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Featured Release Roundup: August 27, 2020

Twisted Nerve: Archive 2: Never Say Goodbye 12” (Secret Records) Secret Records has reissued the discography from this Scottish post-punk band across two LPs: volume 1, Seance, collects their sole LP, while Never Say Goodbye gathers the rest of the band’s discography. When a customer tipped me off to these reissues, I didn’t recall having heard Twisted Nerve before, but once I listened to Never Say Goodbye I recognized the track “When I’m Alone” from Sacred Bones’ excellent Killed by Death Rock compilation a few years back. Most of the things I’ve read about Twisted Nerve state that they started as a more straightforward punk band and gradually developed more of a post-punk / death rock sound. You can hear that transition across Never Say Goodbye as the tracks from Twisted Nerve’s 12” EP, Eyes You Can Drown In, have a straightforward Cure / Banshees type of sound, but the earlier singles here are far from straightforward punk. The best tracks—including the classic “When I’m Alone”—remind me of Crisis in that they’re punk in attitude, but not afraid of being more ambitious with their songwriting and arrangements. I haven’t seen much hype about these compilations, but I think Twisted Nerve is a real underappreciated gem.

GUNN: Peace Love & Heavy Weaponry 7” (Going Underground) We’ve carried a few demo tapes from Orange County, California’s GUNN, and now we get their debut 7” courtesy of Going Underground Records. The sound here is straight-up USHC influenced by the classics, Negative Approach and Negative FX in particular. The gruff but slightly sing-song-y quality of the vocals reminds me of those bands, but GUNN also reminds me of Negative Approach in that the guitar riffs are primitive and a lot of the catchiness comes from the drums. Recommended for fans of Armor, Jackal, and similar USHC-inspired bands.

Vintage Crop: Serve to Serve Again 12” (Anti-Fade) Serve to Serve Again is the third LP from this group out of Geelong, Australia. It doesn’t offer any major left turns, but more of the sophisticated post-punk they’ve been serving up for several years. While Vintage Crop can get angular and Devo-ish (see “Gridlock”), most of their songs have a kind of ambling, stoned-sounding tempo that reminds me of Parquet Courts. Like Parquet Courts (to whom I’ve compared Vintage Crop before), Vintage Crop sounds nimble and light on their feet; their rhythms and melodies are as crisp as an ice cold La Croix. While there are melodies and hooks here, what sticks with me after I listen to Serve to Serve Again is that steady, insistent Krautrock-ish beat. A good soundtrack to sitting at your desk and pounding out some work.

MARV: S/T 12” (Tone Log Records) MARV is a two-piece instrumental synthesizer project from Carrboro, North Carolina. The members have a long track record in the local scene, including projects like Sponge Bath and Natural Causes, but MARV is more ethereal than what you might expect if you know these guys from hanging around North Carolina’s underground venues. I caught MARV live once, and they blew me away, but it was strange to take in their spacious, often gentle music in a club environment. The whole time I was watching them, I wished I could stretch out on a couch and listen to them while enjoying Jah’s blessed sacrament. Well, that day is here, and it’s all I’d hoped it would be! MARV’s debut vinyl sounds straight out of early 70s Germany… think Tangerine Dream, Cluster, Klaus Schulze… spacey analog synthesizer bliss. While it’s a cliche to invoke space when discussing this kind of music (one name for it is kosmiche musik, or “cosmic music” in German), you can’t help it with MARV. The arrangements are so open that you feel like you’re a tiny blip in a vast landscape, and the purity of the synth sounds is as precise and delicate as light itself. Whether you’re a scholar of 70s German experimental music or you just want something to play in the background while you stare at your lava lamp, this is awesome. Also, the LP is an edition of 250 with screen printed, textured covers and hand-stamped labels and looks beautiful.

Life: Ossification of Coral 12” (Desolate Records) Ossification of Coral is the third full-length by this long-running hardcore band from Tokyo, Japan. Life started releasing music way back in the early 90s, and they retain a lot of that 90s Japan sound even today. Ossification of Coral’s huge production is one link to the bigger bands of late 80s and 90s Japan (Lip Cream, Death Side, Nightmare, etc.), but so is the diversity of their sound. This record has straight up, Bastard-style rippers like “Endure Everyday” and “To Gain Freedom,” the epic, Death Side-esque title track, and even some grooved-out parts… I was always wary of those in the past, but they sound great here. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like this 90s / Burning Spirits-influenced style isn’t as popular as it used to be. However, listening to Ossification of Coral reminds me how powerful this style is in the hands of a great band.

Era Bleak: S/T 12” (Dirt Cult) Debut vinyl from this band out of Portland, Oregon, and it’s one of those records that is catchy and intense in equal measures. I spot Code of Honor and Petite t-shirts on band members on the album’s jacket, but the hardcore influences on Era Bleak’s music are subtler. There are fast songs like the ripping “Tinder Box,” but it’s like hardcore is the crunchy cookie center of these tracks obscured by rich layers of punky caramel and noodly nougat. Era Bleak’s songs sound like simple and immediate three chord punk songs filled out with more complex bass lines, guitar licks, and vocal melodies. The result is the best of both worlds as those elements are interesting and memorable, but the visceral impact still comes through thanks to that strong underlying structure. I guess that’s a very long way of saying this is smart and catchy, hardcore-informed punk. I bet you’ll lock right into what Era Bleak is up to If you’re a fan of bands like Night Birds, No Love, and Neighborhood Brats.

Zyfilis: Alla Ska Ha 12” (Adult Crash) Last year we carried the debut EP from Sweden’s Zyfilis, and now they’re back with a new 12” that’s even more ripping. Zyfilis reminds me of Torso in that they’re influenced by the best of recent Swedish hardcore (projects like Herätys, Profoss, Infernöh), but less retro and they don’t skimp on the catchiness. Not that there’s anything like a conventional melody here, but Zyfilis sounds adroit here… it’s hardcore that makes you want to pogo, not crouch down in a power stance and pump your fist. Alla Ska Ha is also an elegantly sequenced record. Take side A, which starts strong with the killer title track, throws out a few rippers, slows things down a little for “Control” and “Dom Överför,” then erupts into one last fit of energy of “Bränn Mig.” Each track is strong on its own, but the sum feels greater than the parts. Top shelf stuff here.

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