Featured Release Roundup: February 20, 2020
Pisse: S/T 12” (Harbinger Sound) Berlin’s Pisse has been bumping around for several years new, releasing a previous LP, a mini-LP spread across two 7”s, and a heap of EPs and compilation appearances. Interestingly, members also serve in the similarly named Berlin band Urin, making you wonder what you’d find were you to dig into those members’ internet search histories. Anyway, with this self-titled album Pisse have moved up in the world, signing to the UK-based Harbinger Sound label, who has a long tradition of plucking left-field and experimental gems from various corners of the underground. Pisse fits in, as their take on synth-punk has a freewheeling, experimental quality that pulls it out of the genre ghetto. Tracks like “Draußen Zuhause” and “Fliegerbombe” remind me of Lost Sounds, but there’s also a palpable hardcore influence throughout and moments of pure weirdness like the doo wop-infused “Zu Viel Speed.” While some bands that cross genre boundaries can sound neither here nor there, Pisse pull from synth-punk/punk and avant-garde/experimental traditions in a way that both camps can get behind.
Totem: Media Burn 12” (Lost Soul Enterprises) Media Burn is the debut from Totem, a solo project by Jason Halal, whom you might know from his time drumming in 86 Mentality or singing for Neo-Cons. Totem, however, is something different: an instrumental project that pulls from industrial and electronic music traditions. The only connection I can draw to (what I know of) Jason’s musical background is the opening track, “Em Dash,” whose intertwining polyrhythms could only have sprung from the mind of someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about drums. While “Em Dash” reminds me of how African Head Charge integrated tribal-sounding polyrhythms into their music, “Bug Trap” has a glitchy, industrial sound, “Snag” brings in a new wave groove (sounding like early Nine Inch Nails without the vocals and pop elements), and the EP closes with “Untitled (Media Burn),” whose cavernous, reverb-drenched sounds end the record on a cold, isolated note. Structurally, rather than being composed of discrete parts, these songs flow and progress in the manner of trance-y electronic music, the steady, pulsating backbeat rarely interrupted. This isn’t a genre of music I know much about, but I find the combination of grimy textures and danceable rhythms here irresistible.
Fragment: Serial Mass Destruction 7” (Sewercide) Serial Mass Destruction is the latest EP from these Canadian crusties, and I’m loving their combination of raw, d-beat ferocity and avant-garde touches. When I first dropped the needle on this record, the thin, trebly sound was striking, making me wonder if this would be a throwback to the era of half-assed MySpace crust. Listen past the hiss, cymbal wash, and feedback and you’ll hear a rhythm section that sounds like it’s trying to play along with Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing at 78rpm. While the sound here is noisy, it feels artistically so, with strange timbres like the unidentifiable high-pitched noise in “Bodies” as intriguing as anything you’ll find on a harsh noise or power electronics record. My favorite track, though, is the closing “Hatred Spreads,” whose lumbering, Amebix-inspired groove allows the experimental touches to bubble to the surface, reminding me of that killer recent EP from Rigorous Institution. The brittle sound might turn some people off, but fans of progressive d-beat will want to check this out.
Alien Nose Job: HC45 7” (Iron Lung) I think everyone knows the deal with this by now, but in case you haven’t heard, I’ll get you up to speed. Alien Nose Job is the genre-hopping project of Jake Roberts from Ausmuteants, Hierophants, Leather Towel, and a bunch of other bands, and their latest release is a hardcore record on Iron Lung Records, one of the world’s premier hardcore punk labels. I went in to HC45 wondering if it would be straight up Koro or Septic Death worship, but HC45 is still very much an Alien Nose Job record. With Jake Roberts’ trademark voice, what else could it be? The most straight up hardcore song on the record is the first one, “I Still Call This Punk Scene My Home,” whose blistering pace and epic drum rolls remind me of Nosferatu. “Bond Clean” is a little more jittery and mechanical, but the next two tracks illustrate that wild, Jerry’s Kids-influenced drumming is a great fit for Alien Nose Job’s general sense of weirdness. The EP ends with my favorite track, “Cabanossi,” which is a little slower and meaner, featuring a great Dickies-esque descending melodic guitar line and a wild and ripping guitar solo. We got these a little later than most distros because of a shipping mishap and it’s now sold out from the label, so jump on this if you think you need a copy.
Der Moderne Mann: 80 Tage Auf See 12” (Rockers) If you enjoyed the reissues from Abwarts and Grauzone last year, get pumped for this reissue of another German post-punk classic. 80 Tage Auf See is Der Moderne Mann’s debut album from 1980. Relying mostly on a typical guitar / bass / drums / vocals setup but with a clear interest in progressive post-punk, 80 Tage Auf See sounds of a piece with much of what was happening in the UK a few years before as post-punk and UKDIY branched off from the original punk movement. The standout opening track, “Der Unbekannte,” reminds me of Warsaw, the pre-Joy Division band, with its classic-sounding main riff that is both melancholy and melodic. Like Warsaw, Der Moderne Mann’s predilection for minimalism makes it seem like they had to strip punk rock down to its bare essentials before they went full post-punk. This reissue adds the tracks from DMM’s Umsturz im Kinderzimmer EP (making it quite a lengthy record), and these tracks incorporate more synths and Devo-influenced mechanistic rhythms, which has me excited to check out their second album, Unmodern. The Rockers label has also just reissued that one, so odds are you’ll see me describe that one next week.