laid. If you stay a wingnut long enough and keep making music for long enough, the music and other dealings you are involved in will reflect that wingnut-ness to a downright uncomfortable degree, and with a minimal degree of self-consciousness and compromise - but plenty of self-awareness. I’ve been waiting to get to that point for years. I think everyone in this band is there. (C) Everyone in this C : Shannon Corr project has the skills necessary to make a band something of a success. Our experiences, from touring to recording, are so deep and involved that we only need to tap our own past for insights into most problems and/or situations that would derail most bands. The song writing process is completely estranged from anything resembling a normal rock band, and all of us are basically trying to out do any rock music already heard by writing epics and compositions instead of “songs”. Just staying ridiculous is the most important factor. Kurt Danielson from TAD, said in that movie Hype that they didn’t have to point the finger at anyone else, they just pointed it right back at themselves. I take this approach with my songwriting, because most people are so concerned with being a hip, sexy “artist” that the music they make fades away in 2 months. This will not happen with our stuff, because it takes intelligent people, real music fanatics to actually ingest the entire concept behind our band. People might think they have it by seeing us live but the being that is Triclops! will always have something new brewin for ‘em. (J) Basically, our shit smells like the fine essential oils of beautiful, sophisticated ladies of society.

How did you end up hooking up with Sickroom, for the release of the EP, then with GSL for the upcoming full length? (C) Sickroom had put out my old band Bottles + Skulls, and one of the owners is a dear friend of mine from my hometown of St. Augustine, Florida. We wanted to get an EP out fast, and get people taking notice of us instead of waiting for an offer from an unforseen situation. We are also operating on another level of productivity, in the sense that we record all practices and send them electronically to each other, wherever we are in the world. Sickroom also has good distribution, and really push their releases in the press so I knew it was a good idea to work with them for those reasons alone. (J) As for GSL, I’ve known the guy who runs it for years and always liked him and had a lot of respect for the way he does business, all the way back from when he ran Bottlenekk Distro and helped distribute releases from my old label S.P.A.M. Records. He’d sell everything of ours from Fleshies (my other band) to Los Rabbis and Dory Tourette and the Skirtheads, and actually pay us on time after selling all this obscure music that we thought no one would ever buy. We were giving Triclops!’s demos to GSL from minute one. (C) The GSL thing was a carefully crafted pitch to the owner Sonny Kay who we feel has put out some amazing music over the last 12 years, and we knew that there was a chance to grab his ear so we took it. We initially wanted to work with GSL, even before we named the band. So it seems everything has fallen into place quite naturally. Your songs seem really carefully written, structurally and dynamically. How does the process usually work? Do you set out for certain criteria when you start (for instance one song on the EP is less than four minutes long, while another is almost 11)? (C) Most of the music of Triclops! starts off with me washing my nards in the shower. I hear something in my head and I stand there and prune until it’s locked in place, then I dry off and plug in a terribly out of tune Stratocaster which makes the original idea shape shift into the composition which I then bring to Phil, who after hours of tantric masturbation finds some incredible new way to arrange said compostion. After that is recorded, I then I bring a bottle of wine over to Larry’s house, where, after a 1/2 hour of sour diesel, he comes up with a bass line that is trying to derail my guitar line, but somehow works and all the while John is in class fantasizing about killing cute college girls and finding new ways to stay awake in archaeology class, which brings about this holy grail of verbage which we then rinse and repeat in the studio, all the while not trying to be influenced by the yarling Nickelback rip-off band next door who wants to open up for us one day. And out comes an epic. (J) Sometimes I’ll make Christian rape a guitar part he wrote, just to make sure it sounds really fucked-up and ridiculous. He doesn’t even seem to mind much. Then we’ll tinker with the song in the studio for months, and I’ll often have an entire vocal melody and rhythm written out way before I have any lyrics, while the rest of the guys hammer out intricacies of arrangement. It’s all pretty damned deliberate and carefully written, good observation. You guys are heading out to SXSW this year, I’m assuming you haven’t done it before. How do you feel about the place of such a large festival fitting into your plans as a band? (J) We’re playing in the same building (Emo’s), the same night as Turbonegro, Poison Idea, The Meat Puppets, and The Buzzcocks, not to even mention our touring buddies 400 Blows and QUI - and we’re not playing the same time as any of them. Consider my pants officially shitted. If somebody told me I’d be playing a show like this when I was 19, I would have freaked

C : Shannon Corr

out and hid in the van. (C) We have once again carefully crafted our situation being a part of the SXSW shit storm by touring there and back with our great friends 400 Blows and a band called QUI, which is now fronted by David Yow of Scratch Acid/ Jesus Lizard. So we are settling into the fact that we have to hang/perform with these rock warriors for a week and these are the type of people we fit in with comfortably. In this scenario, the people who come to see this traveling show are the ones who reap the real reward. Also the fact that we are playing the GSL showcase at Emo’s on Saturday night in Austin,Texas with David Yow is unbelievable. Cafeteria Brutalia is only a four song EP, and it seems dense and draining to listen to, which seems completely refreshing to me. Is your plan similar for the full length, production and songwriting-wise? (J) Thanks, and yes - for the most part. We’re recording with the legendary Kurt Schlagel and his amazingly wavy hair at Lucky Cat in early March, same place we recorded Cafeteria Brutalia with Phil Manley. As for songwriting, well, we are pretty obsessed with continually “bringing it to the next level”, so to speak. (C) There is nothing broken here. Your statements about it being draining and dense are spot on. How may people felt that way abut the Butthole Surfers?? Hella? Even Sonic Youth. So our process will only upgrade. Like the weed in California, it gets stronger every two weeks with no memos going out, nothing. The songs have a new sense of melody that gets hinted at in Bug Bomb. But the ride will be as taxing as the EP. We do hope you will enjoy yourselves in trying to catagorize us. It makes for most interesting takes on your intelligence and attention to detail. What is the plan for the band, from SXSW on? (C) Not sucking.

Cafeteria Brutalia is available from Sickroom Records: Shannon Corr Photography:


C : Greg Schaal

I was out on the road, nearing the end of an incredibly long and arduous tour with a little known Denver band when we pulled into Minneapolis. My patience with the whole process was growing thin, and I couldn’t wait to get home. We had played with numerous acts, the near entirety of which, were utterly forgettable. Except, that is, for STNNNG. That night, we played to a moderately full venue (one of the first of its sort for that tour) with the now-defunct Volante and the gentlemen from STNNNG. It was a relatively high-energy crowd, and I felt like it had been the best set we played to the best crowd thus far. I was in good spirits and was looking forward to the next two bands. STNNNG took the stage without pomp or circumstance and modestly set up. Then, from their first note, it was complete coherent chaos. Frontman Chris Besinger was the most commanding presence I had seen on that entire tour, and still contends with some of the more charismatic performances I can remember. The crowd was immediately divided into two opposed factions. Those who, like me, stood in utter awe at the spectacle before me, and those who just would not appreciate the alarming energy the (at the time) foursome were putting into every note. Besinger was running from one side of the other, barking his signature spoken-sung vocals, announcer-like. His flamboyant gestures were a complete revelation for me at the time. At one point, between songs, Besinger stood up on a wall partition in front of the audience while guitarists Nathan Nelson and Adam Burt diligently tuned their instruments. “Slaves,” Besinger said with a captivating deadpan, pointing an accusing finger that panned across dozens of awestruck faces. “You’re all slaves!” The crowd, unsure how to react, was in complete silence. Besinger almost masochistically basked in the stunned stillness. It was riveting.

I was a convert. This was my introduction to the Twin Cities’ STNNNG. The quintet has just released their most recent full length, Fake Fake, to rave reviews in their area and elsewhere. I had been searching for news from the band for the past two and a half years when this release reached me. Apparently, 2005’s Dignified Sissy hadn’t quite made it out to me, but I was incredibly excited for this new release, which grabs you from the first notes and doesn’t let you go until the very end. I asked the group, who has added bassist Jesse Kwakenat since the incarnation I saw then, about what I considered to be a relative anomaly in the realm of independent rock music today. With all of this energy on the record and live, don’t they get depleted from time to time? Do they find they have to take days off during tours to recuperate from their evidently exhausting set? “No,” they all say in unison, shaking their heads. “It just comes out naturally at this point. It’s not even anything we think about. We just go out there,” Besinger says, eliciting the assent of his fellow band members. “We even act like that at practice sometimes,” agrees Nelson. And the Twin Cities area seems to be warming up to this idea. “Sometimes it seems we can count on a pretty decent draw,” says Besinger. “But that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it,” Nelson chimes in. “Sometimes they just stare at you.” Still, they’re working their way up, with back-to-back releases on Minneapolis’ Modern Radio. And it’s possible that many of the people in the crowd are staring, much like I was, in complete awe. “While we’re playing it doesn’t seem like we get a whole lot of feedback,” says Besinger. “But then when we’re done, people come up to us and say they really liked it.”

This, to me, was even more astounding then the energy itself: I know from experience that the easiest way to put on a high-energy show is to have audience feedback. Concerts have always been meant to be a dialogue of sorts. And whatever dynamic is established, it tends to perpetuate itself between the crowd and the band. If the band comes out animated and compelling, the audience reacts well, and the band feeds off the response, and the cycle continues. Yet it can be a vicious cycle of negativity as well. And when, like with some STNNNG crowds, the band puts everything into it and gets nothing back, they often become demoralized and thus begins a more vicious cycle. Yet STNNNG are incredibly perseverant. Rather than letting it affect their morale, they look at it as motivation. “It is hard,” says Besinger, referring to the lack of audience feedback. “But usually when we’re not getting any response from the crowd, we feel like then we’ve got to go twice as hard.” As if for proof, this unbelievable show of energy is committed to tape on Fake Fake. From Beringer’s violent, yet stifled outbursts of almost disturbingly schizophrenic laughter (“Dubbed Warehousing”) to the dueling angular guitar lines that, if heard separately would be judged impossible to make sound like anything other than racket, yet, when culminated, create an almost overwhelmingly precise and challenging harmony (“Tactics”). And thus, every bit of energy that is packed tightly into each number of the binary on the CD, STNNNG matches that with their superlative musicianship. The caustic bass, the often catastrophic, yet meticulous drumming, the creative, almost improvisatory guitars, and the circus ringleader vocals synthesize to create a package that is as enthralling to listen to as it is challenging. As in “Grand Island, Neb.,” the rhythm section often lies down the supporting basis for the intermingling guitars and the prophetic vocals. “In a hundred-twenty years’ time, there will be an ocean here,” Besinger sings, referring to the landlocked Midwestern state. “And a submarine will seem like a brilliant idea.” This is but one example of the remarkable aural offerings of this up and coming band. If what you’re looking for is to be shaken to your core by furious energy, STNNNG will doubtlessly have the force, via recordings or live performance, to give you more than your money’s worth of nearly over-stimulating rock to get your ears ringing and your heart racing.

[Nick Cox]

Dignified Sissy and Fake Fake are available from Modern Radio:

C : Adam Bubolz


The Plastic Constellations Crusades LP

Yellow Swans & Devillock split 7�

Signal To Trust STNNNG Golden Armour CD Fake Fake CD, LP COMING IN 2007 ft(The Shadow Government) and TORNAVALANCHE

die Hoffnung By: Sam Sousa

In all my years, and with all their genius, I have never read an interview with either brother Marburger. Their music is inspiring, grandiose, and in so many ways unchallenged and unmatched by any others. Whether it is the loud/soft crash of I Hate Myself or the spastic bursts of Burnman, they are constantly raising the bar of underground music. With die Hoffnung, they have outdone themselves; Love Songs is an amazing and complex album full of sharp tongues, swiftly picked guitars, and thunderous drumming. I cut the interview via mail with Jim Marburger, the singing, stringing half of the duo. I refused to ask the band about being from Gainesville: it’s a Mecca, we get it. I shortened the length of the final question’s answer, but the essence remains. Besides that, it is as is. Jim wanted me to note he is not as cynical in life or about the record industry as it might seem.

Tell me about die Hoffnung came to be. No. It would interest no one. For example: So, like, I was waiting tables and taking a couple graphic design classes but wasn’t really super into it, and Sebastian was blah blah blah, knew a couple of the same blah blah blah, and it just, like, clicked blah, always writing little things in those little journals blah, shared goalsthetics blah, like a family blah, world domination har har, high-five, etc. Boredom, even small boredom, should be discouraged. Unless there is high intrigue and/or serendipitous catastrophe in the laboratory, the provenance of no rock band should see print. Is being a two-piece a lack of option or purposeful? Jon prefers just the two pieces. I might prefer upwards of a hundred pieces. I could conceal myself behind the second row of flapdoodlers, blame any ugliness on the pots and pans corps. And two do not a quorum make. Disputed melodies are resolved by reading the birds in the sky. No birds? We wait for birds. Though Jon insists no birds means their vote accords with his. Jon wears the pants, I guess. He will argue otherwise. It is a stratagem. The tyrant will tell you he eats the peasant’s baby on the peasant’s behalf. Having only two players in a rock band poses certain limits, and these limits become problems that urge different solutions, some more successful than others, some as yet undiscovered. I would probably have more confidence playing in a larger group, but I would be less interested. Our personal artistic successes, perforce rather minor, are more gratifying this way; the failures, though, are more conspicuous, more frequent, easier to come by. This all sounds like rather serious language for an unknown parochial rock band. The production on Love Songs has such an expansive roomy feel. It is amazing, very loose, yet very clean. Is that a result of trying to fill the space of having no bassist or are you trying to give the band a larger sound all together? Per the Shower Rule, the bigger the shower in which you sing, the better you sound. We recorded in a very big shower, backed the microphones up some, hoped to fill up the hole left by the truant low-end with the sound bouncing off the mildewed shower walls. The recorded band is a denser, more competent band than the actual band. Clarity suffered somewhat, I think, in the bigger shower. Which might have been to our advantage, i.e., uncorrected mistakes are smothered. Regardless, the next recording will be produced in a smaller shower. Or maybe in a bigger shower. The Grifters recorded some songs in a parking garage, I think, with the effect of a great natural reverb. Low’s church recordings sound suitably airy and solemn. Maybe we will book the Grand Canyon. Rob

McGregor, the gentleman who records much of the local music, and much music from abroad, is building a studio with a big central open room, which will, I expect, make some interesting sounds. How does this band vary from your previous bands? die Hoffnung certainly seems to be a combination of the two, the spastic blasts of Burnman mixed with the drawn out rise and fall of I Hate Myself. Are they separate entities or do you see them as one long continuous statement? I ask because between Burnman and die Hoffnung you revisited I Hate Myself with Roy Sullivan vs. The Lightning. I wonder if this intentional, if you see your output as one stream, rather than three separate bands. We wrote those Roy Sullivan songs kind of between formal bands, recorded them on a lark, figured they sounded like something I Hate Myself would have done. Var [from No Idea] wanted, for whatever reason, to press a CD compiling IHM songs formerly only on vinyl. The Roy Sullivan songs were meant to be extra songs, supplements (even more shockingly unsatisfying than any of the other songs), some sorry incentive to buy the CD. Pressing the songs into vinyl was an afterthought. The CD, incidentally, never came out. die Hoffnung will likely be the last band I’m in; thus whatever songs are forthcoming, at whatever tempo or volume, will probably manifest under that moniker. In the music business, band names serve as brand names. One expects a particular brand to manufacture a product of a particular character. Jon and I are not in the music business, thank goodness, and so our qualitycontrol division need not be as strict. One Stream? Why not. Though any direction whither we flow is not deliberate. And it’s all bad water. I believe for the most part all of your bands releases are on No Idea. What’s your reasoning behind sticking with this label? Adolescent nostalgia. Community. Proximity. The NO Idea babies, though pale, are both beautiful; if Var and Jennifer can make beautiful humans, why shouldn’t they be capable of making nice records? Truly we have no choice, because Var, not without vigorous urging, is the only one who will make our songs into a record. And he’s a seldom seen friend, so making a record with him is our quality time. Rich Diem, of the Bakery Outlet concern, is also a friend with whom we’d like to someday spend similar quality time. I hear that he and his staff do all their preliminary layout work with notebook paper and pencil atop surfboards, fat geezer surfboards with one fat fin astern, abob in the crummy crumbly St. Augustine surf. Then it’s back to the

clothesline to hang the drafts that didn’t dissolve. The thinking is that the ideas that endure are the strongest. I notice that you rarely tour or excessively promote your records. Is this because you don’t see your work as a product to sell, but rather as an artistic statement? If it’s a product, it’s a pretty sorry product. “We can’t give these things away,” is what I imagine Var saying, standing before the cold stacks of die Hoffnung records, shaking his head, the innumerable muscles that control human facial expression all tense, arms akimbo, starvation slowly setting in, the pathetic moans of his hungry children carried on the chilly draft through the sagging No Idea warehouse. And ‘artistic statement’ is too fancy wording for what we’re doing Touring is not any fun. The fun part is crafting the songs up in the attic under the single dim dangling 40-watt light bulb, big eviscerations of pink fiberglass spilling from the ceiling, deaf disoriented rats stumbling about. A touring band seems to me a bit like a parking lot security guard, lonesome, sitting there waiting for something exciting to happen, maybe hearing a cat rattle on the pavement, shining his flashlight in the direction of the noise, it’s just a cat, here kitty kitty, maybe I can get it to come over here, here kitty, oh here it comes, better not touch it looks to have some mange maybe worms, shoo kitty, shoo, think I’ll have a drink, thought I’d wait ‘til later but it couldn’t hurt to have a little toot sooner, my life my life, as a boy I thought by I’d have cured cancer and performer the first whole head transplant, but here I am, waiting, waiting, like at the dentist, waiting for something I don’t even much want. Here’s a quote from a recent interview with the much-hyped singer of a much-hyped athletic rock band. It might be germane. I don’t know. But here it is anyway: “People are consuming music quicker. I think you have to have music coming out…if you make a record every year, it takes some pressure off you. You don’t have to make your fucking masterpiece every time because you’re not waiting three years to build it up…If we needed to write a song, we could probably go do it right now.” If I needed to write a song (Can you imagine needing to write a song? David Geffen explodes into the bullpen, points to an idle band, says, “You, band, you’re not doing anything, I need five riffs about melancholy by midnight, and throw in a chorus, something catchy, harmonies and everything, and a guitar solo, make it ironic if you want, who can tell anymore.”) I could also go do it right now, but it wouldn’t be a very good song, and I could have spent the time wasted finishing a bad song on starting a good one. I don’t guess there’s anything wrong with making money off your music. I would not refuse money made from our record, if such a thing were tendered. As it is, I am still in the hole eight hundred dollars for the die Hoffnung recording, and about six hundred dollars for the last IHM recording. But music is to some a recreation and to others a livelihood, and just because you make no money from it doesn’t mean you take it more seriously or treat with more reverence. What’s tacky is, I think, when those who do make money from music or wish to make money from music are impelled in an aesthetic or ethical direction not otherwise entertained. Bad decisions are often made when money is dangled as bait. This is a truism we are supposed to learn as children, e.g., ‘I’ll give you dollar if you eat that,’ that being uncategorizable matter invariably on the ground, probably near feces or including feces, and already deemed inedible by starving mongrels and rodents. But plenty of good records have been made by wealthy celebrities; plenty of good records have made wealthy celebrities out of talented paupers. Smugly staunch champions of the underground, when they sign to a large label, which they will do after repeated and vehement denigration of such a thing. They usually dismiss their change of heart with something frivolous like, “We just wanted to see how far we could take it,” referring invariably to their record sales rather than any risks taken within their music, which is unfortunate. Then they go and spend a month getinng the “right” snare sound with some elite producer, start calling their minstrelsy ‘art,’ start calling themselves ‘artists.’ Usually they regret their decision. Consumerism itself has become a form of entertainment. Consumption has replaced experience. There are only new products left to discover. Socalled counter-culture bands were once an impediment to this unfortunate species of intellectual decadence (Of course many of them championed their own form of intellectual decadence). The resistance in most cases was passive, and maybe subconscious, but it was important. Now, fewer small-time bands seeming to be baffling the trend; many are encouraging it. Even our underground heroes are abandoning idealism for fear of missing a chance to make a million bucks. Idolatry is vigorously pursued. Where are the Minutemen when we need them?

A recreational band doesn’t have to become a professional band. This used to be taken for granted. The impetus for music, before it became venal, was social. Someone was standing on a cliff above a canyon, shouting “Hey! Here I am! I exist! Look at what I’ve done! Is anybody out there?” How does the artwork of Love Songs correlate with the title and the lyricism? Specifically the dead fish in the sea and the love is blind bats, to what degree are the aesthetic of an album and its content related for you? Why not have pictures of your band going off? The songs, explicitly or implicitly, in one fashion or another, all explore, superficially perhaps, some tangentially, what is called love, how it can manifest, physically and emotionally, how it’s used, how it’s exploited, how we react to it or don’t react to it, the consequences of its perceived absences, etcetera. Thus, Love Songs. The album artwork, though shamefully lazy, is deliberate. (The fish, by the way, are alive and ardent, struggling forth from the water into an alien atmosphere to mingle with other fish and make baby fish. The bats are simultaneously warm and horrible.) We were pursuing a sort of harmony, I guess, something interesting to look at and subtly unified. Album art isn’t as important to me as it probably should be. It’s nice to artwork that compliments the music it envelops, it’s even a pleasant surprise to see artwork that enriches the music, but neither, I think, are mandatory. And I do like packaging that’s interesting or clever for it’s own sake, but origami will not make a bad record good, nor will it prevent a bear attack. Why not having pictures of us going off? Going off is contraindicated by the die Hoffnung team of Swedish physicians. When we play in public, we just stand there like cold fish. Doctor’s orders. Lyrically this record seems to be more personal, in someway it seems as though there is a narrative within the song’s structure and placement. Is this true and does it reflect your own experience? Anything personal is buried within the fat of the songs’ characters. I don’t think the are so much linear narratives as they are monologues and dialogues. A semblance of narrative may obtain, though. Song order on the album is chronological. “Lovemonger” is the first song we wrote; “Tour of Bridges” the last before recording. I think they are appropriate bookends, both broaching the US’s recent tawdry, meretricious adventures in foreign policy. The lyrics of “Lovemonger” were supposed to be composed entirely of homophones which would read simultaneously virtuous and vicious, inspired of course by the bald duplicity of the Bush administration. But I didn’t have the ingenuity to match my ambition (I attempted, rather unsuccessfully I think, some similar wordplay with the carwrecked drunk’s soliloquy in ‘der Autounfull’.). So, I pursued a simpler dichotomy, i.e., the words are sugar but the sentiment is venom. “Tour of Bridges” was conceived as simply a travelogue of all the wonderful bridges that span the United States, a list of things that could have happened on them. But the lyrics were infected with some other thoughts and fancies. At times, it seems to me you are taking shots at your own generation and its attitudes towards love. I have a feeling this isn’t true, but I sight lines such as: “The cracks in my country breathe fire. White Boys Will Burn!”, or: “Barboys….would mount birds barely wooed by a liquor this crude”, or: “First wife, neglected. Next wife, infected.”, or: “What bold boys crave, something to slay, someone to save.”, or: “Drink, friends, dance down your past. Love & Virtue won’t last.” All of which seem to examine the misogynistic tones of modern sex/romance. Am I reading to deeply or are you criticizing the overly neglectful, emotionless, self-gratifying vain state of Modern American love? I’m not really sure how to answer your question without referencing personal experience, which I don’t want to do. It’s often too easy to be cynical about love and affection and our mal-/mis-/nonfeasance toward it. We tend to follow the path of least resistance, in life and in art. But I think there are equal parts pessimism and optimism in the lyrics, or that the scale is not tipped too drastically in one direction. If I could talk about it any more intelligently or intelligibly than I did on the record I would have written a thesis instead of some songs. I do hope the next record will be more celebratory. It will be called, I think, Christmas Songs & One Song About Beowulf.

Love Songs is available from No Idea Records:

Rob Crow

Rob Crow is the lead singer of Pinback and has just released Living Well, his new solo record. Upon hearing this piece of news, you’re going to do one of three things: A) Say, “Yeah, I know. Pinback is my favorite band. I’ve already bought the record. I hope this writer had some intelligent questions that provoked interesting responses from one of my favorite musicians.” B) Say, “He has a record out? How did I not hear about this?” Then you’ll throw down the magazine and run to the nearest record store (e.g., your computer). C) Say, “Who?” and read on.

Ultimately, at first glance, you’re not going to hear a whole lot in this record that you haven’t heard from Pinback musically. But take that with a grain of salt, because though Crow’s signature vocal timbre and guitar tone create the bulk of this record sonically, it’s years apart from anything Pinback’s done conceptually. There’s no doubt where the inspiration came from for the album; it’s entitled Living Well, and there are various family photos in the insert. The back cover, for instance, is Rob and his wife. Here, Rob is pictured with a cup of coffee by the side of his house, which is festively decorated with pumpkins. This image perfectly sums up the domesticity that ostensibly led to the recording of this record, as well as the lyrical motifs therein.

Being a prolific indie rock star seems always to have been the ideal life for the bachelor: touring eight months a year, writing and recording the other four, not knowing what city you’re in or what day it is a week into the tour, playing live, giving interviews, and more. It’s hard to imagine where anyone with a girlfriend, much less a wife, would fit within this scene, and we’ve all heard stories about and/or lived the relationship issues that spring from the inability to find the equilibrium between home life and artistic life. I could relate to how difficult it must be to reconcile these two vying commitments. For example, although my efforts to get in touch with Rob failed until a half-hour after our scheduled interview time, I had to give him a break. If it had been just about anyone else, I would have surmised that the indie prima dona had stayed out too late from a show the night before, or was just too busy with his rock star lifestyle to make good on spoken agreements. Yet I could imagine that Crow had gotten caught up changing diapers, going to the store with his wife, or listening to the heartbreaking musicality of his son’s coo over the baby monitor. And I had to respect that. But Crow seems nothing if not at ease with the historically precarious situation. He thinks nothing of bringing his son along on tour. And he encourages everyone to bring their families along, sharing his respect for the importance of family: “I try to make it so that everyone is happy and no one is lonely. We keep it like a family unit.” And the importance of the family unit to him is clear. His record art reads like a family photo album. One photo depicts him and his newborn son in matching Halloween costumes, his wedding ring prominently showing. You’d have to imagine that not only can he seem to find the balance between career and home life, but that the two pursuits are actually fueling each other. According to Crow, for example, his son (also named Robertdale Crow, though he has the addition of III) “likes to be in the room while I’m recording.” And the youngster is also following in the footsteps of his father: “He’s got his own instruments already.” Across the record, you’ll find that it is full of family-based songs, like “Ring,” which describe his courtship with his wife. As you’d imagine, the record is almost overwhelmingly selfconscious. And this is what gives the record a sound that, although similar to Pinback, is all its own. It seems to suggest a musical and personal maturity that is somehow charmingly absent from the majority of Pinback’s work. But then again, that’s what gives Pinback their innocent, childlike allure. Crow’s work is much more grown up in every way, particularly the subject matter. Still, that’s not to say that it’s devoid of the optimism that makes his seminal indie band great. “Taste,” the record’s third track, reminds the listener of the carefree nature of the better Pinback recordings. Indeed, if anything, Crow’s solo work, inspired by his budding family, contains much more of that optimism for which Pinback is famous. And rightly so. This is when you begin to realize that Crow deserves recognition for more than just continuing to record, but to handle it all so well. When you talk to him, you can’t imagine how busy he is; I listened to him rattle off a half dozen projects whose records are coming out in the next year, a solo tour, and his own record label while his son made son sounds in the background. Yet he seems so at ease with the insane constraints of so many projects, both familial and artistic. And that’s where “Living Well”, in hindsight, regains the carefree qualities of Pinback. After all, just because his life has, in the past 2 years, become much more domestic, he isn’t the typical portrait of a father. Gone is any hint of resignation or exhausted lethargy. If anything, it seems like Crow’s career is paradoxically just getting started.

[Nick Cox]

Living Well is available from Temporary Residence Limited:


By: Sam Sousa

I haven’t heard a band this good, in this vein, in quite some time; these days most bands devise song titles and head shots, before they write a song. Damezumari has it though, rising out of the Midwest, beyond the (we just stopped over in the) poor side of town photo shoots, and mid-level stardom, a saving grace to a screaming hardcore sound that seems all but alive to me. I contacted primary songwriter Eric Titterud via e-mail and got these answers about their current state of things and the near future.

The hitheringandthitheringwaters of 10” is easily one of the best recordings I heard last year. For me it recalls a style of “hardcore/screamo/emo” (whatever brand name it is these days), I rarely hear anymore. How cognizant are you of your taste during the writing process? I actually don’t listen to the older emo stuff as much anymore. I mostly listen to Do Make Say Think, Criteria, Anathallo, Sufjan Stevens, and some other stuff like that. Most of my formative years were spent with the Descendants, Avail, Propagandhi, Rice, some others. And there was this period in between where I listened to a lot of emo stuff, and I guess it just sort of stuck with me. Lots of the other recordings get away from it here and there, but I usually try to make any one particular song channel several of those energies. Sometimes, though rarely, I might try to write towards, though not exclusively within, a certain genre or sound, but every song has a purpose, or a series of goals, that it needs to accomplish musically, and I think that the honesty that I get from the older emo style is almost always a part of that, always something I try to achieve. The lyrics take on a personal political tone, such as ‘Altruism’ and gainful motivation, or the Carpe Diem attitude of ‘Groundhog Day,’ both of which seem to combine in the lyrics of ‘Second Chance.’ I wonder is there an intentional balance between personal and political discourse in your words? Yeah. In the sense that I’ll write something too personal and then on the next song or even later in the song I’ll feel an obligation to broaden its application. There’s a danger in becoming too insular with one’s lyrics. Nobody will relate. But there’s also a danger in just preaching on some issue or forgetting the humanity and emotion involved in any particular theme. What was the best show the band ever played? Man. Tough. Probably Doug and Daniel’s last show. It was a house show. Just us and Atlatl (their other band). Lots of friends. Doug built a portable living room. No cops or anything. People listened and seemed to care. Your name means a “shortage of liberties,” a bit ironic for a band that thrives on a sort of controlled chaos style, don’t you think? I suppose so. Liberty and freedom are sort of paradoxical concepts. Absolute freedom equates to anarchy, a freedom from restraint, responsibility, form, and lots of other things. So chaos isn’t very productive as a mode of art, nor as a mode of work. It isn’t very responsible either. Both control and purpose are always necessary. I think we have exercised more liberty with regards to the variance in the type of songs we write than most bands. You guys are centered around Tulsa, Oklahoma, what’s the underground like there? Virtually non-existent. We used to have a decent punk scene with N.O.T.A. and Brother Inferior and a few others. We’ve had various bands that have made it out of the state occasionally. But unfortunately, most Tulsa bands are limited to a dance-or-mosh-soundtrack-role. Music to listen to while drunk. Can you tell me a little bit about the line-up change. I am wondering why & how that took place? The primary energy of Damezumari has always been located with me. I had tried to start the band several times, “the band” essentially being defined by a certain set of songs I had written. I finally found some interest from an old high school friend of mine, Doug. He brought in Daniel on bass and we played like that for a while, did a tour, recorded three times. But then Doug went to school. Since I always pretty much wrote everything and had several new songs worked out, I didn’t think it should have to end. I got an offer from a drummer, and it went from there. Now I am moving to Irvine to work on my Ph.D., and I have no intention of ending the band. It will just be a matter of finding people to play with. This has never been one of those solo project type things where I write every part. It’s more like a protean shape shifting thing. It just sort of takes on some characteristics of the people I play with, but always has the same basic core. How did you hook up with Sticky Translucent Goo Records? Ben contacted us through email. We’d never played in the UK, so I guess he just heard our stuff through Soulseek or something. Some people put a couple of our songs on virtual mix tapes. It was kind of weird not having a personal relationship with him, but he is a really nice guy. I actually got to hang out with him last summer while I was studying in London. Good times.

I read the band is going on hiatus. It seems as though you’re building up a fanbase and do quite a bit of recording, as though the steam were building, so why toss in the towel now? Well, it’s not exactly quits. I’m moving, so this lineup won’t work anymore. But I’m going to try to find people to play with in Irvine. I don’t intend to stop playing music until I’m at least in my late 30’s or early 40’s. Even then, I don’t want to, it just gets harder. When can we expect the discography to drop? Hopefully sometime this summer. It’s gonna be a pretty sweet deal. 64 page booklet with full color cover, filled with art and lyrics. Two CD’s with 31 tracks total. Hopefully it’ll only be discography part 1, but who knows.

Scope this band at: or, the inevitable:

The Marked Men

With three full-length albums and a couple 7”s under their collective belt, Denton, TX band The Marked Men have been trudging around the US and Europe for the better part of six years. During several email and phone call exchanges over the last month between me and Marked Men bassist Joe Ayoub, we both were able to discover a few new things about each other, the most obvious being that an interview should never under any circumstances be conducted via email. Although it is always great to be able to communicate with everyone in the band, that is not always possible. I hope that this interview does not discourage you from visiting The Marked Men’s website or checking them out next time they come through your town. Texas nice for sure.

By: Jason Zabby You would have to exist in a vacuum to have missed the fact that The Marked Men made a huge impact with Fix My Brain. Were you surprised by the attention paid to the band and the new record this past year? I am always just flattered and floored at the same time when I hear that people are talking about out record. It is the ultimate compliment, I am a fan of a lot of bands and I am constantly talking about bands and to know that people are talking about our record like I talk about other bands’ records, well, that is just so rad. It is like being in junior high and you hear that she thinks you are nice or even better really nice, you just melt inside.

What did you guys shoot to achieve during the writing / recording process on this last record that you may not have gotten out of your last record, On The Outside or even your very first record? I don’t think we had any specific goals, I don’t think we ever had any goals when we were recording a record. We do what we want and that has seemed to work for us. We just want to be happy with the whole process that is the goal, happiness and maybe a hard-on. Would that be used to play the vinyl? My hard-on is used for many things, such as household repairs. Do you think you look like a young Hedgehog (Ron Jeremy) with that mustache? I think it is super hot, are you planning foray into porn Joe? I was really going for a Lester Bangs kind of look; I got Ron Jeremy, which is fine because he has quite a reputation. I don’t know if I could be in porn, but to be fair I have never really applied myself so maybe in the future, you got any leads?

Hey! This is a family publication. Some readers may not know this, but a couple of the fellas used to be in The Reds (not you of course). The Marked Men’s sound, to me, is a bit distanced from the Red’s “sound”, have you heard any backlash about this or do folks tend to pay little attention to it? For the record I loved the Reds, still do, and I have never heard any backlash but really there will always be someone who thinks we really don’t bring it, like the Reds. Whatever, if someone feels that way awesome, at least they have some taste. So what you are saying is that I have taste? No, you have no taste. Although, if you like the Reds, that is enough. I still think Shellac and the Melvins suck. I have a hard time getting into interesting bands. I think Shellac and the Melvins are interesting bands! I am just not into interesting bands. I heard that during your European tour Mike (drummer) had a certain medical situation that meant not only was he in extreme pain, but his band mates had to load his drum kit every night. How did that all turn out? Is he to 100% yet? Is he carrying the other guys’ shit for a few gigs or what? Mike is hardcore, he was in intense pain for a couple of months, and I know the European tour was the worst for him, but he pulled through. In Sweden I think Mike thought he was going to die, because he got up after a song and was just done, we thought we would have to take him to the hospital. We were worried about him. We told the crowd he needed to go to a hospital and they just got really quiet and stared at us. He is now 110% but he does not carry our shit, which would be cooler if he did, but he did buy a van so we are even.

The last couple of years have really seen an upsurge in local punk scenes. What are your impressions of the local music scenes around the country? Specifically, are things mellowing out or is the state of DIY punk rock still strong? There are always a few people who try really hard to make things happen and those people exist in a lot of places thank goodness. I think D.I.Y is still really strong it just changes and morphs into other avenues that you have to explore and find. There will always be the new place to have shows because there are people who do what they can to have a rad band play their town. How do you feel about digital music as a format? In general, what do you think the underground music industry will look like in five years? How will the internet and downloading effect the process of recording and releasing music? I don’t know, I have tried to download stuff and I can never to get it to work, maybe I need a tutorial. I don’t care if people download, if someone wants our record they will find a way to get it, now people download so they can put the album on their iPods and junk. I am hoping more and more vinyl will be released in the next five years, I think I would rather download music than buy a CD, but I would rather buy vinyl than either though. You will see more mp3-only albums in the future and that is lame. Speaking of vinyl, I hear people buy up Marked Men vinyl like poison candy, have you ever seen your records on eBay and how much were they going for? Unfortunately, our first record has not been repressed for various reasons, some of which are beyond our control. Although, I have heard that some sharks sell it for way more than they should and some have purchased the record off eBay for a pretty penny. It really makes me wish we could have it repressed. I just want people to have our music, but I do not want them to spend their hard earned money for a piece of wax at the same time. What do you do in your spare time?

What exactly was his medical condition? He had a hernia; his insides were going to pour out of his belly button. He was fearful of puncturing a hole in his belly. All jokes aside, we were all concerned for his health, he is a really good friend. I have heard some instances where American bands caught grief over the current US foreign policy. In general, how was this last tour of Europe compared to your past tour over there? Did you encounter hostility simply because you were from the States? Europeans want to talk about politics, even the kids know more about politics than most Americans I know. This last time we went to Europe was three and one half weeks, compared to the first one which was ten days. I had a lot of fun, especially Scandinavia. Crap, I loved Norway and Sweden so much. North Texas has produced some great punk rock bands in the past, tell me about some of the local bands you are currently listening to, or at the very least have played with and think we should all check out. The Wax Museums, Potential Johns (Jeff from the Marked Men’s amazing band), The Gash is getting back together, Mike is in another band called Stumptone, The Pumpers, and Maaster Gaiden. What bands have you encountered while on tour zig-zagging the country over the past year that have really made an impression on you? Some of the bands that we played with who I did not already know that I fell in love with were the Points, the Manikins, noise, noise, noise, Underground Railroad to Candyland, probably so many more.

I work and sometimes hang out with the ninjas. Yep I get crazy. I play with my extensive doll collection. I like my hamster, his name is David. I like to pet him. He is soft. That sucks for you Joe. What do the Marked Men have up their sleeve for 2007? A couple of 7 inches and a record, shhh all of this is sort of a secret, or maybe we have no fucking clue what we are doing. How do you all feel about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012? Does it spell curtains for planet earth or am I just hoarding food, porno and KY for nothing? Food, porno, KY, what are you doing Friday night? Fuck the world I’m hanging out with you tonight.

Contact The Marked Men: Fix My Brain is available from Swami Records:

Record Reviews The Ackleys

Forget Forget, Derive Derive I honestly can’t believe this band doesn’t have a hit record or a major label deal. As my wife described, it’s like L7 meets Rilo Kiley. This five-song EP, comes in the best packaging I’ve seen sometime. It’s a recycled cardboard, silk-screened cover, which folds out to reveal the CD and an envelope holding the insert. Their sound is very personal, in a way that’s very lacking these days. This teenage crew is full of pop melodies that are catchy, but not tired. It’s hard to believe the up-tempo stomp of “We’re Not Listening” was recorded in a basement or written in Birmingham. I don’t even really know where to begin because I’m so astounded by the quality of this entire EP. “Andy, Our Loss” is crowd moving, sugarcoated, rock. Katie Crutchfield’s deadpan to slight serenade delivery glides perfect over the Rentals-esque keys of “7 Days.” But the Ackleys can break it down as well. On the closer “Can of Ashes” Carter Wilson’s smooth drums give a lush background to the slow number about sympathy and envy. The Ackleys are able to communicate on a level that transcends local scenedom, and puts bands on the radio in no time. I’m not saying the radio is good, I’m just saying they have what it takes to get there. [Review : Sam Sousa] House Of Love Records

The Aquarium Self-Titled

The Aquarium is a DC-based duo consisting of Jason Hutto formerly of Motor Cycle Wars and Laura Harris. They have been playing together since 2001, though this is their full-length debut. Their sound is based on a core of keyboards and electric pianos. Plenty of fuzzy, distorted noise is used to construct a sound that is more complete and detailed than you would expect from a two-piece. There are some laid back and, for lack of a better, word groovy/funky bass lines that push some of these songs in an interesting direction. One of the songs I liked best, “Can’t Afford To Live Here” serves as a good microcosm for this album. It has elements of psych pop, slowed down and buttressed by creative electronic noises. Jason Huttos’ vocals are subtle and fitting. Other notable songs are “Credits” which reminds me of the Beach Boys and “White House”, a very upbeat dance-ish track with plenty of nervous energy and a catchy guitar riff.

I liked this very much, and when you add the fact that there is a song called “Maxxo Sesh” that gives it an undeniable dose of bro-titude, I say this is a winner. It sounds like both members have significant other interests and this being their first album after six years of playing together makes me think this is a type of side project. But I would be very interested to see them live and hear other stuff they put out. [Review : Andre Medrano]

Dischord Records


All is Not Lost From the first few seconds of “The Awakening”, you instantly know what to expect with this album. A cross between Unsane, Cave In, and old Bloodlet, this album grabs on instantly and fuses itself to you. “Sic Semper Tyrannis” brings forth ambient tones mixed with the overriding heaviness. I like the change up in the vocals, dropping them into the background from time to time to focus on the riffs and bring more dynamics to the songs. “11” is a break track of ambient goodies until pounding into “Trepanning for Oil”. The song slams its way through with the main message of All is Not Lost. “13” is another break -- 13 seconds of ambience, before “The Hell of Upsidedown Sinners.” This is the huge Unsane break for me; I love it. It’s got a strange break-beat, and is really heavy on the bass. The bizarre riffs and seeming chaos work beautifully. “The End of It” is a minute and a half pummeling and brooding tune. “Collapse the War Engine” – (I wonder what these guys are talking about here). These guys make no mistake with their message – think for yourself, do the research, and speak up. “Broke Dick Dog” follows the ambient intro of “33”, and is one of the most poignant tunes on the album. “You are not going to make it” is the chant at the end, and the rest of the song helps insure that if you’re driving you suddenly step on the gas and flip off the guy trying to get ahead of you. It’s aggressive, and damn good. The last tune on the disc is my favorite – “The Giving Tree”. It’s ambient, noisy, and helps calm the body down before it completely falls apart. “Scream our throats red while we sing this song!” This Syracuse band has really released a great album. I highly recommend this if you’re into Unsane, Meatjack, or Bloodlet. [Review : Pat Dixon]

Black Market Activities

The Assailant Colera Seattle may not be the first place you’d think of as a mecca for hardcore music. But that doesn’t mean the city hasn’t hit a few out of the park, and The Assailant are the next on the list. Starting with nods to previous Seattle heavyweights like Kiss It Goodbye, or especially Botch, The Assailant burn a serious path of their own. The opening track is a frantic and punishing introduction, which begins with jagged, angular rhythm section work reminiscent of Breather Resist. It leads directly into the opening riff of “23” (all of Assailant’s songs are numbered), one of the record’s most complete and standout songs. It slashes back and forth between hard-charging metalcore and much more tortured and sludgy hardcore that reminds me a bit of the slower sections in older Converge records. The tempos are slightly slower than you’d expect from similarly heavy bands, which is one of the things about The Assailant leaning toward the best things about Botch. There are exceptions to this, most notably “21,” the third track, which is one of the fastest here. Its squealing guitars and ominous vocals remind me a little of a less technical Gospel. A slow and looming instrumental track, which is the middle point of the record (one of two tracks titled “00”) serves its purpose perfectly. It acts as an intermission and significant departure from the more intense songs surrounding it. But the track maintains the sound and intensity of the record, just in a more patient way. The largest accomplishment on Colera is the closer, “20,” which is way longer than any other track on the record at almost ten minutes. It more than backs up its ambitious length, covering as much ground as the eight full tracks before it. It features some of the record’s strongest guitar work, switching off between heavy riffs, broken-up lead parts and combinations of the two. There is also pretty heavy interplay between guitar and bass throughout the track, which is something only hinted earlier in the record. The song traverses each extreme that The Assailant gracefully covers throughout Colera, from heavy-handed, slowed down riffs to faster, more metal-influenced hardcore. Though it’s obviously carefully constructed, there’s a definite recklessness throughout the record to go along with an attention to detail that makes for a much more lasting impression than you might expect. All in all, fans of adventurous, heavy hardcore of any flavor (old or new) will find a lot to love about The Assailant. Rome Plow Records

Ad Astra Per Aspera Catapult Calypso

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this release on its first couple spins. For me, this is usually a good sign. This was my formal introduction to this Lawrence, KS quintet, although I was certainly familiar with the name. This is a band that has managed, intentionally or not, to keep a pretty good amount of hype up about them for a solid year. Catapult Calypso has an incredible amount to offer any listener paying any amount of attention. On the surface, you can be wowed by vocalist Mike Tuley’s fantastic vocal timbre while screaming or singing. Or you could be impressed by the thick yet cohesive instrumental textures. You could even enjoy the catchiness of the songs that, for the most part, exhibit equal parts angular minimalism and dance rock. (This of course, excludes the strange yet likeable square dance number entitled “Everybody Lets Me Down” (sic). Yet deeper down, there’s much more to appreciate about Ad Astra. Take “A Fish Would Much Rather Swim,” for example. Here you have a sexy groove that is accented by angelic piano and a simply lust-inducing guitar ostinato. The primal build-up features collective grunts via gang vocals, and eventually breaks into a high-energy anthem in which the classically-timbred piano duels with the wiry guitar lines. The result is purely infectious. Other particularly loveable numbers include “The Romantic One,” which is not an entirely ironic name. It’s easy to see what’s romantic about a sultry ballad whose energy is nothing short of remarkable. Anymore, it’s difficult to put five of any people in a room together and hope for them to have a fraction of the musical chemistry that AAPA demonstrates on this release. What their record exhibits in jagged angularity, it matches in musical maturity extant in many forms: the supportive drums, harmonic piano lines and excellent auxiliary percussion. The solid grooves that result from this musical relationships are simply superior. This is easily one of the more consistent releases I’ve heard from this genre in a very long time. Like many things in this world that appreciate with time, Catapult Calypso becomes both more fruitfully complex and accessibly simple with further listens. This is a band that has deservedly received a noteworthy amount of praise, not just in their native Midwestern Kansas, but also around the country. Needless to say, as fantastic as this release is right from the start, it will also be intriguing to watch for the further maturation of this already stellar group. [Review : Nick Cox] Sonic Unyon Records

Assholeparade Embers

Brutal. Absolutely brutal is the only way to describe Assholeparade’s latest thrash/fast/throat grabbing release. Formed and disbanded in the nineties, they reunited for the Fest 3 a few years back, and smashed out Embers, their first full-length, in 2006. Twenty-one songs in under twenty minutes, the shortest being only 18 seconds long. Travis Ginn’s guttural growl and throat burning screams are impossible to dismiss. Tracks like “Closure Bugs” and “Re-Throned Emperor” find the mix of Ginn’s vocals at their peak; never yelps and out of breath lyrics, but the opposite, stretched out lines for fluidity. And the Parade doesn’t glue itself to one sound. The liner notes find the album ‘Dedicated to Hardcore’ and Embers crosses every genre of hardcore from the thrash like “The Uncomfortable Goodbye” to the chugga-chugga of “Shroom Thrash” to the skate-rock sounds of the aptly titled “Quarterpipe.” This is where the band succeeds; by never tying themselves down, they are able to flash their talent as a hardcore powerhouse. Jon Weisberg’s breakneck drumming is eye gouging, hitting stride for the strings to cut back and forth from light-speed grinding to straight ahead hardcore. All of which back a tongue in cheek cynical lyricism on tracks like “Checklist Life” where middle class life is in the crosshairs or “Cash in of the Christ” where the Parade mocks anti-Semite Mel Gibson. Embers burns at a fueled pace, leaving you smoked before you’re even lit. Get this pronto! [Review : Sam Sousa]

No Idea Records

The Atari Star Aniseed

The Atari Star is essentially the house band for Johann’s Face Records. Singer/guitarist Marc Ruvolo and drummer Davey Houle both run the label and are the only original members of the band. The band has quietly and consistently released three previous full lengths and two EP’s since forming in 1999. Aniseed is their fourth record and it’s pretty similar overall to 2005’s Prayer + Pretend. It’s contemplative (they call it “literate”) indie-rock that’s dominated by bright, melodic vocals with lush backing instrumentation and percussion. The slower songs, like the Hammond-driven “The Be All End All” were the first to stick out. It sounds like a combination of mostly modern indie rock influences, but with a sense of history. At times it nods toward Talking Heads earnestness and the Cars’ catchy choruses. This comes together most clearly in the longer songs, like “Double Predestination,” a collection of straightforward riffs that winds through the best things about The Atari Star. Their previous records have

alternated between a more melodic, guitar-driven sound and keyboard-heavy ballads like “The Be All End All.” This record covers both bases well. It didn’t grab me as quickly as some of their other efforts, but in the end it is probably their most complete and balanced record to date. Johann’s Face Records

Aughra & Mosh Patrol

Is There Anyone Else Outside? (Split) This split features the first proper CD output for two ambient side projects. Aughra is Brent Eyestone, from Forensics/Corn On Macabre/Magic Bullet Records and Mosh Patrol is Chris King from This Will Destroy You. The record starts with four very different tracks from Aughra. “Always Oversleeps” opens the record with lush, minimal synth lines, which remind me of a number of Kranky artists. Next is “Dog Years,” a piano and drum-dominated track that harkens back to early Mogwai if you were to eliminate the wall of guitar noise. “A Bluff Carried More Resolutely Through to the Final Limit” is the longest and most ambient track on Aughra’s side. It’s a slow, quiet buildup that sort of drifts by with quiet, slow strings. He closes with the loudest song on the split. It starts off as a clicking, hissing nod to Tim Hecker or even Hrvatski. Then, it slowly melds into a combination of most of the sounds used in the previous tracks, with slow drums, synth and string lines and haunting piano. Aughra’s four tracks are all over the place, but do maintain a common tempo and feel. Mosh Patrol contributes seven tracks, though they’re each shorter than Aughra’s, with only one over four minutes. Each covers more traditional IDM ground, with nods to Aphex Twin or Chris Clark’s angularity to the lush synth and drum machine work of Greg Davis or Boards Of Canada. The delicate melodies remind me at times of the layered guitar work that makes This Will Destroy You stand out. It’s presented in a much more cold, stark way than any TWDY material, but the layering and melodies are similar. The lack of percussion on “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” makes it the most soothing and quiet track here. It’s also one of my favorites. Next is “Paper Airplanes,” which showcases stark, crackling drum machine work. Thanks to a catchy, recurring synth line, it’s also the most immediately effective track on the whole split. Aughra and Mosh Patrol each contribute solid and varied takes on ambient electronica, without relying too heavily on one set of sounds. The result is a solid and dense split, which does a great job of showcasing the alter-ego’s of two strong guitar-based bands… Magic Bullet Records

The Autumn Project A Burning Light

I wasn’t sure what to think of The Autumn Project when I first took a look at the CD. It compares itself to Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Isis, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, etc. Those are some lofty goals in a genre that’s not an easy one to pull off. But, The Autumn Project nail it. This is a phenomenal album. Any words that I may write to describe A Burning Light would not do it justice. Deep textures permeate this disc from start to finish. It begins with “At the Feet of Sleeping Giants,” an epic almost 15 minute meditative trance. It starts slowly, agonizingly slowly – almost three minutes before you hear more than just the keyboard atmosphere. The ambience created by the keyboards is awesome, and truly gives the listener the image of being near sleeping giants. Just over halfway through the song, the giants begin to awaken one by one, stretching their colossal limbs skyward. The song fades into “Across Mountain Tops to Broken Bridges”. This track is fantastic. It has a very intriguing march beat that blends the atmospheres and separates the song from its predecessor. This is also serves as an intro (yeah, an almost 11 minute intro) to the next tune, “Between the Smoke and Mirrors”. This is the consistently heaviest tune on the album, and the shortest at just over five minutes. “Between the Smoke and Mirrors” gets the blood pumping from the prior meditation-inducing tunes. We end with feedback and noise on this one, which fits perfectly. “We Cast these Shadows” comes in second to last with a slow strum of the guitars. This is the longest tune on the disc, clocking in at over 17 minutes. It is also among the most beautiful atmospheric songs ever performed. When you listen to this song, chills run up and down your skin. We close with the title track, a fitting end to the journey; meandering past the giants, across the tundra, through the mist and wasteland, and finally home. A Burning Light is one of those albums that you never expect to grab you the way it does. It seems like background music until you find yourself suddenly awed by its melodies and textures. It’s fantastically organic, deep, penetrating, and mesmerizing. The promo sheet says that these guys use original film projections filmed and edited by the drummer/ keys/textures/originator Mike Gustafson. I can only imagine the beauty he has created with the images that coincide with the music. Each track is perfectly named for the images it inspires within the listener. The liner is fitting as well – very minimal, but gorgeous just the same. This is an absolutely amazing album of ambience, texture, and soul. Don’t let this one pass you by. [Review : Pat Dixon] Deep Send Records

Bad Astronaut

Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment This is the third, and final, Bad Astronaut record. Bad Astronaut was started by Lagwagon vocalist Joey Cape and original Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde. The lineup also features bassist Marko 72 (Sugarcult) and producer Angus Cooke on guitar. The band worked on this record off an on for more than three years. Cape was busy with a resurgent Lagwagon, while Marko was busy with Sugarcult. After recording roughly half the songs that would end up here, Plourde took his own life in March of 2005. After a break, Cape decided to finish the record he and Plourde had started as best he could. The result is pieced together, mostly from Plourde’s original tracks for the record. Some of the songs were reconstructed to fit the existing drum tracks, while a few had to be supplemented and edited. Though it was obviously put together under difficult circumstances, the result is hard to argue with. Bad Astronaut has always been much more mellow and introspective than Lagwagon. And frankly, it’s a much more natural use for Cape’s vocals than Lagwagon’s cut-time punk rock. Twelve Steps... is a more explosive and deep record than the already solid records they put out a few years back. The songs are still fairly simple, but much more dynamic than you’d expect for the style. Songs like “Stillwater, California” and “Best Western” are mid-tempo indie rock songs with country influences, but with huge classic rock dynamics. Meanwhile, songs like “Minus” and “San Francisco Serenade” are melodic ballads of the highest order. On the other end of the spectrum, “Autocare” and the opener, “Good Morning Night” land much closer to Lagwagon’s time-tested formula. The back-story to this record is hard to ignore, just as the members’ other projects always have been. But aside from all that, this is not only the best record the band have put together, it’s also the most dynamic and complete release that any of these guys have been involved in. Fat Wreck Chords


Stained with the Blood of an Empire Let’s face it; Battlefields’ debut doesn’t take long to fall directly into the post-Neurosis epic metal category. In fact, it takes little more than a minute into “Tides Upon The Crescent City”, the eight-minute opener. The bulk of the 33 minutes these four songs gobble up fall into one of two extremes. There are a lot of slow, methodical build-ups, which more than earn comparisons to Red Sparowes. The rest is made up of much more jagged and straightforward riff-based sections with more conventional, almost black metal elements. Where these two extremes meet tend to be the most memorable sections of the record. Thankfully, they appear really often. There are rarely any transitions to speak of between the quiet and loud parts. Instead, the heavier sections appear almost out of nowhere to the uninitiated listener. But, after a couple spins you can really feel them coming, despite obvious clues. The end of “Intimations of Antiquity” is the best example of this. Little more than a minute into the song, lush guitar echoes and slow drumming suddenly give way to Botch-like metal-core. The slowdown after it is about as gradual as anything on the record, lasting all of about thirty seconds. Everything about these four songs is epic in its scope and completely abrupt in its delivery. Both of these defining elements of Battlefields’ sound land them solidly in a well-defined (and recently expanding) sub-genre. But they also help to make this exactly the sort of extreme, uncompromising example of epic, slow motion metal that actually sticks. Init Records

agery. “Whaleback” is a stuck with the past confessional -- an inevitable of American male songwriting. Where do I fit into an already existent history? The guitars flip back and forth, venturing out yet always in tune, and never predictable. The palm mutes, the stop/starts, the extensive build-ups, they are the best Jejune opening act I never got to see; building on a foundation of influences without resorting to regurgitation. [Review : Sam Sousa]


Big Timber Alma

Big Timber’s first full length is another great dose of rock, country, and outright pop. I picked up this Denver band’s first EP Lean Down a couple years ago while they were on tour and really enjoyed it. This is truly a big sounding record with lots of ideas and influences going on everywhere. The band includes members of Pariah Caste and Murder Scene Clean Up Team, both of which I had not previously heard but have since checked out and really enjoyed. Songs like “Bottom of the Hill” and “Second Fiddle and Ms. Harlot” are a nod to their alt-country roots, while “Stained with Wine” sounds REM-ish. All of this ignores their obvious tendency to whip out tough riffs akin to Bob Mould, encrusting them into a Mathew Sweet-like guitar sound. Even through there are several really great tracks on this record, “The Ghost of Hart Crane” stands out as the most beautiful and powerfully striking track with its rolling bass, 60’s pop drumming, and provocative vocal posturing. The only downfall I find is at times they remind me of that Tom Hanks movie band The Wonders (or is it The Oneders). Yet songs like “Greener” and “Tinkering Time” introduce a great roots rock rendering of the snotty late 90’s pop punk I loved as a teenager. Big Timber twists between what sounds like the poppy Americana they want to play and the more aggressive nature of their past musical projects. Do not be confused by the comparisons to the aforementioned acts, they do this all on their own with their own take on what it means to play good fashioned rock and roll. [Review : Jason Zabby] Not Bad World Industries

Billy Reese Peters Almost Heaven

Get the tap out and call your buddies, the party album of the millennium has arrived. Sweaty, beer drenched, uptempo punk makes Peters the coolest fucking band I have heard since the turn of the century. Nothing slows down the gruff croon of Aaron Lay as he dreams of ‘smoking reefer’ on “Mexico.” On “The Night that ‘Dude’ Became a Four-Letter Word” or the CCR cover “Traveling Band” Peters toss in horns to spice-up the mix behind the steady drums and distortion friendly guitars. “F’ That Crap” and the civic pride cut “Boner City Limits” are juvenile anthems that work because they never even begin to take themselves seriously. Reminiscent of the loose lack of self-awareness in punk that ruled the nineties, Almost Heaven begs me to have friends over to blast this record for. “Cold One” is the best punk drinking anthem since “Beer for Breakfast.” Lyrics like ‘Are you ready for a cold one, said a tall fucking cold one,’ make it impossible to not absolutely love this band. Yes, I want a cold one, and I don’t even like beer, but fuck it, this record rules and I’ll drink to that. People rant on and on about the scholarly decadence of recent bar bands, but Billy Reese Peters is the best bar band in the world. On any given night in any given town this album could be tearing it down, pint by pint. [Review : Sam Sousa]

No Idea Records

The Bell County Silence Surgery (CDEP)

This is nineties emo if I’ve ever heard it, from the drawing of the lonely man on the cover to the book style insert, complete with song lyrics as chapters. Suddenly I’m in my teens again, people are reading books in between sets and no one has a fucking camera phone. Hailing from upstate New York, The BCS has been dropping their emo-tinged style all over Northeast VFW halls and basements for the past few years. The songs are loud and drawn out, and only one clocks in under four minutes. The thundering cymbals and waves crashing guitars of the title track and the closer “Our Grave” are reminiscent of The Killingtons or Far; all emotion, all heavy. The centerpiece “Feather with the Fire” is the kind of romantic ballad that is vacant from the underground, just vague and blameful, a missed moment from which to recover. These days, it’s mostly he said/she said and violent im-

Black Elk Self-Titled

Once in a while, when you see a band, you get dorked. You have such a good experience that buy the t-shirt, put a sticker on your laptop and put their song on your MySpace profile. Your friends call you a dork because you fell in love. I had the good fortune to see Black Elk play live before I heard the record. I was blown away, and I did all those things. But a week or two later, I listened to this record and I was disappointed. The immense walls of sound that felt as though they were collapsing on me in every song at the 15th St. Tavern didn’t translate to this recording. Their loose playing style, which almost sounds like improv live, sounds more like imprecision on the recording. You certainly hear their invention, but you miss out on the power. If you get a chance, see Black Elk play.

If you played a Botch 45 at 78 rpm, you’d have a good idea of what Black Elk sounds like. (Maybe there’s no such thing as a Botch 45, but the point stands.) These Oregonians manage the same sonic density as their Seattle predecessors with half as many drums and strums. Whatever tempo they utilize, metal bands with one guitarist tend to sound the same in a few ways. There’s no rhythm guitar to carry the melody, which means no solos, so the flash and frazzle has to appear in riffs. Plus with only three instruments working, nobody gets a chance to slack. Because everybody’s so exposed on the recording, they all have to be interesting all the time. And that’s certainly what’s going on in Black Elk’s case. I hear Faith No More in this mix too. Part of it is quirky singing and the semi-ironic lyrics. “I’ve got myself an eyebone / I bet you’ve never seen one of those,” he writes on “Eyebone,” which is probably the best track on the album. Also, Black Elk writes metal as though it hasn’t been done before; like all their riffs and their song structures are fresh and original. Which they’re not. But it makes them sound committed and sincere, and that goes a long way. [Review : Michael Flatt]

Crucial Blast Recordings

Boduf Songs

Lion Devours the Sun Giving voice to bleakness through folk music is hardly a novel enterprise, but don’t tell that to British songwriter Matthew Sweet, a.k.a. Boduf Songs. It might just send him over the edge. His sophomore Kranky release, Lion Devours the Sun, employs ragged picking, hollow drone and intimate vocals to paint a picture of spiritual desolation. That’s what I hear, anyway. There’s supposedly an alchemical subtext to Sweet’s songs, but to these ears, they simply sound weary. “Black flies breeding / Weaving deep, deep,” he sings on opener “Lord of the Flies.” In addition to the necrotic lyrics, the song’s out-of tune guitars and buzzing tones convey the perfume of decomposition. Like such somber folk classics such as Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s I See a Darkness, this record is meant for solo listening, preferably on overcast November afternoons. But this disc is even more cheerless, largely owing to Sweet’s vocals, which are delivered in a sepulchral baritone that barely edges above a whisper. Anyone with seasonal affective disorder would be advised to stay far, far away. [Review : Stirling Myles] Kranky Records

Book Of Maps II

The off-kilter urgency in the introduction to “If You Ever Hear Anybody Say Rulocks, They Got it From Us,” the opening track is immediately refreshing. It reminds me of many of the more angular and loose post-hardcore bands from the mid-90’s. Think Garden Variety or Vitreous Humor, mixed with elements of more recent fellow Portlanders Menomena (especially the first record) or even Life At These Speeds. Stop/start rhythms, winding and haphazard guitar and bass riffs and melodically shouted vocals deftly bridge the gap between the two eras. There is an obvious sense of humor behind everything Book Of Maps does, with song titles like “Freddie Mercury Equals Who?” then later “Freddie Mercury Equals You” or “Evander Brolyfield vs. Riddick Browe.” While they don’t take themselves overly seriously, it’s hard to write this off as some novelty band either. The songs are pretty long and involved, especially considering the reckless energy they each posses. Over half the nine songs here break the five-minute mark, and the record as a whole covers almost 50 minutes. The longer songs especially tend to have carefully and tastefully extended sections, which are rarely long-winded or unwarranted. One of the constant things about II is the perfect balance it maintains between loose, haphazard parts and songs that are obviously deliberate and carefully constructed. It never goes too far toward the realm of sloppy or amateurish, but the playing and production maintain a refreshingly unpolished feeling. Some spots, like the end of “The New Jim Jones” display impressive chops, especially from the drummer. The crucial point for many records like this one tends to be where loose energy meets sloppy execution. Thankfully, Book Of Maps manages to land just on the right side of the tipping point. The result is a slightly hidden gem in my review pile, which is more than a little refreshing from beginning to end. Whoa Boat Records


Which is Worse (LP) This LP collects two different recordings, a studio recording on side A, and a live demo on side B. A few of the songs appear on both sides, though it’s still a lot of different material in one place. Brainworms are from Richmond, and the band features current or former members of solid Richmond bands like Ultra Dolphins, Stop It!!!, and a third band I haven’t heard called Are You Fucking Serious. Their sound is choppy, but oddly melodic hardcore with shouted vocals. The guitar riffs pass at a frantic pace, often stacked on top of one another in a haphazard way. The result is urgent and melodic in an often strange, indirect way. It reminds me of the early Ultra Dolphins releases, though a bit less jagged and angular. The rhythms especially are straightforward most of the time, though they do have their share of stop/start sections. This takes the spirit and energy of Born Against or even Swing Kids, and adds a much more melodic feel. There is a big difference between melodic and poppy. The guitar parts especially are often melodic, in a sort of loveably mismatched way. But you could never call Brainworms poppy in any real way. As expected, the later recording on the first side sounds considerably better. But the less than optimal recording quality on the live second side isn’t too terrible, considering the band’s sound. It’s worth checking out, though you could maybe get by with checking out the first side. Either way, it’s a solid and well-executed dose of energetic, frenetic hardcore, presented just the way it should be. Rorschach Records

Burning Skies Desolation

From the first few moments of the second song on the album, “RKD” you can quickly figure out where this disc is headed. It’s going to pound itself through your skull and make you cry like a little girl. These guys have a great mix of The Red Chord, Cephalic Carnage, and what Diecast has tried to do in the past. This of course is not a negative statement and Burning Skies do this incredibly well. It’s fast, heavy and catchy at the same time. There’s something for everyone in here; straight ahead pummeling hardcore, slow breakdowns and a grindcore aspect to things. In short, this mixes several genres of my favorites together flawlessly. These guys are tight musically, and make some good ol’ fashioned ass-kickin’ music. “The Sweet Sound of Violence” indeed. This is certainly not what I expected reading their bio. These Bristol metallers have been around for a while, but really came to find their sound with the addition of the latest guitarist/screamer. I must say, they’ve done a bang-up job with it. “Bauer Power” is my favorite tune on the disc. I can’t

help but think this is named after the 24 character in the pure violence and ass kicking it entails. Check this out if you like The Red Chord, Cephalic Carnage, Lamb of God, etc. [Review : Pat Dixon]

Life Force Records

Che Arthur Iron

“I feel the same / as anyone who’s dealt with this and I / I hear the words / of anyone who’s felt this loneliness.” Those are the first words of this album, from the track “Dead Trajectories.” Some might call that “embarrassing.” I would. The press release proudly states that the album, entitled Iron, is the work of one man who plays every instrument in every song; singular vision. Here’s the thing about singular visions: when they start go off-track, there’s nobody else to help steer it back on a respectable course. So the album has decent moments, but it also plummets helplessly into vast, vacuous caverns of amelodic self-pity. “The album is the product of three years of writing, recording and touring,” the press release also states. Three years to provide the insight, “No one ever put out fires with kerosene, yeah,” on the track titled “Kerosene.” Three years? If ever the phrase “beating a dead horse” was appropriate, it is now. To be fair, the first track, after you get past those lyrics, shows promise. The chorus is catchy and he’s got the midtempo alternative sound going full-tilt. As mediocre and common as the sound is, he’s got that shit down for about a minute. But then Arthur’s inability to carry a tune takes over. And then it’s gone. The best part of the album sinks under the horizon and you never see it again. Then it gets so bad, you can hardly bear it. “The Dark War” is actually the worst song I’ve heard from a band on a label. It sounds like the hidden track on this Staind album I had in high school. Only worse. At least Aaron Lewis had a nice voice. But Arthur tops even Lewis in the somebody-slitmy-wrists-for-me-because-I’m-too-depressed category. “This anger could consume me / What are these struggles proving, / beyond our willingness to lead these lives less ordinary?” This is sung in the low voice of a man who still can’t find the right notes, even though it’s the same vocal melody for four minutes. I hope for Che Arthur’s sake that nobody hears this record. Then, when he takes another three years to produce another work of “fierce individualism” he might be able to convince someone that his music is worth marketing. The worst part is that I’m probably way off and this atonal heap will probably sell like Wet Naps at a peep show and be lauded for its confessional quality, its Travis Meeks-like multidexterity and range. In the words of David Cross, “I would rather hear the death rattle of my only child.” [Review : Michael Flatt]

Sickroom Records

Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire Harmonies from Bleeding Mouths (CDEP)

These Denver grinders play ridiculously fast. The disc starts off screaming, and actually builds up from there. “Loathing in the Key of A” starts off our seven-song, ten minute EP, with none of the tunes breaking two minutes. Indeed, most are really close to the one-minute mark, and bring forth a devastation that is key for grindcore. Clinging to the Trees of A Forest Fire is primal, fury driven grind executed surprisingly tightly. “Hollywood Cowboy” is our next tune on our journey through the first gates of Hell, followed by the technical intro of “Adna”. “Adna” has a crunch in the middle that just makes me smile. “Crossing the Gasoline Sea” is a ballad – of destruction (up high!). These four dudes have some definite potential, and are a band that is surely going to get a lot of attention in the next few months/years. Fast, technical, nasty grindcore is the name of the game, and Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire can do it pretty damn well. Produced by Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Planes Mistaken For Stars, Summon, etc), Harmonies From Bleeding Mouths is a triumph from start to finish. [Review : Pat Dixon] Self-Released,

Cut City

Exit Decades Sonny Kay’s GSL Records has been notorious for its output for quite a while. The label offers a diverse smattering of bands that, for better or for worse, are continuing to push every envelope that we know of in independent music. This Gothenburg, Sweden trio is no exception. Their first EP came out on GSL in 2004, and now they are back with this full length that seems nothing if not Joy Division and Interpolinspired. I often have mixed feelings about this sound, but Cut City seems to pull it off in this inexplicable way. It has an abundance of catchy moments, the entirety of “Manoeuvres,” for example. If I could put my finger on what makes this successful, it might be the lack of dour lamentation. This almost seems like the record Joy Division would have put out if Ian Curtis feel really deeply in love and started taking Prozac. The more I listen, the more this analogy seems apt. Most of what the opponents of that hipster post-pop sound despise is that pretentious melancholy that Interpol seems to coat their records in. Cut City, however, eschews such self-obsessed ramblings in favor of almost anthemically infectious tunes like “Numb Boys.” The reverb and mid-heavy EQ is still present on the vocals, but they relate an emotion that is much more appealing than Interpol’s dour ballads whose meaning I can only surmise is inspired by singer Paul Banks having gotten mascara in his eye. Truly, Interpol could take a lesson from Sweden’s Cut City. Both acts are admittedly unabashed borrowers from Joy

Building Better Bombs Freak Out Squares

Freak Out Squares is the inaugural full length from this Minneapolis band, which is the side-project for P.O.S. As the guitarist and singer in the band, you’d never guess that P.O.S.’ day job is as one of the most rightfully hyped M.C.’s in independent hip-hop. Building Better Bombs is a frantic and all over the place take on melodic punk rock and choppy post-hardcore. Every song here goes right for it, in terms of energy, tempo and ideas. They pack a lot into every song, with super melodic guitar lines that perfectly compliment each other. The vocals are shouted and haphazard, but still well sung most of the time as well. The whole thing reminds me of a much more confrontational and involved version of Scared Of Chaka, with the frantic, bouncy rhythms of The Exploder. “No Hospitals” is an obvious highlight early in the record. A fast, bouncy rhythm leaves just enough space for alternating vocals between the band members during the verse and guest vocals from The Soviettes’ Annie Awesome in the chorus. Like the whole record, this track especially is never exactly “poppy,” but usually melodic and always energetic. It’s a difficult balance, but every song on here strikes it perfectly. “Kid Tested, Motherfuckin’ Approved” is another of the standout tracks. With an even more prominent back and forth between the guitars, which balances a heavy-handed lead riff and an acrobatic rhythm part. Both of them mash the best things about the punk rock of a decade or so ago, and the more involved (but no less immediate) indie rock of today. For the styles that Freak Out Squares simultaneously represents, it’s a perfect and refreshing throwback and leap forward at the same time. Energetic and melodic, but never cheesy, then involved and complicated but still immediately appealing. This packs in most of the things that originally drew me to up-beat guitar music, as well as the things that kept me interested in it years later. How it happened, I have a hard time explaining. But if you’re half as burned out on punk rock’s recent past as I am, this isn’t a bad first step on the road to recovery. On first glance, the scope of these songs is fairly limited. But on a closer examination it’s hard to even find any limits to them. Where the hell has this record been the last few years? Init Records

Division, but Cut City does it incredibly well, adding an energetic element. Because of this, there seems to be a great possibility that Cut City could quickly climb the ranks of GSL’s already well-established bands. Their successful mix of catchy dance tunes (“Such Verve”) and well-designed soundscapes (“Just Pornography”) doubtlessly earned them their place among GSL’s prestigious pedigree, and this will certainly be a band to follow. In all honesty, I would like to see what a band this promising could do with a bit more of a departure from the Joy Division influence, but then again I’ve always been a strong proponent of the “Wearing Your Influence on Your Sleeve is Fine, Provided it’s a Legendary Band” school of thought. Clearly, Cut City are too and up until now, it’s served them well. Indeed, very well. [Review : Nick Cox] GSL Records


Hitheringandthitheringwatersof… (CD/10”) Buried at the bottom of the package labeled “New Scheme” was a non-descript 10”. The poster board cover, a blurred forest of grays & blues, I pulled the vinyl from the sleeve. Both labels were the same, I couldn’t tell which side was A. I stared at the inside lines and find a small clue, I lay the record down, then the needle and the melodica begins to hum, my jaw hits the floor. They waste no time, ‘What a Wise Man Knows,’ rolls right into an off-time pounce, Eric Titterud’s guitar picking with train track drumming by Craig Maricle; shouting over steam engine cymbals, chopping and churning. “Groundhog Day” is jazz infected, taking one too many beats of the rolling snare. A vocal cued ride; shouts and spoken word to a dead silence, Chris Skillern’s bass stations itself upon the neck. A crashing wreck pondering regrets, existence, and whether this day could be the “best of my life.” “ALP Prefers the Sea” is math-rock pulling to a point and turn, Titterud’s spoken voice decrying the modern world. The guitars play back and forth, Skillern’s bass an anchor, never too heavy, always holding still. “Private Place of Peace” or autonomous ground on which “to sell myself,” we are a “continent with swirling winds.” Maricle’s snare cracks up, “All Truisms” is the destination, the swift string strikes and hi-hat flare to thunderous questioning “of everything I do.” Is what we do only in relation to what we gain? Quiet sets in, the chopping palm mute, “My actions are never clear.” All of it building to a ‘Second Chance,’ a rolling throb leads to the notion, “The world is what you make.” A soft melodica break, like the most somber moments of “A Love Supreme”, subtle and demanding, a shout and a demand, a declaration “We make ourselves by who we love,” spacey guitars and toms carry us to the end, an undetected bass vibration walking us home, “it is a glorious thing to live and let live,” and it all collides. Damezumari harkens back to a time of honest screaming music, without a doubt one of the best bands going. Dig It!!! [Review : Sam Sousa]

Sticky Translucent Goo Records

Das Oath Self-Titled

Hailing from New York, Das Oath play a mix of straight-faced thrash and more choppy hardcore that you’d expect from their San Diego-based label. They tear through seven tracks in barely more than ten minutes. There’s an obviously frantic and jagged feel to every second of the record. But they don’t dive directly onto any traditional sub-genre completely. The playing is tight, though generally pretty straightforward. But the direction of the songs isn’t easy to predict, with a lot packed into most of them. “Scrapped” is one of the most ominous tracks, with a slightly slower tempo. It’s the first one that really pulled me in, and is a perfect choice to be the second track. The noisy and surprisingly intricate “The Terror, The Delight, and The Unendurable Pointlessness of Trying” is another great introduction to the band. It’s the best example here of the number of ideas Das Oath can pack into a short time span. The song runs almost the full gamut of this releases’ hardcore and noisy rock influences, in one second shy of a minute. The last two tracks are downright epic by Das Oath standards, at more than two minutes each. Both mix snotty vocals, powerful and echoing bass and frantic guitar riffs with chaotic, but never sloppy drumming. “Years Of Veneers” especially works in a way that reminds me a bit of early Blood Brothers’ strongest moments. It’s not surprising to me that these guys just embarked on a tour with Ampere. Both bands land firmly within the loose confines of modern Northeastern hardcore, while poking at all of the genre’s outer boundaries at the same time.

Three One G

Stephen Brodsky’s Octave Museum Self-Titled


Legendary Demo


Harmonic Tremors After their universally disappointing major label debut (Antenna in 2003), Cave-In put together a somewhat overlooked, but much improved follow up with Perfect Pitch Black in 2005. When inevitable burnout set in shortly after that, the band went on the now oft-cited “indefinite hiatus” last year. Not surprisingly, all three original members of the band have returned, each fronting separate projects. Cave-In singer and guitarist Stephen Brodsky’s Octave Museum, guitarist Adam McGrath’s Clouds and bassist/singer Caleb Scofield’s Zozobra. All three chart very different courses, starting from separate corners of Cave-In’s varied sound and ending up at very different places. Cave-In frontman Stepehen Brodsky is the member least new to the side-project game. He has released a handful of solo records over the years, though this is his first under the Octave Museum tag. Right away, it’s obvious that this is a much more melodic and warmer release than anything he’s previously done. Tracks like “Sentimental Case” and “Swingin’ In The Sky” sound like a much more straightforward and melodic version of the songs off Jupiter. But most of the record is a bit darker, with standouts like the slow developing but catchy “Red Headed Butterflies.” “Kid Defender” is similar, with an acoustic guitar and drum-driven base for one of Brodsky’s best vocal melodies in years. His effort is by far the most varied effort of any of the three, and it succeeds in each of the things it attempts. It’s not as experimental as the hit or miss material on his earlier solo releases, though it is still more adventurous than most Cave-In material. It’s solid from beginning to end, with more than enough twists and turns along the way to keep from getting old, even after numerous listens. Clouds’ inaugural release begins with straightahead and unabashed 70’s psychedelia that is in fast-forward, both technically and tempo-wise. McGrath’s guitar work is prominently featured, but in small bursts. The vocals are solid, though pretty far back in the mix, which suits the style well. The rhythm section especially reminds me a bit of Hot Snakes’ frenetic energy. But the duel guitars are much more blatant in their love of classic rock in a way that reminds me a bit of a less heavy version of An Albatross or a less reckless Estrus band. Of all three records, Clouds contributes the most straightforward from beginning to end. It’s well put together overall and makes up what it lacks in variety with consistently solid execution. Cave-In bassist Caleb Scofield has teamed up with drummer (and fellow Old Man Gloom conspirator) Santos Montano to create Zozobra. It’s far and away the heaviest of these projects, which isn’t a huge surprise, as Scofield had taken over the screamed vocals for Cave-In. Though rough vocals, bass and drums are all clearly dominant in many of the songs, there is a lot of guitar work as well. The band is a strong, standard four-piece live, but I’m not sure if Scofield and Montano had guitar help in the studio, or did it themselves. In just the five and a half minutes of “The Blessing,” the opening track, Zozobra covers a lot of ground. From slow, sludgy metal-core to dissonant guitar and bass noise over bouncy drum lines, they throw down a serious gauntlet. “Levitate” is a lighter, more dissonant track, which showcases much more melodic vocals and a slower tempo. The huge, echoing drum sound works perfectly and helps make it a definite standout moment. The faster, but equally melodic “Soon To Follow,” and the uncompromising metalinfluenced “Invisible Wolves” are also really strong tracks. There aren’t a ton of gaps in the energy or execution from beginning to end, and Harmonic Tremors is definitely a release to look out for. More than the other projects mentioned here, Zozobra seems poised to make a mark as much more than a new Cave-In side-project. All three records, which came out at almost the same time, represent a varied picture of the talents within Cave-In. Each of the records expands on a different aspect of Cave-In’s sound over the years. Stephen Brodsky’s project explores the more melodically orchestrated side, while Clouds features much of the classic rock and roll elements explored on Jupiter. Zozobra’s is perhaps the most similar to Cave-In, especially on Perfect Pitch Black or even Until Your Heart Stops. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise then that Zozobra is my favorite record of the three. I’ve always admired Cave-In’s versatility and dark catchiness, but I’ve always liked their most intense output best. Even then, all three are worth looking into for very separate sounds, but similar reasons.

Hydra Head Records

Dear and the Headlights

Die Die Die

I have to admit that I was pretty averse to even listening to this when it first arrived, due to the horrible band name. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally did put this in, and not just because their name caused me to set the bar so low. It’s hard not to notice the familiar feeling to their straightforward songs. They combine melodic indie rock and basic Americana, in an unsurprising, but rarely predictable manner. It’s hard to nail them down to any one band that they sound just like. At times, Matt Pond, PA comes to mind, especially on the standout “I’m Bored, You’re Amorous.” The vocals are the defining thing that makes most of the songs work. They are super catchy, though thankfully not sickly sweet. The occasional piano-heavy tracks are the first to really standout, especially “It’s Getting’ Easy.” But in the end, my favorites were the most straightforward rockers. “Sweet Talk” is a good example, which is one of the fastest, shortest songs on the record. “Run In The Front” is a midtempo track with a catchy chorus, which quickly became a guilty pleasure. In some ways, I want to simply call this Dashboard for the post-pubescent, though that would sell this record short somewhat. It’s hard not to recognize the obvious nature to most of what Dear and the Headlights do. But it’s also hard to ignore that it’s an obviously strong record.

Going in, my expectation of what this debut full length would sound like was completely wrong. Reading the press sheet, which touted their tours in support of Wolfmother, Franz Ferdinand and Wire, I expected another band from the southern hemisphere (NZ in their case) performing their take on the faux garage thing that is so popular these days. You know, denim and scarves. There is an intro featuring a slow, pounding drum beat. After that the album goes in a clear opposition direction from what I had been ready for. The best way to describe this record is a toned down version of Blood Brothers circaThis Adultery Is Ripe. At a considerably slower pace, they duplicate the core foundations of that late 90s scream-core sound. Jagged, sometimes awkward sounding guitar riffs, sharp drum beats, and irreverent bordering on whiny vocals that deliver repetitions of a few basic lines. The majority of the album adheres to this blueprint. The last song is sort of an exception, as it has a more dynamic/melodic feel with a consistent guitar part throughout and a comparably well integrated vocal track. As is a trademark of the genre there are plenty of odd, maybe even tactless, pieces of beeps, boops, distortion, and other noises sprinkled throughout. These don’t necessarily stick out like a sore thumb, but they are kind of weird. You find yourself thinking, “What? Why would you put that kind of noise in the middle of this song, for no reason? Not building up to or accenting anything?” If you like these bands, or think that you would like a slower version of stuff put out by Post Office Gals or Since By Man you will probably like this. There is nothing egregiously bad about Die! Die! Die, nor is there anything captivating about them either. [Review : Andre Medrano]

Small Steps, Heavy Hooves

Equal Vision Records

Del Rey

A Pyramid for the Living This needs to be next record that you get. Please get out of your house and get this record!! A Pyramid… is the sophomore release from this well-established Chicago band, and you can easily tell that have been playing together for a while with the lucid and seamless transitions that take place. This album takes its time, knowing you will listen to each twist and turn that it makes. The song structures fluctuate from dreamy soundscapes with mellow guitar harmonies and strong backbeats, to searing accelerations of all of the instruments joining together for monumental and well-orchestrated sections that remind me of the elongated drones of Tool. This is a wonderful album that requires multiple listens only in order to catch the small and wonderful things that are easily overlooked. [Review : Stirling Myles] My Pal God Records

Dialogues & Kids Explode Split 7”

I try not to be biased towards 7” releases, since I get so few of them to review anymore. But it’s hard not to feel like this one in particular is a pretty ideal version of what made the split 7” such an important step for lesser known bands. Both Dialogues and Kids Explode are similar bands, with styles that harken to the days in the late 90’s when this format was in its prime. Dialogues are from Harrisonburg, Virgina, and have a sound that reminds me of gritty, but melodic post-hardcore that reigned during the mid-90’s. Garden Variety come to mind initially, with super melodic guitar and bass lines that mix perfectly with gritty (but still catchy) vocals. “Six Packs None The Richer” is my favorite of their tracks, as well as the best on the split. It alternates between loud, choppy riffs with shouted vocals and lighter moments that remind me of the first Mineral record. It’s exciting and refreshing to say the least. Kids Explode are a band from Freiburg, Germany, though their sound falls even nearer to the American Midwest than Dialogues’. Their sound is a bit more measured and midtempo than Dialogues’, though the feel and tone is similar. They combine the anguished shouting of early Dischord with the partially obscured catchy melodies of Cap’n Jazz. The dual guitar lines about halfway through their lengthy track also remind me of “Clumsy”-era Samiam. Like their counterparts in Dialogue, they offer a refreshing, anxious and excruciatingly refreshing blast of everything I miss so much lately about indie rock (or “emo” when that meant something). And they offer it in the format it was always best delivered in. Hunt this down.

Rome Plow Records


S.A.F. Records

Die Hoffnung Love Songs

With Pung, I Hate Myself, & Burnman under their belts, Die Hoffnung marks the return of the brothers Marburger. Their debut, Love Songs, is a concentrated two-piece effort with big drums and intricate guitar work. From the out-ofwater & bloody floating fish, to the hanging bats of the back cover, the album’s artwork suggests a love that is poisonous or no longer. The soft/hard dynamic of the vocals do the same as Jim swings from near screams to spoken word, belting and wailing about how love ‘burns me blind’ and ‘murders families’ on opener “Lovemonger.” On “I Was Born a Long Time Ago” he wonders whether he will ‘seize this day or waste it away,’ while the closer “Tour of Bridges” finds him crooning for the bridges he has built to ‘burn burn burn.’ Yet for all of its emotive release the album avoids the sappy breakdowns and sparse despair that tend to back this sort of lyricism. Jon’s drums play like break beats; the production of Ronnie Cates gives them an expansive audio field to fill the gaps from having no bass player. While most duos attempt to fill that bass gap with ambience, Die Hoffnung attacks the emptiness with detailed guitar work. The riffs of “Der Autounfull” and “Orpheus in his Underwear” sound like Shape Of Punk To Come-era Refused as quiet to loud string work plays in emotional cue with the vocals. The duo attacks the spacious sound by locking in the beat like a rhythm section; intricate picking shaping straight to-thepoint fills, both free enough to roam, and always on the same plain. This lets tracks like “With the Fishes” reach crescendo, a moment of triumph towards the album’s end. It’s not feasible to see the Marburger borthers’ work as distinct and separate from itself. The preceding and final I Hate Myself EP, Roy Sullivan Vs. The Lighening, was without a doubt their boldest and most coherent work. Love Songs seems to pick-up in just this place; where Roy... was a man coming to terms with his destiny in the world, Love Songs is that same man back in full cynical form. The same is true of Burnman, their only album under that moniker plays like a constant condemnation of art, often taking jabs at just how serious artists tend to take themselves. Yet, like much of their output it is a back & forth and die Hoffnung rests in the same place. Its constant indictment of those who see love as an exploitive emotion gives its title a tongue-in-cheek feel. A give and take of sharp guitars and screeched vocals allow this record to dabble in serious self-righteousness, while avoiding condescension. A thin wire to walk, nearly always dissolved when an artist attempts to make a vast, nearly all-encompassing statement. Yet for Die Hoffnung, it works. Lyrics like ‘The cracks in my cuntry breathe fire. White Boys Will Burn!’, or ‘What bold boys crave, something to slay, someone to save’ nearly mock emo for its ‘She Can Save Me’ idealism. It doesn’t stop there, ‘What bold boys crave, some-

thing to slay, someone to save’ or ‘Barboys…. would mount birds barely wooed by a liquor this crude,’ continue to ridicule this generation’s current state of need and attention at all costs. This level of out right pessimism keeps Die Hoffnung free from genre restraints, pouncing and plummeting its way through a dead musical field. Love Songs is a viscous record that cuts with rhythm and wit, let’s hope it’s not a one-time offering like it was with Burnman. Buy, burn, or steal it now. [Review : Sam Sousa]

No Idea Records

Die Princess Die Lions Eat Lions

It’s obvious within a few minutes that these guys formed in San Diego. Their stench of early Gravity bands (especially Angel Hair/VSS) emanates from every pore. That usually isn’t a bad start, though Die Princess Die have much more than just a well thought of pigeon hole going for them. First and foremost, there’s something that’s clearly and genuinely fierce about their delivery. They also manage a perfect balance between the angular chaos and new-wave leanings that have defined many bands before them. They definitely have both elements, though they use both in a surprisingly harmonic way. Feedback-drenched dual guitar parts, acrobatic and sometimes downright dancy drum beats and dirty, melodic keyboard parts all get equal time. Sometimes they are all thrown together, though most of the time going back and forth. The louder, more guitar-dominated songs also feature shouted, but somehow catchy vocal lines. Meanwhile, tracks like the five minute “The Racer” feature a much more obvious new-wave feel, which includes the much more smooth vocal delivery. They never sound like two different bands, as the keyboard-dominated tracks are still aggressive in their own way. Other highlights include the wall of sound on “Sport” and the all-too-short “Spearhorse” which sounds like Jehu mixed with Scared Of Chaka. (In other words: pretty much perfect.) GSL Records


Night Trrors. Shock! Dmonstrations’s second album Night Trrors. Shock! is partly exciting. The abrasively angular, two-minute compositions demonstrate an instrumental agility that is just about fascinating. Nick Barnett and Tetsunori Tawaraya play their respective bass and guitar like they’re taking something out on their fingertips. It’s a truly dynamic performance that comes through on this recording, like they had the opportunity to take these songs on the road for six months before recording. Despite the frenetic style, they have the ability to take the tempo way down and keep the chaos going. With all these great things going for them, however, Tawaraya’s vocals are definitely working against them. The album would probably be better if he kept his mouth shut. He falls into the monotone trap laid by experimental punk. The moderately interesting lyrics are entirely unintelligable because he’s usually focused on working the pitch up to his falsetto shriek, which the listener is treated to at the end of almost every line. (Occasionally it’s a wavering caterwaul, but mostly it’s the shriek.) He doesn’t work his vocals into the music’s mix, just lays them over the top of it. His best moment is at the end of the album’s finale “Crocodile Brain” when his gesture of frustration is most convincing. The lyrics also take a little of column A and a little of column B. First, a sample from “London Machine.” “Gray behemoth has forbidden fact / I know there are fourteen wombs in / engine oil I was jagged on / My cheek cheek behind castle.” So they’ve got a taste for surreal imagery. There are some great, image-producing two-word juxtapositions like “pocket fang” and “concrete pupas.” The collage in the album art would seem to support this idea. At the same time, the images are pretty repetitive, consisting of combinations of body parts, animals, and archetype occupations (ballerina, pilot, emperor) that are simply mentioned and given no weight. There are themes of illnesses and mutilation, which are fun, but they’re just given in snapshots, never contextualized. To summarize, the writing is smart but ultimately a bit selfdefeating. Recommended for fans of Daughters, An Albatross, The Locust, AIDS Wolf and Dmonstrations’s label mates, Die! Die! Die! [Review : Michael Flatt] GSL Records

French Toast Ingleside Terrace

French Toast is a lesser-known Dischord gem from our nation’s capital, featuring original duo of James Canty (guitar, vocals) and Jerry Busher (vocals, bass), now rounded out by Ben Gilligan (drums). (In spite of these assignments, it is apparent that at their live shows, the members of French Toast all switch instruments at will.) This band touts quite a pedigree, as Canty is known for his work in Make Up and Nation of Ulysses, and Busher for his work with many acts, including touring with Fugazi and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. This record is the quintessential sound of something I can’t just put my finger on. It’s not quite typical for Dischord, although with the addition of new bands like The Evens, it seems like a few Dischord acts might be leaning toward this sound, which is a great amalgamation of pop and very mature rock. The majority of this record plays like what it essentially is, which is a trio of very experienced musicians who seemingly got together one day with the intention of making no-bullshit, purely good music. Their unabashed pop sensibilities can be seen all over the record, though notably in “Secrets” and “Settle In.” On the whole, the songs are well-rounded, and freshly lacking in early twenty-something angst, which, while it has created some good records, must be grown out of at some point. French Toast thus pulls away the rehashed, rotting flesh of the indie rock industry and feeds on the bare essence of good music, steering clear of half-baked political views, ineloquent ramblings on relationship drama, and self-conscious, over the top guitar solos, effects, and effectively any other distractions, leaving 12 simple, well-composed tracks. This is not, of course, to say that there is no experimentation on the record. “Brejnev 333,” for example, opens with over two minutes of pure, raw vocals laid over an ambient musical background. Even past the two-minute mark, the vocal line is somewhat unexpected. Yet the chorus comes in, and the subtle backing

vocals add an intriguing new side to the already spectacular scope of the track. In many ways, this record represents the very transition that led many of our generation to diverge from adolescent punk rock circa 1999, in search of something more musically and intellectually challenging. That departure, I clearly remember, was a revelation and gave us a complex new vehicle to express what nearing the end of our teenage years did to us emotionally. If this is the new post-indie sensation, let’s all take a cue from French Toast when, with Ingleside Terrace, they let us know that less is more, that the simple, well-written pop song is the new, elusive form we’ll all soon be looking for. That it’s okay to grow up, settle down, get a job and a house. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop making wonderful music. This is the future of rock music, and I, for one, am all for it. [Review : Nick Cox]

Dischord Records


Every Gentle Air

Dave Fischoff

This is the first release from Earthless, which features Clikitat Ikatowi and later Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba. The band sounds very little like either project, playing up-tempo and noisy psychedelic rock. It’s part Estrus-style post-garage and part a sped up, improvised 70’s jam. Each side of the record features one track, with each one approaching 20 minutes. The production is surprisingly clear and the musicianship is really tight for being a recorded live. Both songs are similar, with all three members going in their own, half-improvised directions. The result works well, with a welcome addition of more ambitious, early Japanese garage rock influences to an otherwise stoner-jam recipe. Both tracks are really solid, mixing dense and overlapping guitar and bass lines with more riff-based repetition. The addition of more adventurous garage influences helps to set Earthless apart from the glut of somewhat similar Sabbath-worship bands. It also gives Sonic Prayer a lot more staying power than so many other bands like them.

It is from this place, named the heart of ugliness by others, that two men, determined in their creativity, have endeavored to enlist a veritable army of their friends to join them in music making. It is brave song in the face of urban sprawl, note-woven reminders of hope, peace, and glory in the face of roadway construction. This is not a “band” so much as an orchestra of unique parts, a horn and string section, marching drums, and vocal choir strung together with denim, dried leaves, and guitar string. It is from this similar place of desolation that births a soundtrack of snippets for any moment of the day and presents a new lens of hope when witnessing the world in all of its stark and beautiful moments. [Review : Stirling Myles]

Everything about Dave Fischoff ’s music screams of isolation. He lays wispy, melodic vocals over a wide array of cut and pasted samples and swirling synth lines. The results can be chaotic, but also end up charmingly melodic just as often. Fischoff brings a huge range of sounds and samples together, in a way that sounds surprisingly cohesive from one song to the next. He hides almost all his samples by chopping them into quiet and short pieces, or drenching them in reverb. He carefully chooses the placement of all the random sounds he finds, usually using (or at least sounding like) horn and woodwind lines. “In This Air” is one of the most drastic, abruptly mixed songs on the record. It’s also one of the most effective. A few tracks stand out, like the soaring, keyboard-heavy “Flip Books”. It’s the longest track on the record, at just over six minutes and earns every second of it. It starts out like slow and contemplative new-wave, quickly adding subtly glitchy electronics. The soaring melodies of mostly European IDM meet heartbreakingly cold keyboard lines, which are crushingly sad. But combined with the vocal line, they are downright catchy at the same time. This song, which arrives just before the end of the record establishes The Crawl as much more than another cut and paste laptop project. Technology made this record possible, though carefully constructed songs and engaging vocals leave it surprisingly warm and substantial. Eat your heart out Postal Service.

Sonic Prayer (CDEP/10”)

Part Two

Gravity Records

The Evens Get Evens

Let’s face it: the fact that Ian MacKaye is half of The Evens is going to dominate this review, like it will most every other one. The project features MacKaye on baritone guitar and Amy Farina on drums, with the vocal duties split pretty evenly between the two of them. Their self-titled debut was released almost two years ago, and slowly but surely became one of my favorite records of the year. Much like their debut, this record took more than a couple listens to really grown on me. But it is, ultimately, as rewarding as their debut in many ways. The same raw, mid-tempo combination of gritty folk and contemplative indie rock is present this time around. There’s something a bit longer and meandering about many of the songs’ structures, which ultimately makes them more rewarding. It takes several listens for a lot of the subtle twists and turns to sink in, as well as the slow motion, deceivingly catchy hooks. “You Fell Down” is a great example. It’s a song that I hardly noticed the first few times I listened to this. But now its choppy chorus and rolling guitar riff get stuck in my head every time I hear it. The lighter “All You Find You Keep”, and angrier “Everybody Knows” are more immediate, but no less effective highlights. This time around, they chose to record these ten songs themselves, in the basement of the Dischord house. It has the sound and feel of a home-recorded project, which would usually be a problem. But because of The Evens’ inherently simple set of instruments and song construction, it works perfectly. The consistently dark, slow feel (and pace) of the record actually benefits from the lo-fi recording. All 40 minutes here are packed with subtle dynamics and just slightly obscured melodies. The formula is simple, but carefully developed and works from beginning to end.

Dischord Records

The Crawl

Record Machine

Fake Problems

Spurs & Spokes/Bull>Matador Against Me! defined a paradigm a few years back, the natural fit of folk-punk. Digging out from the underground to the mainstream, left a hole for a million bands to plug, most notably filled by Defiance, Ohio and Fake Problems. The former pick up the socio-political conscience while the latter, Fake Problems, goes directly for their trademark folk, sing-a-long style. Formed as a solo venture by frontman Chris Farren, it rolled itself out over the past few years into an endlessly touring band just on the road this spring with of all bands, Against Me! The eight-track album is comprised of two EP’s, the recently released Spur & Spokes and the re-recorded debut Bull>Matador. Both EP’s lean with an up-beat old school country tone, built on Sean Stevenson’s swingy ride and snare. Opener “Motion of Ocean” kicks off subtle and slow, marching on with Derek Perry’s punchy bass as Farren moves back and forth from scream to slight swoon. “Heat on the Feet” and “My First Million” carry the upbeat, dance-friendly acoustic guitars of sideman Casey Lee, while tracks like “Sorry OK” and “Degree’d or Denounced” keep the singalong-friendly vibe of the album going. In the background rumble faint sounds of bottles clanking, friends talking, the charm of a bar, as Farren’s softer side laments about the girl who “fits together” but “just don’t belong” on “Oh, Your Silver Heart.” He openly admits being hesitant of stringent punk lyrics, yet the religious debate of “Motion” and suspect look at America’s past on “Cannonball” take that hard look without political sloganeering. What works for Fake Problems is their growth, listening to the EP’s in written order shows a band more focused and determined with each release. What holds them back is Farren’s scream intertwined with his attempts to croon soulfully, falling so flat that it’s unbelievable. Yet the evident growth of the two EP’s, and the relentless live tuning, make Fake Problems hard to ignore, and with their debut due in mid-2007, this is definitely a band whose growth is worth watching. [Review : Sam Sousa]

Sabot Productions

Secretly Canadian


Lives Lives Fjord’s Lives Lives is an old-sounding album. It will remind you of something, something, until you finally get it. Wait, “I knew I’d heard this before. It was called 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening.” These guys are clearly big fans of Coalesce. The slow tempos, the indecipherable howler, and the big, eclectic riffs makes Fjord a dead ringer for a band that I wish never broke up. So that’s an interesting position in which to find oneself, having a band that serves as a decent knock-off of a band that one enjoyed, but is out of service. It’s almost like buying a tribute album. That’s roughly how enjoyable Lives Lives is, as a fan of Coalesce. It’s imitation, but it’s a pretty good one. They work within similar song structures, which revolve around the guitar playing and have the same Southern rock twinge that gave Coalesce a slightly different flavor from Botch. The album’s first track, “Ascending White Mountain” is probably the best. They ride the killer opening riff for about 45 seconds and what follows seems to evolve reasonably, but not predictably, from that initial melody. They can find a groove, which almost makes me want to compare them to a slew of stoner metal bands, but the time-signature play that

also takes place makes that too much of a stretch. The lyrics take themselves awfully seriously and are pretty bad, (also like Coalesce). “Ascending White Mountain,” as you might expect, addresses that tried and true staple of hardcore lyrical content, overcoming adversity. “Persistent and anxious / tasting the clouds with each and every breath / a whisper escapes my lips / reaching for something to prove / starving vultures circle overhead / waiting for one single mistake.” That’s the most respectable part. It of course devolves into, “You’ll be the only thing / between me and the peak. / Move aside.” It’s all yours, pal. “Dining with Rats” is a standout track, in neither a good nor bad way. It’s an instrumental track with an acoustic opening. Instrumental metal in the style of Isis and Pelican has become pretty easy come by these days, but Fjord takes a different approach on this song, for the most part remaining in the style I’ve already described, but subtracting the vocals. The results aren’t bad. In any case, if you’re looking for a decent rendition of a bygone sound, check out Fjord. [Review : Michael Flatt] Eulogy Recordings

fueled breakdown about six minutes in. Dynamically, it’s one of the most memorable and dense moments of the record. Even more than the rest of Song, it’s only properly enjoyed on headphones. “The Shallow” closes the record, with what amounts to a fifteen-minute buildup. It takes most of what is presented earlier in the record and puts it all together perfectly. Earning all of its epic length along the way (much like the record as a whole), it slowly but surely pulls you in completely. After more than eleven minutes, it finds its way to a towering and expansive final payoff. In many ways, this reminds me of This Will Destroy You’s debut full length. Both were originally self-released (Song first came out almost a year ago), only to be noticed and more widely distributed later on. Both are also pretty straightforward examples of often attempted, epic songwriting that are both head and shoulders above most of their peers. It’s possible that Giant will, at least on first glance, get filed away as another slow-motion metal project. But upon any closer examination, there is a lot going on within each song that’s well worth investing 52 minutes into over and over again. Southern Empire Records


I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die Gaza is a Salt Lake City-based hardcore/grind outfit with some serious noise going on. They are one part Pig Destroyer, one part Soilent Green, and one part Merzbow all mixed together, and it’s excellent. “Calf ” starts us off with a grind/groove tune, almost setting the stage. The title track is just over one minute of noise, screaming, chaos, and crush. “Hospital Fat Brush” begins to take the mixture of the first two songs, then dives into a slow dirge with our good old fashioned screaming in two different tones. “Sire” is track four, and has a Botch feel to it that takes atonal to a whole new level. The whole disc is a mixture of this feel, a grind/atonal/odd-beat masterpiece. This is a really good disc, with some really interesting tunes on it. The artwork is pretty strange as well. The cover is a ram’s head, with black-onblack lettering for the song list. It’s interesting to see the song titles by tilting the disc and catching the glare. Plus, what’s not to love in a band that can write songs like “Slutmaker”, “Hell Crown”, and “Pork Finder”? [Review : Pat Dixon] Black Market Activities

Get to the Chopper/Oktober Skyline Split 7”

An almighty split 45, only 300 copies pressed and I got one, fucking awesome. Swirled vinyl, silk-screened brown paper bag covers and two hardcore bands, you can’t beat it. Get to the Chopper mixes grind and art-noise, with scream to spoken vocals over stinging guitars. Lyrically they tackle the fashionable hardcore that has emerged as of late; tight pants, professional haircuts, and all. Oktober Skyline is much heavier starting with a slow drudge, followed by noiseless noise, then tearing into blast-beat grind and screamed vocals. It’s metal tinged and heavier than hell. Lyrically they tend to take the modern humor route of hardcore, with clever lines like “Eat shit and go fuck yourself, motherfucker.” Undeniable tracks from undeniable bands, try and get one when you can. [Review : Sam Sousa] Square Of Opposition Records

Giant Song

Depending on how you look at it, Giant is either in the right place at the right time, or exactly the opposite. Their debut full length features five tracks that clock in at almost a full hour. They play slow, contemplative metal that’s easy to generally lump in with Isis, Pelican, or Cult Of Luna. There are a ton of bands similar to Giant lately, which is obviously both a blessing and a curse. Giant manages to stand out, thanks to carefully structured, legitimately epic songs and standout execution of their ideas. The songs take very basic riffs and connect them in a slow, but constantly evolving way. This gradual development is a commonly attempted idea, but one that’s rarely executed so well. The record starts off with “Stories,” which opens almost immediately with a wall of loud, slow guitars that work together in a downright melodic way. Along with gruff vocals, it lands near Neurosis’ most user-friendly songs. After almost six minutes, it ends with a gracefully bold string outro, setting the tone for more than a few surprises in the following tracks. “The Red Opus” is another standout and probably the heaviest song on the record overall. “Life For Vultures” is the fastest, though that’s obviously a relative term here. It builds up into an incredibly intense, double bass

Graf Orlock

Destination Time Yesterday This is the debut full length from a band that plays what they call “cinema-grind.” The whole thing is actually fairly straightforward. They play frantic, but tightly knit and varied grid-core, with a lot of samples from 80’s and 90’s action movies between, and intertwined with the songs. The samples are usually fairly short and sometimes split-second breaks within the songs. But they all work surprisingly well with the tone and the pace of the record. It’s obvious that Graf Orlock give a lot more thought to the sound bytes they use than most bands, who throw in a few movie clips while mixing the record. The samples here are effective in adding reference points to chaotic rhythms and song structure. They also keep the pace of the record up in some ways, since they add consistent, though brief breaks. Musically, Graf Orlock isn’t exactly breaking a ton of new ground genre-wise. But they do have a fairly fresh sound, with solid songwriting and better musicianship. A lot of the rhythms especially remind me of The Red Chord, since they stray away from simple blast beats. In their most complex moments, they also remind me of Psyopus. But, they also add a lot of really choppy breakdowns that wouldn’t be out of place in older Converge records. Fans of this style of hardcore will be pulled in right away, while the movie clips actually do add a welcome layer. It’s more than just a gimmick, becoming a viable part of Graf Orlock’s sound and their immediate appeal. Level-Plane Records

The Gubernatorial Candidates Self-Titled (CDEP)

Phil Rollins and Matt Resignola met at Tulane University a few years back and began what is now The Gubernatorial Candidates. They’ve had a rotating cast that forms a rhythm section, but the two have remained the songwriting impetus behind the project since its beginnings. Rollins and Resignola create an engaging soundscape with this, their debut release, which is effectively a meld of hearty southern folk with raspy voices à la Bonny Prince Billy, and intelligent rock drawing from a vast gamut of influences, including Joy Division, at times. This genre-bending EP is large in scope in every way. Its five tracks differ greatly in length from the 2:51 Western to the 10:51 atmospheric anthem. (Also note that these tracks are found back-to-back.) From there, we draw on everything in between in the remaining tracks, including an implicit homage to Joy Division in “Letters of Marque.” It’s often difficult to believe that just two main artists could have such a vast span of influences that they could not only have created this beautiful record, but also made it so mysteriously cohesive. That is to say, in spite of the dramatic differences in tone and timbre from track to track, the EP never ceases to be attention grabbing, and by the end of the nearly 30 minutes the five tracks span across, it never occurs to you once that the record seems disjointed, in spite of its almost overly ambitious musical and emotional range. It’s also hard to pick out a highlight on the album, considering that each track seems to speak to such a specific emotion and tonal canvas that it would almost be like listening to five separate albums in a half hour if the EP weren’t so undeniably cohesive. Still, all 11 minutes of “Des Allemands” are remarkable musically, as well as the vivid southern scene painted by “Civil War.” And yes, the 80s pre-post-rock call-

back in “Letters of Marque” is also a fantastic moment. In the end, it’s clear that Rollins and Resignola have unmistakable musical chemistry, and their post-Katrina rock presence in Cajun country is sure to create an indelible mark on the scene. I can only imagine what a musical presence this strong is doing to continue to encourage artistic reconstruction in the devastated city. By the same token, it has become clear to me that, once this record and this band start getting more exposure, they’ll bring that same rebuilding strength to a music industry that, at times, feels similarly in need of reconstruction. [Review : Nick Cox] Self-Released

Tim Hecker

Harmony in Ultraviolet Based in Montreal, Tim Hecker has become one of the premier artists and producers in Canada’s experimental music scene. In addition to countless D.J., remix and production credits, this is his sixth proper album. Hecker’s records can pretty accurately be described as “drone,” though that’s a little like calling Neurosis “metal.” It’s correct, though more than a little incomplete. On first glance, each of the fifteen tracks here (including “Whitecaps of White Noise” I and II, and “Harmony In Blue” I-IV) are a continuous mess of hissing and delicate synth lines. In essence, that’s what they are. But there’s something really carefully constructed and perfectly dense about every one of these 50 minutes. The way that everything is layered seems haphazard at first, but completely deliberate after a couple listens. Rumbling, tectonic noise is easy to create and easier to pile on top of itself. But Hecker harnesses this towering set of sounds in a way that is inviting and jagged at the same time. Some of the synth lines that are just barely obscured by static are downright melodic, especially in “Chimeras” and “Radio Spiricom.” In any other setting, they’d be downright catchy. But in this grandiose, slow motion setting they have an effect that’s even more pleasing. It draws you in fully, and keeps you at an arm’s length almost simultaneously. In the age-old debate of where noise ends and music begins, Hecker has completely redrawn, or maybe blurred the line between the two. There are a lot of people mixing ambient noise and electronics in a fairly similar way. But few are doing it as effectively or as organically as Hecker and Harmony in Ultraviolet finds him at the top of his game.

Kranky Records


Psalm II It is kind of scary that all of this noise can erupt from just one man, Skamfer. After bouncing around throughout Swedish mental institutions, it seemed obvious – play black metal! Well, unlike Striborg (another one man show, but crap), this is pretty good stuff. This guy makes some pretty heavy music, and the production quality is pretty decent. The disc starts out with “Liotte”, and sets the stage for Skamfer’s creation. “Bevingad Och Forsedd Med Horn” comes next, and is the longest tune on the disc, second to none in brutality. Overall, it’s pretty good stuff. “Dionyssosinitiationen” is third, starting off slow and Dissection-esque. You gotta love a guy whose motto is “It is always the right time to do lots of drugs and die.” This pretty much sums up the record. It’s good black metal, and pretty damn impressive considering it’s the masterwork of one guy. [Review : Pat Dixon] Hydra Head Records

The Higher On Fire

“So if you want to see the show, just come with me baby, I will show you how I roll.” That, my friends is a direct quote from the first song on The Higher’s big Epitaph debut. So, in short, it’s come to this. Even a casual observer can probably tell that lately Epitaph saves most of their decent signings for their Anti imprint. But over the last year or more, they have jumped on the cheese-ball screamo bandwagon hard. They have apparently been fighting with Victory over every band with five or six kids who all have the same haircut and more clothing sponsorships than recordings. At least The Higher don’t insult your intelligence by pretending to border, in any way, on hardcore (or even punk rock for that matter). Instead they proclaim love for Justin Timberlake, The Police, mixing radio-ready guitar riffs and irritating, unnecessary keyboards. Then they hit the studio with Maroon 5’s producer, and produce eleven patience-testing tracks and a remix by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. You do the math. Epitaph Records

Hot Cross Risk Revival

Ever since the almost immediate impact of A New Set Of Lungs, the first release from Hot Cross more than six years ago, the band has come a long way. I’ll be the first to admit that I referred to them as “that new band with the guys from Saetia” consistently when I got that first record. They’ve had an outstanding run of releases since then, including Cryonics, their first proper full length and Fair Trades & Farewells, an equally powerful EP. After Fair Trades came out almost three years ago, the band lost founding member Josh Jaukbowski. Instead of replacing him, they decided to soldier on as a four-piece. This meant retooling many of their old songs for the one guitar lineup and dropping a few from the live set. But it also gave the band time and reason to approach the writing of Risk Revival in a much more deliberate way. This is an obvious trap for most similarly frantic hardcore bands, where the danger of over-thinking is a common pitfall. Hot Cross has never operated like your usual hardcore band though, and they emerged with a new approach, a new label and a new record that is stronger than anything they’ve done. The best and worse thing about hardcore has always been its immediacy. Everything about it is meant to have an immediate impact. The downside to this is that it often trades attention-grabbing intensity for staying power. Few bands have been able to add to their songs’ content and lifespan without giving up any of the intensity and immediate impact. Hot Cross have always defied this problem to a large extent, but on Risk Revival, they’ve nailed it. “Finance Fuels the Sickness at Heart” is the best example of the band’s full breadth, opening with a quiet, acoustic intro that’s downright catchy. Within about 30 seconds, the song kicks in with a more straightforward guitar riff, which just as quickly becomes a hasty trade-off between the guitar, bass and vocals. By the time singer Billy Werner screams “I will never slur my speech” just before the one-minute mark, Hot Cross have already put together one of the best post-hardcore songs of the decade. From there, they traverse the best things about mid-90’s screamo (from the Northeast and San Diego), modern melodic hardcore and everything in between. By the time the huge (though surprisingly short-lived) breakdown arrives at the halfway point of the song, I stood completely convinced. There are definitely flashes of their previous sound here, especially on the more choppy and straightforward tracks like “Existence” and “Exits and Trials,” the opener. They work well, in the more frantic mode that made Cryonics a familiar sound, but an instant classic nonetheless. But most of the songs use their already noteworthy past as little more than a jumping off point. “Cardiac Silence” uses their signature, acrobatic guitar lines, but adds a downright bouncy rhythm. The result is awkward on the first listen, and practically perfect after that. “Scrape Wisdom” uses a similar, bittersweet technique both in the mostly-sung vocals and the straightforward guitar riffs. But they also add a much more urgent, choppy rhythm in the verses that keeps things moving without pushing the tempo. Hot Cross always harnessed a ton of intensity, without using metal riffs, or particularly tough vocals. But on “Scrape Wisdom” they aren’t using any of the traditional hardcore methods and still arriving at a huge, anthemic and moving place. That’s the case, to varying degrees, throughout Risk Revival. It is awesome on the first listen, and considerably better the 20th time through. The future of hardcore? Obviously. The future of independent music as a whole? I certainly fucking hope so. Hope Division (Equal Vision)

In First Person

Lost Between Hands Held Tight In First Person guitarist and singer Tom Schlatter’s previous bands (You and I, The Assailant) aren’t a bad place to start in explaining his relatively new band’s sound. They play sludgy and dense hardcore, which is really heavy but doesn’t border too closely on metal at any point either. The heyday of dynamics in East Coast hardcore, during the mid-90’s is well represented here. All three members (Schlatter, along with bassist Benn Roe and drummer Vanessa Espinal) sing, which adds an uncommon amount of depth vocally to this as well. The tempos are usually a step or two slower than most similarly heavy bands, though there are quicker, more frantic moments thrown in throughout. “Item #14” especially reminds me of Majority Rule, with its back and forth guitar riff and monolithic dynamics. It’s followed by “Kanye West Was Right,” which is probably the most varied song here. It is also my favorite track overall. It goes from choppy, growled chaos to a deceivingly melodic slow-motion guitar riff. The song ends with what is essentially an evolving, but cohesive minute-long breakdown. The long, epic “…And Time Is Running Out” is another highlight, with a lengthy introduction that’s followed by the most ominous guitar and vocal parts on the record. The record is hand-packaged, and looks awesome. It includes extensive liner notes, with thoughts on the songs and the band as a whole from all three members. The LP version also comes with a CD version of the record. This only adds to the records’ value, as well as the feeling that there aren’t nearly enough hardcore records of this much substance and unencumbered emotion these days. The 25 minutes of music here are more than worth finding, especially for anyone with an interest in the less metal, but still heavier end of East Coast hardcore. The whole package only adds to the value of this record, both contextually and aesthetically. Paramnesia Records


Conqueror Justin Brodrick’s self-titled debut under the Jesu moniker was the best-case scenario for a drone record. Its slow, bleak dirges had just the right mix of careful layering and brute

force. Last year he followed it up with the much more melodic and vocal-dominated Silver EP. At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. By the time I’d listened to it three or four times, it was obvious that it was a mini-masterpiece from beginning to end and that its title track was probably the best song I heard all year. Needless to say, I was more than a little excited to see where Jesu’s second proper full length would fall between the extremes of the debut and Silver. Conqueror opens with the title track, which immediately challenges everything I thought I knew about Jesu. The drums’ slow-motion syncopation, shimmering guitar lines, lush electronic swells and downright beautiful vocals all collide. At first, it’s not only a new extreme for Jesu, but also an odd assortment of sounds. But by the two-minute mark, I’m completely pulled in. Rather than go back to the gloomy, drop-D dirges that have served him so well since his Godflesh days, Brodrick seems more than willing to push the limits. All eight minutes of “Conqueror” the track make it obvious that Conqueror the album couldn’t be more aptly titled. Next up are two short songs (by Jesu standards), both of which are under six minutes each. “Old Year” is a towering track that’s similar to the opener, but with sharper edges. “Transfigure” is a heavier, more guitar-dominated track with a faster tempo. The persistent guitar chords act as a base for some of the most melodic and prominent synth lines on the record. Even more than the rest of the record, it reminds me of Hum in the best way possible. Next is “Weightless & Horizontal,” the longest track on the record at just over ten minutes. It is the closest thing to Silver, with an achingly slow tempo, but boldly melodic riffs nonetheless. The progression is deceivingly slow within the song, though it subtly covers a ton of ground (even for a ten-minute epic). Jesu has never been vocally dominated, in fact they were a complete afterthought on the first full length. But “Medicine” has a vocal line that is downright catchy, without being obvious, repetitive, or particularly high in the mix. It’s probably the most complete summation of the album in any one song, though it leans toward the lighter extreme. “Brighteyes” and “Mother Earth” are both louder tracks, though not necessarily heavier. Each uses electronics prominently, though in different ways. “Brighteyes” melds synth and guitar lines in a way that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. “Mother Earth” tends to alternate gracefully between the two, with each taking the spotlight more than once. “Stanlow” closes

the record in a manner that is loud, even for Jesu. It takes most of the best things about the preceding songs and melds them together, with each element at roughly the same volume. Calling the result of this approach “dense” would be an obvious understatement. But, like everything else that Jesu does, it somehow works in a way that’s cerebral and melodic at the same time. I have been a fan of Jesu since the first dark, sludgy notes of his debut. After Silver upped the ante with unlikely melody and more conventional rock structures, I was completely devoted. If I were as likely as some of my friends to run out and get regrettable tattoos, I’d probably have “Jesu” somewhere on my forehead by now. But with Conqueror, and a live show that more than met my insanely high expectations, Justin Brodrick has truly redefined heavy music in a way that will be talked about for years. More simply, Conqueror is truly one of the best records of the year, in any genre. Hydra Head Records

Julius Airwave

The City, The Forest Lead by songwriter and chief singer, guitarist and pianist Rick Colado, Julius Airwave first appeared from Jacksonville, Florida with 2004’s Dragons are the New Pink. Having missed out on the debut, I had no idea what to expect from this sophomore full length. It gets off to a strange start with an uneventful introduction track, “In The City” and the even keeled “Glory Glory.” From the first couple tracks, this sounds like another melodically straightforward combination of late 70’s rock and modern indie rock. The track works well, but falls uneventfully between The Strokes and Bloc Party. But then “Nannerl” arrives directly after it, with a driving, catchy mid-tempo piano line that has an immediate impact. It’s the longest song on the record at more than five minutes, but also the most effective. The strong piano line that runs through the whole song is the defining moment of the whole record. It’s both catchy and varied enough to take a few listens to sink in. Colado’s vocals work with the piano perfectly, without competing too much for attention. The whole track succeeds in a way that features the best things about classic, single songwriter-driven rock and modern indie rock. “Broken Bells” and “Für” are next, returning to the vocal

Nakatomi Plaza Unsettled

More and more, I feel like reviewing records boils down in part to basically acting as a bullshit detector. It’s usually a pretty simple and almost immediate process. I put on the record before I read the bio and go from there. But once in a while, it’s obvious right away that a record and a band are for real. Such is the case with Nakatomi Plaza, who I remember from their Immigrant Sun days. They are back with the belated release of Unsettled, their second proper full length. This was recorded with J. Robbins back in 2004, only to be delayed by label shopping, mastering and remastering (six times in fact). The extra -- and undoubtedly frustrating – doing and re-doing has paid off though. Unsettled may have taken more than two years to see a proper release, but it’s well worth the wait. Things start off strong, with “A Manifest Destiny Grows in Brooklyn,” which packs a lot into its three and a half minutes. A mixture of stop/start rhythms with winding and melodic guitar riffs set an intensely nostalgic post-hardcore template. But there is a much more dynamic and often catchy edge to most of the songs. The dual guitar parts carry much of the content, though outstanding back and forth between male and female vocals add yet another layer. The guitar work toward the end of “A Manifest Destiny…” is the earliest, and one of the strongest examples of the incredible depth of Nakatomi Plaza’s sound. It sounds like the rhythmic sensibilities of Braid, with the bold dynamics of Circle Takes The Square, though it’s catchier than either. Other highlights include “Where Good Intentions Go To Die,” which is a bit more straightforward and melodic, though still hardly easy to figure out on the first couple listens. “Combustible/Jettison” follows not long after it, with the most unabashed opening of the record. It’s a more mid-tempo song that jumps straight from an almost Maiden-esque dual guitar opening to a swaying and catchy post-hardcore chorus. Both are definite highlights, which are hard to pick out here, since all eleven songs are packed and have their moments. The perfectionism in every aspect of the writing and execution of Unsettled is obvious, though the result feels like it’s anything but cold or calculated. The result is a dense and carefully mapped out, but also seamless, almost immediately pleasing record. I could see this surprising, and grabbing a wide swath of music fans. Myself included.

Red Leader Records

and guitar-dominated formula of “Glory Glory,” but with more distinct results. Both are solid, mid-tempo melodic rock songs that nod heavily toward mainstream bands like Franz Ferdinand. Thankfully though, Colado’s songs are absent of any trace of the repetition that land acts like Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand on the radio, but also leave their records without much staying power. “Finale’” is a slower song, and another that’s dominated by piano in place of guitar. It works in a more patient, lasting way, much like “Nannerl.” There is a lot of variety to The City, The Forest as a whole, which is what makes the songs work so well individuality. They follow a familiar formula, mixing a number of popular, well-traveled sub-genres within modern indie rock. But thanks to the graceful versatility of the thirteen songs here, there is surprising depth to a record with immediate impact. It’s hard for me to see Julius Airwave not making a name for themselves with their second record. And, for once, it would be well deserved and unsurprising at the same time. Sickroom Records

The Life and Times The Magician (CDEP)

I hate to say it, but in many ways it seems like Allen Epley’s new band is starting to shape up in many ways like Shiner, his last band. With The Magician, Epley and company have released a near perfect five-song follow-up to Suburban Hymns, which was one of my favorite records of 2005. Like Shiner, their brand of lush and contemplative indie rock works in a way that will have a minority of music fans completely freaking out. But it seems to consistently soar just over the heads of the huddled masses. For example, they’ve toured recently with a number of much larger, and much less interesting bands (Sparta, Murder By Death), though I don’t know if you’ll see them gracing the pages of Spin or AP any time soon. These five songs were recorded by J. Robbins, intended for Japanese imprint Stiff Slack. Thankfully, it is seeing wide distribution in the States. This essentially picks up exactly where Suburban Hymns left off. And in this case, I wouldn’t have it any other way. “I Know You Are,” the opening track is a slow and overtly melodic dirge, which finds its momentum almost three minutes in. Next is “Hush,” which is obviously the most immediately appealing track. It features no less than four different riffs, each more catchy than the last. They are spread between the guitar, bass and Epley’s soaring vocals, appearing at different times. In a few spots, more than one melodic riff will overlap, making for a challenging, but never messy result. The much slower and darker “Killing Them Softly” is followed by “Ave Maria,” which is probably the quickest track here. It is probably my favorite overall, and one of the

best Life and Times songs to date. It brings to mind Failure in a lot of ways, though it takes the whole sound one step forward, using layering and tense melodicism perfectly. The haunting five minutes of “The Sound of the Ground” close the EP in a contemplative and fitting way. If there were any justice in this world, Epley and company would be complaining about the catering in arena dressing rooms while Incubus were jockeying garbage trucks somewhere. But, stories like this are as old as rock and roll. The Life and Times will likely continue to toil is near obscurity, though they are still turning out some of the most satisfying and challenging rock music anywhere.

Stiff Slack Records


Drums And Guns Imagine you live in Minnesota. There is already a foot of snow on the ground and several more inches in the forecast. Further, it has been cold for months and it’s perfectly clear the drifts are mounting faster than your ambition to shovel. Instead, you wrap yourself into your favorite blanket and pour a drink to keep warm. The only thing left is to toss on Low’s latest release, Drums and Guns. This record would be a perfect soundtrack to some ultra trendy movie, but it still makes for good listening. Lots of drum machine beats, clicks, loops and other electronic effects churning around the haunting vocals of Mimi Parker & Alan Sparhawk. I was reminded of Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt on “Harvest”, especially on songs like “Sandinista” and “Breaker.” Say what you will, but this record sounds like it is as much a product of Minnesota as it is of Low. Drums & Guns picks up where The Great Destroyer left off, minus bass player Zak Sally (whose duties are now covered by Matt Livingston). Even though it seems to lack some of the traditional song structures found on earlier releases, Low’s music still drips with passion and dynamic motion. However, their songs now seem to have taken on a new texture and form. The ambiance of this record is somewhat monotonous, noisy and continually building in intensity. Overall, the album sounds primed to burst into the fervent rock Low is known for, but never does. All in all, how many bands leave a listener wanting more after fourteen years and eight records? The bio states they have been playing different versions of these songs live for sometime, but I do not recognize them. I have not made the effort to catch a show in several years, but this album may be just the motivation I needed. [Review : Jason Zabby]

Sub Pop Records

Lower Forty-Eight Apertures

Lower Forty-Eight hails from San Francisco, the cold winds of the city infect their second release with a sharp and cruel sound. This three piece creates complex and daring songs that jump across the chugga-chugga map from technical Converge spastics to the controlled power of Small Brown Bike. It is the latter band with which Lower Forty-Eight has the most in common; building upon the heavy-handed precision of late 90’s post-hardcore. The band can drift from subtle picking to heavy riffing within the five plus minutes of album centerpiece “Desperate Signs.” Longer tracks like closer “The Ring” take their time building up to the screaming breakdown without ever growing weary. Likewise, “Blaue Augen” carries its six plus minutes of stomp and riff on the weight of Phil Becker’s march time drumming without crushing itself from extensive musical play. This problem plagues many a band; barely riding the thin line between carrying a song to its proper limits and making a convoluted track full of off-key shouts and quick time changes. Lower Forty-Eight pull it off with a flawless vigor. They never cloud guitarist/singer Andrew Lund’s vocals with unnecessary back-ups or sing-a-longs, allowing him to explore the delivery of lyrics with a clear approach. “Seventh Sight” finds Lund in a belly induced yelp, while “Massive Denial, Massive Guilt” finds him veering towards a spoken shout, bringing to mind Mike Reed or Chris Wollard. The Musicianship really finds it place in the weaving off notes of Lund’s licks and Grady Mutzel’s bass on the straight for the throat cut “Afterlife” and the heavy heartfelt “Truth from Fact.” Here Mutzel’s playing creates a subtle ambience behind the pouncing drums that keeps the song in line, steering clear of the repetitious rhythms most bands attempt to pass off as backing tracks. Lower Forty-Eight has what it takes to build a solid base and rise to the Upper FiftyTwo. [Review : Sam Sousa] Monotreme Records

Maaster Gaiden

Like it Never Happened You’d never know this band is a two-piece. Not that the music is complex math-metal; just the opposite, this is garage punk: three chords, cranked up speakers and a fuck off attitude. There’s also a blues-based intensity, combined with the “Let’s start a riot with these songs” attitude of early rock and roll. Alex Anguiano’s nasal infused vocals and snotty delivery give songs like “Without You” and “Girls like You” the eat shit approach they need to be believable. Maaster keep the songs simple, only one track crosses the two-minute

threshold, which is perfect because you couldn’t drag out these songs out with a tow hitch. The juvenile “Won’t Take My Meds” and “Hope it’s Not True” are soon to be standards of teenage angst, the ‘I’m weird so what, won’t take my medicine’ and ‘Every face just looks like another liar’ lyricism keep these guys honest. Far too often bands with this sound play out like a contrived version of something so natural, for Gaiden it’s far too honest to not sound like this. Adam Asmar’s drumming is spandex tight, pulsing and pacing along every track without congesting it full of unnecessary rolls and fills. He cuts the shit, open hi-hat blaring, a double pounce on the floor, while Anguiano’s guitar strums with exigency. Every ounce of this duo’s small town existence plays out on this twenty-minute record; you can hear them ache to leave it all behind. Like It Never Happened is the record to hand a fourteen year old, angry, fun, and honest. [Review : Sam Sousa] Big Action Records

Maps of Norway Sister Stations

The new-wave / electronica / garage sound of this band is cool. Songs like “Victory Lane,” “Manners” and “Cellophane” are all fast paced charmers for sure. Giant, sticky and math-like bass and drum tooling are wound into over-produced electronic sounding guitar effects. Under normal circumstances, these things together would annoy me. But they work together perfectly for Maps of Norway. Rebecca Morcial’s vocals are, as their bio states, legitimately crooning. All the goodness aside, I must say I enjoy the newwave garage rock feel much more than the more electronic portions of this album. Even though Maps of Norway do not over-do their particular version of the classic “electronica” sound, they have come dangerously close. If you are not into electronic swirls winding about, then Maps of Norway may not be your thing, but if you are open to new sounds, then this record will quickly grow on you and slowly take over your deck as it did mine. [Review : Jason Zabby] Guilt Ridden Pop

Mass Movement of the Moth Outerspace

Being all over the place musically is something that a lot of bands happen upon, or more often strive for. Whether or not these D.C. natives are aiming for chaos, they’ve succeeded in finding it. Frantic rhythms, bright guitar riffs, fuzzy keyboards and shouted vocals are all thrown together. The result often sounds like frenzied Northeast hardcore, but just as often sound like an almost psychedelic carnival. It isn’t hard to lob comparisons to An Albatross, especially on “Idle Minds Speak in Binary,” the opener. It takes straightforward, winding guitar riffs and hyperactive bass lines and puts them together with driving rhythms. The

result is loud and intense, but hard to really lump into any sort of hardcore sub-genre. “Fang” is next, and puts together something of a template for a lot of the other songs here. It starts as a choppy, spastic hardcore song. But instead of just throwing keyboards on the pile of sounds, they actually carve out room for the keyboard parts in the chaos. This constant variation in tempo and rhythm is hardly subtle, but the large leaps are made surprisingly smoothly. “Seven” and “Riddle Me 666” are the best example of the band’s handling of very different sounds right next to one another. The loudest, most choppy hardcore sections are often followed right away by the spacey, keyboard and bass-driven passages. Instead of sounding like binary, Locust-esque schizophrenia, it actually flows pretty smoothly. It’s hard for me to figure out exactly how the band pulls it off, but the transitions are always sudden and smooth at the same time. Outerspace manages to cover a lot of ground in just over 30 minutes. The intensity and huge variation in sounds is dizzying, but never too abrupt thanks to tightly constructed songs. They rely on choppy rhythms and smooth transitions for an expansive and pleasingly original take on post-hardcore. Exotic Fever Records


Contagion Heuristic Avant-thrash doesn’t even begin to describe the sound of this record, like having your eardrums pierced with a sword. From the blaring, immediate sirens that open “Thumbs Down, Lambpit” to the same shrieking alarm that ends “Slime Aesthete,” no album ever made me feel more old than this. Turn it down. The cuts are tight, sharp musicianship and a no holds barred approach to songwriting keep the listener on their toes. The sporadic drumming pounds behind concentrated noise on “MK” and “Executive Indecision” where with each passing second my head feels closer to complete explosion. It’s no shock that this band of collision hails from the steel drenched streets of Pittsburgh. They literally sound like cars crashing. What Microwaves does have going for itself is expert playing. It is obvious that each member knows their instrument inside and out, and Kuzy’s spoken/shouted vocals carry with them a sense of urgency and immediacy that keep his words on the forefront of the audio. MacGregor’s bass blips and blurps like the ray of a futuristic spaceship over metal-like chugs. The Microwaves cut Contagion on two-inch tape, giving this sounds-of-tomorrow slab an old school, digital-less vibe. [Review : Sam Sousa]

Crucial Blast Records

The Memories Attack Self-Titled

The Memories Attack is a Canadian duo that do the based in different cities collaboration thing, which reminds me a little bit of Postal Service. In this case the two members live in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and have been in bands such as Falling Bodies, Orange Glass, and Eric’s Trip, none of which I have heard. Looking at the CD and reading through the literature that came with it I was expecting a conceptual project thing with a lot of intriguing noises located in weird places. What you get when you put this on is different, and a lot better. Most of the album consists of melodic (sometimes a bit psych) pop songs. The vocals are smooth and refined, but strong enough to cut through the often thick texture that supports them. I can see this band being one of those indie rock projects that find crossover success in a more mainstream way. The music is melodic and catchy, the vocals are smooth and the overall feel is very likeable. The Shins or countrymen Band of Horses are not inaccurate reference points. The first two songs were the ones I liked best. “Love in the Time of Hate” and “Timeline: Gone” are both polished, poppy ballads that are very catchy. “End it All” reminds me a little bit of You’re Living All Over Me-era Dinosaur Jr. which is very good. “Annalee and the Roof ” is the song that comes closest to what I expected this would sound like. It is lo-fi and spacey, with random noises inserted throughout the track. It’s not bad necessarily, but I really don’t have much interest in it. Overall, this is a very good record and you should check it out. [Review : Andre Medrano] Little Mafia Records

The Midwestern Self-Titled (CDEP)

The three members of The Midwestern have, by virtue of their choice in band names have done most of my job for me. At least in terms of general description of the band, it’s pretty much taken care of already. This is a fairly new band hailing from Chicago, and they wear it on their sleeve as much as in their name. The record opens with “Molson Golden,” a midtempo instrumental song. In combining the angular, lush chords of Owls with the pleasing but challenging rhythms of Tortoise they further wallow in Chicago’s stench. None of this is bad, but it’s hardly surprising either. Just as quickly as I had this figured out, the second track, “Showcase” opens. It’s a step or two quicker than the opener and features really solid, but not necessarily virtuosic vocals. The influences here are different, but geographically really close to those of the opener. Think early Braid or much more burly Jejune and you’re on the right track. The song switches off between winding guitar/bass work and much more choppy sections with solid, unassuming vocal lines. It closes with a delightfully chaotic, but still solidly melodic section, which reminds me of Polyvinyl’s late 90’s heyday in the best way possible. The final two tracks take elements of the first two, and expand on them consistently and proficiently. “Southwester” winds its way through multiple tempos and structures without ever straying far from a well-defined idea. The

The New Trust

Dark Is The Path Which Lies Before Us Despite this being their first proper full length, The New Trust is a band practically buried sub-plots already. They are a side project, a co-ed band and feature a married couple. At the same time there’s also something tantalizingly straightforward about their approach to music, though not always about the music itself. The band is fronted by bassist/singer Josh Staples, who also plays in The Velvet Teen. The story goes that The New Trust’s relatively short and straightforward approach is what kept him sane during the recording of The Velvet Teen’s effectively drawn out Elysium. Staples is joined by guitarist, singer (and wife) Sara Sanger (for whom the band is a side project to her outstanding photography). The lineup is rounded out by guitarist Matthew Izen, also of Polar Bears, and drummer Julia Lancer, who both live with Stapes and Sanger in Northern California. Immediately this is what I expected, and hoped for, after their debut EP (We Are Fast Moving Motherfuckers, We Are Men And Women Of Action), which came out a couple years ago. It features winding guitars, haphazard rhythms and huge doses of what was best about mid-90’s indie rock from both coasts. The opening track, “A Spoiled Surprise, A Cheap Reveal” starts with a bouncy and melodic bass riff, topped off by meandering guitar work. The guitars especially constantly alternate between working together and going completely against each other. The whole interaction and the bass playing especially reminds me of the first couple No Knife records. This is a recurring theme, though it’s mixed with less precise influences from bands like Garden Variety and Vitreous Humor. There are also some nods to Dischord bands, especially Shudder To Think (on Staples’ vocals in particular). All of this makes for an energetic, but surprisingly layered result. The record features three or four really standout tracks, including the opener, the soaring “When The Dead Start Rising,” and the more contemplative “The Body And The Brain.” My favorite overall is definitely “Wake Up It’s The Nineties,” which is a perfect example of a song that’s engaging and catchy right away, but still doesn’t get old when put on over and over. And that, beyond all the comparisons, the sub-genres and recently bygone eras covered here, is the biggest credit to The New Trust. A balance between immediate appeal and lasting effect is hard to find, and harder than ever to stumble into these days. Yet, every second of the 38 minutes and 13 tracks on Dark Is The Path Which Lies Before Us offers a perfect melding of the two. If that doesn’t have you heading to the record store, I don’t know what will. Slowdance Records

guitar work is bright and technically really solid without ever wanking or hiding behind distortion. Sometimes modern bands think that an instrumental song needs xylophone or saxophone or some other distraction-phone to keep people entertained. But The Midwestern proves that it only needs really strong guitar work to accomplish the same thing. The EP closes with “In Like A Lamb, Out Like A Lion,” a loud, heavy-handed payoff that the other three songs seemed to be hinting at. It reminds me a lot of Piglet (another young, and exciting new Chicago-area band) or even a less complex Six Parts Seven. It is the perfect ending to a really strong introduction to the next in line for Chicago’s (mostly) instrumental, post-indie rock throne. Rorschach Records


Co-Op Brewery Mutiny are an Australian six-piece delivering something akin to upbeat Renaissance Festival-like music. It creates a sense of real excitement and urgency that is hard to come by these days. At first it was easy to dismiss them as a rather typical band, like most bands that play traditional sounding pirate music, laden with mandolins, accordions and Jonny Rotten-styled yelps. OK, you do not really hear that too often. They immediately bring to mind bands like the Tossers, Defiance Ohio, or the Dropkick Murphy’s; comparisons that come close, but do not define their sound very well. The opener was OK, nothing to write home about. However, the second track “Eighty Punks and an Old P.A.” really sold this record to me as something special. There are no frills in the lyrics, you know the story they are telling, it is the same story you wrote as a youngster surrounding your favorite band at the local Legion Hall. In the beginning it was easy to identify with the entire package Mutiny pushed forth, but as the album rolled on, it became apparent that it told a batch of new stories. Other tunes like “Jumping the Rattler” and “Convict Rum Song” include some very clever lyrics and even more interesting musical arrangements. Each instrument really complements the other, creating honest feelings of community. “Dirty Jig” sums up the record for what it is, a dark and introspective look into the human condition. It’s one big giant nod to the underbelly of life: sex, drugs and Australia. Drums driving a medium pace with math-like folk bass, minimalist in the purest sense, dark and gothic. Mutiny’s convict ancestors would be proud. A stereotype? Maybe, but in the end, when the internet has solidified the destruction of most local or regional sounds, it will be a communities’ history that stands alone as truly original and one of a kind. Mutiny might play a musical style many are familiar with, but they bring a story you know nothing about. The music kicks ass too. [Review : Jason Zabby] Fistolo Records




Working Nine To Wolf

To be quite honest I didn’t even know that BYO was still in business, I knew you could get the old releases, but new music, well. Nothington is a four piece hailing from San Francisco and they certainly have the style down. It’s mid-nineties punk; heavy distortion, mid-tempo, five chord songs (two of which are just for the breakdown) with tons of sing-alongs. Jay Nothington’s vocals are melodic and gravely, like Lars Fredrickson, only rougher and uglier. The eleven songs here sound like the best Social Distortion or Face to Face outtakes you’ve never heard. Straight ahead tracks like “Last Time” and “Where I Stand” have a heavy, loud sound with to-the-point lyrics about keeping your head held high. Mike Hicks’ bass work is steady, the most solid part of the band. They tear through track after track, only a few of which go over three minutes. The band has a heart on the sleeve, straightforward approach that makes all of this believable. Too often bands aren’t convincing, but Nothington has a level of personal intensity that most bands are without. They aren’t re-inventing the wheel, but they certainly are the strongest spoke to roll around in quite sometime. [Review : Sam Sousa]

Pinebender have been around in some form since 1997, though singer/guitarist Chris Hansen is the only original member. They begin their third proper full length in a risky way, with the 14-minute dirge “Parade of Horribles.” It works in a bright, but slow and sludgy way, which reminds me of a cross between early Sabbath and Tortoise. The trio features Hansen’s sparse, but effective, soaring vocals and guitar, along with baritone guitar and drums. The bass-less trio is the furthest thing from hollow, with huge tone and dynamics. This is thanks in part to Greg Norman’s outstanding production, split between Electrical Audio and his own studio. It’s hard not to hear obvious nods to Hum, and Failure throughout the record. Pinebender don’t borrow from either band in a subtle way, but they never rely just on that either. The slow motion metal riffs and melodically monotone vocals both lean toward the best of the mid-90’s post-alternative scene. The opener is long and slow, but never seems long-winded. The same is true for the remaining seven tracks. The hour that covers never seems uneventful, despite the songs’ slow pace and slower tempos. This is exactly the sort of intensity through economy that makes for a record with a long life span in my regular rotation. I can’t decide if I like Pinebender so much because they remind me so much of a largely bygone era of indie rock, and frankly I don’t really care.

BYO Records

Only Crime Virulence This is the second record from Only Crime, who are the kind of side project/all-star band that is both too easy and almost impossible to review at the same time. The band features Bill Stevenson on drums (Black Flag, Descendents, etc.), Russ Rankin (Good Riddance) on vocals, Aaron Dalbec (Bane) and Zach and Donivan Blair (Hagfish) on guitar and bass respectively. The result, as with their first record, is about what you’d expect given the lineup. The songs are straightforward melodically, with pretty simple but tightly constructed guitar riffs. The rhythms are slyly angular, which adds a welcome break from standard cut-time punk rock fare. There is something much more cohesive and a bit deeper than their debut record. The songs are pretty similar from one to the next, though there’s enough subtle variation that this will be interesting to most anyone that’s really into mid to late-90’s Fat bands. That said, I went through a big Fat Wreck period in the first half of my teens (as did most people I know my age). But I was never a big Good Riddance fan, partly because of Rankin’s vocals. The guy does his thing well, but his four or five note range has always gotten pretty old for me (even though he uses his limited resources well). That is as much the case with Only Crime as it ever was with Good Riddance, though these guys do have a bit more interesting approach musically. It helps a little, but the dude is still not my favorite singer. This is a refreshing mix of styles from a number of veterans of melodic punk rock. The combination is worth checking out if the bands on their resume were ever favorites of yours, past or present. Fat Wreck Chords

Lovitt Records

Possible Selves Self-Titled

Multi-instrumentalist Neal Williams comes into the picture with his debut solo record. I had to say that I was impressed by the extremely ambitious instrument array that Williams touted on the inside of the liner notes (which I read before listening): 19 in all, including lap steel and accordian. My intuition told me this was sure to be a good release. I have a profound appreciation for artists that take it upon themselves to learn an incredible array of instruments and play them on a record to create a barrage of sound. I haven’t been more disappointed in recent memory. Williams promises much but, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver with this release. Sitting squarely in the folk genre, this record demonstrates much less experimentation than such a varied instrument repetoire might have you imagine. The truly unfortunate part of this is that Williams is not a bad musician. “Takers” features some very nice, genre-appropriate guitar finger picking, and it is tastefully accompanied by some interesting percussion instruments and a bit of strings—right before the song is cut off and replaced by an aimlessly meandering guitar and harmonica number. The point is that someone like Williams could really benefit from a bit of collaboration and artistic discourse. It is clear on “Lights in our Bodies,” by far the record’s best track, that he has some great ideas. This track illustrates a remarkably full sound, with Williams himself at the helm of dozens of selves, all of which contributing to a listenable texture. Yet

Benoît Pioulard Précis

I was very intrigued when I first listened to this release, so I went searching for more information on the enigmatic Pioulard. On his website,, which, other than exhibiting one of the most strikingly beautiful examples of minimalism I’ve seen recently, I found, among other things, a link to a Wikipedia article on him that betrayed his true identity as none other than Michigan’s Thomas Meluch. Also a sight to behold is his collection of Polaroids, which seems to be a wonderful obsession; he includes one (presumably an original) with each purchase of his “collection” (Précis, 2005’s Enge 7”, 2004’s Random Number...Colors Start CD, and assorted badges and stickers), they are ubiquitous on his site, and the video for “Triggering Back,” one of Précis’s more lovely tracks, features Meluch wandering around with a childlike innocence snapping them. What Meluch is able to accomplish with his voice, a guitar, some ambient noise and a few mixed percussion instruments is truly a sound to behold. His influence from the “intelligent dance music” (IDM) wave of a few years ago, including artists like Autechre, Boards of Canada, and Aphex Twin, is rather obvious. Yet to hear that woven into an experimental folk texture is wonderfully pleasing. Meluch tends to use it more to support his vocals and guitar playing, rather than to highlight the beauty of the sensitivities of an artist who is able to intricately craft a subtle sound art piece using a bit of static and some pops and clicks. The best illustration of this is on “Moth Wings,” where, for one minute and sixteen seconds, a set of effected samples accompanies a simple, yet beautiful piano line. The result is bliss. If what you’re looking for is the typical release from a singer/songwriter, you may not find what you need here. However, if your musical appetite is whet by the subtle brilliance that can be accomplished with minimal sound, then it’s sure to interest you. It is worth picking up the album simply for “Corpus Chant,” the record’s seventh track, which features Meluch’s sensitively layered vocals over a repetitive, melodic line laid down by a dulcimer-like instrument. Songs like this are what will make Meluch famous; the hype is already beginning to surround the 22 year old prodigious songwriter: “Triggering Back” was recently chosen as KEXP’s song of the day, and Précis has been receiving deservedly glowing reviews. It will be remarkable to discover what else Meluch comes up with in the way of gorgeous, lo-fi, genuine releases. [Review : Nick Cox] Kranky Records

Signal To Trust Golden Armour

Over the course of four long years, a lot can happen in any facet of music. Minneapolis’ Signal To Trust have never been particularly prone to follow the trends. Even so, Golden Armour is their second full length and first release since 2002, so it’s still hard to know quite what to expect. In a lot of ways, it picks up roughly where Folklore left off years ago. But, at the same time, it’s obvious that singificant time was spent working on these 12 songs. The overriding quality to Signal To Trust’s sound is a lushly melodic, heavily layered feeling that is thoroughly Midwestern. The angular rhythms and carefully intertwined guitar and bass lines nod pretty clearly in the direction of Touch & Go’s more melodic output. Among the all the choppy, stopping and starting rhythms there is also a much more immediately pleasing aspect to their sound. It isn’t new-wave in the traditional, keyboard and dance beat-laden way. Instead, the way the dual guitar lines intersect with the cerebral vocal melodies does legitimize the prescribed comparisons to XTC or My Bloody Valentine. Where these dark melodies meet the more involved rhythms and song structures, there’s a fairly obvious leaning toward Wire and Gang Of Four as well. Above and beyond these sub-genres, and musical eras is a melding of different sounds that isn’t too hard to categorize, but impossible to cram into any pigeonhole. There is the Police-esque guitar riff that opens “The Herald,” or the straight-faced, but still funky breakdown in “Silver Coast.” Just when you’ve wrapped your head around all of that, there are the boisterous gang vocals to open “Now We Got What You Got,” and the perfectly placed trumpet line that ends it. The whole song is the perfect closer to a record that seems impossible to close. In the end, Golden Armour is immediate in its effect and a dense layering of sounds and attention-grabbing moments at the same time. This, truly is “post-punk” in every way. The record spends 50 minutes gradually pushing outward on its boundaries in such a careful way, that you don’t realize until it’s all over just how far you’ve traveled. This may have taken four years to complete, but it was well worth the wait (and pretty close to fucking perfect).

Modern Radio Records

this momentum sadly doesn’t exist throughout the record, and Williams neglects to learn his own lesson from this track: songs don’t need a fast tempo to have energy. The corollary of this proposition is that slow songs can certainly have energy, which apart from “Lights,” the record seems to be without. Then there are songs that, in all of my journalistic fervor, I have no idea how to classify other than horrible. Some tout such brilliant lyrical gems as “I need to get myself a glass of tea / The kind that relaxes me / Not the kind that turns to cocaine in my piss.” I beg you, readers, to imagine what kind of musical accompaniment could make those lyrics sound anything other than asinine. If you’ve found one, I’d bet anything it’s not the one recorded here. It’s clear that Williams is suffering from a dire lack of inspiration and constructive criticism. It’s not out of the question that Williams’s sophomore release could overcome the mess he’s created here, but only time will tell if Possible Selves becomes a viable and listenable project any time in the near future. [Review : Nick Cox] Sao Bento Records


Our Puzzling Encounters Considered I’m not going out on any sort of limb, when I say there’s a serious glut of metal/hardcore bands popping up these days. Most of them are trying to find the heaviest and/or craziest approach, though most of them end up sounding pretty much the same. Instead of using any of the time-tested shortcuts, Psyopus legitmately forge their own path. Their approach lands them somewhere between frantic grindcore pummeling and the complex rhythms of Calculating Infinityera Dillinger. The result is about as confusing and hectic as it looks on paper. But there’s also an obvious attention to detail in the creation and delivery of the songs. Everything is structured in a linear way, but the transitions between sections are all surprisingly smooth (though usually abrupt). The guitar parts carry most of the load content-wise, with a lot of riffs that sound like Botch in fast forward. Other times, the guitar work sounds a bit more like traditional speed metal. Though, like everything else in a Psyopus song, it comes at you in bits and pieces. There are short bursts where I can nail down a countable rhythm or an obvious influence, but it usually disappears as soon as my brain catches up to it. Though they’ve only been a band for a few years, Psyopus have found their own niche on their second record. I have a hard time picturing many bands in a realm of modern hardcore or metal that can keep up with these guys technically. But their ambitious songwriting and arrangements are what really set Our Puzzling Encounters Considered apart from the pack. Way the fuck apart, in fact.

is plagued with a million trend hoppers. But Revival’s past credits in Canyon and as Jay Farrar’s backing band, give them the chops to create a coherent and direct piece of Americana. They stray from the depression-era folk gems, or the twangy country sound that flow through so many of these bands. Cuts like “Anniversary” and “Following You” stand firm in acoustic balladry without ever getting schmaltzy, their soft guitars dance behind trembling vocals. ‘Favorite One’ cuts from the same cloth, but now Josh Read is begging to be let go and left alone, and this where Revival comes in clear. Noel White’s slight percussion and Evan Berodt’s guitar coalesce with Read’s voice to form a distinct and believable union. Read’s distant and ethereal vocals, neither forced nor fake, lie on the edge of personal breakthrough, the closest level of honesty we can hope for out of any one performer. On tracks like ‘Dizzy’ and ‘King of Kings’ the band stomps through upbeat bluesy tones, meshed into spacey picking and this is what works best for this band. They play the alt-country card just enough to give them accessibility, but temper it with echo-drenched guitars that keep them interesting enough not to be predictable. On the cover, beyond the frontman’s somber face and hidden eyes, lies empty countryside, a wideopen space for the fitting, it is here, where all environments collide that Revival marks its own territory. [Review : Sam Sousa]

Horses of War I give every record I receive to review four spins to let my ears soak it up and make a clear impartial decision. The thing is a certain mood, or time of day, can subject the review to the worst of its qualities and all music has shit qualities. Revival’s Horses of War is why I go the distance with each piece of wax; it’s a beautiful record grooved with lush melodies and spacey guitars. The alt-country rock resurgence

Abacus Recordings

Gypsy Eyes Records

Dan Sartain

Join Dan Sartain


’81-’85 Recordings Remember the Ribzy track “Collapse” on the classic Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation? Well how about all their hard work putting San Jose hardcore on the map? Not that either. Well how about that legendary story where Jello Biafra asked if their lead singer was a racist and then no confrontation ensued? Well good then, you’re not alone because about the only people who remember Ribzy are the people who played in Ribzy, and even some them are trying to forget. This collects all of their unnecessary and undeserved, boring recordings into one full length that almost no one will buy. It’s three-chord punk without energy, reminiscent of Youth Brigade or even the Germs, only again I remind you it’s boring. The irony is that it sounds like what someone today would write to be retro. Yet it’s not, these are completely legitimate recordings from the eighties, full of uninspired snotty vocals, and trite anti-establishment lyricism. They littered the insert with flyers where they opened classic keggers for DOA, Black Flag, Flipper, and shit load of other bands with appeal. Jesus, how things have changed. [Review : Sam Sousa]

Vinehell Records

Metal Blade Records


essentially function as one long breakdown. They are a bit slower than many of their more contemporary peers (think most Bridge 9 bands), with a bit more space for straightforward, though well-written guitar licks. What is lost in breakneck tempos is more than made up for with strong and heavy-handed intensity. They avoid chugga-chugga repetition and boring tough guy vocals as well, which only adds to the immediate appeal of Business As Usual. With nine songs that cover less than 25 minutes, Righteous Jams have to pack a lot into each song to give it staying power. By and large, they succeed. “Lizards” and “Thought Vacation,” the blistering opener are standout tracks. There is obviously a bad content-to-bullshit ration in hardcore today, and this tends to include some of the so-called classic or throwback bands. But Righteous Jams manage to combine a classic approach with the benefits of forward thinking songwriting and clear production in a tight and refreshing way. Without the immediate, pit-inducing anthems of their debut, this sophomore record finds a perfect balance between mid-tempo riffs and dynamic anthems. The result is a strong follow-up to an outstanding debut, and one of the better straightforward hardcore records of the year so far.

Envision the gnarly whines of Hank Williams and Tom Petty layered into a cake of dirty doo-wop, iced with the pop sweetness of Buddy Holly’s. Dan Sartain is the new king of “tell it like it is,” and he takes no prisoners with confidence and strapping authority. With simple and genius musical structures found in songs like, “I Wanted It So,” “Drama Queens” and “Gun vs. Knife,” Sartain masterfully constructs back to basics beats and riffs. These have always been the bread and butter of truly great rock n’ roll. Actually, the songs on this record are at the same time entirely similar, but somehow very different. In the same breath he can take you from the psychedelic swagger of Strawberry Alarmclock, to the crooning styles of lounge rockabilly, or the sturdy sounds of Cash or Orbison. The guitar and lyric work by Sartain is great, but this record would not be as great as it is without the percussion of Rajan Permoley and the others who helped him construct this masterpiece. According to the bio, this album was “recorded all over the world,” with appearances by John Reis (Hot Snakes), Brian Moon, Liam Watson, Gar Wood, Ben Moore, and this father, Al Sartain. From back porches to regular studios, the recording of this record is half the joy. Its warm, hi-fi whirr is surprisingly huge and welcoming. Pick up this record, then go buy his first record as I did. I hear he has a crazy live show as well, so I suggest you go to that as well. [Review : Jason Zabby]

Righteous Jams

Swami Records

Business As Usual

Without conforming completely to the role of hardcore throwback, Righteous Jams still reek of a bygone era. Many of their influences come from their native Boston, and almost all of them are long gone. SSD, Cro Mags and early Black Flag come to mind pretty quickly, though they use a bit more patient approach. Their sound comes from a time when hardcore was all about the breakdown. Instead of falling straight into that mold, Righteous Jams write songs that


House of Cards (CDEP) You can take a breath now, your prayers have been answered. They finally combined the barroom pop of Spoon with the stadium rock of the Foo Fighters. That’s right someone took the sound of cigarettes and mixed it with the sound of corporate rock and call it Shipwreck, or as I cleverly

call it Shitwreck. I’ve had naps that were more exciting than this. The bass player’s name is listed as Vladimir Brilliant; seriously, I am not kidding. The opening title track has the gall to rip-off the only Gary Glitter song you know, I jumped out of my seat and started cheering for Selanne to hit the ice. “Atlantic” attempts to cross The Pond and evoke Tom Yorke, only to end-up sounding like he’s congested, backed by boring string plucking that couldn’t save this five-minute number. “Alias” attempts to evoke more Brit Daniels, while the closer “Black Moon” sounds like bad eighties goth, influenced by Pink Floyd. But don’t fear this is the first of four EP’s they plan to release over a year and half because the world needs more drudgery. I’m not sure what angers me more, that they from the same town that generated Braid, or that the asshole who wrote the press release tries to insinuate that no one knows who Malkmus & Kannberg are. Oh, oh, can I guess, is it Pavement. Do I win something? I hope it isn’t another Shipwreck EP. [Review : Sam Sousa] Self-Released


Smoke Or Fire


After a solid, if not unremarkable debut in 2005, these Richmond transplants (by way of Boston) have returned with a sophomore release. Since that first record, they’ve toured a lot and replaced their original drummer with Dave Atchison (From Ashes Rise). Smoke Or Fire play melodic and anthemic punk rock with catchy, gruff vocals, choppy rhythms and simple but pleasing guitar riffs. Hot Water Music, or fellow Richmond residents Avail and Strike Anywhere all make pretty easy and apt reference points. The band obviously spent a bit more time on this follow up, because the songs are no less catchy, but have a bit more staying power. They are still pretty straightforward, immediately pleasing songs, but the back and forth between the guitars and the vocal lines is enough to keep your interest. The opener, “What Separates Us All,” and “I’ll Be Gone” are obvious highlights, and there are very few duds. Overall, the ratio of refreshing throwback to predictable rehash is definitely in Smoke Or Fire’s favor. This Sinking Ship doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but is well worthwhile none-the-less.

Sterling has certainly taken their sweet time putting together a follow-up to their self-titled debut, which came out in 2003. Drummer Tony Lazzara (who has done time in both Atombombpocketknife and Milemarker) and guitarist Eric Chaleff are both original members. They brought in long-time contributor and touring member Al Burian on bass (Milemarker, Challenger) and added pianist Andy Lansangan (90 Day Men). The result is a surprisingly dark instrumental record. The songs and production are dominated by a ton of low-end, both in the drumming and loud, metal-influenced bass lines. The guitar and piano parts share pretty equal time with the overpowering rhythm section. There are only three songs that make up the record -- the first two cover more than 13 minutes each, while the closer is under 10. All three tracks wind along, swaying gracefully (but never lightly) between a couple very distinct sounds. Often, there is an obvious slow and heavy feel, which reminds me of the neo-instrumetal of Chicago counterparts like Russian Circles or maybe Pelican. But, Sterling is a bit more abstract and considerably less riff-based than either. But throughout the record (especially in “Acacia”) there is also a much more psychedelic feel to the songs. This is mostly a result of the place where the spacey keyboards and drawnout guitar and bass effects meet. These two sets of sounds are considerably distinct and separate, though Sterling alternate between them gracefully. All three songs are constructed in an obviously linear fashion, utilizing the composition techniques of modern classical or jazz. They meander along, without ever sounding like a dreaded jam session or back and forth wanking. Thanks to careful, but unpredictable composition, this works on a number of levels. The overwhelmingly dark and monolithic production suits the sounds on the record, and is as dense and initially unwelcoming as it is ultimately rewarding.

This Sinking Ship


Fat Wreck Chords

A History of Cut Nails In America There was this great band with lots of hillbilly hollering I heard many years ago called 16 Horsepower. Shortstack is the same sort of deal, only not as impressive. These guys are obviously good musicians who can work their way around the reverb-rockabilly thing, but there is just something about them that does not sit well. They handle the sound, but seem to have a hard time making it their own. I bet Short Stack are pretty cool live and judging by their website, they have the look to match their music. First impressions aside, I am not saying is a bad record, just uninteresting. There are some good moments, when they allow themselves to get lost in wild guitar picking and great big upright bass marathons underpinned by various jazzy drum beats. Along these same lines, the song “Wreckin’ Ball” offers up its own dirty and grimy progression of slide guitar and swing beats. But as with most of the songs on this album, it is smothered in a bit too much guitar wankery and drum brushing. There are very few songs that stand out, rather they all just seem to become one giant song. This is a style you really have to enjoy in order to understand. I am not sure if I understand what they want to achieve, but if it is the dark mountain forest cliché, its just not happening for me. This is a band you might really enjoy live, but you probably wouldn’t make the effort to buy the T-shirt. [Review : Jason Zabby]

If it seems like these guys disappeared after releasing their debut record a few years ago, you’re right. After Mander Salis came out on Equal Vision, they toured consistently for months. But in the spring of 2005, they decided to cancel their summer tour dates and head home. Since then, they’ve spent most of the last two years working on Cotton Teeth and it shows. Even more than on Mander Salis, the songs are almost absurdly straightforward. They mix direct, melodic rock and mid-tempo Americana/folk. Most of their songs lack the twang or gimmick that would make any sort of alt-country tag stick. In the place of big twists and turns, they use carefully thought out choruses and layered guitar work. At times, it’s a bit over the top, though it usually works pretty well. Songs like “Gypsy Melodies” seem a little trite the first time I heard them, but really grew on me quickly. Though there aren’t a ton of new ideas presented here, Cotton Teeth is a carefully put together and welcoming listen. It’s like a mixture of mewithoutYOU’s simple energy, but with a much more patient and legitimate folk feel. I think this may be lost on most of the kids that tend to buy up a lot of Equal Vision releases these days, but will likely find plenty of believers.

Six Parts Seven

Sounds Like Violence

Cleveland’s Six Parts Seven have spent the better part of a decade just beneath the radar of instrumental indie rock’s upper reaches. While Explosions In The Sky are gently swaying back and forth under the bright lights of Conan O’Brien, Six Parts Seven are quietly releasing their fifth record. And while Explosions stuck strictly to their own successful formula on their most recent and most successful record, Six Parts Seven were expanding their sound in every direction. Borrowing equally from early Don Caballero, forward-thinking jazz and more conventional instrumental rock, they have found an ideal middle ground. The prominent horns on “Stolen Moments” remind me a bit of Aloha’s early (and strongest) work. Its construction is careful and its tempo is slow, but the arrangement and playing are anything but. The slow, winding dirge of “Knock At My Door” relies more on layered simplicity. Somehow, they take a quiet, winding collection of guitars and drums and pack it with gentle imagery and straight up hooks at the same time. “Confusing Possibilities,” the longest song here at just over seven minutes is also the most packed. It combines almost all of the sounds from the surrounding tracks into a slow and measured, but unpredictable epic. The ideas and presentation on Casually Smashed To Pieces may be lengthy to list, but they are packed together into a surprisingly short record. At just over half an hour, this has to be one of the shortest records in this genre I’ve ever heard (as well as the shortest the band has released). Leaving them wanting more is an important rule, though most similar bands completely ignore it. Without cutting anything short, Six Parts Seven have put together their most compact and astutely executed record to date. They may never land on MTV2, but they can still play circles around most of the similar instrumental bands that might.

With Blood On My Hands is the debut full length from this Swedish four-piece. They had previously released an EP that I remember hearing about but don’t remember hearing. Unfortunately, I found this album pretty boring, with very little here that is not a cut and paste from contemporary trends in punk/indie rock. The better moments on With Blood… can be described as countrymen The Hives with a touch more sandpaper. There are a few tracks with a strong rhythm section that remind me a little bit of Rocket From The Crypt and are okay. By far the best song on this is “Directions”, a melodic, possibly radio-ready song. It is a little dark like the rest of the album, but features pleasant song writing that works well with the vocals. Parts of this song sound not unlike fellow Scandinavians HIM. The low points of the record aren’t bad musically, just painfully boring. There is a generic Get Up Kids-style song called “Changes” and some more somber rock tracks. I think the thing that really makes this dull to me is the lyrical content. Obviously this dude is really bummed out about chicks. Maybe it is the challenge of writing/singing in a second language, but the words used here are elementary and fail to make a lasting impression. This line from “Heartless Wreck” is probably the low point, “I just want my heart back, you can send it in a box”. In addition, the singer’s accent comes across very thick. I don’t think that is a bad a thing necessarily but it is much more noticeable than in other Swedish bands. Why do these bands always sing in English? I can think of German, Spanish, French, Argentine, and French-Canadian (and plenty of other nationalities) bands that sing in their native language, but no Swedish bands that do that come to mind. Food for thought. These guys are clearly not bad musicians, but they lack the imagination and ambition to make a record I would want to listen to more than once. [Review : Andre Medrano]

Gypsy Eyes Records

Casually Smashed To Pieces

Suicide Squeeze Records

The Snake The Cross The Crown Cotton Teeth

Equal Vision Records

With Blood On My Hands

Deep Elm Records

File 13 Records

Sunn0))) & Boris Altar

Ahhh, this is nice. This is not a split album, by the way. Altar is a collaboration between noise masters sunn0))) and Japanese ass-kickers Boris. This means it’s going to be very loud, ambient, and fucking brilliant. “Etna” starts us off with slow, brooding amplifier worship. Three minutes in, the drums begin to play, the chords sustain, and sonic bliss is achieved. “N.L.T.” is next, and is the shortest tune on the disc at just under four minutes. The rest of the songs are each at least seven minutes long, leaving them plenty of time to develop. “N.L.T.” acts as a noisy breather before “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” comes on. “The Sinking Belle” is very mellow in comparison, and features vocals by guest vocalist Jesse Sykes. This is a great tune – mellow, drifting and hauntingly beautiful. Just after you’ve gotten used to this beauty, “Akuma No Kuma” comes in, with more amplifier worship, featuring Joe Preston of High On Fire/Melvins/ Earth/Thrones on vocals. “Fried Eagle Mind” goes into more ambience and trippy tones. This is a phenomenal album. Finishing up the album is “Blood Swamp”, featuring a guest spot by Kim Thayil of Soundgarden on guitar. “Blood Swamp” is another drone tune, with some crazy ambience in the background. Oh Lord, the bass! The blessed blessed bass!!! (Pat likes this album. You’ll have to excuse him, but he just removed all his clothing and is running around the house scaring the shit out of the cat.) [Review : Pat Dixon] Southern Lord Records

These Arms Are Snakes Easter

Because of their Botch and Kill Sadie roots, some would say These Arms Are Snakes were destined for greatness. It might be more appropriate to say they’re among the poor bastards left with the unenviable task of keeping post-hardcore interesting. But their latest release, the quixotically titled LP, Easter, shows they’re not doing a bad job. Like their contemporaries in The Blood Brothers and Vaux, These Arms Are Snakes are keeping their genre alive with synths, angular guitars and trippy lyrics. The album’s first track, “Mescaline Eyes” is a great example, and maybe the album’s high point. The bass guitar is given a lot of room to provide the accompaniment to the lines, “This takes us / to well groomed children / cross-legged groping at braile / trying to find their / creator’s name.” Single-string guitar melodies come in to match the vocals and provide a wonderful rising-octave crescendo. On this track, there is exactly the

Trap Them

Sleepwell Deconstructor Trap Them began as a side project more than four years ago, for Backstabbers Inc. singer Ryan McKenney and Brian Izzi of December Wolves. As both bands were dissolving, Trap Them went from side project to full time band. Before recording their debut full length, they added Transistor Transistor guitarist Nat Coughlan (on bass) and drummer John Heidenrich. The twelve songs here cover less than 22 minutes, though it isn’t due to a lack of content or ideas. Hyper-fast grind drumming sets the tone for all the songs, which vary from fast to really fucking fast. But they don’t hide behind the speed at which the songs (and the whole record) fly by. They manage to add a lot of elements to the songs, especially in the guitar parts, which pull together a lot of peripheral sub-genres. The guitar tone and varied (though always heavy) riffs remind me of Breather Resist, with an occasional, but obvious nod to Jesus Lizard or older Dischord bands. “Digital Dogs with Analog Collars” is a great example of this, and is my favorite track on the record. The riffs are towering and angular, but still just as fast as much of the record. Here especially, the choppy rhythms also add intensity and variety to the record, in a way that’s reminiscent of Jane Doe-era Converge. This is followed by the slow build-up of “Destructioneer Extraordinaire,” which is the longest track on the record by far at almost five minutes. It takes almost three minutes to hit its highest point, which is probably the crowning moment of the record. The song manages to act as an intermission and the dynamic peak at the same time. Trap Them have found a graceful middle ground where extreme grind-core, spastic hardcore and bottom-heavy post-punk meet. How they’ve made a masterful record at such a messy intersection is beyond me, but I’m not about to question it. Sleepwell Deconstructor is exactly what forward thinking and extreme heavy music should be, but so rarely is.

Trash Art Records

kind of frenetic, urgent sense to the music, lyrics the performance that most people look to experience in this genre. This natural and inspired-sounding culmination is hardly present elsewhere on the disc. The album’s single, “Horse Girl,” bends over vulgarly for the dance-beat direction that post hardcore has taken in recent years. The crescendo feels forced and overwritten as singer Steve Snere tries to scream his way into convincing us of a climax. I believe it like I do the come-hither look in a stripper’s eyes. Snere might be half the problem with this record. The guy uses the same rise-and-fall intonation on almost every line, without consideration for what the music is doing or what he’s saying. The heavy synthesizer presence creates some interesting ambient moments, but as happens with many bands that use keyboards, like Old Man Gloom and Isis, they’re less incorporated into the music than used as a break from it. The acoustic track, “Perpetual Bris,” offers a more productive contrast to the loud tracks with lighter synthscapes and an accordion. Easter is bookended by its best tracks. “Crazy Woman Dirty Train” features buoyant guitar work, tom-heavy drums and a finale fit for a Fourth of July funeral. [Review : Michael Flatt]

Jade Tree Records

31Knots The Days and Nights of Everything Everywhere Over the course of half a dozen releases in roughly as many years, Portland’s 31Knots have been getting steadily more popular and steadily less predictable with each new release. I have always been a big fan of the Knots, though I have to admit that the first few tracks on The Days and Nights… had me a bit disappointed. The band has always mixed stuttering and melodic indie rock with a half-prog/ half-carnival timbre. In fact, their self-applied tag of “postapocalyptic Vaudevillian punk” is actually surprising apt (and about as succinct as possible). But the opening notes of “Beauty” make for an awkward start to the record, with heavy synth lines, cloudy drums and staggering preacher vocals all stacked in an intriguing, though un-graceful way. “Sanctify,” the second track is next, and is downright annoying at first. Choppy rhythms from drum lines that seem reversed, topped by similarly disjointed vocals make for just over three minutes that are dense (to put it lightly). Before I could lose all of my faith, “Savage Boutique” arrives with a more bouncy rhythm, and lighter piano and horn parts that more than earn the “Vaudvillian” section of their self-applied label. The track is a welcome response to the two opening tracks, settling for a deceivingly simple tune that would pull in any Arcade Fire fan. After an opening to the record that is schizophrenic (even by 31Knots’ own standards), things start to really get rolling on “Man Become Me.” It features the angrily melodic vocals, and winding guitar lines that typified much of the band’s earlier output without sounding just like it. It’s followed by the equally strong standout “The Salted Tongue,” which features a swaying rhythm and vocal line that’s somehow angular and catchy

at the same time. The middle portion of the song features a cascading breakdown, which really establishes it as one of their best songs to date. The remaining six tracks find a nice balance between the two poles of 31Knots sound that is so abruptly presented early on. The static-laden “Hit List Shakes…” works like a more user friendly version of the second track, while the two short tracks after it seem like a welcome (though late) intermission. “Pulse Of A Decimal” is a slower, piano-driven track, which stands out as another candidate for the 31Knots greatest hits record that may never be released. “Walk With Caution” closes the record much like it opened – in a way that will annoy at first and intrigue after a few listens. To say that this is the most challenging record to date by a band that’s consistently compared to Yes, is a large statement. But, for better and worse it’s the case for The Days and Nights of Everything Everywhere. Polyvinyl Records

This Was The Year To Lose Friends & El Paso Hot Button


A Raining Sun of Light… Evolving out of years of improvised “stoner rock,” Titan’s A Raining Sun of Light and Love, For You and You and You crosses through a few genres, but makes certain not to stray too far from 70’s progressive rock. An important distinction, however, is that it is never exactly clear what Titan make of the pretentiousness and self-importance of that era. One thing that I do know is that I believe that they believe in the music they’re presenting to the world. There are subtle tones to the music that clearly state they know the subtle nuances to the established sound of psychedelic music the period of time they are strongly usurping from. Whether to credit this to the talents of the band or to the live recording technique of engineer Steve Revitte - of Liars and Beastie Boys fame - is left up to interpretation. The quartet is made up of drummer Dave Liebowitz and multi-instrumentalists Josh Anzano (guitar), Kris D’Agostino (keyboards), and Dan Bates (bass), and they are here to stay the course of long epic ballads that remind me of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, fantastic! [Review : Stirling Myles]

Tee Pee Records

SSSnakes (Split) This split full length features five songs from each band, both of which have an interesting take on noisy, experimental music. They both hail from, of all places Norman, Oklahoma. El Paso Hot Button is a one-man band, with noisy guitar, modified drums and vocals. The guitar is usually so low and loose sounding, that it could be mistaken for a bass. His songs combine an eerie, noisy feel with an almost funky combination of guitar lines and minimal drumming. The vocals are surprisingly clear and darkly seductive. The choppy “Karci K Gave Me Chlamydia” was my favorite of his songs here. It starts off with a strange, choppy and off-kilter rhythm. He then winds together hissing guitar noise, and half spoken/half sung vocals that sound like a (even more) perverted Prince over top of it. The result is off-putting and catchy at the same time. This Was The Year To Lose Friends’ approach is much heavier, though no less strange (especially at first) than El Paso Hot Button. They successfully combine the heavy-handed moments of intense Northeastern screamo and more riffbased, slower metal. ”Ache & Persistence” is a good example of the mixture. The drumming starts off sounding almost grind-influenced, but a step or two slower. Soon after the introduction, there is a disjointed and messy section that is much harder to pin down. It seems a bit sloppy at first, but in the best way possible. There’s something oddly inviting about the way they combine modern metal’s timbre with snotty hardcore’s choppy, frantic playing. The result actually doesn’t sound entirely like either thing. But it’s noisy in just the right way, and by the second listen I was really intrigued. Both bands manage to find some elbowroom, between pretty well established sub-genres. The split as a whole is a solid, though not immediately satisfying introduction to two ambitious, noisy bands from somewhere you might not expect.

Little Mafia Records

Village of Dead Roads Dwelling in Doubt

Many of you may remember the split these guys did with Spiritu out on Meteorcity a while back. This is pretty damn good sludge. These Pennsylvanian doom masters do a fantastic job mixing longer tunes with quick noisy intermediate songs to break up the album. My favorite on this disc is “Professing to be Wise”, with the slow pummel of the riff and mixture of clean and dirty vocals. “Blind Albino” picks up the pace and charges right through. One of the stranger tunes on the disc, “Hemingway Solution” mixes dissonant chord progressions with a pounding rhythm that just makes sense. “Cold New World” ends Dwelling in Doubt with an eight minute epic. This is another excellent song with the changes that it brings. Something to note is that Dwelling in Doubt was recorded live in one take. This keeps the disc fresh, and produces a hell of an energy emanating from the speakers. Definitely pick this one up if you’re into the likes of Godflesh, old Isis, or old Neurosis mixed with a healthy dose of Yob and Black Sabbath. [Review : Pat Dixon] Meteorcity Records

Whiskey Sunday / Snuggle Split Seven Inch

Whisky Sunday kicks off this 7” with some cool action packed punk rock. I especially dig the gruff vocals and melodic guitar opening on “Sunday Morning,” reminiscent of the UK Subs or even the Swinging Utters of yesteryear. This is a drinking song, but what the fuck should you expect from a band called Whiskey Sunday? A little hair of the dog never hurt anyone and the lyrics are just fine. The second song, “Sometimes You Lose” is also a charmer with a great chorus. I have heard a lot of good things about this band and I can

see why. This is punk rock with reason. I feel a bit let down by the other side of the split. Snuggle provides the listener with two songs that linger somewhere between Kid Dynamite and every other screamo band you have ever heard. The first selection “Heavy Hangs the Head” follows the formula of most basic three-chord punk rock songs, including a well-placed anthem chorus. However, the series of blast beats towards the end of the song make me feel a bit awkward. Although it starts off with an iffy drum intro, Snuggle quickly redeem themselves with the second song, “Jolly Roger,” which was a bit more mature and tighter sounding song than the first. Regardless, I am still interested enough to hear where they go with their next release. [Review : Jason Zabby]

Vinehell Records

Yukon Mortal

Yukon may be from Baltimore, but they often sound more like they’re from Chicago or San Diego. The songs are mostly instrumental, with intermittent (though not necessarily rare) terse, monotone vocals. Their sound is dominated mostly by winding guitar and bass riffs and halting, choppy drumming. When at its most intricate, it sounds like a more haphazard version of Don Caballero. There’s a more heavy, choppy side to Yukon’s sound as well, which sounds almost like Lightning Bolt in slow motion at times. The vocals, which only appear on a few tracks, are interesting and work well in the sparse way they’re presented. When the vocals do make an appearance, it gives the songs a strange, almost grunge sound. The combination of dissonant guitars and monotone vocals doesn’t always have to scream grunge, though it kind of does here. The real meat of Yukon’s sound lies in the interplay between the two guitars and bass. All three contribute equally, alternating the spotlight and often all trying to share it at

once. This leads to them playing over one another, though it usually works in a strange way. Without trading off in any orderly manner, they manage to find space in the chaotic song structures. This strategy of playing over one another doesn’t usually work. However, Yukon finds a balance between winding, discordant guitar riffs and more cohesive and cooperative riffs. The result is something that takes more than a peripheral listen (headphones recommended), but is worth the effort. There are moments that have a melodic feel to them, which reminds me of many GSL or Gravity bands in a way. The closing track, “Pedestrian” is the best example of this. This is another element that’s hard to cram into an already packed set of sounds, but Yukon pulls it off. Over the course of eight songs and 35 minutes, Yukon looks to lull you to sleep, bludgeon you over the head and confuse you all at once. It’s a tall order, but they’re up to the task. Their sound is a bit like a Pollack painting or one of those Magic Eye posters: for best results, staring at it intently and zoning out at the same time is recommended. Terra Firma Records

Tulsa Drone

Songs From A Mean Season At first, Tulsa Drone carefully and aptly join an ever-growing glut of mellow, lush instrumental bands with their second full length. Thankfully, that is only partly true. They definitely have the slowly played, slow-developing and carefully constructed songs. Winding guitar lines, intermittent vocals and soaring, slow motion melodies are all over Songs For A Mean Season. Thankfully though (maybe even mercifully), there is considerably more going on here than just that. First and foremost, the songs are based around a bass hammered dulcimer, which is rarely, if ever used outside the confines of Appalachian bluegrass. Its sound is strange and haunting, and not used as an occasional accent or an overpowering presence in the songs. It fits well with the songs, never seeming crammed into an already full band. The dulcimer is also never too far forward, or too far back in the mix. It’s clearly audible over either of the guitars much of the time, though never overpowering either. Each of the songs uses a linear, mostly instrumental template that focuses heavily on the interplay between the dulcimer, two and sometimes three guitars and bass guitar. Slow, winding swells of two and three of the above instruments at a time and strong, gradual dynamics command your attention immediately. From the beginning of “Monongahela,” the oddly familiar opening track to the unnerving dirge “The Plague,” this thing is all over the place. Surprisingly, “The Catch” is both the longest song on the record at over nine minutes, as well as one of the loudest. A persistent, melodic bass riff lasts almost the whole song. It sets the stage for a revolving cast of similarly dark, but catchy guitar and dulcimer lines that weave in and out. During the final third of the track, dual trumpets are loudly, but still tastefully added as well. The stacking of a disproportionate number of instruments is one of the oldest tricks in the book for a band like Tulsa Drone, but they actually pull it off deftly. “There Isn’t a Single Star in the Sky” has the most prominent dulcimer parts of the whole record, working like a slowed down spaghetti western soundtrack. It’s actually all too short at just over two and a half minutes, but is the perfect response to “The Catch.” Next are the vocal-heavy title track, “Mean Season” and deafening, almost Mogwai-like wall of sound on “Brace.” They lead perfectly into “Laurel Street,” the final track, which reminds me a bit of the opener. This is a great way to end the record, imploring the listener to hit repeat as soon as it winds to a close. I’d be as stupid not to oblige, as you would be not to look into Songs For A Mean Season. Epic is an understatement. Perpetual Motion Machine

DVD’s GSL Presents: Lab Results, Volume One While most record labels tend to release DVD compilations prematurely, GSL seems overdue for Lab Results, their first trek into the medium. It features a nice mix of live footage, music videos and a few interviews that cover over two hours all together. My favorite part is the full DeFacto set from 2001, which has five full songs. It features a really early glimpse of the dub band that would eventually morph into The Mars Volta. The set is shot really well, from multiple angles without looking sterile. There are also live videos of The Locust (in Tokyo, 2001), The Faint, The Starvations and Gogogo Airheart, among others. The music video portion of the DVD has contributions from most of the current GSL roster. 400 Blows have two awesome videos, as do An Albatross and Sabertooth Tiger. Free Moral Agents, Chromatics, Year Future, Subtitle and Vanishing are also represented, among others. With more than one video from over half the bands, there is a lot to choose from. Anyone with even a passing interest in the past and current lineup on GSL will find at least one or two artists that they didn’t know before. Combined with the heavy hitters represented here, and the photo and flier gallery, there is plenty to dig through. Most compilation DVD’s that are specific to one label operate like little more than CD samplers used to. But this has much more depth than the usual collection of 12-15 music videos. There are videos, but the live footage (especially from DeFacto) make Lab Results a much more complete document of a diverse and unpredictable label.

The Fest 3 Just as The Fest 5 was taking place in Gainesville this fall, the DVD from 2004’s festivities was finally surfacing. It is almost dauntingly crammed with live performances from 60 bands, covering three hours total. There are a lot of standout performances, all captured in a clear and straightforward way. The sound especially is usually awesome, and was obviously carefully captured through the soundboard. One of the notable things about this is the handful of performances from bands that have already changed considerably since their performances here. Against Me!, Lucero and The Blood Brothers all contribute songs from what I would say is a much more relevant era in each band’s history. There are also strong performances from almost all of No Idea’s past and current roster, including Hot Water Music who have one of the best performances here with an energetic and costumed (they played on Halloween) rendition of “A Flight And A Crash.” Planes Mistaken For Stars, Fifth Hour Hero, Strikeforce Diablo, True North, The Holy Mountain and Deadsure are also No Idea alums with performances worth checking out. There are a few stylistically out of place bands, who are also included. Engine Down play one of the only good songs from their final record, and it sounds way better live. Toys That Kill, Circle Takes The Square and Mates Of State all have solid contributions that expand the scope of the DVD considerably. Live performance DVD’s like this are rarely the kind of thing that most casual observers would watch more than once. But let’s face it, very few casual observers would have read this far anyway. It’s hard to imagine actually sitting down and watching all three hours of this thing in one sitting. But the amount of stuff here only increases the value of this DVD, and the batting average for the quality of the bands is really high overall. Hopefully The Fest 4-6 all come out on DVD soon as well.

Cassettes Indicative of independent music’s constant drive to find the cheapest, most endearingly outdated methods for releasing music, a number of cassette labels have popped up lately. I recently got three cassette releases from Dead Format, a new cassette-only label from the same people as Square of Opposition. Square of Opposition has released a number of smaller, mostly 7” releases, heavily focused on bands from the label’s native Pennsylvania. They sent three of their new releases, which cover a wide range of music. They all come in classic, clear and black cassette cases, with hand-folded and photocopied covers. Like most people reading this, some of my favorite releases when I was first getting into punk rock were released in this way. I would pick up bands’ demos, or proper cassette full lengths at shows for $4 or as much as $5. Often, I’d listen to them once the morning after the show, only to discover that the magic from the loud, sloppy show the previous night hardly transferred over to the tape. But almost as often, I would end up listening to the tape over and over again in my Walkman. Even after it would get worn out and hiss so badly I could barely hear the music, I’d end up listening to it from time to time. Like the scratched up, warped old split 7”, cassettes represented some of the first recordings I really couldn’t stop listening to. The nostalgic value of cassettes is undeniable, but justifying their existence in a time where CD’s are rapidly becoming completely obsolete is difficult. Dead Format takes the route of focusing on releases that may not ever be released on CD. The batch I got featured two live releases, and a demo from a fairly new band. First is a live cassette from a Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania band called Carpenter Ant. Side A features a live radio performance from 2001, while Side B features a live concert from 2003. The band plays angry and driving hardcore, which leans toward the late 80’s thrash scene. Their sound, like the other bands represented on these cassettes, lends itself well to the medium. The recording quality is pretty solid for a radio appearance, while their sound is energetic and imprecise (but never sloppy). The proper live show features a hollow sounding recording, but some more developed songs and considerably more energy than the radio appearance. Both sides work in a fittingly nostalgic way, and in a way it’s hard to imagine them released in any other manner.

Robert Blake and Erik Petersen share the next release, each contributing a full live set. Both sets were recorded in 2001, but have been leveled out and cleaned up to remove the tape hiss. The concept of remastering a record that’s destined for release on cassette is a bit ironic, but both sides sound really clear, so it’s tough to argue with. Both guys play solo folk music, with a pretty straightforward approach. Blake’s side is a bit more basic and energetic. A lot of the upbeat rhythms show off an Irish influence that’s much more genuine than the Flogging Molly’s of the world. Petersen’s approach is a bit slower and much more contemplative. It’s closer to more classic folk music, with a bit more variety from song to song. With almost an hour and a half of music between the two sides, it’s a lot to take in. Yo Man Go! took a more classic approach to the cassette release, putting their demo out on Dead Format. They play energetic and melodic cut time hardcore in the vein of Lifetime. The slight hiss of the tape adds something to their sound, making for a set of songs that are nostalgic and current at the same time. The singing is really solid, much better than many of their peers (even on this fairly lo-fi recording). The songs are varied enough to keep things from getting stale, though they are hardly reinventing the wheel. This is also the shortest release of the bunch by far, with just five songs. But, it’s short, sweet and probably my favorite release of the three here. Considering the live/demo nature of all three of these releases and the $5 price tag, these are obviously meant to be extra merch table fodder more than money makers. But it’s hard to argue with the combination of varied and solid music and heavy nostalgia value here. If you actually still have a cassette player and are looking for a trip down memory lane (and some new music at the same time) this is a good place to start.

Dead Format


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The New Scheme #16  

Features Des Ark, Triclops!, The STNNNG, Rob Crow, The Marked Men, and more

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