Nag: No Flag 7” (Space Taker) 2nd 7” from this Atlanta band that is a perennial favorite around Sorry State, following a killer demo and a blistering debut 7” on Total Punk. “No Flag” is an interesting choice for the a-side, because its melodies are quite buried in the mix, which shifts the focus to the track’s intense, almost industrial drumbeat. I mean, there’s always been a droned-out, noisy element to Nag’s sound, but usually that’s infused with the dark but poppy melodic sensibility that’s kind of a signature of modern Atlanta punk bands. It’s still an interesting song, but as I noted it’s kind of an odd choice for an a-side. If that track is a little too out there for you, though, the two tracks on the flip are more conventional and are bound to go down easy for anyone who has been into the band’s previous work. “Walls” is an upbeat, melodic track with a pretty manic pogo beat, while the closing song, “Patterns” is brief but, for me, the highlight of the record. While the vocals aren’t super melodic, there’s this absolutely huge melodic guitar hook that sounds like something straight off of the Chameleons’ Script of the Bridge, but darker and noisier. Unfortunately they only play this massive hook once, so it means that I’m constantly running back and forth to the turntable to replay this track. While I’m really enjoying these songs, I’m starting to get a bit antsy for a Nag LP… this band is so multifaceted and able to write such varied yet universally strong songs that I have a feeling when they finally do put out some big vinyl it’s going to be a real knockout. But in the meantime these singles will continue to get a lot of play.
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Kurrakä: Otra Dimension cassette (Todo Destruido) Latest cassette EP from this great punk band out of Texas. For my money, Kurrakä’s LP (which was only released in Spain) is one of the most underrated records of the past several years… it’s a record I return to often and never cease to be blown away by. Things have changed a little bit for this latest EP, but the level of quality is just as high. In particular, I feel like there’s a distinct Rudimentary Peni influence running through this recording. The guitars and bass are mid range-y in a very Death Church kind of way, and there’s a dense, almost claustrophobic vibe as well. However, Kurrakä retain their ability to infuse their songs with occasional moments of pure joy. I always think of the track “Lunar Eclipse” from their LP, but there are several moments on this tape that rival that track in terms of memorability. My favorite of these moments is on the first track, “Amor Prohibito,” when Dru lets out one of her trademark echo-drenched bird noises. It’s a trick that she’s done before, but that sound is so perfectly placed that it makes a chill run down my spine every time I hear it. There are several more of these key moments scattered throughout the EP, making it an essential listen if you’re into what Kurrakä are doing.
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Dream Probe: demo cassette (self-released) Man, what a great demo! Chicago’s Dream Probe don’t really come at you with any kind of gimmicks… you can’t really say they sound exactly like some particular band or play a really fashionable style. Instead, they just play honest, energetic, and incredibly well-written punk songs. Something about the delivery reminds me of the Vaaska / Criaturas axis of bands… while Dream Probe don’t share any of those bands’ more distinguishing factors like the shredding guitar leads or the super high-pitched vocals, they do share a similar ability to write an absolutely scorching punk song. While those two bands are a pretty solid comparison as far as newer stuff goes (though Dream Police are a lot rawer and their production is more analog-y), their fusion of high-energy hardcore and the more accomplished songwriting of classic ’77 punk bands reminds me of plenty of other stuff too, including the catchier early 80s Finnish bands like Lama or Appendix, or maybe even something like Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys in the way that you can’t quite say definitively whether it’s punk or hardcore. Any way you slice it, though, I think this band is great and I really hope we hear more from them!
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DAUÐYFLIN: Ofbeldi 12” (Iron Lung) Debut 12” from this Icelandic band that has found a perfect US home in Iron Lung Records. As I’m sure you’re aware, over the past few years ILR has firmly established their reputation as THE source for forward-thinking, progressive hardcore (though they dabble in other genres as well), and DAUÐYFLIN certainly fit that mold, insofar as there is a mold for this type of music. Sound-wise, DAUÐYFLIN play up-tempo hardcore with throat-shredding, feral vocals, wild, noisy guitars (drenched in chorus, naturally), and backed by a simple but furious beat. At times they remind me of Hoax or Blazing Eye, but they have neither Hoax’s brutally heavy mid-paced / mosh parts nor Blazing Eye’s slightly campy aesthetic. Instead, the overall vibe here is more like that of recent Spanish bands like Una Bestia Incontrolable or Glam… in other words, it seems to me like they attempt to meld the intensity of hardcore with the artsier vibe of something like noise music. Listening to this LP puts me in a weird headspace… at their best, DAUÐYFLIN put me in the drone / trance state of electronic music, but at like 170 beats per minute, so it feels like you’re standing still on the world is whizzing past you at hyper speed. If you like hardcore that pushes at the genre’s boundaries—in other words, if you follow labels like Iron Lung or La Vida Es Un Mus—this is something you’ll probably want to check out.
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Life’s Blood: Hardcore AD 1988 12” (Prank) Long-awaited discography LP from this late 80s New York hardcore band, and while Prank Records hasn’t really been known for doing a ton of reissues in the past, this LP proves that they’re more than capable. The attention to detail in every aspect of this release is apparent, from the powerful sound reproduction to the vintage-looking layout to the incredibly informative sleeve notes. If you’re the kind of person who picks up everything on Radio Raheem Records just because, you will no doubt be very pleased with this as well. Anyway, Life’s Blood have sort of an interesting place in the history of hardcore, straddling two competing scenes in a way, since they appeared on the New Breed and NYHC: Where the Wild Things Are compilations (and regularly played with the other bands featured on those comps), but they also regularly antagonized that very scene (and the adjacent Revelation Records / youth crew scene) and their guitarist would go on to Born Against after the band ended. So, in my head, I think of Life’s Blood as the band that gets you all of the ignorant pleasure of listening to NYHC but with some of the hippie-ish vibe of the early 90s ABC No Rio scene. However, revisiting this material for the first time in a few years (I was lucky enough to pick up the Vermiform pressing of Defiance for a buck like 15+ years ago), I’m struck by how closely Life’s Blood stick to the early 80s NYHC formula. While bands like Breakdown, Raw Deal, Absolution, and others were moving in a more metallic direction, Life’s Blood has very little of that, pretty much taking Victim in Pain as their template (sometimes a little too closely for comfort), adding in some occasional Negative Approach-type oi influences (which are particularly apparent on the compilation tracks that appear toward the end of side one of this LP). Over the past 20 years or so the hardcore scene has divided to the point where the bands that the New Breed-type bands influenced are pretty much a completely separate scene from more early 80s-inspired hardcore, but Life’s Blood still seem like a band that people from both of those scenes can agree on, the tattooed moshers digging on the Don Fury production while the punks like the AF-style whiplash tempo changes and early 80s-style minimalism. At any rate, this is a beautifully-executed reissue that’ll do you just fine whether you’re a Life’s Blood super-fan or whether you’re just discovering the band.
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Vastusta: Demos 2014-2015 12” (Kick Rock) While I don’t hear nearly as much talk about Japanese hardcore nowadays as I did a few years ago, there is a dedicated crew of folks keeping the sound alive, and few more more important than Kick Rock Records. While the label’s first two releases were by Japanese bands, for their third release they mine the cassette discography of Finland’s Vastusta. Don’t worry that Kick Rock has changed gears, though, because even though Vastusta is Finnish it would be easy to mistake them for a Japanese band because they sound basically exactly like Warhead. I have no doubt that the Finnish classics have influenced the band as well, and this is by no means a million miles away from the breakneck hardcore of bands like Terveet Kadet and Bastards, but particularly in the vocal department Vastusta remind me so much of Warhead it’s uncanny. The music, production, and songwriting are all perfectly executed and deliver maximum intensity at all times. So if you like that ultra-fast Japanese hardcore sound of bands like Warhead and Nightmare and you don’t particularly care whether the band is actually Japanese or not I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
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Kaleidoscope: Volume 3 12” (Feel It) I’ve been knocked out by every single Kaleidoscope release to date, and Volume 3 is no different. Listening to it again in preparation for writing this description, I kept thinking about what makes Kaleidoscope such a standout band, and I feel like I can’t quite put my finger on it. They have some obvious strengths—Shiva’s blistering, Hendrix-esque guitar playing (which is actually fairly restrained on this release), and the drummer’s consistently inventive and powerful rhythms—but I don’t think that Kaleidoscope is such a good band merely because the people in the group are really good at their instruments. The best answer I’ve come up to why Kaleidoscope stands out is that they are a great band. I feel like a lot of contemporary punk suffers from one-person-band syndrome; a lot of bands nowadays seem to be conceived rather narrowly, quickly establishing a template that they will rarely deviate from. This unity of vision extends to the playing as well… for a lot of bands (particularly hardcore bands), the playing is tight and regimented almost to the point of suffocation. By contrast, Kaleidoscope sounds loose and organic. The musicians trade licks and play off one another’s ideas like a great ensemble should, dancing around one another, alternately yielding and taking the spotlight in a way that quite often reminds me of great jazz bands. Consequently, rather than sounding like one person’s interpretation of a particular sound or style, they sound utterly like themselves… it’s hard to imagine anyone else sounding like Kaleidoscope (and no one does!), because it seems (from my outside perspective, at least), that Kaleidoscope’s sound is very much based around what happens when these particular people play together. Now that they have several releases under their belt, I’m also really beginning to enjoy thinking about how each new release fits into the band’s body of work. While the concept behind any given release (if there even is one) isn’t really apparent, each one nevertheless has an extremely unique tone and voice. As with the ensemble playing I wrote about above, I’m struck by the contingency of it all, how Kaleidoscope are open to letting circumstances influence and shape their music. Rather than struggling to be timeless (or, worse, trying to resurrect some long-expired moment), Kaleidoscope are open to letting their context shape them. Thus, it doesn’t seem like the point is the sound of the band (thus, pithy phrases like “pick this up if you like psych-infused hardcore” don’t really apply), but rather to enjoy the fleeting moment. I’m sure that if Kaleidoscope is still putting out records two years from now they won’t have a lot in common with Volume 3, but I’m OK with that, because right now listening to Volume 3 feels like walking outside on a perfect spring day, knowing that you’re through the winter but that the hot and sticky summer is just around the corner, so you’d better grab this day and make the most of it.
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All New Arrivals
Pretty Hurts: S/T 12" (Rockstar)
Ruby: S/T 7" (Rockstar)
Nightmen: C'est La Vie Goodbye 7" (Rockstar)
Komplikations: Humans 12" (Rockstar)
Brainbombs: Inferno 12" (Skrammel)
Sievehead: Worthless Soul 12" (Static Shock)
Uranium Club: All of them Naturals 12" (Static Shock)
Sarcasm: Malarial Bog 7" (Static Shock)
Ataxxia: 4 Song 7" (25 Diamonds)
Wrangler Brutes: 10/08/04 cassette (25 Diamonds)
Xylitol: Demo 7" (25 Diamonds)
Trampoline Team: Drug Culture b/w I Don't Play Games 7" (Space Taker)
Nag: Files 7" (Space Taker)
Pinku Saido: Poketto 12" (Mutant)
Nope: demo cassette (self-released)
Nature Boys: 3rd 12" (Mandible)
Kurraka: Otra Dimension cassette (Todo Destruido)
The Beatles: Sgt Pepper's 12" (50th Anniversary Edition; Capitol)
Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda 12" (Impulse)
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue 12" (Rumble)
Uranium Club: Human Exploration 12" (Static Shock)
Ultra Violent: Crime for Revenge 7" (Static Shock)
Midnight: Satanic Royalty 12" (Hell's Headbangers)
Black Flag: Damaged 12" (SST)
Black Flag: My War 12" (SST)
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill 12" (Capitol)
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited 12" (Columbia)
Pink Floyd: Animals 12" (Pink Floyd)
Slayer: Reign in Blood 12" (American)
Slayer: Seasons in the Abyss 12" (American)
Slayer: South of Heaven 12" (American)
A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory 12" (Jive)
Ausencia: Cuantas 7" (Discos MMM)